Thursday, February 24, 2011

Smitten...

...with a post and inspiration from Smitten Kitchen ....now we know I love my blood oranges...and I wanted to bake something with those oranges...I kept thinking of how I love the look of a simple one-layer cake barely dusted with confectioners' sugar or brushed with glaze...my tendency was leaning towards an almond cake or olive oil cake....so I did what I do well....I searched on Google and found Deb's recipe...perfect!

...I decided to make cupcakes because 1. they'd be much easier to share (and less for me is a good thing!) and 2.  the adorable cupcake liners I picked up at Ikea a couple of weeks ago were just begging to be used...

...I followed the recipe as is...except for the blood orange compote...I made an easy blood orange glaze, just enough to hold down the candied peel I garnished the cupcakes with...the baking time has to be adjusted to about 18-20 if you're making cupcakes...

...go out and buy those little blushing beauties while they're in season and bake some citrus goodness...please...everyone around you will be happier for it...




Sunday, February 20, 2011

Those Italians...

...have done it....again.  Il pane al cioccolato.  Chocolate bread.  Bread with chocolate.  I came across the recipe twice over the past week while flipping through cookbooks.  Since this is the year I've decided to improve my yeast-bread baking skills, what could be a better try than chocolate bread.  Besides, I was intrigued by the concept.  I know there are chocolate filled croissants, but pane al cioccolato just seemed to fall into a different category.  Maybe the Italian in me just wanted it to be different.

For the first attempt, I only made a half recipe.  Next time around, I'll make the full recipe and I'm thinking about making them in mini sizes.  Small enough to fit in the palm of one's hand.  Happy with the results.  It's not over the top like a filled croissant.  Barely sweet, subtly chocolatey, nice texture.  According to my recipe, this is traditionally served as a snack, spread with either marscapone or gongonzola and a glass of red wine. I want to try both options.  Love the idea of the pungency of the Italian blue with a bite of chocolate. I slathered the bread with butter while it was still warm and this morning, lightly toasted it before spreading with butter.

Chocolate Bread (Pane al cioccolato)
Adapted from 'The Italian Ingredients Cookbook'

Makes 2 loaves.

4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 cup chocolate chips
melted butter, for brushing

Sift flour and salt in a bowl, cut in butter with knife or pastry blender.  Stir in sugar, yeast and cocoa powder. Gradually add 1 1/4 cups of tepid water to flour mixture, stirring with a spoon then bringing together with your hands.  Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic.  Cut the dough in half and knead half the amount of chocolate chips into each piece of dough until evenly distributed.  Shape into rounds, place on lightly oiled baking sheets and cover with oiled plastic wrap.  Let rise in warm place for 1-2 hours, until dough has doubled in bulk.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Uncover loaves and bake for 10 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees F and bake for 15-20 minutes.  Place loaves on wire rack and brush with melted butter.  Cover with dish towel and let cool.

Pane al Cioccolato





What I ended up changing--I made half the recipe called for and produced a loaf of bread with about a 9-10 inch diameter.  Plenty enough for me.  I also used instant yeast instead of active dry yeast.  I totally omitted brushing butter atop after taking it out of the oven and don't feel as though I lost anything by doing so.  Easy to bring together and wonderful for a weekend breakfast.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Sweets for the Sweet...

...in a post-Valentine's Day chocolate haze, I find myself obsessed with something entirely different...well, maybe not entirely, as it is sweet...certainly satiating a sweet tooth...full of crystal sugar goodness...

...let me introduce you to...Candied Orange Peel...a touch better...Blood Orange Candied Orange Peel...and after this morning, please meet her sister, Clementine Candied Orange Peel...



Blood Orange Candied Peel

Clementine Candied Peel
I love when blood oranges are in season....I can't get enough of that deep red flesh...the rosy blush of its skin...its juicy sweetness...


I used a couple of them to make a pomegranate-blood orange reduction for dinner and didn't want to waste a bit if I could help it...so I thought about what to do, google'd a recipe for candied peel and went for it.  I love how easy it is...so little work for a treat that is just short of amazing.  Yesterday while roaming a few food blogs I discovered Orangette's site and in reading her 'About Me' section, learned that the French call candied orange peel dipped in chocolate 'orangette'...no...I have not dipped them in chocolate...yet...at the rate I'm going, I will on the next go 'round...here's Giada's recipe (which does dip them in chocolate)...

Blood Orange Simple Syrup
...oh, I almost forgot to mention another by-product of making it...the orange-infused simple syrup that's produced...I dubbed it 'liquid gold' because it just is...still thinking about what I'm going to use it for...the bottle of bourbon is looking like a possibility...orange-almond cake (with thinly sliced peel atop) might make the cut...we'll see...with a weekend's worth of time on my hands in a couple of days, you never know what will come out of the kitchen...

...and check out the Orangette blog if you get a moment...it's charming and beautifully done....it also has me considering Aperol (but that's another story)...


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

When the Ideas Come...

...it can potentially be a great day in the kitchen...especially those times when rummaging through the contents of your fridge and proclaiming...'oh yeah!...I have THAT!'  In this case, 'that' being fennel.  I am a big fan of fennel...I know many people aren't.  I love that soft licorice scent, the feel of the bulb in my hand, the tickle of the ferns atop.  I've grated it raw in a salad and roasted in the oven with garlic and pears to be used in a spinach salad.  What to do next?

Further inspection of the contents of my fridge produced portobello mushrooms, onions, and a package of puff pastry squares in the freezer. Turnovers!...not just for apples anymore...and easy peasy....cut, saute, spoon, fold and bake.

I've made them twice so far.  The first batch I made in what I know as a typical turnover shape.  Triangular and huge!  They were a meal in themselves.  Second time around I used the same 5 x 5 inch pastry squares, rolled out a bit, then cut in half.  Like a big ravioli and more of an appetizer size (they went to the Girls' Night Potluck). I'm thinking they could even be made smaller...perhaps when I have that cocktail party that I'm perpetually planning in my head I'll make them.

Fennel-Portobello Turnovers

1 medium bulb fennel, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 portobello, sliced thin
1 clove garlic, chopped
Olive oil to toss and a little extra to saute
1/4 cup white wine
4 5 x5 inch puff pastry squares
2 tbsp melted butter (optional)
1 egg, beaten (for sealing pastry)

Chop fennel, mushroom, onion and garlic.  In a bowl, toss with enough olive oil to coat.  Saute over medium heat  until everything has softened and become translucent.  Season with pepper and salt.  Add white wine and simmer down.  Thaw puff pastry sheets and roll thin.  Spoon enough of fennel mix on pastry, brush the edges with the egg, fold over and seal.  I crimped the edges a bit too.  Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.  If you like, you can brush the tops with melted butter before baking.  I didn't the second time because I made them the night before and was baking them off-site.  They bake quickly, about 12-15 minutes or until golden brown.

Flaky pastry with soft and mellow filling.  Yum!