Friday, January 30, 2015

Cookie Jar Chocolate Chip Cookies

Yield :: 1½ dozen (recipe can be easily doubled)  |  Bake :: 300°F, 15-20 minutes

  • Rosemary Chocolate Chip: Cream in 1 T finely chopped fresh rosemary with the butter and sugar for a chocolate-rosemary pairing.
  • Orange Chocolate Chip: Cream in 2 t orange zest with the butter and sugar for a chocolate-orange pairing
  • Personalized: Switch up your internal garnish with a personalized combination of chips (dark chocolate, white chocolate, peanut butter, butterscotch, chocolate chunks, etc.) and/or nuts.
  • Salted Chocolate Chip: Slightly flatten portioned dough and sprinkle with sea salt before baking.
  • Bac'n Chocolate Chip: Slightly flatten portioned dough and sprinkle with some of your favorite vegan bacon pieces (something along the lines of McCormick Bac’n Bits) before baking.
  • Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip: For a more healthful cookie, substitute all-purpose flour with whole wheat pastry flour (NOT regular whole wheat flour, whole wheat pastry flour).
  • Double Chocolate Cookies: Adjust flour amount to 4 oz and sift 2 oz unsweetened cocoa powder in with the dry ingredients. Flatten cookies before baking (otherwise they won't spread correctly).
  • White Chocolate Macadamia: In lieu of  regular chocolate chips, replace with 3 oz macadamia nuts and 3 oz white chocolate chunks or chips.

Continue for the recipe!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Introduction: 5 Things to Consider Before We Begin

1. Ingredients

Your final product is only as good as your ingredients; selecting quality ingredients leads to acheiving the best possible results. Some vegan alternatives I use are:

2. Equipment

For the 'Cookies' portion of this blog, you will need:
  • A Kitchen-Aid mixer with a paddle attachment OR a hand mixer with beaters
  • A kitchen scale (digital) - weighing ingredients is more accurate than using measuring cups, thus limits variation between batches
  • Appropriate-sized mixing bowls
  • Measuring spoons
  • A rubber spatula
  • Parchment paper
  • Disher/scoop - optional, makes for more precision and uniformity when portioning
  • Oven thermometer - optional, though it's a good way of knowing whether or not your oven temperature settings are correct after preheating and allows you to make necessary adjustments
  • Sheet pan/cookie sheet
  • A metal spatula - optional, makes transferring warm cookies in one piece a whole lot easier
  • Cooling rack - optional, but it's a great thing to have

3. Gluten

Mind gluten formation! When wheat flour proteins are hydrated, they begin to form elastic gluten networks. These networks are what provide structure in baked goods.

Mixing time (how long you mix something) should vary based on what you're baking. The more expansive the gluten network, aided in part by mixing, the tougher the final product. Less gluten formation, the final product is more tender. This is why yeasted breads have extended kneading times (more mixing for toughness) and why muffin batter can be left lumpy (less mixing for tenderness).

You don't have to worry too much about overmixing cookie dough - but when I start posting muffin recipes, gluten formation (as well as mixing time) will definitely be revisited.

4. Patience

When you take the time to do things correctly, your committed effort is displayed in the final product. Be patient with the task at hand and don't rush the process. If something frustrates you, just take a step back and try again. The food also knows when you're skipping steps (sift that flour!) or don't read directions thoroughly; take the time to try your best.

5. Pleasure

Enjoy yourself! Allow yourself to be pleased with all your hard work; you've earned it! Bake for the satisfaction of it, because it makes you happy, because you can anticipate how delicious it will taste, because you want to share your creation with others, etc.. Whatever the reason is that you're baking, do yourself a favor and remember to take pleasure in the experience.

The first cookie recipe will be posted soon!

Friday, January 16, 2015

A Year with Isa

One year ago, on my 25th birthday, my boyfriend presented me with something he knew I wanted: Isa Chandra Moskowitz's latest vegan cookbook.

Before I even owned Isa Does It, you could find me crouching over the tiny vegan section of our local bookstore. I would thumb through the pages of the cookbook and lust after every carefully orchestrated culinary photograph while simultaneously taking mental notes on the recipes I planned to one day execute in full.

For this past year, the book has been my kitchen's bible. I have made 50 out of the 145+ recipes - some more than once, still others that I have kind of made but not exactly, and even more recipes I have been eyeing all year long but just haven't gotten around to.

Babushka Borscht
Wild Rice Soup with Browned Seitan Strips (& a side salad)

Some of my favorite items: New England Glam Chowder. Butternut Bisque. Olive Oil Bread for Soup. Korean BBQ Portobello Burgers. Ancho Lentil Tacos. Pesto-Cauliflower Pasta with Breaded Tofu. Lentil-Quinoa Stew with Lots of Kale. Dilly Stew with Rosemary DumplingsEveryday Pad ThaiRoasty Soba Bowl with Miso-Tahini Dressing. A rich gravy made of lentils! Phyllo Pot Pie. Garlicky Thyme Tempeh. Steamy Beany Sausages (yes, I made my own sausages!). Scrambled chickpeas. Puffy Pillow Pancakes. Banana-Berry Scones. Rosemary Chocolate Chip Cookies. Strawberries & Cream Bread Pudding.

This is not a book review - though I imagine it would be one of the most thorough reviews available if I chose to go that route. This is an ode, a grateful gesture, a jumping-off point.

My love affair with Isa Does It begins and ends with cake: the aforementioned boyfriend baked the Chocolate-Zucchini Bundt Cake for me last year, and today I made Just Chocolate Cake in celebration of my 26th birthday.

Just Chocolate Cake (with orange cream cheese frosting)

Isa and Terry Hope Romero solicited my first vegan baking inspiration when I decided to buy Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World and spend the summer of 2010 baking goods for the Santa Cruz friends I had in college. I am where I am today, creating vegan pastries, because of how I could depend on that tiny cookbook for vegan fare that would satisfy even the most cynical onmivore. My persistent dedication to trying out vegan recipes, specifically Isa and Terry's recipes, has introduced me to many different types of foods and taught me how to think creatively in the kitchen. The widely inventive nature of vegan cooking and baking keeps me interested and continues to surprise and delight my taste buds.

Over the course of a year, I have done many things. Most importantly, I've accomplished three goals I set for myself: move to Portland, receive a diploma in Baking and Pastry Arts, and work in a vegan bakery. Now, after years of 'training' with vegan recipes and studying in culinary school, I think it's finally time for me to trust myself and focus on my own creations.

I recognize my teachers, I respect them and celebrate them, but this is where my own project begins. This is where my carefully arranged recipes are finally written out, typed up, offered to the internet at large. I will offer you nothing but my best.

Welcome to Vegan Pastry School.