March 12, 2013

Hazelnut Pastry Crust (and Two Ways to Use It!)

I have always liked freckles. Like, a lot. Ie, I used to draw them onto the ridge of my nose with brown eyeliner every day. No big deal. Maybe that's why I think this hazelnut crust is so pretty. Look at's kind of freckly, right? A flaky, buttery crust speckled with golden toasted hazelnuts. What a thing of beauty. 

This crust is delicious topped with things both savory and sweet. I have two ideas for you below, but let's be real: the possibilities are endless. 

Hazelnut Pastry Crust
From Martha Stewart

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup ground toasted, skinned hazelnuts (made from about 2/3 cup whole hazelnuts)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, cut into 1 inch pieces
1/4 to 1/2 cup ice cold water

Combine the flour, hazelnuts and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine.
Add the butter and pulse for about 10 seconds, until the mixture is crumbly and the pieces of butter are no bigger than pine nuts.
Add 1/4 cup of the water and pulse just until the dough starts to come together. If necessary, add more of the water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough forms. It should not be wet or sticky.

Dump the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and use your hands to gently knead it into one piece. Cut it in half, and shape each half into a rectangle. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.

Remove the dough from the fridge and let it sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes (or until it can be rolled without cracking).
Use a floured rolling pin to roll the dough out into a rough rectangle or oval shape that is about 1/4 inch thick.
Fold the dough in half and gently unfold it onto a baking sheet lined with a big piece of parchment paper.
Loosely roll the edge and fold it, being careful not to press too much, to form a rimmed crust. Bake at 400 degrees F for 10-12 minutes, until the crust is light golden brown. (The edge will still be somewhat raw at this point).
Remove the crust from the oven and add the filling. Bake until the filling is cooked and the crust is golden brown and set.

Winter Vegetable Filling:

Thinly slice your favorite winter vegetables (I used cauliflower, red and yukon gold potatoes, carrots, butternut squash, sweet potatoes and red onion) and toss with olive oil, a little minced garlic, salt and pepper. Layer the vegetables on the partially baked pie crust and top with whole sprigs of thyme. You can also add pieces of fresh mozzarella or scoops of ricotta cheese, or sprinkle with parmigiano reggiano. Bake until the vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Rustic Chocolate Pie Filling
Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens

6 ounces semi sweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 egg whites
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
whipped cream, ground hazelnuts and coarse sugar (optional), for serving

Heat the chocolate in a double boiler (or a pan set over a pan of boiling water) until melted and smooth.
Combine the egg whites, cream of tartar and vanilla and beat until soft peaks form. Gradually add the sugar and salt and continue to beat until stiff peaks form.
Pour melted chocolate over whites and gently fold with a rubber spatula until the chocolate is fully incorporated.
Pour filling over partially baked crust and spread into an even layer.
Turn the oven temperature down to 350 F and bake the pie until the surface looks dry and crackly and the inside is fudgy (about 10 minutes).
Serve warm or at room temperature, with a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkle of ground hazelnuts and coarse sugar.

March 3, 2013

Chocolate Hazelnut Swirl Bread (and I'm Back!)

I'm back! Did you miss me? Did you even notice I was gone? Don't answer that.
I moved to Seattle (eep!) and took a little break from posting here on FILA.
But I'm sick of hoarding all of the delicious recipes I've been making and I'm ready to share and I'm starting by shoving this chocolate hazelnut swirl bread in your face to prove it.

Chocolate Hazelnut Swirl Bread

For the Dough:

2 1/2 cups flour, plus more dusting and rolling
1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup milk
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon butter, melted

For the Filling:

1 3/4 cups hazelnuts, toasted, peeled and ground
4 tablespoons butter
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa powder

To make the dough, whisk together 2 cups of the flour, the yeast, salt and sugar in a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer.
Heat the milk to just below boiling, then let it cool to room temperature. Whisk in the egg, vanilla and butter. Add to the flour mixture and stir until the dough starts to come together. Add the remaining flour, a little at a time, until the dough starts to clean the bowl (you may need a little more or less). Either switch to the dough hook or turn the dough out onto a lightly floured countertop and knead until it becomes smooth and cohesive and is no longer sticky, 5-10 minutes.
Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover and let rise at warm room temperature until doubled, about 2 hours.

To make the filling, mix the ground hazelnuts, sugar and cocoa in a mixing bowl. Combine the butter and milk in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Pour the hot liquid over the hazelnut mixture. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and mix well. Let stand at room temperature for about 5-10 minutes before spreading over the dough (you want it to become thick enough to spread, but not too thick. If it gets too thick to spread you can add a little warm milk to thin it down).

Lightly dust a large, clean surface with flour. Gently place the dough on the surface and use a floured rolling pin to roll it out into a round, starting in the middle and working your way out. The goal is to get the dough as thin as you can without it tearing (if you can see through the dough you're doing great). You may want to occasionally use a bench knife or spatula to lift the dough off of the table and make sure it's not sticking.

Spoon the filling in an even layer over the dough. Roll the dough up starting at one of the longer sides, trying to keep it tight, until it is rolled into a rope.

Spray a pan with oil. Coil the rope into the pan, making kind of a U-shape to start and then coiling the dough until the ends meet in the middle of the pan.
Brush the dough with a little egg white and sprinkle with coarse sugar (optional).

Cover the loaf with plastic wrap and let proof at warm room temperature for about 1 hour. The loaf won't rise a lot during the proofing, but it should come up quite a bit in the oven.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Remove plastic wrap and place loaf in the oven. Bake for 15 minutes, then turn the oven temperature down to 300 degrees F. (Keep an eye on the bread as it bakes, and if it becomes too brown before it is done, tent it with a piece of aluminum foil.) Bake for about 30 more minutes, until lightly golden and set. Let the bread cool in the pan on a wire rack for 20-30 minutes before removing and cooling completely. (This is a heavy bread and will collapse on itself if you don't let it cool for a bit in the pan, although it's hard to resist!)

November 7, 2012

Pasta with Pears, Gorgonzola Sauce and Pecans

I am so in the mood to read these days! I don't know exactly what started it, but I think it might be that living in a city means you can literally get ANY book you want at the library (as long as you don't mind waiting sometimes). It might also be the chill in the air that makes me want to stay inside. Idk, but I'm into it! There's nothing quite as exciting as getting to the library to pick up your held books that you've been anticipating reading for weeks. I think it'd be a really fun and cozy date to make dinner together (may I suggest a classy, yet simple pasta???) and then cuddle up and read a book out loud together.

This pasta is a perfect harmony of flavors melding together to create a kind of sophisticated (dare I say adult?) taste. The fresh pear and gorgonzola cheese play off of each other delightfully and the creamy wine sauce mellows everything out and it all just comes together in a nice, perfect kind of way.

Pasta with Pears, Gorgonzola Sauce and Pecans

8 ounces rotini, penne or farfalle pasta
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup crumbled gorgonzola cheese
1 large, ripe bartlett pear, cored and cut into 1 inch pieces
salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup toasted, chopped pecans
chopped fresh basil or thyme, for garnish (optional)

Bring a pot of heavily salted water to a boil; add the pasta and cook until al dente.
Drain and set aside.
Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan melt the butter. Add the wine and simmer gently until it is reduced by half, about 10 minutes.
Add the cream and simmer for 10 more minutes.
Whisk in the cheeses and stir until smooth.
Add the pear and let cook for 3-4 minutes.
Pour the pasta into the sauce and stir until evenly coated. Let cook over low for 5-10 minutes, until the sauce has thickened a little and is sticking to the pasta.
Serve garnished with freshly ground black pepper, pecans and basil or thyme (optional).

November 2, 2012

A Perfect Autumn Salad with Warm Apple Cider Dressing

I love the idea of spending the entire month of November trying out different recipes and deciding which ones are special enough for that one epic meal we're all waiting for. I'm pretty sure this salad makes the cut. It's so pretty and it's pure fall flavor, from apples to maple to pomegranate to acorn squash. And as if that's not enough, it's served warm for ultimate comfort and deliciousness. If you don't have room for it on your Thanksgiving table then for sure make it for a simple November weekend dinner served with this honey cornbread and followed by mugs of hot spiced apple cider.

A Perfect Autumn Salad with Warm Apple Cider Dressing

For the Salad:

3-4 big handfuls of arugula
1 medium honeycrisp apple, cored and cut into bite-sized pieces
1 medium acorn squash, seeded and sliced

4-6 tablespoons brown sugar, divided
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon allspice

1 medium pomegranate, seeds removed
3 tablespoons crumbled bleu cheese
1 cup pecans
2 tablespoons melted butter

Combine the arugula and apples in a medium bowl. Drizzle with dressing and toss until coated.
Spread onto a plate or platter.
Place a pan with a lid on the stove and set to medium heat.
Combine the olive oil, 2-3 tablespoons brown sugar and the allspice and mix until combine.
Add the sliced acorn squash and toss until well coated.
Lay the squash on their sides in the pan, making sure both sides of each piece of squash are coated in the brown sugar mixture. Put the lid on the pan and let cook for 4-5 minutes, until the squash is just starting to get soft. Flip the squash and finish cooking on the other side until soft.
Place the cooked squash on the arugula and apple layer.
Sprinkle the pomegranate seeds and blue cheese over the salad.
Combine the butter and 2 tablespoons of brown sugar to make a glaze. Add the pecans and stir until they are evenly coated. Spread the pecans in an even layer on a baking sheet and broil them just until they are toasted and the glaze has hardened, about 2 minutes. Let cool, then sprinkle over the salad.
Drizzle the salad with a little more dressing before serving.
Can be served warm or room temperature.

For the Dressing:
Adapted from Food Plus Words

1/2 cup apple cider
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt

Combine the apple cider and apple cider vinegar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook for about 10 minutes, until the mixture is reduced by half.
Remove from the heat and whisk in the maple syrup and salt.
Whisk in the oil in a slow stream, until the dressing thickens and comes together.
Store in a jar with a lid in the fridge for up to 1 month.

October 25, 2012

Smokey Pumpkin Macaroni and Cheese with Thyme

I'm so happy that two of my favorite foods could merge together and become something really delicious. Macaroni and cheese + pumpkin = yes, please! The pumpkin somehow manages to make this dish richer and healthier at the same time. I have been wanting to come up with some kind of special Halloween dinner to start as a tradition and I think this will do quite nicely. It's warm and filling and totes festive. Done.

Smokey Pumpkin Macaroni and Cheese with Thyme
Adapted from SpoonForkBacon

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
3 cups milk
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, plus more for garnish
1 cup pumpkin
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 pound (16 ounces) rotini pasta
3 ounces sharp white cheddar
2 ounces smokes gouda

Combine the milk and thyme in a small saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer over medium heat.
Cook for 10 minutes, then strain to remove the thyme and whisk in the pumpkin.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large sauce pan.
Whisk in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 2-3 minutes.
Whisk in the the milk pumpkin mixture until smooth.
Cook, whisking often, until the mixture comes to a boil and thickens.
Remove from heat and immediately whisk in the cheese, stirring until melted and smooth.
Pour the sauce over the pasta and bring to a boil, stirring often.
Cook for 2-3 minutes, until the pasta is soft.
Serve garnished with sprigs of fresh thyme and buttery toasted bread crumbs.

October 22, 2012

Red Lentil Soup with Butternut Squash

This soup is perfect comfort food. It's warm and filling and really delicious. I adapted my old recipe for lentil soup by adding mashed butternut squash, which I think mellows it out a little and gives it a lot of body. I recommend making more than you need and freezing the extra for a quick lunch during the upcoming winter months.

Red Lentil Soup with Butternut Squash
Adapted from The New York Times

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
14 ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 parmesan rind (optional)
4 cups vegetable broth
2 cups water
1 cup cooked mashed butternut squash
1 cup dry red lentils

For Garnish

1 lemon, cut into thick wedges
good olive oil
shredded parmesan cheese

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, until it becomes soft and clear, about 8 minutes.
Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until it becomes lightly browned and fragrant, about 1 minute.
Add the coriander, salt and chili powder and stir constantly for 1 minute.
Add the tomatoes, squash, vegetable broth, water and thyme.
Stir in the lentils, and add the parmesan rind (if using).
Bring to a boil, then lit simmer, partially covered, for about 20 minutes, until the lentils are soft.
Serve each bowl garnished with shredded parmesan cheese, a drizzle of good olive oil and a big squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Serve with good bread.


-To cook the squash, you can cut it into pieces and boil it or roast it in the oven. Then just roughly mash it so that you know it's about 1 cup (it doesn't have to be exact or perfectly mashed because you will be pureeing it smooth in the blender). I have also used acorn squash and it was really good.
-I think this soup would be awesome with homemade parmesan croutons, but if you're feeling too lazy like I was at least make sure to serve it with good bread :)

October 19, 2012

Pear Honey Thyme Flatbread

I have been in my kitchen all month, but because I'm new to Seattle weather and lighting (or lack thereof sometimes!) I have had a hard time capturing photos to share along with my recipes! The good thing about this predicament is that I sometimes end up making a recipe two or three times before I can post it, and each time I tweak it a little until by the time I share it I think it's really great.
This pear-honey-hazelnut-cheese-thyme bread has been evolving for a few years, actually, so I am really excited to share this best version yet with you!
I think cutting the pears so that you can see the little flower and using whole sprigs of fresh thyme make  it really pretty, and the flavor is surprising and sophisticated. I like having this with a simple fall soup like this butternut squash and apple bisque and a seasonal salad (recipe coming soon!!)

Pear Honey Thyme Flatbread

2 pounds pizza crust dough (I used my favorite one by Peter Reinhart, here)
1 tablespoon melted butter
1-2 just ripe bartlett pears, sliced into rounds and seeds removed
3-4 tablespoons honey, divided
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup whole hazelnuts, toasted and chopped
big handful fresh thyme sprigs

Heat the oven to 450 F. Spread the dough out in a thin layer on a greased baking sheet.
Prebake the dough for 3-5 minutes, until it is just firming up but isn't browning.
Remove the crust from the oven and brush with the melted butter.
Spread the pears slices over the crust and drizzle with 2 tablespoons honey.
Sprinkle the parmesan cheese, hazelnuts and thyme sprigs over the pizza.
Return to the oven and bake until the bread is golden brown, about 10 more minutes.
Remove from the oven and drizzle lightly with remaining honey before serving.
Note: can be served warm or at room temperature.