Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Creating the Perfect Cookie

I have visited the ever-popular chocolate chip cookie recipe time and time again, hoping to come to that 'a ha!' moment of, 'how can I make this special?', and it's always just been fine.  Or worse, the Nestle Tollhouse recipe trumps my new ideas every time.  
I work best with a deadline, an end goal in my sightline, and I gave that to myself:  create your own, awesome cookie to sell in cafes.  I've done my research and it's all very possible:  I already have my Food Handler's License, so all I'd need is clearance from the health department so that I could bake from my home shelf-stable items like cookies, then create a name and a brand for myself, and make it happen.  The business logisitics I'm working on, so then on to the busy part:  coming up with the right balance of ingredients to make it great.  I watched a Ted Talk on cookies and learned a thing or two, plus added other research on what the science is behind a good cookie.  
I'm very proud of what I've come up with:  chewy center, crispy edges, nicely browned, chunky, and special!  I work in a few different flavor combination of the ultimate chocolate chip cookie (to me, of course.  Everyone is entitled to their own opinion) and will hope to sell them in a cafe near you soon!  

So this is what I've got:  Black & Green: cardamom, green & black pepper, thyme, dark chocolate.  
                                     Chocolate Salted Coffee: salt, coffee, dark chocolate.

And I didn't stop at chocolate chippers.  I decided to take on the peanut butter cookie and make it good for those who have both gluten and nut allergies:
                                     Sunbutter S'More:  sunflower seed butter, mini marshmallows, dark chocolate.
                                     Sunny Crunch: sun seed butter, unsweetened coconut, toffee, and toasted sun seeds

Another favorite of mine is the shortbread cookie. I took a Scottish shortbread recipe and melded it with traditional American style, with my own twist:
                                     Lemony Shortbread: lemon zest, whole wheat, salt.

And lastly, who doesn't love an oatmeal cookie?  This one has bourbon-soaked golden raisins and a nice moist center:                 Golden Bourbon Oat: bourbon-soaked golden raisins, salt.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

more bread makes me a happy girl

I had another baking spurt this morning. It didn't just come on out of nowhere as I need to plan ahead to a point when I'm growing my starters and such, but I didn't plan on doing so much at the same time. I had a tough day yesterday so I decided to bake to feel better. I'm keeping the calm going by working on it some more today.

I made sponge starter to try a new starter out (so far I've made gluten-free starter sans yeast that grows on the countertop as well as old dough that is added to new dough for a more complex flavor) and it grew a ton, both on the counter and in the fridge. It's nice that some bread-in-the-making will wait for me (a bit) until I'm ready to use them.
I took out my old dough from the freezer to defrost yesterday and started making Amy's Crusty Italian Loaf, which is a dough that uses the sponge. I made it and let it rise for an hour, then kept in the fridge overnight to develop. I had leftover sponge that I put in the fridge to keep longer (and it just kept growing, even in the cold!) so I decided to go crazy and start preparing it all today.
The Crusty Italian bread turned out fantastic! I made them into rings and baguettes instead of a loaf...can share the wealth better that way. I'm bringing one to Pak Sapta at the Indonesian Consulate to thank him for keeping my ipod safe in his office overnight (I had gamelan practice last night and accidently left it), will give one to my boss, one each to Audrey and Joanne, the massage therapists at the office, and will be bringing one to Liz later tonight because she asked.

I prepared Amy's Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread with Oats and Pecans as well as altered her recipe for Cinnamon Raisin Bread by subbing the black raisins for 2/3 golden 1/3 chopped apricots as well as tossing in nutmeg along with the cinnamon...now they're all sitting dutifully in the fridge until I can bake them off tonight.

Update: I baked them and they turned out very pretty.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Gluten-free Love

Oh, dear! It's been far too long since I've last posted on here. Baking has pulled me back. Sorry, Mary, for slacking on this blog...I really need to make it more of a habit.

Without going into detail about why, Dr. Farah, the chiropractor that shares an office with my acupuncturist, Barry, has been really helpful and recommended I try cutting out wheat from my diet. This is no easy task, but I took on the idea quickly and am running with it to see if it helps with my issues. Along with cutting out wheat comes the idea of gluten-free cooking, so I'm trying that on for size. For those of you that are unfamiliar but have heard about gluten-free this and that, check out the wikipedia page www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gluten-free

I started becoming curious about cooking and baking without gluten when I landed a job years ago at Rice restaurant: the owner, David, was interested in me coming up with a breakfast menu full of baked items (some rice-related) and he wanted to try to cater to those that couldn't eat gluten or dairy, so I experiemented and came up with a scone and a crepe to offer. My friend, Nathania, who attributes some allergic reactions she gets to dairy and gluten, loaned me a cookbook and I liked it so much that I bought it for myself: The Gluten-Free Gourmet revised edition by Bette Hagman. I like it because it simply breaks down a list of options and substitutes, lists hidden gluten (like in some instant coffees and envelope glues (!)), and has a ton of recipes from yeast breads to desserts to meals.
I dug into the dessert section when it came time for Nathania's birthday- I was determined to make her a tasty cake with frosting...I think I wound up searching online for something that worked out pretty well. I found this resource at the time: http://www.theppk.com/ (The Post Punk Kitchen) where they have info on vegan baking.
Since I'm not that great with keeping up on blogs (for shame since I have one) and have a ton of other interests I didn't keep experimenting that much unless something came up like a birthday or gift for someone that I wanted to bake for. Now that I am faced with some health issues of my own that I'm trying to tackle naturally and the fact that I've been baking non-stop anyway to hone my skills for that perfect job to come along, this comes as a perfect time to experiment once again and try out a bunch of gluten-free/ wheat-free/ dairy-free recipes. Since I'm going to be saying gluten-free a lot let's just abbreviate it to g.f., cool?

Since I haven't had a full-time job since June (ack!) I've had time on my hands to bake (I've been working as a receptionist part-time in another chiropractor's office), so my mission is to practice practice practice! I started out wanting to make it my mission to bake yeast breads (the usual gluten-filled kind) so now I'm trying both, being very careful not to let any wheat, etc. touch the utensils, bowls, etc. that I use for the g.f. stuff. Besides the g.f. cookbook, I'm also using Amy's Bread by Amy Scherber and Toy Kim Dupree as well as this Chinese cooking resource: http://www.chinesefood.about.com/

I've made it a job in itself (or at least that's how I rationalize it in my head so that I don't stress out too much) and this is what I've baked so far, along with it's outcome: Wed. 12/22- Chinese Sticky Cake- tastes just like the ones from Chinatown!, Thurs. 12/23- Chinese Sponge Cake- light and fluffy, and g.f. Chinese Sponge- not as light but very moist with a slight bean flavor but very good!/ Mon. 12/27- Tradional Baguettes- pretty good! I need to perfect the look of them, and more g.f. sponge cake/ Tues. 12/28- g.f. Oat Bread- too dense/ g.f. grainy sourdough- not bad, a bit too 'sour' tasting and still too dense, and Cinnamon Raisin Bread- excellent! but I need to wrap the dough tighter as the raisins kept falling out when I sliced it/ Wed. 12/29- g.f. sourdough bread- pretty good! but doesn't taste like sourdough bread at all/ Tues. 1/4- g.f. Grainy Sourdough- not bad, a bit too sour tasting, still a little too dense/ today, Fri. 1/7- g.f. English Muffins- good, easy, and just like the real thing...here's the recipe:

Gluten-free English Muffins
1 c. rice flour (next time I'm getting brown rice flour)
1 c. tapoica starch/ flour (same thing)
1/3 c. dried milk or non-dairy sub.
1 tsp+1/2 tsp+1/4 tsp (sorry, I halved the orginal recipe) xanthan gum (so necessary to buy for g.f. baking)
1/2 tsp salt.........a) put all in mixing bowl and blend

1 tbsp. yeast granules
1/2 c. lukewarm water (75-77 degrees)
1/2 tbsp sugar...........b) mix and sit for a few mins.

1 1/2 tbsp shortening (I use organic all-vegetable or else solid coconut oil)
1/4 c. hot water...........c)blend these, then add it to the dry mix and blend

2 egg whites.........d) add to mixture and blend

e) go back to yeast mix, add to mixture and beat on high for 4 mins.- it will be a sticky dough. Spoon onto rice-floured waxed paper, flatten a bit and sprinkle more rice flour, then top with another sheet of waxed paper- roll out 1/2 in. thick, cut out circles (I used the lid of a jar as I don't own english muffin tins) and bake in a pre-heated 350 deg. oven for 20 mins. on a greased cookie sheet. The recipe says to flip them over and bake for another 20 but that's only if you have tins. Mine turned out a bit puffy on top so they look more like biscuits and when you fork-split them they're nice and airy!
I'm so glad as George and I always have english muffins on hand and the last pack we bought isn't getting eaten up like usual!

I will continue to add to my baking list and post recipes up here....


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Hopeful Fall

Things were a little hectic for a bit there. I'm not saying it's all clear skies now, but at least I can see a bit beyond my next step, which is hopeful. Difficult family issues, the stress of finding a new apartment and then moving, no job prospects...things like this can stop all creative flow for sure. I can't work well in a disorganized environment but I still managed to try while we were in the process of moving (making cupcakes for my friend's son's birthday as well as another friend's engagement, trying to practice music and dance). Ideas came to me for a blog post during this patch but I didn't have easy access to a computer since ours was unplugged and ready for a new home, and since then I've forgotten what it is I wanted to talk about. Oh, well. Now that the dust is settling after having moved into our new two-bedroom (still in Astoria!) I'm back up online and trying to make up for lost time.
The other night I cooked for real and it was so great. Finally, counter space! Room to keep all my baking pans and tools and accessories! And a shelf for my cookbooks! Of course, the first room I finished was the kitchen. Eating is a necessity, and it saddens me to eat subpar food. We ordered Thai from a local spot one of the first nights in the new place and boy, was it terrible! (Trust me- don't order from Spiced at Ditmars and 35th.) It's so satisfying to make something with my own two hands that I can feel good about and enjoy eating. One day I'd like to apprentice under a master of every kind of Asian food...I know this might take forever. I feel Asian food is the hardest for me to conquer: for starters, I'm not familiar with all the staples I'd need to stock in my cabinet. Placing that job in the hands of someone more qualified for the time being, we redeemed ourselves by ordering Thai the other night from a much better place (Thai Elephant on 31st btwn Ditmars and 21st Ave).

I haven't picked up the bass in far too long. My musical attention has shifted to Gamelan Dharma Swara, the Balinese group I recently became a part of. It excites me to belong to a group like this again- the last time was 10 years ago at CalArts. Luckily I can practice on my Suling (flute) anywhere...it's so portable! Back to the indie rock world, El Jezel will be playing an all-covers set at the end of the month, which gives me a good deadline to force me to pick up my bass.

I really should unpack some more now. I'm itching to work at my desk in our new office and can't see the top of it at the moment.

Saturday, September 11, 2010


When I was seven my family moved from the East Coast to the West Coast without preparing me for the move. It was a shock to say the least- my world was small and comfortable in little Sea Cliff, Long Island with my friends and my school and my neighborhood and suddenly I was forced to be a part of this new world and I wasn't ready. I always vowed to go back and so I did, right after college. I was sad to leave my friends and some family and the CalArts Balinese Gamelan I was a part of, but it was the right thing for me to do and I grew a lot because of it. I began taking music lessons, different from the Eastern style I knew, and then started a band. I casually sought out a new Gamelan but they were few and far between and I guess I didn't really know where to look. Besides, my mind was in another place- I wanted to play the bass and sing, and so I did. I missed dance a few years after the band made a place for itself, so I started taking ballet again at my music school. And now comes a new chapter in my life- I am once again a part of a Balinese Gamelan. I feel that excitement and nervousness that you feel when school is starting up again. It's been over 10 years. But I should look at my past and see that it will be no big deal...this pattern has happened before and I've always fallen right back into the groove. I like going back to my roots, something familiar and true, something that's continued to be a part of me even if it's been laying dormant for years.

Saturday, August 7, 2010


I love it when music just clicks. When you're shopping in a store and hear a song you haven't heard before and it stops you in your tracks, or you hear something that you haven't heard in a while that makes you go 'ah! I forgot about this song', or you hear something in your head that just comes to you (I just love when this happens) and you scan your memory of where it came from but you're pretty sure it was just an organic idea, maybe stemmed from the bass-y beat coming from someone's car down the road or the sound of the train pulling out of the station or your own footsteps.
George and I sat down one night recently and decided to write a song. Sometimes this doesn't work for me- it's too much pressure to have to come up with something and I feel put on the spot. But this time it was very natural. We pulled out an old jam El Jezel had created that I had written down in my music notebook, something we had forgotten. Sometimes it's good to pull out something like that so that you don't have any preconceived notions of what it was 'supposed to be'- you have a little distance from it and it becomes fresh again. We found a cool beat on the drum machine and each element of the song fell into place that night, one piece at a time. By the end of it I was writing lyrics so quickly that it became a full song that we decided to debut at the Songwriter's Salon at Fort Useless a week ago. If only everything were that easy.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Addicted to stretching

Sometimes I like using gravity to its full advantage. Instead of tensing my arms to carry my heavy grocery bags home I let gravity stretch them downward and I walked as tall as possible down the block and up the stairs. I love the feeling of stretching my muscles so much that I used to overstretch before dance classes and I was so loose that my muscles weren't strong enough to hold my limbs where they were fully able to go.
I love the floor. The harder the floor the better. I can fall asleep faster on the floor than on a soft couch. I cannot go a day without stretching and if I do I feel stiff and slow and tired. I don't know the chemistry behind this but all I know is how I feel. It's like coffee. It wakes me up.

I like that good pain- and you can tell the good from the bad if you're at all in touch with your body. I like to jam a raquet ball in the space between my femur and my pelvis and lean into it- I could do this for hours. My body is somewhat imbalanced due to a recent diagnosis of scoliosis and thus my right leg feels jammed unless I manipulate it. For some reason I can never overstretch this part of my body.

To treat myself I'll go to a Chinese Qi Gong Tui Na parlor for acupressure massage. They'll ask if you like it hard or soft- hard, please. I like it when she digs her elbow in my back, or walks on me with her heels. If I won the lottery I would get a personal masseuse. I don't know if all my tension comes from years of dance and going about my daily life with resistence to my muscles. Probably. Sometimes I wish I could go about things differently like others do, where they don't feel the need to stretch all the time. It's like a drug- I feel better when I do it. But I'm not addicted, am I?