Monday, December 21, 2015

Chocolate Walnut Biscotti

Happy holidays!  I've been a bit MIA, as life has kept me pretty busy over the last few months, but now that it's the holiday season I am getting back in the kitchen.  This month's challenge for What's Baking was to make biscotti.  Biscotti is one of those things that I usually enjoy when I have it, but I don't usually seek it out.  However, I was intrigued and excited to take on this challenge.

I turned to my trusted copy of The Craft of Baking and found the perfect recipe - chocolate walnut biscotti.  Sounds good to me!  In general, making biscotti is pretty easy - make the dough, roll it into two logs, cook it, cut it, cook it again and done.  Then I noticed a "tip" at the bottom of the page saying that the dough is very sticky, so you should use ample flour while rolling it out.  Yeah, that turned out to be an understatement.  I thought I used plenty of flour while rolling out the first half of the dough....see the picture below to see how well that turned out!  My second half went over much better.  In the end, you cut the logs into the individual biscotti so no one would guess how awkward the shape was to begin with, but I am still laughing at myself for how it looked!

This was a fun challenge.  And biscotti keeps for weeks in an airtight container so this is something that I could bring as a hostess gift or can serve to guests even if I don't want to prep one more thing in the day or two leading up to the event.  I always a love a good make-ahead recipe!

Be sure to check out Coleen's blog The Redhead Baker to see this month's round-up.

Chocolate Walnut Biscotti (slightly adapted from The Craft of Baking)

1 cup walnut pieces, roughly chopped
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, at room temperature
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp kosher salt
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
2 tsp coffee extract (recipe below)
3/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Spread the walnuts in a single layer on a second baking sheet.  Toast them in the oven, stirring occasionally, until they are lightly golden and fragrant, about 5 minutes.  Remove from the oven and cool the sheet on a wire rack.  Keep the oven on.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, cocoa powder, brown sugar, granulated sugar, butter, baking soda, and salt.  Beat on low speed until well combined and no butter pieces are visible, about 4 minutes.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolk, coffee extract, and vanilla.  Add the mixture to the flour mixture and beat on low speed to combine.  Add the cooled nuts and the chocolate chips and beat just to combine.
- Turn out the dough onto a generously floured work surface (***if you think you've put down enough flour, add another generous sprinkle!) and divide in half.  Shape each portion into a 16 x 2inch log, and transfer them to the prepared baking sheet, spacing them about 3 inches apart.
- Bake, rotating the sheet halfway through, until the logs are firm to the touch (about 20-30 minutes).  Transfer the logs, still on the parchment paper, to a wire rack and let cool slightly, about 5 minutes.
- Reduce the oven temp to 250 degrees F.
- Transfer the warm logs to a cutting board.  Using a serrated knife, cut the logs on the diagonal into 1/3-inch-thick slices.  Arrange the slices, cut side up, on the baking sheet.  Bake until the biscotti are dry and firm to the touch, about 1 hour.  Remove the baking sheet from the oven and let the sheet of biscotti cool completely on the rack.
- Biscotti can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 weeks.

Coffee Extract

1/4 cup hot water
2oz jar of instant espresso powder

- Slowly stir the hot water directly into the jar of espresso powder.
- Cover the jar with the lid (closing the lid tightly) and shake well to combine.
- Use immediately or keep in a dark cupboard at room temperature for up to 6 months.

Friday, August 28, 2015

What's Baking S'mores Round-Up

I had the pleasure of hosting this month's What's Baking, which also meant I got to come up with a few theme ideas before it was put to a vote.  I looked at what different foods had a "day" in August and noticed that August 10th was National S'mores Day.  I mean how can you NOT want to celebrate that?!  Thankfully the group of bloggers voting agreed with me.  Variations of s'mores it was!

Here are the delicious treats that these lovely ladies came up with:

Kate from Kate's Recipe Box made a S'more Pizza, which I highly approve of.

Liz from Books and Cooks mixed peanut butter and s'mores in these Peanut Butter S'mores Oatmeal Cookie Bars.  How yummy does that sound??

Colleen (aka The Red Head Baker) made Mini S'mores Cheesecakes, which I need in my life soon.

Nicole of Cookies on Friday made S'mores Stuffed Cookies.  I've never stuffed cookies before but now I want to try!

Ashley at Cheese Curd in Paradise made a delicious looking S'mores Poke Cake
Cookaholic Wife, Nichole, made a S'mores Pot de Creme, though she has blogged about s'mores many times before, so be sure to check out the rest of her treats!

This theme made Jaida of Sweet Beginnings remember how awesome marshmallows are with her S'mores Cookie Bars (seriously though, how could she not like marshmallows?!?!)

Eva over at Eva Bakes made S'mores Cupcakes.  Though she only made half her recipe quantity because she "didn't need 20 cupcakes".  I just.....  EVERYONE needs 20 cupcakes.  I think she regretted this decision once the 10 cupcakes were devoured within minutes.

S'mores Brownies

I have a family friend who will almost always bring her famous "brownie s'mores" to a party.  And they go like hot cakes.  Seriously delicious.  She very nicely shared her recipe with me and I saw how insanely simple they were to make (ie make boxed brownie mix, before it's done cooking pull it out, add marshmallows and chocolate chips, finish cooking then add graham crackers, cut and eat).  I have made them on more than one occasion since she shared this with me (uh, don't kill me for sharing this, Nancy!).  So when it was decided that this month's What's Baking theme was going to be Variations of S'mores, I knew I wanted to tackle brownie s'mores, but I wanted to think outside of "the box".

I was invited to a barbecue at a dear friend''s house earlier this month and I knew this would be the perfect treat to bring as my contribution to the meal.  They keep kosher as well, so I knew I would need to make these parve.  I asked around to some blogger friends and after reviewing a few dairy-free brownie recipes I settled on one from Cathy's Kitchen Journey.  Except when I went to make it I didn't have time to get the espresso powder, so I essentially made the recipe she adapted from (I left out the nuts in case of allergies as well).  Though I realized toddlers were going to be eating these so I should probably omit it anyway otherwise you probably didn't want to be around these little ones come bedtime!

The intended date this post was to go live was actually ON National S'more Day, however I decided to do a second try and adjust how I assembled the brownies.  You see, I had originally made them using kosher mini marshmallows, which I had chopped to try to make them a little gooey-er (for whatever reason I find them never get as gooey as non-kosher marshmallows).  They tasted good, but a guest at the party had commented that she couldn't eat them because she's vegetarian (and therefore couldn't eat the fish gelatin). She mentioned that if I had used Fluff she could have eaten it, as it does not have any gelatin.  A light went off in my head.  This was the perfect substitution in the brownies!  So, thankfully my nephew was having a birthday last weekend, so I quickly offered to bring some brownies to share with the guests.

my first attempt

The final result is delicious and definitely something that I will be making again.  It really isn't much harder than baking brownies out of a box!

Brownie S'mores (adapted from

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa power
1/2 tsp baking soda
2/3 cup vegetable oil, divided
1/2 cup boiling water
2 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs, room temperature 
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
8oz  (approx) Fluff
3 large rectangles graham crackers

- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease a 9x13in pan.
- In a large bowl, stir together the cocoa powder and baking soda.  Add 1/3 cup vegetable oil and boiling water.  Mix until well blended and thickened.
- Stir in the sugar, eggs (one at a time) and remaining 1/3 cup oil.
- Add the flour, vanilla, and salt.  Mix just until the flour is blended in.
- Spread evenly into the prepared pan.
- Bake for 30min.
- While it's baking, put the graham crackers in the food processor (breaking into smaller pieces as you put them in).  Pulse until they are a fine crumble.
- Remove the pan from the oven (do not turn the oven off!).
- Spoon Fluff over the brownies, letting it sit approx 1 minute before spreading (it's much easier to spread after it's melted a bit).
- Sprinkle the graham cracker dust over the marshmallows, gently pressing down to help it stick to the Fluff.
- Bake an additional 5-7 min.
- Allow to cool before cutting and serving.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Angel Food Cupcakes

Summertime.  The time of year when berries are in season and I crave light, airy desserts.  This month's theme of What's Baking was Baking with Fresh Fruits which made me very excited.  I am always looking to expand my repertoire, especially for dishes I can bring to a party or BBQ so I took this challenge as an opportunity to do just that.  When I think of fresh fruit and the summer, I immediately think of one of my favorite treats - angel food cake with whipped cream and berries.  Seriously....a moist, light cake with fluffy whipped cream and super ripe berries.  There is nothing better.  And to make it handheld and easier to eat?  Yum!  Excuse me while I go eat another cupcake before typing the next paragraph.

This recipe that I found online produced a perfectly moist cake.  And to make it a little more fruity I added fresh berries into the batter so there's even more of a berry punch in each bite.  I'll admit, I only put berries into half the batch I made just in case it didn't come out as I intended, but next time I'll be adding berries to all my cupcakes.

This was not only a great way to use the berries I've received in my CSA box but they are also the perfect addition to any summer party (they can even be made red, white and blue for 4th of July!)  And remember how I said I was trying to find something I could bring to a party?  Well, I didn't actually have any parties to attend before this blog post had to go live, so I hope my neighbors are hungry!

Angel Food Cupcakes (slightly adapted from Cooking Classy)

3/4 cup + 2 tbsp granulated sugar
1/2 cup cake flour
1/4 tsp salt
6 egg whites, room temperature
2 1/2 tbsp warm water
1/2 tsp + splash vanilla extract, divided
3/4 tsp cream of tartar
strawberries and/or blueberries
1 pint heavy cream

- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Line muffin tins with cupcake liners (my batter yielded 18 cupcakes)
- In the food processor, pulse granulated sugar until it is super fine (a minute or two)
- In a mixing bowl, sift together half the sugar, all of the flour and salt.
- In the mixing bowl of your electric mixer (a large mixing bowl if you're using a handheld mixer) whisk together the egg whites, water, 1/2 tsp of vanilla and cream of tartar at a low speed until well combined.  Turn mixer up to a medium speed and slowly add the remaining sugar until medium peaks form.
- Sift a thin layer of the flour mixture over the egg white mixture and using a rubber spatula, fold it into the egg mixture to incorporate it.  Repeat with the rest of the flour mixture, using small batches (I did about 10 additions).
- Divide batter into the liners, filling them 3/4 of the way (you should have some batter left over at this point).  Slice the strawberries or halve the blueberries and insert the berries throughout the batter in the liners (pushing the berries into the cups).  Use the rest of the batter to cover the berries, filling the liners almost to the top.
- Bake cupcakes for 18-20 minutes, until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
- Let cool completely on wire racks.
- While the cupcakes cool, whip the heavy cream and a splash of vanilla into a fluffy consistency.  Once the cupcakes are cool, spread the whipped cream on top (I used a silicone decorating tool). Then top with additional berries (sliced strawberries or whole blueberries).

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Baked Garlic Rice Pilaf

This month's theme for What's Baking is "Baking with Garlic".  My mind immediately went to garlic knots or garlic breadsticks or even a delicious garlic rosemary bread I found online.  But I wanted to think outside the box.  Plus, I eat enough bread as it is, did I really need that much extra bread in my house??  Of course my answer would still have been YES!! But, alas, I had nowhere to add it to my menu plan, plus I needed a side dish to my Shabbat chicken dinner.

Then I remembered a delicious rice pilaf I had made a few years back and realized I had never shared it here!  I don't remember how I first came across this exact recipe, but it is from my dear friend Jessica's blog.

Rice pilaf is rice cooked in stock (and not, as one contestant on Top Chef a few seasons ago thought, rice with 'a lot of stuff in it").  And this baked version uses some stock at the beginning and adds more partway through cooking.  I made a small adjustment to make this dish appropriate for a meat meal, then satisfied my own garlic craving by adding extra garlic.  The original recipe called for crushed garlic only, but just wait until you get the smooth deliciousness of a cooked garlic chunk.  It is like a little bite of heaven.  I had first made this back when coconut oil was becoming a thing so I used that as a parve substitute for butter and think that it really adds to the flavor of this dish.

I'm looking forward to seeing what everyone else made this month.  Garlic just might be my favorite ingredient to use!

Baked Garlic Rice Pilaf (slightly adapted from Sunny Side Up)

2 Tbsp coconut oil
3 garlic cloves, crushed
3 garlic cloves halved, quartered or roughly chopped
1 cup brown rice
2 1/2 cups chicken broth, divided  **use vegetable broth if you want to make this a parve dish

salt and pepper to taste

- Preheat oven to 375
- Melt the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the garlic and rice and cook for approx 3 minutes, or until the garlic starts to turn golden brown.
- Add 1 cup of broth, salt and pepper and bring to a boil.  Transfer the rice, garlic and broth to a casserole dish with a tight fitting lid or use two sheets of foil to seal a deep dish.
- Bake for 25 minutes.
- Remove the dish from the oven and stir in the rest of the broth (1 1/2 cups).
- Re-cover the dish and continue baking for 45 minutes.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Fried Chicken Strips

Every year for Chanukah my grandmother makes fried chicken which she serves along with biscuits, latkes, and applesauce.  She coats her chicken in matzah meal before frying and it comes out crispy and delicious.  So when I was looking through my copy of A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking and came to the chapter called "A Baker Becomes a Cook", I wasn't surprised to see a recipe for chicken cutlets in the Passover section.

This can be a good lunch or dinner and should appeal to the whole family.  I would use this same recipe throughout the year (most likely only adjusting the oil I use for frying and maybe using flour instead of the potato starch if we didn't have any more on hand).

Fried Chicken Strips (slightly adapted from A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking)

4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
3/4 cup potato starch
2 1/2 cups matzah meal
1 tbsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp onion powder
4 eggs
oil for frying (cottonseed oil during Passover, canola oil the rest of the year)

- Using kitchen shears, cut the chicken into 1 inch thick strips.
- In a large skillet, pour in enough oil to come about half an inch up the side of the pan and heat until approx 350 degrees F.
- Into a shallow bowl or dish with high sides (I use deep paper plates), pour the potato starch.
- In a second shallow bowl, crack the eggs and lightly beat them.
- In a third shallow bowl, mix together the matzah meal, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder.
-  Set your plates in an assembly line - potato starch, egg, then matzah meal closest to the skillet.  Take a chicken strip and dredge in the potato starch, shaking off the excess.  Dip the strip in the beaten egg next, letting the excess drip off.  Last, press the strip into the matzah meal until fully coated.  Place the strip in the heated oil.
- Working in batches, heat the strips until golden brown, turning once.
- Place the cooked chicken on paper towels to drain.
- Serve warm or cold with any dipping sauce you desire (or no sauce at all!)

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Roasted Lemon-Pepper Tilapia

I use my copy of Kosher by Design Short on Time frequently, so when I saw that the author also had a Passover cookbook, I made sure to buy it ahead of this holiday.  While several recipes are a tailored specifically for Passover, many are just favorites from her other books that happen to be Kosher for Passover.  One of those recipes that caught my eye was the one for roasted lemon-pepper cod.  I added it to the menu plan for this week and I have to say, it did not disappoint!  Even my cream-sauce hating husband liked it!

I made a few adjustments to make it work better for my family (including switching the fish out for tilapia due to the size of the filets available at my market) and will be sure to make this again in the future.  I ended up with a lot of leftover sauce (I changed the measurements in the recipe below so you shouldn't have this issue) and I'll say, this sauce was also delicious when eaten with my leftover gnocchi.


Roasted Lemon-Pepper Tilapia (slightly adapted from Passover by Design)

four 6oz filets of tilapia, cod, or halibut
1 large lemon
coarsely ground black pepper
1 1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tsp onion powder
scant 1/4 cup reduced fat sour cream

- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F
- Line a jellyroll pan with parchment paper
- Season both sides of fish with salt, then place them on the prepared pan
- Using a microplane, zest the lemon over the fish, reserving the lemon.  Sprinkle with pepper.
- Roast for 20 min.
- While fish is cooking, heat the heavy cream in a medium saucepan over medium heat, until it starts to form bubbles around the edges.
- Reduce heat to medium-low, then add the juice from the lemon and onion powder.  Simmer on low heat for 7-10 minutes to reduce until slightly thickened.
- Remove the saucepan from the heat and whisk in the sour cream.
- Transfer fish to plates or serving platter, spoon the sauce over the fish (or spoon the sauce onto the plate, place the fish on top, then drizzle more sauce over the fish).