Snicker Doodle Bread

The first time my wife baked this, we were leaving on a trip to visit friends in Portland. The bread smelled so incredibly wonderful in the the oven, like Christmas and Thanksgiving rolled into one. When it came out if the oven, I sliced off a little piece to taste test and that was it – instantly in my top 3 baked goods of all time (look for the other two in future blog posts). So moist and cinnemony with a crunchy, sugary top, i was hooked. We wrapped the bread up nice and tight, stuffed it into the luggage and took off for the airport.

Going through security, we hit a snag. TSA stopped us with the “is this your bag?”, holding my wife’s luggage. They started digging through it looking for whatever was concerning them, pulled out a brick-like item wrapped in plastic and aluminum and asked “what’s this”? My wife explained that it was snickerdoodle bread, and I swear by that time I could smell it again the number of TSA agents doubled, until there were about 5 of them and standing around the bread. One of them then (jokingly) informed us that it would need to be confiscated.

They ran it through the x-ray machine to make double sure nothing was inside, then reluctantly gave it back to us and we were on our way.

I guarantee this bread will be a hit for the holidays.

Recipe from Barbara Bakes:

Ingredients:

2 1/2 c. all purpose flour
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
2 t. cinnamon
1 cup butter, softened
2 c. sugar
3 eggs
2 t. vanilla
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cup cinnamon chips (1 pkg. Hershey’s)
2 T. flour

Topping:
2 T. sugar
2 t. cinnamon

Combined 2 1/2 cups flour and baking powder in a bowl. In a separate bowl, cream butter and 2 c. sugar, salt and cinnamon until fluffy, about two minutes. Add eggs one at a time mixing well after each addition. Add vanilla and sour cream and mix to combined. Add flour mixture stirring until just combined. Coat the cinnamon chips with 2 T. flour and stir into batter.

Spoon batter into four/five greased mini loaf pans (5 3/4 x 3 1/4 x 2 1/4. Don’t fill more than 2/3 full.) Combined 2 T. sugar and 2 t. cinnamon and sprinkle over the top of batter in the pans. Bake at 350º for 35 to 40 minutes until a toothpick inserted into a crack in the center of the loaf comes clean. Remove from oven and let cool 5 minutes before removing from pan.

Note: You can also make this in two 9×5 loaf pans. Bake at 350º for 60 to 70 minutes until a toothpick inserted into a crack in the center of the loaf comes clean.

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Mushroom Risotto

Sometimes we’ll go to the Ferry Building farmer’s market on Saturday in San Francisco just to eat lunch. They’ve steadily added more and more restaurants over the years and it’s now such a popular food destination on its own, they could nix the farmer’s market and I don’t know if the throngs of tourists would even notice. Locals would never stand for that, though.

The market on the pier just outside the Ferry Building has become part of the whole San Francisco experience. As much a part of it as driving down Lombard Street or eating a bowl of cioppino at the Wharf. I do enjoy wandering through the market. This trip, like many many others, ended with us eating oysters and clam chowder at Hog Island Oyster Co.

I always tell myself when I go to the Ferry Building that I’ll just pick up whatever looks fresh and I’ll figure out what to make with it later when I get back home. This time it was shiitake mushrooms and here it is: mushroom risotto.

Mushrooms at a blowout a price, I might add ($4), how could I pass that up?

Ingredients:

  • 1 oz dried porcinis
  • 6 oz fresh mushrooms (any will do, I chose shiitake), sliced thin
  • 1 quart vegetable stock
  • 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tbsp butter, separated
  • 1 shallot, finely finely chopped
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry Sherry
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves chopped to about 2 tablespoons
  • 3/4 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano
  • Coarse salt and pepper

Place dried porcinis and stock saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer.

In a large skillet, heat oil and butter over medium-high heat. Add the onions and shallots and saute for 2-3 minutes. Add arborio rice and saute, 2-3 minutes more. Add Sherry and cook until the liquid is completely absorbed. Add a few ladles of the hot vegetable stock, then reduce heat slightly and simmer, stirring constantly,  until almost all the liquid is absorbed.

Remove porcini mushrooms from water and place onto a cutting board. Reserve the cooking liquid. Coarsely chop the porcinis and add them to the pot with the rice. Continue to ladle broth into arborio rice, half the remaining amount at a time. Stir mixture each time you add more broth and take it off the heat when the rice is cooked to al dente, usually around 20 minutes.

While the rice is cooking and you’re stirring constantly, here’s one more thing for you to do: heat 1 tbsp butter and 1 tbsp olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. When the butter is melted, add the sliced shiitake mushrooms and 1 tbsp thyme, and 1 tsp salt and stir, coating all the mushrooms with the oil/butter. Saute the mushrooms for about 4 minutes, or until they start to brown slightly. Take off the heat but leave them in the pan.

Stir in 1 tsp thyme and a few handfuls of grated cheese. Season your risotto with salt and pepper to your taste. Serve creamy mushroom risotto from the hot pan topped with a few spoonfuls of the shiitakes and sprinkled with parmesan cheese.

Spinach Ricotta Ravioli

It’s about the same time every year I feel compelled to use up the last of my basil plants before it’s too late. About another week or so from now it’ll get just cold enough at night that the basil gives up for the season and dies off. So inevitably there’s a decent amount of Italian food coming out of this kitchen from now until the basil’s gone. Things like tomato basil marinara sauce, delicious basil pesto, eggplant caponata with basil.

Don’t let yourself be intimidated by the prospect of making fresh pasta dough. I’ve found it gets easier and easier every time I do it and even though the first few attempts weren’t perfect, it still resulted in something close enough to call a success (hint: imperfect ravioli taste just as good as picture-perfect ones under enough pasta sauce).

To make the pasta dough:

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Turkey Chili

It’s chili weather out here. A “storm” landed in the San Francisco area tonight so we decided it was time to whip up a batch of our favorite turkey chili to warm ourselves while we watched the Giants win. Storms, by the way, in the Bay Area just mean it’s raining. No thunder…no lightning…people are real lightweights about weather around here. Anyway, I’ve made a lot of chili in my time, and it’s all great, but this is a few notches above all the others.

The chili’s modeled after a recipe for Famous Dave’s Route 66 Truck Stop Chili, substituting ground turkey for the beef that’s normally used. It goes perfectly with with a huge slab of cornbread and a nice little carafe of rich Napa cabernet. I’m warming up already.

Ingredients:

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

  • 3 pounds (80/20) coarse ground beef (or turkey)
  • 2 teaspoons Famous Dave’s Steak seasoning
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
  • 4 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons Maggi seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon basil
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 1 large jalapeno, finely chopped
  • 2 (16-ounce) cans hot chili beans
  • 1 (22-ounce) can tomato juice
  • 1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 (15-ounce) can tomato puree
  • 1 (10-ounce) can beef broth
  • 3 tablespoons Famous Dave’s BBQ sauce (any BBQ sauce will do)
  • 2 tablespoons Kahlua
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • sour cream, for topping (optional)
  • crackers, for topping (optional)
  • cheddar cheese, for topping (optional)
  1. Combine ground beef, steak seasoning, chili powder, black pepper, cumin, Maggi, basil and garlic powder in a stockpot and mix well. Cook until the ground beef begins to turn a crusty brown, stirring frequently. Add celery, onion, green pepper and jalapeno. Cook until the vegetables are tender, stirring frequently. Add undrained chili beans, tomato juice, undrained tomatoes, tomato puree, broth, BBQ sauce, Kahlua and Worcestershire sauce and mix well. Simmer until of the desired consistency, stirring occasionally. Ladle into chili bowls. Serve with shredded Cheddar cheese, minced onion, source cream and plenty of crackers.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

My wife has her go-to chocolate chip cookie recipe, but wanted to try these because they reminded her of our absolute all-time favorite, Specialty’s in San Francisco. She wanted me to have something delicious and homemade to take with me on an out of town trip I’m about to embark on.

The trick to making them thick is to separate the dough in half for each cookie before you put them on the pan, rotate one of the halves 90 degrees and put it back together next the other half.

These are so delicious, perfectly crunchy on the outside and moist and chewy on the inside.

Recipe from America’s Test Kitchen:

Ingredients:
makes 18 cookies

1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (8 3/4 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
14 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 3/4 sticks)
1/2 cup granulated sugar (3 1/2 ounces)
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar (5 1/4 ounces)
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 1/2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips (Ghirardelli recommended) or 1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (Ghirardelli recommended)

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 large (18- by 12- inch) baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside.

2. Heat 10 tablespoons butter in 10 inch skillet over medium-high heat until melted, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking, swirling pan constantly until butter is dark golden brown and has nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and, using heatproof spatula, transfer browned butter to large heatproof bowl. Stir remaining 4 tablespoons butter into hot butter until completely melted.

3. Add both sugars, salt, and vanilla to bowl with butter and whisk until fully incorporated. Add egg and yolk and whisk until mixture is smooth with no sugar lumps remaining, about 30 seconds. Let mixture stand 3 minutes, then whisk for 30 seconds. Repeat process of resting and whisking 2 more times until mixture is thick, smooth and shiny. Using rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture until just combined, about 1 minute. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts (if using), giving dough final stir to ensure no flour pockets remain.

4. Divide dough into 16 portions, each about 3 tablespoons (or use #24 cookie scoop). Arrange 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets, 8 dough balls per sheet. (Smaller baking sheets can be used, but will require 3 batches).

5. Bake cookies 1 tray at a time until cookies are golden brown and still puffy, and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft, 10 to 14 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking. Transfer baking seet to wire rack; cool cookies completely before serving.