Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Lemon Posset

Hi Everyone.  Did you get a chance to check out my recipe submission as one of the food contributors on Mariel's blog Or So She Says yesterday?  It's a blog by women, for women. Love that.  Today Mariel shared a neat tip on resizing photos in the blogger template.  Check it out. Anyway, if you missed my post over there yesterday, here you go. 

I'm sharing one of the easiest desserts in my arsenal.  It's called Lemon Posset (sounds like faucet) - a creamy British treat that's relatively unknown here in the US, despite the fact that it's one of the world's easiest desserts to make.  I should mention that it tastes utterly amazing - like a combination of lemon curd and clotted cream.  Do I have your attention yet?  Yepper.  Okay, let's make some lemon love.

Caring For Your Wooden Utensils

Caring for Your Wooden Utensils - ButterYum
As you know by now, I really love to spend time in my kitchen.  When I moved into my first apartment more than 20 years ago, I was living on a really tight budget and the only way I was able to stock my kitchen with utensils was to buy cheap ones at the grocery store.  When my $1 wooden spoon broke the very first time I used it, I learned that you really get what you pay for.

I managed to make-do for a while, but as soon as I was able, I started replacing the inexpensive wooden spoons with higher quality woods like walnut, cherry, olive, maple, bamboo.  Some of these replacements are more than 10 years old so they've been well worth the investment, but I have to confess, I don't baby my wooden utensils at all.  As a matter of fact, I totally abuse them.  I let them soak overnight in the sink and I regularly run them through the heavy-duty cycle of my dishwasher.  I know you're gasping, but it's true.  I attribute their longevity to their quality, and to the fact that I spend a few minutes a couple of times a year maintaining and protecting them so they stay in tip-top shape.  Here's what I do.

 I start with a variety pack of sandpaper.  I cut the 9x11-inch sheets into small pieces that are easier for me to handle.  The variety pack contains 220, 320, and 400-grit papers.

Before we get started, think of the procedure you might use to file your nails.  You start filing with a rough grit emery board, polish with a softer grit, and then buff for a smooth finish.

Same goes here - I'll knock off the rough edges with the 220-grit, polish with the 320, and buff to a satiny finish with the 400.

When the utensils are buffed smooth, I use a damp cloth to remove all traces of sandpaper dust and allow them to dry completely before I move to the next step.

 Okay, here's my secret - Mineral Oil.  I've used more expensive bees wax/mineral oil blends, but this $4 bottle of plain ole mineral oil works perfectly well. 

Just in case you're thinking what I think you're thinking... don't be tempted to use cooking oil - it will eventually turn rancid.  Reminds me of the time we were invited to a friend's house for dinner and we were served salad in rancid wooden bowls - it was nauseating.  Don't let that happen to you!

 Okay, time to schmear a heavy layer of the mineral oil all over the wood.  I always start by wiping the oil on with a paper towel, but inevitably I end up scrapping the paper towel so I can use my bare hands to really work the oil into the my utensils.  You really want to coat them well.

The two spoons above are both made of black walnut - look how much better the oiled spoon on the right looks.

When all my utensils are well oiled, I let them sit undisturbed in an out-of-the-way place for several hours or overnight so they can absorb as much oil as possible before I wipe away the excess.  That's all - they're now ready to endure 6 more months of abuse.



I use mineral oil to condition and protect my wood cutting boards as well, but unlike my utensils, I'd never dream of soaking my boards in the sink or run them through the dishwasher - I'm not crazy, you know.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Pink Pickles

Pink Pickles - ButterYum

Have you ever eaten a pink pickle?  They're made by pickling thinly sliced radishes.  I absolutely love how they look.  They're cold and crunchy and they pack a puckery punch. 

Pink Pickles
makes one pint
Printable Recipe

1 bunch radishes, sliced thin
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 cup water
1 bay leaf
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar

Bring vinegar, water, bay, garlic, salt, and sugar to a boil; remove from heat.  Place sliced radishes in a 1-pint canning jar and pour the heated pickling liquid over the radishes.  Cool for an hour, cover jar with lid, and chill for at least 2 hours (or wait overnight for that perfectly pink color to develop).  Can be stored in the fridge for up to a month.

Note:  The Hubs wanted me to be sure to tell everyone that these pickles are very "odoriferous".  It's true - when I open the jar, my family members ask if I'm cooking cabbage.  Okay, so I'll serve these outside from now on!  :)

Thursday, August 9, 2012

How To Clean Your Coffee Grinder

How to clean your electric coffee/spice grinder - ButterYum
By now I think most people have an electric coffee grinder in their kitchen.  I actually have two in my kitchen - one for grinding coffee, and one for grinding spices (and just about everything else - more on that later).   The grinder I use for spices is cleaned after each use to keep flavors from mingling.  The grinder I use for coffee doesn't have to be cleaned quite so often, but it definitely needs to be cleaned to prevent the oily residue from going rancid and to keep the blades moving freely.  Here's the best way I've found to clean them.

Fill the grinding chamber about 1/2 full with dry rice and whiz away until all the residue is removed (if your grinder hasn't been cleaned for a while, you might have to repeat the process).

Unplug the grinder and discard the dirty rice particles.  Use a damp cloth or pastry brush to wipe away any remaining rice dust.  That's it - clean and ready to go for the next time.

Other uses:
- grind granulated sugar into superfine sugar
- grind granulated sugar a bit longer to make confectioner's sugar
- grind flaxseed
- grind blanched almonds to make almond meal
- grind citrus zest
- grind grains into flour (wheat, oats, etc)
- grind kosher or flake salt into fine salt (my preference for baking)
- grind dry bread to make breadcrumbs
- grind dried minced garlic into garlic powder (or onion)
- grind dried vanilla beans (mix with sugar to make vanilla sugar)
- grind dried mushrooms (great to add to a pot of soup)
- grind freeze dried shallots (to sprinkle on everything - Yum!!)
- grind chocolate
- grind hard cheese (like Parmesan)
- grind nuts into nut butter
- grind onions, ginger, and garlic into paste

So how do you use your coffee grinder?  Let me know if you have a suggestion to add to the list.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

NY Times Vanilla Cheesecake - Crazy Cooking Challenge

NY Times Vanilla Cheesecake - ButterYum
Way back when I was a baby baker, this was the first scratch cake recipe I ever made. The original recipe was given to me by a high school classmate who said her father got it from the NY Times.  I can't authenticate that claim, and I've tweaked the recipe a bit over time, but I can tell you this cheesecake always turns out beautifully and has been the requested dessert for countless functions through the years.

There are two specific things that make this cheesecake special in my mind.  The first, this cheesecake is NOT baked in a water bath (hooray!).  The second (and most important in my humble opinion), during the last 5 minutes of baking, a creamy top layer is smoothed onto the cheesecake, serving as not only as an amazing flavor accent, but also to camouflage any surface imperfections.

I'm thrilled to be sharing this family favorite with this month's Crazy Cooking Challenge

Click on the titles below to see more of my cheesecakes:

Cappuccino-Fudge Cheesecake

Carrot Cake Cheesecake

Triple Chocolate Cheesecake

Mini Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake

Pumpkin Cheesecake

NY Times Vanilla Cheesecake
makes one 10-inch cheesecake
Printable Recipe

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (about 12 rectangular crackers)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 tablespoons butter, melted

3 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

16-ounces sour cream
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or pure vanilla extract)

Preheat oven to 350F.   Place a 10-springform pan on a rimmed sheet pan.

To make crust:
Combine cracker crumbs, sugar, and butter together and press into the bottom of a 10-inch springform pan; set aside.

To make the topping:
Whisk sour cream, sugar, and vanilla together; set aside.

To make the filling:
Slowly cream together sugar, vanilla, and cream cheese, being careful to incorporate as little air as possible.  Add eggs, one at a time, until fully incorporated.  Pour mixture into springform pan; bake for 45-55 minutes (the center should still jiggle a bit, but shouldn't be liquid - interior temp should reach 150F).  Remove cheesecake from oven and smooth the topping into an even layer; return to oven for 5 minutes.  Remove from oven and cool on a cooling for at least an hour before chilling for at least 4 hours (overnight is ideal).  Before serving, carefully run a thin knife or spatula between the cheesecake and springform pan walls.  Unclamp springform pan to unmold.  Slice with a hot knife.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Homemade Gnocchi Tutorial

Homemade Gnocchi Tutorial - ButterYum

One of my daughters recently discovered a love of gnocchi so I thought it would be a great opportunity to get her in the kitchen and teach her how to make them from scratch.  We had a really fun time and managed to capture a few photos along the way.  Enjoy!

I start with hot baked potatoes that are passed through a food mill or potato ricer (skins removed).  The riced potatoes are allowed to cool and dry out a bit; then egg, salt, and flour are added until a dough forms.

The dough is kneaded a few times.  Then take a hunk of dough and roll it into a snake that's 3/4-inch thick.

 The dough is then cut into 1-inch wide bits.  You can cook the pieces as is, but it's more fun to do the following.

Using the back side of a fork, roll each dough bit over the fork tines.

Stop rolling when you get to this point, then let the gnocchi fall to the counter.  The finished gnocchi will have ridges on one side, and the other side will have a depression from your finger.

This is the back side.  The gnocchi puff up a bit when they're cooked, so the depression won't stay that big.

Place the gnocchi in a single layer on a floured sheet pan and repeat the process until you've used up all the dough.  The gnocchi are now ready to be cooked.

To cook the gnocchi, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

 The gnocchi cook for a short time, maybe 3 minutes - they're done when they float to the top of the water.

You can see that they've puffed up a bit.  Serve them with your favorite pasta sauce, pesto, or brown butter and sage sauce.

Homemade Gnocchi with Brown Butter and Sage Sauce - ButterYum
Homemade Gnocchi
Printable Recipe
adapted from America's Test Kitchen
serves 2 to 3 as a main dish, or 4 to 6 as an appetizer

2 pounds baked Russet potatoes, skins removed and potato flesh passed through a food mill or potato ricer
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon salt
at least 4 ounces of all-purpose flour (more may be needed)

Remove hot skins from freshly baked potatoes and pass through a food mill or potato ricer; spread riced potatoes in a single layer on a sheet tray and allow to cool.

Bring 4 quarts of salted water to a boil.  Combine cooled potatoes, beaten egg, salt, and enough flour to form a dough that just holds together when you squeeze some in the palm of your hand.  Knead dough on a flowered surface for about a minute.

Cut off a enough dough to roll into a 10-12 inch long snake that is 3/4-inch thick.  Using a knife or pastry scraper, cut the snake into 1-inch wide bits.  Form each gnocchi by rolling the 1-inch bits over the tines of a fork or gnocchi board and place them on a flour dusted sheet pan.

The gnocchi can be cooked in boiling water right away.  Boil them for 1-3 minutes - the gnocchi are done cooking when they float to the surface of the water.  Remove from the water with a slotted spoon or wire "spider".

Brown Butter and Sage Sauce
Printable Recipe
adapted from America's Test Kitchen
makes enough sauce for one whole batch of gnocchi above

8 tablespoons unsalted butter
4-8 fresh sage leaves, chopped fine
1 shallot, finely minced
salt and pepper to taste
a few grates of fresh nutmeg

In a small saucepan or frying pan, gently melt the butter and add shallots, nutmeg, and sage.  Heat until butter solids turn brown and smell nutty.  Remove from heat - add salt and pepper to taste.  Pour over cooked gnocchi.