Tuesday, September 30, 2008

whole wheat peach muffins

I'm too busy shoving muffins in my mouth to type much, so let me just say: MAKE THESE MUFFINS. I went to an orchard in Rhode Island last weekend (more on that later) so I loaded these whole wheat muffins up with the beautiful late season peaches I picked there. 

IIf you're not lucky enough to have a secret stash of stone fruit laying around, I think that apples or pears would be delicious here as well. No Tuesdays with Dorie for me this week, but go check out the TWD blogroll to see the beautiful creme brulees made by the rest of the group.

Whole Wheat Peach Muffins
Adapted from King Arthur Flour and Smitten Kitchen
Makes 12 large muffins

1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar plus 2 tbsps
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, divided
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 large egg
1 cup greek yogurt (I used Fage 2%)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp cinnamon
2 large peaches

Preheat oven to 450. Grease a large muffin tin.
Cut peaches into a rough dice. Place them in a large bowl, and cover with 2 tbsp sugar. Mix together, and let stand about 30 minutes.

Beat butter, granulated sugar, and 1/4 cup brown sugar until fluffy. Add egg and then yogurt, beating until both are incorporated. Stir together dry ingredients and mix into batter. Fold in peaches.

Spoon batter into prepared muffin tins, filling tins to the top. Sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup brown sugar over the tops of the muffins. Bake at 450 for 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to 400 and bake 5-10 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of one of the muffins comes out clean. Let stand 5 minutes in tins before removing to cooling racks.

Monday, September 29, 2008

white chocolate hazelnut cookies

A long time ago, Boyfriend mentioned in passing that he thought that the white chocolate macadamia nut cookies from his office cafeteria were the Best Cookies Ever. Of course, I mentally vowed to find a recipe that blew those office cookies out of the water as soon as possible. And I intended to--I really did. But it's been a long time since then (we're talking years here) and I just haven't managed to get around to it yet.

Enter last week--I wanted to bake him something, and I suddenly remembered his comment about the office cookies. Inspired, I raced off to the grocery store, two item list (white chocolate and macadamia nuts) in hand. I selected some Green & Black's organic white chocolate and then headed over to the display of mixed nuts where I purchased.....


In my mad rush, I had apparently located the macadamia nuts....and then grabbed the container of hazelnuts sitting next to them. I didn't realize my mistake until I got home, and by then it was too late.

I decided to go through with the cookies anyways, using the hazelnuts instead of macadamia nuts. The verdict? Good enough that I gobbled up three right out of the oven--I ended up really liking the hazelnut flavor. Still, I don't think they're the white chocolate cookie to end all white chocolate cookies. I guess I'm going back to the drawing board, though I might be bringing the hazelnuts with me. Looks like Boyfriend will have an incentive to keep going to the office for at least a little longer.

White Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies

11 T butter, room temperature (A little under 1 and a half sticks)
1 cup brown sugar, packed
6 T white sugar
1.5 eggs (I added one, then cracked a second in a bowl, beat it, and added about half of the liquid)
2 t good quality vanilla extract
scant 2 cups flour
1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
7 oz good quality white chocolate, chopped (next time I would use more)
1 cup hazelnuts, toasted, skins removed and chopped

Beat butter on medium speed. Add sugars and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add egg and vanilla. Mix flour, baking soda and baking powder. Add dry ingredients to wet and mix until incorporated. Stir in chocolate and hazelnuts. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing it down onto dough. Chill (I left them in the fridge for about 6 hours). Let dough come to room temperature. Spoon golf ball sized mounds onto a cookie sheet and bake at 350 for 12 minutes, or until golden.

NOTE: If I were making these for myself, I would have sprinkled them with some coarse sea salt. Since Boyfriend does not like his cookies too salty, I didn't.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

cinnamon ice cream

My twelfth grade English teach told us about her first memory. She had lived in an apartment complex growing up, and every day, she and her siblings would go out to play on their building's playground. One day, she walked over to the fence at the edge of the lot, and peaked through a space between the planks. Her first memory is of what she saw next door: another playground, and another apartment building. She realized that there was a whole big world out there, and explained that many scientists believe that our first memory is often of a monumental experience that changes the way we see the world.

I found her proclamation slightly horrifying, because my first memory was not quite so profound. I was sitting in the front compartment of a grocery cart at our local supermarket, and my mother handed me a wafer cone filled with rainbow sherbet. "And?" you ask? Well that's just it. There is no and. My first memory was of ice cream. Not eating it, or sharing it with someone important, but just the existence of ice cream. Clearly I had my priorities in line, even back then.

Fast forward to the present day, and I still love ice cream. So much so, that it's been a little bit of a problem lately. Remember the ice cream sandwiches I made last week? I bought a quart and a half of vanilla for those...and it lasted less than a week. Hello my name is Rachel and I am an ice cream-a-holic. After that, it was time to stage an intervention. So I vowed not to buy any more ice cream for the rest of the month.

I remained steadfast for about five days, and then this happened.

But wait! I can explain! I had promised not to buy any more ice cream for the rest of the month...I never said anything about making ice cream. Oh yes. I have obviously learned something in law school.

Truth be told, I have been dying to try my hand at making my own ice cream for some time now. My small budget and even smaller kitchen don't really allow for an ice cream maker, so I was thrilled when I came across ice cream master David Lebovitz's instructions for making ice cream without a machine. I wasn't expecting much, but figured it couldn't hurt to give it a try.

First, I warmed milk, salt, sugar and egg yolks in a saucepan. When the custard had thickened slightly, I poured it into a bowl of heavy cream.

I added some vanilla and cinnamon to the mix...

...and popped it into the freezer. Then I waited. And waited. 45 minutes later, I opened the door excitedly to find....that my ice cream mixture was still a liquid. But I dutifully checked it every 30 minutes for the next couple of hours, whisking vigorously each time.

When the ice cream mixture grew harder, I traded in my whisk for an immersion blender. And finally, it looked like this!

My cinnamon ice cream is sweet, delicious, and almost obscenely creamy. And it was so easy to make, I may never have to buy ice cream again. Unless I find myself in the grocery store craving a rainbow sherbet cone. You can't fight your destiny.

Cinnamon Ice Cream
Adapted from David Lebovitz's Vanilla Ice Cream Recipe

1 cup of milk (I used skim and it worked just fine)
pinch of salt (I used Maldron)
3/4 cup sugar (When I make this again, I may use slightly less sugar)
5 egg yolks
2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 cinnamon stick

Warm the milk, sugar and salt over medium heat. Add the cinnamon stick. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks in a small bowl. Add a little bit of the warmed milk mixture into the yolks, and then pour the yolks into the saucepan with the rest of the milk. Cook over low heat, stirring, until the mixture coats the back of your spoon or spatula. Pour over the heavy cream, and add the vanilla and ground cinnamon. (I found it easier to add the cinnamon slowly, whisking as I went so that the cinnamon dissolved. I started with 1 teaspoon, and added more to taste).

Pour into a deep baking dish (I used an 8x8 pan) and place in the freezer. Check your ice cream after 45 minutes. It may be beginning to freeze around the edges. Whisk vigorously. Continue whisking the mixture every 3o minutes. When it starts to get harder, you may want to use an immersion blender, instead of a whisk (If you don't have one, a whisk should work just fine). After a few hours, your blended mixture should be the consistency of ice cream (David Lebovitz suggested that it would take 2-3 hours, but mine took closer to 4). Scoop and enjoy! You can save the rest of your ice cream (if there is any leftover) in a covered container in your freezer. My batch made about 3.5 cups.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

{twd} dimply plum cake

My father comes from a pretty small family, so whenever we got together for dinners or holidays, there was inevitably food left over at the end of the night. Even, believe it or not, dessert. This pleased my grandfather immensely. "Oh boy," he'd say as he saw my grandmother carrying some extra cake or pie into the kitchen. "That is going to make a great breakfast tomorrow."

My brother and I would inevitably grow insanely jealous, knowing that we would be eating Cheerios or wheat toast the next morning instead of brownies a la mode, and would vow that when we were grown ups we would eat dessert for breakfast every morning.

Alas, now that I am an adult, there are all too many reasons not to eat dessert for breakfast, and its not often that I fill my cereal bowl with ice cream or apple pie. (Not that it never happens, see here).

So its a good thing that this week's Tuesdays With Dorie recipe, Dimply Plum Cake, is a breakfast food* and not a dessert, because there are plenty of leftovers, and I don't think I'm going to be able to keep myself from them come tomorrow morning. The cake is sweetened with brown sugar, and flavored with orange zest and cardamon, and the plums are soft and caramelized from the oven. While it didn't blow me away like last week's recipe, it was a satisfying afternoon snack, and I'm sure it will be even better tomorrow morning with a cup of coffee. My grandfather would be proud.

This week's recipe was chosen by Michelle of Bake-En, and you can find the recipe here.

* No, really! Dorie herself placed it firmly within her chapter on "Morning Cakes and Loaves," and I am certainly not going to argue with the high priestess of baking.

Monday, September 22, 2008

spiced eggplant salad

I was lucky enough to be invited to two weddings in almost as many weeks. They were both beautiful and fun, but needless to say, this month has been filled with more than its fair share of champagne, and cake, and fancy dinner rolls, and champagne, and cake, and artfully arranged steak and potato towers, and champagne, and cake--and did I mention champagne and cake? So by the time I returned home last night, my body was screaming for some vegetables, but my tired and travel weary self just wanted some comfort food.

This Spiced Eggplant Salad was a hit on both fronts--it was packed with enough eggplant and tomatoes to feel virtuous, but it tasted positively decadent. Just the thing for when you've overindulged but still want more. The recipe is from Simon Hopkinson's book Roast Chicken and Other Stories, and I found it on one of my all time favorite food blogs, The Amateur Gourmet. Click here for the recipe.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

{twd} chocolate chunkers

The other night I was out to dinner with a couple of friends, and we were talking about foods we didn't like as children but have since grown to love. Mine was a short list: tomatoes, mushrooms, and...chocolate. That's right, chocolate. I didn't start eating tomatoes until high school, and mushrooms took me until my early 20s. But chocolate, well, I got over that one pretty quickly.

And it's a good thing, because today is my first Tuesday With Dorie, and this week's recipe is Chocolate Chunkers. (Dorie is baker and cookbook author Dorie Greenspan, and the group is cooking its way through her book, Baking, From My Home to Yours.) The cookies, which are almost brownie like in consistency, contain cocoa, unsweetened chocolate, bittersweet chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate, and milk chocolate. For those of you keeping score, that's five different types. Some might consider that a little much, but my older, wiser, and totally chocoholic self thought that they were absolutely delicious.

Dorie adds toasted pecans and raisins to her cookies. I used the add ins in half of my batch, substituting dried cranberries for raisins. I used the rest of the dough to make ice cream sandwiches, sans the fruit and nuts.

This week's selection comes from Claudia of Fool for Food, and you can find the recipe on her blog.

Friday, September 12, 2008

ground cherry and goat cheese crostini

I had a lunch date with my brother today, and I found myself downtown* early with a little time to kill. I decided to take a stroll through the Union Square Greenmarket, but resolved not to buy anything because 1) I was headed to aforementioned lunch and 2) Truth be told, I do much more eating out than eating in on the weekends, and I feared that anything I bought would likely idle on my counter top until at least Monday night. I managed to keep my distance from anything that might tempt me into a purchase, until I spotted what appeared to be a pint of artfully wrapped candies among the cherry tomatoes.

Coated in a tan, paper thin skin cast with hints of pink, yellow and green, the mystery fruits were decidedly exotic, yet, oddly familiar looking. I soon realized that they must be the ground cherries I had read about earlier this week on Nosheteria. "Are these ground cherries?" I asked the woman busy frying up a pan of peppers for her hungry customers to sample. She shook her head and pronounced them "husk cherry tomatoes." Well whatever they were, I wanted to try them. I grabbed a pint and headed to the cashier. "Are these ground cherries?" I asked again. He shook his head. "cape gooseberries." Three names? The plot thickens. Now I was even more intrigued. But then I remembered. I had resolved Not. To. Buy. Anything. I sighed and replaced the pint of mystery fruits back among the cherry tomatoes, convincing myself that they would still be there next week. I got about two blocks away before I was plagued by doubt. There were only three or four pints of them, and they would likely be gone soon. What if this was their last appearance of the season at the Greenmarket? What if this was my one and only chance to try ground cherries or husk cherry tomatoes or cape gooseberries or whatever they were? Needless to say, I practically sprinted back to the market and purchased a pint. So much for my resolution.

I grabbed one out of the bag and eagerly peeled back the skin to reveal a greenish orb about the size of a grape tomato. I popped it into my mouth and....it was sweet, and tangy, and tasted like a cross between a grape tomato and a pineapple. I tried a few more and discovered that a few of them had an aftertaste that was almost bitter. But they were good. Good enough to eat approximately ten more of them on my way to lunch. After my brother and I placed our orders at Haru (chicken teriyaki for him and sashimi salad for me) I opened my bag to show him my find. "Try one" I urged. My brother, who does not particularly like tomatoes, or, lets be honest, most vegetables (we're talking about a guy who thinks that the two most important ingredients in any salad are bacon and ranch dressing) was skeptical, to say the least. "They look a little exotic," he said nervously. But he bravely accepted one and brought it cautiously towards his lips. "Sweet" he pronounced. "And seedy. But I like it." I tucked away the rest of the fruits and offered him a bite of my salad. "No thanks," he said. "That's a little too exotic for me." So there you have it--the ground cherry. More exotic than chicken teriyaki, but less exotic than sashimi salad.

By the time I arrived home, I'd eaten another handful of the cherries raw, and was eager to see what they'd taste like after having been cooked. A quick rummage through the refrigerator revealed some goat cheese and a couple of slices of multi-grain bread, so I decided to roast the rest of the cherries to make a topping for some crostini. After being cooked, the fruits were sweeter and less tangy. Any traces of bitterness were gone, replaced with a rich, almost nutty flavor. Paired with the goat cheese and the toast, the roasted ground cherries made a perfect afternoon snack. And they didn't spend even five minutes sitting idly on my kitchen counter. Maybe I should start cooking on the weekends more often.

Ground Cherry and Goat Cheese Crostini

1 pint ground cherries**
1 oz goat cheese
2 slices multi-grain bread
1 garlic clove
olive oil
kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Remove the ground cherries from their husks, and toss them with a generous drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of kosher salt. Spread cherries evenly on a baking sheet, and roast for 20-30 minutes, shaking the sheet to rotate the cherries occasionally, until they are browned and very soft. Return cherries to a bowl. Add 1 teaspoon of olive oil and stir until half of the cherries form a spreadable puree, leaving a few of the cherries whole if possible. Meanwhile, cut two slices of bread into triangles (I only had multigrain, but virtually anything would work here). Brush each triangle with olive oil, and rub each slice with the clove of garlic. Bake triangles in the oven until toasted and crispy, about five minutes. Spread each toast with goat cheese, and top with ground cherry puree.

*Seeing as I live in Morningside Heights, I consider virtually everything below 96th Street "downtown." But this time, it really was.

**A quick Google search revealed that Ground Cherries and Husk Cherry Tomatoes are names for the same plant. The Cape Gooseberry is a different but closely related variety.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

apple oatmeal crumble

I spent the last few weeks of August in the Midwest, and when I returned to New York, it felt like fall. Sure enough, last week's trip to the farmer's market revealed a flood of early fall produce, and I can't wait to try it all. However, being that it is still technically summer, I decided that I should show some restraint and resist the urge to haul home half my weight in butternut squash. Instead, I picked out four perfect looking Paula Red Apples, which I fully intended to make my snacks for the week.

Well, as you can see...that didn't happen. Instead, I made this semi-healthy yet still delicious Apple Oatmeal Crumble. I ate half of it right out of the pan, and upon waking up the next morning, convinced myself that it was so semi-healthy that other half would make a perfectly reasonable breakfast. (Apples and oatmeal? Sounds like health food to me!) Not that I need an excuse to eat dessert for breakfast, but if that doesn't make you excited for the start of fall, then I don't know what will.

Apple Oatmeal Crumble
Adapted from Gourmet, October 2003
(See the original recipe here)

3 Apples, cored and thinly sliced
3 T dark brown sugar
1T lemon juice
1/3 cup oats
1 pinch cinnamon
1 pinch nutmeg
2 T walnuts, chopped
1 T butter, cold and cut into pieces

Preheat oven to 375. Slice apples and place in a baking dish. Cover with the juice of 1 lemon and a 1 heaping tablespoon of brown sugar. Bake for 20 minutes, stir, and bake for another 20 minutes, or until apples are tender and beginning to brown. Meanwhile, combine the oats, cinnamon, nutmeg, walnuts and remaining brown sugar in a bowl. Add the butter and mix together until it is incorporated. Spoon topping over apples and bake for another 20-30 minutes, or until topping is soft and golden.