Scarf Swap

I was introduced to this blog by a friend summer.  Having a heart for adoption and since I love a good blog I started reading Karen’s blog often (you should too!).  When she proposed a scarf swap I was all in!

My scarf swap partner is named Karen too.  She also has a heart for adoption and you can see her great blog here.

After exchanging a few emails with Karen, I couldn’t wait to swap scarfs.  I made and sent her a scarf that looked like this only grey.  Here is what she sent me…

Yeah a package in the mail!

Pretty wrapping…

I was so excited to open it up… Voila a beautiful teal scarf and chocolate!

And as a language learner, I have to give mad props to anyone learning this language!

Yeah!  I love my scarf!

Become a Better Baker, tips and tricks…

Since I went to culinary school, people often ask me if I have any tips on how to be a better baker.  Here are some of my tips that separate a good baker from a great baker.

1. Follow the recipe: This sounds basic, but I would say this is the number one thing that people don’t do correctly.  You are baking, not cooking, when you cook you can play with the recipe, when you bake follow the directions.  And not just the ingredient measurements it is also the instructions.  There is a reason you are supposed to cream the sugar and butter before adding the flour.  Follow the instructions!

2. Under-bake things: I claim to have a sixth sense that I know when the things I am baking are done.  The only time this doesn’t work is with the last batch of cookies (anyone with me?).  Brownies, cookies, cookie bars, should be under baked. They are better that way.  Cakes and pies should not be under-baked, however cakes should be taken out the second they are done.  Under-baking some of your items will mean that your baked goods are more moist and tender.

3. Liquid and dry measures:  Remember in Jr. High Home-ec class when you learned the difference between a wet and dry measuring cup?  There IS a difference.  Don’t use a wet measuring cup to measure flour our sugar, you won’t get a nice even measurement.  A dry measuring cup wasn’t meant to measure wet ingredients, you will spill and have a mess.  A dry cup is a little less than a wet cup measure.  So use the proper measuring cup for the job.

4. Saran Wrap is your best friend: In professional kitchen there are always large film wrap.  They wrap everything,  A LOT!  As soon as your items are cool wrap them up well.  That means over and under.  This goes for cakes, pans of brownies and breads.  If you are going to freeze something, wrap it over and under 4 times.  Also I will often freeze something the same day I make it.  When I get it out of the freezer it tastes as fresh as the day I made it, because it was properly wrapped.

5. Aluminum foil is NOT the same:  People seem to easily confuse Aluminum foil for film wrap, this drive me CRAZY!  Seriously, aluminum foil is for the oven.  Don’t use aluminum foil to keep your items fresh.  It doesn’t work and might leave a funny taste on your items.

6. Cakes, cookies and brownies, DON’T belong in the fridge:  This drive me a little less crazy than aluminum foil.  Cakes, cookies and brownies have no need to be chilled.  The fridge doesn’t keep them fresh.  The only reason a dessert needs to be in the fridge is if it is filled with an egg or milk based filling. (Butter doesn’t need to be refrigerated.)  One time I found a plate of brownies and cookies in the fridge covered with aluminum foil, I almost lost my mind!

Some of these things may seem a little too too, but like I said this separates the good from the best!  Anyone have a tip to add?

Happy Baking!

Nutella Dream aka. Nutella Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies

If you have visited or lived in Europe you know what Nutella is!  I know it is advertised in the US too.  They make it look like it is good for you because it is milk and nuts!  We all know it really isn’t that good for us.  One time when eating Nutella on bread for breakfast someone asked me, “would you put icing on bread and eat it?” Well maybe, but I got the drift.  These cookies are pure indulgence!  Delicious! I have seen this recipe around, I modified it a bit and have step by step pictures to help you out.

Nutella-Stuffed Browned Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies adapted from Ambitious Kitchen.  

2¼ cup all-purpose flour

1¼ teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon of salt

2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter

1¼ cup packed brown sugar

¼ cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs

1½ teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup milk chocolate chips

1 cup dark chocolate chips

1 jar of Nutella, chilled in refrigerator

  1. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl and set aside. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. The butter will begin to foam. Make sure you whisk consistently during this process. After a couple of minutes, the butter will begin to brown on the bottom of the saucepan; continue to whisk and remove from heat as soon as the butter begins to brown and give off a nutty aroma. Immediately transfer the butter to a bowl to prevent burning. Set aside to cool for a few minutes.
  2. With an electric mixer, mix the butter and sugars until thoroughly blended. Beat in the egg, yolk, vanilla until combined. Add the dry ingredients slowly and beat on low-speed just until combined. Gently fold in all of the chocolate chips.
  3. Chill your dough for about 2 hours in the refrigerator.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Once dough is chilled measure about 1½ tablespoons of dough and roll into a ball. Flatten the dough ball very thinly into the palm of your hand. Place 1 teaspoon of chilled nutella in the middle and fold dough around it; gently roll into a ball — it doesn’t have to be perfectly rolled! Make sure that the nutella is not seeping out of the dough. Add more dough if necessary. Place dough balls on cookie sheet, 2 inches apart and flatten with your hand VERY gently. (Really only the tops need to be flattened a bit!)
  5. Bake the cookies 9-11 minutes or until the edges of the cookies begin to turn golden brown. They will look a bit underdone in the middle, but will continue to cook once out of the oven.  Remove the cooled cookies from the baking sheets after a few minutes and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough.

So you maybe thinking what it the world is brown butter and do I really need it?  I liked the description in the instructions that Ambitious Kitchen has, however I thought this would happen quickly, but it took a good 15 mins.

Here is the finished butter, a little weird right.  Yes, you could skip this step, but the cookies will be missing some of their flavor.

I decided while the dough was chilling to scoop nutella balls and I think this worked well.  I used my tsp measure.  Here is how they turned out. I also refrigerated these, which made shaping the cookies much easier!

Shaping the cookies isn’t hard, don’t let this part intimidate you.

Step one: Flatten out some cookie dough in your hand.

Step two: Place Nutella ball in center

Step three: Wrap dough around Nutella leave no Nutella exposed

Bake and enjoy with a tall glass of milk! Nutella DREAM!

 

 

No-Roll Pie Crust

Raise your hand if you hate rolling out pie crust!  I know I do!  It makes and MESS and then you have to move the crust to the pie plate and it always rips.  A lot of work for something that is just going to hold my filling and let’s face it, the filling is the real star of any pie.  So here is my solution, no-roll pie crust.  Trust me you NEED this for Thanksgiving.  It is flaky, and has just the right combo of sweet and salty!

Recipe:

1 1/2 cups Flour

1 Tbs. Sugar

1 tps. Salt

1/2 cup Oil (yes, oil, don’t use olive.  Use vegetable or sunflower oil)

2 Tbs. Milk

Combine flour, sugar and salt directly in pie plate, mix together with fork.  Mix together milk and oil and pour into pan.  Mix together and when the ingredients are mixed and form a dough, press the dough out with fingers, push it up the sides.  Crimp edges.

If you need to pre-bake your pie crust, preheat oven to 350 degrees and fill pie plate with wax paper and pie weights, bake about 20 mins until golden brown.

Here are some pictures to show the process.

Everything in pie plate.

This is what it looks like when it is ready to be pressed out.

Press out from center to sides…

Finished, forgive my pie plate they don’t have “normal” American pie plates here.

Oh and what happens if you want crust on top, well that is a little harder.  I have mixed up this recipe in a bowl and pieced it together on the top.  It wasn’t pretty, but it sure did taste good!