Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies at high altitude

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies (revisited) - made dough February 10, 2019, from Knewton

I'm going through some re-testing of a few of my favorite recipes at a higher altitude to make sure they'll still turn out when I (potentially) make them for my niece's wedding in Denver. Having discovered my chocolate chip cookie recipe didn't really need to be adjusted for high altitude baking, I decided to try my luck with my favorite recipe for chocolate chocolate chip cookies.

If you recall, I was on a quest to find a good copycat recipe of Levain Bakery's chocolate chocolate chip cookie which I loved when I tried it on my trip to Manhattan. This one from Knewton was the best one I'd found so I wanted to make sure it would work at any altitude.
This time, I only made the recipe as is and didn't make any of the adjustments for the higher altitude. I made the cookies rather small since, if memory serves, it was also rather rich. I'd run out of Pernigotti cocoa and my Valrhona cocoa was still packed in a box somewhere in my garage but I did have some Guittard unsweetened cocoa powder that survived the move and actually got unpacked so I went with that.

The dough was a bit on the dry side when I had mixed everythnig. I don't know if that's because I didn't beat the butter enough and it's rather cold here (hello, actual real winter) but I packed the dough balls rather densely and, when it came time to bake them, was careful to underbake. As in, I only baked these for maybe 7-8 minutes. Then I let them cool completely before taking that first taste test bite. Hallelujah, they still turned out delicious with the perfect fudgy texture that's a must in all chocolate chocolate cookies. They might've become dry if I baked them for the time declared in the recipe, especially since I made them much smaller than before, so I've adjusted the time below to accommodate baking at a higher altitude. I also baked them at a lower temperature and they didn't spread. Actually, they hardly spread at all.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup bread flour
5/8 cup cocoa powder
5/8 teaspoon baking soda
5/8 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 sticks (14 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cold, cut into tablespoons
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk
2 cups chocolate chunks

  1. Sift flours, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt together.
  2. Beat cold butter until creamy, 1-2 minutes. Add sugars and beat until combined. Add vanilla, egg and egg yolk until just combined. Add dry ingredients and beat until just combined. Do not overmix. Fold in chocolate chunks.
  3. Portion the dough into 4-ounce dough balls. Separate each ball into halves and combine the smooth halves together, leaving the "ripped" edges on the outside. Cover and chill or freeze for several hours or overnight. If making them as small dough balls, pat into thick discs.
  4. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper and evenly space dough balls. Bake for 17-18 minutes for larger cookies or 7-8 minutes for smaller cookies at higher altitudes or until middles are set.  Cool completely on wire racks.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Turkey Taco-Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

Turkey Taco-Stuffed Sweet Potatoes - made February 10, 2019 from Cookin Canuck
This is another easy recipe to make and has the added advantage of being healthy-ish. You can omit the cheese at the end if you want dairy-free. I like recipes like this because they're easy for a non-cook like me to make and I like the base ingredients of sweet potato and ground turkey. I'm less of a fan of tomatoes but can eat them mixed into something, as in this case. Plus, bonus, it uses up some of my Penzey's spices.

My only trouble spot (you know there had to be one), is I didn't cook the sweet potatoes long enough. The original directions said to microwave them for 4-5 minutes. I tried that but they were still hard as rocks. So I ended up boiling them until they were mostly tender. I say mostly because I was afraid of boiling them too much and having them end up mushy, in which case, they would've fallen apart when I tried to scoop out the sweet potato and still leave the skins.

You can't actually scoop out all of the sweet potatoes and just leave skin as the skins would fall apart without any sweet potato to hold them together. So I carefully cut the insides out but left some sweet potato around the rim. That mostly worked. But the inner sweet potato was still a bit too firm so I ended up mashing them, pan frying them then baking them a little longer. But hey, other than that (ha), these turned out pretty well. Like I said, pretty healthy, at least compared to some of the other stuff I eat.

2 medium-sized sweet potatoes, cooked whole (can be boiled, microwaved or baked)
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin, divided
1/4 + 1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 + 1/8 teaspoon ground pepper
3/4 pound lean ground turkey
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 1/4 cup canned crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup grated cheese (I used cheddar)
2 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley
  1. Cut cooked sweet potatoes in half, length-wise. Carefully scoop the flesh out of the potatoes, leaving a thin layer around the edges. With the back of a fork, mash the potato flesh until most lumps are gone. Stir in the olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon cumin, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Divide the mashed sweet potatoes evenly between the potato skins. Place on a baking sheet.
  2. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Lightly coat with nonstick cooking spray. Add ground turkey and cook, breaking up with a wooden spoon until cooked through. Stir in the garlic, chili powder, remaining 3/4 teaspoon cumin, oregano, paprika and remaining 1/4 teaspoons of salt and pepper. Cook for 1 minute. Stir in the crushed tomatoes.
  3. Preheat the broiler. Spoon the turkey mixture into each sweet potato skin. Top each with 1 tablespoon grated cheese. Broil until the cheese is melted, about 30 seconds. Garnish with parsley.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Instant Pot Beef

Original title: Crockpot Beef and Broccoli - made February 9, 2019, modified from BS Recipes
This was originally a recipe for Crockpot Beef and Broccoli but I rarely use my crock pot anymore since I now have an Instant Pot. And let's not kid ourselves that I would eat broccoli. So I modified this to make in my Instant Pot and omitted the broccoli. Hence, the more plain but accurate recipe title of "Instant Pot Beef".

I also used stew meat rather than chuck roast since I knew making it in the Instant Pot would render even stew meat tender. And....I couldn't tell you the difference between chuck roast and stew meat other than stew meat is cheaper and tends to be tougher if not properly tenderized.
The original blog recipe said this made a lot of sauce and recommended making only a half recipe so that's what I (mostly) did. The recipe below is a half recipe with the exception of I increased the brown sugar slightly to 1/4 cup just to make measuring easier as the original recipe called for 1/3 cup but I can't imagine most people would have a 1/6 measuring cup.
This is the kind of recipe I favor: easy to make if you consider cooking being to throw ingredients into a pot and turn it on, short list of ingredients I had on hand, and pretty tasty. It probably would've tasted better with some rice to mop up the sauce but I'm cutting back on carbs so I ate it "straight".
1 pound boneless beef chuck roast, sliced into thin strips (I used stew meat)
1/2 cup beef broth
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tablespoon sesame oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons sauce after being cooked
  1. Place beef in Instant Pot. Combine beef broth, soy sauce, brown sugar, oil and garlic. Pour over beef. Press Stew setting on Instant Pot. 
  2. When finished cooking, let steam release naturally for 10 minutes then complete release manually.
  3. Ladle out a spoonful of cooked sauce in a small bowl and stir in cornstarch to dissolve. Pour back into Instant Pot and press Saute setting. Stir until sauce has thickened and mixture has come to a boil, stirring for 5 minutes. Serve.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Review: Donut Bistro

Donut Bistro - visited January 20, 2019
I know, I know, I always say I'm not really a donut person yet why do I try out donut places? Technically, I did try out Donut Bistro but I didn't actually get a doughnut. See what I did there? Any excuse to try out a new place, even if I don't get whatever they're named for.

The shop wasn't crowded when I arrived early on a Sunday morning but truthfully, I haven't found Reno places very crowded, for the most part. Which is one of the reasons I'm enjoying this new transition. After becoming used to traffic, long lines, long waits, large crowds in the Bay Area, it's kind of refreshing not to have to wait for anything anymore.

There was a wide assortment of doughnuts of all kinds of flavors and fillings. I passed them all up. Because you know, not a doughnut person.

So in this case, I tried out their cinnamon roll. I figured it's close enough since the base dough is likely very similar but just in a different shape. And that is what it tasted like. This isn't a Cinnabon cinnamon roll in that the dough was more yeasted doughnut than more dough-like cinnamon roll.

For what it was and not being a doughnut person, I thought it was pretty good. The glaze wasn't too thick, which I appreciated. It could've used a little more cinnamon to my snobby palate so it wasn't just sweetness but still, it was pretty good. I have to give the nod to Stan's Donut Shop in Santa Clara but you knew that was coming.

The other non-donut item I tried from the Donut Bistro was their meatball kolache. I'd read good reviews about their kolaches on yelp and it wasn't a doughnut so it seemed like a logical choice. Cinnamon roll for breakfast, kolache for dinner. Worked for me.

The kolache seemed like the European version of a pork bun from an Asian bakery but with a different filling. The baked dough surrounding the filling was quite good, similar to the bread products from an Asian bakery which I like. It also reminded me of the meat pies I had in Australia and New Zealand: simple, filling and tasty. So while I might not be a doughnut person, I'd go back to Donut Bistro for their kolaches.

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.