Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Oatmeal Power Bars

The snow is all fun and games until you realize there's 8 inches of it to shovel out of the driveway. While Steven painstakingly cleared the driveway, I made myself useful by building a snowman. Standing at a majestic 4 foot something tall, he's the greatest snowman I've ever made.

Season's Greetings
My favorite part is his nose, which is a giant icicle instead of the usual carrot. Gives him the same sort of look, except 10x cooler (wow that was sooo unintended... gotta love crappy cold weather puns).

After the last few days of playing in the snow, I realized I've fallen ridiculously behind on making all of my holiday food items. I was supposed to get my 12 days of cookies done by tomorrow but right now, it's not looking good (6 cookies posted and 2 days to go?). But a friend said Christmas isn't just a day, it's a whole season that goes until January. I guess it's true, it's not like the holiday baking stops after Christmas. In the spirit of holiday baking I'll keep these cookies coming at my unreliable sporadic pace.

I just finished making my last official present last night (which I will post about later because the recipient reads this blog). Now I have a crapton of other things to make for Christmas, that is, if the car can make it out of the driveway. On the list: hot chocolate mix, marshmallows, aebleskiver mix, stollen with candied orange peel and rum raisins (soaking in rum right now), and chocolate chip cookies for the neighbors that lent us their snow shovel.

These oatmeal power bars are supposed to be a homemade imitation of these Costco oatmeal bars that Steven's dad likes so much. Last time I was at their house, I briefly glanced at the mile-long ingredient list for the bars - butter, oil, oats, brown sugar, coconut, nuts, dried fruit, and flax are the few I could remember. I bought a bag of ground flax seed from Trader Joe's for the sole purpose of trying to recreate the bars. Although I knew the majority of the correct ingredients, without the right amounts, I ended up just tossing stuff together. I obviously haven't mastered the skill of remaking food items because my bars were not like the Costco bars, still tasty in their own right, but not the same. Mine were so crumbly, a quarter of the bars disintegrated while I was cutting them and turned into trail mix.

To make them healthier, I could try cutting down on the butter and oil, maybe replacing some of it with applesauce, replace the brown sugar with honey or agave nectar, and up the flax and nuts.

Oatmeal Power Bar
Oatmeal Power Bar
makes 24 bars

1/2 C almonds, toasted
1/2 C pecans, toasted
1 C dried cranberries
1/2 C whole wheat flour
1/4 C ground flax seeds
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 C rolled oats (old-fashioned or quick cooking both work)
1 C sweetened shredded coconut
1/2 C (or 1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature
1/4 C canola or vegetable oil
1/2 C dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9 x 13 jelly roll pan with parchment paper.

If your almonds and pecans are not toasted, spread them on a baking sheet and toast for 10 - 15 minutes at 350 degrees F, or until the skin has darkened slightly and the nuts smell fragrant. Set aside to cool. After they are cool, chop roughly by hand or pulse them in a food processor.

Pour 1 cup of hot water over the dried cranberries and let them rehydrate for 5 minutes and drain.

Meanwhile, in a bowl, whisk the flour, ground flax, cinnamon, salt, and baking soda together. In another bowl, whisk the rolled oats, coconut, and chopped nuts.

With a stand mixer and paddle attachment or hand mixer, beat the butter until creamy and fluffy. Add the sugar, oil, and vanilla and beat again until creamy and fluffy. Add the egg and beat until the mixture is smooth. Add the flour mixture and beat until evenly combined. Then add the oat mixture and dried cranberries and mix until the dough is evenly incorporated.

Scrape the dough into the lined jelly roll pan and press the dough onto the pan with your fingers. Cover the dough with another piece of parchment and using a small rolling pin or empty wine bottle, roll over the parchment until the dough is evenly packed in the pan. Remove the top piece of parchment. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 - 20 minutes or until the edges are browned, the entire top is golden, and the center of pan is baked. You can use a toothpick to poke the middle to make sure it's not still gooey.

Run a knife along the edge of the pan to loosen the cookie from the pan. When the pan has cooled with room temperature, transfer the entire sheet of cookie to a cutting board (the easiest way to do this is to place the cutting board right next to the pan then use the parchment paper overhang as handles and slide the whole thing onto the board). Cut the sheet in half width-wise, then each half into quarters, and then cut each quarter into 6 bars. You should get 24 bars, give or take a few that will fall apart.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti

Snow Day
When it snowed last Thursday, Steven thought it was a better idea to stay home instead of going to work.
Snow Day
We debated whether to use the trash can lid or CSA box to go sledding down the hill. Eventually, we decided both were a bad idea. Seattle pretty much falls apart when it snows-schools close at the mere prediction of snow, the bus system goes down the pooper, cars start sliding everywhere-it's a mess. Probably because we have insane hills and maybe 1 or 2 snow plows.

crazy Seattle hills
Replace the power lines with ski lifts and you have yourself a nice slope for skiing (except that you can be blindsided by cars coming down the cross streets... that would be a problem).

We stopped to smell the rosemary, which grows like crazy around here. Our neighbors have a huuuge bush of it.

I never realized that snowflakes actually look like... snowflakes! I always thought those 6 pointed paper cutouts you see taped on windows around this time of year were idealized versions of what snowflakes could look like. Snowflakes don't actually look like that right? Kinda like how a heart shape doesn't quite look like a real heart. We usually get the amorphous clumps of snow crystals here so this was the first time I've seen these large, beautiful snowflakes.

I could have stood there all day taking pictures of the snowflakes that fell on Steven because as cliche as it sounds, each one was unique and absolutely perfect. But eventually I could no longer feel my toes so it was time to go home and have some hot chocolate and biscotti.
Since my last biscottis turned out so well, I decided to try another biscotti recipe from Dorie's book and as expected, they were just as good.

Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti

Chocolate and Hazelnut Biscotti
Adapted from Baking by Dorie Greenspan

3/4 C hazelnuts
2 C all purpose flour
1/3 C cocoa powder
2 tsp espresso powder
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
2 Tbsp vegetable or canola oil
3/4 C sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the hazelnuts in a baking pan and toast for 10 - 15 minutes, or until the nuts are golden and smell fragrant and the skin has darkened and blistered. Pour the nuts onto a towel and wrap them up in the towel so they can steam. After 2ish minutes, rub the nuts together in the towel to remove any loose skins. Transfer the nuts to a bowl and cool completely. Chop them roughly with a knife or pulse them briefly in a food processor.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, espresso powder, baking powder, and salt.

In another bowl, whisk together the melted butter, oil, sugar, and extracts until smooth. Add one egg, whisk until smooth, then add the second egg and whisk until smooth. Then add the flour mixture and chopped nuts and mix until no streaks of flour remain.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Scrape half of the batter onto the baking sheet and shape it into a rectangle 3 inches wide, 10ish inches long, and about 3/4 inch tall. Do the same with the remaining batter, spacing the loaves 4 inches apart. Bake at 350 for 20 - 25 minutes, or until the loaves are baked in the middle but still somewhat soft and springy.

Remove the pan from the oven and cool the loaves until they can be handled. Lower the oven temperature to 300 degrees F. Using a sharp knife, slice the loaves on a slight diagonal into roughly 1/2 inch slices (as thick or thin as you want). Stand the sliced biscotti up on the baking sheet like dominos and bake at 300 degrees F for another 20 - 30 minutes, or until they are dry and firm throughout.

Cool to room temperature and store in an airtight container.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Brown Butter Gingersnaps

Brown Butter Gingersnaps
This cookie is a cross between last year's brown sugar cookie and gingerbread. The brown butter gives what would be a traditional gingersnap a wonderful lingering caramely aftertaste. I kept them on the chewy side so gingersnap is a bit of a misnomer but gingerchew doesn't quite have the same ring. And as with all chewy cookies, keep them a little underbaked so the cookies retain their chewiness after they cool. If you like crisp cookies, a true gingersnap, bake these cookies longer. The spices are adjustable so play around with them to suit your tastes.

Brown Butter Gingersnaps
makes approximately 18 cookies

1/2 C unsalted butter (1 stick)
3/4 C dark brown sugar
1/4 C unsulphured molasses
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 C all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp allspice (optional)
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg *Spices are adjustable to suit your tastes
1/4 C granulated sugar for coating

Put 6 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan and heat over medium heat. Cook the butter until the foaming and bubbling subsides and the solids start to brown, stirring occasionally. The butter will start to smell really, really good. Take the butter off heat and continue to stir until the solids are an even brown (not too dark). If you're afraid of burning the butter, err on the side of caution. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter to stop the cooking. Set aside to cool.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, spices, baking soda, and salt until evenly combined.

When the butter is cool, stir in the brown sugar, molasses, egg, and vanilla. Whisk to evenly combine. Add the dry ingredients and mix until no streaks of flour remain.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Chill the dough for 15 - 30ish minutes, or until you can handle it without the dough sticking too much to your hands.

In a shallow bowl, add roughly 1/4 C of granulated sugar.

Take roughly 1 1/2 tablespoons of dough and roll it into a ball. Then roll it in the bowl of sugar to cover. Place on baking sheet. Space the cookies 2 inches apart. You should get around 18 cookies. Flatten them with the bottom of a drinking glass until they are between 1/4 inch and 1/2 inch thick. For chewy cookies, bake at 350 degrees for 10 - 12 minutes, or until the edges are cooked but the center is still soft. *Bake them longer if you want crispy cookies.

Transfer to a rack to cool.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Almond Biscotti

Almond Biscotti
Toooo many cookiesss... I'm forced to eat cookies for breakfast. It's a tough situation to be in.

I kid, I kid! Cookies (currently, four different kinds to choose from) with my morning coffee is a welcomed side effect of massive holiday baking. The biscottis I made this year are better than the ones I made last year. While not as festive looking, they are much easier to bite through and require no dunking in liquid. The difference is the addition of butter and oil and more baking powder. Biscotti with butter/oil won't keep as long as biscotti without the extra fat but they are more flavorful and the cookies will be gone so quickly, storage won't be an issue.

Almond Biscotti
Adapted from Baking by Dorie Greenspan

1 1/2 C all purpose flour
1/2 C yellow cornmeal
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
4 Tbsp (half stick) butter, at room temperature
2 Tbsp vegetable or canola oil
3/4 C granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 C almond slivers or chopped almonds, toasted

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

Toast the chopped almonds or almond slivers in the oven or stove top. If you are using whole raw almonds, toast them first before chopping. If using the oven: toast them on a tray at 350 degrees for 5 - 10 minutes, shake occasionally until fragrant and golden. On the stovetop: place the almonds in a skillet over medium heat, shake frequently until the almonds are fragrant and golden. Set aside to cool.

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt.

In another large bowl, add the butter, oil, and sugar and whisk until smooth. Add the extracts and one egg, whisk until smooth before adding the second egg.

Add in the dry ingredients and almonds and mix until no streaks of flour remain.

Scrape half of the dough onto one side of the prepared baking sheet. Shape the dough into a rectangle about 2.5 inches wide, roughly 10 - 12 inches long, and 3/4 inch high. Do the same with the other remaining half of dough. Bake for 20 - 30 minutes, until the logs are golden brown on top but still soft to the touch. Remove the pan from the oven and cool the logs until they are cool enough to handle.

Turn the oven down to 300 degrees F. Slice the logs at a slight angle into slices about 1/2 - 3/4 inches thick. Stand the cookie up like dominoes on the baking sheet. Bake for another 20 - 30 minutes or until the cookies are firm and dry. Transfer to a cooling rack and cool to room temperature.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Chocolate Olive Oil Crinkle Cookies

Almond Biscotti and Chocolate Crinkle Cookie

I was hoping these cookies would spread a little more in the oven so the cracks would be more well-defined. I was not impressed when I took them out of the oven but I changed my mind after I tried one of them. Leave them a little underbaked and they will taste rich and chocolately like a brownie bite. Chocolate and olive oil work surprisingly well together. Choose a fruity olive oil for these cookies and it will enhance the intense chocolate flavors. And for the health conscious, these cookies, made with heart-healthy dark chocolate and olive oil, are actually good for you! The olive oil is a big selling point with Steven's mom because I know she's scared of all the butter I use in my baking.

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies
Chocolate Olive Oil Crinkle Cookies
makes 1 dozen cookies

2 oz. dark chocolate, chopped
2 Tbsp fruity olive oil
1/2 C granulated sugar
1/4 tsp instant espresso powder (optional)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
1/2 C + 2 Tbsp all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

For decorating
1/4 C confectioner's sugar

Melt the dark chocolate in a heat proof bowl, either using a double boiler or in the microwave. Set aside to cool slightly. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together.

Add the olive oil, sugar, and instant espresso powder to the chocolate and whisk to combine. Add the egg and vanilla extract and mix again.

Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and mix until the flour is just incoporated. Chill the dough for at least 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Add the confectioners sugar to a shallow bowl.

Use a spoon to roll a tablespoon of the dough into a ball. Roll the ball in confectioner's sugar, make sure to cover all the sides. After all of the dough is rolled and covered in sugar, use the bottom of a drinking glass to flatten the balls slightly.

Bake for 8 - 10 minutes, rotate the baking sheet 180 degrees halfway into baking. The cookies will crack in the oven. When they are ready, they shoudl still look shiny and slightly wet in the cracks. Transfer the cookies to a rack to cool.

Green Tea Spritz Cookies

Green Tea Spritz Cookies
Exams are over and I can finally start my holiday baking. I planned to do the 12 days of cookies again this year but I'm running out of days before Christmas! I hope no one objects to two recipes today so I can catch up.

My original idea was to make green tea Christmas tree spritz cookies. Instead of using green food coloring, I was hoping matcha powder would give the cookies a natural green shade. Sadly, my Christmas tree cookie press disc was nowhere to be found so I used the wreath/flower disc instead (it's probably a flower but let's pretend it's a wreath). My green tea powder is technically not real matcha, instead it's a weaksauce green tea beverage powder so I had to use 3x (3 tablespoons!) what I normally would if I had matcha. Even with extra powder, the cookies only tasted faintly of green tea and instead of the lovely emerald colored cookies I envisioned, my cookies looked seasick with a sickly green tinge. Not exactly what I was hoping for but they're terribly addicting, with each cookie being bite sized, I easily ate half a dozen in one sitting.

I've written the recipe to call for a healthy dose of matcha but feel free to scale down if you want a more subtle green tea taste. The key to working with a cookie press is to use cool, ungreased cookie sheets. Do not use nonstick cookie sheets, parchment paper, or silicone baking mats because the dough won't stick. After baking, use a spatula and run it under all of the cookies before they cool, otherwise the cookie will stick to the cookie sheet when they cool and it will be nearly impossible to get them off. If you don't have a cookie press, you can use a pastry bag with a large star tip and pipe the dough into various designs.

Green Tea Spritz Cookies
makes nearly 5 dozen cookies with a cookie press

1 Tbsp matcha (green tea) powder
1 Tbsp hot water
1 1/3 - 1 1/2 C all purpose
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 C unsalted butter at room temperature (1 stick/4 oz.)
1/2 C granulated sugar
1 large egg yolk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Dissolve the matcha powder in hot water and set aside to cool.

In a bowl, whisk 1 1/4 cups of all purpose flour with the baking powder and salt. Set aside the remaining flour to add as needed to the dough later.

Cream the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer or with a hand mixer until fluffy. Add the sugar, egg yolk, vanilla extract, almond extract, and dissolved matcha. Beat until evenly mixed and fluffy.

Add the flour, baking powder, and salt mixture to the ingredients in the mixer bowl and mix until the flour is just incorporated. The dough should look shaggy and somewhat fluffy. If it is too wet, add a little more flour.

Load the dough into the cookie press barrel and press the dough onto a cold, ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake for 8 - 12 minutes or until the cookies are lightly golden brown around the edges. Rotate the cookie sheet 180 degrees halfway through baking. After removing the cookies from the oven, run a spatula under all of the cookies to separate them from the cookie sheet. Cool the cookies on the sheet.

Cool and rinse off the cookie sheet before each batch.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Eggnog Caramel Cake

Eggnog Caramel Cake
It’s been a while since I baked a cake, in fact, it’s been a while since I last baked anything. No wonder I’ve been so grumpy and irritable lately. Thanks goodness for this long weekend and the Daring Bakers for bringing me out of this baking slump. And what better way to do that than with lots of dangerous molten sugar. Good times indeed.

Our hosts this month are Dolores, Alex, and Jenny and the recipe they've selected comes from pastry chef extraordinaire Shuna Fish Lydon and it’s her signature caramel cake with caramelized butter frosting. Sugar coma here I come.

By the time I started my cake, many if not most DBs had already finished and posted their take on the caramel cake, which is how I stumbled on Hannah’s beautiful caramel cake roulade. I hate frosting cakes (I'm too OCD in trying to make the frosting perfect) so I thought this was the perfect stress-free way putting together the cake and *cough* shamelessly copied Hannah.

I think my caramel syrup ended up being a little too dark (this is what happens when you take your eye off caramel for one second) but *shrug* its okay, it’ll just have more developed flavors and um, smoky undertones right? Instead of adding water to the caramelized sugar, I added orange juice, which gave it a really unique taste. I also used eggnog instead of milk in the cake batter and 1/4 tsp of ground nutmeg. The batter looked a little on the thick side so I added more eggnog, which was not the best move because it screwed with the ratios and made the cake kinda gummy. The eggnog flavor also overpowered the caramel notes in the cake. Next time, if I wanted an eggnog cake, I’ll just skip the caramel syrup and if I want a caramel cake then I won’t add any competing flavors. The frosting was mindblowingly delicious, I would have eaten it by the spoonful but I kept telling myself I would just be eating butter and sugar... a little gross when you think about it. Even though the cake turned out gummy and it isn't the prettiest caramel cake on the block, it was still pretty darn tasty. However, I did find the cake to be on the sweet side even after I trimmed down the sugar. This recipe is definitely a keeper and is something I’ll tinker with some more.

I was lazy and skipped making the spun sugar decorations and caramel candies. Instead I just brushed the cake with some leftover caramel syrup.

Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting
By Shuna Fish Lydon - http://blogs.kqed.org/bayareabites/2006/12/24/caramel-cake-the-recipe/

Caramel Cake
10 Tbsp unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/4 C granulated sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/3 C Caramel Syrup (see recipe below)
2 eggs, at room temperature
splash vanilla extract
2 C all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 C milk, at room temperature (in my case eggnog and 1/4 tsp nutmeg)

Preheat oven to 350F

Butter one tall (2 – 2.5 inch deep) 9-inch cake pan.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter until smooth. Add sugar and salt & cream until light and fluffy.

Slowly pour room temperature caramel syrup into bowl. Scrape down bowl and increase speed. Add eggs/vanilla extract a little at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down bowl again, beat mixture until light and uniform.

Sift flour and baking powder.

Turn mixer to lowest speed, and add one third of the dry ingredients. When incorporated, add half of the milk, a little at a time. Add another third of the dry ingredients, then the other half of the milk and finish with the dry ingredients. {This is called the dry, wet, dry, wet, dry method in cake making. It is often employed when there is a high proportion of liquid in the batter.}

Take off mixer and by hand, use a spatula to do a few last folds, making sure batter is uniform. Turn batter into prepared cake pan.

Place cake pan on cookie sheet or 1/2 sheet pan. Set first timer for 30 minutes, rotate pan and set timer for another 15-20 minutes. Your own oven will set the pace. Bake until sides pull away from the pan and skewer inserted in middle comes out clean. Cool cake completely before icing it.

Cake will keep for three days outside of the refrigerator.

Caramel Syrup
2 C sugar
1/2 C water
1 C water (for "stopping" the caramelization process – I used orange juice)

In a small stainless steel saucepan, with tall sides, mix water and sugar until mixture feels like wet sand. Brush down any stray sugar crystals with wet pastry brush. Turn on heat to highest flame. Cook until smoking slightly: dark amber.

When color is achieved, very carefully pour in one cup of water. Caramel will jump and sputter about! It is very dangerous, so have long sleeves on and be prepared to step back.

Whisk over medium heat until it has reduced slightly and feels sticky between two fingers. {Obviously wait for it to cool on a spoon before touching it.}

Note: For safety reasons, have ready a bowl of ice water to plunge your hands into if any caramel should land on your skin.

Caramelized Butter Frosting
12 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 pound confectioner’s sugar, sifted (I cut it down to 2 – 3 C)
4-6 Tbsp heavy cream
2 tsp vanilla extract
2-4 Tbsp caramel syrup (I used 4)
Kosher or sea salt to taste

Cook butter until brown. Pour through a fine meshed sieve into a heatproof bowl, set aside to cool.

Pour cooled brown butter into mixer bowl.

In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, add confectioner's sugar a little at a time. When mixture looks too chunky to take any more, add a bit of cream and or caramel syrup. Repeat until mixture looks smooth and all confectioner's sugar has been incorporated. Add salt to taste.

Note: Caramelized butter frosting will keep in fridge for up to a month.
To smooth out from cold, microwave a bit, then mix with paddle attachment until smooth and light

Friday, November 28, 2008

Post-Thanksgiving Turkey Sandwiches

The Best Effing Turkey Sandwich Ever
I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. Steven and I went down to his parents’ house and the four of us had an epic day of cooking and eating (turkey at lunch... prime rib at dinner... unbelievably awesome). We carted home a ton of leftovers, and the best part is all the leftover turkey! For me, turkey isn’t particularly exciting the day of, even though his mom did an amazing job and it was super moist with great homemade gravy and cranberry relish, because it’s all about the sandwich and soup possibilities the days after.

It’s Friday night, the turkey stock is simmering and the first round of sandwiches have been eaten.

So now I present The Best Effing Turkey Sandwich Ever.

First, take 2 thick slices of sourdough or whatever bread you like, but it has to be thick and hearty, no wimpy white bread allowed for this sandwich.
Spread some butter or better yet, rendered bacon fat on one side of the bread slices.
Flip the bread over to start building the sandwich.
Generously smear it with Dijon mustard, Grey Poupon, Roland, Maille, etc. etc.
Layer on the leftover turkey, thinly sliced breast meat.
Then 2 slices (or more) of precooked extra thick bacon, cut in half. I wouldn't have a problem with adding more bacon.
Add 1 – 2 layers of Swiss.

Heat a skillet over medium low to medium heat and put the two slices in bacon fat/butter side down.
Cover the skillet and cook, use a spatula and check the bread frequently to make sure they’re perfectly toasted and not burnt.
Take the pan off heat, leave the meat and cheese slice of bread in the pan covered while you pile stuff on the other slice.
On the naked slice of bread, spread on some cranberry relish (recipe follows).
Follow with thick slices of avocado.
Finally, top with greens – baby spinach, watercress, or arugula.

Now the crucial step, bring the two pieces of sandwich together without anything falling out and eattttt. I will not be held responsible for injuries to your mouth caused by the crusty bread.


Okay part two! The Afternoon Snack Turkey Sandwich.

Afternoon Snack Turkey Sandwich

This time start with an English muffin. Split it in half and add a little bacon fat on the inside – see a theme here? (or butter if you don’t have bacon fat). Toast it until it’s a little crusty, fluffy and warm.
Spread on some Dijon Mustard again.
Add the turkey, again thinly sliced breast meat.
Add some bacon. I’m telling ya turkey and bacon were meant to be together. Just like bacon and all other meats, and seafood, and meat substitutes… actually all foods...okay I digress.
Slices of extra sharp Cheddar cheese.
Relatively thick slices of Honeycrisp apples.
Top with the English muffin and eat again.

Cranberry Orange Cornichon Relish
1 C raw cranberry
6 cornichons
6 Tbsp orange juice
Sugar optional

Pulse in a food processor until finely chopped but not pureed. Add some sugar if you like it a little sweeter.

The Best Effing Turkey Sandwich Ever
2 thick slices sourdough
Dijon mustard
Leftover turkey breast, thinly sliced
2 slices cooked bacon, cut in half
2 or more slices of Swiss cheese
2ish Tbsp cranberry relish
Thick avocado slice from roughly half an avocado
Handful of spinach, watercress, or arugula
Rendered bacon fat or butter for cooking (bonus points for using bacon fat)

Afternoon Snack Turkey Sandwich
English Muffin
Dijon mustard
1 slice cooked extra thick cut bacon, cut into 3 pieces
Extra Sharp Cheddar
1/4 Honeycrisp apple, sliced
A little bacon fat (or butter) for spread

The Thanksgiving table before the onslaught of food.
Thanksgiving Dinner

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Daring Bakers: Basic Pizza Dough

Life has been hectic lately but I simply couldn’t pass up a reason to make pizza. I was really psyched for this month's Daring Bakers challenge because it's been a while since I last hauled out made Steven haul out the pizza stone. Thanks for choosing and hosting this month’s challenge Rosa! Even though I made the pizzas, I still screwed up because I didn’t take any pictures. I apologize for the boring all-text post and I’ll try to keep it short.

My go-to pizza recipe is my no knead pizza dough recipe (the no-knead concept definitely isn’t mine but I’d like to think the pizza recipe itself is my own creation, but eh semantics aside). It has great flavor, has a chewy crumb and crispy crust, and involves zero kneading so it requires next to no effort. Everyone can make it because you don’t need a KitchenAid. Good times. The recipe that the DBs are using this month comes from The Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart, which is one of the best cookbooks available for bread baking. Basically, my goal this month was to compare the two recipes.

The Reinhart recipe definitely requires a KitchenAid because even you're willing to to put in some serious elbow grease kneading, the dough will most likely be too sticky to handle so a KitchenAid is really your best bet. Both the no-knead and this recipe involves a long, slow rise (no-knead at room temp vs. Reinhart dough in the fridge), which results in good flavor so neither dough is lacking in the taste department. You can keep the Reinhart dough in the fridge for up to three days and you can transfer the no-knead dough to the fridge after the initial room temp rise for both storage and increasing flavor. While the Reinhart dough is still on the tacky side, it isn’t nearly as sticky as the no-knead dough, making it much easier to work with. On the other hand, the extra water in the no knead dough makes a crispier crust and chewier crumb. In the end, Steven preferred my usual no-knead recipe, which is fine with me because that dough is much faster to make. But the Reinhart dough is still excellent. Really, whichever way you go, you’re guaranteed to have great pizza crust.

Now that you have good dough, you just need good sauce and good cheese. I made the sauce with the roasted tomatoes I made two months ago. The roasting process really brought out the sweetness of otherwise pathetic run-of-the-mill store tomatoes and added a hint of smokiness. Or you can just use a can of decent tomatoes because honestly, who has 6 hours to spare waiting for tomatoes to roast? I certainly don't anymore. It’s also really important to use fresh mozzarella. If you live close to a Trader Joe's or Costco, you can get fresh mozzarella without breaking the bank. I think it'll run you about $5/lb. It simply doesn’t compare to the part skim low moisture bricks from the store - there’s no going back.

Basic Pizza Dough
Recipe from
“The Bread Baker’s Apprentice” by Peter Reinhart

4 1/2 cups flour (I
used 3 cups of bread flour and 1 1/2 cups of whole wheat flour)
1 3/4
teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1/4 cup olive oil
1 3/4 cups
cold water
1 Tablespoon sugar
Semolina/durum flour or cornmeal for

Mix the flour, salt and instant yeast in the bowl of your stand mixer.

Add the oil, sugar and cold water and mix well. Knead with the dough hook for 5 – 7 minutes. The dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom of the bowl. If the dough is sticking to the sides of the bowl, add a tablespoon or two of flour. If the dough is not sticking to the bottom of the bowl, add a tablespoon or two of water.

The finished dough should be springy, elastic, and sticky (if will stick to your hands), not just tacky, and register 50°-55° F/10°-13° C.

Divide the dough into 4 balls of dough. Brush the tops with a little olive oil, cover and keep in the fridge. Let the dough rest overnight or for up to thee days. You can store the dough balls in a zippered freezer bag if you want to save some of the dough for any future baking. In that case, pour some oil (a few tablespooons only) in a medium bowl and dip each dough ball into the oil, so that it is completely covered in oil. Then put each ball into a separate bag. Store the bags in the freezer for no longer than 3 months. The day before you plan to make pizza, remember to transfer the dough balls from the freezer to the refrigerator.

On the day you plan to eat pizza, exactly 2 hours before you make it, remove the desired number of dough balls from the refrigerator. Dust the counter with flour and spray lightly with oil. Place the dough balls on a floured surface and sprinkle them with flour. Dust your hands with flour and delicately press the dough into disks about 1/2 inch/1.3 cm thick and 5 inches/12.7 cm in diameter. Loosely cover the dough rounds with plastic wrap and then allow to rest for 2 hours.

At least 45 minutes before making the pizza, place a baking stone on the lower third of the cold oven. After the pizza stone is in the oven, then preheat the oven as hot as possible (500° F/260° C). If you do not have a baking stone, then use the back of a jelly pan. Do not preheat the pan.

Generously sprinkle the back a cookie sheet with no lip with some cornmeal . Flour your hands (palms, backs and knuckles). Take 1 piece of dough by lifting it with a pastry scraper. Lay the dough across your fists in a very delicate way and carefully stretch it by bouncing it in a circular motion on your hands, and by giving it a little stretch with each bounce. Once the dough has expanded outward, move to a full toss (optional). Instead of tossing, continue to stretch the dough over your hands, or place on the cookie sheet and using your palms to stretch it into the desired thinness. Make only one pizza at a time.

During the tossing process, if the dough tends to stick to your hands, lay it down on the floured counter and reflour your hands, then continue the tossing and shaping. In case you would be having trouble tossing the dough or if the dough never wants to expand and always springs back, let it rest for approximately 5-20 minutes in order for the gluten to relax fully, then try again. You can also resort to using a rolling pin, although it isn’t as effective as the toss method.

When the dough has the shape you want (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter - for a 6 ounces/180g piece of dough), place it on the back of the jelly pan, making sure there is enough semolina/durum flour or cornmeal to allow it to slide and not stick to the pan.

Remember that the best pizzas are topped not too generously. No more than 3 or 4 toppings (including sauce and cheese) are sufficient. Slide the garnished pizza onto the stone in the oven or bake directly on the jelly pan. Close the door and bake for abour 6 – 10 minutes. Take the pizza out of the oven and transfer it to a cutting board or your plate. In order to allow the cheese to set a little, wait 3-5 minutes before slicing or serving.

Roasted Tomatoes
3 lbs tomatoes

Cut the tomatoes in half and get rid of the goopy stuff (I don’t know what else to call it) and the seeds).

Arrange the tomatoes in a large nonreactive baking dish like pyrex or corningware.

Roast in the oven at 350 degrees F for 4 – 6 hours or until the tomatoes start to shrivel and dry up but make sure they don’t burn. The roasting time will depend on how watery the tomatoes are.

After roasting, allow the tomatoes to cool. The skins can be slipped off really easily. Store in the freezer or use in soup or sauces.

Quick Tomato Sauce

(makes about 3 cups of sauce)

1 28 oz. can diced or whole tomatoes, pureed in a food processor, blender, or put through a food mill
2 tbsp olive oil
2 - 4 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
salt and pepper
1/4 tsp oregano
About 1/2 C fresh basil leaves, chopped or chiffonade (optional, if you have it)

Add garlic and olive oil to a (unheated) saucepan or skillet and heat them up together over medium heat. When the garlic starts sizzling and smells fragrant (don't burn it), add the tomatoes, pepper, and some italian herb mix. Simmer uncovered until the sauce is thickened.

Season to taste with salt and stir in the basil off heat.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Xiao Long Bao - Little Soup Dumplings

Xiao Long Bao

After throwing out the question "Which would you prefer?" in that painfully short post I made last month, I was pleasantly surprised that the majority of commenters loved the dumplings. I grew up eating xiao long bao for breakfast almost every morning when I lived in Shanghai. I think it's one of those things you absolutely must eat in your lifetime; you'd be hard-pressed to find a more perfect morsel of food. Of course, I may be biased since they are my favorite food item but if you've seen the No Reservations: Shanghai episode, I'm sure Anthony Bourdain would agree with me (even though he hates food bloggers or something like that). Hopefully no one falls asleep reading this thesis-length post--I swear I tried to edit out as much as I could. Both xlb and croissants, which will come a little later, were in the top 5 of that huge long list of things I wanted to make this summer. I was able to cook about 1/3 of the list even though I only blogged about a handful of them. As for the rest of the items, the time frame is extended... indefinitely? Gotta love personal deadlines.

The xiao long bao, also called soup dumpling, is a bite-sized dumpling in a thin flour wrapper with a pork, sometimes crab, filling and a rich broth. The soup is what sets the xiao long bao, its pan-fried cousin the sheng jian bao, and the larger relative the tang bao, apart from all other dumplings and buns. The trick to getting the soup inside the dumpling is make a gelatin rich soup that solidifies at room temperature (think meat soup Jello) then mash it up into small chunks and mix it with a ground pork filling. As the buns steam, the pieces of gelatin soup in the filling melts back into a liquid that's now magically encased in the delicate wrapper. Pretty cool huh? A well made xiao long bao will have nearly two dozen pleats in the thin, almost translucent wrapper, a tender meaty filling, and is bursting with savory soup.

Xiao long bao originated in Shanghai over a hundred years ago and have now become an iconic symbol of Shanghainese cuisine. They were created by the Nanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant, which still sells these dumplings to this day. In Shanghai, you don’t have to travel far to find this morning staple but here in North America, there are only 3 major metropolitan areas that I know of serving this niche food item. Unfortunately, here in Seattle, you won’t be able to find any that are worthwhile. Instead, you'll have to make the drive up to the Vancouver/Richmond BC area, which has half a dozen or so restaurants serving decent xiao long bao (my favorite location being Shanghai River in Richmond). For elsewhere in the US, I've heard good things about the xiao long bao you can find in Southern California and New York City. Outside of Vancouver, SoCal, and NYC, I’m afraid you might be out of luck but if anyone finds a good city in the States do let us know! You may be tempted to buy the frozen xiao long bao sold at Asian grocery stores but usually they’re utterly disappointing-the skin is too thick, the soup leaks, and the filling is tough and studded with overwhelming chunks of ginger. But when a craving gets really, really, really bad, I'm not gonna say no.

xiao long bao When faced with a fresh basket of soup dumplings, don’t stick the whole thing in your mouth and chomp down. Hot juices will spurt out, dribble on your shirt, and worst of all, scald the inside of your mouth. Instead, after dipping the dumpling in a little black vinegar, place it on your spoon and gently nibble the wrapper and slowly slurp up the soup so you don't burn your tongue. Then dip the dumpling again in the black vinegar if you like a more vinegary kick before eating it. Some places will give you some ginger slivers to add to your black vinegar.

If you really want to try making this at home, I have to warn you that it’s long and time consuming. It was the most tedious recipe I have ever attempted but I'm weird and I like spending my weekend cooking something that takes 2 days to prepare. Even though the majority of my dumplings look misshapen and half of them leaked, the flavor was spot on! I did a pretty good job for a first attempt but I won't be making these again for years... So next time we'll just drive up to Vancouver for our fix.

If you're still set on making these at home, I implore you, please don't take short cuts. Don't make the stock with that can of Swanson's sitting in the pantry from 2001 *blech*. What makes these little gems special is the flavorful soup inside so spend the time to make a good soup base. It's worth it! While you could take some homemade chicken stock set it with gelatin, it will lack the velvety, almost creamy richness of a traditional slow simmered stock made collagen-rich pork feet or pork skin. For my stock, I used a combination of chicken wings, chicken backbone, and some pig feet along with aromatics like ginger, green onion, and star anise. You can use pork skin too but the meat in the pig feet will adds to the flavor. Make the wrappers fresh too because if you spend all that time making the soup and filling, it's a shame to use storebought wrappers.

xiao long bao 2

Xiao long bao – Shanghai Soup Dumplings

Aspic/Gelantized Stock

1 pound chicken wings
2 chicken backbones (carcasses from roast chicken will work too)
1 pork trotter (foot) or a large piece of pork skin
3 1/4 inch thick slices of ginger
4 green onions
1 star anise
8 cups of water

3 C all purpose flour
1/3 C hot water
2/3 C cold water
Pinch of salt

1 pound ground pork
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp rice wine
1 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp grated ginger
1/2 tsp sugar
2 C gelatin stock, chopped/mashed into small pieces

Serve with
Black vinegar
Fresh ginger slivers

Make the aspic
When working with pork feet make sure to wash it well, then boil it twice in a change of water to get the smell, bacteria, and scum out. If you're using raw chicken wings and backbones, it's best to boil those once too to get any scum out. Add the pork feet to a pot (large saucepan, stock pot, Dutch oven whatever works) and cover them with water and bring it to a boil. Boil for a minute, drain, and rinse off any scum on the feet in cold water. Wash out the pot as well or use a new pot because there will be scum on the side. Return the pork feet, and the raw chicken wings and backbones to the pot and fill with cold water and bring back to a boil again and boil for a minute. Drain and rinse off any scum and wash the pot again

Add 2 teaspoons of oil to your pot over medium heat. Smash the ginger slices and green onion with the side of a knife and add to the oil and until they are fragrant, then add boiled and rinsed off chicken wings and pork feet, 1 star anise, and 8 cups of cold water. Bring to a boil then simmer gently uncovered, skim any scum on the surface, for 6+ hours. Never let the soup boil again because it will cloud. The stock is ready when it can solidify at room temperature. Test the stocks gelling ability by spooning some of it into a small bowl and allow it to cool down to room temperature. If it solidifies then the stock is ready. Strain soup and season it with some salt. Set aside 2 cups for the dumpling filling. Save any excess for adding to sauces or soups. Let the soup cool to room temp then transfer it to the fridge. The soup can keep for up to 3 days in the fridge. You can scrape off any fat that solidifies on top or mix it into the filling, up to you.

Make the dough
In a large bowl, add 2 1/2 cups of flour. First add the 1/3 cup of very hot water and stir that into the flour. Then add the 2/3 cup of cold water and stir it into the dough. Bring the dough together and knead while incorporating additional flour if you need to, until the dough is not sticky. Don’t overknead or it will be too tough and gluteny to work with. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let it rest for an hour while you prepare the filling.

Prepare the filling
Mix the ground pork with all of the seasoning ingredients. Roughly chop the aspic then use a pastry blender or two forks to mash it into smaller pieces. Mix this into the ground pork mixture. Keep it in the fridge until the dough has finished resting.

Wrapping the dumplings
Divide the dough into 3 portions. Work with one portion and keep the other two covered. Roll the dough into a long snake. Then cut a small cylindrical piece off of the snake. Flatten with your palm and roll the dough out into a 2 1/2 inch diameter wrapper. The best rolling device for making Chinese wrappers is a small wooden dowel thats about 6 inches long and 3/4 inch in diameter.

The first 4 pictures in the eating Chinese xiao long bao tutorial shows the process of making the dough and wrappers. You want the wrappers to be a bit thicker than wonton wrappers. If the wrappers are too thin, the soup will dissolve it and leak out.

Place about 2 teaspoons of filling in the center of the wrapper. Hold the outer edge of the wrapper with the thumb and index finger of your dominant hand. Using the other thumb and index finger, hold the edge of the wrapper and bring it to your dominant hand to pleat. Pleat around the circumference of the entire wrapper, turning the dumpling as you go, and seal the tip to close. The third and fourth pictures in the third row of the eating Chinese xiao long bao tutorial gives a somewhat helpful guide. The hardest part for me was getting my thumb out of the inside of the dumpling and sealing the tip.

Steam and serve
Bring some water to a boil in a wok or large pot with a steamer insert. Line a bamboo or metal steaming basket with cabbage leaves or damp cheesecloth. Place the dumplings in the basket and steam on high for 5 – 7 minutes. (5 minutes was enough for my dumplings but make sure the filling is cooked all the way before eating)

Serve hot with ginger slivers and black vinegar.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Chocolate Eclairs - Daring Bakers August

Chocolate Eclairs
First off, I want to thank Margot of Coffee and Vanilla and Maybelle's Mom of Feeding Maybelle for alerting me that a certain website has been stealing my content. Grr! That site seems to be down at this moment but it's certainly on my radar now and I'll be keeping a close eye on them. Thank you both for bringing this to my attention because I honestly wouldn't have known about this if it weren't for you two awesome ladies so these eclairs are dedicated to you gals. The food blogging community is so great, it makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside. :)

It's the end of the month and that can only mean one thing - it's Daring Baker time again! When our hosts Meeta (What's for lunch Honey) and Tony (Olive Juice) announced that our challenge this month would be eclairs, I was totally psyched and ready to go. This challenge was right up my alley because I love working with pâte à choux dough. But this wasn't just any eclair recipe, this is the recipe by the King of Pâtisserie, Kitchen Emperor, Picasso of Pastry, (okay I'll stop now) Pierre Hermé. Okay, this is when I start getting butterflies in my stomach and a little intimidated.

The actual making of the dough went off without a hitch. The recipe called for one more egg than I normally use. I didn't have a pastry tip large enough to squeeze the dough into the eclair shape so I snipped the tip off a ziploc bag, which works just as well. However, I was a little confused by the baking directions, which said to prop the oven door open with a wooden spoon after baking 7 minutes. My usual standby recipe warns that opening the oven door during baking will cause the choux to deflate. After some debating, I went with my instincts and kept the oven door closed the whole time. I would have done the wooden spoon thing just to see what would happen if I hadn't been making the eclairs for a party. A part of me feels terrible for doubting the words of Pierre Herme but I certainly didn't want 20 collapsed eclairs and no eggs left in the fridge.

The pastry cream was also very straightforward and simple to make. But in my opinion, what makes this recipe really stand out is the chocolate glaze. The glaze is a 2 part process that involves first making a chocolate sauce, then using part of that chocolate sauce to make the glaze. I'm sure it would have been amazing but I didn't have enough time or chocolate to make the special sauce. Instead I just melted some chocolate, butter, heavy cream, and a little corn syrup and used that as my quick 1 minute glaze. *shrugs* Worked well enough.

The finished product was really delicious - I mean how can you go wrong with double the chocolate?

- Pipe the dough so it is about 4 inches long and roughly 3/4 inch across. I think eclairs look best when they are slender and elegant. They start to look like donuts if they're too chubby.
- Personally, I felt like the baking time in the recipe was not sufficient. My eclairs started deflating when I took them out of the oven after 20 minutes. Luckily, I was able to salvage most of them by putting them back in the oven for another 5 - 10 minutes to finish baking and reinflate.
- If you've stored the pastry cream in the fridge overnight, take a spatula and mix it up a bit to loosen it before piping.
- Either use poke a hole in the eclair and use a special filling tip (the long skinny almost-needlelike one) on a pastry bag, or cut the eclair lengthwise but do not cut all the way through and spoon or pipe the filling inside. Keeping the pastry shell intact allows for easier dipping into the chocolate glaze.
- To glaze the eclairs, hold the eclairs upside down and dip the tops in the chocolate making sure to coat the surface evenly, let any excess drip off before turning right side up. This will only work if the glaze is thin enough.
- It's best to serve the eclairs as soon as you make them, but they will keep in the fridge for maybe 1 - 2 days (they can possibly keep longer but by then the choux will get soggy).

Pierre Hermé’s Chocolate Éclairs
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 20-24 Éclairs)

Choux Pastry
1/2 cup (125g) whole milk
1/2 cup (125g) water
1 stick (4 ounces; 115g) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (140g) all-purpose flour
5 large eggs, at room temperature

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Divide the oven into thirds by
positioning the racks in the upper and lower half of the oven. Line two baking sheets with waxed or parchment paper.

In a heavy bottomed medium saucepan, bring the milk, water, butter, sugar and salt to the boil.

Once the mixture is at a rolling boil, add all of the flour at once, reduce the heat to medium and start to stir the mixture vigorously with a wooden spoon. The dough comes together very quickly. Do not worry if a slight crust forms at the bottom of the pan, it’s supposed to. You need to carry on stirring for a further 2-3 minutes to dry the dough. After this time the dough will be very soft and smooth.

Transfer the dough into a bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using your handmixer or if you still have the energy, continue by hand. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each egg has been added to incorporate it into the dough. You will notice that after you have added the first egg, the dough will separate, once again do not worry. As you keep working the dough, it will come back all together again by the time you have added the third egg. In the end the dough should be thick and shiny and when lifted it should fall back into the bowl in a ribbon.

The dough should be still warm. It is now ready to be used for the éclairs as directed above. Once the dough is made you need to shape it immediately. You can pipe the dough and the freeze it. Simply pipe the dough onto parchment-lined baking sheets and slide the sheets into the freezer. Once the dough is completely frozen, transfer the piped shapes into freezer bags. They can be kept in the freezer for up to a month.

Fill a large pastry bag fitted with a 2/3 (2cm) plain tip nozzle with the warm cream puff dough. Pipe the dough onto the baking sheets in long, 4 to 41/2 inches (about 11 cm) chubby fingers. Leave about 2 inches (5 cm) space in between each dough strip to allow them room to puff. The dough should give you enough to pipe 20-24 éclairs.

Slide both the baking sheets into the oven and bake for 15 minutes. After the 15 minutes, rotate the pans from top to bottom and front to back. Bake for 5 - 10 more minutes, or until the shells are golden brown and crisp. The éclairs can be kept in a cool, dry place for several hours before filling.

Chocolate Pastry Cream
2 cups (500g) whole milk
4 large egg yolks
6 tbsp (75g) sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch, sifted
7 oz (200g) bittersweet chocolate, preferably Velrhona Guanaja, melted
2 1/2 tbsp (1¼ oz: 40g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a boil. In the meantime, combine the yolks, sugar and cornstarch together and whisk in a heavy-bottomed saucepan.

Once the milk has reached a boil, temper the yolks by whisking a couple spoonfuls of the hot milk into the yolk mixture. Tempering the eggs raises the temperature of the eggs slowly so that they do not scramble.
Continue whisking and slowly pour the rest of the milk into the tempered yolk mixture.

Strain the mixture back into the saucepan to remove any egg that may have scrambled. Place the pan over medium heat and whisk vigorously (without stop) until the mixture returns to a boil. Keep whisking vigorously for 1 to 2 more minutes (still over medium heat).Stir in the melted chocolate and then remove the pan from the heat.

Scrape the pastry cream into a small bowl and set it in an ice‐water bath to stop the cooking process. Make sure to continue stirring the mixture at this point so that it remains smooth.

Once the cream has reached a temperature of 140 F remove from the ice‐water bath and stir in the butter in three or four installments. Return the cream to the ice‐water bath to continue cooling, stirring occasionally, until it has completely cooled. The cream is now ready to use or store in the fridge. The pastry cream can be made 2 - 3 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator. In order to avoid a skin forming on the pastry cream, cover with plastic wrap pressed onto the cream.

Chocolate Glaze (makes 1 cup or 300g)
1/3 cup (80g) heavy cream
3 1/2 oz (100g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
4 tsp (20 g) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces, at room temperature
7 tbsp (110 g) Chocolate Sauce (recipe below), warm or at room temperature

In a small saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a boil. Remove from the heat and slowly begin to add the chocolate, stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula.

Stirring gently, stir in the butter, piece by piece followed by the chocolate sauce.

If the chocolate glaze is too cool (i.e. not liquid enough) you may heat it briefly in the microwave or over a double boiler. A double boiler is basically a bowl sitting over (not touching) simmering water.

It is best to glaze the eclairs after the glaze is made, but if you are pressed for time, you can make the glaze a couple days ahead of time, store it in the fridge and bring it up to the proper temperature (95 to 104 F) when ready to glaze.

Chocolate Sauce (makes 1 1/2 cups or 525 g)
4 1/2 oz (130 g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup (250 g) water
1/2 cup (125 g) crème fraîche, or heavy cream
1/3 cup (70 g) sugar

Place all the ingredients into a heavy‐bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil, making sure to stir constantly. Then reduce the heat to low and continue stirring with a wooden spoon until the sauce thickens.

It may take 10 - 15 minutes for the sauce to thicken, but you will know when it is done when it coats the back of your spoon.

You can make this sauce ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator for two weeks. Reheat the sauce in a microwave oven or a double boiler before using. This sauce is also great for cakes, ice-cream and tarts.

Assembling the éclairs:
Slice the éclairs horizontally, lengthwise only on one side (do not cut all the way through), using a serrated knife and a gently sawing motion.

Pipe the pastry cream into the éclairs.

The glaze should be barely warm to the touch (between 95 – 104 degrees F or 35 – 40
degrees C, as measured on an instant read thermometer). Spread the glaze over the tops of the éclairs using a metal icing spatula. Or if your chocolate glaze is thin enough, dip the tops of the eclairs in the glaze and let the excess drip off then set aside to dry. and allow the tops to set. If you have chilled your chocolate glaze, reheat by placing it in a bowl over simmering water, stirring it gently with a wooden spoon. Do not stir too vigorously as you do not want to create bubbles.

The éclairs should be served as soon as they have been filled.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Chocolate Chip Pistachio Candied Orange Cookies

Chocolate Pistachio Candied Orange Cookie
Steven and I are leaving for a much needed vacation tomorrow. Yippee! But before we go, I want to share a quick recipe.

After reading Jen's post on candied orange peels last October, I made a mental note to try this one day. I even put it on my summer to-do list (#63). Months later, as I was reading Christine's blog, Holy Basil, I saw that she too was inspired by Jen's candied orange peels and made her own candied citrus peels using tangelo and pomelo peels. Tangelo?! Brilliant! It just so happened that I received 2 tangelos in my CSA box that week. I immediately ate the tangelos and candied the peel. I'm not a big candy person so I had no interest in eating the peels straight but I couldn't wait to incorporate them into my baking. First, I added some finely chopped pieces to the blood orange olive oil cake. Then I thought of adding it to chocolate chip cookies because chocolate and orange go so well together and threw in some pistachios too because I just love the color.

Chocolate Chip Pistachio Candied Orange Cookies

2 C all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
12 Tbsp butter, melted and cooled slightly
3/4 C brown sugar, packed
1/4 C granulated sugar
1 egg
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 C semi or bittersweet chocolate chips or chunks
1/2 C pistachio halves, lightly toasted (be care to not burn)
1/3 C chopped candied orange pieces

Preheat the oven to 350 deg F.

In a bowl, whisk the flour, salt, and baking soda together. In a separate large bowl, whisk the butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, egg, and vanilla extract. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix about halfway evenly mixed then add the chocolate, nuts, and chopped candied orange, and mix until thoroughly combined and evenly distributed.

Place 1/4 C balls of dough on a parchment or silicone mat lined baking sheet. Space the dough about 3 inches apart. Using your hand press the dough ball down until it is about 3/4 in thick and about 2 1/2 inches across. The dough needs to be pressed down because the cookies do not spread much.

Bake at 350 deg F for 12 - 15 minutes. Bake until the outer edges are set and light golden brown but the middle is still soft and puffy.

Note: to make candied orange peels, head over to Jen's blog for the detailed instructions.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Pasta with Fava Beans, Prosciutto, and Shaved Parmesan

Pasta with Proscuitto, Fava Beans, and Shaved Parmesan
Last Saturday Steven and I went to the U District Farmers Market with a mission: to find fava beans. I was hoping I would still be able to find some since it's usually a springtime crop. The Udist market is always extremely crowded but it's worth it just seeing the dozens of stalls selling farm fresh produce, organic eggs, artisanal breads, pastas, honeys, and so much more. After being distracted by all the overwhelming and sometimes unusual offerings (sea beans anyone?), I finally found the only stand that still sold fava beans. Whoo! Success! Since I was going through all trouble of shelling fava beans, I figured I might as well go all out and make some fresh pasta to accompany this special treat.

While the pasta dough was resting on the counter, I enlisted Steven's help and we began shelling the beans. Fava beans are a pain in the butt. First the beans needed to be zipped out of the fuzzy outer pod, which was easy enough. Then they are blanched in boiling water for a minute, dunked in ice water and finally, the bean must be peeled (thank goodness for fingernails) and squeezed out of the waxy outer layer. In the end we only got about a half cup of beans but they were really delicious - buttery, nutty, and sweet. I quickly sauteed them with just a tiny bit of garlic and tossed them with fresh pasta, olive oil, thin pieces of prosciutto and Parmesan shaving. It was labor intensive but it was quite the treat. Light and fresh, it was the perfect summer pasta dish.

For this dish, I would really recommend making or purchasing fresh pasta if possible but dried pasta will work in a pinch. I prefer wider noodles for this dish, like pappardelle, but the narrower tagliatelle and fettuccine are also good substitutes.

Pasta with Fava Beans, Prosciutto, and Shaved Parmesan

8 ounces wide pasta noodles (pappardelle, tagliatelle, fettuccine), preferably fresh
1 pound fava beans (also called broad beans, English beans, or Windsor beans)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 - 3 ounces prosciutto, cut into bite size pieces
2 ounces Parmesan (or Romano) cheese, shaved and 1 ounce grated (about 1/4 C)
Extra virgin olive oil
Squeeze of lemon juice
Salt and pepper

Shelling Favas:
First shell the beans from the fuzzy outer pod by opening it with your fingers. Bring a saucepan of water to a boil. Meanwhile prepare a bowl of ice cold water. Add the shelled beans and boil for a minute. Drain and plunge into ice water. When the beans are cold, drain them. Peel and slip the beans out of the waxy coating. Use your fingers to make an incision in the coating if needed. Place the shelled beans in a bowl and set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil for pasta. If using fresh pasta, it will cook in 1 to 2 minutes, whereas dried pasta will take 9 - 11. Time your prep and cooking accordingly depending on which kind you use.

Heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the fava beans and garlic and season with salt and pepper. Cook until fragrant, about 1 minute and set aside.

After the pasta has finished cooking, toss the pasta with a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, the garlic sauteed fava beans, grated Parmesan, thin slices of prosciutto, and a squeeze of lemon juice. Add the Parmesan shavings on top and serve.

Serves 2

To make fresh pasta, I follow Marcella Hazan's recipe:

Fresh Pasta
1 C flour
2 large eggs

First make a mountain of flour on your work surface, then create a crater in the center. Add your eggs in the crater. Use a fork and beat the eggs in the crater incorporating a little bit of the flour at a time. Once the egg mixture begins to look like a batter, you can start incorporating more of the flour into the dough. After incorporating all the flour, you will end up with a dough. If the dough is still sticky, add some more flour. Knead by pushing with the heel of your palm, fold the dough in half, give it a half turn, and repeat the process for 8 minutes or until it feels smooth. Marcella did not specify to let the dough rest but I let the dough rest (covered) for 20ish minutes.

Cut the dough into 3 equal portions. Take one portion of the dough and press it flat, then run it through the pasta machine on the widest setting. Fold the dough in thirds and run the narrow end into the machine again. Repeat twice more. Do this to the remaining 2 portions of dough. Now you should have 3 portions of dough that have been passed through the widest setting 3 times each. Go up one setting, and run each portion of dough through twice, but do not fold in thirds this time, just run it straight through twice. Repeat with the two other pieces of dough. Go up one setting, and repeat again. My machine has 7 settings and I stopped on setting #3 for fettuccine because I want my noodles a little on the thicker side. After running the pasta through the #3 setting twice more, run it through the fettuccine cutter (the wider cutter). Separate any noodles that did not get cut all the way through. Lightly toss the noodles in some flour.

Bring a pot of water to a boil, salt the water, then add the pasta. Cook for 1 1/2 - 2 minutes or until the pasta is al dente. Drain the pasta reserving some of the pasta water to thin out the sauce if necessary.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Blood Orange Olive Oil Cake

Blood Orange Olive Oil Cake
When I first envisioned this cake, I pictured the red blood orange juice mixing with the yellow eggs creating a cake with a golden orange crumb. Then when I cut open my blood orange, I was shocked to see it had a dark purple, nearly black flesh! It was a little scary looking! (After some Wiki research, I think I may have had a Moro blood orange.) Anyway, I soldiered on. I poured out my olive oil and realized that it was green. Now red + yellow = orange, but purple + green + yellow = ... ehh... not to be overly dramatic or anything but the grayish green-brown batter looked pretty darn vile. Looks aren't everything right? At least it still smelled nice with the addition of the orange zest and smelled even better after it came out of the oven. The cracked brown exterior was really lovely and even though the interior wasn't the color I was hoping for, it was really delicious. Who knew olive oil would be so good in a cake! The olive oil made the cake so moist, tender, and heart healthy too! :) I'm sure it would look much better if you use an olive oil that was more on the yellow side and a blood orange that's more red than purple.

Blood Orange Olive Oil Cake
Adapted from Pure Desserts by Alice Medrich

2 C all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
3/4 C sugar
1 1/2 tsp orange zest
3 eggs
1/2 C fruity olive oil
2/3 C orange juice (blood orange, cara cara navel, or you can even substitute ruby red grapefruit juice)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a loaf pan with parchment paper or butter and flour the pan.

In a large bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

In a separate bowl rub the sugar together with the orange zest to release the fragrant oils.

In a blender add the eggs and orange sugar. Blend until it is light yellow and thick, then slowly drizzle in the olive oil as if you were making a mayonnaise. Then blend in the orange juice. Pour this liquid mixture into the dry ingredients and gently fold the batter together until no streaks of flour remain.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake at 350 deg F until a skewer inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, about 50 minutes.

Remove the cake from the oven and cool on a metal rack for 10 minutes then remove from the pan. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Friday, July 25, 2008

An Update and Strawberry Shortcakes

Strawberry Shortcake

I can't believe it's been over 3 weeks since my last post. Eek! An update is long overdue and I want to apologize for my sudden disappearance. A combination of things led to my blogging hiatus like looking for an apartment, finally learning how to drive, my still-somewhat-brand-new camera being on the fritz (so sad... sooo very sad) just to name a few. I still have lots of things to take care but I'm back to blogging and I'll be returning emails, responding to comments, and visiting my other food blogging buds again. I'm sooo sorry if I haven't replied to your email, my inbox is a mess! So if you have an unanswered question, please send me another email. I also want to thank everyone who wished me a happy bday (now I'm finally old enough to buy alcohol for cooking!) and for leaving me so many nice comments during my absence. Y'all are so nice. :)

Okay now onto the food! Isn't that what everyone is here for?

I postponed my June Daring Bakers challenge and when I finally completed it, my camera had some issues and I wasn't able to take any pics, which was too bad. But man oh man was it tasty! At first the idea of making a laminated dough scared the crap out of me. I love yeast but working with a "butter block" is way intimidating. That's like the stuff for professional bakers ya know? "Oh god what if the butter spurts out, what if I don't get any flaky layers?!?! Nooooo..." This is when I make a face that looks like that Edvard Munch painting. But I had nothing to worry about because the dough was really easy to work with. Though, it's not something you can rush, so I watched a movie while making it and just paused every 20 minutes or so to take the dough out of the fridge and give it another turn. (Speaking of movies, everyone needs to go see Batman and Wall-E ASAP!) I filled one braid with strawberry jam and cream cheese and another with shredded coconut and cream cheese and made a little Danish roll with leftover dough scraps filled with Nutella. I have to say this was my favorite Daring Bakers Challenge so far. If you have any fears about making a laminated dough, you have to try this recipe, from Sherry Yard's The Secrets of Baking. Thanks for picking such an awesome challenge Kellypea! I'll go into more detail about making this dough another time because I have no doubts I'll be making this again and croissants too!

And now for a recipe too. :)

Every summer I eagerly await the opening of a neighborhood berry stand that have the OMG most amazing strawberries ever... EVER! Washington state's strawberry season was delayed this year due to the chilly weather back in June. People were afraid the berries would start molding on the plant! All that uncertainty, the crappy weather, June was just a sad and gloomy month. I waited, and waited, and waited for my beloved stand to show any signs of opening. Then, one day I saw it! "Strawberries, Coming Soon!" on the window. Summer was finally here! When the stand finally opened, you could smell it a mile away, okay, maybe not a mile, more like 20 feet. There's no resisting the combined fragrance of dozens and dozens of flats filled with 100% ripe organic strawberries. At first the berries look so unassuming, so tiny compared to the monstrous 5-headed strawberries you see in the supermarket (you know the ones I'm talking about, the ones that look like multiple berries somehow got fused together). Just one of these small, ruby red strawberries packs more flavor than a whole carton of totally forgettable supermarket strawberries. I'm guilty of eating a pound or more of berries in one sitting. Mmm... sunshine and ruby red fingers, isn't that what summer is all about!

Oh and if anyone is interested in the berry stand, it's on 35th and NE 80th in the parking lot just north of the post office. I think the stand is selling raspberries now or maybe they've moved onto marionberries and blueberries. They usually sell strawberries in late June to early July then raspberries, then marionberries and blueberries, and finally finish up the summer with blackberries in late August. Come Christmas time, the berry stand becomes a tree farm. Cute huh? :)

Strawberry season may be over but save this recipe for next year.

Strawberry Shortcake

Sweetened Whipping Cream
Shortcakes (recipe see below)

Wash and hull the strawberries and cut them in half or in slices. Depending on the sweetness of the berries add a few spoonfuls of sugar. Let them sit and macerate at room temperature for 30 minutes to an hour.

Split the shortcake in half and top with a generous scoop of berries and sweetened whipping cream.

Shortcake/Cream Scone
Adapted from Joy of Baking

2 C flour
1/4 C sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 C (1/2 stick) butter, cold and cut into 8 pieces
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 C cream (both heavy whipping and regular whipping cream will work)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut the butter into the dry ingredients with a pastry cutter, two forks, or pulse it a few times in the food processor.

In a separate bowl mix the egg, vanilla, and cream together. Pour this mixture, into the dry ingredients and gently fold the mixture until just combined. Do not overmix.

Turn the dough until a lightly floured work surface and roll the dough out until it is about 3/4 inch thick. Using a 2 1/2 or 3 inch round biscuit or cookie cutter, cut the dough into rounds. You will get about 8 to 10.

Optional: sprinkle some sugar on top of the dough.

Bake at 400 degrees for 12 - 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Serve these at room temperature or slightly warm for shortcakes.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Beef Enchiladas

Beef Enchiladas

Okey doke, it's been about a week now and things are getting back on track. I'll never have to get my wisdom teeth taken out again. Yay! I made these enchiladas a few weeks ago when I was craving something bold and spicy. But be warned, they were a bit on the spicy side. I skipped the traditional step of pan frying the tortillas then dipping them in enchilada sauce. Instead, I simply wrapped the stack of tortillas in foil and warmed them in the oven until they were pliable. You can fill them with shredded chicken instead of ground beef (a good way to use up leftover roast chicken), or use Mexican rice instead of meat for a vegetarian version, add extra cheese, or skip the cheese entirely, it's really up to you.

This is a tomato-less chili based enchilada sauce. A lot of recipes just call for 1 chipotle chili but then I just end up with a whole can minus 1 leftover so I used three. You can even use four or five if you can take the heat. Just make sure to remove the seeds, cut the chilies open lengthwise and remove the seeds, otherwise it will be way too spicy. To store leftover chipotles, freeze them individually on a sheet tray then after they are frozen, transfer them to a freezer bag. Store the adobo sauce from the can in a zipper lock bag as well. Keep the bag flat in the freezer so the sauce freezes in an even layer. This way when you need some adobo sauce, you can just break a piece off the frozen slab (much easier than trying to scoop it out of a container when its frozen solid).

Beef Enchiladas
3/4 lb lean ground beef
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
Salt and pepper
Roughly 8 6-inch corn tortillas
1 1/2 C shredded cheddar or pepper jack cheese or a combination of the two

Enchilada Sauce
2 Tbsp lard or bacon fat or substitute oil or butter
3 Tbsp flour
1 rounded Tbsp chili powder
3 chipotle chilies packed in adobo, seeds removed and minced
2 Tbsp adobo sauce from the can of chipotle chilies
2 C chicken stock + 1 C water
Salt and pepper

Optional Garnishes:
Chopped cilantro
Sour cream

In a medium saucepan, heat two tablespoons of lard (or cooking fat of your choice) over medium heat. Add 3 tablespoons of flour and whisk until the mixture, the roux, looks blonde. Add the chili powder and minced chipotle chilies, whisk and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Slowly whisk in the chicken stock and water mixture and the adobo sauce from the can. Simmer the mixture until it is thick and bubbly (if it looks too thick, add some more water). Season with salt and pepper.

Heat 2 teaspoons of oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Add the ground beef and break it up into bite size pieces. Cook the ground beef until it is browned and cooked through. Drain the beef and set aside.

Reserve about 2 teaspoons of fat in the skillet from cooking the beef. Heat over medium heat and add the onions and a pinch of salt. Cook until the onions are soft and translucent. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Turn off the heat. Add the drained ground beef back into the onion mixture and add about a half cup of enchiliada sauce and season with some salt and pepper if needed. Set the meat mixture aside.

Wrap the stack of tortillas in foil. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F and put the tortillas in the oven while it preheats. When the tortillas are warm and pliable, remove them from the oven.

Spread about a 1/4 cup of enchilada sauce on the bottom of an 8x8 baking dish. Add a 1/4 C of the meat mixture and about two tablespoons of the shredded cheese to a tortilla and roll it up. Place the roll seam side down in the baking dish. Repeat with the rest of the tortillas and fill the baking dish. Top with remaining sauce and sprinkle cheese evenly on top. Bake in a 450 degree F oven for 15 - 20 minutes, until hot and bubbly. Serve with optional garnishes or with a side of Mexican rice.


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