Friday, May 22, 2009

Whey Cool! Making Ricotta Cheese

I can now officially check an item off of my bucket list. I am an artisan cheesemaker. Only in my own home, that is. Years ago I read an article on making yogurt cheese. I was quite intrigued yet never got around to making it. Earlier this year I came across an article in Bon Appetit featuring fresh ricotta. I urged myself to try it.

I felt like a mad scientist watching the curds separate from the whey. The process was surprisingly simple and yet so satisfying. You only need three ingredients and 15 minutes out of your day to create this creamy, sweet ricotta.

Fresh ricotta is moist, light and addictive. The texture and taste reminded me of farmers cheese. If you've never had fresh ricotta you're in for a real treat. Slather it on bruschetta, toss it in a pasta or add it into a dessert.

Fresh Ricotta
source: Bon Appetit January 2009
  • 8 cups whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  1. Line colander with 4 layers of cheesecloth; set in sink.

  2. Bring milk and salt to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in lemon juice. Let simmer until curds form, 1 to 2 minutes.

  3. Using finely slotted spoon, scoop curds from pan and transfer to cheesecloth-lined colander. Let drain 1 minute (curds will still be a little wet). Transfer curds to a bowl. Cover and chill until cold, about 3 hours.

Make in advance! Can be made 2 days ahead. Keep chilled.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Strawberry Cupcakes

It was a cold Idaho winters day and I was a prisoner in my own home. Bound to the couch, I had such terrible, debilitating morning sickness that lasted twelve hours a day for several months. Somehow I had only survived on water, chicken noodle soup, Teddy Grahams and pasta and the thought of anything else sent my stomach into a downward (or upward??) spiral.

Snuggled underneath my blanket I began to watch Cupcake Week on The Martha Stewart Show. I suppose I was living vicariously through others as I had not baked for months. Once I saw these Strawberry Cupcakes made by the delectable Sprinkles Bakery, I instinctively made a mental note to bake them in the near future.
One year later I found myself baking these cupcakes in my kitchen while my baby boy sat in the living room playing with his Daddy. I instantly thought back to where I first encountered this recipe and started to smile. I remember feeling eager, excited, frightened of the unknown, generally terrified and happy all at once. How amazing was it that such a new venture in life could stem all of those feelings. I am happy to share a recipe that created such a memory and reminds me of the early stages of becoming a mother. With that said, this recipe is dedicated to all mothers and mothers-to-be. Happy Mothers Day.

Strawberry Cupcakes
Source: Sprinkles Bakery recipe featured on Martha Stewart

Makes 1 dozen

  • 1/2 pound strawberries
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/4 cup whole milk, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 2 large egg whites, room temperature
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with cupcake liners; set aside.
  2. Place strawberries in a small food processor; process until pureed. This should be enough for both cake and frosting. If not you can always puree some more.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In a small bowl, mix together milk, vanilla, and 1/3 cup strawberry puree; set aside.
  4. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter on medium-high speed, until light and fluffy. Gradually add sugar and continue to beat until well combined and fluffy. Reduce the mixer speed to medium and slowly add egg and egg whites until just blended.
  5. With the mixer on low, slowly add half the flour mixture; mix until just blended. Add the milk mixture; mix until just blended. Slowly add remaining flour mixture, scraping down sides of the bowl with a spatula, as necessary, until just blended.
  6. Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin cups. Transfer muffin tin to oven and bake until tops are just dry to the touch, 22 to 25 minutes. Transfer muffin tin to a wire rack and let cupcakes cool completely in tin before icing.
Strawberry Frosting

Makes enough for 1 dozen cupcakes

  • 3 T. strawberry puree from above
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, firm and slightly cold
  • Pinch of coarse salt
  • 3 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together butter and salt on medium speed until light and fluffy. Reduce mixer speed and slowly add confectioners' sugar; beat until well combined. Add vanilla and strawberry puree (save any remaining strawberry puree for another use); mix until just blended.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Curry In A Hurry: Curried Chicken Handpies

Last summer I was on a quest. A quest to stock my freezer with meals that were not only delicious but somewhat healthy too. I knew with the arrival of little Eli my world was going to be turned upside down and I would not have time to cook dinner (or clean, shower, brush my teeth...) I found several recipes that fit well into my repertoire but these Curried Chicken Hand pies from an old MS Living article were my favorite. In fact I found myself eating half of them right away and then freezing the rest.

These samosa inspired pies have such a wonderful spiced flavor and the best part is-unbaked, these pies can be frozen for about a month. Just pop them in the oven and you have a quick lunch or dinner ready within a half hour.

Curried Chicken Hand pies

makes 16
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 T. vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 1/2 t. curry powder
1/4 t. ginger powder
1/2 t. ground cumin
1 T. AP flour, plus more for dusting
1 1/2 c. chicken stock
1/2 c. plain yogurt
4 1/2 t. tomato paste
1/4 c. applesauce
1/2 c. frozen peas
1/4 c. heavy cream
4 standard sheet of puff pastry
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Salt & Pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 400F. Bring 1 quart water to a boil and add the chicken. Reduce heat; simmer until chicken is cooked through, about 15 minutes. Remove chicken from pot and allow to cool. Shred chicken into 2 inch pieces.
  2. Heat oil over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Add onion and garlic and cook stirring occasionally, until pale golden, about 8 minutes. Stir in curry, ginger, cumin and flour and cook for 1 minute. Add stock and bring to a boil. Stir in yogurt, applesauce, and tomato paste and boil for one minute. Reduce to simmer, stirring occasionally, until mixture has thickened, about 30 minutes.
  3. Stir in chicken and peas; cook until thick. Stir in cream and 2tsp. salt. Let cool.
  4. Lay pasty sheets on lightly floured surface; cut each into 4 squares. Spoon 2 tablespoons chicken mixture onto each square, leaving a 1-inch border. Brush edges with egg; fold squares to form triangles. Press to seal.
  5. To bake now: Bake until golden, 20 to 25 minutes.
  6. To freeze: unbaked handpies can be frozen up to a month wrapped in plastic and foil. Thaw before baking. 400 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes.