Monday, September 26, 2011

Secret Recipe Club: Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies!

I do love taking on a challenge. They say high achievers usually choose to do things of medium difficulty because they don't like failing or feeling like something was too easy so they didn't accomplish anything. I'd say that was kinda true about this recipe.

You see, I decided to start participating in this thing called The Secret Recipe Club. Basically a bunch of food bloggers get together, and a moderator assigns each person in the group another blog (but it's a secret!), and you have to make one of their recipes. Cool, yeah?

Fun fact: the fork marks in peanut butter cookies aren't just decorative. It's cause the dough won't flatten by itself so the insides wouldn't get cooked unless you pushed the dough down.

The blog assigned to me was one called The Mommy Bowl, which sounds about as far away from my current life as possible. Deanna makes primarily vegan and gluten free recipes, so I was pretty nervous about making anything from her site (keep in mind I was looking for something to make like, the day before I went back to school so I didn't exactly have time to go buy rice flour or xanthan gum or anything). After panicking, I finally found something feasible: Peanut butter chocolate chip cookies (anyone sing this horrible song in elementary school besides me?). They were really tasty! I used some natural peanut butter with flax and wheat germ in it, which made me feel fancy and less guilty for unhealthifying these cookies, haha. Check out the links at the end of the post for the other blogs that participated in my group this month!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

adapted slightly from The Mommy Bowl

1/2 cup (104 g) coconut oil
1/2 cup (128 g) natural peanut butter
1 cup brown sugar (not packed)
1 egg
1 t. vanilla
1 cup flour
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1/2 cup chocolate chips.

Preheat oven to 350°. Cream the oil and peanut butter together. Add the sugar and beat well. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until well incorporated. Beat in the flour, baking soda and salt. When dough is thoroughly combined, stir in the chocolate chips.
Drop by rounded tablespoons or small cookie scoop onto parchment-lined cookie sheets. Using a fork dipped in water, flatten the cookies gently in a criss-cross pattern. Bake for 9-12 minutes until golden brown. These will be fragile until cool.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Apple Crisp

It's been a while since I've been to an apple orchard. I'd forgotten the lovely symmetry of the rows and rows of trees, the pleasing snap of pulling an apple off a branch. We picked Haralsons, a variety I'd never tried before. Crisp and tart, with funny little bumps on the skin, I loved them immediately. And knew they'd be perfect for baking. 
It's rare that you see this kind of beauty in an orchard. 

I had the hardest time finding a knife to peel and cut apples (again with the taking things for granted!) but I tracked one down eventually. I prefer crisps to pies because I find that pie crust is so often bad and just seems...superfluous. The again, I've never made my own pie crust, so I'll have to get back to you guys on my pie feelings when that happens. 

Mmmm...crisp. You just can't mess it up. The components meld together to create some tasty and unified in a way I don't feel like pie achieves. Feel free to disagree with me. But this baby was gone in like, an hour, and I think that speaks for itself :) 

Apple Crisp 

makes one 8x8 pan


5 apples, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup oats
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup melted butter

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degree C).
  2. Place the sliced apples in pan. Mix the white sugar, 2 tsp flour and ground cinnamon together, and sprinkle over apples. Pour water evenly over all.
  3. Combine the oats, 1/2 cup flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda and melted butter together. Crumble evenly over the apple mixture.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for about 45 minutes.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Ugly Bread

I read a fair amount of other blogs belonging to college age bakers, and I've noticed a lull in posting. That's true for me too. It's not that I don't want to post, just that I haven't had much time. The past week was ridiculously hectic. I'm hoping things quiet down a bit soon. 
Watching yeast bloom is beautiful and magical. Don't judge me. 

The other day, I got that bread craving. I dunno if you understand what I mean, but sometimes I just want that feel of dough in my hands and a chunk of hot bread in my mouth. And once again, I've taken something for granted: The stand mixer. But they made bread back in the good ol' days before all this fancy technology, and I wanted bread. Pronto. So by golly, I was going to get it! 


I decided to try one of those no knead recipes (but not the no knead recipe, I didn't have the patience or the proper cooking vessel). Man, that dough was sticky. Is all no knead dough this sticky? The result was the ugliest, most misshapen loaf (more like a boule, technically) of bread I have ever produced. And it tasted fantastic. It was devoured immediately, shared among friends while still piping hot. Someone even said it was better than ice cream. I consider that a compliment of the highest order. 

No picture of the end result (totally forgot, too busy eating and playing this awesome game) so here's a picture of my beautiful dough hands.

Ugly Bread

makes 2 round loaves (or one huge, hideous loaf)

1 tablespoon quick rising yeast
2 cups warm water
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
4-5 cups all-purpose flour (you may need more or less than this)
corn meal
2 Tbsp  butter, melted

Combine the yeast, water and sugar in a large bowl.  Allow the yeast to bloom for a few minutes.  Add the flour and salt and stir just until combined.  Do not knead.  Cover and let rise until doubled in size, about an hour.  Dust a cookie sheet with corn meal.  Remove from the bowl, and with floured hands, shape into 2 round loaves.  Place loaves on the prepared cookie sheet.  Let rise for an additional hour.
Preheat oven to 425F.  Brush melted butter on top of the loaves.  Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 375F and cook an additional 15 minutes. 

Monday, September 12, 2011

Pumpkin Curry Cupcakes + Chocolate Ganache Frosting

I take so many little things for granted. This is kind of a recurring theme in my life if you haven't noticed. I mean, a cabinet full of ingredients and utensils sure beats lugging a crate of stuff down seven flights of stairs, realizing you forgot something crucial, and having to go ALL THE WAY BACK UP. And I will never stop singing songs of praise to air conditioning. Man, an oven makes a room really hot! Somehow, this is news to me. 
Don't open cans like this.
So my cupcakes were a little uglier than usual, big deal, right? So I had to stab my can of pumpkin open with a knife instead of a nice, safe can opener (I wouldn't recommend doing that.) When I finally finished the cupcakes (and trust me, it took forever. At one point I was joined in the kitchen by a guy cooking a weeks worth of chicken) they tasted like success. Or sweat maybe. Just kidding! 
This is chocolate. Chocolate does not taste like sweat.
They tasted like pumpkin curry cake with chocolate ganache, nommmm. Don't knock the curry til you try it, it adds a great warmth to the flavor. Now if you'll excuse me, I have some leftover frosting that's just begging to be eaten ^_^

Pumpkin Curry Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache Frosting

2 cups of all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon of salt
2 1/2 teaspoons of curry powder
pinch of cayanne
1/2 cup of packed borwn sugar
1 1/2 cups of granulated sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, melted and cool
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
15 ounces pumpkin puree

1) Preheat over to 350 degrees F.

2) Whisk together the flour, baking powder, soda, salt, and spices. Set aside.

3) Whisk together the sugars, butter, and eggs. The add the dry ingredients and whisk them in. Whish in pumpkin puree. Taste and adjust spices.

4) Put into cupcakes papers about halfway. Bake until they spring back to touch and a cake tester comes out clean. About 18-22 minutes. Rotate pan after 15 minutes if your oven is sketchy for even baking. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool.

Chocolate Ganache

What You'll Need...
14 ounces of chocolate (use your discretion and taste as to what kind)
1 1/4 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup butter, room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 cup of whole milk
1 teaspoon of vanilla

What You'll Do...
1) Chop chocolates and transfer into a heat proof bowl.

2) Heat cream until bubbles form around the edge of the pan, pour cream over the chocolate.

3) Let sit for 1 minute then stir until combined.

4) Add butter to the chocolate (make sure its soft and at room temp) and stir until combined.

5) Whisk together sugar, salt, milk, and vanilla in another bowl until combined.

6) Pour the sugar mixture onto the chocolate mixture, then stir until combined and smooth.

7) Let sit at room temperature until thickened. (I popped it in the freezer with a towel over it since it was late. Don't worry if it looks too runny.)

8) Beat with an electric mixer until fluffy. Pipe or spread onto cupcakes.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Vanilla madeleines and back to school!

Whew! Sorry for the delay, moving in and job training (I'm a writing tutor ^__^) have made life kind of hectic. But I'm here now. Wanna see my new and improved dorm kitchen? 

Isn't it beautiful? Doesn't it just make you smile? It made me smile. Not even kidding, I walked in and started grinning. Counter space! And a nice oven! And the kitchen supply cabinet has cupcake pans. Swoon.

I made madeleines right before I left, so it isn't really an accurate indicator of what I'm capable of in my new cooking space. But don't worry, I'll prove myself. I'd never had a madeleine before I made them (I found a really cheap pan at Williams Sonoma) but they're lovely. Like, simple and refined and ladylike? Can a cookie be ladylike? I'd have liked to decorate them with the buttercream barnacles as the original recipe suggested, but I couldn't justify making a whole batch of buttercream late at night just to decorate a few cookies. I did drizzle a few with some sticky toffee sauce I had in my cabinet, and a little bit of sea salt. The sauce had a stronger flavor than I expected, and I think if I made these again I would make a lighter caramel sauce to go with them (but the sea salt added an amazing dimension to the flavor).

Vanilla Bean Madeleines

Yield 18 cookies

2 large eggs
2/3 cup sugar
Seeds from 1 vanilla bean
Pinch of salt
1 cup all purpose flour
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, melted, cooled slightly

Preheat oven to 375°F. Generously butter and flour pan for large Madeleines (about 3 x 1 1/4 inches).  Using electric mixer, beat eggs and 2/3 cup sugar in large bowl just to blend. Beat in vanilla seeds and salt. Add flour; beat just until blended. Gradually add cooled melted butter in steady stream, beating just until blended.
Spoon 1 tablespoon batter into each indentation in pan. Bake until puffed and brown, about 16 minutes. Cool 5 minutes. Gently remove from pan. Repeat process, buttering and flouring pan before each batch. (Can be made 1 day ahead.)