baking beast

a suspicious creature has been lurking around the streets, leaving behind delights that dreams are made of. what's to become of this baking beast?

Friday, January 21, 2005

seeing alton

it's alton!!!!!

wow.. what a crazy night! alton was supposed to be at the bookstore at 7pm.. so i left around 5:50 and got there around 6:30 ish almost.. the bookstore was already filled to its capacity.. which wasn't very large since it was a veryy small bookstore. so we had to line up outside and this proved to be very unpleasant as i thought it would be warm and left my coat in the car. i was #121 in line.. well. around 7 alton showed up! he talked for about 20 minutes inside the bookstore (yea.. had to miss that. i was almost in, too!! like 6th in line to be in the bookstore dang it..) so after that he started signing books and people left and we got circulated in, finally!! but that was only to buy the book.. then there were groups of 20 in line for signing. but we were just happy to be inside in the warmth! it was so cold outside. finally it was my turn to sign.. it was so cool to meet alton brown! i didn't really know what to say.. but he was very nice. after that, we left and headed towards the car... except it was nowhere to be found! apparently, we parked in front of someone's driveway without realizing it (it was dark..???) and they had it towed. SO!! we went back to the bookstore and called my mom for a ride...... but by this time it was around 9:30ish and there was basically no one left so my friend, my brother, and i went to talk to alton again. it was so weird and hard to believe that it was just us talking to alton.. we didn't talk much before my mom came.. but we talked about how it takes 3 days to make one episode and how his producing company doesn't make any money since it costs so much to shoot them. he didn't talk much, we could tell he was basically beat from the night. all in all, very fun. even though it was pretty crazy. and i got to see alton brown! and get a signed copy of "i'm just here for more food" yippeeee!!

Thursday, January 20, 2005

AB's Cocoa Brownies



in honor of the fact that i will see the man himself tonight.. i made his cocoa brownies! i chose this recipe mainly b/c i felt the urge to bake brownies but i didn't have a lot of chocolate but i had a lot of cocoa.. so .. made them i did. it's actually a pretty easy recipe.. if you don't manage to forget to add the butter like i did. i was halfway putting the VERY VERY DENSE batter into the pan and thinking how thick it was when it dawned on me that in the excitement of whipping the eggs i forgot to take out the butter and melt it.. and thus add it to the batter. and because the directions are so brief.. ("Add remaining ingredients") i forgot all about it. so i scraped all the batter back into the bowl and mixed in the butter. muccchh better. this was the first time i made brownies by whipping eggs until ribbon stage.. not sure how that changes the texture. (but it worked apparently!!) just a note for the recipe though.. i had to bake MUCH longer than 45 min.. almost an hour, i'd say.

well, i made them last night and let them sit overnight and had them for breakfast (of course, brownies for breakfast.). except i was pretty disappointed in the morning.. they were almost fluffy in texture! taste was good though. so i put them into the fridge to see if the chill would help it out.. and when i got home today i ate a piece.. YUMMMM!!!!! sooo much better this way. they were dense, fudgy, chocolatey, and ohhhh-soooo chewy. not like other brownies that are really just wet and fall apart on you. these brownies are thick and you can really sink your teeth into them. can't wait to see alton!

Wednesday, January 19, 2005


alton brown is coming to stl on thursday night!! who wants to go see him and get a signed copy of his new book?? emily does!! lol. that guy is so cool. and his new book is about BAKING! which i loove. no one ever comes to st. louis for book tours!! the oppurtunity is banging loudly on the door and i gotta take it. if only it weren't downtown.. must find a way......

edit: i found a way to get there! i can't wait!!!! soo exciting :)

Monday, January 17, 2005

chocolate and lemon madeleines

made these cute little madeleines today! well, half made them today! made the batter last night and gave them an overnight rest until today. i had a little trouble with the batter.. i guess either my eggs or butter weren't truly at room temperature so even though i did the smearing (which i'm not sure if i did thoroughly enough??), the butter didn't mix into the eggs and appeared curdled. at first i tried whisking more and then tried to rub the butter into the mixture between my hands.. which was very laborious and i wasn't getting very far. then i remembered i had a hand blender and used that to blend the rest in. after that i finished the rest of the mixing and put it into the fridge. today when i was putting them into the molds, i thought the batter was reaaallyy thick and that i screwed up somewhere.. but after baking them they turned out fine! my humps aren't as pretty as i hoped them to be.. oh well. actually, these are my first madeleines so i don't really have anything to compare them to.. but i enjoyed them. good chocolate flavor.. but i didn't really notice any lemon flavor?? perhaps i didn't rub the zest into the sugar enough.. but they're still delightful cookies. nice texture and the shell shape is pleasing to look at and eat!

Monday, January 10, 2005

chocolate whoppers

i made these "chocolate whoppers" from maida heatter's cookies book tonight. actually it is also listed in her book of great desserts as "mulattoes" but has 1 tsp of baking powder and uses all walnuts (which i decided to do anyway) instead of half pecans and walnuts in the new recipe..but i chose to use the new version with 1/4 tsp baking powder and i am glad i did. my friend's birthday was today and i didn't think about making her anything over the weekend.. and i realized it today!! i felt really bad and asked her to make a request for anything she wanted.. she replied with chocolate and walnuts. well, i think i embodied her request in a truly decadent cookie!! not much more than chocolate and walnuts, these cookies are crackled in appearance on the outside, and fudgy and dense on the inside. wonderfully chocolatey, chock full of nuts, and easy to make! also, the walnuts aren't overwhelmingly walnutty.. my brother, who usually hates walnuts, said these cookies were good and enjoyed them!!(which, for his criticalness, equates to a very good, according to my scale... ;) ) it amazed me that he would actually eat something with walnuts and deem it good! maida heatter never fails.. :) hopefully my friend will forgive me for being a day late!

cookies packed up ready to be received and devoured

Chocolate Whoppers
From Maida Heatter's Cookies

Makes 15 tremendous cookies

We were at the Soho Charcuterie, one of my favorite restaurants in New York City. They brought us a dish of huge, gorgeous, dark chocolate cookies that we had not ordered. They smiled secretively and knowingly, and watched me. I tasted one; it was wonderful. I was just about to ask for the recipe when they said, "These are yours." I soon learned that they meant it both ways: The cookies were mine to eat or take with me, and also, the recipe was from my first book. They had increased the size of the cookies and made a few other little changes and they called them Chocolate Gobs. They told me that they couldn't make them fast enough. This recipe is based on their adaptation.

At Sonrisa bakery, in beautiful Rancho Santa Fe in southern California, these are called Charlie's Cookies, in memory of a friend of ours who was a great World War II naval pilot. His name was Charles Stimpson, and he shot down 17 Japanese planes. These were Charlie's favorites.

2 ounces (2 squares) unsweetened chocolate
6 ounces semisweet chocolate
3 ounces (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 cup sifted all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons powdered (not granular) instant coffee or espresso
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 ounces (1 cup) semisweet chocolate morsels (see Note)
4 ounces (generous 1 cup) walnuts, broken into large pieces
4 ounces (generous 1 cup) toasted pecans (see To Toast Pecans, page 4), broken into large pieces

Adjust two racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat oven to 350°F. If you are baking only one sheet, adjust a rack to the middle of the oven. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or foil.

Place the unsweetened chocolate, semisweet chocolate, and butter in the top of a small double boiler over hot water on moderate heat. Cook, covered, for a few minutes. Then stir occasionally until melted and smooth. Remove the top of the double boiler and set aside, uncovered, to cool slightly.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt, and set aside.

In the small bowl of an electric mixer, beat the eggs, sugar, coffee or espresso, and vanilla at high speed for a minute or two.

Beat in the melted chocolates and butter (which may still be quite warm) on low speed just to mix. Add the sifted dry ingredients and again beat on low speed just to mix, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary with a rubber spatula to incorporate the ingredients. Remove from the mixer and transfer to a larger bowl.

Stir in the chocolate morsels, the walnuts, and the pecans.

Use a 1/3-cup metal measuring cup to measure the amount of batter for each cookie. Put five cookies on each cookie sheet, one in the middle and one toward each corner. Use a rubber spatula to push the mixture into the measuring cup and then to scoop it out onto the lined sheet (the dough is gooey). Do not flatten the tops.

Bake two sheets at a time, reversing the sheets top to bottom and front to back once during baking to ensure even baking. Bake for 16 to 17 minutes-no longer. The surface of the cookies will be dry but the insides will still be soft. There is really no way to test these; just use a portable oven thermometer before baking to be sure your oven is right, and then watch the clock.

If the sheets have four rims the cookies and papers or foil will have to wait on the sheets until cool. If you have used cookie sheets with only one or two raised rims, you can slide the papers off the sheets and let stand until the cookies are cool. (It is not necessary to let the sheet cool before sliding it under another paper with unbaked cookies on it.)

When the cookies have cooled, use a wide metal spatula to release them and turn them over to air the bottoms a bit.

I wrap these individually in clear cellophane, and I know of a few bakeries that do the same and charge up to $4.00 or $5.00 for each cookie.

Note: If you wish, in place of semisweet morsels, use 6 ounces of Tobler Tradition, Excellence, or any similar chocolate, cut into 1/2-inch chunks.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

paper chef january 2005: sauteed chicken with potatoes, napa cabbage, and carrots

well, this month's paper chef consisted of these ingredients: potatoes, savoy cabbage, lemon, and chicken. i tried to find savoy cabbage, but had no luck so i ended up using what i already had in the house, napa cabbage. and of course there was no way of me getting a meyer lemon in missouri.. so i used a regular lemon. for the dish, i decided to make sauteed chicken with potatoes and napa cabbage. so i browned some chicken thighs, add shallots and garlic, add white wine, and then dump in potatoes and cabbage. then i threw in rosemary for delightful flavor that i knew went well with chicken and lemon. later on, i added a quartered up lemon. well, after tasting after simmering for a while, i found it to be quite sour! guess i should've only used half a lemon or something. so i added chicken broth and carrots to see if it would help the situation any.. a little but not much. then i got a little desperate and threw in baking powder to neutralize all the acid. and then realized i added a little too much so i threw back in the lemons that i had taken out and added some white balsamic vinegar and dry marsala wine. sooo, after much toying around with ingredients, i finally served it up and it was actually pretty good! the chicken was very tender and tasted pretty good. went along with the vegetables nicely and even though i was a little skeptical about using napa cabbage it turned out well since napa cabbage doesn't have a strong flavor. all in all, it was a pretty good dish. thanks to tomatilla for hosting this event!! it was really fun to plan, execute, and enjoy. :)

my chicken dish cooking away

here's the dish, all finished up.

Friday, January 07, 2005

SHF #4: Let's Go Nuts!

for the fourth edition of SHF: let's go nuts! i made the nutella tart from chocolate desserts by pierre herme. it has nutella spread on the bottom of a sweet tart shell and a ganache + egg/egg yolks on top, and a delightful sprinkling of toasted hazelnuts. i was sort of in a hurry when making this.....and eating it too. finished baking at around 10:40.. only let it cool off for around 20 min. before trying a little bit as i didn't want to wait any longer! even if it's meant to be eaten at room temperature. well, it is very tasty!! i love the nutella layer at the bottom, and the filling compliments it very well. the crunchy nuts on top complete it! it was pretty good warm, but will probably be better room temperature, so we'll see tomorrow i guess. anyway, very successful tart, and my first time using a tart ring! looks pretty good for first time, eh? but overall, very easy tart to make. try it out!

update: i tried it chilled this morning (for breakfast, of course), and it is AWESOME!! a lot better than warm, i must say. sooo good, can't wait to eat more. :)

update 2: put the recipe on here... btw, i only used about 1/2 cup of hazelnuts on the top and that was enough. love this more every time i eat it!!

Nutella Tart
from "Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Herme"

The Crust
-1 fully baked 8 3/4 inch (22 cm) tart shell made from Sweet Tart Dough (recipe below), cooled to room temperature.

Keep the cooled crust, with the tart ring still in place, on the parchment-lined baking sheet. (The crust can be made up to 8 hours ahead and kept at room temperature.)

The Filling
2/3 cup (200 grams) Nutella
4 3/4 ounces (140 grams) bittersweet chocolate, preferably Valrhona Noir Gastronomie, finely chopped
7 tbsp (3 1/2 ounces; 200 grams) unsalted butter
1 large egg, at room temperature stirred with a fork
3 large egg yolks, at room temperature, stirred with a fork
2 tbsp sugar
1 cup (140 grams) hazelnuts toasted, skinned, and cut into large pieces

1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375コF (190コC).
2. Spread the Nutella evenly over the bottom of the crust and set it aside while you make the ganache.
3. Melt the chocolate and the butter in seperate bowls either over - not touching - simmering water or in a microwave oven. Allow them to cool until they feel only just warm to the touch. (104コF [40コC], as measured on an instant-read thermometer, is perfect).
4. Using a small whisk or rubber spatula, stir the egg into the chocolate, stirring gently in ever-widening circles and taking care not to agigate the mixture -- you don't want to beat air into the ganache. Little by little, stir in the egg yolks, then the sugar. Finally, still working gently, stir in the warm melted butter. Pour the ganache over the Nutella in the tart shell. Scatter the toasted hazelnuts over the top.
5. Bake the tart for 11 minutes -- that should be just enough time to turn the top of the tart dull, like the top of a cake. The center of the tart will shimmy if jiggled -- that's just what it's supposed to tdo. Remove the tart from the oven and slide it onto a rack. Allow the tart to cool for at least 20 minutes, or until it reaches room temperature -- the best temperature at which to serve it.

Makes 6 - 8 servings. The crust can be made ahead, but the filling has to be baked the instant it is made. Although the tart is best served at room temperature, if you refrigerate any leftovers, you'll find happy takers the following day.

Sweet Tart Dough

You'll get the best texture if you make a large quantity of this dough; make only enough for one tart, and you'll run the risk of overworking the dough. Once made, the dough can be wrapped in individual tart-sized packages and frozen for up to a month.

2 1/2 sticks (10 ounces; 285 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups (150 grams) confectioners' sugar, sifted
1/2 cup (lightly packed) (3 1/4 ounces; 100 grams) finely ground almond powder or finely ground blanched almonds
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla bean pulp or pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
3 2/3 cups (490 grams) all purpose flour

To make the dough in a mixer:
Place the butter in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on low speed until creamy. Add the sugar, almond powder, salt, vanilla, and eggs and, still working on low speed, beat to blend the ingredients, scraping down the paddle and the sides of the bowl as needed. The dough may look curdled -- that's all right. With the machine on low, add the flour in three or four additions and mix only until the mixture comes together to form a soft, moist dough -- a matter of seconds. Don't overdo it.

To shape and chill:
Gather it into a ball and divide it into 3 or 4 pieces: 3 pieces for 10-inch (26 cm) tarts, 4 for 9-inch (24-cm) tarts. Gently press each piece into a disk and wrap each disk in plastic. Allow the dough to rest in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, or for up to 2 days, before rolling and baking. (The dough can be wrapped airtight and frozen for up to a month.)

To roll and bake:
1. Place a buttered tart ring on a parchment-lined baking sheet and keep close at hand. Roll the dough to a thickness of between 1/16 and 1/8 inch (2 and 4 cm), lifting the dough often and making certain that the work surface and the dough are amply floured at all times. Roll the dough up around your rolling pin and unroll it onto the tart ring. Fit the dough onto the bottom and up the sides of the ring, then run your rolling pin across the top of the ring to cut off the excess. If the dough cracks or splits as you work, don't worry -- patch the cracks with scraps (moisten the edges with water to "glue" them in place) and just make certain not to stretch the dough that's in the pan. (What you stretch will shrink later.) Prick the dough all over with the tines of a fork (unless the tart will be filled with a runny custard or other loose filling) and chill it for at least 30 minutes in the refrigerator.
3. When you a ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350コF (180コC). Fit a circle or parchment paper or foil into the crust and fill with dried beans or rice.
4. Bake the crust for 18-20 minutes, just until it is very lightly colored. If the crust needs to be fully baked, remove the parchment and beans and bake the crust for another 3-5 minutes, or until golden. Transfer the crust to a rack to cool.

Makes enough dough for 3 10-inch or 4 9-inch tart shells. The dough can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 2 days or wrapped airtight and frozen for a month. Frozen disks of dough take about 45 minutes to an hour at average room temperature to reach a good rolling-out consistency. Baked crusts can be kept uncovered at room temperature for about 8 hours.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

"The Chewy" Chocolate Chip Cookie

you can find the recipe here at food network -> The Chewy

I made these cookies a while ago actually.. but just haven't posted about them until now. they came out really well! very nice taste and were very delicious out of the oven. took a while to get them to be perfectly shaped (have to switch parchment paper so they can cling onto the fresh, nonoily surface) but in the end they turned out to be the best looking chocolate chip cookies i've made. i am still searching for that "perfect" cookie though, b/c when i tried a cooled cookie later they became quite dry... maybe something i did wrong. oh well. also, i'd advise to just use 1/4 tsp regular table salt instead of kosher because i occasionally came across a little crystal of salt that didn't dissolve fully and it wasn't that pleasant.