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Showing posts with label No Kid Hungry. Show all posts
Showing posts with label No Kid Hungry. Show all posts

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Triple-Threat Chocolate Chip Cookies

This cookie was my shining star at the No Kid Hungry Bake Sale on October 7th, 2017!
We all need a standby recipe for chocolate chip cookies. This particular recipe is the modified version of my pistachio chocolate chip recipe for smaller batches, which is excellent when I'm baking for just myself. Most chocolate chip cookie recipes can be easily modified, so long as the dough remains consistent and the add-ins are accounted for properly. Baking can be art, so long as the science and chemistry of such are respected along the way.

The No Kid Hungry bake sale was a total success! The bake sale itself raised over $8000 against childhood hunger in the United States. Did you know that 1 out of 5 children in the USA don't know where their next meals are going to come from? Yeah, that's pretty messed up. I work as the chef for a hunger relief network, now, and the amount of hungry people in the United States is pretty staggering, especially considering that 2 out of 3 Americans are considered overweight or obese. What we see is a huge amount of inequality, and you can do something about it.

No Kid Hungry has made it easier than ever to combat childhood hunger. Did you know that you can host your own bake sale in your own community? Just sign up to host your own bake sale!

I realize that I'm a very privileged individual. Yes, I'm a woman of color, and a first-generation American...but I'm also from a good family, have a stable, salaried position, have a group of good friends, have a reliable mode of transportation, and I am a homeowner. I'm also privileged enough to own nice things like standing mixers, scales, fancy equipment and marble countertops, things that the average home baker might not have. In the spirit of checking my own privilege, I'm posting the recipe below in both weight and volume, so everybody can bake these cookies, because everybody deserves to have homemade cookies.

I love this recipe because you can do this one without a standing mixer and only the most rudimentary of tools. Yes, you do want either a food processor or a coffee/spice grinder for the oats, but you can honestly chop them by hand, or throw them in straight if you're feeling lazy. It's 100% cool.

Triple Threat Chocolate Chip Cookies
yield 3 dozen 1 oz cookies
  • 6 oz butter, cubed(Earth Balance butter substitute works great, too, or shortening, for the dairy-free option!)
  • 2/3 cups brown sugar(3.5 oz)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar(3.5 oz)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup flour, sifted (4 oz)
  • 1 scant cup rolled oats (3.5 oz)
  • 1 cup dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1 sleeve Ritz crackers
  • 1/2 cup toffee chips/candies, crushed
Melt half your butter in either a saucepot or microwave, and then pour it over the remaining butter in a separate bowl. Stir gently with a whisk to allow the temperatures to come together nicely in a smooth mass and set aside. 

Meanwhile, blitz the flour and rolled oats together in a food processor (or coffee grinder, if you have one) and whisk them together with the baking soda and baking powder. Take out your ritz crackers and crush them by hand ; stir them right in! Don't worry about getting the crumbs to be especially fine, because you actually want larger chunks dispersed here and there. You can also substitute potato chips for this part, and get a very similar result - I've used original flavor and jalapeno, and both are pretty freaking delicious. I know it sounds weird, but trust me on this - the salty and sweet work!

Now that you've taken care of your dry ingredients, let's continue on the wet side! Whisk in both of your sugars, and add in the vanilla flavoring. Whisk-whisk-whisk until quite smooth and fluffy; yes, you can do this in a standing mixer, but the appeal of this recipe is that you feel okay skipping arm day at the gym after doing these by hand. Also, not everybody has a standing mixer or a hand mixer, so let's check our privilege, okay, Nicole? 

Once the sugars are fully incorporated, whisk in the egg until fully blended. Now, let's get rid of that whisk and grab a spatula (unless you want to be dealing with a club of cookie dough). Gradually add the dry mix in thirds, alternating with the chopped chocolate and toffee bits, until everything is incorporated. You can proceed two ways from here:

  1. You can scoop out teaspoons of your cookie dough onto prepared cookie sheets(as in, they've either been greased or lined with parchment paper) and chill them in the fridge by the batch 
  2. You can cover the whole bowl and chill the dough all at once
Either one of these you choose is fine; I prefer option two, just because it takes up less space in my already-crowded fridge. Also, waiting to turn on  the oven to 325 degrees F will give you no choice but to chill your dough. So, hey! Turn on your oven and heat to 325 degrees F while you're waiting.

Bake your cookies for 11 minutes, or until just brown on the outside, and let cool for at least 10 minutes before eating. I know, I know, it's torture, but trust me on this one - if you don't wait, this wonderful cookie will crumble and fall apart into a big gooey mess. You'll want to wait, so you can dip this in an ice-cold glass of almond-coconut milk blend.

If you wait even longer, to let them cool completely, you can wrap them in groups of five in cellophane packages, instagram them with a special hashtag, and sell them for your own bake sale endeavors. It can be to end childhood hunger, to donate to the ACLU, or even to show your own child how to run a business.

Please comment below if you try it - and tell me all about the results! Oh, and I'm hosting my own bake sale soon...follow me on Instagram to learn details!

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Vegan Tea & Cherry Shortbread Cookies

Note: The cookies made for the No Kid Hungry Bake Sale were made with dairy butter,
but I make the ones at home for me using vegan butter substitutes.
Before we start, let's just establish this:
Vegetarian means no meat, no animal flesh. All cookies are vegetarian.
Vegan means to meat, no eggs, no dairy, no honey - no animal products, whatsoever.

I am not a vegan or vegetarian by any stretch of the imagination, but I do have quite a bit to thank the vegans for. It's because of the vegans that I have such wonderful substitutes for cheeses, sour creams, and - of course - butters. Most East Asian people are, in fact, lactose intolerant. My darling partner, B., is highly lactose intolerant, and we've since purged all dairy products from our home. We've been living a dairy-free lifestyle for a little over a year and a half, and I must say that adjustments have been made with much more ease thanks to our vegan friends.

When a friend of mine, a spritely lass called Gina Reardon, approached me to help her do a repeat of last year's No Kid Hungry bake sale, I couldn't say no. I didn't have my bakery in full-scale anymore, since I'd moved on to working for a hunger relief network here in Kansas City, but I still wanted to help. The noble shortbread came to my rescue, along with triple-threat chocolate chip cookies and pumpkin spice cakes. These three recipes are phenomenally easy to make, rather cheap, and rather appealing and inoffensive to the timid palette. They're not threatening cookies - they're your friends!

Shortbreads are simple cookies. They're not frilly or fancy, but rather plain-looking butter cookies that pack a subtle and familiar flavor, almost like the cookies in the tin at grandma's house. You know, the one that she saved to keep all of her sewing supplies in? These aren't piped butter cookies, of course, but these rolled-and-sliced cookies aren't any less spectacular, and you'd be surprised at how easy they are. They don't necessarily look like the most-appealing thing in the world, to some, but I think the simplicity of the shortbread cookie is a fabulous thing, especially when made vegan. But what is a shortbread?

Long story short, British folks call it "short" because the glutens in these cookies are not long. They're not stretchy, they're rather crumbly. Perhaps if you watch The Great British Bake-Off, you'll hear the phrase "shortcrust" pastry? That's what they're talking about when they say 'flaky pie dough.' The gluten strands are short, so they crumble delightfully all over your pants and down between your boobs when you eat them. Isn't that wonderful?

Vegan Tea & Cherry Shortbread Cookies
adapted from Thomas Keller's Shortbread recipe

  • 180 g vegan butter substitute (I love Earth Balance!)
  • 90 g granulated sugar plus more for dusting
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 g baking powder
  • 270 g AP flour
  • 120 g dried cherries, chopped
  • 2 tea bags(I love chai, but I've used Earl Gray before with great success)
Tear open the tea bags and pour them into a small sauce pot along with half the "butter"and gently melt it to steep the tea. While that's going, put the rest of the butter into a medium-sized bowl. Oddly, I prefer mixing these by hand, so leave the standing mixer alone, unless you want to use it instead. I'll be whisking the butter and sugar by hand, but if you want to use the standing mixer, by all means break out the whisk attachment. 

Once the butter is melted with the tea, you can let it hang out for a few minutes to let it steep, but it's not 100% necessary. This is all to your preference, and I prefer to keep it light and fragrant versus terribly strong. Once you're ready, though, pour your melted butter into the bowl where your solid butter is and whisk gently to combine. You're basically whipping it to cool down, and when all of the fat is at a same-texture consistency (meaning that it's smooth without lumps), add in the sugar and whisk the bejeezus out of it until the sugar has completely dissolved. This may take several minutes, and you might feel the need to cuss; that's okay, you're allowed. 

Switch to a spatula and combine the remaining ingredients and stir until it becomes a solid dough. Cover and let chill for at least 10 minutes. Once chilled enough to handle, turn out onto a layer of parchment paper (or a layer of plastic wrap) and roll the dough into a single log. This may take some doing, but if you work quickly, it won't be so bad. Just do your best to make sure that the log is even and you've packed it all quite tightly and that there aren't any air bubbles. Freeze this log for an hour, or chill in the fridge overnight.

When you're ready to bake, heat your oven to 325 degrees F and sprinkle a handful of white sugar out onto your counter. Take out your dough and unwrap the log, then roll the log in the sugar so that you have a nice, even coating all around the outside. (This is an optional, but recommended step!) Using a small, sharp knife, slice discs from the dough log and place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. I like quarter-inch thick cookies, but you can do thicker or thinner to your preference. If you like, you can sprinkle even more sugar on top of the cookies to give them an extra bit of crunch, and it makes it look very pretty. 

Bake at 325 for about 11 minutes, or until the cookies are just golden on the outside. You want them to be quite pale, and they will be quite pale, considering the low sugar content. I've also used this recipe with coconut sugar and date sugar with success, but it does affect the color slightly. I think the light color is the appeal of these cookies, but that's just me.

Enjoy with a cup of coffee, or make these for a bake sale to end childhood food insecurity in America, selling them in little cellophane bags tied with ribbon. 

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Gingerbread Lane 2016

It's not perfect, but it's mine. 
For three years, now, I've been called upon for my skills, here in lovely Kansas City, to construct a colossal confection of ginger and bread for the sake of charity. Holiday seasons are upon us and that means - you guessed it - giving to those less fortunate than you!

June 11th of this year my small bakery, Pistachio Bakehouse,  donated $600 of baked goods to No Kid Hungry as a part of a colossal undertaking to raise $100,000 collectively for the cause of ending childhood hunger in America. My dear friend, Charles Feruzza (formerly) of The Pitch, penned the details here. I was really proud to be a part of such an amazing event, even if my hands got tired from twisting about 200 soft pretzels! You can check out the full album here.

In addition to childhood food insecurity, one charity that's a favorite of mine is the CCVI, or Children's Center for the Visually Impaired, who - since 1952 - have served over 10,000 young children who are blind or visually impaired. The charity raises money to help keep the school running, and they look to the chefs of Kansas City to do so.

The Garney Mansion, 2014
I started out back in 2014 with recreating the Historic Garney Mansion, which had belonged to the Garneys, the family which owned/managed the restaurant I was the Executive Pastry Chef of, that had also tragically burned down earlier that year in March. I was so fortunate to have had the support of the family, who graciously and generously loaned me the blueprints to the original house, but also flat-out bought my gingerbread creation for the sake of the charity. I'll forever be grateful to them.

"Steve", 2015
Last year, I created a sort of Alpine A-Frame(named Steve) which was admittedly less complex, and therefore tragically less stable, mostly because of it's simple design and the fact that it was sitting under the hotter lights during its stay at Webster House, where the houses were on display. As the family that bought my house went out the door, the roof caved in. I came in as soon as I could, repairing what was possible, but alas, alack... I ended up buying a few plastic dinosaurs and putting pieces of roof and whatnot in their tiny plastic mouths in hopes that the people would have a sense of humor about it. (You know, because dinosaurs destroyed and ate their house. Get it? Funny, right? I'll see myself out.)

You can view this, in person, at Webster House! Vote for me for People's Choice!
This year, I added in my semi-newly acquired skills of pulled and poured sugar to the party and created the Winter Retreat house, complete with palladian windows and sugar columns and a lovely colored stone walkway to the lake, where you can enjoy a spot of ice skating.

This is a work-in-progress shot, but I sure do love the way the light comes in! 
I'll be the first to admit that the columns were not easy or quick. I'll also let you know that they burned the dickens out of my hand when I accidentally poured some of the 320 degree sugar syrup on myself. Yeah. 2nd degree burns. I'm typing this with a huge burn blister on my hand right now, because I'm a trooper. So. Consider that your PSA: be careful with hot sugar.

The walls were glued together with homemade marshmallow, and the colored stones and columns were glued together with super stiff royal icing. Do you like the rock path? You can get the chocolate rocks at It's Sugar! on the Plaza, right here in Kansas City. They're addictive, though, let me tell you... It did take some time to do, but anything worth doing is worth doing right, especially for charity. I will say this, though: I can't pipe with a severely burned hand. All of the piping done for the rocks was piped with my left hand, so it took twice the amount of work. Anybody that ends up buying my gingerbread house for the charity can rest knowing that I put some hard work into it, dag nabbit.

I won't bore you to death with all of the details on how to make this gingerbread house, but here's my favorite recipe on how to make your own building gingerbread dough.

Gingerbread House

  • 8 oz shortening
  • 7 oz sugar
  • 0.6 oz baking powder
  • 0.3 oz baking soda
  • 2 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground cloves
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 8 fl oz molasses
  • 2 eggs
  • 38 oz AP flour

This is a basic cookie method; simply cream the fat together with the sugars, add the eggs one at a time, and add in the dry ingredients in 3 additions. Chill the dough while your oven is heating up, and prepare your pattern. For precision, roll out in large sheets, cut your pieces, bake halfway through, then cut AGAIN to trim off the excess! This is how you get razor-sharp edges on your corners, perfectly pristine lines on your walls, etc.

This house took 4 batches of my gingerbread dough to make the entire thing complete!
Royal Icing
yields about a pound

  • 12 oz powdered sugar
  • 2 egg whites

Sift the sugar and set aside. Place the egg white and lemon juice in the standing mixer with the whisk attachment. Add about half the sugar and begin whisking on  medium low until incorporated. Increase the speed and check consistency. Add sugar as needed to correct it!

With this basic dough in hand, you can create any gingerbread house you set your mind to. There are about a billion gingerbread house patterns found on Pinterest, and you - yes, you - can create this, because if I can do it, anybody can.

If you'd like to help the CCVI and donate to the charity, come to Webster House at 1644 Wyandotte Street in Kansas City, MO during normal business hours and find us! You can walk around, visit the shop, and donate to the charity by bidding on the house or voting for People's Choice! Check it out from November 30th until December 3rd...but I can tell you that my own house is sitting there, in the Children's room, right now!

Tune in tomorrow on KCTV 5 in Kansas City to see me on the news, talking all about it!

Happy cooking and happy eating - oh, and a VERY Happy Holiday Season!