Gratin Dauphinois – Potato Gratin Dauphin Style

Gratin Dauphinois

I love gratin dauphinois.  I’m kind of obsessed with it.  I remember as a kid, seeing the commercial’s for Betty Crocker’s Scalloped potatoes, and thinking, why won’t my mom make this for me?  (It’s the same feeling I had for the snoopy sno cone machine.)  No matter how much I begged and pleaded, my mother would NOT make scalloped potatoes, nor did they ever purchase the sno cone machine for me.  (I swear, I still want one.  And and easy bake oven).

But I digress.  When I started to cook myself, I made this.  Wow.  I was mystified at the fact that something so easy could be so good.  It really is a sophisticated dish, fragrant and flavorful.  Decadent, warm and seriously addictive.  Because I had left over sliced potatoes from Saturday nights dinner, I made this to go with the Osso Buco, which I will post tomorrow.

So, if you are so inclined to indulge, here’s what you’re going to need:

1 clove of garlic, minced

3/4 cup milk

6 tbsp heavy cream

1 lb russet potatoes, sliced thinly with a mandoline

Salt and White Pepper to taste

2 pinches of cinnamon

4 pinches of freshly grated nutmeg

Preheat oven to 375F (190C).  Add the garlic, milk and cream to a large saucepan and bring to a boil.  Add the sliced potatoes, salt and spices.  Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring and coating the potatoes carefully.

Butter a baking dish.  Add the potatoes and smooth the top.  Bake until golden brown, about 45-50 minutes.  Serve hot!

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

 

Miniature Apple Pies with Thyme

Miniature Apple Pies

Ahhh, Autumn is fast arriving here in Barcelona, and for me it is one of the most special times of year.  As the days get shorter and the heat of Summer fades away, my mind wanders to longer, warmer food.  There certainly is nothing better than the smells of apples and spices emanating from your kitchen.

I have never been a big apple lover, but for some reason, apples that are baked are truly scrumptious.  A flaky crust, moist and tender, filled to the brim with those soft and delicious apples.  Served warm with some vanilla ice cream, it’s a decadent treat that will please everyone!!

For my last dinner party, I made these miniature versions.  I don’t have a beautiful pie tin, so I opted for giving everyone a mini pie.  It’s a perfect little serving.  And so easy to bake, it bakes in a cupcake tin, and they pop right out when you’re done!

Miniature Apple PiesI had lots of fun creating different tops, so feel free to let your imagination run wild.  I created a lattice top, and then I have the lovely Williams Sonoma Leaf cut outs, which I used on another, and lastly, I used a large frosting tip to create small holes.

Miniature Apple Pies

 

So have fun with them, no matter how you decided to decorate the tops, they are guaranteed to be delicious!

So here’s what you’re going to need:

Serves 12

For the Short Crust Pastry:

250g All purpose Flour

150g unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small cubes

1 tsp salt

1 egg

1 tbsp milk

In a large bowl, measure out your flour.  Add the butter and crumble with the tips of your fingers, until your flour looks like wet sand, and all the butter has been incorporated.   Add the egg, salt and milk, with your hands, mix and knead until a firm dough forms.  Roll into a ball, cover with plastic wrap, flatten into a disc and refrigerate for at least one hour.

For the filling:

5 mixed apples, such as Golden Delicious or Gala, cut into 1 inch cubes

125g butter

1/4 cup brown sugar

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

1/2 tsp ground cloves

1/2 tsp ground allspice

1/4 tsp salt

Black pepper to taste

1 sprig of Thyme, leaves detached

3 tbsp water

1 egg, beaten

In a large pot, add all your ingredients except for the egg, and cook, about 20 minutes, until the apples are tender and the filling has thickened.  Let cool.

To assemble the pies:

Pre-heat oven to 190C.  Cut the dough in half, on a lightly floured work surface roll out the dough until 1/4 inch thick.  If the dough gets too sticky, then just refrigerate it for another 15 minutes until it is easy to work with again.

Break out your cupcake tin, and get a biscuit cutter or glass that is slightly bigger than the circumference of the circles on your tin.  Cut out the base of the pastry and place in the cupcake tins.  Then grab a bowl or something similar (look at the picture above) that is slightly larger than what you used to cut the base, and cut out the tops.  Now, decided what shapes you want to cut out, holes, lattice, etc.

Add the filling to the base, and brush the rims with a bit of the beaten egg, and then add the top of the crust and press to seal tightly.  Brush the tops of the pies with the egg wash, and add a little sugar to the tops if you want.

Bake in the oven in the middle rack for about 30-35 minutes. Remove from the tin and let cool on a wire rack.  Serve warm with some vanilla ice cream.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

 

 

 

Baked figs with cinnamon, vanilla honey and greek yogurt

Baked FigsMy father’s side of my family is from Egypt, Syria and Turkey.  Ever since I can remember, at our family reunions there was always an abundance of home-made Baklava, Mamoul, dates, and figs.  And this dessert is what taught me to love figs.

Normally, you find those dried figs that look a little daunting, but delicious none the less.  Fortunately, my family had a love affair with fresh figs, and this was the dessert that was made for extra-special occasions.  And let me tell you, it is an incredibly delicious and seductive dessert.

Figs are delicious on their own, but paired with cinnamon, honey, vanilla, baked and then a dollop of greek yogurt, they become sublime.

This is a ridiculously easy dessert, and one that will shine at your next dinner party, or even just to make for a simple weeknight’s dinner.  Trust me.  You will make this over, and over again!

So here’s what you’re going to need:

Serves 4

12 fresh figs

4 cinnamon sticks, each one cut in 3 pieces to make 12 in total

1 vanilla bean

2 tbsp sugar

3-4 tbsp honey

Greek yogurt

Pre-heat the oven to 200 C.  Wash the figs, and cut them in a cross form, leaving the bottom intact.  Place in a large baking dish and  insert a cinnamon stick into each fig.

In a small bowl, place the 2 tbsp sugar.  Cut the vanilla lengthwise, and scrape the seeds into the sugar, and mix well.  Sprinkle the vanilla sugar over the figs.  Then drizzle the honey over the figs.

Bake for 15-20 minutes.  Place 3 figs in a bowl with some of the honey from the baking dish, and add a dollop of the greek yogurt.  Repeat for the remaining figs.

Place the honey and rest of the greek yogurt in bowls so everyone can help themselves to more if they want.

Baked figs in honey

 

 

Cinnamon Raisin Walnut Bread

As a kid, I remember I would get so excited when my mom would bring home a loaf of Pepperidge Farm Cinnamon Raisin bread.  I remember smelling the slice before she put it in the toaster, how that cinnamon goodness would perfume the whole kitchen as I slowly waited those two minutes that felt like an eternity for the toast to spring up, and then another 30 seconds for her to smear some butter on it.

Last time I was in the States, I bought some, to relive my childhood memories, but I was very disappointed, quite frankly.  The bread was rather dry, and dull.   The smell was more enticing than the actual taste, and the raisins are almost miniscule!  It was a disaster.

As I have mentioned before, I have this amazing book called The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, which I turn to almost weekly to churn out an amazing recipe every time I use it.  This time was no different, when I decided to make this Cinnamon Raisin Walnut bread.   It is fairly easy, if you have a stand up mixer, and all you really need is time on your side.  So, it’s probably best if you tackle this recipe on a weekend, so that way you can have lots of options for breakfast.

I had these wonderful sultanas that I bought a while ago,

these aren’t your regular weeny raisins.  They are about an inch long, and super juicy and sweet.  If you can find some in your local grocery store, I highly recommend you make this bread with these.  My daughter, who isn’t a fan of raisins, or walnuts for that matter, asked for a piece of bread after it had come out of the oven.  I asked her to wait the requisite hour before slicing.  When she finally got her slice, she said to me “Mom, this is one of your recipes that should be illegal”.  She had about three more slices after that.

Need I say more?

So here’s what you’re going to need:

Makes 2 loaves

Adapted from The Bread Baker’s apprentice

3.5 cups unbleached bread flour

4 tsp granulated sugar

1/4 tsp salt

2 tsp instant yeast

1 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1 large egg, slightly beaten

2 tbsp shortening, melted or at room temperature

1/2 cup buttermilk or whole milk, at room temperature

3/4 cup water, at room temperature

1 1/2 cups raisins, rinsed and drained

1 cup walnuts, chopped

Stir together the flour, sugar, salt, yeast and cinnamon in a mixing bowl (or in the bowl of an electric mixer).  Add the egg, shortening, buttermilk and water.  Stir together with a large spoon (or mix on low-speed with the paddle attachment) until the ingredients come together and form a ball.  Adjust with flour or water if the dough seems too sticky or too dry and stiff.

Sprinkle flour on a counter, transfer the dough to the counter, and begin kneading (or mixing on medium speed, switching to the dough hook).  The dough should be soft and pliable, tacky but not sticky.  Add flour as you knead (or mix), if necessary, to acheive this texture.  Knead by hand approximately 10 minutes (or by machine for 6 to 8 minutes).  Sprinkle in the raisins and walnuts during the final two minutes of kneading (or mixing) to distribute them evenly and to avoid crushing them too much.  (If you are mixing by machine, you may have to finish kneading by hand to distribute the raisins and walnuts evenly.)  Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it to coat it with oil.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

Ferment at room temperature for approximately 2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size.

Divide the dough into 2 equal pieces and form them into loaves.

Place each loaf in a lightly oiled 8.5 inch by 4.5 inch pan, mist the tops with spray oil, and cover loosely with plastic wrap.

Proof at room temperature for 60 to 90 minutes, or until the dough crests above the lips of the pans and is nearly doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 350F (180C) with the oven rack on the middle shelf.  Place the loaf pans on a sheet pan, making sure they are not touching each other.

Bake the loaves for 20 minutes.  Rotate 180 degrees for even baking and continue baking another 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the oven.  The finished breads should be golden brown on top and lightly golden on the sides and bottom.  They should make a hollow sound when thumped on the bottom.

Immediately remove the breads from their pans and cool on a rack for at least an hour, preferably 2 hours, before slicing or serving.

*Note:  To add flavor brush the tops of the baked loaves with melted butter as soon as they come out of the bread pans, and then roll them in cinnamon sugar.  When the bread cools, the top will have an additional sweet and crunchy flavor burst!

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla