Saturday, August 26, 2006

An uninspired week

I think I am a bit slack this week. OCT has worked late most of the days, so I wasn't inspire to cook up a storm while knowing most of the dishes will need to be reheated later. At time like this, I like to go back to the reliable and comforting recipes, like beef stew and eggplant. I think I have cooked these so often that I can prepare them with both eyes closed.

However slack I am, I still baked something for OCT and his labmates. For the very first time OCT asked me to bake something one morning when we walked to school together. OCT requested something not too sweet for his breakfast since we have run out of bread. I looked up some websites, and found one that fulfilled his criterias. I baked him a banana bread, that used only half a stick of butter, and lots of banana. I never expect it to taste nice, (at least not as nice as Rose's version) but it turned out pretty good. The kind of bread that you feel healthy enough to eat on a daily basis, but not decadent enough for indulgence.

I also baked another batch of the dark chocolate pistachio cookies after one of his colleagues told me that they were awesome. That was what OCT brought to his Friday lab meeting. On Friday night, I made my first batch of brownie (from scratch) for his colleague's house moving. We are helping them today and I thought it would be nice to have something to nibble on after the "workout". The recipe is from Nancy Baggett. She described the brownie as "The One", which is light and dense at the same time. I know it doesn't sound logical. Things can't be light and dense at the same time. But after a bite into the brownie, I must admit that I share her exact sentiment!

To me, brownie is a quintessential American food. And I don't know how a nice brownie should taste. I have eaten brownies before, but will it pass the American standard? You know it's like the Chinese food you eat here compared to those back home.It suddenly striked me that I probably shouldn't have brought my first batch of brownie to an American gathering, where everyone knows their brownies as much as I know my rice. What was I thinking? Luckily, they assured me that mine tasted like what a brownie should taste.

Another colleague asked for the recipe. I hope she didn't just say it to make me feel better. Anyway, I am glad that they finished the whole tray that I brought.

After typing this out, I realised that eventhough my week has passed pretty uninspired, I still managed to bake a bread, a batch of cookies and some brownies. That's not too bad!

Hope I can bake more new stuff next week.And remember to take pictures of them before they are gone.

Classic Banana Bread
(adapted from Cookinglight)

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups mashed ripe banana (about 3 bananas)
1/3 cup plain low-fat yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350°.
Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt, stirring with a whisk.

Place sugar and butter in a large bowl, and beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended (about 1 minute). Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add banana, yogurt, and vanilla; beat until blended. Add flour mixture; beat at low speed just until moist. Spoon batter into an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack; remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack.

Note: I used non fat vanilla yoghurt in place of the vanilla extract and plain yoghurt.

Fudge Brownies Supreme
(Adapted from Nancy Baggett's The All Amarican Cookie Book)

10 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, broken up or coarsely chopped
1/3 cup all-purpose white flour
2 tablespoon unsweetened American-style cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
3 large eggs
2 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease an 8-inch square baking pan or coat with nonstick spray. Line the pan with aluminum foil, letting the foil overhang two opposing sides of the pan by about 2 inches. Grease the foil or coat with nonstick spray.

In a large microwave-safe bowl, microwave the butter and chocolate on 100 percent power for 1 minute. Stir well. Continue microwaving on 50 percent power, stirring at 30-second intervals. Stop microwaving before the chocolate completely melts and let the residual heat finish the job. (Alternately, in a large, heavy saucepan, melt the chocolate and butter over lowest heat, stirring frequently; be very careful not to burn. Immediately remove from the heat.)

Let cool to warm. In a small bowl, thoroughly stir together the flour, cocoa powder and salt; set aside. Stir the sugar and brown sugar into the chocolate-butter mixture until well combined. Add the eggs and vanilla and stir until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is well blended and smooth. Stir in the flour mixture just until evenly incorporated.

Turn out the batter into the baking pan, spreading to the edges. Bake in the middle of the oven for 28 minutes, or until the center is almost firm when tapped and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean except for the bottom 1/4 inch, which should still look moist.

Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let stand until the brownie is completely cooled. Refrigerate until well chilled.

Using the overhanging foil as handles, transfer the brownie to a cutting board. Carefully peel off and discard the foil. If desired, cut away and discard any overbaked edges. Using a large sharp knife, cut the brownie into 12 bars; wipe the knife clean between cuts.

Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 1 month. If freezing, leave the brownie slab whole, then cut into bars when partially thawed.

Serves 12

Note: I used a 9 inch square baking dish, and cut the brownies into smaller bites.

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