Monday, November 30, 2009

The Daring Baker


Now I'm wondering if I'm a day or two late. I saved my 'cannoli' making for today--a post Thanksgiving treat! We'll see. I'm brand new at trying to be a Daring Baker, but love the idea of a monthly challenge.
Now that the cannoli are completed, and filled with a semi-spumoni like filling, they'll be frozen and served as the gelato part of a Cake and Cream Duo for a birthday celebration later this week. Enjoy the journey through this recipe...we'll see where it takes us!

Spumoni Cannoli

2 cups all purpose flour
2 T sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 T unsweetened cocoa
1 tsp. white wine vinegar
3 T vegetable oil
1/2 cup marsala (I substituted Sherry)
1 cup dark chocolate morsels, 60% cacao
1 T butter
One-half cup chopped pecans

Whisk dry ingredients, then in standing mixer begin adding liquids while blending. When adding wine, add just enough to bring the mixture together into a nice ball. Remove ball from mixer to floured surface and knead until smooth, about 2 minutes. Form into ball, cover with saran wrap and place in frig for 2 hours, or overnight.

Divide dough into four pieces. Dust with flour. Roll each piece using pasta attachment on mixer to very thin, four inch wide sheet. (If not using pasta attachment, halve dough and roll until very thin.)

Cut dough into 4-5 inch rounds.
Place dough circle around greased cannoli form, sticking edge together with beaten egg white.

Bring 3 inches vegetable oil to 375 degrees in large heavy pot. Slip cannoli into pot (don't overcrowd) and cook about two minutes, turning while they are cooking. Remove from oil with spider strainer, and drain.
Remove cannoli from form with tongs and place on paper towels to completely dry and cool.
Repeat with remaining dough.

When cannoli are dry and cool, melt chocolate with butter over low heat in double boiler just until smooth. Dip one end of cannoli into chocolate, and then into chopped pecans. Stand to dry.

1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup chopped dried cherries
2 T cherry brandy or Grand Marnier

Beat heavy cream and sugar until thick and holds stiff peaks.
Fold in cherries and brandy.
Place cream filling into zip-lock bag. Snip end, and squeeze to fill cannoli.

Place filled cannoli on sheet pan and freeze.
When frozen, place into zip-lock bags and leave in freezer until ready to serve.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Post-Turkey Pork Chops

Turkey-time is OVER, at least for a few weeks, and we're moving on. Even the great day of left-overs has passed, turkey sandwiches consumed, and my refrigerator looks pretty much back to normal, except for one tupperware bowl of cranberry salad.
Speaking of the cranberry salad, Mama has been making this delicious side for years and years. She arrived with said salad in tow. We consumed, enjoyed, raved, ate more, even added a little on the side of our dessert plate. And then Mama broke the news--this was a prepared salad from a restaurant in Galax. The only differences in the 'store bought' one and hers are walnuts instead of pecans, and Mama adds chopped navel oranges. This is a good product. Far be it from me to complain just because we didn't make it. It's called Cranberry Nut Gelatin by Orval Kent Foods. That's my holiday tip.
So, it's the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and we are moving on--to pork--pork chops to be exact. Can't wait for dinner tonight.
Happy Shopping!

Seasoned Pork Chops with Maple Apples and Onions

4 bone-in pork chops, medium thickness

House Autry Chicken Breading, or regular flour seasoned with salt and pepper

2 T extra virgin olive oil

2 medium apples, cored, and thinly sliced

1 medium sweet onion, thinly sliced

One-third cup golden raisins

1 T fresh Thyme leaves

One-fourth cup white wine

One-fourth cup maple syrup

Preheat oven to 350°.

Grease a casserole dish that's big enough to hold your pork chops with a little olive oil.

Add remaining olive oil to a skillet large enough for your pork chops. Place over medium heat.

Flour both sides of pork chops, and add to skillet. Brown on both sides (about 4 minutes on each side), and place chops in casserole.

Add apples, onions, raisins and thyme to pan. Saute until onions are soft and apples are beginning to brown. Add wine, and cook for three or four minutes, until most wine is evaporated. Add syrup, toss to mix, and then top pork chops with apple mixture. Place in oven and bake for 30 minutes.
We'll be serving them with Smokey Cheese Grits (no recipe necessary--just prepare grits as usual, add butter, cheese, worcestershire sauce, a dash of tabasco and some sweet smoked paprika), and a green salad.
It's a quick, easy meal, and very satisfying after a long day of shopping or decorating!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Tarallini--Wine Crackers From Your Kitchen!

An ambitious undertaking? Not at all! You can make your own crispy, savory specialty crackers with very little fuss, especially if you have a friend who will join you to form the Tarallini--that's the time consuming part! My dear sister-friend from Canada was here for a visit and we had lots of catching up to do, so we chatted as we rolled.
These are little Italian crackers that are rolled into shape, boiled briefly, dried, and then baked.
Tips: I perused and tested several recipes, and the one thing I found for sure: some recipes suggested a shorter drying time, but drying overnight produced a much crisper cracker after baking. We also began making the crackers very small, but the medium size, with a nice hole in the middle are the most pleasing to me.
You can flavor the Tarallini to your own taste. I added one-half cup Parmesan Cheese to each recipe, along with rosemary, and smoked paprika. The possibilities are endless.
Finally, the amount of flour and water needed changes, but it's very easy to determine by the consistency of the dough, and then adjust as you go.


2 cups all purpose flour, or more

1/2 cup shredded Parmesan Cheese

1 T sea salt

1 tsp. smoked paprika

1 tsp. minced dried rosemary

1 tsp. yeast

3 1/2 oz. extra virgin olive oil

3 1/2 oz. white wine

5 oz. water, more or less

In the bowl of a standing mixer, add all your dry ingredients, and whisk to combine.

With dough hook in place, slowly pour in olive oil and wine while mixing on low speed. Stop and scrape down dough.

Add water slowly with mixer on low speed, and when dough comes together into a nice ball, isn't wet, but soft and elastic, you're done! Don't worry if you have to add a little extra flour to find you right texture.

Remove dough, shape into a log, cover with saran wrap and let rest for 30 minutes.

Cut about an inch off log, roll into long 'snake', cut into 4-5 inch lengths, roll each length around your finger and press to connect. Repeat with all dough.

Have a large pot of water boiling on stove, and add a handful of dough rings to boiling water. Let them cook just a couple of minutes. They will float to the top.

Remove with a skimmer, and dry on counter covered with dish towels or cloths overnight.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Place parchment paper on sheet pan. Add dried Tarallini to pan, and bake each pan for about 20 minutes, or until crispy and golden.

Enjoy with wine, cheese and fresh fruit.

Bon Appetito!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Thanksgiving Desserts Fit for the FEAST: Pear Almondine Cheesecake with Cardamom & Pear Cranberry Cake with Caramel Glaze

I'm not necessarily a huge fan of desserts, but over the years I've gathered a few recipes that always seem to work and bring rave reviews from the Pilgrims and Indians. This year I'm throwing a couple of new recipes into the mix for review. We'll see how they hold up to the scrutiny of the 'table'.
The first is a cheesecake, one of my personal dessert favorites. That means it's very difficult for me to turn down a piece if offered, but I want it to be the real deal. This is Pear Almondine with Cardamom. It has flavor layers, as well as texture layers which make it an interesting dessert offering.
The second recipe was a surprise to me. I was looking for a quick, easy dessert, and at the same time mourning the end of Gourmet Magazine. As I flipped through the last issue I read over the Pear Cranberry Cake with Caramel Glaze. It was quick, not much fuss, so I proceeded without huge expectations. The only change I made in the recipe was to use dried cranberries rather than fresh, and I plumped them in simmering spiced rum. It turned out to be quite a satisfying cake with lots of flavor. I particularly loved the hint of nutmeg hiding somewhere in the flavor layers. And the Caramel Glaze is was hard not to eat it with a spoon. If you'd like to bake the cake early, you could freeze it, and then prepare the glaze just before serving.

I'll let you know if these two desserts make the cut and join Pumpkin Bread Pudding and Chocolate Pecan Tart as Thanksgiving regulars!

Pear Almondine Cheesecake with Cardamon

2 cups amaretti cookie crumbs (about 7 oz. of cookies—place in zip lock, and crush with rolling pin)

4 T melted butter

2 firm pears, peeled, cored and thinly sliced

One-half teaspoon cardamom

4 oz. Almond paste, diced into small pieces

3 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, room temperature

One and one-fourth cups sugar

One-fourth cup all purpose flour

3 eggs

One-half cup sour cream

1 T Frangelica or 1 T almond extract

One-half cup sliced almonds

1 T butter, melted

One-fourth cup sugar

Combine cookie crumbs and butter. With extra butter, grease a spring-form pan, and firmly press crumb mixture in bottom, and about one inch up the sides. Tip: use a measuring cup to press the crumbs.

Bake at 350° for 8 minutes; cool.

Toss pear slices in cardamon. Place pear slices in a swirl design, in two layers, over crust. Sprinkle diced pieces of almond paste over pears. Set aside. (The pear slices remain firm and add a nice flavor and texture to the cooked and cooled cheesecake.)

Add cream cheese to mixer bowl and mix until light and fluffy. Add sugar gradually with mixer still running and then flour. You may need to stop mixer and scrape down sides of bowl. Finally, add eggs one at a time, beating after each just until combined. Don't over-mix Fold in sour cream and Frangelica (or almond extract).

Pour cheese mixture over pears. Toss almonds with melted butter, then add sugar and toss to coat. Sprinkle almonds evenly over top of cheese mixture.

Tip: Place cake pan of hot water in bottom of oven. This will add moisture to oven and prevent cheesecake from cracking while cooling.

Place cheesecake into oven on middle rack. Reduce oven temperature to 325°, and bake for 65 minutes. Crack oven door open, turn oven off, and let cake rest for 15 minutes.

Remove cake from oven, place on cooling race, run a knife around edges of pan to loosen cake and keep it from sticking to pan, and let cake completely cool.

Cover cake and place in refrigerator for at least 8 hours before serving—or freeze, and serve slightly chilled—it tastes great as a semi-frozen dessert and thaws quickly!

Pear Cranberry Cake

Gourmet | November 2009

by Ian Knauer

For cake:

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg

1 3/4 cups sugar

1 1/4 cups vegetable oil

4 large eggs

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

3 Bosc pears (1 1/2 pounds), cut into 3/4-inch pieces

1 cup cranberries, thawed if frozen (I used 1 cup dried cranberries, plumped in warm spiced rum, and drained)

For glaze:

1 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

1 tablespoon light corn syrup

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 (3-inch-long) cinnamon sticks

Equipment: a 10-by 4-inch angel food cake pan or a 15- cup Bundt pan

Make cake:

Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Butter cake pan.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and spices.

Beat together sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla with an electric mixer until combined well.

At low speed, mix in pears and cranberries, then mix in flour mixture until incorporated.

Spoon batter into pan.

Bake until a wooden pick inserted into center of cake comes out clean, 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours.

Cool in pan 30 minutes, then turn out onto a rack and cool completely.

Make glaze:

Bring cream, brown sugar, corn syrup, vanilla, cinnamon sticks, and a pinch of salt to a boil in a small heavy saucepan, stirring occasionally, then simmer until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes.

Cool glaze 5 minutes. Discard cinnamon sticks, then pour glaze over cake, letting some drip down sides.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Every Day is Burger Grilling Day!

In 2002 I entered a burger contest online. I'd never cooked the burger, it was a whim...I was online, something caught my eye and a few clicks later I was typing away. A few weeks later there was a lady calling to inform me that I was a finalist in the Build a Better Burger Contest. I was praying at that moment that I had saved a copy of my entry...and later that evening, I was praying that the ingredients would actually make a patty that could be grilled.
Well, it all worked out, and after one of the best weekends I've ever spent in my life, my sister and I came home with the 'bacon'--enough money to take us to Italy for some cooking lessons and what led to our wonderful friends in Tuscany--Tuttie-A-Tavola-- ..the Tuscan Mamas.
I cooked that hamburger many, many, many times in the past few years...everybody wanted to taste it. I cooked it until I got tired of cooking it--and of all the times I cooked it, I don't remember ever actually sitting down and enjoying one myself--until a few nights ago.
I happened across some nice looking veal they were trying to give away at the grocery store, and thought, 'What the heck.'
Long story short, it's a darn good burger...maybe even better than I remembered...or maybe it was the beautiful, fall evening...the smell of burgers grilling in the air... It was so flavorful...
Try it for be the judge!

Vitello Focaccia (12 servings)

¾ cup olive oil

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

2 T Dijon mustard

3 T mixed Italian herbs, dried

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

24 medium tomato slices

24 medium fresh basil leaves

12 slices fresh mozzarella

1 medium sweet yellow onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, chopped

2 T olive oil

¼ lb. hard salami, cubed

¼ lb. Proscuitto, sliced

1-cup Parmesan cheese, grated

¼ cup fresh Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped

3 lbs. ground veal

2 eggs, beaten

¼ cup dry white wine

Italian flat bread cut into 12 bun sized pieces, and sliced open

½ stick butter, melted

Whisk together the oil, vinegar and mustard. Add herbs and pepper and mix. Pour over tomatoes, basil and mozzarella and set aside.

Sauté onion and garlic in olive oil in small iron skillet on heated grill. Set aside.

Process salami, proscuitto, Parmesan and parsley in food processor just until coarsely ground.

Add onion mixture and salami mixture to ground veal. Add eggs and wine and mix gently with hands to combine. Form into 12 patties, handling as little as possible. (Refrigerate patties until ready to grill.)

Cook on medium grill for 3 minutes on each side, turning only once. Remove from heat and let rest while grilling bread. Butter cut sides of bread and grill, buttered side down until toasted.

Place a veal patty on bottom piece of flat bread. Remove tomatoes, basil and mozzarella from dressing. Place 2 slices tomato, 2 basil leaves and a slice of mozzarella on each patty. Cover with top piece of flat bread…buon appettito!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

This Beer's For YOU!!

Hubert Keller's Chocolate Stout Cake is in the books as DONE—and well worth the effort! For his original recipe, go to or for a step by step pictorial. That Little Mouse knows how to make things look so darn delicious, you HAVE to make them.

I didn't have to go any further to find the cake I needed for a major celebration. Not only are we 'drinking' toasts to the wonderful review in NO DEPRESSION of our kids' new CD GHOST OF THE KNOXVILLE GIRL, now we are lifting a fork of beer to them, too! Can you tell I'm a proud Mama? Well, I am, and with good reason!

Check it out for yourself:

Now let me tell you about this celebratory cake—I mean, how many cakes call for stout beer? And Guinness was certainly my stout choice. The cake is cut into four layers, and each layer is filled with a sweet chocolate cream that melts in your mouth. The cake makes a beautiful presentation—and I do believe the recipient of a slice of this chocolate heaven will know there's a reason to celebrate! All my recipients did.

A couple of things come to mind now that I've made this decadent layered dessert: the cake part has good texture, and you can actually taste the stout beer flavor as an elusive 'what is that flavor'. I'm not sure anyone would ever guess! The filling is so delicious you're tempted to eat it with a spoon and skip everything else. I'm pretty sure I'm going to find other ways to incorporate that exact mixture into other recipes. The glaze certainly holds its own. I might be tempted to make something a little heavier like a ganache, but that very well could be too much. Lord knows I'm not second guessing Mr. Keller! He's put together wonderful flavor combinations, and textures that really work. I'm just always messing with things.

Thank you, Hungry Mouse, for leading me through this recipe. I felt like we were making it together!

And congratulations, Douglas and Telisha Williams! All your hard work is paying off!!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Drunken Prunes Marsala and Amaretti

I've made gnocchi before, but never Sweet Potato Gnocchi. This is a great recipe, and the sauce, while extremely easy, compliments the pasta perfectly. I watched Ron Suhanosky from "Pasta Sfoglia" prepare this dish on the Martha Stewart show. If you follow the link, there is also a video, which is helpful, and re-emphasizes the ease of this dish.

A couple of tips: this dish comes together very quickly (literally minutes) and can be made for guests, just before dining if you have the gnocchi prepared and ready to cook, and the dried prunes chopped; from start to finish, cooking the potatoes, and making the gnocchi takes tops an hour and a half (while the potatoes are cooking, you'll have about an hour to do something else); you need to get the rice flour even though you only use it to dust the gnocchi because the texture of the rice flour keeps it from sticking together; a potato ricer prepares the potatoes to the right consistency so they easily mix with the flour and egg to form very light gnocchi; and remember--use gentle hands!


Serves 4-6

2 cups coarsely chopped pitted prunes

1 cup dry Marsala

2 T unsalted butter

Sweet Potato Gnocchi*

6 small amaretti cookies, crushed, or 3 double packages

Grated Parmesan


Prepare gnocchi as directed below.

Add prunes and marsala to a medium skillet. Place over high heat and bring to a boil. Immediately remove skillet from heat and set aside.

Fill a large pot with 4 quarts water; season with 2 tablespoons salt and bring to a boil over high heat.

Add butter to skillet with prunes and Marsala and return to high heat; cook until butter is melted.

Add gnocchi to boiling water; cook until gnocchi rise to the top. Continue cooking 1 minute more. Add ½ cup of the pasta cooking water to skillet with prune mixture. Using a wire-mesh skimmer, transfer gnocchi to a warm, shallow serving platter. Pour prune mixture over top.

Garnish with crushed amaretti and grated parmesan, and serve immediately.

*Sweet Potato Gnocchi (for 2 ½ lb.)

(I half this recipe using one medium sweet, and one medium russet potato, one cup flour, still one whole egg, 2 T maple syrup and ½ tsp. salt and it makes four+ generous servings. I make the same amount of sauce as called for in original recipe, and it's not too much.)

1 ½ lb. Sweet potato

1 ½ lb. Russet potato

2 cups all purpose flour

1 large egg

¼ cup pure maple syrup

1 tsp. Coarse salt

Rice flour, for dusting

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wrap sweet potatoes in parchment paper-lined aluminum foil. Bake until easily pierced in the center with a fork, about 1 hour. Let cool to touch.

Place russet potatoes in large pot, and add enough water to cover. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook until easily pierced in the center with a fork. Drain, and let potatoes cool to the touch.

Wrap both sweet and white potatoes in a clean kitchen towel and rub to remove skins. Pass potatoes through a food mill fitted with a medium-hole dish, or through a ricer, into a large mixing bowl.

Spread flour on a clean, dry work surface. Place potatoes on top of flour. Add egg, maple syrup, and salt. Using your hand and a dough scraper, mix together ingredients on work surface until combined to form a dough. (This will be a very moist dough. Sort of fold everything together, and don't over-handle.)

Gently form dough into a 10-by-8 rectangle. Let rest for 2 minutes. Work quickly while dough is still warm.

Lightly dust a clean, dry work surface with rice flour. Cut the rectangle into 4 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a 1 inch thick rope.

Cut each rope into one-half inch gnocchi.
Gently roll each gnocchi between your fingers and the tines of a fork.
Store gnocchi on a rice flour-covered baking sheet until ready to use. Dust with rice flour.

Gnocchi can also be frozen up to 2 weeks. To freeze, place them, dusted with rice flour, in a single layer on a baking sheet and freeze. Once frozen, place them one on top of the other in an airtight container. To thaw for cooking, place gnocchi in a single layer on a baking sheet in the refrigerator for not more than 1 hour before cooking. Continue cooking according to recipe directions.