Archive for the ‘Baked goods’ Category

Daring Bakers’ Challenge: Homemade Crackers

Daring Kitchen logoDan gave me a KitchenAid mixer for Christmas, so I could expand my cooking in a new direction. But since I’ve never baked much, I have a hard time thinking of things to do with it! So I decided to challenge myself and try new techniques by joining the Daring Bakers, an online group that comes up with a baking challenge each month. All members bake the same item and publish a blog post about it on the same day each month. The item is known only to the members until the publication day. Which was yesterday. Yes, I’m late on my first challenge, but it turned out well!

Our July 2012 Daring Bakers’ Host was Dana McFarland and she challenged us to make homemade crackers! Dana showed us some techniques for making crackers and encouraged to use our creativity to make each cracker our own by using ingredients we love.

The only requirement was to use two different methods to make two types of crackers:

  • icebox crackers, where you mix ingredients, shape them into a log, refrigerate to firm up, then slice and bake; or
  • rolled crackers, where you combine ingredients in a mixer, then roll out by hand or with pasta rollers. From here, you can cut out shapes with a cookie/biscuit cutter or cut the sheets into cracker shapes after baking.

Dan and I were out of town the first two weeks of July, so I had limited time to get this done. Last week, I tried a cracker recipe I had printed out years ago – Ina Garten’s Parmesan and Thyme Crackers. But I measured the flour wrong and they crumbled. Lesson learned.

Next I decided to try the Seedy Crisps, an Alton Brown recipe. These are so good! Thin and crisp, filled with poppy and sesame seeds, these crunchy little bites go great with cheese. They rolled out very easily and didn’t stick to my granite countertop, which I love. It’s important to cut them while they’re still warm; otherwise, they just break apart.

Seedy Crisps
Seedy Crisps. Recipe by Alton Brown.

The third recipe I made was really easy, too. I just need to remember to take the butter out to soften! Since I don’t bake much, I’m always forgetting about that part. Anyway, these were Rosemary, Cheddar and Walnut Icebox Crackers from “Garde Manger, The Art and Craft of the Cold Kitchen” by the Culinary Institute of America. I used pine nuts nuts instead of walnuts since we like those better.

These are like a cheesy, herby little shortbread. These are one of the icebox types; I still have another log in the fridge to bake off later. Because of the high fat content from the cheese and nuts, these will not last as long as the crisps, but the dough will keep in the fridge for days. Now, it just needs to be sliced and baked so we can enjoy it again.

Rosemary, Cheddar and Pine Nut Crackers
Rosemary, Cheddar and Pine Nut Crackers

The recipes and tips are all available on the Daring Kitchen website.

This was a really fun challenge, and I look forward to participating in many more!

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Food writing class: Cooking, photographing, eating, writing

I’m taking a class at The Muse, a local writer’s center that offers writing and photography workshops. This is my third class there. This time, I’m taking “Expressions in Food” taught by Patrick Evans-Hylton, food and wine editor of Hampton Roads Magazine and a well-known local food writer and TV and radio personality.

Cooking, gardening and photography are some of my passions, along with writing, which is why I started this food blog years ago. But I haven’t been as consistent with it as I would like, so I signed up for this class, hoping for inspiration and feedback.

I also really enjoy the people and the atmosphere at The Muse, so this keeps me coming back there, as well 🙂

So, for the first class on Oct. 16, Patrick, my classmates and I all brought a dish to share, as well as cameras to record the yummies and paper and pen to record the aromas and flavors.

Classmates photographing yummies during class
Classmates photographing yummies during class

Becky brought cinnamon bread, caraway bread and stewed apples. The stewed apples in particular stirred fun memories for me. Whenever I have homemade stewed apples or applesauce, I think of visiting my great-grandmother Frances on the farm in Monroe, Mich., when I was growing up. She was famous (to me as a child, at least) for peeling apples, freshly picked from the tree out front, with one long peel. I’ve never been able to accomplish this.

Cinnamon bread, caraway bread and stewed apples
Cinnamon bread, caraway bread and stewed apples

My offering was a tasty treat I’ve made a few times now – Honey-Rosemary Scones with Goat Cheese. This recipe is from a book I won in an online contest a few years ago. I love the unusual combination of the sweet honey, a gift from our friend and Portsmouth beekeeper Paul, and the savory rosemary, from our garden.

Honey-Rosemary-Goat Cheese Scones
Honey-Rosemary-Goat Cheese Scones

Patrick also encouraged us to purchase a few books to use as resources in the class; I picked these:

The first class was a lot of fun, and I’ve blogged more in the last two weeks than I did in the last month. And I have more food-related reading materials (as if I need more, but hey …). I think I’m gonna like this class.

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Cranberry-Orange Scones, with a Low-Fat Option

Have I told you I’m on the board of the League of Women Voters of South Hampton Roads? Yesterday was our annual program planning/general membership/holiday party meeting, and traditionally, board members, and sometimes others, bring brunch-type goodies to have during the meeting.

I got up early to make scones and realized I was out of whipping cream. So I used what I had – I substituted a few tbsp. of low-fat cream cheese and a half cup of skim milk for the whipping cream. I’ve made these scones for this event for several years now, and I got more compliments than ever, so I guess low-fat is the way to go.

Ingredients for cranberry-orange scones

Cranberry-Orange Scones

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. granulated sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) firm unsalted butter
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup sweetened dried cranberries (such as Craisins)
2 tsp. grated orange peel
1/4 tsp. orange extract

Optional: Instead of whipping cream, cut 3 tbsp. low-fat cream cheese into flour with the butter and add 1/2 cup skim milk with the liquid ingredients.

Optional: Sprinkle with candy sprinkles – I used fall colors with leaves.

Preheat oven to 425°F. Lightly grease a cookie sheet or spray with cooking spray.

Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl. Using a pastry blender or fork, mix butter, and optional cream cheese, into dry ingredients until mixture is the size of small peas. Add remaining ingredients, mixing just until the dry ingredients are moist.

Using a small spoon, scoop out golf-ball size pieces of dough, put on the baking sheet, and pat down lightly, or you can turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and pat into a circle 3/4-inch thick, then cut dough into 8 to 10 wedges. I like a more rustic look, so I spoon it out.

Place on cookie sheet. Sprinkle with sugar and optional candy sprinkles. Bake 12 minutes or until golden brown. Makes about 20 scones.

Platter of cranberry-orange scones

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