Thursday, June 27, 2013

June Daring Bakers' Challenge - Pie

Get ready for some deliciousness - it's Daring Baker time!

Rachael from pizzarossa was our lovely June 2013 Daring Bakers’ host and she had us whipping up delicious pies in our kitchens! Cream pies, fruit pies, chocolate pies, even crack pies! There’s nothing like pie! 

Rachael gave us four options to choose from, but also gave us the freedom to make any pie that tickled our fancy, as long as we made it (crust/pastry included) from scratch.

One of the recipes that Rachael provided was for a pie that has quite a reputation.  Made famous at a very popular restaurant in New York City, Momofuku's Milk Bar, Crack Pie is something that I had never tried, but I had been dying to, based on its reputation alone. Now, to be completely honest, I didn't even know exactly what "crack pie" was until I saw the recipe in the challenge, but I knew when I saw it listed that I would be trying.

Crack pie, like most pies, has two main components - the crust and the filling. The crust is actually made from an oatmeal cookie base, which little man helped me put together.

The cookie is baked into a thin sheet...

...which is then crumbled, mixed with sugar and butter, and pressed into the pie plate.

It was at this point that I knew I was in trouble. The crust was so delicious even on its own, I had no doubt that I'd be loving the pie and eating way too much of it.

The filling is a rich combination of egg yolks, heavy cream, two kinds of sugars... yeah. Deliciousness whipped together and poured into the pie crust.

Then the whole thing bakes and the hard part begins - it needs to rest overnight for maximum deliciousness.

But let me tell you.

It's worth the wait.

Holy moly, this pie is delicious. Very sweet but not in a bad way. Little miss and daddy actually recommended that I add chocolate chips next time, but I thought it was darn near perfect as it was.

This pie is so addictive, one bite and you'll understand the name.

But I wasn't done.

One of the other options that was provided in the challenge was a double-crust apple pie. Now, I love apple pie, but that's more of a Fall thing for me. (I know, don't point out the fact that I make pumpkin recipes year round...)

Being as June is the beginning of summer and berry picking season, I decided to fill my double crust with something more seasonal - strawberries and rhubarb.

When it comes to fresh-fruit pies, I like to let the fruit be the star, so I like the recipe to be nice and simple, which is why I chose this recipe to follow.

For this pie, I chose to use a sourdough crust.  And for the crust, I wanted to go a little fancier than I normally do.

For my top crust, I cut very thin strips...

...and tried to fancy up my lattice weave.

This pie cooked up beautifully, the crust nice and golden and the filling bubbly and delicious.

Rachael, I can't thank you enough for this awesome and delicious challenge. I love pies and am thrilled to have finally had the opportunity to try crack pie! I can't wait to try the other recipes you provided this month for even more deliciousness.

To see the challenge as it was presented to us, check it out here.

And to see the other delicious pies baked up in the kitchen this month, check them out here.

Crack Pie
(from Bon Appetite)

For the Oat Cookie Crust
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
9 tablespoons (1 stick plus 1 tablespoon) unsalted butter, room temperature, divided
5 1/2 tablespoons (packed) golden brown sugar, divided
2 tablespoons sugar
1 large egg
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon (generous) salt

For the Filling
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1 tablespoon nonfat dry milk powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted, cooled slightly
6 1/2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
4 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Powdered sugar (for dusting)

To Prepare the Oat Cookie Crust
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 13x9x2-inch baking pan with parchment paper and coat it with nonstick spray.
Combine 6 tablespoons butter, 4 tablespoons brown sugar, and 2 tablespoons sugar in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat mixture until light and fluffy, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl, about 2 minutes.
Add egg and beat until pale and fluffy.
Add oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and beat until well blended, about 1 minute.
Turn oat mixture out onto prepared baking pan; press out evenly to edges of pan.
Bake until light golden on top, 17 to 18 minutes. Transfer baking pan to rack and cool cookie completely.

Using hands, crumble oat cookie into large bowl; add 3 tablespoons butter and 1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar. Rub in with fingertips until mixture is moist enough to stick together.
Transfer cookie crust mixture to 9-inch-diameter glass pie dish. Using fingers, press mixture evenly onto bottom and up sides of pie dish. Place pie dish with crust on rimmed baking sheet.

To Prepare the Filling
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F.
Whisk both sugars, milk powder, and salt in medium bowl to blend.
Add melted butter and whisk until blended.
Add cream, then egg yolks and vanilla and whisk until well blended.
Pour filling into crust.
Bake pie 30 minutes (filling may begin to bubble). Reduce oven temperature to 325°F. Continue to bake pie until filling is brown in spots and set around edges but center still moves slightly when pie dish is gently shaken, about 20 minutes longer.
Cool pie 2 hours in pie dish on rack. Chill uncovered overnight.
Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover; keep chilled.

Sift powdered sugar lightly over top of pie. Cut pie into wedges and serve cold.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
(From Mel's Kitchen Cafe, with crust from the Bonjon Gourmet)

For the crust:
2 cups flour (you can use all purpose, whole wheat or a combination)
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar (variable, depending on your pie)
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, cold, cut into cubes
about 1 cup 100%-hydration sourdough starter

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour(s), salt and sugar. Add the butter and rub it in with your fingertips until the mixture looks like gravel, with some butter worked in and some 1/4" chunks remaining. Gradually add the starter, folding the mixture with a spoon or your hands until it just starts to come together into large clumps.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide roughly into 8 portions. Fraisage the dough: using the heel of your hand, scrape a portion of dough across the surface. Repeat with the remaining dough. Gather the dough into two balls. Flatten the balls into discs and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill for at least 30 minutes, and up to a few days. (Or freeze for up to a couple months. Defrost before proceeding.)
When you are ready to proceed with your pie, remove the dough from the fridge. If it is very firm, you may need to let it soften at room temp for 15 minutes or so. On a lightly floured surface, roll one portion of the dough out into a 14" round. Fit into the pie pan leaving a slight overhang.  Chill the rolled dough while you prepare the pie filling.
Once the pie has been filled, roll the second portion. Cut into strips for a lattice top or cover the pie and cut slits/vents - whatever you choose.

For the pie:
2 3/4 cups sliced rhubarb, about 5-6 medium stalks
2 cups sliced strawberries
2/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch

In a medium-large bowl, combine the rhubarb, strawberries, sugar and cornstarch. Mix well. The mixture should be thick and syrupy after being stirred well.
Pour the strawberry/rhubarb mixture in the prepared and rolled out crust, using a large spoon to fill evenly.
Cover filling with lattice top (or a streussel topping, or top-crust of your choice)
Place the pie on a rimmed baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 50-55 minutes, covering the pie crust edges halfway with foil to prevent over-browning.
Let the pie cool completely before cutting into pieces. Serve with a dollop of freshly whipped cream, if desired.


Thursday, June 20, 2013

June Sourdough Surprises - Crepes

I have no idea how crepes earned the reputation that they have - for being tricky, challenging, difficult to make...

Every time I make them, my first thought is "why don't I make these more often?"

And this time was no different.

Sourdough crepes are so quick to put together, I am shocked that it took a Sourdough Surprises challenge for me to try it.

To begin with, the batter can be made with "discard" starter - so you don't even have to plan ahead too much. I took my starter out of the fridge about an hour before starting to take the chill off, but that's not even necessary.  First thing added to the starter is eggs.

Then some melted butter and salt. Once all of that is whisked together, simple whisk in some milk (coconut milk, in my case) until the batter is nice and thin.

The "hardest" part about making crepes is cooking them - you don't want to use too much batter, which would make the crepes too thin, and you don't want to over or under cook them.

But once you get the hang of it, it's actually pretty fun, and soon enough, you have a stack of crepes just waiting to be filled.

And I am sure it will come as no surprise that I chose to incorporate Biscoff in my filling - I made a Biscoff-glazed banana filling and rolled everything up.

All I can say is YUM. Little miss was super skeptical about both the crepes and the filling, but one taste of mine and she was definitely ready for one of her own.  This was definitely a fun treat for our afternoon snack!

I had lots of ideas as to what to do with my crepes, so these will not be the only crepes you see here. Oh yes - I will definitely be making these again!

So what did you do with your crepes this month? Link up and share the deliciousness!

Sourdough Crepes

1 cup sourdough starter (100% hydration)
2 eggs
2 tablespoons melted butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 – 1/2 cup of milk (I used coconut milk)
extra butter for cooking

Whisk starter, eggs, melted butter and salt in a bowl.  Slowly add the milk just until it reaches a very smooth, thin batter consistency. (I only needed about 1/4 cup of milk, but depending on the consistency of your starter, you might need a bit more or less.)
Heat your frying pan over medium high heat (I used a small, 6" pan, but you can go as large as 10" if you would like). Once hot, add a teaspoon or so of butter, allow it to melt quickly and then immediately pour in about 1/4 cup of crepe batter, tilting the pan with a circular motion to allow the batter to coat the  bottom of the pan and create a circle of crepe.  I used a littlel less than 1/4 cup of batter for each, as I used a smaller pan than the original recipe called for.
Cook the crepe for about one to two minutes, until the bottom has splotches of light brown.  With a spatula, very carefully loosen the crepe and flip over.  Cook for about 20-30 seconds and turn out onto a dish towel.
Before making the next crepe (and the next, and the next), add another dab of butter to the pan before pouring the crepe batter in.
You can stack the crepes on top of each other as you cook, or serve immediately.  
You can fill your crepes any way you'd like - sweet, savory, breakfast, dinner - the choices are limited only to your imagination!


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Biscoff Banana Bread


Oh, Biscoff.

I've been hearing about Biscoff for a while. It's a spread made from European Speculoos spiced cookies. Yes, you read that right - a spread, touted to be a peanut butter substitute, made out of cookies.  And did I mention that it's vegan and nut free? Totally little man friendly.

I've been hearing about the wonders of Biscoff for quite some time, but never actually tried it.  And still wouldn't have if it hadn't been for the race I ran this past weekend.

What? Cookie spread at a race?

Yeah, at the table where the organizers provided water and bananas for the racers (totally normal), they were also offering... Biscoff. What? Apparently whoever donated the snacks donated jars and jars and jars of the stuff, and the people working the table were trying desperately to offload it. Not at all surprisingly, it's actually quite tricky to give away glass jars of cookie spread at a 5K race. I'm assuming it's for two main reasons: 1) it's cookie spread. Not exactly health/pre-race-energy food 2) it's in jars. Not exactly easy to carry around.  So when the guy at the table noticed me checking out the jars he handed me a case. 8 jars of the stuff.

I was thrilled.  Then made daddy put it in the car, because I wasn't about to run 3 miles carrying it.

But now that it's home and in the pantry, it's pretty much the most awesome thing in the world.

I couldn't decide how to use it first.  I mean, besides eating it straight out of the jar. I mean, we definitely did that a little bit. Or more than a little bit.

But so many creative food bloggers out there have found some super fun ways to incorporate Biscoff into their baking, and I wanted to get started on the fun, too.

After a few clicks, I decided that my first Biscoff baking endeavor would be Biscoff Banana Bread.

This bread came together super easily.

Lots of brown sugar, lots of banana, creamy Biscoff spread... Seriously fun to make.  And soon enough we were ready to bake.

My breads took a little bit longer to bake than the recipe indicated, but they were well worth waiting for.

And can I just say how fun it is to bake with the windows open? While these beautiful babies cooled on the counter, I took my beautiful babies outside to play... and a neighbor asked me what that delicious smell was coming from my windows. Seriously, that feels good.

And it made afternoon snack time a no-brainer! This bread is very good. Lots of banana goodness with the delicious flavor of the Biscoff spread. You can even see a few "swirls" of banana and Biscoff in each slice.

And, in case you're looking to make your snack even more decadent...

...just add more Biscoff!

All I can say is... YUM.  I have a feeling these eight jars are going to go very, very quickly.

Biscoff Banana Bread
(from Sugar Dish Me)

1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup Biscoff Spread or Cookie Butter
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 medium bananas, mashed
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Pre-heat oven to 350 and spray two loaf pans with nonstick cooking spray.
In a large bowl (I used my KitchenAid mixer) cream the butter and Biscoff Spread. Add the sugars and continue to beat. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Mix in the vanilla.
Add in the flours, baking soda, and salt and mix until just combined.
Fold in the mashed bananas.
Divide the batter between the two prepared loaf pans and bake for 30 minutes. Check them at the 25 minute mark– a toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean. Mine actually needed about 35 minutes.
Let the loaves cool for at least 5 minutes (or completely) before turning them out of the pans.
For a really decadent treat, serve with more Biscoff Spread!


Sunday, June 16, 2013

Rhubarb Muffins

Hooray for summer!

Little miss is officially on summer vacation and we are having fun just seeing where each day takes us.

Last weekend, the day happened to take us to our local orchard where we spent a really fun morning picking strawberries and rhubarb.  We wound up with quite a haul, finishing the day with 11 1/2 pounds of strawberries and 4 1/2 pounds of rhubarb.

Now, strawberries are pretty easy - we can add strawberries to almost anything and be good to go.

Rhubarb? I was a bit less familiar with. I mean, I've picked it before, but the only thing I've ever made with it is a strawberry rhubarb pie.

And, don't get me wrong... I made one of those.

But I wanted to find some new and fun ways to use rhubarb.  And you may (or may not...) be shocked at all of the delicious options! I decided to start relatively simply and I chose to make rhubarb muffins.

These muffins were pretty easy to put together, but did take a few bowls.

While I got the ingredients set up, little miss prepared the muffin pan.

The first bowl is for the topping - a simple combination of brown sugar, cinnamon and some melted butter.

The next bowl is for the dry ingredients, expertly whisked together by little man.

Then there's another bowl for wet ingredients, which are then stirred into those dry ingredients, and then comes the star ingredient - the rhubarb!

Into the prepared muffin tin and topped with some of the brown sugar topping...

...and soon were ready to roll!

These muffins were absolutely delicious.  Sweet crunchy topping, very nice texture, very good flavor from the rhubarb - and a veggie serving, to boot! (just agree with me...)

Little man ate two right away. I can't say I blame him.

What a great foray into the world of rhubarb!

Rhubarb Muffins
(only slightly adapted form Movita Beaucoup)

For the topping:
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

For the muffins:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/4 cups packed brown sugar
1/2 cup canola oil (or other neutral flavored vegetable oil)
1 egg, room temperature
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature (I used coconut milk beverage instead)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups diced rhubarb

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease or line muffin tin(s) (recipe said that this would make 18 muffins, I was able to make 24).
Make the topping by combining the brown sugar, melted butter and cinnamon in a small bowl. Set aside.
In large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.
In separate bowl, blend the brown sugar with canola oil – use a whisk to break up the brown sugar if necessary. Whisk in the egg, then the buttermilk and vanilla. Stir the wet ingredients into dry ingredients, mixing only until just combined – avoid over-mixing. Gently fold in the rhubarb. Spoon the batter into muffin wells, filling about three-quarters full. Sprinkle the topping over the batter.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden and a cake tester inserted into center comes out clean. Allow muffins to cool in pans for 5-10 minutes before removing to let cool completely on wire racks.

Friday, June 14, 2013

June Daring Cooks' Challenge - Meatballs Around The World

Okay, so I know I've been apologizing a lot in the last month and a half or so for not posting as much... and now I can finally come clean as to the full reason. 
Yes we've been busy with end-of-school and beginning-of-summer activities.
Yes we've been taking advantage of the nicer weather and spending more time outside than in the kitchen.
And then there's this month's challenge - which I (along with my sister) had the pleasure of hosting!
I'm posting here the full challenge as we posted in on the forum because there's a lot of information, but it's also fun and interesting and so full of possibilities. Basically, we wanted to see how many different kinds of meatballs the Daring Cooks could come up with this month, inspired by their favorite meals, cultures or flavors.  And they did not disappoint. This month has been meatball-licious (I hosted, I can make up words... right?) and so much fun. I want to send a big thank you to the entire community for the awesome and creative participation, to my sister for helping me along this journey, and to Lis for giving me this opportunity. Thank you!!

Hi there! We are Shelley from C Mom Cook and Ruth from The Crafts of Mommyhood. We are twin sisters who share a love of food, but who have very different cooking styles. Ruth keeps a vegetarian home while Shelley is a carnivore through and through. Despite our differences, we both love all aspects of food – eating it, preparing it, and sharing it with the people we love.
For this month's challenge, we wanted to do something a little bit different.
So many of the challenges this year have helped us learn skills or techniques that are pretty specialized - and that have proven to be very challenging. And while the big challenges absolutely bring big rewards (not to mention yummy results), this month we thought we would go a bit more creative.
There are many foods that appear across a variety of cultures, with only slight differences or variations. This month we wanted to test out one food across many cultures to see how many variations we can bring to the blogosphere. So this month we challenge the community to bring us meatballs from around the world.
A meatball, at the most basic level, is some kind of ground meat that has been rolled into a ball and cooked. But that is where the basics end. Usually other ingredients are involved – generally breadcrumbs and eggs, to give the ball body and bind it together, and a variety of spices for flavor. The type or types of meat used, the method of preparing the balls and especially the way the meat is served can vary so greatly that it is sometimes amazing to think that they are all the “same” kind of basic food.
It is these differences that we are looking to celebrate this month – to create more meatball dishes than anyone ever would have thought possible, and to show the world just how versatile the “simple” meatball can be.
Recipe Source: Basic meatball recipes or based on recipes from and Mark Bittman, with additional inspiration recipes provided from various online sources.
Blog-checking lines: The June Daring Cooks’ challenge sure kept us rolling – meatballs, that is! Shelley from C Mom Cook and Ruth from The Crafts of Mommyhood challenged us to try meatballs from around the world and to create our own meatball meal celebrating a culture or cuisine of our own choice.
Posting Date: June 14, 2013

Download the printable .pdf file HERE

Note: This challenge is taking a very broad view of the word “meatballs.” So broad, in fact, that we toyed with sub-titling the challenge “roundish ground stuff.” Don’t let the title limit your thinking – we are definitely looking for variety here.
In addition to the infinite variations available in the ingredients for meatballs, there is also no single method for cooking them. They can be fried, baked, broiled, poached or braised. The determining factor in cooking method is usually the intended finished product, which means that even the same recipe can be cooked different ways when served with a different style meal. Which is where creativity will truly come into play with this challenge.
There are two general methods of preparing meatballs – what I refer to as the “wet prep” and the “dry prep” methods. The wet prep method involves mixing the meat with slices of bread that have been soaked in milk (usually) as the bulk while the dry prep mixes the meat with dry breadcrumbs. In both cases, the meat is also mixed with eggs and spices to produce a flavorful, moist and delicious bite.
But just because we keep repeating the word “meat,” meatballs are no longer simply the realm of the carnivore. While it might seem like an oxymoron, vegetarian “meatballs” are incredibly versatile and can be used in the same ways as their traditional counterparts. There are many different protein alternatives which can be used as the base for your meatless meatballs, each lending its own flavor, texture and personality to the final dish.
Beans make a wonderful base for vegetarian “meatballs.” Either canned beans or cooked dried bean can be used, making for a relatively inexpensive protein source. The beans can be mashed to any desired consistency, giving the cook a great deal of control over the texture of the final dish. Different types of beans can be used depending on the style of dish you are making. Cannellini beans mixed with spinach, onion and garlic (with or without cheeses) make a great Florentine dish, while black beans with corn, tomatoes and cilantro can give your “meatballs” a more Mexican flair.
Another benefit to using beans is the stickiness which mashed beans naturally have. This works well for vegan chefs who do not use eggs to bind their balls together.
Tofu is another choice for the protein base. Because it does not have a strong flavor on its own it works well when there is another ingredient being highlighted, such as a vegetable or herb. The tofu gives the needed protein to the dish as well as moisture and a structural base.
Other bases which work well for “meatballs” include ground nuts, lentils, chopped or ground seitan, texturized vegetable protein or even white or brown rice.
Additionally, if you are looking for an egg free binder for your meatballs, either because you are vegan or if you have an allergy, flax or chia seeds provide a great alternative that also adds a powerful punch of health benefits to your “meat”balls.
Some general tips and guidelines:
  • Use meat with a bit of fat to keep meatballs from being dry and tasteless. Play around with combinations, varying the amount of fat if you want, until you find the mixture that you like best for both taste and texture.
  • Milk and eggs help to make meatballs moist. The general guideline is one egg per pound of meat, but there are recipes that use up to four eggs per pound. You want a mixture that you can work with to form the balls, so not too wet, but one that is not so dry as to make an end product that doesn't feel good in your mouth when you bite into it.
  • Make sure that you season your meat mixture with salt and pepper. A good way to test the seasoning is by poaching or frying a sample. You can always adjust the seasoning as you see fit. And remember - you can vary the level of spice in the meat mixture depending on the sauce or sides that you will be serving with the finished meatballs.
  • Sauteing your meatballs in a pan before adding them to a sauce or soup forms a crust, which will help keep them from falling apart. The crust, though, adds a bite to the meatball that you have to decide if you want as part of your finished soup or sauce.
  • You can change the flavor of your meatballs by adding a variety of spices or aromatics to your meat mixture. You can also add other ingredients, such as onions, garlic, shallots, cheeses or even other grains (rice, quinoa...) to enhance or change the flavor or mouth-feel of the finished product. It is up to you where you want the majority of your flavor - in the meatball itself or in the sauce/final preparation you are working with.

Shaping meatballs is generally done by hand, though there are tools available for those who are either a bit squeamish about touching raw meat or who are worried about overworking the meat mixture, which can make the finished product a bit tough. Whether you use a meatball-baller, two spoons or your own two hands, it is important to try to shape your meatballs as carefully and consistently as you can. “Consistently” meaning that you want all of your meatballs to be as close to the same size as possibly so that they will cook evenly and in the same amount of time. “Carefully” meaning that you don’t want to pack the mixture too tightly, which creates a very dense meatball. Use a light touch and only roll the mixture as little as is needed to create the shape and size that you are looking for.
Want to take your meatballs up an extra notch? How about stuffing them? A small piece of mozzarella or a dab of ricotta in the center of your meatball takes it up to the next level.
Mandatory Items: Make a meatball of your choosing, representing your favorite meal or a culture that interests you and create a meal to complement the style, culture or flavors you chose.
Variations allowed: Too many to list – you can choose any meat or meat substitute that works for your dietary needs and/or mood, and any cooking method that matches the ingredients and meal you choose. The sky is the limit – recreate your favorite meal in meatball form (cheeseburgers? Chicken parmesan? What can you turn into a meatball?) or create a meal around a type meatball from a different culture. Try a new vegetarian variety, a different method or a new combination of ground meats. As long as you create a meal inspired by the idea of “meatball,” it works!
Preparation time: Will completely vary based on the recipe, preparation method and cooking method you choose.
Equipment required:
The required equipment will vary depending on the recipe chosen, method of preparation chosen and each cook’s comfort level working with the meat (or meat substitute) mixture with their hands. At a minimum, you will need:
• Mixing bowl
• Measuring tools
• Spoon(s) for mixing/shaping, if desired
• Frying pan/pot/baking dish, depending on method of cooking chosen

The first recipes that we are providing here are just to get you started – they are bare-bones, basic meatball recipes – one for the dry-prep method and one for the wet-prep method. It is important to keep a few things in mind. These recipes are basically for proportion-purposes – so that you can have an idea as to where to start regarding how many eggs or how much bread crumbs to use for each pound of meat (or meat substitute). Most people have a meatball recipe that they are comfortable with, and that is great. You do not need to follow either of these basic recipes. They are here as a springboard.

Basic Meatball, Dry-Prep Method

Servings: 3-4
Based on:
1 pound (500 gm) chopped meat (beef, veal, pork etc, or any combination of these)
½ cup (120 ml)(60 gm/2 oz) bread crumbs (seasoned or plain)
1 large egg
Salt and pepper to taste
2 Tablespoons (30 ml) Olive Oil or other mild flavored oil
  1. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl using either your hands or a sturdy spoon until all ingredients are well incorporated (but do not overwork).
  2. Scoop out approximately walnut-sized scoops of the mixture and gently roll into balls in the palms of your hand.
  3. If baking, place in a roasting pan that has been lined with foil and sprayed with non-stick cooking spray (this makes for easy clean-up).
  4. Bake meatballs in an oven that has been preheated to moderate 350°/180°C/gas mark 4 for approximately 35 minutes, turning the balls halfway (cooking time may vary, depending on the size of the balls you made).
  5. If pan-frying, heat approximately 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of olive oil in a sauté pan over medium to medium high heat and cook the meatballs in batches (do not crowd the pan) until browned nicely on all sides.

Basic Meatball, Wet-Prep Method

Servings: 3-4
Based on Mark Bittman’s recipe, as seen from: Seasonally Effective
1 or 2 slices of white bread (crusts removed preferably, but not necessary), torn or cut into small pieces
¼ - ½ cup (60-120 ml) milk (or milk substitute – I have used flax milk here successfully)
1 pound (500 gm) ground beef (or other meat, or meat combination of your choice)
Salt, pepper and spices to taste
  1. Soak the bread in the milk (using only enough milk to soak up the bread – will vary a little based on the bread you use) for about 5 minutes until the milk has completely soaked all of the bread.
  2. Once the bread has soaked up the milk, add the meat and spices and mix it thoroughly with a spoon or your hands (your hands work best with this method to really squish the bread throughout the meat, but it’s up to your comfort level).
  3. Cook as directed in the dry-prep method, either baking or frying.

Either of these recipes provides you with a basic meatball that you can then use as the base for your meatball meal.
We have found that each one pound of meat can make approximately 12 meatballs. Using this as a guideline, plan accordingly for how much meat you will need to feed your crew and adjust the proportions accordingly.
We recommend trying both methods to see what you like best. We grew up learning the dry-prep method, which we always liked. Since beginning preparations for this challenge, I (Shelley) have actually learned that my family prefers the texture of meatballs prepared with the wet-prep method, but also adding an egg, as seen in the dry prep method. Who knew?? So have fun and experiment and find what works for you.
And while you are at it, feel free to use whatever spices and/or flavors match the meal you are preparing. Add minced onions or garlic, raw or cooked. Add finely diced or pureed vegetables, shredded cheese, fresh or dried spices – the only limit is your imagination!

We will now provide you with a few recipes of different styles of meatballs that we have prepared to offer a bit of inspiration. Feel free to use any of these recipes, to ignore them completely, or to use them as inspiration in creating your meatball meals.

Spanish Meatballs

Servings: 4-6
Inspired by: Martha Stewart
2 slices of white bread (crusts removed preferably, but not necessary), torn or cut into small pieces
¼ cup (60 ml) milk (or milk substitute)
2 pounds (1 kg) ground beef (or other meat, or meat combination of your choice)
1 medium yellow onion, finely diced (divided)
1½ teaspoons (7½ ml) (3 gm) ground cumin (divided)
1½ teaspoons (7½ ml) (3 gm) paprika (divided)
2 large eggs
Salt and pepper to taste
1 can (800 gm/28 oz) diced or crushed tomatoes
2-3 tablespoons (30-45 ml) extra virgin olive oil
  1. Prepare the meatballs using the wet-prep method described above, including half of the onion (raw), and half each of the cumin and paprika.
  2. Bake the meatballs at moderate 350°/180°C/gas mark 4 for 30 minutes, turning them halfway through cook time.
  3. While the meatballs cook, heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium high heat.
  4. Add onions and sauté with salt and pepper (to taste) until they soften and are fragrant, about 2 minutes.
  5. Add tomatoes to the onions, stir, then add the remaining half of each cumin and paprika.
  6. Bring the sauce to a boil, then reduce heat to a low simmer
  7. When meatballs are done cooking, carefully drain them and place them into the simmering sauce.
  8. Allow to simmer for about 15 minutes before serving.
  9. Serve over rice or with rustic bread.

Swedish Meatballs

Servings: 4-6
From by: Cooking With Mel
For the meatballs:
2 slices of white bread (crusts removed preferably, but not necessary), torn or cut into small pieces
¼ cup (60 ml) milk (or milk substitute)
2 pounds (1 kg) ground beef (or other meat, or meat combination of your choice)
1 tablespoon (15 ml) (15 gm) (½ oz) butter
½ cup finely diced onion
2 large eggs
Salt and pepper to taste
For the gravy:
2 tablespoons (30 ml) (30 gm) (1 oz) butter
¼ cup (60 ml) (35 gm) (1¼ oz) all-purpose (plain) flour
3 cups (750 ml) beef broth
¼ cup (60 ml) half and half (half milk and half light cream)
(Note: I made this using flax milk in both the meatballs and the gravy, and used olive oil in place of the butter to make these dairy free to accommodate my son’s dairy allergy and it worked out beautifully)
  1. Preheat oven to very cool 200°F/93°C/gas mark ¼.
  2. In a small bowl, tear the bread into small slices and then add the milk, allowing the bread to soak.
  3. While the bread soaks, heat the butter in a sauté pan over medium heat, then add the onions, along with a pinch of salt, and allow the onions to soften.
  4. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside, allowing the onions to cool a bit.
  5. Combine the ground meat, soaked bread, eggs, salt, pepper and sautéed onions, mixing well to combine fully without overworking.
  6. Roll the meatballs (I make my Swedish meatballs a little smaller than other styles, not sure why…) and set them aside.
  7. Heat the 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of butter in a sauté pan over medium-low to medium heat then cook the meatballs in batches until browned evenly on all sides, approximately 7-10 minutes per batch.
  8. As each batch is done cooking, remove the meatballs to an oven-safe dish and keep them in the warm 200°F/93°C/gas mark ¼ oven to stay warm.
  9. Once all of the meatballs are done cooking and are in the oven staying warm, lower the temperature a little bit on your pan and whisk in the flour. Whisk for about 1-2 minutes.
  10. Gradually whisk in the beef broth until everything thickens nicely.
  11. Raise heat to medium
  12. Add in the half and half and continue to cook and whisk until the gravy reaches the consistency you like.
  13. Remove the meatballs from the oven and serve, smothered in the gravy.

Italian Meatballs

Servings: 3-4
Based on our family’s basic meatball recipe, re-inspired by: The Bumbling Chef
1 pound (½ kg) ground beef (or other meat, or meat combination of your choice)
1 large egg
¾ cup (180 gm) (45 gm) (1-2/3 oz) Italian style breadcrumbs OR plain breadcrumbs or matzo meal combined with 1 tablespoon Italian seasonings
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (3 gm) garlic powder
¼ - ½ cup (60 - 120 ml) ( 25 gm – 45 gm) (1 to 1-2/3 oz) grated parmesan cheese (to taste)
Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.
  2. Shape meat mixture into balls and place onto a baking sheet that has been covered with foil and sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.
  3. Bake the meatballs at moderate 350°/180°C/gas mark 4 for approximately 30 minutes, turning them halfway through cook time (cook time may vary depending on the size of your meatballs).
  4. Serve over pasta with shredded parmesan cheese or use to make a delicious meatball parmesan sandwich or hoagie.
  5. You may also choose to simmer these meatballs in the marinara sauce (or other red sauce of your choice) in order to cook them – this infuses the entire meatball with the flavor and moisture of the sauce, and infuses the sauce with the flavor of the meatballs. The choice is yours!

Sweet and Sour Meatballs

Servings: 4-6
This recipe is the one that was made in our family, so while variations can be found online, this is just our regular family recipe!
Prepared meatballs, a double batch (about 24 meatballs)
1 jar (12 oz) (340 gm) chili sauce
1 jar 12 oz) (340 gm) grape jelly (jam)
Juice of one lemon
  1. In a large pot, combine the chili sauce, grape jelly and lemon juice.
  2. Heat this mixture over medium heat until the jelly melts and everything begins to incorporate.
  3. Add the meatballs to the sauce and simmer for at least 30 minutes, until the meatballs are heated through
This recipe is very, very adaptable. If you don’t have chili sauce, use ketchup. Or cocktail sauce. Don’t have a lemon? Use a lime! Want some added kick? Add a splash or two of teriyaki sauce (yum. I promise.). Be adventurous with your flavor of jam, if you want. You can also choose to cook the meatballs in the sauce rather than adding them in after they are cooked – whatever you choose. We always served these over rice, but they make great appetizer meatballs, or can be served however you prefer.

Italian Wedding Soup

Servings: 6-8
This is the version Shelley made, as seen at: C Mom Cook
For the meatballs:
1½ pounds (700 gm) ground turkey
½ cup (120 ml) (60 gm/2oz) breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons (30 ml) (10 gm) (1/3 oz) grated parmesan cheese
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (3 gm) Italian seasoning
½ teaspoon (2 ½ ml) (3 gm) sea salt
1/8 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
For the soup:
5 carrots, diced
1 yellow onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (3gm) Italian seasoning
2-3 tablespoons (30-45 ml) olive oil
Sea salt and fresh black pepper, to taste
6 cups (1500 ml) chicken broth
2 cups (500 ml) water
1 box frozen, chopped spinach
½ - 2/3 cup small pasta (such as ditalini, tubettini or even orzo)
¼ cup (60 ml) (25 gm ) (1 oz) grated parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
For the meatballs:
1. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.
2. Using your hands, form small meatballs, about the size of a quarter.
3. Set prepared meatballs aside.
For the soup:
4. In a large soup pot, sauté the onion and carrot in the olive oil over medium low heat until soft and tender. Season well with salt and pepper.
5. Add the garlic and Italian seasoning and continue to sautee until fragrant, about another two minutes.
6. Add the chicken broth and turn the heat up to bring the soup to a slow boil.
7. Once the soup comes to a boil, carefully add the meatballs, one at a time (to keep them from sticking or clumping together).
8. Once all of the meatballs have been added, pour in the dry pasta and the spinach.
9. Bring the pot back up to a simmer, season with additional salt and pepper as needed, and simmer for at least 25 minutes.
10. Stir in the ¼ cup of parmesan cheese.
11. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
12. Serve with additional parmesan cheese with a side of crusty bread.

Still looking for some ideas?
  • Use ground turkey to make turkey meatballs and create a Thanksgiving inspired meal, with turkey gravy, cranberries and sweet potatoes.
  • Mix your ground meat with taco seasonings and/or simmer them in taco sauce and make meatball tacos.
  • Prepare your meatball with a little piece of mozzarella cheese inside then smother in marinara sauce for an inside-out meatball parmesan sandwich.
  • Make a meatball that would be perfect for breakfast!
For additional inspiration, we have started a Pinterest board of ideas. The link to the meatball inspiration board is in the Additional Information section.

Storage & Freezing Instructions/Tips:
Meatballs are a great food to prepare ahead of time and freeze. Because the meat is already ground, you will not experience the same texture-change that can occur with other meats upon freezing/defrosting.
Meatballs can be frozen either before or after cooking. To freeze meatballs before they have been cooked, place the balls, once prepared and rolled, on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper, then place the whole pan in the freezer. Once they have frozen, remove the pan and transfer the frozen meatballs to a freezer bag. Uncooked meatballs can be frozen for up to three to four months. Meatballs can also be frozen after cooking. Allow them to cool, then transfer to a freezer bag and freeze immediately. Cooked meatballs can be frozen for two to three months. Whether frozen cooked or uncooked, to defrost the meatballs, transfer the frozen bag to the refrigerator the day before you plan to use them, then reheat/cook according to the meal you plan to enjoy!
Additional Information:
Basics about meatballs:
More basics, with additional cultural variations:
Ideas for recipes for vegetarian meatballs:
A delicious cannellini bean vegetarian meatball:
Some more vegetarian (and some vegan, too) recipes for inspiration (though these links are ones that we have not, ourselves, tested):
And, for yet additional inspiration, here is a link to a Pinterest board that we have been using to bookmark all kinds of awesome, amazing and fun looking meatballs:

The Daring Kitchen and its members in no way suggest we are medical professionals and therefore are NOT responsible for any error in reporting of “alternate baking/cooking”. If you have issues with digesting gluten, then it is YOUR responsibility to research the ingredient before using it. If you have allergies, it is YOUR responsibility to make sure any ingredient in a recipe will not adversely affect you. If you are lactose intolerant, it is YOUR responsibility to make sure any ingredient in a recipe will not adversely affect you. If you are vegetarian or vegan, it is YOUR responsibility to make sure any ingredient in a recipe will not adversely affect you. The responsibility is YOURS regardless of what health issue you’re dealing with. Please consult your physician with any questions before using an ingredient you are not familiar with. Thank you! Smile

Monday, June 10, 2013

Frosted Chocolate Chip Cupcakes

This month's Secret Recipe Club was a doozie. In a good way.

I knew I was in trouble the minute I saw my assignment.

You see, I was assigned Hezzi-D's Books and Cooks, run by the awesome Heather. And if you've ever been over to her blog, you'll know why this meant trouble.

Everything looks delicious. And I wanted to try everything.  Which left me quite overwhelmed.

So I did what any mom would do... I had little miss pick for me.  I'm not sure if this makes me a genius or a meanie... It was actually a really funny experience. I brought up the blog's recipe index, sat her down at the computer and told her to go through all of the recipes and pick her favorite.  She clicked through SO many of the recipes, ooh-ing and aah-ing the whole entire time. She kept at it for a very, very long time, too!

Her first choice were Peanut Butter Blossom cookies, but, aside from the fact that I've made those before (and always like to use this opportunity to try something new), I didn't want to make something that little man couldn't enjoy, also, and you can't make peanut butter cookies... without... peanut butter.  So I had her pick again.

This time she chose Frosted Chocolate Chip Cupcakes. Now we're talking! Delicious, rich cupcakes with a fudgy chocolate glaze style icing on top? Yum!

I started with the cupcakes (obviously...).  The batter was very thick, so I was curious as to how they would come out, but they rose very nicely and had a nice spring to them when done, so I was pretty pleased.

Next I tackled the icing. Now, the icing recipe is a simple one, but it calls for butter.  Yes, there's butter in the cupcakes, but those get baked. And while the butter in the frosting recipe is melted, it isn't actually cooked.  Why does this matter? Little man's dairy allergy is a finicky one - he can actually consume some dairy products baked into a recipe. So the cupcakes were okay (though I did substitute coconut milk for the milk in that recipe - I never want to push my luck!), the frosting needed a little modification. Easy enough - I used coconut oil!

The only other change I made for the frosting recipe was to use dark chocolate powder rather than regular.  The resulting frosting was crazy dark...

...which worked out perfectly for the theme I was working with for these cupcakes...


I had a very tough time keeping little hands from sneaking early tastes at these...

Some finishing touches and we were ready to bring these to a family dinner!

And boy were they worth waiting for. The cake was very rich, but that thick batter was so worth it, as it held up all of the chocolate chips (rather than them sinking to the bottom, as usually happens). Everyone absolutely loved them and you can bet that I will be making them again.

So Heather, thanks so much for this awesome recipe, along with all of the other awesome recipes on your blog. You can bet I will be back again and again and again!

Chocolate Chip Cupcakes
(slightly adapted from Hezzi-D)

1 stick of butter at room temperature
4 oz. cup of light applesauce (I used a 3.2 ounce packet of natural applesauce)
3/4 c. light brown sugar
4 egg whites (medium eggs)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup chocolate chips

Preheat over to 350 degrees. Line a 12-cupcake pan with paper liners.
In a bowl, mix the butter, applesauce and brown sugar. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy.
Mix in the egg whites, beating well.
In a separate bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Stir well. With mixer on low speed, add half of the flour mixture to the butter mixture. Next, add the milk and mix at medium speed. Then stir in the rest of the flour mixture, mixing only until just blended.
Add the vanilla and chocolate chips and stir with a spatula.
Divide the cupcake batter between the 12 cupcake liners, filling the cups about 3/4 of the way full. (I had more batter than needed for this, so I put the remaining batter in a mini-cake pan)
Bake for 20-22 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. (Mine took closer to 24 minutes for the cupcakes and an additional 10 minutes for the mini-cake).
Let cupcakes cool in the pan for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Chocolate Frosting
(slightly adapted from Hezzi-D, who adapted it from Hershey's)
(I halved the recipe and had more than enough for all 12 cupcakes and the bonus cake)

4 tablespoons coconut oil
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons cup coconut milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a medium pot, melt the coconut oil. Stir in cocoa powder. Stir in powdered sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency.
Adjust the consistency as needed, adding additional milk (a few drops at a time) to thin it out, more powdered sugar (very slowly) if it is too runny. Stir in vanilla.

Carefully spread icing on cooled cupcakes. Allow them to sit for a little bit to set the icing.


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