Showing posts with label eggs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label eggs. Show all posts

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Vegan Banana Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding

Wow - a non-challenge post? Shocking! 

I know I keep saying we've been busy, but that's not really a good excuse. Yes, I'm still cooking and baking, but I feel that I've been in a bit of a blog rut. And for that I apologize. But I promise I have not forgotten about you, and I greatly appreciate that you are here reading this. Thank you!!

So, I know how it sounds... vegan bread pudding... honestly, only the hard-core vegans I know find the thought of it appealing. I mean... the whole idea of bread pudding is the custard, rich with eggs and milk (or, even better, cream!). But when one member of the family is allergic to those two key ingredients. well, it just doesn't seem fair to load up a dish of deliciousness with things he can't eat.

Believe it or not, this recipe is super easy. And tasty enough that non-vegans like it!!

It starts the way "normal" bread pudding starts - with bread. Lots and lots of bread, all cut up into cubes.

And then we go to the "custard." Only, in this case, it's not custard. It's coconut milk (or whatever milk you choose), maple syrup and spices.

If you're lucky enough to have a cute baking assistant, by all means, have him help you mix together the "custard."

Once the bread soaks up the "custard," mix in some mashed bananas and chocolate chips.

Then just smoosh everything into a  sprayed loaf pan.

Yes I said smoosh.

Trust me, it's what you have to do.

Into the oven, everything all toasty and golden...

...then all that's left to do is to wait for it to cool... and to find someone brave enough to taste it. A lot of people were a bit... put off by the word "vegan" in the title.

But then they tasted it.  And were shocked. This is very rich and very, very delicious. With pockets of chocolatey and banana-y goodness mixed in, this is an absolutely delicious treat. That you can even have for breakfast, if you are so inclined... just sayin'...

So call it allergen-friendly if you must, but definitely give this a try - I promise you won't be disappointed!

Vegan Banana Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding

6 cups 1″ cubed stale bread (about 1 lb)
1 cup chocolate chips
3 ripe bananas, roughly mashed
2-2 1/4 cups rice milk, almond milk, soy milk or coconut milk (I used coconut milk beverage)
3 tablespoons arrowroot powder or tapioca flour (I used cornstarch)
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9 x 5 loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray. Place cubed bread in a large bowl.
In a small bowl whisk together 1/2 cup of the milk you are using with the arrowroot powder (cornstarch) until no lumps remain. Add 1 1/2 cups of the milk you are using, maple syrup, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg and whisk to combine. Pour over cubed bread and stir to coat every piece. Allow to sit for at least 15 minutes for liquid to soak into bread. Depending on what kind of bread you use and how stale it is, you may need to add a bit more milk - just do so slowly, then allow more soaking time till every piece of bread is saturated and there’s a little bit of extra liquid. Mixture should look mushy and wet. Fold in chocolate chips and bananas. Pour mixture into loaf pan, patting down to make an even top.
Bake 28-35 minutes till top is puffed, slightly browned and feels firm. Allow to cool slightly before slicing and serving. Also pudding can be scooped with an ice cream scoop when slightly cooled.


Monday, April 22, 2013

Strawberry Meringues

Okay, so remember that I used all those egg yolks to make homemade mayonnaise for this months Secret Recipe Club? And remember I told you I made strawberry meringue cookies with the leftover whites?  Well here they are!

These are actually pretty easy to make, but you need to plan ahead a little bit.

Because in order to get that delicious strawberry flavor, you need a couple of tablespoons of the juice that results from macerating strawberries.  Basically, cut up some strawberries, sprinkle them with some sugar, then let them rest for a few hours.  The result?

Deliciously sweet strawberries (perfect for strawberry shortcakes or ice cream topping or just digging in with a spoon!) and that juice you see there.  Just add that juice to your whipped egg whites and there you have it - naturally flavored meringue!

And those egg whites? Beat them really, really well. You want stiff peaks here. Stiff enough that you can hold them upside down.

Then just pipe out the meringue and bake it in a very low oven for a very long time.

Yummy, crispy, naturally sweet meringue cookies.

But beware.  They are extremely addictive. We finished the whole batch in about 24 hours.  Yum.

Strawberry Meringue Cookies
(from Everything in the Kitchen Sink)

3 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons syrup from macerated strawberries, at least 24 hours macerating
1/3 cup of confectioners sugar
pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 200 F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper (I used foil).  Separate the whites from the yolks (save the yolks for a curd!) and begin beating with a hand mixer until the egg whites are just foamy.
Add in the cream of tartar, the vanilla extract, and strawberry syrup.  Begin to beat until the volume doubles.
Begin to add in the confectioners sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time.  Continue beating until there are soft peaks formed in the egg whites.
Add a pinch of salt and finish beating until stiff peaks are formed.  You should be able to hold it above your head!
Pour into a pastry bag or large freezer ziptop bag and squeeze out as much of the air as you can.  Pipe out silver dollar sized cookies onto the parchment-lined cookie sheets.
Bake at 200 F for 2 hours.  I left mine in for closer to three because I... umm... forgot about them for a little bit...  Turn off the oven and let sit for at least an hour before removing.


Monday, April 15, 2013

Homemade Mayonnaise

This month's Secret Recipe Club assignment introduced me to Sarah over at Everything in the Kitchen Sink. I have actually visited Sarah's blog to check out her SRC picks each month, which are always absolutely drool-worthy, so I was super pleased to be assigned her blog.

Sarah is a pretty awesome blogger who has been held back recently by a leg injury that has kept her out of the kitchen more than she'd like, but she's getting there. And I know when she is fully back on two feet we're going to see lots and lots of tasty treats.

I had a really hard time choosing what to make.  My first inclination was to make these Apple Streussel Muffin Bites because we like pretty much everything muffin in this house. But then I saw that she'd made homemade mayonnaise.  Hmm... that's something that had always scared me a little bit. Plus, it just uses egg yolks. What in the world would I do with the whites? So I put my laptop aside and decided I'd think it over.

The next day I went back to look again with fresh eyes.  This time, what caught my eye was this delicious sounding recipe for Strawberry Meringue Cookies.  Hmm... those look good, but they just use egg whites... What would I do with the yolks?

I bet you know where this is heading.

Yup.  Made 'em both.

Today I'll share with you the mayonnaise, and I'll share the meringues later in the week.

Mayonnaise is a tricky thing to get right, as it's an emulsion, which means that it's a mixture of two liquids that generally, on their own terms, wouldn't want to mix together.

In this case, those two liquids are egg yolks and oil.

Sarah made her mayonnaise in her food processor. I decided to use my KitchenAid mixer.

I started with the egg yolks.

I whipped those until they lightened in color and became pretty thick.  Then it was time to add the flavorings - like Sarah, I used dijon mustard, salt and pepper. You also add in an acid - usually lemon juice. Which I thought I had. I didn't. So I used apple cider vinegar and hoped for the best.

Once the acid and flavorings were mixed in it was time to add the oil. This is where you have to be super careful. You need to add a lot of oil - almost two cups (sometimes a little more!), and you have to do it slooooowly. Especially in the beginning. Seriously, I was drip-dropping a quarter teaspoon of oil into my yolks at a time for the first quarter cup of oil, then I slowly drizzled about a quarter cup more at a time in a very thin stream.

Now, I had no idea how I'd know when my mayonnaise was, well, mayonnaise. I kept hoping to peer into the mixer and see something magical.

And, believe it or not, one and three quarter cups of oil later, I did!  It looked like, well, mayonnaise!

I was still a little worried - while my mixer was working, I did a quick google search on making mayonnaise in a stand mixer (nothing like preparing ahead of time...), and found a lot of people warning that they prefer to do theirs by hand - that making it in the mixer, often times, the mayonnaise breaks (separates - remember - those liquids don't generally want to combine!).  So the true test came when I transferred the mayonnaise from the mixer bowl to my jar and let it sit for a few minutes.

And guess what?

It stayed together! Woo hoo!

Now, I am going to be completely honest with you here... I wasn't the biggest fan. It's not bad, but it wasn't "wow!" like I was hoping for. I am not sure I am going to be making my own mayonnaise from now on, but it's very nice to know that I can.

And it left me with those egg whites, which yielded very popular results, as I'll share later this week.

Sarah, I can't wait until you are full-force back in the kitchen, and I thank you for your awesome inspiration this month!

Homemade Mayonnaise
(from Everything in the Kitchen Sink)

3 egg yolks
5 tablespoons lemon juice or vinegar (I used apple cider vinegar)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
2 cups of extra virgin olive oil
pepper to taste
1/2 tablespoon honey (optional)

Mix the egg yolks together in a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, at high speed, until they are thick and have lightened in color.
Add the lemon juice/vinegar, mustard, salt, and pepper and continue to mix on high.  Stream in the olive oil very slowly, only a few drops at a time during the first 1/4 cup (I used a quarter teaspoon measure to slowly drip the oil in for the first quarter cup).  Use anywhere from 1 1/2 cup to 2 1/4 cup . . . I ended up using 1 3/4 cups.
Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.  I added a little squeeze of honey to balance the flavors.


Sunday, October 14, 2012

October Daring Cooks' Challenge - Brazilian Feijoada

Rachel Dana was our October 2012 Daring Cooks' Challenge hostess! Rachel brought Brazil into our lives by challenging us to make Feijoada and Farofa along with some other yummy side dishes traditionally served with Feijoada, which is a delicious black bean and pork stew.

I am not at all familiar with Brazilian food, and the amount of information contained within this challenge, not to mention the number of components... well... it was overwhelming.

It took many re-readings of the recipes and a bunch of discussions with Jenni and my sister... but I finally managed to wrap my head around all of the recipes, and I formulated a plan.

Feijoada is a Brazilian black bean stew, traditionally made with a variety of pork products.  Rachel challenged us to not only make the stew, but to make an entire meal of it, including collard greens and another traditional Brazilian dish called Farofa, a dish that reminds me a lot of breakfast, but that Rachel likes to include in her Feijoada feasts.

All in all, there were seven recipes included in his challenge. See? overwhelming. Until you break it down and realize... hey... this is actually not too bad!

I started with the two recipes that were easiest to make ahead of time. The first was an onion/garlic base (which is just a puree of onions and garlic - simply puree and stick it in the fridge until you need it!), which is used to flavor most of the dishes of this meal. The second is what is called a vinagrete - which is basically a "salsa" of sorts - a mixture of chopped pepper, onion and tomato, dressed with vinegar, olive oil and spices. Again, I simply mixed this up the day before and popped it in the fridge.

The next component was the feijoada itself. As it's a bean stew, it all begins with beans. I chose to make my stew in the crock pot. So the night before, I set the dried beans right in the crock pot, covered them with water and let them soak overnight.

The next morning, I added a bit of fresh water, set the crock pot to low and let it start cooking. I also threw in a couple of smoked turkey legs once it started cooking to begin flavoring the beans.

After a few hours, it was time to add the rest of the stew's ingredients - bacon and smoked sausage, both of which were cooked in a pan prior to being added, and also a few tablespoons of the onion-garlic base.

Another few hours later, I simply removed the turkey legs, shredded the meat and added it back into the stew, discarding the bones and skin.

While the crock pot finished its job with the feijoada, I got to work on the other components of the meal - the vegetable and the farofa.

I was worried about how I would get everything done simultaneously, but, when it came down to it, it actually works out really well. I go all of the prep work done and had everything ready to go. For the farofa, I chopped onion and measured out my bread crumbs.  And for the vegetable, I prepared the collard greens as the recipe indicated, slicing them into ribbons to be cooked just prior to the meal.

The farofa cooks up pretty quickly. I actually set aside the pan that I'd used earlier to cook the bacon and sausages and used that to add extra flavor to my farofa. To that pan, I added butter and diced onions. Once the onions cook, simple crack eggs over them, let them cook briefly, add some bacon crumbles, bread crumbs and, as Rachel recommended, slices of banana. I promise, it's a lot easier and quicker than it seems.

Then the collards are quickly cooked (in more of the onion-garlic base) and the meal is ready to go! Served with rice (which I just had cooking on a back burner during the end of this process) and we had a full feast all ready to go.

I also made the hot sauce that is included in the recipes, but daddy was the only one brave enough to try it. Regardless, there was so much flavor on this plate, and so much deliciousness packed into this mea.

I can't believe I almost skipped this. We all loved it and I know I will be making each of these recipes again.  Rachel, thank you so much for introducing me to delicious Brazilian fare, and for sharing these delicious recipes with us!

To see the other delicious Brazilian feasts prepared in the Daring Kitchen this month, check them out here.

I am including here all of the recipes that were included in the challenge. Jenni graciously share her own transcription of them with me, and I have adapted them for the modifications that I made when I made them.  I have them listed here in the order in which I made them, to give an idea as to how I organized the execution of this feast. Even though it looks like a lot, I promise, it comes together pretty simply and is totally worth all the steps!

To see the recipes exactly as Rachel presented them, check them out here.

1 large bell pepper, diced
1 large tomato, diced
1 medium onion, diced
1/2 cup white wine vinegar (I used apple cider vinegar)
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons water
2-4 tablespoons chopped parsley
salt and pepper to taste

Chop all the vegetables and parsley.
Put all the ingredients into a bowl and stir to combine.
Press down on the veggies to release some liquid, and ensure everything is immersed.
Cover and refrigerate at least 30 minutes. (I made this the day before and let it rest in the fridge until the meal.)

Onion-Garlic Base
2 medium white onions
4 large cloves of garlic
1 TBSP salt

Roughly chop the onions and garlic.
Place everything in a food processor and blend until smooth.
(I made this the day before and put it in the fridge until I needed it.)

2 cups dried black beans
18 ounces bacon (12 for this, 6 for later for the forofa, but might as well prep it all now) (I used only one pound, 16 ounces, of bacon total. Close enough...)
2 pounds mixed meats (typically an array of pork - sausages, ribs, ham, etc) cut into 1" cubes or 1/2" slices (I used two smoked turkey legs and 14 oz of turkey smoked sausage)
4 bay leaves
3 TBSP onion-garlic base (recipe above)
1/4 cup bacon grease or vegetable oil

Wash the beans thoroughly and place into your crock pot. Soak beans overnight. In the morning, add additional water to cover the beans by an inch and set crock pot to low.

Place the oil/grease in a large frying pan.
Fry all the meat in the hot grease until well browned and cooked through (cook each type of meat separately, but you can use the same pan/grease).
Drain the meat on paper towels to remove excess grease.

Once the beans begin to soften, add 3 tablespoons of the onion-garlic base, 4 bay leaves, and the cooked meats (remember to reserve half of the bacon for later).
Adjust the water to make sure everything is covered.
Continue cooking until the beans are done (about 8-10 hours total).

(I prepared my rice, brown basmati, using the traditional method. Following is the Brazilian method that Rachel shared with us for the challenge)
1.5 cups long grain white rice
4.5 tablespoons oil
3 tablespoons onion-garlic base
boiling water

Wash your rice in a sieve and let it dry.
Heat the oil in a pan.
Cook the onion-garlic paste for 1 minute, until it starts to soften.
Add the dried rice and stir fry for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally so it doesn't stick to the pot and burn.
Add enough boiling water so the water comes 2 fingers over the rice.
Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
Turn off the heat.
Fluff with a fork, cover, and let rest for another 10 minutes.

Hot Sauce
1 spoonful of your favorite hot sauce
a few spoonfuls of the liquid from the completed feijoada
1 spoonful of the vinagrete

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Mix to incorporate.

1/4 cup butter
2 large eggs
1/2 cup chopped onion
6 ounces fresh bacon, fried (set aside previously from the feijoada)
1/2 cup fine ground cornmeal or dry breadcrumbs
1 banana, sliced into 1/2" - 1" slices

Melt half of the butter over medium-high heat.
Add the onions and cook for a few minutes, until they start to soften.
Crack the eggs into the pan and lightly break the yolks and spread around (don't break it up too much).
When the egg is almost fully cooked, break them up into med-large pieces.
The onions will brown quite a bit under the eggs, but its ok!
Add the cooked bacon and stir.
Add the rest of the butter and stir to melt.
Lower the heat to medium, toss in the cornmeal or breadcrumbs and banana and stir well.
Cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
Add a pinch of salt and pepper (to taste) and keep stirring, until the cornmeal has clumped together nicely and become golden, about 3-5 minutes.
Be careful not to let it burn! Keep tasting it until it tastes toasty.

Collard Greens
4 collard greens
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon onion-garlic base

Wash the greens, cut out the stem, and cut in half.
Stack all of the leaves on top of each other and roll them up tightly into a log.
Holding the tube tightly, slice off thin slices of the greens.
When you are almost ready to eat, heat the oil in a large pan over medium-high heat.
Add the 1 tablespoon of the onion-garlic base and let it soften for a minute.
Add all the collards at once, and stir to coat with oil.
You can add a pinch of salt and pepper if you want.
Cook, stirring, for about 1 minute, so they just start to soften.
Remove and serve.


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Italian Sausage, Pepper and Onion Strata

So, after seeing this past month's Daring Bakers' Challenge, have you tried making your own challah yet? I hope so!

The only "problem" (and I use term loosely...) is what to do with the leftovers.

There are tons and tons of possibilities... slice it for sandwiches. Make French toast. Make bread pudding. Make croutons or bread-crumbs. 

I admit - for me, leftover bread (especially challah!) usually turns into breakfast (French toast) or dessert (bread pudding).

But, as a part of this month's challenge, I wanted to try something new.

Then, perusing a cookbook that I'd borrowed from the library, I saw the answer - strata.

What is a strata? 

It's a savory bread pudding.

Same bready, eggy goodness that you're used to for dessert, but instead of sugar and cinnamon and desserty/breakfasty goodness, go for savory, dinnery fillings and spices.

I used the cookbook's "basic" recipe and used a favorite standby for flavor - Italian sausage, peppers and onions.

But it all started with the challah. I used the big, huge round one that you saw on my last post and cut it into cubes.

It's a good think I cut some extra, because some people who shall remain nameless had a hard time keeping their hands out of the pan...

Once the bread was cut and set aside, it was time to work on the filling.  I diced up one sweet onion and several of these adorable, multicolored mini bell peppers.

I would up using eight of those peppers, and strove to keep a nice rainbow variety of colors.

I started by sauteeing the peppers and onions in a pan, then, after removing the veggies, I browned up about a pound of mild Italian sausage (casings removed) until it was just done (no more pink).

Add the veggies back in to finish everything up...

...and I was ready to build.

Half of the bread cubes into a 9" x 13" pan, topped with half of the sausage and veggie mix, then sprinkled with some diced up provolone cheese. Then these layers were repeated.

Once the base was prepared, it was time to hold it all together. Five eggs, some milk and a sprinkling of spices were whisked together...

...and poured on top.

About 45 minutes later, the house smelled amazing, and, when I opened the oven, I was greeted with this:

Okay, I admit, the crust pieces looked dark, which had me concerned, but those aside, it looked bright and colorful and fresh and delicious, and even ooey and gooey from the cheese.

And it tasted even better than it looked.

Oh no, bread puddings will no longer be saved for dessert.

I can't wait to try other ingredients, flavor combinations and fillings - the strata is definitely here to stay!

Italian Sausage, Pepper and Onion Strata
(inspired by a recipe in Ready when you are by Martha Rose Shulman)

1/2 pound bread, slightly stle if possible, cut into cubes (about 5-6 cups of bread cubes, enough to fill a 9" x 13" baking dish without overflowing it)
1 pound Italian sausage
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 mini bell peppers, assorted colors (or 1-2 large bell peppers - whatever you have available!)
1 sweet (Vidalia) onion
1/4 pound provolone cheese, grated or cut into small pieces (mine was pre-sliced, so I just cut it into small squares)
5 large eggs
1 1/2 cups milk (I used 1% because it was what we had)
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning

Dice the onion and peppers and remove the casings from the Italian sausage.
In a large frying pan, sautee the onion and peppers in the olive oil (I always sprinkle my veggies with a pinch of salt to help them along as they sautee...). Set the vegetables aside. In the same pan, brown the sausage, crumbling it as it cooks, until it is cooked through (no more pink). Add the vegetables back into the pan, toss everything together, and then remove the pan from the heat.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a 9" x 13" baking pan.
Spread half of the bread cube in the prepared baking pan, then top with half of the sausage, pepper and onion mixture. Sprinkle with half of the cheese.
Repeat your layers - bread cubes, sausage and veggies, then top with remaining cheese.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk and spices. Slowly and carefully, pour the egg mixture over the prepared casserole, trying to coat all of the bread (and meat and veggies...) evenly.
Bake for 40 - 50 minutes, until puffed and browned.
Can be served right away (hot) or warm, after waiting a bit.


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Breakfast Pizza

Ah, pizza. So good, you can eat it any time of day!

We have made pizza several times, and last weekend, we decided to make one of the breakfast variety.

We looked around online at many pictures and recipes, then decided that we didn't really need a recipe - it's breakfast on a pizza. We could figure that out.

We started out on Saturday night by making the pizza dough. In an effort to keep our breakfast "healthy," I used half whole wheat flour. Once the dough was made, I wrapped it in plastic wrap, set it in the fridge and, well, went to bed.

Come Sunday morning, we were ready to get started.

We scrambled some eggs. We cooked some bacon. We diced some onions. Then put it all on the crust.

Then we grated up a whole lot of cheddar cheese and sprinkled it over the whole thing.

Twenty minutes later, breakfast was ready.

An omelet on a pizza crust. What could be better?

A cup of coffee, some cut up peaches on the side, this was a delicious breakfast.

So what kid of pizza will we have next??

Whole Wheat Pizza Crust
1 tablespoon yeast
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup warm (around 100 degrees) water
a splash of olive oil
1 cup (approximately - maybe more, maybe less) all purpose flour

In bowl of stand mixer, whisk together whole wheat flour, yeast and salt. Turn on mixer, fitted with dough hook, to low speed, and slowly pour in water, then oil. Add all purpose flour slowly until dough comes together in a ball. Allow dough to rest, covered, for half an hour. This is the point where I put the dough into the fridge, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap. When ready to use, take the dough out of the fridge and let it rest at room temperature for at least half an hour. Roll out the dough, cover with your favorite toppings (make sure that the toppings aren't hot when you put them on the dough!), then bake for 20 minutes at 400 degrees.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

December Daring Cooks' Challenge - Poaching

Is it really the middle of December already? I can't even believe it. But the calendar doesn't lie and time keeps on rolling, so here we are - time to reveal the December Daring Cooks' Challenge, which was awesomely hosted by Jenn from Jenn Cuisine and Jill, one of our non-blogging members.

Jenn and Jill have challenged The Daring Cooks to learn to perfect the technique of poaching an egg. They chose Eggs Benedict recipe from Alton Brown, Oeufs en Meurette from from Cooking with Wine by Anne Aillan, and Homemade Sundried Tomato & Pine Nut Seitan Sausages (poached) courtesy of Trudy of Veggie num num.

I will admit that when I first read this challenge, I was not 100% excited. Not because it didn't sound good - it sounded great! I have never poached an egg before, have never tasted Eggs Benedict before, and found it really interesting that the challenge was focused on a technique rather than a specific recipe. So what was my issue? Well, poached eggs aren't exactly on the go-to diet during pregnancy. In fact, most doctors and nutritionists agree that, when pregnant, one should only consume eggs that are fully cooked through. And any chef you speak with will agree that a perfectly poached egg has a runny yolk. What is a pregnant woman to do?

Well, first I considered all of my other poaching alternatives - as poaching is a technique for cooking, it is not at all limited to eggs. One can poach meat, fish, fruits, vegetables - the possibilities are limitless. I found some really great recipes for poaching fruit, and even went and bought pears, full well intending to poach those in a sweet vanilla syrup as a dessert dish. It sounded delicious... and yet... something was holding me back. I really wanted to poach an egg, as that was the original intention of the challenge.

So I finally decided that I would go with eggs, but I would skip the Eggs Benedict until I could eat it properly - runny yolks and all. After much searching, I happened across a delicious looking recipe for eggs poached in tomato sauce. Then, after a bit more searching, I came across another variation of that recipe on a different site. After seeing both versions, I was convinced that this was the dish for me, just with what experts might consider slightly over-poached eggs in place of the perfectly runny ones.

The first step in each recipe was to prepare a tomato sauce. I opted to use canned crushed tomatoes as my base, and to season them up to my family's tastes. To start with, I sauteed an onion. There is nothing better than starting a recipe with sauteeing an onion - makes the whole house smell so good and sets a great tone for whatever you are making. Once the onion was ready, I poured in the crushed tomatoes and started seasoning my sauce as it cooked. A little bit of garlic powder (I know, I was disappointed with myself for not having fresh garlic, too - it won't happen again...), some oregano, a pinch of salt, some fresh ground pepper, and a dash of sugar for good measure. Seasoned and stirred, I let the sauce simmer for about 40 minutes, and was then ready to get to the main event.

Using the back of my spoon, I tried to make little wells in my sauce, but they didn't really hold all that well... So I knew I had to move quickly. And the trickiest part, in case you were curious, was figuring out how to photograph this process as I went. Because once I had my almost imperceptible well in the sauce, it was time to crack an egg into said well. A little tricky to do, very difficult to photograph... or at least photograph well... Oh well. I opted to make three eggs, even though the pan and amount of sauce could have handled four. Once all three eggs were cracked into the very-lowly-simmering sauce, I put the lid on the pan to keep the moisture in and then just waited. I wasn't sure quite how long it would take to first poach and then over-poach the eggs, but it was really interesting to watch the eggs cook in the sauce (the picture was taken through the clear lid of the pan - sorry it's a little cloudy). I tested the eggs for done-ness by carefully poking at the tops of the yolks to see how much they jiggled, and when it seemed that they were pretty solidly cooked, I knew it was time to plate them up.

To serve these, I toasted up nice, thick slices of homemade bread, melted a slice of mozzarella cheese onto each slice, then topped the cheese with an egg and a nice dollop of the sauce. With steamed, chopped spinach on the side, dinner was ready.

These were so delicious. So good, in fact, that even little miss, who claimed that night to not like eggs or red sauce (despite usually loving red sauce... you never know with four-year-olds...) allowed me to share some with her, and proclaimed it "Yum!!" So good, in fact, that I regretted, after the first bite, not making all four eggs that could have fit in the pan. So good, in fact, that after eating my serving, I snagged the one extra egg (I had one, daddy had one, little miss had leftovers from the night before after informing me of her dislike of eggs and red sauce, as mentioned above...) and served it up over a bed of spinach, rather than on the toast, and with a sprinkling of parmesan on top.

Jenn and Jill, thank you so much for this challenge. I very much look forward to trying the poached egg recipes that you shared with us for this challenge, and to trying my hand at poaching all kinds of different foods, from meats to fruits and everything in between. This was a great challenge, and I think that so many of us learned so much!

To see the delicious dishes poached by the other Daring Cooks, check them out here.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

November Daring Cooks Challenge - Souffle

Part of the reason that I joined the Daring Kitchen was to learn new recipes and techniques, and to try things that I otherwise wouldn't. And it's not called the Daring Kitchen for nothing - each month's challenge is designed to test the members' skills, creativity and courage in the kitchen, and this month's Daring Cooks' challenge is no exception.

Dave and Linda from Monkeyshines in the Kitchen chose Soufflés as our November 2010 Daring Cooks' Challenge! Dave and Linda provided two of their own delicious recipes plus a sinfully decadent chocolate soufflé recipe adapted from Gordon Ramsay's recipe found at the BBC Good Food website.

I am not going to lie - I was pretty worried when I read this. I have never made a soufflé before, mostly because of the reputation that they have for being complicated and tricky, and for the fact that most of the stories you hear about amateur cooks making them end with some variation of "and then it collapsed before I could get it to the table."

That being said, I really like Dave and Linda, our hosts, from reading their blog and "seeing" them around the Daring Kitchen forums, and I knew that they wouldn't pick something destined for failure. So I trusted in our hosts and in the recipes, and decided that I would persevere.

My fears and insecurities got the better of me for the first two weeks of the challenge, and I pretty much did nothing more than scan a few recipes online, wonder what I would use as a soufflé dish (I don't have a real one), and worry about how I would keep an eye on my baking soufflé without opening the door of the oven (a classic no-no in soufflé baking) using my home oven, which does not have a window.

The answer to the last question came when my in-laws invited us over for brunch on Halloween morning. Their oven, as luck would have it, has a window. So I bit the bullet and offered to provide all of the food for our brunch, as long as they would let me use their kitchen as my soufflé test kitchen. They agreed and I knew I would have to figure out the rest!

I started by finding a recipe for a straightforward (not to mention, breakfast-appropriate) cheese soufflé. I did as much of the prep work at home as I could, so as to be as prepared as possible to tackle the actual assembly when I arrived at the in-laws' house. Other than gathering and measuring the ingredients, the main step that I had to do to prepare in advance was to grate the cheese, which little miss was more than happy to help with.

Cheese grated, eggs counted, milk, flour, butter and spices measured and packaged, we were ready to pack up our ingredients (as well as a couple other brunch-y type foods we'd prepared for the occasion) and head on over to begin our endeavor.

The preparation of the soufflé is actually very straightforward, but I was still pretty nervous. I read and re-read the recipe countless times, and performed each step as meticulously as possible. I carefully separated my eggs, then began preparing the, well, batter, for lack of a better word. The initial steps of preparing this batter do not differ very much from the way I make cheese sauce for macaroni and cheese - butter is carefully melted in a saucepan, then an equal amount of flour is whisked in to create a roux. To this, milk is whisked in, creating a basic bechamel or white sauce. The grated cheese is then melted into the sauce. This is the point where the process changed. In a separate bowl, the egg yolks from my previously separated eggs were whisked, then tempered by whisking in small amounts of the warm cheese sauce at a time, slowly raising temperature of the yolks to ensure that I didn't wind up with scrambled eggs. The tempered yolks were then fully incorporated into the sauce, and voila - I had the base to my soufflé.

The next step is to whip the egg whites - the aspect that gives a soufflé its airiness, its lift, its rise - basically, the part that can make or break the soufflé. I actually contemplated lugging my KitchenAid over to my in-laws' house for this part of the process, but thought that might be overkill, so I borrowed my mother in law's hand mixer and set to whipping the whites into stiff, but not totally dry, peaks. The beaten whites were then carefully and slowly folded into the prepared base, and we were just about ready to go.

In lieu of a single, large soufflé, I decided to use my five-ounce ramekins to make individual-sized soufflés for each of us at brunch. While I was preparing the batter, my husband and mother in law helped by generously buttering the ramekins, which I then filled as carefully and neatly as I possibly could. I was lucky that my mother in law also has a set of five-ounce ramekins, because I was amazed to find that my six-egg recipe more than enough to fill my six ramekins, and I had to borrow four of hers for the leftover batter.

And then came the real test.

It was time for the soufflés to go into the oven. And I assumed what I can only imagine is the position of almost every soufflé baker, especially on their first attempt:

(and no, that is not a real spider on my shoulder - remember, this was brunch on Halloween morning...)

It was fascinating and nerve wracking to watch these rise in the oven. I seriously watched them through the window with more interest than I do half of the television shows that are on these days... And after about fifteen minutes, I was rewarded in a way that no television show can duplicate. What came out of the oven were beautiful, puffy, cloud-like concoctions that none of us could wait to try.
We each took one on our plate and excitedly dug in. I have to say, I was pretty amazed - the texture was so light and airy, and the flavor was really good - like a really good cheese omelet, only lighter, fluffier, and a lot more fun to eat. I was really glad that everyone enjoyed them, too, because, no matter how many times I told everyone to go ahead and get started on the other brunch foods while these baked, everyone waited. And everyone told me that it was worth the wait.

I was so excited by this first soufflé effort, and so encouraged by the success, that I actually wound up, a couple of days later, doing something that I never ever expected to do - I decided, on a last minute whim, to "whip up" a soufflé to accompany our dinner that night.

During my initial search for soufflé recipes (in my attempt to put off making one, due to my nerves), I had come across this recipe for sweet potato-apple soufflés. Remembering that I had two small leftover baked sweet potatoes in the fridge from dinner the previous night, I took it as a sign and, while the rest of dinner was cooking, pulled together the remaining ingredients for a second go at soufflé.

Much like the first recipe, the process involved making a base, into which whipped egg whites are carefully folded. Unlike the first recipe, though, the base for these soufflés did not require any cooking. Rather than preparing a bechamel sauce, to be flavored and then puffed up, the base for this soufflé was simply the sweet potatoes and apples, pureed well, combined with some brown sugar, spices and an egg yolk. Super easy to prepare. The egg whites were once again carefully folded in to the base in small batches. The finished batter was carefully spooned into my well-buttered ramekins, and after fourteen minutes in the oven (into which, I am very proud to say, I did not peek at all, despite my lack of window and almost overwhelming desire to...), they transformed from this:

into this:

I was actually really amazed not only by the rise I was able to get out of these soufflés, but also at how cleanly they rose. I will say that these deflated much more quickly than the cheese soufflés did, but that did not affect either the taste or the beautifully airy texture of the dish. It was actually very interesting to eat such a light sweet potato dish, since usually potatoes of any sort are pretty dense and heavy. That certainly wasn't the case with these.

My only disappointment with this challenge, if you can even call it that, is that I didn't have the opportunity to try the recipe for the chocolate soufflé that Dave and Linda posted. If you had told me, when I first read the challenge, that not only would I succeed in making a soufflé, but that I would be disappointed that I didn't have the opportunity to make three of them, I probably would have laughed. Now I am seriously looking forward to whipping up more egg whites and trying as many variations as I can!

Dave and Linda, I cannot thank you enough for giving me the push I needed to finally try this amazing dish. I have no idea how long it would have taken me to overcome my fear without this challenge, and for that, I am truly grateful!

If you would like to see some of the truly impressive soufflés whipped up by the other Daring Cooks, check them out here.

And keep your eyes peeled - I will absolutely be making a chocolate soufflé in the not-distant future, and will definitely post it here for you to see!
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