Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Almond, Anise and Orange Biscotti

There was a chill in the air this morning and leaves are starting to drop. It’s almost fall here. Yesterday the temperature dropped into the 70’s for the first time and we had rain clouds. Clear skies today and a little more heat, but fall is definitely around the corner. When the fall weather hits there is nothing like a hot cup of coffee or tea in the late afternoon with a sweet crunchy biscotti. It’s like a grownup after school treat or an energizer before cooking dinner. How ever you look at it, it’s a delicious way to spend a few moments of your day.

Almond, Anise and Orange Biscotti
Adapted from: Dolce Italiano Desserts from the Babo Kitchen by Gina DePalma

3 ½ cups unbleached flour
1 Tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
4 cups whole blanched almonds
4 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
2 cups granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 TBS anise seeds
Freshly grated zest of I large orange

Coarsely chop the almonds and set aside.

Mix flour, baking powder and salt together

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the eggs, egg yolks and 2 cups of sugar at medium speed until light, about 2 minutes. Beat in vanilla extract, anise seeds and orange zest. Add the dry ingredients, then the chopped nuts beating to make a soft dough. Chill for 2 hours or until the dough is firm enough to handle.

Pre heat the oven to 325F. Divide the dough in 5 portions. On a lightly floured surface, shape each portion of the dough into a log about 1 ½ inches in diameter and about ten inches long. Place on a greased, or silpat covered baking sheet 3 inches a part.

Bake logs until lightly golden brown and firm to the tough, about 20-25 minutes. Rotate the baking sheet, 180 degrees, half way through baking. Allow logs to cool on baking sheet and then on wire racks until they are cool to the touch. About 40 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 200F. with a sharp knife slice the cooled biscotti slightly on the bias into 2/4 inch thick slices. Stand on baking sheet. Return to oven and cook 20 minutes until they are toasted, dry and crisp. Cool completely on baking sheet store in an air tight container. Makes about 4 dozen

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

TWD: Chocolate-Crunched Caramel Tart

This week’s recipe was chosen by Carla of Chocolate Moosey. I think you could call it Candy Bar Tart. This rich and creamy tart starts with a sweet crumbly crust which is covered with a caramel peanut sauce and topped by a soft silky chocolate ganache. It melts in your mouth. You need the ganache chilled to a just pourable consistency before you add it to the tart shell.  Let the ganache mound up in the center and when you put it on the frig shelf shake it side to side to even out the top layer. It was fairly warm when I made the tart so I just kept it refrigerated and had no problems.

Chocolate-Crunched Caramel Tart
Baking:from my home to yours Dorie Greenspan

Scant 1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon corn syrup
2 tablespoons salted butter, cut into 4 pieces, room temperature

8oz bittersweet chocolate finely chopped
2 tablespoons heavy cream
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

3/4 cup honey roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
1 9 inch tart shell (made with Dorie’s Sweet Tart Dough)

Getting Ready: Because you have to work quickly once the sugar caramelizes, you should have all the ingredients for the caramel measured out and at hand before you start. Also have a medium heatproof bowl at hand to hold the hot caramel.

To Make the Caramel: Bring the heavy cream to a boil. Put a medium skillet, preferably nonstick, over medium heat and sprinkle in about 3 tablespoons of the sugar. When it melts, stir it with a wooden spatula or fork and sprinkle over another 3 tablespoons. When that sugar is melted, add the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar – the sugar in the pan may already have started to color, and that’s fine. Stir in the corn syrup and boil the syrup until it reaches a deep caramel color – it will probably begin to smoke, and that’s normal.  Stand back and stir in the butter. The caramel will bubble furiously and may spatter, so make sure you’re away from the action. When the butter is in, add the warm cream – the caramel will bubble furiously again. Lower the temperature just a tad and let the caramel boil for just 2 minutes (226F on candy thermometer). Pour the seething caramel into the heatproof bowl and set aside while you make the ganache.

To Make the Ganache: Put the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl and have a whisk or a rubber spatula at hand. Bring the cream to a boil. Then pour half of it over the chocolate and let sit for 30 seconds. Working with the whisk/spatula, very gently stir the chocolate and cream together in small circles. Pour in the remainder of the cream and blend it into the chocolate. When the ganache is smooth and shiny, stir in the butter piece by piece. Don’t stir any more than you must to blend the ingredients – the less you work it, the darker, smoother and shinier it will be.  Cover the ganache with plastic wrap, pressing it against the surface to create an airtight seal. Set aside at room temperature for the moment.

To Assemble the Tart: Stir the peanuts into the caramel. If the caramel has cooled and is too thick to spread easily, gently warm in the microwave in 3-second spurts. Spread the caramel over the bottom of the tart shell; you’ll have a thin layer. Refrigerate the tart for 15 minutes to set the caramel.

Check the ganache. If it has thickened, warm it in 3-second spurts. Rap the bowl to break any surface bubbles, pour the ganache over the caramel and jiggle the pan to even it.

Refrigerate for 30 minutes – no longer – then keep it at room temperature until serving time.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Oven Baked Pork Chops

Let me start by saying these are not my mother's pork chops. If you grew up in the sixty's every mother made pork chops by browning them in a skillet and pouring a can of mushroom soup over them and cooking them until the meat fell off the bone. This does not mean that they were tender, moist and juicy. It usually meant that there was some chewy meat in the mushroom sauce.

These pork chops are everything chops in the sixty's weren't; flavorful, moist and juicy. As with most recipes this one morphed from another. The source was Cook's Illustrated, The American Test Kitchen Family Cookbook. 

I made these on back to school night when the younger Mimis would be dining without us. I baked them just before Mr. Mimi and I left for school, the kids ate and left the chops in a warm oven, they were still perfect when we returned. In addition, they make incredible pork chop sandwiches if you happen to have any left over.

Oven Baked Pork Chops

6 boneless rib pork chops ¾ to 1 inch thick, brined
¾ cup Italian bread crumbs (Progresso)
¾ cup plain bread crumbs
6 TBS mayonnaise

Brine the pork chops.
Pre heat oven to 425 degrees F.

Mix together the bread crumbs and 3 tablespoon mayonnaise.
Remove chops from brine and pat dry. Coat each pork chop with about ½ tablespoon mayonnaise then coat thoroughly with crumb mixture, pressing to make sure it adheres, place on a wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet.

Bake chops until the coating is golden brown and the center of the chops registers 135 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, about 16 to 22 minutes, remove from oven and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes, until the internal temperature reaches 145 degrees.

1 ½ qt water
3 TBs salt
3 TBS sugar

Mix all together, stirring to dissolve sugar and salt.
Place pork chops to a large zip lock bag; pour brine to completely cover meat refrigerate one hour.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

TWD: Cottage Cheese Pufflets

Pretty cute and they didn’t last long, always a sign that they taste good. The dough was very soft and sticky and needed chilling between each step. Other than that, they were a breeze to make. After seeing what other bakers did to improve the sticky dough situation, next time I will drain my cottage cheese prior to making the dough. Also, I noticed that if I over filled the pufflets, they leaked the filling all over the pan.  On those that I filled less full the sides didn't split , they puffed higher and they actually had more filling in the final pufflet.

If you want the recipe for these tasty  little pastries, pay a visit to Jacque of Daisy Lane Cakes  or buy Dorie’s cookbook, Baking- From My House To Yours.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Peanut Butter Bars

We are in the whirl wind of the school year. My tennis player, Mini Me is a senior this year, so sadly it is my last year with what has been a fantastic group of girls, parents and coaches. Each season the team starts off with a spaghetti dinner. It’s a great time for the players, especially the freshmen who are new to both the school and the team. The past two years Mini Me and her friend Nica have hosted the dinner, last year at our house and this year at Nica’s. Part of my assignment for this year's dinner was dessert, so I came up with these fast and easy to make  peanut butter bars, which taste like a crunchie Reeses.   Boy Mimi was so sad that the girls ate all of cookies, I ended up making a second pan for the boys to eat after their football game.

Peanut Butter Bars

2 cups  finely crushed graham cracker (about 15)
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 1/4cup peanut butter
4 oz butter
8 oz chocolate

Butter (spray with PAM) a 9x13 pan.

In a medium bowl mix cracker crumbs and sugar together. Melt butter and peanut butter together (microwave works great - about 45 sec on high) stir to combine and pour over crumbs and sugar, stir with a wooden spoon to thoroughly mix together. Press into prepared pan. I use the bottom of a measuring cup to get the mixture firmly packed. Melt chocolate and spread over the top of crumb mixture. Chill until firm then cut in desired size cookies. I like to score the bars once the chocolate has set, but not hard yet, this makes for easier cutting of the cookies.

Note: I used the Trader Joe's pound plus chocolate bar on one pan and chocolate chip on the other. 
I was able to temper the chocolate bar and the chocolate layer had a nice crisp snap to it.  Chocoalte chips on the other hand can't be tempered.  Although I am not sure the kids noticed the difference, I missed the snap!

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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Key Lime Pie

Mr. Mimi went to Costco with me and as usual that was a mistake. While shopping he happened to see a key lime pie, which he pointed out, saying that was a pretty big pie for only $10.00. Later that evening he started in on how he should have bought that pie, after all, key lime pie is his favorite; news to me after 24 years of marriage.

A few days later I happen to be visiting GET OFF YOU BUTT and BAKE and Jonna had this recipe for Mar-A-Lago Key Lime Pie. It was about 98 degrees in our area so who wouldn’t want a cool, creamy, tangy pie, with a crisp graham cracker crust?

Key Lime Pie

Graham Cracker Crust:
1 ½ pack of graham crackers, crushed about 2 cups
3 TBS sugar
5 TBS melted butter


4 egg yolks
1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
2/3 cup fresh lime juice
grated zest of one lime

1 cup heavy cream
2 TBS confectioner’s sugar
½ tsp vanilla

Pre Heat the oven to 325F.


Mix all ingredients together and press into the bottom and sides of an nine inch pie pan. Bake for 10 minutes and allow the crust to cool.


Whip egg yolks and lime zest at high speed until fluffy, 5 to 6 minutes. Gradually add the condensed milk and continue to whip until thick, 3 to 4 minutes longer. Lower the mixer speed and slowly add the lime juice until incorporated. Pour the filling into the crust and bake for 15 minutes, or until the filling has just set. Cool on a wire rack, and then refrigerate until cold
Topping: whip cream, confectioner’s sugar and vanilla until nearly stiff, spread evenly over the top of pie and place in freezer 20 minutes prior to serving.

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Italian Peasant Bread

We had some friends over for a bread and wine dinner. The kids, even though the don’t get any wine, really love this meal. I make the bread and every one brings something to enjoy with it. Cheese, carpese salad, sun dried tomato pesto, proscuitto, balsamic vinegar and olive oil dip, caponata and fruits. Of course, everyone brings a favorite wine to taste along with the food. Unfortunately I tossed all of the wine bottles the next morning, or I could give you a run down on our favorites. Next time.  If you have bread left over, it is fabulous  for breakfast, toasted with butter and honey.

The bread is a family favorite. It comes from the Frugal Gourmet Cooks Italian by Jeff Smith. You do need a good stand mixer for this recipe to develop the gluten in the dough. Pizza stones or bread tiles are ideal for baking this bread, but it does works fine on a baking sheet. It takes about 5 hours from start to finish.

Italian Peasant Bread.

2 packages fast-rising dry yeast (2 Tablespoons)
2 ½ cups tepid water (110F)
Pinch sugar
6 ½ cups unbleached white bread flour or unbleached flour not all purpose flour
1 tsp salt dissolved in 1 tsp. water

1. Dissolve the yeast in the water, add sugar. Let stand 5 minutes, yeast should look creamy.

2. Make a batter of the water /yeast mixture together with 4 cups of flour. Beat for ten minutes with the paddle of electric mixer. It will pull away from the sides of the mixing bowl and cling to the paddle.

3. Add salted water. Add remaining flour and knead for 5 minutes using a dough hook or 15 minutes by hand. The dough should be moist and elastic.

4. Place dough on plastic board and cover with a large bowl. Let rise for 1 to 2 hours or until double in bulk. Punch down and let rise for 1 ½ hours.

5. Place pizza stone, if using, in the upper third of the oven and pre heat the oven to 450F. Place a pan of hot water in the bottom of the oven, this will ensure a great crust.

6. Punch down and mold into 2 or 3 loves. I make 2 round loaves, but don’t worry about the shape, it doesn’t matter. Place the loaves on a large floured cotton sack towel, or a piece of cotton fabric. Sprinkle with flour and cover with an additional towel or fabric. Let rise until double, about 25- 30 minutes.

7. When bread has doubled place them upside down on the baking stone and bake for about 25 minutes, or until the bread is nicely browned register 200F on an instant read thermometer. Let cool before slicing.  Enjoy!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Sweet and Spicy Cheese Cake

Last summer my husband bought a six pack of jalapeno pepper plants when we really needed only one plant, so we had a lot of peppers. I left the pepper on the plants until they turned red thinking I would dry them, but I never got that far. As fate would have it I saw this recipe on Emeril's show and knew I had to make it. This cheese cake is light and creamy with a hint of heat to it. Truly exceptional. The cheese cake  would be great without the addition of peppers.  Simply up the vanilla and add some citrus peel or espresso and you are good to go.
The original recipe had you juliann the peppers, candy then scatter them on top of the crust under the cake batter. They made the crust soggy, the texture of the pepper wasn't great and all of the spice was concentrated in the bottom of the cheese cake. Since we liked the sweet and spicy combination I made the following change to the recipe. I candied the jalapenos, but I pureed them and swirled them in the batter. This gave us the spicy flavor we liked and eliminated the soggy crust. Needless to say, this year it was me who picked out the six pack of pepper plants.

This recipe is a good fit for Kitchen Chronicles Think Spice- Think Red Chillies  the famous "Think Spice" event which was started by Sunita Bhuyan of .Sunita's World

Sweet and Spicy Cheese Cake


3 Tbs butter
1 package graham crackers, crushed

Combine butter and cracker crumbs and press into a 9 inch spring form pan. Wrap the outside and bottom of the pan in a large piece of foil. (This is to prevent water from seeping through during the baking.)

Jalapeno puree

10 red jalapenos
1 cup water
1cup sugar

Slice open the jalapenos and remove seeds and membranes. In a pan combine the sugar, water and jalapenos. Bring to a boil then, reduce to a simmer and cook for about 20 minutes to candy the peppers. Reserve ½ cup of syrup from peppers. Puree the pepper with the remaining syrup in a food process or blender. Push the puree through a fine mesh strainer to remove the skins. Set a side to cool.


2 pounds cream cheese, softened
1 ¼ cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
2 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup heavy cream
¼ cup sour cream
½ cup jalapeno syrup

Beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth and creamy. Add the eggs and egg yolks one at a time, beating until well incorporated. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Pour batter into prepared crust. Smooth the top and spoon the jalapeno puree in a heavy drizzle over the cake surface. With a knife swirl the puree throughout the batter.

Bake in a water bath. Place cheese cake in a large pan; to the pan add hot water to come ½ way up the side of the spring form pan. Bake in a 325 oven about one hour. The center of the cheese cake should jiggle slightly when done. Remove from water bath and cool. When cool to touch refrigerate 6 hours or over night before serving.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Baba Ghanoush

Baba Ghanoush, the name has such a ring.  This is a delicious Lebanese appetizer made with eggplant.  The recipe comes from the Victory Garden Cookbook by Marian Morash.  First published in 1982 The Victory Garden Cookbook is the most comprehensive cookbook for vegetables.  It covers everything from growing, storing and cooking kitchen garden vegetables.  I've been using this book for over twenty year.  Amazingly, it is still available at

Baba Ghanoush

1 ½ lbs. eggplant
3 TBS lemon juice
1 tsp salt
1 tsp minced garlic
3 TBS sesame paste (tahini)
¼ cup chopped parsley
½ cup toasted pine nuts
2 TBS olive oil (optional)

Prick the eggplant all over with a fork and bake in a 400 oven until the flesh is tender, about 30 minutes. Scoop out the flesh and process in a food processor with lemon juice until smooth. Mash the salt and garlic together, mix with sesame paste and combine with the eggplant. Cool, stir in the parsley, and serve drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with pine nuts. Serve with pita chip or flat bread. Makes about 2 cups

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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Lemon Blueberry Pound Cake

It's almost the end of the local blueberry season. Since my last lemon blueberry cake was such a hit, I wanted to try another lemon blueberry cake before the blueberries are gone from the markets.
While visiting over at Dragon’s Kitchen I ran across this recipe for Lemon Blueberry Cake. It was so completely different from my previous lemon blueberry cake that I decided to give it a try.

This cake disappeared almost as fast as the last one. I am lucky this time; they saved me a piece to photograph the next morning.

The cake was delicious, it had great texture but was a little lite on the lemon flavor, so next time I would increase the lemon juice and zest. Also I would add the blueberries after the cake is in the pan, scattering them over the cake batter hoping they won't all congregate on the bottom of the pan.
Lemon Blueberry Cake
Recipe by Dragon

2 ¾ cup of flour
1 ½ teaspoons of baking powder
¼ teaspoon of baking soda
¼ teaspoon of salt
1 cup of unsalted butter, room temperature
1 ¾ cup of sugar
4 eggs
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
1 tablespoon of lemon zest
1 ½ teaspoons of vanilla extract
1 cup of buttermilk
½ cup sour cream
1 ½ cups of blueberries tossed in 1 tablespoon of flour
1/2 blueberries for garnish


1 ½ cups confectioner’s sugar
4 teaspoons of lemon juice
3 teaspoons of limoncello (or replace this with 3 teaspoons of lemon juice)
1 tablespoon of maple syrup (or corn syrup)
Lemon zest for garnish (optional)


1. Heat oven to 350. Butter and flour a 12 inch bundt pan.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
3. In another large bowl, beat butter until smooth. Add sugar and beat for 2 to 3 minutes until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat well after each addition. Add sour cream, lemon juice, lemon zest and vanilla and beat until combined.
4. Beat in flour in 3 additions, alternating with the buttermilk. Beat for 2 minutes on medium-high. Fold in blueberries. Spoon into prepared pan.
5. Bake at 350 for 50 – 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Run a sharp knife around the edges of the pan. Turn out and cool completely.
6. For the glaze, in a small bowl, mix together confectioner’s sugar, lemon juice, limoncello and syrup until smooth. Drizzle over the top of the cake and let it roll down the sides.
printable recipe
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