Sunday, April 11, 2021

Grilled cheese and wine

This is a sponsored post by Challenge butter, but the text and opinions are all mine. Thank you for supporting brands that make Kylee's Kitchen possible!

A happy hour cheese plate with a glass of wine is the inspiration for this grilled cheese sandwich.

Experimenting with new food combinations is fun, but it's also important to think about which flavor combinations work well together. It's all about balance. 

There's a reason wine and cheese is a winning combination. The acidity in the wine helps to balance the fat in the cheese. I incorporated wine in this sandwich by cooking caramelized onions with red wine. The onions become sweet after they're caramelized, and that sweet flavor balances the saltiness of the butter and cheese.

It's important to use the best combination of cheeses for your grilled cheese sandwich. I like to use a creamy cheese, a stretchy cheese, and a sharp cheese. I chose Challenge cream cheese, gouda cheese, and white cheddar cheese. Cream cheese is smooth and rich; gouda cheese has a pH level of 5.4 which is the optimal acidity level for melty, gooey, stretchy cheese—gruyere also works really well; and white cheddar cheese is sharp and packs a punch. I used Challenge cream cheese for this recipe because I know they use hormone-free milk from local dairies, resulting in all-natural and high-quality products. 

Another important factor in building the perfect grilled cheese sandwich is the bread. Choose bread that doesn't have large holes and isn't fragile. It needs to support the filling.

When it comes to cooking the grilled cheese, I'm a big proponent of cooking it low and slow. The cheese takes time to melt, and you don't want your bread to burn while waiting for the cheese to melt. Also, press down on your grilled cheese with a spatula while it's cooking for the best results. This creates more surface area for the bread to brown, which means more flavor and better texture. It also helps to melt the cheese.


Grilled cheese and wine

Ingredients

For the red wine onions

  • 1 Tablespoon Challenge butter
  • 1 pound sweet onions, julienned
  • 1 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme)

For the sandwich

  • 2 slices thick, good quality bread
  • 2 Tablespoons butter, softened to spreadable consistency
  • 2 ounces Challenge cream cheese, softened to spreadable consistency
  • White cheddar cheese, sliced to fit size of bread, around 4 slices
  • Gouda or gruyere cheese, sliced to fit size of bread, around 4 slices
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil

Directions

For the red wine onions

  1. Heat butter in large saucepan over medium low heat until melted.
  2. Add onions to pan, season with salt, and cook, stirring every few minutes, until onions are translucent and starting to caramelize, about 15 minutes.
  3. Add red wine, sugar, and thyme to pan. Bring to a boil and then reduce to slow simmer.
  4. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid evaporates, around 15 to 20 minutes.
  5. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.

For the sandwich

  1. Butter one side of each slice of bread
  2. Flip bread over and spread cream cheese on both slices
  3. Add half of the white cheddar and half of the gouda to one slice of bread and then add the other half of the cheeses to the other slice.
  4. Add a layer of red wine onions to one slice before topping with the other slice
  5. Heat skillet to medium-low heat. Add olive oil to skillet, and swirl to coat.
  6. Add sandwich to skillet. After about 30 seconds, push down on sandwich for even browning and to help melt cheese. Flip sandwich after about 2 minutes, or when bread starts to turn golden brown.
  7. Continue cooking until cheese is melted. Serve immediately.
  8. Store leftover red wine onions in refrigerator for up to 1 week.
















Thursday, April 1, 2021

Hot Cross Cinnabunnies

 

This is a sponsored post by Challenge butter, but the text and opinions are all mine. Thank you for supporting brands that make Kylee's Kitchen possible.

I've always wanted to make hot cross buns—it's one of my favorite Easter treats. I love the combination of warm spices and dried fruits. I'm currently taking a yeast breads class at school, so I was feeling extra motivated to make them this year.

I decided to do a mashup of a hot cross bun and a cinnamon roll. And to make them extra festive, I made bunny ears. I'm calling my creation "Hot Cross Cinnabunnies."

The trick is to not cover the entire rectangle of dough in the filling. Leave a 4-inch border at the top. After you roll it up and cut your rolls, just unravel the part of the dough without the filling and cut it in half lengthwise. Then bend the two cut pieces so they resemble bunny ears.

I like to coat the cinnamon rolls in an apricot glaze after they come out of the oven because it looks shiny and it contributes to the fruity taste of hot cross buns. If you prefer, you can brush the rolls in egg wash before they go in the oven so they're shiny when they come out.

If you don't have time to make homemade cinnamon rolls but still want to try this recipe, there are a few shortcuts you can take. First, you can use frozen (and thawed) sweet dough (I like Rhodes), puff pastry, or crescent sheet dough. If you try this, skip ahead to the "for the filling" section of directions.

Alternatively, you can just buy jumbo cinnamon rolls, mix some dried fruit with a little all spice and orange zest, and stuff the dried fruit in the swirls of the rolls.

 

I used Challenge unsalted butter and Challenge cream cheese for this recipe. Challenge uses the freshest, purest cream in their products for superior flavor. You can smell the difference immediately upon opening their products.

I've learned a lot about baking breads since I started the class. As you can imagine, there's a lot of science involved! For example, one tip I learned is that when adding sugar to bread dough with a high percentage of sugar, only add half of the sugar at the beginning. Wait to add the other half until the dough appears to be mostly developed.

The reason is sugar is hydroscopic, meaning it attracts moisture. But hydration is required for gluten development and yeast fermentation. If you hold back some sugar and wait to add it until the dough is mostly developed, you don't have to worry about it stealing all the moisture.

Another thing I want to point out is I used instant yeast in this recipe. I like instant yeast better than active dry yeast because it doesn't require proofing. However, it is more difficult to find. (I purchased my instant yeast at Gordon Food Service) If you use active dry yeast instead of instant yeast, multiply the yeast amount by 1.33. This goes for any recipe in which you encounter this situation. And then, of course, you'll need to proof the yeast before moving forward with the recipe.


Hot Cross Cinnabunnies

Yield: Makes about 14 rolls

Ingredients

For the rolls

  • 1 cup (240 grams) whole milk, lukewarm
  • 1/2 cup (115 grams) Challenge unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, room temperature
  • 2 eggs (100 grams), beaten, room temperature
  • 4 1/4 cups (510 grams) bread flour
  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar, divided in half
  • 1 Tablespoon (8 grams) ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons (4 grams) all spice
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons (7.75 grams) instant yeast
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons (9 grams) salt 

For the filling

  • 1 cup orange marmalade
  • 1 teaspoon (2.5 grams) cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon (1 gram) all spice
  • 1 cup (160 grams) mixed dried fruit (raisins, dried cherries, dried cranberries)

For the glaze

  • 2 Tablespoon apricot jam
  • 2 teaspoons water

For the cream cheese frosting

Directions

For the rolls

  1. Combine milk, butter, and eggs in large mixing bowl. Add bread flour, half of the sugar, cinnamon, all spice, instant yeast, and salt.
  2. Knead everything together, using a mixer or by hand, to form a smooth ball of dough. It will take around 8 to 10 minutes on second speed of stand mixer. About halfway through the kneading process, add the other half of the sugar. Dough will be sticky, but it should pull away from sides of bowl. If it doesn't add more flour, a tablespoon at a time.
  3. Place dough in large, greased bowl. Tightly cover dough with plastic wrap. Allow to rise in warm, draft-free environment until it doubles in size, around 90 minutes to 2 hours. 
  4. Punch dough down and transfer onto pastry mat or lightly floured surface. Roll into large rectangle, about 20 inches by 14 inches, it doesn't need to be those exact dimensions.

For the filling

  1. Mix the orange marmalade with cinnamon and all spice. Spread mixture on dough, leaving 4-inch border on top. 
  2. Sprinkle dried fruit on top of marmalade.
  3. Tightly roll up rectangle and cut into about 14 equal pieces. Arrange pieces, cut side down, on 2 baking sheets.
  4. Uncurl the 4 inches of the roll without filling and cut in half lengthwise. Bend dough strips and pinch ends to look like bunny ears. Cover rolls and let rise in warm place about 30 minutes or until dough is noticeably puffy.
  5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake rolls about 15 to 20 minutes, or until they're light brown. If the bunny ears brown too quickly, cover baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  6. Remove rolls from oven.

For the glaze

  1. Place jam and water in bowl and microwave 30 seconds. Mix to combine. Brush cinnamon roll bunnies with jam mixture while warm.
  2. Allow to cool.

For cream cheese frosting

  1. Beat together cream cheese, butter, vanilla extract, and salt until smooth. Slowly add powdered sugar and beat until smooth.
  2. Transfer cream cheese frosting to plastic sandwich bag and snip about 1/4 inch from corner.
  3. Pipe crosses onto cinnamon rolls to indicate hot cross buns.
  4. Serve immediately or store in air-tight container at room temperature for several days.


Sunday, March 28, 2021

Reflections from my last 16 weeks of culinary school

I made croissants for the first time—one of my life goals!

As I start the second half of my second semester of culinary school, I wanted to spend some time reflecting on my last 16 weeks of classes, which differed significantly from the first 8 weeks (read more here). I took my first two baking and pastry classes, a class about breakfast foods, and a customer service class. The baking classes were my favorite. The incredible Chef Jenni Shouppe taught both classes. She is hilarious and so talented and knowledgeable. It was truly a joy to learn from her.

The two classes I took were Introduction to Baking and Classical Pastries and Chocolate. 

The first class, Introduction to Baking, was exactly what it sounds like—an introduction baking course. Here's a list of some topics we covered: custards, mousses, donuts, pâte à Choux, pies, crepes, cakes, and yeast breads. The Classical Pastries and Chocolate class focused more on classical French desserts. We made meringues, laminated dough, tarts, tortes, candies, cakes, and cheesecakes.

There's a cafe at the school, and in my breakfast class, the students were responsible for making the breakfast orders that came into the cafe. I practiced flipping eggs, made French omelettes and American omelets, prepared souffles, and learned how to make fluffy waffles.

For my customer service class, I learned the important roles of the front of house staff in a restaurant (non-kitchen staff) and how they must work with the back of house (kitchen staff) to provide the best experience possible for the customer. There's also a full-service restaurant on the top floor of the school, and for this class, I practiced serving. Working as a waitress is tough, and I have a newfound respect for anyone who provides good service and makes it look easy.

For the last 8 weeks of this semester, I'm taking a class about yeast breads (one week in, I've already learned so much and consumed a lot of delicious carbs) and a class called garde manger, pronounced gard man-zhay. Historically, the garde manger chef prepared the cold foods in a restaurant, like chilled soups, fruit, salads, pates, caviars, and some cold desserts. In my class, we will also learn how to make sausage and prosciutto and how to smoke fish and pickle vegetables.

I'm going to share a few things I learned that really stood out to me. And if you have ANY questions at all on any of these topics, please feel free to reach out to me, and I would be happy to answer your questions. And if I can't answer it, I will contact one of the chefs at school and ask them!

Culinary school during a pandemic means masks plus face shields

Mousses

  • If your mousse calls for gelatin, you must "bloom" it in cold water. The gelatin absorbs the water and softens so it will easily dissolve when combined with the rest of your ingredients. Bloom gelatin in five times its weight in water. 
  • Gently warm the gelatin to dissolve it before adding it to your recipe. But do NOT heat the gelatin above 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

This cake is called a Charlotte. It's made with lady fingers and Bavarian cream. I made it for the final in my Classical Pasties and Chocolate class.

White chocolate mousse cake with raspberry gelée

The outside of the cake

Chocolate mousse cake

Custards

  • Stirred custards are cooked on the stove, and you have to be really careful because they will curdle at 190 degrees Fahrenheit. Common stirred custards are pastry cream, crème anglaise, and lemon curd.
  • Baked custards, like cheesecake and crème brûlée, should be baked in a bain marie (a water bath). A bain marie provides gentle, uniform heat to delicate foods like custards. It also stops the top from drying out and cracking before the inside is cooked. 
  • Use a roasting dish with high sides for your bain marie, and pour the water into the roasting dish after it's already in the oven so you don't have to worry about accidentally splashing water on top if your custard while placing it in the oven. The water in your bain marie should go halfway up the sides of the dish.

Custard for crème brûlée before it was torched

Crème brûlée, final product

We made ice cream with crème anglaise

Pâte à choux

  • Pâte à choux in itself is not sweet. The texture is soft yet crisp. This is the dough used for éclairs, cream puffs, and my new favorite dessert, Paris-Brest (pronounced paree bray).
  • The choux dough is first cooked on the stove. You know it's done cooking when it leaves a little skin or film at the bottom of your saucepan.
  • The only tricky part about it is determining the number of eggs that will go in the dough. The number of eggs in the dough is NOT consistent, and you may NOT use all the eggs listed in a recipe.. Humidity and the size of the eggs create inconsistencies. You will know that you've added enough eggs when the batter is thick, shiny, and a pipeable consistency. When you lift up the beater on your mixer, the batter should slowly slump down into the bowl.

Choux dough piped into eclairs

Baked eclair shells

Eclair shells filled with cream and covered in chocolate

Paris-brest (pronounced paree-bray) is my new favorite dessert. Pâte à choux is piped into the shape of bike wheels and topped with almonds prior to baking. Afterwards, each wheel is cut in half and filled with praline cream. It is divine and my new favorite dessert. Sadly, I didn't get a picture of the final product.

Pies

  • I had only made pie dough a few times in my life, and I never really felt like I knew what I was doing. There are so many tips and tricks available online—it's overwhelming. The pie dough we made has just 5 ingredients, and we mixed everything with our hands. 
  • There are two types of pie dough you can make using the same recipe: flaky pie dough and mealy pie dough. The only difference between the two doughs is the size of the pieces of butter. 
  • In mealy pie dough, the butter pieces are very small. This creates a crust that is good at repelling moisture, which is necessary when making fruit pies or custard pies, like pumpkin. No one likes a soggy bottom crust. 
  • In flaky pie dough, the butter pieces are larger. So when you bake the crust, the butter melts and creates tender, flaky layers. This crust is best for the top crust of double-crust pies or for no-bake cream pies.
  • When blind baking crust for cream pies, it is important that your pie weights come all the way up to the top of your crusts for added support to the sides. It's a little confusing because most pie weights are sold with only enough to cover the bottom of the pie. You need to either buy multiple containers of pie weights or use dry beans.

This is a Linzer torte, a traditional Austrian pastry. The crust is made from flour and ground hazelnuts and almonds. The filling consists of raspberry preserves and citrus zest.

This was another new favorite dessert!

Apple galette

I made an apple crumb pie, soft yeast rolls, and chocolate chip cookies for the final in my Introduction to Baking class.
Crepes

  • Unlike pancakes, there should be no lumps in your crepe batter. For the silkiest smooth batter, use a blender.
  • After making the batter, allow it to rest 30 to 60 minutes (or keep it in the refrigerator for up to 2 days). This gives the gluten a chance to relax and creates more delicate crepes.
  • Use only 2 to 3 Tablespoons of batter per standard 8-inch pan.

A dozen crepes stacked together to form a crepe cake.

Different flours

  • There are many types of flours, and the difference in the types is the protein content. Higher protein means more gluten, which means more strength.
  • Cake flour has the lowest protein content of all flours at 5 - 8%. This means less gluten and softer, more tender baked goods. It's best for cakes and muffins.
  • Pastry flour falls between cake flour and all-purpose flour with 8 - 9% protein content. It's a good choice for pie crusts and tarts.
  • All-purpose flour is a staple in most kitchens. It has 10 - 12% protein content. We can use it for any number of baked goods: cookies, pancakes, etc.
  • Bread flour's protein content is the strongest at 12 - 14%. It's great for yeast breads because the gluten is necessary for making the bread rise properly.

Challah

Using a peel to retrieve baguettes from deck oven

Baguette with poolish (a pre-ferment) straight out of the oven

Eating bread straight out of the oven is absolutely heavenly.

Foccacia

Soft yeast rolls


Laminated dough

  • Puff pastry, croissant and Danish dough are called laminated dough. Fat is incorporated through a process of rolling and folding, producing alternating layers of dough and fat. 
  • The fat must be kept cold and not allowed to melt into the dough during the lamination process. Laminated doughs get their flaky texture because water from each layer of butter steams up, creating separate layers.
  • Making laminated dough is a LOT of work, especially if you do it by hand. And it takes a LOT of time because you have to refrigerate it between folds to ensure the butter doesn't melt into the dough.

Croissant dough

Very excited about making croissants for the first time

Apple tarte Tatin made with handmade puff pastry. It's much prettier once it's flipped over, but sadly, I didn't get a picture of it.


Cheesecake

  • One of the worst things that could happen to a cheesecake is cream cheese lumps in the batter. I don't know why, but it really is terribly gross. Avoid this by first letting your cream cheese come to room temperature. Beat it by itself with a mixer before adding any other ingredients to the bowl. Then add just the sugar and beat it really well. The sugar granules will help cut through the cream cheese. Make sure to scrape down the bowl well. Add the eggs one at a time, beating and scraping down the sides of the bowl between each addition. Once it's smooth, add the rest of the ingredients.
  • You'll want to bake the cake in a bain-marie, which is a water bath, in a low oven. The water bath ensures even heat distribution. The ideal baking temperature is between 250 and 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • It is imperative to not over-bake the cheesecake. Once the surface appears to “jiggle as a whole,” it is done and must be removed from the oven. It will continue cooking outside the oven.

Waffles

  • To create the fluffiest waffles with a crisp exterior, start by separating your egg yolks and your egg whites. 
  • Whip the egg whites, either with a whisk or with an electric beater, until they form stiff peaks. Set aside and prepare the rest of the waffle batter as normal, but without the egg whites. Fold the whipped egg whites into the batter with the rest of the ingredients, being careful to not over-mix so you don't deflate the egg whites. 
  • Proceed with the rest of the recipe as normal!


Sachertorte is a chocolate cake with apricot filling. The baker must write Sacher in chocolate on top of the cake. It was invented by Austrian Franz Sacher.

Strudel dough is stretched to the size of a table.

Lemon pound cake

There was a time in my life in which I ate ice cream with lemon curd and lemon pound cake for breakfast.

Dense, fudgy brownies

Pumpkin muffins

Eggs over easy


Sunday, March 14, 2021

Bougatsa pie



This is a sponsored post by Challenge butter, but the text and opinions are all mine. Thank you for supporting brands that make Kylee's Kitchen possible.

Bougatsa is best described as a Greek custard pie with warm spices and a phyllo crust. When I visited Greece, it was served every morning for breakfast. But it's delicious any time of day. I love the contrast of the creamy filling with the crisp phyllo.

It's typically baked in a large casserole dish and cut into squares, but in honor of Pie Day, I made it into an actual pie in a skillet. The phyllo dough serves as the crust to the custard filling.

I use clarified butter whenever I work with phyllo. The butter we buy from the grocery store consists of butterfat, milk solids, and water. Clarified butter is the butterfat with everything else removed.  Because the milk solids are removed, clarified butter has a higher smoking point. Phyllo dough is very delicate and using clarified butter helps it to brown evenly. I recommend using a good quality butter like Challenge European Style Unsalted Butter. Challenge European butter is churned slower and longer than other butters to produce a more flavorful butter with less moisture and higher butterfat. In fact, it consists of 83% butterfat, whereas standard American butters contain 80% butterfat.

I have a bit of advice if you haven't worked with phyllo dough: Use a damp towel and work quickly to prevent the phyllo from drying out. It's important to first allow your phyllo dough to come to room temperature, but don't open the package until you're ready to work with it. Once you open the roll and expose it to air, it will dry out. This is problematic because phyllo becomes brittle and breaks easily when dry. I recommend you lightly dampen a tea towel and use it to cover the phyllo you aren't currently using while you layer and butter each phyllo sheet in the skillet. Use one entire roll as the base of your crust. A standard roll has 20 sheets. If one or more of your sheets rips, that's okay! Just use as many sheets as you can.


Bougatsa pie

Yield: 8 servings

Ingredients

For the clarified butter

For the custard
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (80 grams) semolina flour (can substitute with 60 grams all purpose flour)
  • 1 1/4 cups (283 grams) whole milk
  • 3/4 cup (170 grams) heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons (7 grams) vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 20 sheets phyllo dough, thawed

Directions

For the clarified butter

  1. Melt butter in small saucepan over low heat. Don't stir!
  2. Skim off foamy milk solids that rose to the top.
  3. Carefully ladle golden butterfat into bowl, leaving behind residue of milky white solids that settled at bottom of pan.
  4. Keep clarified butter at room temperature throughout duration of spanakopita recipe. When finished, cover and store in refrigerator.

For the custard

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  2. In large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, eggs, sugar, and semolina flour. Add whole milk, heavy cream, vanilla extract, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and cardamom. Whisk to combine.
  3. Brush bottom and sides of 10-inch cast-iron skillet with clarified butter. 
  4. Lightly dampen dish towel. Unroll roll of phyllo dough and lay dish towel on top. Keep towel on top of unused phyllo while you work to prevent dough from drying out.
  5. Working quickly, remove one phyllo sheet from rest of stack and gently press in bottom and up sides of skillet. Lightly brush entire sheet with butter.
  6. Repeat with remaining phyllo sheets, rotating each sheet in a different direction as you add it.
  7. Pour cream mixture into skillet. 
  8. Carefully crimp overhanging edges of phyllo so it looks like pie crust. Lightly brush exposed surface of phyllo with butter.
  9. Carefully move skillet to oven and bake until phyllo is golden brown, about 30 to 35 minutes. The edge should be set, but the center should still be a little jiggly. Double-check with an instant-read thermometer. The custard is done when it reaches 170 degrees Fahrenheit.
  10. Remove skillet from oven and let cool for 10 minutes before cutting into 8 wedges and serving.




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