Thursday, February 26, 2009

chocolate chip cookies

After many adventures into cookies needing fancy things like cocoa nibs and cardamom, pastry cutters and microplane graters, and tofu and toasted oats, I felt a calling to a) procrastinate, and b) make an unfussy cookie.

Unfussy cookies I did make, and let me tell you how much sweeter procrastination is with warm chocolate chip cookies in hand. The next time you need to do work, I suggest you have a cookie instead.

Ironically, instead I'm going to post about this fussy chocolate chip cookie recipe from the New York Times. If you recall the bacon cookies from last summer, these are actually those cookies. They're notable because I actually followed the recipe EXACTLY as printed. As a scientist you'd think I'd see the value in baking a control, but as a baker I'm too smart for my own good and always have to meddle. Was it worth it?

There are four notable things about this recipe:

1. It uses odd amounts of ingredients. 2 cups minus 2 tablespoons cake flour? This is because the recipe converts ingredients by weight into volume. Notice that it calls for 8.5 oz of bread and cake flour, but by volume are different by almost 1/3 cup. Theoretically this would give you a more consistent cookie every time you make it.

2. It uses really good quality chocolate. See those huge melty disks of chocolatey-ness in the photo? Hershey's chocolate chips can't hold a candle.

3. You're supposed to refrigerate the dough for 24-36 hours to improve the crumb, shape, and color of the final cookie. I used to never chill dough, but this recipe convinced me that at least a little waiting is worth it. However, 24 hours seems a bit much to ask when warm cookies are at stake - I'd say bake a few off immediately to tide you over, then chill the rest for at least an hour or two.

4. The cookies are finished with a sprinkle of coarse salt, playing up on the ever popular sweet and savory.

Conclusion? Quality ingredients and chilling dough pays off, but don't let fussy recipes get in your way of enjoying fresh baked cookies. The recipe on the bag of Toll House chocolate chips is pretty good, too...

Saturday, February 21, 2009

alone time citrus bars

Sunshine and citrus groves on a plate - how could you not be happy eating these? You're going to need some alone time with these.

There are a couple touches that make these way better than the standard super sweet, fluorescent yellow lemon bars you usually see. First, the toasted nuts and wheat germ round out the flavor of the crust and give the bar a bit more texture. Then there's the filling. Oh, the filling. It comes out addictively smooth, bright, and creamy like pastry cream. None of this gooey jaundiced gel business here. Finally, this recipe is easy. There's no frou frou curd making or straining through sieves. Just prepare a crust and pour the filling in.

Any combination of citrus works, really. Just adjust the sugar if you're using more sweet or tart fruits.

Alone Time Citrus Bars

Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook


1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour

¼ cup wheat germ

1 cup chopped pecans, toasted

¼ cup confectioner’s sugar

¾ tsp salt

1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, frozen and cut into cubes


4 large eggs

1 ¼ cups granulated sugar

Juice of one lemon, lime, tangerine, orange, and grapefruit

1 tsp zest each from lemon, lime, tangerine, orange, and grapefruit

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350 F. Prepare crust by whisking everything but the butter together. Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut in the butter until the largest pieces are pea sized. Press mixture into bottom and up sides of an ungreased 11x14-in baking pan. Bake until golden, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the filling by whisking together the eggs, sugar, and flour until combined. Whisk in juices, zest, and salt. Pour filling into crust. Bake until center is set about 20 minutes. Enjoy warm or chilled.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

jab chae

Jab chae is the Korean take on glass noodles with veggies, playing up on the sweet and savory with a soy and mirin based sauce. The sweet potato noodles used are slippery and translucent, but thick like spaghetti. The dish can endlessly be adapted to fit what's in your fridge. Forgo your usual Asiany stir-fry standby and give this a try. Leftovers are also delightful cold.

Protein and veggies are cooked separately, then tossed all together at the end with the jab chae sauce. Cooking each component one at a time seems like a pain, but your noodles will be too watery by the end if you try cooking everything at once. Each component only takes a few minutes anyway. If your produce deviates from the recipe, split them up by cooking time. ie - cook carrots, celery, and onion together because they soften at about the same rate. Below is a fairly standard version of the recipe.

Jab Chae

4-5 oz sweet potato vermicelli (tang myun), soaked in hot water per package’s directions
½ medium onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 scallion, sliced
2 carrots, cut into strips
1 bunch spinach, cut into thirds
2 cups fresh shiitake or button mushrooms

¼ lb chadolbaegi (thinly sliced beef)
½ kamaboko cake (Japanese fish cake), thinly sliced

sesame seeds
fresh ground pepper

Jab Chae Sauce
3 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp sesame oil
3 tbsp mirin
1 tbsp sugar
6 tbsp water

Mix all components of jab chae sauce together. Set aside. Set pan on medium high heat. Coat pan lightly with oil. Pan fry chadolbaegi until cooked. Remove and put into a large bowl.

Reset pan on medium high heat. Add more oil if necessary. Cook button and shiitake mushrooms. Remove and set aside in the same bowl as the cooked beef. Repeat and cook carrots and onions. Toss thoroughly until cooked, about 3-4min. Remove from pan and set aside in the same bowl.

Repeat and cook spinach, about 2-3min. Set aside. Repeat and cook fish cake and scallions. Toss for about 2-3min. Set aside.

Finally, reset pan onto medium high heat. Lightly coat pan with oil. Add garlic, stirring for one minute, Add noodles and precooked components to pan. Add jab chae sauce. Toss. Cover for 2 min till sauce has absorbed and everything is heated through.

Generously add fresh ground pepper to taste and finish with sesame seeds.