Search the Happy Baker blog:

Monday, January 31, 2011

Split Pea Soup

A wicked ice storm is rolling in this week, here in good ol' St. Louis.
Fortunately, on days when the feet are cold and the firewood doesn't suffice, there's always something you can count on to warm the bones. Soup.

I love a good thick soup on a cold day, and there's almost nothing thicker than split pea. Mine is made with shallots and turkey ham, topped in a crown of sour cream and scallions.

K/V Sub: To make this soup Vegan or OUP: Omit the turkey ham entirely (though you'll lose a good deal of flavor. My friend Bliss suggested the use of Liquid Smoke to compensate for this. Good thinking!) - OR - Replace the turkey ham with a meatless alternative. A good option is Worthington® Meatless Wham Vegetable Protein Roll. Replace butter with vegetable margarine.

Hearty Split Pea Soup, with "Ham" and Sour Cream

What's In It:

- 1 pound dried split peas
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 chopped shallots (you can also use yellow onion)
- 2 stalks chopped celery
- 2 medium chopped carrots (if you like your soup smooth, chop finely. I like mine chunky, so I just gave them a rough once-over.)
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 1 pound turkey ham, chopped into small cubes
- (If you are not vegetarian or kosher, you can use regular ham, of course)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 8 cups water
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 Tbsp concentrated vegetable bouillon, dissolved into 2 Tbsp warm water
- 2 teaspoons fresh thyme -OR- 3 teaspoons dried thyme

Sour cream and scallions to garnish. Remember folks, presentation is everything!



Toss your dried peas in a pot or a bowl, and cover generously with cold water. Give 'em about 2" headroom. Let the little babies soak at least 8 hours. Personally, I'm just going to tuck them in and go to bed.

(Fast forward 8 hours)

Good morning, peas!

In a large pot, melt the butter over medium-high heat with the chopped shallots. Once they start to soften and the butter begins to brown, add the turkey ham, stir, and let everything soften and get all nice and golden, about 2 minutes. Add your celery and carrots and stir until just soft, about 3 minutes. Add your minced garlic. Everything should be smelling quite luscious about now.

[Trivia! The trio combination of onion, carrot, and celery is called mirepoix (meer-pwa) and is the central base flavoring of many, many soups.]


Drain your well-soaked peas, and invite them to the party. Introduce the salt, pepper, and pepper flakes, as well, and let them all simmer together for 2 minutes.


Add 8 cups of water to cool them all off (you have to watch that salt, man. He likes to party hard), and add the bouillon, bay leaf and thyme.

Stirring occasionally, simmer everyone together until the split peas are soft and tender, about 1 hour. If the soup becomes too thick or dry, you can always add more water as needed.


Sample your pot of joy and make sure all spices are to your liking. We all like different flavors, so adjust as needed. Make sure to fish out that old bay leaf, and serve soup hot, with a dollop of sour cream and a scattering of bright scallions. And of course, don't forget the cornbread!!

Ahhhhh, so warm and delicious. Snow? What snow?

Spiced Honey Cornbread

Nothing quite complements a thick, hearty soup like the rich buttery flavor of warm, homemade honey cornbread.

Sweetened with clover honey and brown sugar, spiced with cayenne and chilis, the flavor combination will make you sing. Not too firm, not too fluffy--just perfect for those winter meals that need a little something special.

[Before we begin--Daily tip! Check your baking powder. Most people let theirs sit forever and ever, and don't even know when it expires. Mine expired in July 2010, so I tested it by dissolving a tsp into warm water. It fizzed, so the CO2 hadn't gone flat yet, but I added an extra 2tsp to the recipe anyway, just in case. Now go check yours!]

Spiced Honey Cornbread

(Cornbread is Kosher Dairy.)

What's In This Awesome Cornbread:

1 cup flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup clover honey
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon powdered cayenne pepper (or chili powder)
1 teaspoon dried red chilis

Preheat oven to 400 F.

I do not recommend using a solid baking pan for these. Your bread will fall apart, I promise. This recipe creates a soft, slightly crumbly cornbread with a wonderfully crispy exterior, and muffin tins work perfectly to hold each serving together and gives each little muffin that special crunchy touch.
If you have decent nonstick muffin tins, don't use a liner, either. It'll keep the bottoms from getting crispy and could pull apart the muffin when you remove the liner to eat it.

Instead, spray or grease the muffin pans with (what else!?) butter and lightly dust with cornmeal. It'll look messy. That's okay. God knows the best food is often born in a mess. But this way, they shouldn't stick, and they'll have a wonderful texture.

In a large bowl, sift together flour, cornmeal, brown sugar, baking powder, and spices. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, and add the cream, oil, honey and eggs. Stir well so everything blends together like one big love-fest.


Pour into prepared pan. I received some lovely Williams Sonoma muffins tins as a gift from a dear friend once, so I'll use those. Bake in hot oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until tops are golden and your tester (toothpick, knife, etc) comes out clean.

My recipe made 10 average-sized muffins.


Sunday, January 30, 2011

Flavor Extractions

Have you browsed the baking aisle at your local grocery lately?

Have you happened to notice that flavor extracts are, oh...ridiculous?? And in lots of stores, it's not even the real thing! Imitation almond extract? Bah! It's crap, I say! ::shakes fist::

I needed orange extract for an upcoming muffin recipe (you'll just have to wait!), and they wanted $3.49 for a tiny little 1oz bottle. Are you kidding? The way I use extract, that'd be gone in the span of two recipes. (My vanilla comes in a liter bottle. No joke.)

In this economy, many people are scrimping and saving wherever they can. These manufactures are completely ripping off the consumer. So today's tutorial is about getting the most flavor for your buck. Literally.

I'm focusing on orange today, but you can do this with anything--vanilla, lemon, coffee beans, almonds, herbs, mint, whatever you like. Just think of all the change you'll be saving! And, of course, a bottle of homemade extract makes great gift-basket addition. (Vanilla lime, anyone? Lemon basil? Well, don't mind if I dooo!)

What you'll need:

- Glass jar with a lid. You can use the kind commonly used for oils, a canning jar, a mason jar, etc. Whatever you use, it needs to be able to have an air-tight seal. I used a clean carafe with a plastic lid.
- Vegetable peeler
- 2 Medium oranges, washed
- Unflavored vodka
- Sharp knife

That's it.

To begin, start peeling, or "zesting" your orange. I didn't recommend a zester because, ideally, you don't want tiny little flakes. You want thick handsome strips.
Unless you have some super macho peeler, it shouldn't penetrate the pith (the white part of the rind). All you should have is clean, orange strips, and you'll be left with two white, naked oranges. At least give the poor guys a towel. Come on, have a heart.

Now, using your sharp knife, cut the strips into long slivers. You want lots and lots of strips because you want as much exposed surface area as possible. The more surface area, the more flavor.

Plop the little strips into your glass container, and cover with vodka. You want each strip fully submerged. Shake well, and store jar in a cool, dark place. (There are only about 1/4 of my strips submerged in this photo. You'll want much more than this.)

Remember to shake it once a day, and in about a week, you'll have flavorful orange extract. The longer you let it steep, the stronger it'll get. And come on, who doesn't love aromas with some muscle? I bet you already had all these ingredients in the house, too. Didn't cost a dime! And just as a sidenote, the vodka flavor does fully disappear as you let the rinds mingle a bit.

You can, of course, make this in smaller batches if you don't need as much. Half-pint canning jars work well. You want a general ratio of 1:1 orange strips to vodka.

The same process can be used for any "zestable" fruit with a rind like lemons.

For vanilla extract, simply buy 3-4 whole vanilla beans at your local spice or specialty shop, slice them open along the length, and soak.

For almond extract, you can make extract by grinding about 4oz almonds in a food processor until they have the texture of sugar or sand. Add about 2 cups of vodka or brandy, and let sit, shaking daily, for about six weeks. Brandy and vodka each give the extract a slightly different flavor, so you can mess around with it and figure out what you like best.

Happy eating!

Chocolate Critical Mass

This is a cookie for the ages, folks. One for the record books. I don't think it is physically possible to stuff more chocolate into this thing. Well...maybe if you dipped them in chocolate, and topped with chocolate sprinkles...

::head explodes::

Okay, so. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Do not bake the cookies until the oven is fully preheated.

Here's what's in 'em.
(Recipe is Kosher Dairy)

2 sticks sweet cream, unsalted butter, thoroughly softened
1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
3.4oz package instant fudge pudding

2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp chocolate liquor (optional)
1 tsp baking soda

2 1/4C white flour
12 oz semisweet MINI morsels
- My dear friend Jenny looked it up, and I personally went to the store and checked--Nestle's minis are certified kosher.

The mini morsels are what give the cookie its gooey texture. Regular chips will not achieve this effect. If you cannot find mini morsels, you can buy regular ones and give them a toss in a food processor.


Beat together (A) ingredients with a hand mixer until soft and fluffy.
Add (B) ingredients and continue mixing until well incorporated.
Gradually fold in the flour and chocolate morsels. I usually add 1/2c at a time. The dough will get very thick and hard to stir. Don't be afraid to get in there with your hands and knead it up. Get dirty, baby!

Once the dough is well mixed, line a cookie sheet with foil and grease well. I recommend (as always) butter. It'll give your cookie bottoms a nice flavor and a lovely crisp. But Pam works, too.

There are many ways to shape these cookies.
For rounded, uniform treats, roll into 1" balls and flatten slightly.
For natural, chunky-looking chocolate bombs, drop by heaping spoonfuls onto lined pan.
For instant gratification, just stop now and eat the dough with a spoon.
...Or continue on, whichever...

Bake cookies about 6-8 minutes until bottoms are slightly firm (enough that you can lift them with the edge of a spatula without them falling apart) but the tops are still very soft. Transfer to cooling rack to let them finish baking in their own delicious heat.

The cookies will stay soft for a very long time. If they sit too long, though (more than a week) they may start to harden slightly. (HA! In what world does that happen? A cookie in this household is lucky to see dawn the next day) But if you're better with restraint than I am, and your cookies aren't so soft anymore, pop 'em in the micro for 10 seconds. They'll be all warm and gooey again in no time, ready for your lovin'.

If you REALLY want to make heads explode, you can drizzle the finished cookies in dark chocolate, or in white chocolate for pretty contrast. I'm sad I don't have a photo of that. The idea just occurred to me. :(

Well now, I'll just have to make another batch.

Enjoy, and happy eating!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Lemony Goodness

When life gives you lemons...make cookies!

Original awesome artwork

Who doesn't love a cookie? These lemon cookies are super simple, soft, and fluffy. Very cake-like, they make excellent cookie & jam snackwiches. The trick is to bake them very briefly. You don't want to wait for them to look 'done' in the oven, because by then, they'll be TOO done, and these just aren't the same if they're not soft.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Do not bake the cookies until the oven is fully preheated. (Anyone want a rousing chorus of "Some like it hot?")

Recipe is kosher dairy and, obviously, vegetarian.
... Meat cookies would probably be nasty.

Okay, let's go.

2 sticks sweet cream, unsalted butter, thoroughly softened
1 cup granulated, white sugar
3.4oz package instant lemon pudding

(I'll let you in on a little secret I've been reluctant to give up until now. You'll notice when I post cookie recipes, I often use the same 'base' recipe, which almost always contains pudding. That's because, frankly, it makes 'em awesome)

2 eggs
1 Tbsp fresh lemon zest
1 Tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking soda

2 1/4C white flour


Beat together (A) ingredients with a hand mixer until soft and fluffy.
Add (B) ingredients and continue mixing until well incorporated.
Gradually fold in the flour. I usually add 1/2c at a time. The dough will get very thick and hard to stir. If you ever get to the point where you just wanna say "Screw it" or your spoon's about to break, you can always just turn it out onto a cutting board and knead it like bread dough.

Once the dough is well mixed, line a cookie sheet with foil. No need to spray or grease unless you want to. (But if you do, I recommend butter. It's the Paula Deen in me. More butter!)

Roll cookies into balls. I used tiny little 3/4" balls for these, and they made cute little bites, appropriate for tea time or social events if ya want to get all ...fancy. You can make them as large as you like, but be aware that they won't spread much, so if you make them too big, they may end up underbaked in the middle.

Pop into the hot oven and bake. I usually bake mine for around 6-7 minutes. They should NOT be golden or firm, like your typical cookie recipe says they should. They may still look soft or wobbly, but the bottoms should be just firm enough that they don't fall apart when moved. I know, I know. "How could they possibly be done??" Have faith. :)

Transfer cookies to a cooling rack. Gentle! They're fragile. Once they're fully cool (and much more firm), use a small strainer or sifter to dust with powdered sugar.

At this point, you can eat them as-is, or you can put two of them together with any number of fillings--lemon curd, raspberry jam, vanilla buttercream... man. Anyone craving cookies?

Enjoy, and happy eating!

Spaghetti Bolognese

I had a little extra whipping cream and mascarpone left over from the Charlotte.
What to do, what to do?


Add it to the spaghetti I'd planned to make for lunch today! Weee!

Bolognese: [boh-luh-neez]
Italian Cookery. served with a cream sauce typically containing prosciutto, ground beef, and cheese.

As many of you know, I don't eat pork, so I will be omitting the prosciutto, and I also substituted 100% ground turkey breast to offset the calories in the cream and cheese a bit. (Okay, so it's like eating a Big Mac with a Diet Coke. But whatev.)

Here we go!

- 12 oz package of spaghetti [I used Trader Joe's Organic. Use more than 12oz pasta, and you won't have enough sauce unless you double the batch]
- 16oz ground turkey breast, crumbled [If you're kosher or veggie, you can substitute with soy crumbles]
- 1 large tomato, chopped
- 1/3 large yellow onion, chopped
- Spices and herbs [I used Penzey's Sweet California Basil, mixed Italian seasoning, black pepper, kosher salt, and just a dash of chili powder]
- Worcestershire sauce, to taste
- 1 24oz jar pasta sauce of choice. [Again, I used Trader Joe's. <3]
- 1/4C whipping cream
- 4oz Mascarpone cheese [you can also use Ricotta or cream cheese]

Okeeee doke. That's everything.

Set a large pot of water on the stove and turn the heat to high. Add a pinch of salt. I add several pinches. Hell, pinch sminch. I add a small handful. I have tiny hands. Allow to boil.

Into a large, wide skillet, crumble your ground turkey and simmer over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and tomato, spices, and Worcestershire sauce. It's best to start light, as you can always taste and add more later when the turkey is cooked through. Let the meat sizzle, breaking up the large chunks with a spatula. Move the mixture around a bit so the onions can brown and the tomatoes can soften. Once the onions start to caramelize, the mixture should get a lovely golden coating throughout.

Add your pasta to the boiling water. Ideally, you should have enough water to completely cover the spaghetti noodles. If you do not have a pot large enough, then make sure to check often and push the noddles under the water as they soften.

Back to the skillet. Everything should be golden and well incorporated. If the turkey doesn't show any pink, feel free to pluck out a piece and give it a taste test. [Never trust a cook who doesn't sample their own dishes.] Add more seasoning if necessary.

Now I KNOW, there is nothing better than homemade pasta sauce from scratch. But I was lazy today. So jarred sauce it is. It's just a base anyway.

Add your sauce to the meat and stir. When well heated, add your cream and mascarpone. Stir well. Turn the heat down to low, cover, and simmer.


Test your pasta. It should be al dente by now. If you prefer it a bit softer, turn the heat off under your pot of boiling pasta, cover, and let it sit for 3-4 minutes. Strain your spaghetti well.


Add your sauce, finish with a lovely green salad and some bread if you like, and go have some nosh.

I made a simple iceberg salad. I know iceberg isn't exactly couture cuisine, but I love the crunch of it when paired with a soft dish. I also accompanied the meal with homemade whole wheat challah rolls and spun clover honey. That's another recipe for another day.

Happy eating!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Chocolate Tiramisu Charlotte

I must preface this post with the statement that this was one of the most involved recipes I've ever attempted. It wasn't difficult, but there were SO many steps, it seemed really overwhelming at first.

The original recipe was taken from the Southern Living 2010 Christmas Cookbook, which--no matter what holiday you celebrate--is one of my favorite annual series because it features hundreds of pages of mouth-wateringly rich, decadent food porn. Dinner, dessert, soup,'s the best. [/unpaid plug. They should hire me to provide advertising. Hear that, Southern Living? I expect a call any day.]

This is what it was supposed to look like. Personally, I think mine turned out prettier. Because I'm not biased AT ALL. ;P

Charlotte: [Shar-luht]
A dessert of many varieties, served hot or cold and commonly made by lining a mold with cake or bread and filling it with fruit, whipped cream, custard, or gelatin.

All the pretty photos were taken by the glorious Kara Pritchard, of NoMoreNegatives. Because she's amazing. The crappy little "cooking process" ones are mine.

Make sure before you begin that you have:

- A pot reserved for a double boiler, and two heat-proof bowls to go on top.
- Two large mixing bowls
- Several smaller bowls
- A hand mixer
- A pastry brush
- A 9" springform
- A silicone spatula. I recommend silicone because you'll use it in many different textures and flavors in this recipe, and they wash clean very easily between bowls.

Ok, so onto the 'gredients.
[Just for the record, any comments or side notes I make will be in brackets. Like this.]

....[Also for the record, all ingredients used are certified kosher. Except for the mascarpone and the Knox gelatin I used. If you're keeping kosher and can't find kosher Mascarpone, you can use softened OUD cream cheese instead.]

2 Packages ladyfingers
1 Tbsp instant coffee-flavored crystals. [I used Taster's Choice cappuccino flavored granules]
3/4C Hot water
1/2C Coffee liquor [I used coffee-flavored syrup instead. Kahlua would work, too]
6 Large eggs, separated
2 Envelopes unflavored gelatin [KoJel is OU kosher gelatin--thanks Laura, for the tip!]
1/2C Cold water
1/2C Whipping cream, divided
12oz Mascarpone cheese
8oz High quality* dark chocolate morsels [I used Ghiradelli, as did the original recipe]
2 Tbsp butter

* [Yes, it does matter if it's high quality. Lower quality chocolate chips have additives in them to help maintain their shape. It won't melt as evenly, and can create a streaky ganache.]

Okay, so. You've got everything situated? Let's go.

Assemble your 9" springform and line the edges with the ladyfingers. No need to grease it, but you can if you want. Most ladyfingers are packaged in sheets, so it makes it easy--you won't need to tear them apart. Just arrange the sheets along the inside of the springform. Tear off whatever overlaps. (Neatly! And don't sample. You'll need all of them!)
Now, one sheet of ladyfingers should fit nicely across the bottom of the pan. Fill in the extra space with ladyfingers. I had to break mine into pieces to get a relatively solid bottom layer. Reserve the rest--you'll need them later.

Dissolve your instant espresso granules into the hot water. Add 1/4C of the coffee liquor (or whatever you're using). Using a pastry brush, brush the ladyfingers generously with the coffee. If you're using a silicone brush like I was, it's tricky because the coffee doesn't "cling" to the bristles. I just splatter-painted my ladyfingers and called it good. Set aside the rest of the coffee. Again, you'll need it later.

Put together your double boiler. In the top, whisk together the 6 egg whites and 3/4C sugar. This is how I separate eggs when I'll be eating them in a relatively raw state. I let the whites drip through my fingers and 'catch' the yolk without breaking it. That way, the egg doesn't have much contact with the shell, where salmonella can be carried, and so I don't have to worry about pesky bits of shell breaking off and getting lost. Ick.

Whisking often, cook the whites and sugar until it reaches 160 degrees F. Now... if you don't have a thermometer, don't fret. [I love the word fret.] The heating process is to 'pasteurize' the eggs and make them safe to eat. As a person who will happily eat a pound of raw cookie dough, I didn't worry too much. "Oh, it's really hot" worked well enough for me. Just make it hot. You'll be fine.
[Note: Don't 'cheat' and put them in the microwave or directly on the stovetop. You'll end up with really sweet scrambled eggs. Ew.]

Transfer the hot eggwhites to a large bowl, and with your handmixer, beat the hell out of them, until stiff peaks form. It'll take a while. Your arm will get tired. But just imagine if you were doing it by hand! (And if you don't have a mixer and ARE doing it by hand....well, then... I bet you have amazing arms.) Be careful not to overbeat too much, or the whites will "break" and lose their sheen.

This is what "stiff peaks" look like.

Congratulations, you are now the proud owner of a meringue. Set it aside.

In a medium saucepan, pour your 1/2C of cold water in there, and sprinkle both packets of unflavored gelatin on top to soften. I used Knox, but any unflavored gelatin will work. Let it sit for about a minute. You'll know it's done when it creates a translucent sludge on the bottom of your pan that doesn't move when you tilt it. Cool, eh? Now stir it up! It dissolves instantly! Ha, how neat is that?


Okay, anyway, cook your gelatin over medium heat, stirring until gelatin dissolves. Add 1/4C whipping cream, stir, and set aside.

Back to the double boiler. Set another bowl into the top, and whisk together your 6 yolks, the remaining 1/2C sugar, and the remaining Kahlua (or whatever). Whisking often, cook until it reaches 160 degrees F. (Have we done this before? Hmm...)

Just a recap--this is what you should have going on right about now.
Meringue? Check.
Gelatin/cream mixture? Check.
Springform lined with ladyfingers? Check.
Yolk mixture in the double boiler? Check.

Okay, moving on.

Remove from heat and transfer yolk mixture to a large bowl, and--you guessed it--beat the devil out of it. It won't form stiff peaks like the meringue did, but it'll get nice and thick for you. About the consistency of pudding. Again, it'll take a while. Hope you have good music on.

To the thickened yolk 'pudding', add all of the mascarpone cheese, and all of the gelatin/cream mixture. Beat it til it behaves (or, you know, until it's smooth and creamy).

If you let this sit for a minute, it will get super thick and fluffy like mousse. Yum.


Gradually fold in your meringue until well incorporated.

Spoon half the finished mixture into the bottom of your ladyfinger'ed springform. Smooth it out. Make it pretty. Top with the remaining ladyfingers, and brush them with the espresso.

In a heatsafe bowl, microwave half your chocolate morsels until melted. Do this carefully because it's very easy to scorch good chocolate. Try 30 seconds at a time, stirring between each round, until smooth. Add melted chocolate to the remaining mascarpone mixture and gently stir until well blended.

Spoon the chocolate mixture into the top of the springform, over the new layer of ladyfingers. Even it out, and chill until the top is slightly firm--about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in your heat-safe bowl, microwave the remaining 1/4 whipping cream and 2Tbsp butter until hot. A minute and a half perhaps. Add the rest of your chocolate morsels, and stir until well melted and smooth. This will be your ganache [gah-nosh].

Spoon ganache over the top of the chocolate mascarpone, making sure to spread it right to the edges. If you want to add anything pretty--swirls or whatever, this is the time to do it. Chill at least 8 hours or overnight.

Enjoy, and happy eating!

Oh, and this is what my normally very clean kitchen looked like afterward. Scary!