Sunday, March 24, 2013

Maple Oatmeal Cran-Blue-Raisin-Berry Cookies

Last night, some friends and I were discussing razzleberry. What kind of flavor is that? Usually it's just blue dye and some fruity artificial flavors.

But we decided it probably comes from raspberry and apple. And then we started thinking about cran-apple, and what would happen if you shortened that in the same way...
Crappleberry. That's what would happen. So Ocean Spray just sticks with cran-apple...it's probably a safer bet, advertising-wise.


These cookies are not crapple-icious. They look innocent and full of berries, until WHAM

Golden raisins reveal themselves among the camouflage of golden dough, ninja-like, full of stealth. Sweet, wrinkly stealth.

This is what they look like after they've been smooshed together traveling on a plane, bus, and train. Still taste amazing though!

The only downside of this recipe is that the maple flavor has a bit too much stealth. It's kind of invisible. If you want a stronger flavor, I'd suggest maple extract, or swapping out some brown sugar for maple sugar.

The extra liquid from the sticky sap contributes moisture, keeping the cookies soft, but I wonder what would happen if you replaced it with molasses, or honey. You'd probably want to decrease the amount a bit, since those are stronger/sweeter than maple syrup, respectively. But it could make a delicious change! (It also makes the dough a bit sticky, so refrigerating before scooping helps the cookies keep their shape).


Or maybe you want to play with the additions. Joy made hers with white chocolate and cranberry! I think it'd be wonderful with some toasted, slivered almonds too!

This is one of those drop cookies which takes well to almost any add-in. Pretzels. Chocolate. Dried fruit. Nuts. Sprinkles. Heath bits. Chopped up peanut butter cups. I just threw in many handfuls of small dried fruits, but you could go crazy with variations! 

P.S. Yes, that's toilet paper, AKA college kleenex

Maple Oatmeal Cran-Blue-Raisin-Berry Cookies
Yield: about 3 1/2 dozen

Ingredients:
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 3/4 cups rolled oats
Handfuls and handfuls of bite-sized add-ins: I recommend about 2 cups worth if you want them really choc full! This version has about 1/2 cup dried blueberries, 3/4 cup golden raisins, and 1 cup dried cranberries, approximately.

Method:
  1. Place racks in the center and upper third of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper, silpats, foil and baking spray, etc. and set aside. 
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, and ground cinnamon. 
  3. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment (or with a hand mixer), combine butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar. Beat on medium-low speed until thoroughly combined and slightly fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl.  
  4. Add eggs, one at a time, beating for 1 minute between each addition. Add vanilla extract and maple syrup and beat to combine. Add the flour mixture and beat just until incorporated. Add in add-ins and stir in by hand or let the mixer handle it.
  5. (optional) Refrigerate dough for about an hour--it really helps since, with the syrup, the dough is pretty sticky.
  6. Spoon batter onto prepared pans by the heaping tablespoonful. Leave about 2 inches of space between cookies.  Bake cookies for 10 to 12 minutes, or until golden around the edges. 
  7. Cool cookies on the sheet for 5 minutes. Remove from the pan and allow to finish cooling on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container for up to four days. 
Adapted from Joy the Baker!

Banana Bread

I call this is the kind of banana bread you make when you have an extreme number of bananas to eat, all speckledy and starches converted to sugars and whatnot. All of these bananas give amazing banana flavor to the bread, too.


There's a crumble topping too! Butter and brown sugar and a bit of flour and lots of aromatic cinnamon. My favorite bits are the pockets of banana bits that didn't get fully mashed up! So delicious.


You could of course add chocolate chips, or walnuts, or pecans, or all three! With or without the crumble topping, it's amazing. The huge amount of bananas (4 per loaf) keep the bread moist and lend a ton of flavor.


I also discovered that a smear of peanut butter, drizzle of honey, and sprinkle of cinnamon totally elevate it to something even more extraordinary, if possible. Desserty, filling, sweet, nutty, and smooth.


And if you don't have 4 overly ripe bananas at once, just peel and freeze as many as you do have. Then, thaw them in the microwave for a minute or two before mashing.


They also make excellent one-ingredient ice cream!

But back to the bread...here's the recipe! File it away for when the freezer starts screaming for ethanol-induced ripe-banana mercy.


Banana Bread
Yield: 1 loaf

Ingredients:


  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 bananas, mashed
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon butter
Method


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Butter and flour a loaf pan.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, beat together bananas, sugar, egg and oil. Stir the banana mixture into the flour mixture just until moistened. Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth top.
  3. In a small bowl, mix together brown sugar, 2 tablespoons of flour and the cinnamon. Cut in the butter or mash it in with your fingers until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Sprinkle topping over muffins.
  4. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until a tester inserted into center of loaf comes out clean.
Adapted from Leftovers for Lunch.



Friday, March 22, 2013

Brownie Cut-Out Cookies

These cookies are pretty amazing.


Remember how I found a peanut butter cookie for all occasions? This is the chocolate equivalent, except different. It's a cut out cookie (I know, what a pain, right? Except not, this dough is as easy as drop cookies and really easy to work with) but can serve as a base for ice cream sandwiches, soft oreos, royal icing, a dusting of powdered sugar, or a dunk in chocolate. And they're fantastic plain too...the chocolate flavor shines right through.

They're chocolaty. Simple. Dough in the amount of time it takes to measure ingredients. Roll 'em thick for chewy cookies.


You're a star if you make stars!

I wanted to make a project of this batch, since I'm home for break and have the time to bake, so I dipped the bottom in tempered chocolate. This time, I used the seed method, which means (in a nutshell), microwaving the chocolate until just all melted, then stirring in chopped chocolate until it gets down to about 90 degrees (curtesy of Baking Bites). It was slightly easier than the method I used for the peanut butter cup truffles.

Which by the way would be delicious in an Easter basket!


But I digress. Tempering chocolate is the opposite of making these cookies...it's hard, lengthy, messy, and fussy. The result, though, is amazing--chocolate which doesn't need to be refrigerated and keeps a hard, glossy coat.
Use good chocolate bars. Don't be me and use chips. It won't work as well...the chocolate still tempered, but it was slightly grainy from the preservatives and stuff they put in to make the chocolate stay melty in your fresh-out-of-the-oven chocolate chip cookies.

Really, these cookies live to serve your higher purpose. Rolled slightly thinner and sandwiched with ice cream, they're a great ice cream sandwich (I did this, except minus the rolling out thinner part, with the leftover cookies which didn't get a chocolate coating...it's pretty dang amazing). Cut into hearts for valentine's day, plain circles for lunchboxes, ruffled edges for tea parties. I bet if you added mint, they'd be like thin mints.
It's the Burger King of cookies...have it your way.


Brownie Cut-Out Cookies
Yield: 3  dozen-ish...depends on how big you make them!

Ingredients:
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup butter, softened (I'd love to see how these turn out if you melt the butter! Could be even chewier and brownie-er)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon espresso powder
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa (I used dutch process, but Deb says you can use either; you'll just get a different flavor)
Method:
  1. Preheat oven at 350 degrees (325 if using convection). Line two baking sheets with parchment, silpat, foil and a bit of baking spray, what have you.
  2. Whisk flour, salt and baking powder in bowl and set aside. 
  3. Mix butter, sugars, eggs, vanilla, espresso, and cocoa in mixer (if your butter isn't fully softened, whip it around a bit by itself first to loosen it up, so you don't end up over-mixing the eggs to get butter chunks smoothed out later). 
  4. Gradually add flour mixture, and mix until smooth. 
  5. Split dough and wrap in plastic in two disks. Chill for about one hour, longer if you have time. 
  6. Roll out cookie dough on floured counter, 1/4 inch for thicker, softer cookies or 1/8 inch for thinner cookies, good if you're making ice cream sandwiches or like cookies a bit crisper. Cut into desired shapes, brushing extra deposits of flour off the top. 
  7. Bake on a parchment-lined baking sheet for 8 to 11 minutes (the former for 1/8-inch thick cookies, the latter for 1/4-inch cookies) until the edges are firm and the centers are slightly soft and puffed. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Recipe courtesy of Smitten Kitchen (it was originally Deb's mom's recipe!)

Friday, March 1, 2013

My first experience with Korean food

I recently went to a Korean dinner hosted by the Korean club on campus, and it was my first time ever having Korean food! I'm not sure mass produced take-out was the best way to be introduced to the genre, but it was still pretty delicious.


Here, the classic Bulgogi, a Korean barbeque beef. It was slightly sweet, and seemed very similar to stir fry to me except the meat had a different texture, more coarse but still tender. It's hard to describe, chewy, meaty, not spicy but spiced. 

I should also mention that they served the food family style, and I only got a separate plate because I didn't want to infect the rest of my friends with the cold of the week. There were also appetizers: kimchi (what? I thought it was fermented cabbage...this stuff is good!), jellied chestnut (I wasn't wild about it but some of my friends really liked it) and pickled veggies.


My favorites, though, were the pancakes and the dumplings. Dumplings were familiar, and the pancakes were like a big flat thick noodle laced with onions cut into big rectangles and pan fried. Delicious...chewy, starchy carbs with some slightly spicy (but not mouth-burning) sauce.



To sum it up, I would say that what I tried was good, and I think it would be even better in a restaurant. If you're worried about spice, this food at least wasn't too hot, and I have a pretty low tolerance. Give it a try. and go with friends or family to share a bunch of dishes so you can sample everything!