Kouign Amann

kouign amann 2 001Kouign Amann

In February, 2016, I started to learn to make Kouign Amann. It has been a long road with many missteps in getting to this recipe and set of notes.

Kouign Amann comes from the Brittany region of France. The words mean ‘Butter Cake’ in the Breton language. It seems to be a somewhat catch-all name for a type of dough which people make into many different types of pastry; on the Internet, I find images that show it as bun shaped pastry as I will give herein, as a large pie shaped pastry from which individual pieces are served like pizza slices, and as rolls much on the order of cinnamon rolls. The bun-shaped pastry can be various sizes; the two most common are a 2 inch base, made in muffin pans, or a 4 inch base made in larger muffin/pastry rings.

In Seattle, we had tried Kouign Amann at two bakeries- Bakery Nouveau and Le Reve. The former made their Kouign Amann in the larger 4 inch rings, while the latter had the 2 inch muffin pan form. We decided that we liked the larger pastry better and that was the experience I have tried to create in this recipe. The only difference is the container in which the pastry is cooked; a muffin pan or a 4 inch pastry ring.

After early research into the Kouign Amann, it is basically a puff pastry product and I wanted to use my Croissant Dough recipe. And I wanted to make the Kouign Amann in 4 inch pastry rings, I didn’t have those and so I made my first attempt in muffin pans.

kouign amshn 1 001First Attempt with Muffin Pans

If you use muffin pans to form the Kouign Amann, dump them out of the pans as soon as you take them out of the oven! If they aren’t removed from the tins while they are still very hot, the sugar will harden and they can not be taken out in a single piece.

In my research, I found one chef who indicated that the dough for the Kouign Amann should not be milk based as milk (and egg used in Danish pastry) promote browning and there is already enough sugar and butter in the dough to cause browning. That means I shouldn’t use the Croissant Dough recipe directly, but should switch to a different ingredient list. It also appears that unlike most pastries, the Brittany pastries are made with salted butter. Interesting.

One of the characteristics of the dough in the final recipe is it is a very moist dough. I ran into problems with other doughs in that the sugar would pull the moisture out of the dough leaving it dry, and it didn’t want to rise during proofing.

Since the dough is a version of puff pastry, it is layered with butter and sugar, and folded around the additions. Like most puff pastry recipes, after rolling the dough out, it is folded into thirds- the bottom third up over the middle third, and then the top third down over the middle.

It is also very difficult to make the additions as we would normally do in making puff pastry. Normally, the addition is made to the top 2/3 of the rolled out dough before it is folded. With this dough, I had trouble doing it that way- the dough is too moist to allow spreading the butter, and the sugar addition would fall off down to the fold when the top was brought down over the middle. I changed the method slightly. I add the layer in two parts; the first part is after the dough is rolled out, and goes on the middle third of the dough. Then the bottom is folded up over the middle, and the second part of the addition is placed on the bottom third (now in the middle) before the top third is folded down.

Finally, I experimented with making disposable pastry rings with aluminum foil and found they work without any problem. I will give directions for making the rings at the end of this post. (Because I was making so many Kouign Amann, I decided to buy some 4 inch muffin rings. I have made a half recipe- 3 pieces- a week for about the last 8 weeks trying to get the bugs out of the recipe and notes. If you are interested, 4 rings for less than $10.00 on Amazon- by Fox Run. [Actually, they are 3.5 inch rings.]).

Below are two recipes; the full size recipe and a half size recipe. Because I was making the Kouign Amann so often, I needed to create the half recipe for testing my changes; you may want to make a half recipe just to experiment with the dough and techniques before going for a full recipe

Kouign Amann (full recipe- )

Ingredients

Kouign Amann (half recipe- )

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cup water (not over 100 degrees)
  • 1 packet yeast
  • 2 3/4 cups AP flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks (12 Tbs) cold salted butter (leave in the refrigerator until needed)
  • 1 cups sugar (plus more for non-stick rolling)
  • 2/3 cup water (not over 100 degrees)
  • 1/2 packet yeast (1 1/8 tsp)
  • 1 3/8 cups AP flour (1 cup + 1/4 c + 2 Tbs)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 Tbs cold salted butter (leave in the refrigerator until needed)
  • 1/2 cups sugar (plus more for non-stick rolling)

Directions

Differences Full Recipe Half Recipe
Size for adding butter/sugar 10 x 18 7.5 x 12
Goal for flattened butter 10 x 9 7.5 x 8
Sugar per third of dough 1/4 cup 2 Tbs
Final rectangle for 4 inch rings 11 x 16 6 x 16
Final rectangle for 2 inch rings 8 x 22 8 x 11.5
Squares and size for 4 inch rings six 5 x 5 three 5 x 5
Squares and size for 2 inch rings twelve 3.5 x 3.5 six 3.5 x 3.5

  1. Prepare the dough. Mix the first four ingredients in a mixer bowl, and let the mixer run for 3-4 minutes to knead the dough
  2. Let the dough rise. Put the kneaded dough into the bowl that has been sprayed with cooking spray, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and place it in an area with a temperature in the 70-72 degree range. Let the dough rise to double in size; this might take a couple hours.
  3. Prepare the butter packet. Refrigerate the dough in its covered bowl for 1 hour. Meanwhile, place the cold butter on a piece of parchment paper. Place a piece of plastic wrap on top of the butter. With a rolling pin, beat the butter to flatten it. Between beating and rolling, try to get the butter to be 2/3 the size to which the dough will be rolled. This will make it easier to put the butter on the dough. Place the flattened softened butter on the parchment paper in the refrigerator.
  4. Prepare the dough packet Place the chilled dough on a lightly floured rolling surface, flour the top, and roll it into a rectangle for addition of the butter. Place half of the softened flattened butter on the middle 1/3 of the dough. Now fold the bottom not buttered piece up over the middle buttered third and and place the other half of the butter on the folded up piece of dough. Now fold the top third of the dough down. Pinch all the edges together. This completes the first turn. The dough is three layers with butter between each layer.
  5. Complete turn 2. Rotate the dough so it is like a book ready to be opened with its spine to the left. (Each turn will start with the dough in this position- a book with its spine on the left). Roll the dough into a rectangle the same size for additions, although nothing is added this time. Again fold the bottom third up and then the top third down completing the second turn. Wrap this dough package in plastic and place it in a baggy in the refrigerator over night. (I always leave the dough in the refrigerator over night, but I suspect that you could continue with the following steps after cooling the dough for 2-3 hours. Since we will not use flour any more, the rolling surface needs to be cleaned at this point)
  6. Turn the dough 2 more times and while adding sugar Remove the dough from the refrigerator and place it on a sugared rolling surface (about 2 Tbs) in the position of a book ready to be opened. Sprinkle the top of the dough with another couple tablespoons of sugar to keep it from sticking. Roll the dough out into a rectangle for addition of the first sugar. Sprinkle the middle third of the dough with its sugar; fold the dough bottom third up. Now sprinkle the addition sugar over the bottom third and fold the top third down. Rotate the packet into book position and reapply sugar to the rolling surface and the top of the dough. Again, roll the dough into the addition size rectangle and sprinkle the middle 1/3 with an addition of sugar and fold the dough bottom third up. Sprinkle it with another addition of sugar and fold the top third down. Refrigerate the dough while preparing for cooking. (the four additions of sugar in this step adds up to the amount of sugar given in the ingredient list [4 Tbs = 1/4 cup])
  7. Prepare the Pastry Rings This step assumes that if you are using temporary foil rings, they have already been made. Place a piece of parchment paper in the bottom of a sheet pan. Spray the inside of the pastry rings with cooking spray and place them on the parchment paper, opening the rings to as round as possible.
  8. Form the Kouign Amann. Sprinkle the rolling surface with sugar and place a packet of dough on the surface. Sprinkle additional sugar on top of the dough. Roll the dough out into its final rectangle. Trim a 1/2 inch off all sides of the rectangle so that the layers of dough are visible. Cut the rectangle into its squares. Sprinkle each square with about 2 tsp of sugar, then pick up the square by its 4 corners flipping it upside down so that this latest sugar is on the bottom. Place the square in a pastry ring. Put about 1/2 tsp of sugar in the center of the square and tuck the corners over onto the center of the pastry so they do not hang over the edges of the ring.
  9. Proof the Kouign Amann.Let the pastry rise until slightly puffy- 40 to 45 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees with a rack in the middle of the oven. (while recipes seem to all say the oven rack in the middle, I found I needed to move the rack down one notch, and then place the sheet pan inside a secnd nesting sheet pan to insulate the bottom from being closer to the bottom heat).
  10. Bake the Kouign Amann. Place the sheet pan in the oven and immediately turn the temperature down to 375 degrees. Bake for about 30 minutes; after 15 minutes, tent the Kouign Amann to keep the tops from browning too fast. The pastry is done when the tops are deep golden and the tips look like they might just be starting to burn. It takes this last almost burned state to get the caramel at its peak.
  11. Remove from pan and cool. After removing the pan from the oven, use a pancake turner and tongs to remove the Kouign Amann to a cooling rack without their pastry rings. Cool the Kouign Amann upside down.


rings 001

Making Disposable Pastry Rings

From my experience, these rings work as well as hard metal rings. The length of the foil should be 12 inches for 4 inch rings and 7.5 inches for 2 inch rings. The overlap point is 11 inches for the 4 inch rings (actually 3.5 inches) and 6.25 inches for 2 inch rings.

  1. For each ring, cut a piece of aluminum foil that is 4 inches wide by the suggested length.
  2. Fold the 4 inch dimension in half twice, resulting in a 1 inch strip that is 4 layers of foil.
  3. Mark the overlap point from one end (End A).
  4. Loop the foil strip, bringing End A to the marked overlap point.
  5. Staple the overlapped part of the ring twice to hold the rings shape. When the ring is used, its shape can be straightened to more closely resemble a ring.

It is interesting that the softness of the ring doesn’t seem to be a problem. I think that is because a circle is a very stable figure, and as the pastry rises and expands, it pushes fairly evenly all around the ring bringing it back into a circular shape. And, when the baking is finished, there is no washing of the rings; they are tossed in the trash.

So, why are the sizes for the half recipe not closer related to the full recipe sizes? For example, the size for adding ingredients for the full recipe is 10 x 18; why not either 5 x 18 or 10 x 9 for the half recipe? I don’t like the 18 inch height for my rolling surface, and I don’t like the ending shape for a 10 inch wide since that would be longer when turned to roll out again than that goal which would be 9 inches. It all has to do with the area of the surface of the dough. For the full recipe, the area (in this case) is 180 square inches; half recipe would be 90 square inches. And 7.5 x 12 is 90 square inches.

Searching for Kouign Amann

About a month ago, I saw a rerun of a Julia Child Baking show in which the guest made a Danish Pastry Braid. That looked interesting, and I thought it would be fun to learn Danish Pastry, and how it differs from what I have been making.

Nouveau 001aBakery Nouveau Kouign Amann

As I started talking about it, my neighbor suggested I try a Challah bread which is also braided. And then my Seattle Muse said that rather than Danish Pastry I should learn to make the Kouign Amann (pronounced Queen Amahn). So I had another three projects ahead of me in almost no time. I was already trying new recipes for Chai Chocolate Truffles and Indian Butternut Squash Soup.

Kouign Amann comes from the Brittany region of France. The words mean ‘Butter Cake’ in the Breton language. It seems to be a somewhat catch-all name for a type of dough which people make into many different types of pastry; on the Internet, I find images that show it as flat pastry as I want to make, as taller pastry made in a muffin tin, as a large pie shaped pastry from which individual pieces are served like pizza slices, and as rolls much on the order of morning buns.

In Seattle, we had tried Kouign Amann at two bakeries- Bakery Nouveau and Le Reve. The former made their Kouign Amann in the form of the flat pastry, while the latter had the taller form. We decided that we liked the flatter pastry better and it is that experience I am trying to create. The only difference seems to be the container in which the pastry is cooked; a muffin tin or a pastry ring.

After researching the Kouign Amann, it appeared that I could use my Croissant Dough recipe, but stop at the third turn and switch to the Kouign Amann recipe. It is at the third turn that the Kouign Amann starts adding sugar to the dough. And while I wanted to make the Kouign Amann in pastry rings, I didn’t have those and most of the recipes said you could also make it in muffin tins. So to get started with the learning experience, I used my muffin pans. Finally, some of the recipes said to put the muffin tins on a sheet pan to catch the melted butter and caramel drips.

So that was what I did for the first iteration. And many things were not right. I didn’t like the squashed look that the muffin tins gave the Kouign Amann; they looked like poorly constructed buns. I did more research, and started looking for something to use as a pastry ring; most of the research I did implied that the 4 inch pastry ring was the standard.

Using the muffin tins created a couple other problems besides just looks. If the Kouign Amann aren’t removed from the tins while they are still very hot, the sugar will harden and they can not be taken out in a single piece. And by putting the muffin tins on a sheet pan to catch the drips, the bottom of the Kouign Amann are insulated from the heat and do not cook as fast as the tops, so when the tops start to burn, the bottoms are still doughy.

Also in my research, I found one chef who indicated that the dough for the Kouign Amann should not be milk based as milk (and egg used in Danish pastry) promote browning and there is already enough sugar and butter in the dough to cause browning. That means I shouldn’t use the Croissant Dough recipe directly, but should switch to a different ingredient list. It also appears that unlike most pastries, the Brittany pastries are made with salted butter. Interesting.

Finally, I experimented with making disposable pastry rings with aluminum foil and found they work without any problem. I will give directions for making the rings when I post the recipe. (It appears that commercial pastry rings are a little more expensive than I wanted to invest; they are multiple dollars each. So foil rings are the way to go!)

But, using 4 inch pastry rings raises a different problem. It is easy to fit 12 muffin tins in the oven, but I can only get 6 of the larger pastry rings in the oven, so I needed to create a way to make the 12 Kouign Amann in two baking cycles.

After making my second batch of Kouign Amann with foil pastry rings- they worked great- I shipped a couple pastries to my Seattle Muse and got taste-test criticism back. She suggested that I find a local bakery making the pastries and see where the best were. So I located three Portland bakeries that make Kouign Amann, visited them, and bought some product. With the photo of Bakery Nouveau’s product above this article examines those other three versions of Kouign Amann; I am sorry to say up front that I was disappointed in all of them. I then asked my Muse to stop by Bakery Nouveau and buy a Kouign Amann and examine it carefully so I had a better understanding of what I was trying to accomplish.

St. Honore Bakery.
StHonore 001Saint Honore

While I said that Kouign Amann seems to be a dough that is shaped in many ways, this one really surprised me; I can’t quite see what the shape is. I almost appears to be a roll that has had the center poked down to make a nice soft spot. The pastry is made with a 3 inch base, and then is sprinkled with salt. In the words of the bakery, “Buttery and flaky pastry, caramelized and finished with a touch of French sea salt.” I feel that there has been too much heat, and so the whole pastry is caramelized to the point of being uninviting; very crunchy! There is only a small amount of sticky caramel on the top of the pastry.

I think the dough is a good puff pastry that has only been cut into a cake-like piece, and then sprinkled with sugar and salt. The only sweetness in the pastry is in the caramel crust; there is none in the dough, and the dough is cooked very evenly except for the crusting on the exterior.

Little t Bakery.
Little t 001Little t

This is an interesting version of the Kouign Amann. It shows the corners of the pastry, but doesn’t have the soft center spot. It was made in a 4 inch ring. The top -corners- are caramelized nicely, but they are flat against the pastry. And the bottom is rounded. It appears to me that it was baked upside down and the bottom rose like a roll would when baked, thus the round bottom and flat top. The bottom is very dry, and there is a small amount of sticky caramel on the top of the pastry.

Roman Candle Bakery.
RomanCandle 003Roman Candle

This pastry comes the closest to what I am looking for, but has been ruined by having a lot of salt sprinkled on the caramel. The salt is overpowering. It is a 4 inch base, and the corners do stick up. I don’t totally understand the cooking as the bottom has a very deep concave shape that also shows the soft center spot. The bun is very sticky on the bottom but dry on top. The sticky bottom is different from what I am trying to produce

Reexamination of the Bakery Nouveau Kouign Amann
The photo at the top of this article shows the pastry in the same type of view as the other three bakeries’ products. More interesting is that the base of this pastry only measures 3.5 inches. There is a puddle of sweetness in the center of the pastry. My Muse reports that the outer layer of pastry is not overly sweet, but tastes more strongly of butter. The pastry is not sticky from caramel either on top or bottom. The crust pulls away easily and as you work your way into the pastry, it appears more moist in the center.

My Current State.
kouign amann 4 003Errol’s Third Attempt

At this point, I have got a very sweet taste with the soft center. It appears that I need to increase the rise during the proofing of the pastry, and then cook at a hotter temperature to more quickly caramelize the outside without overdoing the center. What is still an issue is the need to get the corners of the pastry to stick up and show off more. Perhaps the smaller pastry rings (3.5 inches) and the greater rise in proofing will eliminate that problem.

My next report on Kouign Amann will hopefully be a recipe with directions for making the Bakery Nouveau experience.

Valentine Day 2016

plate 004

At Christmas, I received cookies from several people, and was struck by the fact that other people make smaller cookies than I do. I mean the recipes call for ‘walnut-size’ or tablespoon size balls of dough, and that seems to define the cookie size. But, when I go to give cookies away, I can only get a few of that size cookie on a paper plate; other people seem to make smaller cookies and get more on a gift plate.

So I decided that for Valentine Day, I would make smaller cookies. My final plate of cookies that I gave away contained:
Ethel’s Sugar Cookies cutout as hearts and decorated with Royal Icing,
Russian Tea Cakes,
Rocky Road Cookies,
Chocolate filled Bon Bon Cookies,
Snickerdoodles,
Two-tone Brownies,
Magic Cookies,
Lemon Squares, and
Fudge.

If you are interested in the recipes for the various cookies, just click and the recipe should come up in a separate tab for review. Below is a photo of how I decorated the cutout cookies.

cutouts 003

The list of cookies (and candy) can be broken into three parts when it comes to making smaller items; the cutout cookies, the drop and molded cookies, and the pan baked cookies (and candy). Each category is a different problem.

For cutout cookies, you are at the mercy of the cookie cutter. Mine was slightly larger than I would have liked. I have some smaller cutters, but I wanted the heart shape and was too impatient to go looking in stores for a smaller one.

For the pan baked cookies, making the smaller size is only a matter of cutting the cookies smaller. I made cuts between 3/4 inches and 1.5 inches, but think probably 1 inch square is the best goal. I do have some thoughts about pan bake cookies; most important is to NOT cut them in the baking pan. That damages the knife blade- dulls it- and scratches the baking pan! I do all my pan baked goods in pans that I have lined with foil with overhang; when they are done cooking and cooled, the foil lifts out easily and you can work on a proper cutting board.

However, where the foil is fitted into the corners of the baking pan, it gets wrinkled, and many times the raw cookie batter will seep into the corner folds and make it very difficult to peel the foil from the cookies. This is especially true with the Magic Cookies; in the future, I would spray the foil to ensure it comes off the cookies easier.

Finally, there are the drop and molded cookies. These are where the work is. I started with the concept that the ‘walnut-size’ or Tablespoon size cookie was the amount of dough I scooped with my #60 scoop- it actually should be a #64, but that is a very small difference. I have a smaller, unmarked scoop, which I have calculated to be about a #120 to #128; that should be 1/2 Tablespoon. I tried using that as a starting point, but felt it was still too big. So I formed into balls the cookie dough using the smaller scoop, and then cut the balls in half. This gave me the size I wanted. That would be about 1.5 teaspoons.

Now I had to do some things to make the cookies right. First, the Bon Bon cookies are normally formed around a chocolate Kiss. I weighed a Kiss, and then chocolate chips and discovered that a Kiss was about equivalent to 11 chips. Since the dough was now about 1/4th of the normal amount of dough, I chose to wrap the Bon Bon around 2 chocolate chips-(maybe I should have used 3). And cooking time with experimentation and errors turns out to be about 2/3 the suggested time for the normal cookie.

For the Rocky Road cookies, I ended up cutting the mini marshmallows in half. All the other drop cookies just needed an adjustment in the cooking time, and all were good using 1/2 the dough from the small scoop.

Now, if you are making smaller cookies, you soon learn that the normal recipe which makes 3 – 4 dozen cookies will make 6 to 8 dozen small cookies. So the second area in which you want to do some changes is probably with the ingredient list of the recipe. In most cases, you will want to cut the amounts in half. If the recipe calls for a single egg, then the trick is to break the egg into a separate bowl and whip it to a scramble, then measure out 2 Tablespoons of the scrambled egg as equivalent to 1/2 an egg.

Holiday Sweets

snickerdoodle 001Snickerdoodles

No matter which holiday you celebrate in December, I am certain there is a place for sweet food. This year, I am making some of my favorites again, and the recipes are already on this blog. I am going to call your attention to some of the many sweet eats that we have already.

Sweet eats come in many forms, although I suspect that many of us think first of cookies and candy. But, there are also dessert breads. And if you are having a party, perhaps a pie or cake will show at your table. If I don’t suggest enough ideas, then I would invite you to click on the “Index of Articles” at the top of the page and see if you can find something that will fill the bill.

Morning BunsMorning Buns

Before I get to the candy and cookies, let me call your attention to a couple bread items. Of course, in the breads there are the standard breakfast fair like Cinnamon Rolls (I actually have two recipes for these) or Cinnamon Bread. I will be making Morning Buns, myself. And then there are dessert breads such as Banana Tea Bread and my favorite- Steamed Bread Pudding!

If you are looking for something real different as a dessert, look at the Paska recipe. It is a winter treat, with candied fruit and all, but not a dense fruit cake.

Chocolate Bark with PeanutsChocolate Bark with Peanuts

In the area of candy, Fudge is always good start. If you want something very simple, I would suggest making a Chocolate Bark with nuts. I will be making Rum Balls because son-in-law James is looking forward to them. To fill out the candy possibilities, there is English Toffee, and Truffles; they both go over very well and make good gifts if you need to take one to someone that is hosting a party.

Cookies are another area where you can go simple, or do something special. Perhaps the easiest cookie I make is the Snickerdoodle; it is the first baking I ever did, and it is still one of my favorite cookies. Daughter Jenn has asked for Karo Lace cookies, and I will make those for her. I will also make a batch of Bon Bon cookies to test making them with almond flour instead of chopping the almonds.

kookie brittleKookie Brittle

Daughter Mindy likes to do her own baking, and she specializes in pan cookies. I will be visiting her and she has promised to make Lemon Squares and Kookie Brittle. Last year, I got the recipe for Slutty Brownies from her when I visited. She also mentioned Magic Cookies, she remembers those as the second kind that Marlys and the girls made each year, because the girls could do most of the work and participate in the cookie making.

Pub CookieGelato di Superior Pub Cookie

You will notice I haven’t mentioned the old standby of chocolate chip cookies. There are many recipes for those, although I only go with the Original Toll House cookie. However, if you would really like to blow someone’ mind with a giant cookie, there are a couple I can suggest. One is the Giant Chocolate Chip Cookie, and the other is the original recipe for the Gelato di Superior Pub Cookie; your recipient will be chewing on one of those cookies for some time!

cutoutsCutout Cookies

And I nearly forgot the cutout cookies; again, these are something you can make with the kids letting them decorate the cookies after they have cooled. I have found the best recipe for making the cutout cookies is Ethel’s Sugar Cookies although the Kammerjunkere cookies also make good cutouts. For the decorating where you want icing, I would go with Royal Icing as it hardens nicely. If you are new to using Icing to decorate your cutout cookies, look at the article I wrote after taking the Cookie Decorating Class. About half way down the article you will find me talking about piping dams with the Royal Icing, and then flooding the area with thinned Royal Icing. I also talk about adding texture using sugars and candy pieces. I think if you make the Royal Icing, your young adult can learn to use it to decorate the cookies.

So, Have a sweet holiday, and we will find something new next year.

Errol

Swiss Vegetable Medley

Swiss Medley 002

While considering various vegetable side dishes for our Thanksgiving pot luck, I pulled out the recipe for this dish – Swiss Vegetable Medley. It is an interesting recipe in that it is simple, but very tasty. It reminds me very much of the “Semi Home Made” style recipe in that all the work seems to be measuring, and there is no processing other than cooking.

I have updated the recipe slightly since inflation has again changed the packaging sizes of some of the ingredients. But it is still the same good side dish. And if you have problems serving broccoli or cauliflower to your troops, those are almost completely hidden in this dish.

Swiss Vegetable Medley

Ingredients

  • 14 oz package frozen broccoli-carrot-cauliflower combo
  • 1 can condensed cream of chicken soup
  • 1 cup (4 oz.) grated swiss cheese, divided
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 3 oz French fried onions, divided

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Thaw and drain the frozen vegetable combo.
  2. Mix together the soup, 1/2 cup (2 ox.) swiss cheese, sour cream, pepper and 1/2 (1.5 oz.) of the French fried onions. Ad the thawed and drained vegetables.
  3. Put into a 1.5 quart sprayed casserole and bake, covered for 30 minutes.
  4. Top with the leftover onions and cheese and return to the oven for an additional 5 minutes, uncovered.


Swiss Medley 003

I was pleasantly surprised to find the frozen vegetable combo still available at my store; so many of the old combos have disappeared from the market. I even found the swiss cheese already grated, and the French’s onion rings are now in a 6 oz package. Everything came together when I shopped.

I tried making the casserole in a 1 quart dish, but it was just too full; thus I am suggesting a larger casserole dish.

Hawaiian Style Macaroni Salad

Mac Salad 004

This year, for our Thanksgiving pot luck, I made two dishes. The first was a repeat of the Sweet Potatoes and Marshmallows. I made a couple changes to the recipe to try to fix the problems I noted last year. I added a note to the recipe to say what I did, and so would direct you there if you are interested. (It should be Yams and Marshmallows).

Then, while I was considering different vegetable side dishes, it occurred to me that the meat was to be Kalua Pork; our theme was Hawaiian! So I decided that with the pork we should have sticky rice and macaroni salad. After trying to understand what sticky rice was, I decided to do the salad, and that is the recipe I am giving you here.

This salad has a slightly acidic taste from the vinegar rinse. The sauce keeps the macaroni loose; it doesn’t clump up badly. And it has plenty of vegetables.

Mac Salad 001

Hawaiian Style Macaroni Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 pound elbow macaroni
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 cups mayonnaise, divided
  • 2 cups milk, divided
  • 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons pepper
  • 1 bunch scallions, sliced thin (5-7 scallions)
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded carrots
  • 1 1/2 cups minced celery

Directions

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the macaroni and cook until soft; about 10 minutes. Drain, and immediately return the macaroni to the cooking pot and toss with the vinegar. Let cool ten minutes.
  2. In a very large bowl, whisk together half the mayonnaise (1 cup) 1 1/2 cups of the milk, the brown sugar, salt and pepper.
  3. Toss the cooled macaroni with the mixed sauce and let cool to room temperature.
  4. Whisk together the remaining mayonnaise (1 cup), milk (1/2 cup).
  5. Once the macaroni and sauce has cooled, fold in the scallions, carrots and celery. Pour the whisked mayo / milk over the salad; toss to coat. Taste and add more salt or pepper as needed.
  6. Chill in the refrigerator until cold.


First, when I say to make the sauce in a very large bowl, I mean more than a 4 quart bowl. I started with my 4 quart mixer bowl and it was full when I added the cooked macaroni. I luckily have a 10 quart bowl and so I switched to that to finish the salad. If the macaroni and sauce fill a 4 quart bowl, you still have to add over a quart of vegetables and thicker sauce.

I decided to let the food processor grate my carrots; I don’t like to use the hand grater and spoil my fingers. Anyway, as I got ready, I chopped the carrots so that I could place them in a 1 cup and a 1/2 cup dry measuring cups; they stuck out the top. But the interesting thing is, (and I have found this to be true with other ingredients that need chopping, etc) is that the processed / grated carrots take up almost the same amount of space as the chopped carrots. And because I had the food processor out, I decided to “mince” the celery using the same grater blade and technique of chopping the stalks to fill the cups. It works! The scallions I did do by hand.

I looked at more traditional macaroni salads, and they all seem similar with just a different cast of vegetables. Some use roasted peppers, or ripe olives. Most seem to use scallions. But not many seem to use carrots or celery, things that might be in your vegetable crisper and not need a special trip to the grocery store. I hope you try this version of a macaroni salad and enjoy.

2015 Decorative Turkeys

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I made more of the Decorative Thanksgiving Turkeys this year, but with a couple differences. The external differences are that I added eyes and a wattle. The other difference is that I used chocolate candy melt for my glue, as opposed to just a regular chocolate. Again, it only took about 4 ounces of the candy melt disks to do 30 turkeys. (I limited myself to 30 because that was the number of double stuffed Oreo cookies in the package).

Before I discuss the making of the wattle, I think I need to create a recipe. Last year’s article on the Decorative Turkeys did not give you an ingredient list and that was a mistake.

Decorative Turkeys

Ingredients

  • 1 package Double Stuffed Oreo cookies
  • 30 Mini Reese’s Peanut Butter cups
  • 30 Chocolate Malt Balls
  • 180 pieces of Candy Corn
  • 12 pieces of soft red candy (I used Swedish Fish) (optional)
  • 15 additional Oreo cookies (for the stands)
  • 4 ounces of chocolate to use as glue
  • 60 eye candies (optional)

Directions

  1. To start, insert 5 pieces of candy corn into the filling of the double stuffed Oreo cookies. This takes some care as the corn grows in thickness and will cause the Oreo wafers to separate if pressed in too far. And if you hold the cookie too tightly and press the corn in, it can even cause the cookie wafer to break.After inserting the tail feathers, I find it best to lay the cookies down and proceed with the cookie flat.
  2. Unwrap the peanut butter cups and take the paper off the candy.
  3. Now you need your glue. Melt the chocolate in the microwave for 20 seconds, and then remove it, stir it and check its consistency. Repeat the microwaving and checking until there is enough melted chocolate to cover any remaining pieces. This time when you stir it the remaining pieces will melt and you have your glue. It took me a total of three iterations to get the melted glue made. Be careful not to exceed the 20 second rule; the chocolate can easily burn on the bottom of the dish.
  4. Dip the top of the peanut butter cup in the glue, and place it on the Oreo cookie with the candy corn tail feathers. Place it toward the bottom edge, away from the feathers.
  5. Dip the Malt Ball in the glue, and place it above the peanut butter cup against the Oreo cookie. This is the head of the turkey.
  6. Next, we cut the pointed end off the remaining candy corn to be the turkey’s beak. You can be the judge of how long you want the beak. I like to make the beak have just a tinge of the orange at its base. Once you have the beaks, glue it onto the front of the head. I use a toothpick to spread the glue on the back of the beak, and all the rest of the small parts- no more dipping.
  7. We will leave the turkeys for a moment- let the glue dry more. And we will prepare the optional wattle if you care to have that on the turkeys. Take a soft red candy, and roll it out with a rolling pin or piece of dowel to flatten it. Once it is flat and thin, cut it into small pieces- don’t try to be perfect but I think you should aim for about 1/8 x 3/8 inches. You need 30 of these pieces, so keep rolling and cutting.
  8. We are ready to put the optional characteristics on our turkeys. (You will probably need to heat the glue pot for 20 seconds in the microwave so it is liquid again.) I glued the wattle to the peanut butter cup, but positioned it to start just under the beak. And the eyes I glue just above and to the side of the beak.
  9. Finally, we are ready to put the turkeys on their stands. Separate the additional Oreo cookies. There are a couple ways to do this; one is to use a knife to keep as much filling as possible on one wafer, and eat the other wafer. The second way is the unscrew the two wafers from each other and have part of the filling on each wafer. I used the first method in 2014 and the second method in 2015. Now, dip the bottom of the turkey in the glue and stand it on one of the split Oreo halves; I would place it toward the back so the body of the turkey is still over the stand. (I said there would be no more dipping up above- sorry, my bad). In just a couple seconds the chocolate glue will be solid enough that it will hold the turkey upright.

And there you have your decorative turkeys.

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While others use more of the standard Oreo cookies for the turkeys’ stands, and the turkeys are then standing in snow, I decided last year that I would stand my turkeys on grass, so I bought a package of Mint stuffed Oreo cookies just for the stands. You could also make fewer turkeys by making a turkey stand from a double stuffed Oreo each time you make a candy corn stuffed tail section or two- depending on how you split the stand Oreo. Of course, then you would have to eat the extra peanut butter cups and malt balls ;^)

I placed the steps for putting the wattle and eyes down as optional; last years turkeys had neither, and still were cute. The reason I added these characteristics this year are because I have learned some things about decorating. First, I learned that the bake shop – Decorette Shop– sells the candy eyes. Unfortunately, I don’t find them on the web site and have to walk in to get them. I just googled “candy eyes” and found them listed at a lot of places- places that carry Wilton products like Walmart, Michael’s, and Jo-Ann Fabric; even Party City. The one thing I don’t find is how to determine the size, or even if you can order different sizes; I know that the Decorette shop does have different sizes, and the ones I am using are about 1/4 inch in diameter. Anyway, if you check back to my exploration of cake pops, you will see that I started using them at that time, and I used a larger size on the Minion.

The second learning came from a book my sister Ann sent me- Hello, Cupcake by Karen Tack & Alan Richardson. It has some pretty wild cupcake designs, but more importantly, Karen shows how to roll out soft candies so that you can cut designs out of them. While Giada and others pipe frosting onto their turkeys to add characteristics, I felt that it would be better to use candy and cookie parts as much as possible. And this was an opportunity to experiment with the idea of rolling out candy.

Finally, the candy melt chocolate versus maybe semi-sweet chocolate chips as glue. I think you should use whatever is easiest for you. They are treated the same as far as melting and using. I happened to have the candy melt left over from my cake pop activity, but last year I did use regular old semi-sweet chocolate chips.

Individual Cheesecakes

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Allison wanted her birthday cake to be cheesecake. And as always, I had to do something special. Since different folks like different tastes, I decided to make individual cheesecakes with a smorgasbord of sauces. Each cheesecake is about the size of a cupcake, and is complete in itself. And then there are the toppings with which each person can choose and complement their cheesecake. All the recipes are in this article, even if some have appeared earlier in other articles.

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For toppings, I made a ganache, a caramel, a praline sauce, lemon curd, strawberries, blueberries, and pumpkin. The latter is because this year we celebrate Alli’s birthday on Halloween, and Halloween goes well with pumpkin cheesecake.

I obviously made way too many, and too much toppings. I was surprised to find that the lemon curd and the strawberries were probably the favorites, with the caramel running third. The ganache was not a favorite; as daughter Mindy told me later- who wants chocolate with cheesecake? Cheesecake is almost the anti-chocolate food.- She also said that she felt pumpkin mousse was not a topping for cheesecake, but if you want a pumpkin cheesecake, you should put the pumpkin in the cheese layer.

Individual Cheesecakes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 2 Tbsp Granulated Sugar
  • 3 Tbsp Butter
  • 3 pkg (8 oz. each) Cream Cheese, softened
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 3/4 cup Granulated Sugar
  • 3 Eggs
  • 2 cups Sour Cream at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup Granulated Sugar
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract

The above Ingredient list is broken into 3 parts- bottom crust, middle filling, and topping.

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. Put cupcake papers into the bottom of 18 muffin cups
  3. For the crust, mix the graham crumbs, 2 Tablespoons sugar and butter until well blended, and press into the bottoms of the cupcake papers.
  4. For the filling, beat the cream cheese, 1 teaspoon vanilla and 3/4 cup sugar until blended. Add the eggs, one at a time mixing on low speed after each just until blended. Spoon over the crusts.
  5. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until the centers are almost set.
  6. For the topping, combine the sour cream, 1/4 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla in a small bowl. Spread over the surface of the warm cupcakes. Return the cupcakes to the oven and bake for another 5 to 7 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or over night.
  7. Remove the cupcake papers and arrange the individual cheesecakes for serving.


Since I made the seven toppings, I will give you recipes for each of them although you should probably only focus on a couple or three for your serving.

Ganache is a mixture of heavy cream and chocolate. I have used several of these in the past and am providing you with a pointer to some of those recipes as well as giving you a recipe herein. Perhaps the best previous recipe was with the home-made Ding Dongs. In that case, We wanted the ganache to set since it was an outside coating, and we wanted it to be shiny. So the amount of chocolate was more than the amount of cream, and we added fat (butter) for the gloss. Likewise, for holding cake pops together, we use a ganache. The recipe in the cake pop article is not strong enough compared to the recipe for white chocolate ganache in the Icings, Frostings and Glazes article; you really need a 4 to 1 ratio of chocolate to cream for cake pops. Here, we want a fairly liquid ganache, and use a 1 to 1 ratio.

Ganache

Ingredients

  • 8 oz. Chocolate Pieces (any flavor or type, including white)
  • 1 cup Heavy Cream

Directions

  1. Place the chocolate in a microwave proof bowl
  2. Heat the cream in a sauce pan until small bubbles start to appear around the edges (just to a boil but not boiling!)
  3. Remove from the heat, and pour over the chocolate.
  4. Let the mixture sit undisturbed for 5 minutes
  5. Stir until all the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth

An alternative approach is to place the ingredients in a double boiler over simmering water and cook, stirring until it is smooth and all the chocolate is melted. Since the chocolate is in a heat proof bowl, and the sauce pan is out, this should be an easy change from heating the cream separately and waiting for the chocolate to melt.

Caramel is a mixture of heavy cream and sugar. Most of the caramel I have used I have made from salted caramel chips, and used a ganache recipe; it works. However, if you want a straight caramel without salt, then the recipe I have in the Guinness Gingerbread Cupcakes article does a nice job.

Caramel

Ingredients

  • 4 Tablespoons butter
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

The sauce can be made up to 3 days ahead. Cool it to room temperature and refrigerate it in a covered container. Reheat over low heat until smooth and spreadable.

  1. Melt the butter over medium heat in a sauce pan.
  2. Add the brown sugar and cream. Stir with a whisk until the sauce bubbles and gets sticky, about 5 minutes.
  3. Stir in the vanilla and salt.

If ganache is Chocolate and Cream, and Caramel is Sugar and Cream, then I would say that Praline is Sugar and Sugar; it is a very sweet sauce, and this recipe adds chopped pecans to give it more of that Southern flavor.

Praline Sauce

Ingredients

  • 2 Tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 2 Tablespooons cornstarch
  • 1 cup dark corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

  1. In a small heavy sauce pan, stir together the brown sugar and cornstarch
  2. Stir in the corn syrup and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until thick.
  3. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the nuts and vanilla.
  4. Cool slightly, and serve.


I tried many recipes for a lemon sauce, and found I didn’t like any of them. Then I found this recipe for Lemon Curd, and the way the people at the party liked it, I think it is a real winner. As one person said, “I can’t wait to have my toast with lemon curd in the morning”.

Lemon Curd

Ingredients

  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 egg yolks in addition
  • 2/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest

Directions

  1. Cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl. Add the eggs and egg yolks one at a time, beating each into the mixture. Mix in the lemon juice. The mixture will look lumpy but will smooth out in the next step as it is cooked.
  2. In a heavy bottom sauce pan, cook the mixture over low heat until it smooths out. The lumpy appearance disappears as the butter in the mixture melts. Increase the heat to medium and continue to cook the mixture, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens. The thickened mixture should leave a path on the back of a spoon, and will read 170 degrees F on a thermometer. Don’t let the mixture go beyond 170 degrees, or boil.
  3. Remove the mixture from the heat, and stir in the lemon zest. Transfer the mixture to a bowl, and press plastic wrap on the surface of the lemon curd to keep a skin from forming. Chill the curd in the refrigerator; it will thicken as it cools.

The curd will keep in the refrigerator for a couple weeks, and can be frozen for a couple months.

For the strawberries, I made the Strawberry Sauce recipe that is macerated strawberries. Again, I had tried several different recipes to get a good strawberry sauce, and finally settle on this one; it is juicy and sweet.

Strawberries

Ingredients

  • 16 oz. strawberries, hulled and coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

Directions

  1. Mix the strawberries, sugar and lemon juice, cover, and refrigerate for 24 hours.

Taste the resulting sauce, and if not sweet enough, add more sugar. Some recipes go to 1/2 cup of sugar, while others start with only 2 Tablespoons of sugar.

I started with the idea that I would macerate the blueberries, but then, who would want smashed blueberries. They really would not be very appetizing. So I left the blueberries whole; maceration seems to need the fruit to be cut, or opened such that its juices can flow.

Blueberries

For this “sauce” I added a couple tablespoons of sugar and some lemon zest to the blueberries, but next time, nothing but the berries. I think the zest turned people off; blueberry lovers want the simple pure fruit!

So finally, here is the pumpkin mousse that Mindy said was not proper for a cheesecake; she said the pumpkin should be cooked into the cheese layer of the cheesecake and not painted on top. However, this mousse would make an excellent filling for a simple pie- say graham cracker crust. And it would require no cooking- ready in a jiffy!

Pumpkin mousse

Ingredients

  • 2 small boxes of instant vanilla pudding (sugar free is okay)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 -15 oz. can pure pumpkin/pumpkin puree
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/4 tsp clove

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, combine the vanilla pudding mix, milk, pumpkin and spices.
  2. Whisk until smooth


That is all there is too making the mousse. Use it as you like.

Spider Eggs for Halloween

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Last year, Brandy showed me her deviled eggs with ripe olive spiders on top. I knew at that time that I wanted to try this idea for Halloween this year. There is quite a bit of work in making these; Brandy said that her twin 11 year old daughters had helped her, so maybe this is a good project at the family level.

I tried to make them on Halloween morning for a party that afternoon, and got myself into a little bit of trouble without realizing it. The hard cooked eggs didn’t peel cleanly; pieces of egg white stuck to the shell causing pits in the egg whites. So after Halloween, I decided to review and research what I knew and didn’t know about making hard cooked eggs. What I learned is that you should not try to peel the eggs as soon as they are cool, but should wait for a couple hours, or even overnight. I guess the egg white shrinks a little and pulls away from the shell. As a result, I have updated my original article concerning deviled eggs-Green Eggs and Ham- Deviled Eggs– to reflect the need to wait longer between cooking and cooling the eggs, and shelling them. (I notice that I left the wait time down at 15 minutes, but I think that is still pushing it, and would go with a couple hours minimum).

In the Green Eggs article, I suggest pushing the egg yolk mixture through a sieve to eliminate any tough pieces. I was going to try to skip that step, but when I saw what I had, I felt I had to sieve the mixture.

The spider is made by cutting a ripe olive in half length-wise, and then cutting one half into 6 legs; I used two cross cuts, and then cut each of those three pieces in half. You could go for 8 legs, but I felt the work of getting 6 small pieces on the deviled egg was enough. (There is one spider in the photo with 8 legs- second one in on the third row).

So plan a few spider eggs for next year. Between Spider Cookies, and Spider Eggs you have both an appetizer and a dessert for that Halloween party.

Butternut Squash Soup with Jalapeno

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This summer, one of the vegetables I raised was Butternut Squash. It did very well. As I wrote my different relatives, I got over 12 squash that weighed at least 4 pounds each. My sister said she had been able to taste a Butternut Squash soup that was good, and sent me a pointer to the recipe.

This year, I am finding many Butternut Squash Soup recipes. There are several things they all seem to have in common; they use fresh ginger, and coconut milk. And they add capsicum heat. That is the burn from hot peppers. Caprial Pense’s recipe (Curry Winter Squash Soup) gets it heat from the peppers in the curry powder, while this recipe goes straight for the hot pepper by adding a Jalapeno. Finally, they all seem to use a cream product as a garnish- sour cream, cremefraiche, … And as a result, all the photos of the different soups look exactly alike!

Butternut Squash Soup with Jalapeno

Ingredients

  • 3 Tbs butter
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
  • 2 lbs butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed
  • 16 oz. chicken broth
  • 12 oz. evaporated milk
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1 Tbs granulated sugar
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • sour cream for garnish when serving

Directions

  1. Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat; stir in the onion, ginger and jalapeno pepper; cook until the onion turns transparent.
  2. Add the squash and broth and raise the heat to high to bring the pot to a boil.
  3. reduce the heat to medium low, cover the pot and simmer until the squash is tender- about 30 minutes.
  4. Stir in the evaporated and coconut milks, and sugar; cook for another 5 minutes. Puree the soup** (see below)
  5. Add salt and black pepper to taste, and stir well into the pureed soup.
  6. Ladle the pureed soup into bowls and garnish with a large spoon of sour cream to serve.

**To puree the soup, if possible, use a stick/immersion blender. If not, then do the soup in batches in a blender as follows:

  • ladle some soup into the blender, do not fill the blender more than half full.
  • hold the lid on the blender with a towel so you don’t get burned; then pulse the blender a few times to break up the chunks before turning it onto Puree.
  • Pour the pureed soup into a clean pot, and continue to puree the soup in batches until it is smooth.

When I seed a squash, I always save the seeds and roast them. That is so easy, and they are a good snack.

Since I also grew my own Jalapenos this year, I was finishing my last harvest of the jalapenos and saved two out for making this soup. So I added extra heat by using both the jalapenos instead of just one. It was okay, and the sour cream garnish gives you a chance to cool your mouth from the heat if necessary.