Homemade Pizza

Now that we finally got a pizza stone-something we’ve wanted for a while- we obviously had to make pizza on it, and so we did it as soon as possible. We were really, really happy with our first homemade pizza attempt involving a pizza stone! We’ve made homemade pizzas before but (with the exception of the Grandma Pizza featured on this blog) they have never been very good. The bottom crust has been soggy, the sauce too pureed and paste-like, and just lacking in flavor and never as good as a pizza restaurant pizza. However, this crust was really wonderful, full of flavor and just the right texture.  The sauce, too, was great. We ended up altering the sauce recipe a bit as we went along to get it to our liking, but at the end we got it just right, to the perfect texture and flavor for our pizza (although we are probably going to try a couple other sauce recipes, particularly the one from Cook’s Illustrated, to see if we like any of them better. Still, this one was delicious.). We baked our pizza at 500 degrees. The last pizza had a better crust than the first, because the oven got hotter as we went along. We recommend heating the oven for at least a half an hour or so before putting in the pizza, and possibly upping the oven temperature to 525 or 550 degrees if your oven allows it. This is the first pizza we’ve tried, but certainly not the last, so you can look forward to many more pizzas to come, possibly with a more creative spin on them!

Homemade Pizza

Sauce recipe adapted from Annie’s Eats

Crust recipe from Annie’s Eats

Makes 2 medium-sized pizza (each pizza serves 3 people generously)

Ingredients

For the sauce

28 oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried oregano
½ tsp. dried marjoram
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (the original recipe calls for 2 teaspoons, but don’t add that much unless you like spicy sauce)
¼ tsp. salt
3-4 cloves of garlic, finely minced                                                                                                                                                                                                             2 8-ounce cans plain tomato sauce                                                                                                                                                                                                           A couple pinches of sugar

For the crust

½ cup warm water
2¼ tsp. instant yeast
4 cups (22 oz.) bread flour, plus more for dusting (we ended up adding about 1/2 cup extra to make the dough a workable consistency)
1½ tsp. salt
1¼ cup water, at room temperature
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

About 1 pound of mozzarella cheese, grated (you will likely need less, unless you like a lot of cheese)

Directions

For the crust

Measure the warm water into a 2-cup liquid measuring cup.  Sprinkle the yeast over it.  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the bread flour and salt. Mix briefly to blend.  Add the room temperature water into the measuring cup with the yeast-water mixture.  With the mixer on low speed, pour the yeast-water mixture into the flour mixture and add the olive oil.  Mix until a cohesive dough is formed.  Switch to the dough hook.  Knead on low speed until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes (add more flour if needed to achieve this consistency).  Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl and turn to coat.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size, 1½-2 hours.

For the sauce

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan over medium-high heat.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Let cook for at least 15 minutes until slightly thickened. Remove from the heat.  If desired, use an immersion blender to break up some of the larger tomato chunks. Refrigerate until assembling the pizza.

Assembling the pizza

Deflate the dough by pressing down on it.  Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface.  Divide the dough into two equal pieces. Form each piece of dough into a smooth, round ball. Cover with a damp cloth.  Let the dough relax for at least 10 minutes but no longer than 30 minutes (after 30 minutes, it will start to rise again. If this happens, deflate the dough and let it relax again for a shorter period of time, then use it).                                                                                                                                                                                                                        To bake, preheat the oven and pizza stone to 500˚ F+ for at least 30 minutes.  Transfer the dough to a square of parchment paper on top of a cutting board, lightly sprinkled with cornmeal.  Shape the dough with lightly floured hands, making a rim for the crust.  Brush the rim of the dough with olive oil.  Top with a layer of the sauce, and then with the cheese.  Transfer the pizza-topped parchment to the hot pizza stone, using the cutting board for support and easy transfer. Bake until the crust is golden brown, and cheese is bubbling and melted, 8-12 minutes. Let cool a minute or two, then slice. Enjoy!

Side Note: You’ll likely have extra sauce. Freeze it, or store in the fridge if you plan to use it within a week or so. We don’t recommend using this sauce for pasta, but it would be good with breadsticks or in a stromboli. Also, if you’re serving more than 6 or 7 people, make 1 1/2 batches of dough (3 pizzas) or 2 batches (4 pizzas). You can do this one batch at a time in your stand mixer, or just briefly mix the ingredients all at once in the stand mixer and finish kneading by hand. If doubling the dough, don’t double the sauce- you’ll have a lot extra. It depends on how much you use on your pizza, but 1 batch or 1 1/2 batches of sauce should be plenty to cover 4 pizzas. If you’re making 3 pizzas, do a single batch of sauce. Annie’s Eats goes into detail about freezing the crust in her post about crust, which is linked above, if you’re interested. We hope this is helpful to anyone planning to serve a crowd or make a large quantity ahead for quick weeknight meals!

Lavender Lemon Cake

As we mentioned in our last post, Wednesday was our birthday, and we decided to make this cake. Our mom said she felt bad having us make our own cake, but we enjoy making cakes! After a lot of deliberating, we decided on this lavender lemon cake. For those who have never tried lavender in food, it gives everything a slight floral hint. It also makes your kitchen smell really good. Our family was a bit divided over the lavender; no one disliked it, but some didn’t really love it. If you are unsure of whether or not you will like it, we would recommend steeping the lavender in the milk for the frosting for only a couple of hours instead of overnight like we did. One thing that everyone loved about this cake was the lemon curd filling. It was absolutely perfect and completely addictive.

As a decoration,we made lavender lemon shortbread cookies. While they looked pretty, no one in our family loved them (with the exception of our 6-year-old brother, and he’s usually picky!). If we were to make this cake again, we would probably omit making the cookies.

The cake itself uses a reverse creaming method (mixing the butter into the dry ingredients), and it resulted in a perfectly fluffy cake!

To make things easier, we made the lemon curd and the shortbread the night before, and then the cake and the frosting in the morning.

Lavender Lemon Cake

Recipe from Sweetapolita

Serves about 14-16

Ingredients:

For the Lemon Curd:

4 lemons

2 whole eggs plus 4 egg yolks

1 cup sugar

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into small even cubes

For the Lemon Lavender Shortbread:

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon dried culinary lavender

1 tablespoon grated lemon zest

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup cornstarch

1/4 teaspoon salt

For the Cake:

1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature

2 eggs + 1 egg yolk, at room temperature

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups cake flour, sifted

1 1/4 cups granulated sugar

1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

Zest of 2 medium-large lemons

For the Frosting:

3 sticks unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes

3 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted

3 tablespoons whipping cream  or whole milk (we used half-and-half)

1 tablespoon dried Culinary Lavender

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

Directions:

For the Curd:

Wash the lemons and  zest them (only the outer colored part- not the white) into a bowl. Make sure you have two teaspoons of zest and set aside.

Slice the citrus in half crosswise using a sharp knife, and extract as much of the juice as you can using citrus juicer.  Juice until you have 2/3 cup of juice, and then strain.

Create a double boiler by filling a saucepan with 1 inch of water, then placing a metal bowl on top of the saucepan. Make sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water, and then remove the bowl.

Whisk the juice, whole eggs, egg yolks and sugar in the metal bowl until smooth. Add the butter cubes to the bowl, but do not stir.

Heat the water in the saucepan over low heat until it simmers (not boils) and place the bowl atop the rim. Stirring gently and constantly using  wooden spoon, cook until the curd has thickened and all of the butter has melted and is incorporated, about 10 minutes (it took us a little longer). It should coat the back of a spoon. To be on the safe side, we used our instant-read thermometer to make sure it was 165 degrees.

Strain the curd over a bowl using a fine-mesh sieve and then stir in the zest. Cover with plastic wrap pressed directly against the curd to prevent a skin from forming and chill for at least 3 hours or overnight. It will thicken as it chills.

For the Shortbread:

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until it is smooth and very creamy, about 1-2 minutes.

Add the powdered sugar and beat for another 2 minutes. Beat in the vanilla extract, then stir in the dried lavender and lemon zest.

Stir in the dry ingredients and mix until they are incorporated. Make a ball of the dough and seal in plastic wrap. Chill for at least one hour.

Preheat oven to 350°F and place the oven rack in the middle position. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Roll the dough 1/4 inch thick on a lightly floured surface or between two sheets of parchment paper or waxed paper. Cut desired shapes, place on baking sheets and chill in the refrigerator or freezer for about 15 minutes.

Bake until very light golden brown, about 8-10 minutes. Let cool on cookie sheets on wire racks.

For the Cake:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease two 8-inch or 9-inch cake pans, line with parchment paper, and then grease and flour them. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine and stir the eggs, 1/4 cup of buttermilk, and vanilla. Set aside. Sift the cake flour two or three times.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the dry ingredients, including the sugar, together on low speed for 30 seconds.

Add the butter and blend on low speed for about 30 seconds, then add remaining 3/4 cup of buttermilk, and mix on low speed until just moistened. Increase to medium speed and mix for 1 1/2 minutes.

Scrape the sides of the bowl and begin to add the egg/milk mixture in 3 separate batches; beat on medium speed for 20 seconds after each addition. Stir in the lemon zest.

Divide the batter into your cake pans.

Bake until a toothpick comes clean when inserted into the center of the cake (start checking around 20 minutes).  Be careful not to over bake, or your cake will be dry. Place hot baking pans on wire racks, then carefully turn the cakes onto a wire rack.  Let cool completely before frosting.

For the Lavender Frosting:

In a small bowl or glass, stir the dried lavender into the whipping cream or milk; cover with plastic wrap overnight or several hours.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip butter for 8 minutes on medium speed. Butter will become very pale & creamy.

Strain the lavender cream and add to butter, along with all remaining ingredients and mix on low speed for 1 minute, then on medium speed for 6 minutes.The frosting will be very light and fluffy.

Add a few drops of violet food coloring or a drop or two each of red and blue and mix until blended.

Fill your cake with the lemon curd (make sure to pipe a border to keep the curd from seeping out), frost, and garnish with the cookies. Enjoy!

Brown Butter Crispy Treats

Our birthday was on Wednesday- we are 17 now! It’s pretty exciting, even though we don’t have our driver’s licenses yet. However, what we do have now is the awesome and brand-new Smitten Kitchen Cookbook  plus a pizza stone (is that weird for teenagers?). With Thanksgiving being yesterday, we wanted to give the new cookbook a try, and we wanted something easy that would go along with the other dishes we helped our mom make. We immediately spotted these Brown Butter Crispy Treats, which we saw on the Smitten Kitchen blog a while ago. We decided to give them a try, because rice crispy treats are basically the easiest and tastiest bars in the entire world. These were possibly the best we’ve had, with a perfect ratio of marshmallow to cereal (they didn’t dry out) and there are no leftovers! The flavor had that caramel nuance which brown butter adds, and we don’t think we’ll be going back to the basic rice crispy treats after this. Give them a try!

Salted Brown Butter Crispy Treats

Makes 16 2-inch squares

Recipe from Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients

1 stick (8 tablespoons, or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, plus extra for the pan
1 10-ounce bag marshmallows
Heaping 1/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt
6 cups Rice Krispies cereal

Directions

Butter an 8-inch square  pan with 2-inch sides.

In a large pot, melt butter over medium-low heat. The butter will melt,foam, then turn clear golden and finally start to turn brown and smell nutty. Stir frequently, scraping up any bits from the bottom of the pan. Be careful not to let the butter burn.

As soon as the butter takes on a nutty color, turn the heat off and stir in the marshmallows. Stir until the marshmallows are smooth and melted (put the pan over low heat if necessary to aid the melting process).

Remove the pot from the stove and stir in the salt and cereal. Spread into prepared pan. Use a piece of greased wax paper to help press down the bars into the pan. Let cool and cut into squares. Enjoy!

Sauteed Brussels Sprouts with Garlic and Parmesan

On every Thanksgiving table there deserves to be a spot for a slightly healthier and lighter vegetable dish (because realistically, green bean casserole is covered with cream sauce and fried onions and therefore is not a super healthy choice) to help offset the mashed potatoes, stuffing, and pie. For some people, this means some sort of plain blanched or roasted vegetable, and Brussels sprouts are almost never the vegetable of choice because of their notorious bland and icky flavor. Well, when prepared right, Brussels sprouts are actually something delicious, and this recipe is definitely the right way to make them! These Brussels sprouts don’t lack flavor and have a pleasing texture- no big and underseasoned veggie  chunks here. They are very simple to make, and certainly would serve as a nice and healthy option at anyone’s Thanksgiving or Christmas table. The nicest part is that this side dish can come together in about 15 minutes, which is definitely a plus considering all the rushing around that happens in preparation for holiday meals!

Sauteed Brussels Sprouts with Garlic and Parmesan

Recipe slightly adapted from The Christmas Table by Diane Morgan

Serves 8-10 as a side dish

Ingredients

2 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 tablespoons olive oil

6 cloves garlic, finely minced

1 cup low-sodium chicken stock

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for topping individual servings

Directions

Trim the stem end of the Brussels sprouts and remove any yellow or spotted outer leaves. Shred the Brussels sprouts (the easiest way to do this is in your food processor, but you can also slice each sprout into 1/16 inch slices and separate them into pieces) and place in a medium bowl until ready to saute.

In a pan, melt the butter with the oil over medium heat and swirl to coat the pan. Add the garlic and saute until soft but not brown, about two minutes. Add the Brussels sprouts and saute until green and crisp-tender, about three minutes. Increase heat to high and add chicken stock. Stir to combine, and cook for two minutes more. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and stir in Parmesan cheese. Serve individual portions and top with more Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately. Enjoy!

Pumpkin Roll

Pumpkin roll is something that we’ve enjoyed for many years. Our grandparents used to own a home in Central Pennsylvania, and our Grandmom used to buy pumpkin rolls from an Amish farmer’s market that was located nearby. Also, a good family friend of ours who babysat for us when we were little often brought a delicious homemade pumpkin roll over on special occasions and holidays. We both can agree that pumpkin roll is one of our favorite desserts, because of its sentimental value and delicious taste. It’s extremely simple to make, which is a nice bonus. The cake literally takes under ten minutes to whip up, fifteen minutes to cook, and an hour to cool. All that’s needed is a super quick cream cheese filling and a quick roll-up and it’s done!

We served ours with a scoop of Trader Joe’s Pecan Pie Ice Cream (tasty, but probably not as good as a homemade variety that we are now inspired to make. Plus, the pumpkin roll was way better than the ice cream) and it made for a tasty treat. This is an ideal Thanksgiving dessert, mostly because it’s easy to make (it can be made in advance and frozen, then thawed before serving) and incorporates the lovely fall flavors of pumpkin and spices. And who can resist the cream cheese filling?

P.S. Tomorrow we’ll be sharing a healthier but also very tasty Thanksgiving side dish, so don’t complete your menu until you see it!

P.P.S. Grandmom and Pop, if you’re reading this, we have two slices of pumpkin roll in the freezer for you!

Pumpkin Roll

Recipe from Very Best Baking

Serves 8-10

Ingredients

For the cake

1/4 cup powdered sugar (to sprinkle on towel)

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 large eggs

1 cup granulated sugar

2/3 cup canned pumpkin

1 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped (optional)

For the filling

1 8 oz. package cream cheese, at room temperature

1 cup powdered sugar, sifted

6 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Powdered sugar (optional for decoration)

Directions
Preheat oven to 375° F. Grease 15 x 10-inch jelly-roll pan; line with wax paper. Grease and flour paper. Sprinkle a thin, cotton kitchen towel with powdered sugar.
Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and salt in small bowl. Beat eggs and granulated sugar in large mixer bowl until thick. Beat in pumpkin. Stir in flour mixture. Spread evenly into prepared pan. Sprinkle with nuts if using.
Bake for 13 to 15 minutes or until top of cake springs back when touched. (If using a dark-colored pan, begin checking for doneness at 11 minutes.) Immediately loosen and turn cake onto prepared towel. Carefully peel off paper. Roll up cake and towel together, starting with narrow end. Cool on wire rack.
Beat cream cheese, 1 cup powdered sugar, butter and vanilla extract in small mixer bowl until smooth. Carefully unroll cake. Spread cream cheese mixture over cake. Reroll cake. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least one hour. Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving, if desired.

Spinach Artichoke Grilled Cheese

Growing up, grilled cheese was never one of our favorite things. Plain cheese (usually American cheese) and bread was not usually an option that we picked. Now that we’re older, of course, we have realized that there’s a whole word of flavorful and delicious grilled cheese sandwiches that don’t involve processed cheese product and nothing else. If you’re a traditional grilled cheese fan, this sandwich will amaze you! It’s packed with tons of flavor (reminiscent of spinach artichoke dip), melty cheese, and crunchy sourdough bread. There’s really nothing better! Plus, this meal is super easy, can be double or tripled easily to serve a crowd, and each sandwich boasts 1 1/2 cups of spinach (to make up for all that cheese!). If you have guests arriving for Thanksgiving, wow them upon arrival with a hot and delicious sandwich- they won’t be disappointed!

Spinach Artichoke Grilled Cheese

Serves 2

Recipe from A Couple Cooks

Ingredients

3 cups chopped fresh spinach
Canned artichoke hearts – 6 ounces  (or 6 ounces frozen artichoke hearts, thawed)- approximately 3 artichoke hearts
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 cup shredded cheese (we used a blend of mozzarella and Monterrey jack)
4 pieces sourdough bread
Kosher salt

Directions

Mince the 2 cloves garlic. Chop the artichokes. Wash and stem the spinach, then chop it coarsely.

Heat about 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet. Add the garlic and saute for 30 seconds. Then add the spinach and a pinch of kosher salt, and saute for a few minutes until just wilted. Add the artichokes and saute for another minute or so, until heated through. Drain off any liquid from the pan. Stir in 2 tablespoons sour cream and another pinch of kosher salt.

Heat a griddle pan to medium high heat and melt some butter on it. Place 2 pieces of bread on the griddle, buttered side down. On each piece, spread some shredded cheese, the spinach artichoke filling, some more cheese (1/2 cup cheese per sandwich), and the other piece of bread. When the bottom bread is browned, flip the sandwich and cook until the bread is toasted and the cheese is melted. Enjoy!

Ultimate Banana Bread

I (Leah) am obsessed with banana bread- I could eat it every day. Plain, with nuts, with chocolate chips- as long as it’s banana bread, I like it. Celine doesn’t always love banana bread because she doesn’t really like bananas, but even she loves this banana bread. It is the perfect basic banana bread because it is delicious on its own but would also be great with chocolate chips, pecans, or walnuts in it. It definitely takes longer to make, as the bananas have to be microwaved and drained before mashing them and adding them to the loaf. However, this bread is definitely worth the extra effort because it has lots of banana flavor. As long there are enough bananas in the house (5 for the bread, and a 6th to slice on top if you want), I will use this recipe.

Ultimate Banana Bread

Recipe from Cook’s Illustrated

Serves about 12

Ingredients

1¾ cups (8¾ ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon table salt
6 large very ripe bananas (about 2¼ pounds), peeled
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 large eggs
¾ cup packed (5¼ ounces) light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped (optional)
2 teaspoons granulated sugar

Directions

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8½ by 4½-inch loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray. Whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl.

Place 5 bananas in a microwave-safe bowl; cover with plastic wrap and cut several steam vents in the plastic with a paring knife. Microwave on high power until the bananas are soft and have released liquid, about 5 minutes. Transfer the bananas to a fine-mesh strainer placed over a medium bowl and allow to drain, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes (you should have ½ to ¾ cups liquid).

Transfer the liquid to a medium saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until it’s reduced to ¼ cup, about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, stir the reduced liquid into the bananas, and mash with a potato masher until fairly smooth. Whisk in the butter, eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla.

Pour the banana mixture into the flour mixture and stir until just combined with some streaks of flour remaining. Gently fold in the walnuts, if using. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. If you like, slice the remaining banana diagonally into ¼-inch-thick slices. Shingle the banana slices on top of both sides of the loaf, leaving a 1½-inch-wide space down the center to ensure an even rise. Sprinkle the granulated sugar evenly over loaf.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean, 55 to 75 minutes. Cool the bread in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then remove the loaf from the pan and continue to cool on a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature. Enjoy!

 

Gougeres

Gougeres are a delightful type of pastry from the Burgundy region of France. Every bite is cheesy, rich, and airy with a hint of crispness. People are sometimes afraid of Pate a Choux, which is the type of dough used in cream puffs/eclairs and is also the base here, for fear that it’s complex or easy to mess up. Actually, this dough is very simple to make- grate the cheese, boil butter, milk, and salt, add flour, stir in the eggs, and then stir in the cheese. We used a combination or Gruyere and Parmesan cheese, but you can use any variety of hard cheeses for this. Unlike us, don’t slightly underbake your gougeres. If they aren’t fully browned all over, they deflate- we learned this the hard way- so bake them carefully. We feel that an addition of chives or rosemary would be delicious here as well, but these pastries are pretty tasty on their own!

Gougeres

Recipe adapted from The Silver Palate Cookbook by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins

Makes about 20 puffs

Ingredients

1 cup milk

8 tablespoons unsalted butter

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup sifted unbleached all-purpose flour

5 eggs

3/4 cup Gruyere cheese, grated

3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated (plus 1/2 cup more for garnishing the tops)

Optional: Add in desired quantity of chopped fresh herbs (1-2 tablespoons would be a suitable amount)

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease a baking sheet with butter (or line with parchment paper).

Combined milk, butter, and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove pan from heat and add the flour all at once. Whisk vigorously for a few moments, then return the pan to medium heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the batter has thickened and is pulling away from the sides and bottom of the pan (this should take a minute or two, and no more than five).

Remove from heat and stir in 4 eggs, one at a time, mixing in each egg completely before add another. Then stir in cheese and herbs.

Drop dough by tablespoons onto baking sheet, spacing at least one inch apart. Beat remaining egg in a bowl, and brush the tops of the puffs with the beaten eggs, and sprinkle with additional Parmesan.

Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees, place baking sheet on the center rack, and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until gougeres are puffed and well browned. Serve hot. Enjoy!

Basic Chili

Everyone needs a good, basic chili recipe before winter starts.  While this chili does have to simmer for several hours, it’s still pretty easy because there is not too much hands-on time. Generally, we’re not huge fans of chili with kidney beans, but this chili has plenty of thick sauce and meat to even out the beans. Now, is this chili the best in the entire world? Probably not, but it is hearty and delicious and perfect for a winter day (especially served with some cornbread on the side!). Ideally, make this chili the day before you plan to eat it, because the flavors really improve after a day in the fridge. Enjoy!

Basic Chili

Serves about 10

Recipe from Cooks’ Illustrated

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 medium onions, chopped fine (about 2 cups)
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
6 medium cloves garlic, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 2 tablespoons)
2 pounds 85 percent lean ground beef (see variations below)
2 (15-ounce) cans red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, with juice
1 can (28 ounces) tomato puree
Table salt
1/4 cup chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Directions

Heat oil in large heavy-bottomed nonreactive Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering but not smoking, 3 to 4 minutes. Add onions, bell pepper, garlic, and spices; cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened and beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high and add half the beef; cook, breaking up pieces with wooden spoon, until no longer pink and just beginning to brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Add remaining beef and cook, breaking up pieces with wooden spoon, until no longer pink, 3 to 4 minutes.

Add beans, tomatoes, tomato puree, and 1/2 teaspoon salt; bring to boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour. Remove cover and continue to simmer 1 hour longer, stirring occasionally (if chili begins to stick to bottom of pot, stir in 1/2 cup water and continue to simmer), until beef is tender and chili is dark, rich, and slightly thickened. Adjust seasoning with additional salt. Serve with sour cream and cheese if desired. Enjoy!

Caramel Brownies

Whatever your feelings were about the election, these brownies are a perfect response. They will surely cheer you up if you are unhappy about the results (chocolate always improves things!), and serve as a tasty victory dessert if you are happy about the results. We look forward to voting in the next election!

Politics aside, let’s talk about these brownies. They are probably the fudgiest, most decadent brownies imaginable, with a layer of gooey caramel in between. We wanted to make these to use up a bag of caramels that was tempting us, and send them to our brothers’ cross-country team party. Well, they didn’t end up going due to a couple of reasons, so we were left with an entire pan of these to ourselves. A couple of words of advice: if you’re serving 10 people or less, we recommend making a 1/2 batch because these brownies are so rich and filling. Also, to set them up properly so that the caramel doesn’t ooze everywhere, we recommend refrigerating the brownies until totally cooled, and then let them sit at room temperature for about a half hour so that they can be cut easily. Have a big glass of milk nearby to wash these down, or some vanilla ice cream!

Caramel Brownies

Recipe from Annie’s Eats

Ingredients

For the brownies:

1 cup unsalted butter

12 oz. coarsely chopped bittersweet chocolate (we used 60% cocoa)

1 1/2 cups sugar

4 eggs

1 tbsp. vanilla extract

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups pecans, chopped (optional)

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (We just sprinkled the tops with a few mini chips)

For the caramel filling:

14 oz. chewy caramel candies, unwrapped

1/3 cup heavy cream or whole milk

Directions

Preheat  oven to 350. Line a 9×13 inch baking pan with foil and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Melt butter and chocolate in a pan over low heat until smooth and completely melted. Remove bowl from heat and whisk in eggs, flour, and vanilla extract. Stir in flour and salt and mix until just combined. Pour half of the batter in prepared pan and bake for 20 minutes. Let cool for 2o minutes before pouring on the caramel.

In the meantime, melt the caramels with the cream/milk until smooth (add half of pecans here, if using). Pour over brownies. Top with brownie batter, distributing as evenly as possible, as it is hard to spread the batter over the caramel. Top with chocolate chips (and remaining pecans, if using). Bake 20 minutes, or until top layer of brownie is moist but set. Let fully cool before slicing. Enjoy!