Raisin Bread

I had an urge for raisin bread on Sunday morning and searched through my recipes to find one that looked good. I flipped through my James Beard and Father Dominic cookbooks and ended up combining the best of both worlds.

I set everything up before the New Orleans Saints kickoff so it was ready to be put it together during halftime. The dough rose during the second half and I divided the dough before overtime started. Once we won the game, I preheated the oven and began to bake.

A couple of notes:

I make my own cinnamon sugar by combining 1/2 cup sugar with 2 tablespoons of ground cinnamon. For this recipe, you’ll need about 3 tablespoons of the cinnamon sugar, so store the rest in an air tight container for another use.

If you don’t want to cook both loaves at once, after the first rise and once you’ve divided the dough, press the bubbles out of one half and wrap it in plastic and put in an airtight bag. You can now freeze the dough. Let it thaw in the fridge overnight before baking as described below.

 

Raisin Bread

2 packages of instant yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1 1/2 cup raisins
1 1/2 cups milk
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons cinnamon sugar, divided
2 teaspoons salt
2 eggs, beaten
5-6 cups bread flour
2 tablespoons butter, melted

Sprinkle yeast over warm water in a bowl and stir gently to mix. Let proof for 10 minutes.

Soften raisins by putting them in a steamer basket over boiling water while yeast proofs. Set aside once plump.

Combine milk and butter in a small saucepan and heat until butter is almost entirely melted. Pour into a bowl of an electric mixture and let cool to lukewarm. Add yeast mixture, sugar, salt and eggs. Mix until well blended. Add five cups of flour, one cup at a time and stirring after each addition. Mix until dough begins to pull away from the side of the bowl. Stir in raisins.

Knead the dough for 5 minutes. Add additional flour in half cup measures, as necessary, until you have a smooth and elastic dough. Place dough in a large, oiled bowl and turn to coat. Cover and place in a warm place (I put mine in the oven with the light on) for one hour or until doubled in bulk.

Punch down dough and form into two loaves. Place in lightly greased loaf pans. Cover and let rise for 45 minutes or until nearly doubled. Brush the top of each loaf with melted butter and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.

After the loaves have been rising for 30 minutes, preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Bake loaves for 10 minutes. Loosely cover the loaves with foil and reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake for 25 to 30 minutes more. Loaves should sound hollow with tapped on the bottom. Remove from the pans and let cool on wire racks.

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Wilted Spinach Salad Dressing

I know, I know! I’m doing a salad post. Trust me, when you see what is in it, you’ll enjoy it, too. And, if it helps, I served this with a medium rare ribeye steak.

This recipe covers enough spinach for 4 salad eaters, so I would double it if serving more.

Wilted Spinach Salad Dressing

1 teaspoons bacon grease
1 1/2 teaspoon olive oil
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoon white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

Heat together in a small saucepan and pour over salad right before tossing and serving.

For the salad itself – baby spinach leaves, 2 slices of bacon (chopped), 2 green onions (sliced), 1 hard boiled egg (chopped), 1 cup mushrooms (sliced) and 1/4 cup pecans (chopped).

Sweet Corn Latkes AKA Corn Fritters

We had a shrimp boil last night and, since corn goes well with shrimp, we decided to make corn fritters to go with the sea’s bounty. What resulted was closer to corn latkes or savory corn pancakes but they were super corny and delicious.

If you don’t have fresh corn, use frozen kernels.

Corn Fritters AKA Corn Latkes

4 ears fresh corn (about 2 cups)
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons whole milk
1 small onion, grated
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon corn starch
pinch cayenne pepper

½ cup vegetable oil, or more as needed.

Using a sharp knife, cut ears of corn lengthwise through the kernels to remove them from the cob. Using the back of a knife, scrape any pulp and corn milk from cobs into the bowl.

Divide corn in half and run one of the halves through the blender to puree.  Mix all the corn back together in a medium bowl. Stir in cornmeal, egg, flour, milk, onion, salt and cayenne pepper. Mix well.

In a large, heavy-bottomed skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Drop 6 tablespoons of batter into hot oil. Fry until golden brown, about 1 minute per side. Using a slotted spoon, transfer fritters to a plate lined with paper towels. If necessary, add more oil to skillet and heat until shimmering then fry remaining batter. Serve fritters immediately.

Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole

I like chicken Cordon Bleu but I don’t like all the steps that go to making it. That’s why this casserole is so good – no pounding chicken, no making filling, dredging, breading, frying. In fact, with the cheese sauce covering everything, this might actually be better than traditional. You can even make it easier by buying already cooked chicken. You’d need about 3 cups of cooked chicken.

This is a recipe that can be made ahead – make it and put it in the casserole dish and you can refrigerate it until ready to cook. Add in time to take in account that it is going from cold.

Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
salt and pepper, to taste
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1/3 cup flour
2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cup cooked ham, diced
2 cups Swiss cheese, grated
10-20 Ritz crackers, crumbled

Preheat oven to 350.

Heat oil in cast iron skillet. Cut chicken breasts into strips and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Brown all sides in the skillet, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat to a plate. Wipe out the pan.

Melt butter in the skillet. Sauté the onions until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the flour and cook for 5 minutes more, stirring constantly. Add the milk in several small batches – whisking well after each addition to make sure there are no lumps in the sauce. Bring sauce to a simmer. Add all but a half cup of cheese to the pan and stir to melt.

Cube chicken. Add it and the ham to the skillet and stir to combine. Spoon it into a casserole dish.

Add remaining cheese to crumbled crackers. Mix with your fingers and then sprinkle over the top of the casserole.

Bake uncovered for 30-45 minutes, depending on how deep your casserole dish is. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Creole Cream Cheese Honey Ice Cream

There was such a good sale on gallon milk, that Michelle bought one just to turn it into Creole Cream Cheese (here is the recipe from Poppy Tooker’s that she used – recipe). I took eight ounces of what resulted and used it to make ice cream.

This ice cream is like the best milk and honey combo ever.

Creole Cream Cheese Honey Ice Cream

1 (about 8 ounces) container Creole cream cheese
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
¼ cup honey
1 cup whole milk
2 cups heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons vanilla extract

 In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, eggs and honey with an electric mixer.

In a saucepan, stir together milk and cream. Bring to simmer. Do not boil. Add a cup of the warm cream mixture to the egg mixture and stir well to temper the eggs. Slowly pour the heated egg mixture into the cream mixture and cook until it comes to a simmer, stirring constantly. Do not boil.

Remove from heat (I pour it into a seperate bowl) and let stand five minutes to cool slightly. On low speed of electric mixer, blend vanilla and Creole cream cheese into the custard mixture until smooth. Chill the mixture for at least 3 hours to aid in the freezing process.

Stir the mixture before pouring into an ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer’s directions.

Store any you don’t immediately gobble up in the freezer in an airtight container.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake

My girlfriend likes to woo me with cheesecake. After a discussion of the merits of different kinds, we found that Martha Stewart had just the ticket on her website. It was a little fussier than what either Michelle or I usually do, so she altered it a bit. First, by adding more peanut butter. Also, layers seemed like a better choice than swirling in order to make sure you get equal amounts of peanut butter and chocolate in every bite. I know we are not alone in never having good luck with a water bath, so Michelle used her patent pending method of cooking it low and slow.

Very complex and delicious flavor with the bittersweet glaze, peanut buttery and chocolatey layers and the chocolate crust. Just what Aunt Flo wanted!

I know that in some parts of the country it can be hard to find Famous Chocolate Wafers. Here is a recipe from King Arthur Flour for them. Just bake the rolled out dough if you’re making a crust instead of cookies.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake

Chocolate crust:

1 box Famous Chocolate Wafers
5 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons sugar

Filling:

4 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
4 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
Pinch of coarse salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 large eggs, room temperature
3/4 cup smooth peanut butter

Chocolate Glaze:

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 tablespoon whole milk
2 teaspoons light corn syrup

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter bottom and sides of a springform pan.

In a food processor, crush the cookies. Add sugar and pulse a couple of times. Pour in melted butter and pulse just until combines. Press mixture firmly into bottom of pan, and bake until firm, about 10 minutes. Let cool completely before filling.

Reduce oven temperature to 200 degrees F.

Melt chocolate in a bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water. Let cool. Beat cream cheese with a mixer on medium speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low, and beat in sugar in a slow, steady stream until combined. Beat in salt and vanilla until thoroughly combined and completely smooth. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until combined after each addition (do not overmix).

Divide cream-cheese filling in half. Stir peanut butter into 1 half; stir melted chocolate into other half. Pour the chocolate layer over the crust and shake the pan lightly to settle it in. Pour in the peanut butter layer and tap the pan lightly on the corner to bring up in bubbles.

Bake for 3 hours in a low oven. Let cool in pan on rack for 30 minutes. Run a knife around the sides to release from the pan. Place in the refrigerator to cool completely before adding topping, at least three hours or overnight.

Unmold cheesecake and place on serving plate.

Melt chocolate and butter in a double boiler, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat, and stir in milk and corn syrup.

Pour glaze over top of cake, smoothing with an offset spatula and letting it drip down the sides.

 

Cream Cheese Fudge

I like fudge. I first learned to make it with the recipe on back of the can of Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk (ie Foolproof Fudge) but I didn’t stop there. I make Velveeta Cheese Fudge (ie Trailer Truffles) and Peanut Butter Fudge and, now, I’ve gotten Michelle to make me Cream Cheese Fudge.

Yum!

Nice and chocolatey without being too sweet. The nuts add a bit of texture with their nutty flavor.

Cream Cheese Fudge

1 -8 ounce package cream cheese, softened
3 cups powdered sugar



, sifted
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla

Beat cream cheese in large bowl with mixer until creamy. Gradually beat in sugar until blended. Add remaining ingredients; mix well. Spread onto bottom of lightly buttered 8-inch square pan.

Refrigerate several hours or until firm.