Archive | February, 2014

KOUIGN AMANN: TRADER JOE’S PRODUCT REVIEW

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Trader Joe’s is my happy place. One of them, anyway. (C.Wonder, Pinterest, Stars Hollow, and beachy places also qualify. And I’m pretty sure I would love the Hamptons.) There’s just something about TJ’s that makes me cheerful, calm, and peaceful, even when it’s a busy Saturday and surely the occupancy level is over the legal limit. The employees are always so friendly, the prices are so reasonable, and everything just seems good somehow, you know? I can’t get enough, I just wish there were more locations in Columbus!

I was there two weeks ago. While passing the frozen desserts (ogling chocolate ice cream, who am I kidding) when my eyes spotted a much more intriguing temptress: Kouign Amann. Frozen. Ready to bake after a few hours of “proofing.” A box of 4 for $3.99. YOINK. In my cart that box went.

So before I go any further, surely some of you are like “Kou-what????” Kouign amann is pronounced like “queen yah-mahn.” The Trader Joe’s box told me that, but you can also find that information online. I think the first time I saw this pastry was on the Cooking Channel or Food Network. I don’t really remember much, only that it was buttery, full of flaky layers, involved caramelized sugar, and what else do I really need to know?? As David Lebovitz says, “Is there anything more fabulous than something created through the wonder and miracle of caramelization?” Kouign amann is a French thing, hailing from the region of Brittany which is why you might see this referred to as a “Breton” cake. While variations differ (is it a cake with a dense crumb or layered and flakey like a croissant?), the general consensus seems to be bananas over the flaky version. It all starts with a bread dough, and then it’s folded a bunch of times, rolled together, folded, rinse-and-repeat, with butter lovingly schmeared between each laminated layer, just like croissants. In terms of delicious factor on a scale of 1-10, it sounds like a solid 12. But it sounds tiring, doesn’t it? Oy vey.

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That’s why I love Trader Joe’s for bringing us a boxed version. All I have to do is remember to leave it out before I go to bed so the dough can “proof,” i.e. rise. One of these days I may be crazy enough to make my own attempt, but right now, who has time for that? Especially at $4 for a box of four! #gimmegimme

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We ate these like literally 5 minutes ago. They were good. Like so good that maybe we should’ve made all four just for the two of us and then just devoured them out of food-happiness. But not really because that’s a terrible idea. That thing about being a 12 on a scale of 1-10? Totally holds up. I even brought out some ganache I had in the refrigerator from a cupcake project two days prior, and you know what? We didn’t need it. It actually distracted from the delicious pastries. So keep them plain. I might try a smidge of jam with them next time, but I’ll bet you $5 (that’s more than they cost!) I’m going to say the same thing again.

To answer anyone’s suspicions, no, we are in no way affiliated with Trader Joe’s. I WISH! Hear that, TJ’s? Call me! No, this is purely out of good ol’ brand loyalty product lovin’ curiosity. So tell us—what are some of your favorite Trader Joe’s products? We could go on and on, but we’d love to know what you love!

BLOOD ORANGE GIN MARTINI

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It’s winter, which generally means citrus season. While in the grocery stores a few days ago I was passing by the piles of citrus, saw the blood oranges, and thought “Hmm, why not?” While many people actually eat blood oranges, I was—of course—planning on juicing the little guy and spiking it with booze. Conveniently, due to Valentine’s Day, George was in the mood for a theme-y red beverage. We also happened to have a few too many limes in the fridge. Therefore, our Blood Orange Gin Martini was born.

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: : : BLOOD ORANGE GIN MARTINI : : :
Serves 2

2 1/2 ounces (3 TBSP) gin
2 ounces Cointreau or triple sec
2 ounces freshly squeeze blood orange juice (1 blood orange)
1 ounce lime juice
4 serious dashes orange bitters (for each drink)

1. Juice blood orange and strain. Do the same for the lime juice if using fresh lime.

2. In cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine gin, Cointreau or triple sec, and juices. Shake thoroughly until chilled.

3. Strain into two martini glasses and add 4 dashes of orange bitters to each cocktail.

4. Click, cheers, and drink!

Variations

• For a crowd pleasing punch version, use blood orange soda instead of actual blood orange juice, increasing the quantity of that ingredient by double. Then multiple all ingredients proportionally.

• For a sparkling party bev, distribute the gin-and-juice mixture above among four champagne flutes, then top with sparkling wine.

DARK CHOCOLATE COOKIE DOUGH PUDDING PARFAITS

It’s been a little too long since we last posted something. Our excuse is that work became a little too cray and I was just so tired. While I had photos ready, the posts were only just partially written, so let’s get back to normal and make some content! BTW, it will help if you imagine this post going up 3 days ago. Please and thank you. 🙂

• • •

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Sochi-inspired cookie dough!

Let me tell you how this all started.

I was trying to be a good on-topic blogger and find a Russian recipe or two to bring you in honor of the Winter Olympics. I love being festive. But by the time we found something we wanted to make and then actually had the time to make it the “Yay! Sochi Olympics!” excitement was kind of gone. Celebrating the Olympics several days in isn’t as exciting as celebrating the Opening Ceremony. We did try making a traditional Russian mulled spiced drink and spiking it with some good ol’ fashioned vodka, but it was overly cinnamon-y (my fault)and the addition of alcohol made it taste like cough medicine. Blech. Normally, I would not admit to either of those occurrences but you know what? Them’s the breaks, dude.  So you know what’s coming in the next few posts instead? Desserts, y’all! It’s just how my brain works. In terms of cooking vs baking, I’m a more experienced baker, and generally better with the sweet flavor palette overall. The flavors and combinations (and experimental pairings) just tend to make more sense. Which is kind of ironic b/c in terms of having a sweet tooth, it’s actually rather tame.

Cookie dough just sounded really damn good. Like most of y’all, I love a good chocolate chip cookie, and I’m sorry but who doesn’t love cookie dough? I mean, really??? And isn’t a chocolate chip cookie as American as apple pie? So maybe I can spin this eggless cookie dough as Go Team USA cookie dough? Maybe? I’d be real grateful if you’d just smile and nod. Thank you for your cooperation.

While the cookie dough is all well and good and tasty enough to eat on a spoon, is it worth going through the fuss of making a whole batch of eggless cookie dough if that’s all you’re going to do with it? Even if you will really-honestly-put-the-rest-in-the-freezer-I-swear-I-won’t-eat-it-all-I’ll-only-have-a-few-small-bites? No. Buy a log of the Toll House slice & bake stuff, hunker down in a corner with your feelings and a TV show to binge watch and take that thing down while you cross your fingers that you don’t get sick. (But seriously, that’s maybe not a good idea. And if you do that, then maybe don’t blame me if you do get sick. But I’ve totally almost done it. #ionlyateahalf #tryitatyourownrisk)

Eggless cookie dough can go on to bigger and better things! For instance, a pudding parfait. Eggless cookie dough layered with dark chocolate pudding and topped with a creamy marscapone whipped cream? Oh yeah talk to me baby!  For those of you with serious chocolate cravings, this will do the trick. The chocolate pudding is a rich and luscious cocoa dream. And it just so happens that Valentine’s Day is just around the corner still totally valid to celebrate this weekend! Bingo, it’s a festive recipe after all! Whip this up for someone special or for a small party because this will yield multiples. A few notes before we get started…

 

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I added peanut butter to the cookie dough to deepen the flavor. The extra fat from the PB also makes the dough creamier, thus giving us a better texture for straight-up cookie dough eating. Also, I'm a fiend for peanut butter. #canthelpit #dontjudge If you're allergic, try almond/cashew/etc. butter.
If it's just you and your boo (or even just you b/c you're awesome), cut the pudding recipe in half. The rest of the cookie dough can be stored in the freezer for another day.
Make small parfaits. The components are all delicious, but definitely rich. A smaller portion will be perfect. Promise.
If you don't want to use marscapone for the whipped cream, that's totally okay. You can go with virgin whipped cream, or you can do like the fancy chefs do and mix in some sour cream.
The parfaits will keep in the refrigerator for a few days. Just keep your eye on the whipped cream b/c that will be the first part to get funky.
 

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: : : EGGLESS COOKIE DOUGH : : :

1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup peanut butter (if you’re allergic to peanuts, use a salted almond butter)
3/4 cups packed brown sugar
2 tsp granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 – 1 cup all-purpose flour (depends on how malleable you want the dough)
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

1. Cream together the butter, peanut butter, sugars, vanilla, and salt. Mix for 3 minutes until light and fluffy.

2. Add in half of flour, mix well. Add in rest of flour. Blend until well incorporated.

3. Fold in chocolate chips.

4. Find a spoon. Go to town. Store leftovers in the refrigerator or freezer.

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: : : DARK CHOCOLATE PUDDING : : :
Recipe by Geoffrey Zakarian, Food Network

12 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
2/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 pinches of fine salt
8 large egg yolks

1. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler over low heat. In a medium saucepan, bring the cream and milk to a bare simmer. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, vanilla, salt and egg yolks.

2. Slowly pour the milk mixture into the egg mixture to temper it, whisking all the while. Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over low heat until the mixture coats the back of a spoon, about 4 minutes. Pour in the melted chocolate and whisk until smooth.

3. Pour into glasses or custard cups. Refrigerate until chilled and set, about 3 hours.

: : : MARSCAPONE WHIPPED CREAM : : :
Note: This is for topping a few small parfaits, so you may want to increase the quantity depending on your yield goal.

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 TBSP confectionary sugar
1/4 cup marscapone cheese

1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, or in a medium bowl with a hand-held electric mixer, whip the heavy whipping cream until you have soft peaks.

2. Add the confectionary sugar, then continue to beat until you have stiff peaks.

3. Add marscapone, and blend just until marscapone has been uniformly incorporated.

: : : ASSEMBLING THE PARFAITS : : :

Freestyle! I recommend the cookie dough as the bottom layer, pudding as the middle layer (and the thickest), and the whipped cream as the last. To reference my quantities, I used cookie scoops (the slightly larger size, not the weensie size) to measure it out, except for the whipped cream. It’s one scoop of cookie dough pressed down to fill the bottom, three scoops of chocolate pudding, and a dollop of whipped cream.

So tell us! What desserts did you make for Valentine’s Day? Did you make any fun foods for the Olympics? Inquiring minds want to know!

PIZZA BAKLAVA

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“Who knows where thoughts come from? They just appear!


Empire Records, circa 1995

That happens to me a lot. I was in the car driving back from the grocery store the other day trying to figure out what to do about some sort of pizza snack/appetizer/mini-something-or-other. I was thinking about how to get it flaky with thin layers and then BAM! It hit me! Pizza baklava!!! It all happened so fast, I couldn’t think about anything else. I know, I know, you’re probably like “Hold the phone, ML. What are you talking about? Pizza baklava? What does that even mean??” I’ll tell you what it means. It means the delicious ingredients of pizza layered between flaky sheets of buttery phyllo dough, that’s what it means.

A few years ago I invented one of my most brilliant inventions (if I do say so myself), Buckeye Baklava. It’s not your typical baklava. No, instead it’s inspired by the beloved peanut butter and chocolate confectionary delicacy native to the exotic land of Ohio. I’ll divulge full details in a blog post another day, but the point of this little story is that embarking on the Buckeye Baklava adventure opened up a new world for me. Baklava is a vehicle that could take me to new and fascinating places. I was full of ideas! I was inspired! But you know what? I was also tired! Baklava takes awhile, man. It’s not hard but it’s definitely not fast. Especially when you’re making it by yourself. So I just never got around to doing all my fancy new baklavas. UNTIL NOW.

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What I did discover is that if I rope George into the making process with me, it goes MUCH faster. Luckily, since he’s so gung-ho on whatever my baklava adventures are at the time, he’s always game to help. I can get the filling ready while he butters the phyllo layers. So of course, this pizza baklava was the perfect opportunity for some kitchen-time-togetherness. Awww, isn’t that just sweet??

So let’s talk about this. Pizza baklava version 1.0 consists of pepperoni and sausage. There’s no point in calling it “pizza” if I’m not going classic for the first test, amiright? I used cubed pepperoni chunks instead of slices to replicate the texture of the typical nut filling more closely. Some caramelized onions add a lovely sweetness to the mixture. Baklava calls for the buttering of every sheet of phyllo dough, but doesn’t this sound like a perfect opportunity for olive oil as well? How about some garlic-infused olive oil mixed with some melted butter? Can I get an AMEN! Also, let’s class it up a little bit with some fresh herbs. My sauce already had a slew of dried basil and oregano, so there was no point in duplicating that effort. Fresh, however, would be a lovely addition to the flavor as well as a garnish.

The ingredients are all pretty basic, so using good quality items is what will make a difference! I started making my own pasta sauce a few months ago so I used that for the baklava. However, store-bought will be just fine. I also had problems finding pepperoni chunks, oddly enough, so I had my deli man slice some ridiculously thick slices (1/4″) of deli-sized pepperoni. Seriously, you’d think I was making pepperoni burger patties.

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::: PIZZA BAKLAVA ::: 

Garlic-Infused Olive Oil & Butter:
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 (1 stick) unsalted butter
3-4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped in half

Filling:

3/4 lb (12 oz) pepperoni (in cube/chunk form)
3/4 lb (12 oz) ground italian sausage, uncooked
*Note: Amount of cooked italian sausage needed is 1/2 lb, or 8 oz
12 basil leaves, chopped
1 1/2 springs of oregano, leaves chopped
3/4 cup sauce
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup shredded asiago cheese

Plus…
18 sheets phyllo dough (Usually a standard sized box comes with two rolls. This would be one of those rolls.)
1 1/2 cups sauce (separate from sauce mentioned above)
2 medium shallots, chopped
2 tbsp butter
pinch of kosher salt
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

1. In saucepan over medium heat, combine olive oil, butter, and garlic cloves. Bring to a very gentle simmer, then lower heat. Cook for 5-7 minutes, allowing garlic cloves to infuse their flavor into the butter/oil mixture. Do not let garlic cloves burn. Strain into bowl, removing the garlic. Let cool.

2. Chop shallots, then cook over low-medium heat with 2 tbsp butter and pinch of kosher salt. Cook slowly, stirring every few minutes. You want them to become a glorious golden brown. The whole process probably takes 15-20 minutes, so in the meantime…

3. Cook the ground sausage in a skillet, chopping it to fine pieces.

4. In large bowl, combine all filling ingredients (pepperoni, cooked sausage, cheeses, fresh herbs, and sauce).

5. In 13″ x 9″ pan sprayed with non-stick spray, start layering phyllo dough. Place a layer in the pan, then brush with the garlic butter/oil mixture. Then place another layer of phyllo down, then brush with butter. On the THIRD LAYER, brush with the butter/oil and then with a thin layer of pizza sauce. Do this again until you reach the sixth layer.

** NOTE: See structural diagram below for visual! **

6. After you cover layer #6 with oil and sauce, scoop out half of the filling on top and spread over the dough evenly. Sprinkle half of mozzarella cheese on top.

7. Commence layering process. 1 – butter – 2 – butter – 3 – butter – sauce – 4 – butter – 5 – butter – 6 – butter – sauce – rest of filling – rest of mozzarella.

8. Add the last layers of phyllo! Spread top layer with—can you guess?—butter/oil mixture.

9. Grab a sharp knife (carefully, please), and cut this amazing structure into pieces. We cut 15 slices out of it, but you could easily make them smaller to yield more.

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10. Bake at 350° in a preheated oven for 50-60 minutes, rotating half-way through.

11. Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes. Re-cut your pieces. Let oozy greasy cheesiness calm down a bit before removing from the pan, but you do want to serve this warm! (I’m going to be really real with you though—the microwave will reheat these things just fine.)

12. Serve to a hungry crowd!

HIGHLY TECHNICAL STRUCTURAL DIAGRAM

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