Cream Cheese Biscuits

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I love my regular buttermilk biscuits, but these definitely have merit. They’re super light for a biscuit without seeming cake-y, and the flavor is great. Would be a great side with a meal as they aren’t as heavy seeming as regular biscuits.The smartest part is just cutting them into squares – no cookie cutters, no extra pieces, etc. Quick and tidy.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups cake flour
1 Tbs sugar
1 Tbs baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt3/4 tsp baking soda
4 oz cream cheese, chilled, cut into 1/2 pieces and frozen for 30 min
4 Tbs unsalted butter
1 cup plus 1 Tbs buttermilk (or milk with a squeeze of lemon and left to sit for about 15 min like I always do)

Do ahead tip for breakfast biscuit plans: Before bedtime, put a piece of parchment on a plate (or in the bottom of a tupperware) and put the cream cheese cubes and butter cubes on it. Cover and pop into the fridge so that when you get into the kitchen in the morning you can put them into the freezer for the 30 min required. The rest of the process is really fast, so you can have breakfast biscuits before you know it. This is a good step for any biscuit actually, as the tiny lumps stay cold in the food processor for excellent flakiness later.

Adjust the rack to the middle position and preheat oven to 450.
Put all dry ingredients into food processor and pulse to mix.
Chuck the frozen cubes in and pulse until mixture resembles a coarse meal (butter is smaller than peas but you can still feel them in there).
Transfer this mixture to the biggest bowl you have and add buttermilk and stir till combined (dough might seem slightly dry).
Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead briefly to bring dough together.
Pat it into a rectangle about 8″x 6″. Cut into 12 inch squares (I love my bench scraper – I used it to scrape up and turn the dough to knead it so the warmth of my hands didn’t soften the butter too much, and then I could cut the biscuits into squares with the bench scraper too – it’s one of my favorite tools for cleaning up biscuit mess too – so easy). Transfer to a baking sheet lined with a Silpat or parchment paper and bake until light brown 12-15 minutes (I split one open at 12 and felt like it was a tiny bit wet in the middle, so they went almost the full 15 in my oven.
Transfer to wire rack and let cool 5 minutes. Serve warm.

Apple Cake

IMG_9953From Smitten Kitchen.
Reading the recipe will not convey its true deliciousness, and it is very easy to make. This cake will knock some socks off. One of my employees said it was the best thing I made all year, and we had to agree.  However, I had significant trouble with doing it in a bundt pan. Next time I plan to try these in loaf pans, especially because the visible apples are so gorgeous on top. If this had released properly from the pan, all of these apples would have been hidden on the bottom. Deb from Smitten uses a tube pan, which leaves the apples on top, and likely is easier to unmold. This cake is so very moist, and gets moister over the next few days.

6 apples (2 1/2 – 3lbs), deb’s Mom uses McIntosh apples, but I just smelled my way through the fujis and pink ladies, etc until I found one with a great fragrance.
1 tablespoon cinnamon
5 tablespoons sugar

2 3/4 cups flour (345 grams), sifted
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup orange juice
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
4 large eggs
1 cup walnuts or other nut, chopped (optional)

Peel, core and chop apples into chunks. Toss with cinnamon and 5 Tbs sugar and set aside. Doing this first makes a nice syrup as they sit.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter your pan (her instructions said butter or spray oil, and spray oil didn’t cut it). When I do it in loaf pans, I’ll butter them and use a piece of parchment paper that is cut to the length so that it can line all but the ends (and extra butter the ends), which will allow me to lift the cake out of the pan.

Stir together flour, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl. In a separate large bowl, whisk together oil, orange juice, sugar and vanilla. Mix dry ingredients into the wet ones, then add eggs, one at a time. Add walnuts if using. Scrape down the bowl to ensure all ingredients are incorporated.

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Pour half of batter into prepared pan. Spread half of apples over it.

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Pour the remaining batter over the apples and arrange the remaining apples on top.

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Bake for about 1 1/2 hours, or until a tester comes out clean. Cool completely before running knife between cake and pan, and unmolding onto a platter.

Here’s where I had trouble:

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IMG_9959This is of course what I wanted to be adorable for distribution in slices for Christmas for my neighbors…

Oh well. It was incredibly delicious. You can sprinkle some powdered sugar on top to serve.

 

 

Squash Toasts with Goat Cheese and Cider Vinegar

I totally forgot to take a photo, so I’m stealing Smitten Kitchen’s photo until next time I make these

squash-toasts-with-ricotta-and-cider-vinegar

 

1 2 1/2- to 3-pound kabocha or other yellow-fleshed squash (such as delicata, acorn or butternut)
1/2 to 3/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried chile flakes, more or less to taste
Coarse sea or kosher salt
1 yellow onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup maple syrup (though I’ll probably use 3 tablespoons next time)
4 slices country bread, 1-inch thick
1/2 cup (4 ounces) goat cheese, ricotta, feta or mascarpone
4 tablespoons chopped mint leaves

Heat oven to 450. Line large baking sheet with parchment paper. No need to peel your squash, just halved, seed and rubbed with a bit of olive oil on the cut side. Can sprinkle it with salt and a few chili flakes as well, then roast until you can stick a fork right into it. Let it cool a bit, then scrape flesh into a bowl.

Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and 1 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring frequently, until onions are softened and beginning to brown, about 10 to 15 minutes. Add vinegar and syrup and reduce heat to medium. Cook, stirring, until onions are jammy and broken down, another 10 to 15 minutes.

Pile onions on top of roasted squash. Use a fork to gently half-mash the mixture; I like this best when the mixture is not uniformly combined. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed. (Salt and pepper, chili flakes)

Toast bread or heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil per slice of bread, and cook bread until just golden brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels. Spread cheese on toasts, heap with the squash-onion mixture, sprinkle with coarse salt and garnish with mint. (use a tiny amount, but do try it – it’s nice on there)

Do ahead: Now that we’ve finished lunch, I can note with great confidence that these reheat wonderfully, even fully assembled, with none of the sog you’d expect from day-old stuff on bread. (It helps if you use a sturdy bread, of course.) Reheat on a baking sheet in a 300 degree oven for 15 minutes.

OK, here’s my photo. It sure was tasty

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Cauliflower Mac and Cheese

IMG_9917From Smitten Kitchen. Great idea for when you’re craving mac and cheese, but don’t want all of the noodle-y carbs.
She says: “I think a dish like this could have endless variations. You could infuse the milk, warming it, with a bay leaf or minced clove of garlic. You could stir chopped parsley into the sauce for color. If you don’t have dry mustard, you can add two teaspoons smooth Dijon or an English mustard to the sauce along with the cheese. You could sprinkle some plain breadcrumbs on top for extra crunch. Finally, I saw a version online in which the chefs had grilled pork sausages and sliced them up into the dish, baking them with the cheese sauce as well for more of a meal-in-one dish”.

Serves 4 as a side

1 medium head (about 2 to 2 1/4 pounds) cauliflower
4 tablespoons (55 grams or 2 ounces) unsalted butter
4 tablespoons (30 grams or 1 ounce) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons mustard powder
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper or ground cayenne
2 cups (475 ml) milk
1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons (about 155 grams or 5 1/2 ounces total) grated cheddar, the strongest you can get, preferably English or Irish
Chopped chives or flat-leaf parsley, for garnish (optional)

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Trim cauliflower and remove tough core. Cut into 1 to 2-inch florets. She says steam (for about 10 minutes) or par-boil (6 to 7 minutes) florets until firm but tender, but I chose to roast them in the oven until firm but tender. Boiled or steamed cauliflower would need to be drained and spread on a towel so that it can wick out as much moisture as possible. Roasting doesn’t need this.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add flour and whisk to combine; cook for 1 minute to ensure you get rid of the floury taste – it should be slightly browned and smell a bit like pie crust. Add mustard powder and a pinch of cayenne or few grinds of black pepper, and stir to combine. Drizzle in milk in a thin, steady stream, whisking the whole time so that no lumps form. Season with salt and bring mixture to a simmer, stirring with a spoon; mixture should thicken. Stir in 1 1/4 cups cheddar, a handful at a time, letting each handful melt before adding the next. Taste sauce and adjust seasonings if needed.

Spread cauliflower florets in a 2-quart baking ovenproof baking dish. Spoon sauce over florets and sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons cheese. Bake until until bronzed and bubbly, about 30 – 35 minutes.

Sprinkle with herbs, if desired. Eat with abandon.

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Bacon Bourbon Brussels Sprout

IMG_9926Giada wrote this recipe as skewers that she grilled, but it was easy in the pan as well. I cut the following recipe in half for the 2 of us. It would make a fabulous Thanksgiving side
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 tablespoons dark brown sugar
 ⅔ cup bourbon
 a pinch or up to ¼ teaspoon cayenne
 ½ teaspoon kosher salt
 1 pound slab bacon, cut into ¾ inch cubes
 1 pound small Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved if needed – if big, you might quarter them, if small, can cut in half, or if tiny, leave whole.
 2 tablespoons olive oil
15 to 20 – 8 inch bamboo skewers

instructions

Heat a small sauce pan over medium heat. Add the butter and allow it to cook until the butter begins to brown and starts to smells nutty, about 3 minutes. Whisk in the brown sugar and cayenne and cook another 2 minutes stirring regularly. Remove the pan from the heat and add the bourbon. Be careful as it will splatter. Place the pan back on the heat and ignite if desired. Continue to cook, whisking constantly, until a smooth caramel has formed, another 3 minutes. Season with 1/4 teaspoon salt.Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.Spread the bacon on a small baking sheet and bake in the oven until fat starts to be a bit crispy and they’re mostly done.  Set aside.
Meanwhile, In a heavy bottomed dutch oven, heat a little olive oil over medium and toss in the brussels. Sprinkle with a little kosher salt and turn most of them face down (the flat side down).  Toss occasionally to sear/brown the flat sides. Toss in a few TBS of water and cover to let steam for a few minutes, and when tender but still with a little bite, remove lid and cook off water, then add the sauce and bacon. Heat through and make sure sauce is thickened

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Black Forest Cake

IMG_6484Every July I have a party for my 3 other July birthday friends, but also really as an excuse to make a big cake. I was worried that whipped cream and all of that juicy cherry sauce might not be the easiest to assemble, but it turns out that having it run out all over was just fine. Leftover slices kept really well in the fridge for a few days too.

Chocolate Cake
1 cup sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
2 cups flour
1 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder (Ok, so I looked everywhere and couldn’t find dutch processed, but my regular organic cocoa powder was fine. It says processed with alkali, so I’m thinking that that helps whatever traditional cocoa powder problems there used to be)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup whole milk
1 cup boiling water

Preheat oven to 350f. Grease and line the bottoms of two 9″ round springform cake tins. (I set them on parchment, draw a line around the bottom and cut it out to fit in bottom)

In a bowl, combine sugar, flour, cocoa, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Whisk to combine.

In the bowl of your mixer, combine the beaten eggs, vegetable oil, and milk. Gently mix on low for a minute then pour in the dry ingredients – continue mixing on low until well combined.

Pour the boiling water into the batter and mix until smooth and divide the batter between the two cake tins.

Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a skewer (or toothpick) inserted into the center of the cakes come out clean. Remove from the oven and let them cool for 15 minutes before removing from tin, let cakes cool completely on a rack.

Dark Chocolate Ganache
113 grams/4 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
85 grams/3 ounces heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoons butter

Place the chopped chocolate in a bowl and set aside. In a saucepan, heat the cream and butter just until simmering. Pour the hot cream mixture over the chocolate. Let sit for a minute and then whisk the cream into the chocolate until smooth.

Spread the ganache on top of the cooled chocolate cakes (more on the bottom layer) and leave to set for a couple of hours. (see not below abut doing the cake layers ahead of time)

Dark Cherry Filling
400 grams/14 ounces dark cherries
5 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon cornstarch, sifted
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon kirsch or brandy

Put all the ingredients into a bowl and mix, then let sit for at least half an hour. Spoon the mixture into a saucepan over medium heat and stir slowly until it begins to become almost jammy (it thickens) and the cherries start to break up a little (around 10 – 15 minutes). Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

Mascarpone Whipped Cream
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Combine the mascarpone cheese and cream in a bowl. Whip until it thickens and holds a little shape (soft peak stage). Add the powdered sugar to the cream, continue whipping just until you reach stiff peaks. Refrigerate until required but do not leave it too long (1/2 hour maximum).

Assembly
When I make layer cakes, I generally make the layers a few days ahead. I lay a big sheet of saran wrap on top of a big plate, put both over the cake on the rack, then flip the rack/plate combo to move the cake to the plate. I wrap the rest of the saran around the cake and put the plate in the freezer. After an hour or two, the plate can come out and the cake car remain in the freezer until it’s time to assemble. This makes the layers easy to handle, stack, and frost. Not sure if it was necessary this time, but I did it anyway to have less to do the day of the party. I put the ganache on the frozen cakes, which made it set up quickly!) Take the ganache topped cake and spread with a thick layer of the marscapone cream, top this with the cherry mixture and place the second layer of the cake on top. I didn’t put all of the juice on, as it started running).

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Cover the top of the cake with the remaining cream. Decorate with fresh cherries or chocolate shavings if you wish and store in the refrigerator.

Pistachio Lamb Burger

I forgot to take a photo, but these were a nice variation on lamb burgers – they taste a bit like felafel.

  • 3/4 cups pistachios, shelled
  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika (I used about 3/4 tsp regular and a pinch of smoked – I find the smoked ones a bit overwhelming
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  1. Finely grind pistachios in food processor. In a bowl, combine ground pistachios with lamb and spices, mixing with your hands just until combined. Divide mixture into four portions and gently pat into a burger shape. Cook on a hot grill about 4 minutes per side. Serve on grilled buns with tzatziki sauce.

Tzatziki

  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt (full fat)
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1/2 small seedless cucumber, peeled and coarsely grated
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  1. Combine all ingredients and ideally chill for an hour before serving.
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