Monday, March 28, 2011

The Recipe That Started It All...

Double Chocolate Chip Cookies by Betty Crocker

-1 box Devil’s Food cake mix (Betty Crocker brand)
-1 stick of butter, softened
-1 tsp vanilla extract
-2 eggs
-1 cup chocolate chips

-Cream the butter with half of the cake mix
-Add the vanilla and eggs
-Add the rest of the cake mix and chocolate chips
-Drop spoonfuls of batter onto baking sheets
-Bake at 350 for 10-12 min

This recipe is what started it all, creating the baking fanatic I am today haha My first time baking on my own without my mom’s supervision was freshman year of high school. The recipe  looked easy enough since it calls for cake mix which already has the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, etc prepped for you. So I whip everything up and put the cookies in the oven for 12 minutes, the amount of time the recipe calls for... but back when I was 14, I didn’t know the trick of underbaking and letting the cookies finish baking on the baking sheet outside of the oven so my first batch came out kinda crunchy with some burnt chocolate chips.. gross haha I was sad that my first solo baking adventure had failed and was sulking about it when my mom came home from work. Being the wonderful mom that she is, she ate my cookies anyway and told me they weren’t bad for my first time. She brought the rest to work to give to her coworkers who would eat anything because that’s what men do (so true haha). Then she gave me some tips about baking cookies (rotating them halfway through and underbaking)... I tried again the next day and brought them to school for my friends. These cookies made me popular in high school and for the next four years, people would always ask me to make these for them for their birthdays lol

In college, my apartment-mate also liked to bake and I would see her using different flavor cake mixes besides Devil’s food and other ingredients besides chocolate chips. My baking radar went off and I decided to do my own experiments. Some of my creations include: strawberry cake mix with yogurt chips, german chocolate cake mix with peanut butter chips, vanilla cake mix with pistachios. I even made funfetti cookies for my cousin’s birthday party and she asked me how much time I spent putting all those colors into the white cookies... so cute! haha What I love about this recipe is that you can be creative and mix and match whatever you want. This recipe definitely got me going and it’s a great beginner’s recipe for people new to baking. It’s also great when you need to whip something up and don’t have much time/all the necessary ingredients for those fancy shmancy recipes.

Please share any interesting combinations of cookies you end up making! :)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Melange of Macronage: Vegas Edition

When you think of Vegas, gambling, clubbing, or getting married when you’re drunk comes to mind right? For me, I immediately put my new HTC Thunderbolt to use and looked up places to get what else but my favorite macarons haha Ironically, there were no FRENCH macarons at Paris but instead I found them at the Venetian, Caesar’s Palace, and the Bellagio.

First stop, Bouchon Bakery at the Venetian. This bakery has 3 locations, Vegas, NYC, and Napa Valley... it makes me very happy that I’m moving to NYC because this place has amazing macarons, up to Paulette standards which for me is the top tier until I try Laduree macarons in Paris. The macaron shells were the perfect combo of crispy and chewy and the filling was flavorful but not overpowering. It also had that melt in your mouth sensation... yumm :) Good start to macaron hunting for the day.

Flavors: Pistachio, Coffee, Chocolate, Vanilla

Next stop, Payard Patisserie at Caesar’s Palace. These macarons were pre-packaged so I was a bit worried... and I wasn’t thrilled about the choice of flavors. I saw raspberry, lemon, violet... basically a buncha fruity flavors that I’m just not fond of. The macaron shells were too soft and there was no sense of chewiness which I think a macaron should have. Needless to say, I was a bit disappointed but the coconut one was surprisingly good. The rest were a bit too sweet.

Flavors: Raspberry, Violet, Lemon, Coconut, Vanilla, Coffee

Last stop, Jean Philippe Patisserie at the Bellagio. I’m hoping for redemption here after being disappointed by the previous place. These macarons also came pre-packaged so I didn’t have very high expectations. These had an explosion of filling which overpowered the cookie and just left you with a lotta filling in your mouth and no balance between cookie and filling. So if I could combine these macaron shells with the filling from the previous place, I’d get a better macaron.

Flavors: Chocolate, Pistachio, Raspberry, Coffee 

Lesson of the day: don’t buy pre-packaged macarons... and Bouchon totally saved the day haha 

Friday, March 18, 2011

Melange of Macronage: Part 2 (Macaron Boogaloo)

Schoggi Imported Swiss Chocolates (San Francisco) -

I really want to find somewhere with decent macarons near Union Square.  La Boulange was such a disappointment that I've refused to try it again.  Yelp helpfully informed me that, besides Swiss chocolates, Schoggi apparently also supplies macarons.  After ordering a selection of sweet macarons, we were given four savory varieties to experimentally taste.  The sweet macarons were unremarkable; better than La Boulange but worse than all the others. 

The savory macarons were disgusting, with the exception of the small green one on the upper right (olive oil). The one on the bottom right was balsamic tasted like a gritty shot of vinegar.  Not exactly faulty marketing but I'd hoped for a more complex flavor profile.  The one with black seeds was supposed to be truffle flavored.  It tasted like straight garlic.  Straight, cold, garlic.  The last macaron option (top right) was goat cheese.  I had high hopes for this one.  It was soggy.  When I wrote that note on the card for macaron feedback, the employee tried to teach me a macaron lesson about how savory macarons use less sugar so they are always soggy (false).

I was disappointed by the only-adequate sweet macarons and even more disappointed by the savory variety.  Worse yet was the fact that the Schoggi employee apparently knew very little about how to make a macaron and then attempted to knowledge-bully me into feeling bad about my opinion.  Knowledge-bullying a customer is bad enough--it's even worse when you are incorrect.

Flavors I recommend: None.  But if you have to have one, the lemon was ok.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Happy National Pi Day!

In honor of national pi day, I thought I’d share my favorite apple pie recipe. I’ve made this pie every year for Thanksgiving for as long as I can remember and my family members always call me beforehand to ask me if I’m making it haha

For the pie crust:

2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
6 tbsp butter
6 tbsp shortening (I subbed it with butter... shortening helps with the foundation of the pie but I think the pie dough is equally manageable with butter and it makes a more flaky crust)
6-8 tbsp ice cold water

-Mix flour, salt, and sugar in a bowl
-Cut in the butter and add ice water slowly (use a dough blender if you have one... if not, a potato masher works just fine)
-Gather the dough into a ball, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 20 min before using it (I recommend at least an hour)

For the filling:

5 granny smith apples (I used fuji apples but you can use a mix of whatever you want)
1 cup sugar
2 tbsp flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp lemon juice

-Peel and slice the apples... soak them in water with the lemon juice so they won't turn brown
-Mix everything else in a large bowl
-Drain the apples and add them to the mixture

Putting the pie together:

-Grease a 9 inch pan
-Cut the dough in half
-Roll out half of it to about 1/8 inch thick
-Roll it around your rolling pin and unroll it in the pie pan... make sure the sides of the pan are covered as well
-Poke holes in the bottom of the crust with a fork
-Pour in the filling... add about 4 chunks of butter on top to add some extra flavor
-Roll out the remaining dough and put it on top of the filling
-Make a pattern around the edge of the pie using the back of a knife (this seals the pie)

Baking the pie:
tip: line a baking sheet with foil and put it on the rack underneath just in case the filling overflows

-Cover the edges of the pie with strips of foil
-Bake at 400 for about 50 min
-Take off the foil and let it bake another 10 min so it turns golden brown

recipe adapted from myhomecooking

I think Pi Day comes too early in the year... the summer fruits aren’t ready yet and really, they make the best pies :)