Monday, September 24, 2012

feeding the monster: chocolate chip cookies

life is getting a little complicated for me.  it seems that i am reaching that age many women dread; you know, that age where you reluctantly reveal the ages of your children.  that age where your joints will ache when you simply think about doing something strenuous or catch the part of the forecast that calls for a drop in temperature.   yup, that's the one, the one leading to the change, yes, that change.  

what does that mean, you ask.  it means that i can gain weight through osmosis and that you better think twice about cutting off my chocolate supply.   to add the proverbial insult to injury, i also feel a cold coming on, lucky me.  needless to say, i spent the day in the house not venturing any further than the recycling bin in the carport.  a call for comfort food led me to chocolate chip cookies-they were easier to make than a pot of matzoh ball soup.

in my quest for healthier eating habits, i have amassed a small collection of vegan cookbooks by isa chandra moskowitz.  my need of a chocolate fix had me perusing the index of vegan with a vengeance in search of a chocolate chip cookie recipe.  it seems that they have been on my mind for weeks and i needed to get them out of my system.  what better way to do this than to simply eat way too many warm from the oven cookies.  

as a cookbook author, i love reading isa's books.  she lets her personality show and she doesn't hold back.  the first sentence of the head note for her chocolate chip cookies reads:  "there's nothing healthy about these."  her motivation for this recipe was to simply prove that a vegan version could be as tasty as a traditional non-vegan version.  it worked, she proved her point, and now i needed to prove to myself that i could make some that might be a little less unhealthy for me in my quest to keep the cholesterol level in check.

my first step was to convert the recipe over to coconut oil.  while it wouldn't have been a bad thing to use a nonhydrogenated margarine, i didn't have any and had to use what was in my closet-a new, unopened jar of virgin coconut oil i picked up on my last trip to trader joe's. 

 the recipe calls for regular granulated sugar and the addition of molasses.  well, that sounds easy enough if you happen to have some which i somehow do not at the moment.  even my supply of sorghum seemed to have dried up.  in the closet, i found (from left to right) brown rice syrup, barley malt syrup, sugar beet syrup and honey from our bees.  i went with the honey-a non vegan ingredient.

 the coconut oil will not whip up the way margarine does-it will actually get a little runny if you over mix it.  so take care with the length of time you cream it with the sugar.

the recipe also calls for all purpose flour.  i was a little surprised by that.  i decided that if i was going to eat these cookies, they definitely needed some whole grain.  in place of the 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour,  i used a combination of all purpose flour, whole wheat flour and ground flax seeds.

i didn't have vegan chocolate chips, and honestly, i don't know that i would keep them on hand since i do not follow a strict vegan diet.  to keep them tasting a little more like the traditional toll house recipe, i added some chopped walnuts.  unfortunately, the dough came out really dry and crumbly most likely as a result of the whole wheat flour and the flax seeds.  the last minute addition of some soy milk saved the day.
 pressing the tops of the cookies to make more of a thick disk before baking improved their appearance.

 honestly, you can't tell by looking at them that they are (almost completely) vegan cookies.  the whole wheat flour and the ground flax seeds are barely visible.  i certainly didn't taste it and i am a little nauseated now having eaten at least 3 of them while they were still warm from the oven...

almost completely vegan chocolate chip cookies
makes 3 dozen cookies

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/3 cup unbleached all purpose flour
2 tablespoons ground flax seeds
1 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup coconut oil-preferably virgin coconut oil and solid at room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon molasses or sorghum(for the vegan version-honey, for the non-vegan)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips-vegan or non vegan
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped small
1/4 cup plain, unsweetened soy milk

preheat the oven to 350.  in a small bowl, whisk together the whole wheat flour, all purpose flour, flax seeds and the baking soda and set it aside.  in a large mixing bowl, cream the coconut oil with the sugar, molasses, vanilla and salt for 2-3 minutes taking care not to let it get to warm.  add the whisked dry ingredients and mix on low speed to combine.  add the chocolate chips, walnuts and soy milk and mix to form a slightly crumbly dough.  using a #40 scoop or a fully filled and rounded teaspoon of dough, form the cookies by gently pressing the top of the dough to flatten it into an even disk.  bake for 9 minutes (if you are using a convection fan, you may have to adjust the time) or until they are slightly browned around the edges.  allow the cookies to cool on the pans for 5 minutes and then remove them to a rack to finish cooling.

and now, it is time for me to step away from the rack...i may never go back to the traditional version; thanks isa!!!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

whole wheat loaves: tuesdays with dorie/baking with julia

the last couple of weeks have been a blur.  mom and i traveled to atlanta to visit my daughter.  our days were filled with trips in and out of antique shops and restaurants with a few stops at bakeries and asian markets in-between.  now that we are back in nashville, it is about the same-you name it, if it is an antique shop or a thrift store, we have probably been in there.  needless to say, whether i would have the chance to spend some time at home in my kitchen baking the challenge for this week's tuesdays with dorie/baking with julia challenge was questionable.

the saving grace, we ran out of bread-an opportunity or an excuse, to get to work and make a loaf of bread.  better yet, it is a simple loaf of whole wheat bread that was quick to mix up in the kitchen aid.  the only note, i did not need all of the flour called for; of the 6 1/2 cups of white and wheat flour that are mixed together, i had about 1/4 cup left over and still had a slightly tacky dough.  once the machine kneaded dough was in the pans, it rose quickly.  word to the wise, this isn't a good time to run out to the store while the bread rises...
this is why, it rises up real quick and before you know it, it is hanging over the sides of the pan like a drunk on a stool.  but in their defense, i will say that the directions to use an 8 1/2"x4 1/2" loaf pan may not be the best idea.  if i make this again, i will have to remember to follow my first instinct and use my slightly larger 9"x5"x3" pans.

looking a little like a plumbers gut hanging over the top of his pants, my loaves baked in the suggested 35 minutes but i took them out of the pans at about 32 minutes and baked them on the oven rack for a few extra minutes.
the next morning, it sliced beautifully and tasted wonderful with a little salted butter.  thanks to our hostesses, michele of veggie num nums and teresa of the family that bakes together.  be sure to check out the tuesdays with dorie page to find the links of all of this week's participants and see how they did. and if you are interested in baking a batch of this wonderful bread, buy the book or visit michele's or teresa's blog pages.  bake on friends!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

pear upside down cake; tuesdays with dorie/baking with julia

for this weeks baking with julia challenge, we turn to our hosts, marlise of the double trouble kitchen and susan of the little french bakery .  summer may be quickly coming to a close but the nectarines called for in this recipe are still easy to find in grocery stores and farmers markets making this a great dessert for any picnic or barbecue.  unless of course you have just spent the last month making all things peach in honor of national peach month.  and before you go on about the differences between peaches and nectarines, be honest, once incorporated into a cake like this, who will actually be able to tell the difference?  not my husband and as far as he is concerned, a cooked peach is not one that he will eat.  that said, i grabbed a large, ripe bartlett pear and got to work.  knowing that we wouldn't eat a tall 10" cake by ourselves, i cut the recipe in half and used an 8" cake pan.  even though it was only 2" tall, the batter filled the pan completely and did not run out onto the tray while baking.

 one difference between most upside down cakes and this one is the choice of cake.  most recipes call for a rich but simple butter cake while this recipe utilizes a lighter chiffon cake.  the other difference, a crunchy streusel that is baked until golden before being layered into the cake.  the recipe called for almonds and the need to toast them before adding them to the streusel.  feeling a bit lazy, i grabbed my bag of dry roasted pistachios and omitted that step.

 butter melted in the bottom of a cake pan, dark brown sugar patted down in an even layer and pear slices arranged over the soon to be caramel layer.  the bottom of the pan now but it will be the top of the cake after baking so it is important to make it look pretty.  try to keep the center of the pear on the inside so that the top of the cake looks nicer.
 prebaking the streusel made it seem like a layer of granola so i am now wondering if you might not just skip that step and sprinkle a good granola into the cake-surely that could work.

listen to the warning to serve the cake immediately, it really does not hold up well for more than a day.  the moisture in the fruit makes the cake gummy and gives it an unpleasant texture.

thanks to marlise and susan.  buy the book and bake with julia!

Monday, September 3, 2012

peaches and cream pie

 did you know that august was national peach month?  i learned that fact the hard way-i had to make a peachy dessert for the cafe for each day of the month.  hello, september!!!  really, though, i had fun with it and came up with a couple worth sharing.  one is the peaches and cream pie.  lovely, creamy, vanilla custard poured over fresh, ripe peach slices and finished off with a crunchy, crumb topping.

 many were baked over the course of the month.  many were sold.

peaches 'n cream pie

1 (9") pie shell
3 cups sliced peaches-peel them first!
2/3 cups sugar
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup half and half
1 batch of crumb topping-recipe follows

preheat the oven to 325.  place the pie shell on a sturdy baking sheet, line it with parchment paper and fill it with 2-3 cups of dry rice or beans.  bake until the bottom no longer looks shiny and wet but seems mostly opaque and the edges are lightly golden, about 20 minutes.  remove from the oven and carefully spoon out the rice/beans and remove the paper.  turn the oven up to 350.

to mix the filling, place the peach slices into the prepared pie shell and set aside.  in a mixing bowl, whisk the sugar, flour and salt together.  whisk in the eggs and vanilla and mix until completely combined.  whisk in the half and half.  pour the custard over the peaches and sprinkle the crumb topping over the pie evenly.  bake until the crumb topping is evenly browned and the filling puffs up and the pie is somewhat firm in the center, 50-60 minutes.  allow it to cool completely before slicing for the best looking slices.

1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup all purpose flour
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes
combine the ingredients in a bowl and using a pastry blender or a fork, cut the butter into the flour and sugar until it resembles coarse meal.  

just one more reason i made so many of these pies-my coworkers.  when they like the desserts, many more get sold.  go kaylin!