Monday, August 30, 2010

risotto: italian comfort food

I love comfort food. It makes up the majority of what I cook and what I enjoy eating. Comfort food is simple, filling, and homey. Plus is can make you feel better when nothing else will. As a 20 year old college female when something goes wrong I eat my feelings. When I'm sad I curl up with a pint of Starbucks chocolate chip frappaucion ice cream. If I'm stressed out while I'm working on school work I sit at my desk and munch cashews or a home made snack mix that I hope to share with you soon. I'm sure many of you can sympathize. Risotto is comfort food at it's finest. It's creamy and luscious and warm. The perfect thing for a cold day. Plus this Risotto Milanese is such a warm yellow that it's cheers me up just looking at it.
Risotto Milanese

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 teaspoon saffron threads
3 1/2 cups chicken stock, hot
2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup white wine
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for sprinkling

In a large dutch oven or another deep pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened and translucent, 8 to 10 minutes. Meanwhile add the saffron to the stock, stirring to infuse. Once the onions are translucent add the rice and stir with a wooden spoon until toasted and opaque, 3 to 4 minutes.
Add the wine to the toasting rice, and then add a 4 to 6-ounce ladle of the saffron-infused stock and cook, stirring, until it is absorbed. Continue adding the stock a ladle at a time, waiting until the liquid is absorbed before adding more. Cook until the rice is tender and creamy and yet still a little al dente, about 15 minutes. Stir in the butter and cheese until well mixed.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

S'mores chcolate bark

I recently had a culinary epiphany. I knew that I wanted to make chocolate bark but I couldn't decide what I wanted to put in it. I thought about doing hazelnuts or cherries but nothing really seemed right. Then I was looking at recipes on My Baking Addiction one day. She had made s'mores brownies and that's when it hit me. I could totally make s'mores chocolate bark. It was probably the easiest thing I've ever made. This would make a perfect gift. You could make a big batch throw some in a glassine bag and impress all of your friends and family with your amazing candy making skills.

S'mores Chocolate Bark

6 ounces of dark chocolate
6 ounces of semi sweet chocolate
4 graham crackers broken into rough pieces
1 cup miniature marshmallows

place a sheet of parchment paper over a cookie sheet. Roughly chop the chocolate and place it in a double boiler or a glass bowl over a pot of water. Bring the water the a low boil and stir the chocolate until completely melted. pour the melted chocolate over the parchment paper in a rough rectangle. sprinkle the graham cracker pieces over the chocolate making sure to give each piece a little press. Do the same with the marshmallows and then leave the bark to set for at least two hours.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Ina Garten's Brioche

I found myself in a bit of a cooking funk last week. I just wasn't really feeling like making anything. After giving it some thought I realized that I hadn't been challenging myself. I'd just been making things that were easy or familiar so I've compiled a list of things that will test my culinary skill. I could potentially end up very frustrated and in tears by the end of this list but hopefully I'll make my way through it and be the better baker because of it. Things on the list include french macaroons, doughnuts, caramels, and peanut brittle. I've been wanting to make brioche for a while and I figured it would be a good place to start. Now that I've made it, it really wasn't nearly as hard as I would thought it would be. The only hard part was having the patience to leave it in the fridge over night. The best part of this recipe is that you don't have to go out and buy any of those silly little fluted brioche cups. All you need are two loaf pans.
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/2 cup hot water (between 100 and 120 degrees)
3 tablespoons sugar
6 eggs at room temperature
4 1/4 cups unbleached flour
2 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 sticks of butter at room temperature
1 egg mixed with 1 tablespoon milk or water, for the egg wash

Place the water, yeast, and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer. Mix with your hands, and allow it to sit for 5 minutes, until the yeast and sugar are dissolved.
Add the eggs and beat using the paddle attachment on medium speed for 1 minute, until well mixed. On low speed, add 2 cups of flour and the salt, and mix for 5 minutes. Still on low speed, add another 2 cups of flour, and mix for another 5 minutes. Add the butter cubes and mix for 2 minutes. With the mixer still on low speed, add the remaining 1/4 cup of flour. Switch the paddle attachment to a dough hook, and mix on low speed for a final 2 minutes.
Scrape the dough into a large, buttered bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.
The next day, allow the dough to sit at room temperature for 1 hour. Meanwhile, grease two 8½ x 4½ x 2 ½–inch loaf pans.
Turn the dough onto a lightly floured board. Cut the dough in half, and pat each half into a 6×8-inch rectangle. Roll up each rectangle into a cylindrical loaf. Place each loaf, seam side up, into a greased pan. Cover the pans with a towel, and allow them to rise for to 2 to 2 1/2 hours. They should almost double in size.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Remove the towels, and lightly brush the top of each loaf with the egg wash. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until the top springs back and the loaf sounds slightly hollow when tapped.
Turn the loaves out onto a wire rack until completely cool.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Pumpkin Spice Granola

I figure it's about time that I start living up to my name. If I'm going to call my self hippie hippie bakes then I should probably share some hippie food. Granola is the first thing that comes to my mind when I think of hippie food. Lentils are a close second though. Quinoa is probably third. Granola is actually one of my comfort foods at school. My mom will make a batch for me on a weekend when I come home and I'll take it back with me and snack on it all week. Its nice to have something that I eat all the time at home at school with me. When I got home from school I started looking for some granola recipes to make on my own. When I stumbled across this recipe from Healthy food for Living I was so excited. I have an obsession with pumpkin spice. Everything from coffee to baked goods. If it is pumpkin spice flavored I'm in. So this was perfect.

Pumpkin Spice Granola

3 cups rolled oats
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup pumpkin puree
2 Tbsp unsweetened applesauce
2 Tbsp pure maple syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup chopped nuts and/or seeds
1/2 cup dried fruit

Preheat oven to 325*F and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
Measure the oats into a large bowl and put aside.
In another bowl, whisk the pumpkin pie spice, salt, brown sugar, pumpkin puree, applesauce, maple syrup, and vanilla extract. Mix until smooth.
Pour wet ingredients over oats and stir until thoroughly combined. Spread in an even layer over the prepared cookie sheet.
Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, stir the nuts & seeds into the granola, and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes, or until the granola is golden brown and crisp.
Remove granola from the oven, toss with dried fruit, and cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

My family lives to eat

Vacations in my family are usually centered around food. Weeks before hand we scope out the best restaurants and plan out activities around eating. This year my family spent three days at Kings Mill Resort in Williamsburg Virginia. It's a huge place. There was an indoor and outdoor pool, a gym, a spa, tennis courts, 63 holes of golf and lots of water sports to participate in on the James River. Most importantly there were 5 restaurants on premises. The when we first got there we immediately went to eat at the club house. I had a delicious salmon burger with lettuce, tomato, sprouts, and tarragon mayo. I also had a side of Dijon potato salad which was amazing. Sadly I don't have a picture, but trust me it was pretty.

This was the view from our table

That night for dinner we had the pleasure of eating at the marina restaurant. We ate out on a deck overlooking the James and we were seated at a half circle counter around a fire pit. I had grilled swordfish with mango relish, cucumber and dill salad, and steak fries. It was amazing. My aunt enjoyed crab legs and my brother had rib fingers with coleslaw.

My delicious swordfish

My aunt's crab legs

My brothers ribs

Lunch on Thursday was from Regatta's at the resort. They're famous for their pizza that's baked in a wood fired oven. We ordered one margarita pizza and one pizza called the godfather which had sausage, pepperonis, onions, mushrooms, and peppers. They were delicious. The crust was thin and crispy and perfect. The wood fired oven had given it just the right amount of smoky flavor. Sadly there isn't a picture because I was too busy stuffing my face. I'm really looking forward to next year so I can further explore Kings Mill culinary offerings.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

A simple summer classic

My family has a bit of a problem. We are food hoarders. Our pantry is always overflowing and in recent months its started to eat at me. I can never find anything when I need to. So I've started trying to find recipes that can help use up random or off the wall ingredients that are just taking up space. I recently made pork chops crusted with Melba toast that were good. The box of Melba toast had been in our pantry for a while and I was getting sick of looking at it. May be I'll post that some time. However a single box of Melba toasts is not our biggest problem. We have and entire storage basket full of jello and pudding mix. No one needs that much jello. No one. So I turned to a humble Kraft kitchen creation straight out of the 1950's, poke cake, specifically peach poke cake.
Peach poke cake
adapted from Kraft Food Kitchens

1 box cake mix
2 packages of any flavor jello (I used peach)
1 tub whipped topping

Prepare the cake mix according to instructions and place in two nine inch cake pans and bake per instructions. Remove the cakes from the pans and move to a wire rack to cool. Then place the cooled cakes back into their pans.

Poke the cakes with a large skewer at half inch intervals. Prepare the jello according to the instructions but do not refrigerate. While the jello is still warm pour it over the prepared cakes and place in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours.

when you're ready to finish the cake dip the cake pans in very hot water and rotate for about 30 seconds. Turn the first cake onto a plate and then onto a cake stand. Use the whipped topping to frost just the top of the first layer and then turn the second layer on top of the first. Frost the cake with the renaming whipped topping. This cake has to be stored in the refrigerator.