16 December 2010


I know Hanukkah is over, but too bad. Latkes are awesome all year long! This recipe makes a lotta latkes but feel free to halve it if you aren't making them for a party or aren't a fatso. You can freeze extras and reheat them in a toaster oven.

2 lbs baking potatoes (about 3 large potatoes)
1 medium yellow or white onion
1/2 cup matzo meal (or flour or breadcrumbs)
2 eggs, beaten
salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsp potato starch (optional, see below)
oil for frying (for tips, also see below)
apple sauce and sour cream for serving

1. Grate the potatoes into a fine strainer over a large bowl. They will start to drain into the bowl, and you want to rinse them with a little water when you're done grating (if they've oxidized and turned red, rinse them till they are white), but catch all the water in the bowl! Squeeze out as much water as you can by pressing on the potatoes and remember, save all the drained liquid!
2. After you've pressed out a lot of the water, pour the potatoes onto a large cheesecloth or paper towels. Squeeze the potatoes until they're pretty dry. You might need to do this with a fresh towel 2 or 3 times.
3. Pour the mostly dry potatoes into another large bowl. Grate the onion into the bowl.
4. Slowly pour the rinsed potato water down the sink. When it's mostly poured out, you will notice a white substance at the bottom of the bowl. This is potato starch! Potato starch is one of the secrets to delicious latkes. It helps give them a good texture. Pour as much of the water out as you can while keeping as much of the starch. It's ok to have a little extra water. Scrape the potato starch into the bowl with the potatoes and onion.
5. Add matzo meal, extra potato starch (if you're using it, it's not necessary and if you don't already own it, it's probably not worth buying just for this use, but it's great for baking so I always have it in my kitchen), salt, pepper and eggs. Mix well. Allow the mix to rest for at least 10 minutes. Some more water will come out of the potatoes, but just leave it there.
6. Heat your fat in a large flat pan over medium heat. My mom swears by duck fat, which is kind of gross to think about but if you ever cook whole ducks, it's easy enough to save the fat that melts out in a jar (hey, some people save their bacon fat, so no judging!) and it will keep in your fridge for months. If you don't want to use that, peanut oil is the best vegetable oil for latkes. It has a really rich flavor and is really saturated/unhealthy/delicious. You can also use olive oil, which would be preferable to canola, but it doesn't matter that much. Don't use butter, it just doesn't work well. Probably something about the flame point or whatever.
7. Put a small piece of potato in the oil. When it turns golden brown, the oil is ready. Make balls of potato mix and gently place them in the oil. Flatten them with your hands or a spatula. Let them cook for 2-3 minutes, then flip and cook for 2-3 minutes on the other size. Remove from oil and allow them to drain on paper towels. Replenish the oil as necessary, but make sure it has heated up before adding the potatoes!
8. Serve immediately with sour cream and apple sauce.

Flourless Chocolate Cake

I first made this cake because I didn't have any flour. But now I make it all the time because it's the easiest cake ever and it tastes really fancy. I probably shouldn't tell anyone that because they will be less impressed with my skills and will just make it themselves. But who cares! This cake is quite rich, be warned! But it's soooo good!

This cake is great because you can modify its flavor. I've made it with Kahlua and instant coffee, and with cayenne and cinnamon. You could make it with mint or orange (or orange liqueur) or any alcohol or fruit flavor you want, really! You can add more cocoa (or unsweetened chocolate) to make it richer or change the amount of sugar to your liking. I'd recommend starting with it as is and then playing with it.

1/2 cup unsalted butter
4 oz. semi sweet baking chocolate or 1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup cocoa powder, sifted
3/4 cup white sugar
3 eggs, beaten
1 Tbsp vanilla
powdered sugar and/or cocoa for dusting

Optional Ingredients (don't use all of them together! just choose a flavor family and go with it)
1 Tbsp instant coffee and 2 Tbsp Kahlua
2 tsp cinnamon and 1 pinch (less than 1/8 tsp) cayenne pepper
1 tsp mint extract
1-2 Tbsp liqueur of your choice (suggestions: Contreau, Amaretto, Rum, Brandy, Bourbon... whatever your vice is, really!)

1. Preheat your oven to 325 and grease and flour a 8 inch round pan. Don't use a 9 inch pan. This cake is already thin!
2. Over very low heat or a double boiler, melt the butter or chocolate. Use a pan/pot large enough for everything in the recipe so you don't have more dishes to wash! Once melted, remove from heat.
3. Add the remaining ingredients. Taste the batter to make sure you like the flavors. They will likely cook out a little, but cayenne won't! I've put too much cayenne in because I couldn't taste it in the batter and then the cake was too spicy!
4. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the pan before removing it to a wire rack to cool completely.
5. Dust with cocoa powder or powdered sugar if you'd like! This also goes quite well with unsweetened or very lightly sweetened whipped cream and fresh berries!

28 November 2010

Katie's Corn Bread

So this is actually my recipe - my internet was out the other day, and I needed to make corn bread for thanksgiving, so I threw together everything I vaguely thought should be in a corn bread, and it was delicious!

1.5 cups cornmeal
1.5 cups milk
2 tbsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 1/4 cups flour
3 tbsp honey
1.5 teaspoon vanilla
1 tbsp butter/shortening/lard, softened
2 eggs, beaten

Let cornmeal soak in the milk.

While they are soaking, mix baking soda, salt, sugars, and flour.

Add eggs, honey, vanilla, and butter, and mix well. Mix in the cornmeal and milk, and stir well a few times. Put in a well-greased circular 9-inch pan or a 10x13 pan and bake for about half an hour, or until golden brown and the top has formed the shell you can tap.

24 November 2010

Pumpkin Pie

The second pie I made for our Thanksgiving feast was a classic pumpkin pie, made from a whole pumpkin. It sounds overly difficult, but it's actually very easy to do. I just used the recipe from the sticker on the pumpkin, which I got at Trader Joe's. The hardest part by far was cutting the pumpkin open; I actually broke a knife doing it! So be careful. Your efforts will pay off.

one pie pumpkin
1 1/3 c sweetened condensed milk
1 egg
1 1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 c hot water
single-crust pie dough

Cut the top off the pumpkin, then cut it in half and scoop out the seeds and pulp. Save the seeds for later if you want toasted pumpkin seeds! Place the pumpkin halves cut side down on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees until it's very soft, 1 - 1 1/2 hours.

Scoop out the flesh and mash it up with a fork or food processor or potato masher or electric mixer. Add all the other ingredients and combine. It will be very liquidy. Pour it into your pie shell and bake at 375 degrees for 50-60 minutes.

Tada! You have made a perfectly simple and delicious pumpkin pie! Now eat it!

Sweet Potato Saffron Pie

Another sweet potato pie! I made this one a few weeks ago, but I still remember how I did it. It's a pretty basic sweet potato pie, but with saffron and spices to make it extra special. I used this recipe from All Recipes as a base, and just changed the seasonings.

single-crust pie dough
1 pound sweet potatoes
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs
pinch of saffron
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp allspice or nutmeg (or both? I don't remember, sorry)

1. Boil the sweet potatoes, either whole or just cut in half, until they are very soft - about 45 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, heat the milk up in the microwave until it's very warm but not boiling. Add the saffron and let it soak until you're ready to use it.

3. Remove the skins from your boiled sweet potatoes and mash them up with a potato masher or fork. Add all the other ingredients and stir together until well combined.

4. Roll out your pie dough and place into a buttered pie dish. Fill it with your sweet potato creation and bake at 350 degrees for 50ish minutes, or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. It will puff up a bit as it cooks and sink back down once it's out of the oven. Delicious!

Sweet Potato Pecan Custard Pie

I started out planning to make a pecan pie for Thanksgiving, but then I remembered that pecan pies are sweeter than I like, and I couldn't find any recipes that didn't call for corn syrup. So instead I made this sweet potato pie with ground pecans and agave nectar. It's divine!

single-crust pie dough
about 2 pounds of sweet potatoes
2-3 cups of pecan halves
a little over a cup of milk
2 eggs
1/2 stick of butter, softened
zest of one orange
1/2 cup agave nectar
about 1 tsp each of cinnamon, ground ginger, ground cardamom, and allspice
pinch of salt

I can't swear to the accuracy of the amounts on any of the ingredients, but one of the great things about pie is that you don't usually have to be precise when you make the fillings. Here's how to make the pie!

1. Roast the sweet potatoes whole at 400 degrees until soft. Don't pierce any holes in them.

2. Grind up some pecans in a food processor until you have one cup of ground pecans.

3. Remove the sweet potato skins and mash them up with a potato masher or fork. Add the ground pecans and all other ingredients until well combined. My filling was quite a bit thicker than pumpkin pie filling, but you can add more milk if it seems too solid. If you want it really smooth, put it all in a blender or food processor. I didn't bother, and it turned out fine.

4. Roll out your pie dough and put it in a well-greased pie dish. Pour the filling in, trim off the excess dough, and pinch around the edges to make it look nice. Bake at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes.

5. Lightly toast the remaining pecan halves in a pan. After the pie is mostly cooked (around 30 minutes in), take it out and arrange the pecan halves on top. Make a nice pattern! Return the pie to the oven and let it cook until the custard is set and the crust is lightly golden, another 10-20 minutes.

6. Let the pie cool for a bit before cutting into it. Enjoy!

The orange flavor really stood out in this pie, which I thought was a nice contrast to the darker flavors of the spices. I wish I had a picture, because it was a beautiful pie!

25 October 2010

Pickled Green Beans

I bought pickled green beans at the farmer's market over the summer. They were fantastic! They cost $10 for a jar. One pound of raw organic farmer's market green beans costs $2. Cheaper if you get not organic and from somewhere else. I figured I could make them myself for a lot less (because I'm cheap).

I've always been sort of scared of canning things. But if you're only pickling (as opposed to making jams or sauces), you don't have to go through the hassle of boiling everything in a large pot and worrying about sterility. You're keeping this stuff in vinegar; it's not going to spoil.

You can pickle pretty much anything... peppers, carrots, beans, onions, cauliflower, it's up to you! You can use this as a base and adjust accordingly. As I make them, they are pretty sour. If you want them less sour, you can use less vinegar, or use a different vinegar. You can also add sugar if you'd like! Full disclosure, I've only made beans, but it all works the same. The only thing is denser veggies (like carrots) might take longer unless you slice them thinly!

clean pint sized mason jar with tight fitting lid
few sprigs of fresh dill
3 large cloves of garlic, cut into 3-4 pieces per clove
1 jalapeno, sliced (optional! I prefer reds because they're hotter and also prettier and I keep all the seeds and stems, but you can adjust for how hot you want it to be)
1 lb green beans
1 cup water
1 cup white vinegar
1 tsp salt

1. Place the dill at the bottom. Place most of the garlic and jalapeno slices on top of the dill. Keep a few extras to place on the side, this will make the jar look pretty, but it's optional. If you don't care how it looks, put everything at the bottom.
2. Trim the green beans to whatever size you prefer. I like them to be long, so I cut them to be just shorter than the jar, and then squish the small pieces around the edges, but some people might prefer to trim them all to the same size (1 inch? whatever!)
3. Place the beans on top of the herbs and spices. Arrange jalapenos and garlic around the sides if you are doing that.
4. Boil the water, vinegar, and salt.
5. Place the mason jar in the sink or somewhere that it's ok to spill. Pour the boiling vinegar water into the jar. Fill to the top, leaving a little space so you won't spill when you open it the first time. There will be too much liquid, but it's better to have too much than not enough!
6. Cap the jar and put it in your refrigerator. Leave it for at least a week before opening them, but this will last you months (but probably only minutes after you try the first one!) There are really tasty with Bloody Marys!

22 October 2010

Blueberry Lavender Pie

Last summer, I heard about a cake-versus-pie baking contest, and I knew I had to enter. This pie is what I came up with for the competition. Unfortunately, I didn't get to participate in the contest, but I still got to make (and eat!) this lovely blueberry lavender pie. And that makes us all winners.

To get the lavender flavor, I ground lavender flowers into the sugar using a food processor. This way you can add the flavor without adding any extra liquid, and without whole pieces of lavender to get stuck in your teeth. If you don't have a food processor, I guess you could try making a lavender syrup (basically, make simple syrup with lavender, then strain the flowers out), and then use some extra corn starch to compensate for the additional liquid. I don't know how that would turn out, but let me know if you try it!

One double-crust pie dough
6 cups of blueberries (if using frozen, thaw and drain the berries first)
1 cup of sugar
2-3 tablespoons of lavender flowers
3 tablespoons corn starch
zest and juice of one lemon or lime

In a food processor, combine the sugar and lavender until there are no big pieces of flowers in it. Toss it in a bowl with the blueberries, cornstarch, lemon zest and juice. Toss everything together, making sure it is evenly combined.

Roll out the bottom crust of your pie dough and place it a well-greased pie dish. Fill it up with your yummy blueberry filling. Top it off with the rest of your dough, and it's ready to bake!

If you want to do a lattice crust, which is pretty and sure to impress your friends, I recommend looking at these instructions from Smitten Kitchen. It's a lot easier than you'd think!

Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, then lower the temperature to 350 and bake for an additional 45-60 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and the blueberry filling is all bubbly. Let the pie cool for 45 minutes or so before cutting into it. Enjoy!

Note: I made this pie twice - once with lemon, and once with lime. About half the people who tried both versions preferred the lemon, and half preferred the lime. I couldn't tell the difference, so I think they must be equally good!

17 October 2010

Vegetarian Gravy

I went to this brunch today and brought biscuits and gravy. The biscuits were good, but I'm going to tweak the recipe before posting it. But the gravy, I am very proud of this gravy! I made something like it about 6 months ago, but I didn't really remember exactly how I made it (and I winged it that time too), so I was worried as I tend to be that it wouldn't be good. But it was! It's very savory thanks to the mushrooms and even if you're used to meat gravy I don't think you'll miss it!

1 + 3 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup mushrooms, diced into pieces about 1/4 inch
2 shallots, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 cup of vermouth, white wine, veggie stock or water
3 Tbsp flour
2 cups veggie stock
1/2 cup cream
salt and pepper

1. Melt 1 Tbsp butter in a large pan over medium low heat. Saute shallots and mushrooms in the butter. As the mushrooms start to release their water, add the garlic, thyme and paprika. Keep stirring until the mushrooms are really soft. Scrape the mushrooms and shallots into a bowl.
2. Deglaze the pan with the vermouth and pour it into the bowl with the mushrooms.
3. Melt 3 Tbsp butter in the skillet. When it's melted, whisk the 3 Tbsp flour in. Cook the roux for about 2 minutes, whisking constantly.
4. Slowly whisk in the stock and then cream. Make sure all of the roux is mixed in!
5. Stir in the vegetables and the deglazed liquid. Season with salt and pepper.
6. Cook the gravy until it thickens to desired consistency.
7. Serve with biscuits, mashed potatoes, eggs, or whatever else you like gravy with!

29 September 2010

Quinoa and vegetables

I'm a new fan of quinoa - it's delicious, and you can add it to practically any meal, and a complete protien to boot.

I've been mixing it with my oatmeal recently, but today I had it with lunch, with grilled vegetables.


1/4 cup quinoa
Vegetable oil
Vegetables: I used scallions, asparagus, zucchini, deseeded tomato, corn cut off the cob leftovers that had been barbequed

Rinse the quinoa and boil it with two parts water until tender. It should be sort of clear. You can add bouillion here for flavor, although I would recommend a tiny corner of a cube, since it's not absorbed as much as it would be with rice, so the taste is stronger. (You can essentially treat quinoa like rice, even to the point where you can supposedly cook it in a rice cooker.)

I carmelized scallions in vegatable, and almost burnt them for the flavor, then added the rest of the vegetables and a pinch of salt, and cooked them until they were grilled and crispy.

Mix it all together and enjoy!

This is a dish you can eat hot or cold - I should have made more to save for later!

22 September 2010

Oh My God Cherry Pie

I know it's a little late in the year for cherry pie, but this one is too good not to write about! I made it for a friend's birthday last month, and it was truly amazing. It's no ordinary cherry pie!

6 cups of pitted sweet cherries
1 cup of hazelnuts
1/2 cup of sugar
1 scant teaspoon each of cardamom and cloves
10 oz. goat cheese
2 heaping tablespoons of cornstarch
1 double-crust pie dough

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Lightly toast the hazelnuts, then use a kitchen towel to rub off any loose skins. Chop them up!

In a bowl, combine the cherries, nuts, sugar, spices, and corn starch. Crumble the goat cheese with your fingers and stir it all together. Taste it to make sure the sugar level is to your liking. The spices might seem a little intense, but don't worry - it'll mellow out in the oven and turn out just right.

Generously grease a pie dish, and roll out your pie dough. I always use Cook's Illustrated vodka pie crust, but use whatever kind you like. Spoon in your incredible cherry filling until you think the pie can't take anymore. Roll out the top crust, cut any shapes into it you like (or do a lattice!), and carefully place it on top. Pinch your edges together, then trim off the excess dough with a butter knife.

If you have a lot of leftover filling and crust, like I did, you can make a bonus pie! Smoosh all your dough scraps together, and roll it out. You don't have to make it very thin or nicely shaped, unless you want to. Grease the bottom of a baking dish and put your dough in there. Pile up all your extra filling on one half of the dough, then fold the other half over and pinch it shut, like a cherry calzone. I suppose this is technically a large turnover, but whatever. Cut a slit or two in the top so that steam can escape, and it is ready to bake alongside your primary pie. Hooray!

Bake your pie (or pies!) at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, then lower the temperature to 350 degrees and continue baking until the crust is golden brown - usually another 40 minutes or so. It won't get all bubbly, but the cheese will be melty. Mmmmmm.

This is the really hard part - you have to wait before cutting into the pie! I know you want to eat it RIGHT NOW, but if you cut it open there will be mushy gooey pie guts everywhere getting your crust all soggy. It will still be delicious, but it will be better if you wait 45 minutes. Think of it as an exercise in self-control.

I used fresh cherries that were very sweet, hence the small amount of sugar. If your cherries are tart, you may want to increase the sugar content, though of course it depends on how sweet or tart you want your pie to be. I have no idea how it would turn out with frozen cherries. If you try it, I would love to hear how it tasted! I may want to have this pie again in the winter, so if I make it with frozen fruit I will report back here.

27 July 2010

Pea and Basil Soup

I am currently obsessed with basil. I want to eat it all the time. I am always obsessed with soup. I went out and bought new bowls so I could have more soup.

I had half a bunch of basil leftover and decided I wanted some SOUP! I also had this bag of frozen peas that I had bought for a different recipe and never used. I will admit that growing up, I hated pea soup. It wasn't even something my mom would try and force me to eat because she knew I wouldn't. But for some reason, I wanted to try and make pea soup. This was nothing at all like the salty sour canned split pea soup I grew up loathing. This tastes fresh and light and summery. It goes great with some crusty bread!

10-12 oz bag frozen peas
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
4 cups veggie stock
1 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
4 large cloves garlic
1/2 cup dairy... cream, milk, evaporated milk, soy milk, whatever
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
salt and pepper

1. Boil stock and about 1 tsp salt over high heat.
2. Lower heat to medium and add peas and onion.
3. Cook for about 5 minutes or until veggies are soft.
4. While the veggies are cooking, put basil and garlic on a food processor or blender and process until very fine. You don't want them to cook very long to keep their flavors fresh, so don't put them in the stock with the veggies.
5. When the veggies are ready, blend them, in batches if necessary, until smooth.
6. Return the veggies to the pot. Add basil, garlic, milk and parmesan cheese. Stir to combine and reheat until parmesan cheese is melted. Add salt and pepper to taste.
7. Serve! Garnish with parmesan cheese and a sprig of basil if you'd like!

Japanese (Benihana) Ginger Salad Dressing #1

Makes ~1 cup.

1/4 cup onion,. chopped
1/4 cup canola oil
2 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon fresh ginger root, chopped
1 tablespoon celery, chopped
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoon tomato paste (i don't remember wat i used, but it may have just been ketchup)
1 1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
dash each salt and pepper
Combine all ingredients in blender of food processor. Process until almost smooth.

19 July 2010

Avocado Corn Muffins

from this recipe

I love muffins for breakfast. It's such a treat! I love making them. I love muffin tops. I love muffin stumps. I bought a giant muffin tin because I can happily eat one giant muffin, but I feel like a fatty if I eat 2 or 3 small muffins... even though a giant muffin is about three and a half small muffins. Judge. Whatever.

Heather made avocado muffins a while back. I always meant to try making them, but I never did (and I still haven't!) My friend brought me ten avocados and I had to use them up before they went bad... hence the avocado pesto from last week. I'd had a hankering for corn muffins and thought... well avocado goes with corn! I like that this recipe uses avocado in lieu of butter or oil. There isn't much flavor from the avocado but the muffins have a really smooth texture and a cool green color. The original recipe isn't very sweet, so I increased the sugar. I also used some whole wheat flour in some sort of healthy attempt.

1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1 large ripe avocado (I used 2 small)

1. Preheat your oven to 350. Grease and flour a cupcake tin, or line with cupcake wrappers.  This will make 3 large or 10-12 small muffins.
2. In a medium bowl, mix the dry ingredients.
3. Add the eggs one at a time.
4. In a small bowl, mash the avocado with a fork until it's really smooth, you really don't want any avocado lumps at all.
5. Add the avocado and milk to the flour egg mixture and mix well.
6. Scoop into cupcake tins, you want to fill the tins almost to the top to get a nice round delicious muffin top. Sprinkle some sugar on top if you want.
7. Bake from 20-30 minutes or until tops are firm and slightly golden. Remove from the tins immediately. In my opinion, muffins taste better the next day, not right out of the oven. The flavors melt together. So bake these at night and eat one for breakfast the next day!

13 July 2010

Avocado Pesto

Avocado pesto has been on my radar for a while. Ted Leo twittered (tweeted? twatted? don't judge me! I don't have a twitter, I just stalk "famous" people on them) about making avocado pesto a while ago and kept promising to post the recipe, but he never did... So I looked it up myself.

I found a handful of recipes at different websites. Epicurious had one but the reviews weren't that great and I didn't really like the way the recipe looked anyway. I looked around and ended up using this recipe which I think might have been the one Ted Leo used, based on what his picture looked like. (And because it's vegan!) I will admit I was planning on adding parmesan cheese but I didn't have any.

The reviews on all the websites were pretty mixed, so I wasn't sure what to expect. But it is a perfect harmony of guacamole and pesto! I was a little worried about the lime juice, but it complemented both the avocado and the basil nicely. Avocados don't have a whole lot of flavor, but they give the pesto a great smooth texture. The avocado also makes it really thick, as opposed to regular pesto that is just held together by oil. As it is, this is a pretty even mix of avocado and basil. You could make it more of a basil guacamole if you preferred, or have less avocado for a stronger basil flavor. I ate this over pasta, but it would be good as a dip for pita chips, or as a spread on sandwiches, or just to roll around in because it's that good.

A note of caution! Avocados brown after being exposed to air, so if you don't finish all of the pesto in one day, squeeze some extra lime on top and cover it tightly with cling wrap.

1 bunch of basil leaves, stems removed, leaves rinsed
2 large avocados, peeled and pitted (I had small ones so I used 3)
5-10 large cloves of garlic (I love garlic and I want my pesto to be spicy with garlic! you can use less if you want)
1/2 cup pine nuts
2-4 limes (you never know how much juice will come out of them... so have extras just in case!)
2 Tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper

1. Toast the pine nuts until they turn golden and the oils come to the surface.
2. Put the basil leaves, avocado, garlic and pine nuts in a food processor. Squeeze two of the limes into the food processor.
3. Process until you have a paste.
4. Taste. Add the juice from one more lime if you'd like. Add salt and pepper and olive oil.
5. Process again until everything is mixed in. Season with more salt or pepper (or lime) if you'd like. If it seems dry, you can add more olive oil.

24 June 2010


from this recipe

My friend is leaving town and we've been talking about making donuts for almost a year now, and we finally did it! I used a recipe called "Crispy and Creamy" which I suppose is to avoid legal troubles from Krispy Kreme but these donuts are quite Krispy Kreme-like! I think... I haven't had a Krispy Kreme donut in years (which is really sad) but from what I can remember, the texture is spot on.

The dough isn't super sweet, so you'll want to use a pretty sweet glaze to make up for that. Some of the reviewers tried using more sugar, but apparently that messes up the reaction with the yeast. I followed the recipe almost exactly and the texture was great, so I'd say keep it as is.

I made the dough in my Kitchenaid, the first time I've used the dough hook. This made it SO EASY! I am going to have to start making more bread (or cut Heather's recipe in half so it'll fit in my Kitchenaid bowl!) because I really was surprised how great the hook is! You can do this by hand, of course, you just have to do a lot of stirring.

The dough was really interesting. After the first rise, it was huge (you are putting a ton of yeast in it!) and then when I poked it, it totally fell. This was OK because I was going to roll it out anyway, but I was really surprised and worried.

Some of the reviewers said they'd had trouble with the donuts falling when they put them in the oil. Because of that, I was super careful with the donuts when handling them. They came out totally fine and fluffy, so just be careful and I think you'll be fine too!

2 (.25 ounce) envelopes, or 5 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1 1/2 cups lukewarm milk (I used 1/2 cup heavy cream and 1 cup milk, because that's what I had)
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
1/3 cup butter, at room temperature, cut into a few pieces
5 cups flour

1 quart mild vegetable oil (such as canola) for frying

whatever you want for glazing or frosting or sugaring

1. Put the water and the yeast in the bowl for your mixer (if using) or your second largest mixing bowl. Let sit for 5-10 minutes. It should smell doughy and should be bubbled on the top of the water. If it isn't, your yeast is probably bad, so try again with new yeast.
2. Add the milk, sugar, salt, eggs, butter and 2 cups of the flour to the bowl. Mix on the lowest setting for 5 minutes or stir until totally combined.
3. Add the rest of the flour, in 1/2 cup increments. Mix until the dough forms a ball and doesn't stick to the side of the bowl.
4. Grease your largest mixing bowl and put the dough in the bowl. Cover with a damp cloth and allow to rise 1-2 hours or until double in size. The original recipe says it's risen when you poke a hole and the indent stays, but it did that before even rising, so I don't know what that means. It's gonna get huge, you'll know! Like I said before, when I poked it, it totally fell anyway.
5. Flour a large surface and gently roll the dough to a 1/2 inch thickness. By "gently" I mean, don't force it. You don't want to push out all of the air, though you'll push a lot of it out. It'll take a lot of gentle rolling to get it to the right thickness.
6. Line baking sheets with wax paper and grease with butter or cooking spray (I used baking spray that also has flour in it). Cut the dough with a floured donut cutter (or two different sized circle cutters or a large glass and a shot glass or whatever you want to cut with). You'll have to re-dip in flour after every cut. You want to cut the donuts as close together as you can, as you can't re-roll the dough. I made 34 2-inch donuts (and a few more "holes" that I cut from the bigger scraps). How many you make will depend on how big you made them
7. Gently place the donuts on the greased wax paper and cover with a cloth. Allow to rise until double again, at least an hour.
8. Pour oil into deep fryer or large sauce pan and heat to 350. Gently place the donuts in the oil. You want to use as light a touch as possible to pick up the donuts. If you greased well, this shouldn't be hard. Fry on each side 1-2 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oil and place on a drying rack to drain off oil. Frost or decorate as you'd like!

Suggestions for frosting
Alex made a chocolate bourbon glaze (I don't know the recipe) which was delicious but not quite as sweet as these donuts needed. We also rolled some in powdered sugar (my favorite) or cinnamon sugar. Tina made a maple glaze with maple syrup, powdered sugar, vanilla and milk (I think) and then sprinkled with toasted pecans. The recipe suggests making a glaze with powdered sugar, butter, vanilla and water. You can do whatever you want! Add sprinkles or nuts or coconut or chocolate chips or food coloring or jelly or WHATEVER!

Other tips
We tested the oil by using some of the scraps from the original cutting. We had a small bowl of scraps. My friend tried making patties with them, but the texture of them wasn't as good because they'd had all the air smooshed out of them. You can fry the scraps as they are, but I wouldn't recommend re-rolling or re-shaping them.

20 June 2010


I have no idea where this recipe came from. My mom made these when I was growing up and I made them for Christmas and birthdays for people all the time. They are amazing. So indulgent. Chocolate. Caramel. Butter. These are actually really easy to make but are very impressive and people will ooh and aah the whole time they are eating. I promise.

1 cup flour
1 cup quick cooking oats
¾ cup brown sugar
¾ cup melted butter
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 cup chocolate chips
½ cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)
¾ cup butterscotch or caramel topping
3 Tbsp flour

1. Preheat your oven to 350. You need a 9x13 inch pan, but don't grease it.
2. Mix the flour, oats, sugar, salt and baking soda in a medium bowl.
3. Stir in melted butter and mix completely.
4. Cut dough in half and pat half into the 9x13 pan. This will be a very thin layer that just barely covers the pan.
5. Bake for 10 minutes.
6. Remove pan from oven.
7. Microwave the caramel for about 20 seconds or just until it starts to bubble. Mix in the 3 Tbsp of flour.
8. Sprinkle the chocolate chips and nuts (if using) onto the pan. Pour caramel on top. Crumble the rest of the dough over the caramel.
9. Bake for 20 minutes.
10. When you remove from the oven, run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen any caramel that has baked onto the pan.
11. Allow to cool and cut into bars.

09 June 2010

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

My friend asked for a pineapple upside down cake... I feel like this is one of those things that you were supposed to learn how to make when you were little but I never did. I've actually made some other fruit upside down cakes but not a pineapple. I looked around and basically what I could deduce is a pineapple upside down cake is melted butter and sugar, pineapple rings and then white cake. I don't actually have a standard white cake recipe. I looked around and all the recipes I could find called for milk or buttermilk, neither of which I had. I used the Ultra Orange Cake from the Joy of Cooking (1997 Edition... different than the 75th anniversary edition) and a mash-up of the pineapple part... Oh, apparently PUDC (too long to retype every time) have maraschino cherries... but I hate maraschino cherries, so I used raspberries instead.

Let me just say that I was a little worried about the cake part... it's vegan and from the Joy which are two things I don't usually associate together. But oh man. So you flip the cake over, right? But I had a little extra batter and made some cupcakes with it and the top part made this little sugar crust to break through to get to the cake. Mmm! And the pineapple part was quite nice too, but I think this cake might have been too good for pineapples. It doesn't even need a glaze, I don't think. Maybe a dusting of powdered sugar to make it pretty.

4 Tbsp melted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
7 pineapple rings (from a can, or fresh if you're fancy)
raspberries (or whatever) to put between the pineapples
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
zest of 1 orange
1 cup orange or pinapple juice (I juiced the zested orange and then just used the juice from the pineapple can... if you do this MAKE SURE you are using pineapples in JUICE not SYRUP!)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 Tbsp white vinegar
2 tsp vanilla

1. Preheat your oven to 350.
2. Pour the melted butter into an 8 or 9 inch round pan. Evenly sprinkle the brown sugar over the butter.
3. Place one pineapple ring in the middle and the remaining 6 around the edges. Put a raspberry in the middle of each ring and in any gaps between pineapples.
4. In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, salt, soda, and zest.
5. In a small bowl or liquid measuring cup, measure out the juice, oil, vinegar and vanilla.
6. Pour the liquids into the dry ingredients and mix together quickly.
7. Pour the batter into the pan. If you use an 8 inch pan, you'll probably have too much batter. But there are no eggs in it, so you don't have to worry about salmonella if you just want to eat it... but you could bake it into cupcakes too.
8. Bake for 35-40 minutes (my oven is so wonky so you might want to start checking at 30 minutes) or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
9. Allow the cake to cool for about 5 minutes before flipping it upside down onto a cake plate.

27 May 2010

Cheesecake Brownies

(this recipe for the cheesecake and this recipe for the brownies)

I've been baking for birthdays a lot (duh). Cakes are great, but if there's no party, a cake is silly. Cakes are for big groups and should be cut with lots of people around. When I'm bringing a dessert to school a cake is really too much to deal with. I've been trying out different bar things. I looooove brownies but the problem with being the birthday fairy is that you always have to one-up yourself. I worry that I have to keep it fresh!

Thus, cheesecake brownies. This recipe called for a box brownie mix which is totally sacrilege in my book. (I remember last year I made brownies for my boss for his birthday and one of the people in my lab said, "wow, I've never eaten brownies not from a box before!") I used my favorite brownie recipe instead. If you have a favorite, feel free to substitute. This one is super easy, the brownie part takes less than 10 minutes to make, and... these brownies are just about perfect if I do say so myself. Then you take something perfect and add cream cheese and sugar. Ohhhh!

For the brownies
1 cup melted butter
3 cups white sugar (some of the reviewers on this recipe recommended using some brown sugar, but I tried that and don't like it as much)
1 Tbsp vanilla extract (or more, I never measure vanilla, I just pour until I'm happy)
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup cocoa powder (sifted to remove clumps)
1 tsp salt
1-2 cups chocolate chips (at least 1 cup, use more if you're indulgent, but don't skip these!)
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional, I didn't use them this time, but I often do when I just make brownies without cheesecake on top)

For the cheesecake
8 oz. bar of cream cheese at room temperature (use Philadelphia! it's the best for baking, seriously)
2 Tbsp butter at room temperature
1 Tbsp cornstarch
14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla

1. Preheat your oven to 350. Line a 9x13 pan with aluminum foil and grease generously.
2. In a large bowl, mix the melted butter, sugar and vanilla.
3. Beat in the eggs, one at a time.
4. Mix in flour, cocoa and salt.
5. Fold in chocolate chips and nuts (if using)
6. Pour the brownie batter into the prepared pan.
7. Cream together cream cheese, butter and cornstarch in a medium bowl or mixer. This will take a little while if you are doing it without a mixer, so make sure it's very soft!
8. Slowly mix in vanilla and egg, followed by sweetened condensed milk and keep mixing until everything is fully worked in.
9. Pour the cream cheese mixture evenly over the brownie batter, smoothing with a rubber spatula.
10. Bake for about 45 minutes or until the cheesecake is starting to brown. The top might crack a little. DO NOT OVERBAKE. If you're unsure, just take it out of the oven. These (like almost all brownies) are better undercooked.
11. Allow to cool completely (at least 2 hours) before cutting into bars and eating more than you intended to.

24 May 2010

Potato Salad – Two Ways

I used gold potatoes, which make for a particularly creamy tasting potato salad. Cut the potatoes into Boil the potatoes until they can easily be pierced by a fork. Try not to cook them too long; if they are too soft they will turn into mush as you mix everything together. Drain the potatoes and let cool.

Cilantro Potato Salad

Caramelize a large onion (chop the onion and sauté in olive oil on medium heat for about 20 minutes or until the onions turn golden brown). Remove from heat and let cool.

Finely chop a big bunch of cilantro (just go ahead and chop the entire bunch that you get from the grocery store). Finely mince 1-2 cloves of garlic.

Combine some olive oil and lime juice together in about a ratio of 3:2. I really have no idea how much I used, but I’m guessing that 3 teaspoons of olive oil to 2 teaspoons lime juice might be good. It also might not be enough dressing. Add the cilantro and shake up everything together. I like to do this in a small Tupperware. I find this is the best way of mixing and emulsifying everything together.

Grate some parmesan cheese. Really however much you want. Mix this together with the potatoes, onions and Cilantro-Lime Dressing. It’s perfectly enjoyable right away, even still slightly warm, but it is even more delicious the next day.

Mustard Potato Salad

This potato salad is even simpler. Because I was feeling sick and lazy perhaps. But just ask Heather to choose her favorite.

Make a vinaigrette with olive oil and a good quality mustard. This time I might try a ratio closer to 2:1. Though again, I’m really not sure what I did.

Chop up some garlic chives (or green onions). Mince 1-2 cloves of garlic. Add these to the vinaigrette and shake everything up. Mix with the potatoes and enjoy.

19 May 2010

Veggie Burgers

Last weekend Heidi and I made veggie burgers, something we'd talked about doing for a long time. We used sweet potatoes, lentils, onions, and brown rice to make a somewhat sweet but still savory burger. Now that I know how ridiculously simple it is, I am going to do it all the time! It seems like a great way to use up extra vegetables you have lying around.

We had this recipe as a guideline, but since we substituted most of the ingredients and used different amounts of everything, I'm going to just tell you how we did it.

Note: The burgers took almost no time to make, but our potatoes, lentils and onions were all cooked ahead of time. If you don't have those ingredients pre-cooked, plan for it to take a bit longer.

One onion, diced small
Five cloves of garlic, minced
Cooking sherry
One large sweet potato, baked until very tender and diced
One can of lentils (or equivalent amount home-cooked), drained and rinsed
About half a cup of cooked rice, ideally a little over-cooked (you want it very soft)
One tsp coriander
One tsp tarragon
Small handful of milled flax seed (if you are a health nut like me)
Two tablespoons of chickpea flour (or any other type of flour)
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

- Heat some olive oil in a pan and cook the garlic and onions together until the onions are browned and starting to get crispy. Deglaze the pan with cooking sherry and set aside.

- In a bowl, mash the lentils up a bit with a fork. Add the rice, sweet potato, onions, and spices. If you want to amp up the nutritional value, throw in some flax seed. Stir everything together along with a tablespoon of olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Then add the flour, making sure to stir it in well.

- Generously coat a stainless steel pan with olive oil and heat it on a medium-high setting. The writers of the original recipe think that a nonstick pan will not give you the ideal texture. Once the oil is very hot, take a handful of burger goodness and shape it into a patty. Place it in the pan - it should sizzle immediately. If it doesn't, your oil isn't hot enough, and you should wait before adding more burgers. Fill up your pan with as many burgers as you want to eat, and cook them for about 2 minutes on each side.

- Eat your delicious veggie burger! It should be a little crunchy on the outside and scrumptious all the way through. We ate ours on my homemade whole wheat bread with fresh spinach, smoked Gouda cheese, and some blueberry chutney I got at Pike Place Market. It was amazing.

Keep your leftover uncooked burger mixture in the fridge and cook it as you eat it. If you do end up with uneaten cooked burgers, they'll reheat pretty well in a toaster oven.

I think you could easily substitute an equivalent amount of other vegetables and grains. I'm thinking whatever vegetable combination you choose should include something starchy and something with protein. The original recipe called for beets and black beans, which sounds very tasty indeed. If you try your own version, let us know how it turns out!

Here's our burger creation, along with Heidi's mustard-vinaigrette potato salad. Heidi made two potato salads last weekend, and she had better post the recipes, because I don't even like potato salad and I could not eat enough of these. Om nom nom!

11 May 2010

Microwave Stuffed Peppers

I bought all these ears of corn (25 cents a pop!) for a BBQ and then ended up not using them... I've been trying different ways to use them, other than just off the cob. I really love fresh corn, but it's so much better BBQ'ed than boiled. I started boiling one, not sure what else I was gonna make. I looked around in my fridge and found a green pepper and scallions. (I never actually use a whole bunch of scallions before they go bad, so I love to throw them in things!) I thought that stuffing the pepper with corn and scallions would be awesome. I have to admit I have never made a stuffed pepper before and I have no idea what should go in them/how much liquid/how long to cook/whatever...

I had this idea to bake it, that sounds good, right? But I didn't even turn on the oven until I'd made the stuffing... And so I decided instead to broil it. But then I realized I had to be somewhere in 30 minutes, not an hour and 30 minutes like I had thought for some reason. So there wasn't time to even broil it! Instead I microwaved it and just hoped for the best.

Actually, I really, really liked the way it came out. The egg and pepper cooked fully but the scallions and garlic were only partly cooked which kept them spicy. The only thing I didn't really like was the pepper skin. I know its technically possible to remove pepper skins by roasting them but I've never done this. I don't know if the pepper will lose its rigidity after doing this, and I think the stiffness helped make it not be totally messy in the microwave, so I don't know if it's worth trying to remove the skin.

Ingredients (makes one stuffed pepper, so scale up if you're feeding more than just yourself)
1 ear of corn (or ~1/4 cup of frozen or canned corn if you're not using fresh)
4 scallions, trimmed to get rid of the floppy end parts
2 large cloves of garlic
2 Tbsp pine nuts
1 egg
2 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese (plus a little extra for topping)
salt, pepper, oregano
1 large green or red bell pepper
olive oil
a few pinches of bread crumbs (optional)

I had put the pepper on foil when I was planning on baking it... doesn't this look totally not delicious...

1. Boil the corn for 3 minutes. After it's done, immediately remove from the water. Once it's cool enough to handle, slice the corn off the cob.
2. Put scallions, garlic and pine nuts in a food processor and pulse a few times. You want this to be minced, but not paste. If you don't have a food processor, then do this by hand.
3. In a small bowl (or a medium one if you are making more than one serving), beat the egg.
4. Mix the scallion mix, corn, and parmesan cheese into the egg. Season with salt, pepper and oregano.
5. Slice the top off of the pepper and remove the seeds and core.
6. Rub the outside of the pepper with olive oil.
7. Place the pepper in a small microwave safe bowl. Try to keep the pepper standing up.
8. Pour the egg/veggie mix into the pepper.
9. Sprinkle the top with parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs.
10. Microwave on high for 4 minutes. If your microwave doesn't spin on it's own, I'd suggest rotating it a quarter of the way every minute to make sure the egg gets fully cooked.
11. (Optional step but I think it was good!) Remove from microwave and place on an oven safe pan or dish. Broil for 1 minute to brown the bread crumbs.

10 May 2010

Quick carrot bread

A kilo of carrots here is about 200 pesos, or 40 cents. So this one time, I asked the farmer guy at the market for 3 carrots, and he gave me 3 kilos, and refused to take them back. This actually inspired in me a love of carrots, because for a good long while, I was eating them every day and discovering new things to do with them.

I based this off this recipe, which is the best carrot bread recipe I've found.

2 eggs
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup oil
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups finely grated raw carrots
1 cup chopped walnuts
3/4 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 350°F degrees.

Beat eggs and add sugar and oil. Sift together flour, soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt, and add to egg mixture.

Beat well. Add carrots, nuts and raisins. Grease a 9x5 inch loaf pan and pour in batter.

Bake one hour.

My alterations were:
2 - 2.5 cups carrots
Fresh-grated ginger, about two tablespoons, added with the carrots
I used about a cup whole-wheat flour instead of white
Less sugar than is called for - quick breads are so often over-sweetened!
Extra nutmeg and a pinch of ground cloves

Doing these made it less of a sweet dense carrot cake and more of a quick bread, savory yet sweet.

Enjoy with a hot cup of tea or coffee on a chilly day!

NB: My battery charger is out of commission, and I'll probably have to wait until next month's paycheck to get a new one... no pictures for this month!

*Hey everyone who's writing in this journal - I know we all like writing, and reading the other recipes. Would anyone else be in for trying out making other people's recipes in the way you would cook it and posting those? I think it'd be neat to see what people do with some of mine!

Lentil, sausage, chard, sweet potato soup

I based this soup off of this recipe, but ended up changing a whole lot... and made a lot more, because it's getting to be winter and chilly here!

2 large sweet potatoes
1 large onion
5 cloves garlic
2 cups lentils, soaked overnight
A large handful sundried tomatoes
3 smoked sausages, any type - I used longaniza
About 2-3 cups chopped chard
2 large tomatoes.
Spices to taste: aji, merquen, dill, salt, pepper, paprika, oregano, cilantro, parsley
2 tablespoons flour (all-purpose or whole-wheat)

To start, dice two large sweet potatoes, and microwave them for four minutes on high, stir, then microwave four more minutes. They stay more tender and tasty if you very lightly drizzle them with vegetable oil and stir (or hand-mix) until they are all covered before you microwave them, but this is optional.

While this is going, you can get started on:

Boil the lentils together with the sundried tomatoes, in a small pot, until the lentils are soft.

Chop the onion, garlic, and sausage into large pieces, and throw into a large pot with the tablespoon olive oil. Saute until the onions are clear and the sausages are well-cooked and and browned.

Add in the sweet potato and let saute another couple minutes, stirring occasionally.

Cut up the tomato and chard.

Throw in the chard, lentils, sun-dried tomatoes (you may choose to cut the tomatoes into smaller pieces here, once they're soft), tomato, flour, and spices.

Simmer for about five minutes.


09 May 2010

Homemade Macaroni and Cheese: The Ultimate Comfort Food

In honor of Mother's Day, I'm sharing one of the tastiest and most reliable recipes my mom taught me: macaroni and cheese. Thanks to my mom, I never tasted the instant boxed kind until I was in college, when a friend convinced me to try it. Let's just say I was not impressed. Why would you ever eat that processed stuff when the real thing is so ridiculously simple? Trust me, if you try this once, you won't feel the same way about powdered cheese ever again.

This mac and cheese method isn't made with a cheese sauce (though I have tried some pretty excellent homemade varieties that are), so it couldn't possibly be any easier to make. Here's how:

Step one: Boil water, add macaroni noodles, and cook until done. Drain.

Step two: Grease a casserole dish or baking pan really well. Put half of the noodles into the pan, spreading evenly. Cover the noodles with a generous layer of shredded cheddar cheese. Layer on the rest of the noodles, then put more cheese on top.

Step three: Splash a little milk over the top of the dish, and put a few slices of butter on top. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 45 minutes or until the cheese is melted and lightly browned.

Step four: Eat your delicious creation! It is the best thing when the weather is gross or if you've been having a rough week. Cheesy, noodley goodness!

Variations: You can easily make this dish a little fancier if you feel so inclined. When I was a kid, I thought I was very adventurous when I added a little powdered garlic with the cheese. More recently, we mixed in some Gouda cheese with the cheddar, and added caramelized onions in the final cheese layer. Scrumptious! Do you like your mac and cheese topped with breadcrumbs? Or maybe you want to add some spicy peppers for a more exciting dish? Perhaps some diced mushrooms or chopped spinach for a slightly healthier version? The only limit... is your imagination!

30 April 2010

Rosemary Focaccia

I found this recipe at http://www.recipezaar.com/recipe/The-Best-Rosemary-Focaccia-Bread-63530
the only think i changed was to mash the salt and rosemary together, and i think next time i would mix the rosemary into the bread.. but aside from that, it is a very tasty recipe.
a lot of people said they needed to add more water, but i didn't and it worked out well for me.


  1. 1
    Dissolve the yeast in 1/2 cup of the warm water, and let sit 10 minutes until bubbly.
  2. 2
    In a large bowl, combine the flour, Ts. of salt, yeast mixture and remaining water.
  3. 3
    Mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon and then your hands.
  4. 4
    Transfer to a floured work surface and knead by hand for a few minutes or until smooth.
  5. 5
    Place in a well oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours.
  6. 6
    Punch down and place on an oiled baking sheet, forming into an oval or circle.
  7. 7
    Dimple the top surface with your finger tips, and then drizzle with the oil and sprinkle with coarse salt and rosemary.
  8. 8
    Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Bake about 20 minutes or until golden.

26 April 2010

Challah bread

I admit it, I´m a no-bread-machine purist. I love making bread, kneading it and feeling it get more elastic, and the whole sense of connection to the bread that you get, and I like that it makes me slow down, waiting for it to rise so I can punch it down and form it. (And I love punching it down - I admit I can´t wait for that moment!)

I missed doing that all last year, with the two bad ovens I couldn´t trust, but this year I have an electric oven with temperature controls, so I´m getting back into baking.

I decided to start with Challah bread, since it´s one of the easiest and least fragile types. I used this recipe, and it turned out perfectly enough that my roommate, Ludette, and I destroyed the first load within an hour.

5 1/2 – 6 c. flour
1 T dry yeast
1/2 c. sugar
1 1/4 t salt
6 T vegetable oil
1 1/2 c water plus 2 t
1 egg

1. In a small bowl (#1), put yeast, 1 T sugar, 1/4 c water. Mix and let it stand for 10 minutes or until it bubbles.

2. In bowl #2 put all dry ingredients: flour, salt, sugar; mix them well.

3. In bowl #3 put all wet ingredients: water, oil, egg, and the yeast mixture after it’s bubbled; mix them well.

4. Mix everything together to make the dough. If the dough is too sticky, add a little flour until you can handle it. Use your hands to mix and press the mixture until it forms a ball of dough.*

5. Cover with a towel, and let the dough stand in a warm place for an hour or an hour and a half until it doubles in size.

6. Punch the dough to let out the air bubbles (this is the fun part!).

7. Let stand for 10 minutes.

8. For traditional-style challah, separate dough into six even pieces, roll each piece into a snake either between your hands or on the table, and make two braids. Turn the ends under so they look pretty. You may need to keep a little flour out to keep them from getting too sticky. Or, weave them into any design you like. Place them on greased and floured cookie sheets.

9. Beat one egg in a small bowl. Brush both braids with egg. Let them stand half an hour, and then brush with egg again. If you like, sprinkle with poppy or sesame seeds after the second egg wash.

10. Let rise for an hour or an hour and a half until the loaves double in size. Be patient!

11. Heat oven to 375F. Bake for 22-26 minutes or until the tops turn golden.

My editions to the recipe: it took more than one egg to coat the loaves, so make sure you have more at hand, so you don´t have to run out at the last minute, during the biggest futbol game of the year, when all the stores are closed, just to get some!

Also, Challah should be sweet. Letting bread rise slowly (not in a warm room/oven as often directed) makes bread more chewy, sweet, and rise better. It´s cold here now, and we are without central heat, so it turned out amazing.

¨Press¨ is really unclear. I kneaded for about three minutes, on a floured surface. It doesn´t ask you to knead, but it seems like the thing to do here, and if I had kneaded more, it probably wouldn´t have taken so long to rise, cold kitchen or not.

Decadent Raspberry Brownies (aka the best thing I have ever made)

based off of this recipe (generally I don't like/trust recipes from companies touting their brands but ohmygosh this is so good)

It was my boss's birthday and I had a vague recollection that he liked "fruity things." I wanted to make some sort of fruity brownies. I did a bunch of searches and finally decided that this was what I really wanted to make. It's a dense brownie, covered in a thin layer of raspberry preserves, covered in a layer of ganache. I also added some fresh raspberries to the top of the ganache.

I almost had some serious problems. First I used a pan that was too big because I am dumb and the batter was way too thin and I had to transfer it (aluminum foil and all) to a smaller pan. Then, when I was making the ganache, I accidentally bought bittersweet chocolate instead of semi sweet and so I added some sugar but it basically ruined the ganache completely and I had to start all over. My roommate was watching while I was struggling and said "See, this is how the rest of us feel when we try to bake things!" But they came out perfect anyway.

And I do mean perfect. I have never gotten so many emphatic compliments about something I've made before. I say with little humility that I am pretty good at this baking thing by now and I'm used to compliments. I actually made these two days in a row (for my boss one day, and then the next day for an engagement party I went to) and people I didn't know were seeking me out to compliment me and some of my friends are STILL talking about these brownies, a week later!

They are not difficult to make if you don't make my dumb mistakes, but they do take quite a bit of time because you have to let the brownies cool before adding anything else, and you have to let the ganache cool before cutting them. If you can, I think it's best to make these the night before. Also, even if the ganache is totally cooled, cutting these is a little sticky so you'll have to wipe your knife in between cuts.

4 (1 ounce) squares Bakers UNSWEETENED baking chocolate
3/4 cup butter
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup flour
1/4 cup seedless raspberry jam
6 (1 ounce) squares Baker's SEMI SWEET sweet baking chocolate
3/4 cup heavy cream

fresh raspberries for garnish (I used 24 cut in half, but you'll need extras for the ones you cut poorly/accidentally drop in your mouth)


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 13x9-inch baking pan with aluminum foil, leaving some on the ends so you can eventually pull the brownies out with the foil. Spray the foil with cooking spray (use the kind that has flour in it if you have it!) 
2. Heat the unsweetened chocolate and butter over medium low heat and stir constantly until butter and chocolate are completely melted. Remove from heat.
3. Stir sugar into chocolate mixture and mix well. Mix in eggs and vanilla, then flour. Stir in flour until everything is totally mixed in. 
4. Pour evenly into the pan, it will be fairly thin, don't worry!
5. Bake 30 to 35 minutes (use the toothpick test!) and be careful to not overbake. It's much better to underbake than to overbake!

6. Allow the brownies to cool completely in the pan, at least an hour, more if you have time. Now would be a good time to slice some raspberries if you are into that.
7. Once the brownies are cool, evenly spread the jam on the brownies. Resist the urge to use more jam, even though it seems like a good idea! Reviews of the recipe say if you use too much jam, then the ganache will slide off!
8. Heat the semi sweet chocolate and cream over a double boiler and stir until the chocolate is completely melted. I don't think you need to add any flavorings to the ganache (I usually do), just let the intense chocolate flavor stand on its own!anache evenly o
9. Spread ganache evenly over the jam.
10. While the ganache is still liquid, press half raspberries into it in whatever pattern you'd like. I did 6 x 8 raspberries, so a total of 48 halves.
11. Allow the ganache to set at room temperature, at least 3 hours but overnight is better. I'd recommend against putting them in the fridge until set unless you are in a time crunch. Doing this causes condensation on the ganache, but it's not a big deal.
12. Carefully remove brownies from the pan by pulling out the aluminum foil and place on a cutting board. Wet a very sharp and thin knife and cut into bars (I cut mine so each had 2 half raspberries) and wipe off chocolate/wet the knife between cuts so it doesn't gunk up.

14 April 2010

Chocolate Stout Cupcakes with Coffee Ganache

based off of this recipe who got the idea from this recipe

I am like the birthday cake fairy or something. Anyway, I asked my friend's boyfriend if I should make her a chocolate cake, a rum cake, an espresso cake or a stout cake for her birthday. And he said, and I quote, "How about a chocolate stout cake! Combine two of her true loves (I think I come in third)." So chocolate stout it is! The Bon Appetit recipe seems to be the base recipe for all of the chocolate stout cake recipes on the internet... But I like the Smitten Kitchen version... mostly because it used a better frosting, but also because she HALVED the recipe (and I still ended up with 28 cupcakes).

This cake is super rich and has a really intense flavor. It doesn't taste like stout, but it sort of has the essence of stout. Basically, it's awesome. I am always worried when I try new recipes for people's birthdays since it's kind of important that it tastes good, but this was definitely a winner. I think the coffee ganache goes really well with the cake. Like I said, the cake has such a strong flavor, and I don't think you'd want to have too much frosting to take away from that. Although, I kind of want to make an Irish Cream frosting/ganache in the future...!

1 cup stout (like Guinness)
1 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
2 eggs
3/4 cup sour cream (the recipe called for 2/3 cup but I am bad at measuring!)

2 tsp vanilla

1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tsp instant coffee
splash Kahula
splash vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 350. Line cupcake tray (or trays if you have more than one!) with paper or butter and grease the tray if you don't have cupcake liners.
2. In a medium saucepan, simmer the stout and butter together over medium heat, whisking slowly until butter is totally melted.
3. Whisk the cocoa into the butter/stout. This is going to taste really bitter, so if you are like me and taste everything, don't be surprised/disappointed. I mean, obviously... it's bitter beer and cocoa, what I did I expect it to taste like?
4. Turn the heat off on the burner and allow the mixture to cool a little while you're doing the next steps.
5. Mix flour, sugar, baking soda and salt in a bowl.
6. Beat eggs, sour cream and vanilla in a large bowl. You can do this by hand, but if you are using a mixer, do this at a low speed and keep it on low for everything.
7. Mix stout mixture into egg mixture and beat until just combined. You don't want to mix out all of the carbonation (or nitrogen-ation or whatever it would be if you're using Guiness).
8. Add flour mixture and beat until not quite combined.
9. Fold batter together with a rubber spatula until completely combined.
10. Pour into prepared cupcake pan, fill each cupcake about 2/3 full of batter. Bake for ~25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
11. Cool completely before frosting.
12. To make the ganache, melt the chocolate chips, cream, instant coffee, vanilla and Kahula over a double boiler and stir until smooth and shiny. Allow to rest for a few minutes before dipping the cupcakes into the ganache. This made juuuust enough to frost 28 cupcakes (and I made the cupcakes kind of larger than they should have been, so if you have more than this many cupcakes, you might want to add a little more chocolate/cream).