May 28, 2010

Ultimate Chocolate Cupcakes

When your favorite cooking magazine devotes three pages to chocolate cupcakes, I think it is a sign that you have to make them!   My husband asked me to make a special treat for a group he was working with and I these were at the top of my list of recipes to try.  But the recipe only called for 12 cupcakes – so I knew I would have to double it to get 24.  And I didn’t want to send him with my cupcake carrier with one precariously missing from the tray.  But as luck would have it – I managed to get 27 cupcakes out of a double batch!  So that means I got to try one (or maybe three?) of these :)  

And let me warn you now – these were to.die.for!  If you are a chocolate lover – these are the best chocolate cupcakes ever! I am not joking here people!   Just when you can’t get enough of the rich chocolate buttercream on top – you hit the ganache filled center. Oh my!  I especially loved the taste and texture of the cake. I got perfectly domed cupcake tops, which I loved since I sometimes my cupcakes sink in the middle when they are cooling.   You.must.make.these!

Ingredients (makes 12 –13 cupcakes)

Ganache Filling

  • 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate , chopped fine
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon confectioners' sugar

Chocolate Cupcakes

  • 3 ounces bittersweet chocolate , chopped fine
  • 1/3 cup Dutch-processed cocoa
  • 3/4 cup hot coffee
  • 3/4 cup bread flour
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Chocolate Frosting

  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large egg whites
  • Pinch table salt
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter , softened and cut into 1-tablespoon pieces
  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate , melted and cooled
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


For the ganache filling

1. Place chocolate, cream, and confectioners’ sugar in medium microwave-safe bowl. Heat in microwave on high power until mixture is warm to touch, 20 to 30 seconds. Whisk until smooth; transfer bowl to refrigerator and let stand until just chilled, no longer than 30 minutes.

For the cupcakes

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard-size muffin pan with baking-cup liners.

2. Place chocolate and cocoa in medium bowl. Pour hot coffee over mixture and whisk until smooth. Set in refrigerator to cool completely, about 20 minutes.

3. Whisk flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside.

4. Whisk oil, eggs, vinegar, and vanilla into cooled chocolate-cocoa mixture until smooth. Add flour mixture and whisk until smooth.

5. Divide batter evenly among muffin pan cups. Place one slightly rounded teaspoon ganache filling on top of each cupcake. Bake until cupcakes are set and just firm to touch, 17 to 19 minutes.

6. Cool cupcakes in muffin pan on wire rack until cool enough to handle, about 10 minutes. Carefully lift each cupcake from muffin pan and set on wire rack. Cool to room temperature before frosting, about 1 hour.

For the chocolate frosting

1. Combine sugar, egg whites, and salt in bowl of stand mixer; place bowl over pan of simmering water. Whisking gently but constantly, heat mixture until slightly thickened, foamy, and registers 150 degrees on instant-read thermometer, 2 to 3 minutes.

2. Place bowl in stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Beat mixture on medium speed until consistency of shaving cream and slightly cooled, 1 to 2 minutes.

3. Add butter, 1 piece at a time, until smooth and creamy. (Frosting may look curdled after half of butter has been added; it will smooth with additional butter.)

4. Once all butter is added, add cooled melted chocolate and vanilla; mix until combined. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until light, fluffy, and thoroughly combined, about 30 seconds, scraping beater and sides of bowl with rubber spatula as necessary.


Source: Cook’s Illustrated, May 2010

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May 27, 2010

Daring Bakers: Croquembouche

The May 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Cat of Little Miss Cupcake. Cat challenged everyone to make a piece montée, or croquembouche, based on recipes from Peter Kump’s Baking School in Manhattan and Nick Malgieri.
I’ve wanted to make croquembouche since I took French in high school - [in French it literally means ‘crunch in the mouth’].   If you don’t know what it is – it is essentially a tower of cream puffs, usually covered with chocolate or spun sugar.   So much fun! 
I really wanted to make the caramel glaze – but everywhere I read about it said that it does not work well with high humidity.   And luck would have it – I made this for my Mom’s birthday and it was hot and humid that day.  Oh well – instead I decided to make some chocolate butterflies and just make a chocolate tower with the cream puffs.  I also used chocolate pastry cream to fill them.   The puffs were delicious – I was really surprised at how easy they were to make – it was so much fun watching them really puff up in the oven.   The other thing I loved was that the recipe said that this made 28 – and I got exactly 28 – so I knew I did something right!    I’ll definitely use this recipe if I need to make cream puffs again!
For the Vanilla Crème Patissiere
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • 6 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 Tsp. Vanilla
1. Dissolve cornstarch in ¼ cup of milk. Combine the remaining milk with the sugar in a saucepan; bring to boil; remove from heat.
2. Beat the whole egg, then the yolks into the cornstarch mixture. Pour 1/3 of boiling milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly so that the eggs do not begin to cook.
3. Return the remaining milk to boil. Pour in the hot egg mixture in a stream, continuing whisking.
4. Continue whisking (this is important – you do not want the eggs to solidify/cook) until the cream thickens and comes to a boil. Remove from heat and beat in the butter and vanilla.
5. Pour cream into a stainless steel/ceramic bowl. Press plastic wrap firmly against the surface. Chill immediately and until ready to use.
For Chocolate Pastry Cream
Bring ¼ cup milk to a boil in a small pan; remove from heat and add in 3 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped, and mix until smooth. Whisk into pastry cream when you add the butter and vanilla.
For Coffee Pastry Cream
Dissolve 1 ½ teaspoons instant espresso powder in 1 ½ teaspoons boiling water. Whisk into pastry cream with butter and vanilla.
Pate a Choux (the puffs) (Yield: About 28)
  • ¾ cup  water
  • 6 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • ¼ Tsp. salt
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs
  • For Egg Wash: 1 egg and pinch of salt
1. Pre-heat oven to 425◦ F degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Combine water, butter, salt and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and stir occasionally. At boil, remove from heat and sift in the flour, stirring to combine completely.
3. Return to heat and cook, stirring constantly until the batter dries slightly and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan.
4. Transfer to a bowl and stir with a wooden spoon 1 minute to cool slightly.
5. Add 1 egg. The batter will appear loose and shiny. As you stir, the batter will become dry-looking like lightly buttered mashed potatoes.
6. It is at this point that you will add in the next egg. Repeat until you have incorporated all the eggs.
7. Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a large open tip.  Pipe choux about 1 inch-part in the baking sheets. Choux should be about 1 inch high about 1 inch wide.
8. Using a clean finger dipped in hot water, gently press down on any tips that have formed on the top of choux when piping. You want them to retain their ball shape, but be smoothly curved on top.
9. Brush tops with egg wash (1 egg lightly beaten with pinch of salt).
10. Bake the choux at 425◦F degrees until well-puffed and turning lightly golden in color, about 10 minutes.
11. Lower the temperature to 350◦F degrees and continue baking until well-colored and dry, about 20 minutes more. Remove to a rack and cool. Can be stored in a airtight box overnight.

When you are ready to assemble your piece montée, using a plain pastry tip, pierce the bottom of each choux. Fill the choux with pastry cream using either the same tip or a star tip, and place on a paper-lined sheet. Choux can be refrigerated briefly at this point while you make your glaze.

Use one of these to top your choux and assemble your piece montée.
Chocolate Glaze 8 ounces finely chopped chocolate (semi or bittersweet)
Melt chocolate in microwave or double boiler. Stir at regular intervals to avoid burning. Use the best quality chocolate you can afford. Use immediately.
Hard Caramel Glaze 1 cup sugar
½ teaspoon lemon juice
Combine sugar and lemon juice in a saucepan with a metal kitchen spoon stirring until the sugar resembles wet sand. Place on medium heat; heat without stirring until sugar starts to melt around the sides of the pan and the center begins to smoke. Begin to stir sugar. Continue heating, stirring occasionally until the sugar is a clear, amber color. Remove from heat immediately; place bottom of pan in ice water to stop the cooking. Use immediately.

Assembly of your Piece Montée:
You may want to lay out your unfilled, unglazed choux in a practice design to get a feel for how to assemble the final dessert. For example, if making a conical shape, trace a circle (no bigger than 8 inches) on a piece of parchment to use as a pattern. Then take some of the larger choux and assemble them in the circle for the bottom layer. Practice seeing which pieces fit together best.
Once you are ready to assemble your piece montée, dip the top of each choux in your glaze (careful it may be still hot!), and start assembling on your cake board/plate/sheet. Continue dipping and adding choux in levels using the glaze to hold them together as you build up.
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piece monte 3
Check out what the other Daring Bakers baked up on the blogroll.  Thanks Cat for the great challenge!  I had so much fun – and it was something I never thought I would do – so it was truly a challenge!

May 25, 2010

Tuna and Campanelle Pasta Salad

Completely out of the blue – the power went out at work.  There are back-up generators to keep the computers running and then those stopped working too.  I’m not even sure what exactly happened – but what I do know is that I got a free afternoon off that day.  And I enjoyed it by watching some afternoon television (and internet surfing).  Giada made this dish on her show that day – and I immediately added it into my meal rotation for the next week.  
The great thing about this is that it was delicious when it was first made and still hot – and it was also great when eaten cold for lunch the next day.  This would be a great dish to bring to a summer picnic, since it is so much tastier (and healthier) than any mayo-laced tuna salads out there.    I will definitely be making this again – this made a lot of food – and I had no leftovers after a few days – which means that my husband enjoyed it a lot too! 



  • 1 pound campanelle pasta
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided 
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 (6-ounce) cans Italian tuna in oil, drained
  • 1 pint (2 cups) cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 10 ounces marinated artichoke hearts, quartered
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 4 Tbsp. grated parmesan cheese
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain and reserve about 1 cup of the pasta water.

2. In a large skillet, heat 1/4 cup oil over medium-high heat.

3. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until soft, about 5 minutes.

4. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds until aromatic.

5. Add the tuna to the skillet and, using a fork, break into chunks.

6. Add the cherry tomatoes, artichoke hearts and thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes begin to soften, about 8 to 10 minutes.

7. Add the pasta, the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil, parmesan cheese and the parsley.

8. Toss until all the ingredients are coated, adding a little pasta water, if needed, to thin out the sauce. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Transfer the pasta to a serving bowl and serve warm or at room temperature.

Source: adapted from Giada at Home

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May 24, 2010

Balsamic Teriyaki Flank steak

This was a dinner that I didn’t have planned other than trying to use up something that I had in the freezer (flank steak) and that would pair well with some fresh asparagus.  My sister lives out in the country and her house came with an asparagus garden that we all enjoy every spring!  Here is a photo I took of one of the stalks in her garden: 

It doesn’t get much better than freshly picked asparagus!  And you have to enjoy it while it lasts – since it is here and gone very quickly!  Although this is also great raw – I decided to roast this with just a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper.  It was absolutely delicious!    Also delicious was this flank steak with a balsamic teriyaki sauce that I made to go with it.   Enjoy!



For the steak:

  • 1 lb. flank steak
  • 2 Tbsp. canola cooking oil

For the sauce:

  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock
  • 2 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. mirin


1. To make the sauce: Add the butter to a small saucepan and heat over medium-low. When the butter just starts to bubble, add the shallots and garlic and cook for 3 minutes or until soft.

2. Pour in the balsamic vinegar, turn the heat up, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, immediately turn the heat down to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes, or until reduced by half.

3. Add the sugar, stock, soy sauce, and mirin. Stir well and bring to a boil. When it reaches a boil, immediately turn the heat to low and let simmer for 5 minutes. Let cool.

4. To make the steak: If you're grilling outdoors, preheat the grill for direct grilling over high heat. If you're cooking the steak on a stovetop, set a large frying pan or grill pan over high heat. Then add the oil and swirl to coat.

5. Add the steak to the hot grill or pan in one layer. Cook until desired doneness.

6. Let the steak rest for 5 minutes, then slice across the grain. Pour the balsamic teriyaki sauce over the meat to serve.


Source: Playing house, who adapted from The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook

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May 21, 2010

Chocolate peanut butter swirl cupcakes

This was one of those, “I need a dessert to bring to a party tomorrow…can you make something tonight?”  Which translates into – what can I do with what I have on hand in my pantry.   So I turned to my Martha Stewart Cupcakes cookbook for inspiration.  Since you can almost never do wrong with peanut butter and chocolate – and these did not require any frosting – they were the perfect quick dessert to whip up.   I mad mine into mini cupcakes, but you can also make them regular sized.   Enjoy!


  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chop coarsely
  • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chop coarsely
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Peanut Butter Filling

  • 4 Tbsp. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • 3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract


1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

2. Line cupcake pan with paper liners.

3.  Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

4. Put butter and chocolates in a heatproof bowl and set over (not in) a pan of simmering water; stir until melted. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

5. Whisk granulated sugar into cooled chocolate mixture.

6. Add the eggs, whisk until mixture is smooth.

7. Stir in the pure vanilla extract, then add the flour mixture. Stir until well blended.

8. In a separate bowl, combine all of peanut butter filling ingredients and stir until smooth.

9. Spoon 2 tablespoons of the chocolate batter into each lined cup. Place 1 tablespoon of the peanut butter filling on top. Put an additional tablespoon of the chocolate batter over the peanut butter filling layer.  Swirl 1 teaspoon of the peanut butter filling with the top layer of chocolate batter with a toothpick or wood skewer. [note: reduce amounts for mini cupcakes]

10. Bake, rotating pan halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached, about 40 minutes [15 –20 minutes for mini cupcakes].

11. Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool completely before removing cupcakes.

Source: from Martha Stewart Cupcakes

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May 20, 2010

Chipotle Bean and Cilantro rice Burritos

Both Moe’s and Chipotle are some of our favorite places to go for a quick lunch or easy dinner!  I guess it helps that both of them are just a few minutes away from our house!  So I decided to combine two different recipes – one for a chipotle bean burrito filling (inspired by Moe’s ) and one for cilantro-lime rice (inspired by Chipotle) to make one delicious burrito!    These were really flavorful and easy to make.   Whip yourself up a strawberry margarita and you’ll be all set!  Enjoy! 



for the chipotle bean filling

  • 2 tsp. canola oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 minced chipotle chile in adobo sauce, plus 1 tsp. of adobo sauce
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup water or chicken broth
  • 1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 15-ounce can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 6 Tbsp. salsa
  • 6 10-inch whole wheat flour tortillas, warmed in microwave for 10-15 seconds
  • 1 cup shredded cheese (such as monterey jack)
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped spinach
  • 6 Tablespoons thinly sliced green onion

for the cilantro lime rice

  • 1 cup long grain white rice
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 lime
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro 
  • salt, to taste


for the chipotle bean filling

1.  Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. 

2. Add the garlic, chili powder, chipotle chile and adobo, cumin, and salt, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. 

3. Add the beans and broth, and bring to a boil. 

4. Reduce heat to medium-low, and allow to simmer 10 minutes.  Remove from heat, stir in salsa and spinach and mash lightly with a slotted spoon or fork.   Top with green onions.

for the cilantro rice

1. Pour the rice, water, and 1 tbsp of the olive oil into a small sauce pan.

2. Bring to a boil and continue boiling over medium heat until the water just skims the top of the rice.

3. Reduce heat to low, cover the pan, and continue cooking for 15 minutes.

4. Turn the heat off after 15 minutes and keep covered for 5 more minutes.

5. Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, the juice of the lime, and the finely chopped cilantro to the rice. Mix well and salt to taste.

To serve:  Spoon bean filling, a few tbsp. of shredded cheese, tomatoes and  rice mixture onto a flour tortilla.  Wrap tightly and enjoy!

Source: chipotle bean filling adapted from Pink Parsley Catering, cilantro lime rice from Buns in my oven

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May 18, 2010

Spinach & Meatball Calzones

One of my favorite food magazines is Everyday Food – I has simple and delicious recipes that almost never fail me.  And I also love that its small enough to carry around in your purse so you have something you read if you are out waiting in line somewhere!  This recipe is another winner from a recent issue of that magazine.  They also have a TV show on PBS that I really enjoy. 
I love using up items in my freezer – and I had some pizza dough and meatballs already made – so this was actually a really easy meal to pull together. 


  • 10 ounces baby spinach
  • 1 lb. pizza dough (homemade or store-bought), cut in four pieces
  • 8-10 meatballs, halved
  • 1 1/2 cups tomato sauce
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella, torn into pieces
  • 6-8 fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • dried Italian seasoning


1. Place a pizza stone in the oven and preheat oven to 450 degrees.

2. In a 10-inch skillet, add the sliced mushrooms and spinach over medium heat.  Cook until spinach is wilted and liquid is released and mushrooms are softened.  Transfer spinach and mushrooms to a cutting board and roughly chop. 

3. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out each piece of dough into a 8-inch circle. 

4.  In a medium bowl, combine meatballs, sauce, cheese, spinach, mushrooms, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. 

5.  Divide mixture evenly among bottom halves of dough rounds, leaving a 1-inch border.  Fold top half of each round over filling and roll and pinch edges to seal. 

6.  Brush tops of calzones with olive oil and sprinkle some dried Italian seasoning on top.

7. Carefully transfer calzones to baking stone and bake until golden brown, approximately 15 to 18 minutes.


Source: adapted from Everyday Food , May 2010

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May 14, 2010

Strawberry Margarita

Mmmmmm……are you thirsty yet?  My favorite alcohol is definitely tequila.  I love it in any form, whether straight up or mixed with something.

But my weakness is margaritas.   I’ll drink them on the rocks or blended…but definitely with salt!    This recipe is perfect for summer – so refreshing and sweet.  You can easily adjust it to your personal tastes, as there are lots of different opinions on how to make the perfect margarita. 

Enjoy – have one for me!  :)


Ingredients (for 2 margaritas)

  • 1/2 pint of fresh strawberries, plus 2 for garnish
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 2 tbsp. caster sugar
  • splash orange juice
  • 8-10 ice cubes
  • 3 ounces tequila
  • 2 ounces triple sec
  • coarse salt, to rim glasses


1. Clean strawberries and remove stems.  Reserve two for garnish.

2. In a blender combine the strawberries, lime juice, sugar, orange juice, ice, tequila and triple sec.

3. Blend until smooth, adding more ice if needed. 

4. Rub the rim of the glass with lime juice and dip in salt.

5.  Pour in strawberry margarita and garnish with lime wedge and strawberry.

Source: adapted from Recipezaar

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May 13, 2010

Sub Rolls

Whenever I make a batch of my favorite meatballs (I like to make a big batch and keep some in the freezer), we always have meatball subs for dinner the day I make them.   I thought it would be fun to try making my own hoagie rolls this time.  

As usual, I turned to the Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart for a recipe for Italian bread.  You have to plan ahead – since this recipe requires a biga that is prepared ahead of time.  But I still don’t think that making your own bread is that hard – it does require time and planning, but most of that is proofing time and not actual hands on time.  I thought these rolls were perfect!   Not only were they great for meatball subs – they would make a great turkey or chicken finger sub (my two favorites!).     


for the biga

  • 2 1/2 cups (11.25 ounces) unbleached bread flour
  • 1/2 tsp. (.055 ounce) instant yeast
  • 3/4 – 1 cup (7 to 8 ounces) water, room temp.

for the rolls

  • 2 1/2 cup (11.25 ounces) unbleached bread flour
  • 1 2/3 tsp. (.41 ounce) salt
  • 1 tbsp. (.5 ounce) sugar
  • 1 tsp. (.11 ounce) instant yeast
  • 1 tbsp. (.5 ounce) olive oil
  • 3/4 cup to 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk, lukewarm (90 to 100 F)
  • cornmeal for dusting


for the biga

1. Stir together the flour and yeast in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Add 3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp. water and mix on low for 1 minute with the paddle attachment.  Adjust flour and water so that dough is neither too sticky or too stiff.

2. Switch to dough hook, and knead on medium speed for 4 minutes, until the dough is soft and pliable.  The temperature of the dough should be between 77-81 degrees F.

3. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, and coat with oil.  Cover with plastic wrap and allow to ferment at room temp for 2 – 4 hours (or until doubles in size). 

4. Remove dough from bowl and knead slightly to degas.  Return to bowl and cover with plastic wrap.   Place in refrigerator overnight (or up to 3 days).  

for the rolls

1. Remove biga from refrigerator 1 hour before making the dough and cut it into 10 small pieces with a pastry scraper or serrated knife.  Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and let sit for 1 hour to take off the chill.

2. Stir together the flour, salt, sugar and yeast in the bowl of an electric mixer.

3. Add the biga pieces, olive oil, and 3/4 cup milk and stir together until a dough forms, adjusting the water or flour according to need.  The dough should be slightly sticky and soft.  If the dough feels tough and stiff, add more milk to soften.

4. Mix on medium speed with the dough hook for about 10 minutes. The dough should pass the windowpane test and register 77 to 81 F. 

5. Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it to coat it with the oil.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

6. Ferment at room temp for approximately 2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size.

7. Divide dough into 9 pieces of about 4 ounces each.  Carefully form the pieces into rolls degassing the dough as little possible.  Lightly dust with a sprinkle of flour, cover with a towel or plastic wrap, and let it rest for 5 minutes.  Then complete  shaping the rolls, if necessary. 

8. Line a sheet pan with parchment and dust with cornmeal.  Place the rolls on the pan and lightly mist with spray oil.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap.

9. Proof at room temp for about 1 hour, or until the rolls have grown to about 1 1/2 times their original size.

10. Preheat oven to 500F.  Score the rolls with 2 parallel, diagonal slashes or 1 long slash.

11. Place rolls on sheet pan in oven.  Pour 1 cup hot water into steam pan in the oven and close the door.  After 30 seconds, spray the walls of the oven with water and close the door.  Repeat once more after another 30 seconds.  After the final spray, lower the oven setting to 450 F and bake until done, rotating 180 degrees, if necessary, for even baking.  It should take 15 minutes for rolls.  The rolls should be golden brown and register at least 200F at the center.

12. Transfer the rolls to a cooling rack and cool for at least 1 hour before slicing or serving.



Source: The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart

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May 12, 2010

Chocolate dipped Strawberry Ice Cream

I grew up going to Dairy Queen (if I say many, many times it would be an understatement!) – and it is still my favorite ice cream.  I can honestly say that over the 30 years of my life – I have tried almost everything on their menu at some point (well – maybe not everything– but all of  the old staples – dilly bar, buster bar, peanut buster parfait – yes I have had them all).   But I definitely have a few favorites – butterscotch dilly bar, hot fudge sundae w/crushed nuts and chocolate dipped strawberry blizzard.    oh – the chocolate dipped strawberry blizzard is my current Dairy Queen item of choice!  
So when I wanted to make a new ice cream flavor – I could not stop thinking about combining chocolate and strawberries.  I combined two recipes to get the perfect result – and I was even better (gasp!) than the Dairy Queen blizzard!   First, I made strawberry ice cream – but the chocolate was added by a technique called stracciatella that I learned in The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz – the king of ice cream.    This technique is really just combining warm melted chocolate into the ice cream at the last minute of churning – and when it freezes it leaves the perfect chocolate chip texture in the ice cream.  So it was really similar to the chocolate shell on a chocolate dipped strawberry. 
Enjoy this recipe – perfect timing for strawberry season!

  • 1 pint fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • 5 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1.  Combine the strawberries, 1/3 cup sugar and lemon juice in a mixing bowl.  Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour.
2. Whisk the eggs in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy, about 1-2 minutes.
3. Whisk in the sugar (3/4 cup), a little at a time, and then continue whisking until completely blended, about 1 minute more.
4. Pour in the cream and milk and whisk to blend.  Refrigerate until ready to churn.
5. Mash the strawberries to a puree (either with a food processor or immersion blender) and stir into the cream base.
6. Transfer the mixture to an ice cream maker and freeze following the manufacturer’s instructions.
7. Melt the chocolate in a completely dry measuring cup in the microwave (~2 min. on 50% power).
8.  At the last minute of churning, drizzle a very thin stream of warm chocolate into the ice cream maker.  If the chocolate clings to the dasher – you can just layer the chocolate as you remove the ice cream from the machine – and break up the chocolate with a spoon as it hardens.
9. Place ice cream in freezer for 12-24 hours before serving.  
Source: recipe a combination of and adapted from Ben and Jerry’s, as seen on Blissfully Delicious, and chocolate from The Perfect Scoop
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May 11, 2010

Pad thai

I’ve tried many times at home and I have yet to be able to replicate Thai food that you get from an actual Thai restaurant.  But I knew that Cook’s Illustrated wouldn’t steer me in the wrong direction.  Part of the problem with making authentic ethnic cuisine is finding the right ingredients.   This recipe calls for Tamarind paste – which is something I could not find at my regular grocery store.  Luckily, I live pretty close to some ethnic grocery stores, even though I have yet to find Thai basil anywhere – I easily found Tamarind paste (and these ethnic grocery stores sell fresh cilantro for really cheap!).  So in the end – I figured out that you can make authentic tasting pad thai at home – and its really pretty easy! 


  • 2 tbsp. tamarind paste
  • 3/4 cup water (boiling)
  • 3 tbsp. fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 3 tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 3/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 4 tbsp. peanut oil or vegetable oil
  • 8 ounces dried rice noodles
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 tsp. table salt
  • 1 lb. boneless skinless chicken, cut into thin strips (or 12 oz. shrimp or tofu)
  • 3 cloves garlic , minced
  • 1 medium shallot , minced
  • 6 tbsp. chopped unsalted roasted peanuts
  • 3 cups bean sprouts
  • 5 medium scallions , green parts only, sliced thin on sharp bias
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • lime wedges


1. Soak tamarind paste in 3/4 cup boiling water for about 10 minutes, then push it through a mesh strainer to remove the seeds and fibers and extract as much pulp as possible.

2. Stir fish sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, cayenne, and 2 tablespoons oil into tamarind liquid and set aside.

3. Cover rice sticks with hot tap water in large bowl; soak until softened, pliable, and limp but not fully tender, about 20 minutes. Drain noodles and set aside.

4. Beat eggs and 1/8 teaspoon salt in small bowl; set aside.

5. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in 12-inch skillet (preferably nonstick) over high heat until just beginning to smoke, about 2 minutes.

6. Add chicken and sprinkle with remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt; cook, tossing occasionally, until completed cooked though, about 3 minutes. Transfer chicken to plate and set aside.

7. Off heat, add remaining tablespoon oil to skillet and swirl to coat; add garlic and shallot, set skillet over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly, until light golden brown, about 1 1/2 minutes.

8. Add eggs to skillet and stir vigorously with wooden spoon until scrambled and barely moist, about 20 seconds.

9. Add noodles to eggs; toss with 2 wooden spoons to combine.

10. Pour fish sauce mixture over noodles, increase heat to high, and cook, tossing constantly, until noodles are evenly coated.

11. Scatter 1/4 cup peanuts, bean sprouts, all but 1/4 cup scallions, and cooked shrimp over noodles; continue to cook, tossing constantly, until noodles are tender, about 2 1/2 minutes.

12. Transfer noodles to serving platter, sprinkle with remaining scallions, 2 tablespoons peanuts, and cilantro; serve immediately, passing lime wedges separately.

Source adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

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May 10, 2010

Spinach Risotto w/Chicken, leeks and garlic

Leeks are an item that I really enjoy – but I don’t have a lot of recipes to use them.  So that is one of the main reasons I picked this recipe to try out.  And let me say – it was delicious.   Cook’s Illustrated calls this ‘almost hands-free risotto’ since you only have to stir for a few minutes – which makes this even a better reason to try out this recipe.  Definitely worth the effort – I thought it was delicious.


  • 5 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 2 bone-in, skin-on chicken breast halves (about 12 ounces each), each cut in half crosswise
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 4 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 medium leek , finely chopped white and light green parts
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 3 large garlic cloves , minced
  • 2 cups Arborio rice
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese (about 1 cup)
  • 1 tsp. juice from 1 lemon
  • 2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 2 tbsp. chopped fresh chives
  • Ground black pepper
  • 1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach , thawed and squeezed of excess moisture


1. Bring broth and water to boil in large saucepan over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low to maintain gentle simmer.

2. Heat olive oil in large Dutch oven over medium heat until just starting to smoke. Add chicken, skin side down, and cook without moving until golden brown, 4 to 6 minutes. Flip chicken and cook second side until lightly browned, about 2 minutes.

3. Transfer chicken to saucepan of simmering broth and cook until instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part registers 165 degrees, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer to large plate.

4. Add 2 tablespoons butter to now empty Dutch oven set over medium heat. When butter has melted, add leeks and salt; cook, stirring frequently, until leeks are softened but not browned, 4 to 5 minutes. Add garlic and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add rice and cook, stirring frequently, until grains are translucent around edges, about 3 minutes.

5. Add wine and cook, stirring constantly, until fully absorbed, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir 5 cups warm broth into rice; reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until almost all liquid has been absorbed and rice is just al dente, 16 to 18 minutes, stirring twice during cooking.

6. Add ¾ cup warm broth to risotto and stir gently and constantly until risotto becomes creamy, about 3 minutes. Stir in Parmesan and spinach. Remove pot from heat, cover, and let stand for 5 minutes.

7. Meanwhile, remove and discard skin and bones from chicken, and shred meat into bite-size pieces. Gently stir shredded chicken, remaining 2 tablespoons butter, lemon juice, parsley, and chives into risotto. Season with salt and pepper to taste. If desired, add up to ½ cup additional broth to loosen texture of risotto.


Source: adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

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May 7, 2010

Cinnamon Swirl Bread

I love an easy, quick bread recipe.   I needed to make a quick breakfast item – and this worked out perfectly.   I only had a tiny slice of the end of this bread – but it was moist and full of cinnamon-y deliciousness!    And look how pretty it is when cut and plated…


(makes 1 loaf)

  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup canola oil


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease the bottom and sides of a 9″x5″x3″ loaf pan.

2. Combine the brown sugar and cinnamon. Set aside.

3. Combine the white sugar, flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl.

4.  In a separate bowl, beat egg. Stir in buttermilk, vanilla and oil.

5. Make a well in the flour mixture and add the egg/buttermilk mixture. Stir just until mixed. Do not over-mix.

6. Pour half of the batter into loaf pan. Sprinkle with half of the cinnamon mixture. Repeat. With a wide rubber scraper or spatula, swirl mixtures together with a down and up circular motion.

7. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until done. Cool in pan for about 10 minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely on a wire rack.

Source: Sing for your Supper

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May 6, 2010

Rustic Dinner Rolls

You know those crusty warm dinner rolls that you are (sometimes) lucky enough to get at a nice restaurant?  Well, these are those rolls!  They have a nice crusty exterior and a soft and chewy interior.  

I’ve professed my love for Cook’s Illustrated on this blog – but what I haven’t mentioned is how much I love their TV show too (did you know they have a tv show? It’s on PBS).  I was watching an episode of America’s Test Kitchen one Saturday – and as soon as it ended – I went into the kitchen to make these rolls – I didn’t even wait a minute!   I am so glad I decided to try them – you have to try them!


  • 1 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon water, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 2 tsp. honey
  • 3 cups plus 1 tablespoon bread flour (16 1/2 ounces), plus extra for forming rolls
  • 3 tbsp. whole wheat flour (about 1 ounce)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. table salt


1. Whisk water, yeast, and honey in bowl of stand mixer until well combined, making sure no honey sticks to bottom of bowl.

2.  Add flours and mix on low speed with dough hook until cohesive dough is formed, about 3 minutes.

3. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature 30 minutes.

4. Remove plastic wrap and evenly sprinkle salt over dough. Knead on low speed (speed 2 on KitchenAid) 5 minutes. (If dough creeps up attachment, stop mixer and scrape down using well-floured hands or greased spatula.) Increase speed to medium and continue to knead until dough is smooth and slightly tacky, about 1 minute. If dough is very sticky, add 1 to 2 tablespoons flour and continue mixing 1 minute.

5. Lightly spray 2-quart bowl with nonstick cooking spray; transfer dough to bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let dough rise in warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

6. Fold dough over itself; rotate bowl quarter turn and fold again. Rotate bowl again and fold once more. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise 30 minutes.

7. Repeat folding, replace plastic wrap, and let dough rise until doubled in volume, about 30 minutes.

8. Spray two 9-inch round cake pans with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.

9. Transfer dough to floured work surface, sprinkle top with more flour. Using bench scraper, cut dough in half and gently stretch each half into 16-inch cylinders. Divide each cylinder into quarters, then each quarter into 2 pieces (you should have 16 pieces total), and dust top of each piece with more flour. With floured hands, gently pick up each piece and roll in palms to coat with flour, shaking off excess, and place in prepared cake pan.

10. Arrange 8 dough pieces in each cake pan, placing one piece in middle and others around it, with long side of each piece running from center of pan to edge and making sure cut-side faces up.

11. Loosely cover cake pans with plastic wrap and let rolls rise until doubled in size, about 30 minutes (dough is ready when it springs back slowly when pressed lightly with finger). Thirty minutes before baking, adjust rack to middle position and heat oven to 500 degrees.

12. Remove plastic wrap from cake pans, spray rolls lightly with water, and place in oven. Bake 10 minutes until tops of rolls are brown; remove from oven.

13. Reduce oven temperature to 400 degrees; using kitchen towels or oven mitts, invert rolls from both cake pans onto rimmed baking sheet. When rolls are cool enough to handle, turn right-side up, pull apart, and space evenly on baking sheet.

14. Continue to bake until rolls develop deep golden brown crust and sound hollow when tapped on bottom, 10 to 15 minutes; rotating baking sheet halfway through baking time.

15. Transfer rolls to wire rack and cool to room temperature, about 1 hour.

Source: Cook’s Illustrated

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May 4, 2010

Maple Syrup Pancake Muffins

I’ve had this recipe bookmarked for awhile – I mean a pancake in a muffin cup – why didn’t I think of this?!  It’s ingenious!  I made two types of these – blueberry and mini chocolate chip.  I can’t decide which one I liked better.   These are perfect for a quick breakfast-to-go or for a nice brunch.  Enjoy!


makes 12 standard muffins

  • 7 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 Tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt

For the Maple Glaze: 

  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice


1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Line muffin pan with paper or foil liners.

2. Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Melt and cook down the butter until little brown bits appear in the pan.  The crackling will subside and butter will begin to brown fairly quickly after that.  Remove from heat at this point and let cool slightly.

3. Whisk milk, egg, yolk, maple syrup, and vanilla until combined.  Add the brown butter and stir to combine.

4. Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl  Add milk and butter mixture all at once and stir gently to combine.

5. Divide the batter among muffin cups and spread evenly.

6. Bake until golden and crisp and a wooden pick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, about 18-20 minutes.

7. While the muffins are baking make the maple glaze. 

8. In a small saucepan simmer maple syrup and lemon juice, stirring occasionally, until reduced to a thick syrup.  This will take about 15 minutes over a low flame. 

9. Remove from heat and wait for the muffins to finish baking.  When muffins are out of the oven and cool enough to handle, poke a few holes in the muffin top with a toothpick.  Brush glaze on top of each muffin and repeat until you use all of the glaze.

Source: adapted from Joy the Baker

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May 3, 2010

Chicken and Basil Stirfry

I went on a search for some fresh Thai basil for this recipe– but it was no where to be found anywhere I looked – and I even went to an oriental food store :(   Regardless, I was able to use regular basil and this was a delicious, easy weeknight meal.   If I ever do find Thai basil – I will definitely try this recipe again. 


  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 1 tbsp. cornstarch
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 6 tsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 small onion, halved and cut into 1/4-inch-thick wedges
  • 2 bell peppers, ribs and seeds removed - cut into 1/4-inch-wide strips
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 2 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh Thai or other basil leaves, larger leaves torn in half
  • Cooked white rice, for serving


1. Pat chicken pieces dry with paper towels. In a medium bowl, toss chicken with cornstarch until coated; season generously with salt and pepper.

2. In a large nonstick skillet, heat 2 teaspoons oil over medium-high. Cook half the chicken, turning once, until browned, but not completely cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes total. Transfer to a plate. Repeat with another 2 teaspoons oil and remaining chicken. Transfer chicken to plate. Set aside. Wipe out skillet with a paper towel.

3. To skillet, add remaining 2 teaspoons oil, onion, and bell peppers; cook over medium-high heat, tossing often, until beginning to brown, 3 minutes.

4.  Add garlic; cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

5. Add 1/4 cup water, vinegar, soy sauce, and chicken to pan; cook, tossing, until chicken is cooked through, about 1 minute. Remove from heat.

6. Stir in basil leaves. Serve immediately, over white rice.

Source: Martha Stewart

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