Monday, March 31, 2014

Bread Pudding with Irish Whiskey Sauce

About once a month I make a loaf of challah bread.  From this one loaf we get a delicious, ample slice of toast for breakfast, amazing croutons for our salad, a tasty grilled cheese sandwich, French toast for breakfast the following morning, and bread pudding for dessert.  All of that from one loaf.

Bread pudding used to be something from which I would recoil.  I mean bread, and (gulp) pudding?!  It sounds like some cruel joke.  Come to find out the joke was on me.  It is tasty, comforting, and with the addition of my favorite Irish whiskey, ever so warming and relaxing.

Bread Pudding with Irish Whiskey Sauce
2/3 cup raisins
1/3 cup brandy

4 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
1 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt

4 cups day-old challah* with crusts, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup pecans, toasted, chopped
1 Tablespoon Irish whiskey

Irish Whiskey Sauce (see below)

Combine raisins and 1/3 cup brandy (or bourbon, or rum) in small bowl. Soak for 30 minutes. Drain and save liquid.

Butter an 8-inch square glass baking dish.  In a medium bowl w
hisk together eggs, milk, cream, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, salt, and raisin soaking liquid. Place bread, raisins, and pecans in prepared dish. Toss lightly with fingers until mixed.  Pour milk mixture over and let stand 5 minutes. Push down bread into custard. Refrigerate at least 2 hours, smashing bread down into the custard occasionally.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Place bread pudding in large metal baking pan. Add enough hot water to come up the side of the 
bread pudding dish about an inch. Bake until pudding is puffed and golden brown on top, approximately 50 minutes. Remove dish with bread pudding from water and cool slightly. Brush top with the tablespoon of whiskey.  Cut into rounds using a 3 biscuit cutter. Serve warm with sauce.

Irish Whiskey Sauce
 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons whipping cream
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons Irish Whiskey (I use Jameson)
½ teaspoon tangerine zest (I use Melissa’s Ojai Pixie Tangerines)

Melt butter in small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in sugar, whipping cream, salt, and whiskey. Simmer until thickened, whisking often, about 3 minutes. Cool slightly. Stir in tangerine rind.  Serve warm on top of bread pudding.

* If baking your own challah using the ABM (or other) recipe, don't bother to braid it, just bake it up in a standard sized loaf pan.

One of the reasons that I just had to make this particular recipe was to test drive my new spoon from Kelly Galanos’ Etsy shop, Sycamore Hill, The Home of The ORIGINAL Hand Stamped Vintage Coffee & Espresso Spoons.  Is this adorable, or what?  Click on over and check out her shop and tell her that I sent you.  And stay tuned.  I am crushing on that Cereal Killer spoon, so I’m going to have to come up with a killer recipe for cereal (okay, so it may be a challenge, I’m up to it), so that I can buy that spoon!

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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Springtime Table Settings

It’s spring.  People tell me it’s spring.  But with this frigid weather you certainly can’t prove it by me.  I sat in front of the fire keeping warm for most of the day while watching baseball.  If you’re as anxious for the real spring to get here as I am, with its warm weather, birdsong, and fabulous flowers bursting forth with beautiful colors, here are a few colorful table settings to get you in the mood.

Whether you like soft whites and cool pastels or the boldness of primary colors, there is something here to stir your creative juices.  Click on the links to learn more about each table.  They are, clockwise from upper left: Destination Dinner, Evening in Paris, First Dinner of Spring, and Springtime Table.

How do you set your table for spring?

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Veggie Sandwich with Creamy Dill Sauce

 I am not a particular fan of lunch.  Sure I enjoy a warm slice of quiche, a hearty bowl of soup, or a nice salad with a crusty roll, but in my case, as I’m sure in yours, for the most part, lunch is a meal that is catch as catch can.  Sometimes a sandwich, sometimes cheese and crackers, sometimes just crackers.

Here is a recipe for a healthy lunch, made up of items from the fridge, topped with a delicious creamy sauce andit’s good for you.  I challenged myself to come up with a fast healthy sandwich, the only caveat was that I needed to make the sauce a day ahead.  In five minutes, this is what I was able to assemble.  Looks tasty, no?  It is.  Consider my vegetable selection as a guideline and use your favorites.  I do find that provolone cheese and cucumber are a must, but the rest is up to you.

From the bottom up, here is what I used:

For the Sandwich

A slice of white wheat bread
A handful of spring mix lettuce
A slice of provolone cheese
Thinly sliced red onion
Sliced avocado
Thin slices of cucumber
Creamy Yogurt Dill Sauce (recipe below)

It’s a knife and fork sandwich to be sure, and one that will leave you satisfied and feeling good about yourself.

Creamy Dill Sauce
(For one sandwich)

2 Tablespoons plain Greek Yogurt (I use Chobani)
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh dill
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 pinch of Coleman’s English mustard (for zing)
1teaspoon canola oil
½ teaspoon red wine vinegar
Pinch of Kosher salt
Few gratings of freshly ground black pepper

Mix all ingredients together and store in a covered container in the fridge.  Keeps 3-4 days.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Bourbon Bacon Pecan Pie

 Teeny Lamothe wanted to be a lady pie baker, no doubt because her passion for baking and for pie came at an early age, happily learned at her mother's side. But how, she thought, could she accomplish such a feat?  Deep in thought, while noshing on pie, Lamothe came up with the idea for her Tour of Pie.  She would take a year off to travel across America, learning pie baking from the nation's finest. The only hitch was getting the nation's finest to be willing participants. A letter writing campaign ensued, and while the responses were not quite as enthusiastic as her letters, she did get a smattering of curious pie bakers to take her up on her offer of a free apprenticeship in exchange for their knowledge. 

Her quest began in Seattle at High 5 Pie where she worked alongside owner Dani Cone, author of Cutie Pies.  It continued as she baked her way through nine states, ending in Littleton, Colorado, at the home of her mother for her final apprenticeship.

This book is invaluable to people interested in learning to bake pies, hone their skills, or increase their repertoire. Sections on equipment describe, in detail, what you will need to bake a winner of a pie, from the simple rolling pin and the many variations, to the pastry blender, crust cutter, and crust shield (something that I really do need).

The chapter on The Elements of Crust is worth the price of this book alone. Amazing detail and insight is provided along with the secret to a crust flakier than the one your grandma made, accomplished by substituting the water for vodka, an ingredient that evaporates more quickly during baking and, as such, yields a lighter, flakier crust. Venting, decorating, lattice, what to do with excess scraps of crust, are all covered in fine detail in this chapter. And the recipes!  Sweet crusts, savory crusts, whole wheat crusts, gluten free, sugar cookie, pretzel crusts, each one more tempting than the other. The section on troubleshooting will help bail you out when your crust has taken an unfortunate turn.

The section on Crumbles and Creams won my heart!  I am a big fan of the crumb topping for pies, largely because it saves me the trouble of working with two crusts on a single pie. Lamothe provides recipes for a variety of crumble toppings, including a savory one for pot pies that makes use of boxed stuffing. This I am definitely going to try!  Recipes for variations on whipped cream abound including an orange version that she suggests pairing with her Chocolate Cream Pie. Imagine the decadence!

Each well-written, concise recipe provides information on the proper storage, coverage, and length of time a pie will last, many include instructions on how to make teeny (six inch) pies from the recipe instead of one large one.

The recipes themselves are truly inspired. Simple favorites share space with those filled with unusual combinations for the intrepid baker, such as Green Chile Apple Pie with Cheddar Crust, Bourbon Bacon Pecan Pie (Yep, you read that right, and it is delicious!), Rosemary Caramel Apple Pie, Earl Grey Cream Pie, or the savory Reuben Pot Pies with a Rye Crumble and Caraway Crust.

I tried two of the pies, one savory, the other sweet. The savory was the Breakfast Pie with Hash Brown Crust. I shredded my own potatoes to be able to control both freshness and size of the shreds. It, on its own, was delicious. Crispy edges give way to a moist interior with a pleasant potato taste.  The filling was satisfying without being heavy, and a perfect choice for spring with the inclusion of leeks. I added about a half times more than what is called for (2 medium leeks) (because I am wild about leeks), and I also chose shiitake mushrooms; a truly great combination.

For the sweet pie test, I couldn't resist the Bourbon Bacon Pecan Pie (recipe below). I tend to embrace oddball combinations of ingredients, so surely she had me in mind when she created this. It's a keeper. People will love this one, definitely recognize the bourbon (though it does not overwhelm), but will puzzle over why this version is better than theirs. You can tell them...or not.

I like a cookbook that I can sit down and read. This book is both readable and informative, with delicious sounding recipes, and a bit of travel info to boot. Before planning my next trip,
I'm going to consult Teeny's Tour of Pies.

Here are the bakeries that she visited, in order:

High 5 Pie, Seattle, WA
Emma's Organics, Ithica, NY
Petsi Pies, Somerville, MA
Sweet Sensations Pastry, Chicago, IL
Pie Lab, Greensboro, AL
Bob Roth's New River Groves, Davie, FL
Pie Shop, Atlanta, GA
I Heart Pies, Los Angeles, CA

Bourbon Bacon Pecan Pie

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup packed light brown sugar
3 medium eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup dark corn syrup
2 tablespoons bourbon
4 slices bacon, well cooked and roughly chopped
1-1/2 cups chopped pecans
1 recipe pie crust

Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in the middle.

Whisk together the butter and sugar with a wire whisk in a large mixing bowl until mixture is light and fluffy.  Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing after each addition.  Add the salt, vanilla, corn syrup, and bourbon, and whisk until everything is fully incorporated.  Stir in the bacon and one cup of the chopped pecans.  Set aside.

Lay the crust into a 9" pie dish, gently press it in and trim any excess dough from the edge with a paring knife, being sure to leave a 3/4" overhang.  Tuck the overhanging dough under itself and crimp.  Place the lined pie dish on a rimmed baking sheet.

Arrange the final 1/2 cup of pecans in a layer on the bottom of the pie shell.  Give the filling one last stir in case anything has settled to the bottom.  Pour the filling over the pecans and bake until the crust and pecans are a golden brown and the middle of the pie no longer wobbles, 50 to 60 minutes.  Let cool to room temperature until the filling is set, at least 45 minutes.

Disclosure: I received a free digital copy of this book from NetGalley, but the opinions expressed are entirely my own.

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