Saturday, March 26, 2011

Macaroni & Cheese 101

Here it is folks, my favorite recipe of all time. The most delicious mac & cheese you will ever taste. The recipe comes from a Martha Stewart Living cookbook my grandmother gave my mother for Christmas nine years ago. Since then, this recipe has become a family favorite.

My mom likes to jot down a note next to recipes when she makes them– usually the date and a few words about the occasion or how the recipe turned out– and she's pretty much run out of room next to this one. There are five different notes about the two of us making the recipe together. Not surprisingly, this is one of the first dishes I remember making growing up. It's a really fun recipe to make with another person, and I highly recommend doing it that way.

Now, I don't feel strongly about Martha Stewart one way or the other, but the woman knows her mac & cheese. This recipe uses two different types of cheese– sharp white cheddar (my favorite) and Gruyère– and is topped with chunks of bread tossed in butter. The key is to use a great loaf of white bread and lots of it (we use a type of bread called White Mountain Bread from Publix).

Macaroni & Cheese 101 is best served immediately after it's made. It can be stored in the fridge and reheated, but I think it loses a little bit of its magic.

I'm so glad to finally get this recipe on here. I hope y'all enjoy it as much as I do!

Bon appetit!

Macaroni & Cheese 101
8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter 
8 slices good quality white bread, torn into 1/4-1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
5 1/2 cups whole milk
2 tsp coarse salt
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
4 1/2 cups grated sharp white cheddar cheese
2 cups grated Gruyère cheese
1 lb. elbow macaroni

Black pepper, cayenne pepper and freshly ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 375° F. Butter a 3-quart casserole dish and set aside.

Place bread in a medium bowl. Melt 2 tbsp butter in a saucepan set over medium heat or in the microwave (be careful not to brown or burn butter). Pour melted butter into the bowl with the bread and toss. Set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Salt the water and add the macaroni. Cook until the outside of the pasta is cooked and the inside is underdone, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a colander, rinse under cold water and drain well. Set aside.

Warm the milk in a medium saucepan set over medium heat. Melt the remaining 6 tbsp butter in a large high-sided skillet set over medium heat. When the butter bubbles, add the flour. Cook for 1 minute, whisking briskly.

Continue whisking briskly as you slowly pour in the hot milk a little at a time to keep the mixture smooth (this usually takes 2 sets of hands, so you might want to ask for some help). Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and thickens, 8 to 12 minutes.

Whisk quickly while pouring in the milk to prevent clumps from forming

Remove pan from the heat. Stir in salt, nutmeg, black pepper, cayenne pepper, 3 cups of cheddar and 1 1/2 cups Gruyère. Add macaroni and mix well.

Pour mixture into prepared casserole dish. Sprinkle the remaining 1 1/2 cups cheddar and 1/2 cup Gruyère and bread crumbs over the top. Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack for 5 minutes, serve while still hot.

A crispy breadcrumb & cheese topping makes this macaroni unbelievably tasty

Source: Martha Stewart Living Annual Recipes 2002

Friday, March 18, 2011

Oreo Truffles for St. Patrick's Day

Oreo truffles. They're little balls of dense, creamy chocolaty goodness. And they're festive and green. And, best of all, with only 4 ingredients, they're incredibly simple and easy to make.

These Oreo truffles are similar to cake balls, but they use cream cheese instead of icing and Oreos instead of cake. The Oreo-cream cheese combination gives them a denser consistency, but they're still super moist and delicious.

Oreos, cream cheese and candy coating: So simple, yet so delicious

A couple of tips: first of all, make sure your cream cheese is soft enough before you combine it with the Oreo crumbs. If it's too firm, it will be really hard to mix the two thoroughly. If you're having a hard time with the mixing, try throwing your bowl in the microwave for up to 30 seconds. By the time you take it out, the cream cheese will be pretty soft and the mixture should combine easily. Second, after you set the truffles down on the wax paper to dry, use a toothpick to draw a circle around the base of each truffle before the candy coating sets. This will prevent any excess coating that pools around the bottom from sticking to your truffles.

This recipe is definitely a keeper. I think next time I will try it using mint Oreos.

Don't forget a glass of milk!

Bon appetit!
Oreo Truffles 
Makes 25-30
1 package of Oreos
8-oz. package of cream cheese, softened
1 bag green candy coating, 2 if you're going to use a lot of coating
White clover-or-flower-shaped sprinkles

Finely crush 5 cookies in a food processor or place them in a Ziploc bag and crush until fine. Set aside.

Crush the remaining cookies in a food processor or Ziploc bag. Place in a large bowl and stir in softened cream cheese. Use the back of a large spoon to help blend the two together.

Form mixture into 1" balls and place on a wax paper covered cookie sheet. Freeze for 5 minutes, then transfer to the fridge until ready to use.

The Oreo-cream cheese combination makes these truffles dense and moist

Melt candy coating according to package directions in a deep, small to medium-sized, microwave safe bowl. Dip balls into the candy coating, roll around to cover completely and remove using a fork (there may be a better tool for this, but a fork is the best thing I could come up with). To remove the excess candy coating, hold the fork in your right hand and use the left hand to briskly tap the right wrist.

Gently slide balls on the cookie sheet and sprinkle with the oreo crumbs. Place a sprinkle on the top of each ball. Allow to dry. Store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Source: adapted from Bakerella

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Hazelnut Chocolate Chip Cookies with Nutella Frosting

I know, I know. I haven't posted in a while. Life has been crazy busy and I've been slacking, but I'm back with some good old-fashioned chocolaty goodness!

It's only fitting that on the heels of a post about peanut butter comes a post about Nutella, another favorite of mine. Nutella is a creamy chocolate hazelnut spread that originated in Italy during World War II. It's wildly popular in Europe, where it's often eaten on toast or pastries for breakfast. While studying abroad in Florence, Nutella was part of my daily morning meal, and I always had to resist the temptation to grab a spoon and eat it directly from the jar. Let me just say, it's incredibly addictive.

This, along with the recipe on the Quaker oatmeal box, is my go-to cookie recipe. It's simple and it's delicious. I have always used Nutella, but, this time I changed it up a little and decided to use Justin's Chocolate Hazelnut Butter. Firstly, because I was at Whole Foods and couldn't find Nutella, and, secondly, I knew it would give me the chance to rave about my obsession with the Justin's products.

Justin's also makes peanut and almond butters in lots of different flavors

Justin's is a line of premium quality, organic nut butters. They make peanut, almond and hazelnut butters in a variety of flavors, including original, honey, chocolate and maple. Their maple almond butter...I have no words. So delicious! It's the one product I can't live without right now. The best part about these nut butters is that in addition to the traditional jar form, they also come in single serving squeeze packets, which are great for people on-the-go, as well as 90-calorie snack packets. I have yet to find the snack packs in stores, so you have to order them online, here. Anyway, back to the cookies.

These cookies are not normally frosted, but I wanted to spice them up a little, so I whipped up some frosting using a creamier chocolate hazelnut spread I found at Whole Foods, Rapunzel. I wouldn't recommend using Justin's for the frosting because it's not smooth enough. And if you're not a fan of decadent things, skip the frosting. It definitely makes cookies extra rich.

The recipe is pretty straight forward, but do make sure not to overcook the cookies. They will get super crumbly, and no one likes a cookie that crumbles in their hands.

Bon appetit!

Hazelnut Chocolate Chip Cookies with Nutella Frosting
Makes about 3 dozen
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup chocolate hazelnut spread, I used Justin's Chocolate Hazelnut Butter, but Nutella works well too
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 of a 12-oz. package of semisweet chocolate chips, mini or regular sized

1 cup chocolate hazelnut spread, Nutella works well
3 cups powdered sugar
10 tbsp heavy cream
(This will probably make too much frosting, you can also halve the recipe and leave a few cookies uniced.)

Sift the first four ingredients into a medium-sized bowl. Set aside. Cream butter, hazelnut spread and both sugars in the bowl of an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla. Beat well. Add the flour mixture in two additions and mix until combined. Stir in chocolate chips.

Wrap dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least two hours. Can be made up to a day ahead of time. Soften slightly after removing from the fridge.

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Form dough into equal-sized balls and flatten on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Place cookies one inch apart on the sheet. Bake for 10 minutes.

While cookies are baking, whip up the frosting. Mix all the ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer until fluffy, about 3 minutes.

A creamy chocolate hazelnut spread, such as Nutella, makes for a tasty frosting

Remove cookies from the oven and allow to sit on baking sheets for 5 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely before icing. Ice and store in an airtight container. Uniced, these cookies are great for about 5 days. Iced, I would recommend eating them within two days. 

Source: adapted from Bon Appetit December 2003 via Epicurious
Part of Sweet as Sugar Cookie's link-up project, Sweets for a Saturday. Check it out!