Entries from February 25th, 2010

Royal Icing and Sugar Cookies



I have been battling my limited walking-only relationship with Washington in search of basic food dye for months.  What would have been a simple task in Los Angeles (with a car) turned into a four-month struggle between searching every grocery store within a three-mile radius of my home and decidedly talking myself out of any want or need for food coloring.  Once, Safeway did carry food dye, and I used the red on something — the details of which are meaningless — and left it out over night.  The next morning, it was gone.  My kitchen swallowed it whole — a lesson I will interpret as punishment for ever using my alma mater’s cross-town rival colors in my kitchen.  Red and gold, never again.  It’s a glorified vomit-inducing combination anyway.
Out of boredom, I googled “where to buy food coloring in Washington, DC.”  Nothing useful came up.  So I tried searching for baking stores — and came across Hill’s Kitchen.  When I walked into this cozy row house shop, I realized I had never bought cookie cutters, ever.  Cookie cutters were always aplenty in my home growing up.  If my mom didn’t have a particular shape, Grandma definitely did.  Cookie cutters must have been some form of candy them; I used to always hear about the new shapes my grandmother would come home with.  And whenever we’d try them out, the cookies always ended up spreading into misshapen, formless blobs.  That was another fear I had in making cut-out cookies — that they wouldn’t shape, or that I’d attempt to pipe frosting and end up with horrifyingly unattractive cookies.
Anyway, I walked out of the store with a six-pack of gel food dye and twenty dollars worth of cookie cutters.  It was time to make cookies.  California-shaped ones, capitol building-shaped ones, and ten kadjillion different butterfly-shaped cookies.  As winter in Washington winds down (re: blizzard diminuendo and recent temperatures above 32 degrees), I find myself aching for things that remind me of spring.  March Madness, flowers, sundresses, grass, and the one thing I long more than anything else: flip-flop weather.  As my longing for winter’s end continues, I find myself veering away from my long red coat to lighter, less fashion-conscious but happier wardrobe items, like say, my bright blue little girls’ snow boarding jacket.
Snow, snow, go away.

Recipe taken from The Food Network.
For the dough:
3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon milk
Powdered sugar, to sprinkle
For the royal icing:
3 cups powdered sugar
2 egg whites
2 tablespoons lemon juice
First, cream the butter and the sugar — I used my electric hand mixer on low speed until they were evenly mixed.  Then, add the egg and milk, beating until smooth.  In a separate bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together, before gradually adding the dry ingredients to the butter-sugar-egg mixture.  The recipe calls to use your hand mixer for this, but at some point the dough was too thick, so I dove in and mixed all of the flour in with my hands and formed the dough into two spheres, and set them in the refrigerator to chill.
After ten minutes or so, sprinkle some powdered sugar on a sheet of wax paper, and rub it in.  Then, remove one ball of dough from the refrigerator, and roll it out as thin as you possible can.  And I mean thin.  No thicker than 1/8 of an inch — because the dough will spread.  We don’t want misshapen capitol buildings, do we?
Carefully cut out your cookies and place them on a cookie sheet with parchment paper, and bake at 375 for about 10 minutes, until the cookies are evenly golden brown.  Remove from the oven, let sit on the sheet for a few minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack.  Repeat.
For the icing, begin by beating the egg whites and lemon juice with an electric mixer until frothy.  Then, gradually mix in the powdered sugar.  Continue until all sugar is mixed in, and the icing is relatively stiff and gooey.  I used gel food dyes to color the icing; if you use liquid ones, you might need a little more sugar to balance out the sugar-liquid ratio.
You can use a pastry bag and tips to ice the cookies, but I just made a cone out of wax paper — it’s easy, and requires less clean-up.  These disposable cones are a good replacement for going out and purchasing a pastry bag of bottle for each color of frosting that you use.

Sea Salted Dark Chocolate



The one thing I love more than cooking itself might just be observing peoples’ reactions to my cooking.  For instance, today, I put out a plate of dark chocolate shards I had broken apart — it was laced with sea salt.  One of the roommates ate some, and while reclining on our couch, exclaimed “Ooh, I understand now!”
Could a culinary response be any more clear?  Thanks J.  You haven’t even tried the slivered almonds that we smothered in this.

(Read More…)

As much dark chocolate as your heart desires.
Sea salt to taste
Chop the dark chocolate into half-inch chunks (or smaller, depending on your laziness).  Heat your double boiler.  For those of you who are unaware, chocolate has an extremely low melting point.  This means it also has an extremely low burning point.  You don’t want burnt chocolate — trust me.  So use a double boiler, which heats the pot with steam rather than a direct flame.
A double boiler uses two pots: a base piece, filled about half way with water, and a top piece, which holds whatever your are trying to melt.  Since chocolate melts easily, I brought the water to boil and then turned the heat off before I placed the second pot on top.  That way, there wouldn’t be too much heat.
If you don’t have a double boiler, use a large sauce pan.  Fill it with an inch or two of water, and place a heat-resistant bowl in it.  Then, place a smaller sauce pan on top of the bowl, so that no part of it is touching the water.
Once the chocolate is completely melted, sprinkle in your salt, tasting as you go, of course.  Once finished, pour the chocolate into molds or on a plate lined with waxed paper.  Chill the plate in your freezer (or, in my case, my balcony covered in snow) until the chocolate is firm.  Enjoy the contrast between the dark cocoa and sea salt of your choice.

Curry Parmesan Roasted Chickpeas



At some point in my life, I lived in Santa Barbara.  The only things that stood between my dorm room and the Pacific Ocean were a two-lane street and a three-story set of stairs to the sand.
It’s ironic; I spent two years living there and couldn’t wait to move back to Los Angeles when I finished up there.  And after two years in Los Angeles, I was shocked that it was even possible to hate a city that much.  And given the four months I’ve accumulated here in Washington, I find myself daydreaming back to the days when my old roommate used to force me into running to the end of the Goleta pier.  We would always talk about jumping off the end of that pier at the end of a run.  Sadly, we never did it — we always used the water temperature as an excuse.

How sheltered I was back then — looking back on those moments, I’d gladly jump into that icy Pacific water on a warm Santa Barbara day.  That’s not to say that I never will, but it’s no wonder that I don’t run nearly as much as I used to.  Who runs in this heinous weather?  I considered doing it this week, but in order to avoid slipping and breaking my tail bone, I realized that I would need spiked running shoes.  Oh well, we’ve resorted to alternating 8 minute ab work outs and yoga with baking and instant Netflixing Lost episodes.
Luckily, it was sunny on Superbowl Sunday.  Not that I even watched the superbowl, or cared about it.  The world was unplowed so we didn’t even make it to a party.  But just in case, I made these roasted chickpeas as a snack to munch on.  There was a very slim possibility that I’d actually watch the game.
Preheated oven to 500 degrees
1 can of garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
1/2 cup finely shredded parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
Rinse and drain the garbanzo beans in cold water, and let stand five minutes over the sink.  Pat them dry with a couple of paper towels, and then toss them in the olive oil and other ingredients.
Line a baking sheet with foil, and spread the beans out evenly on the foil.  Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the chickpeas are crunchy.

Parmesan Crisps



Surprisingly, I’ve been sleeping much more than I expected this week.  And I feel like I’ve been in a constant food coma — we really haven’t been eating that much.  But cooking, and perhaps drinking, non-stop.  Is that what cabin fever feels like?
Anyway, it took a few tries to get the parmesan to cook nicely and curve.  No matter what they look like, they always taste good.

Shredded parmesan cheese.  Lots of it.
Sprinkle a circle of cheese onto a clean, non-stick frying pan, with the heat on low.  Let the cheese melt and then sizzle for a minute or two.  Then, using a flat metal spatula, peel off the round of cheese.  While it is still hot, lay the parmesan over a pint glass or a rolling pin, pressing it down so it cools with the round shape.  That’s it!

Mini Pound Cakes with Raspberry Whipped Cream



I know I’m from California, but I secretly love snow days — and I’ve had a thrilling blizzard-filled winter to kick of my life on the East Coast.  Washington is currently being pelted with about three feet of snow… so beautiful!  Sometimes it’s nice to have an excuse to not leave the house. 
Today, we trekked out to the Dupont Circle Snowball Fight, of course.  Imagine a massive mob of people pelting snowballs at each other — yep, that was basically it.  I left after getting hit in the back of my head with an ice ball that literally popped the pressure from my ears.  We frolicked to Kramerbooks afterwards, and then home, stopping to make snow angels and experiment with what it felt like to crawl through three feet of snow (it made sense at the time, I swear).
After arriving home, I depleted our butter supply with this pound cake recipe.  The problem was, that half way through the mixing, I realized that I didn’t have any sour cream… so I substituted with evaporated milk.  It seemed to work — my friends and roommates had some wonderful reactions, ranging from eyes rolling back into heads and recommendations on pursuing a career as a pastry chef. 
I could never do that.   You know, start charging my friends for what I love to do for free.


For the pound cake:
3 cups of flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 3/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups butter softened
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 large eggs
1 cup evaporated milk with 1 tablespoon lemon juice 
For the whipped cream:
1 cup cream
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/3 cup raspberry preserves

First, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Mix thoroughly.  Then, cream the butter and the sugar in a mixing bowl, and beat in the vanilla extract and eggs, one by one, until evenly mixed.  Add the evaporated milk, and then the dry ingredients until the mixture is light and smooth.
Pour the batter into your mini bundt molds and bake for 12-15 minutes.  If you are using a regular 9×5 loaf pan, bake for 50 to 60 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean from the center of the loaf.
For the whipped cream, beat the cream on high until soft peaks form, then add the extract and preserves and continue to beat on high until you have stiff peaks.

I Know, I Know…



Hey world (or the 8 people that do actually read this).  I haven’t forgotten about you, I promise.  I’ve gotten your facebook messages, and frankly I’m shocked that you’re tired of looking at snickerdoodles.  Blasphemy!  Pat would be very disappointed in you ::cough:: Diana (although I’m disappointed in his lack of phlog updates, so I guess it evens out).
I confess, cooking has not exactly been at the top of my priority list for the past couple of weeks.  Work has been obscenely busy and life has been slightly roller-coaster-like lately, so I’m going to stick with that excuse for now.  It’s legit, I swear.  Anyway, for your entertainment, here is a picture of the wine-bottle terrarium I built in the fall, when I first moved to DC.  Isn’t it pretty?
Sadly, I found a weed in my bottle garden last weekend.  How in the world a weed was able to weasel its way into my wine bottle is beyond my comprehension.  I thought that might strike some food for thought.  At least it provides for some pretty green in the dead of winter.  Anyway, once I get a spare moment in daylight to photograph some more recipes, I’ll bounce right back.  Winter is killing me, slowly.

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