Hello! We're happy to have you!

Showing posts with label bake sale. Show all posts
Showing posts with label bake sale. 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. 

Friday, July 15, 2016

German Chocolate Cake

When a friend asked me to make a German chocolate cake for his girlfriend's surprise birthday party, I said yes. After all, I own a bakery and he's dating my friend of six years, so of course I'll jump to help when called for. The party was Saturday and I had a little free time, and they're great about tagging my bakery in Facebook/Instagram posts, so it's essentially free advertising for a party I get to go to anyway.

Okay, so here's the thing:

In memory, I've never made box cakes. Every person I know has had the box cake mixes you buy at the grocery store. They know what a great American cake like a "German Chocolate" cake is supposed to be, where I do not. I can't even remember the last time I ate German chocolate cake, aside from the gourmet Chef-y deconstructed versions at restaurants. If you were to put a gun to my head and point to a line of cakes and say "PICK OUT THE GERMAN CHOCOLATE CAKE" I'd say "Shoot me."

According to a quick Google search, German Chocolate Cake is comprised of a nice chocolate cake with a pecan coconut fudge icing, because nothing says Rheinland like tropical dried coconut and pecans fresh from the orchard. Can we detect the hints of sarcasm here?

Here's why "German Chocolate Cake", as a concept, annoys me:

  1. Coconut doesn't grow in Germany
  2. Pecans don't grow in Germany
  3. Although the Europeans mastered the use of chocolate thanks to the Spanish conquistadors, cacao trees don't come from Germany. 
I was about to go on a full rant about how stupid it is that Americans just randomly assign a nationality to a random cake they invented using the coconuts and pecans that have been in the South since before America was technically founded, but then I did some research:

German Chocolate Cake was not just a random assignment of nationality to cake(unlike Italian Cream Cake which is about as Italian as a Georgia Peach). German Chocolate Cake begins with Samuel German, an American chocolatier who created the mild dark baking chocolate for Baker's Chocolate Company in 1852. The company named the chocolate "Baker's German's Sweet Chocolate" in his honor. Therefore, German Chocolate Cake was originally "German's Chocolate Cake," which had his actual chocolate product in the damn thing.

See what a little research can do? See how I'm no longer angry about something I didn't understand? See that I actually sought out the right answer instead of just going on this long rant about how German Chocolate Cake didn't make sense? See how easy that was?

Looking at you, Drumf Supporters.

Sorry. The American Presidential election season is taking its toll on me. I just wish that people would use things like fact checkers or even make a tiny effort to support their ideologies other than the argument of "yes but my FEELINGS"... Anyhow.

German's Chocolate Cake first officially debuted in 1957 in the Dallas Morning Star newspaper when Texas Homemaker Mrs. George Calay submitted it for "Recipe of the Day." The cake gained such huge popularity that it's become the Amercan classic it is today.

My recipe doesn't actually have the German's baker's chocolate in it, but there's nothing stopping you from chopping up this delicious stuff and popping it in your recipe to act as "chocolate chips".

Best Ever Chocolate Layer Cake
(adapted from Ron Ben-Israel's recipe)

  • 1 3/4 cups AP flour
  • 3/4 cups high fat cocoa powder
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted, warm
  • 2 farm-fresh eggs
  • 1 cup HOT coffee/espresso
  • A dash of Bitters**(totally optional, but my secret ingredient!)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and prepare three 8" round cake pans with pan-spray and/or parchment paper. 

Whisk together the sugar, the cocoa powder, the flour, baking soda and powder, and salt in the bowl of your standing mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment. Add your eggs, one at a time, stirring until the mixture is sort of "chunky", and then repeat with the oil. Your coffee and bitters should be the last ingredient, and simply mix until all is incorporated and relatively smooth. Make sure you take a spatula and scrape the bottom of the bowl!

Divide your cake batter into the prepared pans and pop in the oven. Immediately lower the oven to 350 degrees and bake until done, about 45 minutes to an hour. The cake should be wholly set in the middle and a cake tester/toothpick should come out clean when inserted. 

I doubled up on this recipe and ended up making four 9" rounds for this particular recipe... 

Allow the cakes to cool entirely before removing from the pans and attempting to decorate. I highly recommend that you use your pecan fudge icing almost immediately after you make it, so it has time to cool and set on the cake versus in the pan. 

Pecan Fudge Icing
  • 1 can (12 oz) evaporated milk
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 6 oz butter, cubed
  • 1 Tbsp Bourbon
  • 2 cups toasted pecans
  • 2 cups shaved coconut
Melt the butter in a saucepot. Add the evaporated milk, the egg yolks, and the bourbon, and whisk over medium-low heat until it thickens, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat immediately and add in your toasted pecans. Stir well, and add the coconut. Use this icing while it's still warm, spreading evenly between your cake layers, leaving enough for the top. 

You can finish the sides with a chocolate buttercream, but I personally think this cake is moist and sweet enough as it is, so I prefer to leave it naked. It looks so pretty and gives such a wonderful Vintage-y vibe that just reminds you of your grandmother in a crinoline skirt. I highly recommend putting this beauty on a fancy ceramic cake stand and taking it to your kid's bake sale. Oh my God the look on Phyllis's face will be priceless when you pop this four-layer behemoth of Americiana on the bake sale table.