Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Latest Music Obsessions: The Temper Trap & Florence + The Machine

Yes, it's about time I got excited about new music. And I have been! Both of these bands have been getting some major mainstream attention since last year or earlier, but they're new to me (and to you?). After happily immersing myself for weeks, I thought it about time I let you all in on the secret 8). Embedding is disabled for the Florence videos, so you'll have to check their stuff out here. Music was my great passion before food joined its ranks, so please send recommendations my way at any time!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

You Can't Go Wrong With Peanut Butter + Chocolate

Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies
Sometimes life is more like a bumpy roller-coaster than, say, a scenic country road or straight highway. Now would be one of those times :). During such periods, I like to turn to old favorites like peanut butter and chocolate. Whether paired with bananas or cream cheese, this duo has never failed to please. And it doesn't hurt either that my boyfriend is a huge fan.

I found these fun sandwich cookies in a gorgeous new baking book I got for Christmas (thanks, Nancy!). The cookies baked up with a delightfully crumbly texture and rich peanut-y flavor. Their size became quite the mystery, however. Even being generous with my "1/2 inch" diameter balls of cookie dough, I got nearly twice as many cookies as the recipe says. Making them took me so long that I went with a simple ganache instead of the filling in the book.

For you fellow bakers out there, what do you do when a recipe is wonderful in some respects but off in others? Remake and tweak it until you're satisfied or look for a completely different recipe for the same thing? The sizing issue, though vexing at the time, will be easy enough to remedy, so I'll definitely keep these yummy bites in my repertoire :).

Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies with Milk Chocolate Filling [Printable Recipe]
From The Craft of Baking by Karen DeMasco and Mindy Fox via Leite's Culinaria
Supposedly makes about 2 dozen sandwich cookies

XIAOLU'S NOTES: Following the recipe, I got nearly 4 dozen sandwiches. So I'd recommend making larger balls (3/4 to 1-inch) or, if you like the look of these tiny bites, setting aside some extra time/patience to form the smaller balls! I've read that the filling is a winner, so I'm posting the original recipe below and plan to try it next time.

For the peanut butter cookies
1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon lightly packed dark brown sugar
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 large egg, room temperature

For the milk chocolate filling
6 ounces milk chocolate, roughly chopped
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup powdered (confectioners') sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, brown sugar, and confectioners’ sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the peanut butter and beat to combine, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the oil, vanilla, and egg and beat until just combined, about 20 seconds. Add the flour mixture, beating just to combine.

Lightly flour the palms of your hands, and roll the dough into balls about 1/2 inch in diameter. Place them about 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake, rotating the sheets halfway through, until the cookies are golden brown on the edges, about 12 minutes.

Transfer the baking sheets to wire racks and let cool completely. (The peanut butter cookies can be stored, unfilled, in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.)

Combine the chocolate, peanut butter, confectioners’ sugar, and salt in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a boil. Remove the cream from the heat and pour it over the chocolate mixture. Stir with a spatula until the chocolate is completely melted.

Set the bowl in an ice bath, or chill it in the refrigerator, until the filling has cooled to room temperature and is thick enough to spread. Then use it immediately or transfer it to an airtight container and refrigerate it for up to 1 week (let it come to room temperature before using).

Using an offset spatula, spread 1 teaspoon of the milk chocolate filling [or ganache] over the flat sides of half of the cookies. Sandwich with the remaining cookies, flat sides together.

Once filled, the cookies are best eaten the same day, but they can be kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Rhubarb Raspberry Sour Cream Pie

Hello there! First, I wanna let everyone know I'm still alive 8). Life's simply been getting in the way of posting lately. Though I miss blogging and all of you, I won't be posting regularly for a tad longer as I prepare for some major life changes (finally leaving work to return to school for 5 years!). Luckily, I'm not coming to you totally empty-handed today.

Rhubarb Raspberry Pie

This rhubarb raspberry streusel pie is one of the several recipes+photos I've had ready to go for a while. But the time and energy to give it proper introduction has been MIA. Yet it'd be a bona fide crime for you all to miss out on this creamy yet crunchy, sweet n' tart treat that's just perfect for the season.

Rhubarb Raspberry Pie

So this is my peace offering, and I sure hope you'll be back to see what else I've got in the works. Very (food) nerdy of me, but you simply can't imagine how excited I am that a student schedule will allow me more daytime hours for baking/cooking and (equally important) photographing the products of my labor. For the fellow working bloggers out there, do you confine your blogging activities to the weekend or settle for artificial light? Personally, the more food photography I take and see, the stronger my preference for natural light. Guess going back to school is a good thing (for more than that reason 8p).

Rhubarb Raspberry Sour Cream Pie [Printable Recipe]
Adapted from Allrecipes
Serves 8

XIAOLU'S NOTES: I found the melted butter in the streusel to be too much, so I added almost double the amount of flour but only used half of the streusel since I didn't want overwhelming sweetness. I suspect Greek yogurt might work as a healthier alternative to sour cream and will try that next time.

1 (9 inch) unbaked pie crust
3 cups chopped fresh rhubarb
1 cup raspberries [if using frozen, let thaw and drain]
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups white sugar
1 cup sour cream
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon dried ginger powder

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Press the pie crust into a 9 inch pie pan. Spread rhubarb and raspberries in an even layer in the bottom of the crust. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg, vanilla, white sugar, sour cream, 1/3 cup of flour, and ginger powder until smooth. Pour evenly over the rhubarb.

In a small bowl, mix together 1/2 cup of flour, salt, brown sugar, and cinnamon. [If the pie crust starts warming up, put the filled pie in the refrigerator while you prepare the streusel.] Stir in melted butter until the mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle evenly over the top of the pie.

Bake for 15 minutes in the preheated oven, then reduce the heat to 350 degrees F. Continue to bake for 40 minutes, or until the edges have puffed, and the topping is golden. The center may still be slightly jiggly. Cool completely before slicing and serving.