The Boyfriend Cookies

New Year’s Day had come and gone. Our bellies and heads ached with food and drink hangovers and as the second episode of Chopped came on my boyfriend asked me to bake him cookies. This was the first baking request in our new relationship and I happily obliged to bake him some peanut butter cookies.

I love peanut butter cookies. They are sweet and salty, moist and crunchy, and super easy to make. I decided to add chocolate chips to the batter because who doesn’t love the flavor combination of peanut butter and chocolate?

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sifting away

Sift and weight all your dry ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.

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Mmmm brown sugar.

Always make sure to take your butter out of the fridge before baking. Having room temperature butter will help when blending in the suger, especially if you’re mixing by hand.

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Blend butter and sugar together.

Blend butter and sugar till smooth and creamy. This is my favorite part of baking, blending the sugar and butter together. It’s fun to watch the fat and sugar blend into a fluffy sweet mixture.

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Stir in the peanut butter to the batter.

Once the sugar and butter is well blended, add the egg and vanilla. Fold in peanut better by hand with a spatula or wooden spoon. You can use any kind of peanut butter that you like. Chunky peanut butter is always a nice way to add some crunch.

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All incorporated.

This is the point when the interested party walked into the kitchen to taste their special treat.

Mix in the chocolate chips.
Mix in the chocolate chips.

I like to use dark chocolate chips when baking. I used a combination of dark chocolates ranging from 60% to 72% cocoa.

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Shape into 2 inch balls before pressing with a fork.

Always chill your cookie dough before baking. If the fat is too warm, then the cookies will flatten in the oven. Chill for at least 30 minutes before baking.

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Baked and cooling.

These cookies smelled so delicious coming out of the oven. The boyfriend got a plate full of cookies and a tall glass of milk. I think he was satisfied. Maybe I’ll bake for him again.

Peanut Butter Cookies

Makes 24

Ingredients:

  • 5 oz (140g) flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 oz (115g) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 6 oz (165g) brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 9 1/2 oz (265g) smooth or crunchy peanut butter
  • 8 oz (276g) dark chocolate chips

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 *F; grease baking sheet.
  2. Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt in small bowl; set aside.
  3. Mix together butter and sugar until creamy and fluffy.
  4. In another small bowl, mix the egg and vanilla together and then gradually add to the butter mixture.
  5. Stir in the peanut butter. Mix thoroughly.
  6. Gently stir in the flour mixture and then the chocolate chips.
  7. Chill in fridge for at least 3o minutes.
  8. Spoon out rounded teaspoonfuls of dough and roll into balls and place onto sheets.
  9. With a fork, press flat onto the balls making a criss-cross pattern.
  10. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until lightly colored.
  11. Cool on baking sheet.
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The Boyfriend Cookies

Anyone want a cookie?

School and life are at the peak of craziness and sometimes I just need to decompress and make something simple and sweet. COOKIES! Baking is my sanctuary, my release from life’s tight grip, my escape from formalities, and my ‘I know everything is going to be alright’ quick fix.

Last night I decided to bake up a special treat to take to my classes. Yes, I am the student that takes freshly baked cookies, cakes, muffins, and empañadas to class with me. No, it doesn’t help me get a better grade.

I had a bag of frozen cranberries, some left over chunks of chocolate, and crystalized ginger candy around the kitchen, so hey why not make some Cranberry Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies with a touch of ginger!

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Chopped dark chocolate

I like to use chopped chocolate over chips. The chocolate gets chopped into all shapes and sizes making it ooze through the cookie with chocolate yumminess.

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I try to get even pieces, but the flaky dust is the best!

Cutting cranberries can be tricky. I start with a small amount and keep adding a handful until I can give a good chop all around. You can also use dried cranberries, but when using chocolate the dried cranberries can make the cookies too sweet. Fresh cranberries give the cookie a nice tart taste that pairs well with the dark chocolate.

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Coarsely chopped frozen (or fresh) cranberries.

The recipe didn’t call for candied ginger, but I love it, so in it went! It adds an unexpected burst of spice and sweetness.

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Candied Ginger. You only need a little bit, since it can be an overpowering flavor for most people.

I like to keep my cookie dough in the refrigerator until I’m ready to use it. Put the bowl back in the fridge in between batches. Like pastry dough, you want your cookie dough to be as cold as possible to ensure an even baking in the oven.

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Mix it up!

I didn’t have any old-fashioned oats, so I used instant steel cut oats instead. I was worried it wouldn’t work out, but it gave the cookies a nice crunchy texture.

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Straight out of the oven!

Always let your cookies cool on a rack for at least 5 minutes before eating or packaging them.

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COOKIES!

This recipe is adapted from an Epicurious recipe. This batch should make about 30 cookies.

Chocolate Cranberry Ginger Oatmeal Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped candied ginger

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Have two large baking trays ready. Whisk flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt in medium bowl to blend; set aside. Using an electric mixer (or by hand), beat butter and both sugars in large bowl until smooth. Beat in egg and vanilla. Scrap around sides of bowl to incorporate all the goodies.  Fold in flour mixture and oats and stir until blended. Stir in all chocolate chips, cranberries, and candied ginger.
  2. Drop batter by rounded tablespoonfuls onto prepared sheets, 2 inches apart. Bake cookies, 1 sheet at a time, until edges are light brown, about 16 minutes. Cool on sheets 5 minutes. While cookies are baking place bowl of batter in refrigerator until ready to use. Transfer to rack; cool completely.
Anyone want a cookie?

Pumpkin-tastic!

When I die, I hope my friends and family make pumpkin empañadas to put on my alter for the Day of the Dead. I’m teaching my son how to make them and since he’s a fall baby, I made them for his birthday treat to take to his kindergarten class. I normally make pumpkin empañadas for the Day of the Dead. This squash like fruit has its roots here in North America and particularly in Mexico, where the holiday originates. So, making pumpkin empañadas during this time encapsulates a little bit of history, tradition, and love.

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This is a sugar pumpkin, which is the best to use for baking and cooking.

I prefer to use a sugar pumpkin for any of my pumpkin related baked goods. First of all it’s smaller, so less scooping and messiness. Second, it has a bit of a sweeter taste than the jack-o-lantern variety. Thirdly, it’s called a sugar pumpkin, um cute!

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Straight out of the oven and fully cooked pumpkin

Remember to preheat your oven from anywhere to 375-400 deg f* depending on the size of your pumpkin. Usually there is a little sticker on your squash with baking directions. I cut my pumpkin in half and with a sturdy spoon, scoop out all of the seeds and strings. If you like pumpkin seeds, then fill a bowl with water and throw your pumpkin seeds in there for a couple of minutes to wash off. Place your pumpkin halves face down and fill the pan with one inch of water. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour. Check tenderness after 35 minutes by poking the skin with a fork.

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Pumpkin Mash!

Once the pumpkin has cooled in its shell, squeeze or spoon out the flesh into a bowl. Get a masher or a large fork and mash away any remaining lumps. If you have a food processor and would like a smooth mash, then pulse away!

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Sugar and Spice!

Pumpkin empañadas require little seasoning. Simply add some brown sugar (or piloncillo if you have it around), ground cinnamon, and a pinch of salt.

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Pumpkin and spices

Scoop out 2 cups of mash (a sugar pumpkin will usually make about 2 cups of mash) and add sugar and spices.

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stir it up

Give the filing a good stir to incorporate all the ingredients. It’ll start to smell AMAZING!

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Get the juices out.

I like to strain the pumpkin (usually prior to adding the sugar and spices) to get out all of the extra liquid. You don’t want to have a lot of excess liquid in your filling. It’ll make it harder and messier to fill empañadas later.

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Get your dough ready!

Now that your filling is ready, get your dough out of the fridge to start rolling out little rounds. This recipe has been doubled. Having small chunks of butter visible is a good thing! You don’t want to over blend your butter into the flour mixture.

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Making dough is so rewarding. Oh the little things in life!
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Don’t add to much filling or they will BURST in the oven!

Doubling your dough recipe should make about 24 medium to large sized rounds. If you’re like me and like to use every last bit of dough, then you can stretch it out to make about 40 small ones. Make sure not to add too much filling. You only want to add about a tablespoon to small rounds and about 2 tablespoons for the medium to large rounds. Holding the round in your hand and adding the filling will help you gauge the right amount.

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Little pockets of AWESOMENESS!

Make sure to have a small bowl of water near by to rub around one edge of the dough to ensure a tight seal. You can use a pastry cutter, a fork, or crimp the dough to make a decorative edge.

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My oldies but goodies!

Keep a baking tray near so you can place all your finished empañadas directly onto it. Once they are all stuffed and sealed, brush the tops with an egg wash, and place the whole tray directly into the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes prior to baking. A cold pastry bakes the best! Have the oven pre-heated to 350 f deg and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the tops are golden brown. Take out of the oven and wait a few minutes before eating or else you’ll burn your mouth! I usually place them onto a cooling rack and then munch away after 10 minutes!

Pumpkin Empañada Filling

makes about 2 cups of filling

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups fresh, or canned, pumpkin mash
  • 1/4-1/2 cup brown sugar
  • a pinch of sea salt
  • 1-2 tsp ground cinnamon ( you can always add nutmeg, clove, or ginger to the mixture too! )

Measure and place all ingredients into a bowl. Mix well. Place in the fridge until ready to use. Filling can last for up to a week in the fridge.

Pumpkin-tastic!

Ganache, you’re great!

My son turned 5 on Wednesday. I’m still in shock and sugar coma. He loves chocolate cake, actually he just loves cake and anything that I bake. Each year I ask him what he wants for his birthday and his answer is always chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. Sometimes the chocolate cake will be mixed with pumpkin or filled with a cranberry cream, this year it was chocolate on chocolate.

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This hardest decision is whether I make a buttercream or ganache frosting. Buttercream is great, but the sugar can put me over the edge and the kids up the wall! I asked Milam what he wanted, yes my son knows the difference between both. He opted for the creamy stuff, ganache.

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I have been making ganache for several years now and have had some really not so good turn outs. Cream and chocolate are delicate ingredients and must be handled with care. Do you melt the chocolate and then add the cream or do you heat the cream and then add the chocolate? How much cream to chocolate, every recipe changes to the cooks taste. Some have a higher ratio of cream to chocolate or just the opposite. I don’t use milk chocolate for anything I bake. It has too much sugar and milk already added, making it difficult to control sweetness.

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Don’t rush your ganache or you’ll be disappointed. I prefer to heat the cream and then have a bowl of chopped up dark chocolate waiting to be melted. Once you pour the hot cream over the chocolate, be patient and let the melting magic happened. You don’t want to stir it too much. Just let the chocolate be heated up by the cream and gently give it a stir to help the melting process.

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As the chocolate melts it will turn glossy. Gently stir the mixture to incorporate the bottom pieces of chocolate. If there are lumps, don’t worry. Simply put the heat proof bowl on top of a pot of boiling water, don’t get the mixture too hot, you only want to heat up the bottom of the bowl.

A ganache, once cooled, can be poured, whipped, or pipped. If your desired consistency is for pouring, then you’ll need to add a tablespoon of corn syrup to the finished product (it helps with the smoothness).

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So here’s my recipe.

Chocolate Ganache

makes 2 whipped cups

You’ll need:

8 oz heavy whipping cream (it’s best to use non ultra pasteurized, but it can be hard to find or if you don’t eat dairy you can substitute in any non-dairy milk)

8 oz chocolate; chopped into small pieces

Measure chocolate and set aside in a bowl. Heat the cream in a pot on the stovetop until it comes to a boil. Keep an eye on it and stir frequently. Don’t burn the cream! Once it’s steaming and boiling around the edges pour over the chocolate and gently stir.

Now this is going to be challenging but do not stir the mixture for at least ten minutes. Stirring too frequently will incorporate too much air, which slows down the melting process. After 10 minutes, give it a good stir and watch the magic happen. Gently fold in the bottom bits to ensure an even melting.

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Ganache, you’re great!

The simplest chocolate fudge recipe!

Chocolate fudge: you either love it or hate it. If you hate it, then stop reading now.

I am about to give you the simplest fudge recipe I have ever encountered. I actually found it rummaging through some old cookbooks about 6 years ago. I had never read an Amish cookbook before, but I was incredibly impressed by their recipes. This one was a keeper. I like to use super dark chocolate, but that’s just me. Trader Joe’s sells a 1 lb chocolate bar that ranges from milk chocolate to 87% cocoa. Use whatever chocolate you prefer.

This photo is of a recipe that had been doubled and cooled in a 11 by 7 rectangle pan.

Easy Creamy Chocolate Fudge a la Amish

  1. Melt chocolate in a double boiler
  2. Stir in milk
  3. Add salt, vanilla, and nuts
  4. Pour into a greased 9 in square pan.
  5. Cool; cut into squares and serve!
The simplest chocolate fudge recipe!

I really like your peaches…

Summer has come and gone and all I can think about is how I’ll miss all the summer fruits. Nothing compares to freshly picked stone fruits. Their sweetness lingers in the air from miles away. Their firm yet supple flesh screams ‘eat me!’. I really do wanna shake their trees!

I remember driving through orchards in the Great Central Valley and being mesmorized by all the stone fruit trees, and especially by the amount of waste scattered upon the orchard floor. All I could think about was how sad the fruit must be, alone, bruised, neglected, and left to rot… I mean think about all the amazing things you could turn them into. Jam, pies, tarts, muffins, juice, cake, ice cream, and so on…

Amazingly enough, the peach and its less hairy sister, the nectarine, made their way to California all the way from China via the Spanish. Yes, those pesky bearded spaniards. Despite its delicate condition, the peach has travelled for thousands of years, and miles, to become a Californian agricultural summertime staple. I can’t imagine a summer without coddling a juicy peach with its sweet nectar running down my chin and drying up into sticky goodness!

Given that summer is quickly fading away into fall, I couldn’t help myself but make one last summer peach pie.

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I really like your peaches…

Edible History

Growing up in the Central Valley of California, I was surrounded by a culturally diverse population. My friends were mostly children of immigrant parents coming from Cambodian, Vietnamese, Thai, Mexican, Laotian, Central and South American, European, and Hmong backgrounds. I was always invited to family parties where food was the main guest. My neighborhood was the melting pot of culture and food. It’s hard to talk about one culture without mentioning a traditional dish. Today, when I meet a person from a particular culture I immediately start talking about the food. It’s the best way to make a person feel comfortable and at home.

Now that I’ve made you feel at home, I’m going to talk about the Empanada. It is one of my favorite things to make, eat, and share with others. Every Latin country from Mexico to Argentina make some sort of hand held pastry of flour or corn covering a sweet or savory filling that is baked or deep fried. I was familiar with the sweet empanadas. More like I had a love affair with them. I was the overweight little brown girl staring hopelessly at the baked goods in the Panderia section of Don Juan’s or La Perla Tapatia (Hispanic grocery stores) while my mom picked out the freshest carnitas and tortillas for lunch. There was pumpkin (my favorite), custard, apple, and pineapple. Oh, the decisions!

Empanadas
My Favorite! Pumpkin Empanadas. I make them every year during the Day of the Dead celebrations.

My first time making empanadas was many years ago on the 18th of September (Chilean Independence Day), with one of my best friends and her Chilean family. Having only eaten sweet empanadas, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that they made savory meat ones. I realized very quickly not to discriminate against any empanada. We would be making the pino version, which were filled with beef cooked with lots of onions and cumin, hard boiled eggs, olives, and raisins. Some were baked in the oven and others were deep fried (oh my!!!). It took sometime to learn how to stuff and seal the delicious little pastries without them popping or cracking open, but overtime and many 18th of Septembers, I was finally able to make them on my own. It also helped to have my friend’s mom guide me along the way.

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Getting ready to make empanadas Chilean style!

I like to think of the empanada as a Latin American cultural icon or even as a survival from colonialism. During the conquest of the New World, the Spanish introduced many new food items to the existing cultures, and vice versa, later becoming part of the modern Latin American culinary identity. Since no women were on the initial explorations, I imagine the indigenous women of Mesoamerica being the first makers of what we now know of as the empanada. They combined their local ingredients with the Spanish tradition to create a mestizaje of food, race, and culture. The word empanada comes from the spanish verb ’empanar’ or ‘to coat with bread’ and that’s just what the Spanish did to the New World. The Old World and New World might have had centuries of social, political, and economic struggle, but when it comes to food they mixed incredibly well. The empanada is the edible Latin American cultural icon where you can taste a little bit of history in each bite.

I’m just like the empanada!
Edible History