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Archive for March, 2013

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It’s just that good.

I’m not kidding. This is probably the best chocolate milk I’ve ever had. As a longtime Horizon Organic chocolate milk drinker, I was at first hesitant to put this in my shopping cart at the P Street Whole Foods last week.

A rich chocolate flavor with a smooth, velvety finish make this milk shine. It’s a perfect match for chocolate chip cookies and just about anything, honestly.

Trickling Springs Creamery, located in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, buys their milk from small, local farmers who raise their cows with humane methods. This doesn’t necessarily mean organic, but the cows are pasture raised and grass fed. The creamery also uses a process called HTST (High Temperature Short Time) Pasteurization, which requires heating the milk to at least 160 F for at least 15 seconds to kill harmful bacteria. Typically, most of the milk you see on grocery store shelves is pasteurized using the UHT (Ultra High Temperature) method, with temperatures over 275 F. Trickling Spring’s low temperature pasteurization technique retains some of the milk’s original flavor and nutrients.

Fascinating stuff, no?

Use this map to find Trickling Spring’s products near you. There’s a stand at Union Market that’s definitely worth a visit.

Source:

Maurice Shils, Modern Nutrition in Health and Disease, GoogleBooks, http://books.google.com/books?id=S5oCjZZZ1ggC&pg=PA1782&dq=htst+vs+uht&hl=en&sa=X&ei=s0JTUdf0J4_F4APNroDIBw&ved=0CDQQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=htst%20vs%20uht&f=false

http://www.tricklingspringscreamery.com/

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I spy gravy. Lots of gravy.

Call it a heart attack on a plate: the Hot Turkey Sandwich with Mashed Potatoes from Dutch Eating Place, a lunch counter inside Philly’s Reading Terminal Market.  Sliced, roasted turkey breast in between two slices of bread, smothered in gravy. Next to this is a heaping portion of mashed potatoes smothered in more gravy. To accompany are cole slaw and cranberry sauce. This one brought me right back to Thanksgiving dinner.

Paul and I discovered this sandwich during a day trip to Philly last week. At first, I was confused. Why so much gravy? After some thought, I think I understood what was going on here. Professional chefs might hate you for admitting it, but trust me, it’s often true: Cheese, bacon or gravy makes everything delicious. The cooks at Dutch Eating Place must have thought, “Let’s just make all of our food extra delicious by dumping gravy all over it, no matter what it is.” It’s kind of brilliant, if you ask me. Even though the slices of white bread were a bit soggy and lifeless (I actually wished they had been toasted), I still ate every last bite on my plate.

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Embrace the gravy.

If turkey isn’t your preference, then you can order the same sandwich with roast beef (pictured, above). We noticed that this particular gravy had a darker color than it did on the turkey sandwich. My guess is that previous gravy was made with turkey or chicken stock, and that this gravy used beef stock.

This monster sandwich is just one of the gems you’ll find at Reading Terminal Market. I love this place, but thank God I don’t live close by. I’d probably weigh 1000 pounds.

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In my last post, I set a high goal for myself: Can I top The New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe?

Here is the final list of ingredients I created:

  • 1 ⅓ – 1 ½ cups AP flour
  • ½ t. baking soda
  • ¾ t. baking powder
  • 1 stick butter, softened and cut into small pieces
  • 1 ¼ cups brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 t. vanilla extract
  • 10 oz. chocolate chips – I used half a bag of Ghiradelli, 60% cacao and half  a bag of semi-sweet
  •  Sea salt (optional)

I started with the Times’ recipe and modified it using with another recipe that mimics The City Bakery’s cookie. I made a few more tweaks, including using only AP flour and brown sugar. After doing a little research, I found out some useful information on chocolate chip cookie ingredients. Using mostly granulated sugar results in a thin, extremely crispy cookie. Using mostly brown sugar will make the cookie moist and chewy (That’s what I wanted!).

Although using cake flour and bread flour in the dough can result in a softer, more delicate texture of the cookie, there’s nothing wrong with AP flour. It’s called all-purpose for a reason, isn’t it? Not only that, it’s also more likely to be in your kitchen cabinet.

So, with my limited baking chemistry knowledge, the above recipe is my best effort. Here are the directions:

  1. Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl and set aside.
  2. Cream butter and sugar with a stand or hand mixer until smooth and no more lumps are present.
  3. Add the egg and the vanilla and beat until combined (don’t overbeat).
  4. Add the flour mixture a little at a time and beat until fully incorporated.IMG_4266
  5. Roughly chop the chocolate chips (see above) and add them to the dough, using a wooden spoon.
  6. Chill dough for at least one hour. 
  7. When ready to bake, set oven to 375 degrees. Using an ice cream scooper, place cookie dough on a sheet tray lined with parchment.
  8. If you have sea salt on hand (I didn’t at the time), sprinkle a small amount over each cookie.
  9. Bake for 10-15 minutes. The time will vary, but the cookies are done when they are golden brown around the edges.
  10. Remove the cookies from the parchment onto a cooling rack. I like to eat them right away, but ideally you should wait at least five minutes for them to set and crisp.
  11. Eat, preferably with a glass of milk nearby.

Let’s go back to step six. Here’s where things become interesting. I wanted to find out if chilling the dough longer makes a noticeable difference on the outcome of the cookie. I rested the dough for one hour, 12 hours, 24 hours and 36 hours and then compare my results. Here’s what happened:

1 Hour:

ChocolateCHipCOokies#1

I was pleasant surprised by the cookies after chilling for one hour. I expected them to be completely flat, but they actually rose a little in the oven. The cookies browned beautifully, too. Texture wise, the cookies were extremely chewy but not very crisp. The combination of 60% cacao and semi-sweet chocolate was also a winner.

12 Hours:

ChocolateChipcookies#2

This batch was a bit odd. They had the crispness that the first batch lacked, but they did not rise as much as I expected. I might have left them in the oven for too long, actually, but I’m not really sure what was going on here. Oh well, they were still delicious.

24 Hours:

Chocolatechipcookies#3This is what I’m talking about! This batch was thicker  and its flavors were bolder and richer than previous ones. I think I also nailed the baking time. I pulled them out of the oven when the center was still a little undercooked, but the outsides were browned and crisp. As the cookie cooled, the center solidified better. Overall, this batch was a huge success.

36 Hours:

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Damn it! I over baked this batch, but just by a little. How do I keep doing this!? Well, anyway, I didn’t notice a huge difference between this batch and the 24-hour batch.

The conclusion? 

Chill your dough! If you’re in a rush or an impatient cookie eater like I am, one hour is the bare minimum. For the optimum texture, color and rise on your cookies, chill them for at least 24 hours.

So, how does my recipe stack up? While I was extremely pleased with these cookies, I think they could have been even better. There are several things I’d like to try, including putting granulated sugar back into the recipe. It’s definitely a good recipe and in my opinion, just as good as The New York Times’.

One last thing – make sure you don’t continuously over bake your cookies like I did. I blame it on my culinary training. I was taught to take something out of the oven “when it’s done.” That is definitely NOT a good mantra for baking!

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You might remember my last baking experiment, where I recreated Ruby Tuesday’s Chocolate Tall Cake. All in all, it was a success, with only a few minor mishaps. (The chocolate mousse cake that I baked  looked like a disfigured burger patty smushed in between two slices of Rye bread, but let’s face it, I’m no pastry master!)

I’ve decided to take on something even closer to my heart: the chocolate chip cookie. After my recent quest to find the best chocolate chip cookie in D.C. for Serious Eats, it only makes sense.

To start, I look to a highly influential article from The New York Times called, “Perfection? Hint: It’s Warm and Has a Secret.”

I remember reading this article when it first ran in 2008. David Leite chronicles his search for the perfect chocolate chip cookie and gives his resulting recipe (adapted from Jacques Torres) at the end. Of course, I gave it a try. At first, the steps seemed tedious. Why couldn’t I just use chocolate chips? Chocolate feves, or disks, were more expensive and difficult to find in the grocery store. Even worse, I had to chill the cookies in the refrigerator for 36 hours before I baked them. How was I going to wait a day and a half until I could finally eat these labor-intensive, high maintenance cookies? Despite my reservations, I followed the recipe exactly. The result? Oh my God. They were, in a word, awesome.

In his article, Leite visits several well-known New York bakeries, including The City Bakery. I stopped here on a recent trip to the city and tried one of their famed chocolate chip cookies. I stand by this statement – it was, and still is, the best chocolate chip cookie I’ve ever had.

So. Good.

So. Good.

In the article, Leite asks The City Bakery’s owner, Maury Rubin, why his cookies are just so damned good. “We bake them in small batches every hour so they’re always fresh…It’s the Warm Rule…Even a bad cookie straight from the oven has its appeal,” said Rubin.

Rubin has another secret. He chills the dough for 36 hours before baking the cookies, a technique that results in a deep, golden brown cookie with a crispy, chewy texture.

There are other qualities for the ideal chocolate chip cookie that Leite discusses, such as using at least 60% cacao chocolate and the importance of salt. Sprinkle a pinch of sea salt (known as Maldon) over your cookies before you bake them to add a new dimension of flavor to your recipe. Leite notes that many bakers consider this interaction of salty and sweet the real secret to the perfect chocolate chip cookie.

I think Leite’s article is an extraordinary piece. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to try his recipe. It will change your perspective on chocolate chip cookies. It certainly did for me.

So, the question remains: Can I make a better chocolate chip cookie than Leite? Maybe not, but it’s worth a try.

Here’s the plan. First, I’ll create my own recipe. Second, I will rest the dough for different amounts of time to see how it impacts the cookies, much like Leite did in his article. The resting times will be one hour (so I don’t have to wait too long to try them!), 12 hours, 24 hours and 36 hours.

Stay tuned for part two: The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie Experiment!

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It’s funny how so many foods you hated as a kid, you end up loving as an adult. My list is endless: broccoli, pizza (if you can believe it!), olives, onions, brussels sprouts, peas, grapes, and grapefruit.

Grapefruit is actually a very recent addition to my favorite foods list. Bitter, sour and sweet all at the same time, the grapefruit’s versatility makes it a great addition to dishes with savory and sweet ingredients.

One of the first salads I plated as an extern at Cashion’s Eat Place was a grapefruit and avocado salad. I had to segment grapefruits ahead of time to make assembling the salad more efficient during service. At first, I was absolutely terrible at this technique, also known as peler a vif. We’d touched on it a few times at L’Academie de Cuisine, but I was never able to master it. I remember eating a lot of botched grapefruit segments (maybe that’s where I learned to love grapefruit!). After segmenting a ridiculous amount of grapefruits, I finally learned how to do it correctly.

It’s a simple technique, but as I said, does require practice. Here’s how I do it.

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You will need:

  • Grapefruit (duh)
  • Cutting board
  • Serrated knife
  • Small bowl
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Slice off both ends of the grapefruit. The cross section should look like this.

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Angle your knife so that a small part of the fruit is exposed.

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Slice off the grapefruit’s skin, so that no white pith is left on the outside. Work your way around the grapefruit until all of the skin is gone. Be careful not to cut out too much of the inner fruit – it helps to make cuts that follow the rounded shape of the grapefruit.

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Now, use your knife to detach the segments from the grapefruit’s core. Position your knife on the left side of the white line that runs down the grapefruit. Make a cut inwards (not too far) and then angle your knife slightly to the right. You should be able to easily peel the segment off the grapefruit with your knife.

I like to have a small bowl to catch the segments. I also save the grapefruit juice and use it to make vinaigrette – add a little Dijon mustard and whisk in extra virgin olive oil.

You can use this technique for other citrus fruits such as oranges. The grapefruit is a good fruit to practice on because of its larger size. Try it out! I love to pair it with tomatoes, sliced avocados and greens like spinach or mesclun.

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Captain Cookie & the Milkman, a mobile bakery.

Captain Cookie & the Milkman, a mobile bakery.

If you read my blog, then you probably know one of my biggest weakness when it comes to sweets: chocolate chip cookies. It’s nearly impossible for me to resist a warm, chocolatey cookie, straight from the oven with a chewy center and crisp edges.

With that said, I’ve embarked on the sweetest mission ever: to find the best chocolate chip cookies in Washington, D.C. Over the past few weeks, I have been working on an article for Serious Eats, a food blog based out of New York City. I chose seven of the best chocolate chip cookies in the District and organized a slideshow with my own photographs as well. Expect the article to run in the next few weeks.

J. Chocolatier, a bakery in Georgetown.

J. Chocolatier, a bakery in Georgetown.

In the meantime, I’ve created a map of my favorite spots for chocolate chip cookies in the city. Use it as a quick guide to see what’s around the area you’re in. And hey, you never know – you might live next door to the best chocolate chip cookie in D.C.

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