Scottish Sharp Cheddar Shortbread

You know me – any chance at a cheese cracker, especially a cheddar cracker, and I am all in. This was a new recipe to me, but it seemed like it had all the things I like about a cheese cracker – with one glaring exception – you had to roll the damn dough out. Ugh. I just hate that beyond words. I will roll out sugar cookies. I will roll out pie dough, but why should I have to roll out crackers. It just seems unnecessary when you can roll cracker dough into a log – chill – slice – and bake and make perfectly good crackers.

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So I decided to buck the recipe and go for what made the most sense to me. Guess what? It totally worked and has made me be a little more critical of all future cracker recipes. Make it easier – why not; it also fits into my favorite way to bake – make the dough one day and bake a day (or two) later. Fits my work week baking plan to a T.

8 Tbs unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of cayenne pepper – 1/4 tsp at a minimum
8 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar cheese, finely shredded
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

Using electric mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat together butter, salt, black pepper, and cayenne at low speed just until blended. Add Cheddar and flour and mix at low speed just until smooth, Do not over-mix because that makes crappy crackers.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Bake shortbread until lightly golden and beginning to brown on edges, about 13 to 15 minutes. Cool on sheets 5 minutes, then transfer to racks to cool completely.

Source: Epicurious

Original Directions: Shape dough into disk, wrap in plastic wrap or waxed paper, and chill 30 minutes. On lightly floured surface, roll out dough to 1/4- to 1/8-inch-thick round. Using 1 1/2- to 2-inch round cutter, cut out rounds and arrange 1 1/2 inches apart on baking sheets. Reroll scraps if desired (rerolled scraps will be tougher).

This is why rolling out crackers is just annoying. I think I have figured out the best way to do it. Out of laziness. Yep, that is me.

Blueberry Upside-Down Skillet Cake

I think this is such a great idea. I love blueberries.  A lot. I really am not too much of a fan of other fruits. There are just a few:  Blueberries, blackberries, nectarines, grapes, apples, esp. Granny Smith, raisins, but that is dried fruit but it is still fruit and I love that. Are cranberries a fruit? I am not sure, but I like them both fresh and dried. I guess they are a fruit. This just shows my lack of knowledge. And I am too lazy to check it out.

I think the orange juice in this in this recipe will likely make it. I have orange juice in my cranberry relish recipe for Thanksgiving and it makes me happy. It just works. Sometimes you just need that slight acidity with a little sweetness – not the over powering citrus like a lemon. But some times you need that too – Pecorino Chicken is a great example. Indeed.

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4 Tbs unsalted butter, cubed
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 orange juice
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 large egg, room temperature
1/2 cup whole milk
8 Tbs unsalted butter, melted
1/2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a ten-inch oven proof* skillet, melt butter over medium low heat, stir in brown sugar until dissolved. Remove from heat. Stir in orang juice and the place blueberries over mixture.

In a large-ish bowl, sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl, mix together egg, milk, butter, and vanilla until blended. Add wet ingredients into flour mixture, until it just comes together – do not over mix. Pour over blueberry in the skillet.

Bake 18 – 22 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes before inverting onto serving plate. Dust with some powder sugar, or, whipped cream, or vanilla ice cream or whatever strikes your fancy.

Notes: I am going to make this again. I did not let it bake enough to set the cake. Boo. That said, the parts that I did eat were really good. I may make this the next time with frozen (organic – yes, I did it) blueberries which means I could make it just about any time.

Source: I got nothing. And I really feel bad about that. If someone recognizes this –  let me know. I want to give credit where credit is due. But sometimes I just mess up in this department.

* If you are not sure if your skillet, esp. the handle, is heat-proof at this temperature, just wrap the handle in a couple of layers of heavy duty foil. It works. See: Apple Sour Cream Butterscotch Upside-Down Cake that I make all the time, especially for the Boy’s birthday.

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Roquefort Crackers

Yet again, another cheese cracker. Obsessive though I may be, there is nothing wrong with adding more cheese crackers to my repertoire. I have learned that I like the slice and bake version of crackers the most because you can make the dough, roll it, and leave it in the fridge until you are ready to bake which makes for easy weeknight baking.

D&D_2038I have also learned to bake a test batch of 2 – 3 crackers if it is a new recipe just to see if the temperature and timing are okay. And I am glad I did that with this recipe.

You see, I had the oven at 400 degrees for another recipe and sliced up the dough for two test crackers on a parchment-lined baking sheet and baked it for the 8 minutes, turning half way through. The color was really good, but the center of the cracker was raw. I let them rest to see if they got a little crunchy as they cooled, but they did not.

So now my idea is to lower the temperature to 375 and baking them a bit longer. Fingers crossed this will work, because I think this might be a really good cracker. We shall see. 

Lo, and behold – the 375 degrees for about 8 minutes worked like a charm. Yippee for test crackers. 

8 Tbs unsalted butter, room temperature
8 ozs Roquefort, room temperature
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp cayenne

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter and Roquefort until smooth. Add flour and cayenne and mix until smooth.

Divide dough into two pieces and roll into 1 1/2 inch logs. Wrap in waxed paper. Refrigerate 12 hours.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Slice logs in 1/4 inch slices. Place on parchment lined baking sheet and bake 8 minutes until lightly browned – watch closely. Cool completely.

Source: bonappetit.com/recipes/article/Roquefort-Crackers / California American Cookbook.

This is just the kind of recipe story that I love. Sometimes family stories at just the best.

Needs more cayenne , but that always seems to be the case –  because I am me.

Chocolate Guinness Cake – Nigella

I cannot help myself, but I really like Nigella. I know people get weird about the “domestic goddess” thing, but she has always seemed like my kind of cook – do not take it too seriously and have a good time, and that is what I really try to do.

I have her cookbooks “How to Eat,” and “How to be a domestic goddess.” Oh, and “Nigella Summer.” I would love to have such a cool name. When you have a name that many people have – my name, it is kind of annoying. Thankfully my mom was ahead of the curve. There were no other Jennifers in my classes, but lord help you if you were a few years younger than me, there were Jennifers aplenty. Sometimes it helps to be in the forefront of a popular name. And then it is still kind of a thing that I would like a unique name. I guess that is why Jj works for me.

D&D_1945I am always looking for the ultimate version of a Guinness cake, so let’s see how this one stacks up to the other I made last year. I know it is not strictly the Guinness time of year (March), but I don’t really care. It’s what I want to make so it is what shall be made.

Butter for pan
1 cup Guinness stout
10 Tbs unsalted butter
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 cups superfine sugar
3/4 cup sour cream
2 large eggs
1 Tbs vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp baking soda

1 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
8 ozs cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9″ springform pan and line with parchment paper. In a large saucepan, combine Guinness and butter. Place over medium low heat until butter melts, then remove from heat. Add cocoa and superfine sugar, and whisk to blend.

In a small bowl, combine sour cream, eggs, and vanilla; mix well. Add to Guinness mixture. Add flour and baking soda, and whisk again until smooth. Pour into buttered pan, and bake until risen and firm, 45 minutes to one hour. Place on wire rack and cool completely in pan.

Break up any lumps in confectioners’ sugar – I sift. Add cream cheese and blend until smooth. Add heavy cream, and mix until smooth and spreadable.

Remove cake from pan and place on platter. Ice top of cake only to resemble a pint of Guinness. Because that is just really cool.

Making Baking Easier 

When most of your cooking / baking takes place on the weekends, which mine always do, anything you can do to make it easier goes a long way towards motivation. So this is something I learned from my mom. Ever Christmas my mom would make loaves and loaves of banana nut bread – it was like an assembly line. She was only slightly famous for her banana nut bread. Everyone wanted to be on the list. It wasn’t Christmas without her banana nut bread and I still make it every year since I finally got it right. Lord, that took a few years because the temperature has to change during the baking process, but I never had the timing or the temperature. Thanks mom. Can’t really blame her, I think this recipe was in her blood in a certain way. Once I figured it out, I would take it to Fred and he was happy. And it is just something I need at Christmas, but sometimes I make it in the summer because it has been six months since I’ve had it last. Guess that means it is time to make one this summer. DD_0206

Okay, back to making baking easier – my mom would always prep her dry ingredients ahead of time. Then all you had to do the day baking is get your butter and eggs out and it is super quick to mix everything up and boom! you are done.

So by Thursday night I like to have my plans for the weekend baking finalized and then measure out all my dry ingredients and put them in zip top bags to make the weekend baking easier. And once it is easier bake, it makes motivation happen. To be honest this also makes weeknight baking, when I’m in the mood, easier to just put something together to make me, The Boy, and the test kitchen happy.

I think my office and students would prefer to be called my test kitchen rather than my guinea pigs.  But I also want my friends to challenge me to try new things. 

So this is what I do on a Thursday night … get ready for my baking weekend. Yep.D&D_1950

It really works and makes life so much easier. Thanks mom!

Quaker Oatmeal Raisin (Walnut) Cookies

I am a total sucker for oatmeal/raisin/walnut cookies in just about any form imaginable. I am not sure why that is, because I do not remember eating loads of these as a kid and don’t remember my mom making them either. I guess it’s one of the strangely good combinations that as an adult I prefer over, say, chocolate chip or something.D&D_2006

It also does not hurt that somehow I think these cookies must be good for you. You know, oats are good for your heart, nuts are good for you, and raisins and just plain tasty. I eat these for breakfast and can feel really good about it. That might just be the best part of all. And it’s all total bullshit, but I can just about convince myself that it works. Yep, I can.

14 Tbs unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
3 cups Quaker Oats (quick or old-fashioned)
1 cup raisins + a little more
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts + a little more

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment.

Over a piece of waxed paper, sift together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add in eggs, one at a time, and mix, then add vanilla. Add dry ingredients and then oats and mix well to combine. Stir in raisins and walnuts.

Using a cookie scoop (#30), scoop dough onto baking sheet and flatten them a bit. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly golden brown. Cool 1 minute on the baking sheet then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

source: Quaker Oats Company

Chorizo, Leek, Cheddar Muffins

I made some totally anemic muffins last week with zucchini and they were just so meh. I know it is zucchini season, but this was just sad. So I had to figure out some other savory muffin to make me forget that one.

So I was looking at a couple of savory muffin recipes and I just tried to cobble this together based on the best parts of things that I saw and I think this is going to be pretty amazing.D&D_2014

So I had originally thought to use bacon in this, but decided at the last minute to use chorizo which is really salty, in my opinion, so I did not add extra salt to the batter. I will use the bacon in a new cookie I’m coming up with – well, I hope so. It seems most of the cooked bacon I had in the fridge has disappeared. Hmm.

1 cup cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp salt, if needed*
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
7 Tbs unsalted butter, melted, divided 5/2
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup grated extra sharp cheddar
1 leek, white and light green parts, thinly sliced
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
6 ozs chorizo, cooked and drained on paper towels

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Whisk together cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt if needed in a large bowl. In a large measuring cup, whisk together eggs, buttermilk, and 5 Tbs melted butter.

Make a well in the dry ingredients and incorporate wet ingredients, mix until just smooth. Stir in cheese and 1 cup of leek rings and chorizo.

Line muffin cups with foil liners and spray with baking spray. Fill 3/4 full, top with remaining leek rings and brush with remaining 2 Tbs butter. Bake 20-25 minutes and a toothpick comes out clean and tops just begin to brown. 

* taste chorizo first to decide if you need salt at all. I did not.

Wow, these were amazing and I am not just saying that to pat myself on the back. I really think the fresh chorizo made the difference and also tasting it once cooked to make sure the batter, in general, was not too salty.

This was hugely popular in the home kitchen. Both MotH and The Boy liked very much and the hardest test was me. I am a fan.

And I have made this recipe myself. Cool.