Thursday, July 28, 2011

Summer Pudding

I've had my eye on this recipe for a couple of years now. I'm not sure why I waited until now to make it, but I'm glad I got around to it. It was a big hit.

I used the challah bread that I made and tried using all local fruit, but with the recent ridiculously hot weather, the locally-grown raspberries and blackberries were totally disgusting. So while I did find good local strawberries, I had to find some other suitable berries that were grown elsewhere.

My father-in-law decided that he couldn't properly assess this dessert with only one try. So I guess I'll have to try my hand at brioche and give it another whirl. (This joke of his never ever gets old.)

Summer Pudding
Courtesy of Emily Luchetti via


3 pints strawberries (about 6 cups), hulled and quartered
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
Pinch of kosher salt
2 pints blackberries (about 4 cups)
2 1/2 pints raspberries (about 5 cups)
1 loaf (1 pound) Brioche, Challah, or thick sliced white bread

Spray a loaf pan or souffle dish with nonstick spray. Line the sprayed pan with plastic wrap, making sure to press it into the corners and allowing a 1 1/2-inch overhang on all sides.

In a heavy, nonreactive saucepan, combine the strawberries, sugar, lemon juice, and salt over medium-low heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the strawberries begin to give up some of their juice, about 10 minutes. Add the blackberries and raspberries and continue cooking until all the berries are soft and have broken apart, forming a sauce, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool to warm.

Trim off the crusts from the brioche and cut the loaf into 32 slices. Each slice will be about 1/4 inch thick.

Spread 1/2 cup of the berry sauce into the bottom of the prepared pan. One piece at a time, dip the brioche into the sauce in the saucepan, saturating it. Place the berry-soaked brioche pieces in the pan, forming a single layer and a snug fit. Spread 1/2 cup of the berry sauce on top of the brioche. Repeat the layering, starting with the berry-soaked brioche, until the pan is full, ending with the berry sauce.

Cover with the plastic wrap overhanging the sides and place the loaf pan on a baking sheet. Cover with a pan just large enough to fit over the loaf pan, and put a large food can or other weight heavy enough to compress the pudding into the second pan. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours.

To unmold the pudding, remove the weight and second pan, fold back the plastic wrap, and invert the loaf pan onto a cutting board. Lift off the pan and carefully peel off the plastic. Cut the loaf into 8 slices and place on individual plates. Top with whipped cream.

Planning Ahead: The pudding may be made 2 days in advance and kept refrigerated. Unmold just before serving.

Monday, July 25, 2011


In preparation for making a summer pudding, I decided to try my hand at making challah. It was fun to make, but it definitely didn't come out looking like "normal" challah. I had to transfer one loaf to another baking sheet before putting the loaves in the oven. So they kind of deflated a bit and never quite recovered. The taste was fine, but I'd like to try a loaf from a bakery and see if it's worth all the trouble of making my own. Yup, I've never had challah before...

I used this video to help me with the braiding.

Courtesy of smitten kitchen


1 1/2 packages active dry yeast (1 1/2 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon plus 1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup olive or vegetable oil, plus more for greasing the bowl
5 large eggs
1 tablespoon salt
8 to 8 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup raisins per challah, if using, plumped in hot water and drained
Poppy or sesame seeds for sprinkling, if desired

In a large bowl, dissolve yeast and 1 tablespoon sugar in 1 3/4 cups lukewarm water.

Whisk oil into yeast, then beat in 4 eggs, one at a time, with remaining sugar and salt. Gradually add flour. When dough holds together, it is ready for kneading.

Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead until smooth. Clean out bowl and grease it, then return dough to bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour, until almost doubled in size. Dough may also rise in an oven that has been warmed to 150°F then turned off. Punch down dough, cover and let rise again in a warm place for another half-hour.

At this point, you can knead the raisins into the challah, if you’re using them, before forming the loaves. Divide dough in half and braid each loaf. Place braided loaves on a greased cookie sheet with at least 2 inches in between.

Beat remaining egg and brush it on loaves. Either freeze breads or let rise another hour.

If baking immediately, preheat oven to 375°F and brush loaves again. Sprinkle bread with seeds, if using. If freezing, remove from freezer 5 hours before baking.

Bake in middle of oven for 30 to 40 minutes, or until golden. (If you have an instant read thermometer, you can take it out when it hits an internal temperature of 190°F.) Cool loaves on a rack.

Note: Any of the three risings can be done in the fridge for a few hours, for more deeply-developed flavor. When you’re ready to work with it again, bring it back to room temperature before moving onto the next step.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Mushroom Lasagna

We thought this was so good that Jonathan decided that we must serve this the next time we have guests. Any takers?

Mushroom Lasagna
A variation on this recipe from Ina Garten (The Barefoot Contessa)


3 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups whole milk
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, divided
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 pounds portobello or cremini mushrooms
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
16 oven-ready lasagna noodles
1 cup freshly ground Parmesan, divided

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Coat 9x13 baking dish lightly with cooking spray.

For the white sauce, bring the milk and garlic to a simmer in a saucepan. Set aside. Melt 8 tablespoons (1 stick) of the butter in a large saucepan. Add the flour and cook for 1 minute over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Pour the hot milk into the butter-flour mixture. Add salt, pepper and nutmeg, and cook over medium-low heat, stirring first with the wooden spoon and then with a whisk, for 3 to 5 minutes, until thick. Set aside off the heat.

Separate the mushroom stems from the caps and discard the stems. Slice the mushrooms 1/4-inch thick. Heat oil and butter in a large sauté pan. When the butter melts, add mushrooms and cook over medium heat until the mushrooms are tender and they release some of their juices. Toss occasionally to make sure the mushrooms cook evenly. Season with a couple pinches of salt.

To assemble the lasagna, spread some of the sauce in the bottom of baking dish. Arrange a layer of 4 noodles on top, then more sauce, then 1/3 of the mushrooms, and 1/4 cup grated Parmesan. Repeat 2 more times, layering noodles, sauce, mushrooms, and Parmesan. Top with a final layer of noodles and sauce, and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan.

Bake the lasagna for 45 minutes, or until the top is browned the sauce is bubbly and hot. Allow to sit at room temperature for 15 minutes and serve hot.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Barb's Gingerbread Cookies

Every Christmas, my mother-in-law makes these incredible gingerbread cookies. I've nicknames them the "crack cookies" because they are seriously addictive. I'm fairly certain I gained about 5 pounds from eating so many of these cookies during one particular Christmas several years back.

In an attempt to keep my children occupied during the weeks when they don't have camp this summer, I put together themes for each week. This week was Holiday Week, and we celebrated Christmas today, so I thought it was time for me to try out my mother-in-law's recipe. I was very nervous, but it is a solid recipe, definitely tried and true, and the cookies came out wonderfully. Benjamin's best friend was over for a playdate to celebrate with us, so they are also especially pretty this time around.

Barb's Gingerbread Cookies


1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup molasses
1 egg
5 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cloves
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons ginger
½ teaspoon salt

Cream butter, sugar and molasses. Add egg; beat well.

Combine dry ingredients and mix in to molasses mixture until just blended.

Divide dough into 4-5 loose lumps. Roll each lump out to ¼- to ½-inch thick on lightly floured board. Cut into shapes and put on ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake at 350°F for 5-5 ½ minutes. Cool on sheet for 2-3 minutes, then transfer to cooling racks to cool completely. Decorate as desired (royal icing, sprinkles, etc.).

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Sausage Cacciatore

This is super tasty and makes the house smell wonderfully. It goes especially well with French bread. I followed the original recipe, but adding peppers to this would probably make it even better.

Sausage Cacciatore
Courtesy of Rachael Ray


1 pound sweet Italian sausage links, cut into 1-inch pieces
3 baking potatoes (about 1 1/4 pounds), peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 pound mushrooms, quartered
1 onion, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
One 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes with Italian herbs
1/4 bunch, flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped

Preheat the oven to 375°F. In a large bowl, toss the sausage, potatoes, mushrooms, onion, garlic and olive oil; season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a baking sheet and cook, tossing occasionally, for 30 minutes.

Add the tomatoes to the sausage and vegetables and stir to coat. Arrange the mixture in an even layer and continue cooking for 30 minutes. Top with the parsley.

Classic French Bread

Easy and delicious. It can be made as a round loaf or a baguette. Love the smell of fresh bread baking.

Classic French Bread
Courtesy of Cooking Light

1 package dry yeast (2 1/2 teaspoons)
1 cup warm water (105° to 115°)
3 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
Cooking spray
1 tablespoon water
1 large egg white

Dissolve the yeast in warm water in a small bowl; let stand 5 minutes.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. Place the flour and salt in a food processor, and pulse 2 times or until blended. With the food processor on, slowly add yeast mixture through food chute, and process until the dough forms a ball. Process for 1 additional minute. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead lightly 4 to 5 times.

Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover dough, and let rise in a warm place (85°F), free from drafts, 45 minutes or until doubled in bulk.

Punch dough down, and shape into a 6-inch round loaf. Place loaf on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Cover dough and let rise 30 minutes or until doubled in bulk.

Preheat oven to 450°F.

Uncover dough, and make 3 diagonal cuts 1/4-inch deep across top of loaf using a sharp knife. Combine 1 tablespoon water and egg white, and brush mixture over top of loaf. Bake for 20 minutes or until loaf sounds hollow when tapped.

Note: To make a baguette, let the bread dough rise once. Punch dough down, and roll into an 18 x 9-inch rectangle on a lightly floured surface. Roll up the dough starting at the longer edge, pressing down firmly to eliminate any air pockets; then pinch seam and edges to seal. Cover the dough, let rise, and bake according to the recipe instructions at left.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Pumpkin Scones

This is supposed to be an imitation recipe for the ones they serve at Starbucks. But they are far superior.

I tweaked things a bit, which may have been necessary because I was doubling the recipe, but which I think, ultimately, actually made the scones a little moister. The dough was a bit on the dry side when I mixed up all the ingredients, so I added a little more pumpkin and half-and-half. I also cut the scones in half once I cut them out since I didn't want to have to always commit to a huge scone. Didn't really do much good since they were so good I wanted to eat multiple scones. I will, no doubt, be making these over and over again.

Edited to add (10/10/12): I tried these with 1 cup cinnamon chips and just the powdered sugar glaze, and they were wonderful. Yum, yum, yum.

Pumpkin Scones
A variation on this recipe from


4 cups all-purpose flour
14 tablespoons (7/8 cup) sugar
2 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold butter
1 can pumpkin
6-8 tablespoons half-and-half
2 large eggs

Powdered Sugar Glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
3 tablespoons whole milk

Spiced Glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
3 tablespoons whole milk
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 pinch ginger
1 pinch ground cloves

Preheat oven to 425°F. Lightly oil a baking sheet or line with parchment paper.

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and spices in a large bowl. Using a pastry knife, fork, or food processor, cut butter into the dry ingredients until mixture is crumbly and no chunks of butter are obvious. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, whisk together pumpkin, half and half, and egg. Fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Form the dough into a ball, cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Pat out dough onto a lightly floured surface and form it into a 1-inch thick rectangle (about 9 inches long and 3 inches wide). Use a large knife or a pizza cutter to slice the dough horizontally twice, making three equal portions. Then cut the dough vertically 3 times, making 12 equal squares. Cut each square in half diagonally and then each half diagonally again. Place on prepared baking sheet.

Bake for 14-16 minutes. Scones should begin to turn light brown. Place on wire rack to cool.

Mix the powdered sugar and milk together until smooth.

When scones are cool, use a brush to paint plain glaze over the top of each scone.

Combine the ingredient for the spiced icing together. Drizzle this thicker icing over each scone and allow the icing to dry before serving (at least 1 hour).