Chocolate Chip Cookies

I am still alive.
I have not abandoned my attempts to document my baking (and medical) adventures.

I have, however, been quite busy.  I think one of the most interesting things about my research year, on top of an extremely exciting project where I’m chasing down the culprit behind an interesting observation, is that I have rediscovered my love for random acts of kindness.  Medicine, in some ways, is like a ‘random’ act of kindness.  It’s not random in the sense that, obviously, people are choosing to see a physician for an expertise; it is, however, quite random that as a result of this connection, patients will willingly and immediately divulge their life story to you – a privilege that normally necessitates years of trust building.  I have often wished that this privilege extended to everyday relationships just as easily as they occur in the doctor-patient one, and I’ve spent a lot of time wondering why it doesn’t.

I guess at the heart of it, physicians have to care for you, whereas others must choose to.  But I think it’s this element of choice in the random act of kindness that I like the most.  I think it’s what makes me smile when someone holds the elevator to my apartment at the end of a long day or when I share in a short exchange over a common grievance like puddles on the running trail.  It’s because I know that for 10 seconds, this person has chosen to care.

Hopefully my college will feel the same way when they eat these cookies :)

Chocolate Chip Cookies:
Adapted from The Girl who ate Everything

Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat the oven to 325F.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or grease with butter.

2. Sift together flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl.

3. Cream together butter, brown sugar and white sugar until well blended.  Beat in the vanilla (yep, an entire tablespoon of it!!), egg and egg yolk until well blended.

4. Stir in the dry ingredients and chocolate chips.

5. Roll the dough into small balls and bake for approximately 11-14 minutes (mine took 13 minutes and I made 1″ diameter balls).

6. Cool before serving – be careful as they are quite fragile before they completely cool!

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Chocolate Chip Cream Scones

I made these scones because I had some leftover heavy cream from last week’s quiche that I didn’t want to go to waste and because, well, I just wanted to.  Scones are hard to make because I always think they’re too dry (although I think they are supposed to be, because they’re a cousin of the biscuit, which suffers from the same flaw), but if  you make them too moist, they can taste kind of mushy.  From the feedback that I’ve gotten from the people who have tried these ones, however, I think this recipe is a winner.  Also, I left a tray of them in my lab break room and they were gone by lunchtime :)

Chocolate Chip Cream Scones
Adapted from Buried Carrots

Ingredients:
2 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
½ cup cold butter cut into ½ inch cubes
1 cup heavy cream
¼ cup coarsely chopped semisweet chocolate

1.Preheat the oven to 450F.

2. Stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.

3. Cut the butter into the flour mixture with a pastry cutter (or a fork) until the mixture resembles a coarse meal.  Place bowl in the freezer for 5 minutes.

4. Add the chocolate and mix.

5. Add cream slowly until the dry ingredients are just moistened (you may not need all of the cream, depending on how good you are are incorporating the wet with the dry ingredients) and the dough just sticks together.

6. For small scones, divide the dough in half and form two small rounds on a lightly floured surface.  Using a sharp knife, cut each round into 8 wedges (like you’re cutting a pie!).  You can also make big scones by having only one round and cutting 8 wedges from the larger round.

7.  Place scones on a parchment (or aluminum foil) lined baking sheet and bake 13-15 minutes, until the top is golden brown.

8. Cool and serve!

A Baking Celebration

From quiet homes and first beginnings,
out to the undiscovered ends,
there’s nothing worth the wear of winning,
but laughter and the love of friends.

Hillaire Belloc

People who know me well know that I’m a no frills kind of person – a dinner of cereal and milk is okay with me most of the time.  Tonight, however, in celebration of a wonderful friend, I made a full meal complete with salad and dessert.  Being a natural baker, most of the items I chose to make were, of course, baked :)

In retrospect, I suppose I put a lot of effort into this one meal because there were multiple items and everything was made from scratch.  But – and here is something I have been thinking about a lot lately – it never felt like work.  It was never difficult or overwhelming.  It was something I knew I wanted to do from the bottom of my heart, and I wanted to do it without expecting anything in return (although this friend is so awesome, she has given me more than she knows).  I’m not saying that relationships -with family, with friends, with significant others, with patients – aren’t a lot of work.  Of course they are.  But when you have a real heart for a person, sometimes it almost feels like more (emotional) work to just sit back and do nothing than to put everything you have into making them happy.  I wonder if I’m making any sense.  Well, in any case, thank you for everything, B :) You deserve the very best.

Garlic Bread
Adapted from Gourmand Recipes

Ingredients:
1 French baguette
3 tablespoons butter, softened
2 cloves garlic (small), minced
1 teaspoon chopped parsley

1. Combine the butter, garlic and parsley in a small bowl and mix well.
2. Slice the baguette into 1/2-inch thick slices.
3. Spread a layer of the garlic butter on the bread slices.
4. Place the bread slices on a baking tray in a single layer.
5. Grill under a broiler until the butter has melted and the toasts are golden brown (it took me around 10 minutes)

Spinach Quiche
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients for Pate Brisee: (you only need half this recipe for the quiche, but I ended up making the whole recipe because I had a lot of filling leftover and I made several mini quiches)

2.5 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
1/4-1/2 cup ice water

1. Combine flour, salt. Cut in the butter under you get a coarse meal.
2. Add ice water in a slow, steady stream until dough holds together without being wet or sticky.  If it is crumbly, add more ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time.
3. Divide dough into two equal balls. Flatten each ball into a disc and wrap in plastic. Transfer to the refrigerator and chill at least 1 hour. Dough may be stored, frozen, up to 1 month.  Use the pate brisee to line a quiche dish (or a pie pan if you don’t have a quiche dish)

Ingredients for quiche filing:
1 3-ounce package cream cheese, room temperature
1/3 cup milk
4 eggs
1 bag chopped spinach
1/2 cup grated cheddar
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
4 to 6 green onions, thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

1. Preheat oven to 425°.
2. Beat cream cheese in medium bowl until smooth. Gradually beat in milk and eggs. Mix in remaining ingredients.
3. Pour mixture into prepared crust. Bake until crust is golden brown and filling is set, about 30 minutes. Cool 10 minutes before serving.

Turkey-Feta-Roasted Red Peppers Lasagna
Adapted from Closet Cooking

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion (diced)
2 cloves garlic (chopped)
1 (14 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon oregano salt and pepper to taste
2 cups turkey (cooked)
1 handful parsley (chopped)
9 lasagne noodles
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups milk
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3 large roasted red peppers
1 cup feta (crumbled)
1 cup mozzarella (grated)

1. Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat.
2. Add the onion and saute until tender, about 5-7 minutes.
3. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute.
4. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, balsamic vinegar, oregano, salt and pepper and bring to a boil.
5. Reduce the heat and simmer until the sauce starts to thicken, about 15-20 minutes.
6. Mix in the turkey and parsley and set aside.
7. Start cooking the noodles as directed on the package.
8. Heat the butter in a saucepan over medium heat until it is bubbling and it has turned a light golden brown.
9. Mix in the flour and let simmer until it returns to a light golden brown.
10. Mix in the milk and nutmeg and heat until it thickens (this is the bechamel sauce)
11. Lightly grease the bottom of an 8 inch square baking dish.
12. Place a layer of noodles followed by 1/2 of the tomato sauce followed by 1/2 of the feta followed by 1/2 of the roasted red peppers followed by 1/3 of the bechamel sauce. Repeat a second layer in the same fashion and top with a final layer of noodles, the remaining bechamel sauce and top with the mozzarella.
13. Bake in a preheated 350F oven until the top is golden brown and the sides are bubbling, about 30-45 minutes.

Lemon Raspberry Cheesecake: *disclaimer – this is not the cheesecake recipe I normally use, which I usually keep secret :P
Adapted from My Baking Addiction

Ingredients for crust:
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 stick unsalted butter; melted
3 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon salt

1. Combine ingredients and press to bottom of a 9″ springform pan
2. Bake in a preheated 350F oven for 7 minutes.
3. Remove and allow to cool

Ingredients for cheesecake:
2 sticks of cream cheese, 8 oz each; room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs; room temperature
2/5 cup heavy cream
zest of one lemon
1/2 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
Raspberries

1. Fill a baking pan with water and place in the oven so it warms while you’re preparing the cheesecake.  This is your water bath.  Many people like to use a big enough pan to place the entire springform into the pan, but being a poor medical student with no giant pan at my disposable, I just set the wire wracks really close together and place the cheesecake directly on top of the water bath, which works just as well.

2. Combine the sugar and lemon zest and mix until the sugar is moistened.

3. Beat in the cream cheese and mix until smooth.

4.  Add eggs, one at a time, scraping down the bowl between each egg.

5. Add heavy cream and vanilla until smooth.

6. Pour batter into prepared crust.  Bake 40 minutes.  After 40 minutes, turn off the oven, but leave the oven door closed so the cheesecake continues to bake.  Leave in the cooling oven for an hour, then remove the cheesecake from the oven and place on a cooling rack to cool completely.  Once the cake has cooled completely, place it in the refrigerator for at least 5 hours.  What I did was make the cheesecake the night before, and then leave the cake out overnight.  The next morning, I put it in the fridge and it was ready for dinner by 7 =)  Top with raspberries.

Peach Cupcakes


I love these cupcakes.  I remember the first time I tried them was in my first year of medical school, when two classmates of mine made them for a book club they were hosting.  Since then, I have made them twice with much success.  Normally it’s made with a brown sugar cream cheese frosting, which is as delicious as it sounds, but being the frugal medical student that I am, I reused the leftover vanilla frosting that I had frozen from my prior chocolate cupcake post, and I thought the combination worked just as well.

Unfortunately, I have no great insight today, other than a quote I happened to glance at – ‘happiness is a condition, not a destination’.  As type A, goal-oriented as I am, I can appreciate the importance of occasionally leaving expectations at home and simply living in the moment =)

Peach Cupcakes
Adapted from Big Eats and Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients:
3 cups cake flour [or use 5x sifted all-purpose flour substituting 1tbsp cornstarch for 1tbsp flour per cup of flour]
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks or 6 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups sour cream
3  large peaches [or 1 can of peaches]

1. Preheat oven to 350F.  Butter muffin tins or line with muffin cups.

2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and set aside.

3. Cream the butter and sugars together, beating until fluffy.

4. Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl between each addition, and then the vanilla.

5.  Alternate stirring int he dry ingredients with sour cream, starting and ending with the dry ingredients.

6. Gently fold in peaches, cut in small chunks.

7. Bake 18-22 minutes or until done.  Let cool before frosting.  I just reused my vanilla frosting from my previous cupcake adventure, but I would try the brown sugar cream cheese frosting on the smitten kitchen website.  It’s fabulous =)

Pumpkin Streusel Cake


The pumpkin is a humble little gourd-like veggie, often overlooked throughout the year except for one glorious day in October (Canada) or November (USA) when it basks in the warm glow of appreciation as the delicious pumpkin pie.  Notably, the other most common pumpkin reference is its role in the beloved children’s story, Cinderella.  When people think about the Cinderella fairytale, they always swoon over the transformation of the lowly peasant girl into the beautiful object of a prince’s affections.  But when I think about the Cinderella fairytale, I’m not so much impressed with her transformation as I am impressed with the pumpkin’s.  Think about it.  As there have never been any mention of a facial transformation – magical or surgical – in any of the versions of this tale, one must assume that she was already beautiful in the first place.  All the fairy godmother did was give her a nice dress and brush her hair a bit.  Nothing Tim Gunn can’t do.  But the pumpkin – now that’s a different story.  It went from an innocent little orange squash minding its own business when suddenly it becomes  a CARRIAGE.  Now tell me which transformation is more impressive.

The thing is, the pumpkin, much like many things in life, is subject to a strong perceptual bias.  When we read about Cinderella, we are told the tale as a series of events relating to her, and the narrative is shaped in such a way that we overlook the more amazing metamorphosis of a squash into a vehicle because we are too transfixed by an already pretty girl being dressed up.  It makes me wonder then, how many awesome things do we often overlook simply because we don’t care to look a little deeper?

Pumpkin Streusel Cake
Adapted from The Lonely Baker

Ingredients for streusel:
4.5 tbsp flour
5 tbsp white sugar
3/4 tbsp cinnamon
3 tbsp melted butter
3 tbsp chopped pecans

1. Mix all the streusel ingredients together and set aside until you make your cake batter.

Ingredients for cake:
2.5 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 1/3 cups canned pumpkin pie mix
1/3 cup canola oil
2 tsp vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 375F and butter an 8 or 9″ springform pan (I like to use springforms for cakes because it’s easier to get out.  You can also adapt this recipe to make 18 muffins.)

2. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.

3. Beat together eggs, pumpkin, oil and vanilla until thoroughly combined.

4. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients in.  Mix well until completely smooth.  This batter is thicker than your average batter.

5. Pour the batter into the buttered pan.  Sprinkle the streusel on top.

6. Bake for approximately 50 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.

7. Take out of the oven, remove the sides and allow to cool before serving.

Overall Consensus: I think it’s a LITTLE too sweet for my taste, although most people found it fine.  If you’re like me (ie: have subtle, Asian tastebuds), I think 1.5 or even 1 cup of sugar is fine.

Chocolate Cupcake with Vanilla Frosting


The search is over.  I think I have found the almost perfect chocolate cupcake with vanilla frosting recipe.  It’s unique and it’s delicious.  The cupcake is soft and fluffy and the icing is light, full of vanilla flavor AND does NOT use icing sugar.  Did I also mention that it’s really easy to make?  It’s the perfect storm of a cupcake, and although the cupcake flavor still leaves a LITTLE to be desired, the texture is perfect.  Delectable.

Making this cupcake reminded me of the following clip from the movie, ‘When Harry Met Sally’ –

Like Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink theory, there is that split second after you experience something when you form an immediate and subconscious first impression that persists to taint all subsequent thoughts.  Whether you choose to call it your gut feeling, an intuition, or the blink moment, one thing is clear – sometimes you just know.  Am I reading too much into this cupcake? Perhaps.  But I have made and tasted so many before, and I have never been this excited after the first bite.  So marvelously fluffy.  So deliciously light.

I wish you could have a bite =)

Chocolate Cupcakes:
Adapted from Eat Good 4 Life

Ingredients:

Yields about 20-22 cupcakes
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 cup reduced fat milk
1 cup strong brewed coffee
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup canola oil
2 eggs

1. Preheat oven to 350F.  Line cupcake pan with cupcake liners.

2. In a bowl, mix together milk, coffee, vanilla, olive oil and eggs.

3. Combine flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder and baking soda in a separate bowl.

4.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir well.

5. Pour batter into cupcake liners and bake approximately 35 minutes.

6. Remove from oven when a toothpick inserted in the middle is clean.  Let cool completely before frosting.

Vanilla Frosting:
Adapted from The Girl Who Ate Everything 

Ingredients:

 5 Tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup butter (2 sticks)
1 cup granulated white sugar
1. Heat milk and flour in a saucepan on the stove.  Stir continuously until thick.  Do NOT let it burn!  If you used reduced fat milk like I did, put a little pat of butter in it so it thickens.  If you don’t, it won’t thicken very well because it’s too watery.  Once thickened, remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.  Once cooled, stir in vanilla.
2. While milk mixture is cooling, cream butter and sugar together until fluffy.
3. Add the milk mixture to the butter mixture and beat until the consistency resembles that of whipped cream.
4. Refrigerate for an hour before icing.

Linzer Torte

The Linzer Torte is an Austrian/Hungarian/German/Swiss holiday dessert and is one of the oldest recipes in the world.  It is commonly mistaken for its smaller and more popular cousin, the linzer sablé.  I, however, decided to make the more gigantic version for a German friend for his housewarming party.  Unfortunately, I neglected to take a photo of the complete torte, but I suppose you can simply let your imagination fill in the rest :)

I really like the word housewarming, and the social festivities built around the term. It suggests that a house, before it is inhabited, is simply a cold structure, devoid of any inherent meaning, but it is you who instills life into it.  Over time, you make it a home with your memories and experiences., but you begin that process by warming it with the company of friends.  And what is more beautiful than that?  It’s one of those things that never meant much to me when I was little, but has steadily acquired more meaning with age and time.  How do you want to fill your house?  Simply with furniture and knick-knacks?  Or with the laughter and love of family and friends?

The Recipe: (adapted from the Joy of Baking)

Raspberry Preserves:

1 package of mixed frozen berries
1/2 cup of sugar

Linzer Torte: (I deviated significantly from this recipe because I kind of went overboard with the nuts …)

1.5-2 cups of almonds
3/4 cups of hazelnuts
2 cups all purpose flour
2/3 cup white sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
14 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3 large egg yolks + 1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla
Icing sugar (for dusting)

1. Preheat the oven to 350F and toast the almonds for 8-10 minutes, then the hazelnuts for 15-20 minutes.  At the same time, heat the frozen berries and sugar in a saucepan on the stove with the sugar until it boils, then turn down the heat and let it simmer until it reaches the desired thickened consistency. Then cool in the fridge until you need to use it.

2. Crush the nuts by hand (which I did, laboriously, with a knife) or with a food processor and mix it with the flour.  Add the sugar, cinnamon, salt and baking powder.

3. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter (I think you can also use a hand mixer …).  Add the egg yolks and the egg.  It should come out kind of sticky.

4. Spread the dough in the bottom of the tart pan.  Refrigerate the rest for an hour.

5. Spread the berry preserves on top of the crust.

6. Roll out the refrigerated crust into strips and place them as a lattice crust.  It’s very crumbly and it’s okay if it breaks.  That’s life.

7. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until golden brown.

8. Remove from oven, let cool and lightly dust with icing sugar.

Overall consensus: a German at the party told me it was great, so I guess it was at least up to standard :)  When I had a bite myself, I thought the crust was a bit dry, and in the future, I probably would have wanted to more moist somehow (however, I think this is somewhat the point of the torte; plus I will readily admit that I’m not really a pie person myself).  I was also less than impressed with the ugliness of the lattice crust, but because I had a hard time rolling it out and cutting it like a regular crust, I had to make do.  Overall, people liked it a lot and I would make it again :)

Guten Appetit!