New Year, New Cookies

I don’t usually bake cookies because (1) I always end up with a lot of them and (2) I am the only person in my household who will usually eat them, unless I make lemon, honey and chamomile cookies.

But I wanted to try something different, something involving caramel. Searching online I found mostly recipes that either took a huge chuck of caramel in each cookie or that involved Rolo or some other candy. Since what I had in mind was to have pieces of caramel spread through the cookies, similar to La Mère Poulard’s cookies, I figured it’d be easier just to come up with something instead of trying to find a recipe online.

The solution for how to use the caramel came up when shopping for a gift and I saw some French salted caramels for sale. They are delicious, but also rather expensive to be used in baking. At least knowing what to look for, I started searching all supermarkets and grocery stores close to me for something halfway through fancy French caramels and shitty dollar store candy. I ended up settling on English salted caramel fudge, which was good on its own, but would probably work better on the cookies.

With that out of the way, I just needed to come up with a recipe and hope it would work out. So I took to our kitchen bookshelves and adapted a couple of recipes to create my own based on Michael Ruhlman’s Ratio and Larousse des Desserts. And I have to say it worked out pretty well and I leave the recipe so you can decide it for yourself.

Salted Caramel and Pecan Cookies
Salted Caramel and Pecan cookies – perfect with a cup of coffee

Salted Caramel and Pecan cookies (makes about 30 cookies)

Ingredients

110g softened butter

180g brown sugar

100g salted caramel fudge, thinly chopped

90g pecans, thinly chopped

1 egg

225g all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon baking powder

Pinch of salt

Directions

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius (340 Fahrenheit).
  2. Add the butter and sugar in a bowl and mix them using the paddle attachment.
  3. Once they mixed, add in the egg until it forms a homogenous dough.
  4. Add in the flour, baking powder and salt little by little until it’s well mixed.
  5. Put in the pieces of caramel and pecans. Once they are incorporated into the dough, make small balls and spread on a baking tray, flattening them. At this point, use a cookie cutter if you wish to give them a shape.
  6. Put the cookies in the oven and bake for about 10-15 minutes. Once done, put them on a cooling rack.
  7. Lick the paddle to avoid wasting sweet goodness (optional) while you wait them to cool down. Make yourself a nice cup of coffee and enjoy the cookies (dipping is allowed and recommended).
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New Year, New Cookies

A Perfect Day for Bananabread*

*I chose this spelling for referencing reasons

I have been obsessed about cooking with bourbon lately: Caramelized onions with bourbon, bacon and bourbon beans… So when I bumped into this recipe for bourbon and chocolate bananabread, I knew I had to try it one day soon.

I’d never tried baking bananabread as I usually eat all the bananas before they are ripe enough for baking, plus I am the only one at home who is crazy about this North American delicacy. I was also afraid of not making it as good as the one I can get from a breakfast place close to my house.

But screw my fears and banana-hungry stomach! This was bananabread day! So – armed with the recipe, a bottle of booze and bananas on the verge of decaying – I marched into the kitchen after a whole week without baking anything thanks to the high temperature and 98% humidity level in Montreal last week.

I do believe that baking is a science and a much less merciful process than cooking, but I also do believe in feeling how the things are going and making adaptations in case something doesn’t seem right. Yes, I can easily screw up a loaf of bread by doing this, but I can also save it from disaster. All that to say that I made some changes to the original recipe, so I could make it more suitable to our taste.

Because we don’t like sweets that are too sweet and because ripe bananas are basically sugar in a creamy-yellow form, I started by cutting down on the quantity of sugar. At the same time, I used dark chocolate and while adding it to the dough, I adjusted the amount to what seemed enough for the loaf.

It’s not that I did not make any mistakes. When removing the bread from the pan, it broke in half, in a way that the top landed on the plate and the bottom stuck to the pan. With help, the bananabread was finally set in a plate where we could cut it and have a slice, or some, with a nice cup of coffee.

I also remembered that the breakfast place nearby serves their bananabread with a bit of sour cream with honey, so I decided to make my own version and had some whipped cream with maple and bourbon on the side. Both recipes right below the picture.

A slice of bananabread is cut on a plate. There is an amount of whipped cream on top of the slice. In the background there is a cup of coffee and a couple of bowls.
Bananabread with whipped cream and a cup of coffee is all we need for a nutritious breakfast

Bourbon Chocolate Chip Bananabread

Ingredients

260 g all-purpose flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

100 g unsalted butter

100 g sugar

2 large eggs

1 1/2 cup of mashed ripe bananas (2 bananas and a half in my case)

1 teaspoon lemon juice

4 teaspoons bourbon

130 g coarsely chopped dark chocolate

Directions

Heat oven to 350 F (175 C) and grease loaf pan.

In a bowl, mix the flour, baking powder and salt.

In the stand mixer bowl with paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy.

Add in the eggs, one at a time, beating for about 1 minute after each addition. Scrape the sides of the bowl and mix in the bananas, lemon juice and bourbon. Mix until well-combined.

Add the flour on low speed until it’s incorporated. Fold in the chocolate.
Pour the batter in the baking pan and spread evenly. Bake for 45-60 minutes (check if it’s baked inserting a toothpick in the loaf. When there is no batter on it, your bread is ready).

Remove from the oven and let it cool for 20 minutes before inverting onto wire rack. I dare you, I double-dare you not to it until it’s completely cool.

Bourbon maple whipped cream

Ingredients

50 ml whipping cream

1 teaspoon maple

1 teaspoon bourbon

Directions

Put all ingredients in a bowl. Whip it good until it reaches the desired consistency.

A Perfect Day for Bananabread*

Forget about the Eggs

I knew there was a holiday around, but yesterday my news feed confirmed that this was Easter weekend. More than that, it presented me with recipes of breads from around the world to celebrate Easter.

When I saw Paraguayan chipa among them, which I did not know was Paraguayan or Eastery, I remembered lazy afternoons in Brazil when I would get some freshly baked chipas at the supermarket and take them home to go with a nice a cup of coffee and cream cheese. There was no doubt Hot Cross Buns and Bread with Prosciutto and Olives would be left for another occasion. I made a few adaptations to the recipe, such as removing anise. The recipe comes right below the picture.

According to some research I did, Paraguayans will usually have this small bread “all day Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. By Friday it is usually so hard that it needs to be dipped in coffee or cocido (hot tea made with mate) to be edible.” (source, source 2 for more info on chipas). And indeed, they were super soft fresh out of the oven, but about 12 hours after being baked they were already a bit hard. Luckily (not for weight management) they were so good that not many lasted a second round of eating.

A table is set for two people. In each of the plates there lies two chipas.
Easter breakfast is ready!

Chipa

Ingredients

400 grams of tapioca starch (I don’t endorse brands, but this is too funny for the 12-year-old in me to let it pass – mildly NSFW, depending on where you work)

150 grams of cornmeal

400 grams of cheese (I used cheddar)

4 eggs

1/2 tablespoon of baking powder

1/2 cup of milk

100 grams of butter

Directions

1. Mix the tapioca starch, cornmeal, baking powder and butter. Add milk, cheese and eggs and mix until well integrated.

2. Pre-heat the oven to 400 Fahrenheit (200 Celsius). Shape the dough into small balls or donuts. Place them on parchment paper on a baking tray and bake for 12-15 minutes. Eat while hot!

One chipa is resting on a small plate with a cup of coffee in front of it. A cat is sitting across, resting his head on the table and staring at the chipa.
“All your foods are belong to me.” Even cats want to eat delicious chipas.
Forget about the Eggs

Happy (Pizza) Pi(e) Day!

One of the things I am most glad for since the end of February is that I no longer need to charge my bus/metro pass with a monthly load and can walk the 7-ish kilometres to and from work everyday.

And just this week on my way back home I was wondering how far Pi Day was. I did not remember then, as I couldn’t recall pi’s value. And my thought eventually wandered somewhere else. Case closed… until this morning, when I started browsing through my news feeds and was flooded with reminders that 3/14/15 was upon us.

For a moment I felt like baking a pie. Likely a root vegetable tarte tatin, but I was out of root vegetables and my phone told me I looked outside and saw there was freezing rain. After discussing some options of dinner with my SO, we decided on a convenient pizza (pie).

After lunch I prepared the dough (recipe in another post) and once the freezing rain was over, I went out for the ingredients. This time we decided to keep it simple and just used regular cheddar, tomatoes, grated parmesan and olive oil. Coincidentally, this was the roundest pizza we’ve ever made. The sound of bubbling cheese when it left the oven was particularly pleasant.

We also wanted to make a sweet pizza (it is common in Brazil), so I also brought home Nutella (spread it like it was tomato sauce, top the pie with bananas, thank me on the comments). In the end, though, we’ve had enough with the savoury pie and just saved the remaining dough for another meal and another post.

A cheese and tomato pizza is resting on a pizza stone. On the background there is a bottle of wine, a bottle of olive oil, a plate and a wine glass
The roundest pizza to this date
Happy (Pizza) Pi(e) Day!

Cheese and onion loaf

This week a colleague is leaving the company and because we like to eat, a potluck was organized for today. I could’ve cooked something, but then I would feel a bit bad posting it here if it didn’t involve an oven.

I figured a simple bread would be unbearably simple. Muffins would be a bit weird for lunch. Then I opted for a cheese and onion loaf adapted straight from my favourite bread book. To avoid any trouble at home, I also baked one to keep, which is the one photographed for the purposes of this post. This loaf is now almost over, about 24 hours after it was first sliced.

The main difference between loaves was the cheese. While for the personal loaf took a nice chunk of raw milk Gruyère, to take to work I went for a milder cheddar aged 18 months. Also, I decided to leave scotch out of the onions in the communal loaf.

A loaf of bread is resting on a cutting board
The loaf waiting to be sliced.

Cheese and onion loaf

Ingredients

450 grams of flour
175 grams of cheese (meltable, strong, like aged cheddar or Gruyère – preferably anything made with raw milk)
Caramelised onions (recipe on previous post)
Melted butter
20 grams of fresh yeast
Powered mustard
Salt and pepper
150 ml of warm water
150 ml of warm milk

Directions

1. In a bowl, add the flour, 130 grams of cheese, caramelised onion, mustard, salt and pepper. Make a well in the middle.

2. Dissolve yeast in water.

3. Add water with yeast and milk to flour mix. Integrate all ingredients and knead for about 10-15 minutes. Cover with a towel and leave it to rest for 1 hour or until it doubles in size.

4. Divide it into 20 equal pieces and make them into small balls. Put it in the bread pan in two rows of five balls each. Use a brush to spread butter on top of them. Put the remaining balls on top of the ones already aligned. Spread butter on them, cover and leave it to rest for 45 minutes.

5. Pre-heat the oven to 190° Celsius (374° Fahrenheit). Grate the remaining cheese on top of the loaf. Bake it for 40 minutes.

6. Eat it by itself or with anything you want on top.

A loaf is resting on an improvised cooling rack with two slices cut out of it
And ready to be eaten
Cheese and onion loaf

Let’s talk about burgers

Last Friday I expected to get from work, have something to eat and then head out to see a presentation of the Notes on Montreal concert. This was slightly affected by my getting caught in the office for half an hour past the usual time and also for a stop at the butcher to get something to cook quickly before leaving the house again. My girlfriend even suggested we grabbed a burger in the greasy spoon around the corner, but the quality of their burgers hasn’t been the same since they made some staff changes a few months ago. So I suggested we just cooked ground beef to have with the mashed potatoes we had in the fridge before leaving (quick to make) and had burgers over the weekend.

I’d made burgers at home before, but this time there would be a twist: it would involve also baking my own burger buns.

We started working on it on Saturday afternoon. I used a recipe for Challah, but instead of braiding it, I separated the dough into six buns (note to self: you can make more buns with this recipe). Also, as a result of teamwork, we prepared coleslaw to go with it (she sliced what seemed like 2 kg of cabbage, onions and carrots, I slice half an apple -a big one- and mixed everything). We also scored 200 grams of raw milk emmental cheese.

On Sunday, before preparing the burgers, I made caramelized onions on scotch. With all the above said, I’ll keep this text short and let the pictures do the talking. I will also include some of the recipes, starting with the burgers. To make each patty, you just take about 120 grams of ground beef, add salt, pepper and, if needed, olive oil (you need some fat in it), and mix well by hand. Leave it at room temperature for a while before grilling it. Add cheese to the top of it.

Not mentioned anywhere, we also added rocket leaves to the burger.

Recipes after the jump.

A plate with a burger. We can see the buns covered in poppy seeds and rocket leaves inside. On the side of the dish, as small bowl filled with coleslaw and in front of it some plantain chips.
Burger, plantain chips and coleslaw ready to be eaten.

Challah burger buns

Ingredients

500 grams of white flour

200 ml of warm water

75 grams of melted butter

2 eggs (+1 to glaze)

20 grams of fresh yeast

10 grams of salt

20 grams of sugar

Directions

1. Add flour and salt to a bowl. In a separated recipient, dissolve the sugar in the water and add the yeast.

2. Let the yeast/water/sugar mix rest for about 10 minutes. In the meantime, melt the butter and mix in the eggs (remove it from the heat).

3. Add all the liquids to the flour/salt mix and knead until the dough is uniform and smooth. Cover it and let it rest for 1 hour.

4. After 1 hour, press the dough so it releases some of the air. Let it rest for another hour.

5. Cut the dough into smaller parts (from a quick mental calculation, eight parts should work). With the hand, make each into a ball and flatten them. Place them on a baking tray and cover for another 45 minutes. Pre-heat the oven to 200° Celsius (395° Fahrenheit).

6. Beat one egg and brush the buns with it. Sprinkle with sesame or poppy seeds. Place them in the oven and bake for about 25 minutes.

In the foreground, there is a bowl with two visible buns in it. In the background, a butter dish and a small milk jar.
Burger buns having their flavour and consistency tested on breakfast

Coleslaw

Ingredients

Half a head of cabbage

3 carrots

1/2 an onion

1/4 cup of cider vinegar

1/2 an apple

2 teaspoons of mayonnaise

1/2 teaspoon of dill seeds

Directions

1. Chop all the vegetables. Sprinkle the cabbage with salt and place it on a colander with something heavy on top. In the meantime, put the onion in the vinegar and leave it while the cabbage drains (about 1 hour).

2. In a bowl, add all the vegetables, the mayonnaise, chopped apple and onion. Add dill seeds, salt and sugar and mix well.

-x-

Scotch caramelized onions

Ingredients

1 onion thinly sliced

1 shot of scotch or bourbon – optional

1/8 teaspoon of salt

1 teaspoon of sugar

1 teaspoon of vegetable oil

1 teaspoon of butter

Directions

1. In a small pan add the vegetable oil and butter. Heat it up until melted.

2. Add the onions and stir until they are lightly brown.

3. Add the sugar and salt and mix well with the onion.

4. Add the shot of whisky and mix until the liquid evaporates. Skip this step if not adding booze.

-x-

Plantain chips

Ingredient

3 fiddy

Directions

Walk to the store, grab a bag of plantain chips, give money to the cashier and go back home. Open bag and serve it with your burger.

Let’s talk about burgers

Ydych chi’n hoffi siocled? (or “Do you like chocolate?”)

While shopping for flour, eggs and other nutrients, I felt like getting sweets (I see a pattern here). Since I wanted to bake chocolate chip cookies for a while, this would be a good opportunity.

[A few hours later]

At around 7 PM, it was time to start on those cookies. Without checking the recipe, I started gathering ingredients I could remember (I have never baked chocolate chip cookies): flour, eggs, sugar, bittersweet chocolate chips, butter… Upon checking the recipe to see if something was missing, I noticed that I would need a cup of butter (which translates to about 227 grams, according to Allrecipes), when I optimistically had 100 grams available.

Considering it was -20° (Celsius) outside, I opted for adaptation and remembered that Welsh Bara Brith (literally “speckled bread”) would take most of the ingredients I had at hand. It also took raisins, which are vetoed in the kitchen by a residential decree, but part of my plan was to replace them with chocolate chips anyway (think chocolate panettone). Luckily, my girlfriend had taken advantage of some free time and an abundance of citrus at the end of the year and we had candied citrus peels (for a recipe, please check here. We kept the syrup for future use as well).

Loaf of bread resting on a cutting board. The chocolate chips are visible in the bread. In the background there is a glass filled with tea.
The baked Bara Brith loaf ready to be eaten with a nice cup of decaf black tea.

Chocolate Bara Brith

Ingredients

20 grams of fresh yeast

210 ml of warm milk

450 g of unbleached white flour

75 g of butter (or lard)

2.5 g of salt

100 g of sugar (50-50 mix of golden and brown)

180 g of chocolate chips (71% cocoa)

1 egg

40 g of candied citrus peels

15-30 ml of honey/citrus syrup mix to glaze

Directions

1. Dissolve the yeast in a bit of milk. Once it’s dissolved, add the rest of the milk and let it rest for 10 minutes.

2. In a mixer bowl, add the flour and integrate the butter. Once it’s done, add the salt and sugar.

3. Add the milk/yeast mix and the egg and mix until the dough is smooth and elastic. Cover the bowl and leave it to rest for 1.5 hour (or until it doubles in size).

4. Put the dough on a lightly floured surface and add the chocolate chips and candied peels with the fingers. Give the dough a round form and put on the baking tray. Cover it and leave it for 1 hour (or until it doubles in size).

5. Pre-heat the oven to 200° Celsius (392° Fahrenheit) and bake the bread for 30 minutes. Put the bread on a cooling rack and glaze it with the honey or honey/citrus syrups mix. Good luck in waiting for it to cool down before cutting it open.

Note: My bara brith ended up a little underbaked. I had missed one part of the instruction where they say for step 5: “If the bread gets too dark, cover it with aluminium foil in the last 10 minutes of baking.” I fixed this by rebaking it for about 30 minutes at 175 Celsius (350 Fahrenheit). It’s a bit dry in some parts, but baked all the way through and delicious.

The bara brith loaf already cut open resting on a cutting board.
Bon Appetit!
Ydych chi’n hoffi siocled? (or “Do you like chocolate?”)