Dec 31, 2014

Countdown to 2015: Top 10 Reader Favorites of 2014

These are my ten most visited recipes for 2014. I've never compiled a list of my most "popular" posts. First, there's always the burning question, do I prorate the visits? As a wannabe statistician, do I need to age the data to account for more time having passed?

Then there's the issue of bots and spammers who account for about half of the traffic to blogs. My blog's platform doesn't really distinguish between real and fake visitors when giving me visitor statistics. Thank goodness for Google Analytics (are you falling asleep at this point?).

I am fascinated by which posts take off and which posts kind of languish without attention. It doesn't really change what I do here, because I like to make and post about food that we will actually eat. My favorite thing is to challenge myself to try new techniques.

And of course, bake bread.

Blogging about food has been an amazing creative avocation, and the best part has been "meeting" simply wonderful people who share my interest in food, cooking, and writing about food and cooking.

I added up the numbers and decided that prorating and aging the data was way too much trouble. Here's list of your top ten favorite recipes of 2014 (plus a bonus).
  1. Sourdough Polenta (Grits) Bread 
  2. Bouchon Bakery Shortbread Cookies
  3. Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes with Taleggio Cheese
  4. Caramelized Onion and Shallot Braided Bread with Gruyere
  5. Jalapeño Cheddar Coins
  6. Salted Peanut Caramel Sauce 
  7. Slow Cooker Asian Glazed Wings
  8. Individual Potatoes au Gratin
  9. Roasted Vegetable Focaccia
  10. Garlic Gruyere Pain de Campagne Boule
  11. Section Challah 
My New Year's blogging resolution? To finally get a logo and to learn Lightroom. Please hold me accountable. 

This year, Sarah of Fantastical Sharing of Recipes and Secret Recipe Club is hosting a round up some of the best recipes of 2014. Visit her blog to see what other bloggers have contributed to this Best of 2014 round up.

Countdown to 2015: My 10 Best Dessert Recipes of 2014

My top 10 desserts of 2014

These are my top 10 dessert posts from 2014. When I compiled this list, I realized I need to expand my dessert world. There are an awful lot of cookies on this list. It's probably because there are just two of us in this house.

With cookies, I can either pack the leftovers into my grandkid's lunches and take the rest to work. They also keep longer.

My 10 favorite dessert recipes of 2014 (that I made) are:
This year, Sarah of Fantastical Sharing of Recipes and Secret Recipe Club is hosting a round up some of the best recipes of 2014. Visit her blog to see what other bloggers have contributed to this dessert round up.

Dec 30, 2014

Brioche Flower with Cherry Preserves

Brioche Flower with Cherry Preserves

This Brioche Flower with cherry preserves can be made with any sweet or savory filling. I used cherry preserves, which went perfectly with the brioche dough.

Dec 29, 2014

Countdown to 2015: Best Appetizer Recipes of 2014

Best appetizers of 2014

These are my favorite appetizers from 2014. They are wonderful for any dinner party. Some are easy, others are a bit more complicated, but all of these are tasty.

My favorite appetizers for 2014 are....

This year, Sarah of Fantastical Sharing of Recipes and Secret Recipe Club is hosting a round up some of the best recipes of 2014. Visit her blog to see what other bloggers have contributed to this appetizer and snack round up.

Dec 28, 2014

Countdown to 2015: (My) Best Main Courses of 2014

My favorite main courses from 2014

These are my favorite main courses from 2014. I would make each of these again without reservation. I would (and have) serve them for guests, and I would (and have) make them just for me. They are that good (and foolproof).

My favorites main courses from 2014 include the following:
This year, Sarah of Fantastical Sharing of Recipes and Secret Recipe Club is hosting a round up some of the best recipes of 2014. Visit her blog to see what other bloggers have contributed to this main course round up.

Countdown to 2015: Best Crockpot Recipes of 2014

4 fantastic slow cooker recipes

Slow cooker meals are just about the best comfort food. They are perfect for the summer, when you don't want to turn on the oven, and perfect for the winter, when you want a meal that will take off the chill.

My favorites from 2014 are these Slow Cooker Sweet and Sour Baby Back Ribs, these Slow Cooker Asian Glazed Wings, these Slow Cooker Asian Beef Short Ribs, and this Slow Cooker Beef and Potato Stew.

This year, Sarah of Fantastical Sharing of Recipes and Secret Recipe Club is hosting a round up some of the best recipes of 2014. Visit her blog to see what other bloggers have contributed to this crockpot round up.

Dec 27, 2014

Ginger Gold Rush Cocktail

Ginger Gold Rush Cocktail

The only reason I tried this Ginger Gold Rush Cocktail was because I had one of those mini bottles of Maker's Mark that Mr. Kitchen had given me as a Christmas stocking stuffer about four years ago. I think he got the idea because I had used bourbon as a marinade ingredient or possibly for making homemade vanilla.

Ginger Gold Rush Cocktail

That tiny single serving bottle sat in our liquor cabinet forever. I think I used some of it for a baking recipe.... until I saw this cocktail. I already had the ginger liqueur... I have a tree full of lemons... why not give this a try?

I've always been wary and resistant of whiskys. I'm not sure why, because my beloved grandmother's (mama) favorite cocktail was an old fashioned. I have memories of sitting in her kitchen while my dad prepared her favorite old fashioned. Once he handed her the cocktail, she would let me have the maraschino cherry.

This cocktail is reminiscent of the whisky sour, with the ginger liqueur subbing for the honey or simple syrup. The ginger liqueur adds an amazingly spicy flavor.

Ginger Gold Rush Cocktail

I'm so glad I decided to try this cocktail with the little bit of leftover bourbon. It's unexpectedly tasty. Here's cheers to you mama!

Ginger Gold Rush Cocktail


1 ounce bourbon
1 1/2 ounces ginger liqueur (such as Domaine de Canton)
1/2 ounce lemon juice
Cherry or orange wedge


  1. Chill a martini glass. 
  2. Add the ingredients to an ice filled shaker or tall glass. Stir or shake.
  3. Strain the ingredients into the chilled glass. 
  4. Garnish with the cherry or orange wedge.

Adapted from Saveur

Dec 26, 2014

Carrot and Cauliflower Puree with Browned Butter

Carrot and Cauliflower Puree with Browned Butter

This Carrot and Cauliflower Puree was the perfect side dish for Christmas dinner this year.

It was my turn to host the annual family Christmas Eve soiree. On the dinner menu? Ribeye roast beef, red wine dijon cream saucespinach gratin, goat cheese mashed potatoes (contributed by my cousin), and this carrot and cauliflower puree.

Everyone who came brought appetizers or desserts, so other than making this cranberry crackle tart, I was set. It's so nice when you don't have to do it all. My sister brought a ginger bundt cake, my cousin brought a beautiful vegetable platter, and my nephew made some amazing chocolate crackle cookies that tasted like the most moist brownies ever. Folks also brought dinner rolls, crab canapés, and lots of cheese and crackers.

Dinner for 23? Piece of cake. Especially when you have lots of help.

This vegetable is perfect for making a day in advance and reheating on the stove top when you are ready to serve dinner, freeing your oven for other dishes.

Carrot and Cauliflower Puree with Browned Butter

The secret to the deliciousness of this dish is browned butter, or beurre noisette. It adds a richness to the usually bland vegetables. This is an amazingly simple side dish that is also elegant and tasty.

This recipe can easily be doubled or halved. To puree the carrots and cauliflower, I used the medium grind disk from this food mill. It was super easy to use and even easier to clean.

Carrot and Cauliflower Puree Recipe

This recipe served 22 when accompanied by two other sides. 


2 medium heads (about 3 pounds) of cauliflower, cut into florets
3 pounds of carrots, unpeeled, and cut into 1 inch pieces
2 T salt (for boiling the vegetables)
8 ounces salted butter
1 T plus 1 tsp salt (to taste)
1 T freshly ground black pepper


  1. Fill a 4 quart saucepan of water to a boil. Add 2 tablespoons of salt.
  2. Add the cauliflower and boil for 20 minutes, until tender. 
  3. With a slotted spoon or spider strainer, remove the cauliflower to colander. 
  4. Add the carrots, and boil for 20 more minutes until tender.
  5. With a slotted spoon or spider strainer, remove the carrots to the colander. 
  6. Puree the vegetables with a food mill into a stove top safe serving dish (if you don't have one, puree the vegetables into a saucepan and move them into a serving dish when ready to serve). 
  7. In a 10 inch saute pan, heat the butter over medium low heat. The butter will begin to "boil."
  8. When the butter just begins to turn brown (be careful not to over brown the butter), remove it from the heat, and pour it into the vegetable puree. Stir, add the salt and pepper, and stir again. 
  9. Serve immediately or refrigerate. 
  10. When ready to serve, reheat on the stove top. 
Adapted from Make It Ahead: A Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, by Ina Garten.

Dec 19, 2014

Cranberry Horseradish Pan-Fried Steak

Cranberry Horseradish Pan-Fried Steak from Karen's Kitchen Stories

This cranberry horseradish pan-fried steak is a fabulous way to use the inevitable leftover cranberry sauce from Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner.

The glaze for this steak combines the sweetness and tartness of cranberry sauce with the spiciness of the horseradish to make an outstanding glaze.

I make my own cranberry sauce from fresh cranberries, and hate to toss out the leftovers.  It's an attachment issue. You understand, right?

For this cranberry sauce, I used this recipe, but any whole cranberry sauce will do.

You don't even need a barbecue to make these steaks because they are pan-fried and then finished in the oven. I used this pan, but any cast iron or oven proof stainless steel pan will do. Totally easy!

Cranberry Horseradish Pan-Fried Steak from Karen's Kitchen Stories

For another recipe using leftover cranberry sauce, check out these cookies. They are delicious and so easy.

We loved these steaks. The sweet-savory cranberry sauce and horseradish flavor combination is pretty amazing. Next time, I'd probably reduce the cooking time in the oven by about a minute because I like a pretty rare steak.

Totally easy, totally tasty.

Cranberry Horseradish Pan-Fried Steak


1 tsp olive oil
Salt and pepper
1/4 C cranberry sauce (not jelly). I used leftovers from this recipe
2 tsp prepared horseradish
2 New York Strip Steaks (1 inch thick) about 12 ounces each


  1. Rub each steak all over with the olive oil and salt and pepper. 
  2. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
  3. Mix the cranberry sauce and horseradish in a small bowl.
  4. Heat a cast iron pan on medium high heat. 
  5. Sear the steaks in the hot pan and cook until seared, about 3 minutes. 
  6. Flip the steak over and spread it with the cranberry horseradish sauce. 
  7. Transfer the pan to the oven and roast for about 4 to 5 minutes. 
  8. Move the steaks to a cutting board, cover with foil, and let rest for about 5 to 10 minutes. 
  9. Slice the steaks and serve. 
Adapted from Cook the Story

Dec 16, 2014

Zimsterne | German Christmas Cookies

Zimsterne | German Christmas Cookies from Karen's Kitchen Stories

I have seen several explanations of Zimsterne (German cinnamon star cookies), the most common being that almonds and cinnamon were very dear in seventeenth century Germany, so these cookies were served only at Christmas as a special treat.

Dec 14, 2014

Lime Meltaways

Lime Meltaways from Karen's Kitchen Stories

These Lime Meltaway cookies are super easy to make. I made the dough in advance, and baked the cookies the next day. You can also make the dough and freeze it, then slice and bake the cookies when "needed," making them the perfect cookie for gifting.

What is a meltaway cookie, you ask? It's a butter cookie made with powdered sugar and cornstarch (you could also use tapioca). The cookie is incredibly crumbly, so when you take a bite, it kind of "disappears" in your mouth, in a tasty "what was that wonderfulness?" sort of way.

Lime Meltaways from Karen's Kitchen Stories

I know there's a bite missing. Someone had to make the sacrifice so you could see the interior of the cookie. It's a tough job.

While these were made with lime, you could substitute lemon. orange, or grapefruit, or any combination of citrus. You could also just go with vanilla or chopped pecans if you prefer. We're flexible around here.

There are many ways to coat the cookies with the powdered sugar. You can place the cookies in a plastic bag with the powdered sugar and shake to coat them, dredge them in the sugar in a bowl, or sift the sugar over the cookies. I ended up dredging the cookies in a bowl, and then sifting more sugar over them.

Lime Meltaways from Karen's Kitchen Stories

If you're wondering about the little cups, I used these.

This post is part of the Secret Recipe Club Cookie Carnival. Sixty (yep, sixty!) of us have been randomly assigned another blog from which to make a cookie recipe (big thank you to Sarah of Fantastical Sharing of Recipes for putting this together). I was assigned Grandma Loy's Kitchen.  She has three children and three grandchildren, and has been married to the love of her life for over 50 years. Just like me, she enjoys reading cookbooks like novels. I'm with you, Loy!

After the recipe for this cookie, you will find links to dozens of wonderful cookie recipes.

Lime Meltaways from Karen's Kitchen Stories

Lime Meltaways Recipe

Adapted from Grandma Loy's Kitchen, adapted from Martha Stewart.
Makes 48 cookies


12 T unsalted butter
1 C powdered sugar, divided
Zest from 3 large limes
2 T fresh squeezed lime juice
1 T vanilla
2 Cups minus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt


  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, or using a hand mixer, cream the butter and 1/3 C powdered sugar until light and fluffy. Add the zest, juice, and vanilla, and mix until smooth.
  2. Whisk the flour, cornstarch, and salt together, and add to the mixing bowl. 
  3. Mix on low until the flour is just incorporated. 
  4. Divide the dough in half, and shape into two 1 1/4 inch diameter logs. Wrap the logs in wax or parchment paper, and then wrap in plastic wrap (see note above about paper towel holders).
  5. Refrigerate for at least an hour, and up to 24 hours. The dough can also be frozen and used up to two months later.
  6. Preheat the oven and line two baking sheets with parchment.
  7. Slice the logs into 1/4 inch disks and place them on the parchment, about 1 inch apart. 
  8. Bake the cookies, one sheet at a time, for 15 minutes.
  9. Let the cookies cool slightly on a wire rack, and then dredge, shake, or dust with the remaining powdered sugar while they are still warm.
  10. Keep in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

Dec 13, 2014

Stir-Fried Ginger Tomato Beef | Wok Wednesdays

Stir-Fried Ginger Tomato Beef | Wok Wednesdays

I almost missed making this Stir-Fried Ginger Tomato Beef from Wok Wednesdays. The post was supposed to be up on December 3rd, which snuck up on me way too fast..... something about the recipe schedule not being posted until after the weekend.... that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Then I saw my friend Cathy's post about how much she loved this dish. I definitely needed to give this dish a try.

This recipe, from Grace Young's book, Stir Frying to the Sky's Edge, is the author's take on a dish her mother used to prepare for Grace and her brother to get them to eat more rice. The sauce is delicious poured over the rice. I served it in a bowl to drench the rice in the delicious liquid. It's kind of like a Chinese gumbo (forgive me Grace!).

The recipe calls for whole canned tomatoes in juice, a serendipitous discovery after Grace Young could not find decent tomatoes in the market to poach and peel. The addition of the juice and the consistency of the canned tomatoes made the dish even more flavorful.

Stir-Fried Ginger Tomato Beef | Wok Wednesdays

This stir-fry was very easy to make. You cut flank steak into small strips and mix it with minced ginger, soy sauce, rice wine, cornstarch, sugar, salt, pepper, and sesame oil. Your mise en place should also include sliced green onions, the tomatoes, 1/2 teaspoon of sugar, and a small bowl containing dark soy, rice wine, and sesame oil.

Mise en place? Do not attempt stir fry without it. Unless you want your kitchen to look like a hurricane hit it. Cray cray!!

Have your table set and your rice ready, because the total cooking time is about six minutes. Dinner for two!

I was a little nervous about boiling tomatoes and tomato juice in my seasoned wok, so I did stop to rinse my wok before sitting down for dinner.... oh, and I snuck in a couple of photos too =)

Stir-Fried Ginger Tomato Beef | Wok Wednesdays

I think this might be my new favorite from the cookbook.  Get the book, join us on Wok Wednesdays. You won't regret it.

The food editors at the San Francisco Chronicle picked this recipe as one of their favorites from the book. The recipe can be found here.

Dec 9, 2014

Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes with Taleggio Cheese

Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes with Taleggio Cheese

This twice baked sweet potato dish is perfect as a side to any roast. For a beautiful presentation, you can make them in the scooped out peels. I chose to make these in a casserole dish for more flexibility. You can also bake the potatoes in individual ramekins, as pictured above.

This is the perfect make-ahead side dish for a holiday dinner. Once you have baked the potatoes and mixed in the ingredients, you can cover and refrigerate the assembled dish, and then bake it while your roast is resting.

This is a savory sweet potato dish, and the thyme, shallot, and cheese flavors simply shine.

If you can't find Taleggio cheese, Fontina would make a good substitute.

Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes with Taleggio Cheese

Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes with Taleggio Cheese

Serves six to 12, depending on the number of sides you plan on serving


3 12 to 14 ounce sized sweet potatoes, washed
5 1/2 T unsalted room temperature butter, cut into pieces
1/2 C minced shallots
1 tsp minced fresh thyme
3/4 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 large egg, lightly beaten
4 ounces Taleggio cheese, cut into small pieces


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. 
  2. Line a sheet pan with foil and pierce the sweet potatoes with a fork. Place them on the foil lined pan. 
  3. Bake the potatoes for about an hour, until soft when you give them a squeeze.
  4. While the potatoes are baking, saute shallots in 1 1/2 T of the butter for about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the thyme, cook for one minute, and set aside.
  5. Scoop the potato from the skins into a bowl, add the butter, and mash them. 
  6. Add the egg, shallots, cheese, salt, and pepper, and stir until combined. 
  7. Let them cool for a few minutes. Scoop out the potatoes from the skins. 
  8. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes.

Dec 8, 2014

No Knead Quinoa Bread

No Knead Quinoa Bread

This Quinoa Bread really surprised me. I'm not at all experienced with this grain and was a bit skeptical because it has been kind of a fad. When the #BreadBakers group decided to use quinoa as a theme this month, I finally broke down and bought a bag of the stuff.

Maple Cupcakes with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

Maple Cupcakes with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting from Karen's Kitchen Stories

These maple cupcakes must be pretty spectacular. I took them to work, and they disappeared pretty quickly. Before lunch.

Dec 2, 2014


Stollen is the German Christmas bread. According to Peter Reinhart, in the book, Bread Baker's Apprentice, the shape of the stollen symbolizes the blanket of the baby Jesus, and the colored fruits represent the gifts of the Magi. Dresden is considered the home of stollen and even hosts an annual stollen festival where they unveil a giant (huge!) loaf.

Dec 1, 2014

Couronne | Mixed Starter Bread

Couronne | Mixed Starter Bread

I did the happy dance after making this Couronne bread. The mixed starter dough may take a weekend to make, but it is so totally worth it. The resulting bread is crusty, crusty, crusty, and the soft interior is filled with the uneven holes for which bakers of rustic loaves strive.

Couronne | Mixed Starter Bread

The recipe was contributed by Steve Sullivan, founder of Acme Bread Company, one of the pioneers in the artisan bread movement, to the PBS Series, Baking with Julia, and the resulting book, Baking with Julia, written by Dorie Greenspan in 1996.

Couronne | Mixed Starter Bread

This dough begins with a small piece of leftover bread or pizza dough. I used used a piece of firm starter that had been sitting in my refrigerator for a couple of weeks from this bread. This is called the "old dough starter." About 8 hours later, the starter is fed again, and allowed to rise.

Couronne | Mixed Starter Bread

The dough is "mixed method," in that it also includes a small amount of instant yeast in the final dough. There are a lot of steps to creating this dough, but the resulting dough is simply amazing and a dream to work with.

Once you've made the dough, you can make baguettes, wheat stalks, pain fendu, boules, walnut bread, or this couronne.

Couronne | Mixed Starter Bread

To create the hole in the middle of the dough, you plunge your elbow into the center of the shaped dough (Yes, I did it).

The top of the couronne is decorated with a string of "pearls" made from extra dough. My pearls got a bit off kilter as the dough was rising, but that's why they call this bread "rustic," right?

Couronne | Mixed Starter Bread

Mixed Starter Bread Couronne


Old-dough starter

1/2 ounce of risen dough from white bread or pizza (I used two week old firm starter)
1/4 C warm water
2/3 C unbleached all purpose flour

Second Starter

All of the old-dough starter
1/4 C warm water
3/4 C unbleached all purpose flour

Final Dough

1 1/4 C water
1/2 tsp instant yeast
All of the second starter, cut into pieces
3 1/3 C (14.15 ounces) unbleached all purpose flour
1 T Kosher salt


  1. Break up the old dough into pieces and add them to a medium bowl. Add the water, and let sit for about 5 minutes. 
  2. Add the flour and mix with a dough whisk or spoon. When the dough gets too stiff, remove it from the bowl and knead by hand until the flour is incorporated. Place it back into the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let it rise in a warm place for about 8 hours (after the 8 hours, I refrigerated this starter until the next morning). 
  3. Mix the second starter the same way you mixed the first starter. Let rise for four hours, and then refrigerate for 1 to 8 hours (I refrigerated mine for 1 hour). 
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the water, the yeast, and the second starter pieces. Let sit for 5 minutes. 
  5. Add all of the flour and mix with a spoon to just incorporate. 
  6. Mix with the dough hook on low to fully incorporate the flour. Let rest for 10 minutes.
  7. Sprinkle the salt over the dough. Mix on medium to medium high for about 8 minutes. 
  8. Place the dough into an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let it rise for 90 minutes in a warm spot (about 85 degrees F). 
  9. Gently stretch and fold the dough over itself from all four "sides," and let it rise, covered, for another 45 minutes.
  10. Take a 10 inch cake pan or springform pan and place a small (3 to 4 inch) bowl upside down in the middle. Cover with a tea towel, and rub the towel with flour.
  11. Cut off a 5 ounce piece of dough. Pat it into a rectangle, fold it over itself several times to develop tension, and roll it into a small log. Cover and set aside. 
  12. Shape the rest of the dough into a rough ball. Plunge your elbow into the center of the dough to create a hole. Using a floured hand, continue to expand the hole. Cover the dough and let it rest for 15 minutes. 
  13. While the dough is resting, make the "pearls.' Roll the rope until it is about 24 inches long. Using the side of your hand, indent the rope by sliding your hand back and forth every inch or so. Place the "pearls" into the basket, circling the small bowl. 
  14. Place the rest of the dough, flipping it over (very carefully) on top of the "pearls." Cover and let rise for about 90 minutes. 
  15. Place a pizza stone in your oven, and preheat it to 450 degrees F. Set up the oven for steam or place a large metal bowl over the pizza stone (this is what I did). 
  16. When the dough is ready, place a piece of parchment over the cake pan, cover with a peel, and flip the whole thing over. Remove the cake pan and the tea towel. Transfer the dough to the stone and cover with the hot metal bowl. 
  17. Reduce the oven temperature to 425 degrees F and bake for 20 minutes, covered, and then 20 to 25 minutes more, uncovered. The bread should be very brown, with an interior temperature of 200 to 210 degrees F. 
  18. Cool completely on a wire rack. 
I am participating in Tuesdays with Dorie. To see how other bakers fared, check out this link

Nov 29, 2014

Spinach Gratin

Spinach Gratin from Karen's Kitchen Stories

This spinach gratin recipe is comprised of an already tasty creamed spinach topped with Gruyere and Parmesan, and then baked. The top is crispy and cheesy, and the inside is creamy and seriously flavorful.

Spinach Gratin from Karen's Kitchen Stories

I have made this spinach many times, especially on holidays to accompany roast beef. It kind of reminds me of the side dishes, e.g. creamed corn and Yorkshire pudding, that would be served in the old traditional prime rib restaurants such as Lawry's, Gulliver's, or Tracton's in southern California. Prime rib was considered to be such a luxury at that time.

While Tracton's has met its demise, the other two still exist. In fact, I think Lawry's still hosts the Beef Bowl, an annual dinner for the two teams playing in the Rose Bowl, "the Granddaddy of Them All."

Spinach Gratin from Karen's Kitchen Stories

This dish can be assembled up to two days in advance prior to baking. It is also easily scaled for smaller or larger crowds. If you are baking for a large crowd, use a fairly shallow casserole dish. I have often baked mine in my toaster oven to free up oven space, and it has worked out wonderfully. It also makes terrific leftovers.

This is such an easy and elegant side dish. The first time I served this was for Christmas Eve dinner for my extended family. This was the only dish that disappeared. The serving dish was empty. Completely. I'm just saying. We are not vegetable people. It's just that good. I promise.

Spinach Gratin from Karen's Kitchen Stories

Spinach Gratin Recipe

Very generously serves 8 to 10


4 T unsalted butter
4 C chopped onions (white, sweet, or brown)
1/4 C all purpose flour
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 C heavy cream
2 C milk
5 10-ounce packages of frozen spinach, thawed, with as much water squeezed out of it. 
1 C freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 T Kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 C freshly grated Gruyere cheese


  1. Preheat oven to 435 degrees F. 
  2. In a large skillet or saute pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onions and saute for about 15 minutes, stirring regularly. 
  3. Add the flour and nutmeg and stir for another two minutes, until the flour has been absorbed. 
  4. Add the cream and milk, and cook for another few minutes, until the mixture has thickened. 
  5. Add the spinach, 1/2 of the Parmesan, salt, and pepper. 
  6. Turn off the heat and transfer the mixture to a greased casserole dish. Sprinkle the top with the remaining Parmesan and the Gruyere. 
  7. Bake for 20 minutes, uncovered. The cheese should be browned and bubbly. 
  8. Serve immediately. 

Nov 28, 2014

Cranberry Crackle Tart

Cranberry Crackle Tart from Karen's Kitchen Stories

This cranberry crackle tart recipe is from Dorie Greenspan's new book Baking Chez Moi: Recipes from My Paris Home to Your Home Anywhere.  The book is a collection of simple desserts from French chefs and home cooks.

Cranberry Crackle Tart from Karen's Kitchen Stories

The tart is comprised of a sweet, cookie-like crust, a layer of jam (I used cherry), and a mixture of sweet meringue and about 10 ounces of cranberries (one bag, more than called for in the original recipe).

According to Dorie, cranberries, although getting easier to find, are quite dear in France. How lucky are we in the U.S. to be able to buy multiple bags of them this time of year. They are so easy to freeze and use whenever we get a cranberry craving.

Cranberry Crackle Tart from Karen's Kitchen Stories

We loved this tart. From the crackly meringue, the juicy tart cranberries, to the sweet crust, all of the flavors and textures go together so well. This is a grown-ups' dessert (the kids wouldn't even try it). More for us, right?

I only have one regular oven, which was occupied with the Thanksgiving turkey, so I actually baked this tart in my (albeit large) toaster oven! While the book says the tart should be served the same day, based on the tastiness of the leftovers, I think you could get away with making this the night before.

Cranberry Crackle Tart from Karen's Kitchen Stories

I will definitely be making this easy and delicious dessert again!

The Tuesdays with Dorie group is just getting started baking through the book. To see how the participants fared with the recipe, visit this link.

You can find the original recipe here.

Cranberry Crackle Tart

1 recipe Sweet Tart Dough (below)

Filling Recipe

2 tablespoons cherry jam
2 large egg whites, at room temperature
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup (100 grams) sugar
10 ounces cranberries (if they're frozen, don't thaw)

  1. Butter a 9-inch pie pan and place it on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. 
  2. Place the dough between two sheets of parchment or wax paper and roll it out until it is about 1/8 inch thick. 
  3. Lift the dough into the pie pan, with the excess to drape over the sides. Gently press the dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan and trim the dough to about one third down from the rim of the pan. Prick the bottom of the tart shell all over with a fork and freeze for at least 30 minutes. 
  4. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  5. Line the crust with a piece of parchment or a buttered piece of aluminum foil and weight it down with rice, dried beans or light pie weights. Bake the crust for 20 minutes, then carefully remove the paper and weights and bake for 8 to 12 minutes more, or until the crust is golden brown. Set the crust on a rack to cool to room temperature.
  6. To bake the tart, preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
  7. Spread the jam evenly over the bottom of crust. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites with the salt at medium speed just until they turn opaque. While the mixer is still going, slowly add the sugar and keep beating until the whites are shiny and form droopy peaks.
  8. Add the cranberries to the bowl and fold them into the meringue. Spread the meringue over the jam, adding a few swirly flourishes. 
  9. Bake the tart for 1 hour, until the top is light beige and likely cracked a bit on top. 
  10. The tart can be kept in a refrigerator for about 2 days. 

Sweet Tart Dough

Makes one 9 inch crust

1 1/2 cups (204 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (60 grams) confectioners' sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
9 tablespoons (4 1/2 ounces; 128 grams) very cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk
  1. Put the flour, confectioners' sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse a couple of times to blend. Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is cut in coarsely. 
  2. Whisk the yolk and add it slowly, pulsing after each addition. Once the egg is incorporated, process in long pulses, about 10 seconds each, until the dough forms clumps. Once you have clumps, stop processing. 
  3. Turn the dough out and knead briefly with the heel of your hand to further incorporate the butter.
  4. Shape the dough into a disk and put it between two sheets of parchment or wax paper. Roll the dough out evenly, as instructed above. 

Nov 23, 2014

French Onion Soup

French Onion Soup from Karen's Kitchen Stories

French onion soup is my all time favorite. I love the caramelized onion flavor, the toasted baguette croutons, and the gooey gruyere cheese on top. The beef broth is sweetly flavored with fresh thyme.

French Onion Soup from Karen's Kitchen Stories

This soup is really tasty, looks elegant, and the base can can be made in advance, making it really easy to prepare for company. Why haven't I made this before (she says, smacking herself in the forehead)?

French Onion Soup from Karen's Kitchen Stories

Thank goodness for Secret Recipe Club led by Sarah of Fantastical Sharing of Recipes, who works really hard to keep things going. It's a group of bloggers who are assigned another member's blog from which to choose a recipe to make once a month. We all reveal whom we had on the same day and at the same time. This was the impetus I needed to make my all time favorite soup.

My assigned blogger is Susan of Food, Baby, Life. She is raising three boys, all under 5 years old, and lives in Australia. She's actually been blogging for almost six years! Now that she is a mom, she likes to cook healthy, but I'll forgive her for that (just kidding Susan!). She also has been an avid Tuesdays with Dorie baker. Just check out her Recipe Index.

I immediately chose Susan's French Onion Soup, and I'm so glad I did. Delicious!

French Onion Soup from Karen's Kitchen Stories

French Onion Soup Recipe

Adapted from Food, Baby, Life, who adapted it from 
Serves 6 to 8 as a starter, and 4 to 6 as a main course. 


6 T unsalted butter
4 very large brown onions, peeled and sliced crossways into rings
3 garlic cloves, sliced and crushed
1 tsp sugar
3 T all purpose flour
1/2 C dry red wine
6 C beef stock
1 bouquet garni (a few sprigs of thyme, parsley, and bay leaves tied together or wrapped in cheesecloth)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 good baguette, sliced on the diagonal in 1/2 inch slices
1 to 2 cups of freshly grated gruyere cheese (depending on how gooey you want your cheese to be. Next time, I'm adding more =)


  1. Melt the butter in a large (6 to 8 quart) saucepan or saute pan over medium heat. 
  2. Add the onions and garlic and sprinkle with the sugar. Cook, stirring regularly, until the onions are soft and a medium golden color, about 30 minutes (I veered a bit from the original recipe here, and cooked the onions quite a bit longer)
  3. Add the flour, and cook, stirring constantly, until the flour is cooked through, about a minute or two. 
  4. Add the wine, and cook for another minute or two. 
  5. Add the broth and bouquet garni and bring the pot to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, and cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. 
  6. Remove the bouquet garni and season with salt and pepper, to taste. 
  7. Toast the baguette slices in a toaster, toaster oven, or under the broiler. If using the broiler, toast both sides. 
  8. Place an oven rack about 6 to 8 inches below the broiler and turn it on. 
  9. Fill broiler safe soup bowls or ramekins with the soup and top with two slices of the toasted baguette. Place a good handful of cheese in each bowl over the toast and soup. Place the bowls on a baking sheet, and broil for about a minute or two, until the cheese is melted and bubbly. If you don't have broiler safe bowls, you can sprinkle the toasts with the cheese, broil it, and place it on top of the soup. 

Nov 22, 2014

Pain au Romarin | Sourdough Rosemary Bread

This Pain au Romarin, or Rosemary bread, is one of my favorite sourdough breads. It has a pleasantly faint sourdough flavor, and has a chewy and crunchy crust. It's probably one of my favorite go-to sourdough recipes. 

This Pain au Romarin, or Rosemary bread, is one of my favorite sourdough breads.
The recipe is pretty flexible, in that, once you have shaped your loaves, you can bake the bread the same day, or let the loaves slowly rise for up to 18 hours in the refrigerator prior to baking. The levain (starter) can also be refrigerated a day or two after it has been mixed and allowed to ferment.

When this Pain au Romarin is baking, your whole house will have an amazing aroma wafting through it.

This Pain au Romarin, or Rosemary bread, is one of my favorite sourdough breads.

The bread is so moist and flavorful. It is excellent with butter, and incredible toasted. While there is a decent amount of whole wheat flour, it does not dominate.

Flexible baking schedule for making the bread in (almost) one day:

The night before baking day, feed your starter to create the levain.
9:00 am: Mix, autolyse, knead, and ferment your dough.
12:30 pm (approximately): Shape the loaves.
2:30 pm: Bake the loaves.

Flexible baking schedule for making the bread over two days:
7:00 am: feed your starter to create the levain.
6:00 pm: Mix, autolyse, knead, and ferment your dough.
9:30 pm: Shape the loaves and refrigerate.
6:00 pm: Remove the loaves from the refrigerator and preheat the oven.
7:00 pm: Bake the loaves.

These schedules are given as guidelines, and can be customized based on your own schedule.

The original recipe calls for 28 grams of finely chopped fresh rosemary, which is quite a bit (about 1/2 cup). I cut it back to about 17 grams, and the loaves were still very aromatic. If you want big rosemary flavor, definitely go for it.

This Pain au Romarin, or Rosemary bread, is one of my favorite sourdough breads.
Clockwise from top left: Sliced loaf, finished loaf, levain, risen dough

The loaf above was made using the one day method, and the loaf in the photos below was made using the two day, cold fermentation method.

One of things I love about cold fermented bread is the resulting bubbly crust.

Pain au Romarin | Sourdough Rosemary Bread

This formula for this bread was given to me by my breadhead friend David of Hearth Baked Tunes. It was inspired with permission by the book From the Wood Fired Oven by Richard Miscovich.

The author/baker always bakes a sprig of rosemary into the bottom of the loaves. How cool is that?

Pain au Romarin | Sourdough Rosemary Bread

Pain au Romarin Recipe

Pain au Romarin Recipe


For the Levain:

  • 227 grams bread flour
  • 227 grams water
  • 45 grams starter

Final Dough:

  • 454 grams water
  • All of the levain
  • 457 grams bread flour
  • 228 grams whole wheat flour
  • 17 grams salt
  • 17 to 28 grams finely chopped rosemary, depending on taste


  1. Mix the levain ingredients in a medium bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let sit at room temperature for 8 hours. At this point, you can either use the levain immediately, or refrigerate it up to 24 hours.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix all of the ingredients except the salt and rosemary. Let sit for 30 minutes (autolyse).
  3. Add the salt and rosemary, and knead with the dough hook for about 8 minutes.
  4. Place the dough into an oiled bowl and let it rise for about 2 1/2 hours, folding the dough four times at 30 minute intervals.
  5. When the dough has doubled in size, gently pull it out onto a lightly floured work surface.
  6. Cut the dough in half with a bench scraper, and shape each half into a ball. Cover with oiled plastic wrap and let sit for about 10 minutes.
  7. Dust two bannetons with flour, or line two 9 inch bowls with floured tea towels.
  8. Shape the boules a second time, creating a taut "skin" on the outside of the dough. Place the dough, seam side up, into each basket.
  9. Cover with oiled plastic wrap, and let rise at room temperature, for about 2 hours, until puffy. Alternatively, refrigerate the dough for about 18 hours.
  10. Place two Dutch ovens in the oven and preheat it to 500 degrees F (If you only have one Dutch oven, bake one loaf at a time).
  11. Remove the hot Dutch ovens and place the dough, seam side down, into them. Slash the loaves with a lame or sharp knife, cover, and place back into the oven. Reduce the oven temperature to 450 degrees F.
  12. Bake for 25 minutes covered, and 15 to 20 minutes, uncovered. The interior temperature of the bread should be 205 to 210 degrees F.
  13. Cool the loaves completely on a wire rack.
Yield: 2 loaves

This Pain au Romarin, or Rosemary bread, is one of my favorite sourdough breads.