Cranberry Curd: a delicious take on fruit curd

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What is cranberry curd you say??? As our good friend Wikipedia explains;

“Fruit curd is a dessert spread and topping usually made with lemonlime,[1] orange or raspberry.[2] Specific types of fruit curd are named after the central curd in them – for example, that made with lemons is known as “lemon curd”. The basic ingredients are beaten egg yolkssugar, fruit juice and zest which are gently cooked together until thick and then allowed to cool, forming a soft, smooth, intensely-flavored spread.”

Lemon curd is one of my favorites. Delicious as a filling in cakes, cupcakes, or tarts, it is also delicious on toast or shortbread cookies. I had never actually realized it could be done with cranberries until reading about it in November’s issue of Cooking Light Magazine.

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So I thought I’d give it a whirl and let y’all know how it came out; YUMMY! It removes the tartness of the cranberries while still retaining a nice flavor that is not too sweet.

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Cranberry Curd (recipe from Cooking Light Magazine)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 (12-ounce) package fresh cranberries
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon Grand Marnier (I used Triple Sec for my batch)

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Start by placing the water, lemon juice, and cranberries in a medium-sized sauce pan and bring to a boil.

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Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes until the cranberries are poppin’ and lockin’.

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Carefully pour the cooked cranberries into a food processor or blender.

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Now whip it. Whip it real good. aka until the mixture is smooth.

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Pour into a fine-meshed sieve so that the seeds are not in the final product.

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Next, combine the sugars and butter using a hand or stand mixer. Add the egg yolks to the mixture one at a time and mix well. Then, add the strained cranberry mixture, cornstarch, and salt and mix to combine.

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Using a double boiler cook the mixture until it thickens, stirring frequently. This will take about 10 minutes, or if using a thermometer the mixture should reach 160 degrees.

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Last step; remove the cranberry mixture from the heat and let stand for 5 minutes before adding the Grand Marnier (or Triple Sec).

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Give it a good stir.

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Spoon directly into my face. I mean, a jar.

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It will keep in refrigerator for a week.

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A special thanks to my sister who helped me with this post!

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Cranberry Curd

recipe from Cooking Light Magazine

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 (12-ounce) package fresh cranberries
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon Grand Marnier (I used Triple Sec for my batch)

Directions:

Start by placing the water, lemon juice, and cranberries in a medium-sized saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes until the cranberries pop.

Carefully pour the cooked cranberries into a food processor or blender and blend until the mixture is smooth. Pour into a fine-meshed sieve so that the seeds are not in the final product.

Next, combine the sugars and butter using a hand or stand mixer. Add the egg yolks to the mixture one at a time and mix well. Then, add the strained cranberry mixture, cornstarch, and salt and mix to combine.

Using a double boiler cook the mixture until it thickens, stirring frequently. This will take about 10 minutes, or if using a thermometer the mixture should reach 160 degrees. Finally, remove the cranberry mixture from the heat and let stand for 5 minutes before adding the Grand Marnier (or Triple Sec). Stir to combine. Store in the fridge for up to a week.

DIY Christmas Gifts Ideas: Part II

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Welcome to Part II of my DIY Christmas gift series. This is where I test out DIY Christmas gift ideas I would like to give this year and decide if the results are worthy of becoming Christmas presents.

In part I of this series I wrote about these simple and delicious cheddar cheese crackers. Check out the recipe here.

This week I’m going to test out a recipe I saw in the December issue of Cooking Light. I’m usually a big fan of this cooking magazine and I have to say this month’s issue is full of really great recipes. The recipe I’m going to show you is Intense Fruit Gelees (pronounced jellies). They are easy, delicious, and so very pretty!

Before I jump into this, a huge thanks to my mom and my sister, who not only helped me with making the gelees, but also agreed to be hand models for the post. Who knew, it was easier to take action shots when the one taking the pictures isn’t doing the action?

Intense Fruit Gelees

Recipe from Cooking Light Magazine (click here to view the original recipe)

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Ingredients:

  • Cooking spray
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
  • 3/4 cup fruit concentrate*
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/4 cup light-colored corn syrup
  • 1 (3-ounce) package liquid fruit pectin (such as Certo)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

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*A note on the fruit concentrate; Cooking Light suggested flavors such as tangerine, lemon, and pomegranate. They also recommended ordering some the puree or concentrate from www.perfectpuree.com. I used  grape juice concentrate and I think they turned out fabulous, and very rich in flavor. I am looking forward to experimenting with more flavors.

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After the ingredients have been gathered and the flavor of the gelee has been selected it’s time to prep the pan. Grab a loaf pan and line it with plastic wrap. Spray the plastic wrap with cooking spray.

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Next combine 1 1/4 cup sugar with the fruit concentrate, applesauce, and corn syrup in a large saucepan.

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Bring the mixture to a boil, then cook for 10 minutes (if you have a candy thermometer the temperature you’re looking for is 224 degrees F).

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After cooking the mixture for 10 minutes add the liquid pectin, bring to a boil, and cook for 1 minute stirring often.

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Remove the pot from the heat and pour in the lemon juice.

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Give it a stir.

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Then pour it into the prepared loaf pan.

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Tertius wants to know what’s going on up there and if he can have some.

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Let the mixture cool and then cover and let it sit overnight in room temperature. In the morning you have a delicious, gelatinous, fruity treat. Does that sound unappetizing? I promise these taste amazing, or as my sister put it; “It’s like a mini grape pie in my mouth.”

Now that the mixture is solidified, let’s cut them up!

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First, sprinkle a tablespoon of sugar on the top of the gelee.

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Next, tip your loaf pan upside down, the gelee will flop right out. Get rid of the plastic wrap. Then start slicing up the gelee. My sister recommends starting in the middle, then cutting in the middle of that half, followed by cutting down the middle of the two sections and so forth. Can ya’ dig it?

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They look pretty already!

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Next put the remaining sugar in a small bowl and slice the columns of gelees into cubes and toss into the sugar to evenly coat them. I suggest keeping the cubes on the small side, these are sweet, rich candies.

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The verdict: these rock! They are absolutely scrumptious and I will definitely be giving out little boxes of these as gifts this year.

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Intense Fruit Gelees

Recipe from Cooking Light Magazine

Ingredients:

  • cooking spray
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
  • 3/4 cup fruit concentrate*
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/4 cup light-colored corn syrup
  • 1 (3-ounce) package liquid fruit pectin (such as Certo)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Directions:

Line a loaf pan with plastic wrap and spray with cooking spray. Next, combine 1 1/4 cup sugar with the fruit concentrate, apple sauce, and corn syrup in a large saucepan.

Bring the mixture to a boil, then cook for 10 minutes (if you have a candy thermometer the temperature you’re looking for is 224 degrees F).

After cooking the mixture for 10 minutes add the liquid pectin, bring to a boil, and cook for 1 minute stirring often. Remove the pot from the heat and pour in the lemon juice. Give it a stir. Then pour it into the prepared loaf pan.

Let the mixture cool and then cover and let it sit overnight at room temperature.

To de-mold and cut up; first, sprinkle a tablespoon of sugar on the top of the gelee. Put the remaining sugar in a small bowl and set aside.

Next, tip your loaf pan upside down, the gelee will flop right out. Get rid of the plastic wrap. Then start slicing up the gelee into cubes. I suggest keeping the cubes on the small side, these are sweet, rich candies.

Toss the gelee cubes into the sugar to evenly coat them.

 

How to Make Filled Cupcakes

This weekend I came across a cake recipe that I had to try out immediately. Actually thanks to Pintrest, I’m finding a lot of cake/baking projects I want to pursue, however my particular weakness for white cake got the best of me and about 20 minutes after finding this recipe I was in the kitchen gathering ingredients.

I tried this recipe from the food blog Sprinkle Bakes.

I have to say, they came out just perfect. For years now, when it came to white cake, I used my default betty Crocker recipe for Silver White Cake. I liked this new recipe better but not by much, both are outstanding recipes for white cake and I would recommend either.

Essentially there are two kinds of vanilla cake; either a gold vanilla cake, which gets its color from the egg yolks that go into the cake, or white cakes that retain their white color from a lack of yolks. Example; Funfetti is a type of white cake. If you like Funfetti these cake recipes are the ones to try. You shall not be disappointed.

Getting back to these cupcakes, I decided to make them filled cupcakes. Who would say no to these tasty cupcakes filled with a fruit filling? This technique is easier than it looks and is a fun way to add an extra twist to any cupcake.

To get started you need a batch of cupcakes completely cooled and a filling. In this particular example I made a simple fruit filling. To make a fruit filling simply pour 1 cup of frozen fruit (I used a mixed fruit blend) into a sauce pan, sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of sugar and cook on medium heat.

The idea is you want to cook down the fruit until it turns into a syrupy, jam-like mixture. This should take less than 10 minutes on the stove and give the mixture a stir every so often to make sure it’s not burning on the bottom Once the fruit is cooked down remove from the heat and place in the refrigerator to cool. Once the cupcakes and filling are both cool you’re ready to get started.

Using a knife cut into the top of your cupcake, cutting downwards. Do not cut all the way through the cupcake, cut about 2/3 of the way down. When cutting into the cupcake cut into the cupcake at an angle so forming a cone shape with the point towards the bottom of the cupcake and the wide part of the cone at the top of the cupcake. After making the circular cut, lift the cone-shaped center of the cake out of the cupcake with the knife.

Next cut most of the cone off of the center that was cut out leaving a small top.

Finally fill the cupcake with a small amount of filling. Be sure not to overfill.

Then top the cupcake with the small top that was cut off of the cone.

Voila, filled cupcakes!

Slather some of your favorite frosting on top, in my case that would be a cream cheese frosting, and eat immediately. Or share it with friends if you must.

I would not, however, recommend cutting a cupcake in half and spilling half of it on your windowsill as you try to photograph it in the remaining daylight.

Just saying. There’s no fixing a cupcake after it’s been spilled on a windowsill. The other half was still good though.

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Celebrate Valentine’s Day with an Elegant Champagne Cake

*This article was originally posted on www.Somerville.Patch.com*

This cake is light and fluffy and infused with a rich champagne flavor

This elegant white cake has both an excellent flavor a light, fluffy texture—a perfect dessert to make for your Valentine. Though much champagne doesn’t go into making the cake, without any other flavors present it retains a lovely champagne flavor. The flavor is greatly effected by the kind of champagne selected. I recommend a sweet Moscato sparkling wine.

On the scale of cake textures, heavy cakes such as pound cake being on one end and super light, fluffy cakes such as angel food cake being on the opposite end, this cake falls towards the lighter end of the texture spectrum. This cake falls into the category of chiffon cakes, which are not quite as light as angel food cakes, but still very light in texture. What qualifies this cake as a chiffon cake is that the last step for making this cake is folding the batter into beaten egg whites.

The key to success with this cake is retaining as much air as possible during the mixing process. After adding the champagne to the batter, do not over mix; mix until all ingredients are just combined. This recipe also calls for sifting the dry ingredients onto a sheet of wax paper. This way, when it’s time to add the dry ingredients they can be added by simply picking up the piece of wax paper and pouring it into the bowl, rather than compressing the ingredients into a measuring cup.

The last step to this cake, which creates a light, fluffy texture, is gently folding whipped-up egg whites into the batter. When separating the eggs, be careful not to get any of the yolk into the whites. If there is any yolk present, the whites will not whip up because they will not whip up with the presence of any fat. Also, be sure to beat the egg whites in a metal mixing bowl, and when combining the egg whites with the batter, be sure to use a spatula to fold them in, rather than stirring them in with a spoon or whisk.

If you are feeling particularly caught up in the spirit of Valentine’s day add a few drops of red food coloring to the cake batter to create a soft pink hue to the cake.

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Champagne Cake
Ingredients:

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1 1/2 cups white sugar

3/4 cup champagne (or sparkling wine of your choice)

6 egg whites

Preheat the oven to 350 and generously grease an angel food cake pan or a bunt cake pan. Next, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt onto a sheet of wax paper and set aside. Using a stand or hand mixer, beat together the butter on medium speed until the butter lightens in color and becomes slightly fluffy. With the mixer running, slowly add the sugar and continue to beat until combined and the mixture has increased in volume by one third.

Lifting up the sheet of wax paper, pour one third of the dry ingredients into the butter and sugar mixture and combine on a low speed with the mixer. Next, pour in half of the champagne. Continue to alternate between the dry ingredients on the wax paper and the champagne until combined. Be careful not to over-mix. Set the mixture aside.

In a separate metal mixing bowl, beat the egg whites with a hand or stand mixer on high speed until stiff peaks form. Gently fold one third of the stiff egg whites into the cake batter. Once combined, continue to fold in the egg whites in one third at a time. Be careful to use a folding technique so that the cake retains a light and fluffy texture when baked, do not stir in with a spoon or whisk.

Pour the batter into the greased cake pan and bake for 30-35 minutes. The top of the cake will be golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake will come out clean when the cake is finished. After the cake has finished baking, invert the pan on a sturdy glass. If you do not invert the cake during the cooling process the cake with “fall” or become condensed, rather than airy and fluffy.

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One Step Italian Meringue Frosting
Ingredients

3 egg whites, at room temperature

1 cup, plus 2 Tbsp sugar

3 Tbsp cold water

1/4 tsp cream of tartar

In a medium sized saucepan, bring 3 inches of water to a gentle simmer. Combine all the ingredients in a large metal bowl. Place the bowl over the saucepan and using a hand mixer, beat together the ingredients on a low speed for 5 minutes.

Increase the speed to high and beat for 4 more minutes, or until the mixture has become very thick and shiny. Remove the bowl from the heat and beat for an additional 4 minutes until the frosting is light and fluffy.

Once the champagne cake has cooled completely, remove from the cake pan and frost with the meringue. Serve immediately.

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Holiday Recipe: Cake Balls

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*This article was originally posted on www.Somerville.Patch.com*

These trendy, bite-sized desserts are easy to make great for holiday parties.

It feels like cake balls and cake pops have been appearing everywhere lately. These small servings of cake that have been dipped in chocolate are even available at Starbucks now. As it turns out, these adorable treats are actually not so hard to make at home!

They can be made with any cake recipe (from scratch or box), an easy cream-cheese frosting to hold the cake together, and melted chocolate. Cake balls also can be decorated in any which way or left in just a coating of melted chocolate.

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Cake Balls

Ingredients

1box of cake mix

8 ounces cream cheese (not reduced fat)

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1 cup confectioner’s sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 bag of chocolate chips

In a well greased 9×13 pan bake your favorite cake. Whether it’s your grandma’s fudge cake or fun-fetti, any cake will do. I selected a red velvet cake for this batch. After the cake is finished baking and a tooth pick inserted into the center comes out clean, cover the cake with a dish towel and put on a wire rack to cool completely.

While the cake cools whip up some cream cheese frosting. The frosting will be used to hold the cake together and give it its shape. Using a stand or hand mixer beat together the cream cheese and butter. Once the two are well combined turn your mixer on low and slowly add the confectioner’s sugar. Stop the mixer to scrape the sides of the bowl, and add 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Then turn the mixer on medium-high and beat for 2-3 minutes.

Once the cake is completely cooled and your frosting is ready it’s time to turn your sheet cake into balls of cake. Cut the cake into four equal sections and put one section into a large mixing bowl. Using a fork shred the section of cake until it is completely crumbled. Continue to do this one fourth at a time until the entire cake is crumbled finely.

Next, add the prepared frosting to the bowl of cake crumbs. Using a fork work the frosting into the crumbs until the cake and frosting are combined. Even if you are using a chocolate cake, the frosting will eventually blend into the cake. Using a small ice cream scoop to measure, roll the crumbs into balls that are 1 ½ inches in diameter and place on a baking sheet. Finally, put the sheet of cake balls into the freezer for 1 hour.

After the cake balls have been in the freezer for an hour it’s time to coat the cake in chocolate. To prepare the chocolate coating you’ll need to melt a bag of chocolate chips over a double boiler. Fill a medium sized sauce pan with 2 inches of water and place the half of the chocolate chips in a high-heat friendly bowl.

Put the bowl on top of the sauce pan, the bowl should be well above the water. Turn on the burner to medium heat and stir the chocolate as it melts. Using a double boiler (versus melting the chocolate in the microwave) is better for melting chocolate because it allows you to control the temperature.

Sometimes when chocolate is being melted it gets hot too quickly and turns into a thick and pasty texture, this is called breaking. If the chocolate starts to break remove your chocolate from heat and stir in either a splash (very small amount) of milk or vegetable oil and gently work it into the chocolate. This will smooth out the texture.

Next, coat the cake balls by putting one cake ball into the melted chocolate and gently covering using a spoon and fork to maneuver the cake ball in chocolate. Once evenly coated place the cake ball on the baking sheet. If you are topping the cake ball with any decorations, do so before the chocolate hardens. Topping suggestions: sprinkles, crushed candy canes, melted white chocolate, or chopped nuts.

Oven Baked Fries Done Right

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Like many, I am a lady with cravings.  These cravings aren’t usually of the sweet kind, but mostly I long for something that has been deep fried and covered in salt.  No matter how healthy I try to eat I can never kick my cravings for fried food, specifically for French fries.  I’ve experimented with oven baked fries regularly however they rarely satisfy my cravings.  When I came across this recipe in a Cook’s Illustrated Magazine I just knew I had to give it a try.  If I could recreate the taste and texture of yummy French fries in an oven I knew I would be a happy lady.

This recipe is a bit more high maintenance than my usual (slice up a potato, toss it in some oil and spices, and bake in a hot oven until it looks done-ish or I until I can’t wait any more), but the results are worth the effort.

This recipe doesn’t require much in the way of ingredients.

I have to be honest and admit I started off on the wrong foot with this recipe.  The recipe calls for russet potatoes, however at my grocery store these don’t come loose and since I’m not trying to feed a family of 10, so I settled on your standard baking potato rather than a large bag of russets.

When you slice up your potatoes into wedges, first of all be careful with your knife.  When I was slicing my potatoes up I slipped and cut one of my fingers with my knife, which is apparently getting a little dull.  But also, you want to make sure you are slicing up the potatoes into wedges that are even in size so that they cook evenly.

One more note about when you slice the potatoes; if you feel you need to express yourself by peeling the potatoes don’t feel like you’re wrong.  Do what you think is right.  However, this recipe notes that it tested much better when the skins were left on and also I’m told the nutrients are all in the skin anyway. Yay nutrients!

After you have your potatoes sliced preheat your oven to 457 and adjust the oven rack to the lowest position in your oven.  Positioning your tray in the bottom of the oven will guarantee that your fries are browned evenly and quickly and will prevent overcooking to occur on the inside of your fry. Also note that with an oven this hot standard baking pans don’t always hold up, you’ll need to use a heavy duty pan.

Next it’s time to soak the potatoes in hot tap water for 10 minutes.

In order to get the desired texture of a delicious French fry this recipe employees a soaking and steaming method.  Soaking the potato is a technique that is frequently used in making French fries that are actually fried.

While the potatoes are soaking coat your pan with ¼ cup of oil.

After the pan is evenly coated sprinkle your spices on the pan.  The recipe calls for table salt and pepper.  I used Jane’s Crazy Salt, because I love the stuff and I also like my fries to have a bit of a bite to them so I experimented with a pinch of cayenne pepper.  Coating the pan with oil and spices assures that the potatoes are evenly covered with oil and the spices prevent the fries from sticking to the pan.

Now back to the potatoes, once they are done soaking put the wedges on a plate with paper towels and pat them dry.

Then place them in a bowl and coat them with 1 teaspoon of oil. Next assemble your army of potato wedges in a single layer on your baking sheet.

Cover the pan tightly with foil and put them in the oven for 5 minutes (this is the steaming part).

After 5 minutes remove the foil, bake for 10 minutes and rotate the pan.  Bake for an additional 5-10 minutes until the bottoms of the wedges are spotted with patches of golden brown.  Using a metal spatula flip over the wedges and put them back in the oven to cook for another 7-10 minutes.  Once they are done cooking remove them from the pan and put them on paper towels to blot excessive oil.  Season to taste and serve ‘em while they’re still hot.


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Baked French Fries

Recipe from America’s Test Kitchen

Ingredients:

  • 3-4 russet potatoes, cut into evenly-sized wedges
  • hot water
  • salt
  • pepper
  • paprika

Directions:

Adjust the racks in the oven to the lowest positions and preheat to 475 degrees. Fill a mixing bowl with hot water and soak the potato wedges for 10 minutes.

While the potatoes are soaking coat your pan with ¼ cup of oil and sprinkle the salt, pepper, and paprika on the oiled pan.

Now back to the potatoes, once they are done soaking put the wedges on a plate with paper towels and pat them dry. Then, place them in a bowl and coat them with 1 teaspoon of oil. Place the potato wedges in a single layer on your baking sheet. Cover the pan tightly with foil and bake in the oven for 5 minutes.

After 5 minutes remove the foil, bake for 10 minutes and rotate the pan.  Bake for an additional 5-10 minutes until the bottoms of the wedges are spotted with patches of golden brown.  Using a metal spatula flip over the wedges and put them back in the oven to cook for another 7-10 minutes.  Once they are done cooking remove them from the pan and put them on paper towels to blot excess oil.  Season to taste and serve warm.