Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Alton's Buttermilk Biscuits

We did not grow up eating buttermilk biscuits...the first time I tasted one I was hooked. So easy to make...they rise up like flaky little pillows. Perfect for a lazy Sunday breakfast...perfect anytime. I always feel that I do not make them enough. This time I made them there were only two of us. They froze nicely...we enjoyed each and every one.

I always bake my biscuits in a very old black iron of the first things I ever bought after we
moved to San Francisco. I found it at the Sausalito flea was $2.00 in 1979. I have treasured it ever since. That old pan has seen a lot of love since then and carries with it all the love it received before it found me.
I have never met a biscuit I did not like...but this one has been my favorite for quite some time. I love that it does not have a ton of fat in it. I have made them with all butter, but prefer them with shortening and butter. I use Spectrum brand Organic shortening for these. If you really do not want to use shortening, you can use all butter. This is Alton Brown's Grandmother's biscuit recipe. I always make a little indentation on the top of my biscuits with my thumb...this is supposed to make them rise evenly, mine were a little lopsided this time because they rose so high. I saw Alton's Grandma do it, so I have done it ever since.
Southern Biscuits
recipe courtesy Alton Brown
2 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons shortening
1 cup chilled buttermilk

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Using your fingertips, rub butter and shortening into dry ingredients until mixture looks like crumbs. (The faster the better, you don't want the fats to melt.)
Make a well in the center and pour in the chilled buttermilk. Stir just until the dough comes together. The dough will be very sticky.
Turn dough onto floured surface, dust top with flour and gently fold dough over on itself 5 or 6 times. Press into a 1-inch thick round. Cut out biscuits with a 2-inch cutter, being sure to push straight down through the dough. Place biscuits on baking sheet so that they just touch. Reform scrap dough, working it as little as possible and continue cutting. (Biscuits from the second pass will not be quite as light as those from the first, but hey, that's life.)
Bake until biscuits are tall and light gold on top, 15 to 20 minutes.

Enjoy warm from the oven with butter and jam...yum.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Been away awhile....

Time has just kind of flown by. I have had some health stuff and just needed an unspoken break I guess.  Passover has come and gone...but I still have a few boxes of Matzah left. So I thought I would share my favorite recipe for Matzah Caramel Buttercrunch aka Matzah Crack. It is pretty hard to resist...hence the "crack" title. Maybe you can save the recipe for next Passover..or better yet use up the last of the Matzo, why not?

Matzoh Caramel Buttercrunch
adapted from Marcy Goldman...Jewish Holiday Baking
4-6 unsalted matzoh sheets
1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup brown sugar - packed firmly
3/4 cup chocolate chips or semi-sweet chocolate - coarsely chopped( I used Callebaut Bittersweet)
a nice big pinch of kosher salt
1 cup of toasted sliced almonds or coarsely chopped pecans(optional)
1 teaspoon Vanilla
Preheat oven to 375 F.

Line a cookie sheet completely with foil. Cover bottom of pan with baking parchment - on top of foil. This is very important as mixture becomes sticky during baking. Line bottom of pan evenly with matzoh boards, cutting extra pieces of matzoh, as required, to fit any spaces on the cookie sheet as evenly as possible.

Combine butter and brown sugar in a 3 quart, heavy-bottomed, saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil. Continue cooking 3 more minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and pour over matzoh.

Place in oven and immediately reduce heat to 350 F. Bake 12 minutes, checking every few minutes to make sure mixture is not burning. If it seems to be browning too quickly, remove from oven, lower heat to 325 F. and replace.

Remove from oven and sprinkle matzoh boards immediately with chopped chocolate or chips. Let stand 5 minutes then spread melted chocolate over matzoh. Let cool completely. Chill in refrigerator until set. Break into odd shaped pieces. Keeps well in a tin for several days....if it lasts that long.

You can also use white chocolate, coarsely chopped (or both white and dark) and chopped, toasted almonds (sprinkle on top as chocolate sets).
If you can not get Matzo you can use saltine that case leave the salt out of the recipe

We also love these Macaroons....they are gluten free and they can be enjoyed all year long. These are one of my husband's favorite matter what time of year. They are tiny little two bite babies...
Coconut Macaroons
 adapted from Danny Cohen/Food and Wine Magazine
One 14-ounce bag sweetened shredded coconut
One 14 ounce can of sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large egg whites
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted (I use Callebaut)
Preheat the oven to 350° and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, combine the coconut with the sweetened condensed milk and vanilla. In another bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites with the salt until firm peaks form. Fold the beaten whites into the coconut mixture.

Scoop tablespoon-size mounds of the mixture onto the baking sheets, about 1 inch apart. Bake in the upper and middle thirds of the oven for about 25 minutes, until golden; shift the sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through baking. Transfer the baking sheets to racks and let the cookies cool completely.

Dip the bottoms of the macaroons into the melted chocolate, letting any excess drip back into the bowl. Return the cookies to the lined baking sheets. Drizzle any remaining chocolate on top and refrigerate for about 5 minutes, until set.Or leave some plain.
I am a little bit late with my public thanks to my friend Stella creator of  Lola and Finn's Mum for recognizing me with a lovely award...You must go and check out Stella's fabulous blog full of wonderful recipes, her marvelous wit, and pictures of her adorable children. Thank you Stella...I truly appreciate you thinking of me...

 I would also like to thank all of you who continue to come and visit even though I have not been posting. I appreciate your presence...all of you.

Monday, March 5, 2012

For Lola...

I have a little friend who lives across the sea in England. Her name is Lola. She is 5 years old. She is doing a project in school, learning about food. I know her Mom, a fellow foodie, from a food message board I belong to. Lola wrote me a letter and asked me to tell her about our food...I thought long and hard about this. Our food here in the US is not much different from the food in England. I guess we eat what we were raised eating and different food from all over the world as well as different regions of the United States.

Some recipes were handed down through our family. I tried to think of what my children who are pretty grown up now, loved when they were Lola's age...and what they still love. The Matzo Ball Soup you see above is one thing they love. Especially if they are not feeling well. It is what we call comfort food. This is a Jewish style chicken soup and it is made by me, pretty much the same way my Grandmother and my Mom made it. My Grandparents came to this country in the early 1900's from Poland and Russia. Maybe one day you might try making this soup with your Mom , is a link to the recipe.
Jewish Matzo Ball Soup
Another thing my kids love to eat is Mexican food. This is a Carnitas Taco with Pico de Gallo or also known Salsa Cruda and some Guacamole.  Carnitas are little pieces of pork. My husband's family came from Mexico, so we enjoy eating foods from his family background as well. We even made the tortillas together from kids still like cooking with me when they are home.

Another thing they really love are Chocolate Chip Cookies...I must admit I love them too.
This is their favorite recipe and it comes from the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company in San Francisco. My kids were born in San Francisco. Maybe one day you and your Mom might bake these cookies together.
Ghirardelli Chocolate Chip Cookies
Yield: 4 dozen cookies
  • 11 1/2 ounce(s) Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips or chunks
  • 1 cup(s) butter , softened
  • 3/4 cup(s) sugar
  • 3/4 cup(s) brown sugar, packed
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoon(s) vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cup(s) unsifted flour
  • 1 teaspoon(s) baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon(s) salt
  • 1 cup(s) walnuts or pecans, chopped (optional)
Heat oven to 375ºF.
Stir flour with baking soda and salt; set aside. In large mixing bowl, beat butter with sugar and brown sugar at medium speed until creamy and lightened in color. Add eggs and vanilla, one at a time. Mix on low speed until incorporated. Gradually blend dry mixture into creamed mixture. Stir in nuts and chocolate chips. Drop by tablespoon onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown.

Note: The 11 1/2 ounces of Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips can be substituted with any variety of chip flavor (i.e.- Milk Chocolate Chips, 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Chips, etc.)

They also love these tiny berry pies I made for them one July 4th which is our American Independence Day and a holiday when everyone has picnics and BBQ and goes to see fireworks...

Some people love to eat fried chicken on this holiday...lots of people like to eat fried chicken any time. I do not make it often but my kids love it! This is a picture of some fried chicken, cole slaw and a buttermilk biscuit.

 This is something I make often and the recipe comes from someone in England...Nigella Lawson. Fairycakes better known here as cupcakes. My kids love these too....
Lola sent me this beautiful picture with her letter. She also asked me if I speak any other languages. I speak some German and some Yiddish which is a Jewish language, much like German. I also speak some Hebrew.
Lola has beautiful handwriting, she is only 5!  I think she is pretty amazing...
 I think that life here is not so very different from where you live. I hope this helped you see some food from America....I send you a big hug from New Jersey!

Friends...if you leave a comment, perhaps you can also say what foods are your favorites from wherever you live. Lola is going to see this blog post and hopefully her teacher and her whole class will as well. Thanks so much...

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Cream Cheese Brownies....

These are not for the faint of heart, they are rich and fudgy. These brownies have been in my baking arsenal since June of 1983 when I saw the recipe in the San Francisco Chronicle Wednesday food section. I knew I had to try them and was having a pot luck at work a day or so afterward. We have loved them ever since. They are rich...I find them to be a very adult brownie. They are a must to have cold,  straight from the fridge or cooler. I find them better made the day before you need them. They also freeze come and go. There are those that you bake once or twice. For me ...this one has been a keeper.

I still have the very fragile and yellowed newspaper clipping...I had never seen a Cream Cheese Brownie before. The recipe called to me...
I was just really starting to seriously bake. I had been married for two years when I tried these....they were a big hit then and have been ever since. I do not bake them often...but every now and then they are a special treat.
I usually cut them into tiny squares and put them into mini muffin or cupcake liners . A little goes a long way here. This is a Maida Heatter can not go wrong with her recipes. This may be a little bit fussier than other brownies, but they are worth the effort.This is one instance where the nuts really make a difference...I think they are needed to cut the richness of the brownie.
Maida Heatter
from SF Chronicle Food Section-Wednesday , June 29,1983

Chocolate Mixture
1 cup unsifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter
4 large eggs
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
6 ounces walnuts, coarsely chopped

Cheese Mixture
8 ounces cream cheese
4 Tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs

Adjust a rack one third up from the bottom of oven and pre-heat oven to 350*. Butter 2, 8 inch square pans.

CHOCOLATE MIXTURE: Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside. Melt the chocolate and butter in the top of a double boiler over hot water on low heat. Stir until smooth. Remove from heat and set aside to cool slightly.

Beat eggs in an electric mixer until foamy. Add the sugar and vanilla and beat at high speed for 3 to 4 minutes, until mixture is light lemon colored and forms a ribbon when beaters are lifted. On low speed beat in the chocolate mixture and then the dry sifted ingredients, scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula and beating only until the dry ingredients are incorporated.

Remove and set aside 1 ½ cups of the mixture. Add one cup of the nuts(reserve the rest for the topping)to the remaining batter and stir to mix. Spread the chocolate mixture evenly in the buttered pans; the layers will be very thin.

CHEESE MIXTURE: Have the cream cheese and butter at room temperature. Beat them together in the small bowl of an electric mixer until soft and smooth. Add the vanilla and sugar and beat well. Add the eggs and beat again until very smooth.

Spread half of the cheese mixture evenly over the chocolate layers in the pans. Divide the reserved chocolate mixture and place by heaping tablespoonsful, on the cheese layer, letting the cheese show through between the mounds. Cut through the chocolate mounds and the cheese layer with a small spatula or table knife. Do not cut down into the bottom layer. Zigzag the knife to marbleize the batters slightly: don’t overdo it. Sprinkle with the reserved chopped nuts.

Place in the pre-heated oven and bake for 40 minutes. Cool completely in the pan and then let stand at room temperature for a few hours. Do not cut too soon or the cake will be too sticky to cut neatly.

Run a small sharp knife around the sides of the pan to release the cakes, then cut into bars or squares. If you find it a bit sticky, cut the cake into quarters and transfer to a baking sheet and chill in the refrigerator or freezer until firm enough to cut into 4 squares.

Transfer the squares to a serving plate, cover airtight with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Or pack in a freezer box and freeze.
Makes 32 squares

*an updated version can be found in Maida Heatter’s Cookies…1997 version.
She makes the recipe in one 9 inch square pan and the recipe is cut in half, baking time is then 30 minutes.

My Notes: You can line the pan with aluminum foil and then butter or spray it…and then turn the pan out onto a board , peel off the foil and then turn it back over again and cut and that is most likely easier.

I made this last batch in a 9 by 13 inch pan....I made them exactly as written otherwise.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Mini Buffalo Chicken Balls...

I saw this recipe in Bon Appetit and on the Martha Stewart show...Meatballs are big news these days it seems. These come from the Meatball Shop in New York City and they are pretty darned good. They have all the flavor of Buffalo Wings...but none of the mess. Now I am not saying that I do not love a good messy  mess of wings every now and again, but these are nice for a change. An added bonus is the Blue Cheese dressing recipe that comes along with it...pretty darned good as well. I had a nice piece of Maytag blue in the fridge and it was perfect for the dressing. The only change I made to the recipe was using 1 % milk in the dressing because that was what I had on hand. If you can not find ground chicken in your market you can ask your butcher to grind some boneless skinless chicken thighs for you. Or you can grind them yourself in the processor or a meat grinder. I used organic boneless skinless chicken thighs.

We enjoyed these little chicken meatballs very much. I have been having a good time reading through the cookbook these came from...The Meatball Shop Cookbook. I will be trying another recipe very soon.This is the first digital cookbook I have owned. It is residing on my IPad. I am not too sure that I like cookbooks this way, I think I prefer to have the real book in my hands, but maybe I just need to get used to it. I can not wait for my wing loving boys to come home and give these a try and see what they think.

Mini Buffalo Chicken Balls
Epicurious/ December 2011

adapted from :Meatball Shop Cookbook 
Daniel Holzman and Michael Chernow


2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/3 cup Frank’s Red Hot Sauce or any other favorite hot sauce
1 pound ground chicken, preferably thigh meat
1 large egg
1/2 celery stalk, minced
3/4 cup bread crumbs
1 teaspoon salt
Preheat the oven to 450°F. Drizzle the vegetable oil into a 9×13-inch baking dish and use your hand to evenly coat the entire surface. Set aside.
Combine the butter and hot sauce in a small saucepan, and cook over low heat, whisking until the butter is melted and fully incorporated.( or Microwave together and mix) Remove from the heat and allow the mixture to cool for 10 minutes.
Combine the hot sauce mixture, ground chicken, egg, celery, bread crumbs, and salt in a large mixing bowl and mix by hand until thoroughly incorporated.
Roll the mixture into round, 3/4 -inch balls, making sure to pack the meat firmly. Place the balls in the prepared baking dish, being careful to line them up snugly and in even rows vertically and horizontally to form a grid. The meatballs should be touching one another.
Roast for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the meatballs are firm and cooked through. A meat thermometer inserted into the center of a meatball should read 165°F.
Allow the meatballs to cool for 5 minutes in the baking dish before serving.
Serve with blue cheese dressing*

Blue Cheese Dressing
Dressing keeps 5 days in the fridge and can also be used for salad....

3/4 cup sour cream
1/3 cup crumbled Blue Cheese
1/3 cup whole milk
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon salt or more to taste
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Place the sour cream, blue cheese, milk, mayonnaise, salt, and vinegar in a medium bowl and whisk thoroughly until completely combined. Taste and adjust the seasoning, if desired.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

French Fridays with Dorie... Quatre-Quarts....a little late

With all the best intentions in the world I baked this cake last time to post for French Fridays with Dorie. But the pictures never got to the computer until today. This happened...that excuses, it just is what it is. Nevertheless....we loved this very French version of a pound cake. It is nothing at all like a heavy American pound was lighter...very flavorful as I used one teaspoon of vanilla and two teaspoon of dark rum to flavor it. I macerated some fresh blackberries with just a touch of sugar and a little bit of dark rum. We had them with the cake and a tiny bit of vanilla ice cream on the side.
It has been a long while since I mixed up a cake by hand, and while this is a very simple cake to bake, the batter was very thick and I got my exercise for the afternoon beating the sugar and egg yolks together. I think next time I will just use a good old wooden spoon because I had a little trouble with the batter getting caught in the tines of my whisk, it was too delicious to waste even one tiny matter. It was worth the effort. Once the melted butter was mixed in everything loosened up and I was able to fold in the beaten egg whites without a hitch...
Sometimes it is the simplest things in life that are the best...this cake is one of those. It is a very European plain cake. We love things like that...the sprinkle of brown sugar over top of the cake...something novel from the cake just a lovely little caramelized crunch with each bite.

My husband enjoyed a slice or two every day until it was gone. I must say it stayed fresh until the very last piece was devoured. Such a versatile little cake it was...
 I know I will be making this again and with just about every other recipe I have made from Dorie Greenspan's Around my French Table. If you do not own this book really need to. The recipe can be found on page 433...
As with all the other recipes for French Fridays with Dorie we were asked not to post the recipe...I do hope you will all buy the book.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Banana Bread...

I always seem to find myself with some very ripe day they are green, the next speckled and almost too ripe. I had four little very ripe bananas the other day and while the kids were home decided I just had to make them their favorite banana bread...the recipe calls for about two bananas...but I used all four that I had in the fruit bowl. It was inhaled...I used some little Panibois baking pans I had leftover from the holidays...One son is already back at school and the other is leaving on Sunday...the time flew by...In the blink of an eye it will be summer...and they will be back!
This is our favorite banana bread...I have made many and they are all good. But this one is the blue ribbon winner. It is always moist and just perfect, and even gets better with age ...This recipe made two Panibois pans for me...just perfect. They still took almost 50 minutes to bake.
from Martha way of my friend Becky.

Banana Bread
adapted from Martha Stewart

Makes 1 large loaf or 3 or 4 mini loaves 

1 stick butter, room temp
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, room temp
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 cup mashed very ripe bananas (about 2)
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

Preheat oven to 350. Butter a 9X5X3-inch loaf pan or 4 mini loaf pans.

With electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla, beating well.

Sift dry ingredients and combine with butter mixture. Blend well. Add bananas and sour cream; mix well. Stir in nuts and pour into prepared pan.

Bake about 50-60 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean (careful not to overbake; start checking early). Turn out onto a rack to cool.