SECRET RECIPE CLUB: GINGERSNAPS WITH WHITE CHOCOLATE CHIPS

It’s shocking but we are arriving at the end of April. Hard not to use a beaten up expression like “time flies”. It simply does. But, birds are singing, owls are making a ton of noise in the middle of the night, sun is shinning, and I am a happy camper, having stored all my sweaters, coats, and boots far away from my sight. As usual, the last Monday of the month brings with it Reveal Day: a showcase of posts made by food bloggers who participate of The Secret Recipe Club, and are paired in secret.  My assignment was the blog by Julie, Confessions of a Cooking Diva.  Don’t you love that name? Made me wish I had named my blog The Drama Queen Cooks…. Tongue in cheek, of course. As regular readers know, I am a level-headed, composed, unflappable individual. Julie is originally from Idaho but lives in Utah with a cuddly cat and a basset hound, a type of dog I find very cool with its incredibly sharp sense of smell. Julie shares with me a deep fear of baking, but admits that nothing scares her more than spiders. I’d have to settle for cockroaches as my number one fear, but we are basically virtual sisters.  I assembled quite a few recipes on my list of possibilities, like her One Pot Green Chile Mac & Cheese… her Caribbean Jerk Salmon Tacos… her Turkey Sausage….her Black Bean Burgers…. and her Apple-Pecan Cheesecake… But, my love for spices spoke loudly, so here I am to share with you an AMAZING recipe for cookies that marry a traditional gingersnap with chunks of white chocolate. Heaven. Pure heaven in cookie shape.

Gingersnaps White Choc Chips

GINGERSNAPS WITH WHITE CHOCOLATE CHIPS
(from Confessions of a Cooking Diva)

1 cup unsalted butter, room temp
1 cup sugar
1⁄2 cup molasses
2 tbsp. canola oil
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 + 1⁄4 tsp. baking soda
1+1⁄4 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
1+1⁄4 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. ground ginger
2 eggs
3+1⁄2 cups flour
1⁄2 bag of white chocolate chips (I used 3/4 bag)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare baking sheets by spraying them with cooking spray or line them with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar together. Mix in the molasses, oil, vanilla, baking soda, salt and spices until well combined.

Add eggs, one at a time, and beat until smooth. Slowly add in the flour, half a cup at a time. Mix well. Stir in the white chocolate chips. Scoop the dough into balls and roll them in sugar. Place on cookie sheets about 2 inches apart.

Bake for 10 minutes. Then allow to cool on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes before removing and placing on a cooling rack.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click

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Comments: Recently I read a book I’ve had for a long time but stayed sitting on a shelf, patiently waiting for me.  It is called BOUCHON BAKERY, a masterpiece of a pastry book, written by Thomas Keller & Sébastien Rouxel. My only criticism is its coffee table format, not very user-friendly.  But if you don’t mind that, it is well worth getting. The book goes well beyond recipes. In fact, it offers a deeper view of what it takes to start and maintain a bakery of the level of Bouchon. A lot of merit goes for the man in charge, Sébastien Rouxel, and his almost compulsive attention to detail. In Sébastien’s opinion, you cannot be a good pastry baker unless you are neat and organized, to the point that your bench is spotless clean at the end of the day, and as clean as humanly possible while you work.  As he says, being neat and organized doesn’t start when you get to work, it starts when you wake up.  That is quite a statement!  So, let’s say that I was under the spell of the book when I worked on this assignment.  My kitchen looked very professional, all ingredients lined up, detailed prep work.  I am afraid it won’t last, but it felt great…

recipe

As to the cookies, they are FABULOUS. It is important not to over-bake them, so 10 to 11 minutes and you are done. I baked them mid-afternoon on a Sunday and took them to the department next morning. They were still soft, with a bit of moisture and chew, which is the way I like a cookie. If you prefer a more snappy creature, bake longer.  The white chocolate goes very well with all those fragrant spices, that made our kitchen very inviting.  Too inviting, maybe?

BuckBegger

 The ball can wait. I rather fetch a cookie!

 Julie, it was nice to “meet” you through this month’s adventure, our students and colleagues in the department sure appreciate your recipe very much, and so did I!  Have a great Reveal Day! And, if I may offer you a little gift, here it is. Print it and stick it on your fridge in case you need it.

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As usual, my readers are all invited to dive into the collection of delicious recipes featured by my fellow virtual friends from Group D of  The Secret Recipe Club by clicking on the cutest blue frog in the world, right at the end of the post.

ONE YEAR AGO: Turkey Chili with Almond Butter

TWO YEARS AGO: Secret Recipe Club: Leek and Cheese Tart

THREE YEARS AGO: Secret Recipe Club; Triple Chocolate Brownies

FOUR YEARS AGO: Shaved Asparagus Salad

FIVE YEARS AGO: Indonesian Ginger Chicken

 

 

ONE GIFT, THREE BREADS!

As I recently mentioned, Celia sent me a perfect birthday gift last month. I shared with you my first homework under the guidance of Josey Baker, a loaf of his Olive Bread. It was a super simple no-knead recipe. So simple that a 5-year old under the influence of too much candy and a cup of coffee stolen from Mom would be able to make without any problem.  The following weekend I baked a variation of that loaf with sesame seeds in the dough.  But, that time I decided to incorporate one cycle of folding at the end of proofing.  Just that single cycle of folding gave quite a bit more structure to the bread, so consider doing that if you like to experiment with his recipes. And, here it is…

BREAD NUMBER ONE:  SESAME LOAF

Josey suggests coating the bread in sesame seeds before baking, but I did not do that because I find that many seeds go to waste as they fall off during baking. Also, I prefer the texture of the crust without them. The little seeds you see here and there are just saying hello from inside the dough. Be polite and say hello back to them, ok?

Sesame Loaf2

You can find the recipe, published with permission from Josey Baker, by following this link.

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BREAD NUMBER TWO: BLACK PEPPER ASIAGO CHEESE SOURDOUGH

It was time for me to go the whole nine yards putting my sourdough starter to work after a long hiatus in the freezer. What could be better than a very unusual formula using black pepper and chunks of Parmigiano in the dough? I modified it slightly, using Asiago cheese instead, and adding almost twice the amount of cheese called for in his formula.  Part of it shredded, most of it in small chunks.  Take a look at my baby, as it cooled over the rack:

ASIAGOSourdough
and the crumb…. did you notice the chunks of cheese in all their glory? how about the tiny pepper specks?

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This was a pretty spectacular loaf of bread. I had never thought of adding black pepper to bread dough, but it provided a very mysterious taste, not clearly associated with pepper. That flavor intensified in the following days, by the way.  A winner. Definitely a winner. This bread baking adventure got me soooo excited that I baked another loaf next day, can you imagine that?  So, without further ado…

BREAD NUMBER THREE: HEARTH SOURDOUGH

gift

This was a special loaf because I baked it for a colleague from the Department of Biology. She is originally from Germany and often complains that it’s impossible to find great bread in our town. Ok, we do have a Panera, but I imagine she shares the same views we do on their breads. Barely ok.  Nothing to compare with those incredibly delicious, hearty breads from bakeries in Europe.  So, Phil thought we should surprise her by baking a special sourdough loaf as a gift.  Once my Black Pepper Asiago bread turned out so well, I immediately mixed another batch of dough, but kept it simple just to be safe. On a Monday morning, 5am, there I was baking this loaf, which stayed overnight in the fridge after shaping. As I said before, Josey provides all types of alternative schedules to allow you to bake bread.  You can find a slightly modified version of the recipe with a jump here.

I can tell you that nothing beats the smile of a person who is at the receiving end of a loaf of bread, still warm from the oven!  Especially when she had no idea it was coming. A great way to start our week…

I hope you enjoyed this triple bread series. Of course, I should thank Celia once again for her gift that ended up introducing me to Josey Baker’s world.

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Life is good!

 

ONE YEAR AGO: Chestnut Flour Sourdough Loaf

TWO YEARS AGO: Kinpira Gobo and Japanese Home Cooking

THREE YEARS AGO: Walnut Sourdough

FOUR YEARS AGO: Thai Chicken Curry

FIVE YEARS AGO: Zen and the art of risotto

CAULIFLOWER TORTILLAS: GOING LOW CARB AND LOVING IT!

You’ve got to admit I did a pretty good job on my promise to stop posting so many cauliflower recipes. It’s been more than 2 months since I brought up Brassica oleracea to your screen. I cannot hold myself back anymore, not when I made these A-M-A-Z-I-N-G “caulitillas” that even the husband professed to be delicious. That is saying a lot, as he is adamant about corn tortillas, preferably the yellow kind. But, ever since Iron Man Mike blogged on these babies I’ve been meaning to try them.  They are everything he told them to be.  Make these.  It is a little involved, but in a fun way. And the pay off is huge.

Caulitillas

CAULIFLOWER CRUST TORTILLAS
(from The Iron You)

olive oil for greasing baking sheets
1 head of cauliflower, riced and packed (3 cups needed)
3 eggs
½ teaspoon fine grain sea salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

Heat oven to 375°F (190°C), line two baking sheets with parchment paper and grease them with olive oil.

In a food processor rice the cauliflower, until you get a texture finer than rice. Measure to make sure you have 3 cups of the riced veggie.  Place cauliflower rice in a bowl and microwave on high for 2 minutes, give it a stir and microwave for another 2 minutes. Place the cauliflower rice in a tea towel and twist it to squeeze as much moisture as you can. Do not skip this step, because the cauliflower must be dry to behave properly in the subsequent stages of cooking.

Place drained cauliflower rice back in the bowl and add eggs, salt and pepper and mix until combined. Spread the mixture onto the lined baking sheets into 8 fairly flat circles. A small offset spatula works wonders here.

Place in the oven for 10 minutes, then peel them off the parchment paper, flip them and bake for further 6 to 7 minutes. Heat a nonstick medium-sized pan over medium heat and place the tortillas into the pan pressing down slightly and brown them (1 minute per side).

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Hard to find someone who loves a Mexican meal more than I do. Tacos, tostadas, enchiladas, I love them all!  But, as the years go by, it gets easier for carbs to turn into fat, so I love it when I find a lighter way to indulge in one of my favorite cuisines. The Paleo world offers quite a few lower-carb options for tortillas using tapioca and/or coconut flour mixed with eggs, and cooked on a non-stick skillet.  They can be quite tasty, but their texture is closer to that of a crepe. If you are searching for a wrap that will be closer to the real thing, look no further. They even look like corn tortillas, don’t you think?   We had some tortillas leftover and I enjoyed them two days in a row, without any detectable loss in flavor or texture. I advise you to bake the full batch, and then do the final browning on top of the stove only for those you intend to consume right away.  Store the rest in the fridge, well wrapped.

The “caulitillas“, paired with pulled pork and a few selected toppings made for a fantastic midweek dinner! Next time I intend to use them in chicken enchiladas, like those from Mike’s original post. Scrumptious!

PulledPorkTortillas

And, don’t forget that if your cauliflower produced more than the three cups of riced veggie needed for this recipe, put the additional amount to good use: make a batch of roasted riced cauliflower with coconut oil, and save it as a tasty side dish for later.

leftovers

ONE YEAR AGO: Majestic Sedona, Take Two

TWO  YEARS AGO: Secret Ingredient Turkey Meatballs

THREE YEARS AGO: Swedish Meatballs and Egg Noodles

FOUR YEARS AGO: Italian Easter Pie

FIVE YEARS AGO: Black Olive Bialy

BLOOD ORANGE MARGARITAS

Almost six years of blogging, and I shared THREE drinks with you.  Three. That is an average of one drink post for every two years. Would that mean we are a boring couple as far as alcohol is concerned? Not quite the case. Phil enjoys a shot of tequila every once in a while, caipirinhas, good quality vodka on the rocks (he likes a brand called Chopin), and the eventual dry Martini. Shaken, not stirred. It turns out that “I” am the boring alcoholic component in our relationship, as 99% of the time I stick to white wine. But, even a boring person will occasionally go for a walk on the wild side. Take for instance these Margaritas, made with one of the sexiest fruits in the world: blood oranges. I love them. Now, keep in mind we made this drink quite sour, with no sugar added to it. Most people will prefer a little more sweetness, so adjust to your taste with simple syrup or a little agave, as suggested in the recipe.

Blood Orange Margaritas
BLOOD ORANGE MARGARITAS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

makes 1 drink

2 shots of blood orange juice
1.5 to 2 shots tequila of your choice
1 shot lime juice
1 shot Curaçao (or another orange liqueur)
1 drop vanilla extract (optional)
sugar to taste (simple syrup, agave) – we omitted

Mix all ingredients in a shaker. Pour over crushed ice.  Take a sip, and open a big smile!

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Many (too many) years ago, I could enjoy a festive drink before dinner, then switch to a glass of wine or two with the  meal. No major harm done, life next day would be normal.  Not anymore. I do not dare mixing types of alcohol, not even those that are supposed to “work”. You know, the famous saying: Liquor before beer, never fear…  Not for me. I now have a huge respect for alcohol, as a hangover will knock me in horizontal position until 5pm next day. For the record, the last time I had a hangover was after a 4th of July party in 2010. No desire to face another one. So, I have this fascination for beautiful drinks, but rarely indulge. When I do, that becomes my drink for the evening, no wine with the meal.

These Margaritas were so refreshing and light!  We like our drinks very sour, in fact this time they were almost too sour for Phil’s taste, but I thought they were pretty good. You never know how red a blood orange will be until you cut it open, so there’s always some excitement associated with them.  Only one grocery store in town carries them, and it’s the one on the other side of town (you know, a 10 minute drive instead of 5). I bought a few with the intention of preparing a blood orange vinaigrette, perhaps a blood orange pound cake, but Phil came up with the idea of a colorful drink, and that was it.  With a Mexican-type dinner, it was a delightful evening. The vanilla addition was something I saw as a tip somewhere a while ago, wish I could give proper credit. Just a little drop, don’t go wild with it, or it might overpower your margarita.

ONE YEAR AGO: Smoked Salmon Appetizer

TWO YEARS AGO: Clementine Cake

THREE YEARS AGO: Springtime Spinach Risotto

FOUR YEARS AGO: The end of green bean cruelty

FIVE YEARS AGO: Torta di Limone e Mandorle

RASPBERRY RICOTTA CAKE

This cake recipe was published in a recent issue of Bon Appetit magazine, and I wanted to make it right away.  I subscribe to several cooking magazines but they tend to accumulate by my bedside table, untouched. Then, a trip comes up and they go with me in the plane. I read and rip the pages that interest me, tossing the magazine before coming back home. I know that for some this might be a huge no-no, but ever since we moved from OK to KS and I donated my collection of Fine Cooking magazines, I stopped saving them. The cut out recipes are glued in a notebook, a system that works great for me.  Anyway, as I was reading that issue on a flight to Hawaii (yeah, you got that right…. we’ve been to paradise last month), this recipe screamed at me: MAKE ME! MAKE ME! MAKE ME! Glad I finally did, it’s a great cake, moist, tender, and not overly sweet, thanks to the natural tartness of raspberries.

RaspberryRicottaCake

RASPBERRY RICOTTA CAKE
(from Bon Appetit, March 2015)

Non-stick vegetable oil spray
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1½ cups ricotta
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup frozen raspberries, divided

Heat oven to 350°. Line a 9”-diameter cake pan with parchment paper and lightly coat with nonstick spray. Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.

Whisk eggs, ricotta, and vanilla in a medium bowl until smooth; fold into dry ingredients just until blended. Then fold in butter, followed by ¾ cup raspberries, taking care not to crush berries. Scrape batter into prepared pan and scatter remaining ¼ cup raspberries all over the surface of the batter.

Bake cake until golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 50–60 minutes. Let cool at least 20 minutes before removing from the pan.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Comments: This cake was so easy to make that I got into hyperventilation from excessive confidence. Basically, there is no way out for me, cakes make me suffer, even when nothing goes wrong. I thought that the raspberries sitting on top of the batter looked awfully cute, but after a few minutes in the oven, I pushed some of them a little into the batter, just in case.  I bet it made no difference whatsoever, the cake experts might be shaking their heads at my naiveté.  Oh, well.

As you know, food blogging is a very social activity. We leave comments, we follow food bloggers we enjoy, sometimes for their cooking alone, sometimes for the “whole package”.  I love bloggers who are witty (hard to beat Maureen on that category) make me laugh, make me think, teach me something. I normally stay clear from sites that push endless surveys or advertisements. But, anyway, some bloggers seem to always cook stuff I want to make. One such example is Steve, from Oui, Chef.  He subscribes to the same magazines I do, so quite often I bookmark a recipe and, being the slow self I am, next thing I know, the recipe is on his site!  This is exactly what happened with this cake. Take a look at Steve’s post by clicking here.  Obviously, great minds read alike, bookmark alike, and bake alike.

This cake was absolutely delicious! I added a sprinkle of powdered sugar on top because I felt the raspberries would be happy. And everyone who tried this cake in our department seemed to be happy too.  Such a great simple treat to celebrate spring…  Make it, and tell me what you think.

sliceHow about a slice?
;-)


ONE YEAR AGO:
In My Kitchen, April 2014

TWO YEARS AGO: Whole-wheat Pasta with Lemony Tomatoes and Spinach

THREE YEARS AGO: Blood Orange Duck: A work in progress

FOUR YEARS AGO: Grilled Mahi-mahi with citrus marinade

FIVE YEARS AGO: Memories of Pastéis (and my Dad)

JOSEY BAKER’S OLIVE BREAD

You would think that I’m done talking about gifts. Sorry, there is one more, a super special gift received from Celia, the bread baking Goddess Extraordinaire from Australia, hostess of the equally extraordinaire food blog Fig Jam and Lime Cordial.  She found out that it was my birthday last month (full disclosure: I told her), and sent me a bread cookbook: Josey Baker Bread.   I was traveling at the time, but could not wait to get my hands on some flour, salt, and yeast to put my gift to use.  Of course, my first thought was sourdough, but we’ve been so busy lately, that every Wednesday would come and go, and I never remembered to revive my starter, hibernating in a – 20°C freezer.  Finally, I could not wait any longer, and tried one of the simpler recipes using commercial yeast.  This is by far one of the easiest breads you can make. All it takes is preparing a pre-ferment with whole-wheat flour, allowing that to sit at room temperature overnight, then proceed with a no-knead formula next day.

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OVERVIEW OF THE RECIPE: to make this bread, you will start by mixing whole wheat flour with water and a little commercial yeast.  That mixture will bubble away overnight, and will be part of the final dough, which contains only white flour, a little salt, lemon zest, fresh rosemary, and of course black olives.  I actually omitted the rosemary because I did not have any at home then.  I increased the amount of lemon zest, but other than that the recipe was followed to a T.

It is essentially a no-knead bread, with a very flexible schedule as far as preparing the dough and baking it. This is one of the things I loved the most about his cookbook: Josey offers a timetable for all his recipes, so that you can adjust making bread to your own schedule, no matter how busy you are. If you rather stay up late to bake, follow one particular timing. If you prefer to bake first thing in the morning, follow another one. Baking in the end of the afternoon? At lunch time? It’s all doable. Part of the beauty of working with yeast. If you are new to bread baking, this book will be perfect for you, because it totally demystifies the process. Reading the book is the closest thing to having a class on bread baking given by a pro who behaves more like a friend, not a snotty professor. Yeap, that is what Josey Baker’s book is all about.

If you want the full recipe, it is available online, reprinted with permission from Josey on this site.

 

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For a no-knead bread, the crumb has quite a nice structure, and the taste is wonderful!  The lemon zest was very prominent, and I think rosemary would make this bread perfect. But I would never substitute dried rosemary because I dislike its texture. In fact, one of the spices I rarely use in dried form is rosemary for that very reason.  Unless it is part of mixes such as Herbes de Provence, but in that case it is pretty much pulverized and the drawback of harsh texture is eliminated. Still, get your hands on some fresh rosemary, grab your bag of flour and make this bread. The smell while it bakes is out of this world delicious! And refrain from grabbing one of those olives that will be peeking on the surface of the loaf.  It is bad bread etiquette, and resisting that temptation builds character. HA!

Celia, thanks so much for the thoughtful gift! Special friends make getting one year older “almost’ painless…
;-)

ONE YEAR AGO: Almonds, a Cookbook Review

TWO YEARS AGO: Pumpkin Shrimp Curry

THREE YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen, April 2012

FOUR YEARS AGO: A Dutch Tiger

FIVE YEARS AGO: Banana Bread