Foodie Pen Pal

This month I became a part of the foodie pen pals. This is, yes, another food (blogger) community that I became a part of; it was started by Lindsay from The Lean Green Bean. It is a group of bloggers (or non-bloggers) who are paired up to receive and give a foodie package and letter. This month, I was paired up with and sent goodies to Erika from MCM Mama; head on over there to see what I sent her! I got paired up with a non-blogger, Mandy, who sent me goodies from Louisiana.

Mandy sent me a little card with the package describing what was included. She sent two mini pumpkin nutella loaves, coffee from Cafe du Monde with chicory and an alligator shaped cookie cutter. She says, “Since I moved here last fall, I’ve been hoping to happen upon a gator (while in my car of course) but it has yet to happen.”  Thanks again, Mandy!

I’ll have to make some cookies soon because I now have an alligator shaped cookie cutter and a camel shaped cookie cutter. What type of cookies do you think I should bake? Maybe these funfetti cookies?

I also now want to make coffee ice cream and try making coffee bacon. Funny, I sent coffee in my package as well, thinking about all of the things you can bake with coffee. Just in case, like me, they don’t drink coffee. Now to find a way to brew coffee without a coffee maker…anyone know how? Or just find recipes that use the coffee beans/grounds. If you have any recipes you’d like to share, post them (or a link to them) in the comments!

Looking forward to using the goodies from this month and receiving new ones next month! Check back to find out what I get in June!

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. :)

 

Part Two(s)

So, we made the Better Than Brownie Cookies (again) but this time we added butterscotch chips instead of chocolate chips. They were well-received at the Break-fast that we went to after Yom Kippor ended last night.

Also, we made pumpkin pie from the leftover filling that was in Benjie’s freezer from the pie pops.
That was really good, too. For the crust, I made the dough that was supposed to be turned into puff dough for turnovers, so it was a little bit different than basic pie dough. This recipe included milk and sugar, which I used in place of ice water in ordinary pie crust. We will be making turnovers some time in the near future, so look for the crust recipe then.

No pictures of anything, sorry. Though, I will have my camera ready tomorrow night, when we make some meringues! :o)

Easy as pie: the pictures: part one: pie pops.

the three fillings: pumpkin, pecan, and blueberry, and a little chunk of the cookie dough.

cutting out the cookie dough

first one up, blueberry.

next, pecan. look at how gooey they are!

pumpkin is last.

baked blueberry pie pops! a little bit messy, but still really yummy!

a bunch of baked pie pops!

Easy as pie.

Last night, with the help of my assistant pastry chef (Benjie), I finally had a chance to make pie pops. Although fun to make, it is a long process, especially if you are like us, and like to make things from scratch. You could do things the more convenient way, and buy pre-made dough, and pre-made pie filling, and then just put all of the ingredients together, but where’s the adventure in that?
So, first came the dough. The other blogs that we found the pie pops on used traditional pie crust, but I wanted to try something different, so I made a dough that is similar to cookie dough. In fact, the recipe I used is from the Culinary Institute of America‘s book, Baking and Pastry: Mastering the Art and Craft, called 1-2-3 cookie dough. You may be thinking it is called that because it is easy as 1-2-3, which is true, but it is really called that because the recipe’s formula is a 1 to 2 to 3 ratio of butter, sugar, and flour. (ex: 1lb butter, 2lbs of sugar, and 3lbs of flour, with the addition of eggs (4) and flavorings.) I also used pie dough, just to see and taste the difference. The cookie dough recipe is similar to the CIA’s recipe for traditional pie dough, which they conveniently call, 3-2-1 pie dough. (3 parts flour, 2 parts butter, 1 part water.) I will share all recipes used at the end of this post. All of the recipes I used were really easy, mostly containing steps basically including “put all ingredients in bowl and mix together”. As far as textures go, the cookie crust was crunchier, and the pie dough was flakier, but both were good. I also liked the look of the cookie dough pops better, they came out shiner and just all-around nicer-looking.
Next, we made the fillings! We tried three different pie fillings, blueberry, pecan, and pumpkin. While it was fun to have all of the different flavors in the end, next time we are going to stick with one flavor. This is for simplicity, and because you do not use a lot of filling for each pop, we ended up making a full pecan pie, a blueberry cookie crumble, and have the left over pumpkin pie filling waiting it’s turn to be made into a full-sized pie in the freezer. So much pie! I think the pops made with the cookie crust were the best, because you can add more filling, and the ratio of crust to filling was perfect, compared to the pie dough, which left little room for filling, and therefore, the high ratio of crust to filling was not good.The fillings were all good, my favorite was the blueberry, not to sweet, not too tart. The pumpkin filling was okay, but would be better with real pumpkin, and not canned. (Yes,we used some convenience items. Perhaps later, when pumpkins, and other squash items are in season, I will make pumpkin pie from real pumpkin.) The pecan filling was gooey, and tasted good, but since it was the runniest, it created the flattest pops. I am happy to have used the rest of that filling for its own full-sized pie (made with leftover pie dough). Yum! I have not tried the blueberry cookie crumble, which was leftover cookie dough, left over blueberry filling, sprinkled with brown sugar, a little bit of flour, and cinnamon. I am sure it is good, though.
Okay, time for recipes! The filling recipes all came from the wonderful internet and the dough recipes came from the CIA’s Baking and Pastry book, as previously mentioned.

1-2-3 cookie dough: I scaled down the recipe to yield about 3 pounds of dough. This may sound like a lot of dough, but it gets used quickly. If you do have leftover dough, you could make a crumble, like I did, or refrigerate or freeze for later use. This makes really great tart dough, for those of you who like fresh fruit tarts.
Ingredients:
8 ounces (2 sticks) butter
1 pound of sugar
2 eggs
1.5 pounds of flour
Method:
Cream together butter and sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time. Slowly incorporate all of the flour. Be sure not to over mix, just be sure that all of the ingredients are combined.
Cover, and chill until cool to the touch.
Use plenty of flour underneath dough when rolling it out. However, too much flour will prevent it from sticking together.  If using for pie pops, you should be able to roll out pressed together scraps 2-3 times.
Since I don’t want to make this post uber long, I am just including links to the filling recipes I used:
Blueberry, Pumpkin, and Pecan.
Although I like the recipe for 3-2-1 pie dough, from the CIA, I did use this one, which follows the same recipe formula, but is easier to measure for those Suzy-homemakers out there with out the convenience of a kitchen scale. This makes enough for a bunch of pops, or one 9″ pie crust. This can also be refrigerated or frozen for later use.
Pie Dough:
Ingredients:
3 cups flour
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1/2 cup of water, cold

 Method:
Place flour in a bowl. Cut butter into small pieces, about pea-size, and place in bowl. Toss around butter pieces, to be sure they are all completely covered in flour. Start to press dough together. This will help determine how much water should be used. My dough was coming together nicely, so I started out by adding only 1/4 cup of water. Then I pressed the dough together, and added just enough water to form a soft, smooth dough.
I was able to keep pressing together all of the scraps of dough and adding some dough that had not been rolled out yet, which allowed me to re-roll numerous times.
We followed the instructions on Bakerella‘s site on how to make the pie pops. Despite all of the work to be done for the dough and the fillings, the actual assembly is pretty easy.  Basically, cut out the circles of dough, place them on the cookie sheet, press on lollipop sticks (found at a craft store), place on a spoonful of filling, place another circle of dough on top, use another stick to help press down the top layer of dough, brush tops with egg white, bake in 375-degree oven for about 10-14 minutes. Let cool, and enjoy!
Okay, I am currently having trouble uploading the pictures, so you will have to use your imagination for now, and I will try to upload them soon!