quick and classy

This week has been rather stressful for me, as I've been working hard to sort out a schedule that puts the things I need to do (i.e. research) at a higher priority than the things I like to do (i.e. dance).  I don't expect that I will turn into a work robot, though: although the idea seems outdated, I've started taking a Sabbath again, and so tomorrow I will not do homework, I will not do housework beyond normal maintenance things like washing dishes, and I will not be stressed out.  Well.. it may not be so easy to forgo the stress, but I need a day, and I need to trust God with my time.  Thus, I am looking forward to tomorrow, although I am not quite finished with today, no matter what the clock tells me.

My weekly cookie project just came out of the oven about half an hour ago, and maybe if I post right after I can get back into the habit of only having to talk about one cookie per post, on time.

Here goes...

87. Almond Macaroons
If you have never tried almond macaroons before, I think there is no way I can describe their flavor properly.  These are just about the simplest cookie in the book (yes, even simpler than shortbread!), and yet I had never tried any cookie with the same flavor palette before I got into this book.  The first time I made almond macaroons was as a part of another cookie, discussed in this entry, and was so impressed by the flavor that I was looking forward to making the plain macaroons.  So yes.  In these cookies are almond paste (which can be found in the grocery store next to the pie filling), confectioners' sugar, salt, egg whites, and vanilla.  That's it.  The ingredients are mixed together until the dough becomes thick, and then baked for some 20 minutes.  I made a mistake on the first batch, as I didn't mix enough for the egg whites to thicken, and I used the tablespoon of dough the recipe directed, and ended up with wide, flat, ugly cookies.  I attacked the remaining dough more before the second batch and reduced the cookie size to 1 tsp each, and found the result to be much prettier.  With all the stress of this week and even today, these quick cookies were a nice project to throw together, and I look forward to sharing them tomorrow.

On the topic of things shared, I had a baking project this week that is non-project, but was so delicious I had to take a picture, and I think it is worth sharing.  We like to celebrate people's birthdays in my bible study group, and I like to find new kinds of cake to bake for people when the opportunity arises.  And so I was stumbling around on allrecipes when I found the following:

Are you ready for this?  These are cupcakes with cookie dough in the middle.  The lighting in the picture is kind of poor, but the cupcake pictured here is dark chocolate cake (box mix) with a big hunk of undercooked cookie dough, and topped with a chocolate ganache icing.  The concept is actually quite simple: if you make chocolate chip cookie dough and freeze it in ~1tbsp balls, you can put it right on your cupcake batter and bake it.  The cake part will bake all the way and the cookie dough will not.  I liked the chocolate cake because you can actually see that the dough is in there.  It also paired well with the icing: chocolate ganache is just semisweet chocolate melted in heavy cream, and so the chocolate taste is strong without being as sweet as regular icing.  Everyone in my small group really liked these, except for the birthday boy, who, as it turns out, doesn't like chocolate.  I am fail.  But these cupcakes are amazing, and if you want to impress someone with not much work, this is a sure bet.

That's about all for now, except for a quick follow-up on my Cuban recipes post: I made the chicken recipe, and although it took a little while to prep, it was SO DELICIOUS, as there was a good mix of sweet and savory, and maybe even just a little bit of spicy taste in there too.  I'll probably make it again in the summer, when the avocados and mangoes are something more like in season.


and I keep rollin' on

Well, I've done it again.  I keep saying I'll post more regularly, and then I take longer and longer breaks from actual cookie posts (although I've put up a couple other random things to prove I didn't die).  This time, some of it is due to an attempt to go to bed by midnight on school nights.  Tonight, clearly, is a fail on that.  Some of my non-posting is due to just being insanely busy - this semester I'm taking a Quantum Information class and a Jazz dance class, teaching intro Physics, still active in a bible study group with GCF, baking and cooking on a regular basis, doing research in the lab (a never-ending and hugely time-consuming thing) and flitting around doing silly things with my boyfriend.  As my dad has said before, I do well when I build up a certain level of chaos and then maintain it through the semester.

In what I imagine to be a slight break in the chaos (read: I got my homework done early and am waiting for something in the kitchen to finish), I present yet another cookie update!

79.  01.02.10 Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies
I made these the day before leaving my dad's house to return back to the middle of nowhere, and so I chose something that wouldn't involve outlandish ingredients, and would hopefully be eaten quickly.  These are made with a basic brownie batter, with a filling that is mostly peanut butter and confectioners' sugar swirled around in the batter.  The idea is nice - after all, chocolate and peanut butter are delicious together, when done properly - but the execution was a bit mediocre.  When I ate these, all I could taste was the peanut butter, and not the (expensive) chocolate melted in the brownies.  Although it tasted good, I think that if I want to the taste of eating peanut butter straight, I'll forgo the baking for a spoon and the PB jar.

80.  01.10.10 Cappuccino-Chocolate Bites
The weekend after I returned to my apartment, I flew down to Louisiana to visit my sister and brother-in-law, who are both actual rocket scientists.  This was actually interesting times, because my original flight was canceled due to lots of snow in Central Illinois, and I had to fly the next day.  I was totally okay with that, since I learned to drive in South Florida and am still terrified of snow driving.  But yes, the cookies.  I decided to make these because my brother-in-law is into making his own espresso, which meant that I could easily acquire the 1T of ground espresso beans the recipe called for, without ending up with a bag of coffee I couldn't use.  The ground espresso was mixed into the cookies, which otherwise had a basic shortbread texture (you know, butter, confectioners' sugar, that kind of thing).  These cookies were then sandwiched with a milk-chocolate ganache and sprinkled with cocoa powder and confectioners' sugar to make them look very pretty.  In general, I find milk chocolate to be inferior to, well, everything ever, but in this case the richness of the ganache (yes, I consider milk chocolate to be rich) helped to mellow out the espresso so that every bite was a good experience.  Of course, it is wise not to eat these late at night, but I believe the ones I left at my sister's house were eaten for breakfast the next day (cookies for breakfast are always a lovely idea).

81.  01.16.10 Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
Feeling that it was time to make some good, traditional cookies after all the rich and fancy stuff I'd made recently, I went to the the store and finally picked up the special ingredient for these cookies.  These are ordinary oatmeal raisin cookies, except that they also have toasted wheat germ in them.  In theory, this helps to make the cookies more hearty (and maybe more healthy, although health and cookies aren't too often put together).  Wheat germ is hidden by things like oatmeal in the grocery store, and is unfortunately sold in fairly large quantities.  However, these were pretty good cookies, so I don't mind making them again to use up the left over ingredients.  This time around I messed up a little: I was baking these while folding laundry, or some other such chore, and so didn't get a chance to check one of the earlier batches for baking time.  Thus, it turned out that these were a little crunchier than I think oatmeal cookies ought to be, but I think in the future if I reduce the baking time by 2 or 3 minutes they should come out close to perfect.

82.  01.23.10 Cherry Almond Biscotti
Since the last week had gotten me all excited about specialty ingredients (and I wanted to use up some old dried cherries sitting in my kitchen) I went to the grocery store and bought some amaretto (almond-flavored liqueur) to make these biscotti.  I'll point out as a side note, amaretto is tasty stuff.  But back to the topic at hand: here the dried cherries are boiled in amaretto until properly hydrated, and then added to the biscotti dough along with blanched almonds and a little bit of the leftover cooking amaretto.  The dough is baked first in a log, and then sliced and baked again, as is done for biscotti in general.  I found that these were very delicious - although the texture of the cherries was a little unexpected in the otherwise crumbly biscotti texture, they added a nice taste, as did the amaretto, which was pretty subtle.  I'm not sure about the feasibility of making these again, though, as you may recall, I've complained before about how expensive dried cherries are.  Maybe someday when I get a fancy job I'll be able to afford lots of crazy ingredients, but for now I'll try to live within my means.

83.  01.31.10 Butter Cookie Sandwiches with Chestnut Cream
Well, these guys look fancy enough, although they weren't particularly complicated to make.  The cookies are basic shortbread cut into 1-1/2" rounds, so they're quite small.  The centerpiece of this recipe is supposed to be the chestnut cream filling, which is made of butter, confectioners' sugar, and chestnut cream (crème de marron, to be fancy about it).  These sandwiched cookies are then dipped in melted semi-sweet chocolate to get their nice appearance.  Although they look very nice, I was a little disappointed with these cookies - the chestnut cream was difficult to find and expensive to buy, so when I tasted these and the filling tasted just of butter, I lamented the waste of money this turned into.  The chestnut cream itself tastes of chestnuts, as it ought, considering it's made of chestnuts and sugar, but the flavor just didn't come through all the other things going on in the recipe.

84.  02.06.10 Gingersnap-Raspberry Sandwiches
I have always been a big fan of molasses/ginger cookies, and although this one doesn't have any molasses in it, it sure had potential to be delicious: aside from regular cookie ingredients, this recipe features a large dose of ground ginger and maple syrup.  Unfortunately, I messed up when baking these cookies and did not bake them quite long enough, leaving them with a funny taste that didn't let the ginger shine through properly.  Although the recipe calls for putting raspberry jam between these cookies, I found that doing so was a hassle, as the jam oozed out all over the place and didn't taste very good with these kind of funny-tasting cookies.  Ah well, perhaps I'll have success with these another time.

85.  02.14.10 Raspberry Honey Financiers
For all that I complain about the silliness surrounding Valentine's Day, I have to say that I had a lovely day spending time doing non-consumerist things with my boyfriend, and sharing these cookies (well, more like mini muffins) with him.  The dough for these is made with butter, lots of honey, toasted and ground blanched almonds, sugar, cake flour, and egg whites.  The honey and almonds are the strong point here, to give a nice sweet taste and a little bit of crunch.  The red hearts shown in the picture are raspberry juice strained out from a puree.  The raspberry taste wasn't particularly strong, but the hearts were cute, and that was exactly the effect I was going for (well, and that the recipe told me to do).

86.  02.20.10 Ne Plus Ultra Cookies
Since winter insists on hanging on, and the Midwest has turned into a mess of snow and rain and potholes the size of a small vehicle, I decided it was time to make some comfort cookies.  That means simple tastes and chewy cookies, preferably the kind that can be eaten warm out of the oven with a glass of milk while watching the Winter Olympics.  This recipe gave me exactly what I was after: these are basically over-sized chocolate chip cookies with pecans and raisins added to them.  Usually I would object to nuts and raisins getting between me and chocolate chips, but because these cookies were so large, these ingredients prevented the cookie from being too rich to eat in one go.  To any novice bakers out there, I would suggest these cookies as a good project.  They are extremely simple to make, and they taste just a little bit better than standard chocolate chip cookies (and about a million times better than that nasty pre-made dough they sell at the grocery store. ick).  As usual, if anyone is interested I am happy to share the recipe.

...And that brings me up to date with my cookies.  This means, unless I've had a counting fail, that I am at 84 recipes already, which is nearly halfway through the book.  I may have to start organizing my efforts so that I'm not left with all the difficult recipes in my last year of this project.  For now, though, it's time to get some sleep, so I can get back to aligning optics in the morning.

OMG so tasty

Anyone who knows me well (and, honestly, it should be pretty obvious from this blog, so you don't have to know me hardly at all) is very aware of how much I value food culture.  I tend to be a little confused about what my own food culture actually is, which means I cook lots of Italian, Japanese, Vietnamese, and so on, and hardly any Irish or German (my actual heritage) dishes.

This week, my adopted food culture is Cuban.  Since I lived in Miami for something like 8 years, I think it's fair for me to miss things like black beans and rice (that is, frijoles negros y arroz), fried plantains, and flan.  In the Midwest, the only Latino food to be had is Mexican, and even that is usually Americanized beyond recognition.  However, this doesn't keep me from finding recipes and attempting to cook my own Cuban foods.

There's one website with what seems like very authentic recipes (which means calling for ingredients I can't always obtain), and I've tried a few of these, to delightful result:

Picadillo - this is a ground beef hash made with onions, garlic, tomato, and green olives.  Sometimes picadillo has raisins in it, but I regard that idea the same as I do raisins in meatloaf: gross.  The recipe is easy, and should appeal to anyone who likes green olives.

Ropa Vieja - this is basically a flank steak boiled forever until it can be shredded (like 'old clothes', the literal translation of the dish name).  Included in the recipe are onions, garlic, green pepper, and tomato sauce.  You may notice a trend here.  There's nothing spicy about this recipe, but it's tasty and fairly easy too.

Mojo Chicken with Mango-Avocado Salsa - I have not made this one yet, but will be attempting it later this week.  It looks really good and I'll let you know how it turns out.

Arroz con Leche - Lit. "rice with milk," this is rice pudding.  Although it takes some 2h of cooking, the result is SO DELICIOUS that it prompted me to make this post on Cuban food in general.  Take a look at the recipe: all the ingredients are common things you can get at the store, and might even have at home right now.  The lemon peel is especially important for adding flavor, with the added bonus that boiling it in all that milk and sugar leaves you with pieces of candied lemon peel hidden in your rice pudding.  Seriously, try making this.  It is amazing.  There are no words.  Or, judging from what I've just written, there are not enough words.


sewing fun!

So I'm super backlogged again, and although it's not entirely the case, I'm willing to blame it on my boyfriend.  This isn't such a bad thing - I still bake on time, but it's been difficult to find the extra time in an already-overflowing schedule to post the picture I've taken.  Any free time that I imagine I might have tends to go to Phil, and this is an extra case of that happening: both of us are all disdainful about Valentine's Day and the associated commercialism, and so we decided to do inexpensive things for each other, and mostly to use the day to enjoy each other's company.  I, being stubborn, decided he absolutely had to have a stupid stuffed animal holding a heart.  Not wanting to pay Hallmark for a gorilla or something, I took a sewing pattern I bought a while ago, and the loudest fleece I could find, and sewed together the little guy pictured here.  I'm very proud of my work, especially considering that it only took me a few hours, and am considering making another with the left-over fabric.

In other craft news, I stumbled on this knitting pattern the other day, and am kind of excited about making it.


Related Posts with Thumbnails