12 December, 2012

A Very Harry Christmas Day 12: Rhubarb Crumble with Custard Sauce

As soon as I saw a recipe for rhubarb in my Harry Potter Cookbook, I knew I would make it.  I'm still a Minnesota girl...rhubarb for me is like fried okra or fried green tomatoes for a Georgia girl.

This is a super simple recipe and its a "fix it and forget it" 15 minutes of cooking while the oven does the rest of the work.  How can you not love that!?  Let's get on it!

Rhubarb Filling
1 lb. frozen rhubarb
½ c. sugar
1 tsp. grated lemon zest
1 tsp. baking soda

Crumble Topping
1 c. flour
1 c. firmly packed dark brown sugar
½ c. pecans, chopped
½ tsp. cinnamon
½ stick (4 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks

Custard Sauce
¼ c. sugar 
Pinch salt
1 T. cornstarch
1 c. whole milk and ½ cup heavy cream or 1½ cups milk
3 large egg yolks
1½ tsp. vanill

Preheat the oven to 350°F. 

Toss the rhubarb, sugar, lemon zest, and baking soda in a 9-inch pie pan. Bake for 10 minutes.

While the rhubarb is baking, make the Crumble Topping. Combine the flour, brown sugar, pecans, and cinnamon in a mixing bowl. Add the butter and rub it in with your fingertips until the mixture resembles wet sand.

Remove the rhubarb from the oven, toss the rhubarb mixture one more time, and pour the topping into the center, spreading it to the edges with your fingers. Return the pan to the oven and bake for 50 minutes, or until the rhubarb bubbles over the edges.

For the custard, combine the sugar, salt, and cornstarch in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan. Stir in the milk and cream and continue stirring until the cornstarch dissolves. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture is hot but not bubbling. Reduce the heat to low and temper the egg yolks by slowly pouring ½ cup of the hot mixture into the yolks while whisking the yolks constantly. Pour the egg yolk mixture into the saucepan while stirring gently. Turn up the heat to medium and continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick and bubbling. Remove the saucepan from the heat and pour the custard through a sieve. Add the vanilla and stir to combine. Serve the rhubarb custard warm with the hot custard.

Would you believe me if I told you this was spectacular?  I didn't think it would be.  I am used to rhubarb being paired with a sweet fruit (strawberry, raspberry, etc.), so I honestly dreaded even trying this.  But the custard sauce more than offsets any bitter/tart that was left in the rhubarb.  Its the perfect marriage of rich and sweet to tart and light.  The crumble on top didn't weigh this down either like I thought it would.  I was so glad that I took the leap on this one.  When I make it again, I'll double the recipe and serve it to a crowd!

11 December, 2012

A Very Harry Christmas, Day 11: Cinnamon Pull-Apart Breakfast Rolls

Cinnamons rolls aren't something I would typically classify as a Christmas dish, however...as the crowds start to gather for breakfast in the morning, as a wife and a Momma, I'd be left wondering how I'd feed the army without slaving over a hot stove all morning.  Sure, you could all go out, but the kids' come home for Momma's home cooking, not Perkins!  What could make breakfast easier than a fresh pan of sweet rolls to go with the quick scrambled eggs, sausage and fruit salad?  Nothin' I can think of!

Cinnamon Pull-Apart Breakfast Rolls

¼ c. warm water
1 T. (1 packet) active dry yeast
1 T. sugar
2/3 c. whole milk
½ stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter
3 c. flour
½ tsp. salt
2 large eggs
1/3 c. sugar

Cinnamon Filling
1 T. unsalted butter, melted
¼ c. packed dark brown sugar
1 T. cinnamon

1 c. confectioners' sugar, sifted
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 T. heavy cream
½ tsp. vanilla

Combine the water, yeast, and 1 tablespoon sugar in a mixing bowl and set aside until puffy. Heat the milk and butter in a small saucepan or the microwave until the butter is melted. Set aside. 

Whisk together the flour, salt, and yeast. Set aside. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar, then whisk in the milk-butter mixture. Add the yeast mixture and egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir to combine. (If making this dough by hand, first whisk ½ cup of the flour mixture into the egg mixture until smooth, then add the egg mixture to the rest of the flour mixture.) 

Knead the dough in the mixing bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook or by hand either in the bowl or on a lightly floured surface until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Place in an oiled bowl, turning to coat, and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside in a warm place until doubled in size, 1½ to 2 hours.

**If you want the rolls for breakfast, prepare the rolls the day before through Step 3, but instead of setting them to rise, cover the rolls with plastic wrap and allow them to rise in the refrigerator overnight, then pop them in the oven in the morning. You can also prepare the icing ahead of time and keep it in the refrigerator; just allow it to come to room temperature before using.

Grease and flour a 9″ × 13″ pan. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll into a 16″ × 12″ rectangle. Brush the tablespoon of melted butter over the dough. Combine the brown sugar and cinnamon and spread it over the dough until within ½ inch of the borders. Roll up the long side. Slice off the messy ends.

The best way to cut the roll is using dental floss. Sounds crazy, but a knife exerts too much pressure and squashes the roll. First, slide a length of floss under the roll until you reach the center. Bring the two ends over the roll and cross them, pulling until a neat cut has been made. In this manner, cut the two halves in half again, then each quarter into 3 slices to make 12 rolls in all. Lay the rolls in the prepared pan and leave to rise until the rolls are touching each other and reach the rim, 1½ to 2 hours.

Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 350°F. Bake the rolls for 20 minutes until golden brown, rotating the pan halfway through baking. Remove from the oven. Cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then invert the pan and reinvert the rolls onto a serving platter.

To make the icing, beat the icing ingredients together with a wooden spoon until smooth. Be sure to sift the confectioners' sugar or you will have lumps. Spread the icing over the rolls while they are still warm, or pipe the frosting using a #3 round tip. Eat immediately. The rolls do not keep well and should be eaten within a few hours of being made.

 Right before tossing them on the back step over night
**I decided to test the author's assertion that these rolls could rise a bit, then be refrigerated and baked the next morning.  It worked brilliantly!  To get them back to room temperature and rising again I heated my oven to 200 F...turned it OFF, then popped the pan in for an hour.  

Just out of the oven and frosted

Why lie?  I'm not typically a fan of cream cheese frosting on my breakfast rolls.  But, there is something about it in the winter that makes it more than okay; its awesome!  Perhaps its knowing I need the calories to keep warm...or at least I can pretend that's the reason as I slip into my sweat pants to make room for roll #2!!!

The dough is so unbelievably soft on the inside with just the right amount crust on the outside to keep it that way!  The cream cheese icing is out of this WORLD yummly with this dough.  It is the perfect marriage of sweet dough and icing.  I can't think of a better way to give yourself Christmas morning off by prepping these the day or two beforehand and toss them in the fridge.  Then Christmas morning, 2 hours before breakfast, preheat your oven to 200 F and then turn it off; then place them in there to rise for 1 hour.  After they rise either leave them in or take them out as the oven heats to 350.  Then follow the directions as listed for baking time and frosting and VOILA!  One of the quickest, least time consuming (on your feet anyhow) breakfasts you can serve up warm to your crew with some homemade cocoa as you open gifts.  Love it!  I hope you try it out this year! 

10 December, 2012

A Very Harry Christmas, Day 10: Chocolate Custard Trifle with Toffee Crunch

This was a no brainer of a choice to include when I read through the recipe.  Chocolate, chocolate...a little whipped cream and toffee....and yet MORE chocolate.  I'm sold!

I will mention that this recipe takes multiple steps, and can be time consuming if you're too timid to double the recipe for the chocolate custard filling and the chocolate coating....the custard has to cool completely before its layered on top of the chocolate coating and so on.  The recipe as written tells you to go to other pages and use parts of previous recipes in order to assemble this trifle.  But, it is SO worth the effort.  You do NOT have to be Jamie Oliver or Paula Deen to figure this sucker out.  Let's get started shall we!?

Chocolate Custard Trifle with Toffee Crunch
1 recipe Chocolate Cake from Harry's First Birthday Cake, baked and cooled (Chapter 4)
1 recipe Chocolate Glaze from Chocolate Éclairs, prepared with 1 teaspoon instant coffee
1 recipe Chocolate Pastry Cream from Chocolate Éclairs, prepared and chilled
1 c. heavy cream
¼ c. confectioners' sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. toffee bits

Chocolate Cake
¾ c. boiling water
½ c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp. instant coffee
1 c. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 c. sugar
½ c. packed dark brown sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

To make the cake layers, preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 8-inch round cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper.

Whisk together the boiling water, cocoa powder, and instant coffee in a measuring cup or small bowl until smooth; set aside. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each until incorporated and scraping down the sides as needed. Add the vanilla extract and beat until combined. Add the hot cocoa mixture and beat until combined, scraping down the sides as needed. Add the flour mixture and stir on the slowest speed until combined. 

Finish by scraping the bottom of the bowl with a spatula and folding it in. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans and bake for 20 minutes, until the cakes feel firm and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few crumbs attached. Be careful, as this cake over bakes easily. Cool the layers in the pans for 10 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack and cool completely.

Chocolate Glaze
½ c. heavy cream
6 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped

To make the glaze, combine the cream and chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high for 2 minutes, stopping the microwave and stirring every 30 seconds; then stir until smooth. Cool until it is thick enough to spread.

Chocolate Pastry Cream
1 c. whole milk
½ c. heavy cream or whole milk
1 T. cornstarch
1 T. unsweetened cocoa powder
½ c. sugar
Pinch salt
3 large egg yolks
1 tsp. vanilla
2 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 T. butter ONLY if using all milk, no heavy cream

To make the pastry cream, combine the milk, heavy cream if using, cornstarch, cocoa powder, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan and cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until hot but not bubbling. Reduce the heat. Slowly pour ½ cup of the hot mixture into the egg yolks while whisking constantly, then pour the egg yolk mixture into the saucepan while stirring constantly.

Return the heat to medium-high and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick and bubbling. Remove from the heat.

Add the vanilla and chocolate (and butter, if using all milk). Stir to combine. Pour the mixture through a sieve, using a rubber spatula to push it through. Cover the surface directly with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming, and cool to room temperature. Refrigerate until cold, or up to 2 days.

Now...to assemble this delicacy.....

Place 1 cake layer in the bottom of a round 9-inch serving dish, preferably clear glass, about 3 inches deep. Eat the other cake layer as you work.  (I did NOT eat the other cake...  I decided to just make another trifle right on top of that one in my deep trifle dish.  Pictures below show how it looks with the single layer recipe and with the second cake and layers on top.)

First, I found something in my kitchen that was just a tad smaller than the circumference of my trifle bowl...it ended up being the lid from my sugar canister on the counter.  I had my Mister hold the lid over the cake layer while I used a marker to trace the lids edges onto the wax paper.

Then I took a very sharp knife and cut along the black line.  Save the middle disc for the other cake layer...unless you followed the directions and ate the other layer while you were assembling the trifle.  Save the trimmings in case you have gaps to fill in the trifle bowl!!

If there is room between the cake layer and the edges of the trifle bowl, fill them in with the strips of trimming that you set aside...  Now you're ready to pour the warm chocolate glaze on top and set it in the fridge to set.

Pour the glaze over the cake layer and spread to the edges of the dish. Allow it to harden (you can refrigerate it for a few minutes to speed it up), then pour the pastry cream on top of the glaze and spread it to the edges. Cover the surface with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold, or up to 2 days.

Before serving, combine the heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla extract in a large mixing bowl and beat until stiff peaks form. Remove the plastic wrap and spread or pipe the whipped cream over the chocolate pastry cream. Sprinkle the toffee bits on top and serve.

Recipe as written, single layer trifle.  Look at the beautiful layers!

 A whole cup of toffee goes on the top.  Mmmmm!!
As I said, I decided not to follow the portion of directions that told me to "eat the other cake layer as you work", instead I doubled down on this delight and repeated the steps of layering as directed.

I couldn't wait to dig into this beauty....and neither could anyone else in the house.  I had started a close roasting operation in the oven for Sunday dinner...beef roast, mixed baby potatoes, sweet onion, garlic, carrot and apple cider vinegar.  This would be PERFECT for our Sunday dinner dessert!  But really...there is NO such thing as a time when it ISN'T time for scrumliness like this!

There is NO way to get this out of a trifle dish or bowl and have it still be "pretty" lol...  I know, I tried.  But, what it lacks in looks on a plate is SO makes up for in taste and texture!  The cake layers are SO moist and very chocolate-y.  The custard is very creamy, rich and smooth; so is the whipped cream layer.  The one thing I couldn't have cared less about was the toffee.  It didn't seem to belong.  Sure, it added a crunch that wouldn't have been there otherwise, but it just didn't match the rest of the dessert and the same flavor could have been accomplished by a liberal drizzle of some caramel sauce.   

*Omm nomm nomm*  

Forgive me, I am "taste testing" as I type...  I was going to mention that the gargantuan portion you see there wasn't something I would be able to get down in one sitting but lol...my tummy is proving me wrong on that score.  It is very sweet, but it is SO worth it!  This would be a beautiful centerpiece dessert for the Christmas table, no question.  You'd have your guests begging for it by the end of the meal!  I hope you take the time to try this recipe; don't be intimidated by the prep work.  Just make sure you get after it a day before you want to serve it so everything has time to set up properly.  It is well worth the effort and perhaps you'll discover some new improve skills for the kitchen you didn't know you had!  I know I did.  Cheers!!  

09 December, 2012

A Very Harry Christmas, Day 9: Spotted Dick

If I told you that the English love their "puddings" would you be surprised?  I wouldn't either.  Their culinary history is rich with custards, creams, puddings (even meat puddings!) and some pretty darn creative meat dishes that are just fabulous.  But, when you think pudding, I am sure you think of that creamy, velvety stuff you make on the stove or buy ready made in the refrigerated section.  Those puddings aren't what I am talking about...

Traditional English puddings are more like cakes and sometimes even pie, but they have savory puddings and dessert puddings (like what you'd call the stuff the American's refer to as "pudding") that would put most American puddings to shame.  Wikipedia actually has a pretty thorough entry on pudding, if you want to learn more about it.

But lets get to it shall we?!  I will preface this with...spotted dick is traditionally served with custard.  The HP Cookbook doesn't include a recipe for it on the page, but there was a recipe for "custard sauce" toward the front.  So I am making the dick as is, but including a recipe for traditional English custard sauce at the end of the page for full range of effect on this dessert.  Having it steamed as a mode of "baking" should keep it plenty moist, but custard is traditional...so you should give it a go at least once.

*This traditionally is made with suet.  I do keep suet in my house for certain recipes, so I did use suet.  The book mentioned suet was traditional but used butter in the recipe instead.  I'm not sure why...

Spotted Dick
2 c. flour
2 c. fresh bread crumbs
1 c. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cloves
2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 c. raisins
1/2 c. golden raisins
1 c. dried cranberries or currants
3/4 c. whole milk

Fill a large pot with water and place a rack or overturned bowl in the pot.  Bring to a simmer.  Grease a 2-quart heatproof (glass is best) bowl with a tight fitting lid.  (If you don't have a lid, like I didn't, you can "tent" your bowl of pudding with foil...there are pictures below.) and set aside.

Whisk together the flour, bread crumbs, sugar, baking powder, salt, and spices in a large mixing bowl.  Rub in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal with some larger pieces of butter remaining.  (I just used my pastry cutter/blender...much quicker.)  Toss in the raisins and cranberries OR currants.  Pour in the milk and fold it in until the mixture is uniformly moistened.  Turn out the mixture into the prepared dish and press the top down with a spatula.

Cover the dish with the lid (I made a "tent" out of foil because I didn't have a dish with a lid), making sure it is tightly sealed.  Place it in the pot; the water should come halfway up the sides of the dish.  Steam for 3 hours.  

Add water to replenish as necessary. (I just checked the pot every half hour...)  Remove the pudding, remove the lid, and invert it onto a plate.  Serve warm with warm custard.

 Custard Sauce
1/4 c. sugar
pinch of salt
1 T. cornstarch
1 c. whole milk
1/2 c. heavy cream (if you don't have cream, increase milk to 1 1/2 c.)
3 large egg yolks
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla

Combine the sugar, salt, and cornstarch in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan.  Stir in the milk and cream and continue to stirring until the cornstarch dissolves.  Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture is hot but not bubbling.  Reduce the heat to low and temper the egg yolks by slowly pouring 1/2 c. of the hot mixture into the yolks while whisking the yolks constantly.  Pour the egg yolk mixture into the saucepan while stirring gently.  Turn up the heat to medium and continue to cook, stirring constantly, until mixture is thick and bubbling.  Remove the saucepan from the heat and pour the custard through a sieve.  Add the vanilla and stir to combine.  

Serve the custard warm with the warm spotted dick.

This was so unbelievably delicious...and I really didn't think it would be.  When I was mixing up all those spices, then added the fruit I thought it would be just "okay".  But, man OH man!...you ladle a smidge of that custard sauce on top and BIGGITY BAM!...it totally transforms the depth of the pudding.  I want you to be aware, the custard doesn't taste like American vanilla pudding...think more like, Bavarian cream filling, but in sauce form....about the consistency of salad dressing.  Then you'll be there.  The English sure know how to set your mouth watering and make your tummy delirious!