Saturday, March 17, 2012

Sticky Buns

Sticky buns are so good first thing in the morning, freshly baked and homemade.  These are super easy and super yummy.  In fact, I actually entered a bake off at work and won 1st place with this recipe! They will be a winner with everyone you make them for. Give them a try! The recipe is from Ina Garten (Barefoot Contessa) and it’s foolproof.  Her recipe calls for raisins but we like the sticky buns without so I leave them out. 

  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1/2 cup pecans, chopped in very large pieces
  • 1 package (17.3-ounces/ 2-sheets) frozen puff pastry, defrosted
For the filling:
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 2/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup raisins (I left them out)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place a 12-cup standard muffin tin on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the 12 tablespoons butter and 1/3 cup brown sugar. Place 1 rounded tablespoon of the mixture in each of the 12 muffin cups. Distribute the pecans evenly among the 12 muffin cups on top of the butter and sugar mixture.

 Lightly flour a wooden board or stone surface. Unfold 1 sheet of puff pastry with the folds going left to right. Brush the whole sheet with the melted butter. Leaving a 1-inch border on the puff pastry, sprinkle each sheet with 1/3 cup of the brown sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons of the cinnamon, and 1/2 cup of the raisins. Starting with the end nearest you, roll the pastry up snugly like a jelly roll around the filling, finishing the roll with the seam side down. Trim the ends of the roll about 1/2-inch and discard. Slice the roll in 6 equal pieces, each about 1 1/2 inches wide. Place each piece, spiral side up, in 6 of the muffin cups. Repeat with the second sheet of puff pastry to make 12 sticky buns. I use the larger sheets of puff pastry I get at Smart and Final so one large sheets makes 12 buns for me! If you are using a large sheet like me, you just make one and dump all the ingredients and cut into 12.

 Bake for 30 minutes, until the sticky buns are golden to dark brown on top and firm to the touch. Be careful - they're hot! Allow to cool for 5 minutes only, invert the buns onto the parchment paper (ease the filling and pecans out onto the buns with a spoon) and cool completely. 

 These are amazing little buns filled with cinnamon and sugar. Make them today for someone you love and take the Thyme to Savor….

Monday, March 12, 2012

Creme Brule

Crème Brule is one of my kids’ absolute favorite desserts.  Randomly they will think about it and want it and it’s easy enough to make so why not? This is a recipe by Ina Garten (Barefoot Contessa) that I have adapted to make it slightly different from how she makes it! I have just added one extra step of straining the mixture before pouring it into the ramekins.  See when you add hot anything to eggs, they are bound to get shocked and start cooking, straining the mixture just ensures you have a smooth custard without any egg pieces that might have started to get a bit too hot.  I learned this the hard way… It’s super easy and super delicious.  Here is my take on Ina’s version:

  • 1 extra-large egg
  • 4 extra-large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup sugar, plus 1 tablespoon for each serving
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
·         Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
·         In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the egg, egg yolks, and 1/2 cup of the sugar together on low speed until just combined.
·         Meanwhile, scald the cream in a small saucepan until it's very hot to the touch but not boiled.
·         With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the cream to the eggs.
·         Add the vanilla and mix to combine.
·         Strain mixture into a measuring cup to catch any egg that might have started to cook when incorporating the hot milk into the eggs.
·         Pour into 6 8-ounce ramekins until almost full.
·         Place the ramekins in a baking pan and carefully pour boiling water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins.
·         Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the custards are set when gently shaken.
·         Remove the custards from the water bath, cool to room temperature, and refrigerate until firm.
·         To serve, spread 1 tablespoon of sugar evenly on the top of each ramekin and heat with a kitchen blowtorch until the sugar caramelizes evenly. Allow to sit at room temperature for a minute until the caramelized sugar hardens.

Note: Can be store in the refrigerator without the carmalized sugar.  Add sugar and torch when ready to eat.

Maybe this will be a favorite in your house too.  Make it and try it.. see if your family likes it.  Whenever you do make it, remember to take the Thyme to Savor…

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Cajun Chicken Pasta

This is another Pioneer Woman recipe my family loves.  I did take her recipe and modify it a bit to my family’s liking and in an effort to make it healthier.  I have made this numerous times, with the meat and vegetarian versions, and each time, regardless of the method, it is loved by all.  This is one of those dishes that can easily be transformed to please a vegetarian crowd, just omit the chicken and replace the chicken stock with veggie stock.  I do have to warn you though, depending on the Cajun spice you buy, it will generally have lots of salt in it.  Therefore, you will not see salt in this recipe and for those of you that know me, I need my salt, IN EVERYTHING.  But take it from me, don’t add salt to any part of this recipe, you will be sorry! Here is my modified version….

  • 3 whole Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts, Cut Into Cubes (Leave out to make it vegetarian)
  • 3 teaspoons Cajun Spice Mix, More To Taste
  • 1 pound Fettuccine or Penne (I used Penne this time)
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • ½ Green Bell Pepper, Seeded And Sliced
  • ½ Red Bell Pepper, Seeded And Sliced
  • 1 whole Large Red Onion, Sliced
  • 3 cloves Garlic, Minced
  • 2 whole Roma Tomatoes, Diced
  • 2 cups Low Sodium Chicken Stock (use Veggie Stock if making Vegetarian version)
  • Cayenne Pepper To Taste
  • Freshly Ground Black Pepper, To Taste
  • 1 Tbsp. Garlic Powder
  • Chopped Fresh Parsley, To Taste

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain when pasta is still al dente. DO NOT salt the pasta. The Cajun seasoning has so much salt, if you add more to any other part of this dish, it will become overly salty.

Sprinkle 1 1/2 teaspoons Cajun spice, pepper, and garlic powder over chicken pieces. Toss around to coat. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a heavy skillet over high heat. Add the chicken in a single layer and allow it to brown and cook through, ensuring not to overcook.  Once chicken is cooked through, remove the chicken from the pan onto a plate and set aside.

Add remaining olive oil. When heated, add peppers, onions, and garlic. Cook over very high heat for 1 minute, stirring gently.  Try to get the vegetables as dark/black as possible. Add tomatoes and cook for an additional minute or so. Remove all vegetables from the pan.
With the pan over high heat, add the chicken (veggie if making vegetarian) stock. Cook on high for 3 to 5 minutes, scraping the bottom of the pan to deglaze. Taste and add freshly ground black pepper, remaining Cajun spice, and/or cayenne pepper. Sauce should be spicy!

Finally, add chicken and vegetables to sauce, making sure to include all the juices that have drained onto the plate. Stir and cook until the sauce is at your desired thickness.  At first the sauce will be really lose but cook on high heat until it reduces down to the consistency you like (anywhere from 5-10 minutes). Add drained fettuccine and toss to combine.

Top with chopped fresh parsley (and more cayenne if you like) and served.  Make this dish and enjoy it but most importantly, take the Thyme to Savor…