Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Blueberry Crumb Cake

Recently, my sister and her family took a trip to Michigan's Upper Peninsula to visit our father, who lives up there. When they returned home, they brought with them an abundance of plump Michigan Blueberries! She presented me with a basket of blueberries and wanted me to make something with them.
Not wanting to do the usual muffins or boring blueberry pancakes, I came upon this easy recipe for a delicious blueberry crumb cake. Definitely worth baking up and trying! This recipe comes from the May 2004 issue of Everyday Food Magazine.

Blueberry Crumb Cake

First, you'll want to make the streusel topping by combining some flour, brown sugar, salt & butter.

The topping should have large moist crumbs. Place in the refrigerator until needed.

Ingredients for the cake include butter, flour, baking powder & soda, sugar, salt, allspice, egg, buttermilk and blueberries!
Whisk together the flour, baking powder, soda, salt & allspice in a bowl, set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add egg, beat well, add flour mixture and buttermilk, alternately, until just combined. Batter will be very stiff.

Toss the blueberries with a teaspoon of flour (this will keep the blueberries from sinking to the bottom of the cake).

Gently fold the blueberries into the batter; spoon into prepared pan.

Sprinkle cake with streusel topping. Bake until golden brown and a tester comes out clean.

Let cool completely. Dust with confectioners' sugar before cutting into squares!

Chocolatey Bliss....

Who doesn't love chocolate? I know I love chocolate and I was born with a chocolate allergy, but that never stopped me from eating chocolate (knock on wood)!
One of the most loved ways to eat chocolate is in a freshly baked, gooey, chewy brownie and these brownies are just that and then some!
I rarely bake brownies, but recently my friend, Kenn, started baking these wonderful brownies from a cookbook called "Baked: New Frontiers in Baking" which was written by the owners of a popular Brooklyn Bake Shop called "Baked". Kenn couldn't say enough about how great and sinful these brownies tasted so I had to make them for myself and Kenn was kind enough to share the recipe with me. Of course, I'll be picking up my own copy of the cookbook very soon!

The ingredients for the brownies are typical "brownie" ingredients, but it's very important to use only the best quality cocoa and chocolate, such as Valrhona. No Hershey's or Nestle' ca-ca in this recipe! The recipe also includes fresh eggs, butter, espresso powder, sugar (brown & white), flour & vanilla.

Separately mix the flour, cocoa and a little salt in a bowl and set aside.

In a medium heavy pot, combine the chocolate, butter and espresso powder and stir, over low heat. The actual recipe states to place these ingredients in a heat proof glass bowl and set that over a pot of simmering water to melt, but none of my bowls and pots work together for me to do this. A very heavy pot, such as an enameled cast iron pot works fine.

Continue to stir until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and smooth.

Turn off the heat and whisk in the sugars until completely combined.

Add the eggs & vanilla to the chocolate mixture and whisk until combined. Do not overbeat the batter at this stage or your brownies will be cakey.
Next you'll want to sprinkle the flour mixture over the chocolate mixture. Using a rubber spatula, fold the flour mixture into the chocolate until just a bit of the flour mixture is visible.

Pour into the prepared pan and bake it off!

Let cool completely and cut into squares and enjoy (not all of them by yourself, though)! The brownies will keep, tightly covered in plastic wrap, at room temperature for up to 3 days.

For more information on the Baked Bakery and how you can order their delicious brownies or order the cookbook and bake a batch yourself, visit their website

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Souffle Au Fromage

I've always been a fan of Julia Child, and who isn't? Anyone who has any remote interest in food, loves Julia Child! Just last year, I purchased "Mastering The Art Of French Cooking", the first book Julia Child wrote (actually, she co-wrote the book, but it's about Julia, right now!), and her most well-known book to date.

The book almost didn't get published as initial publisher Houghton Mifflin, rejected the manuscript for being too much like an encyclopedia. Finally, when it was first published in 1961 by Alfred A. Knopf, the 734-page Mastering the Art of French Cooking was a best-seller and received critical acclaim that derived in part from the American interest in French culture in the early 1960s. Lauded for its helpful illustrations, precise attention to detail and for making fine cuisine accessible, the book is still in print and is considered a seminal culinary work.

Since seeing the newly released film, "Julie & Julia", I felt inclined to start making recipes from this, somewhat intimidating, book! I decided on "Souffle Au Fromage" or Cheese Souffle. This is one of Julia's more popular recipes and one I've been wanting to try as I've never even tasted a souffle before!

Getting all your ingredients measured out for this recipe is very important!

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Butter the inside of a 6 cup souffle mold and sprinkle it with 1 Tablespoon of grated Parmesan cheese. Now most American recipes for souffle often direct you to give the mold added height by tying a double strip of buttered foil or parchment paper around the souffle mold and removing it when it's done. According to Julia Child, this is nothing more than a nuisance, and not necessary.
In a heavy saucepan, melt 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter, slowly. Stir in 3 tablespoons of flour with a wooden spoon and cook over moderate heat until butter and flour foam together for 2 minutes without browning.

Remove from heat; when the mixture has stopped bubbling, pour in 1 cup of milk, that's been heated just to boiling, all at once. Beat vigorously with a whip until blended. Beat in 1/2 teaspoon of coarse salt, 1/8 teaspoon of freshly ground pepper, a pinch of cayenne pepper and a pinch of nutmeg.

Return over moderately high heat and boil, stirring with the whip, for 1 minute. Sauce will be very thick.

Remove the sauce from the heat. If you haven't done so already, immediately start to separate 5 eggs. Drop the whites into a bowl, add 4 yolks into the center of the hot sauce and beat in well, one at a time. Note, ONLY 4 YOLKS in the sauce, but save 5 WHITES!! Adjust seasonings at this point.

Add your egg whites to a clean mixing bowl with a pinch of salt and beat until stiff.

Stir a big spoonful of the beaten whites into the sauce.

Stir in 1 cup (minus 1 tablespoon) of grated Swiss cheese.

Delicately fold in the rest of the egg whites. Be careful not to over-fold!! This is a very important step!

Turn the souffle mixture into the prepared mold, which should be almost 3/4 full. Tap bottom of mold lightly on the table, and smooth the surface of the souffle with the flat of a knife. Sprinkle the reserved tablespoon of Swiss cheese on top.

Set on a rack in the middle of a preheated 400 degree oven and immediately turn the heat down to 375 (DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN DOOR FOR 20 MINUTES!!).

In 25-30 minutes the souffle will have puffed about 2 inches over the rim of the mold, and the top will be nicely browned. Bake 4-5 more minutes to firm it up, then serve at once.

A well baked souffle will stay puffed for about 5 minutes in the turned off hot oven. As it cools, it begins to sink. Therefore, there should be no lingering when a souffle is to be eaten.

To serve a souffle, puncture the top lightly with a serving spoon and fork--held vertically--and spread it apart for each serving!

Bonjour, Bon Appetite!

More Comfort Food For Thought!!!

As a child, growing up, my mother used to make the best tuna cassarole; well in my opinion it is!
From my understanding, most tuna cassaroles start out with a Bechamel or white sauce, then some type of cream soup is added along with tuna and seasonings, combined with noodles, topped with bread crumbs or crushed potato chips and baked off in the oven. Mom made hers, a little "unorthodoxed" in a way, completely on the stove top, no topping, no baking! One pot, ready in minutes, and so comforting!

Try making this version of this "potluck pleaser", it's so simple! You can also leave the tuna out altogether for a great vegetarian version.

First thing is to get a large pot of boiling salted water going, and cook a pound of egg noodles, drain and return to thier pot.

Now on to making a Bechamel Sauce! This basic sauce takes about 5 minutes to make, and is then ready for the addition of flavors or enrichments.

In a sauce pan melt 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter over low heat. Blend in 6 tablespoons of flour, and cook slowly, stirring, until the butter and flour froth together for 2 minutes without coloring. This is now a white roux.

Remove roux from heat. As soon as roux has stopped bubbling, pour in 4 cups of milk, that's been heated to just below a boil, with a 1/4 teaspoon of salt added to it, all at once. Immediately beat vigorously with a whip to blend the liquid and roux, gathering in all the bits of roux from the inside edges of the pan.
Set saucepan over moderately high heat and stir with a whip until the sauce comes to a boil. Boil for 1 minute, stirring.
Remove from heat and beat in salt & pepper to taste.
The finished sauce should coat the back of a spoon and leave a "line" when you draw your finger across the back of the spoon.

To the Bechamel, you add one can of cream of mushroom soup, stirring to incorporate the soup completely.

Add one can of tuna (or canned white meat chicken for those with seafood allergies) that's been drained well. Adjust seasonings. I also like to sometimes add sliced fresh mushrooms and a cup of frozen peas, thawed.

Combine the sauce with the egg noodles and you're done! Dish it out and enjoy!!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Risotto with Peas and Zucchini

When I started this blog, one of my intentions was to inspire readers to "learn something new", and now I'm trying something new. This was my first attempt at making a risotto.

Making a good risotto is rather like riding a bicycle: It takes a little bit of practice to begin with, and a certain amount of concentration thereafter. Risotti are also very sensitive to timing, and this is why what is served in a restaurant (no matter how good it is) will rarely display that rich texture and just-right doneness that a good home-made risotto will.

When buying rice to make a risotto, choose short-grained round or semi-round rice; among the best rices for making risotti are Arborio, Vialone Nano, and Carnaroli. Other short-grained rices such as Originario will also work. Long grained rice such as Patna won't do, because the grains will stay separate. Nor should you use minute rice -- it won't absorb the condiments, and again the grains will remain separate.

Taking advantage of some great summer zucchini and peas, I made this wonderful risotto. Risotto with Peas and Zucchini

First step is to heat the chicken stock with some water and keep it warm over a very low heat. In a seperate sauce pan melt some butter and, add the zucchini; season with salt and pepper. Cook the zucchini until it's golden. Remove the zucchini with a slotted spoon to a seperate dish.

Reduce the heat and add the onion. Cook until it's soft, then season with salt & pepper.

Raise the heat to medium, then add the rice, cooking and stirring until it's translucent around the edges which will take about 3 minutes.

Add the wine and cook until absorbed.

Cook, adding the hot stock, 1 cup at a time and stir until almost all the liquid is absorbed before adding more, until the rice is tender, 25 to 30 minutes total. You may not use all the stock.

Add the zucchini and peas, cook until peas are bright green. Remove from heat.

Stir in remaining butter and Parmesan Cheese.

Serve topped with more Parmesan, if desired.

A Classic Detroit Summer Time Treat!

If you were born and/or raised anywhere near Detroit, MI then you've probably enjoyed a Boston Cooler at least once in your life! Since Vernors is my preferred soft drink, I like to enjoy these throughout the year!

A little history of the Boston Cooler:

The origin of the Boston cooler lies in Detroit, Michigan the city in which Fred Sanders is credited with inventing the ice cream soda. The name almost certainly has no connection to Boston, Massachusetts, where the beverage is virtually unknown. One theory is that it was named after Detroit's Boston Boulevard, the main thoroughfare of what was then an upper-class neighborhood a short distance from James Vernor's drugstore.
It is known that by the 1880s the Boston cooler was being served in Detroit, made with the local
Vernors, an intense golden ginger ale, unlike most modern dry ginger ales. Originally, a drink called a Vernors Cream was served as a shot or two of sweet cream poured into a glass of Vernors golden ginger ale. Later, vanilla ice cream was substituted for the cream as a Vernors float. Unlike a float however, a Boston Cooler is blended like a thick milk shake. Both Sanders' soda fountains and the Big Boy restaurant chain used their milkshake blenders to prepare the drink (it was a signature menu item at Big Boy until its change in ownership in the 1980s).
It can be found most often in the Detroit region's many
Coney Island-style restaurants, which are plentiful because of Detroit's Greektown district influence. National Coney Island is one of the few restaurant chains to list the Boston cooler in their menu. It is also found at the Detroit-area Dairy Queens and at Halo Burger, a mid-Michigan fast food chain.

To make a Boston Cooler, all you need is a large mug type glass (frosted if you prefer), add about 2-3 scoops of vanilla ice cream, then add Vernors Ginger Ale (regular or diet) and enjoy!