Lamb Chops with Balsamic Reduction

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If you love lamb chops and balsamic vinegar, this is a simple and delicious way to combine them.  It’s best to use very nice balsamic vinegar, of course, but it’s certainly not necessary.

Original recipe

Lamb Chops with Balsamic Reduction
Modified from AllRecipes

Yield: 4 lamb chops

  • 3/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 lamb chops (about 1 inch thick)
  • 1 tablespoon olive or vegetable oil (or enough to coat the bottom of the skillet)
  • 1/4 cup minced shallots (about 1 large shallot)
  • 1/3 cup aged balsamic vinegar
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth

 

  1. In a small bowl, mix together the rosemary, basil, thyme, salt, and pepper.
  2. Rub mixture onto the lamb chops on both sides. Place them on a plate, cover and set aside for 15 minutes to absorb the flavors.
  3. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  4. Place lamb chops in the skillet.  If you want them medium, cook uncovered for 4 minutes per side.  Then flip them over, cover skillet with a lid, turn the heat down to low, and cook for 3 minutes.  Flip one more time, cover again, and cook for 3 minutes.  Finally, remove the lid and check if they are done to your liking. 
  5. Remove lamb chops from the skillet and keep warm on a serving platter.
  6. Add shallots to the skillet and cook for a few minutes, just until browned.
  7. Stir in balsamic vinegar, scraping any bits of lamb from the bottom of the skillet, then stir in the chicken broth.
  8. Continue to cook and stir over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, until the sauce has reduced by half. 
  9. Pour over the lamb chops and serve.

Simple Baked Chicken with Vegetables

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I like baked chicken with vegetables because it’s a tasty and reliable dish, and it’s great when you’re too tired to cook and just want something simple.  You can supplement it with rice and stir-fried zucchini if desired.

Simple Baked Chicken

  • Chicken drumsticks and/or thighs with bone in
  • Potatoes of your choice
  • Carrots
  • 1 onion
  • Salt, pepper, and basil or thyme to taste
  • Olive oil to taste
  • 1/2 lemon (optional)

 

  1. Preheat oven to 400ºF.
  2. Sprinkle salt, pepper, and basil or thyme over each piece of meat.  Rub in the spices.
  3. Arrange drumsticks and/or thighs in a large baking pan.
  4. Squeeze lemon juice (if using) over them.
  5. Chop potatoes roughly and slice carrots and onion.
  6. Scatter vegetables around the meat and sprinkle vegetables with salt and pepper.  Drizzle with olive oil.
  7. Bake for 40-50 minutes.  Halfway through, open the oven and stir the vegetables.

Bubble Eclairs

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I thought these eclairs were very cute, like three cream puffs in a row.  They’re best fresh, when the crust is still crispy on the outside.  If you have leftovers, you can store the “shells” and filling separately.  The next day, heat the shells briefly at 350ºF to restore some of the crispiness.

Bubble Eclairs
From Dorie Greenspan’s Baking Chez Moi and Around My French Table

Yield: 16 bubble eclairs

For the dough:

  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2  cup water
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature

For the pastry cream filling:

  • 2 cups milk
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch, sifted
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into bits, at room temperature

 

Prepare the pastry cream filling (can store tightly covered in fridge for up to 3 days):

  1. In a small saucepan, bring milk to a boil.
  2. In a medium saucepan, whisk yolks together with sugar and cornstarch until thick and well blended.
  3. While still whisking, drizzle in 1/4 cup of hot milk to temper the egg yolks so they don’t curdle.
  4. While still whisking, pour in the rest of the milk.
  5. Put pan over medium heat and, whisking vigorously and constantly, bring mixture to a boil.
  6. Keep at a boil for 1-2 minutes and continue whisking.
  7. Remove pan from heat and whisk in vanilla extract.
  8. Let mixture sit for 5 minutes, then whisk in butter, stirring until it is fully incorporated.
  9. Whisk until the pastry cream is smooth and silky.
  10. Scrape into a bowl and press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface.  Refrigerate until cold.

Make the eclairs:

  1. Position rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 425ºF.  Line baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil.
  2. Combine milk, water, butter, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan.
  3. Bring to a boil over high heat.
  4. Add flour all at once, lower heat to medium-low, and immediately start stirring energetically with a wooden spoon or heavy whisk.  The dough will come together and a light crust will form on the bottom of the pan.
  5. Continue to stir vigorously for 1-2 minutes longer to dry the dough.  It will be very smooth.
  6. Turn dough into a bowl and let it sit for a minute.  If using a stand mixer, fit it with the paddle attachment.  You can also use a hand mixer or even mix by hand.
  7. Add eggs one at a time and beat, beat, beat until the dough is thick and shiny.  Make sure that each egg is completely incorporated before you add the next.  The dough might fall apart at first, but it will come back together by the time you add the last egg.
  8. Use dough as soon as it is made!
  9. To shape the bubble eclairs, you can use a small 2-teaspoon-capacity cookie scoop (probably the easiest method), pipe the dough from a Ziploc or pastry bag with a plain or open star tip, or even shape the bubbles with small spoons.  Get the 3 bubbles as close to each other as possible and leave 2 inches between eclairs.  (At this point, you can put the entire pan in the freezer.  Once the eclairs are frozen, you can transfer them into a plastic bag to store in the freezer for up to 2 months.)
  10. Put baking sheet into oven and immediately turn temperature down to 375ºF. (If using eclairs from the freezer, don’t defrost them.  Just add 1-2 minutes to the baking time.)
  11. Bake eclairs for 20 minutes without opening the oven door.  Rotate the pan and bake for another 10-15 minutes, or until they are golden in color and firm to the touch.
  12. Transfer eclairs to a rack to cool to room temperature.  (At this point, you can wrap them airtight and freeze them for up to 2 months.  When you want to use them, defrost them in the refrigerator, warm them in an oven at 350ºF for 10 minutes, and cool them before filling.)
  13. When the eclairs are cool, you can fill them.  You can use a pastry bag with a medium plain tip to poke a hole in the side or bottom of each eclair and squeeze in pastry cream until it comes to the edges of the hole.  Alternatively, you can slice the eclairs in half horizontally and pipe, scoop, or spoon filling into the bottom halves.  Cap with the tops.
  14. Serve eclairs immediately or stow in refrigerator to serve later the same day.

 

 

Coconut Buns

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I really like coconut, so I decided to combine Dorie Greenspan’s brioche dough with The Woks of Life blog’s filling to make my own version of the coconut buns you find in Chinese bakeries.  They turned out well and were worth all the time and effort!

Original filling recipe

Baking notes:

  • The buns are best if you don’t eat them straight out of the oven.  Let them cool until they’re just warm or even reach room temperature.
  • The buns taste best the day they’re made.  If they last any longer, you should wrap them in plastic to store them.  Heat them briefly in a 350ºF oven before eating.
  • You can wrap the log of dough or the cut buns airtight and freeze for up to 2 months.  To use frozen dough/buns, defrost in the refrigerator overnight.

 

Coconut Buns
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours and The Woks of Life

Yield: 12 buns

For the dough:

For the filling:

  • 1 ¼ cups sweetened coconut flakes, plus 2 tablespoons
  • 1/4 cup non-fat dry milk powder (or another 1/4 cup coconut)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons softened butter
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons milk

 

  1. Mix all the filling ingredients together in a bowl.
  2. Line 1 large or 2 small baking sheets with parchment paper or aluminum foil.
  3. Dust a surface thoroughly with flour.  Roll the dough into a rectangle 12″ x 16″ in size, with the short end towards you.
  4. Spread filling across dough, leaving a 1″ bare strip along the side furthest from you.
  5. Starting with the side closest to you, roll dough into a cylinder, keeping the roll as tight as you can.
  6. With a chef’s knife, using a gentle sawing motion, cut the log into slices 1″ thick.
  7. Put buns on the baking sheets, leaving some puff space between them.
  8. Lightly cover buns with wax paper and put baking sheet(s) in a warm place for about 1 1/2 hours, until buns have doubled in volume.  Don’t worry if some of the butter in the filling melts and pools around the buns.
  9. Preheat oven to 375ºF.  Remove wax paper and bake buns for 25 minutes, or until they are puffed and richly browned.  (If you’re using 2 baking sheets, rotate sheets from top to bottom and front to back after 15 minutes.)
  10. With a spatula, transfer buns to a cooling rack.

Brioche Raisin Snails

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These snails are great for breakfast or an afternoon snack.  They also make your home smell wonderful while they’re baking!

Baking notes:

  • If you don’t like or don’t have raisins, you can substitute dried cranberries.
  • The snails are best if you don’t eat them straight out of the oven.  Let them cool until they’re just warm or even reach room temperature.
  • The snails taste best the day they’re made.  If they last any longer, you should wrap them in plastic to store them.  Heat them briefly in a 350ºF oven before eating.
  • You can wrap the log of dough or the cut snails airtight and freeze for up to 2 months.  To use frozen dough/snails, defrost in the refrigerator overnight.

 

Brioche Raisin Snails
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours

Yield: 12 snails

For the dough:

For pastry cream (can be prepared up to 3 days before):

  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/6 cup cornstarch, sifted
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into bits at room temperature

For the filling:

  • 1 cup moist, plump raisins OR cranberries
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • scant 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

 

Prepare the pastry cream:

  1. In a small saucepan, bring milk to a boil.
  2. In a medium saucepan, whisk yolks together with sugar and cornstarch until thick and well blended.
  3. While still whisking, drizzle in 1/4 cup of hot milk to temper the egg yolks so they don’t curdle.
  4. While still whisking, pour in the rest of the milk.
  5. Put pan over medium heat and, whisking vigorously and constantly, bring mixture to a boil.
  6. Keep at a boil for 1-2 minutes and continue whisking.
  7. Remove pan from heat and whisk in vanilla extract.
  8. Let mixture sit for 5 minutes, then whisk in butter, stirring until it is fully incorporated.
  9. Whisk until the pastry cream is smooth and silky.
  10. Scrape into a bowl and press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface.  Refrigerate until cold.

 

Assemble the snails:

  1. Line 1 large or 2 small baking sheets with parchment paper or aluminum foil.
  2. Boil a little water in a small saucepan and toss in raisins or cranberries.  Turn off heat and let steep for 2 minutes (or less if you’re impatient like me).  Drain raisins or cranberries and pat dry.  (I tried skipping this step for cranberries and the snails turned out fine.)
  3. Mix cinnamon and sugar together in a small bowl.
  4. Dust a surface thoroughly with flour.  Roll the dough into a rectangle 12″ x 16″ in size, with the short end towards you.
  5. Spread pastry cream across dough, leaving 1″ bare strip along the side furthest from you.
  6. Scatter raisins or cranberries over pastry cream.
  7. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.
  8. Starting with the side closest to you, roll dough into a cylinder, keeping the roll as tight as you can.
  9. With a chef’s knife, using a gentle sawing motion, cut the log into slices 1″ thick.
  10. Put snails on the baking sheets, leaving some puff space between them.
  11. Lightly cover snails with wax paper and put baking sheet(s) in a warm place for about 1 1/2 hours, until snails have doubled in volume.
  12. Preheat oven to 375ºF.  Remove wax paper and bake snails for 25 minutes, or until they are puffed and richly browned.  (If you’re using 2 baking sheets, rotate sheets from top to bottom and front to back after 15 minutes.)
  13. With a spatula, transfer snails to a cooling rack.

Brioche Dough

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This wonderful dough takes a while to make but is well worth the time!  You can use it for different types of buns.

Baking notes:

 

  • This recipe is very time-consuming: about 4 hours to prepare the dough one day, followed by another 1 1/2 hours the next day to let the dough rise.
  • The dough works best in larger batches, so make the full amount and bake different things with it.

 

 

Brioche Dough
From Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours

 

  • 2 packets active dry yeast
  • 1/3 cup water, just warm to the touch
  • 1/3 cup milk, just warm to the touch (preferably whole milk, but fat free works fine)
  • 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3 sticks (12 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature but still slightly firm

 

  1. Put water and milk in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Add yeast and stir with a wooden spoon until dissolved.
  2. Add flour and salt and stir to moisten flour. (I like to do this by hand so flour doesn’t fly out of the bowl.)
  3. Fit mixer with a dough hook, if you have one.  On medium-low speed, mix for 1-2 minutes until all the flour is moistened.  The mixture will look like a shaggy, dry mess.
  4. Scrape down the bowl.  On low speed, add eggs followed by sugar.
  5. Increase mixer speed to medium and beat for 3 minutes.  The dough will form a ball.
  6. Decrease speed to low and add butter 2 tablespoons at a time.  Squeeze each piece a little to soften it before adding it.  Beat until each piece is almost fully incorporated before you add the next piece.  The dough will be very soft, almost like a batter.
  7. On medium-high speed, beat for 10 minutes, until dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.  Scrape down sides and bottom of bowl as needed.
  8. Scrape dough into a clean bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let it rise in a warm place for 40-60 minutes, until nearly doubled in size.
  9. Deflate dough by lifting it up around the edges and letting it fall back into the bowl.
  10. Cover dough again and put it in refrigerator.
  11. Slap down the dough every 30 minutes for about 2 hours, until it stops rising.
  12. Let dough rest in refrigerator overnight.