The Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant Cookbook Review!!

Oyster bar jkt_r2.indd

The Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant Cookbook is beautiful.  But more than just beautiful, it is chock full of recipe classics.  Inside await over 100 of the restaurant’s classic recipes, some dating back to its opening in 1913, marking the occasion of its 100th anniversary.

Part history, part souvenir, you’ll find behind the scene stories, historical anecdotes, and a wealth of expert information on buying, cooking, and serving seafood.  A cookbook that actually works in the home kitchen as well as an informative, beautiful historical read.  There were so many recipes I wanted to make. Pages of dog-eared recipes await my taste  buds.

Recommended: YES!

Gnome Home Cake for my Brother’s Birthday!

mushroomcake

My sister-in-law (Carol) planned a surprise birthday party for my brother’s birthday.  She planned the party after is his birthday, because his birthday actually fell the weekend of Memorial day, and she felt the turnout would be better to have it afterwards, not only that but his birthday was past too, so that added more of the surprise element to the game. She got my brother quite good with this surprise party. He never seen it coming.  This is the cake I made for his birthday party.  The party theme was a gnome.  When my brother grows his full beard, he looks just like the gnome my sister-in-law got him. So, that set the theme for the cake.  This is my first fondant cake, and I was happy with the results.  I really like what you can do with fondant that you just can’t do with buttercream.  (I hear homemade marshmallow fondant with modeling chocolate mixed tastes great!) So, I will continue to play with fondant.

I also made 2 white cakes and a chocolate cake to serve at the party.  The party was a blast, with all my family gathered in one place! Who could ask for more?  Happy Birthday, my dear brother!

Danish Dough Recipe from “The Village Baker’s Wife” Cookbook

ClassicDanish

I have posted Danish on here before, but recently I came across “The Village Baker’s Wife: The Desserts and Pastries That Made Gayle’s Bakery Famous” Cookbook. Love it! But this post is not a cookbook review (although, I do encourage you to pick this one up, I think it’s a great cookbook if you like making pastry recipes!).  It’s been a while since I have made Danish, and my husband was asking for it. I also, wanted to try the recipe for this books Danish and Fillings recipes. I’m so glad I did!  The recipes are fantastic!  I like this Danish dough even better than the other recipe I have used in the past. This will be my go to Danish recipe. Without further ado……. The recipes……

DANISH PASTRY DOUGH

MAKES 4½ POUNDS OF DOUGH
The principles of making Danish pastry are the same as for croissant dough. The only real difference is that Danish dough is sweeter and richer. It is a wonderfully versatile dough. We recommend making this quantity of dough because the process is time-consuming, the dough turns out better, and any extra can be frozen for future use.

2 cups milk
2 packages (½ ounce) active dry yeast
2 large eggs
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
7 cups all-purpose flour
⅓ cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1½ teaspoons salt
2 cups (1 pound) unsalted butter, at room temperature

Warm the milk to 110°. Sprinkle the yeast over the milk and let it dissolve for 5 minutes, then whisk to fully dissolve. Add the eggs and vanilla and whisk just until mixed.

Mix the flour, sugar, and salt together in a large bowl. Using your fingertips and palms, rub 3 tablespoons of the butter into the flour mixture, rubbing just until the butter is no longer visible in the flour.
Add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture, stirring with a wooden spoon until incorporated. Knead the dough on a floured work surface just until smooth; there should be no dry spots left. Be careful not to over-knead. The dough should be slightly wet.
Lightly flour a baking sheet. Place the dough on the prepared baking sheet and shape it into a rough rectangle. Dust the top with flour and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
Transfer the dough from the baking sheet to the lightly floured work surface, and roll out into a 26 × 13 × ⅜-inch rectangle. Brush off any excess flour. Position the rectangle so that one of the short sides is closest to you.
The butter should be soft enough to spread, but not so soft that it has started to melt. By hand, smear the butter evenly over the lower two-thirds of the dough, leaving a ½-inch un-buttered border around side and bottom edges.
Fold the upper third of the dough toward the center of the rectangle, then fold the lowest third over that.
With your fingers, crimp the short edges and the seam on top to seal in the butter. Turn the dough so that the long, crimped edge is on your right.

With one of the short sides closest to you, gently roll the dough out into a 21 × 13 × ⅜-inch rectangle, using only enough flour to keep the dough from sticking to the work surface and rolling-pin. Brush off the excess flour. Fold the top third of the dough toward the middle, then the lower third up over that. Place on the baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 45 minutes. Repeat this process three more times, refrigerating the dough for 30 minutes between each turn.

After all of the turns are complete, let the dough rest in the refrigerator for at least 5 hours (overnight is best) before using as directed. At this point, the dough can be refrigerated for up to 2 days or frozen for up to 2 weeks. Freeze on a baking sheet, well sealed with plastic wrap.
I used Solo Fillings,  using the Almond filling & Raspberry fillings.  I made a homemade Apricot filling, from Baking with Julia. A quick, easy to make filling.
Apricot Filling:
1 Cup (packed) dried apricots
1 Cup Water
1 Cup Sugar
2 Tbsp. Fresh Lemon Juice, or more to taste
1/2 tsp. Pure Almond Extract
  Stir the apricots, water and sugar together in a large microwave safe bowl or a 1 quart glass measuring cup.  Put the bowl in a microwave oven set to full power and cook, stirring a few times, for 10 minutes, or until the apricots are soft and puffed and have absorbed almost all of the liquid.  Turn the mixture into the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade and process until smooth, scraping the bowl as needed.  Transfer the puree to a  bowl, add the lemon juice and almond extract and stir to mix.  Scrape the filling into a small container and cool to room temperature.  Seal the container and chill.  The filling will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
100_0209
Clear Glaze:
1/2 Cup Sugar
1/4 Cup Water
1 Tbsp. Corn Syrup
  In a heavy saucepan, bring all of the ingredients  to a rapid boil. Remove from heat and let cool.  Store in the fridge for up to 1 month.
Sugar Glaze:
2 Cups Confectioner’s Sugar
2-3 Tbsp. Water
  Whisk ingredients together until completely smooth.  If too thick, add 1 tsp. water at a time until it is still white, but liquid enough to drizzle off of a fork onto the pastries.
Streusel Topping:
3/4 Cup Flour
1/3 Cup Sugar
1/3 Cup Firmly Packed Brown Sugar
1/4 tsp. Cinnamon
1/2 Cup Very Cold Butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  Combine all dry ingredients in the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse a few times to mix.  Add the butter, and pulse several times until mixture is crumbly.
I made my Danish into The Classic Sweet Roll (See this great post from Joe Pastry for Danish Directions).  After rolling them into Classic Sweet Rolls, I let the dough sit for 2 hours.  I then made an indent with my hands, pressing down in the center, making a hole to add the fillings.  You can use whatever fillings you might like.  I used the almond and raspberry fillings on some, just raspberry for a few more, and an almond and apricot filling for another.  After filling with the desired fillings, and sprinkling with streusel, (I’m a streusel fanatic, love the stuff, plus it tastes fantastic on them), make an egg wash of 1 egg and 2 Tbsp. Milk, whisking slightly with a fork to mix together, and then using a pastry brush, brush with egg wash. (Just kinda brush around the fillings and streusel). Set in a preheated 350 degree oven on the center rack and bake for 15 minutes, or until pastry is golden brown.
  When pastry comes out of the oven, brush with the clear glaze.  Set aside to cool.  Drizzle with the Sugar glaze before serving.
Absolutely Delicious!!!!!!!!!!!

Pie Love by Warren Brown Book Review!

untitled

Warren Brown, back with his 4th cookbook to date, Pie Love, Inventive Recipes for Sweet and Savory Pie, Galettes, Pastry Cremes, Tarts and Turnovers.

I’ve got to tell  you that this book covers it all.  Everything you wanted to know about pies, and recipes galore.  I made his apple pie, and fell in love with the cinnamon Pie crust recipe. I used that as my base, and loved his apple pie recipe!  The thing that I liked about the pie, is that it was not an overly sweet pie, the recipe didn’t over do it on the spices, which allowed the flavor of the apples to shine through.  I will be using his cinnamon pie crust recipes in some of my favorite pies, where the cinnamon will complement the filling. I liked it that much. I’m hooked!

The book starts with an introduction, The Basics of Pie covering ingredients, sweeteners, Butters & Fats, Fruits & Vegetables, and pans and tools both small and large.  Next, he explains “what goes on in a pie?”.

Chapter one, is Pie Crusts. You’ll find step by step pie crust making (Although his instructions are not based on mixing by hand.  I happen to agree with him and use my food processor for my pie crust making.) from mixing the dough in a food processor, to rolling, and crimping, so even a novice can accomplish the sometimes intimidating pie crust!   The pie crust recipes were a plus and a pleasant surprise. Crust recipes such as Cinnamon Butter pie crust (my favorite), Vanilla Bean Pie crust, Anise & Mace Spiced Pie crust and Paprika Butter crust are just a few of the pie crust recipes you’ll find here, along with whole wheat, vegan, cheese, lard, chocolate and gluten-free pie crusts. A delightful assortment of Pie crust in this chapter!

Chapter 2 is Sweet Pie fillings. Two Apple Pie fillings, Blueberry Maple, Peach Pie, Traditional Cherry Pie, Red Berry Pie, an assortment and wide variety of fillings to please any palate.  I was pleasantly pleased with the large variety of pie filling recipes that were included in this chapter, including a Sugar Cream Pie, Apple turnovers, Blueberry cobbler, Bourbon Pie and even a Hickory Pie.

Chapter 3 is Tart Crusts. Pecan Caramel tart crust, Almond Caramel tart crust, Lemon Shortbread, and a Peanut tart crust. He’ll have you trying to decide which pie and crust to use first, and it won’t be an easy pick either. They will all sound intriguing and mouth-watering.

Chapter 4 is Sweet Tarts.  Chocolate Amaretto Tart with Candied Almond around the outside of the pie, looks absolutely delicious! Can’t wait to try that one, and a Vanilla Pudding Cream Tart, Raspberry Lemon Tart, Apricot Tart, Mixed Fruit Tart are just some of the tarts included in this chapter. Chapter 4 also includes that Sauces, Toppings, Pastry Cream and Glazes.

Chapter 5 is Savory Pies. He includes an Apple Lasagna, Meatball Pie, Chicken Pot Pie, Shepard’s Pie, Eggplant & Carrot Pie, and a recipe for Jamaican Beef Patties.

Finishing up the book is the Index to help you find what you’re looking for even faster.

ApplePie2

The book is beautifully illustrated! This book is chock full of beautiful pictures of the finished product that are just mouth-watering!  I am a visual, like to see the end results kind of person, and this book does not disappoint in the photography department!  As an added bonus, throughout the book you’ll find little  boxes with helpful hints, and instructions.

This book is a must have in every kitchen! Especially if you like pie. This fast became one of my favorite cookbooks after sitting down and going through it.  It surprised me, and delighted me with its unique recipes, pictures, and information. There are so many pies I want to make out of this cookbook that almost all of the pages are dog-eared waiting for me to make them.  This link has a sneak peek feature and I encourage you to go take a look. I think you will be as delighted as I am with Pie Love!

Heirloom Apple Pie

This is my go-to apple pie.  It’s simple, classic, and easy to make all year-long.  If heirloom apples aren’t available, just substitute Granny Smiths, which work well in baking and have a consistent flavor year round.  My colleague at CakeLove suggested prepping the apples as cubes, which seemed weird, but in the end, I really liked them that way.  Assembling the pie is much faster, the apple cubes retain a nicer texture after baking than slices, and I love the way they spill out of the slice when it’s served.

My goal with this filling was just a touch of sweetness in the syrup; the natural sugars of the apples should be center stage.  You’ll notice a bit of juice pooling on top of the crust at the edges toward the end of baking time, but this recedes and blends back into the pie once it cools.  I like the Cinnamon-Butter Pie Crust with its nuance of spice, for this pie and extra dough cookies across the top crust. – Warren Brown

7 1/2 Cups (2 Pounds) Heirloom Apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2 and 1/4 inch cubes (I used apples from my backyard apple trees, using 3 different types. My trees are LOADED this year!)

1/2 cup (4 oz.) Superfine Granulated Sugar, plus additional for sprinkling

2 Tbsp. Light Brown Sugar, packed

1/4 tsp. Sea Salt

2 Tbsp. Unbleached All Purpose Flour

2 Tbsp. Cornstarch

1/2 tsp. Cinnamon, plus additional for sprinkling

1/2 tsp. Nutmeg, freshly grated (I only used 1/4 tsp.)

1/4 tsp. Allspice (Optional)

4 Tbsp. Unsalted Butter

1 Tbsp. Honey

1 Recipe, bottom crust blind baked Cinnamon ButterPie crust, Flaky Butter Crust or Whole Wheat Piecrust  (I didn’t blind bake the bottom crust. I put it together with a top crust and baked it for an hour and a half. If you choose this route, keep an eye on the pie, and if the top crust begins to get to dark, cover the top of the pie with aluminum foil to prevent over browning. We prefer this method, and my pie came out great!)

1 Egg (Optional)

1/4 tsp. Vanilla (Optional)

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2.  Place the apple cubes in a 6 quart pot.

3.  Mix  both sugars, the salt, flour, cornstarch, and spices in a bowl.  Combine this mixture with the apples, add the butter, and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the juices bubble and thicken.

4.  Remove the pot from the heat, stir in the honey, and allow the filling to cool a bit.

5.  Scoop the filling into the cooled crust.

6.  Cover with the top crust of your choice and style.  If desired, whisk together the egg and vanilla to make an egg wash.  Brush the crust with the wash and lightly sprinkle the top of the pie with sugar and cinnamon.

7.  Bake the pie for 40 to 45 minutes.  When finished,, the juices should simmer around the edges and the top crust should be golden brown.

8.  Allow the pie to cool for 1 hour to let the filling set before slicing.

Note: Crust cookies are especially festive pie decorations. To make them, ball up any extra dough and roll it in granulated sugar.  Roll the dough out to 1/8 inch thick and cut it with cookie cutters into the desired shapes.  Press the cookies onto the top crust of the pie in a decorative pattern and brush with egg wash, then bake as directed in step 7.

Raspberry Almond Shortbread Cookies

RAShortbreadCookies1

A simple buttery, tender melt in your mouth shortbread cookie. It really dresses up with a raspberry jam in the center of the cookie, and a lemon Glaze to drizzle over them. These are really good.  You can use whatever glaze or jam you’d like.

Raspberry Almond Shortbread Cookies

1 Cup Butter, softened

2/3 Cup Sugar

1/2 tsp. Almond Extract

2 Cups Flour

1/2 Cup Raspberry Jam

Glaze Ingredients:

1 Cup Powdered Sugar

2-3 tsp. Water

1/2 tsp. Lemon Extract

Direction:

Combine butter, sugar and 1/2 tsp. almond extract in a large bowl. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until creamy. Stir flour in with a wooden spoon just until mixed. Refrigerate for 1 hour. (I didn’t do this step and they turned out fine).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Shape dough into 1 inch balls. Place 2 inches apart on to ungreased baking sheets. Make an indentation in center of each cookie with your thumb (edges may crack slightly). Fill each indentation with your choice of jam.

Bake for 14-18 minutes (I baked mine for 15 minutes) or until edges are lightly browned. Let sit for 1 minute; remove from cookie sheets and cool completely.

Combine all glaze ingredients in a small bowl with a wire whisk until smooth. (Add more water if needed to make a thin icing to drizzle).  Drizzle over cookies.

Makes 3 dozen cookies.

NOTE: I halved the Glaze ingredients, and it was the perfect amount.

Back to School with Nature’s Bakery All Natural Fig Bars

It’s that time of the year again, back to school.  We’re out shopping for school clothes and supplies, readying our kids for the school year.  But, what to put in their lunch boxes?   I’d like to recommend “Nature’s Bakery“.  Delicious, Wholesome, tasty fig bars, just right for your kid’s lunch boxes.  They are Cholesterol free, Dairy Free, 0 Transfat, Kosher, non GMO & made in the USA!  Available in an assortment of flavors (Blueberry, raspberry, vanilla raspberry, apple cinnamon, whole wheat fig, and peach apricot.)

I put them to the test with a 10-year-old, (Anna) and a soon to be 12-year-old (Alexis).   Both of them wanted more, and said they would definitely eat them if they were in their lunch boxes.  Both of them like fig bars, and the flavors were a bonus giving them a choice of what they liked best.  I too tried these and thought they were exceptionally good. Made with stone ground whole wheat and quality ingredients that you can actually read & Pronounce.   Read more about Nature’s Bakery here.  Would I recommend Nature’s Bakery Fig Bars for your kids lunch boxes? Yes, I would with confidence that you are getting a quality product that your kids will like to eat and see in their lunch boxes. Below is where to find Nature’s Bakery Snack Foods.

Nationwide:

REI                                                                      Ralphs                                                                                  Metropolitan Market

World Market                                                 Smith’s Food & Drug Stores                                          Big Y

Krogers                                                             Quality Food Centers                                                      King Soopers

Costco                                                               Frys                                                                                        Allsup’s Convenience Stores

Walmart                                                           Marc’s                                                                                    Weis Markets

MMeijer\Grocery Outlet                                 H.E.B.

Airlines & Airports:

Qantus, American Airlines, US Airways, Hawaiian Airlines, LAX Airport

Online:

Amazon.com/natures-bakery

REI

and others.

Disclaimer: I was given samples to try, in exchange for a review.  My observations and opinion of this product is strictly mine, and I was not compensated for a positive review. I always give my honest opinion of any product reviewed/tested on this blog.

Danish Slices

Danish Slices with Raspberry & Almond Filling

Danish Slices with Raspberry & Almond Filling

My sister-in-law and I made Homemade Toaster Strudel the other day (Sorry no pictures. We split them and they didn’t make the day, let alone make it for pictures, next time I promise). I had made the Danish dough, but it wasn’t ready to be rolled out at the time we were making the strudel.)   Today, I decided to make these Danish Pastry Slices.  The recipe is from the book, Baking with Julia, and  they don’t disappoint! Delicious!

Danish Pastry Dough:

Makes 2 pounds dough

1/2 Cup Warm Water (105 to 115 Degrees F.)

2 1/2 tsp. Active Dry Yeast

1/2 Cup Milk, at room temperature

1 Large Egg, at room temperature

1/4 Cup Sugar

1 tsp. Salt

2 1/2 Cups Unbleached All Purpose Flour

2 Sticks (8 ounces) Cold Unsalted Butter

Directions:

Pour the water into a large bowl, sprinkle over the yeast, and let if soften for a minute. Add the milk, egg, sugar; and salt and whisk to mix; set aside.

Put the flour in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade.  Cut the butter into 1/4 inch thick slices and drop them onto the flour. Pulse 8 to 10 times until the butter is cut into pieces that are about 1/2 inch in diameter. Don’t overdo this – the pieces must not be smaller than 1/2 inch.

Empty the contents of the food processor into the bowl with the yeast and, working with a rubber spatula, very gently turn the mixture over, scraping the bowl as needed, just until the dry ingredients are moistened. Again, don’t be too rough – the butter must remain in discrete pieces so that you will produce a flaky pastry, not a bread or cookie dough.

Cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate the dough overnight (or up to 4 days).  Lightly flour a work surface, turn the dough out onto it and dust the dough lightly with flour.  Using the palm of your hands, pat the dough into a rough square.  Roll it into a square about 16 inches on a side.  Fold the dough in thirds, like a business letter, and turn it so that the closed fold is to your left, like the spine of a book. (If at any time the dough gets too soft to roll, just cover it with plastic wrap and pop it into the refrigerator to chill.)

Roll the dough out again, this time into a long narrow rectangle, about 10 inches wide by 24 inches long. Fold the rectangle in thirds again, turn it so the fold is to your left, and roll it out into a 20 inch square. Fold the square in thirds, like a business letter, so that you have a rectangle,  turning it so that the closed fold is to your left, and once more, roll the dough into a long narrow rectangle, 10 inches wide by 24 inches long.  Fold in thirds again, wrap the dough well in plastic, and chill if for at least 30 minutes, or for as long as 2 days.

The dough is now ready to be shaped, filled and baked.

The dough can be kept covered in the refrigerator for 4 days or wrapped airtight and frozen for 1 month; thaw overnight, still wrapped, in the refrigerator.

Close up of Danish

Close up of Danish

Danish Slices

1 Recipe Danish Pastry Dough, Chilled

1 Cup Confectioner’s Cream or Almond Filling (I used the Almond Filling

1/2 Cup Apricot, Prune, or Fresh Berry Jam Filling (I used a Raspberry filling)

Glaze:

1 Cup Confectioner’s Sugar, sifted, for glaze

3 to 4 tsp. Milk, for glaze

Directions:

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Working on a lightly floured work surface, roll and chill dough into a rectangle,, 1o inches wide by 24 inches long.  Using a knife or pastry wheel, cut the dough crosswise to make two strips, each 10 inches by 12 inches.

Spread the cream or almond filling down the center of each piece of dough, leaving a 2 inch border along each  of the long sides.  Spread the fruit filling over the layer of cream or almond filling. Carefully lift the bare edges of each pastry with your fingers and fold them over the filling, leaving about 1 inch of the filling peeking out down the center. Press the edges down gently over the filling

Carefully lift the pastries onto the parchment lined baking sheet (two wide spatulas work well here)and cover with a kitchen towel. Allow the pastries to rise at room temperature for about 30 minutes, until they look and feel puffy; they will not double.

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Bake the pastries for 18 to 20 minutes, or until they are lightly browned. Transfer the pastries to a rack to cool sightly while you make the glaze.

Stir the sugar and enough of the milk together to produce a shiny glaze that falls easily from the tip of a spoon. Drizzle the glaze over the pastries.  Allow the glaze to set a few minutes before cutting the pastries into slices, each about 1 1/2 inches wide.

You can keep the pastries covered at room temperature for a few hours, but they should be served the same day they’re made.

Almond Filling:

1 cup Blanched Almonds, toasted

1/2 cup Confectioner’s Sugar

2 Tbsp. Unsalted Butter, at room temperature

1/2 tsp. Pure Almond Extract

1 Large Egg White, lightly beaten

Directions:

Put the almonds, sugar and butter in the bowl of a food processor, fitted with the metal blade. Process until the almonds are finely ground, stopping to scrape the bowl as needed.  Add the almond extract and 2 Tablespoons of the beaten egg white and process to mix.  Pack the filling into an airtight container and store in the refrigerator until needed.  Bring to room temperature before using.  The filling can be made up to a week ahead and kept chilled.

Makes 1 cup