cookie time: butter cookies

I’m working my way through the multitude of cook books I received as gifts last December, and I’m dipping into Shirley O. Corriher’s Bakewise.  It’s a lighthearted volume that seeks, thankfully, to explain some of the ‘underlying’ dynamics behind baking.  I almost wish it was more scientific, actually, but it is very helpful to know why something comes out the way it does.  Eventually, I will study this book and make a real cake.  But I decided to start with some butter cookies, with jelly in the center.  They are technically called “buttery jelly-jeweled cookies.”

Buttery Jelly-Jeweled Cookies

Ingredient Weight (grams) Volume
Butter 227 1 CUP
Sugar 99 1/2 CUP
Salt 3 1/2 TSP
Almond Extract 1 1/4 TSP
Egg Yolks 37 2 yolks
AP Flour 281 2.25 CUPS
Jam as needed 1/2 CUP (as needed)

1. Beat butter, sugar, salt, and almond extract until light and creamy.

I was using a hand mixer here.  The key is too keep going until it’s really fluffy.  Like so:

2. Add yolks one at a time

3. Slowly stir in flour, pausing to scrape down the bowl as you go.  At this point you are supposed to divide the dough in four pieces, but I think you can just divide it into two.  It will be a little sticky to work with (did you seek how much butter went into these?).  Roll them up in plastic wrap and try to form a log of 1.5″ in diameter, or so.

4. Refrigerate overnight, or for at least two hours.

Shirley, as I like to call her, says the following: “flavorwise, standing time is a gold mine, allowing the dough’s flavors to meld.”  Then again, it is at points like these that I would prefer the book to be more scientific.  What does it mean for flavors to meld?  Why do they meld over time?  Anyway, more practically, you have to cool them before you can cut them cleanly.

5.  Preheat oven 375 and wait thirty minutes.

This is because oven temperatures will go above and below the desired temperature but over time slowly converge at a single point.  If you are putting something in the oven for several hours this might not matter, but for sensitive 14 minute cookies, I suppose it does.  See how much we’re learning!  And all this time I thought my oven was not calibrated correctly.

6. Take dough log and cut into 3/8 inch slices.  Arrange cookies on a cookie sheet lined with greased parchment paper, and press and indentation in center of cookie with thumb.

Ok – this step caused some problems for me for a couple reasons.  One, because 3/8 of an inch is quite specific.  I got out my ruler and everything:

Oh do you think I’m being to precise?  Well, yes, I am, BECAUSE I’M MAKING COOKIES ASSHOLE.  This isn’t some stir fry.  This is for real. z.

…and, then two, because Shir-shir says to “immediately” press an indentation into the cookie, leading to the following problem:

You see how they are cracking in the middle?  Well that’s what happened.  So by the third batch, I decided to cut the slices while cold, put them on the sheet and then wait for the dough to warm up somewhat before indenting.  This worked much better.  In fact for the first batch, while you are waiting, you can go ahead and

7. Heat up jam in saucepan over medium heat for 3-4 min, then strain.

These cookies have jam in them, if you forgot.  I used boysenberry, because I happened to have some (in fact because I wanted to make these cookies, which are similar but more complicated).  Anyway, heat this jam, and then strain it through a fine mesh colander, until you have a liquid that looks awesome, like this:

Anyway by this point your cookies are soft-ish, make an indentation, and pour this into it.  The jam is the main source of sweetness for the cookie, so don’t be shy.  It hardens as it cooks anyway, so the indentation ends up being not even that important (because it’s not going to go running all over your cookie sheet).

8. Sprinkle the top of the cookies with some extra sugar.

Might as well.

9. Bake one sheet at a time (in the middle row) until just starting to brown (about 14 minutes).

Like, exactly 14 min.  It’s weird.  Take them out, let them cool for two minutes, then transfer to a rack.  I got 45 with this recipe.  They are fucking addictive.  I was going to offer you some but they are all gone now.

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Schubert at wd

I’ve been listening to KUSC in the car recently, because I think I’ve exhausted the hot 92 playlist and NPR is of course unbearable.  It has the effect of making driving a much calmer and less draining experience.  No matter how much I love LA, I will never love driving or the sun (yes, the sun.  That’s a separate post).

Anyway, either this, or the revelation that I can see a LA phil show for $10, or the civilizing effect that peeky has on me, but I decided to see a performance of Schubert’s 9th symphony last weekend.  Before this they played a number of “orchestrated songs” – I guess Schubert set a lot of poems to music.  These (the poem pieces) I did not like so much.  They were short and had no real development and it was weird hearing them one after another.  The crowd disagreed and several gave an almost ostentatious standing ovation with many shouts of “bravo.”  And there was still more clapping and an encore, etc.  There is all together too much clapping, really.  The symphony itself was wonderful, playful and lively and positive.  I (not an expert in music) thought that the piece was really driven by the flute sections; they were the most impressive in any case.  The conductor was annoying.  I thought it was very good.  Whether the crown agreed or not was not material, since so many of them left as soon as it was over, with no clapping, because they wanted to get out of the parking lot, I suppose.  So in that case, perhaps not enough clapping.

Speaking of the crowd, they were sort of insufferable.  True, I hate people, so maybe I’m biased.  I didn’t expect the crowd to actually be so cliché – old, and dressed up (rich), and very white.  People running into their ‘colleagues.’    Talking with barely hidden competition about the quality of their seats.  Stepping over people instead of waiting for them to let you through (!).  The upstairs bar had reserved spots.  They clapped after the first movement.  There was a guy in a white leather hoodie and Silverlake glasses in front of me who chastised a nearby Asian man for, I don’t know, making some sound with his program or something.  When I went to the proms over the summer, everyone in the center area had waited in line for an hour or two to pay £5 to stand and listen to some music.  Here, even though I bought a student ticket, I was next to the riff-raff who had paid full price.

But, whatever, it’s $10.

Guisados

The criteria I have for writing about food places is 1) if it’s a place that’s worth going to and 2) if you have been there or not.  (2) is easier considering I know the majority of visitors to this blog (at least those who don’t find this blog by searching for “spring break fuck“.  Those people are even more disappointed than the average reader.).  The latter criterion is made more difficult in that I often visit these places with you, and then of course you’ve been there, so why read about it?

Why indeed.  Anyway, my most recent blogable outing was to Guisados in Boyle Heights.  As with most of the downtown-adjacent neighborhoods, I like this area a lot.  The tacos (and other food) at Guisados is slightly unconventional, as far as tacos go.  They have a list of about a dozen tacos, several of them vegetarian, that are familiar sounding and yet not, things that you wouldn’t exactly be able to find just anywhere.  Because of this, I had the taco sampler, which is six mini-tacos.

clockwise from top left: tinga de pollo, chuleta en salsa verde, cochinita pabil, chicken mole poblano, steak picado, and bistek en salsa rojo (center).  I think that’s right.  Hopefully.  Anyway,  I also got calabacitas for good measure.

In addition to being only semi-clear on what I was actually eating, I was also starving and finished all six fairly quickly, though I was trying to keep track and remember how each tasted.  All were very flavorful and ‘hearty’ but still fresh – I think they specialize in stewed meats. The tortillas are made  next door, and were fluffy but substantial.  I started with the cochinita pabil which is like carnitas, but made from slow-roasting a whole suckling pig with a fair amount of lemon or lime juice.  Yeah, wikipedia, whatever.  Anyway this version was quite spicy and very tender.

The mole was quality, light and not too intense.  The flavor of the chicken, to the extent that chicken has flavor, was not lost.  The steak dishes were very similar, both made with stewed meats I think.  The tinga de pollo was very spicy with a habanero salsa.  I was not prepared for how spicy it was going to be, but it was manageable.  I also had the horchata, which was refreshing and delicious, and the quesadilla with fried cheese, which I will be having again soon.

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experiments in sandwich making

I recently (like five months ago) decided to get a new chef’s knife, which in general has worked out really well.  You’d be amazed at how much difference a sharp knife can make when you are, you know, cutting things.  Like vegetables and what not.  They also say a sharp knife is safer than a dull one, because the knife won’t slip and cut your fingers.  Which is true unless you happen to bring the knife down directly on your finger while carelessly and quickly chopping some ginger.  Then you may cut off a quarter of the fingernail on your thumb.  But at least you didn’t cut off (very much) of your thumb?  So I had a bit of an accident (gory side note: it’s amazing how much finger looks like ginger when side by side).

So where before I came to appreciate sharp knives, now I appreciate opposable thumbs, which are ‘handy’ when doing all sorts of things, including, ironically, opening bandages.  But will this prevent me from using my sharp knife to cut stuff and then cook it?  NO!  I will just be more careful.

So today I want to share with you an idea, and you will tell me if it’s totally ridiculous and stupid, which is probably is.  The inspirations are multifold.  First, I had an umami burger.  Wasn’t my first, won’t be my last.  Anyway, of all the umami elements, I was taken with the parmesan ‘crisp’ they used instead of melty cheese.  Then I bought some beautiful kale at the farmer’s market, and I’ve been wanting to make baked kale chips as well.  Wouldn’t those go well with the parmesan crisps?  Yes, but somewhat uniform in texture.  I remembered the acidic, flavorful quinoa I had at the lazy ox.  So I could make a sort of quinoa salad, but that didn’t feel substantive enough.  Perhaps some bread?  Yes, bread!  Then I would have a sandwich.  That’s a thing, right, a sandwich.  Perhaps an open faced sandwich.  But now I have quinoa in my sandwich.  Is that weird?  Let’s see.

Pt 1: The bread

I wanted something hefty but sweet, so I borrowed Mark Bittman’s formula to make a wheat-raisin-walnut bread.  No not the famous no-knead bread (which has never actually worked for me), but the recipe in his How to Cook Everything Book  (recipe at the link).  I added half a cup of carefully chopped walnuts along with half a cup of rasins.  I used two cups white wheat flour and 1.5 cups bread flour.  Bread flour is key when making bread, especially if are also using wheat flour, because otherwise it will come out the consistency of a brick.  Voila:

2. Parmesan Crisps

Very simple.  Oven to 375.  Grease a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Pour 1-tablespoon mounds of finely grated parmesan cheese three inches apart on the baking sheet.  Squash each mound with the back of the tablespoon.  At this point you can add in other dry spices.  I used black pepper.  No need for salt!

To be honest, the parmesan crisps resonated with me because I saw Alton Brown make them years ago and have been meaning to try making them myself.  So now I have.  The crisps came out very crispy and are a pretty intense flavor.  I think I let them stay in the oven a bit longer than shown in this video, because they were definitely not mouldable.

3. Kale Chips

One can’t have two kinds of chips in the same sandwich, hence the earlier ‘parmesan crisps’ designation.  Anyway, this is something I’ve been wanting to make for a while also, ever since I first saw Jody Adams make them on top chef masters.  These are pretty easy also: you pretty much just tear up (or – carefully – use your knife to cut) kale into medium (2″ x 2″ ?) pieces, sans stem, dress them in oil, put on a baking sheet lined with greased parchment paper, and stick them in the oven for 10 min at 300 or so.  Make sure the pieces aren’t touching.  If you bake them too long they become a little crumbly, so keep an eye on them.  Smitten Kitchen has a recipe with nice pictures.  What I did, which I highly recommend, is to dress them in a liquid containing equal parts vegetable oil and soy sauce and add in a half teaspoon (to taste) of cayenne pepper.  This really made them delicious, and a great ‘snack’.

Here’s a picture of the Kale before baking:

and after…

4. Quinoa with leeks and cherry tomatoes.

Here’s where it gets weird.  The thing is, the way I make quinoa it sticks together anyway, and so maybe it won’t be so weird?  Well, first, let’s talk about the quinoa.  I sautéed some leeks with garlic, quartered cherry tomates, and parsley to finish, and added them to a pot of cooked quinoa (I started with 1.5 cups dry).  The thing with quinoa is to cook it past when you think it may be done, because there is always some moisture left in there, and if you don’t cook that off you may get a sloppy mess.  Usually I cook it covered until it’s mostly done, and then uncover to finish it.  Then add the vegetables.  Since I had some grated parmesan from the crisps, I added a couple tablespoons into the quinoa, which is a tasty thing to do anyway, but which also aids in helping it stick together a bit.  Then, I added the juice of one lemon, and some red wine vinegar for good measure.  I really wanted it to be acidic.  Of course everything is to taste.

Now that everything was in order, I put in on a sandwich.  Yes, I’m going there.  Come with me.

I sort of squashed the quinoa down which maybe makes it less pretty.  But still, respectable right?  You could eat it with a fork and knife and it would be like having a salad with a piece of bread.  But then I took it a step further.

And now I just made a quinoa sandwich.  With wheat bread and kale.  WHAT IS GOING ON?  Fine, maybe I haven’t fully adapted to being a meat eater, at least in my cooking instincts.  Disparage me for making quinoa sandwiches if you must, but I will soldier on.  Or if I retreat, it will only be to substitue marinated tofu and red pepper relish in for the quinoa.

Actually, it was a pretty good sandwich.  The elements worked as expected, and the kale was surprisingly spicy, which was awesome.  Maybe a little too salty, which is mostly because something about baking parmesan really brings out the saltiness.  The quinoa stayed in the sandwich and the whole thing was very filling and not messy at all.

But if you don’t want to make a quinoa sandwich, what else could you pair with the parmesan-kale-raisin wheat bread combo?  The aforementioned tofu would be good, or maybe a portobello mushroom marinated in a vinaigrette and baked?  Or…well I guess a burger would be good in this situation.  You could just make a burger.

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duck of the week: duck of the year duck

I know what this blog needs.  A duck.  It’s been too long.  

Kogi

I’m not sure if the below is post-worthy.  I finally ate at the Kogi truck.  It’s a little bit elusive to be honest, travelling as it does all around LA and Orange counties.  But they finally settled up to a spot near Wilshire/Western in K-town, so R and I were able to go.  It lived up to the hype.  I got the spicy pork and short rib tacos and we shared the kimchi quesadilla.   I was not a big fan of the latter actually; too bitter and salty.  Odd because I quite like picked vegetables.  Anyway, the two tacos were more than enough and quite delicious.  It is, suffice to say, a good idea: flavorful Koreanish food in tacos.  The short ribs especially were really delicious – very tender and juicy.  What else can I say?  Yeah, not a very post-worthy post, and the bar is already set well-low.  WHATEVER.

spring break fuck yeah

Actually I was working the whole two weeks that I didn’t have to go to campus.  And somehow didn’t get that much done?  Such is life.  Let’s start with LA:

1. Pa Ord noodle

I’ve heard good things about this restaurant for a while, and yelp seems to emphasize the spiciness of the dishes, which I suppose is always a good thing.  I was waiting to go here with another human being, but people kept being busy or anxious or whatever so I just went by myself.  I got the ‘drunken noodles,’ which maybe wasn’t the best thing to get because I remembered that you are supposed to eat them when you are drunk, which makes sense considering how greasy and oily they are at most places.  So it’s a dish that’s meant to be ordinary but satisfying, which is what it was.  The spice at first seemed very manageable but built very quickly as I ate more.  I was only able to finish a bit more than half.  So, in conclusion…I don’t know.  I need to go back.

2. Soban

I haven’t had much Korean food in my life, I suppose because I was vegetarian for so long?  In any case, I heard JG recommend this place a couple months ago and got it in my head to go.  There was a good banchan, which is the bunches of small dishes they bring you at the beginning of the meal.  I suppose I wouldn’t know if it was not good, because I don’t know what to compare it to, but I liked it.  Apparently the thing to get is a raw crab dish called Ganjang Gaejang, but it was $30 and I have no idea how to eat a crab, so, no.  I got the stewed cod, which came with a tangy broth with vegetables.  It wasn’t very spicy, but it was rich and tasty all the same.  I felt embarrassed because the fish had bones in it and I was not able to take them off with my chopsticks.  This blog post is going nowhere fast.  Here’s a picture.

3.  Inksack

Oh Inksack!  This is Michael Voltaggio’s sandwich place just down the block from Ink.  The idea though is totally different; the food here is novel but not ‘creative,’ which I think I like quite a bit.  I mean, it’s sandwiches.  I got the banh mi.  I haven’t had a lot of banh mi sandwiches in my life, but I have to say it always sounded like a great idea.  I also love pickled vegetables.  We also got the “crab chips,” which were very good potato chips that tasted nothing like crab.  I’ll come back here before I go back to Ink, and not just because of the price.

I did make a ‘work’ trip to Providence, which was energizing actually.  My presentation went well, but I spent most of my time catching up with old friends from different contexts.  I had been thinking of Providence as a very small and so not interesting city for me (at this time in my life), but I really enjoyed being there again.  Something about the city prompts chilly walks in fall and spring, which I always loved.  My friends there seemed to know a lot of people about town, and there are a small number of lively, vibrant bars and restaurants, much more so than when I lived there actually.  And I don’t mind the weather.

First of all, the first night I was there we went to the pub where my friend C still works.  They have started raffling lobsters.  There was quite a high lobster-to-people ratio this particular night, and someone gave us a bunch of their tickets, and so I ended up winning two (live) lobsters and a bunch of clams.  They were cooked the following evening at 2am as I looked up on ehow what I was supposed to actually do with them.  I was sort of hesitant to cook live creatures, but being drunk helped.  Oddly we saved the lobster so I didn’t end up actually eating them.  Eating them seemed more complicated than cooking them.  Definitely something you have to do sober, at least for the first time.  We did eat the clams.

4. Parkside

 

Reunion dinner with some so-cal people.  Excellent bread.  I had the veal and sage agnolotti, which also had sausage, peas, and came in a tomato sauce.  First of all, more than one meat in a thing seems like too much.  Also, the tomato sauce was good, but one always feels that such things could be made at home without too much effort.  The kitchen at this place was open and was tiny, which made the production of a range of dishes for a medium sized place more impressive.  We had a bottel of pinot noir which was probably the best thing, food/drink wise, of the place, but I forgot what it was called.

 

5. Loie Fuller

We had a nice providence reunion brunch at this lovely restaurant.  My providence friends seemed to know the people working and some of the people eating there, which made it seem even more friendly and communal.  I had the crab polenta which was excellent: creamy, lemony polenta with a distinct crab flavor below with two poached eggs and baby spinach.  The spinach wasn’t an afterthought; everything tasted really good when put together in one bite, but of course in an unpretentious way.  The coffee was good too.

6. Julian’s

I’ve heard a lot about this place as a fixture on the Providence food scene but had never been.  I didn’t hang out too much on the west side when I lived here, for whatever reason (I think it seemed far away?!?).  Anyway, it’s a very comfy place.  In fact the bathroom has a TV that was playing a documentary, as well as two display cases filled with pez dispensers and original Star Wars figures.  I had the skate over a pork fried rice.  Well cooked and satisfying, though I’m not sure the pork was necessary.  It was topped with a salad that had a balsamic vinegar dressing, which was sort of odd but it worked.

So what have we learned?  Nothing.  I’ll try to step up my blogging game.  Pictures below.  Also this song has been in my head

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