Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Daring Bakers May '09: Strudel

Daring Bakers Logo- Vanilla Fairy

The May Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Linda of make life sweeter! and Courtney of Coco Cooks. They chose Apple Strudel from the recipe book Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague by Rick Rodgers.


Strudel is one of those things that I never thought I'd make at home. You only get it from the store or at a restaurant. Let me put it this way. Strudel making is like one of those insanely tall decorated wedding cakes. People don't make those at home, right? Well, those cakes get made at home by bakers all the time (and look incredible) and I made strudel. Would I have made it without the nudge of the Daring Bakers? Probably not. No doubt I'd be too scared thinking it would be too difficult to get that super thin dough. But boy am I glad I did!

It was somewhat time consuming to make. Well..that's not exactly right. It took a lot of time but most of it was waiting. So I guess I should say its wait get the idea. After the dough is mixed up and resting to be precise. The filling came together quickly (and tasted delicious!) and went into the fridge waiting for the dough to be ready.

The hardest part of the whole process was the stretching of the dough. I made half of a batch because I was nervous about that part. And of course its not as hard as I feared. I was able to use my rolling pin to get it stretch pretty far out. I held my breath when I picked up the dough to start the hand stretching. I went slow with it and to my surprise, I was able to get it to about 1'x 1.5' with out any major tears.

I cheated a tiny bit and didn't toast the bread crumbs. I used panko because that was all I had. I also substituted pecans for the walnuts because I like them better and they were the only nuts I had. Instead of the vegetable oil I had to use olive oil because I didn't realize I was out of the other until I was mixing up the dough. I didn't notice a difference in taste though. I couldn't tell there was olive oil there at all.


I am so so so glad I made this! The filling was delicious. I loved the tiny hint of rum you got. Not enough to overwhelm but just to give you a little taste. The outside was thin and buttery. Next time I might add a sprinkling of sugar to the top before baking to give the crust some sweetness. And I would also add more chopped pecans; I don't think I added quite enough. They kind of got lost in all the apple goodness.

Oh yea...I'll definitely be making this one again. It was so easy and delicious, how could I not?

Thanks for the great pick this month, Linda and Courtney! I loved it!

Here is what Charlie thought of the strudel.

Charlie and the Strudel

Charlie and the Strudel

Charlie and the Strudel

Check out the Daring Bakers Blogroll for more strudel!

Apple Strudel

Preparation time
Total: 2 hours 15 minutes – 3 hours 30 minutes

15-20 min to make dough
30-90 min to let dough rest/to prepare the filling
20-30 min to roll out and stretch dough
10 min to fill and roll dough
30 min to bake
30 min to cool

Strudel dough

from “Kaffeehaus – Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague” by Rick Rodgers

1 1/3 cups (200 g) unbleached flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons (105 ml) water, plus more if needed
2 tablespoons (30 ml) vegetable oil, plus additional for coating the dough
1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar

1. Combine the flour and salt in a stand-mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix the water, oil and vinegar in a measuring cup. Add the water/oil mixture to the flour with the mixer on low speed. You will get a soft dough. Make sure it is not too dry, add a little more water if necessary.
Take the dough out of the mixer. Change to the dough hook. Put the dough ball back in the mixer. Let the dough knead on medium until you get a soft dough ball with a somewhat rough surface.

2. Take the dough out of the mixer and continue kneading by hand on an unfloured work surface. Knead for about 2 minutes. Pick up the dough and throw it down hard onto your working surface occasionally.
Shape the dough into a ball and transfer it to a plate. Oil the top of the dough ball lightly. Cover the ball tightly with plastic wrap. Allow to stand for 30-90 minutes (longer is better).

3. It would be best if you have a work area that you can walk around on all sides like a 36 inch (90 cm) round table or a work surface of 23 x 38 inches (60 x 100 cm). Cover your working area with table cloth, dust it with flour and rub it into the fabric. Put your dough ball in the middle and roll it out as much as you can.
Pick the dough up by holding it by an edge. This way the weight of the dough and gravity can help stretching it as it hangs. Using the back of your hands to gently stretch and pull the dough. You can use your forearms to support it.

4. The dough will become too large to hold. Put it on your work surface. Leave the thicker edge of the dough to hang over the edge of the table. Place your hands underneath the dough and stretch and pull the dough thinner using the backs of your hands. Stretch and pull the dough until it's about 2 feet (60 cm) wide and 3 feet (90 cm) long, it will be tissue-thin by this time. Cut away the thick dough around the edges with scissors. The dough is now ready to be filled.

Apple strudel

from “Kaffeehaus – Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague” by Rick Rodgers

2 tablespoons (30 ml) golden rum
3 tablespoons (45 ml) raisins
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon (80 g) sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick / 115 g) unsalted butter, melted, divided
1 1/2 cups (350 ml) fresh bread crumbs
strudel dough (recipe below)
1/2 cup (120 ml, about 60 g) coarsely chopped walnuts
2 pounds (900 g) tart cooking apples, peeled, cored and cut into ¼ inch-thick slices (use apples that hold their shape during baking)

1. Mix the rum and raisins in a bowl. Mix the cinnamon and sugar in another bowl.

2. Heat 3 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium-high. Add the breadcrumbs and cook whilst stirring until golden and toasted. This will take about 3 minutes. Let it cool completely.

3. Put the rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Line a large baking sheet with baking paper (parchment paper). Make the strudel dough as described below. Spread about 3 tablespoons of the remaining melted butter over the dough using your hands (a bristle brush could tear the dough, you could use a special feather pastry brush instead of your hands). Sprinkle the buttered dough with the bread crumbs. Spread the walnuts about 3 inches (8 cm) from the short edge of the dough in a 6-inch-(15cm)-wide strip. Mix the apples with the raisins (including the rum), and the cinnamon sugar. Spread the mixture over the walnuts.

4. Fold the short end of the dough onto the filling. Lift the tablecloth at the short end of the dough so that the strudel rolls onto itself. Transfer the strudel to the prepared baking sheet by lifting it. Curve it into a horseshoe to fit. Tuck the ends under the strudel. Brush the top with the remaining melted butter.


5. Bake the strudel for about 30 minutes or until it is deep golden brown. Cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing. Use a serrated knife and serve either warm or at room temperature. It is best on the day it is baked.



Sunday, May 17, 2009

Chickpea Salad with Lemon and Parmesan

Chickpea Salad with Lemon and Parmesan

I guess you could say I'm a late addition to the chickpea loving fold. I can't remember ever eating them as a kid and if I did, well obviously they weren't memorable. Now I love them. I started eating chickpeas both as a snack (delicious baked!) and in my main meals about a year ago. While they don't get used as often as my fav the kidney bean, they are on frequent rotation in Casa de Heather.

I'm also a just now finding out about Orangette. My blog has been up for over a year now and I'm really surprised I've missed out on all the gooddies that Molly has over there. Maybe I was just going through a duhhhh phase (or I'm just a oblivious...that could be it). During a slow period at work one day (and it was a very, very, very slow day as usual), I went through the archives and found so many recipes that I wanted to try.

The first one was this chickpea salad with lemon and parmesan. It was simple and I had all the ingredients on hand for once. Score! It whipped up in a flash and was chilling in the fridge in no time. Naturally, I kept taking a bean here and there because it was so tasty!

I roasted up some zucchini to go alongside and had quite the yummy dinner. At first I didn't think that one little can of chickpeas was going to be enough but it turned out to be very filling. I got 3 servings out of it to my surprise. The longer this sits in the fridge, the better it gets. I took some to lunch the next day and was so happy with it. Perfect for a work lunch!

Thanks to Molly for giving me permission to post her recipe! As I told her in my email, I'm sure I'll be back again with another delicious recipe of hers that I'll want to post! She has such a great selection!

Chickpea Salad with Lemon and Parmesan

Chickpea Salad with Lemon and Parmesan
Adapted from Orangette

1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1 ½ tsp. olive oil
A pinch of salt
¼ cup loosely packed shredded Parmigiano Reggiano (I used grated)

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, and stir gently to mix. Taste, and adjust seasoning as necessary. Serve immediately, or chill, covered, until serving.

Note: This salad keeps well in the fridge and is best eaten cold.

Yield: 2 servings

Chickpeas on Foodista


Thursday, May 14, 2009

Daring Cooks: Ricotta Gnocchi

For the first edition of the Daring Cooks, our hosts, Lis of La Mia Cucina and Ivonne at Cream Puffs in Venice chose Ricotta Gnocchi from The Zuni Café Cookbook by Judy Rodgers. I've actually made ricotta gnocchi in the past but the technique was different. Many of the new Daring Cooks decided to make ricotta from scratch and even though I've done it before, I decided to go store bought this time. Having just moved when I made it, I wasn't feeling up to making the ricotta at home.

Making the ricotta gnocchi was actually easier this time around than when I made before. Then I had to roll the gnocchi out into ropes and cut at a specified length. A bit of a pain since I had very little counter space at the time. This time around, I scooped up a bit with two spoons and molded it slightly before (gently) dropping the gnocchi into a pile of flour. My gnocchi ended up being bigger than I think they were supposed to be. The recipe yield says almost 4 dozen and I got just over 2 dozen. Oh well, at least I didn't have to make ricotta snakes this time.

I added a dash of nutmeg and bit of chopped garlic to the dough. The nutmeg wasn't noticeable but that was probably due to the garlic. For my sauce, I went pretty simple. The last time I made ricotta gnocchi I went with a butter sauce but this time I decided on a tomato sauce. I took 1 can of diced petite tomatoes (with juice), 1 tsp of balsamic vinegar, a dash or two of garlic powder, 1/4 tsp of black pepper, and a generous pinch of salt. Very, very tasty! I loved the balsamic with the tomatoes. It gave it just enough tang but not too much so it didn't overwhelm the tomatoes or the gnocchi.

I was much happier with the sauce than the gnocchi. The gnocchi tasted fine but the texture or something was never quite right. They were supposed to be delicate but mine seemed to be really delicate. I had to be super gentle in removing them from the water or they would fall apart. They reminded me of egg whites. Big, puffy egg whites. Of course, I'm sure this probably due to my making them so big. Obviously, I sabotaged my own gnocchi!

I only made 5 of the gnocchi since they were so big. I froze the rest for later. I forgot to line the tray with parchment and flour before putting them in to freeze though. It wasn't a big deal, just needed a pry with a butter knife and they popped right off. It will be interesting to see if they cook up easier from frozen than fresh.

Overall, this was a great intro into the Daring Cooks. I look forward to more challenges with this new group!

Ricotta Gnocchi

You can see more Ricotta Gnocchi by checking out the Daring Cooks Blogroll!

Zuni Ricotta Gnocchi

Source: From The Zuni Café Cookbook.

Yield: Makes 40 to 48 gnocchi (serves 4 to 6)

Prep time: Step 1 will take 24 hours. Steps 2 through 4 will take approximately 1 hour.


- If you can find it, use fresh ricotta. As Judy Rodgers advises in her recipe, there is no substitute for fresh ricotta. It may be a bit more expensive, but it's worth it.
- Do not skip the draining step. Even if the fresh ricotta doesn't look very wet, it is. Draining the ricotta will help your gnocchi tremendously.
- When shaping your gnocchi, resist the urge to over handle them. It's okay if they look a bit wrinkled or if they're not perfectly smooth.
- If you're not freezing the gnocchi for later, cook them as soon as you can. If you let them sit around too long they may become a bit sticky.
- For the variations to the challenge recipe, please see the end of the recipe.

Equipment required:

- Sieve
- Cheesecloth or paper towels
- Large mixing bowl
- Rubber spatula
- Tablespoon
- Baking dish or baking sheet
- Wax or parchment paper
- Small pot
- Large skillet
- Large pan or pot (very wide in diameter and at least 2 inches deep)

Videos that might help:

- Judy Rodgers Gnocchi Demo
- Making fresh ricotta demo
- Making ricotta gnocchi

For the gnocchi:

1 pound (454 grams/16 ounces) fresh ricotta (2 cups)
2 large cold eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce) unsalted butter
2 or 3 fresh sage leaves, or a few pinches of freshly grated nutmeg, or a few pinches of chopped lemon zest (all optional)
½ ounce Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated (about ¼ cup very lightly packed)
about ¼ teaspoon salt (a little more if using kosher salt)
all-purpose flour for forming the gnocchi

For the gnocchi sauce:

8 tablespoons (227 grams/1/4 pound/4 ounces) butter, sliced
2 teaspoons water

Step 1 (the day before you make the gnocchi): Preparing the ricotta.

If the ricotta is too wet, your gnocchi will not form properly. In her cookbook, Judy Rodgers recommends checking the ricotta’s wetness. To test the ricotta, take a teaspoon or so and place it on a paper towel. If you notice a very large ring of dampness forming around the ricotta after a minute or so, then the ricotta is too wet. To remove some of the moisture, line a sieve with cheesecloth or paper towels and place the ricotta in the sieve. Cover it and let it drain for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours in the refrigerator. Alternatively, you can wrap the ricotta carefully in cheesecloth (2 layers) and suspend it in your refrigerator for 8 to 24 hours with a bowl underneath to catch the water that’s released. Either way, it’s recommended that you do this step the day before you plan on making the gnocchi.

Step 2 (the day you plan on eating the gnocchi): Making the gnocchi dough.

To make great gnocchi, the ricotta has to be fairly smooth. Place the drained ricotta in a large bowl and mash it as best as you can with a rubber spatula or a large spoon (it’s best to use a utensil with some flexibility here). As you mash the ricotta, if you noticed that you can still see curds, then press the ricotta through a strainer to smooth it out as much as possible.

Add the lightly beaten eggs to the mashed ricotta.

Melt the tablespoon of butter. As it melts, add in the sage if you’re using it. If not, just melt the butter and add it to the ricotta mixture.

Add in any flavouring that you’re using (i.e., nutmeg, lemon zest, etc.). If you’re not using any particular flavouring, that’s fine.

Add the Parmigiano-Reggiano and the salt.

Beat all the ingredients together very well. You should end up with a soft and fluffy batter with no streaks (everything should be mixed in very well).

Step 3: Forming the gnocchi.

Fill a small pot with water and bring to a boil. When it boils, salt the water generously and keep it at a simmer. You will use this water to test the first gnocchi that you make to ensure that it holds together and that your gnocchi batter isn’t too damp.

In a large, shallow baking dish or on a sheet pan, make a bed of all-purpose flour that’s ½ an inch deep.

With a spatula, scrape the ricotta mixture away from the sides of the bowl and form a large mass in the centre of your bowl.

Using a tablespoon, scoop up about 2 to 3 teaspoons of batter and then holding the spoon at an angle, use your finger tip to gently push the ball of dough from the spoon into the bed of flour.

At this point you can either shake the dish or pan gently to ensure that the flour covers the gnocchi or use your fingers to very gently dust the gnocchi with flour. Gently pick up the gnocchi and cradle it in your hand rolling it to form it in an oval as best as you can, at no point should you squeeze it. What you’re looking for is an oval lump of sorts that’s dusted in flour and plump.

Gently place your gnocchi in the simmering water. It will sink and then bob to the top. From the time that it bobs to the surface, you want to cook the gnocchi until it’s just firm. This could take 3 to 5 minutes.

If your gnocchi begins to fall apart, this means that the ricotta cheese was probably still too wet. You can remedy this by beating a teaspoon of egg white into your gnocchi batter. If your gnocchi batter was fluffy but the sample comes out heavy, add a teaspoon of beaten egg to the batter and beat that in. Test a second gnocchi to ensure success.

Form the rest of your gnocchi. You can put 4 to 6 gnocchi in the bed of flour at a time. But don’t overcrowd your bed of flour or you may damage your gnocchi as you coat them.

Have a sheet pan ready to rest the formed gnocchi on. Line the sheet pan with wax or parchment paper and dust it with flour.

You can cook the gnocchi right away, however, Judy Rodgers recommends storing them in the refrigerator for an hour prior to cooking to allow them to firm up.

Step 4: Cooking the gnocchi.

Have a large skillet ready to go. Place the butter and water for the sauce in the skillet and set aside.

In the largest pan or pot that you have (make sure it’s wide), bring at least 2 quarts of water to a boil (you can use as much as 3 quarts of water if your pot permits). You need a wide pot or pan so that your gnocchi won’t bump into each other and damage each other.

Once the water is boiling, salt it generously.

Drop the gnocchi into the water one by one. Once they float to the top, cook them for 3 to 5 minutes (as in the case with the test gnocchi).

When the gnocchi float to the top, you can start your sauce while you wait for them to finish cooking.

Place the skillet over medium heat and melt the butter. Swirl it gently a few times as it melts. As soon as it melts and is incorporated with the water, turn off the heat. Your gnocchi should be cooked by now.

With a slotted spoon, remove the gnocchi from the boiling water and gently drop into the butter sauce. Carefully roll in the sauce until coated. Serve immediately.

Variations: For the gnocchi, you can flavour them however you wish. If you want to experiment by adding something to your gnocchi (i.e., caramelized onion, sundried tomato), feel free to do so. However, be forewarned, ricotta gnocchi are delicate and may not take well to elaborate additions. For the sauce, this is your chance to go nuts. Enjoy yourselves. Surprise us!!!

Freezing the gnocchi: If you don’t want to cook your gnocchi right away or if you don’t want to cook all of them, you can make them and freeze them. Once they are formed and resting on the flour-dusted, lined tray, place them uncovered in the freezer. Leave them for several hours to freeze. Once frozen, place them in a plastic bag. Remove the air and seal the bag. Return to the freezer. To cook frozen gnocchi, remove them from the bag and place individually on a plate or on a tray. Place in the refrigerator to thaw completely. Cook as directed for fresh gnocchi.


Monday, May 11, 2009

Cranberry Oatmeal Scones

Cranberry Oatmeal Scones

After my internet was finally hooked up about two weeks ago, I went to my Adopt a Blogger mom,Tanna's blog and found so many recipes that I wanted to make. One that caught my eye was the Blueberry Oatmeal Scones. Since moving into my new apartment two weeks ago, I haven't done much baking or cooking. But I was starting to get the itch to bake again and I had decided on scones but not on a particular recipe. After looking this one over it seemed to fit the bill perfectly! I love me a good ol' bowl of oatmeal for breakfast and also love using it in baked goods when I can. Since I didn't have dried blueberries, I subbed in dried cranberries instead.

I loved the flavor and texture that the oatmeal added to the scones. It was slightly chewy, something I've not had in the scones I've made before. My scones were a little too wet when mixing so I added a bit more flour. I wasn't able to roll them out because they were still a little to wet even with the addition of more flour. I decided to do drop scones instead. They seemed more biscuit like both in shape and taste. Being a biscuit lover, that was a big plus for me.

I thought they could use a touch more brown sugar. They weren't as sweet as I normally would like in a scone. Not super sweet mind, but just a nice hint of sweet. Of course, this probably wouldn't have been an issue if I had remembered to add a sprinkling of brown sugar on top as the recipe says. Next time I make them though, I'll add a bit more sugar to the pre-baked scone and the sprinkle of brown sugar on top.

Thank you to my Adopt a Bloger Mom, Tanna for having such a tasty treat to try! Also a big thanks to anyone that has dropped by after visiting Tanna's wonderful blog!

I'll probably be absent from TWD for the rest of the month. I was out of town this past weekend and will also be gone Memorial Day weekend as well. Next weekend is my only possible baking weekend this month. I'll try to fit TWD in but no promises!

Cranberry Oatmeal Scones

Cranberry Oatmeal Scones

Recipe from My Kitchen in Half Cups

190g (1.5 cups) (4.5 oz) old-fashioned rolled oats

270ml (9.5 oz) buttermilk

1 large egg

115g (1.5 cups) whole wheat pastry flour

2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

150g (10 tablespoons) butter

2 or 3 handfulls dried fruit - blueberry, cherry, etc. (I obviously used cranberries)

Pre-heat oven to 375°F. Toast oats on baking sheet in oven until lightly brown, about 8 to 10 minutes. Allow to cool.

Pre-heat oven to 450°F

Tanna's tip: I store my extra butter in the freezer. For a recipe like this or biscuits and pie crust, I use the largest holed grater to grate the butter. I return the grated butter to the freezer for 5 or 10 minutes.

Whisk liquid ingredients: buttermilk and egg. Set aside 1 tablespoon to glaze tops before topping with brown sugar (this is extra not in the recipe).

Whisk together dry ingredients: cooled oats, flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Dump the grated frozen butter into the dry ingredients and lightly mix.

Now, drop in the dried fruit and gently mix in the wet with the dry.

Dust counter with flour and turn dough onto it. I use my hands to flatten and shape the dough into a long narrow rectangle.

Brush with reserved buttermilk and top with brown sugar. Cut triangle scones down the length of the dough. Place on parchment or silpat baking sheet. Bake at 450° for about 14 to 15 minutes.


Sunday, May 3, 2009

Adopt a Blogger and an update

Well, I've moved! Most of the kitchen is unpacked (note: most but not all!). I don't plan on doing a ton of unpacking, just the things I use the most. I plan on only being here for 6 months or so until we restart the house hunt so I don't want to have to turn around and do a ton of repacking later. I really don't know if I could live here longer than that with the Super McThumpies upstairs.

The last time, Kristen of Dine and Dish, hosted Adopt a Blogger, I missed the sign up by a few days. I told myself that the next time the event was held, I was going to participate (hoping that I would be able to join as a newbie still!). When the time came around for the next Adopt a Blogger, I signed up ASAP. Even though my blog has been up for just over a year, I still feel like a newbie. There is so much more to learn!

My new blogging mom is Tanna of My Kitchen in Half Cups. I was very excited to be adopted by Tanna. I had discovered her blog through my participation in the Daring Bakers awhile back. Not only is she an amazing baker but she also is a Dallas blogger as well! I'm always happy to see other Dallas area bloggers and to be 'adopted' by one...even better! I'm sure we will have a great time getting to know each other over the next few months.

I made her Blueberry Oatmeal scones (well...with cranberries since I was blueberry less), but I can't find the cable for my camera. No cable, no pictures. As soon as I find the box that its in I'll have a post up about the scones. They were delicious! Can't wait to share!

Please check out Tanna at My Kitchen in Half Cups. You can also find a link to her blog (and Adopt a Blogger) on my side bar. She has an amazing selection of delicious goodies. You won't be disappointed! I already have a list of treats to make!

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