Pecans like buttah!

Do you love pecans like I love pecans? Maybe it’s the Louisiana girl in me but I can’t get enough of these rich (and really good for you) nuts. You’ve seen me use them in my banana nut bread, they are the star ingredient in my favorite pie (pecan, duh!), and now I’ve used them to make a wonderful nut butter. Like peanut butter? Try making your own pecan butter. I’ll be honest, it doesn’t taste anything like peanut butter, but I like it a lot better. Making your own nut butter is super easy and only requires one major piece of equipment. If you have a food processor or a blender, you’re golden. This was my first time making my own nut butter and I can’t wait to play around with all kinds of nuts.*

*Note: I’m cracking myself up as I write this because I have the sense of humor of an eight year old boy, sorry y’all.

Pecan Butter

2 C pecan halves (don’t get the salted kind)

2 Tbsp grapeseed oil (I like it because it has such a light flavor)

1 tsp salt

Depending in the size of your blender or food processor, you might have to do this in a couple of batches. I made mine in two batches.

I poured 1 C of pecans in my food processor along with 1 Tbsp of oil and 1 tsp of salt. I then pulsed the ingredients until they were roughly chopped.

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I took a quick swipe of the sides of my food processor’s bowl with a spoon just to make sure nothing was sticking to it. Then I ground the mixture, stopping evry thime it began to form a ball and/or stick to the sides of the bowl. Then I’d scrape down the sides and keep going. In the middle of the process it looks something like this:

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I keep grinding the mixture until it smoothes out and startsto look creamy.

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Then just spoon it into your favorite jar or immediately spread it on your favorite bread. This recipe makes about 8 oz. of pecan butter. You can use this nut butter in any way you would use peanut butter.

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Pecan butter and apple slices is a killer midday snack! Plus, pecans are filled with healthy oils and fatty acids and stuff so you should really try to eat them, like, all the time.

Happy snacking!

 

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Study Break

Sorry for the long absences, folks! This semester at school has hit me like a hurricane (my house stands as the living proof), and I haven’t been able to devote enough time to the filthy kitchen I love so dearly. I just wanted to let everyone know that I haven’t forgotten about you. So, I decided to share with you my favorite study break snack: AVOCADO!!

Seriously, I pretty much just snack on avocados while I’m reading things like Hegel, or the Gospel of John. Avocados are super healthy, super tasty, and they don’t dirty up a whole bunch of dishes. Of course, I dress them up a little bit. But you should really try these sometime.

Chili lime avo

Chili-Lime Avocado

1 avocado

The juice of 1/2 lime

Chili salt to taste

After cutting and pitting the avocado, squeeze the lime juice over both halves and sprinkle with chili salt.

Grab a spoon and dig in!!

You don’t need a plate or a bowl or anything! Just don’t drop any on your books >.<

Happy snacking!

Chocolate Chip Cookie Extravaganza!!!

My two best friends in the whole wide world, Kelsey and Erica came to visit me week. It was a kind of pre-birthday present. They came all the way from Seattle and we had an absolute blast! We had so much fun, the two of them missed their flight and stayed with me an extra day. Since we had some extra time, I put them to work. Task master that I am, I forced these two poor women to help me make about three dozen chocolate chip cookies.

Cookie Party Final

 

Why so many cookies?I was inspired by Tessa at Handle the Heat and her Ultimate Guide to Chocolate Chip Cookies. She put in what I’m sure was a whole bunch of time and energy experimenting with all of the different ways of making chocolate chip cookies. I read her guide, and picked a few alterations to the classic Tollhouse recipe that I wanted to try. What my girls and I ended up making were:

  1. Classic chocolate chip cookies, using both baking powder and baking soda, as well as a higher ratio of brown sugar to granulated sugar (it changes the texture so the cookies are the perfect combination of crunchy and chewy).
  2. Whole wheat chocolate chip cookies. These had a slightly deeper, nuttier flavor. I was really surprised at how good they were.
  3. Vegan, gluten free chocolate chunk cookies. Vegan chocolate chips were difficult to find so we used some of the vegan chocolate from Trader Joe’s that I used to make brownies for the last post.

The division of labor was simple: I was in charge of the wet ingredients and the mixer, Kelsey was in charge of the dry ingredients, and Erica was our official timer, dish washer, and batter taster. The whole process went so smoothly and was so much fun! I wish these two ladies were here to bake with me all the time!

 

Cookie Party AP1

Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup + 2 Tbsp all purpose flour

1/4 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 stick (4 oz.) butter

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla

1 egg

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Cream the butter and the sugar for two minutes, then add the egg and vanilla. Creaming is basically just beating the butter and sugar together until the mixture gets light and fluffy and tasty-looking.

Mix together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

Slowly add the dry ingredients to the egg, butter, and sugar mixture.

Stir in the chocolate chips.

Chill the dough for 30 minutes, then spoon it onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil and bake for 9-11 minutes.

Let the cookies cool for about 2 minutes on the pan, and then transfer to a cooling rack. It’s best of you wait about five minutes before eating, but no one will blame you if you scarf these suckers down as soon as they’re cool enough not to burn your mouth.

Cookie Party AP2

The next two variations followed the same recipe for the most part. For the whole wheat chocolate chip cookies, I simply used whole wheat flour instead of all purpose. Seriously, I think these were my favorite. Erica really wanted to make them and I was a little reluctant. I should know by know to listen to her, because she has impeccable taste. I’m pretty sure that all of my future chocolate chip cookie will be made with whole wheat flour.

Cookie Party W1

The vegan, gluten free cookies, obviously required a couple more substitutions.

Cookie Party VGF2

Vegan, Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup gluten free all purpose flour

1/4 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp coconut oil

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 Tbsp flax seed meal

3 Tbsp warm water

1 cup bittersweet vegan chocolate, chopped into chunks

 Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Stir the flax seed meal and the warm water together until the mixture begins to look gelatinous. Let is sit for a minute, then stir again.

Mix the sugar, brown sugar, vanilla, coconut oil, and flax seed mixture together. You don’t have to worry about creaming because the coconut oil behaves pretty differently from butter, you can try to whip it up, but you won’t get the same texture that butter gives.

Mix all the dry ingredients together and slowly add to the wet mixture.

Stir in the chocolate chunks.

Chill the dough for 30 minutes, then spoon onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Bake for 9-11 minutes.

Cookie Party VGF1

These cookies came out pretty thin and a lot more crunchy than the others. Because the chocolate was in chunks, the ratio of actual cookie to chocolate was a little weird in some of the individual cookies. That being said, they tasted pretty great.

I was able to send Kelsey and Erica home with a little bit of everything we made and I brought the rest to school with me to share. Everybody loved all three variations.

I recommend checking out Handle the Heat’s guide and finding your own preferred recipe.

I’m so thankful my two best friends were here to make and eat these delicious cookies with me. If you can, bake with a friend. I promise whatever you make will taste just a little bit better.

Happy Baking!

 

Late Night Birthday Cake

I love birthdays! I also love my roommates! I’ve doubled up on my reasons to celebrate this year, because my roommate Jabu’s birthday is the day before mine. That means we’re celebrating all week!

Sadly, I had to work all weekend and finish a small mountain of reading for school so my kitchen time has been cut a little short. I wanted to give Jabu the option of eating birthday cake for breakfast if she felt like it, so I found a nice simple genoise sponge cake recipe and whipped up a cake in the dead of night (hopefully the lack of natural lighting is enough to explain my less-than-great pictures for this post).

I got the recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks, bake! by Nick Malgieri. I love this book because it focuses on pretty basic techniques and recipes and then shows you a few variations. This gives me everything I need to start improvising and making these recipes my own.

Jabu is gluten intolerant so I made this cake gluten free. I also had some beautifully fragrant orange blossom water in my pantry, so I decided to make a citrus genoise cake.

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Orange Blossom Birthday Genoise

4 eggs

2 egg yolks

2/3 cup granulated sugar

Pinch of salt

2 tsp vanilla

2 tsp orange blossom water

3/4 cup gluten free all purpose flour

1/3 cup cornstarch

Set a rack in the middle of your oven and preheat to 350 degrees.

Butter the sides and bottom of a 9″ round cake pan or springform pan.

Whisk the eggs, yolks, sugar, salt, vanilla, and orange blossom water together by hand. I did this in the bowl for my electric mixer so I wouldn’t have to go through the trouble of using so many bowls.

Set the bowl over a sauce pan of gently boiling water and whisk until the egg mixture is warm, about 30 seconds. Make sure the bowl isn’t touching the water. Also, be very careful not to overcook the egg mixture, it really should feel warm to the touch, not hot when you stick your finger in it. If you’re fancy and have a thermometer, you want your egg mixture to clock in right around 120 degrees. I’m a broke college student so I have to use the tools at my disposal, namely my fingers.

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Place the bowl on a mixer that’s been fitted with the whisk attachment. Whip on medium-high speed until the egg foam is light in color, has increased in volume, and the bowl is no longer warm. This takes about 3 minutes. The eggs will hold their shape when they’re ready. You’ll also be able to draw a clear line through them.

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While the eggs are whipping, stir the flour and cornstarch together using an open mesh strainer. Sift the mixture into a small bowl or a piece of paper. If you don’t sift the dry ingredients, you run the risk of clumps weighing down your cake. This is a sponge cake so you want everything to be light and fluffy.

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Remove the bowl from the mixer and sift about a third of the flour mixture over the egg foam. Fold the flour in using a  large rubber spatula. Make sure you scrape up the bits from the bottom of the bowl to prevent clumps from forming.

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Scrape the batter into the pan, filling it in a circular motion until the batter reaches 3/4″ from the top of the pan. Bake until the cake has risen and firm in the center and the point of a paring knife inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. That’ll take about 30 minutes.

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Immediately use that paring knife to loosen the cake from the sides of the pan and invert it onto a cooling rack. Using a plate or a piece of paper, flip the cake over again and set it back on the rack so the top is facing up. Let the cake cool completely on the rack.

If you plan on making a layer cake, stick the cooled cake in the refrigerator for at least a few hours if not overnight. After chilling, cut the cake in half and add filling or frosting as desired.

I cheated big time with my frosting and used a can of Pillsbury Funfetti frosting. It came with sprinkles, how could I resist?

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For a late-night/early-morning fly-by-the-seat-of-my-procrastinating-ass cake, it turned out alright. I finished it in time for Jabu to eat a piece for breakfast. Next year, I’ll raise my birthday cake game but I’m pretty satisfied with how this cake turned out. I think Jabu was pretty pleased, too.

Happy birthdays, and happy baking!

Blasphemous Brownies

Sometimes in order to eat clean, you have to do some dirty things.

 

I’ve been craving brownies all week and, naturally, I turned to one of my personal role models, the queen of all things decadent and tasty, Julia Child. Her Best-Ever Brownie recipe is my go-to when I’m craving chocolatey perfection. But then I had a thought: I want to make brownies that I can share with ALL of my friends? I realized this would mean doing the unthinkable. I would have to take this canonical recipe and make it vegan and gluten free. That’s crazy, right? I mean we’re talking Julia Child, the baroness of butter. You can’t do that, it’s blasphemy!

I say a little blasphemy every now and then never hurt anybody. Besides, what Julia doesn’t know won’t hurt her.

The substitutions in this recipe are super easy. Coconut oil is a great stand-in for butter, and that flax seed trick I showed you earlier? That takes care of your eggs. I strayed a little from the original recipe in selecting some vegan chocolate to use. Trader Joe’s has a couple of vegan chocolate bars. Their Pound Plus Bittersweet and Bittersweet with almonds are the two that are vegan. I decided to skip the nuts and go with regular bittersweet. Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free All-Purpose flour takes the place of normal all-purpose flour. Simple, right? Here’s the process in full:

Blasphemous Best-Ever Brownies

Brownie Ingredients

Ingredients

1 1/4 cups gluten free all-purpose flour

1 tsp salt

3/4 cup coconut oil

6 ounces bittersweet vegan chocolate, coarsely chopped

2 cups sugar

1 tsp vanilla abstract

4 Tbsp ground flax seed

3/4 cup warm water

Brownie chop

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a double boiler, combine the chocolate and the coconut oil, stirring constantly until melted. Make sure you’re not scorching the chocolate, cook this all on a low simmer. It takes a little longer over low heat, but I’ve burned enough chocolate in my time to know it’s worth the wait.

 

Once the chocolate is melted, add 1 cup of the sugar. Stir for 30 seconds and then add the vanilla. Remove from heat.

Mix together the ground flax seed and the warm water until well combined. Let that sit for about 30 seconds and then stir again until the mixture becomes gelatinous.

Brownie Eggs

In a large bowl, mix the remaining sugar with the flax seed mixture. Once that’s combined, add the chocolate mixture. Stir until fully incorporated.

Next add the salt, and slowly add the flour, making sure to mix well before adding more flour.

Brownie Batter

Pour your batter into an 8×8 or 9×9 baking pan and bake for 30 minutes. You can test how done your brownies are by sliding a knife into the center. Also, you can shake the pan a little to make sure there’s no jiggle.

Please let these puppies cool completely before eating. As they cool, the coconut oil will allow them to set a little more and become a bit firmer. This is super important!

You’ll notice that I skipped a couple of steps from the Julia Child recipe. Those steps were focused on tempering the eggs and making sure they wouldn’t begin to cook upon making contact with the warm chocolate. Since there are no eggs in this recipe, those steps didn’t really seem relevant. Also, I didn’t use the same amount of coconut oil as the recipe calls for butter because I find that having that much oil in the recipe leads to some pretty greasy brownies. They taste just fine, but they’re greasy.

As I’ve said before, I’m fairly new to the land of vegan and gluten free baking so I appreciate any tips or tricks y’all have out there in the blogosphere. Try these out and let me know what you think.

Happy Baking!

 

Peachy Keen Cornbread Muffins

When I think about my Southern roots, I think a lot about food. I’m from Louisiana so things like gumbo, jumbalaya, beignets, and sweet potatoes come to first to mind. But when I think of my family spread out over the rest of the South I think of Georgia peaches, smoked brisket, and cornbread. In short, I think of BBQ and picnic foods.

So when I found myself with an overabundance of peaches in my kitchen, I knew exactly what to do. Macerated peaches make the perfect companion to my favorite gluten free cornbread muffins.

Now, without any further ado, here are my…

Peachy Keen Cornbread Muffins

cornbread prep

For the cornbread

1 3/4 cups Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free All-Purpose Flour

1 cup cornmeal (I used Bob’s Red Mill for this as well)

2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/4 cup sugar

3/4 tsp salt

1 1/4 cups milk

1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled

1 large egg

For the topping

2 ripe peaches

1/2cup brown sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

Slice the peaches and combine with brown sugar and cinnamon in a medium bowl, or really just any container that can hold the mixture. Make sure to stir everything so that the peaches are coated in sugar and cinnamon. Put the whole thing in the refrigerator and let it sit for about 30 minutes. The sugar will draw the juices out of the peach slices and make a decadent syrup.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 and prepare your muffin tin. This means either greasing the pan, or preparing your muffin cups. I use silicone baking cups as they require no greasing and muffins never seem to stick to them.

Whisk together all the dry ingredients in a medium bowl (that’s the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt).

Now stir in your wet ingredients one at a time. I usually put the egg in first, then the milk, and then the butter, but the order doesn’t really matter. Stir until everything is combined. It’s ok if your batter is a little bit lumpy, just make sure you work out any major clumps.

cornbread pan

Spoon the batter into your muffin tin, filling each cup about 3/4 of the way. Top with two peach slices and a little drizzle of the peach syrup. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the edges of your muffins turn a nice golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool for at least 5 minutes before serving.

eat da cornbread

These muffins make a great breakfast treat, a wonderful desert, an awesome side dish… Can you tell how much I LOVE these muffins? Hurry up and make them while peaches are still in season!

Happy Baking!

 

Magical Hazelnut Make-It-Better Cookies!!

First of all, welcome to The Filthy Kitchen. I’m so excited you’re here!

Do you ever have those days or weeks where everything is just not very great? You’re burnt out and cranky, and can’t figure out where you left your positive outlook on life? I started this blog because baking is what helps me through those days and weeks (even when they turn into months). Oh, and Nutella. Nutella solves everything. Enter, our recipe of the week:

The fist time I made these cookies was an attempt at cheering up my boyfriend and roommates in the middle of a hard Chicago winter and a grueling semester at school. This week I made them to cheer myself up. I got the original recipe from Ambitious Kitchen and tweaked it so my vegan and gluten free friends could get in on the love.

Here are my Magical Hazelnut Make-It-Better Cookies:

To Make this recipe gluten free, I used Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free All Purpose Flour. It’s really versatile, easy to work with, and a lot easier and cheaper than trying to come up with my own mixture of alternative flours.

To make these cookies vegan, I used Justin’s Chocolate Hazelnut butter. It’s vegan and gluten free, whereas Nutella contains milk. I also had to replace the egg in the original recipe. PETA and veganbaking.net have some really great cheat sheets and tips for substituting dairy products in baked goods. I chose to use the ground flaxseed and water method.

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Ingredients

1 cup vegan hazelnut spread

1/2 cup gluten free all-purpose flour

1 Tbsp ground flaxseed (I used Bob’s Red Mill for this, too)

3 Tbsp water

2 Tbsp brown sugar

Sea salt

Instructions

Combine the flaxseed meal with water and stir until the mixture becomes gelatinous. I find it works well to allow the mixture to sit for a couple of 30-45 second intervals in between stirring.

Combine flaxseed mixture, brown sugar, and hazelnut spread in a mixing bowl and beat until all the ingredients are combined.

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Slowly add the flour and mix until the dough begins to cling together. It’ll look something like this:

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Refrigerate dough for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 while dough is chilling.

Roll dough into small 1″ balls and place on a greased cookie sheet. I like to salt these puppies before and after they go into the oven but that’s more a matter of personal preference.

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Bake for 10 minutes, then press with a fork and continue to bake for another 5-7 minutes. Allow to cool for a couple of minutes before transferring to a wire rack. Generously sprinkle some sea salt on the cookies, and let cool for another 10minutes or so and then you’re ready to find your bliss!

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These cookies are nice and crispy on the outside but super fudgy in the inside. You can make them a little bigger as well but I like this size for dunking.

I’ve also made a batch of these that are thinner and crispier and go great with tea or ice cream. To achieve this, use about 2 Tbsp less flour and skip refrigeration. Depending on the time of year though (or whether or not you have air conditioning), you might want to freeze the dough for 10 minutes before baking. Spoon the dough onto the cookie sheet (it’ll be stickier and a little more difficult to roll into balls). Then just bake at 350 for ten minutes and let them cool on a wire rack. They’ll come out looking a little like this:

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I hope you enjoy these as much as I do. Hit me up with any questions or comments.

Happy Baking!!!