Creating seasonal recipes that are inspired by my passion for local, organic foods

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Caramel Covered Homemade Marshmallows

Williams Sonoma versionFollowing the theme of recreating Williams Sonoma food gift ideas, I wanted to share with you our latest knock-off. It's the caramel covered marshmallow treat. Also called Modjeskas, these candies were purportedly named after a beautiful Polish actress by an admirer.

Anyway, they look a heck of a lot more complicated to make than they actually are. These make great gifts wrapped in wax paper. Especially when you aren't paying $27 a pound for them!

To make the marshmallows:

1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons plus 2 1/2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup cold water
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup hot water (about 115 degrees)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla

Oil bottom and sides of a 13 by 9 by 2-inch rectangular metal baking pan and dust bottom and sides with some confectioners' sugar.

In bowl of standing electric mixer, sprinkle gelatin over cold water and let stand to soften.

In a 3-quart heavy saucepan cook granulated sugar, corn syrup, hot water, and salt over low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until sugar is dissolved. Increase heat to moderate and boil mixture, without stirring, until a candy or digital thermometer registers 240 degrees, about 12 minutes. Remove pan from heat and pour sugar mixture over gelatin mixture, stirring until gelatin is dissolved.

With standing mixer beat on high speed until white, thick and nearly tripled in volume, about 6 minutes. In a large bowl with cleaned beaters beat whites (or reconstituted powdered whites) until they just hold stiff peaks. Beat whites and vanilla into sugar mixture until just combined. Pour mixture into baking pan and sift 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar evenly over top. Chill marshmallow, uncovered, until firm, at least three hours, and up to 1 day.

Run a thin knife around edges of pan and invert pan onto large cutting board. Lifting up 1 corner of inverted pan, with fingers loosen marshmallow and let drop onto cutting board. With a large knife trim edges of marshmallow and cut marshmallows into roughly 1-inch cubes. Sift remaining confectioners' sugar into a large bowl and add marshmallows in batches, tossing to evenly coat. Marshmallows (without caramel) keep in an airtight container at cool room temperature for 1 week.

To make the caramel:

1 cup sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup cream
1/4 cup water
1 tbsp butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp salt
16 marshmallows (see recipe above)
Wax paper

Cut the wax paper into 2 inch x 3 inch wide strips. You may need to adjust the size of your wax paper depending on how big your marshmallows are.

Place the sugar, water, cream, and corn syrup in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly until the sugar dissolves. Stir in the butter until it is melted. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally until the caramel reaches 238 degrees, then remove from the heat.

Stir in the vanilla and salt. Allow the caramel to thicken and cool for 10-15 minutes until it cools to about 175 degrees.

To dip the marshmallows:

Using a fork, drop a marshmallow into the caramel and turn it over until it is completely covered. Remove the marshmallow from the caramel, letting excess caramel drip off. Place the marshmallow on a piece of wax paper.

Continue dipping with the remaining marshmallows. If the caramel becomes too stiff, place it over the heat for a minute or two until it becomes easy to work with.

Allow the candies to set fully at room temperature before wrapping. Store excess candies in an airtight container at room temperature.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Chocolate Peppermint Bark

Layered peppermint barkI suspect I'm not the only one being bombarded by Williams Sonoma and Crate and Barrel catalogs all sporting delicious tins of chocolate peppermint bark. I've had the stuff from Williams Sonoma and it's mighty tasty, but for about $30 a pound, I knew I could do much better (Crate and Barrel's is something like $15 for 14 ounces).

So, even with using high quality Callebaut chocolate (on sale this week in the Seattle area at Town and Country Markets for $4.99 a pound) it's much, much cheaper to make it yourself.

Peppermint Bark


16 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
12 ounces high quality white chocolate, chopped
6 candy canes, coarsely crushed (about 6 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract

Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper or foil.

Melt bittersweet chocolate in double boiler until it is melted and smooth. Stir in peppermint extract. Cool to barely lukewarm, about 5 minutes. Pour bittersweet chocolate mixture onto cookie sheet. Using a spatula, spread the chocolate so that it is about 1/4 inch thick. Chill for about 15 minutes or until it is set.

Meanwhile, melt the white chocolate in a double boiler until it is melted and smooth. Cool until it is barely lukewarm (about 5 minutes). Pour the white chocolate onto the cooled bittersweet chocolate, using a spatula to spread out the chocolate to cover the first layer evenly.

Immediately sprinkle top layer with crushed candy canes. Let it sit for about 10 minutes and then chill just until firm, about 20 minutes. It can be broken apart or cut into rectangles. Store in an airtight container in a cool place or freeze. Allow it to come to room temperature before serving.

You can pack the bark in glass jars that are decorated with red ribbon and candy canes for a sweet touch.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Roasted Cranberry Sauce

I always enjoy making my own cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving, so when I saw this recipe for roasting the cranberries first, I was more than excited to give a try. Here's my doctored version of the recipe:

Roasted Cranberry Sauce

1 orange
1 lb. fresh cranberries
1 cup sugar
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp. kosher salt
4 green cardamom pods, smashed
4 whole cloves
2 sticks cinnamon
1 1/2 tbsp. port

1. Heat oven to 450°. Using a peeler, remove peel from the orange, taking off as little of the white pith as possible. Cut peel into very thin strips about 1 1⁄2" long. Squeeze juice from the orange; strain and reserve 1 tbsp. juice.

2. In a bowl, combine peel, cranberries, sugar, olive oil, salt, cardamom pods, cloves and cinnamon. Toss and transfer to a parchment paper–lined baking sheet. Roast until cranberries begin to burst and release their juices, about 15 minutes.

3. Transfer cranberry mixture to a bowl; stir in reserved orange juice and port. Let sit for at least 1 hour so that the flavors meld. Remove and discard cardamom, cloves, and cinnamon before serving.

Makes 2 cups.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Homemade Ricotta

Homemade ricottaMaking your own cheese seems so horribly insurmountable that most people don't even think to try doing it themselves. It always seems like you need a ton of equipment, weird ingredients or a lot of patience to wait for your cheese to cure.

There are a number of cheeses you can make easily at home, mostly the soft style ones, with little skill and effort. I'm doing a series of cheese making posts to get you all started and to get me inspired to make them myself.

I'll be starting with some of the easier ones and working my way up to the more complicated ones. But, rest assured, I won't be telling you about cheeses that you can't easily make yourself, since I have little interest in spending all my time making cheese.

This first recipe is for making ricotta. There is a huge difference between freshly made ricotta and that dry lumpy stuff packaged in plastic that you get from the store. There's just no comparison since you are using so little in the way of ingredients and you don't having to worry about long shelf life dates.

So, here goes!

Whole Milk Ricotta

1 gallon whole milk
1/4 cup white vinegar (or lemon juice)
2 tablespoons heavy cream (optional)

If you like your ricotta extra creamy, add the heavy cream to the whole milk and heat on medium-low to 180 degrees Fahrenheit, stirring often to make sure it doesn't boil or scald. This is a slow process that should take about 25 minutes, you don't want to rush this step.

Once the milk has reached temperature, gently stir in the vinegar (or lemon juice), being careful not to over stir. Take the milk mixture off the heat and let sit for about 10 minutes. You should see the ricotta curd separating from the whey.

Using a slotted spoon, ladle the curds into a lined colander (thin weave cloth like a cotton kitchen towel or double cheesecloth works well) being careful not to break up the curds. Let your ricotta drain in the colander for about 45 minutes or until desired consistency is reached (some people prefer a drier ricotta in which case let it drain longer or even overnight in the refrigerator).

Store refrigerated for up to a week.

1.5 - 2 pounds

There are so many great recipes for using ricotta cheese, ranging from sweet to savory, that you'll probably never get bored of making this cheese.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

White Chocolate Raspberry Jam

Even though it's October, I'm canning away the last of the summer berries. We've still got raspberries coming in from a local farm and I wanted to do something a little different than the standard raspberry jam recipe. When I spice up a jam it usually includes some interesting addition or flavoring and some sort of liqueur or liquor. Most of the alcohol gets burned off and you are left with a very complex flavor profile.

This recipe makes ordinary raspberry jam seem, well, ordinary. Since I've started tinkering around with jam recipes, I really have a hard time going back to the basics. This recipe can also be used as a dessert topping as well if you lower the amount of pectin and keep it a little more liquid.


5 cups raspberries, crushed (use a potato masher or other implement to crush the berries)
6 cups sugar
1 pack pectin
1 cup white chocolate chips (spring for the Guittard or other gourmet chocolate if it's available in your area)
1/4 cup coffee liqueur (Starbucks or Kahlua)


Heat raspberries while slowly adding in the pectin. Once the raspberries are at a full boil that you cannot stir down, add in the sugar. Return to a full rolling boil, stirring for one minute. Take the raspberry mixture off the heat and add in the white chocolate. It will take awhile to melt, so be patient (unless you want chunks of white chocolate in your jam).

After the white chocolate has melted, add the coffee liqueur and stir until well blended. Because the raspberry jam is quite hot, the alcohol will burn off, so if you want to have more of the alcohol flavor, add it in at the very end. Pour jam into sterilized canning jars and process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. That is, assuming you haven't eaten half of it already.

Yields 10 pints.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Crunchy's Favorite Whole Wheat Bread

Whole wheat breadThis recipe is based on one I found in Baking Illustrated, published by the editors of Cook's Illustrated, one of my favorite food magazines. This bread also freezes fantastically and, after thawing, tastes just a good as when it's just made.

1 1/2 tablespoons instant yeast
2 1/3 cups warm water (110 degrees)
1/4 cup honey
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/4 cup dark rye flour
1/2 cup wheat germ

3 cups whole wheat flour
2 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

Mix the yeast, water, honey, butter and salt in the bowl of a standing mixer with a spoon. Mix in the rye flour, wheat germ, 1 cup of the whole wheat flour and 1 cup of the all-purpose flours.

Add the remaining whole wheat flour and all-purpose flour. Attach the dough hook and knead at low speed for 8 - 10 minutes or until the dough is shiny and elastic. If you don't have a dough hook, knead by hand for 5 to 10 minutes.

Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, covered with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm area for about an hour (or until it has doubled in volume).

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Gently press down the dough and divide in two. Form each piece into a roll 9 inches long and place into a buttered and floured bread loaf pan (9 x 5) with the seam down. Cover again and let rise for 30 minutes.

Bake for 40 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 205 degrees. Transfer loaves immediately to a wire rack, letting cool to room temperature.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Grilled Pumpkin with Rosemary and Sea Salt

My backyard grown sugar pie pumpkins are finally ripening up in spite of the steady rains we've been experiencing here in the Pacific Northwest. A few of the pumpkins ended up being somewhat small and weren't worth the effort to process into pumpkin puree. So, what to do with these little guys? I wanted to do something new and, not having grilled pumpkins before, I was quite excited to give it a try.

During grilling, the sugars in the pumpkin caramelize. The combination of sweet and salty, coupled with crisp rosemary, will give you a different way of thinking about pumpkin. After trying this, you just might find yourself dreaming of expanding your pumpkin patch next year.

Make sure you use sugar pie pumpkins or the equivalent for this recipe — you really don't want to eat a jack-o-lantern type pumpkin as they are stringy. If you aren't growing your own sugar pie pumpkins you should be seeing them available in stores and farmers markets this month or, better yet, make a fun trip out of it and head out to a U-pick pumpkin farm. Don't forget to pick up a few extra for making your own pumpkin puree for pies and breads later in the year.

Sugar pie pumpkins (preferably on the small side)
Olive oil
Fresh rosemary, chopped
Sea salt

1. Heat grill to medium-high.

2. Wash and cut the pumpkins vertically into 3/4 inch slices. Remove the seeds and stringy parts. Brush both sides of each slice liberally with olive oil. Sprinkle with sea salt and rosemary.

3. Place the slices on the grill for about 5 minutes a side or until dark grill marks appear. Turn and grill the other side until you can easily pierce the pumpkin slice with a fork. You want to make sure that the pumpkin is tender.

4. Since some of the salt tends to fall off during the grilling process, serve with a small dish of additional sea salt.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Drying Herbs for Idiots

ParsleyMy herb plants are getting totally overgrown and are encroaching on my other plants. So, I took matters into my own hands and bushwacked them back.

I didn't want to just huck the clippings onto the compost bin, so I decided to try to dry the herbs that are annual. Things like rosemary, sage and other plants are perennial around here, so I don't worry too much about not having them year round. Particularly the rosemary. It's almost viral it grows so big and gets out of control so easily.

I wish I had taken the time to dry some oregano before I chopped the hell out of it and transplanted it elsewhere earlier in the year. Same thing with the marjoram (which I ended up killing). Oh well, next time I'll know better.

So, what did I end up drying? A ton of Italian flat leaf parsley and some sage just for sport (even though it sticks around in winter). The sage is handy to have on hand inside since sometimes when it's dark, pouring rain and cold out I don't like to poke around in the yard when I'm making dinner trying to scout out decent herbs.

Dried parsley in an oregano jarThere are a couple different ways of drying herbs. You can put them in the traditional dehydrator and go that route. I was afraid they'd stick like crazy (like my strawberries) and didn't feel like spending hours scraping little paper thin leaves off the grates. You can also freeze them dry and store them at room temperature. Allegedly. I'm still not convinced that freezing works without molding up.

Lastly, you can dry them in the microwave, which is the method I chose. Basically you place your herbs (I washed and then dried them between kitchen towels) on a paper towel and then nuke them in the microwave until they are dry and crispy. For my microwave it took about 2.5 minutes for the parsley. The sage took closer to 4 minutes since they are so thick.

Once they are crispy dry, crush them with your hands and then store them in small jars. I had some old spice jars that fit the bill, so I loaded them up using a small funnel. The color is phenomenally more vibrant and the herbs have a much more fragrant smell than anything you can buy from the store.

Now I can save the summer bounty of my herbs and have them available to season my foods in the dead of winter. And it's so damn easy you have no excuse to not try it yourself. By the way, drying your herbs is also useful for when you buy too many herbs and want to keep them out of the compost.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Triple Orgasm Strawberry Jam

Triple threatYes, this is a very salacious sounding title for a series of three takes on strawberry jam, but they are so amazing, the name is fitting.

Like the recipes for the Triumvirate of Peach Preserves, start with the standard Ball jam recipe (this makes a little over 8 8-oz jars), this time for strawberry. You'll find the directions remarkably similar so if you've made the peach preserves, these should be easy.

Strawberry Jam
5 cups crushed organic strawberries, washed and hulled
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 package pectin
7 cups sugar
2 teaspoons lemon zest

Sterilize your jars, lids, etc. I'm not going to go into food safety techniques here - if you want more information, study the instructions that come with your pectin package.

Add the lemon and lemon zest to your strawberries in a non-corrosive pot and slowly add the package of pectin. I use a wooden spoon, but you can use any non-reactive implement you like. Bring the mixture to a boil on high heat and then add the sugar. Bring this mess up to a rolling boil, wherein you can't stir down the boiling action and, most likely, are getting bombarded by spattering molten lava strawberry bits. Boil for one full minute.

Now comes the fun part: adding flavors to this original recipe to make it much more tasty.

Spiced Sangiovese and Strawberry Jam
Strawberry jam - 1 batch (see recipe above - this recipe makes more like 11 jars)
1 cup Sangiovese wine (Pinot Noir or something similar can be substituted)
2 cinnamon sticks
3 star anise
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
8 cloves

Simmer spices in wine for 20 minutes and remove the cinnamon sticks, star anise and cloves. Add in the strawberries, lemon juice and lemon zest and continue with the above instructions to produce one batch of strawberry jam.

Ladle into hot jars. Seal and hot process jars in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Black Pepper and Peppermint Strawberry Jam
Strawberry jam - 1 batch (see recipe above)
10 fresh peppermint leaves, washed and coarsely chopped
1/2 tablespoon coarse ground black pepper

Follow the instructions above to produce one batch of undoctored strawberry jam. Stir peppermint leaves and black pepper into strawberry mixture and ladle into hot jars. Seal and hot process jars in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Vanilla Amaretto Strawberry Jam
Strawberry jam - 1 batch (see recipe above)
1 vanilla bean, cut in half and split down the middle
1 tablespoon quality balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup Amaretto (or Disaronno)

Follow the instructions above to produce one batch of undoctored strawberry jam, adding in the vanilla bean and balsamic vinegar at the point where you mix in the lemon juice and lemon zest.

This concoction smells absolutely heavenly while on the stove but avoid the temptation to throw yourself into the pot head first lest you suffer third degree burns on your face and mouth.

When the jam is finished cooking, take it off the heat and let it rest for about 3 minutes. Stir the Amaretto into the prepared strawberry jam and ladle into hot jars. Seal and hot process jars in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Don't get greedy and eat these right away. The flavors in the jams will mellow out and become quite subtle - even a few days maturity will improve the flavor of these jams immensely!

Once you've tried these jams, there's no way you'll go back to faking, I mean, making plain strawberry jam again!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Candied orange peel

Chocolate dipped candied orange peelsOver on Crunchy Chicken I'm describing how I'm turning some of my food scraps into delectable foods. Candied orange peels are no different.

You can modify this recipe to make more or less.

Peels from 5 medium size organic oranges
4 cups granulated sugar
2.5 cups water
6 oz milk chocolate (for dipping, if desired)

The process is fairly easy.

Step 1. Scrape the inside of the orange peels to remove the residual orange from the pith. If the pith is really thick, scrape it out with a vegetable peeler or a knife.

Step 1

Step 2. Cut the peels into strips about 1/4" in width, removing the parts where the stem and the orange end are and any parts that don't look good.

Step 2

Step 3. Put the strips into a medium sauce pan and cover with cold water. Bring the water to a boil to blanch the peels. This helps remove the bitterness of the pith. Repeat the blanching process one more time (if you removed a lot of the pith) or two more times if you left a lot of the pith on (like I did).

Step 3

Step 4. Drain the peels and rinse with cold water. In the same saucepan add the water and sugar and bring to a boil. It will start to boil somewhere around 210 degrees F.

Step 4

Step 5. Once the sugar syrup is boiling, add the peels and bring the temperature back up to boiling. Simmer the peels on medium low until they become translucent. Depending on how much pith is on the peel this will take anywhere from 1/2 an hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes (this is how long it took mine).

Step 5

Step 6. When the peels are looking translucent, use a pair of tongs and remove them from the pot, placing them on a rack set over a cookie sheet to catch the drips. If you want you can roll the freshly removed strips in additional sugar but I found this to be a huge mess.

[You can strain the sugar syrup and use it as a simple syrup in a variety of recipes - just make sure you refrigerate it.]

Step 6

Step 7. Leave the peels out to dry. If you want to speed things up you can put the whole cookie tray/rack combo in the oven at 250 degrees F for an hour or two.

Step 8. If you want to dip the strips in chocolate, melt the milk chocolate over a double boiler and dip, laying the strips down on parchment paper to dry.

Step 8

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Handmade butter

Thought you couldn't make butter by hand without a churn or some sort of fancy equipment? Well, I'm here to tell ya that all you need is a little cream (heavy whipping cream), a Mason jar and lid and two hands. It will take you about 30 minutes (probably less if you don't stop to take pictures).

Let the shaking begin!

1. Collect all the necessary equipment. I highly recommend trying to find local, organic cream as the quality is much better, but you can use whatever you have on hand if need be. I'm using a pint of heavy whipping cream here and a quart jar.

Step 1

2. Leave the cream out on the counter for a while (the longer the cream sours, the less sweet the butter will be). Once the cream is warmed up to about 60 degrees then pour it into the Mason jar.

Step 2

3. Put on the lid and start shaking it. After about two minutes you'll see a nice lightly whipped cream.

Step 3

4. After about four minutes it will look like thick, whipped cream. Resist the temptation to empty the entire Mason jar into you mouth at this point. But do breathe in the heavenly, sweet scent.

Step 4

5. After about nine minutes of shaking, the cream will start to separate from the sides of the glass. Feel free to take a break.

Step 5

6. After about fourteen minutes, the whey starts separating from the butter.

Step 6

7. After about sixteen minutes, the curd is more noticeable and there's a lot more whey.

Step 7

8. At this point you can start pouring the buttermilk off. Continue shaking for a few minutes until your butter has solidified a bit more and until you aren't getting anymore buttermilk off of it.

Step 8

9. Pour out the butter into a bowl. Doesn't this look like ice cream?

Step 9

10. Pour cold water over the butter and start "massaging" the butter with a spatula to rinse the rest of the buttermilk out. Continue replacing the water until the water stays clear. Drain.

Step 10

Mold your butter into butter molds or into ramekins. You will also end up with a scant cup of buttermilk (depending on how "juicy" your cream is).

Butter and buttermilk

Voila! Butter. In less than thirty minutes.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Kick-ass hummus

Hummus in sight, afternoon delightI love me some hummus! Especially when you make it yourself and when you use dried chickpeas. You can substitute 2 cups of canned chickpeas in this recipe if you don't have dried ones.

1 cup dried chickpeas (née garbanzo beans)
5 cloves garlic
1.5 teaspoons kosher salt
1/3 cup tahini (ground sesame seeds)
6 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil

If you are using the 2 cups canned beans, you can skip this step:

Step 1. Preparing the chickpeas

Soak the chickpeas in water and the following mixture:

1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon salt

Add enough water to the 3 ingredients above to form a paste and mix into the water that you will soak the beans in. Soak overnight.

Drain and rinse the beans. Add the beans to enough water to cover them with a few inches and bring to a boil. Simmer until soft (usually about 1/2 an hour, but it might take up to an hour depending on the hardness of your water). When the beans are the right consistency (firm, yet soft enough to bite into), drain. If you want to remove the skins, soak in cold water, straining the skins as they float to the top.

Step 2. Making the hummus

In a food processor, process the garlic until minced. Add in the rest of the ingredients and process until well blended. If you want you can serve with paprika, hot sauce or a drizzle of olive oil on top.

You can double this recipe if you want to have a serious hummus-fest. I've heard that you can freeze hummus, but haven't tried it myself, but it's worth a try.

If you are interested in reading more about the many wonders of beans, check out this post.