Thursday, May 27, 2010

Pax cookies

the view from my building

Life rolls on. I've been harvesting measles viruses like you couldn't imagine and leave for my summer course in MA in two weeks. Amanda had her last high school choir concert. Matt was at a google conference in San Fran last weekend and had a jolly good time. Our friend Erin finished teaching Maymester. Amelia, the bravest of us all, started her year-long job in Uganda last week. You rock, girl.

I saw these cookies on tastespotting this week, and thought a.) the name was so ridiculous and b.) it would be refreshing to have cookies that are only mildly sweet. I'm a big biscotti enthusiast, so was eagar to try a variation from another country. And I'm enthralled by the fact that I can't pronounce the name

half-sliced logs

Paximathakia Portokaliou
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/3 cup plus 2 Tbsp orange juice
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • lemon juice and zest from half a lemon
  • 1/4 cup lukewarm water
  • 1/4 tp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds
  • 3 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  1. Heat over to 400 and grease or line cookie sheet.
  2. Dissolve baking soda in orange juice. Add oil, lemon bits, water, spice, and seeds. Whisk until combined
  3. Mix dry ingredients together and add liquid slowly. The dough should be damp and tacky, but not sticky. Knead in the bowl until it clumps, then knead on counter until smooth and soft (5')
  4. Divide dough in half and form 14" long logs. Place on cookie sheet and flatten slightly. Slice the logs halfway through at 1/2 inch intervals.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes until golden. Remove cookie sheet from oven and when cool enough to handle, slice the cookies all the way through. Decrease oven temp to 200. Set them upright on the cookie sheet and return to oven to dry for 1-2 hours.
  6. Cool completely and store in airtight containers.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Summer has finally arrived

After several snow storms in May, we had our first beautiful weekend in Boulder and it looks like the weather will stay sunny and warm for a while. I joined a team in Boulder's ultimate league a month or two ago, and the tournament was this weekend. I hadn't played for almost two years (except for one tourney last summer) and was considering just not going back. After playing for a couple of weeks in B-league, I remember why I love the sport so much. The deep cuts, the zone shut-downs, the give-gos. I think I'm back for good. It's funny, but because I learned ultimate among friends and family (and maybe because I'm good at it), I'm much more outgoing when I'm in the ultimate community than otherwise. Playing again makes me realize that I'm far less socially awkward than I think I am.

chicken pieces ready to broil

I've been thoroughly enjoying my first road bike and have been out about 6 times. It's amazing what a difference a good light bike makes. And also remarkable how different biking in the mountains is than biking in the midwest. I like. Most everyone I know out here has a nice road bike and goes for rides on weekends. Matt wants to bike from summit county to Vail sometime this summer. We'll see. . .

the yummy sauce

My family has had a recent obsession with Indian food. After travelling to India and gaining about 10 pounds (don't most people lose weight in India?), I've become pretty fascinated with it too. Something about the spices and the aromas is magical. And you can look at a sauce and have no idea what is in it, but still love every bite. I even took a cooking class in Udaipur. I replicated it once, with outstanding results, but I don't think about cooking Indian very often. Matt however, is very taken with Chicken Tikka Masala, so we try to make it every now and again.

Chicken Tikka Masala
adapted from the Best International Recipe Cookbook

  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp veg oil
  • 1 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 Tbsp veg oil
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • Salt
  • 2 medium garlic cloved, minced
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
  • 1 serrano chile, ribs and seeds removed, minced
  • 1 Tbsp garam masala
  • 1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2/3 cup cream or plain yogurt
  1. For the chicken, combined salt, cumin, coriander, and cayenne in bowl. Pat chicken dry and sprinkle with spices. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Whisk together the yogurt, oil, ginger, and garlic and set aside.
  2. For the sauce, heat oil in a large dutch oven over medium. Add onion and 1/4 tsp salt and cook until softened (5-7'). Stir in garlic, ginger, garam masala, and cook 30 seconds. Add tomatoes and reduce to medium low. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Stir in the cream and return to a simmer. Remove the pan from heat and cover to keep warm.
  3. While the sauce simmers, heat broiler and adjust over rack to 6 inches from below heating element. Dip chicken into yogurt mixture and arrange on a baking sheet lined with foil. Broil for 10-18 minutes, flipping halfway. The exteroir should be lightly charred in spots.
  4. Let chicken rest 5 minutes. Cut up and stir into the sauce.

saag on the side.

Friday, May 21, 2010

A wedding

The happy couple

Our brother got married last weekend to the girl he's been dating for 7 1/2 years. Everyone loves her and she has been a part of the family for years already. My brother was my best friend thru high school and has always been one of the most important people in my life. I was so happy to see them together all dolled up and married that I think I cried more than anyone. And I don't cry much about external things. The wedding was perfect. The photographer was brilliant, the flowers stunning. The bride was so organized that she knew exactly how things were supposed to go and they certainly all went right. Amanda and I had our first bridesmaid experience along with T's other two sisters, and we all had a fun girly time getting ourselves and T ready. She made us hangers with our names on them for bridesmaid gifts.

Best wishes to both of you in your new life and enjoy moving home again!

While I was home, I helped make dessert for the groom's dinner Friday night and 120 cupcakes for Amanda's graduation party in two weeks. For the cupcakes, she picked lemon and chocolate. I spent Thursday morning baking for about 3 hours. It was heavenly. I can now probably make cupcakes in my sleep. For the groom's dinner, mom and I decided to go with an array of bars. I pulled out our trusty New Best Recipes (which I gifted to the bride and groom :) and picked lemon bars, pecan bars, and brownies. When my mom learned that I wasn't going to frost the brownies, she decided she had to make them herself in order to ensure sufficient amounts of sugar were involved.

Part of the huge cupcake parade

The lemon bars were pretty fun and turned out fantastic. Afterwards, I was left with 2 cups of egg whites and so was forced to make an angelfood cake too. Poor me.

What lovely yolks

Lemon Bars
from the New Best Recipes cookbook

  • 1 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 8 Tbsp. butter, softened
  • 7 egg yolk, plus 2 whole eggs
  • 1 cup plus 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 2/3 cup juice and 1/4 cup zest from 4-5 lemons
  • 4 Tbsp. butter
  • 3 Tbsp. cream
  1. Spray a 9x9 pan with baking spray and line with foil. Spray the foil
  2. Process flour, powdered sugar and salt in a food processor. Add 8 Tbsp butter in 1 Tbsp blocks and process to blend until the mixture resembles cornmeal or 8-10 seconds. Sprinkle mixture into pan and press to an even layer. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  3. With oven rack at middle position, preheat to 350 and bake the crust for 20 minutes.
  4. For the filling, whisk yolks, and eggs until combined and whisk in sugar. Add lemon juice, zest and salt and whisk again until combined. Transfer mixture to a saucepan, add the 4 Tbsp. butter in pieces, and cook over medium-low. Stir constantly until the curd thickens to a sauce-like consistency and reaches 170 degrees (about 5 minutes).
  5. Strain the curd if you like and pour onto warm crust.
  6. Bake 10-15 minutes until filling is shiny and opaque and jiggly in center. Let cool for 45 minutes before cutting.

Used lemons. So sad.

Monday, May 10, 2010

and finally. . . macarons!

Mom and sister enjoying their first macaron.

Finals ended last week, and it feels great to be somewhat less busy. I turned in a 20 page paper about genetic biases in viral genomes after having to remake all the data about 4 times. I presented my sequence data for lab group #2, whose PI was impressed enough to offer to pay for my summer school in Wood's Hole. I discussed my new research ideas with both advisors, and got optimistic responses. Life is treating me pretty good.

My first attempt at macs

In other news, I got my first road bike. It seems like everyone in Boulder has one, and I was feeling a little left out when my friends would go out for long rides. I've been riding as much as possible, and Saturday, a friend took me up to Jamestown, which is about 32 miles round-trip with 3000 ft. vertical rise. It took about 3.5 hours, and I was so pooped afterwords, but so excited to have experienced the next level of biking. And I got a bike jersey at Savers for $5 that matches my bike and my helmet. Might as well look good too.

I've been meaning to make macarons for several months, and have always been a little too imtimidated to get started. While in Paris with the fam, we experienced Laduree. And while it wasn't exactly life-changing, it was pretty amazing. This weekend, I was feeling pumped to be done with finals and slightly whimsical after watching Where the Wild Things Are. And the number of egg whites being stored in my freezer was bordering on ridiculous.

I bought a cake decorating set especially for my mac experience, and it included coloring pastes. The blackberries were on sale this week, and I was particularly taken by Laduree's berry versions, so I dyed the macs purple and put blackberries in the buttercream.
Not quite round. . .

I can't say the experience went as well as I'd hoped. The frosting refused to emulsify after I added the blackberries. I only have one baking sheet with one silpat, so I baked the others on tin-foil. The non-greased tin foil: bad idea. Or good idea, since they stuck miserably, and we got to eat them straight off the foil. The ones on the baking sheet were pretty burned after 20 minutes, so I'll reduce the cooking time next time. And I dropped my pastry bag tip in the garbage disposal and mangled it.

But they are still lovely and delicious. I'll take it for a first shot.

Blackberry Macarons
adapted from New Best Recipes International

  • 1 3/4 cup almond flour (or finely ground blanched almonds)
  • 1 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 egg whites
  • pinch cream of tartar
  • 3 tsp granulated sugar
  1. Combine almond flour, powdered sugar, and salt in food processor and blend until smooth and combined.
  2. Whisk egg whites until frothy. Add cream of tartar and whisk until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar and whisk to medium-hard peaks.
  3. Fold 1/4 of the powder mixture into egg whites. (This is where I added coloring, but I would probably add it to the solid mixture in the form of dyed sugar granules, because I think I ended up over-folding to get the color incorporated.) Fold in remaining flour/sugar mixture.
  4. Spoon into a piping bag and pipe small rounds onto parchment paper, silpat, or lightly greased tin foil. Let sit for 1.5 hours to dry.
  5. Heat oven to 325. Bake macarons, one sheet at a time, for 18 minutes.
  6. Let cool completely, and match up like-sized pieces. Sandwich some buttercream between cookies. I used a half-batch of Jen's recipe from userealbutter but with blackberries instead of strawberries. Eat or refrigerate.

Mine. Definitely something to be desired.
And its not just photography skills.