What I’m Liking Wednesday {Recipe}

Balance. It can be a hard thing to do. It takes practice and concentration. When you are trying to balance everything in your life, you need to figure out what is most important to you and put everything into perspective. It might even mean changing some things around to make it all work. I am still concentrating on making it work for me.

I try to just go with the flow and make the system work, but sometimes I need to take a step back and realize that something needs to change to make the balancing work. I have a tendency to need to plan ahead and follow the rules and not break away from that system. Other times, I feel like I need to balance planning and going with the flow so that it works.

Most people say that they are afraid of baking because they cannot just add “a pinch of this or that” and cannot stray from the recipe. While this is somewhat true, this is part of why I like baking. Yes, you need to follow the ratio of flour, sugar, and butter to make a cookie dough work. (See my 1-2-3 Cookie Dough) However, there are some variations you can have with a recipe while baking. For example, I recently made these Slice & Bake Oatmeal cookies, but I altered the recipe to what I had on hand. I used cocoa powder instead of the whole wheat flour and I added ground ginger. I did not use any raisins because I don’t like them, but also because I didn’t think that these cookies needed them with all of the other flavors going on. This is a perfect example of balancing flavors to make it work. I would not have thought that this was going to work as well as it did had I not practiced and made other types of cookies previously.

These cookies were tempting to make as is, because I like the idea of having cookie cough on hand so that I can make only one or two at a time. I think the chocolate makes them even more tempting. I mean, who can resist chocolate? :) I believe these cookies, as modified, have the perfect balance of flavors, but also the right balance of textures. They are soft in the middle and have a chewy edge, sort of like a brownie. The oats give the cookies the typical oatmeal cookie chewiness also. The recipe does still need to be tweaked some, it was a little sticky, and probably does not need as much oatmeal as the recipe calls for. I need to work on balancing the ingredients to make them just that much more perfect. Like I said, balancing can be hard and take a lot of work, but it can be done. When balance is achieved, life (and recipes) is good! :)

Tell me, what do you do to keep things in your life balanced?

 

Original recipe found on Shutterbean. Modified/added ingredients/instructions in Italics.

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup (packed) light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups old-fashioned oats

Whisk  flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, ginger, and cinnamon in a medium bowl. (I sifted all ingredients into the bowl.) Using an electric mixer, beat butter and both sugars on high speed until light and creamy, 2-3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating to blend and scraping down bowl between additions. Beat in vanilla.

Reduce speed to low. Gradually add dry ingredients; mix just to combine. Fold in oats.

Divide dough between 2 large sheets of parchment paper. Using paper as an aid, roll up each piece of dough into a 1 1/2-inch diameter log. Wrap in plastic; freeze for at least 4 hours and up to 3 weeks.

Preheat oven to 350°. Unwrap dough and cut into 1/2-inch-thick rounds (return unused dough to freezer); place 2-inch apart on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.

Bake cookies until edges are golden brown, 15-18 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack; let cool. I baked mine for about 11 minutes, on a lightly greased baking sheet.

Photo Friday! {Portland Recap}

I know this should have been posted last week, but I honestly forgot all about it.

Portland-bike_sign

We saw this sign and a lot (but not all of them had that koala sticker on the head). I think they should post these signs in San Francisco, too.

Portland-moonstruck_chocolate_company

One of the first places we went to was Moonstruck Chocolate Company. Their chocolates were good, but some were just too sweet to want more.

Portland-Stumptown_coffee

Speaking of chocolate, we went to Stumptown Coffee, where we tried this hot chocolate, and of course, their coffee. It was as good as the small local (in SF) coffee shops such as Blue Bottle or Four Barrel.

Portland-Roscoes

We also went to Roscoe’s, and tried the stouts they had on tap that week. Mike got the taster pictured, and I got the double chocolate. (Yes, more chocolate. Note: this was not all in one day.)

Portland-Kenny&Zukes It was Purim while we were in Portland, so eating a hamentashen was required. (Though we probably would’ve gotten one anyway.) This was from Kenny and Zuke’s Deli. We also ate their matzo ball soup and latkes; all was good.Portland-songbird_cafeIf you are following my Facebook feed, you might have seen this picture already. It is of the tea I got at breakfast at Songbird Cafe one day. I liked the way the tea bag was floating in the mug; so pretty! Other Portland places of note that we went to: (a list can be found on my Foursquare)

And…that’s all for my Portland recap! It was really a fun trip and I can’t wait to go back!

April Showers Bring May Flowers.

Can you believe that we are only a couple of weeks away from May, already?

I know that I was definitely busy between, uh, last July and now. :)

But now that I am all caught up on the exciting things I’ve made since then, I will now share what I made in April, since I spent the month posting about the past.

In the beginning of the month, I celebrated Passover. I even hosted a Seder for the first time! I made a (super delicious) pescatarian dinner that included veggies from the farmer’s market and fish from the San Francisco Fish Company and wine from The Wine Merchant. Here is a list of recipes I made/adapted for my Seder:

Baked Stuffed Zucchini (My favorite dish, besides the matzoh ball soup.)

Matzoh Lasagna (I added spinach to mine. Surprisingly good…almost as good as lasagna made with noodles)

Matzoh Brittle (made it twice…once for my Seder, and once for a friend’s Seder. The first time, I followed the recipe and the second time, with the inspiration from a friend that came to my Seder, I added some ginger to some pieces and some cinnamon to others)

The fish part of the meal was just some sauteed cod. I just cut the fish into pieces that fit into the pan, sauteed in olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper. No real recipe, just cook until fish flakes apart with a fork. I think it was about 2 or 3 minutes on either side.

Throughout the month, I also made some ice cream. I got the recipe from one of my favorite bloggers, David Lebovitz. I added a chocolate fudge sauce to it while it was in the machine churning, but it turned out I added too much, because it caused the ice cream to soften and it separated. This made it a sort of micro-chocolate chip-caramel ice cream. All in all, it was pretty good. I would like to make more ice cream using his recipes and just stick with the recipe, because I have a feeling they will turn/churn out well. (See what I did there?!)

Some other things I made this month include a simple pasta dish, an orange-lemon pound cake,  and mini tartlets, again. The pasta dish was spaghetti, peas, tomatoes, garlic, and olive oil all tossed and heated/cooked together in a saute pan. First, the olive oil cooks the garlic, then the peas and tomatoes are added, and finally the pasta. Lunch or dinner is ready in minutes!

The orange-lemon pound cake was made with some orange sugar…which is just like vanilla sugar, but with orange zest. All you have to do is zest some orange (or any other citrus, or a combo would be good, too) into sugar and rub them together. It makes the flavor stand out more. The recipe I used was more or less made up. It is a simple 1:1:1 ratio, as you may have guessed. In this case, it was 8 ounces butter, 8 ounces sugar, 8 ounces flour, and an egg, some vanilla extract, and a pinch of salt. Bake in a buttered loaf pan in a 350-degree oven until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Let cool in pan for about 5 minutes before overturning and cooling completely on a cooling rack.

The tartlets I made were basically the same as before, using orange curd and candied orange peel as garnish. The shells were made with a pie/tart dough recipe that used cream instead of eggs/water/other liquid. But you can go ahead and use sable dough if you’d prefer.

So, that’s what I’ve made in April (so far). I am excited for what the month of May will bring! What are some of the things that made April special for you? What are you looking forward to in May? Share your thoughts in the comments!

 

Mini Tartlets

When I saw these in the store, I knew I had to get them! I love all things mini. There’s just something about the small size that grabs my attention more than the full-size version. Mini Snickers bars that somehow only make an appearance on Halloween. Mini muffins or cupcakes. Mini loaves of bread. Mini. Easy. One or two bites. An amuse bouche. A petit four. Mignardises. How ever you put it, I love it!

I used these to make tartlets for New Year’s Eve this past year (2011-2012). I made chocolate ganache and orange curd tartlets. I sprinkled the chocolate ganache ones with white sugar crystals (the sort of sugar that does not dissolve) and the orange curd ones with homemade candied orange zest.

Cover of "Baking"

I got the recipes from one of my favorite cookbooks, Baking, by James Peterson. I like this book because it not only gives you great recipes, but because it shows you steps by picture and gives you more than one technique to doing something. For example, the tart/pie dough recipe can be made with either water, heavy cream, or eggs/egg whites as the liquid (or any other liquid–maybe orange juice). It also says how to mix the dough by hand (on a table or in a bowl) or by mixer. It is a great book for all of the basic baking you might want to do.

P.S. This post is a part of my catching up series.

Are you the fan of a certain brand?

My answer: yes and no. Yes when it comes down to the  ingredients I bake with (though sometimes left with no other choice) and no to the other things I buy at the supermarket. Some brands have somehow cornered the market on baking ingredients. Take canned pumpkin, for example. What name comes to mind? Libby‘s. Does anyone know of any other brand or of a store brand of canned pumpkin? Or how about a different brand of sweetened condensed milk than Eagle Brand? It is amazing that these brands seem to have a monopoly on the products they make. Can no one else can a pumpkin? or did they try to sell a different brand way back when and got bought out? Are they available elsewhere? Nuts also seem to have a bit of an edge in the supermarket. That seems like the silliest of all to me. They are just nuts. Why is it that Diamond stands out above the rest? I mean, I know that in California, it makes sense, especially in San Francisco, where we insist on everything local, but I know these are shipped everywhere. They must be able to harvest and package nuts more locally elsewhere.

Enough ranting. Besides those brands that have little to no competition, I tend to buy Nestle chocolate chips. I think it’s the nostalgic bit of it or maybe it’s just that it’s usually the cheapest anyway, but something always draws me to the bright yellow bag. I do miss the peanut butter chips, though. They only exist on the East Coast, I think. Anyway, the only ones I found out here were of the Hershey’s (Reese’s) variety and those were quite chalky compared to the smoother version I remember. I have learned that it does not matter if you buy King Arthur’s flour or whatever store brand I’m in flour. It also doesn’t matter which sugar I buy, as long as it is the right color (white or brown) or texture (granulated or powdered) as long as it’s the cheapest.

If I have to buy that brand, of course it goes in my basket. If it’s the cheapest, it goes in. If it tastes better because it’s what I ate growing up, it goes in. Oh, wait, that last part is surely brand loyal. Hmm…okay so I only buy tuna if it’s Bumble Bee, in water, not oil, and I only buy Skippy peanut butter, smooth, not chunky. That’s it. That’s where the line is crossed. No more do I buy Scot toilet paper because that is the brand my mother bought. I am a single gal living in an expensive city that will not allow me to be that loyal to such brands. So there is my yes and no answer to brand loyalty. Hope you are satisfied with such a wishy-washy answer. :)

 

Baking without a recipe

Everyone says baking is an exact science, and it is because of the reactions between the different ingredients. But it is possible to change a recipe because baking is really all about the correct ratios. For example, cookie dough, or, as I posted before, 1-2-3 dough, is a ratio of 1 part butter, 2 parts sugar, and 3 parts flour. With adding some eggs, some baking powder, and some flavor (such as vanilla extract) and you’ve got a cookie dough. I used this recipe to make cookie dough at work without a written recipe. I used 1 cup of butter, 2 cups of sugar (cream together); 2 eggs, added one at a time; a little vanilla extract, a pinch of salt, and 3 cups of flour (mix until all ingredients combine). I was making Snickerdoodle cookies, so I added some cinnamon. I also made peanut butter cookies using 1/3 cup peanut butter and 2/3 cup butter. All of the other ingredients remained the same. This is the first time I made cookie dough without following a recipe. I was quite proud of myself because of this. I will see exactly how well I did once I try baking them off, but I think it will be okay. If it does work out okay, I will definitely be more confident in my baking abilities and about how much going to pastry school has really taught me!

Daring Bakers’ Challenge: Chocolate Marquise

The May 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Emma of CookCraftGrow and Jenny of Purple House Dirt. They chose to challenge everyone to make a Chocolate Marquise. The inspiration for this recipe comes from a dessert they prepared at a restaurant in Seattle.

This challenge was mainly about the marquise, which is basically a frozen mousse. It was served with meringue and caramel and spiced almonds.

This was somewhat similar to the other mousse/meringue challenges we’ve had, but what made this one different, and had something I hadn’t really done before, which were the spiced nuts. I couldn’t find whole almonds, so I used slivered, and used extra cinnamon instead of adding cayenne. They were awesome! I even used some leftovers to top some cupcakes! I didn’t take a picture of everything, but I’ll share what I’ve got!

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