Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Berry Clafouti

Clafouti. I had this for the first time last year when my roommate made it with pears and thought it was delicious. I thought she was messing me when she told me it was called clafouti...I know French is supposed to be a beautiful language and all, but whenever I hear the word I imagine Celine Dion saying it with her crazy Quebec accent and can't stop from smirking.

Anyway, it's basically a custard with whatever fruit you want to add. I finally made my first clafouti (hehe) today even though I should have been studying for my test tomorrow. Most recipes I saw called for cherries or apricots, but I used berries since our fridge is filled with them (I hate how you have to buy two to get the deal at Harris Teeter).

I found the recipe on Recipezaar and made a couple tweaks, but it still needs a few more adjustments and I need to be more careful when I make it again.

Berry Clafouti

1 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup cold water
1 tbsp vegetable oil
3 tbsp granulated sugar
1 to 1 1/4 cups fresh berries (I used strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries but add whatever fruit you want--apples, pears, blackberries...)

1. Combine flour and salt. Add eggs, milk, vanilla extract, and cold water, beat until smooth. Stir the sugar into the batter. Preheat oven to 450F.

2. Cover and put the batter in the refrigerator at least 1/2 hour. You can leave the batter overnight in the refrigerator. If it is too thick when you take it out, mix in a couple drops of cold water.

3. While the oven is heating and the batter is in the fridge, rinse berries and pat dry with a paper towel. Place berries in fridge.

4. Add oil to 9" pie pan or 9" square/round baking dish and coat evenly. Place pan in oven for 5 minutes and allow oil to get hot.

5. Remove batter from fridge, gently stir in berries. Open oven and quickly pour batter into hot pan. Make sure that the batter is evenly distributed.

6. Push back the shelf and close oven door as soon as possible. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until golden-brown. Set on a wire rack to cool, then cover and store in refrigerator to chill.

7. Dust with powdered sugar or drizzle with chocolate syrup when serving, or eat by itself!

Notes: 450F was kind of high since part of it turned brown sooner than it should have, so I think next time I'll turn it down to 375F and leave it in longer to get a more uniform, golden-brown crust. Pouring in the batter quickly with the oven door open was awkward...I think I'll just take out the heated pan so I can pour the batter more carefully even if the pan is exposed to the lower temp momentarily. It's low in sugar; I think you could add another tablespoon at most if you want it to be sweeter. I think it will taste better if you let it chill overnight rather than eating it immediately so that the flavors/sugars of the fruit can settle.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Banana Raisin Bread

I was hesitant to use these photos as they aren't the most flattering shots, but the recipe was so good that I had to make a post. Given my recent experiences with Recipezaar, I wasn't too confident about this one being heralded as the "Best Banana Bread."

Yet I was pleasantly surprised and have to agree that this is one of the best banana bread recipes. This has been my favorite thing to bake so far--easy to put together (read: very difficult to screw up, even for me) and didn't require a lot of ingredients. You can throw in whatever you want: raisins, craisins, chocolate chips, chopped apples...the possibilities!

Be careful not to over mix, largely because the recipe calls for the bananas to be crushed when you add them in. I followed a tip to let the mixture sit in the pan for about 20 minutes before baking and while I don't have a control loaf to compare it to, the bread came out very moist and full of banana flavor. I also sprinkled the top with cane sugar in hopes of a crumbly/textured topping, but most of it sank into the mixture.

Banana Raisin Bread
Recipe from here

1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten
4 bananas, crushed
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1. Cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs and crushed bananas. Combine well.

2. In another bowl, sift together flour, soda and salt. Add to creamed mixture. Add vanilla and mix until just combined.

3. Pour into greased and floured loaf pan. Allow mixture to sit in pan for 15 to 20 minutes.

4. Bake at 350°F for 60 minutes.

5. When cool, wrap loaf tightly with plastic wrap to store or refrigerate.

Notes: I had to leave my loaf in the oven for an additional 8 minutes, so make sure you test the bread before removing it from the heat.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Lemon Bars

None of us were sure about what to make on Easter. My contribution was dessert. Carrot cake? No carrots. Hot cross buns? Except for the frosting on top, not enough sugar for us. We were sick of all the foil-wrapped Easter chocolates so I settled on lemon bars. They're bright and pastel and a break from chocolate. I selected this recipe because it had the highest reviews.

The base was like a giant shortbread cookie (yum). While it tasted great, I was disappointed by the filling's consistency. It was more gooey/liquid than I preferred, I expected something thicker and little more cake-like. Even though I was making it, I'm a huge germaphobe and was not big on hand mixing the dough. Nonetheless, they had a refreshing lemon flavor and an ample amount of crust. I made them yesterday and only about 10% of the tray remains.

If you're not a big fan of crust, then don't use all the crust mixture when you press it into the pan. Using all of it in a 9x13 resulted in a good centimeter of crust. In addition, if you're looking for a more lemon taste, add extra drops of lemon juice. They were very sweet, so you can lower the sugar in the filling to avoid going into hyperglycemia.

Lemon Bars
Recipe from here

2 cups flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 cup butter, softened

4 large eggs
2 cups white sugar
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. For the base, mix the butter into the flour and sugar. Mix with hands until it clings together. Press into 13x9x2-inch pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned.

2. For the filling, beat together eggs, sugar and lemon juice. Sift together flour and baking powder. Stir into egg mixture.

3. Pour filling over baked, cooled crust. Bake at 350°F for 25 minutes.

4. Cool and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Cut into bars.

*I suggest taking a small taste of the filling and adjusting the lemon juice/sugar as needed before you commit to pouring it over the crust. You don't have to add all the sugar that the recipe calls for.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Cinnamon Sugar Muffins

What better way to start your day than with cinnamon sugar muffins? I have a few memories of waking up on the weekends to steaming blueberry ones topped with cane sugar that my mom made. They were so sweet and she always put extra pats of butter in mine. I'm not sure if she used a mix from a box, but I would still stuff my face with them today.

I saw this recipe on tastespotting and knew I had to try it when I saw the enticing photo. This was my first time baking muffins and they didn't turn out as nice as the original baker's; the tops failed to raise high enough to form crowns and I slightly overmixed the ingredients. I halved the recipe and the proportions seemed fine.

I didn't read the recipe carefully at the last step that called for dipping in butter, then dipping in a cinnamon-sugar mixture. I instead mixed the melted butter, sugar, and cinnamon together. Dipping them individually in the butter was messy and caused the butter to dribble onto the paper thingys, giving an oily appearance so I stuck to spreading the topping mixture with a knife.

Cinnamon Sugar Muffins
Recipe adapted from here

2 cups flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 large eggs
1 cup plain yogurt
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
4 to 8 tbsp. vegetable oil*
1 tsp. vanilla

1/2 stick of butter, melted
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Line standard muffin pan with paper cups.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, yogurt, sugar, oil and vanilla. Slowly add the flour mixture to the wet mixture. Do not over mix.

3. Divide batter among the muffin cups and bake for about 12-13** minutes. As soon as the muffins are done, remove from pan and place on a wire rack with a paper towel underneath.

4. While the muffins are baking, melt 1/2 stick of butter. Mix sugar and cinnamon with melted butter. Spread the topping mixture over each with a knife.

5. Sprinkle additional sugar and cinnamon as desired onto muffins.

Serves 20 muffins
*Add oil depending on how moist you want the muffins to be. I added halfway between the range and they turned out fine, texture-wise.
**The original recipe called for 12-15 minutes, but I only left mine in for 13 but the edges came out darker than I would have liked so adjust your time accordingly.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Oatmeal raisin cookies--butter, eggs, white sugar, AND brown sugar. The bane of my existence. I was unable to resist their presence at the dining halls. They'd be sitting in trays in mass quantities, just begging to be eaten. I'd hide cookies in napkins to take back to the dorm, even after stuffing my face with a couple cookies after each lunch and dinner.

Long story short, 3 years and 25 pounds later combined with my family's subtle hints about my growing waistline were wake up calls that I needed to harness this cookie addiction.

The baking bug bit me last night at 4AM and oatmeal cookies were the only option. I'd deprived myself of these cookies for a long time and being back from Spring Break has meant that the healthy diet and self control has gone straight through the window.

A classic and simple recipe that should be part of every baker's repertoire, yet I still managed to mess up. I halved the recipe, but I'm not sure if that mattered too much because the proportions were still the same. I think the fatal error occurred when my impatience caused me to microwave the butter for too long and I ended up with liquid-y, not "softened" like the recipe called for. Next time I'll be more careful. The resulting cookies were chewy and had good flavor but were dangerously close to crossing into rubbery territory.

Fortunately, being at school means that I have access to a wide consumer base that I can distribute the cookies to even if they weren't my proudest creation. Sure, this may not help my reputation as a baker but you need to understand the mindset of the majority of people my age: Free food? Beggars can't be choosers!

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
Recipe from Quaker Oats lid

1/2 pound (2 sticks) margarine or butter, softened
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
3 cups oats(quick or old fashioned, uncooked)
1 cup raisins

1. Heat oven to 350°F. In large bowl, beat margarine and sugars until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla; beat well. Add combined flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; mix well. Add oats and raisins; mix well.

2. Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.

3. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool 1 minute on cookie sheets; remove to wire rack. Cool completely. Store tightly covered.

Servings: ABOUT 4 DOZEN

Friday, March 14, 2008

Oreo Truffles

I've lived at my apartment for about six months, and my ambitions of becoming a baking/cooking fiend faded away after classes and projects began to overwhelm me last semester. This semester I'm only on 12 credits, and the only excuse I have is that I have not been able to go to the grocery store to gather ingredients for all the recipes I have in my Favorite Places folder.

This recipe caught my eye because it only needed three ingredients and looked simple enough with four steps. The name, Oreo Truffles, may have played a part in getting my interest--who doesn't like Oreos? The website claimed it took only 30 minutes for prep time and I was undeterred by the fact that I would have to crush the Oreos manually.

Two hours later, I found myself in a messy kitchen full of particulate Oreo matter and burnt pans from trying to melt the chocolate bark on the stove. I ended up microwaving the bark to prevent the scorching/discoloration. The initial batch of truffles was uneven and patchy after my attempt at dipping them in the white chocolate. I let them dry and dipped them again or dripped chocolate to fill in the patches, and they came out in a much more appetizing form.

They were pretty popular at the party I brought them to, but they were kind of rich and creamy for me.

Oreo Truffles
Recipe from here.

1 package Oreo cookies (Use cookie including the cream center)
1 8oz. package cream cheese (softened)
1 package of white chocolate bark (about 24 oz.)

1. Finely crush 2 cookies in a food processor or place them in a ziploc bag and crush into a fine consistency. Reserve for later.

2. Crush 36 cookies in a large ziploc and stir in softened cream cheese. Use the back of a large spoon to help mash the two together.

3. Roll the mixture into 1" balls and place on wax paper covered cookie sheet.

4. Melt chocolate as directed on the package and then dip balls into chocolate, tap off extra and set aside on wax paper covered cookie sheet to dry. Dust the tops with the 2 crushed cookies for decoration or add sprinkles of your choice.

5. Once dry, refrigerate and enjoy!

Makes about 36 truffles.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Sugar Cookies

Okay, so it's not exactly winter break and these photos are from 2006, but I've been eager to make a baking post. I scoured my hard drive for pictures of food I made that weren't a complete disaster and this is all I got. Just a heads up: my decorating skills weren't any good a year ago, nor are they any better today.

It's become a tradition for my mom and I to bake sugar cookies during winter break over the past few years. We've used a recipe from the Better Homes and Gardens binder we bought at Costco.

We're always excited when we start, but that feeling quickly wanes after the first couple batches when we're faced with a giant ball of dough that requires more iterations of cutting and decorating. You think we would have learned to halve the recipe by now.

Yeah, yeah, it was a motley assortment of cookies, but I was too lazy to find the winter-themed cookie cutters and resorted to mixing the snowmen with tulips and rabbits.

Making green and orange icing seemed like a good idea at the time, but it probably wasn't the most appetizing color combination.

Despite their hideous appearance pictured above, they do go quickly when we have guests over. They are light and sweet, and not on the chewy side. My parents prefer them on the crispy side (not ideal for decorating) so I usually leave them in there for a couple minutes longer than the recipe calls for. I don't recommend these if you want an obnoxiously heavy cookie, such as a jumbo chocolate chip, as they are a simple, reliable standby.

I think this is the recipe (at least it seems close enough), I don't have the book at school with me but this is what resulted from my expert Google skills:

Sugar Cookies, from Better Homes and Gardens
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1. Beat butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar, baking powder, and salt. Beat until combined, scraping side of bowl occasionally. Beat in egg and vanilla until combined. Beat in as much flour as you can with the mixer. Stir in any remaining flour. Divide dough in half. Cover and chill dough in the refrigerator for 1 to 3 hours or until easy to handle.

2. Preheat oven to 375F. Roll each half of the dough to 1/8-inch thickness, on a lightly floured surface. Cut dough with a floured 3-1/2-inch cookie cutter in your preferred shape. Place cutouts 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets.

3. Bake in preheated oven about 8 minutes or until edges are set. Transfer cookies to wire racks and let cool. If desired, spread with icing made from powdered sugar. Let stand until slightly set; pipe icing in decorative designs over iced cookies. Let stand until icing is set. Makes 36 cookies.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Bluegrass Grill & Bakery

After four years at UVA, I thought I had exhausted all the breakfast/brunch options of Charlottesville. Wafflehouse and Italian Villa are flat out disgusting while the greasiness of the Tavern is probably only good after a night of heavy drinking. We took a trip all the way to Staunton to check out Mrs. Rowe's--despite the excellent service we were all disappointed by the mediocre food (review coming soon). Sadly, it looked like IHOP had surpassed all the rest, especially with half-off night on Thursdays for college students.

But word of a hidden local treasure, the Bluegrass Grill & Bakery, revitalized my search for brunch and I knew it was time for a visit.

We set out before class on a quiet Thursday morning and the place was not too busy. Located next to the X-Lounge downtown, you'd never guess this humble establishment could serve up such deliciousness.

I had the spanankopita omelet that had spinach, feta, and mozzarella cheese accompanied by a fresh honey wheat biscuit and home fries.

Nothing fancy or out of the ordinary, but the home fries were the best ones I've had in Charlottesville. My omelet was quite tasty but I liked my friend's mushroom omelet more. My fellow diners had praise for the pancakes.

It was a little pricey ($7.95) and a heavy way to start the day, but it was overall a pleasant experience and is now the front-runner on my list of local breakfast/brunch places. It is definitely not the cleanest place, but that seems to be a trend I've noticed in most of the restaurants in Charlottesville.

I'd be willing to return maybe one more time before graduation, but I am quite partial to homemade breakfast.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Riverside Lunch

The name is rather deceptive as we ate at this hole-in-the wall at 9PM and did not see a river nearby. Regardless, if you're in the mood for something greasy and are willing to loosen your standards for proper food handling, Riverside Lunch is the place to go. They claim they serve the "Best Burger" in Charlottesville, and I'd say they beat out Five Guys.

Service was attentive and friendly, but they do allow customers to smoke which can become an issue when the place gets crowded.
Despite the large portions, the fries were bland and tasteless.

I ordered a cheeseburger with tomato, lettuce, grilled onions, and grilled mushrooms. I may have been super hungry, but this burger was delicious and dripping with grease. It was also pretty cheap for a local restaurant at $3 for my burger.

This restaurant falls into the category of "one-timers", places that were delicious at the time but were too greasy to return. As a temporary resident of Charlottesville, this is the sort of place that I'd like to go once just to try and say that I've eaten there.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


I'd only written about two posts in the past year with nothing interesting so I've decided to change this to a food blog!

Here's a picture of the frozen yogurt I had at a new shop called Iceberry. You'd think they would come up with a name a little further from Pinkberry, but frozen yogurt is frozen yogurt. I ordered one with strawberries, mangos, and pineapple while my sister had the one with oreo bits.

The yogurt was refreshing and sweet. Service was friendly but they did have the misfortune of opening in the middle of winter. If they can hold out until the weather starts warming up, this place will do really well with its prime location in Reston Town Center. My only complaint is that they were a bit stingy with the toppings that I paid extra for. I think my cup was about $4 - $5.