September 26, 2012

Double Chocolate Cookies

There is a bakery near my office -- Nuvrei -- that sells the best double chocolate cookies in the world. I mean, the BEST. These super dark (almost black!) cookies that are almost overshadowed by the bakery's more colorful macarons and dark golden pretzel bagels. Almost.

Because those who know... know. These cookies are almost contradictory -- they almost melt in your mouth, but happen to be both chewy and crispy and chocolatey with every bite. These are the cookies to END all other cookies. The one that rules them all.

And I think I've figured out the recipe!


Now my coworker has pointed out that Nuvrei actually sells the cookie mix... but where's the fun in that? This way, I get the adventure of figuring out the recipe without having to pay the bakery $18 for a paltry box mix. And I'm happy to say, I think I got it.

The bakery advertises these as gluten-free and flourless cookies, so that was my first step in figuring out the recipe. Without gluten and flour to hold the cookie together, what'll take it's place? Hmm... powdered sugar. Lots of it. And eggs, of course. Lots of eggs. The rest was easy -- just cocoa powder and lots of teeny, tiny chocolate chips to get chocolate with every bite:


And finally, throw in some flakey chunks of salt to get that satisfying, salted-chocolate kick.

While these cookies aren't exactly identical to Nuvrei's -- because let's face it, that bakery is phenomenal and there's no way I will ever be able to figure out their recipes on my own -- I'm pretty satisfied with the outcome. These cookies almost taste like crispy edged brownies... but in cookie form! Two of my favorite desserts coming together? Ain't got no problem with that.

September 22, 2012

2-Layer Lemon Cake with Earl Grey Tea Frosting


It is a beautiful weekend here in Portland, Oregon. The sky is a bright, cloudless blue and the weather has cooled to a perfect 70 degrees. It's the first days of autumn and I can't help but feel excited. Maybe it's a residual from all those years of school, but I feel like it's this time of year -- fall, not winter -- that brings changes, signifying new things and new beginnings. And I'm excited for it.

Admittedly, my optimism is more likely a result of some good news at work rather than the season. I can't go into too much detail about it (yet), but for the first time in a long time, I feel like things are working out. And I wanted to bake a beautiful cake to celebrate. So that's why I decided to finally try out this recipe I've been holding on to for a long time:


This folks, is a lemon cake covered with an Earl Grey meringue frosting. Now I normally don't do meringue frostings. They are too hit or miss -- I find them to be too sticky and too sweet. And that's why I stick to buttercreams and cream cheese frostings. But honestly, this frosting was one of the best I've ever made. Not too sweet, with a strong Earl Grey flavor with every bite. The texture was light and fluffy, perfect for frosting a beautiful cake.

The cake base was also nothing to forget about.  It's got two layers, and the recipe instructs you to pour a lemon glaze over both layers of the cake while it's still warm. The glaze adds a wonderful sweetness and strengthens the cake's lemon flavor, ensuring that the lemon flavor doesn't get drowned out by the Earl Grey frosting.

The perfect cake to celebrate the changing of seasons, new beginnings, and just life in general.

September 19, 2012

Classic Raised Donuts

I've been in a bit of a blogging funk lately, feeling a little bit uninspired and having trouble coming up with recipes. While I'm normally excited to bake, I spent this weekend hemming and hawing. I knew I needed to try a new recipe to get back into the blogging groove. And nothing cheers me up like donuts:


Donuts are delicious and, best of all, photogenic. I've been feeling a little bit down about my photography skills lately, struggling to get used to the green-tinted light that shines through the trees outside my window. I've also been baking baked goods that were incredibly hard to take good pictures of -- check out my Chocolate Banana Pocky Cake, for instance. Delicious and awe-inspiring in real life, but in photos? Not so much. Photographing donuts was the pick-me-up I needed to get excited about my blog again.

Now, yes, you may point out that I've baked donuts before -- my recipe index shows a pretty sizeable collection of donut recipes. But ah, see. This recipe is new. This is the first time that I've ever made honest-to-goodness, classic, yeast-raised donuts:


My previous recipes for donuts were all based around a cake batter, using baking powder as the leavener. Why? Because to tell you the truth, I'm a little bit scared of yeast. I don't understand the way it works like the way I understand how baking powder and baking soda do. But I think it's about time to face my fear. Maybe the reason why I'm in a blogging funk is because I bake the same types of recipes over and over again. It's time to branch out, and be more adventurous.

As for the baking process of these donuts, it was really not that bad at all. I used the Basic Raised recipe found in Lara Ferroni's Doughnuts Cookbook. The resulting donuts are fluffy, subtly sweet, with a delicious bready flavor that you can only really get with using yeast. My fear of yeast is truly unfounded. The dough rose the way it was supposed to, without any issues. The only qualm I have about this recipe is that it takes a while for the dough to actually be ready, since there are many steps that require you to wait while the dough rises and/or proofs.

Oh well. At the end of the day, there's no saying how long I'm willing to wait for a donut.

September 15, 2012

Chocolate Banana Pocky Cake


Guys, I am very excited about this cake.

Why?

Because it makes me look like a better baker than I actually am -- doesn't it look like something that came from a store?


Don't be scared. I promise you that this cake is so easy to make. All you need is a little bit of patience and many, many boxes of Pocky.

September 12, 2012

The Hummingbird Bakery's One Bowl Brownies

As a food blogger, I feel like there's a lot of pressure to be unique and original. There are so many great food blogs out there -- I mean, just take a look at foodgawker and Tastespotting -- how are we supposed to distinguish ourselves from one another?

Often times, bloggers include a personal anecdote or story around the recipe. I myself try to do that -- I like the personal touches, and I don't want to produce a blog where I'm just churning out recipe after recipe without any sort of personality. But sometimes, there's really just not too much to say about the recipe. Take the Hummingbird Bakery's traditional brownie recipe:


The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook offers an easy, uncomplicated, one bowl recipe that I always turn to when I'm craving a no-fuss brownie. All it takes is one bowl, 10 minutes of prep time, and another 30 minutes in the oven. The brownies the recipe produces are chewy, chocolatey, and dense with a flakey, papery top. Made with simple ingredients, an easy recipe, and hardly any cleanup to boot. Since brownies are one of my favorite baked goods, I've experimented with different recipes and varieties in the past -- but really, nothing beats this traditional, classic recipe.

It's been a busy few weeks -- between things ramping up at work, friends visiting, and finding myself gearing up for yet another move -- the days have been long and I find myself exhausted. I love my blog and I love trying new recipes for it, but sometimes, I just want a simple brownie and nothing more. The kind of brownie doesn't need a story because it's just your everyday brownie. And this recipe is exactly that -- delicious, but nothing fussy and nothing pretentious. 

Why aren't all baked goods (and blog posts) this easy? 

September 8, 2012

Momofuku Milk Bar Bagel Bombs


Guys, remember when I was going to get really good at baking bread? Well... that didn't happen, as made evident by the paltry number of recipes in the Bread & Loaves section of my Recipe Index.

For a long time, my excuse was that I was looking for that one good bread-baking cookbook. So when I finally settled on James Beard-recommended The Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart, I told myself that I would immediately begin baking bread once I received it in the mail.

But then I started reading the book. And it was daunting. Reinhart takes about 100 pages to discuss each of the 12 steps in the bread baking process. And when I finally got to the recipes section (or "formulas"), I didn't even recognize three-quarters of the types of bread he was listing recipes for. So I got stressed out, slammed the book shut and deliberately ignored it when I was brainstorming recipes for my blog.

So when I was flipping through momofuku milk bar's cookbook, a recipe for bread dough caught my eye. momofuku milk bar is a dessert bakery, known for delectables like cereal milk and crack pie -- what were they doing in the savory breads business? Then I read this:

The cakes, cookies, or pies may have lured you into this book, but you are about to meet your favorite recipe. This bread dough is always tasty, very forgiving, and can be fashioned into nearly any style or variety of bready item. It takes a very "don't take yourself so seriously!" approach to bread baking and is the easiest, most versatile recipe in the book -- your resulting bagel bombs, volcanoes, brioche, focaccia, and croissants will be proof of that.

Now this sounded more up my alley. But how did claim actually hold up? Would this allegedly easy recipe for all-purpose wonder dough actually produce legitimate bread?

Apparently so:


Not bad, right?

So what are bagel bombs? From my understanding, they are essentially bread rolls with flavored cream cheese baked inside. Essentially a bagel, minus the hassle of toasting and spreading with cream cheese. These buns are best when fresh out the oven, so that the bread is all toasty and warm the cream cheese is all melty and delicious.

As for the recipe itself, Christina Tosi (head pastry chef of momofuku milk bar) is right. It takes away all the complications of bread baking and produces a solid, delicious bread that's as good as any you can find in an artisan bakery. As for her claim that the dough is malleable enough to produce other baked goods like brioche and croissants? We'll see, we'll see. Look for more upcoming bread recipes as I plan on testing this in the future. For real, this time.

September 5, 2012

Crunchy Oatmeal Cookies with Chocolate Covered Sunflower Seeds

Guys, do you know what I love? Those little plastic snack containers at Trader Joe's. You know the ones I'm talking about -- the buckets filled with peanut butter cups, candied peanuts, and chocolate-covered almonds. My personal favorite are the buckets filled with chocolate-covered sunflower seeds:


I'm not exaggerating when I say I can eat an entire bucket in 5 minutes or less. I remember there was one time I brought a bucket of these sunflower seeds on a road trip with friends, only to have them stare at me in stunned silence as I tipped the bucket into my mouth unabashedly and ate the entire thing in a few bites. No, literally -- I think at one point I was just swallowing the seeds without even bothering to chew them.

In any case, my rather, ah, disgusting enthusiastic eating habits gave me an idea. Why not combine two of my favorite things and put the chocolate covered sunflower seeds in some cookies?


I decided to add them into my standard recipe for oatmeal cookies. I love the combination of chocolate and oats, and I figured that the chocolate from the sunflower seeds would give my crunchy oatmeal cookie recipe an additional chocolatey, nutty flavor. 

This particular recipe produces crunchy oatmeal cookies, which is notable because most of my recipes tend to produce chewy cookies. I normally love chewy cookies, but I guess I like the additional crunch that comes from the toasted oats since I tend to favor crunchy oatmeal cookies? It also doesn't hurt that it solves my rather unsightly tendency of swallowing chocolate covered sunflower seeds without chewing them.  So there's that. Win-win all around, right? Or something. 

September 1, 2012

Lemon Blackberry Tart

Guys, this is it. This is THE recipe. This is the one that makes people smile when they take a bite. The one that makes people scrape their plate to get every last crumb they can. This recipe for lemon blackberry tart is the only recipe you will ever need to make people think you are a phenomenal baker.


I took this to work with me to give to my coworkers. I was a little nervous for several reasons. It was the first time I had ever baked a tart. What if the shell recipe I used was awful? After all, it did include a couple unconventional steps, like sticking a Pyrex bowl into an oven at high heat. But more on that later.

Because what was really stressing me out was the fact that I'd never brought any of my baked goods in for my coworkers. Yes, yes, I'm terrible. Despite all my baking, I seldom bring baked goods to work  simply because commuting by bike makes it impossible to cart around goods like cupcakes and cakes. I also often bake on the weekends and am too embarrassed to bring in day-old goods to my coworkers.

Excuses, I know, but in any case, I was nervous because this was the first time my coworkers would actually be eating something I'd made. And I hadn't even had a chance to try it for myself! It'd already been sitting in the fridge for a day -- what if it didn't keep well and the crust had gone soggy? What if it had absorbed other flavors from being in the fridge? What if I had used bad butter and ended up giving everybody food poisoning? What if my haphazard method of shoving it in an old cardboard box to survive the bus ride to work left the tart with some weird cardboard aftertaste? Or worse, what if it just flat-out tasted awful and they were gonna judge me and talk about how sucky my blog is behind my back? Sure, it looked good -- but how did it actually taste?


Well, I'm happy to report that it was gone in less than five minutes. I had several coworkers email me and ask me where I BOUGHT the tart -- they thought it had come from some fancypants bakery near our office and were surprised to hear that it was homemade! People were actually scraping crumbs from the bottom of the tart pan, arguing with each other for the last few morsels. Several people wanted seconds, but it had disappeared too quickly for that to even be a possibility. One guy refused to go get his own fork and used his fingers to eat his slice, explaining that, "If I go get a fork, this'll be long gone."

Damn.

I actually have to thank Alanna, my coworker, for sending me this recipe. The pie's lemon cream filling is based off of a recipe from San Francisco's Tartine Bakery, known for their bread, morning buns, and of course, long lines. The crust is a brown butter pastry crust that comes from famed French pastry instructor, Paule Calliat. Really, I'm doing nothing but standing on the shoulders of giants. Well, that and an obscene amount of butter and fresh blackberries:


Because really, this is it. I promise this is the only recipe you will EVER need. I'm being serious when I say that. Don't even bother making any recipes from my blog.  Just this one.  That's how good it is.  This is the one that will actually change your life.

Seriously.