Monday, November 30, 2009

Cannoli and a Broken Computer

Sorry that there's no post but my computer crashed right before Thanksgiving and I lost my pictures and post from this challenge. My computer is currently in the shop and I hope that all my data is restored! I'll try to post my cannoli's when I get my computer back later this week.  The November 2009 Daring Bakers Challenge was chosen and hosted by Lisa Michele of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. She chose the Italian Pastry, Cannolo (Cannoli is plural), using the cookbooks Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and The Sopranos Family Cookbook by Allen Rucker; recipes by Michelle Scicolone, as ingredient/direction guides. She added her own modifications/changes, so the recipe is not 100% verbatim from either book 

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Blue Cheese Pomegranate Bites

Earlier this month I saw that fresh pomegranates were in abundance at my market. I love pomegranates, they are not only delicious, but beautiful as well. Cut into a ripe pomegranate and you are rewarded with the sweet ruby red treasure contained within. I'm not exactly sure why, but for me they herald the beginning of holiday season. Maybe it's that glorious red color. Whatever the reason, fresh pomegranates mean the holidays must be upon us! With the holiday party season in mind, I thought I use my fresh pomegranates to make some appetizers. These are easy and fairly quick to make. You can make up the pomegranate syrup ahead of time. It will keep for several weeks in the refrigerator. Make extra syrup, it's so good you'll want to have some to drizzle it over ice cream, yogurt, pancakes etc.

Blue Cheese Pomegranate Bites

1  (8-ounce) piece of blue cheese, chilled (you can also use the crumbled blue cheese)

1 1/2   packages frozen puff pastry sheets, thawed

1/3  cup  pomegranate syrup (recipe below)

1/4 cup arils (seeds) from 1 large pomegranate

If not using the crumbled blue cheese, cut cheese into 24 cubes, and set aside.
Roll pastry into a 15- x 10-inch rectangle on a lightly floured surface; cut into 24 squares. Fit squares into miniature muffin pans, extending corners slightly above cup rims.
Bake pastry at 425° for 10 to 12 minutes or until it begins to brown. Remove from oven, and gently press handle of a wooden spoon into center of each pastry, forming a shell.
Spoon 1/2 teaspoon syrup into each shell; top with a piece of blue cheese. Bake 5 more minutes or until cheese melts. Top with the fresh pomegranate arils (seeds) and serve immediately.

Pomegranate Syrup 


 4 cups fresh pomegranate juice

2 1/2 cups sugar

1 teaspoon lemon juice


In a saucepan, combine pomegranate juice, sugar and lemon juice over medium heat.
Stir until sugar has completely dissolved.
Allow to cook over medium high heat for 20-25 minutes, or until juice is the consistency of syrup.
Remove from heat and allow to cool. Store in airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

These appetizers are also very versatile. 24 wine-and-cheese crackers may be substituted. Top each cracker with the cheese, and drizzle with the syrup; place on a baking sheet. Bake at 350° for 5 minutes or until cheese melts. Top with the fresh pomegranate arils. Brie could be substituted for the blue cheese.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Pear Muffins

I gone and done it again. Every time I swear to myself that this will be THE LAST TIME! But then in the heat of the moment, when my defenses are down, with such rational reasons running through my mind, I falter. I fall off the wagon, give into to the temptation. I have such good intentions how can it be wrong??? I blame it on Sam, really I can't be held responsible my actions with such temptations thrown at me around every corner. I'm way too weak! I know I've come here and confessed this many times before. I mean it each and every time. I WILL NOT buy more of a perishable item than I can use before it goes bad! I have good intentions and I reeeaally mean it at the time, but then I go into Sam's and what do they have there to taut me with, but the cutest little Seckel pears you've ever seen. I completely ignore the fact that they come in a 4 pound box. I'll make caramel dipped pears for that fruit tray I've got to make this week; is my rational. All the while ignoring the whole 4 pound thing. By the way, four pounds equals a lot of tiny pears.

 Caramel dipped baby pears, adorable!

So fast forward to later in the week. I did use about 8 of the pears for the fruit tray. They were in fact adorable dipped in caramel. Like little gleaming gems on my fruit and cheese tray. The only problem, I still had about 3 pounds of tiny pears left over. So still with good intentions, I planned to make a pear and apple crisp with the rest. Yeah well, you know what they say about good intentions! So today, when I finally got the chance to do a little baking, I realize the pears are way too ripe for a crisp. At this point they'd disintegrate to a soggy pulp if baked. Not so good for a crisp.  However, mushy fruit is great for muffins. So if you get one of those fruit boxes given to you over the holidays, here's a wonderful way to use up some of the pears.

Although I plan to try to be better in the future and not allow myself to be tempted by cuteness or a good bargain, I'm glad that I had to find a way to use the pears because these muffins are divine. They are very similar to a banana nut muffin, but with the delicate flavor of pear rather than the overwhelming flavor of banana.

Pear Muffins
(Printable recipe)
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon finely minced crystallized ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 egg -- beaten
zest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup melted butter -- cooled
1 cup mashed pear pulp -- (2 or 3 soft regular sized pears or 6-8 Seckel pears)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, F.

Mash the pears.

 Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.

 Chop the pecans

Beat together milk, beaten egg, butter and lemon zest and crystallized ginger. Mix pears and nuts into flour mixture. Gently stir milk mixture into dry ingredients. Batter should be lumpy, not smooth. Do not over mix.

I used a silicon pan, but a regular muffin tin is fine.

Spray muffin pans with nonstick spray. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full. Bake at 350 degrees F for 20 to 25 minutes, until tops are browned. Remove from pan immediately, and serve warm. If you have any leftovers, which I can't imagine, they can be kept a couple of days in an airtight container, or frozen.

Gorgeous Pear Muffins

Perfect with a bit of butter and a pipping hot cup of Twinings Apple Cinnamon  tea.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Salted Caramel Pots de Creme

These salted caramel pots de creme were the sweet ending to Hubs birthday dinner last week. He's always a sucker for any creme brulee desserts when we go out to dinner. Caramel is his other favorite dessert flavor so caramel pots de creme seemed like the obvious dessert choice for his birthday dinner. Last summer we got hooked on Haagen Dazs fleur de sel caramel ice cream. It has the perfect balance of caramel sweet and just a hint of salt. I thought I'd try to recreate that in these pots de creme. I think that hint of salt takes this dessert from wonderful to sublime! Happy Birthday Hubs!

Salted Caramel Pots de Creme
serves 6-8

Source- Dorie Greenspan, Baking from my Home to Yours (slightly adapted)

2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup sugar (divided)
2 large eggs
5 large egg yolks
Pinch of fleur de sel or sea salt

Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 300 degrees. Line a large roasting pan with a double thickness of paper towels, then place eight 4-ounce or six 6 ounce custard cups, ramekins, or pot de creme cups in the pan.
Pour cream and milk together and warm them in the microwave or in a saucepan over medium heat; set aside.
Measure out 1/4 cup of sugar and set aside.
Heat a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over med-high heat and sprinkle in 2 tablespoons of sugar from the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar.As soon as the sugar melts and starts to caramelize, stir. When the color is uniform, stir in another 2 tablespoons of sugar and continue to stir until it is melted and colored. Continue adding the sugar 2 tablespoons at a time. When the sugar is a deep amber, almost  a mahogany color, standing away from the pan, so you don't get splattered, add the warmed cream/milk. The mixture will bubble furiously and may seize, but don't panic, just keep stirring until it smooths out. Remove pan from the heat.

Put the eggs, yolks, pinch of fleur de sel, and the reserved 1/4 cup of sugar in a mixing bowl and whisk until pale and slightly thick. While still whisking, drizzle in a little of the caramel liquid. This will temper the eggs so you don't end up with scrambled eggs. Whisking all the while, slowly pour in the remaining liquid. If there is any foam on top of the custard, skim off with a spoon. The foam will cause craters on the top of the custard as it bakes.
Arrange custard cups in a small roasting pan, leaving an even amount of space between the cups, and fill each cup nearly to the top with the custard mixture. Carefully slide the pan into the oven; then, using a pitcher, fill the roasting pan with enough hot water to come halfway up the sides of the cups. Cover the pan with plastic wrap (don’t worry—it can stand the heat) and poke two holes in two diagonally opposite corners. Bake the custards for about 35-40 minutes, or until the edges darken ever so slightly and the custards are set but still jiggle a little in the center when you shake them gently.

Remove the pan from the oven and let the custards sit in the water bath for 10 minutes. Peel off the plastic wrap, lift the cups out of the water and cool the custards in the refrigerator. (The pots de creme can be prepared a day ahead and, when cool, covered with plastic wrap and stored in the refrigerator.)

To serve: The pots de creme are at their best at room temperature, so remove them from the refrigerator and keep them on the counter for about 20 minutes before serving. Sprinkle a little fleur de sel or sea salt on the tops of the custard.