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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

TWD: Pecan Sour Cream Biscones...errr I mean Biscuits

Welcome to another Tuesday with Dorie (go here for more)! This week's recipe, Pecan Sour Cream Biscuits, was chosen by Ashley of eat me, delicious.

I knew I was in trouble as soon as saw the recipe... biscuits. I've never made biscuits before; I don't have a biscuit cutter or pastry blender. Dough is not my friend. If a recipe cautions against overhandling, rest assured I will overhandle it. Nevertheless, I set out to conquer these delicious sounding biscuits.

Things were just wrong all over the place. My brown sugar was clumping and when it came to the butter, oh the butter, I was clearly missing something. How does one mush a 1/2 tablespoon chunk of butter into pea-sized bits?! I forged on, doing the best I could. Being completely unimaginative, I simply used a knife to cut out the "rounds" of dough that were soon to become biscuits (though since they are more like scones I have dubbed them "biscones"). I decided that this gave them "character" but I really only succeeded in perpetuating the biscone identity crisis. When they came out of the oven, looking more like an overpuffed cookie than a biscuit, I decided that they still looked darn good enough to eat and dug right in. They certainly were.
See look! They puffed... a little.

From Baking, From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

Pecan Sour Cream Biscuits (Makes about 12 biscuits)

2 cups all-purpose flour (or 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour and 1/3 cup cake flour)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 10 pieces
1/2 cup cold sour cream
1/4 cold whole milk
1/3 cup finely chopped pecans, preferably toasted

Getting Ready:
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Get out a sharp 2-inch-diameter biscuit cutter and line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone mat.

Whisk the flour(s), baking powder, salt, and baking soda together in a bow. Stir in the brown sugar, making certain there are no lumps. Drop in the butter and, using your fingers, toss to coat the pieces of butter with flour. Quickly, working with your fingertips (my favorite method) or a pastry blender, cut and rub the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture is pebbly. You'll have pea-size pieces, pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and pieces the size of everything in between-- and that's just right.

Stir the sour cream and milk together and pour over the dry ingredients. Grab a fork and gently toss and turn the ingredients together until you've got a nice soft dough. Now reach into the bowl with your hands and give the dough a quick gentle kneading-- 3 or 4 turns should be just enough to bring everything together. Toss in the pecans and knead 2 to 3 times to incorporate them.

Lightly dust a work surface with flour and turn out the dough. Dust the top of the dough very lightly with flour, pat the dough out with your hands or toll it with a pin until it is about 1/2 inch high. Don't worry if the dough isn't completely even-- a quick, light touch is more important than accuracy.

Use the biscuit cutter to cut out as many biscuits as you can. Try to cut the biscuits close to one another so you get the most you can out of the first round. By hand or with a small spatula, transfer the biscuits to the baking sheet. Gather together the scraps, working with them as little as possible, pat out to a 1/2-inch thickness and cut as many additional biscuits as you can; transfer these to the sheet. (The biscuits ca be made to this point and frozen on the baking sheet, then wrapped airtight and kept for up to 2 months. Bake without defrosting-- just add a couple more minutes to the oven time.)

Bake the biscuits for 14-18 minutes, or until they are tall, puffed and golden brown. Transfer them to a serving basket.

Saturday, February 23, 2008


February brings my favorite time of year: Girl. Scout. COOKIES.

Thin Mints + homemade mint chocolate chip ice cream =

Shrimp with Garlic Cream Sauce

Alas, yesterday was another Friday during Lent, which means no meat for dinner. We don't eat a lot of fish because I...basically don't like fish. I can do shrimp every so often, but I didn't want to do the same shrimp scampi that I did last week. Instead, I envisioned spicy shrimp with a garlic cream sauce... so off to Google I went for some inspiration! Here is what I ended up with:

Shrimp with Garlic Cream Sauce
~1.5 tbsp butter
~1 tbsp olive oil
~3 cloves garlic, minced
~1/2 of a shallot, minced (you could use the whole shallot... I like shallots but they don't like me so I try to minimize their use!)
~uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined (I probably only used 1/4 pound of very small shrimp because I didn't want leftover shrimp. There was plenty of extra sauce so feel free to increase the amount of shrimp)
~spices for shrimp - I use Essence of Emeril, homemade.
~1 plum tomato, pureed
~1/2 cup dry white wine
~1/4 tsp basil
~1/2 cup heavy cream
~1/3 grated Parmesan cheese

~Melt butter and heat olive oil in saute pan. Add garlic and shallot, cook 1-2 minutes.
~Season shrimp and add to pan. Heat 3-5 min until cooked, them remove from pan.
~Add wine, reduce by half over med-high heat.
~Add tomato puree and basil, simmer over low heat for 5 min.
~Stir in cream, heat through.
~Stir in Parmesan cheese. Add shrimp back to sauce to reheat and allow sauce to thicken.

This was very good! I served it with garlic mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli. We will definitely be having this again!

Platinum Chef Challenge 6: Stuffed Cumin Chicken

The Platinum Chef Challenge (PCC) is back! I love participating in this blogging challenge with the ladies on thenest. For some reason, I can stare at my kitchen/cupboard for hours and not come up with a meal, but give me 5 random ingredients and my mind races! For me, the PCC is just a way to expand my horizons in the kitchen and 'flex my wings,' if you will. I'm not much for creating dishes from scratch, so I like to push myself to come up with new things. In past challenges, I've been able to experience new ingredients, as well.

For the sixth installment of PCC, the ingredients were as follows:
Butternut Squash

Cumin jumped out at me as a sign for some Middle Eastern cuisine. I did some digging for inspiration and technique, and decided to make Stuffed Cumin Chicken. I created a chicken breast with a honey spice glaze, stuffed with a barley, spinach and chickpea stuffing. I topped them off with a warm vanilla squash yogurt sauce and served along side honey cumin baby carrots.

To make the stuffing:


1/3 cup barley, rinsed
dash salt
1 1/2 cups chicken stock

Drizzle of olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4" thick ring of large white onion, diced.
2 oz fresh spinach

1/2 cup chickpeas
Juice from 1/2 of a lemon

1/2 tsp basil
1/4 tsp coriander
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp cumin

~Bring the salt and chicken stock to a boil in a pot. Add barley and cook until tender and slightly chewy, about 45 min/
~Heat oil in a saute pan. Add garlic and onion, cook over medium heat for a few minutes until garlic is fragrant and onion begins to become translucent.
~Add spinach and cook until wilted down.
~Puree the chickpeas in a processor with the lemon juice.
~Combine all barley, spinach, and chickpeas together and add remaining spices.

For the glaze:
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp white vinegar
3 tbsp honey
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp paprika
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp black pepper

Combine all in a small dish

Preparing the chicken:
~Spray the bottom of a baking dish with nonstick spray.
~Split boneless/skinless chicken breast lengthwise to create a pocket in the middle. Add stuffing to pocket. (I ended up with probably 1/4 cup in each. I made 3 total and had about 1/2 cup stuffing leftover)
~Brush glaze on both sides of chicken
~Place in baking dish and cook in the oven at 375 degrees F until done, about 30 minutes. (I always check that the meat had reached a temp of 160 degrees F with an instant read thermometer).

For the yogurt sauce:
1 cup plain yogurt
1/4 egg white (yes I know this is weird, sorry!)
1 tsp cornstarch
seeds scraped from 1/2 of a vanilla bean
1/4 cup boiled, mashed butternut squash (in retrospect it would have been better to puree this so the sauce didn't have that 'stringy' look).
dash cinnamon

~Combine the first four ingredients in a saucepan OFF THE HEAT, stir to make sure cornstarch is incorporated. While stirring constantly, place over medium heat.
~Bring yogurt to a boil while stirring constantly. This is to prevent curlding.

~When the yogurt has boiled successfully, you can relax the stirring. Reduce to a simmer, for 3 minutes.
~Stir in squash and cinnamon.
~If a thinner sauce is desired, add some warmed chicken stock to preference.

To serve with the chicken, I steamed some baby carrots and tossed them with a bit of honey and cumin. Plate chicken and serve with warm yogurt sauce.

I think this was my first time really cooking with cumin. Unfortunately, I don't think I really care for cumin... or yogurt sauce. It wasn't bad, and my husband seemed to enjoy it, but I guess it's hard for me to judge where it falls on the scale.

Monday, February 18, 2008

TWD: Almost Fudge Gateau

I am SO excited to now be a part of Tuesdays with Dorie (go here for more!). I received Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours for Christmas and have been dying to dig in. For this week, Nikki of Crazy Delicious chose the Almost Fudge Gateau. I had a few technical problems along the way (ok, one big one... over beating the egg whites), but in the end it was still edible so I don't think I did too badly. Also, reading over the directions here I realize that I never dusted my pan with flour. Again, it didn't seem any worse for wear and unmolded perfectly from my springform pan.

Almost-Fudge G√Ęteau
5 large eggs
9 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup of sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks
2 tablespoons coffee or water (I used water as no one in my house drinks coffee so I didn't have any)
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt

For the Glaze (optional)
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
½ cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons light corn syrup

Getting Ready:
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan, line the bottom with parchment paper, butter the paper, dust the inside of the pan with flour and tap out the excess. Place the pan on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat.

Separate the eggs, putting the whites in a mixer bowl or other large bowl and the yolks in a small bowl.

Set a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and add the chocolate, sugar butter and coffee. Stir occasionally until the chocolate and butter are melted; the sugar may still be grainy, and that's fine. Transfer the bowl to the counter and let the mixture sit for 3 minutes.
Using a rubber spatula, stir in the yolks one by one, then fold in the flour.

Lookin' good so far!

Working with the whisk attachment of the mixer or a hand mixer, beat the egg whites with the pinch of salt until they hold firm, but glossy peaks. Using the spatula, stir about one quarter of the beaten whites into the batter, then gently fold in the rest. Scrape the butter into the pan and jiggle the pan from side to side a couple of times to even the batter.

Here I am... about to over beat the egg whites...

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the cake has risen evenly (it might rise around the edges and you'll think it's done, but give it a few minutes more, and the center will puff too) and the top has firmed (it will probably be cracked) and doesn't shimmy when tapped; a thin knife inserted into the center should come out just slightly streaked with chocolate. Transfer the pan to a cooling rack and let the cake rest for 5 to 10 minutes.

Run a blunt knife gently around the edges of the cake and remove the sides of the pan. Carefully turn the cake over onto a rack and remove the pan bottom and the parchment paper. Invert the cake onto another rack and cool to room temperature right side up. As the cake cools, it may sink.

Cooling, and not terribly impressive...

To Make the Optional Glaze:
First, turn the cooled cake over onto another rack so you'll be glazing the flat bottom, and place the rack over a baking sheet lined with parchment or wax paper to catch any drips.
Put the chocolate in a small heatproof bowl.

Melt the chocolate over a pan of simmering water or in a microwave oven – the chocolate should be just melted and only warm, not hot. Meanwhile, bring the cream to a boil in a small sauce pan. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and stir very gently with a rubber spatula until the mixture is smooth and shiny. Stir in the corn syrup.

Pour the glaze over the cake and smooth the top with a long metal icing spatula. Don't worry if the glaze drips unevenly down the sides of the cake – it will just add to its charms. Allow the glaze to set at room temperature or, if you're impatient, slip the cake into the refrigerator for about 20 minutes. If the glaze dulls in the fridge, just give it a little gentle heat from a hairdryer.

I made one mini gateau in a ramekin so I could taste test before bringing this delight to work. I probably would not have done this if it weren't for the over beating part... I was nervous! Clearly, there was no problem with the final product. :-)

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Tomato Shrimp Scampi

I received this from my mother as part of a collection of recipes given to me at my bridal shower. I tweaked it a little for our taste (GARLIC), and so that it made a little less so there wasn't too much leftover. This is a great dish, and pretty easy to throw together.

Tomato Shrimp Scampi

6 oz Pasta (I used Barilla Plus Thin Spaghetti
Drizzle of olive oil
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups chopped plum tomatoes (4 tomatoes)
1/2 cup white cooking wine
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/2 tsp sugar
3 scallions, chopped
3/4 pound raw shrimp
1 tsp red pepper flakes
4 tbsp parmesan cheese
4 tbsp chopped basil

~Saute garlic in olive oil and heat 2 minutes.
~Add tomatoes, cook 5 min.
~Add wine, lemon juice and sugar and simmer 6 minutes.
~Add scallions, shrimp and red pepper flakes, cook until shrimp turns pink - about 3 minutes.
Looks good so far!

~Stir in basil and parmesan cheese, toss with cooked pasta.

Yum! This has a wonderful light fresh lemon flavor, with a little kick from the garlic and red pepper.