Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Tuesdays With Dorie: Translucent Maple Tuiles

Do you have baking plans? A list of recipes that you've been meaning to try? If so, you'll want to add this recipe to the very top of your list. I promise, those other recipes can wait - but this one can't.

It's this week's Tuesdays With Dorie recipe, Translucent Maple Tuiles. These cookies are amazing, addictive, and best of all, they're easy to make. I made a half-batch, and good thing, because we ate them all within a few hours. Sweet, crunchy, and packed with maple flavour.

The recipe was chosen by Clivia of Bubie's Little Baker. Thanks Clivia! Visit her blog for the recipe.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sweet Melissa Sundays: Earl Grey Tea Truffles

It's once again my turn to host Sweet Melissa Sundays. Christmas is less than a month away, and I thought I would choose a recipe that would fit right in during the holidays. Something you could add to a tin of assorted cookies, or bring all on its own as a sweet hostess gift, or even just polish off while you watch Love Actually for the fifth time. Just me?

Between my fondness of the holidays and my ingrained love of tea (I am half-Scottish, after all), what choice did I have but to make Earl Grey Tea Truffles?

At the risk of being too articulate, these truffles are goo-ooo-ood. The slightly bitter taste of melting dark chocolate followed immediately by the fragrant, bergamot aftertaste of Earl Grey tea? Yes, please.

I hope you enjoyed these as much as I did. Thank you for baking along with me!

Earl Grey Tea Truffles
From the Sweet Melissa Baking Book
Makes about 5 dozen truffles

1 pound best-quality bittersweet (64-68%) chocolate
2 cups heavy cream
3 tbsp loose Earl Grey tea leaves, or the tea leaves from 7 tea bags
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup best-quality unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder, for rolling

1. Chop the chocolate into small pieces and put in a large bowl.
2. In a small saucepan over medium heat, heat the heavy cream and tea leaves to scalding. Turn off the heat, cover, and allow to steep for 15 minutes.
3. Return the cream to the heat and bring to scalding again. Strain the cream over the chocolate to cover completely. Set aside for 5 minutes and then whisk until smooth.
4. Whisk in the butter to the still-warm chocolate mixture until smooth.
5. Refrigerate until the truffle base is firm enough to scoop, at least 2 hours. Using a small #100 cookie scoop or a teaspoon, scoop out the truffle base and form into balls by rolling them around quickly in your hands.
6. Place the cocoa powder in a shallow soup bowl. Roll each truffle in the cocoa powder to cover.

The truffles are best eaten at room temperature. They keep refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 month. Let come to room temperature before serving.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Tuesdays With Dorie Rewind: Rick Katz's Brownies for Julia

This week's Tuesdays With Dorie is something I've been looking forward to for quite awhile. Instead of baking a particular recipe, we've been given the chance to go back in the archives and bake something we missed the first time around.

It's like time travel for desserts.

I chose Rick Katz's Brownies for Julia because Dorie's brownies recipes are the best I've ever had, and I assumed that this recipe would be no different. I voted for the safe bet. But I'm glad I did.

Texturally speaking, these brownies are half-fudge and half-brownies. They're incredibly rich. But as you can see, that didn't stop my husband and me from indulging.

For the recipe, visit Chocolate Chic.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Tuesdays With Dorie: Peanuttiest Blondies

This week's Tuesdays With Dorie recipe is not something you'll have any trouble devouring: peanuttiest blondies, chosen by Nicole of Bakeologie.

Peanut butter. Peanuts. Chocolate. Well, in my case, mini m&ms. I can't think of a more fool-proof combination of flavours.

Not so fool-proof is my oven, which burned the bottom of these despite me baking them at 25 degrees less than the recipe called for, and rotating the pan halfway through. It's a testament to these blondies, though, that they were delicious despite their burnt bottoms.

Trust me: you're going to want to make these. For the recipe, visit Nicole's blog.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Tuesdays With Dorie: All-American, All-Delicious Deep Dish Apple Pie

I guess this is the month of pies. Two pies in as many weeks. This time I made All-American, All-Delicious Deep Dish Apple Pie (which I guarantee you cannot say five times fast). It was chosen by Emily of Sandmuffin for Tuesdays With Dorie.

Oh, TWD, I hate how much I love you. This is not the best time for me to be slaving over pies - a pile of yet-to-be-written thank you cards await - but I did it, and I'm glad. So is my belly. So is my husband's belly. And tomorrow, so too will be the bellies of his fellow grad students.

Not so glad are my neighbours, who were treated to the musical stylings of our apartment's hypersensitive smoke alarm while the pie was baking. It went off about five minutes after I put the pie (which was not burning in the slightest) in the oven, and then continued to beep every time I dared to stop fanning it for more than, literally, five seconds. By the time my significantly taller husband got home to help me wrap a tea towel around the alarm (just until the pie was finished baking, please don't tell the fire marshall), my arms had quite the workout.

Which is good, I guess, because this pie is amazing and I can't stop eating it. Now, I'm not a huge fan of pie crust, so I went with a crumble topping instead. This was a good choice, I think. The two best apple desserts in one enormous package.

You should make this pie. Visit Emily's blog for the recipe.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sweet Melissa Sundays: Peanut Brittle

This week's Sweet Melissa Sundays recipe, Peanut Brittle (chosen by JoVonn of The Givens Chronicles) is perfectly timed. Halloween is fast approaching, and peanut brittle is just the kind of thing I associate with the Halloweens of yesteryear, when nobody worried about whether candy had been tampered with. Even in my own childhood, I remember receiving balls of sticky caramel popcorn and candy apples. I imagine that's pretty rare now.

I live in an apartment, so I won't be giving out any treats this year. And sadly, even if I could, I don't think this recipe would make the cut. For whatever reason, it never firmed up properly, staying very sticky and chewy when eaten. It was more like chewing gum than peanut brittle. And it was quite bland.

Still, though, I always love a chance to test out my candy making skills! For the recipe, visit JoVonn's blog.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tuesdays With Dorie: Caramel Pumpkin Pie

Hi. My name is Kait, and I'm a bad blogger. It's been nearly three months since my last blog post. But I have a good reason, I swear!

I married the love of my life almost two months ago. It was the best day of my life, and worth all of the stress of wedding planning. But the weeks leading up to it were some of the busiest of my life. Immediately after that, I spent two weeks in Europe, and just after that started a brand new job. Suffice it to say, my life is pretty nuts right now. And I find my interest in blogging not waning...but shifting. I'm hoping to start a new blog soon, one that still has a focus on food, but leaves room for me to share all of the other things going on in my life.

In the meantime, though, I'm stoking the embers of this blog with a Tuesdays With Dorie post. As crazy as my life has been, I just can't give up on my Dorie fix. It just wouldn't be right.

And so I made this week's recipe, Caramel Pumpkin Pie (chosen by Janell of Mortensen Family Memoirs) on Thanksgiving Monday, after a morning spent apple packing with my new husband.

Making this pie was, sadly, not the relaxing Thanksgiving tradition I'd had in mind. The pie crust was burnt way before it was even supposed to be done; the caramel was half-burnt and half-raw on my uneven stovetop, and the filling only came halfway up the sides of the crust. Not exactly the outcome I'd hoped for after spending all day making the pie.

Oh, well. Better luck next time!

To see how other bakers fared, visit Tuesdays With Dorie. I think they had better luck than me! For the recipe, visit Janell's blog.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

TWD: Chewy, Chunky Blondies

This week's recipe just may be the dessert bar to end all dessert bars: chewy, chunky blondies. They're a lot like chocolate chip cookies, but amped up with toffee bits and coconut and cut into thick squares. I could eat these all day. If someone doesn't take the bowl of them away from me soon, I just might.

Thanks to Nicole of Cookies on Friday for choosing such a stellar recipe! I know my fiance will be begging me to make this one again - assuming I don't cave to my own lack of willpower and make it again tomorrow.

Visit Nicole's blog for the recipe - you won't regret it.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

TWD: Lots of Ways of Banana Cake

I've never been known for being patient. So this week's Tuesdays With Dorie pick, Lots of Ways of Banana Cake (chosen by Kimberly of Only Creative Opportunities), was a bit of a challenge for me.

When I want to bake something, I want to bake it now. Banana cake requires waiting for bananas to over-ripen. I don't like baking according to the whims of produce. So after four days of waiting for my bananas to show their spots, I was thrilled to finally make this cake tonight after work.

It was well worth the wait. This cake is light and moist with an irresistible banana-coconut flavour. The added texture of the toasted coconut, present in every bite, elevates the dish for me. It's not often that I go back for seconds of a banana bread (or cake), but I made an exception for Lots of Ways of Banana Cake.

For the recipe, visit Kimberly's blog.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

SMS: Chocolate Walnut Brownies

This week's Sweet Melissa Sundays pick, Chocolate Walnut Brownies (chosen by Tiffany of A Spoonful & a Heap), was a bit of an experiment for me. I've never liked nuts in brownies, but thought I'd give them a try - you know, just in case my palate had changed. Of course, I didn't forge ahead that bravely - I made just half of the recipe, pouring it into mini muffin tins.

Unfortunately, I overcooked the brownies, but was impressed by their rich nutty flavour, if not their texture. I was slightly less impressed with myself for not having enough willpower to avoid scarfing these down like I hadn't eaten in days, but it was worth it. After all, I overcame a food aversion that I've carried since my childhood.

Thanks to Tiffany for this great, classic pick! Visit her blog for the recipe.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sweet Melissa Sundays: Butterscotch Pralines

Sometimes it's fun to bake something completely foreign to you. This week's Sweet Melissa Sundays pick, Butterscotch Pralines (chosen by Tess of The Cookin' Chemist), is the perfect example of that.

Pralines are a southern dessert, and I am not a southern gal. True, I grew up in Canada's southernmost area. But although, if the stereotypes are true, they are both home to good, kind people, Canada's south and The Deep South couldn't be more different.

Point being, I had no idea what pralines were prior to making this recipe. But after realizing the recipe involved candy-making, I was sold. I love making baked goods that require the use of a thermometer, like toffee. Maybe it's because they're usually pretty easy, or maybe it's the fact that they produce goods so sugary they instantly satisfy my sweet tooth.

These pralines were a big hit - creamy, sweet, and nutty, they tasted just like fudge. Maybe I'll tip my hat to southern Canada next time and add maple extract. Thank you, Tess, for such a lovely choice! Visit her blog for the recipe.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Tuesdays With Dorie: Apple-Apple Bread Pudding

This week's Tuesdays With Dorie recipe, Apple-Apple Bread Pudding, chosen by Elizabeth of Cake or Death?, couldn't have come at a better time for me.

You see, I've been sick since last week. Not deathly ill, thankfully, but the kind of ill that makes life pretty unpleasant nonetheless. It started out with a sore throat, shortness of breath, and an overwhelming urge to lie down on any flat surface - a desk, the floor, a book trolley at work. Then it mutated into the kind of cough that has prevented me from sleeping more than 20 minutes in a row for the past five nights. Five nights!

After five sleepless nights - four when I made this recipe yesterday - my brain is positively fried. Simple logic? Can't do it. Common sense? It's temporarily flown the coop. So this week, I needed a Tuesdays With Dorie recipe that was easy, and also soothing. Very soothing.

Enter apple-apple bread pudding. There were quite a few steps, sure, but they were all very methodical and pretty straightforward. I can slice apples. I can melt butter with sugar. And I can make a custard, especially when it doesn't involve tireless stirring over the stove top. And I can do all of these things - well, not in my sleep, but with a severe lack of sleep.

This recipe was a huge success, and makes a wonderful dessert or breakfast (hey, there are eggs and fruit in it, and I used whole wheat bread). Creamy custard, caramelized apples, texture from the bread, and an inviting complexity from the apple butter. Dorie, you've done it again.

Thank you Elizabeth! For the recipe, visit her blog.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Tuesdays With Dorie: Quick Classic Berry Tart

Lately I feel like I've lost my kitchen mojo. Does that ever happen to you? Suddenly, the things you used to be good at don't come as naturally. I knew I was in trouble when I couldn't crack an egg properly anymore. I've been fishing tiny specks of eggshell out of my cracked eggs for weeks now.

And every so often, a recipe will turn out not quite as expected. I think it happens when I get more concerned with following a recipe than trusting my own intuition.

This week's Tuesdays With Dorie recipe, Quick Classic Berry Tart (chosen by Cristine of Cooking with Cristine), was, unfortunately, more of the same. Of course, there were the bits of eggshell needing to be fished out. But the main problem was the pastry cream, which I overcooked. It looked just fine last night, but after taking it out of the fridge today, it remained a solid, springy jelly. The flavour was still fantastic - like custard - but the texture was quite off-putting. Oh, and doesn't it look silly? Almost like scrambled eggs.

With a crumbly shortbread-like crust - more proof my kitchen mojo's gone on hiatus? - and slightly sour strawberries, this tart was not a winner. Perhaps I'll try it again when I get my mojo back! For the recipe, visit Cristina's blog. And feel free to check out the other participating bloggers, who I'm sure fared much better than I.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Slow Cooker Beef Tacos with Queso Fresco

Has there ever been an ingredient that eludes you, no matter where you search? For me, for a long time, that ingredient was queso fresco - a Latin American cheese that's reminiscent of cottage cheese. I first had it on a trip to Mexico with my mom, where it was sprinkled liberally on, well, lots of things, from huevos rancheros to tacos. That was over four years ago, and after searching supermarkets, Latino food stores and cheese shops from Toronto to Leamington to Florida, I had never been able to find any - until last month, when I discovered a Latino food shop in my own city with a ton of different cheeses for sale, including queso fresco.

When life hands you queso fresco, make tacos. That's not how that saying goes, of course, but maybe it should. Because queso fresco and tacos make one great pairing.

This recipe for slow cooker beef tacos, modified from a Rick Bayless recipe, reminds me of every authentic taco I've ever had at Mexican restaurants - tender, saucy beef sprinkled with mild, fresh cheese. If you can't find queso fresco, you can try other cheeses - feta, goat cheese, even cheddar or mozzarella. It won't have the same flavour or texture, but it will add the cheesiness that, to me anyway, is crucial to any good taco.

Slow Cooker Beef Tacos with Queso Fresco
Serves 8

2 pounds stewing beef, cut into 1 inch pieces
28 oz. can diced tomatoes in juice
4 canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, seeded and sliced
1 tbsp. adobo sauce from can of chipotles
1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. dried oregano
3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1.5 tsp salt
24 warm corn tortillas, store-bought or homemade
1 cup crumbled Mexican queso fresco or other cheese (feta, goat cheese, mozzarella, cheddar, etc.)
Fresh tomatoes, diced (optional)
Iceberg lettuce, shredded or thinly sliced (optional)
Sour cream (optional)

Add the beef to the bowl of a slow cooker. In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes (with their juices) with the chipotle peppers, adobo sauce, Worcestershire, oregano, garlic, onion and salt. Pour the tomato mixture evenly over the beef. Cover and slow-cook on high for 6 hours. It can rest on your slow cooker's warm setting for up to 4 more hours.

When it's time to eat, spoon off the fat that has accumulated on top of the beef mixture - or don't, if you're feeling lazy. Shred the beef using two regular forks - this should be easy. Taste the meat and season with salt and pepper if necessary. Serve with the warm tortillas, crumbled cheese and optional garnishes (tomatoes, lettuce, sour cream). Depending on who you ask, these garnishes aren't authentic - but a lot of the authentic Mexican restaurants I've been to serve them, and the fresh, bright flavour they add is a great contrast to the slow-cooked beef.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Tuesdays With Dorie: Chockablock Cookies

There are moments in our lives that present an opportunity for growth; a chance to stretch beyond the boundaries of our comfort zone, if only we would take the risk. The making of this week's Tuesdays With Dorie recipe (Chockablock Cookies, chosen by Mary of Popsicles and Sandy Feet), despite my intentions, was not one of those moments.

You see, I know that I don't like dried fruit in cookies. I never have. Oatmeal raisin cookies? No, thanks - those stayed in the cookie jar when I was a kid. Fig newtons? Nope, not my style. But I occasionally dip my toes into the dried-fruit-in-cookies pond, just to see if my opinion has changed.

Unfortunately, it hasn't. Which is a shame, because this cookie was so promising. Coconut, chocolate chips, molasses - what's not to love about that? But then, that dastardly dried fruit - in my case, dried cranberries.

If anyone could convert me, it's Dorie. So I think it's time to put the nail in this particular coffin - dried fruit in baked goods is just not for me. Sigh.

Thank you, Mary, for choosing a recipe that convinced me to give dried fruit another chance! If you are a dried fruit fan, visit her blog for the recipe, which I'm sure you'll love.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sweet Melissa Sundays: Strawberry-Cranberry Cobbler

This week's Sweet Melissa Sundays recipe was an exercise in flexibility. It was supposed to be Strawberry-Rhubarb Cobbler Pie, as chosen by Tracey of Tracey's Culinary Adventures.I was so excited to make the recipe, as strawberry-rhubarb is one of my favourite fruit combinations. The problem? I have yet to find rhubarb at any grocery stores or farmers' markets. Boo.

I was also out of lemons, the zest of which was supposed to add flavour to the cobbler topping. I used freshly ground cardamom instead, which worked well.

I thought I'd try an equally tart fruit, so I substituted cranberries, which ended up being an incredible pairing. I've never had the two berries together, but they complemented each other perfectly. I'm thinking about making strawberry-cranberry jam this summer.

The other key ingredient I was missing? Energy. I just ran out of the time and motivation to make a pie crust, and so I didn't, making this cobbler pie just a plain old cobbler.

But it really was a fantastic dessert, with a double dose of bright berry flavour and sweet flaky biscuits on top. The filling was sweeter than it needed to be and never really set up properly, but a bit less sugar and a bit more corn starch ought to fix that. The flavour of this one makes it worth trying again.

Thanks for the great choice, Tracey! Visit her blog for the recipe.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

I'm back with a...whimper (Tuesdays With Dorie: Sweet Cream Biscuits)

Hello? Is anyone still out there? It's me, Kait, sheepishly returning to my blog after a much-needed but much-guilt-inducing month off. And what a month it's been. A new apartment, the end of school (well, in two days, anyway), job application after job application. I love our apartment, although there are still many boxes to unpack. I can't wait for school to be done (hopefully forever). And the job situation? Well, it's a work in progress.

I was hoping to come back with a bang, but my attempt at today's Tuesdays With Dorie recipe, Sweet Cream Biscuits chosen by Melissa of Love At First Bite, was decidedly lackluster.

I'm positive it wasn't the recipe itself (flour, cream, baking powder, salt - no butter!), as I snuck a few bites of the raw dough scraps and they were heavenly - creamy, slightly salty.

I know for a fact that I handled the dough too much, a big no-no when it comes to biscuit making. I got a bit too overzealous when I rolled out the dough, despite Dorie's express warning against this very mistake. The dough ended up about 1/4 of an inch thick, half of the thickness I was aiming for. So I decided to fold the dough upon itself and roll it together. That didn't work (the two halves separated). So I smushed the whole thing back into a ball and started from scratch.

I knew I was doomed when the dough kept springing back after being rolled. It was way too elastic. The result: biscuit hockey pucks. Such a shame.

Still, I'm intrigued by the concept of this recipe, and think it would be a great recipe to try again the next time I need to use up a ton of heavy cream quickly. But next time, I'll use a lighter hand. For the recipe, visit Melissa's blog.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Sweet Melissa Sundays: Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Icing

This post will be short and sweet because, well, life is crazy these days.

There are three weeks left in my semester before exams. Which means there are three weeks left in my university career, period. I've got a seemingly endless list of assignments and essays to complete in that time frame, and a mean case of senioritis that's severely limiting how quickly I can get it all done.

And, pending some unforeseen decision from our potential new landlord, we will be moving to a new apartment on April 1. I am so, so excited about that - it feels like my fiance and I are finally starting our grown-up lives together - but before the excitement comes the packing. Oh, the packing. And our 4th anniversary this week means we're taking a short vacation to Toronto. Are we crazy? Yes, it's very likely.

So, alas, a post short on (food) details.

A Sweet Melissa Sundays pick, chosen by Julie of A Little Bit of Everything: Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Icing. I halved the recipe because we've only got three days to eat this, and a double layer cake just should not be eaten by two people in three days. I haven't made the icing yet due to, you guessed it, a lack of time. I can say, though, that the cake itself is a reliable recipe, but a bit run-of-the-mill. Now, perhaps my taste buds have been tainted because I had the most delicious carrot cake of my life at a friend's house recently, but nonetheless: this one is just a bit bland, as far as carrot cakes go. I'm hoping the icing will elevate it, but still, it's not the dark, moist carrot cake I'm used to.

For the recipe, please visit Julie's blog.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sweet Melissa Sundays: Sugar Cookies

This week's Sweet Melissa Sundays pick is Sugar Cookies, chosen by Nina of Nina's Cupcakes.

Based on the comments for this recipe, I have to admit, I was a little scared. And when I pressed onward, adding extra sugar and lemon zest as was suggested, and the dough stuck almost completely to my wooden cutting board, I nearly gave up. I was feeling a bit dramatic, I suppose; stressed out about school and not feeling like I had time to really make the cookies in the first place.

But I scraped the dough off the board, tossed it back into the freezer to chill quickly, and started over. My fiance, sensing my frustration (perhaps because of a couple of curses), washed the cutting board and rolling pin for me to start fresh. Gotta love him. With the cutting board coated in flour, the re-chilled dough rolled out like a dream.

I used my new cupcake-shaped cookie cutter from Crate & Barrel, and then made royal icing with meringue powder.

The combination of the lemony, buttery cookies and the sweet, crunchy icing is perfect. I think the extra lemon and sugar really helped - these cookies are so flavourful. Plus, the cuteness of the cupcake-cookies gives me a little mood boost whenever I spot them in the cookie jar. Obviously, a mood boost comes in handy at this point in the semester.

For the recipe, visit Nina's blog.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tuesdays With Dorie: Honey-Wheat Cookies

A month with two batches of Dorie cookies is a very good month, indeed. After my turn hosting Dorie's chocolate chip cookie recipe last week (yay!), it's time to pass the torch - can you tell I've been watching the Olympics nonstop? - to another cookie recipe, chosen by Michelle of Flourchild.

Honey-Wheat Cookies. Honey-laden, lemon-infused, wheat germ cookies. It all sounds a bit hippie-ish, but really, these are the kind of cookies that belong beside tea, not wheatgrass juice (or whatever it is that hippies drink).

The lemon zest lends its bright intensity, and the wheat germ is a really nice touch. It adds texture and a nice wholesome flavour. These disappeared around here, almost before I was able to photograph them! A definite make-again recipe.

Thanks for the pick, Michelle! You can find the recipe on her blog.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Tuesdays With Dorie: My Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t like chocolate chip cookies. It’s true. They might be out there, but if so, they’re not easy to find.

So, naturally, the competition for the title of Best Chocolate Chip Cookie is steep. But Dorie Greenspan claims to have the winner. Although I think her recipe needs a few modifications, she’s not wrong. These just might be the Best Chocolate Chip Cookies ever.

I am so glad that I chose them for a very special week: my turn to host Tuesdays With Dorie. It’s hard to believe it’s already my turn. When I signed up a year and a half ago, it seemed so far away. Now, after making 42 recipes, it’s my shot. I’m a cookie fanatic, so I couldn’t resist trying out a new chocolate chip cookie recipe. I hope everyone enjoyed it!

Now, on to the cookies. Let’s start with the drawbacks. I baked the cookies on three different batches of cookie sheets, trying a slightly different method each time. The first batch ended up flat, almost melted, and fairly burnt after 10 minutes of cooking, although still edible.

(the first batch)

I chilled the second batch in the refrigerator while the first batch baked, and then baked it for 9 minutes. These fared better than the first, but were still a bit too dark and flat for my liking.

For the third batch, I tossed the remaining batter in the freezer until it was very firm but not frozen. I also baked them for 8 minutes. This was, in my opinion, the best way to bake them. They looked much, much better.

(the cookies getting progressively better)

And the taste? Phenomenal: the perfect counterbalance of vanilla-scented batter and rich chocolate chips. They were perfectly chewy, too; even the ones that were bordering on burnt softened up nicely in the cookie jar. I made half of the batch with walnuts and half without, and although the walnuts were fun to try, I still prefer this recipe without nuts.

Now that I know the proper method with which to make them, they’re my new favourite chocolate chip cookies. And my fiancé’s, too.

Thanks so much for baking with me! I'm in (hopefully sunny) Florida right now and depending on the internet situation, may or may not be able to comment on everyone's blogs right away. But I will do it once I'm back home. I look forward to seeing what you all think.

My Best Chocolate Chip Cookies
From pg. 68 of Baking From My Home to Yours
Makes 45 cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chips, or 2 cups store-bought chocolate chips or chunks
1 cup finely chopped walnuts (optional) or pecans (optional)


Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

Whisk together the flour, salt, and baking soda.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with the paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed for about 1 minute, until smooth. Add the sugars and beat for another 2 minutes or so, until well-blended. Beat in the vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each egg goes in. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients in 3 portions, mixing only until each addition is incorporated. On low speed, or by hand with a rubber spatula, mix in the chocolate and nuts. (The dough can be covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen. If you'd like, you can freeze rounded tablespoons of dough, ready for baking. Freeze the mounds on a lined baking sheet, then bag them when they're solid. There's no need to defrost the dough before baking - just add another minute or two to the baking time.)

Spoon the dough by slightly rounded tablespoonfuls onto the baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between spoonfuls.

Bake the cookies - one sheet at a time and rotating the sheet at the midway point - for 10 to 12 minutes, or until they are brown at the edges and golden in the center; they may still be a little soft in the middle, and that's just fine. Pull the sheet from the oven and allow the cookies to rest for 1 minute, then carefully, using a wide metal spatula, transfer them to racks to cool to room temperature.

Repeat with the remainder of the dough, cooling the baking sheets between batches.

The cooking can be kept in a cookie jar or sealed container for about four days, or wrapped airtight and frozen for up to two months.

Cocoa Chocolate Chip Cookies: use 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour and 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder.
Espresso Chocolate Chip Cookies: add 1 1/2 tbsp instant espresso powder after you add the vanilla extract.
Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies: use 1 1/2 sticks (12 tbsp) of unsalted butter and a 1/2 cup peanut butter (you can use chunky or smooth, but it's best not to use natural peanut butter, which will not give you the right texture). Beat them together before adding the sugars. Use salted peanuts instead of walnuts or pecans.
Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies: Add 1 1/2 cups sweetened shredded coconut, toasted or not, to the dough when you add the chocolate chips and nuts. Why not go all the way and add some raisins or bits of dried apricots?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

A truffled version of Barefoot Contessa's Grown Up Mac and Cheese

In my life I’ve surely tried a dozen macaroni and cheese recipes or more, ranging from boxed mac and cheese (of which I’m a bit of a connoisseur) to the real, made-from-scratch deal (of which I’m striving to be a better connoisseur).

I never get sick of the instant comfort macaroni and cheese provides, and how adaptable it is. But I still view it as a homey, curl-up-on-the-couch kind of food, not the type of dish you’d serve when entertaining.

Leave it to Ina Garten (and a twist or two of my own) to change my opinion.

Garten’s Grown Up Mac and Cheese is perfectly named. With a mix of Gruyere (or Swiss), cheddar, and blue cheeses, it has a very sophisticated taste. I love the complexity of the three cheeses combined. They’re all very sharp on their own, so together it’s quite a whopping flavour combination, with nuttiness from the Swiss cheese and saltiness from the blue.

I can see why it’s for grown-ups – I don’t know if my niece’s or nephews’ palates are developed enough for this recipe!

I omitted the bacon, used whole wheat macaroni, stirred a bit of truffle oil into the macaroni and cheese, and sprinkled panko bread crumbs and grated Parmesan on top. I loved these changes, especially the earthy truffle flavour. I also believe this recipe serves 3, not 2 as Ina says, because a recipe with this much cheese just cannot be served, in good conscience, to only two people.

Truffled Grown Up Mac and Cheese
(Original recipe here)
Serves 3

2 cups whole wheat elbow macaroni
1 1/2 cups milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 ounces Swiss cheese, grated
3 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar, grated
2 ounces blue cheese, such as Roquefort, crumbled
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch nutmeg
1 tsp truffle oil (optional)
Approximately 1/3 cup panko bread crumbs
Parmesan cheese

Add the macaroni to a large pot of boiling salted water and cook according to the directions on the package, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain well.

Meanwhile, heat the milk in a small saucepan, but don't boil it. You could also microwave it in a bowl or measuring cup at 20 second intervals, until it is hot. Melt the butter in a medium pot and add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk. While whisking, add the hot milk and cook for a few minutes more, until thickened and smooth. Off the heat, add the Swiss, Cheddar, blue cheese, truffle oil, 1 teaspoon salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Add the cooked macaroni and stir well. Pour into a buttered 8x8” or 9x9” casserole dish.

Turn on your oven’s broiler. Sprinkle panko bread crumbs (about 1/3 cup or to taste) over the macaroni, and then grate parmesan over the bread crumbs.

Place casserole dish in the oven, watching it carefully so it doesn’t burn. When the cheese has melted and the panko crumbs are slightly toasted (they don’t tend to darken much), remove the dish from the oven. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Tuesdays With Dorie: Cocoa-Nana Bread

Some recipes sound so promising on paper, but fall flat in the execution. Others surpass even your greatest expectations. I'm afraid this week's Tuesdays With Dorie pick, Cocoa-Nana Bread, chosen by Steph of Obsessed With Baking, belongs to the former group.

Cocoa-Nana Bread. What's not to like? A rich batter strongly flavoured by cocoa powder. Semi-sweet chocolate chips added to the mixture to intensify the chocolate taste. And, of course, bananas: two of them, in fact.

The end result, though, was nothing spectacular. Not bad - just not as good as I was expecting. I couldn't taste the banana, leaving me with a run-of-the-mill (and rather dry) plain chocolate cake. Unfortunately, this isn't one I'd make again, although I appreciate the concept.

Thanks to Steph for this choice, and if you're interested in trying it out, click here for the recipe.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Tuesdays With Dorie: Chocolate Oatmeal Almost-Candy Bars

I’m a big fan of what I’ll call Dorie Greenspan’s “combo-desserts.” In my time with Tuesdays With Dorie, I’ve made cloyingly rich chocolate chip cookie-covered brownies. And I’ve made chocolate chip cookie bars smothered in chocolate and sprinkled with nutty Heath toffee bits. This week’s Tuesdays With Dorie pick, Chocolate Oatmeal Almost Candy Bars, belongs in the same vein.

In this recipe, chosen by Lillian of Confectiona’s Realm, two layers of chewy peanut- and oat-filled cookie batter sandwich a layer of soft, creamy semi-sweet chocolate fudge. The contrast between the chocolate and the cookie batter, both in terms of taste and texture, is perfect: softness from the chocolate and chewiness from the oats; saltiness from the peanuts and sweetness from the batter itself and the chocolate. The peanuts also give the bars a nice crunch, and of course, help create that unbeatable (at least, to me) chocolate and peanut butter flavour pairing.

The recipe also tastes different depending on the temperature at which it’s served: fresh from the fridge, I found the differences in texture less pronounced. At room temperature, the diverse flavours and textures popped.

Regardless of the temperature, though, this recipe is a winner. Thanks, Lillian, for the excellent choice! I can’t wait to make it again. Click here to visit her blog and snag the recipe.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Sweet Melissa Sundays: Brownie Ice Cream Pie with Chocolate Pie Crust

This week's Sweet Melissa Sundays pick made SMS members everywhere the deciders of their own dessert destiny. Yes, one element of the dish was predetermined by this week's host, Donna of L'Amour de Tarte: chocolate pie crust. But everyone knows that a pie crust needs a filling, and that's where our own creativity got to play a huge role: we could choose our own filling from outside of The Sweet Melissa Baking Book.

My pick? Ice cream and brownies, or, brownie ice cream pie. Yum.

Now, a lot of the barometers for what makes a good pie dough kind of go out the window when you throw it in the freezer after it's baked. Was the finished crust light and flaky? I have no idea - it was too frozen to tell.

But I can say that it was relatively easy to throw together, although it did require more than double the water called for the in the recipe, and probably could have used more. I can also say that it wasn't very sweet, which came in handy with a filling that was very high in sugar. But for a less sweet filling, the dough would definitely need more sugar. It also wasn't very pretty, but I'm blaming that more on my dismal dough-rolling skills than on the recipe itself.

In the end, I just loved this recipe because it was chocolate pie crust. I had never heard of such a recipe before, and I can't find too much fault with anything that allows me to infuse chocolate flavour into a pie crust. There are so many fillings that would benefit from this crust: peanut butter, coconut, caramel. Even berries.

My own filling was very semi-homemade. Store-bought ice cream along with brownies made from store-bought mix. I added about 1L of vanilla ice cream to a bowl and crumbled cooled brownies into it, then stirred it together until it was well-blended and looked like cookies and cream ice cream.

I don't think I would freeze the crust again as it was just too hard. But the flavour combination was fantastic: the unsweetened, slightly bitter flavour of the crust contrasted by the rich chocolate sweetness of the brownies and unmatchable taste of vanilla. And pretty to look at, too.

For the pie crust recipe, visit L'Amour de Tarte.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Curtis Stone's Pots of Gold

After a much-needed break, I am back - to school and to this blog.

This semester is shaping up to be very interesting. I'm taking a food writing class, and I think it's going to be a fantastic learning experience. I think it will help me to develop a more distinctive voice, something I've always felt that this blog lacks.

In addition to improving my writing, I'm also looking to improve my health - and after the holidays, I know I'm not the only person who is. My willpower is annually on hiatus from December 24 to January 1. After a holiday with seven different Christmas celebrations (all but one with food) and even a couple of New Year's gatherings, my body needs some help. So consider today's recipe a bit of self-sabotage: Curtis Stone's Pots of Gold.

You might think calling a dessert a "pot of gold" is a bit hyperbolic. And most of the time, it probably would be. But in this case, you'd be wrong - here's why: This recipe involves a layer of dark caramel covered by thick, creamy custard. Sound enticing? It is.

(a before and after of the caramel)

Think of it as a reverse creme brulee. Rather than crack through a layer of hard caramel, your spoon cuts through the springy custard and a pool of syrupy caramel spills out. It is absolutely delicious, and worthy of its golden name.

Ah, Curtis Stone. Eye candy and culinary talent to spare. Here's the recipe:

Pots of Gold
From Relaxed Cooking with Curtis Stone
Serves 6

1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water

1 1/3 cup heavy cream
1 1/3 cup whole milk (Note: I used 1% to great effect)
1/2 cup sugar
3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract

Position an oven rack in center of oven and preheat to 275F. Set six 6-oz ramekins in a roasting pan.

To make caramel, combine sugar and 1/4 cup water in a medium size heavy-bottomed saucepan. Stir gently over medium heat for 5 minutes or until sugar dissolves. Then boil without stirring, occasionally swirling pan, until syrup turns a deep golden brown, about 4 minutes. Immediately remove saucepan from heat and divide syrup among the ramekins, tilting each ramekin to coat the bottom. Note that if you add syrup to the same ramekin twice, the first layer of caramel will set and not dissolve - which is okay, but makes clean up not so fun. Try to accurately guess how much to put in each ramekin on your first attempt. Set the ramekins aside and allow caramel to cool until hardened, about 10 minutes.

Bring cream, milk and sugar to simmer in medium size heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly until sugar dissolves. Remove pan from heat and let cool slightly, about 5 minutes. Whisk eggs, egg yolks and vanilla in a large bowl to blend. Gradually whisk cooled cream mix into egg mix. Strain custard through sieve into a large cup measuring cup (4 cups or larger). Pour custard over hardened caramel in ramekins, dividing it equally.

Transfer roasting pan to oven. Pour enough hot water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake until outer 1 inch perimeter of custards is slightly set but centers are still loose, about 1 hour. To test whether it’s cooked push a small knife into the center of one of the dishes; if caramel rises out of the hole made by the knife, they are done.

Remove roasting pan from oven and remove cups to a cooling rack. When slightly cooled, refrigerate overnight.

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