Thursday, September 27, 2012

Apple Em-pie-nada!

Patri of the blog, Asi Son Los Cosas, was our September 2012 Daring Bakers’ hostess and she decided to tempt us with one of her family’s favorite recipes for Empanadas! We were given two dough recipes to choose from and encouraged to fill our Empanadas as creatively as we wished!

 Guys, I am so excited! I've been eyeing it up for a while, but I finally decided to join Daring Bakers. I love a good challenge, and baking in a dorm + Daring Bakers = extra challenge. Fun fact - besides the actual baking, I made this whole recipe on the floor of my room. Just put down some newspaper and it was all good.

So let's get to the recipe itself: empanada gallega! I vaguely knew what an empanada was before the challenge. Very vaguely. Sort of like a calzone? Or a hand pie? It's kind of both, actually. The word empanada basically means stuffed bread. The gallega refers to Galicia, its region of origin. Additionally, an empanada gallega is HUGE. Typically not a cute lil' pocket or one of those Taco Bell disgraces.

I knew immediately that I wanted mine to be filled with a fresh apple-y filling. I even took a trip to the orchard to buy some local fruit! But then...they had Honeycrisps...and I ate them all. So I just had to buy more. No worries! The contrast of soft bread and crisp apples was lovely and quite unlike anything I've ever had. Try it out if you're hungry for a unique fall snack! 

 Apple Empanada
by Asi Son Los Cosas and me!

5-1/3 cups (1280 ml) (750 gm) bread flour
2 cups (480 ml) of lukewarm water (about 85°F/30ºC), approximately
1 satchel (1 tablespoon) (15 gm) dry yeast or (1 oz) (30 gm) fresh yeast
1/4 cup sugar
4 tablespoons (60 ml) oil

Sift the flour into a big bowl and make a well in the middle. Rub the yeast in with your fingers.
In a small bowl, mix the water and the salt.
Now, using your fingers or a wooden spoon, start adding the water and mixing it with the flour-yeast mixture. Keep on working with your fingers or spoon until you have added enough water and all the flour has been incorporated and you have a messy ball of dough.
On a clean counter top, knead the dough for approximately 10 minutes
You could do all the above using a stand mixer, in that case mix the ingredients with the paddle attachment until mixed and then switch to a dough hook and knead on low for about 6 minutes.
Clean and oil the big bowl you used for mixing and place the kneaded dough in it. Cover it with a napkin or piece of linen and keep it in a warm, draft-free place for approximately 40 to 50 minutes.

In the meantime, make the filling!

4-5 large apples, peeled and chopped
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
3 Tbsp butter, chopped into chunks
a few tablespoons water

In a medium bowl....mix everything together. Yep.  Back to the dough.

 Preheat oven to 350F

Once risen, turn the dough back into a floured counter and cut it in half. Cover one half with the napkin to prevent drying. Spread the other half of the dough using a rolling pin. You can use a piece of wax paper over the counter, it will make it easier to move the dough around. Depending on the shape of your oven pan or cookie sheet, you will make a rectangle or a round. I made mine in a 9x13 rectangle. Now, the thinness of the dough will depend on your choice of filling and how much bread you like in every bite. For your first time, make it about 3mm thin (about 1/10th of an inch) and then adjust from that in the next ones you make. If you haven’t used wax paper, either lightly flour or line with wax paper your pan or tray.
Cover the base and sides with the dough. Using the rolling pin or a knife, cut the extra dough off.
Place your filling on top of this layer of dough.

Take the other half of the dough and spread it out to the same or less thinness of the base. You can use a piece of wax paper for this too. Take into account that this “top” dough needs to be smaller around than the bottom, as it only needs to cover the filling. If not using wax paper, move carefully the top to cover the filling. If using wax paper, transfer the dough, turn upside down, cover the filling and gently peel off the wax paper. Using your fingers, join bottom and top dough (you can crimp it and make it all nice if you want). When you are finished, make a 1 inch hole in the middle of the top layer. This will help hot air exit the empanada while it’s baking without breaking the cover. You can use left-over dough to decorate the empanada, using rounds, bows, lines… let your imagination flow and make it pretty!

Using a fork, prick the top layer or, using scissors, make snips that go all the way through the top layer. In a small bowl, beat an egg and add a tbsp of cold water. With the pastry brush, paint the top of the empanada with the egg wash. Place the empanada in the oven and bake for about 45 minutes (or more like 30, if you have a crazy oven like me), until golden brown. Make sure the bottom is cooked!


Saturday, September 22, 2012

Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars

Happiness is...eating nothing but ice cream and roasted corn for dinner. Campfire hair. Learning the ghost stories of your college campus. Getting tea in the mail. Having a huge crowd show up to your Taiko drumming performance. Happiness is having friends who love you and you love back.

Happiness is NOT getting burnt by the radiator. Sigh. Happiness is surprising your classmates with homemade peanut butter chocolate bars and luckily not having anyone in the class with a deadly peanut allergy! Yay! People seem shocked when you bring them food and it's not your birthday and you're not just pushing your scraps and leftovers on them. I just like to bake, that's all. 

These are basically the same recipe and my favorite family Christmas confection ever, peanut butter balls, but in bar form. So you get more at one time!! They're very reminiscent of a peanut butter cup. But if you want my opinion (which I assume you're at least mildly interested in if you're reading this)....they're better. Better than Reeses! You'll have to see for yourself. 

Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars

1 cup butter or margarine, melted
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 cup peanut butter
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
4 tablespoons peanut butter
In a medium bowl, mix together the butter or margarine, graham cracker crumbs, confectioners' sugar, and 1 cup peanut butter until well blended. Press evenly into the bottom of an ungreased 9x13 inch pan.
In a metal bowl over simmering water, or in the microwave, melt the chocolate chips with the peanut butter, stirring occasionally until smooth. Spread over the prepared crust. Refrigerate for at least one hour before cutting into squares.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Cookie Dough Brownies

So I haven't been having a whole ton of luck with the oven in my new dorm. First problem–greasy foil lining the oven rack caused almost enough smoke to start the smoke alarm screaming. I scuttled away from the reproach of the other person in the kitchen in shame, clutching my half baked pumpkin bread. As much as I enjoy a piece of raw bread dough now and again, I don't want a whole loaf of it. 

I think the person whose cooking supplies are in this picture was the same one that scolded me, haha.

Attempt #2 - Make some pumpkin muffins with the bit of puree left from my failbread. Well, if you ever look at my facebook page, you saw how those turned out. I burnt the bottoms! What? I don't burn things, I underbake them! I was flabbergasted, but they were edible after I pulled the bottoms off. But not blogworthy. So I've been kind of scared to bake, understandably. 

Aw, pumpkin...Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!'s one of my friend's birthdays. And I don't like showing up for birthdays without food, especially in college. No family around to make a cake for you. He requested "something chocolate". And so I faced my oven-nemesis once again. And things turned out great! It's hard to destroy something with a name like Cookie Dough Brownies. Layer of brownie + layer of eggless cookie dough (my personal favorite part). So it's your move, oven. But I'm ready for you. 

Cookie Dough Brownies
from Brown Eyed Baker

For the Brownie:
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups light brown sugar
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour

For the Cookie Dough:
¾ cup unsalted butter
¾ cup light brown sugar
¾ cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons whole milk
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1½ cups mini chocolate chips

1. Prepare the Brownies: Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line a 9×13-inch pan with foil, with enough to hang over all four sides. Butter the foil. In a medium glass bowl, melt the chocolate in the microwave in 30-second increments, stirring after each, until melted and smooth. Set aside to cool slightly. In a large mixing bowl, mix the butter and brown sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs and vanilla extract, scraping the bowl as needed. Mix in the melted chocolate until combined. Reduce the speed to low, add the flour and mix just until combined (don’t over-mix). Spread the batter into the prepared pan. Bake 25 to 35 minutes (I ended up cooking mine for probably 19 minutes. It's a really hot oven, apparently), or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool completely.

2. Prepare the Cookie Dough: In a medium bowl, use an electric mixer on medium speed to combine the butter and both sugars. Add the milk and vanilla and mix until combined. Reduce the speed to low and mix in the flour just until combined. Using a rubber spatula, stir in the chocolate chips.
3. Spread the cookie dough over the cooled brownies. Refrigerate until the dough is firm, about an hour. Use a sharp knife or a pizza cutter to cut the brownies. Store the brownies in an airtight container at cool room temperature or in the refrigerator.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Secret Recipe Club - Kugel with Frosted Flake Crunch!

I'm so happy I got assigned a blog for SRC this month that had a recipe for kugel on it. Kugelkugelkugel. I love saying it. And I love eating it. Thanks, Growing up Gabel. Besides your delicious recipes, your blog has a very clean and beautiful layout. That is very important to me. I wish my blog looked as cohesive as hers!

Kugelywoogly. Ahem. Do you know what kugel is? It's okay if you don't. It's simply a noodle pudding. It can be served hot or cold, sweet or savory, dinner or dessert or anything in between! I'm pretty sure no one knows what it is here in the Midwest because there isn't a huge Jewish population around me, and kugel is a traditional Ashkenazi Jewish dish. Growing up in New York, surrounded by a lot of Jewish influence, kugel was just something that was around a lot. My mom made it with cinnamon, apples, and raisins (I always picked those out). 

This take on kugel is sooooooo delicious. Eggs, butter, and cottage cheese combine to make it amazingly creamy. And it has a frosted flake crunch topping, which reminds me of my beloved Momofuku. People who had never even heard of kugel took and bite and were begging for more. So give it a go! It's easy, versatile, and endlessly entertaining (kugelkugelkugelkugel....)

Kugel with Frosted Flake Crunch

1/2 pound, extra wide egg noodles
4 eggs
1 cup sugar
16 ounces, whole fat cottage cheese
1 stick melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
Dash of salt
1-2 cups of Frosted Flakes cereal
1/2-1 stick melted butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large pot, parboil the noodles for about 5 minutes. Drain.
In a mixing bowl, beat eggs with electric mixer until nice and fluffy (this is ambiguous to me. I think I did like 1 1/2 minutes).
Slowly add in sugar, beating well after each addition.
Add in cottage cheese, butter, vanilla and salt.
Stir in noodles.
Pour noodle mixture in to a casserole or cake pan (about 2 quarts).
In a large skillet, melt additional butter.
Add cereal and stir to coat.
Top noodle mixture with cereal.
Bake until kugel is set and gold brown on top, anywhere from 1-2 hours depending on your oven. Serve warm or cold! I like it cold. 

Friday, September 7, 2012

Back to School with Chai Oatmeal Cookies

See that room up there? It's mine. I don't have to share with anyone except my dino pal in the back corner, Nom Chompsky. It's not that I don't like sharing (giving cookies away is one of my favorite things to do),  but I really, really need my own space to retreat to at the end of the day. Knowing that no one can enter my little sanctum without permission is simply glorious. 

In addition to my swoon worthy solace, the kitchen is the best I've experienced in my college dorm life. If you ignore the fact that it doesn't have any windows, it actually resembles a kitchen that could be in somebody's house (I'll get a picture up on the facebooks soon). I already made a batch of good ol' chocolate chip cookies to acquaint myself with the space. I've appointed myself as its unofficial keeper. Hopefully no one brings their drunken escapades in and desecrates it. 

So...cookies, yes? I tried to use tea infused butter in a recipe once before, and it didn't work awesomely.  This did. So much. Perhaps the difference was in using significantly more tea. And using an actual tea strainer instead of trying to use a slotted spoon. Stupid idea. Anyway, the chai definitely shines through: the smell hits you first, and the warm spices linger with each bite. Someone walked by and thought I was making an apple pie. I like that. Welcome to fall, everyone. 

Chai Oatmeal Cookies
adapted ever so slightly from BS' In the Kitchen

1 cup of butter
4 tbsp of chai loose leaf tea
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 3/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 375° F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
In a large sauce pan, over medium heat, combine butter and tea. Let the butter and chai tea mingle under a low simmer for 10 minutes, until browned. Drain the chai from butter using either a french press coffee machine, a tea strainer or coffee filter. Let chai infused butter sit until it becomes solid again – do this at room temperature (okay, so I got totally tired of waiting and after I prepped all my ingredients and it was STILL a liquid, I just decided, meh, and used the liquid butter). 

Once the butter has become solid again, whip the butter and sugars together for two minutes, followed by the eggs and vanilla. Add dry ingredients and mix until well combined. Drop cookies in rounded tablespoons on cookie sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes. Take them out of the oven, let them sit for a few minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Sticky Marshmallow Brownies

For those of you wondering the fate of my battle against the giant marshmallow (all three of you, haha), veni, vidi, vici! And if you're curious as to why I had a giant marshmallow in the first place...well, that's a story for another day. I'm doing a little experiment. You'll hear about it someday soon, I'm sure.

Can you believe I have never chopped chocolate with a giant knife before? Man, I've been missing out! It's SO satisfying. 

Anyhow, let's just say that I had a small mishap with my project, resulting in a large hunk of marshmallow I could no longer use for its intended purpose. But throwing it away was stupid and wasteful! And it's my last night at home before I return to dorm life...baking something was kind of a necessity. A goodbye to my kitchen for a while. 

The mallows kind of remind of of mantou.

My wise mother suggested I make brownies. You da best, mom. Just kind of messing around, I made a brownie batter, spread half in the pan, threw some of the giant mallow in the middle, covered it with the rest of the batter, and put more marshmallows on top. Over the top in the gelatinous confection category? Perhaps. I quite enjoyed the gooey, shapeless mass that was the result. The bars eventually will harden, but I think they're best straight from the oven.

Sticky Marshmallow Brownies

4 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup flour
12-20 marshmallows. Use your judgment, cause you probably know your preferences better than I do! 

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line a 9x13" pan with parchment or foil (I had some problems with the brownie sticking to the foil, so parchment may be better), letting the foil hang over the sides. Spray lightly with cooking spray and set aside. 
In a large, microwave safe bowl (or you can use the stove, but I'm lazy sometimes), heat butter and chocolate until melted. I did it for a minute, stirred, and put it back in for 25 seconds. Stir in sugar, eggs and vanilla until homogenous, then mix in flour. Pour half the batter into the pan, spreading until the bottom is completely covered. Put half of the marshmallows on top, then pour the rest of the batter on top of that. Save the other half of the marshmallows! Bake brownies for 30-35 minutes. In the last ten or so minutes, put the rest of the marshmallows on top of the brownie and return to oven. If the marshmallows seems to be getting too brown, cover the pan with foil. Serve warm!