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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Spicy Mexican Chocolate Cookies

Before it got super ridiculously hot, I was doing crazy things, like baking. I don’t know what’s gotten into me, since cleaning up after baking can be soooooooo time consuming. But when I found this recipe for Mexican spiced chocolate cookies, I was intrigued. Plus, it was another opportunity to use my shiny red mixer.
When I read through the recipe, I was dismayed that it didn’t actually call for Mexican chocolate. Come on, brown people aren’t the only ones that use cayenne and chili powder! No, what this really needed was authentic Mexican chocolate, the kind my mom used to make us hot chocolate with when I was little. Chocolate Ibarra, to be exact. The octagonally-shaped cylindrical package was a staple in our house like Nestle Quik probably was for my school mates (though we indulged in Nestle Quik too). There’s a comfort in my memories of that steaming cup of chocolate.

But because this is not unsweetend chocolate, I had to cut back on the sugar too (by half—though I probably could have done without it completely). I also had to double the spices because a quarter teaspoon of cayenne is child’s play. Even with that modification, they spice factor still wasn’t up to my expectations. More spices!! You can't call something "spicy" if it isn't, indeed, spicy!

This also didn’t need the additional chocolate chips, but walnuts would’ve been nice. Or spiced cacahuetes (peanuts). It was a bit of chocolate overload. Not that that is a bad thing...

The recipe calls for an entire stick of butter, so the cookies are exceptionally chewy. If you’re calorie-conscious, this isn’t the recipe for you. I suppose you could cut back, but not being a baker I’m not sure exactly how that would impact the final product. Other than giving you a slightly more brittle cookie. Diet cookies? Ick.



Finally, the cookies should be finished with a bit of sea salt. The G+F taste testers agreed the salted cookies were superior to the non-salted version. Plus, they just look prettier!


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Spicy Mexican Chocolate Cookies
Adapted from Cooking Channel's Spicy Mexican Chocolate Cookies, with real Mexican chocolate. 
Ingredients
  • 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter
  • 4 ounces Chocolate Ibarra or other Mexican chocolate (available in the ethnic aisle or a Latino supermarket)
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • medium coarse grain sea salt for sprinkling
Instructions
1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.2. In a heatproof bowl set over simmering water, melt the butter and chocolate together, whisking until glossy and smooth. Alternatively, the butter and chocolate can be melted in the microwave (in a microwave-safe bowl) in 25-second increments, whisking between each interval. Cool the chocolate mixture to room temperature.3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a hand-held mixer), beat the brown sugar, granulated sugar, vanilla extract and eggs on low speed until well combined. Pour in the cooled chocolate and continue to mix until the ingredients are evenly distributed.4. In another bowl sift together the remaining dry ingredients (flour, cinnamon, chili powder, baking soda, salt and cayenne pepper). Add this to the chocolate batter and mix on low speed until just combined and no visible flour remains.5. Working in two batches, scoop 12 balls of dough (about 1 1/2 tablespoon size) onto a parchment-lined sheet pan, leaving at least 1 1/2 inches of space between each cookie (they will spread greatly). Bake the cookies, one pan at a time, for approximately 14 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through cooking time. The cookies should be puffy and still fairly soft when removed from the oven.6. Immediately slide the the parchment paper onto a wire cooling rack. Cool just a bit before serving, 5 to 10 minutes, then finish with a sprinkling of sea salt. Cookies can be stored in airtight container for up to three days.
Details
Prep time: 20 minutesCook time: 15 minutesTotal time: 35 minutesYield: 2 dozen (24 cookies)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Feta & Tomato Biscuits

I'd taken a nice summer hiatus from blogging, but heading to the August Food Bloggers LA meeting kicked the habit back. I even went so far as to bake (!!!) a recipe I'd never tested. I threw all caution to the wind.

Go big or go home, right?

The theme for the August meeting (always a potluck gathering) was to use either tomatoes or zucchini, or both, since they are abundantly available. At first I was tempted to make a tomato jam. But then muffins became a more attractive option. And from muffins I went to biscuits.

Notice how zucchini was never a part of the discussion?

It's hot as hell everywhere in this country, even out here on the west coast, and yet I risked burning to a crisp to turn on the oven. Thankfully these only take 20 minutes. And I did it at 7 am when it's still under the Hades heat level.

And they were good. Half of them disappeared at the meeting and thankfully Dorothy from Shockingly Delicious took the rest home. No overly carby leftovers for me to munch on!

The original recipe is actually for muffins, but it's so easy to drop batter on parchment-lined baking sheets instead. Using Greek yogurt instead of the typical milk makes for a light, tangy biscuit. And these spread. You'll end up with little disks instead of actual biscuits, but hey, they still taste good.

One little mistake I made was thinking my dried mint was basil. Oops! So a little bit of mint ended up in the finished product. And cilantro, along with the basil. Great combo. But it was only a teeny pinch of mint. Though if I make these again, I probably would repeat this happy accident.

I'm going to try not to bake again until the heat index goes back to less hellish levels. But I might finally be getting the hang of it.



It's about time.


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Feta & Tomato Biscuits
Adapted from Savoury Tomato Muffins, the biscuits are a light breakfast snack 
Ingredients
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, deseeded, finely chopped, and drained
  • 1/2 cup feta
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 2 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • pinch dried herbs, like mint!
Instructions
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.2. Lightly fry the minced garlic (30 seconds), then drain. Mix with the chopped tomatoes and herbs.3. In a bowl, beat the eggs, salt, oil, and Greek yogurt together.3. In a separate bowl combine the flour, baking powder, and cheese together, then add the egg mixture. Fold in the tomato mixture.4. Drop spoonfuls of the mixture on top of a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes. Allow to cool on a wire rack for about 5 minutes before eating.
Details
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: about 15 biscuits



Saturday, August 11, 2012

Guacamole with Nectarines


My father, not a Mexican and therefore not entitled to tell me—who IS half a Mexican!—how to make my guacamole—the food of MY people—hates that I don’t add jalapeño to my guac. You know what? I’m an adult now, I can have my guac any darn way I want.

Of course, even though he’s only Mexican by association to my mother, to whom he has been married to for 36 years this month, he does make the most kick ass salsa verde. We’ve established this. But I don’t like the guacamole that comes out of MY kitchen to be spicy. I like it to have a hint of sweetness instead.

Avocados are absolutely perfect on their own. They’re filled with good fat. They’re a gift through the centuries from the Aztec people (I might be embellishing). They’re green. The skin on some of them looks like it was birthed by a dinosaur. You can sub them for bananas in baking. And they’re delicious! But if you add a teeny bit of garlic salt and a cubed nectarine, you have a dip that will blow your mind.



I am not overstating that fact. Take a bowl of the green stuff topped with stone fruit to a party, and people will look at it askew. Then, after you dare them to taste it, they suddenly turn rabid. Every single time I take this to a party it disappears immediately. Every single time I make myself a single serving of it, I seem to inhale it. Something about avocado + nectarine = food orgasm.

The original recipe I found nearly 10 years back, before the popularity explosion of all things culinary. Nowadays, the pairing of these two items doesn’t seem that unusual, but back then, people were weirded out. And this is California, for crying out loud! Weird food is where we’re at. Anyway, the original recipe called for peaches. But when I did the grocery shopping for this particular dish, the peaches were ridiculously expensive. Their non-furry pals, on the other hand, weren’t going to cost me un ojo de la cara (Spanish for “my first born” or some such saying). And thus my new go-to party dip was born.

The ratio of 2-3 medium avocados to one nectarines scales easily. Nectarines seem to bear more flesh than avocados, which is why you want more of the green fruit than the peachy. Add a sprinkle of garlic salt to taste, squeeze a lime over, and you’re done. 

And don’t kid yourself that saving the pit will keep your guac from turning brown. What you need to do is cover with plastic film, but push it down onto the dip so that no air enters the bowl before you’re ready to dig in. 

If you, like my dad, just can’t abide by guacamole sin jalapeño, then by all means, add it in! Who am I to tell you how to make your food. They’re your tastebuds. 

Plus, I’m only half-Mexican, after all.






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Guacamole with Nectarines
A sweet twist on your favorite summer party dip. For a spicier take, add a jalapeño or chile flakes.
Ingredients
  • 6 medium avocados
  • 1-2 medium nectarine
  • garlic salt, to taste
Instructions
1. Slice the avocados in half. Discard pits and remove meat into bowl. Mash to a chunky consistency.2. Cube nectarine and add to mashed avocadoes. Stir to combine thoroughly. Add salt to taste. 
Details
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yields: 1 medium bowl