Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Quest for the Perfect Homemade Hummus

Over the past 4 months I have been on a quest for the perfect hummus recipe. I have to attribute most of my understandings of hummus norms to the basic stuff from Mr. Trader Joe....

In an effort to make something similar on my own (partially out of lack of a TJs here in Switzerland, and partially out of curiosity on how to do it myself) I have searched for and tried countless recipes online. I have even gone through the trouble of bringing a tub of it back to Switzerland with me in my luggage from America and making some from scratch so I could try them side by side. Even then, it was tough to replicate it the stuff. But, the positive take on all of this hummus trial and error is that I have become quite familiar with the standard arsenal of ingredients for the standard hummus recipe and now have a better gauge of how tweaking the quantities of each will affect the final product. Now it just comes down to a game of odds, using guess and check (a much tastier version than I used to use in my elementary school math classes) to reach the final pinnacle of hummus perfection. Here is the attempt I made today, giving a first swing at using the slow cooker to do the dirty work while I was out running errands. In the end I also twisted up my standard recipe with some sundried tomato goodness. Feel free to stop before adding this in the end if you want to stick to hummus purity. My final call on today's hummus quest = umm umm good!

Today’s Hummus Recipe:
Yield: about 3 cups of heaven
Prep Time: 10 mins
Cook Time: 6-12 hours
Total Time: 30 hours + (includes idle chill time)

3 cups cooked chickpeas (slow cooker recipe below)
¼-½ cup of the reserved slow cooker water (depending on your desired consistency)
4 cloves garlic
1 tsp freshly ground sea salt (+/- depending on your taste)
¼ cup tahini
Juice from ½ a lemon
1 tsp red wine vinegar
½ tsp white wine vinegar
2 tsp olive oil
½ tsp cumin

For the sundried tomato version:
2 Tbls pureed sun-dried tomatoes
1 tsp tomato paste
1 tsp dried basel flakes (or fresh if you have them!)
A handful of pinenuts (optional)

Place the chickpeas, garlic, and salt in your food processor. Process (scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally) until all of the beans are generally ground up. Add the lemon juice, vinegars, cumin and cooking water. Process for about 30 seconds to 1 minute then add the tahini. Process for a minute or 2 more, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Drizzle in the olive oil and process until the hummus is as smooth as you like it. Add in more cooking water to get it to the right consistency.

Transfer over to a bowl and if you are making the sundried tomato version you can mix all of those ingredients in now with a spoon. Enjoy!

Slow cooker chickpeas:
1 cup dried chickpeas
6 cups water
A few pinches of baking soda
2 cloves garlic
A splash of olive oil

Rinse the dried chickpeas well then soak them in two cups of the water with a sprinkle of baking soda overnight. The next day drain the chickpeas, then place them with the garlic, and the olive oil in your slow cooker. Add the rest of the water (enough to cover the chickpeas by a least a few inches), then place the lid on and turn the slow-cooker to low for 12 hours or high for 6 hours. Cook them until the chickpeas have almost no resistance when you squish one between your fingers. Turn off the slow cooker and drain the chickpeas, reserving the liquid in a bowl.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Best (non-Hyperbole) Chocolate Chip Cookies....Ever!!

I am finally sitting down to start this blog, and I figured what better recipe to kick it off with than the most amazing chocolate chip cookies in the world! I found this recipe through lots of online research - a skill that I picked up in grad school and have perfected to an even higher level when it comes to using it for the really important stuff - food!

A quick summary of these cookies - they are epic (and yes, I fully mean cookies that could inspire Homer to write another Iliad)! After I made them I took a large plate to a housewarming party and they were gone within an hour of arriving! And let's just say that the case for the cookies that I left at home was not much different. I must warn you that these cookies have the power to weaken even the strongest of wills when it comes to self-control. I think it must have something to do with the way that the tiny flakes of sea salt complement the dark chocolate chunks - they are an unbeatable pair! I fully endorse this recipe but I will leave with the disclosure that I am not at all responsible for the expanding waste-lines and the tight pants that it may induce; in my opinion, a minor consequence for a taste (or two, or three...) of the best chocolate chip cookies ever!!

The Best (non-Hyperbole) Chocolate Chip Cookies
Yield: 4 dozen (+/- depending on your scoop size)
Prep Time: 20 min
Cook Time: 14 min
Total Time: 25 hours (includes idle chill time)
You must respect the 24 hour chill time and cold cookie sheet rules in order for this recipe to turn out as amazing as it should!

482 g flour (you can do half cake flour and half all-purpose if you have both – I used 100% all-purpose and they were great!)
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp coarse salt
283 g (2.5 sticks) unsalted butter (at room temperature or course)
284 g light brown sugar (we don’t have this here so I make it – mix 1 Tbsp molasses for every 1 cup granulated sugar. How easy is that!)
227 g granulated sugar
2 large eggs (at room temperature)
2 tsp natural vanilla extract (we don’t have this either but I always bring back a bottle from the states when I visit)
567 g dark chocolate (I get the bars here and break them up by hand – the Swiss don’t do “chip” form – that would be insulting!)
Sea salt for sprinkling (DO NOT forget this!)

Wisk together or sift flour(s), baking soda, baking powder and salt into a medium sized bowl. Put off to the side.
Using a hand mixer to cream butter and sugars together. About 5 minutes or until light colored.
Add eggs, mix well. Add vanilla and mix well.
Add dry ingredients in batches and mix until just combined, 10 to 20 seconds. Do not overmix.
Add dark chocolate and mix to incorporate gently. Do not overmix.
Transfer dough to another bowl and cover with plastic wrap (put it directly on dough to seal).
Refrigerate for at least 24 hours before baking.
After the oh-so-tough waiting period, preheat the oven to 177 C (350 F) degrees and line your baking sheets with parchment paper (using 2 is ideal but I only have 1). Scoop 8-10 balls of dough using a tablespoon and place onto a baking sheet. Be sure to leave at least 2 inches between each cookie dough scoop.
Add sea salt lightly on top of each cookie and bake until golden brown, 11-15 minutes, depending on the accuracy of your oven and the desired final texture of your cookies (11 for chewy - 15 for crispy).
Place sheet on a cooling rack for 5 minutes, and then remove cookies and place on another cooling rack to allow the cookies to cool even more.
Repeat with a fully cooled cookie sheet. Since I only have one sheet, I placed the dough back in the fridge while waiting for the sheet to cool after every batch before reloading it and baking.
Enjoy! =)

Slightly adapted from The Little Kitchen, slightly adapted from The New York Times, originally adapted from Jacques Torres (this long chain represents an evolution towards cookie perfection my friend!)