Monthly Archives: October 2009

Cracked Pepper and Romano Biscotti

The holiday season is right around the corner! It is always around this time of year when I start thinking to myself, wouldn’t it be nice to have a holiday party. I have it all planned perfectly in my head.  A fire burning in the fireplace, the smell of pine from the Christmas tree, a silver punch bowl filled with eggnog, carols playing in the back ground and a room full of friends munching on Hors d’œuvres. It never works out. In the blink of an eye the season is over and we are celebrating Valentine’s Day.
I started thinking about party foods that would be easy to have on hand for an impromptu holiday gathering or a gift for someone you would like to recognize during the holidays, like the mailman or a teacher. There is nothing like giving something homemade.

Cracked Pepper and Romano Biscotti are perfect to have on hand to pull out with some delicious cheese and a bottle of wine and wonderful to give as a gift. They are also incredibly fast and easy to make.

1 1/2 Tablespoons Mixed Peppercorns, smashed
4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
3 cups grated Pecorino Romano
1 1/2 sticks cold butter cut in cubes
4 eggs
1 cup milk

In a large mixing bowl combined flour, baking powder, salt, romano, peppercorns and butter. Using your fingers cut butter into flour mixture until it resembles coarse meal.
Add eggs and milk and mix with your hands until just combined.

Using a little extra flour roll half the dough into a 12 inch log and transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet. Flatten the roll with the palm until it is 1/2 inch thick.

Paint with a beaten egg, sprinkle with extra cheese and cracked pepper. Bake 350 degrees for 30 mins. Cool completely and slice in 1/4 inch slices. Place the slices back onto a sheet pan and place in a 200 degree oven for another 30 minutes until hard.
Pretty good on a fall night! The cheese is a White Stilton with Apricots. The sweetness of the apricots is so good with the peppercorns. Next time I am going to try the recipe with a few juniper berries. YUM!

  I am adding this picture because I think they look so pretty!
 The flavor is a million times better today! I can’t stop crunching on them!!!!!

The Perfect Empanada

A very special person (VSP) asked me if I have ever made empanadas. Truth be told, no.
She has been trying to duplicate a pumpkin filled empanada that a friend had eaten and loved out in California. VSP has been having a problem with the dough. I forgot to ask her if she was making a savory pumpkin filling or a dessert filling. Hmmmm, I will have to find out!
For the past three weeks I have immersed myself in empanadas to try to help this VSP in her attempt to recreate the pumpkin empanada.
What I have found through my endless hours of research and development, is that empanada dough is basically flaky pastry dough or pate brisee. When you ask connoisseurs of empanadas about the ingredients they use for their dough, the answers vary as much as asking pie makers what goes into their crust. Some empanada makers use all butter and others use all shortening. Some use a little of each. Some have egg in their recipe and some use masa harina in place of flour. Some fry their empanadas and some go a healthier route of baking.
It was my mission to figure out how to create the perfect empanada!

Let’s start with the dough. I have to admit I am a purest. I don’t like using shortening (with the exception of our family nut roll recipe) After experimenting ad nauseam with different empanada recipes I think the perfect dough is a mix of butter and shortening! It is light. It is flaky. It holds together perfectly while shaping the empanadas. It is perfect!

Perfect Empanada Dough

• 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
• 3/4 teaspoon sea salt
• 1 tablespoon sugar
• 6 tablespoons vegetable shortening
• 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, chilled, cut into small pieces
• 10 tablespoons cold water

Making empanada dough is just like making pie crust. The butter and shortening should be cold. Use your hands as little as possible.  I used my food processor.If you don’t have one it is just as easy to use your fingers and a bowl (and then run out and buy a food processor!) Put all of the ingredients except water into the bowl of a food processor and with it running pour water in a steady stream. Pulse until dough pulls together. DO NOT OVER PROCESS AND DO NOT OVER MIX WITH YOUR HANDS. The chunks of butter and shortening make the flaky layers. Chill for 30 mins.

Now on to the filling. I went the savory route. I decided to make a spicy chicken filling.

• whole chicken breast bone and skin
• 1white onion, halved (1/2 onion finely diced)
• 1/4 cup toasted slivered almonds coarsely chopped
• 1 fresh poblano chile, charred over an open flame and sliced into strips
• 6 cups (48 ounces) vegetable oil
• 2 garlic cloves, crushed
• 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
• 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 4 canned plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped
• 2 canned chipotle chiles in adobo, coarsely chopped
• 2 cups shredded Queso Blanco cheese
• 1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro

1.  Place chicken breast in a pot with 1/2 onion and cover with water. Poach for 15 mins. Cool until it is easy to handle. Remove skin and shred meat. Reserve 1 cup of the poaching liquid. In a skillet heat 1/4 cup olive oil. Add the finely diced onion and chopped garlic.Cook until translucent and tender.
3. Add the cumin and cinnamon and cook 1 min. Add the tomatoes, chipotle peppers, shredded chicken, poblano pepper and reserved cup of poaching liquid. Cook over medium flame until liquid is reduced and has thickened.
4. Remove from heat and stir in chopped almonds and fresh cilantro
Take a ball of dough (1 1/2 tbsp) and roll out into small circle
Place a small amount of chicken filling on lower half of circle. Top with 1 tbsp of the shredded Queso Blanco cheese and with a pastry brush and water moisten the bottom edge. Fold over into a half moon shape.
Heat the 6 cups of vegetable oil to 375 degrees. Carefully fry empanadas until golden brown. 30 seconds on each side. Drain on paper towel. I served them with Cabots Sour Cream with Salsa and a wedge of lime!
These are perfect party appetizers!
 Hey VSP when do I get one of your pumpkin filled empanadas???

A Soul Cake For Every Little Ghost and Goblin!

Soul, Soul, a soul cake!
I pray thee, good missus, a soul cake!
One for Peter, two for Paul,
three for Him what made us all!
Soul Cake, soul cake, please good missus, a soul cake.
An apple, a pear, a plum, or a cherry, anything good thing to make us all merry.
One for Peter, one for Paul, & three for Him who made us all.

Because the last couple of posts were savory and because it is October, and because there is no better time, I am going to finish my post on donuts!

When I think autumn, I picture the bright hues of foliage, apple picking, mulled cider, pumpkins, Indian corn and donuts.
Why are donuts associated with fall? I did some investigating!

I learned that Soul Cakes (square cakes similar to donuts) date back to medieval times in Ireland. Baked to ease malevolent spirits on All Hallows Eve, the cakes were filled with currants, allspice, nutmeg and cinnamon. Of course we mollify modern day ghosts and goblins with Snickers, Kit Kats and M&M’s. Can you image what would happen if when greeting Hannah Montana, Sponge Bob or Ironman you were to hand them a soul cake! 
Well maybe if your soul cakes looked like this it wouldn’t be so bad!

When I decided that I wanted to make donuts there was the big decision yeast or no yeast. I opted for yeast. 
 Here’s the recipe.  It is not hard! If you do not like nutmeg leave it out. If you do like nutmeg it probably seems like a lot BUT IT IS NOT! It is subtle and delicious! You could replace with cinnamon but I think cinnamon is over powering and should be reserved for a little sprinkling at the end or mixed into glaze. One more thing…the dough is not super sweet. YOU HAVE TO TRY THE GLAZE!

1 1/2 cups milk
2 1/2oz vegetable shortening
4 1/2 tsp yeast or 2 packages
1/3 cup warm water
2 eggs beaten
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp nutmeg
23 oz flour

Place milk in pan and heat over low flame until just steaming not boiling. Measure out shortening (approx 1/3 cup) and place in bowl.  When milk is hot slowly pour over shortening. Stir until shortening is melted. Let cool.
In a separate bowl sprinkle yeast over warm water. Let sit 5 mins until yeast starts to bubble.
Pour into stand mixer (if you don’t have a stand mixer you can mix by hand with wooden spoon-it will be a real arm work out!) Add milk and shortening mixer and mix with paddle attachment until incorporated.
Add eggs, sugar, salt, nutmeg and half of the flour. Mix on medium until well incorporated.
I had to do a little math when weighing the flour!
Gen’s brain working hard…16oz in a pound…23oz divided by 16 = 1 lb 7oz…phew!
Add the rest of the flour mix on a slow speed for a minute then increase to medium speed and mix until the dough starts to pull away from sides of bowl.
This is a very sticky dough!
Flour your hands well when removing from mixer. Flour table. Knead slightly to get dough off your hands and formed into a ball. Place dough in a large bowl cover with towel and put some place warm free of drafts at let rise for 1 hour.
Again sprinkle your work surface with a little flour. Deflate dough and pat into circle 3/8 inch thick.
Cut circles.
I had help with the blog this week! The new hands belong to my mother! It was so much easier than taking pictures one handed. Thanks Mum!

We had fun making these together!
My mother even tried a cruller.
After they are cut carefully place on floured board or sheet pan. Again cover with towel and place in warm spot. Let rise 30 minutes. Then you are ready to fry. Pour oil into a frying pan 1/2 inch up sides of pan.
Heat oil to 375° and very carefully place donuts into oil.
Check after a minute or two. When they get to a golden brown carefully flip and brown other side.

Mom that is too brown!!!!

Drain on paper towels.
For glaze mix 1 cup powdered sugar with 1 tbsp of milk. Wisk until thin but still coats back of spoon. When donuts are cool dip one side into glaze and then place on rack to let dry. If you want you can dip into jimmies or other holiday sprinkles OR sugar and cinnamon.
That’s what I’m talkin’ about!
Look a little goblin!
Happy Halloween!