Sunday, April 27, 2014

Carrot Cake

This is the recipe I have given to people the most often.

I'm putting my go to recipes in this blog for you and for me. Here is the carrot cake that is better than any other I've ever tried.

Carrot Cake

2.5 cups flour
1.25 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1.25 teaspoon cinnamon
.5 teaspoon nutmeg, fresh is you've got it
pinch of cloves
.5 teaspoon salt
1 pound carrots, peeled and grated
1.5 cup white sugar
1.5 cup brown sugar
4 eggs
1.5 cup oil
4 ounce can crushed pineapple drained
.5 cup raisins, soak in the pineapple juice while you assemble the other ingredients
.5 cup nuts

Preheat oven 350 degrees
Oil 1- 9x13 pan or 2-9x9 inch pans. Line with parchment.
In a large bowl combine flours, baking soda, baking poder, spices and salt. Mix to cmbine.

In a secon bowl add sugars to oil and eggs. Beat until the sugar is dissolved and it's all creamy looking. Add pineapple and raisins.

Into the sugar add half the flour and all the carrots. Mix in the remaining flour. Once well combined mix in the nuts.

Pour into prepared pan ad bake 35-45 minutes, until the middle is done and when an inserted tester comes out clean.

Cool completely before frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting
8 ounces cream cheese
5 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon sour cream
.5 teaspoon vanilla
1.5 cup powdered sugar

Cream the cream cheese and butter together until there are no lumps. When smooth add the remaining ingredients. Mix until well combined. 

Saturday, April 26, 2014

The THIN Pizza Crust

I've been looking to make a better crust. I want a thin crust that can bend but with a crunchy crust.
I want to be able to make in the food processor and I want it work on the grill, not just in the oven. This dough is sturdy enough to toss.

Once upon a time I worked in a pizza shop where we rolled the dough with a rolling pin and occasionally tossed the dough. That's a fun skill to have. 

Thin Pizza Crust

Makes 2 12 inch pizza

3/4 cup lukewarm water
1 teaspoon yeast
2 cups white flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt


In the bowl of the food processor put the water, yeast, flour and salt. Pulse until combined. If it doesn't come together add a little more flour. Run one minute to knead the dough.

Lightly line a bowl with oil and turn around in the oiled bowl so all surfaces are covered. Cover with a towel and let sit 30 minutes to 90 minutes.

Preheat your oven 500 degrees.

Divide the dough in half, dust the dough in flour. Roll the disc thinly, pick it up a few times so it doesn't stick. If baking in an oven oil a cookie sheet. Lay the crust out and top with your favorite toppings. Bake 5 to 8 minutes. Carefully remove the pizza from the pan and bake straight on the wires 3 more minutes.

If you are a pizza stone user dust a peel (or lip-less cookie sheet) with the corn meal, build the pizza and slide onto the stone. Bake 8-10 minutes.

To grill, build the fire on one side of the grill. When the coals are ready, brush the rolled out dough with oil. Place the crust over the coals. Let cook 3 minutes. Flip, cook 2 or 3 minutes on the second side. Move to the other side of the grill. Build the pizza, use a quick melting cheese like Fontina or Gruyere. When the cheese is melted remove from the grill.

Or if you making more than 2 pizzas, make the whole grill hot, cook 2 crusts at a time, and remove before topping. When the grill cools off, just before you are ready to serve, top two pizzas at a time.  

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Hungarian Dumplings AKA Spaetzle

Chicken and Hungarian Dumplings

I might be missing the finer points between which is which, a Hungarian dumpling and a German spaetzle dumpling. I'm sure someone could enlighten me, but being a woman in the middle of Ohio, I'm going to blur the line between the two.

Frankly, this post is really a way to capture the recipe that I'm always digging through cookbooks to find. I'm going plead lazy ignorance again: I don't really know what happened to the PBS TV cookery show host, Jeff Smith, and I really don't care to know; I treasure his cook books. I have 6 of them on my shelf and I can never remember which one has this recipe.

As I recall it was scandalous but non the less his recipes work and his prose spoke to me when I was first learning my cooking craft. I think it's perfectly acceptable to love him. May he rest in peace.

This comes from this book The Frugal Gourmet.

Skinny Easy Spaetzle
Makes enough for 6 people

2 eggs
2 tablespoons oil or melted butter, or melted lard according to Mr. Smith
.5 cup milk
.5 cup water
2.5 cups flour
2.5 teaspoons salt (don't skimp!)
.25 teaspoon baking powder

4 quarts of boiling water or a pot of simmering chicken soup

2 tablespoons butter, to saute the dumplings (optional)

About 30 minutes before serving combine the ingredients in a bowl. Mix by hand until well combined. It will be a sticky, stringy mass. Cover and sit on the counter 15 to 20 minutes.

In the meanwhile bring a pot of water to a boil. Add a bit of salt. I use a food mill with the largest holed plate. You can use a spaetzle maker too. Put the dumpling dough in the contraption, while holding it over a pot and actuate the tool. Bits of stringy dough will drop into the pot forming dumpling. Stir to cover with liquid and allow them to simmer 5 minutes. Strain and saute in butter.

Or if making them directly into soup, drop directly into the broth, stir and simmer 5 to 10 minutes.

My chicken and dumplings pictured above:

3 chicken legs and thighs
4 quarts water
1 large onion, peeled and halved
2 celery stalks, cut into 3 inch pieces
2 carrots, cut into 3 inch pieces
5 peppercorns
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Bring to a simmer and cook 25 to 30 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. Remove the chicken from the pot. Cool, remove the meat and skin from the bone. Discard the skin, reserve the meat and put the bones back into the pot to simmer as long as possible- 1 to 6 hours.

Strain the broth and set aside. In the dirty pot:

1 large onion, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
3 carrots, peeled and cut
1 teaspoon oil
sage and thyme
salt, if needed

Saute the onions, celery and carrots in the oil. Drop in the strained broth, sage, thyme and taste for salt. Simmer until the carrots are soft.

 Make the dumpling mixture. Once the dumplings are done add the reserved chicken plus

2 cups peas


You can make chicken and noodles by omitting the dumplings and adding 6 ounces of kluski or egg noodles instead. Give them 35 minutes or so to cook. Then add the chicken and peas.

This is the most comforting of the comfort foods I make. What is yours?

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Mast-o Khiar Persian Yogurt and Cucumbers

I'm rushing the warm weather trying to create summer dishes, while my toes are still cold.

Cucumbers in yogurt with minced dried cranberries

Yes, spring is springing, but sadly I don't yet have fresh dill or mint in my herb pots.

However, I'd been invited to a pot luck and my mind wandered to kabobs. But there needed to be more than a platter of meat. I decided to make a dish of cucumber and yogurt, using Labna Cheese/Yogurt instead of the ubiquitous Greek yogurt. As a side note can I say I'm thrilled Greek yogurt is now ubiquitous? I am. I love that I don't need to go seek it out at specialty groceries.

I digress. I live in a university area and there's a middle eastern grocery which I pass regularly. Today I picked up Lebna (the link will tell you how to make your own!) and sumac and some ground chick pea flour, but that's for an altogether different day.

When I look up Lebna some people call it cheese some call it yogurt. It sits in the spot between very dense yogurt and very soft cheese. Marscapone cheese is firmer.

This is a lovey variation on cucumbers and yogurt. No garlic, no lemon, no vinegar. The tartness of the yogurt  carries the dish. The toothiness of cucumbers is satisfying and cranberries on top aren't just pretty but add a hint of sweet that carries the flavors through.

Mast-o Khiar
Makes 3-4 cups

2 tablespoons onion, minced finely
2 tablespoons dried dill, 1 tablespoon fresh
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
16 ounce container Lebna
2 English cucumbers, not peeled or seeded, diced
2 tablespoons dried cranberries, minced

In a large bowl comine the onion, dill, salt and Lebna, mix well. Add cucumbers. Refrigerate an hour or more. Stir again. Mound into a serving dish and top with cranberries.

Serve with kabob or pita or as a dressing on a green leafy salad.   

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Super Nutty Biscotti

Three Nut Biscotti

With it turning to spring (finally) I'm gearing up to clean up the kitchen. I realized I have bit of left over ingredients from my winter baking. There's no way I'd throw away a half cup of hazelnuts so the question was what to do?

Make a nut filled cookie! I had pecans and almonds tucked away in the freezer too. What would be nicer? Also, it's taken until March to recover from all the holiday and competition recipe making. I have enjoyed reading books and watching TV instead of baking though.

Lastly, I have a folder filled with hand written recipes that I want to put into this blog for my own reference and your potential enjoyment.

This biscotti recipe is an updated recipe that was given to me by an Italian grandmother. Filomena isn't my grandmother but she and I had great affection for each other. I met her when she was close to 70. I never caught her with out her hair curled and her nails polished a pearlescent cream. She always looked like a million bucks and invariably had a kind word for me.

The original recipe calls for 6 egg yolks and 1 egg and turbinado sugar. The sugar is not an update, and measured in pounds! Filomena wasn't kidding around! 

Basic Biscotti
Makes about 30 large biscotti

1/2 pound butter
1 pound turbinado sugar
3 whole eggs
2 egg yolks, reserve the white
1 1/2 pounds flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon other oil

turbinado sugar for sprinkling on top

For variation add up to a total of 3 cups of nuts, chips, and or dried fruit.

Preheat oven 350 degrees.

In a stand mixer cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and yolks, one at a time. When creamed add flour, baking powder, salt, and flavoring. Mix well. Add additions. The pictured biscotti has 1 cup blanched almonds, 1 cup pecans and 1/2 cup hazelnuts plus 1 teaspoon almond oil.
Just before going into the oven, glaze with egg white and topped with sugar.

Divide the dough in half. Shape into a two loaves. Brush with egg white and sprinkle with sugar. Bake 30 minutes or until baked well enough that the center springs back when pressed. When cool enough to handle cut diagonally into 1 inch wide pieces. Place on a cookie sheet and bake again for 15 minutes, turning them over half way through. Or bake a little longer if you like them extra toasty.

You can temper chocolate and dip an end or the bottom of the cookie in chocolate for a fancier presentation.

Share with friends, take pictures of them holding a bag of cookies, and enjoy with espresso or cold milk.
Cookies and colleagues are a wonderful combination. 
Do you have a favorite handed down recipe? Or a favorite cookie recipe.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Snack Cake with Cooked Frosting

Sometimes you just need a small cake. A simple single 8 inch layer will do. This will answer that call.

This chocolate cake is my go to cake. It's cocoa based, which I always have in the pantry and it's easily vegan. Just use water or coffee instead of milk. No eggs in the house? No problem!

Want a dairy free icing? A cooked frosting made with coconut milk and a non dairy fat will make a delicious cake for the lactose intolerant, vegan friends!

Cooked frosting is probably that frosting you've been trying to make but just didn't know what it is. It's the one granny used to make. It was fussier back in the day. More because flour needed sifted. Original recipes will have you add the sugar to the cold flour mixture which if you weren't careful would sometime remain granular. I add it to the milk and flour roux after the flour is cooked. The heat absolutely melts the sugar and helps cool the mixture quicker. 

Cocoa Snack Cake

1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda

6 tablespoons oil
1 tablespoon cider vineagar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup water, cold coffee or milk

1 8 inch pan.
Preheat oven 350 degrees.

In a bowl combine the dry ingredients. Whisk together. Then add the oil, vinegar, vanilla and cold liquid.

Stir quickly, but thoroughly. Pour into prepared pan. Bake 25-30 minutes.

Cooked Frosting

Enough for a single layer. Double the recipe to make frosting for 2 layers, or a 13x9. 

2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup suar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of salt
4 ounces butter, room temperature

In a saucepan, a pan with a rounded bottom, combine the flour and milk. Cook over moderate heat while constantly whisking. When a smooth paste is established and it looks like it can't thicken further off the heat. Add the sugar, salt and vanilla. Whisk. It will look like a gooey pudding. Allow it to cool.

Using mixer whip the mixture. Add the butter a few pieces at a time until it is all incorporated. Whip a little longer.

Note that if you use coconut milk, the gooey pudding mixture will look a little greyish. When it's whipped with the fat (coconut shortening or vegetable shortening) the color lightens significantly and looks appetizing.

Frost cake and enjoy.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Hungarian Cabbage Rolls

A very full pot of cabbage rolls ready to eat.

My father came to America in 1957 from Hungary. He was 19. Five years later he married an American woman just out of college. They had four children together. I came last.

We weren't too involved in the Hungarian community, sadly. But here and there I picked up Hungarian cookbooks, talked with women who cook the cuisine and in my early 20's I got a job at an  Eastern European restaurant based more on my surname than my actual experience. Use any advantage you have, they say.

It was at that restaurant I learned to make cabbage rolls, pierogies, and other foods found in the old Soviet Block. It was a Russian Tea Room style place. I have had dreams of owning a similar restaurant ever since.

More recently, I met up with a woman connected to the local Hungarian Church where the sell traditional sausages once a year for a fundraiser. I bought sausages to share with my family. But instead of just handing them some frozen meat I thought I'd make a meal and enjoy their company too.

For the meal we had mild Hungarian sausage and Hurka (liver and rice sausage) cooked with onions. I made cabbage rolls, cucumber salad, boiled potatoes and a fantastic stacked crepe cake. AKA Surprise Cake. 
It's a pretty little ganache covered cake.

The layers are a pretty surprise!

 Rakott Palacsinta is the Hungarian name. This recipe and directions by Katherine Martinelli is clearer and more informative than any I've found. If you like crepes and chocolate and apricot and almonds make this dessert. It's lovely and only mildly fussy. I like a little fussy in my cooking. 

Below find my Cabbage Roll [Töltött Káposzta] Recipe. There are many variations on a theme but what Hungarian rolls will have is sour kraut, paprika, and sour cream. (Meat and cabbage too, of course.)

Cabbage Rolls
 Makes 20 rolls
1 big head of cabbage
2 pounds ground pork
1 pound ground beef
1 cup rice, measured after it is cooked. Use a fluffy-not sticky rice.
1 egg
1 onion, diced finely
1 tablespoon sweet Hungarian paparika
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

For the sauce
1-24 ounce bag sour kraut, drained and rinsed.
1/2 pound of smoked meat that can be cut up. I used bacon ends.
1 onion, diced
1 small green pepper, diced
2 Roma tomatoes
16 ounces V-8 juice
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon sweet Hungarian paprika
2 teaspoons salt

To thicken
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons flour

Give yourself plenty of time these are a labor of love.

Cook the rice.
Core the cabbage. Dunk it into a pot of boiling water. Hold the head under the water cored side up. Watch for the bubbles to stop. As the outer leaves loosen remove them from the head. Allow them to cook in the water a minute or two longer. Put the cooked leaves into a bowl of icy water as you pull them out of the pot. You'll need 20 ish leaves. The biggest outer leaves can be cut in half to make two rolls. Cook the center of the cabbage until tender. This will be added to the sauce.

With a paring knife remove the part of the rib that stands taller then the rest of the leaf.

In a bowl combine the ground meat, rice, egg, onion, and seasoning. Mix well.

To fill the leaves place a leaf cup side up on the work surface, with the bottom-where it was connected to the core, closest to you. Put about 3 tablespoons of meat filling in the leaf. Roll up the bottom, both side and place it on the seam. Think little burrito package. If you split a larger leaf, roll from the side, not the bottom. They aren't as pretty but they'll taste just fine.

In the pot that will hold everything start the sauce. Start with the smoked fatty meat or oil. Soften the onions, peppers, and garlic. Add seasoning, cut up unused cabbage, and sour kraut. Heat through. Remove half the mixture. Nestle half the cabbage rolls into the remaining sauce. Top with the sour kraut mixture you removed. Nestle the rest of the cabbage rolls into pot. Pour V-8 juice over it all. Bring to simmer and cook 2 hours on the stove top, covered. If they are too wet after two hours simmer with out the lid 20 minutes more.
Ready to have V-8 poured on top.

When the rolls are done remove them temporarily to a platter. In a small bowl combine the sour cream, milk, and flour. Add 1/4 cup of sauce to the sour cream mixture, stir well. Pour the sour cream mixture into the sauce. Stir until thick and bubbly. Nestle the cabbage rolls back into the sauce. Simmer gently 10 minutes. Serve.
I forgot to take a picture before I tucked into my plate! Sorry.
Do you cook the food of your national heritage? What's your favorite dish?