Speedy Quiche

With this from-scratch recipe, there’s no reason not to be making quiche on the regular. Only about an hour of your time and you’ve got the most versatile savory custard in the business. I’ve included a basic quiche filling recipe that, interestingly, calls for mayonnaise. And as for what you should add in to spice up your quiche, I would recommend looking up one that favors your tastes (epicurious is a good place to start) or just working with with any produce or breakfast meats that you’re looking to use up in your refrigerator.

Basic Quiche Filling

  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise (I know its gross to some, but the oil in mayonnaise helps create a light, fluffy texture to the eggs)
  • 2 Tbs flour
  • 1 recipe Fool Proof Savory Pie Crust 

 

Filling preparation:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk eggs, half and half, mayonnaise and flour. Salt and pepper according to taste.

2. Sautee any vegetables for the filling in a saucepan with oil and cook any meat that you wish to add fully before filling the bottom of the quiche crust. I used vegetarian sausage, green and red bell pepper and onion.

And then I topped it with some cubed swiss cheese.

3. Pour filling into quiche crust. Bake for 40 minutes to an hour or until the center is no longer liquid. Let quiche cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Now, relax & enjoy!

So quick, so delicious.

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Hummingbird Cake

Celebrate spring with this delightful southern favorite. Named after the frantic, nectar-obsessed hummingbird, this cake is guaranteed satisfy your sweet tooth. And for those few, dedicated folks who’ve managed to give up sweets for lent, this might just be the perfect Easter indulgence. Crushed pineapple, bananas and pecans provides an interesting and appealing texture to this cake and is perfectly complimented by the rich, but not-too-sweet cream cheese frosting. (And yes, I dyed some coconut shavings green to look like grass. So what.)

This cake is unreal. Undeniably delicious. Afterall, I wouldn’t break out my awesome Peter Rabbit cupcake kit (someone knows me very well) on any ol’ recipe.

So adorable, right? A prancing Peter Rabbit

Southern Living Hummingbird Cake

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1.5 tsp vanilla
  • 1 (8 oz) can of crushed pineapple, undrained
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 2 cups (about 4) mashed, overripe bananas
  • 1 cup shredded coconut (optional, used for garnish)

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup butter (soft)
  • 16 oz (2 cups) powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Preparation:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, salt, sugar and cinnamon. The goal here is to get all of the dry ingredients incorporated and to break up any lumps. A fork should work just fine.

2. Beat the eggs until they are foamy and add oil. Stir to combine. Set aside.

3. Mash the bananas in another bowl and add the crushed pineapple, vanilla extract and pecans. Stir to combine.

4. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the eggs and oil. Use a spatula to mix but stop when there are still some streaks of flour in the batter. Do not overmix.

5. Add the pineapple, bananas, pecans, and vanilla to the batter. Stir with a rubber spatula until evenly incorporated, but don’t overmix here either.

6. If you’re making cake, bake in buttered and floured pans for about 45 minutes. If you’re baking cupcakes it should only take 15-20 minutes.

7. While the cake is baking, prepare the icing. Using the whisk attachment of an electric mixer, combine the cream cheese and soft butter until completely incorporated. Add the vanilla extract and powdered sugar and mix until smooth. Make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl as you add new ingredients.

8. Cool cake completely (at least 2 hours at room temperature) before icing.

9. If you went the shredded coconut route, which I recommend, have it at the ready after icing. Garnish cupcakes by turning them upside down on the coconut, or sprinkle it over the top.

They look good with Peeps too!

Hot Cross Buns

In Christian tradition hot cross buns are consumed on Good Friday (the Friday before Easter) as a symbol of the crucifixion. English folklore, however, provides a secular interpretation of the buns, which I happen to be more in to. Apparently these buns, they foster friendship, particularly if you repeat the quote “[h]alf for you and half for me, Between us two shall goodwill be,” before splitting the roll in half. How awesome is that? Whatever your reason for making these – to acknowledge the crucifixion of a savior, to get off the couch and try something new, to ensure the prosperity of your friendships, whatever — you can rest assured that you are continuing a baking tradition, which is sort of rare, I’ve found, these days. So bake on, friends!

Hot Cross Buns

  • 2 1/4 tsp dry active yeast
  • 3/4 cup milk (warm)
  • 3-3.5 cups flour
  • 1/4  cup + 1 Tbs sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp cloves
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs (room temperature)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 4 Tbs butter softened
  • lemon or orange zest
  • 1 cup raisins (or, I used 1/2 a cup of raisins and 1/2 a cup of chocolate chips to make two different kinds of buns. It’s whatever you’re feeling, there’s no hot cross bun police.)
  • Egg wash (1 egg + 1 tsp water)

Easy Powdered Sugar Glaze (you might need a few batches of this for all of the rolls).

  • 1 Tbs milk or water
  • 3 – 4 Tbs powdered sugar

Preparation:

1.  Combine flour, 1/4 cup of sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, and salt in a bowl and set aside.

2. Set up your electric mixer with the paddle attachment and mixing bowl. Add the 2 and 1/4 tsp of yeast to the bottom of the mixing bowl. Place your eggs in a cup of warm water (if they have not already reached room temperature) so that they are not still cold when ready to use.

3.. Over low heat, warm the milk slightly in a saucepan. Add 1 Tbs of sugar and stir to dissolve. Make sure that the milk is not hot, but lukewarm. When it reaches this temperature, pour it over the yeast and let it sit for about 10 minutes or until it becomes foamy and active.

4. Once the yeast is activated, add the flour and spices to the yeast and stir with a spatula to combine.

5.  Crack the eggs into a small bowl and add vanilla and almond extracts as well as the zest. I had to zest a tangerine in lieu of a real orange, but hey, it’s easier than going to the store. Be creative, experiment with what you have in your kitchen. No new recipe was ever invented by following someone else’s exactly.

6. Turn on the electric mixer to low speed and slowly add the egg and extract mixture. Make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl if necessary. After a few turns, shut off the mixer.

7. Add the softened butter to the mixing bowl. Now, mix away, helping the dough form a ball by stopping every once and a while to scrape down the sides of the bowl. If the dough ball sticks too much, add a little flour. If your ingredients are not forming a ball of dough, add warm water 1 Tbs at a time until the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl.

8. Once you have all of the ingredients incorporated into a dough ball, remove the dough from the mixer and set in a floured bowl to rise for 1-2 hours.

9. Punch down the risen dough and roll it out on a flat, floured surface. I split my dough in two to make raisin hot cross buns and chocolate chip hot cross buns. Variety is the spice of life. Sprinkle rolled dough with raisins/chocolate chips, fold over, roll out again, and add repeat until the dough is studded entirely with the little additions. Roll the dough into a log and cut into twelve equally sized pieces. Roll each piece of dough in your hands until it forms a ball.

10. Place dough balls on parchment or wax paper lined baking sheet and cover with a kitchen towel. Allow to rise another 30 minutes as you preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

11. Meanwhile, prepare the egg wash and icing. And call your friends to come over.

12. After the second rising (no pun intended) lightly brush the dough with egg wash (I actually forgot this step, but wish I hadn’t) and pop them in the oven for 20-30 minutes or until golden brown.

13. Cool on wire rack for at least 20 minutes before icing. I put my icing in a plastic sandwich bag and cut one of the ends to make a pastry bag, which worked well to make the crosses.

Eat and enjoy!

I Heart Cookies

As we all (both haters and not) know, it’s almost Valentine’s Day. So even if you think the holiday is lame sauce or plan to be a sourpuss all day in protest, you might still want to make some cookies. And you might want to decorate them with heart, if only to be ironic. Or, you might want to say “I love you” with a sugar cookie. Either way, you’ve come to the right place.

First, whip up a batch of these simple sugar cookies, which might look familiar.  While they cool, gather a whisk or set up an electric mixer with the whipping attachment to make the icing.

Vanilla Buttercream Icing

  • 3 cups of powdered sugar
  • 3 Tbs of unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 Tbs light corn syrup
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract or syrup
  • A few tablespoons of water (amount varies depending on the thickness you want)
  • Red food coloring

Preparation:

1. Whisk powdered sugar, butter, corn syrup and vanilla extract to combine. Slowly add water until the mixture comes together. Scrape down the sides of the bowl to free any clinging powdered sugar. Continue whipping for a few minutes. You want to achieve a thick consistency that will hold shape after being piped onto a sheet tray. A good way to tell if your icing is thick enough is to let it sit for ten minutes and then press your finger lightly on the top. If a shell has started to form, it is the right consistency. If it sticks to your finger, add some powdered sugar and blend until smooth.

And with this icing, here’s how you make the “I Heart Cookies”.

1. Reserve half of the icing that you have made in a separate bowl and use it to ice the cookies first.

2. Add red food coloring, drop by drop, until you reach color that you like. I stopped once and reserved a cup or so of the pink color and then continued to add dye to make a darker red.

3. Locate a pastry bag, or a ziplock bag, or fold some wax paper (like this) to make one. I have a metal tip attachment, but if you don’t your hearts will be just as lovely. To fill, insert the tip of the bag into a cup and pull the ends down around the sides.

Use the side of the cup as resistance to scrape some of the icing off of your spatula and into the bag. Once you have a good squeezable amount in the bag, slowly squeeze and twist the icing towards the tip and cut it.

4. Practice on a sheet of parchment paper (or foil) by squeezing a few lines and, eventually, work your way up to a heart shape. I started with an outline that I then filled in with a few mimicking strokes. You want the heart to be thick and to hold its shape. If the icing does not, you will need to go back to the beginning and add more powdered sugar. And if you use all of the icing and end up with a mess, just scrape it back off the parchment and try again. There are many different techniques, so just have fun with it and figure out what works best for you.

5. Put the icing hearts into the freezer for at least 30 minutes. Once they are frozen into shape, use a thin spatula to scrape them from the parchment and place them in the center of each cookie.

Chocolate Truffles

Until now, I have avoided chocolate confections. But seriously these are so easy it would be mean not to make them for your Valentine or your coworkers or yourself for next Monday’s episode of The Bachelor. All you need is a microwave (and if you don’t have one check your office break room or 7-11, there’s always a microwave to use somewhere).

Chocolate Truffles (Credit Alton Brown’s crazyface)

  • 10 oz bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 3 Tbs unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 1 Tbs light corn syrup
  • 1/2  cup Hershey’s cocoa powder, or powdered sugar, or both
  • 8 oz semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
  • Optional syrup to flavor chocolate (like raspberry or peppermint, or irish cream)
  • Optional toppings like nuts or white chocolate, sprinkles who cares

Preparation

1. Place 10 oz of chocolate chips and the butter into a microwave safe bowl and nuke for 30 seconds, stir, and repeat once more.

2. Heat the cream and corn syrup in the microwave for 30 seconds. Stir and pour it over just melted chocolate. Let this sit for 5 minutes without stirring, then, when you can’t take it any longer, stir until the cream and the chocolate combine.

3. Pour the chocolate onto a flat dish like a plate or baking pan. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

4.Just before taking the chocolate out of the fridge, heat the remaining chocolate chips in the microwave in thirty second increments until it has melted. Stir in syrups, if you have any. Arrange the powdered sugar or cocoa powder on plates near the melted chocolate. Save a space to set the truffles once they have been coated and dusted.

I put some superfine espresso grounds in the cocoa powder on the left to make some mocha truffles. I highly recommend this.

5. Take the cooled chocolate out of the fridge and use a melon baller or circular teaspoon measure (really just whatever you’ve got lying around) to scoop the chocolate into bite-sized balls. Don’t worry if it’s not perfectly round, its chocolate so it won’t matter.

6. Drop the chocolate ball into the melted chocolate, and push it around with a spoon to coat it completely. Toss the chocolate in the powdered topping of your choice and set it aside to cool.

Eat them all right away. Refrigerate them and eat them later. Put them in fancy-schmancy box. Share them with someone you love.

Classic Nut Biscotti

My father’s classic recipe for biscotti, taken from the Los Angeles Times Syndicate on Dec. 9th, 1992. Twenty years since the first printing of the recipe, I document my father’s production of the classic Howard holiday treat at home in Indianapolis.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of nuts (my father uses 1 cup of almonds and 1 cup of hazelnuts)
  • 3 cups of flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground mace
  • 3 eggs plus 1 yolk
  • 2 teaspoons almond extract
  • 1 slightly beaten egg white

Preparation:

1. Preheat oven to 350. Spread nuts on baking sheet and allow to toast for about 8 minutes or until warm and fragrant. If using hazelnuts, use a towel to remove the outer skin of the nuts after the come out of the oven.

2. Set oven to 375 degrees. Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and mace.

3. Whisk eggs, egg yolk, and almond extract in bowl until frothy. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour the egg mixture into the well. Stir from the center with a fork.

4. Once dough is firm, use hands to knead into a log. Stick nuts into dough between each turn.

Recruit an extra pair of hands, if necessary.

5. Split dough in half and form into a a strip about 12 inches long. Place on a greased and floured baking sheet. Before baking, use a pastry brush (or your fingers if you are brush-less) to coat top of dough with a beaten egg white. Repeat with second half of the dough.

6. Bake loaves at 375 until golden and firm to touch (about 25 to 30 minutes). Cool on wire rack (or wherever you can find some space) for at least an hour. Use a serrated knife to slice loaves into 1/2 inch slivers. Lay biscotti face down on baking sheets. Bake an additional 12 to 15 minutes, turning once or twice. Biscotti should be deep gold in color and dry to the touch.

Yield 4 dozen. Share with friends!

Chocolate Covered Bacon

5 ingredients, (about) 15 minutes and 0 need for explanation. And if you’re still on the fence, consider the facts: not every chocolate covered something makes it on the Wikipedia.

Here’s all you need (amounts vary and the last three are optional):

  • Bacon – Preferably thick cut, and not covered in pepper
  • Semisweet chocolate chips or baking chocolate squares
  • Chopped pecans
  • Maple syrup
  • Wood smoked salt (for the Texans, available in the bulk section of HEB or Central Market)

If you’re not into pecans, wood smoked salt, or maple syrup, then feel free to proceed without. Alternately, you could try a different nut – perhaps slivered almonds – or extracts in the melted chocolate to add some flavor.

Preparation:

1. Cook bacon to desired crispness in either the microwave or by baking it in the oven (I would avoid skillet cooking because the bacon tends to end up too greasy.) For a chewier, more elastic product, cook the bacon less and for a more smoky, crispy end result cook the bacon longer. Pat the grease off the bacon and let it cool.

2. Melt the chocolate slowly over low heat. If you use the microwave make sure that you dial in a low power setting or your chocolate will end up strangely crumbly and scorched (oops). I prefer to use a double boiler on the stovetop since you can control the temperature.

No need to buy a double boiler, simply place a heatproof bowl (filled with chocolate) in a saucepan filled with a few inches of water. Set burner to low heat, and stir chocolate frequently until melted. If the water begins to boil, lower the temperature.

3. Optional. Toss pecans in maple syrup. Toast in foil lined pan for a few minutes at 350 degrees.

4. Spoon the tempered chocolate on the cooled bacon strips. Top with pecans and sprinkle with wood smoked salt.

Store in the refrigerator for up to a week or wrapped in the freezer for up to a month.

Deceptively Easy, Yet Deceptively Hard Double Chocolate Biscotti

Avoid the seasonal perishable treat overstock and give your loved ones a cookie that will keep on giving well into 2012. Guaranteed to please Dads, grads and anyone on your Christmas list who does not have a mouth full of expensive orthodonture.

Double Chocolate Walnut Biscotti

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 6 Tbs unsalted butter
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 3/4 cup chocolate chips

(this recipe is doubled, but you get the idea)

Preparation:
0. Preheat oven to 350, line baking sheet with parchment paper.
1. Combine/sift flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt in bowl. Set aside.
2. Cream softened butter and sugar in the bowl of electric mixer with the paddle attachment.
3. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
4. Add dry ingredients to mixer and combine on a low setting (4-5). Add walnuts and chocolate chips once dough has reached a consistent texture and is dark brown in color.
5. Scrape dough from mixing bowl and form a cylinder with your hands in the middle of the baking sheet.
6. Use a lightly floured rolling pin (or wine bottle, if your home kitchen is as poorly stocked as my own) to flatten the cylinder, starting in the middle of the dough. Slowly work the rolling pin down to the edges of the dough until it is about 3/4 inch in thickness (it will rise).
7. Bake giant flat brown thing for about 20 minutes at 350 or until the center resists when pressed lightly with a spoon. Let cool for at least 2 hours and, in the mean time, turn off your oven.
8. Reheat the oven to 250. Place cooled, oblong cookie on a cutting board and cut into 1/2 inch cookies with a bread knife or other serrated cutting tool. The ends will likely break off as you cut, which is to be expected as the edges will have cooked more quickly than the center of the cookie. It’s no secret biscotti are the less becoming of the cookie family but at least they’ve got some character.
9. Bake cookies for 20 minutes on each side. They will be dry and seem inedible, that’s the whole thing with biscotti. Store in an airtight container and enjoy with a warm beverage.

Spirit of Texas Sugar Cookies

What started as a conveniently timed experiment in making my own cookie cutter ended in a dizzying display of Texas pride- these sugar cookies may be slightly tacky, but they are thoroughly delicious.

A few days ago, after deciding not to spend three dollars on a set of fluted circular cookie cutters at HEB, I had an idea to make my own. So I rummaged through our recycling bin and found an empty Budweiser can that did not (yet) smell too much of rotten eggs, washed it out about seven times, and began my project. 

I started by cutting off the ends of the can with a serrated knife and flattening out the aluminum center that remained. I cut the jagged ends (to avoid slicing a finger) and used a permanent marker to draw lines (about half an inch wide) lengthwise down the unprinted side of the can. Then I cut the strips, and waited to be inspired. I had many ideas of simple shapes I could draw without a visual aid – a rabbit, a banana, a flower – but none of these sparked my imagination. And then I noticed, staring back at me from the Budweiser can, a little navy blue outline of the Lone Star State. With my muse decided upon, I sketched out a blob that looked a little bit like Texas. Then I took a strip of aluminum, began at El Paso and worked my way northwest, strip by strip (attaching the strips with minimal pieces of waterproof tape) until I had a flimsy, slightly chubby outline of Texas. To reinforce the outline I took longer strips of tape and placed them halfway along the edge of the cutter, careful not to overlap the sharp aluminum side that would be needed to slice through the dough. And in only about thirty minutes, I had a one of a kind Texas cookie cutter (though I had no idea how it would stand up to some actual cookie cutting). 

So the real experiment started this afternoon, when I whipped up some simple sugar cookies to test out my invention.

After cooling the dough for three hours, I rolled it out on my floured countertop and lightly pressed the cookie cutter through the dough. I was more delicate than usual with my hand-made cutter, but it held up surprisingly well through over a dozen pressings, being dropped on the floor, and taking an accidental bath when I knocked it into the sink with my elbow.

This sugar cookie recipe deserves a gold (Lone) star, as well, for simplicity as well as accuracy. These cookies were easy to roll out, hearty enough to withstand the transfer from the counter to the cookie sheet, and baked for exactly eight minutes. They also smelled so wonderful I ate two of them, seconds after taking them out of the oven. 

While the little Texases cooled I decided upon a patriotic theme, but quickly discovered that I had no powdered sugar in the house to make my favorite glaze-like icing. Instead, I sleuthed through some really terrible internet icing recipes until I decided to just (try to) make my own. 

So here it is: An Original, Cooked Buttercream Icing Recipe

Ingredients: 1 tablespoons flour, 1 cup cream, 3/4 cup butter, 3/4 cup sugar, 1/8 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon almond extract

Directions: Heat ¼ cup of cream in saucepan on low heat. Whisk in flour until incorporated, add remaining cream, remove from heat, and continue whisking until it thickens. Set aside to cool. Cream butter, sugar, salt and almond extract in electric mixer and add cooled cream/flour. Continue to beat until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. 

This icing didn’t look like much at first (see above), but after icing all of the cookies I still had gobs of it left over. A little icing, I suppose, goes a long way.

I dyed about 1/5 of the icing red, 2/5 of the icing blue, and left the rest white (hoping that I wouldn’t run out of the colored icing and be forced to try to match the color with some crappy food dyes). I suppose I could have used more dye to achieve a more brilliant color, but, personally, I am sketched out by fake dyes so I settled for this pastel version of the Texas flag. And as far as icing a cookie, I would suggest starting with an uncomplicated design until you get the feel for the icing and how well it spreads. After about three Texases, I was on a roll and cranked the rest of these out with relative ease, though the process in total was a bit exhausting.

And finally, because I felt like over-doing it, I fashioned a pastry bag out of wax paper (more on that later) and piped little white stars on all my little Texas cookies, just like the real thing.

I’m taking these to a 4th of July barbecue. I just hope no one shows up with an apple pie in the shape of the Alamo.