SILENCE

July 23, 2014

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Things have been pretty quiet around here lately if you hadn’t noticed. Every now and then I go through these phases where I am practically non-existent on the blog due to being a) busy, b) uninspired, c) forgetful, d) lazy or e) on vacation. (Not to mention the lack of appeal of turning on a hot oven to bake.) Or all of the above, in this case for a one month MIA. To be honest, sometimes it becomes a downward spiral. After about two weeks of not baking or posting any recipes, it will dawn on me. And then the guilt sets in, and the more and more I push it off my to-do list that it isn’t a priority. But you know what? It should be.

I have been blogging here on The Baking Bird for over 6 years. Blogging organically blossomed into one of my favorite hobbies and passions parallel to discovering my love for vegan baking and food photography. I have loved taking (making) photos since the wee age of 12. I’ll never forget my first digital camera and the whole new world it opened up for me. Photography has been my main creative outlet ever since, and even though there are times when the Canon will get a little dusty in the case, I know it will always be there for me. I’m not worried about it, but I definitely don’t want it to feel left out or neglected.

Do any of you ever experience this with the hobbies in your life? It’s like a plant that needs watering, soil that needs fertilizing, a hunger that needs satiating. It needs to be fed. Not all the time, but definitely not forgotten about. Sometimes it gets to the point (ahem, a month later) where I’ve realized I’ve neglected something for so long that it reminds me to want it again. The stuff that fulfills the soul, the peace it brings from the inside out. It can be so easy to get caught up in day to day life, daily work routines, the chores and errands and internal chatter and external chatter that the very things that bring us peace and joy and fulfillment are put on the back burner. But eventually, we crave them once again to center us. The internal equilibrium signaling us to come back to our place of “balance”, whatever that may be.

So all this is is just a long story short of explaining how cyclical realizations come to be, and that is just the wave of life. Sometimes you need to feel the absence of something to crave it’s presence once again (like oh so many things in life). So, here’s an intention from here on out, at least in this creative cycle, however long it may last, to prioritize the things in this life that feed me in more ways than one. A recipe or two is coming your way soon.

In the meantime, here are some cats. (Some pretty awesome cats). And a new and exciting indoor palm plant. Meow!

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ROSEWATER CHOCOLATE PISTACHIO SHORTBREAD COOKIES

June 22, 2014

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It’s no lie I love pistachios and rosewater. Especially when paired together. The perfect complimentary combo, especially with cardamom. Classic Indian flavors can go a long way in transporting traditional baking recipes to the next level and beyond.

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When I discovered Beth’s recipe for Chocolate-Dipped Pistachio Shortbread, and that her inspiration and original recipe she tweaked came from the Cook’s Illustrated Baking Book, I knew I had to buy it immediately.  And of course, put my own spin on things. Enter in the rosewater and cardamom parts. I have never made shortbread like this before, so I didn’t want to go too crazy wild on tweaking any major ingredients. I’d say the trickiest part is understanding how to fit the dough in a springform pan with a removable bottom. Basically you take the bottom out of the collar and set it aside. With the pan locked, you place it on the baking sheet lined with parchment paper. The idea is that the metal round keeps the cookies contained and not expanding into a pile of unidentifiable cookie dough. More on that later.

The rosewater was the only snafu I encountered halfway through. I added it to the melted chocolate and it immediately “curdled” and dried up. SUPER SAD FACE. Especially after melting 10 ounces of that good stuff. Wah wah. Should’ve known/gut feeling’s are always right. SO, after some hemming and hawing, I decided to keep the melted goodness pure on it’s own, dipped the shortbread in it, and then sprinkled several drops of rosewater on the chocolate part of the cookie. PROBLEM SOLVED. And it was fun sprinkling every other cookie with pistachios and pink himalayan sea salt. I loved each one equally, but the salt was an fancy awesome extra touch. Did I talk about how good these are yet? No, because I’m completely exhausted from a long (but super fun) week so please don’t take that as a lack of my enthusiasm. THESE ARE FREAKING AMAZING. I was in awe how good they turned out and how relatively simple they were to make. They’re pretty much like a softer biscotti, since they’re dipped in chocolate and all, and I don’t consider biscotti biscotti unless it’s dipped in a whole hell of a lot of chocolate goodness. Adding in the cardamom, rosewater and salt was the perfect touch. I could not. stop. eating these. So fun! These would be the perfect picnic cookie treat. Jus sayin. Maybe next time some saffron? And lemon?

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ROSEWATER CHOCOLATE PISTACHIO SHORTBREAD COOKIES

Makes 16 cookies, including one round in the center

Adapted from Local Milk & Cook’s Illustrated

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup gluten-free oats
  • 1/2 cup pistachios
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 2/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 14 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/8-inch-thick slices
  • 10 ounces finely chopped bittersweet chocolate
  • rosewater for extra sprinkling
  • pink himalayan sea salt for sprinkling
  • extra chopped pistachios for sprinkling

Directions:

  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees F. Pulse oats and pistachios in a food processor until reduced to a fine powder. In a large bowl, mix oat-pistachio flour, all-purpose flour, cornstarch, sugar, cardamom and salt with a spoon until well combined. Cut in the butter to dry ingredients with a pastry butter cutter/dough blender (like the kind they use to make biscuits and pies) and continue to mix until dough just forms and pulls away from sides of bowl, 5-10 minutes. I had to add several tablespoons of cold water to make it more pliable, otherwise it was too dry and would never come together in a million years.
  2. Place upside-down (grooved edge should be at top) collar of a 9- or 91/2-inch springform pan on parchment paper-lined baking sheet (do not use springform pan bottom). Press dough into collar in even 1/2-inch-thick layer, smoothing top of dough with your fingers. Place a 2-inch biscuit cutter in center of dough (I just placed a 2″ cup in the center and cut around it with a butter knife) and cut out center. Place extracted round alongside springform collar on baking sheet. Open springform collar, but leave it in place.
  3. Bake shortbread for 5 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 250 degrees F. Continue to bake until edges turn pale golden, 10 to 15 minutes longer. Remove baking sheet from oven; turn oven off. Remove springform pan collar; use chef’s knife to score surface of shortbread into 16 even wedges, cutting halfway through shortbread. Using a fork or skewer, poke about 10 holes in each wedge. Return shortbread to oven and prop door open with handle of wooden spoon, leaving 1-inch gap at top. Allow shortbread to dry in turned off oven until pale golden in center (shortbread should be firm but giving to touch), about 1 hour.
  4. Transfer sheet to wire rack; let shortbread cool to room temperature. Cut shortbread at scored marks to separate.
  5. Melt the 10 oz of finely chopped bittersweet chocolate in a small-medium saucepan over low-medium heat, stirring chocolate and continuing heating until melted. Carefully dip base of each wedge in chocolate, allowing chocolate to come halfway up cookie. Scrape off excess with your finger and place on parchment paper-lined rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with rosewater, pistachios and/or pink sea salt. Refrigerate until chocolate sets, about 15 minutes.
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CHOCOLATE PORTER BERRY COBBLERS

June 8, 2014

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After putting this recipe together and photographing it from every angle possible, I realized that I love messy food. Messy food always takes food photography up to the next level. It’s organic and real and beautiful. Just the way I like it. If only every photoshoot could be as effortless as this one… chocolate beer berry juices dripping down the sides of ceramic creme brûlée ramekins, it would make things a lot easier on me… I think.

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I love this woman’s blog. She blends her passion for cooking and baking with her love for beer and I want to make every single one of her recipes. A woman after my own heart. I mean, c’mon, Orange Saison Sour Cream Ice Cream, Beer Crepes with Beer Caramelized Apples, Beer Soaked Rosemary Potatoes, Strawberry Lemonade Beer Pound Cake… you get the jest. She’s a genius. And this particular porter berry cobbler with dark chocolate is no exception.

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Since fresh berries are now popping up in markets left and right, I just knew I had to put them to good use to recreate her cobbler recipe. Everything I love under one roof… err, oat crumble. I had a few Porter’s on hand, but my gut went with the Portland Brewing Cream Porter because key word: “cream”. I bought it sometime last winter, and granted this is a wintry dessert dish, but it was still just as good. And I’m definitely one for baking winter-like desserts in the summer because there are no rules. Porters, similar to Stouts, have a natural cacao/chocolate flavor anyhow, so this does not clash at all.

I loved how these turned out. Surprisingly simple to make, minimal ingredients, outstanding results. I promise, this will taste like nothing you’ve ever had before. The chocolate and berry pairing is a no-brainer, but adding the Porter takes it to a whole new level. The cobblers naturally cave in toward the middle after they cool off a little, but that doesn’t matter. It’s a gooey, warm and delicious mess that you have all to yourself, and all is right in the world.

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CHOCOLATE PORTER BERRY COBBLERS

Adapted from The Beeroness 

Serves 4, depending on how many ramekins you use

Ingredients for Topping:

  • ¾ cup flour
  • ¼ cup quick oats
  • ¼ cup white sugar
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ cup chilled unsalted butter

Ingredients for Filling:

  • 3 cups mixed berries (thawed if frozen–I like the Trader Joe’s Cherry Blend)
  • 7 wt oz dark chocolate (about 1 ¼ cups)
  • ¾ cup Porter or Stout beer

Directions:

    1. Add the flour, oats, both sugars, and salt to a food processor, pulse to combine.
    2. Add the butter, process until combined.
    3. Place in the freezer until the filling is ready.
    4. In a double boiler over medium heat, add the chocolate and the beer, stir until melted, remove from heat.
    5. Stir in the berries.
    6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
    7. Place 4 oven safe ramekins (6-8 oz in size) on a baking sheet.
    8. Add the filling to the bowls, about 2/3 full.
    9. Add the topping until level with the top of the bowl.
    10. Bake until golden brown, about 45-50 minutes.

 

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