Monday, January 28, 2013

Maple Walnut Blondies

Brownies are nice
But blondies have more fun.

This is a no frills kind of recipe
That you bake, slice, and eat
Directly from the pan,
Like there is no one watching.

You will need a bowl, a whisk, a little muscle, and not much else. 
What makes this recipe special is the intense maple flavor.  I use locally produced Rocky Ridge Maple Syrup and
maple sugar that I picked up at The Larder in Doylestown.  Maple sugar has a pure maple flavor because it is made from maple sap.  You can see the difference in color and texture when compared to granulated sugar. Maple sugar is darker and moist, so it clumps a little. It is also twice as sweet as white sugar; a little goes a long way.
I love the combination of maple and walnuts.  I toast the walnuts in the oven for 10 minutes to bring out their flavor. While the walnuts cool,
I melt butter with brown sugar, and maple sugar, and whisk them together until combined.  The microwave is a great way to melt the butter quickly, but if the thought of nuking your food bothers you, use a small saucepan to melt the butter and sugar together over low heat.
A few eggs, maple syrup, and vanilla are whisked into the warm but slightly cooled, butter.  Who needs a gym when you can whisk your biceps into shape? Whisking is my upper body workout of choice.

Add all-purpose flour, baking powder, and a little salt to the butter.  I'm using my favorite Daisy Organic Flour, locally milled in Lancaster, PA.
Stir in the walnuts and pour into an 8x8 inch square baking pan, sprayed with non-stick baking spray.
Bake for 26-28 minutes.  Let cool and enjoy!  This recipe makes 16 blondies for normal families.  My family is far from normal.  It made 6 of us very happy. 

Maple Walnut Blondies  
12 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup light brown sugar
¼ cup maple sugar
2 large eggs
2 Tablespoons maple syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt

¾ cup toasted walnuts, chopped*

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray an 8x8 inch square baking pan with non-stick baking spray.

Place butter, brown sugar and maple sugar in a medium glass bowl. Microwave in 30 second intervals until butter is melted. Whisk together melted butter and sugar until smooth. Let cool 5 minutes.

Whisk eggs into butter mixture until combined. Whisk in maple syrup and vanilla.  Add flour, baking powder, and salt. Whisk until combined. Add walnuts.

Place batter in prepared baking pan. Bake for 26-28 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs.

Let cool 45 minutes. Cut into 2x2 inch squares.

*To toast walnuts, bake in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes.

Makes 16 blondies

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Simple Grilled Chicken With Red Onion Marmalade

When the thermometer dips below 20 degrees
Most people make warm, hearty fare
Like soup or stew

But not me
I'm in denial

So tonight I'm grilling dinner
Like it's the middle of August

My recipe began with a trip to the Stockton Market. This weekend-only farmers' market, located in the New Jersey river town of the same name, is unlike any I've seen.  Think hipster gourmet.  It is a food lovers' paradise with fresh organic produce, artisan breads, cheesecake, handmade pasta, organic and free range meats, and a tempting, diet-breaking array of macarons and pastries.

If veggies are your thing, check out these beauties from Milk House Farm Market,
 where I picked up some garlic, lettuce, and these red onions
for the marmalade.  If the idea of marmalade conjures up images of an arduous process of cooking, sterilizing jars, and temperature control, fear not.  This recipe is none of that.  In less than 30 minutes these sliced onions
balsamic vinegar, and brown sugar
Will cook down
To this magnificent sweet, caramelized, marmalade with just a hint of acidity.  It will look and smell like you put a lot more effort into dinner.
The marmalade will go nicely with the organic chicken breasts I scored from the back of the freezer.  I marinated the chicken with four simple ingredients:  olive oil, garlic, lemon juice and the best oregano
from the Cottage Spice Co. of Allentown.  This small, locally owned business has a storefront in the Lehigh Valley, and a stand at the Stockton Market. They pride themselves in offering the 'freshest' of dried herbs and spices. The oregano was bold and perfect for the marinade.  

Who says you can't achieve good grill marks with an indoor grill?  The key is getting the grill or grill pan very hot, as in dangerously close to setting off the smoke detectors.
It may be cold outside, but inside it tastes like summer.

Simple Grilled Chicken With Red Onion Marmalade

For chicken:
4 boneless chicken breasts (28 oz)
1/4 cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic, flattened but still intact
1 Tablespoon dried oregano
Juice of one lemon
Salt and pepper
For Marmalade:
(adapted from Brian Boitano)
3 Tablespoons olive oil
3 cups thinly sliced red onions
6 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 Tablespoons light brown sugar

Wash chicken. Pat dry. Pound the chicken to a ½ inch thickness and place in a freezer bag with the olive oil, garlic, oregano and lemon juice. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

In the meantime, make the marmalade. Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil and let it get warm for 1 minute. Add onions. Sprinkle with salt. Cook until onions start to brown, about 5 minutes. Stir. Continue to cook another 5 minutes. Onions will be softened. Add vinegar and brown sugar. Stir. Increase heat to high. Bring to a boil and cook for 2-3 minutes or until sugar is dissolved. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally until liquid has reduced to a thick syrup, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat.

Preheat grill pan to high. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Cook chicken 4-5 minutes per side or until grill marks are achieved and chicken is just cooked through.

Serves 4

Print This Recipe

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Open Face Ham and Cheese Melt On Challah With Fried Egg

Did you ever have one of those days
When there is no time for breakfast
Because you overslept,
And lunch is al fresco
In the car
As you eat a stale granola bar
Foraged from the bottom of your purse
While stuck in traffic?

Chin up,
You made it home.
It's time to make up for your less than stellar day,
Gastronomically speaking.

How about a breakfast and lunch do-over?
You can call it dinner.

Open Face Ham and Cheese Melt On Challah With Fried Egg

Any sandwich worth eating starts with a good loaf of bread, like this challah from Crossroads Bake Shop in Doylestown.  It is soft and a little sweet making it the perfect match for a salty slice of ham,
And Gruyere cheese.
Bake in the oven for 10 minutes
Or until the cheese is bubbly, the ham gets a crispy edge, and the challah is toasty.  I know this looks very appealing, but don't stop there.  We are making up for missed meals.  
Fry up some eggs in a little butter.  These are local eggs from Rick's Egg Farm in Upper Bucks County.
Cage Free + Hormone Free + Happy Hens = Very Delicious Eggs
And while you're at it, throw in some greenery, as in mixed micro greens from Blue Moon Acres in Buckingham. These light and peppery greens will more than make up for the salad you missed at lunch.
Be thankful.
Dinner was not from a vending machine.

Open Face Ham and Cheese Melt on Challah With Fried Egg
Print This Recipe!

4 thick slices of challah bread
4 teaspoons Dijon mustard (optional)
4-6 slices prosciutto or other thinly sliced ham
1 ¼ cups Gruyere cheese, grated
2-3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
4 large eggs
salt to taste
2 cups mixed micro greens 
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place challah on a lined cookie sheet. Spread with mustard.  Divide ham evenly among the bread and top with cheese. Bake for 10 minutes until cheese is melted and challah is lightly toasted. Remove from oven.
  • Place butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  When butter is melted, add eggs.  Season with salt.  Fry on both sides until desired doneness.  (If your skillet is not big enough, fry in two batches).
  • Place fried eggs on top of the challah. Divide micro greens among the sandwiches. 

Serves 4

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Blue Ribbon Chocolate Cake With Caramel Buttercream and Salty Pretzel Crunch

I dabble in competitive baking,
Sometimes I get lucky.

This is my winning entry for our state’s chocolate cake contest.
It is the culinary equivalent of a gold medal,
Which is great for me
Since I have zero athletic ability,
And the Olympics were never an option.

I am pictured with the lovely Drew Ann Brubaker, the Pennsylvania Fair Queen. I tried to trade my blue ribbon for the tiara, but no deal.
Of course, I stayed true to living la vita locavore, many of the ingredients are Pennsylvania produced.

My flour of choice is Daisy Organic Pastry Flour.  It has a fine texture and it is low in protein.  The wheat is naturally grown and milled in Lancaster County, and the flour is available on the Daisy website. You could substitute an unbleached cake flour if you don't have access to pastry flour.
Unsweetened applesauce from Solebury Orchards gives the cake moistness and a slightly fudgy texture without imparting a detectable apple flavor.   
Farm fresh eggs from Rick's Egg Farm in Kintnersville adds a nice local spin to this cake.  These eggs are antibiotic and hormone free.
This is a simple one bowl cake recipe. I let the cakes cool while I make 

A dreamy caramel sauce.

If I were a therapist,
This would be the only prescription I would write:
Take one spoonful of warm, gooey caramel,
As needed,
Until your world is all blue skies, rainbows, and unicorns.

    To make the sauce, I melted butter and brown sugar in a sauce pan until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is bubbling.

    I added organic corn syrup to the butter/sugar to prevent the sugar from getting grainy. I rarely use corn syrup but when I do, I like this natural product by Wholesome Sweeteners. It is made with GMO-free organic corn and guaranteed to be chemical free.

    A little baking soda at the end will help to thicken the sauce.  As it cools, it will continue to thicken.

    And now for the frosting:
    I've made,
    And eaten
    My fair share of frosting over the years,
    But my favorite, 
    By far, is Swiss meringue buttercream.

    It involves egg whites

    That are heated with sugar over a pot of simmering water.

    Once the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is warm, I whip it to a state of marshmallow-y goodness.  Right now this is a delicious fat-free indulgence

    Until I add an obscene amount of butter.  Thankfully this cake serves up to 12 people, so the fat and sugar will be evenly distributed among my friends.  We are a close-knit group.  When one of us gains a pound, we all gain a pound.

    I fold some of the cooled caramel sauce to finish the frosting.

    And now for the cake assembly.

    I line a cake stand with strips of parchment paper because frosting a cake can be a messy job.

    I add frosting to each layer of cake with a drizzle of caramel sauce and crushed pretzels. 

     These are Good's pretzels, locally produced in Adamstown, PA.

    Here is the final cake.

    Pennsylvania has many talented bakers as you can see from the entries of the 2013 chocolate cake contest.  There were 67 cakes representing the blue ribbon winner from local agricultural fairs throughout the state.  No wonder they call this the Super Bowl of baking.  

    am over-the-moon thrilled to have won the state title representing Bucks County's Middletown Grange.

    The Middletown Grange in Wrightstown, Pennsylvania is a grassroots organization that preserves and promotes local agriculture and very generously supports many groups in our community.  

    Blue Ribbon Chocolate Cake With Caramel Buttercream and Salty Pretzel Crunch

    1 ½ cups Daisy Organic Pastry Flour
    ½ cup potato starch
    ½ cup cocoa powder
    1 cup light brown sugar
    1 cup sugar
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    1/8 teaspoon salt
    2 large eggs from Rick’s Egg Farm
    3/4 cup buttermilk
    ½ cup Solebury Orchard unsweetened apple sauce
    ½ cup safflower oil
    2 teaspoons vanilla
    3/4 cup half and half, heated to scalding
    ½ teaspoon espresso powder

    ½ cup unsalted butter
    1/2 cup light brown sugar
    ½ cup organic corn syrup
    pinch of salt
    1/8 teaspoon baking soda
    2 teaspoons vanilla

    1 ¼ cups pasteurized organic egg whites
    2 ½ cups sugar
    5 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature (20 ounces)
    2 teaspoons vanilla
    1/3 cup cooled caramel sauce
    1 cup Good’s Super Thin Pretzels, crushed, plus extra for garnish 

    For Cake::

    1.  Line 3 (8) inch cake pans with parchment paper and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.
    2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
    3. Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl. Stir. 
    4. Add eggs, buttermilk, applesauce, oil and vanilla. Mix until combined.
    5. Add espresso powder to half and half. Stir. Add to cake batter. Mix until combined. Divide evenly among cake pans. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until center springs back to the touch. Cool.
    For Caramel Sauce:

    1.  Place butter in a medium sauce pan over medium heat until melted.
    2.  Add sugar, corn syrup and salt. Stir. Cook over medium heat until sugar is dissolved and mixture is bubbling.
    3. Add baking soda. Sauce will bubble. Stir and continue to cook until thickened slightly. Remove from heat. Add vanilla. Stir. Let cool. Sauce will continue to thicken as it cools.
    For Frosting: 

    1. Place egg whites and sugar in a medium bowl. Stir. Place over a pot of simmering water. Cook 15 minutes or until sugar is dissolved. 
    2. Place hot egg white mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix until mixture is thick and fluffy and the bowl is cool to the touch.
    3. Add butter by the tablespoon, mixing after each addition. Keep whipping until thickened. 
    4. Add vanilla and cooled caramel sauce. Mix until combined.
    Assembly: Place ¾ cup frosting on bottom layer. Drizzle caramel sauce over frosting and sprinkle with ½ cup crushed pretzels. Repeat. Drizzle caramel over top of frosted cake. Garnish with whole pretzels.

    Thursday, January 3, 2013

    Chocolate Bark With Salted Honey Walnuts and Chia Seeds

    I don’t believe in diets
    The very thought of a diet
    Makes me hungry
    And irritable
    So my New Year's resolution
    Is to follow the un-diet
    As in eating wholesome, natural foods
    With reckless abandon
    Of course, I will workout more
    And temporarily shun white carbs
    Goodbye russet potatoes and crusty baguettes
    We will meet again
    As soon as I can button my jeans without sucking in my gut 

    On the bright side
    There is chocolate
    Discovered by the Mayans and Aztecs
    It is full of antioxidants
    And unbelievably delicious
    It more than makes up for the end-of-the-world thing

    This recipe could not be easier.  Coat walnuts in a few Tablespoons of Dutch Gold Orange Blossom Honey and toast in the oven for 10 minutes with a sprinkling of sea salt. This all natural sweetener is made in Lancaster County and available at None Such Farm Market in Buckingham.
    Melt the chocolate slowly.   You can use the microwave at half power or melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pot of simmering water. Whichever method you choose, melt only 3/4 of the chocolate.  Once melted and smooth, add the remaining chocolate off the heat.  It will eventually melt from the residual heat of the already melted chocolate.  This is called the seeding method, or as I like to call it, the easy way out of tempering chocolate, because if there is a shortcut, I will always take it.

    I am using a combination of dark and semi-sweet chocolate (a.k.a. leftover holiday baking chocolate). 
    Time to add a nice protein/fiber filled crunch.  These are chia seeds...the same seeds that sprout like magic overnight to form Chia Pets.  Who knew that the seeds were actually good to eat and high in Omega-3 fatty acids?! They really don't have a taste but provide a great texture to the chocolate.  There is an added bonus:  the seeds 'gel' in your belly and help you feel full for a long time. A nice strategy if you're trying to lose wait.  Cha Cha Cha Chia!!!!
    Chia seeds are available at Kimberton Whole Foods.  I found them at the Ottsville location. 
    Pour the chocolate/chia mixture into an 8 inch square baking pan lined with parchment.
    Scatter the walnuts over the top and let the chocolate set.  Break up the bark into small pieces for an easy, portable, snack.  Keep bark in an airtight container, not that it will last that long.

    Chocolate Bark With Salted Honey Walnuts and Chia Seeds
    1 cup walnuts
    2 Tablespoons orange blossom honey
    ½ teaspoon coarse sea salt
    10 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
    1 Tablespoon chia seeds 
    • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.  Place walnuts in a small bowl.  Drizzle with honey and stir until walnuts are coated.  Sprinkle with sea salt and bake for 10 minutes. Let cool 15 minutes.  Break up any walnut clusters.   
    • *Place ¾ of the chopped chocolate in a microwave safe bowl.  Cook at 50% power in one minute intervals, stirring after each minute, until chocolate is melted.  Add remaining chocolate.  Stir.  Let stand for 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until chocolate is melted and smooth.  Stir in chia seeds and pour chocolate into an 8 inch square baking pan lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle salted walnuts over the top.  When chocolate becomes solid, break up bark into bite size pieces. Store in an airtight container.   
    *Chocolate can also be melted in a bowl over a pot of simmering water.  Follow the same method of melting and stirring ¾ of the chocolate. Once melted, remove chocolate from heat and add remaining chocolate.  Stir until completely melted.
    © A Bucks County Kitchen

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