Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies

This recipe comes via Cullen and Carol, one of the few times in recent history where I’ve baked something other than from my project baking book! These are a nice combination of banana and chocolate in cookie form. (Lesya typically puts chocolate in her banana bread, so it’s a combination we know and love in this family!)

465 g flour
4.5 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1.5 tsp salt
1 cup butter, softened
187 g sugar
105 g light brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
280 g mashed ripe banana, about 3 bananas
340 g semi or bittersweet chocolate chips
chopped, roasted walnuts or pecans to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Whisk together the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt). In a stand mixer with paddle, cream the butter and sugars. Add egg, vanilla, bananas, and mix to combine well. Add dry ingredients, mix well. Fold in chocolate and nuts if using. Place onto greased cookie sheets, about 1 tablespoon size, ~12 per sheet. Bake 12-14 minutes, then transfer to racks.

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Carol’s written comment on the original printed recipe: “Awesome”.

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Blackberry Pockets

I’ve been laid out by a cold for the past three days. Been watching a lot of Olympics, some survivor show from Discovery Channel (the one with the military guy and the naturalist), and playing a computer game to pass the time. I finally started feeling better late this afternoon, and to help with my overall boredom, a little baking was in order.

Using the pie dough recipe from a few posts ago, I rolled out two large 12″ rounds and cut them into smaller 3.75″ rounds (the biggest cutter I had on hand)… ended up with 18 rounds. Mixed together 250 g of frozen blackberries (recipe called for fresh; I hope this isn’t a disaster), 3 T sugar, 2 T cornstarch, and a pinch of salt. Put the filling onto the bottom rounds, wet the edges with a bit of water, then pinched together with a fork. Leave in fridge 20 minutes (I’m leaving them overnight).

Bake in a 375 degree F oven for 35-40 minutes. I’m going to get up early and eat these for breakfast.

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American Wheat with Ukrainians

Today I bottled the American Wheat that was made just prior to Christmas with a couple of Ukrainian friends, Mark and George.

I bottled the “second” 5-gallons, pitched with WLP320. Fermentation was very slow in my basement due to the low temps (59-61 degrees).

OG 1.054
FG 1.017
ABV 4.9%

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Pie Crust, finally

As I’ve been working through the WS baking book, I’ve been avoiding some of the pies. And when I make the pies, I have been getting very frustrated by the crusts, which despite my best efforts rarely turn out like I’d like them to. I’ve kept at the same recipe over and over, assuming that practice would make perfect. FAIL.

So I’ve moved on to a new recipe, having made it twice in the last week. The first time it came out absolutely awesome. The second time, needed a bit more moisture, so it didn’t roll out very nicely for me. But I’m sure that I can nail this one, and it makes a lot more sense to me than the previous recipe I had been following.

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This particular pie dough recipe comes from Kenji at Serious Eats. Kenji also devised the use-vodka-in-place-of-water dough recipe that Cooks Illustrated published a few years ago.

The basic idea of this particular recipe is to completely mix some of the flour and fat in a food processor, then coat those particles with more flour which can absorb the water. This should eliminate some of the variability in how much water the dough needs. Based on my first two attempts, I think the recipe is right on the mark, except I think it might be important to carefully measure how much flour will go into the fat and how much will be used to absorb the water.

Recipe for two pie crusts:
354 g flour
25 g sugar
4 g salt
284 g butter (2.5 sticks)
88 g water (cold if possible)

Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl, then transfer 2/3 to a food processor. Place the butter, cut into pats, into the food processor. Process with about 25 pulses until the mixture is relatively homogeneous. Add the remaining 1/3 of the dry ingredients, and pulse about 5 times to incorporate.

Transfer the mixture back to the original large bowl, then add the cold water. Stir in with a large spatula until the dough forms. Divide in half, shape into 4″ disks, wrap & refrigerate for 2 hours prior to rolling out.

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Lesya and I made an apple pie with our first attempt at this recipe, and it turned out great. The second batch (the drier one, which didn’t roll out as nicely) will be used next weekend for the Super Bowl, maybe a lemon meringue and a chocolate silk pie.

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Home-made dry curd cottage cheese

This is my third or fourth time making cottage cheese at home, but the first time since I acquired rennet and the mesophilic bacterial culture for general cheese-making. (Previously, I used an acid-set method that took much longer and seemed more error-prone).

Why bother making cottage cheese? My maternal grandmother and her sisters, who were Polish, always made pierogi with a cottage cheese & onion filling. You can’t use the “wet” cottage cheese from the grocery store, which has had heavy cream added back into the curds… the cream gives you the wrong consistency and doesn’t work well as a filling. Back when I was a kid, you could buy dry curd cottage cheese where my grandparents lived, in Toledo OH. These days, I really can’t seem to find it at all. So I make it.

Note for next time: do a bigger batch!!!

Here’s the procedure I used. First, I sanitized a 2.5 gallon stock pot using “StarSan”, which is a sanitizer that I otherwise use for brewing. It’s a no-rinse sanitizer that will kill off any unwanted bacteria that might otherwise sour the cottage cheese. I keep a few cups of StarSan handy for sanitizing anything that will come into contact with the cheese or whey, such as spoons, thermometers, etc.

Add the milk to the stock pot and gently bring the milk up to 70 degrees F, with occasional stirring, mostly to get a good temperature reading. Here’s what my setup looks like. Note I have a gigantic spoon that’s also from brewing.

Cheese making setup

Once the milk reaches the target temperature, do the following:
– add about 1/4 teaspoon of the mesophilic bacterial culture, and let sit for 5 minutes to hydrate. (See yellow spots in picture.)
– stir gently to disperse the bacteria
– add 1/4 teaspoon of calcium chloride solution (from thecheesemaker.com) diluted in a small amount of water. Mix gently.
– add 1/2 teaspoon of rennet (from the cheesemaker.com) diluted in a small amount of water. Mix gently.

Sit at room temperature or until you see that the curd has set (a “clean break”). I was worried that my room temperature was a little low (about 65 degrees F) so I warmed up the oven a bit and put the stock pot in the there for an hour. Total time for me was about 2 hours.

The mesophilic culture for cheesemaking

The mesophilic culture, hydrating

Cut the curd into 1/2 inch cubes, using a sharp knife. It’s tricky to cut in the vertical direction, but you can figure it out.

Get ready to stir the cheese for about an hour while you increase the temperature slowly from 70 degrees to 115 degrees F. My burners don’t have a very low setting, so I would turn the heat on low for 1-2 minutes, then turn it off for 1-2 minutes. (Doing a bigger batch should help to prevent the need for this.) I noticed that if I stopped stirring, at certain stages, the cheese curds would start to stick together into clumps. Clumps don’t look delicious. So I decided that constant stirring was necessary.

By the time the temperature has reached 115 degrees F, hopefully your curds have decreased in size (having contracted and squeezed out a lot of the whey) and are looking good. Using a spider (a kitchen implement typically used when frying foods), remove the curds from the whey and drain in cheesecloth set in a colander. I do prefer removing the curds in this fashion versus pouring the whole mess into the cheesecloth. Rinse with cold running water, then let drain for a few minutes.

Basically your cheese is now ready to eat, although it will taste pretty bland without salt. Depending on your intended use, you probably want to salt it right away. I salted by eye, but next time I will try to do it by weight. The weight of the cheese may vary based on how much whey you eliminated during the straining step.

I got about 2 lbs of cottage cheese from 2 gallons of 2% milk.

Cooking the curds

My mom and I used all of the cheese the following day to make pierogi, which I hope to write up in the next post.

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Update on the baking book project

You may know that I’m trying to bake every recipe in the book “The Williams-Sonoma Baking Book”.

You may know that I took on this project before recognizing that there are 250 recipes in the book and calculating how long it would take me to bake all 250.

Good news, I guess: I’ve now passed the halfway point, having completed about 130!!!

Bad news. How am I ever going to finish this???

More bad news. The last recipe I made wasn’t very good: the Mississippi Mud Pie. (Ooof, looks even less appetizing in the picture.)

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Port and onion chutney

I perhaps made something similar for Christmas last year? Although it was probably with wine rather than port.

From Bon Appetit, slightly modified.

1/4 c olive oil
1 large red onion, sliced thin
Salt and pepper
1/2 c ruby port
65 g light brown sugar
1/4 c red wine vinegar

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Cook the onions in olive oil in a small saucepan over medium heat until softened, 8 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and summer for about 2 hours. Cool and cover.

This turned out good but I was unhappy that the oil never seemed to fully incorporate. Need to go back and find that other recipe from last fall!! [Found it, from Thanksgiving 2012]

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Getting ready for the weekend

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Baking and Brewing

So the summer’s over and I’m finally back to baking and brewing.

Yes, my cookbook project is proceeding. But I’m starting to worry that it may never end… I think I’m not quite halfway through the 250 recipes in the book. But this week I’ve knocked off two more, chocolate coffee cake (which was incredible… gave a bunch away at the Quarry Hill picnic and everyone loved it) and herbed corn muffins (delicious also, particularly hot out of the oven, flavored with chives and parsley and basil from our garden).

The beer, I’m worried about. My schedule for the weekend changed, and I didn’t have enough time to make a yeast starter, which ensures that you’re putting several billion yeast cells into the wort. After 24 hours, I still haven’t seen any fermentation activity. Ouch!!! I’m trying to make a Belgian Strong Dark Ale which was recently featured on an episode of Chop and Brew. Keep your fingers crossed that this one turns around.

BTW this was the first time I brewed with the “Moot” roast… a de-bittered black roast malt. You can see some of the dark black barley as it’s about to get milled.

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I’m eyeing up a recipe for a clone of Firestone Walker’s Wookie Rye Black IPA, which I had earlier this year at Isaac Newton’s. But Lesya has been asking me about whether I’m going to make the breakfast stout again… but I have a few bottles of the stout left, so hopefully I can wait a few more weeks on that one.

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Fives or Not, by Andy Hall

Found this old gem while cleaning out the master closet… brings me back about 20 years.

Fives or Not

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