Sunday, January 31, 2010

Jane Bailey's Apple Cake

Apple Cake - made January 31, 2010

This recipe was given to me by Jane Bailey, an ASCSA friend I met some years ago. I'm not sure if she'd be okay with me publishing it so until or unless she gives me the greenlight, I'm going to hold off. I will say though that this is an excellent cake. I enjoyed last week's apple cake so much from the Baking by Flavor book that I thought I'd give another version a try. This is another recipe that I've had in my "Still Need to Make" folder for some time that, now that I've made it, I wish I'd made it sooner.

It's different from last week's cake in that it's more dense like a pound cake and not as cakey-cake (yeah, that's my technical baking term, haha). But it's delicious and quite easy to make. The outside is a bit crunchy and the inside is moist. I brought some to my parents' again today and my mom liked this one better than the one I made last week. She even liked the cream cheese frosting because it "wasn't too sweet" (that's my parents' highest accolade).

As a followup to the Cinnamon Apple Cake, one of my online friends made it and asked whether she could use the nutmeg in the jar instead of freshly grated like the recipe calls for. Yes, you can, although I would use a bit less than what's in the recipe. I'm not overly fond of nutmeg or overspicing a cake in general so I'd err on the side of caution. Also, one thing I recommended to her if you make something like a Bundt cake and have to bring it somewhere "whole", i.e, you can't cut into it and get a taste test slice ahead of time, is to put a small amount of batter in an individual-size ramekin and bake it along with the Bundt pan. The amount you need for the ramekin won't be missed in the regular Bundt pan and you can taste what you've made to make sure it's up to snuff before you have to bring it somewhere.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Cupcakes from Sweet Passions Bakery

One of my coworkers, Rhuwena, asked me last week if I had tried the cupcake place at the mall near my house. "What cupcake place?" was my first shriek, er, reaction. A cupcake place so close by and I didn't know about it? Unthinkable. There's a Kara's Cupcakes at one of the malls near me (yes, of course, I've been to that one) but she meant the other mall across the street from it. Apparently, there's a kiosk there that sells cupcakes. Who knew? Rhuwena said her husband went there and got a really good banana cupcake. Now we're talking.

Armed with directions from her on the general location in the mall of the cupcake place, I set off to walk the half mile to the mall today. Yes, I'd walk that far for a cupcake. Heck, I flew across the country to Manhattan to try out bakeries so this was a - haha - (cup)cake walk compared to that. It turned out to be a kiosk-like stand that held refrigerated cases of cupcakes right outside Restoration Hardware - not a part of the mall I normally traversed, hence why I'd never seen it before. I made the guy tell me about all the different flavors they offered - they had at least 8-10 different flavors but half of them had some kind of jam in them so I skipped those. Instead I chose a red velvet cupcake (because I always like to try different red velvets) and a banana cupcake (per Rhuwena's recommendation). The impressive thing about the kiosk is each cupcake is already made and frosted and packaged in individual plastic takeout boxes. Not only that, but each little plastic takeout carrier was designed to hold the cupcake. Not only was it deep enough to accommodate the lofty rise of the frosting but there were grooves at the bottom of the carrier to hold that-size cupcake in place and keep it from sliding around in the little carrier. I was impressed. These people knew how to package cupcakes. Look closely at the banana cupcake below to see what I mean.

The kiosk is called Sweet Passions and their business card says they make their cupcakes fresh from their bakery (of the same name) in San Jose. I will have to find it someday and check it out.

As you might be able to tell, these cupcakes are not small. They're bigger than Kara's and are probably on par with the size of a Sprinkles cupcake although their frosting rises higher. I think I've mentioned before that I'm not much of a frosting person. I'm more about the cake. I tried the red velvet cupcake first. Here's the "before" picture:

I have to admit, as luscious looking as the cupcake was, I found it to be just "okay". Not that it wasn't good because it was. But, having made red velvet cake before, and had the pleasure of eating it when it was really fresh, barely cool from the oven, you can imagine I have high standards for cakes and cupcakes. This one was good but nothing I couldn't bake just a tad bit better myself. Hopefully that doesn't sound vain but I'm picky about my calories. Perhaps I would've enjoyed this more if I liked frosting more. The frosting was the whipped buttercream variety and also wasn't my thing. One of the reasons I like Sprinkles red velvet cupcakes more than the average cupcake is I like their frosting on that cupcake - it's dense and rich, not light and airy. I don't like "airy" in a frosting - the texture reminds me too much of whipped shortening and I don't like that either. Therefore, the "after" picture with the leftover frosting should make sense since I scraped almost all of it off. Notice that being just "okay" didn't stop me from eating all of the cupcake.

I meant to save the banana cupcake for tomorrow, I really did. But I walked a lot today and had to do some work which is guaranteed to make me crabby (working, not walking) plus I got a start on my taxes so somewhere in my convoluted thinking was that it was okay to have the banana cupcake too. Yeah, I'll pay for it on the scale tomorrow but the good news is, the banana cupcake was much better than the red velvet. It was moist and tasty, the way banana cake should be. I still didn't care for the frosting so I scraped nearly all of it off before even taking a bite. What I guess Sweet Passions does with their cupcakes is inject some of the frosting down the middle of the cupcake which you don't discover until you eat it so I couldn't quite avoid the frosting entirely (the red velvet had the same treatment). It was fine but I still would prefer it without frosting. I'll have to tell Rhuwena she (or her husband) was right on about the banana cupcake.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Chocolate Chip Cookies with Toasted Almonds

Chocolate Chip Cookies with Toasted Almonds (sans Toasted Almonds and with Heath Bar toffee bits instead) - made January 25, 2010 from The Sweet Melissa Baking Book by Melissa Murphy

Earlier this week I was feeling pretty crappy. Everyone around me seemed to be sick with some kind of flu or cold but apparently my mind decided to go one better and skip the sneezing stage and go straight to headache, the occasional hacking cough and general malaise. Monday was bad and by Tuesday, I'd been "nursing" a persistent pounding in my temples for almost 24 hours. Not to mention feeling rundown in general. Did I mention it was only Tuesday? I skipped my Tuesday night Zumba class since I couldn't imagine doing a salsa or merengue without my head flying off my shoulders. But as I was driving home that night, I decided I'd had enough. I was feeling bowed down from all the work pressure I was under and the belief of sickness that I didn't need to hold onto. It was time to kick that nonsense to the curb. I wanted no part of it. I literally could feel my spine straightening in my driver's seat. My original plans when I got home were to crawl into bed and try to end the day comatose to escape it all.

Instead, I got home, cracked open one of my baking books and fished out this recipe. It was simple and straightforward and is one of my comfort foods - chocolate chip cookies. I made the dough in no time, let it chill in the freezer while I cleaned myself up from the day, and did a heavy strength-training workout while they were chilling. Then I baked a batch and ate a cookie while I watched the Biggest Loser (I know, I know, that seems so wrong. But I do it all the time). I felt fine and I've felt fine since then because I claimed health for myself and wasn't going to accept anything less. BTW, the cookies were pretty good too. It's your standard chocolate chip cookie but the edges were crisp and the middles were chewy. Can't ask for anything more from a cookie. They didn't spread as much as some of my other CCC recipes which is always a plus. Instead of almonds I substitued chopped up Heath Bars and used milk chocolate chips instead of semisweet (my standard substitutions for nuts and chips). I'd consider this another hit from the Sweet Melissa Baking Book.

½ cup whole natural almonds, toasted
10 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
8 ounces best-quality semisweet (58%) chocolate, coarsely chopped into ¼ - ½-inch chunks

1. Position a rack in the center of your oven. Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
2. Roughly chop the almonds into large pieces.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and beat for another minute.
4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt.
5. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in three batches, mixing until no flour is visible after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
6. Remove the bowl from the mixer. Stir in the almonds and chocolate. Refrigerate the dough until firm, about 1 hour. (If you’re really impatient or hungry, spread out the dough on a tray or cookie sheet, lay a sheet of plastic wrap flush against the surface of the dough, and freeze so it chills up fast.)
7. Once the dough is chilled, turn it out onto a clean work surface and divide it in half. Roll each half into a log about 12 inches long. Refrigerate the logs for at least 30 minutes before slicing. (At this point, you can wrap the logs tightly in plastic wrap and then aluminum foil and freeze for up to 1 month.)
8. Cut the logs into 1-inch slides, and place them about 1 ½ inches apart on each cookie sheet. Bake for 13 to 14 minutes, or until the centers no longer have a glossy look of raw dough. They should be chewy, so do not overbake.

The cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. For longer storage, refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 5 days, or freeze for up to 3 weeks. Do not uncover before defrosting.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Asian-Style Country Ribs

Asian-Style Country Ribs - made January 24, 2010 from

I took the liberty of making some changes to the recipe (3 1/2 weeks of cooking and look how bold I've gotten). I didn't have Sriracha (never even heard of it) so I substituted red pepper flakes instead. I didn't have limes so I used freshly squeezed lemon juice in its place. Lastly, I didn't want to make it in the crock pot as in my experience the food gets liquidy so I baked these for 3 hours in the oven instead.

The results of my changes were both good and only okay. I did marinate the ribs overnight, for almost 24 hours in fact, so they were pretty tasty. But because I baked them, they weren't as tender as if they'd been in the crock pot for hours. I started out the oven temp at 350 degrees and kept lowering the temp over the 3 hours as the ribs were cooking but also starting to dry out and I was running out of marinade to baste them with but they still weren't as tender as I would've wanted. Next time I'm going to cover the pan with foil and bake it at 325 degrees to start with and be ready to bake them for longer than 3 hours. Overall, these were pretty tasty but I think I prefer the American-Style ribs from Donna Hay's book as that had actual "sauce".

Here's the link to the recipe

Glazed Buttermilk Cake Doughnuts

Glazed Buttermilk Cake Doughnuts - made January 24, 2010 from The Craft of Baking by Karen DeMosca and Mindy Fox

The first thing you're going to notice from the picture is that these doughnuts aren't glazed as the title would imply. I wanted to taste them without the glaze first to see how I liked them but once I did, I decided there was no point in making the glaze. These were just "okay". I actually think the first cake doughnut recipe I tried from Bread for Breakfast was better since those were crunchier on the outside. These weren't bad but if I'm going to eat fried food, it has to be spectacular to make the calories worthwhile. These didn't hit me as being in the spectacular category. I can't even put my finger on it as to why but they just weren't. In fairness to the recipe though, I've come to the conclusion that I'm just not a cake doughnut person overall. I'm not a big doughnut person to begin with and these didn't win me to a different point of view. It could be that I just prefer yeasted doughnuts more than cake doughnuts. I'll try a yeasted doughnut recipe sometime in the future but not likely in the near future as I think I've had more than my fill of doughnuts lately.

¾ cup buttermilk
1 large egg
3 large egg yolks
1/3 cup grapeseed oil (I didn't have grapeseed oil so I just used canola oil)
3 ¾ cups cake flour, plus extra for dusting
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
Nonstick cooking spray
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
Peanut oil, for frying

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, egg, egg yolks and grapeseed oil. Sift 2 cups of the flour into another bowl and set it aside.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the remaining 1 ¾ cups flour, the granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and lemon zest. Mix on low speed just to combine. Add the buttermilk mixture and continue mixing just until the dough comes together. Remove the bowl from the mixer, and using a spatula, gently fold in the reserved flour. The dough will be very sticky.
3. Transfer the dough to a 12 x 14-inch sheet of waxed paper. Place a second sheet of waxed paper on top, and roll out the dough between the paper to an 8 x 10-inch oval, about 3/4-inch thick. Set the dough, still between the sheets of waxed paper, on a baking sheet and freeze until it is firm enough to cut, about 30 minutes.
4. Remove the dough from the freezer and remove the top sheet of waxed paper. Dust the dough with flour and replace the waxed paper. Flip the dough over; remove and discard the bottom sheet of waxed paper. Now the dough is loosened from the waxed paper and is easy to cut.
5. Lightly coat a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray.
6. Using a floured 3-inch round cutter or inverted drinking glass, cut out doughnuts. Cut out the centers with a floured 1-inch cutter. Transfer the doughnuts to the prepared baking sheet. Re-roll the scraps and repeat to make a total of 13 doughnuts and 13 holes. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes or up to 1 day (if making the dough ahead, bring it to room temperature before frying).
7. Just before frying the doughnuts and holes, prepare the glaze. In a wide, shallow bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar and ¼ cup hot water.
8. In a large high-sided skillet or a wide pot, heat 2 inches of oil to 350˚F. Working in batches of 3, fry the doughnuts, carefully turning them with a wire skimmer or slotted spoon halfway through until golden brown, about 1 ½ minutes per side. Transfer the doughnuts to paper towels to drain, and then immediately dip one side of each doughnut into the glaze. Transfer them, glaze side up, to a rack set over a baking sheet, and let sit until the glaze sets, about 3 minutes.
9. Fry the doughnut holes for 1 minute per batch. Drain, dip in the glaze, and transfer to the wire rack.
10. Serve the doughnuts warm or at room temperature on the day they are fried.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Spaghetti Carbonara

Spaghetti Carbonara - made January 23, 2010 from Modern Classics Book 1 by Donna Hay

Lest you think all I've been doing is baking, I have been doing some real cooking as well. This is one of the easiest recipes in Donna Hay's cookbook and bless her for making it so easy even I could make it. It's supposed to be Fettuccine Carbonara but since I'm prejudiced against fettuccine noodles, I used spaghetti instead.

The trick with carbonara is you have to have your mise en place ready because as soon as the noodles are done, you have to move fast. Carbonara uses egg yolks and they're cooked only from the heat of the noodles tossed in the yolks-cream-parmesan cheese mixture. Done correctly, you get a nice creamy coating of sauce on your pasta. Done incorrectly, you get bits of cooked egg mixed in with the noodles or raw egg. Fortunately, I did it correctly this time. I had the sauce ready and as soon as the noodles were drained, I dumped them in a bowl, covered them with the sauce mixture and started tossing (mixing) the noodles into the sauce. Steam was still rising from the bowl by the time I was satisfied and added the hot ham and green onion mixture.

Carbonara usually calls for bacon but I used extra-lean ham instead. I like bacon but it's a pain to cook (and all that grease makes me shudder) and I figure eating a pasta dish that already has egg yolks, heavy cream and cheese didn't need the added fat and calories of 6 rashers of bacon too. Needless to say, carbonara is not for the faint of heart (literally) or the calorie conscious. Which is probably why I like it but don't make it that often. If you do go for the bacon variety, reserve some of the crisp bacon and crumble it on top of each serving. Donna Hay says this recipe serves 4 but again, it seems more like 6 - 8 servings to me.

14 ounces fettuccine or pappardelle (I used spaghetti)
6 rashers bacon or 10 ounces smoked ham, cut into thin strips (I used extra-lean ham)
3 green onions (scallions), sliced
4 egg yolks
½ cup cream
½ cup finely grated parmesan cheese (I used shredded parmesan cheese)
Sea salt and cracked black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves

1. Cook the pasta in a large saucepan of salted boiling water until al dente. Drain and keep hot.
2. While the pasta is cooking, heat a frying pan over medium heat. Cook the bacon and green onions for 3-4 minutes or until the bacon is crisp and golden.
3. Place the egg yolks, cream, parmesan, salt and pepper in a bowl and whisk well to combine.
4. Toss the egg mixture through the hot pasta, coating it well, then toss with the bacon mixture and parsley and serve immediately.

Serves 4

Cinnamon Apple Cake

Cinnamon Apple Cake - made January 23, 2010 from Baking by Flavor by Lisa Yockelson

While I generally don't like fruity desserts, apples in baked goods are a notable exception. Apple pie, apple cobbler, apple crisp, apple tart, just to name a few. And now I'm going to add apple cake. I've had this recipe typed up for awhile and filed in my "Still Need to Make" folder. I finally made it today and my only regret is I didn't make it sooner. OMG, this is good cake. Moist, flavorful, perfect texture and crumb. You bake the cake then brush it with a glaze made of honey, apple juice, cinnamon and butter. OMG. The glaze is thicker than a soaking syrup but not quite as thick as a normal glaze. Doesn't matter because it adds moistness and flavor to an already moist and flavorful cake. Did I say OMG?

I probably shouldn't be surprised because this recipe came from one of my all-time favorite baking books. And with as many baking books as I have, that's saying something. If you only ever buy one baking book in your life, make it one by Lisa Yockelson. This woman rocks. 90% of the recipes I've made from her books not only turn out but they turn out really well. Baking by Flavor is one of my favorites because the recipes are pretty varied and they're just good recipes. I'd make this cake again in a heartbeat and probably will. Most of it is going to my parents' tomorrow and to my cousin's for my uncle's birthday lunch. (Sorry, work peeps, no leftovers for Monday.) The biggest pain was grating the apples but I only had to grate 3 so it wasn't too bad. Putting together the rest of it was extremely easy. It also came out of the Bundt pan fairly easily although a few bits got stuck to the pan so it didn't come out completely perfect. But close enough.

Oh and I do have to mention I omitted the walnuts (of course) and the cardamom, partly because I don't like cardamom and partly because I didn't have any. I also made a rookie mistake and forgot to add the salt to the batter. I had already poured the batter into the Bundt pan and was ready to put it in the oven when I realized it was missing the salt. I sprinkled the teaspoon of salt in the cake batter already in the pan and gave it a few stirs to mix it up. Yeah, don't try that at home. It still turned out pretty well though :).

3 cups unsifted bleached all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
¾ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon cardamom
1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
1/3 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar, sieved if lumpy
3 large eggs
1 cup plain vegetable oil (such as soybean)
6 tablespoons (¾ stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
3 ¼ cups peeled and shredded apples, preferably Jonathan, Stayman, Empire, Gala, Paula Red, Rome Beauty, or Granny Smith, about 3 large or 1 1/3 pounds (for grating, use the large holes of a 4-sided box grater)
¾ cup chopped walnuts, lightly toasted and cooled completely (optional)

Buttery cinnamon-apple juice syrup for brushing over the warm, baked cake
½ cup unsweetened, pasteurized apple juice
¼ cup honey
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons butter, softened
¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Film the inside of a 10” Bundt pan with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.
2. Sift the all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and cardamom onto a sheet of waxed paper.
3. Place the granulated sugar, dark brown sugar, and eggs in the large bowl of a freestanding electric mixer. Mix on moderately high speed for 2 minutes, or until lightened, creamy-textured, and slightly billowy. The mixture will be a creamy coffee color. Add the oil, butter, and vanilla extract, and continue beating for 2 minutes longer. The batter will be moderately thin.
4. On low speed, beat in the sifted mixture in two additions, blending until the particles of flour are completely absorbed. Scrape down the sides of the bowl frequently to keep the batter even-textured. Stir in the shredded apples and walnuts, if you are using them.
5. Spoon the batter into the prepared Bundt pan. Gently shake the pan (once or twice) from side to side to level the top.
6. Bake the cake for 55 minutes, or until a wooden pick withdraws clean or with a few moist crumbs attached. The baked cake will pull away slightly from the sides of the baking pan. Let the cake stand in the pan on a cooling rack for 5 to 8 minutes, then invert onto another rack. Place a sheet of waxed paper under the rack to catch any droplets of glazing syrup.
7. Stir the apple juice, honey and cinnamon in a small, heavy nonreactive saucepan (preferably enameled cast iron). Place over high heat and cool 1 minute to dissolve the honey. Simmer the mixture for 5 minutes, or until reduced to 5 tablespoons.
8. Remove the saucepan from the heat, and add the softened butter and vanilla extract. Whisk until the butter has melted down completely.
9. Using a soft pastry brush, apply the hot glaze generously over the top and sides of the cake. Cool completely before slicing and serving. Use a serrated knife to cut neatly and cleanly.

Freshly baked, the cake keeps for 4 days.

Ultimate Chocolate Brownies

Ultimate Chocolate Brownies - made January 22, 2010 from The Craft of Baking by Karen DeMosca and Mindy Fox

One of my favorite bumper sticker-type sayings is "I'd give up chocolate but I'm no quitter." Darn right. Quitting is for the weak :). Or those trying to lose weight and eat healthier. Aka people I should emulate but don't. I got this baking book from my friend Terri for Christmas and, as always, I had to try out the brownie recipe in it.

This recipe had relatively little chocolate compared to the amount of butter so I wondered how chocolatey it actually would be. The directions said to bake it for only 20 minutes but at 20 minutes, there was still raw batter on the toothpick I inserted close to the center so I left it in for a total of 30 minutes. You can tell from the picture that it's still pretty fudgy. This is a straightforward, basic fudgy brownie. After the chocolate and butter have melted, mixing it up took less time than for the oven to preheat. I made this Friday before work and had it out of the oven and cooling before I even took my 8 am conference call. How's that for quick and efficient? If you're ever pressed for time and want to make a quick batch of brownies, this one's pretty good to make.

My friend Kendra asked if I had a brownie recipe made with cocoa and I thought I did but in checking around, most of them are either made with unsweetened or semisweet chocolate and some also added cocoa and some didn't but I don't have a recipe I use regularly that's just cocoa. I think it's because most of those recipes tend to be for cakey brownies while I prefer mine dense and fudgy. As I've said before, if I wanted cakey brownies, I'd make a chocolate cake. However, if you're ever inclined to do a substition, for every 1 ounce of unsweetened chocolate that a recipe calls for, you can substitute 3 tablespoons of cocoa and 1 tablespoon of shortening. I've never tried it since I'm never without unsweetened chocolate (seriously.....never) but that's what my baking books say.

12 tablespoons (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, plus more for the pan
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 ½ cups sugar
¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 heaping cup semisweet chocolate chip

1. Preheat the oven to 375˚F. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan and line the bottom with parchment.
2. Bring about 2 inches of water to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Put the butter and the unsweetened chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set it over (but not touching) the simmering water. Stir the mixture frequently with a rubber spatula until it is completely melted and combined. Remove the pan from the heat but keep the bowl over the water to keep the mixture warm.
3. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar and vanilla. In another bowl, sift together the flour and salt. Pour the warm chocolate mixture over the egg mixture and whisk together. With a rubber spatula, quickly fold in the flour mixture. Fold in the chocolate chips and immediately pour the mixture into the prepared baking pan, spreading it evenly.
4. Bake for 10 minutes. Then rotate the pan and bake until the brownies are shiny and cracked on top, 10 minutes more. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let it cool completely. Then cut into 1 ½-inch squares.
5. Keep the brownies at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 3 days or frozen, well wrapped, for up to 1 month.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Best One-Bowl Chocolate Chunk Pecan Cookies

The Best One-Bowl Chocolate Chunk Pecan Cookies - made January 19, 2010 from Sticky, Messy, Chewy, Gooey

I'll have to rename this recipe because, once again, I went off the reservation with the add-ins - I used milk chocolate chips instead of semisweet and Heath Bar toffee bits instead of pecans. But everything else for the cookie dough I kept the same. This is just another variation on the standard chocolate chip cookie. The dough is nice to work with, not too sticky or soft although you do freeze the dough first before baking. But I do that anyway as standard procedure. The cookies did spread so they didn't stay thick but the taste was pretty good. Ten minutes out of the oven and the edges are crisp, the middle is chewy and the chocolate chips are melty. The toffee bits add a nice little crunch too. Even when these cookies are cool, the edges still retain some of the crispness.

2 cups pecan halves
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
¾ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 ¼ cups bleached all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon baking powder
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Place the pecans on a large baking sheet and toast in the oven until they are warm and fragrant, 6 to 9 minutes. Transfer to a plate and let cool completely.
2. Place the butter in a large microwave-safe bowl, and microwave uncovered on high for 1 minute. Remove from the microwave and stir until completely melted. Using a large wooden spoon, stir both sugars into the melted butter. When combined, add the salt, vanilla and eggs. Stir until smooth. Stir the flour, baking soda and baking powder into the batter just until incorporated and a soft dough forms. Carefully fold in the chocolate chunks and cooled toasted pecans.
3. Use a 2-ounce self-releasing ice-cream scoop or a ¼ cup measuring cup to measure out the cookie dough. Place the cookie dough balls on a baking sheet and refrigerate until firm, 45 to 60 minutes. Towards the end of the chilling time, return the oven to 350˚F.
4. Place the chilled dough balls on parchment paper-lined baking sheets. (I find 9 cookies per sheet to be about right to allow for a little spreading and for the cookies to bake evenly.)
5. Bake until the cookies are crisp and golden around the edges but still a little soft in the centers without being gooey, 15 to 18 minutes. Transfer the baking sheets to wire racks and let cool slightly. Using a large metal spatula, transfer the cookies from the baking sheets to the wire racks and let cool to room temperature.
6. Stored in self-sealing plastic bags, these cookies will keep for 2 days at room temperature. They can also be frozen for up to 2 weeks. You can prepare the cookie dough balls and, after they are chilled, store the unbaked cookies in the freezer for up to 1 month. The cookies can be baked straight from the freezer but will take a few minutes longer.

Monday, January 18, 2010

American-Style Pork Ribs

American-Style Pork Ribs - made January 18, 2010 from Modern Classics Book 1 by Donna Hay

Three dishes in one day, not counting the cookie dough I made today and will be baking tomorrow night - stay tuned. This was the easiest of the three. I only used 2 1/2 lbs of ribs instead of the 5 lbs the recipe called for since I couldn't imagine eating 5 lbs of ribs but I did make the full recipe of the sauce. I made the sauce first thing this morning and let the ribs marinate in it for about 8 hours. The recipe says to bake the ribs for 40 minutes but at 40 minutes, they still seemed pretty tough. My mom makes ribs that come out fork tender and I know she said she bakes them for a long time. I ended up baking these for about 2 hours. They're still not as tender as I could've wished but the sauce was really delicious. Next time I may try making these in a crock pot with boneless ribs and let them get tender that way.

I used my mom's trick of lining the roasting pan with foil. When you bake the ribs on the wire rack in the pan, some of the marinade/basting sauce drips into the pan and caramelizes then burns, especially when it's in the oven for 2 hours. But with the foil lining, all you have to do is peel it off and throw it away. Minimal scrubbing needed for the roasting pan. I basted this every 10-15 minutes. I probably could've left the ribs in the oven longer than 2 hours to tenderize them even more but I'd run out of marinade to keep basting with and I didn't want them to dry out.

5 lbs American pork ribs
2/3 cup tomato puree
1 cup brown sugar
¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 ½ teaspoons chili powder
1 ½ teaspoons smoky paprika
2 cloves garlic, crushed

1. Cut the lengths of ribs in half. Combine the tomato puree, sugar, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, chili powder, paprika and garlic in a large non-metallic bowl. Add the ribs and coat well with marinade. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight, turning occasionally.
2. Preheat the oven to 400˚F. Place the ribs on wire racks in two baking trays, reserving the marinade. Bake the ribs for 40 minutes, or until well browned, brushing frequently with the marinade. Serve with crispy roast potatoes and a green salad.

Serves 4

Cake Donuts

Cake Donuts - made January 18, 2010 from Bread for Breakfast

I hardly ever make doughnuts. I have nothing against them and they're generally not hard to make but they usually call for more time than I normally have. But Hildy was talking about doughnuts on Facebook yesterday and I had today off so suddenly I wanted a doughnut and had the time to make them. I never actually drive to go get doughnuts - while I'll eat them when they're in front of me, I don't love them enough to make an effort to go somewhere to get them. The first time I ever had a Krispy Kreme doughnut was when I walked by one in a Las Vegas casino and decided to see what all the fuss was about. Beyond that I never actually go to my neighborhood Krispy Kreme for a doughnut.

My earliest childhood memory of doughnut making was my mom taking the tube can of Pillsbury biscuits, cutting out the center with a small circular cookie cutter and deep frying the biscuit dough. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and you had instant doughnuts. My taste buds have matured (and become snobbier) since then but as a kid, I remember them being pretty good.

I've had this recipe typed up for awhile. What I do with my 200+ baking books is go through them, mark which ones I want to try and type them up in a Word doc so I have a soft copy that I can add pictures to as well as my notes of when I made the recipe, what I thought of it and what I would do differently next time. Whenever I have some time and when I'm in the mood, I type up all the recipes I want to try. I have file folders with the names of the recipe books and as soon as I try a recipe, I insert a picture that I took of the finished product into the recipe itself then file the Word doc in the file folder with the name of the cookbook I got it from. For the recipes I've typed up but haven't made yet, I file in a folder labeled (rightly enough) "Still Need to Make". That file folder has dozens of recipes and I can type them up faster than I can make them. Whenever I'm in the mood to bake and want to try something new, I check that file folder first to see what's appealing. So I was glad to finally get a chance to make this recipe since I typed it up several years ago and it's just been sitting in that folder.

The dough itself was easy to put together this morning. I did the substitions the recipe said were acceptable and used half whole wheat flour and half all-purpose flour as well as half brown sugar and half granulated sugar. The recipe calls for chilling the dough for a couple of hours so it won't absorb too much oil when fried. I actually chilled it for longer than that because I was doing other stuff when the 2 hours were up. In any case, I found this dough really soft to work with. It wasn't even possible to knead it without adding too much flour, something the recipe cautions against. Given how soft the dough was, I didn't even bother with a rolling pin but floured a cutting board, grabbed a chunk of the dough and flattened it out with floured palms. I floured two round cookie cutters and cut out the doughnuts and doughnut holes. Because the dough was so soft, it was hard to unstick the cut out dough from the cookie cutter and still retain its round shape.

While I was dealing with the dough, I had the oil heating up in a large pot. When you fry doughnuts or anything similar, the temperature of your oil is critical. Too hot and it'll burn the outside while leaving the inside raw. Not hot enough and your doughnut (or whatever) will absorb too much oil while it's frying and take too long to cook. Also, be aware that the temperature of your oil will change - the more you add to be fried, the lower the temp goes. Don't add too many without waiting for the oil to heat back up. Don't overcrowd the doughnuts and it's best to add several at once so they get done around the same time and you don't have to worry about which one has been in the longest and needs to come out first. Just because your frying pan is big doesn't mean you have to cover every inch with something to be fried.
As an aside, while I was frying the doughnuts, I couldn't help thinking of the book "Farmer Boy" by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Almanzo came in from doing his chores and his mother was frying doughnuts. She'd twist them, drop them in the hot oil (or fat/lard) and they'd rise to the top, turning over to cook on both sides without her "wasting time" turning them. I'd always found that fascinating and always pictured it in my mind's eye. Almanzo's mother didn't hold with the new-fangled concept of a round doughnut that didn't turn itself.

Anyway, back to these doughnuts. I made the cinnamon sugar for them, put it in a ziploc bag (since I didn't have a lunch bag) and dropped the newly fried doughnuts into the bag to shake and give them the cinnamon sugar coating. I have mixed feelings about the end results of this recipe. Because the dough was so fragile and difficult to work with, the fried doughnuts also didn't have much substance to them. I'm used to cake doughnuts being like the ones you buy in the store like the Entemann's brand - these were not as dense or cakey as those. They also weren't light like yeasted doughnuts but some cross inbetween. The cinnamon sugar coating was a mistake because it totally overwhelmed the doughnuts and you just got crunch with cinnamon sugar. I also tried a doughnut hole without the coating and it was better. The outer part was crunchy which was good. The inner part was somewhat cakey although the outer layer of the inner part (just beneath the crunchy exterior), while not greasy, looked like it had absorbed some oil. The flavor actually wasn't bad but these doughnuts tasted better cool or room temperature rather than warm. Not sure I'd make these again. If I had to eat something fried, I'd rather have zeppoles.

3 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour (can be half whole wheat flour)
1 cup cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon vanilla powder
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg or cardamom
½ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
1 large whole egg plus 2 egg yolks
1 cup sugar (can be half light brown sugar, which is especially good if you are making whole wheat donuts)
3 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
1/3 cup sour cream
1 cup cultured buttermilk
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
About 1 quart vegetable oil, for deep frying

1. In a medium bowl, stir together the all-purpose and cake flours, baking powder, vanilla powder, nutmeg, baking soda, and salt
2. In the workbowl of a heavy-duty electric mixer, cream the egg, yolks, and sugar on low speed until thick and lemon colored, about 1 minute. Add the melted butter and sour cream and beat on medium speed for 30 seconds. On low speed, add the dry ingredients in 3 separate additions, alternating with the buttermilk and vanilla extract. The dough will be very soft. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for 2 hours. This chilling before frying prevents the dough from absorbing too much oil while the donuts cook.
3. Using a large rubber spatula or a plastic dough card, scrape the dough out of the bowl onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead a few times, like for biscuit dough, just until it holds together, and keeping it as soft as possible. With a rolling pin, quickly roll out the dough to a thickness of ½ inch (the donuts will puff during frying). Do not add too much flour or over-handle at this point or the donuts will be tough. Using a 2 ¾” donut cutter or two smooth-edged biscuit cutters, one large and one small (to make the hole) dipped in flour, cut out the donuts.
4. In a deep heavy 4-quart Dutch oven, wok or portable electric deep-fat fryer, pour the vegetable oil to a depth of 2 inches. Using a deep-fry thermometer, heat to 375°F (I do this while I am rolling and cutting out the donuts so that the dough does not warm up). Place a clean brown paper bag or a few layers of paper towels on a baking sheet at the side of the stove for draining the donuts. Carefully test the oil by dropping in a leftover scrap of dough; the oil is hot enough when it puffs immediately. Carefully slide 2 or 3 pieces of dough (don’t forget the holes) off a metal pancake turner into the hot oil. It is important not to crowd them. Turn a few times with a large slotted metal spoon when the donut rises to the surface; cook until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side (1 minute for the holes). Remove with the slotted spoon to drain, and cool to room temperature.

Chocolate Glaze

Enough for 21 cake donuts

1 ½ ounces (1 ½ squares) unsweetened or bittersweet chocolate
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 ½ cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
Pinch of powdered espresso powder or instant coffee granules
¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon boiling water

1. In the top of a double boiler, melt the chocolate and butter over simmering water
2. In a small bowl, place the confectioners’ sugar and coffee. Pour in the melted chocolate and vanilla. Using a whisk, beat well until smooth. Adjust the consistency of the glaze by adding boiling water a few drops at a time, just enough to keep the glaze spreadable.
3. Using a small metal spatula, spread the glaze on the top of each donut, letting some run down the sides. Let stand until cool and the glaze harden.

Cinnamon Sugar

Enough for 1 bunch of cake donuts

1 cup granulated sugar
2 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon, or to taste

1. Place the sugar and cinnamon in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade and process for 15 seconds.
2. Pour the cinnamon-sugar into a clean brown paper bag (a lunch sack is great). Drain the fried donuts for 1 minute, and then, while still warm, place one at a time while still warm in the paper bag and gently shake to coat with the mixture. Remove from the bag and cool.

Lemon and Parmesan Risotto

Lemon and Parmesan Risotto - made January 18, 2010 from Modern Classics Book 1 by Donna Hay

I love risotto (Asian --> rice = 'nuff said). I love it even more that it's relatively simple to make and even I can make good risotto. I got this recipe from Patricia, a friend of mine from eBay who introduced me to Donna Hay's cookbooks. I haven't made a lot from her books but the directions are pretty easy and there aren't a lot of ingredients to most of them, once again bringing this into my realm of possibility to make.

With this recipe, I find patience is the key. You have to add the chicken stock (I used Trader Joe's chicken broth) a cup at a time and wait until the rice absorbs most of it before adding the next cup. Don't cheat this step as the rice needs time to cook and absorb the liquid and you want to dry it out enough before adding the next cup or you'll end up with either rice porridge instead of risotto or clumpy risotto. This is a perfect dish to make when you're multi-tasking. Add the cup of broth, give it a few stirs and keep doing whatever else you need to do. Check it regularly and you'll know when to add the next cup of broth. I usually wait until the risotto is about the consistency I'd want to eat it before I add more broth.

I only used half an onion for this batch since I'm not overly fond of onions (although I will eat them in the risotto since they end up being the same consistency and texture as the rice) and added chunks of chicken breasts for protein. I added the raw chicken at the step when you stir the rice into the butter-olive oil-onion mixture and let it cook a bit with the rice before adding the first cup of chicken broth. The recipe says it serves 4 but that means pretty generous servings for 4 people. I'd estimate 6-8 servings is closer to reality.

20 g (¾ oz) butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
5 ½ cups (2 ¼ pints) chicken or vegetable stock
2 cups Arborio or other risotto rice
3 teaspoons finely grated lemon rind
½ cup finely grated parmesan cheese
20 g (¾ oz) butter, extra
Sea salt and cracked black pepper

1. Heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the butter, oil and onion and cook for 6-8 minutes or until soft and golden. Place the stock in a separate saucepan. Cover and bring to a slow simmer.
2. Add the rice and lemon rind to the onion mixture, stirring over medium heat for 2 minutes or until the rice is translucent.
3. Add the hot stock 1 cup at a time, stirring continuously, until each cup of stock is absorbed and the rice is al dente (around 25-30 minutes). To serve, stir through the parmesan, extra butter, salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Serves 4


Sunday, January 17, 2010

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Scones

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Scones - made January 17, 2010 from the May 2002 issue of Chocolatier Magazine

Scones are pretty easy to make. I whipped up this batch this morning before church, chilled them and then baked them while I was working out. Most scone recipes call for patting the scone dough into a disk and cutting into wedges. I usually cheat that step and use my mini scone pan. No messing around with the dough and I can make uniform sizes. It also means I bake it for a slightly shorter amount of time since the scone pan makes smaller scones. It was hard to tell when these were done. I tried the toothpick test but I still wasn't sure so I took them out after almost 20 minutes and that seemed to be about right.

These scones turned out cakey which I hadn't quite expected but it makes sense given the amount of baking powder the recipe calls for. It's also not very sweet at all (note there's no sugar in the actual scone dough itself). I didn't have coarse sugar to sprinkle on top but I should have as that's probably where the sweetness would come from to offset the chocolate flavor of the scone. The chocolate chips helped to give it some sweetness though. These are probably best eaten fresh out of the oven as the top was crisp and the scone was cakey rather than flaky. I tried one and it was good but packaged up the rest for the freezer to portion out at a later date. Those I will likely want to heat up before consuming as they'll probably taste better than being chilled or at room temperature.

1 ¾ cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened alkalized cocoa powder
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks
½ cup confectioners’ sugar
½ cup heavy cream
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 ounces Lindt bittersweet chocolate, cut into ¼” pieces

Coarse sugar

1. In bowl of food processor, combine flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. Pulse until well blended. Add butter chunks and process for a few seconds, just until butter is size of peas. Transfer mixture to large bowl and stir in sugar.
2. In small bowl, whisk together heavy cream, eggs, and vanilla extract. Pour cream mixture over dry ingredients, add chopped chocolate, and stir to form dough. Knead dough lightly in bowl about 10 times.
3. Scrape dough onto lightly floured work surface and shape into 7 ½” round disc. Transfer round to plate, cover with plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.
4. Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 375˚F. Remove dough from refrigerator and cut round into 8 wedges. Transfer scones to ungreased baking sheet and sprinkle tops with coarse sugar. Bake for 22-25 minutes, until set. Transfer to wire rack and cool completely.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Lemon Walnut Sour Cream Pound Cake

Lemon Walnut Sour Cream Pound Cake - made January 16, 2010 from The Sweet Melissa Baking Book by Melissa Murphy

I think this is the 5th recipe I've tried from this baking book and it's another winner. I have several recipe books published by bakeries and some of them are hit or miss on how good the recipes really are (or not). But I need to look up where The Sweet Melissa Bakery is so I can visit it someday because so far her cookbook has been spectacular. It's rivaling the baking books from Magnolia Bakery and Buttercup Bake Shop in terms of consistently good recipes and, having visited both Magnolia and Buttercup in Manhattan, I love those two bakeries. I may also love the Sweet Melissa Bakery if her recipes keep turning out so well.

While this recipe has "walnut" in the title, your eyes aren't deceiving you that there aren't any walnuts in the picture. There aren't any because I generally don't like nuts in cakes and I specifically don't like walnuts at all. But this was fine without them. The recipe calls for baking the pound cake in a single large loaf pan but I made it in 3 small loaf pans. I like using the smaller sizes because they bake faster and it's nicer to present and give away to several different people as a single small loaf than a large loaf cut into pieces. Just don't forget to adjust the baking time. I baked the small loaf pans in about 40-45 minutes. This one's mostly for my parents, except for the one I had to cut for the taste test. This has a perfectly balanced lemon flavor, is moist without being too dense and has a perfect pound cake texture with a tender crumb. I should know because I ate a second taste test piece just to be sure :).

Lemon Walnut Sour Cream Pound Cake

For the cake
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
¼ cup vegetable shortening
1 ½ cups sugar
2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
¼ teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 large eggs
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup sour cream
1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped

For the glaze:
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup fresh lemon juice

1. Position a rack in the center of your oven. Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Butter and flour a 1 ½-quart loaf pan.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, shortening, sugar and zest, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the lemon juice, almond extract, and vanilla and mix to combine. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the flour mixture to the batter in two batches, alternating with the sour cream. Do not overmix. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Gently fold in the walnuts, saving some to sprinkle on top.
4. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes to 1 hour and 30 minutes, or until a wooden skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove to a wire rack to cool for 20 minutes before inverting onto a rack for glazing.
5. For the glaze: In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and lemon juice and heat to a high simmer. Simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, or until reduced by half.
6. Using a pastry brush, brush the hot glaze on the still-warm unmolded cake. Brush again, if desired, after 15 minutes. Let cool before slicing.

General Pao's Chicken

General Pao's Chicken - made 1.16.10, from The Most Decadent Diet Ever by Devin Alexander

Let's call this the dish where I set a kitchen towel on fire. Naturally I didn't mean to and I've been using a gas stove without incident for years. Usually to fry scrambled eggs or melt chocolate in a double boiler. This time around I was using my wok and was holding the steel handle with a kitchen towel so I wouldn't burn my hand. And, you guessed it, wasn't that careful about where the ends of the towel were so next thing I know, a small flame was licking at the raggedy ends. Oops. Fortunately I caught it quickly and shook it out, no harm done. Heck, the smoke alarm didn't even go off so, really, I've had worse incidents.

This is another recipe where the mise en place is important. I had the chicken breasts cut up and had to put the sauce ingredients together. Then cut the onions and bell pepper last. Slicing onions is a PITA. I'm sure there are all sorts of tricks to prevent your eyes from tearing up and weeping like a soap opera queen but I've never bothered to learn any of them. Other than cutting as fast as I can so I can stop crying. After the onion, the bell pepper was a piece of cake.

Things didn't go that great with this recipe and for that I'm going to blame my wok. I have a Calphalon one bought from who knows when (also from one of my previous attempts to learn how to cook). It's not nonstick and the recipe didn't call for that much oil so I didn't use much. It wasn't so bad when I was just stir frying the onion and bell pepper but when I took those out, added a little more sesame oil to the wok and tried to fry the cornstarch-coated chicken pieces, it was near-disastrous. The chicken stuck to the wok, no matter how much I kept trying to stir it around and whatever coating was supposed to be on the chicken ended up on the bottom of the wok. Undeterred, I kept on with the recipe anyway, added the onion and bell pepper back in and poured the sauce over it. It obligingly thickened up like it was supposed to and except for the bottom of the wok that I just knew I had to scrub later, this seemed to turn out all right. Or it would have if I actually liked or ate onion and bell pepper. Why make it with them if I don't eat them? Well, that's what the recipe called for and I wanted to see what it tasted like as written. It turned out fine but didn't have much sauce (probably ended up stuck to the bottom of the wok like everything else). Next time I'm going to make it without the onion and bell pepper and just make it a nice chicken stir-fry. As soon as I get a better wok.

1 ¼ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, visible fat removed
3 tablespoons cornstarch, divided
1/3 cup 98% fat-free or fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
3 tablespoons lower-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 ½ tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon sherry
1 ½ teaspoons hoisin sauce
1 ½ teaspoons minced peeled fresh ginger
1 ½ teaspoons minced fresh garlic
1 teaspoons finely chopped dried red chilies, or to taste
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil, divided
1 medium red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup 1-inch onion squares
1/3 cup chopped whole green onions

1. Place the chicken breasts between two sheets of plastic wrap or wax paper on a flat work surface. Use the flat side of a meat mallet to pound them to an even 1/3-inch thickness. Cut the breasts into ¾-inch strips. Transfer to a medium bowl and add 2 tablespoons cornstarch. Toss to coat well. Let stand for 5 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, whisk the remaining cornstarch and the broth, soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, sherry, hoisin sauce, ginger, garlic, and chiles in a medium bowl until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is well combined.
3. Place a large nonstick wok or stir-fry pan over high heat. When the wok is hot, put in 1 teaspoon sesame oil. Add the bell pepper and white onions. Cook, stirring frequently, until the veggies are crisp-tender, but not yet browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove them from the wok and set aside.
4. Put in the remaining teaspoon of sesame oil and the chicken in a single layer. When the chicken is lightly browned on one side, after about 2 minutes, flip it and let the other side brown lightly. Then continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until no longer pink inside. Return the bell pepper and onions to the pan and then add the sauce. Use a wooden spoon to stir the mixture constantly until the sauce thickens just enough to stick to the chicken and a little bit remains in the wok. Transfer the chicken and vegetables to a serving platter and top with the green onions. Serve immediately.

Serves 5

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Sesame Chicken

Sesame Chicken - January 13, 2010

Two weeks into the new year and I haven't set off the smoke alarm yet with my cooking efforts - progress! This recipe harkens back to my early undergrad days at UC Davis (before I transferred to Berkeley) and comes from my cousin Christine (back in the days before I was snipped off that branch of the family tree, lol). It's really easy to make but in the past, I've botched this one up too. This time I made some simple modifications and, buoyed by the moderate success of my recent cooking experiences, I didn't find it that intimidating to make. It's not gourmet cooking but if you want a little flavor for some chicken, it's good enough.

The original recipe calls for chicken thighs but I substituted 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts that I pounded and cut into 4 thin pieces ala the Chicken Piccata. It also calls for dipping the chicken in flour, then egg, then flour then egg again to give it a good coating that fries up crisp - at least that's how I remember Christine making it. I skipped all that and just did a light coating in flour, also like the Chicken Piccata. I also skipped the oil and fried the chicken in a couple of teaspoons of light butter.

I did keep the sauce recipe exactly the same and once the chicken was fried, I poured the sauce over it, put in the oven and baked for 30 minutes. It came out tender. The flavor wasn't as good as I remember but this was also way back in my college days so I'm sure my taste buds have changed. But still, it's good enough for lunches for the rest of the week and I'm glad I made the modifications I did because my taste for fried, breaded food has also abated.

Sesame Chicken

Package of chicken thighs
½ cup soy sauce
¼ cup sugar
1/8 cup sherry

1. Double dip chicken in egg then flour. Fry until golden brown.
2. Place chicken in foil-lined, shallow pan.
3. Mix soy sauce, sugar and sherry in a bowl. Pour over chicken.
4. Bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes in a preheated 350˚F oven.

ETA: this is a bit saltier than I remember it being. You might want to either substitute some of the soy sauce for sherry or add a bit more water.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Chicken Tetrazzini

Chicken Tetrazzini - made January 10, 2010

When I was an undergrad at UC Berkeley, I lived at Asher House which was a house for Christian Science students at Cal and neighboring schools. Asher was a co-op, meaning the students who lived there took turns with house duties such as cleaning the common areas, grocery shopping and cooking for the house. One of my housemates, Amber, made this Chicken Tetrazzini recipe. Being pasta and chicken in a rich sauce, it was a good dinner to serve to starving college students on a budget. I don't know where Amber got the original recipe from but I modified it for my purposes today. I substituted fat-free half-and-half for the whipping cream and omitted the mushrooms since I don't like mushrooms. I used grated/shredded Parmesan cheese (the real kind, not the kind in the green cylinder that sprinkles Parmesan cheese dust). I cheated on the chicken and used the already cooked, grilled chicken breast strips from Costco. Much easier than starting with raw chicken breasts, pounding them, cutting them and frying them myself. Maybe next time.

Because of the substitution of the half-and-half for the whipping cream, the sauce isn't as thick or rich as I remember Amber's version to be but this probably still has a fair number of calories to it. I also didn't bake it as long as the recipe calls for as I don't like the top layer of noodles to get too crusty or hard. BTW, does anyone know the difference between tetrazzini and alfredo sauce? They both have the same type of ingredients in it: chicken broth, cream, cheese and flour as a thickener so they seem pretty much the same to me.

Chicken Tetrazzini

¼ cup butter
¼ cup flour
1 cup chicken broth
salt and pepper
1 cup whipping cream
2 teaspoons white wine or sherry
7 ounces spaghetti, cooked and drained
2 cups cubed, cooked chicken
⅓ cup sliced mushrooms
¾ cup Parmesan cheese

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Melt butter in large pan. Add flour and stir.
2. Blend broth well; add cream. Heat to boiling. Boil and stir 1 minute. Add salt and pepper to taste, wine, mushrooms and ½ cup Parmesan cheese.
3. Cook slowly for 5 minutes. Pour sauce in casserole dish mixed with chicken and spaghetti. Top with ¼ cup Parmesan cheese and bake uncovered for 30 minutes or until bubbly.

Banana Apple Bread

Banana Apple Bread - January 10, 2010

I should probably stop pretending that I'm on baking hiatus in January since this is the second time I've broken it. But I had a good excuse - I mean reason - this time. Every Sunday I go to church and meet my parents for lunch and I usually bring them something I've baked. Last Sunday, being dutifully on baking hiatus, I hadn't brought anything so I was caught off guard when my dad said, "no cookies?" Now, he was fine that I hadn't made anything, especially since they still had some of the orange pound cake I'd made them for New Year's. But I don't like not having something if he expected something. I wasn't going to get caught flat-footed again.

Baking for my parents can be a tricky proposition. They don't like anything too sweet (that lets out caramel-related baked goods as well as a major portion of what I make) and they're not especially fond of chocolate baked goods (they'll enjoy a box of Godiva chocolates but chocolate chip cookies or brownies? Not so much). So I normally go for something like lemon bars, orange cake, banana bread, snickerdoodles and/or white chocolate macadamia coconut cookies. This time around, I decided to try this recipe for Banana Apple Bread from The Sweet Melissa Baking Book by Melissa Murphy. I'd made a few recipes from her book already and they had all turned out pretty well. This recipe was no exception.

It takes a little more prep than the average banana bread recipe since you had to chop up the apples and caramelize them, squeeze the orange juice and mash the bananas. But even that wasn't too hard or time consuming. I managed to get this made up before church this morning and had it baking while I worked out. I made them into 4 mini loaves instead of 1 big loaf so they baked in about 40 minutes (my workout was 36 minutes long so that worked out well). Normally I'm not a big fan of mixing fruit flavors but I actually liked the chunks of apples in the banana bread. The texture was soft and moist and it's something a little different from the norm.

Mom's Banana Apple Bread from The Sweet Melissa Baking Book by Melissa Murphy

For the apples
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and cut into ½” pieces
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the Banana Bread
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon kosher salt
8 tablespoon (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
¼ cup fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 ¼ cups very ripe mashed bananas (2 to 3)

1. Position a rack in the center of your oven and preheat the oven to 350˚F. Lightly butter and flour a 1 ½-quart loaf pan.
2. To make the apples: Preheat a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the butter and brown sugar and heat until bubbling. Add the apples and cinnamon and sauté until golden and tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the vanilla. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
3. To make the banana bread: In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and salt.
4. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
5. In a small bowl, combine the orange juice and vanilla.
6. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in three batches, alternating with the orange juice mixture, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl after each flour addition. Stir in the mashed bananas until combined. Then stir in the reserved apples.
7. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, or until a wooden skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove to a wire rack to cool for 20 minutes before unmolding onto the rack to cool further.

Serve slightly warm or at room temperature. The banana bread keeps well wrapped in plastic wrap at room temperature for up to 3 days. For longer storage, freeze well wrapped in plastic wrap and then aluminum foil for up to 3 weeks. Defrost still wrapped at room temperate.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Skinny Scampi

Skinny Scampi - made January 6, 2010 from The Most Decadent Diet Ever by Devin Alexander

I love shrimp so I was predisposed to like this dish even just by reading the recipe. And it didn't disappoint. Ironically, I don't usually eat scampi just because of the high butter content and I normally prefer butter in baked goods or on a warm piece of bread rather than on something savory like shrimp or lobster. But the recipe seemed really easy to make and it was. The important thing is to prep your ingredients and that was probably the most time-consuming part. I'm actually an expert at peeling and deveining shrimp since that was one of the few things I could do to help my mom when she cooked so that was no big deal. But I'm certainly not fast at it. Although the recipe says to leave the tails on, I took them off while I was peeling the shrimp. I was peeling them anyway and my hands were already messy so why not? I don't like having to take the tails off of cooked shrimp while I'm eating them - it only slows me down :).

Once you turn the pan on, putting together this dish goes really, really fast so it's important to have your mise en place fully ready. I had bought a wine opener (the good kind since I doubted my strength in yanking a cork out of a bottle with just a corkscrew) so I had the white wine ready and I used the last of my mom's organic lemons to squeeze the lemon juice. Cooking the shrimp and putting together the sauce took almost no time and you end up with a delicious dish. This is another entree I could serve up to company as well as eat without rice - for you low carbers, this easily goes on a salad for a healthy, low-calorie meal.

So far, this cookbook has been a really good investment. I know of a few people who already have it and have recommended other recipes in the book for me to try. I've had a couple of people also tell me they're going to buy the book based on what I've posted so I'm very pleased about that. Definitely don't just rely on what I'm posting as there are many other recipes in the book that look good as well. I doubt I'll be able to try them all or blog about all of them so don't miss out.

Skinny Scampi

1 ¼ pounds medium (31-40 count) shrimp, peeled (tails left on) and deveined
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon salt, or to taste
Black pepper
6 garlic cloves, minced (about 2 ½ tablespoons)
¼ cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons light butter (stick, not tub)
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

1. Toss the shrimp with the olive oil, salt, and pepper to taste in a medium bowl.
2. Place a large nonstick skillet over high heat. When the skillet is hot, put in half of the shrimp. Cook, stirring occasionally, until they are just pink on both sides, 2 to 3 minutes. Add half of the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until the shrimp are lightly browned on the outside and cooked through, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer the shrimp to a platter and cover to keep hot. Repeat with the remaining shrimp and garlic. Add them to the platter and cover.
3. Add the wine and lemon juice to the pan. When the liquid is reduced by half, 1 to 2 minutes, turn the heat to low and add the butter and 1 tablespoon parsley. Use a wooden spoon to stir until the butter is melted completely, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Spoon the sauce over the shrimp and toss well, then garnish with the remaining parsley. Serve immediately.

Serves 4

Baby Brownies aka Dulce de Leche Brownies

Baby Brownies - made January 5, 2010, from The Silver Palate Basics Cookbook

Okay, so I wasn't going to be baking in January. Too many people "dieting" or having new year's resolutions to eat healthier and cut out sweets. Or so I thought. I underestimated the fact that I work mostly with men who don't care so much about that kind of stuff. I had a few people ask me if I'd made anything or what I was baking lately. Hey, I can take a hint. Plus I had meetings today where I normally bring something and I would've hated to disappoint anyone if they expected it and I showed up empty handed. And actually, let's face it - I'm weak. Despite burning out on baking over the holidays, after a 5-day hiatus from it, I suddenly didn't seem to mind baking again. Maybe I just needed a respite from cooking, lol.

This recipe was given to me by Jim, one of the VPs I work with. Jim made them last month and gave our group some so I knew ahead of time they were good. So it wasn't like I needed to make them myself, right? Apparently, I'm also a control freak and I wanted to try the recipe for myself. When Jim had us try this the first time, I had an end piece and a middle piece. I always like the middles because they're the most moist. I ate the middle piece first and it was just all yummy, fudgy, chocolatey goodness. When I ate the end piece, it was good too and still moist but not as moist as the middle piece and before I even looked at the recipe, I guessed there was chocolate syrup in it. And I was right. At the time, the only chocolate syrup I knew of was the Hershey's brand and Jim said he used the Hershey's Special Dark syrup. I'm more of a hot fudge person myself and the syrup didn't detract from the brownies and likely helped them be so moist and fudgy. But I wondered if I could make them so that you can't really taste the syrup.

I wanted to know if there were more high end chocolate syrups out there beyond Hershey's and, at Jim's suggestion, I posted that question on Yahoo! Answers. Someone replied and suggested Trader Joe's Midnight Moo chocolate syrup. Okay, c'mon, for that name alone, you have to try it. So I bought a bottle and that's what I used to make the brownie batter. However, being me, I also put my own spin on it. I still had almost half a jar of dulce de leche from the Fantasy Bars I'd made a few weeks ago so I covered the bottom of the baking pan with half the brownie batter, dropped dollops of the dulce de leche over it then covered it all with the remaining brownie batter. I didn't swirl the dulce de leche in or try to spread it thin. I wanted it completely covered because if you bake it with the dulce de leche exposed, the dulce de leche bubbles up during baking and will become chewy when it cools. I don't want chewy, I wanted creamy and for that, the dulce de leche has to be covered and sandwiched within the brownie.

Just stare at the picture. Can you see how fudgy and moist it is? There are no chemical leaveners in the recipe (no baking powder or baking soda) and you don't beat a lot of air into it so it's just a rich, moist, fudgy brownie - perfect. The dulce de leche adds a sweet, caramel-like flavor and even more moistness to it so don't underbake it by too much. I turned off the oven after 30 minutes then let the baking pan sit in there for another 5 minutes before I took it out. As the recipe says, cut these into small pieces as they're pretty rich.

Here's the recipe:

Just add the dulce de leche on your own if you wish but it's certainly excellent without it too.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Fettuccine Alfredo

The most I’ve been managing to do is cook every other day. At first I thought I’d cook a bunch of stuff over the weekend and just have leftovers during the week when I’m back to work. It sounded like a good plan. Unfortunately, that only works if I could actually discipline myself to cook all weekend. Which I didn’t do this past weekend. Instead I found a killer sale at Banana Republic and got a pedicure on Saturday, went to church and out to lunch with my parents on Sunday and helped my mom drag their dead Christmas tree out for the recyclers. Watched the first 2 movies in the Lord of the Rings trilogy while I dusted off a big Mary Engelbreit cross stitch project I’d started months ago and never really worked on in 2009. Even read a couple of books too. But spending time on the cooking thing? Not so much.

But I’ve decided that’s just as well because one of my problems in the past with learning/not learning how to cook is I was all gung ho about it in the beginning, bought a bunch of ingredients and made a bunch of stuff, some of which turned out, some of which didn’t. And after that first week, I’d completely lose interest in doing it again and back to Costco I’d go for the already-roasted rotisserie chicken for $4.99. This time, I’m trying to make it different. Like dieting or saving for a big financial goal, you have to keep at it if you want results. Consistency is best. It’s easy to take off a few pounds when you’re sick of sugar and feeling fat from holiday eating. But it’s taking it off and keeping it off in the long run that really matters and that only comes about with consistency and perseverance. Same thing with cooking or any other meaningful goal you want to achieve. It’s probably better for me to cook every other day and do it over the long haul instead of loading up the first couple of weeks and losing interest in it all over again once I burned out sufficiently from it.

Before I start on tonight’s cooking experiment, an update on the mac and cheese and the chicken piccata I’d made already. Had the mac and cheese for breakfast this morning – yeah, it’s a weird breakfast but I’ve also been known to eat breakfast food for dinner so I see nothing wrong with dinner food for breakfast. I’m an equal opportunity, doesn’t-matter-what-time-of-day eater. Even aside from the fact that I didn’t have egg beaters on hand and couldn’t fry my usual faux scrambled eggs for breakfast. Besides, I had a lot of the mac and cheese leftovers since I’d made the dish twice so I have to eat it sometime. You definitely don’t want to reheat this too much. Since I had the leftovers portioned out in individual-sized portions in the freezer, I had to heat it up. It got a bit rubbery as I heated it too long. So go easy on the reheating. I think this dish tastes best when eaten immediately after cooking and isn’t ideal as a make-enough-to-have-leftovers kind of dish.

The Chicken Piccata on the other hand was just as good as when I first made it. I’m really pleased with this recipe and how it turned out. Normally when something has a sauce to it, I love to eat it with rice (hey, after all, I’m Asian). But in trying to eat better, I actually had today’s portion on a bed of salad greens. I heated up the chicken piccata first then dumped it over the salad greens. I never eat salad with dressing but the lemon sauce made a perfect “dressing” for the salad. Good stuff. This recipe alone was worth getting the cookbook.

Now onto the Fettuccine Alfredo. This is also from the Most Decadent Diet Ever by Devin Alexander – can you tell once I glom onto a cookbook, I try as many recipes from it as possible? In this case it’s partly because there seem to be a lot of good recipes that are to my taste and my skill level in cooking. And partly because I have over 200 cookbooks and all but 4 or 5 of them are baking books, not cooking books, so I don’t have a big pool to choose from if I want to make “real food”. The original name for this recipe is actually Fettu-skinny Alfredo because it’s supposed to be made with lowfat Parmesan cheese and nonfat half-and-half. I had the nonfat half-and-half but they didn’t have reduced-fat Parmesan cheese at Trader Joe’s so I went with the regular version even if it meant it’s not as low-cal, low-fat as the recipe intended. I also bought the Parmesan cheese already shredded. Yeah, how lazy am I? But grating cheese is a pain and there’s not that much of a price difference between the block of Parmesan and the grated fresh Parmesan in a bag, at least not in the amounts I needed. The extra buck is worth my time. I added chicken breast chunks to the dish for the added protein. Plus I got to use my new meat mallet again and whacked the chicken breasts into tender thinness again so that was fun. Anything to liven up a Monday night.

How it turned out:
So even though it wasn’t with the low-fat Parmesan cheese, I’m hoping that didn’t alter the intended flavor or calorie count by that much. If it did, then I’m glad I worked out this morning. The sauce was good although next time I would do two things differently with this recipe. One, I would use angel hair pasta instead of fettuccine noodles. Much as I like fettuccine alfredo in general, I don't like big noodles. They're too heavy and you're busy eating so much noodle that sometimes the taste of the sauce gets lost. I think this would be much better with angel hair pasta or spaghettini noodles. Second, I would stop garnishing with parsley. It was optional and I didn't have to but since I had a bunch of parsley (literally, 1 bunch) that I bought for the other recipes, it seemed a shame not to use them. But after I tried it, I decided the recipe stands on its own and doesn't need the parsley. Otherwise, if you like pasta with alfredo sauce, this is definitely a good alternative to the calorie-laden versions.

Fettu-Skinny Alfredo - made January 4, 2010, from The Most Decadent Diet Ever by Devin Alexander

9 ounces dried fettucine
2 ½ teaspoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons fat-free half-and-half
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons grated reduced-fat Parmesan, divided
½ teaspoon garlic powder, or more to taste
1/8 teaspoon salt, or to taste
3 tablespoons light butter (stick, not tub)
Chopped fresh parsley, optional

1. Cook fettuccine according to package directions.
2. Mix the flour with just enough half-and-half to form a paste in a medium bowl. Slowly add the remaining half-and-half, stirring to remove any lumps.
3. Place a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat. Put in the half-and-half mixture, ½ cup Parmesan, the garlic powder and salt to taste. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture is as thick as gravy, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the butter until it melts and is well incorporated. Toss in the cooked fettuccine. If the sauce still needs to thicken slightly, continue to toss the fettuccine until the sauce thickens. Divide the fettuccine among 4 pasta bowls or dinner plates. Top each with 1 ½ teaspoons of the remaining Parmesan and a sprinkling of parsley, if desired. Serve immediately.

Serves 4

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Chicken Piccata

Chicken Piccata - January 2, 2010

This is going to be one of those times where you can laugh at my cooking attempts. I wanted to try this recipe for Chicken Piccata (also from The Most Decadent Diet Ever by Devin Alexander) because it seemed like another straightforward dish to make. It looked a little more involved than the Mac and Cheese recipe and I had to get a meat mallet for it but I was game to give it a try.

First, I pounded the chicken breasts as directed in the recipe. I've never pounded anything with a meat mallet before but I was impressed that it actually worked! Only thing is the recipe says to pound to an even 1/4" thickness but that seemed a little thin to me. I know it's to make the chicken tender and that's how thin chicken piccata is supposed to be but I'm not a fan of something that thin. So I cheated and only pounded to about 1/3" to 1/2" thickness. The chicken breasts I'd started with were pretty thick so it took some whacking to even get to that level of thinness. And the breasts definitely spread in size.

Second, I set up the rest of the ingredients into my mise en place. Only to run into a snag with the wine (this is the part where you can laugh at me). I don't drink but I'm not opposed to cooking with alcohol and I did buy a bottle of dry white wine at Trader Joe's because that's what the recipe called for. But if you don't drink, you know what you don't have in your house? Yep, that's right - a wine opener. Which I realized as I was getting the ingredients ready and ended up staring blankly at the wine bottle and the cork firmly ensconced in the neck. I didn't want to give up on the recipe and postpone making it since I'd already whacked the chicken breasts into submission and squeezed fresh lemon juice from the lemons from my mom's tree. So I forged ahead and used more chicken broth in place of the wine. I also didn't have capers because when I went grocery shopping, I couldn't find them, had no idea where to look and couldn't find anyone in the store who knew where they were either. Other than those 2 liberties, I followed the recipe as directed.

I have to say I really like how this turned out. I actually managed to cook the chicken breasts to the right desired doneness and they were tender. Best of all, I really liked the sauce. Sometimes chicken piccata is too lemony or seemingly nothing more than chicken with lemon juice but not in this case. The sauce was creamy and had just the right amount of lemon flavor. I don't know how it would taste with wine like in the original recipe but even with just the chicken broth in the sauce, it was very tasty. This is something I could easily make for company so I'm pretty happy about that - a recipe I not only like but can actually cook!

Chicken Piccata from The Most Decadent Diet Ever by Devin Alexander

2 ½ tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour, divided
¼ teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
¼ teaspoon black pepper, plus more to taste
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
Four 4-ounce boneless, skinless chicken breasts, visible fat removed
¼ cup fat-free half-and-half
2 teaspoons plus 2 tablespoons light butter (stick, not tub), divided, room temperature
½ cup canned fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth, plus more if needed
1/3 cup dry white wine
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
1 ½ teaspoons minced fresh garlic
2 tablespoons capers, drained
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1. Combine 1 ½ tablespoons of the flour with ¼ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper, and the garlic powder on a dinner plate. Use a fork or your fingers to mix well.
2. Pat the chicken breasts dry with paper towels to ensure that they are as dry as possible. Place them between two sheets of plastic wrap or wax paper on a flat work surface. Use the flat side of a meat mallet to pound them to an even ¼-inch thickness. Dip one breast at a time into the flour mixture to coat on all sides. Shake off any excess and transfer the breasts, to a clean plate, side by side (don’t pile them on top of each other).
3. Put the remaining 1 tablespoon flour in a small, deep bowl. Whisk in enough half-and-half to form a paste. Then continue whisking in the remaining half-and-half until well combined. Set aside.
4. Place a large nonstick skillet over high heat. When the skillet is hot, put in 2 teaspoons butter. Spread it to cover the bottom of the skillet and immediately add the chicken breasts, side by side. Cook until golden brown on both sides and no longer pink inside (if they’re browning too much, turn the heat down), about 3 minutes per side. Transfer the chicken to a platter and tent it with foil to keep warm.
5. Add the chicken broth, wine, lemon juice, and garlic to the skillet. When the liquid is reduced by half, 1 to 2 minutes (the alcohol should be burned off), turn the heat to low. Whisk in the half-and-half mixture until well combined. Continue whisking until the mixture is smooth and the butter is completely melted. If the sauce is too thin, continue whisking until it thickens slightly. If it’s too thick, add more chicken broth, 1 tablespoon at a time, until it reaches the consistency of a gravy. Stir in the capers. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Spoon the sauce evenly over the chicken. Garnish with parsley and serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings

Nutritional info: 1 serving = 1 chicken breast with 2 to 2 ½ tablespoons sauce: 206 calories, 28 g protein, 8 g carbs, 5 g fat