Tuesday, November 19, 2013

TWD: Double Chocolate Cookies

Tuesdays with Dorie baking through Baking with Julia
by Dorie Greenspan
Contributing Baker: Rick Katz

This weeks recipe is an intense chocolate cookie; on the outside it has a paper-thin, crispy topping much like homemade brownies, their insides, truffle like. Pure chocolate goodness.

These tasted as good three days later, as they did the first day. Everyone enjoyed these. They may even make it into the Christmas cookie tin this year.

These cookies have a mixture of bittersweet and unsweetened chocolate - a whole pounds worth. Half of the bittersweet chocolate and the unsweetened chocolate gets melted down with butter for the batter, and the rest of the bittersweet is chopped in larger-than-chip-size chunks, and added to the chocolate mixture along with the dry ingredients.

As you can see, the cookie "dough" is not dough-like at all. It is more like a cake batter - so you have no choice but to chill the dough; no skimping out on this step.

Even after chilling, the dough is still not like your typical cookie dough - it is very soft and sticky; if you have ever made truffles, that is the texture this dough has. It took a little prodding to get the dough out of the scoop.

The instructions state that these are "spreaders" - to leave at least two inches of space between each mound. As you can see, I had very little spreading; I was expecting to pull out a pan of very flat cookies.

These cookies are fairly quick to make - aside from the chilling time. You know the saying.. good things come to those who wait. And these were good..

This post participates in Tuesdays with Dorie. Click here for links of all the talented bakers of our group, to see how they fared with this recipe.

Friday, November 8, 2013

TWD: Pumpernickel Loaves

Tuesdays with Dorie baking through Baking with Julia
by Dorie Greenspan
Contributing Baker: Lauren Groveman 

I have to start off by saying, the end of daylight savings time is killing me! Summer, hurry back, please.

Bread. I have found this to be the hardest to photograph. How does one make bread (muffins, etc.) look pretty? I took 123 pictures of the finished product alone. Crazy.

I know what most of you are thinking: This is what went into the bread? Strange. I agree. But it works. You don't really taste any of the individual components.

And if you Google traditional pumpernickel, you won't find them there, other than the molasses; but the coffee, molasses, supposed to be prune lekvar (prune butter - I could not find any and did not feel like making it, so I subbed plum preserves), and the chocolate is what gives this bread its dark (not as dark as I was expecting) color.

Also, the traditional recipe calls for a baking time of anywhere from 6 to 12 hours (this is where it gets its color from) at a low temperature of 225°F. Whereas this recipe only bakes for approximately 40 minutes. Yeah. I would have skipped this recipe if it had to bake that long.

After kneading and forming your dough into a ball, it has two rising periods before shaping. About two hours each - depending on the temperature of your kitchen.

Once the loaf is shaped (for detailed photos - see my post for European Rye), place on a floured towel, this becomes a sling for a final resting period of forty minutes.

Lauren, the contributing baker, calls for you to poke holes in the corners of the towels, and to use an S-hook to hang them from. I think she is just wacky for doing so (I'm sure Julia [Child] did too) - kitchen towels don't come cheap. Do as I did, tie the corners together and hang from string or ribbon.

I was going to bake the bread on a baking stone, but to make a short story even shorter, I didn't. I used a half-sheet pan - covered with parchment. Then as directed, covered the parchment with some cornmeal, and added extra poppy and caraway seeds.

 I liked the look of the bread before it was baked! That would have made for a beautiful loaf.

After placing the loaves on the baking sheet (or stone), smooth side up, you slash the tops, give them an egg wash, and sprinkle with extra caraway and poppy seeds if desired, and bake away!

The instructions say to wait two to three hours before slicing. That wasn't going to happen. The bread was done about an hour before dinner was served, and this bread was on the menu.

I was pleasantly surprised at how moist this bread is - even the next day.

I was hoping to have a picture of a delicious looking turkey sandwich, but I forgot to buy turkey - hence the buttered slice - it will have to suffice. (Ha! I'm a poet, and didn't even know it!)

My husband and daughter enjoyed this bread. Me, I am still undecided if I care for pumpernickel in general. My only recollection of having pumpernickel before, is the small, dark, dry, little squares that you can purchase in the deli department of your grocery store. The ones they use to make those little tea sandwiches with. (Update: Yeah. This is good.)

I did enjoy it with a slathering of butter. Butter does make everything better..

Please visit my co-baker's blogs to see their experiences and takes (the prune lekvar is not an easy find) on this recipe. You will find their links over on the TWD website - under the LYL: Pumpernickel Loaves link. 

The recipe is on page 95 of Baking with Julia, or you can find it here on Lauren's webpage.

To see Lauren making this bread herself, click here for the video.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

WW: Stir-Fried Lotus Root with Bacon and Vegetables

Wok Wednesdays wokking through Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge
by Grace Young

This recipe could not have come at a better time. I have been lacking in the vegetable department lately. Felt good to get something healthy in the belly.

I have to say this has been the most challenging recipe from the book for me, in terms of unfamiliarity with ingredients.

The recipe consists of cloud ear mushrooms, lotus root, Chinese bacon, chicken broth, rice wine, soy sauce, sesame oil, peanut oil, ginger, snow peas, carrots, salt, white pepper and scallions.

Trying to find the cloud ear mushrooms was most difficult, and I don't think I ever got the right ones. Grace says they are thin and delicate, and when pressed between your fingers, they will crumble like a potato chip. I'm pretty sure what I purchased (twice) are wood ear mushrooms, which are thicker and tougher. I even brought in a picture that a fellow blogger posted to the WW Facebook page to show to the sales clerk what I was looking for, and she assured me they were the same, although I have my doubts - for the mushrooms were not as delicate as Grace mentioned.

The mushrooms: The dried on the left, and reconstituted in water on the right. I let them soak in a bowl of water for two hours. If I had the correct mushrooms, the instructions say to let them soak for thirty minutes.

Lotus Root

I have seen this in stores, but have never cooked with it before now. It is crunchy, much like jicama, but it is starchy like a potato - it will start to discolor when the flesh is exposed to air. I love the lacy look after slicing.

When using in a stir-fry, make sure it is dry as possible! I received my first splatter burn (Ouch! This after a whole year of wokking) due to my lotus root not being dry enough.

  Did you know that this vegetable is actually the rhizome of the beautiful lotus flower? 

 Chinese Bacon

The Chinese bacon has a hard rind on one edge that needs to be removed; and Grace likes to remove the fat as well. I had two strips of bacon, the second mostly all fat. There would not have been anything left to cook after removing the fat. Good thing one strip was enough.

The bacon lends a chewy texture to compliment the crunchiness of the snow peas, carrots, and lotus root. 

The recipe calls for the ginger to be sliced (about the size of a quarter) and smashed - which I did. However, I have decided that I would prefer minced ginger, for I like a stronger ginger essence than the smashed ginger gives.

This has to be one of the most beautiful stir-fries we have made to date. 

The book says this will serve four as a side dish. We had this as our main course served alongside some brown rice. This made for a healthy dinner, and there was even extra for Andy's lunch the next day.

We are asked not to post the recipes here on our blog. If you would like the recipe, you will find it on page 193 of Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge, which you can purchase at your local bookstore or find it at your local library. I highly recommend purchasing the book - you won't be disappointed. 

Wok Wednesdays is an online cooking group. If you would like information about joining us, click here, or visit us on Facebook. Would love for you to wok along with us!