March ’11: π day

It’s pi day today 🙂 All these 4 years I never remember to go the math department for free pies.  This year I finally remembered.  Sadly I left without a piece of pie.  It wasn’t because they were out of pies, I was given the impression the pies were homemade (J kept telling me they have amazing apple pie).  The pies turned out to be store bought (The Loblaws Farmers’ Market brand — it’s a so-so brand, not really that great).  I have not meet a store-bought pie that can pass my very picky inspection for pies yet.  Most ingredients contain transfat, and I refuse to eat transfat.

I love pies.  They are very unhealthy though, so if I’m going to splurge on pies, I might as well give my quota to very well-made ones, and not mediocre pies with trans-fat laden ingredients or any crappy oil.  That’s just my theory, same goes with cheese.  On that note, I finally found the perfect opportunity to post these pie photos that I had at St Luke’s Anglican Church’s fall dessert event back in September.  They were very delicious pies baked by very nice old ladies 😆  I wanted to try the pear pie too but I was very full after the two slices of pie.  I also had yummy brie that day 😀

Apple pie

Pumpkin pie

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February ’11: Sesame Whole Wheat Crackers, Peanut Butter Cookies, Nutella Cookies

  • Sesame Whole Wheat Crackers
  • Peanut Butter Cookies
  • Nutella Cookies

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Sesame Whole Wheat Crackers

This is a keeper recipe.  The crackers are actually crunchy!  It’s a little bitter though I’m not sure if it’s because of the whole wheat flour.  I really like this 🙂

Ingredients:

Sesame seeds, toasted…………………………………1/2 cup
Pastry flour……………………………………………………1 cup
Whole wheat flour……………………………………….. 1 cup
Sugar……………………………………………………………..1 tablespoon
Salt…………………………………………………………………1 teaspoon
Sesame oil………………………………………………………1/4 cup
Water…………………………………………………………….1/2-3/4 cup

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl, combine seeds, flours and salt.
  2. Add oil, stir until the mixture comes together.
  3. Add just enough water (a tablespoon at a time) to form a workable dough.
  4. Chill dough for a while.  Roll dough until it’s very thin (about 1/16 inch thick).
  5. Cut dough into desired shape (s)- use a wine glass/cookie cutter or a pizza wheel.
  6. Transfer them to parchment-lined cookie sheets.
  7. Bake the crackers for 25-30 mins, until they’re beginning to brown around the edges.
  8. Remove them from oven and transfer to a rack to cool.

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Peanut Butter Cookies

Magnolia was closed the day I was there, so I didn’t get a chance to try out its baked goods.  I was also searching for a classic peanut butter cookies recipe.  Honestly I wasn’t impressed with these cookies, they tasted great but compared to the peanut butter honey cookies I made last year it was missing something.  That said, from now on I am done with my search for the best peanut butter cookies.  I’m not going to blame this recipe because I did make some alterations (reduce sugar, cut out the chocolate and peanut butter chips), and if you are just looking for a classic peanut butter cookie recipe this is definitely a keeper.

Adapted from the Magnolia Bakery Cookbook, and taken from smitten kitchen

Ingredients:

Unbleached all-purpose flour………………………………..1 1/4 cups
Baking soda………………………………………………….……….3/4 teaspoon
Baking powder…………………………………………….………..1/2 teaspoon
Salt……………………………………………………………………….1/4 teaspoon
Unsalted butter, softened………………………………………1/2 cup
Chunky peanut butter at room temperature….………..1 cup
Sugar…………………………………………………………………….3/4 cup [omitted]
Firmly packed light brown sugar……………….……………1/2 cup [used 2/3 cup]
Large egg, at room temperature………………….…………..1
Milk………………………………………………………..……………..1 tablespoon
Vanilla extract………………………………………………………..1 teaspoon
Peanut butter chips…………………………….…………………..1/2 cup
Chocolate chips……………………………….……………………..1/2 cup

For sprinkling:

1 tablespoon sugar, regular or superfine

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the flour, the baking soda, the baking powder, and the salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the butter and the peanut butter together until fluffy. Add the sugars and beat until smooth. Add the egg and mix well. Add the milk and the vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture and beat thoroughly. Stir in the peanut butter and chocolate chips. Place sprinkling sugar — the remaining tablespoon — on a plate. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls into the sugar, then onto ungreased cookie sheets, leaving several inches between for expansion. Using a fork, lightly indent with a crisss-cross pattern (I used the back of a small offset spatula to keep it smooth on top), but do not overly flatten cookies. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Do not overbake. Cookies may appear to be underdone, but they are not.

Cool the cookies on the sheets for 1 minute, then remove to a rack to cool completely.

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Looks like cell walls here.  You can see the unbaked dough at the back and look how much it spread.

Nutella Cookies

This cookie spreads a lot!! It’s a good tasting cookie but I feel there’s not enough nutella flavour in it.

Adapted from http://www.erinsfoodfiles.com/2011/01/nutella-cookies.html

Ingredients:

Unsalted butter, at room temperature………………………..½ cup
Granulated sugar……………………………………………………….½ cup [omitted]
Firmly packed brown sugar……………………………..…………½ cup [used 2/3 cup]
Nutella or other hazelnut chocolate spread……..………….½ cup
Egg……………………………………………………………………………1
Vanilla……………………………………………………………………….½ tsp
Unbleached flour…………………………….…………………………1 ½ cups
Baking soda………………………………..………………………………1 tsp
Salt…………………………………………………………………………….¼ tsp
Mini chocolate chips……………………………………………………1/3 cup [omitted]

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350F.

Cream butter with an electric mixer about 1 minute until smooth. Add in both sugars. Beat on high speed about 3 minutes until light & fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

With the mixer on low, add the egg and Frangelico (or vanilla). Then add the Nutella and mix well.

In a small bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients, and mix on low speed until incorporated. Increase the speed to medium and mix just until the dough is smooth. Fold in chocolate chips.

Using a small ice cream scoop (or a teaspoon) form the dough into balls and place on greased cookie sheet. To prevent my cookies from spreading too much, I stuck the cookie sheets in the freezer for about 10 minutes before baking.

Bake 6-7 minutes (or 7-8 if baking from freezer). Let cookies cool about 5 minutes and transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Looks like cell walls here.  You can see the unbaked dough at the back and look how much it spread.

February ’11: Chocolate Velvet Brownies, Blueberry Honey Muffins, Strawberry Chocolate Bread

  • Chocolate Velvet Brownies (gluten-free)
  • Blueberry Honey Muffins
  • Strawberry Chocolate Bread

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Chocolate Velvet Brownies (Gluten-Free)

Everyone loved these brownies, definitely a keeper.  I also cut half of the sugar and found it plenty sweet.  It’s dense, chewy and fudgy (too chocolately for me so I don’t like it).  I also believe I have finally get the hang on melting chocolate after my intensive baking before Chinese New Year.

Adapted from http://form5artisan.blogspot.com/2011/01/gluten-free-brownies-steven-chris_31.html

from the Steven & Chris Show!!

Ingredients:
Bittersweet chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa solids), coarsely chopped………3 oz
Butter, at room temperature………………………………6 tbsp
Granulated sugar…………………………………………….…1 cup [I used ½ cup]
Salt………………………………………………………………..….¼ tsp
Cornstarch…………………………………………………..……½ cup
Dutch-processed cocoa powder………………………….4 tsp
Baking powder……………………………………………………¼ tsp
Pure vanilla extract…………………………………………….1/2 tsp
Large eggs, at room temperature……………………..…..2

Preparation:

1.       Preheat oven to 325°F. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang at each end and butter-exposed sides.

2.       Place chocolate and butter in a large heatproof bowl set over a pot with ½-inch simmering water. Stir chocolate with a rubber spatula until completely melted, smooth and glossy. While warm, stir in sugar and salt. Let stand 3-5 minutes to cool slightly.

3.        Meanwhile, sift together corn starch, cocoa powder and baking powder in a medium bowl. Stir to combine.

4.       Add vanilla extract to slightly cooled chocolate mixture and stir to combine. Stir in eggs, one at a time, using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until well incorporated. Add corn starch mixture and stir into chocolate mixture until blended and smooth.

5.       Pour batter into prepared pan and bake until slightly puffed, shiny and cracked at the surface, about 25 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

6.       Refrigerate at least one hour before cutting into squares.

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Blueberry Honey Muffins

Blueberries are one of the few fruits I don’t mind it cooked.  I cut the honey in half from the original recipe so this does not taste like a sweet muffin at all.

Ingredients:

Whole wheat bread flour…………….2/3 cup
Organic spelt flour………………………2/3 cup
Oatmeal…………………………………….1/2 cup
Baking powder…………………………..2 tsp
Baking soda………………………………..1/2 tsp
Salt……………………………………………1/4 tsp
Allspice………………………………………1/2 tsp
Cinnamon…………………………………..1 tsp
Eggs……………………………………………2
Soymilk……………………………………….3/4 cup
Non-fat plain yoghurt……………………5 tbsp
Honey…………………………………………1/4 cup
Lemon extract……………………………..1 tsp
Blueberries, fresh…………………………1 cup

Settings:

Oven temp: 350F, Time: 18-20 minutes

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Strawberry Chocolate Bread

I forgot how good strawberry chocolate tastes like 😛

Ingredients:

Strawberry puree………………………………250g
Egg……………………………………………………..2
Vanilla…………………………………………………1 tsp
Milk…………………………………………………….350g
Oil……………………………………………………….120g
Unbleached flour………………………………..2 cups
Baking powder…………………………………….40g
Strawberry slices………………………………..a few
Milk almond chocolate bar………………….1 package

Directions:

Oven temp: 350F
Time: 1.5 hours, or until it’s done

February ’11: Blackberry apple pistachio crumble & Blonde Rocky Road

From Claire 🙂

Blackberry apple pistachio crumble

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Blonde Rocky Road

This is a quick and easy recipe.  Butterscotch chips are quite intensely sweet, but this recipe toned the sweetness down.  It’s a rich candy but I didn’t find it sickly sweet. You could add nuts to it, but since I don’t like to add nuts and I was using chuncky peanut butter I omitted the peanuts.

Adapted from http://pieceofcakeblog.blogspot.com/2011/02/blonde-rocky-road.html

Ingredients:

Butterscotch chips……………………………..1 12-ounce bag
Chunky peanut butter………………………..1/2 cup
Unsalted butter………………………………….1 stick
Pure vanilla extract………………………………1/2 teaspoon
Salt (fine sea salt or table salt)……………. 1/8 teaspoon
Mini marshmallows, divided…………………2 cups

Directions:

Line an 8×8-inch square baking pan with a large sheet of aluminum foil, being sure to get it neatly into the corners of the pan.

Using a double boiler, melt the butterscotch chips, peanut butter and butter.  Stir in the vanilla and salt. Let it cool for a bit or the marshmallow added later might melt.

Stir in 1 1/2 cups of the marshmallows until well-blended. Turn the mixture into the prepared pan and smooth with a spatula. Sprinkle the remaining marshmallows evenly over the surface, and press lightly into the candy with your palms. Chill until set–15 minutes in the freezer or about an hour in the refrigerator.

Remove the candy slab from the pan and cut into 25 squares. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

February ’11: American Tamale Pie

This is NOT the Mexican dish, this is purely an American origin dish, a “meat mixture covered with cornbread topping that resembles a Mexican dish”  (from Wikipedia).  I had a lot of liquid in the ground beef mixture (refer to Fig 1.. and this is sounding like lab report now), but it didn’t affect the texture of the finished tamale pie.  The cornbread layer was not soggy, and the ground beef layer had the right amount of moisture without liquid oozing out.  This stays the same after being reheated.  It’s a very hearty and healthy casserole-type dish.

Adapted from http://www.mangiodasola.com/2010/03/tamal-or-tamale-pie.html

Ingredients:

Extra-lean ground beef……………………1 lb
Diced peppers………………………………..1 cup [I used celery]
Salsa……………………………………………..1 16-oz jar [I used basil bruchestta]
Chipotle pepper……………………………..1 tsp [I used 3 tbsp Habenero chili sauce]
Banana pepper……………………………..1/2 cup
Cumin……………………………………………1 tsp
Oregano…………………………………………1 tsp
Cinnamon………………………………………1 tsp
Skim mozzarella cheese…………………….1 cup, divided
Frozen corn…………………………………….1 cup
Red onion, garlic……………………………..chopped fine

[Note: I didn’t add any salt]

for the cornbread batter:

Buttermilk………………1 cup
Cornmeal………………..1 cup
Salt…………………………1 tsp
Baking soda……………..1/2 tsp
Egg………………………….1
Butter/Oil………………..1 Tbsp [omitted]

Directions:

In a skillet, add onions and garlic, and cook until translucent.

Add the beef and celeries, and cook until brown.

Add chopped tomatoes (basil bruchestta), habenero chili sauce, cumin, oregano and cinnamon. Once the mixture is seasoned well, allow to simmer for 10-15 minutes.

In the meantime, preheat the oven to 375 degrees, and prepare the cornbread batter.

Stir together dry ingredients. Add buttermilk, egg, and add melted butter/oil. Mix the ingredients until they are moistened; do not over-stir. Mix all of the cheese to the cornbread batter.

Pour 1/4 of the cornbread-cheese mixture into the casserole pan.

Add 1/2 cup of the frozen corn on top of the batter.

Add all of the meat mixture. Then, add the rest of the corn (1/2 cup)

Add the rest of the cornbread batter.

Add additional cheese on top.

Bake uncovered in a preheated hot oven for 45 minutes. Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes before serving

 

6 servings

Calories: 425.6 | Fat: 21.9g (Saturated: 8.8g) | Cholesterol: 103.7mg | Total carbohydrates: 31.5g (dietary fibre: 4.3g, sugars: 1.4g) | Protein: 26.7g

 

Fig 1 Bottom layer: Cornbread batter, top layer: the cooked beef layer.  Compare the amount of liquid here to the finished product.

Fig 2 Finished product.  I didn’t have enough batter to pour on the top, it’s suppose to cover the entire top

Fig 3 Cut section.