Friday, August 31, 2007

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate Chip Cookies

I tried this recipe from Emily Luchetti's Classic Stars Desserts. The flavor was good, but they were a little toothsome in an over brown sugared way. I like recipes with a combination of brown and granulated sugar better.

Unfortunately I have yet to find a chocolate chip cookie recipe that I can call my favorite. I'm going to keep trying.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Oat Crisps.

Oat Crisps

I'm not a huge fan of those placemats, but I suppose oatmeal cookies feel very all-american.

Anyway, Emily Luchetti has fantastic cookie recipes. The more I make them, the more I think we have the exact same taste in cookies. She really has a knack for texture. These oat crisps were wonderfully crispy and delicate. Emily Luchetti seems to appreciate crunch as much as I do.

This recipe came from Classic Stars Desserts. She serves them with creme fraiche and blueberries for desserts and with yogurt for breakfasts. They're simple, fast, and really delicious.

Oat Crisps
adapted from Classic Stars Desserts
2 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 tbsp granulated sugar
2 tbsp dark corn syrup
1 cup old fashioned rolled oats

Preheat the oven to 350. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a bowl, combine the butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, and corn syrup and stir until blended. Stir in the oats, mixing well.
To form the crisps, drop the oat mixture, one tbsp per cookie, onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing them about 2.5 inches apart. Bake, rotating the sheets at the midway point, until golden brown and bubbly, about 15 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheets. Then, using a metal spatula, transfer the crisps to a large flat plate to cool.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Pichet Ong's Banana Cake.

Pichet Ong's Banana Cake

This is the first recipe in Pichet Ong's The Sweet Spot and it's a great starting point. Many of the recipes are familiar with interesting twists: ginger pastry cream in a banana cream pie, perhaps a touch of matcha, yuzu, or condensed milk...

I really enjoyed this cake because it's different from your typical banana bread. I used a wildflower honey, but I think something a little darker would have been fantastic. Really try to avoid over mixing. Even if there are a few pockets of yogurt/sour cream, the cake will be incredibly tender.

Banana Cake
adapted from Pichet Ong's "The Sweet Spot"

1/3 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing the pan
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup (228g) roughly mashed baby bananas
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 large egg
1/2 cup plain whole milk yogurt or sour cream
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 350. Lightly butter an 8.5x4.5in loaf pan and set aside.
2. Sift together the flour, baking soda, and baking powder and set aside
3. Put the butter, honey, sugar, cinnamon, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat the mixture on medium high speed until light and fluffy- about 5 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and add the bananas and vanilla, beating on medium speed until the mixture looks "broken" or lumpy, about 1 minutes. The bananas should be smashed, with a few small chunks remaining.
4. Turn the speed to medium low and beat in the egg until incorporated. Turn the speed to low and gradually add the sifted flour mixture, mixing just until no traces of flour remain- about 10 seconds. Add the yogurt and mix until the batter has only a few remaining white streaks- about 5 seconds. Be sure to avoid over mixing. Gently fold in the chocolate, if desired.
5. Transfer the batter to the pan. Bake in the center of the oven until a tester comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Cool the cae in the pan on a rack for 5 minutes, then unmold and cool completely on the rack.

Buttercrunch Toffee.

Buttercrunch Toffee

I love toffee. Yesterday I used David Lebovitz's Recipe which turned out quite well.

I used a combination of toasted almonds and hazelnuts with a smattering of cocoa nibs and fleur de sel on top of 73% El Rey chocolate.

There's not much else I can say other than don't burn the sugar. Burnt toffee is a tragedy.

Friday, August 24, 2007



Pittsburgh is great because you can find nearly any ingredient you need in a small radius.

For Example: Lotus in the Strip has banana leaves, frozen cassava and coconut meat, palm sugar, and mochi. Prestogeorge occasionally has Nielsen-Massey vanilla for a really gooprice. Penn Mac has salt cod, blanched hazelnuts, and marscarpone for about half the price of Giant Eagle. Penzey's has dried lavender, but you have to ask for it because it's behind the counter. Mon Aimee Chocolat has baking chocolate for 4 dollars a pound. Whole Foods and Giant Eagle also have some great specialty products as well as baking staples.

I love our local Whole Foods. They always have interesting products, they're the cheapest place for Fage yogurt and Ito-En tea, and their layout is really effective. I love that Pittsburgh grocery stores don't have alcohol. In a big California grocery store, you typically find 1-3 aisles or a big nook dedicated solely to booze.

Whole Foods is rather pricy for produce, protein, and cheese, so I usually buy really specific things. Every now and then i'll treat myself to something special: an amazing bar of crispy spanish Turron, a bottle of grass-fed milk, some creamed honey...

My latest find was Ficoco, a Fig and Cocoa spread that's made in Croatia (who finds these things??) If you're a fan of figs, raisins, or other dark tasting fruits you'll love this spread. I think the combination of figs and chocolate is kindof sexy. I ate it for breakfast today on some buckwheat crepes. I think it'd be great spread on some bread or mixed into some yogurt/ice cream too.

Vegetable Soup with Fennel, Herbs, and Parmesan Broth.

Vegetable Soup

This recipe came from the latest issue of Food and Wine Magazine. It's by Viana La Place, who is one of my favorite Italian cookbook authors. Cucina Fresca and Cucina Rustica are great books and I love them for their simple, fresh tastes.

I think this soup really highlights her style: on the page the ingredients seem a little plain, but the finished product is really flavorful and well-composed. Best of all, you don't need to make any stock. The soup gets plenty of punch from the fresh herbs and parmesan cheese.

Vegetable Soup with Fennel, Herbs, and Parmesan Broth
by Viana La Place for Food and Wine Magazine

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 carrots, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
2 celery ribs, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
2 leeks, white parts only, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
1 fennel bulb, halved, cored, and thinly sliced
1 medium tomato, cut into 1/2 inch dice
2 bay leaves, preferably fresh
6 cups water
One 3-inch square Parmigiano-Reggiano Rind
1 Tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese

1. Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot. Add the garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the carrots, celery, leeks, and fennel and cook, stirring, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato and bay leaves and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. Add the water and the cheese rind and bring to a simmer. Cover partially and cook over moderately low heat until the vegetables are very tender, about 30 minutes.
2. Discard the cheese rind and bay leaves. Stir in the parsley and basil and season the soup with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls, sprinkle with the grated cheese and serve.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Muffin Recipes.

Muffins do not equal cupcakes. To me, a good muffin has a hearty quality- usually from the addition of whole grains, tart dairy, or big chunks of nuts of fruit. I don't like them too sweet or soft like cake. They should be fairly simple: worthy of breakfast fare.

I love this pear, ginger, raisin muffin recipe from "Once Upon a Tart." The Chocolate, oatmeal, banana recipe is good, but I probably won't make it again for a long time. It's pleasantly chewy.

Pear Ginger Raisin Muffins
from "Once Upon a Tart"

2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt
3 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 large, ripe Anjou or Bosc pear, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 cup dark raisins

1. Position your oven racks so that one is in the center, and preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Smear six big muffin tin cups with butter (*I made 12 small ones, but they are damn good big.)
2. Whisk the flours, baking soda, ginger, and salt together in a medium-size bowl.
3. In a seperate, big bowl, whisk the eggs to break up the yolks. Still whisking with one hand, pour in the sugar with the other. Continue whisking for a few minutes, until the eggs begin to pale in color. Whisk in the oil and vanilla.
4. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet, stirring gently with a wooden spoon until there is just a little flour visible.
5. Scoop batter up with your spoon and using a rubber spatula, scrape the batter off the spoon into the cups of the muffin tin, filling them almost to the top. Divide the batter evenly between the cups.
6. Place the tin on the center rack of the oven and bake the muffins for 35-40 minutes (more like 15-20 for small ones,) or until a small knife or toothpick inserted deep into the center of one comes out clean.
7. Remove the tin from the oven, and place it on a wire rack. Let the muffins sit for a few minutes in the tin, until they're cool enough to touch. To remove the muffins, flip the tin upside down and let the muffins fall out onto the wire rack to cool. Or, even better, serve warm.

Oatmeal-Banana Muffins with Chocolate Chips
from "The Foster's Market Cookbook"

1 1/2 cups rolled oats
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup sugar
12 tbsp (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
3 large eggs
2 very ripe bananas, mashed
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup canola or safflower oil
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2. Line 12 large muffin cups with paper lines and spray the top part of the pan lightly with vegetable oil spray.
3. Place the oats on a baking sheet and toast for 10 minutes or until light golden. Set aside to cool.
4. Combine or sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl and stir in the oats.
5. Whisk together the sugar, butter, eggs, bananas, buttermilk, and oil in a seperate bowl until well blended.
6. Add the egg mixture to the flour and stir just until the dry ingredients are moist and blended. Do not overmix. Fold in the chocolate chips until distributed evenly throughout the batter.
7. Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin pan with a large ice cream scoop (1/3 cup scoop.) The batter will come to the top of the paper liner or pan.
8. Bake 25-30 minutes, until the tops of the muffins spring back when pressed lightly and a toothpick inserted in the center of the muffin comes out clean.
9. Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes. Turn the muffins out of the pan and serve immediately.

Choco-Hazelnut Ice Cream Sandwiches.

Chocolate Hazelnut Ice Cream Sandwiches

Chocolate Hazelnut Ice Cream Sandwiches

You know what- forget everything I said in the original version of this post. I just ate another one of these and they're delicious.

Maybe i'm too much of a perfectionist, but I think ice cream sandwiches are problematic. If the ice cream is too soft, you'll bite into the sandwich and half the ice cream will squash out the other end. If the ice cream is too frozen, it could hurt your teeth. For the most part it's a textural problem.

Chocolate Ice Cream Sandwich Cookies
from David Lebovitz's "The Perfect Scoop."

1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup (200g) sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
6 tablespoons (50g) unsweetened dutch process cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups (210g) flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 350F (175C.) Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
Beat together the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric stand mixer, or by hand, until smooth. Beat in the egg and vanilla.
In a seperate bowl, whisk together the cocoa, flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir the dry ingredients gradually into the creamed butter mixture until completely incorporated and there are no streaks of butter.
Form the dough into sixteen 1 1/2 inch (4cm) rounds. On the baking sheets, flatten the rounds so they're 3 inches (8cm) across, spacing them evenly. You can get 8 on a normal 11x17 baking sheet, with 3 going lengthwise down the sides and 2 in the center in between.
Bake for 20 minutes, rotating the baking sheets midway during baking, then remove from the oven.
Once cool, sandwich ice cream between the two cookies, then wrap each ice cream sandwich in plastic wrap and store in the freezer.

Hazelnut Ice Cream
from Emily Luchetti's "A Passion for Ice Cream."

4 large egg yolks
6 Tbsp sugar
1/8 tsp kosher salt
1/3 cup milk
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/3 cup hazelnuts, toasted, skinned, and coarsley chopped

In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, 3 tbsp of sugar, and the salt*. Combine the milk, cream, hazelnuts, and remaining 3 tbsp sugar in a heavy saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until almost simmering. Turn off the heat, cover the pan, and let the nuts infuse in the milk for 10 minutes. Slowly pour the milk mixture into the egg mixture, whisking as you pour. Return the egg mixture to the saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with a heat resistant plastic or wooden spatula, until the custard reaches 175F and lightly coats the spatula.

Pour the custard into a clean bowl and cool over an ice bath until room temperature. **Refrigerate the custard for at least 4 hours or overnight. Strain the custard, discarding the hazelnuts. Churn in an ice cream maker according to manufacturers instructions.

*I usually wait to combine the yolks and sugar until the milk is infused and ready to go. Yolks and sugar tend to curdle when they sit.

**I usually just chill it in an ice bath until it's pretty cold to the touch.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

My Favorite Flan.


I took this photo a while ago, but I never posted the recipe. I recieved this recipe from my 7th grade french/spanish teacher. I immediately loved it because it tasted just like the 10-inch flans my father would bring home from the now closed Cafe Noir in San Pedro, CA.

I hate overly eggy or slimy flans, and this one is neither. It's creamy and light with a caramelish taste accentuated by the evaporated milk. It beat Frankie's Argentinian grandmother's recipe when we had an impromptu flan-off. I find it's also very hard to mess up!

NOTES: I have never used a gas oven for this. Electric is just fine. I also usually caramelize the sugar in a saucepan and then dump it into the baking dish, as i'm not sure what my cake or pie pans would do on the stove. I also usually use a Pyrex 9in glass pie pan instead of the cake pan. I used a 9 inch metal cake pan once, but it was a little harder to unmold.

1 3/4 c. sugar
3 egg whites
8 egg yolks
2 cans (13oz each) evaporated milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
6 Tbsp brandy or rum (I have actually done the igniting part. I bet it'd be cool though.)

Put 1 cup sugar into a deep pan (9 inch round cake pan) in which the custard is to be baked. Place it on top burner over low flame, stirring constantly until the sugar melts and turns golden. Tip the pan around until it is entirely coated with the caramel, then cool while making the custard. Beat the whites and egg yolks together, add milk, remaining sugar, and vanilla, mixing well. Strain into the coated pan, cover, and place the pan in a larger pan containing hot water (In Spanish this is called a bano de Maria, or "Mary's Bath.") Bake in a gas oven at 350 for about 1 hour, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool somewhat but turn out onto a platter while still warm, or the caramel will not come loose from the pan. Flans are at their best when made hours before and thoroughly chilled. When ready to serve, pour heated brandy or rum over the flan and ignite. Serve while it is still flaming. Yield: 8 to 10 servings.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Banana Cakes, Room Progress.

Bill Granger's Banana Cake

This is the banana cake from "Bill's Open Kitchen" by Bill Granger. It's about the third time i've made it, and I unfortunately can't post the recipe right now because I returned the book to the library again.

Basically you make a caramel with butter, brown sugar, and maple syrup and layer the bananas and butter cake batter on top. I used honey instead of syrup this time around and it was really delicious.

Old Room

This is where i'm at in room decorating land. I definitely want to buy a new chair. Once again i'm feeling stuck though.

I feel much more moved into the new place, so i'll probably start baking again. I made hazelnut and salted caramel ice creams today which are chilling at the moment.

Monday, August 13, 2007


I won't be updating with baking photos for a little while because:

a) I am busy with moving and starting a new school.
b) There is no one to eat my baked things right now.

See you in an indefinite amount of time!