Sunday, January 25, 2009

Chocolate Chip Cookies

I found this recipe on Smitten Kitchen who proclaimed it to be their favorite chocolate chip cookie, adapted from David Lebovitz's, Great Book of Chocolate. Hmmm, I am a tollhouse cookie girl and don't know why I keep trying to find something better! This cookie has a high chocolate to cookie ratio, and the cookie is crisper.

I had just listened to food scientist Shirley Corriheron being intereviewed on the NPR radio program All Things Considered about her new book Bakewise: The Hows and Whys of Successful Baking. To prevent flat cookies, she suggests using an unbleached flour or a bread flour because they're higher in protein. More protein sucks in more water when they join together to make gluten, she says. She also suggests melting the the butter for the same reason, and that making cookie batter the night before is a good thing. The comments all mentioned flat cookies, so I decided to go with the bread flour, melted butter and then refrigerate the dough over night. I also used Scharffenberger semisweet chocolate chunks.

Makes 20 cookies

1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (120 grams) firmly packed light brown sugar
8 tablespoons (1 stick) (115 grams) unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/2-inch (1cm) pieces
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 cups (175 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt
1 1/2 cups (200 grams) semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup (130 grams) walnuts or pecans, toasted and chopped

Adjust the oven rack to the top third of the oven and preheat to 300F (150C). Line three baking sheets with parchment paper.

Beat the sugars and butters together until smooth. Mix in the egg, vanilla, and baking soda.

Stir together the flour and salt, then mix them into the batter. Mix in the chocolate chips and nuts.

Scoop the cookie dough into 2-tablespoon (5cm) balls and place 8 balls, spaced 4 inches (10cm) apart, on each of the baking sheets. Since I had refrigerated the dough overnight, the dough was very stiff and firm.

Bake for 18 minutes, or until pale golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.

Store at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

My opinion? These were not better than Tollhouse cookies, which have the perfect flavor combination of butter, salt, cookie dough and chocolate. These were stiffer and tasted less buttery and maybe it was the fancy bittersweet chocolate chunks that were less sweet than the Nestle's chips... We ate them all though!

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Short Ribs Stracotto

Recipe by Craig Stoll, Delfina Restaurant, San Francisco, CA who serves the short ribs over fresh fettuccine topped with gremolata that has been air dried to concentrate the flavors. It's even better the next day.

This is a beautiful winter dish that fills the house with delicious savory smells while it cooks. I ended up cooking it the day before and then putting it in the refrigerator overnight so that I could skim the fat off easier (there was quite a bit of fat). For the asian in me, it's better with plain white rice!

Serves 4 to 6
Start to finish time: 13 hours
Active cooking time: 4 to 5 hours

6 (2-bone) beef short ribs (chef stoll uses short ribs from the chuck, which are meatier than ribs from the plate)
3 cups dry red wine
5 allspice berries
2 or 3 whole cloves
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
4 cups beef stock
3 bay leaves
2 sprigs rosemary
2 sprigs sage

Gremolata minced zest of 1 lemon
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh flat-leaf parsley

To make the stracotto, put the short ribs, wine, allspice, and cloves in a shallow baking dish. cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at leats 8 hours or up to 24 hours.

Preheat the oven to 325 f.

Remove the short ribs from the wine, reserving the wine, and pat dry with a paper towel. Librally season the ribs on all sides with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a large, high-sided, ovenproof saute pan with a lid over medium high heat. Add the ribs and cook, turning as needed, for about 3 minutes per side, or until browned on all sides. Transfer the short ribs to a plate.

Add the onion, carrots, and celery to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 to 4 minutes, until soft. Strain the wine through a fine-mesh sieve into the pan. Bring to a boil and cook for about 5 minutes, or until reduced by one-third. Add the stock, bring to a boil and add the ribs. Add the bay leaves, rosemary, and safe, cover, and bake for about 3hours, or until the meat is so tender it falls off the bone. Let cool.

To prepare the gremolata, place a piece of parchment paper on a flat surface. spread the lemon zest, garlic, and parsley out on the parchment paper and let dry while the ribs cool.

Tip the pan to skim away the fat on top of the vegetables, (as an alternative, you can refrigerate the short ribs and vegetables overnight or long enough for the fat to solidify and then remove it). Transfer the short ribs to a saucepan large enough to hold the ribs in a single layer.

Press the vegetables through a food mill with a small holed disk held over a bowl, or puree in a ablender and press through a large0mesh sieve into a bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper and pour over the ribs. cook over low heat until the ribs are hot, about 30 minutes.

Divide the short ribs among warmed serving dishes. Spoon the sauce over the ribs. Combine the gremolata ingredients in a small bowl and sprinkle over the ribs Serve.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Bacon Peanut Brittle

I found this recipe by Brian Ries online at Creative Loafing's site.

1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon reserved bacon fat
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup cocktail peanuts
1 pound bacon (I used a package of thick cut applewood smoked bacon and cooked in the oven using the technique below)

1. Liberally grease a large baking sheet, or cover a baking sheet with greased parchment paper, or use a silicone mat (like a silpat).

2. Fry the bacon. You want it crisp, but not too crisp. Chop or tear the bacon into 1/4 to 1/2 inch bits.

3. In a medium saucepan, combine both sugars, the corn syrup and water over medium heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves and the syrup comes to a boil. Attach a candy thermometer to the pan, increase the heat to medium high, and cook, without stirring, until the mixture reaches 290 degrees. Immediately turn off the heat.
(Try not to mess with the sugar while it is boiling, in order to avoid crystallization. Corn syrup is much maligned, but it’s a classic tool that helps avoid that crystallization. I tried versions with all white sugar and all brown sugar, but found that a mixture of both combined deeper flavor with that glowing translucence that makes brittle so pretty.)

4. Stir in the bacon fat, vanilla, baking soda and salt and quickly stir to distribute. Then, quickly add peanuts and bacon bits and mix to coat. Immediately pour the hot mixture onto a prepared baking sheet. Use a silicone spoon or spatula to spread mixture as thinly as possible.
(There is so much stuff in the brittle, it will start to seize and thicken quickly. That – and the mass of bacon and peanuts – prevents the brittle from becoming nice and thin. If you want that style, cut the amount of peanuts and bacon you add and leave the heat on when you stir in all the ingredients. This should make for a lighter style of brittle.)

5. Cool 10-20 minutes until hard, before breaking into pieces. Store in a covered container.

Oven Fried Bacon

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Arrange bacon slices in a large jelly-roll pan or other shallow baking pan. Roast until fat begins to render, 5 to 6 minutes; rotate pan front-to-back. Continue roasting until is crisp and brown, 5 to 6 minutes longer for thin-sliced bacon, 8 to 10 minutes for thick-cut. Transfer with tongs to paper towel-lined plate, drain, and serve.