Moving Day Prep!

Moving day is speeding toward us here at Chez Piehole!  Most of my kitchen is packed up and our truck is reserved. I’ll be spending the next few days packing up the last few things left in the house. 

Posts will be scant for ten days or so until I get the new kitchen up and running. Want a peek?

  

Just a few days to go!

Chocolate Chip Cookie Craziness: Slice & Bake “In the Chips”

cookie

I’m pretty sure chocolate chips cookies were the first thing I ever baked as a tiny kid. I remember it feeling like a huge all day undertaking with the waiting for the butter to soften, mixing everything together and then waiting for all the cookies to bake and cool. Maybe I’m just more patient these days but cookies seem like an easy thing to whip together with the kids.

mixing1

Stand mixers help, too.

somanychips

I like my chocolate chip cookies soft and chewy with A LOT of chips. Why bother with a cookie that has 2 or three chips? The cookie part is tasty but it is really just a vehicle to get chocolate to my piehole.

readytobake

This is one of my favorite recipes. It is perfectly chewy, makes a good amount of cookies (I love them but I don’t need enough to last a month), and has just the basic ingredients. Its also a very sweet dough which really satisfies my sweet tooth. Even though I love this recipe, it is time to branch out and start another quest for the perfect recipe. Can I improve on perfection? We shall see.

done

This recipe originally comes from a great book on cookies that can be frozen in dough form for instant gratification cookies from the freezer. I’ve tried a few of the recipes and they are excellent though I haven’t actually made it to the freezing stage–they are too good to not all bake up at once! I only made a few slight changes–switching out the instant coffee/water mixture in the recipe for milk being the main one.

Chocolate Chip and Chunk Cookies
Adapted from “In the Chips” from Slice & Bake Cookies by Elinor Klivans

2 cups/255 g bread flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tblsp milk
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2.5 cups of chocolate chips and chunks

Preheat oven to 350.

Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Set aside.

Cream butter and sugars in the bowl of your stand mixer. Add milk, vanilla, and eggs (one at a time, mixing until combined). Scrape the sides of the bowl as needed. Add flour mixture in two parts, slowly mixing until just combined.

Remove from mixer and add chocolate chips by hand.

I used a #40 scoop which yields 24-26 cookies and baked for 13 minutes.

These are nice, soft cookies that would be excellent candidates for mailing!

Homemade Butter

Want to live out your video game fantasies of riding the Oregon Trail? Without the dysentery and broken wagon axles? Why not try making some butter?

In all honesty, this isn’t something I do often. I usually reserve it for a special occasion or holiday or when I just have a lot of heavy cream that is about to go bad in the fridge. The taste of fresh butter is pretty amazing but I go through so much in this house that I still rely mostly on regular store bought sticks. I made it today because I was out of butter (oh, the humanity!) and had a desperate need for cookies.

If you are in the mood for fresh butter, it is about as easy as it gets. All you need is heavy cream, a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, and a clean dishtowel or cheesecloth. (and salt if you want salted butter)

Add your cream to the bowl of your stand mixer and start it up. Start slowly so you don’t splash it all out of the bowl but as soon as bubbles start to form, you can turn it up to medium.

wheeee

You’ll see it go through all the stages of whipped cream. After it reaches the stiff peaks stage, it will start to look weird–almost like it is drying out which means you are getting close!

dry

I scrape the bowl down fairly regularly during this process. After the “dry” stage, you might notice a little liquid at the bottom. To get to this stage usually takes me maybe 8 minutes of mixing.

liquid

Turn the mixer back on and stand close by–you are about to make butter!

butter!

Voila! Now it is time to drain and wash your butter. I use a spatula to try to stick all the little clumps of butter together into as solid a puck as I can get, then dump out all the liquid. You’ll have lots of butter chunks and some liquid remaining since its impossible to get it all. You might also have some heavily whipped cream that hasn’t quite made it all the way to the butter stage. To get rid of this and to increase the storage life of your butter, you need to wash it. Put a few cups of very cold water into your bowl with the butter and return it to the stand mixer for 30-60 seconds.

washing

Now that the remnants of cream have been washed out, it is time to squeeze your butter dry.

Dump the water/butter mixture onto a clean dishtowel or piece of cheesecloth. Squeeze and wring all the moisture you can out of it, then put the butter into a bowl for storage.

squeezed

I love the reverse texture of my kitchen towel on the butter. Use it up with a week or so since homemade butter doesn’t have a long life.

My quart of heavy cream yielded about 12.5 oz of butter–or about 3 sticks’ worth.

**If you want salted butter instead of unsalted, just add a couple of teaspoons of salt to the cream as you start mixing.

Jazzing Up a Pancake Mix

I don’t have many “mixes” in my pantry. I always keep a cake mix for emergencies but, beyond that, the only mix that makes the cut is pancake mix. Pancakes are a quick, easy dinner that everyone in the family will eat, so it is one of those meals that is always on standby. I also make an XXXXL batch so we have leftovers for breakfast the next day for the kids.

fluffypancakes

The only problem is baking mix pancakes can be kind of flat. I’m not looking for flavorless crepes–I want a giant, fluffy pancake! To give a little help to a box of mix, I make a couple of small changes: adding vanilla and whipping the eggs whites to soft peaks. The vanilla lends that homemade flavor to the mix while the whipped egg whites adds loft and fluffiness to the batter.

additions

Combine all the ingredients except egg whites in a large bowl and add the vanilla. Stir to combine. In a separate bowl (or in a stand mixer), beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Fold half of the whites into the batter, then the other half until just combined then continue on with pancake making!

To speed up the process, I keep two pans going at different pancake flipping points. I tried three pans at one point but the pancakes always needed attention at the same time, so I went back to two.

two pans

Baking Bacon

I’m not going to say I’m a bacon fanatic because I haven’t yet made an actual eating vessel made out of bacon. I don’t even have it every week. But I do really like it even though making it is a total pain in the butt. The splatters. The cleanup. The curled bacon. It sucks.

bacon

Thankfully, the oven comes to the rescue and I haven’t made bacon on the cooktop since. You’ll need a half sheet pan (WITH A LIP!) and a cooling rack that fits inside. A single rack can hold one package of bacon, depending on how thinly cut it is.

Bake at 425-450ish for about 20-30 minutes. Check on it frequently since it can burn easily and cooking times aren’t exact since bacon is cut to so many different thicknesses. Voila. Flat, perfectly cooked bacon and you didn’t even need to get bacon grease in your eye.

bacon fat

The final bonus? The rendered bacon fat stays nice and clear in the pan. While it is still warm, you can drain it into your mason jar of bacon fat you keep in the fridge. Everyone has that, right???

Buttermilk Biscuit Showdown: Part 3–a random food.com recipe

biscuits

I’ve made quite a few batches of my favorite buttermilk biscuits in the last couple of weeks but was it possible they could be even better??

First, I tried a hybrid of the Smitten Kitchen and Alton Brown–mostly the smitten kitchen all butter but with just a little of it replaced with shortening to keep the dough easier to work with. They were good and the dough was certainly easier to work with but they just weren’t great, so I went back to all-butter.

Something really new was needed, so I went searching and found a random recipe on food.com that had some significant differences: sugar on top, less butter and more buttermilk, and a higher baking temperature. It sounded a little like madness but I went for it in the name of science and biscuits.

The dough felt familiar coming together but was much stickier than either Smitten Kitchens or Alton Browns. After cutting the biscuits, I had to kind of peel them off the board which I’m sure didn’t do any favors to their texture. Then came the really crazy part. The recipe called for a HALF A CUP of sugar to be sprinkled on top of the biscuits. What is this? A muffin? I couldn’t bring myself to do it and only managed to sprinkle about 1 tablespoon over the 9.

sugarontop

I knew all along these biscuits would be weird but I was hoping to learn some type of lesson from them. What did I learn?
–More butter and less buttermilk makes for an easier to work dough and a more tender biscuit. These were surprisingly tough despite barely working the dough.
–Sugar on top is madness. I was hoping it would lend some magnificent amount of golden brown coloring to the top of my biscuits. All it did was add a weird sugar-cookie crunch to the top; I can’t even imagine what they would have been like if I had used the entire 1/2 cup.
–Finally, 450 is too high for biscuits. The little wispy edges were dark before the actual biscuits had much color to them at all.

I’m back to using the Smitten Kitchen recipe for now but, even though this batch of biscuits was really odd, I think the new techniques were still worth trying.

dirtybowls