Sunday, March 18, 2018

ChezCindy: Quick Pickled Vegetables

Quick Pickled Vegetables

So often we use old expressions without giving thought to the origin.  When someone uses the phrase to be in a pickle, there are numerous meanings.  Generally, it is used when found to be in an awkward, unexpected situation.  It can also refer to one's condition after enjoying too many alcoholic beverages.  Which could be the same as an awkward, unexpected situation, as our favorite spiked beverages can sometimes leave us wondering, "how did that happen?".  Not that this has ever happened to me..... 

In the 1700's, the word pickle referred to a mixture of spiced, salted vinegar that was used as a preservative.  That is where we are going today: a quick pickle to extend and flavor the use of vegetables.  Quick pickles are different than the long-storage pickles that are fermented and stored in the pantry for months.  A quick pickled vegetable will store in the refrigerator for one month.  Pickled vegetables add flavor and texture to sandwiches, salads and other favorites such as tacos!  Here's how to do it.  

There is a basic ratio when quick pickling.  Equal parts water and vinegar, plus equal parts kosher salt and sugar, plus dried herbs and spices for flavor.  The chart below offers examples of what to use.  I often have pickled red onions in my fridge.  The red onions create a pretty pink brine that develops from the color of the onions.  Using a mandolin, thinly slice the onions and add dried cumin see and mustard seed for flavor.  The subtle flavor of cumin makes a difference.  English cucumbers are best to use for making 'pickles' as they have smaller seeds.  These can be sliced thinly for sandwiches or into large chunks to include on a vegetable tray.  I like using coriander seeds and tucking a few cloves of garlic into the jar for a traditional flavor.  Anytime you want to add heat to the vegetables, consider adding dried red pepper flakes.  

Quick Pickled Vegetables     
Glass Jars - Choices
Fresh Vegetables - Choices
Dried Whole Spices - Choices
~English Cucumber
~Coriander Seeds
~Red Onion
~Cumin Seeds

~Mustard Seeds

1-pound vegetables, cleaned and cut into pieces or thinly sliced
1 cup white vinegar
1 cup water
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon dried whole spices, any combination

Place the cleaned cut vegetables into the canning jars, lightly packing to fit.  Combine the remaining ingredients in a sauce pan.  Bring to a boil, dissolving the salt and sugar.  Pour the hot liquid over the vegetables to cover them completely, filling the jar to 1/2-inch from the top of the jar.  Seal the jar tightly with the lid.  Allow to cool on the counter.  Place the cooled jar in the refrigerator.  Wait 24 hours before enjoying so that the vegetables have time to pickle.  The vegetables will develop more flavor as they age.  Store in the fridge for up to one month.  

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

ChezCindy: Irish Cheddar & Herb Scones

Irish Cheddar & Herb Scones

Winter weather is holding on as we make our way through the month of March.  I can't seem to stop baking.  I think it is the cold weather that makes me turn to my favorite recipes.  Scones are always comforting to me whether I make them savory or sweet.  These cheddar and herb scones bake up golden brown on the outside, but tender and light as you break into them.  Perfect with pot roast Pot Roast...a Perfect Winter Meal  or just with your morning cup of tea.

Irish Cheddar & Herb Scones
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
12 tablespoons butter, diced 
2 large eggs
1/2 cup cold heavy cream
4 ounces white Irish cheddar cheese, small-diced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water for egg wash

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.  

Combine 2 cups of all-purpose flour, baking powder, and sea salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Add the cold diced butter and mix on low speed until the butter is broken down to pea-size pieces.  Mix the cold eggs and the cold heavy cream and add to the flour-butter mix until just blended.  In a small bowl, add 1 tablespoon of flour to the cold finely diced cheddar, add in the chopped herbs; toss to combine.  Add this to the dough, mixing briefly until slightly incorporated.  

Transfer the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead the dough until the cheddar and herbs are evenly distributed.  Roll the dough to 3/4-inch thick.  Cut the dough into 3-inch squares.  Place onto the baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Brush the tops with the egg wash.  Bake in the upper part of the oven for 20 minutes.  

Remove from the oven.  Slide the parchment paper onto the counter to cool.  Serve warm with sweet butter and/or cheddar cheese.  

More scone recipes you can try as we transition into Spring!

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

ChezCindy: A Magically Disappearing Chocolate Cake

Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

I know I just wrote about chocolate cake, but this one is a "welcome home chocolate cake".  My husband had been away on travels and after weather delayed flights, was finally home.  We were both in the kitchen at 1:30 in the morning eating this most comforting chocolate cake.  But that is not what makes this cake magical.

Each time I make this cake, it seems to disappear.  I keep it sitting on the counter in this pretty cake dome.  As I walk through the room, I'll notice another slice has been cut.   Hmmm.... 

This cake is so moist, it could last for days.  But it never does.  It seems to magically disappear until only a few crumbs and smears of chocolate buttercream remain on the plate.

Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup hot coffee

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter three 8-inch round cake pans, line each with parchment paper, lightly dust the pans with flour.
Combine the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Mix on low speed until combined.  In a separate medium bowl, add the buttermilk, oil, eggs and vanilla, whisking to combine.  With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. With the mixer still on low, add the hot coffee until combined.  Turn off the mixer, scrape down the sides of the bowl and scrape the bottom to be sure all ingredients are well combined.  Evenly divide the batter between the three prepared cake pans.  Bake for 23-25 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean when tested in the center of the cake.  Cool in the pans for 20 minutes.  Remove cake from the pans, transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
8 ounces semisweet chocolate
16 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cup sifted powdered sugar
2 teaspoons instant coffee powder
2 teaspoons hot water

Chop the chocolate into pieces.  Place in a double boiler pan to gently melt the chocolate.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the softened butter for 3 minutes until creamy and pale yellow in color.  Add the egg yolk and vanilla, continue beating for another 2 minutes.  Add the sifted powdered sugar, with the mixer set on low, beat until smooth and creamy.  Dissolve the 2 teaspoons of instant coffee powder into 2 teaspoons of hot water.  Add the coffee and the melted chocolate to the butter mixture, beat until fully combined.  Spread onto the cooled cake.

This recipe is from Ina Garten's cookbook, Barefoot Contessa At Home with slight modifications.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

ChezCindy: Chocolate Cake for Your Sweetie

Salted Butter Chocolate Cake

If your sweetie is sweet on chocolate, this is the cake to make for Valentines day, a birthday, or just any day to say I love you.  Normally when baking, most recipes use unsalted butter.  However, using salt is relevant in baking as it elevates the sweetness of the baked good.  When I saw this recipe using salted butter, it caught my interest.  Once I tasted the cake, I discovered that the salted butter and the full teaspoon of salt used in this recipe, brightened the chocolate flavor, with a mysterious subtle undertone that lingered on the tongue.  Uniquely good.

The cake batter comes together quickly and bakes in about 30 minutes.  The center of the cake will be slightly loose, just a bit under-baked, but that is part of the charm.  You will be tempted to bake it longer than called for as the center will not look fully set.  If you do, that's okay.  But trust in the time specified.  The result is a gooey, rich goodness.  The cake does need to cool for at least 1 hour before removing it from the pan.  So plan ahead, it is worth the wait.    

The finished cake needs little adornment, just a dusting of powdered sugar or a dollop of lightly sweetened whipped cream if you are feeling decadent.  At Chez Cindy, this cake has become a favorite for my favorite chocolate sweetie.

Salted Butter Chocolate Cake*
7 tablespoons salted butter
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
6 large eggs
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Prepare a 9-inch round cake pan by greasing it thoroughly with butter and lining the bottom with parchment paper.

Working with a double boiler pan, combine the butter and chopped chocolate into the top pan, set over the pan with the simmering water.  Stir until the butter and chocolate are combined.  Set aside to cool for 10 minutes.

In the mixing bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the eggs and sugar until light and fluffy.  In a small separate bowl, sift together the flour and salt.

Stir the melted chocolate mixture into the egg mixture.  Add in the vanilla.  Fold in the flour/salt until just combined.  Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan.  Bake for 30 minutes.

Remove from the oven.  Set the cake pan onto a baking rack to cool for a minimum of 1 hour.  Invert the cake onto a cake plate, peel off the parchment paper.  Dust the top with powdered sugar, or serve with lightly sweetened whipped cream.

Recipe adopted from French Country Cooking by Mimi Thorisson

Sunday, February 11, 2018

ChezCindy: Orange Almond Tea Cakes

Orange Almond Tea Cakes

I have recently discovered baking with almond flour and I am quite captivated by it.  It began with a recipe for tea cakes which are simply upside-down cupcakes.  The crumb on the baked cake is very tender and moist, but somewhat dense from the almond flour.  And by the way, almond flour's only ingredient is blanched almonds that have been finely ground into a powder.  It is also referred to as almond meal.  The fat content is quite high because it is purely nuts, but provides a good amount of protein, not something you think about with a baked good.  I like the health benefit of moving away from all-purpose flour, but more than that, it results in a glorious cake.

The initial recipe I made was from a cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh.  Mr. Ottolenghi is a well known chef with restaurants in London, England and has authored numerous cookbooks.  Ms. Goh is a successful pastry chef from Melbourne, Australia.  The two collaborated on the cookbook titled Sweet.  The book provides tempting recipes with gorgeous pictures that draw the reader into the recipe, leaving them with the quandary of which recipe to make first.  My recipe below is a modification of one from their book, Lemon Blueberry Almond Teacakes.  Their recipe is one I will make again and again for as long as I am able.  Mine below is a humble acknowledgment to theirs.

Orange Almond Tea Cakes
13 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon orange zest, finely grated
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups almond flour
1/4 cup all-purpose flour*
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup orange juice

Powdered sugar for dusting
~ or ~
Orange Glaze for icing
    1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
    3 tablespoons orange juice
    1 teaspoon orange zest, finely grated

Toasted sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare a standard muffin pan by greasing the 12 cups with butter, dust lightly with flour.  Tap out excess flour and set aside.

Place the room temperature butter, sugar and orange zest into the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment in place.  Beat until combined; scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Measure out the almond flour.  Lightly beat the 4 eggs in a separate bowl.  Add the flour and eggs to the mixing bowl, alternating between the almond flour and eggs, adding each in three batches.  Mix until just combined; scrape down the sides of the bowl.  In a separate small bowl, add the flour, baking powder, and salt, whisking to combine.  Add to the mixing bowl, mixing on low speed.  Add in the orange juice, mixing until combined.

Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin pan, dividing equally between the 12 cups.  Bake in the preheated oven for 28 minutes until the edges are golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean when tested from the center of the cake.  Remove from the oven, cool for 5 minutes in the muffin pan.  Place a baking rack over the top of the baking pan.  Holding the rack against the muffin pan, flip over so that the cakes are now inverted onto the rack.  Remove the muffin pan, keeping the cakes "upside-down" to cool completely on the baking rack with the flat side up.

Prepare the glaze, if using, by whisking the orange juice with the powdered sugar and the orange zest, until the mixture is a thick pouring consistency.  Drizzle over the flat side of the cakes, allowing some to dribble down the sides. 

Or, dust generously with powdered sugar.

Top with toasted sliced almonds.

* Substitute the all-purpose flour with a gluten free flour if desiring a gluten free cake.  I use Namaste Foods Perfect Flour Blend which is a 1-1 substitution for all-purpose flour.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

ChezCindy: Winter Citrus Tart

Puff Pastry Citrus Tart

This puff pastry citrus tart can be made any time of year but is especially good during the winter.  Making this colorful tart in winter brings a bit of citrusy sunshine to your kitchen and your taste buds during the sun-deprived days of winter.  Consider using a variety of oranges in different colors, like  Cara Cara or blood oranges, or in size such as clementine or tangerines.   The tart is dusted with powdered sugar for a final finishing touch.  Serve warm as is or top with soft-peaked whipped cream.  The tart is also very good at breakfast or brunch served at room temperature.

Puff Pastry Citrus Tart
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed but chilled
1/3 cup raspberry preserves
2-3 oranges or 5 clementine
1 egg, lightly beaten
Powdered sugar for dusting

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

Using a sharp knife, remove the peel and the white pith from each orange.  Slice each orange crosswise into quarter-inch slices.

Using a rolling pin, roll out the puff pastry to a 10x10-inch square.  Transfer the pastry to the prepared baking sheet.  Spread the raspberry preserves over the pastry, leaving a 1-inch border around the edges.  Brush the one-inch border with the lightly beaten egg, discarding the remaining egg.  Arrange the orange slices on top of the preserves, turning them over to coat with the preserves as you place them.

Bake the tart for roughly 20 minutes until the pastry is golden brown.  Halfway through the baking, use a pastry brush to brush any juices from the oranges over the pastry edges.

Remove the tart from the oven.  Brush any additional juices evenly over the oranges.  Cool slightly.  Lightly dust the top of the tart with the powdered sugar.  Cut into squares and serve warm.

Recipe adapted from Good Food, Good Life by Curtis Stone

Saturday, January 13, 2018

ChezCindy: Baked Egg Cups with Sweet Potato "Crust"

Baked Egg Cups with Sweet Potato "Crust"

In preparing for a cooking class, I needed a recipe that was gluten free and simple enough for a child to make for their first cooking lesson.  I created this simple recipe realizing it would also work for those following a Paleo diet plan.  The sweet potato "crust" gets a head start in baking, allowing the grated potatoes to cook through, forming a nest for the seasoned eggs.

Baked egg cups are a convenient make-ahead treat to serve as breakfast, for a brunch buffet, or as an afternoon snack.  This simple recipe uses only potatoes and eggs as the star ingredients, making this suitable as a vegetarian dish, as well as gluten free.  You could consider adding chopped green onions and cheese, or bits of bacon to each baked egg cup for an additional flavor boost.  The recipe makes 6 egg cups but can easily be doubled.

Baked Egg Cups with Sweet Potato "Crust"  
1/2 cup grated sweet potato
1/2 cup grated Yukon gold potato
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
6 large eggs
Additional salt for seasoning the eggs

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Peel and grate a sweet potato.  Grate a Yukon gold potato, leaving the skin on if desired.  Place the grated potatoes onto a kitchen towel; squeeze out the excess potato liquid.  Combine 1/2 cup of each grated potato into a small bowl.  Add the oil and the 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt.  Use a fork to combine.
Lightly spray 6 muffin cups with oil.  Add a heaping tablespoon to each muffin cup, dividing equally among the 6 cups.  Use the back of the tablespoon to press the potato mix into the cup.  Bake in the preheated oven for 5 minutes.  Remove from the oven.

Break 1 egg into a small bowl; add a small pinch of salt.  Use a fork to beat the egg lightly.  Add the beaten egg to one of the pre-baked sweet potato shells.  Repeat with the remaining 5 eggs to fill all 6 muffin cups.

Bake for 10-12 minutes until the eggs are no longer runny.  Remove from the oven.  Allow the baked eggs to rest in the muffin cups for 5 minutes.  Slide a butter knife around the edge of each baked egg.  Remove each baked egg from the muffin pan.  Serve warm.