Sunday, February 19, 2012

Rubber Stamps, Chocolate, Sprinkles & Cookies

On Friday evening I did a bit of a cookie experiment. I really planned to make these cookies for Valentine's day after having an epiphany about it as a combination of piniterest and a very long line at Michael's.  The idea was to use rubber stamps to create designs in cookies.  I figured it would work the same as any cookie mold and plus there were a bunch of valentine's themed rubber stamps for sale in the line.  I bought two.

I then didn't have any time to make anything around Valentine's day and put the idea aside--but I had purchased some sugar cookie dough for the project so I knew it had to happen at one time or another.

I would like to let everyone know that I didn't watch or read anything to do with the Pioneer Woman before making these cookies. This is all my idea and she obviously copied me! ;) Or we both had an excess of colored sprinkles available due to making unicorn poop.

So anyway, my original idea was this: stamp cookies, bake and then dip thick cookie edges in pink or purple frosting and roll them in sprinkles. However, being Friday night, I wasn't actually interested in making frosting--it sounded messy.  It also sounded like a whole lot of powdered sugar.  Instead, I decided I could use some chocolate, which I happened to have, and melt it with a bit of butter.

The actual output of this project was not as great as expected.  The first part of my method was to cut thick slices of cookie from a roll of store-brand sugar cookie dough. Then, I pressed the stamps into the center of the cookies which made for thick edges that cracked and, quite honestly, hardly any stamps in the center of the cookie but more off to the side.  I threw the tray of cookies in the oven and when I pulled them out 7 minutes later the designs were barely there--the cookies spread into regular sized cookies.  So, I pulled the tray out of the oven and pressed the stamps hard into the middle and then baked the cookies for an additional minute. It worked!

I think that the resulting cookie has a bit of a texture surprise.  The cookies are only soft in the middle part where they were stamped and crunchy on the edges.  The sprinkles look awesome but they are also a little crunchy so these cookies are all about the crunch. Also, store-brand sugar cookie dough is a bit boring. Note to self.  But! These cookies are otherwise a success! I might actually try it again but with different sprinkles--that sugary kind that come in stars and dolphin shapes.  I also would make my own dough or at least use pillsbury.

Rubber Stamp Chocolate Sprinkled Cookies
Never-used with ink, clean rubber stamps of any design
1 roll sugar cookie dough (I actually only made half the roll because this recipe was a gamble)
2-3 oz dark chocolate
1 T butter
2 shallow bowls

1. Preheat the oven according to dough directions.
2. Slice thick rounds of dough onto a baking sheet
3. Bake 7 minutes and then pull the sheet out of the oven.  Stamp the hot cookies without touching the hot cookie sheet by pressing the stamp into the middle of the cookies--start more to the edge than you think so the middle of the stamp actually gets in the middle of the cookie.
4. Bake 1 minute more or until golden brown
5. Let cool completely
6. Melt chocolate with a bit of butter (up to 1 T) and stir to melt completely (I did a few seconds in the microwave and then mixed to get it to melt smoothly).
7. Pour sprinkles into another shallow bowl.
8. Spread a sheet of parchment or wax paper on the counter so that you don't get sprinkles and chocolate everywhere from the cooling cookies.
9. Pick up a cookie by the edges and dip the non-stamped side into the chocolate, spread evenly with a knife
10. Dip the chocolate side of the cookie into the sprinkles and move it around a bit to coat the entire bottom. Lay the cookie chocolate side up on the parchment and repeat until all cookies have been coated.
11. Let the chocolate dry for several hours or overnight.  Once dried, the chocolate will be a little bit hard and hold the sprinkles without being messy.  Enjoy!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Taste of Pace Cooking Class - Farmer's Market Class

A few months ago I spied a LivingSocial deal for a cooking class in Downtown LA that focused on cooking with Farmer's Market vegetables.  Intrigued, I invited my cooking class attending buddies to join me and we set a time and date and decided to attend the class on February 4th.

The class was held in a loft in the Industrial district of downtown LA (where the 5 meets the 10 freeway).  While walking around the neighborhood waiting for the class to start I discussed with my sister in law the weirdness of how it would be to live in a loft. However, after attending the class in the loft I thought it would be pretty awesome to live in one...Not happening anytime soon...but hey, I liked it.

There were 8 people in attendance at the class but they can have up to 12. We all got there and signed some waivers and then stood around the kitchen island where Pace taught us a few techniques of cooking and tips for the dishes we would be making. Then, we split up into groups of 1 or 2 and started in on our chosen dishes.

I started working with another girl on making a vegetable puree. What I learned about my puree was that parsnips and potatoes turn gummy when pureed in a food processor so they should instead be mashed by hand or with a ricer. On the other hand fennel, carrots and turnips hold up fine to the food processor.  Therefore, we separated our vegetables into two groups before cooking them so that we could separately puree them and then mix it altogether.

The meal had a lot of parts about it that I would never take the time to make--a vegetable and a salad is a bit excess to me.  Plus all the garnishes! Breadcrumbs on top of soup is an interesting texture change...but is it worth it? The extra dishes? The time and effort? I'm not so sure.

I thought that the class was a little bit elementary, although I left feeling satisfied in both mind and stomach. I felt that it was a good group of people to cook with but not a class where I learned lots of technical terms and techniques. But I did learn that you can cook with the beets and use the beet greens for something else, I learned that all those vegetable clippings that some people throw to compost can actually be thrown into a bag and later used for vegetable stock. And I learned that the outer bits of Brussel sprouts make a very satisfying snack when baked with oil and salt.

In comparison to other cooking classes though, because I only made one dish in the meal of six dishes, I didn't really see what was going on at the other stations.  The meat was cooked perfectly but I don't know how long it was cooked or even exactly what was done. I heard something about a balsamic reduction but I don't know how it was made.  I felt like I missed out a lot on stuff. In the past, I have been to classes where each person makes their own portion of the meal and then cooks them altogether.  That is a little better because you see each step of each preparation, but then again, it is not terrible to focus on one thing--just different.

I also loved the loft atmosphere! I loved how it was like cooking with friends in someone's house and then all sitting down for a meal we felt accomplished about making.  I loved the little downtown neighborhood that was maybe a little sketchy but had some neat restaurants nearby. I totally want to buy a loft now--just for the parties. I can see the draw.

The Menu:
White Bean soup with Kale topped with bread crumb sand  (so-so, it wasn't as flavorful as I hoped)
Citrus Salad with beets and goat cheese (I had higher hopes for the dressing but loved the fresh citrus flavors)
Roasted Brussel sprouts with Apples and Red Onion topped with roasted pistachos and blue cheese (the blue cheese here was really delicious and I liked the combination despite my dislike for B.S)
Root Vegetable Puree with crispy fried shallots (I made this! The fried shallots weren't that noticeable and took hours to make, I feel sorry for my partner. I liked the addition of fennel in this dish)
Steak Roulade with beet greens and pine nuts (really good! the meat was cooked perfectly and the greens didn't feel like eating vegetables)
Lemon Curd Tart with Rosemary Studded Crust (good, but a little strange warm. I liked the rosemary in the crust a lot)

I would like to go to one of the Taste of Pace Supper clubs since the eating and enjoying was more my style--it is nice to enjoy someone else's homemade food once in a while!