Traveling Cookies

BIscoff.pngWhen we fly we generally fly Delta. For whatever reason, this is the airline my husband chooses most and he flies a lot. So, when we go somewhere I’m always thrilled that we get to have the “Biscoff” cookies that Delta serves. They’re crisp and full of flavor sort of like a chai cookie or a ginger snap. They are delicious! Trader Joe’s sells something similar called “Speculoos” and they are spectacular! The sad thing is, now you can buy them in the grocery store. I say sad only because now they are losing their “treat” status in my mind and I’m tempted to buy them (of course, I have). What fun is that?

I never really considered trying to bake them myself. Until last weekend, that is. The winter issue of “Cook’s Illustrated” came Saturday. Low and behold a recipe for my favorite travel cookie. Hmmm … Should I? NO! Did I? YES!

Turns out these have an inordinate amount of cinnamon, five teaspoons! Which when you use high quality Vietnamese cinnamon, the flavors JUMP at you. I used my mortar and pestle to grind up the cardamom and clove. I could have used an electric grinder (I have one) but for some reason I felt inspired to do it old school. I also heated the pods up to enhance the flavors. WOW! Fresh ground cardamom is amazing! Needless to say, my house smelled like Christmas yesterday!

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I didn’t grow up making holiday cookies. So this is the first time I’ve made a cookie that had to be rolled out and cut into shapes.  From now on these will be my GO-TO holiday cookie, even if it’s for sheer aroma therapy purposes.

The final result is fabulous. Crisp, aromatic and perfect to dip in a bit of coffee!

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I’m back in the kitchen. AGAIN!

So, I roasted some pig butt this weekend for pulled pork. My own recipe because I know what I’m doing y’all! Make my own rub and everything. One might think this would please my mister. Instead he complained that we had no buns and he would have to eat it the “poor” way with sandwich bread. He is no neglected.

So yesterday I made kaiser rolls from the Cook’s Illustrated cookbook, “Bread Illustrated”. Kaiser rolls traditionally have poppy seeds on them. [Side note: What’s the point of Poppy Seeds? Do they serve a flavor function? I can’t detect much flavor at all. They get stuck in your teeth. They apparently make your blood test positive for opiates. So really, what’s the point? Plus, most of them end up everywhere BUT your mouth.] Needless to say, I did not have any on hand so I used sesame seeds instead.

Flavor-wise, they’re okay. I didn’t have any Instant Yeast. Now I understand why my Active Yeast didn’t substitute measure-for-measure. I should have researched how to substitute but I didn’t and therefore they didn’t have enough flour and rose too quickly and the dough was too sticky. I should have known better but I was trying to stick to the recipe. Oh well, whose bread comes out perfectly the first time? Mine rarely does. They did taste okay and my husband didn’t seem to notice the difference. His palate isn’t quite as refined as Thomas Kellers.

They did look fairly pretty. Proper flour/yeast proportion would have made them tighter and  more soft inside.

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Sesame Kaiser Rolls

On a completely different subject. My friend Linda Fay was gracious enough to take some photographs of my and my cat, Joe. Yes, I am that lady. I love my Joe. He’s 18 and grumpy and was not having it. Lesson? Don’t try to force a cat to be a model. He just won’t cooperate.

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Why are you doing this to me? Notice his ears. 

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Seriously lady, how much longer do I have to do this?

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I hate you!

Oh, but I love you Joe!

Let the food do heavy lifting! In other words …

Keep it simple. Weekend two of cooking from Thomas Keller’s “Bouchon” cookbook. Take a look at this …

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Wow. It was amazing! Here’s the thing, I used just four ingredients. Chicken, Salt, Pepper and Thyme. That’s it. I rinsed the 4.5 pound bird and dried it off really, really good. Salted it and then baked it at 450 degrees for 60 minutes. Once I pulled it from the oven, poured water on the drippings (to deglaze the pan) then basted it with the drippings and fresh thyme. While it was baking and resting I made the cauliflower gratin. Delicious.

I’m not sure what all the cooking inspiration has been about but I can’t seem to stop. Perhaps it’s fall (my least favorite time of year). All I can think about is cooking. I’ve watched The Great British Baking Show and it makes me want to try all the fancy recipes. My sister sells Wildtree product and I had her over to cook with this weekend too. We made Pate a Choux filled with chocolate mousse, Meringue cookies and a variety of savory treats. So much for enforcing my WW plan. Ugh. Tomorrow! Right?

Even today, I had a notion to use all the leeks I purchased last week so I put together a Potato Leek and Bacon soup. I used the chicken stock I made from yesterday and this one is good. Oh so good. Yum.

I have got to stop.

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Just a few, minor mix-ups and mistakes …

Okay. I screwed up. After working for hours and hours on the quiche I realized after an hour of baking that I had baked the stupid thing 50 degrees too hot. It looked pretty but it didn’t quite set up the way it should have. Regardless, it was delicious. The texture, I’m certain was off, but the flavors were AMAZING!

 

The German Chocolate cake is delicious! Of course, it wasn’t perfect. I neglected to toast and add pecans to the icing. So, I just ringed the cake with pecans. It’s an excellent recipe and I found it (not surprisingly) on America’s Test Kitchen. The texture and crumb on this cake is delicate and moist. It’s not too sweet either. Boy – oh – boy … You should make this one. Message me and I’ll share.

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Hubby was pleased with both items. My non-foodie husband doesn’t gush the way I would prefer but he seemed to really enjoy them. After some discussion however, the evening menu has changed. He wants meatloaf, not steak. I DO make an awesome meatloaf, so I don’t blame him.

Hubby especially loved his actual present … a fishing rod and tackle filled, tackle box. He took a walk down memory lane and I’m certain I’ll get him to a lake or stream before the end of fall. Score two for the wifey!

Now, on a more serious note. Late last night we learned that a colleague of his lost his son in a car accident. In the midst of celebration we are thrown back into reality. Hug your babies today. Tell your important people how much they mean to you. Life is fragile and uncertain. Thank you to those who follow me and my life-food journey. I am blessed beyond compare and am grateful for you love and encouragement.

May God bless and Keep you!

Much Love, Rachel

Birthday Bonanza Update

WOW, I am worn out. One of these days I’m going to have to figure out how to get eight hours of sleep. I woke at 5 o’clock a.m. worrying about bills and money and how to structure my cooking day.

After a run to Target for a springform pan and a workout at the gym. I came home to get started on the quiche. UGH … is the best word for it. Actually, dammit works too because I had to scrap the dough I made yesterday. It was too dry and would NOT roll out. So, I started over. The second one was better but still not perfect. I didn’t have time to do another so I went with it.

Making a second crust meant that I had to run back to Kroger for more flour. Add in a second ARGH for this annoyance.

So, the cake is baked. The frosting is ready to spread. I had to improvise on this too because my coconut wasn’t ‘”sweetened”. I just whirled it through the food processor with coconut sugar and said a prayer. So far, so good. But now I’m wishing I had browned the butter for the frosting. Oh well, it still tasted delicious.

The quiche is in the oven. I have a beer in my hand and I’m headed to the TV. I will follow up with pictures tomorrow.

For now, just enjoy a lovely photo I took of my hummingbirds. This is Sweet Pea. Yes, I named them.

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Bouchon – Lessons in Baking

Well hello there! It’s been a very long time since I have blogged. A lot has happened in the time I’ve been away. Here is an abbreviated rundown of some of those things: I joined Weight Watchers, I’ve lost 55 pounds, I’ve become a yoga instructor and I had surgery on my left shoulder which has left me somewhat incapacitated. My life is not too complicated, what a blessing.

Because of the Weight Watchers, I have had to curtail some of my baking and cooking activities and focus on eating healthier. As you might imagine, this has been a bit of a challenge. I still have an occasional baked good or sweet treat but nothing compared to my former lifestyle. Alas, it’s worth it to feel healthier and to have confidence in my appearance again.

My sweet mother-in-law was gracious enough to send me an early birthday present. For several years now I have had Thomas Keller’s bistro cookbooks on my Wish List. Knowing full well that I did not in actuality “need” them but my 50th birthday is looming and well, I wanted them.

You can purchase these yourself at: Amazon.com or BarnesNoble.com

I like to think I know my way around a kitchen but … these recipes are written for professional chefs. The recipes are complicated with ingredients that are not always readily available at your local Kroger. Mostly, they are time consuming.  So much so that I am taking three days to make a Quiche Lorraine. It’s a true education into how professional chefs prepare food at Michelin starred restaurants; which in today’s fast paced world is nothing like how the average person cooks at home. Nevertheless, I am resolved to conquer them. Well, maybe not all of them but I’m going to give it an honest effort.

All of this to say, this weekend shall be consumed with cooking and baking for my dear, dear husband’s 50th birthday. Since my husband is more of an introvert than extrovert and prefers to hide out in our house for the entire weekend (if you could hear my voice right now you would hear some serious attitude) I shall be cooking and baking to make his day special.

What’s on the menu you ask? Quiche Lorraine, German chocolate cake, New York strip, macaroni and cheese, and beer. I began this endeavor on Friday afternoon by preparing an Onion Confit, a Bouquet Garni, and a basic pie crust. I also made mango/avocado salsa, pork chops and salt roasted fingerling potatoes because we had to eat dinner too. Needless to say, I was in the kitchen all freaking day. It was fun and EXHAUSTING!

Onion Confit? What the heck? It sounds French and fancy. It’s not. Onion confit consists of evenly sliced onions (eight cups), 1/4 cup of water, and four ounces of butter. All of which is cooked at very low temperature for two plus hours and stirred every half hour. Simple enough but a commitment. Also, it’s covered with a parchment lid. Huh? It took three tries to create this. Something I’m certain my craftier friends would have done in one attempt.

Also, Bouquet Garni? It sounds so fancy. It’s fresh herbs wrapped in leeks. Simple enough. I grow the herbs in my garden and I can get leeks. The end result is amazing. The onions are so naturally sweet and the herbs make them even more fragrant. It was so worth the effort.

That’s as far as I got. The pie dough is in the fridge and next I’ll put together the custard and cake. First, I need a springform pan. I could have sworn I had one. I guess I’ll be making a trip to the local bakery supply store aka: Bed Bath Beyond. Ugh.

 

I’m Baking This … Want Some?

I love to bake. This presents a problem when one is changing one’s lifestyle and living a nearly carb free life. The challenge is to find healthy and tasty low cal/carb foods that I can enjoy without the guilt.

Before I started this journey I started making sourdough breads. Which means I have a BUNCH of dried starter just waiting to be reactivated and used. Since the holidays are coming I thought I’d bake some treats for friends and family. Also, there is no way I can use all the starter I have so if you know me and you want some call me. I will hook you up!

The first loaf I baked was amazing. So. Very. Good. I have a good friend who is diabetic and can eat limited carbs too. She eats a rye bread so my first new attempt will be a sourdough rye. We’ll see how that turns out.

If you want some starter here is the recipe for reactivating it. https://blog.kingarthurflour.com/2015/05/01/putting-sourdough-starter-hold/

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