Monday, September 30, 2013

Restaurant Review: Rick's Cafe

Rick's Cafe, Los Altos - brunch on September 14, 2013
The only thing I love more than brunch food is meeting friends for brunch. Then I can actually have brunch at the time I'm supposed to rather than at odd hours of the day because I had nothing else but baking stuff in my pantry and fridge so that's what I threw together for dinner.
I'd never been to Rick's Cafe in Los Altos before but I like trying new places, especially ones that are local and family-owned such as Rick's. We got there a little after 10 am and waited about 5-10 minutes for a table which isn't bad.  Rick's has both indoor and outdoor seating and they were decently busy on a Saturday morning which is always a good sign. According to their website, they're open every day at 7:30 am but close at 3 pm so it's mostly a breakfast, brunch and lunch place.
Inside Rick's Cafe
Rick's has a typical brunch and lunch menu which I really like since, again, some of my favorite foods are brunch items.  My main conundrum is while I love pancakes, waffles and french toast, I usually can only eat one kind.  Plus I have to have protein.  Pancakes come with protein options and most of the time French toast does too but did you ever notice that waffles are standalone orders?
At the foyer of Rick's Cafe
I mean, there are always "specials" where you can get eggs, bacon or sausage, a short stack of pancakes and hash browns or else French toast with eggs and/or a breakfast meat as one order.  But waffles?  They come in a variety of flavors and toppings but if you want anything besides a waffle, it's a separate order. I'm not sure why that is but it's consistent at every cafe and brunch place I've been to.  Maybe because the size of a whole waffle is considered enough of a meal?  Whatever the reason, it means I usually default to getting pancakes with some kind of protein as one order since it's more cost effective.  Yes, I'm cheap.
Apple Waffles sans whipped cream
But this time around, I wanted a waffle.  And eggs.  So I ordered the Apple Waffles (hold the whipped cream; whipped cream on waffles, shudder) AND a side order of scrambled eggs.  Walking on the wild side now. But I'm glad I did.  I love scrambled eggs and it wouldn't be brunch without it.  And I loved the waffle.  The cinnamon glazed apples were a nice touch and prevented me from dousing the waffle with too much syrup since the apples provided a nice sweetness but the waffle itself was excellent - fluffy and tasty. It's either because I rarely get waffles when I eat out because of the lack of protein thing so I miss waffles or Rick's just makes a darn good waffle or both.
Side of scrambled eggs
My friends got an omelet order and some kind of scramble (I think).  The sides that each order comes with are rather carb-y (bagels and potatoes with almost every breakfast order) but you can swap out one of the starchy carbs with a fruit cup like they did.  Rick's prides itself on a friendly wait staff and we certainly experienced it.
Green Eggs and Ham
The price points are slightly higher than a chain brunch place like an IHOP but I'm always willing to pay a little more to support a family-owned small business, especially one with good food and good service, so it was no sacrifice (hey, I'm not THAT cheap).  All in all, a good experience and I'd certainly go back and recommend this to others in search of a good brunch place.  They also have good-looking lunch options as well.
I forgot what one of my friends ordered but it looks good

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Soft & Thick Snickerdoodles

Soft & Thick Snickerdoodles - made dough September 19, 2013, recipe adapted slightly from Sally's Baking Addiction
I've made some good snickerdoodles in my time (again, baking modesty set way, way aside) so please take me seriously when I say this could be my new favorite snickerdoodle recipe ever. Yes, they're that good. Kudos to Sally's Baking Addiction for coming up with a winner.
It isn't just the taste, although that's pretty excellent too.  I've made good-tasting snickerdoodles before, some with brown butter, some with pudding mix, some with just the core basic ingredients.  They've been good as well. Some have had crisp edges, some chewy middles, some were good enough to combine both. What I liked about this rendition was the cinnamon incorporated into the cookie dough as well as in the traditional cinnamon sugar coating. The cinnamon I use is pretty strong so I cut mine back to 2 teaspoons in the dough itself and that was perfect.
But what really set this apart to reach "most favored recipe" status is they stayed thick.  Honest to goodness, these have been the thickest snickerdoodles I've made that have still retained their chewy texture rather than being a cakey one.  The hard part about making great snickerdoodles (for me anyway) is I can get great flavor and great texture but they still spread thin.  The ones that have stayed thick have had more flour, less flavor, and were more cakey than chewy in texture.  This trumps them all with great flavor, great chewiness and perfect chubbiness. Just don't overbake them or you'll get cakey texture instead.  I baked from frozen dough (as usual) and only baked them until the middles didn't look raw anymore and have perhaps some slight puffiness and a few cracks but not too many.  Don't bake until the middles are fully puffy and have cracks all over - chances are they're overbaked by then.  You want the middles to sink into cragginess after you take them out of the oven. It also helps if you make the cookie dough balls very generously sized.  You want them to be at least a little bigger than the size of golf balls.  When you bake them from frozen dough (freeze without the cinnamon sugar coating then roll them in the coating right before baking), in the time it takes for them to bake, they only spread to the perfect thickness if the dough balls are large enough.  I haven't tried baking smaller-sized cookie dough balls because why tamper with perfection? 
Look how thick this is and the texture isn't cakey
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 and 1/3 cups granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 and 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon (I cut it down to 2 teaspoons)
1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
  1. If baking right away, preheat oven to 350F degrees. Line two large cookie sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Set aside.
  2. Make the topping: toss 1/4 cup granulated sugar with 1 teaspoon cinnamon in a small bowl. Set aside.
  3. Make the cookies: In a large bowl using a hand-held mixer or stand mixer with paddle attachment, cream the softened butter for about 1 minute on medium speed. Once smooth, add the sugar on medium speed until fluffy and light in color. Mix in egg and vanilla. Scrape down the sides as needed. Set aside.
  4. In a medium size bowl, whisk together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. With the mixer running on low speed, slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in 3 different additions. The dough is quite thick and you may have to stir the rest by hand.
  5. Take approximately 2-3 tablespoons of dough and roll into a ball. You want them to be slightly bigger than golf balls. You can freeze them at this point if you don't plan to bake right away.  When ready to bake, roll the dough balls into the reserved cinnamon-sugar topping. Sprinkle extra cinnamon-sugar on top if desired. Bake cookies for 11-12 minutes or until the middles no longer look raw. The cookies will be very puffy and soft.  Allow cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Mississippi Mud Brownies with Midnight Milky Ways

Mississippi Mud Brownies - made September 17, 2013, recipe adapted from Cooking Classy
Almost without exception, I always love pics of various recipes for Mississippi mud brownies or cake.  The frosting is always flowing and gooey atop decadent baked chocolate deliciousness.  But I never make it.  Why?  Because I don't like marshmallows. I don't like their taste (too sweet) or texture (too rubbery) and can only stand them melted down with butter and holding rice krispies together. But I feel like I'm missing out on a whole repertoire of caloric, chocolate heaven. When I came across this recipe on pinterest from Cooking Classy, it was so tempting to try and get over my dislike of marshmallows and make these as is. But I just couldn't do it.  I have a hard time trying to eat rubbery sugar.
Fortunately it's Halloween candy-buying season and I remembered Midnight Milky Ways.  They're like regular Milky Ways except with marshmallows to go with the caramel and covered in dark chocolate.  I wouldn't eat them "straight" (I rarely eat Halloween candy anyway) but baked in something? I'm okay with that. More to the point, I could chop them up and substitute them in for the marshmallow layer in the original recipe (skipping the torching them part), melt them down slightly in the last few minutes of baking, and cover them with the flowing, gooey chocolate frosting.  That's about as close to the real Mississippi Mud anything I'm going to get.
Okay, this is the part where I shed any semblance of modesty and declare myself a brownie genius. Substituting the Midnight Milky Ways worked in spades.  There was some marshmallow substance that provided some gooeyness and the glimpse of white marshmallow blanketed in chocolate but not enough to be rubbery. The Midnight Milky Ways melted slightly as you blanket the hot brownie with them in the last few minutes of baking then you cover them with freshly made, hot/warm chocolate frosting which melts them into further gooey deliciousness.  I didn't finish making these until late at night and it was too late to try them then (even *I* have a chocolate curfew) so I didn't try the taste test piece until the next day.  Even then, it was gooey chocolate perfection.  Granted, they're very rich so you may want to cut into small pieces.  And I'll add my usual caveat of "go workout first".  But it's worth it.
I included some of this in goodie bags when I met friends for dinner and counseled them, "if you eat nothing else from this bag, eat the brownie."
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup packed light-brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 package Midnight Milky Way minis, each mini cut into fourths (they're easier to cut cleanly if you chill them first)

1/4 cup salted butter
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups powdered sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line an 8x8-inch baking dish with aluminum foil; spray with cooking spray.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, granulated sugar, brown sugar and salt until well blended. Using a wooden spoon stir in melted butter and mix until combined. Add eggs and vanilla and stir until blended. Pour mixture into prepared baking dish and bake in preheated oven 35 - 37 minutes (underbake slightly as you'll be returning them to oven to melt the Midnight Milky Ways).
  3. Remove from oven and sprinkle top evenly with the chopped Midnight Milky Ways. Return to oven for another 2-4 minutes before removing.While brownies are still hot, cover evenly with the warm chocolate frosting. Let cool completely before cutting and serving.
For the chocolate frosting:
  1. In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Add milk and cocoa powder and cook whisking constantly until mixture has thickened, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and using an electric hand mixer, stir in vanilla and powdered sugar. Use frosting immediately.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Restaurant Review: Pho Khang

Pho Khang - lunch on September 10, 2013, 3.5 star rating on yelp
This is one of those places where it's convenient to go for a quick lunch.  It's near my office, the service is fast and the menu offers a variety of items so regardless of who you go with, everyone can find something they want.
For me, of course, it's always about the pad thai (no bean sprouts). I generally like pad thai at most places and even though this isn't a particular standout, it's still good and a reliable order.  Actually, I can't even speak to how the rest of the menu is since I only ever order the pad thai here but my coworker likes the pho. For less than $10, it's a good place to go for an informal and quick lunch.  You get seated at a numbered table, your order is taken, brought out in 5-8 minutes and you go up to the cashier to let them know your table number, pay and you're out the door. Perfect when you've got a day full of meetings, less than an hour to eat lunch and (cough) didn't feel like bringing your own lunch that day.
Pad Thai

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Banana and Nutella Stuffed French Toast

Banana and Nutella Stuffed French Toast - made September 13, 2013 from Just a Taste
I was still on my stuffed French toast kick when I saw these on pinterest so of course I had to make them.  Although technically they might be considered breakfast food, that's never stopped me from having them for dinner and they were literally a quick "meal" to put together.
Although the recipe calls for 8 slices of bread, I only used one generous slice and made a half recipe of the custard because I can't eat more than 1 stuffed French toast at a time and they're best when they're freshly made.  Turned out to be a good call as, while these were good, portion control is key as it was also a little more rich than I'm used to having for a meal, especially dinner.  It was probably because I discovered too late that I didn't have any maple syrup so instead I just warmed up some nutella and used that as the topping as well as the filling.  Good concept but by the last bite, I was on overload. Still, if you ever want to go fancy for a company brunch, these are a good indulgence.
8 1-inch thick slices bread
¼ cup Nutella hazelnut spread
2 bananas, sliced, plus additional for serving
¾ cup heavy cream
4 eggs, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 Tablespoon sugar
Butter, for frying
Maple syrup, for serving

  1. Using a sharp knife, cut a pocket inside each slice of bread being careful not to split the bread into two slices.
  2. Spread a portion of the Nutella inside each pocket and then layer in the sliced bananas.
  3. Preheat a large skillet over medium heat and add enough butter to liberally coat the bottom of the pan. You want the pan to be hot, but not smoking.
  4. Whisk together the heavy cream, eggs, cinnamon and sugar in a medium bowl, and then dip each filled bread pocket into the mixture ensuring the bread is fully soaked on all sides. Repeat with the remaining filled bread pockets.
  5. In batches, fry the soaked slices of bread until the egg mixture is fully cooked, about 3 minutes per side.
  6. Top the French toast with additional banana slices and serve warm with a drizzle of maple syrup.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Pumpkin Coffee Cake with Brown Butter Icing

Pumpkin Coffee Cake with Brown Butter Icing - made September 13, 2013 from Cooking Morning Noon Night

I really hate when a recipe fails on me.  The only thing I hate more is blogging about it.  It's so tempting to just put up the stuff that worked, especially when I still have a backlog of good posts to put up.  I know some bloggers only put their successes up so their blog is a consistent source of amazing recipes. I respect that. But I'm honest to a fault and when I first started my blog, it was about my "baking odyssey", good and bad, not "only the stuff that turned out". And I've always maintained I learn as much, if not more, from my failures than my successes so I can't not put up the stuff that didn't turn out.

I pinned this cake to my pinboard last year but I was waiting for fall to arrive before I started baking pumpkin desserts. Without any input or encouragement on my part, 2013 decided to whip on by and sure enough, now it's fall, just like that.  So time to try out this recipe.  The directions suggest this cake can be made in a 8 x 11" pan which translates into 88 square inches so I thought it would be "close enough" if I used a 9 x 9" pan or 81 square inches.  Ha.  Wrong. Actually I think I would've been okay even though the cake baked up to a greater thickness than I anticipated except for the streusel.  The darn streusel that makes a good coffee cake but also needs less baking time than an overly thick cake.  I let the cake bake as long as I dared before the streusel started to protest that it was on the verge of burning.  Then I took it out and hoped for the best.  Let it cool, made the brown butter glaze, iced the cake, and tried a piece.
Sadly, the cake was underdone. You can tell just by the picture because that bottom layer is very dense and even looks raw. It didn't even taste that good either, probably because it wasn't baked properly, was too heavy and dense and the flavor didn't impress.  I need to try it again and this time, bake it in at least a 10 x 10 or even a 9 x 13" pan.  It might make for a thinner cake but at least  the cake has a fighting chance of baking long enough before the streusel gives a kick and says "Take me outta here, I'm done." Lesson learned - when baking something with a topping, don't bake the cake in too small of a pan or it won't have time to bake before the topping burns. It sounds obvious now but is clearly one of those things I had to learn the hard way as a reminder. On the plus side, the brown butter icing and the streusel were good.

For the Coffee Cake:
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
15 oz can pumpkin
3 large eggs
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon cinnamon
4 Tablespoons butter, melted
2/3 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Grease the inside of a tube pan, bundt pan,  8x11 baking dish or 2 8 inch pie pans (the choice is yours!)
In your stand mixer, combine the butter and sugar on medium speed until fluffy and light in color. Add the pumpkin and eggs and mix thoroughly. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and spices. Add the flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture and mix on low speed, then medium speed until combined. Pour the batter into your prepared pan.
Combine the Streusel ingredients in a medium bowl and sprinkle over the cake batter.
Bake the cake for 50-55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
Cool completely before frosting.

Brown butter icing:
1 1/2 Tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
whole milk

Place your butter in a microwave safe bowl and melt until browned and fragrant (about 3-4 minutes). Check the butter often. Pour the butter into the powdered sugar and combine with a whisk. Add just enough milk, starting with one tablespoon at a time until you have a pour-able icing.

Drizzle over the cooled cake

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Restaurant Review: Banana Leaf (Malaysian and Thai cuisine)

Banana Leaf - lunch on September 5, 2013, 3.5 stars on yelp

One of the standby restaurants a couple of friends and I like to go to for lunch is Banana Leaf, a Malaysian/Thai restaurant near our old office.  We all work at different companies from each other now but we still like to get together for lunch every so often and Banana Leaf is "our" place to go. It could probably be considered a medium-sized restaurant with both indoor and outdoor seating but if you don't get here until noon on a weekday, forget about trying to get a table quickly.  The best time to arrive is no later than 11:45 and even then you might have to wait but it should only be for 5-10 minutes.  Any later and it would probably be a 20-30 minute wait and who has that kind of time during the week?
Spicy clear soup served with each entree
We always get the roti appetizer and it's just fried flaky goodness, puffy, more airy and less substantial than naan but similarly tasty.  I made roti when I was in culinary school and, similar to a croissant, it's endless rounds of turning, pressing, turning, pressing until you have infinitesimally thin, multiple layers of dough that will puff and rise as it's fried. It comes with a dipping sauce but I'm a plain eater so I consume roti on its own.
Roti appetizer
The other must-get dish for me is - no surprise - the pad thai.  Banana Leaf's pad thai can be ordered mild, medium-spicy or make-your-eyes-water spicy.  I get medium-spicy at the most and even that sometimes has a little too much of a bite for me.  But it's good.  Their pad thai also comes with bean sprouts and squid so I always order it without either.  Last time I went, they omitted the bean sprouts correctly but somehow interpreted my "no squid" request as "all squid" so I didn't even get the chicken or shrimp but just all squid.  I'm not the type to complain about the food just because of one mistake and I was there more for the company of my friends so I let it slide and didn't say anything to the waiter but just picked out the squid. This time around, I made the same request of no bean sprouts/no squid and they got the no-squid part right but unfortunately left plenty of bean sprouts in both my dish and one of my friends' order as she also didn't want bean sprouts.  She and I both ended up picking out the bean sprouts in our dish rather than sending our orders back because we're not the fussy, complaining types. And if you think it's a pain to pick out bean sprouts from very similar-looking noodles, you'd be right.
Pad Thai - medium spicy
I wasn't mad about it but since this was the second time in a row they'd gotten my order wrong, I did feel compelled to (politely) let our waiter know both pad thais came out incorrectly with bean sprouts.  He apologized and said he'd let the manager know.  I didn't think it was a big deal and didn't give it another thought but shortly after the manager did come over to our table, apologized personally for the "kitchen mistake" and said he would give us a free dessert.  We didn't think that was necessary but it was nice of him.  And true to his word, he brought us a fried banana dessert with mango ice cream that was actually pretty good - I love fried bananas.
Fried Bananas with Mango Ice Cream
I have to applaud it as a smart move on the manager's part.  We didn't ask for (or expect) a refund on the incorrectly prepared dishes but he still made a nice gesture that made a positive impression and left us with an experience that encouraged repeat business.  The food cost of the dessert was cheaper than comping us a free meal so it was a good financial move as well as a good customer relations one. Not to mention if we hadn't had that dessert before, it was a good one to sample in case we'd want to get it again on a return visit.  Plus I also like that he didn't set a precedent that anyone could complain about their meal just to get it comp'd.  Restaurants have to be smart about staying in business but also be good to their customers without spending needlessly and that was a great way to do it.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Corn Crisps

Corn Crisps - made September 2, 2013 from Key Ingredient
I honestly don't know what made me try this recipe.  Maybe because it was corn and it was supposed to be crispy (as the name would have you presume) so I was imagining the corn version of hash browns (for the record, I love hash browns).  So it sounded like a good idea.
Unfortunately, they didn't quite pan out that way.  This was more like cumin pancakes with corn kernels.  Okay, they weren't as unappetizing as that sounds, especially if you like cumin. Plus it was partly my fault because I didn't deep fry them or use very much oil at all so they never did get crisp.  But what really killed it for me was the cumin.  I discovered I don't like cumin and even a 1/2 teaspoon of cumin for a small batch is 3/8 teaspoon too much. Oh well, I guess it's good to try something new, even if I didn't end up liking it.  At least now I know.
1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, optional
1 large egg
1/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 cups canned or frozen corn, thawed if frozen
1/4 cup finely chopped scallions
canola or vegetable oil
  1. In a large bowl, combine flour, salt, baking powder, cumin, sugar, and cayenne. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, and butter.
  2. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry until they are just blended. Fold in the corn and scallions. 
  3. Pour oil in large nonstick skillet [until it come up 1/4 inch on the sides] and heat over medium-high heat until the oil is shimmering. For each crisp, drop a slightly rounded tablespoon of batter into the oil. Fry them in batches over medium-high heat until they are golden, about 2 to 3 minutes. 
  4. Transfer the crisps to a paper towel-lined sheet pan; sprinkle with a little salt if desired.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Thick and Chewy Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Thick and Chewy Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies - made dough September 11, 2013, recipe adapted from Averie Cooks
Just like I always associate my friend Todd with chocolate chip cookies, i.e. every time I meet up with Todd, I test out a new chocolate chip cookie recipe on him, my friend Rick is all about oatmeal chocolate chip as his favorite cookie. So I feel free to test out new recipes of his favorite cookie on him whenever we meet.  It helps that we're in agreement that oatmeal cookies should not have raisins but chocolate chips instead.  It also helps that, according to Rick, there's no wrong way to make oatmeal chocolate chip cookies.  So how can I not use him as a taste tester for that kind of cookie?
Rick was going to be in town and threw together a dinner of our former colleagues so it was a perfect time to test out a new recipe for oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. It saves me the bother of posting a picture of them on my facebook page, tagging him in the picture and captioning it with "bummer, look what I made that you're not here to eat."  I know, I'm mean like that. Don't worry, Rick gives back as good as he gets, including blatantly volunteering me to bake for everyone at the dinner when he was asking who could attend.  Good thing it was something I was going to do anyway....
Unlike with chocolate chip cookies, I don't really have any favorite oatmeal chocolate chip cookie go-to recipes.  There are a few I liked when I made them and even 1 or 2 that stand out but nothing that says, "these are IT". So I experiment with new recipes without compunction.  However, there is a blog I like going to when I want good cookies that don't spread, taste good and are easy to make.  Not to mention chock full of drool-worthy pictures and that's Averie's blog (click on link above in title). I chose this one for the Rick taste test and it's another keeper.  As advertised, the cookies stay thick and don't spread a lot in baking and the cinnamon and the chocolate chips pair well together.  The edges aren't crisp once the cookies cool but the entire cookie is soft and chewy. It's possible they stay moist and soft as the days go by but I wouldn't know.  I gave them away at our dinner the day after I made them and a couple of people, including Rick, ate them in front of me after dinner so chances were high they weren't going to find out how long the cookies stay moist either.

1 large egg, room temperature
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups whole rolled old-fashioned oats (not quick cook)
2 teaspoons+ ground cinnamon, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt, optional and to taste
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons bread flour (or, 1 cup minus two tablespoons)
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips (or more if desired)
  1. To the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the butter, egg, brown sugar, vanilla, and beat on medium-high speed to cream ingredients until very light and fluffy, 4 to 5 minutes. Stop, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and add the oats, cinnamon, baking soda, optional salt, and beat to incorporate, about 1 minute. Add the flour and beat to just incorporate, about 30 seconds. Add the chocolate chips and beat momentarily to incorporate. Transfer mixture to an airtight container or cover mixing bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate dough for at least two hours, up to 5 days. If you're going to chill these cookies longer than a couple of hours, portion into dough into golf-sized cookie balls first then freeze.  Do not bake these cookies with dough that has not been properly chilled because they will spread.
  2. Preheat oven to 350F, line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside. Place dough balls on baking sheet, spaced at least 2 inches apart (maximum of 8 per sheet). Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until edges are set and tops have just set, even if slightly undercooked in the center, as cookies will firm up as they cool. It's a little tricky to judge doneness because of all the oats, but I suggest the lower end of the baking range and baking for 10 minutes for soft and chewy cookies. For crunchier cookies, extend baking time by 1 to 2 minutes, but take care not to overbake or they will be hard.
  3. Allow cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing. Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days, or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Alternatively, unbaked dough can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, or in the freezer for up to 3 months, so consider baking only as many cookies as desired and save the remaining dough to be baked in the future when desired.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Baking for Zoe

If you've followed my blog for awhile, you might remember last year when my friend Maria's daughter, Zoe, passed away from Ewing's Sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer, just 5 days after her 16th birthday. I don't think of Zoe as having "lost" her battle to cancer as there's nothing remotely about losing in this girl.  She won hearts and minds from those around her with her courage and strength and inspired so many with her faith and grace.  Zoe's legacy lives on in those who love her and keep her spirit alive.  Two manifestations of that are the Zoe Inciong Memorial Scholarship and the Zoe Means Life Scholarship.  The first is awarded to scholar athletes like Zoe was (she played two sports and ended her sophomore year with a 4.39 GPA even during her treatments) and the second is awarded to students who face medical challenges like she did.  Funding for the scholarships come from fundraisers and community donations.  Now in its second year, I'm privileged to contribute in some small way to a bake sale being held this Saturday, September 21, at the Dan Oden Swim Complex in Union City, CA as part of the Second Annual Zoe Inciong Memorial Tournament for the water polo team Zoe was once a part of.

I will be posting recipes for all of these baked goods pictured below (although I'm quite behind on posts so please be patient with me) but I wanted to give a preview of what I made for the bake sale and urge anyone in the area to stop by and support the team and Zoe's scholarships.  The event starts at 8 am and admission for anyone over 12 is only $5.  There will be a silent auction with items donated from community businesses and members as well as a raffle and the bake sale with proceeds going to fund Zoe's scholarship awards.

I've been making cookie dough every night this week and took the afternoon off from work today to bake them off and make a few brownies/bar cookies.  I actually had plans to make even more brownies and a lemon bar but I ran out of time and steam.  But here's what I did come up with:

Mississippi Mud Brownies
Peanut Butter Cookies with Peanut Butter Cups
Quadruple Chocolate Cookies

Frosted Sugar Cookies
Milk Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Soft Pudding Monster Cookies
White Chocolate Macadamia Cookies
Soft & Thick Snickerdoodles
Red Velvet Oreo Truffle Brownies
M&M Frosted Brownies
White Chocolate Macadamia Bars