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.

Beer and Pretzels {Recipe}

What else is the weekend for if not hanging out with friends and drinking a couple of beers? And, what goes better with beer than pretzels?
This is exactly what happened yesterday. It was a planned, semi-thought out gathering of friends.  We had gone to the beer/wine/liquor store near us to pick up some drinks for a different occasion a few weeks ago, and knew that we needed to go back and try some others that were recommended to us. There were so many different types of beer that we wanted to try, we decided to make an event out of it. Since we knew that we wanted to have a beer tasting,  making pretzels to go with it was a no-brainer.
So let’s get started!
Gather all of your ingredients. Cook’s tip: mix the yeast and water together first to be sure that the yeast you are working with is still active. We had some old yeast that was not foaming up in the proper amount of time (it should only take about 5 minutes) so we bought some new yeast. This was truly a test of “best of” dates on packaging since the old yeast we had said that it was good ’til August of this year.

After gathering ingredients it is time to mix the dough.  Once the ingredients are mixed and all incorporated together, the dough will look shaggy and will be a little sticky. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. The way that we made sure that we were not adding too much more flour than what the recipe called for, we mixed the dough using the minimum amount of flour, 3-3/4 cups, and saved the last 1/4 cup for kneading into the dough as needed. We used that last 1/4 cup flour to dust the counter and on top of the dough instead of mixing it all in from the very beginning.
The dough will become less sticky and more smooth as you knead it on the counter. Once it is completely smooth, about 8-10 minutes of kneading, return it to the bowl and let rest, covered with plastic wrap,  in a warm spot for 45 minutes. The kitchen we were in was cold, so we had preheated the oven while gathering and mixing the ingredients and then turned it off and put the bowl in the off oven.  After this resting time, the dough should have bulked to twice the size and should be soft to the touch. The dough is now ready for shaping.

To shape the pretzels, divide dough into 8 equal pieces. One at a time, roll dough piece into a rope about 22-24 inches long. Make a U-shape with the dough by bringing the two ends up but not touching each other. Cross the ends of the rope near the top (about an inch away from the top). Twist the ends once and then pull down, connecting the ends of the rope to the bottom of the U-shape. This can also be done by twisting the dough in mid-air, but that is definitely the more tricky way. You might also want to make pretzel bites, which is really easy; all you have to do is cut rope of dough into 8 equal parts. We did this since we were sharing with a large group of people and each recipe only makes 8 large pretzels.

P1000435 (Sorry for the blurry picture, I was unable to edit these.)

I watched this video to help me figure out how to do this: http://www.saveur.com/article/Video/Video-How-To-Twist-Pretzels

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Once the pretzels are shaped, place them on an oiled baking sheet and let rest for another 20 minutes. While the pretzels are resting, preheat your oven to 425 degrees and start heating the water and baking soda. Bring the water and baking soda up to a boil. Once pretzels have rested and water is boiling, boil the pretzels, about 3 at a time, until set, about 3 minutes. You might want to turn the pretzels half way through; we used chopsticks to do this. If you don’t have chopsticks, tongs work just as well. This is what gives the pretzels their typical crust and chewy inside, just like a bagel. Place boiled pretzels on sheet pan lined with oiled parchment paper. This is important: pretzels WILL stick to baking sheet if not placed on parchment. (Trust me, as we learned this the hard way) Brush boiled pretzels with egg wash (or leave off for vegan pretzels) and add salt (or other toppings) as desired. Other topping ideas would include (but  is not limited to): sesame seeds, shredded cheese, or poppy seeds.

Place baking sheet with topped pretzels in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool and enjoy! I’m sure you already know this, but pretzels are good with mustard, or hummus, or plain and just a little warm. And, of course, I recommend beer as a wonderful thing to drink with them!

Sorry for my lack of pictures with this recipe; I am out of practice of taking pictures of the major steps of recipe, because, as you may have noticed, I  have not posted a recipe on here in a LONG time.

Recipe adapted slightly from Joy the Baker:

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon sugar
1 (1/4-oz) package active dry yeast (2 1/2 teaspoons)

1-1/2 cups lukewarm water
3 3/4 to 4 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon salt
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons pretzel salt or other toppings

1 heaping Tablespoon baking soda (add it to the boiling water just before throwing in the pretzel dough!)

Stir together sugar, yeast, and 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water (105 to 110°F) in a glass measuring cup, then let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. (If mixture doesn’t foam, discard and start over with new yeast.)

Whisk together 3 1/2 cups flour and 1 tablespoon table salt in a large bowl. Add yeast mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until it forms a dough. Dust work surface with 1 tablespoon flour, then turn out dough and knead, gradually dusting with just enough additional flour to make a smooth sticky dough, about 8 minutes. (Dough needs to be somewhat sticky to facilitate rolling and forming into pretzels).

Return dough to bowl and cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap, then let dough rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes. Turn out dough onto a clean work surface and cut into 8 equal pieces. Using your palms, roll 1 piece back and forth on a clean dry work surface into a rope about 24 inches long. If dough sticks to your hands, lightly dust them with flour. Twist dough into a pretzel shape. (Dough will retract as you form the pretzel.)

Transfer pretzel with your hands to an oiled baking sheet and form 7 more pretzels in same manner with remaining dough, spacing them 1 1/2 inches apart.

Let pretzels stand, uncovered, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, put oven rack in upper third of oven and preheat oven to 425°F. Bring a wide 6-quart pot of water to a boil.  Once boiling, add heaping tablespoon of baking soda.

Using both hands, carefully add 3 pretzels, 1 at a time, to boiling water and cook, turning over once with tongs, until pretzels are puffed and shape is set, about 3 minutes. Transfer parboiled pretzels to a rack to cool. Repeat with remaining 5 pretzels in 2 batches.

Line baking sheet with parchment paper and oil paper, then arrange pretzels on sheet. Brush pretzels lightly with some of egg and sprinkle with pretzel salt. Bake until golden brown and lightly crusted, about 35 minutes. Cool 15 minutes, then serve warm.

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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.