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  • Have a Spooky Halloween!

    Cheddar Witches Fingers - Cheese straws in the shape of fingers, complete with a black almond "finger nail." Delicious and totally spooky.

    Candy Apples - You don't need to go to the fair to get my favorite treat because you can make these at home. Black food coloring gives them a festive touch.

    Pumpkin Caramel Sauce - Having a not-so-scary Halloween party? Serve ice cream with this pumpkin infused caramel sauce on top.

Monthly Archives: March 2011

Lavash Crackers

Lavash Crackers

I’m not a big snacker, but I can always count on cheese and crackers for those times when I do want a snack. It never fails that I have several types of cheese in my refrigerator, but I’m not very adventurous when it comes to crackers. I tend to like ones with some type of topping or added texture (sesame or sunflower seeds, etc.), so I knew I’d love these crackers the moment I found the recipe.

Lavash is a type of flatbread, and its use will depend greatly on how thick you roll it before baking. Lavash crackers are made by rolling the dough paper thin. When kept thicker, this dough can also be used to make pita bread and flatbread roll-ups. I found that I had to roll the dough larger than the recipe specified in order to achieve the correct thinness. The parts that were a little thicker still tasted delicious and were crispy, but they reminded me more of crostini crackers. For especially crispy, easily-snapped-in-two crackers, make sure your dough is thin. You can cut the dough into individual crackers before baking or break it into shards once it cools. I topped mine with coarse salt, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, paprika and black pepper. I loved the different textures and flavors provided by each, and I want to add cumin seeds to the mix next time. This is one of the few recipes in Bread Baker’s Apprentice that doesn’t require a pre-ferment, so you can have these crackers ready in just a few hours.

Lavash Crackers

Lavash Crackers
Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups (6.75 ounces) unbleached bread flour
1/2 teaspoon (.13 ounce) salt
1/2 teaspoon (.055 ounce) instant yeast
1 tablespoon (.75 ounce) honey
1 tablespoon (.5 ounce) vegetable oil
1/3 to 1/2 cup (3 to 4 ounces) room temperature water
Poppy seeds, sesame seeds, paprika, cumin seeds, kosher salt, or freshly ground pepper for topping

Directions:
In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, salt, yeast, honey, oil and enough water to bring the dough together. Sprinkle the counter with flour and transfer the dough to it. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes, or until the dough passes the windowpane test and register between 77° and 81°F. The dough should be smooth and supple. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, rolling to coat with the oil. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to ferment at room temperature for 90 minutes, or until the dough has doubed in size.

Lightly mist the counter with spray oil and transfer the dough to it. Using your hands, press the dough into a square. Lightly dust the top of the dough with flour and roll the dough into a paper thin sheet. (The recipe says 15 by 12 inches, but I rolled mine larger.) if the dough needs to rest, simply cover it with plastic wrap and allow to sit for 5 mintues before continuing to roll. Once the dough reaches the desired thinness, allow it to rest for 5 minutes before transferring it to a parchment lined baking sheet.

Preheat the oven to 350° with a rack on the middle shelf. Mist the dough with water and sprinkle on your desired toppings. For precut crackers, use a pizza cutter to cut the dough into diamonds. They will seprate as the dough cooks or easily snap apart after baking. For shards, leave the dough uncut. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until the dough begins to brown evenly across the top. This time will depend on how thinly and evenly your dough is rolled. Allow the crackers to cool on the pan for 10 minutes, then snap apart or into shards and serve.

Note: I kept these crackers for three days without any loss in freshness.

Adapted from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart


Creamy Caramel Sauce

Caramel Sauce

One of my weaknesses is espresso. I love it in any form, especially when it’s in a caramel latte. I don’t really like the artificial flavor syrups that some places use in their lattes. If I’m going to drink a caramel latte, I want it to have real caramel sauce in it. I guess you could say caramel is another one of my weaknesses. :) I recently had a delicious caramel latte (with homemade caramel sauce) at a local coffee shop, and I was inspired to make my own caramel so that I could enjoy caramel lattes whenever my heart desires. Having this caramel in the refrigerator has been both a blessing and a curse. Knowing it’s in there makes me want to put it on everything, but having it in there means it’s ready when I want it.

Caramel is relatively easy to make. The key is to focus and not try to unload the dishwasher or something while your caramel is cooking. When looking for a recipe, I had to look no further than David Lebovitz. Since he’s the ice cream king, I knew his caramel sauce would taste amazing. He actually has a wonderful step-by-step photo tutorial that’s definitely worth checking out. There are two methods to making caramel: wet and dry. This recipe uses the dry method, which means no water is added while the sugar caramelizes. The sugar does get incredibly hot, so make sure to be extra cautious while working with it. If you’ve never made caramel, you’re missing out. It’s not that hard, and the results are totally worth it. I will warn you, though, you’ll want to top nearly everything with it. I’m already working on a gelato recipe using this caramel and can’t wait to share it (assuming it turns out).

Caramel Sauce

Creamy Caramel Sauce
Makes 1 1/2 cups

Ingredients:
1 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions:
In a large, deep, sturdy saucepan, spread the sugar in an even layer and place over low to medium low heat. Watch it carefully. Once it starts to liquefy around the edges, use a rubber spatula to very gently stir it towards the center. Continue gently stirring until all of the sugar is melted, but take care not to over stir. Once the caramel reaches a deep amber color, immediately remove it from the heat. Carefully whisk in half the cream, which will bubble and steam quite violently. Stir until the cream is thoroughly combined, then whisk in remaining cream. Stir in the salt and vanilla. If any sugar has hardened, place the saucepan over low heat and whisk until smooth.

The sauce can be stored for up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator. It can be rewarmed in the microwave or in a saucepan set over low heat. Add additional cream if the sauce is too thick.

Adapted from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz


Caesar Salad

Caesar Salad
Now that the weather is finally warming up, I’ve been searching for lighter, more refreshing recipes. Salad is a clear choice, and Caesar salad is one of mine and Eric’s favorites. There was a time that we frequently bought salad kits, but those days are long gone. Now, we opt for homemade dressing and croutons. It’s easy, inexpensive, and it gives us the option to make only the amount we want. I can’t tell you how many bottles of dressing or boxes of croutons I’ve thrown away in my lifetime because I didn’t use them enough to warrant having an entire bottle/box. I know making dressing and croutons at home isn’t feasible for everyone, but you might find yourself making time to make them once you realize how easy and delicious they are. Plus, there’s something incredibly satisfying about turning egg yolks, anchovies, garlic and oil into dressing.

We order Caesar salad frequently at restaurants, so it was only a matter of time before we tried making it at home. I actually can’t believe it took us this long, but we’ve made up for it since finding this recipe. Hands down, my favorite part of this dressing is the garlic. It’s toned down some from being grated and steeped in lemon juice, but it still has that garlicky punch that I so love. The anchovies add a savory, salty flavor to the dressing. They’re minced to a paste before being mixed into the dressing, so you don’t have to worry about having a big piece of fish in your salad. Please don’t be turned off by the inclusion of anchovies because they add so much flavor to this dressing, and it would certainly be lacking without them. (Also, check out this article about them from NPR; you may change your mind.) One aspect of this recipe that I found especially interesting was the use of two oils. Canola oil is used to cut through the fruitiness of the extra-virgin olive oil, and I liked that the olive oil taste wasn’t overpowering like it can be in some dressings. Finally, egg yolks are used to hold everything together and temper the strong-flavored ingredients.

Caesar Salad

A note on the croutons: I made the croutons included with this recipe, and, while they were delicious, I found them to be no better than my regular croutons. Normally, I toss crusty bread cubes with a bit of olive oil, garlic seasoning, salt and Parmesan. I bake the bread cubes at 325º for about 15 minutes, toss and continue baking until crisp.

Caesar Salad

Caesar Salad
Makes 4 to 6 servings

Ingredients:
3/4 teaspoon garlic paste (from 1 large, grated clove)
2-3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
6 anchovy fillets, patted dry with paper towels, minced fine, and mashed to paste with fork (1 tablespoon)
2 large egg yolks
5 tablespoons canola oil
5 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 ounces finely grated Parmesan cheese (about 3/4 cup)
Freshly ground black pepper
2-3 romaine hearts, cut crosswise into 3/4-inch-thick slices, rinsed, and dried very well (8 to 9 lightly pressed cups)
croutons (see note above)

Directions:
In a large bowl, whisk together garlic paste and lemon juice. Allow to sit for 10 minutes. Whisk in Worcestershire, anchovies and egg yolks. In a slow, steady stream, whisk in canola and olive oils until the dressing is fully emulsified. Add 1/2 cup of Parmesan and pepper to taste, then whisk until completely combined. Add romaine and toss to coat, then gently toss in croutons. Top with remaining 1/4 cup of Parmesan.

Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, January/February 2011


Chocolate Coffee Stout Ice Cream

Chocolate Coffee Stout Ice Cream

Since Saint Patrick’s Day is near, there are a lot of recipes floating around for chocolate stout ice cream. I’m sure they’re all delicious, but I really only like Guinness when it’s in cake. I really wanted to try a chocolate stout ice cream, though, and was torn between making it with a beer I don’t like and hoping I’d like it or finding a good substitution for the Guinness. That’s when it hit me – I love coffee stouts, so why not replace the Guinness with a beer I enjoy more? I wanted the coffee flavor to really come through, so I decided to steep coffee beans in warm milk before making the custard. The result, a rich chocolate-coffee ice cream with a hint of stout, was exactly what I was hoping for.

Chocolate ice cream has never been my favorite, but the coffee in this one makes it perfect for me. I can’t resist coffee and chocolate together, and the stout just takes this ice cream over the top. Chocolate is the most prominent flavor, but the coffee and stout both come through very well. I steeped my coffee beans for an hour, but you can reduce that time (no less than half an hour) if you want less coffee flavor. My only complaint about this ice cream is that it melts quicker than others I’ve made, which (I think) has to do with the amount of alcohol in it. Even so, this hasn’t really been a problem (except when trying to photograph it) because this ice cream is so delicious that I have no problem eating it before it melts. :) If you like chocolate and coffee together, you will love this ice cream.

Chocolate Coffee Stout Ice Cream

Chocolate Coffee Stout Ice Cream
Makes about 1 quart

Ingredients:
7 ounces milk chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
1 cup coffee beans
4 egg yolks
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup coffee stout
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:
Place the chocolate pieces in a large bowl and set a strainer on top. Combine the milk, sugar, salt and coffee beans in a medium saucepan and place over medium heat. Once the mixture is warm, cover, remove from heat and allow to steep for 1 hour.

Uncover and rewarm the coffee mixture. Meanwhile, whisk together the egg yolks in a medium bowl. Slowly pour the warm milk mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly. Pour the entire mixture back into the saucepan and place over medium heat. Stir constantly with a heatproof spatula until the mixture is thick enough to coat the spatula. Pour the custard through the strainer over the chocolate and press on the beans to extract as much flavor as possible. Discard the beans and stir until the chocolate has melted. Once the mixture is smooth, whisk in the cream, stout and vanilla. Place over an ice bath and stir until cool, then refrigerate until completely chilled before freezing in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Adapted from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz


Light Wheat Sandwich Bread

Light Wheat Bread

Bread baking isn’t something that I do regularly, or at least I didn’t until last week. It only took one taste of this bread to convert me, and I won’t ever go back to store bought bread again. Why would I when this loaf is so simple and inexpensive to make? Bread baking is also quite rewarding. From the wonderful aroma of the bread baking to cutting the first slice, I love everything about it. The most difficult part of this recipe is allowing the bread to cool before slicing it. I can’t think of many times Eric and I have watched the clock so closely. Judging by our excitement and impatience, you’d think we were counting down the time until dessert was ready. We were eager to try it the first time, but we were close to ecstatic the second time because we already knew how good it would taste.

This bread has a wonderfully chewy crumb and is fairly soft due to the blend of bread and whole wheat flours. It’s delicious on its own, with a touch of butter or topped with peanut butter and honey. Really, it’s good with just about anything. ;) Eric and I have been searching for excuses to eat a slice. It holds up very nicely to being sliced, and I’ve had no problems cutting thin or thick slices from the loaf. As far as making the bread goes, it’s a really simple process. After the dry ingredients are mixed, the wet ones are added, and then the dough is kneaded. After the first rise, the dough is shaped and then allowed to rise again before being baked. The actual hands-on time is minimal, and the result is well worth the wait. Just as a note, I made this using weight measurements. I find that to be the most accurate way, but I’ve included both sets of measurements below.

Light Wheat Bread

Light Wheat Bread
Makes one 2-pound loaf

Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups (11.25 ounces) unbleached bread or high-gluten flour
1 1/2 cups (6.75 ounces) whole-wheat flour
1 1/2 tablespoons (.75 ounce) granulated sugar or honey
1 1/2 teaspoons (.38 ounce) salt
3 tablespoons (1 ounce) powdered milk
1 1/2 teaspoons (.17 ounce) instant yeast
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) unsalted butter or shortening, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) water, at room temperature

Directions:
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a 4-quart mixing bowl, stir together both flours, sugar (if using), salt, powdered milk and yeast. Add the butter, honey (if using) and water. Stir or mix on low speed until the ingredients form a ball. If some flour remains in the bottom of the bowl, very slowly add in more water. The dough should feel soft and supple.

Switch to the dough hook and knead at medium speed for about 6 minutes. Alternately, sprinkle a work surface with flour and knead for about 10 minutes, adding more flour if needed. The dough should be tacky but not sticky and register between 77º and 81ºF. Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to it, turning to coat the dough with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise at room temperature for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until the dough has doubled in size.

Remove the dough and press it with your hands to form a rectangle about 5 inches wide and 6 to 8 inches long. Working from the short side, roll up the length of the dough one section at a time, pinching the crease after each turn.
Light Wheat Bread
 

The loaf will spread as you roll it, and the final length should be 8 or 9 inches, depending on the size loaf pan you have. Pinch the final seam closed, then roll the loaf back and forth to even it out, taking care not to taper the edges.
Light Wheat Bread
 

Place the loaf in a lightly oiled pan making sure that the ends of the loaf touch the ends of the pan. Mist the top of the loaf with spray oil and loosely cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rise for 90 minutes, or until the dough crests above the lip of the pan. Preheat the oven to 350º and place a rack in the center of the oven. Place the bread pan on a baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes. Rotate the pan 180º and continue baking an additional 15 to 30 minutes, until golden brown on the top and sides. The finished loaf should be 190ºF in the center, and the bottom should sound hollow when thumped.

Remove the bread immediately from the pan and allow to cool on a wire rack for at least 1 hour, preferably 2, before slicing or serving. To store, wrap the cooled loaf in plastic wrap or store in a plastic bag in a cool, dark place. Do not refrigerate it because doing so will cause the bread to dry out. If it cannot be eaten within 3 days, I recommend slicing then freezing it, which allows you to remove only as much as you need.

Adapted from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart