Monday, December 28, 2009

Olive Oil Chocolate Chip Cookies and Apologies

For those of you who occasionally glance at my blog, I apologize for my apparent lack of commitment to posting. But, in my defense, I've been busy graduating from college. As 2010 begins I promise to try to post at least once a week and hopefully I can stick with this. So as for a recipe I have an interesting twist on a recipe I think is best done by Nestle Tollhouse - Chocolate Chip Cookies...made with extra virgin olive oil instead of butter.
I have to admit, these cookies were pretty darn good and I was amazed that I couldn't taste the olive oil. The cookies were best fresh out of the oven or dipped in milk the next day. I'm sitting in the Portland Airport right now and I have to say, I'd really like one of these fresh out of the oven.

Olive Oil Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from The Crepes of Wrath

2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 or 2 tablespoons of milk
1 cup chocolate chips

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.

2. Combine sugars, vanilla, and olive oil. Stir in the eggs one a time. Gradually stir in the flour mixture, then add in a tablespoon of milk to make the dough a bit firmer, maybe another tablespoon if you need it/if you feel the dough is too sticky/dry.

3. Roll the dough into balls with your hands and place on a greased and/or lined baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes, until lightly golden and set. Mine took about 10 minutes. These get overdone quickly, so take them out a bit early if you’re unsure. Allow to cool for a bit on the baking sheet, then move to another surface to finish cooling.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Pumpkin Spice Cake with Buttermilk Icing

This is perhaps the most delicious cake I've ever made and I don't even really like pumpkin all that much. I encourage you to make it. The best thing about this cake is that it keeps really well - like for days and days. I made this cake on Tuesday night and it was just perfect for Thanksgiving and lasted (barely) until Monday when it was still awesome and moist.

When I went to make this cake I discovered, much to my dismay, that my buttermilk had gone bad. This was really quite irritating because I'd bought it on Sunday and the expiration date was the 25th of November, also known as tomorrow. I was very annoyed. Looking back on it though I think if it hadn't had the orange fuzzy dots in it (gross) I probably would have thrown out perfectly good buttermilk - because it is supposed to be very chunky. My advice: give it a good shake to distribute everything and try to ignore the sound it makes as it splats into the measuring cup.

Pumpkin Spice Cake with Buttermilk Icing
Adopted from Gourmet (via Epicurious)

For cake
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened, plus additional for greasing pan
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour plus additional for dusting pan
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon (Mine was a heaping teaspoon...I love cinnamon)
3/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups canned solid-pack pumpkin (a 15-ounce can is more than enough; not pie filling)
3/4 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs

For icing
(I think you could probably get away with making half of this recipe - I had a ton of extra)

2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons well-shaken buttermilk
1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar

Make cake:
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Butter pan* generously, then dust with flour, knocking out excess.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, and salt in a bowl. Whisk together pumpkin, buttermilk, and vanilla in another bowl.

Beat butter (1 1/2 sticks) and granulated sugar with a fork in a large bowl until pale and fluffy, then add eggs one at a time and stir to incorporate after each egg. Add flour and pumpkin mixtures alternately in batches, beginning and ending with flour mixture and mixing until batter is just smooth.

Spoon batter into pan, smoothing top, then bake until a wooden pick or skewer inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool cake in pan on a rack 15 minutes, then invert rack over cake and reinvert cake onto rack. Cool 10 minutes more.

Make icing:
While cake is cooling, whisk together buttermilk and confectioners sugar until smooth. Drizzle icing over warm cake, then cool cake completely. Icing will harden slightly. (I actually didn't drizzle until the next day, I heated up the cake a bit and drizzled and it was just fine - it wasn't a hard icing but it was still delicious.)

*The original recipe is made in a bundt pan but I don't have one (and Brad so kindly talked me out of buying a $12 pan I clearly don't need) so I used a springform pan and it worked great. I think these would also make excellent muffins.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

As soon as this tryptophan wears off...

I have a whopper of a blog post. I'll hopefully post throughout the week so that anyone who is reading this (ha) can see the results of my Thanksgiving cooking.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Thanksgiving Test Run: Apple Pie!!!

I love apple pie. I love Thanksgiving. There is a lot of pressure to get Thanksgiving right when you're cooking for friends who are obviously very classy - i.e. Brad and his roommate, Phil, and my lovely friends Laura and Lisa - so I thought I would do a little test run with the apple pie and I'm pretty pleased to say that it turned out really well - I wouldn't change anything, I mean it's not gorgeous but I'll work on it, you know, for next time.

I've been looking into buying a pastry board for rolling out pie dough, cookie dough and any other pastry type items. My wonderful mother was in town last week and she bestowed upon me an early Christmas gift in the form of, you guessed it, a pastry board. In combination with my lovely rolling pin and my dough scraper rolling out the dough for the pie crust was a snap. I love apple pie, or did I already mention that?

Perfect, Flaky Pie Crust
Adapted from Smittenkitchen

Makes enough for one double-crust pie

1 cup cold water (drop in a few ice cubes; set it aside)

2 1/2 cups flour

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

2 sticks (or 8 ounces or 1 cup) of very cold unsalted butter, cubed into 1/2-inch pieces.

In a large bowl mix flour, sugar and salt together. Sprinkle the butter cubes over the flour and begin working them in with a pastry blender (seriously, invest in one if you're going to be making pies - a fork won't work - they are only $10 at Crate and Barrel) using it to scoop and redistribute the mixture as need so all the parts are worked together evenly. When all of the butter pieces are about the size of peas and then stop - even if it looks uneven.

Start by drizzling 1/2 cup of the ice-cold water (take out the cubes if there are any left!) over the butter and flour mixture. Use a spatula to gather the dough together - you might need up to an additional 1/4 of a cup of cold water to bring it together, add it a tablespoon at a time. Once you are gathering large clumps with the spatula, get your hands in there! Gather the damp clumps together into one mound, patting it together.

Divide the dough in half, and place each half on a large piece of plastic wrap. I like to use the sides to pull in the dough and shape it into a disk. Let the dough chill in the fridge for one hour, but preferably at least two, before rolling it out. For tips on rolling out the dough (which I followed very closely) check out this tutorial on Smittenkitchen (can you tell I'm obsessed??)

Apple Pie Filling

Also from Smittenkitchen

1 1/2 pounds Granny Smith apples (about 3 medium)
2 pounds McIntosh apples (about 4 large)
3/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 egg white, beaten lightly

1. Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat rimmed baking sheet and oven to 500°F. Remove one piece of dough from refrigerator (if refrigerated longer than 1 hour, let stand at room temperature until malleable).

2. Roll dough on lightly floured work surface or between two large sheets of plastic wrap to 12-inch disk. Transfer dough to pie plate by folding dough in quarters, then placing dough point in center of pie plate and unfolding. Working around circumference of pie plate, ease dough into pan corners by gently lifting dough edges with one hand while pressing around pan bottom with other hand. Leave dough that overhangs lip of plate in place; refrigerate dough-lined pie plate.

3. Peel, core and cut apples in half, and in half again width-wise; cut quarters into 1/4-inch slices. In a medium bowl, mix 3/4 cup sugar, flour, salt and spices. Toss dry ingredients with apples. Turn fruit mixture, including juices, into chilled pie shell and mound slightly in center.

4. Roll out second piece of dough to 12-inch disk and place over filling. Trim top and bottom edges to 1/2-inch beyond pan lip. Tuck this rim of dough underneath itself so that folded edge is flush with pan lip. Flute edging or press with fork tines to seal. Cut four slits on dough top. If pie dough is very soft, place in freezer for 10 minutes. Brush egg white onto top of crust and sprinkle evenly with remaining 1 tablespoon sugar. If you want to top your pie with a lattice (like the larger of my two pies) try this tutorial!

5. Place pie on baking sheet and lower oven temperature to 425°F. Bake until top crust is golden, about 25 minutes. Rotate pie and reduce oven temperature to 375°F; continue baking until juices bubble and crust is deep golden brown, 30-35 minutes longer.

6. Transfer pie to wire rack; cool to room temperature, at least 4 hours... if you can wait that long. Serve alone or with vanilla ice cream. It's delicious.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Halloween and Woodland Creature Sugar Cookies

I love cookie cutters. I love frosting sugar cookies. I love sending them off to friends. A few weeks ago I went in to sur la table, a dangerous adventure, and ended up buying (among other things...) 3 Halloween cookie cutters. I consider them an investment.

My friends Lisa and Roo came over and we made delicious butter cookies from a recipe in Cook's Illustrated that I had used to make Valentine's day cookies for Brad when he was out in L.A. and I was stuck in Boston. It is a delicious recipe that bakes up well - so long as you watch them VERY carefully, otherwise they will burn.

Brad then joined us and we frosted them with some simple butter cream frosting from the recipe on the back of the C&H Powdered Sugar. Delicious. Who doesn't love making and decorating cookies?

This is Fox in Boots. Brad decorated him. He is my favorite. And I'm not being patronizing, I promise.

Butter Cookies
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated

2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar (superfine if you have it - I didn't)
1/4 teaspoon table salt
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces at cool/room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons cream cheese

*The original recipe says to use a stand or hand-held mixer - I found this unnecessary and actually rather annoying, it kept spraying the flour everywhere. I've written it to be done by hand but you can use a mixer if you want.

1. Mix flour, sugar and salt together until combined. Mix in butter one piece at a time; continue to mix until mixture is crumbly and slightly wet. Add vanilla and cream cheese and mix until large clumps form.
2. Knead dough by hand in bowl for 2 to 3 turns to fom a large cohesive mass. Turn dough out onto countertop and divide in half. Pat into two 4-inch disks, wrap each in plastic and refrigerate until they begin to firm up, 20 to 30 minutes. (Dough can be chilled up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 weeks; defrost in refrigerator before using.)
3. Adjust oven rack to middle position (I have to put a few layers of foil on the bottom shelf to keep my cookies from burning but I think it's just the combination of my oven and my non-stick pan.) heat oven to 375 degrees. Roll out 1 dough disk to even 1/8 inch thickness between two sheets of parchment paper. Slide rolled dough on parchemnt paper onto baking sheet and chill until firm, about 10 minutes. Repeat with the second disk.
4. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Working with the first portion of rolled dough, cut into desired shapes and put them on the parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake until light golden brown, 8-10 minutes. Repeat with second portion of rolled dough. Cool cookies on wire rack to room temperature.
5. Decorate using whatever frosting/sprinkles you would like. Enjoy!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Key Lime Cheesecake

This is by no means a healthy dessert but it is extremely delicious and surprisingly easy. I never really ate cheesecake growing up and I kind of just assumed I didn't like it - boy was I wrong. My boyfriend hates cake (I know, it's hard to believe that anyone could hate cake) but he loves cheesecake which he has since informed me is a pie. I wanted to make some sort of delicious dessert and have a lovely romantic evening with him and so I decided to try out cheesecake. I was searching for a recipe and when I came across this one I knew this was what I had to make - Brad also loves Key Lime Pie, what could be better than both things together?

Let me just make a few notes for those who will attempt this - try to find fresh squeezed key lime juice because squeezing a pound and a half of limes is really time consuming and rather unpleasant. If you can't find fresh squeezed (100% juice - none of this concentrate crap) key lime juice get some key limes and start squeezing.

I found that rolling them on a cutting board first helped make them squeeze easier and cutting them in half around the middle and then quarters was the best way to get the most juice. Anyhow - it's totally worth it and I would make this again in a second... if I could find bottled lime juice.

Key Lime Cheesecake
Adapted from smittenkitchen

For crust

1 1/4 cups fine graham cracker crumbs (about 8 full graham crackers)
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted

For filling
2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese at room temperature
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 cup fresh key lime juice (strained from about 1 1/2 lb Key limes) or bottled
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs

Special equipment: a 9- to 9 1/2-inch springform pan

Make crust: Preheat oven to 350°F and butter bottom and side of springform pan.

Stir together crumbs, sugar, and butter in a bowl with a fork until combined, then press evenly onto bottom and one-third up side of pan. Bake crust in middle of oven for 8 minutes and cool in pan on a rack.

Make filling: Reduce oven temperature to 325°F.

Beat cream cheese with an electric mixer at medium speed until fluffy, then beat in sugar. Add lime juice, sour cream, and vanilla and beat until smooth. Mix in flour and salt at low speed, until just incorporated, then add eggs all at once and mix just until incorporated.

Pour filling into crust and set springform pan in a shallow baking pan or on a cookie sheet to catch the drips. Bake cake in middle of oven until set in center, 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes. It should be visibly set 3 inches in from the edge but the center should still wobble a little. Cool completely in springform pan on rack. (Cake will continue to set as it cools.)

Run a thin knife around edge of cake and remove side of pan. If desired, transfer cake with a large metal spatula to a serving plate.

You can also top this with whipped cream and fresh mango slices but I couldn't find mangoes and forgot to buy whipping cream - it didn't lack sweetness or flavor at all - more information on how to do this can be found in the original recipe.

*Next time I might double the crust - Although it was delicious this way I would have enjoyed a little bit more crunch.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

I know...

... I'm a horrible blogger. It's not that I didn't know this from the beginning and it's not that I haven't been cooking it's just that I haven't been photographing or blogging about it. I promise, I'll be better. I'll make it a... mid-October resolution if you will. Things to come? Apple Granola Crumble thing, more baked goods and perhaps even a lovely chicken. (I made Julia Child's whole chicken in a pot recipe and it was GLORIOUS but I didn't take pictures or blog about it, obviously, but I did it.) I promise I'll start blogging again.

Friday, September 18, 2009

An Introduction with a Side of French Bread

Up until now, I've never really understood the fascination with dishwashers. They are loud, take up precious cupboard space and each one has to be loaded a little differently in order to make the most things fit. But let me just say that living without a dishwasher is becoming a nightmare especially since the amount of cooking/baking I do is increasing constantly. I never appreciated you oh glorious dishwasher and now that you are gone I am at a loss. But, the baking must go on and the dishes must be done and so I make do.

Now. For the culinary adventures.

A month or so ago stewing beef was on sale at Whole Foods and Brad, my adoring and ravenously hungry boyfriend, suggested we get some and I could make stew. I told him I would not cook stew mid-summer in his apartment (where I would undoubtedly die of heat exhaustion cooking over a stove all day in a non-air conditioned apartment) and so the beef was frozen for later use.

When I moved into my apartment a few weeks ago I decided it was time to cook the stew. This post however is not about the stew, which was delicious, but rather about the French bread I made to go with it.

Ever since I made Challah last spring I've been fascinated with making bread. I've even tried my hand at pretzels which were delicious but need a little bit of refining. I decided that I wanted to make rolls or bread to go with the stew and settled on the French Bread recipe in The Joy of Cooking of which I have the August 1973 printing. What resulted were two loaves of delicious french bread that amazed my boyfriend and stayed fresh for days. Completely worth the sticky fingers and extra dishes.

French Bread
adapted from The Joy of Cooking

Time: about 1 1/2 hours plus 2 1/2 hours rising
Yield: two small loaves (or probably one large one)

1/2 cup milk (I used whole, as you probably should with bread)
1 cup boiling water
1 package active dry yeast
1/4 cup water at approximately 85 degrees (mine was a bit hotter - closer to 100 degrees)
1 1/2 tablespoons melted butter
1 tablespoon sugar
4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons sugar

1. Warm the milk in the microwave in a glass measuring cup until hot and then pour it into a saucepan on the stove. Bring it nearly to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Once it reaches a near boil add the boiling water and stir to combine. Remove from heat. Cool to 85 degrees.
2. While the milk and water mixture cool, add the yeast to the 1/4 cup warm water and use a fork to mix until dissolved. Allow to rest for 10 minutes.
3. Add the yeast mixture to the milk mixture along with the butter and the 1 tablespoon of sugar. Stir to combine.
4. In a large mixing bowl combine the flour, salt and sugar. Make a whole in the center for these ingredients and slowly pour in the liquid mixture. Stir thoroughly but DO NOT knead* the dough will be soft. Cover the dough with a towel and set in a warm place to rise at least 2 hours. I find that heating an oven to 150 degrees and then turning it off before putting the bread in there is a great way to facilitate rising - but I also keep the AC at 72 so...
5. break down the dough and place it on a lightly floured board and pat into two equal oblongs or make the correct size for a bread pan - butter your bread pan first it will help to keep your loaf from breaking when you release it from the pan. Place the oblong on a greased bakig sheet.
6. Cut diagonal 1/4 inch deep slits across the tops with a knife (I found serrated worked best) to form the customary french indentations. Set in a warm place an allow to rise to nearly double in bulk, about half an hour.
7. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and on the bottom rack of the oven place a pie tin with 1/2 inch of boiling water. Bake the bread for 15 minutes, reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake an additional 30 minutes longer. Voila! Delicious home baked French Bread.

Note: The Joy of Cooking suggests brushing the loaves with a glazing mixture of 1 beaten egg white and 1 tablespoon cold water about 5 minutes before they come out of the oven. I found this step to be unnecessary because the hot bread simply turned the glaze into what looked like a very thin eggwhite coating. It was not attractive and I promptly wiped mine off.

* Really, there is no need to knead it. I didn't and my bread turned out beautifully. Just give it a good mixing with a wooden spoon and live with the lumps and tiny imperfections, I know, it was hard for me too, but I promise it will all come together.