February 27, 2013

Pin It Banana Bourbon Bread Pudding - Cook the Books

Taken From the Joy the Baker Cookbook
Now before I get to this bread pudding let me backtrack a little.
Chalkboard pig outside of Serious Pie/Biscuit.
I completely forgot to report on my trip to Seattle and my experience at Tom Douglass' Serious Biscuit!  I was super excited about trying this place out and I wasn't disappointed.  I went with my family so we were able to get a variety of biscuity goodness off the menu.

My nephew had the homemade ham, egg, and Beecher's cheese with apple mustard and my brother-in-law got the fried catfish with green olive tartar (not pictured).
Tom obviously got the most ridiculous/worst for you thing on the menu: The Zach. The Zach is a buttery biscuit topped with a fried egg, bacon, fried chicken, and smothered in Tabasco black pepper gravy. Do you feel your arteries clogging just ready this?
I got the fried green tomato with remoulade and a fried egg.
I thought it was really good and was happy with my choice. I tried a bit of Tom's and the fried chicken was awesome!  My sister Leah got the same thing as Tom, but hers was cold so she was a little disappointed. My mom made her own and got a biscuit, fried egg and a side of grits which was my favorite part; they were super creamy and delicious!  Our only complaint (besides Leah's cold food) was that the plates were too small.  So small in fact that it was difficult to eat without things sliding off onto the table. We were there on a Monday at 10 am and there was no wait (even though it was a holiday), which was great. They have big communal tables upstairs, which was perfect for our party of 10. Basically, I loved it and would definitely recommend trying it out if you find yourself in Seattle.  

Alright, now back to the bread pudding. This is the last recipe I'm going to make from Joy's book for the month. There are a lot of desserts in her book that you can't really make just for the sake of making them.  You almost need an excuse, like a party or dinner at a friend's to whip them up.  This qualifies as one of those recipes.  Not sure how Tom and I would have managed with an entire baking dish of bread pudding to ourselves. Luckily, Bonnie invited us over for dinner so I had the perfect excuse to try this out.  Unlucky for her, she was testing out a vegan diet for the month so she didn't get to partake in this while it was fresh (although she did stash some away in her freezer for when the diet trial is over).

The recipe was pretty easy to put together which is always nice, and it tasted good, but I think maybe I'm just not a huge fan of bread pudding? Not sure, the jury is still out.

I started out by tearing up some stale bread (or buying a fresh baguette and making it stale by toasting it in the oven) and mixing it with a couple mashed bananas (full recipe and directions are below).

I heated the milk, sugar and salt until the sugar dissolved and the milk was warm. 
I added that to the whisked eggs, vanilla and bourbon and poured it over the bread/bananas.
I baked it for 35 minutes and served it with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce...to be fancy.
It was good and I think everyone liked it, but it's not my favorite dessert.  Really how could it be? There's no chocolate :)
1 stale baguette
2 mashed bananas
2 1/2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
5 large eggs
3 tablespoons bourbon
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Cinnamon sugar
2 sliced bananas for topping

Preheat oven to 350.
Butter an 8 inch square baking dish.
In a medium saucepan over low heat, combine milk, sugar and salt. Stir until sugar dissolves and milk is warm. Remove from heat and cool slightly.
Tear stale baguette into chunks. Place in prepared baking dish. Add mashed bananas and incorporate with the bread, using your hands. 
In a medium bowl whisk eggs. While whisking, drizzle in warm milk mixture until all the milk is added and mixture is well incorporated. Stir in bourbon and vanilla.
Pour milk/egg mixture over the torn bread and press bread into liquid so it is moistened.
Allow mixture to rest for 10 minutes.
Bake for 25-35 minutes or until bread is browned and liquid is no longer jiggley. Remove from oven and cool for 20 minutes before serving.  Top with cinnamon sugar and fresh banana slices. 

Joy has some great recipes but I have to say, her book is not my favorite. I had a hard time finding things I actually wanted to make.  I love her blog and make her recipes all the time but I didn't really feel like the book was the best representation of her best.  Maybe I'll like her next cookbook better.

For now, I'm ready to move on and am so excited to get started on my March cookbook: Jerusalem!

February 22, 2013

Pin It Maple Dijon Chicken

Taken From Table for Two
Table for Two calls this one "Holy Yum Chicken," which is true...it is "yum," but that's too weird of a post name for me, so I'm going with Maple Dijon.

Here is what I love about this recipe:
1. It's delicious.
2. It's super simple to put together.
3. I (and most people) already have the main components on hand, which means very few things need to be purchased from the store.

I don't really have much to say about this one except that it really is super easy and delicious.  The chicken is moist (one of the few appropriate uses of this word) and it's got a great flavor. Next time I make it I'm thinking of substituting agave or honey for the maple syrup.
You can serve it with pretty much anything and it makes enough for leftovers.
Basically, I wanted to share this one since I think everyone needs to test it out as a contender in their usual dinner rotation, because it's showing up in mine at least twice a month :)

February 21, 2013

Pin It Chocolate Bourbon-Spiked Banana Bread - Cook the Books

Taken From the Joy the Baker Cookbook
I'm a big fan of banana bread, but this one did not do it for me.  That said, I will take most of the credit here and blame it on user error.  I actually tried to make this on two different occasions and wasn't pleased with the way either of them turned out. Sad face.

My first attempt was at my parent's house.  I baked the banana bread in a glass loaf pan using a convection oven. I baked it at 325 for 50 minutes.  I inserted a toothpick at 50 minutes and it came out clean, BUT after cooling and turning out the banana bread, I noticed it started to sag in the middle.  When I cut into it, it was totally raw in the center!  But how did the toothpick come out clean if I poked it in the raw middle?! Who knows. To try and salvage it, my mom sliced it up and put it back in the oven on a pie plate to cook a little longer.  It ended up cooking through and tasting pretty good, but was not pretty to look at.
The beginning stages of the sagging banana bread.
Sad and saggy but still tasted good.
My second attempt was in my oven at 350. I tested it at 45 minutes and my toothpick came out gooey.  I tested it every 5 minutes after that and didn't have a clean pick until baking it for an hour and 5 minutes.  I looked ok, although a little brown on top.  When I cut into it the next day I was pretty disappointed. The outsides edges were dry and crusty and the inside was not moist and fluffy like I wanted. Boo.
I blame my sub-par second attempt on my pan.  Non-stick baking pans are my nemesis; they ruin everything! They over-bake things that are in direct contact with the sides of the pan while under-cooking the middles. I've had this same problem with my non-stick baking sheets and now refuse to use them for cookies (or anything really).  I definitely need to invest in a glass loaf pan and hope that that, in combination with a regular oven at 350 would yield better results.

If I haven't totally discouraged you with my failed attempts, below are the ingredients and directions for Joy's banana bread.  Hope you have better luck!

2 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups mashed ripe bananas (about 3)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
3 tablespoons bourbon
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts (I left these out)

Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan.
Sift together flour, baking powder and salt.
In a stand mixer beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes.
Add eggs one at a time, beating for one minute between each addition. Stop mixer, scrape down the sides, and add bananas, lemon juice and bourbon. Beat until well incorporated.

Add flour mixture all at once and beat on low until almost incorporated. Add chocolate chips (and walnuts) and mix by hand the rest of the way with a spatula. Spoon mixture into the loaf pan and bake for 45 minutes to an hour, until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
Cool in the pan for 20 minutes and turn out onto cooling rack.

Good luck and let me know if/how you get better results!

February 14, 2013

Pin It Valentine Chocolate Truffle Cookies

Taken From The Dahlia Bakery via Just Baked
I love Valentine's Day!  Not because of the mushy relationshipy love stuff  that makes you feel obligated to go to some fancy dinner (along with everyone else in the city) or buy chocolates and flowers, but the part where you get to make themed treats, wear red and pink and hearts and just be generally in a good mood.  As a kid I loved Valentine's Day; in elementary school it was the best! You'd create a make-shift envelope out of construction paper and tape it to the side of your desk, and everyone would walk around the room and place tiny treats in each other's Valentine's Day mail boxes. Then, you'd walk home with your stuffed envelope, eat candy and read all the goofy jokes from your classmate's Valentines.  

My mom always made Valentine's Day special too. We'd eat heart shaped food (mostly in the form of a Jell-O mold) and eat off of heart themed plates and napkins. Plus, one year she made special giant heart cookies with our names on them and we got to eat them before dinner, score!

She still sends me Valentine's in the mail, along with some other V-day themed gift.  This year it was a super retro Valentine (not in the hipster way but in the "this is legitimately from the 1940's/50's" way), a chocolate mint heart and rockin' lady bug heart socks!
Seriously though, the Valentine really is from when my Mom was a kid (not sure why she'd hold on to an unused Valentine for this long but it reminds me that I  really should be wary of my pack rat tendencies).  I noticed it looked super old and she told me she wasn't sure where it came from or how long she'd had it. I Googled the Valentine message and found this Vintage Valentine Museum blog and it was there! Crazy what we hold on to from our childhood.
Old-timey humor?
And check out the 1990 trade mark date on Tom's Scooby-Doo Valentine!
Last year I made shortbread heart cookies as a Valentine's Day treat for friends and co-workers. This year I was inspired by this recipe I found from the Dahlia Bakery. The Dahlia Bakery is one of Tom Douglass' many restaurants in Seattle.  I'm actually headed to Seattle this weekend and am super excited to check out the biscuit bar at Serious Pie for brunch. Brunch is by far my favorite meal (especially to eat out) and there are so many different biscuit combinations, I'm not sure how I'll ever decide on just one! Plus, I always have the savory vs. sweet dilemma at brunch and I thought the biscuit bar would eliminate the sweet option, but check out the homemade PB, banana and honey biscuit, what do I do?!

Ok, back to the cookies. This recipe was quite different than any other cookie I've made in the past. First off, it called for a ton of melted bittersweet chocolate, like 20 ounces a ton.  I under-bought in the chocolate department so I ended up halving the recipe and made smaller cookies (using my mini cookie scoop). The recipe has you making 3.5 inch cookies, which is a little excessive, and I think cutting the recipe in half worked out fine.  Halving the recipe yielded 34 ~2.5 inch cookies. I also topped mine with Valentine M&M's to make them appropriately festive. 
Another thing that was different about this recipe was that it had you beat the butter, sugar and eggs together on high speed for a couple minutes.  Normally over-beating the eggs leads to cakey cookies (yuck) but this created the crinkly tops, and also gave them a super chewy texture (kind of like macaroons, yum).
After beating the butter, sugar and eggs, I added in the vanilla and melted chocolate and folded in the dry ingredients and mini chocolate chips.
I used my mini scoop to place dough balls on a lined cookie sheet and used a wet palm to flatten them out a bit and to also make sure they were nice and round. I put a few M&M's on top and baked them at 350 for 12 minutes, rotating the baking sheet half-way through.
Please take note of my V-day themed backdrop: A Valentine's Day gift of years past from my parents.
They turned out great! Rich, chocolaty, chewy and delicious. One of my co-workers actually said (unprompted), "These are ridiculously good! It combines the best qualities of a brownie and a cookie." So there you go, nailed it.

Also a quick update on my March Cook the Books Challenge. I'm going against the rules of using books I already have (but to be fair I don't have 12 cookbooks so buying more was inevitable) and I've chosen Jerusalem: A Cookbook, by Yotam Ottolenghi (the author of Plenty, which also looks awesome!) and Sami Tamimi.  
I've heard great things about this cookbook and think it'll work out really well for my gluten-free March personal challenge!

Happy Valentine's Day!

February 7, 2013

Pin It Cocoa Almond Granola - Cook the Books

Taken From the Joy the Baker Cookbook
Here we go with book #2, Joy the Baker's 100 Simple and Comforting Recipes! I made a few things from this book in the past (honey and goat cheese drop biscuits and peanut butter birthday cake) but then got easily distracted by online recipes...like ya do.

I've successfully made quite a few her recipes from her website including chicken pot pie with cream cheese and chive biscuits, brown sugar cookies, and tomato cobbler with blue cheese biscuits, buuutttt now it's time to focus on paper in ink, not screens and pixels (except for posting about it, of course).

I love granola but I never buy it. I much prefer homemade granola but the majority of the granola I make (Tracy from Shutterbean is actually one of Joy's good friends) goes to my brother-in-law, who I think is addicted to the stuff. Joy doesn't have this cocoa almond granola recipe on her website but I did find a similar recipe for Joy's toasted almond granola. I've provided the ingredients and directions for the cocoa version below.

4 cups old-fashion oats
1 cup raw almonds
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350.
Mix oats, almonds, coconut, cinnamon, cocoa powder and salt together in a large bowl.
Combine sugar, honey, oil and butter in a saucepan over medium heat.  Stir until sugar dissolves and mixture beings to bubble. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.

Pour the warm sugar mixture over the dry mix and toss with a wooden spoon until all the granola is moistened.
Spread the granola out onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet and place in oven for 30-40 minutes. Stir every 5-8 minutes to avoid the coconut and oats from burning.
The granola is done once the it looks toasted around the edges and becomes fragrant. Remove from oven, let cool completely and store in an airtight container.
The recipe says to bake for 30 minutes but I baked for closer to 40. This recipes yields a stickier/more cluster-y granola than the coconut maple granola but it turned out great, and is so addictive! In Joy's book she has it in the category of something you eat between the hours of 10 pm and 2 am, but I can also vouch for it as an anytime food. It was delicious paired with non-fat pain Greek yogurt for a post-run breakfast this morning. 
This is a great snack and definitely worth a trying out!