Author: chloerosec

Salted Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Video Credit: Emily Chao Music Credit: Generationals

A great chocolate chip cookie has chocolate chunks, not chips. In fact, the original chocolate chip cookie was invented by Ruth Graves Wakefield in the 1930s completely by accident when she put chunks of chocolate in a cookie batter and hoped that the chunks would melt into the batter as it baked, ultimately resulting in a chocolate cookie. Instead, the result was what she termed the Toll House Cookie, named after the Toll House Inn that she owned at the time. Today, the variations on this cookie are numerous, just look at the cookie aisle in the supermarket. However, it is my personal opinion that a proper chocolate chip cookie should be devoured within 10-15 minutes of coming out of the oven while the chocolate is still melty and the center is still slightly gooey and warm. The edges of the cookie should be crisp enough that they crunch when you bite into them and there has to be a touch of salt to round out the flavor As with most things food-related, this is all a matter of preference, but I suggest you test out this recipe for a transcendental cookie experience.

Cookies require care when making them. You have to pay close attention to the way you prepare your dough and ingredients. For starters, have your butter and eggs at room temperature, this will ensure that the dough stays at a constant temperature while you make it and that all the ingredients can blend together harmoniously. The second, and probably most important thing is to pay attention to how you cream your butter and sugar. I will refer you to this excellent article on Cookie Science by Stella Parks. If you watch the attached video, you can see how much lighter the butter and sugar is after the creaming process. I like to cream my butter and sugar on low until it no longer looks sandy and then bring it up to medium/medium-high speed until it begins to have a pearl-like sheen. If you have read at Parks’ article, you will see that she also advocates scraping the bowl throughout the dough making process. This is absolutely key to making a great cookie dough. There is nothing worse than realizing that there are pockets of flour or uncreamed butter and sugar at the bottom of the mixing bowl when you are done mixing it.

Another CRUCIAL step in making chocolate chip cookies, or any cookies really, is letting your dough rest for at least 30 minutes in the freezer, or overnight in the fridge if you have time. If you bake off the dough straight from the mixing bowl, the dough will be too warm and will melt into cookies that are sad and flat. Since I really only like my cookies warm, I let my dough rest, weigh it all out, and keep the portioned cookie-dough balls in the freezer so I can have warm cookies whenever I want. Ok, enough from me, go forth and bake!

 

Salted Chocolate-Chunk Cookies

Note: I use sel guérande which a type of fleur de sel that has a bit of clay in it from the salt ponds it is harvested from. A large grain kosher salt, or sea salt would work well too but if you can get your hands on some sel guérande, buy it, it is absolutely beautiful as a finishing salt.

Ingredients:
8oz or 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
¾ c white sugar
¾ c light brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract, or ½ of a scraped vanilla bean
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp large grain sel guérande/fleur de sel (alternatively, 1 ½ tsp kosher or 1 tsp fine sea salt)
200g 72% dark chocolate, chopped into chunks

  1. Sift flour and baking soda together, mix in salt and set aside.
  2. Using a hand mixer or stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, scraping bowl occasionally to ensure that the mixture is even.
  3. Add eggs and vanilla, one at a time allowing each egg to incorporate fully and scraping the bowl in between each addition.
  4. Slowly add dry mix, scraping the bowl occasionally to ensure an even mixture.
  5. Add chocolate chunks and mix on low until incorporated.
  6. Refrigerate dough overnight, or for at least 30 minutes in the freezer.
  7. Portion dough into 1 ½” balls and place them 2” apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. If you love salt, sprinkle just a little on top of the cookies.
  8. Bake for 8-10 minutes at 375°F or 190°
  9. Allow cookies to cool at least 10 minutes before eating and enjoy!

Mushroom Risotto

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Photo Credit: Emily Chao

Exciting news everyone! I am working with my friend Emily Chao to put some videos up on the blog. She is an incredible editor and you should definitely check out her website to see some of the amazing videos she’s shot and edited. If you’re in New York for the Tribeca Film Festival, be sure to check out one of the more recent projects she has worked on called Lemon.

We wanted to try something simple just to see how the lighting was in the kitchen, so I wasn’t super careful when I was making this risotto. Some of the more culinary savvy among you may notice that I added the wine before the rice (Quelle horreur!), but the risotto turned out quite nice anyway.

I used morel mushrooms in this dish because they were so beautiful at the green grocer, but any assortment of wild mushrooms will do. If you make this dish with vegetable stock, it can very easily become a great vegetarian dish, and I would even suggest adding some asparagus or fresh peas to the mushrooms while sautéing to make an even heartier meal.

You may not need all the liquid in this recipe, and don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t work out the first time. Risotto is one of those dishes that you need to practice. A good risotto is slightly soupy and the rice grains should be distinguishable with a good bite to them, like pasta cooked al dente.

Mushroom Risotto
serves 3-4

8oz ariboro rice, rinsed
24 oz chicken or vegetable broth
4 tbs butter
2 shallots, minced
½ c dry white wine
1 c grated parmigiana-reggiano cheese, plus  more to finish
2 cups mushrooms, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced (I didn’t have any, but it really could have used some garlic)
Parsley, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

  1. Bring broth to a simmer and leave covered over low heat to keep warm.
  2. Over medium heat, melt 2 tbs of butter in a large sauce pan.
  3. Cook the shallots with some salt and pepper in the butter until they are translucent.
  4. Bring up heat to medium-high and add the rice, stir for about 1 minute.
  5. Add the wine and mix until it is mostly absorbed.
  6. Bring the temperature down to medium-low hear and add the broth one ladle at a time. Stir the mixture occasionally and wait until the liquid is mostly absorbed before adding more, this should take about 30 minutes. Taste as you go to see if the risotto needs more seasoning.
  7. As the rice gets close to being done, sautee the mushrooms and garlic over high heat with the remaining 1 oz of butter until they are browned.
  8. When the rice has a nice texture, add the grated cheese and mushrooms. mix in and serve warm with a drizzle of good olive oil, a dusting of cheese and chopped parsley.

 

White Bean Stew

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As a kid, I hated leftovers. I knew that as soon as I heard the ding of the microwave, I was sentenced to a bowl of a sadder, soggier version of the dinner I had eaten the night before. The flavors were sure to be muted, and the center of the bowl was most certainly going to be just lukewarm. I was a child with very high standards.

I wasn’t picky, I would eat almost everything (except Chicken Cacciatori, sorry mom). I just valued food diversity. So, when my mom told us that it was “fend for yourself night,” I would experiment in the kitchen to avoid leftovers. This meant that I only had the contents of the fridge and pantry to work with, and really forced me to be creative.

As an adult, I don’t have the same aversion to leftovers, because no one truly has the time or energy to cook a full meal every day. So, I have learned how to make dishes that actually improve with age. I have found that braising is the best technique to produce a dish like this, and although it takes time to cook in the oven. It can always be made the night before, and be gently reheated in the oven for a relatively quick weeknight meal. This dish is one of my favorites, and is a perfect alternative to the more traditional braised dishes that tend to be very heavy and hard to eat as the weather gets warmer.

I also like that I can make this as a vegetarian meal, but I usually add swiss-chard, spinach or kale. This recipe is pictured with a saffron tagliatelle that I found at a local Italian market, but it can be served with your favorite pasta, or some crusty bread and a light green salad. The dried white beans can also be substituted for 2 14oz cans of white beans if you are in a rush, but I really urge you to use dried beans.

White Bean Stew
with Garlic Sausage, Fennel, Onion and Carrots

8 oz dried white beans (preferably Cannellini or Great Northern)
1 clove garlic, whole
1 bayleaf
4 tbs olive oil
1 lb Italian or Toulouse sausage*, crumbled
1 onion, sliced ¼”
1 bulb fennel, sliced ¼”
2 carrots, peeled and sliced 1″
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ c dry white wine
3 c bone broth and 1 c water**
salt and pepper to taste
Parsley, chopped (optional)

Soak Beans:
Boil 4 c water with whole garlic clove and 1 bayleaf Rinse dried beans and add to boiling water. Turn off and cover for 1 hour.

  1. Preheat oven to 350°f, with rack in the middle.
  2. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a dutch oven until it is shimmery and add the sausage, cook until just browned. Remove the sausage with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  3. Reduce heat to medium, and add the onion, fennel, garlic , and carrot. Cook until the onion is just barely translucent.
  4. Add the wine and scrape the browned bits from the bottom of the pan, reduce heat to low.
  5. Drain beans and discard the garlic clove, be sure to keep bay leaf. Add soaked beans and bay leaf to the pan, mix together.
  6. Add the sausage, or greens if you are making a vegetarian version.
  7. Pour in the broth, water, salt and pepper and bring to a simmer.
  8. Place dutch oven in the middle of the oven, and let cook uncovered for one hour.
  9. Stir and let cook another 30 min- 1hour, or until the beans are finished.
  10. Serve with chopped parsley over buttered pasta or crusty bread.***

To reheat: place in a 350°f oven until warmed through (about 30 minutes) or bring to a simmer on the stove.

*To make the dish vegetarian omit the sausage, and coarsely chop 1 bunch of spinach, swiss chard, or kale

**For vegetarian version use 4 cups vegetable stock. If you don’t have bone broth use 4 cups chicken broth.

***Try quinoa or brown rice pasta for a gluten free alternative or use a nice olive oil instead of butter to keep the dish vegan.

Sourdough BraveTart Bagels

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Bonus puppy shot of Archie hoping that I’ll drop this bagel.

This recipe is an adaptation of Stella Parks bagel recipe that replaces the commercial yeast with a wild-yeast/sourdough starter. If you don’t have a sourdough starter, use this King Arthur tutorial to get started! If you want to read about how I adapted this recipe check out this post. As this is a bread recipe, I am using gram measurements. If you don’t have a scale, I suggest Pebbly scale, or a similar flat-surface digital scale.

Starter:
I use whole wheat in the starter because it helps with yeast production, and I like the flavor. You can replace it with an equal measure of bread flour.

60g (~2 oz) mature 100% hydration starter
60g (~2 oz) room temp water
30 g(~1 oz) whole wheat flour
30 g (~1 oz) bread flour

Mix all the ingredients for the starter and let sit until it has reached peak activity, this can take anywhere from 8-12 hours depending on the activity of your starter and the temperature in your kitchen. If I am in a rush, sometimes I will place my starter in a warm place, or in the microwave with a mug of hot water. This can bring the time down to 5-6 hours. As with all things sourdough, patience is key.

Yukone:
100g bread flour
170g cold water

Mix the flour and water in a 10” skillet and mix over medium heat until enough moisture has evaporated so that it looks like mashed potatoes (roughly 2 minutes). Allow to cool for 30 minutes before making the dough.

Bagels:

295 g bread flour
15 g sugar
9 g salt
40g room temperature water
180g prepared starter
Yukone
1 oz malt syrup, for boiling

  1. Mix bread flour and sugar together in a large bowl. Mix water and starter together, mix in with the flour-sugar mix and the yukone. Mix until the dough is mostly hydrated but still slightly shaggy. Sprinkle salt over the top and let rest for about 15 minutes.
  2. Mix dough in the bowl with a sturdy spatula until the dough loses some of its shaggy texture. Then turn out on a clean and un-floured surface to knead with your hands.
  3. Knead dough for 5 minutes, it will be pretty sticky at first. After about 2 minutes of kneading, wash your hands so that there are no dough remnants on them and you will find that the dough will begin to regain its structure.
  4. Divide dough into 6 pieces for larger bagels, or 8 pieces for smaller ones. If you want to relive your childhood, you can even follow these directions to make mini bagels for bagel bites.
  5. Shape pieces into tight balls by rolling them on the counter, you can look at the original recipe for a video tutorial. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let sit for 15 minutes.
  6. Perform the final shaping on your bagels, either using the stretch-and-poke or roll-and-loop method. I would recommend roll-and-loop, but it is entirely up to you and what you feel comfortable with.
  7. Place shaped bagels on a well-greased, parchment-lined half sheet pan, cover loosely with plastic and leave in the fridge overnight for 8-12 hours. Allow the bagels to rise at room temp for 2-3 hours before boiling.
  8. Preheat the oven to 425F(218C) and make sure the rack is in the lower-middle position of the oven.
  9. Fill a large stainless steel pot with about 3 inches of water and add the malt syrup. Bring water to a boil and add the bagels into the pot, two or three at a time. Your bagels should float, if they do not give them a little nudge to make sure they haven’t stuck to the bottom of the pot and they should rise right up. Boil for 30 seconds on each side. Pat briefly with a paper towel, and pace on a parchment-lined half sheet pan.
  10. If you want to add toppings to your bagels (sesame seeds are my favorite), you can fill a bowl with your preferred topping and dip the top of the bagel in. The toppings should stick right to the bagel.
  11. Bake bagels until they are blistered and browned, 20-25 minutes, cool for 15 minutes before breaking into them. Top with your favorite condiments and store the leftovers in a paper bag for up to 48 hours.

Enjoy, and feel free to message me with any questions or problems you encounter.

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Bagel on, my friends.

For the Love of Bagels

 

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My favorite bagel combo is sesame seed bagel with cream cheese, lox, capers, red onion and tomato.

Want to get straight to baking? Find the recipe here!

Being from Los Angeles, I cannot say that I am the authority on what constitutes a perfect bagel. That being said, I love bagels. I have fond memories of my sister and I rewarding ourselves with a trip to the “bagelry,” as we had termed the local bagel shop, after coming off a hike. I have been guilty of bribing my husband with bagels in order to convince him to accompany me to the Hollywood Farmer’s Market as my personal pack mule of specially cheeses and heirloom produce. When I visited my best friend in New York, my only required plan was that we got bagels, piled high with lox and cream cheese. She ultimately improved upon the plan with the purchase of a couple of tall-boys and a suggestion to picnic in Central Park. As we sat there in the sun, my brain still foggy from my Red-Eye flight, savoring our bagels, and surreptitiously sipping our beers, I was pretty certain I had reached peak-happiness.

So, imagine my despair upon realizing that while France has a veritable cornucopia of delicious breads to offer, the French ultimately fail when it comes to the bagel. There are no shortage of shops offering bagels and it is a common staple on brunch menus, but they just do not hit the spot. They are generally chewy to the point of jaw exhaustion or so dry that no condiments can help. They often taste like play-doh, and they crust is seriously lacking when it comes to the crispness that makes the bagel a comprehensive sensory experience.
I had accepted that my life would have to be lived without bagels for the duration of my time in Paris. I was content to fill this gap with the readily accessible pastries that the French have perfected. I could not, in good conscience, complain about my ability to pop into one of the many boulongeries that pepper my walk to school and purchase a perfect buttery croissant for breakfast with pocket change.

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Just kidding, I still really missed bagels.

Then, in late January, Serious Eats’s resident “Pastry Wizard,” Stella Parks, also known as The Brave Tart, posted a brilliant bagel recipe that utilized the Japanese method of yukone to keep bagels fresh for 48 hours. The extended freshness of these bagels makes the 36-hour preparation process worthwhile, and I realized that the answers to my prayers had been answered! As I had just started to cultivate my wild-yeast, I saw the perfect opportunity to put the yeasties to work by altering Parks’s recipe to create a sourdough version.

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So dense.

For my first attempt, I made Parks’s version and my own sourdough adaption at the same time, and while Parks’s bagels came out beautifully, the sourdough iteration came out tragically dense and I had to classify them as a failure. This was a result of a few things: my starter was not far too young, and I did not use enough of it. This was my first time converting a recipe with commercial yeast and there are no good guides online about how to do this, so I was basically flying blind.

Luckily, I was able to get the formula right the second time. I use a 100% hydration starter, so when replacing commercial yeast with the starter, I had to consider the fact that I was fundamentally altering the chemistry of the recipe by adding flour and water to the mix. Thus, I had to adjust the flour and water amounts in the regular recipe in order to make sure that I maintained close to the original hydration level of the dough. Park’s recipe has a total of 455g flour and 270g water (including the yukone), this works out to a dough with 59% hydration.  I don’t have a set formula for how much starter to replace within a recipe with commercial yeast, but upon looking at other sourdough bagel recipes, I decided that I probably didn’t want the starter to make up much more than 20-25% of the total combined flour-water weight of the recipe and chose to go with 180g of starter. I also decided to bring up the moisture level slightly, amounting to a 60% hydration dough as I felt that the starter would benefit from more liquid. This makes for a slightly sticky dough, but it is still very workable.

Another change I made to this recipe was that I hand-knead this dough. I chose to do this for a few reasons:

  1. I really like kneading by hand, it’s a really meditative process.
  2. I couldn’t bring all of my kitchen appliances with me to France, and I have not invested in a stand-mixer or food processor that I think would have the capability to handle this dough.

I don’t think that hand-kneading caused any significant changes to the dough, but I would recommend a sturdy stand-mixer over the food-processor method that Parks recommends for her recipe. I worry that the added hydration to this dough would make it hard for a food processor to handle.

In addition to hand-kneading, I actually had better luck with allowing my bagels to do a cold fermentation overnight (8-12 hours) and then finished proofing them in a warm oven (if you have a proofing drawer this would work perfectly) for 2-3 hours. For some reason the wild yeast responded better to this than a full cold fermentation.
I also found that the sourdough version of these bagels benefits greatly from a roll-and-loop forming technique. This is more difficult than the stretch-and-poke method, but watch a few YouTube videos to see how different people approach the method, and you should be able to get it after a few tries. The poke method works fine, but there is a difference between how the two bagels turn out.

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Left is stretch-and-poke method, right is roll-and-loop. The roll-and-loop method creates a more even, and slightly more open crumb.

If you don’t want to take the time to create a sourdough starter, Parks’ recipe is beautiful and she has a great write up on her methods. I first discovered her after I was discouraged by all the recipes on French macarons that basically said a perfect meringue could only be made if the baker was able to balance an egg on her head and the moon was within the first two days of waning. Her post on macarons gave me the courage to try again after so many failures and because of her attention to detail in explaining technique, they came out flawlessly! In the world of endless online recipes, Stella Parks is winning in the pastry department.

Oh, and she’s working on a book that you can pre-order here!

Sourdough Sunchoke Latkes, and Why You Should Use Wild Yeast

 

My very active wild-yeast starter, King Arthur Flour has a great recipe for your to start your own, too!

It has been a year since I abandoned my sourdough adventures, but I am back at it again. I originally started using sourdough after having trouble digesting bread. I wanted to test a theory that the slower fermentation of wild-yeasted bread would result in lower levels of gluten, and therefore make it easier for my body to process. This is a theory that Michael Pollan has also expressed, but I haven’t found any real science to back it up. I hope there is someone out there that will look into this. The more commercialized our food has become, the less compatible it is with the way the human body is able to process it, and this is something that needs to be properly  and seriously examined.

In commercial bread processing, commercial yeast and additives are introduced into the dough which is  then agitated rapidly to create more heat and gluten production which allows for a faster rise and therefore higher rates of production. In the UK this is referred to as the “Chorleywood Method.” A slow-fermentation method uses the naturally occurring flora in the air, water, and flour that make up a wild-yeast starter, and allows for natural fermentation to dictate the rise of the dough. The wild yeast slowly consumes and breaks down the gluten in the bread dough over a long period of time. It can take 8-24 hours to make a loaf of bread this way, but the actual hands-on time is about 15 minutes and the result is a bread with better texture, flavor, and digestibility. This may just be my opinion, but it is something to consider the next time you are out buying bread.

I should note that I do not have Celiac’s, I have not had any real problems with pastas or other gluten-containing items, but bread would leave me feeling unsettled and uncomfortable. After making my own bread, I realized that I was able to eat the slow-fermented product without the same kind of discomforts I had previously felt after ingesting commercially produced bread.

In France, most of the bread is made with a slow-fermentation method, and as a great baguette only costs about one euro, it isn’t really cost effective to make one’s own bread, but I restarted my wild yeast adventures because I also really like the process of bread-making. However, when you have to feed your starter you end up with a lot of waste, and as a result I have been experimenting with other ways to incorporate it into recipes like this one that I whipped up for a midnight snack.

Sourdough Sunchoke Latkes
makes about 8 medium latkes

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½ tsp salt
3 large sunchokes, grated
1 large potato, peeled and grated
½ onion, grated
slice of lemon
½ c sourdough starter, 100% hydration
2 tbs flour
1 egg, beaten
salt and pepper to taste

  1. Mix the grated potato, sunchoke and onion together and toss with ½ tsp salt and the juice from the lemon slice. Place in a colander over a bowl and let sit for 10 min or overnight. Make sure to squeeze out as much liquid as possible, otherwise you will end up with very mushy latkes.
  2. Mix starter, flour and egg together with a little pepper, and fold in potato-sunchoke-onion mixture.
  3. Heat a pan over medium high-heat with 3 tbs canola oil, and place ¼- ½ c portions of the latke mixture into the pan, allow to brown on either side, about 3-5 min per side.
  4. Serve warm with your favorite toppings. Sour cream and apple sauce are traditional, but I found that cherry jam and caramelized onions went very nicely with this dish. (Shout out to Bonne Maman’s Cherises Girottes, that stuff has changed my life)
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Sunchokes, also known as Jerusalem Artichokes, or in French as topinambours,  are purple or light brown tubers that taste like a mix between potato and artichoke heart. They are high in calcium, iron and Vitamin C and add a great crunch to these latkes.

We the People.

 

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“Scene at the Signing of the Constitution” Howard Chandler Christy, 1787.

There have been a lot of concerning events that have happened during the first two weeks of Donald Trump’s presidency, and while they each pose very real and immediate threats the the liberties of the American people, there is a much bigger problem going on. I don’t think the leader of the free world understands how the Constitution works. For that matter, I don’t think the majority of the American public understands this document.

I am not saying this to declare that the US is full of ignorant bumpkins that don’t even know how their government works. I am sure everyone has read it, or at least parts of it. I am sure that most US citizens know about the three branches of government, and the Bill of Rights and were at some point assigned to memorize the Preamble, but most have probably not taken the time to actively understand it.

I don’t blame you. The original text is about ten pages long, and written in eighteenth-century English. Its purpose is to be administrative and as a result, it can be very dry.

I studied the “Philosophical and historical foundations of the American political system” as a part of what is probably the nerdiest and best academic team ever invented, it even has a long-winded name to match: We the People, the Citizen and the Constitution. (We called it the Constitution Team for short.)  I spent a year closely studying the Constitution, my undergraduate study was focused on the American Revolutionary Period and the Early Republic, and even I still have trouble with it.

So, I decided to spend a nice Saturday re-reading the Constitution. To my surprise, it was difficult to find the full text on Google. In fact, the whitehouse.gov link wouldn’t even load. This is indicative of many things. Most of which, are probably conspiracies invented in my own head, but what it is really indicative of is that each American citizen needs to seriously sit down and read it.

Print out the original text. Take the time to consider it as a document that was meant to be actively understood, not wrapped up and delivered to you as a totem.

Consider the history behind every sentence, every word. Consider the people writing it, the political atmosphere,  the social, economic, racial, and any other context that you can imagine. Stop, think, discuss, progress.

And, if you’re interested, I’m going to be taking the time to write up my own analysis, and I’ll be posting it here. I encourage you to join me, send me your questions, comments, concerns, and disagreeing opinions. Now, more than ever, we need to be engaging the US Constitution and talking about it seriously and productively.

You can find it here.

Banana Coffee Cake with Mexican Chocolate Streusel, ft. Mexican Chocolate Donut Glaze


Baking is a source of meditation for me. When I begin to feel overwhelmed, I drop everything, dive into a baking project and emerge, fully refreshed. The problem is that my husband and I can only eat so many pastries, so I have to find somewhere to send all the baked goods when I am done.

This recipe, like many that I come up with, was a result of feeling the need to use up ingredients I didn’t want to go to waste. I had received some cast-off bananas and had a surplus of chocolate donut glaze from trying to refine my donut recipe, so I decided to come up with something to bring to my fellow MA candidates who were facing a similar level of paper-writing induced stress rather than toss them out. We have some nut allergies in the group, so I wanted to find a way to bring the crunch of nuts to banana bread without killing my colleagues. Luckily, my experiment succeeded, and the result was a delightfully moist coffee cake with a nutty (though nut free) Mexican chocolate topping.

A few notes on the ingredients:

When I say butter, since I am in France, I am using European butter. I do not think this is necessary for the recipe. However, European butter has a much higher fat content than American butter, and I feel it is necessary to let you know that it might change the recipe a bit.

Also, the cinnamon I am using is Ceylon cinnamon because it is all I can find here. I do recommend using it for this recipe as the flavor works much better with chocolate than the cinnamon traditionally used in the States. I have found Ceylon cinnamon in whole sticks at Mexican markets in the States, but if you do use a “regular” cinnamon I would suggest reducing the amount by ¼ tsp.

Important Banana information: If your bananas don’t look like this: they do not belong in any type of banana bread/cake. The bananas must be over ripe and have developed enough sugar (the black spots indicate increased sugar levels) in order to work, otherwise they will dry out what you are making. If you need to ripen bananas quickly, you can place them in a brown paper bag near a heat source. Also, don’t puree the bananas, it may just be a matter of preference, but I feel that mashing the bananas gives the bread/cake a better texture

 

Mexican Chocolate Donut Glaze

1 can condensed milk
5 oz semi-sweet or 70% dark chocolate, chopped
1 tsp ground Ceylon cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp ground chipotle
1/8 tsp salt

Heat condensed milk over medium heat, stir constantly until boiling. Remove from heat, add chocolate and spices and mix until all the chocolate is melted and it is smooth. Keep warm to glaze donuts or cakes with.

Banana Coffee Cake with Mexican Chocolate Toffee Streusel

Streusel

½ c butter, cold and cut into cubes
1 ¾ c flour
1 c packed dark brown sugar
1 tsp Ceylon cinnamon
¼ tsp clove
¼ tsp chipotle
½ cup cold Mexican chocolate glaze, in tablespoon-sized portions reserve
½ c glaze to drizzle over the top of the cake

  1. Mix the flour, brown sugar and spices together in a bowl.
  2. In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, food processor, or using a pastry cutter place all the ingredients together. Make sure to separate the Mexican chocolate into tablespoon-sized portions.
  3. Mix the ingredients until they resemble this picture:

Note: you may need to use your fingers to break up some of the butter, I would recommend using the pastry cutter method, it takes longer, but I was worried about over mixing the streusel when I used my stand mixer. Because the addition of the Mexican chocolate glaze, you run the risk of the mixture clumping up together very quickly. You need to be very careful when making this, but the toffee-like crunch it offers to the cake is worth the trouble!

Banana Coffee Cake

2 ¼ c flour
1 tbs baking powder
1 tsp salt ½ cup (4 oz) butter, softened
1 ½ c sugar
½ c maple syrup
2 eggs
1 c yogurt
1 tsp Mexican vanilla (traditional vanilla will work too)
3 ripe bananas

  1. Grease and line a 9”x13” pan and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Sift flour, baking powder and salt together, set aside.
  3. In medium bowl, mash bananas with a potato masher, and then mix in the maple syrup, vanilla, and yogurt, set aside.
  4. In a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
  5. Add eggs one at a time, scrape bowl and then add the banana mixture.
  6. Scrape the bowl again, and make sure there are no large chunks of butter and sugar that have not been incorporated.
  7. Slowly add the dry mix and mix until incorporated. Be sure to mix briefly by hand to make sure the batter is even.
  8. Pour half the batter into the prepared pan, sprinkle 1/3 of the streusel over the top, pour the remaining half of the batter over the top, and then sprinkle the rest of the streusel over the top.
  9. Bake for 50- 60 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  10. Drizzle the remaining 1/2 c of glaze over the top of the cake.
  11. Allow to cool and enjoy!

This cake is very moist and if it is wrapped in individual pieces it maintains its freshness for 2 days after baking, provided you can resist eating it all!

Simple Roasted Chicken with Root Vegetables.

So, the new year is upon us, and my husband and I are trying really super hard to kick our delivery habit. The other day, I drooled as I watched an UberEATS cyclist go around my block 5 times before they finally delivered my lukewarm Lebanese food. It was, honestly, not worth it.

So, this morning I woke up late and thought, “Well, rough start to those resolutions, but we’ll pick this up by the end of the day.” I shook off the defeat and decided that I was going to make dinner tonight.

I coaxed the slumbering lawyer out of bed and we went on a walk with our dog to the local butcher. It was great. The sky was grey, per usual, the snow turned to rain, so we put the dog’s ridiculous raincoat on him, which was hilarious, and it wasn’t as cold as it was yesterday.

We got to the butcher, and I was like “Oh, I have to speak French now.” Which I totally did, and I even learned how to ask the butcher to disembowel my chicken, which I promptly forgot, but I will ask again. Then, with disemboweled chicken in hand, I went home and got ready to make this beautiful dinner.

Unfortunately, the outdoor market wasn’t open, and the Monop’ has a sad selection of produce, so I wasn’t able to find parsley, but I love this recipe because it is easy to make, and is easily adaptable to everybody’s tastes.

 

Simple Roasted Chicken with Root Vegetables

4-5 lb Chicken
4 tbs Butter, melted
1 tbs Dried herbs (optional)*
2 tbs Kosher salt
1 tsp Cracked black pepper
1 Sweet onion (red, or yellow)**
2 cloves Garlic
Assortment of Root Vegetables, peeled
(parsnip, beets, and carrots are really nice)
3 medium-sized red potatoes
2 tbs olive oil
Chopped parsley

  1. Pat your chicken as dry as you can, this helps the skin get crispy.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400 F
  3. Mix together the salt, dried herbs, and pepper. Sprinkle this mixture all over the chicken and rub inside the cavity of the bird, you may have some left over. Allow the chicken to rest on a rack in a roasting pan until it comes to room temperature, about 1 hour.
    Note: You can also leave the chicken like this overnight and uncovered in the fridge for an even more flavorful chicken tomorrow!
  1. Cut the peeled root vegetables and potatoes into 1-2” pieces.
  2. Mince the garlic, dice the onions and add to root vegetable mix. Mix this with the olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper.
  3. When the chicken has come to room temperature, arrange vegetables in the bottom of the roasting pan. Pour any liquid over the chicken.
  4. Rub the butter into the skin of the chicken, and inside the cavity. Place the chicken breast side up, and put in the middle of the oven.
  5. Roast for 20 minutes and then flip the bird over, so it is breast-side down. Bring the temperature down to 375 and roast the chicken for another 30 minutes.
  6. Carefully flip the bird over one additional time and roast for another 10 minutes, or until done.
  7. Remove from oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes.
  8. Carve the chicken, and toss the vegetables in the roasting pan so that they are dressed with the pan drippings, add the chopped parsley.
  9. Serve with a light green salad and maybe some cornbread!

 

*Fresh herbs can also be used, but chop them finely. I used thyme on my chicken, but rosemary, sage, or any herb blend you like will work.

**You can also use young green onions but, if you do, use spring onions not scallions. The green onions will have a larger bulb. Use 4, cut off the dark green parts (save to make Bone Broth)and halve the onion lengthwise.

Edit: I forgot to tell you guys the best part about this recipe! The leftovers make a great lunch just shred the remaining the meat (save those bones for Bone Broth too) and mix it with the leftover veggies. Wrap butter lettuce around a 1/4-1/2c of the mix with any sauce of your choosing. I prefer mustard, but I know there are weirdos out there with a vendetta against it. These are perfect to brown bag to the office, or send with the kids to school! 

 

Mindfulness and Cooking

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Braised rabbit with leeks and saffron tagliatelle.

I recently came across this NPR article on using what the author describes as “mindful muffins,” to relieve post-election stress. I think that we can expand this idea beyond just mindfulness, but as a means to find a way to incorporate cooking into our increasingly busy lives.

As I enter into my prep for a Thanksgiving dinner that I am putting on for fellow expats and MA students, as well as prep for my thesis proposal on Monday, I have been thinking a lot about mindfulness and cooking. I have always used the practice of cooking to deal with stress and center my thoughts, but even so, I sometimes find myself feeling too exhausted to think about entering the kitchen.

Unfortunately, this means that I then succumb to either eating instant noodles (my love for them will never die) or delivery, which is inevitably disappointing and expensive, not to mention, unhealthy. Convincing myself that I am too tired or too stressed to make my own food does nothing but perpetuate an unhealthy cycle. When my diet is bad, my brain doesn’t work, when my brain doesn’t work, my stress levels increase, when I’m stressed out, I feel exhausted, when I’m exhausted I don’t want to cook, when I decide not to cook, my diet gets worse. This is something I have to remember to tell myself every time I open up Deliveroo on my phone.

I know that you may not like to cook, or even think that you don’t have time, but you are making the same mistake I am. You do have time, and you may not like it, but you can learn how to. You have to change the way you think about cooking.

In fact, this is what I am focusing my research on for the next year, more specifically, the evolution of culinary discourse in the United States throughout the last half of the nineteenth century, in relation to how the Industrial Revolution drastically changed the ways Americans worked and lived. At some point, Americans began to see food only as a means of sustenance, we stripped the practice of cooking and dining of all of its cultural importance and only looked at it in terms of its practicality.

This is how we got hooked on processed foods, they are ready to eat, they give us time to work more, they have the base level of nutrients we need. This is how we convinced ourselves we don’t have time to cook, it takes away from our earning potential. But, what does that mean for us? What does it mean that we look at the practice of cooking in terms of our economic presence in the world? This may not be a completely conscious association, but it is most likely that you feel like you don’t have time to spend fifteen minutes in the kitchen because you get home too late from work. The long hours you work probably make you stressed, the food you don’t cook is probably not great for your diet, this diet makes you exhausted, your exhaustion makes your job more stressful. Do you see? You are also perpetuating an unhealthy cycle.

So, how do we change this? Look at feeding yourself as a meditative practice. Start changing the way you perceive cooking. Consider cooking as a moment that you can stop thinking about your responsibilities, take it as a moment to reflect. Consider cooking as an excuse to take care of yourself. Find a recipe you want to try, or sign up for services like Blue Apron (though, I would only use them as a means to avoid going to the market, I am not a big fan of their recipes). It doesn’t matter if you decide to make yourself oatmeal for dinner, what does matter is that you allow yourself to take the time to do it. Each time you do, you might find that you enjoy it more.

I’ll leave you with this, I got some pie crusts to make!