Showing posts with label dinner party. Show all posts
Showing posts with label dinner party. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The Best Tasting Dessert You Will Ever Make - Challah Bread Pudding Cake

I love challah, the egg bread traditionally eaten on Fridays for Jewish shabbat. But our family never finishes the entire loaf. The bread is so good, I looked for other ways to enjoy it.


Challah makes great French toast. A slice of dense challah absorbs the frothy egg and milk and still retains it shape. Cooked on a hot carbon steel pan with a pat of butter, the outside gets crusty as the inside stays custard-moist. A drizzle of warm maple syrup on top and we have a delicious breakfast.

So leftover challah is not a bad thing. It's a good thing.

The French toast got me thinking. How else could I use challah? I always loved bread pudding. So why not challah bread pudding?

I could have made the dessert in small cups, but I like to make bread pudding as a cake. The result was spectacular. The easy-to-make dessert is perfect for dinner parties, Oscar watching parties, Super Bowl Sunday, birthdays and anniversaries.

Challah Bread Pudding Cake

At our neighborhood bakery, a full-sized challah loaf weighs 24 ounces. The recipe uses half a loaf to make enough for 8-10 people. If you need to make more for a party, the recipe can be easily doubled or tripled. Whatever you need.



The challah should be day old or even a week old. If you aren't going to make the bread pudding cake for awhile, place the challah into an airtight bag and freeze for up to two months. When defrosting, brush off any ice crystals that may have accumulated on the bread.

For heavy cream, I prefer to use Trader Joe's because there are no additives. The heavy cream I see in markets, even ones that are high-end, has chemicals added.

Buy good quality chocolate without flavorings or nuts. Trader Joe's sells one pound bars of Belgium chocolate that are good. After opening the package, keep unrefrigerated in a sealed bag for freshness. If the chocolate turns chalky, discard.

Use one 9" round baking pan at least 3" tall or two 6" baking pans at least 3" tall. Do not use a spring form pan because it will leak during baking.



The baking pan needs to be at least 1" taller than the amount of batter because the cake will rise as it cooks.

Freezing the buttered, parchment lined baking pan for 15 minutes helps when you remove the cake from the pan after baking. 

So the challah pieces do not get mushy, as quickly as the toasted bread is coated with the custard, pour the mixture into the baking pan. 

Serves 8-10

Time to prepare 30 minutes

Time to bake 60-75 minutes depending on the size of the baking pan and the oven

Ingredients

12 ounces day old challah, torn apart into 2" pieces
1 tablespoon sweet (unsalted) butter
4 eggs
1 cup + 1 tablespoon sugar
1 pint heavy cream, preferably Trader Joe's 
1 cup dark chocolate at least 60% cacao, finely chopped
½ cup roasted almonds, roughly chopped (optional)
¼ cup powdered sugar 
½ cup shaved dark chocolate 

Directions

Preheat oven 350 F.

Place torn up challah pieces on a baking tray. Place in oven for 15 minutes. Remove and set aside to cool.


Place the baking pan on a piece of parchment paper, trace the shape of the pan with a pencil and use scissors to cut the parchment paper to size.

Melt butter. Using a pastry brush, paint the bottom and sides of the pan(s) with the melted butter. 

Place parchment paper round(s) onto the bottom of the baking pan. Paint the top of the parchment paper. Place baking pan with parchment paper in freezer for at least 15 minutes.



In a large bowl, with a whisk mix together eggs and sugar. Add heavy cream. Mix well. Add chopped chocolate. Add chopped almonds (optional). Mix together and add toasted challah pieces. Toss well to coat.

Pour into the buttered pan with parchment paper and place in to 350 F pre-heated oven.

Bake 45-60 minutes or until top is lightly browned. Remove and place on a wire rack to cool.



As the cake cools, it will shrink away from the sides of the pan. 

Place your hand over the top, flip over and remove the cake. Flip over so the parchment paper is on the bottom and place on the wire rack.

Once cooled, the cake can be placed in plastic wrap and an airtight plastic bag and refrigerated or frozen. Refrigerated the cake will keep fresh for 2 days. The cake can be kept frozen for up to a month.



Before serving, preheat oven 250 F, remove the parchment paper, place on a baking sheet, place into oven for fifteen minutes. Remove and dust with shaved chocolate and powdered sugar.

Serve warm with cream or ice cream.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

An Easy-to-Make Meal Perfect for Mother's Day

Since Mother's Day is a day when mom is celebrated and pampered, it would be counter-intuitive to expect her to cook. On the other hand, putting too much burden on the other members of the family (dad and the kids) would also be ill-advised.

There is the classic New Yorker's solution of serving lox, bagels, and cream cheese or avoiding cooking entirely by visiting a restaurant, but a home cooked meal makes such a personal statement. The key is to prepare a simple meal so you don't spend more time in the kitchen than with her. That and flowers tells her, "I love you."

Arugula Salad with Hazelnuts, Carrots, Avocado, and Croutons

1 bunch arugula, washed, stems removed, leaves torn into bite sized pieces
1/4 cup raw hazelnuts
1 carrot, washed, peeled, cut into thin rounds
1 avocado, peeled, pit removed, roughly chopped
1/4 cup croutons
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
Sea salt and pepper

On a low flame reduce the balsamic vinegar to 1 tablespoon. Set aside to cool. Roast the hazelnuts in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes, shaking the pan every 5 minutes to cook evenly. Remove, put into a dish cloth, rub roughly to remove the skins, let cool, and crush with the side of a chefs knife.

Put the arugula, hazelnuts, carrot rounds, croutons, and avocado into a salad bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and reduced balsamic vinegar. Season with sea salt and pepper. Toss and serve

Serves 4. Preparation Time: 10 minutes. Cooking Time: 20 minutes.

Chicken Breasts Sautéed with Spinach

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, washed, dried
1 bunch spinach, washed thoroughly to remove all the grit, dried, stems removed, leaves roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled, finely chopped
1 shallot, peeled, finely chopped
1 tablespoon sweet butter
1/4 cup water, chicken stock, or white wine
Olive oil
Sea salt and pepper

Use one frying pan to cut down on clean up. Sauté the garlic and shallot until softened--about 2 minutes--add the chicken breasts and sauté until lightly browned on both sides, then remove and cover with aluminum foil. Sauté the spinach until wilted, then remove. Deglaze the pan with the liquid. Add the butter. Season with sea salt and pepper. Reduce the liquid by half, then add back the chicken breasts and coat with the sauce. Remove the breasts and cover to keep warm. Put the spinach back in the pan and mix well with the sauce. Slide the spinach onto the serving plate. Slice the chicken and arrange on top of the spinach.

Serves 4. Preparation Time: 10 minutes. Cooking Time: 15 minutes.

For the dessert I'd suggest my mom's favorite: Banana Cake With Chocolate Chips and Almonds. The recipe is on the New York Times Dining. The cake can be made the day ahead. Before serving, bring to room temperature and serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Pork and Beans: A Childhood Favorite Gets an Upgrade

When I was a kid one of my favorite things to eat was hot dogs and beans. I was really happy when I saw my mother opening a can of Campbell's Pork and Beans, cutting up an Oscar Meyer hot dog and cooking them together until they were pipping hot. Yum.

When I was hungry and no one was home, I'd make a hot dog and beans sandwich with buttered bread. Hot or cold didn't matter, the beans were delicious either way.

But like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, I hadn't eaten hot dogs and beans since I was a kid. Last week I happened to be in the supermarket shopping for a Memorial Day dinner. I saw that Bush's Baked Beans were on sale.

If you haven't had Bush's, you're in for a treat. These are the best canned baked beans ever. Since I was making spareribs, the idea of baked beans seemed a good fit. But while I had fond memories about pork and beans, I wasn't going to use hot dogs. My adult taste buds needed ingredients with a lot more flavor.

Bush's Baked Beans with Italian Sausages

Yield 4 servings
Time 20 minutes

Ingredients

1 28 ounce can Bush's Baked Beans
2 Italian sausages (mild or hot)
1 small onion (peeled, finely chopped)
2 garlic cloves (peeled, finely chopped)
1/4 cup Italian parsley leaves, washed, finely chopped
Olive oil
Freshly ground pepper

Method

Grill the sausages until brown on all sides. Let cool, then slice into 1/4" rounds. Sauté the onions, garlic, and parsley with olive oil in a small pot until lightly browned. Season with pepper. Add the sausage rounds and baked beans. Stir frequently and simmer for 15 minutes.

Variations

Sprinkle grated cheddar cheese on top.

Add red peppers.

Add spinach to the sauté.

Friday, May 9, 2008

An Easy-to-Make Meal Perfect for Mother's Day

Since Mother's Day is a day when mom is celebrated and pampered, it would be counter-intuitive to expect her to cook. On the other hand, putting too much burden on the other members of the family (dad and the kids) would also be ill-advised.

There is the classic New Yorker's solution of serving lox, bagels, and cream cheese or avoiding cooking entirely by visiting a restaurant, but a home cooked meal makes such a personal statement. The key is to prepare a simple meal so you don't spend more time in the kitchen than with her. That and flowers tells her, "I love you."

Arugula Salad with Hazelnuts, Carrots, Avocado, and Croutons

1 bunch arugula, washed, stems removed, leaves torn into bite sized pieces
1/4 cup raw hazelnuts
1 carrot, washed, peeled, cut into thin rounds
1 avocado, peeled, pit removed, roughly chopped
1/4 cup croutons
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
Sea salt and pepper

On a low flame reduce the balsamic vinegar to 1 tablespoon. Set aside to cool. Roast the hazelnuts in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes, shaking the pan every 5 minutes to cook evenly. Remove, put into a dish cloth, rub roughly to remove the skins, let cool, and crush with the side of a chefs knife.

Put the arugula, hazelnuts, carrot rounds, croutons, and avocado into a salad bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and reduced balsamic vinegar. Season with sea salt and pepper. Toss and serve

Serves 4. Preparation Time: 10 minutes. Cooking Time: 20 minutes.

Chicken Breasts Sautéed with Spinach

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, washed, dried
1 bunch spinach, washed thoroughly to remove all the grit, dried, stems removed, leaves roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled, finely chopped
1 shallot, peeled, finely chopped
1 tablespoon sweet butter
1/4 cup water, chicken stock, or white wine
Olive oil
Sea salt and pepper

Use one frying pan to cut down on clean up. Sauté the garlic and shallot until softened--about 2 minutes--add the chicken breasts and sauté until lightly browned on both sides, then remove and cover with aluminum foil. Sauté the spinach until wilted, then remove. Deglaze the pan with the liquid. Add the butter. Season with sea salt and pepper. Reduce the liquid by half, then add back the chicken breasts and coat with the sauce. Remove the breasts and cover to keep warm. Put the spinach back in the pan and mix well with the sauce. Slide the spinach onto the serving plate. Slice the chicken and arrange on top of the spinach.

Serves 4. Preparation Time: 10 minutes. Cooking Time: 15 minutes.

For the dessert I'd suggest my mom's favorite: Banana Cake With Chocolate Chips and Almonds. The recipe is on Bitten. The cake can be made the day ahead. Before serving, bring to room temperature and serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Chicken and Dumplings with Sweet Potato Stuffing

Chicken and dumplings is the classic comfort-food entree, no question about it. Stuffing the dumplings with a savory sweet potato puree takes them to another flavor level. Adding that little touch, makes the dish perfect for a dinner party.

Chicken and Dumplings with Sweet Potato Stuffing

Yield: 4-6

Time: 2 1/2 hours

Ingredients

1 medium sized sweet potato or yam, washed, wrapped in tin foil
1 shallot, peeled, finely chopped
8 cloves, garlic, peeled, finely chopped
2 4-pound chickens, washed
1 yellow onion, peeled, roughly chopped
1 ear of corn, the kernels removed
3 large carrots, peeled, cut into thick rounds
1/2 pounds mushrooms, washed, sliced thin
4 cups chicken stock, homemade
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons butter
2 cups white flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup cream or half-and-half
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Method

Bake the sweet potato in a 350 degree oven for 1 hour (turning it over after the 1st 30 minutes) until soft. Remove from the tin foil and peel off the skin and mash with a fork. (For a chef's snack, try the skin with a little sea salt. Yummy.) Saute the finely chopped shallots and 2 of the garlic cloves in olive oil until lightly browned, then add to the sweet potato puree and put aside.

Cut apart the chicken, separating the legs, thighs, and wing parts (cut apart the three wing bones, keeping the 2 and using the wing tip for stock). Debone the breasts and remove the skin. Put the meat into a bowl and season with 1/4 cup olive oil, sea salt, and black pepper.

To make the stock, put the carcass, wing tips, and breast skin into a large pot with 1/2 gallon of water and simmer on a medium flame for 1 hour. The water should have reduced by half. Strain out the bones and put the stock aside.

Cutting apart the chicken and making the stock the night before has a couple of advantages. You don't have to deal with it on the day you're cooking the meal, the meat will tenderize in the seasoned olive oil, and you'll be able to strip off the fat that will solidify on top of the stock. These are all good things.

In a large skillet or dutch oven, brown the wings, legs, and thighs in olive oil on a medium flame, turning them frequently so they don't burn. Remove and drain on a paper towel. Pour off the fat and discard. Measure 1 tablespoon of olive oil and saute the onions, garlic, corn, and mushrooms until lightly browned. Add the wings, legs, thighs and chicken stock. Cover with a lid or piece of tin foil and simmer for 30 minutes or until the chicken is tender.

Add enough stock or water to cover the chicken and vegetables.

Make the dumplings by first mixing together the flour and baking powder. Using a fork, crumble the butter into the flour, then season with a little sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Stir the flour mixture and slowly add the cream until the texture is like thick porridge.

The dumplings will take 30 minutes to cook, so save this last step until your guests have arrived and they're enjoying drinks and hors d'oeuvres. Ask someone to keep you company or help with making the dumplings. They're fun to make but a bit tedious.

One last thing before you start making the dumplings. This is the moment when you can decide if you want to include the breast meat or save it for another dish (like grilled chicken paillard or breaded chicken breasts). If you want to have both white and dark meat in the dish, then cut the breasts into 1" cubes and lightly saute them in a olive oil for 2 minutes on each side, then add them to skillet.

Put the flame onto medium and start fashioning the dumplings. Using 2 large metal spoons, scoop up a quarter-sized amount of the dumpling mixture in one of the spoons. With the other, take a dime-sized amount of the sweet potato puree and spread that over the dumpling mixture, then scoop up another quarter-sized portion of the dumpling mixture and spread it on top of the other spoon so the sweet potato puree is completely hidden.

Describing how to make the stuffed dumplings makes it sound difficult, but it's very simple. You'll quickly get the hang of it.

There should be enough liquid in the pot to reach 1/2" above the meat and vegetables, because the dumplings need liquid to stay moist. Once the dumpling has been formed in the one spoon, use the other spoon to gently slide it off into the pot so it rests on top of the chicken and vegetables.

As you make the dumplings, set them into the pot, one next to the other--no overlapping--until the top of the pan is completely covered with dumplings. It's best if there's a little space between dumpling so they have room to expand.

Cover the pot and come back in 30 minutes. Use a large soup plate to serve the chicken with a sampling of vegetables and a dumpling.

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