dessert

chocolate chip cookie baking in Germany

Yesterday, after two days of collecting ingredients from various grocery stores, I baked some chocolate chip cookies. It was quite an adventure.

Member of the millennial generation that I am, I documented the experience with my social media accounts. So, dear parents, grandparents, and friends who do not participate in Twitter and Instagram, here is what happened:


Chocolate chip cookie baking in Germany. | Step one: let the block of butter soften on a sunny windowsill.


Compare and sample the two barbaric alternatives to impossible-to-find chocolate chips. Decide they’re passable.


Throw the rest of the ingredients on the counter before you have the chance to wonder any longer if all those German words mean what you think they do.


Spend 20 minutes hacking at baking chocolate with a dull knife and muttering about chocolate chips.

At first I thought the butter was rancid. But then I looked at my innocent, little bag of sugar.


Taste the butter and sugar mixture and discover the loud, citrusy overtones of gelatin sugar for canning. Employ tablespoons of vanillin sugar as an antidote.

A bag of sugar shouldn’t have an ingredients list. This one did:
“Zucker, Geliermittel Pektine, Säuerungsmittel Citronensäure, Konservierungsstoff Sorbinsäure”


Taste the mutant, citrusy dough you’ve created. Add vanillin sugar. Repeat. Again. Don’t let the flatmates see you grimace.

CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE BAKING IN GERMANY

CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE BAKING IN GERMANY

The equivalent of several tablespoons of vanilla extract, an oven tutorial from one of the flatmates, some Celsius-to-Fahrenheit calculations, a temperature adjustment or two, and three rounds of baking later: speckled chocolate chunk cookies.


Against all odds, place a plate piled high with sweet success – baked at 185° Celsius – on the kitchen table and watch them disappear.

 

CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE BAKING IN GERMANY

They were chewy; there was not even the slightest hint of citrus tang; and they were gone in 18 hours. The end.

 

 

Advertisements

how to soften chilled pie dough

cold pie doughThere comes a time in everyone’s life, or so I most earnestly believe, when you accidentally makes twice as much pie crust as necessary. Or perhaps you do it on purpose: a “one pie for now, one pie for later” sort of deal. Regardless, you have to keep the excess fresh, so you stick your the lump of pie crust dough in the fridge, snitching a bit of buttery, salty deliciousness just before you snap the container lid shut and shove it onto the nearest shelf.

The days pass and suddenly you need that pie crust. You’ve got to throw an entire pie together now. It’s the only spare moment you have, and you need it for the church potluck tomorrow or that dinner tonight where you promised you’d bring dessert or you’re watching your favorite tv show and it requires a slice of pie to go with it. But the crust is cold. Cold! And you forgot to get it out earlier. Panic.soften pie dough

So now you’ve got a choice. You can wrestle with chilled pie dough and muscle it into some sort of crust-like shape while your fingers freeze, or you can soften it up right quick and go on your merry pie-making way. But you can’t just toss it in the oven or microwave. It’ll partially cook, and you’ll have rubbery crust. Nope.

Really, the problem is all that cold butter in your dough. It’s keeping everything stiff. So to solve the problem, you just need to soften the butter – but not melt it. This is where the marvelous microwave comes it. Toss that pie dough in the microwave on a low power setting, and the butter will gently soften until your pie dough has returned to its proper pliability. Phew. On with your life!how to soften pie dough

Maybe this is a no-brainer for everyone else on earth, but I’m assuming there’s someone else somewhere who’s as impatient and pie-focused as I am. So here’s my non-recipe “how to” for softening pie dough. The instructions look long, but I promise this isn’t complicated.

How to Soften Chilled Pie Dough

Ingredients:

  • 1 frustratingly cold lump of pie crust dough
  • 1 microwave
  • some knowledge of your microwave’s settings

Instructions:

  1. Place your pie dough in a microwave-safe bowl and stick it in the microwave.
  2. Somewhere on your microwave’s keypad, there should (hopefully, probably) be a button for “time cook” or “cook time.” If there is, enter 4 minutes. (If there’s no button like that, go straight to adjusting the power level – but don’t forget to switch it back when you’re done.)
  3. Before you press “start,” find the “power” button. Most microwave’s I’ve ever used have the power automatically set at the highest level: 10. You want to set it at 1 or 2. Do that.
  4. Press “start.”
  5. Every minute take the dough out to smoosh it around a bit to be sure everything softens evenly. You can even take off the chunks that are softened and warm, set them aside, and continue microwaving the rest of the dough. Repeat until all of the dough is softened – 3 to 4 minutes, depending on your microwave.
  6. Now go make that pie!

Or

  1. Find the melt/soften butter setting on your microwave.
  2. Steps 4-6 above.

inside-out vanilla peach crumble

IMG_4086

Ever since I made inside-out pear crumble way back when I first started blogging about food on here, I played with the idea of making something similar with peaches. But it was never peach season, and if it was, I was traveling somewhere. If there ever was a point when fresh peaches were sitting on our counter, I never had vanilla beans. And I was determined to make my crumble with real vanilla beans.

IMG_4063

Finally, at the beginning of last August the peaches and vanilla aligned. During our family trip to Italy, I purchased a little bag of vanilla beans at a spice shop in Sorrento. I also snagged some whole nutmegs; both spices cost less than half what they would have in the United States – reason number 2609 to love Italy.

IMG_4065

Once home from Italy, I threw myself into cooking again, attempting to fit in as much culinary bliss as possible before moving to my essentially kitchen-less dorm in mid-August. With my whole vanilla beans at last in hand, I wasted no time in concocting the dessert I had so long mused over: inside-out vanilla peach crumble.

IMG_4069

I combined a buttery crumble topping with the minuscule, caviar-like vanilla seeds. I supposed I could have ground the entire vanilla bean – an idea to which I was recently introduced from a post on Food Gawker by London Bakes who learned it from 101 Cookbooks – but I hadn’t heard of that at the time.

IMG_4073

Instead, I put the empty vanilla pod in a tupperware container of sugar, which gave the sugar a lovely vanilla flavor. I can’t remember where I read that idea, but it is clever, too.

IMG_4077

I spoon the crumble into the hollows of half of the peach halves, which I deepened a bit with a melon baller.
IMG_4079

Fruit for dessert is so wonderful!
IMG_4088

Roasting the peaches transforms their juicy flesh from luscious and firm to luxurious and succulent. The flavor of their sugars deepens and intensifies, melding with the savory butteriness and rich vanilla tone of the soft crumble filling. I only wish I had baked the peaches earlier in the day, so I could have taken advantage of natural light to snap a picture to do their deliciousness justice.

IMG_4090

Inside-out Vanilla Peach Crumble

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup whole wheat flour (for gluten free: use a gluten free flour mix of your choice or a combo of brown rice, millet, and oat flours like the on in my gf pancakes recipe)
  • 1/3 cup oats
  • 2 dashes salt
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cold butter
  • 2 vanilla beans
  • 4 to 6 ripe peaches

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Cut butter into small chunks. In a medium bowl combine flour, oats, sugar, and salt. Cut in butter until mixture is crumbly. Slice vanilla bean pods in half lengthwise and scrape the insides of the pods with a knife to remove the minuscule seeds. Mix the vanilla seed scrapings in with the rest of the crumble mixture.

Slice the peaches in half. Remove the pits of the peaches. Using a melon baller or a small spoon deepen and widen the cavity inside of the peach just enough to remove the pointy flesh where the pit used to be. Spoon crumble filling into one half of each of the peaches. Place all the halves skin side down in a baking dish.

Bake for 30 minutes. If you want the crumble to both soft and crispy as opposed to just crispy, at the 15 minute mark place the tops of the peaches on their respective crumble-filled counterparts. If not, just watch the crumble carefully to be sure it doesn’t burn. Enjoy warm – with vanilla ice cream, perhaps?

cherry lime frozen yogurt

IMG_4988

It’s the weekend! Know what that means? That means I have just as much homework as during the week, but I feel as if I have more time in which to accomplish it. Of course, that notions is absolutely false and deceptive. Nevertheless, it’s the weekend. So I give myself leave to blog. Once a week people, one a week. That’s my plan for the semester. I will blog once a week I will blog once a week I will blog once a week. I will! Hopefully.

IMG_4996

Of course, I typed all that last weekend. You can see how well my plan is going to work. Oh well. I try.

IMG_4972

Over Christmas break I typed up all a dozen or so recipes I have been meaning to blog. That makes it more or less simple for me to select and edit pictures, write up some sort of text like that which you are reading now, and throw everything together in the form of a post. Granted, that is the simplified version of the story of one of my posts, but you get the idea.

IMG_4985

 

So, without further digression, let me introduce to you this week’s recipe. Cherry lime frozen yogurt.

IMG_4920

I don’t like winter. Not one bit. Consequently, I like to pretend  it doesn’t exist. Shoot me for not buying seasonally and locally, but I eat salads all winter long. And sometimes I buy grape tomatoes. This frozen yogurt went right along with my winter-denial regimen.

IMG_4926

Its happy lime and contented cherry flavors are just the thing for a winter ice cream frozen yogurt.

IMG_5019

Plus, these are not unusual ingredients. I’m not calling for key limes or bing cherries here. Just plain old limes and dried cherries, which are not difficult to come by during the winter. I suppose you could potentially even use cherries you dried over the summer and frozen lime zest from whenever you had a bunch of ripe limes, if you were ambitious. I just snagged a bag of dried cherries and an organic lime from Harris Teeter.

IMG_4984

Rehydrating the cherries is what makes this tasty. You end up with a sweet, cherry-infused syrup to flavor the frozen yogurt and soft cherry bits to give it texture. I prefer it to just tossing dried cherries into the yogurt and having nearly inedible, solidified cherry chunks in your otherwise unflavored yogurt. No, rehydrate them and you get flavor throughout. Try it! It might be best to wait for a 70-degree day, if you’re lucky enough to live here in the Southeast.

IMG_5009

Cherry Lime Frozen Yogurt

Ingredients:

  • 1 bag (5 oz) dried cherries
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cherry liqueur (optional)
  • 1 container (32 oz) full-fat plain yogurt [I like Dannon’s; it has no additives.]
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 3 teaspoons lime zest

In a small bowl whisk the warm water and sugar until the sugar dissolves. Mix in the liqueur if you wish.  Add the cherries to the water and make sure they are submerged. Soak the cherries for at least 3 hours. Once the cherries have soaked, pour the liquid – which should taste like cherries – into a pot and set the cherries aside. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 10 minutes, to thicken it slightly. Allow the juice to cool completely. In a large bowl mix together the powdered sugar and yogurt. Add the zest, juice, and cherries. Pour the mixture into your ice cream maker, and churn it until it is frozen. Either eat the frozen yogurt immediately while it is frozen but very soft or spoon the ice cream into a different container and place it in the freezer to serve later. Enjoy!

Submitted to Foodie Friday and Food on Friday

cookie butter fudge

cookie butter fudge

I know the holidays are over. Really, I know. I’m back at school, and nothing shocks you out of the lovely Christmas and New Year’s spirit more than the harsh smack of the first days of classes.

IMG_5054

But before I left, I mustered the last shreds of my holiday dessert-making enthusiasm to produce something delectable to celebrate the return of Downton Abbey. Having successfully asked for and received Biscoff spread – a creamy peanut butter-like substance that consists of ground cookies, of the variety served on a Delta flight, and other creamifying ingredients – for Christmas, I hoped to try a dessert that would totally consume one-jar supply, as I had taking to eating it by the fingerfull at night before bed. It’s dangerous, that Biscoff spread.

IMG_5113

Anyway, at first I thought Biscoff cookies, then a simple Biscoff cake, or perhaps a Biscoff mug cake served with Biscoff milk. As tasty as I am certain all of those options would have been, I was concerned that the flour in all of them would dilute the flavor of the Biscoff spread, and considering my limited supply, I wanted as much Biscoff flavor in every bite as possible. Having pondered and tested the resilience and robustness of Biscoff spread’s flavor since then, I suspect that masking it would prove difficult. But I was less sure at the time.

IMG_5105

So, I decided to make fudge, assuming that lots of sugar could only enhance the Biscoff flavor. Also, my recent success with other fudge recipes gave me confidence that fudge could not fail. I was right.

IMG_5036

Perfect Biscoff flavor springs from every sweet, smooth bite. And, as Biscoff is wont to do, the lovely spices linger pleasantly on the back of your tongue afterwards.

cookie butter, sweetened condensed milk

Though I have never tried it, I suspect this fudge would work equally well when made with any variety of cookie butter. I suppose I am thinking of the Trader Joe’s variety, which I beheld with my very own eyes on my multiple visits to our town’s new Trader Joe’s.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, we now have both a Trader Joe’s and a Whole Foods! I am beyond content with our grocery store options. But I digress. Cookie butter. Yes, I think any sort would do, which is why I did not limit the fudge’s horizons: I call it Cookie Butter Fudge rather than Biscoff Spread Fudge.

IMG_5114

I attempted to bring some of the marvelous little squares back to school with me as a consolation prize for my return to classes. After carefully slicing it and placing each piece in a tupperware like some kind of edible puzzle, I abandoned the poor little fudge bites alone in the cold fridge in my rush to leave. It was a great tragedy.

IMG_5067

But I probably did not need all that fudge anyway. Plus, my forgetfulness means I might just have to make another batch over Martin Luther King Jr. weekend. Oh darn. It will be such a chore. Perhaps the next time I will add some toasted pecans. I imagine that the crunchy nuttiness would go perfectly with the sugared spices of the Biscoff. Oh yes.

cookie butter fudge

Cookie Butter Fudge

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup cookie butter [I used Biscoff spread]
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
  • 5 cups powdered sugar

Melt the butter by microwaving it for about 30 seconds in a large bowl. Add the cookie butter and sweetened condensed milk and microwave another 30 seconds, until the sweetened condensed milk has liquified just a bit. Mix the ingredients together until smooth and uniformly combined. Fold in the powdered sugar 1/2 a cup at a time. The fudge should be smooth, creamy, and free of lumps or unincorporated powdered sugar. Grease an 8×8-inch casserole dish and line it with parchment or wax paper. Pour the fudge into the dish and spread it evenly with a spatula. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, until firmly set. Enjoy!

cranberry oatmeal cookies

These cookies have a boring name, I think. It doesn’t do justice to their true essence. Who wants to eat cranberry oatmeal cookies? Sounds rather dull.

But, the name really is necessary for the sake of simplicity.

This is the eye-full you’d have to read otherwise: Cranberry Macadamia Nut White Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies.

So, Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies it is. I sacrifice accuracy for the sake of convenience. I wonder if that is a clue that I am part of the millennial generation?

The light sweetness of these perfectly chewy cookies contrasts wonderfully with the tartness of the cranberries within. Buttery macadamia nut bits and creamy white chocolate chips only improve them. All around, I think they’re pretty great.

They’re pretty, too!

Look at that radiant, golden glow. They know they’re pure deliciousness.

Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 + 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup oats
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup chopped macadamia nuts
  • 1 + 1/2 cups frozen cranberries

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Cream the butter and sugar together. Add the vanilla and eggs and mix well. In a bowl mix together the dry ingredients. Slowly mix the dry ingredients into the butter mixture. Fold the chocolate chips, nuts, and cranberries into the dough; use your hands if necessary as the dough may be a bit stiff.

Roll the dough into walnut-sized balls and place on a cookie sheet. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown.

Makes about 35 cookies.

[Per the recipe as it is these cookies are heavy on the cranberries and lighter on the nuts and chocolate chips. Switch up the ratio of nuts to cranberries to chocolate chips if you like, but I wouldn’t use much more than 2 + 1/2 cups total of the various mix-ins.]

grilled bananas + coffee caramel sauce

The same night I made millet pancakes for supper, I decided we needed dessert, too. I have no idea why. It was a strange, strange, sugary evening. We were bouncing off the walls on a sugar high after dinner. Not really, but we should have been.

Most everything is better grilled. There’s nothing quite like that delicious, slightly singed, carcinogenic grill flavor to perfect any sort of cooked fruit or vegetable.

Between grilling and roasting and the wonderful tastes both methods produce on any sort of food, sometimes I wonder why I eat raw vegetables. Except tomatoes, of course. Tomatoes are excellent in any form.

Back to the bananas. And the sauce. Oh, the sauce. It’s very, very delicious. After I drowned my bananas in it, I poured it on my pancakes, ate it on toast, scooped it up with apple slices, and shoveled it into my mouth with a spoon.

Since it’s made with coconut milk rather than cream, there is an added dimension to the sauce; beyond even the coffee flavor, there is a hint of coconut. Bonus: it’s vegan.

Don’t worry, the bananas are vegan, too. Grilled, their texture changes from firm but smashable to tender and soft. Their sweetness compounds with their banana flavor and morphs into a super banana – ultra sweet and über banana-y. It’s good.

Combine the coconut coffee caramel sauce with the succulent grilled bananas? Perfectly delectable.

Grilled Bananas + Coffee Caramel Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 1 + 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 + 1/4 cup full fat coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons instant coffee granules
  • 6 bananas
  • canola oil

For the sauce: Bring water and sugar to a boil in a small saucepan. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes or so, until sugar has entirely dissolved and solution has thickened. Stir in coconut milk. Simmer for 15 minutes more, until sauce begins to brown slightly and has thickened – stir frequently. Add instant coffee granules and stir until completely dissolved. If desired thickness has been reached, remove from heat; if not, simmer until sauce has thickened to your liking. Let cool a bit before serving.

For the bananas: Slice bananas in half lengthwise. Brush both skin and flesh of bananas with oil. Heat grill to medium heat. Grill bananas about 5 minutes per side, until soft, slightly caramelized, and grill-marked.

Serve bananas warm still in skin with flesh side up, drizzled with caramel sauce. Enjoy!

[Store extra caramel sauce in the fridge, and reheat it slightly before using to liquefy any crystallization.]