Time for an update, I think…

It has been an unacceptably long time since I’ve posted here but I’ve been trying to resurface after the start of an already very busy uni semester. Every waking moment seems to be consumed with thinking about – and finding – potential news stories. Not that I’m complaining, I’m finding it incredibly fun and I can’t describe the excitement I feel when I sniff out a good story idea.

Anyway, I’ve just put some chicken legs in the oven. They’ve been marinated overnight with dark soy sauce and some salt and I added thyme and pepper just before popping them into the oven. It’s incredibly simple and of course you can make it a bit more exciting with honey, ginger, garlic and some chilli sauce. It probably doesn’t make much sense (or does it??) to put thyme on chicken that’s clearly been marinated Asian-style but my poor wee thyme plant was in need of a trim and some of it has already begun to wilt…

In other news, I had a deflating experience with flour less, butterless cookies last week:

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See the recipe here: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Deep-Dark-Chocolate-Cookies-242468.

I only used 1 cup of sugar and no cocoa powder. I melted about half a cup of milk chocolate to fold into the cookie “dough” and used dark chocolate as the chips. I did slightly burn the second batch I made but apart from that, I’m not sure I did everything right because they flattened right out like pancakes. They also weren’t chewy or even crispy – they were just soft. I’m positive that if so many others got great results then I must have done something wrong.

Andrew and I went to a Korean restaurant last night called Faro and, well, let the picture speak for itself:

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Needless to say, we left exceptionally full. It was quite pricey, though…

If all goes well, I’ll have some time tomorrow to bake some more cookies. Why all the cookie-baking lately? Well, apart from still trying to achieve a nice chewy cookie, I tend to take my baking with me to uni to nibble on. Yum 🙂

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Chewy Cookie Quest

On Thursday I caught up with my friend in town and we went to Moustache, a milk and cookie bar that’s been, rightly, all the rage lately. I decided to try the Oreo and marshmallow cookie – chocolate cookie imbedded with bits of crunchy Oreo biscuit and gooey marshmallow pieces (I know, I’m drooling a little just thinking about it). Like many others, I love my cookies to be chewy on the inside and crispy on the edges like the ones you get from the bakery, rather than rock-hard like the ones you get from the supermarket; that cookie was chewy, gooey, crispy and oh so delicious. And so sparked my cravings for more irregularly-shaped perfections of sugar, flour and butter and the beginnings of my endeavour to try and discover the right recipe.

As per usual, I found a popular, highly-rated recipe online: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/best-big-fat-chewy-chocolate-chip-cookie/ and I made some minor adjustments. I made 14 cookies out of:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 150g unsalted butter, softened – less than the 170g required but I didn’t have quite enough butter left and couldn’t be bothered going out just to buy butter
  • 1 cup loosely packed brown sugar – reflecting my preference for less sweetness
  • 1/2 grated palm sugar – instead of white sugar. See my shameless endorsement of palm sugar in my carrot cake post
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • A pinch or two of cinnamon
  • 1 cup Whittaker’s 72% cocoa Dark Ghana chocolate slab chopped up into rough 1-3cm bits – replacing semisweet chocolate chips, reduced amount of chocolate as suggested by reviewers

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I more or less went by the method as per the recipe, following these recommendations from reviewers:

  1. Beat in the egg and egg yolk one at a time, making sure the egg was more or less incorporated into the mix before adding in the yolk
  2. Refrigerated the dough for 45-50 mins before baking
  3. Baked exactly for 15 minutes and took each batch out just as the edges were slightly toasted
  4. Left the cookies to cool on the tray before transferring to wire rack
  5. Hand mixed ingredients rather than used an electric beater

The reason I highlight the last point is because, unbeknownst to a complete beginner like me, this would make a huge difference in result between my first and second attempts at this recipe. The first time I tried this I used my electric hand mixer and my cookies turned out very cake-like; they were essentially flat muffins in both look and texture:

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The second time I made these, I mixed everything by hand and this resulted in more cookie-like cookies:

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Taste-wise they were great but after a night stored in an air-tight container, I’m still not 100% satisfied with the result. To reiterate, my goal is to find a recipe for cookies that are chewy on the inside and slightly crunchy on the edges. These cookies were the tiniest bit crunchy on the outside and then soft everywhere else. I’m not sure if it’s the way I’m storing it or something I did during the baking process but they’re still very nice cookies, despite not turning out how I had hoped.

I guess more reading and practice is in order – if anyone has any tips, I would be happy to hear them!

If I can make this, anyone can: Deliciously foolproof carrot cake

My claim to domestic goddessness is hindered somewhat by a number of things, one of them being my ineptitude with baking and desserts. A couple of days ago, I experimented with a recipe for low-fat blueberry muffins. They turned out slightly sour (I suspect that was the yoghurt that the recipe called for) and so dry that I’m fairly certain every mouthful brought me closer to death by choking. And let’s not get into one of my first ever attempts at dessert: lumpy, vomit-resembling trifle.

Today, however, I’m proud to say that I’ve managed to bake something that’s not just merely edible but quite pleasantly so, according to my ever-honest taste tester mother. All credit goes to the author of this recipe: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/carrot-cake-iii/ and all the reviewers who added their own comments and suggestions; I simply read, compiled and followed.

There were a few minor changes that I decided to make, though. The following is for about 9 servings (21cm x 5cm square cake tin):

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar – the recipe uses all white sugar but some reviewers suggested using half brown and half white. I opted for a loosely packed 1/2 cup rather than firmly packed since I didn’t want it to be too sweet
  • 1/2 cup grated palm sugar (Note: NOT coconut palm sugar) – in place of white sugar. Palm sugar is generally sold in discs so I grated using the smallest sized grater. I personally find it sweeter than white sugar so similarly to the brown sugar, I only used a very loose 1/2 cup. Just a general note, palm sugar is a great alternative to white sugar due to it being completely unrefined, thus still possessing most of its nutrients. It tastes a bit like butterscotch and gives your baking or cooking a slightly different, but lovely, flavour. You can buy it at any good Asian supermarket.
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 eggs at room temperature
  • 1 cup grated carrots
  • 110g crushed pineapple, with juice tipped out
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • A pinch of nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup and 2 tablespoons of sunflower oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts – instead of pecans

I followed the method as described via the link. The total cooking time for my cake was about 30-35 minutes.

For the frosting, I used:

  • 55g unsalted butter
  • 135g cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar – I personally dislike overly sweet frosting and icing so even this amount was a bit too much for me but this is, of course, personal preference!
  • A drop of vanilla essence

As with the cake, I followed the instructions for the frosting as per the recipe.

The cake turned out super moist and light with the perfect level of sweetness. Disbelief was my first reaction upon tasting it for the first time; after my deadly low fat muffins and countless other forgettable baking experiences, could I have possibly gone any further in the opposite direction with this cake? If I can make this work, then anyone can; this is one recipe I can highly recommend.