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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Rustic Plum Tart

This is hands down the easiest dessert I have ever made. It took 5 minutes to put together, 40 to bake, 15 to cool, and 2 to devour. It was so tasty, even my non-dessert eating friend ended up finishing his first, and then tilted his plate toward his mouth to sip the last few drops of ice creamy-plum syrup. Serves 6 with 1 scoop of ice cream on each plate. *Adapted from Sunny Anderson's recipe on Food Network.

1 raw and chilled pie crust, homemade or not (enough for a 9-inch pie)
1 lb. ripe plums
1 tablespoon flour
1/4 cup apricot jam
1 egg, plus 1 tablespoon of water (egg wash)
1 teaspoon sugar

Take the pie crust out of the refrigerator and let sit on the counter for about 10 minutes. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Meanwhile, pit and slice the plums into 1/4-inch wedges. Place in a medium bowl and sprinkle with flour. Toss with your hands to coat. This will help thicken the tart as it cooks so you're not left with a goopy soggy mess. Not that a goopy soggy mess wouldn't still be delicious... because it would.

Next, roll out the pie crust into a thin circle, measuring about 12-inches in diameter and place on the cookie sheet. Spoon the apricot jam on the bottom of the crust in a circle, ending about 2-inches from the edge. Pour the plums on top of the jam and spread in an even layer. Fold the edges of the crust over the plums, leaving the center exposed and press lightly to seal. Brush the edges with the egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 35-45 minutes, until deep golden brown and bubbly. 

Let cool 15 minutes, slice into 6 pieces (like a pizza) and serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Best Challah French Toast

When I was a kid, my mom would make challah (a brioche-like egg bread) every Friday night and it always turned into the best french toast the next morning. She still makes challah every Friday night, but the difference is that I no longer live at home, so I miss out on the opportunity for weekly challah french toast.

BUT, my mother is the best mother in the history of the world, and this week she over-nighted me a package with the perfect loaf of homemade challah inside. I invited a girlfriend over for brunch this weekend and made her an updated version of the challah I grew up making. And it was a hit!
Serves 4.

8 (3/4-inch) slices of challah bread
4 large eggs
1 cup milk/half-and-half
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons orange juice
"some" ground nutmeg
"a lot" of cinnamon
butter & canola/vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 250 degrees and place a cookie sheet on the middle rack.

In a 9x13 pan, whisk together the eggs, milk, vanilla, oj, a pinch or two of ground nutmeg and a bunch of shakes of ground cinnamon. Make sure to really incorporate the cinnamon into the wet ingredients. Take each piece and dunk in the egg mixture, for about 1 minute per side and place in a skillet set on medium heat with a bit of butter and oil in the bottom. Cook for ~2-3 minutes per side, or until perfectly golden brown. Flip and cook the other side the same. Once cooked on both sides, place on a cookie sheet in the preheated oven to keep warm while the rest of the bread is cooking. Continue to add more nutmeg and cinnamon to the egg mixture as needed, whisking to incorporate, and continue dipping and cooking the bread the same way.

Serve with a sprinkling of powdered sugar on top and a maple syrup drizzle. Mmm mmm mmm.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Fish Tacos

I made fish tacos this week to satisfy a mexican food craving. I combined a few recipes and the end result was a delicious and flavorful taco. Although it is not pictured, the cilantro-lime crema is ESSENTIAL. Adapted from Cooking Light. Serves 4.

1 1/2 pound flakey fish (tilapia, red snapper)
1 lime, juiced
2 tablespoons orange juice
2 tablespoons taco seasoning
2 cups shredded cabbage
cilantro-lime crema
8 corn tortillas

Mix together the lime juice, orange juice, and taco seasoning and pour into a large ziploc bag. Add the fish to the bag, and seal the bag, taking all the air out. Marinade for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, head the oven to 425 degrees and spray a cookie sheet with non-stick spray. Take the fish and place in a single layer on the cookie sheet and bake for ~9 minutes, or until flakey.

While the fish is in the oven, make the cilantro-lime crema by stirring together the following ingredients.

Cilantro-Lime Crema Ingredients
4 tablespoons sour cream
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/4 cup green onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1 teaspoon lime zest
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 garlic clove, minced

Once fish is cooked and cilantro-lime crema has been prepared, heat the tortillas according to package directions. Flake the fish and place into hot tortillas, top with shredded cabbage, and lime crema. Serve with any other toppings (guacamole, salsa, etc.) and enjoy!

Friday, September 14, 2012

S'mores Bars

S'mores! Without a fire! These were very fun to make and were a yummy Friday treat.

1 stick unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/3 cup flour
3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 plus 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
4 (1.5 oz) Hershey's Milk Chocolate Bars
1 (7 oz) jar of Marshmallow Creme/Fluff

Using an electric mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until incorporated, scraping down the sides once. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking powder, and salt and add to the butter mixture, beating just until incorporated. 

Press half of the dough into the bottom of a lightly greased 8x8 or 9x9 pan. Spread the marshmallow creme on top in an even layer and top with an even layer of the chocolate bars (break up as needed to fit). Press the rest of the dough on top and bake for 20-25 minutes in a 350 degree oven. 

Remove from oven, let cool, cut into squares and serve! 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Late Summer Cheese Plate

I don't usually post things like this, since I didn't actually make any of the edible items in this picture... But I've been feeling guilty about my lapse in blogging and am probably over-compensating by posting anything I can deem even adequately appropriate for a food blog. Also, whenever I can get Jason (my favorite photographer) to take pictures of my food, I jump at the opportunity. And this picture is just too pretty to not post.

The fun thing about making a cheese plate/board is that you can add whatever you want to it and take out whatever you don't like, you can change it based on the season, or pick items based on what wine you'll be drinking. In general, when I'm making a cheese plate, I try to find a few different types of cheese (1 soft, 1 hard, 1 semi-hard), one kind of fruit, one kind of meat, one kind of finger food, and one kind of dip or relish. Below are some of my favorite potential combinations.

1 Soft Cheese
     - Triple Cream Brie
     - Burrata
     - Boursin
     - Goat cheese
1 Hard Cheese
     - Parmesan
     - Asiago
     - Romano
1 Semi-Hard Cheese
     - Cheddar
     - Manchego
     - Roquefort/Stilton
     - Edam
1 Meat/Charcuterie
     - Salami
     - Prosciutto
     - Soppressata
1 Fruit
     - Grapes
     - Sliced pear
     - Sliced apple
     - Figs
1 Finger Food
     - Marcona Almonds
     - Mixed nuts
     - Olives
1 Relish/Spread
     - Pepper relish
     - Pesto
     - Honey

Once you have bought and prepared all of your ingredients, place them on a large plate and decorate with fresh herbs or greens. Then... devour it!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Coconut Layer Cake

It has been over 6 weeks since my last blog post. I'm embarrassed. The truth is that I've actually been working on my dissertation proposal and internship applications (you can't stay in graduate school forever, apparently) and they've taken up a lot of my time and energy. Whereas I don't think this excuses my lack of cooking and posting, I guess it is an acceptable explanation. But, this long holiday weekend was a welcomed treat and I was able to spend a lot of time in my kitchen.

My first task was this coconut cake. And as you probably know, I love baking cakes. It is time consuming, but, like bread-making, the end result is so rewarding after investing that much time, attention, and care. Not only was the finished product absolutely the best coconut cake I've ever had, but it looks stunning when sliced (thanks to Jason Volpe's photography). It was a crowd pleaser and a perfect end to a wonderful dinner. You should make this before summer is over! Recipe adapted slightly from Cook's Illustrated.

1 large egg
5 large egg whites
3/4 cup coconut cream (not milk)
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon coconut extract
2 1/4 cups cake flour (9 ounces)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon table salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter (cut into 12 pieces, softened, but still cool)
2 cups packed sweetened shredded coconut

5 large egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar
pinch of table salt
3 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into about 20 piece, softened, but still cool
1/3 cup coconut cream
1 teaspoon coconut extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Making the cake...
Preheat oven to 325 degrees and adjust oven rack to lower middle-position. Grease 2 8-inch round cake pans with shortening and dust with flour.

In a large measuring cup, beat egg whites, whole egg, coconut cream, water, vanilla, and coconut extract and beat with a fork until thoroughly combined.

In the bowl of a standing mixer, combine the flour, sugar, and salt and mix on lowest speed with the paddle attachment for about 30 seconds. While mixer is running, add the butter, 1 piece at a time then beat until mixture resembles coarse meal, with butter bits no larger than small peas (2-2 1/2 minutes).

With mixer still running, add 1 cup of the reserved liquid, increase speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 45 seconds. While mixer is still running, add remaining 1 cup of liquid in a stead stream. Scrape down the bowl and beat to combine. Divide batter between the two cake pans and level with a spatula. Bake until cakes begin to pull away from sides of pans, and toothpick inserted comes out clean (about 25-30 minutes). Cool pans on wire racks about 10 minutes, then invert cakes onto racks to cool to room temperature.

While oven is still on, spread the coconut on a rimmed baking sheet and toast for about 10-20 minutes, stirring every few minutes so that the coconut browns evenly. Cool to room temperature and set aside for the cake assembly.

Making the buttercream icing...
Combine egg whites, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a standing mixer; set bowl over saucepan containing 1 1/2 inches of barely simmering water. Whisk constantly until mixture is opaque and warm to the touch (~120 degrees), about 2 minutes.

Transfer bowl to mixer and beat egg whites on high speed with whisk attachment until barely warm (~80 degrees) and whites and glossy & sticky, about 7 minutes. Reduce speed to medium-high and beat in butter, 1 piece at a time. Beat in coconut cream, and coconut & vanilla extracts. Stop mixer, scrape down bowl, and continue to beat until well combined.

Assembling the cake...
With a long serrated knife, cut both cakes in half horizontally, so you have 4 thin layers of cake in total.

Center one layer of cake on a cake stand (you can steady the layer by putting a dab of icing on the bottom of the stand before placing the first layer on top). Spread icing on the top of the first layer and spread with a knife or spatula (the layer of icing should be about ~1/4 inch thick). Repeat with remaining layers. Once you place the top layer on, spread the remaining icing on the top and sides of the cake. Take the toasted coconut and sprinkle on top and press into the sides. Cut slices, serve, and enjoy! Cake can be stored in the fridge if you want, but the cake is best served room temperature (or slightly cool), so take it out hours before serving.

**** If you want to make this ahead of time: bake the cakes the day before, let cool completely, wrap in plastic wrap and store in the fridge overnight. Ice and assemble the following day.