Make’n’Tell Day 2: I Did It All For the Cookie

February 3, 2014 § Leave a comment

Chalk Drawing

Zack’s getting into the make action, too!

Right before Christmas last year, I did that thing where you all of a sudden decide that you need to bake All Of the Cookies and you only have like two days to do it (that happens to everyone, right, it’s not just me?). I wanted to make all my old standbys, but also felt like trying some new recipes, so I consulted my extensive library of cookbooks watched some shows on the Food Network asked my friends and family for recommendations headed to Pinterest. I found a couple of things to try, and for the most part they were pretty successful, but Becky went absolutely gaga for these chocolate chip toffee cookie strips. She’s been nagging asking me to make more ever since, and I thought they’d be a great share for Make’n’Tell.

Not only are these cookies delicious, but I get to use my new favorite technique for rolling out the dough. Instead of putting it between two sheets of wax paper or whatever, you put it in a Ziploc and leave about 1/2″ open at the top for the rest of the air to escape. Then you just roll your dough out inside the bag, and cut the bag open when you’re done. No muss, no fuss.

Chocolate Chip Toffee Cookie Strips

Chocolate Chip Toffee Cookies

No, I did not eat all of these after taking the picture. Not all at once, anyhow.

Ingredients:

  • 1 c. butter, softened
  • 2/3 c. packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 c. granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yoke
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 c. flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking bowder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/3 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2/3 c. toffee chips

Preheat oven to 350°. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Cream butter and sugars together in mixer.

Add eggs and vanilla.

Add flour, baking powder, and salt, mixing until thoroughly combined.

With a wooden spoon, stir in chocolate and toffee chips.

Take half of mixture and seal in a gallon size Ziploc bag, leaving about 1/2″ open. Roll dough flat (you’ll only be able to get it as flat as your chips are tall, so about 1/4″). Cut open bag and put dough on prepared cookie sheet. Repeat with 2nd half of dough.

I Like Cheesy Buns and I Cannot Lie

January 15, 2014 § 1 Comment

The backstory: Kit has had to go gluten free. Like, extremely gluten free. I like to call him a Gluten Freek. The tiniest eensiest little bit of gluteny goodness — even just from cross-contamination — will double him right over with stomach cramps. So, he’s been missing a lot of his favorite foods, especially stuff we typically get got in restaurants, like burgers and fries. A few months ago, we discovered that the kids’ favorite stop on the way up to Boston, Maggie McFly’s, has an extensive GF menu and a dedicated GF fryer. And for the “bun” on the burgers, instead of the regular GF buns like he’s been getting at the store, they have this amazing GF cheesy flatbread stuff. It’s so good I’ve started ordering my burgers with them, too.

I looked for a recipe for bread like this with no success, and then about a month ago, one came across my interwebs (I think on Twitter, but I’m honestly not sure). I tried it out last month and it came out pretty good, if a little greasy. This time, it’s pretty much perfect. The original recipe I found calls for tapioca flour, which it turns out I can’t use, as even the smell of it triggers my gag reflex (even just the little bit in GF all-purpose mixes). He talked a lot about the fine, silky texture of the tapioca flour, and I thought rice flour might substitute in nicely. Sure enough, it subs right in. Now, mine don’t look all pretty and puffy like in the pictures over at the original recipe, I assume because of the different flour. But, since we really want to use them for sandwiches, that actually works in my favor.

The hardest part about this dough is getting the texture right. It needs to be, once you’ve added everything in, moist enough to hold together but only just. Any moister, and you’re going to end up with the (admittedly delicious) greaseballs I had the first time. The key to this is the flour — the different flours seem to absorb moisture at different rates, even just different batches of the same type of flour. I used the exact same type and amount of flour this time as when I had the too-moist dough last time, and ended up having to remoisten the dough a little by adding more milk at the end.

Gluten Free Cheesy  Buns

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Ingredients:

  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 1 c. milk
  • 1/4 c. vegetable oil
  • 3 1/2 c. Rice Flour (-ish — due to variations in absorbency, you may need more or less flour)
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1 c. shredded mozzarella
  • 1/4 c. shredded cheddar

Preheat oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a dutch oven or other large pot, melt butter. Allow butter to brown slightly but not burn.

Add milk and oil. Bring to  boil, stirring frequently.

As soon as the mixture boils, remove from heat.

Add flour, mixing well. Mixture should be fairly dry and crumbly at this point.

Stir in eggs and both cheeses.  Mixture should be smooth and slightly shiny.

If mixture is too dry, add additional milk in 2 Tbsp increments, stirring well after each addition, until mixture holds together. Do not over moisten.

Form dough into discs 3-4″ in diameter and about 1/2″ thick. Place on parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes. Dough will lose its shininess and you may see errant pieces of cheese begin to brown.

Let cool before serving. These are best slightly warm but quite good at room temperature or even cold for a quick snack.

Mmmmm…Sweet and Salty

October 30, 2012 § Leave a comment

Let’s be clear: I am not one for salting things. I don’t believe I have ever used a restaurant salt shaker in my life, and I generally halve the salt called for in recipes because it always seems like a bit too much to me. I think the whole “salted caramel” trend that’s been going around lately is an abomination against caramel. But…but. Chocolate covered potato chips are one of my very favorite treats. And I do dig a nice chocolate-cashew combo. So when I came across this recipe for chow mein noodles mixed with cashews and covered in chocolate, I decided to give it a shot. It’s fast, easy, and delicious – definitely a keeper.

So, so nommy.

Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 c. bittersweet chocolate chips (the original recipe calls for 3 part chocolate chips to 1 part butterscotch – I didn’t have butterscotch so I just used all chocolate)
  • 1 c. chow mein noodles (maybe a little more – just throw the whole can in)
  • 1 c. cashews

Line a cookie sheet with waxed paper. Melt chocolate (I used my fondue pot, but you can use your microwave or double boiler). Mix in noodles, then cashews. Deposit spoonfuls of mixture on prepared cookie sheet and put in fridge until firm.

It’s a Truffle Job, but Somebody’s Gotta Do It

July 24, 2012 § Leave a comment

The Grasshopper Truffles I told you about last week were so delish that  when I came across this recipe for chocolate chip cookie dough truffles, I didn’t hesitate.

Tasty little bites!

Now, this is a vegan recipe and as such, calls for vegan butter. I am not vegan (you may have noticed) and as such, do not have vegan butter on hand generally. So I used regular ol’ butter. It’s an egg-free recipe, so it’s safe to eat the raw cookie dough. However, the lack of eggs means the cookie dough is a little less rich than I’m used to. I think next time maybe I’ll experiment with using egg beaters. This recipe also uses only brown sugar, as opposed to the combo of brown and white in my regular cookie recipe, and I think that might be flattening the flavor as well. So, this one I’ll tweak a bit before posting my version of the recipe. In the meantime, the original is pretty darn tasty — give it a try!

 

Patience, Young Grasshopper

July 12, 2012 § 1 Comment

Pinterest is killing my waistline, I swear. Okay, also Foodbuzz and Foodgawker, but if it wasn’t for Pinterest I wouldn’t have anywhere to store all those yummy looking recipes. With pictures. So as soon as I go and look I am reminded of why I wanted to make the tasties in the first place. Such was the case with this recipe for Grasshopper Truffles. Each little ball is a mouthful of chocolate-minty delicious heaven.

Concentrated nom, coated in chocolate for extra nomminess.

I did modify the original recipe a bit…I found that the ratio of cream cheese to cookie was really high, so I adjusted that. I went with the straight up cream cheese rather than the frosting, and I’m glad I did…I think they’d’ve definitely been too sweet for me otherwise. And obviously, I didn’t use the sprinkles. I also didn’t use the mint extract and again, I’m glad I didn’t: I think it would have been overkill.

Here’s my tip for easy chocolate dipping: use chocolate chips in an electric fondue pot. Just set it to warm, as if you were going to actually fondue. Have your cookie sheet with waxed paper handy, and just pop the balls down on the paper as you take them out of the pot. Easy-peasy and makes clean-up a breeze, too. As tempting as it is to dump a bunch in and roll them around, resist. You’ll only end up melting them. One at a time is the way to go with these (that rule only applies to the dipping part, not the eating part).

Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 8oz package cream cheese, softened
  • 1 box Girl Scout Thin Mint cookies
  • About a cup of whatever chocolate chips you have on hand (I used a mix of bittersweet and milk, because that’s what I had)

Crumb the cookies in the food processor. You probably don’t want to add them all at once, and if they’re still a wee bit chunky, that’s okay. You don’t really want any chunks bigger than, say, a sunflower seed. Add the cream cheese and pulse until mixture is uniform. Chill mixture for about an hour.

After mixture is chilled, roll into small (about 1″) balls and place on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper.

Pre-dipping…they’re kind of a gross dark taupe color. Cover them with delicious chocolate, stat!

Pop them back in the fridge for 30 minutes to an hour, depending on how soft the dough got while you were rolling them. You want them to be nice and firm and chilly for this next step, otherwise they’ll fall apart.

Melt chocolate in fondue pot (or using other method of your choice, but I promise, the fondue pot is really awesome). Roll chilled balls, one at a time, in melted chocolate, then place back on wax paper-lined cookie sheet. When you’ve dipped all the balls, put them back in the fridge until the chocolate hardens.

Pie-thagorean Theorems

July 3, 2012 § Leave a comment

I do actually have a couple of recipes to post for Tasty Tuesdays, but there have been some photography issues (namely, that I keep neglecting to take the photographs). So I thought today we could talk about pie crust. Because I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I loves me some pie (and also other things made with pie crust). There are all different sorts of crusts, from cookie crumb crusts to pate brisee, but the basic crust I nearly always use is a simple all-butter crust (“all-butter” refers to the type of fat — there’s still flour and liquid involved). I nearly always use it because it’s easy, I almost always have the ingredients on hand, and it’s super easy to customize. For instance, when I make pecan pie, I put a little cinnamon and nutmeg into the crust. When I make savory pies, I often put a little garlic powder in. When I made the peach galette, I put a little brown sugar in the crust. But the basic crust is this (it’s basically the same as the one for the galette, only without the sugar and doubled, because you can always freeze the extra crust if you only need a single):

Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 c. butter, cold and cubed
  • 3 c. flour
  • 7-8 tablespoons ice water or chilled liquor

Crust:

In a food processor, pulse together the flour and butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add in sugar and pulse once more. Begin adding water/liquor 1 Tbsp at a time until 5 Tbsp have been added, pulsing as you go. Now add the water/liquor about 1 tsp at a time, stopping when the mixture just comes together. Turn out onto plastic wrap and form into a disc. Chill to firm, about 15 minutes.

There are two super important things here:

  •  Don’t overprocess.
  •  The butter and the liquid need to be COLD.

The second thing is easy…just pop everything in the freezer. How long you need to leave it in there depends on the day and what you’re starting with. You don’t want things actually frozen, but you want them as close as possible. Not overprocessing, though, is an art. You do need to get everything combined, but you need to stop immediately after. And often — especially before you start adding the liquid — it’s hard to tell if you’ve done that. Once you start adding the liquid, what you’re looking for is this:

This is even maybe a wee bit overprocessed.

You want it to just barely be holding together. When you dump it and form it into a disc, you’re going to smush it together a little but again, remember that you want to work it as little as possible so be gentle. Toss it in the fridge for about 30 minutes. If you need to leave it in longer, that’s fine, but you may need to let it warm up just a bit in order to be able to work it in that case.

My very favorite new tip is one I shared with you on the galette post: parchment paper!

Put the disc between two sheets of lightly floured parchment paper and roll to your heart’s content.

No muss, no fuss!

Once you’ve got it rolled out, peel off the top layer of parchment paper and fold the crust (just the crust, not the remaining paper) into quarters. Plop it into your pie plate, unfold, and trim. Note that if you are doing a double crust, you’re better off waiting to trim until you’ve got the second crust on (and in that case, I like to just fold it up like a galette around the edges, because pie crust = NOM).

A word on using liquor instead of water in your crust. I have seen this tip all over the place and frankly, I’m not really fan. I do like to use dark rum in crust for a pecan pie because it gives it a nice flavor, but I find that my crusts made with vodka aren’t as tender as those made with plain water and also, they taste a little off. Not bad, just not quite as delicious. So I generally stick with water.

Another thing I see quite a lot of is a recommendation to make a foil shield so your crust doesn’t over brown. I’ve never had an issue with this, but then again I don’t do a lot of parbaking my crusts — I usually just pop the fillings into the raw crust and go.

Shaking my tree

June 7, 2012 § Leave a comment

I was watching The Next Food Network Star (my third favorite cooking contest show — I much prefer Top Chef and Chopped, but they seem to be out of season right now) the other day, and one of the things they were asking each contestant was to describe their philosophy about food/cooking. So I thought about this for myself, and my philosophy about food/cooking (and about any kind of art, really) is this:

Learn the basics so you can make what you like.

That’s it. With all of the things I do, the ones I’m most successful with are food and fiber. And the reason I’m most successful with them is because I’ve learned the basics and learned them well, and knowing the basics means I can do some very unbasic things to get what I want. This is what has made me comfortable replacing ingredients in recipes (for instance, the black pepper/paprika switcheroo in my Lamb Ragout) and really what has given me the confidence to play around and come up with recipes all my own.

But, you ask,  how did you learn this stuff, oh Amazing One? I am so glad you asked. Because here’s the thing: when I say “learn” I don’t mean “follow the recipe a couple times”. I mean, read things in cookbooks, watch cooking programs, ask your friends questions about the delicious food they’ve prepared, think about how the chef made the food that’s on your plate in a restaurant. Always be thinking about what is happening, especially with things you have a strong like or dislike for. And then — and this is really the most important part — get your ass in the kitchen and start playing.

Some of the things you make will fail. If you’re really lucky, they’ll fail spectacularly and you’ll at least get a good story out of the deal but more often, they fail with a whimper and you have a dish that says “meh.” You can learn from those things. Think about what worked and what didn’t, and figure out how to fix the non-working things (ideally in such a way that they don’t break the working things). Then go and make the new version. Repeat, until you have what you wanted, or an entirely new and more awesome thing that has evolved along the way (for really fantastic examples of this in action, I cannot recommend Cook’s Illustrated magazine highly enough).

This is the way most of my recipes happen. I get an idea and I go through several iterations until I love it. Sometimes, though…ah, sometimes it’s as if I’m possessed by some sort of mad genius kitchen spirit and everything comes together beautifully and culminates in tastebud bliss. Such was the case with the peach galette I made over the weekend.

The story goes like this: I was at the store and saw some peaches. I grabbed them, and then as I was driving home I started thinking about making mini pies with them. Except I don’t really like fruit pie as a general rule (yeah, I know, I’m a weirdo). Maybe a cobbler? Not exciting me. Then I remembered that I’d been wanting to make a galette. Perfect! Not quite a pie, but yummy crust, so how can that be bad? (A galette, for those of you who don’t know, is a very rustic version of a pie/tart, wherein you roll out a single crust onto a flat baking sheet, put your filling on, then fold the edges up to hold it all in. I call it a “too lazy to take the pie plate out pie”.)

I started out with my regular crust, then decided I wanted it to be a sweet crust, so I threw in 1/4 cup of brown sugar. The peaches were clings (as opposed to freestones…as much as I think clings are a pain to cut they invariably have a much stronger flavor), so I cut them in 1/4″ slices while still on the stone, then popped the slices off. The peel was thin (and I’ve never been able to successfully blanch peaches for peeling) so I left it on.

Oh, and I learned a new fancy trick for rolling out crust: put it between two sheets of parchment!

No more cleaning hunks of dough off my precious marble rolling pin!

I didn’t put any flour on the paper, but I think next time I’d do a dusting as it was a little clingy. The final little spark of genius was the rum-honey glaze that goes on at the end. I was sitting on the couch, smelling the baking smell and slavering impatiently when I suddenly realized that a little glaze would bring it from yummy to exquisite. And indeed, the flavor profile was delicate but still complex. It tastes just like you’d expect early summer to taste.

Recipe

Ingredients:

For the filling:

  • 1 lb peaches (about 4, give or take)
  • 1/4 c. sugar

For the crust:

  • 1/2 c. butter, cold
  • 1 1/2 c. flour
  • 1/8 c. brown sugar
  • 3-4 tablespoons ice water

For the glaze:

  • 1 Tbsp. dark rum
  • 2 Tbsp. honey

Crust:

In a food processor, pulse together the flour and butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add in sugar and pulse once more. Begin adding water 1 Tbsp at a time until 3 Tbsp have been added, pulsing as you go. Now add the water about 1 tsp at a time, stopping when the mixture just comes together. Turn out onto plastic wrap and form into a disc. Chill to firm, about 15 minutes.

Filling:

While the crust is chilling, preheat the oven to 425°. Slice peaches into app. 1/4″ thick slices.  Roll crust out to 11-12″ diameter and put on cookie sheet. Place peach slices in concentric circles on crust, mounding higher closer to the center. When all slices are placed, fold the edges of the crust in towards the center. Sprinkle sugar evenly over filling. Place in oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, until crust is browned.

Glaze:

When about 5 minutes are left for the galette to bake, combine rum and honey in a small microwaveable dish. Heat together for 20-30 seconds (long enough to fully liquefy honey). Stir gently. When you remove the galette from the oven, use a pastry brush to apply glaze generously to peach slices, making sure there’s plenty to drip down between them. You may wish to apply several coats.

Allow to cool for 10-15 minutes, then slice and serve.

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