Saturday, October 22, 2011

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

Chocolate chip oatmeal cookies are my favorite cookie, for sure. While I like the classic chocolate chip, I love the chewiness and nutty flavor that the oats add. The added health factor of the oats also makes me feel less guilty about the other ingredients in these cookies and if you use dark chocolate, the health benefits practically demand that you make these cookies right now, seriously. These cookies are pretty much perfect. They're chewy and slightly crispy at the edges. I added in a bit more oats to the recipe to amp up the texture and flavor of the oats and I might omit the water next time, but these cookies definitely deserve a place in your cookie repertoire.

That being said, I will continue to try out other chocolate chip oatmeal cookie recipes in the search for the very best. You can never have too many recipes for such an awesome cookie.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from Mad Hungry, Lucinda Scala Quinn,
About 24 cookies

6 ounces semisweet chocolate chips or dark chocolate chunks
1 stick of unsalted butter(4 oz)
6 tbsp brown sugar
6 tbsp granulated sugar
1 1/8 cups rolled oats
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 large egg
3/4 tsp coarse salt(1/2 the amount if using fine salt)
1/4 tsp water
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp baking soda

Preheat the oven to 375 deg Fahrenheit. Whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl, set aside.

Cream the butter and sugars together with a handheld mixer or in a mixer with a paddle attachment. Add the egg, vanilla, and water mixing well after each addition. Add in the flour mixture mixing until just combined. Mix in oats and chocolate chips.

Scoop tablespoonfuls or use a small ice cream scoop to drop mounds onto parchment lined rimmed baking sheets spacing an inch apart. Press down slightly for flatter cookies. Bake for 10-12 minutes until lightly golden. Move to cooling racks.

Store in an airtight container for a few days or freeze scooped dough balls for baking another time.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Quick Banana Cake

Whenever I buy a bunch of bananas, I wait until they ripen a bit before I eat them because I like the sweet scent of slightly ripened bananas. However, since the window of time between ripe and overripe is very small, I often find myself left with a few bananas that are too ripe to eat. Since I love bananas in baked goods, this isn't a bad problem to have.
This cake is perfect for using up those overripe bananas you have laying around. It's very quick and easy to put together and is great either steamed or baked. It's moist, not overly sweet, and makes a great treat for breakfast or an on-the-go snack.

Quick Banana Cake
3 ripe bananas, mashed
3 eggs
120 grams granulated sugar
110 grams oil
225 grams all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
Large pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a bowl, set aside. In another bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar until it becomes pale and forms a thick ribbon.

Mix in the oil and bananas, whisking thoroughly after each addition.  Add the vanilla extract. Fold the flour mixture into the egg mixture until just combined. Pour the batter into an 8 x 8 inch square pan, bake for 30 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.

Note: This cake can also be steamed over medium high heat until the cake tester comes out clean, probably around 30 minutes.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Mascarpone Cheesecake

This is the dessert that I've made the most since I started baking. I would say that I've made close to 20 of these cheesecakes if not more.* A mascarpone cheesecake is much lighter than a new york style cheesecake and also not as tart, so if you're looking for a dense new york cheesecake, this is not it. However, I've found that many people like this cheesecake because it is lighter and sweeter than the typical cheesecake.

If you love cheesecake, I really recommend giving this one a try. It's a family favorite and will please most cheesecake fans.

*This title has since been claimed by the chinese style chiffon cake also found on this blog, though this is still one of my favorites.
Mascarpone Cheesecake
Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis

2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 tbsp granulated sugar
3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted

16 ounces of cream cheese, room temp
16 ounces of mascarpone cheese, room temp
1 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 eggs, room temp

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Mix the crust ingredients together in a bowl, press into the bottom of the springform pan and slightly up the sides if you wish. Bake until the crust is set and starting to brown, about 10 minutes. Cool. Decrease oven temp to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

To make the filling, place the cream cheese, mascarpone cheese, and sugar in a food processor. Process until smooth. Add the lemon juice and vanilla and blend until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, blending after each addition.

Pour the filling into the crust and bake until the center moves slightly when shaken, about 1 hour and 5 minutes. Cool the cheesecake completely on a rack for a few hours, then refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight. Run a knife around the sides of the springform pan to remove and serve cold.

Note: Most cheesecake recipes tell you to bake in a water bath so that it doesn't crack. I've found that cracking is mostly due to air incorporated into the cheesecake when beating or extreme changes in temp which is why I've switched to making my cheesecake fillings in a food processor and let the cheesecake cool slowly after it's baked. Even when I used to bake my cheesecakes in a water bath, they would crack in the refrigerator because I cooled them down too quickly. Of course, if you would like to use a water bath anyway just in case, that's up to you. If your cheesecakes still end up cracking, just cover it up with a topping like melted chocolate, jam, or berries. No matter what, it will still taste delicious.

Banana Cream Pie

There are few things more perfect than a banana cream pie, but though I love them so, I've never made one until now. However, seeing as I had all the ingredients I needed and a pie crust to use up, I finally decided to make one and this one turned out pretty perfect. It's beautifully creamy and decadent without being overly rich. It has great banana flavor and I love that it's firm enough for a slice to stand on its own, but not so firm that you lose the airy texture of a cream pie.

The recipe is basically the same as the original. I've just altered some of the directions because it seems to work out better this way. If you're looking for a great banana cream pie, look no further.

Banana Cream Pie
Adapted from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook

Pate Brisee - Makes one pie crust
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 stick cold unsalted butter, diced
1/2 tsp granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt(use half the amount of fine salt)
1/8 - 1/4 cup of ice water

* If you have the time, make this crust using the technique described here. It is seriously the flakiest pie crust I've ever had, there are clear visible layers within the crust. However, the crust is just as good and still beautifully flaky made the way below.

Blend the flour and salt in a food processor to remove any lumps, add the cold butter and pulse until it is the size of peas

Add the ice water slowly using only enough so that the crust holds together when you squeeze it in your hand, it should not be too crumbly, nor too wet. Dump the dough onto a piece of plastic wrap and gather it into a mound, then flatten into a thick disc. Refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight.

When ready to make the pie, take the dough out of the refrigerator and roll it into a big enough round to fit a 9 inch pie dish.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Fit the dough into the pie dish, fold edges under, crimp, and prick all over with a fork. Brush the edges with egg wash and chill for 30 minutes until firm. Line with parchment, fill with pie weights or dried beans, then bake for 25-30 minutes until edges are golden brown. Remove pie weights and parchment, then bake for another 20 minutes. Let cool.

Vanilla Custard
3 cups whole milk
7 tbsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup granulated sugar
4 large egg yolks
1/4 tsp salt

Heat milk with sugar and salt in a saucepan until it reaches a simmer. In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the cornstarch and vanilla until there are no lumps. Add the heated milk into the yolks a little at a time whisking all the while. Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over a medium heat whisking constantly until the mixture begins to thicken. Strain over a sieve into a bowl and let cool slightly. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the custard to prevent a skin from forming and when it has cooled down some more, chill in the refrigerator until completely cooled.

Whipped Cream
1 cup of heavy cream
2 tbsp powdered sugar

Place ingredients into a chilled bowl and whisk with a mixer until it reaches soft peaks, do not overwhip.

To assemble:
3 or 4 bananas, cut into 1/4 inch slices

Arrange bananas in a spiral on the bottom of the pie crust, top with the custard, then finish with the whipped cream. Chill in the refrigerator at least 1 hour. When ready to serve, you can cut some more bananas and arrange them on the top or serve as is. The pie is best served the day that it is made.