We had a long discussion at work about cookies and in particular, Snickerdoodles.

I had never baked them, but found a good sounding recipe in King Arthur Flour Cookie Compendium and gave them a shot this morning. They turned out very nice. Crispy on the outside and soft in the middle. I’ll be making these again.

Dough:
1/2 cup (92g) vegetable shortening
1/2 cup (1 stick, 113g) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cup (298g) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoon baking powder
2 large eggs
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 3/4 cups (326g) unbleached all-purpose flour

Coating:
1/2 cup (99g) sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon

  1. Preheat oven to 400F. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) two baking sheets.
  2. To make dough: in a medium-sized bowl, cream together the shortening, butter, sugar, vanilla, and baking powder, beating until smooth. Add the eggs, again beating until smooth, stopping to scrape the bowl once. Add the flour and salt, mixing slowly until combined.
  3. To make coating: Mix the sugar and cinnamon together in a shallow bowl (or in a large plastic bag).
  4. Using a cookie scoop or your fingers, dip out 1 level tablespoon of dough (a teaspoon cookie scoop, generously filled, works well) and roll it into a ball. Place the ball of dough in the bowl or bag of cinnamon sugar. When you’ve got 5 or 6 dough balls in the sugar, gently shake them until completely covered. Place them on the prepared baking sheets, about 1 1/2 inches apart. Using the bottom of a glass, flatten each cookie to about 1/2 inch thickness. Repeat with remaining dough.
  5. Bake for 8 minutes, or until they are golden brown around the edges. Remove from oven and transfer to a wire rack for cooling.

Recipe says the yield was 7 dozen, but I was only able to get about 4 dozen cookies. I probably was making too large balls of dough. 8 minutes worked out perfectly for my oven.

I had a couple of *very* ripe bananas lying around and a recipe I wanted to try.

Banana bread turned out delicious. Really nothing special, but it is so tasty with very ripe bananas. Be gentle with mixing of the flour. Just enough to incorporate.

Greasing and flouring only the bottom of a regular loaf pan causes the bread to cling to the sides and rise higher. If using a nonstick loaf pan, on which the sides are very slick, grease and flour sides as well as the bottom.

I’ve begun to use a scale to weigh out dry (and sometimes wet, yogurt in this case) ingredients, so gram weights included. I skipped the walnuts this time.

Makes one 9-inch loaf
2 cups (200g) unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (143g) granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 1/4 cups (115g) toasted walnuts , chopped coarse (about 1 cup)
3 very ripe bananas , soft, darkly speckled, mashed well (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/4 cup (63g) plain yogurt
2 large eggs , beaten lightly
6 tablespoons (88g) unsalted butter , melted and cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Adjust oven rack to lower middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease bottom only of regular loaf pan, or grease and flour bottom and sides of nonstick 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan; set aside. Combine first five ingredients together in large bowl; set aside.

2. Mix mashed bananas, yogurt, eggs, butter, and vanilla with wooden spoon in medium bowl. Lightly fold banana mixture into dry ingredients with rubber spatula until just combined and batter looks thick and chunky. Scrape batter into prepared loaf pan; bake until loaf is golden brown and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 55 minutes. Cool in pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Oatmeal Sourdough Bread

A couple of years ago I obtained a dried sample of Carl Griffth’s 1847 Oregon Trail sourdough starter. Made a couple of tasty loaves, but managed to let the starter die off. At the beginning of year I requested another sample and have started a very active starter and hopefully I can keep it alive this time.

My first bread with this starter is one from the linked website.

1 cup quick oats
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
2 1/2 cups boiling water
1 cup sourdough starter
5 cups white bread flour

Makes two loaves. Combine in a large bowl the oats, whole wheat flour, brown sugar, salt, and butter. Pour boiling water over mixture. Stir to combine. When batter is cooled to lukewarm, add the starter and stir in the flour. When dough is stiff enough to handle, turn onto floured board and knead for 5 to 10 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, cover and let rise until doubled (about 4 hours in my oven with the light on). Punch down and separate into 2 equal balls. Shape into loaves and place in greased 9 X 5 X 3 inch pans. Let rise until doubled again. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes at 350 F. Cool on rack, brushing loaves with butter or margarine for a soft crust.

Notes: I needed additional flour to get beyond sticky. The starter seemed to be pretty active, but first doubling rise took 4 hours. Second rise in pans took an additional 2 hours (I actually should have let it rise in the pans a bit more, but I had a dinner appointment that I had to meet). In my oven, the loaves still weren’t really done in 40 minutes, so I dumped them both out of their pans and set them bare on the oven rack and baked an addtional 10 minutes. Nice loaves, though not as sour as I remember from the first time I tried this starter. It will probably get more sour over time.

How about combining the two…

The brownie recipe is from my Mother:

Preheat oven to 325 – Lightly grease 9×13 pan

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 cups sugar
1 cup Dutch process cocoa
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 large eggs
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
12 oz bag of York Peppermint Patties

1. Melt butter over low heat. Stir in sugar and return to heat and stir until it’s about 110-120F. but not bubbling.
2. Stir in cocoa, salt, baking powder and vanilla.
3. Whisk in eggs until smooth
4. Add flour and stir until smooth.
5. Pour half the batter into 9×13 pan and even it out.
6. The 12 ounce package of York Peppermint Patties should have 24 individually wrapped little patties. Unwrap and lay them down on batter in a 4 x 6 grid.
7. Pour second half of batter over the top of the patties and even out again.
8. Bake for 29-32 minutes (I found that this is a *very* fudgy batter and the center was still pretty soft at 30 minutes).

Mmmmmm!

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I’m not much of a writer, which will be self-evident if you spend much time reading this weblog. But I like reading and I like cooking, so I write.

I’ve always thought I was a bit weird as I like reading cookbooks like literature. I’ve got a few that I’ve never made a thing out of, but just enjoy the writing.

My current food book reads are The Making of a Chef: Mastering Heat at the Culinary Institute, More Home Cooking: A Writer Returns to the Kitchen (already finished the first of two books) and Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise along with a new cookbook, The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion.

As somebody who loves to cook and who’s current job is as a cook in pizza restaurant, there’s always been a secret desire to *really* learn how to cook. At nearly the age of 60, books are probably as close as I’m going to get (and the fact that I don’t have 30-some thousand dollars to make it through the first year at the CIA). Making of a Chef is a good read. Michael Ruhlman provides a fascinating look at the work that goes into the training of a chef. Maybe it’s a good thing I don’t have the money. I don’t know if I could stand the heat,.

I came upon Garlic and Sapphires because of an NPR interview with the author. This one hasn’t been started yet, but what I heard during the interview intrigued me enough to buy the book and I’m sure I’ll enjoy it.

I’m reading Laurie Colwin’s books Home Cooking and More Home Cooking because of a search for Gingerbread. The restaurant was planning an employee Christmas party and we were asked to bring along something. For some reason I was convinced I needed to bring a nice Gingerbread. I hadn’t eaten any for years and the remembered taste was something I wanted to recapture.

A Google search turned up a couple of pages of Gingerbread recipes along with a link to a discussion of Ms. Colwin’s books and the fact that there were Gingerbread recipes in both. I asked around, including a discussion on the USENET group, rec.food.cooking, and the concensus was that she was a great writer and I should probably get both books. And I did.

Damp Gingerbread is a moist and flavorful treat that’s delicious with a bit of good vanilla ice cream. I’ve made this recipe a couple times more and it seldom survives more than a couple days. Original recipe is from an English cookbook, Delia Smith’s Book of Cakes.

Damp Gingerbread

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9-inch round tin (2 inches deep) and line the bottom with parchment paper.
2. Melt 9 tablespoons butter with 12 ounces (1 1/2 cups) Lyle’s Golden Syrup.
3. Into a bowl sift 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 3/4 teaspoon baking soda, 1 tablespoon ground ginger, 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves, and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon.
4. Pour the syrup and butter onto the dry ingredients and mix well.
5. Add 1 beaten egg and 1 cup milk. Beat well. The batter will be very liquid. Pour it into the tin and bake at 350 degrees F. for about 50 to 55 minutes. (The middle should be just set, with the edge pulling away from the pan, and a tester will bring out a few crumbs.) Cool the cake in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out.

I actually forgot about the parchment paper and baked it in a 9-inch square pan.

As for The King Arthur Cookie Companion. Well, you can’t have too many cookbooks and you certainly can’t have too many cookie cookbooks.

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Did you ever have a recipe that you knew you probably shouldn’t share? For years I’ve had this one pot meal I’d throw together when times were tough and money was short. It’s filling and actually pretty tasty.

Start with starch. Cook up a couple potatoes (preferable reds) until mostly done or a bag of noodles (elbow macaroni, spaghetti, linguini, egg noodles, whatever’s in the cupboard).

Drop the starch into a pot and open a 16oz bottle of salsa (hot, mild, whatever) and pour it in. Add a little can of tomato sauce. Turn the burner on to medium high.

Basil – basil goes good with tomatoes and there’s always basil in the cupboard. Whatever fits in the palm of your hand.

Garlic – 2 – 4 cloves, finely chopped.

Vegies – Whatever looks alive and edible in the reefer. Zucchini, broccoli, green peppers, green beans. Maybe 1 minute or so in the microwave.

Meat – Again whatever is in the fridge. Half a loop of kielbasa, sliced is nice. Goop is good without the meat.

Salsa not hot enough? – Add some jalapenos or maybe a nice teaspoon or two of Tóúng Ót Tói Viet-Nam Chili Garlic Sauce (I *always* have a jar in the reefer)

Heat the “Goop” until it starts to bubble. As it heats, shred or chop up a goodly amount of sharp cheddar (preferably Tillamook).

Finish with a couple tablespoons of a good mayonaisse to thicken and stir in cheese until it just melts.

Grab a bag of corn chips and enjoy. Probably enough left over for another meal.

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I’ve been making this pork posole stew for years. It’s simple to put together and fills the house with wonderful smells. I sometimes add a couple potatoes and carrots to get the southwestern equivalent of Beef Stew. Source is an out-of-print cookbook called “Blue Corn and Chocolate”

1 1/4 – 1 1/2 lb. lean boneless pork, cut in very small cubes
1 cup dried hominy, or 2 cups cook or canned hominy, drained
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
2 large dried New Mexico chiles, seeded
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp cumin
3 – 4 cups cold water
1/2 tsp. salt, or to taste

1. Combine all the ingredients, except the salt, in a pot. (If you are using cooked or canned hominy, do not add at this point, but reserve for the last 1/2 hour of cooking)

2. Simmer the stew over low to moderate heat, uncovered, for 2 – 3 hours until the meat is very tender and the hominy is swelled and tender. If the mixture becomes too dry while cooking, add more water. (About mid way through this time, I fish out the chiles and gently scrape the now fully reconstituted inner flesh from the paper like skins. Stir the chile flesh back into the stew and throw the skins away.)

3. When posole is done, add salt to taste. The stew should be a sort of soupy stew, best served like chili, in bowls.

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