March 2011


You might have noticed I bake. But that doesn’t keep me from calling on my good friend Duncan Hines when I want my yellow cake of choice: Butter Recipe Golden. You know, the one with a stick of butter in the batter? Aw, heck, it says right on the box, “AMERICA’S FAVORITE.” I must be onto something.

Growing up, anytime the cake craving hit, Mr. Hines was the man in my family. But frosting, THAT had to be homemade. I may never find a scratch yellow cake recipe I love as much, but this is the year I’ll give it a shot. Till then, let me tell you about this incredibly chocolatey,  fudge-like frosting that is so easy to whip up.

CHOCOLATE LOVERS’ FROSTING

1 stick (½ cup) butter, softened
4 tablespoons milk (or sour cream, if you have it handy)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1½ – 1¾ confectioners sugar
½ cup cocoa (by now, you know my heart belongs to Valrhona)

Beat together butter, milk (or sour cream) and vanilla, then gradually add cocoa and sugar. Frost your cake and enjoy!

And now…

Someone special is celebrating a birthday–no April foolin’! Yes, April Katt herself, the fabulous feline star of Katty’s Kitchen, turns eleven on April 1st. In her honor, I had to have this most purr-fect Yixing teacup.

Hello Katty!

Lovely to look at, delightful to hold

Just like my kattygirl!
Happy Birthday, Queenie!
>>^..^<<

Tic-tac-toe, freshly baked dough!

My very first post here in Katty’s Kitchen was Ultimate CCCs. I’ve been wanting to make chocolate chip cookies again for some time now, but kept thinking I should tempt you with new treats instead. Here’s the catch–now that I’m revisiting this recipe, I realize my way is just a tiny bit different from both recipes that helped me get there…so why not write out the recipe exactly as I made it and share it again? These are sooooo delicious, they’re really worth a second glance!

KATTY’S FAVORITE CCCs

1 stick butter (salted), softened
1½ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup turbinado sugar
¾ cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large egg, room temperature
½ cup dark chocolate Valrhona chunks and shards–I chopped up a combo of dark feves and a bar–mm-mmm-mmmmm!
Australian flake salt for a finishing touch!

Cream the butter and the sugars until light. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add lightly beaten egg and vanilla; mix just till egg is incorporated. Scrape down the bowl again.

Sift flour, baking soda and salt into a separate bowl. With mixer on low, slowly add dry ingredients. Mix only until combined: do not overmix. Fold in chocolate chunks/shards with a spatula.

If you can wait (!), refrigerate the dough overnight, or better still, for 24-36 hours. People say it makes ’em better. The stuff rocks raw, so it’s hard to imagine improving on perfection. Having baked a 12-hour batch and an almost 24-hour batch, however, I can tell you waiting produces a more golden cookie. Just the same, you will love them whether you can be patient or not!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Adjust racks to lower and upper thirds of the oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. I used an ice cream scoop to make big beauties. Space them 2 inches apart. How many cookies did I make? Hmmm. Me lost count (channeling my inner Cookie Monster). No, seriously, this recipe yields 18 big, beautiful cookies.


Bake for 11-14 minutes (14 in my oven) or until golden brown around the edges but still soft, almost not-quite-done, in the center. Turn the sheets front to back and switch racks halfway through. When you make the switch, it’s a great time to sprinkle just a tiny bit of finishing salt over the top of each cookie. Be sure to crush the flakes of salt between your fingers so they’re superfine.

Remove the sheets from the oven and carefully slide the parchment off the pan.

♫ Sunshine on my cookies makes me happy, la la la! ♫

When cookies are set, move them to a cooling rack. Wait at least 5 minutes before serving or let them cool before storing in an airtight container for up to 3 days at room temperature. Will they even last three days in your house before they’re–CHOMP–all gone?! AHM-NOM-NOM-NOM!

“I love it and I don’t even like bread pudding!” So said my mom. Love at first bite.

“But you used to make bread pudding when I was little,” I reminded her.

“I made it for Poppy.” But never chocolate. What a shame. I just know my grandfather would have loved it.

Do you think you hate bread pudding? You just might love this delicious recipe, clipped from the Hartford Courant years ago. I wish I could tell you whose recipe it is–I have no idea.  I can only suggest you try it as I’ve been lovin’ it for a long time. And look out–your house is gonna smell FANTASTIC as it bakes!

CHOCOLATE BREAD PUDDING

1 baguette (about ½ pound torn into 1-inch pieces)
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, melted
1.5 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
¼ cup (½ stick) of butter
½ cup sugar
3 eggs
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

Start with a beautiful baguette–this one’s from Whole Foods.

The original recipe calls for tearing the bread, but I find it easier to cut with a knife. Tear, cut, whatever makes your heart happy. Arrange the bread in a buttered 8 x 8″ baking dish.

Melt your favorite dark chocolate. Luckily, I still have some Valrhona dark chocolate feves on hand. I also have a half-pound honkin’ bar of Valrhona, but the feves are so convenient–no chopping required! I simply let ’em go for a spin in the microwave on the defrost setting. Works like a charm every time.

Heat the cream, milk and butter. Add to the eggs, sugar and vanilla you’ve beaten in a separate bowl.  Then it’s time to add the melted chocolate to the mix!

Pour this mixture over the bread. Sprinkle liberally with cocoa powder, cinnamon and just a touch of sugar.

Place this pan into a larger (9 x 13″) pan filled with an inch or so of hot water. The water should come no higher than two thirds of the way up the side of the pudding pan. Bake 40-45 minutes or until a knife inserted near the edge of the pan comes out clean.

Serve warm or cold. Serve for dessert or even breakfast! I like to pour a little heavy cream over the top to make it extra special good.

This Irish riff on beer cheese soup is so delicious, it’s hard to stop eating it once you start. Now that you’ve made your own wonderful beef stock from the New England boiled dinner–and, no doubt, have leftover corned beef–you simply can’t pass this recipe up!

REUBEN SOUP

1 small onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 quart beef stock (skim the fat)
1 cup Guinness
1 cup corned beef, shredded/chopped
1 cup sauerkraut,  drained
1 cup milk
1 can evaporated milk (12 oz.)
1 cup light cream
7 oz. Swiss cheese, shredded
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard (I’m still groovin’ on that coarse ground, but choose your fave)
1 tablespoon Cholula (or hot sauce of your choice)
Slices of lightly toasted rye bread, cut in half, for garnish

In a large stockpot, cook onion and celery in butter till tender.  Stir in flour to form a roux.

Stir in broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes.

Stir in corned beef, milk, evaporated milk and cream, Guinness, mustard and Cholula along with 1 cup of shredded cheese.

Continue to cook and stir on low until slightly thickened.

Add sauerkraut and almost all the rest of the cheese, reserving some Swiss to top your toast.

Ladle soup into ovenproof bowls. Top each bowl with a slice of lightly toasted rye, cut in two so you can fit both pieces atop the bowl. Sprinkle additional shredded Swiss on top. Broil until cheese melts. Prepare to fall for this soup big time!

And now, as Irish Week continues in Katty’s Kitchen, I’m sharing a silly Irish drinking song to start your day with a smile’! MEOW! >>^..^<<

P.S. I almost forgot! You’ve still got about a cup of Guinness left. Did you save it to make Irish Car Bomb Cake?

With St. Patrick’s Day just around the corner, what better time to make a New England boiled dinner? It’s something to warm up the house that’s easy and delicious. And something that’s a springboard to other meals as the week rolls on. But let’s make our first dinner first!

NEW ENGLAND BOILED DINNER WITH MUSTARD CREAM

3 pounds corned beef brisket (Hummel Bros. is local and great for those in CT)
3 bay leaves
6-7 whole black peppercorns
1 can Guinness
4 cups water
4-5 small-medium Yukon Golds, unpeeled and halved or quartered
6 regular carrots, peeled, halved and cut into 3 pieces
1 onion, cut into 8 pieces


MUSTARD CREAM (for your potatoes)

½ cup sour cream (you can get away with low-fat)
2 teaspoons coarse grain Dijon (I’m loving Grey Poupon’s Harvest Coarse Ground)

In the largest stockpot you have,  place the brisket, then pour the Guinness, add the four cups of water, bay leaves and peppercorns. I used my Dutch oven this time.

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer and set your timer for two hours.

At the 2-hour mark, add the vegetables. Bring the pot back up to a boil, then back down to simmer for about 20 minutes. You’ll know the vegetables are done with a mere poke of a fork.

The mustard cream is fab on the potatoes. Just smash the potatoes with a fork on your dinner plate and top with mustard cream. I like a little of the plain coarse ground mustard over my corned beef, too.

Last, but certainly not least, you just made some killer beef stock. It will yield a little over a quart. Strain it through a fine-mesh sieve and stick it in the fridge. I’ll be back to tell you about the next meal you can make from here.

Remember to save at least one cup of corned beef for the next part of the program. And make sure you have more Guinness available, OK? Slainte! Here’s a tune from Leahy to get your toes a’ tappin’ this week as we celebrate St. Pat’s!

How I love all things almond-y, especially these very special almond squares  from my friend Kristin King. These dangerously easy-to-make treats are the kind of recipe you can make from memory after you make them a time or two. I agree with Kris–as Italians, the almond affinity’s gotta be in our blood!

My mom and I have taken to drizzling melted dark chocolate over the squares. I go all Jackson Pollock on ’em.  Let’s face it–it’s fun!

As you know I’ve been on a bit of a browned butter bender of late! So, I googled to see how to substitute butter for oil to try a variation of these. Try them both ways–you won’t be disappointed!

KRISTIN’S ALMOND SQUARES
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
½ cup vegetable oil
½ tsp baking powder
1 cup flour
Pinch salt
2 tsp pure almond extract (or 1 tsp. almond extract PLUS just less than ¼ tsp. bitter almond)
Chopped or slivered almonds

Preheat an oven to 350 degrees.  Butter and flour a 8 x 8″ baking dish.

In a bowl, beat eggs until light in color.  Add sugar and beat until combined.  Add oil, baking powder, flour, salt and extract and mix well.  Pour batter into prepared baking dish.  Liberally sprinkle the top with either chopped or slivered almonds.  Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Cool on a baking rack before cutting.  Enjoy!

ALMOND SQUARES WITH BROWNED BUTTER

Using Kristin’s recipe above, replace oil with browned butter as follows:
1 stick plus 2 tablespoons butter

Brown butter in a large pot over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. The butter will eventually turn this rich brown color, much like the head on a Guinness. Hey, ’tis almost the season, don’tchaknow?!

Look for the  dark flecks that form at the bottom of the pan. This is exactly the brown-buttery goodness you’re after!

Allow the butter to cool about five minutes before whisking it in with the remaining ingredients. Mmmmm, look at those brown butter flecks! Can you say spatula-lickin’-good?! Oh, yeahhh!

Once the squares come out of the oven and have cooled a bit, melt your chocolate of choice and release your inner artist! I’m hooked on dark chocolate Valrhona feves from Whole Foods–and I use the defrost setting in the microwave.


Makes you wanna zooma-zooma straight to the kitchen to whip up a batch right now, no? Subito, subito, sez Speranza!