Tuesday, March 30, 2010

My Absolute Favorite Mac and Cheese

Alright, I get it. I'm a bad jew. But if it is any consolation I did not actually MAKE this today. I've made it a hundred of times in the past though. It is seriously the best macaroni and cheese in the world. It is different because it uses Fontina instead of Cheddar, and shells instead of elbows. Also, the breadcrumb talking is fantastic. I found this one Ezra Pound Cake and I use it all the time. Its extremely easy, and it feeds me for like 3-4 days. Or everyone I know for a lovely meal.

You'll need:
1 pound small shells
5 tablespoons unsalted butter (plus some for the topping)
1 cup heavy cream
8 ounces (about 2 cups) Italian Fontina cheese
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg (I've never actually tried with the nutmeg, as I live in a dorm and do not really feel like buying nutmeg for my dorm, let me know how that goes.)
1/3 cup plain bread crumbs
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Preheat the oven to 350. The recipe doesnt actually say this anywhere, or any temperature for that matter. So I just made it up. It works nicely. Get out your handy dandy 9x13 pan too. 

Start off by cooking your shells, just a minute or two less than what the package recommends. Drain. 
While they are cooking, shred the Fontina. Cube the butter (the 5 tbs) and put it in the bowl you plan on mixing everything in. (So make sure its big enough for all your pasta!) Warm the cream in the microwave, cover it or just leave it in the microwave to keep it somewhat warm.
When the shells are done, toss them in the bowl that has the butter. Toss and stir or whatever tickles your fancy to coat the butter over the shells. Stir in the cream and the cheese and mix until its all covered evenly and the cheese starts being all yummy and melty and gooey. Season with your salt and nutmeg. 
Pour this into your greased 9x13 pan. 
Combine the bread crumbs and parmesan cheese in a small bowl. I usually dont really measure this part out, I use whatever covers it well enough. Pour this combo over your pan of mac and cheese. Cover it well, the crunchyness is yummy! Dice some butter and sprinkle it over the top to add some brownness, and butteryness. 
Throw it all in the oven until its nice and bubbly, about 20 minutes. 

Enjoy! This dish also saves really well, so its great to make and take for lunch!

I'll take a picture next time I make it. 
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Monday, March 29, 2010

Passover! But not.

So I made passover-friendly lemon bars, but they were awful. And I have never made/consumed awful lemon bars until today. So I'm going to choose to not give that recipe to you. Instead, I'm going to share my staple lemon bar recipe, because they are actually delicious. Obviously they would be, because it is Martha Stewart's Recipe. But we'll just keep that on the down low.

So you will need:
[for the crust]
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, frozen; plus more for dish
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
3/4 teaspoon coarse salt

[for the filling]

4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup whole milk
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, as usual. Line your 9x13 (or 8x8 if you want fatty ones), grease it, whatever you usually do. I just slab some butter down and otherwise they are buttery enough to come out without sticking. 

So start with the crust ingredients. You'll need a grater. Yes, like a cheese grater. Grate your butter on the side with the big holes, all 1 1/2 sticks of it. Why? Because it spreads it out better and makes the crust evenly flaky instead of chunky flaky. And its fun-ish. Put it to the side.
Whisk (or mix with whatever mixing device you choose. I hate whisks, I use a fork.) the other crust ingredients (flour, sugar, salt). Once its combined, mix in the butter. It will look crumbly, thats okay, thats the flakiness. Transfer this mixture to the prepared dish. Freeze for about 15 minutes, I usually do about 20-25 cause I get distracted, but the recipe says 15. Then bake the crust for about 17 minutes. Again the recipe says until golden brown, but that hardly happens. I usually go by when it becomes fragrant. DO NOT TURN YOUR OVEN OFF!

While the crust is in the oven (yes, while, you'll want to pour this over the hot crust) you're going to whisk together the eggs, sugar, flour, and salt in a bowl until smooth. Throw in the lemon juice and milk. If you finish before the crust does, make sure you give it a last stir before pouring it over the hot crust. Reduce the temperature to 325, and bake until filling is set and edges are slightly golden brown, about 18 minutes. Once cool, dust with powdered sugar. Cut, serve. Enjoy!!
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Matzah Toffee!

You'll need:
Enough matzah to cover the pan you're using (about 5 sheets?)
1 bag semi sweet chocolate chips
1 cup of butter (2 sticks)
1 cup dark brown sugar
And an oven that has been heated to 450 degrees.
(or any equal proportion, based on how much you're making)

So start by lining your sheet with the matzah. I used a normal cookie sheet and put down tin foil under it. You'll want to put something, tin foil, parchment paper, wax paper... whatever your preference. Line the matzah evenly, in a flat single layer. You'll have to break some pieces to fill in the awkward shape... Then set that aside.

Next, take a small pot and put the brown sugar and the butter in it. Put it over medium heat and bring it to a gentle boil. Until it starts boiling, I'd suggest stirring it a bunch to get the sugar broken up and make sure its melting evenly. Once it starts boiling though, leave it alone for five minutes. At this point it should be nice and thick. Then remove it from the heat and pour it evenly over your matzah, while still hot. Like, remove from stove, pour on matzah. No break there. 

Stick this in the oven for 4-5 minutes. Remember, the oven should be PREheated to 450 degrees. Take it out, sprinkle the chocolate chips over it relatively evenly (don't worry, once it melts you'll be able to cover everything) and stick it back in the oven for ONE (1) minute. Take it out of the oven and spread the chocolate over the whole thing nice and beautifully. 

Let it cool and harden, break into pieces, store as you wish... or ya know, eat it. Cause thats why you made it. Enjoy! 
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Monday, March 22, 2010

Delicious Brownies

Now, I am not a giant fan of chocolate. In fact, I very rarely eat chocolate, in any form; brownies, chocolate cake, etc. However, these are some of the best brownies ever.
And the best part? THEY ARE SIMPLE! Except for the whipped cream. But that is so unbelievably worth it, so it does not even matter. 

So here it is, Brownies with a White Chocolate Whipped Cream

You'll want to start with the whipped cream, as it takes longer. So you'll need:
A whole bag of your favorite white chocolate chips + 1 cup of heavy cream. That is it. 
Throw those into a pot and heat on low heat until the chips are melted. Once they are melted, you can raise the heat slightly, but still not even past medium. Now, stir constantly and heat for about 15-20 minutes. Stir CONSTANTLY. White chocolate has a habit of burning, and burnt whipped cream just does not sound fun. Then remove from heat and let it cool while you move on to the brownies.

For the brownies you will need:
1 1/2 cups of white sugar
3/4 cup of flour
3/4 cup of cocoa
3 eggs
3/4 cup of butter
1  cup of chocolate chips

a 9 x 13 pan, and an oven that has been preheated to 350. 
Oh, and a pot.

So to start, you'll melt the butter into a pot. If you only want to use one bowl/pot for the whole process, use a seemingly unnecessary large pot for this part. Anyway, once the butter is melted remove it from the heat.
Stir in the white sugar, followed by the cocoa once it is combined. 
Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing after each one. Throw in 2/3 of a cup of the chocolate chips after this. 
Once everything is extremely mixed, throw in the flour. Now this is the important part: BARELY mix it. If you over mix or even mix past the point of it being combined, it will turn your brownies cakey instead of chewy. Now if you want cakey instead of chewy, mix at your own will. However, chewy > cakey in brownies, so I'd say stick with barely mixing it. 
Once that is done, throw it into your greased/parchment-paper lined pan (or ungreased/unlined...your choice), throw the rest of the chocolate chips over the batter. Pop them in the oven for about 20 minutes. 

While those are cooking, you'll want to bring back the white chocolate situation. Now this is the part where I pray to the money trees everyday that eventually I will get a kitchen aid stand mixer, however, I do not yet have one... So it took me about forty minutes of whipping with a hand electric mixer. But anyway, whip as you normally whip, be it in your fancy little kitchen aid where you have to do no work, or old fashioned with a whisk. Now the important part is to NOT spread it on the brownies until they are COMPLETELY cool. Otherwise you will have wasted a lot of time whipping. 

Hope you enjoy. They are my favorite brownies. 
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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Layer Yellow Cake

So clearly I like to bake, a lot. However, one feat I had never attempted until today was a simple layer cake. They are surprisingly easy. I've made something similar to a layer cake, but never a straight off the front of a cake mix box kind of cake. So today I decided too. It turned out a little dry, but I might have over cooked it.

I used a recipe I found on food gawker, my favorite website ever. This simple yellow cake was extremely easy and tasty, but as a said a little dry. But it was easy and used ingredients that almost any basic baker always has laying around the house, so that was nice. However, I cheated a little and used store-bought chocolate frosting. Oopsie. 

Yellow Cake: 

 2 3/4 cups cake flour 
 1 1/2 cups sugar
 3 3/4 tsp. baking powder
 3/4  tsp. salt 
 12 Tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature 
 3/4 cup milk, room temperature
 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
 4 eggs, room temperature 
Preheat the oven to 350.
I used two round pans, feel free to use square, rectangular, cupcakes... whatever you please. Triangles maybe?
Sift the cake flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into a large bowl, or kitchen aid mixer bowl. Cut the butter into 1/2 inch cubes and mix them into the flour mixture on low speed.  The mix should be lumpy. Add the milk and the vanilla extract.  Mix on medium for another minute.  Add the eggs one at a time and mixing in between each addition. Pour the batter into the cupcake pan or the two pans equally. Bake 15-20 minutes for cupcakes and about 30-35 minutes for the cakes.  Let cool completely on a wire rack.  
Then take the cakes out of the pans, making sure they are completely cooled. Once again my lazy side prevails, and instead of flattening the tops, I stuck the domed side down in a plate so it didnt show. I frosted the top of that layer, stuck the other layer on, leaving the dome on top... and frosted the whole thing. Wha-la. 
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