Danish Puff – elegant but easy

This cream puff variation is a special treat that looks elegant but is surprisingly easy to make. Pat Berkley, Abilene, shared this recipe that includes a rich shortbread-like crust with a custard-like layer that is glazed and garnished.
Serve with brunch or use for dessert of a coffee.




Danish Puff   Yield: 2 pastries, 12 (1-inch) slices per pastry
Pastry
½ cup (1 stick) butter, cold
1 cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons water
  1. Cut ½ cup butter into 1 cup flour; add salt. This can be done with a mixer or by hand using a pastry blender.
  2. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons water over mixture and mix thoroughly but lightly. This can be done with a mixer or by hand using a fork to lightly mix the water into the dry ingredients. 
  3. Round dough into a ball and divide in half; chill 30 minutes. 
  4. On a piece of sprayed parchment paper, pat out and roll each half of dough into a 12” x 3” strip (make sure strips are at least 3 “ apart). Transfer parchment paper to a baking sheet.
Puff  (This is a basic cream puff dough or French choux pastry)
½ cup butter (1 stick)
1 cup water
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 eggs
  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Heat ½ cup butter and 1 cup water to a rolling boil. 
  3. Remove and stir in almond extract and flour. 
  4. Stir vigorously over low heat until mixture forms a ball (about 1 minute).
  5. Remove and beat in eggs all at once until smooth and glossy. 
    Above: This is the way it look when eggs are first being incorporated.
    Below: After beating the egg mixture become smooth and glossy.

  6. Divide in half and spread over strips. 

    I leave just a small part of the base crust exposed.
  7. Bake in a preheated oven at 350° for 50 to 55 minutes—until topping is crisp and lightly browned. Then cool. Note: Topping will shrink forming a “custardy” top. 
     
Glaze
1½ cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons softened butter
1 teaspoon vanilla + ½ to ¾ teaspoon almond extract
1 to 2 tablespoons warm water
Sliced, toasted almonds for sprinkling (toast almonds in an oven set at 350° for 5+ minutes—watch carefully to avoid burning)
Fresh berries & mint for garnish
  1. Mix together the powdered sugar, butter, flavorings and water.
  2. Spread or drizzle the glazed over the tops of the cooled pastry. 
  3. Sprinkle with toasted almonds. 
  4. Cut into about 1” slices; garnish with fresh berries and mint leaves if desired.
Recipe without photos . . .
Danish Puff   Yield: 2 pastries, 12 (1-inch) slices per pastry 
Pastry
½ cup (1 stick) butter, cold 
1 cup all-purpose flour 
¼ teaspoon salt 
2 tablespoons water
  1. Cut ½ cup butter into 1 cup flour; add salt. This can be done with a mixer or by hand using a pastry blender.
  2. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons water over mixture and mix thoroughly but lightly. This can be done with a mixer or by hand using a fork to lightly mix the water into the dry ingredients. 
  3. Round dough into a ball and divide in half; chill 30 minutes. 
  4. On a piece of sprayed parchment paper, pat out and roll each half of dough into a 12” x 3” strip (make sure strips are at least 3 “ apart). Transfer parchment paper to a baking sheet.  
Puff  (This is a basic cream puff dough or French choux pastry) 
½ cup butter (1 stick) 
1 cup water 
1 teaspoon almond extract 
1 cup all-purpose flour 
3 eggs
  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Heat ½ cup butter and 1 cup water to a rolling boil. 
  3. Remove and stir in almond extract and flour. 
  4. Stir vigorously over low heat until mixture forms a ball (about 1 minute).
  5. Remove and beat in eggs all at once until smooth and glossy. 
  6. Divide in half and spread over strips. 
  7. Bake in a preheated oven at 350° for 50 to 55 minutes—until topping is crisp and lightly browned. Then cool. Note: Topping will shrink forming a “custardy” top.  
Glaze
1½ cups powdered sugar 
2 tablespoons softened butter 
1 teaspoon vanilla + ½ to ¾ teaspoon almond extract 
1 to 2 tablespoons warm water 
Sliced, toasted almonds for sprinkling (toast almonds in an oven set at 350° for 5+ minutes—watch carefully to avoid burning) 
Fresh berries & mint for garnish
  1. Mix together the powdered sugar, butter, flavorings and water.
  2. Spread or drizzle the glazed over the tops of the cooled pastry. 
  3. Sprinkle with toasted almonds. 
  4. Cut into about 1” slices; garnish with fresh berries and mint leaves if desired.

Cool as a CucumberTea Sandwiches

Cool as a Cucumber Ranch-style Tea Sandwiches . . . refreshing and perfect for afternoon tea or a luncheon . . .

Cool as a Cucumber Tea Sandwiches - Ranch-style    Makes about 24-36 small open-face sandwiches
1 package mini rye or pumpernickel bread slices (called cocktail bread) 
1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, at room temp
1 (1 oz. packet Ranch seasoning mix (equivalent to about 3 tablespoons)
1 (or more) long, thin cucumbers (such as seedless English varieties)
Kosher salt
Chopped chives for garnish, if desired
  1. In a bowl mix the cream cheese and Ranch seasoning mix.
  2. With a knife spread a thin layer on a piece of bread
  3. Top with a slice of cucumber and a sprinkling of salt. 
  4. Repeat until all sandwiches have been made.
  5. Garnish with chopped chives if desired.
Or, to make cucumber triangles: Cut crusts from slices of white sandwich bread, spread 2 slices of bread with cream cheese mixture. Sandwich 4 cucumber slices between the bread and then use a sharp knife to cut sandwich into triangles.

Note: To create a “ruffled” cucumber slice, run a fork up and down the skin of the cucumber. 


Don’s Slow Cooker Chicken (breast) Method


When I interviewed Don and Mary Rickley for a cooking article for the Abilene Reflector-Chronicle (March 29, 2011), Don offered up this easy method for preparing chicken breasts.

Use cooked chicken in Junior League Chicken Salad or in any casserole dish; chicken may also be packed and frozen for later use.

Don’s Slow Cooker Method for Cooking Chicken Breasts
Chicken breasts
Lawry’s® seasoned salt (or substitute favorite seasoning blend)
Ground black pepper
Water
  1. Put 4 chicken breasts, sprinkled with Lawry’s® seasoned salt and ground pepper. in an aluminum foil package; seal foil by folding over to create an airtight seal (see explanation of Drugstore Wrap and diagram that follows). 





  2. Stack additional packages on top of the first. 
  3. Put a little water in the bottom of the slow cooker so they don’t cook dry – just enough to cover the bottom.
  4. Cook  on LOW in a slow cooker all day. The breasts will come out very tender.
Recipe without photos . . .
Don’s Slow Cooker Chicken Method  
Chicken breasts
Lawry’s® seasoned salt (or substitute favorite seasoning blend)
Ground black pepper
Water
  1. Put 4 chicken breasts, sprinkled with Lawry’s® seasoned salt and ground pepper. in an aluminum foil package; seal foil by folding over to create an airtight seal (see explanation of Drugstore Wrap and diagram that follows). 
  2. Stack additional packages on top of the first. 
  3. Put a little water in the bottom of the slow cooker so they don’t cook dry – just enough to cover the bottom.
  4. Cook  on LOW in a slow cooker all day. The breasts will come out very tender.

My take on Junior League Chicken Salad

This is my take on the Abilene Junior League’s Chicken Salad . . . so delicious! Place a dip on a plate for a luncheon entrée, serve with crackers or as a sandwich filling.


Junior League Chicken Salad
About 1 ½ to 2 lb. uncooked chicken breasts (to yield about 2 1/2  cups cooked chicken) (see Don’s Slow Cooker Method for Cooking Chicken Breast -- to be posted soon)
3/4 cup acini di pepe pasta
1 cup finely diced celery
2 hard cooked eggs, chopped
6 slices bacon, cooked until crisp & crumbled
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Curry powder, to taste (about 1/2 teaspoon)
Toasted almonds to sprinkle on top, optional
  1. Cook chicken breasts. I recommend Don’s Slow Cooker Method for Cooking Chicken Breast; save any leftover liquid to moisten chicken if needed or use to cook pasta. Chicken may be cooked a day in advance.
  2. Cook pasta in salted chicken broth according to package directions. Drain.
  3. Place chicken, eggs, bacon, mayo, sour cream, lemon juice, salt, pepper and curry in a bowl and, using a light touch, mix to incorporate all ingredients. Add more mayo and sour cream if mixture seems dry; taste and adjust seasonings.

  4. Refrigerate.
  5. Top with almonds for garnish if desired.
Recipe without photos . . .
Junior League Chicken Salad
About 1 ½ to 2 lb. uncooked chicken breasts (to yield about  2 1/2  cups cooked chicken) (see Don’s Slow Cooker Method for Cooking Chicken Breast -- to be posted soon) 
3/4 cup acini di pepe pasta
1 cup finely diced celery 
2 hard cooked eggs, chopped
6 slices bacon, cooked until crisp & crumbled 
1/2 cup mayonnaise 
1/2 cup sour cream 
1/2 lemon, juiced 
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 
1/4 teaspoon pepper 
Curry powder, to taste (about 1/2 teaspoon)
Toasted almonds to sprinkle on top, optional
  1. Cook chicken breasts. I recommend Don’s Slow Cooker Method for Cooking Chicken Breast; save any leftover liquid to moisten chicken if needed or use to cook pasta. Chicken may be cooked a day in advance.
  2. Cook pasta in salted chicken broth according to package directions. Drain.
  3. Place chicken, eggs, bacon, mayo, sour cream, lemon juice, salt, pepper and curry in a bowl and, using a light touch, mix to incorporate all ingredients. Add more mayo and sour cream if mixture seems dry; taste and adjust seasonings.
  4. Refrigerate.
  5. Top with almonds for garnish if desired.

Cheesy Grits, Kansas-style

We may not be from the South but we do love our grits . . . and they are the perfect accompaniment for Fried Morels. Another favorite -- grilled shrimp over Cheesy Grits. Or, try our Make-Ahead Sausage-and-Grits Casserole! Grits are also good topped with a fried or poached egg.
Polenta and grits are both made from cornmeal. So, what's the difference? NPR ran a piece as part of their Kitchen Window series that deals with that question — Anson Mills founder Glen Roberts is quoted in the piece describing the difference as he sees it: while both grits and polenta are made from stone-ground cornmeal, "Southern grits and Italian polenta are traditionally made from two vastly different types of corn. How many times it's milled and the fineness of the grind also differ. And then there's the taste and texture." Personally, we think both are equally good!

Chessy Grits
2 1/2 cups water (or use part milk or broth)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup  quick grits
4 to 8 oz. (1 to 2 cups) grated sharp Cheddar cheese (start with 4 oz. and add more depending on your preference)
4.5 oz. can green chilies, optional -- for added spiciness
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  1. Bring water and salt to a boil in a medium to large saucepan.
  2. Slowly stir grits into briskly boiling water.
  3. Reduce heat to medium low; cover and cook 5 to 7 minutes or until thickened, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add cheese, chilies, red pepper flakes and garlic powder; continue cooking 1 to 2 minutes or until cheese is melted. Taste and adjust seasonings to taste.

    Cheesy Grits with Fried Morels

Tis' the Season - Fried Morel Mushrooms

Morels delivered to our door! What more could we ask for? They were the perfect size (not to big but not too small), and fresh too. All we had to do was prep, eat and ENJOY!
Bread and fried, we served them over cheesy grits -- and yes, this is a fried morel even though it looks like a small chicken drumstick!
Fried Morels over Cheesy Grits (recipe to be posted later)
Fried Morel Mushrooms    About 4 servings
8 medium morels
Frying oil (such as peanut with a high smoking point) -- enough so there is about 1 to
1 1/2" in skillet
2 eggs
1/2 to 3/4 cup whole milk
4 oz. packet (1 sleeve) finely crushed saltine crackers (we used a NutriBullet)
Salt, pepper &/or seasoning blend of your choice (such as TexJoy or Lawry's) to taste
  1. Clean mushroom carefully with a damp towel or soft mushroom brush. Cut in half (or is small, leave whole).
  2. Heat oil in skillet over medium heat. 
  3. Add eggs and milk to a bowl or pan and mix to combine. Add crushed saltine crackers to another bowl; season to taste with salt, pepper & or seasoning blend.
  4. Coat the mushroom in the egg-milk mixture and then in the cracker coating.
  5. Carefully add about half the prepared mushrooms to the hot oil. Cook until they are golden brown on one side and then turn -- the entire process will take just minutes.
  6. Remove morels from the skillet to a paper towel-lined tray, allowing mushrooms to drain.
  7. Season with additional salt and pepper or other blend, if desired. Serve hot. We served ours over cheesy grits.
Recipe without photos . . .
ried Morel Mushrooms    About 4 servings
8 medium morels
Frying oil (such as peanut with a high smoking point) -- enough so there is about 1 to
1 1/2" in skillet
2 eggs
1/2 to 3/4 cup whole milk
4 oz. packet (1 sleeve) finely crushed saltine crackers (we used a NutriBullet)
Salt, pepper &/or seasoning blend of your choice (such as TexJoy or Lawry's) to taste
  1. Clean mushroom carefully with a damp towel or soft mushroom brush. Cut in half (or is small, leave whole).
  2. Heat oil in skillet over medium heat. 
  3. Add eggs and milk to a bowl or pan and mix to combine. Add crushed saltine crackers to another bowl; season to taste with salt, pepper & or seasoning blend.
  4. Coat the mushroom in the egg-milk mixture and then in the cracker coating.
  5. Carefully add about half the prepared mushrooms to the hot oil. Cook until they are golden brown on one side and then turn -- the entire process will take just minutes.
  6. Remove morels from the skillet to a paper towel-lined tray, allowing mushrooms to drain.
  7. Season with additional salt and pepper or other blend, if desired. Serve hot. We served ours over cheesy grits.

Mom's Cinnamon Cream Pie - delicious!

For my mom’s 92nd birthday she requested Cinnamon Cream Pie, a recipe she made when I was growing up in Stafford KS; it was and still is a family favorite.
The pie is easy enough to make, however I’ve noticed that sometimes if the egg yolks are not thoroughl mixed with the dry ingredients in step #1 that the finished pudding is lumpy and needs to be pressed through a sieve . . . so I adapted the recipe and now use a food processor to avoid that problem.
Although you can use a favorite pie crust, I recommend Craig & Vicky Chamberlin’s No-Roll Pie Crust

Cinnamon Cream Pie    Makes one 8 or 9” pie                              
3/4 cup granulated sugar                                                                                 
1/3 cup all-purpose flour                                                                                             
1/8 teaspoon salt                                                                                              
2 cups whole milk scalded (heat to 150° to 165°), partially cooled
2 large eggs* — separate the yolks from the whites being careful not to contaminate the whites with the yolks and avoid letting whites come into contact with any other fat
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 (8 or 9”) pie crust, baked in advance
Ground cinnamon (1 ½ to 2 teaspoons) for sprinkling
  1. In the work bowl of a food processor, using the metal blade, combine 3/4 cup sugar, flour, salt and egg yolks; process until all ingredients are throughly combined and then a minute or two longer . . . until mixture is the consistency of fine powdered sugar. 

  2. Slowly add about 1/2 cup of the partially scalded milk while the processor is running (this is done to prevent cooking of the egg yolks).
  3. Pour sugar-egg mixture back in the saucepan with the remaining scalded milk; cook until thickened – mixture should coat a metal teaspoon.

  4. Remove from heat and add vanilla and butter and then allow to cool.
  5. When pudding is cool, beat egg whites until foamy and then gradually add the with 1/4 cup sugar and beat until stiff peaks form.

  6. Gently fold the cooled pudding into egg whites — add about 1/3 of mixture, fold and then repeat.
  7. Add pudding mixture to the baked pie crust.
  8. Liberally sprinkle top of pie with ground cinnamon.  
                                                                                                       

*Egg Safety Note: This recipe was created before the concern about consumption of raw egg whites. To avoid a safety issue, use pasteurized eggs for this recipe.
Mom eating her Cinnamon Cream Pie!
Recipe without photos . . .
Cinnamon Cream Pie    Makes one 8 or 9” pie                              
3/4 cup granulated sugar                                                                                 
1/3 cup all-purpose flour                                                                                             
1/8 teaspoon salt                                                                                              
2 cups whole milk scalded (heat to 150° to 165°), partially cooled
2 large eggs* — separate the yolks from the whites being careful not to contaminate the whites with the yolks and avoid letting whites come into contact with any other fat
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 (8 or 9”) pie crust, baked in advance
Ground cinnamon (1 ½ to 2 teaspoons) for sprinkling
  1. In the work bowl of a food processor, using the metal blade, combine 3/4 cup sugar, flour, salt and egg yolks; process until all ingredients are throughly combined and then a minute or two longer . . . until mixture is the consistency of fine powdered sugar.  
  2. Slowly add about 1/2 cup of the partially scalded milk while the processor is running (this is done to prevent cooking of the egg yolks).
  3. Pour sugar-egg mixture back in the saucepan with the remaining scalded milk; cook until thickened – mixture should coat a metal teaspoon.
  4. Remove from heat and add vanilla and butter and then allow to cool.
  5. When pudding is cool, beat egg whites until foamy and then gradually add the with 1/4 cup sugar and beat until stiff peaks form.
  6. Gently fold the cooled pudding into egg whites — add about 1/3 of mixture, fold and then repeat.
  7. Fold the above mixture over egg whites that have been beaten stiffly with 1/4 cup sugar 
  8. Add pudding mixture to the baked pie crust.
  9. Liberally sprinkle top of pie with ground cinnamon.                                                                                                     
*Egg Safety Note: This recipe was created before the concern about consumption of raw egg whites. To avoid a safety issue, use pasteurized eggs for this recipe.