Thursday, October 29, 2009

Halloween Treats!

I don't know about any of you out there, but my kitchen is starting to look like a bakery. Between chocolate cookies and Halloween brownie bites (with drizzled frosting! yum) for a party on Saturday, my kitchen has been crazy! I love baking for special occassions and holidays but I think I've absolutly had my fill of orange frosting.....
What kind of spooky treats has everyone been making this week??

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Easy Biscuits

Today I wanted to bake something savory and easy, so I decided on biscuits! This recipe has minimal ingredients and is easy to make. It took me exactly 60 minutes to make the dough, roll it out, cut out biscuits, AND bake them! You should try this recipe!
Easy Biscuits:
2 cups of flour
1 tablespoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup of solid vegetable shortening, room temperature
1 cup milk

Pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees. Then, mix together the flour, salt, and baking powder in a large bowl. Rub together the room temperaure shortening and the flour until little balls form. It's okay if you have larger balls of shortening. Pour in the milk and mix together until sticky dough forms.

It's really important not to over work the dough because you want the biscuits flaky. On a well floured surface, knead the dough only 10 times and no more! If you think you need to knead it more, don't! The less you mess with it, the better the biscuits. I think I might have over worked mine just a bit because they didn't puff the way I thought they would. After you've kneaded the dough, roll it out into a 10 by 10 circle and with a biscuit cutter or a round cookie cutter, cut your biscuits!

Put your biscuits onto a greased pan and brush the top with butter. Yum. Stick them in the oven for 12-15 minutes and you'll have flaky biscuits! They are easy to make and the ingredients are very accessible! You can find vegetable shortening right next to the butter in your local grocery store. When you try these easy biscuits, you'll wonder why you didn't make them sooner!

Happy baking :)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Cinnamon Swirls

From one of my previous posts I had left over frozen pastry dough. I wanted to try a swirl cookie and I think it came out really delicous. My family ate the whole batch!
Pastry Dough:
1/2 cup butter; room temperature
2 & 3/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs, beaten
First combine flour, salt, and baking powder in a bowl. Then take the room temperature butter and cut it into the flour mixture until it looks like big bread crumbs. Then make a well and add the beaten egg and the milk. Fold the milk and egg into the flour and butter until a dough forms. Chill the dough for 30 minutes. Pre-heart the oven at 375 degrees.

When the dough is chilled, make sure you have a floured surface to roll the dough out on. Take a rolling pin to the dough until it is 1/8th of an inch thick. It's very thin! But it's worth the work...
For the filling I mixed together sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, and walnuts that I chopped very finely. ( I didn't measure out these ingredients because its basically all sugar but I put about a half a cup of chopped walnuts). When your dough is all rolled out, sprinkle your sugar filling evenly all over the dough. Then, very carefully, start rolling the dough back up. This may be difficult at first but take your time. After the dough is rolled up in a long roll, put it back in the fridge to chill again for 15 minutes.
After the roll is chilled you can cut cookies off of the end of the roll. I made the cookies about 1/2 inch thick but you could make them smaller or larger. After the cookies are cut, put them on a greased baking sheet in the oven until the dough is golden brown(about 15-20 minutes).
These cookies turned out really yummy. And you can evn interchange the ingredients in the filling too! Next time I will probably add chocolate. Yum!

Kitchen Kitten Gossip

So a few weeks have gone by since I last posted anything and there are a few reasons why!

First of all, I was terribly sick. Cooking + coughing/sneezing/headache = not a whole lot of fun. (BUT I did manage to make some Cinnamon Swirl Cookies and that post will come right after this one! Yum...)

Second, as most of you know, I'm still in school! I just finished midterms (thank god) and now I am back to my kitchen :)

I do have very exciting news though! For Christmas my mom is getting me a pink KitchenAid mixer and I am extatic!!!!!!!! Instead of sugar plums dancing in my head, it's the pink KitchenAid mixer.....
Wanna see? --->

It's beautiful and I won't have to mix everything by hand-what a luxury!

So, I apologize to any readers who have been dissapointed with my non-posting. But stay tuned because I have some delicious cookie posts coming up!!!

Happy Cooking

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Kitten Patissierie

The other day I found this great cookware store near my apartment. It has everything that any cook/chef/baker could ever dream of! I was in heaven...
Seeing all the baking materials really inspired me to bake something classic and delicious with something seasonal. Apple are perfect for fall, especially warm apple tart! So that is exactly what I decided to make.
Flaky Pie Dough:
5 & 1/4 cups flour
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 & 1/2 sticks of butter
1 & 3/4 cups solid vegetable shortening, chilled
1 cup ice water
First, mix together the flour and salt in a large bowl. Then with your hands or a mixer, cut the butter first into the flour until it looks like course corn meal. Then cut in the shortening until it has clumps. This may take a while if your using your hands but be patient. Make sure the butter and shortening are really cold too.
Then after the butter and shortening are mixed in, pour in the water and mix together until a dough forms. Wrap it in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for 2 hours.

2 Granny Smith apples, peeled
1/2 cup of fresh bread crumbs
pinch of cinnamon
3/4 cup of sugar
1 tablespoon flour
2 teaspoons lemon juice
Slice the apples thinly and mix with the lemon juice. Then, in a bowl, mix the other ingredients together with the apples. Bake in the oven in a jelly roll pan until the apples give up some of their juices and they are tender.
When the dough is done chilling, roll it out on a floured suface till about 1/4 inch thick. Fold and place very gently into tart pan. Make the sides real pretty making slices into the dough. Bake in the oven at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. Dont forget to poke holes on the bottom with a fork!
When the pie crust is cooked, take it out and let it cool. Prepare the topping.
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 & 1/2 teaspoons sugar
When the pie crust is cooled, fill the crust almost to the top with filling. The assemble the topping. Slice the apples thinly and toss in lemon juice to prevent browning. Then cover the top, anyway your heart desires. I decided to do it classically by fanning them. Brush melted butter over top of the whole tart and sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 375 degrees until the top apples are browned.
This French Apple Tart turned out so well! I worked so hard to make the crust flaky and it really was delicious. The filling was sweet and soft while the top was crusted with sugar.
:) I'm so glad I tried this recipe because it has opened me up to many other classics in baking!

Friday, October 9, 2009

France Flashback

When I was 16, I took part in my high school's French exchange program. A student (named Aurelie) from Southern France who was learning English, came to stay with me for 2 weeks and I, learning French, went and stayed with her family for 2 weeks. I was really excited about going to Southern France and I didn't even consider the kind of food that I would be eating when I was there. Some of the fondest memories I have of my stay almost always involved food.

One night, my exchange student's mother had made this delicious whole chicken. She baked and basted it slowly for hours and the smells that filled the house, quite frankly, reminded me of home. I always considered chicken a really boring protein until I tasted the chicken that Aurelie's mom had placed in front of me.

I was startled at first because it didn't taste like chicken! It was moist and it melted in my mouth. The herbs that it was cooked with had permeated the meat in such a way that every bite was a small sample of France. This meal changed the way I looked at chicken forever. I had a new found respect for it.

I had a craving for this same melt-in-your-mouth, herb chicken this week and decided to take a stab at it. I wanted those flavors that reminded me of home so I stuffed the chicken with garlic, onions, celery, and carrots. I seasoned the chicken with salt and pepper and garlic powder. I didn't want to mess with flavors too much. I like to keep it simple!

I wasn't sure how I could make it really tender but I remembered watching Emeril Lagasse one morning on The Foodnetwork and he was making a whole chicken. He seperated the skin from the breast meat and stuffed butter in between. I thought I'd try it because I really wanted that nice tender, moist chicken!

I pre-heated the oven to 350 degrees and after the chicken was all stuffed, I place a loose piece of aluminum foil over top and slid it into the oven. I baked it for about 2 hours, basting it every 1/2 hour or so. Then I took the foil off the top and placed a few pads of butter on top just for browning purposes and baked for another 30 minutes Yum!

Needless to say, the chicken turned out really tender and flavorful! It was so moist and delicous. AND the best thing about making a whole chicken are the leftovers!

Of course it doesn't top the chicken I had in France, but I suspect it was the chicken itself, how it was raised or what it ate, that made it so tasty. I think factors like that really do make a difference in food!

Has there ever been something you've eaten that was so devine that you've tried to re-make it yourself? If so, how did it turn out?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Lessons in Pastry

For a few days I've had boxes of fresh berries sitting in my fridge waiting to be used. I couldn't decide what to make with them until this morning. I woke up with an intense itch to make pastry!
I didn't want to mess with the berries too much (they are just so yummy and pretty by themselves), so I decided to make little pastry pockets! Yum... They turned out so delicious, I even surprised myself! :)
1/2 cup butter
2 & 3/4 cups flour, sifted
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup of milk
2 eggs beaten
I cut the straberries to match the size of the raspberries and blue berries. I let them sit in 1/2 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, and 1 tablespoon brown sugar.
First, for the pastry dough, I mixed together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Then, using my hands and room temperature butter, I worked the butter into the flour mixture until it looked like course corn meal. This is really important because the butter is what makes your pastry flaky and yummy.

After the butter is mixed in, make a well at the bottum of your bowl and pour in the milk and already beaten eggs. Fold in the milk and eggs very carfully and softy. Over working the pastry dough will make the pastry tough. Flaky, soft pastry is delicious so take your time! Go slow, be gentle!

After everything is mixed in, place your dough in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge for an hour. While the dough is chilling, mix up your berries and get some counter space ready because you'll need it when you roll the dough out.
When your dough is ready, flour your counter space generously because the dough is sticky. Roll out the pastry 1/8th of an inch thick and cut into whatever shapre your heart desires.
I decided to put a few sugary berries in between two layers of flower-shaped pastry. I thought it was pretty and since I have no formal training in pastry arts I wasn't about to ruin the dough by trying something outlandish (Trust me, I've learned my lesson!).

Right before I put them into the oven, I brushed egg onto the pastries and sprinkled sugar on top to give them a pretty color. I baked my little flower pastry pockets for about 15 minutes at 400 degrees. They turned out beautifully and most importantly, they taste really delicious and fresh!
This time on Lessons in Pastry, I learned that the more love you put into your pastry, the more it will love you back when you put it into your mouth!
Comments, questions, advice, criticisms? I'd love to hear from all of you!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Favorite Flavors

This morning I woke up and decided I had to have my favorite comfort food! A honey peanut butter bannana sandwhich (with wheat toast of couse!). I started thinking about comfort food flavors and how most comfort food has really simple flavors in it.

For example my favorite sanwhich has peanuts, honey, and bannanas in it. Very simple flavors that come together and do magical things in my mouth. But what makes comfort food comforting?

Maybe it is the simple flavors from your childhood or flavors that tickle your pallete just the right way. Comfort food brings you back to sweet, yummy memories in the first bite!

For me, this honey, peanut butter, bannana sandwhich reminds me of my mother and all the food she's ever taught me how to make. She is fabulous. When she introduced me into the world of toast and creamy peanut butter, my life changed for the better!

So what are your comfort food flavors that bring you back? Sweet? Savory?
I'd love to hear your comfort flavor stories!

Adventures in: immersion blending!

It's finally October and finally chilly outside. So what is the best way to warm up? Hot, creamy soup....

I recently moved to a new apartment and as a house warming gift I recieved an immersion blender. If you have no idea what an immersion blender is or looks like, click here:

Basically you can cook any veggie down with any stock or cream and blend it together to create a creamy, silky soup. Because I'm a fall fanatic I decided to make butternut squash soup!

-1 large butternut squash
-2 cups of milk
-1 cup of chicken stock
-2 tablespoons of butter
-1 teaspoon of salt
-1 tablespoon of cinnamon
-2 tablespoons of sugar

First I chopped the squash into cubes and boiled them int the milk and stock until they were soft. Then, I got the immersion blender out and started blending away until it was creamy. Then I added the salt, sugar, cinnamon, and butter and blended for another 30 seconds. Then I let cook for another 10 minutes.
That's it! How easy is that? Not only is the recipe pretty healthy....

...but it's so simple and very cozy, especially when it's chilly out. The soup is sweet but still has that cinnamon bite to it. It's the perfect fall dish.

Happy Fall! :)

Monday, October 5, 2009

Kitten's Kritics's Table

Alma De Cuba

I had the pleasure of dining at this amazing restaurant over the summer and it was absolutly fabulous! Steven Starr owns this restaurant and many others in Philly. All of his restaurants are recognized as great places to get some really delicious food.

Alma De Cuba blew me away because the inside decor of the restaurant itself is sharp and crisp with white walls and white tables but the accents of red and black add a chic sophistication to the atmosphere. It sets the mood even before you taste the food....

The chefs in the restuarant must be applauded because I still haven't and probably will never forget the taste of the food I ordered. For an appetizer I settled on the Sancocho de Pollo, which is a coconut chicken soup. It was the best soup I've ever tasted, probably in my life's entirety thus far.

For dinner I decided on the Pionono which is a sweet plantain and zuchini roulade with queso fresco and broccoli rabe. I'll never forget the flavors of food that were purring in my mouth when I tasted it. I ate so incredibly slow because I never wanted it to end. The mix of the sweet and savory was the perfect combonation, I thought I died and went to heaven.

If there is any place to go and enjoy really yummy food, it is Alma De Cuba. I can't wait to go back!

Kitten's Fresh Fix!

This past Sunday, we had a Fresh Fix in our kitchen; salmon! I know, I know, salmon is delicous and very healthy. I was afraid, up until now that is, to try salmon because I thought it would taste fishy....

I've discovered that it is quite the opposite! Salmon is buttery, flakey and moist.(yumm) If cooked correctly, it melts in your mouth. It can be paired perfectly with an easy spice rub that can me mixed in anyone's kitchen. Just toss together salt, pepper, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, corriander, and cumin powder.

For my salmon, I marinated it in freshly squeezed lemon and orange juice only for 30 minutes. Then I put the salmon on a pan, applied my spices and stuck it in the oven for 12 minutes (exactly 10-12 minutes, salmon is sensitive so if you leave it in too long it will come out very dry) at 400 degrees.

I also blanched asparagus and made a savory lemon butter sauce. Right when I plated, I sprinkled lemon zest on top of the asparagus. So pretty!

Needless to say, this Fresh Fix meal turned out delicious and it was so very easy to make!

Importance Of Degrees-Not only in cooking!

Every loyal cook/chef/food lover knows that having the correct temperature in the oven or on the stove is very important when it comes to cooking food. The degree is not only important in the kitchen, but also important in life....

I am a senior at a local university, and it may seem like I am almost finished here but I'm far from it. I have changed my majors several times because I just couldn't find something I really loved. I've known that my real passion is cooking but my parents feel that a degree in ANYTHING is better than dropping out and going to pastry school. At first I was angry because I felt like I was wasting my time at school. But then I slowly came around and now I see the importance of having that degree, just in case the economy decides to tumble again and I am out of work!

So my plan now is to finish school in a year, and then go to baking and pastry school after.

I was wonder what my fellow passionate food people out there felt about this. Did anyone drop out and go to culinary school? Has anyone gone into a baking and pastry program while working full time?
I'd love to hear all of your thoughts!