Cooking

Spelt and Walnut Biscotti

Spelt and Walnut Biscotti

Biscotti are so easy to make. I don’t know why more people don’t bake their own. They are always nice to have with coffee, tea or a cold glass of milk. They aren’t too sweet, so biscotti make a nice breakfast. Biscotti also stay crisp for a long time, if stored in an air tight container.

These biscotti are made with spelt flour. Spelt is an ancient grain that is very closely related to wheat. It does contain gluten, so not an option for people with wheat allergies or Celiac, but a nice way to add a whole grain to your menu if you do eat wheat. Unlike whole wheat flour, which tends to be heavy in baking, spelt has a lighter texture and acts more like white flour. I used it to make these  biscotti and they are crisp, light and very tasty.

Biscotti are twice baked. First in a loaf shape, then they are sliced and baked again. Most recipes will tell you to bake the slices half way, then turn them over to finish baking. A little time saving trick- just place a cooling rack on the baking sheet, then place the sliced biscotti on the rack. That way, they get crisp on both sides at once and there is no need to turn them during their second bake.

Spelt Biscotti – with Walnuts

 1 ¼ c. spelt flour*

⅓ c. sugar

1 t. baking powder

¼ t. salt

½ c. walnuts

¼ c. golden raisins- I often use dried cranberries or other dried fruit

2 eggs

1 t. vanilla

Combine dry ingredients with nuts and raisins in medium mixing bowl. In small bowl combine eggs and vanilla and add to dry ingredients. Stir together to make a slightly sticky dough. With oiled hands shape into loaf (2”x11”) on oiled sheet. Bake at 350-degrees for 20 minutes. Remove from oven. Slice the loaf thin using a serrated knife and place slices on a rack on a baking sheet then return to oven, reduce heat to 300-degrees bake 25 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Store in an airtight container to retain crunch. Makes about 16.

* If you can’t find spelt flour you can use 3/4 c. all purpose flour and 1/2 c. whole wheat flour instead or substitute the entire amount of flour with whole wheat pastry flour.

Creole Jambalaya

Creole Jambalaya

There are so many variations for Jambalaya. I don’t think I ever had a Jambalaya I didn’t like.

This Creole dish varies a little with each person who makes it. The assortment of ingredients adds so many layers of flavor.

Traditionally, Jambalaya would include smoked sausage or ham, chicken, shellfish, rice, tomatoes and assorted veggies and seasonings.You can see why there are so many variations. For me, it just isn’t Jambalaya without mussels. Lots and lots of mussels.

It is definitely a great dish for a party. It is impossible to make a small batch of Jambalaya!!!

This recipe is a tweaked version I got from a boss of mine a long time ago. I must say, every time I make this for friends or family it gets rave reviews.

The heat level in this dish is really about personal preference and for the people who are going to be eating it. I like it a bit spicier, so I add more cayenne. If I am making it for friends who like their food less spicy, I use less. Of course, you can always serve it with hot sauce on the side, so people can spice it up a little more.

                             Creole Jambalaya

1 lb. smoked sausage, sliced into 1 inch pieces

1 c. chopped onions

1 c. chopped celery

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1/4 c. oil

2 c. cubed uncooked chicken

3 c. chicken stock

1 1/2 c. uncooked rice

1 16 oz. can tomatoes

2-3 t. paprika

Cayenne pepper to taste

Black pepper to taste

1/4 t. ground turmeric

1 lb. medium shrimp, peeled and de-veined, uncooked

1 1/2 c. shelled peas, fresh or frozen

1/2 c. chopped red pepper

1-2 lb. mussels, scrubbed

In Dutch oven cook sausage, onion, celery and garlic in oil until onion is tender. Add remaining ingredients, except shrimp, peas, sweet red peppers and mussels. Bring to a boil, turn down to simmer and cook 20 minutes. Stir in shrimp, and peppers, cover and cook 10 minutes. Stir in peas and stick in mussels. Cover and cook 5 more minutes. Discard any mussels which have not opened in 5 minutes. Serves 8.

Tiramisu Doughnuts

Tiramisu Doughnuts

These doughnuts are inspired by the flavors of tiramisu, a traditional Italian dessert. They are a filled doughnut, like jelly doughnuts. I used the filling that I would normally use for making tiramisu. It is an egg custard, combined with mascarpone cheese and whipped cream. After the doughnuts are filled, they are topped with a mocha ganache. The end result is sublime.

I started making these doughnuts a number of years ago. It was Fat Tuesday and I was making jelly doughnuts, a family tradition. Not everybody likes jelly doughnuts and I wanted to switch things up. As a kid, I loved the cream filled doughnuts my folks would make. I decided to use the filling recipe I used for tiramisu. To finish it off, a little coffee is added to the ganache to give it the flavors of classic tiramisu.

You do need to store finished doughnuts in the fridge, assuming any are leftover.

I won’t lie, these doughnuts are a bit of work, but worth the effort. Here is the recipe.

Tiramisu Doughnuts

Filling:

5 egg yolks

1/4 c. sugar

1/2 c. Marsala wine (not cooking wine)

2 c. whipping cream

4 T. sugar

1 lb. mascarpone cheese

Make zabaglione (egg custard). In double boiler, over simmering water, beat together egg yolks and sugar until lemon colored. Stir in Marsala and continue cooking, stirring constantly until mixture thickens and will mound on a spoon. This will take about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and cool down. You can place in bowl in fridge 30 minutes or so. Beat together whipping cream and sugar until stiff peaks form. Beat in mascarpone and chilled zabaglione. Chill 1 hour.

Dough:

4 c. flour

2 T. sugar

1 t. salt

½ c. butter

1 packet yeast

¼ c. warm water

2 t. sugar

1 c. evaporated milk

2 eggs, beaten

Combine flour with sugar and salt. Cut in butter and set aside. Dissolve yeast in warm water and 2 t. sugar and set aside. Combine milk with eggs. Stir in yeast mixture and add to flour mixture stirring well. On lightly floured surface knead dough until dough is smooth, about 5 minutes. Dough will be very sticky. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 1½ hours.  Remove dough from bowl and punch down. Using about a third of the dough at a time roll dough out to about an ½ -inch thickness and cut out with a 2½ -inch biscuit  cutter. Re-roll scraps and cut out. You should get about 2 dozen. Place dough circles on a floured surface and cover with a towel until doubled, about an hour. Heat oil in a deep pan until it reaches 375 degrees. Cook doughnuts a few at a time until golden on both sides, about 1 minute per side. Drain on paper towels and cool before filling.

Note: You can also refrigerate the dough after kneading it if you would prefer. Just place dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and chill overnight. Roll and cut dough into doughnuts when cold from the fridge. Allow to rise, covered, until doubled in bulk, about 2-3 hours. Fry as directed.

To fill doughnuts use a pastry bag fitted with a long tube tip for filling. I have these handy plastic syringes which are easy to use. Insert tube tip into doughnut and squeeze gently until doughnut is filled with cream (or jelly). Be careful not to overfill or doughnut will split. Once filled doughnuts can be frosted or topped with a sugar glaze. For the Tiramisu Doughnuts I made a mocha ganache.

Mocha Ganache

2 c. chocolate chips

1 c. whipping cream

1 T. instant coffee powder

Combine all ingredients in a microwave safe dish and heat in microwave for 2 minutes. Stir mixture until smooth and return to microwave if chocolate is not fully melted. Heat in microwave for 30 seconds more at a time, stirring after each time until mixture is smooth.  For extra smooth mixture strain before using. Dip the top of the filled doughnuts in ganache.

Homemade Jelly Doughnuts

Jelly Doughnuts

I remember how fun it was to watch my parents making doughnuts. The making of the dough, then cutting the dough into circles. The dough circles would then rise on the counter, under linen towels, until puffed up. Gently they would be fried, then set on paper towels to drain. Once cooled, the filling would be piped into them through a pastry bag filled with some wonderful jelly or jam.

I also remember learning to fill them. Squeezing the jelly from the pastry bag into the doughnut was tricky. You wanted to make sure there was enough filling, but not so much that they split open. After a couple of tries,  I realized you could figure it out by the weight of the filled doughnut in your hand.

My parents were both excellent bakers. My father had even been a professional baker at one time. I thought it was normal to have parents who made doughnuts. It was the norm in my family.

My folks only made them for special occasions. Unless my Mom got a taste for homemade jelly doughnuts. Then, my dad would make them for her. She loved jelly doughnuts. More than pretty much anyone else I knew.

You can fill them with any number of jellies, jams and cream fillings. Once fried and filled, the doughnuts can be eaten plain or topped with a drizzle of powdered sugar glaze or just rolled in granulated sugar or powdered sugar. They are a bit of work, but well worth the effort.

Jelly Doughnuts

Dough:
4 c. flour
2 T. sugar
1 t. salt
½ c. butter
1 packet yeast
¼ c. warm water
2 t. sugar
1 c. evaporated milk
2 eggs, beaten
Combine flour with sugar and salt. Cut in butter and set aside. Dissolve yeast in warm water and 2 t. sugar and set aside. Combine milk with eggs. Stir in yeast mixture and add to flour mixture stirring well. On lightly floured surface knead dough until dough is smooth, about 5 minutes. Dough will be very sticky. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 1½ hours. Remove dough from bowl and punch down. Using about a third of the dough at a time roll dough out to about an ½ -inch thickness and cut out with a 2½ -inch biscuit cutter. Re-roll scraps and cut out. You should get about 2 dozen. Place dough circles on a floured surface and cover with a towel until doubled, about an hour. Heat oil in a deep pan until it reaches 375 degrees. Cook doughnuts a few at a time until golden on both sides, about 1 minute per side. Drain on paper towels and cool before filling.

Note: You can also refrigerate the dough after kneading it if you would prefer. Just place dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and chill overnight. Roll and cut dough into doughnuts when cold from the fridge. Allow to rise, covered, until doubled in bulk, about 2-3 hours. Fry as directed.

To fill doughnuts use a pastry bag fitted with a long tube tip for filling. I have these handy plastic syringes which are easy to use. Insert tube tip into doughnut and squeeze gently until doughnut is filled with jam. Be careful not to overfill or doughnut will split. Once filled doughnuts are topped with a powdered sugar glaze or rolled in powdered sugar.

Apricot Filling

12 oz. dried apricots, chopped up
2 c. water
2 c. sugar, or to taste

Combine apricots with water in saucepan and simmer, covered until apricots are really tender. This will take at least an hour- add more water, if needed. Add sugar to taste and cook until thickened. Puree mixture in a blender.

Strawberry Filling

1 lb. strawberries
1½ c. sugar
½ c. water
3 T. cornstarch

Crush berries and place in saucepan with the sugar. Cook until berries are tender, about 10 minutes. Combine water with cornstarch and add to strawberries. Cook until thickened and bubbly. Cool. Puree. Makes 2 cups.

King Cake

King Cake

If you are planning a Mardi Gras party, you will want a King Cake. King Cakes are a long-standing tradition in New Orleans at Mardi Gras. A small plastic baby is often hidden in the cake, although you can use a bean or even a whole pecan or almond.

Tradition has it that the guest who finds the “surprise” in their piece will host next year’s party. Be careful to warn guest so they don’t break a tooth or swallow the “prize”.  You can also use the whole nuts inside the cake and just set the baby on top of the cake when serving.

The “cake” is really a sweet cinnamon swirl bread.  The yeast dough is rolled out, spread with butter and cinnamon sugar, and rolled up. Then the dough is shaped into an oval shape.

After it is baked, the king cake is decorated with colorful frostings, sugars or both. Traditionally the colors used are yellow, green and purple, but, hey it’s your cake have fun with it.

If you want just the sugars, and no frosting, then brush the king cake with a beaten egg before baking and sprinkle with the sugar then. Otherwise, you’ll decorate the cake once baked and cooled.

King Cake

1/4 c. butter

16 oz. container sour cream

1/3 c. sugar

1 t. salt

2 packages active dry yeast

1 T. sugar

1/2 c. warm water

2 eggs

6 /2 c. flour

1/2 c. white sugar

1 1/2 t. cinnamon

1/3 c. butter, softened

Colored sugars and frostings (recipes follow)

Heat together the first 4 ingredient to about 100 degrees. Dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water in large bowl and let stand 5 minutes. Add butter mixture, eggs and 2 cups of the flour. Beat 2 minutes at medium speed and gradually work in enough flour to form a soft dough. Knead until smooth and elastic, about ten minutes. Place dough in a greased bowl, turning to grease top and cover. Allow to rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour. Stir together 1/2 c. sugar with cinnamon and set aside. Punch dough down and divide in half. Roll out one piece of dough into a 28×10-inch rectangle. Spread dough with half of the butter and sprinkle with half of the sugar mixture. Starting at long end roll up jelly roll fashion and pinch seam to seal. Shape dough into an oval shape and pinch ends together. Place seam side down on a greased baking sheet. Repeat with remaining piece of dough except remember to add the toy baby, nut or bean if you want the “surprise”. Cover and let rise about 20 minutes. Bake in a preheated 375-degree oven for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool before decorating with tinted frostings and colored sugars. Makes 2, serving 24.

Frostings

3 c. powdered sugar

3 T. melted butter

3 t. milk

1/2 t. vanilla

Green, yellow, red and blue food coloring

Combine sugar and butter and add enough milk to make the glaze a drizzling consistency. Add vanilla and divide mixture in three small bowls. Tint one bowl yellow, one green and one purple, using both the red and blue food coloring. I often don’t bother to tint the frostings, but rely on the tinted sugars for color.

Tinted sugars

1 1/2 c. granulated sugar

Food coloring

Place 1/2 c. sugar in each of three small bags and add a couple of drops of food coloring to each. One use yellow, one green and one both the red and blue for purple. Shake the bags to distribute the color. You should only need a couple of drops of each.

Decorate the cake by making bands of the colored frostings and then sprinkling on the sugars.

Lemons in the Snow Cookies

Lemons in the Snow Cookies

The funny name for these cookies is really easy to explain. The cookies are flavored with both lemon juice and lemon zest in the dough. When nearly cooled, they are rolled in powdered sugar. They end up looking like little snowballs.

Yummy, lemon flavored snowballs.

The dough also contains finely ground almonds, for extra texture. They are a delicate, cake-like cookie, with a slightly crisp outside. You could also add a little grated lemon peel to the powdered sugar, before rolling the cookies in it, for a more intense lemon flavor.

Lemons in the Snow Cookies

1/2 cup butter (no substitutes), softened
2/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tablespoon grated lemon peel -or more if you like
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup finely chopped almonds
confectioners’ sugar

In a mixing bowl, cream butter, sugar and egg until well blended. Add lemon juice and peel. Combine flour, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt; stir into creamed mixture. Add almonds. Cover and refrigerate the dough for at least 1 hour or overnight. Roll into 1-in. balls. Place on ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until bottoms are lightly browned (cookies will not brown on top). Remove immediately to wire racks; cool for 5 minutes, then roll in confectioners’ sugar. Makes 36.

Fondue Bread

Fondue Bread

This bread is fun for parties or for a meal. The cheese is baked inside the bread dough. You end up with cheese-filled bread, like a self-contained fondue. Pretty cool, right?

The dough is rolled out, and filled with cheese. Then the dough is sealed up, placed in a cake pan, and baked. You can use any cheese that melts. Do be careful to seal the dough well, or you will get cheese leaks when it bakes. Still tasty, but not as pretty.

When I made the bread this time, I had leftover cheese fondue. It was cold, so solid, and I just placed it on the rolled-out dough. Worked well, although it did leak out a little. You can get creative with the filling, adding small amounts of sauteed onions, hot sauce or some herbs, if you like. You can also use more than one type of cheese.

Fondue Bread

1 T. sugar

2 t. salt

2 packages active dry yeast

About 4 c. flour, preferably bread flour

½ c. butter

1 c. milk

2 eggs

1 lb. Muenster cheese, shredded, or use any cheese that you like that will melt.

Combine sugar, salt and yeast with 1 cup of the flour. Heat together butter and milk until very warm (120-130 degrees). Beat milk mixture into flour mixture with an electric mixer and beat 3 minutes. Beat in 1 cup flour and mix 2 minutes longer. With spoon, start to stir in enough flour to make a soft dough. Turn onto lightly floured surface and knead, adding more flour until dough is smooth and elastic. Kneading will take about 10 minutes. Shape dough into a ball, cover with bowl and let rest 15 minutes. Meanwhile, reserve 1 egg white and combine remaining eggs with the cheese. Grease 9-inch round cake pan.

On lightly floured surface with a rolling pin roll dough into a rectangle about 24”x6”. Shape cheese into a tube lengthwise along the center of the dough. Fold sides of dough over cheese making about a 1½- inch overlap. Pinch seams to seal. Place roll, seam side down, in prepared pan to form a ring. Ends should overlap. Pinch ends together. Cover with a towel and let rest 15 minutes. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Brush top of ring with reserved egg white and bake about 1 hour. Loaf will be golden brown and sound hollow when tapped. Remove from pan right away and let stand 15 minutes for easier cutting. Makes 1 large loaf.

To serve, cut into wedges. Makes 8 main dish or 16 appetizer servings.

To reheat, wrap bread in foil and heat in a 350-degree oven for 30 minutes or until bread has warmed and cheese is melted.

       

Blueberry Granola Bars

Blueberry Granola Bras

I took these blueberry granola bars to a friend’s house last night. I was invited over for dinner and wanted to bring something. My friends loved them. I love them, too.

They aren’t too sweet and make a wonderful dessert. The crust is tender and crumbly. The blueberry filling adds just the right amount of flavor and sweetness. I could see adding a scoop of ice cream, if you wanted to dress them up a bit. One of my friends thought they would make a great breakfast. I agree.

They freeze well, too.

Here is the recipe. Enjoy.

Blueberry Granola Bars

3 c. blueberries, fresh or frozen

¾ c. sugar

1/3 c. water

2 T. cornstarch

2 t. cinnamon

½ t. salt

2 c. flour

1 T. baking powder

2 t. cinnamon

½ t. baking soda

1 c. butter

2 c. rolled oats

¾ c. chopped nuts, optional

1 c. packed brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9×13-inch baking pan and set aside. In a medium saucepan, combine the blueberries with the sugar, water cornstarch and salt. Heat to a simmer, stirring constantly. Once mixture gets bubbly and thickens up, remove from heat and set aside. In mixing bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and baking soda. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in oats, nuts, if using, and brown sugar. Stir mixture until well combined. I actually used my hands to get it to stick together better. Press half of oat mixture into prepared pan. Pour over the blueberry mixture, spreading evenly in pan. Top with the rest of the oat mixture. Bake for 45 minutes, or until top is lightly browned. I used a glass baking dish, so I reduced the heat to 325 once I put the bars in the oven to bake. Cool before cutting into bars.  

Pickled Beets

Pickled Beets

I love beets in all sorts of dishes. The bright color and earthy flavor appeal to me. They are so versatile. Beets are great in soups, salads and even desserts. One of my favorite ways to prepare beets is to pickle them.

Last week, I was lucky enough to get some really beautiful organic beets at a local produce market. I made beet soup and beet cake and enjoyed the greens steamed.

I had enough beets left to pickle some. This simple preparation makes them perfect to add to salads, or to enjoy on their own. They will keep in the fridge for weeks and weeks. I sometimes serve pickled beets with cheese and crackers as an appetizer.

I cooked my beets by just boiling them whole until tender, but you can also roast them. Once cooked, just let them cool a little and slip off the skins. Then just dice them up and add the dressing. They will taste better after a few days in the fridge. It gives the dressing a chance to get into the beets and onion and give them that pickled flavor. Feel free to add other seasonings. I had some fresh dill, so that is what I used.

Pickled Beets 

2 lbs. beets, greens trimmed off, leaving 1 inch of the stem

1 red onion, peeled and sliced thin

1 c. cider vinegar

1/2 c. sugar- more or less to suit your taste*

2-3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 T. fresh dill snipped, or 1 t. dried

2 t. salt

1 t. fresh ground pepper

1/2 t. celery seed

dash of hot sauce

Cook beets whole until tender. I boiled my beets in a large pot of water for about 35 minutes- they were kind of big. You could roast them, if you prefer. Place in cold water for 5 minutes, then remove from the water and slip off the skins. They usually come off easily, but you might have to peel them. Dice into 1/2 -inch cubes and place in a bowl. Add the onion. Combine remaining ingredients and pour over the beets. Stir to combine, cover and place in fridge. These are ready to eat in a couple of days. Keep for weeks.

*You can also omit the sugar altogether- they will be very tart- but still tasty.

Chocolate Beet Cake

Chocolate Beet Cake

I got some beautiful beets the other day. I made a batch of beet and potato soup. I had some extra beets and decided to make this chocolate beet cake. I have posted the recipe before, but thought I would post it again, after someone asked me about it. This is one of my favorite cake recipes.

When I say beet cake, a lot of people give me a funny look. First, there are the beet haters, and you know who you are. The people who just don’t like the taste of beets. I get that, beets are an acquired taste.

Then there are the people who like beets, but could never picture them in a cake. I bake cakes with carrots in them,  zucchini and even parsnips. Adding beets to a cake is not so far off. The beets add a subtle red color to the cake, but they also add moistness. The end result is a cake that is full of flavor and has a wonderful, moist texture.

Truth is, I don’t really taste the beets in the cake much at all. I taste the chocolate. So here is the chocolate beet cake recipe. I hope you enjoy it.

Chocolate Beet Cake

2 cups all-purpose flour

1½ teaspoons soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/2 cup cocoa powder

3 large eggs, beaten

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons oil

1½ cups grated cooked beets

2 teaspoons vanilla

Powdered sugar, optional, or cream cheese frosting- recipe below

Preheat oven to 350°. Combine flour, soda, salt, sugar and cocoa in a bowl; set aside. In a mixing bowl, combine the eggs and oil. Beat in vanilla and continue beating until well blended. Slowly beat in dry ingredients until well mixed; stir in beets. Pour into a greased and floured 9×13-inch baking pan. Bake at 350° for 25 to 35 minutes, or until cake bounces back when touched lightly with finger. Cool in pan on a rack. Frost cooled cake, or dust with powdered sugar.

Frosting recipe:

8 oz. Cream cheese, softened

3/4 c. powdered sugar- or more to taste

1 stick butter, room temperature

Beat all together until fluffy. Frost cake and refrigerate until ready to eat.