Tag-Archive for ◊ Oktoberfest ◊

29 Sep 2016 Pumpkin-Chocolate Cake

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This is the BEST cake to serve at this time of year (or any other time of the year, actually)!  It’s a good chocolate cake – a very, very good chocolate cake; it’s moist, and nicely chocolate-y, and made richer with some pumpkin puree added.  The cake doesn’t taste of pumpkin, it just tastes well-rounded and delicious and the frosting tastes like Fall! There is a touch of cinnamon in the frosting, then the ganache topping is smoothed over the top and dripped down the sides which sends this cake into the realm of ‘One of the Best Cakes EVER’! My daughter, Abby, has been making this cake since she was in high school.  Her friends would ask for it for their birthdays (even for Summer birthdays)!

It goes without saying that this cake takes a bit of time to make and decorate, but if you are thinking of making this cake then you are thinking of making it for a special occasion, right?  The time and effort are worth it and there’s nothing complex or confusing about making this cake, it’s pretty straightforward. And you won’t be serving up a box mix and a can of chemicals to your friends and family, either 🙂

Now, your cake is going to look a bit different than the one above, since this cake was decorated for my witch themed Halloween party. Abby used candy, cupcake toppers, and Pinterest inspiration [to decorate the cake in the picture below] for my Halloween party last year.  Isn’t it cute?

Witches 2013 dessert abby's witch cake

The original recipe came from a Good Housekeeping magazine about, oh, 20 years ago?  I still see pictures from that recipe dancing around.  Don’t believe them!  For some reason in the picture the frosting under the ganache is orange.  I tried to do that and there is no way that I know of to turn a cocoa powder frosting bright orange.  I tried. Many times. It. Can’t.Be.Done. Sigh…

Not all recipes in magazines, cookbooks, newspapers and the Internet will work.  Mine will.  I only post recipes that I’ve tested and have been verified “Delicious!” by a multitude of family members and friends.  Many of my treasured recipes, like this Pumpkin-Chocolate Cake, I have made time and time again. You can do it, too! Make it once for Halloween, and I KNOW you’ll want to make it again for your Thanksgiving potlucks!

PUMPKIN-CHOCOLATE CAKE

For Cake

1 1/2 c. flour
2/3 c. unsweetened cocoa powder (Hershey’s Special Dark is good)
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin
1/2 c. buttermilk
2 tsp. vanilla
3/4 c. butter, softened
1 c. dark brown sugar
1 c. sugar
3 eggs plus one egg yolk
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Line the bottoms of 2 9-inch cake pans with parchment paper and lightly butter (or spray with Pam for Baking).
  • Sift flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt together.
  • In another bowl stir together the pumpkin, buttermilk, and vanilla.
  • In the bowl of an electric mixer beat together the butter and the sugars until light and fluffy.
  • Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, and then the egg yolk.
  • Reduce speed to low and beat in 1/3 flour mixture, and then 1/3 pumpkin mixture.
  • Repeat until all ingredients are used.
  • Pour batter into prepared pans.
  • Bake until cake passes the toothpick test, about 35 minutes.
  • Cool, frost and glaze as directed below.

For Frosting

6 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
6 tablespoons butter (3/4 stick), softened
1 (16-oz.) box powdered sugar
3 T. cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla
2 – 3 T. cream (or milk)
  • Beat cream cheese and butter together until well blended.
  • Stir in powdered sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, and enough cream to make a stiff spreading consistency.
  • Spread 1 cup frosting between the two layers, and use the remaining frosting for the tops and sides.
  • Chill cake for a minimum of 30 minutes before glazing.

For Chocolate Glaze

4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 T. butter
3 T. corn syrup
1/2 c. heavy cream
  • Place chopped chocolate, butter, and corn syrup in a small bowl.
  • Heat heavy cream until boiling.
  • Pour hot cream over chocolate mixture in bowl.
  • Let sit for 3 minutes then blend with whisk until smooth.
  • Let glaze sit for  FOR AT LEAST 5 minutes to thicken slightly (it might be 15-20 minutes–better the glaze be on the thick side rather than the thin side)
  • Pour the glaze on top of the chilled and frosted cake. Smooth out glaze to edges, and then let drip down the sides.
  • Refrigerate to set glaze.
08 Mar 2014 Kipferls (Vanilla Hazelnut Butter Cookies)

kipferl2

I had never, ever heard of Kipferls before.  Then, in two weeks they came into my life twice!  First, my friend Priscilla made some in the Culinary School Pastry Arts program she is enrolled in. I didn’t try one because I don’t like nuts.  I dislike nuts so much that the name of the cookie didn’t even register.  Then I read “The Book Thief” and Kipferls are important in one chapter.  Since I was hosting book club this month and since the author had contributed his mother’s recipe for Kipferls to “The Book Club Cookbook” that my friend Kayte  gave me for my birthday last year, I decided to make the cookie. I had to do a Google image search to see what they looked like! Then came the hunt for Hazelnut Flour.  It’s out there. I found it at Sprouts.  I was shocked by the price.  I told the cashier that there must have been a mistake.  She said she doubted it.  I asked her to call for a manager for a price check.  YEP.  She was right.  There was no mistake.  It’s $16.95 for a 14 oz. packet of Hazelnut Flour (aka Hazelnut Meal). After creating such a fuss, and with my book club in less than seven hours, I bought the dangblasted expensive and pitifully small bag of Hazelnut Flour. BTW, you don’t have to buy this flour to make these cookies.

How to avoid using expensive Hazelnut Flour:

1. Make your own.  Preheat oven to 350°F. Place 6 ounces (1 1/4 cups) of shelled hazelnuts on a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake 8–10 minutes, stirring occasionally until the hazelnuts are fragrant and brown. Remove the nuts from the  oven and let cool slightly. While still warm, though, fold the nuts inside a clean kitchen towel and rub vigorously to remove their skins. Place skinned nuts in a food processor fitted with the stainless-steel blade, and process until they are finely ground.

2. Substitute Almond Flour or Almond Meal for the Hazelnut Flour.  Almond Meal is about one-third the price of Hazelnut flour.  My German friend Karin said she always makes her Kipferls with Almond Meal, but her German relatives grind their own nuts.

To continue with my saga…Upon returning home with my $16.95 package of Hazelnut Flour, I got out the recipe and got started.  No! Two vanilla beans?  TWO?  For 36 cookies?  It is now clear to me that I am making World’s Most Expensive Cookie and I am thinking these better be good.  (They were, thank goodness. So good I might have to make them again, and again, and again…)

This recipe is based upon Markus Zusak’s recipe for Kipferls as published in The Book Club Cookbook.  I made some changes to the method and to the ingredients.  Mr. Zusak’s mother mixed her dough by hand, I tried it for a bit, then resorted to my electric mixer.  I split the use of the vanilla beans, putting one in the cookie and one in the powdered sugar, Mr. Zusak put both in the powdered sugar. I had to quadruple the amount of powdered sugar to cover all the cookies, and I covered the cookies with the powdered sugar while the cookies were still warm* so get a crackly, almost melted sugar coating on the cookies. (*Let the cookies cool a little, to firm up a bit.  If you toss hot cookies in powdered sugar, the cookie will break.)

Kipferls

Crisp German Vanilla Hazelnut Butter Cookies

For the cookies

  • 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ¼ cups Hazelnut Flour or Hazelnut Meal or alternative (see above)
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 14 tablespoons (1 ¾ sticks) butter, at room temperature
  • 1 whole vanilla bean, split in half, and insides scraped off with a knife.  Discard the outside of the vanilla bean

For the vanilla sugar

  • 1 1/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 whole vanilla bean, cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces (different preparation than above)
  1. Make the vanilla sugar first.  Place the powdered sugar with the chopped up vanilla bean in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade.  Process until the vanilla bean has been incorporated into the powdered sugar, several 10 second bursts.  Place a fine meshed sifter over a small bowl and sift the powdered sugar to remove the unblended pieces of vanilla bean.  Pour vanilla sugar into a large Ziploc bag. Set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray two baking sheets lightly with cooking spray or line with parchment paper.
  3. Combine all purpose flour, hazelnut flour/meal, and granulated sugar in a large bowl. Cut butter into 1/2-inch pieces and add to flour mixture. Scrape the inside out of the split vanilla bean and add to bowl.  With an electric mixer, mix dough for 3-4 minutes or until a soft dough is formed.
  4. Pinch off small pieces of dough (1 T; 1/2 oz; 15 grams) and mold gently between your palms to form 3-inch ropes, thicker in the middle and tapered at the ends.   This took a bit of doing to master.  I rolled the dough to the length of my three middle fingers.  I rolled the dough a bit more firmly with my ring and index finger so the ends of the dough would be thinner. Fashion each piece of rolled dough into a crescent shape and place onto the prepared trays, see picture above.
  5. Bake in preheated 350º oven for 15-20 minutes or just until the cookies are beginning to turn brown.  Mr. Kusak says that once the Kipferls are brown, they are over cooked.
  6. Remove cookies from oven.  Cool just slightly and then toss into the Ziploc bag with the vanilla sugar–tossing the cookies while they are still hot creates a slightly melted-on, and truly special coating.  Toss  cookies in vanilla sugar.
  7. Remove cookie to a cooling tray and repeat with remaining cookies and vanilla sugar.  If you have vanilla sugar left over, you can re-coat the cookies.
  8. Let cool completely before eating. The cookies will crisp up as they cool.

 Yield: About 3 ½ dozen cookies

Kipferls1

I hope you enjoy the World’s Most Expensive Cookie!  They ARE good and worth the cost and the effort. Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today!

PS…I am making another batch of these cookies to take to a Tahoe retreat this weekend.  One bag of that dangblasted expensive Hazelnut Flour does make three batches of these cookies…AND, Costco sells vanilla beans now.  Note my friend Sally’s point, put the vanilla beans in the powdered sugar as soon as you get them.  Once you are ready to make the cookies, remove the beans and use as outlined above.  The benefit is that some of the essence of the vanilla beans will have soaked into the sugar…yummmmm.

02 Mar 2014 Black Forest Torte (Black Forest Cake)

BookThief-torte

Once a year I host a book club meeting at my house.  My night was last night.  The book was “The Book Thief” so the theme was German food.  Thanks to input from the Internet, I decided to make a “Black Forest Torte” for dessert.  I found a recipe posted on Food.com by a “real German lady”, and decided to make it, with no advance practice session (I know, living on the edge!).

The cake was a delicious show-stopper.  Just look at that picture! I haven’t made too many show-stopper cakes before so I was quite thrilled with the way this one turned out.  PHEW! And I’d like to extend a big, grateful ‘danke’ to the “real German lady” 🙂

I made a few changes to the recipe, of course:  I used pitted sour cherries from a jar, rather than fresh cherries (they’re not in season right now), and I used butter, rather than shortening, in the cake batter. I also made two 9.5 inch cake layers instead of the three 9-inch layers specified in the original recipe (I really dislike 3 layer cakes).  I modified the mixing method for the cake. I used espresso powder, rather than cold brewed espresso, in the filling and adjusted the amount of Kirsch in the filling as well. I upped the whipped cream frosting by 50%.

Now, if you make this cake, you’ll need to start three days in advance and, please, DO make this cake!

  • Day 1: Drain the cherries and soak in Kirsh.
  • Day 2: Make the chocolate layer cakes, soak the cakes in the Kirsch drained from the (now boozy) cherries.  Make the filling and assemble the layers one on top of the other.  Refrigerate overnight.
  • Day 3: Make the chocolate curls and the whipped cream frosting. An hour or two before serving, decorate the cake with the whipped cream, reserved cherries, and chocolate curls. Serve!
  • Day 4: The leftovers are yummy! I called four friends over for tea, and they all accepted, enjoyed the cake, and took slices home for their husbands!  (So far, I have cut sixteen slices from this cake, and there is one slice left in the refrigerator for my 23 year old twins to fight over.

 Black Forest Torte

Cake

  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour (8 oz)
  • 2/3 cup cocoa powder (I had Hershey’s on hand, so that’s what I used)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk

Mocha Buttercream Filling

  • 1/2 cup kirsch
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  •  1 1/2 teaspoons instant  espresso powder
  • 2 jars of pitted sour cherries, drained (I got mine at Trader Joes-1 1/2 lbs each, most supermarkets have  1 lb. cans of cherries in the canned fruit section) OR 1 1/2 lbs fresh black cherries, pitted

Whipped Cream Frosting

  • 3 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2-3 tablespoons  kirsch
  • 2 tablespoons dry milk powder (optional, but helps with stability of whipped cream icing)
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar

Chocolate Garnish

  • One large, 3.5-4 oz. dark chocolate bar, grated or curled

DIRECTIONS

  1.  Drain the cherries then soak them in 1/2 cup Kirsch overnight. Discard the cherry juice UNLESS you want to make a non-alcoholic cake.  If you want a non-alcoholic cake (like, if children will be eating it) use the cherry juice  from the cherries instead of the Kirsch and proceed as outlined below.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350°F
  3. Drain the cherries from the Kirsh.  RESERVE the liquid!  Most of the liquid will be poured over the hot cakes. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the liquid for the filling.
  4. Line the bottom of two 9 inch round cake pans with parchment. Spray the sides with “Pam for Baking”, or grease with a bit of butter or oil.
  5. Sift the dry cake ingredients together and set aside.
  6. With an electric mixer beat the shortening to soften, then add the sugar.  Beat for six minutes or until the shortening-sugar mixture is light and fluffy.
  7. Add the eggs, one at a time and mix well.  Stir in the vanilla.
  8. Add one-third of the dry ingredients to the sugar mixture and beat to combine. Add half of the buttermilk. Beat to combine. Add another one-third of the dry ingredients and beat to combine.  Add remaining buttermilk.  Beat to combine.  Finally, add the last of the dry ingredients and beat well. alternately with the buttermilk and mix well.
  9. Pour batter into the prepared cake pans.
  10. Bake in preheated 350 oven for approx. 25 minutes or until a cake springs back when touched.
  11. Remove the cakes from the oven.  Leave the cakes in the pans and immediately and slowly, pour some of the reserved Kirsch-cherry juice mixture over both cakes. Let the Kirsch soak in, then repeat until all but 2 tablespoons of the Kirsch-cherry liquid has been used. (The remaining 2 tablespoons liquid will be used in the filling)
  12. Let the cakes cool in their pans.
  13. Make the filling. With an electric mixer  beat the butter until light and creamy. Add the powdered sugar, salt, espresso powder, and 2 tablespoons Kirsch-Cherry juice and beat well for 3 or 4 minutes. If the filling is too thick add some extra Kirsch, cherry juice, or cream (add only an extra 1/2 tsp. at a time). The filling should be spreadable, but firm.
  14. Place the base layer on cake plate.  Spread filling over top, then cover with drained cherries (save some good, firm, pretty cherries to go on top of the cake as decoration). I took the time to place each cherry in concentric layers, which I think helped with the stability of the cake. Add the second cake on top of the filling and cherries on the first layer.  Push down a bit to secure a firm fit between the layers.
  15. Cover the cake  and let sit in refrigerator overnight for the flavors to meld.
  16. A few hours before serving place the whipping cream, powdered sugar, Kirsch, vanilla, and optional dry milk powder in the bowl of an electric mixer. Whip the cream until it forms stiff peaks.
  17. Spread the whipped cream frosting over all of the cake. Decorate the sides first, then the top.  If you want to be fancy, put some of the whipping cream in a Ziploc or a piping bag and pipe rosettes or swirls around top and bottom of cake.
  18. Pat the reserved cherries dry, and then place in a pretty design on top of the cake.
  19. Grate the chocolate bar or use a vegetable peeler to make chocolate curls. Gently, and decoratively  press handfuls of the grated chocolate onto the sides of the cake.
  20. Store cake in refrigerator until an hour or so before serving.  Serve and enjoy.  (You should get about 16 generous slices from this cake.)

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today, and I hope there is a Special Occasion coming up soon so you can make this cake.  It’s a keeper!

Just in case you are wondering, and in case you are reading this because you’ll also be hosting a book club meeting based upon “The Book Thief”, I also made Kipferls. Kipferls, which are significant in the book, were left by the window for people to take home (just like in the book).  I’ll posted that recipe, too, since they were soooooo good (but soooooo expensive to make, more about that later). My book club does snacks and dessert. For snacks I had a bowl of apples, German bread with cheese and liverwurst, and soft pretzels with a beer-mustard-cheese dip (no picture of the pretzels and dip) and Stollen! To drink, we had champagne, of course.  Those of you who read the book know why.

BookThief-snacks

15 Oct 2011 Pumpkin Spice Coffee

It took two years, but FINALLY, I have a Pumpkin Spice Coffee recipe that is delicious and…, wait for it…, better (yes, BETTER!) than Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte!  I don’t make this assertion casually.  I had taste tests.  With friends.  Eleven taste testers.  This Pumpkin  Spice Coffee won over Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte.  The coffee was made with an easy, homemade Pumpkin Spice Syrup. I found the recipe at Budding Baketress (after been tipped off by Foodgawker)!  Thank you, thank you! I made no ingredient changes, I just refined the method.

Now about the taste tests.  We tested a Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte, a Latte with Torani Pumpkin Spice syrup, a Latte with this Pumpkin Spice syrup, and coffee with this Pumpkin Spice syrup.  The hands down winner? The COFFEE with this homemade syrup!  The COFFEE!  The Torani syrup Pumpkin Spice Latte was set aside immediately.  Yuck. There is something in that syrup that was just NOT good.  I poured the bottle down the drain.  I wasn’t go to try it in anything else, and I wasn’t going to pass it on to anyone.  I was hoping we would find something close to the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte (because I love, love– correction–loved, Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte, but after the taste test…the Starbucks version was set aside, TOO!  BTW, have you ever looked at the Starbuck’s Pumpkin Spice Latte?  Taken the top off,  eaten the whipped cream and looked? There is some nasty orange slime floating on top of the latte which is not at all appetizing….but even if there were no slime, homemade Pumpkin Spice syrup would win anyway.  YES, it’s true, bye-bye Starbucks!

Next in our taste testing,  we tried this homemade syrup in a latte, and then in coffee.  The coffee won!  We liked the stronger coffee flavor to compliment the complex pumpkiny-spicy deliciousness.  What a HUGE surprise!

Here is the recipe for the Pumpkin Spice Syrup, and the recipe for a batch of Pumpkin Spice Coffee which can be made to serve at parties, meetings or family get-togethers this fall,.  Of course, the syrup can also be used on a one cup of coffee at a time basis.  I have included directions for all three below.

Pumpkin Spice Syrup for Coffee

  • 1/3 cup pumpkin puree (fresh or canned)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  1. In a small saucepan, combine pumpkin puree with vanilla and spices.  Stir well to combine.  Add in water, stir well.
  2. Bring pumpkin mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer, stirring occasionally until it becomes syrup-y and begins to coat the spoon (about 10-15 minutes).
  3. Remove from heat. Cool. Then refrigerate until needed.

To make a batch of Pumpkin Spice Coffee

  • 1 cups of syrup
  • 2 cups of milk
  • 4 cups of very strong, hot, coffee
  • whipped cream, optional
  • sprinkles or ground nutmeg, optional
  1. While the coffee is brewing, heat milk with syrup.
  2. Blend with an immersion blender (or in a blender, or with a whisk).  Can be made ahead and refrigerated until ready to use.  Re-heat and re-blend then continue as directed below.
  3. Stir hot coffee into milk-pumpkin syrup mixture.  (I usually blend a bit more at this point, but it’s probably not necessary).
  4. Pour into cups.  Top with whipped cream, and maybe some sprinkles or ground nutmeg, if desired.  MMMMMMm (You can set a small pitcher of extra syrup out in case some people like a stronger/sweeter Pumpkin Spice Coffee).
  5. Makes approx. 6 servings.

To make one cup of Pumpkin Spice Coffee

This is up to you! Start with a cup of strong, hot coffee.  Stir in 1-2 T. pumpkin syrup, to taste.  Add hot milk, or 1/2 and 1/2 or whipping cream…what appeals to you?  Stir well.  If desired, top with some whipped cream and some ground nutmeg or sprinkles. Remaining Pumpkin Spice Syrup can be stored in the refrigerator.

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today, and not by Starbucks!  You’ll find it cheaper to make your Pumpkin Spiced Coffees at home. And you might be surprised by how much better they taste, too! I was, and I am a loyal,  long time Starbucks aficionado.

21 Oct 2010 Soft Pretzel Bites

Time to play in the kitchen again! I am not a newbie to homemade soft pretzels.  My favorite bread machine cookbook “Bread Machine Magic” has a recipe for “Special Ed-ible Pretzels” on page 158 which I have been making since my kids were in elementary school (they are in college now).

I had never made pretzel bites until I stumbled onto this post at Two Peas and their Pod. I made the recipe, but the pretzels didn’t taste as good as I was used to.  So I got out my old “Special Ed-ible Pretzel” recipe and combined the best of both, to get these.  My family, and some of my son’s friends, ate both batches. Both were good, but they liked this batch the best.  The changes I made to the Two Peas recipe were: amount of baking soda in the water (down from 3/4 cup to 2 1/2 T), using 2 tsp. white sugar instead of 1 T. brown sugar, replacing the egg wash with a brush of butter, doubling the yeast, and halving the recipe.

Polly’s Notes: This recipe can be successfully doubled (since I successfully halved it!).  Dips would be good to serve, but I haven’t made any yet. Two Peas has a recipe for a cheddar cheese dip, but I did not test it. If you know how to make a pizza sauce dip, that would go well too.  And since we are in Oktoberfest season, mustard might be good but, there is nothing wrong with eating these “plain”  in their basic buttery, salty goodness, which is what we do. Pretzel bites should be eaten warm. They don’t keep well at all.

Soft Pretzel Bites

3/4 cup warm tap water (110 to 115 degrees)
2 tsp white sugar
4 tsp vegetable oil (or melted butter)
2 tsp. yeast
2 cups flour
1 ½ tsp. Kosher salt (or ¾ tsp table salt)
10 cups boiling water
2 ½ T. baking soda
1 T. melted butter
Kosher salt

Combine water, sugar, yeast and oil in a bowl.  Stir to combine, and then let sit for 5 minutes.  Add the flour and the salt to the bowl of an electric mixer.  Pour in the yeast mixture, stir to combine then beat with a dough hook for 3 -5 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.  If your dough seems a bit wet, add additional flour 1 T. at a time.  Place dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set in warm place to rise for about 60 minutes, or until dough has doubled in volume.  Preheat oven to 425º.  Bring the water and the baking soda to a boil over high heat, then reduce to a simmer.  Meanwhile, divide dough into 4 equal sized pieces.  Roll each piece into a rope, about 12 inches long.  Cut dough into 1 inch slices.  Rest slices on a rack over a baking sheet.  You should have about 48 pretzel bites.

Boil the pretzels bits in the simmering water, adding 10 – 12 bites to the water at a time.  Boil each batch for 30 seconds, stirring gently.  With a slotted spoon remove boiled bites to rack to dry slightly.  Sprinkle each bite generously with Kosher salt then place on a well greased cookie sheet.  Bake in 425º oven for approximately 15 minutes or until lightly browned.  Brush baked bites with melted butter.  Add a bit more salt, if desired.

Wait five minutes, then these bites are ready to be devoured.

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today. Have some fun, invite some kids over and play in the kitchen! I’d be interested in hearing what sort of dip, if any, you served these with.

05 Sep 2010 Blasted Sausages

Holy Moly, this recipe delivers in both taste and presentation. The original recipe stated this is a traditional Tuscan harvest dish, but I know I have never run across anything like this before (not that I have ever been to Tuscany…).  I found this recipe in “150 Best American Recipes”, but I changed it up a bit to suit my taste (and reduced the quantities to serve a small crowd, rather than a whole village).  Now’s the time to make this recipe.  The grape harvest is in.

My son came home from college last night for a quick 36 hour visit.  I almost fainted when he asked me to teach him to cook something while he was here.  Did he REALLY say that?  Be still my heart! Lucky for him, I had been wanting to make this recipe and had all the ingredients on hand.  This is an easy-easy recipe, a great one for newbie 19 year old cooks (and stretched-to-the-max parents of small children, and older folk who are tired of cooking but still want to eat well…)

I just had to give my son the MamaBear warnings about how HOT pans are after being in a 500 degree oven.  I’ll remind you, too.  Use thick pot holders. Be careful. Have fun with this.  It’s truly delicious.  If I had a Bistro, this would definitely be on the menu.

Blasted Sausages and Grapes

1 1/2 lbs Sweet Italian Sausages (usually 6)
1 can beer (or water)
3 T. butter,melted
1 lb red seedless grapes, stemmed
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Rustic mashed potatoes (recipe summary included in body of recipe)

Preheat oven to 500 degrees.

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat cover the sausages with beer or water and parboil for 8 minutes to rid sausages of excess fat. Drain.

Pour melted butter into a baking pan (or a large ovenproof skillet). Add the grapes to the pan and toss to coat with the melted butter. Place the sausages in the pan with the grapes and butter.  Push the sausages down into the grapes.

Put the roasting pan or skillet with the grapes and sausages into 500 degrees for 12 minutes. Turn sausages over, and roast for an additional 12 minutes. (While the sausages are cooking, make some Rustic Mashed Potatoes.  Cube one russet potato for each guest, do not peel.  Put cubed potatoes in a pan of salted water and bring to a boil.  Boil for approx 20 minutes (could be longer if your potato cubes are larger).  When potatoes are soft, drain and place in large mixing bowl.  Add 1T of butter to mixing bowl for each potato.  Whip potatoes and butter lightly together with an electric mixer. Pour in 1T. milk, cream or sour cream for each potato.  Whip again.  Rustic Mashed Potatoes should remain a bit lumpy. Taste, then add as much salt and pepper as needed.)

With a slotted spoon remove sausages to serving platter.  Top or surround the sausages with the cooked grapes. Retain the pan juices in the bottom of the pan and move to a small saucepan.  Stir in  2 tablespoons of good balsamic vinegar.  Cook juices and vinegar over medium-high heat until the mixture is thick and syrupy. Drizzle the sauce over the sausages and serve immediately with the Rustic Mashed Potatoes.

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today.  Your visits help lift my spirits, as did the weather. I am always glad to open the door to you and close the door on summer. It’s going to be Fall soon, my very, very, very favorite season of the year. Enjoying a plate of Blasted Sausages and Roasted Grapes is a great way to celebrate.