I generally like to come here with something new, but today I'm revisiting an idea that I first blogged about back in 2007. At that time, R. and I were living in Paris and I was baking with a toaster oven, appropriately romanticized by this francophile (well, by the French landlord too) as a four électrique. Oh, and I was having some flour trouble too.
I'm still pretty into the idea of chocolate and ginger, but wasn't sure how well my original recipe would work here in my Vancouver kitchen. And why court disaster in the kitchen when it arrives easily enough on its own? So I gave my chocolate chunk gingerbread cookie formula a facelift, North American-style.
If the before and after is any indication, it a was a worthwhile procedure.
Chocolate Chip Gingerbread Cookies, Redux
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup molasses
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cornstarch
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line a cookie sheet with parchment.
In a large bowl, cream the butter and two sugars on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Add the egg and molasses, and beat until smooth.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, ginger, cinnamon, allspice, baking soda, cornstarch and salt.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and beat on low speed, then medium speed, until incorporated. The dough will be fairly stiff at this point. Stir in the chocolate chips.
Use your hands to form small balls, about the size of an unshelled walnut (8-12 per cookie sheet).
Bake for 10-12 minutes, until the cookies are just barely golden around the edges. Let cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before moving to a rack to cool completely.
Notes + sources: Alright, so it was more than a little nip and tuck. More like reconstructive surgery. I started more or less from scratch, using the spice ratios from the Chocolate Chip Ginger-Molasses Cookies over at Orangette and drawing on my go-to Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe (from Anna Olson's Sugar cookbook) for the cornstarch trick.
Monday, May 31, 2010
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
The last time we met, I was in the midst of clearing my freezer of last summer's berries to make room for this year's loot.
With the cranberry situation under control, I could zero in on the rest of those blueberries.
So it's Saturday afternoon and our friends are coming for dinner. Two hours to showtime and I'm still flipping through cookbooks trying to figure out dessert.
Then I remember this Blueberry Amandine Tart from Clotilde Dusoulier's first book, Chocolate & Zucchini.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Notes: I ran my frozen blueberries under hot water and then set them in a colander over a bowl to drain while I prepared the pastry and filling.
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
A few days ago was our first BBQ of the year, which means two things.
1. The start of what I like to call meat season, where we consume approximately double the meat we normally do simply because grilled beast is like no other.
2. Time to clean out the freezer.
It's an annual ritual that begins the previous summer, at the height of berry season. That's when I may appear to be enjoying a bowl of blueberries and yogurt, but inwardly I'm panicking about what I'll do come autumn when my supply runs dry.
Conditioned by my parents who have almost an entire chest freezer dedicated to berries—in addition to one dedicated to meat—and still sometimes store overflow at the neighbours', I start bagging and freezing. Strawberries? Blueberries? Raspberries? Doesn't matter. Fill'er up.
Our fridge freezer is pretty tiny and it has these annoying little drawers, which I suspect are meant to impose order on the frigid Wild West that is the average person's freezer. You know, to keep the breadcrumbs from mingling with the chicken breasts before they're ready to debut as chicken strips. Stuff like that. Mine just cramp my flash freezing style. Anyway...
Where we headed here? Right, so I jam every last corner with carefully packaged berries to carry us through the bleak period known as October-April, and then they just sit there. The fact of the matter is, by the time autumn rolls around, I've pretty much had my fill of summer fruit. A tart crunchy apple is starting to sound like a welcome change of pace.
It's usually around February, when I'm trying to find a spot for some leftover chili, that I first rediscover (and usually curse) this treasure trove of frozen fruit. Finishing last summer's berries inevitably becomes this spring's first chore.
The sweeter berries are easy enough to get through with our weekend breakfasts of pancakes and waffles. But sometimes come spring, I find that my hoarding spree stretched to include cranberries. This May, for example, I discovered that I was seduced not once, but twice, by post-Thanksgiving sales of the mouth-puckering red marbles. Two half-full bags leered up at me from freezer drawer no 2., smug in their frosty beds of ice.
Fortunately there's this loaf for just such an attitude. It's a particularly tasty one with crunchy ends, a sweet vanilla scent and stripes of tangy cranberry filling. Nothing mulled or spiced, not a trace of Thanksgiving or Christmas.
After all, who in their right mind is thinking about such things this time of year?
Cranberry-Striped Vanilla Loaf
2 cups cranberries, fresh or thawed
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup milk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and line a loaf pan with parchment paper, and set aside.
In a food processor, pulse the cranberries with 1/2 cup of sugar until finely chopped. Don't purée! Transfer to a sieve and let the juices drain into a bowl while you make the batter.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.
In a large bowl, beat the butter and remaining 1 1/4 cups of sugar until light and fluffy (about 5-8 minutes). Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each. Mix in the vanilla.
Mixing on low speed, add the flour mixture and milk alternately in batches, beginning and ending with flour and mixing just until incorporated.
Spread one-third of the batter evenly in the loaf pan. Top with half of the drained cranberry mixture, leaving a 1/2-inch border along the sides. Cover completely with another third of batter. Top with the remaining cranberry mixture, once again leaving a 1/2-inch border along the sides. Cover completely with the remaining batter and smooth.
Bake for 1 to 1 1/4 hours, or until golden brown and a tester inserted in the centre comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a rack for 30 minutes, then flip the loaf out to cool completely before slicing.
Source: Cranberry Coffeecake at Epicurious.com, originally published in Gourmet, February 2003.
Labels: Muffins and quick breads
Friday, May 07, 2010
When people find out I have a baking blog, the conversation that follows goes something like this.
Curious person: So you must make a lot of stuff then. How often do you bake?
Me: It depends on my schedule, but usually anywhere from 2 to 4 times a week.
CP: That often?! How are you not a blimp?
At this point, I usually say something about sharing treats with friends or packing up a few slices for R.'s office. But let's pretend we're economists for a moment, and take a look at the bigger picture. It'll be painless, I promise.
Fact #1: Owning a car is expensive.
We don't own a car and I really like to walk. Even when it's raining, especially when it's raining. That's when public transit and the people who ride it are at their worst. Think foggy windows, slippery floors, damp coats and drippy umbrellas. Yes walking takes longer, but it clears my head and opens my eyes to things I'd never notice otherwise. Since I view walking as transportation and not exercise, I end up covering a lot of ground without even thinking about it. Before I left my most recent office job, for example, my daily commute was about 7 kilometres round trip on foot. What about exercise, you ask? Yeah, I do that too, in moderation.
Reality #1: I move around a lot.
Fact #2: Most food you buy at a grocery store is not taxed. Eating out at a restaurant is.
Which, as a friend's professor once said, makes cooking a state-subsidized hobby of sorts. I like to cook mostly because I enjoy time in the kitchen and think homemade usually tastes better, but also because I can determine what goes into my food. It's an important point, especially when you consider research like this. (And contrary to popular belief, I do make more than cookies and cakes. You just don't see it on The Casual Baker!) Don't get me wrong. I like to eat out and have been known to scarf down a few Cheezies in my day, but it's the exception not the norm.
Reality #2: I make most things I eat, whether meals or treats.
Fact #3: Food has a diminishing marginal utility.
Say what? Basically, your enjoyment of a food decreases with each bite. Think about a slice of cheesecake. The first forkful is incredible. The sour tang bursts on your taste buds and the velvety smoothness slides across your tongue. You reach eagerly for another bite, and the next. Now fast forward a few bites. You're about 2/3 through the slice and the pause between forkfuls is lengthening. The cheesecake still tastes good at this point, but it's considerably less revelatory. This is usually when I jam the rest in the fridge and take it out again the next day for a mid-afternoon snack so that I can have that first-bite experience all over again.
Reality #3: I eat to enjoy food.
I think it's this same principle that leads me to bake in half-batches quite often. Not only do I not need to eat 3 brownies a day for the next week, I don't really want to. I'd much rather be tasting something new.
Like Smitten Kitchen's Cheesecake-Marbled Brownies. Half the brownies, but equally as good.
Notes: A loaf pan is the perfect vessel for halving an 8-inch pan recipe. To avoid messy division, I used a full 2 ounces of chocolate in the brownie batter and an entire egg yolk in the cheesecake component with no ill effects.