Monday, February 28, 2011

Panna Cotta and Florentine Cookies

February’s Daring Baker’s Challenge was Panna Cotta, paired with Florentine cookies. The challenge was hosted by Mallory of A Sofa in the Kitchen, with full recipes and info over at her site! I had never made either of these items, although I am not terribly fond of Florentine cookies.

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I was surprised how quick I was able to make the Panna Cotta. For a dessert I thought was complicated, it really wasn’t. The gelatin was added to cold milk to soften. Then I heated the milk mixture, added the cream, honey, sugar and salt. After the mixture heated thoroughly, and the honey and sugar dissolved, I took it off the heat to cool a little.

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While I was making the Panna Cotta, I also decided to make a strawberry gelee. I used the fruit gelee recipe from the challenge, which was to heat pureed strawberries with sugar, then whisk in softened gelatin. I am still a little weirded out by gelatin and it’s texture,especially with the gelee.

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Once the panna cotta and gelee cooled, I spooned both into dishes and refrigerated overnight.

Later, I made the Florentine cookie dough and baked off the cookies. Another surprisingly simple recipe. The butter is melted, then the dry ingredients, such as flour, sugar and oats, are added to the butter. I spooned the cookie dough onto a cookie sheet.

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The cookies baked quickly, in about 6 minutes. I think I could have baked the cookies longer, but they looked like they were about to burn, so I took them out a little early.

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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Valentine’s Day Treats

Here are some Valentine’s Day treats I’ve been working on.

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Vegan heart-shaped Oreos. I am so pleased with how these turned out!

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Swirly colored mini cupcakes for Valentine’s Day, with classic buttercream.

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And look at this awesome vintage cake carrier! I have a small booth at an antique mall, and found this in another booth. I am so loving it, with the bits of color left, but mostly rusty, I wonder what kind of stories it has.

Easier French Onion Soup

French Onion Soup, that didn’t take a million hours, and is vegetarian too! Awesome!

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I have been wanting to make a vegetarian French Onion Soup for a while, I even bookmarked a couple recipes, but just never got around to it. Looking through my Google Reader feed reminded me, so I started looking for recipes again. Since Cook’s Illustrated does great soups, I found a recipe, but it took 4-5 hours, and that seemed like a large time commitment. I went with their easier, quicker version, which still took 2-3 hours.

The recipe called for a combination of beef and chicken broth. Instead, I used the best quality organic vegetable broth our supermarket had.

The time-saving method of this recipe was to microwave the chopped onion for about 25 minutes, until the onions are wilted.

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The onions are then sautéed in a dutch oven with butter until browned. Then we deglazed the pot and repeated the deglazing another 5 times,until the onions were very brown.

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While the onions were deglazing, the husband had the good idea of making an onion paste/roux in a side pan, to add to the soup to add extra flavor, since we were subbing the meat broths.

Once the onions were browned, the recipe called to add sherry and cook until evaporated. We didn’t have sherry, and winging it, decided to substitute a 50/50 mix of dry vermouth and port, which ended up working excellently.

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Then it was time to add the vegetable broth, bay leaf, and thyme. I didn’t have kitchen twine, so I added the thyme to a loose tea pod. The soup then simmered for another 30 minutes. While that was on the stove, I prepared the croutons and slices the cheese.

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Once the soup was ready, I ladled some into soup bowls, added the croutons and cheese, and put the soup bowls until the broiler for several minutes.

The husband and I agreed that the adjustments we made worked out great, the end result was a great, flavorful soup!

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Quicker French Onion Soup
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

4 lb yellow onions, cut in quarter-inch thick slices
3 tbsp butter
2 cups water, plus extra
1/4 cup dry vermouth
1/4 cup port
6 cups vegetable broth, preferably premium organic
6 sprigs thyme leaves, trimmed and placed in a loose leaf tea pod
1 bay leaf

1 French bread baguette, sliced and toasted
Swiss Cheese, sliced

  1. Place the sliced onions in a microwave safe bowl and toss with a teaspoon of table salt. Place a plate on top of the bowl, and microwave for 25 minutes, stirring halfway through. Once the onions are wilted, drain the onions of any excess water. I squeezed the onion to make sure they didn’t retain too much water.
  2. Melt the butter in a dutch oven, then add onions. Cook onions for about 25 minutes on medium high heat, until the butter and other liquids have evaporated. Towards the end of the cooking time, the bottom of the pot will begin to brown and you need to make sure to stir often. Once the onions have begun to brown, add 1/4 cup water (I found 1/3 cup of water worked better) and deglaze the pan, scraping the brown bits off the bottom of the pot.
  3. Brown the onions for 6 minutes, and deglaze with water. Repeat the browning and deglazing process 3 mores times, until the onions are dark brown.
  4. Add the port and vermouth, and cook, stirring frequently, until the alcohol is evaporated.
  5. Now add the vegetable broth, thyme, and bay leaf. Stir, increase to high heat until soup simmers. Then reduce heat to medium, cover, and cook for 30 minutes.
  6. While soup is simmering, toast baguette slices in oven, then switch oven to broiler setting.
  7. Once soup is done, fish out bay leaf and parsley pod. Ladle soup into oven-safe soup bowls, place croutons and sliced cheese on top of soup.
  8. Place soup bowls in oven, under broiler for 3-5 minutes, until cheese is bubbly and beginning to brown around the edges.
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