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!

(As I have sat on my butt on my day off not made time to edit these photos, I apologize for what could be a post full of blurry photos for a short post, but I did not want to miss another week.) Enjoy the week in review! :)

First up, I made an apple tarte tartin for the first time.

It was made for this literal house party, consisting of only people who currently live in, have previously lived in, and frequently visit this house. (Ahem, that last part is there to include yours truly.)

Finished product. Half was finished at the party, half was finished at dinner that night.

Plum cake that was Mike’s contribution to dinner that night. This was the second time I had seen him make it and the second time I was not allowed to see or really know what was in the recipe or even stir any of the ingredients. I guess every relationship needs some secrets. ;)

The dinner that I keep speaking of was Rosh Hashanah dinner that I hinted at last time.

As an attempt to visit and know more about the city we call home, Mike and I decided to make it a habit to have brunch at a new neighborhood every weekend ’til we hit them all. This week was Hayes Valley.

I have become obsessed with the “latte art” or, since I only have hot chocolates, “steamed milk art”. This is from the same Blue Bottle cup from above.

My first time at Absinthe for brunch. I got the two eggs any style (mine will always be scrambled unless I can get over my fear dislike of runny yolks), with toast, sausage (house-made), and “the best potatoes” as quoted by Mike before we even got there. Notice there are three potatoes? I ate only one. MAYBE one and a half. Someone learned the “reach over to the other person’s plate” trick from my family (read: dad) a little too quickly for my taste. (Especially since this is before Mike met him!) I did get to try his duck hash, which was pretty good, too. :)

Lastly, a picture of the parts from the Lost Crates package from Joy the Baker last month. Cup 4 Cup gluten-free flour, and some vanilla beans and extract from Beanilla. Once I figure out what to make with all of that, I will post the recipe.

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!

Baking for Birthright Israel NEXT Shabbat

I hosted a picnic in Alta Plaza park in San Francisco via Birthright Israel NEXT Shabbat. It’s a great program that allows alumni to host Shabbat meals and get reimbursed based on the number of people that attend the event (up to 16 people). This was my second Shabbat meal this year. This time I got catered food from Beautifull and made cupcakes. The cupcakes I made were chocolate and vanilla marbled cake, with vanilla frosting as well as some topped with slivered almonds covered in cinnamon sugar.

Ice Cream Bread

I made this bread because I was intrigued by the ingredients, especially the part about using any ice cream flavor. I got the ice cream from Trader Joe’s, and while they’re all about natural ingredients, this ice cream did fall into the category of having unpronounceable  ingredients.

I think this bread would’ve been better if it was made with all natural ingredients. The bread I made was gummy and doughy, and just weird in texture.

I thought it would work out to be a brioche-y pound cake, since the ingredients would’ve worked out that way, if they were broken down in their natural state. Ice cream is basically milk, cream, sugar, and egg yolks. This, combined with self-rising flour-or what I had on hand-a combination of flour, baking powder, and salt-would be an ingredients list for pound cake. The part that reminded me of brioche was how much fat was being used. I would like to try the recipe again with an all natural ice cream, perhaps one that I make myself.  For those of you who want to try it yourself, and perhaps, comment about it, the recipe follows. Continue reading

Homemade “Funfetti” Cake

For those of you who don’t know what Funfetti is: http://www.pillsburybaking.com/products/ProductDetail.aspx?catID=297&prodID=701

Since I needed a good way to use up the sprinkles that were given to me after the  holiday cookie party my friend had about a week ago, I decided to make a Funfetti cake. I used a basic yellow cake/vanilla cake recipe and added the sprinkles typically found in the cake batter-the “crunchy” bigger ones…if you do know Funfetti cakes…you know what I’m talking about…if you don’t know…go to your local grocery store and pick up a box. Now, I would not normally say that Pillsbury makes good products, or that you should make cake from a box, but I see it as the Kraft Mac ‘n Cheese of cake. (Not that I would advise to buy/eat that either) but my point is that it is a cake that I grew up knowing from attending various birthday parties. It’s all about the nostalgia for this overly sugared cake.

Anyway, I made the frosting from scratch as well, and used blue (smaller, sugary) sprinkles to help “dye” it green because it is the holidays after all. Then I frosted and added the final layer of sprinkles. Like I said before, a sugary cake (typically made for kids). Continue reading

August Daring Baker’s Challenge

I think the most challenging thing for me this month was finding time to complete it! Otherwise, the pound cake and  ice cream were pretty simple. It is just a basic recipe for each. The only different (challenging) parts were browning the butter (since I’ve only done it a few times), and freezing the ice cream, since I do not have an ice cream machine (yet!).

Since I made the ice cream (custard) and just let it freeze over night (no stirring involved) and I took it out the next morning and paddled it on the electric mixer for a few minutes to aerate it and help to somewhat melt out the ice crystals that formed. This help make it look more like vanilla ice cream. Before it “churned” it was just yellow and the vanilla bean had all sunk to the bottom of the container. Literally, just frozen custard. After, it was white and the little “dots” of vanilla were disbursed throughout. It was more creamy, and less icy, but still not perfect. I think the smooth, non-icy texture can only be achieved with a real way of churning it while it freezes. Not bad though, for homemade ice cream without any sort of ice cream machine.

The August 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Elissa of 17 and Baking. For the first time, The Daring Bakers partnered with Sugar High Fridays for a co-event and Elissa was the gracious hostess of both. Using the theme of beurre noisette, or browned butter, Elissa chose to challenge Daring Bakers to make a pound cake to be used in either a Baked Alaska or in Ice Cream Petit Fours. The sources for Elissa’s challenge were Gourmet magazine and David Lebovitz’s “The Perfect Scoop”.

I made the petit fours (but did not make/use the chocolate glaze). I think they’re good just as they are!

Continue reading