Matcha Pound Cake

17 Aug

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I could never get sick of this place.  I think I’ve made my peace with living in Chicago at last because I know it’s temporary.  I’ve even fallen a bit in love with Chicago knowing that I only have another year left there.

I used to hate it because it wasn’t New York (and for other less petty reasons, I swear).  But while I do love Chicago, I’ll never live there again, whereas New York will always be the home I return to.  It’s where I grew up and it’s where I can always go back to.

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I love Chicago and I love Paris and I’ll probably love Beijing, and I have no doubt that I’ll live all over the world, but wherever I go there will be a string around my finger that leads straight back to New York.  The more I think about it, the more I realize that I can’t even begin to explain how much I love this place, so I’m going to stop before I veer too far into oversharing awkward sentimentality and actually get to the subject of this post.

Which is… some seriously delicious pound cake.

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Matcha, if you don’t know, is green tea powder made by grinding the whole leaf superfine.  You can use it in baking, you can make lattes (amazing lattes!), and you can brew a much stronger, earthier cup of tea than you would get from loose leaves or a tea bag.

I was very excited to get some matcha powder recently (thanks, Mom!) because I am a serious green tea fiend.  I’ll eat anything flavored with green tea (but especially ice cream).  This pound cake certainly being no exception.

Interestingly, it doesn’t really taste like green tea…  It tastes like your average pound cake, but it’s earthier, fuller tasting.  It’s got a very subtle something that pound cake doesn’t have.  Even if you don’t like green tea you will probably love this pound cake.

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The recipe is straight from Appetite for China.  The only thing I would change would be to grate 1/4-1/2 tsp of ginger into the batter, which I sadly didn’t think of until after I had baked it.  But you know it would be amazing.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp matcha powder
  • 2 sticks butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp ginger, grated (optional)

Recipe:

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and matcha powder.  In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Beat in the eggs.  Add the flour mixture and stir until well-combined.  Stir in the grated ginger, if you’re using it.

Pour the batter into a greased loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees for at least 45 minutes.  Typically, mine took probably 20 minutes longer.  I don’t know why I have such trouble with loaves.  A tester should come out clean when inserted into the middle, and don’t worry if the top gets super brown and crispy, as mine did.  It actually made it taste like it had a sugar crust, which was cool.

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I have books to recommend but I’m going to forgo them in favor of a film.  I saw Frances Ha last night at the IFC Center and I loved it to little pieces.  It’s a Noah Baumbach film, written by Baumbach and Greta Gerwig, who plays Frances.  It’s a slice of life film about being poor and in your 20s and kind of a human disaster in New York, but it’s got some things that those kinds of films usually don’t:

  • a super strong female friendship that totally eclipses any romantic relationship in the movie (possibly in any movie)
  • a modern dancer for a main character (that’s just cool)
  • some nods to Leos Carax
  • a main character who is a total mess and can’t handle basic adult things and bumbles through life so hard but isn’t an anxious trainwreck and isn’t depressed and isn’t ambitious.  She’s just happy.  She’s so happy.  In a city of 8 million crazily ambitious people and tons and tons of folks who follow the college degree -> job -> marry a person -> suburbs (give or take) and tons more who stop at “job” and become Career People, it was awesome to see a character who isn’t ambitious and really just wants to have good friends and be happy and bounce around wherever life might toss her.  She’s not immune to sadness, but she accepts the bad things and bends around them, accommodates them, and then moves on, fundamentally untouched.  She reacts badly to things, she gets depressed, she does stupid, impulsive shit, but she never spirals out of control and she always finds a way to move, if not forward, then at least in some direction worth pursuing, at least for now.

Salty Chocolate Cookies

16 Aug

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18 days to go and it doesn’t feel any more like it’s really happening than it did a year ago.

I’m going to make a list of things I want to do, things that I’ll miss, before I leave for Beijing.  Things like

  • Spend as much time on the Highline as possible
  • Eat oysters at P.J. Clarke’s with my dad
  • See American movies in American theaters (which I’m doing tonight, so hurray)
  • Eat a lot of tacos
  • A lot of tacos
  • And peanut butter.  Just load up on that stuff.
  • Bike to Manhattan at least one more time
  • Go to museums (like the Whitney!  I’ve still never been.  I’m such a bad art history student)
  • Read books that are not about China
  • Have Magnolia’s banana bread pudding (also might do this tonight!)

Okay, a lot of it is food-related, but a lot of my life is food-related, so there you go.  Also, something NOT to do–eat Chinese food!  I swear to god, I eat so much of it, and logically I know that I should eat things I CAN’T get in China…  But Chinese is my favorite.

I’ll work on it…

I also have a ton of video to edit, but that’s a totally different story and one that we will not be talking about anytime soon.

But okay, let’s talk about cookies, then!  These are, in terms of chocolate levels, pretty obscene.  You’ve go melted chocolate AND cocoa powder, so even though the dough needs to be refrigerated, they’re really chocolatey and delicious (I don’t really like refrigerated dough; it always seems bland).

The recipe is (adapted not even a little bit) from Butter Me Up Brooklyn, which is a really excellent blog that I highly recommend.  She has some really creative recipes that I want to try one day when I’m not feeling horrifically lazy.

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Ingredients:

  • 3.5 oz bittersweet chocolate (I may have used semisweet…)
  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 4 tbsp butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 cup coarse sugar or sprinkles
  • sea salt for sprinkling

Recipe:

Chop the chocolate and melt it in a double boiler of your own fashioning over low heat.

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Meanwhile, combine the flour, baking powder, cocoa, and salt in a small bowl and set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Beat in the egg and vanilla until well-combined.  Stir in the melted chocolate completely and then the flour mixture.  BMUB warns that the dough will be stiff, so don’t be afraid to get your hands in there to thoroughly combine the flour.

Divide the dough in two and form into logs about 1 1/2 inches in diameter.  Wrap the logs in parchment paper and refrigerate for an hour or freeze for half an hour.

Once they’ve chilled sufficiently, unwrap them and roll them around in the coarse sugar/sprinkles.  I had trouble getting it to stick, so I pretty much rubbed the sprinkles onto the logs, which sort of worked.

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Slice at 1/2 inch intervals and place them on cookie sheets.  You can space them pretty close together since they don’t really expand much.  Sprinkle with sea salt and bake at 350 for 6 minutes, until the tops begin to crack.

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I have been informed that they are particularly delicious when crumbled into ice cream, so there’s an idea.  Also, they stay good for a ridiculously long time in an airtight container (not that they’ll be lying around for very long!  Just in case.)

 

I finally finished putting all of my photos from my year-long photography challenge on they’re own website, so you can check that out here if you’re so inclined.

Today’s book recommendation is brought to you by a mysterious coincidence of the universe.  I was looking up books about the Peace Corps in my library’s database (as you do) and found one by a woman named Hilary Liftin co-authored with… Kate Montgomery.  (That is my name, if you don’t know.)  The book, Dear Exile, is a collection of letters between the two women from when Kate (!!!) was in Kenya with the Peace Corps alongside her husband.

And okay, as far as Peace Corps books go, it’s pretty disappointing.  In the end, Kate and her husband didn’t seem to accomplish much since the first place they went had such toxic water they had to be pulled out and the second place they went devolved into horrific violence as the students went on strike to protest the abysmal conditions in which they lived and went to school.  On the one hand, it was a good reminder that not every Peace Corps experience results in the building of a giant water pump and a career lobbying for Peace Corps funding… but on the other I am 100% not recommending this book if you’re looking for something about the Peace Corps.

I’m recommending it because of the letters.  These two women are so incredibly close (it seems like) and it’s really wonderful to read about such a lovely friendship.  They’re also really funny and touching (Hilary dates idiots, commutes super long distance, has a mysterious job that never does get described, looks for an apartment, deals with crazy neighbors, etc., and who can’t relate to at least half of that list), and it’s just an all-around solid read, good for the beach or what-have-you.

Homemade Vegetarian Dumplings + Announcement!

8 Aug

I have some news to formally announce to you since I have just looked back through my recent posts and realized I have not mentioned it previously.

As of September this blog will be on tentative hiatus for an entire academic year because I am moving to Beijing to study abroad at Tsinghua University.  My apartment in China will have a fully decked-out kitchen but because I’m unsure of the availability of certain ingredients and also myself (school + trying to explore the city and go to concerts and parks and museums and such = probable mess), I don’t know how frequently I’ll be able to update.

That being said, I have a blog dedicated to my China experience, which will be found here and will also have links to some of the other things I do across the Internet.

Before September, though, I have a nice long month that will be filled with posts beginning with this insanely simple and delicious dumpling recipe!

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You can fill dumplings with pretty much anything, but I made half of the dumplings kimchi-filled and the other half filled with an egg + spring onion mixture that I found in Fuchsia Dunlop‘s Every Grain of Rice: Simple Chinese Home Cooking.  Fuchsia Dunlop’s book has a lot of really great filling options, and also is just plain excellent so I highly recommend getting it.  I’ll probably hunt down a copy whilst in China so I have things to cook.

 

Ingredients:

  • Package of dumpling skins.  You can make your own, but why bother?  These are really cheap and it’s hard to make good skins.
  • 2 eggs
  • ~4 spring onions, white and green parts
  • 1/4 cup kimchi
  • Ground Sichuan peppercorns (optional)

Recipe:

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For the first set of dumplings, scramble two eggs.  When just cooked, transfer to cutting board and chop finely.  Also chop the spring onions finely.


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For the other set of dumplings, drain 1/4 cup kimchi.  I salted the kimchi and put it in a wire strainer to draw out the moisture and let it sit over the sink for a few minutes.

In a small bowl, mix the eggs and onions.  Chop the drained kimchi finely and place in another small bowl.

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Now, the fun part!  Folding dumplings is monotonous on its own, so put on a podcast or a show or something while you make these.  I think I was watching Orphan Black…

For folding directions with pictures, I highly recommend this step-by-step from Appetite for China.  Once you start folding it totally makes sense, but it seems very confusing at first.

Hold a dumpling skin in one hand and drop a spoonful of filling in the middle.  Wet the tip of your finger with water and run it along the upper half so the skin will stick to itself.

Fold the skin like a taco.  Starting from the right of the dumpling taco, pinch the end and fold the dough over.  So you’ll be pinching on the right and folding the dough over from your left, progressively working leftwards.

Does this make sense?

Sorry.

I would follow the link if I were you.

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I was going to make my own pictorial, but I was learning while folding and didn’t want to try to make an instructional thing on top of that.

Maybe next time?

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So do this until you run out of filling.  I had about two dozen by the end.  You can boil them all at once, pan fry them, or freeze them for later.  If you boil them, heat a pot of water to a rolling boil and drop in the dumplings.  You should cook them for 4-5 minutes, dropping in a cup of cold water every time the water starts to boil rapidly (according to Fuchsia Dunlop’s book) so they don’t fall apart.

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You know, it really thrills me to make things that you most often buy pre-made.  Like dumplings or ravioli, pumpkin purée, etc.  It feels self-sufficient, I think.  Like you’re putting effort into your life instead of being a passive consumer and accepting what is given to you without question or curiosity.  Perhaps this is too heavy for a blog post about dumplings.  Perhaps it is just heavy enough.

In any case, we have 26 days together until I leave, and many recipes to cover!

 

But before I go, a recommendation.  I have been giving more and more consideration to joining the Peace Corps, and my consideration recently turned much more committed after reading Rajeev Goyal’s A Spring in Namje.  Goyal was a PC volunteer in Nepal about 10 years ago teaching English.  However, the town in which Goyal was stationed (Namje, way up in the mountains) and the surrounding area was experiencing a crippling water shortage by dint of being way up in the mountains, far above the river.  All day people would have to trek down to the river and then trek back up hauling containers of water.

Goyal proposed building a water pump.  The water pump ended up being 21 feet taller than the Empire State Building, assembled by the people of Namje, engineered by a few men from the town who didn’t even have a complete high school education, and financed by serious lobbying of the Nepalese ex-pat community in New York as well as some other sources by Goyal.  The pump was successful and the town has since prospered (for a given definition; you’ll have to read the book).

That, however, is only half the book.  The other half covers Goyal’s tenure as a UN translator and his current career as a Congressional bird-dogger who lobbies for increased Peace Corps funding.  His book–and career and life and abilities–is incredible and I highly, highly recommend it for everyone.

Off-the-Chart Ridiculously Great Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 Aug

I’m having a great food week.  I just finished an elaborate crêpe breakfast with my sister, I’m looking at a rack of chocolate cookies I made yesterday, and I’ve got homemade yoghurt congealing on the buffet.

Yesterday I made some amazing kimchi stir fry noodles and my mom made shrimp and papaya for dinner.

The day before that?  Eating out around the Lower East Side and the brilliant Italian place in my town.

And so in the spirit of good eating, I offer this chocolate chip cookie recipe to end all chocolate chip cookie recipes.  Seriously.  I’ve compiled a lot of chocolate chip cookie recipes, so I like to think I’m speaking with some authority here.

Naturally, we all have Top With Cinnamon to thank.  She created these ridiculous cookies using basil + verbena infused brown butter.  I can only imagine.  How fucking epic that must taste.

I had neither basil nor verbena, but I did have chili pepper.  I am firm believer that everything in the world can be improved with the addition of some kind of chili.

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(Side note: I have Mexican Chili Chocolate ice cream, which is AMAZING, further supporting this theory of the power of the chili.)

If you don’t like spicy food you will definitely still like this cookie.  Trust me.  It doesn’t taste like chili.  It just has this subtle heat, a hint of spice, that make the dough that much better than your average, blasé, sugary cookie dough.  It’s divine.  Just have faith.

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And so, with minor adaptation from the lovely TWC, I give you chili-pepper-infused brown butter chocolate chip cookies.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4-1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 10 tbsp butter, cubed
  • 1 3/4 cup flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup + 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • chocolate chips; I don’t like to include measurements because I think it’s largely a matter of taste and also I have a tendency to use entire bags oops

Recipe:

In a small saucepan, brown the butter with the chili pepper.  You’ll know it’s browned when it starts to foam and smell nutty and delicious, which should happen fairly soon after the butter completely melts.  BE CAREFUL because it goes from brown to burnt very quickly.  As soon as it’s browned, pour into a small bowl and set aside.

While the butter is browning, combine the flour, baking powder and soda, both sugars, and the salt in a large bowl.  When the butter has cooled, pour into the flour mixture and mix until well-combined.  Mix in the egg and then the chocolate chips.

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TWC warns not to stir for too long.

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With a 1/4 cup measuring spoon, scoop the cookie dough onto prepared baking sheets.  Interestingly TWC is adamant about using a spoon with a 1/4 cup measure.

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Apparently she has experimented with size and found a noticeable advantage to the 1/4 cup.  Trust.

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Space the cookies 3 inches apart and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Bake at 400 degrees for 8-12 minutes, or until golden brown.

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I now have whole slew of books to recommend in the coming weeks (I have a lot of recipes to share, so get doubly excited), but I’ll start with a really excellent I read while in Rhode Island.

Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper is Fuchsia Dunlop’s memoirs of eating around China, beginning with her introduction to China and Chinese cooking in Chengdu, Sichuan and following her food-writing career to Hunan, Hong Kong, Fujian, Beijing, and other provinces and places.  She’s had a really remarkable career, exposing the world to so many previously unknown parts of various Chinese cuisines.  She’s fearless and bold, eating literally anything that can be eaten and forging a path through as many Chinese kitchens as she can.  Her memoirs are really lovely and funny and bizarre and completely absorbing.

My favorite thing about this book is that, while it’s about Chinese cooking and Dunlop’s life, it doesn’t ignore politics and social issues, it addresses environmental concerns that come hand-in-hand with Chinese haute cuisine, and it shows (I think) the ever-present danger to foreigners of forgetting that they are not, in fact, actually Chinese.  If you have any interest in China, culinary anthropology, or seriously crazy but endearing stories, you should read this.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Puffs

28 Jul

Hello hello, it’s been a while.  In the past few weeks I’ve moved out of Chicago…

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driven to New York…

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and spend a week on Block Island.

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As such, I have not had much time to bake or do Internet things such as blogging.  But that will all change beginning this week, not least because I have finally secured some matcha powder and can now make green tea pound cake.  At last!

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But first, a super simple, easy, and very tasty little recipe.  I got the idea from Joy the Baker, as per, but her puffs were much more legit.  She used puff pastry.  Puff pastry was mysteriously either unavailable/expensive in the places I was looking, so I got one of those Pillsbury crescent roll tubes that you peel the wrapping off of until they pop…  Do you know what I’m talking about?  If you want the fancier version, hit up Joy, but for the “poor” person’s version, continue reading.

Ingredients:

  • One tube of crescent roll dough
  • Peanut butter
  • ~1/3 cup chocolate chips

Recipe:

Open up the dough and lay it all out without breaking it up along the perforations.

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I recommend leaving the dough in the refrigerator for an hour before you use it since it tends to fall apart when warm.

Cut into an even number of rectangles.

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Spoon a teaspoonful of peanut butter onto half the rectangles (depending on the size of your rectangles; mine were fairly small so really you just have to eyeball it, but be mindful of ooze).  Sprinkle a few chocolate chips into the peanut butter.

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Take the other rectangles and press them on top of the peanut butter covered ones, pinching the edges tightly.

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Obviously tighter than that.  I was in a hurry because I needed chocolate like ten minutes ago when I started making these.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned.

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Like so.

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So I’m reading a number of lovely books right now, but I actually want to recommend  podcast I recently started listening to (confession: I’m listening to it while I write this) called Welcome to Night Vale put out by Commonplace Books.  I know nothing about how or why it’s made, but it’s in the style of a radio broadcast from a small and terribly mysterious town in the southwest of the US and it is quite absurd and excellent.

Here’s a summary from one of the episodes:

“A large, philosophical pyramid appears in town, announcing several messages, but is it what it seems? Plus, best practices for regular skin-checks, an update on the levitating cat, and whatever happened to that vile barber?”

I’ve been listening to it on iTunes, but there are some alternative venues for listening here.

Crêpes!

8 Jul

Crêpes seem so intimidating to make at home.  How do you make them thin enough?  What if the batter sticks and you end up with an epic disaster of crumpled dough?  What if the batter is lumpy???

These are fears I had before making crêpes a week or so ago and they are all deeply unfounded.  Crêpes are so easy to make.  So easy that you may find yourself making them ALL THE TIME.

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Maybe that’s just me.

But look, depending on what you put in a crêpe they’re totally healthy.

Totally.

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Look at that!  A healthy crêpe!  You can also make savory ones with spinach, egg, cheese, ham, etc.  I like sweet breakfasts, though, so I’ve only made sweet crêpes.  And I have made so many.  I even made a video of crêpe-making (not a how-to, by the way).  It’s actually a video about my love of breakfast, but crêpes feature heavily.

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(Can we talk about how great the etymology of video is?  Just for a second.  Because that is a word that knows no deception.  In Latin it literally means “I see” and it hasn’t been tweaked at all after many centuries except to go from a verb to a noun.  What a great little unassuming word.)

This recipe is from The Kitchn, originally part of a fancy bananas foster crêpe recipe, but I ditched most of the recipe.  I’m sure the original is awesome, but I’m afraid I’ll never know.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 tbsp sugar (I used brown because that’s all I have)
  • copious amounts of nutella, peanut butter, bananas, speculoos, and strawberries

Recipe:

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.

Mix all the ingredients together.  Whisk until no lumps remain.  Pour through a sieve to make sure it’s really smooth and then let rest in the fridge for at least half an hour.  You don’t have to wait, but waiting gets rid of any bubbles that may pop up (sorry not sorry).

In a medium skillet, heat up a pat of butter on medium-high heat and grease well.  Definitely do not cook from a lukewarm skillet – wait until it gets hot.

By the quarter-cup-full spoon batter into the skillet and swirl around until it coats the bottom of the pan.  Cook until the edges barely start to curl up (really right before they curl up), or about a minute and a half.  Flip and cook for another minute/minute and a half.

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Stick the crêpes in the oven until you’re done cooking.  The batter will keep overnight but no longer than that.  (I learned this the hard way.)

Serve warm with whatever toppings you want.

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I’ve been pretty underwhelmed by the books I’ve read and the movies I’ve seen lately, but I’m reading J.M. Coetzee’s Summertime right now and it’s pretty good.  Honestly, I can’t stop thinking about Absolution.  That book really snuck up on me, and even though I was very invested while I was reading it, I didn’t understand how deeply it had sunk into my brain until after I’d finished it.

Pancakes

30 Jun

I am very surprised I’ve never posted a pancake recipe here.  Especially considering I eat them constantly (except for this week when I had crêpes three days in a row… that will come later).  I used to use a recipe from Joy the Baker (which is divine), but I found one that takes fewer ingredients.  It’s supposed to be a coffee pancake recipe from A Cozy Kitchen, but the coffee part comes from instant coffee crystals which I obviously refuse to have in my apartment.  Her notes said that she tried throwing in brewed espresso and it was too watery, so I just forewent the coffee altogether.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • chocolate chips (optional)

Recipe:

Do you see how simple that is?  How little you need?  I love this recipe.  It’s so dangerous.

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Heat the oven up to the lowest temperature you can (mine only goes as low as 200).  In a large bowl, whisk together all the dry ingredients.  In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and milk.  Combine the two and whisk until just combined.  Stir in the chocolate chips if you have them.

In a large, buttered skillet over medium-high heat, cook the pancakes for a couple of minutes on each side, transferring them to the oven to stay warm.  Serve with whatever.  I usually stack mine with layers of fruit and/or chocolate sauce because I’m too cheap to buy good syrup and too snobby to eat cheap syrup.

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I finished Absolution yesterday and am casting about for something to read next, so I’m afraid I have nothing for you.  Although I did read a book called Bad Marie, by Marcy Dermansky, that was pretty good, so maybe check that out.