Archive | July, 2008

do i have to be furry and blue to be a cookie monster?

30 Jul

after a mildly reprimanding email from a friend, i have decided it is necessary to come back from my non-posting hiatus.  but heck, it is rough, by which i mean hot as hell, to bake in an un-air conditioned apartment with poor ventilation in the summer.  also, i’ve become painfully aware that my pants seem to be shrinking as of late… damn you sugary delectables.  so i have been trying not to tempt myself too much by leaving delicious treats on my kitchen table.  i have zero will power.  so anywho, last night when i decided it was time to put my will power to the test (“hmm… maybe i can control myself this time…”), j and i discussed:

j: “don’t do it.”

me: “j, i gotta. the public needs me. i’m receiving emails. emails!”

j: “you evil temptress!”

me: “have no fear, i shall make them non-vegan.  eggs and butter galore.  that will keep you at bay.”

alright, i might have taken some creative liberties on the conversation… but i’m sure she wanted to call me an evil temptress.  maybe i just want to be called an evil temptress.  it sounds so.. um.. dangerous.. sexy?  did i go there on a baking blog? really?  so, aaaannyways, here we have it.  the anti-j cookie! aka: a basic chocolate chip cookie.  i know it isn’t particularly creative of me to go with this old standard, but really, do you understand how much effort it would have been to go to the grocery store?  sheesh people.  i’m one lazy girl.  luckily there is a plethora of half bags of chocolate chips floating around my cupboards, or else we would have a chocolate chipless cookie instead.  what would that be… a sugar cookie?  maybe.  that would have been sad.  i find sugar cookies to be a little sad on a whole.  they are just a bit… boooring.  not like chocolate chip cookies.  which have chocolate chips. and are thus not boring.

on to the cookie: the not boring chocolate chip cookie.  this is a recipe from my lovely dorie greenspan baking book.  i love this book. i love dorie. i love her cookie.

what you’ll need: 2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon salt (1 and 1/4 if you really like salt. and boy do i really like salt!), 3/4 teaspoon baking soda, 2 sticks unsalted butter (room temp), 1 cup sugar, 2/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar, 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract, 2 large eggs, 12 ounces bittersweet chocolate or 2 cups chocolate chips/chunks (or everything you have in the pantry if you are me. please note that we have duct taped the bags shut.  yeh, we are classy like that.)

1. center a rack in the oven and preheat to 375 degrees f. center rack before you preheat.  make fun all you want, but i can’t tell you how many times i’ve gone to stick stuff in and end up in a tizzy shouting, “gahhh blasted! thwarted by the 375 degree badly placed metal racks again!” so, after properly preparing yourself oven-wise… unlike me… line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. whisk together the flour, salt, and baking soda.

(i like how the lighting in the bottom left picture makes me look tan. hey, a girl can dream.)

3. with a mixer of some sort, beat the butter on medium speed for about 1 minute, until smooth.

but me… i am waaay too bad ass for a puny mixer.  it is all muscle here. i beat that butter into submission with nothing but a plastic spoon and brute strength!!

ha! it cried like a little butter baby!

4. now, once you are done getting your kicks beating up two innocent sticks of butter (i’m a monster), add the sugars and beat for another 2 minutes or so until it is well blended.

i love the look of packed brown sugar after it has splooted (actual word, look it up) into a bowl.

all mixed up and rarin’ to go.  at this point some wayward fingers began to attempt batter steals.  remember the grilling boys?  yeh, one of those frickin’ thieves came back for round two… cookie edition.  i whacked him away though.  fear not.  i was still feeling the butter beating madness.

5. beat in the vanilla.

6. add the eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each egg goes in.

huh.  looks kinda gross… but in a good way… does that make any sense?

real quick: a brief pause in your regular blog programming… we need to discuss this:

annabelle: the chicken of the month.  in case you can’t read the type, annabelle is an acrobat.  she jumps from platform to platform like a trapeze artist.  there is concern that she might run away and join the circus. this. is. hilarious.  ahh pete and gerry’s organic eggs, you guys crack me up.

ok where were we…

7. reduce mixer to low (or if you are bad ass, slow down your macho stirring) and add the dry ingredients in 3 portions, mixing only until each is just incorporated.

8. mix in the chocolate. you can also throw in a cup of finely chopped walnuts or pecans if you are feeling crazy.  nic doesn’t do nuts/they weren’t in my pantry, so i opted out.

9. spoon the dough by slightly rounded tablespoonfuls onto the baking sheets.  leave about 2 inches between each blob.

10. bake cookies one sheet at a time (10-12 minutes) and rotate the sheet midway through.  pull the sheet out and allow the cookies to rest for a minute.  then transfer to racks to cool at room temp.

11. repeat with remaining dough, cooling the baking sheets between batches.

yay cookies!


now you may think this was an accident/the result of my not putting the instructed 2 inches between each cookie blob.. but really, i just wanted my cookies to come out looking like a sorry reenactment of pangaea.

the verdict: fantastic chocolate chip cookie recipe. dorie knows her stuff.  i heart them, my coworkers heart them, if j was eating dairy, i bet she would heart them.

word around the water cooler:

“just what the doctor ordered. so good!”

“i totally needed them. perfect!”

man, i love compliments.


nutella ‘stache anyone?

15 Jul

there is no dainty way to go about eating this one, short of freezing the bugger prior to consumption.  i dived in as soon as this came out of the oven and emerged with a nutella/chocolate moustache, nay, beard. i’ll admit it.  it was kind of cute… if you are in to the whole bearded lady thing.

that actually brings me to a not-so-brief segue that has absolutely nothing to do with baking (although i will nobly attempt to tie it in). i am a firm believer that everyone deserves to be loved…even bearded ladies.  when people look at a cute guy and say “oh wow, he’s attractive, but his girlfriend is not cute at all,” or vis versa, i think, why on earth can’t a cute person date a non-cute person without ridicule and judgement?  i mean, honestly, everyone deserves to be loved.  non-cute people should not be forced to only date non-cute people.  same goes for the cute people.  that being said, i was watching a tv program about the world’s strangest couples a couple of years ago.  the tallest man in the world was able to find his match with a quadriplegic dwarf, and my personal favorite, monkey girl, found love with the dashing alligator boy.  i guess that doesn’t really seem like appropriate examples for my whole “cute & non-cute unite” schpeal… except that alligator boy really was super cute… as long as you disregard the scales…  now for that noble attempt at bringing myself back to the true intent of this post, and more importantly, this blog: even if you eat the treat above and come out with a nutella beard, you will still be loved (or at least deserve to be).  the end.

alright, back to the baking.  i found this recipe on another food blog, and was immediately intrigued. chocolate, nutella, crumbles, and bars = all very good things.  i first became obsessed with nutella when i went to this french camp thingamajig in belgium after high school.  toast with nutella was pretty much my bread and butter… so my bread and nutella… hmm.. anyways… it was great.  it came in cute little packages, which is always a bonus. so basically, whenever there is something involving nutella, i am game. bc it’s great. honestly.  now, one of my many roommates had never (never!) tasted nutella.  mon dieu! mon coeur!  i needed to rectify this situation.  so for his birthday i baked him these chocolate hazelnut crumble bars.  it was also the day our new roommate from spain moved in, so i wanted to wow him/make him like me best right off the bat.

what you’ll need: 1/2 cup nutella, 3/4 cup chocolate chips, 2 cups all-purpose flour, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/2 cup butter (softened), 3/4 cup brown sugar, 2 eggs, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. preheat oven to 350 degrees f.  line an 8-inch square pan with wax paper long enough that it comes up across opposite sides.

2. melt the nutella and chocolate chips on a double boiler. then set aside to cool.

(i didn’t have a double boiler, so i made this make shift thing.  i pretty much just found a metal bowl and plopped it inside an appropriate sized pot, and voila!  it was a pain in the butt to remove and hold later, but we will call it a success nonetheless.)

3. in a small bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt.


4. in another bowl, beat butter with electric mixer until creamy. slowly add in sugar until smooth. add eggs one at a time then add vanilla. gradually add dry ingredients until well incorporated.

5. take 2/3 of the dough and press thinly onto bottom of the pan. pour in the chocolate/nutella mixture on top and spread evenly.  (be careful with your dough proportions. i ended up putting too much in the bottom and didn’t have enough to crumble on top.  also, the dough is not very sweet, so the unsweetness is much more apparent when biting into an inch think layer at the bottom…)

6. crumble the rest of the dough and sprinkle on top of the chocolate.  if the dough is a bit wet, add a little more flour to it.

7. bake for 20 minutes until golden brown on top. let cool for 10 minutes.

makes 16 bars. eat. enjoy. make people like you best. “grow” a nutella ‘stache.

happy birthday america

8 Jul

everyone deserves a cake on their birthday.  and since this past friday was america’s special day, the barefoot contessa by way of pioneer woman flag cake seemed appropriate.  you will have to excuse the lack of photographs and step-by-step in this post… i was busy stressing out because i waited to the very last second to put this baby together.  but i felt compelled to post regardless.  i needed someone to share this patriotic triumph with.  because you see, we had a few bumps along the way…

1. i forgot to buy berries… which, as you can see, is kind of key.  so 20 minutes before people arrived, i was frantically running to the grocery. 

2. this was my very first time piping. ever.

3. this was my first successful frosting experience.  (let’s try and forget the horror that was the vegan chocolate frosting of grainy imperfection.)

but by the time i finished the decorations, the guests had already arrived, i was covered in frosting, and more than a bit of a mess.  thanks to nic for providing some photo documentation, as i was too busy drowning my residual stress in the vat of sangria i had made the moment i woke up that morning. (i guess we see where my priorities lie.)

here my visiting former roommate and i decorate the cake.  it was a process as i was attempting to be accurate in my portrayal and forgot how many red and white stripes there were supposed to be… (quick side note: my old photojo prof would probably drop kick me in the face if he knew i posted back photos.  he fights back pictures with spiderman like super powers when he isn’t molding young minds.)

for a lovely step-by-step and the recipe, check out the pioneer woman’s post, which i obsessively stalked prior to baking (not to mention pretty much every day).  the cake really did taste great.  it has sour cream in the cake and then cream cheese in the frosting.  so it was a bit of a kick in the taste buds, but in a good way.  my visitor claimed she wanted me to bake her wedding cake after tasting it… i told her as long as it could look like a flag, we would be set.

one thing i feel i should warn you of… make sure you don’t celebrate america so hard that you forget to refrigerate it overnight… the next morning my leftover cake was covered in mold.  (thank goodness we had consumed the majority of it the night before.)  i don’t know if it was the combination of all that dairy/cream cheese and the rasberries or what.  but it was wicked gross.  im pretty sure i ate some of that mold.  i’ll never be the same.

a truly daring danish!

2 Jul

alright, so i’m a wee bit late with my june daring baker challenge post…  but i like to think that i am merely being “fashionably” late.  this past week has been crazy what with my helping m move to the big apple (how could she leave me!?  who will style my food now?!  and leave fun presents on my bed?! and looove me!?), learning dirty italian slang from j’s noni during fiesta, and catching a freakish summer cold.  but you know what darling foodies?  great things come to those who wait.  like this post.

yet again, the daring bakers manage to challenge.  granted, pretty much everything is challenging at this point in my baking career…  but still, i can’t help but feel like i skipped the whole shallow portion of the pool and jumped right into the deep end hoping by a miracle that floating back up to the top is intuitive.  most of my baking goes like this… “huh, the recipe says to do this.  well, i have no friggin clue what that means… buuut maybe if i whap this against this then swish it up a bit it will work out.” maybe i should start googling words or consult something… oh wells, not my style.  i am more of a fumble through life and hope for the best kind of girl.

this month’s challenge was hosted by kelly of sass & veracity, and ben of what’s cookin’?  we daring bakers were supposed to make a danish braid, which according to the mini history lesson kelly and ben provided was created in some capacity by either the danish or the viennese, or both, or something.  i’m not really sure.  it might just be one of life’s great mysteries.  they did a better job explaning, but i can’t make neither hide nor tail of it… i feel like all we really need to know is that it is a butter-laminated, dough-layered, yeasty twisty thing of major yum.  as far as my actually making the braid/dough, it went surprisingly well.  this actually seemed easier than last month’s opera cake challenge.  turns out i’m a big fan of kneeding things.  makes me feel strong and provincial. 

the danish dough made enough for two braids, so one went in the freezer for another time/another post update/savory attempt.  but the one for this post is made with a nutella and dark chocolate filling. there are things i would have done differently upon further reflection… but we will get to that later…

the dough:

what you’ll need:

For the dough (Detrempe) 
1 ounce fresh yeast or 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1/2 cup whole milk
1/3 cup sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped
2 large eggs, chilled
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
3-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt

For the butter block (Beurrage)
1/2 pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1. combine yeast and milk in a bowl with a hand mixer on low speed or a whisk. 

2. add sugar, vanilla extract, vanilla bean seeds, eggs, and orange juice and mix well. 

3. sift flour and salt on your working surface and make a fountain.  make sure that the “walls” of your fountain are thick and even. 

(i feel like there is something exhilirating about sifting flour directly on to the table.  an element of danger, perhaps.  like your mom will walk in any second and catch you and send you to your room for making a mess.  hi mom!)

(so, i had no idea what “make a fountain” meant.  this is the only thing i could come up with.  im pretty dubious about this situation.)

4. pour the liquid in the middle of the fountain. 

(ahh, this seems a little too dangerous.  i can’t believe i am pouring liquid on to my table with only fluffy flour to stop its flow! don’t tell my mom!! or j’s mom since she technically is the one who donated this table.)

(still going… still freaking out…)

(my thoughts at this point were “holy crap, i can’t believe this is actually working” / “man i hope this is actually what they meant by a fountain and it doesn’t explode in two seconds”)

5. with your fingertips, mix the liquid and the flour starting from the middle of the fountain, slowly working towards the edges.  turns out something was wrong here… because at this point, the liquid exploded across the table threatening to cover everything within 4 feet including my recipe, ingredients, candles (what? i like mood lighting) and roommate’s computer.  i proceeded to shriek, which caused all my roommates to come running to my aid.  except nic, who is apparently immune to my shrieks.

6. when the ingredients have been incorporated start kneading the dough with the heel of your hands until it becomes smooth and easy to work with, around 5 to 7 minutes.  you might need to add more flour if the dough is sticky. transfer dough to a lightly floured baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. refrigerate for 30 minutes.

the butter block

1. combine butter and flour in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (does anyone actually own this?  and can you tell me what the heck it is/if it is actually necessary?) and beat on medium speed for 1 minute.  scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle and then beat for 1 minute more, or until smooth and lump free.  set aside at room temperature.

combine ingredients, swish it up, voila!

2. after the detrempe (fancy name for ball of dough) has chilled 30 minutes, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface.  roll the dough into a rectangle approximately 18 x 13 inches and ¼ inch thick.  the dough may be sticky, so keep dusting it lightly with flour. 

3. spread the butter evenly over the center and right thirds of the dough. 

fold the left edge of the detrempe to the right, covering half of the butter. 

fold the right third of the rectangle over the center third. 

the first turn has now been completed.  mark the dough by poking it with your finger to keep track of your turns, or use a sticky and keep a tally.  place the dough on a baking sheet, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

3. place the dough lengthwise on a floured work surface.  the open ends should be to your right and left.  roll the dough into another approximately 13 x 18 inch, ¼-inch-thick rectangle.  again, fold the left third of the rectangle over the center third and the right third over the center third.  no additional butter will be added as it is already in the dough. the second turn has now been completed.  refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes.  (my butter squished out the sides like crazy, so dont be too dismayed if the same happens to you.  it makes a gigantic mess, but is not the end of the world.)

4.    roll out, turn, and refrigerate the dough two more times, for a total of four single turns.  make sure you are keeping track of your turns!  (thank goodness for the genius who thought up the finger poke tracking system.)  refrigerate the dough after the final turn for at least 5 hours or overnight.  i sliced the dough in two at this point.  one to be refrigerated, one to be frozen.

but right now, let’s take a brief time out to check out these layers… 


5 hours or more later… the danish dough is now ready to be used.  if you will not be using the dough within 24 hours, freeze it.  to do this, roll the dough out to about 1 inch in thickness, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and freeze.  defrost the dough slowly in the refrigerator for easiest handling.  danish dough will keep in the freezer for up to 1 month.

the braid:

what you’ll need:

nutella and dark chocolate for the filling.  mega yum.

and your dough (1/2 of the original batch).. look how poofy it got overnight!

1. line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper.  on a lightly floured  surface, roll the danish dough into a 13 x 18-inch rectangle, ¼ inch thick.  (the db recipe said to roll it to 15×20, but that seemed pretty impossible, so i shrunk down the size.) if the dough seems elastic and shrinks back when rolled, let it rest for a few minutes, then roll again.  place the dough on the baking sheet. (again, didn’t seem possible at this point because it wouldn’t fit on the pan and would thus making slicing tricky.  so i moved it on to the pan later after braiding.

2. along one long side of the pastry make parallel, 5-inch-long cuts with a knife or rolling pastry wheel, each about 1 inch apart.  repeat on the opposite side, making sure to line up the cuts with those you’ve already made.

3. add the filling, by spooning on to your braid down the center of the rectangle.  i put down nutella, and then added chocolate chips on top.  but looking back, i would have melted the two together first in a double boiler and then put that on as the filling.  when i just put the chips, they seemed to burn a little bit.

4. starting with the top and bottom “flaps”, fold the top flap down over the filling to cover.  next, fold the bottom “flap” up to cover filling.  this helps keep the braid neat and helps to hold in the filling.

5. now begin folding the cut side strips of dough over the filling, alternating first left, then right, left, right, until finished.  trim any excess dough and tuck in the ends.

be sure to tuck those ends in there. otherwise it might pop open in the oven and resemble a rib cage, which is cool in its own way.. but not really what we are going for here.

egg wash: whisk together the whole egg and yolk in a bowl and with a pastry brush, lightly coat the braid.

proofing and baking:

1. spray cooking oil (ie: pam) onto a piece of plastic wrap, and place over the braid.  proof at room temperature or, if possible, in a controlled 90 degree F environment for about 2 hours, or until doubled in volume and light to the touch. (i did it at room temp, which was probably close to 90 anyways considering my lack of ac.  woe is me.)

2. near the end of proofing, preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  position a rack in the center of the oven.

3. bake for 10 minutes, then rotate the pan so that the side of the braid previously in the back of the oven is now in the front. lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees F, and bake about 15-20 minutes more, or until golden brown.  cool and serve the braid either still warm from the oven or at room temperature.  the cooled braid can be wrapped airtight and stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days, or freezed for 1 month.

the verdict: so good.  and i can’t begin to explain how accomplished you will feel.  i think mine was burnt a little bit, and considering that i actuall baked it for a less amount of time than stated above, have come to the conclusion that my oven runs piping hot.  the original dough recipe called for cardamom and orange zest in addition to the orange juice, but well, i’m currently on the cheap… so i opted out and just kept the orange juice from the recipe, which gave it just a bit of tang and a little extra somethin’somethin’.

i brought the danish with me to nyc, thinking that i could bribe people with it to help us move m’s stuff up to her apartment/trick her new roommates in to liking me…

what are the tester’s saying?

pw: “honestly, no words.”

ev: takes two

nic: “ah! i never got any!!”