Chocolate Toffee Kettle Corn

February 3, 2015

Guys. It’s awards season. Which means it’s time for excessive popcorn consumption. And since the Oscars are right around the corner, we’re getting fancy with our fancy popcorn selves.

8 cups air-popped popcorn
1 cup butter
2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup crushed-up toffee pieces
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 250degrees. Divide the popcorn into two large mixing bowls.

In a medium saucepan, melt butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, and salt. Bring to a boil, and stir constantly for 4 minutes. Add baking soda and vanilla (mixture will bubble). Divide caramel between the two, popcorn-filled mixing bowls. Toss to coat and spread the popcorn in an even layer on two baking sheets.

Bake the popcorn in the 250degree oven for an hour, stirring every 15 minutes. While the popcorn bakes, roll out wax or parchment paper onto a flat service such as a kitchen counter or dining table. After an hour, remove the popcorn from the oven and spread out onto the wax paper to cool. While the popcorn is still warm, sprinkle with chopped up toffee pieces.

When the popcorn has cooled completely, use a double boiler or microwave to melt the semi-sweet chocolate chips. Drizzle the melted chocolate over the popcorn and allow to harden. Once hard, break the popcorn up into pieces and store in an air-tight container.

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Holiday Cookie Series: Champagne Sugar Cookies

December 29, 2014

In case you needed another excuse to open a bottle of champagne this New Years Eve.

Champagne Sugar Cookies

1 bottle champagne or sparkling wine
1¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup granulated sugar, divided
⅓ cup vegetable shortening
6 cups powdered sugar, sifted
Pinch of salt

Pour champagne into a medium saucepan over high heat. Boil champagne until reduced to about 2 cups (about 15 to 20 minutes.) Transfer to a measuring cup; chill until cold.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour and baking powder.

In a separate large bowl or bowl of a stand mixer, cream ½ cup sugar and shortening until smooth. Add ½ cup of the cold champagne reduction; stir to combine (shortening will be lumpy). Add flour mixture and stir until a very soft dough forms.

Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Scoop dough into 1-inch balls, rolling each ball of dough in remaining sugar before transferring to prepared baking sheet. Lightly press down dough. Bake 12 to 15 minutes until edges are just set. Cool 2 minutes on baking sheets, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

For the icing, whisk together powdered sugar with remaining 1 cup cold champagne reduction and pinch of salt. Dip cooled cookies in icing, letting excess drip off. Let icing set for a couple of minutes, then sprinkle with pearl sugar or sprinkles. Let icing set completely before serving.

Holiday Cookie Series: Chocolate Cherry Almond Biscotti

December 21, 2014

There is something so inherently right about a cookie whose sole purpose is to be dunked into a cup of coffee. These deliciously dip-able biscuits get their name from an Italian word meaning ‘twice baked,’ and though their dry, crunchy texture makes them a perfect accompaniment to a hot caffeinated beverage, their origins are a bit more practical. The process by which biscotti was twice-baked (and thus sufficiently dried out) made them less perishable than traditional breads and perfect for long journeys or wartime rations. I think anything that goes with my morning cup of coffee could be considered a war-time ration, really.

Now that we’ve had our little history lesson for the day, let’s get down to business. I can’t take credit for this recipe as it is really just a slight modification from an Anne Burrell original. This biscotti is a fantastic blueprint for personalization, so I definitely recommend taking liberties with the some of the flavors to make it your own. Maybe use orange zest instead of lemon or pistachios instead of almonds. Get crazy.

Chocolate Cherry Almond Biscotti

1 stick butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, plus 1 egg white
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch salt
1 lemon, zested
½ cup whole blanched almonds, toasted
¾ cup dried cherries
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

In a mixing bowl, combine the butter and sugar and beat together until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl periodically. Beat in the eggs 1 at a time. Add the vanilla.

Gently mix in the flour, baking powder, salt, and lemon zest. Once the dry ingredients are incorporated, fold in the almonds and dried cherries.

Divide the dough in half and roll the dough into 2 logs, roughly the length of a sheet pan. If the dough is sticky, dust with a little flour. Beat the egg white with a splash of water. Brush the logs with the egg white and sprinkle with the turbinado sugar. Transfer to a sheet pan and place at least 3 inches apart. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes.

Remove from the oven let cool for 10-15 minutes. Make sure the logs are completely cool before slicing. Remove logs to a cutting board and slice on the bias about ¾ inch thick. Lay the biscotti back on the sheet pan and return to the oven for another 20 minutes, flipping the biscotti half-way through. This will harden the biscotti. Cool completely on a rack.

Melt the chocolate in the microwave or a double-boiler and drizzle over the biscotti.

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Holiday Cookie Series: Gingerbread Cookies

December 18, 2014

Not the gum-drop buttons! These ginger and molasses classics are the first of a three-part holiday cookie series.

Here’s to hoping that you and your family make all the Christmas cookies this holiday season.

Merry Christmas!

Classic Gingerbread Cookies:

3 cups bread flour, divided
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 ¾ teaspoons ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
¾ cup dark brown sugar
1 large egg
½ cup molasses
2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prepare baking sheets by lining with parchment paper.

In a small bowl, combine  2 1/2 cups flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves until well blended. In a large bowl or bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter and brown sugar. Add egg and combine on medium speed until well blended. Add molasses and vanilla and mix until just combined. Gradually add the dry ingredients until blended and smooth. The dough may be a bit sticky, but that’s ok.

Divide dough in half and wrap each half in plastic and let stand at room temperature for at least 2 hours. (Dough can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 4 days, but it should be brought to room temp before using)

Preheat oven to 375°. Using the remaining 1/2 cup flour, place 1 portion of the dough on a floured surface. Sprinkle flour over dough and rolling pin, using additional flour to avoid sticking. Roll dough to a ¼ inch thickness. I like to roll out the dough between a foldded sheet of parchment. It makes for less sticking and an even roll. Cut out cookies with desired cutter and space about a inch apart on lined baking sheet. Bake for 7-10 minutes (the lower time will give you softer cookies) until edges just begin to brown.

Remove cookie sheet from oven and allow the cookies to stand until the cookies are firm enough to move to a wire rack.

After cookies are cool you may decorate with Royal icing. Recipe below.

Royal Icing:

2 egg whites
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups powdered sugar

In a mixing bowl, beat egg whites and vanilla extract until frothy. Slowly add powdered sugar until the mixture becomes glossy, and then continue to beat until stiff peaks form. Add water  a drop or two at a time to reach desired piping consistency.

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Kale, Sausage, and White Bean Soup

December 3, 2014

If there is anything becoming a chef has taught me, it is that the best recipes are often the simplest recipes. That reality makes me wonder if on our quest to conquer the next culinary frontier we sometimes miss out on the sweet simplicity of those things that are tried and true.

This soup recipe is one I’ve used for years. At one point it was written down, but now it mostly goes straight from my head to my Le Creuset dutch oven (and then to my stomach). It’s simple and comforting. Good for you and good for your soul.

Enjoy!

RECIPE: Kale, Sausage, and Navy Bean Soup

2 Tbsp Butter
1 lb Sausage
1 Onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried oregano
2 cups water
4 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 (14oz) cans white navy beans
2 cups frozen (or fresh) corn
1/4 tsp dried red pepper flakes
1 lb kale, stems removed, leaves cut into small pieces
Salt and Pepper to taste

In a large pot or dutch-oven, melt the butter and heat over moderate to low heat. Add the sausage and cook until browned, turning regularly (about 10 minutes). Remove the sausage from the pot and, when cool, cut into slices. Pour off all but 1 Tbsp of fat from the pan.

In the remaining Tbsp of fat, cook the onion until translucent. Add the garlic, thyme, and oregano to the pan. Stir for about 1 minute.

Add the water and broth and bring the soup to a boil. Add the pre-cooked sausage, beans, corn, and red pepper flakes. Bring soup back to a simmer and let cook for 2 minutes. Add the kale, and let simmer for an additional 6 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Parmesan Rosemary Skillet Cornbread

November 27, 2014

I hear parmesan rosemary skillet cornbread goes really well with turkey.
And with leftovers.
Just saying.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Parmesan Rosemary Skillet Cornbread

1 1/4 cups coarsely ground cornmeal
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 Tbsp freshly chopped rosemary
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup whole milk
1 cup buttermilk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 Tbsp butter for coating (if available, bacon or sausage drippings are ideal here)
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 425 degrees farenheit. Place a 9″ (or 12″ – either will do) cast-iron skillet in the oven to heat. If you don’t have a cast-iron skillet, a cake pan works great.

In a large bowl, mix together the sugar and rosemary.  Use the back of a spoon to really smash together the sugar and rosemary. The oils from the rosemary will seep into the sugar and better infuse throughout the bread.

Add the cornmeal, flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda to the sugar/rosemary mixture. Mix until combined.

In another mixing bowl, combine milks, eggs, and melted butter. Add wet-mixture to the dry ingredients and stir until just incorporated.

Carefully remove the hot skillet from the oven and lower the temperature to 375 degrees F. Add remaining 2 TBsp butter (or drippings) to the hot pan and coat the bottom and sides of the skillet. Pour the batter into the skillet. Sprinkle the top of the batter with the grated parmesan. Place in the oven and bake for 18-22 minutes (or until toothpick comes out clean). Let cool for 10-20 minutes before serving.

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Holiday Candy Trio: Gingersnap Truffle, Peppermint Patty, Holiday Bark

November 21, 2014

Some of my favorite Thanksgiving memories involve a small, foldable card table that was set up in the corner of my grandmother’s dining room. Atop this table, one would find aluminum tins, cardboard boxes, and plastic tupperwares full of all sorts of sweets and candies. There were my grandmother’s chocolate-covered Oreos, my Aunt Julie’s infamously potent brandied cherries, and our friend Lisa’s famous holiday pretzels. However, the most treasured treats were the ones found in simple, white cardboard boxes. These were the special candies because they were from a small confectionary in Memphis, Tennessee called Dinstuhl’s. Dinstuhl’s is a sort-of holy place for my family, and every year we would descend upon the tiny shop and overwhelm its store clerks with our excited requests.

Three years ago, our traditional Memphis Thanksgiving moved to St. Louis, and since I’ve been overseas the past two years, this will be my first time experiencing our new locale. While there are many things I’m going to miss about Thanksgiving in Memphis, one event I’m sure mourn is our annual pilgrimage to Dinstuhl’s.

So this year, I thought it was high time to up my candy game. Below is a delicious trio of holiday treats that I think would make that little card table in my grandmother’s dining room proud.

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Gingersnap Truffles:

2 cups gingersnap cookies
1 tsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
2 Tbsp heavy cream
2 Tbsp vegetable shortening

3/4 cup white chocolate chips
2 tsp vegetable shortening

In a food processor or blender, process the gingersnap cookies into a fine crumb. In a medium bowl, combine the gingersnap crumbs (reserving 2 Tbsp of crumbs for garnish), spices, and vanilla extract. In a double-boiler or in the microwave, combine the heavy cream, 1/2 cup white chocolate chips, and shortening until melted and incorporated. Stir the white chocolate mixture into the crumbs and allow the mixture to chill in the fridge for 10 minutes.

While the gingersnap mixture is cooling, melt the remaining white chocolate chips and shortening for the truffle coating using a double boiler or the microwave. Once chilled, roll the gingersnap mixture into 1″ balls and dip into the white chocolate coating. In a small bowl, combine the reserved gingersnap crumbs with the brown sugar. Once the white chocolate coating has set, garnish with crumb/sugar mixture.

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Home-made Peppermint Patties:

1 can sweetened condensed milk
3 tsp peppermint extract
6 cups powdered (icing) sugar
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups dark chocolate chips
2 Tbsp shortening

In a large mixing bowl, combine sweetened condensed milk and peppermint extract. Slowly and a little at a time, mix in enough confectioners’ sugar to form a stiff dough that is no longer sticky. Form into 1 inch balls, then place on waxed paper and flatten with the bottom of a glass to form patties. Spread the patties out on parchment and let them dry at room temperature for two hours, turning once.

In a double boiler or in the microwave, melt chocolate with shortening, stirring often. Dip patties, one at a time, into chocolate (this part gets a bit messy). I find the easiest way is to use your hands. Let cool on waxed paper until set.

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Festive Holiday Bark:

2 cups milk chocolate chips
zest of 1 orange
1/2 cup pistachios
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 tsp sea salt

In a double boiler or in the microwave, melt the chocolate chips, stirring often. Spread the melted chocolate evenly onto a parchment-covered sheet pan. Sprinkle the pistachios, cranberries, orange zest, and sea salt evenly over the chocolate, pressing lightly onto the surface of the chocolate.

Leave the bark to set until hardened. Once hard, break into small pieces.

Sweet Potato Biscuit and Maple Pecan Ice Cream Sandwiches

November 6, 2014

Earlier this week, my Crossfit trainer encouraged the class with the following statement:
‘make your treats count.’

I love that sentiment, and it has me wanting to ask a general favor. Can we please stop trying to make our desserts good for us?

Don’t get me wrong, I love black beans and avocados and applesauce. However, I don’t love it when they find their way into my brownies. If you tell me that your white bean and quinoa cupcakes taste better than those made with butter and sugar and (gasp) refined flour, I simply won’t believe you.

The healthiest thing we can do is to view our desserts as indulgences that do little to nourish our bodies, and to let that be OK as long as those once in a while allowances don’t turn into habits.

How about we make our treats count. If for no other reason than the fact that I made biscuits and stuffed them with ice cream.

(I should mention that the presence of sweet potatoes in this recipe has everything to do with flavor and moisture and nothing to do with nutrition)

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Sweet Potato Biscuit with Maple Pecan Ice Cream

1 cup mashed, baked sweet potato
3/4 cup chilled buttermilk
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes

cups heavy cream
cup whole milk
1/4 cup sugar
teaspoon kosher salt
large egg yolks
1 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup chopped pecans

For Biscuits:

Preheat oven to 450degrees.

In a large bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Add the butter to the dry mixture and combine using forks or a pastry cutter until the mixture resembles coarse gravel. In a small bowl, combine buttermilk and mashed sweet potato. Slowly stir in the buttermilk and sweet potato mixture until a soft dough forms (note: you may not have to use all of the liquid mixture).

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, and using your hands (not a rolling-pin) gently pat the dough into a disc roughly an inch thick. Use a biscuit cutter to stamp out biscuits and arrange them on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Before placing in the oven, brush the tops of the biscuits with additional buttermilk. Bake for 12-15 minutes until golden brown.

For the ice cream:

In a small sauce pan, combine milks and sugar. Bring to a simmer and allow sugar to dissolve. Remove the pan from the heat. In a separate bowl, whisk together egg yolks. Whisking constantly, slowly add about a third of the milk mixture to the yolks, then return the yolks and milk to the saucepan with the remaining milk. Stirring constantly, heat the mixture over medium heat until it thickens to sauce consistency (thick enough to coat the back of a spoon). Remove from the heat and stir in the maple syrup.

Transfer the mixture into an ice-cream machine and make according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Most machines produce a soft-serve style ice cream. At this stage, stir in the chopped pecans and then transfer the ice cream to the freezer to harden.

Assemble the sandwich. I should hope you can figure this one out. 

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The Spread at: Collective Coffee

October 31, 2014

A few weeks ago, I casually mentioned to a friend that I was headed to my favorite coffee shop to get some work done. Calling me out on my use of the word ‘favorite,’ my friend asked for a list of at least five things that made this particular establishment my ideal coffee shop destination.

Below are 5 reasons that Collective Coffee is my favorite coffee shop and this week’s Spread feature.

1) The name. I love the community a word like ‘collective’ conveys.

2) The coffee. This one seems obvious, but there are too many coffee shops out there serving sub-par brew. At Collective, they brew Intelligentsia Coffee, which is not only delicious (the La Perla de Oaxaca from Mexico is my current fave) but also ethical. Intelligentsia often pays its coffee growers above fair-trade standards. The guys at Collective know their stuff and are passionate about sharing it with their customers.

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3) The flavors. Collective hand-makes all of their flavored syrups. The almond latte is practically perfection.

4)The decor. Collective’s walls are adorned with pieces sourced from local photogs and artists. Their choices offer a needed aesthetic distraction when I’ve been staring at my computer screen for too long.

Side note: I vote the beautiful Jen Lee submits her photos for display. If you like any of the photos from this blog, you will like her work, as she took most of them. Shameless plug: check out her blog, Lost & Found, or click on the link in her name to follow her on instagram!

5)The proper placement of electrical outlets. An underrated feature of any respectable coffee establishment. 

(And a bonus reason, because the way to this girl’s heart is through her stomach.)

6) The food. You won’t find the standard case of disappointing baked good at Collective. Instead, customers are treated to options such as the chorizo and avocado wrap or a broccoli grilled cheese sandwich on brioche.

And amen.

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Pickled Pear Salad with Bacon Vinaigrette

October 29, 2014

The thought process behind this week’s recipe looked something like this:

(Walks into Whole Foods)

Oh, hey look – cute little baby pears! I guess it’s Seckel pear season. I think I’ll buy these!

(Walks into kitchen to unpack groceries)

Hmmm…what should I do with these sweet Seckel pears.
Make a dessert? No, not after the pint of Jeni’s ice cream that went missing yesterday.
How about a salad? Yes, a salad. 

A pear salad? Not exactly original.
Unless…what if I pickle the pears?
Can you pickle pears? Is that a thing?
I’m going to pickle the pears.
I’m going to make a pickled pear salad. 

(Grabs the mason jars from the cabinet)

What else? Goat cheese? Maybe some walnuts?
Bacon. Definitely bacon. In fact, double the bacon with a bacon vinaigrette. 

Let’s do this.

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Pickled Pear Salad with Bacon Vinaigrette

1 lb Seckel Pears
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup cold water
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
2 cinnamon sticks
5 cloves, whole
zest of 1 orange

2 cups (your choice) spring salad mix
1/4 cup walnuts
4oz goat cheese, crumbled
1 tbsp chives, chopped
4 pickled seckel pears, sliced thin
6 slices bacon, diced
1 shallot, diced
2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

To pickle pears:

Peel, halve, and core 1 lb seckel pears. In a small mixing bowl, combine vinegar, water, sugar and salt. Divide halved pears, cloves, cinnamon sticks, and orange zest between two mason jars. Pour vinegar mixture over pears until fully covered. Let pickle and refrigerate for at last 24 hours before use.

For vinaigrette:

In a medium saute pan, cook bacon until crispy. Remove cooked bacon pieces from the pan. In the rendered bacon fat, sweat shallots until translucent. Once shallots are sweat, add honey, Dijon, and red wine vinegar to the pan. Whisk until combined. Add bacon pieces back to the pan and toss to coat.

To assemble salad:

Toss together spring mix, walnuts, goats cheese, and chopped chives. Top with sliced pickled pears and drizzle with bacon mustard vinaigrette.

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