Friday, February 29, 2008

the cookie monster

Conversation with my lovely 8-year-old sister:
Me: Dad's coming to see me next week. Do you want me to make something for him to bring to you?
Sister: Hmm....COOKIES! No one makes them quite like you.

Since I was spending the day baking Julia Child's French bread anyways, I thought I'd make a care package for the little one as well. After jogging to Berkeley Bowl's for semisweet chocolate chunks (and nuts and dried fruits), I baked up five types of cookies - oatmeal raisin, white chocolate macadamian nuts, semisweet chocolate with walnuts, oatmeal raisin with dark chocolate, and white chocolate cranberry. I found that with two basic cookie recipes, endless variations are possible. Needless to say, I had a lot of fun, and ate a lot of cookies. Cook's privilege :) The chocolate walnut was especially good.

Chocolate Walnut Cookies
makes about 2 dozen small cookies

1/2 cup unsalted butter (softened)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup white sugar
1 egg (beaten)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
pinch salt
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate (chopped)
1/2 cup walnuts (chopped)

Cream butter and sugar until well blended. Beat in egg and vanilla until smooth. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a separate bowl, and add into butter mixture. Mix until combined. Fold in chocolate chunks and walnuts. Drop by heaping spoonfuls onto greased cookie sheet and bake in a 375 degrees preheated oven for 8-10 minutes. Remove from oven while cookies are still soft in the center and let cool on sheet.

Enjoy the chewy, soft cookies with a cold glass of milk. It's a good treat anytime.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Daring Bakers - Julia Child's French Bread

The weather up at Berkeley has been temperamental. It's been a week of sun, a week of rain, a week of sun, cycle repeats. This weekend, unfortunately, was rain. I prefer working with yeast when it's warm outside, but since time is running out for this month's challenge, I made the bread to the sound of falling rain.

The process wasn't hard and since I like making bread, I had an enjoyable time. I have to admit though, I've never made anything so time intensive. I started at 9:30 in the morning, finished the first rise around 1:30pm, the second by 3:30, shaped the loaves and let them rise until 5:30, and fini
shed baking them off at 6:45. I went out to dinner (since I couldn't eat the darn thing yet), and sampled the bread at around midnight.

The looks of them
weren't beautiful, which is why I only have one shot of the somewhat decent-looking boule. I've never free-formed bread before; it's a lot harder than it looks. The taste though, that mattered more.

I whipped out the bread knife, pulled it through the golden crispy crust, smelled the delicious yeastiness perfuming the air, and took a look at the fruits of my labor. Webs of white, lots of holes, just like the bread I buy from Acme Breads. I popped a slice into the toaster oven, waiting impatiently as the slice turned golden. Mmmm...crispy crust, warm chewy crumb, slightly was wonderful. And I sliced some more...and some more...It's amazing how yeast, water, flour, and salt - four simple ingredients - can produce such a tasty morsel.

Julia Child's French Bread
It's a long recipe, so I linked it...

Flour, yeast, salt, and water all mixed and kneaded, waiting for the first rise

After the first rise

I let the dough rise in an warm oven (turn it on to 150 degree, turn it off, and maintain the temperature at around 70 degrees) because it was so cold that day. The dough rose beautifully the first two times. It didn't rise as much after I shaped the dou
gh though (not three times the size, as the recipe said). I also had problems transferring the dough from the rising sheet and my baking sheet (I'll probably just use the same one next time). That was why my batard looked so ugly (tasty as it was, it was sadly deformed). The boule and rolls looked better, though I had issues slashing the top (my knife wasn't sharp enough).

All in all, my first challenge was successful. I had a lot of fun and the recipe turned out really well. I can't wait for next month :)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

after practice

So what was suppose to be a chill practice of just poomse turned into a full 2+ hour workout, followed by Daniel's round of circuit training. I skipped the ghetto trip today and walked home with Christie talking about cream cheese stuffed jalapeno poppers wrapped in bacon. Yes, I was hungry. Time for something healthy and delicious.

Fruit and Yogurt Parfait hungry are you?

Vanilla yogurt (I use Brown Cow's Non-fat Vanilla)
Fresh strawberries
Granola (I used cherry almond)

Clean, hull, and slice the strawberries. Slice the banana as well. Layer vanilla yogurt and fruit in a bowl or decorative glass. Sprinkle with granola.

Yogurt parfait is probably the quickest and healthiest snack in my repetoire. Try it with different yogurts, fresh and dried fruits, different granolas, nuts, etc.

Monday, February 18, 2008

because i didn't want to study...

Despite my two midterms next week, I felt no urge to study. I spent the entire day lounging in bed, reading the Confessions of a Pioneer Woman and eating chocolate. I finally started on my Stats notes toward evening, working for about three hours (and taking the occasional break) before deciding to actually eat something real. I steamed some rice, and cooked a pot of Korean soft tofu soup. Yum.

Because I wanted to bake something afterwards (and because Stats wasn't very appealing), I found a new recipe and whipped up a batch of oatmeal raisin cookies. My roommate bought SO much oatmeal I had to do something with it. The cookies came out moist and chewy, full of plump raisins and a nice bite from the oatmeal. If I had nuts I would have thrown some in as well, but instead I made a few with dark chocolate chunks. The plain oatmeal raisins were a touch too sweet, but were actually better with the chocolate. I will reduce the sugar a bit next time I make them. I soaked the raisins in a mixture of apple juice and hot water until they're plump. You can also soak them in orange juice or rum, whatever that would rejuvenate them and impart more flavor.

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
Makes 18-20 cookies

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp cinnamon

pinch salt
1 1/2 cup oats
3/4 cup raisin, soaked

Cream together softened butter, brown sugar, and white sugar. Add in egg and vanilla and beat until smooth. Combine the dry ingredients - flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt - and fold into butter mixture (since I don't have an electric mixer and I hate getting batter stuck between whisks, I found that folding really works). Be careful to not overwork the dough or you'll have a tough cookie. Fold in the oats and the drained raisins.

Drop by spoonfuls (about 2 tbsp) onto greased cookie sheet. Bake in a 350 degree preheated oven for 8-10 minutes. The bottom should be browned and the top still soft. Let cookies rest on baking sheet for a few minutes and they will firm up.

They're really tasty, have fun with 'em :)

Saturday, February 2, 2008

the scientific method works....

I stopped by Trader Joe's after work today to pick up some bread for dinner, and some more chocolate for baking. I'm loving that store more and more. Anyways, they had blueberries on sale, and I suddenly got a craving for blueberries muffins and scones. Good news for my palate, bad news for my next weigh in. But I came home and found that there was no milk for muffins! Luckily I found a recipe from Elton Brown's Good Eats that used yogurt instead.

The muffins came out light, fluffy, and very moist, almost like a cupcake. I sprinkled some turbino sugar (large grained raw sugar) on top for extra crunch. There is quite a bit of leavening in the mix (3 tsp worth) so don't worry if the batter foams a bit. Remember to not overbeat and to gently fold the berries in. I used some of the batter (without blueberries) for apple muffins as well.

Blueberry Muffins (adapted from food network)

makes 14 muffins (12 if you make them slightly bigger)

1/2 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 egg
1 cup yogurt (I used non-fat plain yogurt)
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
1 1/2 cup fresh blueberries
1 tsp flour
Turbino sugar

Preheat oven to 380 degrees.

Combine vegetable oil, sugar, egg, and yogurt in bowl. Combine 1 1/2 cup flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add dry ingredients to wet. Mix until just combined. Toss blueberries with 1 tsp flour (so they wouldn't sink to the bottom) and gently fold into batter.

Fill greased (or lined) muffin pans about 3/4 full. Place into oven and turn temperature up to 400 degree. Bake for 20-25 minutes. About 10 minutes before they're done, sprinkle on turbino sugar.

* For apple muffins, omit the blueberries and replace with 1/3 cup chopped apples and 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon.