Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Mini Apple Crostatas

Mini pies...perfect. No weepy slices, no soggy bottom crust. The recipe multiplies the crust to filling ratio by about 5 which is just enough to be majorly delicious and still very apple-y.


Honestly the streusel topping turned into a sort of soft dough in the oven, so I've suggested another crumble that I've used before. It would hold up better, I'd think. These would also be great sans crumble. Then you'd see the apples from the top, which would be beautiful!

My dad was really excited!
While a little labor intensive, each step only takes a few ingredients, and you can prep all the parts for assembly later. It's a great way to start with pie crust since your circles are smaller, so they're easier to move around. If they're a weird shape, no biggie.


Fun to make, fun to eat, and a perfect landing pad for a scoop of vanilla ice cream!

Mini Apple Crostatas
Yield: 8 mini pies

Ingredients:

  • CRUST:
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup cold water

  • CRUMBLE:
  • [this is not the crumble pictured, but I think it would be better... from Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp]
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1/2 cup (packed) brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • Generous pinch of salt
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

  • APPLES:
  • 4 apples (all granny smith or granny smith and another kind)
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest (eyeball it!)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • granulated sugar to top
Method
  1. Make the pie crust: In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, and salt. Work quickly to cut the butter into the flour with your fingers, a pastry cutter, a food processor, whatever floats your boat. Butter bits should be some the size of oats, some the size of pebbles.
  2. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and dump in the water. Use your hands to fold the flour over the water and start mixing gently until the water is all absorbed and the mixture is somewhat homogenized. Turn out onto a piece of plastic wrap, form into a rectangle, and refrigerate for at least an hour.
  3. Make the crumb topping: Don't wash your bowl! In the same bowl, put all ingredients for the topping except the butter and mix to combine. Add the butter, then work in with your fingers (or whatever you did before) until the mixture resembles wet sand (moist clumps). 
  4. Peel and slice the apples into thin, even pieces. toss with all other ingredients and let sit while you wait for the dough to chill. 
  5. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and line two baking sheets with parchment. (you'll need two racks in the middle ish of the oven)
  6. Remove the crust from the refrigerator, and cut dough into 8 approximately equal pieces. Roll each into a ball. On a lightly floured countertop and with a lightly floured rolling pin, roll to about 1/8 inch thickness. Watch so that they don't stick to the counter! Set on prepared baking sheets. Brush each with beaten egg.
  7. For each round of crust, put about 1/3 cup apples (and the juices they made), then crimp up the sides. Brush the crust edges that you've folded up with egg again, then sprinkle with granulated sugar. Put about 2 tablespoons of topping on each, trying to keep it inside each crostata.
  8. Bake for 20-35 minutes, until golden brown and bubbly. Allow to cool for 15 minutes before serving, a la mode if desired. 
  9. Crostatas keep in the fridge for a few days. To reheat, either microwave if you're lazy or reheat, wrapped in foil, in a 300 degree F oven for 15 minutes. 
Recipe from the Joy the Baker Cookbook.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Caramel Macaroon Thumbprint Cookies

Or, what I wish Caramel deLites were.

Tea for two, and two for tea...
These cookies are almost candy. And they're made especially easy by the purchase of dulce de leche, a confection of boiled sweetened condensed milk sent by the gods. It's in a can, right next to the sweetened condensed milk, and for basically no extra charge they caramelize it for you.


You make basic coconut macaroons and form into disks, except after baking you push a little well into the center and fill it with delicious dulce de leche. A drizzle of chocolate seals the deal and will make you the most popular kid in high school.

If you've never made macaroons, this is a great chance to try. They're not too tricky, and the ingredient list is short. You start with egg whites, sugar, and flavorings (salt and vanilla), and whisk it until frothy. Then just dump in the coconut, shape, and bake!


Of course, if you're looking for extra credit, extra flavor, or extra fanciness, you can lightly toast the coconut before mixing it in. A billion points extra credit, as one of my professors likes to say.

Also pictured: "guard" dog Sally, in the background, watching for intruders
Whatever adventure you pick, these are quick cookies that look fancy. They're chewy and sweet and sticky and everything wonderful. Make a batch, make some friends!

Caramel Macaroon Thumbprint Cookies
Yield: About 24 cookies

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups sweetened, shredded coconut
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 can dulce de leche (available by the sweetened condensed milk or in the hispanic foods section)
  • 4 oz dark chocolate, broken into pieces
Method:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare two baking sheets with parchment paper, silicone baking sheets, or foil and nonstick spray.
  2. On one of the baking sheets, put coconut. Toast in the oven 5-7 minutes, or until just starting to color around the edges. Let cool slightly.
  3. In a large bowl, combine egg whites, sugar, vanilla, and salt. Whisk until frothy and completely combined. Add coconut and stir to combine. If it seems like there's a lot of extra liquid, add some more coconut (I didn't do this and some of mine were too soppy) until the mixture doesn't have extra liquid in the bowl.
  4. Scoop by heaping tablespoons onto prepared baking sheets. Flatten with the bottom of a glass (dipping your hands and the glass in water help keep them from sticking) and shape into nice round disks.
  5. Bake for 15-20 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through, until golden brown around the edges. Immediately after taking out of the oven, use two small spoons or your thumb to press an indentation in the middle of each cookie.
  6. Melt about half a cup of dulce de leche in a microwave safe bowl in the microwave for about 30 seconds, then spoon into the divots. I didn't do this but I wish I had!
  7. Melt the chocolate in a microwave safe bowl in 30 second bursts. Use a fork to drizzle over cookies.
  8. Serve with tea or as dessert! Cookies keep stored in an airtight container for 4 or 5 days, but they sure didn't last that long in my house.
Inspired by Bakers Royale, recipe from the Kitchn



Friday, January 1, 2016

The Best Lentil Salad


Happy New Year!

Of course, it's January 1st and everyone's all about resolutions. But that's not really why I'm writing about vegetarian salad.

See? I made cake too!


Well, the cake was for Christmas dinner. Joy the Baker wrote the recipe, so all due credit...her baking brain is on point! It's a soft cake lifted entirely by separated eggs (no flour), intensely chocolately with melted dark chocolate, and gussied up with orange zest and freshly grated nutmeg. I highly recommend it!


But this salad...this salad!! It's my favorite kind of salad. Legumey protein, all the flavor, and everything chopped up into the same size small pieces.

Does it ever bother you how hard it is to get a bite of salad with each component on it? Like, trying to get a toasted pecan, a sliver of dried apricot, greens, and a crouton on a fork is an unduly trying challenge.

You can eat this salad with a SPOON! Forks work too. I bet a spork would be splendid. I might stay away from eating off a knife if I were you, but hey...whatever pickles your caper.


Speaking of which! This salad also has capers, which you can't see because they look just like overgrown lentils. But their bright brininess, combined with earthy lentils, bitter and crunchy radish, sharp red onion, salty and tangy goat cheese, and herbaceous parsley make an awesome combo. It helps that the dressing has 10 different spices, almost as many as KFC chicken.


Got that? This salad is once spice away from being as delicious as fried chicken!

Not.

Anyway, the combination is the brainchild of Sarah at My New Roots. There's all the warm holiday spices (cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and even cardamom!), plus cayenne, coriander, cumin, and turmeric. The combination is unexpected, leaning towards curry but not quite, a delicious and unexpected melange. It will seem like a lot of spices for the salad, but trust me when I say it makes a ton.

Cheers!
I had New Years dinner with 5 friends from high school, a tradition we've been doing since, well, high school! Everyone brought their A-game to the potluck, and we ate like queens, including making just a small dent in the bowl of lentils. It was lovely to see them all again and reconnect!

Chicken tacos, fruit salad, parmesan risotto, and of course, LENTILS!
Here's the recipe, with a few modifications! But use what you have, and what's in season, and what you like.

The Best Lentil Salad
Yield: 8 or 9 cups of salad. It's like a LOT. My friends and I hardly made a dent in the bowl.

To cook the lentils:
  • 2 1/4 cups (1 lb.) Du Puy lentils, cooked (French green lentils from the bulk bins at whole foods did the trick...they need to keep their shape, so red or yellow lentils won't work as well)
  • 32 oz box of vegetable or chicken stock
Rinse and sort the lentils to make sure there are no stones mixed in there. Put lentils and stock into a pot and add water to bring liquid level a few inches above the surface of the lentils. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes, checking for doneness frequently near the last 5 minutes. Strain and rinse, then put in a big mixing bowl with...
  • 1 medium red onion, finely diced
  • 1 cup dried currants (soak in hot water for 5 minutes if they're old and crusty like mine were)
  • 1/3 cup capers (basically a whole jar)
  • 5-6 radishes, thinly sliced (I used a food processor, but a mandoline would also work)
Vinaigrette: While the lentils are cooking, shake all ingredients in a leak-proof container. Then, toss with salad ingredients
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. maple syrup
  • 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
Before serving, add in, or top each bowl as desired with:
  • 1 cup parsley, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup crumbled goat cheese
Recipe adapted slightly from My New Roots.

    Sunday, October 18, 2015

    Orange Muffins [Guest Post]

    Special thanks to Ethan for his guest post today about orange muffins! He's got a kitchen and the real life schedule and necessity to cook, so he does a lot more than I do during the school year. Take it away!

    Guest post here by Ethan, an avid follower of Common Scents Baking.


    I made orange muffins out of dessert cookbook I picked up when I spent a summer in Bolivia. The recipe uses the juice of two oranges, which in Bolivia, are probably far cheaper than the cup of sugar that serves as the rest of the sweetening. When I first made the recipe, I used a loaf pan, since I didn’t have muffin tins. 

    Orange Loaf, made in Bolivia!
    Today, I made them as muffins and they were just as good. Recommendation: fill muffin tins about 2/3 of the way to leave room for the baking powder rising action. Would also be good with an orange frosting, but are fine plain—not too sweet!


    Strangely, the result didn’t really brown either time I made the recipe. Maybe the orange juice, which did color the batter slightly yellow, inhibited browning.

    Cooking playlist: Danilo Perez’s two most recent albums, Panama 500 and Providencia, plus a smattering of a new Spotify playlist I made called “Miles Davis through 1970” (yes it took the length of two albums to bake and clean up…)

    feat. Tag sale tin canisters


    Here is the recipe, translated as best as I could into English:

    Pastelitos de Naranja (Orange Cupcakes)
    Makes 15-20 muffins or one loaf

    Ingredients:
    • 4 tbsp butter
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 2 ½ cups sifted flour
    • 3 eggs
    • ½ cup milk
    • 3 tsp baking powder
    • 1 tsp salt
    • 1 tsp orange essence or juice of 2 
    • 1 spoonful grated orange peel
    Method: 
    1. Preheat oven to 350° F
    2. Separate the eggs and beat the whites to form stiff peaks
    3. In a mixing bowl, soften the butter, add the sugar, and cream together
    4. Add the milk and egg yolks bit by bit
    5. Add the flour, baking soda, salt, orange peel and juice, and mix well
    6. Add the beaten egg whites and mix to obtain a uniform dough
    7. Pour the dough into a greased muffin tin and bake for 20 minutes.
    P.S. Here's the recipe in Spanish, if you're interested:


    Wednesday, August 19, 2015

    A Dinner Party

    My first! This weekend I had my brother and his wife and her family over for dinner. It's been so nice to be close to family this summer, and what better way to show my appreciation than to cook for them!
    Joanna and Courtney...ready for dessert!

    I've read before that you're supposed to try no new recipes for a dinner party. That advice is probably wise. I'd still recommend that for any new dinner party you use only recipes you're already comfortable with.

    But I've cooked meat, what...3 times? (not really, but very few times overall). So I chose a new recipe for steak, cobbled together from various websites and inspired by the haul of mushrooms I bought from the farmers market.


    I chose this recipe also because it includes a marinade. I've had much better success with the flavor and cooking of marinaded and/or brined food (see: pork chops!), but it's especially good when you happen to be planning a dinner party. It requires some foresight (easy to do when you're already in planning mode) and gives some extra insurance against dry/bland meat.


    The mushrooms though. There's no reason every meal shouldn't include sauteed mushrooms. With their deep, buttery, salty flavor, they're the bacon of the vegetarian world. Thank you fungus! You rock. These are extra special because they're thrown back in a red wine pan sauce at the end, to make a gloriously glossy coating that drips off onto the tender steak.


    Another thing I learned about dinner parties (and this one, I think I did right): It's easiest if only one dish is being made at a time. This means cold things are particularly awesome!
    In other news, only two burners of our stove work...


    I paired the steak with pre-made polenta, green salad (thanks to Joanna for helping out with that--you make a nice salad!), and green bean salad with pickled shallots. All were delicious. I just microwaved the polenta with some chicken broth to make it loose again, and it made a great base for the meat and saucy mushrooms.

    SAUCY.



    If you're wondering about the cookies...they're just as chocolaty as they look! Sort of a soft sable or shortbread but intensely and unabashedly filled with chocolate flavor. Crumbled over vanilla ice cream, it's practially perfect.

    Here's the steak recipe, and links to the other dishes!

    Grean Bean Salad with Pickled Shallots
    World Peace Cookies

    Marinated Flank Steak with Red Wine Sauteed Mushrooms
    Yield: enough for 4 people

    Ingredients:

    • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
    • 1/2 cup dry red wine
    • 1/4 cup soy sauce
    • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
    • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
    • 1 tablespoon dijon/grainy mustard
    • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
    • 1 1/2 - 2 pounds flank steak (I threw in a strip steak as well since I was worried there wouldn't be enough, but there was plenty)
    • 12 ounces assorted mushrooms, torn or cut into large pieces
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • 6 tablespoons butter, divided
    • 3 garlic cloves, lightly crushed
    • 1 6" sprig rosemary
    • 1 cup dry red wine
    • 3/4 cup low-salt chicken stock
    Method
    1. Combine first 7 ingredients in a dish large enough to hold the steak, and whisk together. Place steak in marinade, poke all over with a fork, and flip to coat. Marinate in fridge for 1-3 hours, slightly longer if needed.
    2. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the mushrooms and season with a bit of salt. Stir to coat with the butter and continue to cooking, stirring so mushrooms cook evenly, for about 7 minutes, or until golden brown and smelling heavenly. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
    3. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter with a tablespoon of oil in the same skillet. Add the garlic and rosemary to skillet and move to the edges, then remove the steak from the marinade and place in skillet. Cook for about 3 minutes per side. Depending on the thickness of your meat and how you like it done, you can then put it in a 350 degree oven for an additional 5-10 minutes to finish cooking to your liking. Just check the inside with a small knife, but be aware that the meat will continue to cook a bit as it rests. Once done, remove and tent with foil. 
    4. Pour off all but a tablespoon of the oil, then deglaze with the red wine, scraping the bottom of the pan to get all of the delicious browned bits up and in the sauce. Reduce to 3/4 cup, then strain out any burned solid bits and return the liquid to the pan. Add the stock and reduce to 1/2 cup. Whisk in a knob of butter, then add the mushrooms back into the sauce and stir to reheat and coat. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed.
    5. Slice the steak thinly against the grain and serve with mushroom sauce on top.
    Recipe frankensteined from: epicurious and Emeril Lagasse

    Sunday, August 2, 2015

    Caramelized Peach and Lavender Scones

    This weekend I visited friends and had basically every sunny summery experience that tends to be curiously absent in foggy San Francisco (what's up, Karl?). My friend Caroline kindly lent me her air mattress to crash on, and when we woke up we mozyed over to whole foods and the farmer's market to get ingredients for breakfast.


    I think you can tell a lot about a person by the type of eggs they buy. I'm a $3 egg kind of person, but all due respect to those who are $9 egg people. (again, hello SF). You can also tell a lot about a person by the way they like their eggs cooked...mostly I think I just really like runny yolks. But for some, it is strangely accurate.


    Anyhow, we ate scrambled eggs with cheese while waiting for the peaches to roast for these scones. I'm not going to say the scones are quick to make, but they are fairly simple, and the complex, flowery, and fruity flavors are well worth the wait. Also, by the time they come out of the oven, you can count elevensies as brunch, breakfast, and lunch.

    (P.S. Whole foods sells lavender in a little package for about $3...a price I was happy to pay over the $8 we were quoted at the farmer's market! Again, you can tell a lot about a person by their grocery shopping strategies and habits)

    The recipe starts with three peaches, sliced and coated in olive oil and brown sugar. Good things are starting.


    Then, butter is rubbed into the dry ingredients. It's my favorite part...get your hands in there! Then come the peaches, soft and caramelized, and buttermilk (or milk curdled with lemon juice, in our case). A gentle stir and slight bit of kneading, and then the dough is ready to form straight on the baking sheet.
    This could be the same baking sheet as you used to cook the peaches.
    Got that? One baking sheet, one bowl!

    The scones are done pretty quickly, in 15 or so minutes, and then a glaze is made with a few leftover caramelized peach slices. These scones rocked my world! They're rich and almost cake-like, not too dry and crumbly, and full of summery peach flavor and sophisticated lavender. It's a treat...treatyoself!


    Caramelized Peach and Lavender Scones
    Yield: 8 big or 12-16 smaller scones

    Ingredients:

    • 3 peaches, sliced
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
    • 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1/3 cup sugar
    • 1 tablespoon culinary lavender
    • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 3/4 cups (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes, or grate frozen butter on a box grater for easy handling!
    • 2/3 cup buttermilk (or milk with a scant tablespoon of lemon juice)
    • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    • milk or cream, for brushing and glazing
    • sugar (coarse if you have it), for sprinkling
    • 1 to 2 cups powdered sugar

    Method:

    1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Toss peaches with olive oil and brown sugar, then spread in a *rimmed* baking sheet or other baking pan with sides. Roast for 35 minutes, stirring halfway through. 
    2. Mix together all dry ingredients in a large bowl. Rub the butter into the dry ingredients with your fingertips (or your usual method) until chunks are about the size of peas. Toss in three quarters of the peach slices and stir to combine.
    3. Add buttermilk and vanilla extract, then stir until a soft dough forms. Near the end, reach in the bowl and knead a few times to help incorporate all the dry ingredients. Turn out onto a baking sheet, and either form into two smaller disks or one larger disk. Cut each disk into 6 or 8 slices and separate the scones from each other by pulling the wedges away from the center of the circle.
    4. Bake for 12-16 minutes (depending on size), in that same 400 degree oven, until golden brown around the edges. 
    5. To make the glaze, mash up the remaining peach slices with a tablespoon or so of milk. Slowly add powdered sugar until the consistency is to your liking, then smother the scones in glaze and chow down!
    Recipe from How Sweet It Is.

    Wednesday, July 29, 2015

    Candied Ginger


    Ginger makes me happy,
    Ginger makes me smile,
    Ginger every way and day,
    Full of spice and guile.

    I love ginger. It all started with ginger ale, then pickled ginger with sushi. Then I discovered ginger beer (which is a lovely non-alcoholic beverage), then I turned 21 and discovered that gin goes particularly well with all non-alcoholic ginger beverages. When I am at a loss and at a bar, gin and ginger ale it is. 

    So when I went to Whole Foods about a month ago and impulsively picked up a package of candied ginger, it was pretty clear I would enjoy the confection.

    Here's what I didn't expect: I could not stop dipping into the bag for a tiny treat...even after breakfast I sometimes grabbed a piece while loading my bowl and spoon into the dishwasher. 


    It's spicy, it's sweet, it's crunchy on the outside and perfectly chewy on the inside (apparently the most addicting texture...just think about oreos!). 

    Also, I would be remiss if I did not mention that ginger has a laundry list of health benefits. It's good for stomach problems/nausea, is anti-inflammatory, and has immune-boosting properties. (Obviously these things are secondary to the deliciousness of candy!).


    To make this treat at home, I turned to the teachings of food alchemist and chemist Alton Brown. You start by boiling the ginger alone until tender, then drain (saving the cooking liquid) and return to the pot with an equal weight of sugar and a bit of liquid. Dissolve the sugar, boil off the water, and wham bam alacazam out of a ginger flavored sky...


    You think it's going to caramelize. It really does look like the beginning of caramel. But somehow, crystals start and once they start they spread. Soon the whole mess is white and snowy and ready to dry into crisp, sweet bites.

    Candied Ginger
    Yield: as much as you like! Plus some great byproducts*

    Ingredients: 
    • Ginger Root (1 lb is good if you can think to buy that much), sliced into 1/8 inch coins
    • Water
    • Granulated Sugar (aprox 1 lb for each lb of ginger)
    Method:
    1. Bring about 5 cups of water to a boil for every pound of ginger (it's going to boil for a while, so enough to cover and then some). Add the ginger and cook for 35 minutes or until a fork can pierce through as it would a cooked carrot.
    2. Meanwhile, put foil on a baking sheet and lay a rack over. Spray lightly with non-stick spray.
    3. Drain the ginger, saving the cooking liquid. Weigh the ginger and add an equal weight of sugar, then return to the pot and add a few tablespoons of cooking liquid (per pound--get the idea?).
    4. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, then reduce heat to medium/medium low until the water has evaporated and crystals form, 20-30 minutes. Transfer the ginger to the prepared rack, separate the pieces, and allow to cool.
    5. Store in an airtight container with a paper towel. Keeps well, though it won't last in this house!

    *Byproducts of candying ginger:
    P.S. The cooking liquid from the ginger is incredibly strong ginger "tea" concentrate...try adding some to cold water, black tea, or mixing with hot water and honey (and rum? or gin? for a hot ginger toddy!). It's super strong, so a little goes a long way!
    P.P.S. The sugar that falls off the pieces is also delicious-in tea or coffee, on cookies or muffins, etc.