Friday, January 25, 2013

Brownie Cookies in the Friday Cookie Jar

I have a confession to make. Until recently, I had never visited the Smitten Kitchen blog.  (Is there a support group for cooks like me, or am I the only one?) I had often heard about it, but I’d never clicked to see what was causing all of the buzz.

Thank goodness the folks at Alfred A. Knopf sent me a copy of The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook! I was hooked after reading author Deb Perelman’s introduction about her drive to cook in spite of her tiny New York City kitchen. (I had a small one just like it when I lived in New Hampshire.) Plus, I loved how she closed the intro by writing, “Here, I hope that even if you weren’t planning to cook tonight, at least one single thing in theses pages looks so tempting that not cooking is no longer an option.”

The cookbook is full of recipes I can’t wait to try, but the one that sent me to the kitchen was her Brownie Roll-Out Cookies. These rich, chocolaty cookies (thanks to Dutch-process cocoa) will tame any chocoholic’s craving and would be great for Valentine’s Day. They are firm around the edges and soft in the middle. Dunked in a glass of cold milk, they are pretty much perfect!

Now I’m a follower of Perelman’s blog. Here is her version of the recipe, and below is mine.  

Brownie Cookies
Adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman

3 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup Dutch-process cocoa
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

Place the flour, cocoa, salt and baking powder into a large bowl and whisk together. Set aside.

In the bowl of a mixer, blend together the butter and sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time, making sure to scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl. Add the vanilla and mix, and then add the dry ingredients, a little bit at a time, until mixed. Cover with plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line your baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

On a floured surface, roll out the chilled dough until it is 1/4-inch thick. Cut out your favorite shapes. Brush off any excess flour and place the cut-out cookies onto the baking sheets. Bake for 11 minutes, or until the edges are firm and the middle is slightly puffy. Place the cookies onto a rack to cool. Store in an air-tight container.



Sunday, January 20, 2013

Refrigerator Strawberry Cheesecake for Retro #SundaySupper

It is retro day for the #SundaySupper group.

I remember the first time I had strawberry cheesecake. I think I was 13 years old. Mom took my sister and I out for a day of shopping for our birthdays. (Sis’s is the day before mine.) We stopped in a restaurant and had a slice of strawberry cheesecake. Heaven!

I also remember the boxed no-bake Jello cheesecakes we would make at home. I liked those, too. But as I got older, I became a bit of a cheesecake snob, believing the only true and delicious cheesecake had to be baked.

Recently I promised a friend I would make him anything he wanted for his birthday. He chose strawberry cheesecake. His birthday was during the holiday season, and as it approached, I realized I would not have the time to do a traditional baked cheesecake. As I began to contemplate calling a bakery, the image of Nigella Lawson making an easy refrigerator version popped into my mind. Sure enough, her Nigella Express had the perfect solution.

Unfortunately, as you can see, my photos of this yummy cheesecake didn’t turn out as nicely as I wanted. Here is what it looks like from Nigella’s website. Her recipe is even easier since she uses a black cherry jam for the topping. (Something I’m going to try one day!) Her original recipe also uses digestive biscuits for the crust, which I’d also like to try. The recipe in the U.S. version of Nigella Express, which I used, calls for graham cracker crumbs instead.

Our friend loved his birthday cheesecake. Even The Picky Eater liked it, and he’s not a cheesecake fan!

This cheesecake will now be my go-to dessert when I need something special but I’m short on time.

Refrigerator Strawberry Cheesecake
Adapted from Nigella Express by Nigella Lawson

1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 stick unsalted butter, melted
10 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1 cup heavy cream

1 pound frozen strawberries
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons corn starch
Pinch of salt
1/8 cup water

For the cheesecake, mix together the graham cracker crumbs, 2 tablespoons sugar, and melted butter. Press the mixture into the bottom of an 8-inch springform pan. Be sure to press some of the mixture 1/4-inch up the side to make an edge.

In a large bowl, beat together the cream cheese, sugar, vanilla and lemon juice until smooth.

In another large bowl, whip the cream until just it just begins to thicken. With a whisk, fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture. Spoon the mixture on top of the crust and smooth out the top. Refrigerate for three hours or overnight.

To serve, un-mold the cheesecake and spoon the strawberry topping on top.

For topping, place all of the ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and bowl for one minute. Set aside to cool to room temperature. Spread on cheesecake just before serving, or place in a serving dish for guests to spoon on their individual slices.

Check out the other retro creations from my fellow #SundaySupper bloggers, and please join on us on Twitter throughout the day during #SundaySupper. This evening we will meet at 7 pm EST for our #SundaySupper live chat. All you have to do is follow the #SundaySupper hashtag or you can follow us through TweetChat. We’d also love to feature your retro recipe on our #SundaySupper Pinterest board to share them with all of our followers, too.

Sunday Supper Retro Appetizers:
Sunday Supper Retro Salads:
Sunday Supper Retro Breads and Sandwiches:
SundaySupper Main Dishes:
Sunday Supper Retro Sides and Veggies:
Sunday Supper Retro Desserts and Cocktails:


Thursday, January 10, 2013

Cranberry-Orange Cinnamon Rolls

On the list of my favorite comfort foods, cinnamon rolls have to be near the top. Perhaps the reason goes back to my childhood, when it was a treat to discover Mom had popped open a can of Pillsbury rolls for breakfast. The aroma of cinnamon brought an immediate since of home and love to the morning and made the meal a special event. I even loved the orange variety!
So imagine my excitement when I discovered cookbook author Judith Fertig had written a book titled I Love Cinnamon Rolls!  Its pages are filled with every kind of roll you can think of, and some you probably never considered. I interviewed her for a Topeka Capital-Journal food article and she offered some great tips about making cinnamon rolls, plus the reason why she felt compelled to write the book in the first place. (You can read the article here.)
By the way, if anyone knows the reason why schools and organizations in Kansas always serve cinnamon rolls with chili in lunchrooms and for fund-raising chili feeds, please let me know…I’m curious about that kind of stuff.
Of course, I had to try one of the recipes for myself. Since it was holiday time, I picked the one for cranberry-orange cinnamon rolls. I took one batch to a brunch and another home to my family in Missouri.
The rolls were a hit! First of all, Fertig’s No-Knead Cinnamon Roll Dough is the easiest one I’ve ever worked with when making cinnamon rolls. (And regular readers know I’ve struggled with making cinnamon rolls in the past!)
There is only one change I made to her original recipe: For the first batch I followed Fertig’s directions, and while they rolls tasted great, many people (including me) found the flavor of the cranberry filling to be too strong. In the second batch, I used less of the filling and the flavor was great, with a nice balance between the cranberry and orange. If you’re a real fan of cranberries, then by all means use the entire amount in the recipe. Otherwise, do like I did and use about half the amount, saving the rest because it also makes a wonderful cranberry sauce!
Cranberry-Orange Cinnamon Rolls
Adapted from I Love Cinnamon Rolls! by Judith Fertig
Makes 16 medium rolls
For dough:
1 recipe No-Knead Cinnamon Roll Dough (see below)
For pan sauce:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
For filling:
2 12-ounce bags cranberries
1/2 cup orange juice
4 teaspoons cinnamon
1 cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
For glaze:
1 12 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
1/4 cup orange juice
Make the no-knead dough recipe below. While the dough rises, continue on with the rest of the recipe.
For the pan sauce, spread the butter in the bottom or two 9-inch baking pans. Set aside.
For the filling, place all of the ingredients except the softened unsalted butter into a large pot over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and cook until the cranberries soften, stirring occasionally, about 7 minutes. Set aside and allow to cool to room temperature.
Once the dough is ready, place it onto a floured surface. Dust lightly to prevent sticking. Cut the dough in half. Roll each half into a 10 by 16-inch rectangle, making sure not to over-work the dough. Spread each rectangle with half the softened butter for the filling, and then spread on the cranberry filling to taste. (Save any leftover filling to use as cranberry sauce!) Starting with the long side, roll up each rectangle of dough into two 16-inch long logs. Cut each log into 8 slices, and place each slice, cut-side up, into the baking dishes. Cover with towels and allow the rolls to rise at room temperature for 45 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the rolls for 20 to 22 minutes or until they are golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
For the glaze, whisk together all of the ingredients until smooth. Drizzle the glaze over the rolls.
No-Knead Cinnamon Roll Dough
1/2 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup whole milk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon instant or bread machine yeast
Combine the buttermilk, milk, butter, sugar and salt in a large measuring cup. Microwave on high until warm, about 1 1/2 minutes. Whisk in the eggs.
In a large bowl, mix together the flour and yeast. Add the liquid ingredients and stir to combine. Then beat the mixture for 40 strokes, making sure to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl, until it forms a sticky, lumpy mass.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the mixture rise in a warm place for about 2 hours, until the dough has risen to almost 2 inches below the edge of the bowl and has a spongy appearance.
Now it’s ready for the recipe.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Jasper’s Tuscan Beef Stew

On December 29th I celebrated a “milestone” birthday. I turned 50. Luckily therapy wasn’t required for me to be able to admit my age. Getting older has never really bothered me since each new decade has proven to be better than the previous one. Still, I find the fact that I’ve lived for 50 years to be a bit mind boggling!

My wonderful, amazing husband, Michael, (also known as The Picky Eater) planned a birthday to remember. He set up a spa afternoon for me at the Argosy Casino Hotel and Spa. I got the works—manicure, pedicure, facial and massage. It was heaven! (As you can see from the photo, the hotel lobby is beautiful.)

For my birthday dinner, Michael took me to Jasper’s, an Italian restaurant that is a Kansas City institution. The kitchen is currently managed by Chef Jasper J. Mirabile, Jr., the son of the founder. I grew up hearing about this place, and I even received the Jasper’s Kitchen Cookbook by Chef Jasper from Andrews McMeel Publishing in 2009 while I was still living in New Hampshire. However I never had the chance to eat at the restaurant. When I moved back to the Midwest, a meal at Jasper’s was on the top of my foodie bucket list.

Jasper's is very “old-school” with white table cloths, silver cutlery, and knowledgeable servers ready to assist you. (They even place your napkin in your lap!) Our server, Chris, took good care of us first-timers.

The meal was wonderful! We started with the table-side mozzarella, where the chef (that evening we were told it was Chef Jasper, III) makes fresh mozzarella at your table and then creates a wonderful salad with it for the appetizer.

For my entree, I had a pork shank osso buco that was simply amazing. The meat just melted off the bone and the sauce was rich and flavorful. Michael had spaghetti with meat sauce and meatballs, which he loved.

Finally, our server brought me a piece of strawberry Borghese cake for my birthday. It was simply divine—a strawberry cake soaked in strawberry liqueur with layers of Chantilly custard.

The meal was so good I pulled out my Jasper’s cookbook when I got home. Thanks to the cold weather, I was immediately drawn to the recipe for Tuscan Beef Stew.

The recipe was originally written to be made in a slow cooker, which makes it an easy weeknight meal. However, I got a new Lodge enameled cast iron Dutch oven for Christmas, so I wanted to try it out with the stew. Also, the recipe calls for Italian red wine and beef bouillon granules, which I didn’t have on hand. (Plus, The Picky Eater isn’t a big fan of wine-based sauces.) So I used low-sodium beef broth instead.

We loved this recipe! The Picky Eater ate two bowls full, and then leftovers a couple of days later!

This stew just made the top of my “make often” list this winter!

Tuscan Beef Stew

Adapted from Jasper’s Kitchen Cookbook: Italian Recipes and Memories from Kansas City’s Legendary Restaurant by Jasper J. Mirabile, Jr.

1 1/2 pounds stewing beef, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 cups low sodium beef broth (or Italian red wine and 1 1/2 teaspoons beef bouillon granules)
4 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
3 carrots, sliced
2 medium yellow onions, cubed
1 stalk celery, sliced
1 28-ounce can whole San Marzano tomatoes
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
1/4 cup cold water

Place all of the ingredients except the cornstarch and water into a 6-quart Dutch oven. Bring to a boil, and then turn to low. Cover and allow the stew to simmer for 2 to 3 hours, or until the beef is tender. Mix the cornstarch and cold water together and add it to the stew. Turn the heat up and bring the stew to a boil to allow the cornstarch mixture to thicken the sauce.

For a slow cooker, place all of the ingredients except the cornstarch and water into a slow cooker. Cook on low heat for 8 to 10 hours, or until the meat is tender. At the end, turn the slow cooker to high. Mix together the cornstarch and cold water and add to the slow cooker. Stir until the sauce thickens.