Basically: Bars

I made it through another recipe with almost all the ingredients! I am enjoying this project so much, I can’t even!! Every Sunday morning another recipe pops up in my inbox and I read the entire recipe first. Then I read it again thinking about the ingredients. This week was Tahini Billionaire Bars. First off, Tahini is a weird ingredient for me. I have used it in hummus but that is about it. It isn’t sweet so using it would tone down the sweetness in the butterscotch. Apparently, you can use any nut butter as long as it is unsweetened. Fair enough. After tasting this, I would substitute peanut butter but this is really good as is, just super sweet. Cut the bars smaller than they call for because it was just too much sugar. It tastes like you can eat the whole piece but then it gets to be too much and you lose interest about halfway. Maybe that’s just me, maybe not. I will let you decide.

The first step was making the shortbread. I didn’t have sesame seeds so I made it without. I have to confess, this layer was an ORDEAL. The dough kept sticking to my hands as I pressed it into the sides, it became too soft. I suppose I could have stuck it into the freezer to chill it but it was a Tuesday night and I didn’t want to be at this for hours. So I swore and smooshed. The recommendation was for a 9 x 9 pan but spreading was thin, the corner was overdone. You can’t tell with the other layers tho and my family eats anything.

The second layer was problematic too. I started it WAY BEFORE the bottom layer was cool and out of the oven. HA, so much for reading the instructions twice. I have made butterscotch before so I dived in with a lot of arrogance. (The difference between butterscotch and caramel is brown versus white sugar – the more you know!)

The butterscotch was perfect, I could have added all the cream from the one cup container, it could have taken it. Now I have a 1/4 cup of cream in my fridge and keep forgetting to use it in my coffee. I let the caramel cool slightly while I waited for the shortbread to come out of the over, reversed I know but too bad, so sad.

I added the butterscotch and put the two layers in the fridge for an hour. Too hot, I know but whatEVER, stop judging.

After an hour, everything was firm and cool to the touch. I kept it in the fridge while I melted the chocolate. I didn’t have the fancy bittersweet 60% blablabla… WE ARE IN ISOLATION PEOPLE! So I used my standard chocolate chip use in cookies chocolate. It was fine. Good enough for snacks, good enough for this. Back into the fridge for 30 minutes and then I cut into them. That was the hard part (Other than the crust layer) These suckers need a firm hand and a sharp knife. Use a serrated knife and saw. I didn’t. I cut, I didn’t crush it like they said it would happen, but I didn’t use boujee chocolate so maybe that was the difference. I cut this into 16 squares, then after tasting, I cut into 32 rectangles. Trust me. I also didn’t sprinkle sesame seeds all over the top because WE ARE IN ISOLATION PEOPLE! And I didn’t want to go to the bulk barn for just that. Hopefully, I have the stuff for the next recipe, I heard a rumour it has carrots and carrot juice. Where the heck will I find carrot juice??? Wish me luck. Meanwhile, I nailed it this week in spite of the problems. Judge for yourself and imagine tiny little sesame seeds all over the top.

Theirs vs Mine

They taste as good as they look. What are you making this week?

Basically: Biscuits

I think this may be my last week to bake something new from a recipe for a while. I couldn’t get all the ingredients for this week’s Sour Cream and Onion Biscuits. I had a 3/4 of a cup of greek yogurt. I needed 1 and 1/4 cups of sour cream. There wasn’t any at the store, nor was there plain yogurt. I did have milk and vinegar, so my plan was to supplement fake buttermilk. Molly Baz, the recipe creator did a few instagram stories talking about substitutions. Past experience told me I could use milk or yogurt, but there was a tang to sour cream that seemed important to this recipe, so I added a tablespoon of vinegar to 3/4 cup of milk. I ended up with slightly more dairy than the recipe called for but I did that because milk is obviously looser than yogurt.

I followed the rest of the recipe except I didn’t have 8 scallions, only 5. Life in the time of rations. This was fine, and maybe the next time I make this I will still use 5 scallions because it was more than enough. The batter came together very nicely. Using a light hand to not over beat makes a massive difference.

Everything came together quickly and I turned it out onto a cutting board for easy clean up. The next step was to fold or laminate into thirds using a bench scraper. I don’t have one. I thought about buy one because I have want one for a very long time. All things considering, it didn’t seem to be the time to spend needlessly on tools that could be substituted. So I used the back of my chefs knife. It works fine. The dough is sticky so flour up your hands and work quickly.

I also don’t have a kitchen ruler, but back in my quilting days, I measured different parts of my hand so I could do quick measurements in a store when buying fabric. I know from my thumb knuckle to the tip is one inch. The span of my hand from pinky to thumb when fully stretched is 8 inches. This recipe needed the dough to be 8″ x 4″ I was all over that. I folded three times. Then I cut it into eight pieces.

By leaving them squarish and not round, there are no scraps to rework and the less you work the dough, the less gluten you create therefore leaving everything tender. I used the knife to cut them away from the board, I should have lightly floured the surface but didn’t and it was still fine. You were supposed to use parchment because it prevents spreading but in the instagram story, Molly Baz used a silpat liner, so I used mine. I don’t like using single use things very often.

I basted them with melted butter and sprinkle a bit of sea salt over the top. I would skip the salt. It isn’t a secret that Molly Baz likes salt. These don’t need the extra. Plus Who can get flaky salt in Edmonton? Seriously – if you can, tell me where.

I put them in the oven for 22 minutes, I could smell them at 20 minutes and took them out. It was on the cusp of over browning. They were perfect at 20 minutes. Watch your closely. The recipe said between 18 – 22 minutes.

You can tell where I dripped butter. These things are the flakiest most tender biscuits I have ever had. The flavour reminds me of sour cream and onion chips. Happily I love those. The flavour is strong and fantastic. I will always make these agin once the stores get back to normal stock levels.

This is what Basically’s look like versus mine. In spite of the substitutions, I think I nailed it.

Basically: Brownies

Brownies are, without a doubt, my dad’s favourite chocolate treat. I didn’t share these with him. I will likely make him his own pan for Father’s Day or his birthday because these didn’t last long in my house.

The half-way recipe for Basically is Camouflage Chocolate Fudge Brownies. These are rich and fudgy and cheese cakey and easy. They are rated as a level two Basically recipe but that is because of the number of steps. More doesn’t mean hard.

I needed a win this week because the shortbread from last week was a fail. It tasted good, but the method and ugliness made it a flop.

I have entered into a habit of opening my email Sunday morning in bed to read Basically. I read through the recipe twice because squinty sleepy eyes miss stuff. I had everything but the cream cheese. I miss those carefree days of having everything I need in the pantry. I went to the store early and bought cream cheese, some bread, things for lunches…because as soon as you say “I am going to Sobeys”, the entire house wakes up as yells, “CAN YOU PICK UP SOME….” So much for a quick trip.

I got home, made lunch, cleaned the kitchen THEN I began at about 3:00 p.m. Sheesh…

I prepped the pan, then added cream cheese to the double boiler to soften. It didn’t soften well. I have better luck in the microwave, but the rule was to follow the instructions EXACTLY to see what new insights I learn. I learned that cream cheese softens better in the microwave about 25 seconds at a time.

I whisked together all the ingredients and divided it into two bowls, one plain and one with cocoa powder. This tasted just like cheesecake. That is a win! I love cheesecake but never have it.

The next part was weird. 10 Tablespoons of butter. Why can’t we just do grams or one half cup + (whatever the measurement is?). The other tricky part is butter comes in 454 gram bricks here, not sticks. WTF(udge) is a stick? Glad you asked, I asked Google.

Butter Measurements When looking at a standard stick of butter1 stick or 1/2 cup butter is equal to 4 ounces, or 113 grams.

Basically (see what I did there?) one pound of butter is 454 grams. How do you measure out 10 tablespoons? I also asked Google.

5/8 cup butter141.8 gram10 tbsp
Crimeny crickets. That is not easy so I pulled out my scale and weighed out 141.8 grams of butter. Into the double boiler that went.

The strange part was all the ingredients went in. I didn’t melt the butter first. I think it would have been easier to do it that way. But I followed the instructions and poured the sugar, cocoa, coffee and salt into the double boiler, stirred it up and it became awful then glossy, just like it said it would. Then I stuck my (CLEAN) finger in it to see if it would scaled it – still part of the directions. (Honestly, I learned this step from my mom. Stick you pinky in there to see if it’s hot enough, especially for tomato soup – weird tangent but here we are) Second time the charm and it was too hot, just like the recipe called for.

I added the chilled eggs and flour – this was stiff but came together lovely. I scooped out 1/2 of batter, forgot to leave it in a warm spot by the stove… Poured the rest into the prepared pan.

It was thick. I smoothed it out into the corners with my offset spatula. Then I dollopped the other two cream cheese mixtures on top in a random pattern. Finally adding the reserve brownie mixture which was stiff and cold by this time making the process laborious. But it worked out.

I baked it or 25 minutes in a preheated 325F oven. It was floppy but set. Do not expect it to be like cake, its not. It is more like fudge. The chocolate filled the house and it smelled so good! I let it set and cut it into 16 pieces. After tasting one later when it cooled I realised my error and should have cut it into one piece. One is all you need. But I shared it out and it lasted until Wednesday. Damn….it was really good.

This is Basically’s and the other is mine. I think it was a complete success!

Next week is Sour cream and onion biscuits. Oh…yeah….

Basically: Shortbread

I have started to enjoy waking up early on Sunday mornings to find the new basically recipe in my inbox. The email has the ingredient list and an equipment list. I scroll through to see what I need and what I already have. Then I link to the directions and read through the entire page to see what I need to be aware of and how much time I need. The recipe for the week was Roasty Toast Pecan-Caramel Shortbread Cookies and you can find it here. Mmmmm caramel. As I scanned through the list I noted I didn’t have dulce de leche but I did have a tin of sweetened condensed milk. I had never seen dulce de leche in the grocery story here, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t there. A quick google search showed a recipe for Compliments (Sobeys) brand squares with Compliments dulche de leche. I could buy some if I needed it. But making my own is easy enough.

ET Note: This entire recipe was a fail at various steps along the way. But the end result was tasty.

To begin the procedure for dulce de leche, I filled my dutch oven with water and set it to simmer. I then transfered my sweetened condensed milk into a mason jar. I do this for two reasons.

  1. cooking in tins can created explosions and is not the best choice for health reasons.
  2. I can see when the caramel it the right colour and done to my liking.

I kept a watchful eye on the pot over a three hour period. I added water every hour to keep the milk submerged.

Would it have been easier to purchase dulce de leche? Absolutely. Should I have? Meh… I didn’t want to go to two different shops and Molly from Basically said “even better if you make your own”. I needed to go to Bulk Barn to buy pecans and nonpareils (Who among you knew what nonpareils are? I only know them as their common name, sprinkles so that took some research). While this was simmering away, I left the hubs in charge of it and left for the Bulk Barn. I learned from the Bulk Barn gurus, I can bring my clean containers, have them weigh it and mark my jars, then I can fill them with all my bulky items! This makes me happy because of my quest to reduce single use plastics! I filled a jar a quarter way with pecans and another jar with turbinado sugar, white nonpareils were empty and I am not enamoured with food dye, so I chose the sugar which is an option in the recipe, so far not cheating.

I came home to this.

And submerged the jar into cold water to cool it down. While that was happening I toasted the pecans for the 3 minutes as directed and promptly burnt the pecans. I had bought the perfect amount so I needed to go back to the store. Was I happy about this? Not a chance. Plus we were doing taxes and that also made me angry.

I toasted the new bunch and chopped them finely because I do not have a food processor. This was apparently not a problem for the recipe other than I needed to assemble everything is a different order. I will get to that in a minute.

This was about 10 minutes of chopping.

I went to the BA forum and looked up the order of the recipe when not using a food processor. I needed to cream the butter, sugar and the dulce de leche.

Then add the flour, salt and add the nuts.

Getting this into a log and into the fridge was fussy.

Wrapping up in the parchment and leaving it in the fridge for 90 minutes was oddly specific.

When it was time to pull it out, I basted more dulce de leche on it and rolled it in the sugar.

Somehow I didn’t read the part where I needed to chill it again. So I sliced it up and baked it.

These looked NOTHING like the Basically version so I went to the forum to see what I did wrong.

  1. Chilling a second time reduces spreading.
  2. Using parchment instead of silpat also reduces spreading.
  3. Silpat helped to melt the dulce de leche and everything ran off the sides of the cookies.
  4. The recipe didn’t say what to bake it at. I make a guess at 325F because the pecans were toasted at that and that is also the temp I bake my shortbread at. Turns out I was right. I was slightly annoyed they made an error this huge in the instructions – this is a test kitchen after all. But I work in communications so I completely understand how this happened. Always send copy to fresh eyes people, always.

All in all, the cookie tasted good. Would I make this again? Not on your life, however, I would add dulce de leche to a different recipe because it is so darn tastey.

Here is their version vs mine. the result? FAIL.

Next week is fudgy brownies. I am in.

Basically: Focaccia

I cheated. I know I swore to uphold the recipe and follow the instructions EXACTLY but I didn’t. I added a touch more flour than it called for because I am a bread baker and learned from a grandma (not mine) who knew by the feel when the dough was ready. I will explain in a minute.

The Basically recipe arrived a day early because this bread takes hours to rise and proof and rise again. You can find this recipe here.

I read the recipe through and was happy I had everything I needed in my pantry, including the yeast (bonus, it hadn’t expired yet!). It began with proofing the yeast and feeding it honey. All the things I do to start my bread. I waited patiently for it to bloom. It begins to get foamy and bubbles up to the surface.

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I love the smell of bread yeast. It’s sweet and fragrant just like homemade bread. I weighed out the flour and added it to the yeast liquid. I mixed and it did not form a shaggy dough. It was still gelatinous like gak. I knew something was wrong. I reread the measurements, I got those right. I KNEW this was wrong. It didn’t look like their photo nor did it feel like bread dough. It was GAK.

Image result for gak

ALL WRONG! I wondered what the heck was happening and I think there may be a difference in measures – Canadian vrs American. Plus I am at a high altitude and their recipes are for sea level…well, I am a touch higher by 2500 feet, so I made the executive decision to add more flour. I incorporated about a 1/8 of a cup. Still not shaggy but workable and it looked more like their images. I added it to the oil, just like it said too. THIS LOOKED LIKE TOO MUCH OIL! Oh well, too late.  The dough looked right just swimming in oil. It could be because of the shape of my bowl, but fingers crossed and I hoped it would turn out okay. I had doubts about its ability to rise.

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It told me to put it into the fridge for about 24 hours. I took a sneak peek at 11:00 p.m. before bed.

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I had hope! it was rising! Now we wait…

The next morning I pulled it out and it had risen more and was sticking to the top of the plastic (serious guilt at this point for using single-use plasitc. I am going to purchase a silicone lid for my bowls.). Seriously, use a large bowl for the rise.

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I prepared the pan and dumped a tbsp of oil in the bottom – weird but I think this will give it the fried bread texture.

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I used the fork method as directed but it is fooling no one. This is kneading with forks. I prefer the hand method but this is a no-knead bread.

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I turned it out into the pan and poured the leftover oil over the top. I popped it into the warm oven with the heat off so it could prove.

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The wait began. I left it in for about four hours, maybe slightly less. It spread and filled the pan. This surprised me because I haven’t had bread dough spread like this before.

It sprung back too quickly so I knew it hadn’t finished proving. But. FOUR HOURS!!! So I preheated the oven to 450F and baked it for 30 minutes. I expected the texture to be smooth because nothing seemed correct.

I finished it off with melted garlic butter but four cloves is excessive for a family with garlic allergies. I used a half clove and it was perfect for us. The crumb was light and airy. I was gobsmacked. It was perfect. This was a very easy bread recipe, it just needed a lot of wait time. Definitely a keeper. In spite of the stress and doubts, it turned out perfectly. This is theirs. I think I nailed it.

Let me know how it worked out for you!

Basically

I am a rabid fan of the BA Test Kitchen. Chris Morocco and Carla Lally Music are, in my opinion, WIZARDS. They are magic and I basically worship them. The kitchen has a myriad of other chefs and I watch ALL of their segments each week, but I get super excited when Carla does back to back or they blindfold Morocco and he has to figure out just by taste and touch what the hell is in the recipe and recreated. That man is a SUPER TASTER. I follow all of them individually on Instagram and have chatted with Morocco on occasion (I squeal like a teenager when he replies to me) I am a super fan.

I learned a lot about cooking from my mom and baking from my aunty Mary Poppins (not her real name but her cookies were the best thing EVER). When I had a young family, I learned the science of why things are done a certain way from Martha Stewart. Humblebrag – baking is my superpower. Pies and cookies and my strength. I understand the science and I have a feel for it. I also love to bake. It is fun, relaxing and very satisfying.

Last week Basically ( a section on Bon Appetite magazine that basically teaches new cooks how to do it) announced they are doing a 10-week baking series.

Excuse me?

Ten weeks/Ten recipes of basic baking recipes to teach someone how to do it plus start out easy and work your way to something complicated.

This intrigued me.

Bon Appétit usually cooks and bakes with ingredients that I don’t tend to have on hand in my pantry. Sometimes I will go and gather ingredients to give the recipe a try. I am never disappointed. I decided I wanted to try this baking series and see what I can learn and how complicated do they make things. For example, am I going to have to dirty every single bowl in the house to make a cake? Are there tools I don’t have that they recommend? Like yes to all the questions I have. I am not so sure following their instructions – even if there are videos – is going to be a snap. But I am willing to try because I think it will be fun plus I need to try new foods, stuff that is healthier with less sugar etc. I have decided to take you along with me for the ride.

Today (Sunday, February 9, 2020) Basically dropped the first recipe. Buckwheat Chocolate Chunk Cookies. It told me a needed a few tools that I didn’t have. I decided to buy a new scale (mine has been brought to the mudroom to weigh out Captian’s food), and an oven thermometer. My oven is 20 years old and this past holiday season was a struggle to get the cookies right – I knew I needed a thermometer. I suspect 350 is actually 325 and that just won’t do. I am heading to the Bulk Barn to buy buckwheat flour – definitely an ingredient I don’t have. I am also going to look at their kosher slat. Mine is course – I will see if there is finer salt or maybe flaky salt for the cookie tops post-bake. I have everything else.

When Basically announced this series was coming, they gave a few other recipes to try to tie over my excitement. It’s like they knew me. I landed on Lemon Pound Cake to test to see if I might find this a fun project.

I followed the instructions exactly.

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I brought my butter to room temperature by putting it under a warm bowl.

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I zested the lemons without getting any pith in the bowl.

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I used a HAND MIXER – this I didn’t love. I prefer my Kitchen Aid stand mixer. The motor is going on my hand mixer so it may die before the series is over.

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Mine

I made the glaze even though I normally wouldn’t have. I did everything the way they told me to and I think I recreated the cake perfectly.

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Basically’s

My peeler needs to be replaced, it wasn’t as sharp as it needed to be but seriously – they look pretty close to identical.

My family ate two pieces each – so it passed the taste test.

Catch up with me next Sunday to see how the cookies went. If you are doing this with me – comment below or over on Facebook. We can talk about problems and successes.

WE CAN DO THIS!