Saturday, February 26, 2011

Question for Food Bloggers.....

Ahhh - Too Many Choices!!

Greetings Fellow Foodie Photogs - After blogging for 2 years, snapping 29,000 photos, and thinking about upgrading my trusty point-and-shoot super-zoom Panasonic Lumix FX-28 digital camera for at least a year, I've finally set a goal of buying an SLR or DSLR by the end of June.  Only one problem, I have absolutely no idea what to get - another Panasonic, Nikon, Canon, Sony, Pentax, Olympus?  The choices are endless.

Photographer friends have suggested their preferred brands, but most of them don't do food blog photos, so I'd really like to hear from actual food bloggers.  What do you use?  What do you like?  What don't you like?  What helpful suggestions can you pass along?  Etc, etc.

I should also probably mention that I used to shoot exclusively with the auto setting, but I've been playing around with the manual options lately.  In other words, I don't really have any idea what I'm doing, but I'm not afraid to experiment.

Okay, I can't wait to hear from everyone - hope you guys can help push me in the right direction.

Thank you, thank you!!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

As Requested - My Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies

Our Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies: Thin, Chewy, and Oh So Delish! - ButterYum

I recently reviewed the "Best Chocolate Chip Cookies" by Cook's Illustrated.  Although CI's cookies were indeed very good, I mentioned they weren't as good as my favorite recipe.  Little did I know how many comments and email requests I would get by saying that.

So here is the recipe that I love so much - it comes from CookWise by Shirley O. Corriher.  In the book, Shirley shares 4 variations of this recipe; basic, thin, puffed, and in between.  The puffed and in between versions rely on the use of butter-flavored shortening instead of real butter like the basic and thin versions.  Since my blog is called ButterYum, you can guess which of the recipe I decided to make - yep, the butter-laden basic and thin versions.  Both were extremely good, but the thin cookies won my family's taste test by a landslide.

Because butter melts more easily than shortening, these cookies spread a bit during baking - they'll bake up crisp around the edges and chewy in the middle.  They aren't the most attractive chocolate chip cookies you'll ever see, but I promise they won't disappoint when it comes to flavor - I can't resist their strong vanilla, hint of caramel, chocolaty chip goodness.  I hope you like them as much as we do.  On a side note - this recipe contains no eggs, so enjoy sampling it raw.

Shirley O. Corriher's Thin Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted by ButterYum
makes 36 cookies (#50 cookie scoop)

1 1/2 cups bleached all-purpose flour (yes bleached - using unbleached flour will result in "greasy" cookies)
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup mini chocolate chips (6 ounces) - regular choc. chips are too large for these cookies

Preheat oven to 375F.   

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter, granulated sugar, and light brown sugar together until light and fluffy.  

Add corn syrup and milk; beat well and scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Add vanilla extract; beat well.  

On low speed, gradually add the reserved dry ingredients and mix on low until combined.  Add mini chips and mix on low for 5 seconds.  

Remove bowl from mixer and check to see all the ingredients are combined well - use a silicone spatula to finish mixing if needed. 

Prepare cookie sheets by spraying with non-stick baking spray (I just use a non-greased Silpat liner).  Drop tablespoons of batter about 2 inches apart onto completely cool cookie sheets (don't be afraid to chill the cookie dough if it starts to get too soft at room temperature).  Bake one sheet at a time; for 8-12 minutes or until edges just begin to turn brown (check early).  Remove cookie sheet from oven and wait 3 minutes before transferring cookies to a rack to cool completely.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

I can't believe I'm posting these....

181 Calorie Chocolate Muffins (a Hungry Girl recipe) - ButterYum
I can't believe I'm posting these - they go completely against my bake-from-scratch philosophy, but hey, they're so good, I had to tell you about them (update - I've included a homemade chocolate cake mix recipe below).  The teens liked these muffins so much that they've asked me to make them repeatedly since we first tried them - what does that tell you?

I first saw the recipe on the blog Hungry Girl.  When I heard they were made with only two ingredients and only contained 181 calories, I knew I wanted to try them.

 I should first start by telling you that I generally don't  like chocolate and pumpkin together, but honestly, all you taste here is an incredibly moist chocolate muffin.

So here we go - you'll need an 18.25 ounce box of devil's food cake mix (homemade recipe is listed below) and a 15 ounce can of 100% pure pumpkin puree.  Mix the two together (just the dry mix and the pumpkin - no egg, or oil, or water).  You can do this by hand, but the flat beater of your stand mixer will make quick work of it.  Line a muffin pan with 12 liners; divide the batter evenly among the 12 liners (they won't rise much while baking).  Bake in a preheated 400F oven for 20 minutes.  Cool completely before eating.

Alternately, one recipe will make 48 soft cookies.  Just use a #50 scoop to portion batter into cookie-like blobs on a silpat lined sheet pan (about 1 tablespoon each).  Bake 12 per tray in a preheated 375F oven for 15 minutes.  Cool completely before eating.

I let the family sample these before announcing what they were made of - nobody could taste pumpkin, yet the pumpkin adds a cool, smooth, moist quality to the muffins.  They're dense, yet light at the same time - really hard to describe.  They're really affordable too - 12 large muffins cost less than $3 to make.

If you're like me and prefer to to bake from scratch, this recipe makes the equivalent of one box of cake mix.  I've used it to make these muffins a couple times and it works extremely well.

Homemade Chocolate Cake Mix
makes the equivalent of one 18.25-ounce box

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder (sifted to remove lumps)
1/4 cup shortening
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon fine sea salt

Place all ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer and mix on low speed until the mixture resembles a box of cake mix.  Alternately, you can process the ingredients in a food processor.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Marcella Hazan's Roast Chicken with Lemons

Marcella Hazan's Roast Chicken with Lemons - ButterYum
I saw this chicken recipe recently posted by my friend Mari at Once Upon a Plate.  Mari writes one of my favorite blogs, and I'm in awe of her photography skills - so much so that I want to be just like her when I grow up ;).  If you've never visited her blog, pour yourself a beverage and settle in, you're in for a treat.

My favorite way to prepare roast chicken is a time consuming process that requires at 8-24 hours, but sometimes time is limited and a quick technique like this one by Marcella Hazan is in order.  It just doesn't get much easier than this - one chicken, two lemons, and a little salt and pepper.  That's it, and you end up with the most wonderfully juicy and delicious bird.  Let's walk through to process.

 Aside from a clean, dry, and seasoned-with-salt-and-pepper chicken, you'll need 2 lemons, a toothpick, and an oven-safe roasting pan like this cast iron number.  I lined my pan with a parchment circle as suggested by someone online, but I won't bother next time - Marcella's recipe states it isn't necessary.

Okay, roll each lemon on the counter; pressing firmly to get the juices flowing (allow lemons to come to room temperature for the best results).  Then poke each lemon 20 or so times with the toothpick and place both lemons, whole, right inside the cavity of the well seasoned bird.  Use the toothpick to hold the cavity closed.

 Use a little kitchen twine to tie hold the legs together.  The chicken will plump up as it roasts and if you skip this step the bird will won't have a very "polite" presentation on your table.  Now, into the roasting pan BREAST SIDE DOWN (no oil or butter needed).  Roast at 350F for about 30 minutes.

 Then flip the bird over so the breast is facing up and increase the oven temp to 400F.  Continue to roast until the bird is done (about 20 minutes for each pound), or until the internal temperature in the thickest part of the thigh reaches 165F.

Note:  I didn't realize the recipe called for a 3-4 pound bird until I had already purchased a nearly 7 pounder, but I adjusted the cooking time accordingly (as directed above) and it turned out fine.  The full recipe can be found here.  I reserved the pan drippings and carcass to make homemade chicken stock.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Pasta 101 - How to Cook Perfect Pasta Every Time

Pasta 101 - How To Perfectly Salt Pasta Water - ButterYum

There's nothing more satisfying to me than perfectly cooked pasta.  It's a pretty simple task, but I find so many people are confused about how long to cook it, how much salt they should add, whether or not they should add oil, etc.

As far as I'm concerned, the first thing you have to do is start with a good brand of pasta.  Other than that, there are two major rules to remember - 1) season your water properly (should be salty like the sea), and 2) do not, I repeat, DO NOT let the pasta over cook.

Okay, time to cook so do like me:
For 1 pound of pasta, start with 1 gallon of cold water, and make sure your pot is large enough.  This is a 6 quart stockpot (for 2 pounds of pasta I would use a 12 quart stockpot).  Cover and bring to a boil.

When the water boils, add 1 ounce of salt (30 grams).  I weighed Kosher and fine sea salt - the volume was identical for both (4 1/2 teaspoons).

Controversial side note - you can add oil to the water if you like, but I don't.  Yes, oil will keep the starchy bubbles from boiling over, but if you use plenty of water and a big enough stockpot, you won't have to worry about it.  Some people say adding oil to the water helps keep the pasta from sticking together, but I disagree - the oil floats on top of the water, which does nothing to keep the pasta from sticking together... and the oil disappears down the drain before the pasta even hits the colander, which doesn't keep the pasta from sticking either.  But hey, if you like to use it, go for it.

Add pasta to the salted water and give it a stir.  Boil until it's almost done cooking - use the time given on the package as a guideline.  The only guaranteed way to know for sure is to taste the pasta. 

photo courtesy of my son's fancy schmancy camera - I'm drooling
Pasta should resist a little when bitten.  This batch is going into some meat sauce so I'll remove it from the water a little early and allow it to finish cooking in the sauce.  Mangia-Mangia! 

Tip - if I plan to serve my pasta and sauce separately, I'll let it cook a minute or two more, drain, rinse the hot stockpot with cold water so the pasta doesn't continue to cook, add the drained pasta back to the pot, drizzle with a little olive oil, and stir well.  Pasta will hold like this for an hour or so, or it can be refrigerated for use later.

Perfect Pasta
makes 1 pound

1 pound good dried pasta - De Cecco is my favorite, but I like Barilla and Ronzoni too.
1 gallon of cold water - make sure it tastes good
1 ounce of salt (30 grams, or 4 1/2 teaspoons Kosher or sea salt)

Follow the easy directions above.