Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Chocolate cupcakes with salted caramel swiss meringue buttercream

My manager's birthday was coming up at work, and I knew I wanted to make her something special to share with our team. I brainstormed some ideas, but nothing was coming to me. Then I remembered that I had about 3/4 cup of salted caramel left over from my salted caramel apple pie. Yes - I could make salted caramel cupcakes! 

Well, not so much. You see, I had limited time to make this on a weeknight, so I didn't want to make a cupcake base that I wasn't already familiar with (to save time). I loved the cake from these triple chocolate cupcakes and decided to use that recipe and use the leftover salted caramel to make a Swiss meringue buttercream.

Again, because I didn't want to bake 30-some cupcakes, I halved the recipe below (changes are not reflected). Two more changes that I made (again, changes not reflected below) were to replace the 1/2 cup of sour cream (remember, I halved the recipe) with a 6 oz container of plain Greek yogurt, and to cut back on the butter to 1 stick instead of 1 and a half sticks. I knew that the Greek yogurt would provide a lot of the moisture needed for these cupcakes so I opted to cut back on the butter to make up for the extra yogurt that I used.

While the salted caramel swiss meringue buttercream was great, I didn't think that the cupcake base paired as well with this frosting. The dark chocolate cake seemed to be better suited for the triple chocolate cupcakes because the ganache and chocolate frosting intensified the chocolate flavor. The chocolate flavor in these cupcakes were more subdued because the Swiss meringue buttercream didn't bring out the sweetness as much. Regardless, it was still a ridiculously good cupcake (at least my manager said so). Maybe I'm just getting pickier with age.

Cupcakes
  • ¾ cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • ¾ cup hot water
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1¼ tsp. coarse salt
  • 1½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 2¼ cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 4 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup sour cream, at room temperature (I used a 6 oz container of plain Greek yogurt)
Salted caramel swiss meringue buttercream
  • 5 egg whites
  • 1-1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup salted caramel
Directions
For the cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Line your cupcake pans with cupcake liners. In a small bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder and hot water until smooth and set aside.  In a separate medium bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the butter and the sugar.  Stir occasionally to combine until the butter is melted.  Turn off the heat, remove the butter mixture from the stove and transfer to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Beat the butter and sugar mixture on medium-low speed for about 4-5 minutes until the mixture is cooled.  Add the eggs, one at a time and beat well after each addition.  Add in the vanilla and cocoa mixture and mix until well incorporated.  Turn the mixer to low and alternately add the dry ingredients and sour cream in two batches, starting with the dry ingredients. Beat just until combined.

Distribute the batter evenly among the prepared cupcake liners and fill them about ¾ of the way full.  Bake for 9-10 minutes and rotate the pans. Then bake for another 9-10 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool the cupcakes in the pan for 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the frosting: Boil about one inch of water in a small saucepan. Once the water boils, immediately turn the heat down to low and allow the water to simmer. 

Place a mixing bowl over the simmering saucepan. Add the egg whites and sugar to the mixing bowl and whisk to combine. Keep whisking and until temperature of the egg white/sugar mixture reaches 140. This will take at least 10 minutes, so be patient.  

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the heated egg white mixture on medium to medium high speed until you reach stiff peaks. This will take at least 5 minutes. 
 

With the mixer on medium speed, slowly add the butter, one tablespoon at a time. Keep whipping the mixture until all butter has been incorporated. Do not worry if your frosting appears curdled - it will smooth out after a few more minutes of whipping. Finally, add the salted caramel sauce. 

Once the cupcakes have cooled, generously frost the cupcakes with the buttercream. 


Yield: I got 15 cupcakes and enough frosting for at least two dozen (24) cupcakes. With the leftover frosting you can either use it as a filling, or save it for whoopie pies, brownies and other treats.

Source: Cupcakes from this post; buttercream adapted from Shugary Sweets

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Sunday, February 24, 2013

Chocolate molten lava cakes for 2


Can you believe that Valentine's Day has come and gone?  My husband and I used to go out for dinner when we were first dating, but because it was insanely expensive, we decided that it would actually be more fun (and romantic) to make dinner at home. Every year we try to make something special that we would normally order at a fancy restaurant.

This year, we decided to go casual and made lobster rolls, Hawaiian ahi tuna poke and these chocolate molten lava cakes. There are a gazillion recipes for lava cakes, and I've tried a few that either didn't turn out well or failed due to user error (baking fail on my part). This one seemed promising since it only made two cakes, and it didn't involve a separate step to make the gooey centers. In our childless days many years ago, I would have happily made the truffle centers separately, but we simply don't have the time with a rambunctious toddler.

These cakes can be made and baked in less than twenty minutes, which is a huge plus in my book. We both were impressed with these Valentine's desserts. The exterior of the cakes were nicely baked, and the insides were chocolately and gooey as we expected. And to top things off, these were portion-controlled treats that yielded no leftovers.

If you need a chocolate fix or want to impress a special someone, bake these. The twenty minutes it takes to make and bake these cakes is worth it.

Chocolate molten lava cakes for two
  • 1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 TBSP butter
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar, plus extra for garnish
  • 1 egg
  • 3 TBSP all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 TBSP Nutella (optional)
Directions
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Generously grease 2 ramekins with non-stick cooking spray. Place the ramekins on a baking sheet and set aside.

In a medium, microwave-safe bowl, melt the chocolate chips and butter in the microwave for about 1 and 1/2 minutes. Stir every 30 seconds until smooth.

Add the powdered sugar and mix until incorporated.  Then add the egg and whisk until smooth.

Stir in flour and vanilla extract and mix until no lumps remain.

Evenly distribute the batter into the two prepared ramekins and put the baking pan into oven.

Bake the cakes for 12 minutes.

Remove the cakes from the oven and let them rest for 1 minute before inverting onto a plate.

Dust with powdered sugar and a dollop of Nutella if desired. You can also garnish with berries, ice cream or chocolate sauce for a super indulgent treat!

Yield: Two servings

Source: swEEts by e; originally adapted from the Food Network


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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Homemade peanut butter

I know, I know. Why is the girl who doesn't like peanut butter making...peanut butter? Let me explain. You've all heard me rave about my local CSA. For our last box of the season, we received about 2 pounds of Virginia peanuts. Let's be honest here - I wasn't going to touch a bit of those peanuts since I don't like them. And what was my husband going to do with two pounds of them?  Plus, Stephanie from Brownies and Blondies challenged the What's Baking members to create a homemade version of a convenience item in February. That was the inspiration I needed.

My husband tried eating a raw peanut and wasn't impressed. I told him that he needed to roast them at a minimum to bring out the flavor, and then I got an idea - I could make my own peanut butter. He likes buying all natural peanut butters and always supports a local peanut butter vendor at our farmer's market, so I thought it would be fun to try making some at home. Even better yet, I wouldn't have to taste test any so I wouldn't be inhaling any calories this time around. Sounded like a plan to me.

I found Alton Brown's recipe online and found this to be super easy. The hardest part was shelling all the peanuts. I think that process alone took an hour and a half, so let me know if there is a better way to do this!

My husband really loved this homemade peanut butter and was happy that he got to customize it to his palate. We used a local honey to sweeten it, but you can use any kind you like. Next time, I may pull out the lazy card and just buy some pre-roasted peanuts from the grocery store and make peanut butter that way.

Homemade peanut butter
  • 15 ounces shelled and skinned roasted peanuts, recipe follows
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons honey
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons peanut oil (I used canola)
Directions
In the bowl of a food processor, add the peanuts, salt and honey. Process for 1 minute. Stop the machine to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Put the lid back on and process again while slowly drizzling in the oil. Keep blending until the mixture is smooth, 1-1/2 to 2 minutes. If the mixture is still too chunky, keep processing. You may add a tad more oil if needed. Store the peanut butter in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 months.

Roasted peanuts
  • 2 pounds in-shell raw peanuts
  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil (I used canola)
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons kosher salt
Roasted peanuts directions
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Rinse the peanuts in cold water to remove dirt and other grime. Pat the peanuts dry, place in a large bowl, and toss with the oil and salt until well coated.

Place the peanuts on 2 sheet pans and make sure that they are in a single layer. Roast in the oven for 30 to 35 minutes, and rotate the pans halfway through cooking.

Once the peanuts have cooled, remove shells and skins and discard.



Yield: About 1-1/2 cups of peanut butter 

Source: Alton Brown, via the Food Network

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Sunday, February 17, 2013

Salted caramel apple pie


Is it me, or is salted caramel everywhere? I've seen it as candy, ice cream, cupcakes, cookies and bars. My husband actually found this in a cookbook when he was deciding what dessert we should include for the Super Bowl. He is an avid fan of apple pie, and he thought that we should make salted caramel apple pie for a fun twist.

This was my first time baking with Granny Smith apples, and boy were they tart. I actually found them too tart for this apple pie and would make them with Fuji apples next time (I love Fuji apples and don't think they are too sweet). Otherwise, this pie was perfect. The crust was nice and flaky, and the salted caramel sauce was nicely balanced with the sweetness from the sugar and saltiness from the sea salt flakes. While I didn't top my pie slices with ice cream, I should have since my tastebuds went beserk from the Granny Smith apples.  This is a pie I will most likely make again, with the one substitution in apple variety.

Oh, and a few fun facts about the MVP from the game, Joe Flacco. His wedding photographer also shot my brother's wedding this past fall. Joe also attended the University of Delaware, which is not too far from where I grew up. I spent a lot of time on the Blue Hens' campus (especially at their ice rink), so it was neat to see someone from my hometown earn this huge honor and bring Delaware to the spotlight. A belated congrats to Joe and the Baltimore Ravens!

Salted caramel
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons fleur de sel
  • 12 TBSP (1-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 TBSP heavy cream
Apple pie filling
  • 2 ts grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 6 large apples, such as Granny Smith, Pink Lady, or Honey Crisps, or a combination, cored, peeled, and thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamom (I omitted)
  • 1/4 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup turbinado sugar, plus more for sprinkling (can sub white granulated sugar)
  • 1 egg, beaten, for egg wash
  • Fleur de sel for sprinkling (I used Maldon sea salt)
  • Ice cream for serving (optional)
Old-fashioned flaky piecrust (makes two layers of crust for a double-crust pie)
  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cake flour (not self-rising)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup plus 2 to 3 tablespoons ice water, plus more if necessary
  • 1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into cubes (I replaced with unsalted butter)
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes

Directions
For the crust: In a large mixing bowl, mix together the flours, sugar, and salt; set aside.
In a small bowl, whisk the egg with 1/3 cup of the water and the vinegar. Using a pastry blender or fork, add the shortening and butter to the flour and cut it in until the mixture resembles small peas. Slowly add the egg mixture and mix with your hands or a fork until the the dough starts to come together in a ball. If the dough is too dry, add a tablesppon of water at a time until the dough is soft and pliable but not sticky.
 
Place the dough on a lightly floured work surface and divide it evenly into 2 balls. Wrap each ball with plastic wrap and flatten it with the palm of your hand to form a disk. Chill the dough disks for at least 1 hour. It can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 4 days or in the freezer for up to 2 weeks.

For the dough: Generously dust your hands and your rolling pin with flour. On a lightly floured piece of parchment or a well-floured flat surface, roll out the chilled dough into a 12-inch circle. Place the dough into a pie dish and be sure to press the dough up the sides. Cut off the excess dough with a knife or kitchen shears, leaving about a 1-inch overhang. Cover with plastic wrap and place the pie dish in the refrigerator and allow the dough to cool for at least 30 minutes.
 
Roll the final dough disk using the same method as above. Transfer it to a baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap and chill it in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
 
For the caramel: In a medium saucepan (preferably one that is silver in color), combine the granulated sugar, fleur de sel, and 1/2 cup water. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar is completely dissolved. Lower the heat down to medium and cook, without stirring, until the syrup becomes a medium-dark amber caramel, about 15 minutes. Once the caramel turns golden, carefully remove the saucepan from the heat and immediately stir in the butter and heavy cream. Quickly transfer the caramel to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or to a medium mixing bowl, if using a handheld mixer) and beat on low until the caramel cools and starts to come together. Set aside.

To make the filling: In a large bowl, toss the apples with the lemon zest and lemon juice. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the flour, cardamom, allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon, and turbinado sugar. Gently add this dry mixture to the apples and toss.

To assemble the pie:
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat your oven to 400°F. Take the refrigerated pie pan with the crust out of the refrigerator. Prick the bottom of the crust gently with a fork. Layer the apple mixture on top of the crust and be sure to leave no gaps between the apples. Pour 1/4 to 1/2 cup of the caramel mixture on top of the apples. Reserve the remaining caramel for serving, or to mix with vanilla ice cream or cupcakes (or eat with a spoon - I won't judge).
 

Place the top pie crust on a work surface and cut 4 to 8 vent holes in the center with a mini cookie cutter in whatever shape you like. Or, you can use a knife to cut some slits.  The cutout pieces can be reserved for decorating the crust. Place the top crust over the pie filling and fold the overhang over the bottom pie crust. Trim any excess crust off with a knife. Seal and crimp the edges. If desired, decorate the top crust with the cutout pieces, by pushing the pieces down gently and brush the entire crust with an egg wash. Sprinkle the top crust lightly with turbinado sugar and a pinch of fleur de sel.
 

Place on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Then turn the oven down to 375°F and bake for an additional 45 to 60 minutes or until the crust turns golden brown. You can test the apples with a small knife to make sure they are soft but not mushy. Remove the pie from the oven and allow it to cool for at least 4 hours before serving. The pie is best eaten the same day, but it can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 3 days.
 

To serve, slice the pie into triangular wedges and top with the leftover the caramel sauce and/or a scoop of your favorite ice cream.

Yield: About 12-16 slices, or more, depending on how big you like your pie slices 

Source: The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook, by Cheryl Day and Griffith Day

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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Dark chocolate champagne buttermilk cupcakes with champagne buttercream

Happy (early) Valentine's Day! Here is another champagne cupcake for all you bubbly fanatics out there (yes, you). If you recall, I made some champagne cupcakes with lemon champagne buttercream last month. I loved the idea of champagne cupcakes and wanted to try another version. Plus, this is a fun cupcake that you can share with your significant other, or if you're flying solo this year, a perfect cupcake to eat on your own or share with your friends.

The cupcake batter came together very easily and quickly.  My cupcakes had a nice dome on the top when they came out of the oven, but they deflated as the cupcakes cooled. Bummer.

I found that the frosting recipe barely made enough to cover 24 cupcakes. I wasn't able to generously frost them like I normally like to (like the ones in the photo above). If you are sharing these cupcakes with others, I'd recommend doubling the frosting recipe. It's always better to have extra frosting than not enough, right?

While the champagne flavor in these cupcakes were more pronounced than the champagne cupcakes with lemon champagne buttercream, I felt like the texture was a bit too delicate and crumbly. I had expected the buttermilk to make the cupcakes more sturdy and rich, but I guess the addition of the champagne and water thinned out the batter to make it more airy. Once I unwrapped the lining from the cupcake, the cake seemed to fall apart rather quickly. Don't get me wrong - these are some good tasting cupcakes, but of the two different types of champagne cupcakes I've made in the past few weeks, this one ranks below the other one. Try them both and let me know what you think.

Dark chocolate champagne buttermilk cupcakes
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1-3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened dark cocoa powder
  • 1-1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1-1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), softened
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract 
  • 1/2 cup champagne
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
Pink champagne frosting
  • 1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), at room temperature
  • 3-1/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 7 TBSP champagne
  • 1 drop red food coloring
Directions
For the dark chocolate champagne buttermilk cupcakes:  Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Line a standard muffin or cupcake pan with paper liners or grease well with nonstick spray.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a handheld mixer, combine the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

Add the eggs, buttermilk, butter and vanilla and beat on medium speed until well combined.

Turn the mixer to low and slowly add in the champagne until it is fully incorporated.

Using a wooden spoon or spatula, gently stir the boiling water into the batter. The batter will be thin.

Fill each cupcake liner about 3/4 full.

Bake for 18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting.

For the pink champagne frosting:  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a large bowl with a handheld mixer, cream together the powdered sugar and butter.

Add in the vanilla, and then the champagne one tablespoon at a time. If the frosting is too runny, add more powdered sugar, about 1/4 cup at a time.  Add the red food coloring and mix until the color is a nice even pink.

Once the cupcakes are completely cool, frost the cupcakes.  They will store at room temperature in an airtight container for about 2 days.

Yield: Two dozen (24) cupcakes

Source: Alli 'N Sons

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Sunday, February 10, 2013

Chinese steamed sticky rice cakes (nián gāo)

Happy Chinese New Year, or 恭禧發財! The lunar calendar marks the year of the snake, which is particularly special to me because it represents the year I was born. According to Chinese horoscopes, people born in the year of the snake are acute, aware, cunning, proud, vain and vicious. Awesome - that is just how I want to be described (sarcasm). I guess it's somewhat true since I can see those characteristics in my personality, though I like to think that I'm not always those things (especially the ones with the negative connotations).

Because we are celebrating Chinese New Year with only the three of us, I'm not cooking up a huge feast. We will have noodles (unbroken ones, to symbolize long life), clementines (traditionally oranges, to represent luck and wealth) and a steamed sticky rice cake, or nián gāo (年糕), which symbolizes a long, sweet life with a rising abundance for the coming year.

Nián gāo can be steamed or baked, and it's usually pan-fried afterwards to achieve the traditionally sticky texture. I found this recipe on Little Corner of Mine that did not require pan frying, so it was an automatic winner for me. And because we didn't need an entire pan of nián gāo to eat at home, I halved the recipe (adjustments are shown below).

Hope the year of the snake is prosperous and sweet for all of you!

Chinese steamed nián gāo (年糕)
  • 200g glutinous rice flour (about 8/10 of a cup)
  • 150g light brown sugar, packed (a little over 1/2 a cup)
  • 100ml hot water (a little under 1/2 cup)
  • 100ml room temperature water (a little under 1/2 cup)
Directions
In a large bowl, whisk together the brown sugar and 100ml of hot water. Keep whisking until the sugar dissolves.  Then mix in the 100ml room temperature water until fully incorporated.

Slowly add in the glutinous rice flour and mix until a smooth batter is formed.

Grease a large pan, bowl or individual ramekins (alternatively, you can line your container with parchment paper). 

Pour the batter in your container and steam over high heat for about an hour. Check your nián gāo about 40 minutes in by inserting a toothpick near the center of your pan. The mixture should no longer be watery and bits of the nián gāo may start sticking to the toothpick - this is good.

Once the nián gāo is done steaming, you can invert the cakes onto a flat plate to allow it to cool (or you can keep it in the container). 

Store the nián gāo by keeping it in an airtight container or wrapping it tightly with cling wrap. It can stay in the refrigerator for about a week, but it can also be stored at room temperature for about 3 days.

Yield: 2 seven-ounce ramekins

Source: Little Corner of Mine

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Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Lofthouse style soft frosted sugar cookies


My mom gave me an awesome compliment the other week. I was telling her how I had just made my very first batch of homemade pasta (thanks, Mom Lu for the pasta cutter/roller!). Her comment was that she was proud of me for making more things from scratch and eating more "clean." Subconsciously, I knew that this is what I was doing, but consciously,  it wasn't something that I was purposely doing. Actually, come to think of it, it's fun making things from scratch. I know exactly what ingredients are in my food and know what I am putting into my body.

One popular cookie that I tend to see at potlucks and parties alike are soft frosted sugar cookies. You know the ones I'm talking about - they practically melt in your mouth and have a layer of frosting and are often decorated with sprinkles. Yup, those ones. Well, would you be surprised if I tell you that they probably contain preservatives and numerous amounts of unhealthy (and unpronounceable) ingredients?

Well, this homemade version should solve the dilemma.  These Lofthouse-style cookies have been popping up on blogs everywhere, and I am just getting around to making them. These were amazingly soft and pillowy with a smooth and sweet frosting on top. The cookies alone were barely sweet on their own, so the frosting was definitely needed--at least for a sweet tooth like me. My family and friends quickly gobbled these up, so there were no leftovers to spare.

Soft frosted sugar cookies
  • 4-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4-1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 5 tsp vanilla extract
Directions
In a large bowl, sift or mix together the flour, baking powder and salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl with a handheld mixer), cream the butter and sugar with the paddle attachment on medium-high speed until soft and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.

Individually add the eggs until they are fully incorporated. Make sure to stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl as needed.  Add in the vanilla and mix.

Turn the mixer down to low and slowly add in the dry ingredients.  Beat until incorporated (do not overmix).

Cover and chill the dough for 1 hour.  Then preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Scoop about 1/4 cup of dough (I used a medium cookie scoop) and roll it into a ball. Flatten the ball slightly with your spatula and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment (I used my imitation Silpat).  Repeat with the remaining dough, and space the cookies at least 2-3 inches apart to allow them to spread.

Bake at 350°F for about 10-12 minutes or just until set.  Do not overbake!  The cookies should be stay very white on top and be lightly browned underneath.

Cool on the baking sheet for several minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

Frosting
  • 2-1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 2-1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Food coloring (optional)
  • Sprinkles (optional)
Frosting directions
In the bowl of a stand stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or in a large bowl with a handheld mixer), beat the butter on medium-high speed until smooth, about 20 seconds.

Slowly add the powdered sugar and salt.  Beat on medium-low speed until most of the sugar is moistened, about 45 seconds.

Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl with a spatula. Turn the mixer back on medium speed and beat until the mixture is fully combined, about 15 seconds.

Stop the mixer again and add vanilla. Turn the mixer back on medium speed until incorporated, about 10 seconds.  Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, scraping down bowl once or twice as needed.

If you want too add in food coloring to tint your frosting, do it now.  Mix until it is well combined and is one solid color. Generously apply frosting to top of cookies and top with sprinkles if desired.

Yield: About 32 medium sized cookies

Source: Just Baked; originally from Annie's Eats

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Sunday, February 3, 2013

Chocolate ice cream

You all know that I think ice cream is a year-round treat. I mean, it's the middle of winter, and here I am again with another ice cream recipe. Would you expect anything less?

It was that time again when my husband not-so-gently reminded me that our homemade ice cream supply was dwindling. He proclaimed that he wanted a chocolate-chocolate ice cream. Rather than repeat a recipe, I opted to make another one of David Lebovitz's concoctions to see how it stacked up.

As predicted, his chocolate ice cream was nothing short of divine. His recipe includes both cocoa powder and chopped chocolate to give it a beautiful, deep chocolate color and flavor. If you like your ice cream more on the sweet side, use chopped semisweet chocolate. Like David's other custard-based frozen treats, this one was smooth and creamy and is reminiscent of a perfect summer day. While this chocolate ice cream was incredibly good, my favorite is still this dark chocolate ice cream that I made last year. That recipe calls for 6 egg yolks and a pain-inducing 5-day waiting period. If you're impatient like me and want your ice cream sooner, try this one from David Lebovitz - he hasn't disappointed me yet.


Chocolate ice cream
  • 2 cups heavy cream, divided
  • 3 TBSP unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder (I used Hershey's Dark)
  • 5 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Directions
In a medium saucepan, heat 1 cup of the heavy cream and the cocoa powder over medium heat. Constantly whisk the mixture to evenly incorporate the cocoa powder. Let the mixture come to a boil and then reduce the heat to low. Allow the cream to boil at the low heat for 30 seconds while you continue to stir.

Remove the mixture from the heat and add in the chopped chocolate and stir until smooth. Then add the remaining 1 cup of cream and stir. Pour the mixture into a large bowl and set a mesh strainer on top of the bowl.

In the same saucepan, heat up the milk, sugar and salt. In a separate medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks. Temper the yolks by pouring a bit of the warm milk mixture into the egg yolks and keep whisking. Pour the yolks into the saucepan.

Keep stirring the milk and yolks over medium heat with a heatproof spatula until it thickens enough to coat the back of your spatula.  Pour the custard through the strainer and into the chocolate and cream mixture in the large bowl.  Stir the mixture a few times and then whisk in the vanilla.

Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator (preferably overnight) and then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. You can add in peppermint patties, chocolate chips or chunks, or even marshmallows and roasted peanuts to jazz it up a bit.

Yield: About one quart

Source: The Perfect Scoop, by David Lebovitz, page 26

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Friday, February 1, 2013

Hamentashen (Jewish filled triangle cookies)

Time for another Blogger's Choice recipe!  I was giddy when our hostess, Sarah of Taste of Home Cooking assigned me Joanna's blog, Kosher Kitchen. I had several Jewish friends growing up and fondly remember eating dinner at their houses (hooray for latkes!) and attending at least one bat mitzvah. Although the food was always fantastic, I never thought at the time to ask their moms for the recipes. I wasn't quite the foodie yet to know any better.

Naturally, I headed straight for Joanna's dessert section. One treat that I had never heard of was Hamentashen. These are little triangular cookies filled with jam or chocolate. I was pretty proud of myself for making some awesome looking triangles and then they lost their shapes as they baked! One tip is to roll your dough a bit thicker and to really pinch those edges tightly. Otherwise, your triangular edges will fall flat and your filling will spill over. Not that this happened to me, of course (sarcasm).

These delightful cookies have a shortbread-like texture. They are buttery with a slightly crisp exterior. The cookies themselves are not too sweet, and that is a good thing because the jam or chocolate interiors are packed with flavor and sugar.

Thank you, Joanna, for introducing me to hamentashen, and I can't wait to try and make some kugel and matzo ball soup! If you'd like to see roundups of previous swaps, be sure to head over to http://tasteofhomecooking.blogspot.com

Hamentashen
  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 2 cups flour 
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup margarine, softened (I used unsalted butter)
  • 1 egg
  • 2-3 TBSP water (I used 3 TBSP)
  • Various fillings (I used strawberry jam, fig jam and Nutella)
Directions
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Line two baking pans with parchment paper or a silicone mat.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a large bowl with a handheld mixer, gently mix the sugar, flour, baking powder and salt.

Cut the the margarine (or butter) into the bowl and beat until the mixture is a bit crumbly and resembles coarse crumbs.

Add the egg and water and mix until the dough sticks together in a ball.

Generously flour a flat working surface.

Pinch off a piece of dough and roll it between your hands into a 1 and 1/2 inch ball.

Gently dust some extra flour onto the ball and roll it flat to a circular shape to about 1/8 inch thickness.  Alternately, you can roll out the dough and use the bottom of a glass or a cookie cutter to form circles.

Take about a teaspoon of filling and place it in the middle of your circle.

Fold up three edges and pinch together to make a triangle.

Place the Hamentashen on the prepared baking sheets and bake for 20 minutes (I only baked for 10 minutes so they wouldn't burn).  Let them cool for at least 10 minutes before eating.

Yield: About 28 cookies

Source: Kosher Kitchen


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