Category Archives: baking

Mexican Cocoa Nib Cookies

We made the excellent decision of ordering five pounds of bulk cocoa nibs from Urban Greens. I’m going to a friend’s birthday cookout today, and since he’s a creative cook, I thought some cocoa nib cookies were in order.

Too bad the recipes I found were a bit boring. Most mixed cocoa nibs with chocolate chips, which is like putting a precious stone in a piece of costume jewelry. Some were ultra healthy paleo “cookies”. I wanted something decadent and creative, so I adapted a basic double-chocolate cookie recipe with thousands of positive reviews into this more unusual combination.

Mexican Cocoa Nib Cookies | StephanieDoes

Recipe: Mexican Cocoa Nib Cookies

Summary: Double chocolate spiced cookies with cocoa nibs and pecans. Makes about 20 cookies.

Ingredients

  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 3/4 cups white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 + 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 pinches cayenne powder (or more to taste)
  • 1/2 cup cocoa nibs
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped pecans

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda, salt, and spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, and cayenne) in a bowl and whisk to combine.
  3. In a stand mixer, beat the softened butter, sugar, egg, and vanilla until fluffy.
  4. While mixing on low, slowly add the flour mixture until just combined (do not overmix).
  5. Stir in the cocoa nibs and pecans until evenly mixed.
  6. Drop onto the cookie sheet in mounds the size of a ping-pong ball. No need to make smooth balls.
  7. Bake for 10 minutes or until the cookie is baked on the outside but still soft. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Preparation time: 6 minute(s)

Cooking time: 10 minute(s)

My Favorite Pizza Dough Recipe

Making pizza can is fun and tasty. And especially if you make your own dough, it’s cheap. My go-to dough recipe is by Anna Maria Volpi and I recommend her helpful step-by-step photos for beginners. The dough is easy to handle and I use it to make three thin pizzas. My abbreviated version is below.

Also, my number 1 tip for making CHEAP pizza dough is to buy yeast in bulk. I did the math and the little 3-portion packets in the baking aisle at the supermarket are – wait for it – 20 times more expensive than the $4.39 2 pound package I bought at Sam’s Club.

Recipe: Pizza Dough

Summary: Adapted from Anna Maria Volpi’s Recipe to use a stand mixer.

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups 110 degree water
  • 3 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • pinch of salt
  • healthy shake of garlic powder (optional)

Instructions

  1. Measure the warm water in a measuring cup, sprinkle the yeast on top, stir, and let sit for 5 minutes.
  2. Sift the flour and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer (like a Kitchen Aid). Stir in the garlic powder.
  3. Make an indentation in the middle of the flour mixture and pour in the olive oil and yeast/water mixture.
  4. Mix with the beater blade until all the ingredients are combined, then switch to the dough hook and allow the mixer to knead slowly for 3 minutes or so. The dough should hold together nicely and not stick to the bowl. The proportions are usually perfect for me, but you could sprinkle in a bit more flour or water if it’s too wet or dry.
  5. By now the mixer bowl is basically clean, so I remove the dough, rub the inside of the bowl with olive oil, return the dough, flip it over to coat it all with olive oil, and make a cross in the top with a knife.
  6. Cover the bowl with a damp, clean kitchen towel and allow it to sit until doubled, about an hour and a half. I usually put my oven on the lowest setting (170) for a couple of minutes, turn it off, and then put the bowl in the slightly warmed oven to rise.

Best Recipes for Rolled Oats

Ten pounds of organic oats? When I picked up my order from the Urban Greens Buying Club, the bag was bigger than I thought. But to my surprise, I went through all ten pounds in a couple of months, and oats eclipsed flour on my list of pantry staples.

Here are some of the recipes that had me loving oats this winter. What about you?

 

Homemade Granola Bars Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Slice it Up: Zucchini Tart

A few years ago, when we first joined a CSA, we were swimming in zucchini. Taking my inspiration from vegetable quiches I had been making earlier in the season, I topped a savory custard with thinly sliced zucchini and yellow squash.

Another Zucchini Tart shot

The result was a hit – it kept well in the fridge, tasted good warm or at room temperature, and was perfect for picnics and polo matches.

Zucchini Tart

Here’s my basic recipe. I’m sure you can imagine many variations. I just use what’s in the fridge – I’ve tried it with many cheeses, herbs, etc. and it’s very adaptable.

Recipe: Zucchini Tart

Ingredients

  • your favorite savory crust recipe (I usually use Martha Stewart’s pate brisee – but there’s always Jiffy in a box)
  • 2 medium zucchini
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup gruyere or similar cheese, shredded
  • 1 c. cream or milk
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 tsp. chopped tarragon
  • Salt and white pepper

Instructions

  1. In a springform tart pan, prepare crust and pre-bake as directed. Set aside to cool.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375.
  3. Cut the round end off the zucchini and slice 1/8 in. thick – much easier with a mandoline!
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk eggs with a fork. Whisk in milk.
  5. Season the egg mixture with some salt, white pepper, garlic, and tarragon.
  6. Sprinkle the grated cheese over the crust.
  7. Gently pour the egg mixture over the cheese into the crust.
  8. Now the fun part: starting around the egde, lay down the zucchini slices one by one, overlapping the edges. Instead of trying to spiral the slices, I find it easier to start with one big circle, then make a smaller circle inside it, and so on. It may look messy at first, but don’t worry, it’ll be fine in the end!
  9. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes or until set. Wiggle it or gently poke a zucchini slice to test.
  10. Allow to cool, slice, and serve.

P.S. When I saw the Slice it Up recipe contest from OXO, I knew I had to enter. I love my OXO tools – for this recipe I’d use my mandoline (actually, I think my parents bought it for my husband, but I’ve taken it over), and my cheese grater.  I’m also totally enamored with my OXO vegetable peeler. I’m not just saying this for a contest, I really do love these tools!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Granola

As I mentioned in my last post, I like experimenting with granola ingredients. My favorite lately has been chocolate and peanut butter – even more addictive than the classic honey granola I posted last time, and a great homemade gift for the holidays. You may want to adjust the sugar and salt depending on the type of peanut butter you use. I prefer Teddie Natural Chunky peanut butter, which is unsweetened but salted.

Recipe: Chocolate Peanut Butter Granola

Ingredients

Chocolate Peanut Butter Granola

  • 2 c oats (not quick)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 c cocoa powder
  • 1/2 c salted peanuts
  • 1/3 c canola oil (or other neutral oil)
  • 1/3 c peanut butter
  • 1/3 c honey
  • 1/4 c brown sugar, packed
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. In a large bowl, toss oats, salt, cocoa powder and peanuts.
  3. In a saucepan, heat oil, peanut butter, honey, brown sugar, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture bubbles a bit. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.
  4. Pour liquid ingredients into the oat mixture and stir until the oats are evenly coated.
  5. Spread oats onto a nonstick cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes, then remove and gently toss the granola (if you want chunkier granola, just run a spatula under the granola and gently rearrange). Turn off the oven and put the granola back in for up to an hour to dry, tossing once more along the way.
  6. When granola is cool, store in an airtight container.
  7. Now the hardest part: try not to eat it all.

Number of servings (yield): 12


Best Granola Recipe

Making your own granola is easy and delicious. Addictively delicious. I can’t tell you how long the shelf life is because we eat it so quickly, especially when there’s a batch of homemade yogurt in the fridge.

Here’s my basic recipe, adapted from others I found.  After the recipe, I’ll give you my favorite add-ins.

1. Preheat the oven to 350.

2. Mix in a large bowl:

  • 3 cups rolled oats (NOT quick)
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup nuts (I use almonds)

3. Heat in a small saucepan, stirring a few times, until the sugar dissolves and the  mixture starts bubbling:

  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 2-3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup neutral oil, such as canola oil
  • 1/4 cup water or juice (I like orange juice)

4. Once heated, stir in:

  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

5. Now pour the hot honey mixture into the oats and stir - make sure to stir all the way down to the bottom so all the oats get coated.  Spread on a non-stick or sprayed cookie sheet and place in the middle or top of the oven for 7 minutes.

6. Remove from the oven, stir, turn the heat down to 225 and bake for 30 more minutes, checking once in a while to make sure it’s not burning (or turn off the oven and leave in for an hour or more).

That’s it!

Homemade Granola

Variations:

Optional / swappable add-ins to the oat mix in step 2. You will probably want at least some nuts, but don’t feel like you need this long list of ingredients, you don’t!

  • 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds
  • 1/4 cup flax seeds (for healthy granola)
  • 1/4 cup wheat germ (for healthy granola)

Optional flavoring in step 4: almond extract, or why not orange?

Baking method: Depending on your ingredients, your baking time might vary. To test, I put a tiny bit in a dish and cool to see if it’s crunchy enough. You want your granola to be dry.  I’ve experimented with a lot of baking methods, sometimes if I don’t have time to watch it, I will bake for an hour at a lower temperature, or if I notice it’s not dry enough after baking, I’ll leave it in a warm but turned-off oven for an hour or so.  You can also bake it at a higher temperature for a shorter time, but you risk burning if you tend to multitask like me.

Type of Granola: If you want a healthier, less sweet granola, you can use more oats (4 cups instead of 3).  If you want a sweeter granola that holds together in big chunks, decrease the oats relative to the other ingredients.

First Day of Fall

Yesterday was the first day of fall, and as I was leaving my night class, a hint of fireplace scented the nippy air.  Fall is my favorite season and I’m always ready for the transition to fall colors, pumpkin stews, Halloween decorations.

Fall Linzer Cookie

I made this Linzer cookie,  a first-day-of-fall treat for my sweetheart, with the leftover dough from a torte.  I finally own a linzer cookie cutter and I’ve always loved my set of miniature leaf cookie cutters (which are like these).   I used this recipe for the torte, but the dough was harder to work with than I recall, so I’m going to have to ask my parents for their recipe. I don’t know if I’ll ever rival their linzer torte talents, though – they work as a team and always do a perfect job on the lattice!  I think I need some more practice.

My (Almost) Vegan Week

Maybe it was an overly indulgent week of Valentine’s treats, cheese and duck-fat fried poutine, or maybe it was the RAVE diet vegan infomercial we saw in the hotel, but something made me want to give animal products a break this week.

I wasn’t planning on being awfully strict – after all, someone brought a bag of Reese’s to work yesterday and there’s the matter of a gallon of vanilla ice cream already in the freezer. Instead, my goal was to eliminate animal products from my cooking.

The verdict? Although I don’t see myself becoming vegan or even vegetarian, I would like to cook this way more of the time. Aside from being healthy for myself and the world, much of the food I made was inexpensive and lasted longer than meaty leftovers.

Vegan Pumpkin Oatmeal
Pumpkin oatmeal made with steel cut oats and soymilk

Here are some of my favorites from this week:

Vegan Pumpkin Muffins – I have to admit, my heart usually sinks a little when I’m offered vegan baked goods. But these excellent muffins don’t suffer at all from lack of eggs or butter.  I substituted maple syrup for the molasses and used whole wheat flour.

Pumpkin oatmeal – I cooked steel cut oats in a mixture of unsweetened soy milk and water, adding some nutmeg, cinnamon, maple syrup and raisins. Then, in the last few minutes of cooking, I stirred in the leftover pumpkin from the muffins, about a half cup. It was delicious – luckily I made enough to last for a few mornings.

Chipotle split pea soup – Split pea soup usually gets its smoky flavor from ham; here, the smokiness is accomplished with chipotles (an ingredient I find myself using more and more). Not only is this vegan, but it’s also very thrifty – the whole batch, around 10 servings, cost me less than $2 to make.

Tofu scramble – onion and bell pepper sauteed with firm tofu, topped with scallions, parsley and avocado. Looked and tasted great, kept me full for hours.

Working with Yeast Dough

A lot of people find working with yeast dough intimidating. While it does take a bit more time than picking up a loaf at the store, it’s really not all that hard. I’m going to share some tips and my favorite recipes for bread and pizza dough.

The Easiest Loaf of Bread You’ll Ever Bake
The Easiest Loaf of Bread You’ll Ever Bake – this is mine!

I was lucky – when I was young, my mother let me bake bread with her.  Now, I love the almost flesh-like feeling of dough as I knead it. But I’m far from an expert, and you definitely don’t have to be to turn out some great bread or pizza.

If you’ve never baked bread before, I have two recommendations. One is to buy yeast at Costco or Sam’s Club, where a giant 2 pound package cost me $3.87…22 times less than those puny envelopes at the grocery store! Buying a package not only saves you money, it gives you the flexibility to use a larger or smaller amount than is in the envelope, and you can experiment without feeling wasteful.

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Make-ahead Holiday Treats

We spend the first half of December anticipating the holidays, and all of a sudden we’re sucked into the frantic current of gift-buying and cookie baking.

Rumballs
Rum balls I made to give away for the holidays

One way to battle the last-minute rush is to make your edible holiday gifts ahead of time. I love to make rum balls, which actually improve in flavor and texture after aging a week or two in a tin. I’ve also found that fudge keeps for quite a while in the fridge. Many cookies, such as chocolate chip, freeze and defrost well – just make sure to cool before freezing.

What are your favorite make-ahead holiday treats?