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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Caprese Puff Pastry Tart

I've been experimenting with puff pastry quite a bit recently.

And I'm always experimenting with anything Caprese, which always seems to be a hit in my house.     

Typical afternoon conversation:

Caitie~have you thought about dinner?
Me~I'm thinking fresh mozza-

I don't even have to finish my sentence, she knows where I'm heading before I even say it.

Today's Playlist
  • "Little Room"...The White Stripes
  • "No Rain"...Blind Melon
  • "Island In The Sun"...Weezer
  • "You Shook Me All Night Long"...AC/DC
  • "Another One Bites The Dust"...Queen
  • "Love Interruption"...Jack White

Caprese Puff Pastry Tart (4 servings)
Printable Recipe
  • 1 sheet of puff pastry, thawed
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 large plum (roma) tomatoes (or 3-4 small)
  • 8 oz. fresh mozzarella
  • 1/4 cup balsamic reduction (or make your own by heating 1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar on your stove top until reduced by half)
  • Olive oil, for drizzling
  • Fresh basil, for garnish

Gather your ingredients.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

(If you're making your own balsamic reduction:  in a saucepan over medium-high heat, cook 1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar, stirring occasionally, until reduced by half.  This will take about 5 minutes.  It will thicken as it cools.  Or you can take the lazy way out like I did, and buy a bottle of balsamic reduction.)

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

Unfold your sheet of puff pastry, and cut into two pieces.

Lightly score a border (about 1/2" from the sides) around the perimeter of each piece.

Bake for 15 minutes in your preheated 400-degree oven.

Slice your tomato and mozzarella.  Peel the garlic.

Looks like this tomato is an extra juicy one!

I put the tomato slices onto a paper towel to absorb the juice.  I was afraid that a super-juicy tomato would make a soggy tart.

To make it easier, I suggest using plum (roma) tomatoes.  There aren't as many seeds and they're not too juicy.  If you do use juicy tomatoes, let them sit on a paper towel while your puff pastry is baking.

Remove the puff pastry from your oven after 15 minutes.  It should be golden, but still a few minutes from finished.

(You can now see the border that I scored around the edges.  I did this so that the pastry wouldn't totally puff up, and so I can lightly push the center down now so that the tomatoes and mozzarella will be able to sit without sliding off.)

You need to work quickly now, to get the toppings onto the pastry.  Immediately after you remove the puff pastry from the oven, crush a clove of garlic over each one and lightly rub the garlic over the dough.

Layer the tomato slices and mozzarella onto the pastries.

Return the pan into your 400-degree oven for 3 more minutes.  This will finish cooking the puff pastry.

Here they are after 3 more minutes in the oven.  

You don't want to actually cook the tomatoes and cheese, because you don't want to lose that fresh taste!  You just want to warm them slightly while the puff pastry finishes cooking.

Using a pastry brush, very lightly brush some olive oil onto the tarts (I only used about a teaspoon of oil on each tart).  Drizzle with the balsamic reduction, and top with some shredded basil.

Cut into slices, and serve immediately.


Monday, October 13, 2014

Apple Cider Cocktails with Caramel Vodka (Warm or Cold!)

In keeping with the glut of caramel recipes which I've posted recently, here's one more!

Did you know that you can buy caramel vodka?  I should have known; I mean, take a walk down the vodka aisle (really! there are so many flavors of vodka that they have their own aisle at one of the local liquor stores!), and there are so many crazy flavors it's overwhelming.  Caramel is a relatively normal flavor, don't you think?  At least it seems normal to me when compared to PB & J, Smoked Salmon or Bacon-(yes, bacon!)-flavored vodkas.

Of course I had to buy the caramel vodka.  

I'm glad it's autumn, because it's the perfect season for me to discover the existence of caramel vodka.  I'm not sure what I would have mixed it with during other seasons, but now, in October, the cider in my fridge was just screaming,  "Pick me!  Pick me!"  

For taste-testing purposes, we prepared these cocktails both hot and cold.  Which means that Mr. Terrific, Caitie and I had to drink each type, for comparison's sake.  It was tough, but someone had to do it!

The verdict? Two preferred warm, one of us preferred cold.  I won't say who picked what, I'll just tell you that it's hard for me to discard my belief that everything tastes better with a stripey straw in it.

Today's Playlist
  • "In One Ear"...Cage the Elephant
  • "The Girl Got Hot"...Weezer
  • "Parallel Universe"...Red Hot Chili Peppers
  • "Learn To Fly"...Foo Fighters
  • "I Wanna Be Sedated"...The Ramones

Apple Cider Cocktails
Printable Recipe

  • Apple Cider
  • Caramel Vodka
For Garnish:
Whipped cream, apple slices, salted caramel, cinnamon sticks

Gather your ingredients.

Add a few accompaniments.

I decided that the warm cider would need cinnamon sticks, and that the cold cocktails would need apple slices and stripey straws.  I also decided that they would all be topped with whipped cream and a drizzle of salted caramel.

You can use your favorite salted caramel sauce, or you can make your own.  You can click here to go to a salted caramel recipe (it will take you to my blogpost for salted caramel cupcakes, just scroll down to find the recipe for salted caramel sauce).

I haven't listed any amounts for the ingredients, because it depends upon how many cocktails you are making.  Let's get started!

You will need 8 ounces of cider for each cocktail.  Pour the cider into mugs if you are making warm cocktails, or glasses if you prefer a chilled cocktail.

If you are making warm cocktails, this would be the time to heat the cider.  Heat each mug on HIGH for one minute in your microwave.

If you are making chilled cocktails, add a few ice cubes to the glasses of cider.
Add one shot (1 1/2 ounces) of caramel vodka to each glass or mug.

Top with whipped cream.

Garnish the cold cocktails with apple slices and pretty straws, and add cinnamon sticks to the warm cider mugs.

Drizzle some salted caramel on top of each.

Yum!  Which do you prefer?



Or one of each?

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Frozen Peach Daiquiris

I'm totally in denial about summer's end.  Last week's 85-degree heatwave may have been summer's last gasp, but it gave me the perfect excuse to whip up a batch of daiquiris.

You can substitute any fruit you like.  Strawberries or mangoes also work well.  Use frozen fruit, because it's a frozen drink! But if you prefer to use fresh fruit, freeze the fruit ahead of time and you'll be good to go.

Today's Playlist
  • "Hypnotize"...The White Stripes
  • "Hate To Say I Told You So"...The Hives
  • "I'm Shakin'"...Jack White
  • "What I Got"...Sublime
  • "Around My Head"...Cage The Elephant

Frozen Peach Daiquiris (2-3 servings)
Printable Recipe
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups frozen peaches
  • 1/2 lime, juiced
  • 1 cup ice cubes
  • 1/4 cup vodka
Lime slices, for garnish

Gather your ingredients.

Make sure the water is in a microwave-safe cup.  Heat the water on HIGH for 30 seconds.

Stir the sugar into the hot water.  It should dissolve, if not melt completely.

This is my lazy way to make a simple syrup.  It is such a small amount of water and sugar, to get out a saucepan to melt the sugar just seems silly.  

Place the frozen peaches into a blender and add the water/sugar mixture.

It doesn't matter if the water is still hot, it is such a relatively small amount of liquid that it does not cool down the frozen peaches too much.

Blend to combine.

Add the ice, vodka and the juice of half a lime.

Blend one last time.

Pour into large glasses, garnished with lime slices.


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Puff Pastry Cinnamon Rolls

All of my kids are huge, okay not huge (poor wording choice), enthusiastic fans of cinnamon rolls. They will happily eat cinnamon rolls of any kind, whether they are homemade or the type that you buy in the dairy department-you know the ones I am talking about, the kind that are in a can.  

These puff pastry cinnamon rolls are a sort of compromise;  the puff pastry is light and flaky so they aren't ooey and gooey like traditional cinnamon rolls, but they sure are quick and easy to prepare.

For me, the hardest part about making these cinnamon rolls is remembering to take the puff pastry out of my freezer so it can defrost!

Today's Playlist
  • "The Denial Twist"...The White Stripes
  • "Short Skirt/Long Jacket"...Cake
  • "Dope Nose"...Weezer
  • "She"...Green Day
  • "My Hero"...Foo Fighters

Puff Pastry Cinnamon Rolls
Printable Recipe

For the rolls:
  • 1 package puff pastry (2 sheets)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (1/4 cup for each sheet of puff pastry)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
flour, for dusting your prep surface

For the frosting:
  • 3/4 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons light cream

Gather your ingredients for the rolls.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees

Line your baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place the brown sugar and cinnamon into a small bowl.

Stir to combine.  This will be your filling.

Dust your work surface with the flour, to prevent the pastry from sticking.

Unfold one of the sheets of puff pastry.

Sprinkle with half of the brown sugar/cinnamon mixture.

Spread it around to evenly distribute it, and press it into the puff pastry with the back of a spoon.

Roll the puff pastry.

Cut the roll in half.

Cut the halves in half.

And finally, cut in half again so that you have 8 rolls!

Place the rolls onto your parchment-lined baking sheet.

Repeat with the other sheet of puff pastry, using the remaining cinnamon/sugar mixture.

Place all of the rolls onto your baking sheet.  Bake in your preheated 400-degree oven for 18 to 21 minutes, until the pastry is puffed and lightly browned.

While the rolls are baking, prepare the frosting.

Gather your frosting ingredients.

Place the confectioners sugar into a small bowl.

Add the vanilla extract.

Add the cream.

Stir to combine.

You may need to add a bit more cream or more confectioners sugar, depending upon how dry or runny your frosting is.

I can't help but ponder why the frosting is too runny or in this case, too dry, when I always use the same amounts of ingredients.

If you do need to add more cream, add it in 1/2-teaspoon increments.

Here is the frosting, 1/2 teaspoon of cream later.  Perfect.  You want it to be thin enough to drizzle, but not watery.

The rolls will be all puffy and the cinnamon will be oozing out when they are finished baking.  You will know the rolls are ready when they are just starting to brown.

Drizzle the frosting over the warm rolls and serve immediately.

If you have leftovers, you can reheat the rolls individually in your microwave; 10 seconds on HIGH and they will be perfectly warm.