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As my school blog assignment draws to a close, I’ve been really torn as to what to do for this final blog. What could I make that would go out with a bang? What could possibly top burnt macaroons and medicinally minty pie? There’s been a lot of failures throughout this experience, but a lot of successes too. I wanted to take it back to the first recipe I succeeded at, the one that started it all, and of course it’s my world famous chocolate chip cookies. Anyone who knows me has had my chocolate chip cookies, and you bet they’re the best they’ve ever had. Like seriously. They’re so good, and I’m actually going to share my secrets with you! Can you believe? I’m almost scared to put it on the internet.

My recipe is based off of the Nestle Toll House recipe, which I’ve linked, just with a few tweaks. The ingredients are pretty standard:

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flourFile_001 (1).jpeg
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 sticks or 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 tablespoon, yes tablespoon, vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs, preferably room temp
  • 12 oz package Nestle Mini Chocolate Chips

First off, add your dry ingredients (salt, baking soda, and flour) into a small bowl, NOT the mixing bowl. Make sure to level all of these ingredients off with the back of a knife. Baking is all about accuracy!

Next, add the softened butter and two sugars to the mixer. When you measure the brown sugar, be sure to pack it tightly into the measuring cup. Start the mixer on low for about a minute or so, just to get everything homogeneous. Scrape the bowl with a spatula and beat that stuff like you mean it, on medium for about 10 minutes. Yep! 10!!! Minutes!!! This is probably the most important step to the whole process. Your cookies will be dense and dark if you don’t beat the butter and sugar until it is very light and very fluffy.

Pic 1 is NOT good. It’ll be grainy and heavy. Pic 2 is… eh. You could do better. The last picture is what you want! The color is very light and the mixture is smooth, silky, and fluffy. Make sure to scrape the bowl a few times throughout the mixing process. This ensures that everything is incorporated.

After you get the lightest, fluffiest sugar-butter in the world, add the eggs one at a time with the mixer on low. Let them incorporate fully, then add the vanilla. More vanilla=happy times! Vanilla extract is essentially the sweet tears of Baby Jesus himself. It is God’s nectar. It is ESSENTIAL to chocolate chip cookies. Trust me!!

Now comes the dry ingredients, and it’s all about working quickly, but also with great patience. You want to add the flour mix in about 3 parts, and you want to mix the dough as little as possible. To add the first third, pour it in the center of the bowl, and “pulse” the mixer on and off. If you just turn it on, both your kitchen and yourself will get coated in a thin layer of flour, salt, and baking soda. There is no escaping this fate, so do as I say. Pulse until you feel as though you’re safe from a flour explosion, then mix just a lil bit. Repeat this for each addition. Do not over mix!!! Those cookies will not be cookies, they’ll be hockey pucks.

At this point, take the bowl off the mixer stand and fold in any excess flour that may have gotten stuck to the bowl. The last step to this beautiful dough is to fold in the entire bag of mini chocolate chips. Mini chips are just… better. I have no rationale as to why they’re better, but they are. Folding in the chips by hand is not really necessary, but I think it adds just the right amount of loovveeee.

File_003Ta da!!! Here ya go, this is it. The finished product. Chocolate. Chip. Cookie. DOUGH. My family will shamelessly eat just the cookie dough. Yes, raw eggs, salmonella, blah blah, humbug. Only 1 in 20,000 eggs are bacteria-infested, so I’ll take my chances. If you would like to stay safe, here’s how to pasteurize eggs.

To bake the cookies, the easiest and most delicious way to do it is in a big pan. This means only one batch, no babysitting the oven, and you get soft, chewy cookies. Line a 9×13 baking dish with parchment and press the dough out evenly. Bake in a 375° oven for 20-25 minutes. File_009These chocolate chip beauties are my signature recipe. They’re a great gift, easy to whip up, and are sooooooooooo delicious!!! Follow my tips and trick and you’ll have a perfect recipe under your belt. 

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Rollin’, Rollin’, Rollin’

I’m back! It’s been a while since my last post, and I’m here today with a recipe that you’re gonna want to copy down. My Aunt Ruth’s yeast rolls are famous within our family, and for good reason. This is my first attempt at bread making, and I have to say it’s a bit daunting. Aunt Ruth sent me a handwritten recipe, so I’m typing it out here:

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup Crisco
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup water (105° to 110°F)
  • 2 packages yeast
  • 6 cups of bread flour

This recipe uses the invaluable resource that is a KitchenAid Stand Mixer, but if you don’t have one I’m sure you could do it by hand. To start off, add the Crisco, sugaIMG_1754r, and salt to the mixing bowl with the whisk attachment, then pour the cup of boiling water over it and mix until combined. I put a pot on the stove with about 3 cups of water to boil, then scooped out a cup and set the rest aside for the second part of water. After mixing in the boiling water, let the mix cool a little so it doesn’t cook the eggs. Once cool, add the beaten eggs and mix slightly. At this point, the mixtures looks quite nasty. Not to worry! All in good time.

Next comIMG_1757es the yeast. It’s really important that the water is within the temp range. If it’s too cold, the yeast won’t activate. If it’s too hot, the yeast will die. I used a steak thermometer to ensure the right temperature. I figure 107°F was a good medium to aim for. Once the water is the right temp, add the yeast and mix it until dissolved.  It looks a little something like this. Add the yeasty water to the mixing bowl. IMG_1761

Finally, add the bread flour one cup at a time, mixing after each addition. After 4-5 cups, switch to the bread hook attachment and add the remaining cups. I stopped at about 4 1/2 to switch. Once all the flour is added, let the dough knead in the mixer for 3 to 4 minutes.

Cover the dough with Saran wrap and aluminum foil and let it rise in the fridge for at least 4 hours but up to a week. I opted for overnight. IMG_1763

Look at that beautiful, poofy dough! Isn’t it gorgeous? Don’t get too excited, though. The waiting isn’t over yet! To prepare for baking, pinch off chunks of dough and roll into about 1 inch balls. Place 3 balls in each cup of a greased muffin tin.IMG_1743

Let the rolls rise, uncovered, in a warm place for 3 hours. I wasn’t aware of just how much they would rise, but oh boy do they poof up! Luckily, I only made 6 that size; the rest I toned down quite a bit.

How beautiful are those?? They taste almost as good as they look, maybe even better! These rolls are soooo yummy, and can be paired with anything: jelly, ham, or just some butter. I can’t tell you how happy I was to see they turned out right!! Hopefully I did Aunt Ruth some justice… Try these out! You won’t regret it.

(not really) Thinking Thin

I don’t think there’s anyone in America who doesn’t love Girl Scout cookies. They’re cheap, delicious, and only around for a few months each year. I was a Girl Scout for about 6 years, and my sister is currently in her 4th year, so Girl Scout cookies are not hard to find around my house during the first couple of months of the year.

The fan-favorite Thin Mint cookie is an addicting classic that has survived the test of time. Over 25% of all GS cookies sold are Thin Mints, and with a usual 8 cookie varieties per year, that’s a pretty significant chunk. Now, I love Thin Mints as much as the next normal person, but I got to thinking; what can I make with them? Is it possible to transform this goddess of a cookie that is a Thin Mint into something, dare I say, better than the original? Surely there is some way, and Google knew just the thing!

Contrary to my usual Google obsession, my mom actually found this recipe and sent it to me. It’s a good find, lemme tell ya, but there’s quite a few steps involved.

You start off my making the crust. It’s just crushed up Thin Mints, melted butter, a little sugar (which fullsizerender-4I think is unnecessary; the cookies are sweet enough), and a pinch of salt. The crust then needs to bake for about 7 or 8 minutes, just until it comes together into one piece. Make sure this is done a little ahead of time, simply because we’re making a cold pie, so putting the cold filling onto a hot crust is most definitely not a good idea.

Next up is the chocolate custard filling. A custard is essentially milk, eggs, and sugar cooked together. This particular custard is done by heating heavy cream in a sauce pan until it steams, then gradually pouring it over eggs and sugar. Make sure to whisk furiously, yes furiously, the entire time to ensure there’s no chunks of scrambled eggs, because ew. After the cream is all mixed, return the mixture to the saucepan and stir until thickened. Here’s where I can tell you what not to do, because I made the filling twice. The reason behind why I made it twice… Well. We’re getting there.

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When you heat up the cream, make sure the heat on low and pull the pan off as soon as the cream starts steaming. If it’s too hot, the custard takes almost no time to thicken up and quickly gets overdone. The second time around, with the cream just hot enough to start cooking the eggs, the custard gradually thickened and I was able to take it off the heat at the perfect time. img_1524Once the custard is done, the melted chocolate is added. The first time ’round, when I somewhat overcooked the custard, it wasn’t smooth and silky; it had a graininess to it. As you can see, the chocolate custard on the left is perfectly shiny and smooth.

Now we get to the root of my Round 1 problem. This pie is, after all, a mint chocolate pie, so of course the recipe calls for peppermint extract to be added. Peppermint extract is notoriously strong, and the recipe called for a whole 1/2 a teaspoon. I added probably a 1/4 of a teaspoon, and it was just so bad. The entire kitchen smelled like artificial flavoring, and the filling that was supposed to be very yummy had an almost chemical after taste. After the extract, the recipe calls for whipped heavy cream to be folded in, so I figured the whipped cream would disperse the flavor. Much to my (and my taste testing family’s) despair, it didn’t change a thing. So, I made the executive decision to start anew, and I scooped the mega minty filling into the trash can. My amazing mum had to make a grocery run, but man… It was worth it.

For Round 2, I left the extract out all together. The only thing we could figure out is that the extract was old, and the water in it had evaporated, leaving extremely concentrated peppermint extract behind. This was a pretty good call; there’s enough mint in the crust for the whole pie.img_1534

Also, the recipe calls for bittersweet melted chocolate to be added to the custard, but I think semisweet would give the filling a better taste. I had to really compensate for the lack of sugar when I made the whipped cream that folds into the custard.

The second filling turned out beautifully! The only thing that needed to be tweaked was the amount of sugar. Now I know I said the sugar in the crust was unnecessary, and I still think it is. The filling should be the sweet part of a pie, not the crust. If you make the filling as the recipe describes, it’s quite bitter. The sweetened whipped cream made a major difference.

The pie is topped with more whipped cream and any remaining Thin Mints. I got a little fancy and piped whipped cream dollops around the edge, but that’s definitely unnecessary. Make it as beautiful or as messy as you like! Trust me, it’ll taste delicious either way. The pie is supposed to set after 2 hours in the fridge, but it was still really soft. I suggest freezing it, then letting it thaw just a little before serving. This dessert was so good! It’s a great way to use those Thin Mints you bought from the bright-eyed Girl Scouts in front of Walmart that you just need to stop eating. Make this pie and give it to a neighbor, or your mom, or your teacher, or your grandma, or whoever! Just try and save a slice for yourself. 🙂

fullsizerender-3

Popeye’s Fav Pasta

If there are two things I can’t live without, it’s the daily Tastemade SnapChat stories and Chopped. Okay, and my cats. And my family. And my friends. And my phone. And liquid eyeliner, but I do really love Tastemade and Chopped. Tastemade, for those who don’t know, puts out daily recipe videos done by young people to appeal to the SnapChat audience. I’m assuming every decent person has watched Chopped at least once in their life, or at least I hope that’s the case.

Anyways, I was doing my daily Tastemade watching, and my favorite Tastemaker (that’s what they’re called, promise), Frankie Celenza, popped up on my screen! I’ve always wanted to try one of his recipes, and on this particular day he was making a “very much needed update to fettuccine alfredo“. Essentially, he made homemade spinach pasta with alfredo sauce. Now comes the Chopped element to my story. It almost never fails for someone to try to make homemade pasta within the 20 minute timeframe of the Chopped kitchen. It’s usually someone really stupid or someone who just wants to show off, but every time, the judges say something along the lines of “I commend you for (attempting to) making homemade pasta and taking a risk like that.” The “attempting to” is there if the pasta is crap.

I’ve never made pasta before, but this seemed like the perfect way to fulfill two dreams at once: 1) Make Frankie and Tastemade proud and 2) Impress Geoffrey Zakarian, Alex Guarnaschelli and good ole Ted.

Enough talk. Let’s get cooking! The pasta gets its lovely green color from a large img_1302bunch of boiled spinach. I just trimmed off the stems and rinsed it off before boiling for about 3 minutes. In the words of Frankie-Man, I’m pretty sure spinach was the original inspiration for Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, because it starts off so big and you’re left with so little.

The recipe calls for semolina flour and all-purpose, but they didn’t have semolina at Kroger, so I used all-purpose for the whole amount instead of half and half. I googled it; it’s an okay thing to do, but it may result in a softer pasta.

While the spinach cooled, I separated the eggs and sifted the flour due to the fact that mine was super lumpy. fullsizerender-1

(*whispers* that’s the same amount of spinach in both pictures)

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You start off by making a little well in the middle of the lil flour mountain and then pouring in the eggs and the spinach. Mix up the insides with a fork, and then you start slowly incorporating the flour until it comes together. You then knead it until homogeneous throughout. Before cooking, it needs to rest for about 30 minutes in the fridge.

This was surprisingly easy to do? With how unfailingly amazed the Chopped judges are every time a contestant makes pasta, I figured this would be the chefy equivalent to my calculus midterm. Alas, it was just the opposite.img_1342

I rolled it out as thin as I possibly could, which was still too thick, but it wasn’t the end of the world. However, I highly suggest getting it very thin. Once you’ve gotten it paper thin, or close to it, cut the dough into also-thin strips (thinner than what is pictured, I cut them again before cooking). All that’s left now is to boil em up, and it literally takes less than a minute. I made a quick little alfredo sauce, just butter, heavy cream, parm, and seasonings. Basically, it’s cream in 3 different forms mixed together to create sweet heavenly bliss. Superrrrr easy, and here’s the recipe. The final product is so pretty! The bright vibrancy of the spinach shines through, even when coated in what could be alternatively coined as awful-lot-of-calories sauce. It was quite yummy! 10/10 would recommend, just make sure the pasta is super thin. Thanks to Tastemade for the recipe! 

Bloggin bout Biscotti

I am a SUCKER for coffee. I love it. I need it. I’m only 16, which is kinda sad, but do I care?Nope. I love coffee. Yenno what goes great with coffee? Biscotti!! If I’m getting coffee from Starbucks (instead of the occasional green tea lemonade), 9 times out of 10 I’m gonna grab one of the almond biscottis (is that the plural form of biscotti? Not sure) that they have conveniently placed at the register. However.. those things are like $2.00 each! Why not just make my own with ingredients that everyone has in their pantry? It’s a basic dough: butter, sugar, eggs, flour, salt, baking powder with some additional stuff like flavoring and nuts.

This recipe was super easy to do, it just takes FOREVER, because you have to bake the dough two times. After all, ‘biscotti’ comes from the Latin word ‘biscoctus’, which means twice-cooked. I picked this recipe  from the internet. I decided to go with an almond variation. Like I said, the dough was very simple, so simple that I forgot I was making something new and didn’t take pictures until about halfway through the process.

Now the recipe I used, ‘Nonna’s Biscotti Recipe’, calls for brandy in with the wet ingredients, but I just left that out. Nonna also says to stir the ingredients together, as if! There is a KitchenAid mixer proudly on display in our kitchen and I will never use anything else to mix with besides that beauty, let alone a SPOON.

Now I know the recipe says to put the almonds in before the dry ingredients, but I somehow couldn’t bring myself to do that. The two pictures above are before and after almonds, and it was crazy how fast the dough came together when I added the nuts. It took, no lie, 3 turns of the mixer and it was done.b3
The dough is super b4.jpgsticky when fully mixed, so you have to split it in half and refrigerate for about 30 minutes. Make sure to use your most impressive knife for the photo-op. Wrap it up, and into the fridge!

 

After chilling, it’s much easier to handle. Just form each ball into a loaf and pop them in the oven for about 30 minutes.unnamed When the loaves come out, they’re still a bit soft and squishy.unnamed-1                                                                  Let them cool for 15 minutes, and slice into about 1/2 to 3/4 inch pieces. The slices go back in the oven for another 20 minutes.

Like I said, it takes a while. In all of your downtime, clean up a bit. You still have a large dirty mixing bowl that’s just begging to be cleaned, and if you’re like 97% of the population, you clean it with a spatula and your mouth.

Once the biscotti came out of the oven for the second time, and cooled for the second time, I dipped/drizzled them in dark chocolate. Nonna doesn’t say to do that, but to Nonna I say “Why not?”

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Aren’t they pretty?? Quite delicious too, and super cheap! Goes great with a nice cup of coffee on a chilly morning. Give them a try!image-1-1

Macaron Mayhem

Bonjour mes amies! Today we are taking a trip to France with these pretty macarons! I’m so excited to finally try these beauties out. Like seriously how cute are french macarons?? As it turns out, these petite pastel pastries are a bit difficult to master, so I made sure to google “perfect french macaron recipe” instead of the plain old “french macaron recipe”. Problem solved, eh? I chose the link to ohsweetday.com which has lots of tips and tricks on how to get the so claimed ‘perfect’ macaron. Me being the chefy macaron expert that I am (not), I’ve decided that I’ll be the judge of that perfection, thank you.

A macaron is a sweet meringue-based pastry made with sugars, egg whites, almond flour, and food coloring. When there’s that few ingredients in a baked good, it is so so so so so so easy to go wrong. Baking is a very tempermental art, and the weather plays a large part in the turnout. It’s always good to bake on a sunny day, because sugar, salt, and flour absorb moisture from the air. Luckily for me, I waited until the last minute to make these and guess what? It was pouring down rain. That was warning sign #1.  I started off by drawing 12 1.5 inch circles on two sheets of parchment. It’s important to make the macarons all the same size for a few reasons. 1) they’re sandwiches, so your top needs to be the same size as the bottoms and 2) there is a very short time between cooked and browned, so the macarons need to be on the exact same page in baking. That was step 1. Step 2: process almond flour and powdered sugar in food processor until fine. This was pretty simple, so I didn’t feel compelled to document it. Step 3: whip egg whites until frothy, on low, then add 1/4 cup of sugar. Whip on high until very stuff peaks form.
Looked pretty stiff to me.

Step 4: Fold in almond mixture until just combined.  I folded in the dry img_1086
ingredients and separated the mix into three bowls, since I wanted to be all cute with different colors. I used these three gel food colorings.

Add food coloring and fold until the mixture falls off the spatula in ribbons. This was a bit vague to me. How long is too long? What do the ribbons look like? Not too sure so I’m classifying this as warning sign #2. I really don’t know if I over mixed it or under mixed it, but here it is.

'.jpgDoes it look like the Easter Bunny had a baby shower and this was the color scheme? Yes. Do I still love it? Yes. Here they are, all piped and pretty! img_1101-2I could tell from the get go that the batter was very wet, like sliding out very quickly and the pipe lines dissolved immediately, so I’m calling that warning sign #3. It says to let them dry out for at least an hour and a half on rainy days, so that’s what I did.
While they were drying out, I made a simple vanilla buttercream (just butter, powdered sugar, cream, and vanilla: whip butter and powdered sugar like you mean it-at least a few minutes until it’s lightened considerably in color. Add the vanilla and a bit of heavy cream until desired consistency is reached). The buttercream was VERY sweet, even though I cut back on the sugar, so I whipped some heavy cream and added melted semisweet baking chocolate to have a lighter filling. Millions of hours later, I got to put my lil macarons in the oven. This process took way longer than I anticipated, but I am nothing if not patient! This pan came out relatively good!These…. not so much. The blue and yellow pan were all brown on top but under cooked on the bottom (????), and they stuck to the parchment and practically crumbled. So. Yeah. I had too many warning signs to not see something like this coming. Also.. they didn’t get very pretty and puffy? Almost as if they were supposed to rise but didn’t? Not sure about that either. Here’s the finished product:

They aren’t terrible by any means, but I am a baker, for goodness sake! I’ve been making chocolate chip cookies from scratch since I was 10! It’s safe to say I hold myself to a higher standard than this, but ah well. There’s always room for improvement, especially in this case. I didn’t really enjoy the taste of them, to be perfectly honest. Both the fillings were delicious, but I just didn’t like the cookies themselves! Which made me sad! I was so excited and let’s just say I was a bit disappointed. Go back and read the first paragraph of this post, which I wrote prior to making the macarons. Go do it. Right now.

Done? Told you I was excited. Ah the bitter taste of defeat. Or maybe I’m tasting these macarons.

My taste testers loved them, much to my surprise, so I’m sure I’ll make them again at some point. On a sunny day. With just the right amount of mixing. With more research. More trial and error. Yenno, all that jazz.

See you next week.

Snow Day Steakhouse

Ah, the sweet release of a Friday afternoon. School’s out (and out early), there is the whispering promise of snow filling everyone’s head. With girls in their Uggs and pullovers and boys in their shorts and sweatshirts (which frankly, I will never understand), the cold weather is evident in us all. What better day than this is there to cook up something ridiculously delicious! This horseradish and herb crusted beef tenderloin is a delicious and healthy way to warm up your chilly winter evenings (or at least that’s what it says on the recipe).

The dish itself is fairly simple: a beef tenderloin (‘preferably grass-fed’ says the recipe, which is ‘higher in immune-boosting conjugated linoleic acid than conventional beef’) that is encrusted with LOTS of flavor. The thing that stood out to me with this is the horseradish; I’ve personally never tried horseradish, but I am very much aware of its spicy-tangy-strong flavor thanks to A Series of Unfortunate Events. It’s a peculiar place to learn of an ingredient, I know. Never the less, Mr. Snicket felt the need to supply my young mind with horseradish-y content that will stick with me for the rest of my days. In addition to the illuisve-but-not-so-illusive-horseradish, there is parsley, thyme, rosemary, garlic, dijon mustard, and of course, salt and pepper. If I can teach you anything, my dear reader, it is to put salt and pepper on absolutely everything savory you make. EVERYTHING. Don’t question it. Just salt-n-peppa that thing and watch your world change for the better. Trust me. I know things.horseradish-herb-crusted-beef-tenderloin-recipe

This is the picture on the website that I snatched this recipe from. The beef is cooked perfectly, a nice pale pink all the way through, and the outside is smothered in flavorful spices. The gold fork adds a nice touch, don’t ya think? Overall, not too intimidating.

So on this dreary chilly January afternoon, I began my venture at Kroger. Here’s a tip: don’t go to the grocery store the night of a winter storm. It’s not a pretty sight. I found the herbs that I needed, as well as a larrrrrge coffee, and I went to go pick out my tenderloin. Unbeknownst to my 16-year-old-mind, beef tenderloin is just a bit on the pricey side (!!!). Never the less, I had committed to this dish. I said to myself, as I paid $30 for some cow, Treat. Yo. Self.

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So pretty! But so plain

Now comes the fun part! Step one: heat oven to 400°F. So far so good. Step two: peel and shred horseradish. It was this very moment when I learned that horseradish is gross and I sure wasn’t putting an entire cup of it on this tenderloin, bt3so I opted for a quarter cup instead. Step 3: Combine parsley, rosemary, thyme, and garlic with shredded horseradish.
Step 4: salt n peppa that meat 
(told ya). Step 5: Combine olive oil and dijon mustard and brush onto beef. Step 6: sprinkle herb mixture onto meat and press to stick. 

Here’s the full recipe for those who aren’t satisfied with my steps. )

Finally, the time had arrived to put this baby in the oven. Only 45 minutes left now! In my spare time, I decided to whip up some garlic roasted red potatoes (4 red potatoes sliced thin and tossed in olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder, baked at 400°F until golden brown) and some sautéed greenbt2 beans (green beans cooked with butter, chopped onions, chopped bacon; steamed by adding water to the pan gradually and refilling once it cooks off; finish with some more butter and a bit of brown sugar). I kinda made those up.

At long last, my three hour venture was finally coming to a savory, spicy end. Look at this beauty! I’m sure you can tell by now my pan has seen better days. But I don’t care! Look!! It’s not burnt! Golden! Incredible! Delicious! I did that!

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I did that!