Pork Chops with Brandied Cherries

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This is a wonderful entree to make when cherries are in season.  They do take a bit of time to pit, but they’re well worth the time.

Note:
If you don’t have garam masala, you can improvise your own using 3/4 teaspoon cumin, 1/3 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/3 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice.  The amounts don’t need to be that precise.

Original recipe

 

Pork Chops with Brandied Cherries
Adapted from New York Times

Yield: 4 servings

  • ¾ teaspoons salt, or more to taste
  • 1 ½ teaspoon garam masala (see Note above)
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
  • 2 pounds of pork chops, 1 1/2 inches thick
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, smashed and peeled
  • 2 tablespoons brandy
  • 2 cups fresh sweet or sour cherries, pitted and halved
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme OR a dash of dried thyme
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • ½ teaspoon sherry OR rice vinegar OR honey, or more to taste (use vinegar with sweet cherries, honey with sour cherries)

 

  1. Combine salt, garam masala OR replacement mixture, pepper, and allspice in a small bowl.
  2. Rub mixture all over pork chops, covering their entire surface.
  3. Let chops rest for 15-30 minutes at room temperature, or up to 24 hours, covered, in the refrigerator.  (I pit the cherries while the pork chops rest.)
  4. Heat a 10-inch skillet at medium-high. Add oil.
  5. Sear pork chops until brown, about 2-3 minutes per side.
  6. Add garlic to pan, then sear the fatty edges of the chops, using tongs to hold them up, for about 30 seconds to 1 minute each. (Flip the garlic after it browns on one side.) If the pan starts to smoke at any point, lower the heat.
  7. Transfer the pork to a plate, and spoon off all but a thin layer of fat from pan. (Leave garlic in the pan.)
  8. Add brandy to pan, let it simmer until the alcohol burns off (about 30 seconds)
  9. Add cherries, thyme, and 2 tablespoons water. Let simmer for 1 minute.
  10. Move cherries to the sides of the pan and return pork chops to the center so they can make contact with the metal.
  11. Cover pan and cook over low heat for about 7 minutes.  If you have an instant-read  thermometer (which I don’t), the meat should reach 130-135ºF (its temperature will rise as it rests).
  12. Transfer the pork to a cutting board or plate and let rest for 5 minutes.
  13. Meanwhile, add butter and vinegar OR honey to the pan, stirring until butter melts and coats the cherries. Taste and add more honey or vinegar, and salt as needed.
  14. Serve pork chops with cherries.
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Garlic Bread

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Garlic bread can be an appetizer to snack on while you cook the entree, or a side dish to enjoy during the meal (if it lasts that long).  Either way, it’s delicious!

 

Garlic Bread

  • 1-lb loaf of French bread
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 4-6 cloves garlic, minced (depending on how much you love garlic)

 

  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF.
  2. Split French bread in half lengthwise.
  3. Soften butter in the microwave and stir in minced garlic until you have a spreadable paste.
  4. Spread mixture on the insides of the halves and close the loaf back up.
  5. Wrap loaf in aluminum foil and bake for 5 minutes.
  6. Partially unwrap loaf so that the top is exposed and bake for another 5 minutes.

Ham and Cheese Croissants

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Every time I bake these ham and cheese croissants, they come out of the oven and disappear straight into my family’s mouths.  I like to use Swiss cheese and honey ham, but you can pick your own combination.

Baking Notes:

  • The dough is best if refrigerated overnight, so you should prepare it one day (about 2 hours) and shape and bake the croissants the next day (another 2 hours).  King Arthur Flour says the total time should be 2 hours 30 minutes to 3 hours 40 minutes, so maybe I’m just slow.
  • The croissants taste best within a few hours after baking.  If you plan to eat them after that, toast them briefly.
  • The dough is reasonably forgiving, so don’t fret too much as you make it.

Original recipe

 

Ham and Cheese Croissants
From King Arthur Flour

Yield: 9 croissants (plus 2 Danishes)

  • 1/2 recipe of croissant dough, made with a dough hook or by hand
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 4.5 oz cheese (such as Swiss cheese)
  • 4.5 oz sliced ham

 

  1. Dust a work surface and rolling pin with flour.
  2. Roll dough into a 12″ x 18″ rectangle.  Pick it up and dust the work surface with flour underneath the dough as you’re doing this; the dough should move freely over your work surface as you roll.  (Don’t worry if you can’t get it to the perfect size; it will still be okay.)
  3. Trim the very outside edge of the dough with a knife, or if you’re being very particular, with a straight edge and pizza cutter. This takes off the sealed edges of the dough that could inhibit its “poof.”  (Save the scraps for later and tuck them under some plastic for now.)
  4. Cut the dough in thirds in both directions.
  5. Take a piece of dough and turn it sideways. Place half an ounce of Swiss cheese on one end, and the same amount of ham on top of that.
  6. Fold this end 1/3 of the way over.
  7. Fold over again.  You want the seam to be on the bottom of the croissant so it doesn’t unroll as it bakes.  You can use a little water to “glue” down the seam.
  8. Press gently down on top, to seal things together.
  9. Take the scraps from earlier and lay them out straight.  You can put some cinnamon sugar or lay down a line of chocolate chips on one strip, and put a second strip on top.  Twist them together into a spiral to make a Danish.  If you want, you can put a spoonful of preserves in the center.  You can make 2 Danishes from the scraps.
  10. Place the pastries on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover and chill for 30 minutes. You can freeze the unbaked pastries at this point (such as in a rigid plastic container with a lid) for up to 2 weeks.  Thaw in the refrigerator overnight before egg-washing and baking.
  11. Beat together an egg and 1 tablespoon water to form an egg wash.
  12. Take croissants out of the refrigerator, and preheat the oven to 425°F.  Make sure the rack is in the center of the oven so the bottoms won’t burn.  While the oven is heating, brush the tops of the croissants with the egg wash.
  13. Let croissants sit on the counter for about 15 minutes.
  14. Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven’s temperature to 350°F.  Bake croissants for 15 to 20 minutes.  (But remove the Danishes after 8-10 minutes so they don’t burn.)  The croissants should be a deep golden brown.
  15. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack.

 

Bakery Croissants

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I never knew how amazing homemade croissants are until I made a batch for myself!  Fresh out of the oven, their crusts are crispy and their insides are tender.  You can make the dough in a stand mixer with a dough hook, or by hand.

Baking Notes:

  • The dough is best if refrigerated overnight, so you should prepare it one day (about 2 hours) and shape and bake the croissants the next day (another 2-3 hours).  King Arthur Flour says the total time should be 2 hours 30 minutes to 3 hours 40 minutes, so maybe I’m just slow.
  • The original recipe makes 12 large croissants, but I prefer making 18 mini ones because they’re crispier.
  • The croissants taste best within a few hours after baking.  If you plan to eat them after that, toast them briefly.

Original recipe

 

Bakery Croissants
Adapted from King Arthur Flour

Yield: 12 large croissants OR 18 mini croissants (plus 2 Danishes)

  • 1/2 recipe of croissant dough, made with a dough hook or by hand
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • a handful of chocolate chips OR a couple teaspoons of cinnamon sugar OR a spoonful of jam

 

  1. Dust a work surface and rolling pin with flour.
  2. Roll dough into a 12″ x 18″ rectangle.  Pick it up and dust the work surface with flour underneath the dough as you’re doing this; the dough should move freely over your work surface as you roll.  (Don’t worry if you can’t get it to the perfect size; it will still be okay.)
  3. Trim the very outside edge of the dough with a knife, or if you’re being very particular, with a straight edge and pizza cutter. This takes off the sealed edges of the dough that could inhibit its “poof.”  (Save the scraps for later and tuck them under some plastic for now.)
  4. For 12 large croissants, cut the dough in thirds lengthwise and in half across the middle.  For 18 mini croissants, cut the dough in thirds in both directions.
  5. Cut each of these rectangles diagonally in half and arrange them so the points of the triangles are facing away from you.
  6. Roll out the triangles to elongate them.
  7. Cut a 1/2″ notch in the center of each triangle’s short side. This will help the croissants curve properly when they’re shaped.
  8. Roll up the dough, starting with the notched edge and working toward the point. Make sure the point is tucked under the bottom of the croissant. If you have to stretch the dough a little to make that happen, it’s okay. You can also use a drop of water on the tip to help it stay in place.
  9. Form the crescent by bending the ends toward the center where the tip is tucked underneath.
  10. Take the scraps from earlier and lay them out straight.  You can put some cinnamon sugar or lay down a line of chocolate chips on one strip, and put a second strip on top.  Twist them together into a spiral to make a Danish.  If you want, you can put a spoonful of preserves in the center.  You can make 2 Danishes from the scraps.
  11. Place the pastries on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover and chill for 30 minutes. You can freeze the unbaked pastries at this point (such as in a rigid plastic container with a lid) for up to 2 weeks.  Thaw in the refrigerator overnight before egg-washing and baking.
  12. Beat together an egg and 1 tablespoon water to form an egg wash.
  13. Take croissants out of the refrigerator, and preheat the oven to 425°F.  While the oven is heating, brush the tops of the croissants with an egg well-beaten with 1 tablespoon of water.
  14. Let croissants sit on the counter for about 15 minutes.
  15. Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven’s temperature to 350°F.  For large croissants, bake for another 15 to 20 minutes. For mini croissants, bake for about 10 minutes.  The croissants should be a deep golden brown, even where the dough overlaps; you don’t want any raw dough in the center.
  16. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack.

 

Croissant Dough (By Hand)

IMG_3426

Croissant dough sounds really scary, but as long as you have a good recipe, it’s relatively straightforward and surprisingly forgiving.  King Arthur Flour’s blog has a great, step-by-step explanation.  You can make croissant dough with a stand mixer and dough hook (my preference) or knead it by hand.  I’m posting both sets of instructions because fresh croissants are amazing and definitely worth the time.

Original recipe

 

Croissant Dough (By Hand)
From King Arthur Flour

Yield: 24 large croissants OR 36 mini croissants OR 18 rectangular filled croissants

For dough:

  • 2 large eggs plus enough warm water to make 2 cups of liquid
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 5 1/2 to 6 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast OR 3 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup nonfat dry milk (optional)
  • 1 scant tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional, for sweet pastry)
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted

For butter inlay:

  • 1 7/8 cups unsalted butter, cool to the touch
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt (omit if using salted butter)
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour

 

Make the sponge:

  1. Crack eggs into a 2-cup liquid measuring cup and add enough warm water to equal 2 cups.
  2. Beat until blended, and pour into a large mixing bowl.
  3. Add yeast and 1 tablespoon of the sugar.  If using active dry yeast, let it proof while you measure out 3 cups of flour.
  4. Add the 3 cups of flour.
  5. With a wooden spoon, mix until well blended. Cover and set aside.

Make the butter inlay:

  1. While the yeast begins its work, set up the butter inlay. Using a mixer on low speed or with a spoon by hand, mix the 1 7/8 cups butter and 1/2 cup flour just until the mixture is smooth and well blended (no hard lumps).  Be careful not to incorporate any air.
  2. Lightly flour a piece of plastic wrap, place the butter mixture on it, and use a dough scraper to pat it into an 8-inch square.
  3. Wrap the butter inlay and set aside.

Continue preparing the dough:

  1. Stir the vanilla, if using, and the melted butter into the sponge.
  2. Stir in the rest of the sugar (if you’re making savory croissants, you can leave this out), the dry milk (if using), and the salt.
  3. Add 2 1/2 cups of flour and stir with a wooden spoon until you have a soft but kneadable dough.  Measure out another 1/2 cup of flour in case you need it while kneading.
  4. Flour a work surface and knead for about 10 minutes dough is smooth and elastic.   Add the measured 1/2 cup of flour a little at a time if the dough is still sticky.
  5. Pat dough into a square shape.  Wrap loosely with plastic wrap, or sprinkle a little flour into a large plastic bag and put the dough inside it.
  6. Put both the dough and the butter inlay in the refrigerator on a flat surface for at least 30 minutes.  (You want the dough and butter inlay to be at the same consistency when you roll it out.)

Make laminated dough:

  1. Flour a work surface and rolling pin.
  2. Remove chilled dough from refrigerator and gently roll it into a square about 12 inches across.
  3. Unwrap the butter inlay slab and place it in the center of the dough at a 45° angle, so it looks like a diamond in the square.
  4. Fold the flaps of the dough over the edges of the butter until they meet in the middle.
  5. Pinch and seal the edges of the dough together.  Moisten your fingers with a little water, if necessary.
  6. Dust the top with flour, then turn the dough over and tap it gently with the rolling pin into a rectangular shape.
  7. Pick up the dough to make sure it isn’t sticking underneath, dusting under with more flour if necessary, then roll from the center out until you have a rectangle 20 inches long by 10 inches wide.  Turn the dough over from time to time, dusting it, the work surface, and the rolling pin with more flour if necessary.  (Don’t worry if the dough rips and the butter shows in places; just brush it lightly with flour.)
  8. Lightly brush off any excess flour, then fold the bottom third of the dough up to the center, and the top third over that (like a business letter).  Line the edges up on top of each other, and even up the corners so they’re directly on top of each other.  If necessary, use a dab of water to tack the corners together.  You’ve now made your first “turn.” (You can keep track of the number of turns by making dimples in the dough.)
  9. Wrap the dough and refrigerate for 15 minutes. 
  10. Remove and orient the dough package so it looks like a book ready to be opened. Do a second rolling and turning the same way.
  11. Make a note of how many folds you’ve completed and the time, wrap the dough, and refrigerate for another 15 minutes.  Repeat the above folding and turning process two more times, for a total of four turns.
  12. Wrap the dough well and refrigerate it for at least 4 hours, and preferably overnight before using.  (You can divide the dough in half and freeze half of it.  Before using, defrost in the refrigerator for about 8 hours.)

 

Croissant Dough (With Dough Hook)

IMG_3426

Croissant dough sounds really scary, but as long as you have a good recipe, it’s relatively straightforward and surprisingly forgiving.  King Arthur Flour’s blog has a great, step-by-step explanation.  You can make croissant dough with a stand mixer and dough hook (my preference) or knead it by hand.  I’m posting both sets of instructions because fresh croissants are amazing and definitely worth the time.

Original recipe

 

Croissant Dough (With Dough Hook)
Adapted from King Arthur Flour

Yield: 24 large croissants OR 36 mini croissants OR 18 rectangular filled croissants

For dough:

  • 2 large eggs plus enough warm water to make 2 cups of liquid
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 5 1/2 to 6 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast OR 3 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup nonfat dry milk (optional, makes the dough richer)
  • 1 scant tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional, for sweet pastry)
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted

For butter inlay:

  • 1 7/8 cups unsalted butter, cool to the touch
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt (omit if using salted butter)
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour

 

Make the sponge:

  1. Crack eggs into a 2-cup measuring cup, and add enough warm water to make 2 cups of liquid.  Place this in the bowl of your stand mixer.
  2. Add 1/4 cup of sugar.  (If you plan to make only savory croissants, you can leave half or all of this out.)
  3. Add a scant tablespoon of salt and yeast.  If you’re using active dry yeast, let it proof while you measure out the flour.
  4. Add 5 1/2 cups of flour and dry milk (if using). Measure out another 1/2 cup of flour and keep it ready, in case you need to adjust the consistency of the dough.
  5. Add vanilla and 2 tablespoons of butter, either very soft or melted and cooled. Leave the rest of a pound of butter out on the counter.
  6. Using the dough hook, mix the dough for 4-5 minutes.  Use part or all of the additional 1/2 cup of flour to adjust the texture if the dough stays tacky after being kneaded for a few minutes.  The dough should be soft and smooth, and it shouldn’t stick when you touch it.
  7. Pat dough into a square shape. 
  8. Sprinkle dough with some flour.  Wrap loosely with plastic wrap, or sprinkle a little flour into a large plastic bag and put the dough inside it.
  9. Place in refrigerator on a flat surface for 30 minutes.

Make the butter inlay:

  1. Using the paddle attachment on low speed or with a spoon by hand, mix the 1 7/8 cups butter and 1/2 cup flour just until the mixture is smooth and well blended (no hard lumps).  Be careful not to incorporate any air.
  2. Lightly flour a piece of plastic wrap, place the butter mixture on it, and use a dough scraper to pat it into an 8-inch square.
  3. Wrap the butter inlay in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 20 minutes.

Make laminated dough:

  1. Flour a work surface and rolling pin.
  2. Remove chilled dough from refrigerator and gently roll it into a square about 12 inches across.
  3. Unwrap the butter inlay slab and place it in the center of the dough at a 45° angle, so it looks like a diamond in the square.
  4. Fold the flaps of the dough over the edges of the butter until they meet in the middle.
  5. Pinch and seal the edges of the dough together.  Moisten your fingers with a little water, if necessary.
  6. Dust the top with flour, then turn the dough over and tap it gently with the rolling pin into a rectangular shape.
  7. Pick up the dough to make sure it isn’t sticking underneath, dusting underneath with more flour if necessary, then roll from the center out until you have a rectangle 20 inches long by 10 inches wide.  Turn the dough over from time to time, dusting it, the work surface, and the rolling pin with more flour if necessary.  (Don’t worry if the dough rips and the butter shows in places; just brush it lightly with flour.)
  8. Lightly brush off any excess flour, then fold the bottom third of the dough up to the center, and the top third over that (like a business letter).  Line the edges up on top of each other, and even up the corners so they’re directly on top of each other.  If necessary, use a dab of water to tack the corners together.  You’ve now made your first “turn.”
  9. Wrap the dough and refrigerate for 15 minutes. 
  10. Remove and orient the dough package so it looks like a book ready to be opened. Do a second rolling and turning the same way.
  11. Make a note of how many folds you’ve completed and the time, wrap the dough, and refrigerate for another 15 minutes.  Repeat the above folding and turning process two more times, for a total of four turns.
  12. Wrap the dough well and refrigerate it for at least 4 hours, and preferably overnight before using.  (You can divide the dough in half and freeze half of it.  Before using, defrost in the refrigerator for about 8 hours.)

Snickerdoodles

snickerdoodles

This is one of my family’s favorite cookie recipes.  The snickerdoodles are deliciously chewy and cinnamon-y.  The original recipe came from a holiday baking collection, but you can and should enjoy them year round!

 

Snickerdoodles
Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens Holiday Baking

Yield: 48 cookies

For the cookie dough:

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour

For the coating:

  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

 

  1. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds.
  2. Beat in sugar, baking soda, cream of tartar, cinnamon, and salt.
  3. Beat in eggs and vanilla.
  4. Beat in as much flour as possible with mixer, and stir in the rest by hand.
  5. Cover and chill dough in refrigerator until easy to handle (at least 1 hr, preferably longer).
  6. Preheat oven to 375ºF.
  7. Combine sugar and cinnamon for coating.
  8. Form dough into 1.25 inch balls and roll in coating mixture.  Place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets.
  9. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until bottoms are light brown.