Wednesday, April 28, 2010

We finished watching 'Julie and Julia' and was inspired ...

to try out Julia's recipe to make Boeuf Bourguignon, from her cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Everyone in the family pitched in to help create this special dish. The little guy is slowly learning his knife skills and the older one gets to lightly toss the meat in flour. Hubby gets to saute up the vegetables with the meat in the 'Dutch Oven', while I get to continue to brown up the chunks of beef chuck. Cooking together has it's benefits after a long day at school and work, in the end we all get to eat the fruit of our labor. A delicious meal to fill our hungry tummies.

6 ounces bacon
1 Tbsp. olive oil or cooking oil
3 pounds lean stewing beef , cut into 2-inch cubes
1 sliced carrot
1 sliced onion
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
2 Tbsp. flour
3 cups full-bodied, young red wine , such as a Chianti
2 to 3 cups brown beef stock or canned beef bouillon
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
2 cloves mashed garlic
1/2 tsp. thyme
Crumbled bay leaf
Blanched bacon rind
18 to 24 small white onions , brown-braised in stock
1 pound quartered fresh mushrooms , sautéed in butter
Parsley sprigs


Remove rind from bacon, and cut bacon into lardons (sticks, 1/4 inch thick and 1 1/2 inches long). Simmer rind and bacon for 10 minutes in 1 1/2 quarts of water. Drain and dry.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Sauté the bacon in the oil over moderate heat for 2 to 3 minutes to brown lightly. Remove to a side dish with a slotted spoon. Set casserole aside. Reheat until fat is almost smoking before you sauté the beef.

Dry the stewing beef in paper towels; it will not brown if it is damp. Sauté it, a few pieces at a time, in the hot oil and bacon fat until nicely browned on all sides. Add it to the bacon.

In the same fat, brown the sliced vegetables. Pour out the sautéing fat.

Return the beef and bacon to the casserole and toss with the salt and pepper. Then sprinkle on the flour and toss again to coat the beef lightly with the flour. Set casserole uncovered in middle position of preheated oven for 4 minutes. Toss the meat and return to oven for 4 minutes more. (This browns the flour and covers the meat with a light crust.) Remove casserole, and turn oven down to 325 degrees.

Stir in the wine, and enough stock or bouillon so that the meat is barely covered. Add the tomato paste, garlic, herbs, and bacon rind. Bring to simmer on top of the stove. Then cover the casserole and set in lower third of preheated oven. Regulate heat so liquid simmers
very slowly for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.

While the beef is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms. Set them aside until needed.

When the meat is tender, pour the contents of the casserole into a sieve set over a saucepan. Wash out the casserole and return the beef and bacon to it. Distribute the cooked onions and mushrooms over the meat.

Skim fat off the sauce. Simmer sauce for a minute or two, skimming off additional fat as it rises. You should have about 2 1/2 cups of sauce thick enough to coat a spoon lightly. If too thin, boil it down rapidly. If too thick, mix in a few tablespoons of stock or canned bouillon. Taste carefully for seasoning. Pour the sauce over the meat and vegetables. Recipe may be completed in advance to this point.

For immediate serving: Cover the casserole and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce several times. Serve in its casserole, or arrange the stew on a platter surrounded with potatoes, noodles, or rice, and decorated with parsley.

For later serving: When cold, cover and refrigerate. About 15 to 20 minutes before serving, bring to the simmer, cover, and simmer very slowly for 10 minutes, occasionally basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce.

Bon Appetit!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Yesterday, I attended the Washington State Sugar Artist 2010 Annual Cake and Confectionary Show...

it's exciting to attend my first cake and confectionary show. I got to see my friend Barb compete in her first cake competition. She is another cake and chocolate enthusiast who enjoys making cakes and working with chocolate as a hobby. I was amazed at the popularity and the fabulous cakes and sugar art entries submitted at the competition.

The cake show had a variety of cake artist demo their 'talent'. I learned about a new medium call Chocolate clay to do modeling and create edible structure that would not normally hold up with fondant. There were demos on designing and how to build structure for extreme cake designs and working with hot sugar.

All it all, it was a good day of learning at the show and I got to gather many more tips to expand my interest in the hobby of sugar art.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Saturday morning fun...

making homemade pretzels with the kids. I had a sour dough starter sitting in my frig for a long while, it looked like it was time to throw it out, it had this grayish alcohol smelling liquid floating on top of the doughy mixture. I dumped the liquid down the sink and scooped out the doughy mixture into a plastic container, added some flour and some water and gave it a good mixing (looked like pancake batter), covered it with plastic and left it on the counter over night. Lo and behold, the next morning, the doughy batter was all bubbly, it was still alive! So our fun begins. We doubled our recipe to make about a dozen pretzels.

Pretzel Recipe: Makes 6 pretzels

5 oz water, lukewarm
.2 oz fresh yeast
4 oz Sourdough starter
1/2 tablespoon honey
10 oz bread flour
.2 oz kosher salt
1 oz granulated sugar

coarse sea salt for dusting or cinnamon and sugar
1 stick butter, melted

1. Dissolve yeast in lukewarm water.
2. In a mixing bowl, whisk together dissolved yeast, sourdough starter and honey.
3. In a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine bread flour, salt and sugar with the yeast mixture on low speed until it forms a rough ball, about 2 minutes.
4. Switch to medium speed and mix until dough feels firm and bouncy to the touch, about 8 minutes.
5. Place dough on a lightly floured surface and knead until the dough forms a smooth ball.
6. Place dough in a bowl lightly coated wih pan spray, cover loosely with plastic and let it rest util double in size.
7. Portion the dough into 4 oz pieces.
8. Roll each piece into a rope 24" long, shape like a pretzel by forming an 8 shape with 2 loose ends of rope hanging in the center. Set aside and allow pretzels to rest for 30 minutes or so.

Baking Soda Hot water bath
1/3 cup baking soda
4 cups Hot water

Preheat oven to 375 Degrees F.

9. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
10. Dip pretzels in to Baking soda hot water bath and set on baking sheets leave at least 2" between pretzels.
11. Bake for 10 minutes and rotate tray of pretzels around and bake until light golden brown approximately 5-10 minutes or so.
12. Brush pretzels with melted butter. Optional: sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar.


Saturday, April 17, 2010

I couldn't pass up Bon Appetit's May 2010 issue...

our family has a weakness for pasta and bacon. And this one was no exception, the cover of the May 2010 issue of Bon Appetit feature a photo of a delicious plate of fettuccine with asparagus, peas and pancetta. Pancetta is the Italian version of you guess it, BACON. We ran out of time to make fresh fettuccine, instead we had 2 bags of organic penne pasta. Next time we try this recipe again, we'll make some fresh fettuccine. It turned out pretty easy and quick to make and the kids just loved it. We served it with some warmed crusty bread from Macrina Bakery.

12 ounces fettuccine or penne
3 ounces pancetta or bacon, chopped
1 1/4 pounds asparagus, trimmed, cut on diagonal into 1-inch pieces
2 cups shelled fresh green peas, blanched 1 minute in boiling water, drained, or frozen peas (do not thaw)
1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced, white and pale green parts separated from dark green parts
2 garlic cloves, pressed
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese plus additional for serving
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon peel
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley, divided
1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil, divided

Cook pasta in pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup pasta cooking liquid. Return pasta to pot.

Meanwhile, cook pancetta in large nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp. Using slotted spoon, transfer pancetta to paper towels to drain. Pour off all but 1 teaspoon drippings from skillet. Add asparagus to drippings in skillet; sauté 3 minutes. Add peas, white and pale green parts of green onions, and garlic; sauté until vegetables are just tender, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

Add vegetable mixture, 1/4 cup pasta cooking liquid, dark green parts of green onions, 1/2 cup Parmesan, cream, olive oil, lemon juice, lemon peel, half of parsley, and half of basil to pasta. Toss, adding more cooking liquid by tablespoonfuls if needed. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Transfer to large bowl. Sprinkle pancetta, remaining parsley, and basil over. Serve, passing additional Parmesan cheese.

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Sunday, April 4, 2010

A Master Recipe for Sweet Bread ...

to make many type of yummy sweet buns. This recipe was my first introduction to making wonderful breads. It has been well tested with my family, friends and coworkers, in the first few months after my class with King Arthur flour, I made 12 batches of this dough, mainly in the form of cinnamon rolls. While attending baking class at Le Cordon Bleu, I learned another simple sweet dough recipe, but my original recipe is still hands down the best according to the kids who are my best taste testers when it comes to eating cinnamon buns. So here it is for you to try.

Makes 2 loaves or one 9 X 13 pan of cinnamon buns

4 1/2 tsp active dry yeast or 4 tsp instant yeast
1/2 cup warm water (95 deg F)
1 tsp sugar
1/2 cup All Purpose Flour (King Arthur brand)

1 cup whole milk, scalded
1/4 cup butter
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs, lightly beaten
4 1/2 to 5 1/2 cups All purpose flour

2 tbsp butter, softened
1/2 cup brown suger, firmly packed
1 tbsp cinnamon


1 jar Nutella
2-4 oz finely chopped dark chocolate


In a small bowl, combine the yeast, warm water, 1 tsp sugar and 1/2 cup flour. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm area until bubbly and very active about 10 - 15 minutes.

Scald milk, pour into large mixing bowl, add butter, salt, vanillar and beaten eggs. Stir to melt the butter. When the mixture is lukewarm, add in the yeast mixture and mix together.

Add flour, one cup at a time, until the dough comes cleanly away from the sides of the bowl. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and scrape out the bowl. Lightly oil the bowl and set aside.

Knead the dough, using only enough flour to keep the dough from sticking to your hands and the board. The dough should be soft and pliable, and not sticky. (The secret to a soft, tender bread is a soft dough.)

Place dough into the oiled bowl, turn to oil all surfaces and cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place for about 45 minutes or until doubled. Punch down dough and round into a ball.

Roll dough out into a rough rectangle roughly about 12 X 9 inches and 1/4 inch thick. At this point you can spread on the brown sugar, butter and cinnamon filling for cinnamon rolls or break open a jar of 'Nutella' and spread it on, then sprinkle over that with chopped dark chocolate. Roll up like a jelly roll, starting with the long side. Cut the roll into 12 slices at least 1 inch wide. Place the slices, cut side down in a prepared 9 X 13 pan. Cover with plastic and let rise until doubled. Brush the tops of the buns with milk. Bake in a preheated 350 degrees F oven for 20 to 22 minutes or until golden brown.