Monday, May 22, 2017

Jumbo Snickerdoodles

Jumbo Snickerdoodles - made dough April 22, 2017 from Center Cut Cook
I didn’t need to make jumbo snickerdoodles for my niece’s fundraiser and she actually needed regular-sized cookies but I’d had this recipe on my pin board for awhile and I still needed to make snickerdoodles for the goodie bags so I went with it anyway.
Even though the recipe called for the cookies to be made jumbo-sized, the beauty of cookie dough is you can make the cookies any size you want, even if that wasn’t the original creator’s intent. I compromised by making one jumbo-sized cookie for my taste test cookie and making the rest normal-sized cookies for the goodie bags.

You know how I have my favorite snickerdoodle recipe? Hmm, I might have to have two favorites now. This cookie was amazing. The jumbo one I baked off for myself (ah, the sacrifices I and my waistline make for my craft) was fabulous.  Like, “head to the gym and work it off but it was worth it” fabulous. The edges were light, airy and crisp while the middle was thick, dense and chewy. The flavor was on point and I know it was because I – wait for it – used Penzey’s Vietnamese cinnamon both in the dough and for rolling in the cinnamon-sugar. I won’t use any other cinnamon.
If you like snickerdoodles, make these cookies now. You’ll love them. I didn’t try them as the normal-size version but I assume those would come out equally well. But if there’s something special about making them jumbo-sized, go for it.
1 cup butter,
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 3/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon

For rolling
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
  1. In a large bowl, combine butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar; cream until well combined.
  2. Add in egg, egg yolk and vanilla; beat until combined.
  3. Add the flour, cream of tartar, salt, baking soda and cinnamon; mix until just combined. Do not overbeat.
  4. Using 1/2 cup measuring cup, portion the dough into balls. Cover and chill or freeze for several hours or overnight.
  5. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  6. Combine 1/4 cup granulated sugar and 2 teaspoons cinnamon in a small bowl. Roll dough balls in cinnamon sugar mixture, coating completely.
  7. Place 3 cookies on each sheet, evenly spaced. Bake, one sheet at a time, for 16 to 19 minutes. Let cool on baking sheet for 5-10 minutes before moving to a wire rack to cool completely.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Chocolate Chip Cookies - Levain Bakery Copycat #15 from Lunchpails and Lipstick

Chocolate Chip Cookies Levain Bakery copycat #15 - made dough April 15, 2017 from Lunchpails and Lipstick
There are different types of chocolate chip cookies, even among the ones that have all the hallmarks of what I like in a great chocolate chip cookie: chubby, thick, made with butter, made with milk chocolate chips, crisp edges, chewy middles. 

 I break them out into roughly two camps. There’s the cookie-cookie camp that’s the more typical cookie: it’s chewy and buttery with a brown-sugar-caramel flavor. Then there’s the dense-cakey cookie that, although made with the same butter and brown sugar, leans more towards a dense-cake texture. They typically have more flour and aren’t as buttery-brown sugar-caramel flavored but aren’t dry and they’re not even cakey if you think cakey means light and airy. 
This copycat version is that dense-cakey one. It’s almost doughy but like baked dough. I’m not doing a very good job of explaining what I mean but if you stare at the pictures long enough, maybe you’ll see what I mean in terms of the difference in texture in this cookie versus some of the more cookie-cookie textures.

I liked this version. It didn’t spread much, it stayed thick and I liked the texture. Definitely don’t bake it too long but you don’t want to underbake it too much either or it'll be too mushy.

3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1/2 cup granulated sugar (or 1/4 cup granulated sugar + 1/4 cup turbinado sugar)
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups chocolate chips or chunks
  1. In a large bowl, combine flour, cornstarch, baking powder and salt.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter and sugars. Mix until well combined and creamy.
  3. Add eggs and vanilla; mix until incorporated.
  4. With the mixer on low, gradually add dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Do not overmix.
  5. Fold in chocolate chips or chunks. Portion into 4 to 6-ounce dough mounds, cover and chill or freeze for several hours or overnight.
  6. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper and evenly space dough mounds. Bake 15-18 minutes, until cookies are light golden brown at the edges and the middles are barely cooked.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

A Great Brownie (the original recipe title)

A Great Brownie - made April 15, 2017, modified from The Greyston Bakery Cookbook by Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan
This is one of those brownie recipes I’ve made before, thought it was really, really good and never made it again. Not because I didn’t like it because, looking at my old notes, it appears I did. But I always want to try a new recipe so I never went back to this one. I did this time because I first tried this recipe before I started my blog so technically, it counts as a new post I can put up and share with everyone.

Since it’s a plain brownie, you can safely assume I made this for my niece’s fundraiser for her mentor program. BTW, she ended up raising $1400 against her original $1000 goal and, as a bonus, even got at least one of her friends interested in signing up to be a mentor in the program. Score.

Anyway, another good, basic brownie recipe but there’s not much more I can say about it since there are many good, basic brownie recipes out there. It’s killing my soul not to dress it up. If you want to try an easy recipe for brownies, this is it.

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 eggs
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
7 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped, optional

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line a 9 x 13" baking pan with foil and lightly spray with nonstcik cooking spray.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder and salt; set aside.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer set to medium speed, beat the butter and sugar until combined. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Stir in the vanilla. Gradually mix in the dry ingredients until just combined. Do not overmix. Stir in half the chocolate chunks, if using.
  4. Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan. Sprinkle remaining chopped chocolate, if using, evenly over the top of the batter. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs. Remove from oven and let cool completely.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Garlic and Paprika Chicken

Garlic and Paprika Chicken - made April 22, 2017 from Jo Cooks
This dish represents the trifecta of using up the chicken drumsticks I got from Costco (yeah, I’ll be eating chicken for awhile), using the minced garlic and paprika I bought from Penzey’s and trying out the recipe I’ve had on my pinboard of easy meals to make.

This literally was easy to make and could be one of those easy weekday meals for busy professionals and/or working family members. You mix the ingredients together, pour over the chicken and bake. 

I’m not sure I found this particularly flavorful but it wasn’t bad either. Maybe I’m not that into paprika. I haven’t cooked enough with it to form a strong opinion one way or another. My bar for savory food that I cook myself is much lower than my bar for dessert so I’m not that critical about it. It used up ingredients I had, it made enough for a few meals so I didn’t have to do takeout and I didn’t give myself food poisoning from it. See, told you my bar was low.
6 chicken drumsticks
1/4 cup olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
pinch red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped (I used rosemary)
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a shallow baking dish with foil and lightly spray with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Clean and dry the drumsticks; season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
  3. In a small skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic, smoked paprika, red pepper flakes, parsley and oregano. Cool for about 1 minute over medium heat; do not burn the garlic.
  4. Pour mixture over the drumsticks and coat each piece thoroughly. Lay in an even layer in prepared baking dish.
  5. Bake for 45 minutes or until chicken legs are cooked through.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Chocolate Chip Cookies - Levain Bakery copycat #14 from Kirbie's Cravings

Chocolate Chip Cookies - Levain Bakery copycat #14, made dough April 9, 2017, adapted from Kirbie's Cravings

I’m not going to lie – I liked this cookie, enjoyed it at the time I made it, thought it was good and….can’t remember much about it now that it’s been a few weeks since I tried it and I didn’t do the write up of it soon enough to really remember it. Oops.

My only defense is I was making several of these copycat recipes for my niece’s fundraiser and I only tried one recipe at a time, spaced out between days of working out. I didn’t have time to do the write ups right after I baked it, which is always a mistake because then I don’t note down what I thought about the recipe. All I can say is it was good. 
The dough was a little soft and sticky after I finished mixing it and as I was shaping it into dough balls so that briefly caused me some concern about whether the cookies would spread too much but fortunately, that concern was unfounded. Do underbake these though to get that chewy-not-dry-or-cakey texure.
1 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup cake flour
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups chocolate chips
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, add butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar. Cream until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down sides and bottom of bowl.
  2. Add in eggs, one at a time, beating until just incorporated.
  3. Add in cake flour, all-purpose flour, cornstarch, baking soda and salt. Mix on low speed until just combined. Do not overmix. Fold in chocolate chips.
  4. Divide dough into 6-ounce portions. Cover, chill or freeze for several hours or overnight. 
  5. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 410 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Evenly space cookie dough portions and bake, one sheet at a time, for 12-13 minutes, until edges are brown and middles are just barely set. Let cookies cool on baking sheets for 15 minutes then transfer to wire cooling racks to cool completely.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Cinnamon Pound Cake with Cinnamon Glaze

Cinnamon Pound Cake with Cinnamon Glaze - made April 9, 2017, modified from Baking by Flavor by Lisa Yockelson (original recipe called Caramel Chip Cake)

Cinnamon Pound Cake with Cinnamon Glaze

The Caramel Chip Cake version - didn't come out of the pan very well
The original recipe from Lisa Yockelson’s Baking by Flavor calls this a caramel chip cake because it uses the addition of caramel-flavored chips. I only recently found caramel-flavored chips at Target so I was pleased I could finally try this recipe as Lisa Yockelson intended. But, alas, you can see from the pictures that how mine came out is probably not how she intended. That’s the downside of using chips in a Bundt cake. Despite dutifully tossing the caramel chips in a bit of the flour mixture which is supposed to keep the chips evenly suspended in the batter while the cake bakes, the chips still sank to the bottom and clung stubbornly to the pan when being up-ended to turn out the cake, despite the pan being properly and generously greased. Bah.


.My patchy Caramel Chip Cake
I might’ve been able to forgive it for that if I had liked the taste but I belatedly remembered after I took a bite that I just don’t like nutmeg in baked goods. This one only held half a teaspoon and I used my trusty, high-quality Penzey’s nutmeg but to no avail. I just don’t like the flavor of nutmeg. I don’t mind it in savory food but I don’t like it in baked goods. And it was pretty dominant in this cake, half a teaspoon or not. Strike three for this cake is I didn’t like the caramel-flavored chips in there either. They were too sweet and added a jarring note to the cake. 
Caramel Chip Cake - texture was good but I didn't like the nutmeg
Normally, with three strikes I would consider the recipe a failure, document it and move on. But the saving grace for this cake is I really liked the texture. It had a perfect pound cake texture, dense but soft, moist and chewy. So what do you do if you like nothing about the cake except its texture? Naturally, you tweak the recipe.
Cinnamon Pound Cake before the glaze
My tweaks were rather minor but made a world of difference. I made the cake again but this time I omitted the caramel-flavored chips entirely and instead of the nutmeg, I substituted the same amount in cinnamon. Vietnamese cinnamon from Penzey’s if you want to know since I don’t bake with any other cinnamon anymore. Half a teaspoon of cinnamon doesn’t go as far in terms of flavoring an entire cake as half a teaspoon of nutmeg does so to amp up the cinnamon flavor, I made up a cinnamon glaze. It’s a basic royal icing glaze with powdered sugar and milk but I added a teaspoon of cinnamon to the powdered sugar to flavor it.
Cinnamon Pound Cake
Lo and behold, my tweaky tinkering worked. It still didn't come out cleanly but it wasn't as patchy-looking at the original cake. I still loved the texture of the cake but this time I also liked the flavor. Forget the Caramel Chip Cake; this just became my Cinnamon Pound Cake with Cinnamon Glaze.
Cinnamon Pound Cake
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsifted bleached cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (I used Penzey's Vietnamese Cinnamon)
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups brown sugar, firmly packed
1/3 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs
2 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk, whisked well

Cinnamon Glaze
2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
2-4 tablespoons whole milk or more as needed to achieve desired consistency
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 10-inch Bundt pan with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Sift the all-purpose flour, bake flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon together. 
  3. Cream the butter in the bowl of a freestanding electric mixer on moderate speed for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the brown sugar and beat for 1 minute; add the granulated sugar and beat for 1 to 2 minutes.
  4. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, blending well after each addition. Blend in the vanilla extract.
  5. On low speed, alternatively add the flour mixture and the buttermilk, starting and ending with the dry ingredients. Scrape down the sides of the bowl frequently with a rubber spatula to keep batter even textured.
  6. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a rubber spatula.
  7. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes or until risen, set and a wooden toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs. Let the cake stand in the pan on a cooling rack for 5 to 8 minutes. Loosen sides and center with a small rubber spatula before inverting onto another cooling rack. Cool completely.
  8. Make icing: whisk together confectioners' sugar and cinnamon. Add vanilla and the first 2 tablespoons of milk. Keep adding milk gradually, whisking smooth, until icing is desired consistency. Pour over Bundt cake.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Shrimp and Gnocchi with Garlic Parmesan Cream Sauce

Shrimp and Gnocchi with Garlic Parmesan Cream Sauce - made April 15, 2017, modified from Damn Delicious
This is another of those easy one-dish dinners I like to specialize in. Specialize sounds really hi-falutin’ but you can translate that to mean “so easy, even I, a person who can’t really cook, can make this and have it turn out decently well”.
It helps that you can buy ready-made gnocchi, which I did from Trader Joe’s. I also had my handy jar of minced garlic from Penzey’s so I didn’t even have to bother peeling and mincing garlic “from scratch”. Raw shrimp already deveined with tails on are easy enough to clean and take the tails off. After that, it’s just a matter of frying and stirring ingredients then tossing them all together at the end. I skipped the step of baking the shrimp as that seemed like an unnecessary extra step when stir frying would do just as well. I know, I know, I'm a lazy cook. 
This is a rich dish though because of the cream sauce and the Parmesan cheese. I don’t eat gnocchi very often because it’s just so heavy, even in small portions. With a rich cream sauce, you might want to make even smaller portions as this made for a hearty, filling meal even if you don’t eat very much of it. Next time, I might cut back slightly on the garlic and heavy up on the shrimp to balance out the starchy carbs of the gnocchi.
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 tablespoon olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 16-ounce package potato gnocchi
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves

Garlic Parmesan Cream Sauce
1/4 cup unsalted butter
4 cloves garlic, minced (I used 4 tablespoons Penzey's minced garlic)
1 cup chicken broth, or more as needed
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 cup half and half
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmersan cheese
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  1. Heat olive oil in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add shrimp, salt and pepper, and parsley leaves, stir frying until shrimp is pink. Drain onto separate bowl and set aside.
  2. In large pot of boiled salted water, cook gnocchi according to package instructions; drain and set aside.
  3. In same saucepan you cooked the shrimp, melt butter over medium heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. Whisk in flour until lightly browned, about 1 minute.
  4. Gradually whisk in chicken broth, thyme and basil. Cook, whisking constantly, until incorporated, about 1-2 minutes. Stir in half and half and Parmesan cheese until slightly thickened, about 1-2 minutes. If mixture becomes too thick, add more chicken broth or half and half, as needed. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Add shrimp and gnocchi; gently toss to combine. Serve immediately.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Chocolate Chip Cookies - Levain Bakery copycat #13 from Chew Out Loud

Chocolate Chip Cookies, Levain Bakery copycat #13 - made dough April 8, 2017, adapted from Chew Out Loud

I tried several different Levain Bakery copycat recipes for their chocolate chip cookie to make for my niece’s fundraiser donor goodie bags. The good news is all the recipes turned out. I made them the same way: big chocolate chips, subbed out some of the granulated sugar for turbinado sugar, froze the dough, baked them at higher temps and so on. They all turned out thick, chubby and delicious.

The bad news is because I made each recipe one at a time as I needed them to fill goodie bags, I didn’t bake them simultaneously and taste test them against each other. So I’m having a hard time distinguishing one recipe from another in terms of taste or remembering exactly how each one tasted. Other than they all tasted great.

The base ingredients are similar although one differed by being made with bread flour, a couple used cornstarch and some of the leavening agents varied in amount. But let’s be honest. My palate, while picky, is not quite that discriminating to be able to tell you whether the cookies made with bread flour instead of all-purpose flour or with ½ teaspoon of baking soda instead ¾ teaspoon baking soda is better. Especially when several days to a week might lapse between taste tests.
Ah, the first world problems I deal with. Let’s just say these tasted good. As did the other ones I’ve posted. As did the other ones still to come. Enjoy.
3 cups (13.5 ounces) bread flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup turbinado sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups chocolate chips
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy, about 1 minute. Add sugars and beat until combined, 1-2 minutes.
  3. Gradually add the eggs and vanilla, beating until just combined.
  4. Reduce speed to medium-low and gradually add the flour mixture, scraping down the sides of bowl as needed. Beat until just combined; do not overmix.
  5. Fold in chocolate chips. Portion dough into 4 to 6-ounce mounds or golf-ball-size balls, depending on your preference. Cover and chill or freeze several hours or overnight.
  6. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Evenly space frozen dough balls on baking sheets and bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until edges are golden brown and middles are just barely cooked. Let cool for 5 minutes on baking sheet then transfer cookies to wire rack to cool completely.