February 20, 2011

Pasta ai Quattro Formaggi (Four Cheese Pasta)

While browsing other blogs for ideas (as if I don't already have more recipes to try than hours in my day), I came across the Pioneer Woman. Her Web site intrigued me, and her Pasta ai Quattro Formaggi moved to the top of my list of recipes to try. I adapted her recipe slightly, but you can find the original on her blog: The Pioneer Woman.

It was amazing for me, but my husband really didn't care for it. Granted I used four cheeses that he describes as "feet" cheese because they smell like feet in his mind. Had I used more common cheeses, I believe he would have enjoyed it more.

Pasta ai Quattro Formaggi (Four Cheese Pasta)
1 lb. angel hair pasta
2 Tbsp. butter, softened
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup grated Romano
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 cup grated Asiago
1/2 cup grated provolone
1/2 tsp. salt
Freshly ground pepper

Boil water for pasta, and cook to al dente. Reserve some of the pasta water prior to draining the pasta. Meanwhile, heat butter and cream together until cream is warm and butter is melted.

Combine together drained pasta, cream, butter and cheeses. Gently toss until combined, although it's fine if all the cheese is not melted. Add pasta water to the mixture as needed to produce a creamy final product that is not all clumped together. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Serve immediately (or else your cheese will begin to clump together, which will not change the flavor but will alter the smooth texture). Serves approximately 8-10 people.

Key Lime Pie (Take Two)

This version of Key Lime Pie came from my Healthy Cooking magazine, although I still topped it with meringue rather than whipped topping as the recipe indicated. Although it was good, my prior key lime pie was far superior to this version.

Key Lime Pie
1 can fat-free sweetened condensed milk
3/4 cup egg substitute
1/2 cup key lime juice
1 6-oz. ready made graham cracker pie crust
Meringue (see prior Key Lime Pie post)

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Whisk together milk, egg and lime juice until well blended. Pour into pie crust. Bake 17 minutes or until set. Cool on wire rack one hour or until cooled. Chill 3 to 24 hours. Top with meringue, and serve. Serves 8.

Brewfest Cupcakes

In honor of our fifth anniversary at Brewfest, I felt compelled to develop a cupcake baked with beer as our dessert to accompany the nacho tradition. I came across a recipe for cupcakes that originally called for Guinness. I substituted a nice dark Leinenkugel beer, Fireside Nut Brown. The cupcakes fell a bit flat (and most were overfilled), but the flavor outweighed the flaws. They didn't taste like beer, but the beer definitely brought out the chocolate flavor.

Brewfest Cupcakes
1 cup Fireside Nut Brown
1 stick, plus 1 Tbsp. butter
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 cups dark brown sugar
3/4 cup sour cream
2 eggs
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
2 cups flour
2 1/2 tsp. baking soda

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line cupcake tins with wrappers.

Combine beer and butter over low heat until the butter is melted. Remove from heat, and whisk in the cocoa and sugar. In a separate bowl, whisk together the sour cream, eggs and vanilla. Combine this mixture with the beer mixture.

In separate bowl, sift together flour and baking soda. Fold the flour into the wet ingredients. Fill cupcake liners approximately 2/3 full. Bake 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let stand 10 minutes, and remove from tins. Cool completely on wire racks. Makes approximately 30 cupcakes. Frost once completely cooled.

Cream Frosting
3 cups powdered sugar
1 stick butter, softened
4 Tbsp. heavy cream

Beat together powdered sugar and butter. Slowly add heavy cream until desired texture is reached. This makes a thicker frosting.

Note: I used chocolates for making candy to make mini pint glasses of beer for the tops of cupcakes. Fun touch, although they aren't perfect.

February 13, 2011

English Granary Bread

For the past couple years, I've searched for English Golden Syrup in the stores to no avail. However, it was part of my Christmas present this year (thanks to the Internet and my mom!). It's a natural sweetener with a flavor similar to honey yet distinctly different. With this syrup, I was finally able to make this bread recipe.

English Granary Bread
2 tsp. yeast
1 1/3 cups water
3 Tbsp. English Golden Syrup
2 Tbsp. butter, softened
2 tsp. salt
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups bread flour

Heat the water until warm, between 105ºF and 115ºF. Pour into warmed mixing bowl, and add yeast and syrup. Let stand 5 minutes.

Add honey, butter, salt, wheat flour and half the bread flour. Beat well. Cover, and let stand 15 minutes.

Slowly add the remaining bread flour, and beat until a smooth dough forms. Knead the dough until soft and springy but soft to the touch. Remove the dough hook, cover the bowl and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

Lightly grease a baking sheet. Turn dough onto lightly greased or floured surface, and punch dough down. Shape into two round loaves. Place the loaves, seam side down, on the baking pan. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 45 minutes to 60 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375ºF. Glaze with egg white wash and sprinkle with wheat germ and sesame seeds. Bake 35 to 40 minutes, until golden. Remove from baking sheets, and cool on wire rack.

English Muffins

Recently my husband and I rediscovered how much we enjoy English muffins. I had made them from scratch in the past and enjoyed the nontraditional process of cooking them on a griddle rather than in the oven. So, I decided to try the version of English muffins from my copy of The Bread Bible.

These turned out delicious, far tastier than the store varieties. There's just something about a homemade English Muffinmust be the love. (Note: this recipe only makes 10 English Muffins, so double it! That was my only disappointment when I was done with the recipe was how few muffins I had to enjoy.)

English Muffins

1 cup plus 1 1/2 Tbsp. flour
3/4 cup water at room temperature
1 Tbsp. honey
1/2 tsp. instant yeast

Whisk the sponge ingredients until very smooth, incorporating air, for about 2 minutes. The sponge will be the consistency of a thick batter.

Flour Mixture
1 cup plus 1 1/2 Tbsp. flour
2 Tbsp. dry milk
1/2 tsp. instant yeast
3 Tbsp. butter, softened
1 1/4 tsp. salt
1/3 cup cornmeal
1 tsp. melted butter (optional)

In separate bowl, whisk together flour, dry milk and yeast. Sprinkle this on the sponge mixture to cover completely. Do not stir. Cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let stand for one hour at room temperature. You may then refrigerate for 8 to 24 hours to allow flavors to develop. (If refrigerated, remove one hour prior to mixing the dough.)

After the dough has fermented, add the butter and mix on low speed until the flour is moistened enough to form a rough dough. Cover, and let rest 15 to 20 minutes.

Sprinkle on the salt, and knead on medium speed for 10 minutes. Dough will be smooth and shiny but tacky enough to stick slightly to your fingers. Add a little flour or water if necessary to obtain this texture.

Scrape dough into an oiled container, and cover tightly. Allow dough to rise until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours. Gently knead dough in container. Cover, and refrigerate at least 1 hour (up to 24) to chill and firm the dough.

Sprinkle the counter evenly with the cornmeal. On a lightly floured counter, roll out the dough into 1/4-inch thickness. Using a biscuit cutter, cut out the rounds. Place them on the cornmeal and cover with greased plastic wrap to rise until they are about 3/4-inch high. With remaining scraps of dough, pat into a round. Cover, and refrigerate at least one hour to relax the dough before reshaping and cutting.

Once rounds have risen, preheat the griddle to 275ºF. Brush griddle with melted butter if desired. Cook muffins 10 minutes on each side or until the internal temperature is 190ºF. Cool the muffins on a wire rack completely. Separate the muffins using a fork prior to freezing if you're not going to eat them within a couple days.

February 5, 2011

Chocolate Caramel Cupcakes

I found a recipe online for Chocolate Dulce de Leche Cupcakes, which sounded perfect to bring to my potluck at work. However, the dulce de leche I had smelled funky, and I didn't have the time or ambition to make the dulce de leche from scratch that night. I did happen to have a jar of caramel sauce, so I created Chocolate Caramel Cupcakes instead. The caramel flavor doesn't shine though enough to recognize, but it definitely enhances the chocolate flavor.

Chocolate Caramel Cupcakes
1 cup boiling water
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup butter, softened
1 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2/3 cup caramel sauce

Preheat oven to 350ºF. In a bowl, whisk together the boiling water and cocoa until smooth. Add milk and vanilla, and whisk until blended. In a separate large bowl, beat together butter and sugars until fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.

In another bowl, sift together remaining dry ingredients. In alternating batches, add flour mixture and then cocoa mixture to the egg mixture, beating well after each addition and ending with flour. Stir in the caramel sauce.

Fill cupcake wrappers slightly more than half full (as cupcakes will rise a lot during baking). Bake for approximately 18 minutes or until top springs back when touched. Cool on wire rack, and frost with desired frosting. Makes A LOT of cupcakes (approximately 36).