Monday, July 24, 2017

Pasta with Marinara, Roasted Cherry Tomatoes, and Burrata

Making decisions on what to eat or not to eat on the mornings as well as the night before a long run or race has been a bit of an ongoing challenge for me. There are no shortage of recommendations or schools of thought about what one's body needs or what the protein to carbohydrate ratio should be in order to sustain intense and/or extended periods of exercise. I have read about and tinkered with most of them. Learning all too well that what works for some doesn't always work for others. Especially for those like me with overly sensitive stomachs. No matter what the most accomplished athletes or coaches prescribe as 'optimal performance foods', it turns out following the most prevailing wisdom, aka 'listen to your body,' may be the best pre- and post-run/workout advice out there. My food choices go through phases depending on a number of variables. Eating pasta the night before a long run seems to be working best at the moment. I couldn't be happier. 

For the past ten weeks I have been just one of cadre of committed runners helping to support a group of amazing women training for either a 5k or 10k race. Everyone who joined this running group came with at least one personal goal. They ranged from improving their running performance and/or endurance; to supporting their return to running after an extended period of absence; to getting physically and mentally ready to run a race. The newest members to the group learned more than good running form; the importance of speed/hill work and cross training; and/or why nutrition matters. They discovered the running group was more than a venue to become a better runner or to experience the benefits of being supported during a run. It was a place where great friendships are formed and where both small and big successes are celebrated. The intangible outcomes of being part of this running group almost outweigh its' tangible benefits. 

This past weekend we all ran either the 5k or 10k culminating race. It just happened the race was on one of the hottest, most humid days of the summer thus far. And while there had been some hot/humid training days, nothing came close to this runner's worst race days fears. Full sun, little to no wind, and temperatures/humidity soaring to incredibly high, warning levels. In spite of the running conditions and a series of unexpected hills on the course, everyone successfully finished their race. The best part of the day for me was being with the women I had been running with for the past ten weeks. Unbeknownst to them, they made me, the hot weather wimptress, want to keep my 'running head' in the game. For my part, I made certain I ate what I thought my body needed the night before the race. The Pasta with Marinara, Roasted Cherry Tomatoes, and Burrata may have been the best pre-race meal I have ever eaten. But I won't even tell you what my post-race food and beverage intake was as it violated almost all of the post-race food advice out there or how much fun sitting in a kiddie pool filled with ice cold water with four of my running friends was. But I couldn't have been happier.

There are so many rave worthy things about this pasta dish. One of them had to do with the choice of pasta. I absolutely love long, on the wider side pasta noodles. Tagliatelle, a long, flat pasta ribbon, was the perfect choice. They are slightly wider than fettuccine and much thinner than pappardelle. Instead of water, tagliatelle noodles are made with eggs. As a result they have a slightly higher absorbency quality, making them one that stands well to a variety of sauces (e.g., bolognese, carbonara). And they were the perfect choice for this pasta dish. 

Adding roasted cherry tomatoes to this pasta dish not only adds an amazing flavor and texture dimension, they make for even more visually appealing one as well. Drizzled with some olive oil and seasoned with kosher salt and pepper, the tomatoes are roasted in a 400 degrees (F) for approximately 20 minutes (or until they begin to blister). Roasting the tomatoes at a high temperature for a relatively short amount of time turns them into incredible bursts of flavor.

The recipe for this slightly chunky, deeply flavored marinara sauce was inspired by one of Lidia Bastianich's recipes. Unlike a more complex tomato sauce, a marinara comes together relatively quickly relying on very few ingredients to give it a deep, rich flavor.  Instead of using cans of plum tomatoes and crushing them by hand, this marinara uses cans of crushed tomatoes.You might think the use of 16-18 cloves of garlic would overpower this marinara sauce. But it doesn't. Sautéing the chopped garlic in extra-virgin olive oil until they are pale golden in color tames their bitterness and transforms them into sweet bites of goodness. After the sauce simmers for 20-30 minutes, remove a generous cup from the pan as this recipe yields more sauce than you need to coat the tagliatelle. The extra sauce can be heated and served on the side for those who love a heavily dressed plate of pasta, used to lightly coat meatballs (if you are also making them) or reserved for another use. 

When the tagliatelle reaches al dente, it's drained and added to the simmering marinara sauce. Remember to reserve at least a cup of the pasta water. It will ever so slightly smooth the sauce as well as help to continue to cook the pasta after it's mixed into the sauce. Be sparring with the use of the pasta water as you still want this marinara to retain its' slightly chunky texture. Note: I added less than 1/4 cup of the pasta water to the sauce.

After the tagliatelle is completely coated with the marinara sauce, add half of the roasted tomatoes and all of the roasting juices from the pan. Gently stir and then pour the pasta into your serving dish. Top with chards of the burrata cheese and some additional chopped basil. To finish, drizzle some extra-virgin olive oil over the top. This Pasta with Marinara, Roasted Cherry Tomatoes, and Burrata is now ready to wow your family and friends. 

The addition of the roasted cherry tomatoes and burrata along with use of the tagliatelle pasta creates a most beautiful, most flavorful bowl of pasta. One certain to make a lasting impression on everyone's eyes and palates. Paired with a salad and some great bread, the Pasta with Marinara, Roasted Cherry Tomatoes, and Burrata is hearty enough to be an incredibly satisfying meal. Bring a great bottle of wine (or two, depending on your friends) to the table and it's possible no one will leave your dinner table until every last morsel of the pasta has been devoured. No one will be happier.

Pasta with Marinara, Roasted Cherry Tomatoes, and Burrata (marinara recipe influenced by Lidia Bastianich)
Serves: 6 hungry or 8 not so hungry people

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (plus additional for finishing)
14-16 cloves of garlic, crushed and chopped
2 cans of San Marzano crushed tomatoes (28 ounce size)
2 to 3 Tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons Kosher salt (or more to your liking)
1/2 teaspoon Aleppo red pepper
12-16 fresh basil leaves, sliced into slivers (plus additional leaves for garnishing)

16-18 ounces cherry tomatoes
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and pepper

1 pound tagliatelle pasta 
12 ounces burrata 

Marinara Sauce
1. Heat extra virgin olive oil in a heavy deep saucepan.  Add garlic and cook until lightly browned.
2. Add crushed tomatoes and bring to a boil.
3. Reduce heat, add salt, Aleppo pepper flakes and sugar. Simmer until slightly thickened. Approximately 20-30 minutes.
4. Add slivered basil to sauce about 5 minutes before the sauce is finished.
5. Remove a generous cup of the marinara sauce and set aside.

Roasted Tomatoes
1. While marinara sauce is simmering, heat oven to 400 degrees (F). 
2. Place tomatoes in a roasting dish or pan. Drizzle with 2 Tablespoons of olive oil and season liberally with salt and pepper.
3. Roast tomatoes for approximately 20 minutes or until tomatoes begin to blister. Reserve drippings.

Pasta and Assembly.
1. Cook pasta in salted water until al dente (the cooking time for the tagliatelle was approximately 5-6 minutes). Reserve at least one cup of the pasta water after draining. 
2. Add drained pasta to the marinara sauce, add a ladle of the reserved pasta water (or enough until it reaches a desired consistency), toss until the pasta is coated and simmer for additional 1-2 minutes. This additional cooking time will bring the pasta to the perfect consistency.
3. Transfer pasta to serving bowl. Toss in half of the roasted tomatoes and all of the tomato juice drippings from the roasting pan. 
4. Arrange remaining half of the roasted tomatoes over the pasta.
5. Cut burrata into pieces and place on top of pasta.
6. Lightly drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil. Garnish with additional chopped basil. Serve immediately.

Notes: (1) Marinara sauce can be made a day ahead. Reheat before adding the cooked, drained pasta. Can use some of the pasta water to thin the sauce. (2) Can serve the generous reserved cup of marinara sauce on the side, use to coat meatballs if making, or save for another use. (3) If you can't find tagliatelle pasta, consider using linguine, fettuccine or pappardelle pasta for this dish.

One view of Chicago's skyline, an iconic building, the L-train, and the Buckingham Fountain, taken while an architectural boat tour (June, 2017)

Friday, July 21, 2017

Raspberry Crumb Bars

"I am beginning to recognize that real happiness isn't' something large and looming on the horizon ahead, but something small, numerous and already here." (Beau Taplin) It doesn't seem to take much to make me happy lately. Season seven of the Game of Thrones returned this past week, I bought a small 'kiddie' pool for running and exercise recovery reasons (partly true), having coffee with friends after running and/or working out, I absolutely loved a book (Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine) I came across unexpectedly, and the driveway went from looking like blight to brand new thanks to a long over due coat of sealer were some of the sources of happiness this week. It's true what they say. There is much to be said for finding joy in the small things. If you look back at your week, what would be those things that made your heart race or brought a smile to your face?

I thought these Raspberry Crumb Bars were really, really, really good, but having friends say they loved them was yet another of the week's highlights. Validation never ever gets old. I could say 'at least for me' but I don't think I am the only one who thrives on hearing kind words. One of the simplest gifts we can give to others, especially to those we love or value. Generosity comes in many forms, but gifting with words may be the most powerful of them all.

But let's not underestimate the power of a platter of home baked treats to let others know they matter to you. In the absence of words, the gift of anything homemade speaks volumes. Like these buttery, sumptuous Raspberry Crumb Bars for example. Amazon reminded me I bought the cookbook "Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston's Flour Bakery and Cafe" almost seven years ago. But it took seeing the luscious, ripe raspberries at this week's farmer's market to get me to make them.

I have made a number of fruit bar recipes before, but these may now be my favorite for so many reasons. All-purpose and cake flours help to create the tenderest of shortbread crusts. The butter adds the kind of melt in your mouth richness you come to expect from a really great shortbread. Granulated and confectionary sugars bring just the right amount of sweetness. The addition of fresh raspberries to the layer of raspberry preserves took these crumb bars to yet another level. 

Like the old adage 'don't judge a book by its' cover', don't judge these Raspberry Crumb Bars by their directions. At first look, they will appear to be a little on the cumbersome side. If anything, they are more on the time intensive than on the labor intensive side. 

The dough for the shortbread base is beautifully soft and supple. It all begins with beating the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy (approximately five minutes). This first step is key so don't rush through it. With the addition of the egg yolks and vanilla there is another 2-3 minutes of beating time. The sifted dry ingredients are added slowly and mixed only until fully incorporated. The consistency of the dough requires it to be chilled. At a minimum the chilling time is 30 minutes, at a maximum it is 2 hours. After following the original recipe as written, I am not convinced a quarter of the dough needs to be put in the freezer for two hours. I think the dough for the base and dough for the top could both be refrigerated for at least 30 minutes, although 60 minutes may be better. But more on the top layer of these Raspberry Crumb Bars later.

Instead of making free form bars, these were baked in a 9"x12" baking pan. After the lightly floured dough was rolled between two sheets of parchment paper, it was lifted and placed into the pan (top piece of parchment paper removed before baking). The base layer is baked in a preheated 350 degree (F) oven for approximately 20 minutes or until a very light brown. Before the raspberry jam/preserves and if using, fresh raspberries are evenly spread over the base crust, the baked base needs to cool for 10-15 minutes. 

A large hole box or hand held grater is used to turn the block of frozen dough into chards of dough. Honestly, this was a bit messy. Which made me think it might be easier to break off bits of dough and spread evenly over the top of the jam/fruit before returning the baking pan to the oven. Eliminating the step of freezing some of the dough for 2 hours and replacing it with a chill time of approximately 60 minutes would save considerable time in the making of these Raspberry Crumb Bars.

The baking pan returns to the oven and continues to bake for 20-30 minutes or until the top is golden brown. As it turned out my baking time was 30 minutes, but would recommend you begin checking yours for doneness at the 20 minute mark. Before they are lightly dusted with confectionary sugar, the bars need to cool to room temperature. Yes, I know, this seems like a day long project. Maybe its' a half day one, but the investment of time has an incredible pay off.

The ratio of jam/preserves to shortbread is crumb bar perfection. All of the expectations I had for these Raspberry Crumb Bars were exceeded. They redefine melt in your mouth deliciousness. After cutting them into 18 smaller bars, I understood why the original recipe called for cutting them into 9 larger bars. As one small bar turned out to be a bit of tease. 

These Raspberry Crumb Bars are what you would expect to find at a high quality bakery. When you serve these to your friends and family, I wouldn't at all be surprised if they asked you where you got them. I can tell you these bars will be good for several days if stored in a covered container. But it's highly unlikely they will last that long. When you travel to the grocery store to pick up some raspberry jam or preserves, you should probably buy two jars. I have a strong feeling you will be making these more than once. 

Raspberry Crumb Bars (a slight adaptation to Joanne Chang's recipe in her cookbook "Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston's Flour Bakery and Cafe")
Makes 9 large bars or 18 medium sized ones

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks/342 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
3 Tablespoons confectionary or caster sugar
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups (175 grams) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups (180 grams) cake flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups (510 grams) raspberry jam or preserves, with seeds. See Note.
1/4 cup (35 grams) confectionary sugar
Optional: 1/4 pint fresh raspberries

1. In a medium sized bowl, sift together the all-purpose flour, cake flour, baking powder, and kosher salt. Set aside.
2. In a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter, granulated sugar, and confectionary sugar on medium speed for approximately 5 minutes or until mixture is very light and fluffy. Stop the mixer intermittently to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
3 Beat in the egg yolks and vanilla at medium speed for 2-3 minutes or until yolks are fully incorporated. Scrape the sides of the bowl as needed.
4. On low speed gradually add in sifted flour mixture. Mix until flour is totally incorporated. Again stop the mixer as needed to scrape the bowl to make certain all of the flour is fully incorporated.
5. Scrape the dough onto a large sheet of plastic wrap. Remove 1/4 of the dough and transfer to a separate sheet of plastic wrap. 
6. Form large piece of dough into a rectangle, at least 1 inch thick. Form the smaller piece of dough into a small brick shape. 
7. Place the large piece of the dough into the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. Note: If freezing small piece of dough for 2 hours, chilling time on the dough will be approximately 90 minutes.
8. Place the small piece of dough into the freezer for 2 hours. Note: Alternately, place small piece of dough in the refrigerator as well.
9. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F). Position a rack in the center of the oven.
10. On a large sheet of parchment paper, trace the outline of a 9"x13" or 9"x12" baking pan. Turn paper over so ink or pencil is facing down. Lightly sprinkle the top of the dough with all-purpose flour. Top with another piece of parchment paper. Roll out large piece of dough to the size of the baking pan selected (see above).
11. Transfer parchment paper to baking pan. Remove top piece of parchment paper.
12. Bake for approximately 20 minutes, or until the shortbread is very light brown. Allow to cool for 10-15 minutes. Keep oven on.
13. Spread the raspberry jam/preserves evenly over the slightly cooled crust. Optional: Sprinkle with 1/4 pint of raspberries if using.
14. Remove small piece of dough from the freezer. Using the large holes of a handheld or box grater, grate dough into large flakes over the jam/preserves. Make sure dough is evenly distributed. Note: If the small piece of dough was refrigerated but not frozen, break up into small pieces and evenly distribute over the jam/preserves.
15. Return baking sheet to the oven and bake for 20-30 minutes, or until top is lightly browned. Remove from oven and place pan on a wire rack to allow the bars to cool completely.
16. When cooled, sift confectionary sugar evenly over the top. Cut into bars. Note: For large sized bars, cut into 9 pieces. for medium sized bars, cut into 18 pieces.
17. Serve immediately or store bars in an airtight container for up to 3-4 days. Note: Can also wrap bars individually and store in the refrigerator.

Notes: (1) A 13 ounce jar of Bonne Maman Raspberry Preserves yielded exactly what the recipe called for. (2) Instead of the free form method of rolling out the dough into a 9"x12" or 9"x13" inch rectangle and transferring to a baking sheet, recommend rolling out dough to fit into a baking pan so all of the edges are even and there is no waste. (3) The use of fresh raspberries is optional, but they took these bars to an even higher level of deliciousness. (4) It may have been my oven, but the bars on the second bake didn't get to a golden brown color. But their taste/texture were perfect after 30 minutes of baking. However, recommend checking for doneness at 20 minutes. (5) These bars were made with Raspberry Preserves, but these would be equally delicious with Mixed Berry Preserves or Blackberry Preserves.

Summer's bounty at the local Farmer's Market (July 2017)

Monday, July 17, 2017

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

Sometimes one needs a reason to make a cake. Or rather I need a reason to make a cake. Mine range from simply having a craving for cake, to wondering what a cake I had never made before tastes like, to honoring a special occasion with cake. If I acted on the craving cake reason as often as I had a yearning for one, a significant amount of my time would be spent in the kitchen making them. Fortunately there are other things competing for time in my life, so cake baking doesn't usually make it to the top of the daily list of things I need or want to do. If I baked a cake every time I came across a new recipe peeking my taste interests, there would be at least one new cake made weekly. In spite of a strong desire to master 'on the first try' a new recipe, I am pretty certain my family and friends would either soon lose their appetites for cake or start avoiding me. Which leaves baking for special occasions or rather I should say special people having a special occasion as my favorite reason for baking a cake. Especially when those special occasions are birthdays. 

Store bought cakes may work for some occasions, but birthdays call for homemade ones. And a friend's birthday this past week was the inspiration behind the making of this Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake. For as often as I have made chocolate cakes, I have never made one with Peanut Butter Icing. Seriously. Even I wondered how it was possible I had never combined two of my most favorite flavors together in a cake before.This hard to believe oversight may have actually been a blessing in disguise as this cake is one I could easily find a way to justify making for no good reason at all. It's absolutely wickedly delicious.

Deciding which chocolate cake and which peanut butter icing recipes to combine was an easy decision. Julia Turshen's Everyday Chocolate Cake now ranks high on my list of the best chocolate cakes ever.  Not only does it have a deep chocolate flavor and moist texture, it is surprisingly easy to make. I immediately knew the peanut butter icing used to top the Banana Cupcakes would elevate this chocolate cake to an even higher level of celebratory decadence. 

The peanut butter icing has an ethereal quality to it. Butter, cream cheese, peanut butter and confectionary sugar are whipped together to create the creamiest of icings. The taste of peanut butter is discernible without being either overwhelming or overpowering. 

When I first decided to make this Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake as a birthday cake for a friend, I toyed with the idea of making it a four layer cake. But after it was iced and decorated with some peanut butter cups, the two layer cake turned out to be perfect.

There are any number of ways you could ice and decorate this cake. Use of a pastry bag is optional. Adorning it with or without peanut butter cups, sprinkles and/or nuts/peanuts is purely dependent on the occasion and/or your imagination. 

Celebrating a birthday with a cake, especially one homemade, can often transport us back in time. Just having a single slice of cake can enable us to reconnect with our inner youthful selves. A birthday cake not only helps to mark the day, it can also be a powerful reminder of how much there is to celebrate in our lives. There are so many reasons why we need to have a cake on our birthday. Feeling like a kid again and being reminded of what friends have brought to our lives may be only two of them. 

Whatever it is that you wish for your next birthday, may it always include a homemade cake shared with friends. It is more than possible you will decide every one of your birthdays should include this two layer homemade with love cake, particularly after you take a bite of it. 

Having a homemade cake that combines chocolate and peanut butter may be the proverbial 'icing on the cake' reason for making this one. Because honestly, you don't need or shouldn't wait for a special occasion to make this cake. Really, you shouldn't. 

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake (minor changes to Julia Turshen's Happy Wife, Happy Life Chocolate Cake recipe as shared in her cookbook "Small Victories: Recipes, Advice, and Hundreds of Ideas for Home-Cooking Triumphs" and  s slight adaptation to the Matt Lewis/Renato Poliafito recipe for icing created for Bon Appetit)

Serves 8-12 people, depending on how you slice it

1 1/4 cups (150 g) all-purpose flour 
1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
3/4 cup (75 g) Dutch-processed cocoa powder, sifted if lumpy
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
8 Tablespoons (120 g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten
1 cup strong black coffee cooled or 1 rounded teaspoon espresso powder mixed into 1 cup boiling water then cooled
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon good quality vanilla

3 cups confectionary sugar, sifted
16 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup (16 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup smooth, creamy peanut butter, recommend JIF (do not use old-fashioned, freshly ground or natural)
generous pinch of sea salt
Optional: Garnish with Peanut Butter Cups, sprinkles, chopped peanuts, etc.

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F). Butter and parchment paper line two 8" baking pans. Lightly butter top of parchment paper.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
3. Add melted butter, eggs, coffee, buttermilk, and vanilla. Whisk until batter is thick and smooth.
4. Divide batter evenly between the two prepared cake pans. Lightly tap the cake pans to remove any air bubbles. Note: Using a digital scale helps to ensure each pan has equal amounts of batter.
5. Bake until tops of cake spring back when lightly pressed and edges begin to come away from the pan. Approximately 30 minutes of baking time.
6. Transfer cakes to a wire rack and allow to cool completely. 

Icing and Assembly
1. In a medium sized bowl, beat cream cheese, butter and peanut butter until smooth and creamy.
2. Add in sifted confectionary sugar, beat until well blended.
3. Using a pastry bag, pipe frosting onto cupcakes. Or spread frosting using an offset spatula.
4. Place one of the cakes upside-down on your serving platter or cake stand. Spoon slightly more than 1/3 of the frosting on the cake. Spread evenly over cake.
5. Place the second cake layer (again upside-down) on the frosted layer. Top cake with a light coat of the icing. Use a pastry bag to decorate top of cake. Will be using a little more than 1/3 of the icing.
6. Use the remaining frosting to frost the sides of the cake. If using, add cake garnishes.
7. Serve immediately or cover cake and chill in the refrigerator before serving. Take cake out at least 30 minutes before serving to soften the icing. The cake itself will remain sightly chilled.

Notes: (1) I used two different sizes of the milk chocolate peanut butter cups from Trader Joe's to garnish the cake. (2) Cake can be made a day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.

Hiking trail on Whidbey Island; forest fairy chair along a path in Snoqualmie (WA); and lupines at the base of Mount Si (Western Cascade Range in Washington).

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Herbed Parmesan Dutch Baby with Cherry Tomato Jam

Up until just recently I had put the Dutch Baby into the sweet for breakfast or brunch category. And the only thing causing me to vacillate between ordering and not ordering one in a restaurant is the wait time. Twenty to twenty-five minutes feels like a lifetime, particularly if you are in a hurry or hangry. But if time is not an issue and you aren't falling over the edge of starvation, the deliciousness factor of a Dutch Baby is always off the charts. If Rotten Tomatoes rated Dutch Babies instead of movies, it would probably give it a rating of 97%. I have yet to meet a version of a breakfast Dutch Baby I didn't like. The Apple Dutch Baby may be my most favorite, but I wouldn't turn my nose at a Dutch Baby simply dusted with confectionary sugar or piled high with blueberries

The world of savory Dutch Babies was unfamiliar to me until I discovered Melissa Clark's recipe for the Herbed Parmesan Dutch Baby in her new cookbook Dinner: Changing the Game. Serving a savory Dutch Baby for lunch, dinner, or as an appetizer sounded intriguing. But then I would be game for making any dish destined to pair well with wine. In the case of this Herbed Parmesan Dutch Baby, think chilled chardonnay or sparkling wine.

My contribution to this recipe was pairing it with some homemade Cherry Tomato Jam instead of sriracha. I may be the only person on the planet not a fan of sriracha. I had a strong hunch the fruity, nutty taste of Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese would go well with the slightly caramelized sweetness of the jam. And it must have been my lucky day as my hunch turned out to be right. If you have never made or had Cherry Tomato Jam before, you really should. Seriously, you should. Not only does it compliment the flavor of this Herbed Parmesan Dutch Baby, it is a game changer on cheese platters.

Unlike most of the other Dutch Babies I have made, this one is made with almost double or triple the number of eggs used most other of my Dutch Baby recipes. Making it a slightly denser, heartier version of this classic dish. 

When looking at Dutch Baby recipes, there seems to be two approaches to making the batter. Whisking the dry and wet ingredients together until blended or processing in a blender/food processor until smooth and frothy. I prefer the later method. In the direction below I give you both options.

Whenever an ingredient list specifies the amount of grated cheese in cups versus weight, I always convert to weight (grams or ounces). Unlike measuring brown sugar (lightly or firmly packed), there don't seem to be any clearly specified guidelines for measuring grated cheese. The lack of these guidelines more than likely often means a higher probability of erring on the side of not using the amount of cheese called for in a recipe. If you don't have a scale, try to buy a chunk of cheese in the amount you need. And don't even think of substituting packaged grated cheese for freshly grated. Nothing comes close to or tastes better than a high quality Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

Oven temperature is another one of the variations noted in Dutch Baby recipes. While all are baked at high temperatures, the recommended ranges are somewhere between 400 to 450 degrees (F). The only exception to these temperatures are found in some German Pancake recipes. This one calls for baking the Dutch Baby at 425 degrees (F). Cast iron pans not only handle the high heat well, their surfaces are inherently non-stick. Make your Dutch Baby in a 12" round or 9"x 12" pan, but make certain it's cast iron or one that can handle the high heat. Note: Most non-stick pans are not designed to perform at very high oven temperatures.

You can either melt the butter by placing it the pan and putting in the oven or melting it on the stovetop. It is critically important be hot when you pour in the batter.

In 20 to 25 minutes, the sides of your Dutch Baby will rise and turn the most beautiful golden brown. Garnish the baked Herbed Parmesan Dutch Baby with some additional chopped thyme and chives and immediately bring to the table. Not just for the wow factor, but like most Dutch Babies, this one is best enjoyed while still hot. Although I found picking at the room temperature leftovers was still an incredibly pleasurable eating experience.

Don't forget to make some Tomato Jam ahead of time.

The batter for this Dutch Baby comes together rather quickly. In less than an hour, you can have dinner (or lunch) on the table. However, you can also have everything prepped in advance. The batter and grated cheese can remain refrigerated until you are ready to assemble, bake, and serve.

But this savory Dutch Baby shouldn't be pigeon-holed in the Herbed Parmesan Dutch Baby category. As Melissa Clark suggested, it would also make for a great appetizer. What about the 20-25 minutes it takes for it to bake in the oven? Well depending on your timing, it won't seem long for your guests. But even if you decided to put in the oven once they arrive, this Herbed Dutch Baby is well worth the wait. And maybe I need to reconsider how and when I think about the sweet versions of this 'love child to the pancake'. 

Herbed Parmesan Dutch Baby with Cherry Tomato Jam (A slight adaptation to Melissa Clark's Herbed Parmesan Dutch Baby recipe as shared in her cookbook Dinner: Changing the Gamea slightly revised version of the Cherry Tomato Jam for Cheese recipe as shared in the cookbook: The Cheesemonger's Kitchen: Celebrating Cheese in 90 recipes)

Ingredients for the Dutch Baby
1 cup (120 g or 4 1/4 oz) plus 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
8 large eggs
3/4 cup whole milk
2 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh thyme, plus more for garnish
2 Tablespoons finely chopped chives, plus more for garnish
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup (75 grams or 2 1/2 ounces) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese
Flaky Sea Salt

Directions for the Dutch Baby
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees (F).
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and pepper. Set aside.
3. In a medium sized bowl, whisk the eggs and milk until well blended.
4. Add eggs to the flour mixture and whisk until well blended and frothy. (Note: Alternately put the flour and egg mixture in a blender and mix until well blended or whip using a hand mixer.)
5. Stir in chopped thyme, chives and a heaping tablespoon of the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese.
6. Place butter in a 12" or 9"x12" cast iron pan. Place in oven until butter melts and begins to slightly brown (approximately 3-5 minutes). Note: Check on butter after 2 minutes and every minute thereafter.
7. Remove pan from oven. Pour in egg mixture. Top with grated parmesan cheese.
8. Return to oven and bake for 20-22 minutes or until the Dutch Baby is puffed and golden.
9. Remove from oven, garnish with additional thyme and chives. Serve immediately with Cherry Tomato Jam.

Ingredients for the Tomato Jam
2 cups (340 g) cherry or grape tomatoes (or a mix of the two), cut in half
3/4 cup (150 g) granulated sugar
2 -3 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Zest of 1 lemon
generous 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary

Directions for the Tomato Jam
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F). Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.
2. Place the cut tomatoes halves on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes to loose the skins.
3. Remove tomatoes from oven and place in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Add sugar.
4. Over medium heat gently melt sugar, then bring to a boil and cook (boiling rapidly) for 5 to 7 minutes, or until thick and syrupy. Notes: Stir frequently. My cooking time was 7 minutes.
5. Remove from heat and add lemon zest, freshly squeezed lemon juice and chopped rosemary.
6. Transfer tomato jam to clean, sterilized jars. Seal well. When cool, place jam in the refrigerator.
7. The tomato jam can be kept refrigerated for up to 2 weeks, if it lasts that long!

Notes: (1) Instead of melting butter in the cast iron pan in the oven, can melt on the stovetop over medium high heat; (2) Instead of using thyme and chives, could use thyme and tarragon or thyme (2 T), tarragon (1 T) and chives (1 T); (3) Instead of serving with the Tomato Jam, could serve with Sriracha and/or lemon wedges; (4) Definitely serve with a good quality white or sparkling wine; (5) If using a round cast iron pan, cut into wedges for serving; (6) The Dutch Baby is great hot out of the oven, but was equally delicious when it came to room temperature; (7) The batter and grated cheese can be prepared ahead of time and kept refrigerated until ready to use, making it a slightly make-ahead appetizer or luncheon/dinner entree. 

Fishing on the Snoqualmie River (June 2017)

Twin Falls, Snoqualmie Region, North Bend, Washington (June 2017)