Friday, September 26, 2008

White & Dark Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Ying and yang, Regis and Kathy Lee, some opposites were meant to be together, dark and white chocolate brought into harmony by delicious and simple cookie dough. I have never understood milk chocolate eaters, either you eat dark or you eat white. Milk chocolate, lives in a realm of ambiguity that leaves you feeling unsettled; much the same as Clay Aiken and the people that answer a question with another question. Long and short of it, if you are going to eat chocolate, eat chocolate; don’t mess about with a milk candy confection when there is good chocolate to be had.
About good chocolate, if there is a trick to good food, it is good ingredients and good tools. There is one factor in chocolate chip cookie, it is the chocolate. The reigning king is AMEDEI, PORCELANA, 70% Dark, Single Origin Chocolate Bar, but at just over $100 a pound, I dare not bake with this. High sultan of the baking kingdom is France’s Tain L'Hermitage Valhrona. At first glance you might have visions of astronomically overpriced stale chocolate from Sur La Table, instead look in your humble Trader Joe’s impulse buy candy shelves near the checkout. At under $2 a bar, how can you pass it up? Should your patriotism inspire your cooking, San Francisco has some phenomenal chocolate. Seeing that I was a young child in that great culinary epicenter, Ghirardelli will always have a place in my heart. I love their white chocolate bars that I chunk by hand, or their semisweet oversized, kiss shaped chips. This is the kind of chocolate that makes the likes of Nestle and Tollhouse, blush for shame, as they should.

Tools: Parchment Paper, get it, you need it, don’t argue… just go. You needn’t bother yourself with expensive slip mats. Slip mats are wonderful but they are for candy making, cookies and other baked confections need parchment paper. Ok, I am off my soap box. Don’t you feel sorry for my Sunday school kids? Well, don’t feel too bad, I do bake for them.

The cookie recipe itself: I must confess I have been sucked into the vacuum that is the food blogosphere, and I love many a food blog. Hi, my name is Sandy, and I am addicted to food blogging. Smitten Kitchen has wonderful recipes, out of homage to this great communiqué portico these delicious bites of heaven were made and out of my impetuousness this recipe has been slightly modified.

Now the diatribe, my great American novel, is finally complete, please try these delicious, simple, crispy-on-the-outside, gooey-on-the-inside cookies.

The very good stuff:

½ cup of sugar bowl sugar
½ cup of brown sugar
1 stick of butter softened overnight
1 egg
1 teaspoon Tahitian Vanilla
½ teaspoon bicarb
1 and ¼ cup of all purpose flour
¼ teaspoon of sea salt
1 cup of best quality chocolate chips (no less that 65% cocoa)
4 oz bar of dark chocolate chunked (again no less that 65% cocoa)
4 oz bar of white chocolate chunked
Crank your oven to 350 F.

One at a time, in the order that it is written, throw your ingredients into your standing mixer and let her rip. I am sure that you don’t need to do them in that order; just habits are hard to break. Spoon them out on to your parchment clad baking sheets. Leave plenty of room to spread otherwise you will have a tasty blob reminiscent of B-rated sci-fi films. I heart my mini ice-cream scooper…
Bake for 7 minutes, then turn the pans 180 degrees, and bake for another 4 minutes. Rack'em up to cool.

Or don’t bake at all the cookie dough is phenomenal, a far cry from the prepackaged highly marketed cookie dough in your supermarket's refrigeration case.

As always, much love, many blessings, happy baking!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Dark Chocolate and Pecan Banana Bread

I have no problems using banana bread as a chocolate and pecan delivery system especially when it is good dark chocolate. One new years, many eons ago, my best friend and I did go on a culinary quest to find the best delivery system for chocolate, and while ham is not my favorite, nothing was worse than canned salmon. And while that maltaste lingers on your tongue for a moment, in my humble opinion pecan banana bread and chocolate good, salmon and chocolate not so much.

The Goods

1 cup of sugar
2/3 cups of butter
3 ripe bananas
2 cups of flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1/3 cup of buttermilk
1/2 cup of toasted pecans
1/2 cup of chopped dark chocolate

Crank that "happy it is fall" oven up to 350 F

Whip the sugar and butter in your standing mixer, mash in the bananas. Through in all the other ingredients save the toppings, and let her rip. When well mixed, fold in the chocolate peices and toasted pecans.

Bake until clean, I made 4 mini loaves that took about 35 minutes. I love using parchment as paper liners. Like oversized muffin cups, they add the functional element of easy cleanup and yet are charming rustic detail.

Enjoy, or make someone's day by offering a homemade treat.

Happy baking, and many blessings!

Friday, September 19, 2008

It’s the great pumpkin muffin, Charlie Brown!

Who doesn’t love a great pumpkin muffin? This classic recipe was introduced to me by my great friend Aunty M. Who… introduced me to much both in and out of the kitchen. She was my child-hood best friend’s mom, but she was my friend too, and for that I am much obliged. This delicious bread (cake) can be made in a googleplex of renditions, cream cheese filling, dried cranberries, any nut you like, but the base is still the best.

I have to say I love grating my own spices on a micro plane, nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger. I get my cinnamon from a Latin store so that it is actual canella and not tree bark with cinnamon oil which is what most super markets peddle. I find the best nutmeg in the world is actually from Jamaica and the ginger… I get from my local Asian market. Is it just me or is the produce at the Asian Market out of this world. What is dragon fruit, and did you know that durian fruit is so dangerous it is classified as a weapon in Thailand. Back to pumpkins, please try this easy recipe and enjoy…

Pumpkintastic Ingredients

1 cup pumpkin purée
1/2 cup oil
2 eggs
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground ginger

Crank your oven to 350.

In your standing mixture throw in all the wet ingredients and let her rip. In another bowl, I use the same measuring cup I measured the flour in; add all of the dry ingredients. Add the dry concoction to the pumpkin slurry and allow the standing mixer to do the voodoo that it does so well.

Lubricate your baking vessel of choice, I used a mini bundt pan (which was a great adventure finding) and bake until a tooth pick comes out clean, about 20 minutes for a muffin tin, 30 minutes for a loaf.

Enjoy… carve a pumpkin, go for a hike, and be a kid again.

As always, many blessings, happy baking, and happy fall.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Go Blue! Sugar Cookies

All right team, we got a game to win. I want to see all of you out there sporting your game-day best, cheering at an unhealthy decibel, and supporting the gentlemen and their hearts that carry on a tradition we can be proud. Hail to the Victors!

¼ stick butter
¾ cup of sugar
1 egg
1 Tablespoon cream
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1 and ¼ cup of flour
¼ teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of baking soda

Preheat your oven… (like the Sam McGuffie is warming up right now!)

In your standing mixer (be it human or kitchen appliance) add your softened butter and sugar and whip it (like Michigan whopped the Gators at last year’s Bowl Game.) When fluffy, add the egg, cream and vanilla, and continue whopping. I added the flour, salt and baking soda all at once. Keep the party going until everything is fully incorporated but just mixed (like Rich Rodriguez’s Spread Offense).

On parchment paper or a slipmat, lay out spoonfuls of cookie batter (like Mike Martin layed out the Miami QB, so hard he lost his shoes.) Sprinkle generously with the decorating sugar colors of your choice... (ehmmm Maize and Blue are the only acceptable colors.) Bake them for 10-15 or until lightly golden on the edges (not burned to crisp like the Fighting Irish tomorrow).

Happy Baking, Much Love, and Go Blue!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Bourboun Banana Nut Bread

Everyone loves banana bread, it is the sort of mind-altering comfort food that no matter where you are be it a jungle in the Dominica Republic or the middle of an ocean on aircraft carrier instantly draws you home to your happy mother with its warm, buttery scent. Few baked goods posses this ability to ripple the space-time continuum, but while this confection is indeed a masterpiece all on it own, you can't go wrong with adding a little Bourbon.

1/2 cup butter left out over night, nice and soft
1 cup sugar-bowl sugar

2 large eggs (did you know brown eggs come from brown chickens)

2 cups all-purpose flour (sifted)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda (you know the fridge box)

1/2 teaspoon salt (shaker, don’t waste your sea salt on baking)

3 yucky over-ripe brown bananas
1 tablespoon vanilla extract2 tablespoons brown sugar
½ cup of pecans chopped

1 oz or a shot of good Virginia or Kentucky Bourbon

Crank your oven to 350 degrees F

In your handy-dandy mixer cream the butter and the sugar. When it is light and fluffy (I could eat this stuff as is) add the bananas and let them dance. Add the eggs and the vanilla, until the batter is nice and fluffy. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and the salt. Let your mixer work its voodoo until your batter is mixed, maybe a minute tops.
In the mean time, spray your loaf pan with some Pam or cooking spray. I like to lay down some parchment paper for extra insurance.

(Yes, I meant insurance, not assurance, or to ensure. However in honor of a raging democrat that is dear to my heart and Mr. Joe Biden, I will now explain. I purchased insurance to ensure that my mother was assured that her car would be taken care of.)
Pour your batter in the loaf pan, or whatever baking vessel you choose. Sprinkle the brown sugar and the pecans over the top. Bake for about 50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Let your banana bread cool… and you can eat it now if you like, it is very good. But as President Wilson said “All things come to him who waits - provided he knows what he is waiting for.” Pour about of a shot of bourbon over cooled cake in the pan, and cover with plastic wrap. Let the bourbon soak in while it chills in the fridge. Then enjoy!

As always, happy baking, much love, and many blessings.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

One Potato, Two Potatoes... Perogies

So what does an Egyptian-Cuban Cook do with too much mashed potatoes... sounds like a bad joke I know.... Perogies! No I'm not Polish, about as close to Poland I can get is licking Kelbasa.
Nonetheless, perogies, the polish potatoe stuffed pasta is an easy, delicious, hardy meal. To be honest I was surprised how quickly everything came together. And, if I were a hard working Polish Man who worked in the cold all day, this is what I would want. Even though I am hard working technical writer who works in a cold air conditioned office all day. Still, this will make a great fall or winter meal for a crowd.

To make the Dough
2 cups of flour
1/2 cup of warm water
2 tablespoons of sour cream
1 egg

In my handy-dandy kitchenade standing mixer, I threw in all the ingredients. Let it mix. It was done in about 2 minutes. Then I put it in some plastic wrap and stuck it in the fridge. While I made the filling.

Setting up the cooking station

Get a big pot of boiling water going, and have a large pan to fry up the dumplings as they are done.

Get your Filling On
About a cup of day old mashed potatoes
A handful of shredded cheese (any kind, I used cheddar)

I mixed the ingredients in the tupperware that the mashed potatoes were resting in.

Time to make-a da pasta

1) I rolled out the dough to about 1/8 of an inch think on a floured surface with a floured rolling pin. Really everything should be floured, you, your kitchen, your apron, it should be one beautiful white cloud puff of flour.

2)Then with an old soup can i cut out the rounds. If it is still too thick, you can roll the rounds again.

3) Fill the rounds with about 1 teaspoon of the filling.

4) Wet your fingers with water and wet the edges of each dough round so it will stick together.

5) Fold the dough rounds in half and pinch together.

6) Once all of them are done, don't be shy, just pitch them all in the boiling water and stir once so they don't stick together.

7) In about three minutes they will be done, take them out with a slotted spoon and into a hot pan with a little butter to fry up just for a minute.

8) Enjoy! I served mine with sauteed onions and some crisped up kelbasa.

There you have it Perogies in 8 steps or less. I hope you try it, its really much easier than it sounds.

As always, much love, many blessings and happy baking (or pasta making)!