What I’m Reading Wednesday

I get a lot of inspiration to write this blog and make recipes from the cookbooks I read, the other blogs, and food related articles that I find online. I also want to have a weekly feature on my blog and I think this is the best way to do that. If you know this blog, you know I tried doing it before, with just links to articles, but I am older, more mature, and beyond just writing lists of article links, and onto writing more about what I am reading. (If you do a search on “links” you will find a long archive of posts like the ones I mentioned)

To start things off, I would like to tell you about some of the cookbooks I am reading that have been inspiring me lately.

  1. Baking; by James Peterson. I have mentioned this before and have shared the things I have made with this book. It is a great book full of basics and could even be used as a guide to teach yourself how to bake.
  2. Ratio; by Michael Ruhlman.I believe there is also an app for the iPhone that is related to this book. This book is a great tool to learn the basic ratios of everything including cookie dough, pie/tart dough, stocks, bread, pasta dough, and everything in-between. A great way to learn how to create your own recipes.

    Cover of

    Cover via Amazon

  3. Ruhlman’s Twenty; by Michael Rulhman. Yes, the same chef as Ratio. This is also a great tool to learn the basics of cooking and baking. It goes through twenty techniques/ingredients that are required to make just about anything you want to in the kitchen. It builds upon itself, and yes, “thinking” is chapter one, but you need to think about what you are making before you make it and add ingredients to the mix. Trust me, it makes perfect sense once you get into the rest of the book.
  4. Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts: Quicker Smarter Recipes; by Alice Medrich. A wonderfully smart women and beautiful and sweet. I met her at the book signing (after the bake sale) where I bought her latest book (the one I speak of) and she is simply delightful. This book is about keeping it simple. Whether you are the cook who is scared to bake, or the baker with no time to make a pie for tonight’s party, this book is for you. One bowl is all you need for most of the recipes in this book. Totally approachable from all angles.
  5. The Joy the Baker Cookbook; by Joy Wilson. This is one of my favorites. Both in blog form and in cookbook writing, Joy brings you her witty self and her greatest baked goods. She also hosts this super awesome podcast. Coffee bacon for breakfast. Carrot cake pancakes for lunch. You heard me. What?! There’s carrots in there! It’s healthy!

Those are the (top) five cookbooks I am reading/using recipes from/getting inspired by. For now. What are your favorite cookbooks right now? Let me know what you are reading in the comments!

Touring Around {Chocolate and Ice Cream}

I have been lucky enough to have time to do some touring around. For the first time in my life, I have seen the process of cocoa bean to chocolate bar, via the Dandelion Chocolate factory. I also spent a day touring the city with some friends tasting ice cream from 6 major ice cream shops in the city, trying to decide which has the best.

(photo courtesy of Mike)

First up was the tour of the Dandelion Chocolate factory. They showed us the process from bean to bar and everything in-between.

Next up was the ice cream tour. I organized an ice cream walking tour throughout San Francisco. It took us from Mr. and Mrs. Miscellaneous, to Humphrey Slocombe, to Mitchell’s, to Xanath, to Bi-rite, and finally to Smitten. It was a great way to see the city and to spend a sunny Saturday afternoon!

We started the tour in Mr. and Mrs. Miscellaneous. We were feeling ambitious about the ice cream tasting, so we ordered three flavors, which of course, led to ordering three flavors everywhere else, and tasted some other flavors along the way as well. This sounds like a lot of ice cream, but shared between four people and with all of the walking, by the end of the day, it was really an okay amount.

At Humphrey Slocombe, we tried the Seceret Breakfast, which is a bourbon ice cream with corn flakes, the Blue Bottle Vietnamese Coffee, and the Tahitian Vanilla.

We tried Mitchell’s Strawberry and Cream, Mexican Chocolate, and Kahlua and Cream. My favorite here was the chocolate, which had just a hint of cinnamon.

Xanath was next, and since they are saffron and vanilla importers, we had to try both the Mexican and Madagascar vanilla and the saffron ice cream. We tried their coffee here, just to be able to compare to the others.

We tried Bi-Rite’s Balsamic Strawberry, Brown Sugar, and Toasted Coconut. All rich and creamy; my favorite here was the Balsamic Strawberry. I was surprised, because I normally do not like balsamic anything, but this just had a hint of it, and really just added acidity to the flavor.

Lastly, was Smitten. Smitten is known for making their ice cream with liquid nitrogen. This leads to a smoother, more dense ice cream with lots of flavor. This also means you can watch them make the ice cream and see fog swirling around. Everyone’s favorite here was the TCHO Chocolate.

The votes are in! My favorite place was Mr. & Mrs. Miscellaneous, because they had great ice cream and homemade treats such as marshmallows and cookies and brittle that looked delicious, too. The runner up for me would be Bi-Rite, because they have good ice cream, a good variety of flavors, and their ice cream is smooth and creamy and really flavorful. Mike also chose Mr. & Mrs. Miscellaneous and Bi-Rite as the places that stood out to him, but would definitely go back to any of them. Rob chose the chocolate ice cream at Smitten as the best, and said, “Coffee ice cream never seemed appealing enough to get but I liked the ones we tasted.” Michele said that she also liked the chocolate from Smitten, and the Brown Sugar from Bi-Rite. She also said that she likes going to Bi-Rite on a sunny day to sit in [Dolores] park, and Mitchell’s is good for an evening outing (with people from out of town), and definitely has added Mr. and Mrs. to the list as well. Thanks again, to Michele, Rob, and Mike for coming out and spending the day tasting ice cream!

Two Ways {Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough}

There is almost always two ways of doing things (and sometimes more). This week, I made chocolate chip cookie dough in two different ways and made them into two different things. 1) chocolate chip cookie dough truffles 2) chocolate-dipped chocolate chip cookies

You can try some for yourself if you come to San Francisco tomorrow (Saturday, April 28th) and come to Omnivore Books between 11am-4pm during the SF Food Bloggers Bake Sale! <<one way to entice you to come to the bake sale.

Or, you can come to support Share Our Strength and No Kids Hungry. <<another way to entice you to come to the bake sale.

OR, you can go to Omnivore Books to see Alice Medrich speak about her book, Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts and come early to get a good seat/snag a goodie from the bake sale. <<yet another way of enticing you to come to the bake sale.

OR, you can come to buy goodies from other bloggers (that are helping to host the sale): Annelies, Anita, Irvin, and Shauna (Thanks for all your hard work putting this together for the third year in a row!) <<yet ANOTHER way to get you to come to the bake sale.

What ever your reason is, I hope to see you tomorrow! :)

Not in SF, you say? Well then, I guess you could try making these at home. They are simple, really. Just make chocolate chip cookies. Then dip them in chocolate. {From another SF blogger, Anita (she happens to be one of the organizers of the bake sale) about chocolate tempering.} Dine on one of your chocolate-dipped cookies. Maybe have another. With some ice cream. Or a glass of milk. See? More than one way of doing something. The truffles are a bit more work; more to come on those soon.

Whatever you do, I hope you enjoy your weekend! And, if you ARE in SF, come stop by and say “hi”! (I can’t stop! Sorry!) But really, it’s for a good cause. (Okay, now I’m done.)

Bringing New York To San Francisco {Bagels & Black and White Cookies}

What says New York like bagels and black and white cookies? Even Anthony Bourdain said that New York makes the best bagels…

So, taking on the challenge to create perfect bagels and black and white cookies was, well, challenging.

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Let’s start with bagels. Once I tell someone that I have made bagels, they ask, “did you boil and then bake them?” and I think my face contorts into a funky mess as I reply, humbly, “Yes, of course!” It always comes to a surprise to me that people even have to ask. How else are bagels made? How else do you get that chewy texture? Have they heard of people just simply baking bagels like they would anything else? I guess so. I just can’t even imagine it.

So, yes, I boiled and then baked the bagels. I think they came out great, especially with the addition of poppy seeds.

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Now, on to the other New York classic, the black and white cookie. Now, just to clarify, these are sugar-type cookies (though more cake-y than cookie-y…) that are frosted in half chocolate frosting and half vanilla frosting—hence the black and white. Not to be confused with the other black and white cookies, made with white chocolate chips and bittersweet chocolate chips! These are almost their own breed of cookie. You just have to try them, okay? :)

I made these because, believe it or not, I met someone who had never even heard of them until I brought them up. Also, because I love the memory I have of my sister and I sharing them. She got the vanilla half and I got the chocolate half. Perfect.

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.