Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Quick Tip: Apple Slices

Sometimes I do run across an apple that doesn't quite sit flat when sitting on its stem.  In that case, I'll usually do a little trim of the part of the apple that's sticking up and then cut the apple.   It does work.  It's so much easier to line the hole in the center of an apple slicer up with a flat apple than one that's sitting on its side.

Many of you already figured this trick out, but I thought I'd share anyway.  After all, you never know who's going to be one of the lucky 10,000.

Obligatory xkcd comic:

(If you're one of the lucky 10,000 that's never read xkcd, then get ready for some fun . . . and make sure you have time to waste before you open that link.  You're going to need it. )

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Cheddar Garlic Biscuits

Yeah.   I have a thing for a good buttermilk biscuit.   Tender, light, melt in your mouth goodness, especially when it's hot from the oven.  The only thing that can make it better?  garlic and cheese.   I make mine in the food processor.  Heck, the food processor changed my biscuits.  There is nothing better for blending the fat and flour together.  The food processor gives me a perfect, even blend of fat to flour.   It's awesome.  

My basic recipe started with the one from America's Test Kitchen.  They use half cake flour/half all purpose to aproximate the protien content in White Lily flour.  Since most of America can't buy White Lily flour off the shelf of their hometown grocery store, it's a good work around.  (I found it once in the self rising variety.  I almost cried when it was gone.  You Southerners are so lucky.)   ATK also uses butter instead of Crisco as the fat.  I'm good with that because you can't go wrong with butter.  

I did play with the recipe because I wanted to try and make a version of Red Lobster biscuits at home.  That means it had to be a drop biscuit and it had to have garlic and cheese.  Here's what I came up with, and it's a dang near exact if I do say so myself.  

Garlic Cheese Biscuits

1 cup cake flour
1 cup all purpose flour
2 t baking powder
1 t sugar
1/2 baking soda
1/2 salt
1 1/2 t granulated garlic (not garlic powder.  If that's all you've got you'll have to use more to get the same effect.)
1/2 c butter (you can use Crisco here if you're a biscuit purist, but you're missing out.)
1/2 c cheddar cheese
1 c buttermilk  (may need more depending on the consistency of your buttermilk)

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees (biscuits like it nice and hot!) 

If you're using the food processor, take your butter straight from the fridge and cut it into 1/4 cubes.   That's pieces, not slices.  It takes a bit longer, but you'll get a better biscuit if you do this right.   Put all the dry ingredients into the food processor work bowl and process for about 30 seconds to blend.   Add in the butter and pulse until the butter and flour are combined evenly, should be about 12 times or so.  Dump the flour mix out into a medium mixing bowl and stir in the cheese.  Sharp cheddar is nice here, medium is fine if that's what you've got.  If all you have is mild cheddar, you should go shopping. 

If you don't have a food processor, you will have to use softened butter.  Make sure it's still cool to the touch and just gives a little when you press on it with a finger.  Over softened butter will just make your biscuits greasy.   Cut up the butter into chunks and blend into the flour with either a pastry blender or a fork.  Some people like to use their fingers, but I think that's a process you have to watch someone do to get right.   The flour/butter mix should look like big pieces of sand with every piece of flour coated with fat.  This is how you get light, fluffy biscuits. 

Next stir in the buttermilk.  Do not over mix. Just stir enough for the flour to be moistened.  If your buttermilk is older and has thickened you may need to add a few extra tablespoons one tablespoon at a time to get the right consistency.  The batter should be completely wet and quite sticky but not runny.   Drop biscuits are much softer than standard cut out biscuits.  You should not be able to touch it without getting it all over your fingers much less form it into a ball. 

Drop by 1/4 cup dollops onto a greased cookie sheet.  Bake in the oven until the biscuits are golden and fully baked inside, about 10-12 minutes.  I like mine just barely done, but feel free to leave yours in an extra minute or so if you want yours more brown.    This recipe makes about a dozen biscuits. 

If you want that shiny, crispy finish like on the Red Lobster biscuits, you need to do an egg wash before you bake.  Whisk one egg white with a couple teaspoons of water.  Brush lightly over the biscuits with a pastry brush (this will also smooth out the dough.)   Bake as usual.   

I like to eat mine with a salad or soup so I can have more biscuits.   More is better.  Trust me.  

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Dulce de Leche Swirled Brownies

 Remember my fudge brownie recipe?  Yeah, they're awesome.  You know what makes them even more awesome?  Caramel.   Specifically dulce de leche, a Mexican caramel that is pretty awesome.   You may also remember that "caramel in a can" fad that swept the internet a couple of Christmases ago.  Caramel in a can is basically dulce de leche.   It tastes lovely and it reacts well in other recipes, which makes it perfect for caramel swirled brownies.

Dulce de leche brownies:

1 cup melted butter
2 cups sugar
3/4 c cocoa
2 t vanilla
4 eggs
1 cup flour
1/2 t baking powder
1/4 t salt

1 can dulce de leche 

Combine melted butter, sugar, and cocoa powder.   Stir in the eggs and vanilla making sure the eggs are thoroughly mixed in.  Fold in flour, salt and baking powder.  If you are picky you can sift your flour, salt and baking powder together before you add them to the batter, but I never do and my brownies always come out perfect.  Just dump in the flour first; then put the salt and baking powder on top of the flour.  They'll all stir in just fine.   When the flour is mixed in, pour the batter out into a greased 9x13 pan.  Warm the can of caramel.  I like to put it in a microwave safe dish and heat it for a minute or so.   Then drop large globs of  caramel all over the batter.    You can either leave it like that or drag a knife through the caramel to swirl it around.   Sort of like the picture below.  The top row was swirled and the rest was left alone (I ended up swirling the whole pan.) 

Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes. Let them cool completely.  I'm not kidding here.  I know it's rough but these taste so much better at room temperature.   You have to leave them alone for at least an hour.  Sorry.  I'm sure you'll be ok with it after you've had your first brownie.  

You're welcome.  

By the way, if you're looking for other ideas for how to use your caramel in a can (other than just eating it straight from the can) I'll be posting more recipes over the next month or so.  I'd rather do it faster, but my pants have reminded me that I'm not supposed to eat 3000 calories a day.  

Stupid pants.  

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

It's the details that count

I may have mentioned before that I tend to be lazy.  If there is an easy way to do something, that's the way I'm going to do it.  This means that I do shortcuts. In my sewing this translates into me skipping the details all too often.   I have learned over the last couple of years, though, that those extra steps make a huge difference in the finished project.

For example, can you imagine how boring the peplum top would have been without the piping, bound sleeve, and Peter Pan collar?  

That white contrast makes the polka dots look even better.   The three things added more than an hour to the construction time of the top.  The old me would not have taken the time and I would have hated the final product.  

And how about the pink dress redo?  Remember that ruffle?

It's the ruffle that really makes the shaped hem stand out.  It also pops the contrast stitching.   The ruffle is made up of about 3 yards of muslin that all had to be hemmed and gathered.   Yeah, time consuming but worth it.  (And yes, I've got a thing for contrast bound sleeves. Talk about details that really count.) 

There was also the Burda Jumpsuit with the contrast fabric for the pocket facing and the piping.  Those details took the jumpsuit from cute to fabulous.   The red ric rac and deep contrast band on the yoked skirt I made for my oldest toned down a very busy fabric and made it perfect for a teen girl.   I had to redo the stitching on the pockets on my middle girl's python jeans because I started out with white thread.  It matched too well.  Bright pink top stitching thread made all the difference.  

For your next project, take time to look at the design details.  Is there a place where you can add a trim?  Would contrast fabric make a design detail stand out in a great way?  How about something so simple as contrast buttons?  Piping?   Contrast stitching?  What can you do to make your next project unique and fabulous?