Thursday, December 16, 2010

Peppermint Bark

This makes a great gift for almost anyone!  The combination of dark chocolate with a dash of white chocolate and some crunchy bits of mint is a perfect holiday treat.

You will need:

6 oz. dark chocolate (70-72% cacao)
2 oz. white chocolate
1 candy cane

parchment paper or foil
cookie sheet or cutting mat/board

Bring two pots of with 2 inches of water to a boil.  Turn down to a low simmer.  Break chocolate into smaller chunks and place in a metal bowl big enough to sit on the rim of the pot without touching the water (dark chocolate in one bowl, white chocolate in another).

In a small baggy, break a candy cane into small pieces by hitting it with a spoon.  Then set aside.

Using a cutting board, mat, or cookie sheet cover with parchment paper or aluminum foil and begin to spread melted dark chocolate layer out first.

Spread to an even thickness,  approximately 8 by 5 inch rectangle.

Next, drizzle the white chocolate in a zigzag pattern across the dark chocolate.

Sprinkle with the broken candy bits, and place it the refrigerator for 10 minutes or so, until hardened.  

When firm, break into pieces and fill gift bags.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Cranberry-orange Scones

Okay, so I said all this last time we made scones.  But it's important.  So I'll say it again:
The ideal scone should be crisp outside and flaky inside; it should not be cake-like in texture. Scones are made from a few simple, basic ingredients, but it’s the way those ingredients are worked together that separates the ordinary from the exceptional scone.  The key to flaky scones is to mix the dough as little as possible, keeping the butter in large chunks.  Using cold butter helps to keep it from blending too much with the flour, thus allowing it to melt and bubble its way through the dough once put into a hot oven.

2 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3oz. (6 Tbsp) cold butter, cut into cubes
1/2 cup dried cranberries, chopped
1 Tbsp chopped orange zest

3/4 cup heavy cream
2 egg yolks

For topping before baking:
1/2 cup extra cream for brushing
small bowl of sugar for sprinkling

Position an oven rack in the lower third of the oven and heat the oven to 400 degrees.  Line a heavy baking sheet with parchment.  In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. 

Cut in the butter with a pastry blender or two butter knives until the largest pieces of butter are about the size of peas.

Add orange zest and cranberries and stir into mix.

In a separate, small bowl stir the cream and egg yolks just to blend. 

 Add this all at once to the flour mixture.
Stir to begin combining the wet and dry ingredients and then use your hands to gently knead the mixture together until all the dry ingredients are absorbed into the dough and it can be gathered into a moist, shaggy ball.

Remember, do not overknead.  This dough is sticky but benefits from minimal handling. 

Set the rough ball in the center of the prepared baking sheet and use lightly floured fingers to gently pat the dough into a disk about 1 inch thick and 7 inches in diameter.

  Do not worry if the dough doesn't look smooth- a rough, lumpy dough means tender, flaky scones!
With a sharp knife or a pastry scraper, cut the round into eight wedges; separate the wedges.

Brush the scones with the extra cream and sprinkle with the sugar.

Bake until the scones are deep golden and a toothpick inserted into the center of a wedge of a wedge comes out clean, 18 to 22 minutes.  Slide the parchment onto a rack and let the scones cool for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Stuffed Pumpkins

These lovely little sugar pie pumpkins are small and sweet, and perfect for a fall appetizer.

For 4 servings, you will need:
4 very small pie pumpkins
4 sweet potatoes
4 yams
8 Tbs butter, melted
4 Tbs brown sugar
4 tsp finely grated orange zest
4 tsp chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
{optional spices}:
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground allspice

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat to 375.
Generously butter a rimmed baking sheet.

Cut out a lid for each pumpkin and scoop out the guts (seeds and dark orange goop).
Place pumpkins and lids, cut side down, on the baking sheet and cover tightly with foil.  Bake for one to one & one half hours, until pumpkins become tender (test by poking with finger or piercing with a fork).
Meanwhile, in the same hot oven, roast your yams and sweet potatoes on a sheet pan,covered tightly with foil, for approximately 45 minutes.  Remember to pierce the skin before baking.

When finished, potatoes will be soft and oozing  sugars.

In a bowl, put the flesh of the yam and sweet potato (skins discarded), and mash them together with the butter, zest, thyme, brown sugar, salt, pepper and spices.

Now fill your pumpkin shell with filling.

Place filled pumpkin back on baking sheet, and bake until all is heated through, about 30 minutes.
Serve pumpkin with lid replaced on top.


Friday, November 5, 2010

Spring Rolls with Dipping Sauce

If you need help finding a good place to buy authentic, well-priced Asian recipe ingredients, let me suggest
 Capital Market in West Olympia.  It is located at
 2419 Harrison Ave., not far from the mall.

Now, let's talk about the ingredients.

These spring roll wrappers are made of tapioca flour.  They are recommended as the most durable, though not the thinnest of skins.
You will need to reserve the hot water from cooking the noodles, and use it to soften the skins before wrapping.

These are cellophane noodles, also known as bean threads, glass noodles, or Chinese vermicelli.  They are made of mung bean starch, and require soaking in hot water, and rinsing in cold water to reconstitute.

Next, make sure to have fresh carrots, green onions (aka scallions), napa cabbage (or crisp lettuce), fresh cilantro, Thai basil,  limes,  fresh ginger root, mung bean sprouts, and toasted sesame oil.

Now make the dressing for your veggie filling.  Squeeze lime juice into the bowl with some freshly grated ginger.

Add to this 4 Tbsp toasted sesame oil,  2Tbsp sugar, and  2tsp salt. 

Now grate your carrots,

cut the cabbage into thin ribbons,

and slice the scallions into long thin strips. 

Toss the carrots and cabbage with the lime-ginger dressing.

Boil a pot full of water, turn off the heat, and soak a few bundles of noodles for 10 minutes.  Then drain, rinse under cold water until cool, and transfer to a bowl.

Have your fresh herbs & mung beans rinsed clean and ready to use.

Soak a wrapper in a bowl of hot water (hopefully reserved after draining the noodles) for approximately 10 seconds until soft.
Place wrap onto your work space, lay a row of basil leaves in the center of the wrap, and cover them with noodles.  Next, add cabbage/carrot mixture, scallions, cilantro leaves and sprouts.  Wrap the left side over the filling, then fold up the top and bottom.  Next squeeze the filling together as you roll it closed.

These can be served now, or covered with a wet paper towel and plastic wrap, then refrigerated for a few hours.

For the dipping sauce, you will need:
 1/2 cup peanut butter,  1Tbsp sugar,  2Tbsp soy sauce,  juice of 1/2 lime,  1 tsp chili sauce, one chopped clove of garlic, and 1/2 cup warm water.

Mix all together until smooth.