Tuesday, November 30, 2004

WBW #4: New World Riesling

I have been looking forward to trying the Windsor Vinyards Riesling for a while now, as I drive by their tasting rooms rather frequently. Unfortunately, though, I have not had an opportunity to stop in before this month's WBW, hosted by Derrick from An Obsession with Food. Instead I ran out to Trader Joes and picked up an inexpensive California Johannisberg Riesling by JW Morris.

It was fruity and crisp, but it did seem to almost verge on sharpness at the end. I do not claim to be very knowledgeable about wines and I tend to stick with what I like (Shiraz!) but there is nothing about this wine that would prevent me from having it again. Particularly considering that I paid $2.99 for the bottle. I ate a rather unusual amount of dark chocolate this evening and was worried that perhaps it would adversely effect the taste of the wine, but it didn't seem to. I would probably serve this again with a chicken (how generic) dish or a lovely fruity salsa. Possibly a leftover turkey sandwich, as I think it would go well with cranberries.
I have to say that this wine is not enough to put me off reds, but it's certainly not bad. If they have it at your Trader Joe's, go for it!

Incidentally, those lovely red fruits in the foreground of the picture are prickly pears: cactus fruits I picked up at my parent's house over Thanksgiving. They taste a bit like a cross between a very mild kiwi and a melon and have white flesh with an abundance of small black (and hopefully edible!) seeds. The only idea I had - aside from eating them alone, which is tasty - for using them is to make a sorbet. I would probably need more fruit to make it worth the effort, though.

Monday, November 29, 2004


If you have never had divinity, you have probably never been to the South around Christmas. This is, of course, not the only reason you may not have had divinity. You could also be an aethist, I suppose. Kidding.
Divinity is a white, fudge-like candy made of sugar and egg whites. It is almost a type of nougat that has formed a lovely firm outside since it has not been enrobed by any type of chocolate, while remaining moist and creamy inside. It tastes a bit marshmallowy - though much, much creamier - and will almost always contains walnuts.
It's traditionally made around Christmas time, which means that the local fudge shop will be making it for the rest of the month. This is indeed good news, since very few places out here in California seem to sell it. The picture is of a piece I bought this morning. I much prefer to slice pieces of divinity off a a large fudge-like block than having small meringue shaped pieces, since there is more of the creamy, chewy center that way. Check out my recipe for divinity if you are interested in trying to make this delight at home.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Soft Pretzels

So, Thanksgiving has now come and gone and we are well into the holiday eating season. With Christmas and the new SHF coming up, I think I'm going to have to start planning my New Year's Resolutions now...
But since it's still 2004, today I baked soft pretzels.
My grandmother, who is originally from Philadelphia, came over for lunch and I thought that I would surprise her with some traditionally Philly snacks - namely, soft, salty pretzels. They were really easy to make and incredibly good dipped in mustard. They're great for an afternoon snack or served at a party.

Classic Soft Pretzels
1/4 cup warm/hot water (110F)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 packet active dry yeast
2 1/2 cups ap flour
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup water

2 tbsp baking soda
1 cup cold water

Combine yeast, hot water and sugar in small dish and leave to foam for 5 minutes. Stir flour and salt in medium bowl. Add yeast mixture and 3/4 cup water and stir until everything comes together. Knead on a lightly floured surface until smooth.
Place in a slightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and leave to rise for one hour.
Dissolve baking soda in cold water. Preheat oven to 400F.
Punch down dough and cut into 8 pieces. Roll out each piece until approximately 18 inches long and twist into a pretzel shape. Dip pretzel into baking soda mixture and place on parchment covered baking sheet. Repeat to make 8 pretzels.
Bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Seinfeld food

Seinfeld is probably my favorite TV show of all time. The dialogue, the characters... everything! To celebrate the release of the first three seasons on DVD, I'm going to make some Seinfeld themed food.
That's right: a big salad, chicken salad on rye (untoasted), cereal, muffin tops, chocolate babka, jujyfruits and junior mints. And my all time favorite, the black and white cookie. Mmm.
Stay tuned!

Monday, November 22, 2004

Apple Ginger Walnut Cookies

If after the IMBB cookie swap this month anyone has any room for more cookies...
These are Apple Ginger Walnut cookies - fat free, except for the walnuts!

After my cookie swap cookies, I wanted to have something a little lighter and chewier. Healthier, too, to make up for the massive amount of white chocolate I made while baking them. These are so tasty, you could easily leave out the walnuts. These taste best the day that they're made, but they'll keep for a week in an airtight container. After the first day, they taste a little chewier, but just as spicy! Considering that they're basically fat free, they're not half bad.

Apple Ginger Walnut Cookies
1 egg white
1/3 cup apple butter
1/2 brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon apple pie spice
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 cup candied ginger, chopped or chips
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, optional

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and spices.
Lightly beat egg white. Add apple butter and sugars and mix thoroughly. Add flour mixture and stir until almost combined. Add ginger and walnuts, then continue stirring until just combined.
Bake at 375 F for about 10 minutes, until lightly browned.

Note: You could also add a tablespoon of molasses to the wet ingredients for extra spice.

Friday, November 19, 2004

IMBB #10: Cookie Swap!

Now, let's see if we can come up with another reason for me to bake cookies... hmm, that's a tough one since I don't like to bake. Wait. What am I saying! Heresy!

To atone for my sins, I chose to make Cashew-Macadamia Butter Cookies (with White Chocolate Chunks and Cranberries). I know that this second name sounds like a mouthful, and let me assure you that they are a great tasting one!
White chocolate macadamia nut cookies are one of my favorites, though I'm usually disappointed by these cookies when I have them out. Essentially, these are peanut butter cookies where I substituted the peanut butter with Cashew-Macadamia Butter, which I spotted at Trader Joes. Dressed up peanut butter cookies invloving macadamia nuts?, I thought to myself. I must have started to drool at the idea, because people started to stare. I grabbed the butter (paid for it) and headed home. If I were making these in the summer, I might toss in some coconut instead of the cranberries, and maybe some chopped acadamia nuts, too. Here, though, I think that the cranberries give it a nice tang and a holiday feel.

And, of course, here is the recipe so Santa can make these himself when he gets home.

Cashew-Macadamia Butter Cookies

(with White Chocolate Chunks and Cranberries)
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1 cup Cashew-Macadamia Butter
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt (both types of butter I used were unsalted)
1 heaping cup white chocolate chips/chunks
1 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 375 F.
Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
In a separate bowl, using an electric mixer, cream butter until fluffy. Add sugars and cashew butter and beat until well combined.
Add eggs one at a time and beat until well incorporated.
Stir in flour mixture by hand, then add white chocolate and cranberries.
Drop by tablespoonfulls (and flatten them somewhat) onto a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for about 12 minutes, until cookies just begin to brown at edges.

And finally, pour yourself a glass of milk and enjoy! Don't forget to save some for Santa, though.

Spiced Pumpkin Soup

To serve with my lovely bread, I made a spiced pumpkin soup.
It had a really central american flavor due to the cocoa powder and cinnamon I added. I began with the Southwestern Pumpkin Soup recipe at Epicurious, but I didn't really have any of the spices that it called for. Consequently, I am more then happy to take partial credit for the creation of this soup - which I will be adding to my favorite recipe file. The wonder that is canned pumpkin makes this soup possible all year. Life is good.

Spiced Pumpkin Soup

3 cups chicken stock or canned low-salt chicken broth
1 cup fat free half and half
1 15-ounce can pure pumpkin
3 tablespoons (packed) dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons cocoa powder (dutch process)
1/2 teaspoon ground paprika
1 tablespoon flour
1 teaspoon salt
Bring chicken stock and half and half to boil in heavy medium pot. Whisk in canned pumpkin, brown sugar and spices. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until soup thickens slightly and flavors blend, about 20 minutes. (Soup can be prepared up to 1 day ahead. Cool. Cover and refrigerate. Rewarm over medium-low heat, whisking occasionally.)

Serves 4, with some nice, crusty bread.

Oatmeal Bread part 2

The bread turned out great. It had a great flavor and was light and moist. I was suprised that it wasn't heavy at all. I should have taken more pictures, or at least tried to get a better shot, but we were a bit too eager to slice into it.

Oatmeal Bread
(from Oatmeal Dinner Rolls)

1 cup water
1/2 cup quick oats (coarsely chopped regular oats)
2 teaspoons butter
1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (100 to 110 degrees)
3 1/2 tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
Cook oats in 1 cup water according to package directions. Remove from heat and stir in butter, brown sugar and salt. Allow to cool for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, mix yeast and 1/4 cup warm water in a large bowl; let stand 5-10 minutes, while you cook and cool the oats.
Add oats and flour to yeast and mix until the dough starts to come away from the side of the bowl. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic (about 5 minutes). Place in a well-greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until dough has doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 375F.
Turn dough out and gently shape into a round loaf. Place dough on a baking sheet and let rise for 30-45 minutes. Slash the top of the loaf as desired.
Bake at 375 degrees for 40 minutes.
Transfer to a wire rack to cool almost completely before serving.

Oatmeal bread part 1

I wanted to test this recipe for Oatmeal Dinner Rolls from AllRecipes before I attempted to serve it to people at Thanksgiving next week. I know that lots of people don't test recipes before serving them and an equal number will never serve anything that isn't absolutely tried and true (a number in my family, for example). I personally like to test things that I am not terribly confident with. Yeast bread, for example.
Today, I attempted to make this oatmeal bread. This photo was taken just before baking, after the second rise. Looks good already, doesn't it?

Monday, November 15, 2004

Quick Snack: Cranberry Drop Scones

I remembered reading the recipe for "Cream Biscuits" in my new cookbook. They involve flour, baking powder, salt and cream, as I recall. This afternoon I felt like a little snack and thought back to the biscuit recipe.
"I have those things!" I thought.
I also thought these would go well with the specialty Egg Cream soda I spotted in the market the other day. I highly recommend getting a recipe or going to a diner where they serve Egg Creams if you've never had them before. I also recommend getting Chocolate Egg Creams, though the one I had was tasty!
Back on topic, my biscuits came out quite well and made for a nice snack.

Cream Biscuits/Scones
1/2 cup ap flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup cream, half and half, etc.
handful of dried cranberries, raisins or currants (chocolate chips would work, too!).

Sift dry indredients into a bowl. Add milk and stir until almost combined. Add cherries and finish mixing until just combined. Divide dough into 4 rounds on parchment covered baking sheet.
Sprinkle with sugar just before baking.
Bake at 375F for 15-20 minutes.

The result? I feel like many Americans would think of these as scones rather than biscuits. They tasted nice (especially with the cranberries!) but were more on the cakey side than the flaky side, but were not too dense. I would definately make these again since I know that they'll come out with any milk product from heavy cream to skim milk and a plain biscuit can take any add ins I have on hand.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Oh the possibilities

After what felt like an eternity, I have finally acquired the cookbook at the top of my list:

As a big fan of Gourmet's recipes, I cannot wait to try out things from this book. With something like 1200 recipes, I think it'll take me a while. So many choices, so little time. I'll update with my to-cook list when I've have a chance to scour all the recipes!

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Sugar High Fridays - Apples!

Sugar High Fridays #2 - Apple Pie Biscotti

My first SHF entry!
I adore biscotti. I was always disappointed with the trend towards softish, cakey biscotti, though. Biscotti should be very crisp. They should not, however, be so "crisp" as to require serious dental work in their aftermath. For these biscotti, neither is the case. I find them to be very crisp, yet light. They have no butter or oil in them (though I usually put in a bit of olive oil if I am making a more savory biscotti).

I chose to make them for my SFH entry instead of just submitting the classic apple pie I made recently (see below) because I happened to have a jar of apple butter and was keen to use it. I usually eat biscotti plain, but this time I topped them with a white chocolate almond glaze and sprinkled them with minced candied ginger. The only change I might recommend is to put the ginger in the biscotti before baking.

Apple Pie Biscotti with White Chocolate Ginger Glaze
2 ½ cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp allspice
(could also sub 1.5tsp apple pie spice for all spices)
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
3 tbsp apple butter

Preheat oven to 350.Combine dry ingredients in a bowlIn a separate bowl, whip eggs until foamy, then add sugar. Beat until fluffy.Add vanilla and apple butter to egg mixture.Add flour mixture to wet ingredients and stir until just combined. (Add in ginger here, if you wish)

Sprinkle baking sheets with flour.Flour your hands and shape ½ dough into a log. Place log on baking sheet and flatten into a rectangle no more then ½ inch thick. Repeat with remaining dough. Make sure your hands are well floured!Bake for 20 minutes at 375 until the edges begin to brown and logs are firm.Turn oven down to 325.Slice logs with a serrated knife into ½ inch cookies and place (with the cut sides up) back in the oven.Bake for 40 minutes (or until dry), turning the cookies over after 20 minutes.
Makes about 4 dozen biscotti.

1/2 cup white chocolate
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 tbsp half and half or cream or milk
Minced candied ginger

Heat cream and extract until quite warm. Melt chocolate. Combine and stir throughly until smooth. Spread thin layer on top of cooled biscotti. Top with candied Ginger to taste (I recommend a lot).

Wednesday, November 10, 2004


I love shopping.
Yes, in general, but particularly for food. I am one of those people who'll get sidetracked in markets by brightly colored packaging on a product I've never seen before. Today, however, I had some time to kill and went out to the outlets where I spent a signifigant portion of my morning in Harry and David and Le Gourmet Chef.
Harry and David always has yummy things in their catalogue and even if people sometimes complain about the prices, no one complains if they get a gift box. In their stores, they have tons of samples - chocolate covered fruits, various spreads, coffee, etc. - and catalogue overstocks, meaning you can get some great deals on their Moose Munch. I bought some fruit butters and some relish. I am planning to use my apple butter tomorrow in my Sugar High Friday entry. What am I making, you ask? Tune in tomorrow!
It was also the first time I had been in Le Gourmet Chef for a while. It is a fabulous place to pick up gifts for friends - tons of interesting mixes, bakeware, appliances... I could go on. I bought myself some star shaped nesting cookie cutters for making christmas Linzer cookies. Mmm... I also sampled a Raspberry Chocolate Pretzel Dip which was incredibly, incredibly good.
After that I made myself leave, as I had consumed about two meals' worth of samples. =)

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Pumpkin Ginger Bread

Tonight I decided to make a recipe I found on Epicurious for a friend of mine. She really loves ginger and I decided that I could think of no better use for my newly purchased candied ginger chips than this. I like ginger, but not to the point that I cook with it, or even, in fact, desire it often. I also had some pumpkin butter that I have been waiting to use in something other than pie. The result? Pumpkin ginger bread.

I only made a few modifications to the recipe as I was too lazy to go to the market, despite the fact that it is a mere few blocks away (but it's quite chilly and the warm kitchen was a much nicer place to be). I used half and half instead of the buttermilk and pumpkin butter instead of the pumpkin puree. I also baked it for an hour in a loaf pan, though the recip made enough for me to fill an additional 7 muffin tins, which I fed to my housemates.
The verdict? Excellent.
Nice pumpkin flavor, very gingery, but not overly so. I was glad I didn't put any more on the top, however, choosing to sprinkly sugar on instead (I added a bit more on for the photo, too). It's a very moist bread, but not heavy at all. I think it would be excellent with apple butter in place of the pumpkin. If I were serving it at home, I think I would make an orange glaze or stir some zest into some cream cheese. Mmm...

Monday, November 08, 2004

Chocolate Genoise

Saturday night I decided to prepare dessert to take to my friends. I knew that chocolate should be involved and I wanted something that would be hardy enough to spend the day in my car (for the record, it was quite chilly and gray, so the car was more like a poorly performing refrigerator than an oven). I also - and this was a personal preference after having made a chocolate souffle cake not too long ago - wanted something a bit light. So I settled on making a Chocolate Genoise, from a recipe of Joy of Baking. I love that site, by the way. The recipe for Peanut Butter cookies is excellent.
But I am digressing.
This is the first genoise I've made and while it was a tad overdone - my oven rack was too low so I had to extend the cooking time - the flavor and texture were great.
While it was cooling, I made a raspberry puree to use as a filling/topping. I wanted to drizzle the cake with coffee liquor and serve it with chocolate whipped cream, but I didn't have either of these as I prepared the cake and I doubted that whipped cream would keep terribly well in the car. Next time, I will do that, though. I split the cake two and filled it with half the puree, wrapped it up and took it with me.
Dinner was excellent - fresh rosemary sourdough bread with dipping oil, grilled chicken skewers with veggies and long grain rice, a bottle of shiraz, cake... To serve the cake, we topped each slice with more puree, though I should have let it soak in a bit to make up for the dryness.
It tasted excellent with the puree, nevertheless.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

The buns also rise

This morning was my first attempt at baking cinnamon buns from scratch - yeast and all. I approached the project with a cautious excitement, as it seemed simple from the recipe but I have had many people tell me that it is simply not worth the effort. Proving them wrong, I give you the final product:

Admittedly, I did cut them a bit thicker then they should have been, but only one bit in the center was slightly less than done due to uneveness in my oven.
I used a recipe from AllRecipes.com (I think it may have been for Overnight Cinnamon Rolls I?) and substituted fat free half and half and skim milk for the whole milk called for in the recipe. I also only used just under 1/4 cup of butter, because that was all I had on hand when I started to bake. Note to self: check fridge before cooking. I ended up putting a lovely cinnamon glaze on top just before we ate them and they were enjoyed by all.
I will definately be making more bread from scratch now that I have overcome my fear of using yeast.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Pumpkin bundt update

First of all the cake was delish. It did suffer a minor disaster due to the presence of too much streusel filling.

When I took them out of the pan, only one of the pumpkin halves made it. The other was distributed - more or less evenly - over my kitchen counter. I managed to stick a bit of it back together, which makes for a nice photo where you can see the filling (cinnaomn, sugar, butter and walnuts). The recipe calls for making it in one large pan, rather than two small ones, so if I were doing this again, I would probably halve the butter in the filling.
I'm also making a little cinnamon glaze for the cake, though I'm seriously considering using chocolate to cover the broken bits.

Cake from a mix?

Having read the positive feedback on Seattle Bon Vivant for the Williams Sonoma bundt mixes, I've decided to use the Pumpkin I got as a birthday gift a few weeks ago. I'm going to use the pumpkin-shaped bundt cake pan that they make as well, though as I plan to serve it to quite a few people, I may not assemble it in all its pumpkin-shaped glory for ease of slicing. Half-pumpkin shaped glory? Doesn't quite have the same ring.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Cowboy Cookies!

I'm anticipating starting a weekend full of lovely baking. Parties and out of town guests - what better excuses? I think that the weather is also a good one. We've had a cold front moving through the area for the past two days, bringing rain and wind. I know I don't want to go outside in that weather. These are the cookies that I made today.

Cowboy Cookies
2 tbsp butter
1/4 c plain apple sauce
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
3/4 c white sugar
1/4 c brown sugar
1 c flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
2 c quick cooking oatmeal
1 c chocolate chips (I used Sees - mmm!)
1 c shredded sweetened coconut (unsweetened would be fine)
1/2 c chopped walnuts - see note below.

Cream softened butter with sugars. Add egg - mix well. Add extracts and applesauce. Combine dry ingredients in a bowl, stir until almost combined - you want to still see flour! Add oats, chocolate chips, coconut (and nuts, though I only put them in the chocolate version this time) and stir until combined. Drop tablespoonfuls onto baking sheet w/ parchment paper and bake for about 20min at 375 deg. F.

I also made a chocolate version, where I omitted the almond extract and added 1/4 c of cocoa powder to the flour mixture. I also added 1/3 cup walnuts.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

First Post!

I'm very pleased to have finally started a blog. I've been a serial lurker on just about every food blog for the past... well, let's not get into that. The point is, I could no longer resist the temptation to do such things as chronicle my culinary forays and participate in some of the blogging community events. I know you don't *have* to have a blog to participate, but it only seems proper.
In any event, I'm sure I'll get the hang of this soon.

Update October 2005:
For any of you visiting for the first time and choosing to plunge into my archives, welcome. I have not edited any of my early posts, though I realise now that many of them lack the style of more current posts. I won't be editing them beyond minor formatting changes. Why? Just see here.
Thanks for visiting!