Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter Sweet Bread Bunnies

I know this post comes a day late, but I didn't finish the bunnies until near midnight due to a dinner party with friends. My mom used to make these when I was a kid, circa 1990's, and they definitely made an impression because I can still remember them when Easter rolls around (Haha, get it? Rolls!). You can personalize the recipe by adding finely chopped dried apricots, hazelnuts, almonds, golden raisins, or anything else you feel like tossing in! I'm a fan of dried apricots and hazelnuts myself, super delish! My mom says the recipe comes from a Gourmet Magazine recipe from the 80's, in which they shaped the dough into Teddy Bears they named the "Golden Teddy" for Christmas.

Easter Sweet Bread Bunnies

1 Tbsp yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup room-temperature heavy whipping cream
2 large room-temperature eggs
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter (melted)
4 cups all purpose flour

Optional Glaze

1 egg yolk
1 Tbsp milk

In a large bowl, combine the yeast, water, sugar, cream, eggs, salt and butter. Add the flour a 1/2 cup at a time until fully combined. Knead the dough well and place into a bowl, lightly greased at the top and covered with a tea towel. Allow to rise for 2 1/2 hours, then shape into bunny shapes on a cookie sheet. (Feel free to get creative, or just see my mother's dough design below)

Allow the dough to rise for another 45 minutes on the cookie sheet and preheat the oven for 400 degrees. Before placing in the oven, brush the tops of the bunnies with the egg yolk and milk mixture. Bake the bunnies for 20 minutes, allow to cool on a rack, and enjoy!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes

This recipe from Mario Batali is from the afore mentioned Bon Appetit article Pasta Perfect, and I have to say it was slightly disappointing. It wasn't terrible, but it also didn't blow me out of the water like Mark Ladner's Cacio e Pepe recipe did (my roommates confirmed this opinion). The tomatoes took over the dish and overwhelmed the pasta with an acidic taste that was just a little too much. However, if you really love tomatoes perhaps you'd still enjoy it. Also, if anyone would like to alter the recipe to make the sauce less overwhelming, please feel free to send me a new recipe to try!

Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes
4 Tbsp olive oil
8 oz cherry tomatoes
2 garlic cloves, diced
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
6 oz spaghetti
3/4 cup finely grated Pecorino or Parmesan
8 medium fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces

Heat 3 Tbsp oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add tomatoes, garlic, and red pepper flakes, season with salt and cook, covered slightly and swirling pan often, until tomatoes blister and burst. Press down on tomatoes to release their juices. Remove pan from heat and set aside.

Meanwhile, bring 3 quarts water to a boil and season with 3 Tbsp salt. Cook for 2 minutes less than recommended on the package, and reserve 1 cup pasta cooking water when draining.

Transfer pasta to saute pan with tomatoes and set over high heat. Add 1/2 cup pasta water and cook, stirring and tossing often, until the sauce thickens and begins to coat the pasta. Stir in remaining oil, cheese, and half the basil and toss until sauce coats pasta and pasta is al dente. (Add more pasta water if sauce seems dry). Add remaining basil, and season with salt.

Tomorrow I'm looking forward to making Parisian Macarons! I've also been soaking dandelions my friend Cody and I picked from the yard in preparation for starting up a batch of dandelion wine on Monday. The flowers need to soak for 2 days before you begin, so if you'd like to make a batch with me get pickin'! I'm going to be trying out a few variations of the recipe this year. Last year I felt the finished dandelion wine was a little too sweet for my taste, so I'm going to fiddle with it a little and see how some of the variations turn out. The entire process will take 7 months, between fermentation, racking, and aging, so it will be a while before we know how they turn out. It is definitely worth it though, the recipe makes a large amount of wine and it's very cheap and easy to make.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Cacio e Pepe

Today I opened the May issue of Bon Appetit and found an article on making the perfect traditional pasta featuring one of my favorite chefs, Mark Ladner. Last June my friend Cody and I starred in a promotional youtube video for Del Posto and had the pleasure (twice!) of eating a 12 course meal there. Mark is probably one of the most interesting people I've ever met, and he's definitely inspired me to take italian cooking to a new level over the last year. Needless to say, I ran out and purchased all the ingredients to make every single recipe in this article over the next week!! Here's the Cacio e Pepe!

Cacio e Pepe
6 oz pasta (I used spaghetti but they also recommend tagliolini or bucatini)
3 Tbsp butter
1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
3/4 c finely grated Grana Padano or Parmesan
1/3 c finely grated Pecorino

Bring 3 quarts water to a boil, and add 3 Tbps kosher salt (Mark recommends making the water almost as salty as sea water). Cook the pasta for 2 minutes less than the time that is recommended on the package. When draining, save about a cup of the water for the sauce.

Meanwhile, place the freshly cracked black pepper in a 10"-12" saute pan and toast on medium heat for about a minute. Mark says this draws out the essential oils of the pepper, adding to the flavor profile of the dish! Add the butter, pasta, and about 1/2 cup of reserved pasta water to the skillet and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and add Grana Padano, stirring and tossing until melted. Remove the pan from heat and add the Pecorino, stirring and tossing until the cheese melts, sauce coats the pasta, and the pasta is al dente. Add more pasta water if the sauce seems dry. Transfer pasta to warm bowls and serve!

When cracking the black pepper, I find the easiest way to do it is to place the peppercorns in a ziplock bag and whack them with a cast iron skillet. Very effective!

This was quite possibly the best dish I have ever made! As is the custom for Italian cooking, the simplicity really shined through and the few ingredients that were in this dish came together beautifully. This was so easy to make, and I would recommend it to anyone in a heart beat! If you'd like to see Mark make the dish himself, the video is here.


Saturday, March 12, 2011

Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

I love this recipe, and amazingly enough most my friends enjoy it far more than my recipe for regular chocolate chip cookies! There is definitely a stigma against gluten-free recipes, and many people seem to feel gluten-free really means "not as delicious". It would be wonderful if more people were aware of the alternatives available for those with restrictive diets. Gluten-free recipes do tend to be a little more expensive when you're purchasing ingredients, but in this case it is worth it even if you don't steer free of gluten. I like to think of it as the difference between buying Hershey or Ghirardelli chocolate. Yes, they're similar, but one is so much more delicious and satisfying!

Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 c butter
2 c brown rice flour
1/4 c cornstarch
2 Tbsp tapioca flour
1 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 c white sugar
1 1/4 c brown sugar
1 whole egg
1 egg yolk
2 Tbsp almond milk
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips (Ghirardelli's chocolate chips are made in a gluten-free facility and they're the best)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

In a medium bowl mix the rice flour, cornstarch, tapioca flour, xantham gum, salt and baking soda. Set aside.

In a large separate bowl, melt the butter, add both the white and brown sugar, then mix with an electric mixer on medium-high for 2 minutes. Add the whole egg, egg yolk, almond milk and vanilla extract and mix well. Slowly add the flour mixture in 1/4 c increments, mixing in between on medium speed until completely mixed. Add the chocolate chips and stir to combine.

Chill the dough in the refrigerator until firm, about 1 hour. Scoop the dough into approximately 4 Tbsp-sized balls and place on cookie sheets leaving plenty of room for expansion. Bake for 14 minutes, rotating the pans after 7 minutes for even baking. Remove from the oven and cool the cookies on the pans for 2 minutes, then move the cookies to a wire rack and cool completely.


Saturday, July 3, 2010

Toscana Zucchini Cake

After searching for months for a cookbook I had forgotten the title for, but distinctly remembered the cover art, I just got La Cucina, The Regional Cooking of Italy in the mail. For this cookbook, The Italian Academy of Cuisine (Accademia Italiana Della Cucina) swept out across the Italian countryside to record the classic recipes of regional Italian cooking. They wonderfully claim to have interrupted grandmothers at the stove and farmers at work, carefully taking down notes on techniques and ingredients. The problem is, the recipes were not tested in a kitchen given the historical nature of the book, and they're subject to conversions, translation, and general misinterpretation so the recipes are intended to be finessed in the kitchen by the individual chef to perfection.

This week, I invited an awesome girl from my class over for dinner and she brought me about 10 extremely large zucchinis. (Thanks Kel!!) So naturally, I flipped through the cookbook and found a recipe for Toscana Zucchini Cake and set to baking! Problem was, I didn't read the lovely preface stating the possibility for error in recipes, so I got something more along the lines of Zucchini Pudding. Even after baking at 400 degrees for 2 hours. None the less, I've been determined all weekend to get this recipe right, no matter what! Six cakes later, I've got it. The first recipe is the original, exactly as found in the cookbook, and the second recipe is my own. In the picture, the one on the left is mine and the one on the right is straight from the book. Feel free to make your own or just try mine!

Toscana Zucchini Cake da La Cucina

1/2 c unsalted butter
1 2/3 c all-purpose flour
2 c whole milk
1 1/4 c sugar
1 lb zucchini, trimmed and shredded
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp Marsala
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Butter a baking pan. Mix all the ingredients except the olive oil until blended. Pour the batter into the pan, drizzle with olive oil, and bake for 1 hour, or until the bread springs back when lightly pressed.

Toscana Zucchini Cake da Nikol Rainwater

1/2 c unsalted butter
1 2/3 c all-purpose flour
1/4 c apple sauce
2 eggs
1 1/4 c sugar
1 c zucchini, trimmed and shredded
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp Marsala
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter in a large bowl and mix in sugar and eggs until creamy. Add remaining wet ingredients, followed by zucchini and lemon zest. Mix in remaining dry ingredients. Butter a baking pan (I used a 9 x 9 square pan), pour batter into pan, and bake for 1 hour or until an inserted knife comes out clean!