Thursday, December 20, 2012

Pear, Caramelized Onion, and Feta Flatbread

Ingredients for flatbread:
  • 1 1/4 cup warm water (105-110 degrees F)
  • 1 (1/4 ounce) package active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 1/2 cups bread flour
  • cornmeal for dusting
Ingredients for toppings:
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 large pears, cored and thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 4 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese

  • Whisk the warm water, sugar and yeast together in a bowl. Let stand in a warm place for about 10 minutes, or until the yeast is foamy.
  • Combine the flour and salt in a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with dough hook and mix well. Add the yeast mixture and oil, mix well. Continue to mix, until the dough is smooth and elastic. Transfer dough to a floured surface and give it a few turns by hand to finish kneading it. Transfer the dough to a large oiled bowl, tuning to coat. Cover with kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until doubled in size.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a skillet. Add sliced onion and cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes. Add balsamic vinegar, mix well with the onion. Continue cooking for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion is caramelized. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
  • Add sliced pears onto the same skillet and cook until they are tender. Remove from heat.
  • Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Punch down the dough and transfer it to a floured surface. Stretch dough into 2 rectangles, as thin as possible. Sprinkle cornmeal onto baking sheet (or pizza stone) and place stretched dough on the sheet. Brush the dough with the remaining olive oil, spread the onions, followed by sliced pears. Spread feta cheese over the flatbread, and sprinkle with chopped rosemary. Bake flatbread in the oven for about 10 minutes, or until the crust turns golden brown. Remove from the oven and slice into sections. Serve warm.

Blue Corn Muffins

One great recipe from Taste of Home website that produces the moistest corn muffins I ever baked!

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup blue cornmeal (or use yellow cornmeal)
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg + 1 egg yolk
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 3/4 cup whole kernel corn
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons honey
  • In a large bowl, combine the first six ingredients. In another bowl, combine egg, egg yolk, buttermilk and oil. Stir into dry ingredients until just moistened. Fold in corn.
  • Fill lined muffin cups three-fourths full. Bake at 400 degrees F until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing the muffins to wire rack.
  • In a small bowl, beat butter and honey until blended. Serve with muffins.

Makes 12 regular size muffins

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Panforte di Siena

Don't roll your eyes on a Christmas fruitcake, especially if it's Panforte, Italian Christmas fruitcake. Originated from Siena, Tuscany, Italy, this scrumptious fruitcake/candy is fragrant, a little bit spicy, a little bit chewy and not like any other fruitcake you ever tasted. Enjoy with espresso or cappuccino. 

  • 1 1/4 cups almonds
  • 1 1/4 cup hazelnuts
  • 2 1/2 cup mixed candied peels (I used combinations of citron, raisin and dried cherries), coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
  • powder sugar, for dusting
  • Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Toast hazelnuts and almonds in separate baking sheet until the turn golden brown. Set aside to cool down. Remove the skin from the hazelnuts by placing some in the center of a kitchen towel, and rub them together until the skin falls off. Chop the nuts coarsely.
  • In a large heatproof bowl, mix together, nuts, candied, peels, cocoa powder, flour, ginger, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, pepper and chili powder using a rubber spatula until well mixed. Grease an 8-inch cake pan, and line the bottom with parchment paper. Sprinkle some powdered sugar on the bottom of the pan.
  • In a medium saucepan, whisk together sugar, honey and butter until well combined. Cook over medium heat, bring to boil. Reduce the heat, insert a candy thermometer and continue cooking (without stirring) until the temperature reached 240 degrees. Pour the hot syrup immediately over the nut an fruit mixture. Stir to combine as fast as possible, as the mixture will start to stiffen up. Use your hand to mix it a little more, then transfer immediately to the lined cake pan. Spread the mixture evenly and smooth the top of the cake. Bake in the oven for about 35-45 minutes.
  • Take the cake out of the oven, transfer to a wire rack. After about 15 minutes or so, release the sides of the pan using table knife. Flip the panforte out to a parchment paper so that the bottom part is now facing up. Dust heavily with powdered sugar. Let Panforte to cool completely before wrapping. The cake, if properly wrapped, will last for a few months. To serve, cut in thin slices.