Wednesday, July 22, 2009

I think I found them!!!

My search for the PERFECT chocolate chip cookie continues...

I was perusing on tastespotting the other day when I saw the first post on a new blog, Pastry Pal. Irina is an experienced pastry chef who started a new blog this month and she started it off w/ a bang. She made chocolate chip cookies. I was drawn to the page b/c the picture looked so yummy, perfect and thick, not flat at all. So I made them last night. My original idea was to divide half the batter and mix in candied bacon (like I did here) and the other half just make plain ol' chocolate chip cookies. Well, I got distracted licking the dough off my fingers and this is what happened to my bacon. It turned into straight up hard candy. Definitely wasn't going to work w/ the cookies. Although I did have a bite. Good, but WAY too hard.
So I made Irina's cookies and they came out a wee bit different. I did everything she did except I used chocolate chips. I don't like semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, so I use milk chocolate for my chips. Well, I thought I had a huge bar of milk chocolate at home, but I think someone ate it... I'm not naming names, but you know who you are!!!
So I used chocolate chips b/c hey, they are chocolate CHIP cookies, right?
I think the chocolate chips made the cookies look way flatter than they were. Not that they were that thick, but they definitely could have been thicker.

Fresh from the oven... So wanted to grab one right then...
Plated on my mom's totally retro Corelle dishes.
I only made a few b/c my main goal was to have them for this weekend b/c chocolate chip cookies are my sweetheart's favorite. Normally, I put the remaining batter into a Tupperware container and leave it in the fridge, but Irina's idea or rolling the batter into a log and keeping it in the freezer is a MUCH better idea. I've heard that your cookies don't flatten as much the colder they are when they go in, so maybe that'll help them even more. I definitely think that using a bar and chopping it up is the way to go, especially b/c of how good they look in Irina's blog. :)
I do have two more recipes I want to try, just b/c I am way intrigued by how different they are! So look out for those soon!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Bacon Mac and 8 cheeses

I am a firm believer that bacon belongs in everything it tastes good in. Which to me, can be just about anything. Especially mac and cheese.
My mom, as most of you already know, likes her "fake" foods. She'd rather eat a Sam's club blueberry muffin, stir fry from the frozen foods section and box mac and cheese. I don't mind the Velveeta w/ the cheese sauce, which thankfully is what she gets. But I have to mask it. I will take a portion out of the pot and mix in black pepper and bacon pieces. I am not a fan of the stuff alone.
So I usually make my own... And she definitely doesn't like it. Oh well. She'll never change.
So when my parents were on vacay last week, it was dinner freedom!!!

I saw this episode of Cooking for Real w/ Sunny Anderson on Food Network and she made her Wheely Good Pasta and Cheese. It looked great, so when I went on search for a new mac and cheese recipe, I immediately thought of this.
After work, I went to Whole Foods and picked up a couple more cheeses I didn't have at home already and some bacon.
It was pretty easy to make and took a heck of a lot less time than you'd think.

Bacon Mac and 8 Cheeses
adapted from Wheely Good Pasta and Cheese

1 pound large elbow whole wheat pasta
4 tablespoons of butter
4 tablespoons of flour
4 cups of milk
1/4 cup of shredded Mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup of shredded Cheddar cheese
1/4 cup of shredded Pepper Jack cheese
1/4 cup of shredded Colby Jack cheese
1/4 cup of shredded Muenster cheese
1/4 cup of shredded Asiago cheese
1/4 cup of shredded
Gruyère cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
Splash of tabascio sauce
1/4 cup of Italian-style bread crumbs
2 tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese
5-6 strips of fully cooked bacon

Preheat over to 350 degrees F. When the oven reaches full temperature, cook bacon on a wire rack, which is placed on top of a foiled lined cookie sheet. I cook bacon in the oven b/c then most of the grease settles in the cookie sheet instead of staying soaked into the bacon. It takes about 20 mins to fully cook the bacon, if you want to more crunchy than tender, which is better in this mac and cheese since the sauce will soften the bacon.
I took the opportunity to shred my cheeses while the bacon was cooking. You don't want the bacon to be dripping and still scalding hot when you toss it in the sauce, so you do it enough ahead of time so it has time to cool while you're doing everything else. By the time I was done shredding the cheese, putting a pot of water over the heat and getting my roux started, the bacon was done. I placed the cooked bacon on a plate w/ paper towels to soak up the excess grease.
Meanwhile, I added the butter to a pot and let it melt fully. Once melted, but not browning, I added the flour and whisked them together to form a roux. Sometimes, if the roux isnt thick enough, it's ok to ad a bit more flour untl you get the consistency you are looking for. Better to thicken the roux now than wait until your bechamel hasn't thicken up enough and have to add more flour then.
Once you have your roux, add the milk and whisk together. Let the milk increase in temperature, but don't let it bubble. It will end up burning the bottom of the pot. Whisk occasionally to keep the roux and milk together and keep from having the milk mixture burn at the bottom or sides of the pot.
When the milk is hot enough it should be thick, but not too thick yet. Remember, you still have to add the cheese, which will definitely thicken it up even more. Add you black pepper at this point. Take the pot off the heat and sprinkle in the cheeses, stirring constantly until all the cheese is completely melted. Once the sauce is done, add the bacon and mix.

By now, your pasta should be in the pot, boiling and almost done, if not already done (depending on when you started boiling the water).

Drain the pasta well, making sure to toss it in the colander w/ cold water to stop the cooking process.

Combine the pasta and sauce together, making sure that all of the pasta is coated in your cheese sauce. Take a 9x13 glass baking dish and spray w/ nonstick spray. Pour the coated pasta into the pan.
Combine the bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese together and sprinkle over the pasta.
It's pretty heavy at this point, so I place the baking dish on a foiled lined cookie sheet, in case the sauce bubbled over.

I baked the mac and cheese for 25 minutes at 350 degrees F.

I let it cool for a bit and then ate. Yummmm......

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Hershey's Best Brownies

Chocolate is yummy... I have to say, as much as I love love love fruit desserts, chocolate is that one thing that will always settle me. I don't like munching on chocolate candy though. Too sweet and sugary and it hurts my teeth. But chocolate brownies, cakes, cookies... Yum. I found this recipe in my Cookie Bible when I was trying to figure out what to make for the fourth. I originally planned on making peach pie, but honestly, the idea of making the dough made me change my mind. So I flipped through my book and after 30 min of agonizing over what to make, I picked these. Soooo glad I did!!!! Everyone loved them!


1 cup (2 sticks) butter
2 cups sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 eggs
3/4 cup cocoa
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
couple handfuls of candy-coated, chocolate-covered sunflower seeds (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 13 X 9 inch baking pan.

Melt butter. Stir in sugar and vanilla. Add eggs, on at a time, beating well w/ a spoon or whisk after each addition. Add cocoa; beat until well blended. Add flour, baking powder and salt. Beat well. Pour batter into greased pan. Sprinkle sunflower seeds over the batter, if desired.

Bake for 30-35 mins or until brownies begin to pull away from the sides of the pan. Cool completely on a wire rack. Cut into bars. EAT!!!

I love the covered sunflower seeds. They are a great snack. I saw them in someone's brownies before and the very next day, I saw them at Trader Joe's and bought them. Yum! They add a nice little crunch to the brownie and aren't overpowering like putting a cup of nuts into the batter is.
The edges were done more so that the rest of the bars, but they weren't dry. They did come off most of the bars after cutting, but that's okay, no one minded eating them!
The inside was that perfect just past gooey, almost raw feel. They were soooo good! Definitely a recipe I am making again!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Lemon Blueberry Pound Cake

My mother recently bought a few cartons of fresh blueberries and wanted to make a lemon blueberry pound cake. She asked me to find her a recipe to use. I found a bunch of recipes, but this one looked the best. I had to make some alterations b/c I don't like lemon zest and don't have limoncello, but it came out great still.

Ingredients (as I made it)

2 ¾ cup of flour
1 ½ teaspoons of baking powder
¼ teaspoon of baking soda
¼ teaspoon of salt
1 cup of unsalted butter, room temperature
1 ¾ cup of sugar
4 eggs
4 tablespoons of lemon juice (I will definitely use more next time)
1 ½ teaspoons of vanilla extract
1 cup of buttermilk (1 cup milk plus 1 Tbsp lemon juice, mix and let stand for 10 min before using)
½ cup sour cream
1 ½ cups of blueberries tossed in 1 tablespoon of flour

1 ½ cups confectioner’s sugar
8 teaspoons of lemon juice
Tiny splash of vanilla

1. Heat oven to 350. Spray a 12 inch bundt pan. I use the baking spray that has flour in it. Works wonders with bundt pans!
2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
3. In another large bowl, beat butter until smooth. Add sugar and beat for 2 to 3 minutes until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat well after each addition. Add sour cream, lemon juice and vanilla and beat until combined.
4. Beat in flour in 3 additions, alternating with the buttermilk. Beat for 2 minutes on medium-high. Do not overmix! Fold in blueberries. Spoon into prepared pan.
5. Bake at 350 for 50 – 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Turn out and cool completely.
6. For the glaze, in a small bowl, mix together confectioner’s sugar, lemon juice and vanilla until smooth. Drizzle over the top of the cake and let it roll down the sides.

As you can probably tell, my glaze wasn't all that thick. I don't particularly like thick glazes and I think that not having it so thick was better b/c the glaze absorbed into the cake, making the cake even more moist and more lemony tasting.
Yummy dense moist lemon blueberry pound cake. Mmm.... And to think, my mom said she was just going to buy a lemon box mix cake and dump blueberries in that. Ha

Peach Raspberry Cobbler

I had gone peach picking last Labor Day weekend w/ my friend Kristine and I came home with A LOT of peaches. And lots of little pricklies in my shirt that were scratching at me all day.

There were so many peaches, I cut up the ripe ones and froze them, then let the rest ripen some more, then froze those. I ended up w/ a crap load of cut up frozen peaches in my freezer. Yum.

So I have used them here and there since, but mostly in smoothies (frozen fruit is best when making smoothies, mmm...) I woke up last Sunday just kinda craving peaches. I knew I have frozen peaches and frozen raspberries, so I decide to make a peach and raspberry cobbler. I've never made cobbler before. I've made fruit pies and fruit crisps. But never cobbler. So I went in search of one on tastespotting, foodgawker,, and all recipes. The one I went with was kinda of a jumble of them all...

Cobber topping:
1 cup of flour
1 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup milk

Mix the first four ingredients. Cut in the butter using a fork or pastry blender. Slowly add the milk until the batter looks like this:
Since the peaches and raspberries were frozen, I tossed them into a saucepan to thaw and juice up. The raspberries pretty much liquefied immediately but the peaches took a bit longer. I also put about 1/4 cup of granulated sugar in the pot and 1 Tbsp of cornstarch b/c I knew I would have to thicken it up w/ all the excess water coming from the frozen fruit.
After the peaches and raspberries were mostly cooked, but the peaches weren't entirely tender, I drained a bit of the liquid and put them into a 9X9 pan then dolloped the cobbler topping over it. I then sprinkled some raw sugar on top, just for some crunch.
I baked the cobbler for 30 min at 400 degrees F.

Mmmm..... fruity bubbley goodness.
It was definitely yummy. The cobbler topping had an almost biscuit taste to it, but not the same texture. Very light and fluffy. And very yummy. :)