Grown-Up Nutella

chocolat almond hazelnut spread

While Lucy Baker called this Chocolate-Almond-Hazelnut Spread in her book Edible DIY, she suggested that it was more like a grown-up version of Nutella. We like to pretend we’re grown-ups, so we’ll call it Grown-Up Nutella. Nah! Nah! And you can’t make us change it (unless you’re Nutella’s lawyers, in which case…). Continue reading “Grown-Up Nutella”

Worth the trouble?

Chili-Lime Peanuts

Chili-Lime Peanuts

Here’s a nice little Christmas gift for you: Chili-Lime Peanuts. They are fast and easy to make up (yay!), really tasty (bet you can’t eat just one), and perfect snacking for New Year’s Eve (they’ll pair nicely with the finest Champagnes, and even the Champagne we buy)! Continue reading “Chili-Lime Peanuts”

Worth the trouble?

Scratched Hummus

hummus

You and I both know people who buy hummus. And while that may work for a quick little snack (it’s difficult to make just a small batch of hummus), when you’re going to need enough for a few dozen people you’ll want to scratch it up yourself. Fortunately, it’s easy. Continue reading “Scratched Hummus”

Worth the trouble?

Pizza

pizza

Everyday pizza is pretty easy. Just some dough to make a crust, some sauce, and whatever toppings you want, bake and in 15 minutes you have fresh hot pizza made to order. A lot better and a lot cheaper than ordering out.

Today, we’ll give you some tips that we’ve found for improving you home scratched pizza.

Pizza

Pizza

Ingredients

  • 1 pound basic bread dough
  • 1/2 cup pizza sauce
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, grated
  • Your choice of toppings

Abbreviated Instructions

Cut a piece of parchment to cover your baking stone.

Center a rack in your oven and place a baking stone on it.

Preheat oven to 450°F.

Shape dough on parchment.

Grate your cheese, wash and slice your toppings, get everything ready so you can work quickly and efficiently when it’s time.

Now that the oven is hot, work quickly, spread the sauce, add cheese, and all your toppings.

Immediately slide your pizza into the oven and onto the hot stone. Yep, include the baking parchment, and bake for 15 minutes.

http://scratchinit.halversen.com/2012/12/pizza/

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound basic bread dough
  • 1/2 cup pizza sauce
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, grated
  • Your choice of toppings

Ingredient discussion:

We know, we know, you’ve seen a lot of recipes for pizza dough. Well, look at them and you’ll see that they are all just slight variations on bread dough, so, if you’re baking bread, just save some of that and use it for pizza crust. We do coat the dough with a little olive oil on the day we will be using it. It makes the dough a bit more supple and easier to shape. Other than that, use what you like.

Oh, we always use a baking stone for pizza. The crust turns out better, and, if you use baking parchment there is minimal clean up — win-win!

Procedure:

parhcment paper on a baking stone
Cut a piece of parchment to fit your stone. Makes it easy to slide the pizza into and out of the oven.

Line your stone. Cut a piece of parchment to cover your baking stone.

Center a rack in your oven and place a baking stone on it.

Preheat oven to 450°F.

pizza dough
Spread out the dough so it’ll fit your stone.

Shape dough on parchment. We like to get our dough so it’s about 1/4-inch thick, with a little lip around the edge. Our stone is round, so the pizza is, too.

pizza toppings
To prevent a soggy crust, you’ll want to work quickly: Mise en place.

Mise en place. Grate your cheese, wash and slice your toppings, get everything ready so you can work quickly and efficiently when it’s time.

If necessary, wait. Wait until the oven has heated for about 30 minutes. You want the oven and the stone hot! Do NOT put your toppings on during this time! The sauce will soak into the crust and you’ll get soggy crust.

Unbaked pizza
Quickly top your pizza with whatever you like, then slide it into the oven.

Top the pizza. Now that the oven is hot, work quickly, spread the sauce, add cheese, and all your toppings.

Bake 15 minutes. Immediately slide your pizza into the oven and onto the hot stone. Yep, include the baking parchment. If you have a pizza peel, feel free to use that. Or use a cookie sheet, or even a stiff piece of cardboard. Once the pizza is in, bake for 15 minutes.

pizza
Yum, that pizza looks good.

Enjoy your freshly scratched pizza (you might want to let it cool for five minutes; prevents those pizza burns on the roof of your mouth). Easy as pizza pie, isn’t it? Five stars.

 

Worth the trouble?

Chocolate Mousse

chocolate mousse

Life’s uncertain, post dessert first!

A lot of people won’t try to tackle chocolate mousse because it seems too difficult. Not you, of course, you’ve been champing at the bit to whip up a batch for dessert, and so we’ll provide the easiest recipe we know. It comes from Dorie Greenspan’s Around my French Table.

Just because it’s easy doesn’t mean it doesn’t make a mean mousse, so you should definitely keep it in mind when you want a nice light dessert, but don’t want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen.

Chocolate Mousse

Chocolate Mousse

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 3 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp sugar

Abbreviated Instructions

Add a pinch of salt and whip the egg whites. When they are starting to stiffen and form peaks, add the sugar, and whip until you have stiff but glossy peaks. Set aside.

In a microwave, heat chocolate in 1 minute intervals at 50% power until the chocolate melts. Stir briskly.

One by one, add the egg yolks and whisk them into the melted chocolate.

Fold in egg whites. Start by folding in 1/4 of the egg whites, then fold in the rest.

Scoop into fancy serving dishes and refrigerate until serving.

http://scratchinit.halversen.com/2012/12/chocolate-mousse/

Ingredients:

  • 3 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 3 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp sugar

Ingredient discussion:

Eggs: free range. Chocolate: best you can buy; we use Valrhona 71%  cacao. There are basically two ingredients here, they’ll have to stand out.

Procedure:

separating eggs
Separating eggs when the are cold is a bit easier, then let them come to room temperature.

Separate eggs. Do this while the eggs are cold, it’s easier, then let them warm to room temperature. We separate each egg into a small bowl, then pour the whites into our mixing bowl; that way, if one yolk breaks, we don’t get yolks in the entire batch of whites — they wouldn’t whip. We really suggest following this technique (we had a scrambled egg the next morning).

Whipping egg whites
Add the sugar when the egg whites are beginning to whip up.

Whip egg whites. Add a pinch of salt and whip the egg whites. When they are starting to stiffen and form peaks, add the sugar, and whip until you have stiff but glossy peaks. Set aside.

Valrhona chocolate
Use the best chocolate you can find. It makes all the difference.

Melt chocolate. In a microwave, heat chocolate in 1 minute intervals at 50% power until the chocolate melts. Stir briskly.

egg yolk in chocolate
One by one, whisk in each egg yolk. The chocolate will thicken noticeably.

Add egg yolks. One by one, add the egg yolks and whisk them into the melted chocolate. The chocolate will start to thicken up and stiffen a bit.

folding in egg whites
Here, we’re folding in the remaining egg white. Be gentle.

Fold in egg whites. Here’s the tricky part. Since the chocolate is thick, take 1/4 of the egg whites and try to fold the into the chocolate to lighten it. You might just have to whisk the egg whites in. We did. Now carefully fold in the remaining egg whites using a wide rubber spatula. Scoop up the chocolate and cover the whites, push down through the whites, and repeat. Be gentle, you do not want the egg whites to deflate. Fold until you’ve incorporated most of the egg whites. It’s okay if a few flecks of egg white remain visible.

chocolate mousse
Nice looking chocolate mousse. About 15 minutes, start to finish!

Serve. Scoop into fancy serving dishes and refrigerate until serving. We used martini glasses as our fancy dishes. Looks nice, huh? Tastes better! High Five!

Worth the trouble?

Scratched Sour Cream

sour cream

If you are like us, you probably have some heavy cream left over from the various treats that you made for the holiday season. Now, what to do with it, what to do with it? Hmm. What’s made from cream? Of course, sour cream! Don’t just let the cream sour, that probably won’t work, but the following instructions will.

Sour cream, like yogurt, cheese, and most buttermilks, is a cultured milk product. So we just need the right culture. And if you’ve been scratchin’ up your buttermilk like we have, you have that culture. So let’s get started.

Scratched Sour Cream

Scratched Sour Cream

Ingredients

Abbreviated Instructions

Measure buttermilk into a clean glass container.

Add cream and stir.

Let stand overnight, then refrigerate.

http://scratchinit.halversen.com/2012/12/scratched-sour-cream/

Ingredients:

Ingredient discussion:

If you’re not scratchin’ your buttermilk you could use store-bought buttermilk.

Procedure:

measuring buttermilk
Use one or two tablespoons of buttermilk that contains live cultures.

Measure buttermilk into a clean glass container.

pouring out cream
We didn’t measure the cream, but we know these containers hold 1.5 cups, so we just poured.

Add cream.

 

stirring cream and culture together
Thoroughly mix the buttermilk and cream, you want to make sure that the cultures are well distributed.

Stir.

 

covered container
Cover and let sit for 12 to 24 hours. Longer times make thicker sour cream.

Let stand overnight. Yep, leave it out on the counter so those cultures can work their magic and turn your cream into thick, rich sour cream. Then refrigerate.

Yep, so easy anyone could do it. We know, we know, it seems scary to leave a milk product to sit out at room temperature overnight. But what happens when you add the buttermilk as a culture, is that the live culture grows so rapidly in the presence of food, the other microorganisms get crowded out, leaving just sour cream.

Once we learned that making sour cream is a no-brainer, we stopped buying sour cream.

Worth the trouble?

Bear Paws

Okay, even though we posted this the next day, it is probably easiest to make the caramel the same day. Sorry, but with the Internet on computers these days, you kind of get what you pay for.

This is such a great holiday treat, and we often make them during the holidays to give away. While we could get a something crappy at Dul-Mart, we find that making these takes about the same time, and most people just love ’em. Besides they pay homage to bears, the coolest animals on the planet, so you got to make them at least once in your life, right?

We use a modified version of the recipe provided in The Joy of Chocolate by Judith Olney.

Makes 24 bear paws

Bear Paws

Bear Paws

Ingredients

  • 48 pecan halves ( about 1/4 lb)
  • 8 ounces cashews
  • Cream caramel, freshly made
  • 6 ounces best quality bittersweet chocolate

Abbreviated Instructions

On two parchment lined baking sheets, place five cashews and two pecans to make “paws.” Make 24.

After making the cream caramel, let it sit for about 10 minutes, and then spoon a glob over each “paw.”

Refrigerate. Let the “paws” cool for an hour or two.

Break the chocolate into small pieces and microwave at 50% power for a minute, stir. Repeat the microwaving and stirring until the chocolate melts.

With a rubber spatula, scoop up a glob of chocolate and thickly smear it in the “paws.”

Refrigerate. Let the paws cool until the chocolate hardens, about an hour.

http://scratchinit.halversen.com/2012/12/bear-paws/

Ingredients:

  • 48 pecan halves ( about 1/4 lb)
  • 8 ounces cashews
  • Cream caramel, freshly made
  • 6 ounces best quality bittersweet chocolate

Ingredient discussion:

Buy the best chocolate you can find. These are treats. Not something you just stuff down your gullet. Live a little! Sure, it’ll cost more, but it’ll be so worth it. Nuts: use unsalted, or roasted and lightly salted. The contrast between the salty and sweet is sooo good.

Procedure:

pecan and cashew paws
Arrange the nuts to resemble paws. We like to use cashews since they look like claws.

Arrange the nuts. On two parchment lined baking sheets, place five cashews and two pecans to make “paws.”  Do this over and over until you have 24 “paws.”

pouring caramel on nuts
Put a big glob of caramel on the nuts so they’ll stick together.

Cover each paw with caramel. After making the cream caramel, let it sit for about 10 minutes, and then spoon a glob over each “paw.”

Don’t bother scraping the pan out for the bear paws. That’s for you to eat; after all, you’re the chef here. Think of it as quality control.

Refrigerate. Let the “paws” cool for an hour or two.

Melt chocolate. Break the chocolate into small pieces and microwave at 50% power for a minute, stir. Repeat the microwaving and stirring until the chocolate melts. Don’t go over a minute, and don’t go past 50% power. You do not want to burn the chocolate. Patience.

covering paws with chocolate
Cover those paws with the best chocolate you can find.

Cover “paws” with chocolate. With a rubber spatula, scoop up a glob of chocolate and thickly smear it in the “paws.” When you’ve covered all 24, feel free to do something with any chocolate left over. We won’t tell.

Refrigerate. Let the paws cool until the chocolate hardens, about an hour.

Test one out. Then package the rest to give away. You must share treats this good. It involves chocolate, so, well, you can guess how many stars.

Worth the trouble?