Sunday, November 20, 2011

Apple Dumplings

We all struggle with showing our true selves to each other. I believe it is a very human trait to attempt to project an image of ourselves that we want others to believe is who we are. And although sometimes the censorship is appreciated, I believe that we typically take ourselves too seriously. Working towards complete honesty while continuing to protect my privacy on this blog is a delicate balance. I do not feel the need to share each detail of my life, or even everything that I eat and cook. Where I strive to be very honest is in the passion I have for cooking and the person I am when I step into my kitchen (or any kitchen). My desire is to be helpful, to inspire and learn while sharing with you. 

So I have a confession to make :) Saturday I made home made puff pastry. At the risk of my readers not being interested in making their own puff pastry and considering me to be a food snob, I quickly decided that I would not share my experience through the process and began making apple dumplings to feature on the blog instead. But as I considered my decision I came to the realization above. I was making a choice to hide my first experiment with puff pastry when I had such an excitement and passion to explore a laminated dough. It might make me a bit of a food snob to want to make my own, but that is who I am. 

Currently I do not have the photos of the process and am not sure if I will share the recipe, but I at least wanted to share my excitement as I tackled the huge undertaking of creating a laminated dough like puff pastry and the pride I felt when the whole project (that took all day to complete) was finished successfully!

Although the apple dumplings made for dessert are much more homey and basic then a puff pastry, they were a huge hit with my family and me. Taking inspiration from a baked apple, I chose to fill the cores of the apples with a mixture of currants, walnuts and spices. Hopefully you will take the time to try this delicious recipe and be reminded to open yourself up and be honest with others when sharing who you are.

Apple Dumplings
Source: Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook (published 1976)
Prep: 20 minutes   Bake: 40 minutes   Oven: 375 degrees F   Servings: Makes 6

2       cups water
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4    teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4    teaspoon ground nutmeg
8       drops red food coloring
1/4    cup butter
2       cups flour
2       teaspoons baking powder
1       teaspoon salt
3/4    cup shortening
1/2    cup milk
6       small, whole apples pared and cored

For syrup, mix first 5 ingredients; cook 5 minutes. Remove from heat; add butter.

Sift together dry ingredients; cut in shortening till mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add milk all at once; stir just till flour is moistened. On lightly floured surface, roll to 18x12-inch rectangle.

Cut in six 6-inch squares. Place apple on each. Sprinkle apples generously with additional sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg; dot with additional butter. Moisten edges of pastry. Bring corners to center and pinch edges together. Place 1 inch apart on an ungreased 13x9x2 inch baking pan. Pour syrup over dumplings. Bake at 375 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes. Serve warm with cream or ice cream.

Harmony's Thoughts
I omitted the red food coloring.
I filled the cores of the apples with a mixture of 1/3 cup currants (you could use chopped raisins as well), 1/3 cup walnuts, 1/2 teaspoon rum flavoring, 2 tablespoons brown sugar and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon. Divide evenly among the 6 apple cores.
The recipe was vague on how much additional sugar, so I measured about 2 1/2 teaspoons of sugar and a sprinkle of cinnamon and nutmeg for each apple. Along with 1 small dot of butter. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Sour Cream Pumpkin Tart

The past two Thanksgivings my husband and I have shared together have been without family. We split every other Christmas with my parents or his, but Thanksgiving has been spent with a group of military guys that are without family as well. Each Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner I plan includes this Sour Cream Pumpkin Tart. This year, since my husband is in training and I'm with family in Pennsylvania, I am hoping that I can convince my family that they want this on menu!

As you are menu planning for Thanksgiving, consider this Sour Cream Pumpkin Tart (or pie). It is simple but spectacular topped with a dollop of maple whipped cream.

Sour Cream Pumpkin Tart (or Pie)
Source: adapted from Baking: From my Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan
Prep: 15 minutes   Oven: 400 degrees F then reduce to 300 degrees F

1    9 inch pie shell or 11 inch tart shell, partially baked
2    cups pumpkin puree
3    eggs, room temperature 
1    cup light brown sugar
1    cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sour cream
1    teaspoon cinnamon
1    teaspoon ginger
1    pinch of ground cloves
1    pinch of nutmeg
1    pinch of salt
3    tablespoons dark rum (optional)
2    teaspoons vanilla

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Whisk all ingredients for 2 minutes. Pour into crust. Bake at 400 degrees F for 10 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 300 degrees F and continue to bake for 35 to 40 minutes (20 to 25 minutes for a tart) or until set.

Cool to room temperature and serve with whipped cream.

Harmony's Thoughts
To make Maple Whipped Cream, add 3-4 tablespoons pure maple syrup after beating your 1 cup of cream stiff. Sweeten to taste with more maple syrup. Another option is to use maple flavoring instead of vanilla in your whipping cream. Sweeten with powdered sugar in this case.
Although I have scaled this recipe down some, I still end up with a little extra filling. I typically pour the extra filling into greased ramekins and bake with the tart.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Tea Party Menu Planning

My Grandma asked me a few weeks ago to cater an afternoon tea for her while I was visiting in Wyoming. The tea was this past week and I wanted to share the menu that I created and a few snapshots as well. I will work to post many of the recipes over the next few weeks.

Afternoon Tea Menu
Open Faced Cucumber Sandwich
Curried Chicken Salad on a Puff Pastry
Egg Salad, Ham Pate and Vegetable Cream Cheese Sandwich
Roast Beef with Spicy Mustard Sandwich

Herbed Goat Cheese Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes
Carrot Sticks and Celery with Ranch

Vanilla Bean Scones
Lemon Poppy Seed Scones      (all with clotted cream, lemon curd and strawberry preserves)
Blueberry Almond Scones

Raspberry Mousse Tarts
Apricot Thumbprint Cookies
Mini Gingersnap Cookies
Chocolate Truffles

Egg Salad, Ham Pate and Vegetable Cream Cheese Sandwiches

Scones with Clotted Cream, Lemon Curd and Strawberry Preserves

Carrot Sticks and Celery with Ranch

Curried Chicken Salad on Puff Pastry

Open Faced Cucumber Sandwiches

Roast Beef with Spicy Mustard Sandwich

Herbed Goat Cheese Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes

Mini Gingersnaps and Apricot Thumbprints

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Eggs Benedict

Just an update on our move and new husband is currently in GA in training and will remain there until the middle-end of March. I am in Wyoming this week at my grandparents ranch. The Melt kitchen is mobile and catering my grandmother's tea party at the end of this week. The menu is planned and the prep work is beginning. I will do my best to document the process to share some recipes and ideas with you! In the meantime, here is a favorite breakfast (although, I admit I have eaten it for lunch and dinner) loved by so many and extremely versatile.

Eggs Benedict is such a classic breakfast that I'm not sure if it really needs much of a recipe. At the same time, I make my Hollandaise sauce from scratch and wanted to share the recipe and hopefully inspire you to play with it as well.

Hollandaise Sauce
Source: original recipe

3    egg yolks
1    teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 cup butter, cold
Pinch of cayenne
Pinch of ground nutmeg
Pinch of salt

In a small saucepan, whisk egg yolks with lemon juice. Over the lowest heat setting possible, add butter in one whole piece and stir constantly until it begins to slowly melt. Continue stirring until butter completely incorporates into egg yolks without curdling the egg. The sauce will thicken gently. Remove from heat and add cayenne, nutmeg and salt. Set a small bowl over a larger bowl of very warm water; pour the sauce into the small bowl, cover and keep warm.

Eggs Benedict 

4    English muffins, split, toasted and buttered
8    slices of Canadian bacon, warmed
8    eggs, poached
1    recipe of Hollandaise sauce

Assemble by placing the English muffin on the plate, topped with a slice of Canadian bacon, and an egg. Pour a generous amount of Hollandaise sauce over the egg, garnish with chives or a sprig of parsley and serve.

Harmony's Thoughts
If you don't like "runny" eggs, cook them a bit longer (than the average 2 1/2 minutes) to firm the yolk up. This was my trick for easing my husband into any kind of a "dip egg". I got him hooked on Eggs Benedict and then slowly brought the eggs from firm to runny a little bit each time I made it....It worked!
The variation on this recipe is endless. I have seen savory scones and biscuits replace the English muffin, crab and salmon cakes replace the Canadian bacon, cheese added to the Hollandaise sauce and so on. Honestly........feel free to play with it and let something unusual inspire you. If you do, share with us in the comment section below this post!