Friday, October 24, 2014

Coconut and Chocolate Macaroons

When life gives you lots of egg whites, make macaroons!  That's what I decided, anyway.  You may wonder when life gives you lots of egg whites.  In my life, it happens when I make ice cream.  Ice cream recipes tend to call for lots of egg yolks, and then you have whites left over.  So I suggest making good use of those whites and making macaroons!  (You can also freeze egg whites, I have read, but I haven't actually done that before.... great idea though!)

These are actually really easy to make.  And yet they look as though you did something very complicated!  First, you gently cook some egg whites, sugar, salt, honey, coconut and flour in a large skillet, add some vanilla, and then let it cool.  I plopped mine in the refrigerator and finished up another day.  When you are ready to bake, moisten your hands with water and roll the coconut mixture into balls, place them on a baking sheet, and slide them into the oven.  If you want to dip them in chocolate (why wouldn't you want to do that??) melt the chocolate in a double boiler, dip each macaroon in the melted chocolate, and place on a baking sheet covered in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate until set.  DONE.  It really is that easy. 

You have to try this!

Coconut and Chocolate Macaroons
adapted from David Lebovitz, Ready for Dessert
makes approximately 30 cookies
4 large egg whites
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 TB honey
2 1/2 cups unsweetened coconut
1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 ounces (or amount of your choosing) bittersweet (or semi-sweet) chocolate, chopped

Mix together the egg whites, sugar, salt, honey, coconut and flour in a large skillet.  Heat over low to medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture begins to scorch on the bottom.  Remove from the heat and add the vanilla extract.  Place mixture in a bowl and allow to cool to room temperature.  You can now refrigerate the mixture for up to a week, or freeze for up to 2 months.

Preheat oven to 350F and line a baking sheet with parchment.

Moisten your hands with water (this is important - it helps the coconut mixture stick to itself and not to you!).  Make mounds that are approximately 1 1/2 inches in diameter and place them evenly spaced on the prepared baking sheet.  Bake for 18-20 minutes, until golden brown.  Cool completely.

Melt chocolate in a double-boiler set over simmering water.  Line a baking sheet with plastic wrap.  Dip each cookie into the chocolate and place on the baking sheet.  Refrigerate for 5-10 minutes, until the chocolate it set.
NOTE:  You should be able to find unsweetened flaked coconut in the baking aisle of a large grocery store.  I think mine was "Bob's Red Mill" brand.  It tends to come in tinier flakes than your typical sweetened coconut, and the bag is more rectangular instead of flat.  If you can't find it there, check your local natural foods store or Whole Foods type market.
Printable Recipe

These were a HUGE hit in my house.  Mr. Clever Mom thought the kids must have done something very special to warrant macaroons.  He wanted to know what the special occasion might be.  I just let him guess.....

Baby in a trance of coconut/chocolate bliss....

They are messy if you eat them before the chocolate sets! 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Coconut Lime Shrimp Tacos

Ready for a quick and delicious dinner?  Here you go!  Coconut Lime Shrimp Tacos!  These are not only delicious, but they are very fast, especially you can get the people at the fish counter to peel and de-vein the shrimp for you before you even bring them home!  (I must admit, this is what I usually try to do.  I have a total aversion to de-veining shrimp.)  So if you can get said fishmonger to peel and de-vein the shrimp for you, you are golden and this recipe will be a snap! 

Besides the fact that the shrimp are coated in a tasty mixture of coconut and lime zest, there is an awesome salsa on top made of red pepper, mango and avocado.  Doesn't it look bright and cheerful?  It tastes that way, too!    I realize that these ingredients may be seasonal for some people, so if you can't get mango right now at your supermarket, print out this recipe and put it somewhere that you will remember it come summer.  If you CAN get mango, get it and enjoy a piece of summer for just a bit longer!

Coconut Lime Shrimp Tacos
adapted from The Housewife in Training Files
Serves 4 (2 tacos each)

1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and de-veined (wild, if you can get it!)
1 egg
1 overflowing cup of unsweetened, shredded coconut
1 lime, zested and juiced
1 teaspoon salt, divided
3/4 teaspoon pepper, divided
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 ripe mango, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 red onion, diced (or onion/shallot of your preference)
2 avocados, diced
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1 teaspoon cumin
8 corn tortillas

Preheat your oven to 375F.  Spray a wire rack with cooking spray and place over a lined baking sheet.

Pat the shrimp dry with paper towels.  Whisk the egg in a shallow bowl.  Mix the coconut, cayenne, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and lemon zest in another shallow bowl or pie pan.  Dip each shrimp in the egg and then cover completely with the coconut mixture.  Place on the wire rack, evenly spaced apart.  Bake shrimp for 10  minutes, or until coconut is lightly brown and shrimp is cooked.

While the shrimp are in the oven, combine the mango, red pepper, onion, cumin, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, remaining 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and lemon juice.  Once it is seasoned to your taste, gently mix in the avocado, being careful not to smash the pieces. 

Heat the tortillas in the microwave or over the flame of your stove.  Add the shrimp and place the salsa on top.  Sprinkle with chopped cilantro and serve immediately.
Printable Recipe

Yum!  Enjoy a bright, healthy, tasty dinner!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

TWD: Baking with Julia - Sunny-side-up Peach Pastries

Our Tuesday's with Dorie group decided that October would be puff pastry month.  Theoretically, the weather has gotten cooler (in many parts of the world, but not here, phooey!) so making puff pastry would not be as difficult.  Making puff pastry is a time consuming project but I find it rather nice.  It's kind of like a meditation.... Roll roll roll, fold into thirds, turn, do it again...  According to the book, when you are done with the 6 turns you make with puff pastry, there are 994 layers of dough and 993 layers of butter!  I'll have to take their word for it.  I will not be testing that theory! 

Pounded butter on dough

I have made puff pastry before and found this dough to be quite easy to work.  It was simple to make and rolled out very smoothly.  I did learn that while puff pastry recipes call for very cold butter, you should  NOT use frozen butter.  I had only 2 sticks of butter in the refrigerator when I started this recipe, and you need a pound, so I pulled 2 out of the freezer.  Well, frozen butter doesn't pound as well as cold butter does.  It just doesn't give!  In case you are wondering, when you first start working with the butter, you literally pound it with your rolling pin to get it softened a bit and into the right size to start.  It's quite nice, the pounding.  It just feels good, trust me!

A nice present.. Dough wrapped butter!
You wrap the butter in the dough and then roll it out into a long rectangle.  Fold it into thirds like a business letter, turn it, and roll it out again.  If you live somewhere that isn't actually cool, this can take a while because if the butter gets too warm, you need to cover the dough with plastic and put it in the refrigerator for at least 30-60 minutes to cool down again.  Then start again!  When you make puff pastry, you do 6 "turns" which includes rolling the the rectangle, folding the dough, and then turning the dough a different direction.  I refrigerated my dough after every 2 turns.  

Here is a hint for making puff pastry:  You need a cool room and a cool rolling surface.  I can't change the weather here that brought humidity into my house, but I could help out the rolling surface.  I do not have a marble board for rolling pastry (though obviously I NEED one!) so I improvise.  I set a metal baking sheet that just has a tiny rim on the ends upside down on top of a reusable ice mat.  The baking sheet becomes my rolling surface and it stays nice and cold with the ice mat underneath!   Here is mine:

I purchased mine at The Container Store but you can probably buy them on Amazon or other places.  

These pastries are supposed to look like sunny-side-up eggs.  There are supposed to be apricots on top, but since I could not find any, I used peaches instead.  Each pastry contains 1/2 of a peach, cut into two quarters for the "eggs".  While they aren't exactly what the recipe requested, they turned out pretty tasty just the same!

Me being me, I didn't sit down to actually WATCH the Baking with Julia episode that contains the puff pastry and Sunny-side-up Pastries until my own pastries were in the oven.  Yes, it is a bit late by then to change anything, but that is just how it goes sometimes!

My thoughts on this recipe:
  1. The book says to roll out the puff pastry to 1/8 to 1/4 inch and then cut into 4-inch circles.  The video says to roll out the puff pastry to 1/2 inch and then cut into 4-inch circles.  I think 1/2 inch would have been better.  By the time I had rolled my 4-inch circle into an 8-inch long oval, it was pretty darned thin in the middle.  Had I started out with a thicker circle, I'd have a thicker  oval.  And who would complain about a little more puff pastry??
  2. I prefer a different pastry cream recipe I think.  I didn't find this one to be as delicious as I thought it should be.  I wanted to want to lick the bowl, you know?  This was good, but it was not lick-the-bowl good.  It could be because I used vanilla extract instead of vanilla bean (out of sheer laziness and time conservation).  Maybe the vanilla bean would have made the difference?  But you could use any pastry cream recipe here.
  3. Speaking of pastry cream, I dalloped mine onto my pastry and then spread it around a bit to have a place for the peaches.  Wrong!  The better plan is to dallop it on and leave it in a mound.  Set the peaches/apricots up against the mound of cream. They help hold the cream in the pastry so it doesn't leak out.  Mine did leak a bit.  Lesson learned!
Overall, we  enjoyed these pastries!  They are certainly a delicious way to start the day, if you have them with breakfast as intended.  Mine were for dessert (I cannot imagine making these in the morning, but my mornings are a bit hectic with two kiddos) and they made a nice dessert as well!

Making these pastries gave me some nice scraps of puff pastry that will be used in the next Tuesdays with Dorie challenge.  However I also have another 1 1/4 pounds of puff pastry (this recipe used 1/2 of a puff pastry recipe, if  that makes sense) so what should I create with that???  Any suggestions?

The recipe for the puff pastry can be found on pages 46-49 of Baking with Julia, or you can find it here.  The recipe for the sunny-side-up apricot pastries can be found on pages 192-194 of Baking with Julia, or you can find it here. Remember, you don't have to make your own puff pastry to make this recipe!  You could grab a box at the grocery store and have an awesome pastry in no time!

Check out our other bakers thought by going to the TWD blog and clicking on the different baker's links!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Playdate Pizza!

The clever girl had one of her friends over for a play-date!  Since we were going to have dinner together, I thought it might be fun for the two of them to make a pizza! 

Before we picked up the clever girl's friend, we made the pizza dough.  I used Bobby Flay's recipe, which is easy to make and makes a tasty crust.  The clever girl carefully kneaded the dough before we left it alone to rise.

I made the scary decision to pre-bake the crust a little before adding the toppings.  I bake it on a pizza stone in a really hot oven (450F+) for about 5 minutes.  This means that when you put the toppings on, you are dealing with a hot crust on a SUPER  hot stone.  I decided to brave the hot stone and wrap the visible areas with kitchen towels to prevent burns.  These awesome girls are 6 so when I explained that the stone was super hot so they could not touch any of the toweled areas, they were very careful and did just fine.  Phew!  I had prepared all of the toppings in separate bowls in advance... the sauce and different cheeses were all ready. 

Pizza Dough
adapted from Bobby Flay
makes 2 14-inch pizza crusts

3 1/2 to 4 cups bread flour, plus more for rolling (bread flour yields a crispier crust.  If you substitute all-purpose flour, you will get a chewier crust)
1 teaspoon sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons instant dry yeast
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 cups water, 110F
2 TB olive water, plus 2 teaspoons

Combine the flour, sugar, yeast and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer.  With the mixer running, slowly add the water and 2 TB olive oil and mix until the dough forms a ball.  If the dough is sticky, add more flour, 1 TB at a time, until the dough is a solid ball.  If the dough is dry, add more water, 1 TB at a time.  Scrape the dough onto a lightly flowered surface and gently knead into a smooth, firm ball.

Grease a large bowl with the remaining 2 teaspoons of olive oil.  Add the dough and cover the bowl with plastic wrap.  Place the bowl in a warm location and let it double in size, about 1 hour.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 2 equal pieces.  Cover each with a clean tea-towel or plastic wrap, and let rest for 10 minutes.

Place a baking stone in the oven and preheat the oven to 450F+.  Sprinkle cornmeal over a pizza peel or rimless baking sheet.  Press and gently tug one piece of dough into a 14-inch circle on the peel or baking sheet.  When the oven is heated, gently slide the crust onto the stone and pre-bake for 5 minutes.  OR you can skip this step.  Shape the dough and cover with your choice of pizza toppings.  Gently slide the pizza onto the hot stone and bake for 15-20 minutes, until crust is golden and cheese is bubbly.
Printable Recipe

This was a total hit!  The girls had such fun making their own pizza!  We used shredded mozzerella, fresh  mozzarella and Parmesan.  Yum.  The cheesier the better, right?