Archive for October, 2012

October 20, 2012

Lemon Poppy Seed Pound Cake

I received my KitchenAid stand mixer as a birthday present last year around this time.

After much fear and trepidation, I am just now beginning to tackle this cake baking business. My original hesitations were due to all the rules and precision that comes with baking that you just don’t have to worry about with other types of cooking. As anyone in my life who knows me but at ALL will tell you, I do not follow rules well. I distrust what others tell me and no matter how much the instructions make sense, I just have to do it on my own and learn it the hard way. My fear of baking also stems from the fact that I SUCKED in chemistry lab. Like, 5% yield sucked. But hey, if I can learn, so can you.

I find that the best way to approach learning to bake is this: Follow the $#%@ing instructions. To the T. After a few successful attempts, you gain the confidence to fiddle with the recipe. But before you go making big changes, RESEARCH. What does “Creaming the butter” mean? Is sugar considered a dry or a wet ingredient? What’s the difference between baking powder and baking soda? What is the purpose of each and every ingredient used in baking? Tedious? Maybe. But if you’re a nerd like me, you relish in knowing and understanding every step in the process. If you are NOT like me, go follow a recipe. Here’s one to start you off:

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 2/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt (kosher)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 eggs, medium size
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup greek yogurt (HEAPING cup)
  • 3 tbs Meyer lemon zest (worth it.)
  • 2 tbs lemon juice
  • 2 tbs poppy seeds

EQUIPMENT:

  • stand mixer with paddle attachment
  • large mixing bowl
  • zester
  • 1 loaf pan
  • silicone spatula for batter
  • whisk
  • measuring cups/spoons

TIP: when juicing the lemon, juice it over the zester to strain out lemon seeds. no extra tools to wash, and no bitter seeds to bite into when you eat the cake later…

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Place rack in center of the oven (if it’s too low, it’ll bake too quickly)
  2. Line loaf pan with parchment paper (cut to fit, it’ll hang over the two long sides) and butter generously. You can clip down the sides with binder clips.
  3. Zest lemon. Mix zest and juice with yogurt and set aside.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt. Whisk to combine.
  5. Cream Butter: Cut butter up into small chunks ~ 1 inch cubes. Put in stand mixer bowl and beat on high, with paddle attachment, until soft and creamy. Reduce speed to medium. Add sugar slowly and continue beating until well incorporated. Should look fluffy, like airy sand. Mix in vanilla.
  6. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until well incorporated.
  7. Still on medium speed, slowly add in part of the dry mixture, then some yogurt mixture, then some dry mixture, etc, until fully incorporated. Add poppy seeds. Increase speed to high for a few seconds to fluff up batter.
  8. Pour batter into loaf pan and spread evenly. Place in center of oven and bake ~ 1 hour. At the 40 min mark, open oven door and QUICKLY cut a line down the center of the loaf and cover the top with a sheet of aluminum foil to prevent burning. No need to crimp, just cover. The cut down the middle is what creates that pretty split in the crust.
  9. Set loaf aside and let cool, 10 min.
  10. Optional Glaze: In stand mixer with whisk attachment, mix 2 tbs lemon juice and 1/2 cup+ powdered sugar on high speed until it reaches the consistency you like. Opaque and not too runny. Glaze cake after cooling for 20 min or so.

THINGS I’M LEARNING ABOUT BAKING:

  1. Always level the ingredients after measuring: Scoop the ingredient into the measuring utensil, then with the flat edge of a knife, smooth off the top. Spooning it in slowly will give you less than the recipe calls for, unless the recipe specifically says to.
  2. Butter doesn’t have to be room temperature and softened. Wastes time. Just cut it up and beat it on high in your stand mixture. This softens it. Technology is wonderful. Use it. Same goes with eggs. Use them fresh out of the fridge. No one needs salmonella.
  3. If you’re messing with a recipe:
    1. Eggs are emulsifiers and binders. They hold the cake together.
    2. Baking soda is a base and needs an acid to neutralize it or you’ll get a bitter yucky taste. Brown sugar is considered a neutralizing agent for baking soda. Do not substitute brown sugar for white in a recipe that has baking soda. Unless you swap BS out for BP (Baking powder). And even then it’s not an exact substitute…still figuring this one out.
    3. AP flour =/= cake flour =/= self rising crap. Use what the recipe calls for, or use this substitution: 1 cup cake flour = 1 cup AP flour minus 2 tablespoons. some people say replace those two tablespoons with equal amounts of corn starch. I’ve yet to try this.
    4. Sugar is a wet ingredient. Don’t mix it in with the flour at the beginning. Typical progression of cake baking goes like this: soften butter, cream butter with sugar, beat in eggs, add extracts and flavors, add dry ingredients then add ons (nuts, chocolate chips, what have you).
    5. Last but not least, read lots and lots of recipes. Look at the ratios. What ingredients where different? How do you think that affected texture, density, crumb, flavor, etc? Then create your own combination and WRITE IT OUT. Follow your new recipe exactly so you can compare the results to what you did. If you’re making adjustments as you go, you’ll never know how to recreate it exactly. It’s just bad science.
    6. Find friends who’ll be your guinea pigs. (: Good luck!

This cake turned out REALLY well. Dense, moist, not too sweet. I was afraid that cake flour would make it too cake-y and not compact enough like I like my pound cakes, and the AP flour I used here worked out superbly well. VERY happy.

Advertisements
October 7, 2012

Braised Chicken with Capers and Parsley


This was a hit with the family. Even my mother nodded her head in approval. She never nods at my cooking! ESPECIALLY if it’s western food…

Adapted fromBon Appetite

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 tablespoons oil (high smoking point like avocado oil or peanut oil, not olive oil)
  • 1 large onion, minced (1 1/2 cups)
  • 4 chicken legs, drumsticks and thighs separated (about 2 pounds)
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup minced flat-leaf parsley plus more for garnish
  • 1/3 cup salted capers, soaked and rinsed in water
  • 1.5-2 cups low-salt chicken broth
  • 1/3 cups white wine vinegar*
  • Freshly ground black pepper

*I used asian plum vinegar since my mother only has asian vinegars at home…and I actually rather like the extra sweetness it gave.

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Add 2 Tbsp. oil to a large dutch oven and heat to medium-high. Season chicken with salt. Add chicken to skillet and cook, turning once, until golden brown on both sides, 10–12 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate.
  2. Drain grease and set aside, reserving 1-2 tbs in the pot. Add onion; cook, stirring often, until softened, about 8 minutes. Salt generously.
  3. Add 1/2 cup parsley and capers to pot; cook for 1 minute. Stir in broth and vinegar.
  4. Add chicken with any juices. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover and simmer until meat is tender and falling off the bone, about 1 1/4 hours.
  5. Remove chicken pieces. Bring heat up to high and reduce sauce, uncovered ~5 min. Taste sauce and salt if needed.
  6. While reducing sauce, heat a nonstick skillet on high with a bit of reserved oil. Fry chicken, skin side down, ~2 min to crisp up skin. Do not crowd. Do this in batches and avoid chicken pieces touching or you’ll just keep steaming the chicken. Plate chicken and spoon over sauce. Garnish with fresh parsley sprigs and serve.

October 5, 2012

Cowboy Cookies

Thin, chewy in the center, crisp on the edges. Bake for an extra 3-4 minutes if you like crispy crunchy cookies.

Adapted from Martha Stewart, my hero.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3/4 cup pecans (3 ounces)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups old-fashioned oats (not instant or quick-cooking)
  • 6 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup raisins

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread pecans in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Toast in oven, tossing occasionally, until darkened and fragrant, 10 to 13 minutes. Let cool, then coarsely chop. Into a bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, salt, and baking powder.
  2. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream butter and both sugars until pale and fluffy. Reduce speed to medium. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla.
  3. With mixer on low speed, gradually add flour mixture, beating until just incorporated. Beat in oats, chocolate, pecans, and raisins until just combined. (Dough can be covered with plastic and refrigerated up to 3 days.)
  4. Rub a thin film of butter on a parchment lined baking pan. Roll dough into golf ball sized balls.
  5. Bake until edges of cookies begin to brown, 8-10 min, or until just turning golden on top. Transfer sheets to wire racks to cool 5 minutes. Transfer cookies to racks to cool completely. Cookies can be stored up to 3 days at room temperature in airtight containers

Makes ~4 pans of cookies. Feel free to cut recipe in half, or freeze dough in preformed balls.

I really don’t know why these are called cowboy cookies. But cowboy = good connotations in my book.