Saturday, June 21, 2008

A Saturday Baking Bonanza

I can't exactly remember the details, but some time ago I signed up to be a recipe tester for Cook's Illustrated magazine. I'm a pretty big fan of the magazine and website, and if I'm lucky enough on a Saturday afternoon I can catch their television program "America's Test Kitchen" on PBS. For those of you not familiar with the premise of the organization, they do extensive testing of recipes, products, techniques, and cooking gadgets. In other words, when you use one of their recipes you can be sure that it's pretty much no-fail and will taste amazing.

I've been receiving e-mails from them with recipes to test and a corresponding survey to complete, but so far this is the only recipe I've attempted--Chewy Chocolate Cookies. The other recipes they've sent have either not interested me or required too many ingredients I would need to buy and subsequently never use again. These cookies were okay, but if I ever make them again I'll make a few changes. First, I would cut out the step of rolling the dough in granulated sugar prior to baking. At first I thought this would make it easier to shape the cookies and reduce stickiness, but after handling the dough with relative ease I think the step could be eliminated. I'd also make these guys a bit smaller. Make that a LOT smaller. The entire batch of dough was portioned into 16 cookies but could have easily made a full 36 and still end up with a decent size cookie. The current size is generous, yes, but in my opinion it's more than one person can eat. Or should eat.

A while back my sister's boyfriend asked me if I knew how or have ever made focaccia bread. My answer was "no," but it got me to thinking that maybe I should make it, and soon. I turned to my trusty Allrecipes site to read up on some recipes and member reviews and found this recipe. I made two modifications though: less yeast and no olive oil on top (I figured we could dip in olive oil when we ate--like at those nice Italian restaurants). The recipe calls for 1 Tablespoon (3 tsp.)of yeast...a standard package contains 2-1/4 tsp., and I wasn't about to open another pack for the rest. I knew I could get away with using less if I increased the proof time. The resulting bread pretty darned tasty, but next time I'll stretch the dough into a bigger slab before baking. I followed the directions by patting the dough out to 1/2", but my final product was too puffy, too tall, too bready...if that makes any sense.

Well these aren't baked goods per se, but they did come out of my oven and it's just too pretty a picture not to post. :) On the left are crawfish cakes. Yes, that's right. Crawfish cakes. Sounds good, no? I chopped up some leftover tails I had in my freezer from a crawfish boil earlier this year and threw them into a standard crab cake recipe. Of course I made the mistake of forgetting that the tails were already seasoned, so with the added salt in the recipe the cakes ended up being a little salty for my taste.

Pictured on the right are some roasted vegetables I prepared using a package of Italian dressing mix and a touch of olive oil. It's officially summer time (though it's been feeling like it outside for quite some time now), and with it comes a bounty of summer squash. Yellow squash and zucchini are two of my favorite vegetables, as are sweet red peppers. Normally I'm unwilling to shell out the bucks to buy them, but there was a sale at Albertsons I couldn't pass up. I still had a pound of carrots in my fridge from when I made carrot cakes, so I wanted to use those up too. (parboiled first, of course) If it wasn't such a rainy Saturday, I'd have thrown these into my veggie basket and popped them onto the grill with some portbellos. Then I would be in veg-u-ble heaven!

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