Wednesday, August 25, 2010

russian tea cakes - kak dela cookies?

russian tea cakes - 19Americans are quite ignorant. We think French Fries come from France, Cheddar cheese is a part of the "Mexican Blend" cheese package, and that Russian Tea Cakes have an origin of Russia. Me, being an American of course, fall somewhat into this category (hey, I know fries come from Belgium!). To commemorate my (new) Russian boyfriend, I decided I'd make some Russian Tea Cakes. I called him, across country, as I was still visiting my grandma on vacation, to tell him of the news.

russian tea cakes - 03russian tea cakes - 10"Uh...I've never heard of Russian Tea Cakes," he says. I tell him it's a Melting Moments Cookie plus some type of chopped nut. "Nope... it's not Russian. Neither is Russian Dressing." Point proven.

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Regardless, I was on a mission. I've conquered the disintegrating Melting Moments, now it's my time to conquer these Russian Tea Cakes.

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After a little divulgence, I learned that Russian Tea Cakes were, in fact, of Russian origin.

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They also became known as "Mexican Wedding Cakes," although that translation is a little blurry...

russian tea cakes - 12russian tea cakes - 54
Whatever may have been lost in translation, what is indeed known is that this cookie became popular around 18th century in Russia and was used in a tea-sharing ceremony.

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So basically, suck on that! You may know the history of your culture regarding politics and wars and language, but I still dominate in worldly culinary facts, my dear!

Taken from Smitten Kitchen.

1 cup (2 sticks or 8 ounces) butter, room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup pecans, hazelnuts or other nuts, toasted and finely ground (if using hazelnuts, wrap in a dishtowel while still warm and roll about until most of the brown skins come off)
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)

1. Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until light and fluffy. Add 1/2 cup powdered sugar and vanilla; beat until well blended. Beat in flour, then nuts. Divide dough in half; form each half into ball. Wrap separately in plastic; chill until cold, about 30 minutes.
2. Preheat oven to 350°F. Whisk remaining 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar and cinnamon, if using, in pie dish to blend. Set cinnamon sugar aside.
3. Working with half of chilled dough, roll dough by 2 teaspoonfuls between palms into balls. Arrange balls on heavy large baking sheet, spacing 1/2 inch apart. Bake cookies until golden brown on bottom and just pale golden on top, about 18 minutes. Cool cookies 5 minutes on baking sheet. Gently toss warm cookies in cinnamon sugar to coat completely. Transfer coated cookies to rack and cool completely. Repeat procedure with remaining half of dough. (Cookies can be prepared 2 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature; reserve remaining cinnamon sugar.)
4. Sift remaining cinnamon sugar over cookies and serve.

Makes about 4 dozen.

dimply plum cake - homage to my fave

P8260197I'm going on record and stating that my ultimate favorite food blog is Smitten Kitchen. Deb is so eloquent and captivating, not to mention her food choices fall along the lines of my own (vegetarian generally, not too presumptuous). And only until I moved into my own 20 square foot kitchen via NYC, I fully understood her tribulations. I could even somewhat accredit her for my own ambition to start a food blog with dazzling photos and witty composition.

So when I find a recipe from my favorite-est blogger incorporating fresh seasonal fruit and a tangy spiced loaf, I make it! It also doesn't hurt that the name for it is "dimply plum cake." (Adorbz much?)

One small dilemma, I'm no fan of zested orange. In fact, I have never been much of a fan of any zested citrus. Only until recently, I have avoided this step in most recipes, just to appease my own palate. But hold on one second, it did come from Deb's site, ergo, it must be scrumptious. I think I'll give it a shot.

I can remember the smell of the cake as I carried it out of the oven- a strong sweetness of the fresh plums, wafting with orange tints and cinnamon backdrops.

As tasty as it smelt, I was hesitant to pair the bite with scent. I think I may have done something wrong. The cake part was utterly gooey and mushy, as if the plums had purposely secreted all their juices to overpower the deliciousness of the cake. I knew I shouldn't have added that darn orange zest!

Whatever mishaps happened, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I was able to look past the mushiness of the cake and the thickness provided by the plums skins, and savor the overall dish. Hey, I was even able to get over my aversion to orange zest. Win!

Taken from Smitten Kitchen.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Scant 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 cup flavorless oil, such as canola or safflower
Grated zest of 1 orange
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
8 purple or red plums (or even Italian prune plums, when they are in season), halved and pitted

1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan, dust the inside with flour, tap out the excess and put the pan on a baking sheet. (Alternately, you can use this spray to butter and flour, which is indeed my greatest baking Joy.)
2. Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon together.
3. Working with a mixer, beat the butter at medium speed until it’s soft and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the sugar and beat for another 3 minutes, then add the eggs, one at a time, and beat for a minute after each egg goes in. Still working on medium speed, beat in the oil, zest and vanilla; the batter will look smooth and creamy, almost satiny. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they are incorporated.
4. Run a spatula around the bowl and under the batter, just to make sure there are no dry spots, then scrape the batter into the pan and smooth the top. Arrange the plums cut side up in the batter–Dorie says she usually makes four rows of four plum halves each–jiggling the plums a tad just so they settle comfortably into the batter.
5. Bake for about 30 to 40 minutes (Dorie says 40, mine was done in 30 so check early and often), or until the top is honey brown and puffed around the plums and a thin knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the cake to a rack and cool for 15 minutes during which time the plums juices will seep back into the cake then run a knife around the sides of the pan and unmold the cake. Invert and cool right side up.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Now, I'm going to do something weird and futuristic- I'm going to talk to my blog from myself from the future.
In all honesty, since my last post (8/22/10), I have: moved into a new house with my two roommates, finished my final two semesters of college, graduated college shortly thereafter, moved out of my house with my two roommates, moved into an apartment in Astoria NY, got a job at a restaurant, moved yet again to another apartment in Astoria NY with my boyfriend, got another job at a restaurant, and throughout everything I have maintained my sanity.
Why no new blog entries you ask? Weren't you still taking an abundant amount of photos of your home-cooked meals? Weren't you aesthetically arranging the dishes according to perspective angles and accurate light composure? And last I've heard, you still need food on a daily basis to survive... So what's the deal?

Well, myself from the past, simply put, I just haven't fucking got around to it. Yeah, in the beginning I still took the stupid photos with my pretty (new) digital camera. They eventually got put into the "Unnamed Folder" on my computer (which, interestingly enough, eventually broke). Then, the whole moving-in-with-my-boyfriend-thing happened. Guess what?... When you're feeding more than one person, there tends to be rules and regulations. There are limits on types of foods, times for the food to be consumed, prices of foods, all types of food-obscurities that have previously evaded my conscious.

Like seriously, what is up with this shit? Not trying to be bitter or anything, but part of me feels like the joy of cooking has been sucked out of me. I think somewhere between my last blog post and now, I have transformed into an everyday cynical adult. Luckily for myself and my (imaginary) readers, I have had a lapse of judgment and I have once again been enlightened by the satisfaction and enthusiasm of cooking.

Please excuse me while I gather up my photos and content and desperately attempt to piece back together my missing blog entries.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

pepperoni pizza - easy as pie (pizza pie, that is)

P8260253"Do you want to order pizza tonight for dinner?"
"No, grandma. Just this past year I learned how to cook, so I mean, I should like cook things for you. You know?"
"Oh sure honey. Can we cook pizza then?"
... So to appease all sides, we instead opted to create a pizza at home. I'm not quite ready to make a pizza dough from scratch (I've only made one yeast bread before- honey whole wheat bread- and although it was successful, I'm not emotionally ready for the second time around).

Enter: Pillsbury pizza dough in a can.

Okay, so for once I cut a few corners- kill me. Canned tomato sauce, shredded mozzarella, and sliced pepperoni helped out too.

Who knew pizza was this easy to make? No joke- it tasted like a regular pizza you could have got from anywhere.

I mean, nothing to write home about. But at the same time, it took literally 5 minutes, allowed me to put whatever toppings I wanted, and made my grandma happy. Score.

Stringy mozzarella cheese is my shit.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

stuffed tomatoes - valiant effort to save the day

P8260166I'm not one to let things go to waste. If I'm going to spend $8 a pound for good parmigiano reggiano cheese to make crappy crackers, I'm going to at least turn those crackers into something magical. I refuse to be defeated by these measly chalky crumbly pieces of edible goodness. If I could somehow manifest the taste and flavors into something more palatable, then this recipe could be pulled together.

By crumbling the already crumbled crackers, I was able to make a creamy filling for these tomatoes.

I've never made stuffed tomatoes before, but I couldn't imagine it'd be that hard. I mean, you don't need a rocket scientist to figure out how to seed, stuff, and bake a tomato.

I retract that last statement. I should have read a recipe first, fuck.

The skins were inedible at this point, and had to be pulled off before eating. The filling was perfect, but the cheesy crust on the top should have been covered with foil before baking.

Only once a person removed the bottom skin and peeled away the top cheese crust, could they enjoy my very first attempt at a stuffed tomato.

parmesan thyme crackers - my worst fear manifested

P8250268I can not reiterate this enough: I am obsessed with the Barefoot Contessa. Everything she makes looks, well, fucking awesome. A while back I saw her making these (hear me out) ...crackers. Not just any old store-bought cardboard tasting square pieces of flour and butter. No, no, no. These were parmesan cheese and thyme crackers, rolled up and cut into dainty cute little medallions. How hard can crackers be to make? I mean, I'm practically a professional baker at this point.

These cheesy and herb-full crackers are gonna kick the socks off those Ritz crackers any day.

Fast forward an hour: I'm having a panic attack. I chilled the dough, as stated, but for some odd reason I could not cut my cute little medallions without them breaking apart! I tried and tried, but all that was left were crumbles of cheesy dough. Instead, I tried an old trick I used for my similarly crumbly macadamia nut shortbread- I literally dumped the whole thing into a baking pan, packed it down, and hoped for the best.

My worst possible fear has manifested- I have created something delicious, but it is not presentable in any way shape or form. I was lucky if I could crumble a piece that was bigger than a quarter.

My dream may have been in shambles (literally), but my spirit was not. I had big hopes for these little guys, and trust me, I'll find a way to reuse these broken pieces of deliciousness.

Taken from Ina Garten.

1 stick) unsalted butter
3 ounces grated Parmesan
1+1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Place the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix until creamy. Add the Parmesan, flour, salt, thyme and pepper and combine.
2. Dump the dough on a lightly floured board and roll into a 13-inch long log. Wrap the log in plastic wrap and place in the freezer for 30 minutes to harden.
3. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Cut the log crosswise into 1/4 to 1/2-inch thick slices. Place the slices on a sheet pan and bake for 22 minutes.

mini cheese & bacon quiches - "big purses, big hair, big men"

P8260131I live by this rule: The bigger, the better. Big purses, big hair, big men, ...and I should probably stop this here. I follow this philosophy probably because subconsciously it makes me feel smaller. Now, I know I'm no huge obese whale, but I'm definitely not a teensy tiny twig. To contradict everything I have just said (haha), I actually love mini-sized food. Okay, I can actually put the two concepts together- Miniature foods allow me to portion control my food intake, thus keeping me a smaller size. (Complete blatant lie- I end up eating more in the long run.)

There's just something about tiny cutesy edible things that are so fucking adorable. I'm obsessed with the concept of appetizers, and I think every meal of every day for the rest of my life should consist of tiny handheld balls of cuteness (that's what she said). Completely unrealistic, especially seeing how long these things can take to create. I actually cut my time drastically by rolling my dough into balls and flattening them out, opposed to rolling the entire thing flat and cutting individual sized circles.

I had this grand image of me creating tons of mini appetizers and making assorted plates of deliciousness for all of my grandma's friends. Didn't happen. After doing the crust of these quiches (a minimum hour), it was time to create a filling. I whipped together what we had in the fridge- assortments of cheeses and meats. I then attempted to pour them into the muffin tins with the differences noted in my head. Unfortunately I forgot where I put what. Fortunately, although not purposely, they all tasted the same anyways.

I used a pate sucree (how you like them French apples?), which is a pastry crust made for tarts and similar shit. It's on the sweeter side, but I figured I'd go with it anyways because this dough is just a thousand times easier to whip up than regular pie crust.

So what exactly does a sweet crust taste like with a savory filling? Unusually satisfying, that's for sure. I guess I never took into consideration how that contrast would play out in the final step. Well lucky for me- I have a very huge sweet tooth!

For those not so keen for the sweetness, I have actually attempted savory quiches- My mexican quiche tart came out extraordinary, as did my previous mini cheese and bacon quiches.