“How-To” Baking – Docking

Pricking holes in a short dough (pie crust, shortbread, etc) prior to baking is called docking. Using a fork or special docking tool, prick small holes all over the dough. Doing this helps to vent the steam during the baking process and it keeps the pastry dough from puffing up.

Chicken in White Wine Butter Sauce

White Wine Chicken 2

I am a big believer is using up every last ingredient in your house because I hate when things go to waste. So when I found myself with some leftover white wine, I decided to make this dish. It’s super quick and easy to pull together and there is really nothing more delicious than a wine sauce in my opinion. Serve with your favorite veggie and carb, I made seasoned rice* and steamed buttered green beans.

I found this recipe on the Framed Cooks blog site, you can find the original recipe right here . I mostly followed the recipe as written however, because I used a little more chicken then called for I actually doubled the sauce. I like having extra to smother the chicken and it was also really good mixed together with my seasoned rice. I used a Pinot Grigo for the sauce but feel free to use whatever white wine you have in the house. I finished off the sauce with a squeeze of fresh lemon which really brightened the flavor.

Ingredients

  • 4-6 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, pounded to ¼ inch thickness
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 1 cup chicken stock (I like Kitchen Basics brand)
  • 4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • Fresh (or dried) parsley, to taste
  • Kosher salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

Warm olive oil and butter over medium high until butter is melted.

Add chicken and cook until golden on both sides, about 3-4 minutes per side. Remove chicken and keep warm.

Add shallots and saute until tender, about 2-3 minutes. Add wine and cook until it is reduces down, about 3-5 minutes. Add the chicken stock and simmer for 5 minutes.

Add the cold butter and stir until melted. Add parsley and season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the chicken back to the pan and turn the pieces over until they are coated with the sauce. Serve chicken drizzled with extra sauce.

White Wine Chicken 1

*To make the seasoned rice, sauté a finely diced onion in 2 tbs of butter until softened. Then follow the cooking instructions on the long grain rice bag substituting chicken stock (I like the Kitchen Basics brand) for the water. Season with salt, pepper, and parsley. Cook until light and fluffy.

New Category Added!

Check out the new category I added under the In My Own Words tab called, Fun for Kids. I just added a Pumpkin Spice Dough but going forward I will be including different, fun activities you can do with your kids in the kitchen from cooking to crafts. Hope you enjoy!

Fun for Kids – Pumpkin Spice Dough

Pumpkin Dough 3.jpgAs the summer begins to wind down my kids are starting to tire of the heat, sun, and outdoors and that’s when the boredom sets in. To counteract the constant whining from them that the having nothing to do I decided to whip them up a batch of Pumpkin Spice Dough to play with. It’s made with common kitchen ingredients and smells delish! They love it because it’s a change from their usual Play-Doh and because it’s a little softer, it’s easier for them to work with.

I came across this recipes a few years ago on the The Idea Room blog site, you can find the original Pumpkin Spice dough recipe here . It is super easy to make and the nice thing is you can change up the overall scent and color with a few adjustments. Another great fall smell to try is apple pie spice and for Christmas, make a batch of peppermint dough! The possibilities are endless. Because it’s such a simple recipe to pull together it is a great activity to do with your kids, they will love watching the dough change from a liquid to a nice, soft, pliable dough.

All you need to make this dough is as follows:

  • 2 cups of water
  • Orange food coloring (or combine yellow and red)
  • 2 tbs vegetable oil
  • 1 cup table salt
  • 4 tsp cream of tartar
  • 3 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 cups of all-purpose flour

Place all of the ingredients in a pot over medium heat and cook until the liquid mixture turns into a soft dough, this will take just a few minutes.

Pumpkin Dough 1

Pumpkin Dough 2.jpg

Once the dough is finished, place it on the counter and knead it a few times. Be careful, the dough will be very hot. If your kids want to play with it right away, flatten it out on a flexible cutting board or pan and place it in the fridge for about 3 minutes then flip it and cool for another 3 minutes. Give it a quick knead when you remove it from the fridge and you’re good to go! Store the dough in an airtight container for later use. Have fun!

Homemade Soft Pretzels

Soft Pretzels

I might be slightly addicted to soft, warm pretzels however, I cannot stand paying upwards of $4 for one so I make my own instead! I have no idea where I first came across this recipe but they are without a doubt one of the best soft pretzels I’ve ever eaten. You can easily make a few batches of these and freeze them so you always have a pretzel on hand when the craving hits! Eat them whole or cut them up into generous pieces and serve them as an appetizer alongside different dipping sauces.

These are fairly easy to make however, it does take a little bit of time because they will need to proof for an hour before you can twist them into pretzel shapes. Speaking of shapes, don’t feel obligated to stick to the classic pretzel twist, try out making rods or even braids, all will be equally delicious! The most important step when making homemade soft pretzels is to give them a dip in a water and baking soda bath. This quick step is what gives the pretzels their delicious flavor, chewy texture, and lovely brown color. I have found that the baking soda solution will leave a residue behind on the pot therefore, I keep an old pot on hand that I use exclusively for making soft pretzels.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 c warm water
  • 2 tbs light brown sugar
  • 1 package active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
  • 4 oz (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted 
  • 1 1/2 tsp sea salt or Kosher salt 
  • 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • Canola oil, to coat bowl 
  • 3 qts water 
  • 2/3 c baking soda 
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten 
  • Coarse sea salt or Kosher salt, for sprinkling

Instructions

Combine the water, sugar, yeast, and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, mix until combined. Let sit for 5 minutes. **Make sure the water is not too hot or you will kill the yeast, keep it around 105-110°F**

Add the salt and flour to the yeast mixture and mix on low speed until combined. Increase the speed to medium and continue kneading until the dough is smooth and begins to pull away from the side of the bowl, about 3-4 minutes. Remove the dough from the mixing bowl, place on a flat surface, and knead into a ball with your hands.

Coat a large bowl with canola oil, add the dough, and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a clean towel or plastic wrap and place in a warm spot or oven set to “proof” until the dough doubles in size, about an hour.

Towards the end of the proof time, preheat oven to 425°F and bring the water to a boil in a large pot.

Remove the dough from the bowl and place on a flat surface. Divide into 8 equal portions and roll each piece into a long rope. To shape into a pretzel: Take the right side and cross over to the left. Cross right to left again and flip up.

Slowly add the baking soda to the boiling water. Boil the pretzels, two at a time, in the water solution for 30 seconds. Splash the tops of the pretzels with the warmed water using a spoon. Remove the pretzels with a large slotted spatula and place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a Silpat™. Place no more than 4 pretzels on each baking sheet. Brush the tops of the pretzels with egg wash and season liberally with salt.

Bake for 15-18 minutes or until pretzels are golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature. Leftovers can be frozen and reheated easily in a microwave for 45 seconds to a minute.

**Tip – Soft, warm pretzels go great with all kinds of dipping sauces including beer cheese, mustard, chocolate, hummus, and  buffalo cheddar cheese**

Buffalo Cheddar Cheese

  • 1 tbs unsalted butter
  • 1 tbs all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 3 oz cream cheese
  • 2/3 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1/2 cup Frank’s Red Hot Sauce
  • Kosher salt and pepper, to taste

Over medium heat, melt the butter. Add flour and whisk until a roux forms, cook for 1-2 minutes until slightly golden in color. Add the milk and turn heat to low, stir constantly until milk thickens. Add the cheese and continue to stir until smooth. Stir in hot sauce and season with salt and pepper. Serve hot.

 

 

“How-To” Cooking – Roasting

Roasting is when dry, indirect heat is used to cook foods. Although similar to baking, the term roasting is typically used when speaking about foods that already have structure prior to cooking, such as meats and vegetables. Food is placed in an open pan and baked uncovered in order to achieve even cooking and browning. When roasting, food is first cooked at a higher temperature in order to create the browned “crust” and then the temperature is lowered for the remainder of the cooking time.

To roast meat, begin by allowing it to come to room temperature before cooking. Place the meat on top of a rack set inside a wide, open roasting pan. This allows air to circulate around the meat encouraging even cooking. If you don’t have a rack, use sturdy vegetables such as leeks or carrots to raise the meat up from the bottom of the pan. Season the meat generously with salt and pepper and cook according to recipe instructions. When cooking is complete, allow the roasted meat to rest for at least 15 minutes before slicing.

To roast vegetables, coat generously with olive oil, salt and pepper and spread them out in one layer on a large, shallow baking sheet. Do not crowd the pan or the vegetables will steam rather than roast. Roast until the vegetables are fork tender and browned with some charred bits. Harder vegetables, such as potatoes, will take longer to roast than softer vegetables. Also, the smaller the dice, the faster they will roast.

Grandma’s Macaroni Pie

Macaroni Pie 3

Growing up in a big Italian family there were many food traditions that we had throughout the year, macaroni pie being one of them. We typically made this easy, delicious pasta dish at Easter time along with other family favorites such as sweet rice pie and Easter bread. It became a tradition in my family to serve the macaroni pie for dinner the day before Easter after spending the day baking Easter bread. We’d have a nice big slice and relax while watching “The Ten Commandments” on TV. Such great memories!

This dish is made with perciatelli pasta (pronounced pear-chuh-TELL-lee) however, bucatini is also fine as they are both the same cut which is a long, thin, tube like pasta. The key to great macaroni pie is lots of cheese and letting the macaroni soak after cooking so that it plumps up. Be sure to cook the macaroni very al dente as it will both soak and bake. If you overcook it from the start, your macaroni pie will be very mushy. Also, this is a very black pepper heavy dish so if you’re not a huge pepper fan feel free to cut it back to suit your tastes.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb perciatelli or bucatini pasta
  • 10 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 6-8 oz grated cheese (I prefer Pecorino Romano)
  • 1-2 tbs coarse ground black pepper
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • Extra-virgin olive oil

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. In a large pot of boiling water, cook the macaroni until very al dente. Once it’s done cooking drain off most of the water leaving just enough to cover the macaroni. Set the pot aside off of the hot burner and let the macaroni cool until it swells and gets soft, about 10-15 minutes.

While the macaroni is cooling, mix together the beaten eggs, grated cheese, salt and pepper.

Drain off the macaroni and give it a quick rinse under cool water, if it’s is too warm when you add the egg and cheese mixture it will cook the eggs. Combine the cooled macaroni with the egg and cheese, mix well.

Spray a 9X13 dish with cooking spray, pour the macaroni in. Lightly mist or brush olive oil all over the top so that the macaroni browns as it bakes. Cook for about an hour or until it’s lightly browned and the center is set. Cool for 10-15 minutes, then slice and serve.

Macaroni Pie 1.jpg

“How-To” Baking – Water Bath

A water bath is simply a pan of boiling water that is placed in the oven during baking. The dessert can be submerged directly into the water bath or it can be placed on the baking rack above the water bath. There are two reasons why a water bath is used in baking, to add moisture to the oven and to provide a more even, slower heat source. Desserts such as cheesecake benefit from a water bath as the moist heat will help to avoid the cheesecake from cracking during baking and cooling. It also helps desserts such as custards from becoming rubbery.

To make a water bath, simply place a pan of boiling water in the oven. If submerging a dessert directly into the water bath, wrap the pan in tin foil to avoid water from seeping in. This is especially important when using a springform pan which is more likely to leak.

Creamy Dreamy Cheesecake

Cheesecake.jpg

What is better than a slice of dense, creamy cheesecake? Literally almost nothing! This is my most favorite cheesecake recipe ever, it’s one that my mother-in-law has been baking since my husband was itty-bitty. She has no recollection of where she first came across this recipe but let me tell you, it is TO DIE FOR. It’s rich, dense and has amazing flavor! The best part? It’s also super easy to make!

This go around I baked my cheesecake with a scrumptious, sugary Graham Cracker Crust but in the past I’ve also used an Oreo™ cookie crust which is equally delicious. When I use the Oreo crust I always cover the whole cheesecake with Chocolate Ganache and than top it with crushed Oreo™ cookies. For this version however, I kept it simple and did just a light coating of ganache on just the top.

Cheesecake is a great dessert because you can make it so many ways from a large cake to small, individual servings. Top it will fudge, fresh fruit, ganache, crushed cookies or anything else you can think of! Some people like to serve cheesecake at room temp but I love it ice cold out of the fridge, I feel that it’s more dense that way and I’m just not a fan of mushy, warm cheesecake. However you choose to serve it jut follow a few simple tips and your cheesecake is sure to be a hit!

  • Pre-bake your crust
  • Always start with room temperature ingredients, this prevents a lumpy batter.
  • Don’t scrimp, always use full fat cream cheese.
  • Add a little starch to help avoid cracking and to make slicing easier.
  • Mix on low and don’t overbeat the batter, incorporating too much air into the batter will ruin the texture of the cheesecake.
  • Use a water bath to create a steamy environment which develops a smooth, creamy cheesecake. To create a water bath, wrap the bottom of a springform pan in tin foil and place the cheesecake directly in a pan of water before putting in the oven. Alternatively, place a pan of water in the oven on the rack below the cheesecake. Both will generate steam while baking.
  • No peeking! Don’t open the oven door while baking.
  • Don’t overbake the cheesecake, take it out when the edges look done and the center is still slightly jiggly.
  • Before leaving the cheesecake to cool in the oven, take it out and run a thin offset spatula or knife around the edge to loosen it from the sides of the pan. This will help to prevent cracking as the cheesecake cools and pulls away from the pan.
  • Cool the cheesecake gradually letting in sit in the turned off oven with the door cracked open, then let it cool completely on the stovetop. 
  • ALWAYS chill your cheesecake for at least 6 hours, preferably overnight.
  • If the top cracks, don’t panic! A simple sour cream frosting, chocolate ganache, or even fruit will hide all sins.

Ingredients

  • Graham Cracker Crust
  • 5 (8 oz) packs of cream cheese
  • 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 tbs all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp vanilla paste or vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract
  • 5 large eggs + 2 yolks
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream

Instructions

Pre-bake your crust in a 10″ springform pan for 7-8 minutes at 350ºF. Set aside to cool slightly.

Add the softened, room temperature cream cheese to the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix on low until smooth, about a minute. Add the sugar and flour, mix. Once the dry ingredients have been combined, add in the vanilla, almond, and heavy cream. Mix until smooth then add in the eggs, one at a time, mixing on low after each addition. Continue to mix on low speed until the batter is shiny and smooth. Grease the sides of the springform pan that holds the crust, pour the batter in and smooth the top.

Place the cheesecake in a water bath and bake at 500ºF for 10 minutes, then lower the heat to 250ºF and bake for about an hour or until the edges are baked and the center is slightly jiggly.

Once the cheesecake is done baking turn off the oven and remove the cheesecake, run an offset spatula or knife around the edge to loosen the sides from the pan. Place the cheesecake back in the warm oven (not in the water bath) with the door slightly open and cool for about an hour. Remove from oven and cool completely on the stovetop. Chill in the fridge for at least 6 house, preferably overnight. Enjoy!

 

 

Graham Cracker Crust

Graham Crust 2.jpg

I love a good graham cracker crust but the ones in the store always seem so bland and I hate all of the extra preservatives they add to it. A while back I came across this recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction and it’s been my “go to” crust ever since. For the original recipe click here .

This crust comes together super quick, I do everything right in my food processor, and it has a really delicious, sugary texture and taste. It goes great with pudding pies and cheesecakes or any other dessert which calls for a graham cracker crust. I like to use brown sugar instead of the granulated sugar that is suggested and I also add a teaspoon of vanilla paste for a little extra flavor boost. This recipe is made with honey graham crackers but feel free to try out chocolate or cinnamon grahams as well depending on what type of dessert you’re making. This is an excellent graham cracker crust and I promise, once you make this one you’ll never go back to pre-made crusts again!

Ingredients

  • 1 and 1/2 cups (150g) graham cracker crumbs (about 10 full sheet graham crackers)
  • 6 Tablespoons (87g) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup (67g) granulated OR brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla paste (optional)

Instructions

Crush the graham cracker sheets using a food processor, pulse until crushed and crumbly. Alternatively, crush them in a zipped top bag with a rolling pin.

Add the melted butter, sugar, and vanilla paste to the food processor and pulse a few times until combined. The mixture will be thick, coarse, and sandy.

Press the mixture into the bottom of the dish or springform pan and slightly up the sides. This crust will fit into a 9 – 10 inch pan. Make sure it is tight and compact, the crust will be thick. For a baked dessert, pre-bake the crust for 10 minutes at 300°F (149°C) or 7-8 minutes at 350°F (177°C). For a no-bake dessert, chill the crust for 2 hours before using in your recipe.

**Tip** – Freeze the prepared crust in your pan for up to 3 months. Thaw before using in your recipe. For shorter storage, keep the prepared crust in the refrigerator for a few days before using in your recipe.