Sunday, March 15, 2015

Spinach and Mushroom Hand Pies

Of course I've been cooking and baking since my last post, but nothing's really been noteworthy. Last weekend I moved into an apartment; before then it felt pointless to create more things to take with me, and I've been building up a baking cupboard since I got here. I did make a potato soup a few nights ago, but that's not as exciting as hand pies.

I got the recipe from the King Arthur Flour website, which I've found to be an excellent source in general. Made quite a few changes, mostly blandifying, but they still came out very well!

To start with the dough, where you really ought to: since I had no "Hi-Maize Fiber" or powdered cheese, my final recipe was

  • about 2 cups of flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt (not really, just a prolonged burst of salt-grinding)
  • 3/4 cup cold butter
  • a bit of grated Parmesan cheese, maybe 1/4 cup or a little less
After these were mixed reasonably well in my antique mixer, I added 6 Tbsp of coldish water (the tap would not oblige me with ice water) and mixed some more by hand. The resulting dough I divided and chilled as directed.

I made up the filling very simply: about 8oz. of mushrooms and about 8oz. of frozen spinach, sauteed in olive oil with a pinch of salt, marjoram, and coriander. You can see that this is less interesting than in the recipe, but I didn't have any cheddar (parmesan can be overpowering, so I didn't use it) nor an onion.

The rest I did as directed! And the end result was fabulous - the pastry flaky and buttery, the filling savory and delicious. I ate the one cut in half below, as well as the ugly and patched one. Five stars, would make again, etc.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Toffee Squares

It's been a long time since I posted - in the meantime I've made two kouign ammans that I didn't think were good enough to post here. The trouble with living with just myself and my mother (who can't eat most of what I make as there's flour in it) is that anything I make takes forever to be finished, so I don't have a justification for baking frequently!

But I finished the last kouign amman and looked around for something to make. There are a number of cookbooks in our kitchen, and I selected Betty Crocker's Cooky Book (1963).
I went in very skeptically. 1960s cooking and baking doesn't generally do it for me, and nothing was catching me as I went through the recipes. The illustrations along the bottom of the pages were not appealing - they all looked like spritz cookies. Everything's very pale and dry. But then I found the Toffee Squares, a rich cooky that looks and tastes like toffee candy. Promising! I love toffee.

The Recipe

  • 1 cup butter (I do 1/2 cup butter, 1/2 cup shortening as a matter of course, so you get the good butteryness but can feel like you're doing a good thing because of the shortening)
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar (I used dark)
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • chocolate chips
The Baking

When you beat the butter/sugar/egg/vanilla together, it looks like ordinary cookie dough wet ingredients, but when you add the flour and sugar it becomes very dry and crumbly. (Still tasty, though. I probably ate a full cookie square of this before baking.) And a thing you may have noticed about this recipe is that there's no rising agent. This is because it's basically shortbread with brown sugar instead of white.

Instead of being a deliciously thick batter, it's a slightly unappetizingly dry powder. But once you press it into a greased 13x9 pan, it gets better. And once you bake it at 350 degrees ("moderate", according to the book, which I think is aimed partly at an audience used to measuring oven heat via testing with a hand)) for 25-30 minutes, the butter melts and it's shortbread.

While it's still hot, sprinkle chocolate chips or bits of chocolate bars on top and let it stand. Give it a few minutes to let the chocolate melt, then spread it around. Once it cools, or mostly cools anyway, cut the cookies into squares.

... That napkin didn't look so crumby to me when I took the picture, but I'd already eaten one because they're irresistible.

At first I thought these might do better with light brown sugar as they tasted a bit molassesy - I'm not a big fan of molasses - but after eating several by now it's grown on me. Brown sugar shortbread! It's delicious!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Poppyseed Bagels

My favorite breakfast, hands down, is a warm poppyseed bagel with cream cheese. Years ago, I used to enjoy the formerly-frozen bagels from the supermarket (until they discontinued the poppyseed ones, for some reason) and Dunkin Donuts's ... but over the years, I've become more picky, and only fresher and bagelier ones will suffice. When I lived in New York I used to get them from Whole Foods - the only thing I could afford to buy there regularly - and these days I very occasionally, if I'm in Saratoga, stop in at Healthy Living for some of the bagels they buy from local café Uncommon Grounds.

(When I was in New York, I also tried one of the famous Murray's bagels. I have to admit, it seemed pretty dry and hard and we just didn't get on.)

Bagels aren't great for you. They're practically the definition of carb-loading! But they make me feel nice and full in a way that eggs & toast, cereal, and oatmeal don't, and so a few months ago I realized it was possible to make your own bagels and therefore ensure a steady supply.

After searching, I found this recipe from Chow that looked like it ended with exactly the kind of bagels I like best. I've had to adjust it a bit in order to get exactly the bagel I wanted, though, and its taken me more than a few batches to work it out.

Sunday, December 28, 2014


What am I doing, starting a food blog? What is this? Who am I??

First things first. My name is Cassidy, and technically I could call myself a professional baker ... well, bakery sales associate/cake decorator. I've been working a supermarket bakery for five months now, and I've been baking since before I can remember, really - this job has taught me some techniques with buttercream, but the bigger thing is that it's made me more adventurous and more eager to try out new recipes and flavors.

I don't have a cool, unifying shtick for this blog. It's not going to just be baking, because I also love e.g. Indian food, and that's fun to write about, and my cooking could stand to become more interesting as well. I'm not concentrating on dairy-free or gluten-free or veganism (although I want to work on some gluten-free baking because I have a relative who's sensitive to gluten, and the GF recipes she's used seem to leave a lot to be desired). I don't have a family to appeal to or a business to develop recipes for.

There is one little bit of shtick, though. Working in a supermarket bakery, I see a lot of tasty treats - but because I know that even the most basic homemade pastry usually tastes better than something extruded in a factory and frozen for weeks. I'd like to figure out a few of the things I label or put together from pre-packaged parts, so that I can make them at home. Hopefully these trials will be interesting!

Other things I'd like to try include historical recipes that involve very few measurements, as well as really difficult and/or finicky confections that nobody really needs to make, but are challenging and fun.