Daring Baker Challenge for June: Filled Danish Braid

I loved making the Danish Pastry BUT I still do not like rolling out the dough with butter inside because I have no idea if I am doing it right or not. I mean the butter keeps squishing out of the dough and getting my wooden rolling pin all icky. I kept going though, and I am glad that I did because the end result made the whole experience well worth the effort.

I tried puff pastry a LONG time ago and failed miserably. . .or thought I did. I went through all this butter and tried following a Julia Child puff pastry recipe but kept getting hung up on rolling the dough. I ended up freezing the whole mess, hoping that I would some day get back to it but I didn't. The lump ended up in the garbage about a month later and I have never attempted puff pastry again. In fact, I just felt that my skill level would never be up to the challenge of even trying. My one huge nemisis! Well, thank you to Kelly of Sass and Veracity and Ben from What's Cooking because you both helped my self confidence just by choosing this recipe and then giving so much support through our Daring Baker forum. The forum itself has been such a benefit because I can go and see whether others have had similiar issues and what the answers have been. What a great help!

I forgot to get orange juice! I have all the ingredients out and I have already started. What to do, what to do? Use lemon? I had an over abundance of lemons and so that is exactly what I did. I used lemon zest and fresh lemon juice. I also went ahead with the apple filling because I like apple anything. For me, this was perfect. Maybe not unique but I really enjoyed it. Next time, I will give other flavors a try. I also did the whole braid in one day. What a long day, even though 5 hours of the process was chilling in the refrigerator and 2 hours was the raising period.

Makes 2-1/2 pounds dough
For the dough (Detrempe)

1 ounce fresh yeast or 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1/2 cup whole milk
1/3 cup sugar
Zest of 1 orange, finely grated
3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped
2 large eggs, chilled
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
3-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
For the butter block (Beurrage)
1/2 pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour


Combine yeast and milk in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low speed. Slowly add sugar, orange zest, cardamom, vanilla extract, vanilla seeds, eggs, and orange juice. Mix well. Change to the dough hook and add the salt with the flour, 1 cup at a time, increasing speed to medium as the flour is incorporated. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes, or until smooth. You may need to add a little more flour if it is sticky. Transfer dough to a lightly floured baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Without a standing mixer: Combine yeast and milk in a bowl with a hand mixer on low speed or a whisk. Add sugar, orange zest, cardamom, vanilla extract, vanilla seeds, eggs, and orange juice and mix well. Sift flour and salt on your working surface and make a fountain. Make sure that the “walls” of your fountain are thick and even. Pour the liquid in the middle of the fountain. With your fingertips, mix the liquid and the flour starting from the middle of the fountain, slowly working towards the edges. When the ingredients have been incorporated start kneading the dough with the heel of your hands until it becomes smooth and easy to work with, around 5 to 7 minutes. You might need to add more flour if the dough is sticky.

1. Combine butter and flour in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat on medium speed for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle and then beat for 1 minute more, or until smooth and lump free. Set aside at room temperature.

2. After the detrempe has chilled 30 minutes, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough into a rectangle approximately 18 x 13 inches and ¼ inch thick. The dough may be sticky, so keep dusting it lightly with flour. Spread the butter evenly over the center and right thirds of the dough. Fold the left edge of the detrempe to the right, covering half of the butter. Fold the right third of the rectangle over the center third. The first turn has now been completed. Mark the dough by poking it with your finger to keep track of your turns, or use a sticky and keep a tally. Place the dough on a baking sheet, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

3. Place the dough lengthwise on a floured work surface. The open ends should be to your right and left. Roll the dough into another approximately 13 x 18 inch, ¼-inch-thick rectangle. Again, fold the left third of the rectangle over the center third and the right third over the center third. No additional butter will be added as it is already in the dough. The second turn has now been completed. Refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes.

4. Roll out, turn, and refrigerate the dough two more times, for a total of four single turns. Make sure you are keeping track of your turns. Refrigerate the dough after the final turn for at least 5 hours or overnight. The Danish dough is now ready to be used. If you will not be using the dough within 24 hours, freeze it. To do this, roll the dough out to about 1 inch in thickness, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and freeze. Defrost the dough slowly in the refrigerator for easiest handling. Danish dough will keep in the freezer for up to 1 month.

Makes enough for two braids
4 Fuji or other apples, peeled, cored, and cut into ¼-inch pieces
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
4 tablespoons unsalted butter

Toss all ingredients except butter in a large bowl. Melt the butter in a sauté pan over medium heat until slightly nutty in color, about 6 - 8 minutes. Then add the apple mixture and sauté until apples are softened and caramelized, 10 to 15 minutes. If you’ve chosen Fujis, the apples will be caramelized, but have still retained their shape. Pour the cooked apples onto a baking sheet to cool completely before forming the braid. (If making ahead, cool to room temperature, seal, and refrigerate.) They will cool faster when spread in a thin layer over the surface of the sheet. After they have cooled, the filling can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Left over filling can be used as an ice cream topping, for muffins, cheesecake, or other pastries.

Makes enough for 2 large braids
1 recipe Danish Dough (see below)
2 cups apple filling, jam, or preserves (see below)

For the egg wash: 1 large egg, plus 1 large egg yolk

1. Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, roll the Danish Dough into a 15 x 20-inch rectangle, ¼ inch thick. If the dough seems elastic and shrinks back when rolled, let it rest for a few minutes, then roll again. Place the dough on the baking sheet.

2. Along one long side of the pastry make parallel, 5-inch-long cuts with a knife or rolling pastry wheel, each about 1 inch apart. Repeat on the opposite side, making sure to line up the cuts with those you’ve already made.

3. Spoon the filling you’ve chosen to fill your braid down the center of the rectangle. Starting with the top and bottom “flaps”, fold the top flap down over the filling to cover. Next, fold the bottom “flap” up to cover filling. This helps keep the braid neat and helps to hold in the filling. Now begin folding the cut side strips of dough over the filling, alternating first left, then right, left, right, until finished. Trim any excess dough and tuck in the ends.

Egg Wash
Whisk together the whole egg and yolk in a bowl and with a pastry brush, lightly coat the braid.

Proofing and Baking
1. Spray cooking oil (Pam…) onto a piece of plastic wrap, and place over the braid. Proof at room temperature or, if possible, in a controlled 90 degree F environment for about 2 hours, or until doubled in volume and light to the touch.

2. Near the end of proofing, preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Position a rack in the center of the oven.

3. Bake for 10 minutes, then rotate the pan so that the side of the braid previously in the back of the oven is now in the front. Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees F, and bake about 15-20 minutes more, or until golden brown. Cool and serve the braid either still warm from the oven or at room temperature. The cooled braid can be wrapped airtight and stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days, or freeze for 1 month.

The Cookie Monster Attack - Cherry and Chocolate Chip Cookies

I absolutely LOVE cookies so I hardly ever bake them. I know this sounds a little strange BUT if I bake the cookies, I will be the first one in them, thinking okay, you can have two. . .that's it. The next thing I know, I may have eaten 4 and thinking why the heck did I do this to myself? Then there is the cookies for breakfast thing. If I eat a few cookies for breakfast, then I have the rest of the day to work it off, right? Well my job is very physical so this would be right if it meant that when I came home that afternoon, I behaved and didn't get into them again. See what I mean? I think I should join a cookie anonymous group or something. . .

I opened up a Bon Appetit, the July issue, and there at the front part of the magazine a reader requested a recipe, from the restaurant "Icing on the Cake", for the cherry and chocolate chip cookies. The recipe calls for dried tart pie cherries, white chocolate chips, and semi-sweet chocolate chips. The combination intrigued me and I have been thinking about baking these cookies for 3 days now. Tonight, I just couldn't take it anymore. I have to tell you these cookies are delicious~! Not overly sweet and the combination of tart cherries with the chocolates is perfect.

Another great aspect of this recipe is the ability to change flavors by maybe omitting the white chocolate chips and adding bittersweet or milk chocolate chips. Now all that is necessary is a tall glass of ice cold milk to drink between bites of cookie =D.

Cherry and Chocolate Chip Cookies
(Bon Appetit July 2008)
1 c. dried tart cherries
1/3 c. cherry liqueur (such as Cherry Heering)
2 T. water
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. baking soda
1/2 c. unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. (packed) golden brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 t. vanilla extract
1/4 t. almond extract
1 1/4 c. semisweet chocolate chips (about 8 ounces)
1 1/4 c. white chocolate chips (about 8 ounces)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Bring cherries, cherry liqueur, and 2 Tablespoons water to boil in small saucepan. Remove from heat and let soak 15 minutes. Drain cherries; pat dry.

Whisk flour, salt, and baking soda in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat butter and both sugars in large bowl until creamy. Add eggs and both extracts and beat to blend. Add flour mixture and beat on low just to blend. Stir in cherries and all chocolate chips. Scoop tablespoonfuls of dough onto prepared baking sheets, spacing 1 inch apart.

Bake cookies until edges are light golden, turning baking sheets halfway through cooking, about 13 minutes. Transfer to rack and cool.
Using a small ice cream scoop made the job so much easier and less messy.

The cookies come out golden brown, after 13 minutes of baking!

Taking a bite, I get both the cherries and chocolate; delicious!

Barefoot Contessa Recipe Challenge: Parmesan Chicken

This is my first posting as part of the Barefoot Contessa Bloggers!
I love her style of cooking and entertaining. Ina encourages us to use recipes that we are familiar with and are easy to put together, creating a relaxed atmosphere for the guests and the host. I just love that! There has been more then a couple occasions where I have stressed myself out trying to make an elaborate dinner for family and friends, only to make the guests feel like they really should just jump in and help. Now, there is a "come back and see me again" dinner party =).
The Parmesan Chicken recipe was chosen by Megan at My baking adventures and what a great choice! I loved the simplicity of this dish and my family loved the flavor that surrounded the meat. Parmesan cheese, lemon, and a mesclun salad all took center stage for flavors. The presentation is even pretty enough to use for when company comes over. The Barefoot Contessa's recipe for Parmesan Chicken can be found in her cookbook from Barefoot Contessa Family Style page 82 and on the FoodNetwork site. I did alter the recipe just a wee bit by using my newly found cooking toy. . . .lemon olive oil purchased from a store called Oliver and Co. or O&CO. Fresh lemons are pressed with the olives to create the olive oil. I have to say that frying the freshly coated chicken fillets in this oil was a wonderful addition. The lemon viniagrette also got a swig of the lemon olive oil. Don't you just love new food discoveries?
I would also like to add that I defrosted way to many chicken breasts (7) but went ahead and fried all of them up. We ended up having the most delicious chicken sandwiches for lunch the next couple of days! I absolutely love Barefoot Bloggers and can't wait till the next cooking event, which is posted every 2nd and 4th Thurday of the month.

Uhmmm, Mixer Berry Cobbler

Beth of Our Sweet Life picked out this weeks TWD recipe: Mixed Berry Cobbler. The recipe was shared among all TWD bakers and now we get to show our wonderful finales! I cheated, and read other people's replies before baking mine, and there are a few altercations that can be made if a simple, basic topping does not feel satisfactory. I think about all the people in the world and no two people taste anything the exact same way. The thought was kind of mind boggling to me for a moment. Now, with that in mind, create a cookbook that is geared towards every one's different tastes and a new respect has been created from me to all those cookbook authors! I absolutely love the way Dorie writes, as if telling a personal story with each recipe. The recipes seem to become very personal to me too.

I did change the Mixed Berry Cobbler Recipe, found on page 416 and 417 of Dorie Greenspan's Baking From My Home to Yours. I have been craving apple pie and cinnamon sticks out the most in my mind, so for the topping I added 1/2 t. cinnamon along with changing the flour to a combination of 1 c. whole wheat and 1 c. all-purpose flour. I mixed the fruit with 1/2 t. of almond extract and went with a combination of raspberries, blueberries, and only 1 c. of strawberries. Dorie stated that the strawberries could water down the cobbler and I appreciate the insight and tip. My cobbler was left to cool while my family ate dinner. As I scooped into the mixed berry cobbler I noticed the crust had absorbed most of the berry's juice and with the crust still being slightly warm, an addition of vanilla bean ice cream only added to the overall contrast of colors and flavor.

The topping is getting ready to be transformed into a dough.

All berries are fresh and I love the color combination. Also, along with the ingredients mentioned, I added 1/2 t. almond extract.

I definitely should get an "A" for fully accomplishing the "rustic" look.

Hardly any berry juice. The crust absorbed the majority of it. . .and I would like to add: Delicious!

Charcoal Grilling and Camera Bugs

Your going to need a flashlight to see my picture of the onion slices. I just can not seem to let well enough alone. I have tried other camera settings without rereading the directions and all of my pictures are hit and miss. I think it has been one of those weeks for me.

I am talking to one of my little sisters about this new recipe for a hamburger, which is pictured at the right, and I am telling her about the chipotle ketchup that you make along with the recipe and she stops me dead in the middle of my story. No, no, it is chee-poht-lay, not chip-i-tole. Can you believe this? She clearly knew what I meant but since the family feels I am the food expert, I must also know how to pronouce everything clearly. Normally, this would have been an issue, but since this is summer time, I am always in a hurry and the whole correcting thing was NOT the first episode this week. Earlier, my sister-in-law, who knows everything about wine, had to correct me on the proper title to the producer of a late harvest Riesling that we both enjoy. We just so happen to be amongst a group of people and she had to stop the whole conversation to publically correct me. . .uhmm, how nice, grumble, snort. Later this week, my own husband corrected me on a pronounciation of a cooking word that I must have purposely blanked out of my head because now I can't remember what the conversation was but just the fact that he had to correct me had me feeling really frustrated. Okay, I love to cook BUT I do not walk around with a dictionary on how to properly pronouce every culinary word that I come across. I admit it. . .I am more interested in the food cooking aspect. Hmmm, I guess I still feel a little frustrated over this.

The camera, my Canon Rebel Xt, is not downloading pictures right. I have been waiting as long as an hour and a half to get pictures onto the computer. This is a huge reason for not blogging; that and I had no water for a couple of days. (I have never been so happy to turn a faucet on and see water gushing out before.) The camera issue just got fixed by hubby. I guess the Canon had over 1 gig of pictures on it and the computer was having to go through all the pictures before selecting only the new ones to load into the computer. The downloading was taking forever and the camera was shutting off automatically before the computer and the camera could get into sync. I should be able to blog with everyone again, only I think I may have become forgotten again, sniff.

No more playing with settings until I read more about what I am doing. The pictures are terrible but the burger is so delicious that I am willing to share embaressing pictures in hopes that some will actually try these burgers =D.

The burgers: Cheddar Burgers with Balsamic Onions and Chiptole (which I now know how to pronounce) Ketchup

The recipe source: Bon Appetit July 2008
I know the burgers can be created on a gas grill just as easy but I am trying to learn how to charcoal grill and these burgers are the perfect project for a smaller learning experience. The whole recipe is fast and the flavors are delicious! Do not be afraid to make the burgers large and thick. Also: Leave the lid Shut and do NOT peek!, until the time is up for grilling on the first side. NO squishy, squishy with the spatula. You want the hamburger juices to stay in the meat. Flip, and grill for another 3 to 5 minutes and you will have the ultimate hamburger flavor and experience of a lifetime. The Balsamic onions are so good! Thick with great grill markings, a little balsamic vinegar, and seasonings. The sharp cheddar cheese is perfect and does not overpower the flavor but the chiptole ketchup has to be slathered on the bun or you will lose the flavor addition. I know the ketchup will taste like there is an abundance of kick when you taste test BUT believe me, when added to this humongous burger, the flavor will be lost if the ketchup is not dripping over the sides of the bun!

1 pound red onions, or use Vidalia Sweet Onions like I did, cut crosswise into 1/3 to 1/2 inch thick rounds (thicker slices do not fall between the grill rack as easily)
Olive Oil
3/4 t. coarse kosher salt
1/2 t. coarsely ground black pepper
2 T. Balasamic Vinegar
1 c. Ketchup
1 1/2 t. chopped chiptole chiles from canned chiptoles in adobo plus 2 Tablespoons adobo sauce from can
2 t. (or more) balsamic vinegar
2 1/4 poudns ground beef (15% to 20% fat)
Coarse kosher salt
6 Thick slices sharp cheddar cheese
6 large English Muffins or Hamburger Buns, split, cut sides grilled
6 Tomato slices (optional)
2 c. fresh spinach leaves, I used my home grown lettuce leaves

For onions:Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat): Arrange onion rounds on baking sheet. Brush with oil; sprinkle with 3/4 teaspoon coarse salt and pepper. Transfer onion rounds (still intact) to grill rack; close cover. Cook until grill marks appear, about 4 minutes per side. Reduce heat or move onions to cooler part of grill. Close cover; cook until onions are tender, about 10 minutes. Transfer to medium bowl. Toss with vinegar. DO AHEAD: Can be made 3 days ahead. Cover; chill.

For chipotle ketchup: Mix ketchup, chiles, adobo sauce, and 2 teaspoons vinegar in small bowl. Season with salt and more vinegar, if desired. do a h e a d Can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and chill.

For burgers: Shape beef into six 1/2-inch thick patties. Sprinkle patties on both sides with coarse salt and pepper. Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Place burgers on grill. Close cover; cook burgers until bottoms start to darken and juices rise to surface, about 3 minutes. Turn burgers; cook to desired doneness, about 3 minutes longer for medium-rare. Top with onions and cheese. Close cover; cook until cheese melts. Place muffin bottoms on plates; spread with ketchup. Top with burgers, tomatoes, if desired, spinach, and muffin tops. Serve, passing remaining ketchup separately.

Missing TWD. . .Sadness

I have no water. . .sniffle, sniffle, snort. Living in the country carries so much enjoyment and amusement for me. The well water is crystal clear and so fresh tasting; or it would be if the pump hadn't of gone toes up. So there it is, I have been without water for two days while technicians looks for a pump to replace the broken one. When I lose something like power or water, I realize just how dependant I am on the bare essentials just being there. No thought needed to walk by and flip a light switch or walk into the bathroom to wash my face in the morning and wahlaa. . .I have water at my fingertips. I think between power and water, water is the harder of the two to go without. The romantic side of me loves candles so lighting is not an issue. I believe I have more candles then most candle stores. I guess being an electrician helps in this area because I am always working in new construction ~ by flashlight or natural lighting. Our well is a little deep to just through a bucket in and start hauling my own water so this is becoming a real issue for me.

I feel terrible because I actually started the puff pastry and even steeped the mint leaves in the heavy cream. I just became so frustrated that I gave up. I ended up baking the puff pastry anyways and I have to say that the flavor is phenomenal! No egginess detected what-so-ever. The best I have ever tasted! The bad news? Out of previous frustration, everything I seemed to touch went terribly wrong and this includes baking the puff pastry. Coming out of the oven, the heart shaped pastry was perfect. Two seconds later, it was flat as a pancake. Obviously, I became impatient and took the pastry out of the oven a little to soon. Hubby is now tearing it into pieces and placing the pieces on his ice cream. The effort taken definitely says this is tastey! I am hoping no one gives up on me because I absolutely LOVE TWD and I am still going to bake the dessert this week. I will just be a couple of days late =D.

I also have the pleasure of my new construction site being directly across the street from Pike's Place Market, here in Seattle. I get to go shopping at the market about twice a week, after work. I would go during but the condos have no tinted windows yet and I would still get caught. . .kidding~!

TWD - La Palette's Strawberry Tart

My very first TWD event! I am excited for several reasons. First, I was bound and determined I was doing the challenge until I went into my library of cookbooks to find that I do NOT have the cookbook. I have been thinking that I did for some reason and I am usually not wrong about these things. . .So, I joined just several days before the strawberry tart event is due and drove several towns away to purchase the cookbook from the Barnes and Noble bookstore. I know, I could have waited and ordered the cookbook through Amazon and just started the group a week later, BUT when I get excited about something, I want to do it NOW. Okay, I get the cookbook, open the beautiful, glossy (Great! drool marks already) pages to 374 and let myself get intimated immediately. All I saw was a whole page of writing and a picture next to it. The crust recipe was located pages over. Did I mention that I also just bought flowers from my sister's nursery (traveled 4 hours total for the commute on Sunday) because I can buy flats at her cost and also had to finish unloading the car, all 124 plants, get everything ready for the work week and plan on attending a graduation ceremony after work Monday night? I really didn't think I could do it. Sunday night at 10 p.m., I sat down, took a deep breath, and read the whole thing out. Good grief! Do I feel like a goof! The whole recipe constitutes a shortbread crust that is baked and cooled, great quality jam for the bottom, fruit tossed with a little vanilla sugar (optional), and a little creme de casis (also optional), and a little creme fraiche on top (I used heavy whipping cream sweetened with a little more vanilla sugar). I ended up making the whole tart Sunday night.
The shortbread crust reminds me of a cookie crust. One of the best tart crusts I have ever eaten and a recipe that is so versatile, I can only imagine! I love strawberries, so I stayed with the theme of the recipe (I also had them already in my kitchen =D). I am really glad I took a deep breath and jumped in. Well worth the effort! TWD, you have a new fan!

La Palette's Strawberry Tart
- makes 6 servings -
Adapted from Baking From My Home to Yours.

Best-quality strawberry jam
One 9-inch tart shell (see the recipe below) fully baked, cooled and removed from pan
About 1 quart ripe strawberries
Sugar (optional)
Kirsch, fraise or framboise eau-de-vie or crème de cassis (optional)
Freshly ground black pepper, a little fresh basil or mint, or finely grated lemon or lime zest (optional)
Crème fraîche or lightly whipped cream

1. Stir the jam to loosen it to a spreadable consistency or, if it's very stiff, warm it in a microwave oven for a few seconds.
2. Cut as many portions of the crust as you need, put each portion on a plate and spread the jam over the cut pieces.

3. Hull and half as many berries as you need (if they're really large, you might want to quarter them or slice them) and, if you think they need it, toss them with some sugar. Add a splash of liqueur, if you'd like, and stir in the black pepper, basil, mint or zest, if you feel like it. (Use a light touch with the extras – the berries are the main event and anything else should be there only to enhance their flavor.)

4. Spoon the berries and any juices that have accumulated over the slices of crust. Don't try to be neat – the berries should tumble over the sides of the crust.

5. Top with the cream or serve it alongside.
Storing: While you can bake the crust early in the day (or, in a pinch, the day before) and keep it at room temperature, and you can also cut and sugar the berries about an hour in advance, the tart should be assembled just before serving.

Sweet Tart Crust
- makes enough for one 9-inch crust -
Adapted from Baking From My Home to Yours.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 tablespoons; 4 1/2 ounces) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk

1. Put the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times to combine. Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in—you should have pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and some the size of peas. Stir the yolk, just to break it up, and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. When the egg is in, process in long pulses—about 10 seconds each—until the dough, which will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds. Just before you reach this stage, the sound of the machine working the dough will change—heads up. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and, very lightly and sparingly, knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing.

2. To roll or press the dough into the pan: Butter a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. If you want to roll the dough, chill it for about 2 hours before rolling (unless you've used frozen butter and the dough comes out of the processor firm and cold, in which case you can roll it immediately). I find it easiest to roll this dough out between two sheets of plastic film – make sure to peel away the film frequently, so it doesn't get rolled into the dough.
If you want to use the press-in method, you can work with the dough as soon as it's processed. Just press the dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Don't be too heavy-handed – press the crust in so that the edges of the pieces cling to one another, but don't press so hard that the crust loses its crumbly texture.
3. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.

4. To fully bake the crust: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375°F.

5. Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil (or use nonstick foil) and fit the foil, buttered side down, tightly against the crust. (Since you froze the crust, you can bake it without weights.) Put the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake the crust for 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil. If the crust has puffed, press it down gently with the back of a spoon (or prick it with the tip of a small knife). Bake the crust for another 8 minutes or so, or until it is firm and golden brown, brown being the important word: a pale crust doesn't have a lot of flavor. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool the crust to room temperature.
Storing: The dough can be wrapped and kept in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 2 months. While the fully baked crust can be packed airtight and frozen for up to 2 months, I prefer to freeze the unbaked crust in the pan and bake it directly from the freezer – it has a fresher flavor. Just add about 5 minutes to the baking time.

Panzanella Tuscan Tomato Bread Salad and Rigatoni alla Toto

We are going Italian tonight! I love Italian food and I have ingredients that need my immediate attention, such as the cornbread muffins that are now going to replace day old, good quality bread in the Tuscan Bread Salad. I make gigantic cornbread muffins and freeze half of them for a later use. The problem is I had no later use for them and now I am worried about losing them to freezer burn. I figured I was being brilliant. Actually, I was, if appearance gets a low rating =). The cornbread didn't hold up to the dressing mix that gets drizzled overall. The resting period, along with remixing, broke the bread down to small pieces but the flavor was fantastic! I loved the change.
Panzanella is a peasant-style Italian dish. The salad is meant to look rustic and a way for the frugal to use up stale bread. Using the freshest ingredients in this salad really makes a big difference. Sprinkle the salad with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

The Rigatoni alla Toto is a simple dish that is fast and flavorful. Basically, an Italian comfort food. The sauce is a little on the thin side and the sausage links are suppose to be the bigger ones but altering the dish to whatever is comfortable is what these recipes are all about. The flavor in both are outstanding and easy weeknight dinners. . .my favorite =D.

Panzanella Tuscan Tomato Bread Salad
Recipe from my friend kukla
8 cups (2 L) day-old, good quality bread, cut into 1 1/2-inch (4 cm) cubes
4 large, ripe, field tomatoes, cored and coarsely chopped (best you can get)
1/2 red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced
1 cup (250 ml) packed fresh basil leaves, slivered
1/4 cup (50 ml) extra-virgin olive oil (the good stuff!)
1 TBSP (15 ml) red wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, peeled and diced
1 tsp (5 ml) kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
In a large bowl, toss bread cubes, tomatoes, onion, cucumber and basil.
Mix the oil, vinegar, garlic, salt, and pepper, pour over the salad and toss again.
Leave the salad at room temperature for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours before serving (to allow all the juices from the cucumber and tomatoes to get soaked into the bread), tossing again 2 or 3 times as it sits.
Rigatoni alla Toto
3 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped (OR shallots, garlic, or combination)
1 lb sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
1 cup dry white wine (or chicken / veggie broth, or combination)
A few fresh, roughly torn, basil leaves
Pinch of ground fennel seed, if using sausage that hasn't any fennel
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 lb rigatoni
1/2 cup grated Parmigiana-Reggiano (fresh is always best)
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
Add the onion (garlic / shallots / combination) and cook until translucent, 3 to 4 minutes.
Add the sausage, brown it on all sides, then add the wine (chicken / veggie broth) and cook for 1 minutes.
Add the basil, ground fennel (if using), and cream, and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes, or until the sausage is cooked through and the sauce is slightly thickened.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the rigatoni in the boiling water until al dente. Drain well and toss with the sauce.
Serve immediately with the Parmigiana-Reggiano and a grinding of black pepper if you like.

Strawberries and Rebecca Sauce

I have had so much trouble passing by fresh strawberries lately. The bright red color and aroma always get me and this last time the strawberries were HUGE and the sweet smell wafted over to me from across the aisle! Now I have the strawberries, what to do. . .?

Dipping the strawberries in something not overly sweet (don't want to mask the strawberry flavor) sounded like the perfect idea. Then I remembered something my Grandma used to make that is super simple. . .almost puts itself together. . .a Rebecca Sauce. This dipping sauce originated from the Galt House Hotel for Derby Day in Louisville, Kentucky. Rebecca sauce completely replaces what strawberries -n-cream used to be~!

Strawberries in Rebecca Sauce
2 c. sour cream
1/2 c. dark brown sugar
1 T. pure vanilla extract
1 T. dark rum or bourbon
Whole strawberries, stem on ~ if you can find them =)


Combine all ingredients, except the strawberries, with a fork and stir until completely smooth. Chill before serving. Use for dipping with whole strawberries.

Note: You can also slice the strawberries, place them in the bottom of dessert goblets or bowls, and top with Rebecca sauce. Chill well before serving. Garnish each with a whole strawberry, and because this is a spring dish, a sprig of mint.

A pound of Butter! For Brownies?

I was hungry for brownies and thought I would try a new recipe from the Barefoot Contessa Cookbook called: Outrageous Brownies! The brownie recipe also called for a pan that was about the size of a jellyroll pan, only with deep sides ~ 13 x 18 x 1 1/2 inches. I went to Sur la Table but to no avail. I did purchase a square cake pan that was 14 x 14 inch and this worked great.

I do feel bad because my brownie blog seems to be coinciding with the TWD blog roll and their brownies. I apoligize for this and all of your brownies look delicious. . .uhmm, I peeked just before blogging BUT decided to blog anyways =D.

On top of having a pound of butter, these brownies have enough chocolate to almost, and I use almost loosely, be too much. 1 pound, 12 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate and 6 ounces of unsweetened chocolate. New discovery? I found out these brownies taste even better after being refrigerated and I can only imagine what they will taste like tomorrow night when I put them into a brownie sundae. I didn't make the sundaes tonight because I forgot the ice cream. . .which was a sad moment for dessert.

The instant coffee gave the dense brownies just a hint of mocha. Very nice, but did I mention rich? I am still looking for the ultimate brownie but if I needed a LARGE chocolate fix, this brownie recipe would do the trick. A 14 x 14 cake pan makes a LOT of brownies.

Outrageous Brownies
by The Barefoot Contessa

1 pound unsalted butter
1 pound plus 12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips, divided
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate
6 extra-large eggs
3 tablespoons instant coffee powder
2 tablespoons real vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided (1 cup for batter and 1/4 cup in the chips and nuts)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 cups diced walnut pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 13 by 18 by 1 1/2-inch sheet pan.
Melt together the butter, 1 pound chocolate chips, and unsweetened chocolate on top of a double boiler. Cool slightly. Stir together the eggs, instant coffee, vanilla and sugar. Stir in the warm chocolate mixture and cool to room temperature.

Stir together 1 cup of the flour, baking powder and salt. Add to cooled chocolate mixture. Toss the walnuts and 12 ounces of chocolate chips with 1/4 cup flour to coat. Then add to the chocolate batter. Pour into prepared pan.

Bake for about 30 minutes, or until tester just comes out clean. Halfway through the baking, rap the pan against the oven shelf to allow air to escape from between the pan and the brownie dough. Do not over-bake! Cool thoroughly, refrigerate well and cut into squares.

These brownies will make excellent ice cream sundaes with lots of fresh whipped cream and more NUTS =D!