Sunday, September 27, 2009

Daring Bakers September Challenge--Vols Au Vent

The September 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Steph of A Whisk and a Spoon. She chose the French treat, Vols-au-Vent based on the Puff Pastry recipe by Michel Richard from the cookbook Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan.

I was so excited when I heard about this challenge, a little nervous that it wouldn't work out but how fun to be able to say I made puff pastry!  I took advantage of the Labor Day 3-day weekend and made my puff pastry early in the month.  Everything went well, I didn't have any trouble with the butter melting and it was so convenient to be able to throw it in the fridge, run an errand or two, and then come back to it!  

The advantage of being a daring baker is that you end up trying recipes you wouldn't normally try.  And the host of the month has already tried the recipe and provides very helpful tips you don't normally find with a recipe.  This month I found those tips to be especially helpful and all worked well!  Here's my dough between turns. So pretty!

I happened to have 2 sizes of this scalloped heart cookie cutter, so I used that to form the vols au vents and I got a pretty good rise.  It took me awhile to figure out what I wanted to put in them, but I knew I wanted to make a dessert for sure.  I ended up making white chocolate mousse (receipe from The Joy of Cooking) and combined that with some slightly too runny vanilla-peach freezer jam.  They were SO delicious that I'm craving it now as I write this!

  One of those tips from the host suggested using the scraps to make something that doesn't need a lot of rise like cheese straws. That gave me the idea of making cinnamon & sugar straws, sticks, twists, whatever you want to call them.  So, that same weekend I made these beauties that also tasted pretty good.

The next weekend I finished using up my puff pastry by making more vols au vents.  This time I used a couple different sized cups and didn't seem to get as good of a rise, maybe because the dough was a little old?  This time I made a savory filling.  I filled them with cucumber dill sauce and hickory smoked chicken!  It was pretty good.  

Then, I used the scraps and made another item suggested by the host, Napoleons!  For some reason I've been wanting to make these and using my own homemade puff pastry made it even more fun.  I made the custard from scratch and just dusted the top with powdered sugar (recipe from The Joy of Cooking), rather than making the frosting you typically find on them at bakeries.  They were SO good!


Friday, September 25, 2009

Herbed White Beans

Al's not much of a bean guy, but he loves this side dish!  The recipe is based off a recipe found in the You on a Diet book by Dr. Oz & Roizen.

You'll need:
-1 TB olive oil

-1/2-1 tomato (depending on your preference), chopped

-1/2 sweet onion, chopped

-1 can Great Northern Beans, drained and rinsed
-1 clove of garlic, chopped/pressed

-1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
-handful (~1/4 cup total) of chopped basil and dill
(We prefers all dill but I have a hard time growing it here, so I supplement with my weed of a basil plant)

Start out by heating the olive oil in a pan, add the chopped onions and cook until translucent and soft.
Add the rest of the ingredients and season with pepper and salt (preferably Kosher salt).  Cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Of course, Al prefers everything to be cooked longer so that the flavors can blend, so I usually cook it for 30-45 minutes, but 15-20 will do ya fine.  Also, Al prefers the beans mashed up, so I mash them while I stir and I get this.

Such a yummy side dish and goes well with Mediterranean chicken!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Pork Pinwheels

Al has SO many BBQ books that I decided we needed to really start going through them and trying the recipes.  So, I had him put sticky notes on recipes in 2 of his newest books, that he wanted to try and that were easy and semi-healthy enough for me to try on a weeknight.  One of which I tried the other day was pork pinwheels from his Big Bob Gibson BBQ book.  It calls for pork tenderloin, but being cheapskates like we are, we just used pork loin.  The pork is cut to approximately the size of a bacon strip, a bacon strip is placed on top, the pork is rolled up and toothpicks are put in to keep it rolled. Then, we brushed on top Al's mustard maple sauce creation (rather than BBG's sauce recipe).  Really you can use any BBQ sauce you want. Then on both sides you press in a 1/4 cup chopped pecan, 1 teas. salt and 1 teas. pepper mix.  Then grill for about 30 minutes.

Al gave it 1.5 thumbs up, I was not that big of a fan, maybe 1 thumb up for me.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Tomato Sandwiches

This summer Al's mom introduced me to tomato sandwiches.  Y'all may already know about this delicious secret, but in case you don't, I thought I would share.

Mom uses a regular piece of bread, but usually I only have english muffins in my house and the tomato slices fit perfectly, so I figure it's a perfect adjustment.  Also, traditionally you use cheddar cheese, but for a healthier version we use low-fat mozzarella.

Just toast a piece of bread or an english muffin.
Add a couple slices of cheese to the bread and melt in the microwave for about 20 seconds.


Then, add a couple of thick slices of tomato.
Top with a couple squeezes of light mayo.
Lastly, sprinkle with salt and pepper.