Friday, February 15, 2019

Instant Pot Hawaiian Pork Chops

Instant Pot Hawaiian Pork Chops - made January 26, 2019, modified from Stockpiling Moms
I'm not quite sure what to say about this recipe except it was quick and easy. It took longer to eat a pork chop than to put this together, thanks to the simplicity of the recipe and the Instant Pot. That's if you don't count the overnight marinating time.
But seriously, open the can of pineapple chunks, rip the plastic packaging of the pork chops, wash and dry them, throw the ingredients in a ziploc bag and place in the refrigerator. In case that tired you out, you have a whole night or day to recuperate before you empty the ziploc into the Instant Pot, turn it on and let the Instant Pot do the work for you. I used boneless, thick-cut pork chops so I set it for 15 minutes rather than 10, just in case.
It worked out pretty well. The sauce was a bit thin, partly from the pineapple juice and partly because whatever I make in a crock pot or an Instant Pot always seems to turn out soupy. Or maybe I'm more aware of it since I don't eat any of these things with rice or pasta which would've helped soak up the soupy sauce.
4 boneless pork chops
1 can pineapple chunks, with juice
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  1. Place all ingredients in a gallon-size freezer bag and seal. Marinate overnight.
  2. Dump contents in Instant Pot and seal lid. Pressure-cook for 10 minutes. Let steam release naturally for 10 minutes then release remaining steam. Serve.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Bakery Review: Insomnia Cookies

Insomnia Cookies - visited January 19, 2019
If you've ever gone to Cream or read my post when *I* went to Cream, you'll have a frame of reference when I say Insomnia Cookies has a similar concept to Cream.
In Nevada, it's right next to the University of Nevada, Reno, which is a smart location choice. The cookies are affordable on a student budget, for an extra fee they promise to deliver warm cookies, and you can get cookiewiches or warm cookies of your choice flavor sandwiched with ice cream. What's not to love?

It was a chilly, cloudy day when I went to check out Insomnia Cookies so I passed on the ice cream option. Instead, I decided to try the snickerdoodle and the triple chocolate chunk cookie.
The snickerdoodle was a bit on the small side (boo - you know I like behemoth cookies, diet be damned) and crispy. The flavor was good but to be candid, I like my snickerdoodles better. This had the upside of being served warm and it's hard to beat a warm cookie but while I liked the crisp edges, I prefer my snickerdoodles to be a bit thicker with more chewiness in the middle. I know, I'm a cookie snob.
Snickerdoodle - $1.70

I fared better with the Triple Chocolate Chunk Cookie. For one thing, it was bigger. It cost more as well but that was okay. You got more cookie.
Triple Chocolate Chunk - $3.40

The three kinds of chocolate chunks (no lazy chocolate chip add-ins, these were bona fide chocolate chunks) was a nice touch and this cookie had a little more heft than the snickerdoodle. Nice brown sugar caramel overtones, crisp edges, chewy middle. I can't say it was so amazing I'd go back again and again for it but you're talking to someone who's tried out dozens if not hundreds of chocolate chip cookie recipes. I like them all. And I liked this one too.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

High Altitude Baking with Chocolate Chip Cookies

Basic, Great Chocolate Chip Cookies at 4500 feet - made dough January 19, 2019
Original recipe not adapted for high altitude baking

Original recipe not adapted for high altitude bakng

When I moved to Reno, one of the things that belatedly occurred to me is I would have to adjust to high altitude baking. Reno is at 4500 feet above sea level. My old baking ground? 72 feet. Yeah, that's different. Plus I had the added incentive that my niece is getting married in Colorado and I promised to bake her wedding dessert bar. Ack, what if my recipes didn't turn out because I'd never baked in high altitude before?
Original recipe not adapted for high altitude baking

Original recipe not adapted for high altitude baking
Obviously, it was time to try my hand at baking in the new location so I could prep and adjust as needed when it was game time for the wedding. Bad enough I wouldn't be able to bake in my own kitchen and oven. I wasn't even going to be able to bake at my own elevation.
Recipe adapted for high altitude baking
When I did some research on the differences with high altitude baking, here's the wisdom from Google and Betty Crocker:
  • Air pressure at higher elevation is lower so foods take longer to bake. Temperature and/or bake times may need to be increased.
  • Liquids evaporate faster so amounts of flour, sugar and liquids may need to be changed to prevent batter that is too moist, dry or gummy.
  • Gases expand more so doughs rise faster.

Even more helpful than these generalized statements were the recommended general adjustments for high altitude baking:
  • Baking powder: for every 1 teaspoon in the original recipe, reduce by 1/8 teaspoon to 1/4 teaspoon
  • Sugar: for each cup, reduce by 0 to 2 tablespoons
  • Liquid: for each cup, add 2 to 4 tablespoons
  • Oven temperature: increase by 25 degrees F.
Armed with that knowledge, I started with the last chocolate chip cookie recipe I'd made and adjusted accordingly. The modified recipe is below. And, being a curious cat whose baking life has been at sea level, I did wonder whether it would really make a difference or not. Would my original recipe cookies come out flat? Dry? Rise then collapse?
Left cookie is non-adapted recipe, right cookie recipe adapted for high altitude baking
I made a half recipe of the original and a half recipe of the one modified for high altitude baking. Guess what? My original recipe turned out just fine. Not dry, didn't spread too thin, was just as good as when I baked it back in the Bay Area. Ironically, the modified recipe also turned out just fine. It didn't taste all that different from the original and it also didn't spread that much and wasn't dry. I'm not sure that in a blind taste test, anyone could really taste the difference. So maybe I just created a new chocolate chip recipe by accident.
Only slight differences in appearances, almost none in taste (Original - L, Modified - R)
I want to try out a few more of my recipes without modifying them and see if I just got lucky with this one or if it's only applicable for cookies. And, with Denver being up to a thousand feet above sea level than Reno, maybe there might be a difference there? Who knows. But it'll be an interesting experiment to conduct over the next few months.

Modified 1/2 recipe
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 5/8 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
scant 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup MINUS 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1/4 cup MINUS 1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 ounces milk chocolate chip cookies
  1. Melt butter and let cool slightly.
  2. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  3. Add brown sugar and granulated sugar to melted butter; stir to combine. Add egg and vanilla; stir until blended.
  4. Add dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips.
  5. Portion into golf-ball-size dough balls, 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 frozen dough balls.
  7. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until edges are golden and middles are just barely past the raw stage. Do not overbake.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Bakery Review: Perenn Bakery

Perenn Bakery - visited January 13, 2019
What would we do without yelp to guide us to the best places to go? I don't know and I don't want to find out. Still making my bakery rounds of what Reno has to offer and I homed in on Perenn Bakery because one of the yelp reviews mentioned the magic words "kouign amann". Like a moth to flame, off I went.
I arrived mid-morning on a Sunday and there were a few people inside the modest bakery. It had very clean lines with a minimalist look. I don't know if there was a rush on baked goods earlier or if they keep more of the stock in the back or if they only bake a little at a time. In any case, the shelves behind the counter weren't exactly overflowing with bread loaves.
But that didn't matter because there was a nice selection of pastries, from croissants to pain au chocolat (they called them chocolate croissants but I know a pain au chocolat when I see one), almond croissants, savory croissants and - woot - yes, kouign amanns.

Each was $3.75 plus tax (I was surprised on the tax). I still had a mini pie left from Mix Bakeshop so I limited myself to one kouign amann for this visit. I figured I could always come back to try other items.

As kouign amanns go, this was a great choice. The outside had the perfect caramelized exterior that marks a good kouign amann and why I like them so much in the first place. The inside was also beautifully layered, not as flaky as a croissant but with more substance, which I prefer. It was not as buttery as the ones from Arsicault Bakery or b patisserie in San Francisco but still delicious nonetheless.
I'm so glad I'm finding all of these "best of" that make my new city feel a little more like home.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Bakery Review: Mix Bakeshop

Mix Bakeshop - visited January 12, 2019
In case you can't tell by now, I haven't really been baking this month. I'm still working remote and flying back and forth from Reno to the Bay Area. I only take a small hand carry which does not fit any baked goods and honestly, I'm not ready to tackle high altitude baking just yet. For now, I'm sticking to the professionals who've already mastered it.
Mix Bakeshop was my next place to explore. From the yelp reviews, they were initially known for their cupcakes then they bought a pie business and now they're known for that too. So I knew what I was pre-disposed to get.
There was no one in the shop when I walked in around the middle of the day which was a little surprising. And sometimes worrying. As you know, I'm a big believer in supporting small businesses and go out of my way to seek them out. Hopefully they have busy times and I just didn't happen to be there during one of them. Or I need to step up my bakery-patronage game and help them out.

For this first visit, I decided to go with a couple of mini pies - Salted Caramel Apple and Coconut Chess Pie. At first I was also going to try a slice of quiche but the only flavor they had was Spinach and Feta. I wanted something with a little more protein so I skipped the quiche and settled on a German Chocolate cupcake instead. Yeah, I know, we all make our own choices. That was mine. #dontjudge

So....let's talk about the cupcake first. I was on my way to a hair appointment after I left Mix Bakeshop and I hadn't had lunch yet. I had planned on the quiche but you know how that choice went. So I ate the cupcake for lunch instead.
You're going to judge me, aren't you? Well, before you do, let me tell you - go ahead! Because this cupcake was delicious and worth every bad choice I've ever made in favor of my sweet tooth. The cake was moist and had a tender crumb.
German Chocolate Cupcake $3.75
I love coconut so the traditional German Chocolate part of the cupcake was a win-win. Heck, I even liked the chocolate buttercream frosting between the cupcake and the German chocolate frosting. I mean, hello, not a frosting person and I liked this frosting. Not too sweet, not oily, perfect mouthfeel and flavor. I'm going to need to have this again. No joke.

Salted Caramel Apple cutie pie $5
Now, let's turn to the pies. I had the cupcake for lunch and no lie, I had the salted caramel mini pie for dinner. Yeah, I know, my A1C levels probably gave me the stink eye that day. Usually, I try to limit myself to one decadence a day but, well, I didn't this time.
I warmed up the little pie slightly in my toaster oven and it was perfect. I loved this pie. It was the perfect size for one person although I have to admit I felt a little full of pie by the time I finished it and I did have to give myself an hour break between the first half and the second had. It was rich, particularly because of the salted caramel blanketing the top. But oh so good.

I have slightly more mixed (ha, get it?) feelings about the coconut chess pie. But I think that's also my fault because I translated "chess pie" to "coconut cream" or "coconut custard" pie. Which this was not.
For the record, I don't think I've ever had a real chess pie so I can't compare this to what a chess pie is supposed to be. On the plus side, the crust was amazing. Like shortbread-amazing. The ganache was good, the creamy custard part was great, the coconut was delicious.
But there was also a liquidy corn-syrup-like layer as part of the filling. I didn't care for the sweetness or texture of that. That might be part of a real chess pie so I miscalculated there. I think I would have preferred an actual coconut cream pie. But with their amazing crust.