Sunday, July 31, 2011

How do you like your eggs?

It's kind of a personal question.  

But OK, I'll confess.

I like mine baked.

With bacon*.

Preferably Bubba's bacon**.

Lots of Bubba's bacon.
How do you like your eggs?

Mark's Baked Eggs with Caramelized Onions and Cream
These, from a guy who has perfected the art of brunch.

Olive oil
1-2 red onions, thinly sliced crosswise (so there are rings, like a tree trunk)
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

1 dozen eggs
1/2 pint heavy cream
generous amount of freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet, then add the onions and a generous sprinkling of salt, pepper, sugar and thyme.   Cook slowly, stirring occasionally, over medium low heat until onions are completely soft, deeply golden brown and caramelized.   Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350.  Butter 12 muffin tins or small ramekins.  Divide caramelized onions between the muffin tins.  Pour a little heavy cream into each tin, enough to just barely cover the onions.  Carefully crack an egg into each tin.   Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, then finish with a portion of the grated Parmesan.   Bake for 30 minutes, until set.

The lovely photos of Mark's eggs come courtesy of Lynn over at The Actor's Diet.   I was too busy scarfing my eggs down to get any pics.

Click to print this recipe!

Oven Omelet
From my family's recipe trove (i.e. a scrap of paper I found in a box)

8 eggs
1 c. milk
8 oz (1/2 pkg.) bacon, cooked until crisp, and then crumbled
- and/or -
1/2 c. diced cooked ham, pancetta, sausage, or other tasty protein
1/4 c. chopped green onions
1 c. grated cheddar cheese, or other cheese of your choice
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 350.  Butter an 8 inch square or round deep sided baking dish.  Beat eggs and milk together until light and fluffy, then add remaining ingredients.  In addition to what's listed, you can add chopped mushrooms or other veggies, or try different types of cheeses.  This is my tried and true blend, but go for it! 

NOTE: You can use a larger dish if you are serving a group. Just increase the eggs and milk, using a ratio of 1/4 c. of milk for every 2 additional eggs.  The omelet in the photo was made with 10 eggs and 1 1/4 c. of milk, and served 8 of us.   

Pour mixture into the prepared baking dish.  Bake uncovered for 40-45 minutes, until top is golden and dish is set. Serve immediately!

Click to print this recipe!

* And coffee cake.  The one with the caramel sauce.  If it's not too much trouble.
** Delivered to my door in dry ice, courtesy of the good people at BaconFreak (motto:  Bacon is Meat Candy!), whose introductory Bacon of the Month Club membership has to have been one of the all time greatest gifts I have ever received in my life.  I love you, Marie!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Maybe I should go to the doctor, too

There's definitely something mis-wired with my brain.

When I saw this new product at Trader Joe's, I didn't think:
"Gee, I bet that would be good in a cup of coffee."

I thought:
"Gee, I bet that would be good on Snickerdoodles."

I am an idiot savant.  It was friggin' great on Snickerdoodles*.

Trader Joe's New Sugar Shaker Snickerdoodles
In addition to the snazzy new flavor, this update to our standard recipe includes the handy "slice and bake" method for making your cookies ahead of time, and baking them fresh when you want them.  Very Trader Joe's of me.

For the cookies:
1/2 c. (1 stick) butter, softened
1/4 c. cream cheese, softened
1/4 c. shortening
1 1/2 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 c. flour
2 tsp. cream of tartar
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt

For the coating:
Generous 1 Tbs. of Trader Joe's new Coffee/Chocolate/Sugar shaker mix, ground
1 Tbs. cinnamon
1/3 c. sugar

In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter, cream cheese and shortening with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.   Add sugar, and mix well to combine.  Add eggs and vanilla, and mix again.  In a smaller bowl, whisk together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt, then add slowly to the butter mixture, blending until combined.

Spoon 1/2 of dough out onto a sheet of wax paper, and form into a log, about 2 inches in diameter.   Dough will be soft, so work gently.  Roll the log up into the paper, then repeat with remaining dough.  Twist ends of paper to seal, then refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or as long as a few days.

Preheat oven to 375.   Combine coating ingredients in a small bowl with a spoon or small whisk, and set aside.  Remove dough from fridge, and slice into rounds, just under 1/2 inch thick.   Toss each round of dough into the coating mixture, turning over to make sure all sides are well covered, and pressing gently with your fingers if you need to help the sugar stick.  Place coated cookies about 2 inches apart on a parchment or silpat covered baking sheet.

Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until edges are just turning light golden brown. Do not over bake!  Remove to cooling rack, and serve.

Click to print this recipe!

* Or sprinkled on anything from vanilla ice cream to buttered toast.  It was also a big hit with the bread baking class.

Friday, July 29, 2011

I know why the caged dog sighs

He's not allowed to move, except when absolutely necessary.

His closest companion is an ice pack.

And it takes an entourage to go out and take a leak.

Our furry patient, patiently waiting for his knees to work again.

It's gonna be a while, big guy.  We're all sighing, too.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Next I'll find out it's a cinch to fix the cable modem

There are certain things I've always assumed are best left to the experts:

Snake charming.
Nuclear fission.
Anything in a Cirque du Soleil show.
Changing the oil in my car.
Deep sea diving.
Analyzing James Joyce novels.
Electrical wiring.
Making an entire dinosaur from a fossilized bug trapped in amber.

The list goes on.

But as of now, it is one item shorter.

Pita Bread.

Do-it-yourself Pita Bread
From the very aptly named How to Cook Everything, by Mark Bittman.  Not only is this ridiculously easy to do, but the bread tastes just like the pita the experts make, but better, because it's fresh and piping hot from your very own oven.

3 1/2 c. bread or all purpose flour, part whole wheat if desired
2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. quick rise yeast
1 Tbs. olive oil, plus more for coating bowl
1 c. lukewarm water, plus more as needed

Combine flour, salt and yeast in the bowl of a food processor, and pulse to combine.  Add oil to water in a liquid measuring cup, then, with the machine running, pour the liquid ingredients into the food processor through the tube at the top.  Process for about 30 seconds.  The dough should be in a well-defined, barely sticky, easy to handle ball. If it's too dry, add water, 1 Tbs. at a time, and process until the ball of dough comes together.

Turn dough out onto a flour covered surface, and knead for about a minute by hand, until completely smooth.  The dough will feel very dense and heavy. That's OK.

Lightly coat a large mixing bowl with more olive oil, then place the dough in the bowl.  Cover with a slightly damp towel, and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 2 hours.  Remove from the bowl, punch down a little, then divide into 6-12 equal pieces, depending on what size pitas you want.   Roll each piece into a smooth ball, then set aside, making sure each ball is lightly floured.  Cover pieces with damp towel again while you preheat the oven.

Set oven to 500.  If you have a baking stone, place it in the oven.  If not, place a baking sheet in the oven to get hot while the oven heats up.

Roll each piece of dough out into a circle, about 6 to 8 inches in diameter, and perhaps 1/3 of an inch thick. Lightly flour and cover the resulting discs of dough, but do not stack them on top of each other.

When the oven is hot, place as many of the pita rounds as you can fit comfortably on the baking stone or cookie sheets.   In 2 or 3 minutes, the dough will puff up, forming the nifty little "pocket" in your pita bread.  Once puffed, remove from the oven and repeat with remaining dough.

Click to print this recipe!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Cherry O, Cherry Crisp, Baby

You know, I'm in love with you.

I could not resist the piles of fresh, delicious Bing cherries going for a song at the store.

In my book, there's nothing better to do with middle-of-July cherries than eat them by the handful, particularly when they are plump, dark, firm, and bursting with that perfect, cabernet-esque* blend of tart and sweet.   But a very close second is baking them into my sister'**s incredible cherry pie, which she makes for me as a special treat sometimes.   The other day, I needed a dessert for my bread baking class, and found inspiration in my fruit bin.  Being a bit too short on time to duplicate that pie***, I decided to blow off the crust part and invent a crisp instead.  What happened was very, o, very, good, baby!

Fresh Cherry Crisps

For the fruit:
5-6 cups fresh cherries, pitted and quartered****
1 1/2 c. sugar
generous 1/3 c. flour
pinch of salt
3 Tbs. good dessert wine, sherry or port

For the topping:
2 c. flour
1 c. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 c. (2 sticks), butter, at room temperature, cut into smaller pieces
1/2 tsp. almond extract (optional)

Place the cherries in a large bowl, then add the sugar, flour and salt.  Stir to coat cherries evenly, then add the wine.  Stir, and allow to sit for at least 30 minutes, or even better, overnight, to allow the fruit to release its juices.

Meanwhile, prepare the topping.  Combine flour, brown sugar, salt and cinnamon in a food processor, and pulse several times to mix well.  With machine running, begin dropping in the butter, piece by piece, until mixture resembles chunky crumbs.  Drizzle in the almond extract, and pulse a few more times to combine completely.  At this point, you can refrigerate the topping in a sealed plastic bag or container, until you are ready to bake the crisps.

Preheat the oven to 350.  Butter 8 individual ramekins, or one 9 inch round or square baking dish.  Divide cherry mixture between ramekins (or pour into your baking dish), taking care to spoon any extra juices in around the cherries.  Using your hands, crumble topping mixture over the cherries, being very generous.  The topping will condense as it cooks.  Bake, uncovered, for 25 minutes, or until topping is golden brown and cherry juice is bubbling through.   For a single larger crisp, baking time may be 35-40 minutes.

Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

Click to print this recipe!

* If a cab can have "hints of cherry", is it recursive of me to say that a cherry can be cabernet-esque?"  Hmm...
** Who definitely needs more than just a little treat right now, but is being very brave and calm about everything. Somebody out there needs to give her a f#@?/*ing break already.
*** Let's face it.  I was beyond being a little short on time.  I was more like completely overdrawn and bouncing the rent check kind of short on time.
**** Honestly, if you don't own a cherry pitter, just eat all the cherries and make cookies instead.  No matter how good this recipe is, it's not worth pitting all those cherries by hand.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Well-Prepared Fairy Takes a Nap

After milking the fame of my bittersweet chocolate cherry challah for as long as I reasonably could*, I decided to do the right thing and pass along the secrets to a chosen few.  After all, I'd tried my hand at teaching before**, with reasonably good results. Why not kick it up a notch?  Go for the gold.

Become a Bread Fairy.

Fortunately, the message of the week at kickboxing class*** could not have been more timely:

Preparation leads to Peak Performance!  

So I began to prepare for my class.

Step 1:  I drove to IKEA.  A big part of the Bread Fairy magic is cool party favors.

Step 2:  I typed up the secret recipe**** and made copies.  I spent a bit of time picking a nice font.

Step 3:  I had a glass of wine and watched an episode of Prison Break on Netflix.

Step 4:  The next day, I went to the grocery store and bought 40 pounds of bread flour and an absurd amount of yeast.  Also stuff to make breakfast treats and a gourmet lunch*****.

Step 5:  I checked my email to see if perhaps the students had cancelled.  Probably should have done this before investing in all that flour.   They had not.

Step 6:  Drank a lot of Diet Coke at dinner.

Step 7:  Mashed bananas, baked muffins, marinated chicken breasts, made fruit salad, pitted and macerated two pounds of cherries, buttered ramekins, sliced sugar snap peas, julienned jicama, stashed piles of paperwork in other rooms, laid out the party favors neatly on the table, mixed up crisp topping in food processor, set out tray of bread flavorings, watched Jon Stewart, had another Diet Coke, cooked chicken (it had marinated the recommended few hours), washed enormous pile of dishes in the sink, started dishwasher, set alarm.

Step 8.  Made one batch of bread dough ahead of time for demo and braiding purposes.  Set out fruit, muffins, and cheese tray.  Arranged flowers, put drinks on ice. Donned apron.  Had a Diet Coke. Took a deep breath. Answered the door.

Yet again, the message of the week did not steer me wrong.  It totally pays to be prepared.  It also pays to be nocturnal and caffeinated.  The class was a big success!

But even though I am a true creature of the night, next time I think I need to start Step 7 before it gets dark out.  Thankfully, I had time after class for Step 9:


* When they kicked me out of the school.  Graduation is bitch.
** Clearly, I had conveniently forgotten how much work it had been each time.  I should have reread this post and this post before I opened my big mouth.
*** Unfortunately, I was so busy preparing for this that I barely made it to kickboxing class, and my performance when I got there was definitely on the valley side of peak.
**** You'll notice I'm not posting the recipe.  I got it from my Bread Fairy, and I think it's some kind of Bread Fairy code to only share it with people who pay money to your school for the privilege.  I will, however, be sharing the recipe for our cherry crisps in another post.
****Another big part of the Bread Fairy magic is somehow effortlessly feeding your students several delicious meals in the middle of everything else.  This stuff is way trickier than it looks.
***** As measured by the oohs and ahs over the warm finished loaves, the polishing off of the lunch plates and the requests for the banana muffin recipe, the students emailing me photos of what they'd baked up at home after class, and the state of my table when everybody left.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Carmageddon, the Movie


I should have shot video of me making my cookies.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Carmageddon Cookies

We were all running scared. Even Hitler.

I was pretty sure we'd be able to get through the weekend, but I made these, just in case.

Carmageddon Cookies

I adapted a recipe originally posted on the Tasty Kitchen blog.  I didn't have any Rice Crispies, and was scared to go to the store to get any.  Instead, I swapped in Golden Grahams cereal, used semi-sweet chocolate chips instead of milk chocolate, and upped the salt content to offset all the sweet stuff.  I was expecting them to come out tasting like s'mores, but instead, the combination of ingredients wound up making this incredibly moist and rich oatmeal chocolate chip cookie.   The melted marshmallows wind up tasting like toffee, and the graham cereal gives the cookies a layer of extra flavor and texture that put these over the top.  I was almost sorry to see the freeway onramps open up ahead of schedule.   No excuses to make another batch!

1 c. (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 c. sugar
1 c. brown sugar
2 eggs
1 Tbs. vanilla
2 c. flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
1 c. Golden Grahams or Rice Crispies cereal
2 c. quick cooking oats
1 1/2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 c. mini marshmallows

Preheat oven to 350.

In a large bowl, beat together the butter, sugar and brown sugar until creamy.  Add the eggs and the vanilla extract.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt, then add the dry ingredients to the larger bowl, and mix to combine.  Stir in the cereal, oats, chocolate chips and marshmallows.

Scoop rounded spoonfuls, about the size of a golf ball, onto parchment or Silpat covered baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between cookies.  Flatten slightly with your fingers or a glass, then bake for 12-13 minutes, until edges are golden brown but cookies are still soft in the middle.

Should allow you to create and store enough body fat to get through any city-organized disaster in your area.

The marshmallows disappear into the cookies!

The cookies disappear into your mouth!