Sunday, April 24, 2011

Let's go to France....




This weekend I decided to take on a challenge by making Cinnamon Sugar Palmiers. Now that I have survived...I can say there are things I will be doing differently next time. Luckily, this wonderful flaky pastry taste amazing any way you make it.

I think for this recipe everyone deserves to see the end result before we venture into how to make them (hence the photo above). This recipe consists of puff pastry, cinnamon, sugar and (my favorite) butter.

I can say this recipe is something to try if you have the entire afternoon for baking.  Before getting started, please note this recipe takes about 5-6 hours (depending on how long you chill the dough).

If you would love to try this recipe and dont want to take the hours to make it, there is a shortcut.   Purchase the frozen puff pastry, follow the directions to thaw and use that dough instead and start recipe where it says to mix cinnamon and sugar. You should then be able to complete the recipe in less time.

But for those who would like to make their own puff pastry from scratch then try this recipe from the beginning. You will know why it is worth it when you pull the baking sheet out of the oven!!

Cinnamon Sugar Palmiers
1 1/3 C Unbleached Flour
1 tsp Salt
3/4 C Unsalted Butter (frozen)
7-8 Tbsp Ice Water
1/2 C Sugar
1 tsp Cinnamon
2 Tbsp Vanilla Sugar (homemade - see below)

To prep for recipe, put butter and metal bowl in freezer for 30 minutes or more.

When ready to begin, sift together flour and salt in metal bowl from freezer. Grate butter into flour and mix to coat.  Mix 6 Tbsp of ice water over flour mixture and stir until combined.  Dough should stick together test by pressing a small amount in your hand.  Be gentle when combining and do not overwork you do not want the dough to be tough or the butter to melt (its the secret to great puff pastry). If needed, add 1 additional Tbsp of water at a time until combined.

Once dough is formed, shape into a rectangle, wrap in plastic and chill for 25 minutes. Once chilled, roll out on a floured surface into a 14 x 10 rectangle. Be sure to turn over dough as you roll, flouring board as needed to keep dough from sticking. Once you have the correct size, fold dough into thirds overlaying sides (like folding a letter). Wrap dough in plastic and chill for another 25 minutes.  Repeat two additional times.  On third roll out, once folded cut dough in half and wrap in plastic. Chill for 1-2 hours.


Next, mix together sugar and cinnamon in a separate bowl.  On a clean work surface, sprinkle 3 Tbsp. of mixture and place one unwrapped piece of dough on sugared board rolling out into a 15 x 10 rectangle.  Be sure to rotate dough and add additional cinnamon/sugar if needed to keep dough from sticking. (If dough becomes soft return to fridge and chill for 10 minutes)


Once rolled out, sprinkle additional cinnamon/sugar on dough then fold dough into half with edges meeting in the middle. Then fold dough in half again with edges touching in middle. Finally fold the left half onto the right half (see picture below) and press down with a rolling pin.  Put on cookie sheet and chill in fridge for a minimum of 50 minutes. Repeat entire process with additional piece of dough.


Once dough has chilled, preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line baking sheet with silpat or parchment paper. (Note: dough will stick to plain baking sheet). Pull out one piece of finished dough and cut into 1/3 inch sections. Dip cut sides of dough in cinnamon/sugar mix and put cut side down on baking sheet. Bake for 6 minutes then remove from oven.  Turn over palmiers and sprinkle with vanilla sugar. Put back in oven for 3 minutes.

Transfer to wire rack to cool.  Repeat with additional dough.

Note: Be sure to store dough in fridge to chill until ready to use. Dough will get sticky and lose shape if left at room temperature.



To make Vanilla Sugar, you will need two things: 
1 C White sugar 
1 Vanilla Bean

Cut vanilla bean in half with a sharp knife. Put sugar in tight container and add vanilla bean. Store in cool, dry place for a month until vanilla has been absorbed into sugar. Use sparingly in recipes. Additional sugar can be added to container when supply becomes low. 

Monday, April 18, 2011

Mamma's



In my life, I was graced with two grandmothers who loved the kitchen. This love allowed me to be the recipient of each of their lifetime recipe collections. These collections are exciting to look through the history of what they each collected, created and shared.

What I learned from these recipes is how my grandmothers together shared a wonderful friendship over recipes. It was amazing to find mixed within these collections recipes written by each of my grandmothers' own hands located within the other's recipe box (and no I didn't put them back incorrectly when used...lol).  To see this friendship through recipes was exciting for me as I looked through each card and category. To know two women who were active in my life bonded over something we all shared is exciting....

In starting this blog, I thought it would be best to go to Grammie to get started on this post. I was excited when I came across this recipe. We have all grown up making sugar cookies (usually in shapes for holidays) but isn't the most basic cookie sometimes the best. For me the secret of this recipe is a great lemon, butter and freshly grated nutmeg (I keep this on hand and prefer it to the spice jar).  It is a great twist to a standard recipe.

So let me share this one with you.....

Mamma's Sugar Cookies

1/2 C Butter (unsalted)
1/2 tsp. Lemon Rind (freshly grated)
1/2 tsp. Nutmeg (freshly grated)
1 C Sugar (white)
2 Eggs (well beaten)
2 Tbsp Milk
2 C Flour (unbleached)
1 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Salt

Oven 375 Degrees.  Cook 8 to 12 minutes (my oven was about 11 minutes)

Combine until mixed the butter, lemon rind, and nutmeg in a bowl. Add sugar, eggs and milk until well mixed. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a separate bowl. Add flour mixture to butter mixture. Scrape down sides of bowl until well combined. Drop by teaspoon on greased cookie sheet.




Hope you enjoy this recipe since is from a Grandmother with Love!!!

Monday, April 11, 2011

New England

Several years ago, a longtime friend and I took a little trip to New England. One reason for the trip was for me to create one last memory at the family home (which has since been sold) and two for my friend to see this wonderful part of the country. Since this is a baking blog...I do have tell you the best Apple pie I have ever had was on this trip.



We were wandering around back roads somewhere between New Hampshire and Maine and we came across a little roadside stand with pies for sale.  In this stand, the pies were for sale by the slice or whole,  jams/jellies and of course plastic silverware...with only a box to leave your money!!

We, of course, stopped the car in the middle of the road and backed up....there was no way we were missing this! And boy were we thankful we did...that was the best pie we had ever had. Unfortunately, my friend and I will never remember what road we were on to ever find that little shack again.

Moral of the story......if you see a small shack selling baked goods in New England by the honor system..be sure to stop and enjoy yourself. (and e-mail me if you know which road it is on...lol) Life goes by way to quickly to not find simple enjoyments along the roadside.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

April

Stepping out on the front porch on a Sunday morning in April is a wonderful feeling.....the Sun shining down and the warmth in the air makes me excited for Spring. This excitement makes me realize it is time once again to make the traditional Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese frosting.

Over the years, I usually have a few friends request this be made for their family Easter dinner. Of course I am happy to fill in as the baker (I know this recipe so well it can be completed with my eyes closed). While I was never a fan of carrot cake for years, I have come to love this cake because of how excited other are when they see it....



Unsure if that is because of the cake itself or just the fact that Spring is here...Either way it is a great reason to heat up the oven.  (Sorry for the basic photo. This was taken quickly before I boxed up the cake and took it out the door)

Here is my favorite Carrot Cake recipe
(Adapted from the Betty Crocker New Cookbook)

1 1/2 Cups Sugar
1 Cup Vegetable Oil
3 Lg Eggs
2 Cups Unbleached All Purpose Flour (I prefer King Arthur)
1 1/2 Tsp Ground Cinnamon
1 Tsp Baking Soda
1 1/4 Tsp Homemade Vanilla (... of course)
1/2 Tsp Salt
1/4 Ground Nutmeg (I grate fresh nutmeg)
6 Shredded Carrots (I use a fine grate)
3/4 Cup Chopped Pecans
Cream Cheese Frosting (see below)

Heat oven to 350 Degrees. Grease bottom and sides of 2 round pans with shortening, line pans with parchment paper on bottom and grease paper, then lightly flour entire pan. (Parchment paper allows cakes to slide out easier).

Mix sugar, oil and eggs in large bowl and mix for about 1 minute. Stir in flour, cinnamon, baking soda, vanilla, salt, nutmeg until well mixed. Add carrots and pecans. Pour into prepared pans.

Bake rounds about 32 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire rack. Fill and frost layers with frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting
1 pkg (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
1/4  Cup Unsalted Butter, softened (Unsalted is the only butter I keep in my home)
2 Tsp Milk
1 1/4 Tsp Vanilla
3-4 Cups Powdered Sugar

Beat cream cheese, butter, milk and vanilla in medium bowl with electric mixer on low speed until smooth. (This is where I love my KitchenAid...) Gradually beat in powdered sugar on low speed, 1 cup at a time, until smooth and spreadable.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Vanilla....

Growing up I stood next to my Grandmother in the kitchen while she taught me the basics of baking. Butter, sugar, flour and vanilla. It was so mesmerizing what could be done with such simple ingredients.

Now years later, I still have those memories when I mix these ingredients. To remember her hands and the memories when that recipe comes out of the card box. But the one thing that has changed over the years is that the ingredients have become better. The butter is now unsalted, the flour has become unbleached, and the vanilla....oh the vanilla!!!!

To step away from the generic store version and move on to heaven...The best thing I have ever done with baking (after purchasing the Kitchen Aid) was making homemade vanilla from beans that were a gift. Those 7 Madagascar given to me from an individual who had no idea what gold she held in her hands.

A co-worker has visitors from that wonderful island visiting....who gave her a gift of vanilla beans they brought with them. She stumbled into the office telling me this story and wondering what in the world she would use them for. This was a very simple answer for me to give. The humor that ensued next of me rattling off every idea I had...was entertaining for those around. But this excitement allowed me the opportunity of being gifted some of those wonderful beans.

This experience created my now heavenly addiction to vanilla made from scratch. This is one thing I will keep on the list of the most important items in my pantry......

How to make Homemade Vanilla Extract

You will only need three simple ingredients
Vanilla Beans (3-4 beans)
Vodka (1-2 Cups)
A glass jar with tight fitting lid

First, you will need to use a sharp paring knife to cut lengthwise down each vanilla bean, splitting them in half, leaving an inch at the end connected. Then put your cut vanilla beans in a glass jar or bottle with a tight fitting lid (as you can see above I prefer mason jars). Cover completely with the vodka. The next step is important - you will need to store in a cool dark place for two months or longer. (yes patience is needed for the first batch) Every few weeks be sure to give the bottle a good shake to stir up the vanilla.

As you can see from the photo. I have a smaller mason jar that I use on a regular basis (takes me a few months to get through it when full) and the larger jar is my reserve I keep refilling with beans and Vodka to store away.  You also have a choice to use Rum if you prefer but I always seem to have Vodka in the house....