Tag Archives: Cookbooks

Dave Matthews Band Magic Brownies Cupcakes

I have been reading this cookbook, The Flavor Bible.  It’s inspiring for anyone who takes their cooking or baking skills seriously.  My copy is on loan from the library, but I would recommend this one to your home library archives.  The author made a point how food is not only for sustenance, because if it were, we would eat the same thing 3 times a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks of the year.  Rather, food is about the flavor profiles, which are the taste, mouth feel, aroma & X factor.  All of these being great, but I think the X factor stood out the most.  It is the stories, the total experience, the nostalgia, which comes to mind after eating a specific food.

We all have these.  And quite honestly, it’s what makes certain foods disgusting to some, while to another their “last supper.”  It’s no wonder Jesus chose to perform his first miracle at a wedding feast and through the fruit of the vine.  He wove the spiritual with the senses, creating this amazing story of his complete love & provision.

So as I was making these souffle chocolate cupcakes yesterday, I didn’t have any idea what they would be like. Nor did I realize that they would stir the X factor up.  You see, after my oldest was born and people graciously dropped off meals every night, one night someone dropped off a roasted chicken, salad, and a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Dave Matthews Band Magic Brownies Ice Cream.  I personally am a ‘every but the..’ sort of girl.  However, the melding of the brownie chunks, vanilla & raspberry swirled made for quite the addiction.

Oh so back to these cupcakes.  Well, I have been salivating over these for a while.  Not only that, but they are gluten-free, which made me think of my friend Tina (she works with Ben & I feel bad when I only bring in gluten treats).  However, Tina loves raspberry & chocolate, so I changed it up a bit.  Then, when I bit into one, it took me back to our old apartment with my week old baby and a still, quiet moment, that everything would be okay in my insane, postpartum state.  I’m not promising that this will create quite the same X factor for you, but maybe you should make some for yourself and some new mother to create one for her.

Dave Matthews Band Magic Brownie Cupcakes

(printable recipe)

This recipe has been adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s Chocolate Souffle Cupcakes, which had a mint topping and used espresso powder instead of the actual espresso I used in mine.  You should do as Deb over at Smitten Kitchen says, “eat at once,” because the coolness of the Raspberry Cream enhances the dessert.

Chocolate Soufflé Cupcakes
6 ounces (170 grams) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
6 tablespoons (86 grams) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 Tb fresh espresso
3 large eggs, separated
6 tablespoons (97 grams) sugar, divided
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

White Chocolate Raspberry Cream
2 ounces (56 grams) white chocolate, finely chopped
3 ounces heavy whipping cream
2/3 cup (76 grams) frozen raspberries + 1 tsp water

Get the white chocolate cream ready for later: Put the white chocolate in a small bowl.  Then, bring the cream to a simmer and pour it over the chocolate.  Let it sit for a minute to melt the chocolate, then whisk well. Lay a piece of plastic wrap on the surface of the cream. Chill until very cold, about two hours.

Cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 9 standard-size (3-ounce) muffin cups with paper liners.  Put the butter, chocolate & espresso in a saucepan.  Place over low heat, stirring occasionally until melted.  Remove from heat.  Cool to lukewarm, stirring occasionally.

Using electric mixer, beat egg yolks and 3 tablespoons sugar in medium bowl until mixture is very thick and pale, about 2 minutes. Briefly beat lukewarm chocolate mixture, then vanilla extract, into yolk mixture.  Since I used my one Kitchenaid bowl for the whole process, I poured the chocolate-egg yolk contents into another bowl.  Clean the bowl & use the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites, sugar & salt until medium-firm peaks form.  Using a spatula, fold whites into chocolate mixture in 3 additions. Divide batter among prepared cups, filling each three-fourths of the way.

Bake cakes until tops are puffed and dry to the touch and a tester inserted into the centers comes out with some moist crumbs attached, about 15 to 20 minutes. Cool in pan on a cooling rack.  Once they are cool, add the raspberry cream.

Make Raspberry Puree:Over low heat, add the frozen raspberries and 1 tsp water to a small saucepan.  Allow the raspberries to slowly melt down into a mush.  This will take about 5-7 minutes.  Place a sieve above a small bowl, then dump the raspberry contents into the sieve.  Take a spatula and begin to push the raspberries through the sieve (you are getting the puree while the sieve will catch the seeds).  You will get about 2 Tbs of puree.  Set aside to add to your white chocolate cream.

Putting it altogether: Beat white chocolate cream with electric beaters until medium peaks form. Slowly add the raspberry puree.  The cream might curdle a bit, but don’t over beat.  If you find that the cream isn’t the right consistency, then put the cream in a pastry bag or plastic sandwich bag and place in fridge for a bit.  Cut the end and squeeze out about 1 Tb on top of each cupcake.  Eat immediately to gain the full experience of the cold raspberry cream with the delicate crumb of the brownie.

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Throw Nabisco Out with Homemade Oreos

There are some people who say they’ve never enjoyed Oreos.  I, on the other hand, have always enjoyed them.  In fact, in high school I spent pretty much every weekend of my junior year at my surrogate family’s house–the Carrillo’s.  Veronica (then Carrillo) is (and has been) one of my dearest of friends since I was four years old.  We are complete opposites, share a plethora of memories, and loyalty can always be found in her.

While being the adopted daughter, I would hear the question from Mrs. Carrillo, “Kamille, is there anything you want at the store?”  To which she would hear, “I guess some double stuff Oreos?!”  And come the next couple times around to making the grocery list, Mrs. Carrillo would instinctively have the double stuff on the list (or have them waiting for me).  “But now I’m taking it back, I’m taking it all back.”  Those Nabisco kind have nothing on these chocolatey mixed with white chocolate goodness.

And they went rather well with my mom get away weekend.  I got away with some of my fellow mom friends, and it was beyond glorious.  Being able to spend time to know and be known by these women I dearly love & respect was a glimpse of heaven bound.  So, in terms of these cookies, I must say that the first bite of just the cookies left me a bit disappointed.  I was expecting a little bit more depth of chocolate richness; but, in that first bite I felt it lacking.  However, as the flavors began to meld and the salt kicked in–the chocolate popped, which made me want another bite.  And that’s how these cookies work–you can’t just have one.

Homemade Oreos (printable recipe)

This recipe comes from The Essence of Chocolate.  If you were wondering if you would go back to Oreos after tasting these, the answer is NO!  You will want to make the dough when you’re ready to start rolling it out.  Putting it in the fridge will make it too hard to roll and not necessary.

Ingredients

Filling:

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 8 ounces white chocolate, finely chopped

Cookies:

  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups plus 3 Tb all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup plus 1 Tb unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 15 Tb (7 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 3/4-inch cubes, at room temperature

For the Filling:

In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a boil over medium heat.  Remove the cream from the heat and add the white chocolate (making sure all of the chocolate is covered by the cream).  Let stand for one minute then whisk to melt.  It will take about 6 hours to let the filling to get to the right consistency.

For the Cookies:

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpats.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add all of the ingredients except for the butter and combine on low speed.  With the mixer running, add the butter a few pieces at a time, until all of it has been added.  The mixture will have a sandy texture at first and then will begin to form pebble-size pieces.  As soon as the dough starts to come together, stop the mixer.

Transfer the dough to a board and use the heel of your hand to shape the dough into a block about 5 by 7 inches.  Cut the block into 2 pieces.

One at a time, roll each block of dough between two pieces of lightly floured parchment paper until 1/8 inch thick.  Use a 2-inch circular cookie cutter (I used a big pastry coupler).  Place 1/2 inch apart on the prepared baking sheets.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking.  Remove from oven and put on a cooling rack leaving the cookies on the sheet for 2 to 5 minutes (the cookies will be too soft to remove initially).  Then transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely.

The dough trimmings can be pushed together once and rerolled to make more cookies (only re-roll twice).

To Assemble:

Place half of the cookies upside down on a work surface.  Whip the filling lightly with a whisk just to aerate it a bit; it will lighten in color and fluff up.  Do not overwhip, or the filling may begin to separate.

Transfer the filling to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/4-inch plain tip or use a disposable pastry bag and cut an opening at the tip of the bag.  Pipe about 1 1/2 teaspoon of filling in the center of each cookie.  Top with another cookie, right side up.  Gently, using your fingertips, press the cookies together until the filling comes just to the edges.

The cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Note: for the leftover dough you have rolled twice, I just put it on the baking sheet and baked it.  Then, had that for the family to munch on.


Mascarpone Chocolate Cheesecakes

I was realizing how most of the food I post is under the dessert or baked goods category.  It made me think, “Uh maybe I need to start incorporating some vegetable side dishes, meats or beans, or something aside from dessert.”  But, I soon came back to Kamille reality and the truth is…I don’t enjoy cooking nearly as much as baking.  It’s not that cooking isn’t fun, but it comes in waves in my house.  I really do like it, but right now in the state of affairs, cooking is a job that needs to get checked off the list.  Hence, resulting in mindless ‘make the doughnuts‘ fashion when it comes to cooking a meal.  It’s a chore and I’m lacking creativity to put forth anything tantalizing enough to write about (I feel like I’m always making eggs as a result).  Don’t worry, the pizzazz will come back soon.

However, in the meantime, I’ve been putting forth my energy into baking.  Whether it’s homemade bread (a loaf is sitting on the counter right now), making healthier snacks for my family, or finally making those pecan bars I’ve been wanting to make for well over a year and a half (they required 2 lbs of pecans–you can see why I didn’t take the plunge).  And as with most culinary tasks there are those which fall under the lengthy & advanced cook definition, lengthy & intermediate and easy (because anything that is lengthy almost always never falls under the easy).  Although I enjoy the lengthy challenge, there are times when easy yet tasty (without anything from a box) is desperately needed.  So I present you with these Mascarpone Chocolate Cheesecakes.

I think this took me a total of 50 minutes (this didn’t include the chill time in the fridge).  The recipe says they should chill for 4 hours, but really, I think it’s all a matter of preference.  You could just as easily let them cool to room temperature then grab a spoon, which the result would be creamy billows melting across your mouth.  However, if you chill them you will get the more firm taste one is accustomed to when eating cheesecake (personally I prefer more billowy and less dense).  I have also realized that what may come as second nature to me is what scares most people out of the kitchen.  So let me give you some pointers on making cheesecake (and specifically these cheesecakes).

  1. When recipes call for heating up heavy cream to which you will add chopped chocolate (which is called a ganache–it’s what is used to make truffles), you should chop it up.  However, in this instance, it’s okay if the chocolate is in bigger chunks, because the chocolate to cream ratio is 4:1, so you have more time to stir the cream with chocolate, in order for the chocolate to melt.
  2. Always cool down the chocolate mixture or any hot cream mixture when adding to eggs.  That is unless you want scrambled eggs hidden within.  If you don’t feel like eating breakfast with your dessert, resist the temptation thinking warm is equivalent to room temperature.
  3. Always, Always, Always (was that enough always?) use a bain marie when making cheesecakes or baked custards.  A bain marie is a hot water bath.  You take your cheesecake pan or ramekins with the uncooked mixture inside and place it in a roasting pan, 9×13 pan or any pan with sides taller than the ramekins, springform, or cake pan.  You will need to boil water in your kettle or get very hot water from your tap.  Place your ramekins inside a rectangular pan and set it on the rack in the oven.  Now gently pour the water into the rectangular pan without splashing any water on the cheesecake, until the water reaches the middle part of the outside of the ramekins.
  4. Bain Marie: By baking your cheesecake in a bain marie, you are relying on the hot water to help with the baking process, not just the dry heat from the oven.  This method will result in a creamier cheesecake and not a dry, dense one.  **if you’re making a big cheesecake, you will need to wrap the bottom with heavy duty aluminum foil, so the water doesn’t seep through the springform pan.**
  5. Never open the oven door while baking cheesecakes.  Don’t be tempted to open it (I know we all think by opening it the cooking will somehow be closer to being done).  By opening the door you alter the temperature, which causes those cracks in the middle of cheesecakes.
  6. If your making a big cheesecake, and the time is done.  Turn off the heat, but leave cheesecake in the oven with door closed for an additional hour.
  7. Remove the cheesecake from the water and let it cool on a rack to room temperature.


Mascarpone Chocolate Cheesecakes (printable recipe)

This is another recipe adapted from my Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey book.  If I haven’t spoken of its praises enough, then this recipe is another reason why you should stop stalling and go get it.  If you’re not up for it, stick with me and I’ll most likely be pulling a few dozen more of it.  What I like about these is they are less finicky than your typical cheesecake, don’t require as much cream cheese, and are individual servings.  Oh yeah & they’re crustless…so gluten & wheat sensitive can indulge.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (see note above)
  • 8 ounces mascarpone cheese (you can find some for a cheaper price at Trader Joe’s)
  • 1/4 cup sugar (okay, so seriously, I don’t think this really needs sugar–I say you could do 2 Tb and be fine)
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract (At Costco they sell gluten-free pure vanilla extract for a big amount & good price)
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 Tb rum, brandy or Grand Marnier (optional)
  • Top with whipped cream, sliced strawberries, raspberries or orange segments.
  • Boiling water for bain Marie

Directions:

  • Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 325.
  • In a saucepan, bring the cream to a simmer over medium heat.  Remove it from the heat once it starts to boil.  Add the chopped chocolate and whisk till all the chocolate is melted.  Let it come to room temperature.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk or stir together mascarpone & sugar till creamy.  Add eggs one at a time, whisking after each addition until thoroughly incorporated.  Add the vanilla, salt & liquor of choice.
  • Pour the cooled chocolate mixture into the mascarpone cheese mixture and whisk till smooth.
  • Put eight 4-ounce custard cups, ramekins or small ovenproof coffee cups in an empty 9×13 pan or roasting pan.  Divide the cheesecake mixture evenly among the ramekins.
  • Put the baking dish in the oven and gently pour the hot water into the pan (see notes above on bain marie).  Cover with aluminum foil.
  • Bake until the tops of the cheesecake appear solid but jiggle slightly when shaken, 30 minutes. The perfect consistency is soft, but not liquid.  Transfer the pots from the baking sheet to a wire rack.  Let them come to room temperature.  Then, cover each pot with plastic wrap and place in fridge for at least 4 hours.  Enjoy!

Homemade Graham Cracker Sandwich Cookies

I feel like there are definitely those that fall under the LOVE graham cracker category.  I’m in the other camp, the “meh” camp.  I can recall old roommates getting their sugar craving quenched by putting frosting on graham crackers.  If there are graham crackers in our home, Ben will spread peanut butter on them.  As for me, I would rather have nothing.  The boxed graham crackers tend to have that mass produced taste and lacking in the honey factor (even though the box says ‘Honey Graham’).

So if you’re in the “LOVE” category, you need to make these and your admiration will increase exponentially, making you wonder what you were doing having a love affair with such second rate calories.  If you’re in the “Meh” category, then this might be the start to a “beautiful friendship.”  When you bite into these gems, you taste honey, then cinnamon, then a bit of nuttiness from the whole wheat, the richness of the butter with the bit of salt tying it altogether.  That’s the graham without the frosting, so by adding the frosting it sends you over the top.  Wow your family or guests with these nostalgic childhood snacks and I guarantee that in this instance–simplicity wins out.

Homemade Graham Cracker Sandwich Cookies

(printable recipe)

This recipe is adapted from the cookbook, The Grand Central Baking Book, which is a bakery located in Seattle, WA & Portland, OR. The recipe calls to bake 15-20 minutes, but I found that a 15 minute baking time produces a softer graham (not as golden, but still wonderful).  So start at 15 and add more time if you want them more crispy.

Graham Cracker Ingredients

  • 2 cups (10 ounces) all-purpose flour, unbleached
  • 1/2 cup (2.5 ounces) whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup (8 ounces, or 2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup (1.75 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup (1.75 ounces) packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup (3 ounces) honey

Frosting Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces or 1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 Tb heavy cream, 1/2 & 1/2, or whole milk

Directions

  1. Combine the dry ingredients: Measure the flours, baking soda, salt & cinnamon into a bowl and whisk to combine.
  2. Cream the butter, sugar, and honey: Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, both sugars & honey on medium speed for 3 – 5 minutes until light in color and fluffy.  Stop the mixer and scrap the sides and bottom of bowl.
  3. Add the dry ingredients and chill the dough: With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients and mix just until combined.  Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour or up to 3 days.
  4. Shape the cookies: Preheat the oven to 350.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.  Lightly dust a work surface with flour and coat a rolling pin with additional flour.  Roll out the dough to 1/8 inch thickness, then use a sharp chef’s knife to cut the dough into rectangles (however large or small you of rectangles you would like, I varied mine between 3×5 and 2×3).  Prick the dough with a fork.  Place the rectangles about 1 inch apart on the parchment lined baking sheet.
  5. Bake: Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through the baking time.  The cookies should be dry, firm to the touch, and deep golden brown.  Let them cool completely on the baking sheets.
  6. Make the frosting: Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, mix the butter and powdered sugar on low speed until well blended, then increase to medium speed and beat for 3 minutes.  Add the vanilla and 2 Tb cream, and continue to beat on medium speed for 1 minute.
  7. Fill & assemble the sandwich cookies: Find matching size graham crackers and using an offset spatula (or butter knife) to spread a layer of frosting on the inverted graham cracker.  Put enough frosting to fill the middle and place the other graham cracker on top squeezing slightly until the frosting spreads to the edges.

Baking Bucket List

As I mentioned in a previous post, I wanted to set a New Year’s Goal, which revolved around baking.  Primarily being a bucket list in the baking arena.  I am definitely more of a baker at heart and it’s only been in the past couple years where I have cooked more.  Most of that is due to my stay-at-home status.  However, if you could set me loose in Williams-Sonoma or Sur La Table (if I had a 10 minute shopping spree free of charge) the baking department would monopolize my time.

So with that in mind, I have set to create a Baking Bucket List, but not necessarily for 2010 alone, because then the kitchen would rule my life (along with this blog) and I’m not in the business of being Julie.  I did make a semi-list, but after making the list I realized what I would like to do even more is bake from the cookbooks I own, which essentially has many of the items on my baking bucket list.   Another thing I’ve realized while making this list is how I’m surprised I haven’t made certain items yet; but, I came to the conclusion is that I prefer other tastes over some of these, or some are seriously high in fat content and I don’t want to add that to our household.  Below are some cookbooks I own and will be working through as well and here is the list:

1.Yeast Dough

1.French Bread
2.Baguette
3.Sourdough
4.Italian Bread
5.Challah
6.English Muffins
7.Kaiser Rolls
8.Bagels
9.Stollen
10.Babka
11.Brioche
12.Croissants
13.Danish Pastry
14.Streusel

2.Quick Breads

1.Steamed Brown Bread
2.Popovers
3.And new scones & muffins (because I cannot get enough of them)


3.Doughnuts, Waffles

1.gluten-free maple bars
2.Chocolate Cake doughnuts
3.Yeast-Raised Doughnuts
4.Sour Cream Doughnuts
5.Baked Doughnuts
6.Crepes (of all types)

4.Pastries

1.Puff Pastry
2.Cream Horns
3.Palmiers
4.Turnovers
5.Napoleons
6.Baked Apple Dumplings
7.Gateau Pithiviers
8.Eclairs
9.Strudel
10.Phyllo Dough

5.Pies

1.Coconut Cream
2.Banana Cream
3.Chocolate Cream
4.Chiffon type ones
5.Shaker Lemon Pie

6.Cakes

1.Chocolate Genoise
2.Roulade and/or Sponge Roll
3.Chiffon
4.Black Forest Cake
5.Petit Fours
6.Angel Cake

7.Cookies

1.Ladyfingers
2.Madeleines
3.Macaroons
4.Tuiles
5.Florentines

8.Custards, Puddings, Mousses

1.Pots de crème
2.crème Caramel
3.various bread puddings
4.Steamed puddings
5.Souffles
6.Bavarian Cream
7.Baked Alaska

9.Candy

1.Marzipan

Cookbooks

Rose’s Heavenly Cakes

Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey

The Cake Bible

The Pie & Pastry Bible

America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Cookbook

The Dessert Bible (Cook’s Illustrated)

Professional Baking (2nd Edition)

Once Upon a Tart

The Good Egg

The Good Cookie

Essence of Chocolate


    Quicky Sticky Biscuits

    I recall a moment in time when our dear friend Hilary asked Ben, “Benny, what would be your top 10 books of all time?”  Now, as my husband is a an avid reader as aforementioned, it would seem difficult to find a top 10.  In fact, he just told me yesterday that he checked out the most books from the library than anyone else in his whole elementary school (back when he was in elementary school).  But, he quickly named one off the top of his head (which is another hard thing for my introverted husband to do…he’s more methodical about his ideas & words), 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

    If I could summarize what it is that he likes about it (as do I), I would say it’s a book of self-discovery put into action.  It helps you find out who you are, what you are capable of and putting it into practice.  This is huge for Ben.  And as I’ve been married to him for 7 1/2 years now and a mother of two, I have SO appreciated this philosophy on life.  It helps with focusing on the areas of life which are important, but not urgent.  An example of this would be setting a date night with Ben, because although the dishes, laundry & bills are the urgent items in life…having uninterrupted time with my spouse is important for the long haul.  It’s learning to not live life putting out the fires (searching at 5:00 what to make for dinner, searching for a snack 20 minutes too late as your child (or you) screams their head off).

    As we approach the New Year, our family is writing up a Mission Statement, in order to live in the Important, but not Urgent.  We are seeking to know what is best for our family and what aligns with our values, dreams & beliefs and not some other family.  Our mission statement will give us direction for our long term goals and help us navigate in our short term goals.  It is also mailable, because visions change course and we need to adaptability.  I not only want to create a haven for Ben & the girls (and other children we might be blessed with), but also for people outside of it.  For our extended family, friends, and the stranger & neighbor who we barely know.  My life has been richly blessed by people who extended kindness, grace & overwhelming care when I needed it most.  And sometimes it was surrounding a dinner table with food, while other times it was around a dinner table with a listening ear & loving embrace.

    I hope you would be encouraged by the people who have done the same for you, or how you have been that person in times of need.  May 2010 bring you clarity of perspective, dreams to dream & a dinner table open for an invitation.  Maybe these Quicky Sticky Biscuits will cut through the awkwardness and create a yummy slice of hospitality.

    Quicky Sticky Biscuits (printable recipe)

    Recipe is adapted from the book, Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey by Jill O’Connor.  These biscuits are not for the faint at heart.  They are rich & buttery and they’re not ashamed to show it.  If you’re looking for something light or watching your figure, be warned, as these biscuits will blow your 2010 resolution diet out the window.  BUT, they are definitely amazing and worth bringing to a family brunch (so you won’t be tempted to eat too many).

    For the Sticky Pecan Sauce:

    1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

    1/2 cup dark corn syrup

    3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter

    1 1/2 cups chopped pecans or walnuts, toasted

    For the Biscuits:

    4 cups bleached all-purpose flour

    2 tablespoons baking powder

    1/2 teaspoon baking soda

    1 1/2 teaspoons salt

    1 cup (2 sticks) very cold or frozen unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces

    1 1/2 to 2 cups cold buttermilk (I used 2 cups)

    For the Topping:

    1/2 cup granulated sugar

    1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

    1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, melted (depending on how rich you want them, use 1/4 cup for less rich)

    POSITION A RACK IN THE MIDDLE OF THE OVEN AND PREHEAT TO 425F.  Grease a 9×13 inch pan with softened butter or spray with nonstick cooking spray.

    TO MAKE THE SAUCE: Combine the brown sugar, corn syrup, and butter.  Melt over low heat.  When the butter is melted, increase the heat to high and bring to a gentle boil.  Cook, uncovered, until the mixture thickens, 3-5 minutes.  Stir in the chopped nuts.  Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and spread evenly.  Set aside.

    TO MAKE THE BISCUITS: In a large bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Cut the butter into the flour with a pastry blender (if you don’t have a pastry blender than use two butter knives to cut the butter).  Blend until most of the mixture looks like coarse crumbs, with some of the bits of butter the size of small peas.

    MAKE A SHALLOW WELL IN THE CENTER OF THE FLOUR MIXTURE AND POUR IN 1 1/2 CUPS OF THE COLD BUTTERMILK (I used the whole 2 cups at this point).  Use a fork to blend the buttermilk into the flour to create a soft dough.  If the dough seems too dry as you are stirring it, add the remaining 1/2 cup buttermilk.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead a few times to make sure it comes together.  Pat the dough into a 3/4 inch thick rectangle.  Use a sharp chef’s knife or bench scraper to cut the dough into 12 square biscuits.

    TO MAKE THE TOPPING: In a small bowl, stir together the granulated sugar and cinnamon.  Brush the tops of the biscuits with some of the melted butter and sprinkle with some of the cinnamon-sugar.  Place the biscuits, evenly spaced, cinnamon-sugar-side down, into the pecan syrup-lined pan.  Brush the tops (once the bottom) of the biscuits with more melted butter and sprinkle with a little more cinnamon-sugar.

    BAKE THE BISCUITS UNTIL GOLDEN BROWN AND PUFFY, and the sticky pecan sauce is bubbling around them, 15-17 minutes (it took more like 23-25 minutes for me).  Cool slightly, then place a large serving platter over the top of the pan and invert it.  Remove the pan and allow the pecan sauce to fall around the biscuits.  Use a small spatula to scrape any residual syrup from the pan onto the biscuits.  Serve immediately (but they taste pretty darn good hours later).


    Cookbooks and then some

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    I have this little fetish.  It possibly drives Ben crazy, yet I don’t ask him.  Books.  However, it’s not just any books…Cookbooks.  I love them! No, I mean I REALLY love them.  If you want to win me over, than just give me a cookbook, or a food magazine.  There are so many things I love about them, it’s endless.  There are too many funny components when it comes to my food magazine & cookbook fetish.  It’s what Ben calls, “a graze reader.” You know when you’re on vacation or it’s a lazy Saturday afternoon and you find yourself grazing on food?  Well, take that and apply it to reading for me.

    Ben is a veteran (whereas I’m a novice) when it comes to reading.  Seriously, he is known for reading four books at a time; yet, he would still manage to read all four while I sluggishly finish my one.  Even though I like to read, I think I like the idea of reading more than I actually do it.  I start off really strong and peter out by chapter four, which is why it’s not uncommon for me to be reading a book for a six months or more.  If it’s a fiction than I can only read a couple a year; because, I have a fixation sort of personality, where I attach myself to the characters and get way involved (Sidenote: it was so bad that instead of enjoying the beautiful view on the shores of Kauai, I was bawling my eyes out reading ‘Return of the King.’).

    So this is why I prefer cookbooks or books about food.  They’re relatively simple to read, straight to the point, interesting and educating.  They’re my penny candy (quick satisfaction rather than save the money to buy a $10 dollar toy)!  The other part of this fetish is I can check out multiple cookbooks from the library.  In fact, I have about five at my house while I type this.  I think the part that probably makes Ben think I’m a little nuts is that I check WAY too many out and can’t really tackle all of them.  Or if we’re going in the car to drive a longer distance, say–Seattle, than I will most likely bring two to three books with me.  It’s my way of having options, or a back up plan.   You know, just in case!

    I love books about food, even if I’ve never made my own bechamel sauce, at least I know what it is right.  Plus, I don’t have to add the extra calories to my hips.  It satisfies a craving at times and I love that.  If I can encourage you in any way to explore in the kitchen to make a meal for your family, friends, neighbor or your dog than I urge you to take advantage of the library to see what recipes are awaiting their destiny.  Here are some great cookbooks that have inspired me lately.  What are yours?

    Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson is also the author of 101c00kbooks.com Her book is a very fresh, innovative, & a healthful approach to cooking.  She takes advantage of more unique whole grains, which are typically found in the bulk section of a granola loving, earth friendly sort of grocery store.  She implores her reader to rethink the use of refined sugars and oils to trade in for more healthy, eco-steward & people loving ingredients.  For instance, if we look at the sugar industry alone, we see how they rape the land by cultivation processes and water runoffs.  I’m not saying that I’ve completely gone this way as I love to bake, but I’m constantly rethinking and reconsidering how I can be a steward of what God has given me; as well as, try to feed my body (& my families’) sustaining foods.

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    Now just because I recommended a healthy cookbook, doesn’t mean I have thrown out all my baking cookbooks, because I believe that would be the closest thing to blasphemy in my kitchen.  So I will leave you with a baking book to try out.

    The Modern Baker by Nick Malgieri.  I have this on my Amazon wishlist, because I was so impressed with it when I checked it out from the library.  I was only able to bake one or two things from the book and they turned out really well.  There were specific things I liked about this book.  One I trust the author.  He has credibility in the culinary world when it comes to baking.  Two, he has a story for each of his recipes.  I think as a cook or chef it’s so important to have stories with your food and not just say with that snooty voice, “Here you have a seared pork medallion with a port reduction…blah blah blah.”  If there’s no story than people cannot connect with your food, but more importantly, they cannot connect with you.  He speaks of a crumb bun he had in his childhood and how he had never gotten that taste out of his mouth.  He would eat various crumb buns throughout his life hoping for redemption lost, but they all fell short.  It wasn’t until he had one much later in life to find that missing ingredient shine through, “almond paste”(sigh).  Lastly, he has adapted some classic recipes to make them less labor intensive (croissants for example).  Check it out!

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    **Here are a couple rules I follow in buying a cookbook (if I didn’t follow these rules I would impulsively buy too many and end of driving around on a Saturday returning all of them).  First, I always see if the library has it.  If they do, I check it out and try a couple items from the book.  Second, I read reviews to see if the book received a high overall rating.  I also take into consideration the negative reviews to see how substantial they are and if they add anything new.  For instance, if the book received a 4.5 out of 5 stars and there have been tons of reviews (meaning 100+), then I don’t take the negative reviews into consideration as much.  However, if there are only 20 or less reviews I lean on the negative reviews a little more.