Wednesday, May 26, 2010

when i grow up: cowboy cookies

When I was a kid, I wanted to be an astronaut. And a farmer. Naturally when I wasn't exploring space, I'd be sitting on my favorite horse where the green grass grows, watchin' all my corn pop up in rows (thanks Timmy).

And yes my address is Manhattan, but can't you picture it? Chickens laying fresh eggs (and all the delicious baked treats that come from them), a garden around back with every herb you can imagine, and horses ready to ride through fields of tall hay - it's my dream.

I got a taste of it in high school when I spent every free minute at a hunter/jumper barn outside of Pittsburgh dressed in chaps and worn out Ariats, mucking stalls and riding any pony I could get my hands on. I suppose it's like any childhood sport or hobby that you miss as you get older - but the smell of saddle leather, fly spray and sawdust always reminds me of a big thing I'm missing (and will continue to miss) in my Manhattan life.

Well until I flee to cow country. And buy my farm. And my horses. And ride around every day, feeding chickens from my saddle bag and wearing my cowgirl hat to the grocery store.

In the meantime I daydream with The Pioneer Woman and salivate over Hannah's country life from my concrete kitchen closet, baking things like Cowboy Cookies to keep the dream alive. Oh, and I nuzzle the NYPD horses whenever I get the chance (just remember to smile pretty at the cop on board).

These won't tele-port you to the nearest horse farm but they are pretty delicious (coconut in an oatmeal cookie? fantastic!) so give them a go and tell me - what's your dream?

Cowboy Cookies
adapted from Saveur

3/4 cup flour
3/4 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
6 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
5 tbsp. sugar
7 tbsp. light brown sugar
1 egg
3/4 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 chopped walnuts
1/2 sweetened flaked coconut

Heat oven to 350F. In a bowl, whisk first 5 ingredients, set aside.

In a large bowl, beat butter with a handheld mixer until smooth. Add sugars, beat until fluffy. Add egg, beat until smooth. Add flour mixture, beat to form a dough. Stir in oats, chocolate, walnuts and coconut. Form dough into 24 balls, divide evenly between 2 parchment-lined baking sheets. bake until cooked through, 16 minutes. Let cool.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

i'm gonna do it: chocolate chocolate chip cookies

Yup. That's right. I'm gonna stop being overwhelmed and embrace the excitement and make it happen. There's a long road ahead but I'm taking your advice and encouragement to heart - so thanks for the support so far! My very own [online] bakery is in its first phase.

To get started, I got home tonight after an impromptu Broadway play last week (love those) and Tastespotted my way to a recipe that sounded like the perfect end a busy Wednesday. These cookies turned out as pretty as they did tasty so who knows... they might just find themselves on my final bakery menu.

More to come on my exciting venture in the next few weeks as I create a logo, cull down recipes, and start branding. Hooray summer project!

Totally Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 2/3 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, slightly softened
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cold egg
1 tsp. vanilla

Heat oven to 325 F. Put 2/3 cups of the chocolate chips in the top of a double broiler and place it over, but not touching, a saucepan of barely simmering water (or the bottom of a double broiler). Stir the chips until melted and smooth. Remove from the water and set aside.

Combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt into a medium bowl, stir it together and set aside. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium, beat the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar until smoothly blended, about 1 minute. On low speed, mix in the melted chocolate chips until blended. Add the egg and vanilla, mixing until blended, about 1 minute. Add the flour mixture, mixing until just incorporated. Mix in the remaining 2 cups chocolate chips (I cut it back to 3/4 cups).

Scoop tablespoon size mounds of dough onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake one sheet at a time until the cookies crack slightly on top, about 11 minutes. Cool the cookies on the baking sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.

Monday, May 17, 2010

to be or not to be: blue hill at stone barns

This past weekend found us on the road to one of my favorite places within an hour of NYC. You'd never imagine that just up the Hudson River lies 80 acres of rolling farmland that encourages trespassing. In addition to plump pigs, moo-cows and feisty chickens, Stone Barns is home to one of the most talked about restaurants in the NYC, Blue Hill. A real "foodie's paradise," Blue Hill at Stone Barns embodies the locavore attitude in full, sourcing their ingredients from Stone Barns and surrounding farms in the Hudson Valley. I've only read about the infamous $140 no-menu prix fixe but it seems to rival Napa Valley's French Laundry in mystery.

But what I do know is that the Blue Hill Cafe at Stone Barns is the "everyman" version of the restaurant, with equal deliciousness. We saved our appetites for the drive upstate and feasted on spring quiche with broccoli rabe and goat cheese, a sweet beet salad, a fingerling potato frittata, a cheddar and jalapeno scone and warm cookies straight from the oven. Uh-mazing.

After stuffing our faces we walked off some calories with a tour of the grounds, including face time with some of the farms most charming inhabitants. As we came full circle I almost caved and bought one of Red Barn Bakery's beautiful apple/rhubarb pies that were for sale at the farmers market on the grounds. But, my full belly got the best of me and I shuffled into the car to head back to the city.

I got home and inspired by my time at the farm got to thinking about how to make my baking dreams a reality. So with some encouragement from a few friends, I'd love to hear from you. There are tons of "mail order" bakeries online, but would you consider signing up for a CSA-style bakery that delivers seasonal baked goods (e.g. apple pies and zucchini bread in the fall, rhubarb and strawberry tarts in the spring, etc.) on a bi-weekly or monthly basis? Kind of a surprise goodie basket filled with deliciousness - bringing the neighborhood bakery to you. Let me know your thoughts - ya'lls opinions count!

No real recipe post today - I spent my baking energies on a chocolate chip-walnut banana bread by request for a friend. It's a tried and true recipe (despite the author of it), and you can find it here if you're in the mood for some warmth. Try this toasted with a smear of almond butter, cold for breakfast, or warmed with fresh butter for dessert.

I'll be back later in the week with some sweets but in the meantime, please leave a comment about my business plan concept. It's time to get this thing off the ground!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

california love: banana poppy seed cake

Well heeeeyyyyyy! I'm back from my whirlwind SoCal adventure and had a total blast. 3 days with my brother, his bright yellow Mazda and a strip of the 101 we grew to love. It was a "destination" half-marathon trip and we had a great time wine tasting in the Santa Ynez Valley along the way. It was also one of those beautiful Southern California weather weekends that leave you counting the good reasons why you DON'T live there to get yourself back on the plane at the end.

But I'm back and feel completely refreshed despite a too-quick cross-country trip. Sometimes I think you just need a change of scenery - and the beautiful wineries and Arabian horse farms that surrounded us did the trick to get me out of my city funk. Unfortunately the gorgeous weather didn't follow me back to NYC - I'm sitting in my apartment right now with a scarf on! But something that did follow me back: a craving for comfort food. The hankering settled in after a post-race bingefest at La Super Rica in Santa Barbara (easily the best most authentic Mexican food ever, thanks for the recommendation Kelly!) so I perused Tastespotting and found something that sounded delightful - Banana Poppy Seed Cake! Not as boring as your regular banana bread and with a poppy seed crunch.

I scoured my local grocery for a ripe-enough banana and traded the cake pan for some mini loaves. The recipe made four and I packaged them up in clear cellophane bags for a few lucky friends. I think they were a hit? I got no complaints and my two coworkers scarfed them down in record time so I'm assuming they were good (if the finished product was as tasty as the batter, I'm keeping it on my "re-bake" list)! The citrus glaze gave a nice contrast so give these a go the next time you find a browning banana in your fridge.

Banana Poppy Seed Cake with Lemon Glaze

1 3/4 cups cake flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
3 tbsp. poppy seeds
3/4 cup mashed ripe banana (about 2 small)
1/3 cup + 1 tbsp. well-shaken buttermilk
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten

glaze: 1/2 cup powdered sugar, finely grated zest of 1 lemon, 1 1/2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

Center a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 F. Butter a 10-inch round cake pan, line the bottom with parchment paper, butter the paper then flour everything, tapping to remove excess (I just Pam'd the mini-loaf pan).

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt into a small bowl; add the poppy seeds and set aside. In another small bowl, stir together bananas and buttermilk.

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-low speed until creamy and smooth. Stop the mixer and scrape down sides of the bowl. With the mixer on medium speed, add the sugar in a steady stream and continue beating until the mixture is lighter in color and texture, 2-3 minutes. Stop mixer occasionally to scrape down sides of bowl.

With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs, mixing after each addition until incorporated. Continue beating until mixture is fluffy and pale, about 2 minutes. On the lowest speed, add the banana-buttermilk mixture until blended. Turn off the mixer and use a rubber spatula to stir in the flour mixture in three additions. With each addition, scrape down sides of the bowl and continue mixing until smooth.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until cake is golden, springs back when gently touched in the center and the sides are beginning to pull away from sides of the pan, about 35-40 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack, cool for 10 minutes, then carefully unmold onto another wire rack. Peel off the parchment paper and let cool completely.

Make the glaze: In a small bowl, stir together the sugar and zest. Gradually add the lemon juice, stirring until the desired consistency. Drizzle the cake with the glaze.

Monday, May 3, 2010

momo-gasm: momofuku milk bar

Well April was busy but 5 posts is admittedly pathetic. I'm on it, and will try to get back to my baking ways! And I know this is no place to list excuses, but it's just that my race is this Saturday... so I've been trying to eat better... meh... fine. Boldface lie. I've been eating everything in sight because heavier mileage means I'm craving more calories. I just haven't been baking delicious things I want to share. I've basically decided that those damn Runner's World cookies are the best things since sliced bread, so they've been making up 80% of my meals lately. Sick, I know. At least I'm acknowledging the problem - that's the first step, right?

But I couldn't bear go another week before posting so I've got a little treat for ya'll. I've mentioned them before but last week I found myself at David Chang's Momofuku Noodle Bar (I could live solely on the chicken ramen - it's not on the menu, but trust me! - and shiitake steamed buns) and after a delicious meal, my friend Annabelle and I walked the two or three blocks to Momofuku Ssam Bar to steal into the back Milk Bar and indulge in the cookies I've been hearing so much about.

I ordered three cookies for $5:
- Chocolate-chocolate cookie
- Cornflake-chocolate chip-marshmallow cookie
- and the famous Compost cookie

[From top to bottom: Cornflake-chocolate chip-marshmallow cookie, Compost cookie (it didn't travel well from the East Village to the UWS) and the Chocolate-chocolate cookie]

I also had a taste of the zucchini bread soft serve because I couldn't resist, and here's my honest review:
I didn't love the soft serve even though it sounded right up my alley, but the biggest surprise was that I really didn't like the Compost cookie! It was too sweet and uninteresting, despite the pretzels, potato chips, coffee, oats, butterscotch, and chocolate chips that went into it. My number one favorite was the chocolate-chocolate cookie - maybe the most perfect fully chocolate cookie I've ever had. Not too sweet which made the real chocolate flavor perfectly delicious - I NEED the recipe. The next favorite was the Cornflake-chocolate chip-marshmallow cookie and I might have to buy a box of Kellogg's to add them into my next batch - the crunch was great! But I'll take a pass on their "famous" Compost cookie. Just too sweet for my taste buds.

I'm off to California on Thursday so I'll take lots of pics and give a full (culinary) report next week. I'm already dreaming of Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf vanilla latte's, authentic mexican taco's in Santa Barbara, and an "animal style" burger from In-n-Out as soon as I'm off my flight.

Thanks for bearing with while I've been MIA.
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