Sunday, March 29, 2009

Golden Pretzel Rolls and Chocolate Scones



I've been obsessed with Neil Gaiman lately. Over spring break, I listened to the entire Graveyard Book. I've also been reading his blog and he's mentioned how it really useful because it doubles as a journal. And rereading some of my own entries, I remembered some very good times and of course, some not-so-good times.
I really like baking. Not because it's an art or a craft or a science. It is all these things, but I like how hands on it is. I imagine bakers to be down-to-earth people with strong forearms and big smiles. It feels slower than cooking and more thoughtful, though the FoodNetwork competitions make it seem like bam!bam!bam!, all pizazz and lots of rushing.
I don't have a standing mixer so I have to mix everything by hand. Though I hate creaming butter and sugar, I really like cutting butter into flour with my fingers. I flake the butter and then rub it into the flour. I love the texture of it and how kind of elastic butter becomes. Creaming demands a level of perfectionism that cutting doesn't. I love kneading things.
I used the pretzel recipe from Culinary Cory, which I found on tastespotting.com. This is my second time trying it and I forgot to add the salt. I added it after forty minutes and the rolls were less dense and fluffier. I let the dough rise in a warm oven. I pre-heated the oven for a few minutes, before turning it off and popped the dough in. I don't know how if effects the dough, but shaping the warm dough was very pleasant.
The recipe calls for an egg wash and I only used half the egg. It seemed like a pretty big waste so I decided to make scones from the leftovers. I halved the recipe for Currant Scones and replaced the currants with half a cup of chocolate chips. I also replaced the buttermilk with milk and a squeeze of lemon.
The result was not as nice as the currant scones, but still good. For some reason, they didn't rise as much this time and look like cakey cookies, though they're no where as sweet.
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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Baked Eggs


Thursdays are my bum days and I've been dying to try this Baked Eggs Recipe. It turned out fantastic and it's super easy!

I really love 101 Cookbooks. That site and Tastespotting are currently battling it out as premier food site of my heart. My only beef with 101 Cookbooks is that it's vegetarian, and I'm not. You can find the full recipe by clicking the link above, but here are some modifications for meat eaters and people eating alone.
Here are my ingredients:
1 spinach onion corn tortilla
1/4 of an onion
3/4 of a roma tomato
1 large crimini mushroom
1 slice of bacon (yum!)
2 eggs
a pinch of cumin
a pinch of red pepper flakes
a pinch of salt

So, in Heidi's recipe, she has you make the topping first and then bake the eggs. To save time, I reversed it. I set the oven to 350 and cut circles out of the tortilla to make cups. I actually used the plate the baked egg is sitting on as a circle template. It's like 4 to 4 1/2 inches across.
Then I chopped up everything except the bacon, which I had to chop up later. So, my advice to self, is to do it now. I cooked the bacon for a minute in a small frying pan and then threw in the onion and the mushroom and some salt to let is cook in the rendered fat. It smelled amazing! The only thing I would change is to cook more of the fat out of the bacon (give it a few more minutes) before adding the other ingredients.
Around this point, the oven beeped, signaling that it was now fully heated and I put the tortilla rounds into my cupcake tin and cracked an egg into each cup. I set the timer for 15 minutes.
I seasoned the onion-mushroom mixture and then dumped my chopped tomato. I like the taste of raw tomato so I added it late so it would get the flavor of the pan with minimal cooking.
I took the eggs out of the oven and the whites had turned opaque but were still very wobbly. However, during the time it took to plate the food and clean up, they set.
I was pleased to see a little stream of yolk when I bit into it and used the excess tortilla to mop the yolk. I almost wished that I had cooked them a little less, because I really like runny yolks.
I had a little trouble finishing the second one, because they're really filling for being so small.
I would totally use 1 more mushroom next time, but overall I'm really pleased with how it turned out.
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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Flourless Chocolate Cake

I love chocolate cake! Recipe adapted from the Food Channel .
What you need is 1 lb of chocolate, chopped.
4 eggs beaten for five minutes on high until very foamy
1 stick of butter, melt with chocolate in a double boiler. You can see that I'm making stove top espresso in the back. I added 1/4 cup.

Fold in the egg foam, a third at a time. You might want to wait a little bit so the chocolate won't cook the eggs.
Mix into fully incorporated.
Pour into a greased pan and bake in a roasting pan half filled with boiling water for 25 minutes at 325.
After it's fully cooled, loosen the edges with a knife before flipping onto a cooling rack. I cut hearts out of the parchment paper and dusted the baby with powdered sugar. The cake promptly sucked in the sugar so I applied instant hot chocolate. When the paper hearts were removed it made a pretty design, alas, I do not have pictures. :(

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Monday, March 2, 2009

My First Foray With Yeast

I've fallen in love 101 Cookbooks recently. You can get the recipe here. Usually, the food is waaaay beyond my pitiful college student means, but this weekend I decided to try the pizza. Pizza, if you don't know, is one of the top five college foods in my book. It's right up there with ramen and mac n' cheese. Unfortunately, I belatedly realized that active yeast was not the same as instant yeast (who knew?), but it wasn't a total bust.
I didn't have those fancy standing mixers so I did it by hand and that it makes the story even more tragic when I decided to look up "yeast" online and boy was I in for a surprise.  Here is my neatly divided dough pre-discovery.
So imagine me frantically mixing yeast with warm water and then rekneading and dividing the whole mess. Praying the whole while.  There is no after picture.  It's too ugly.
Stretching the pizza dough the next day was a nightmare. I did it first thing in the morning while I was still groggy, because I wanted to have pizza for lunch and the dough had to rest for two hours. I got flour all down my pajamas front. :( The dough was so soft, it was almost drippy and first I couldn't get it off the floured cutting board and then it tore. Parts of it were paper thin, others parts were still half an inch thick. It was a relief to finally pop the baby onto the pizza stone (the wonderful generosity of a roommate) and it made a very nice splattering noise. By then, I wanted the pizza to die a horrible, burning death. By then, I didn't want to eat the pizza to enjoy it, I wanted to eat it so I could digest it. With vengeance. Total annihilation and all. Consuming the enemy to consume their strength, etc.  You can see my fearsome bite marks below.

The final product wasn't a complete disappointment. The thick parts were doughy, but where the crust was paper thin it was wonderfully crisp. I hadn't totally killed the yeast because there were a few lovely dough bubbles.
The pita bread from MomGrind was more successful and easy. I still had half a packet of yeast left so I figured I might as well use it. I cut the recipe in half. The yeast was foamy and happy looking in the honey water mixture. I used half wheat and half regular all purpose flour. 
This is not because I'm hoity-toity, it's because I ran out of all purpose flour and I had bought wheat pastry flour to try to make baby chocolate chip cookies from 101 Cookbooks.   I was amazed at how much the dough grew.

I divided the dough into ten pieces and rolled them flat.  They were maybe 4-5 inches wide.
I cooked the baby pitas on the still hot pizza stone. It was awesome. They puffed almost immediately like little balloons and some of the bottoms were nice and brown.
I ate them plain because my hummus had expired a month ago and smelled suspicious, but right out of the oven, they tasted wonderful.
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