A Crepe Cake for Mother’s Day

A Crepe Cake for Mother’s Day

I’m friends with a few moms and wanted to treat them to a special treat on Mother’s Day. I looked through several recipes and settled on a Crepe Cake. I’d never made one before, but I’ve whipped up plenty of pastry creams and millions of pancakes so I figured it would be a cinch!

IMG_4178

Okay, truth be told, it was not exactly a “cakewalk!” I had a few layers slide this way or that. It may not be as pretty as a pro would bake, but it tasted like a slice of heaven. And the moms I shared it with were amazed!

Step One: Make the batter.

Crepe Batter
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 cups whole milk
6 eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
7 Tbsp. sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
vegetable oil

Directions

Make batter several hours in advance.
Melt butter in a small pan until it turns medium brown.
Separately, heat milk until steaming I used a microwave).
In a stand mixer beat eggs, flour, sugar, and salt on medium speed. Slowly add the slightly cooled milk and browned butter.
Pour into a container with a spout and refrigerate for several hours.

Step Two: Make the cream filling.

IMG_4181

Pastry Cream

2 cups whole milk
1 Tbsp. pure Madagascar vanilla (my personal favorite)
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
3 1/2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

Directions

Bring milk to a boil in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla.
Fill a large bowl with ice and set aside as an ice bath for the finished cream.
In a separate heavy-bottomed pan, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, and cornstarch. Gradually whisk in the hot milk and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Whisk constantly 1-2 minutes.
Scrape into a small bowl. Set the bowl in the ice bath and continue stirring until the temperature drops to 140 degrees. Stir in the butter. When completely cool, cover and refrigerate.

Before you assemble the layers:

2 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons Kirsch

Whip the heavy cream, sugar, and Kirsch (optional – you can substitute vanilla, another sweet liquor, or even almond flavor). Fold into the chilled pastry cream with a spatula.

Step Three: Make the crepes

Bring the batter back to room temperature.
Place a 9-inch crepe pan (or non-stick) over medium heat. Brush with oil.
Pour about 3 tablespoons batter into hot pan and swirl to cover the surface.
Cook until the bottom just begins to brown, like a pancake, then carefully peel back and flip. Cook on the other side for 5 seconds.
Flip the cooked crepe onto a piece of parchment paper.
Make 20 useable crepes. (I ate my mistakes as I went!)

Step Four: Assemble the Crepe Cake

IMG_4180

Place 1 crepe on your cake plate. Cover with a thin layer of pastry cream (about 1/4 cup). Add crepe #2. Repeat steps until you finish with the last crepe on top.

Chill for at least 2 hours.
Set out for 30 minutes before serving.
Slice and serve with fresh fruit.

IMG_4175

I must say, this was one of the most time-consuming cakes I’ve ever made, but it was well worth the effort! Let me know if you have any other variations on the Crepe Cake. I have a feeling that these babies get better with practice!

Buon appetito!

Brad

Advertisements

Pork Chop Casserole – A Comfort Food Favorite

Pork Chop Casserole – A Comfort Food Favorite

I love pork chops. They are inexpensive and delicious as long as you don’t cook the dickens out of them.

We grew up eating pork chops fairly often because of the low cost. My favorite way was with stuffing and applesauce on the side. I stumbled across a recipe from one of my most tattered cookbooks the other day that put the stuffing, apples, and pork chops all together for a very easy to prepare (and tasty) casserole of sorts.

I made a few alterations of my own which I explain below. For the original Betty Crocker recipe (which is hard to improve upon) you can visit their website which is probably a bit easier than borrowing my cookbook!

img_3820

Ingredients
1 Tbs butter
3 Granny Smith apples, sliced
1 tsp. brown sugar
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
salt, pepper, garlic, sage, paprika, thyme, all spice
4-6 pork chops

Your own recipe for stuffing or use mine: 
4-6 cups cubed stale bread (I prefer sour dough)
1 pound bulk breakfast sausage with sage browned and drained
celery and onion diced and sautéed in 3-4 Tbs. butter until soft
1-3 cups chicken stock (enough to moisten)
1/4-1/2 cup raisins or dried cranberries
1 egg, beaten
salt, pepper, poultry seasoning, sage, fresh parsley

Mix these ingredients together until moist (not mushy) and keep tasting for right amount of seasoning.

Directions

img_3814

Brush 1/2 teaspoon butter in bottom of 13×9-inch baking dish. Spread apple slices in dish. Sprinkle brown sugar and cinnamon over apples.

img_3816

Season the pork chops with whatever spices you prefer and lay on top of apples. I used a combination of salt, pepper, garlic, sage, paprika, thyme, and all spice.

img_3818

Cover pork shops with stuffing.

img_3819

Cover with foil and bake at 375 degrees for 40-50 minutes. Uncover and bake 10-15 minutes longer until you get a nice browning on the stuffing.

See how easy that is! Enjoy!

Spicy Chicken A La Diable Is A La Delicious

Spicy Chicken A La Diable Is A La Delicious

Le French Oven cookbook cover

Many thanks to a good friend who gifted me Hillary Davis’s “Le French Oven” cookbook for Christmas this year. The photos are gorgeous and I could not wait to dive in and try one of the recipes right away.

All I needed was a French oven (which I do) and a sous chef (that would be me). Most of the ingredients for this divine dish were already in my pantry and refrigerator.

Full disclosure: I know Hillary Davis’s version would be much better looking. But I intend to get better with practice!

Let me first say this chicken dish is divine. The flavors were so good I wanted to lick my plate. My dinner companions called it the most delicious chicken and biscuits they’d ever had.

Hillary Davis gets full credit for the recipe and the instructions. The photos are all mine!

Spicy Chicken A La Diable

Ingredients
1 whole chicken (organic preferred)
2 sprigs fresh tarragon
2 Tbsp olive oil
2-4 potatoes peeled and sliced into matchsticks (1/4 inch)
Salt and pepper to taste
3 Tbsp stone ground mustard
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (I only used 1/8 tsp.)
1 tsp. honey
1 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs (I wish I had made my own rather than using store bought)
2 Tbsp minced shallot
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup dry white wine (I used Riesling)
1 1/2 cups chicken stock (I used homemade)
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/8 tsp. cayenne
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 medium tomato diced (I used 2 Romas)

Directions

img_3901

Pour 2 Tbsp olive oil into French oven. Toss in potatoes with salt and pepper. Place cleaned chicken onto potatoes. Rub with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Bake at 400 degrees 15 minutes per pound.

img_3903

While the chicken is cooking whisk together sone ground mustard, cayenne, honey, and thyme. (I misread the instructions and also whisked in the tarragon. It still turned out great.) Set mixture aside.

When chicken is ready, remove it from the oven and spread the mustard mixture all over it. Sprinkle breadcrumbs over the mustard paste and pat them down.

Return the chicken to the oven and roast for 15-20 minutes longer. The thermometer should read 165 degrees F. My breadcrumbs were starting to get too brown, so I put the lid on for the last 5 minutes.

Move the chicken and potatoes to a large platter.

img_3909

Place the French oven on the stovetop. Add the shallot, vinegar, wine, half the tarragon and bring to a simmer for 5 minutes. Add the stock, garlic, 1/2 tsp. salt, Dijon mustard, 1/8 tsp. cayenne, and heavy cream. Simmer 10-15 minutes longer.

Just before serving stir in the remaining tarragon and the tomato (seeds and juices as well). Cook 2 minutes longer.

img_3912

To serve, ladle sauce on a plate and top with chicken and potatoes. I served it with roasted brussels sprouts and biscuits.

I hope to try many more of the great-tasting recipes in this new cookbook. I’ll keep you posted!

If You Amore S’mores – Try Peanut Butter S’more Bar Cookies

If You Amore S’mores – Try Peanut Butter S’more Bar Cookies

Sorry for the horrible twist on words in this title. I couldn’t help myself! But seriously, these cookies are outrageous. You may not want to tell your dentist or dietician you’ve eaten Peanut Butter S’more Bars because the sugar content is off the charts. Just sayin’!

I want to give credit to the bloggers who led me to these wonderful cookies.

I follow Six Sisters’ Stuff. Their roundup posts on baked goods always include some keepers. I’ve struck gold many times and last week was no exception. They linked to a recipe by Melanie who writes The Sweet Life. Her recipe is wonderful just as it and I encourage you to visit her site and try the original recipe. I made a few small tweaks to Melanie’s recipe and this was my end result.

Buon appetito!

Peanut Butter S’more Bars

Ingredients
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg, room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups crushed graham crackers (about 1 1/2 packs)
2 large bars Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup bars
1 small jar marshmallow fluff

Directions

s'more cookie dough

Using paddle attachment, beat butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Add vanilla and egg and continue beating until incorporated. Add salt, baking powder, flour, and graham crackers crumbs. Mix until incorporated.

img_3842

Press 1/2 of dough into the bottom of a buttered 8×8 baking dish. Lay individual squares, evenly placed in four rows on top of dough. Press in slightly to keep them from shifting.

img_3845

Spread a layer of marshmallow fluff over the peanut butter squares.

img_3846

Scoop remaining dough onto the top of the fluff layer and carefully spread out to cover entire layer. Tip: An offset knife works great for spreading!

Bake for 30-45 minutes at 350 degrees or until the center of the top layer is cooked. Cool and cut into squares.

img_3849

I have no clue on the calorie content for these bad boys. Make sure you have a glass of milk handy! If these are too sweet for your liking, try my Chocolate Pillows which use a spritz dough and are not quite as sweet!

Chocolate Pillows – The Best Cookies You Will Ever Eat

Chocolate Pillows – The Best Cookies You Will Ever Eat

It is not Christmas if there is not a batch of Chocolate Pillows on the cookie plate in my family. It has been a family favorite since my grandmother tore the recipe out of her Pillsbury’s 15th Bake-Off in 1964. Second Grand Prize Winner Gemma Jane of Olympia, wherever you are – God Bless You!

img_3795

The Chocolate Pillow is brilliant in its simplicity. It is never the prettiest cookie on the platter, but is always the first one gone. It was my father’s favorite, my favorite, and now the favorite of countless friends who put in their orders every year!

You will need a cookie press to make these. Buy one today.

img_3797

Chocolate Pillows

Ingredients
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla
6 full size Hershey bars, broken into sections

Directions

img_3800
Cream softened butter with sugar. Add egg and vanilla. Beat well. Add dry ingredients and mix until dough comes together.

img_3801

Using cookie press with sawtooth disk, lay long, straight strips of dough (ridge side facing up) onto cookie sheet. Place chocolate sections end to end along each strip of dough. Press a second strip of dough over each row, covering the chocolate pieces.

Using your finger to find the space between each chocolate bar, make a slice with a sharp floured knife.

img_2765

Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until some of the edges start to brown. Cool slightly before breaking apart. Cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

I would love to hear whether any other families out there have been baking these cookies since the ’60s! Buon appetito!

Roasted Squash and Pancetta Risotto Perfect Combination of Sweet and Salty

Roasted Squash and Pancetta Risotto Perfect Combination of Sweet and Salty

I’ve shared my method for making risotto in an earlier post. I love that risotto is a blank canvas for whatever flavors you want to add. All you need is time, patience, and arborio rice!

This time I decided to pair two of my favorite flavors, squash and pancetta. Butternut, acorn, delicata, or whatever variety you prefer will work just fine in risotto. I chose butternut this time.

Ingredients
1 butternut squash
Nutmeg
1 package diced pancetta
Fresh sage, chopped
Butter
Olive oil
Arborio rice
White wine
Chicken stock
Chicken boullion
Onion or shallot, finely chopped
Heavy cream
Parmesan cheese

Directions

p1080713

Peel and cube squash into bite-sized pieces. Toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, and a hint of fresh grated nutmeg on a baking sheet. Roast in 400 degree oven until golden, or to desired doneness. This takes about 20-30 minutes.

p1080723

While squash is roasting, render out the diced pancetta on the stovetop until crispy. I tossed in a small handful of fresh chopped sage too. Drain off fat and save for later.

Pour stock into pan and warm it up.

p1080715

In a separate pan sauté diced shallot or onion in some olive oil and butter. Add rice and toast slightly.

Slowly add stock one ladle at a time, stirring often and allowing each ladle to absorb before adding the next.

p1080720

After the rice starts to puff up and look creamy, taste a few kernels for doneness. It should have a slight bite in the center. If it is still too raw, keep adding stock until it reaches desired doneness. Do not overcook it, unless of course you prefer mushy risotto!

p1080726

Once the rice is done, fold in the roasted squash, pancetta, a splash of heavy cream (this is optional), and a tablespoon of butter (also optional). Season with freshly ground pepper and salt to taste.

Grate some parmesan cheese over the top and serve immediately.

Pasta with Cauliflower – Not Very Colorful – But Very Satisfying!

Pasta with Cauliflower – Not Very Colorful – But Very Satisfying!

My friends and family know how much I love to prepare pasta. I learned while in Italy that you can use nearly anything to flavor pasta so I frequently raid the fridge or pantry to come up with something new to me. My latest pasta adventure featured cauliflower.

Ingredients
1 head fresh cauliflower
1 pound pasta (any shape you like)
Olive oil
1 cube chicken boullion
3-5 cloves garlic, crushed
1/4-1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1-2 cups breadcrumbs
Salt, pepper
Grated parmesan cheese

Directions

Break up cauliflower into florets and blanch in boiling water for 1-2 minutes. Drain – but keep the cauliflower water and cook your pasta to al dente in it.

img_3669-2

In a large, flat pan over medium heat sauté garlic, chicken bouillon cube, and red pepper flakes in a splash of olive oil. Do not burn the garlic. Break the chicken cube up with your utensil.

img_3672

Toss drained cauliflower into pan with garlic and pepper mixture. You may need to add another small splash of olive oil.

img_3674

When the pasta is ready and the cauliflower is cooked, but still firm to the bite (5-6 minutes), toss the pasta in with the cauliflower. Add some of the pasta water to moisten. While pasta is finishing up, mix some olive oil into 1-2 cups of breadcrumbs and sauté until light golden in color.

img_3676

In a large serving bowl right before you are ready to serve, mix the toasted breadcrumbs in with the pasta/cauliflower combination. Top with parmesan cheese and season to taste.

img_3684

The cauliflower really works with the pasta. It is a little too white in color. I think next time I will try this with orange, green, or purple cauliflower to add some interest.

That’s all there is to it! Quick dinner, kind of healthy, and delicious!

If you have a favorite way to serve cauliflower, please let me know. This is the season it tastes best and I am always looking for new ways to serve it up.