Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Chocolate chip, a little tip...

I am sure that everyone knows by now that I have yet to make a successful plain chocolate chip cookie! No matter how many recipes I have tried, they never turn out just know...chewy on the inside, crispy on the out, rustically round...and oh so good! In my baking class yesterday chef revealed the secrets to the perfect cookie. I can't believe it is so simple. The following are ways to make the perfect cookie.

1. Ingredients are key. Chef says that a lot of people skimp on the ingredients because of cost, but they play a major role in the turnout of the cookie. Cheaper "store brand" sugar has larger crystals and do not break down as smoothly as finely granulated sugar...The result is a cookie with sugar bits. Chef recommends imperial sugar. All purpose flour is good, just be sure to sift it along with the baking soda before adding to the cookies.

2. Measurement is also important. I have always wondered why my recipes turn out so differently depending upon where I make them For instance, when I lived in California my baked goods came out perfectly awesome! Then when I moved home they turn out all weird and messed up, at first I thought it was me and maybe I should seek help...maybe talk to a therapist, but then yesterday in class a light bulb went off and I realized it wasn't me it was the climate! Humid climates, such as the lovely Houston I live in have more moisture in the air...this moisture seeps into the ingredients and weighs them down...all my cookies look like flying saucers...they have too much liquid in the batter! In Cali, where it was cookies looked like cookies! Crazy! Also, if you scoop out a cup of flour with a measuring cup the weight varies each time. So in order to avoid this common error, you need to measure your ingredients on a scale, not with measuring use recipes with ounces or grams. Electric scales work best and can be found at many stores...such as Target. This is me going buy a scale for food, not me : ).

3. There is method in the madness...I mean, madness in the method ; ) Creaming the butter is overlooked, under emphasized, so many things in this world. The butter NEEDS TO BE WHIPPED! This process takes a while. Whip the butter until it is light, airy, and glossy. Another common practice is to add the salt with the flour. Chef says that the salt permeates the dough more thoroughly, and dissolves better if added with the sugars. Add the sugars and salt to the butter and cream until not crystally looking. Next add the eggs one at a time, and then the vanilla. Add the flour and baking soda all at once and beat just until combined, over mixing at this point will yield a tougher cookie. Then stir in the chips.

4. Temp. Most cookie recipes say to heat the oven to 350 degrees. This is a problem because you want the oven hot enough that it quickly locks in the shape of the cookie by creating a thin crust on the outside. If your oven is not hot enough the cookies will just melt into a pancake. Thus, you should heat the oven to 375. Also, the butter and eggs should be taken out hours before baking. Room temp butter whips better. If the eggs are still cold, crack them open into a cup and then place that cup inside a bowl of hot water...this will help with the warming process without cooking them...don't use boiling water : ). Also, after creaming the butter, sugars, and eggs you find that your batter and bowl are cold - this is bad. You can do three crazy things. One - dip or rinse your bowl in hot water before using. Two - run a hot wet rag under and around the bowl while mixing. Three - plug in your blow dryer and move around bowl while mixing...blow dryer in the kitchen huh : ) The temp of the batter is important because you want the sugar crystals to melt before they hit the oven - so you are aiming for a non crystally batter before the flour is added.

I hope these tips have enlightened you in some way...they sure did help me!! I am happy to report that I have indeed made a "perfect chocolate chip cookie" I do believe in miracles!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Chocolate...the dinner of addicts.

So in honor of surviving my first week back at both school and work I decided to celebrate by indulging myself with chocolate. I am all about "new recipes" for the "new year", so I tried something different...yes, I ordered my martini shaken, not stirred...but more importantly I made cookies. I find myself tired at the end of the day...I mean come on, who really wakes up at yeah, when 8pm rolls along and all I want is chocolate - it better be fast. I said a little prayer opened up a new cookbook, and low and behold I put my finger on a "seven minute chocolate cookie" recipe! I mean come on, a cookie in 7 minutes, could this be true...well no, it wasn't it took more like 10 minutes...liars. I would sue them, except the cookie turned out pretty darn good. The batter was awesome, and after eating half of it I decided I should probably make a cookie so my family could taste the fruits of my labor. They don't look pretty, but come on...6 ingredients, 10 minutes...boom baby...instant heaven. They tasted like little brownie bites...

Little chocolate raindrops pitter pattering on my soul.

Just one bite and you will eat the whole bowl!

Seven Minute Chocolate cookies:

from the Great cooks rise cookbook from Bluffton, SC Church of the Cross.

1/4 cup butter

2 cups chocolate chips

1 (14 ounce can) sweetened condensed milk

1 tsp. vanilla

1 cup flour

1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine butter, ch. chips, and milk in saucepan. Stir over medium heat until melted and smooth. Add remaining ingredients and stir. Drop by tablespoons onto greased cookie sheet. Bake 7 minutes. Let cool on pan slightly before removing and eating.

FYI...awesome with ice cream.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Sloppy Joes? Taking the bun to a whole new level.

On the 3rd day I made sloppy Joes, and they were good. I remember eating mamwich sloppy Joes and disliking them greatly, so naturally I had my reservations. I googled many recipes and ultimately decided upon a Rachel Ray recipe...I don't normally like her food all that much, but I had most of the ingredients her version called for. Of course I tweaked it and added my own special "Dagny zing" to it. To make it healthier I added diced carrots - I try to hide vegetables in all my food if possible so the kids will get more of their veggies...yeah no, I really do it so I will eat my vegetables. I served them open faced atop toasted whole wheat hamburger rolls. Everyone loved them! Almost everyone had at least seconds, and then fought over the leftovers the next day. This is going to be a common meal in my home, especially with all the deer meat in the the freezer out back. So please, if you have bad or good memories of Sloppy Joes, I urge you to give it a second chance...even though Shania Twain says "the first cut is the deepest", I say "the second bite is the sweetest".

The Sloppiest of Sloppy Joes:
Recipe courtesy of Rachel and Dagny

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 pounds ground beef (or ground turkey, or deer should work nicely as well)
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons to 1 tablespoon of grill seasoning (or a combination of salt, pepper, and pepper flakes)
1 medium onion chopped
1 small green bell pepper, chopped
1 carrot
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 cups tomato sauce
2 tablespoons tomato paste
4 crusty rolls, split, toasted, and lightly buttered

Finely dice onion, bell pepper, and carrot - or to make it easier, pulse in food processor. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add oil and meat to the pan. Spread the meat around the pan and begin to break it up. Add sugar and spices to the skillet and combine. When the meat has browned, add onion, pepper, and carrot to the skillet. Reduce heat to medium and cook onions, peppers, red wine vinegar and Worcestershire sauce with meat for 5 minutes. Add tomato sauce and paste to pan. Stir to combine. Reduce heat to simmer and cook Sloppy Joe mixture 5 minutes longer. Using a large spoon pile sloppy meat onto toasted, buttered bun bottoms and cover with bun tops.
fyi- this freezes very well!

Some little know facts about the Sloppy Joe:

A sloppy joe is an American dish of ground beef, onions, sweetened tomato sauce or ketchup and other seasonings, served on a hamburger bun.[1] Commercially made sauces such as Mamwich are also available. Textured vegetable protein may be used as a vegetarian substitute for the meat. Sloppy Joes are simpler variant of barbecue sandwich which uses shredded beef or pork and barbecue sauce.

The name "sloppy" comes from the fact that eating it as if it were a normal sandwich often results in the meat and sauce spilling out. It may also be served "open face", with the bun halves or slices of bread next to each other and the meat on top of each.

Sloppy Joes are also referred to as:

- Wimpies in parts of the Northeast USA, especially Northeastern Pennsylvania
- Yip Yips in parts of southwestern Illinois near St. Louis
- Slushburgers in parts of the Upper Midwest, particularly in western North Dakota and Eastern Montana
- Barbecues in other areas of the Upper Midwest, especially eastern North Dakota
- Hot Tamales in parts of southeastern Wisconsin, particularly in the Sheboygan area despite the fact that tamales are a completely different food item
- Taverns in parts of northwest Iowa and Minnesota.

The term Sloppy Joe is also used in Australia (and other countries) to describe a loose fitting pullover, often made from fleecy lined cotton