Cook Like a Champion bio picture
  • 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: September 2011

Salted Popcorn Caramel Macarons

Salted Popcorn Caramel Macarons

When Annie and I knew for sure we’d be getting together, the first thing I thought about baking was macarons. Until making them with her, I had been far too intimidated to make them on my own. After making them, though, I wonder why I was at all hestitant to try them in the first place. It doesn’t hurt that I had an experienced macaron maker there to guide me through the process, but it really was much less frightening than I thought it would be. Now that I’ve said all that, let me just tell you that our first batch of macarons didn’t turn out. We stayed up late and tried again (this time using a recipe that Annie had made previously) with much better results. There is something magical about pulling that first macaron shell off the baking sheet and realizing you succeeded. The fact that I got to make them with Annie just made this experience all the more special.

Annie & Andrew
How cute are Annie and Andrew?!

These macarons were out of this world delicious. In my opinion, there aren’t many combinations better than salt and caramel. If you’re a popcorn lover like me, this dessert is perfect for you. The rich, buttery caramel goes so well with the salty popcorn. There are so many textures in this little macaron that it’s almost hard to believe it’s one dessert. I’m so glad we tried another recipe because these macarons were worth every second we spent on them. Annie packed up some of these for me to take home, and I kept them in my camera bag during my flight. After a particularly long delay, I very nearly broke into them but decided I couldn’t do that to my sweet husband, who, by the way, drove in a terrible storm to come get me from a different airport and left early the next morning to pick up my luggage at the airport I should’ve flown into. Even though these tasted amazing, I’m glad I didn’t end up eating several of them on the way home. Luckily for Eric (and myself), I’m no longer afraid to make these and can’t wait to try more flavor combinations soon.

Salted Popcorn Carmel Macarons

Salted Popcorn Caramel Macarons
Yield: about 20-24 sandwich cookies

Ingredients:
For the macarons:
110 grams almonds (blanched or slivered)
200 grams confectioners’ sugar
90 grams egg whites, aged at room temperature for 24 hours or 3-5 days in the refrigerator
25 grams granulated sugar
3/4 cup buttered and salted popcorn, pulsed or chopped into fine chunks

For the caramel filling:
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 cup water
6 tablespoons heavy cream
Pinch of fleur de sel

Directions:
To make the macarons, pulse the almonds and confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of a food processor until finely ground and well blended. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites on medium-high speed until foamy. Gradually add the granulated sugar and continue beating until a smooth, shiny meringue with stiff peaks forms. Add the ground almond mixture to the bowl with the meringue and quickly but gently fold together using a wide rubber spatula until no streaks remain. You want to achieve a thick batter that ribbons or flows from the spatula when lifted.

Line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper. Transfer the batter to a piping bag fitted with a plain wide round tip. Pipe into small rounds on the prepared baking sheets (each round should be about 1-1½ inches in diameter), spaced about 1 inch apart. Sprinkle the rounds lightly with the chopped popcorn pieces (leave half plain if you want them to lie flat). Let sit at room temperature for about an hour to develop a hard shell.

Preheat the oven to 280˚F. Bake for 15-20 minutes, depending on size. Transfer the pans to a wire cooling rack and let cool completely before moving the cookies.

To make the caramel filling, combine the sugar, cream of tartar and water in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat without stirring until the sugar begins to melt and turn golden at the edges. Continue cooking, swirling the pan to cover evenly, until the sugar turns golden amber. Carefully pour the cream down the side of the pan in a slow, steady stream, stirring constantly until combined. Stir in the fleur de sel. Transfer the caramel to a bowl and let cool. It will thicken as it cools.

Once the cookies are totally cooled, match them up by size. Pipe a small dollop of caramel on the flat side of one cookie of each pair. Sandwich together with the remaining cookie, pushing the caramel to the edges. Store in an airtight container.

Inspiration from Eat, Show and Tell, macaron shells adapted from Tartlette, caramel from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook


Bacon Burgers with Bacon Onion Balsamic Jam

Bacon Burgers with Bacon-Onion Balsamic Jam

Annie and I didn’t plan in advance what meals we’d make while I was there, though a certain dessert (which you’ll see Friday) was on our list. She actually had this recipe on her menu plan for the prior week but wasn’t able to make it. When I saw it on the menu board in her kitchen, I told her how awesome it sounded. We decided to make it for dinner the following night, and that was a very good decision. Perhaps my favorite part of cooking this dinner was how excited Andrew got when he found out it would be cooked on the grill.

This burger is, without a doubt, a bacon lover’s burger. Not only is there bacon in the jam, but bacon is also cooked right into the burger. The jam is the perfect balance of sweet and savory. I love caramelized onions, and adding bacon and balsamic to them makes them completely irresistible. The burgers are incredibly juicy and are almost sinful when topped with the jam. Since I obviously couldn’t bring home a burger to Eric, I will definitely be making these soon so that he can experience their awesomeness.

Bacon Burgers with Bacon-Onion Balsamic Jam

Bacon Burgers with Bacon-Onion-Balsamic Jam
Serves 4

Ingredients:
For the jam:
4 thick slices applewood-smoked bacon, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch strips
1 large red onion, halved and thinly sliced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/3 cup water

For the burgers:
2 thick slices applewood-smoked bacon
1-1/2 pounds ground beef (85% lean)
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 hamburger buns, split
Sliced Gruyere cheese, optional

Directions:
Cook the bacon in a large skillet set over medium heat until lightly browned but not crisp, about 8 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer to paper towels to drain. Discard all but about 2 tablespoons of oil from the skillet.

Add the onion to the skillet, season with salt and pepper to taste, cover and cook for 2 minutes. Uncover and add a splash of water, then scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the skillet. Cover and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft, about 10 minutes. Stir in the vinegar, mustard and water. Return the bacon to the skillet and simmer until the liquid has thickened and most of it has been absorbed, 2-4 minutes. Transfer the jam to a small bowl, let cool slightly and cover with plastic wrap. The jam can be left at room temperature or refrigerated for up to 2 days. If refrigerated, gently reheat before serving.

To make the burgers, mince the bacon. Transfer to a large bowl, and add the beef, Worcestershire, salt and pepper. Gently combine until well mixed but not overworked. Form into 4 equal patties, each about 3/4 to 1-inch thick. Using your thumb, make a deep depression in the center of each payy to prevent them from swelling during cooking.

Heat a gas or charcoal grill to medium-high heat (400º to 450º). Grill the burgers over direct heat until grill marks form, 4-5 minutes. Flip and continue cooking an additional 4 minutes for medium doneness. For more well done burgers, cook an additional minute. As the burgers are finishing up, add cheese if desired. Transfer to a plate and tent with aluminum foil. Toast the buns on the grill for about 1 minute. Top each burger with about 1/4 cup of jam and serve immediately.

Source: Fine Cooking, July 2011


Pumpkin Doughnuts

Pumpkin Doughnuts

If you follow my blog on Facebook, you may have seen some posts a few weeks ago about me visiting my friend Annie. Yes, that Annie. ;) After countless emails, Facebook messages and texts, we finally got to meet in person over Labor Day weekend. Annie was kind enough to invite me to stay with her for a few days so that we could hang out, cook, bake and eat together. It was absolutely amazing, and just thinking about it makes me wish I knew when we’d be seeing each other again. I’m sure you know this already, but Annie is pretty awesome. Not only did we spend plenty of time together in the kitchen, Annie took me to one of her favorite restaurants for a phenomenal dinner and scheduled us some relaxation time in the form of side-by-side pedicures. I even got to meet Shanon, another food blogging pal and Annie’s real-life friend, while I was there. Though you’re probably sick of me saying this, food blogging has created some wonderful friendships for me. Annie has been a friend through joyous and difficult times. I feel lucky to call her a friend, and I’m thrilled that our schedules worked out so that we could finally meet.

This week, Annie and I will both be posting the recipes that we made together while I was visiting. First up are these pumpkin doughnuts, which we made just a few hours before my plane ride home. It had cooled off significantly that day, and we baked these with the fall air coming through open windows. It was perfect. It just so happens that we’re both bad about not reading through directions before starting a recipe, and Annie noticed shortly before we were about to begin this one that the dough required a few hours chilling time in the refrigerator. So we started right then and ended up freezing the dough instead. The doughnuts were delicious, and Annie even packed up some for me to bring home to Eric. I generally prefer yeasted doughnuts, but these cake doughnuts, filled with pumpkin and fall spices, were enough to make me rethink that preference. We rolled half in cinnamon sugar and dipped the other half in a powdered sugar glaze, and I’m still not sure which I liked better. These were best the day they were made, but Eric and I enjoyed them almost as much the next day.

Pumpkin Doughnuts

Pumpkin Doughnuts
Makes about 16 doughnuts and doughnut holes

Ingredients:
For the doughnuts:
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 cup canned pure pumpkin
Canola or Peanut Oil (for deep-frying)

For the cinnamon-sugar:
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon

For the spiced glaze:
1 cup powdered sgar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Dash of ground nutmeg
Dash of ground ginger
Dash of ground cloves
2 tablespoons milk

Directions:
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the sugar and butter until well blended. Add egg, then yolks and vanilla. Continue beating while gradually adding the buttermilk. Beat in the pumpkin about 1/4 cup at a time. Gradually fold the flour mixture into the egg mixture, then cover and refrigerate for about three hours.

Line two baking sheets with parchment or wax paper and lightly flour your work surface. Gently roll dough to about 1/2-inch thickness. Using a floured 2 1/2-inch round cutter, cut out dough rounds. Use a floured 1-inch cutter to remove the centers (we used the bottom of a 1M piping tip). Arrange the doughnuts and holes on the prepared baking sheets. Gather dough scraps and continue cutting until all the dough is used.

Line a cooling rack or two baking sheets with several paper towels. Add enough oil to a skillet or Dutch oven to reach a depth of 1 1/2 inches. Heat oil until the temperature reaches 365º to 370º. Fry doughnuts a few at a time, adjusting heat as needed to maintain temperature, until golden brown, about 1 minute per side. Fry doughnut holes in a couple batches, turning occasionally, until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Use a spider/strainer to transfer doughnuts to paper towels.

To make the cinnamon-sugar, whisk together the cinnamon and sugar in a small, shallow bowl until combined. Make the spiced glaze by combining powdered sugar and spices in a small bowl. Add the milk and whisk to combine, until a thick glaze is formed. Add more milk as needed to achieve desired consistency. When the doughnuts are just cool enough to handle, dip half in the cinnamon-sugar, turning to coat completely. Shake off excess. Dip the remaining doughnuts in the glaze and allow to set before serving.

Doughnuts as seen on Pinch My Salt, originally from Bon Appétit
Glaze from Annie’s Eats


Quick Cheese Bread

Quick Cheese Bread

Homemade bread is one of those things that I can absolutely never tire of. Eric and I love making bread together, and we even had a starter for quite some time. Yeast breads are certainly our favorite, but a great quick bread recipe is hard to beat. It comes in handy when you want homemade bread but don’t want to wait all day for it.

This bread has so many things going for it that I’m finding it hard to describe without sounding overly effusive. First and foremost, there’s cheese. Lots and lots of cheese. Not only is there cheese inside and on top of the bread, there’s also cheese on the bottom crust, thanks to a sprinkling of Parmesan in the pan prior to baking. Cubes of cheese are baked right into the bread, leaving behind gooey, cheesy pockets. There’s not a bite of this bread that doesn’t have cheese in it. The crumb is rich and moist, everything a quick bread should be. Cayenne and black pepper add just a hint of spice and plenty of flavor. The bread is so aromatic that it’s hard to resist cutting into it as soon as it comes out of the oven. It’s worth the wait, though, and will stay good for a few days (if you can keep it around that long).

Quick Cheese Bread

Quick Cheese Bread
Makes 1 9-inch loaf

3 ounces Parmesan cheese, shredded on the large holes of a box grater (about 1 cup)
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces extra-sharp cheddar, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 1 cup)
1 1/4 cups whole milk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3/4 cup sour cream

Directions:
Place oven rack in center of oven and preheat to 350º. Coat a 9×5-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray, then sprinkle 1/2 cup of the Parmesan evenly over the bottom of the pan.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cayenne, salt and pepper. Mix in the cheddar using a rubber spatula, breaking up any clumps, until all the cheese is well coated with the flour mixture. In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk, butter, egg and sour cream. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the wet ingredients into the dry until just combined, taking care not to overmix. THe batter will be heavy and thick. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan, smoothing the top with the rubber spatula. Sprinkle the remaining Parmesan evenly over the top of the batter.

Bake until deep golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Remember when testing for doneness that a pocket of cheese may look like uncooked batter. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then turn out and continue cooling for an additional 45 minutes before cutting.

Source: The New Best Recipe


Classic Chicken Noodle Soup

Chicken Noodle Soup

Chicken noodle soup is something I never considered making until I first saw this recipe on my friend Tara’s blog last year. I hated this type of soup as a child, but that can most certainly be blamed on the fact that I never had a homemade version until I made this one a few days ago. Eric and I have both been mildly sick for the past week, and this soup was exactly what we needed to feel better.

This soup is a far cry from the canned variety. It has everything the canned kind lacks – flavor, color, freshness, texture. Since it was unseasonably cool in Virginia last weekend, this meal turned out to be just the comfort food we were looking for. Even with store bought chicken stock this soup still had an enormous amount of flavor, which is pretty crazy considering its total cooking time is less than half an hour. I can’t wait to try it again with homemade stock, and I know we’ll be making this several more times once winter hits. With minimal ingredients and time, this soup is perfect for a busy weeknight (or, you know, a weekend night where you want nothing more than to snuggle under the blanket on the couch and watch How I Met Your Mother).

Chicken Noodle Soup

Classic Chicken Noodle Soup
Serves 4

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 stalks celery, medium-diced (1 cup)
3 carrots, medium-diced (1 cup)
3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 quarts chicken stock
2 cups wide egg noodles
2-3 cups cooked shredded chicken
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Directions:
In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the celery, carrots, salt and pepper and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened. Pour in the stock and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the noodles and cook for 10 minutes, then add the chicken and parsley. Continue cooking until the chicken is heated through and serve immediately.

As seen on Smells Like Home, originally from Barefoot Contessa Family Styleby Ina Garten