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Tomato Garlic Soup w/ Cheese Tortellini

Tomato Garlic Soup w/ Cheese Tortellini
I know we've talked about this before, but I just love it when I get the chance to EXCLAIM! at how much I love the smell of garlic on my fingers. That's right. I get excited when the scent of a stinking rose bouquet permeates my skin and sticks around for a whole day or so. Even after multiple washings. And just for good measure, I may or may not dab a little bit of that sticky balm behind each ear when I'm done mincing a good-sized pile.

So, it probably goes without saying that any soup with a Garlic Broth base, is a soup meant for me. Don't skip out on making the broth. Seriously. You may look at the (double-) recipe and think "naaaaah." Don't be hasty. Don't jump to conclusions. It's actually super simple and takes almost no time at all to make both the broth and the soup. But the flavor. Ooooh, the FLAVOR! Rich and garlicky and creamy broth (yes, I said creamy broth...I don't know if those two words normally go together, but it works in this case) with sexy bites of cheese-filled pasta.

Dark Hot Chocolate with Bourbon Whipped Cream and Homemade Chocolate Marshmallows

Fair warning- this post will contain far too many photos.  I seriously could not decide which ones I wanted to include.  And believe or not, I actually cut some from the pile.  Remember that I said this once you've made your way to the bottom.  Hmmm.  Perhaps I could just put one sentence between each picture.  Make it seem like there's not too many.  We'll see how it goes.
Let's start off by talking about marshmallows.  Not just marshmallows.  Homemade marshmallows.  Not just homemade marshmallows.  Homemade chocolate marshmallows.  Not just homemade chocolate marshmallows.  Homemade chocolate marshmallows shaped like hearts.  Not just......kidding.  They are just homemade heart-shaped chocolate marshmallows!
Heart-Shaped Mini Chocolate Marshmallows
adapted from Saveur #131
makes ~40 heart-shaped (or ~80 square mini-marshmallows)

pan spray, for greasing

1½ c. sugar
¾ c. light corn syrup
¼ c. honey
½ c. water

3 Tbs. unflavored powdered gelatin, softened in  ½ cup cold water

½ c. Dutch-process cocoa powder, sifted

¼ c. Dutch-process cocoa, sifted
2 tbsp. cornstarch

Spray a 9" x 9" baking pan, line bottom and sides with parchment paper, and spray paper.

Combine sugar, syrup, honey, and ½ cup water in a 2-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer; cook, without stirring, until syrup reaches 250° on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat; let cool to 220°.

Meanwhile, bring some water to a boil in a small saucepan. Place bowl of gelatin dissolved in water over boiling water without touching the bowl to the water; whisk until gelatin becomes liquid. Transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk; add ½ cup cocoa powder. Add the slightly cooled sugar syrup to gelatin; whisk on high speed until mixture holds stiff peaks, ~5–6 minutes. Pour mixture into prepared pan; smooth top with a rubber spatula that has been sprayed, as well. Let cool until set, ~6 hours.
Combine remaining cocoa powder and cornstarch in a bowl and transfer to a strainer; dust work surface with mixture. Slide a knife around edge of pan to release marshmallows; remove from pan. Dust cocoa mixture over top. Dip a small heart-shaped cutter into the cocoa mixture and cut out individual hearts.  (alternately, use a slicing knife dusted with cocoa mixture, and cut marshmallows into small squares or rectangles for "regular" mini-marshmallows). Toss marshmallows with remaining cocoa mixture.

*for full-size marshmallows, use an 8" x 8" square pan and cut into 1" thick squares
Once you have your marshmallows all laid out in front of you...beware of the call for hot chocolate that will echo through the room.  MmmHmm.  They practically BEG for it!  And since I hate to disappoint, I went ahead and made some Dark Hot Chocolate spiked with a little booze...inside and on top.

Dark Hot Chocolate (boozy or not)
makes 2 large mugs

4 oz. good quality Dark Chocolate
2 c. whole milk
½ tsp. vanilla extract
bourbon, optional (not optional for me, but...)

Place chocolate, milk, and vanilla in a heavy-bottomed pan over low heat, whisking pretty constantly until it's all melted and combined.  Pour a shot of bourbon into a waiting mug and top with hot chocolate.
But wait!  We can't stop there.  The rich, dark, hot chocolate then pleads for a big plop of boozy whipped cream.  You know, to melt down into it.  Okay, okay...

Bourbon Whipped Cream
makes ~2 c.

1 c. heavy cream
~2 Tbs. Bourbon
sugar
~½ tsp. vanilla

Place the cream and bourbon in a large bowl.  Pour in a little vanilla and some sugar and whip to stiff peaks.
So, now you plop a big old spoonful of the Bourbon Whipped Cream onto the steaming mug of Dark Hot Chocolate...and spoon in a few Heart-Shaped Mini Chocolate Marshmallows.  The marshmallows melt into the hot chocolate with the whipped cream, creating a thickened, chocolaty, boozy mug of dessert (or anytime) bliss!

This is my entry into this month's edition of Dessert Wars ...where the theme is Dark Chocolate and Hearts.  These are the prizes we are playing for:



Also sharing with Warm Desserts event held at Mharo Rajasthan's Recipes and Melt in Your Mouth Monday at Make Ahead Meals for Busy Moms.

Dark Onion Rye

This month the Bread Baking Babes are celebrating their 3rd anniversary and reminiscing about some of their favorites loaves from the past three years (you can see a complete list at any of the Babes sites, like my friend Natashya's) and they have invited us to join them at the party. As long as we bake up a loaf from the list and bring it along.  Sounds reasonable.  After all, who likes to show up to a party empty-handed!?  The hardest part was plucking just one recipe from that astounding breadhead compilation!  I knew I wanted to choose one that would let me use Sally.  These days, that's a given.  She likes to be kept active.  Also, I was feeling in a rye-type of mood, so I went with the Dark Onion Rye from way back in June of '08.
Look at Sally!  I'm such a proud parent...
 Dark Onion Rye
adapted from The Sour Dough 
(originally a BBB challenge in June '08)
makes 1 loaf

Sponge

In large bowl combine:
¾ c. rye flour
¾ c. bread flour
½ c. water
Cover and let mixture ferment 8-10 hours or overnight.
Combine:
Sponge
1½ Tbs. dark molasses (not Blackstrap, too bitter)
2 Tbs. honey
2 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted

Mix until smooth either by hand or in mixer w/ dough hook.

To sponge mixture add:
1¾ tsp. salt
1½ Tbs. freeze dried or sweated fresh onions
2 heaping tsp. caraway seeds
1 c. rye flour
½ c. bread flour

Knead together until it comes into a bit of a shaggy ball.

In a separate bowl, whisk together:
½ c. rye flour
½ c. bread flour

***Be very careful at this step. Don't add too much flour here!!!  I think I got a bit excited and added too much, resulting in an extremely stiff dough.  You may not need more than a half cup of the mixture, so add with a light hand.***

If using a mixer, fit it with the dough hook and on low-speed, add ¼ cup at a time until dough forms ball that pulls away from the bowl and is firm but still slightly tacky to the touch.  Or else, work it in with your hands to get the same results.

On a floured counter, knead dough for ~2-4 minutes and let rest for 15 minutes. Knead again until dough feels elastic and tacky, although it should not stick to your hands. If it does stick to your hands, knead in a bit of additional rye flour until dough is firm but ever so slightly tacky.
In large, lightly greased covered bowl, let dough rise until almost double, ~4 hours.

This bread works best if formed into a round. Gently deflate risen dough (well, there was not a whole lot to deflate, but I went with it) and gather into a ball. Set dough seam side up, in a very well floured brotform or on a floured board, and cover loosely.  Let rise until dough doubles in size, ~2-3 hours.  Actually, I think I'd have to recommend just going  free-form, as the dough doesn't seem to get enough rise (up or out)  to fill up a brotform.
Place a baking stone (or tiles) in the center of oven and preheat oven to 400° F during last 20 minutes of rising time.
Gently unmold risen loaf onto a flat baking sheet prepared with cornmeal dusted parchment paper or onto a prepared peel. You may slash the loaf is you wish. Mist top of loaf with water and gently slide bread into the oven and bake at 400° for 20 mintues.
Turn oven down to 375° F and bake for another 25-30 minutes or until inside temperature of loaf reaches 200° F.
Let bread cool for 4 - 6 hours before slicing. This is very important as rye breads will turn to a gummy mess if they are sliced before completely cool.
*My notes: I used 100% All-Natural Stone-Ground Rye Flour throughout the recipe.  The original recipe called for both dark and light rye flours, but since I already had this type, I just subbed it all in for the two varieties.  The dough smells fantastic both in it's unbaked form and while it is baking.  Oniony goodness!  While the loaf is extremely firm and dense, it is also full of flavor.  Great for toasting.
submitting to:
Bread Baking Buddies in conjunction w/ the Bread Baking Babes 3rd Anniversary Party! hosted this month at My Kitchen in Half Cups.
Yeastspotting!

Bread Baking Day #37 - Bread made with sponge or pre-ferment (last day of submission March 1st, 2011) BYOB

Blueberry (or regular) Sourdough Pancakes

Well, I didn't want to make you wait too long to hear a Sally story with a happy ending, so I'm rollin' out the pancakes right away!  Can you believe that these are actually my first Sourdough Pancake experience?  They're something I'd always meant to try, but with no starter until recently, I just sort of shoved them to the back of my mind.  Never again!
Sourdough Pancakes
(with or without Blueberries)
adapted from Joy the Baker
yield: ~20 pancakes

Night before (sponge):
1½ c. warm water
1¼ c. all-purpose flour
1¼ c. white whole wheat flour

Mix, cover and let stand overnight in a warm place. Use a large bowl, so it can expand without making a mess!

When ready to make:
1 egg, slightly beaten
1/3 - 2/3 c. milk (depending on desired thickness)
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbs. brown sugar
2 Tbs. butter, melted

blueberries, ~10 per pancake (if using)

The next morning, mix these together, then whisk in the mixture from the night before.

Let stand for 5-10 minutes.  Drop by ¼ cup scoops onto a preheated griddle or cast-iron skillet.  (The temperature really depends on the type of pan you're using.  I put my cast-iron skillet over medium-low heat.)  If adding blueberries, scatter a few over the surface of each pancake as soon as you've poured the batter onto the skillet.  Cook until bubbles have formed and popped and edges are starting to dry out, then flip.  Both sides should be golden and pancakes should be cooked through.
Serve drizzled with warm maple syrup and fresh fruit (if making plain sourdough).
Serve with your favorite breakfast sides...and a cup of joe...
I bet you want to hear a bit of a verdict.  Okay, here goes:
check out my twitter mug designed by my pal Rebecca

Me:  I love, Love, LOVED them!  The depth of flavor, the use of my starter, and probably just knowing how healthy they were.  Not overly sweet, but perfect when drizzled with real maple syrup and paired with fruit.

Mexi:  Ate them with gusto and declared them "really good" through satisfied mouthfuls.

Lyrical Teen:  "They taste like regular pancakes to me."  (This fortunately, is a good thing.  He likes regular pancakes.)

Drama Queen:  "So good!  Can we use strawberries next time?"

Sweet Thang:  "They're nasty" ...with a grimace on his little angel face.  Ooookay.  We'll have to work on that one.

*I'm sending these over to BBD #37: Bread with Sponge/Pre-Ferment (which also includes pancakes, waffles, scones, cake, etc...if they use a sponge!) which is being held at Versatile Vegetarian Kitchen this month.

Bread Baking Day #37 - Bread made with sponge or pre-ferment (last day of submission March 1st, 2011) MizHelen‘sFullPlateThursday Miz Helen’s Country Cottage

Cookbook Review: Quick-Fix Southern by Rebecca Lang

Rebecca Lang set out to combine taste, history, family, tradition, Southern roots, and her love for the kitchen in the fast-paced world of today in the cookbook Quick-Fix Southern.  She says she was raised with grandmothers who could "run a kitchen like nobody's business" ...in a part of the country steeped in rich tradition...food playing a major role in this history.  Aiming to get meals on the table in a shorter time-frame, Lang brings Southern Classics as well as more modern dishes to the table.  Starting out with a chapter on "the basics of quick cooking in the south", you'll be itching to get into the kitchen and stock your pantry with her Southern All-Purpose Flour and Southern Self-Rising Flour, Buttermilk, Tangy Barbecue Sauce and Sugar Syrup so that you, too can bring some comforting Southern classics to your table in no time at all.

While (of course) there were little strips of paper sticking out of this book from every open edge, I started out by making a big batch of Soft Buttermilk Waffles for breakfast.  They were quick and simple.  And awesome.  I'll be using this recipe often!
I HAD to try the Jalapeño Deviled Eggs in the appetizers and snacks chapter...for Mexi's sake {ahem}.  And just as I predicted, he said they rocked.  He likes his deviled eggs as sandwich-stuffers.  Sure enough, he shoved as many as he could in between two slices of bread and raved the whole time he chewed.  Yeah.  Not a pretty sight.
Next up is a Southern classic that I've wanted to try for...like...ever, but for some reason never had.  Until now.  Classic Pimento Cheese is just as addicting as I expected.  I mean, extra-sharp Cheddar is a total weakness of mine, anyway.  Combine it with some onion and a couple of other ingredients and it was a stinky-delicious-crave-worthy container of goodness.
Now, something funny.  My friend Deb from Kahaki Kitchen just happened to review this book last week.  And she just happened to choose two of the same things to test out that I did.  That would be the aforementioned Pimento Cheese, and the Oats and Bacon Meatloaf.  Fortunately, I had the meatloaf in the oven the day I saw her post, so I knew to save some and combine it with the cheese to make a killer sandwich like she did!  Seriously.  The meatloaf doesn't have too many ingredients, but it is super tasty.  I think I may have actually enjoyed it even more cold.  Cold meatloaf and pimento cheese sammich....YUM!  Like seriously.  YUM.  Seriously.  Thanks Deb...great minds think alike☺. But we already knew that, didn't we!?
Last, but certainly not least, some popcorn...kicked up with the salty, meatiness of bacon...the musty, earthiness of rosemary...and the pungeant punch of blue cheese.  And don't forget the butter!  A great and dare I say addicting (again!) snack that I just couldn't get enough of.  Oh, and wash it down with a cold beer for good measure.  Your breath will be odorific!
Blue Cheese and Bacon Popcorn
serves 4-6  (or 2-3 in my house)

1 (3.3 oz.) bag natural microwave popcorn
3 Tbs. butter, melted
2 oz. Maytag Blue Cheese
4 slices cooked bacon, finely chopped
2 tsp. chopped, fresh rosemary

Pop the popcorn according to package directions.  Pour popcorn into a large mixing bowl.  Drizzle about half of the melted butter over the popcorn.  Grate about half of the cheese over the popcorn.  Sprinkle with (you guessed it) half of the bacon and half of the rosemary.  Toss and repeat with remaining ingredients.  Serve immediately.

There are tons more delicious recipes, tips and meal choices packed into this great cookbook...check it out!

*Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher to review, should I choose.  The opinions stated in this post are 100% mine!

foodiesreadingchallenge

Sourdough Bread- take one: the debacle

It all began with dreams of grandeur.  Sure, it my have been my virgin run...my maiden voyage...my rookie stint...but I kept my eyes on the horizon and even thought I could see the finish line in the distance.  Ha.  That is what I get for thinkin'.  

Sally was bubbling and fermenting ferociously.  She was ready.  And after a week of nurturing her...documenting that initial zing of rotting apples mellow into a smooth, aged scent that is somewhat hard to describe, but very easy to love...I was ready.  
Tuesday.  Late afternoon.  Water, flour, and a ladle of Sally.  She fit in perfectly.  I was so proud.  Nestled in an earthenware bowl and then tucked inside of a garbage bag, she set about doing what I knew she would do with ease.  Permeating.  Lifting.  Flavoring.  Making a beautiful sponge.
Wednesday.  Eight o'clock in the morning.  More flour and some salt are added to the sponge that took all night to develop.  It's turned out onto a floured counter and kneaded until it becomes smooth and silky and satiny.  I form it into a ball and wrap it up to rise for an hour.
 Then I turn that beauty out, poke out the gasses, roll it into a ball and repeat the rising process.
 And then I do it again.  Every hour. For four hours.
 After the fourth rise is through, I divide the soft pillow...
 ...into two and form them into loaves.  Placed into my equally virgin brotforms and covered, they proof for another three hours.  
With all the care of a first-time mother handling her newborn baby, I turn the dough from the forms with trembling delight. With the oven dialed as high as it will go and my trigger finger on the spray bottle, I slide the slashed loaves into the inferno.
One more turn before the final stretch.  The boiling water on the stove carefully and quickly poured into the roasting pan that looks up at the loaves above.  But wait!  That's not a roasting pan, at all.  It is a glass pan.  Surely that will serve the same purpose.  Surely it will.  But suddenly a shot rings out!  The shot heard round the world.  I divert my eyes, dodging the flying shards of glass that are hurtling through the air.  And then I stood there.  Jaw hanging slack.  Eyes back on the scene and unable to turn away from the grisly events that had commenced.
Well shit.  Nothing left to do but clean up.  I realize that with a little less dumbassery, I could have sailed through my foray into sourdough with nary a hiccup.  But.  Tomorrow is another day.  
I can still smell it.  What could have been.

*What in the world was I thinking, you ask?  Well.  A little flag did pop up somewhere in the back of my brain.  But I figured adding boiling water to a hot pan wouldn't have the same effect as adding cold water.  I can now tell you firmly and without a doubt, that it does have the same effect.  And yes.  The uncooked loaves went into the bin.  Nothing else I could do.  The glass literally sprayed ev-ry-where.  I'm pretty sure none went into the dough, but I wasn't taking any chances.  Plus, I had to let the oven cool down in order to clean it out.  That was it for the day.  But, Sally did her job...and she did it famously! I cannot wait to head back in and give her another chance to work her "wild" magic.  Watch for a successful sourdough in the near future☺. 

The good?  My oven received a long-overdue scrubbing.

*I'm sharing this post with: