Yes I Put Cheese On My Cheese

February 25, 2008

You might think I was exaggerating on my love of cheeeeeeese when I made the ravioli, but I really don’t. My favorite…okay, the only sauce I really ever put on those tasty treats is alfredo. Yes, more cheese. Other sauces just seem to take away from them. So of course I considered making my typical tried and true alfredo sauce with the ravioli this weekend, but in my little (or not-so-little) cache of recipes I knew I had a recipe for an almost but not quite alfredo sauce I wanted to try and this seemed like a great opportunity.

I love having a good creamy sauce so when I see those words connected to any recipe I will of course perk up and look at the ingredients and everything to see if it sounds like something I might like. More often than not I’ll just make notes on a post-it with the quantities and make up the rest as I go, because a good creamy sauce really doesn’t take that much effort.

Surprisingly this recipe in it’s original incarnation didn’t have any garlic in the sauce itself so working in the comments from other people, and of course garlic, this is what I came up with. A wonderfully sinful Garlic Asiago Creme Sauce. If you like this kind of thing I hope you’ll try this artery clogging recipe at some point cause it really is worth the problems it could cause you in the future 🙂

Garlic Asiago Cheese Sauce
adapted from recipe on allrecipies.com

1 tbl. garlic
1 chicken bouillon cubs
2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp. cornstarch
1 cup grated asiago

Dissolve the chicken bouillon cube in the 1/4 cup milk. Pour into a sauce pan, add the garlic and allow to simmer for a few minutes.

Dissolve the corn starch in a tbl. of the heavy cream. Put aside. Add the remaining heavy cream and simmer for a few more minutes. Add the cheese and simmer, stirring frequently until cheese has melted. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Add the cornstarch/cream mixture and stir well. Simmer for a few more minutes then remove from heat.

Allow it to sit for a few minutes to thicken slightly then spoon over dish of choice. Enjoy 🙂

garlic asiago cheese sauce on cheese ravioli

This is a very creamy, buttery sauce. You can substitute any cheese you want with this recipe but definitely try the asiago. It’s very mild and rich and works beautifully with the cream.


Say Cheeeeeeese

February 24, 2008

Cheeeeeeese. I just love that word don’t you? And of course that’s the appropriate way to say it. Like the very word itself is melting like good mozzarella. Cheeeeeeese.

I know there are plenty of people out there that don’t really like cheese, or can’t have it for whatever reason but I am most definitely not one of them. Whenever I have a hunk of cheese in front of me I have to cut off the very first bit to eat fresh, even if I am supposed to be grating the entire thing for whatever I am cooking. If you like cheese nearly as much as I do, just wait until I share my mac and cheese or alfredo lasagna recipes because they are to die for. (Literally. The amounts of cheese in these things could kill you. hehe)

These little pockets of heaven have always been one of my favorite foods. And the best part about making them at home (besides nibbling the fresh cheese as I grate it and dreaming up plans for the leftover filling mixture) is that I get to control the amounts and types of cheese in it. That is just awesome 🙂

homemade ravioli

For this first try I used this ravioli thing I got off amazon. It makes it so much easier. I promise to do them without this toy one of these days and I’ll post the instructions here, but for this first time around I’ll direct you with the same thing I used.

Homemade Cheese Ravioli

Pasta:
500 g bread flour
4 eggs
corn starch for dusting

Filling:
9 oz Ricotta
2 oz parmesan
2 oz romano
2 oz asiago
2 oz mozzarella
4 tsp. minced garlic
2 tbl. bread crumbs

Egg Wash:
1 egg
1 tbl. water

Prepare filling first. Mix all of the ingredients in a bowl then cover and refrigerate until ready

Prepare egg wash, blending egg and water until mixed well. Cover and refrigerate until needed

Dump flour for pasta onto your work surface. Prepare a well in the center and add eggs. Mix with a fork until it forms a soft dough.

Allow dough to rest for 30 minutes before feeding through pasta machine. For more detailed instructions on making the pasta, read my blog here.

Roll the dough out to rectangles an inch or so larger than the metal frame. You’ll need to have an even number of strips, so you have tops and bottoms. Make sure you keep whatever dough you are not working on covered so it doesn’t dry out.

Place the metal frame on a table or counter and lightly dust the frame with corn starch to keep the dough from sticking. Lay one strip of the dough across the frame, then using the plastic piece gently make indentations in the dough.

Remove the plastic part and spoon in the chilled filling (approximately 1 tbl) then gently brush the egg wash around the edges.

Place the second strip of dough on top, remove as much air from the ravioli as possible then proceed to roll the rolling pin over the dough repeatedly until you can see the metal edges and the ravioli is sealed. Be sure not to get the corn starch between the two strips or they won’t stay sealed.

Turn the metal base on it’s side carefully and allow the ravioli to fall free. Cover them with saran wrap or put in a tupperware to keep them from drying out then continue with the next two strips until you run out of dough or filling. Keep the edge pieces that are cut off cause they can be re used if you keep them covered. Once you have finished, uncover whatever ravioli you plan to use and let dry for approximately 15 minutes before cooking.

homemade pasta

Prepare a pot of generously salted water. Bring water to a boil then drop handfuls of the ravioli in at a time. You don’t have to cook them all at once. When the ravioli float to the surface allow them to boil for a few minutes more, then carefully fish out one with a spoon, cut off a small corner to test doneness.

When they are done add sauce of your choice and enjoy 🙂 

I can’t wait to experiment more with filling. Colby, Jack, Cheddar (lol would make it like a reverse mac and cheese), Gruyere, Fontinella….the combinations are endless 🙂

homemade cheese ravioli
 


The Cookie Quest

February 19, 2008

Have you ever done a search for a recipe for perfect chocolate chip cookies or the best chocolate chip cookies? I just did one for perfect chocolate chip cookies and got 826,000 hits. And of course if you check them out, each and every one will be different in some way.

I don’t know about you but those three words together always brings a smile to my face. For just about everyone, these cookies bring back memories of cookies from childhood, whether it be from a mother, grandmother or generous neighbor; making this one of the most comforting cookies ever created.  I think that’s why at some point, every baker goes on a hunt for what they would consider perfect chocolate chip cookies: to recreate the recipe that brought such pleasant memories, and of course no two people want the same qualities for a cookie to earn that title.

I personally believe a chocolate chip cookie should (among other things) be overloaded with chocolate chips, rather large, sweet and super soft. I’ve been working to get the perfect consistency and taste for quite a while with no luck. Don’t get me wrong, they have all been decent, I’ve even gotten “great,” but nothing I would consider perfect.

This recipe is just one more step in my personal quest. I put aside the recipe I have been playing with and started from scratch on this one, hoping it might get me closer. I’ve also been playing with adding cinnamon and/or chocolate liquor with much luck but as very basic as it is, I wanted to follow this recipe as closely as possible, changing only one thing to see what I would get. 

chocolate chip cookies

Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies 
adapted from recipe found on: Cooking for Engineers 

1 cup unsalted butter (softened)
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 1/4 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 cups (or more) chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350

1. Mix the flour, salt and baking soda in a small bowl. Set aside.

2. Cream the butter and both sugars. Set aside for a few minutes to allow the sugars to dissolve.

3. Add the vanilla to the sugar-butter mixture. Beat in the eggs one at a time.

4. Beat in the flour mixture one at a time. Stir in chocolate chips.

5. Refrigerate the dough for 15-20 minutes. Scoop large spoonfuls of dough (1-2 tablespoons) onto cookie sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes until edges have lightly browned and middle is still very soft and wet.

6. Wait as long as you can to let them cool, then enjoy 🙂

chocolate chip cookies

p.s. a co-worker just gave these a big thumbs up … and she had them three days after they were baked 🙂


Playing With Dough a.k.a My Siamese Loaves

February 18, 2008

I’ve been spending a lot of time lately looking for new recipes to try this year, focusing mostly on chocolate and bread recipes as those are my favorite. It’s really amazing how fast you can go from having just a handful, to having enough recipes to fill the year without repeating one.

Well among those was one for bread that called for a biga. Now pretty much everything I know about homemade bread I have taught myself so upon seeing that word I knew I had to google it. It’s actually rather simple, so I decided that, or something similar had to be one of the challenges I set for myself.

After doing more research I found a very simple recipe on The Fresh Loaf for great looking white bread using a polish, and that was what I attempted last night.

This recipe not only called for a polish, but it is almost ridiculously wet (I checked the comments below the recipe to make sure it wasn’t just me); but it also called for using the autolyse method, and making it a free-form loaf (as opposed to the loaf pan I normally use), giving me additional challenges. 

The recipe itself wasn’t quite as detailed on the instructions as I tend to prefer, so I wasn’t sure I was doing any of it right, but it came out great so I am quite happy. I’ve added more details in the instructions so hopefully it will help anyone that wants to try it themselves.

bread

White Bread with Poolish
source: http://www.thefreshloaf.com/

Poolish:
1 cup flour
1 cup water
¼ teaspoon instant yeast*

Bread:
1 lb flour
12 ounces water
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon instant yeast*
The poolish

* If you have active-dry yeast instead of instant, use about 20% more. I used rounded measurements and it worked fine.

The Night Before:
Combine the ingredients for the polish in a small bowl and cover with saran wrap. Leave the bowl covered over night. It will rise with a lot of bubbles then fall again.

The Next Day:
Mix the flour and water in a large bowl using the autolyse method, blending with your hands just until it is all absorbed. It will make a tough dough. Leave it in the bowl covered with saran wrap for 20-30 minutes.

Add the poolish and the rest of the ingredients to the dough and mix with your hands just until well blended. It will make a very wet dough. (I mixed with my fingers just until I couldn’t discern the difference between the autolyse dough and the almost slimy poolish.) Cover with saran wrap and let rise for an hour.

Dump the dough out onto a work surface covered generously with flour and divide into to pieces. Fold one in thirds like a letter, then in thirds again in the opposite direction, gently stretching and degassing as you go.  Place it in a bowl, dust off the extra flour, cover with saran wrap and let it rise an hour. Repeat with other half of dough and place in a second bowl.

After an hour fold the dough again as above and let rise once again. Each time you rise and fold it will pick up the flour from your work surface and strengthen and get easier to work with. Grease cookie sheet and preheat oven as hot as it can go placing a pan on the bottom of the stove for steaming. **

Once the dough has risen again shape the loaves, folding as above to create surface tension but try not to degas too much. Place on cookie sheet and allow to rise for about 90 minutes.

Boil two cups of water then cut two or three diagonal slashes in each loaf. Pour the water into the pan on the bottom of the oven then place the loaves on a low rack. Allow to cook for five minutes, then turn oven down to 450. Cook for five more minutes, rotate loaves then cook for an additional ten.

Remove from oven, allow to cool then cut and enjoy.

I was kinda surprised that this thing didn’t even call for butter or sugar, which I had always assumed was in every bread recipe, but this came out great without it. Even as beautiful and tasty as it turned out, I don’t know how often I would use this recipe. It’s just not quite as satisfying when you don’t knead it and put in that extra work. Though it would be fun to practice shaping loaves (and of course next time I’ll cook them one at a time so they don’t morph together.) 🙂

** If you happen to own a baking stone you can skip the cookie sheet. Simply cook on that as you normally do. 


Fresh Bread Any Day

February 13, 2008

Anyone who knows me knows that I love bread in most of its wonderful forms. French bread, soft sandwich bread, rolls, biscuits, bagels. Those crusty rolls that are pillowy soft on the inside and crispy enough on the outside to cut your mouth. mmmmmm

Whether it’s something fancy, or just a slice of buttered bread when I get home from work, I have to have some bread of some sort every day. Unfortunately with work, I can’t make a loaf of fresh bread every day, so naturally it was important that I get a recipe for something bread-like that I could make any day of the week.

What I love most about this recipe is that in its original form, it makes only four biscuits, making it even easier to handle during the week. I played with it, adjusted the numbers and adapted till I had what I consider the perfect biscuits. Beautifully browned, buttery with a hint of sweetness, and of course soft and delicious. Once I achieved the results I wanted I figured out the math and now I can make these in any multiple of four I need. So now I can come home from a long day at work and have hot, fresh biscuits that don’t come from a tube. And they go well with just about anything.

homemade biscuits

Buttery Biscuits

adapted from recipe found on: CookingClub.com

makes 16 biscuits

2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
fresh pepper (you be the judge of what’s enough. I never measure it and it’s always great)
12 teaspoons butter, cut into small pieces
1 1/3 cups milk

1. Preheat oven to 375. Cover a cookie sheet with foil or parchment paper.

2. Sift flour into a medium sized bowl and whisk in the sugar, baking powder, salt and pepper.

3. Add the butter and with a pastry blender or two knives, cut it in butter until it resembles coarse crumbs with some pea sized pieces.

4. Pour in the milk a little at a time, mixing as you go until you have a very moist dough. You probably won’t need about a tablespoon of the milk. Put that aside.

5. Cut up the dough and form 16 rough balls. Pat down and place on a cookie sheet then brush the tops with the remaining milk.

6. Place in oven and bake approximately 10-15 minutes until tops are nicely browned.

Serve and enjoy 🙂

biscuits

It’s pretty easy to figure out, but let me know if you want the measurements for making just four of these.


Anti-Valentines Day Brownies

February 11, 2008

Any chocoholic knows what it’s like when you get a craving. More often than not a piece of chocolate will do, but sometimes you need something truly thick and rich with chocolate; and that craving will stick with you till you satisfy it.

I got one of those cravings recently, and since I was also hoping to bribe a friend to come visit before he leaves town for a week I thought I would make some brownies. The perfect answer to both bribe and craving. Unfortunately schedule problems prevented the brownies from working as a bribe, so now their job is to ward off the Valentines Day Blues.

Most of my homemade not-from-a-box brownies only come out okay, so I thought I would try this recipe for a change. Rather than using melted chocolate like most of the ones I have tried, this one uses cocoa. It is supposed to be “deep dish” as well, but since I don’t have the pan yet (stupid amazon is slow with the shipping!) I just used my casserole dish as usual, but if you have an 8 inch square pan you should definitely try it in that cause there isn’t much better than a thick, fudgy brownie.

brownies and milk

 Even with the bigger dish these came out damn thick and chewy so I am pretty happy.

Deep Dish Brownies

source: CookingClub.com

1 cup butter, melted
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt

1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease 8-inch square pan. In large bowl, whisk together melted butter, sugar and 2 teaspoons vanilla. Whisk in eggs until well-combined.

2. In medium bowl, stir together flour, cocoa, baking powder and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Gradually stir flour mixture into egg mixture until well-combined. Spread in pan.

3. Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean but with some crumbs attached (brownies may sink in center). Do not overbake. Cool completely on wire rack.

plate 'o brownies

I added some milk-chocolate chips and they came out great. They are a little buttery, so you might want to experiment using some water/milk instead of some of the butter, but even with that they equal chocolatey goodness. It’s hard to think about (or even care about) being alone on this so-called holiday with something this good.

 Update: The next day the excessive buttery just made these things even better so the recipe doesn’t need to be adjusted. Just top it with hot fudge or caramel and serve with milk 🙂


Strega Nona

February 9, 2008

I don’t know if anyone else remembers the children’s book, Strega Nona, about the witch with the magic pasta pot. Her assistant plays with the pot while she is away and ends up flooding the town with pasta! YUM!

strands of pasta

This was always one of my favorite stories as a kid. I never wanted a pony, but I really wanted that magic pasta pot. Hot fresh pasta anytime I wanted it. Hell, I wouldn’t have minded helping “Big Anthony” clean up the town.

My favorite new toy isn’t a magic pasta pot, but it is the next best thing.

pasta machine

I finally got to use my shiny new pasta machine this weekend. Now, I must confess, this is not the first time I have made homemade pasta. I tried before a couple years ago but just could not roll it out flat enough by hand. It tasted okay, but it wasn’t great. The results this time were very different.

I knew the recipe I had was gonna make a lot of pasta but this was just awesome, and so much fun. After mixing the dough I let it rest a few minutes, turned on some good music and … got rollin’ 😉

It took me about four hours start to finish but oh man was it worth the effort. Beautiful, silky, very tasty pasta. And the fact that I made it from scratch just makes it that much better.

pasta

Homemade Pasta

500g Bread Flour (you can substitute all-purpose flour, but bread flour works better)
4 eggs
Corn starch for dusting

Make a mound with the flour on your work surface and scoop out a well in the middle. Pour the eggs into the hole and work the eggs and the flour together with a fork till you have a smooth dough, adding just a little water if necessary.

Knead the dough for ten to fifteen minutes, until it is smooth, firm, and elastic. Cover with saran wrap and allow to rest for 30 minutes. 

Separate the dough into four pieces and cover up three with a damp paper towel while you work with the other. Sprinkle the corn starch on your work surface and smush the ball of dough to make it just a little flat, then feed into the pasta machine at the largest setting. Fold the dough in thirds and feed it through again. Repeat 6-8 times to knead the dough. Cover and allow the dough to rest for 10-15 minutes.

If the dough starts to get the least bit sticky while rolling, dust both sides of the dough and the pasta machine with the corn starch.

Turn the pasta machine to the next smallest setting then feed it through again. Flip the dough over so the top is facing down and feed it through again. Turn the machine to the next smallest setting and repeat. Continue till you reach the desired thickness, then cover with saran wrap and repeat with the other balls of dough. Remember to dust the dough with corn starch if it gets sticky.

The dough will get really long as you work with it, so if you need to, cut it to keep it to a workable length.

Once all of the dough has been flattened, allow it to rest covered for 10-15 minutes then feed it through the cutter attachment of your choice and hang your fresh pasta to dry.

Prepare a pot of salted water. Once it has begun boiling, drop the pasta by handfuls, stirring occasionally. Homemade pasta will cook fast, so test it as soon as the water starts boiling again.

Serve and enjoy

I have new sauce recipes I want to try, but I really wanted to get the taste of the pasta itself, so this time I had it with just some browned butter, garlic and parmesan 🙂

A few notes:

1. The first few times you feed your dough through the machine it will probably look a little rough and weird. Just keep folding and feeding it through till it looks good, then do it a couple more times before adjusting the settings.

2. You probably won’t need the smallest, or even the next to smallest setting to get it thin enough. Keep an eye on it and keep in mind that the thinner it is, the faster it will dry, and cook.

3 Keep flouring the dough if you need to. It’s gonna get hard to work with if it gets sticky and the extra flour won’t hurt anything.