July 24, 2012

Homemade Graham Crackers

Like probably most parents, we had been feeding our son graham crackers. Unlike probably most parents, I decided to make them from scratch. And that's when I realized we'd been feeding our son honey. I know, I know, the name of the most popular store brand is pretty blatant about that ingredient, but it never crossed my mind. Honey is not recommended for children under 1 due to a risk for botulism.

Most graham cracker recipes I found called for honey, but some called for molasses. Molasses still seems to be a bit iffy for children under 1 for the same reason. So I adapted a recipe from Food Loves Writing to use only brown sugar, which I realize involves molasses but in a more processed form. This is the second variation on graham crackers I've made, and I really like these for their slightly less sweet taste and lesser amount of butter. The crackers are delicious, soft enough for a 10-month old but sturdy enough for a s'more.


Homemade Graham Crackers
1 1/2 cups wheat flour
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder
1/3 cup chilled butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 to 1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla 

In a food processor, pulse flours, salt and baking powder together until mixed. Add the butter and pulse until the dough is the consistency of coarse crumbs. Add the sugar, and combine. Then add the 1/4 cup milk and vanilla, bringing it all together into a stiff dough. (If it’s more crumbly than dough-like, add 1/2 Tbsp. milk at a time.)

Cover with Silpat mats two baking sheets. On a floured work surface, cut the dough in half, and shape the first half into a rectangle. Using a floured rolling pin, roll dough into a bigger rectangle. If the dough sticks to the counter, keep sprinkling it with flour until it no longer sticks. The dough should be 1/4-inch thick.

Using a knife (or a fluted pastry cutter for cute wavy edges, if you’d like), trim the edges of the dough rectangle to form crackers. Cut into approximately 3-inch squares. Lightly prick the dough with the tines of the forks, so it looks like little graham crackers. Using a spatula, carefully transfer the crackers to the prepared baking sheets. Repeat the process with the second half of the dough and remaining scraps.

Chill the crackers for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°F. Bake the chilled dough for 18 to 20 minutes, until just a little bit browned at the edges. Cool completely, and enjoy! Makes 3 dozen crackers, give or take depending on the size you cut them.

July 21, 2012

Bacon Beer Cornbread

My grandfather, who turns 90 next weekend, loves bacon. With his birthday approaching, that means I've been flagging quite a few bacon recipes in honor of him. With a Mexican casserole on hand, I thought cornbread would go wonderfully with it.

That reminded me of this Bacon Beer Cornbread from How Sweet It Is. If this isn't the perfect accompaniment to a (vegetarian) Mexican casserole, then what is?

Bacon Beer Cornbread
6 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped
1 1/2 cups finely ground cornmeal
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
3 large eggs
1 cup of your favorite beer
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup sour cream
1/2 cup butter, melted

Preheat oven to 375ºF. . Spray a loaf pan with non-stick spray. Heat a skillet oven medium heat, and add chopped bacon. Stir and cook until crispy and fat is rendered, then remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel. Turn off heat, but reserve bacon fat.

In a large bowl, mix together cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In a small bowl, whisk together milk and eggs. Add milk and eggs to dry ingredients, mixing until combined, and then add in sour cream and beer. Mix and add in butter and leftover bacon fat, mixing until batter is somewhat smooth but just combined. Fold in bacon.

Pour batter in loaf pan, then place pan on a baking sheet and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until top is golden. Let cool for 20 to 30 minutes, then remove from the pan and slice. Makes 1 loaf.

July 20, 2012

Soy & Cola-Braised Pork Shoulder

Last October when I got my Cooking Light magazine, I determined I needed a Dutch oven. That's because there were several roast recipes that looked delicious. I purchased a Dutch oven, but this week was the first time I made one  of the recipes that inspired me to buy the Dutch oven in the first place.

I opted to put this pork into homemade tortillas topped with matchstick carrots and cucumbers along with a sprinkling of chives. This is a delicious recipe that will be repeated in our home. It would also be great on buns.

Here's the recipe with my modifications.

Soy & Cola-Braised Pork Shoulder
1 Tbsp. dark sesame oil
3 1/2-lb. bone-in pork shoulder (Boston butt), trimmed
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. minced ginger
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups Coca-Cola
1/2 cup teriyaki marinade
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup. soy sauce

Preheat oven to 300°F. Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add oil to the pa. Sprinkle pork evenly with salt. Add pork to the Dutch oven. Saute for 8 minutes, turning to brown each side.

Remove pork from Dutch oven. Add ginger and garlic. Saute for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add remaining ingredients, and bring to a boil. Return pork to the pan, and cover.

Bake for 1 hour 50 minutes. Remove pork from pan, and let stand 10 minutes. Skim fat from cooking liquid, and then place Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Bring liquid to a boil, and cook until reduced by half, about 15 minutes.

Shred pork, and return pork to the sauce. Toss to coat. Serve as desired. Serves 10.

July 19, 2012

Homemade Grenadine

Since I coughed up $10 for a bottle of pomegranate juice (eek!), I wanted to make the most of it with Homemade Maraschino Cherries and Homemade Grenadine recipes from Cupcake Project. For cost purposes, these most likely will not become homemade staples in our household, but they will be a tasty treat this summer.

Homemade Grenadine
4 cups pomegranate juice
2 cups sugar

Bring pomegranate juice to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat, and simmer until juice is reduced by half. Remove the juice from the heat, and stir in sugar until dissolved.

Let mixture cool, and then refrigerate in an airtight container. Makes 2-3 cups grenadine.

July 15, 2012

A Better Brownie

When I made the Cookie Dough Brownies, I was quite content with them. However, the original recipe I followed was revised to "improve" upon a few suggestions from readers of the blog Recipe Girl. I didn't try her revised version, but I decided to swap my brownie base for one from Brown Eyed Baker. Since I love most recipes I've tried from Brown Eyed Baker, I figured she'd make a brownie that would match my palate.

I was right. This brownie, known as the Baked Brownie to Brown Eyed Baker, is a better brownie. It's a bit more work, but it's much more delicious. Therefore, I dub this to be A Better Brownie. Whether you use it as a base for your own Cookie Dough Brownies or just as a delicious brownie, it's worth the effort.

A Better Brownie
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. dark unsweetened cocoa powder
11 oz. dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 tsp. instant espresso powder
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
5 eggs, at room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter the sides and bottom of a 9×13-inch glass or light-colored baking pan. Line the pan with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, salt, and cocoa powder together. Put the chocolate, butter and instant espresso powder in a large bowl, and set it over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and smooth. Turn off the heat, but keep the bowl over the water and add the sugars. Whisk until completely combined, and then remove the bowl from the pan. The mixture should be room temperature.

Add 3 eggs to the chocolate mixture, and whisk until combined. Add the remaining eggs, and whisk until combined. Add the vanilla, and stir until combined. Do not overbeat the batter at this stage or your brownies will be cakey.

Sprinkle the flour mixture over the chocolate mixture. Using a rubber spatula (not a whisk), fold the flour mixture into the chocolate until just a bit of the flour mixture is visible.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake in the center of the oven for 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the brownies comes out with a few moist crumbs sticking to it. Let the brownies cool completely, and then lift them out of the pan using the parchment paper. Cut into squares and serve. Store at room temperature in an airtight container or wrap with plastic wrap for up to 3 days.

July 2, 2012

Homemade Marshmallows

I'm taking advantage of being home more often to create more things from scratch. Earlier this spring, I saw a blitz of posts raving about homemade marshmallows. I flagged one of the recipes from A Farmgirl's Dabbles and decided to make marshmallows today for our camping trip this weekend.

Homemade Marshmallows
2/3 cup water, divided
3 (1/4 oz.) envelopes unflavored gelatin
1 cup sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
Pinch of salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup powdered sugar

Lightly spray the inside of an 8x8 pan with nonstick cooking spray. Generously coat with powdered sugar and set aside.

Pour 1/3 cup of the water into the bowl of a stand mixer. Sprinkle the gelatin over the water, and stir briefly to incorporate. Let stand for about 10 minutes, or until the gelatin has softened.

In a saucepan, off the heat, combine the remaining 1/3 cup of water and the granulated sugar, corn syrup and salt.  Place the pan over medium-high heat. Cook the mixture without stirring until it reaches 240ºF.  Brush down the sides of the pan with a pastry brush, dipped in water, to gently wipe away any sugar crystals.

With your mixer on low speed, very carefully add the hot syrup to the softened gelatin. Add the vanilla, and increase the speed to medium-high. The mixture will start out clear, but quickly turns very white.  

Beat for about 8 minutes, or until the marshmallow gets very thick and sticky and starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl, in string-like pieces.

Spread the mixture into the prepared pan using a lightly oiled spatula.  With damp hands, press the batter evenly into the corners of the pan. Just keep rewetting your hands to help with the stickiness. Set aside for at least 1 hour or until the mixture is firm and cool.

Sift the powdered sugar into a shallow bowl. Run a wet knife around the edge of the cooled pan to loosen the marshmallow. Remove the marshmallow from the pan. Cut into squares, wetting the knife as needed, to keep it from sticking. If you have a pizza cutter, I found that worked better than a knife. Cut the marshmallow into 36 squares to have marshmallows that are about 1 1/4-inch squares, but feel free to cut them into whatever size you like. Toss each marshmallow in the powdered sugar until completely coated.

Store marshmallows in a single layer, or in layers separated by wax paper.  They will keep very well for quite a long time (a few weeks!) when stored airtight at moderate temperature.

Lemon Burst Cupcakes

The lemon curd makes these cupcakes, but honestly, what recipe contains lemon curd where the curd isn't the superstar? Otherwise these cupcakes would be simple yellow cupcakes with a sweet buttercream frosting. This frosting, which comes from the Wilton message boards from a lady who goes by Bunnywoman, works well for fancier decorations.

 Lemon Burst Cupcakes
2 1/3 cups flour
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2/3 cup milk
1 cup lemon curd
1 cup shortening
1 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup lukewarm water
1/2 tsp. salt (smaller grain is better)
1 tsp. clear vanilla
1 tsp. almond extract
1 tsp. butter extract
2 lb. bag of powder sugar

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line pans with 24 cupcake liners. In medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.

In a large bowl, beat butter 30 seconds on medium speed. Gradually add sugar, about 1/4 cup at a time, beating until well blended. Beat an additional 2 minutes after all sugar is added. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Beat in vanilla.

Alternately beat in flour mixture and milk on low, starting and ending with the flour mixture.

Fill cupcake liners 2/3 full. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool 5 minutes in the pans and then completely on wire racks.

To make the frosting, beat shortening and butter until fluffy. Dissolve the salt in the water, and then add the extracts to the water. To the butter mixture, gradually add powdered sugar alternating with water mixture. Mix on low speed until the ingredients are incorporated, and then beat on high for 2 to 3 minutes until fluffy.

The easiest way to fill the cupcakes is to place the lemon curd in a piping bag with a bismark tip. This allows you to pipe the lemon curd into the middle of each cupcake. It doesn't take much curd inside each cupcake to make them swell slightly and taste wonderful. Once the cupcakes are filled, decorate as desired using the frosting. Makes 24 cupcakes.

Note: I also made raspberry-filled cupcakes with the same frosting for my soon-to-be sister-in-law's wedding shower. I was quite happy with how pretty they were, so I wanted to share a few photos.