Thursday, September 8, 2016

Summer Corn Chowder

It has been too long, summer is almost over, the kids are back in school and for some reason it's 90F outside. I've been busy with many adventures, primarily the first one with my sheep here at the farm. More on that later.

Living in the country, I'm lucky to have many farm stands nearby to grab sweet corn, still warm from the sun and bring it home for dinner. I always buy a dozen, so whatever isn't eaten gets cut off the cob and frozen for winter tomato soup. But today I was in the mood for a sweet corn chowder, so soup and bread it was. Fresh corn certainly made the dish, you cannot beat the flavor.

I often leave the skins/peels on things like carrots and potatoes, especially this time of year when I know where the came from. I just scrub them good. They add good nutrients and fiber to a dish, and save me time. You can always peel, but in something like this, give it a shot sometime.


Summer Corn Chowder


1 Tbs olive oil
3 strips bacon, chopped
1 cup onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 large carrot, diced small
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp fresh thyme
1 lb. potatoes, diced into 1/2" cubes
4 cups chicken stock
1 bay leaf
6 ears fresh sweet corn ( husked, and cut off the cob)
1 can evaporated milk (you can sub half and half, I used what I had)
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in a large Dutch oven or stockpot over medium heat, add bacon and cook until it begins to brown. Add the onions, celery, carrot, garlic and thyme, and cook until they start to just soften, about 5 minutes.

Add the potatoes, stock and bay leaf, bring to a boil, then simmer for 10 minutes. Potatoes will not be entirely cooked.

Add the corn, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for another 10 minutes, or until the vegetables are fork tender. Discard the bayleaf.

Either purée half the mixture with a submersion blender, or transfer half the soup to a stand blender to purée, and return to pot. Add the milk, and simmer until just heated through, adjust seasonings.
Serve with crusty bread to dunk with, and perhaps some cayenne pepper to sprinkle on top.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Cooked Buttercream or Ermine Icing

Happy 2016! I have slacked, eaten and slept. I have gained 8 pounds and not brushed my hair. I have stepped on lego pieces, found cookies hidden behind the couch and pine needles in my bra. I HAVE survived the holiday season. Now it is time to lose the hidden pounds, vacuum up the crumbs and share some of the recipes I discovered this past year.

Tasty Kitchen dipped her cupcakes in sprinkles, I was inspired. 
But before that, we need to talk about frosting, indulging, satisfying and yummy frosting. I have never been a fan of buttercream frosting until I realized that the sickly sweet, nasty stuff that I make with confectionary sugar, or gasp even worse from a can is what is called “American Buttercream”. I am not surprised with our cultures obsession with sugar that loading way too much into anything and everything. A more traditional cooked buttercream is done whipping butter till it is light and fluffy, then adding a “pudding” to thicken, sweeten and flavor it. While researching for a recipe that was sweet, but not sickly I stumbled across a blog post on Serious Eats written by Nila Jones. She does a great job at describing the differences between buttercreams and the regional breakdown. Personally I found it very interesting, but to the general baker, perhaps more information than you are looking for. However, I do suggest at least browsing the page.

The following recipe I first stumbled upon on the Tasty Kitchen Blog, but I have since seen it multiple places, including the NYT recipe box. So as to an original author to credit, I am unsure.

I began beating my butter when I began cooking the flour and milk, I wanted to get as much air in it as possible. I stopped for a little bit to give my mixer a break, but it probably beat for a good 15-20 minutes, scraping down every so often to make sure nothing got left out.

Cooked Buttercream or Ermine Icing [print recipe]

5 Tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup butter, softened to room temp
1 cup granulated sugar

In a mixer, beat butter and sugar together until the butter is light and fluffy and the sugar granules are ground up and no longer crunchy.

Meanwhile, on the stove over medium to medium-low heat, whisk flour and milk together. WHISK, WHISK, WHISK. You must whisk the entire time, or you will end up with flour lumps, and all of your materials and effort will be wasted.  As the mixture thickens, keep whisking, don’t give up. The desired thickness is more like creamy peanut butter, anything thinner will not set up right when combined with the butter/sugar. Remember, speed is not the essence here, bringing it together too quickly will result in a floury taste to the frosting, but slowly will give the pudding a chance to cook out the taste. Think of it as when you make gravy with a flour thickener, you must cook out the flour taste.

When thick, remove from heat and whisk in the vanilla. scrape into a shallow bowl and press plastic wrap directly down on top of the mixture, so that a crust does not form as it cools. I was in a hurry the last time I made this, and I kept it in the saucepan, applied my plastic wrap and placed the entire pot in a bowl of ice to cool down. You are only bringing the temp down to room temperature, not any cooler.


Add the cooled pudding to the beaten butter/sugar mixture and beat on high, scraping down the sides of the bowl. If it looks separated, you haven’t beaten it enough. It will have the appearance of whipped cream frosting when you are done.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Speculaas

My Oma and Opa came over on "the boat" from Holland, and with them came a boatload of traditions, foods and history. I may not have been fortunate enough to know either of them, but through my family, and mostly my Father I have grown up with many Dutch things in my life. As far as I can remember back, when I think of speculaas, I think of eating them with my Dad and a cup of hot tea. 

Today is the eve of the feast of St. Nicholas, and according to Dutch tradition, Speculaas (windmill
cookies) are served. Although in my house, you'd see them all throughout the cold months of the year. They are crisp and spicy, and perfect with a cup of tea, and often found with sliced almonds baked in. Traditionally they are made with a wooden mold, and if you have the practice, can be done quite quickly. I have the mold, but not the experience using it. So I was thrilled to find a recipe for a rolled version that I could easily make at home a few years ago. Now, I just wish I had a windmill cookie cutter.

Thank you to The DutchBakers Daughter for this recipe, and so many more inspirations. According to her, the speculaas spice dates back to the 15th century. It is available to purchase online, although everyone has their own "mix". I prefer to make it at home, it is very simple.


Ingredients

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup white sugar
1 1/4 cups dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
3 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 1/2 tablespoons speculaas spice**
1 teaspoon kosher salt

** Speculaas spice: (If it makes it easier, think of the word part as teaspoon)
8 parts cinnamon
2 parts nutmeg
2 parts ground cloves
1 part white pepper
1 part ground ginger
1 part cardamom

Directions

      1.     Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
      2.     Cream butter, vanilla, and both kinds of sugar until light and fluffy. Add both eggs and blend well.
      3.     Whisk all of the dry ingredients together and slowly add to the butter mixture, combining until the dough pulls from the side of the bowl.
      4.     Divide the dough in half. Wrap each half in plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
      5.     Roll out dough to 1/4" or 1/8" thick and cut with cookie cutters. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes.
      6.     Let cool for 5 minutes on baking sheet before removing to a wire rack. 



Friday, September 11, 2015

Whole Wheat Peach Kuchen

Millions of peaches, peaches for me…

It is a song lyric, I am sure is stuck in many heads this time of year. Here in western NY, peaches and apples are ripe, local and plentiful, three things that are very important to me, and inspire most of my meals.

A cookbook that has been on my radar for a while is the Simply in Season, Recipes that celebrate fresh, local foods in the spirit of More-With-Less, edited by Mary Beth Lind and Cathleen Hockman-Wert. It is published by the same people who put out More-with-Less, and has the same mentality I have lived with for my life. When it comes down to it, I will not buy something organic that has to be shipped in from across the country or world because what is the point. I’ll find a substitute, or in some cases, organic doesn’t really matter. I would rather support my local agriculture, work with what was probably picked in the last 48 hours, than something that was harvested immature, and shipped a distance resulting in pollution. This is a key reason in why we choose to participate in our local CSA. Anyway, back to the peaches…

            There are some things in my fruit cellar that I only do biannually, they keep fine, and are an undertaking to complete sometimes. Canning peaches is one of them, I’d rather do a ton at once every other year, then yearly. Don’t get me wrong, peaches are ending up in jars this year too, but in other ways. I have tackled jam and liqueur so far, but plan on getting into chutney as well. Fast forward to yesterday, the fruit flies were threatening to arrive in full force, and I had some beautiful peaches on my counter, perfectly ripe and ready, so I made kuchen. This recipe is from the first of the two cookbooks that I mentioned above (SIS), I am giving it to you here with my variations. 


Whole Wheat Peach Kuchen


¾ cup whole wheat pastry flour
½ cup all purpose flour
2 Tbs sugar
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp baking powder
¼ cup ground almonds
¼ cup cold butter

Combine all dry ingredients above in a large bowl, cut in butter until crumbly and pat into a pie pan or oven safe frying pan.

4 cups peaches, peeled and halved
3 Tbs sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

Arrange peaches in crust. Mix together the cinnamon and sugar and sprinkle on top. Bake in a 400° oven for 15 minutes, then:

1 cup plain yogurt (I had greek in the fridge)
1 egg, beaten
2 Tbs sugar
½ tsp vanilla

Combine and pour over peaches and bake for an additional 25 minutes or set.


           



Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Peanut Butter Chocolate Cupcakes

Okay, I have been sitting on this one for a while now, but I just cannot get the taste of these out of my mind. I have mentioned before that I use my husbands crew as guinea pigs for some recipes, or if a special occasion arises I'll put together something special. These came about with the latter, a few of the guys were moving onto other jobs and as a going away gift, I made these. After inquiring, I was told that anything chocolate or peanut butter would be appreciated, so why not both? 

Like I do for most recipes, I found a few potential candidates, and then combined them to form my own. I didn't hear any complaints from the crew, only my kids who were forced to look but not touch. I am apparently a horribly mean Mommy. A downside for this recipe is that it uses a LOT of dishes, and I hate washing dishes, but sometimes it is worth it.

Cupcake: 

½ cup butter, softened
1 ½  cups sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla 
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp soda
¼ tsp salt
½ cup buttermilk
½  cup coffee, room temperature mini peanut butter cups (don't forget to unwrap!)
12 additional mini peanut butter cups, each cut in half (for decoration on the top)

Preheat oven to 375°

Prepare 24 baking cups with paper or silicone liners.

Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy, add the eggs one at a time, beating after each one and ending with the vanilla.

In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients and whisk until combined. In a separate measuring cup, combine the buttermilk and coffee together.

Alternating between the dry ingredients and the milk/coffee mixture add both to the butter mix in your main bowl. Be sure to beat well after each turn so that everything incorporates well.

Place one spoonful of batter in each baking cup, top with a peanut butter cup, then fill with more batter. Each one should be about ¾ full. I realize that this is a tedious step, but the first time I made these I just put the cup in the bottom of the paper liner and they stuck.

Bake in your hot oven for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting.


Frosting(you could probably half this, but come on, you know you are going to eat some)

1 cup butter, softened
2 cups creamy peanut butter
6 Tbs milk, +/- as needed (it all depends on the weather outside, humidity and such, hence why its an improper number instead of ¼ cup plus 2 Tbs)
4 cups confectionary sugar, sifted

Beat the butter and peanut butter in a bowl with an electric mixer until well incorporated. Slowly mix in the sugar, it will appear dry. 1 tablespoon at a time, add the milk, mixing after each one. When it reaches frosting consistency, stop adding milk! Beat for 2-3 minutes until fluffy. 

Either spread, or get fancy like me and toss it in a pastry bag and pipe it onto the cupcakes. I used a large star tip. 


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