Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Pecan Sandies

My grandpa liked the chocolate chip cookies I once made, so I thought for Chinese New Years, I could make him some other cookies he liked. Looking around, I stumbled across some very yummy looking recipes for pecan sandies, and finally settled on using the one from Smitten Kitchen. Let's just say, the result was melt-in-your mouth delicious, and made the whole house smell amazing while baking, to boot. As part of my standard operating procedure, I reduced the amount of sugar - for this recipe, I'm not sure that was the best of ideas. At least if something's not sweet enough, you can always sweeten it by dipping it in chocolate, or spreading some Nutella on before eating! :)


slightly over 1 cup pecans
2 cups flour
1 cup softened butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Bake the pecans for about 12min, until they are browned and nutty. They will be delicious at this point, so feel free to bake a few extra to munch on. After they cool, grind the nuts with 1/4 cup of flour in the food processor (depending on the seal of your food processor, it might make a mess, so clear the area around it). Set aside.

2. Cream the butter and sugar together. Stir in the vanilla. Sift together the remaining flour, salt, and baking powder. Add to the wet ingredients until just combined. Stir in the nut mixture. Form the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill until firm, about 2hrs.

3. Preheat the oven to 325F. I cut the dough into four quarters, then rolled each quarter between two sheets of wax paper until they were the thickness I wanted my cookies (it doesn't rise much in the oven). Cut into squares of desired size. The recipe said to not reroll scraps - I'm not sure why, but I just baked them as was and munched on them myself. Maybe that's why?

4. Put on baking sheet with a little space in between (they don't spread, so you don't need that much space in between). Bake at 325F until golden brown, about 12 minutes. Cool on wire rack; repeat for remaining dough.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Third Time's the Charm? Brownies #3

Adrienne's post on how brownies from scratch were always inferior to brownies from mix read to me like a challenge. So I started with a base recipe and started making adjustments, making sure to take careful notes after each batch. I also started making half-batches because y'know, trial brownies... Upon hearing my quest for the perfect brownie recipe, my friends started giving comments, which have helped a lot, so thanks guys! While I was making this batch, my roommate's boyfriend suggested I incorporate Nutella and hazelnuts into my next experiment - that suggestion was very well-received and will happen next time. I keep meaning to get walnuts to add as well, but I never get around to actually getting walnuts... Anyway, this batch was my third and I think the first one good enough to make a post about, so here we go.

2.5 ounces unsweetened chocolate
6 tbsp butter
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
2.5oz dark chocolate, chips or chip-sized chunks
slightly under 1/2 cup flour

For the flour, I use the scoop-and-sweep method. Using a 1/2 cup measuring spoon, scoop out the flour, then sweep your hand across the top, brushing off the excess flour without packing the flour in. Someday I'll get a scale and actually measure flour correctly, but this method suffices for now. I then shook out a little of the flour, about 1 Tbsp, to make it just that little bit fudgier.

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease 8x8-inch baking pan.
2. Microwave chocolate and butter together until butter is melted (add 30 sec at a time so you don't overheat). Stir until chocolate is completely melted. Stir in sugar.
3. Let the mixture cool down a little, then stir in eggs and vanilla (the first time I did this, I think the chocolate mixture was still too warm and it looked like the eggs were cooking as soon as I stirred them in...). Sift in flour and salt and mix until just incorporated; don't overmix. Stir in chocolate chunks (or chips if you like). Scoop into prepared pan (the mixture was dry enough that I couldn't really pour it, but a spatula scooped it out well enough).
4. Bake at 350 for 25-30min or until toothpick inserted in center comes out with fudgy crumbs. Do not overbake - check it at 25min, and add time as needed.
5. Leave it in the pan to cool. I put a plate over the pan while cooling also; I don't know if that affected it at all. Makes about 16 brownies. :)

Monday, February 15, 2010

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

I love baked mac and cheese, and am always trying new recipes to find the perfect one. I think I finally may have found a winner in this one, which is apparently originally from Fannie Farmer.

1 8-oz package of macaroni (I actually used rigatoni, which makes it a bit more like Boston Market's mac and cheese which is my fave ever)
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
1 cup heavy cream
dash of salt
dash of pepper
2 cups chedder cheese, shredded (The recipe said to use good quality cheese - I used grocery store brand cheese, because that was what I had available. I can't even imagine how good it would be with really high quality cheese!)
1/2 cup buttered breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cook and drain pasta according to package directions. While
pasta is cooking, melt the butter in a large sauce pan. Add the flour mixed with salt and pepper, whisk until blended. Pour milk and cream in slowly, stirring constantly. Bring to a boiling point and boil for 2 minutes stirring constantly. Turn heat down, simmer for 10 minutes stirring constantly. Add cheese, simmer until cheese melts. Add pasta to the saucepan and stir until coated. Transfer the pasta to a glass baking dish, top with buttered breadcrumbs. Bake at 400 for 20 minutes until top is golden brown. Delicious!!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

年糕/New Year Steamed Rice Cake, Version 1

That time of year's coming upon us again, when family visit and lots of food are made/consumed. My family makes a certain kind of steamed rice cake for Chinese New Year that I think might be specialized to the Shanghai region. In any case, I grew up with it and think it's utterly amazing. (I know, the picture failed b/c of the patterned food on top of a patterned plate, but just pretend the plate's white, mmk?) There are a couple other versions, but this was the first kind we made this year.

2lb glutinous rice flour
1lb rice flour
1 1/3 cup sugar
650mL water
red bean paste and dried fruits to taste
In 9" rounds, makes about 4-5.

1. Mix the two flours, sugar, and water thoroughly. The mixture should be dry enough to still be like flour, but wet enough that when you grasp a handful and squeeze lightly, it should hold the shape. We have a large sieve with large holes that we use to sift the flour mixture; if you don't have one, just keep mixing and breaking the large pieces with your fingers until you get a somewhat fine flour. I wouldn't recommend a normal sized sieve, since the grains will be larger than the holes.

2. Ideally, you'll have a good-sized steamer. We have a 9in set that works perfectly. Bring a pot of water to boil. Coat the steamer with shortening. When the water's boiling, lightly distribute an even layer of the flour mixture on the steamer basket and immediately put over the boiling water. Do not cover. Wait until the flour mixture cooks thoroughly - it should be firm to the touch. Drop the red bean paste onto the mixture by small spoonfuls (the picture shown has 5 scoops of about 1.5Tbsp, but I think 6 scoops of 1Tbsp each is better).

3. Slowly distribute more of the flour mixture around the round of red bean paste. Don't add too much at once or it won't cook properly. The top layer should be just enough to cover the red bean paste; don't make it too thick. Add the dried fruit on top in any pattern you like. Once the top is firm, take it off the pot and flip onto a clean cheesecloth. The shortening should ensure it slips off easily. Cut into rectangular pieces and serve steamed (if you prefer to microwave it, add some water to the plate before popping it in).