Mar 4, 2015

Slow Cooker Loaded Baked Potato Soup

Slow Cooker Loaded Baked Potato Soup

This slow cooker loaded baked potato soup is so creamy and flavorful, and tastes just like a twice-baked potato.

Sliced red potatoes are simmered in the slow cooker in a mixture of sautéed (in bacon fat!) onions and chicken broth for several hours, and then pureed with an immersion blender. Sharp cheddar cheese, cream, and chives are stirred into the hot soup. Just garnish with sour cream, bacon, and a few scallions, and you've got a loaded baked potato in a bowl.

I cooked and pureed the potatoes, onions, and chicken broth a day in advance, and then reheated the mixture in a Dutch oven and then added the cheese and cream the next day. Leftovers refrigerate and reheat very well too.

Totally comforting. Totally delicious.

Slow Cooker Loaded Baked Potato Soup

Slow Cooker Loaded Baked Potato Soup

Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients

8 slices bacon, chopped
2 large onions, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp dried thyme
5 1/2 Cups chicken broth
3 pounds red potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/2 inch thick
1 1/2 tsp salt, plus more to taste
1 tsp pepper, plus more to taste
8 ounces white sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1 Cup heavy cream
1/4 Cup minced chives
Sour cream
Thinly sliced scallions

Instructions

  1. In a large saucepan, cook the bacon until done, but not too crispy. Move the bacon from the pan with a slotted spoon to a paper towel lined plate. Refrigerate until you are ready to serve the soup. 
  2. Pour the bacon fat out of the pan, reserving two tablespoons. 
  3. Add the onions to the fat and cook for about 10 minutes over medium low heat. Add the garlic and thyme and stir for about 30 seconds. Add the broth and deglaze the pan. Bring to a boil. 
  4. Combine the sliced potatoes and the 1 1/2 tsp salt in a 5 to 7 quart slow cooker. Pour the hot onion and soup mixture over the potatoes and stir. 
  5. Cover and cook on high for about 7 hours, or on low for about 8 hours. 
  6. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until completely smooth. If you don't have an immersion blender, blend the soup in batches in a standard blender. 
  7. Stir in the cheese and cream until smooth. 
  8. Add the pepper and chives. Add more salt and pepper to taste. 
  9. Reheat the bacon in the microwave for about 20 to 30 seconds, until hot. 
  10. Garnish the soup with sour cream, scallions, and the hot bacon.  
Ah-maze-ing!
Adapted from the December/January 2015 edition of Cook's Country

Mar 2, 2015

Pane di Genzano | #TwelveLoaves

Pane di Genzano
Pane Casareccio di Genzano
Pane di Genzano is a wonderful soft country bread, ideal for a picnic with cheese and salami. The bread comes from a town in the province of Rome, located about 20 miles south of the city of Rome, in the Lazio region of Italy. It is the only bread in Italy that has been given the IGP, Indicazione Geografica Protetta. This certification, usually reserved for cheese or wine, means that no bread may be called Pane di Genzano unless it has been produced within the geographic region.

Oh man! I could be in BIG trouble if the bread police show up.

Pane di Genzano
Pane Casareccio di Genzano

In Genzano, the dough for the "real" Pane di Genzano was traditionally prepared at home, using a lievito natural (starter) and grano tenero (tender wheat), and then taken to a public wood fired brick oven to be baked. In addition, the crust was coated with wheat bran prior to baking. The loaves were very large, up to eight pounds, resulting in a very dark crust. Every September since 1989, the town has a festival to celebrate its bread tradition.

My loaves are only about one and a half pounds, and were baked in my home oven. I used a mixture of all purpose and pastry flour to simulate the Italian type 0 or 00 flour that is usually used to make this bread.

The dough is very wet and sticky, and almost impossible to shape. I placed the "shaped" dough in a metal pie tin to keep it all in one place as it rose (more like spread). Slashing the dough is not necessary, and would probably deflate it. Fortunately, the bread rises up in the middle the minute you put it on the baking stone in the oven, creating an airy, soft loaf. The bread stays fresh for days, perhaps from the high percentage of water in the dough.

Pane di Genzano
Pane Lariano di Genzano
I made two loaves, one with white pastry flour, Pane Casareccio di Genzano, and one with whole wheat pastry flour, Pane Lariano di Genzano (which I baked in an oven proof skillet). Both versions will definitely be in my bread baking rotation.

Pane di Genzano
Pane Lariano di Genzano

Please don't tell the bread police... I also used yeast instead of the lievito natural to make these loaves, but I let them rise in a cool place to proof very slowly and develop flavor. The bread was amazingly tasty, and the bran added such a wonderful aroma and a nutty flavor.

After the recipe, check out the links for more wonderful Italian bread recipes from my #TwelveLoaves friends.

Pane di Genzano

Ingredients

1 teaspoon instant yeast
1 2/3 cups minus 1 T / 385 grams water
14 ounces / 400 grams unbleached all purpose flour
3.5 ounces / 100 grams white or whole wheat pastry flour
2 tsp salt
1/2 cup / 25 grams wheat bran

Instructions

  1. Add all of the ingredients except the bran to the bowl of a stand mixer, and mix with the paddle for about two minutes.
  2. Switch to the dough hook, and knead for three minutes at low speed, and three minutes and medium speed. 
  3. Pour the dough into an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and place it in a cool place to rise until tripled, about 3 to 5 hours. 
  4. Lightly oil the bottom of a pie pan and sprinkle the bottom with some of the bran. 
  5. Sprinkle a work surface with flour, and turn the dough out onto it. With floured hands and a dough scraper, shape the dough into a round, as best you can. Place the round, seam side down, into the pie pan. Sprinkle the top of the dough with the rest of the bran and gently pat it to make sure it sticks. 
  6. Cover the loaf with oiled plastic wrap or a towel and let rise until doubled, about 2 hours. The dough will be very jiggly. 
  7. Preheat the oven with a baking stone (if you have one) to 450 degrees F. with an optional metal bowl, cloche, or foil baking pan on the stone (you don't need the cover, but it helps a lot with oven spring). 
  8. Place the pie pan on the stone and invert the bowl, cloche, or foil baking pan over the loaf. 
  9. Close the oven and turn it down to 425 degrees F. Bake for 30 minutes, remove the cover, and bake for an additional 10 to 15 minutes, until the bread reaches an internal temperature of 200 to 210 degrees F.
  10. Cool on a wire rack.
#TwelveLoaves is a monthly bread baking party created by Lora from Cake Duchess and runs smoothly with the help of Heather of girlichef, and the rest of our fabulous bakers. Our host this month is Rossella from Ma ch ti sei mangiato, and our theme is Italian Breads. For more bread recipes, visit the #TwelveLoaves Pinterest board, or check out last month's mouthwatering selection of #TwelveLoaves Olive Breads!




Mar 1, 2015

Kouign Amann

Kouign Amann, a traditional and delicious Breton laminated butter cake


Kouign Amann is a buttery flaky pastry made with a yeasted dough. The process to make the the dough is very similar to making croissant dough, with the big difference being the final shaping and the addition of sugar between the final layers.

Kouign Amann, a traditional and delicious Breton laminated butter cake


The shatteringly crisp layers are so delicious. I immediately ate two about 15 minutes after they emerged from the oven.

Kouign Amann, a traditional and delicious Breton laminated butter cake


Kouign Amann originated in the region of Brittany (Bretagne), on the northwestern corner of France. It was an independent kingdom up until the 16th century, until it became part of France. The name Kouign Amann reflects the original Breton words for butter and cake.

I learned about the Celtic heritage of that particular region of France the first time we visited Dublin. We were in a restaurant and our waiter sounded French, so we asked him if he was from France. His answer, "No, I'm from Brittany." This Breton was very proud of his heritage!

These little pastries take a few hours to make, most of that time being hands off to allow the dough to chill in the refrigerator between turns. If time is an issue, you can make and chill your dough overnight and do your turns in the morning, or you can complete all of the laminating in one day, and then chill your shaped Kouign Amann overnight, to be baked in the morning. This is what I did, and had fresh Kouign Amann for Sunday breakfast.

"Turns" you ask? That is the process of laminating the dough with a thin layer of butter. A butter block is wrapped with the dough, and then the dough is rolled out and folded in thirds four times, creating thin layers of dough separated by thin layers of butter. If I've done my math correctly, there are about 80 layers of butter in this dough. The trick is to keep everything cold, but not so cold that the butter cracks.

Kouign Amann, a traditional and delicious Breton laminated butter cake


Because there is such a manageable amount of dough, this is the perfect recipe to try laminating for the first time. Give it a try! Even if your butter gets lumpy or peeks through, press on. The results are amazing.

Kouign Amann, a traditional and delicious Breton laminated butter cake

Kouign Amann Recipe

Ingredients

300 to 340 grams unbleached all purpose flour
5 g instant yeast
3/4 tsp salt
200 ml warm (90 to 95 degrees F) water
25 g unsalted butter, melted
250 g cold unsalted butter (about 2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons)
100 g caster sugar (finely ground sugar, you can do this in a mini food processor)

Instructions

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, add 300 grams of flour, yeast, salt, water, and melted butter, and hand stir with the dough hook to wet all of the ingredients. 
  2. Knead on low for two minutes. Check the hydration of the dough. It should be tacky but not overly sticky. 300 grams of flour was fine for me. Be careful not to add too much flour. 
  3. Knead on medium for 6 minutes.
  4. Scrape the dough out of the mixer, and form it into a ball. Place it in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise for one hour.
  5. In the meantime, create the butter block. Roll the butter between two pieces of parchment into a 5 1/2 inch square. Wrap with plastic wrap and chill.
  6. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into an 8 inch square. Place the chilled butter block in the middle, on an angle (so the points are in the middle of each "side" of the dough), and fold the corners of the dough over it like an envelope to enclose the butter completely. 
  7. Roll the dough/butter envelope into a 6 inch by 18 inch rectangle. Fold the bottom third of the dough over the middle third of the dough. Fold the top third of the dough over that, as if folding a letter. You should have a square. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. 
  8. Repeat this process two more times, refrigerating the dough for 30 minutes between each turn. 
  9. After the last chilling of the dough, roll it into a 6 inch by 18 inch rectangle. Sprinkle the dough with sugar and then fold it into thirds again. Quickly roll the dough into a 16 by 12 inch rectangle. Sprinkle the dough with the caster sugar, and cut it into 12 squares.
  10. Butter a 12 cavity muffin tin. Gather the squares up by their four corners and place them in the buttered muffin tins. Press the corners together. Sprinkle with more caster sugar. At this point, you can either refrigerate the pastries overnight, or bake them immediately. 
  11. Cover loosely with plastic wrap, and let sit until slightly puffy, about 30 minutes. If you have refrigerated them, let them sit for about an hour to an hour and a half at room temperature before baking. 
  12. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until golden brown. Tent with foil (check at about the 15 minute mark) if they are getting too brown too early. 
  13. Remove them from the oven and wait just a couple of minutes before turning them out onto a cooling rack. Let cool about 10 minutes (if you can!), and then serve.
  14. To save for later, individually wrap each completely cooled Kouign Amann with plastic, and place them in a freezer bag. When you are ready to eat one, defrost it, and then place them in a 350 degree F oven for about 5 minutes. 
Recipe sightly adapted from Notitie van Lien, who chose this recipe for the Bread Baking Babes this month. Check out her site for links to the other Babes' posts of this bread. She slightly adapted this from Paul Hollywood. I am baking along as a Buddy. 

Feb 27, 2015

One-Pot Sticky Chicken Wings

One-Pot Sticky Chicken Wings from Karen's Kitchen Stories

Your fingers will be definitely be coated with sauce after eating these One-Pot Sticky Chicken Wings, but it will be worth it.

They are coated with a sweet, mildly spicy, Asian flavored sauce, which is reduced as the wings are stirred and tossed in the sauce. The ingredient list is long, but the prep time is only 10 minutes, and the wings take just about 40 minutes from start to finish.

One-Pot Sticky Chicken Wings from Karen's Kitchen Stories

My grandsons loved these wings (after picking off the green onions), although I did have to keep reminding them not to wipe their hands on their shirts.

One-Pot Sticky Chicken Wings from Karen's Kitchen Stories

I can't get enough of these sticky wings. The flavors are amazing.

One-Pot Sticky Chicken Wings

Ingredients

3 pounds chicken wings, wing tips removed, and cut into two pieces
2 T minced fresh ginger
4 small dried red chiles, tops cut off
2 whole star anise
1 cinnamon stick
1/3 C soy sauce
1/3 C sake
3 T oyster sauce
3 T mirin
3 T brown sugar
1/3 C water
2 scallions, thinly sliced
Toasted sesame seeds

Instructions

  1. In a large nonstick skillet (mine was 14"), sear the chicken wings about 10 minutes per side, until golden. 
  2. Add the ginger, red chiles, star anise, and cinnamon stick and stir for about a minute. 
  3. Add the soy sauce, sake, oyster sauce, mirin, sugar, and water, and bring the mixture to a simmer. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. 
  4. Uncover and cook with medium high heat for about 12 minutes, stirring frequently, until the sauce is reduced to a thick glaze, and the pan is almost dry. At the end, finish the wings on high heat to emulsify the chicken fat into the sauce. 
  5. Remove the chiles, star anise, and cinnamon stick, and toss the wings with the scallions and sesame seeds. 
Enjoy! 

Adapted from Food Network

Feb 25, 2015

Tangelo, Date, and Almond Biscotti

Tangelo, Date, and Almond Biscotti

These tangelo, date, and almond biscotti are and excellent accompaniment to your morning coffee or afternoon tea. They contain butter, so they are not as rock hard as southern Italian biscotti. Don't worry, they are still nice and crunchy, and will stay fresh for days. They are excellent eaten with our without dunking them in a cup of coffee.

I love the sweetness of the dates combined with the citrus flavor. This is the second time I've made biscotti, and am amazed at how easy they are to make. Homemade biscotti is pretty special.

Impress your friends. All you need is two bowls, a whisk, a spoon and a good serrated knife. No mixer needed.


Tangelo, Date, and Almond Biscotti

I made these tangelo, date, and almond biscotti for a virtual baby shower for one of my virtual friends, Tara, of Tara's Multicultural Table!

Her baby was (operative word "was") due in mid March, so Lauren at Sew You Think You Can Cook thought it would be a fun excuse to make some biscotti and, of course, surprise Tara.

Guess what? Tara's baby came early! You can follow her on Instagram (@taramctable) to see pictures of her amazing food as well as an occasional photo of her cute kids and puppies, Congratulations Tara! 
Biscotti Baby Shower

After the recipe, be sure to check out all of the other wonderful biscotti posts from Tara's friends. 


Tangelo, Date, and Almond Biscotti

Makes 24 biscotti (or you can slice them more thinly to yield more)

Ingredients

270 g (2 cups minus 2 T) all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
100 g (2/3 C) whole almonds
1/4 C (75 g) unsalted butter
1 T finely grated tangelo or orange zest (about one large tangelo/orange)
2 large room temperature eggs
150 g (3/4 C) granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp almond extract
85 g dried pitted dates, diced

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Line a half sheet pan or cookie sheet with parchment.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together. Add the almonds and stir. 
  4. In a small microwave safe bowl, microwave the butter and zest, until the butter is just melted, about 40 seconds, in 20 second bursts. Stir and let cool, but not harden. 
  5. In a medium bowl, thoroughly whisk the eggs. Slowly add the sugar while continuing to whisk, until smooth. Slowly whisk in the butter mixture along with the vanilla and almond extract. 
  6. Pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture and stir until the flour is absorbed into the liquid. Add the dates and mix them into the dough with your hands. 
  7. Divide the dough in half and form each half into a 12 inch log. Place each log on the baking sheet, and slightly flatten them into 3 inch wide by 12 inch long mounds. 
  8. Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes, until golden and slightly cracked on top. 
  9. Remove the pan from the oven and place it on a rack for 10 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees F. 
  10. Slice each log on an angle with a serrated knife into 12 pieces. Place them on their sides back onto the parchment. Bake on one side for 7 minutes. Flip them over, and bake on the other side for 7 minutes. Cool the cookies on a wire rack. 
Recipe adapted from Scientifically Sweet via the Avid Bakers Challenge. 

More biscotti recipes from Tara's blogger friends:

Biscotti Bites from Nicole at I am a Honey Bee
Spa Water from of Dorothy at Shockingly Delicious

Feb 24, 2015

Stir-Fried Aromatic Potatoes | Wok Wednesdays

Stir-Fried Aromatic Potatoes

These stir-fried aromatic potatoes are not anything like French fries, even though they look like them in this photo (I love French fries, it's just that the texture of these potatoes is quite different).

The recipe calls for a pound of new potatoes, rather than the more starchy russets. They are stir-fried in just 2 tablespoons of oil with some minced ginger and garlic. They are finished with shredded scallions, salt, and a bit of rice vinegar. The potatoes are slightly al dente, evenly cooked throughout, and not at all mushy.

Stir-Fried Aromatic Potatoes

I used a mandoline slicer to cut my potatoes (there is no need to peel them), and I think I cut them a little too thick. They are supposed to be a scant 1/4 inch thick, and mine were slightly thicker. The stir-fry process is supposed to take about six to seven minutes, but my potatoes were still a little raw in the middle at the eight minute mark. Because I was worried about the ginger and garlic burning, I finished these on a quarter sheet pan in a convection oven for about five minutes. That worked out well, and the potatoes had the "crisp tender" texture called for in the recipe. Next time I'll hand cut the potatoes to make sure they are the right size.

Stir-Fried Aromatic Potatoes

It's amazing how Asian cooking techniques and ingredient combinations can unexpectedly transform an ingredient native to the western hemisphere. These potatoes are very tasty.

We served these with Asian inspired chicken wings and a cabbage salad. So good.

The original recipe is on page 210 of Grace Young's Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge: The Ultimate Guide to Mastery, with Authentic Recipes and Stories. The recipe can also be found on Google Books. 

If you'd like to join a group of avid wokkers, check out the Wok Wednesdays page for more about our adventures.

Feb 22, 2015

Oven Fried KFC "Copycat" Chicken

Super easy oven Fried healthified KFC "Copycat" Chicken!

Super easy oven Fried KFC "Copycat" chicken!

It's Secret Recipe Club time again. "Secret Recipe Club?" you ask. It's a group of food bloggers who are secretly assigned another member's blog each month. We get to spend a month secretly "stalking" our assigned blog in order to choose something to make for Reveal Day. I enjoy the chance to "meet" other bloggers as well as try out a new recipe.

This month, my assigned blog is Burnt Apple. Traci is a wife and mom of three trying to cook healthy dinners at home. She confesses that she used to be a terrible cook. I find that hard to believe. There are so many delicious recipes on her site.

After spending plenty of time making a long list of recipes to try, I chose to make her KFC Fried Chicken recipe. Some recipes I plan to try later: Turkey club wrapChili's queso dip, and her taco soup. Check them out.

Super easy oven Fried KFC "Copycat" chicken!

This healthified boneless skinless chicken is coated in seasoned flour and then baked in a few tablespoons of butter in the oven. The resulting chicken is super tasty, and would be a huge hit with the kids (I can't wait to make them for my grandsons). This chicken would also be excellent in a sandwich. Does it taste like KFC? Kind of (haven't been to a KFC in years. I'm kind of partial to the gloriousness that is super crispy chicken skin... sheepish grin). Regardless, it's really good on its own.

Super easy oven Fried KFC "Copycat" chicken!

Oven Fried KFC "Copycat" Chicken

Ingredients

4 tablespoons butter
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, or about 1 pound of chicken breast tenders
1/2 C milk
1 Cup flour
2 tsp paprika 
1 T Morton's Season All (I think Laury's Seasoned Salt would work well too)
3/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F
  2. Cut the butter into pieces and place them on a 9 inch by 13 inch baking pan (I used a quarter sheet pan). 
  3. Place the pan in to oven for a couple of minutes to melt the butter, and remove it. 
  4. Dip the chicken into the milk, and then completely coat with the flour/spice mixture. 
  5. Place the pieces onto the buttered baking pan, and bake for 20 minutes on one side.
  6. Remove the pan from the oven, flip the chicken pieces over, and place the pan back in the oven. 
  7. Bake for an additional 20 minutes. Remove the pieces from the butter immediately and place on a plate. 
Recipe adapted from Burnt Apple, adapted from Our Life Uncommon