Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Recipe Notes: Classic Chewy Oatmeal Cookies

13 June 2018

Recipe from The Perfect Cookie, America's Test Kitchen, 2017, p. 30; also available online.

We sometimes have oatmeal cookies, they are a favorite of Diane's. They almost always have chocolate chips, though, and tend to be small and crispy. I made a crispy chocolate chip oatmeal cookie several years ago and it worked out well. In working my way through The Perfect Cookie it became time to try the ATK recipe for a chewy oatmeal cookie.

Unlike most cookies, these were made entirely by hand, the stand mixer was not needed. The dry ingredients—AP flour, salt, and baking soda—were whisked together and set aside. Butter was carefully melted and browned in a skillet, transferred to a mixing bowl, and cinnamon was added to the warm melted butter to bloom its flavors. Brown sugar, granulated sugar, and vegetable oil were whisked into the butter mixture. An egg, egg yolk, and vanilla extract were stirred into the mixture, followed by the flour mixture, then rolled oats, and finally some raisins. The dough was portioned onto baking sheets using a #24 scoop (about 3 tablespoons). The cookies were flattened to 2½-inch disks and baked until the edges were just set 11 minutes at 375°. It took just over an hour and the recipe yielded 16 large cookies.

These cookies are certainly different from other oatmeal cookies I have had. They are soft and chewy in the center with crispy edges, the texture is different than any others I remember having. They almost seem too dry, but this is a minor flaw. They taste very good, even with the raisins instead of chocolate chips, with a stronger flavor of oats than other recipes provide. They are big cookies, but I can always eat just half of one, though I rarely do that. These cookies were easy to make and are worth making again, though I might try substituting chocolate chips for the raisins. I know that Diane would vote for that modification.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Recipe Notes: English Muffins

12 June 2018

Recipe from Bread Illustrated, America's Test Kitchen, 2016, p. 159.

I regularly enjoy English muffins for breakfast and I prefer Thomas Brothers brand. The first time I had something like and English muffin that was home made was from a microwave recipe that Diane tried when we were living in Pittsburgh, many years ago; they were good but we haven't made them since. I recently tried a recipe for  English muffin bread which was good, but not quite the same thing. So I have been looking forward to trying the recipe for English muffins from Bread Illustrated and I finally got around to it.

Like biscotti and bagels, English muffins are cooked twice. But first, the dough is made and it rests overnight to develop the yeasty flavor characteristic of English muffins. AP flour, yeast, and salt were whisked together in the bowl of a stand mixer. In a large measuring cup, milk, water, melted butter, and sugar were mixed. With the mixer on low speed, the liquid ingredients were slowly added to the flour mixture. Once the liquid was fully incorporated the dough was kneaded for about 8 minutes. It was then left to rest for 30 minutes. Using a bowl scraper the dough was folded over on itself 4 times and left to rest until it doubled in volume. Next, the dough was portioned into 2½-ounce balls placed on a cornmeal-dusted baking sheet. The dough was quite sticky and I used plenty of flour so it was workable. A second baking sheet was placed on top of the balls and they were refrigerated overnight. The weight of the second baking sheet worked very well to form the dough into the shape of English muffins. These were then dusted with cornmeal, cooked in a skillet until well browned, about 3 minutes a side, then baked to 205°-210°, about 8 minutes.

I was wondering how these muffins would compare with those from Thomas Brothers. They were comparable to the commercial muffins! Fork-split and toasted, they had a plenty of nooks and crannies to capture melted butter and other toppings and they had a pleasant yeasty flavor like their commercial counterparts. Time will tell if they were worth the effort compared to picking up a package at the supermarket, but I wouldn't be surprised if homemade English muffins become a regular feature of my breakfasts.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Recipe Notes: One Hour Pizza

1 June 2018

Recipe from Cook's Illustrated, March 2018.

Who doesn't like pizza? (I didn't until I was in my late 20's, but that's not a story for this post.) I have made it a few times from scratch and enjoyed it. So I was interested when a recent edition of Cook's Illustrated magazine featured a recipe that was advertised to take just one hour. To develop flavor the dough usually rests overnight after it is made. While I didn't believe I would finish in an hour, especially the first time, I wanted to give this recipe a try.

The recipe makes two 11-inch pizzas. Since this would be way more than we would need to have as dinner for two, I made just one pizza at a time. The recipe requires just one unusual ingredient, semolina flour, but it was easily obtained in the bulk section of the supermarket. To make the dough, bread flour, semolina, yeast, and sugar were combined in a food processor. Then the liquids were added with the processor running: water, lager, vinegar, and oil. Finally, after a 10-minute rest, salt was added and processed. The dough was then kneaded briefly by hand to form a ball. The ball was divided into two and one was put into the refrigerator for another day. The remaining dough was rolled into an 11-inch circle and set aside to rise for about 30 minutes. 

The sauce was very simple: canned whole tomatoes, olive oil, anchovy (I substituted ½ tablespoon anchovy paste for three fillets), salt, dried oregano, sugar, and black pepper were combined in the food processor. I omitted the red pepper flakes.

After the dough had risen ½-cup of the sauce was added. This was followed with Parmesan cheese and mozzarella. The pizza was baked in a pre-heated 500° oven on a backing stone that was covered with parchment (added just before the pizza) for about 10 minutes. Total time for one-hour pizza: 1½-hours.

The reserved dough was used a few days later. It was removed from the refrigerator and let to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes, while the oven was heated. Then, as on the first day, it was rolled out, set aside to rise, covered with sauce and cheeses, then baked.

The resulting pizza was very good! It had good flavor and texture. The crust was not thin and crispy like a cracker and not thick and doughy, it was just about the right thickness. It was a nice simple pizza that I would make again. The second pizza was just as good as the first one. An inverted rimmed baking sheet was used in lieu of a pizza peel to put the pizza into the oven. This would not work to remove it so I put on oven mitts and took out the pizza and the stone and just slid the pizza off onto a cooling rack. We got two meals from each pizza and the leftovers were good, too. One change I would make would be to make the sauce before making the dough. It would be easier to clean out of the food processor than the dough was. 

Now, what about toppings?

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Recipe Notes: Three Cup Chicken

28 May 2018

Recipe from Cook's Illustrated, March 2018.

While I enjoy many Chinese dishes, Diane is not found of Chinese food in general. Nonetheless this chicken dish from a recent edition of Cook's Illustrated seemed to be worth trying. It didn't include many unusual ingredients, those that we might purchase but never use again, I do tend to stay away from recipes that do. We do like to try new things, within reason, and this looked like a possible winner.

To start, a marinade was made with soy sauce, dry sherry, and sugar. Boneless, skinless chicken thighs that had been trimmed and cut into 2" pieces were added. (Oddly, for a Test Kitchen recipe, no time was specified in the recipe for how long the chicken should be in the marinade.) Setting the chicken aside, sliced ginger and garlic plus red pepper flakes were cooked in a skillet over low heat in sesame oil.  When they were golden, the chicken and marinade were added and simmered for about 10 minutes. Slices of scallion whites were added and the mixture cooked until the chicken reached 200°. A cornstarch slurry was used to thicken the sauce. Finally, Thai basil, toasted sesame oil, and sliced scallion greens were added. Including prep it took 100 minutes to fix this dish.

We were disappointed with the result. The heat from the red pepper flakes and ginger slices was too strong, overpowering the other flavors in the dish. Thus we were not really able to appreciate the Thai basil, which smelled wonderful before being added to the dish, and other ingredients. We had used only half of the amount of red pepper flakes specified in the recipe, but the dish was still too spicy with much of the heat coming from the sliced ginger. On the plus side, the chicken itself was well cooked, juicy and tender. The recipe in the magazine included two sidebars: a really good technique for peeling ginger using a simple teaspoon—worked like a charm—and a nice recipe for "Chinese restaurant-style rice". We will not be making Three Cup Chicken again, which is okay, it is good to try new things from time to time as sometimes you make a wonderful discovery, just not this time.