Sunday, August 29, 2010

Browned Butter and Plum Cobbler

Do you like plums?

Do you like cake?

Then go ahead and clear any plans you made for this evening. Because you'll need to make this.

When I hear the word "cobbler", I think of the cherry cobblers my grandma used to make with the super tart cherries from our backyard. They turned out super ooey and gooey and didn't have very much topping - only fruit. Since I don't usually like mushy baked fruit, I have stayed away from cobblers.

Until yesterday.

Let's talk about this.

It starts with browning some butter in a cast iron skillet.

Brown 1 stick plus two tablespoons (so, 10 tablespoons total) and then pour the butter into a bowl to be used in a bit.
Mix together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and milk.

Grab a couple of your most willing (and hungry!) volunteers and put them to work!
Erin sliced up some gorgeous pears.

Victoria whisked the browned butter into the batter.

Pour the batter into the cast iron skillet.

And then the magic happens.

Pop that into a 350 degree oven for 35 minutes.
This will happen.

Yes, please!
But wait! We're not done yet!
Sprinkle some sugar on top. This creates an even crunchier topping to the cobbler.
Put it back in the oven for 10 minutes until it's bubbly and golden.

Slice it up and top it with some ice cream.

A-mazing. It's cakey and buttery and not mushy at all! Just the way I like it! All thanks goes to Joy the Baker for another uber-delicious recipe.
The worst part of this cobbler?

Eventually it's gone. Make sure you have enough for seconds! :-)

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Homemade Pop-Tarts

Ah, Pop-Tarts. They bring to mind two main memories for me:

1. My dad brought home Pop-Tarts for the first time when I was in 5th grade, and I ate them everyday for breakfast for a year straight. Every day. No joke.
2. I have a student in my first hour who consumes 4 Pop-Tarts every morning in my class. Holy cow.

I saw a recipe to make these treats from scratch over at the Smitten Kitchen blog, and they've been on my list to try for about a month now. I finally got a chance to make them yesterday, and I'm so glad I did!

I made two versions, but her website gives suggestions for many more. I made half Nutella and half cinnamon-sugar.

Here's the process:

Create the pastry dough by combining flour, sugar, salt, and pats of cold butter.

Use a pastry cutter (or your fingers!) to combine these until....

it looks like this! There should still be some little chunks of butter; this makes for a flaky crust. It ends up very similar to pie crust.

I whisked milk and an egg together and combined it all until the dough came together into a ball.

Divide it in two; you need a top and a bottom for the Pop-Tarts!

Roll out each ball of dough into a roughly 9x12 rectangle; it needs to be about 1/8 inch thick. The thinner the better! You don't want too much pastry. I used a 9x13 baking pan to help me measure. You should make sure your edges look a little better than mine do; you'll find out why in a minute.

Cut the dough into thirds, and then into thirds again. You'll end up with 9 little rectangles.
This part was stressful for me.
I wanted it to be perfect!
But I felt kind of funny busting out a ruler.
So they ended up looking kind of funny.
You'll see.

Brush the whole thing with eggwash, and then it's time for the filling. As I mentioned, I filled half with Nutella.
Have you ever tried this delicious treat?
You should.
I make a mean Nutella thumbprint cookie....maybe that'll be a post later on.
Nutella is a chocolate hazelnut spread sent from heaven.
Or Australia. I heard they like it there.

I spread a very generous tablespoon of Nutella love on half of the tarts, and I combined cinnamon, sugar, and flour and spooned it onto the others. I wish I had put more filling in, because I didn't roll the dough out thinly enough and had a bad proportion of too much pastry to not enough filling.
Don't be like me!

Don't these look amazing?!

Notice the badly curved edges on a couple of them. That made the next step quite difficult.
Once you've spread the filling onto the pastry, carefully top them with another piece of dough. They need to match. Otherwise you won't have enough pastry to cover the filling, and it ends up looking like a Pop-Tart trainwreck.
Move these onto a baking sheet, and prick the tops with a fork several times to allow the steam to escape. Otherwise you won't end up with flat pastries. I also crimped the edges with a fork to make them look like the real deal!
These guys go in the fridge for 30 minutes and then into a 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes.
When they come out, you don't even need to toast them!

Grab a glass of milk and enjoy!

Saturday, August 14, 2010


Over the summer, Vanessa and I have been blessed to get to know a new friend. This new friend is from Missouri, so he had to leave sometime, and that time is today. A few of us decided to have one last meal together before he left, so I made one of my absolute favorite things.


These beautiful little guys hail from Argentina, and so does our new friend, so it was all quite fitting.

And delicious.

You start with puff pastry dough.

These are frozen, so start by taking them out of the freezer about 45 minutes before you need them.

While they're dethawing, you can prepare the filling for the empanadas. Empanadas can be filled with just about anything, and I totally want to try some new things. But for now, I used the tried and true ground pork and onion combo.

To die for.


For some reason I completely forgot to take pictures of the process, but here's what you do:

Chop up a yellow onion and throw it in a skillet with some shortening (I didn't mention that this is good for you, right? Because it isn't.). Caramelize it a bit and then put it in a bowl. Add 2 tsp of Spanish paprika, 1 tsp of cumin, and 1 tsp of crushed red pepper flakes.

Brown one pound of ground pork in the same skillet, and then add that to the onion mixture. Toss it together, throw in a tablespoon of vinegar, and you're done! Super simple.

Now back to the puff pastry.

It comes with 2 sheets in the package. It's been sitting out like this for 45 minutes, so it's time to unfold it.

I used to cut circles out of this, but that wasted a lot of dough, so now I cut it into 6 rectangles and then trim the edges just a bit to round them out. The empanadas are half-moon shaped, so we want rounded edges.

Flatten them out as much as possible - we want these guys to be as big as we can make them!

Take some water and put a thin layer around the edge of each dough circle. This will help the sides stick together when we fold them.
Grab the filling and heap a couple spoonfuls into one side of the dough circle. Leave room to seal the edges, and make sure there's enough dough to fold over.

The kind of tricky part is putting them together. Once you've folded the top over, you need to pinch the fold shut. You can either use your fingers or a fork.

Gorgeous! There's one more step. It's crucial.

Crack an egg, stir it up, and brush it on the tops of the empanadas.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes (mine take exactly 22 minutes). They'll be golden, bubbly, and crispy.
I wish my little cell phone camera could do them justice!

You cannot just make these for yourself. That would be selfish. You need to invite several of your favorite people and share the love with them!
Armand, Jelaine, Trey, Natalie, and Stephen were the fun guests of this "last supper", and we all immensely enjoyed this Argentine dish!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Nessita versus Marble Cheesecake Brownies

:) So, this is the first time I, Vanessa, have posted about baking...
Though I absolutely love baking, it hasn't really happened this summer. I've felt a bit preoccupied with adjusting to life after college. I suppose getting asked to make 4 dozen cookies for tomorrow night spurred up the baker inside of me again! :) I was reminded of some really kind friends and coworkers and how they have served me this summer and filled with gratefulness and a desire to show my thankfulness to them in baked form...
So here was today's lovely adventure...
Inspired by the lovely Smitten Kitchen blog! One of my favorites :) Come these delicious Marble Cheesecake Brownies
I admit, mine are not so beautiful as hers. I was incredibly nervous about the swirling part...but I think they turned out equally delicious and hopefully will be a sweet treat for my coworkers and thank you for a few friends!

Here's the remarkably simple ingredients for the delicious brownie batter. It always astounds me how so many different delicious things can come from such simple basics!

So I combined the butter and chocolate and melted it down...

Then mixed in the rest...

Then made the simple cheesecake batter and mixed it with Chocolate chips which i then "attempted" to swirl into the brownie doesn't look amazing...I admit...

But the finished product looked ready to devour!

Here is the lovely finished product!
Deliciousness! :)

Red Pepper Chicken Curry

Does the thought of making Indian food scare you?

Me too.

But I did it anyway.

And so should you.

A few weeks ago I made this red pepper chicken curry, along with some naan and mango ice cream for a few friends. Today I made it for Becky and her novio since I'm spending a couple days in Overland Park, KS before flying out to Boston.

Here are the ingredients:

You will need some Indian spices. Don't let this intimidate you! The spices are pretty inexpensive at Indian markets (or you can have a world traveling roommate who actually GOES to India and brings them back with her!).

This is garam masala.

It is a combination of several different spices and it smells divine.

But you don't need it quite yet.

First we need to make the curry. Roughly chop the red peppers, onion, garlic, and ginger and toss them in a blender. Add the juice of a lime, coconut flakes, and water.

Liquefy the mixture....

until it looks like this!

Take the garam masala and the curry powder and stir fry them in some oil for a few moments.

I wish you could smell this.

Absolutely divine.

Notice the plastic spoon in the very hot pan.

Don't do that. Ever.

I melted Becky's spoon. Whoops!

Add the vegetable paste and bring to a boil.

Chop up 2 or 3 potatoes.

And throw them in a pot. Don't overcook them, though - they'll continue cooking once they are in the curry.

Chop up some cooked chicken to about the same size as the potatoes and put them in the curry.

Let that simmer for about 30 minutes. While that's working, prepare some naan! Vanessa made some homemade naan a few weeks ago, but today, since I'm visiting my dear friend Becky, I decided to go the easy route and pick up some naan at the local Indian market.

I brushed it with olive oil and chopped garlic and popped it in the oven for about 10 minutes.

About 15 minutes before the curry is done simmering, toss in the cooked potatoes.

The funny thing about Indian food is that it doesn't look very appetizing.

But take my word for it, this is fabulous. Over some rice with naan on the side....mercy!

Red Pepper Chicken Curry

2 sweet bell peppers
1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 inch piece ginger, chopped
2 tbsp coconut flakes (I left these out because I didn't have any - you shouldn't)
2 tbsp lime juice
1 cup water
1 tbsp garam masala
1 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp chili powder
2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breast, cooked
4 tbsp plain yogurt (to be added in at the end - this is optional)
2-3 potatoes, chopped