Stuff I’ve made recently, January 2012

Grapefruit

  • Beer bread (Alton Brown): The ultimate weeknight bread recipe, for when you want something starchy/tasty to go with soup, etc. Super easy and super quick. My changes: used dried dill instead of fresh, subbed in part skim mozzarella cheese for cheddar, omitted the sunflower seeds. I also used Lagunitas IPA, with great results.
  • Carrot soup with miso and sesame (Smitten Kitchen): I have a long-standing hatred of carrots. So much so that it’s become a default joke with my loved ones. Something about the texture and the underlying sweetness just doesn’t work for me, despite my best efforts to overcome the distaste. I want to like them! Really! They’re so good for you! Despite all this, something about this recipe called to me, so I just ran with it. And you know what? It was pretty darn good, even for me. The miso helps offset the carrots’ sweetness, and the toasted sesame oil is just perfect. The texture still bothered me at times, but I ate three servings of it over the course of three days, so there you go.
  • Chicken lima bean soup (Taste of Home): I made this because I was dying to use my bag of Rancho Gordo Christmas lima beans, the recipe looked easy, and I wanted a nice sturdy soup after a whole holiday vacation of splurging on baked goods. It’s a very good soup, although I think the chicken may have been a tad overcooked. My changes: used Christmas limas, used kale instead of spinach, used dried parsley and other random seasonings instead of fresh.
  • Cottage cheese muffins (101 Cookbooks): Like every 101 Cookbooks recipe ever, these were really good. I made them for an office holiday potluck, but when I make them again, I’ll have them for breakfast instead.
  • Grapefruit yogurt cake (Smitten Kitchen): I had extra grapefruits, I had leftover yogurt that was threatening to go bad, I had everything else needed for this simple loaf cake. So I made it. And I’m really glad I did. It’s very, very good, and very, very easy. Next time, I’ll try the Ina Garten original lemon version, or a lime version with coconut milk yogurt and coconut oil. My changes: I used nonfat plain yogurt instead of whole milk.
  • Macaroni and cheese pizza (Food Network): For Jeffrey‘s birthday dinner! We used the Quick Beer Crust from King Arthur Flour, which is quickly becoming my favorite go-to pizza crust recipe. This is one of the more indulgent things I’ve ever made. Wow. We sort of winged it with this recipe – I don’t remember most of the changes that we made, however. The main thing is just stovetop mac and cheese, put on a pizza crust, and baked. Yum.
  • Meyer lemon fresh cranberry scones (Smitten Kitchen): I made these for my Bay Bridged comrades to enjoy while we set up for the Bay Brewed. They were a big hit. My changes: used regular lemons instead of Meyer.
  • Rustic lentil soup (Soup Addict): Delicious, hearty stew. That’s really all you need to know. Really, really good. My changes: I didn’t have any pancetta so I used more bacon instead, omitted the fish sauce, used 3 small leeks instead of celery, and used dried rosemary instead of fresh thyme.
  • And of course, I’ve made several more 30 before 30 items. Just need to actually sit down and write them all out!

Christmas lima bean soup with kale

Macaroni and cheese pizza

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Cookies Swap 2011: Toffee Cookies

Toffee Cookies

Welcome to my contribution for the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2011!

I had very different plans for this cookie recipe. I envisioned, specifically, an Apple Cider Toffee Cookie, with a pronounced apple cider taste, enhanced by buttery toffee. Unfortunately, I was left with a cookie with a strong toffee flavor and only a hint of apple – which, by all means, is not a bad thing, just not what I originally wanted.

My original plan was to use this recipe for Maple Syrup Cookies and produce an apple cider syrup to use instead of the maple syrup. Brilliant, I thought! I am a genius!

Except making apple cider syrup proved more difficult than I thought. With my first batch, I kept waiting for the cider to get a thick, syrupy consistency, and I ended up with a tasteless, sticky substance that became hard as a rock once cooled. With my second batch, the consistency was thinner than I would have liked, but it tasted great, so I decided to just go with it.

While making the cookies, I found that a more syrupy consistency would have been helpful. When I added the syrup to the wet mixture, there was a lot of separation that occurred. It came together fine once I added the dry mixture, but upon tasting the dough (before stirring in the toffee), I found with disappointment that the apple cider flavor was subtle at best.

But these cookies are still tasty. They’re just not apple cider cookies. It’s probably not worth the effort to cook down the apple cider and add the brown sugar just for this recipe, but I’ll include the instructions anyway, just in case. Perhaps I will purchase some honest-to-goodness boiled cider and see what that produces.

Toffee Cookies
Adapted from The Cooking Photographer
Yield: I can’t exactly remember. I think it was around 4 dozen.

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 cup apple cider syrup [note: I doubled the recipe but used only 2 cinnamon sticks, and omitted the brandy]
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 8 oz bag toffee bits/pieces (I used Heath; use less if you want a less pronounced toffee flavor)
Granulated sugar for rolling

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and put racks in the bottom and top thirds of the oven. Sift or whisk the flour, salt and baking soda in a medium bowl and set aside. Cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl (I used my stand mixer) until light and fluffy. Add egg, apple cider syrup and vanilla, and mix until blended. The mixture will separate a little bit, but will come back together once you add the dry ingredients.

Stir in the flour mixture until just combined. Add the toffee bits and stir until well-distributed. Refrigerate dough for 30 minutes to an hour (optional, but I found it to be helpful).

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Shape dough into 1 inch balls, roll in sugar, and place on baking sheets about 2 inches apart. Bake for 10-12 minutes, switching racks halfway through the baking time. Remove from oven and let cool, preferably on a wire rack.

Toffee Cookies

30 before 30: Thin Mints

30 before 30: Thin Mints

Oh my.

30 before 30: Thin Mints

This may have been one of the most indulgent recipes I’ve ever made.

30 before 30: Thin Mints

I mean, homemade Thin Mints. Look at that chocolate!

30 before 30: Thin Mints

Making Thin Mints at home is clumsy, messy, a bit time-consuming, and, well, sticky. Is it worth it? YES.

30 before 30: Thin Mints

We spent an afternoon tempering chocolate and dipping cookies, and brought the cookies to a friend’s birthday party that evening. They were a huge hit. I brought them to a meeting the next day. They were a huge hit. Sensing a pattern here?

30 before 30: Thin Mints

A caveat: these cookies should be kept cool. When we brought the cookies to the aforementioned birthday party, the cookies became a bit messier to eat as the night went on, as the chocolate had a tendency to melt all over people’s fingers.

No biggie. No use crying over some melted chocolate.

In case you were wondering: just like the original Girl Scouts’ version of this cookie, the homemade Thin Mint tastes even better after being stored in the freezer.

30 before 30: Thin Mints

For this piece of 30 before 30, I used the Thin Mint recipe posted on the Tastespotting blog, who got the recipe from Desserts by the Yard.

Next time I make these (oh yes, there will be a next time), I’m trying out the 101 Cookbooks version.

30 before 30: Thin Mints

More 30 before 30 posts coming soon: hamburgers/hamburger buns, macarons, chicken nuggets!

Skillet chocolate chip cookie (one bowl)

Skillet chocolate chip cookie

This is the ultimate lazy baking recipe. This is for those nights when you really really want a warm chocolate chip cookie, but really really don’t want to go through the whole song and dance of measuring, creaming butter and sugar, dirtying multiple dishes and carefully spooning out dough mounds onto baking sheets.

Don’t get me wrong: I love a well-crafted, perfectly executed chocolate chip cookie, and most of the time, I don’t mind the extra effort. But tonight, I did mind the extra effort (and I only had half a cup of chocolate chips left over), so this skillet cookie was just what I needed.

Note: I forgot to put salt in the mixture, so I guessed that about 1/4 teaspoon would have worked and added to the below list. Also, this is a pretty sweet cookie, overall, so I may reduce the amount of sugar next time. Lastly, this yields a thin cookie – the recipe could probably be doubled and baked in the same size skillet for thicker results (left in the oven for longer, of course).

Skillet chocolate chip cookie
Adapted from: SparkRecipes

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 egg
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Measure all ingredients into a bowl and mix (either by hand or electric mixer) until they all come together. Lightly spray a 10-inch cast-iron skillet (or other ovenproof skillet) with cooking spray, and spread the batter into the skillet. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool before slicing and enjoying.

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap!

I like making cookies, and I like eating cookies, so I decided it would be fun to participate in the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap!

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2011

Here’s the schedule:

Sign Up Deadline: Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Receive Your Matches: Monday, November 21, 2011
Shipment Deadline: Monday, December 5, 2011
Blog Post Date: Monday, December 12, 2011

If you or someone you know wants to participate, check out additional information by clicking the above image.

Cookies!

Doing what I can: Peanut butter cream pie, for Mikey Perillo

Peanut butter cream pie

I do not know Jennifer Perillo. I do, however, read her blog. Her story, as of just a few days ago, is heartbreaking.

There is little anyone can do when a loved one suddenly dies, so Jennifer asked that her friends and readers, if they so desired, make a dish that was one of her late husband’s favorites: peanut butter cream pie.

Peanut butter cream pie

I wasn’t planning on making the pie. I’m not really a part of this massive food blogging community – this blog is just a fun little outlet for me. But I watched today as my Google Reader exploded with posts featuring gorgeous variations of peanut butter pie – all for Mikey, and for Jennifer, even if the blogger had never met either of them. I followed the #apieformikey trending topic on Twitter. I was blown away at the giant wave of support within this online community.

I found myself reading Jennifer’s story and holding back tears. I couldn’t help but wonder how I would feel if any of my loved ones – my boyfriend, my mother, my father, my sister, my friends – just disappeared from my life at the drop of a hat, with no warning. I can’t even fathom it.

Peanut butter cream pie

So I came home from work today and I made the pie. It’s chilling in the fridge as we speak. Maybe we’ll dig in when we get home later tonight; maybe we’ll wait and bring it to a friend’s BBQ tomorrow. Either way, the pie will be consumed with people I care about – we will enjoy  the pie and each other’s company, and that is the whole point.

Peanut butter cream pie

Peanut butter cream pie, for Mikey. You can read more about Jennifer and see more peanut butter pie blog posts over at the Tomato Tart.

30 before 30: Sour cherry pie with lattice top

30 before 30: Sour cherry pie

Something magical happens when you mix sour cherries with sugar and lemon juice.

Wait, let’s back up. First, we need to talk about sour cherries.

30 before 30: Sour cherry pie

Apparently, fresh sour (a.k.a. tart) cherries are not easy to come by, at least in the Bay Area. While markets will have piles of fresh, sweet Bings and Rainiers ready for the taking, it is much less likely that the same markets will have fresh sour cherries available. Instead, sour cherries can be found canned, frozen, or dried, and if you’re lucky, at your local farmers market. A friend informed me that she usually gets sour cherries from a farmer selling at the Civic Center market; however, this summer, due to wackier weather, this farmer didn’t have any for the selling.

30 before 30: Sour cherry pie

30 before 30: Sour cherry pie

I have very little experience making pies (the last time I made an apple pie, I forgot to peel the apples first), so I wasn’t sure how I should proceed. Should I just make the pie with sweet cherries, adding more lemon juice to mimic the traditional tartness? Should I just wait until next summer and try my luck again? My sister (a pie-making guru if there ever was one) made a pie with sweet cherries and said it wasn’t that great, and I didn’t like the idea of waiting until less than a month before my 30th birthday to complete this portion of the 30 before 30 project.

30 before 30: Sour cherry pie

30 before 30: Sour cherry pie

So where to get sour cherries now? Alemany Farmers Market didn’t have any. We called Rainbow Grocery, and they didn’t have any. Should I look for the canned variety? I wouldn’t even know where to start, and using canned cherries seemed to go against the whole point of this project.

So we turned to Berkeley Bowl, and lo and behold, tart cherries were in stock! The cherries had been shipped in from Washington in 2 pound plastic containers – the exact quantity that I needed.

So, back to the pie.

30 before 30: Sour cherry pie

30 before 30: Sour cherry pie

This pie was amazing. I mean . . . I’m basically speechless. I’ve never had homemade, classic cherry pie before, and this was truly unreal. The crust is buttery, flaky perfection (despite the fact that I overbaked it). And the filling. Oh, the filling. Sour cherries mix with sugar and lemon juice and some cornstarch (for thickening), and the result is just heavenly. If you can find fresh sour cherries, I can’t recommend this enough.

Cherry-hunting aside, making this pie was fairly easy. It takes a while to pit all the cherries (I highly recommend a cherry pitter), and making/shaping the crust is a precise process, but otherwise it’s not back-breaking or overly complicated. And the finished product is more than worth it. Times ten.

30 before 30: Sour cherry pie

30 before 30: Sour cherry pie

I used two recipes for this pie: Cooks Illustrated’s pie crust (which uses both butter and shortening for taste and texture, respectively), and Bon Appetit’s sour cherry filling (via Lottie + Doof).

I will dream of this pie every day until I can get sour cherries once again.

INGREDIENTS:

Pie crust
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
13 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold
7 tablespoons vegetable shortening, cold
4-5 tablespoons ice water

Sour cherry pie filling
Adapted from Bon Appetit/Lottie + Doof

1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 cups whole pitted sour cherries
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
Milk (any kind), for brushing on top

INSTRUCTIONS: 

Make the pie crust first, since the dough has to chill for at least 30 minutes before rolling out and assembling (and you can use the chill time to pit your cherries). For the next few steps, I used a food processor, but they can also be done in a bowl with either a pastry cutter or two knives or just your fingers.

Add the flour, sugar and salt to the food processor bowl and pulse a couple of times to mix together. Take your butter and shortening out of the fridge and cut into small (1/4 inch or so) pieces. Add the butter pieces to the flour mixture in the food processor, and pulse 5 times to incorporate. Repeat the same steps with the shortening. You want the mixture to resemble very coarse cornmeal. Note: I ended up with a mixture that had butter/shortening chunks that were slightly larger than small peas, as opposed to the Cook’s Illustrated instructions – since I didn’t want to overmix, however, I just went with it. The crust turned out wonderfully, regardless.

Transfer mixture to a medium bowl. Sprinkle 4 tablespoons of ice water into the mixture and fold in with a rubber spatula (add 1 more tablespoon if the dough isn’t coming together). Using your hands, shape the dough into two balls, one slightly larger than the other. Flatten into 4-inch wide disks (I forgot this step), dust with flour, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

After chilling the fridge, remove the dough from the refrigerator and set aside. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees, and place a rack in the lower third of the oven.

Make the filling. Whisk the sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a medium bowl, then gently stir in pitted cherries, lemon juice, and vanilla. Set aside while you roll out the dough.

Roll out the smaller disk of dough between two lightly floured pieces of plastic wrap (this is optional; I certainly found it easier to use the plastic rather than roll out directly on the counter) into a 12-inch round. Transfer to a 9-inch glass pie dish, and trim the edges to 1/2 inch length (I forgot to do this, and just ended up with some extra crust – no big deal).

Roll out the larger disk of dough between two lightly floured pieces of plastic into a 12-inch round. Using a pizza cutter, knife or pastry wheel (I used a pizza cutter), cut the round into 10 equal long strips (about 3/4 inch wide strips).

Give the filling one last stir, and gently pour into the dough-lined pie dish, mounding slightly in the center, and dot with the butter pieces. Follow these helpful instructions for arranging the strips on top of the filling to form the lattice. Fold the bottom crust over the ends of the strips and seal together all around the pie. Use a fork to crimp the edges. Brush the lattice pieces with a little bit of milk, then sprinkle with sugar (around 1 tablespoon).

Place the pie on a rimmed baking sheet (because the filling will spill out, and the baking sheets prevents a big stinky smelly mess in your oven). Bake the pie for 15 minutes at 425, then reduce temperature to 375 degrees and bake for 50-60 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbling. If the crust starts to brown too quickly, drape foil lightly over the whole pie until the end (I didn’t check mine soon enough and my crust was already a bit too brown, but it still came out great).

Once the pie is finished baking, remove from the oven and transfer to a rack to cool completely. Resist the urge to cut into the pie before it’s finished cooling; as the filling cools, it thickens up into the perfect pie consistency that’s worth waiting for.