The Ultimate Ice Cream Sandwich

In last night’s French Cooking Class, what started and ended the class was the Profiterole.  Once everyone got settled in, we began making the pate choux dough.  I think if I was ambidexterous, and if I chose to make pate choux every day for about 10 years, I might have some really good looking upper arms.  Stir, stir, stir

When my guests left, and my daughter (aka, the dishwasher) made her way home, I was left to indulge in what I decided was the ultimate ice cream sandwich.

Profiteroles

A profiterole is the shell of a cream puff – pate choux dough, filled with ice cream.  From there, use your imagination.  Any ice cream, gelato, etc.  A dusting of powdered sugar, perhaps.  Chocolate Ganache – YES!  The iterations are limitless.  Coffee ice cream and Ganache.  Butter Pecan ice cream and Caramel, oh, yeah.  Add some grilled peaches?  Oh, my!

So easy is the Pate Choux dough that I believe making it should be a lesson right after scratch brownies and before a basic cake in what a home chef passes along to every man, woman and child they come in contact with.  A slightly passionate statement – maybe.

But Pate Choux is not just for desserts.  Skip the sugar and these vessels are perfect little puffs for chicken salad at a party.  Stir in some gruyere cheese and chives and you have Gougeres – airy little appetizers wonderful with bubbly.  Use a larger puff and fill it with chicken pot pie filling or beef stew.

Hello!  Your Tum-Tum is calling!

Another great thing about Pate Choux – make them ahead and freeze.  Last minute appetizer, main dish or dessert when your thinking and working in advance.

Let’s break it down:

Pate Choux Dough

  • 1 cup of unbleached, all purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbls sugar (if the product is being used for sweet applications)
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter
  • 4 whole eggs – must be at room temperature

Whisk together the flour, salt and sugar.  Bring the milk and butter to a boil in a medium saucepan.  Once the milk boils, dump the flour mixture, all at once into the milk.  Stir, stir, stir!  Cook for 1 – 2 more minutes, while stirring constantly.  The dough will form and pull away from the sides of the pan and the wooden spoon that you’re using.  Remove from the heat.  you’ll see a film of cooked crust on the bottom of the pan.  Allow the dough to cool slightly while you make yourself busy doing something else – 5 minutes or so.

Best to have a strong partner at this point.  Add an egg to the dough and stir, stir, stir.  You need to be sure that the egg is completely integrated into the dough before you add another egg; stir, stir, stir.  Repeat until the four eggs are incorporated.

Shovel the dough into a large pastry bag with a plain, round tip.  If you don’t have one of these, use a heavy duty ziplock bag with a corner snipped off.  The opening should be about 3/4 of an inch in diameter.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and pre-heat your oven to 400.

Pipe the dough into twelve to 15 rounds.  Try to get them as even as possible.  Use a slightly wet finger tip to press down any points on the rounds so they don’t burn while baking.

Bake for 10 minutes, then rotate the pan so the puffs bake evenly.  Bake an additonal 15-20 minutes until a medium golden brown.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Carefully pull the top back, or slice them open.  Pull out any doughy center and return to the oven to dry the interior out a bit.  Just a few minutes should do it.

This step isn’t completely necessary, but it can eliminate that ‘eggy’ taste, which some people find objectionably.

Once completely cool, fill with ice cream and serve with chocolate ganache or your favorite ice cream sauce.  A dusting of powdered sugar and a sprig of mint completes the plate scape.

Enjoy!

Banana Wraps, Granola and Chocolate Chips

What some people won’t do to get their kids off to a school on time!  Today started with a TV spot on WHAS-11.  A tweet from Rachel Platt ended the segment where you can see some of the breakfast ideas for kids on their first day back to school.

Back to school breakfasts are very much like weekday dinners, in that you surely must have your pantry stocked in order to pull them off with grace and speed.  Take the Banana Wrap.  Not an original idea by any means, but one worth visiting if the concept is new to your family.   A child of primary school age can certainly make their own Banana Wrap along with yogurt and granola.  And, they will love the idea of holding the banana in a wrapper and enjoying it like, well, a monkey. Maybe we should call them Monkey Wraps!

Ideas for your breakfast pantry – they’re not just for kids.

Peanut, almond or sunflower butter

Whole Grain Wraps/Tortillas – great for lunches too.

Fresh whole fruit

Bananas – when too ripe to eat, slice and freeze for smoothies.  Frozen bananas make the thickest, richest tasting smoothies

Granola – home made is best or visit a Farmers’ Market near you for a great, local selection from Full Heart Farms

Milk, Soy or Almond Milk

Eggs

Dried Fruits, peanuts, sunflower seeds and chocolate chips for trail mix

Whole Grain Breads, Pita – keep in the freezer to prolong life

Salad greens – yep, salad greens – if your kids eat salads, breakfast is a great time to add in more veggies to their diets.  Stuff a salad into a pita and add some fresh minced strawberries or peaches and skip the dressing.

Yogurt, skim milk or almond milk for smoothies

Banana Wraps

For each wrap, you will need:

  • 1/2 banana
  • 1 whole grain tortilla
  • 2 Tbls peanut butter, soy butter or sunflower seed butter
  • 1 Tbls or so chocolate chips, dried fruits, etc.

Place the tortilla on a cutting board and spread with the nut butter.  sprinkle with chocolate chips.  Lay the banana on the tortilla and wrap it up.  Cut in half, if desired.

Enjoy!

Soup from Leftovers

I love soup.  And, despite the fact that it is upwards of 80 degrees outside, I’ve just finished a small pot of Creamy Broccoli Soup.  The Broccoli was leftover from a dinner late last week.  There’s probably only enough for two more bowls full, but I felt good about using up something that might eventually made it to the compost pile.

Imagine the renditions of this pureed vegetable soup…  Asparagus, cauliflower, lima bean, potato or maybe even corn.  Yes, corn, that will be my next attempt; with a bit of spicy salsa as a garnish.

The secret to using very little cream, yet producing a rich tasting pureed soup is to use only enough stock or broth to cover the vegetables.  Too much liquid will result in thin, watery soup.

Creamy Broccoli Soup

  • 2 Tbls olive oil
  • 1/2 cup minced onion
  • 1/2 cup minced celery
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 3 cups cooked, leftover broccoli (or another vegetable)
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • Pinch of dried tarragon
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream

In a 2-3 quart saucepan, saute the onion and celery in 2 Tbls olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper and cook until the vegetables have softened.  Add the garlic, broccoli, broth and tarragon.  Cook for about 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are very soft.

Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth.  Add the cream and puree.  I find it best to tilt the pan, and keep the head of the blender underneath the surface of the soup.  Garnish with a bit of cheese or a crispy crouton.

Enjoy!

Pasta e Fagioli

The other day, I had the chance to sit in one of my favorite lunch places and reminisce  about a bowl of Pasta e Fagioli.  Sipping on a hot, fresh cup of coffee, the question that was pressing for me was; “What’s the soup of the Day?”  When the returned answer was Pasta e Fagioli, my menu choice was made.  I smiled, asked for crusty bread to accompany the soup and settled in to recall my first trip down Zuppa lane.

A few years into my experience of teaching cooking classes, I looked at every opportunity to partner with other small businesses to bring a new concept to our collective publics.  Working at the Farmers’ Market in St. Matthews, my next booth neighbor was Justin Gilbert of the locally famous Gelato Gilberto.  We talked about his experiences in Italy and before you know it, we’d agreed to partner in offering a few Italian Cooking Classes in his home.

Justin’s home just wasn’t any home, but a three story, cozy condo in Norton Commons.  Above his Gelato Gilberto business, his family enjoyed their perch above the little village in Prospect.  We tried a few classes in his shop and a few in his and his family’s cucina at the top of the stairs.

It was up those winding stairs that the magic of food and friendship took place.  We began the evening with some antipasti, the details, I don’t remember.  What sticks in my mind and what I thought quietly about that day last week in Blue Dog Bakery and Cafe was the Panzanella Salad, the Pasta d Fagioli and the Gelato.

Patricia Wells, one of my favorite cookbook authors says: ‘there are about as many versions of pasta and bean soup as there are cooks…varies from a broth-like bean soup to a creamy bean puree…’  The one I had at Blue Dog, and the one that I make (although different) are of the brothy variety.  Tonight, we are sharing my version, along with a homemade loaf of bread and, I am sure a few glasses of vino.

Pasta e Fagioli

  • 2-3 oz. of finely diced Pancetta
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 2-3 ribs celery, diced
  • 1/2 cup or more diced carrot
  • 2 Tbls olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • pinch crushed red pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 6 cups vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1 cup, or more diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup uncooked pasta, or two cups cooked pasta
  • 3 cups cannelini beans, undrained – if canned*

Begin by preparing the diced vegetables.  Drizzle the olive oil into a stock pot.  Add the onion and Pancetta and begin to saute.  Once the onion has softened, add the celery and carrot and cook until the onion is translucent and the celery and carrot have begun to soften up a bit.  Season with salt and pepper and add the pinch of crushed red pepper and bay leaf.  Add the stock and tomatoes.  Bring to a simmer.  Add the pasta and cook until al dente.  add the cooked beans.

Heat the soup until completely hot and the pasta the perfect consistency.

For, me, I love a sprinkling of fresh Parmigiano cheese, fresh grated black pepper and some basil chiffonade.

*It’s easy to cook beans from their dried state, but they do take a bit of a watchful eye and time.  See my blog post about cooking beans, January 12, 2009.

Enjoy!

National Cookie Month

I sometimes imagine that I have the power to make big things happen. It routinely gets me into trouble. At home. At work. But in my little corner of the world, and if I had the power, I would make January National Cookie Month. It might seem odd that I would chose January. After all, December is most likely the month that most cookies are baked. Holiday cookies. Take a look around and see all the magazines that are produced for December distribution. Cooking Shows and Cookie Exchanges, all in December.

December is way too busy a month for me to bake all the cookies that I desire. Many times, I do bake dozens! In some memorable years, I’ve been know to bake hundreds of dozens. The problem is, of course, that I don’t have time to eat them. They are usually given away or devoured by others anyway. January is my time to bake and eat cookies.

This January, I have a new favorite cookie to share. It’s been on my mind since I found the recipe in a special publication called Food Gifts. Sorry to tell you that you probably won’t be able to find the magazine any longer on the book shelves. It’s display date ended on December 10th. But, I am sharing the delicious recipe (well, my rendition) with you, and will keep you alerted to other inspirations of the print variety.

The name of the recipe ‘Toffee-Pecan Chippers in a Jar’ drew me in right away. The picture of the layered cookie mix was cutely staged. I built the jarred cookie mix in a class in early December, but didn’t actually mix the cookies up until Christmas Eve, when my schedule for dessert baking was evaporating and I was getting desperate. Since Christmas Eve, I’ve baked these cookies three times. They are that good.

You might be able to imagine that I didn’t make the recipe exactly as prescribed. The changes I made relate to my desire to put coconut oil in lots of different baked goods (see my post on My Morning Muffin). Coconut oil gives wonderful texture to muffins, cookies and even cakes. I generally substitue about 1/2 of the butter or oil in a recipe for coconut oil. I no longer use Crisco shortning in pie crusts, substituting half butter and half coconut oil. The results are delectable.

Toffee-Pecan Chippers

2 Tbls butter
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups White Whole Wheat Flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup Heath Bar crumbles
1/3 cup coconut
1/3 cup chopped nuts or sunflower seeds

Directions:

Cream together the fats and sugars.  Add the egg and vanilla and mix until smooth.  Add the remaining ingredients and stir in with a wooden spoon.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Scoop the cookies into mounds onto a parchment lined baking sheet.  Use your fingers to press the mounds into flattened discs. (This helps the cookies bake more uniformly.)

Bake for 5 minutes, then spin the cookie sheets around (left to right).  Bake for another 3-5 minutes.  Baking time relates to the individual oven, so be prepared to watch the cookies closely.  You’ll see the cookies puff and dry slightly on top and become golden brown on the edges next to the pan.

Remove the cookies from the oven and allow to cool completely on the pan.  This gives the cookie a chance to continue to crisp up on the outside, yet stay chewy on the inside.  That, my friend, is a description of the perfect cookie!

If you’re baking all the cookies at once, you’ll most likely need two baking sheets.  I like to give my cookies aboout 2″ between each one so that they bake evenly and crisp up nicely.

Enjoy!

My Morning Muffin

Can the perfect muffin make a difference in how your day goes?  Well, so far today, I believe that it can.  Groggy with sleep, I finally got out of bed at 8:30, jarred by Brie’s barking. Already an hour and 1/2 behind my schedule, I stumbled into the kitchen and eyed the muffins I baked yesterday.  Things were looking up.  Figured, if I was going to enjoy a muffin, I might as well have some coffee.  If you give a mouse a cookie…

Taking a bite of the muffin while waiting on the coffee was my only mistake today (so far).  The muffin was gone before the water got hot.  The coffee was good on its own too.  Now fully awake, I began opening windows and doors.  Beautiful day.  Birds are tweeting, chipmunks are chipping, the sunshine and breeze in perfect harmony.  All because of a perfect muffin.  Life is so in balance.  These muffins will make your day too.

I began a new experiment a few months ago with the purchase of a bag of Trader Joe’s White Whole Wheat Flour.  I am a baking snob.  I will always be a baking snob.  I have intermittently played with whole wheat flour in cookies and used a partial measure of it in muffins and quick breads over time. I never would have thought that a Whole Wheat flour could replace my standard, unbleached, all purpose flour.  This flour pretty much does just that.  I’ve been using it (WWW) in cookies, muffins, breads and even pizza crust.  Convinced, that’s me.

Don’t get me wrong, WWW won’t be in my angel food cake recipe, nor will I use it next week when I bake my husband’s German Chocolate Birthday cake.  But, day to day, we’ve made a commitment to use whole grains, so that’s what I do.

The other surprise ingredients in my muffin recipe are pumpkin, coconut oil, flax seed meal, golden flax seeds and natural sugar.  You’ll find most of these ingredients at either Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods. 

Don’t you just hate it when someone tells you to go shopping before you can even begin to prepare a recipe? These are great ingredients that you can use over and over, and have a long shelf life.  Maybe you’ll love these muffins enough to bake them multiple times.  Spread the love to your neighbors and friends.

Whole Grain Pumpkin – Chocolate Chip Muffins

Makes about 30 standard size muffins

Whisk together:

  • 3 3/4 cups WWW (White Whole Wheat Flour)
  • 3/4 cup whole oats
  • 1/2 cup flax seed meal
  • 2 Tablespoons + 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • finely grated zest from 2 oranges (thoroughly wash before grating)

Cream with an electric mixer:

  • 2 cups natural sugar (substitute granulated sugar, if you like)
  • 6 oz coconut oil* (sub canola or olive oil)
  • 1 stick (4oz) unsalted butter

Add to creamed mixture:

  • 6 whole eggs
  • Juice from the 2 oranges
  • 1 15 oz can pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)

Once the eggs, juice and pumpkin are thoroughly mixed in, use a wooden spoon or spatula to gently mix in the combined dry ingredients. Add:

  • 2 cups chocolate chips

Set the oven at 350 degrees.  Use paper liners for 30 muffins.  Scoop the batter into the cups.

Make a crumb topping by mixing:

  • 1/2 cup WWW flour
  • 1/3 cup natural sugar
  • 2 Tbls flax seeds
  • 1 Tbls melted butter or oil

Sprinkle the crumb topping over the muffin batter, then bake for about 15-20 minutes, or until the center springs back when lightly touched.

*Coconut oil – while the central point of this post is to highlight the versatility of the WWW, coconut oil has become an indispensable item in my pantry.  It has successfully replaced solid shortening in my pie crust, and is the only oil that I will pop corn with.  Thanks to Pam Jones, CHHC, for indoctrinating me into the coconut oil hall of praise. 

Enjoy!

 

 

It’s Hard to Eat 13 Servings of Fruits and Veggies…

… If you don’t start with Breakfast!

Every week since the first of the year, I am finding new inspiration to ‘eat my veggies’.  Most recently, a youtube video by a doctor whose MS was reversed by completely changing her food plan.  The key, Dr. Terry Wahls says is to eat three huge platefuls of leafy greens per day.  Kale is touted as being the most nutritious green helping us to make these cellular changes.  Take a few minutes and watch this video – you won’t regret it.

Back to Breakfast.  My first inkling that eating something green for breakfast was during my days at Breadworks.  We made wonderful salads with a great mix of field greens, brightly colored peppers, onions and seeds.  Topped with a conservative amount of cheddar cheese and drizzled with a bit of balsamic vinaigrette, it was tasty.  Crunchy, sweet, savory, acidic and satisfying.  But, I have to admit that I was pretty surprised that one of my regular customers was eating it for breakfast!  Once she explained, I thought: “why not?”

Years have past, but I still try to take a routine stab at adding veggies to breakfast.  Sure, it’s easy to add left over vegetables to an omelet, but more recently, I’ve gone a different route. With a selection of veggies and greens almost always in the fridge, I’ve decided to broaden the experiment.  I was never one to really ‘love’ breakfast food, unless of course, if I can ‘love’ my chocolate chip cookies with my morning coffee.  So why not cook foods that we think of as lunch and dinner foods for breakfast?

I’ll not give up on the breakfast salad that I introduced at Breadworks, but lots of times, I want a warm, filling plate in the morning.  So, here are a few of my new favorite things:

Steamed Kale with leftover potatoes, sauteed with a bit of olive oil and red onion

Roasted peppers, tomatoes and eggplant over a steaming mound of polenta

Stir fried rice with egg and minced peppers, mushrooms, green onion and jalapeno

Arugula, with a simple dressing made from red wine vinegar and olive oil, with pistachios thrown on for protein.  Adding a piece of whole grain toast with a bit of shaved Parmesan will let you think you might just be in Tuscany for Breakfast.

Visit a previous post of mine: ‘Stir Fried Rice Makes Good Use of Leftovers’ for the details of making the fried rice. For Breakfast, I usually streamline the process by just doing the egg, some veggies and a little sesame oil.

Enjoy!