Archive | December, 2012

Bombshell Blondies

14 Dec

We all know blondies have more fun and I’m here to prove it to you.

Now, I like a good brownie now and again, but I will tell you there is not too much variation when the point is chocolate, chocolate, and more chocolate.

But blondies on the other hand are like a blank canvas, waiting for the artist to color it in.

And usually folks fall on one side of the camp or the other, and I am on Team Blondie all the way.

I am not a chocoholic as many people proclaim to be.

Carboholic, yes (see All Hail Kale), but chocolate, not so much, and prefer it as more of an accent to something else rather than the main attraction.

I’ve been asked what the difference is between these and a “pan cookie” and I can tell you that this isn’t any old drop cookie recipe shoved into an 8 x 8 pan. Instead, it is a carefully thought out combination of ingredients, each having its own special job, but together create a taste explosion.

The texture, chewy and dense, will satisfy the most hardcore brownie lover (you are a tough bunch, btw).

The sugar and butter caramelize and people will ask what your secret ingredient is, and even try to guess (butterscotch, caramel, toffee). But no, alas, it is just the transformation of seemingly everyday things that creates this illusion.

And as for the kosher salt, well, this in fact is key here. It gives the blondies balance so they do not come off cloyingly sweet or garish in their dessert-ness, and instead create a depth that brings out all of the other flavors, especially enhancing the bit of chocolate that goes in.

These are buxom blondies, that eat like a meal with their hearty, toothsome, cakey texture, the meatiness of the nuts, the ever-pleasant burst of chocolate in every bite. They sit in all their glory on their plate waiting for someone to fall game to their voluptuous appeal, laden with deliciousness.

This is dessert after all and it doesn’t play fair.

But alas, life is not always fair, and blondies really do have more fun. Feel free switch it up and add raspberries and coconut, or chopped peanut butter cups, or nothing at all.

But this is how I like it and I am a fun gal, after all.

Me being fun

Me being fun

 

Bombshell Blondies

2 sticks unsalted butter

2 1 ½ cups firmly packed light brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

½ cups all-purpose flour, spooned into the measuring cup and then leveled

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon kosher salt, slightly rounded

¾ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (okay, make it heaping if you must)

¾ cups chopped pecans

1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Butter an 8 x 8 or 9 x 9 square baking pan. Line the pan with a piece of parchment paper, leaving an overhang on 2 sides; then butter the parchment (the butter here will help form a crisp exterior).

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2. In a large bowl, melt the 2 sticks of butter in the microwave and let cool for a few minutes.

melt the butter

melt the butter

 

3. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, the baking powder, and salt; set aside.

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4. Into the large bowl with melted and slightly cooled butter, whisk in the brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla until smooth.  Add the flour mixture and mix until just combined (do not over mix). Fold in the chocolate chips and pecans.

add the sugar

add the sugar

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yin yang of chocolate and pecans

yin yang of chocolate and pecans

stir to combine

stir to combine

 

4. Spoon the batter in the prepared pan and even out the top.

scoop the batter on the parchment paper

scoop the batter on the parchment paper

spread evenly

spread evenly

5. Bake until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, 40 minutes for a 9 x 9 pan, and 45 minutes for an 8 x 8. Let cool completely in the pan on a rack.  Holding the paper overhang, lift out the blondies. Cut into 16 squares (or cut them again to make 32 slices or triangles).

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We are all fun over here at my house!

We are all fun over here at my house!

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Perfect Potato Pancakes: A Latke Tutorial

6 Dec

Now come on, don’t be shy, raise your hand if you have never attempted to make your own latkes. That’s better.  It feels good to share, doesn’t it.

 
Or more likely, you have made latkes, and year after year you wonder why they are not turning out crispy outside and melt in your mouth creamy inside. And why, oh why, don’t they taste like Grandma’s???

 
Don’t worry, help is here!

 
I have a foolproof latke recipe for you, and it is low-fat!  Okay… I am totally lying about the low-fat part.

 
You can read this blog, or you can watch me make them live on TV here, or both:

 
Aura Makes Latkes on KMOV’s Great Day St. Louis

 
Tis the season to make latkes, so either way, get out your food processor, your frying pan, and let’s go!

 
Latke 101

 
The goods:

 
Potatoes. You can make these with any kind of potato and any kind of vegetable, really. Cooks are always throwing in everything from zucchini and carrots to sweet potatoes and curry. But for traditional latkes, I recommend using Russet potatoes because of their high starch content.

 
Onions. You can’t make a good latke without a good onion. Use a 2 potato to 1 onion ratio here folks.

 
Eggs. Keep it together folks. I know the onions made you cry, but in this case I mean the latke. It will help hold it together.

 
Salt. Yes, mmm… good. You can’t make a decent latke without the proper amount of salt. Besides, the right amount will help the water drain from the potatoes and onions. I’m a fan of kosher salt.

 
Flour vs. Matzo Meal vs. Potato Starch. Ok, sit down for this one: I don’t add any flour or matzo meal to my batter. I find it makes the batter gummy and heavy and you will still have liquid in the bottom of the bowl as the potatoes and onions will continually give off water. Instead, I use the potato starch that naturally comes out of the potatoes in my bowl (instructions and photos follow). And the liquid, well, you just keep mixing it back in. If you find you absolutely must add flour and can’t accept the concept of a flour-less potato pancake, then go ahead and add a little, you have my blessing. But don’t keep adding when you see liquid in the bowl, just mix it back in.

 
And oil. This is the most important part here. You want to use peanut oil. It is the best. Its high smoke point allows you to get through the whole batch of lakes without setting off the smoke alarm. You can also use canola or vegetable oil, but it won’t have the same results. Peanut will give you the crispiest texture. See below for more on oil.

 
Helpful tips:

 
Skin the potatoes. But someone I know leaves them on and boy does that save a lot of work, not to mention keep some extra nutrients in. But I haven’t tried it myself, so for now I say skin ’em.

 
Use a food processor. I know plenty of people swear by hand-grating. But the people I know who usually do this, well, the latkes are the only thing they will cook all year so they have energy to spare. You grandmother grated by hand. She suffered so you don’t have to.

 
You can double or triple this recipe. But if you do I recommend crushing a vitamin C tablet and adding it to your mixture to keep the batter from turning brown.

 
Make sure your oil is hot, hot, hot, like the Buster Poindexter song. You can put in a wooden chopstick as the oil heats, and when bubbles form around it and are moving rapidly you will know your oil is ready. Pretty cool, huh? And I def don’t advise throwing droplets of water into your oil to see if it spatters–it will, and you will have a mess and could possibly get burned.

 
Flip once, not twice, unless you want to give you latke a bath in the oil. Yuck.

 
Don’t press down with the spatula. You want it to have a little body, not be an oily potato chip. And the expression “flat as a pancake,” well don’t press down on those either.

 
Feel free to make these ahead and freeze. They are extra crispy when reheated. Try 375 degrees F for 6-8 minutes per side.

 

 

Need more help? Ask me!

 

 

Aura’s Traditional Potato Latkes

  • 2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and quartered lengthwise
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and quartered
  • 1 egg
  • 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup peanut oil

1. Using the grating disc of your food processor, grate the potatoes and the onion.

2. Remove the shredded potatoes and onions and put them into a mesh colander sitting over a large bowl.

3. Change the blade of the food processor to the chopping blade. Put most, but not all of the shredded potatoes and onions into the work bowl of the food processor and pulse until you have a smoother texture.

4. Put the mixture back into the colander over the bowl and press down to help the potatoes release their liquid.

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5. Remove the colander from the bowl and you will see the liquid from the potatoes with the white starch settled at the bottom. Pour off the water being careful to save the potato starch.

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6. Put the potato-onion mixture into the bowl with the potato starch, add the egg, salt and pepper, and mix well.

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7. Pour the oil into a large frying pan and heat to medium high. Place a wooden chopstick into the oil and when bubbles form around it you know the oil is the right temperature for frying.

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8. Carefully drop spoonfuls of batter into the hot oil. Let the latkes cook for about 3 minutes until golden and then carefully flip and cook on the other side.

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9. Remove them from the pan and place on paper towels to drain. Repeat with remaining batter.

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10. Serve with applesauce or sour cream.  Makes 18 latkes.

Aura is interviewed about Chanukah Traditions and cooking in the Ladue News

Lazy Day Noodle Soup

4 Dec

Baby, its cold outside and winter lethargy has set in. You need something hot and you need it right now.

OK, well in reality, it is December and freakishly warm where I live. And although it has been 70 degrees for the last few days, my body knows it is soup season.

This will never replace your mom’s chicken soup recipe, which of course is the best. But it is better than anything canned, packaged, or processed. It is simple and honest and easy and fast. And you probably already have everything in the house.

I am a big fan of slaving away over a hot stove any day of the week. I love wielding knives, mixing, measuring, mashing, stirring, kneading, etc. But this is not that recipe.

All you do is throw a few things in a bowl, stick it in the microwave, and walk away. Of course you can go back and sit on the couch, or in front of the fireplace, the TV, the wall, or whatever you like to stare at. When your work is done, you will be rewarded with a hot bowl of chicken noodle soup.

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Quick Chicken Noodle

 

  • 1 medium carrot, sliced thin
  • 1 stalk of celery, sliced thin
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme, crushed up a little
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 chicken flavored bouillon cubes and 4 1/2 cups water (or you can use 4 cups broth and ½ cup water)
  • 1 generous cup fine egg noodles, slightly broken up

 

1.  In a large microwave-safe bowl, place all of the ingredients.

2. Cover and cook the soup in the microwave for 15 minutes.  Let cool for 5 minutes.

3.  Ladle the soup into 4 bowls and serve with crackers, if desired.

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