Monday, November 29, 2010

Old Fashioned Cookies

I have been looking at all the cookie recipes for the LA Times Cookie Contest.  This "old fashioned cookie" is very big and has a soft texture. The flavors of cinnamon and nutmeg seem to be more prominent the day after baking.  This cookie is supposed to be plain or topped with raisins. I opted to put chocolate chunks on top of mine.

The cookie batter was quite difficult to deal with.  It was very sticky, even though left in the fridge overnight.  Since it is a cut out cookie, I used floured parchment paper and once the cookies were cut, took off the residual dough around the cookies.  Then put the parchment paper with the cookies on the baking sheet.  I do most sugar cookies this way so there is not a lot of moving of the dough. The recipe states to use a cloth board and a rolling pin with cloth, but I did not have this equipment.

Before making these, take into consideration the extra time and effort required to handle the delicate and sticky cookie batter.  I even tried other ways to form the cookies, such as dropping the dough on the baking sheet and then flattening with a glass or fork. That process changed the texture of the cookie.  It turned out very flat and not at all fluffy.  The cookie normally puffs to about 1/2 inch in the baking process.  This recipe makes about 3 dozen 3 1/2 to 4 inch size cookies.

Ma's Cookies or Old Fashioned Cookies
adapted from LA Times 2010 Cookie Contest 

11.5 oz bag of Chocolate Chunks (optional) or 1 cup of raisins (optional)
2 eggs
1 1/4 cup buttermilk
1 1/4 cup shortening (Crisco)
3 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
2 1/2 rounded tsp nutmeg
1 1/2 rounded tsp cinnamon
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 cups light brown sugar

On the day before baking, sift together the flour, salt, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Set aside.

Pour buttermilk in a small bowl and sprinkle baking soda over the top.  Put this bowl aside also.  In a large bowl, cream together the shortening and sugar with an electric mixer.  Once combined, mix in the eggs, one at a time.  Add the buttermilk mixture in three increments, beating after each addition until it resembles the consistency of whipped cream.

With a wooden spoon, mix 1/3 of the flour mixture into the batter until combined.  Continue with this process, taking care not to overwork the batter but insure that all the flour is blended in.  Cover bowl of batter with plastic wrap and place in fridge overnight.

The next day, if you are using raisins, you will need to soak in water to soften.  Otherwise skip that step and just start by preheating your oven to 475 degrees. Then cut 2 pieces of parchment paper to line your baking sheets.  Take the dough out of the fridge and divide into 5 sections with a knife.  Put one piece of the cut parchment paper on your counter and flour.  Then flour your rolling pin. Place one section of batter on the paper.

Roll out dough to 1/4 thick, using a well floured rolling pin.  Then cut out 6-7 cookies with 3 1/2 inch cutter and remove excess dough.  Put excess dough back in chilled bowl and return to fridge. If you opted for a raisins or chocolate chunks on your cookies, place 5-7 pieces on top of the each cookie.  Put baking sheet in oven and bake 5-6 minutes or until golden brown.

Remove cookies and place baking sheet on cooling rack for 2 minutes, then transfer cookies directly to rack with a spatula for final cooling. Repeat this process for the remaining 4 sections of the cookie batter.  You can re-use the parchment paper for your batches.  Just make sure that you scrape off all the flour residue after baking each time prior to flouring for the next batter.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Banh Mi Pork Sandwiches

After watching the food truck challenge on the Food Network, I wanted to know what all the fuss was over these Vietnamese sandwiches. I searched and found a recipe in Bon Appetit magazine.

This recipe is made with seasoned pork meatballs, but there are several versions out on the internet.  These are a healthy and tasty change from a hamburger. Even though the hamburger food truck won in NY, the food truck selling these type of sandwiches won out in every other place and for good reason.

Should you be more curious or are looking for more recipes, check out the "battle of the Banh Mi" by clicking here.

The recipe below makes about 4 sandwiches and has some special sauces/spices. In  Texas, I have been able to find all of them in the Asian section of the HEB grocery store.

Banh Mi
adapted from Bon Appetit/Jan 2010

2 tsp cornstarch
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil
3 green onions chopped
4 minced cloves of garlic
1 lb of pork
1 tbs fish sauce
1 tbs sriracha
1 tbs sugar (for meat)
1/4 cup sugar (for vegetables)
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 tsp salt
1 cup coarsely grated carrots
1 cup coarsely grated daikon or radishes
1 tbs sesame oil
Fresh cilantro sprigs
4 hero rolls or baguettes

First you will need to do all the chopping of the vegetables as noted above.  If you use a food processor with a shredding or slicing disk, make sure that your grated items are not too thin or your pickled veggies will be soggy. They have to be stout enough to not turn to mush in the pickling process.

Prepare a baking sheet by lining with parchment or wax paper.  In a medium size bowl, take the first eight ingredients listed above and put in bowl.  Mix with wooden spoon until all ingredients are evenly distributed. Then moisten your hands with water and form pork mixture into balls, using a heaping tablespoon for measuring.  Place meatballs on baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap.  Place in fridge to chill for 1 hour or more.

The next step is pickling your vegetables. Place rice vinegar, 1/4 cup of sugar and salt in a small bowl and whisk together.  Toss in the shredded carrots and daikon/radish.  Let this mixture stand at room temperature for about one hour.  During this time, you will need to toss the vegetables every 15 minutes.

After your meatballs have completed the chilling time, place a saucepan on the stove at medium high or plug in an electric skillet. Pour in the sesame oil and let it heat for 3 minutes.  Then add your meatballs.  Let the meatballs brown, turning to different sides at intervals.  Turn the heat down if you find them cooking too fast. The meatballs should take 10-15 minutes for each batch to be cooked through.

To assemble the sandwiches, butterfly the bread rolls or baguettes.  Then place meatballs in first, then vegetables and then the final touch of sprigs of cilantro on top.

This is a great lunch sandwich.  Be creative and substitute your usual regular potato chips on the side with fried won tons wrappers with salt. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Pecan Brown Butter Bread

This recipe is chock full of pecans, some existing in the cake and again in with the sweet streusel filling.  Toasting the pecans and browning the butter is a must to bring out the true flavor of the pecans.  This is great for breakfast or an afternoon snack.

Pecan Brown Butter Bread
adapted from LA Times/November 3rd, 2010 

1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup plus 2 tbs butter, divided
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs (room temp)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/3 cup brown sugar, divided
2 cups plus 1 1/2 tsp flour, divided
2 cups shelled pecans

First, you will need to do your prep work.  Butter the inside of a 9X5 inch loaf pan.  Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.

To make the brown butter, melt 1/2 cup of butter in a saucepan over medium heat.  I used a white enamel saucepan, since you can see the color of the butter as it cooks.  After the butter is melted, continue to cook for an additional 8 minutes, whisking the whole time.  Your butter should be nut brown when done.  Pour into a heat resistant bowl. If you find that black or brown particles have settled in the bottom, use a mesh strainer when pouring.  Place bowl in the fridge to cool. Cooling time ranges from 30-40 minutes.

As the butter is chilling, the pecans will need to be toasted.  Place all two cups in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Put pan in oven and toast the pecans.  This should take about 15-20 minutes.  Take the sheet out of the oven and let the pecans cool.  When they cool enough to be handled, chop each pecan into 1/4 or smaller size pieces.  Toasted pecans are very brittle,  so I used my fingers to break them up into pieces.

Take out 1/2 of the pecans for the streusel filling and set aside the rest.  Combine the pecans, 1 1/2 tsp of flour and 1/3 cup brown sugar.  Then stir in the 2 tbs of butter using a fork until the streusel is very crumbly.  Do not over mix. Set aside.

To make the bread, start by sifting together remaining flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a small bowl and put aside.  Take out the brown butter and empty it into a mixing bowl.  Add the remaining brown sugar to the butter and cream both ingredients together using an electric mixer.  It should take about three minutes for the batter to become light and fluffy.  Still using your electric mixer, beat in the eggs one at a time and then the vanilla extract.

Fold 1/3 of the flour mixture into the batter with a wooden spoon. Once no flour remains, fold in 1/3 of the sour cream. Continue with this process until all flour and sour cream are mixed in. Put in the rest of the toasted pecans and stir until evenly distributed.

At this time, your batter will need to be split in two halves.  You can measure it out and separate evenly (which is the best method) or you can divide by sight.  If the batter is unevenly divided, the top of your bread will sink (streusel to close to top) or the loaf will stick to the pan (streusel too close to bottom).

Put 1/2 of the batter into prepared pan.  Run a wet knife over the batter to make it smooth and even.  Sprinkle on the streusel, making sure that all the batter is covered.  Spoon the rest of the batter over the streusel and smooth the top again.

Bake in oven until golden brown and tester comes out clean, about 55-60 minutes. Remove from the oven and place pan on wire rack to cool for 5 minutes. Then empty pan, letting the loaf continue to cool on a wire rack.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Shortbread Squares

This is a simple bar cookie that keeps well, so they can be made in advance of serving.  The dough bakes for a long time at a low temperature, so it is good to review the whole recipe to make sure you have plenty of time. As with most shortbread cookies, these are not too sweet and have a very crumbly texture. They are perfect alongside fruit or frozen desserts and with a cup of tea or coffee. This recipe makes about 35 squares.

Shortbread Squares
adapted from Great Recipe cards/Section 26-card 86 

4 cups plus 2 tbs all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
2 cups butter
Colored sugar or confectioners sugar for decorating

Preheat oven to 275 degrees and butter the inside of a 9 X 13 inch pan.  Also line the bottom with parchment, leaving the two long sides as overhang for handles.  Butter the  top side of the parchment lining the bottom of the pan.

With an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar.  Add all of the flour and mix with a wooden spoon until all flour is distributed.  Put dough in pan and take a sheet of wax paper and place over the dough.  Then flatten the dough by pressing with your hand on the wax paper.  Press out to all corners and try to get it as even as possible. Make indentations on top of the dough with a fork to insure that no bubbles form when baking.

Place pan in oven and bake for 1 1/2 hours.  Take pan out and and cut into squares.  Turn oven off and place pan back in oven.  Leave in oven until the inside oven is cool.

Remove pan and sprinkle with sugar.  Using the parchment "handles" remove all the squares from the pan.  The squares should be placed in airtight containers for storing.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Whole Grain Mustard Rolls

Mustard rolls with maple syrup topping does not sound like it would be good, however the flavors come together quite well and these are perfect for this time of year.  Steer away from the traditional and put a little zip in your bread with this recipe, it will be a tasty change.  This recipe makes 2 dozen rolls.

Whole Grain Mustard Rolls
adapted from the LA Times 

2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup whole grain mustard
1/4 cup plus 2 tbs maple syrup (divided)
4 tbs & 2 tbs butter (divided)
2 pkg active dry yeast
3 cups unbleached flour
2 tsp sea salt
3 cups whole wheat flour

Take a saucepan and pour in the milk and place it on medium high heat.  When the mixture starts to get foamy on the edges, remove from heat.  Add 4 tbs of butter and 1/4 cup of syrup. Cool, stirring occasionally. Once the mixture is about 110 degrees or is just warm to the touch, sprinkle in the yeast and whisk. Set aside for 10 minutes to become bubbly.

In the meantime, sift together both flours and salt in a stand mixer bowl.  Then go back to the saucepan with the yeast mixture and whisk in the mustard.  Then pour the mixture in with the flour.  Mix with dough hook at low speed or by hand until no flour remains.  Continue to mix, if by hand it will be for 10 minutes and electric mixer will be for 5 minutes.  If you find that the dough is too sticky add a little flour.

Turn out the dough and knead on a floured surface for 1 minute.  Take a large bowl and generously butter the inside and place the dough in the bowl, turning so the whole surface is covered with butter.  Lightly cover bowl and set in warm place to rise double in size.  The rise time should be about 1-1 1/2 hours.

During the rising time, line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and butter paper side up.  After the dough has doubled, punch down.  Then divide into 24 pieces and roll each into a smooth ball.  Place the dough balls on the parchment, spacing evenly.  Cover lightly with plastic wrap and let rise again for about an hour. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Melt the 2 tbs of butter and mix with 2 tbs of maple syrup to form a glaze.  When 2 rising time is complete, brush rolls with the glaze.  Place baking sheet in oven and let rolls bake for about 15 minutes, turning sheet at the halfway point.  Remove the pans from oven and slide parchment (with rolls on top) onto cooling rack.

These will last 3 days sealed at room temperature or one month in the freezer.  If frozen,bake again at 350 for about 3-5 minutes to thaw/warm prior to serving.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Key Lime Bars

I know this is not a recipe for fall, but my lime juice was about to expire, so I thought I would make use of the rest of it.  There are many different brands when it comes to lime juice, but the main thing is the quality of the key lime juice.

Once a restaurant had tried to give their key lime pie a stronger flavor by adding more lime juice.Due to the brand, this process did not add more flavor, it just added more citric acid to the dessert.  Finally a suggestion was made to use Nelly and Joe's Key Lime Juice and the pastry chef now swears by this brand.

That was how I came to start using that particular brand. I first had to order it from Amazon, then later I found it at Wal-Mart.

Key Lime Bars
adapted from Cooks Illustrated, July 2006 

1/2 cup lime juice (fresh or store bought)
1-14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 egg yolk
2 oz cream cheese (room temp)
1 tbs lime zest
4 tbs melted unsalted butter
pinch of salt
1 1/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
3 tbs light brown sugar

Prepare an 8 inch square baking pan by lining with foil and spraying with non-stick cooking spray. Leave foil to overhang on two parallel sides of the pan.  These will be your handles to remove the bars from the pan prior to cutting. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Put brown sugar and graham cracker crumbs in food processor and pulse in 1 second intervals for a total of 10 times. Then drizzle butter over mixture and pulse again in the same manner as before. Pat mixture into prepared pan, pressing to make an even bottom crust.  Bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes.  Place pan on a cooling rack.

Place lime zest, cream cheese and salt in a medium size bowl. Use a wooden spoon to mix, stirring until all is evenly distributed.  Pour in the sweetened condensed milk and combine with a wire whisk so no lumps of cream cheese remains.  The mixture should be a smooth batter.  Whisk in the egg and then the lime juice. With the addition of the last two ingredients, there should be a slight thickening of the batter.

Take your prepared pan and pour in the batter on top of the crust using a spatula.  Smooth out the top, making sure that batter has reached all sides and corners.  Bake in the oven for about 15-20 minutes. The bars are done when you see that it pulls away from the sides of the pan and the filling is set.

Cool in pan on wire rack for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Then cover with foil and place in fridge for 2 hours to completely chill.  After this, remove from fridge and pull out of pan by using foil handles.  Cut into squares for serving.  If there are any left, they are to go back in the fridge for storing.  

Monday, November 15, 2010

Asian Braised Short Ribs

The selection of beef short ribs at the grocery store are not what they used to be.  I remember the prepackaged cuts of ribs being about 3 inches long.  Now, you can find them 1 to 1 1/2 inch long.  I guess I could have got what I wanted from the butcher, but it was too early and I did not want to wait. I hope that the prepackaged cuts get longer and more beefy when it is BBQ season.

This recipe takes a long time, since beef ribs are not a very tender cut of meat.  However, the good thing is you can prepare most of it a day in advance and put it in the fridge.  Make the recipe through the 3 hour cook time as noted below. Save the last step of cooking for the next day. Just pull them out, skim the fat off and put them in an electric skillet set at 325 degrees, pour on the hoisin sauce and cook for 1/2 hour.

If you like ribs with a caramelized crust and tender inside meat that falls off the bone, you will decide that this recipe is a keeper. It makes enough to serve 6-8 people.

Braised Short Ribs
adapted from David Lebovitz 

3 tbs Chinese or Japanese Rice Vinegar
1/2 tsp red chili powder
1 1/2 cups dark beer (room temp)
1 cup hoisin sauce*
Salt and pepper
3 tbs vegetable oil
10 garlic cloves (peeled and minced)
1 inch piece of ginger
10 short ribs (3 inches long if requesting cut from butcher)

Season the ribs with salt and pepper.  Take an electric skillet and put in vegetable oil and heat to 350 degrees.

Place the ribs in the pan and fry.  Let each side to cook for about 12-15 minutes before turning.  You want the sides to be dark brown and caramelized.  This process could take an hour or more, depending on how many rib batches (due to size of skillet) you need to cook.

Unplug or turn off the heat under your skillet.  Transfer the ribs to a heat resistant bowl and set aside.  Slowly pour your beer into the skillet and scrape up the browned bits with a spatula.  Take a wooden spoon and stir in the garlic and ginger.  Then turn on the heat to medium or plug in skillet and heat to 325 degrees, continuing to stir the mixture with wooden spoon.

Once the temperature reaches 325, pour in the vinegar and sprinkle in the chili powder.  Mix with wooden spoon until distributed in liquid.  Then place the ribs back in the pan. Cover and let cook for 3 hours.  During this time, turn the ribs every 45 minutes.  Also, add additional water if the liquid evaporates.

Then uncover and pour the hoisin sauce on the ribs.  Cook uncovered for an additional 30 minutes. Serve with rice and steamed bok choy or mashed potatoes and green beans.

*the rice vinegar is easy to find, but I had to go to a few grocery stores for the hoisin sauce. I finally found it at Albertsons.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Chinese Chews

These are called chews because they are a cross between a candy and a cookie.  How they are related to the Chinese is a puzzle to me... The original recipe comes from Good Housekeeping back in 1917.  They do not contain any chocolate or butter.  Also, the ingredient of dates make them more healthy than most cookies or candy.  Even though healthy, these little morsels are quite tasty. While satisfying our sweet tooth, we all can feel better about choosing this as an afternoon snack.This recipe makes about 40.

Chinese Chews
 adapted from:a cakes bakes in brooklyn 

1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup chopped dates
1 cup chopped walnuts
2 beaten eggs
1/2 cup confectioners sugar (for dusting)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Take a cookie sheet and line with parchment paper.

Sift together the first four ingredients.  Then mix in the beaten eggs with a wooden spoon.  The batter should be like muffin batter. I did not have any issues with the consistency, but if the batter appears too dry, add a little milk to the batter.

Fold in walnuts and dates.  Then with a spatula, empty batter into center of baking sheet and smooth with a wet knife.  Keep smoothing until you have an 8 X 12 rectangle.  Then place pan in oven to bake for 20 minutes.

Remove from oven and cut into 1 inch squares.  Take a square from the corner and roll into a ball.  Then roll in powdered sugar and place on cooling rack.  Working with the edge pieces first (those pieces are more crusty than the rest)continue this process until no squares remain.        

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Miss Grace Lemon Bundt Cake

This is a copy cat recipe using a cake mix. If you are unfamiliar with the Miss Grace cakes, they are sold on line and lemon is one of their best sellers.  I usually steer away from cake mix recipes, made from scratch rates a lot higher (in my opinion) than a boxed mix any day.After all, this is a baking/cooking blog-not an avenue to promote Pillsbury or Betty Crocker boxed mixes.

After baking this cake, I was really surprised at the texture and flavor. It had a tart, lemony flavor and moist crumb.  By taste, you would not know that it was made from a boxed mix.

I have included an icing recipe below, but the flavor of the cake can stand alone by itself.  Note that it is a recipe for icing, not glaze.  The icing will run down the side of the cake, but it will be white and not soak into the cake. If you prefer more of a glaze, use a ratio of 1 to 1-juice of 1 lemon and 1 cup confectioners sugar.  The glaze will soak into the cake.  The actual Miss Grace Lemon cake does look like it has more of a glaze than icing.

Mrs Grace's  Lemon Bundt Cake
adapted from Henrie at group recipes

Ingredients (for cake)
6 oz can frozen lemonade concentrate (thawed)
4 eggs (room temp)
1 cup sour cream
1 box of yellow cake mix (with pudding in the mix)
2 tbs melted butter (for greasing pan)
1/4 cup of bread crumbs (for pan coating)

Ingredients (for icing)
1 tbs and 1 tsp of butter (softened but not melted)
1 1/3 tsp lemon extract
10 tbs and 2 tsp warm milk
2 cups confectioners sugar

To make the cake: take a bundt pan and thoroughly brush the inside with the melted butter.  Sprinkle the inside with the bread crumbs, turning and rolling pan so all is completely coated with breadcrumbs, especially the crevasses.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and place rack at the center level inside your oven.

Place eggs, sour cream and lemonade concentrate in a large bowl. Beat with an electric mixer until all is combined. Take a sifter and sift the cake mix ingredients into the same bowl.  Combine into batter with an electric mixer on low.  Once the dry mixture is distributed into the batter, change the mixer speed to medium and beat for another 2-3 minutes.

Pour batter as evenly as possible into the cake pan.  Should you need to level it more, gently tap cake pan on top of the counter or smooth the top with a wet knife.  Put pan in oven and bake until tester comes out clean or top springs back when lightly touched.  The baking time would be 35-40 minutes.

Cool in pan on wire rack for 20 minutes.  After that time, if you intend to glaze or ice the cake, turn cake out onto wire rack to finish cooling.  Otherwise, you can turn out onto cake plate.

To make the icing: Sift all the powdered sugar into a mixing bowl or blender. Add the remaining wet ingredients.  If using a blender, pulse the mixture for about 10 times then blend steady for 45 seconds until mixture is smooth.  If using mixture, blend with a wooden spoon until most of loose sugar is gone.  Then beat with an electric mixer for 45 seconds.  Icing should be smooth and pourable.

Drizzle icing over cooled cake and take off rack and place on cake plate when icing has firmed up.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Frangelico Ice Cream

I consider hazelnuts a member of the higher society.  It is not as commonly used as pecans or peanuts and its flavor is portrayed as something rare and exotic, as seen on the Ferrero Roche commercials.   The same goes with the liqueur of the same flavor, Frangelico.

Based on that, pull out this recipe when you want to impress or make someone feel special.  Also, while great on its own, you can indulge even more by topping with fudge and a sprinkling of roasted hazelnuts.  This recipe makes 1 quart.

Frangelico Ice Cream
adapted from Bon Appetit 

5 tbs of Frangelico
1/4 cup of sugar
1 1/2 cups of whole milk (no low fat)
1/4 cup honey
5 egg yolks (room temp)
1 1/2 cups whipping cream

First, prepare your ice cream maker according to manufacturers instructions.  I have a Doniver in which you have to have the center piece frozen before you are able to freeze any ice cream.

Pull out a saucepan and set the stove top burner to medium heat.  Place your dairy (milk & cream) in the saucepan along with the sugars (honey, white sugar).  Put on burner and stir until it starts to simmer and the sugar is dissolved.  Remove from heat and let cool 5 minutes.

In a large bowl, beat all 5 egg yolks until combined.  Then take your cooled sugar mixture and distribute a steady small stream of it into the egg yolks by using a whisk.  You may need to use a stand mixer or the help of someone else.

Transfer mixture back into saucepan and place over medium heat.  Constantly stir for about 2 minutes and make sure it does not boil.  The ice cream is done cooking when it is thick enough to leave a path on the back of a spoon when you draw your finger across it.  Remove from heat and strain into another bowl.

Whisk Frangelico into ice cream mixture and place in freezer for about 4 hours or until cold.  Once completed, the mixture goes into the ice cream maker.  Then proceed as stated in the instructions that came with the ice cream machine.  After that, place the ice cream in a container and freeze until firm, about 2 hours.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Macadamia Nut Muffins

With an ample supply of macadamia nuts and too many cookies around the house, I opted for a breakfast item.  This muffin is lightly sweetened and contains no type of chocolate, so it is perfect with some butter and hot coffee or tea.  The nuts and extracts really come through in the flavor.  This recipe comes from the RSVP section of Bon Appetit, issued prior to 2005 and makes about 10-12 muffins. 

Macadamia Nut Muffins

3/4 cup chopped macadamia nuts (if salted omit salt below)*
1/4 cup whipping cream
3 eggs
3/4 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup butter (room temp)
1 cup light brown sugar
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup plus 2 tbs bread flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease top edges of muffin cups in pan and then place paper liners inside.

Sift baking powder, flour and salt* in medium bowl and set aside. Then place butter in a large bowl and beat for 2 minutes until smooth and creamy.  Add brown sugar and continue to beat until all is blended.

Add the extracts and eggs with the butter mixture and blend all ingredients by beating with a wooden spoon .  Then fold in the dry ingredients.  Once the dry ingredients are completely mixed into the batter, add the whipping cream. Stir with the spoon until smooth.  Lastly, add the macadamia nuts and mix until distributed evenly in the batter.

Spoon batter into prepared muffin liners, filling 3/4 full. Smooth the surface of the batter with a wet knife.  As you can see in the above picture, these muffins do not rise very much.  Place in oven and bake for 25 minutes or until tester comes out clean.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Filled Oatmeal Cookies/ Golden Girls

First, let me clarify the specifics of this cookie.  It is not a sandwich cookie, but a cookie with cream cheese sealed inside. The outside is a soft oatmeal cookie made with graham cracker crumbs and cinnamon.  The tang of the cream cheese really changes the ordinary oatmeal cookie into something extraordinary.

This recipe comes from Greg at oatmealcookie.typepad.  With all the chocolate chip cookies around, there is a reference that the oatmeal cookie is the "forgotten" cookie.  However, Greg is determined that they will not be forgotten with a goal of 365 unique oatmeal cookie recipes.  By the number of recipes on his blog, he is well on his way. This recipe makes about 4 dz cookies.

Cream Filled Oatmeal Cookies/Golden Girls
adapted from 

3 eggs
4 tsp vanilla
2 tbs cinnamon
1/2 cup plus 4 tbs granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 cup or 2 sticks of butter (room temp)
8 oz cream cheese (room temp)
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups flour
2 1/2 cups oatmeal
1 tsp baking soda
2 cups graham cracker crumbs

Prepare 3 baking sheets by lining 2 with parchment paper and one with waxed paper. In a medium bowl, beat together 4 tbs of white sugar, 2 tsp vanilla and cream cheese.   Once completely mixed together, measure out a tsp of the cream cheese mixture and empty it in a small lump on the wax paper. Continue with this process until there is no more cream cheese left in the bowl.  Place baking sheet into freezer.

In another medium size bowl, sift together 1 tbs cinnamon, salt, baking soda and flour.  Then add graham crumbs and oatmeal, stirring with a wooden spoon until evenly distributed.  Set bowl aside.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Beat the eggs in a small bowl with the remaining 2 tbs of vanilla extract and set aside. Grab a regular large bowl or stand mixer bowl and fill with 1/2 cup white sugar, brown sugar, butter and remaining tablespoon of cinnamon.  Beat with electric mixer about 3 minutes or until it has a creamy consistency and no dry sugar or butter lumps remain.  Then pour in the egg mixture, beating until blended.

Take your flour mixture and, with a wooden spoon, fold into the sugar mixture in 3 additions, making sure all is mixed before adding the next portion.

Now you are ready to form your cookies.  Take and measure out 1 tbs of dough and place it on your baking sheet.  Continue this process until you have 24 pieces.  Then take 2 pieces and form into a ball.  You should end up with 12 round balls.  Break each ball in half and leave the back part attached (like the spine in a book).  Make a thumbprint inside each of the halves.  It should resemble an empty nutshell or clamshell.

For more information on assembly, you can see Greg's video here.  He shows how to fill the cookies with cold cream cheese (not frozen).  I find that when the cream cheese is frozen you have no chance of it being mixed in with the dough or having it seep or leak out.  It is much easier to seal the edges together.

Remove the pan of frozen cream cheese pieces and place one piece inside each clamshell or ball of dough. Seal dough and roll back into round shape.  Place 2 inches apart on baking sheet and continue to fill up sheet, keeping the spacing the same. Put baking sheet of dough balls into freezer for 5 minutes to firm up.

Note that in between the baking and forming of the cookies, you will not always need the cream cheese.  When not in use, make sure baking sheet of cream cheese goes back in freezer.

Once cookies have firmed up in the freezer, take out and check the dough balls to make sure they are still 2 inches apart.  Adjust placement if needed.  Then put the baking sheet in the oven and bake cookies until golden brown, turning pan at the halfway point of baking time.  Cookies should take about 10-12 minutes to bake.  Remove pan and let cookies cool on baking sheet for 2 minutes.  Then transfer cookies to wire rack for final cooling.

With a twist: You can have many variations if you add different flavors to the cream cheese mixture such as cherry brandy or chocolate.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Sugar Shuttle Cookies

This cookie recipe came out in the 1950's from Gourmet Magazine.  It is a cakey sugar cookie enveloped in a crusty sugar coating.  The contrast in textures makes it unique and a stand out among regular sugar cookies.  The recipe is no longer on line with Gourmet Magazine since it is so old. I only ended up with an error message when searching again today. This recipe makes 20-24 cookies.

Sugar Shuttles
adapted from Gourmet Magazine

1 egg white (beaten for dipping)
dusting sugar
2 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup butter (room temp)
1 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt

Sift together flour and salt.  Then mix in sugar, distributing evenly.

In a separate bowl, cream butter with an electric mixer.  Then beat in egg yolks and vanilla.  With a wooden spoon, add flour sugar mixture in thirds, making sure all is mixed in prior to adding next third.  Should it be too dry and not cling together, knead in 1/2-1 tsp milk or cream to get to the right consistency. Once completely mixed, form dough into a ball and wrap tightly with plastic wrap.  Place in fridge for 2 hours.

Once chilling time is completed, preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Take the dough out of the bowl and divide into small pieces. On a floured surface, roll each piece with your fingers to make cylinders.  The cylinders should be about 2 inches long and a little bit bigger around than a pencil.  This shape represents a sewing machine shuttle.

Dip each piece in egg white and then roll in sugar.  Place on prepared baking sheet 2 inches apart.  Bake in oven until lightly browned.  This should take about 8 minutes.  Let cookies cool on baking sheet for 1 minute and then transfer to cooling rack.