30 June 2012

Easy Herb-Cheese Souffle

AKA Fluff in our house!

I realize that most everyone is in the middle of a heat wave at the moment, so this may not be the thing to make just now. But when you have a cooler night, give it a try!

So I'm sure some of you are thinking....Cheese Soufflé...this is what she considers easy? Yes, it is easy. If you have never made a soufflé, don't fret. If you have tried in the past and it didn't quite work, this will do it. This is also an easy recipe to play around with, adding different ingredients as you go. The biggest thing, if you have never made a soufflé, is to not be afraid. It will rise beautifully in the oven, come out big and fluffy and then settle as it cools. Do not be afraid of the fall!

If you have a Fannie Farmer cookbook then you might have seen the recipe, just didn't realize it was a soufflé, as it is called Cheese Fondue in the book. There is a Cheese Soufflé recipe that is also quite tasty. We just keep coming back to the Fondue one.  For those of you who might want the details, the book I have is The Original Boston Cooking School 1896, by Fannie Merritt Farmer, and is located on page 320. This book is different than the classic Fannie Farmer. It was printed with her notes in the margins on many recipes, and there are no actual temperatures given, just suggestions like slow oven or moderate hot oven, which can leave you flustered if you do not know what those equal.

If you don't already have one, get an oven thermometer. If you don't do a lot of baking in your oven, it will really help. If your oven is spot on for temp, then have it as backup, because ovens seem to change over time. Mine used to be perfect, now not quite as much, which means every now and then I put the thermometer in to double check.

Pictures do not due this justice. It is difficult to get the shot before it relaxes when coming from the oven, and some photos just don't look as appetizing as in real life! But everyone always raves for this, so you will just have to trust that!

Couple of notes:
You don't need to go out and buy a soufflé dish. If you have a 2.5 or 3 quart saucepan that can go in the oven use that. The dish or pan just needs to have high sides for the soufflé to rise.
When it comes to cheese, let your taste buds choose. Mild white & yellow cheddars are nice, as is Monterey jack. If you want more kick use a pepper jack. I have used many different kinds, depending on what is the cheese drawer. A favorite is an Irish cheddar, or Dubliner which gives a slight nuttiness to the flavor. We have even done a mix of cheeses; just make sure they all melt about the same.

Now for my other changes and additions.
•If we are doing only cheese, I always add some fresh grated nutmeg, roughly 1/4 teaspoon, and a couple of shakes of Tabasco sauce.
 •A favorite to add is diced smoked salmon, about 4 oz., added before the egg whites.
 •We have also cooked up mushrooms and onions to add, and done one with diced, sautéed summer squashes and onion. Make sure to let the water cook out before adding in to the egg mixture.

Keep in mind that when you add other ingredients, it makes the egg mixture heavier, which may be slower to rise and take a few more minutes to cook.

Herb-Cheese Soufflé

Herb-Cheese Soufflé (AKA Cheese Fondue)
Adapted from The Original Boston Cooking School 1896, by Fannie Merritt Farmer

1 cup scalded milk
1 cup soft breadcrumbs (about 1 1/2 to 2 pieces lightly toasted and run in a processor)
1/4 lb mild cheese cut in small pieces (roughly 1 cup)
1 tbsp. butter
1/2 tsp. salt
2 or 3 egg yolks, beaten thick
2 or 3 egg whites, beaten stiff
2-3 tbsp. fresh chopped herbs, your choice (this one has lemon thyme, sage and flat leaf parsley)
1-2 tsp. Herbs Provence
pinch red pepper flakes

Oven 350*
Cook over low heat milk and butter until just starting a soft boil, being careful not to scorch the milk or have it start to separate. Add in the cheese and stir until smooth before adding breadcrumbs and herbs. Turn off heat, and using constant stirring, either with spoon, fork, or whisk (your preference), very gradually, with a slow, steady poor, mix in egg yolks. Keep the motion going as you don't want to end up with scrambled eggs.

Take 1/3 of the stiff egg whites and gently MIX it in to the cheese mixture. Take the other 2/3 and gently FOLD in.

Pour into a prepared dish (butter or spray). Bake 20 - 25 mins, until puffy and golden. If you like it firmer go 30 - 35 minutes.

27 June 2012

strawberry-rhubarb muffins

Gahhh...can I just say that not having internet access has been a royal pain in the muffin tin! I had this mostly ready to go before everything went dark! So, at last, here is a new recipe! Enjoy...I know we did!

At the farmer's market we were getting in all the beautiful delicious strawberries. Makes me wonder why I or anyone still buy strawberries from the store when I bite into these...juicy red berries that burst with intense flavor, it's a party in the mouth and half the box will never make it home! I have also been picking up rhubarb at the market over the past few weeks, which I then slice in the food processor, toss in a freezer bag and into the freezer. This will get me through various sweet and savory recipes during the next few months. (Sidenote...toss together a quick savory rhubarb compote: 2 c rhubarb, 1/2 diced onion, tlbs or so balsamic vinager, tlbs sugar, cup of water. Boil, reduce, great with crabcakes or grilled fish!)

I have this wonderful recipe for Blueberry muffins that was given to me by my mom and to her by my grandmother who found it in The Hartford Courant in 1956. It is one of those recipes that gets used so much no one has to look at the actual written card anymore. I have tweaked it over the years, however, to me this is the best muffin recipe and any changes I have made have only improved on its greatness! Not only is it wonderful in original form, but it also holds up well with changing the fruit to something other than berries. (What recipes do you have that have been passed down like this??)

Of course, strawberry rhubarb pie comes instantly to mind since I have all these lucious berries, but I wanted to try this combination in muffin form. Since my rhubarb had already been frozen, I also decided to add a light crumb topping to the muffin, which is not something I would normally think about, and even shy away from when I see that type of muffin in a store or bakery.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Muffins
Adapted from Blueberry Muffin recipe

385* to 400* F
(I tend to cook at the lower temp for a little more time. Seems to make the muffin more tender to me.)

3 cups unbleached flour + 2-6 tlbsp depending on how wet your mix is
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
4 tsp baking powder
2 eggs
1/2 cup grapeseed oil
1 cup almond or coconut milk
4 - 6 stalks rhubarb, sliced
1 cup strawberrys, rough chop

Crumble Topping of your choice or
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tlbsp cinnamon
4 tlbsp unsalted butter, softened

Grease your muffin tin or use cupcake liners

MIX: all dry ingredients together

In large (2 cup or more) measuring cup if possible, combine milk & oil, then beat in eggs. Make a well in dry ingredients, add wet and gently mix until just combined. Add extra flour a talbespoon at a time until mix is the consistancy you want. Keep in mind that this fruit mix does make the batter wetter, so you may want more flour than you think. Gently fold in fruit. Drop into prepared muffin tin.

To make the topping, in a bowl, combine the sugar, flour, cinnamon, and butter, and mix until it resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle the topping over the muffins.

Bake 18 to 25 minutes, depending on temperture being used. As I said, I usually bake at 385* for almost 25 minutes. They come out the perfect light golden brown and springy to the touch.

05 June 2012

crispy lemon cookies

I stopped using ultra-refined white sugar a number of years ago. We still haven't given up sugar for other sweeteners totally, although I do use more Agave now and am learning to adjust it for certain baked goods. The sugar I do use is a natural cane sugar crystal, hasn't been bleached out or refined until all life is gone from it. Usually comes from a Florida Crystals package, which is where this recipe comes from. **NOTE** This is not advertising, just a fact of what I have on hand.

I have had the empty packaging of a sugar bag tucked between my flour canisters for a couple of months now because I have wanted to try the recipe on the back. The time to make these never seemed to be right...working on other recipes, requests for certain things, holidays, procrastination, etc. Today seems like it might work out, though.

These are delicious warm from the cookie sheet without any icing, and they are delicious with the icing, which just ups the lemon flavor. The next time I make these (and I definitely will do again), I will make the dough logs smaller, more like 1 inch dia. instead of 2. The cookie spreads as it bakes, and even though it is nice to have large cookies, smaller ones are easier to pack and share out...if you go for that sort of thing and don't go all blue and furry when the cookies come out!

For those who are raw cookie dough tasters (and isn't that all of us??), there are no eggs in this recipe, which means taste away, just make sure to save enough to bake!!!

crispy lemon cookies

cookie dough
  • 1 cup butter, room temp
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 1/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour (unbleached!)
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp lemon extract (*see note in directions below)
lemon icing
  • 1 cup powdered sugar (aka confectioners')
  • 1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
  • grated zest of 1/2 lemon (zest lemon before juicing!)
350* F

Cream the butter, then add sugar and cream until smooth, light & fluffy. Add flour, sour cream, baking soda & lemon extract and blend until smooth, but don't over beat. Divide dough in half, place each half on wax paper and roll into a 2-inch log, then freeze until firm. *I didn't have lemon extract so I used zest from 1/2 a lemon, and the juice of 1/2 a lemon, which, I feel, actually gives them a brighter flavor.

Remove 1 log at a time, slice dough into 1/8 inch slices. Place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake until edges are golden, 14 to 16 minuets, remove, cool 1 minute then remove from sheet to rack. Drizzle with icing if desired. **The cookies will spread as they bake so give a little room between unless you don't mind them touching. Also, it is important to remove them from the sheet at the 1 minute mark as they crisp as they cool and become crumbly and hard to remove. A nice sharp metal spatula helps with this.

For icing: mix all ingredients until smooth. Drizzle over cookies. Let icing dry before storing in airtight container.

01 June 2012

rosemary apricot cranberry bars

rosemary apricot cranberry bars

So we are fortunate to live where there is this awesome bakery, BAKED. Equally fortunate that we are only over in Redhook maybe once a week so we can't overindulge! That being said I do have both of their cookbooks (personally autographed, Thank You Mom!!!) and I will be adding the 3rd one when it comes out in the fall(?)...and yes, that is a shameless plug for them. During this last weekend, I wanted to make a cake for our Memorial Sunday get-together, and was going to do a version of their burnt sugar bundt cake, but, alas, I did not have everything. So paging through the book, I decided on the rosemary apricot squares, and realized, of course, I still didn't have everything or enough of some things, but I had (imagine deep movie guy voice)...SUBSTITUTIONS.

I have had the original square at Baked, and it is wonderful. But I have to say, my variation was pretty wonderful too, if the crumbs left behind on the platter from everyone is any indication.

I didn't have enough apricots for the full amount (recipe calls for 2 cups), but I did have some dried cranberries, and those two flavors complement each other well. I also was minus the pecans for the crumb topping, but I had cashews, which in my humble opinion actually tasted better!?! And while I am on the subject of pecans, folks, you can pee in a can, but you should only eat pecahns... :) I also added some lemon zest to the apricot/cranberry filling, which helped pop the flavor.

A few notes: I think it is better to under cook the shortbread by 5 or so minutes as when you put everything back in the oven, it will finish to a nice tenderness, and will not be overdone. I ended up needing more liquid when cooking the filling so that it wasn't a super sticky mass that went into the food processor, but you kind of have to eyeball that (I think I used an additional 2 tbsp of water). If you want more nuts in the crumb topping, I would increase the butter by a tablespoon so that it holds together. I also only had a 8x8 pan, so these came out a bit thicker than in the 9x9. What can I say, you make do with what you have!

rosemary apricot cranberry bars

Adapted from Baked Explorations

rosemary shortbread
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (preferably UN-bleached)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 1/2 tsp fresh rosemary leaves, minced
  • 12 tbsp (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cubed, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • 3/4 tsp vanilla extract
apricot-cranberry Filling
  • 1 1/4 cups dried apricots-unsulfered
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tbsp Agave syrup or honey (I have used both)
  • 2 - 3 tbsp brandy (or use water for non-alcoholic)
  • freshly grated zest of 1 lemon
  • pinch of salt
crumb topping
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1/3  - 1/2 cup cashews, chopped (use more or less depending on your preference)
  • 3 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cubed
Make the shortbread

Lightly spray, then line with parchment paper (paper should overhang 2 sides) a 9x9 pan.

Whisk together flour, salt and rosemary in a medium bowl. In a mixer with the paddle, beat the butter with confectioners' sugar and vanilla at medium speed until light & fluffy (aprox. 2 min). Turn to lowest speed and slowly pour in flour mix. Scrape into prepared pan and press out into an even layer (you might need to lightly flour your hands). Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350*F

Bake until crust is just lightly golden, 20 to 25 mins, rotating halfway through. Cool pan on wire rack. Leave oven on.

Make the filling

Place all the filling ingredients in a medium saucepan with the water and simmer for 40 - 50 minutes, or until the apricots are fork-tender and most of the liquid has evaporated or thickened. Remove from heat & stir to release steam. Scrape into a food processor and puree until smooth.

Make the crumb topping

In the bowl of a mixer with paddle, combine flower, brown sugar, nuts & salt. Mix on low for about 15 seconds. Add the butter and mix until a sandy crumb begins to form (about 1 min). At this point the crumb can be covered and put in frig until ready to use.


Spread the filling over the shortbread, then sprinkle the topping over the filling. Bake for 20 - 25 minutes, or until the crumb topping has lightly browned. Cool for at least 30 mins. then lift out using the paper overhang, and cut into bars. Can be stored in frig, wrapped/covered for up to 3 days (if it makes it that long!).