Basic Recipes

Homemade Ricotta

how to make ricotta My love for Italian food is far and wide, and fresh ricotta is a staple of Italian cooking. It's used in everything from ravioli and stuffed shells to lasagna, and dessert dishes too.  This was my first foray into cheesemaking, and it was surprisingly simple!  It used only four ingredients: milk, cream, vinegar and salt.  Although, you will need a thermometer and cheesecloth.  In the coming weeks, I'm going to focus on making a few dishes, inspired by my travels in various countries, including Italy. So, I decided to get a leg up on making ricotta so my handmade spinach-ricotta ravioli or ricotta gnocci will be that much fresher!

Gently stir in the vinegar. Then allow it to sit undisturbed for 20 minutes.

Carefully ladle the curds into the strainer, leaving as much liquid behind as possible

Homemade Ricotta
Author: Vallery
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 2 cups
Ingredients
  • 8 cups pasteurized whole milk (1/2 gallon)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
Instructions
  1. Line a strainer with cheesecloth and place over a large bowl.
  2. Place the milk, cream and salt in a medium saucepan. Cook over low heat until a thermometer reads between 175 and 180 degrees Fahrenheit.
  3. Remove the saucepan from the stove. Slowly pour in the vinegar while gently stirring.
  4. Once all of the vinegar has been poured in, allow it to sit undisturbed for 20 minutes.
  5. Carefully ladle the soft curds that have formed at the top into the strainer. The remaining liquid (whey) can be discarded.
  6. Allow the curds to drain for one hour. (Do not press on the curds or manipulate them in any way).
  7. Once drained, transfer the ricotta cheese to a container and refrigerate until use. Discard the whey (the liquid).
  8. The ricotta may be stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to one week.

 

Perfect Scones

Perfect Scones This easy, delicious, and versatile recipe is the only scone recipe you'll ever need.  It puts those rock-like, cardboard things that Starbucks sells to shame. And by easy, I mean easy.   You don't need any special equipment--although, like all baking, a kitchen aid mixer is the best assistant you'll ever have.  That, and a scale to accurately measure the ingredients.  The key to this recipe is to gently handle the dough.  If you over mix it, the scones will be tough.

One reason this recipe is so excellent is that the scones just crumble into your mouth with each bite you take.  The delicate crumb of these breakfast treats is due to the addition of cake flour.  Also, this recipe may seem simple, but it is elegant and rich due to the various types of creams used--butter, heavy cream, and creme fraiche.  In fact, I tasted a vanilla essence in my scone, which is undoubtedly due to the quality of the creme fraiche that I used, since there is no addition of vanilla to this recipe.

The last great thing about this recipe is its versatility.  The simplicity of it just begs you to jazz it up with fun mix-ins like pumpkin puree, nuts, or dried fruit.  I have not done so yet, but when I do, I will make sure to update the recipe.  You must freeze these scones before baking them, and since this recipe makes quite a few (12 big ones), you can just leave some in the freezer and bake them later!  There is nothing like popping a couple of scones in the oven while the coffee is brewing, and enjoying them before work or on a leisurely holiday or weekend morning.

IMG_3368

Perfect Scones
Author: Vallery
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 12
Inspired by Bouchon Bakery
Ingredients
  • 152 g all purpose flour
  • 304 g cake flour
  • 12.5 g (2 1/2 teaspoons) baking powder
  • 2.5 g (1/2 teaspoon) baking soda
  • 91 g granulated sugar + more for sprinkling
  • 2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2" chunks
  • 135 g heavy cream + more for brushing
  • 135 g creme fraiche
Instructions
  1. Place all purpose flour and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Sift in cake flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Mix with the paddle attachment to combine, about 30 seconds.
  2. Add butter, and mix on low until the mixture is crumbly, about 3 minutes.
  3. While the mixture is running on low, slowly pour in the cream.
  4. Add the creme fraiche and mix for an additional 30 seconds. Be careful not to over mix, but the ingredients should be incorporated, and the dough should come together around the paddle (see photo).
  5. Scrape down the bowl and paddle and mix on low for an additional 5 - 10 seconds to combine.
  6. Remove dough from bowl and onto a work surface. Use the palms of your hands to push the dough together and form the dough into a 6 x 9 inch rectangular block. Do your best to make the edges of the block even, as those will be the edges of the scones. Wrap the block in plastic and refrigerate for two hours.
  7. Remove block and using a sharp knife, cut in half horizontally. Then, cut into thirds vertically. You should have 6 squares at this point. Finally, cut each square into a triangle.
  8. Place each triangle one inch apart from the others on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Wrap the baking sheet with plastic, and freeze until solid, at least two hours. You can freeze the scones long-term (up to one month) by storing in a freezer bag at this point. Be careful to separate the scones with plastic or parchment paper so that they don't stick together.
  9. Preheat oven to 350F. Brush the tops of the scones with heavy cream, and lightly sprinkle granulated sugar on top.
  10. Bake for 25-28 minutes. The scones should be a light, golden brown.
  11. Serve immediately, and enjoy. You can store them in an air tight container for one day.

 

Add creme fraiche and mix for an additional 30 seconds

The dough should come together around the paddle.

Form the dough into a 6 x 9 inch block. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 2 hours

Cut the dough into 12 triangles.  Then, freeze until solid.

Place triangles on parchment-lined paper before freezing.

Brush tops lightly with heavy cream before baking.

Homemade Scones

Shrimp Stock

Homemade Shrimp Stock I recently made shrimp and grits, and this homemade stock definitely took the dish to the next level.  Homemade shrimp stock is a great base to escalate many dishes--including shrimp and grits, seafood gumbo, and many others!  I prepared a homemade shrimp stock using the recipe from Emeril Lagasse's Farm to ForkCooking Fresh.  It doesn't take too long to make, and it yields about three quarts--which is great because you can freeze this for up to two months, and use it in a variety of dishes, stews, and soups!

Shrimp Stock
Author: Emeril
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 12 cups
Ingredients
  • 1 to 1 1/2 pounds shrimp shells and heads
  • 1 cup roughly chopped onions
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped carrots
  • 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons black peppercorns
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
Instructions
  1. Rinse shrimp shells and heads in a large colander under cold running water.
  2. Combine all ingredients in large, heavy-bottomed pot (such as a dutch oven), and add enough water to cover everything by one inch.
  3. Bring to a boil over high heat.
  4. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 45 minutes, skimming away foam that accumulates on surface.
  5. Carefully strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl. Quickly cool by placing the large bowl in an ice bath, and stirring until the stock is chilled.
  6. Cover and chill until needed, up to 3 days in the refrigerator or 2 months in the freezer

homemade shrimp stock

Speculoos Cookie Recipe (needed for Witches Hats)

Speculoos cookies are a specialty of Belgium and the Netherlands.  Though it is a spice cookie due to the cinnamon, it is a fairly simple buttery cookie. The high butter content makes the cookie melt in your mouth--even when it's crispy. Speculoos Cookie Recipe: :

All Purpose Flour- 104g (3/4 c)

Cake Flour- 74g (1/2c + 1 1/2 Tablespoon)

Whole Wheat Flour- 74g (1/2c + 1 1/2 Tablespoon)

Baking Soda- 1/4 teaspoon

Cinnamon- 1/2 teaspoon

Salt- scant 1/2 teaspoon

Dark Brown Sugar- 74g (1/3 c lightly packed)

Granulated Sugar- 59g (1/4c + 2 teaspoons)

Honey- 8g (1 heaping teaspoon)

Unsalted butter, at room temp- 177g (6.2 ounces)

  1. Put all purpose flour into a bowl. Sift in wheat and cake flours. Sift in baking soda and cinnamon. Add salt and whisk together.

  2. Combine both sugars in a small bowl and whisk to break up any lumps. Using a fork, stir in the honey.

  3. Place butter in bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Turn to medium-low speed and cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugar mixture and mix for about 2 minutes, until fluffy. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add the dry ingredients in 2 additions, mixing on low speed for 15-30 seconds after each, or until just combined. Scrape the bottom of the bowl to incorporate any dry ingredients that have settled there.

  4. Mound the dough on a work surface. Using the heel of your hand or pastry scraper, push it together into a 4x6 inch block. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, preferable overnight.

  5. Position the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Preheat oven to 325 F. Line two sheet pans with a Silplat or parchment paper. Unwrap the dough.  With a rolling pin, roll out dough, working from left to right, flattening it. Rotate the dough 90 degrees to keep it from sticking to the work surface. Roll to 1/8 inch thick.  Using a cookie cutter, cut out the cookies and arrange them on the prepared sheet pan, leaving 3/4 inch between them.

  6. Bake the cookies until golden brown, 13-15 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking. Set the pans on a cooling rack for 5-10 minutes, then transfer cookies to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Vegetable Stock

So, I'm really into making soup.  This week, I made curried corn chowder.  I have been meaning to try making my own vegetable stock, and I finally got around to it. The entire process of making 6 cups of stock took about 3 hours.  I have not yet decided if it was worth my time, but I am a bit of a "quality control" freak, so I appreciated having control over what went in it.  (all organic veggies, low sodium)

If you are using store bought broth, make sure that it does not have MSG, Monosodium Glutamate, listed in the ingredients.  You often find msg in canned broths or cubes.

You can pretty much use scraps (carrot peels, celery leaves, ends of leeks) to flavor your stock.  Just be cautious of veggies with strong flavors.  Those strong flavors could overwhelm the stock (cabbage, eggplant).

 

Vegetable Stock
Author: Vallery
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 big yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 leek, root and dark green tops removed, chopped
  • 1 big potato, peeled and chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
  • 8 cups water
  • 1 bunch fresh italian parsley
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
  • salt to taste (about 1 teaspoon)
Instructions
  1. Saute the vegetables in the butter and olive oil in a large soup pot over high heat, stirring occasionally to prevent the vegetables from sticking to the pot and burning.  After 5-10 minutes, reduce the heat to medium and cook until the onions are tender and translucent, about 10 minutes.
  2. Return the heat to high.  Add the water, parsley, bay leaves, salt, and peppercorns. Bring to a boil.  Lower the heat and simmer until the water no longer tastes like water, but tastes like broth, at least 2 hours.  Pour the stock through a colander and use right away, or cool it to room temperature before putting in the refrigerator or freezer.

Pâté à choux (Choux Pastry) and Cheese Puffs

Choux pastry is used to make cream puffs, eclairs, and profiteroles.  You can also use choux pastry for a number of savory items, including cheese puff and even gnocchi.
This was my first time working with choux pastry, and we made "cheese puffs."  I made the basic choux pastry, and then I added Swiss cheese to it before I put it in the pastry bag.  The cheese puffs were absolutely delectable and disappeared as soon as I took them out of the oven.

 

 

 

Pâté à choux (Choux Pastry) and Cheese Puffs
Author: Vallery
Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup flour
  • 4 large eggs
Instructions
  1. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the milk, water, butter and salt. Bring to a boil.  Remove the pan from the heat when the butter melts.  Add the flour and stir vigourously with a wooden spoon until blended.
  2. Return the pan to medium heat and continue stirring until the mixture leaves the sides of the pan and forms a ball.  Remove from heat and let cool for 3 minutes, or until 140 degrees F.
  3. Whisk one egg in a small bowl.  Once the batter has cooled, pour the egg into the batter and beat with a spoon until incorporated.  Add the remaining 3 eggs one at a time by whisking each one first and then stirring it into the batter.  Let the paste cool for 10 minutes before shaping.
  4. Position a rack in the center of the oven.  Preheat oven to 425 F.  Line a rimless baking sheet with a silicone mat.  Fit a piping bag with a 5 mm plain tip, and fill the bag with the paste.
  5. For each puff, pipe about 1 teaspoon paste onto the lined baking sheet.  Bake the puffs for 15 minutes.  Then, reduce the heat to 375 F and bake until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and prick the sides to allow the steam to vent.  Return to the oven, leave the door open, and allow the puffs to vent for about 10 minutes.
  6. For cheese puffs: Follow the above recipe, but add 1 cup of Swiss cheese after beating the eggs into the paste.  Stir the cheese into the warm paste, and fill the piping bag with the paste.