Thursday, December 20, 2012

Cookies & Cream Fudge

 I love to make goodies for my family and friends during the holidays.  One thing I love to make is fudge.

 (I had to borrow this picture, because my kids ate the fudge before I had a chance to get a picture of the pieces.  The rest of the pictures are mine.)

I'm talking real, old-fashioned fudge.  Not that the quick stuff with sweetened condensed milk and chocolate chips isn't yummy, but it is rather expensive to make.  I can make old-fashioned fudge using ingredients I have on hand this time of year anyway.  I use the recipes from my Fannie Farmer Cookbook.  The instructions in that cookbook are excellent.  Just do what Fannie says.  It takes some time, but it isn't difficult at all.  Don't try it when you are running tight for time.  Pick an evening when you are going to be hanging around the house.  The mixture takes 30 to 45 minutes to cool enough to mix.

This is the grand total of the ingredients needed.  Sugar, cream, vanilla, salt and chopped sandwich cookies.  I buy the store brand and I used 1/3 of the package.  My kids were happy to eat the rest of them.

Equipment is a factor here.  You can't make candy without a candy thermometer.  Well, you can, but you have to know how to test it in water and that can be messy and tricky.  I also wouldn't recommend making fudge without a stand mixer, unless you happen to work out a lot.  You would need to stir the thick mixture for quite a while.  It takes 7 to 10 minutes with the stand mixer.  Ladies managed to do it in the days before modern kitchen equipment, but I bet they had help with the stirring.  That being said, if you have the equipment go ahead and give it a try.  Your family will love you.

Here is the recipe I used:

Opera Fudge

2 cups sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla

The cookies were my idea.  They aren't listed in Fannie Farmer's Cookbook.

Line an 8 X 8 inch pan with foil and butter thoroughly.

Combine the sugar, cream, and salt in a 3-quart heavy pot, stirring to blend well.  Place over medium heat and, stirring, bring to a boil.  Cover and let boil for 2 to 3 minutes.  Uncover and wash down the sides of the pot with a pastry brush dipped in cold water.  Attach the candy thermometer to the side of the pan and continue to boil over medium heat, without stirring, until the syrup reaches the soft-ball stage (234 degrees F).

Remove the pot to a cooling rack or surface and allow to sit, without stirring, until the temperature reaches lukewarm (110 degrees F).

Using a rubber spatula, scrape the mixture in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Add the vanilla and, using the paddle attachment, beat until creamy.  The fudge will thicken and lose it's glossy look.

Add the chopped cookie bits and mix just to combine.

Spread the mixture into the prepared pan.  Cover with a damp paper towel for 30 minutes and then allow to sit and dry a bit.  Score the top and cover tightly.  This fudge tastes better after sitting overnight.  Store in an air tight container.  

Oh my goodness, was this ever yummy!!  I made more to give my nephew.  He loves those Cookies & Cream candy bars.  I think he will love the fudge.  

I also made the Chocolate Fudge from the Fannie Farmer Cookbook.  It follows the same method, but uses a few more ingredients.

1/4 cup cocoa powder or 2 ounces unsweetened cocoa
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 tablespoons butter, in small pieces
2 teaspoons vanilla

You use the exact same method.  Start by cooking the cocoa, sugar, milk, corn syrup and sugar. This recipe calls for bringing it to a boil over low temperature.  After it reaches 234 degrees, remove it from the heat and drop the butter in.  Do not stir.  Let it cool to 110 degrees.  Put in the mixer and add the vanilla.  Beat until it thickens an loses the glossy look.  

As you can see, fudge isn't difficult.  It just needs time.  When it comes to washing the dishes, let them soak in hot water for a while.  The water will dissolve the sugar and it will be a snap to wash them.

If you order fudge online it costs $11.99 per pound, plus shipping.  Other than the cookies, I just used stuff I already had on hand.  I could have made 3 batches from the bag of cookies.  It tastes just as good and costs far less to make.  Plus you get major points for making something by hand.  

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Chocolate Souffle

Does the term Souffle scare you a little?  It sure scared me when my husband (boyfriend at the time) told me he would like a Chocolate Souffle for his birthday 20 years ago.  His step-mother always made one for him, and he wanted me to pick up the tradition.  Much to my surprise and delight I found it wasn't difficult at all.  The really nice part is you can do most of the work a day or two ahead of time and assemble it at the last minute before putting it into the oven.  It takes over an hour to bake, so it cooks while you eat.  Souffle needs to be served the second it comes out of the oven because it begins to deflate as soon as cold air hits it.

I found a recipe in a Gourmet cookbook and it looked like it would be pretty easy.  I've been using the same recipe ever since.

Chocolate Souffle

2 tablespoons butter
2 (1 ounce) squares of unsweetened chocolate, chopped roughly
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons quick tapioca
2 cups milk
1/8 teaspoon gound mace
3 eggs, plus 1 egg white

Heavy cream for whipping

You must have a double boiler of some sort for this.  I use a sauce pan with a metal bowl set on top. 

Put about 1 inch of water in the bottom of a sauce pan and bring it to a simmer.  In a metal bowl, that will sit on top of the sauce pan, add the chopped chocolate and the butter.  Set the bowl on the sauce pan and allow the chocolate and butter to melt together.  Do not let the bowl touch the hot water.

Stir until well blended.

Mix the flour, salt, sugar and tapioca together.

Add the flour mixture to the chocolate mixture to make a thick paste.

Add the milk gradually and stir to combine.

Now you have to stir the mixture and cook it for about 20 minutes.  This is the only time consuming part, but it can be done a couple of days ahead of time.  Once the base is made you are set until just before it goes into the oven.  After about 20 minutes the mixture will get quite thick.  Remove from the heat and cool to lukewarm if you are going to continue, or cover and refrigerate until you are ready to proceed.

The next thing you have to do is separate your eggs.  You need 4 whites, but 3 yolks.  I just throw the extra yolk away, but you can save it if you have a way to use it.  You can do this part ahead of time too if you have room in your refrigerator to store the two extra bowls.  Make sure the whites go into a bowl large enough for whipping.  They will increase in volume quite a bit.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and butter and flour a round, high casserole or souffle dish.  Add the mace to the chocolate mixture.  Beat the egg yolks until thick and lemony.
Stir the egg yolks into the chocolate mixture.

Clean the beaters thoroughly.  Even a bit of egg yolk will keep the whites from whipping properly.  You want to beat the whites until you have stiff peaks.  Stir a small amount of the whites into the chocolate to lighten it.

After you have mixed the spoonful of whites into the chocolate, fold the chocolate into the remaining egg whites.

You fold by using a rubber spatula to cut across the middle of the mixture and down to the bottom.  Then bring the spatula up the side and over the top.  Turn the bowl 1/4 turn and repeat.  Do this until the chocolate is mixed in, but not so much that you have taken all the air out of the egg whites. 

Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan.  Place a larger pan in the oven and add about 1 inch of hot water.  Put the souffle into that pan and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes.  Whip your cream and have everything ready.  You will serve it as soon as it is done cooking.  I took a picture, but it had already deflated a little by the time I got the camera.  It doesn't affect the taste when it deflates, it just doesn't look as fancy. 

A souffle doesn't require expensive ingredients.  It does take a bit of work, but it is so impressive and very tasty.  There is only a little sugar in it as well, so it is a fairly healthy dessert.  Go ahead, give it a try.  One year my son decided he wanted a blueberry souffle for his birthday.  I gave it a try and it was terrific.  We also love to have cheese souffle for brunch.  Once you try one, you will likly get hooked.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Egg Bread and Sticky Buns (Challah and Schnecken)

Do you have a meal you remember fondly from your childhood? Something your Mom, Grandmother, or Aunt made? I sure do. My favorite meal growing up was my mother's chicken soup with matzah balls (we called them alkies) and her egg bread. There was no greater treat than walking into a house full of those smells. I grew up fascinated watching her make the dough and form the bread. I wish I could tell you her Challah bread recipe had been handed down from her mother, who learned it from her mother, etc. She did learn to make the soup that way, but not the bread. She took a cookbook out of the library when she was a young bride and found this recipe. She was never able to remember the name of the cookbook and never saw it again. She loved all of the recipes she tried. Thank goodness she wrote this one down. I wish I could credit the author, but this was about 50 years ago. I honestly don't know how much is the original recipe and method and how much my mother may have tweaked it over the years. All I know is that it is delicious!

This recipe is laid out in steps. First you proof the yeast, then you mix in some dry ingredients, then the eggs, butter and the rest of the flour go into the bowl. The original recipe makes 4 loaves of bread. I often cut it in half because my KitchenAid mixer isn't large enough to do the full recipe. I will mix up the full recipe,in a huge bowl I have, if I want to put some loaves in the freezer.

Since I use instant yeast and my dough hook, I just put in the dry ingredients from steps one and two, and then add the water from both steps. Then I add the rest of the ingredients from step 3. 
For today I cut this recipe in half. 

Step 1 - Combine and let stand:

1 cup warm water
2 teaspoons sugar
½ teaspoon ground ginger
4 pkgs (2 ¼ tsp each) dry yeast

Step 2 - In another bowl mix:

4 cups flour
1 cup dry milk (optional)
2 cups warm water
1/3 cup sugar

Step 3 - Add yeast mix to flour mix and beat. Add the following:

½ cup soft butter
2 teaspoons salt
4 eggs
4 cups flour


Knead the mixture with 1 cup or more flour until smooth and elastic, about 6 minutes. Place in greased bowl and cover. Allow to rise until doubled. 1 hour on the counter, or using the microwave rise method. I've seen this dough rise in 20 minutes if the conditions are right.

Punch the dough down and form into 2 large or 4 small braided loaves.  Since I cut this recipe in half,  for one loaf of Challah and one batch of sticky buns, I cut the dough in half and cut one half into 3 pieces to use for braids.

I find my braids look nicer if I start braiding in the middle instead of at one end.

Move the loaf to a cookie sheet, cover and allow to rise a second time.
 Brush with egg yolk mixed with a little water. You can sprinkle the loaves with poppy seeds or sesame seeds. Bake at 375 degrees F for 30 minutes or until golden brown. This Challah recipe continues to rise in the oven. Not all breads will do this.
If you are keeping Kosher and want to serve this with meat, leave out the dry milk and use margarine.

It is traditional to braid this dough, but you can form it into regular loaves, rolls or whatever shape you want. It holds a shape very well. I love to use this dough to make sticky buns. I used half of it today to do that very thing.

To make sticky buns you roll one quarter (half of what I made) of the above recipe into a large rectangle. I use my cutting board as a guide, but you want it to be about 12 inches by 18 inches. Remember, when rolling out bread dough it helps to let the dough rest for a minute or two here and there. The gluten will relax and it won't spring back on you if you let it rest.  
Spread softened butter all over the dough and sprinkle with some white sugar, brown sugar and cinnamon. I don't have specific measurements, but you don't want too much of anything. Otherwise they will just be sloppy. I probably use about 1/3 cup of each sugar and about 4 to 5 tablespoons of butter. I use about 2 teaspoons of cinnamon. If you like chocolate chips or raisins, sprinkle some of them on now.
 Then roll the dough up starting with a long end. Cut the dough in half, then cut each half in half. Cut each quarter into 3 pieces. You can put them straight into a pan if you just want cinnamon buns. If you want sticky buns, mix the following and pour it into the bottom of the pan before placing the buns on top.

Mix together in a bowl:

2 tablespoons corn syrup
¾ cup brown sugar, packed
6 tablespoons melted butter
chopped pecans, if you have them and like them.


Allow the sticky buns to rise until doubled and bake in a 350 to 375 degree oven for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown.

I wish you could smell my house right now.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Chicken Tetrazzini, my way.

My sister has a friend who gave her two beautiful heads of golden cauliflower the other day.  My sister gave one to me.  It was a gorgeous color and I wanted to use it when it was fresh.  I had already defrosted two boneless, skinless chicken breasts, so it was time to hunt for a recipe.

There are a number of sites that allow you to put in ingredients and will search recipes using them.  Dole foods has one with a focus on healthy eating.

Another favorite of mine is  This is the website for the Food Network.  You can type your ingredients in the search bar and it will find recipes using them.  This is where I found the Chicken Tetrazzini recipe I used as an outline for my dinner.

Isn't the golden cauliflower pretty?
 Rachael Ray created this recipe and it sounded really yummy. Here are the ingredients she listed.  

  • Kosher salt
  • 1 small head cauliflower
  • 8 ounces extra-wide egg noodles
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter
  • 8 ounces assorted fresh mushrooms or white mushrooms, sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 large or 2 medium shallots, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup dry sherry
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Freshly grated nutmeg
  • 3 to 4 cups shredded Poached Chicken Breasts, recipe follows
  • 1 cup panko
  • 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
    This recipe calls for making a wine cream sauce and baking everything together in a casserole sprinkled with buttered breadcrumbs and Parmigiano-Reggiano.  The only problem was, I didn't have all of these ingredients.  That's o.k. though.  There are many things that can be substituted and still provide you with a very tasty dish. 
    My family doesn't like buttered breadcrumbs on their casseroles.  O.K.  Scratch that right off the list.  I can't afford Parmigiano-Reggiano, but I have regular grated parm.  I don't have fresh parsley, so I just leave it out.  Parlsey looks very nice, but it isn't a strong flavor and likely won't be missed. 
    The major things I didn't have were sherry, heavy cream and shallots. 
    I never have sherry in the house, but I have a bottle of Marsala wine.  We like to make chicken Marsala and usually have some on hand.  For a wine cream sauce, you can safely substitute any white wine you like the taste of.  If you don't drink, use more chicken stock.  Leaving the wine out will change the flavor of the sauce quite a bit.
    Shallots are similar to onions, with a slightly garlicy flavor.  I used one onion and added an additional clove of garlic.
    Heavy cream sure is tasty, but it is very high in calories and fat.  Not to mention I never seem to use it all up before it goes bad.  A terrific alternative to cream is evaporated milk.  It is much lower in calories and fat (you can get evaporated skimmed milk too) and it is shelf stable.  Aldi's had it for $.65 a can today.  It is nice and thick and doesn't usually curdle.  I use it in place of cream for most cooking.  It makes lovely cream soups too. 
    I started out by cooking the cauliflower and poaching the chicken breasts.  I added celery leaves, a couple baby carrots, some onion, salt, pepper and dried thyme into the water when I poached the chicken.  The trick to tender chicken breasts is to not let the water boil.  Bring it up to a simmer and let the chicken poach gently.  If it boils hard the chicken will get tough.
    You can cook the cauliflower and poach the chicken in advance.  You can also use frozen cauliflower and any left-over chicken you have on hand.  I also cooked my pasta while these items cooked.  While everything was simmering, I chopped my mushrooms, onions and garlic.
    I melted 4 tablespoons of butter and started cooking the mushrooms.  When they softenend I added the onions and garlic.
    While these cooked, I drained the cauliflower, the pasta, and cut up the chicken.  Then I washed all those pans, so I didn't have a sink full after dinner.  When the onions were getting see-through, I sprinkled the flour over it all.  The flour and butter cooked together creates a roux.  This will thicken your liquid.
    I cooked them and stirred them together for a minute. 
    Then I added the chicken stock and brought it to a boil, while stirring.  When it started to thicken, I added the 1 cup of evaporated milk.  I let that come back up to a good boil.  I seasoned it with salt and pepper, and a little nutmeg. 
    Then I mixed the cauliflower, chicken, pasta and sauce all togther, poured it into a casserole dish and sprinkled it with greated parm. 

    Into a 400 degree oven it went  for about 30 minutes, and we had a lovely dinner!

    Don't be afraid to adjust recipes to suit your panty and your taste buds.  As you experiment, you will find things that work well and that you like.  Think of recipes as an outline, not something carved in cement.

    Saturday, October 6, 2012

    Homemade Bread In An Hour. Really.

    You honestly can make homemade bread, and have it hot out of the oven, in just about an hour.  In order to do this you do need a couple of things.  Either a mixer with a dough hook or a food processor with a dough blade, and a microwave oven.  If you don't have a mixer or a food processor, add 15 minutes.  If you don't have a microwave, add 1 1/2 to 2 hours.  The microwave rising method is the big time saver here. 

    Here is what the dough hook for the mixer and dough blade for the food processor look like.

    I was lucky enough to get a Kitchen Aid Mixer as a wedding gift, 19 years ago.  I inherited a Cuisinart Food Processor from my husband's step-mother.  I see mixers with dough hooks and food processors with dough blades at Goodwill all the time.  If you don't have one, you can knead the dough by hand.  That takes about 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the dough recipe.
    The other helpful thing to have is either a glass or a silicone bread pan.  These can be put into the microwave for the second rise.  I picked up a silicone one at Goodwill for $.99.
    A basic white bread recipe will take about 1 hour, from start to finish.  Some whole grain recipes will take longer to rise and bake, just because the dough is heavier.  Those doughs can take an additional half hour, or so. 
    The bread I made here is a basic white bread recipe from the Fanny Farmer Cookbook.
    2 Tablespoons shortening
    1 1/2 teaspoons salt
    2 Tablespoons sugar
    1 cup hot milk
    1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) yeast
    6 cups of white flour, you may not need that much.

    My method obviously varies from the published recipe.  I also cut back on the salt.  The original recipe calls for 2 1/2 teaspoons.  I don't like my bread to taste salty, so I cut out a teaspoon.  I also use instant or quick yeast.  I buy it in bulk and keep it in the freezer.  Instant yeast doesn't need to be proofed in warm water.  You just add it in with the flour and add 1/4 cup of warm water into the recipe when adding the milk. 

    This recipe produces a classic white bread, the sandwich type.  Adding shortening to a recipe will soften the bread.  If you want a crusty white bread, don't choose a recipe with shortening.

    Fill a teakettle and put it on to boil.  You will need 1 cup of boiling water to put in the microwave when the dough is rising.

    Start by putting the shortening into a glass measuring cup and melting it in the microwave.  I melt the shortening before adding the milk because I found this to be quicker.  If you add the milk with the shortening, it takes longer for the shortening to melt.  I heat the shortening on high for 1 1/2 minutes.  I have an old microwave, so it may take less time in yours.  Then I pour the milk into the same cup.  It looks funny, but that is just the shortening.


    Put the milk and shortening back into the microwave for 1 minute.  While this heats, measure 3 cups of flour, the sugar, salt and yeast into the mixer or food processor.  I'm going to give directions using the mixer, but I'll add food processor directions for mixing and kneading at the end.

    Add the 1/4 cup warm water and the milk/shortening mixture into the mixer bowl, fitted with the dough hook.  Put the mixer on to medium and let it begin mixing.

    Let the mixer run until the flour is incorporated.  It will still be very sticky.
    Continue adding additional flour, 2 tablespoons at a time, until the dough isn't sticky.  Let the flour mix in all the way before adding more.   In this next picture you can see the dough is still sticking to the bottom of the bowl.
    When you have added enough flour, the dough won't stick to the bottom of the bowl and it will begin to clean the sides of the bowl.
    Let the dough continue to knead for a few more minutes.  The total process of mixing and kneading takes about 10 minutes.  When the dough is ready it won't stick to your fingers when you touch it and it should feel smooth and elastic. 
    Put the dough into a microwave safe bowl that has been sprayed with cooking spray.  Flip it over once, so both side are coated with oil
    Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put it into the microwave with 1 cup of boiling water.  Make sure the water is in a microwave safe cup as well.
    Next comes the microwave rising method.  It is essential you follow these directions exactly, and that you set the power to 10% or warm.  Anything higher than 10%/warm and you will cook the dough.
    Set your microwave to cook for 3 minutes on 10% or warm.  My microwave is older and only has a warm button.  I can't adjust the percentage.  Please check your manual if you don't know how to adjust the settings on your microwave
    After the 3 minutes are up, leave the door closed and allow the dough to rest for 3 minutes.  I set the kitchen timer on the microwave.  After the 3 minutes of rest are up, set it to heat for 3 minutes on 10% or warm again. 
    Leave the door closed and let the dough rest for 6 minutes.  That is it.  Check the dough by poking it with your finger.  If the indentation stays and it looks bigger, it is done.  Once in a while I will get a dough that doesn't seem to have risen enough.  Usually it is a whole grain dough that does this.  I will just set it for 3 minutes on 10% or warm again, and let it sit another 6 minutes.  This has always worked for me. 
    Set your oven to preheat to 375 degrees.
    At this point you form your dough into whatever shape you want.  I have found my loaves rise more if I pat the dough into a rectangle and roll it up from short end to short end before putting it into a bread pan.  I don't know why this works, but it does.  You can also just form it into a log and drop it into a bread pan.  Then simply repeat the microwave rise method.  Remember to cover the dough with plastic again.  After the second rise, the dough should look like this.
     You can see the dough is above the top of the bread pan.  I like to put the silicone bread pan on a cookie sheet.  It is just easier to get it out of a hot oven like that.  Put the bread into the oven and let it bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until golden brown.  If you have a convection oven, it will cook a bit faster.
    If you want a nice, soft crust rub the top of the bread with butter while it is hot. 
    Fresh, homemade, hot bread in just about 1 hour.  How can you beat that?  Sorry that last picture is a little fuzzy.  I was excited and hungry!
    If you don't have a mixer or a food processor, you can mix and knead the bread by hand.  It will take about 15 minutes to knead it on a floured counter.  Add flour a little at a time, until it is smooth and elastic and not sticky. 
    Here are the directions for mixing and kneading in a food processor:
    You want to use cold liquid ingredients instead of warm.  This is because of the heat from the processing blade.  Put the dough blade into the machine.  Add the dry ingredients (3 cups of flour) and pulse to mix. Add the shortening and pulse to cut it into the flour.  Add the wet ingredients and mix until the dough comes together.  Allow the dough to rest for 15 minutes.  After 15 minutes, add 2 Tablespoons of flour and pulse to incorporate.  Add more flour and pulse until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and is smooth.
    This method takes a few more minutes than the mixer and the dough hook, but it is still quick and easy.
    The first few times you make bread this way, it will probably take you a little longer than an hour.  As you get familiar with the process, you will speed up.  If you love hot, fresh bread this is the way to go.  Of course, if you want to make rolls you can form them after the first rise and let them rise on a cookie sheet or a larger pan for 45 minutes to an hour, the traditional way.  My microwave isn't large enough for a large pan or cookie sheet to fit in it.   Either way, you can have homemade bread just about any time you want it by using the microwave for rising the dough.