Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Snickerdoodles :: Apparently Just an American Thing

I've been baking a lot for my office lately. For one thing, I think my coworkers deserve better treats than Restaurant Cravers Pringles and bread stick crackers on the snack counter. But it also gives me a great outlet to bake like crazy but not get diabetes by eating up a whole batch of cookies before they go bad.

I made Snickerdoodles from the Flour Bakery cookbook last week and they turned out great. That book is amazing. The response in the office to this particular batch was interesting. The Americans nearly jumped out of their seats to grab one, swooning over how much they loved Snickerdoodles. The non-Americans all sent me messages like "What is that?" and "A Snickerwhuddle?" and "Why's it called that?" Both responses surprised me. I like Snickerdoodles but they're such a simple cookies, I didn't think anyone would go ga ga over them. I also didn't expect anyone to question them and look at me like I'm playing an evil trick on them. It's just a cookie, man. Chill out.

Here's the recipe I emailed to an inquiring coworker:


114g room temperature butter
150g white sugar, plus about 30g for coating
1 room temperature egg
175g flour (I prefer a half and half mix of bread (strong) and cake (weak) flour but just one or the other would work too) 
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt (basically a pinch) 
1 tsp cream of tartar 

30g cinnamon
30g white sugar

1. Using a standing or hand mixer, cream the butter and 150g sugar until light and fluffy. About 5-8 minutes. Or you can use a wooden spoon, but this will take about 10-15 minutes. がんばってね!

2. Beat in the egg on medium speed for 2-3 minutes until it is thoroughly combined. Remember to use a rubber spatula to make sure all the butter and sugar a the bottom of the bowl is mixed in too. 

3. In a medium bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, salt and cream of tar tar. On slow speed or with a wooden spoon, mix in the flour mixture just until all the flour is mixed in. 

4. In theory, you're supposed to fridge the dough over night so that the butter and sugar flavors really absorb into the cookies. But who has the patience? You can get away with just putting it in the fridge for a few hours, but I think the dough needs somewhat chilled before you bake so that it's not sticky and they don't spread too much. 

5. Mix the 30g sugar and cinnamon in a bowl and set aside. Using a spoon, scoop up some chilled dough and roll into a ball in your hands. Roll the dough in the cinnamon sugar mix and place the ball on a baking sheet lined with baking paper. The size depends on how big you want your cookies to be. When I made this recipe, I had about 22 cookies. 

I like lots of cinnamon and sugar, so I dip the balls in the sugar mix a second time just before going into the oven. 

Bake for 15-18 minutes at 180C or until the edges are golden. Let them cool for about 5 to 10 minutes before moving to a plate to cool. 

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Jam On It :: Easy Little Bread

Baking a loaf of bread from scratch - there's no better feeling. Except for when you actually get to eat said loaf of bread. Whatever your toppings of choice, there's really no substitute for warm freshly baked bread. 

But of course, it can also be very intimidating and most people just don't have the time or patience for it. Sometimes, it is a giant headache. But sometimes, it's awesome. So, if you've ever wanted to bake a loaf on your own but were too scared, please give this Easy Little Bread recipe a try! I found this recipe on 101 Cookbooks and was intrigued by the home-y, simple approach.  It's not messy (no kneading) and the bread is hearty and delicious. This loaf was our Sunday night dinner and I think we'd be perfectly happy if this was a weekly meal. 

Easy Little Bread 

1 1/4 cups / 300 ml warm water
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 tablespoon runny honey
1 cup / 4.5 oz / 125 g white flour
1 cup / 5 oz / 140 g whole wheat flour
1 cup / 3.5 oz / 100 g rolled oats (not instant oats)
1 teaspoons fine grain sea salt
2 tablespoons butter, for brushing

1. Dissolve the yeast and honey in warm water. Let stand for 5 to 10 minutes. 
2. Meanwhile, sift the flours, oats and salt in a large bowl and grease an 8 cup bread pan with softened butter. 
3. When the yeast mixture looks foamy, add the dry ingredients and mix well. 
4. Pour the batter into the pan. Cover with a damp kitchen towel and let it rise in a warm dry place for 30 minutes. 
5. Pre-heat your oven to 350F/180C. Bake the bread for 35-40 minutes. 
6. Remove loaf from the oven. Run a paring knife along the edges to loosen up the loaf and turn the loaf out onto a wire rack to cool. 
7. Optional - Brush the top of the loaf with softened butter to give it an extra buttery crust. 

Slice and eat!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Bacon and Leek Pasta

 I'm not sure why it took me so long to make this dish. There are lots of ingredients that are difficult to find in Japan. But thick cut bacon and leeks are not. In fact, they're plentiful and of the highest quality. If you watch people leaving any grocery store in Japan, you'll notice a slender green stick poking out the top of everyone's bags. They're leeks and Japanese food relies heavily on it. Back home, I always stayed away from leeks because they were such a pain to clean. But in Japan, they're already cleaned for you so you can just rinse quickly and cook away. It's great!

You can use regular bacon or pancetta if you're fancy. I used thick cut bacon because you can find it easily in Japan. I cut back on the amount of cream on this particular evening because I was feeling healthy, but if you want to have a super rich sauce, go crazy on that cream and butter.

Bacon and Leek Pasta

2 Leeks, just the white and light parts
2 slices of thick cut bacon or 8 slices of regular bacon
2 TB butter
1/4 cup of white wine or chicken broth
1/4 cup of heavy cream
Your pasta of choice - enough for 4 people
salt and pepper

1. Slice the leeks and bacon
2. Cook the bacon until brown on medium high heat.
3. Lower the heat to medium and add the leeks and butter. Sautee until translucent and soft.
4. Turn the heat back up to medium high. Deglaze the pan with white wine or broth.
5. Turn the heat back down low and add the heavy cream. Stir and cook for 2-4 minutes.
6. Add cooked pasta and pepper generously.

Top with parmesen cheese and eat! Great for leftover lunch.

Recipes From Mom :: Warm Crab Noodles

Remember when my mom put me through Vietnamese cooking Bootcamp before I moved to Japan? Well, this was one of the dishes she taught me but I hadn't made it in Japan until this week. Mostly because I wasn't sure what kind of noodles to buy but I gave it a guess this week and guessed right! Hooray! This is a super easy recipe if you can buy cooked crab meat easily. In Japan, it's a seafood aisle staple and not too expensive either. 

Crab Cellophane Noodles (Mien Xao Cua)

two packs of cellophane noodle
one full cup of fresh cooked crab meat
3/4 cup chicken broth
one small white onion, finely chopped
salt and pepper
3 scallions chopped
1 tablespoon sesame oil
olive oil

1. Soak noodle with cold water for one minute. Drain and cut to preferred size (4-5 inches long)
2. Heat two table spoon of olive oil
3. Stir fry onion until clear
4. Fold in crab meat, add salt and pepper to taste
5. Cook two minutes at medium heat, and set aside the crab mix in a bowl.
6. Put pan back on the stove, bring two tablespoons spoon of chicken broth to boil
7. Add the noodles and slowly spoon in chicken broth. The noodles will soak up the broth so keep adding more broth until the noodles look clear and tender, but be sure not to add too much broth at a time. This is process is similar to making risotto.
8. Fold in crab mix at low heat for one or two min.  Add the  sesame oil.

Transfer into a dish, garnish with cilantro or chives.

And as my mom said in her emailed recipe - "Voila, bon appetit!"

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

ABC Cooking School :: Dutch Crust

I finished the basic bread course at ABC in the Spring and am now onto the Master Course. These breads are, in theory, more difficult than the basic set, but they're actually not that hard. Each month focuses on a thee or technique. July was French bread month, so obviously I made...Dutch Crust rolls? No matter, I love this bread. My dad would occasionally buy dutch crust rolls on the weekends for our weekly German brunches. 

So, to honor that tradition, the 6 Foot Eater and I made sandwiches for dinner after class. There's nothing like a sandwich made with right out of the oven bread. 

** Yes, that is another nickname change for the boyfriend formally known as Squidward and Blammo. He would like me to point out that he is actually 6'1".