The Baker Upstairs: March 2012

3.24.2012

the biscuits i will use to take over the world

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I posted about these before here, but now I have a better picture that more accurately illustrates how perfect these biscuits are. Their power is pretty amazing: Geoff will eat ANYTHING for dinner without complaints as long as I make these biscuits too. A few days ago he was begging for brinner and I told him that we were having cauliflower soup instead. And when he brought out the usual pouty face, I told him I was making biscuits too, and he happily agreed that cauliflower soup was better than brinner. That's pretty much unheard of. So if you want someone to do something for you (like eat your food without complaining) these biscuits are a great way to get the job done! The only change I make to the recipe is to cut them into squares with my bench scraper instead of using a biscuit cutter. (Because I'm lazy, that's why).

Flaky Buttermilk Biscuits
Cooking a la Mode

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
5 Tbsp. chilled butter, cut into small pieces
3/4 c. buttermilk
3 Tbsp. honey

Preheat oven to 400°.

Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl; cut in butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse meal. Do not over mix dough-- chunks of butter are fine. Chill mixture 10 minutes.

Combine buttermilk and honey, stirring with a whisk until well blended. Add buttermilk mixture to flour mixture; stir just until moist.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface; knead lightly 4 times. Roll dough into a (1/2-inch-thick) 9 x 5–inch rectangle; dust top of dough with flour. Fold dough crosswise into thirds (as if folding a piece of paper to fit into an envelope). Re-roll dough into a (1/2-inch-thick) 9 x 5–inch rectangle; dust top of dough with flour. Fold dough crosswise into thirds; gently roll or pat to a 3/4-inch thickness. Cut dough with a 3-4 inch biscuit cutter to form dough rounds. Place dough rounds, 1 inch apart, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Bake at 400° for 12 minutes or until golden. Remove from pan; cool 2 minutes on wire racks. Serve warm with butter and jam.

3.22.2012

easy chicken cordon bleu and coconut rice

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You know, I think that in nine years of marriage, I have never purchased ham. We don't eat much red meat, and I had a very bad food poisoning experience with ham when I was a teenager, so it has never really graced our table. Lately, though, I have been intensely craving chicken cordon bleu, and I sucked it up and purchased some ham at the store. Since I only used six slices for the recipe, I have no idea what I'm going to do with the rest of the ham, but at least the chicken was delicious! It was moist and flavorful, and the swiss cheese + ham + crunchy topping along with the dijon mustard sauce just made it all the more awesome. My girls shared a piece of chicken, and they both ate every last bite. It's pretty amazing when I make something that everyone likes! I served it with some leftover coconut rice from the night before, and was pleasantly surprised at how well the flavors went together. The only changes I made to the chicken recipe were to use crushed Ritz crackers instead of bread crumbs, and I halved the amount of butter that I mixed with the crackers. So, so good!

Easy Chicken Cordon Bleu
Mel's Kitchen Cafe

For the Cordon Bleu:
3 large chicken boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in half length-wise (to form two thinner chicken breast cutlets)
12 slices deli ham
1 cup bread crumbs
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/3 to 1/2 pound thinly sliced swiss cheese

For the Parmesan-Dijon Cream Sauce:
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon chicken bouillon granules (or 1 bouillon cube, crushed)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

Lightly grease a 9X13-inch baking dish with cooking spray and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, combine the bread crumbs and melted butter. Set aside.

Lay the cut chicken breasts in a single layer in the 9X13-inch dish. Layer each chicken breast with two slices of ham and top with 2 slices of swiss cheese, shingling across the chicken breast to make sure the entire chicken breast is covered with ham and cheese. Sprinkle the bread crumbs over the top of the chicken.

Bake the chicken for 30-35 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through completely, the cheese is bubbling and the bread crumbs are golden.

While the chicken bakes, in a medium saucepan, melt the 2 tablespoons butter. Stir in the flour, whisking constantly, while cooking the flour/butter mixture for 1-2 minutes. Slowly pour in the milk while whisking quickly. Stir in the chicken bouillon granules and salt. Whisk constantly over medium heat until the mixture begins to simmer and thicken, about 3-5 minutes. Once the sauce has bubbled and thickened, remove from heat and stir in the mustard, Worcestershire sauce and Parmesan cheese. Stir until the cheese is melted. Keep the sauce warm until the chicken is finished baking.

Serve each chicken cordon bleu portion with warm sauce.


Coconut Rice
Our Best Bites

2 c. white or Jasmine rice
1 can coconut milk
2 c. water
1 tsp. Kosher salt
Splash of white vinegar (optional, but it helps with the texture)
2-3 tsp. white sugar
Handful of chopped green onions, plus chopped green onion tops for garnish (we’re using the whole animal here…)
Black pepper to taste

Combine rice, coconut milk, water, salt, vinegar, and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil Turn heat to low and cover for 20 minutes or until most of the liquid is absorbed. Allow to stand 5 minutes. Add green onions, black pepper (if desired), and additional salt if necessary.

3.21.2012

chicken piccata and curried cauliflower

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I know I gush about everything I post, but this was seriously so, so, so good! I wouldn't say that cauliflower is my favorite vegetable (or even close to the top of the list) but this curried cauliflower... I could eat it for a snack. Or for dessert. Yes, my friends, I might choose this cauliflower over a cookie. (Cookies and I seem to be on the outs lately... how sad for me.) And the chicken piccata... I know it's not authentic, but it is so delicious! Geoff thinks it tastes more like German schnitzel, and I kind of agree. But I'm going to continue to call it chicken piccata so I can put those quirky little capers on top. It was one of those dinners that came together really quickly (like, 25 minutes) and was super easy, but tasted like something I would order at a restaurant. So pretty much perfect, as far as I'm concerned. I seriously want to eat this meal at least once a week. Yum!

Chicken Piccata
Skinny Taste

2 (16 oz total) chicken cutlet halves, all fat trimmed
freshly ground black pepper
2 large egg whites
2/3 cup seasoned whole wheat dry bread crumbs
olive oil spray (about 1 tbsp worth)
1 tbs light butter
juice of 1 lemon, lemon halves reserved
1/4 cup dry white wine (I don't drink wine, so I just used extra chicken broth)
1/2 cup fat free chicken broth
1 tbsp capers
Sliced lemon, for serving
Chopped fresh parsley leaves, for serving

Cut chicken into 4 cutlets, then place cutlets between 2 sheets of parchment paper or plastic wrap and pound out to 1/4-inch thick. Sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper. In a shallow plate, beat the egg whites and 1 teaspoon of water together. Place the bread crumbs in another plate. Dip each chicken breast first in the egg, then bread crumbs.

Heat a large saute pan over medium to medium-low heat. Spray a generous amount of olive oil spray on one side of the chicken, and lay it in the pan, oil side down. Spray the top of the chicken generously to coat and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side, until cooked through. Set aside until you make the sauce.

For the sauce, clean the saute pan. Over medium heat, melt butter, add the lemon juice, wine, chicken broth and the reserved lemon halves, salt, and pepper. Boil over high heat until reduced in half, about 2 minutes. Discard the lemon halves, add the capers and serve one chicken cutlet on each plate. Spoon on the sauce and serve with a slice of lemon and a sprinkling of fresh parsley.


Curried Cauliflower
Mel's Kitchen Cafe

1 medium head cauliflower
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon curry powder

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees F.

Wash and core the cauliflower and cut the florets into bite-size pieces. Place in a large bowl. Toss the cauliflower with the olive oil, salt and curry powder.

Turn out the cauliflower onto a large rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 16-18 minutes, stirring every 6-7 minutes, until the cauliflower is browned in spots and is crisp-tender. Serve immediately.

freezer breakfasts

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Geoff and I have been trying to eat better lately, and one of the problems we've come across is breakfast. A bowl of cereal just isn't enough to keep us satisfied all morning, but there's so little time to make breakfast in the morning that often we end up skipping breakfast, or just shoving whatever into our mouths as we run out the door. I finally came up with a great solution: freezer breakfasts!

We are both crazy about egg and cheese muffin sandwiches, and they taste so much better when they're made at home! I used the instructions from The Baker Chick and they turned out wonderful! The only changes I would make next time are to cook the eggs in a jumbo muffin tin (I only had a regular muffin tin, so they were a little small for the english muffins) and to cook them for a few minutes less (mine got a little overcooked). They're pretty tasty just as they are, though! We love the Thomas english muffins from Costco (especially because the package comes with about a million of them).



After I assembled all the sandwiches (I made a dozen) I wrapped the sandwiches in foil, and then put them in a freezer bag. So far we've just been unwrapping them and microwaving on full power for about a minute, and they've been coming out great!

Homemade Egg McMuffins
The Baker Chick

6 large eggs
6 slices of cheese (any kind is fine.)
6 english muffins sliced in half
salt and pepper to taste
bacon or sausage (if you'd like)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350. Crack 6 eggs into a muffin tin (regular or jumbo sized.) Season with salt and pepper. Bake for 15-20 minutes. When eggs are cooked, assemble egg sandwiches. To eat immediately, pop one back into the oven for 5-10 mins or until cheese has melted. Otherwise, wrap tightly in foil and freeze. When you are ready to eat them, preheat the oven to 350 and bake for 30 minutes.


My next project: breakfast burritos! We both love eggs (seriously... we go through at least 18 eggs a week) and burritos are great in the freezer. I used the uncooked tortillas from Costco, cooked them on the griddle, and then whipped up the egg filling from Our Best Bites.


Each burrito got its own little baggie, and then I put them into a gallon freezer bag. (I know, it's such a waste of plastic, but I don't know any other good way to package them so they don't get freezer burned. Maybe I will have to plant a tree in penance?)


To reheat, I wrap the burritos in a paper towel and microwave for a minute and a half for two burritos, or one minute for one burrito. I think I like them even more than the egg sandwiches! They're delicious and a little bit spicy (next time I'll squirt in even more sriracha) and make a great breakfast. Hooray for healthy(ish) eating!



Breakfast Burrito Filling

2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
12 large eggs
1/2 C Breakstone’s Sour Cream
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 1/2 C grated pepperjack cheese
1/4 C chopped roasted red bell peppers
1/4 C sliced green onions
1/4 C chopped cilantro
1-2 tsp hot sauce

Heat olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Crack eggs into large mixing bowl.  Whisk in 1/2 C sour cream, salt, pepper, and garlic powder.  When skillet is hot, add egg mixture to pan.  Using a rubber spatula, gently scrape bottom of pan and fold eggs over to scramble.  Remove from heat when slightly undercooked.  Add cheese, roasted red peppers, green onions, cilantro, and hot sauce to taste.  Gently fold to combine.

3.13.2012

the best cake EVER

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My little one's first birthday was on Sunday, and I decided it was high time to cross one of the items off my 30 before 30 list: bake a cake from scratch that doesn't fall. We're planning to do cupcakes for her birthday party this Sunday, but I wanted to do a layer cake for our little family birthday dinner. The result?


Woo freaking hoo! No cake falling! Sure, my cake pans aren't the same size (the result of lending my matching cake pans to my sister and never getting them back) but the problem was easily fixed with a little trimming.

I used the same recipe as for the margarita cupcakes I posted a few weeks ago, except I substituted lemon for the lime in the cake and vanilla for the lime in the frosting. I also left out the tequila completely (surprise, surprise). I added a few drops of red food coloring to the swiss meringue buttercream to make it pretty, and slathered it all over. Yeah, I'm not a cake decorator. I even tried to do a design with strawberries, and then sort of gave up. But at least the cake didn't fall!



It was by far the best cake I've ever made! Incredibly delicious, and the cake had the perfect texture... moist and light, but still able to hold itself together. Cake perfection. Better than anything I've eaten from a bakery, for sure.



And the cake's most important critic? She loved it! She shoved it into her mouth as fast as she could and didn't look back. Birthday cake success!


Perfect Birthday Cake
adapted from Annie's Eats

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
zest of one lemon
½ tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk

For the frosting:
2 cups sugar
8 large egg whites
Pinch fleur de sel (coarse salt)
1½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla

To make the cake, preheat the oven to 325˚ F.  Grease and flour two 8 or 9 inch cake pans.  In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt; stir with a fork to blend.  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes.  Blend in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  Beat in the lemon zest and vanilla.  With the mixer on low speed, mix in the dry ingredients in three additions alternating with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.  Beat each addition just until incorporated.

Divide the batter between the prepared pans.  Bake 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let cool in the pan 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. 

To make the frosting, combine the sugar, egg whites, and salt in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water.  Heat, whisking frequently, until the mixture reaches 160° F and the sugar has dissolved.  Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Beat on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form and the mixture has cooled to room temperature, about 8 minutes.  Reduce the speed to medium and add the butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, adding more once each addition has been incorporated.  If the frosting looks soupy or curdled, continue to beat on medium-high speed until thick and smooth again, about 3-5 minutes more (don’t worry, it will come together, though it may take a very long time!)  Stir in the vanilla and mix until fully incorporated and smooth.

Keep buttercream at room temperature if using the same day, or transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate up to 3 days or freeze up to 1 month. Before using, bring to room temperature and beat with paddle attachment on low speed until smooth again, about 5 minutes. 

3.06.2012

chicken pot pie with cream cheese chive biscuits

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I realized in the course of baking this for dinner on Sunday that I really need to get a pretty casserole dish. I would have taken a picture of the whole dish of creamy goodness, but I had to bake it in a cake pan, and it just didn't look super appealing that way. The pictures on Joy the Baker, where I got the recipe, are much better and more convincing of how tasty this meal was. It was a little labor intensive, and had a fairly long list of ingredients, but it ended up being fantastic, and definitely worth the effort! I gave some to Lizzy for lunch today, and she ended up with creamy sauce smeared all over her face and hair, from trying to shove it into her mouth so fast. That's my girl... she loves food just like me!


Chicken Pot Pie with Cream Cheese Chive Biscuits

For the Biscuits:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/2 to 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper (depending on how spicy you like your biscuits)
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
1/4 cup (2 ounces) unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes
4 ounces (half of a brick) cream cheese, cold
3/4 cup buttermilk, cold

For the Filling:

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cups whole milk
4 ounces (half of a brick) cream cheese
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
3 cups shredded chicken meat
2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 1/2 cup thinly diced carrots
1 cup diced zucchini (optional)
1 1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed

Start by making the biscuits.  In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, sugar, black pepper, and chopped chives.

Add butter and cream cheese to the dry ingredients.  Use your fingers to quickly incorporate the fat into the flour.  Break up the butter and cream cheese with your fingers until some of the fat is the size of oat flakes and some of the fat is the size of small pebbles.

Make a small well in the center of the fat and flour mixture.  Add the buttermilk.  Using a fork, combine the wet and dry ingredients.  Try to moisten all of the flour bits with the liquid.  Dump the shaggy biscuit dough onto a lightly floured work surface.  Knead together until dough forms a disk about 1 1/2 inches thick.

Use a round, 1 1/2-inch biscuit cutter to cut biscuits.  Gather the dough scraps, knead for a few turns, and cut out more biscuits until no dough remains.  Place biscuits on a small cookie sheet and place in the fridge until ready to bake.

Next, make the filling.  Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Dice onion, garlic, carrots, zucchini, and thaw the frozen peas.  Set aside.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter.  Whisk in the flour.  Mixture will be very thick.  Heat for 1 minute.  Turn flame to low and add the chicken stock.  Whisk until no flour bits remain.  Whisk in the milk and add the cream cheese.  Heat over medium low heat, stirring often, untilcream cheese has melted and the mixture is the consistency of warm, thick pudding.  Add chicken, lemon, and nutmeg.  Stir.  Add salt and pepper to taste.   Remove mixture from heat and set aside.

In a medium skillet over medium heat, melt butter (or olive oil, if using).  Add onions and saute until translucent, about 3 minutes.  Add minced garlic and saute for one minute more.  Add carrots, zucchini, and peas.  Cook for  about 3 minutes.  The vegetables will not be entirely cooked through.  That’s ok!  Remove from heat and add vegetable mixture to the creamy chicken mixture.  Stir to combine.

Spoon filling into a 9×13-inch pan.  Remove the biscuits from the fridge and place them on top of the filling.  Brush the tops of the biscuits with heavy cream, buttermilk, or egg wash.

Bake for 20-23 minutes, or until biscuits are puffed and golden, and the sides of the pot pie are bubbling.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before serving.

blueberry crumb bars

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Yeah... I'm the type that likes to run something into the ground, then stumble onto a new adventure as if the first one never happened. So, having made peach crumb bars just a few days ago, of course I had to try the original recipe with blueberries. I was at least smart enough this time to cut the recipe in half and bake it in a smaller dish, which prevented things from getting too out of control. I really can't decide whether I like the blueberries or the peaches better... they were both incredibly delicious. Perhaps I'll just have to make each of them again, and get a more in-depth taste test. :)

Blueberry Crumb Bars
Smitten Kitchen

1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup cold unsalted butter (2 sticks or 8 ounces)
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon salt
Zest and juice of one lemon
4 cups fresh blueberries
1/2 cup white sugar
4 teaspoons cornstarch

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease a 9×13 inch pan.

In a medium bowl, stir together 1 cup sugar, 3 cups flour, and baking powder. Mix in salt and lemon zest. Use a fork or pastry cutter to blend in the butter and egg. Dough will be crumbly. Pat half of dough into the prepared pan.

In another bowl, stir together the sugar, cornstarch and lemon juice. Gently mix in the blueberries. Sprinkle the blueberry mixture evenly over the crust. Crumble remaining dough over the berry layer.

Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until top is slightly brown. (This took an extra 10 to 15 minutes in my oven.) Cool completely before cutting into squares.
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