Monday, March 29, 2010

Glazed Baked Ham

Serving a baked ham on Easter is as traditional as serving a turkey on Thanksgiving. To a novice cook, this maybe seem like a daunting task, but there's really nothing to it. Just plan ahead, marinate it for a while, then pop it in the oven! Simple, right? It turns out great every time! Of course, I love a super sweet glaze, but you can adjust the amounts of the sweet ingredients to suit your own taste.
You can do this!

1 tbs prepared mustard
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup pineapple juice
cracked black pepper
one fully cooked ham, about 5 or 6 lbs

In a large bowl or large oven bag, combine the mustard, honey, brown sugar, pineapple juice and pepper. Place the ham in the marinade, turn to coat well, and let marinate for several hours or overnight in refrigerator. Turn frequently to keep ham coated with marinade.
Preheat the oven to 350°. Remove ham from bowl or large bag. Place the ham on a rack in a roasting pan, reserving marinade for basting. Bake the ham, basting frequently with the reserved marinade, until a meat thermometer (not touching the bone) reads about 140°, or about 10 minutes per pound.

This recipe lends itself to any number of variations. Add or switch any of the ingredients and add your favorite flavors.
Try maple syrup instead of the honey for a maple glazed ham.
Instead of pineapple juice, try orange juice or even pomegranate juice.
To make it a little more savory, add a minced clove of garlic and about 1/2 cup dry red wine to the marinade.
For a decorative presentation, score the ham with a sharp knife in a criss cross pattern before placing it in the oven.

Easy Oreo Truffles

I was recently talking to Mary Beth about the recipe for Cake Balls, and she said "Oh! They look just like Oreo Truffles!" Wait, what????? I had never heard of them, and when she told me how to make them, I thought "Why have I never heard of this????" This is another one of those "how can this not be good" recipes. I described them to Daniel and he said "There isn't enough milk in the world for that!" He cracks me up.
Well, yes, there IS enough milk in the world for this and you simply MUST try them. They're SO delicious. If I had to describe them, I'd say they taste like little pieces of Oreo fudge. Heavenly!

36 OREO chocolate sandwich cookies
1 8oz pkg PHILADELPHIA cream cheese, softened
16 oz semisweet dipping chocolate

Crush cookies to fine crumbs; place in medium bowl. Add cream cheese; mix until well blended. Roll cookie mixture into 42 balls, about 1-inch in diameter.
Dip balls in chocolate; place on wax paper-covered baking sheet. (Any leftover chocolate can be stored at room temperature for another use.)
Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour. Store leftover truffles, covered, in refrigerator.

I found it easiest to just throw all the cookies into a food processor and then pulse them into fine crumbs. Once all the cookies were crushed, I added the cream cheese and processed the mixture again until it was thoroughly combined.

You only need about 3 cups of cookie crumbs, which is about 36 cookies. You'll have several cookies leftover from the 16oz package. You can either pour yourself a glass of milk and enjoy the extra cookies while you're rolling truffles, or you can crush them separately and then sprinkle the finished truffles with Oreo crumbs just before the chocolate sets.

To easily dip truffles:
Place truffle ball in melted chocolate and turn to coat. Lift truffle from chocolate using 2 forks (this will allow excess chocolate to run off) before placing on parchment paper.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Sausage Parmigiana

Sometimes the best meals are the simplest. You don't need to spend hours in the kitchen with a million ingredients in order to come up with a fabulous dinner. This is so easy, it's barely even a recipe. It's perfect for a mid-week meal or whenever you're a little short on time. A little sauce, a few sausages, some cheese, and you're good to go. Simple, right?

Italian sausage, hot or mild (or both!)
Joey's Favorite Marinara Sauce, or your favorite jarred sauce, or your own
shredded mozzarella cheese, as much as you like

Heat oven to 350F.
Cut sausage into lengths of 3 or 4 inches. Grill or fry until browned on all sides. Pour a little marinara sauce into a shallow casserole dish. Place browned sausages in casserole. Top with a little more sauce. Place in oven for about 20 minutes or until cooked through. Top with shredded cheese. Place in oven for about 10-15 minutes longer, just until cheese is melted and bubbly. Serve on fresh bakery rolls or with a side of pasta and some Garlic Bread.

I like to use an electric indoor grill. Since it cooks everything from the top and bottom at the same time, it's done in a fraction of the time it would take to cook in a regular skillet.
When you brown the sausage, you don't have to worry about cooking it all the way through. It'll finish cooking in the oven.
I like to leave it in the oven for a little extra time, because it makes the cheese slightly golden and brown around the edges. Love it!
Try this with meatballs too!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Joey's Baking Tips

I never really thought of baking as a remarkable "skill" until I realized how many people simply don't do it. My Mom always baked, everyone in my family bakes, so I always thought this was the norm. It wasn't until a grammar school cake sale that I realized that we seemed to be the exception to the rule. Of course, I brought one of my Mom's cakes to donate to the cake sale. When I asked why my Mom's cake was priced higher than all the rest, they said it was because "This was a cake made from SCRATCH." I had never even heard that expression before, and when they explained it, I thought, "Wait, how else do you make a cake?" I also remember my Mom and my Aunt Bet would always donate cakes to bake sales and then would buy them back. I remember Aunt Bet saying "Well, why would I want to buy someone else's cake? Mine is the best one there!" Too funny.
When I became an adult, I seemed to have a growing reputation as the guy who bakes, and luckily I have a family of friends who are always willing to be my taste testers for new recipe attempts. Before I knew it, people were calling and asking me for baking advice, very much the same way I used to call my Mom for advice.
Here are a few simple baking tips that I learned from Mom and from trial and error. I hope you'll find them to be useful, and just maybe you'll be inspired to give it a try!

1. Follow the recipe.
Wait, let me say that again. FOLLOW THE RECIPE!
This was the first piece of advice my Mother ever gave me about baking.
Even if you read the recipe and you think "Well, it would be easier or faster if I did it THIS way instead..." Don't do it! Someone tested this recipe, probably several times, and this was the best version. After you gain a little experience, you can experiment with recipes, but always do it as it's written first, and save the experiments for the second or third time you try a recipe.

2. Read the entire recipe before you do anything.
There's nothing worse than getting halfway through the recipe and realizing you don't have all the ingredients, or maybe there's a specific tool that you need in order to do a specific recipe. For instance, if you wanted to try a recipe for home made ice cream, you'd want to read the whole thing to see if it's a recipe that requires an ice cream maker, or if it's one that you can just place in the freezer.

3. Measure your ingredients*.
I know I've said this before, but it's worth repeating. When you cook, you can throw in a little of this and a little of that, but it's different with baking. There's a definite science involved here. Each ingredient serves a purpose, such as binders and leaveners. In order for the cake to rise, or for the custard to set, you need to add ingredients in the correct amounts. People who say they can cook but can't bake are really just saying that they don't measure. Use dry measuring cups for dry ingredients and wet measuring cups for wet ingredients.

4. Learn about your ingredients.
Ok, I know I'm about to contradict what I just told you, but every rule has an exception, right? Yes, you need to measure everything, but there are some baking ingredients that don't have to be exact. For instance you can add shredded coconut or chopped nuts to a cake and it won't affect the interaction of the ingredients. It always helps to know which ingredients are important for the chemistry of baking (like baking soda or baking powder), and which ingredients you can add to taste. The more you learn, the more you'll know how much leeway you can take. It's pretty safe to say that anything that you add specifically for flavoring can be adjusted to taste. So go ahead and add extra orange zest, or a little extra vanilla extract, if that's what you like. It'll turn out fine!

5. Use salt.
Whenever a dessert recipe calls for the addition of salt, don't omit it. Many people think, "Well, it's a dessert, I don't want it to come out tasting salty." It's true, you don't want it to taste salty, but desserts still need salt. It makes everything taste better, and actually brings out the sweetness of the other sweet ingredients. If you're worried about your sodium intake, then just use a salt substitute.

6. Taste everything.
It might seem like common sense, but I'll say it anyway. How else can you know if it's right? If you don't taste it, then you're just guessing. Basically, if the batter tastes good, then the final product will taste good. Some people may be concerned about tasting a batter that has raw eggs in it. Frankly, I never worry about that. I remember Sara Moulton saying that only about one in 20,000 eggs might be spoiled, so it appears that the odds are in my favor. Not only that, it seems to me that I'm not really consuming that much raw egg just from one little taste.

7. Grease and flour your pans*.
You want to be sure that your cake will come out of the pan in one piece, so be sure to not only grease your pan but also flour it as well. You can also use a baking spray, which is an oil spray with added flour. You can also use parchment paper to insure that your cake will come out easily. Just spray your pan with baking spray, then cut out a piece of parchment to fit the bottom of your pan. Place the paper in the pan, then spray the paper. I recently used this method when I baked a 12" round layer cake and the layers popped right out of the pan.

8. Clean as you go.
I have to admit, I never follow this one, but it's what Mom always said to do, and it's a good habit. Mom always disagreed every time she'd hear someone say "A messy cook is a good cook." For some reason, whenever I bake something, I always wind up using every kitchen surface, every bowl, and every spatula in the house. Then of course, I'm left with a kitchen that looks like a cyclone went through it. It's usually around that time that I wish I had listened to my Mother.

9. Cook it until it's done.....
Even if a recipe says to take it out of the oven at a certain time, not all ovens are calibrated equally, so you may need to adjust your baking time. My oven is old and doesn't exactly bake at the correct temperature. It usually bakes hot, so I have to lower the temperature setting, and bake it for less time. I always check it about 3/4 of the way through baking time, just to make sure everything is going as planned. If your oven is too hot or too cool, you can adjust your time to make it turn out correctly. You can tell when a cake is done just by tapping it lightly with your finger. If the top springs back, then you know it's done. If you leave a finger print in the cake, then continue baking. You can also insert a wooden toothpick into the center of the cake. If it comes out clean, then it's done.

10. ....but don't overbake it.
Of course you don't want your cake to still be batter when you take it out of the oven, but it's just as bad to go to the other extreme. The longer you leave the cake in the oven, the dryer it will become. (And with cookies, the harder and crunchier they'll become). I always underbake cookies just a bit. Since I like a them to be soft and chewy, I always take them out of the oven just under the listed baking time.

11. Use a timer.
It may sound a little obvious, but it's still worth saying.
You've just put the cake in the oven, you look at the clock, and with the best of intentions, you say to yourself, "ok, I have to take it out at 6:00." Then you get distracted and before you know it, it's 6:30, and your kitchen now smells like burnt cake. Trust me, I've been there. Now I always use an inexpensive wind up timer and sometimes even the alarm on my cell phone, (just because it's really loud). I've used the microwave as a timer (with the heat setting at zero) but sometimes I need to use the microwave in the middle of baking. The alarm on the phone is just easier!

12. Use a baking sheet.
If you're worried that a pie or casserole will bubble up and spill over, place it on a baking sheet before putting it in the oven. If it bakes up and over, at least it won't spill all over the bottom of your oven. If you don't have a baking sheet, you can also place a sheet or two of aluminum foil on the rack below your dish. The foil will catch anything that spills, and then you can just crumple it up and toss it when you're finished baking.

13. Improvise, if you need to.
If your cake breaks into pieces when you attempt to remove it from the pan, don't worry and don't panic! You can always improvise another dessert. Make a Trifle! Make Cake Balls. You can cover a million imperfections with frosting or pudding, or pie filling, and no one will ever know the difference.

14. Don't ever apologize.
Even if a recipe doesn't turn out exactly the way you were hoping it would, chances are that your guests would never know that. All your guests can see is a fabulous home made creation sitting in front of them. Why lower anyone's expectations?

*For a video demonstration of how to properly measure your ingredients, and also how to grease and flour your baking pans, watch my Baking Tips video!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Carrot Cake Ice Cream

When I first got my ice cream maker, I knew I'd eventually be trying new and different recipes. I've always loved ice cream flavors that are a little outside the box. I definitely think this one fits the bill. When I told my niece, Kelli, that I wanted to try a carrot cake ice cream, she gave me a look as if she was seeing the Holy Grail. She LOVES my carrot cake! So, of course, this is what I decided to make for Kelli's birthday. She absolutely LOVED it and I know you will too.
Happy Birthday, Kel!

2 cups whole or 2% milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup packed grated carrots
1/2 cup shredded coconut
5 egg yolks
1/3 cup white sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
tiny pinch of salt

Combine the milk, cream, carrots, and coconut in a medium saucepan. Bring mixture just to under a boil, then reduce heat to very low. Let simmer, stirring occasionally, for 25 minutes. (Do not let boil.)

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, beat the egg yolks with the sugars and spices until fluffy and lighter in color.
While beating the egg yolk mixture, pour in a little of the hot milk mixture and continue to beat. Do this a few times, adding a just a little at a time, until all of the milk mixture is added to the egg mixture. (This will temper the eggs, so that you don't wind up with scrambled eggs.) Pour everything back into the saucepan and set heat to medium-low. Cook about 8-10 minutes longer, stirring frequently with a spatula to scrape all corners of the bottom of the pot. Do not let boil. The custard should be just thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Let custard cool completely, then transfer to an airtight container and completely chill in the refrigerator. Follow your machine’s instructions for churning length. Transfer ice cream to an airtight container and freeze for 2 hours or until it reaches desired firmness. Serve with the Cream Cheese Sauce.

Cream Cheese Sauce

This is the perfect sauce to serve over any kind of spiced cake, a bowl of fresh berries, or Carrot Cake Ice Cream. Yum!

1 pkg cream cheese
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

In a mixing bowl, simply combine all ingredients together until smooth. If you'd like a thinner sauce, add a drop or two more milk. Also, feel free to change the amount of sugar to adjust the sweetness.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Cake Balls

I recently read about this trendy little gem of a dessert. They're balls of cake mixed with frosting and dipped in a melted chocolate. It's like having a tiny little truffle made of cake. How can this not be good? And why has it taken so long for me to find out about this?!? Wouldn't they be ideal to serve at a brunch or a party? They're the perfect solution when someone would like to have a little sweet bite, but would prefer not to have a big honkin' piece of cake. These would also be the perfect thing to make if you have eager little ones at home who might like to help in the kitchen.
Have fun!

1 baked cake
1 batch of frosting
dipping chocolate

Now, before we start, here are a few thoughts:
You can use a scratch cake recipe, or a boxed cake mix. Just follow the recipe or the directions on the box to bake the cake.
The same goes for the frosting. You can use a scratch recipe or just buy a tin of ready made frosting. If you don't feel like baking at all, you could even just buy a fully frosted cake and then throw the whole thing into a mixing bowl. Of course, you know that I prefer to make everything from scratch. Like I always say, it's better when you make it!
Since this is pretty much a Southern thing, I turned to my favorite Southern cook, Paula Deen, to see her Cake Ball making technique. She advises chilling the cake mixture and then freezing the balls before dipping. Sounds like a good idea to me!

Here are her directions:

Prepare the cake according to the recipe or the directions on the box. When cake is finished baking allow to cool for 30 minutes. Crumble the cake into a large bowl using a stand mixer or a hand mixer. Add the frosting and mix until well combined. Place the bowl in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours or overnight.
Line a baking tray with wax paper. Use a melon baller as a scooper to form balls with the cake mixture. Place on wax paper. Once you have used all of the cake mixture, place the baking tray in the freezer for 1 hour. Melt the chocolate in a glass bowl of the microwave, stirring every 5-10 seconds until smooth. At this point you can add a bit of food coloring if you are using white chocolate.
Remove the balls from the freezer. Using one toothpick, pick up the balls one at a time and dip in the chocolate. Use a second toothpick to slide the ball off the first toothpick onto the wax paper lined baking tray.

NOTE: We found that an old Easter egg dipper works as well. If the balls fall off the toothpick into the chocolate, they are not firm enough to work with and you'll need to place them back in the freezer for additional time.

Once you have covered all the balls in chocolate coating place the tray in the refrigerator until the chocolate coating is set. At this point you can drizzle other chocolate on the balls for decoration.

How simple and fun is that? Of course the cake/frosting/chocolate combinations are endless, so mix and match them as much as you want. I think carrot cake and cream cheese frosting dipped in white chocolate would be delish. A red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting dipped in milk chocolate would be heavenly. Of course, for the chocoholics of the world, you can do a dark chocolate cake with chocolate fudge frosting dipped in semisweet or dark chocolate. You could even mix in some chopped nuts and/or shredded coconut. That's sounds perfectly sinful to me! Feel free to browse through all of my posted CAKE and FROSTING recipes and choose your own combinations!