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Welcome back, Betty

6 Apr

It’s been quite a while since I stepped foot into the kitchen to cook a real meal. For months, I’ve been surviving on canned tuna, whole wheat matzo crackers and apples with peanut butter (with the occasional orange beef and house special fried rice take-out meal from the Chinese restaurant right next to my office).

cookie dough and mixing bowl

Well, let’s say these days I have a bit more time to do what I love, including putting my kitchen utensils to work and writing.

I decided to cook a real dinner for a change and it came out beautifully. My sister, of course, wouldn’t let me off the hook that easy and communicated her craving for “something chocolatey”. Actually, it was more like “Hey, Betty Crocker, can you make me something for dessert?  With chocolate?”

Diligently, I started researching quick alternatives to satisfy her craving and while going through my fridge and pantry I realized I had been hoarding  everything I needed to make chocolate chip cookies. Lucky her. I adapted a recipe from The Williams-Sonoma Baking Book and got to baking for the first time in months.

The cookies hit the spot for her craving. And, now I’m left with about a dozen cookies that keep calling me back into the kitchen for another bite (or two). I am convinced that if I enjoy them with a cup of green tea these won’t find shelter in my thighs.

I guess you’ll see me running like a madwoman around the neighborhood a lot more often.

double chocolate chip cookies
Double Chocolate Chip Cookies

Adapted from The Williams-Sonoma Baking Book (Chocolate Chip Cookies) 

1 1/3 cups white whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup (8 tbsp) unsalted butter
1/2 cup granualted sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup milk chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 F. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cocoa powder.
In a large bowl, using an electric mixer in high speed, cream the butter until fluffy and pale yellow. Add the granulated sugar and brown sugar and continue beating until the mixture is no longer gritty when rubbed between your finger and thumb. Add the egg and vanilla and beat on low speed until blended, occasionally stopping the mixer and scraping down the sides of the bowl with a silicone spatula if needed.
Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix on low speed or stir with a wooden spoon just until blended. Add the chocolate chips, mixing or stirring just until blended.
Using two spoons, shape the dough into 1-inch (2.5 cm) balls and place on the baking sheets, spacing the cookies about 2 inches (2cm) apart. Bake the cookies until golden brown, about 12 minutes.

Life is Sweet When We Are All Alone

11 Sep

It’s a pity It’s a crying shame
He pulled you down again
How painful it must be
To bruise so easily
It’s a pity it’s a downright crime
It happens all the time

But don’t cry
You know the tears will do no good
So dry your eyes
They told you life is hard
Misery from the start, it’s dull
It’s slow, it’s painful
But I tell you life is sweet
In spite of the misery
There’s so much more, be grateful.

Excerpt from Life is Sweet  by Natalie Merchant

Japanese Lesson

19 May

Doraku: The Road to Happiness

Miami Beach

Girl Scouts Samoas Cookies (Campfire Style) and A Burnt Finger

15 Sep

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I recently joined and the first recipe that jumped at me was this Girl Scouts cookie recipe for Samoas by Batter Licker.

My favorite Girl Scouts cookie, that is. I remember being a Girl Scouts Brownie back in the day and buying most of the Samoas myself! I was a fat kid, high cholesterol and all, and my mother tried her best to keep me away from these cookies. Of course, going to college in Boston and having lovely Girl Scouts offer me Samoas at every T station I stepped foot in, didn’t help the kid inside me stay away from her favorite cookies when mom wasn’t looking either. Oh yeah, I looked forward to Girl Scouts cookie season every year and it made my T rides much more enjoyable.

Funny how I ended up romantically involved with a Samoan guy. Guess I have a thing for Samoans!

But I digress.

Of course, as soon as I found this recipe I knew I had to give it a try. I recruited my little sister as my sous-pastry chef and I switched my professional woman hat for my domestic baker bonnet. Because bakers wear bonnets in my world.

As you can see in the pictures, this is how Girl Scouts cookies would look if they were actually baked by Girl Scouts, at a campsite.

Look: very rustic indeed. It is hard to be precise after burning your finger with hot caramel. And, please don’t even think I was about to make piping bags out of parchment paper to make the perfect chocolate drizzles over the cookies at 11pm (and while trying to subdue the pain from by burnt finger)! All along I kept hearing my grandmother’s words in my head “Be extremely careful when handling hot caramel. It is the worst thing you can burn yourself with!”

Texture: Well, I feel obliged to be completely honest with you my readers and I must confess that I was not very impressed with the results of this recipe, or at least my version of it. The cookies lacked the chewy, coconutty, carameliness that characterizes my beloved Samoas. Instead, the caramel/coconut topping turned into a hard-to-bite topping.

I used store bought caramel chews instead of making my own caramel. Perhaps, I should’ve made my own?

Below is the recipe just in case you want to try it out yourselves and give me some suggestions on how to fix my Samoas signature topping. Until then, I think I will await the visit of an eager Girl Scout at my door.

We used different cookie cutters and made heart and star shaped cookies in addition to the traditional donut-shaped Samoas.

Girl Scout Cookies- Samoas
(Adapted from Batter Licker via Food

Makes about 3 dozen

  • 3 cups grated coconut
  • 2 cups (16 oz.) soft, chewy caramel
  • 3/4 cups unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 cups (16 oz) bittersweet chocolate, chopped or chips
  • Parchment paper

Preheat oven to 300F.

In a large bowl, mix melted butter, brown sugar (or white sugar and molasses), vanilla and salt until combined. Add flour, and mix until combined.

Lay one piece of parchment paper on kitchen counter. Transfer dough onto parchment paper. Place second piece of parchment paper over dough, and roll out dough with a rolling pin until it is 1/4-inch thick. Let stand while you toast the coconut flakes.

Spread coconut flakes evenly across a baking pan. Toast in oven for 10 to 15 minutes until golden brown, stirring every 5 minutes. Once coconut flakes are lightly browned, remove from oven, transfer to a large bowl, and allow to cool, stirring periodically (coconut will continue to toast slightly). Set aside, but keep oven heated at 300F.

Using a 1 1/2-inch round cookie cutter, stamp the dough. Using a 1/2 or 1/4-inch cookie cutter (or the wider end of a pastry tip, in my case), cut center holes out of each cookie. Transfer cut mini doughnut-shaped cookies to parchment or silicon-lined baking sheet. Roll out any remaining dough, and cut additional cookies, transfer to baking sheet, and repeat until all dough is used.

Bake on center rack in oven for 14 to 16 minutes until cookie edges turn lightly golden. Remove from oven, cool on pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to rack to continue cooling.

If using homemade caramel, make according to the instructions here, removing caramel from heat once it reaches 246F and immediately pouring it into a cool bowl (ignore all the subsequent cooling and rolling/cutting instructions). If using store-bought soft caramel chews, heat in microwave in 30 second increments, stirring between zapping sessions, until caramel becomes soft and melty.

Pour toasted coconut flakes into a bowl with the caramel and mix until evenly combined.

Using a spatula or your fingers, cover each cookie with the coconut caramel topping, pressing it onto the cookie to adhere. Allow topping to set.

Heat chopped chocolate in the microwave, stirring in 30 second increments, just until barely melted. Dip the bottom of each cookie into the melted chocolate, and set on wax paper to cool. Drizzle the top with chocolate  with a piping bag or spoon if desired. Store on wax paper in an airtight, refrigerated container for 3 to 5 days, if you can manage that sort of self-control. Allow to come to room temperature (unless room temp is 75F or warmer because chocolate will get too soft) before serving so the caramel softens up a bit.

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Afternoon Delight

7 Jul

A cup of tea, Chinese-style, and a mini Dulce de Leche cupcake

I’m a woman of cravings. Mostly sweet cravings.

It turns out that I was in the middle of blogging, job searching, researching, etc. when an overwhelming craving for cupcakes took over my energy and clouded my mind. Away I went on a quest for cupcakes. Initially, I thought this would be a piece of cake, no pun intended, I could easily grab a cupcake at the Starbucks next door.

Well, I visited three Starbucks (of course, they were one right next to the other) and they were all out of those delicious, 400 calories a piece cupcakes. Lucky me.

And, that is how I ended up at Misha’s Cupcakes in S. Miami, a small cupcake shop with a pretty solid variety of cupcakes that melt in your mouth.

Since they were out of their regular sized cupcakes, I thought why not get an assortment of mini-cupcakes? After all, they are $1.25 a piece and I did drive all the way to S. Miami…

Dulce de Leche, Capuccino Mousse, Red Velvet, Reese's Pieces, Oreo and Coconut Mini-Cupcakes

Too bad there’s no one at home right now to share these with.

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