Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Daring Bakers' Challenge: Strudel

*Disclaimer: These photos - oh, these photos - they are just awful. We don't have lighting set up indoors yet and yesterday was the rainiest, gloomiest day ever, so shooting outside was not an option. C'est la vie. Hoping you can still catch what was going on with lousy photography.

The May Daring Bakers’ Challenge was hosted by Linda of make life sweeter! and Courtney of Coco Cooks. They chose Apple Strudel from the recipe book Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague by Rick Rodgers.

We were allowed the option of whichever filling we liked, the real challenge being the making of the strudel dough. There were warnings galore about dough with holes and the difficulty of stretching the dough thin enough, so I expected trouble with mine.

I was pleasantly surprised at how nice the dough really was to work with. It was amazingly supple and stretched for me very easily. I did use the longer 'setting' time for the dough, more like 2 hours, and I don't know if that was what made it so easy to work with or not, but I liked it enough to do it again.

I chose a vegetable and cheese filling that I made with yellow squash, green peppers, scallions, mushrooms and Ile de France Supreme cheese. I sauteed the veggies in olive oil until they were well done and there was no liquid left. I topped the veggie mixture with cheese before rolling and the end result was delicious and fits in with Veggie Wednesday as well.

I chose olive oil for my oil and rather than use butter for the filling or top, I used olive oil then, as well.

Here is the original apple recipe that we were given.

Apple Strudel

Preparation time
Total: 2 hours 15 minutes – 3 hours 30 minutes

15-20 min to make dough
30-90 min to let dough rest/to prepare the filling
20-30 min to roll out and stretch dough
10 min to fill and roll dough
30 min to bake
30 min to cool

Apple strudel
from “Kaffeehaus – Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague” by Rick Rodgers

2 tablespoons (30 ml) golden rum
3 tablespoons (45 ml) raisins
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon (80 g) sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick / 115 g) unsalted butter, melted, divided
1 1/2 cups (350 ml) fresh bread crumbs
strudel dough (recipe below)
1/2 cup (120 ml, about 60 g) coarsely chopped walnuts
2 pounds (900 g) tart cooking apples, peeled, cored and cut into ¼ inch-thick slices (use apples that hold their shape during baking)

1. Mix the rum and raisins in a bowl. Mix the cinnamon and sugar in another bowl.

2. Heat 3 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium-high. Add the breadcrumbs and cook whilst stirring until golden and toasted. This will take about 3 minutes. Let it cool completely.

3. Put the rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Line a large baking sheet with baking paper (parchment paper). Make the strudel dough as described below. Spread about 3 tablespoons of the remaining melted butter over the dough using your hands (a bristle brush could tear the dough, you could use a special feather pastry brush instead of your hands). Sprinkle the buttered dough with the bread crumbs. Spread the walnuts about 3 inches (8 cm) from the short edge of the dough in a 6-inch-(15cm)-wide strip. Mix the apples with the raisins (including the rum), and the cinnamon sugar. Spread the mixture over the walnuts.

4. Fold the short end of the dough onto the filling. Lift the tablecloth at the short end of the dough so that the strudel rolls onto itself. Transfer the strudel to the prepared baking sheet by lifting it. Curve it into a horseshoe to fit. Tuck the ends under the strudel. Brush the top with the remaining melted butter.

5. Bake the strudel for about 30 minutes or until it is deep golden brown. Cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing. Use a serrated knife and serve either warm or at room temperature. It is best on the day it is baked.

Strudel dough
from “Kaffeehaus – Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague” by Rick Rodgers

1 1/3 cups (200 g) unbleached flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons (105 ml) water, plus more if needed
2 tablespoons (30 ml) vegetable oil, plus additional for coating the dough
1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar

1. Combine the flour and salt in a stand-mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix the water, oil and vinegar in a measuring cup. Add the water/oil mixture to the flour with the mixer on low speed. You will get a soft dough. Make sure it is not too dry, add a little more water if necessary.
Take the dough out of the mixer. Change to the dough hook. Put the dough ball back in the mixer. Let the dough knead on medium until you get a soft dough ball with a somewhat rough surface.

2. Take the dough out of the mixer and continue kneading by hand on an unfloured work surface. Knead for about 2 minutes. Pick up the dough and throw it down hard onto your working surface occasionally.
Shape the dough into a ball and transfer it to a plate. Oil the top of the dough ball lightly. Cover the ball tightly with plastic wrap. Allow to stand for 30-90 minutes (longer is better).

3. It would be best if you have a work area that you can walk around on all sides like a 36 inch (90 cm) round table or a work surface of 23 x 38 inches (60 x 100 cm). Cover your working area with table cloth, dust it with flour and rub it into the fabric. Put your dough ball in the middle and roll it out as much as you can.
Pick the dough up by holding it by an edge. This way the weight of the dough and gravity can help stretching it as it hangs. Using the back of your hands to gently stretch and pull the dough. You can use your forearms to support it.

4. The dough will become too large to hold. Put it on your work surface. Leave the thicker edge of the dough to hang over the edge of the table. Place your hands underneath the dough and stretch and pull the dough thinner using the backs of your hands. Stretch and pull the dough until it's about 2 feet (60 cm) wide and 3 feet (90 cm) long, it will be tissue-thin by this time. Cut away the thick dough around the edges with scissors. The dough is now ready to be filled.

- Ingredients are cheap so we would recommend making a double batch of the dough, that way you can practice the pulling and stretching of the dough with the first batch and if it doesn't come out like it should you can use the second batch to give it another try;
- The tablecloth can be cotton or polyster;
- Before pulling and stretching the dough, remove your jewelry from hands and wrists, and wear short-sleeves;
- To make it easier to pull the dough, you can use your hip to secure the dough against the edge of the table;
- Few small holes in the dough is not a problem as the dough will be rolled, making (most of) the holes invisible.

The stretched dough - there were a few small holes, but nothing too bad, luckily.

Reading my daughter's homework through the dough.

The filling

Properly rolled strudel

'S' for strudel

Baked strudel

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Our Favorite Lemonade

Anne's Favorite Lemonade
Anne's Favorite Lemonade

There are some foods the herald Summer like no others: grilled hot dogs and burgers, homemade ice cream, pasta salad and onward, but I don't think anything speaks of Summer more than lemonade. Cool, refreshing, tangy and sweet, it reminds me of hot days on the boardwalk and cool shade in the backyard at the same time.

This lemonade is one I've written of before - I can't say enough about it. It's nothing fancy, but it sure is good. The basic recipe is pretty much half the sugar and lemon juice used in many recipes, but only because it's offset so much by the added fruit. If you use a regular lemonade recipe, please take note that it can be very strong tasting after standing for 24 hours.

While I most often make it using the recipe below, this weekend I added a sliced peach to the mix and, as usual, it was perfection. You can easily cut the recipe in half for 2 quarts of lemonade.

Anne's Favorite Lemonade
Makes 1 gallon
Printable Recipe

1 gallon lemonade (any brand OR see recipe below)
2 kiwi peeled and sliced
6 ripe strawberries hulled and cut in half
1 small lemon sliced
1 small lime sliced (Key limes are great for this)
3 or 4 fresh mint leaves
Other fruit peeled and sliced - optional, don't use more than one other fruit, though

Combine all and let stand refrigerated for 24 hours before serving. Serve in tall clear glasses with lots of ice and let the fruit fall in also. Very pretty and very refreshing!

Basic lemonade for this recipe:

*Note - this is a HALF STRENGTH recipe meant to be used with the recipe above. Don't use this as-is, it won't have enough flavor on its own.

1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 cup lemon juice

Mix water and sugar and heat in a small saucepan until sugar is dissolved - this makes a simple syrup. Pour into a 1 gallon pitcher and add lemon juice, fruit and enough water to fill.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Fried Scallions

I love green onions a.k.a. spring onions or scallions, and although there is a slight difference between each, I use them pretty much interchangeably in my cooking. This week, though I stopped by a roadside stand near Kutztown and found lovely bunches of real-for-real scallions and brought them home.

Pretty, aren't they?

Once I had them, I wasn't quite sure what I was going to do with them. I prefer the more delicate and smaller green onion because I'm not a huge fan of raw onions in any form. I just couldn't pass up those scallions, though and so I plotted their consumption for a couple days.

I decided on a not-so-healthy way to eat them, telling myself that they were fresh and so the dredging of them in breadcrumbs and frying in oil would be canceled out somehow.

Oh well, ignorance is bliss.

I have to say, scallions do not want to be done up in a standard breading; no way, no how. They are slippery little suckers that don't want to hold on to anything you put on them and so, the breading procedure was delicate and difficult at best. I didn't bother with flouring them, I simply went straight to egg wash and dipped the onion bulbs in a lovely panko and Romano breading and fried them in olive oil.

They met their demise in a decidedly delicious end. Perfectly crunchy and nutty outside with the Romano cheese and sweet and slightly crunchy inside. Don't be bothered by the long ends that won't be eaten, they really are just for show and one bite will have the eater forgiving you for that waste anyway. The only thing I would do differently when making them again (oh, because I most certainly will) is that I may actually deep fry them so they are done on all sides a bit more quickly.

Share Our Strength's Great American Bake Sale

I'm getting the word out for Share Our Strength today in the hopes that my small space on the web would help to feed even one child. I've had the privilege to test recipes here at home for a Share Our Strength cookbook and hope to be able to host my own bake sale some time in the near future.

Today, more than 12 million children in the United States do not know when their next meal will come. Unfortunately, this number continues to rise as these difficult economic times are leaving more and more people jobless, without homes, and unable to provide food for their families.

What can you do?

1. Sign-up to host a bake sale:

2. Buy the virtual Great American Bake Sale eBook:

3. Post a ChipIn widget or banner on your blog:

Make a difference in a child’s life by signing up and purchasing a virtual cookbook today! 100% of the proceeds from this eBook will benefit Share Our Strength’s Great American Bake Sale, which is a national effort that encourages Americans to host bake sales in their communities to help end childhood hunger. Funds raised support summer and after-school feeding programs in your community that thousands of kids depend on.

Once you have purchased your virtual Great American Bake Sale cookbook, double your impact and use the recipes to host your own Great American Bake Sale! Hosting a Bake Sale is a fun and easy way to make a big impact!

To register your Bake Sale or for more information, please visit

Friday, May 22, 2009

Ile de France Goat Cheese

I'm positive by now that it's no secret that my favorite cheese is goat cheese. A quick search on my blog turns up quite a few mentions of it. So, when I was offered the chance to sample and blog about goat cheese, you can bet I was thrilled. Ile de France happens to be the goat cheese I buy most often and the lovely package I received reinforced that for me.

While I've used goat cheese in many recipes, from pizzas to tarts, my very favorite way to enjoy is is with a crusty and warm loaf of French bread, a bowl of tapenade and some good olive oil. I prefer my cheese rolled in herbs or pepper and this time I used freshly cracked garlic pepper to coat the bouchette of cheese in. It was, as always, perfection.

The Ile de France website has all you need to know about this wonderfully tangy and creamy cheese - from recipes to pairings to history. Go and have a look and I'll sit back and enjoy my cheese.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


Lest anyone think I've not been blogging due to lack of inspiration, I present Arancini to thwart those thoughts. I'm full of inspiration, creating like mad lately, but with very few opportunities to photograph and write. I also had a couple nights of 'no cooking' with meals provided by Omaha Steaks from Martin's Aunt Joan - we even had dessert with them - lovely little caramel apple tarts that were perfect with vanilla ice cream. This is the second package from Omaha Steaks from Martin's family; the other was from his cousin Chris. I feel positively spoiled.

This recipe for Arancini is my submission to this month's Royal Foodie Joust. Last month's winner, Núria of Spanish Recipes, offered up tomato, bacon and rice as the three ingredients for this month's Joust. My first thought was rice and beans, but let's face it, that's not exactly a winning entry in such a tough competition unless it's presented in a truly fabulous way - which I don't seem to be very adept at. My second thought was rice balls, but not onigiri, which are wonderful in their own right, but not what I was looking for. I had thought on something more Hispanic in flavor, but Arancini seemed to fill the bill for me.

Normally Arancini is made with leftover risotto, but as my arborio rice had gone missing since the move and I didn't have the energy to head to the store for that single ingredient, I made these with regular long-grain leftover rice. They were just as delicious as the risotto kind and the kids are asking me to make them again very soon.

Makes 8
Printable Recipe

4 cups leftover cooked rice OR leftover risotto
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese (if you use rice or if the risotto didn't have any added already)
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup cooked and crumbled bacon
8 - 1" cubes mozzarella cheese
2 Tablespoons water
1 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
1 cup all-purposed flour
2 cups thick Marinara sauce

Combine rice, 1 egg, Parmesan, salt and crumbled bacon together until well blended.
Form into 8 evenly sized balls. Flatten each slightly and add a cube of cheese to the center of each ball, making sure to wrap the cheese completely within the rice.
Bread each rice ball by dipping in flour, egg wash (the other egg and water mixed well) and then breadcrumbs until well coated. Fry each in deep hot oil until golden brown. Drain well on paper toweling and serve with warm Marinara sauce.

**The consistency of these should be like dough - they should hold their shape easily. If they don't stay together well because they are too dry, try adding another egg to the mixture.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Veggie Wednesday: Grow Your Own 2009

My very favorite part about spring here in the Lehigh Valley is the fact that I can once again garden. Each year I also make a point of blogging about it - sharing our bounty through pictures and recipes, and getting the word out that one of the best things anyone can do for our earth is to grow their own food.

Without knowing for sure where we would be living, I bought seeds anyway and planned to grow, even if it had to be in containers. To me, it doesn't really matter whether I've grown something in the ground or in a pot, but I do prefer having the space to grow more than a container would allow.

I won't have as big a garden as the past few years, but it won't deter me at all. Here is a small sampling of what I'll be growing this year.

Dill well on its way.

Mint transplanted from my old garden. I was really happy that it transfered so well.

Parsley from the old garden. This is having a harder time than the mint, but I'm confident it will take hold and get growing really well soon.

Cantaloupe, cabbage and carrots.

Morning glories from the seeds we harvested last year. I was so disappointed that we lost our seeds from a few years ago and had to start over, but I'm thrilled to have these growing so well now.

I have seeds sprouting for zucchini, eggplant, green beans, tomatoes, chives, cucumbers, sunflowers, cosmos, lavender, Canterbury bells and a set of tiger lily bulbs that I got for Mother's Day to plant. All is well when you're surrounded by so much green.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Lemon Dishes

I love lemons. I think they're beautiful to look at and the uses for both the juice and rind are endless. They're easily used in both savory and sweet dishes, and I don't know of many people who don't appreciate them.

We recently had a meal that was lemon-based and absolutely delicious. We started with a salad made of simple endive drizzled with a dressing of POM Wonderful 100% Pomegranate Juice and lemon before moving on to a lemon and garlic-roasted chicken and lemon orzo. We ended with my favorite cupcakes, making a fully fabulous sunshiny-lemon meal.

Lemon Curd-Filled Lemon Cupcakes

Pomegranate and Lemon Dressing
Makes 1 cup
Printable Recipe

8 ounces POM Wonderful 100% Pomegranate Juice
1 Tablespoon lemon zest
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon minced shallots
1 teaspoon honey
salt to taste

Reduce pomegranate juice to 3/4 cup by simmering gently for 15 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and chill well before serving.

Lemon and Garlic-Roasted Chicken
Serves 4-6
Printable Recipe

One 5-6 pound roasting chicken
1 whole lemon
6 whole cloves garlic
olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

Loosen breast skin on chicken by slowly working the handle of a wooden spoon under skin on both sides. Slice lemon thinly and slide slices under breast skin. Toss any extra lemon and the garlic cloves into the cavity of the bird. Brush bird with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast, uncovered, until desired doneness is reached. Usually 350 degrees F for 1 1/2 to 2 hours is sufficient.

Lemon Orzo
Serves 4
Printable Recipe

1 cup dry orzo, cooked until al dente (about 2 cups cooked)
2 Tablespoons minced shallots
1 Tablespoon lemon zest
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
2 Tablespoons olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

Combine all and heat through.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Getting Back

We are officially moved. Not officially unpacked, but moved. Our new home has many small differences that we're adapting to, but I think we'll be settled in no time.

I always find it difficult to get back into the swing of things after having been gone for some time. It's really only been a week and a half since I last posted, but it feels like much longer to me.

I think I'll start back with two great gifts I won from other bloggers. The first was a lovely basket full of soy candles from Janine at Things That Make Scents in 'Jersey Shore scents' that I won at Life, Lightly Salted, Michele's blog. These candles smell so wonderful and the fact that they are made from soy (semi-locally, no less) makes them all the more wonderful to me. The basket and colors will go perfectly in the new upstairs bathroom - one thing I was looking forward to here at the new digs.

The second was a $50 gift certificate for any one item at From the Farm which I won from Jenn's place at The Leftover Queen for the March/April Foodie Blogroll Giveaway. There was so much to choose from; cheeses, meats, oils, produce etc., but once I caught sight of the Clementine Mandarin (Algerian) Dwarf Tree from Four Winds Growers, I knew that was the gift for me. It came on Earth Day - very apropos - and already had tiny little clementines growing on it and many more blooms ready to go.

So, we are moved, we are acclimating and I am hopefully back to blogging!