Saturday, February 27, 2010

Test Recipe: Workout Granola

Workout GranolaThis test recipe is not one which has been sitting around in my recipe book or in a magazine on the shelf, patiently waiting it's turn to be created in my little kitchen.

Instead, it is one that I developed by myself, using some proportions from my basic granola recipe and some ingredient inspiration from a newly developed granola during my externship.

I wanted to create a granola that was packed with protein to help fuel our long days, Mike's endless studying, our Crossfit and running workouts.  I wanted something that could be consumed quickly, at a desk or on-the-go, and would pack a healthy punch.  I wanted a granola that could stave off crankiness after a long day of work, but still facing an evening of things to do.

This is actually the second test of this recipe.  The first one ended, well, terriblely.  My proportions for the liquid ingredients were a lot-a-bit off.  Ten minutes after putting the mixture in the oven, the granola was swimming in a pool of honey and olive oil.  Into the garbage and back to the drawing board.

This second attempt ended much better.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies

Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies

These soft, creamy cookies just beg for a tall, cold glass of milk to accompany them.

I happened to know just the person who could appreciate stick-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth peanut butter cookies and a glass of milk.

So I rolled out a batch this past weekend and used the biggest cookie cutter that would still allow me to fit the cookies in their container.

Then I shipped them off and was slightly jealous they would appear again in a much warmer place than Manhattan.

The lucky devils.

Happy Birthday Uncle David!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Valentine's Day Macarons

Valentine’s Day.


Somehow it kind of snuck up on me this year.


I had all these wonderful gift ideas and card-making ideas.  I even wrote them on colored Post-Its in my planner, just so I wouldn’t forget.


And then, last week after three sixteen hour work days, I realized it was Thursday. 


I fell behind on actually producing and mailing my wonderful ideas.


I fell behind just like updating my blog.


And my website.


And the housework.


And my running.


And when I spoke with my Mumsy on Valentine’s Day, I realized that my store-bought cards hadn’t even reached my loved ones in time.


“I feel bad, I had all these wonderful gift ideas,” I complained to my Mum.


“Don’t feel bad, you’re busy.”


“Maybe next year won’t be so busy,” I hoped.


“We always think that,” Mum responds, more than likely shaking her head at her twenty-something daughter who, evidently, still has a lot to learn.




For now, I will steal one of Mike’s Valentine’s Day macarons, complete with a healthy dose of Nutella between the chewy shells to lighten my mood.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Test Recipe: Cranberry-Ginger Scones

Last week’s test recipe (I’m behind, I know) was one I had acquired from Williams-Sonoma after my short visit to Maine last summer.

Some of the family was together in Seal Harbor and, on a beautiful morning, we all congregated at a local coffee shop to ingest some caffeine before the rest of our day.

My little cousin Sarah recommended the place.

The place was small, but welcoming with a beautiful, handmade bar-height table and a mother-daughter duo behind the counter.

We sat around drinking coffee and tea, chatting and discussing the complexities of Blow Pops and those daggone beach chairs that little girls fall out of and scrape up their noses.

In between all this big-girl talk, I ventured over to the tiny baked goods display and selected a cranberry ginger scone.  In speaking with the lovely owner, I learned she made these each day and they always sold out.

They weren’t too sweet – she said most of the sweetness came from the crystalized ginger and there was just a bit of sugar in the actual dough.

This is why I liked this particular scone so much.  Scones seem to be either too sweet or not-sweet-enough for my liking.  I’ve tried a lot of recipes, but had yet to find one that would serve as a strong base for many combinations of fruits and flavors.

Off to the kitchen to try one more.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day has never been a big deal for me.  Don't get me wrong - I love all the girly colors and hearts and romance.

But when it comes to my expectations for the holiday, I like to believe they are well below what most other females desire.  The only thing I really want is for someone (read: Mike) to ask me to be his Valentine and enjoy a really yummy meal together.

This works out surprising well for Mike.  The poor guy has Christmas in December, our anniversary at the end of January, Valentine's Day in February and then my birthday in March.  Harsh!

Instead, we always keep it very low key for Valentine's Day.  We set a small spending limit for gifts; this year we decided on $25 - gift, card and wrapping.  

We both groaned at the idea of venturing out to dine in a restaurant - so many other people!  We don't like crowds very much.  We actually enjoy being able to hear one another speak.

So, I planned the menu for the day, special just for the two of us and our tastes.

The day started off with breakfast in bed: heart shaped toads-in-a-hole made with thick slices of homemade white bread, thick-sliced bacon and a citrus salad - grapefruit, naval orange and blood orange segements with slivers of mint.  And french-press coffee, of course.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Check back later in the week to see some selections of our Valentine's Day menu.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Peanut Butter Macarons

A few weeks ago, I was given a new task at the restaurant - macarons.


Each technique - meringue, folding, airating, piping, hardening, baking - was demonstrated to me by the sous chef who, obviously, had much more experience with this than me.


When I'm not folding meringue into almond flour and confectioner's sugar or piping thousands of these delicate cookies, I am researching their history, cross-referencing recipes and tyring to absorb tips from other pastry chefs.


It's fair to say I've fallen pretty hard for these tempermental little beauties.  It might also be fair to say I'm a bit of a nerd.  But we knew that.


Saturday morning I set about creating macarons for a friend's 'Iron Chef'-inspired dinner party that evening.  Peanut butter was the chosen ingredient we had to use in all our dishes.


So, as an amuse bouche, I created peanut butter macarons: macarons with crushed, candied peanuts with creamy peanut butter filling.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

WMD Cupcakes

Last Saturday was the birthday of a very good friend of Mike and me.

I wanted to create something special for the occasion; something sweet.

I thought up many possibilities, but nothing was really jumping out at me.  Mike had no idea what desserts, candy or flavors Alan liked or disliked.  Did I mention they lived together for a year?  Yeah.  Boys.

And suddenly, my mind drifted back to the summertime, as the three of us were driving to Cape Cod for the weekend.  Alan couldn't believe Mike and I had never heard of the Wafles & Dinges truck.

A few weekends later, Alan and Mike visited the truck.  Mike went back for seconds and also brought one home for me.

Our lives have never been the same.

Now, let's take a moment to look at the menu.  Ah, the WMD - Wafle of Massive Deliciousness.  Always on the liege wafle.  Always.

And then it hit me - liege flavored cupcakes with every single dingle.  WMD cupcakes!

There were a few trials, lots of taste testing and a bit of jealous on Mike's end.

Let's go through the assembly; I will bold the dinges, just so you can hold me accountable.  First, the cupcake.  This was the most important element and required a bit of research on the flavors and traditional recipes for liege wafles.

But finally, Mike and I agreed a cinnamon-y cupcake with turbinado sugar folded into the batter is how a liege wafle would taste in cupcake form.

Next, the Nutella.

Then, the Speculoos butter cream.  Speculoos cookies are like the little Biscoff cookies you receive, if you're lucky, on the airplane.

For the finishing touches: chopped maple syrup candied walnuts, dulce de leche bananas and chocolate fudge strawberries.

Oh, you say I forgot two dinges?  Yes.  The whipped cream and ice cream.  I know.

But these two elements just weren't going to make it down to the Lower East Side on the subway.

However, if these were served at home, they could be on the cupcake without issue.

Judging by the way these cupcakes were quickly consumed by Alan and everyone in the party, I think it's safe to say they were a hit.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Test Recipe: Honey Sesame Cookies

This week’s test recipe was not one that had been laying around for awhile.  

Instead, the idea of finding this recipe had been floating around in my head since last winter, when Mike and I discovered a wonderful Thai restaurant, Land, just around the corner from the apartment.

For dessert, I had blood orange sorbet, which was served with a sweet, crisp sesame cookie.

While I knew how to make the sorbet, I had never had this type of cookie.

After a little searching, I found a recipe which looked similar in appearance and flavors.

But before I made the cookies, I decided to whip up some blood orange sorbet to complete the trial.

I cut open all the blood oranges, which revealed that deep, dark beautiful red color.

I juiced all of the oranges, by hand, through a small strainer until I had about 16 ounces of juice.

Then, I strained the juice again into a saucepan on the stove.

And added ½ cup sugar.

I warmed this over a medium-low flame just until all the sugar was dissolved and then chilled the syrup for the remainder of the afternoon and evening.

Now it’s time for the test recipe!

As with most recipes, I cut the recipe down so as to only yield a few cookies.  So, if you decide to make the full recipe, do not be worried if my ingredients look much smaller in comparison!

Okay – confectioner’s sugar, honey, orange juice and butter into a saucepan.

It will begin to melt.  Make sure you are stirring liberally.

And then it will begin to boil.  Let it boil for 1 minute and then remove from the heat.

Add flour, black sesame seeds, white sesame seeds and orange zest to the sugar mixture.

Allow this to reach room temperature.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Following the directions, I scooped the mixture with a ½ ounce scoop and placed them far away from each other on a SilPat lined baking sheet.

Place in the oven for 10 to 12 minutes, until the top begins to become golden.

I set my timer and returned to the kitchen to do some clean-up.  When I checked on the cookies about 5 minutes later, I discovered the four cookies had melted down to become one large sheet!

No need to panic.  I already know what to do.

Once the cookie sheet was golden and removed from the oven, I allowed it to cool just a few minutes until the cookies and SilPat separated easily.

Now for some cookie cutting!  First, I grabbed my heart-shaped cutter.  I thought these would be super cute.

And they would have been – if this had actually worked.

Next, I tried various sizes of my circle cutters. 

These worked much better since you could apply pressure AND twist the cutter.

Near the end of my cutting frenzy, as the cookies began to cool off, I did run into some breakage.

I allowed these to cool completely.

About 30 minutes before we were ready for dessert, I turned on my ice cream machine and poured the chilled blood orange syrup into the vessel.

This churned for about 35 minutes and yielded the most color-rich, sweet tasting sorbet.
I plated a few scoops with one of the honey sesame cookies and delivered this week’s test recipe to Mike for evaluation.

Mike was unimpressed with the cookie.  Rather, he loved the blood orange sorbet so much, he said it did not need the cookie.  Taste and appearance wise, he found it to be distracting from the real gem of the plate.

I thought it made for a prettier presentation and enjoyed the textural contrast the cookie provided.  However, I remember the cookie from Land having a little more flour, a little less sweet and no orange.

For now, I will keep this recipe in my binder.  But I will also be sure to make a note to, eventually, find an even better version.

Please find this week’s test recipe, Honey Sesame Cookies, below.  I have also included my own recipe for blood orange sorbet.

Citrus Sorbet
from Allison M. Veinote

16 ounces freshly-squeezed citrus juice (e.g. red grapefruit, blood orange, lemon, lime, etc.) 
½ cup granulated sugar 

Preparation Instructions 
Place sugar in small pot.  Add just enough juice to saturate the sugar. 

Stir over low heat until sugar dissolves completely. 

Stir sugar mixture into remaining juice.  Chill. 

Freeze according to ice cream maker’s instructions. 

Honey Sesame Crisps 
adapted from ‘Martha Stewart Living’, December 2000  

½ cup confectioner’s sugar 
1 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter 
1 ½ tablespoons honey 
1 tablespoon orange juice 
¼ cup white sesame seeds 
2 tablespoons black sesame seeds 
2 tablespoons AP flour 
Zest of ¼ orange 
Pinch of salt 

Preparation Instructions 
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with Silpats or parchment paper, and set aside.  

In a small saucepan, combine confectioners' sugar, butter, honey, and orange juice. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil for 1 minute.  

Remove pan from heat, and stir in remaining ingredients. Cool to room temperature.  

Using a 1/2-ounce ice-cream scoop, drop batter onto prepared baking sheets about 4 inches apart. (Alternatively, place closer together and, once slightly cooled, cut with cookie cutter into desired shape). 

Bake until cookies are crisp and golden, 10 to 12 minutes.  

Transfer from baking sheet to a wire rack to cool.

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