Saturday, January 13, 2007

Cookie Jar: Chewy Cherry Oatmeal Cookies

My plan was to not make any cookies, brownies, cakes, cupcakes, or any other sweet treats until February. I got to January 13th. I have a terrible sweet tooth. I really needed a cookie. These are almost good for you, right? And Abbie will eat most of them, and my husband will eat the rest. I only made a 1/2 recipe, and used a 1 1/2 tsp. scoop for the cookies. Because the cookies were going to be so small and cherries are so big, I quartered the cherries. These hit the spot. Abbie was sous chef on these. They were on Martha Stewart a couple of days ago.

Chewy Cherry-Oatmeal Cookies

Makes about 4 dozen (I got about 4 dozen from a half batch and small scoop)

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, or 1 cup apple butter (a healthier alternative)
1 cup packed light-brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
2 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
3 cups Quaker Old-Fashioned Rolled Oats
1 cup dried cherries

Preheat oven to 350°. Line 2 baking sheets with nonstick baking mats or parchment paper. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, nutmeg, and salt; set aside. Place butter, sugar, and honey in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add the eggs and vanilla, and beat to combine. With the mixer on low, gradually add reserved flour mixture and beat until incorporated. Stir in oats and cherries. Drop 1 tablespoon of dough at a time about 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Bake until lightly golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool on sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Cookies can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Whole Wheat Blueberry Muffins

I'm really not a big fan of fat-free, hey, it's just like the regular kind, but all the flavor has been removed, food. I'd rather have the full fat, or maybe lowish fat food, but just eat less of it. I know there are those out there that disagree. They want to eat as much of whatever food as they want, so those fat-free options are a good thing. Hopefully, those people also can't taste their food, because so much of it really tastes bad. I read an article in the paper about how chair manufacturers have had to increase the dimensions of chair seats because American's butts are so big. A common stool chair used to be 12 inches wide, now it's 18 inches. I'm getting to my point here. While I don't usually like low or fat free food, it's January. After the baking I did last month, I'm going to need an extra large lazy-boy if I don't find some less indulgent recipes for a while. We went out to breakfast as a family the other day- something we rarely do, but was very nice all the same, and Abbie was asking for muffins. These were giant, covered in sugar almost like a small cake muffin. I knew I could make something almost as delicious, and certainly better for her. I ended up making smaller muffins, so my yield was about 18 muffins. The nutritional info for the original recipe was about 120 calories per muffin, so I imagine my smaller portion muffin is closer to 100. I have them in a bag in the freezer, and wrap 1 in a paper towel, nuke it for 30 seconds and voila! a healthy breakfast. How are they? Delicious, of course! They came out light and fluffy, not heavy little hockey puck muffins at all. They have a slight whole wheat flour flavor at the end, but they are whole wheat, so what are you gonna do? They still taste great. I used the nonfat yogurt, because I can only buy huge quantities of buttermilk at the store, and it's a waste to buy so much just to throw it away. You can make your own buttermilk by adding 1 tbs. vinegar to 1 cup nonfat milk, if you choose. I did have to add just a little very coarse sanding sugar on the top of each one, which gives it a terrific crunch.

Whole Wheat Blueberry Muffins
12 muffins

1 cup wholewheat flour
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 tbs. + 1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup nonfat buttermilk , or 1 cup non-fat plain yogurt
2 tbs. canola oil
2 tbs. unsweetened applesauce
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Lightly spray a muffin tin with cooking spray. (Or just use the little papers like I did. I love the little plain white papers you can find at Michael's or a baking supply store.)

In a large bowl, combine the flours, brown sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, allspice and salt. In another bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, oil, applesauce and egg. Pour the buttermilk mixture into the dry mixture, stirring until it is just combined (do not over mix). Toss unthawed frozen blueberries with two tablespoons of flour before adding them to the batter to keep them from turning the batter purple while the muffins bake. Lightly stir in the blueberries.

Spoon the batter evenly into the prepared muffin cups. Bake until the tops are golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool slightly. Then transfer the muffins to cooling rack. Serve warm.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Semolina Dough for Flat Pasta

Last summer my mother in law took me to a cooking demonstration and tasting. One of the highlights of the evening was rolling fresh pasta. I took my little bundle home, and served it with some simple red sauce. Absolutely delicious. Anyway, while I was at the demonstration, I asked the chef about the pasta recipe. He told me he used a recipe from Paul Bertolli's Cooking By Hand. It's a beautiful book, full of instructions on preparing all sorts of lovely (and not so lovely- how to butcher and prepare your own whole pig) italian things. So I was very eager to receive this book for Christmas, pull our dusty pasta machine out of the cupboard and get to work. I chose to prepare the Semolina Dough for Flat Pasta, and was a little disappointed with the results. I carefully measured the ingredients, and kneaded the dough by hand. It did form a nice little springy ball. I let it sit for about 3 hours, then cut it into 6 pieces, flattened the pieces, and fed them each through my machine, adding enough flour so they wouldn't stick. Here is where I think I went wrong first. I started on the #2 setting, rolled #4, then #6, ending with a really thin pasta. Then I used the angel hair cutter. Mistake number 2. I let the pasta dry out a little, then started a big pot of water with enough salt to taste like the sea. I let the water come to a boil, then dumped my pasta in and (mistake #3) let it cook too long. I drained it, and added it to the sauce. It was very tasty, but a mushy mess. I don't know if you've ever overcooked fresh pasta before, but you end up kind of cutting it out of the serving bowl in chunks. My brother in law came to dinner that night, and was very kind, finishing every last strand with my dear husband. Although this was a bit disappointing, my fresh pasta days have just begun! -and I will cook again. Next time, though, I think I'll follow the directions.

Semolina Dough for Flat Pasta
For 4
Serve with a simple tomato sauce or with meat, poultry, or game sugo, the depth of flavor of which is best carried by pasta with a substantial bite and sturdiness.

10 ounces extra fancy semolina
4 ounces cool water
Pour the water into a bread bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer. While mixing with a fork or the mixer's paddle attachment, pour the water into the center of the dough. When the flour begins to clump, start gathering and kneading the dough by hand. Continue to knead the dough until it loses its stiffness, is well incorporated with the water. feels smooth when and bounces back when depressed. Wrap the dough in plastric and set it aside to hydrate for 1 1/2 hours. Roll the pasta once through the next to last setting of a pasta machine and cut it to a width of your choosing.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Black and White Angel Food Cake

This wonderful cake from Ina's new book, Barefoot Contessa At Home, is delicious! I wish I had a better picture of the cake itself, but you see the 2 year old can't get enough- so it must be good! I wanted to make a dessert that was on the light side for a New Year's dinner, but that had a lot of flavor, and felt like dessert- not some fruit thing disguised as dessert. Just fantastic. I saw Martha Stewart make some angel food cakes today in mini angelfood pans- like muffin tins. This would be great for that. Maybe bake for only 25-30 minutes. I covered the entire cake like frosting with the glaze, and used my food processor to grate the chocolate.

Black and White Angel Food Cake

2 cups sifted superfine sugar (about 1 pound)
1 1/3 cups sifted cake flour (not self-rising)
1 1/2 cups egg whites at room temperature (10 to 12 eggs)
3/4 tsp. kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup coarsely grated semisweet chocolate
For the glaze:
1/2 pound semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Combine 1/2 cup of the sugar with the flour and sift them together 4 times. Set aside.

Place the egg whites, salt, and cream of tartar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat on high speed until the eggs form medium-firm peaks, about 1 minute. With the mixer on medium speed, add the remaining 1 1/2 cups of sugar by sprinkling it over the beaten egg whites. Beat on high speed for a few minutes until thick and shiny. Add the vanilla and continue to whisk until very thick, about 1 more minute. Scrape the beaten egg whites into a large bowl. Sift 1/4 of the flour mixture over the egg whites and fold it very carefully into the batter with a rubber spatula. Continue adding the flour in 3 equal additions, sifting and folding until it's all incorporated. Fold in the grated chocolate.

Pour the batter into an ungreased 10-inch tube pan, smooth the top, and bake it for 35 to 45 minutes, until it springs back to the touch. Remove the cake from the oven and invert the pan on a cooling rack. When cool, run a thin, flexible knife around the cake to remove it from the pan.

For the chocolate glaze, place the chocolate chips and the heavy cream in a heat-proof bowl over a pan of simmering water and stir until the chocolate melts. Pour the chocolate over the top of the cooled cake to cover the top completely and allow it to drizzle down the sides. If you have chocolate glaze left over, you can serve it on the side with the cake.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Happy New Year!

Hi everyone, and Happy New Year! I want to send an apology to my growing number of readers. I have been trying to post over the past few weeks, but I'm not able to attach pictures to my posts. I've complained and asked for help, but to no avail. I do have about 3 or 4 posts in draft form, but who wants to read a food blog with no pictures! So please be patient, and keep checking back! I'll get this sorted soon, I hope!

Hooray!! It looks like the problem has been solved! I've been able to finish the December/Christmas posts. Please take a look. I have been doing some baking this month, and am looking forward to working on some bread recipes. Stay tuned!