Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Strawberry thyme galette...

my small act of rebellion!
"Cooking is like love, it should be entered into with wild abandon, or not at all." This is a quote from the late great Julia Child. I try to cook with abandon, but more often than not I find myself not trusting my instincts and relying on a recipe or something I've made before. I had some strawberries on hand that I wanted to use and thought I'd make a pie. As I was getting everything together for the pie it occurred to me that I could make a galette instead. A galette is just a free form pie. They're quick and delicious and I love the way they look, charming and rustic. Plus you don't need a pie pan, so one less step to making them. I pulled out my well-worn copy of Baking with Julia to get the crust recipe. The recipe in Julia Child's book is for a mixed berry galette (which is superb) but all I had on hand was strawberries. In her recipe, Julia says not to use too many strawberries in your mixed berry tart because strawberries are too watery. Uh oh...I very nearly went back to my original plan for a fresh strawberry pie. However, feeling just tad rebellious at the time, I decided to  make the galette with the strawberries, in spite of Julia's warning. My berries were still firm and not overly ripe so I thought I'd just go for it. I also have a pot of the most gorgeous thyme on my patio. At the last minute I decided to throw a little of that in the crust and with the strawberries. Since I'd ignored her warning about the strawberries, I figured Julia would certainly approve of my wild abandon, devil may care attitude when it came to adding the thyme! The galette tasted wonderful, I'm quite sure that Julia would have eaten it with gusto and not minded a bit that I didn't follow her advice about not using strawberries.  

Strawberry Thyme Galette
Printable recipe
(Source: Baking with Julia)
3 Tablespoons sour cream (or yogurt or buttermilk)
scant 1/3 cup ice water
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (optional)
1/2 teaspoon salt
7 Tablespoon cold unsalted butter, cut into 6 to 8 pieces

Stir the sour cream and the water in a small bowl and set aside.
Put the flour, cornmeal, sugar, and salt into the food processor, fitted with the metal blade. Pulse to combine. Add the chopped butter and pulse 8 to 10 times, or until the mixture is speckled with pieces of butter that vary in size from bread crumbs to peas. As the machine runs, add the sour cream mixture and stop the processor once the dough forms soft, moist curds.
Remove the dough, divide it in half. Squish the ball down flat and wrap it in plastic and chill for at least 2 hours.

1 1/2 cups strawberries, stems removed and sliced (don't use overly ripe strawberries, as they may be too watery.)
2 Tablespoons white sugar
1 teaspoon corn starch
1 teaspoon fresh thyme (optional)
a squeeze of lemon

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Clean the strawberries, remove the stems and slice them lengthwise. Place the sliced strawberries into a bowl add the sugar, lemon juice and cornstarch. Gently stir the strawberries until the sugar and cornstarch evenly cover the berries.
Roll out the galette dough into about an 11 inch circle that's about an 1/8 inch thick. Layer the berries in center the crust leaving at least one inch from the edge. Fold the edge of the dough over the strawberries. You will have to make pleats(folds) in some places. Brush the dough with a little water and sprinkle all over with 1 tsp. sugar. Bake for 30-35 minutes.
Remove from the oven and let it cool for 5-10 minutes before slicing.

Feeling reckless?!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Pineapple Sheet Cake

If you've ever been to a church pot luck in the South then odds are, you've had this cake. It's always a crowd pleaser. It's moist, rich, and so tasty, but that's not the best part about this cake. What makes this cake a go to for serving a crowd is that it's so quick and easy to make. Seriously a boxed cake mix is more labor intensive than this baby. It's a no mixer needed kind of easy. If you've got a bowl, a spoon, and about 5 minutes, you can have this cake mixed up and in the oven. The pineapple keeps the cake really moist so it can easily be made a day ahead of time. If you are looking for great dessert with minimal effort for your Memorial Day party, I've got your cake!

Pineapple Sheet Cake

Originally published as Pineapple Sheet Cake in Country Extra January 1992, p51 (Slightly adapted)
Serves: about 24

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 cup chopped pecans
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 can (20 ounces) crushed pineapple, undrained

Cream Cheese Icing:
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter, softened
4 cups confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)

For Cake
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, add all the dry ingredients, whisk together. Add pineapple, vanilla and eggs. Mix until combined. Pour into a greased 9 x 13 inch baking pan. Bake at 350°for 35 minutes. Allow cake to cool before icing.
For icing
In a bowl, combine the cream cheese, butter, confectioners' sugar and vanilla until smooth. Spread over cake and sprinkle with nuts, if desired.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Mother's Day Brunch Menu

Looking for some ideas for a Mother's Day brunch? I've rounded up a few recipes from the past and made up this Mother's Day Brunch menu. Happy Mother's Day!

Or you could surprise Mom with a bouquet of these hydrangea cupcakes and take her out for brunch!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Biscuits, hot and fresh...anytime!

I feel compelled to add a warning to proceed with caution to this post. I will just remind you that I am merely providing recipes and ideas here on Half Baked. What happens after that is out of my control. I cannot help that these delicious biscuits are super easy to make, and if you freeze them, you can have a hot and fresh biscuit, anytime you want one. (Kinda like Krispy Kreme when the sign is on.) Consider yourself warned, I'm no longer responsible!  
Here in the South, we love a good biscuit but I rarely make them. As much as I enjoy biscuits, most recipes make about a dozen or so. Even if I half the recipe, there are still at least six biscuits. I'm not saying that Hubs and I couldn't eat all, well most, ok probably all six. Don't judge, hot biscuits and butter are hard to resist. However, after a few dinners like that and I'd have to start hunting for a tent maker to buy clothes that fit! True we could exercise a little self control (who am I kidding!) and only eat one each but what would we do with the four biscuits that are leftover? Biscuits, hot out of the oven are amazing, crunchy outside, soft flaky and buttery inside, just heavenly.  A leftover biscuit on the other hand is nothing like that. Not even close. They're more like hockey pucks after spending the night in the fridge. So I had resigned to not making biscuits unless we had guests to help eat them. Well all that has changed! These biscuits can be made, frozen, and baked up a couple at a time, whenever we feel the need for a hot flaky biscuit! Okay, so I may still need find a that tent maker if I'm not careful, which is why I cautioned you at the beginning of this post. Please bake responsibly....

Make and Freeze Biscuits
Source: King Arthur Flour
Yields: about 12-16 biscuits

4 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour or Perfect Pastry Blend
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
8 Tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 1/4- 1 1/2 cups of cold milk

In a large bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Drop the butter into the bowl and cut it into the flour with a pastry cutter, two knives, or your finger tips.Work in the butter until the mixture is crumbly; some larger, pea-sized pieces of butter may remain intact.

Pea-sized pieces of butter!

Add 1 1/4 cups of cold milk and mix together (I like to use a fork). If the mixture seems too dry add the other 1/4 cup of milk (I almost always need it). Gather the dough into a ball and transfer it to a lightly floured work surface and fold it over once or twice. Pat it into a 3/4 - 1 inch thick square, rectangle, or circle. Cut out with a round cutter, re-rolling the the leftover pieces of dough until you've used up all the dough.
OR, if you don't mind a square biscuit, you could use my new favorite method for cutting out these biscuits (also from the King Arthur website). It's awesome. I can't believe I never thought of this:

Pat the dough evenly into an 8 inch square pan.

Flip it out on your work surface. cool is that? 
So much easier than cutting them out with a cutter!

Place the cut biscuits on a baking sheet. Now, you have a choice to make here: bake the biscuits right away; or freeze, bag, and bake at a later date, or freeze some and bake get the idea!

To bake biscuits right away, heat oven to 475 degrees. Brush the tops of the biscuits with milk or melted butter. Bake them for 5 minutes, then turn off the oven. Leave in the oven for an additional 5 to 10 minutes, until they’re golden brown.

To freeze, leave the biscuits on the baking sheet, wrap with plastic wrap and slid them into the freezer for at least an hour, or until the biscuits have frozen. Once they’re frozen, remove from the freezer, bag airtight, and store in the freezer for up to about 3 months. (Who am I kidding, there's no way those biscuits will be around that long!)
Beautiful frozen biscuits, just 15 minutes from biscuit heaven...anytime!
When ready to serve, preheat your oven to 475°F, and bake biscuits for 8 minutes. Turn the heat off, and leave in the oven for another 5 to 8 minutes, till they're golden brown.
You know you want one!