Spinach Bacon Quiche

This is quickly be coming a favorite with us.  The crust is simple and quick, not as intimidating as I originally thought.  I mean, considering only 2 weeks ago I had never made a homemade pie crust.  I changed some things with the original recipe based on first attempt with the taste, texture and removed what I didn’t care for and added in what we do like, also what I had on hand.  Realizing I changed the recipe so much now that the only thing that is the same is the amount of bacon. This is honestly amazing tasting, the flavors are subtle yet right in your face.  The result was a nice light but rich quiche with a flaky crust that is irresistible.

Savory Pie Crust

  • 1 1/4 All Purpose Flour
  • 1 tbsp Sugar
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 8 tbsp Butter, unsalted cut into small pieces
  • 3-4 tbsp ice cold water

Put your oven on 400°.  Sift the dry ingredients together in a bowl.  Add in the butter and using a food processor or hand dough blender which is what I use.  Cut the butter into the dry until all the larger pieces are broken down.  You should have what looks like a small crumb strudel topping.  At this point add 2 tbsp of water, and keep adding water 1 tbsp at a time until it comes together, keep working it with the hand cutter don’t use your hands, it should form a ball.   Once it’s together.  Get a cookie sheet size of plastic wrap on your counter top and drop the dough ball into one half of the plastic wrap, cover with the other half and as it’s covered shape into 5″ round, do this very quickly!  The more you handle it with your warm hands the less flaky your crust will become.  Quickly wrap completely in plastic wrap and put into a zip-lock bag and put in the fridge until firm 20-30 min, or you can place in the freezer for use later.   Lightly flour your work space and put the dough down and flour the top, roll about 2″ wider then the size of the pie plate you are going to be cooking in.   Once you have it worked into your pie pan take a fork and make little pricks around the base and sides of the crust to prevent big bubbles from forming while baking.  Cut a piece of parchment paper 2″ wider then the pie pan and layer on top of your raw dough fill the inside of the parchment with pie weights, or dry rice or beans, if you do not have the weights.  Bake for 10 min with the weights, remove from oven and bake 10-15 more minutes until the center of the crust is a pale golden brown.  If you’re edges start to turn brown quickly wrap the edges in foil to prevent further browning while the base of the crust cooks.  Cool on a wire rack.

 

Quiche Filling

  • 4 Strips thick sliced bacon, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 stems of fresh Thyme
  • 1 stem of Rosemary
  • 2 tsp Herbs de Provence
  • 2 shallots, diced
  • 1 leek, diced
  • 1/2 c dry white wine
  • 1 bundle fresh spinach, de-stemmed, washed, and chopped roughly
  • 1 c Gruyere, grated
  • 1/2 c Parmesan, grated
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/2 c half and half
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

Turn your oven to 350°  In a hot pan, saute the bacon until brown and lightly crisp.  Drain out all but 2 tbsp of the oil, toss in the garlic,  Herbs de Provence  and whole herb stems (this is so they can be removed later why leave them on the stem) and lightly cook then add the shallots and leeks, cook until pale in color.  Add in the white wine, and when it comes to a simmer toss the spinach on top loosely and place a lid on the pan.  Do not stir just put the lid on, and leave for 3 min.  While your pan is steaming the spinach, in a blender or large glass with a stick blender mix the eggs and half and half until light and foamy looking.   Toss your Gruyere and Parmesan with the flour and set aside.  After  the 3 minutes is up take the lid off and toss around lightly at this point remove the stems of thyme and rosemary.   In your pie crust, pour your saute mix into the bottom of the crust and spread out evenly.  Sprinkle the cheese mix over the spinach mix  in a thin light layer.  Pour your egg mixture over as a third layer and carefully place in the oven.  Bake for 30-40 minutes, depends on the depth of the dish, just bake until the center is soft yet firm to the touch.   Cool for 15-20 min slice and serve!

Source: Crust: Williams-Sonoma

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Mascarpone Creamcheese Frosting

Now, I have been reading about these and people at work have been requesting them, but I have never had one.  Hard to make a cupcake when you’re not even sure what it is supposed to taste like.  That said, I noticed at Starbucks they had Red Velvet Cupcakes.  I decided to try one to see what the fuss is about.  Quite honestly, I didn’t think it was that special.   I have however for the past month been researching different recipes.  It’s funny how, well not funny haha.. but funny still how for one simple recipe there is hundreds of versions for one thing as simple as a cupcake.

I decided to take a leap and try the one at Epicurious.   They tell you to add a lot of food coloring, and put the ingredients together in an odd way.. so I kinda changed it based off how other similar recipes are done and I know they turned out amazing.   I know the soda, acid, and dutch cocoa turns it a red color, so I dropped how much to coloring to add, and increased the cocoa requirements, and dropping the vinegar, and it has that suble cocoa taste and a nice rich red color with out being an obnoxious Christmas red color.

The frosting didn’t turn out as planned, maybe my kitchen was just too hot… It wasn’t sweet enough, and was really quite thin.  I made some alterations, and it worked! Like I said the only one I’ve had was at Starbucks, and honestly I was not that impressed, but this is probably the best cupcake I’ve had ever!  If I was to have a wedding cake this would be it!  It’s rich, not overly sweet, so soft, velvety, light cake with a frosting that is almost good enough on it’s own.  It is in a simple word that doesn’t quite suit it… amazing.

Red Velvet Cupcakes

  • 1 tbsp red food coloring
  • 4 tbsp dutched processed cocoa powder
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 3/4 cups caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs + 1 Egg yolk
  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 cups sour cream
  • 1 tsp distilled white vinegar

Frosting

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) cream cheese at room temperature
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract, clear
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) mascarpone (Italian cream cheese, available at most grocery stores)
Edit: Photo update 6/4/11 (I remade these with a swiss buttercream cream cheese frosting, they were fantastic! the recipe is a basic swiss buttercream substituted 1/2 the butter for cream cheese)

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Prepare your cupcake tins by adding the baking papers.

Using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and the sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Reduce the mixer speed to medium and beat the batter for about 4 minutes.  While that is mixing, in a medium bowl, sift together the cake flour, all-purpose flour, salt, cocoa powder, and baking soda. Stir the vanilla  vinegar, and sour cream into the buttermilk (this can be done in a large measuring cup). Add the flour mixture in 3 increments alternately with the buttermilk in 2 increments, starting and ending with the flour. Beat on medium speed just until the ingredients are combined.

Fill the muffin cups three-fourths full with batter. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, just until the cupcakes feel firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Do not over-bake, or the cupcakes will dry out. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pans for 5 minutes, then unmold onto a wire rack and let cool completely before frosting.

To make the icing: In the large bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, cream cheese, and powdered sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Beat in the mascarpone on very low speed until just combined. (Be careful; once you’ve added the mascarpone, excessive beating can make the frosting curdle.) Stir in the vanilla.

Adapted: Epicurious

Chicken, Pepper, and Mushroom Crostini

All I can say is yum!  I made this as a quick weeknight main course with a side salad.  I think originally I came up with it to try as an appetizer when I was going to have some guests over, but it ended up working out as a quick small meal as well.  I work retail so some nights if I close the store down then I am not home till 10pm or later and typically starving!  This is quick and easy and can make as much or as little as needed the recipe is easily adaptable to accommodate your immediate needs.  I only cook for two and always tend to have just one chicken breast in a baggie in the fridge begging to be cooked.  All the ingredients I tend to have on-hand so just swinging by Byerly’s on the way home and picking up a mini loaf or two of a crunchy baguette, make this a weeknight favorite.

Chicken, Pepper, and Mushroom Crostini

  • 6-8 slices of a Baguette, diagonally sliced
  • 1 Chicken Breast, cut in half and into 1″ x 1/4″ strips
  • 1 tbps olive oil
  • 1 Shallot, minced
  • 1 Garlic Clove, minced
  • 2 Green Onions, diced
  • 1 tsp Italian Seasoning
  • Pinch of Red Pepper Flakes
  • 1/2 Portobello Mushroom, or 3 Baby Bella Mushrooms, sliced thinly
  • 1/2 Bell Pepper, thinly sliced into 1″ strips, I use orange or yellow
  • 4 Cherry or Grape Tomatoes, quartered
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • 1/4 Mozzarella Ball shredded into tiny pieces
  • 1 tsp chopped Italian Parsley
  • Olive Oil to drizzle

 

Turn oven onto 450° F.   Turn your pan on to med-high heat and before you put in the oil make sure it passes the water test, if using stainless steel, before putting in the oil. Slice the Baguette and place on cookie sheet, set off to side.  By now your pan should pass the water test, add in the oil and when hot add the garlic, shallots, and green onions, saute lightly till onions are opaque.  Add the chicken and when lightly cooked and you can still see pink, add seasonings.    Toss in the mushrooms, and brown lightly with the chicken.  Once the mushrooms and chicken are lightly browned, add in the peppers, once they take on a bright color turn off the head and toss in the tomatoes, stir around and taste again.  Add Salt & Pepper as needed, maybe more of the seasonings, a pinch at a time.  Always taste, that’s the fun part of cooking! When the seasoning tastes well to you, spoon on top of the baguette slices and sprinkle with the shredded mozzarella.  Place in oven and bake for 10-15 min until the bread looks browned on the bottom edges.  Remove from oven and immediately sprinkle with the parsley, and then top with a light olive oil drizzle.  Let cool for 2-3 min and serve semi-hot!

 

Adapted from: Meadow Mushroom

 

 

 

The Catalyst: Cupcakes

I decided to take a minute and let those who might be curious know a little bit about me, my  history, and how the blog came to be.

I am originally from a town around equal distance in the middle of I5 from Seattle, WA and Vancouver, BC.  I used to spend my younger years taking care of my brother while my mom and grandmother worked so I cooked a lot, mostly bologna sandwiches and mac and cheese.  I used to watch those cooking shows on the discovery channel.  I would look forward to 4:30pm every day as that was when my favorite was on, they mostly did desserts.  However for the life of me, I cannot recall the name of the show.  I grew up like kids do, and I still had that little spark of the just love of cooking.  When I could I would cook and one year I think I was around 17, I made the dinner for thanksgiving that year.  All I remember is a pumpkin cheesecake that my brother and mom still talk about years later.

in 2001 while bar-tendering at this little Greek version of Denny’s in Portland, OR I met my now husband.  We actually did meet through a friend, but before it was almost socially acceptable we met in a online turn based game, so I say we met through a friend.  My first words to him after his friend showed me his personal website was “you’re fucking hot.”  Great story for the kids one day, lol.   He was living in Minneapolis, MN me in Vancouver, WA.  As online friends it became more and he came out for Thanksgiving a month later, where I made; Baked Cod with herb wild rice, green beans, and a sour dough loaf.  Apparently that meal is what sealed the deal for him, for me it was coming home one day while he was visiting and found he did the dishes and threw out the garbage!  Less then a month later on December 17th 2001, I was on a plane to Minneapolis with two suitcases and an backpack of clothes and belongings.

Now, 9 years later we are still together.  Last summer we were planning a big wedding to have in July, 2011.  I was in a tissy, stressed out, and unsure if a big wedding was me.  In early fall of 2010 I was thinking on the wedding cake.  I was getting upset because, I never liked cake… How could I pick out a cake for a wedding that all my guest were going to eat when I didn’t even like it?  What if I picked out something they didn’t like!?  So, I started a project!  I was determined to try and make a cake that I liked.  I started following food blogs that focused on desserts mostly. I started out simply and slowly, with vanilla and chocolate cupcakes.  Failures and successes, I kept it up.  I just wanted to keep trying to get something that I liked.  Eventually, people started saying how amazing they were, how pretty they looked.  I started making them for people’s birthdays at work, finding any excuse to make more cupcakes!  My now darling husband, encouraged me to try other things.  Our dinners were getting a bit old, you can only have so much chicken teriyaki before you’re sick of it,  so I did!  I eventually started buying better ingredients, better cookware, better anything!  Anything to make everything better!

Now, here we are.  not even a week into 2011 and the past 4 months have been a ride!  We decided to call off the big wedding in favor of small one with just us.  On December 17th we got married, 9 years to the day that I arrived in Minneapolis to be with him.  I got all new kitchen equipment, and every week I make a list of new things I want to try and make, new flavor combination, new cookware, and new ways to make Frank smile.  Armed with my trusty shopping list I hit the grocery store so happy!  With Starbucks in hand and grocery list in the other, I have more fun then clothes shopping.  Every day his encouragement to keep trying even after failures of me pouting over flat macarons or burnt herbs keeps me going, and to think… All this cooking and new found excitement and enjoyment in my life.. started with cupcakes.  Hence, The Catalyst: Cupcakes….

Your pan might not be hot enough?

For this past holiday as a gift to further indulge my new cooking fire Frank bought me an amazing stainless steel cooking set. It’s so fantastic, and I was more than ecstatic to throw out my old pans almost instantly!

He was having a problem with food sticking, something which I never really had. He did some pretty extensive research while I was at work one weekend and found out how to test to make sure your stainless steel pans were hot enough to add the oil and then food. Always start out on a med to med-high heat. When you add a drop of water to the dry pan does it just bounce and sizzle away? If so then your pan is not hot enough to add the oil yet. It all boils down to science, which I love, love! The right temperature of heat expands the steel closing any small fissures what are what cause the food to stick.  When you add a drop of water to the try pan and it forms a blob that just sits there and doesn’t sizzle away, it will look like mercury, then you’re pan is hot enough to now add the oil.

After your oil becomes streaky like when you twirl wine in a glass the streaks that come down the sides is what you’re looking for in your oil. If you wait for these two steps then you’ll never have issues with food sticking to your pan.  I have followed this since and nothing sticks, if it does it’s those awesome caramelized bits of goodness that just a bit of moisture by putting the lid on the pan will loosen up and add to your food making the yummy factor even higher.

Here is a good video explaining what I’m attempting to talk about!

Macarons with Coffee Ganache

After weeks of wanting to get this just right for a personal challenge, and trying close to 10 different recipes, all failing in some way for me, I took it back to my inspiration.  Masterchef Australia, and season 2 one contestant made the most amazing looking macarons.  It worked!  I even got feet, however it was way too sweet and there was this air pocket between the chewy goodness and the crunchy shell.  So, after some minor alterations, and about two of my days off spent on researching egg whites and sugar structures I came to believe that the secret was/is ‘caster sugar or bakers sugar.’  When I switched sugars i started to get feet the texture was right, but too sweet, and it was a dead ringer for the ones Frank brought home from a bakery downtown.

I will stress this over and over…  important elements; sifting, room temperature egg whites “aged” for at least a day, and the “macaroning” which is the process in which you fold the egg whites into the almond and sugar mixture.

Macarons with Coffee Ganache

  • 200g Icing Sugar(Powdered Sugar)
  • 175g Almond Meal/Flour, fine ground
  • 105g Aged Egg Whites
  • Pinch of Salt
  • 50g Casters Sugar
  • 1 tsp powdered egg whites
  • Brown Gel Food Coloring

Turn oven on 245 degrees F.   Put racks on the 1st and 3rd positions.  Place a piece of parchment paper on the counter next to your scale place the bowl sifter on top of the parchment.  Measure out the almond flour in a second bowl on the scale, and pour into the bowl sifter,  gently sift onto the parchment do not force through the sifter.  Throw away any large pieces that do not go through.  Pour back into the bowl on the scale and check weight, add more almond flour to get back up to 175g.  Keep repeating this process until after you sift the weight comes out to 175g when placed back into the bowl.   Once you reach the desired weight place back into the bowl sifter and weigh out the icing sugar and pour into the bowl sifter and sift the flour and sugar together onto the paper.  Repeat the process of sifting both ingredients three(3) times, the last time leaving it on the parchment sifted out.

In a mixer, with a very clean wide bowl.  Add the egg whites and salt to the bowl and beat on med high speed, until it’s very foamy and doubles in size.  While the eggs are working sift the sugar and powdered egg white together and place on parchment ready to add to egg whites.    Turn the mixer on high speed and slowly add the casters sugar mix, once the sugar is all in add the food coloring until desired color is achieved.   Now, it’s critical time!  Do not over beat the eggs.  Once all the sugar and coloring is incorporated and you reached a soft peak stage stop and check every 30 seconds until medium peak stage, and you’re eggs are done! If you took them to stiff peak stage you overworked the eggs and need to start over.

Now the tricky part! Macaroning….  get a heavy silicon wide flat spatula to mix.  Add 1/3 of the dry mix to the egg whites, fold in till just incorporated.  Keep adding the dry mix to the egg mix 1/3 at a time until all incorporated.  Now the fun part!  You need to keep folding this mixture until the mixture is what is known as ‘lava stage’ What you’re looking for is when you lift the spatula above the bowl the mix very very slowly falls off and watch the mixture in the bowl.  You should after counting to 10 not see any ribbons or  lines in the batter where the batter falling off the silicone landed.  If it is incorporating too quickly you over mixed and you will end up with flat thin macarons, with no feet. Pour a small amount onto parchment about the size of a quarter.  it should not get any bigger then what you dropped it out to be, the batter should be glossy and smooth as well.  If it looks smooth, glossy, and doesn’t spread too thinly out then your done.  Pour into a 16″ or larger piping bag fitting with a large round tip, I used a Wilton #1A tip.  If the batter is running out of the bag too quickly then you over worked in the “Macaroning phase.”  It should want to slowly come out but not pour out.   Trick: if you’re working alone put the bag into a tall round container and fold the edges around glass lip over around 4+ inches not in the glass, I used my husbands pilsner glass.

On two(2) baking sheets lined with a silpat.  In a 5×8 pattern pipe out your mixture into 1″ or quarter size rounds.  The tip should be directly above the sheet and make a soft round takes about a 2-3 count with gentle pressure on each cookie before moving on to create the next.   Once you have completed piping lift and gently tap the bottoms of the baking sheets, this rounds out the cookies and also gets any air bubbles out.   Let them rest, this time varies by season, month, time of day, color of your hair… basically I cannot tell you how long to let them rest to form the shell, however!  When they are ready to bake you gently touch the top and sides and the batter does not stick to your finger, it’s not tacky.    Place both sheets in the oven, DO NOT OPEN THE DOOR for at least 10 min, if you do not have an oven window (like me!)  Once you see feet takes about 10-12 min rotate the pans, bottom on top and front to back.  Let cook for another 5-8 min until the tops feel firm.  Remove from oven and place sheets on wire racks to cool do not attempt to remove the cookie from the sheet before the pan is completely cold to the touch.

While cooling time to make the ganache!

Coffee Ganache

  • 6oz Heavy Cream
  • 6oz Bitter-Sweet Chocolate, chopped
  • 2 tbsp Unsalted Butter, room temperature
  • 1 packet of Starbucks Via, Italian Roast instant coffee or 1 1/2 tbsp. Instant Espresso powder (1 tbsp espresso powder to 4 oz chocolate)

Put the chopped chocolate, butter, and coffee into a small bowl.  Bring the cream up to a soft boil via microwave or small sauce pan.  Pour into the bowl over the chocolate and leave for about two(2) minutes.   Mix until it is chocolaty smooth goodness, don’t forget!  Always taste to make any modifications before product is finished.  Refrigerate for 10 min, remove and stir.  Repeat this process until it is thick and pipe-able.  Pour into a small piping bag, I used 12″ disposable bag, with a Wilton #35 tip.

Your ganache should be cooling and your cookie sheets should be cold to the touch and your macarons should just pop right off the silpat when it is gently bent.  Match your cookies up with ones of similar size, and Place on a wire rack fitted with parchment paper.  Flip so all bottoms are facing up and you know which tops match to which bottoms.  Pipe your ganache onto one row of cookie bottoms, skip the next row, pipe on the next row until complete.  You shouldn’t use too much filling leave a space between the filling and edge of the cookie.  Sandwich the cookies together and keep in air tight container!

adapted from: Masterchef Australia; Contest: Callum Hann