Malted Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookies

I found this recipe on one of my favorite blogs, Cafe Johnsonia. The malt combined with the chocolate gives it such a wonderful flavor; I saved half of the dough in the freezer because I couldn't trust myself to have too many of these around for long. Beware - the dough itself is to die for! Such a delicious cookie, and it's great to have extras sitting in the freezer to make whenever I want more.

Malted Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Cafe Johnsonia

2 sticks butter, melted
2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup malted milk powder (I used Carnation--look for it by the hot chocolate at the store)
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
3 1/2 cups old fashioned oats
2 cups chocolate chunks

Melt the butter in a large mixing bowl on 50% power in the microwave, or in a saucepan. Whisk in the brown sugar. Let cool to room temperature. Add the malted milk powder and whisk to remove any lumps. Add the eggs and vanilla and whisk well.

Sift the dry ingredients. Using an electric mixer or a wooden spoon, add the dry ingredients a little at a time into the butter/sugar mixture, beating or stirring well after each addition.

Stir in the chocolate chunks. Chill the dough for about an hour, or until firm.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line several baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper, or spray with nonstick cooking spray. Drop tablespoon sized balls onto the baking sheets--about 2" apart. (A jellyroll pan will get 12 cookies on it.) Bake at 375 degrees F for about 10 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes and then remove to a cooling rack to finish cooling.

Fresh Vegetable Salad with Red Wine Vinaigrette

My husband and I try to always eat our veggies. But we tend to always fall back on our standby, spinach; we eat salads with most meals, and after awhile, eating the same thing day in and day out starts to get old. We were watching the Food Network the other day and saw this delicious, simple veggie salad Giada was making, and decided to try it out. A perfect side dish for summer.

Photo courtesy of Nicholas Draney Photography

Anytime Vegetable Salad
Recipe courtesy Giada De Laurentiis

2 cups shelled edamame soy beans
8 ounces thin green beans, trimmed
8 ounces yellow wax beans, trimmed (I omitted, couldn't find any at the store)
1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons chopped fresh basil or tarragon leaves
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Cook the edamame in a large pot of boiling water until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Drain. Rinse with cold water, then drain well and pat dry. Repeat with the green beans and yellow beans. Combine the vegetables in a bowl.

Add the vinegar, oil, herbs, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 3/4 teaspoon pepper to a glass screw-top jar. Seal the jar and shake vigorously to mix the vinaigrette.

When you're ready to serve, shake the jar again to re-mix the vinaigrette and pour it over the vegetables. Season with more salt and pepper, if desired.

Alternate Method: Whisk the vinegar, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 3/4 teaspoon of pepper in a large bowl to blend. Gradually whisk in the oil. Add all of the beans, tomatoes, basil, and thyme, and toss to coat. Season the salad, to taste, with more salt and pepper, and serve.


Whole-Wheat Orange Juice Muffins

I found this recipe on Cooking Light, but adapted it to make it a little healthier and more low-cal. They were a just a little bland, but they were very moist and since I had most of the ingredients on hand, they were totally easy to throw together.

Whole-Wheat Orange Juice Muffins
Adapted from Cooking Light

1 1/2 cups AP flour
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
1/2 cup Splenda
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup orange juice
1/4 cup applesauce, unsweetened
1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon rind (I omitted as I didn't have any, but added 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. I think the lemon rind would've given more flavor)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup rolled oats
Cooking spray
1 tablespoon sugar

Preheat oven to 400.

Lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine all-purpose flour and next 5 ingredients (through cinnamon) in a medium bowl; stir well with a whisk. Make a well in center of mixture. Combine juice, applesauce, vanilla, and egg; add to flour mixture, stirring until just moist. Stir in rolled oats. Spoon batter into 12 muffin cups coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle evenly with 1 tablespoon sugar. Bake at 400 for 20 minutes, or until muffins spring back when touched lightly in center. Remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack.

La Brea Country White Sourdough or: The 360-Hour Bread

I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I asked my husband to buy me this book featuring breads from La Brea Bakery. All I knew was that the La Brea breads we purchased at Trader Joe's and Whole Foods was some of the best bread I had ever tried.

My dear husband bought me the book, and I opened it up. The first 28 pages are devoted to all of the proper "tools" you will need to make the breads in this book. I was a little overwhelmed. Then I got to the chapter titled "A Lesson in Bread Making." It proceeded to walk me through a day-by-day tutorial of making a sourdough starter. Which, for baking a loaf of bread worthy of Nancy Silverton (the author), involves 14 days. Fourteen. (Thankfully, as long as I never kill off my starter, I won't ever have to repeat this process again.)

Needless to say, I was a little overwhelmed. The first 9 days involve fermentation of the culture. Day 10 is the day you begin to feed the starter. Three times a day. For five days. I followed her every instruction to a T, and by Day 15 I was ready to make my first loaves of bread. After this extensive process to which I committed so much time and energy, I wanted some payoff!

But the process to make my first loaf of bread was a 2-day process. Well. Technically, according to her bread baking schedule, it COULD be completed in one day (18 hours). So of course, I was going to do it in one day. One looong day.

I got up that morning at 6:00 am to begin mixing. The bread finally went into the oven to bake at 11:45 PM and was done baking around 12:20 AM. So for next time, I think I'm going to stick to the 2-day bread making schedule. Because by 1:00 in the morning, when the bread had cooled and I could finally, at long last, try some of this masterpiece bread, I was super tired and frustrated and just wanted to go to bed.

(The bread was absolutely amazing. It was just a royal pain in the butt to make.)

I will include the original recipe, for anyone who might already have a sourdough starter at home; I am also including a link to Williams-Sonoma's site for a similar La Brea recipe for those who want to use active dry yeast.)

Country White Bread
Nancy Silverton, La Brea Bakery

12 ounces (about 1 1/3 cups) starter
2 pounds plus 2 ounces (about 7 cups) unbleached white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
1 pound plus 2 ounces (about 2 1/4 cups) cool water, 70 degrees F
1/2 cup raw wheat germ
4 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
Vegetable oil

Using your dough hook on your electric mixer, measure the water, starter, flour and wheat germ into the mixing bowl; mix on low speed for 5 minutes. The dough should be sticky and pliable. If it appears too dry, dribble a bit more water in slowly and keep mixing.

After 5 minutes, turn off mixer, cover dough with proofing cloth, and let dough rest for 20 minutes. Add the salt and mix the dough at medium speed until the dough reaches a temperature of 78 degrees F, looks satiny and feels smooth (about 5 more minutes.)

Remove dough from mixing bowl and place it in a clean bowl lightly coated with vegetable oil. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap, and allow the dough to ferment at room temperature, until it doubles in volume, about 3 1/2 to 4 hours.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and cut into two equal pieces. Slap each piece gently against the work surface to deflate the dough. Tuck all the edges under to form a sort-of rounded mass; don't bother making it look like loaf at this point, you are simply preshaping to suggest the shape to come. Cover the two pieces of dough with a piece of cloth. Let the dough rest for about 15 minutes.

Using a strainer, sift a thin, even layer of flour along the sides and bottom of a cloth-lined proofing basket. (If you don't have proofing baskets, you can proof the bread directly on a proofing cloth similarly dusted.) Wrap your hands around the side of one piece of dough and with a rolling motion, rock it into a ball. Do not overshape; don't worry about getting a super-compact ball, just apply even pressure all around to get a taut ball with smooth skin stretching over the surface of the dough.

Put the shaped boule smooth side down into a basket. Pinch the seam closed with your fingers. Repeat the process with the second piece of dough. Cover each basket with a piece of plastic wrap, and place them at room temperature to let the dough proof just until it starts rising up the sides of the baskets, and increases volume by one-fourth. This will take approximately one hour.

Next, the dough needs to age. Retarding the dough helps allow it maintain the long, slow rise required to develop flavor and texture. Place the boules in your refrigerator for 8 to 12 hours, but no more than 24 (this step allows for a range of flexibility in the times.)

Remove the boules from the refrigerator, and take off the plastic wrap. Cover the boules with proofing cloth. (If your oven cannot accommodate both boules, you should bake them one at a time. That means you should remove the second boule 1 hour after the first so it is ready to bake just as the first loaf is removed from the oven.)

Proof the boules at room temperature, away from drafts; the dough is ready to bake when it has doubled in size, no longer springs back when poked with your finger, and has come up to a temperature of 62 degrees, about 3 hours. While the bread is proofing, preheat the oven to 500 degrees F, placing a pizza or baking stone on the bottom rack of the oven.

When the boules are properly proofed, lightly dust them with flour and turn them out onto a baker's peel (I didn't have one, so I just used a giant spatula from our grill set.) Slash the top of the dough at a 45-degree angle, starting about 1 inch from the top edge of the boule down to the bottom (I just did a simple X.)

A minute before you place the bread in the oven, spritz water heavily onto the preheated baking stone, and all around the sides of the oven; quickly close the door.

Open the oven door, slide the boule from the peel directly onto the baking stone, and close the door. Turn the oven temperature down to 450 degrees. *My first loaf was baked exactly according to these instructions, and got really crispy, almost burned. I turned the temp down to 400 for the second loaf and got perfect results.

During the next five minutes, spritz the oven with water 2 more times. After those five minutes, don't open the oven door for 20 minutes. You want to maintain the steam you've created.

After 25 minutes, check the bread and rotate the boules as necessary. Continue baking for another 20 minutes, for a total of 45 minutes (my bread was done in just about 40 minutes.) Tap the bottom of the loaf to check for a hollow thud; this means the bread is done.

Place the boules on a cooling rack and allow to cool.


Peach Cobbler

I went to our local farmer's market this morning, and was thrilled when I found some delicious, juicy peaches at one of the stands. I think peaches are my absolute favorite fruit...or maybe cherries, or watermelon...strawberries, blackberries, oh, and pineapple...anyway. Peaches are up at the top of my list. I saved a bunch to eat by themselves, but cut the rest of them up and put them into this yummy cobbler recipe I found on the Food Network website. A perfect summer dessert!

Peach Cobbler
Food Network
Recipe courtesy Kristina Williamson, Schooner Ellida, Rockland, Maine

Cobbler filling:
4 cups peeled and sliced fresh peaches (blanch in boiling water for 30 seconds to remove the skins)
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon flour

Cobbler crust:
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3 tablespoons brown sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2/3 cup buttermilk

1 tablespoon brown sugar, for topping
Whipped cream
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Generously butter a 1 1/2-quart shallow baking dish. Place the sliced peaches in the dish and sprinkle with brown sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, and flour. Mix gently and spread evenly again. Bake for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile combine all dry ingredients for cobbler crust in a bowl. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter or your fingers, to make the texture like coarse crumbs. Add buttermilk and stir to form a soft dough.

Remove fruit from oven and drop rounded spoonfuls of dough on top. Sprinkle with last tablespoon of brown sugar and return to oven. Bake until fruit is bubbly and crust topping is golden brown, about 20 minutes. Serve warm with whipped cream.


Almond Poppyseed Muffins

I had a hankering for something almond this weekend, and after seeing many posts about delicious lemon-poppyseed muffins, I decided to search for a muffin recipe that was adaptable to almond flavoring. I found this recipe at Nook & Pantry and decided to try it out. These muffins are a little lighter than some of the other recipes I found (contain less butter & sugar), and the buttermilk keeps them nice and moist. I am also really happy they turned out well, because this was the first time I made muffins without using muffin-tin liners. (Hooray for using less paper/being environmentally conscious!) I like having a base muffin recipe that's adaptable to different add-ins, and I am excited to try other combinations of fruits/nuts next time.

Almond Poppy Seed Muffins

Buttermilk Base Recipe
2 C flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg
1/2 C sugar
4 Tbsp melted butter
1 1/4 C buttermilk

Almond Poppy Seed
1 1/2 Tbsp poppy seeds
1 tsp of almond extract

Preheat the oven to 350ยบF, adjust a rack to the middle position. Spray a 12 cup regular size muffin tin with some nonstick spray.

Whisk flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and poppy seeds in a large mixing bowl and set aside. Whisk egg, sugar, and almond extract together until combined, then whisk in the buttermilk and melted butter.

Add the buttermilk mixture to the flour and fold to combine. There should be not large pockets of flour but small streaks may remain. Do not over mix. The batter will be fairly thick.

Divide the batter evenly into the tin. Bake for about 20 – 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Flip the muffins out of the tin and cool them right side up on a cooling rack.