Thursday, May 31, 2012

Apple Turnovers

A few months back, on our trip out of town, I determined that the next time we go on any sort of vacation that includes a hotel stay  I am going to pack some ground coffee and my French press coffee maker. I am one of those people that has to eat breakfast, and I have to drink coffee. Not just any coffee, but good coffee. When we are on vacation, my husband usually sleeps in and I wake up at some ungodly hour and watch TV. You know, something he doesn't want to watch like Food TV or maybe the History channel. I usually pick a hotel with breakfast because if I leave it up to him we won't eat until 11:00 and I will be cranky if I haven't had breakfast by then. We won't even talk about what I would be like without coffee until then. I usually make myself drink the hotel coffee, just trying to get some blood flowing, or I might meander down to the lobby and force myself to drink poor excuse for caffeine they have down there.
By the time we leave for the day I am in a slight coma, mumbling incoherently and sluggish. I try to find a Starbucks and hope that the baristas have been properly trained. After this repeated event, I made the previous decision. I am going to bring my own coffee. That is the one uncompromisable thing. The one thing that I do the same, every day, and vacation is just torture without it.
As I fervently make this vow to my husband, he grunts in a non-committal way. "Huh. Good idea." and turns back to whatever he was doing. I scowled at him for a moment, knowing that he could care less if he has breakfast or coffee.
There is something, though, that he cares about, and that's these apple turnovers. You can use frozen puff pastry if you would like, but homemade puff pastry is actually really easy and way cheaper than the frozen stuff.

Apple Turnovers

1 package puff pastry or 1/2 recipe homemade

4   apples, peeled, cored and cut into small pieces
¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
Juice of 1/3 lemon

1 egg
1/4 cup light colored jelly (pomegranate, apricot, apple)
1/4 cup water
Cook filling over medium-high heat for about 15 minutes or until apples begin to soften.
Cut puff pastry  into 8 squares, fill with filling, crimping the edges. Combine egg with 1 Tablespoon of water and brush the tops. Cut 3 holes in the top.
Bake at 425 for 20 minutes or until brown.
Meanwhile, make the glaze by combining the jelly and water in a saucepan over medium high heat, whisking until they are incorporated.
Brush the glaze over the turnovers as soon as they come out of the oven and dust with sanding sugar.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Cream Cheese Brownies

There are always those things we remember from our childhood. Whether they are truly delicious, or just idealized, many times we never find out. Aunt so-and-so's cornbread that you haven't had since you were a kid. That spaghetti sauce your Mom used to make but she lost the recipe. Your Grandma's pancakes that she just doesn't make anymore.
Sometimes we have a chance to make those items again. Unfortunately, they are not always as delicious as we remember. As we grow and mature our taste buds develop more refined tastes, and we long for fresh basil, chiffonade into our pasta sauce instead of that jar of Prego you grew up with. It isn't often that I dig through a book for an old recipe I grew up with, I have most of them at my disposal, but I generally search for something new, challenging, and just different from what I consider the usual.
One recipe that is different is my Mom's cream cheese brownies. I am not a huge brownie fan, but I think they have their place. I was asked to help with an Open House barbeque that I will be unable to attend. I tried to think of a few things I could make ahead, potato salad, etc, that will stand up for a few days and still taste great. I racked my brain for an appropriate dessert and immediately settled on these brownies. Unbelievably, they taste fantastic after they have been in the fridge for a day. The smooth, chocolatey frosting is quick and easy, and the perfect complement to these rich, fudgey brownies. The cream cheese gives a rich texture without being too heavy. There is a tiny bit of whole wheat flour in these, giving them another dimension and increasing their density, adding a bit of a nutty quality.
This is how I remembered them. I made a batch, trying to see if my memory did them justice. They didn't disappoint. I have been making brownies that require a double boiler and melting 65% cocoa with butter. These are mixed simply, but turn out great!

Cream Cheese Brownies

2 sticks (1 cup) butter, softened
8 oz cream cheese, softened
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cup unbleached flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

6 Tablespoons softened butter
6 Tablespoons cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 2/3 cups powdered (confectioners' sugar)
1-2 Tablespoons milk

For the brownies:
Preheat the oven to 350. Cream butter and cream cheese together until mixed in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add sugar and beat until light. Add eggs, one at a time, blending until mixed in. Add vanilla and salt. In a separate bowl mix the flours, cocoa powder, and baking powder. With the mixer on low, sift in the dry mixture. Add nuts if desired.
Spray a 9x13 pan with cooking spray and scrape the brownie mixture in. Smooth out the top and bake for 30-35 minutes.

Once the brownies have cooled, make the frosting. Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl with a hand mixer. Spread frosting on brownies. Don't hurt yourself.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Breakfast Cookies

I usually make a treat on Saturday nights to take to my Sunday morning class, provided I have not completely exhausted myself with some other activity or event. I try not to make something too rich or sweet-I do not prefer falling into a sugar-induced coma any time before 9 pm.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

9 Grain Whole Wheat Bread

I have learned a few things. Every week, every day, we learn new things. I have learned that pasta doubles in volume when you cook it (basic, I know), and to pay attention to measurements. Sixteen ounces of lettuce in weight is much, much, much more than sixteen ounces of salad in volume. I learned that if I am ever on Chopped, and one of the ingredients is tripe I need to marinate it in yogurt or milk so it doesn't taste gamey. I learned that aluminum pots ruin sauce, and 22 quarts of sauce is more than enough for 200 people. The list goes on and on, but I will spare you. Just remember, when heading into the kitchen, making mistakes is one way to get better at the things you do. Of course, avoiding the mistakes is probably the best scenario, but it doesn't always happen that way.

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