Entries in Salt (31)

Thursday
Dec022010

Shortbread Cookies

These cookies are a staple around my house and various workplaces, especially in December. When I've discussed them before, I've referred to them as Vanilla Salt Cookies, as that's the recipe I'm basing them on, but really, they are shortbread  cookies.

Most people think of shortbread cookies as things that come in tins, but they are extremely easy to make From Scratch. There's not even any leavening in them, other than the basic leavening you get from creaming sugar into butter. Start with that sugar and butter:

Butter and sugar ready for creaming

Cream them in a mixer, preferably. Remember that butter in the creaming method likes to be soft to the touch but not melted, which allows the sugar to beat into it easily, creating air pockets, but still cool enough that the air pockets remain after the beating.

In the process of creaming

After you're done, it should look something like:

What it looks like creamed

Add your egg yolks and vanilla, and beat again.

Add the egg yolks and vanilla

You're done with the mixer. Add your flour, and stir. The nice thing about a shortbread cookie is that there is very little liquid in it, so you're not making long gluten chains. That's the meaning of "shortbread", because the gluten chains are short. That's also where "shortening" comes from, because you use it to keep the gluten short as well. This makes shortbread cookies nice and crumbly.

Add the flour

Now divide the dough into 2-4 equal sections and roll into a log an inch or two wide. Or you can make more or less square shapes (or stars, or whatever, really). Wrap that in plastic wrap and store in the fridge until everything is cooled all the way through.

Roll the dough and store in the fridge until chilled

Slice into 1/4" slices. Or you could slice them thinner or thicker, which will change the cookie, but not for the worse. Try to be consistent with any batch that you're baking, though, or you'll have some oddball cookies in your batch.

Slice into 1/4

Sprinkle stuff on top. My favorite is to use Fleur de Sel, which is salt with a very large, thin crystalline structure. You could use sugar, you could add nuts, you could decorate, or whatever. Possibilities are endless. But you have to try salt (kosher or flakier) the first time you make it. After that, you may make changes. I'll be watching.

Sprinkle with large-grained salt

Bake for 12-15 minutes at 350°F, and you have tasty cookies. These take but a scant couple of minutes to cool to eatable temperature.

Shortbread Cookies

You can refrigerate the dough for a few days, or slice and freeze for months. When you need a cookie or 3, pop into the oven, giving it another minute or two as necessary to brown around the edges. Yes, that's right, you don't have to buy either pre-packaged shortbread cookies nor packaged, bake-at-home dough. You can have the convenience of no-work cookies with the flavor of freshly baked cookies.

Shortbread Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb. Butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 oz. sugar
  • 2 yolks of large eggs
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 12 oz AP flour

Directions

  • Cream the sugar and butter
  • Add the yolks and vanilla and beat in
  • Stir in the flour
  • Divide into 2-4 equal portions
  • Roll into a tube 1-2" wide
  • Wrap tube with plastic wrap and store in fridge for a couple of hours (until firm)
  • Preheat the oven to 350°F
  • Slice into 1/4" pieces
  • Sprinkle with course-grained salt (not rock salt)
  • Bake for 12-15 minutes
Tuesday
Nov302010

Latkes

It's almost Chanukah, and that means dreidels, gelt, and potato pancakes, or latkes.

There are all sorts of frozen latkes, which are basically glorified tater tots. There are mixes, which is more like a potato cake, than a potato pancake, and there are all sorts of really complicated recipes for them. But, we like simple and from scratch here. So simple and from scratch is it.

There should also be an egg or two there, but by the time I realized that the potatoes were shredded and the onion chopped.

On that note. Chop a clove of garlic, and the onion.

Wash off the potatoes, and shred it into a bowl of cold water. This will keep the potatoes from browning and help wash the starch off.

Heat up a pan with oil. Drain the potatoes, and ring them out, in small batches, by wrapping them in a dish towel and twisting. The drier you get them, the better. Mix with the chopped onion and garlic, season with salt and pepper.

Beat an egg, and stir it in to the potato-onion mixture. This will help bind everything together. 

Form the mix into patties and drop them in the oil. Fry on the first side for about 2 minutes, and then on the other side for another minute, or more depending on the temperature.

Since this isn't a deep fry, you're going to have to play the timing and temperature control by ear. If yo want to test the oil, drop a shred of potato in the oil, it should start bubbling immediately. Flip the latkes when they've browned on the bottom and hold together well. You'll lose a little bit, here and there, but overall they'll stick together.

Serve with some applesauce.

Ingredients:

2 Russet Potatoes

1/2 White Onion

1 Clove of garlic

1 egg, beaten

salt and pepper

oil for frying

Procedure:

1. Chop the onion and garlic

2. Shred the potatoes into a bowl filled with cold water.

3. Heat a pan with oil

4. Drain and dry the potatoes, and mix with onions and garlic.

5. Beat the egg, and stir into the mixture to bind it.

6. From patties and drop into the oil.

7. Fry 2 minutes or until browned and stuck together. Then flip and repeat.

Tuesday
Nov162010

Cupcakes, Out of the Box

I'll admit it. I love funfetti. It's not even an ironic love of the product. It's so easy, you get consistent results, and you have melted sprinkles in the batter. How cool is that? 

Alas, the name of the blog is not, "A Year From Boxes," so there will be no funfetti in this recipe. I didn't even have the forethought to include sprinkles in. Maybe next time. In the mean time, lets do the ingredient shot.

Standard fare, as usual. It does require either cocoa powder, or melted chocolate. Really your choice. Interestingly, for all the cupcake recipes out there, I started this recipe using the basic Ruhlmanian Ratio for sponge cake: 1 part (by weight) each of butter, flour, sugar and egg. I honed in on 4 ounces for this recipe, though it left me a cupcake or two short. That's about 1 cup of flour, 1 stick of butter, 1/2 cup of sugar and two large eggs. I threw in 1/2 cup of cocoa powder, 1 teaspoon of baking powder, 1 teaspoon of vanilla, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt, too. I also had to use about 1/2 a cup of milk (amusingly, also 4 ounces, but your milage may vary with how much milk you have to add).

Cream the butter and sugar

That was a link to the post about chocolate chip cookies that goes into more detail about creaming butter and sugar. There's no real need to rehash that here. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Giving them a good minute between eggs and before mixing in anything else. Add in the vanilla.

Mix up the flour, baking powder, cocoa powder and salt in a separate bowl.

While continuing to beat the batter, mix in the flour mixture. 

If the batter looks too dry, add in some milk. As I mentioned above. I used about 1/2 a cup in the batter when all was said and done. This is one of those judgment calls that you get more used to the more you bake. Remember the worst thing that happens is you add in a little more flour, or toss the batter and start over.

Pour or spoon the batter into baking cups and bake at 375F for 15-17 minutes until it passes the toothpick test.

Let cool, top them with icing (next week), and serve.

Ingredients:

1 cup of flour

1 stick of butter

1/2 cup of sugar

1/2 cup cocoa powder

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon of baking powder

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon of salt

1/2 cup milk

Procedure:

1. Preheat the oven to 375, prep a muffin pan with baking cups.

2. Cream the butter and sugar.

3. In a separate bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, cocoa, and salt.

4. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, leaving one minute between additions.

5. Add the vanilla.

6. Mix in the flour mixture. Adding the milk as needed to keep the batter soft.

7. Pour the batter into the baking cup and bake for 15-17 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out dry.

8. Let cool, top with icing, and serve.

Wednesday
Nov102010

Muffins Without the Mix

Continuing on my baking kick, this week we're going to tackle a simple, customizable muffin recipe. Ingredient shot!

Simple enough, you should have most everything but whatever you want to spice the muffin up with. In this case I had to buy a small bunch of blueberries.

Preheat your oven to 350.

Mix 2 cups of flour, about 1/2 a cup of sugar, 2 teaspoons of baking powder, and 1 teaspoon of salt in a mixing bowl. I added 1 tablespoon of brown sugar for flavoring.

In a separate bowl, or in a 2 cup measuring cup, beat 1 cup of milk, one stick of melted butter, and two large eggs. Now mix the two, gently, but until the lumps are gone.

Throw in the mixins now. Blueberries, lemon zest and poppy seeds, strawberries, chocolate chips. Whatever you like.

Prep a muffin tin with baking cups.

Pour the mix in the cups, and top with a little sugar.

Bake for about 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the muffin comes out dry.

So I ask you, you really used a muffin mix last time? Really?

Ingredients

8 ounces (2 cups) of flour

4 ounces (1/2 cup) of sugar

1 tsp salt

2 tsp baking powder

8 ounces milk

2 large eggs

1 stick of butter, melted

a couple of handfulls of blueberries

Procedure

1. Preheat the oven to 350

2. Mix all the dry ingredients

3. In a separate bowl, mix all the wet ingredients

4. Mix (2) and (3)

5. Add mixins.

6. Pour mixins into baking cups. 

7. Bake for 30 minutes.

Tuesday
Nov022010

Brownies

You know those boxed fudge brownies? Yeah, you know the ones I'm talking about. You open the box, pour it out, crack and egg and wisk in a cup of canola oil, then pop it in the oven and you get these super dense, fudge-like brownies that are just delicious?

You can make those from scratch. Seriously.

You've got most of those ingredients in your house already. Maybe you'll need to buy the chocolate. Maybe. You'll also need a 9x9 pan.

Start by preheating the oven to 350F and melting two sticks, or 1 cup, of butter in a saucepan over low heat. A 2 1/2 to 3 quart saucepan will do fine. It helps if you chop up the butter into smaller bits before you try to melt it.

Use the wrappers from the butter to grease your baking pan.

Next, chop up 4 ounces of your favorite unsweetened chocolate. This will make it melt faster.

Melt the chocolate in with the butter, still over low heat.

Remove from the heat and start stirring in the 2 cups of sugar. Do a little at a time and let it dissolve before adding more. You don't want the brownies to be grainy.  The sugar, chocolate and butter mixture will have a sheen to it. It's hard to describe, and harder to photograph, so here's by best attempt.

Now beat in 4 whole eggs, one at a time.

The batter's going to start getting thick, so feel free to put it back on the heat, briefly, to warm things up. But working faster, and hard, is the better solution. Stir in 1 teaspoon of vanilla. 

Now, combine 1 cup of flour and 1/2 teaspoon of salt and mix it in with the batter.

Almost done. When it's all mixed in, pour it into the pan and pop it in the oven.

When you take it out of the oven, you may have noticed that it rose a little. Most of that should go away. It was just the natural air bubbles in the mixture. You'll notice that there was no chemical leavening in the batter. That's part of what makes it fudge-like instead of airy.

Let cool, then cut and serve with ice cream. Or eat on its own.

Ingredients:

1 cup of butter

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate

2 cups white sugar

4 eggs

1 cup all purpose flour

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon salt

Procedure:

1. Preheat the oven to 350F, and grease a 9x9 pan with the wrappers from the butter.

2. Cut and melt the butter over low heat.

3. Chop the chocolate and add it to the butter, stirring until the chocolate is melted.

4. Remove from the heat and slowly stir in the sugar, waiting until the sugar is dissolved before adding more.

5. Beat in each of the four eggs, one at a time. Add the vanilla.

6. Mix the flour and salt, and stir in with the batter.

7. Pour batter into the pan, and bake for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out of the brownies clean.

8. Cool and serve.