I love you...

like a [phat] kid loves [cheese]cake

Monday, February 28, 2011

Cookies with a Smile

"We want to put it in your mouth
Tasty, so get down and take it
We want to serve you cookies with a smile."
- Dada Life


I hate wind. I hate it, more than I hate raw onions, midterms on Monday, and freshmen.

And when it's rainy and windy, oh hell no.

That was the weather situation here in Berkeley for all of last week. My umbrella flipped inside-out at least five times and was rendered useless, my rainboots got holes in them, making my 2 layers of socks drenched in rainwater, and I'm pretty sure that the only way to get to school would be via ark.

So I decided to skip my Thursday class (and subsequently, my Friday one, but for different reasons), and bake cookies instead - best decision ever.


Initially, I was going to go old-fashioned with chocolate chip. But then I found some semi-exotic ingredents and put those to use, resulting in a butterscotch chip-macadamia nut cookie. And just for kicks, I browned the butter to up the nuttiness factor. While I didn't toast the macadamia nuts, I suspect they would taste delicious that way.


I made my cookies in 1-Tablespoon portions, so when I eat 3 of them for breakfast I don't feel so bad. If you make them bigger, adjust your baking time accordingly.

Chilling the dough beforehand also makes it easier to handle, but if you can't wait that long, I understand. Just remember to rotate, rotate, rotate your baking tray so the cookies cook evenly. These are the type of cookies that are crunchy on the outside and chewy and gooey on the inside, so you want to make sure that they stay that way.

And if you're feeling extra fatty like me, eat them with a scoop of banana-rum ice cream.



Butterscotch Chip-Macadamia Nut Cookies (Makes 2 dozen)

1 stick brown butter

1 cup brown sugar

2 Tbsp milk

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla

1.75 cups AP flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/8 tsp salt

1/2 cup chopped macadamia nuts

1 cup butterscotch chips


Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place parchment paper on a baking tray, or grease well. Brown the butter, and set aside to cool.

Once butter is at room temperature, beat it with the sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in milk, egg, and vanilla. Add all dry ingredients (except for nuts and chips) and beat only until just combined.

Stir in macadamia nuts and butterscotch chips. Refrigerate for at least half an hour for easier handling. Scoop out 1-Tablespoon portions onto prepared baking sheet.

Bake for 9-12 minutes or until golden. Let cool on wire rack before serving.


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Everybody Knows I'm a Motha-Sconing Monster

"I shoot the lights out
Hide til its bright out
Whoa, just another lonely night
Are you willing to sacrifice your life?"
- Kanye West


I am a monster, a murderer, a cereal killer, if you will. And here is why.

I have to have breakfast in the morning. If I don’t, I guarantee that as I walk to class, cars will jump out of my way and freshmen will fall to the floor. Because I am hungry and I am tired, and I need my cereal.

My big, milk-drop-shaped bowl of CTC cereal.

But sometimes, tragedies happen, in that I (a) run out of cereal or (b) run out of milk. And when that happens, I could either (a) make a “quick” trip to Safeway, (b) cry out in agony and wake up the boy (he needed to wake up, anyways), or (c) make use of what I have in my fridge and create something to fuel my morning munchies.

Luckily, I chose (c).


These scones, like all scones, are very easy to make, mostly because so many components are substitutable with anything you have on hand. If you don’t like ginger, use cinnamon. If you hate walnuts, use almonds. You understand.

You can also make them by hand, if you don’t have the luxury (or necessity, in my case) of a KitchenAid. Best of all, scones freeze extremely well, so I highly advise you make extra dough, cut out the shapes, and plastic wrap them so that the next time you need your breakfast bite (or if you need to feed me), you can pop them in the oven and be ready to go in a few extra minutes. And unlike CTC, they are very portable, so you can put them to bake, do your morning routine, and have them as hot and fresh as you as you head out the door.


The icing is not necessary, but I find that it adds a nice finishing touch as it melts into the warm scones. As for the cardamom flavouring, those who know me know my love-affair with it, and I just came back from India, I have been missing it. Feel free to use whatever spice you have or want; I think nutmeg would be delicious.

For even better scones, here are a few tips:

Make sure your butter is cold, like, really cold. You want to have chunks of butter in the dough to help make it moist and expand during the baking process. I always keep a couple sticks in my freezer and grate them into my dry ingredients (cutting up frozen butter is challenging sometimes).

I bet you thought this was cheese!

If you’re adding nuts, toast them first! Nothing makes your kitchen smell better than the wafting aroma of freshly toasted nuts, and they add another layer of flavour. Plus, it is extremely easy: Lay nuts out on a sheet tray and bake at 350 until brown and fragrant.

You can cut scones into any shape that you like. Traditionally, they are triangles or circles, which is what I did. If you don’t have a biscuit cutter, be creative - I used a shot glass. Yea, college, whattup.

Pear-Ginger Scones with Cardamom Icing (Makes 16 small scones)


Scones
2 cups whole-wheat flour
2/3 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 tsp ground ginger
1 stick butter, cold and grated
1 pear, peeled/diced (I used Bosc)
1/2 cup toasted walnuts
2/3 cup buttermilk
1 egg
Milk, for brushing


Icing
1/2 cup powdered sugar
4 cardamom pods, crushed
1/4 tsp ground cardamom


Preparation
Preheat oven to 400. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Place all dry ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer (or a large bowl, if you don’t have one). Add grated butter and mix until butter is evenly distributed. Be careful not to over-mix, as you want there to be noticeable pieces of butter.
Add walnuts and mix only until they are coated with flour.
Add pear, buttermilk, and egg, and stir until just combined. If you mix too long, the dough will become dry, so you still want it to be wet and sticky.
Turn out dough onto a heavily floured surface. Slightly wet your hands and pat it into an even block about 1/2-inch in height. Flour the top of the dough as well as your biscuit cutter (or shot glass), cut out rounds, and place on prepared baking sheet. Keep going until all the scraps are used up. **At this point, you can also freeze the dough by placing on a small tray lined with parchment paper and wrapping tightly in plastic wrap. If you have more than one stack of scones, place a piece of parchment in between the layers to keep them from sticking.**
Brush the tops with the milk. Bake for 10-13 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool for at least 10 minutes and then drizzle the icing on top.


For the icing:
Place the cardamom pods in 1/2 cup of boiling water and let steep for 10 minutes. In the meanwhile, combine powdered sugar and ground cardamom.
Whisk in 1 teaspoon of the cardamom water until combined. Only add as much water to reach your desired consistency.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Under My Nutella-ella-ella French Toast

"When the sun shines, we'll shine together
Told you I'll be here forever
Said I'll always be a friend
Took an oath Imma stick it out till the end"
- Rihanna



Happy World Nutella Day! If you didn't know about it, it's okay, because I found out a few days ago. But the fact that there is a Web site devoted to this day, I only found about right now. Who knew?


My Nutella Day celebrations began before I even knew they did. On Friday, as I was strolling down upper Sproul (something I don't normally do, as all you flyer-avoiders know), I noticed the Hillel table selling homemade chocolate chip challah. After trying a sample -- or two, or three -- visions of French toast started dancing around my head, and I bargained down with the seller (sorry, it's the Indian in me) to secure myself a loaf.


And then I found it was going to be World Nutella Day, and my plan was set: a Saturday brunch of allspice and nutmeg Nutella French toast with (pure) maple syrup and chocolate sauce. Yea, what.


Even though French toast was not created in France, it is still delicious and super easy to make. My typical eggs-to-milk ratio is 1 egg: 1/4 cup of milk, but feel free to play around to make the batter more or less eggier. You can also switch up the spices as you wish. While I only soaked my toasts for 6 or 7 minutes, I would recommend leaving them for 15 minutes, if not more. You can also soak them overnight in the fridge, so in the morning all you have to do is cook them, which hardly takes 10 minutes. And depending on how hungry you are, eating them might only take 2 minutes.


Nutella French Toast (Serves 2-3)

8 slices of challah, or any other slightly stale bread you have on hand
4 Tbsp Nutella
1 Tbsp butter, melted and cooled
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp nutmeg
Maple syrup, chocolate sauce (for garnish)

Preparation:
Preheat a griddle over medium heat.
Spread the 4 tablespoons of Nutella on 4 slices. Sandwich together with the other slices and set aside.
In a shallow mixing bowl, whish together butter, eggs, milk, and spices. Going one by one, place a sandwich into the mix, making sure both sides are covered. Let it sit for at least 10 minutes.
Place sandwich on griddle and cook until both sides are golden-brown, about 2-3 minutes on each side. Serve with maple syrup, chocolate sauce, or anything else you want (I snuck whipped cream onto one of the plates - delicious).

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Back on My Grizzy, and a Sticky Apple Cake

"Like the Energizer bunny with a battery pack
Boy that drummer keep drummin', like B-r-r-at-at-at-tat"
- Lil Wayne



Aaaaaaaand it's 2011. Welcome.

So much has happened since I last posted (when was that, 4 months ago? Jeez..) I won't bore with you with the details, but in short, I did a lot less cooking and a lot more eating. Last semester, I began working at at restaurant in San Francisco as a pastry cook, which meant preparing and plating desserts for 25 hours a week. By the time I got home, all I would want is the biggest slice of cheese pizza ever (Fat Slice, anyone).

Once sugar became my job, I didn't have time, nor did I really want to, do any additional baking at home. There was no way in hell I was going to use my mediocre apartment oven that is 25 degrees off (I learned that the hard way). No way was I going to use my meager counter space; and as for doing dishes? Hell to the no. Save it for work, I just want to sleep.

Janky pans that I have to deal with at home

It sounds like I'm complaining, but in reality, I loved my job. My coworkers were so talented, and they took the time to teach me a lot of things. I loved the warm baguettes we would sneakily eat with organic goat butter, and the leftover pastries that would become my (and the boy's) breakfast the next morning. I loved how at 8 p.m. the dessert rush began and how fast I could bust out plates until it was midnight before I realised.

It was tough, for sure. Especially with BART, which meant I would reach Berkeley at 1 a.m and then wake up for 8 a.m. class the next morning. I hardly saw any friends or family, but somehow, somehow, it was worth it. Because now I can pipe out gougères at lightning speed, and I have left my mark at the restaurant as the crazy Jellyfish. It's weird, but it's awesome.


But now, I am back to school, searching for a job, reconnecting with friends, relearning how my decrepit kitchen operates, and dousing myself in sugar. Back on my grizzy. Weezy knows what's up.


The great thing about this cake is that it can last for days given that (a) it is stored properly and (b) a bunch of fraternity boys don't storm it. The addition of whole wheat flour and semolina make it protein-rich and hearty, and the buttery topping keeps the apples from drying out and burning in the oven. Make sure all your ingredients (butter, eggs) are at room temperature beforehand, or else your batter will seize up and you will end up with a chunky mess that won't bake properly. I usually keep my ingredients out in the morning if I know I'm going to bake in the evening, or else I leave them overnight and get to work when I wake up. Either, way be prepared, and prepare to nom.



Sticky Apple Cake (Makes 1 loaf)

Note: If you don't have whole-wheat flour or semolina, substitute 1 1/4 cup AP flour. And if you don't have parchment paper, make sure to grease your pan very well.

For the cake:

2/3 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup semolina

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Pinch of salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 cup milk

1/3 cup oil

1 egg

1/2 apple, cored and thinly sliced

7 dates, chopped


For the topping:

5 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon almond extract


Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a loaf pan, cut out a piece of parchment paper and fit into the bottom of it, and grease again.

In a large mixing bowl, combine all dry ingredients. Set aside.

Whisk together milk, oil, and egg. Slowly add to dry ingredients and stir until just combined.

Pour into prepared pan and scatter the date pieces over the top. Arrange the apple slices on top in a decorative pattern (I just did rows).


For the topping, combine butter and brown sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add egg and almond extract and beat until combined.


Bake cake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and spread the topping over the apples evenly. Bake an additional 20 minutes or until a knife in the center comes out clean. Let cake cool for 10 minutes before serving.


To store, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate. It will keep for about 1 week (unless you know some hungry boys who decide to stop by).