Thursday, December 31, 2009

Cheese Crackers

I know several people who don't like cheese. And I can't understand why. I've seen them use their forefingers and thumbs to pick layers of mozzarella off pizza slices; I've observed them deconstructing their sandwiches to dig out squares of Swiss cheese. I am not one of those people. I remember reaching for packs of string cheese at the supermarket and enjoying every last strand while I read books or watched cartoons. My dad, who shares this love of cheese, frequently bought blocks of cheddar and sliced them into thin squares for our family to pair with crackers. And more recently, my brother decided to make crescent rolls stuffed with Brie and raspberry preserves. (I hope he makes them again someday; thanks Oppa)

Sometimes, I crave that flavorful, slightly salty tang of cheese, and I have to find a way to quench that craving. And a few days ago, I was struck with a longing for Cheez-its, which is strange because I've heard many negative things about these crackers and haven't had them since I was in middle school.

So of course I had to look for a recipe for cheese crackers.


I based my recipe off of one I found on Smitten Kitchen; I tweaked it a bit, making use of some of the flours and grains in my cupboards and using a different cheese.



Multigrain Sesame Cheddar Crackers

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup white whole wheat flour
1/4 cup oat bran
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
2/3 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1/4 cup butter or margarine (half a stick), cut into 5-6 pieces
1/4 cup cream
2 tsp black sesame seeds
2 tsp toasted white sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 400°F.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Combine flours, oat bran, salt, red pepper flakes, and cheese in a large bowl.
Combine butter with the flour mixture, breaking butter up into smaller pieces, until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. (I did this with my fingers)
Add cream, stirring until dough becomes solid and smooth.
Roll out dough on lightly floured surface to 1/4 inch thickness, and slice into squares or cut out shapes with cookie cutters.
Set 1-2 inches apart on parchment, dock with fork, and sprinkle with black and white sesame seeds.
Bake for 11-13 minutes, until edges are browned and crackers are slightly puffed.
Cool and store in airtight container at room temperature.

By the way, it is now 12:13AM in California. Happy New Year! I can't believe it's been a decade since we rang in the millenium.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Beauty



I know videos of this little boy have been popular on Youtube recently, and I've been seeing them pop up on Facebook and Tumblr left and right. But I couldn't resist posting one here; I'm so amazed at how each person has his or her respective talents and can utilize them in such unique ways.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Weekend

I can't remember the last time I had a bad cold. I don't think I suffered through colds or the flu at all during my college years. I've struggled through various other ailments, but not those. Until now. A week ago, two of my housemates came down with fevers, chills, sore throats, and loud, rattling coughs. They warned me to keep my distance and take care of my body, neither of which I did very well because of exams and projects. I shrugged off the possibility of illness, thinking I was immune.

Two days later, I was sitting in a lecture hall for my cognitive science class when I was hit with a round of shivers and chills and the sensation of a hideous something or other trying to scratch its way out of my throat. After a feverish, sleepless night, I drove up to my hometown, and my mom forbid any baking whatsoever. I asked her if I could make just one batch of cookies, struggling to speak with my hoarse, cracking voice, and my request was interrupted by a badly timed cough attack. She looked at me. She shook her head. What a sad weekend it was.

Now that I've recovered (almost), I can reacquaint myself with the kitchen. A small pleasure, but a pleasure indeed.

Friday, November 6, 2009

November


November is a peculiar month. In San Diego at this time, the temperature plummets to the fifties, and yes, I do consider that plummeting because I'm one to don a fur-trimmed parka in 75 degree weather. And when the weather turns on me in such a manner, I am reminded that winter has arrived.

I like winter. Really, I do. I just don't enjoy those biting winds that burrow through my clothes and bathe my skin as though I'm wearing nothing. I also don't like those classrooms that remain air-conditioned no matter how cold it is outside. Oh, and I dislike the thick, shapeless outerwear that is none too flattering but is absolutely necessary to prevent freezing.

But I do like winter because it signals the onset of holidays. With the holidays come a bountiful supply of recipes that beg me to try them, crying, "Me, me, pick me!" (Not really, that would be rather scary).

...yes, the recipes. Those recipes chock full of tantalizing spices, permeating the body and warming it with their powerful flavors. I wanted to create such a recipe, so I pondered and tinkered and came up with

Spiced cheesecake squares with gingerbread crust

I made these with Joyce, a friend I met at the ripe old age of eleven. I never realized, but baking with a friend makes for a great bonding session, since each person has to cooperate to create a yummy result. (Thanks, Joyce, for your measuring and stirring and your wrestling with brown sugar. Enjoy your newfound relationship with molasses :D)

I was slightly worried that the recipe wouldn't turn out properly, but the squares came out of the oven in their spicy, melting, gooey glory, and my worrying ceased. The spices were a bit more subtle than I had expected (maybe the cheese mellowed their flavor), but not in a way that affected the squares negatively. The gingerbread crust was a little dry but the moistness of the cheese balanced it out, and the overall result was a soft, mildly spiced cheesecake with an appealing texture.

The recipe is a combination of adaptations, guesswork, and hope. :)

Spiced Cheesecake Squares with Gingerbread Crust

Crust:
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup molasses
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Line 13x9 inch pan with foil and lightly grease.
Cream applesauce and brown sugar together until well combined.
Stir in molasses, then beat in eggs one at a time.
Add vanilla extract and stir until combined.
Whisk flour, baking soda, salt, and spices together.
Stir into molasses mixture.
Pour into prepared pan and set aside.

Cheesecake:
Two 8-oz packages cream cheese, room temp. (I used Neufchatel cheese, which is lower in fat)
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp white sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract

Beat cheese and sugar together until smooth.
Beat in eggs and vanilla extract until thoroughly combined.
Spread over gingerbread batter.
Marble the two batters with a knife.

Bake for 35 minutes, or until center is set.
Cool in pan, then lift out by foil and cut.
Can be stored in airtight container for a couple of days.

Enjoy!






Tuesday, November 3, 2009

I, Jigsaw

Sometimes the breezes blow and I fly along with them, not knowing where I will land.

When I do land, I gather the crumbs of my heart and attempt to assemble myself, fitting uneven edges together, squinting an eye, tilting my head, declaring the ensemble a perfect fit, moving on.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Obstacles

The homework, the studying, the reading, the writing. The cycle never ends. The relief that flows through my body at the conclusion of each exam is extremely short-lived, and long hours of poring over notes and short hours in bed are inevitable. My eyes are bloodshot every morning, and my contact lenses are dry. In a few days, the effects of coffee will no longer hold.

But I am happy. These are all aids to my own success. I am grateful to have books to read, research to conduct, and plays to write, as they are all segments of who I am and who I will be, examples of what I love to do. They are the tools that God wields to shape me into the being He wishes to see before Him.

Tomorrow is my roommate's 21st birthday. And as it happens, the four of us who live together all have exams on this special day, which I'll admit dampens the celebratory mood, but still,

Happy birthday Connie, my optimistic, encouraging, fun-loving roommate!
Tomorrow night will be packed with great memories.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Small Blessings


I was blessed with the discovery of a collection of pictures on my camera tonight, ones that I had not deleted after the last time I uploaded them. Pictures of the last month of my summer vacation, one of the most exhausting and painfully memorable times of my life, when I lay in a hospital bed every day. Pictures of my parents, who babied and encouraged me every step of the way. Pictures of my brother, who over the past few weeks has become a closer friend, mentor, and guide. Pictures of my boyfriend, who reminded me to follow the words of God and trust that He will provide.

And of course, pictures of the petite sweets I made when I was able to move about.

Just for the record, I take pictures of the goods I bake for the mere sake of capturing my progress, not to showcase my photography "skills" (meaning, I have none); hence, the lack of sophistication and quality.

Almond tarts. My dad loves all kinds of nuts and nut-flavored foods, so I include peanuts, pecans, walnuts, and almonds in nearly everything I make for him. The filling (made of almond meal) is similar to that of a pecan pie without the crunchiness of the nuts, and easily melts in the mouth; the crust is light, crispy, and not as sweet, which makes for a great balance to the almond filling.

Cornmeal cookies. My mom adores cornbread and almost always snags a piece whenever she sees it in a restaurant. I frequently make her cornbread at home, but for a change and a slight twist, these cookies sounded adequate. They were piped through a small star tip, and half were dipped in melted white chocolate. I used medium grind cornmeal, which has a somewhat gritty texture, but I'm certain that this is what gives the cookies their uniqueness.

Marbled green tea sugar cookies. On my mom's birthday two months ago, my family ventured to Old Town Pasadena, where there happened to be a specialty tea store. I spied a 2-ounce canister of matcha powder that seemed cheaper than those I had seen elsewhere, complete with bamboo whisk, so I immediately bought it. My parents informed me that the first bite didn't contain much of the green tea essence, but the slightly sweet, grassy flavor increased gradually as the cookie was consumed.

Yes, my family members are the main guinea pigs for my baking experiments, which is pretty convenient!

I only wish I could remember the recipes I used.

I am constantly reminded that I will be graduating in approximately eight months, that I will officially become an adult in the world outside of college in less than a year. A part of me trembles in timidness and nervous anticipation, but the rest of me is already preparing to dash forward and see the next chapter of life. But in order to actually progress to the next step, I must complete the pile of homework and reading assignments sitting patiently near my laptop. And so...until next time!

God bless.