Monday, March 12, 2012

My cookie story and a recipe with Nutella...need I say more?

So today (Sunday) has been very emotional for me(in fact the whole week kinda sucked). And what is better to do when emotions are high than turn to a best friend. And since my best friend is my husband, he knew how miserable I was so he told me to go make some cookies while he folded the two weeks worth of laundry that 'somehow' got dumped out on my side of the bed this morning (by not me).
So I did....I entered my kitchen with the intention of looking up a guilt free but still yummy chocolate chocolate chip cookie recipe and satisfying my unhealthy need to use food as a comfort object. My goal was to make something with my left over Almond and Coconut flour and try to keep it wheat and sugar free. (i.e. guiltish free)
I opened my (one) cookbook that contained recipes that fit into that criteria and couldn't quite find what I wanted so I looked on the internet...nothing really looked like what I wanted so in the spirit of "invention comes out of necessity" I decided that for the first time really I was going to EXPERIMENT! Almost every single (baking) recipe I"ve made has been inspired or tweaked from a recipe that has been proven worthy in someone else's kitchen. But tonight I believe I made up something of my own creation (if I haven't then I'm sorry to who ever really made it first)

But first let me tell you a short story I mentioned that I would in another post about my first solo cookie attempt....

When I was a freshman in college I decided that I was going to do something nice around Valentines day. I was going to try my hand at Domestic Engineering and make traditional Chocolate chip cookies and give them to people at school.
Some I just liked and other I really Like liked. (this was over 12 years ago so now I just like everyone instead of Like like them) So, using the recipe on the back of the chocolate chip bag I proceeded to make the dough and cook most of them to a nice golden brown. Out of the whole batch of maybe 5 dozen I really only felt that only one or two dozen were worthy to distribute because they were nice and round and (in my opinion) perfectly browned. They were not chewy but I thought they looked great!! So I packaged them up in baggies and took them to school. (the rest of the rejects I left with a note that my (psycho)  roommates could eat at their own risk)
It was one of those days that I had a lot of time in between classes so I just sat in the hallway and waited to see people I knew. The first guy friend I saw I flagged down and gave him a bag. He took a cookie out and looked at it and said kind of disgusted "Um, it's Burnt!" I was taken aback..."No it's not!" and he was all "Yes it is." And proceed to tell me that it was burnt because it was hard. (or something like that, I was still reeling from the embarrassment and insult) Then he showed me a bag of Hershey kisses some 'other' girl gave him and how nice that was..bla bla bla!
Anyway, I didn't give anymore out to my friends. But it was that "experience" that motivated me years later to learn how to bake and make things look good and taste even better for someone who actually Like liked me!
This could have all been for You my friend!

As a side note: I went home that evening to find that the rejects, while not perfectly round or brown were soft and chewy and very very yummy.

Anyway, this is what I (believe) came up with tonight

Chocolate Chocolate chip Nutella cookies

1 cup Chocolate whey protein powder (I used MRM dutch chocolate)
1/2 cup Almond flour
1/2 Coconut flour
1 tsp. Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Salt

1 stick of butter
1/4 cup *Maltitol Sugar (I use "Steels" that I ordered online)
1/4 cup  Maltitol Brown Sugar (Steels)
1/3 cup Nutella
2 eggs
1 Egg white (optional)

1/2 bag chocolate chips (Not optional!!!)
Pecans wouldn't be a bad thing (optional)
Or maybe even Marshmallows?

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees
In a separate bowl mix your dry ingredients
Then in a larger or stand mixer bowl mix up you wet ingredients.
Then combine add the wet to the dry. At first it looks like there may not be enough liquid but it all soaks in eventually.
After it starts to come together then add the chocolate chips.
Using a small cookie scoop plop them down on your cookie sheet and then you can use your (clean) fingers to flatten them to about 1/4 inch. (the dough didn't stick to my fingers at all so no need to grease them)
Bake for 8 minutes.
yields about 4 dozen 2 inch cookies (It made about 40 whole cookies but I also ate a good deal of the batter throughout the whole process so I'm saying 4 dozen)

*If you don't have Maltitol you could probably sub with Truvia or xylitol  OR if you don't care about it being sugar free I'm sure you could used regular sugar... it might even give it a better texture.

*Now because these cookies are not made with your typical cookie ingredients and have a lot of egg (hence why the extra egg white is optional), the texture isn't as dense. They more resemble a meringue cookie,(a little bit spongy) so if you feel so inclined feel free to use them as a "sandwich cookie" I found they make wonderful bookends to a dollop of Nutella or maybe your favorite frosting. And as with most things glutenish free, they are a bit better the next day...not so dry.

Either way, they won over my son and that is not easily done!

Oh and because it is that time of years....

I know the feeling little girl.....

Thursday, March 1, 2012

French bread....and LIARS!!!

So, I love to make bread. Almost any type of bread really...I like quick breads (muffins) and as I call them "slow breads" (sour dough) and all in between. If it has flour, chances are I've thought about trying to master it. But for years there is one thing that has alluded me....french bread that looks and tastes like the store bought baguettes (yeah, after 6 years of French lessons I still had to spell check that word)
Speaking of my years of French language education, when I was in college my French teacher gave me a recipe to make for a class party. It really was my first ever attempt at a yeast bread that I can remember. And I followed the instructions to the T. I added the yeast to the water, let it sit. Then the salt and the flour. I kneaded the best I could, let it rise and then punched it down and formed it into free standing "loaves". Let it rise again and then baked it......what came out could have been used as a prop on one of the planets on the original Star's looked "Ok" for my first attempt . Not professional, but not tooo bad (everyone told me so...the LIARS!) .... I also took comfort in the fact that it was going to be cut up into chunks for dipping. As the day went on, I was actually feeling pretty cool about how I "made" my own french bread....Until.....

She (My French teacher) brought them to class still warm from the oven....fresh and golden brown. Two beautiful, crunchy crusted, spongy centered thin baguettes....My spirits were dashed! My accomplishment made to look like someone named Brunhilda next to Bell from Beauty and the Beast. (In fact, it reminded me of the "cookie" incident from a year earlier. But that's another post)  Oh, she was very humble about it. I asked her what she did differently and the only thing she could tell me was that I needed baguette pans and it would be just like hers the next time...oh look another Liar!

Fast forward a few years...I now had a professional baguette pan...Industrial really (thank you Ebay). It was so professional that my Dad had to cut the one end off so it would fit in my standard oven. (thank you Daddy!:D) Anyway, I was ready to try again! I combined all the ingredients and went through the whole process, knead, rise, etc. And then I got to the hard part....the shaping.

Side story: I can't roll out things very well. I will never be able to fulfill my dream of working for Auntie Anne's Pretzels because even though I have great customer service skills,and can pull off a hair net, I can't roll an even straight's always been like this, ever since I was little I couldn't even make "logs" from play dough. Oh sure, every once in a while the stars would a line and things turned out even, but most times than not, I usually just end up with what looks like an uneven broken turd. Those who have seen this in person try to give me the same advice. "You just need to press down with the same amount of pressure and keep your hands moving as you move it out/along." 
(once again) LIARS! Maybe my left hand is heavier than my right? I don't know. Either way, it just wasn't in my bag of skills I was born, back to the bread.

So I "log rolled" it out and even though it looked uneven and lumpy I placed it on my new pan and waited for it to do its magic.....hhmmm, I think my dad cut off the magic portion of the pan...
Because while it came out in a more baguette shape it still was not very nice to look at and tasted very very bland. So I decided to scrap the whole endeavor.  There were plenty of other breads to make that had cinnamon and berries and stuff that were much more compliant...I don't need the stupid yummy French bread! I can always just buy one at the store.....stupid baguette! :( I DON'T NEED YOU!!

Fast forward even more years to yesterday....We had spagetti and meatballs planned and I wanted to make some yummy bread to go with it. Not really remember my last attempts and armed with the past few years of experience I thought this would be easy peasy....nope.
It pretty much turned out like the last tragedy. Long, lumpy, tasteless and hard as a rock. Even my husband, who will eat almost anything (bless his heart) took a bite and  said "eh, it's not too bad." Then made a bit of a face. I told him he didn't have to eat it. For which he looked quite the end even my carb loving dog wouldn't touch it. Hopefully the birds aren't so picky.....
"Spock! I've never seen a barren planet that shape before! Mr. Sulu, what do you think?" "Oh my!"

Needless to say I was put out. After all these years of making great bread and thinking I knew my stuff I still couldn't get it! So I woke up this morning with a goal...I was going to try it again with a different recipe! (cue "Eye of the Tiger.") So I turned to trusty Google and looked up recipes...Ugh! They were pretty much alll the same. Water, yeast, flour and salt. And all pretty much in the same how could I be messing this up?! It was then that I read the instructions from one of the relation on how to shape the loaf. (add Fireworks to "Eye of the Tiger")

So now, without further ado! After a really long story! I bring to you my French bread recipe...

1 cup warm water
1 TBS instant Yeast
1 1/2 tsp. Sugar (optional, it helps the yeast grow)
3 cups Bread Flour
1 tsp Salt

1 Egg beaten or Egg White (for Egg wash, optional)

(This recipe will make 1 baguette. The original recipe was doubled so the flour was 6-7 cups just FYI. And if you are going to double it, chances are it won't fit in you bread maker)

- In your bread maker or in a large mixing bowl.Add the yeast to the water and let it start to get frothy. You can also add the Sugar at this time if you want it.

- Add 1 cup of the flour and swirl it around a bit just to incorporate it.

- Add the rest of the flour

-Add the Salt Last! Salt, while important in bread, it actually hiders yeast growth if it's added before the flour. ( I think it's funny how in most recipes they add the salt before the flour. Maybe they just don't want you to succeed as much..just a thought)

- Either put in your bread maker on the "Dough" setting and then walk away  OR you can use a mixer with a Dough Hook OR you can get your exercise and mix it by hand i.e. Knead for about 10 minutes until it's smooth or your arms fall off which ever happens first.

- If not using a bread maker. Place in an oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap that's been sprayed with cooking spray and then put a kitchen towel over the whole thing.

-Wait about an hour or until it's doubled

-Punch it down, let it rest another 5 minutes or so and start the shaping (my nemesis)
You can shape it any way you really want to. It's your dough. But there are traditionally a few ways to do it. Free standing or using a Baguette pan.

Free standing you just knead it a little bit and then shape it into an oval, tucking up and under. Put some corn meal down on a cookie sheet and then put it on ,ugly seem side down.

Baguette pan shape. (Here comes the "oh DUH!" moment I learned today) What you need to do is take your ball of dough and using a rolling pin Roll it out into a long rectangle shape and then roll it up Hot dog style and then tuck the ends in a bit...Viola! An actual baguette shape!!! Then you just spray you pan with cooking spray and place your lovily seems side down.

From here you just put the plastic wrap back over it along with the towel and let it rise again for about an hour.

Once it's risen take a sharp knife very carefully and make a few slashes about 1/4- 1/2 deep on top to let the steam out. (On my previous attempts I had so many holes in the dough, I didn't need to this. It would just escape through one of the craters )

You can brush it with an egg wash (beaten egg) but only if you want to. It gives it a shine and a chewy texture on top. Brush it on just before it goes in and at about 10 minutes before it's done.

Bake it at 375 degrees for about 24 minutes.

Now, if all goes well. Yours should look something akin to THIS!

this one is missing the end piece...resistance was futile!

Oh? You want to see the difference again? Well, alright.

 And this is how you know that it is good
You can see the remnants of crust behind her..she saves them for me.

And here are some suggested condiments to enhance the flavor even more....

All in all, I can't tell you why it tastes better once it was shaped better (maybe it had self esteem issues) but I can tell you that it worked! mmmmmm mmmmm mmmm.