Thursday, September 29, 2011

Golden Butternut Squash Soup

I guess I've been on a soup kick lately but with the changing weather it just feels right.  In the past two weeks, I've made corn chowder, Greg made his famous chili (he's still deciding if he wants to share the recipe, har-umphh!), and last night I made this delicious butternut squash soup.  We originally had this soup a couple of years ago around Thanksgiving when we were back in Ohio.  We had driven all day and were told not to ruin our appetites with crappy fast food and we were oh-so-delightfully rewarded with this creamy soup, plus slices of toasted baguette with melted gruyere cheese on top.  I didn't have the ingredients for the bread component last night but I highly recommend doing it since it really completes the meal.  
Golden Butternut Squash Soup
from Cooking Light (recipe for toasts included in link)


2 tablespoons butter
5 cups (1/2-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash (about 1 1/2 pounds)
2 cups (1/2-inch) cubed peeled russet potato (about 12 ounces)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups sliced leek (about 2 medium)
4 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1 cup half-and-half
Chives for garnish, optional but delicious

Melt butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add squash, potato, salt, and pepper to pan; sauté 3 minutes. Add leek; sauté 1 minute.
Stir in broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes or until potato is tender, stirring occasionally.
Place half of potato mixture in a blender. Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters). Blend until smooth. Pour into a large bowl. Repeat procedure with remaining potato mixture. (I used our immersion blender - if you like making soup these things are the bomb). 

Stir in half-and-half. Cover and keep warm.  Top each serving with about 1 teaspoon chives. Garnish with freshly ground black pepper, if desired.
On a side note, I joined Pinterest today and it is just as addicting as everyone said it would be!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Cinnamon-Streusel Coffeecake

I have been reading King Arthur Flour's blog, Bakers' Banter for a couple of years now and I absolutely love it.  The contributors are extremely talented and knowledgeable (getting to bake all day + write about it = dream job!), yet the recipes are very accessible.  They include little tidbits about baking but don't smack you in the face with it - it's like being in the kitchen with a good friend, where you simply pick up new techniques by working with them, plus it's a lot of fun!  Oh, and if you ask a question in the comments section they give great feedback, always a nice touch. 
So, when I decided late Sunday afternoon that I wanted to make a coffeecake for Greg to bring to work I went directly to their website and after a quick search, came up with the perfect recipe.  Believe it or not, I have never made a cinnamon coffeecake before yesterday, and this one will be hard to beat.  Greg always has a group meeting on Monday and honestly, who couldn't use a little sweet treat to get the week started right?
Cinnamon-Streusel Coffeecake
from King Arthur Flour

Streusel Topping

1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon salt (if you use unsalted butter)
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
6 tablespoons butter, melted


1 cup brown sugar, light or dark
1 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder (did not use since it was just to add color)


3/4 cup butter
1 teaspoon salt (1 ¼ teaspoons if you use unsalted butter)
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 large eggs
3/4 cup sour cream or plain yogurt (I used yogurt)
1 1/4 cups milk (anything from skim to whole, I used skim)
3 3/4 cups flour

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9" x 13" pan.  

Topping - In a medium bowl whisk together the sugar, salt, flour, and cinnamon. Add the melted butter, using a fork to blend until combined. Set the topping aside.  Note: I would be tempted to decrease the amount of topping as mine seemed to make a bit too much and a lot of it fell off when I took it out of the pan.
Filling - Mix together the brown sugar, cinnamon, and cocoa powder, if using.  Set it aside.  Note: Next time I might add some chopped pecans to give it an extra crunch.
Cake - In a large bowl, beat together the butter, salt, sugars, baking powder, and vanilla until well combined and smooth, then add eggs one at a time, mixing well between each addition.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the sour cream or yogurt and milk until well combined. Don't worry about getting out all the lumps.  Add the flour to the butter mixture alternately with the milk/sour cream mixture, beating gently to combine.

Pour/spread half the batter (a scant 3 cups) into the prepared pan, if you have a kitchen scale half of the batter weighs about 28 ounces.   Then sprinkle the filling evenly over the batter and top with remaining cake batter.  Use a knife to gently swirl filling throughout the cake, as if making a marble cake.  Finally, sprinkle topping over the entire cake.  

Bake the cake until it's a dark golden brown around the edges; medium-golden with no light patches showing on top, and a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 55 to 60 minutes. When pressed gently in the middle, the cake should spring back.  Note: Mine took around 70 minutes and my topping never got really golden but I'm glad I stopped when I did or else I think my cake would have dried out.  (I'm starting to wonder if my oven is off because most of my baking requires extra time added on at the end...)

Remove the cake from the oven and allow it to cool for 20 minutes before cutting and serving. Serve cake right from the pan.  You can also cover the unbaked cake with plastic wrap and pop it in the oven (after removing plastic wrap!) the next day if you want yummy breakfast smells, just add a few more minutes since the cake will start out cold.  Definitely considering this for the holidays!

Other than the fact that this cake is delicious, I also like it because it makes makes 24 servings, which makes it perfect to share with a group.  
What is your favorite weekend breakfast treat?  Next on my list are cinnamon rolls, anyone have the perfect recipe? 

Friday, September 23, 2011

Weekend Comfort

This is one of my favorite meals to make as the weather starts to cool off.  The last of the sweet summer corn is combined with chunks of veggies, potatoes and shredded chicken in a comforting creamy broth, and of course topped with crunchy bits of bacon.  This is by no means a low calorie meal but I choose to believe it is healthy simply because it is a soup and all soups are healthy, right?  This soup packs a punch with heat from both fresh jalapeno and crushed red pepper flakes, as well as a smoky spice from chipotle seasoning (I chopped up a chipotle pepper in adobo sauce since this is what I had and it still added the same smoky flavor).  If you aren't a big fan of spice, you could easily leave these ingredients out but I recommend trying at least a little!   
Corn Chowder
from My Baking Addiction <- Yummy website!

5 strips thick cut bacon; sliced into ½ inch pieces
1 sweet onion, diced
2 carrots peeled and chopped
2 stalks of celery chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
6 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon chipotle seasoning (or a chipotle chili in abobo sauce finely chopped)
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (add more if you like some heat)
6 cups vegetable stock
2 cups heavy cream
2 Idaho potatoes, peeled and diced
6-8 ears corn (I used 6)
2 cups cooked and shredded chicken (rotisserie works great here)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
green onions; sliced for garnish

1. In a Dutch oven, cook bacon over medium high heat until crisp; remove bacon with a slotted spoon and allow to drain and reserve for garnish.
2. Reduce heat to medium. Add the onion, carrots, celery, garlic, jalapeno and thyme to the bacon drippings and cook until the vegetables are soft; about 8 to 10 minutes. Dust the vegetables with flour, chipotle seasoning, crushed red pepper flakes and stir to coat well.
3. Cook vegetables, flour and seasonings for 2 minutes; stir frequently.
4. Pour in the vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Add the cream and the potatoes, bring to a rapid boil. Allow soup to boil hard for about 7 minutes, until the potatoes break down. This process will help thicken the soup.
4. Cut the corn kernels off the cobs and add to the soup. Season with salt and pepper to taste and add in the cooked chicken. Simmer until the corn is soft and chicken is heated through; about 10 to 12 minutes.
5. Stir in the parsley. Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with the reserved bacon and green onions.

This recipe makes about 8 servings so we ate it for a few meals the week I made it and froze the rest for a quick, delicious meal some night when I don't feel like cooking.  Hope you enjoy!

What are your favorite soup recipes?  Please share in the comments.  Hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Chocolate-Caramel Slice

Or Millionaire's Shortbread, according to my hubby.  Either way, this stuff is dangerous to have around.  In keeping with my chocolate-caramel-sea salt theme from yesterday, I have another equally addictive recipe.  My mom sent me this one earlier in the summer and it was love at first click.  Rich, buttery shortbread topped with a thick layer of sweet caramel and finished with a thin layer of bittersweet chocolate, these bars pretty much represent all that I love about baking and sweets.  
Some reviews complained that these were too sweet but I think cut into small bites with a flourish of sea salt on top, they are the perfect treat.  I am quickly stockpiling ideas for Christmas and this one will probably make the list too!  I found it very helpful to cut these while they are still cold in order to get nice clean lines.  I may also try lining the pan with foil next time so I can lift them out before cutting. 
Chocolate-Caramel Slice
makes 20-24 pieces (I would aim for 24-28)

1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 tablespoon ice water
1 large egg yolk

1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, diced
2 tablespoons golden syrup (such as Lyle's Golden Syrup) or dark corn syrup (I used dark corn syrup but apparently Lyle's can be found at World Market)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

6 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
3 tablespoons whipping cream
Flaked sea salt

For crust:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 11x7x2-inch metal baking pan. Blend first 4 ingredients in processor. Add butter. Using on/off turns, blend until coarse meal forms. Add 1 tablespoon ice water and egg yolk. Blend until moist clumps form. Press dough onto bottom of pan; pierce all over with fork. Bake until golden, piercing if crust bubbles, about 20 minutes. Cool completely. 
For toppings:
Whisk first 5 ingredients in medium saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves, butter melts, and mixture comes to boil. Attach candy thermometer to side of pan. Boil gently until caramel is thick and temperature registers 225°F, whisking constantly, about 6 minutes (took me longer, just keep an eye on the thermometer). Pour caramel evenly over crust; cool 15 minutes to set.
Meanwhile, melt chocolate with cream in microwave in 15-second intervals, stirring occasionally. Spread chocolate over warm caramel; sprinkle with sea salt. Refrigerate until chocolate is set, at least 1 hour. DO AHEAD Can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and keep refrigerated.  (I also froze these and they thawed perfectly).
Cut dessert lengthwise into 4 strips. Cut each strip crosswise into 5 or 6 (or 7) slices. Transfer to platter and serve.

The only complaint I had about this recipe is that my chocolate didn't turn out very smooth.  In the past I have added a teaspoon or so of shortening and this helps make the chocolate shiny and smooth so I might try that next time.  


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Dark Chocolate Caramel Truffles with Fleur de Sel

I went on a chocolate kick a few weeks ago so be ready for some decadence coming your way.  I have never made truffles before and these little suckers turned out great.  These truffles are made from a fabulous mix of salty caramel blended with bittersweet dark chocolate, enrobed in a crisp, chocolate shell and topped with a sprinkle of fleur de sel.  
They are intensely rich and the recipe says it should make about 32 but mine only made about 25 so next time I will try to make them a bit smaller - just a couple of bites is more than enough to satisfy your sweet tooth!  I would love to make these again around the holidays a box them up as hostess gifts.  They are easy enough to knock out a double batch but fancy enough to make the recipient feel extra special.  Just be sure you leave yourself plenty of time because the recipe requires multiple rounds of chilling.
Dark Chocolate Caramel Truffles with Fleur de Sel
adapted from Epicurious (I made a couple of changes based on the reviews, original recipe can be found via the link)
Yields around 32

20 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped, divided (I only used about 16 ounces, choose a good quality chocolate since this is the main ingredient)
2/3 cup sugar
4 tablespoons water
2/3 cup whipping cream
1/4 teaspoon fleur de sel
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
Additional fleur de sel
Place 8 ounces chocolate in metal bowl over saucepan of barely simmering water (do not allow bottom of bowl to touch water); stir until chocolate is smooth. I used the microwave to melt my chocolate in 30 second increments and it worked just fine.  Remove chocolate from over water.
Combine sugar and water in small saucepan. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves, occasionally brushing sides of pan with wet pastry brush. Increase heat; boil until syrup is deep amber color, brushing down sides and swirling pan occasionally, about 4 minutes (mine took longer, just be sure you keep a close eye on it because it will turn fast!). 

Add cream (mixture will bubble). Stir over very low heat until caramel is smooth.  
Mix caramel and 1/4 teaspoon fleur de sel into melted chocolate. 
Chill until truffle filling is firm, at least 3 hours.
Place cocoa in bowl. Using 1 tablespoon truffle filling for each truffle, roll into balls, then roll in cocoa. Arrange on baking sheet. Cover; chill overnight. 
Line 13x9x2-inch baking sheet with foil. Place remaining 12 ounces chocolate (I think I used around 8 and used the microwave again) in medium metal bowl over saucepan of barely simmering water (do not allow bottom of bowl to touch water); stir until chocolate is melted and smooth and thermometer inserted into chocolate registers 115°F. Remove bowl from over water. Working quickly, submerge 1 truffle in melted chocolate. Using fork, lift out truffle and tap fork against side of bowl to allow excess coating to drip off. Transfer truffle to prepared sheet. Repeat with remaining truffles. Sprinkle truffles lightly with additional fleur de sel. Let stand until coating sets, at least 1 hour. (Can be made 1 week ahead. Cover and chill. I kept some of mine in the freezer and they tasted great so if you did choose to do these for the holidays you could probably make a big batch and then freeze until party time.  Bring to room temperature before serving.)
Perfect as an after dinner treat with a glass of red wine and your honey...
Or for breakfast with a mug of steamy coffee when that bowl of cereal just won't cut it!

Hope you are all having a great week.  Please comment with links to your favorite truffle recipes - I have a feeling this could become an addiction!