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I am working mom who loves to cook and bake. I hope to keep track of recipes and share some of my better ones. In the process, hopefully my photography and cooking will get better and better!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The New York Times knows some cookies

 I used to think I had the best chocolate chip cookie recipe.  Easy, I'd say.  Cook's Illustrated Thick and Chewy.  This was such an ingrained thing in my brain that I didn't even want to try anything else.  I almost didn't try this one.  But the article went into the science of making the best chocolate cookie, and described the law of thirds--- one third should be a little crisp and slightly dry, the middle third should be a crisp chewy combo and the center should be practically underbaked.

Shirley Corriher weighed in.  Jacques Torres.  Some pretty heavy hitters, so I decided to try it.  Even though it involved special ingredients and online ordering.  GOOD DECISION.  These are my new go to recipe.  The light sprinkling of fleur de sel is a great flavor enhancer.  The thin chocolate disks layer in with the cookie dough in a way that's reminescent of a stacked apartment building of chocolate-dough.  Sorry, CI, you're second best.

Jacques Torres Chocolate Chip Cookies,
as seen in the new York times 2008 with small adaptations

2 cups minus 2 tablespoons
(8 1/2 ounces) cake flour
1 2/3 cups (8 1/2 ounces) bread flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons  vanilla extract (vanilla bean crush if you have it)
1 1/4 pounds bittersweet chocolate disks or fèves, at least 60 percent cacao content
Fleur de Sel

1. Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.

2. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Drop chocolate pieces in and incorporate them with a spatula without breaking them. Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. Dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.

3. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Set aside.

4. Scoop  3 1/2-ounce mounds of dough (the size of generous golf balls- I used my muffin scoop) onto baking sheet, making sure to turn horizontally any chocolate pieces that are poking up; it will make for a more attractive cookie. Sprinkle lightly with fleur de sel and bake until golden brown but still soft, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then slip cookies onto another rack to cool a bit more. Repeat with remaining dough, or reserve dough, refrigerated, for baking remaining batches the next day.

Yield: 1 1/2 dozen 5-inch cookies.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Dark Chocolate Coconut Cookies- Levain Knock-offs

So one of the departments where I work scheduled a cookie contest the week I am taking vacation.  I'm not fooled. Clearly they are just scared.

And they should be.  With this recipe up my sleeve, they'd be toast.  Dark cocoa with bittersweet chocolate chips and coconut, underbaked so even cool they are rich and buttery.  (in deference to my niece, I will refrain from using the M word.  It offends her delicate sensibilities.  College girls are like that.)

This recipe was featured in Art Culinaire Magazine in an article about Levain Bakery in NYC, in which they interviewed the authors and got some recipes from them.  Who knows if they are the recipes they use now, but these are strikingly yummy.

A couple of notes- if you don't have a scale, check out these conversions.  One of my family members marvels at how people can bake and it always comes out exactly the same- the answer?  Weigh your ingredients!  Of course, other people less uptight precise than me can convincingly argue they come out delish even a few ounces off....but I like knowing they'll be perfect.

And for the record, I am bringing them to work early.  I can't be a no show!

Dark Chocolate Coconut Cookies (Yields 1 dozen cookies)

adapted from Art CulinaireConnie McDonald & Pamela Weekes


For the dark chocolate coconut cookies:

8 ounces unsalted butter
10 ounces granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 ounces dark cocoa powder
10 ounces all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
6 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips
3 ounces large walnut pieces (optional- I optioned NOT)
3 ounces unsweetened shredded coconu


For the dark chocolate coconut cookies: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In bowl of electric mixer fitted with paddle, cream together butter and sugar until well-blended and fluffy. Add eggs and beat until well-incorporated, then beat in cocoa powder. Mix in flour, salt and baking powder until just combined. Gently fold in remaining ingredients. Transfer dough to clean work surface and gently mix dough to ensure even distribution of ingredients. Divide into 12 equal portions (easy to use a muffin scoop, like this one)  and place each on sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Bake in oven 12 minutes, taking care not to overbake. Let cool on rack and store in airtight container.


Monday, March 21, 2011

Staff Dressing

OK, so this dressing was so delicious!  We got the French Laundry Cookbook from the library recently, and I have to say, most of that book was just inaccessible to me.  So many of the components require so much time to prepare, like making 2 different stocks from veal then combining as a sauce for a dish, it's just not practical for the limited time we have.  But this- this I could manage.

Staff dressing
from Keller's French Laundry Cookbook

 1 tbsp chopped gartlic
1 ½ tsp chopped shallots
(2tbsp +1tsp)Dijon Mustard
 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
 1 large egg yolk*
 2 cups canola oil

*if you are immunosuppressed (kids under a year, elderly, transplant, etc etc) please substitute 1 tablespoon mayonnaise.  Salmonella is rare but no joke.

Place the garlic, shallots, vinegar and mustard in a blender and blend until well combined. Add the egg yolk and blend again. With the blender on slow drizzle the oil in until the dressing is thick and emulsified. It will thicken and the octave of the blender will change.  (you'll get it when you hear it)  Season with (1/2 tsp) salt and pepper. You can refrigerate in a covered container for a week.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Neapolitan Six Layer Cake

So when I asked my soon to be  three year old what he wanted for a cake for his birthday, he told me "Strawberry.  Strawberry and chocolate."  Yes, this is the same kid who when I put down a plate of homemade biscuits and eggs for breakfast, asked me for gravy.  Chocolate gravy, of course.  But that's a post for another day....To his future wife: I'm sorry.   Get in the kitchen.  (for the record, I completed what I fondly refer to as 27th grade...)

Secretly I was delighted.  I'd had my eye on just such a cake.... Annie's Eats and Sweetapolita, where you should always turn when you have a seemingly insurmountable baking problem, had the answer!!  As always, that girl came through, fulfilling not only strawberry and chocolate but also vanilla.  I have changed a few things, mainly by just making it 6 layers.  Why stop at 5?  For a variation you could put the strawberry meringue buttercream in between, but I wouldn't do that if you make it as a rose cake (Amanda gives a great tutorial!!).  The roses use a lot of frosting.  A LOT.  I know they look complicated, but all you need is a 1M tip (<$2 plus shipping) and a functional wrist.  You can see I underbaked these a touch and that's why they are a little sunken.  But even still, it's a durn purty cake.  The chocolate and vanilla are really good, the strawberry is yummy too, although it's a little reminiscent of frankenberry.  Next time I make it I will use this recipe from Shawnda.   Although, I'll have to add some food coloring...that cake is just not pink enough for those under 4.

Somehow I just couldn't get everyone to say the name right...Neopolean, Napolean, any perversion- but they kept asking for it, so that's a good thing!

Neapolitan Layer Cake:
Barely adapted from Annie's Eats and Sweetapolita
For the chocolate cake:
¾ cup plus 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
6 tbsp. dark cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1 cup sugar
¼ cup vegetable or canola oil
1 large egg
½ cup black coffee
½ cup buttermilk
1½ tsp. vanilla extract
For the white cake:
2 large egg whites
1¾ cup all-purpose flour
1½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1 cup sugar
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup very cold water
½ tsp. vanilla extract
¼ tsp. almond extract
For the strawberry cake:
1¼ cups plus 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1¼ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
1 cup sugar
1½ oz. strawberry gelatin
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 large eggs
½ cup milk
1½ tsp. vanilla extract
¼ cup sweetened strawberry puree*
For the filling:
Easy vanilla buttercream or good quality strawberry jam
For the strawberry buttercream frosting:
1½ cups fresh strawberries (8 oz.), rinsed, hulled and coarsely chopped*
4 large egg whites
1¼ cups sugar
3 sticks (1½ cups) unsalted butter, at room temperature
*To make the strawberry puree, just process fresh or frozen strawberries in a food processor.  
To make the chocolate cake, spray  with baker's joy (or butter and flour, shaking out excess) a 9-inch round pan.  Line the bottom with a round of parchment.  In a small bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt; whisk to blend and set aside.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the sugar, vegetable oil and egg.  Beat on medium speed until smooth, about 1-2 minutes.  With the mixer on low speed, blend in half of the dry ingredients, beating just until incorporated.  Blend in the coffee, buttermilk and vanilla just until smooth.  Beat in the remaining dry ingredients, mixing just until incorporated.
Preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake, rotating halfway through, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 35 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack and as soon as it's not going to burn your fingers (about 5 minutes for my cook's hands), turn out onto plastic wrap, wrap tightly, wrap with aluminum foil, and stick in the freezer.

To make the white cake, spray  with baker's joy (or butter and flour, shaking out excess) a 9-inch round pan.  Line the bottom with a round of parchment..  In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt; whisk to blend and set aside.  In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites on medium speed until foamy.  Increase speed to medium high and continue to beat until stiff peaks form.  Transfer the egg whites to another bowl and set aside.  In the bowl of the electric mixer now fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the sugar and butter, and beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes.  With the mixer on low speed, beat in half of the dry ingredients just until incorporated.  Blend in the water, vanilla and almond extracts.  Beat in the remaining dry ingredients just until incorporated.  With a silicone spatula, stir in about a quarter of the egg whites to lighten the batter.  Gently fold in the remaining egg whites, until the batter is smooth and no streaks remain.
Preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake, rotating halfway through, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 35 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack and as soon as it's not going to burn your fingers (about 5 minutes for my cook's hands), turn out onto plastic wrap, wrap tightly, wrap with aluminum foil, and stick in the freezer.
To make the strawberry cake, butter and flour the edges of a 9-inch round pan, shaking out the excess flour.  Line the bottom with a round of parchment.  In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt; whisk to blend and set aside.  Combine the sugar, strawberry gelatin and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.  Beat the eggs into the sugar mixture one at a time, mixing well after each addition.  With the mixer on low speed, add half of the dry ingredients to the batter and mix just until incorporated.  Blend in the milk and vanilla extract.  Add in the remaining dry ingredients, mixing just until incorporated.  Blend in the strawberry puree.
Preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake, rotating halfway through, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 35 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack and as soon as it's not going to burn your fingers (about 5 minutes for my cook's hands), turn out onto plastic wrap, wrap tightly, wrap with aluminum foil, and stick in the freezer.

At this point, go to bed.  Or go play trains,legos, or build a house out of sticks for Eeyore.   Whatever floats you.  They are easier to slice when cold anyway.    
To make the frosting, place the strawberries in a food processor or blender.  Puree until completely smooth.  Combine the egg whites and sugar in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water.  Heat, whisking frequently, until the mixture reaches 160° F and the sugar has dissolved.  I break every candy thermometer I own, so I just used the whisk kid method and tested for grittiness.  
Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Beat on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form and the mixture has cooled to room temperature, about 8 minutes.  The bowl will be cool to the touch.
Reduce the speed to medium and add the butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, adding more once each addition has been incorporated.  If the frosting looks soupy or curdled, continue to beat on medium-high speed until thick and smooth again, about 3-5 minutes more.  Keep going until it comes together!  Blend in the strawberry puree until smooth and completely incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
To assemble the cake, torte each of the cake layers horizontally into two thin halves.  Place one of the chocolate layers on a cake board or cake platter.  Top with a very thin layer of tstrawberry jam.  Place a layer of the strawberry cake on top.  Again, cover with a thin layer of strawberry jam.  Top with a layer of the white cake.  Cover with a thin layer of the  strawberry jam.  Repeat the process with the remaining layers of chocolate and strawberry cake and vanilla cake. Frost the top and sides of the cake with the strawberry buttercream.  Transfer remaining buttercream to a pastry bag fitted with a 1M tip for adding roses or you use a 103 tip and you could do ruffles.



Thin Crust Chicken Pesto Pizza

So we have a lot of dichotomy in my house- north versus south, tulane versus LSU, democrat versus republican.....thin crust versus thick.  My husband is firmly in the thin crust camp and I prefer thick.  Luckily, this pizza is absolutely delicious!!  

It does require planning, but that also means prep time on cook night is low!
Don't leave out the vital wheat gluten.  It makes the crust so chewy!!  

Adapted from Annie's Eats and also her here
For the crust: (original from cook's illustrated)
8 oz all purpose flour
8 oz whole wheat flour
1/2 oz vital wheat gluten
(about 3 cups total for all flours, you can also use all bread flour)
2 tsp. sugar
½ tsp. instant yeast
1 1/3 cups ice water
1 tbsp. canola oil
1½ tsp. salt
For the pesto:

For the pesto:
1/4 cup pine nuts
3 medium garlic cloves, unpeeled
2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
7 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
For topping:
1 cups (4 oz.) shredded  mozzarella
grilled chicken, 1 cup diced
To make the dough, combine the flour, sugar, and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook.  With the machine running, add the ice water and mix until just combined.  Let dough rest for 10 minutes.
Add the oil and salt to the dough.  Mix until the dough forms a smooth, tacky ball that clears the sides of the bowl, about 60 seconds.  Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 24 hours and up to 3 days.  (After refrigeration, the dough can be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and frozen.)
To make the pesto, place all ingredients in food processor and pulse.
One hour before baking the pizza, adjust an oven rack to the second highest position and place a baking stone on the rack to preheat.  Preheat the oven to 500˚ F.  Remove the pizza dough from the refrigerator and divide in half.  It can be popped in the freezer at this point.  
To assemble the pizza, transfer a dough ball to a well floured work surface.  One of these works well, as it has the circle measurements.  Using a rolling pin, roll the dough into a 13 inch circle.  Lightly brush  with olive oil, and let rise at room temperature for 1 hour.  From here, you have two options- one is to briefly pop on a bake stone for 2 minutes in a 500 degree oven to prebake, then top and finish on the grill.  Or...

Spread ½ the pesto over the dough, preferably with someone just over three feet doing this part. 

 Sprinkle evenly with the shredded mozzarella and halved grape tomatoes and grilled chicken.  Carefully transfer the pizza to the preheated baking stone, and pour the wine.  If you don't have a pizza peel, like me, parchment on a cookie sheet works great. 

Bake until the cheese is bubbling and slightly browned, 10-12 minutes.  Let cool about 5 minutes before slicing and serving.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Rainbow Cake, lightly lemon.

  • Ok, so in my house, my husband got the brilliant idea that we should not eat sweets for a month, just to do it, he says. Well, then we had his birthday and my son's third birthday in the same week, and we went a little crazy.  Or rather, I went a little crazy.  I made 4 cakes in 1 week.  Yes, 4.  
>pause for effect<

Anywhoo, so here' s the one I was most proud of.  The Rainbow cake.  Whisk kid uses a different cake recipe, but I'm sure that one is yummy too. I thinks Cooks Illlustrated walks on water, so they are often my go to.  I also did not do frosting between the layers, I used lemon curd.  Store bought lemon curd.  Judge me now.  But I think this gave me not only a more visually striking cake but also more lemon flavor and slightly less butter.  

The freezer method may seem silly, but it gives you three very helpful things.  #1, it keeps it moist!!  #2, it allows you to go to bed and deal with these puppies in the morning, which for me, was a huge plus.  Oh, and #3....they are pretty thin and fragile.  So being frozen helps them easier to work with- this is also why I left them on the plate in the freezer....1 crumbled worthless cake layer when you are making 6 is all you need.

A couple other notes: KITCHEN SCALE.  I wish I has this one, but alas, I have a totally old school, non digital one.  It lets those under 4 feet help by scooping flour and sugar onto the scale  - 18 ounces is 18 ounces!!  And assures consistent results.  Cake strips.  They really do help prevent doming.   And this stuff-- saves a step, no buttering and flouring, and your layers leap out of the pan, no knife around the cake to loosen it...

Classic White Cake:
  • adapted from Baking Illustrated.
  • 1 1/2 cup whole milk , at room temperature
  • 3 3/8 cups cake flour (13.5 ounces)
  • 9 large egg whites (1 1/8 cup), at room temperature
  • 1/8 + 1/16 teaspoon lemon oil (0.936 ml-- i have a "pinch" measurement =0.312 ml, plus a 1/8 teaspoon measurement which gives you the right amount)
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder 
  • 2 5/8 cups granulated sugar (18 1/4 ounces)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 18 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened but still cool
  • Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray six 9-inch round  cake pans with Baker's Joy cooking spray; line the bottoms with parchment rounds. Spray the rounds with baker's joy.  Soak cake strips in water and wrap around the pans.
  • Pour milk, egg whites, and extracts into a glass measure, and mix with fork until blended.
  • Mix cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in bowl of electric mixer at slow speed. Add butter; continue beating at slow speed until mixture resembles moist crumbs, with no powdery streaks remaining.
  • Add all but 1 cup of milk mixture to crumbs and beat at medium speed (or high speed if using handheld mixer) for 1 1/2 minutes. Add remaining 1 cup of milk mixture and beat 30 seconds more. Stop mixer and scrape sides of bowl. Return mixer to medium (or high) speed and beat 20 seconds longer.  I got 60 ounces of batter, so this means I zeroed my scale and added 10 ounces of batter per bowl.  Then use americolor gel food coloring (very vibrant, your batter color equals your cake color) and tint each batter individually.
  • Divide batter into 6 prepared cake pans; using rubber spatula, spread batter to pan walls and smooth tops. Arrange pans at least 3 inches from the oven walls and 3 inches apart. (If oven is small, place pans on separate racks in staggered fashion to allow for air circulation.) Do 2-3 at a time.  Bake until the tops spring back, 20 to 25 minutes.  
  • Let cakes rest in pans for 3-5 minutes. Loosen from sides of pans with a knife, if necessary, and invert onto a plate covered with plastic wrap.  Wrap the plastic wrap around the still warm cakes and cover the whole plate with tin foil and pop it in the freezer.  

  • The next morning, once you've slept and have faith restored in the world, take the layers out and assemble.  Schmear a very thin layer of lemon curd between each one- you will have just enough lemon curd to do this!!!  Stack by color.   

Make your frosting now or before you assemble the layers.  

Swiss Meringue Buttercream, Lemon.
adapted from Whisk Kid (great tutorial)

5 egg whites from large eggs
1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
2 sticks (226 g) butter, room temperature in tablespoon sized pieces
1/8 teaspoon lemon oil

Whisk egg whites and sugar in a metal mixing bowl over a pot of simmering water, untik the sugar is dissolved (no longer gritty between your fingers) and the temp is 160F.  Then whisk the egg whites in your stand (or hand) mixer (off the makeshift double boiler, of course) until stiff peaks form.  Add the butter tablespoon by tablespoon, letting each one incorporate fully.   Then add lemon oil.  It will curdle at this point, whip again until it comes together!! Frost.  Adorn with as many candles as you can and make a wish!!!

(for the record- this is still 12 too few candles for my husband's age...just sayin'.)



Big Jakes- The other Rose....

OK, people.  I know, the baking blogs are all about Ina, Maida, Rebecca, Rose (Levy Berenbaum), David, Dorie..... But what about Judy Rosenberg????  Shirley Corriher???   Where's the love for these amazing women?  Judy Rosenberg has consistently AMAZING recipes.  Amazing.  Sure, it's a little fussy- she often asks for 1 cup minus 1 tablespoon of flour (if we're going to be that precise how about weights?), she often tells you to bake at 345, (really- 5 degrees off 350, I know, crazy...)  but she has some serious baking chops.  I put these ones again Dorie's world peace cookies any day.  ANY DAY.  That crackly chocolate crust coming out of the oven, the fudgy inner texture....the hint of espresso.....good even from the beaters...

Big Jakes 
Adapted from Rosie's all Butter....
Yield: 20

5 ounces semisweet chocolate
3 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate
6 tbsp. butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla
1 tbsp. instant coffee powder, espresso
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 cup white chocolate chips or chunk (you could also do 1/2 semi sweet half white)

Preheat oven to 325°F. Line several cookie sheets with parchment paper.
Melt the semisweet and unsweetened chocolate and the butter in the top of a double boiler placed over simmering water (in my house, this mean a glass bowl over a stockpot of simmering water). Allow to cool slightly.
Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together into a small bowl and set aside.
Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat eggs, vanilla, and espresso powder in a medium-size mixing bowl until they are mixed together, about 10 seconds. Add the sugar to the egg mixture and blend it all until thick, about 1 minute. Scrape the bowl.
Add the melted chocolate and blend 1 minute more. Scrape the bowl. Add the flour mixture on low speed and mix until blended, 10 seconds. Fold in the chocolate chips and nuts by hand or with the mixer on low speed.
Drop the dough by generously rounded tbsp. about 2" apart onto the prepared cookie sheets. Bake the cookies until they rise slightly and form a thin crust, about 13 minutes.

Immediately remove the cookies from the cookie sheets and place them on a rack to cool.  If you get lazy about this step, they will burn on the bottom.  They are very delicate!!