28 December 2009

a few Christmas eats

On Christmas Eve we always open the stockings and have a few treats. Those were the ice cream cookies and peppermint and pomegranate bark. While the peppermint had a cooling flavor, the pomegranate tasted refreshing and altogether they both were a great addition. Next time, we've decided on adding crushed peppermint pieces mixed in the Rice Krispie-melted white chocolate mixture for even more flavor.

On a side note, Baker's Chocolate white chocolate is not white.

And here's the moment we've all been waiting for, the moment I really couldn't wait for, the panettone! I'd rate this recipe a 10 for ease of execution and producing a really good loaf that anyone can make. For this recipe, the flavor, texture, and moistness was nice.
The main difference, and why I'd rate it a 7 overall is that I felt that while the flavor and texture were good, it wasn't like the other one. It's really more of a preference, I suppose, but The Bread Book panettone tasted a little more buttery and a tad bit sweeter. I also should have macerated the dried fruit in heated orange juice before mixing them in, though thanks to the moistness of the dough they didn't come out dry at all. I cut the recipe in half and I also added a few more tablespoons of flour, and if I made this recipe again I wouldn't decrease the flavorings (lemon extract, vanilla -- I might decrease the vanilla, and lemon zest). Also, I'd add a bit of sugar on top of the honey. This recipe didn't produce as large as a loaf as The Bread Book's, but it was fine. Since I don't have the book on hand I can't compare total flour amounts and such to see if theirs had more or not, or if the other ingredients were increased. All I know is that it wasn't as slack of a dough.
The baking time was a bit different for me since I didn't bake the amount of dough the recipe said to. The full recipe yields 3 loaves; I halved it, like I said, and baked all of it in a large, greased coffee can. After the given baking time passed, I inserted an instant-read thermometer and it registered nowhere near 220° (which I think is the temperature cooked bread is supposed to be?) and came out with raw dough. I covered it with foil and let it bake about 20 minutes more before I lowered the temperature to 325° and went on a 1-mile run with my brother. Maybe I slightly overcooked it, but when I stuck the thermometer back it it read 200° so I took it out and let it cool in the can a while before I unmolded it.

For anyone new to the pannetone and is looking for a recipe to get them started, check out the recipe on the Artisan Bread in Five website.

Panettone and mini quiches for breakfast, along with hot spiced cider that is not pictured. I love cider, and multiple cups were consumed throughout the opening of gifts and dinner preparations.

All pies where made on Christmas Eve, I should mention. I had to fight for the pecan pie since I've never made one before and I had to convince a certain someone that I knew what I was doing although I've never done it before. This recipe came from Em over at Sugar Plum. My only change was to add brown sugar in place of granulated sugar as she did in a previous pecan pie recipe of hers. It really lives up to the title of "ultimate pecan pie". Brown butter enhances the flavors and it wasn't toothachingly sweet. I decided to use up some leftover pomegranate arils from the bark, though I should have added those closer to the end of baking time.

The recipe for cherry pie came from Baker's Illustrated cookbook. Unfortunately, I needed to add more cornstarch since I used frozen cherries, otherwise the flavor was really good.

I passed first test at pecan pie, I was told!

While I like this recipe for pie dough, I feel that I'm either a) looking for a different result, or b) I just need to devote as much time to pies as I have given to cakes. Quite possibly you can't expect 5-star results when the only time you really bake pies is during the holidays with maybe 1-2 times extra during the other 10 months.

The main course consisted of things I took pictures of that have not made it to my hard drive and thus have not been uploaded. They never will be. So here you see the meat, the pork loin stuffed with prunes. Don't let the sound of that turn you off, it really is delicious. The combination of whiskey- (it was supposed to be bourbon; we have this discussion on "all bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey can be bourbon" the last year we made this, too) macerated prunes, the juices released from the sage-rubbed pork loin, the prune soaking liquid, the broth (holy cow, we almost ran out of broth so Mom quickly browned some seasoned turkey pieces, added a can of chicken broth and let it cook with garlic, onions, carrots, and celery and I just sat there slurping it up) all add up to equal parts deliciousness. Last year, I used leftover prunes (the ones that weren't used) in a different chicken dish and it was incredible. My mom saw the recipe last year, coming from Lidia Bastianich, and we felt it was so great that it needed to reappear on the dinner table. It cooks much quicker than a turkey, too, and much of the prep can be done ahead of time.

While Christmas concluded with unwrapped gifts and many eats consumed, Christmas stays with us by the reminder of the real reason we celebrate Christmas, the reason that helps us through times that are difficult because we are reminded to focus on what we will always have with us instead of what we weren't able to do or get. A fitting end to day was seeing snow flakes falling at night.

26 December 2009

Merry Christmas, and our Gingerbread House

I hope you all had a great day yesterday and that you had fun with family and friends!

We had our annual family gathering earlier this year for our gingerbread house, and I'll show you some of what went on.

My brother decorated quite a few chocolate molds for inside and around the house. His attention to detail is amazing, isn't it!

As we did last year, we decorated the inside of the house so that when you peered inside the windows you can see some of the chocolates. Besides the "wooden" floor, we put up a string of Christmas lights, a wreath, and a chocolate lamb went next to the tree (not pictured).

This is what the house looked liked after all the walls were assembled, but before we finished the roof, the outline of the house (piped with frosting stars and lined with iridescent sugar pearls), and the board the house sits on.

And, voila! For the roof, I made various sizes of pizzelles using the pizzelle maker I received a while back. We then brushed on thin, melted candy coating that had dots of colors in it and sprinkled the tiles with white sanding sugar.

Our house wasn't complete, of course, without the nativity scene. Mom built the log barn using pretzel sticks, made Joseph, Mary, and baby Jesus, plus the lone shepherd. It's really pretty cool to see!

If you look inside the door you can see the Christmas tree. My brother was really proud of that rug, by the way.

We won! For the second consecutive year! We ran into some trouble at the beginning, but once we were past it we just kept going until we finished and brought it in.

Hope you enjoyed looking!

24 December 2009

more Christmas food prep

Yesterday I blogged the beginnings of our Christmas food preparations, starting with the panettone and finishing up with pie dough. After that we decided to only make bread stuffing, so there are the onions and celery. That means we have more of the bread to eat.

Look at how I'm staring down those cookies. This is serious business, cookies.

I have some notes to make about these cookies. The first is that the dough was extremely easy to work with, rolling it out and all. Just make sure you dust the counter, the dough, and the rolling pin with flour or confectioners' sugar, also the cookie cutter you use.

My initial impression was that the dough was light and flaky, yet the butter flavor was tempered by the ice cream. As the only sweetness in the dough came from the ice cream you might think it wouldn't be sweet enough. To a person with a big sweet tooth it might not, but I found it to be a nice level especially when you factor in the blob of jam in the center, practically pure sugar.

Now here is where I started being amazed. You see, the dough was beginning to develop that certain elasticity that comes when the gluten has overdeveloped by overworking the dough. I figured the subsequent batches would be rather tough and chewy instead of light, flaky, and delicate. Instead, while the shapes shrunk in diameter, they rose astoundingly high. I attribute this to the dough being unintentionally folded as you would do when making puff pastry or any sort of croissant-like dough. I like the smaller stars better. Delicate-looking, cute, and layers of flaky goodness.

23 December 2009

Christmas baking (prep) check-in

Hello! I thought it would be fun to keep you guys updated on the Christmas baking and cooking happenings of the Running Foodie kitchen. (I'm also using this as an excuse to get away instead of going into cooking overload.)

We start with a panettone, the classic of any Italian household. A rich dough consisting of eggs, butter, honey, and lemon flavoring (both extract and zest was used here), this dried fruit-studded delight is a must for the Christmas holiday. I've been making one for at least 2-3 years. This time I used the recipe from Artisan Baking in 5 Minutes A Day instead of from The Bread Book, and I did this to work it around my schedule. I'll see what we think.

Here is the dough for the white bread we use to make the stuffings. This recipe comes from the Baking with Julia cookbook and produces a loaf that will keep you off the Wonder Bread for life.

And here they are, in all their golden brown glory! You will see these later on after I slice and cube them.

No, not pie dough, this is for an ice cream cookie. The recipe calls for cutting the butter into the flour, then mixing in ice cream.

I halved the recipe, otherwise I'd have used an entire pound of butter and a pint of vanilla ice cream. As it was, I used 1 stick and 6 tablespoons butter because that was what I had leftover from the pack of butter I opened for the pie dough. It seems to be fine.

Doesn't it look like pie dough, though? You mix and mix and mix until eventually the dough turns from curd-like pieces to a giant cohesive dough ball. It will require refrigeration. I swear I could use this as a pie dough, but I won't bother until I can experiment at a later, stress-free date.

Ice cream cookie dough. Next time I might try a different flavor of ice cream.

Now compare this to...

Too similar.

All that dough in the first picture plus a half batch (not pictured) is enough for two double-crust pies and one open-face pie, an apple pie, cherry pie, and a pecan pie, respectively.

I used the Julia Child recipe, using both butter and shortening. I've made pate brisee and various other recipes, but I feel like this one gives me the taste I want in a crust, and I've made it enough that I don't have to guess as to how it will turn out. The only change to the recipe is that I added 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar.

Panettone update. (The panettone was started last night, and the white bread was made last night as well; everything else was made today.)

All done for now. Whew!

Hope you guys are getting along and having fun with your baking! Try not to stress out about any interferences. Earlier today I spilled some coffee and instead of lingering on it I just cleaned it up. I did have to wash my apron (because you can't get an apron messy, right?) and then I decided to dry it, which made it shrink a bit. And the edges look to have curled under because the edging tightened and the main apron fabric didn't or something. But it's a pretty apron I got for my birthday that I will have my picture taken in and posted in the next update. All aprons should be this cute because it makes any kitchen disaster better.

Enough rambling. Here are the links to what I've made, and let me know what you are up to, as well!

White bread from Baking with Julia ~ my mods were to use 1/4 cup butter as stated in original recipe, and I added two tablespoons at a time because I wanted it to go quicker; not sure if it actually did or not since it seemed to require a bit more time kneading.
Julia Child's Best Pie Dough ~ I made this by hand in a giant bowl since the food processor isn't large enough. Also, I used more water than they called for, it may have been my kitchen or something.
Ice Cream Kolacky ~ Can't wait to see how these come out!

21 December 2009

coconut chocolate biscotti, or Mounds Bar biscotti

toasted coconut

Hope everyone's enjoying the final week before Christmas! I haven't been able to bake all that I wanted, so don't be surprised to see Christmas cookies on here after Christmas.

I had an idea yesterday to bake coconut biscotti that reminded me of the classic Mounds Bar, a chewy coconut center encased in an envelope of chocolate coating. However, instead of a chocolate coating I added chocolate chips, for two reasons: The chocolate chips wouldn't overpower the coconut, and it wouldn't be as sweet. I enjoy eating biscotti for breakfast with coffee, and a sweeter biscotto would be too much.

egg mixture

I followed the same recipe outline I used for the gingerbread biscotti, which was adapted from the Once Upon A Tart method for biscotti. The egg yolks are whipped with sugar until pale and thick, then the egg whites are whipped into a meringue (I like that I get to work on my meringue skills whenever I make biscotti) with more sugar before being folded into the egg yolk mixture. Melted butter is then blended in, followed by the flour and any add-ins. I like this method because the biscotti come out a bit dense, yet not heavy, and the dough is incredibly easy to work with. These Tart guys really know what they're doing.

biscotti logs

Instead of leaving the coconut raw, I toasted the coconut to release the oils and enhance the flavors. Coconut toasts much quicker than nuts, so don't walk away from the oven once you begin toasting.

I added flavors I felt would compliment the coconut without being detected on their own, and those were grated lemon zest and cardamom. Coconut extract also went into the mix to further heighten the coconut flavor. I chopped up regular chocolate chips so the texture was more like shavings. If you have mini chips, use those.

I like miniature biscotti the best. Unfortunately, the dough spread more than I thought and I ended up with regular biscotti, so next time I'd divide the dough into fourths.

coconut biscotti

These ended up baking a bit too long the second time, but overall I was pleased with them. The sanding sugar on top lends a sparkly, crunchy coating that looks pretty, and there's just enough chocolate without it overwhelming the coconut. The coconut flavor came out pretty much how I hoped! These aren't too sweet at all, either, even with using sweetened coconut.

As always, I like to eat biscotti with tea or coffee because it, I feel, somehow brings the flavors out a bit more, and because all good cookies deserve to be treated like they're special.

Print this recipe

Mounds Bar Biscotti aka Coconut Chocolate Biscotti (to prevent a lawsuit)
Recipe by Christina

ingredients ~

1 1/2 cups sweetened shredded coconut
2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and set aside
3 large eggs, separated
1 1/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
1/2 teaspoon coconut or vanilla extract
1/2 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips, or standard chip chopped up a bit
White sanding sugar

directions ~
  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Line baking sheet (you may need sheets, plural) with parchment paper). Place 1 1/2 cups coconut on another baking sheet and toast for 8 minutes, or until thoroughly dry and crispy and there's lovely golden-brown color on much of the coconut. Remove from oven and let cool slightly; place coconut on cutting board and carefully run a knife over it a few times to break up the strands.

  2. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together toasted coconut, flour, baking powder, salt, lemon rind, and cardamom; set aside. Beat the egg yolks with 3/4 cup granulated sugar on medium until yolks become pale yellow and thick, about 2-3 minutes.

  3. In another bowl and with clean beaters, beat the egg whites on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form. With the mixer still on high, beat in the remaining sugar until incorporated. Fold 1/3 of the meringue into the yolk mixture. When lightened, fold in remaining meringue. Gently fold in butter and coconut extract.

  4. Gradually stir dry ingredients into wet, until dough forms a ball. With the last of the flour, stir in the chocolate chips.

  5. Get a small bowl with some water. With lightly moistened fingers, divide dough into thirds and shape into 2 1/2x11-inch logs on the baking sheet (moisten your fingers with water as needed). Sprinkle each log with about 1 1/2 teaspoons sanding sugar. Freeze the dough logs for 15 minutes before baking so they don't spread out so much. Bake until the tops of the logs are golden brown and firm when pressed with your fingertips, about 25-30 minutes.

  6. After baking, remove parchment sheet with logs still on it to a wire rack to cool for 15-20 minutes. Slice diagonally into 1/2-inch slices and place, sliced side down, back on baking sheet, no parchment necessary. Tops and bottoms can be touching since they're already cooked. Bake for 15 minutes; flip biscotti over and continue baking for 10 minutes. You're looking for a thoroughly golden color, nothing too dark since it'll detract from the flavor. Place biscotti on a cooling rack to cool completely.


19 December 2009

'tis the season to be freezin'

Alternately titled, "Winter Running". This isn't a "101" list to check-off on your way out the door, but rather a humorous (or not) posting about what I've found through personal experiences of running in the winter. In the freezing cold. With ice pellets of death that bore your eyes out of the sockets; and believe me, you think dropping your iPod mid-run is a nuisance, eyeballs roll around and if they fall with the pupil down, in the snow you won't see it. Or feel it, if both eyes fell out.

  1. The cold. And the wind:

  2. It's not that big of a deal. About 3 out of the 3 previous winters, I'd take somewhat of a "break" during the winter. Maybe I'd get out there once a week. Maybe. I went with the excuse of not being able to find my footing in the snow and ice, or that the snow was so deep that it'd throw off my gait and I'd get injured. I pretty much psyched myself out of running in the element of cold.

    So, have I changed? A runner friend decided he was going to streak through December, and that means to run everyday. Every. Single. Day. I decided on a whim that I would, too. And I decided that meant I wouldn't make a big deal out of the weather. So, yes, I've been running everyday since 1 December. Guess what? It's amazing. I'm focusing on running longer when the weather and wind is good, and going out for a minimum of 2 miles of the weather is crappy.

    What running daily has given me is a realization that the weather doesn't matter all that much, besides dressing appropriately. Sure, the wind freezing your face off isn't altogether pleasant, but after that first mile it's really actually nice. If you warm up in the house for 5-10 minutes before heading out, it feels even better. And, it's just not that big of a deal. If you hear anyone complaining about how awful it is outside, how it's just going to suck and they aren't really "in" to the run, they're full of it. If you hear anyone telling you how awesome they are for "battling the elements" and how they overcame the obstacle, tell them that they reminded you of this guy who climbed Everest who said something similar. Unless they're constantly running in single digit, bone-chilling temperatures with a "real feel" of -28, or anything close to that, that's something to write home about because nobody nowadays really needs to be out in that condition.

    Or just call them crazy. Either will work.

  3. It's not that big of a deal:

  4. Unless you make it a big deal. Nothing is really as bad as we like to think, and I've proven that to myself multiple times after I realized in retrospect that I could have chilled out just a bit. Especially with the weather and wanting to stay inside sipping peppermint cocoa topped with marshmallows, it's just that first mile that may make you want to turn around and go inside. Even if you plan on a simple 2-3 mile run, you may realize that you can run a few more and actually enjoy it. Don't let your mind keep you from heading out there, if you do run outside. To help yourself out, keep a calender out in the middle of the house and write your run and time after completion on it. It's pretty cool to look at it and see what all you've done the past month, and it motivates you to keep it up. And if it's where everyone can see it, you don't want to be mocked for slacking off.

  5. To run long or short:

  6. Depends. What I'm doing is heading out for longer runs when the weather is nice and tolerable, and running shorter runs on the rather nasty days. It also depends on how I feel that day, too, because if I have a long run and I feel wonky, if it doesn't go away after 1.5-2 miles I do NOT want to be walking out in the cold because you cool off quickly. It feels good when you're running, just not so much if you're walking.

    Keep this in mind when you're making out a schedule, if you do a schedule. You may not want to stick to it tightly, but rather have a weekly mileage to aim for and switch around the runs if need be.

  7. Should you run with an iPod:

  8. I've decided that if I get hit by a car and die, which my chances may have increased since the worse the weather, the worse the driver, it's not my fault. When I run with an iPod, and I think that almost every single run this month has been sponsored by many a singer to keep my mind of the weather, I pay more attention to my surroundings. I keep the volume low enough to hear the sound of cars coming, and I pay attention to where the line on the road is (no sidewalks here) to see if I need to scoot back to my side. Just don't zone out to the point where a car zooming by actually surprises you unless you really believe in Darwinism.

  9. How to dress:

  10. The standard rule of thumb is to dress for how you will feel and not how you feel stepping outside the house. Why? Your body temperature warms up about 20 degrees and if you overdress so you feel warm and toasty right out the door, you'll soon be running in a sauna.

    How do I dress:

    A thin knit hat. Rather tight fitting, it looks cute (because I knit it), and is a somewhat bright color. I never used to run with a hat, but now that I have started I don't want to know what it was like before. It just keeps me warmer.

    Gloves. If the temperature, or "real feel", is anything under 30 degrees and the wind is more than 10 mph, I wear my running mittens. Over 30, I wear a pair of standard knit gloves. I've gone out sometimes in just the knit gloves and my fingers make me say terrible things at the end. A thicker pair of 5-fingered gloves would work if you have one, most definitely.

    Shirts/jacket. I've been wearing a cotton long sleeve shirt, a tech shirt, and a fleece jacket. The jacket blocks the wind, the tech shirt does that whole moisture wicking thing that keeps you warmer when it's cold out, except I've been putting the tech long sleeve shirt over the cotton shirt. Rebel.

    Shorts or pants. I've been running mostly in capri running pants because my legs don't really get cold. My brother still runs in shorts, and I could too, but my shorts are shorter than his shorts and when I factor that in, it's probably not a good idea. Seriously, though, you *can* wear shorts if the temp is around 35 degrees.

    Socks. I wear the socks I've been wearing all summer, though thicker and higher socks will work if you need them. My shoes have that mesh panel thing that lets the breeze in, but the only time sock thickness matters is when I step in a puddle unintentionally.

    Cell phone. It's a good thing nothing bad happens to me because I don't run with one. I stick around where I live, though that doesn't mean anything when I'm lying on the side of a road with half my body submerged in a snow bank. I rationalize this by realizing I probably won't be able to reach the cell phone if half my body i submerged in a snow bank on the side of the road.

    Reflective gear. Probably a good idea. And I'm not talking about the reflectors on your shoes, maybe on your headphones, or possibly on the sides of your running pants, but a reflective vest or jacket. You could buy reflective tape and write, "I DARE YOU" on the back and front of your jacket.

    While I have one, I haven't been wearing it. And at night I especially should be wearing it, but I'll have time to think about this if I'm in the hospital with nothing better to think about because I didn't wear my reflective jacket at night. I could at least have worn shorts so my paleness would stand in for the jacket.

  11. Motivation:

  12. Something you look forward to after you get back from a run. For me, it's a mug of the aforementioned peppermint hot cocoa topped with mini marshmallows and a cookie or two sometimes. I really get so much pleasure out of that post-running drink that I want to go running no matter what. During the last few miles I count down the minutes to myself, "Just 20, 10, 5 more minutes until cocoa time!" As benign as it is, it works. Find your own cocoa that gets you going and motivates you.

Last, but probably the most important, enjoy it. If you don't enjoy it, it won't last, no matter how little or often you run. Notice how the setting sun colors the trees, or the sparkles of the snow. Notice the silence, even if it means turning off your iPod. Don't get locked into a singular state of mind that bypasses why you really continue to run outside in wintry conditions, because you could always run on a treadmill, but there's a reason why we like running outside in the winter. Yes, that's correct, we really do like being outside at this time of year. Go for a nighttime run with other runners to look at the Christmas lights, and leave your watches inside.

Celebrate with cookies and hot cocoa at the end. =)

01 December 2009

Hostess Giant Orange Cupcake Birthday Cake

pastry cream

My mom's request for her birthday this year (earlier in November; yes, I'm behind; Happy Thanksgiving!) was for a giant Hostess Orange Cupcake cake.

sticks of butter

I settled on a yellow cake recipe from Nick Malgieri, a vanilla pastry cream buttercream, and orange marshmallow fondant to cover the cake. This butter is for the frosting; the butter gets whipped, the pastry cream is slowly added. I liked the frosting, but at room temperature it wasn't as sturdy as a Swiss meringue buttercream, or even a regular buttercream. It did have more of the texture and taste of the vanilla filling the regular snack cakes have, though there's room for improvement.

orange marshmallow fondant

If you don't like fondant, I urge you to try marshmallow fondant. In fact, I will pester you until you do. Not only is it incredibly simple, but so tasty that you'll want to pinch pieces off and eat it. The bad part is that I broke my hand held mixer because I continued to use it instead of using a giant wooden spoon once I realized it might be too thick. But now you know that it's possible to mix it by hand! At a certain point I began kneading the fondant and it was all really easy. I added the flavoring (orange oil) and food color (orange, obviously) after the marshmallows were melted.

covered cake

Easy to roll out with a bit of confectioners' sugar to keep the fondant from sticking to the surface. I quickly realized that I should have halved the recipe; even now, a few weeks layer, half of the fondant remains.


And here we are, a giant Hostess Orange Cupcake, complete with the squiggly line across the top.

cake on platter

The cake was a hit, and Mom was very pleased! We decided the coating should probably be an orange white chocolate ganache next time, but none of us picked the marshmallow fondant off the cake.

Happy Birthday!
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