Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Week 4: Potato Soup

I have a confession. This isn't the same potato soup as the one I made this week. I made the soup in the picture months ago. I forgot to take a picture of the soup I just made when it had cheese and bacon sitting on top of it. So, here is a similar picture. I mean, they do look pretty similar.

It's cold outside. It might be because I live in Michigan, but we've been having some strange weather lately. One day, it's 40 out, the next we're getting 4 inches of snow. It's fabulous weather for soup though! If I can make that soup without having to actually watch it, then even better! I do love my crockpot. I'll give a quick thanks to Jess and Alex who gave it to me. Hooray! Such tasty things have come from it.

I was looking for a potato soup I could do in the crockpot, so I called my mom to ask her if the recipe that she had made recently was any good. My dad picked up the phone, so I asked him. His response was "it's delicious...and she put bacon in it." Apparently, and rightfully so, bacon makes everything better. I would wholeheartedly agree. It's so good. Mmmmm. But back to the soup...

Slow Cooker Baked Potato Soup Ingredients:
originally from

5 pounds russet potatoes, washed but NOT peeled. Diced into 1/2 inch(ish) cubes
1 medium/large yellow onion, diced
10 cloves of garlic, mince
64 ounces (8 cups) chicken stock or broth
16 oz cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon seasoned salt

optional garnishes: crumbled bacon, shredded cheese, green onions
Add potatoes, onion, garlic, seasoning, and chicken stock to slow cooker.
Cook on high for 6 hours or low for 10 hours.
Add the softened cream cheese and puree soup with an immersion blender until the cheese is incorporated and about half the soup is blended. (Alternately you could remove half the soup and the cream cheese to an upright blender, then re-incorporate).
Stir well, top with your choice of garnishes & enjoy!
Yields about 10-12 servings.
***A couple of notes: You have to use a GIANT crock pot if you intend on using all 5 pounds of potatoes at once. I couldn't fit them all in. I would certainly recommend halving the recipe if you're only making it for 4-6 people. Also, unless you LOVE cream cheese, I'd cut it back. For the full recipe, maybe 12 ounces?***

Week 3: Apple Cake (for Chris)

It seems that in all families there is a dessert that is coveted. In my family, it is the banana(nananana who knows when to stop!?) cream pie. The only people who love it are my dad and one of my aunts. Both of them happen to be in-laws. Unfortunately, this means that my grandma rarely, if ever, makes banana cream pie. I don't like it. I don't really like bananas. The only thing that I like about it is the meringue. I used to sit on my grandpa's lap and pick the meringue off his pie when I was little and since I was the only granddaughter (at the time) he let me. I'm still just as spoiled.

The apple cake comes to us from my friend Chris. His wife, Laura, and I used to work at the library together when I was in high school and part of undergrad. He requested apple cake, so I made it. Erica suggested this recipe and it was really simple. It's originally from Smitten Kitchen (one of my favorite blogs). 

The story that goes with the cake.  Laura told me that her mom used to make an apple cake. However, it was one of Laura's siblings that was the real lover of the cake. When that sibling moved away, Laura's mom stopped making the cake. Except Chris loved the apple cake too. Now, he gets no apple cake unless he requests it. (I think I got that story right.) Hence, the apple cake request. 

The picture isn't awesome. I took it quickly one morning before shipping it off to get eaten. I'm working on getting some better pictures in general.

Apple Sharlotka

Butter or nonstick spray, for greasing pan
6 large, tart apples, such as Granny Smiths
3 large eggs
1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup (125 grams) all-purpose flour
Ground cinnamon, to finish
Powdered sugar, also to finish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper. 
Butter the paper and the sides of the pan. Peel, halve and core your apples, then chop them into medium-sized chunks. Pile the cut apples directly in the prepared pan. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, using an electric mixer or whisk, beat eggs with sugar until thick and ribbons form on the surface of the beaten eggs. Beat in vanilla, then stir in flour with a spoon until just combined. 

Pour over apples in pan, using a spoon or spatula to press the batter so that it covers all exposed apples and seeps into the apples near the bottom. Bake in preheated oven for 55 to 60 minutes, or until a tester comes out free of batter. Cool in pan for 10 minutes on rack, then flip out onto another rack, peel off the parchment paper, and flip it back onto a serving platter. Dust lightly with ground cinnamon.

Serve warm or cooled, dusted with powdered sugar.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Week 2: Brownies (for Josh)

Continuing with my goal of one new thing each week, I reached out to my friends and family to get recommendations as to what I should make. I promised to share whatever I made with whomever suggested it.

I'm excited to start making some of the recipes, especially since some of them will require some digging. Anyone know what a lemon-chip cookie is? Lemon with chocolate chips? Lemon with white chocolate chips? Is there something out there called a lemon chip? We will soon find out. 

I got into the kitchen today to start making these brownies and I instantly remembered why I love to bake so much. I was melting chocolate chips over a double boiler and these bits of chocolate and some butter (of course) were turning into this beautiful, smooth chocolatey liquid. Then it all came together into a bowl of brownie batter that made me a little nervous. It didn't look like enough for a 9x13 pan. What if it didn't rise? Are brownies supposed to rise? They didn't...

Then the ganache. I'm not sure I can really call it a ganache, but I'm going to anyway because I like the way it sounds. Ganache. Sounds like heaven. What can be better then mixing butter and sugar and chocolate? Not much. But that is what I did. Again, all these ingredients come together into this beautiful, rich liquid that I just want to spoon into my mouth. Once it was on the brownies, I licked the spoon and immediately put the pot in the sink. Otherwise it was going to be licked clean.

Another reason that I love baking so much...the exact measures. Especially with this recipe, each ingredient had the regular measure (1 cup, etc) and the weight measure. It made me happy. I got to pull out the kitchen scale and measure out everything. Did you know that 200 grams of sugar isn't quite 1 cup? I didn't either! If you don't have a kitchen scale, go get one. My grandma likes to use hers to weigh eggs. My mom likes to use it to separate meat after buying it in bulk. So many uses. With baking you have to be exact. Adding too much of something can throw the entire thing off. Your cake won't rise or your bread will be dense. Baking has all of these elements that can be controlled. That is probably why I did so much baking while I was in school. When my thesis was spiraling out of control, I could still mix things together and get a batch of chocolate chip cookies. My roommates really benefited from my stress baking last year. Now, I can bake for the sheer joy of it. 

Andes Mint Brownies with Mint Chocolate Icing (Ganache)

1 cup (140 grams) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (25 grams) cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick (110 grams) butter
8 oz (240 grams) bitter-sweet or semi-sweet chocolate
1 cup (200 grams) sugar
3 eggs

Preheat the oven to 350. Butter a 9x13 pan and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

Chop the chocolate roughly or use chocolate chips. Place the chocolate and the butter into a heatproof blow and set it over a pot of simmering water. The bottom of the bowl shouldn't be touching the water since what we want to do here is just gently melt these two ingredients.

Heat, stirring occasionally, until smooth, for about 3 minutes. Then remove the bowl from the pot. Add sugar and mix to combine. Then add the eggs and, again, mix to combine. Finally, add the flour mixture and mix until just moistened (do not overmix.)

Pour the batter into the pan. Smooth out the top. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the batter/brownies comes out clean. 

Cool for at  least 30 minutes before putting on the ganache.

Ganache/icing recipe is the same as the ice cream cake that I made in August, here.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Week 1: Strawberry Champagne Slushies (Happy New Year!)

It's a brand new year and therefore, a time to make new goals. Starting with the blog.

I will bake or cook one new thing every week. That's 52 new recipes from now until December 31 (or December 23 when the world ends.) 

I will start with something awesome that I made on New Years. That was technically the first weekend of the year so here is the first thing that I made.

Strawberry Champagne Slushies. 

I spent the New Year with one of my best friends in Minneapolis. We had planned to have a bunch of people over and bring in the new year, but only two people showed up. That, at least, meant more food for us!

One of the highlights of the night was the strawberry champagne slushies. Sweet from the strawberries and a little bit of honey and vaguely alcoholic from the champagne. Perfect for a girly party like ours or for any event really. It does take a little bit of prep, but it's worth it. And aren't Whitnie's glasses great?!

Strawberry Champagne Slushies

1 16 oz container fresh strawberries, hulled
1 750 ml bottle champagne or sparkling wine
2 tablespoons honey

Begin by dividing bottle of sparkling wine; pour half into a blender, then pour other half into a large glass, cover and set aside in the refrigerator. Add strawberries and honey to blender and blend until all chunks have disappeared. Pour mixture into ice cube trays and freeze until completely solid. 

Once ice cubes have formed, remove them from the trays and return to blender. Add remaining champagne and blend until a thick, slushie consistency has formed. Pour into champagne glasses and serve.

makes approximately 6 servings