Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Baby Steps


When I first ventured into the baking world, I was afraid to try new recipes. I shied away from pursuing the most basic of recipes, including rolled sugar cookies, simply because I didn't have a rolling pin and I was not certain if purchasing one was worth it. I took one glance at recipes and refused to attempt them if they involved whipping cream for frosting, beating egg whites for meringue, or even sifting powdered sugar for quick icing. The main ingredients in my kitchen cupboards were bags of chocolate chips because chocolate chip cookies never fail to please anyone.

One horrid day, after a particularly depressing argument with someone dear to me, I set about making blueberry muffins. The ingredients came together nicely, and I quite enjoyed the manageable directions; all I had to do was take two bowls out, wield several measuring spoons, and combine everything into a single bumpy lump. Grasping the muffin tin, I crossed the kitchen in two steps, opened the oven door, and promptly spilled the batter all over the tiled floor through a minuscule slip of the hand. I stood there watching the sad, sad blueberries lying motionless in the soupy puddle that had been created to showcase them, and I reached a crossroads: dump the mess and storm from the kitchen in bitter tears, never to return, or quietly mop it up and bake something even more fabulous. I stopped wallowing in my fear of failure and made my first successful profiteroles that day.

Since then, I've crept out of my shell and tried a variety of recipes, some strange and others memorable. Yesterday, I was led to making French macarons. Now, macarons are the cookies that I've heard the most horror stories about, the most unbecoming results, with the dread that those little "feet" may never emerge. But I figured even if they turned out disfigured, they would still taste the same and could be munched on happily.

So I got out my almond meal, beat some egg whites, piped some batter, and came up with...

Cinnamon macarons with peanut butter and powdered sugar filling.
And what a relief. They have feet!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Low

I haven't had many opportunities to update because
  1. I haven't been physically well for the past few weeks due to various ailments
  2. Therefore, I couldn't bake often
  3. Also, I left the USB cable for my camera back at my SD apartment ninety miles away
  4. So I couldn't upload the few pictures I took of the few goodies I did bake
But then my brother came to the rescue with his camera that is three times the size of mine with three times the functions and took some pictures of the low fat chocolate chunk oatmeal nutcookies I made tonight.


Recipes that are low in fat aren't necessarily good for the body, I suppose, but they are indeed quite a bit healthier than those packed with butter. And since the members of my family always prefer the healthier, less sweet, less fattening versions of foods, I was eager to try my hand at this recipe.

Made with applesauce in place of butter, these cookies have an interesting texture; they are both chewy and soft with the occasional crunch from crushed nuts and little clusters of oats. The burst of flavor from the bits of chocolate doesn't hurt either.

I modified a recipe that I found at Baking Bites (I love this blog, and the blogger, Nicole, deserves many respects) to make the cookies "not too sweet" again for my parents. I am always fearful of the negative results that may come about after changing perfectly good recipes, but I plunge ahead anyway and hope for the best.

I hoped for the best this time too, and the recipe turned out fine. =) The low fat cookies received highly positive praises.

Low Fat Chocolate Chunk Oatmeal Nut Cookies
1 cup all purpose flour (lightly spooned and swept)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp margarine
1/2 cup white sugar
6 tbsp brown sugar
1 large egg
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup pecans, chopped mixed with 1/4 cup peanuts, chopped (I crushed them in a plastic bag with a rolling pin)
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chunks
  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.
  3. In a large bowl, cream together the margarine and sugars.
  4. Beat in egg, applesauce, and vanilla extract.
  5. Stir in the flour mixture and oats until just combined.
  6. Drop tablespoonfuls of the dough onto the prepared baking sheet, flattening each cookie slightly.
  7. Sprinkle each cookie with 1/2 tsp of the mixed nuts, then press three or four chocolate chunks on top.
  8. Bake for about 10 min.
  9. Let cool on sheet for 2 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Laboring Day

After a year and a half of browsing recipes and recreating them every week, with a few memorable baking failures, I've decided to finally venture into the blogging world to inscribe my adventures with my mixer and measuring tools. Good results or bad, baking never ceases to calm me down or bring a smile to my face. I hope drawing myself closer to experienced bakers will improve my mediocre attempts in the kitchen (and mediocre photography) as well, enough so that I can participate in baking and pastry courses in the future.

Speaking of the kitchen, once in a long while, my parents go all out and throw dinner parties that are well worth their effort. Yesterday, in honor of the Labor Day weekend, they decided to purchase various meats and side dishes and gather our scattered relatives for an evening barbecue, and I am happy to say that it was a success!

Just for kicks: the pepper that my brother insisted we buy for its attractive appearance

And my contribution:

Picture credits to my older brother, Daniel

I made two simple apple pies with no added sugar because the majority of the dinner guests were older and preferred desserts that were "not too sweet." Of course, plenty of natural sugar exists in the apples alone, and most likely in the frozen crusts that I used because I was pressed for time, but there was nothing to be done about that...

To my delight, the adults readily forked in bites of this pie and rewarded me repeatedly with, "This is good, and it's not that sweet!"

Mission accomplished.

Recipe for a "Healthier" Apple Pie:

3 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp cinnamon
1.5 cups sugar-free apple juice concentrate
6 cups thinly sliced apples
1 nine-inch pie crust
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Whisk cornstarch, cinnamon, and 1/2 cup of apple juice concentrate in a small bowl until well combined.
  3. In a large saucepan, simmer apple slices with remaining concentrate until tender (7-10 minutes), then stir in cornstarch mixture. Simmer until sauce is thickened.
  4. Pour or arrange apple slices in pie crust, and brush with remaining syrup.
  5. Bake for 40-45 minutes.
My next posts will be more brief and to the point; I was just excited to start a new blog, hence the lengthiness. And if anyone wants anything baked, please let me know; I need a lot of practice. =)