Sunday, January 31, 2010

No. Boxed. Mixes.

I was at the market, in the baking isle, and I saw brownies, mmm, brownies... They looked so good, so chocolate-y, so easy. I instantly grabbed a box and tossed it to my cart. It was with me for quite a while, staring up at me, we were very happy together. This box stayed with me a long while, making it all the way to the checkout line and almost onto the belt, when I realized what I was doing... STOP! I grabbed the box just before it was scanned, and ran it back to the baking isle, right where I had found it. Sorry, I can't do's not you, it's me. I had committed a minor sin in the culinary world... Even when it seems so much more convenient, so much easier, you must stay strong and repeat after me: NO. BOXED. MIXES.

I promise you, these brownies are really simple, quick to mix and it's so much more rewarding to make something this good from scratch. I try to always have dark chocolate, butter, flour, and eggs stocked and ready. If you are well prepared, then this brownie heaven can be yours, too!

Dark Chocolate Brownies
Adapted from Donna Hay, Entertaining.

8 oz. butter (2 sticks)
8 oz. dark chocolate
3 eggs
1 1/2 cup sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
Fleur De Sel to sprinkle on top before baking.

Preheat oven to 350.
Place butter and chocolate in a sauce pan over very low heat and melt, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and set aside.
Beat eggs and sugar in a bowl until light and thick. Fold the egg mixture with the melted butter and chocolate.
Add flour and baking powder and gently fold through.
Pour mixture into a greased 8 x 8 pan ( I line my pans with parchment after I butter the pan).
Sprinkle some Fleur de Sel on top of wet mix.
Bake for about 35 - 40 minutes, or until set.
Allow to cool and dust with either cocoa powder or powdered sugar.

Makes about 1 dozen squares.
No chocolate for you, Auggie : )

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Chicken Wrapped in Pancetta with Leeks and Thyme

I love Jamie Oliver - everything about him makes me happy. I've been following him since he was "The Naked Chef" years ago. I love his cool, hip, reckless style of cooking. To me, he takes away any hint of chef-snobbery, and makes cooking appear un-intimidating and fun, (which is the way it should be!) If you don't have a cookbook of his, I suggest you grab one, any one is well worth the money. His recipes are loosely written, and in way that it feels like he's talking, guiding you through each page, so it's great for any cooking level. This recipe comes from Cook with Jamie, and it is my husband's absolute favorite. The chicken is moist, flavorful, and the leeks are buttery soft and pretty amazing. I like to serve it with a simple arugula salad and rice or cous-cous, to sop up the yummy pan juices.

Chicken Wrapped in Pancetta with Leeks and Thyme
From Cooking with Jamie
Serves 2-4

2 Organic chicken breasts, bone in, skin removed
2 leeks, trimmed and washed
a few sprigs of thyme
about 1 TBLS butter
pinch of sea salt and fresh ground pepper
2 TBLS dry white wine
About 1/4 lb sliced pancetta (I buy hormone, cruelty free)

Preheat oven to 400
In a bowl add chicken, leeks, thyme, salt, pepper, butter and wine.
Toss around and place in a roasting pan. (I lined my pan with tin-foil, per Jamie's suggestion, for easy cleanup).
Wrap chicken breasts with pancetta, place on top of leeks.
Fold the tin foil inwards, to protect leeks from burning.
Drizzle top of chicken with olive oil and place a few sprigs of thyme on top.
Bake for about 45 minutes.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Rainy Day Cookies

Whenever it rains in LA, (which is hardly EVER), I find myself strangely happy, holed up at home, with a hot oven and big appetite. Lucky for me, I was ready for this first round of what will be a week of wet, windy, simply wonderful weather. I had my plan of attack so that I could sit down, mid storm and indulge in freshly baked cookies. This all sounds pretty simple and easy - however, there has been a major shake-up in the world of chocolate chip cookie making. See, these days, you can no longer think of chocolate chip cookies one minute and have them the next - Ooooh nooooo! It's all about patience and foresight. (And a lot of self - control!)

The secret is allowing the dough to rest in the fridge for, ideally, 36 (long) hours until popping into the oven. By doing this, three things happen to create cookie magic: The gluten is given time to relax, causing a less rubbery, but more crisp cookie. Second, the butter, which has been warmed to room temp, can cool and thus won't spread into the other cookies while baking. And finally, the rested flour is given more time to absorb liquids resulting in a crisper, more fully-flavored cookie. (See an interesting NYT article here.). To be honest, I haven't tried the full 36 hour fridge test - however, I did freeze the dough overnight and baked half today and was very happy with the result - a crisp, brown sugary wafer-like cookie. Not bad! In fact, a giant improvement from all those years of making the dough and immediately popping them into the oven, which now appears to be a mortal cookie sin. So, there I was, awaiting the storm, with cookie dough freezing, ready to make it's debut. Just like the much anticipated rain.

Not to overload you with this cookie revelation, BUT, there is another part to this sweet story... I have always baked cookies with all-purpose flour, which yields a more cake-like, fatter cookie. Which is lovely. However, my preference is for a crisper, more wafer-like cookie and to get this result is to use pastry flour. It's worth a shot, give it a try and see which you prefer.
Freeze your dough into a log and store. Simply take out and slice whenever the craving strikes you. As for me, with a magnificent, but brief, break in the weather, I'm happy to know there lies another batch in my freezer awaiting the next go-around.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 1/4 cups pastry flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup butter (2 sticks)
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
2 cups chocolate chips

Stir flour with baking soda and salt and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, beat butter with sugars - don't over cream the butter.
Add vanilla and eggs, one at a time, mix until incorporated.
Gradually combine the dry and wet ingredients.
Add chocolate chips and combine thoroughly.
Divide dough into two.
Take one half of dough and lay onto a long piece of plastic wrap.
Form a log and twist the ends for freezer , repeat with 2nd half of dough.
Freeze, or refrigerate for up to 36 hours. (If freezing, you can store for up to 6 months)
Whenever your ready to bake, heat oven to 375.
Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Slice from frozen log - each piece should be about 1/4 inch thick.
Bake for 7-10 minutes.

Yields roughly 2 dozen cookies.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Orange and Oat Scones

Tomorrow marks the day when I (try to) learn how to tickle the keys of my Quickbooks program (bleh), as I have hired an actual real-life book-keeper to come over and show me the ropes. Now, let me tell you, there is a reason I veered towards a career in food rather than one involving addition and subtraction, so this should be interesting! In an effort to woo my teacher, I decided to make these scones to offer her while she shows me where the plus and minus keys are on located on this very keyboard. So I paid a visit to one of my most favorite food blogs, 101cookbooks, to see what Heidi had to offer. Low and behold, these Orange and Oat scones appeared right before my eyes. And now they have appeared on my kitchen counter! If only accounting was so easy! A simple, easy recipe - give it a try.

The original recipe calls for currants, I substituted raisins.

Orange and Oat Scones
From Heidi Swanson,

3 cups whole wheat pastry flour (or all-purpose, or half of each)
1/2 cup turbinado sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
pinch or two of salt
1 cup (2 sticks) cold butter, cubed
2 cups rolled oats
zest of one orange
2/3 cups dried currants, or raisins
sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 350
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a food processor, combine flour, sugar, baking powder and soda, salt and pulse to combine.
Add butter and pulse about 20 times, until mixture looks like sandy pearls.
Transfer the dough into a bowl and add oats and zest. Stir to combine.
Add buttermilk and currants - stir until just moistened.

Bring the dough together with your hands - add a splash of buttermilk if too dry- avoid over mixing.
Form roundish balls and place on baking sheet.
Sprinkle with sugar.
Bake for about 15 minutes, or until just turning golden.

Makes about 1 dozen