Sunday, January 09, 2011

Chewy Sugar Cookies

While Mr. was out training for marathon, I decided to make something, something to reward (or sabotage?) his effort. Although sugar cookies are not our favorite, I decided to make them instead of baking the some cookies over and over again. Knowing my husband, he eats anything sweet, knowing my dog, he will eat anything that has plenty of butter.

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This is my first time making sugar cookies, and I used the weight of the ingredients instead of measuring cups. It turns out that amount of ingredients using the scale is much less than if I use the measuring cup, thus, the cookie dough was really soft and tad hard to handle. I wish I have a portion scoop because I got I made 2o bigger cookies instead of the 24 stated in the recipe, and the cookies merged together while they were baking. That's alright, as they are so yummy that they will all be in our tummies in no time.

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Chewy Sugar Cookies from CI, makes 2 dozen cookies

The final dough will be slightly softer than most cookie dough. For the best results, handle the dough as briefly and gently as possible when shaping the cookies. Overworking the dough will result in flatter cookies.

Ingredients

2 1/4 cups (11 1/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) sugar, plus 1/2 cup for rolling
2 ounces cream cheese, cut into 8 pieces
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted and still warm
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 large egg
1 tablespoon milk
2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions
  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together in medium bowl. Set aside.

  2. Place 1½ cups sugar and cream cheese in large bowl. Place remaining 1/3 cup sugar in shallow baking dish or pie plate and set aside. Pour warm butter over sugar and cream cheese and whisk to combine (some small lumps of cream cheese will remain but will smooth out later). Whisk in oil until incorporated. Add egg, milk, and vanilla; continue to whisk until smooth. Add flour mixture and mix with rubber spatula until soft homogeneous dough forms.

  3. Divide dough into 24 equal pieces, about 2 tablespoons each (or use #40 portion scoop). Using hands, roll dough into balls. Working in batches, roll balls in reserved sugar to coat and evenly space on prepared baking sheet, 12 dough balls per sheet. Using bottom of drinking glass, flatten dough balls until 2 inches in diameter. Sprinkle tops evenly with 4 teaspoons of sugar remaining in shallow dish (2 teaspoons per tray), discarding any remaining sugar.

  4. Bake, 1 tray at a time, until edges are set and just beginning to brown, 11 to 13 minutes, rotating tray after 7 minutes. Cool cookies on baking sheets 5 minutes. Using wide metal spatula, transfer cookies to wire rack and cool to room temperature.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Chicken Bouillabaisse

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I have been watching the entire season 10 of America's Test Kitchen online and looking at recipes in Cook's Illustrated to get idea for what to bake and cook. This recipe is on the top ten weeknight recipe list, and it look delicious. I used regular yellow mustard instead of dijon, chicken legs, and didn't use pastis or Pernod. The result is still great. The croutons and rouille adds a lot to the Bouillabaisse and I would definitely make this again.

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Chicken Bouillabaisse from CI, Serves 4 to 6.

The rouille and croutons (steps 4 and 5) can be prepared either as the chicken cooks or up to 2 days in advance. Leftover rouille will keep refrigerated for up to 1 week and can be used in sandwiches or as a sauce for vegetables and fish. See below for information on anise-flavored liqueur options.

Ingredients

Bouillabaisse
3 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces (breasts, thighs, and drumsticks, with breasts cut in half) trimmed of excess fat
table salt and ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large leek (white and light green parts only), halved lengthwise, rinsed, and sliced thin (about 1 cup)
1 small fennel bulb, halved lengthwise, cored, and sliced thin ( about 2 cups)
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
4 medium cloves garlic, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 4 teaspoons)
1 table tomato paste
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 strip orange zest (from 1 orange), removed with vegetable peeler, about 3 inches long, cleaned of white pith
1/4 cup pastis or Pernod
3/4 pound Yukon Gold potato (1 large or 2 small), cut into 3/4-inch cubes
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon leaves or parsley leaves

Rouille and Croutons
3 tablespoons water
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
1 baguette
4 teaspoons juice from 1 lemon
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 large egg yolk
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 small cloves garlic, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 1/2 teaspoons)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
table salt and ground black pepper

Instructions
  1. FOR THE BOUILLABAISSE: Adjust oven racks to middle and lower positions and heat oven to 375 degrees. Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add chicken pieces, skin-side down, and cook without moving until well browned, 5 to 8 minutes. Using tongs, flip chicken and brown other side, about 3 minutes. Transfer chicken to large plate.

  2. Add leek and fennel; cook, stirring often, until vegetables begin to soften and turn translucent, about 4 minutes. Add saffron, cayenne, flour, garlic, and tomato paste and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add tomatoes, wine, broth, orange zest, pastis, and potatoes; bring to simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 10 minutes.

  3. Nestle chicken thighs and drumsticks into simmering liquid with skin above surface of liquid; cook, uncovered, 5 minutes. Nestle breast pieces into simmering liquid, adjusting pieces as necessary to ensure skin stays above surface of liquid. Bake on middle rack, uncovered, until instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of chicken registers 145 degrees for breasts and 160 for drumsticks and thighs, 10 to 20 minutes.

  4. FOR THE ROUILLE: While chicken cooks, microwave water and saffron in medium microwave-safe bowl on high power until water is steaming, 10 to 20 seconds. Allow to sit 5 minutes. Cut 3-inch piece off of baguette; remove and discard crust. Tear crustless bread into 1-inch chunks (you should have about 1 cup). Stir bread pieces and lemon juice into saffron-infused water; soak 5 minutes. Using whisk, mash soaked bread mixture until uniform paste forms, 1 to 2 minutes. Whisk in mustard, egg yolk, cayenne, and garlic until smooth, about 15 seconds. Whisking constantly, slowly drizzle in vegetable oil in steady stream until smooth mayonnaise-like consistency is reached, scraping down bowl as necessary. Slowly whisk in 1/2 cup olive oil in steady stream until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

  5. FOR THE CROUTONS: Cut remaining baguette into 3/4-inch-thick slices. Arrange slices in single layer on rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake on lower rack until light golden brown (can be toasted while bouillabaisse is in oven), 10 to 15 minutes.

  6. Remove bouillabaisse and croutons from oven and set oven to broil. Once heated, return bouillabaisse to oven and cook until chicken skin is crisp and instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of chicken registers 160 degrees for breasts and 175 for drumsticks and thighs, 5 to 10 minutes (smaller pieces may cook faster than larger pieces; remove individual pieces as they reach temperature).

  7. Transfer chicken pieces to large plate. Skim excess fat from broth. Stir tarragon into broth and season with salt and pepper. Transfer broth and potatoes to large shallow serving bowls and top with chicken pieces. Drizzle 1 tablespoon rouille over each portion and spread 1 teaspoon rouille on each crouton. Serve, floating 2 croutons in each bowl and passing remaining croutons and rouille separately.

My Favorite Chili?

For the first decade I lived in USA, I never had Chili con carne, aka chili, I believe no one around me really introduced me to the dish. I tried one in a cafeteria a couple of years ago, and another from Wendy's $1 menu, and kinda like it. Since I am trying to save money by cooking regularly and realize that chili stores well in freezer, I have made chili quite a number of times now. We really like the chili and biscuit recipe found in smittenkitchen.com, but this time I went with Cook's Illustrated.

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Instead of using chuck-eye roast, I used the chili meat I got on sale at local supermarket. The chili tastes good, but I prefer the one from smittenkitchen. It takes considerably less work, and hunting for different types of dried chili, and has more vegetables. I paired the chili with cornbread using Bob's red mill stone ground cornmeal, I love the flavor but wished that I have put the cornmeal in the food processor before I used it.

Chili from CI, Serves 6 to 8.

Ingredients

table salt
1/2 pound (about 1 cup) dried pinto beans, rinsed and picked over
6 dried (about 1 3/4 ounces), stems and seeds removed, and flesh torn into 1 inch pieces
2-4 dried arbol chiles, stems removed, pods split, and seeds removed
3 tablespoons cornmeal
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 medium onions (about 2 cups), cut into 3/4-inch pieces
3 small jalapeno chiles, stems and seeds removed and discarded, and flesh cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 medium garlic cloves (about 4 teaspoons), minced or pressed through garlic press
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
2 teaspoons light molasses
3 1/2 pounds blade steak, 3/4 inch thick, trimmed of gristle and fat and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
1 (12-ounce) bottle mild-flavored lager, such as Budweiser

Instructions
  1. Combine 3 tablespoons salt, 4 quarts water, and beans in large Dutch oven and bring to boil over high heat. Remove pot from heat, cover, and let stand 1 hour. Drain and rinse well.

  2. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees. Place ancho chiles in 12-inch skillet set over medium-high heat; toast, stirring frequently, until flesh is fragrant, 4 to 6 minutes, reducing heat if chiles begin to smoke. Transfer to bowl of food processor and cool. Do not wash out skillet.

  3. Add ├írbol chiles, cornmeal, oregano, cumin, cocoa, and ½ teaspoon salt to food processor with toasted ancho chiles; process until finely ground, about 2 minutes. With processor running, very slowly add ½ cup broth until smooth paste forms, about 45 seconds, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary. Transfer paste to small bowl. Place onions in now-empty processor bowl and pulse until roughly chopped, about four 1-second pulses. Add jalape├▒os and pulse until consistency of chunky salsa, about four 1-second pulses, scraping down bowl as necessary.

  4. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion mixture and cook, stirring occasionally, until moisture has evaporated and vegetables are softened, 7 to 9 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add chili paste, tomatoes, and molasses; stir until chili paste is thoroughly combined. Add remaining 2 cups broth and drained beans; bring to boil, then reduce heat to simmer.

  5. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon oil in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Pat beef dry with paper towels and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt. Add half of beef and cook until browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. Transfer meat to Dutch oven. Add ½ bottle lager to skillet, scraping bottom of pan to loosen any browned bits, and bring to simmer. Transfer lager to Dutch oven. Repeat with remaining tablespoon oil, steak, and lager. Once last addition of lager has been added to Dutch oven, stir to combine and return mixture to simmer.

  6. Cover pot and transfer to oven. Cook until meat and beans are fully tender, 1½ to 2 hours. Let chili stand, uncovered, 10 minutes. Stir well and season to taste with salt before serving.


All Purpose Cornbread from CI

Makes One 8-inch Square.

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups (7.5 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup (5.5 ounces) yellow cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon bake soda
3/4 teaspoon table salt
1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup (3.5 ounces) frozen corn, thawed
1 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), melted and cooled slightly

Instructions
  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 400 degrees. Spray 8-inch-square baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Whisk flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl until combined; set aside.

  2. In food processor or blender, process brown sugar, thawed corn kernels, and buttermilk until combined, about 5 seconds. Add eggs and process until well combined (corn lumps will remain), about 5 seconds longer.

  3. Using rubber spatula, make well in center of dry ingredients; pour wet ingredients into well. Begin folding dry ingredients into wet, giving mixture only a few turns to barely combine; add melted butter and continue folding until dry ingredients are just moistened. Pour batter into prepared baking dish; smooth surface with rubber spatula. Bake until deep golden brown and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 25 to 35 minutes. Cool on wire rack 10 minutes; invert cornbread onto wire rack, then turn right side up and continue to cool until warm, about 10 minutes longer. Cut into pieces and serve.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Happy 2011!

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We spent the last night of 2010 with some wonderful friends and food. I am still salivating when I think about the Steak & King Crab legs pasta, and the spinach pinwheels. Mr. picked the champagne and my contribution for the night is this coconut cake, my first pretty cake. It has a lot of coconut flavor in the cake and the buttercream, but it's a tad heavy for me. I still prefer the light fresh cream that I grew up eating in Singapore. Nonetheless, this is still very yummy.

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CoCoNut Layer Cake

Makes one 9-inch, 4-layer cake.

Ingredients

Cake
1 large egg
5 large egg whites
3/4 cup cream of coconut (a 15-ounce can is enough for both cake and buttercream)
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon coconut extract
2 1/4 cups cake flour (9 ounces), sifted
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon table salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), cut into 12 pieces, softened, but still cool
2 cups packed sweetened shredded coconut (about 8 ounces)

Buttercream
1 large egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar
pinch table salt
1 pound unsalted butter (4 sticks), each stick cut into 6 pieces, softened, but still cool
1/4 cup cream of coconut
1 teaspoon coconut extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions
  1. For the Cake: Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Grease two 9-inch round cake pans with shortening and dust with flour.

  2. Beat egg whites and whole egg in large measuring cup with fork to combine. Add cream of coconut, water, vanilla, and coconut extract and beat with fork until thoroughly combined.

  3. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in bowl of standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Mix on lowest speed to combine, about 30 seconds. With mixer still running on lowest speed, add butter 1 piece at a time, then beat until mixture resembles coarse meal, with butter bits no larger than small peas, 2 to 2 1/2 minutes.

  4. With mixer still running, add 1 cup liquid. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 45 seconds. With mixer still running, add remaining 1 cup liquid in steady stream (this should take about 15 seconds). Stop mixer and scrape down bowl with rubber spatula, then beat at medium-high speed to combine, about 15 seconds. (Batter will be thick.)

  5. Divide batter between cake pans and level with offset or rubber spatula. Bake until deep golden brown, cakes pull away from sides of pans, and toothpick inserted into center of cakes comes out clean, about 30 minutes (rotate cakes after about 20 minutes). Do not turn off oven.

  6. Cool in pans on wire racks about 10 minutes, then loosen cakes from sides of pans with paring knife, invert cakes onto racks and then re-invert; cool to room temperature.

  7. While cakes are cooling, spread shredded coconut on rimmed baking sheet; toast in oven until shreds are a mix of golden brown and white, about 15 to 20 minutes, stirring 2 or 3 times. Cool to room temperature.

  8. For the Buttercream: Combine whites, sugar, and salt in bowl of standing mixer; set bowl over saucepan containing 1 1/2-inches of barely simmering water. Whisk constantly until mixture is opaque and warm to the touch and registers about 120 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, about 2 minutes.

  9. Transfer bowl to mixer and beat whites on high speed with whisk attachment until barely warm (about 80 degrees) and whites are glossy and sticky, about 7 minutes. Reduce speed to medium-high and beat in butter 1 piece at a time. Beat in cream of coconut and coconut and vanilla extracts. Stop mixer and scrape bottom and sides of bowl. Continue to beat at medium-high speed until well-combined, about 1 minute.

  10. To Assemble the Cake: Follow illustrations in chart below. Cut into slices and serve. (Wrap leftover cake in plastic and refrigerate; bring to room temperature before serving.)