Monday, December 14, 2009

Daring Cooks: Salmon en Croute

Daring Bakers Logo

The 2009 Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Simone of Junglefrog Cooking. Simone chose Salmon en Croute (or alternative recipes for Beef Wellington or Vegetable en Croute) from Good Food Online.

I was somewhat familiar with the technique for this month's challenge, having completed the Beef Wellington challenge from Recipes to Rival.  The main differences between the two were the protein and the topping.  In this case, I used a salmon fillet and topped it with a spinach cream cheese mixture.

Normally I am not a big fish eater.  Unless it is tuna or salmon, fish tastes too...fishy for me.  The only other exception is fried catfish.  And that is obviously battered and fried so most of the fishy flavor is covered up...especially with a nice dipping of ketchup.  Because this recipe used salmon, I was fine following the recipe as written and not using another protein substitution that we were offered.

We were given the option of making our own shortcrust pastry or using store bought.  Because I had some store bought puff pastry frozen already, I went ahead and used that.

Once everything is thawed the dish comes together fairly quickly.  The spinach-cream cheese puree is a simple whiz in the food processor though I had to use a little water and olive oil to get it to puree.  With a little salt and pepper, the puree is very tasty.  You could even use it elsewhere perhaps as a pasta sauce.

Overall I was pleased with the salmon en croute.  It was very tasty but it didn't overly wow me as is.  I would have preferred using another protein.  Beef would have been delicious in the salmon's place.  I doubt I will remake it using the salmon.  My favorite part was the puree and I will definitely be using it again.

For more Salmon en Croute, check out the Daring Cooks blogroll.

Salmon en Croute

Salmon en Croute


Mascarpone or creamcheese 5.2 ounces/150 gr
Watercress, rocket (arugula) and spinach - 0.6 cup/4.2 ounces/120 gr
Shortcrust pastry - 17.6 ounces, 500 gr. Use a butterversion such as Jus-rol which is frozen or dorset pastry. or... make your own! (I used frozen store bought puff pastry)
Salmon fillet (skinless)- 17.6 ounce/500 gr
egg - 1 medium sized


1.Heat the oven to 200°C/390 F. Put the mascarpone or cream cheese in a food processor with the watercress, spinach and rocket and whizz the lot until you have a creamy green puree. Season well.

Salmon en Croute

2. Roll the pastry out so you can wrap the salmon in it completely (approx. 2-3 mm thick) and lay it on a buttered or oiled baking sheet (it will hang over the edges). Put the salmon in the middle. If it has a thinner tail end, tuck it under. Spoon half of the watercress mixture onto the salmon. Now fold the pastry over into a neat parcel (the join will be at the top, so trim the edge neatly), making sure you don’t have any thick lumps of pastry as these won’t cook through properly. Trim off any excess as you need to. Make 3 neat cuts in the pastry to allow steam to escape and make some decorations with the off-cuts to disguise the join if you like. Brush with the egg glaze.

3. Bake for 30 minutes or until the pastry is crisp and browned. To test wether the salmon is cooked, push a sharp knife through one of the cuts into the flesh, wait for 3 seconds then test it against the inside of your wrist; if it is hot, the salmon is cooked. Serve with the rest of the watercress puree as a sauce.

Salmon en Croute

Shortcrust Pastry

450 gr (15.8 ounces or 3.2 cups ) of plain all purpose flour
200 gr ( 7 ounce) cold butter
pinch of salt
Sift the flour into a large bowl, add the butter and rub in with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
Stir in the salt, then add 2-3 tbsp of water and mix to a firm dough. Knead the dough briefly and gently on a floured surface. Wrap in cling film and chill while preparing the filling.
For best results make sure the butter is very cold.


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Whole Grain Challah with Cranberries and Challah Bread Pudding


For our second bonus recipe for Heathly Bread in Five, author Jeff Hertzberg gave us Whole Grain Challah with Cranberries and Orange Zest to try out.

The dough itself was pretty simple to make as usual with their formula. My worry was in the braiding of the challah. Reading through the directions I was a little confused but after a quick check at the Artisan Bread in Five website for some photos and it made a little more sense.  For some reason, my brain couldn't compute how you started the braid.  Sometimes I just need some pictures.  Start the braid from the middle...people...from the middle and braid upwards.

Whole Wheat Challah w/ Cranberries

Whole Wheat Challah w/ Cranberries

Whole Wheat Challah w/ Cranberries

I baked the first loaf the same day I made the dough and I wonder if that made a difference in how the braid looked.  My first attempt wasn't the prettiest of braids but it was pretty good taste wise. A little dry though.  For this loaf, all I did was slice and top with a little honeyed cinnamon butter (very delicious stuff!). That made all the difference and really made the challah taste delicious.  

The second loaf I made about five days after the first and it baked up very nicely.  I cubed it and made it into a creamy challah bread pudding. It's the holidays...what can I say?

Whole Wheat Challah Bread
Much, much prettier.

Challah Bread Pudding
Muy delicioso!

The bread pudding was rich, creamy, and delicious.  I thought the whole grain challah would be a little too blah but it was perfect with the rich sauce.  It also made you think the bread pudding was slightly healthier than normal.  Or at least that is what I told myself as I was eating it for dinner.  And if I tell myself it is healthier...than it is!  While fantastic the same day it is made, it is phenomenal the next day.  The flavors have had a chance to mingle and they are even better. Not only is this good for dessert (or dinner in my case), it also makes an amazing breakfast as well.

If you would like to join HBinFive, click here for more information.  Check out the HBinFive Blogroll here.

Whole Grain Challah with Cranberries and Orange Zest

Makes enough dough for at least four 1-pound loaves. The recipe is easily doubled or halved.

5 cups whole wheat flour
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup wheat germ
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated yeast, or 2 packets
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/4 cup vital wheat gluten
3/4 cup dried sweetened cranberries (“craisins”)
Zest from 1 orange, scraped with a microzester (I left this out because I didn't have an orange)
3 cup lukewarm water
1/4 cup neutral-flavored oil, melted unsalted butter, or melted zero trans fat, zero hydrogenated oil margarine
1/2 cup honey
3 large eggs

Egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon of water) for brushing on the loaf

Optional Topping: 1/2 tsp of orange zest and granulated sugar, mixed and sprinkled on top.

1. Mixing and storing the dough: Whisk together the flours, wheat germ, yeast, salt, and vital wheat gluten in a 5-quart bowl, or a lidded (not airtight) food container.

2. Add the cranberries, orange zest, liquid ingredients and eggs and mix without kneading, using a spoon, 14-cup food processor (with dough attachment), or a heavy-duty stand mixer (with paddle). You may need to use wet hands to get the last bit of flour to incorporate if you’re not using a machine.

3. Cover (not airtight), and allow to rest at room temperature until dough rises and collapses (or flattens on top), approximately 2 hours.

4. Dough can be used immediately after initial rise, though it is easier to handle when cold. Refrigerate in a lidded (not airtight) container and use over the next 5 days (or store up to two weeks in the freezer). Freeze in 1-pound portions. When using frozen dough, thaw in refrigerator for 24 hours before use, then allow usual resting time.

5. On baking day, dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and cut off a 1-pound (grapefruit-size) piece. Dust with more flour and quickly shape it into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go.

6. Gently roll and stretch the dough, dusting with flour so your hands don’t stick to it, until you have a long rope about 3/4-inch thick. You may need to let the dough relax for 5 minutes so it won’t resist your efforts. Using a dough scraper or knife, make angled cuts to divide the rope into three equal-length strands with tapering ends.

7. Braiding the challah: Starting from the middle of the loaf, pull the left strand over the center strand and lay it down; always pull outer strands into the middle, never moving what becomes the center strand.

8. Now pull the right strand over to the middle. Continue, alternating outer strands but always pulling into the center. When you get to the end, pinch the strands together.

9. Flip the challah over so the loose strands fan away from you. Start braiding again by pulling an outside strand to the middle, but this time start with the right strand. Braid to the end again, and pinch the strands together.

10. If the braid is oddly shaped, fix it by nudging and stretching. Place the braid on a cookie sheet prepared with shortening, parchment, or a silicone mat, and allow to rest for 90 minutes (or 45 minutes if you’re using fresh, unrefrigerated dough).

11. Thirty minutes before baking time, preheat the oven to 350°F; if you’re not using a stone in the oven, a 5-minute preheat is adequate.

12. Just before baking, use a pastry brush to paint the top crust with egg wash.

13. Place the cookie sheet near the center of the oven and bake for about 30 minutes, until browned and firm. Smaller or larger loaves will require adjustments in resting and baking time.

14. Allow to cool on a rack before slicing and eating.

© Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François, used with permission of the Authors

Challah Bread Pudding
Adapted from My Recipes


  • 2 1/2  cups  2% low-fat milk (I used nonfat)
  • 1/2  cup  dried tart cherries (I used dried cranberries in place of the cherries and raisins)
  • 1/2  cup  golden raisins
  • 1/2  cup  fat-free sweetened condensed milk
  • 2  teaspoons  vanilla extract
  • 1  teaspoon  ground cinnamon
  • 1/2  teaspoon  freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4  teaspoon  salt
  • 3  large eggs
  • 8  cups  (1-inch) cubes challah or other egg bread (1/2 loaf)
  • Cooking spray
  • 2  tablespoons  sugar


Preheat oven to 325°.
Combine the first 9 ingredients in a large bowl. Add challah cubes, tossing to coat. Let challah mixture stand 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Coat an 11 x 7-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Spoon the challah mixture into dish, and sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 325° for 55 minutes or until pudding is set. Let pudding stand 15 minutes before serving.


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

TWD: Sables


I don't know about you but I love me a nice buttery sugary cookie. If it melts in your mouth then it will no doubt be tops on my list. So naturally, I was quite eager to make this week's Tuesdays with Dorie selection by Barbara of Bungalow Barbara

Once the butter is softened, this cookies are a cinch to make. And to make the process even better, you can make these a few days in advance. Simple take out of the fridge and roll in the sugar when you are ready.


I didn't have any colored sugar so I had to use plain granulated sugar instead. This was one of those times that I wished I had picked up a pastry brush when I saw them in the store. Because I didn't have one, I had to use a spoon to get the egg wash on the outside of the cookie log. I may have gotten it a little thicker than it should have been because I had some clumps that didn't get smoothed out completely. That caused a problem when the cookies baked. Some of the edges looked a little eggy. Fortunately, that part seemed to crumble off for the most part when I lifted them off the cookie sheet.

I went with the spiced option that Dorie gives. While I am sure they are just perfectly delicious without any extra flavors, I am so glad I went with the spiced. It wasn't an overwhelming spice flavor. It was just enough to get a hint of cinnamon and make you think its holiday time. Definitely a great cookie that I will make again. Now to decide if I want to take in the rest of the cookies to work...hmmm...

To see more version of the Sables, check out the TWD blogroll. To get this recipe, see Barbara at Bungalow Barbara or page 131-133 in Baking.


Friday, December 4, 2009

Meeting the Pioneer Woman

Pioneer Woman Booksigning

Last Wednesday, December 1st, was one of the coldest, rainiest days we have had in Dallas this year. It was pretty miserable. Drivers seemed to forget how to drive (this happens any time there is any precipitation in Dallas). But there was one bright spot for me. What you ask? Well, The Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond, was on the beginning of the Texas leg of her book tour! So despite the rain, I was going. Crazy as hell drivers be damned!

Thank goodness I called ahead and found out you needed a wristband to attend. I had already bought my copy elsewhere so I was told I needed to buy one from Borders (which I found out later may or may not have been true). Oh well, I thought. It will make a good Christmas present for someone (can't say who though...she reads my blog sometimes!)

I knew enough from following Ree's posts on her other signings that I needed to get there early because this was going to be a little shall we say...crowded. Even though I got there well before the signing was supposed to start, the place was jam packed with wet PW fans. I kinda felt sorry for all the 'regular' shoppers. There was hardly any room for them to shop. Especially when we started lining up on the blue line that meandered around the store.

This is where the wrist bands came into play. There were at least 7 groups (I think!). Gold, red, yellow, pink, orange, purple, and silver. I was in the yellow group. Someone mentioned that there were about 100 people in each group. I don't know how true that is but it sure felt like it. After red and gold lined up, yellow was called and thank goodness I managed to get pretty close to the front of that group.

I was in line with a few very nice friendly ladies. During the long wait to get up to where Ree was, we talked about everything from the GRE (which I'm taking soon) to Why Fish Fart (the name of a book we came across...don't ask). For the first hour and a half, we didn't move an inch. Seriously. Not a cotton pickin' inch.  If I hadn't seen and heard Ree come in and start speaking, I wouldn't have guess we had started! Finally though, the line started to move and slowly we made our way around the store (we started about half way around the perimeter in the back).

Pioneer Woman Booksigning

Her daughters were there and one of them came through our portion of the line and signed cookbooks. Super sweet girl! By 10 pm (the signing started at 7), however, Ree was within sight.

Pioneer Woman Booksigning

See?! There she is! And also the super cool Border's employee who joked with me about starting a blog a la Julie and Julia and maybe it would be made into a movie one day (see the crazy sticky notes below).'s my turn! It's just me and Ree...and a huge crowd of fans wanting me to hurry the eff up no doubt. And her older brother was there too. Right after my picture was taken, he realized he was in the middle of every picture and decided he wanted to move. It was kinda funny.

Pioneer Woman Booksigning
This photo has been edited to hide the evidence of my enormous hips.

Here is where the really exciting thing happened. My book was apparently the only one to the point that had been marked by little sticky notes. In order to remember which recipes I really want to make, I mark the page with a sticky note and write the recipe on top. It's something my Memaw taught me and I've kept doing it with all my cookbooks. Ree saw it and was impressed/excited with my organization. She took a picture of my book! Then...she took a picture of ME!!! ME!! OMG! I was so excited obviously. I couldn't believe it! I have no idea if she will use those pictures at all but it still made the whole 3 hour wait totally worth it for me.  UPDATE: She used it!  Check it out here!  And of course, we can't forget the snazzy t-shirt I managed to snag as well. And she told me the prune cake was delicious. I am so making that soon.

Ree was incredibly nice. Even though she had been signing constantly for 3 hours at that point with a HUGE line still behind me (her poor hands! Fear not...she did take a bathroom break at one point), she had a big smile for everyone that came up. Including me...the crazy organized sticky note girl. She made you feel that she was happy and grateful that you came out to see and support her.

So if she is coming to your area, take your book and get there early! Because you are gonna wait. But it so worth it since you get to meet such a unbelievably nice (and pretty!) awesome blogger. And I'm not just saying that because she took my picture either. She rocks kiddos! oh...and she mentioned that her story, Black Heels to Tractor Wheels, will be published! Sweet!


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Recipes to Rival: Rye Bread

Growing up I did not like rye bread. At least that is what I told myself. It was brown and looked like a big lump of...well you know what. So I refused to eat it. Then one day when I was older and less weird, I tried a slice at Outback and loved it. I'm not sure exactly what I really liked about it...perhaps the slight sweetness. But I liked it and have enjoyed eating it since then.

It wasn't really a bread I ever thought about making at home. White, wheat, oatmeal. Those were breads that seemed to be home made types. But this was a pretty simple bread to make at home. Other than the rye flour, it wasn't all that different from the other breads.

I added the optional brown sugar to make sure it was suitably sweet for my tastes. I didn't add the optional raisins or walnuts. That seemed a little too much for me.  I shaped the bread into a standard rectangular loaf.

While still not a terribly pretty bread to look at, taste wise it was delicious. Just a hint of sweetness was perfect for me. The only thing I didn't really like was the caraway seed. There seemed to be too much of them and I was constantly getting little liquorice-y bursts. Not bad in small batches but it was pretty constant. Next time I would cut the amount called for in half. I served my rye bread plain with just a little butter. The dense bread didn't really need any more than that. Of course, it would be very tasty served alongside a nice steak if you so chose!

Rye Bread

Rye Bread

Old World Rye
A World of Breads by Dolores Casella, 1966

2 cups rye flour
1/4 cup cocoa
2 T yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water
1/2 cup molasses
2 tsp salt
2 T caraway seed
2 T butter
2 1/2 cups white flour or whole wheat flour

Combine the rye flour and cocoa. do not sift. Dissolve the yeast in 1/2 cup warm water.

Mix molasses, 1 cup warm water, salt, and caraway seed in large mixing bowl.
Add the rye/cocoa mix, the proofed yeast, the butter and 1 cup white flour or whole wheat flour.

Beat until the dough is smooth.

Spread the remaining flour on a breadboard and kneed it into the dough. Add more flour if necessary to make a firm dough that is smooth and elastic. Place in buttered bowl and cover. Allow to rise until double (about 2 hours).

Punch dough down, shape into a round loaf and place on a buttered cookie sheet that has been sprinkled with cornmeal. Let rise about 50 minutes.

Bake at 375 for 35 to 40 minutes.


You can add 1/2 cup brown sugar and 1 cup each of raisins and walnuts.

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