Sunday, July 24, 2016

Beer and Cheese Biscuits

People always ask me: how do you decide on what you’re going to make? There are mainly two things that help me decide: (1) I see something on a blog or Facebook that I just have to make or (2) I’m craving something that I’ve had before and want to make it myself. Today’s recipe is courtesy of the former. 

Last week, I saw a video on Food Network’s Facebook account that grabbed my attention. It was from Nancy Fuller (of the show Farmhouse Rules) and she was making Ale and Cheddar biscuits*. They looked so yummy! And more than that, they seemed so simple to make. I already had all the ingredients so it was just a matter of putting them all together and baking. Simple as that! 

*side note: you’ll see I called this recipe Beer and Cheese biscuits instead of Ale and Cheddar. That’s because I couldn’t bring myself to say Ale and Cheddar out loud without sounding pretentious, especially for such a simple recipe!

Look how yummy these turned out!








A couple notes about the recipe:
  • Buttermilk is required for this recipe. I have a love/hate relationship with buttermilk. I love all the things I’ve made using buttermilk, but most recipes only call for a cup or less of it. Since most supermarkets don’t sell less than a quart of it, I end up wasting the leftovers. Not anymore! I read somewhere that a good way to save buttermilk is to freeze it into ice cubes. Whenever you need to use some, just pull out as many ice cubes as you need and thaw them. Then, voila! You have buttermilk! 
  • For the shredded cheddar cheese, I bought a block and shredded it myself. This was not to save money (even though I did!), but rather to preserve the flavor of the cheese. When you buy pre-shredded cheese, they use additives to keep the cheese from clumping together. I find that the cheese doesn’t taste exactly the same, nor does it melt the same, with these additives. So I liked shredding it myself, when I can. 
  • Lastly, you will obviously need some beer for this recipe. It calls for ale. I’ll be honest: I don’t know the difference between an ale or a lager or a pilsner; I just know light vs dark vs wheat. So I looked in the fridge to see what I had, which was Sweetwater 420. After looking it up, I found out that it is an extra pale ale. Ale! Hooray! Since it was an ale (of sorts) and my husband loves the beer, I went ahead and used it. I will say, it added a stronger flavor to the biscuits that I would have liked. Still so good, but next time I think I’ll use a milder ale. Probably a Newcastle. 

Okay now that’s out of the way, let’s get to the recipe!

Recipe (adapted from Nancy Fuller on Food Network):

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda in a large bowl. Add the butter and use a fork or pastry blender to work it into the flour mixture until it resembles small pebbles. 

I use a pastry blender to help crumbled the butter into the flour mixture. But you can use a fork. I don't recommend using your hands because the heat from your hands will melt the butter. And you want to keep the butter as cold as you can. 

 3. Add the Cheddar and toss lightly.

4. Add the buttermilk and ale and stir in with a wooden spoon just to combine. 

Look at those bubbles!! That's the yeast of the beer mixing with the flour. That's how we get the biscuits to rise. And rising means fluffy. And fluffy means delicious!

5. Using a 1/4 cup measure, scoop the dough onto the baking sheet, leaving about 1 1/2 inches between biscuits. 
I used an ice cream scoop to form the biscuits. This ensured two things: (1) all biscuits would be the same size (and thus, cook evenly) and (2) my hands stayed clean!

6. Bake until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Serve warm.

I hope you enjoy! If you have any questions or want to leave some love, leave me a comment below :)

Monday, July 18, 2016

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream

Well, hello there. It’s been quite a long time. Where have I been, you ask? Long story short, I got lazy and let life get in the way of my blogging. But my baking and love of food never ceased. And now my passion for blogging has resurfaced. So….here I am! Back at it for your reading pleasure. 

So a couple things have changed since you last heard from me:
  • I left my job as an auditor and started work as an analyst at a paper company here in   Atlanta
  • I adopted two little kitties with my husband
  • Oh and I got married last fall! So you’ll be hearing a lot about my husband, Tyson, especially since he is my main taste tester 
  • We moved into our first house! You’ll probably see pictures of my favorite room in the house, the kitchen. I’m obsessed with it!
Now that you’re all caught up, let’s get down to business. This week’s recipe is an ambitious one: chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream! I think this goes without saying, but I will anyway: you will need an ice cream machine for this recipe. Doesn’t matter what kind, though. I have a very basic model from Cuisinart (less than $100) and it makes perfect ice cream. So no need to get those fancy machines that are like $200 or more. Unless that’s what you really want. But definitely not necessary. 

Let me start off by saying, I have been OBSESSED with my ice cream maker the last few months. It was a wedding gift I received but only just started using it regularly. I think it’s because I have a lot more space in my new kitchen so it’s less of a hassle to get the machine out. Whatever the reason, I am just so happy with it. I’ve made a few different ice creams and a handful of sorbets. So easy!

When I was looking for a new flavor to make, I asked Tyson what ice cream he wanted next. And his request was chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream. Of course it was. Since you don’t know my husband, let me explain. We have tried cookie dough ice creams made by almost every brand. I guess you could say it’s been our search for the best one. It’s also one of his go-to flavors when we go to an ice cream shop, whenever he’s not getting vanilla. So I was not surprised when this is what he asked for. 

At first, I was a little concerned. Chocolate chip cookie dough sounds so complicated! There are so many components to making that flavor. But after researching, I realized it’s actually not that bad.  You just make the same ice cream base, but with brown sugar instead of granulated sugar, add chocolate chips, and make little cookie dough balls that you mix throughout. Ok, making the cookie dough balls still scared me a little. But I decided to woman up and take on the challenge. That’s what so much of this blog is about! I’ve never backed down from a challenge before, and I wasn’t going to now. So without further ado, let’s get started!

Ok, I lied. Before we get started, you gotta check how beautiful this ice cream looks:






 Mmmm cookie dough. Ain’t nothin’ like it, my friends. 

Alright, now let’s talk about the recipe. What drew me to this recipe was how it claimed that the ice cream itself tasted like chocolate chip cookie dough, even without cookie dough bits. That was so important to me. Personally, I don’t think chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream should taste like vanilla with cookie dough bits. So when I read this, I knew this blogger was my kinda lady.

Another thing that I liked about this recipe was that it was a custard-based ice cream. You can tell by the fact that it uses egg yolks and heats them up with milk to make them thick. The only ice creams I’ve made are custard-based. I prefer these because it gives the ice cream a silky, creamy texture from all the fat in the yolks and heavy cream. I’m too nervous to use anything with less fat, as I don’t know if the consistency will be what I’m looking for. In other words, I’m worried that it will yield an icy-tasting ice cream. Obviously, it’s possible to make amazing, creamy ice cream with just milk (that’s how gelato is made). But you need more advanced machinery to handle those consistencies. That’s when those fancy $200+ machines come in handy. Until I get one of those machines, the ice creams I make will be some of the most unhealthy that one can make. But that’s the risk I must take for the sake of quality!!

This recipe is simple. But it requires focus! So don’t think you can make this recipe and multitask, as many of us tend to do. You must give it your full attention. I had to do this recipe THREE times because I was careless. The first time, I curdled the eggs because the heat was turned up to high when making the custard. The second time, I didn’t cook the custard long enough because I didn’t want it to curdle again. But, by the third time…I was not going to let this damn custard defeat me. And it didn’t :)

Recipe (adapted from Celebrating Sweets):

For the ice cream base:
  • 1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups of heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup of whole milk
  • ⅔ cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • pinch of salt
  • ⅓ cup mini chocolate chips (added during assembly below)
For the chocolate chip cookie dough bits:
  • ¼ cup (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
  • ¼ cup brown sugar, packed
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ⅓ cup all purpose flour
  • pinch of salt
  • ⅓ cup mini chocolate chips

Procedures (for the ice cream base)

1. Start off by placing a metal mixing bowl inside a larger mixing bowl. Place a strainer on top of the metal bowl. 

2. Place very cold ice water in the large mixing bowl until it reaches about 1/3 up the metal bowl.

3. Add heavy cream and vanilla to the metal bowl so that it gets chilled in the bowl while we make the custard. 

this is how your setup should look. and yes those are my multivitamin gummies and no I didn't realize they were in the shot

4. In a small saucepan, over medium heat, melt the butter. Cook the butter until it is light brown and smells nutty, stirring often. Be careful not to let it burn

5. Add the milk to the butter and bring just to a simmer. Remove from heat. 

6. While you're waiting for the milk to simmer, whisk brown sugar, egg yolks, and salt until creamy. Do not over beat. You don't want to add too much air to the mix. It will make the custard foamy.

look at those creamy yolks

7. Slowly pour 1/2 cup of the warm milk into the egg mixture, whisking while you pour (this will slowly bring up the temperature of the eggs). DO NOT ADD THEM QUICKLY! I apologize for shouting but this is super important, okay?! If you add them fast, the eggs will curdle like scrambled eggs. 

8. Pour the egg yolks and milk mixture back into the saucepan with the rest of the warm milk. Heat on medium low, stirring often, until the mixture slightly thickens and reaches 170 degrees or until it coats the back of a spoon. Do not heat it too fast or for too long! This is the mistake I made during my first attempt. It curdled the eggs so bad beyond repair. I highly recommend having a food thermometer to help you during this step. 

7. Once the custard is complete, let it cool down slightly for a couple minutes. Then, pour it through the strainer and into the heavy cream and vanilla mixture. 

8. Stir together until the temperature comes down. Place plastic wrap on top of the mixture to prevent a film from forming. Chill in the fridge for about 6-8 hours until very cold. While this is chilling, you should make the cookie dough. See instructions below. 

9. Once the mixture is thoroughly chilled, pour mixture into ice cream machine. Prepare ice cream according to manufacturer directions. While the ice cream is churning, you can roll the cookie dough into little balls. Chill until it's time to assemble.

in it goes!

10. About 5 minutes before the mixture is complete, add the chocolate chips. 

11. When the ice cream is complete, it's time to add the chocolate chip cookie dough bits (prepare them according to instructions below). Add some bits to the bottom of your freezer-safe storage container. Then add about 1/4 of the ice cream. Add another layer of the cookie dough bits and continue layering until complete. 

12. Place plastic wrap on top of the ice cream to prevent frost from forming. Cover the ice cream and freeze until hard (about 8 hours). 

Procedures for chocolate chip cookie dough bits:

1. Beat butter and sugars for several minutes. Beat in milk and vanilla extract. Add the flour and salt and mix until combined. Stir in chocolate chips.

2. Place the cookie dough in the fridge while the ice cream base chills. This will allow the dough to firm up slightly.

3. Once firm, you can roll into little balls. I suggest doing this while the ice cream is in the machine, since you'll have some time to kill as it churns. 

4. Once you're done rolling into balls, place in the fridge until ready to assemble. See step 11 for assembly instructions.


Enjoy!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Coca-Cola Cupcakes


Now, I'm gonna be honest with ya'll (clearly living in the South has changed me a bit)...I turned my nose up to all recipes I saw that had any kind of soda in it: cherry cola, Mountain Dew, Sprite, you name it. Being the classic cook that I am, I just couldn't understand why someone would think a soda could make a cake taste any better than classic, all-natural ingredients.

It wasn't until I found a recipe for Coca-Cola cake on my favorite blog, Serious Eats, that I decided to give this idea a chance. Like the name suggests, this blog is about serious eaters who seriously know their food. So I trust [mostly] anything they say.

And the recipe wasn't half bad. I decided to make them into cupcakes, since it's easier to distribute to the people in my office that way. I wouldn't do it again, however. They didn't really hold onto the icing that well so most of the icing dripped down the wrapper, which, as you can imagine, got pretty sticky. Yucky. But the flavor was pretty amazing! So just make it has a cake rather than cupcakes and you'll be fine.






Recipe (courtesy of Serious Eats):  

For the Cake
  • Baking spray
  • 2 cups (about 10 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup natural cocoa powder
  • 1 cup Coca-Cola
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature and lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups miniature marshmallows 
For the Icing
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup natural cocoa powder
  • 6 tablespoons Coca-Cola
  • 16 ounces confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped (optional) - I used them in my recipe and I think they added a great texture to the cake but I think I'd leave them out next time so they don't take away from the cola flavor of the cake.

Procedures

  1. For the Cake: Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a 13- by 9-inch baking pan with baking spray. Combine flour, sugar, brown sugar, and salt in large bowl.

  2. Bring butter, cocoa powder, and Coca-Cola to boil in small saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until mixture is homogeneous, and stir into flour mixture.

  3. Stir baking soda into buttermilk until completely dissolved and add to flour mixture; whisk to combine. Add eggs and vanilla and whisk to combine. Stir in marshmallows.
     
  4. Scrape batter into prepared pan and bake until tester inserted in center of cake comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Transfer cake to cooling rack and cool 10 minutes, then make icing.

  5. For the Icing: Bring butter, cocoa powder, and Coca-Cola to boil in large saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Whisk in sugar, vanilla, salt, and (optional) pecans and pour onto cake immediately, spreading and swirling decoratively with back of a soup spoon. Serve warm, or cool to room temperature.


Sunday, May 20, 2012

Chocolate-Covered Turtles with Bacon

It's back! After a few months off, I finally received another food challenge at work. No, not another bake-off challenge, but an ingredient challenge.

The partner at my job loves to make requests/challenges for Friday treat that I'm bringing in that week. Of course, I take each challenge like a champ. This week's challenge was to make a dessert with bacon. I tried to pretend like it would be impossible for me to find a dessert with bacon and taste good (sometimes it's better that I keep my public displays of cockiness (or PDC) to a minimum). But little did he know, bacon in desserts was a huge fad a couple years ago and still is today. So I knew I'd be able to rock this challenge without a problem (aaand the PDC returns).

After seeing a bunch of maple bacon cupcakes, maple bacon doughnuts, and even maple bacon cookies, I was a little concerned that I wouldn't find anything unique enough. And you know me, I all about the edgy stuff.

But then, there it was...the bacon dessert recipe that blew my mind. It was unlike anything I'd ever seen before, but yet, such a simple concept: Chocolate-Covered Turtles with Bacon.




First, I guess I should explain what a turtle is, in case you live in a cave. Ok, that was mean. I apologize. You're may just be uneducated in the confections of the world. And I shouldn't blame you for that.

So yeah, turtles...turtles are pecans covered in caramel and then coated with chocolate. Typically, one uses five pecans to resemble a turtle: four feet and a head (apparently, tails aren't important). The caramel/chocolate coating represents the shell. And there you have it...a turtle!

Now, I'm  sure there's a few of you out there that aren't really feeling the chocolate + caramel + pecans + bacon idea, maybe even a little disgusted by it (shame on you, by the way). But let me tell you, all these flavors really work! The bacon is very subtle but present enough to make a difference. To test this, I didn't tell my co-workers about the bacon, but rather suggested that a "surprise" was in the middle. I'd have them eat it and then guess as to what the surprise was (this was mostly to prevent any sort of skepticism that's inherent when offering a dessert with bacon in it). They all thought it was pretty tasty but most had no idea what it could be. They were all so shocked to find out it was bacon. I fooled them! Bwahaha!

Oh, and in case you were wondering, my partner loved them. He had two before 9am. Needless to say, I'm going to get promoted real soon. Or a big fat raise. One of the two.

Recipe (courtesy of Serious Eats):

  • 3/4 pound whole pecan halves (about 3 1/2 cups)
  • 5 strips bacon
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • One (12-ounce) package bittersweet chocolate chips* 
*I accidentally purchased milk chocolate chips instead of semi-sweet (surprisingly, I do this a lot). But I actually liked this a lot better than I would have liked the semi-sweet. 

Preheat oven to 325ºF. Spread pecans in even layer on baking sheet. Bake until the pecans are fragrant and toasted, stirring occasionally, about 6 or 7 minutes. Remove pecans from oven and let cool. This is important. By toasting the pecans, you give them a much-needed crunchy texture. If you skip this step, the pecans will taste raw and chewy. Not okay. 

Fry bacon in large skillet until very crisp, about 8 minutes. Transfer bacon to paper towel-lined plate and let cool. When bacon is cool enough to handle, cut each strip into six pieces with kitchen shears. Set bacon pieces aside.
 
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Arrange pecans in star-shaped clusters of five. You should have enough whole pecan halves to make 30 clusters. (If you don't, you can arrange broken pieces into little piles. They won't look like turtles, but they will still be delicious.) Set baking sheets aside.
 
In small saucepan, combine heavy cream, butter, and vanilla extract. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then immediately remove from heat.
In medium saucepan, combine sugar, corn syrup, and 1/4 cup of water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook sugar mixture, without stirring but swirling pan occasionally, until it is beginning to turn golden-amber in color, about 6 to 8 minutes.

Reduce heat to medium-low. Very carefully, pour hot cream mixture into sugar mixture. It will bubble ferociously. Stir until combined. Clip candy thermometer to side of pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture reaches 248ºF (firm ball stage), 10 to 15 minutes. Remove pan from heat and allow caramel to cool slightly, about 5 minutes.

Mmm caramel

It's ready!
Using soup spoon, drop mounds of caramel into center of each pecan cluster. Top each with one piece of bacon, pressing gently to adhere. (If caramel becomes too stiff to work with, reheat gently over low heat.) Set turtles aside to cool, 45 minutes to 1 hour. If you try to cover the turtles before the caramel has cooled, it will mix with the chocolate and make it impossible to coat them completely without making a mess.

I had some without bacon since we have a few vegetarians on the team
Heat two-thirds of chocolate chips in heat-proof bowl set over pan of simmering water until melted and candy thermometer registers 110ºF - 115ºF. Remove bowl from pan and allow chocolate to cool until thermometer registers 95ºF - 100ºF. Stir in remaining third of chocolate chips until melted. This process is called tempering the chocolate. In short, tempering is a process used to in candy making to keep the chocolate from remaining soft when it gets back to room temperature. In other words, it give the chocolate a slight hard shell when it cools.
 
Using a soup spoon, top each turtle with spoonful of melted chocolate, smoothing to cover bacon completely. Set turtles aside until chocolate hardens. Turtles will keep for up to two weeks, stored between sheets of wax paper in an airtight container at room temperature.

This recipe looks intense since it has a bunch of steps but, I promise, it's not that bad. It took me about 1.5-2 hours from start to finish. Not bad, huh?

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Pretzel Rolo Cookie Cups

This week's post comes from, you guessed it, another request from work. I love making things that people suggest. Plus, it opens me up to recipes that I probably wouldn't have made otherwise.

This recipe was found by one of my co-workers on Pintrest. The pretzels on top threw me off a bit so I don't think I would have tried this recipe had she not suggested it. And man, would that have been a huge mistake! The pretzels add just the right amount of saltiness, giving these little bites the perfect balance of sweet and savory. And who doesn't love that.


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Fleur de Sel Caramels

French cuisine has to be my favorite cuisine of them all, not just because it tastes great (which it so does) but because of how classic it is. Don't you just feel more sophisticated when you're eating a soufflé or a croissant or coq au vin or brie or buerre blanc? Well no one just eats buerre blanc, but you know what I mean. So many classic techniques come from French cooking. So I absolutely adore it.

Which brings me to today's recipe...fleur del sel caramels! Fleur de sel is a French salt that is hand-harvested from the sea (thanks, Wikipedia). It has a relatively milder salt-flavor than your typical table salt so it doesn't over-power the taste buds as one would imagine. I'd seen it used many times on the Food Network and was always intrigued by the use of it in sweet dishes. When I found a simple recipe from Ina Garten, I thought, why not? Ina makes it look so simple! I can do this.

I've been wanting to make these for the looooooongest time. So when I found out my friend at work loves butterscotch I thought...(1) I can make fleur de sel caramels for her! and (2) caramels are like butterscotch, right? Close enough.

Before I go on, you must see how they came out:


Saturday, April 21, 2012

Blueberry Crumb Bars

As you probably know by now, most of my baked goods are made specifically for my co-workers. I love baking (duh.) but there's no way I could keep all of these goodies at my house. So I take them to work. Since my co-workers are the one's that eat the majority of the things I make, I like to make things they'll actually enjoy.

That brings me to this week's recipe...blueberry crumb bars. My one co-worker (the same one who challenged me to the bake off in the last post, actually) loves anything with blueberry in it. And since I felt bad for beating him so bad in the bake off, I figured I'd make something he'd especially enjoy, as would the rest of the team.

Check 'em out!