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Nutella Swirl Chocolate Chip Cookies

12 Nov

My sister is studying abroad in Denmark this semester, so I mailed her these cookies for her birthday. They haven’t gotten there yet, but hopefully she’ll receive a box of cookies, not crumbs…

I modified the recipe from justJENN recipes. Since I really wanted the Nutella flavor to come through, I used four WHOPPING tablespoons of Nutella and just 1 cup of chocolate chips. Well, the second part was just because I ran out of chocolate chips. But anyway.

I was pretty impressed by how pretty the swirls and crackly tops were on these cookies. Add the Nutella at the absolute last minute, and mix until just swirled. The one downside to having large globs of Nutella was that if they happened to be on the bit of the cookie that’s touching the baking sheet (with no dough in between), they’ll stay on the sheet and leave a big hole in the bottom of the cookie.

This recipe makes 42 generously-sized cookies, which was perfect for my purposes. 21 cookies for my sister on her 21st birthday, and 21 for my friends and me to consume in gluttonous fashion.

Length of procrastination: ~1 hour from raw ingredients to mouth.

Cooking for Mom

1 Nov

My mom’s birthday was a little over a week ago, and my dad and I decided to cook her dinner. She had just returned from a long trip overseas, so we thought a nice meal at home would be much more enjoyable than a noisy restaurant.

It took the two of us two hours to make a meal that would’ve taken my mom less than an hour to make on her own. It was quite the intimidating task. My mom is quite literally the best cook in the world. This is the woman who taught me the concept of mise en place (in Chinese) and the fragrance of scallions in hot oil. She also doesn’t like eating food made by people who can’t cook. So.

 

Not bad, right? I did accidentally mistake the sugar for salt in one of the dishes and put a little too much wood ear mushroom in another, but my mom usually puts a little sugar in her napa anyway and wood ear mushrooms are good for you.

Happy birthday again, mom!

蔥油大餅: Large Chinese Sesame and Scallion Pancake

4 Oct

大餅 (da bing) in Chinese literally means “large pancake.” They are really popular in Chinese restaurants. Crunchy on the outside, chewy on the inside, slightly salted, and covered in white sesame seeds, they’re an awesome substitute for rice at any meal.

This is my mom’s recipe for da bing with scallions. It’s made very similar to scallion pancakes, but uses yeast to give it some rise. As it is a “mom” recipe, it’s made mostly of visual directions and “to taste” instructions. I’ve tried to list the ingredients as accurately as possible.

蔥油大餅
Makes 4 pancakes

1 tsp yeast
2 cups warm water, divided
1/2 tsp sugar
4 cups AP flour
4 tsp oil, divided, plus more for cooking
salt
2 large bunches of scallions, sliced into small pieces
white sesame seeds

Place the yeast in 1/2 cup of warm water and sugar. Let sit for about 10 minutes, until frothy. Combine with the rest of the warm water and flour, and knead for about 20 minutes. I’m sure you can do this with a dough hook on a stand mixer, but I’m not sure how long it will take. Divide dough into four balls of equal size and let rest for about 5 minutes.

Roll out one ball as thin as possible. Spread about 1 tsp of oil evenly across the dough, then sprinkle generously with salt. Spread 1/4 of the scallions over the dough, then roll into a spiral (see pictures). Let rest for about 10 minutes while you repeat the process with the other three balls of dough.

At this point, my mom says that you can wrap the dough tightly in saran wrap and freeze for up to a week, but I haven’t tried it.

When ready to cook, roll out the spirals into pancakes about an 3/4 inch thick. Cover both the top and bottom surfaces with white sesame seeds, pressing the seeds into the dough.

Coat a large pan with a flat bottom in a small amount of oil (or cooking spray) on medium heat. Make sure the pan doesn’t get too hot, else the sesame seeds will burn. Lay each bing individually in the pan and let cook each side until golden brown, about 7 minutes. Use the sides of the pan to cook the sides of the bing. The bing should rise slightly during cooking, and the sides should be hard-to-crunchy to the touch when it’s done cooking.

Length of procrastination: About 1 hour.

Butterbeer

16 Sep

Bobby and I are really late to the Butterbeer party, but Harry Potter is my lifeblood, so it’s something we definitely needed to do. I’ve made a non-alcoholic version in the past using cream soda and butterscotch ice cream topping, but it was really sweet.

This year, we made some for the midnight release of HP7-2 movie. Instead of butterscotch topping, we used butterscotch schnapps. The butter-y taste didn’t come through even after putting in a lot of alcohol, so we supplemented it with dulce de leche ice cream. As a bonus, ice cream and cream soda makes the wonderful foamy topping described in the book.

Take care not to drink too much of this too quickly, as you can’t taste the alcohol at all. I accidentally downed an entire mug without paying attention…probably not a good idea. Approach with caution.

Butterbeer
Makes 2 servings

1 12oz bottle of cream soda
3 oz butterscotch schnapps
1 large spoonful of dulce de leche ice cream

Mix everything together and split into two mugs. Yum. :)

Length of procrastination: 2 minutes. And then 2 more minutes to make another batch.

Chinese Steamed Buns (饅頭)

8 Sep

Ahh sorry! Did not mean to take a two month hiatus… Summer got really hectic, and all of a sudden it’s over.

Anyway, mantou! I’m a lover of all things carb-y, so my making mantou is well overdue. Most of the recipes I’ve found used yeast, which surprised me because mantou has always struck me as a much denser bread.

As you can see in the picture, the tops of mine cracked a bit after they cooled. Ignore the yellow tint–there was something funky with the lighting, methinks. I’m not quite sure why, but it wasn’t a big deal because all eight of these babies were consumed in a single meal. Between two people. In retrospect, that was probably not the best idea.

 

A mantou in all it’s delicious glory. I modified the recipe from Almost Bourdain by converting everything to volume measurements. For flour, I weighed out about a pound and took a fraction of it. Macguyvering for the win.

Homemade Pizza

13 Jul

Woo I’m back in Boston for the summer! After all the madness of finals and packing and moving and travelling, I finally landed back at MIT. And I wanted pizza. (So did Bobby.) So we made some.

Pizza dough is actually incredibly easy to make, provided you have the right tools (i.e. a rolling pin…). I improvised, so my pizzas came out uneven and misshapen, but still crazy delicious. I used this recipe, and it made enough dough for two personal-sized pizzas.

Please remember to flour your working surface. This dough is insanely sticky and fairly unforgiving in terms of sticking to every. Freaking. Thing.

…including your baking surface. Especially if you lack corn meal and a baking stone like us, don’t forget to grease your aluminum foil! We put the pizzas on an upside down baking tin at 325 degrees for about 12 minutes, until the cheese started bubbling and the crust turned golden.

Bobby’s pizza had chicken sausage, peppers, onions, and tomatoes on them. He put some diced avocados (as much as ripe avocados can be diced…) on top before eating. Mine had spinach, mushrooms, and tomatoes. Nom nom nom!

Length of procrastination: 2 hours, including waiting time for your dough to rise.

 

Birthday baking…for 42 people!

5 Jun

With only a few days left of classes, the two other class secretaries and I decided to bake for all the summer birthdays and some early fall birthdays in one fell swoop. Between June 1 and September 19, there were forty-two birthdays. Damn.

I made a chocolate cake with raspberry frosting and some chocolate chip cookies. I found the raspberry frosting here, and was intrigued because it used Cool Whip. Sadly, it didn’t spread well and I ended up with a pretty ugly cake. Or it might’ve been because I somehow lost my spatula and was frosting the cake with a butter knife. On a piece of aluminum foil. Well…you gotta use what you’ve got, right? At least it tasted pretty good.

In addition, I also baked chocolate chip cookies. These came out decidedly prettier, but they weren’t “chewy” like the recipe title promised. Don’t get me wrong…they were definitely tasty, but also definitely crunchy. It’s okay Alton Brown. I still love you.

I’d also like to say that I’m insanely jealous of all you food bloggers out there with tons of natural lighting in your kitchens. Mine has a big tree in front of the only tiny window, and my colors are always funky. Grr.

Oh, and here’s the spread of birthday goodness:

Alton Brown’s “The Chewy” Chocolate Chip Cookies
Converted into volume measurements from The Food Network 

2 sticks unsalted butter
2 1/4 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Melt butter in a saucepan (I used a microwave…) and let cool. While you’re waiting, sift together the flour, salt, and baking soda and set aside.

In a stand mixer, combine the butter with both sugars using the paddle attachment. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, egg yolk, milk, and vanilla extract. Reduce the mixer speed and pour in the egg mixture. Mix until well-combined.

Add the dry ingredients into the wet in several batches, scraping down the sides of the bowl and the paddle each time. Add in the chocolate chips and mix. Cover and refrigerate for an hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Drop tablespoon-sized balls of dough onto a cookie sheet about 2 inches apart. Bake for about 12 minutes, until cookies are brown. Makes about 35 normal cookies and one mini one with no chocolate chips in it.

Length of procrastination: 1 hour 30 minutes

Crack Cookies

30 May

Bobby’s birthday was last week and although I’m still stuck in Davis cramming immunology, renal physiology, hematology, parasitology, and all sorts of other -ologies into my brain, I needed to send him something tasty. Enter crack cookies.

These things have another name (flourless deep dark chocolate cookies), but they’re so good that they taste like there’s crack in them (assuming crack tastes good…). They also crackle on top. Instead of rolling them in powdered sugar, I used raw sugar for an extra crunch. Plus, the melted sugar gives it a molasses-like flavor. Next time, though, I’ll probably use bittersweet chocolate chips instead of semisweet, as these cookies were a bit too sweet for me.

Of course, I also forgot to take pictures of them before I mailed them off, so these pictures are courtesy of Bobby. They’re individually wrapped for portion control purposes. :D

Crack Cookies
Adapted from Epicurious

Nonstick vegetable oil spray (or that awesome non-stick aluminum foil)
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips, divided
3 large egg whites, room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup raw sugar

Heat oven to 400 degrees and prepare two baking sheets.

Melt 1 cup chocolate chips in the microwave, stirring occasionally. Let cool while you make the meringue.

Beat egg whites to soft peaks. Gradually add in 1 cup powdered sugar and beat until the mixture resembles melted marshmallows, about 30 seconds. Whisk the remaining powdered sugar, cocoa powder, corn starch, and salt and gradually add into the meringue. Mix until combined. Add in the melted chocolate and remaining chocolate chips. The “dough” should be stiff, almost the texture of truffle chocolates. If it’s still too soft, try waiting a bit for the melted chocolate to cool a little more.

Roll dough into spheres and roll in raw sugar. Place on baking sheets about 2 inches apart–these cookies will spread! Bake for about 11 minutes, until the tops are cracked. Makes about 20 three-inch cookies.

Length of procrastination: 45 minutes

Herb and Cheese Beer Bread (Muffins)

25 May

Oooh, I love beer bread so much. Not only is it delicious, but it’s so easy to make. It takes less than 5 minutes to mix up all the ingredients and only about 12 minutes to bake. My roommates keep convenient 12oz bottles of beer in the house, so I’ll whip up a batch whenever I get a cheese craving.

Most beer bread recipes make loaves, but I’m more a fan of the muffin or scone-sized variety. I really like the crunch around the edges, especially the slightly burnt cheese topping. Plus, the it cuts the baking time waaay down. I get between 15-20 “muffins” out of this recipe, depending how full I fill each cup.

I’ve tried this recipe with a variety of beers, including stouts, light beers, and ciders. The more bitter beers make more bitter breads, obviously, but in some cases the flavor is a bit too much. On the other hand, the beer-y flavor is pretty much lost with ciders and Corona Light. I personally prefer a lighter flavor, but it’s definitely a personal choice.

Herb and Cheese Beer Bread

3 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tbsp dried basil
1.5 tbsp garlic salt
1 cup shredded cheese, plus extra for sprinkling on top
12oz beer

Note: For the “herbs,” I tend to use whatever’s on hand. Basil, oregano, and garlic salt taste pretty good together, which is awesome ’cause it’s all I currently have in my cabinet. I tend to have a heavier hand in terms of seasoning, so adjust it to your taste.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease either a muffin tin or baking pan with baking spray and set aside.

Whisk together all the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Pour in beer and mix thoroughly with a fork.

Fill muffin tins about 80% full with batter or drop 3-inch dollops of batter onto the baking sheet. Top with some sprinkled cheese and bake for 12-15 minutes, until bread is golden brown.

Length of procrastination: ~20 minutes

Creme Brulee French Toast for Mother’s Day

9 May

My sister and I have made my mom breakfast in bed for Mother’s Day every year since we were old enough to reach the microwave. Unfortunately the past few years, I’d been on the other side of the country, so I had to make up for it this year.

I halved a recipe from Smitten Kitchen and got surprisingly good results! I couldn’t find an unsliced loaf anywhere, so I substituted thick Taiwanese toast from Sogo Bakery. As you can see, they weren’t nearly as thick as the original recipe, so I had a lot of unabsorbed custard left over after soaking the bread overnight.

This was also my first time caramelizing sugar, which was terrifying and awesome at the same time. The sugar first started “sweating” a little…then turned brown really quickly! Mine burnt a little in the extra 30 seconds I took to snap a picture. When the recipe says “color of honey,” it really means color of honey. Any browner and you’ll get burnt sugar, which doesn’t actually taste that bad.

Length of procrastination: About 1 hour, not counting soaking time.

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