Sunday, October 23, 2011

Look Out

Someone is doing quite a bit of baking right now.  Little hint: her name starts with an M and ends in an elissa.  

I will be selling my baked goods at two upcoming craft fairs in the DC metro area.  If you want to try out one of my cupcakes, or cookies, or cake bites come see me at:

St. Andrews Church in Silver Spring, Maryland on November 12 - 13


McKeldin Library, University of Maryland on December 8.  

All I can say is, good thing cookies freeze!  Wish me luck. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

God Bless Whats-His-Name

This past weekend was Hubby's birthday so I decided to make a meal out of his favorite things.  And much like Kurt Von Trappe, Hubby loves himself some Schnitzel with noodle (spaetzle) and Sauer Kraut and Sausage and mushrooms (those items were in the unedited version of the song, but Rogers and Hammerstein decided to cut them out. I swear! I read it somewhere!)

There are a lot of components to this meal so I'm going to write it out in the sequence in which I actually made it since that worked for me pretty well.  At the bottom I'll go ahead and list the recipe/steps for each component separately.  So strap on your favorite sundress made of old drapes, because we're about to have a marvelous time!

I started by making the spaetzle.  If you've never had it, spaetzle is this small dumpling style noodle.  It is very delicious when covered in hunter gravy and eaten with fried meat but it is definitely intimidating.  Hubby unearthed a recipe that he has used for years from Wolfgang Puck so I decided not to mess with success and worked with that. 

We were having 10 people over for dinner so I decided to double the recipe.  Believe me, this recipe did not need doubling.  I didn't even cook 1/2 of what I made and we still had leftovers.  You will want to do this the night before because it makes a galactic mess and you'll need the time to clean up.  I'm still finding drips of spaetzle dough all over my kitchen. 

I started with 2 eggs and 8 egg yolks.  I refused to throw away my egg whites because it seemed like such a waste so if anyone has a good suggestion on a recipe using only egg whites, let me know please. 

Next I added in the milk and whisked it all together.

Now mix the 6 cups of flour, 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg, 2 teaspoons of salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper together.

Add the egg mixture and melted butter to the dry ingredients and stir together.  Wolfgang says to use your hands to mix which indicates to me that this should be a very solid, sticky dough.  Mine was really liquidy.  I blame the fact that I was distracted while counting out the 6 cups of flour... I maaaaaaay have added only 5 and honestly that would explain all the issues I had with the portion of the meal.

Once you've mixed the ingredients together, cover the batter and put it in the fridge for at least an hour. 

While the spaetzle batter was resting, I went to work making the Sauer Kraut.  I had never in my life made kraut before and I don't even like the stuff so I wanted to do it the night before just in case what I did was horrible.  Also, much like marinara sauce or stew, the flavor improve the longer you let the kraut simmer so I figured making it the night before and then letting it slowly reheat on the stove the next day would be ideal. 

I started as any good slow stewed dish should, by rendering bacon.  Again I decided to do a double batch since Hubby LOVES Sauer Kraut, so this is about 6 pieces of low fat bacon cut into small pieces cooking over medium heat.  It is a slow process and you'll be tempted to crank the heat up, but don't. 

Once the bacon is all rendered, remove the bits to a dish with a paper towel on it.  Please try to resist the urge to eat these all while you cook.  I am proud to say that I was able to resist the temptation.  Mostly. 

To the pot with the bacon grease, add 1 whole chopped onion.

While the onion is cooking, open your sauer kraut.  Hubby always gets the Board Head Kraut in bags.  My dad would always get the cans.  Whichever variety you choose, put it in a strainer and rinse all the kraut. 

When the onions are beginning to turn translucent, add the rinsed sauer kraut into the pot and stir it all together.

 If it seems a little dry, you can add up to 1 cup of water to the mix.

Next I added 2 teaspoons of paprika.

And then 2 tablespoons of this seasoning Hubby got the last time he went to Chicago.  It is called Vegeta and I've never heard of it before in my life.  I'd say it most closely resembles bullion. 

Stir everything together, reduce the heat to low and cover the pot. I actually tasted a little bit of this Kraut and I have to say, it was actually pretty good.  I don't like Kraut so that told me it would be damned amazing when served to an actual Kraut lover.  After about an hour, I turned the heat off, let it cool slightly and then put it in the fridge overnight. 

Now back to the spaetzle. 

Start a large pot of salted water to boil.  Now comes the hard part.  Spaetzle is made by pressing the batter through a device with holes directly into the boiling water where it will cook and break apart and make little noodley dumplings.  In the past Hubby has used a potato ricer.  But the potato ricer he brought into our marriage was missing the piece that you press through.  Wolfgang suggests a hotel pan.  But, since I don't run a hotel, I lack a hotel pan.  I tried using a large hole colander but the holes weren't big enough and the mixture would get stuck. Finally I settled on the steamer attachment of my rice cooker.  It was the first time the darn thing came out of the plastic sleeve it arrived in. I usually use one of those collapsible veggie steamers....  And just now as I'm typing this I realize that that probably would have worked for this process too. 

Anyways, I put the steamer on top of the pot and poured a bit of the batter on top.  Next I scraped the batter around, essentially pushing it through the holes.  I broke this into batches since there was a lot of it.  Once you finish pushing the batter through the holes, you want to stir it around the pot to make sure the pieces are getting plenty of motion. 

After 4-5 minutes, you want to remove the spaetzle to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. 

Once it is cooled to the touch, I poured it through a colander to drain as much water as possible and then poured it into a bowl with 1/2 cup of vegetable oil.  This can now go into the refrigerator and you can say So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, good night.

The next morning, I started by taking my kraut out of the oven and putting it - covered - on low on a back burner while I cleaned the kitchen and made the crisp apple strudel (give me a day or two for that recipe.)

 A few hours before dinner, I went to work making the schnitzel.  We decided to go with chicken schnitzel instead of the traditional veal. You can buy chicken (or veal) scallopini in the grocery store, or you can cut a larger chicken breast into slices.  Your choice. 

I started by making up an assembly line of chicken, flour, 2 eggs mixed with 1/4 cup water, bread crumbs and an empty dish. 

Start by placing a chicken piece in the flour.  While it is here, salt and pepper it.

Coat both sides and move to the egg.

Coat both sides again and then finally move to the bread crumbs. 

Give each side a good press and then move the coated chicken to the empty dish. 

While you are coating the first batch of chicken, heat 1/2 cup of vegetable oil in a large frying pan.  I once again worked in batches because I didn't want my oil getting too hot or sloppy.  So when the first batch of chicken was coated, I moved to the stove and created a new assembly line. 

Put 2-3 chicken breasts into the oil at a time.  You don't want to crowd them. 

Cook for 3-4 minutes on the first side and then flip them over and cook for another 2-3 minutes. 

When they are done, remove them to a baking sheet lined with paper towels. 

At this point, you have delicious, plain schnitzel.  But Hubby wouldn't have been happy with plain schnitzel, oh no, his had to be covered in sausage and cheese and gravy.  So we're going to let the chicken rest while we get to work on the next steps.

I'm going to apologize in advance, at this point things were getting a little hectic so I may not have gotten pictures at every step.  I'll try to be as descriptive as possible when this happens.

In another large frying pan, you want to slightly brown slices of sausage.  We were using Bratwurst, Knackwursts and Kielbasa this evening.  You can use any combination of the three, but I highly suggest using all three.  They really add a nice flavor combination. 

While the sausages are browning, and the schnitzel is resting and the kraut is simmering, we move on to the mushrooms and the hunter gravy. 

Start once again, as any good gravy starts by rendering more bacon.  I went with another 6 slices of the low fat bacon cut into bit again.

Once again, cook them down on medium heat until they are delicious, crispy bits.  These bits were reduced by 1/2 by the time I was ready to use them. I blame a combination of my Hubby and my little nephew who had arrived by then and was hungry.  Far be it from me to ever deny the little guy food so I happily gave him piece after piece of bacon each time he asked for it. 

When you've removed the bacon, go ahead and add in a whole onion diced up nice and small and let it get translucent.

Next add in the mushroom.  We bought these mushrooms pre-sliced from the grocery store and I'll be honest, I'm not a fan of mushrooms either so I'm not entirely sure what time they are.  I'd guess button mushrooms.  Turn the heat to high and let them brown and shrink down until they are good and soft.

Move the mushrooms to a nice bowl and sprinkle them with whatever bacon bits remain.  The first component of the meal is done. 

In the hot pan where the bacon, onions and mushrooms have rendered, add 2-4 tablespoons of flour depending on how thick you like your gravy.  Stir it around a bit until it has browned up and soaked up all the grease. 

Pour in 1/2 cup of red wine and let that simmer until it has reduced by about 1/2. 

Finally pour in 2 cans of beef broth. 

While the gravy simmers and reduces, it is time to put the finishing touches on all the other parts of the meal.

In the pan where you browned the sausage, add a bit more vegetable oil to coat the pan and once it is hot, brown the spaetzle.  You want to add the spatzle in and then not move it very much so that it gets crispy and brown on one side.  After a few minutes, you can stir it around and chop it up so that the individual pieces separate.  Again, you'll have to do this in stages so that its doesn't get too crowded. 

Meanwhile, on a parchment lined baking sheet, place the chicken breasts, place slices of sausage on each breast and cover that with a slice of Jarlsberg cheese.  Put the baking sheets into a 350 degree oven for 5 minutes, or until the cheese is melted. 

While the cheese is melting, the spaetzle is browning and the gravy is reducing you can plate up the Sauer Kraut and top with with some bacon bits. 

Finally, when everything is a ready it is time to eat.  Hubby likes to put a piece of schnitzel and then a layer of mushrooms and top that all off with the gravy. 

I'm pretty proud of my first foray into German cooking. I definitely have to work on my spaetzle and my gravy tasted delicious but never really thickened up enough.  According to the birthday boy, I managed to make a meal (made 40% of things I don't eat) that rivals his favorite German restaurant back home in Chicago.

What's the best way to follow up Schnitzel with Noodle?  Obviously I made a Crisp Apple Strudel for dessert.

Now I've got to figure out where I can find a cream colored pony.  While I get to wrapping up some brown paper packages and tying them with string, here are the recipes for Hubby's favorite things:

Spaetzle (adapted slightly from Wolfgang Puck)
  • 4 Egg yolks
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 3/4 Cups milk 
  • 3 Cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 Teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1 Teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 Teaspoon pepper
  • 4 Tablepoons butter, melted
  • 1/2 Cup Vegetable Oil
  1. In a small bowl, beat the egg yolks, egg, and milk together.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Add the butter, and egg mixture to the flour mixture and mix with hand until well blended. Do not over mix at this stage. Cover the bowl and refrigerate. Allow the batter to rest for at least 1 hour
  3. Bring salted water to a boil. Place a perforated hotel pan (or a large-holed colander) on top of the pot. Place the batter on the pan and force through the holes to form spaetzle. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes.
  4. Transfer cooked spaetzle to a bowl of ice water to shock. When cool to the touch, drain well. Stir in half the oil. (At this point you can cover and refrigerate up to 2 days)
  5. When ready to serve, over high heat place a large sauté pan until it gets very hot. Add the remaining 1/4 cup of oil and the boiled spaetzle. Let cook for 2 minutes without moving the pan to achieve a good brown color. Add the butter and start to sauté the spaetzle. Sauté until golden brown. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Finish with a sprinkle of parsley.
Melly's Sauer Kraut
  • 6 Slices of Bacon
  • 1 Onion, Diced
  • 2 Bags of Boar's Head Sauer Kraut
  • 2 Teaspoons paprika
  • 2 Tablespoons Vegeta Seasoning or bullion
  1. Render the bacon on medium heat.
  2. Remove bacon from the pot and cook onions until transluscent.
  3. Rinse the sauer kraut and add it to the pot with the onions.
  4. Add the spices and stir.
  5. Simmer on low for 2 - 12 hours.
Sausage Schnitzel

  • 2 lbs chicken (or veal) scallopini
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1/2 Cup flour
  • 2 Eggs plus 1/4 Cup Water
  • 1 Cup Breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 Cup Vegetable Oil
  • Bratwurst
  • Knockwurst
  • Keilbasa
  • Jarlsburg Cheese cut into slices
  1. Coat the chicken by seasoning it with salt and pepper, dredging it in the flour, dunking it in the egg and then pressing it into the breadcrumbs
  2. Fry the chicken in vegetable oil for 3-4 minutes on one side and 2-3 minutes on the other.
  3. Let the chicken rest on a baking sheet lined with paper towels.
  4. Preheat oven to 350
  5. Slice and brown the sausages.  The sausage is pre-cooked so you just want to crisp up the edges a little bit.
  6. On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, place the chicken and then a single layer on the sausage. Try to get one of each variety on each breast.  Finally top each pile with a slice of cheese.
  7. Bake for 5 minutes or until cheese is melted. 
Mushrooms and Hunter Gravy
  • 6 Slices bacon
  • 1 Onion, diced
  • 3 lbs sliced mushrooms
  • 3 Tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 Cup red wine
  • 2 Cans beef broth
  1. Render the bacon until it is crispy and remove it to a plate lined with a paper towel.
  2. Add the onions to the pan and cook until translucent.
  3. Add the mushrooms to the onions and increase the heat to high. 
  4. When mushrooms are brown and soft, remove them from the pan and sprinkle with the cooked bacon. These are now done.
  5. Add the flour to the pan and let it cook for a few minutes.
  6. Deglaze the pan with the red wine, making sure to scrape up all the bits stuck to the bottom of the pan.
  7. When the wine has reduced by 1/2, add the beef broth.
  8. Let simmer until time to serve.

Monday, October 10, 2011

We've Got Spirit

Not everything I bake comes out perfect the first time.  As I mentioned in my previous post, I had quite a devil of a time getting the right blue for my baby blue velvet cupcakes.  While I experimented, I ended up with two batches of unusable cupcakes.  I still haven't figured out a way to use the gray ones, frankly you can't just dig into a black salad, you've got to play with it a little.  But for the navy blue ones, I decided to make a special little treat for Hubby.

Hubby is a huge Chicago Bears fan, and in honor of his team, I salvaged my navy blue (here they picture almost black) cupcakes by decorating them in honor of his favorite team.  The possibilities are pretty endless when it comes to decorating with team colors.  Next time I make a standard red velvet, I may reserve a few to decorate with yellow and make myself some Redskins cupcakes. 

We start tonight with blue velvet cupcakes made with this recipe.  To recap, I used 1/2 teaspoon of cornflower blue gel food coloring to get this dark of a blue (and in case you have some desire to make a gray cupcake, I used 1/8 teaspoon of cornflower blue gel food coloring and added it to the dry ingredients that included 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder.)

Once the cupcakes are cooled, I took the remainder of my cream cheese frosting I had made for the baby blue velvet cupcakes and swirled it on using a Wilton 2A tip.  For the record, the gray cupcakes went into the freezer. 

Next I melted some orange candy melts and using a spoon, drizzled it over the frosting.  I had originally planned to draw out a little Bears C, but it was nearing 11pm and I wanted to get them done. 

So there you have it.  A nice little surprise treat for Hubby to take advantage of some failed experiments.  I tell you what, it doesn't matter what color they are, these still taste delicious.  And since the orange drizzle dries hard, it gives the cupcake a nice texture and flavor addition. 

And I think they are pretty cute too.  Next time you have a booster club bake sale or a secret sister present to bake for, try this little trick to turn ordinary cupcakes into a little bit of team spirit.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Baby Blue Velvet Cupcakes

Along with the pea pod cookie pop favors, my friend Jen and I also volunteered to make the cake.  We toyed with several ideas but eventually settled on a cupcake tower.  We decided the best way to represent the boy/girl twins our friend Kelly is expecting was to have 1/2 pink and 1/2 blue cupcakes.  

I knew at once I wanted to make baby blue velvet cupcakes, so I started with my favorite red (or green) velvet recipe and figured I'd just use the same Wilton Cornflower Blue gel food coloring I'd used on the cookies.  Easy right? WRONG! But we'll get to that.  

Start with two eggs

Add 1 cup of buttermilk (or 1 tablespoon vinegar and the remaining amount to achieve a cup of skim milk)

To this, add 1 cup of vegetable oil.  The original recipe calls for 1 1/2 cups oil but I found them to be too greasy.  I also had the "opportunity" on this day to make a second batch but only had 1/2 cup of oil.  They came out ok that way but they were a bit dryer than what I wanted.  When I made the 3rd batch (yep... 3rd batch) I went back to using a full cup of oil.  Its worth it.  Why'd I make 3 batches to net 22 cupcakes?  We'll get to that.  Back to the oil.  Add it. 

Next, add 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

And 1 tablespoon of white vinegar

Now its time to add the food coloring.  If you are doing red velvet, you'd add 1 teaspoon of red gel food coloring.  For the baby blue velvet, I decided to start with a 1/2 teaspoon of the baby blue gel coloring.  

Way too dark! D'oh! Don't worry, I didn't waste this, I decided to finish up the recipe and bake them off.  But for the Baby Blue Velvet, these wouldn't work.  

So I started over again, and when it came time to add the food coloring, I started with 1/8 of a teaspoon of cornflower blue.

All right, that'll work.  Now on to the dry ingredients.  

I combined the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt and cocoa in another bowl and whisked them together. 

Once it is thoroughly whisked, pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. 

And this is where I ran into my next problem.  When I whisked the baby blue wet ingredients into the tan colored dry ingredients, I got GRAY batter.  I didn't take a picture of it because it was GRAY and I was grossed out.  I still baked them.  But the gray got worse. 

Which means.... yep... batch #3.  For Batch #3, I decided to omit the cocoa since I figured that had to be the culprit.  So I did everything the same with the wet ingredients and poured them into the dry ingredients minus the cocoa powder. 

Finally! Success!

I filled each lined cupcake hole with 1/4 cup batter and cooked them at 350 degrees for 18 - 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  You want to really watch these closely because if they start to brown you lose that cute blue cupcake. 

While the cupcakes cooled on the counter, I went to work making the cream cheese frosting.  

Start by creaming 1 stick of butter in your mixer

Add 8oz of cream cheese.  Do not use low fat or fat free cream cheese.  

Next I added 1 teaspoon of vanilla bean paste.  You can of course use vanilla extract but if you have the opportunity, I highly suggest using the paste. 

Slowly add in the powdered sugar

And then 1 - 3 teaspoons of milk, depending on how thick you want your frosting.  For a pretty piped swirl, I use 1 teaspoon. 

Turn the mixer up to medium high and let it whip up for about 5 minutes. 

Yummy! I resisted the urge to eat this whole bowl with a spoon and instead swirled the frosting onto my cupcakes using a Wilton 2A tip. 

When I got to the party, we topped the cupcakes with these cute little pea pods that Jen made out of fondant

We topped the tower with a little layer cake covered in fondant that Jen made and we were all set for our boy/girl twin baby shower. 

Shopping List for Blue Velvet Cupcakes - Yields 20 - 24
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 Cup Buttermilk
  • 1 Cup Vegetable Oil
  • 1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 1 Tablespoon White Vinegar
  • 1/8 Teaspoon Cornflower Blue Gel Food Coloring
  • 2 1/2 Cups Flour
  • 2 Cups Sugar
  • 1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1 Teaspoon Salt
Shopping List for Cream Cheese Frosting - Covers 30 cupcakes
  • 1/2 Cup Butter (I always use salted)
  • 8 oz Cream Cheese (full fat only!)
  • 1 Teaspoon Vanilla Bean Paste
  • 4 Cups Powdered Sugar
  • 1 - 3 Teaspoons Milk