Monday, August 29, 2011

Mint Oreo-Stuffed Brownies


These are the kind of brownies that you wanna hide in the closet and eat, like you know you're doing something dirty... but it feels so freaking good! They are rich and fudgey, ultra decadent. They don't come from a box, and they don't use cocoa powder. They use all real chocolate! REAL CHOCOLATE! In brownies! The way brownies should be made! The basic recipe comes from Sherry Yard, the incredible pastry chef at Spago Beverly Hills. Her cookbook, Desserts by the Yard is a lesson in storytelling through recipes that span her life in pastry, from her childhood in Brooklyn to the Oscars. Her recipe is entitled Out-Of-This-World Brownies, and they are. In fact, she discusses how she made them for astronaut Marsha Ivins, who has literally traveled "out-of-this-world" and absolutely loves them.

I took Sherry's perfect brownie recipe and added Oreos, as I had seen done in brownies on Dana's Food For Thought. In my version, I wanted (quite obsessively, in fact) to use mint Oreos. Mint and chocolate is one of my all-time favorite combinations. I'll take it any way I can get it. You can easily use regular or Double Stuff Oreos here, or be a little wild and try the peanut butter ones. I would ;-) These brownies really are the best of both worlds... fudgey chocolate-chocolate-chocolate brownies with the deep satisfaction of milk's favorite cookie. With mint. You can easily omit the Oreos, and just make regular brownies, but why would you? A tall glass of milk wouldn't be unwelcome here either.

Mint Oreo-Stuffed Brownies
Makes 9 to 16 brownies (depending on size)
(Adapted from Desserts by the Yard)

3/4 cup plus 2 T. all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
4 oz (1 stick) unsalted butter, chopped
1 oz unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
7 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 large eggs
1 cup sugar
12 mint Oreos (or any flavor you like)

Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8-by-8 inch square baking dish with pan spray. Sift together the flour and salt and set aside.

Melt the butter, unsweetened chocolate, and bittersweet chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl at 50 percent power for about 2 minutes or in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water. Stir with a rubber spatula until the mixture is smooth. Allow to cool to tepid (90 degrees F).

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the eggs and sugar until fluffy. Gently beat in the butter and chocolate. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the flour.

Scrape half the batter into the prepared baking dish. Line the Oreos on top to evenly cover the batter (you can cut cookies in half in order to make them all fit). Top with the remaining batter and smooth out the top. Bake, rotating from front to back halfway through, for 25 to 30 minutes, until slightly firm to the touch and a crust has formed on top. A toothpick will NOT come out clean.

Allow to cool in the pan on a wire rack to room temperature. Cut into squares.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Glorious Pasta of Italy: Penne with Roasted Red Peppers and Cream


Glorious. So glorious. One of my favorite things about being a food blogger is having the opportunity to review incredible cookbooks and products and share my thoughts with my fabulous readers. I recently received a beautiful copy of Domenica Marchetti's newest cookbook, The Glorious Pasta of Italy. I already own one of her previous books, The Glorious Soups and Stews of Italy, so I was especially excited to see what Domenica had created with one of my favorite ingredients in the world: pasta.

The array of pasta recipes in this book is comforting for any carboholic. Its pages contain the makings of a carb-induced Heaven (the best kind). I have a reputation for making my own pasta whenever possible (I also make my own pizza dough and pastry dough 100% of the time, and have even dabbled in cheese). If I have the time to do it, I'm thrilled to break out my pasta roller and get to work, but God only knows that doesn't happen on a regular basis. With this book it doesn't have to! Fresh and dried pasta finds equal love.

When I searched through the pages of this beautifully photographed book, nearly every recipe caught my eye. Number one on my list was the whole-wheat fettuccine with savoy cabbage, cream, and caraway seeds. It did occur to me, however, that it is incredibly hot and humid in the Northeast, and thus maybe a less labor intensive (and wintery) recipe would be more appropriate. I still have every intention of whipping that fettuccine together the second the weather turns dismally chilly... I promise you that :)

As I have been in the midst of a move, and am a bit shorter on kitchen time, I thought one of the recipes from the "Pasta on the Run" chapter would be perfect (other chapters include Pasta Essentials, Pasta in Soup, Pasta with Sauce, Baked Pasta Dishes, Stuffed Pasta and Dumplings, Classics Worth Keeping, Showstoppers, and Sweet Pasta). I settled on the penne with roasted red peppers and cream (and trust me I wasn't "settling"). It was so easy and fast to put together, exactly what I needed on a busy day.

I cut back a bit on both the olive oil and cream, and bumped up the balsamic vinegar purely by accident. When I glanced at the book I thought it said 2 tablespoons instead of teaspoons, but I can honestly say that I will keep it at 2 tablespoons in the future. It really added such a great punch of  flavor! I also didn't mix the cheese into the pasta because my mom doesn't like Parmesan cheese (*gasp, how are we related?*), so the cheese-lovers of the family just added the cheese at the table. No complaints :) I look forward to trying out many more recipes from this book, and highly recommend it to all my carboholic readers!

Penne with Roasted Red Peppers and Cream
Serves 4
(Adapted from The Glorious Pasta of Italy)

3 T. extra-virgin olive oil (I used a bit less)
1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onion
1 (12 oz) jar roasted red peppers, well drained and coarsely chopped
Kosher salt
2 T. balsamic vinegar (originally called for 2 tsp.)
1 T. tomato paste
1 cup heavy cream (I used a bit less)
1 lb dried penne
1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and salt generously.

While the water is heating, warm the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Stir in the onion and saute for 7 to 8 minutes or until softened and translucent. Add the peppers and season with salt. Cook, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes, or until they are heated through. Raise the heat to medium-high and stir in the vinegar. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool for 5 minutes.

Transfer the pepper mixture to a blender and puree until smooth. Return the puree to the pan and place over low heat. In a small bowl, whisk together the tomato paste and cream. Whisk this mixture into the sauce and stir until it is nicely thickened and hot. Taste and season with more salt if necessary. Turn off the heat and cover to keep warm.

Add the pasta to the boiling water, stir to separate, and cook until al dente. Drain the pasta in a colander (reserving about 1 cup of the pasta water).

Transfer the pasta to the frying pan and gently toss the pasta and sauce to combine thoroughly. Stir in half of the cheese and toss again, adding a splash or two of the cooking water if necessary to loosen the sauce. Transfer the dressed pasta to warmed shallow individual bowls and sprinkle with the remaining cheese (we opted to not mix the cheese in at all, and just served cheese on the side). Serve immediately.

*Disclaimer* I received no compensation to write this review other than a free copy of the book. My opinions are always my own.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Seven Links Challenge

Over the past couple weeks I've been tagged by Jeff's Plate, What's Cookin' Italian Style, and The Chef Doc to participate in the Seven Links Challenge. I figured it was about time I comply and take part is this fun experience :) First, the nominated bloggers must pick out seven posts based on the seven categories and then share the links. Then they pick 5 more bloggers to tag! So here goes....

1. Most Beautiful Post: Fresh Curry Fettuccine with Pureed Carrot Sauce, Asparagus, Peas, and Wild Mushrooms... this post not only contained my favorite photos (which I later used on a canvas print), but it was one of the most unique and flavorful dishes I have made. I love how healthy it is over all, and how the flavors compliment each other so well.

2. Most Popular Post: Homemade Soft Pretzels with Whole Grain Mustard... I'm honestly shocked by the overwhelming response of this post. It has been viewed significantly more than any other post on my blog. I will thank StumbleUpon for that :) These pretzels are so easy to make and so tasty! And the homemade mustard doesn't hurt either.

3. Most Controversial Post: Pysch's Fries Quatro Queso Dos Fritos... it may not be super controversial, but technically the cheese is not "injected" into the potatoes as the description on the show states. We did a great job making these fun fried treats, but it may not completely follow Lyin' Ryan's method.

4. Most Helpful Post: An Ode to Meat: Welcome Grilling Season!... There may not be an actual recipe in this post, but I shared a really nice discussion of meat from quality to cuts. It's pretty basic, but a good start to anyone wanting to learn more about meat selection.

5. Post That Was Surprisingly Successful: Dr. Lemon Puff, or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love Pâte à Choux... This was the first time I successfully made Pâte à Choux. It was a pretty big deal, and I loved filling them with lemon curd. Such a great idea :)

6. Post That Did Not Get the Attention it Deserved: Cranberry-Cinnamon Goat Cheese... I'm  just waiting for cranberry season so I can make this again. Weekly. It was so good, but the fact that it was posted in the midst of Christmas and New Year's meant it was overlooked by a lot of people. I hope this will give more people a chance to check it out!

7. Post You Are Most Proud Of: Tea Week: Scones (Tipsy Cherry Scones)... Not only is this one of my favorite recipes I've developed, but it was my first (and so far only) cooking video! I had so much fun putting it together. It was a super proud moment for me :)

Now to select five bloggers to tag!! I hope you'll all participate, it's a nice trip down memory lane :)

Erin at Dinners, Dishes, and Desserts
Alisha at The Ardent Epicure
Priscilla at She's Cookin'
Dana at Food For Thought
Adelina at My Tasty Handbook

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Zucchini Lasagna


I know the majority of my recent posts have been baking/dessert related, but as promised here is a savory recipe, utilizing zucchini, no less! Technically it's baked in the oven, but it's not really a "baking" recipe :) This lasagna was very different from lasagnas I've made in the past. The main difference is that most lasagnas usually start with a layer of sauce, layer the pasta and fillings, and then are topped with sauce and cheese and then baked. This one starts with a layer of homemade lasagna noodles that hang over the edges of the baking dish, creating a lasagna completely wrapped in noodles. The fillings are layered with more homemade noodles and the top is finished with sauce and cheese, but then the overhanging pasta is folded over to enclose the entire lasagna.

I was a bit uncertain as I was reading the instructions, because my noodles (cut approximately to the length specified) would never be long enough to COMPLETELY enclose the lasagna, and I ran out of noodles to help them out at the end. I had one noodle left, which I sliced into strips and turned my poor lasagna into a jailbird, trapped in its own deliciousness :) In the end, I think leaving the top open, with even just a slight bit of covering along the edges would be just fine. The edges crisped up beautifully, especially with the addition of some good old-fashioned butter right before baking.

Even though this is a white lasagna, meaning it doesn't feature a tomato-based sauce, but rather a bechamel sauce, it actually tasted very light! It was not heavy as expected, because it actually was pretty light on the cheese. It didn't contain ricotta, and its mozzarella component was a really restrained amount of fresh mozzarella. None of that processed stuff. Some Parmigiano-Reggiano (or in my case Pecorino-Romano) adds a bit more depth. Because the sauce is so neutral, the flavor of the vegetables really shines through! Between the zucchini and onions, this lasagna really tastes like a garden. The zucchini is truly the star, along with the lovely sweet onions. Although my lasagna was not the prettiest lasagna I've ever made (need to work on my overhang/assembling techniques for this unconventional lasagna method--also I had a friend over while I was making this and was having too much fun to really care how it looked, hehe), it was definitely one of my favorites, and more unique creations. Lasagna doesn't HAVE to use tomato sauce, or even ricotta cheese to be amazing.

Zucchini Lasagna
Makes 6 to 8 servings
(Adapted from On Top of Spaghetti)

1 tsp. unsalted butter
4 T. extra-virgin olive oil
3 cups halved and thinly sliced onions
Kosher salt
2 lbs zucchini, trimmed and cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch thick slices

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
3 eggs

3 cups milk
3 T. unsalted butter
3 T. all-purpose flour
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Pinch nutmeg

Extra-virgin olive oil, as needed
2 to 3 T. unsalted butter
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano
1 heaping cup 1/4-inch cubed fresh mozzarella (about 6 oz)

Heat the butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onions and season with salt. Saute over medium-low heat until the onions are very soft without browning, about 20 minutes. Set aside.

Lightly coat one or two baking sheets with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Lay out the zucchini slices in a single later. Drizzle the tops with the remaining tablespoon olive oil, use your hands to rub it evenly over the tops, then season with salt and roast for 10 to 15 minutes, or until tender and cooked through. The zucchini slices should be translucent. Set aside.

Lower the oven temperature to 375 degrees F.

To make the pasta, in the bowl of an electric mixer (or food processor) add the flour and eggs and mix at low speed with the dough hook (or metal blade for food processor) to allow the flour to slowly absorb the eggs. Scrape down the sides as needed. When the dough begins to come together in a ball, turn the speed up another notch and allow the dough hook to knead the dough for a few minutes. Remove the dough from the mixer and knead by hand for a few more minutes until it is nice and smooth. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and set aside at room temperature for 30 minutes to an hour to allow the gluten to rest.

Meanwhile, to make the bechamel, scald the milk in a small saucepan. Melt the butter in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over moderate heat. Add the flour and whisk until smooth. Cook for about 2 minutes until the flour is cooked but the mixture is still pale in color. Very slowly, pour in the hot milk and whisk continuously to prevent lumps. When all the milk is incorporated, bring to a boil, stirring with a wooden spoon. Lower the heat and simmer for about 5 minutes until the bechamel has thickened to the consistency of heavy cream. Season with salt, pepper, and a pinch of nutmeg. Remove from the heat and set aside. Stir every few minutes to prevent a skin from forming on top.

Cut the pasta dough into 4 equal pieces. Dust each piece with flour and flatten them with your hands. Run the dough pieces one at a time through a pasta roller, starting with the largest opening (run it several times through this one, folding it occasionally), and decreasing the opening size until the dough is thin (#4 or 5 on the Kitchenaid pasta roller attachment is perfect for lasagna noodles). Cut each pasta sheet into approximately 12 or 13-inch long pieces. They do not have to be perfect rectangles, and many will get trimmed during assembly. Lay the pasta sheets on floured half sheet pans as you work.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Set a baking sheet lightly oiled with olive oil next to the stove. Generously salt the boiling water and add a few noodles at a time. Cook at a rolling boil for 1 minute. The noodles will still be very firm, and will continue to cook in the oven. Transfer the noodles with a flat skimmer or plastic tongs (gently) to the oiled pan. The oil will keep them from sticking. Repeat the process until all the pasta is cooked (although if you are short on space it can be beneficial to start assembling the lasagna with the noodles you have cooked before you add more to the pot, since it cooks so fast anyway).

Generously butter a 13-by-9-inch rectangular baking dish. Line the bottom and sides of the dish with 3 of the noodles so that they overhang on all sides. Proceed as follows with layers as so:

First Layer: 1/2 cup bechamel, 1/2 the zucchini, 1/2 the onions, 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Cover with a layer of pasta cut to fit inside the pan without an overhang (odds and ends of the cut pieces can be used as part of the layers).

Second Layer: 1/2 cup bechamel, 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, 1/2 the mozzarella.

Add another layer of pasta cut to fit inside the pan.

Third Layer: 1/2 cup bechamel, remaining zucchini, remaining onions, 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, remaining mozzarella.

Cover with a final layer of pasta. Top with the remaining bechamel and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Bring the overhanging pasta up and over the top of the lasagna to enclose the filling. Dot with the 2 tablespoons butter and cover loosely with foil.

Bake the lasagna for 25 minutes, uncover, and continue to bake until very lightly browned and bubbling hot, an additional 10 to 15 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes before cutting and serving.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Peanut Butter Cup Cookies for the Secret Recipe Club!


Psst! I have a secret! I recently joined the Secret Recipe Club! It's kind of like Secret Santa, but instead of buying a gift for the person who you are assigned to, you select a recipe from their blog to make and share on your blog. Every month you get to explore a new blog, and in return another blogger stalks you and makes one of your recipes :) This is the kind of club I can get behind.

This month my assignment was to make something from I Was Born to Cook, a fun adventure through the kitchen of an Italian/Greek girl named Melissa from New Jersey. She had a lot of enticing pasta recipes, but since I had many pasta recipes in my plans for the coming weeks, I decided to finally satisfy my chocolate chip cookie craving. Except I didn't make chocolate chip cookies. I made peanut butter cup cookies. Kind of a cross between peanut butter cookies and chocolate chip cookies, they feature a basic cookie dough studded with chunks of mini peanut butter cups. I selected Reese's dark chocolate mini peanut butter cups, because I always prefer dark chocolate to milk chocolate. To me it's more flavorful and less sweet. I also MAY have eaten a few of them during the tedious task of unwrapping and chopping the mini pb cups. I dare you to resist doing the same!

The only thing I changed (other than using dark chocolate peanut butter cups) is that I used light brown sugar instead of dark brown sugar. It's what I had on hand, and to be honest I thought they turned out perfect. Just like any other cookie of its kind, it's important to only bake them until the edges are lightly browned. Even though the cookies will be soft when they come out of the oven, if you overbake them at this point, they will be like rocks once they cool. Mine still retained a nice chewy texture when they cooled. I also LOVE using my small ice cream scoop for portioning out perfect cookies. It is the best tool (along with parchment paper) for baking cookies. Using my scoop, I ended up with exactly 26 delicious cookies.

Peanut Butter Cup Cookies
Makes about 2 dozen
(Adapted from Real Simple via I Was Born to Cook)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 (12 ounce) package small peanut butter cups (preferably dark chocolate), coarsely chopped (I quartered them)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Using a mixer, beat the butter and sugars until creamy. Add the egg and vanilla and beat to combine.

Gradually add the flour mixture, mixing until just incorporated. Fold in the peanut butter cups.

Drop tablespoon-size mounds of dough (use a small ice cream scoop) 2 inches apart onto the prepared baking sheets. Bake until light brown around the edges, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a baking rack to cool.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Buffalo Chicken Chili and a Giveaway (for TWO)!


I don't know about you, but even though I'm a fan of things like butter, I'm often looking for ways to cut down the calories (and guilt) without completely sacrificing flavors in the foods I love. When the folks over at Joy Bauer's office contacted me and asked if I wanted to check out a couple of her books, and also give away several copies to my readers, I thought it would be a great way to take a walk on the healthier side. You may recognize Joy as the Nutritionist for The Today Show. She has several books under her belt, a couple of which I've had the pleasure of receiving.

The first is called Food Cures and discusses various health problems and how they can be aided by a diet adjustment. Those suffering from ailments such as migraines, arthritis, insomnia, and even bad skin can study Joy's 4 Step Program for using natural dietetic methods to get results. The book is not a cookbook, but does include lots of shopping lists (and foods to avoid) as well as some recipes in each of the chapters. I consider this book more of a reference than one you may read from cover to cover. As someone who avoids medications whenever possible, I really love the idea of using food instead to try and cure (or at least alleviate) some symptoms of common health problems.

The second book I received was Joy's Slim and Scrumptious, a cookbook containing more than 75 healthy family meals, complete with nutritional information. Joy isn't a trained chef, but she offers healthy variations to many popular dishes (like macaroni and cheese and even eggs Benedict) as well as some really fun and less traditional recipes! My favorite (and I'm definitely not alone in this) is her Buffalo Chicken Chili. I used ground turkey because it was more accessible. The only changes I made were that instead of cooking spray, I used a drizzle of olive oil (in a non-stick pot) which worked out just fine. I also added more salt (it really needed it, let's not kid ourselves), and doubled the topping recipe, for which I used low-fat, not nonfat, sour cream. I also can safely say that I think you can comfortably get 6 servings out of this recipe (we did), even though it accounts for only 4. Given that, each serving would be even healthier, so no guilt about the extra topping ;-)

Before we get to the giveaway, I just want to address a really sad item in recent news. No, I'm not talking about the London riots. I've referring to the famine and drought in Africa. As you throw away those week-old leftovers, please think of those in need. More than 29,000 children have died in the past few months because of this ongoing tragedy. Please consider making a donation to help those suffering. It will help fill their stomachs and feed your soul...

Now for the giveaway... 2 lucky readers will each with a copy of Joy Bauer's Food Cures AND her Slim and Scrumptious cookbook. That's right, there will be not 1, but 2 winners, and each will get 2 books! To enter for a chance to win, simply leave a comment telling me what you like to do to (at least try to) live a healthier lifestyle. Mine is moderation. I find that I can't cut out the things I love, but I figure if I eat them less often, or in smaller portions, I don't feel so bad about indulging. I could offer more chances to win if you stalk me, but the truth is if you like my blog you should subscribe to it, like me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, etc anyway. I shouldn't have to bribe you, should I? The giveaway will end in 1 week (8/19 at 11:59pm) and I will select 2 winners randomly. Don't forget to include your email address so I can contact you if you win. US residents only, please. Good luck!

Buffalo Chicken Chili
Serves 4 (serving size: 2 1/4 cups with topping)
(Adapted from Slim & Scrumptious)

Oil spray, as needed (I actually used a little drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil instead)
6 carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise, and sliced into half-moons
6 stalks celery, sliced
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 lbs ground chicken (or turkey) breast (99% lean)
2 T. chili powder
2 T. all-purpose flour
4 cups low-sodium vegetable or tomato juice
1/4 to 1/2 cup hot sauce
Kosher salt
1/4 cup nonfat sour cream
1/4 cup blue cheese crumbles

Liberally coat a large pot (non-stick would be good here) or Dutch oven with oil spray, and preheat it over medium-high heat.

Add the carrots and celery and saute, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 10 minutes; add water, a tablespoon at a time, as necessary to prevent scorching.

Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute. Add the ground chicken, reapplying oil spray if necessary. Saute, stirring continuously and breaking the chicken into small pieces for 5 minutes or until cooked through. As the chicken cooks, continue scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to dislodge any large bits.

Sprinkle in the chili powder and flour, and stir quickly to distribute them evenly. Immediately add the vegetable juice, hot sauce, season with salt, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes.

While the chili is simmering, prepare the blue cheese topping. In a small bowl mash together the sour cream and blue cheese with a fork until well combined. Set aside.

Taste and adjust seasoning for the chili. Ladle the chili into serving bowls and top each with the blue cheese topping.

Nutrition information: calories-369, protein-53 g, carbohydrate-33 g, total fat-4 g, saturated fat-1 g, cholesterol-135 mg, fiber-7 g, sodium-665 g (using only 1/4 tsp. salt... I thought it needed more, though)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Brie, Prosciutto, and Peaches on Brioche


Here is a sandwich I made with some of my homemade brioche. In fact, this sandwich was the inspiration for making the brioche, so suffice it to say it took me 2 days to satisfy this sandwich craving :) The Brie started it all. It has a way of becoming the star of its universe (really, all cheese seems to do this in my life). Next, a little Prosciutto entered the mix. Buy the good stuff, imported is preferable. It costs more, but tastes better and has a better texture. Make sure it's sliced thin. Sweet and juicy peach slices help cut some of the richness of the cheese and brioche. The brioche itself reminded me almost of biscuits when the sandwich was all toasted together. The serious quantity of butter somewhat mimics the same flavors especially when pressed between hot grills. Enjoy!

Brie, Prosciutto, and Peaches on Brioche
Makes 2 Sandwiches

4 slices brioche
4 oz Brie, cut into 8 slices
4 slices Prosciutto di Parma
1/2 peach, thinly sliced

Arrange 2 slices of Brie on each slice of brioche. Top two of the brioche slices with 2 slices Prosciutto each, and evenly divide the peach slices between them. Cover the sandwich with the other slice of Brie-topped brioche. Grill the sandwiches in a preheated non-stick panini or sandwich press until the brioche is dark golden brown and the cheese has melted.

*If you don't have a panini grill, cook them on a non-stick griddle or frying pan over medium to medium-low heat just as you would a grilled cheese, spreading butter, if desired, on the exterior of the sandwich and flipping the sandwich over halfway through cooking to ensure it toasts evenly and all the cheese melts completely. I think there's enough butter in the brioche to avoid the buttering step.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Jean-Louis Palladin's Brioche via Thomas Keller (and Victoria)


I have been longing to make brioche ever since the first time I had it... a very long time ago. It's sorta been sitting on my "to make" list, somehow being trumped by other recipes. How it ever took so long to finally make it, I'll never know. I was inspired by a hunk of Brie. A hunk of Brie that spoke to me. It had the hots for some rich, buttery brioche, and since I was lusting for the Brie, I finally came around and got working on this brioche.

I have a lot of brioche recipes, so selecting one to make presented another challenge. In the end, I went with the obvious choice. I pretty much live and die by whatever Thomas Keller says. He's basically God of my kitchen. He shares his favorite brioche recipe in all of his cookbooks, from the French Laundry Cookbook, to Bouchon, and even Ad Hoc at Home. If it's good enough for Keller and his three Michelin starred restaurants, then by golly it's good enough for me! The recipe actually comes from the late great Chef Jean-Louis Palladin. His brioche is known for its quality. During the step of adding soft butter to the dough, the aroma of bread and butter is inescapable. The yeasty odor of the dough marries the rich butter so beautifully. God bless the French for creating brioche!

This brioche doesn't call for an eggwash on top, which is pretty standard in a lot of other brioche recipes. If you'd like to add some eggwash, by all means, go for it! I (smartly) saved my last egg to make cookies. Can you blame me? For the record, I was a bit uncertain about my brioche in the early stages. It was VERY soft and wet. It almost reminded me of a thick batter, and when it came time to scrape it onto a floured surface to "fold," it became quite clear that mashing it around would be easier than folding. If you think about it, it makes sense. This dough contains 2 1/2 STICKS of soft butter. It softens further (and even melts I'm sure) as the dough sits in a warm place to rise. This very soft and even liquid butter results in a very soupy dough. I'm confident that this is a big reason why brioche dough must be prepared a day ahead of time to then sit in the fridge overnight. It really needs that time to chill to firm the butter back up and make a pliable, shapeable dough. The next day, my dough was much more manageable!

While the recipe calls for a couple 8 1/2-by-4 1/2-by-3-inch loaf pans, the only size loaf pans I have are 9-by-5-by-3-inch. Although in theory, this doesn't seem like THAT big of a different, it can be. Last year I went through a mild loaf pan obsession which led me to do extensive research on loaf pan sizes to try and determine which loaf pans size(s) was most optimal to own. Yeah I know. Freak. It really bugs me that so many recipes call for different size loaf pans. A standard loaf pan (what this recipe calls for) fits about 1 1/2 pounds of dough, while the size I have (and I'm sure many other people have) can hold 2 pounds of dough. For what it's worth, I knew going into this that my bread would not yield the same puffed, rounded top as it would in a smaller pan. I also discovered that it took a bit longer to bake my bread until it resulted in the "hollow tap" sound (I actually turned off my oven, removed my breads, and then realized they probably should bake just a bit longer and had to put them back in their pans and back into the oven). In any case, it definitely works with the slightly larger pans if that's what you have, but would definitely be optimal using the correct size pans.

PS This brioche would be PERFECT in bread pudding ;-)

Makes 2 standard loaves
(Recipe by Jean-Louis Palladin via Thomas Keller in Ad Hoc at Home)

1/3 cup very warm water (110 degrees to 115 degrees F)
One 1/4-ounce package active dry yeast (not quick-rising)
2 1/3 cups (10 1/2 ounces) cake flour
2 cups (10 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
6 large eggs, at room temperature
20 tablespoons (10 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 1-inch cubes, plus butter for the pans

Combine the water and yeast in a small bowl. Let set for 10 minutes, then stir until the yeast is completely dissolved. Set aside.

Sift together the flours, sugar, and salt into the bowl of a mixer fitted with the dough hook. Add the eggs and beat for 1 minute at low speed, scraping down the sides with a rubber spatula as needed. Slowly add the dissolved yeast and continue beating at low speed for 5 minutes. Stop the machine, scrape any dough off the dough hook, and beat for another 5 minutes. Add the butter cubes, about one quarter of them at a time, beating for about 1 minute after each addition. Once all the butter has been added, beat for 10 minutes more, until the dough is smooth and silky.

Transfer the dough (it will be very wet and soft) in a large floured mixing bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside in a warm place until doubled in size, about 3 hours.

Turn the dough out onto a generously floured work surface and gently work the air bubbles out by folding the dough several times while lightly pressing down on it. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.

Generously butter two 8 1/2-by-4 1/2-by-3-inch loaf pans. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface. With floured hands, divide the dough in half and shape it into two rectangles to fit the loaf pans. Place the dough in the pans and let the dough rise uncovered in a warm place until it is about 1/2 inch above the top of the pans, about 3 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake the brioche until it is well browned on top and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom, 35 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and immediately turn the brioche out onto a wire rack.

If using immediately, let the breads cool for 10 minutes, then slice. If serving within a few hours or up to 2 days, promptly wrap the hot bread in aluminum foil and set aside at room temperature until ready to use. To freeze, wrap the hot bread in foil and promptly freeze; when ready to use, reheat (without thawing, and still wrapped in foil) in a 250 degree F oven until heated through, 20 to 25 minutes. The bread can be kept frozen for up to 2 months.

If using the brioche for croutons or bread pudding, let the loaf sit at room temperature, uncovered, to dry for a day.


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