Resources

The Worst Cookie EVER?!?!?

What is the WORST COOKIE IDEA EVER?

PLEASE drop your ideas in the comment box!

So, I’m a performer.  That’s primarily what I focus my attentions on.  Well, it’s often split between food and theatre.

I need your help / advice with a new piece I’m working on.

I’ll just say that it’s a performance piece I’m working on in a few different stages, and want to do a sketch about an enthusiastic baker presenting the WORST COOKIE EVER.

So, PLEASE, drop your ideas in the comment box!

This morning a friend and I came up with “Snickerdoodles with bologna and black pepper”.  To be played as “well, bacon is so in right now and this blends the savory and sweet”.  Something that might work in a perfect world but is repulsive in reality.

And please remember the actor opposite me has to eat this cookie.  And possibly some unsuspecting audience members, after they’ve eaten several amazing other cookies I’ve brought in.

And to spark a little more… there were those who giggled and/or shuddered at my suggestion of an apple pie with bourbon, bacon and molasses.  And it’s heavenly.

Thanks!

Jacqueline – Your little Dusty Baker.

Advertisements

Lavender Tea Cookies

I’m playing around with different gluten-free mixes and wanted to check out another from 1-2-3 Gluten Free (I reviewed their Pan Bar Mix).  So I’m testing their “Roll-out & Cut Sugar Cookies”, which are free of gluten, wheat, dairy, caseins, peanuts, tree-nuts, corn, egg and soy!  The mix does contain sugar, so be careful if you’re diabetic, hypoglycemic, or generally avoid white sugar.  Other than that, it’s a basic mix of rice flour, tapioca flour, potato starch and the necessary xantham gum and baking powder.

To make it extra special for my gluten-dairy-free-British colleague Dale I added adding some delicate dried lavender to make a tea-tasty cookie.

I had attempted to bake the cookies two different ways – first by rolling and cutting out as the mix suggests, then by rolling the dough with my hands into a ball and pressing flat, crisscrossing with a fork (with the intention to see if this may make a suitable snickerdoodle dough).  But my dough was too dry to roll out, and crumbled on my pastry board.  So I rolled about 1 tablespoon of dough with my hands and flattened it a tiny bit, placing 12 cookies about 2 inches apart on a thin baking sheet.

The result: Well, these cookies are very sweet to me.  But I like my pastries just-sweet, so this is probably good news for other bakers out there.  They do taste remarkably close to regular sugar cookies, even despite the lack of butter.  Mine are much thicker than what this recipe is intended for (rolling them thin and cutting them can make 40-100 cookies, my batch yielded 36), but the texture is great – soft and slightly crumbly.  The essence of lavender is perfect (I’d say 1/4 cup or less…).  Overall, I’m a little disappointed I couldn’t roll them out, but think it’s a great standard cookie mix.  And they’d make a great snickerdoodle by adding 2 teaspoons of cinnamon to the mix and rolling in cinnamon before baking.

Ingredients:

  • 1 box 1-2-3 Gluten Free Sugar Cookie Mix
  • 1 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1 egg and 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 1/4 – 1/3 cup dried edible lavender (you can get this at most bulk food / tea stores.  Any lavender you’d use for tea is appropriate for baking)

Directions:

  1. In a standing mixer with the paddle attachment, cream shortening until smooth, about 3 minutes
  2. Add 1/2 cup of the flour mixture and blend thoroughly.
  3. Add egg and egg yolk, and beat until incorporated
  4. Add the rest of the flour mixture and beat until incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl, until you can make a solid dough-ball.
  5. Add the lavender and mix quickly until evenly dispersed (I tasted a bit of my mix to make sure I had the light flavor and scent I desired)
  6. Divide dough into two balls, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour until firm
  7. When dough is ready, preheat oven to 375 degrees F
  8. Using 1 tablespoon portions, roll dough into a ball and flatten slightly.  Place on baking tray 2 inches apart and bake for about 13 minutes (I discovered that putting them in the middle of the oven made the bottoms brown but not the tops, so I moved the second round to the top third of the oven)
  9. Let cool slightly and transfer to wire rack

1-2-3 Gluten-Free Baking Mixes

Occasionally, very occasionally, I indulge myself in a boxed mix of something gluten-free.  One night during a run of a play in Cincinnati I was CRAVING something sweet and stuck in the theatre all day without so much as applesauce to appease the pangs.  Later that night during my 11pm run to the grocery store, a box of 1-2-3 Gluten Free “Pan Bars” just happened to end up in my cart… oops!

The next morning, before another two-show day, I whipped the mix together with a few eggs and oil, and the 3/4 a cup of pumpkin that the box recommended.  Not to succumb completely to a packaged product, I spiced it up à la Dusty Baker with some cinnamon and freshly grated ginger.  Spread into a 9×11 pan, popped into the oven for a half hour, cooled for another half, sliced and covered and it was on its way to hungry actors and stage crew.

Now a good amount of actors are foodies – I’ve never met such a quantity of people through a profession who share my obsession with Saveur magazine and who sympathize with my insane desire to own my own chickens enough to send me email links to urban  “hen houses” (I WILL have my own eggs from the happy hens who live on my roof in my future apartment in New York City… that I will own…near my Dusty Bakery).

So I decided to see if there would be any adverse reaction to NOT telling people that they were gluten-free.  I set the pan out, headed to my little dressing room and waited.  Voices inquired about what they were, cursed me for bringing in another baked goods (actors are obviously always watching their waistline – which is why most things I bring in are relatively healthy anyway!), and then hailed them for their deliciousness!

And when I tried them, I wholeheartedly agreed!  They were moist, light and fluffy.   And one particular friend, who had said he wasn’t interested in any way in trying something gluten-free, declared them delicious and stuck to his opinion after I unveiled my bit of trickery. Score for the gluten-free-ers!

I was also thrilled to tell the group that the boxed flour was delightfully simple – which is why I gave in and bought it to begin with (most boxed mixes have WAY too much stuff in them for me).

Ingredients in the mix:

Sugar
Rice Flour
Tapioca Flour
Potato Starch
Aluminum-free, corn-free baking powder
Salt
Xanthan Gum

So the only things I would have changed if making this from scratch myself was the white sugar and the potato starch (I would have experimented with tapioca starch or arrowroot to exclude any trace of nightshade vegetable).  And the ingredients are free from gluten, wheat, dairy, casein, peanut, tree nut, corn, egg and soy!  The recipe could easily be made with applesauce, carrot or zucchini instead of pumpkin, and chickpeas instead of eggs to make egg-free (there’s a recipe for this on the inside of the box).

So, needless to say, I am VERY supportive of this brand from my one experience.  The blend doesn’t contain too much sugar or additives, and produces a light and fluffy cake.  I was extra excited to learn that this company hails out of Cleveland – only a few hours from where I’m typing right now!

Thanks, Kimberlee, for this wonderful product!

Visit 1-2-3 Gluten Free

Dark Chocolate Showdown!

There are so many delicious dark chocolates out there, and knowing that they’re full of antioxidants and can help with things like high blood pressure and heart disease makes them even that more enticing.

So we tried out six types of dark chocolate and rated them for your viewing pleasure… it was a hard task, very hard, but somebody had to do it.  Chocolates were rated by richness, sweetness, and overall deliciousness, each on a five-point scale.  Oh, some of them are not rated on all three ’cause I explained the directions poorly… sorry.  Because they were so different and all delicious, we didn’t pick one favorite, and I’m putting the individual scores on for your perusal!

The Judges

Judges

The Chocolate!

1. Theo Organic Dark Chocolate

70% cacao, made in Seattle, Washington, theochocolate.com

  1. Laura: Richness 2, Sweetness 3.  “Somewhat of a bitter aftertaste. Started out creamy, but fell apart.”
  2. Ruark: Richness 4, Sweetness 4, Overall 4.  “Nice, mild dark chocolate.”
  3. Erika:  Richness 4, Sweetness 5.  “Amazing!”
  4. Jacqueline: Richness 2, Sweetness 3.5, Overall 3. “Sorta dry.  Nice and deliciously bitter but blah texture, nice and nutty.”

2. Nirvana Single Origin Sao Thome

70% Cacao, Made by hand wth the “finest cocoa beans available in the world”.  Cocoa beans from Africa, made in Belgium, NirvanaChocolates.com

  1. Laura: Richness 3,  Sweetness 2. “Didn’t stand up against no. 1 for flavor, much more mild, but almost no flavor – somewhat fruity. While I thought it had a soapy aftertaste, my friend liked this one more than the first.”
  2. Ruark: Richness 4.5, Sweetness 4.5, Overall 4.5.  “Very similar to #1, a bit more of everything but just slightly.
  3. Erika: Richness 3, Sweetness 2. “Nice aftertaste.”
  4. Jacqueline: Richness 4, Sweetness 4, Overall 4.  “Creamy, tangy.”

3. AlterEco Dark Chocolate Blackout

85% Cacao.  Made from fair-trade, Bolivian cocoa beans in the Swiss tradition.  Contains no artificial flavors, chemical additives or emulsifiers. AlterEco.com

  1. Laura: Richness 4,  Sweetness 2,  Overall 3.  “Way too bitter – sour in flavor.”
  2. Ruark: Richness 3.5, Sweetness 3, Overall 3.25.  “A bit bitter, almost tangy.”
  3. Erika: Richness 3, Sweetness 1, Overall 2. “Bitter, a little citrusy.”
  4. Jacqueline: Richness 3, Sweetness 1, Overall 4.  “Very bitter, good strong taste, I LOVE bitter chocolate.  Would be good for baking in sweet dishes?

4. Phinney Chocolate Factory Nib Brittle

65% Cacao (contains milk). “Fair prices, direct trade, community development and environmental stewardship”  From Theos Chocolate.

  1. Laura: Richness 1,  Sweetness 4,  Overall  2.5. “We didn’t like this one – very grainy, though that could have been the “brittle” – it stayed grainy in the mouth. Very sour aftertaste.
  2. Ruark: Richness 4, Sweetness 4.5, Overall 4.25.  “Nice flavor with the chips”.
  3. Erika: Richness 3, Sweetness 3, Overall 3.  “I like the crunch, but it’s a little bitter.”
  4. Jacqueline: N/A… No milk for me.  Note the lower the cacao content the higher possibility of milk.

5. Pure and Dark Chipotle Rounds

No other information (cue mysterious music).  From a delicious shop on the corner of Bleeker and 10th Street in NYC.  Dark chocolate with a dusting of Chipotle!

  1. Laura: Richness 5, Sweetness 4, Overall:  4.5.  “Nice and creamy, very nice kick to it, and a lovely sweetness behind the heat.  Wonderful surprise!”
  2. Ruark: Richness 4.5, Sweetness 4.5, Overall 4.5.  “Nice richness and sweetness, but WHOAH!! What a kick!”
  3. Erika: Richness 5, Sweetness 2, Overall 3.5.  “Oh, spicy!  Intense, I only ate one.”
  4. Jacqueline: Richness 5, Sweetness 4, Overall 4.5.  “Very creamy, love the kick, taste even more awesome the more you eat.  Good for a meat recipe!”

6. Pure and Dark Cardamom Rounds

Same deal as above, but with a dusting of cardamom!

  1. Laura: Richness 5,  Sweetness 5, Overall 5.  “This was my favorite – love the cardamon, very creamy and a wonderful combination of sweetness and spices – fantastic!”
  2. Ruark: Richness 4.5, Sweetness 4.5, Overall 4.5.  “Another flavorful chocolate, accentuated nicely by the cardamom.
  3. Erika: Richness 4, Sweetness 3, Overall 3.5.  “Less spicy but still has some kick.
  4. Jacqueline: Richness 5. Sweetness 5, Overall 5. “Love the cardamom!

10 Holiday Kitchen Gifts – Things I Can’t Live Without!

Okay, so saying that I can’t live without something is relative, right?  Yes, I could live without a standing mixer.  But would the people in my life who receive the treats made from it actually want me to?  Questionable.

There are so many blogs about the best gifts for this and that online.  And I am guilty in my day job of writing for other people’s websites of contributing to those lists.  But the other day a new person in my life was in my kitchen and I pointed to a saute pan and said “I could do without all the things in my kitchen except for THAT”.  THAT slowly turned into four or five things that make the family I could basically cook anything from.  So here are those and a few other of my little favorites of varying expense that are sure to add a little Dusty pleasure to holiday stocking or nestled under the tree.  If you have a chef in your life that you’re looking for the perfect last-minute holiday cooking gift, you can’t go wrong with one of these babies that I’m slightly and probably unhealthfully obsessed with.

Click on the images to find the products online.

10. The Cuisinart 5.5 quart Stainless-Steel Saute Pan

$55.00 on Amazon with lid. Also at Home Goods and TJMaxx sometimes.

I am a big believer in stainless steel over non-stick.  Cuisinart makes an incredibly affordable line of quality stainless steel pans.  They heat evenly, have a nice weight to them, clean up easily and are impeccable with letting the flavor of your food come through.  I use it to brown meat, fry eggs, saute vegetables, fry donuts… it goes from stove to oven so frittatas are yummy and meat dishes get a good browning under the broiler.

9. Le Creuset 5.5 quart Dutch Oven

$65 at Home Goods or starting at $200 online.

I am in love with this piece of equipment.  So much so that this picture is one of many I have taken of it.  And I love Le Creuset in particular.  I’m sure there are comparably good french cast iron pieces of cookware, but I don’t need to meet them.  I have penned poetry about this pot.  Sad?  Yes.  But this pot has made countless delicious soups, nestled lamb loins, sweetened peaches for pie, sauteed vegetables into gooeyness.  It goes from stove to oven to table.  If I could pick one piece of equipment to cook in, this would be it, in this size (I also own the 3.5 quart oval and the 9 quart round). I got mine at Home Goods for about $65.  But I’d pay $200 if I had to.  If you have a cook you love in your life, get them one of these and don’t be surprised if you see tears.

8. Silicone Spatulas/Spoonulas from Williams-Sonoma

Starting at $7

These are a both a guilty pleasure and a practical, almost indestructible necessity for the kitchen.  The silicone is safe for all surfaces, so pots and pans are protected from scratching.  The spoonula is perfect when sauteing vegetables.  They come in all sorts of pretty colors that make an appealing assortment when out on a counter.  I get them randomly as presents and never complain.

7. OXO Good Grips Flexible Spatula

$13.00

I got one of these a year ago from a local kitchen store and it’s now my go-to.  The flexible steel yields to cookies, eggs, meats and vegetables perfectly, so food that is slightly soft doesn’t threaten to break.  I actually rarely use a stiff spatula now.  And at only $8 and virtually indestructible, it’s a steal.  People I’ve gifted it to love it.  Stocking stuffer.  Oh yes.

6. Ghee

About $6

Yes, ghee.  Ghee is clarified butter most commonly known in Indian Cooking.  Regular butter is heated at a low temperature so that the protein solids separate from the pure, delicious ghee.  It’s so much more tasty than regular butter.  It has a higher smoking point, a deliciously nutty taste, and rounds out dishes perfectly.  While I don’t use it in baking, it’s my go-to butter when I cook.  In sauteed vegetables I usually use olive oil as my base, and then add some ghee at the end to pump up the flavor exponentially.  If I had only one fat to cook with, it’d be ghee (though I’d cry a little at the loss of duck fat and olive oil).  And, yes, it’s perfection on toast.

5. KitchenAid Standing Mixer

$239. on Amazon.

This is one of the best kitchen gifts I’ve ever been given (ties with the first Le Creuset my mother gave me).  Quick story: I had inherited one from my boyfriend’s parents that made literally thousands of cookies and hundreds of pies, breads and cakes in the 30-years they owned it.  And they’re ridiculously delicious bakers.  The work kept going in my kitchen until the boyfriend became the best friend and the mixer went with him.  I ended up borrowing his father’s so often during the holiday season last year that he gifted me one for Christmas.  Thanks, Kevin!  It’s indispensible for quick pie crusts, whipping egg whites into stiff, peaky perfection, kneading bread dough… there’s nothing a good mixer can’t do.  Soon I hope to get the grinding and pasta attachments for it.  If you want to wow with a present, get a KitchenAid.

4. Bialetti Percolator

$26.00

Okay, so this technically isn’t a cooking thing.  But I love good coffee and love offering it to my guests. And after experimenting with standard coffee makers, espresso makers, one-touch systems, a simple drip filter and the lovely French Press, this is my favorite.  I love the 3-cup one specifically because it makes just the right amount of really strong coffee for me to mix with hot water into a perfect Americano. And, as this Dusty Baker always seems to be moving, it fits so easily into luggage and comes with me wherever I move.  And you need nothing but heat to make coffee – perfect for electric or gas stoves or the campfire!  Delicioso!

3. Flexible Cutting Boards

From $5 on Amazon

These are ingenious.  They protect your counter and then fold easily to ease food into pots and pans. Nothing more to be said.  Inexpensive and worth their weight.

2.  A Chef’s Knife

I use a Cutco standard 9.25 inch chef’s knife.  Granted, I’m not as versed in knives as others, and I hope to be able to afford an upgrade in the future.  But I’ve had this knife since my 2nd year of college and it still never fails me.  Cutco knives sharpen easily and come with lifetime guarantees, so if it chips they’ll fix or replace it.  A good knife is probably the most vital instrument in a kitchen.  And this one ain’t bad.

1. Sur La Tabla Nonstick Jellyroll Pans

$19.95 for two

I lived by a Sur La Tabla last year and was instantly in love (and slightly addicted) to their affordable brand of products.  These two jellyroll pans are my favorite for baking cookies – they’re thick enough that the temperature distributes evenly but not so thick that my cookies spread in scary directions. And when I’m roasting sides of pork or lamb, they can hold up to running fat and charred corners.  I basically have one that I solely use for meats now, and a set for baking.  Quality.

Devouring the Delicious Monster

Monstera Deliciosa - The Delicious Monster Fruit!

Hello, meet Monstera Deliciosa, a delicious food of the fruit variety that is easy to prepare and delectable to eat!

I was shocked at meeting this fruit at my favorite local healthy-foods store, Integral Yoga Natural Foods.  Tucked away by mangoes and strawberries was this very phallic, scaly, alien-like fruit that completely weirded me out… so of course I had to try it!  Ends up Monstera Deliciosa is incredibly delicious.  I just wanted to get that out of the way… in case you really don’t trust the name… and are doubting purchasing this radical food.

About Monstera Deliciosa:

Alternate names: Ceriman, Swiss Cheese Plant (or just Cheese Plant), Fruit Salad Plant, Monster fruit, Monsterio Delicio, Monstereo, Mexican Breadfruit, Monstera, split-leaf philodendron, Locust and Wild Honey, Windowleaf and Delicious Monster.

Origin: Mexico and Central America

Interesting Facts: This plant is most common as a leafy decorative plant and grows naturally in moist, warm climates, suffering with any frost.  The fruit doesn’t usually grow indoors, but rather in the wild where the plant will hide from the sun in order to find the shade of a tree on which to plant itself and grow upwards towards the light.  The fruit is actually an ‘unripened flower spike’ (source one) that takes at least a year to mature fully before harvesting.

Health Benefits / Warnings: Don’t be afraid by the following: because of its high content of oxalic acid, the unripened fruit can be toxic, causing itching, swelling and asphyxiation.  But if you’ve bought the fruit rather than hacked it off a tree yourself, you’re good.  The mature fruit contains a small amount of oxalic acid, which is common in a few other fruits and may cause a slight itchiness in the mouth and tongue if you’re sensitive to certain allergens.  I am very sensitive to certain allergens and found myself surprisingly fine with this fruit!  Health wise, Monstera Deliciosa has a good amount of vitamin C and is a natural energy booster due to the rush of natural sugar and water content.

Observations: The first observation my roommate and I made was that the flesh smells amazing! Like a really strong Jolly Rancher or an entire fruit salad concentrated into a small kernel.  The fruit itself is soft and a bit slimy, but that only makes it more delicious as it melts in your mouth.  The taste is a combination of pineapple and banana, a surprising delight of both sweet and a tad tart in one bite.

How do you serve and eat Delicious Monster? I was happy just to eat it alone with a spoon, but throwing it over icecream, yogurt or cereal would be an appropriate plan, as would sticking it in a smoothie or baking it into a crepe.

How Do You Prepare Delicious Monster?

  1. Place the fruit in a paper bag or upright in a glass, stem side on top.  Let it ripen naturally – which takes 2-4 days depending on the age of the fruit and the humidity.
  2. When the scales have started to peel off, gently remove remaining scales with your fingers, revealing the soft white flesh underneath.  Warning: this may remind you of skinning an iguana or a nightmare you had as a child after watching an alien movie.  Keep in mind, the fruit coming to you is named Delicious Monster for a reason!
  3. Using a thin knife, remove the now delicate and somewhat slimy scales from the hard and inedible core.
  4. Mix into a smoothie, sprinkle on yogurt or cereal, or eat raw for an unbelievably delicious treat!

Step One: Place the whole fruit upright in a glass or in a paper bag to ripen, stem side up

Step Two: Fruit is allowed to ripen naturally and the scales fall off

Step Three: Peel away the green scales to reveal the white flesh underneath

Step Four: Cut the flesh away from the core

Interesting links / sources: University of Connecticut, Tropical Fruit Photo Archive

%d bloggers like this: