Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Ginger Molasses Cupcakes

I've been wanting to bake off something for awhile now, and this morning I was rummaging through my cupboard when I realized I still had some molasses leftover from Christmas gingerbread cookies, as well as some ginger from the ginger orange chicken. So ginger molasses cupcakes! The recipe was from Martha's cookbook and they turned out pretty tasty.

They were covered with a dollop of unsweetened whipped cream and some powdered ginger. Candied ginger bits would have been another good topping.

The end product was something that was a little more towards the savory side than sweet, but I know certain people (cough cough Matt, cough cough) who would prefer it that way. Not especially my thing but I munched it down happily enough.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Not burned chicken

So today I tried again with the orange ginger chicken. It turned out much better this time--nice and juicy with a lovely sweet and tangy glaze. It wasn't as crispy as I would like. I think the problem was due to the fact that I couldn't find boneless skin-on chicken breasts at the grocer. The boned breasts took longer to cook than the recipe called for. To prevent burning, I took it out of the pan and stuck it in the oven.

The fries were about the same, if not a little worse. It turns out fresh ginger burns at 425 degrees fahrenheit. Well, the more you know.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Bistro fries and burned chicken

So today I thought I would try something new--an orange ginger chicken breast from the Bon Appetit Fast Easy Fresh cookbook. It's a great source for recipes, and in the spirit of asian ingredients I thought I would alter their oven-roasted bistro fries by adding some ginger and soy. I thought the ginger would go nicely with the garlic and parsley. I never got a chance to find out though, because I couldn't really taste either the ginger or the garlic. The ginger was dried and a few years old now, and I'm a garlic fiend so maybe that had something to do with the bland taste. The (store bought) soy sauce was way too salty. I haven't quite decided what I'm going to do to improve the fries yet...

Above: approximately 300 mL worth of otherwise bland parsley fries.

Also, because I still haven't figured out my stupid electric burners, the glaze on the chicken burned and after scraping off the charred bits the chicken ended up being unremarkably chicken-flavored. Today was a sad day for adventure, but tomorrow I'm going to try again with this chicken and fries combo, and by Thor it will be awesome.

Random Old Pictures

I was messing around with my camera today and found some older food pictures (from back when I wasn't really sure what I would do with the pictures I took). Looking at them gave me this feeling like "Hey, those actually look pretty good! Go me!"

A lemon curd tart with piped meringue from one of Jacques Torres's older cookbooks. Of course, his looked a lot prettier--you can see a big chunk of meringue missing where I accidentally hit my oven thermometer trying to take the tart out of the oven. Since the piping job was kind of shoddy anyway, I wasn't too heart broken. The tart did, however, taste good enough that I made myself sick eating half of it in the span of a day.


Some pictures of the tart in progress:

Next up are some spoooooky halloween meringues. I had a hard time keeping the candy eyes clean while putting them in but it was totally worth it. Look how cute they are! They were orange flavored, dipped in semisweet chocolate, and made from a kit found at World Market. Next year, I think I'll just use orange extract and buy candy eyes from a craft store or something.

Keeping on theme of "Out-of-a-box Halloween Treats", the monster meringues are followed up by some Bisquick halloween pancakes.

And now for something completely different: a man with three buttocks! No, just kidding. It's some turkey chilli served Cincinatti-style over pasta and topped with grated smoked cheddar cheese.

Next I have some Thai-style tofu stew, made with all sorts of tasty vegetables and coconut milk, and served over rice.

And finally there's the peanut butter and chocolate cupcakes from Martha Stewart's Cupcakes (mentioned in an earlier post; I'll put the picture up there as well). This is actually the second time I made them--the first time I didn't mix the peanut butter mixture well enough with the chocolate batter and the mixture boiled over in the oven, covering the entire top of the muffin tin and making it look like the opening scene of a Bones episode.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Munching on Crunchy Cookies

So I've been on something of a Momofuku kick lately. Williams and Sonoma have a bunch of cookie-mixes from the Momofuku Milk Bar bakery which got me thinking about their cookbook and watching videos on YouTube. As it turns out Christina Tosi, the pastry chef, is pretty cool. Her recipes are all about rethinking classic American treats, incorporating ingredients that anybody who grew up with processed foods will love (cereal milk in particular sounds amazing). I tried to make the corn cookies from the Milk Bar cookbook--you can find it as a free sample on online bookstores like Amazon and Barnes and Noble. It gave me a chance to use my new food processor to grind up the freeze dried corn (which along with the corn flour provides the corn element in the cookies).

I was a little worried when I saw freeze dried corn powder on the ingredients list but I looked online and found that you can get freeze dried corn in a lot of health stores. I headed down to the local homeopathic drug shop/grocer and sure enough, found packets of it almost immediately as well as the corn flour I needed.

Fifteen minutes and $9.14 later, I was back in my apartment and ready to start baking. I tried a little bit of the corn before grinding it up--I don't think I'll ever want to snack on it. The flavor was ok, as well as the initial crunch (it tasted just like corn without any of the juices) but after that I couldn't shake the feeling that I had just dumped a bunch of sawdust in my mouth.

The actual baking process went smoothly. In her introduction to the book, Christina Tosi recommends a stand mixer because of the density of her doughs. I found this to be sound advice. My little hand mixer, a Sunbeam that is older than I am, held in there in the beginning but started making funny noises as the cookie dough got thicker. I ended up doing the final folds by hand. I shaped the cookies and chilled them for an hour, as directed, and put them in the oven for a quick bake.

The instructions said to let the cookies cool completely on the sheet pan (I believe so that the corn and flour can reabsorb all of the melted butter). I only have one pan and was forced to do two batches, so I moved the first batch prematurely. The paper towels I put them on soaked up a lot of the butter, which along with one egg is the only source of moisture in the cookies.

They ended up being a little dry and very sugary. I've had two so far and I'm still not sold on the corn-flavored cookie yet. That being said, I think this recipe is a great representation of the kind of food that Milk Bar puts out--quirky spins on American favorites. The cookies are like a cross over between those big, crackly sugar cookies and corn bread. Ms. Tosi is southern by birth, so corn bread might very well have been her inspiration. I'll try another cookie with milk later, which will dilute the flavor and add moisture (besides, what could be more perfect for a Milk Bar cookie?). I hope I make it to New York some day, so I can try the real thing and see how mine stacks up.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

These would be funnier if they were prison related

Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes:175 Inspired Ideas for Everyone’s Favorite Treat

Say what you will about the woman, Martha Stewart knows her stuff when it comes to baking. Or at least she is capable of hiring people who know their stuff, because the Martha Stewart cupcake cookbook is pretty damn good. I bought it on a whim, suckered in by the adorable owl cupcakes on the back cover (that I have yet to bake), and plan to keep it indefinitely.

There isn’t a lot of flexibility when it comes to the recipes; they are also involved and occasionally require some tweaking. However, the steps are clear and if you invest the time and the money the results are well worth it. I’ve tried about 12 of the 100 plus recipes and have been very satisfied with the products, as have my roommates/friends/family. The oreo cheesecake cupcakes even got me a marriage proposal! Err on the low side for the baking times, be open to making small changes as you go, and this book will serve you well as you up the cute ante in your household.

Pictured above: the peanut butter chocolate cupcakes on the second try. The first time I didn't mix the peanut butter mixture and chocolate batter well enough and the mixture boiled over and covered the top of the muffin tin in the oven. Yuck! The second time went well, thankfully.

I <3 cookbooks and other excuses to go to the library

I love cookbooks for a variety of reasons. Three main reasons, actually, which are as follows.

Connection: Cookbooks can be a fun way to interact with chefs that you might not (and probably don’t) otherwise have a chance to meet. Restaurants are expensive, they’re scattered across the world, and a lot of times the celebrity chefs that we know and love from tv/books/etc. aren’t even there. They’re running their businesses and making public appearances, not chopping garlic. Which I totally get but it sucks when you’re a fan who wants to connect with the person you admire. Enter the cookbook. They can offer a glimpse into the lives of these chefs, their style of cooking and manner of living.

Instruction: The best cookbooks will teach you not just to follow a certain recipe, but also to put a dish together on your own. They’ll go into the science behind the cooking, how to tell when the ingredient is done cooking, or what kinds of flavors go well together. Also: delicious recipes!

Inspiration: Cookbooks can offer a spring board to your own creative enterprises. When brainstorming for dinner, I’ll browse my book collection for ideas. You can also tweak recipes to suit your own preferences (this aspect of cookbook owning is actually really fun--I love thinking of ways to improve something).

But in addition to cookbooks, I also love books by chefs that aren't cookbooks, books by people who aren't chefs about food, and books in general. For the purposes of this blog, I'll stick to the former categories and talk about those individual tomes that I feel are worth sharing.