Thursday, February 18, 2010

A weekend of cooking

I think I alluded to the massive amounts of cooking I did this past weekend. Let's just recap.
maple gelato
6 layer chocolate fudge cake
chicken roulades
veggie galette
king cake cupcakes

rye bread
lemon frosting for cupcakes
caramel fondue
chicken orange concoction in a crockpot
coconut macaroons

It was a lot. Fortunately, I've always preferred to clean as I go along, so the dirty dishes weren't horrifying, but the stack was pretty bad. Since then, I haven't cooked anything- I've reheated plenty, but haven't made anything new. I'm kind of cooked out.

(not for long)

Today I want to share 3 recipes.
Caramel Fondue (I keep forgetting to photograph this, because once it's ready, it's just too delicious to stop eating). This is a half recipe, which is plenty for a party of 8 people, with additional goodies to nibble on. If you have leftovers or want to make the full batch (just double everything), put it in a bowl in the fridge, and save it- it reheats perfectly.

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine
12oz soft caramel candies- the kind you buy in the clear plastic wraps, or that same brand also has cooking caramel, little balls of the same stuff, ready to dump in a saucepan.
3oz apple cider (3/8 cup, just eyeball it)
Cook until the caramels are melted, about 10 min.

Add 1/4 cup cream or half&half (I used fat free half&half, and I can't imagine it could be improved with full-fat cream)
a dash of dark rum (or brandy, but I prefer dark rum- and a serious dash ;) )
1 cinnamon stick
dash of nutmeg
3 whole cloves

and continue to cook over medium heat for 15 minutes. Stir occasionally, and it'll bubble.

Transfer to a fondue pot on low heat or just a bowl (and be prepared to nuke the bowl for a few seconds every so often), and dip apple wedges in it. Delicious!

I'd also like to try this caramel fondue as an ice cream topping, but it's so good with tart apples that I can't bear to take any away.

Cupcakes.I finally used my cupcake tree! I've only had it for 14 months.

I used King Arthur Flour's King Cake Cupcakes, which makes a dense, tasty cupcake, almost like a pound cake. (and btw, this recipe uses a very different order of mixing than I'd ever seen before, but it makes it really easy. Go check it out, it's worth trying) Instead of their cream cheese lemony frosting, I tried Coconut & Lime's Ethereal Lemon Frosting, which caught my eye because it's FAT FREE. I've been told this is just a take on 7 minute frosting, but I'd never made that before. Anyway, this lemon frosting is basically like eating a lemonade marshmallow- really, really tasty, and I look forward to playing around with it (apple cider frosting, anyone?). In a nutshell, you beat egg whites until they form soft peaks, and cook sugar, lemon zest and lemon juice until it reaches the soft ball stage (about 230 on a candy thermometer) and then stir the hot sugar into the eggs, which cooks the eggs and forms a meringue- like substance- which is actually pretty much how one makes marshmallows- only marshmallows use gelatin and not egg whites. And btw, the recipe I've linked is enough frosting for at least 2 dozen cupcakes, unless you're making high hat cupcakes (which... I should have done, that would have been really fun!)

Rye bread!

My love of/obsession with baking bread continues. I might just go through my King Arthur Flour cookbook, page by page soon.

This is another relatively simple bread. I don't have the step-by-step photos for this batch, but it's basically like the cheese bread- without the cheese, of course. My timing was exactly the same.

Step 1: combine 2cups of warm water (or milk, or a combination) and 1/4cup brown sugar (or molasses) in a bowl, then add 1T yeast. Let sit for a while (during which time I had breakfast).

Step 2: stir in 1cup of rye flour (available at the Coop foodstores or King Arthur Flour, and honestly, I have no idea where to get it outside of the upper valley- I'm sure Whole Foods would have it, and possibly regular grocery stores). Stir in 1/4 cup of caraway seeds and 1T salt. Stir in 2T softened butter. Stir in 3 cups of whole wheat, one cup at a time, and somewhere in here, transfer to your stand mixer- whenever you get tired of stirring. Then stir in 1.5 cups of all-purpose flour. Knead until elastic- and this dough's a little stickier than other bread doughs. I'm not sure why, but the recipe said it should be.

Step 3: place kneaded dough in greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place, about 2-3 hours, until doubled. (Again with the rising on the radiator- apparently everyone's using this trick now) I worked a half day during this rising- very convenient!

Step 4: shape into 2 loaves, place in 2 greased loaf pans. Let rise another hour or 2.

Step 5: place in cold oven (not pre-heated), turn temp up to 400, then 15 minutes later, turn down to 350 and bake 25-30 minutes.

And voila, rye bread. Delicious toasted with strawberry jelly.

Now I have to think what bread to bake next. I'm out of whole wheat flour, so it'll have to be a 100% all purpose flour bread. I have a ton of nuts and dried fruits- any ideas? I'll have to shop around.

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