Sunday, November 27, 2011

Daring Bakers - Sans Rival

Catherine of Munchie Musings was our November Daring Bakers’ host and she challenged us to make a traditional Filipino dessert – the delicious Sans Rival cake! And for those of us who wanted to try an additional Filipino dessert, Catherine also gave us a bonus recipe for Bibingka which comes from her friend Jun of Jun-blog.

Once again, I am feeling like I barely squeaked out the challenge. The month didn't start out that way. I had every good intention that first weekend of November of tackling the Sans Rival dessert. Even when that weekend came and went with no dessert made I still knew I had three weekends left before the challenge deadline and surely I could use one of them to get it finished.

The next weekend was completely gone when we decided to use the long holiday weekend to take a last hurrah camping trip before winterizing our trailer. Still though, one more weekend before Thanksgiving, of course I still had time.

Saturday of that weekend we went down to Seattle to visit some friends and get a few ingredients for our Thanksgiving feast and Sunday was spent in my classroom. Alas, here I was the night before Thanksgiving contemplating whether to skip the challenge and just focus on Thanksgiving or try at the last minute to do both.

What convinced me to give it a shot is that my husband purchased a few pounds of pistachios for this dessert. Yes, you heard me right, a few pounds. I asked for a few cups, he bought a few pounds. Pretty big difference. And while we managed to eat the pistachios that weren't necessary for the dessert I didn't want to just frivolously eat pistachios that were purchased with a purpose.

So . . . I  managed to go back and forth between making a dinner of lasagna soup, a pumpkin and salted caramel cheesecake for one of our Thanksgiving desserts, and the Sans Rival. It really was a bit challenging to keep things straight when I was working on vanilla buttercream and meringue but I could smell pumpkin roasting in the oven. It was a bit unsettling to say the least.

The fact that I was majorly multi-tasking did not lend to me giving my full attention to the Sans Rival. I felt as though I was just slapping it out to get it checked off a list instead of trying to make it a masterpiece. In the end I probably should have waited until another time to make it. The pistachios probably would have been better served being eaten plain.

I did figure out though that there may be something wrong with my oven. The meringue baked so unevenly I couldn't hardly believe it. I had three pans in the oven and the two on the top rack were barely cooked while the two on the bottom rack were brown and burnt. I also made smaller meringues and tried to use the toaster oven to bake those. That oven cooked just as unevenly but this time it was opposite; the top ones were blackened to a crisp, and the bottom ones were fine. Very strange and a little unnerving the night before a day where I was going to be using my oven for most of the day. That wasn't even the end of it. You'll have to read my post about my pumpkin and salted caramel cheesecake to hear about the other oven mishap (which actually worked out fine in the end).

So . . . will I make this again? Probably not. I'm not a big fan of light, airy desserts, and while it tasted pretty good (and grew on you as you stole little bites off the plate) I am much more into dense cakes, cupcakes, and cookies with just a bit of frosting on the side. This dessert was pretty much the equivalent of just eating the frosting and forgetting the cake. It was an interesting experience and reminded me a lot of the pavlovas that we made a while back so hopefully it will continue to hone my technique in using meringue. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Caramel Apple Pie

A few weeks ago I posted the apple pie recipe I have been using since I was 12 years old. I think that this caramel apple pie has caused me to modify the recipe that has been my tried and true for the past 24 years! (And yes, if you are capable of adding you can figure out my age.)

This pie was technically a hybrid pie. The crust is from my original pie recipe. I couldn't bring myself to add vinegar and refrigerate when I didn't have to, and I figured why change a good thing. The filling though, this will definitely be included in my apple pies from now on. Cooking the apples definitely softened them, and the spices, vanilla, and cream work together beautifully. The small bits of toffee don't hurt either.

The next time I make an apple pie I will be using my original recipe to make a top and bottom crust, and I will be using this filling recipe with the toffee bits. I don't think I will be using the full struesel topping because it is unnecessary, but I won't know that for sure until I make this recipe again. I think I can handle that challenge. Enjoy!

Caramel Apple Pie
Source: Food Network

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup shortening
5-7 tablespoons water

6 cups Granny Smith apples
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 tablespoons heavy cream
4 tablespoons butter

Struesel Topping:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon butter
3 ounces toffee chips

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Mix flour and salt together with fork. Cut shortening into mixture with pastry cutter until dough forms balls. Add water 1 tablespoon at a time; mix with fork until flaky. Pack into a ball, divide in half, and roll out. Put into pan, cut dough slightly larger than the pan, fold edges under and flute.


Peel and slice apples. Combine dry ingredients in large bowl and add apples. Toss to mix. Add vanilla and cream. Melt butter in heavy skillet. Add apple mixture and cook approximately 8 minutes to soften apples. Turn into pie shell.

Struesel Topping:
Combine the flour and sugar. Mix in butter with fork until coarse crumbs. stir in the toffee chips. Sprinkle over pie.

Bake on 400 degrees F for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees F and bake 45 minutes longer.

Makes one 9-inch pie

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Cheesy Ham Cups

As you have probably read in earlier posts, my preschool age son can be a picky eater. He usually does not try something that is new to him even if it is something that the bearer swears he will enjoy. He will even turn down sweets because he doesn't want to risk something not agreeing with his picky palate. Oh, the frustrations of an independent will in a small person.

Imagine my surprise when he ventured to try these cheesy ham cups and decided that not only did he tolerate them but he actually liked them. Amazingly, a few days later he showed extreme excitement at the prospect of dinner which was scheduled to be cheesy ham and potato soup. The excitement was short lived when he realized that he had made an error and he was not getting cheesy ham cups for dinner but instead one of the worst possible meals, soup. That being said, his glowing praise should be enough of a recommendation for you to try these one day for breakfast, or even lunch or dinner, without me every expressing how delicious they taste.

Cheesy Ham Cups
6 slices deli ham
1/2 cup chopped green onions
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese, divided
6 eggs
8 ounces plain yogurt
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Thoroughly grease 6 -10 ounce ramekin or custard cups. Place cups on a cookie sheet for ease of baking.

Place a ham slice in each cup. Sprinkle with onions and 1 cup cheese.

In a bowl, beat eggs and yogurt until well blended; pour into cups. Sprinkle with parsley and the remaining cheese.

Bake, uncovered, for 25-30 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Serve immediately.

Makes 6 servings

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Apple Pie a la Mode

Did you ever have to take a home economics class in junior or senior high? I did. In both. And while I excelled at baking and managing my checkbook (go figure), I seriously failed at sewing. Tank top too small, shorts way too big. But I digress. Apple pie is what we are focusing on here, not the not so great junior high flashbacks.

One of the great things to come out of 7th grade was getting this apple pie recipe. Yes, when I was 12 years old I learned this recipe and have used it for all of my apple pies since. (Although you'll be reading in a few posts that I am going to be sprucing it up from here on out.) It has a flaky crust and a not overly sweet apple filling, a winning combination! Enjoy!

Apple Pie

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup shortening
5-7 tablespoons water

1 cup sugar
1/3 cup flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
8-9 Granny Smith apples

Core, peel, and slice apples. Mix in a large bowl with sugar, flour, and cinnamon. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix flour and salt together with a fork. Add shortening and mix with a pastry cutter until dough forms balls. Add water 1 tablespoon at at time and mix with a fork until flaky. Pack into a ball, divide in half; roll out. Cut bottom crust and set in pan. Fill with apple filling.  Roll out other half of dough.

If making a one piece top crust: Cut top crust and lay over pie. Fold crust under and pinch together with bottom crust. Flute edge and cut slits in top crust.

If making a lattice top crust: Cut rolled out crust into strips. Lay strips over pie in alternating pattern. Pinch lattice strips together with bottom crust. Flute edges.

Bake on 400 degrees F for 15 minutes, then 350 degrees F for 30-40 minutes.

Makes one two-crust 9-inch pie

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Three Cheese Pasta Bake

Three cheese pasta bake is just a fancier way of saying baked macaroni and cheese. I thought for sure this would be a hit with my little man who loves macaroni and cheese. Boy was I wrong. I guess I should have known I would be. Anything that is different from the norm is cause for his nose to turn up just the slightest degree. Upon tasting it (which I thought tasted just fine) I knew we were going to have issues because of the bold flavor of the Swiss cheese. At that moment I just figured it was all the more for me! Enjoy!

Three Cheese Pasta Bake
Source: Adapted from  My Recipes taken from Southern Living January 2008

1 8-oz.) package penne pasta
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup half-and-half
1/2 cup (4 oz.) shredded Cheddar cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup (8 oz.) shredded Swiss cheese, divided*
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Pinch of ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350°. Prepare pasta according to package directions, boiling to al dente.

Meanwhile, melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in flour; cook, whisking constantly, 1 minute. Gradually whisk in milk and half-and-half; cook, whisking constantly, 3 to 5 minutes or until thickened. Stir in Cheddar cheese, Parmesan cheese, 1/2 cup Swiss cheese, and salt, pepper, and nutmeg until smooth.

Stir together pasta and cheese mixture, and pour into 4 lightly greased 8-oz. baking dishes or 1 lightly greased 11- x 7-inch baking dish. (If using 8-oz. baking dishes, place in a jelly-roll pan for easy baking, and proceed as directed.) Top with remaining 1/2 cup Swiss cheese.

Bake for 15 minutes or until golden and bubbly.

Makes 4 servings

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Dirt Checkerboard Cake

Cake! I love cake! Especially yellow cake with chocolate frosting! Is that enough exclamation points for you? This wasn't actually a yellow cake but it had plenty of chocolate frosting to fit the bill!

I wanted to make a checkerboard cake for our staff for Halloween. I knew I wanted to make a brown and orange cake (I just can't bring myself to do black food coloring for some reason, at least not in large quantities). The last time I made a checkerboard cake it was from scratch and it took a bit of time which I didn't feel like I had this time around. I decided to read all I could about making a checkerboard cake from box mixes.

Here are a few tips and tricks I found out while doing my research: Use two boxes of mix which will give you leftover batter but it's better to have more than less; when you use two types of cake mix (ie. chocolate and white) they will be different densities so pick one set of directions and use the same amount of water, oil, and eggs for both mixes; I read you can add 1/4 cup of flour to both mixes to make the batter more dense but I didn't do this. And as I posted in my raspberry checkerboard cake, always use a well greased pan insert and clean completely in between filling pans. Also, pull insert straight up and out so there is no bleeding between layers.

I was pretty happy with the way it turned out. One of the cake layers did beautifully, the second had a bit of trouble with sticking to the pan, and the final one had a lot of trouble with sticking and the rings started to separate. The thick chocolate frosting did help with getting the layers and rings together but I think in the future I will just plan to make the batter from scratch and divide it in half. I guess practice makes perfect so I'm just going to have to resign myself to making more checkerboard cakes so I can get better. It's a sacrifice, but I think I will be able to manage it.

Oh, and by the way, the photo above of the individual slice was taken at work after slicing the cake. It's not the best photo I could have taken, but it's not too bad considering that it is a point and click camera, it's a very thin slice because I didn't want too big of a piece of cake for myself, and I felt a bit self-conscious about cutting into the cake so that I could snap a picture. Not many people at work know that I have a food blog and I think people might think it is a bit weird to take pictures of food. Maybe not, but still, a bit self-conscious. Then you have the fact that my students were going to be walking in the door any minute and I wasn't sure if a staff member would innocently open my door to ask me a question and wonder why I was hunched down snapping a picture of a piece of a cake on a plate sitting on a piece of white construction paper sitting on my classroom floor. Okay, enough of the explaining since I think this paragraph may be longer than my actual write-up. Do you think I may have some issues? Don't answer that. Enjoy!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Cowboy Stew

Who doesn't think of beef stew as a comforting meal on a cold, crisp evening? I was really looking forward to coming home from a long day of work and sitting down to a steaming bowl of stew with a big hunk of french bread slathered in butter. To say I was disappointed was an understatement. One look at my face and the lack of chewing anything more than a couple of bites told my husband all he needed to know; his lunch for the next three days would be beef stew leftovers as he was the only one who was going to be eating it.

I'm not sure if it was because the beef was very sweet on account of the baked beans, or if the lack of carrots which are typically a part of my stew had me out of sorts. Or maybe it was the fact that my husband forgot that I can't stand big hunks of meat in my stew, or really anything for that matter, and didn't cut them small enough. The fact that you could make it in a crockpot was a plus, and if you enjoy your stew on the sweet side then I would suggest you try this recipe out. I think I'll be sticking with my traditional beef stew recipe for now. Enjoy!

Cowboy Stew
Source: What's For Dinner?

1 pound lean beef stew meat
4 potatoes, unpeeled, cut into 4" pieces
1/2 cup onion, chopped
salt to taste
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 (28 oz.) can Bush's Vegetarian Baked Beans 

Mix beef, potatoes, onion, salt and pepper in a slow cooker. Spread beans over beef mixture. Cover and cook on low 8-10 hours or until beef is tender.

Makes 6 servings