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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Whole Wheat Broccoli Rabe Skillet Pizza

So I know I'm supposed to be such a baker, but I must admit, I've never in my entire life made a pizza until this one. And to top it off, I had no clue what broccoli rabe was. I was totally confused in the grocery store, and finally I asked someone, and they corrected my pronunciation of rabe. I was saying "ray-be", when really it's "rah-be". But whatever. It was delicious and that's all that matters, right?
This is a totally cool way of making a pizza. Very easy! Who would have thought, made in a pan!
Just be careful, as I was not. DO NOT grab the handle of the pan when it comes out of the oven, as it was baking at 400 degrees. And, yes, I made this mistake. And, yes, it hurt!

Whole Wheat Broccoli Rabe Skillet Pizza
2  tablespoons  olive oil, divided
1  ball (1 lb.) whole-wheat pizza dough
4  ounces  broccoli rabe, cut into 1 1/2-in. pieces
About 1 cup diced yellow bell pepper
1/2  teaspoon  kosher salt
1/2  teaspoon  red chile flakes
1 1/4  cups  shredded mozzarella cheese, divided

Preheat oven to 400°. Heat a large ovenproof frying pan over medium-low heat. Add 1 tbsp. oil and brush all over pan.
Press dough with your hands, working on a floured surface, into a 13-in. round. Press into frying pan so it comes up sides slightly. Cook until golden on bottom, 5 minutes. Slide onto a plate.
Add remaining oil to pan along with the vegetables, salt, and chile. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring, until peppers begin to brown. Transfer to a plate.
Invert dough back into pan, golden side up, and press down into pan. Sprinkle with 1 cup mozzarella, leaving a border around edge. Scatter vegetables over cheese and sprinkle with remaining mozzarella.
Bake pizza in pan until crust is crisp, about 15 minutes. Cut into wedges.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Tomato and Sausage Risotto

This recipe is interesting because it involves a lot of time for the rice to cook, but once it does, and you try this dish, you'll love it.  My parents just told me to start making this on a regular basis (so you know it must be that good).
When it is reduced and thick, and the rice is cooked, is when you will look at it and say "this doesn't look like enough to feed four people", but once you add the spinach, you will see how much more there actually is. This meal is extremely filling and satisfying. You can use either spicy or sweet sausage,  I used sweet, and it was great!
Thick and creamy!
We served ours with asparagus and grated parmesan cheese to sprinkle on top of our risotto.
Tomato and Sausage Risotto
Serves 4
Ingredients: 1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes in juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 pound sweet or hot Italian sausage, casings removed
1 small onion, finely chopped
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 cup Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 bunch flat-leaf spinach (10 to 14 ounces), washed well, tough stems removed, chopped (about 7 cups)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving (optional)
2 tablespoons butter (I used 4, of course)


In a small saucepan, combine tomatoes (with their juice) and 3 cups water.

Bring just to a simmer; keep warm over low heat.
In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium. Add sausage and onion;
season with salt and pepper. Cook, breaking up sausage with a spoon,
until sausage is opaque and onion has softened, 3 to 5 minutes.
Add rice; cook, stirring until well coated, 1 to 2 minutes. Add wine; cook,
stirring until absorbed, about 1 minute.
Add about 2 cups hot tomato mixture to rice; simmer over medium-low heat,
stirring occasionally, until absorbed, 4 to 5 minutes. Continue adding tomato
mixture, 1 cup at a time, waiting for one cup to be absorbed before adding
the next, stirring occasionally, until rice is creamy and just tender, about 25
minutes total (you may not have to use all the liquid).
Remove pan from heat. Stir in spinach, Parmesan, and butter; season with
salt and pepper. Serve immediately (risotto will thicken as it cools), and
sprinkle with additional Parmesan, if desired.

    Sunday, December 26, 2010

    Homemade Nutella Pop Tarts

    I've been wanting to make these for about four months, and kept putting them off, because they seemed to complicated for me.  But alas, I finally felt confident enough to embark on a pop tart journey.  This journey consisted of a huge mess, and a lot more time than some might like to spend to make nine, delicious pop tarts.  Also, it consisted of me measuring the dough wrong, and making them a little bit too small; which is why I ended up with so much extra dough. 
    Nutella is delicious. Enough said.
    I put so much nutella inside each pop tart!

    I ended up making little clementine honey puffs. Simple enough, but they didn't go over so big with Jon.  He said "they are a little bitter". I think it's because I didn't see seeds inside the little sections of clementine, which are of course bitter.  

    Homemade Nutella Poptarts
    Adapted from King Arthur

    Pastry Ingredients:
    2 cups (8 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour
    1 tablespoon sugar
    1 teaspoon salt
    1 cup (2 sticks or 8 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into pats
    1 large egg
    2 tablespoons (1 ounce) milk

    1 additional large egg (to brush on pastry)

    Cinnamon Filling (enough for 9 tarts)
    1/2 cup (3 3/4 ounces) brown sugar
    1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, to taste
    4 teaspoons all-purpose flour

    Jam Filling
    3/4 cup (8 ounces) jam
    1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 1 tablespoon cold water

    Alternate fillings: 9 tablespoons chocolate chips, 9 tablespoons Nutella or other chocolate-hazelnut paste or 9 tablespoons of a delight of your choice, such as salted caramel or a nut paste

    To make cinnamon filling: Whisk together the sugar, cinnamon, and flour.

    To make jam filling: Mix the jam with the cornstarch/water in a small saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, and simmer, stirring, for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat, and set aside to cool. Use to fill the pastry tarts.

    Make the dough: Whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt. Work in the butter with your fingers, pastry blender or food processor until pea-sized lumps of butter are still visible, and the mixture holds together when you squeeze it. If you’ve used a food processor, transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Whisk the first egg and milk together and stir them into the dough, mixing just until everything is cohesive, kneading briefly on a well-floured counter if necessary.
    Divide the dough in half (approximately 8 1/4 ounces each), shape each half into a smooth rectangle, about 3×5 inches. You can roll this out immediately (see Warm Kitchen note below) or wrap each half in plastic and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

    Assemble the tarts: If the dough has been chilled, remove it from the refrigerator and allow it to soften and become workable, about 15 to 30 minutes. Place one piece on a lightly floured work surface, and roll it into a rectangle about 1/8″ thick, large enough that you can trim it to an even 9″ x 12″. [You can use a 9" x 13" pan, laid on top, as guidance.] Repeat with the second piece of dough. Set trimmings aside. Cut each piece of dough into thirds – you’ll form nine 3″ x 4″ rectangles.
    Beat the additional egg and brush it over the entire surface of the first dough. This will be the “inside” of the tart; the egg is to help glue the lid on. Place a heaping tablespoon of filling into the center of each rectangle, keeping a bare 1/2-inch perimeter around it. Place a second rectangle of dough atop the first, using your fingertips to press firmly around the pocket of filling, sealing the dough well on all sides. Press the tines of a fork all around the edge of the rectangle. Repeat with remaining tarts.

    Gently place the tarts on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Prick the top of each tart multiple times with a fork; you want to make sure steam can escape, or the tarts will become billowy pillows rather than flat toaster pastries. Refrigerate the tarts (they don’t need to be covered) for 30 minutes, while you preheat your oven to 350°F.

    Bake the tarts: Remove the tarts form the fridge, and bake them for 20 to 25 minutes, until they’re a light golden brown. Cool in pan on rack.

    Friday, December 24, 2010

    Pecan Bars

    As soon as I saw this recipe I thought..."these are perfect for my blog, and my mouth".  Since I myself have always had a butter obsession, to the point where I drool thinking about eating entire sticks of butter, I thought, a recipe with nine (yes I said nine) sticks of butter sounded too crazy not to make.  But when making a dessert, I don't believe in cutting back.  I like making desserts that are as amazing as can be, whether with a ton of butter, or without. These just happen to be with, and take a lot of work, money and ingredients, but are worth it.
    This pan of bars can be cut into one inch pieces, as they are very rich (due to all of the butter and honey in the pecan mixture). I made mine larger, but they can easily be cut after refrigerated at any time.  They can easily be put into tins to give as a gift. I am giving mine to some family for a housewarming party tomorrow. I separated two rows of them with parchment paper.

    At first I thought that lemon and orange zest were unnecessary, but once I added them as the recipe described, I realized they added a bit more flavor to the pecan topping and wouldn't skip out on them.
    This recipe says not to let the filling go underneath the crust, but it's kind of difficult if you use a baking sheet as I did. You see, the baking sheet was too small to begin with, by (covers eyes) two inches, and the sides were not quite one inch in height, so it was difficult to work with. You MUST put something under the pan in the oven, because there is a lot of drippage over the sides.

    This was after I put a lot of them in a tin for a gift. Yes, there are a lot of these, and they are very rich! A tip I would give, this shortbread recipe on the bottom of these bars isn't my favorite. I would use salted butter instead of unsalted and more sugar than the recipe calls for.

    Adapted from Ina Garten

    3 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
    2 sticks salted butter, room temerature
    1 cup granulated sugar
    3 extra-large eggs
    3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
    1/2 teaspoon baking powder
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1 pound unsalted butter
    1 cup good honey
    3 cups light brown sugar, packed
    1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
    1 teaspoon grated orange zest
    1/4 cup heavy cream
    2 pounds pecans, coarsely chopped

    Preheat the oven to 350°F.

    For the crust 
    Beat the butter and granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, until light, approximately 3 minutes. Add the eggs and the vanilla and mix well. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix the dry ingredients into the batter with the mixer on low speed until just combined. Press the dough evenly into an ungreased 18 by 12 by 1-inch baking sheet, making an edge around the outside. It will be very sticky; sprinkle the dough and your hands lightly with flour. Bake for 15 minutes, until the crust is set but not browned. Allow to cool.
    For the topping 
    Combine the butter, honey, brown sugar, and zests in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook over low heat until the butter is melted, using a wooden spoon to stir. Raise the heat and boil for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat. Stir in the heavy cream and pecans. Pour over the crust, trying not to get the filling between the crust and the pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the filling is set. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold. Cut into bars and serve.

    Wednesday, December 22, 2010

    Crispy Salted Oatmeal White Chocolate Cookies

    Somehow ingredients look so much better with a delicious little baby on the counter! This is my niece Gwen, and she was so excited to know we were making THESE cookies because she knows that these are my husbands favorite cookies, and knows when she gets big enough to eat them, they will be her favorite as well. Her mother helped bake today, and we had a blast!

    Chunks of white chocolate make me happy, enough said. I like to use white chocolate that has cacao butter in the ingredients. **Attention** - If it does not say cacao butter, it is NOT real chocolate. I must say, the artificial "white chocolate" is still delicious, but I don't like that it "pretends" to be white chocolate. It's obviously an impostor, and shouldn't be used in a white chocolate recipe!
    These cookies get pressed down to about 3/4 of an inch in height, and sprinkled with a few flakes of sea salt. Yes, I know what you're thinking. "I think I'll skip the sea salt".  DON'T. You don't want to miss out on the amazing flavor of this cookie's sweet white chocolate, brown sugar, and of course, butter. Mixed with a tiny bit of salt. It's, well, incredible.

    Crispy Salted Oatmeal White Chocolate Cookies
    Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

    1 cup all-purpose flour
    3/4 teaspoon baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    1/4 teaspoon table salt
    14 tablespoons (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly softened
    1 cup sugar
    1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
    1 large egg
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    2 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

    6 ounces good-quality white chocolate bar, chopped
    1/2 teapoon flaky sea salt (for sprinkling on top)

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper or Silpat. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and table salt in a medium bowl.

    Beat butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Scrape down bowl with rubber spatula, then add egg and vanilla and beat until incorporated. Scrape down bowl again. Add flour mixture gradually and mix until just incorporated and smooth. Gradually add oats and white chocolate and mix until well incorporated.

    Divide dough into 24 equal portions, each about 2 tablespoons. Roll between palms into balls, then place on lined baking sheets about 2 1/2 inches apart. Using fingertips, gently press down each ball to about 3/4-inch thickness.

    Sprinkle a flake or two of sea salt on each cookie

    Bake until cookies are deep golden brown, about 13 to 16 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through. Transfer baking sheet to wire rack to cool.

    Monday, December 20, 2010

    Raspberry and Almond Shortbread Thumbprints

    Soften the butter. Whip it to perfection, add sugar, then almond extract, then flour. These cookies are my all time favorite shortbread cookies, the taste of butter is intense and so creamy and delicious. You won't be sorry if you make them. They are so simple, yet so amazing. People won't believe that YOU made them. You can use any type of jam or jelly, but I always use raspberry because it's wonderful!

    I use a chapstick lid to make the holes in the cookies! Make sure you use enough butter or these cookies will crumble while poking the holes in them before putting in the jam.
    Almond drizzle. Mmmm. This drizzle compliments the cookie so nicely! I like to do this drizzle while still on the baking sheets, and then lift them individually before placing on a plate.

    Raspberry and Almond Shortbread Thumbprints

    1 cup butter, softened
    2/3 cup white sugar
    1/2 teaspoon almond extract
    2 cups all-purpose flour
    1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam
    1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
    3/4 teaspoon almond extract
    1 teaspoon milk

      Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
      In a medium bowl, cream together butter and white sugar until smooth. Mix in 1/2 teaspoon almond extract. Mix in flour until dough comes together. Roll dough into 1 1/2 inch balls, and place on ungreased cookie sheets. Make a small hole in the center of each ball, using your thumb and finger, and fill the hole with preserves.
      Bake for 14 to 18 minutes in preheated oven, or until lightly browned. Let cool 1 minute on the cookie sheet.
      In a medium bowl, mix together the confectioners' sugar, 3/4 teaspoon almond extract, and milk until smooth. Drizzle lightly over warm cookies.

        Sunday, December 19, 2010

        Bittersweet Chocolate and Pear Cake

        Make sure your pears are nice and soft for this recipe!
        Whipped eggs. These eggs are whipped for many minutes until they form a "ribbon-like" consistency!
        The time between when the butter browns and when it burns is not very long, so watch it carefully. Butter is best browned on medium to medium-low heat.

        I served this cake with almond whipped cream. Delicious!

        Yum! Enjoy!

        What is better than pear, browned butter and chocolate? Nothing, right? You're probably on your way to the kitchen right now! Beating the eggs is a bit of a task in this cake, but well worth it. You will be beating the eggs for many minutes, well beyond "fluffy", until they become ribbon-like.

        When you pour the pear and chocolate on top of this cake, you will be thinking, how does the cake get on top? Somehow the cake rises above the pear and chocolate and tucks them underneath!

        Bittersweet Chocolate and Pear Cake
        1 cup all-purpose flour
        1 tablespoon baking powder
        1/4 teaspoon salt
        3 eggs, at room-temperature
        4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter
        3/4 cup sugar
        3 pears, peeled, in a small dice (I used anjou, but would recommend a softer variety, like a bosc or any other of your favorites)
        3/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chunks

        Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan and dust with breadcrumbs (I cheated and used flour), set aside.
        Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together, set aside.
        Using a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the eggs on high speed until pale and very thick. (In a professional Kitchen Aid, it takes at least five minutes; on a home machine, it will take nine minutes to get sufficient volume)
        While the eggs are whipping, brown the butter. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan (because it will foam a lot) and cook it until the butter browns and smells nutty (about 6 to 8 minutes). It helps to frequently scrape the solids off the bottom of the pan in the last couple minutes to ensure even browning. Remove from the flame but keep in a warm spot.
        Add the sugar to the eggs and whip a few minutes more.
        Just as the egg-sugar mixture is starting to loose volume, turn the mixture down to stir, and add the flour mixture and brown butter. Add one third of the flour mixture, then half of the butter, a third of the flour, the remaining butter, and the rest of flour. Whisk until just barely combined — no more than a minute from when the flour is first added — and then use a spatula to gently fold the batter until the ingredients are combined. It is very important not to over-whisk or fold the batter or it will lose volume.
        Pour into prepared pan. Sprinkle the pear and chocolate chunks over the top, and bake until the cake is golden brown and springs back to the touch, about 40 to 50 minutes [updated, thanks for your responses], or a tester comes out clean.