Saturday, November 22, 2014

Mrs. Sigg's Snickerdoodles

This is another one requested by my youngest sister, so don't expect any healthy substitutions for this one. For a while, she's been wanting me to make some snickerdoodles. So, as I usually do, I decided to try a different recipe. I already have a snickerdoodle recipe from Joanne Chang posted on this blog that is very good, but it is a rather crisp snickerdoodle. For a bit more chewiness, I decided to go with a popular recipe on Allrecipes that included some vegetable shortening. Based on the popular snickerdoodle recipes I've seen across the web, they're all pretty much the same recipe with just slightly different proportions.

The texture of this one was spot on, but using some shortening instead of butter does result in a less flavorful cookie, so it's up to you which one you pick. I made little mini snickerdoodles since that's what my sister requested and while that's good for portion control, it can also be dangerous since they're so easy to eat in one bite that you might start to lose count once you taste one. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Mrs. Sigg's Snickerdoodles
Recipe from Young Idealistic Baker who adapted from Allrecipes
Makes about 3-4 dozen mini cookies

1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened at room temp
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
2 tbsp granulated sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 400 deg F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Sift the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl. Set aside. Combine the 2 tbsp of sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl and set aside.

In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, with a handheld mixer, or with a wooden spoon, cream the butter, shortening, and 3/4 cup sugar together for 3-5 min until light and fluffy. Add in the egg and vanilla and mix until well incorporated.

Add the flour mixture and mix until just combined. With a small ice cream scoop about the size of a tsp or with your hands, form small balls of dough. Roll the balls of dough in the cinnamon sugar and place on the baking sheet leaving about 2 inches between them. Bake for 7-8 minutes, preferably on the middle rack.

Let the cookies cool for about a minute on the baking sheet so they can set up a bit. Then, remove to a cooling rack to cool completely. Store the cookies in an airtight container for up to several days at room temp.
Obligatory stacked cookie shots, also just cause I love them.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Glutinous Pumpkin Pancake - Nan Gua Bing (南瓜饼)

I've been meaning to try my hand at Nan Gua Bing(glutinous pumpkin pancakes) for some time now since I was pretty sure they would be super easy to make and I knew they would taste a lot fresher than store bought. I love pretty much pumpkin anything and when mixed with a chewy mochi texture, it's a sure winner. Recently, I had steamed some kabocha squash to make Hobakjuk, a korean pumpkin porridge, so I decided to make some Nan Gua Bing while I was at it.

The recipe has very few ingredients and is basically just like making dumplings with the addition of kabocha squash puree. Instead of kabocha squash puree, butternut squash, sweet potato, and pumpkin would also work. You may need to adjust the amount of rice flour you use depending on the puree you use. Steaming is a pretty quick way to cook your squash, but baking or boiling, then draining would also work.

The recipe comes from Christine's Recipes and really could not get any easier. You can use all glutinous rice flour which is what the original recipe calls for or you can mix in some rice flour for a sturdier pancake. It still ends up with a nice chewy texture, but it holds together a little bit better. Try it and see what you prefer. To cook these pancakes, you can pan fry or steam them, either way works. They are definitely best eaten fresh though, so make the dough ahead of time and then when you're ready to serve, shape them into patties and cook them up.

Glutinous Pumpkin Pancakes - Nan Gua Bing (南瓜饼)
Adapted from Christine's Recipes
Makes About 12 3-inch pancakes

320 g kabocha squash puree
120 g sugar, granulated sugar or brown sugar
100 g glutinous rice flour
60 g rice flour
large pinch of salt

While your puree is warm if possible, mix in the sugar and salt thoroughly with your hands or a wooden spoon. Add the rice flour and mix. Then add the glutinous rice flour gradually until you have a smooth dough that is not too sticky.

Wrap with plastic wrap and let sit at room temp until you are ready to cook them. Divide the dough into 12 pieces, roll into a ball and flatten to your desired thickness, around 1/2 inch. In a preheated skillet over medium low, add a bit of vegetable oil, and fry the pancakes for about 3 min on each side until the dough is no longer raw. You may also steam them for 8-10 min on medium high heat. Serve immediately.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Chewy Brownies

A while ago, I had made applesauce brownies and I thought they were fantastic not to mention practically good for you. However, my younger sister didn't think they were as fantastic as I did. When we went to the grocery store the other day, she began eyeing up a brownie. I knew that I could make a fresh batch at home in under an hour, so I convinced her to let me make her some instead. I did have to guarantee that it would be a more typical brownie made without whole wheat flour and honey though.

As I said in my applesauce brownies post, while I've made brownies in the past, none of them ever seemed quite blogworthy. It could also be that my baking skills weren't quite as good initially so they never turned out quite right. Anyway, for this attempt, I thought I would try Laura Vitale's Chewy Brownies because frankly, they just looked really good and she seems to know a thing or two about brownies. My sisters and I are fans of chewy brownies, although Laura also has recipes for Fudgy and Cakey Brownies.

These brownies came out amazing and as you can see are definitely blogworthy. As with most of Laura's recipes, this one is really simple and seems practically foolproof. In no time, I had a batch of brownies in the oven. The brownies themselves are perfectly chewy with some fudginess, not overly sweet or greasy, and the edges that touch the pan crisp up beautifully. I'm happy to have found a brownie recipe that I feel like I can rely on and that I think will please pretty much any brownie craving in no time.

Chewy Brownies
Recipe slightly adapted from Laura in the Kitchen
Makes 16 Brownies

1 stick(1/2 cup) of unsalted butter
10 oz bittersweet chocolate, chunks or chips or chopped
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1 cup all purpose flour
2 1/2 tbsp natural unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp instant espresso powder or instant coffee granules

Preheat oven to 350 deg F. Line an 8 or 9 inch square baking pan with parchment paper.

In a large heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water, melt the butter. Once the butter has melted, add the bittersweet chocolate and whisk occasionally until melted.

While the chocolate is melting, sift your flour, cocoa powder, espresso powder, and salt together in a medium bowl. Set aside.

Once the chocolate has melted, whisk in the granulated sugar for about a minute until well incorporated. Then mix in the eggs, whisking for another 1-2 minutes until everything is well mixed. Add in the flour mixture and stir to combine. Switch to a spatula or a wooden spoon if necessary. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan.

For an 8 inch square pan, bake for 40 min on the center rack. For a 9 inch square pan, brownies will take about 35 min in the oven. Let cool completely before cutting. Brownies will last for several days covered at room temp or for several weeks well wrapped in the freezer.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Pumpkin Spice Granola

Fall is one of my favorite times of year because it's when I tend to make more spiced and pumpkin filled desserts. I love the fruit in the spring and summer, but some of my favorite desserts are traditional fall treats like pumpkin pie, sweet potato pie, apple pie, can you tell I'm a pie lover? I guess I could make these things year round, but I usually only make them to bring to a family gathering or when I have someone to share them with. I'm still on the hunt for a smaller pie plate, a 7 inch one would be perfect.
Anyway, to bring some of that fall flavor to my morning breakfast, I decided to make some pumpkin spice granola. I really can't believe that I was ever afraid of making granola after that one time that it didn't work out. Whenever recipes flop now, I just move on to another one or rethink it if it seems salvageable. Back to the topic at hand, granola is super easy to make, endlessly customizable, and it's great as a breakfast cereal, over yogurt, or for a snack. This one from Sally's Baking Addiction is very lightly sweetened, so much so that I've added just a touch more sugar in the recipe and because I love spice, I've also bumped that up just a bit. The sweetness could also depend on your maple syrup, though, so adjust as needed. Pumpkin is not a super strong flavor and there isn't a lot of it here, so mostly what you get is the pumpkin pie spice. I love the way this granola forms large clusters due to the egg whites, but you could certainly leave it out.

Pumpkin Spice Granola
Recipe slightly adapted from Sally's Baking Addiction
Makes about 6 cups

3 3/4 cups rolled oats
2/3 cup unsweetened flaked coconut
2/3 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup uncooked quinoa
3 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
2 large pinches of salt
2 large egg whites
1/4 cup melted coconut oil
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
5 tbsp brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup of dried cranberries, cherries, currants, etc.

Preheat oven to 325 deg F. In a large bowl, mix the rolled oats, coconut, pumpkin seeds, quinoa, salt, and spices together.

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg whites for a minute or two to break them up. Mix in the coconut oil, maple syrup, brown sugar, vanilla, and the pumpkin puree. Add the wet mixture to the dry and thoroughly coat the oat mixture with the wet ingredients.

Divide the granola between two lined baking sheets and bake for 40 min until the granola is golden brown, stirring the granola every 10-15 min and rotating the baking sheets halfway.  Let the granola cool completely on the baking sheets. Mix in the dried fruit. Store in an airtight container for up to a few weeks.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Sweet Tofu Pudding (Doufu Hua) 豆腐花

Doufu Hua or Sweet Tofu Pudding is something that I had relatively often as a kid. At pretty much every large family gathering, my grandma would make it as would my dad when he was craving some. For quite a while, my dad was less inclined to make it since the quality of the soybeans available weren't great thereby affecting the quality of the final product. The past few years though, we've come across some organic soybeans which have better flavor. The quality doesn't match that of my childhood, but it's the best we've found thus far. So, long story short, fresh soymilk and tofu pudding have been showing up a lot more often.
As I get older, I've really gained an appreciation for making more traditional Chinese dishes and desserts and tofu pudding is definitely one of those things that I've been wanting to learn. Tofu Pudding is something that seems very difficult to make and while it can be, the process is actually relatively simple, especially if you have the right equipment. Basically, we're making a very silky fresh tofu by adding a coagulant, gypsum powder, to homemade soymilk. The soymilk must be fresh, if not homemade because the recipe will not work with thin store bought soymilk. The resulting tofu pudding is served with sugar syrup, traditionally ginger sugar syrup, but even honey or maple syrup would work. It's definitely best served fresh, but it's also super refreshing from the fridge. I also recently tried a Filipino dessert that is basically the same thing but with tapioca called Taho and that was also super delicious.

My dad never used to measure anything when he made tofu pudding, so it was never quite the same each time, but the idea is to try to make it as flavorful but silky as possible. The thicker your homemade soymilk, the more flavorful it will be, but also the firmer your resulting pudding will be. For drinking straight, thicker soymilk has better flavor, but for tofu pudding, you need soymilk that is a little lighter. My dad and I have made it a few times with the proportions below and it's produced quite a silky, yet flavorful pudding. The quality of your soybeans does matter though, so I would use the best that you can find. We may still play around with the proportions to see if we can push it to that edge where the tofu pudding is just set, but for now, this is pretty close to perfect.

Sweet Tofu Pudding (Doufu Hua) 豆腐花
Makes About 6 Liters

1 lb of soybeans, soaked overnight in plenty of water with as many skins removed as possible
5 1/2 L of water
4 tsp gypsum powder
4 tsp potato starch

Drain the soaked soybeans. In a blender, blend the soybeans in about 4 batches or so with some of the water. Pour all the blended soybeans into a cheesecloth bag placed over a pot and squeeze out as much soymilk as possible. Pour some of the remaining water over the pulp in the cheesecloth bag and mix to rinse as much residual soymilk from the pulp as possible. Squeeze the soymilk from the pulp.

Repeat until you have used all the water. The soymilk will gradually get thinner as you continue to add water to the pulp. You may throw away the pulp or use it to make something else if you would like. Strain the soymilk one more time through the cheesecloth if you'd like to get it super smooth.

Set aside about 2 cups of the soymilk. Then bring the rest of the soymilk to a boil over medium heat. Just before it boils, whisk the gypsum powder and potato starch with the soymilk that you set aside. Pour this mixture into a pot large enough to hold all the soymilk. Once the soymilk comes to a boil, take it off the heat and pour in a continuous stream about 1 ft over the pot into the gypsum powder mixture. Quickly skim off the foam if you'd like or just do so after it has set. Do not mix.

Cover with a kitchen towel and lid and let sit undisturbed for at least an hour. Meanwhile, make the sugar syrup if using, or serve with honey, maple syrup, etc.

1 cup sugar, the type of sugar is up to you
1 cup water
A couple slices of fresh ginger(optional)

To make the sugar syrup, combine equal parts sugar and water, ginger if using, and heat over medium until the sugar is melted.

To serve, use a thin wide flat spoon to scoop the tofu pudding in a skimming motion making horizontal layers. Once you have scooped your desired amount, add some sugar syrup over the top and enjoy. Tofu pudding is best enjoyed the day it's made, but it can be refrigerated up to several days. Reheat in the microwave if desired.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Linzer Cookies

I won't even bother to tell you when I made these because it was more than a while ago, in fact more than several whiles ago. The motivation to attempt making these cookies stemmed from trying to recreate some delicious cookies from a local bakery that my sister's friend had gifted to us. They turned out to be sable cookies with nuts rather than Linzer cookies, but despite the error, I ended up with some delicious cookies. I decided to sandwich some of these with chocolate ganache rather than the more traditional jam and they made absolutely delicious nutty chocolaty sandwich cookies.

The recipe comes from Sarabeth's Bakery and they're just fantastic. Nutty, crumbly, buttery all in one. The recipe is a bit more involved than other cookies since you need to roll out the dough and cut the cookies out, but not much more. If you didn't want to cut them out with cookie cutters, you could also just cut the dough into squares or rectangles with a knife. I made tiny little sandwich cookies, so it took longer to cut them out, but you can make them however you like. The original recipe calls for hazelnuts, but I've also made them with pecans and they're delicious as well. The cookies stay crisp about a day or two after they've been filled, but will continue to soften as they sit, so don't wait too long to finish them.

Linzer Cookies
Adapted from Sarabeth's Bakery

3/4 cup(3 oz) hazelnuts
2 1/2 cups pastry flour or cake flour, sifted
1 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
12 tbsp. unsalted butter, room temp
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, beaten
Raspberry preserves or ganache, for filling

In a preheated 350 deg F oven, toast the hazelnuts for 10 min and remove the skins by rubbing them together in a kitchen towel. Cool completely, then place the nuts, and 1/2 cup of the flour in a food processor. Process until finely ground.

Mix the nut-flour mixture with the remaining flour, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Beat the butter and sugar in a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or with a handheld mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 min. Scrape down the bowl and beat in the egg.

On low speed, add in the flour mixture and mix until just incorporated. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, flatten into a rectangle about an inch thick, and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 2 hrs.

When ready to make the cookies, working with half the dough at a time, roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface to 1/8 inch thickness. Cut cookies out with cookie cutters of your choice. Transfer cookies to a parchment lined baking sheet with an offset spatula.

Roll out and cut out cookies from the remaining dough. Gather up the dough scraps and repeat rolling and cutting out cookies. Refrigerate the dough before continuing to roll it out if it becomes difficult to work with. Refrigerate the cookies for at least 30 min to let them firm up.

Preheat your oven to 350 deg F. Bake two pans of cookies at a time, one on the top rack and one on the bottom rack, until they are lightly browned on the edges. This will take 15-17 min for larger cookies, 8-10 min for small cookies. Rotate the pans halfway through and switch from top to bottom. Let the cookies cool completely on the pan.

Sandwich the cookies with raspberry preserves or ganache. Let them sit for 8 hrs or overnight to settle and soften slightly. Store cookies in a covered container at room temp. for up to 5 days.