Friday, April 29, 2011

Blackout Cookies

As promised earlier, here is the chocolate indulgence cookie. It is a slice and bake cookie in which a log of dough is rolled in chocolate cookie crumbs prior to baking.  The wonderful flavor comes from being packed with chocolate chips, more cookie crumbs and toasted walnuts.

If you are familiar with the Brooklyn Blackout cake, the cookie envelopes the same flavors that exist in the cake. That makes me think about when New York really did have their blackout and everyone was walking home in the dark.  Having this cookie on hand at the time probably would have made things easier.  One bite would have transported them directly to dark Chocolate town. There just are some moments in life when there is no better place to be....

Blackout Cookies
courtesy of Good Cookie Cookbook
Yield- 42 cookies

3/4 cup coarsely chopped and toasted walnuts
1 cup chocolate chips (I used mini or you can chop after measuring)
3/4 cup chocolate wafer cookie crumbs
1/2 cup dutch processed cocoa powder
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 cup flour
1/8 tsp salt
1 egg
9 tbs or 1 stick and 1 tbs butter (room temp)
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

If you choose to chop your chocolate chips, pulse in food processor 20 or 30 seconds. Place the chocolate chips in a bowl and stir in 1/2 cup of the cookie crumbs. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, sift some of the dry ingredients together-salt, baking powder, baking soda, flour and cocoa. Set this bowl aside also.

Take out an electric mixer or stand mixer.  With the mixer at medium speed, cream together both sugars and butter in a large bowl. After two minutes of beating, your batter will be at the correct consistency. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the vanilla extract.  Add the egg and beat the mixture again until well blended. Turn off and remove the mixer.

With a wooden spoon, fold sifted dry ingredients into the batter until it just turns to dough.  There should not be any flour remaining in the bottom of the bowl.  Then stir in the walnuts and chocolate/cookie crumb mixture until distributed throughout the dough.

Lightly flour a work surface (not too much because to dough has to have cookie crumbs stuck to it). Empty the dough from the bowl onto the surface.*  With floured hands, roll the dough into a 13 inch long log that is 1 1/2 inches in diameter.  Then sprinkle the remaining cookie crumbs in a rectangle below the length of the log.  It should measure 13 X 2.  Roll the log in the cookie crumbs, pressing lightly.  Wrap the log in plastic wrap, twisting to cover the short ends of the log and place in fridge to chill for at least 2 hours and no longer than 3 days.

Once the dough has been properly chilled, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Take the log out of the fridge and place on work surface.  With a sharp knife, cut the log into 1/4 inch slices and place on baking sheet about 1 1/2 inch apart.  Due to the nuts and chocolate chips, cutting may be not result in round perfect slices and pieces may come apart.  Do not worry, just push the pieces back together to make a round shape the best you can. The dough will spread when baking anyway.

Place one sheet of cookies in the oven and bake for 11-13 minutes.  The cookies are done when the dough has lost its sheen or shiny look.  The cookies will still be very soft when you remove them, however, they will firm up as they cool. Place cookies on rack to finish cooling.

*Should you want cookies that are more uniform and perfect in size, there is another method to form the cookies. Just roll the dough between two pieces of wax paper prior to chilling.  Dough should be 1/4 inch thick. Once chilled, use a cookie cutter to cut out rounds.  You can skip the crumb coating or try greasing or wetting the bottom edge of the cutter and then dipping it into the crumbs prior to cutting out each cookie. I have not tried the cut out method.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Chinese Almond Cookies

I am baking cookies in the kitchen this week that are at opposite ends of the spectrum. Today, I wanted to make something tasty, but not over indulgent. For those that want to indulge, check back later this week for a  chocoholics favorite treat of darkness.

Since you usually cannot find any caramelized, fudge treats at a Chinese bakery, I decided that Asian desserts was a good topic to start looking under.  I came across several recipes for egg custards, moon cakes and almond cookies.

One particular recipe for almond cookies seemed to be easy and I had all the ingredients in hand.  After baking, I decided this recipe is a keeper. It resulted in wonderful little nut-filled rounds that were crispy with a delicious taste of buttery almonds. Just perfect for afternoon tea or a cup of coffee. This recipe makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Chinese Almond Cookies
courtesy of  Classic Stars Desserts

1/3 cup sliced almonds
36 whole almonds
3/4 tsp almond extract
1 tbs water
1 cup or 2 sticks of butter (room temp)
2 eggs
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 cups flour (additional for dusting)

The first step will be to toast the almonds.  Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Place sliced almonds in a shallow pan and put in oven.  Set timer for 5 minutes and when timer goes off, take pan out and stir.  Then put pan back in oven for an additional 5 minutes.  Remove and pour almonds in a bowl to cool.  Set aside.  Follow the same steps for the whole almonds.  Then turn the oven off.

Take a small bowl out and fill with water, baking soda and baking powder.  Stir until blended and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer until smooth and creamy.  This should take about 2 minutes.  Then add the sugar and beat at medium speed for 30 seconds or until batter is smooth again.  Give the small bowl of water mixture one last stir and then beat it into the butter mixture. Once combined, blend  in one egg and vanilla into the batter, still using the electric mixer.

Switch the mixer to low and add the flour and almonds.  Run the mixer just until the batter turns into a dough.

Transfer the dough to a medium bowl and cover.  Place in fridge for 1 hour to chill.

Once an hour has passed, take dough out of fridge and divide in half.  Roll each half of the dough into a log measuring 9 inches long and 1 inch in diameter.  Cover with plastic wrap and place each log in fridge for an additional 30 minutes or until firm enough to slice.

In the meantime, line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and turn oven on to 325 degrees to preheat.

After chilling the logs, remove one from fridge.  Slice log into 18 pieces measuring 1/2 inch thick.  Place on baking sheet(s) about 2 inches apart.  Place 1 almond in the middle of each piece, pressing gently.  Then get a small bowl and add the remaining egg.  Lightly beat with a fork.  Take a pastry brush, dip into the egg and brush over the top of each cookie.

Place baking sheet in the oven.  Let bake for about 10-14 minutes.  Rotate pan halfway though baking process.  Cookies are done when the egg wash and cookie edges turn a light golden color. Remove cookies and leave on baking sheet to cool.  Repeat process with additional log from fridge.      

Monday, April 25, 2011

Dark Chocolate and Orange Muffins

The flavors of chocolate and orange really got popular with the chocolate orange balls over in the UK.  I know, most of you are not familiar with this candy. It is a big round piece of candy covered in foil that is compiled of segments made up of milk chocolate and flavored with orange oil.  The segments resemble the segments of oranges in appearance. In order to eat, you unwrap and tap the top onto a counter which causes the pieces to separate, just like the segments of an orange.

This flavor combination is not found in many American recipes, however, it was easy to find when looking through some food blogs in the UK. I made the choice to make muffins, since I had not made any in awhile.

To those of you that have the same standard breakfast every day, these muffins are a great way to add some variety. Also, these can be a sweet pick me up for an afternoon snack.   I find that they are the most tasty when warmed and served with butter.

Note that the muffins, since they have chocolate in them, have a tendency to stick.  It is best not to use paper liners.  Make sure you grease your pans well. To make things even easier, line the bottom of each holder with a parchment round.  Grease the side of the parchment that faces up.

Dark Chocolate and Orange Muffins
courtesy of I love milk and cookies blog

1 cup plain yogurt
2 tbs orange juice
2 eggs (room temp)
1/4 cup butter (room temp)
1 tbs orange zest
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 3/4 cup of flour
1 cup chopped dark chocolate or chips

Grease inside and top edge of muffin holders of 12 holder pan. Cut parchment rounds to go in bottom of holders, place inside each muffin cavity and grease top side of parchment. Preheat oven to 355 degrees.

In a large bowl, sift together the baking powder, flour and sugar.  Stir in the orange zest.  If you are using fresh zest, take care that all is evenly distributed and not lumped together.  Zest from a spice jar will mix easier, but may not impart the same flavor as fresh.  Then add the chocolate, stirring until blended. Set aside.

Then place all the wet ingredients (butter, yogurt,eggs, juice) in a small bowl and beat on low for 1 minute. Batter will still be lumpy with some chunks of butter, but that is okay.

Fold the wet batter into the flour mixture by using a wooden spoon. Once no dry areas remain in the batter, spoon it into the muffin holders.  The batter should be evenly divided among the twelve.  Since muffins do not rise like cupcakes, the 12 cavities will be very full of batter.  Transfer to oven and bake for 30-40 minutes or until tester comes out clean.

Remove muffin pan from oven and let cool for 2 minutes. Then remove each muffin and place on rack to finish cooling.  Serve warm with butter.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Orange Chicken

This may look like my previous recipe for three cup chicken, but it is quite different. The interesting thing about this recipe is the short cut method of frying.  With a little oil and a whole lot of heat from your oven, you can make this chicken just as crispy as fried.  However, you must be very careful in sliding the pan of oil in and out of the oven.  I used the bottom pan of the broiler that came with the oven.  This is a good choice if you do not want to mess up a baking sheet and the pan is a little deeper.

The ginger and the fresh orange juice really make a tasty sauce. Also, the measure of cayenne is just right. It is enough to add a little heat while letting the other flavors come through. So, if you are craving Chinese take out, try making this at home instead. To really round out the meal, consider steaming some snap peas or broccoli florets to add to the sauce with the chicken.

Orange Chicken
courtesy of Cooks Illustrated via Tracey's Culinary Adventures

2 tbs cold water
3/4 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup and 2 tbs vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
3/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (about 2 oranges)
1 tbs grated ginger (about 1 inch piece)
1 tbs minced garlic (about 3 cloves)
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/2 cup dark brown sugar (packed)
1 1/2 lbs of chicken tenderloins, diced in 1 1/2 in pieces
1 tbs plus 2 tsp corn starch
1 1/2 tsp grated orange zest

Ingredients/for chicken dredge & frying
1/2 cup canola oil
3 egg whites
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup cornstarch

First, you will need a saucepan to mix up the marinade. Mix together orange zest, orange juice, brown sugar, vinegar, cayenne pepper, soy sauce, garlic, ginger and chicken stock in saucepan.  Continue to mix until brown sugar is evenly distributed.

Take a ladle and spoon out 3/4 of a cup of marinade into a gallon zip lock storage bag. Then add the chicken pieces and seal bag.  Place bag in the fridge for at least 30 minutes and no longer than 1 hour.

In a small bowl, mix together cornstarch and water until cornstarch has dissolved.  Place the saucepan of the remaining marinade over medium high heat and let it come to a boil.  Then pour in the cornstarch mixture and whisk.  Let the mixture cook for about 1 minute and remove from heat.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.  Take out two plates or pie plates for the coating mix.  In one, beat 3 eggs whites with a fork until frothy.  In the other, sift together flour and cornstarch.

Once the chicken has completed the chilling process, remove the bag of chicken from the fridge.  Pour all of the ingredients into a colander to drain.  Then dry chicken pieces by pressing in a paper towel.

Take each piece of chicken and dredge in egg whites, letting excess drip off.  Then coat in the dry mixture and put all the coated pieces on a plate. Set aside.

Put the empty baking pan inside the preheated oven for 5 minutes. Remove and pour canola oil into pan. This is where things get a little smoky and very hot, so use caution. Return pan to the oven and set timer for 5 minutes.  When the timer goes off, remove the pan.  Add chicken pieces to the pan, spacing evenly.  Bake in oven for 7 minutes, then turn with tongs and bake the other side of the chicken for 5 minutes. Turn off oven.
Remove pan and take the tongs and put chicken pieces in the pan with the sauce. Place pan over medium heat and stir, making sure all the chicken is evenly coated.  The sauce should reach the desired temperature again after 3 minutes.  In the meantime, cook up some minute rice according to directions.

Ladle chicken and sauce over the rice to serve. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Tapioca Cheese Rolls

The texture of bread varies quite a bit.  Some breads are more dense than others and some more crusty. Also, the texture should be in accordance to how it is served.  Pizza dough does not make very good dinner rolls, nor can biscuit dough be used for pita bread.

As for this particular type of roll, it turned out with a crusty outside and a very chewy inside.  The inside looks hollow, like a popover.  The dough does not brown in the oven, so they are pale, even after baking.  The tapioca flour and cheese ingredients contributed to the texture and lack of color. These rolls are meant to be an appetizer and are best served with a thick dipping sauce such as marinara. The dough is not appropriate for dinner rolls. 

There were several factors that may have contributed to me not liking this recipe. I had some difficulty due to my measurements being in cups and tablespoons (volume) versus the recipe being in ounces (weight).  I may have an aversion to Tapioca flour or the original recipe is actually lacking a vital ingredient.  I will not be making this again.

Tapioca Cheese Rolls
courtesy of  Disney

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese (freshly grated)
1/4 cup sunflower oil
pinch of sea salt
1 3/4 cup tapioca flour (or more)
1 beaten egg
1/4 cup plus 2 tbs of plain yogurt 
1/4 cup plus 2 tbs water
 optional bread topping-you can use whatever you like (salt & garlic powder, bagel topping, etc)

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Take out a small saucepan and fill with water, salt and oil.  Turn heat to medium high and let mixture come to a boil.  Remove from heat.

Sift the flour into a medium size bowl.  Then add the boiled water/oil mixture and stir with a wooden spoon.  It should form a stiff dough.  Let the dough sit for 10 minutes to cool.

Add the beaten egg to the dough and mix until evenly distributed.  Stir in the yogurt until blended.  At this point your dough should be thick enough to roll and keep its shape.  If not, continue to add more flour until right consistency is achieved. Then fold the cheese into the dough.

Using greased hands, divide dough into 12 pieces and roll into balls.  Place each ball (evenly spaced)on the prepared baking sheet.  Sprinkle topping on the rolls, if desired.

Put rolls in the oven and immediately turn oven temperature down to 350 degrees. Bake for 25-35 minutes.  When done, rolls will be cracked on top and the inside of the crack expansion will no longer be shiny.  Also, tester will come out clean.  Cool rolls on a wire rack and serve with marinara dipping sauce.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Toasted Coconut Bars

Most of us feel that no matter how good the food is at a restaurant, it will never be good enough to overlook  negative aspects such as poor service, bad location and a pricey menu.

However, there are some types that I call innovative when it comes to their love of food.  It kind of goes like this.."Hey, Reggie when you drive by Catherine's Cafe can you pick up our dinner for Valentine's?" The food is only eaten on special occasions (price), they do not have to worry about the problems with the location (Reggie is picking it up) and they have no dealings with the wait staff (to go order).

Wait...that type of innovation means that Catherine's Cafe still has your business, in spite of their problems.  The best innovation, of course, is to make it yourself as close to the original as possible.  Most foodies are very much in favor of that idea!

The recipe below is from a restaurant as requested by a reader of Bon Appetit.  These coconut bars have a two luscious layers. The bottom is a buttery shortbread cookie and the top is layered with chewy coconut.  The coconut layer is very close to German chocolate cake icing, somewhat thicker and without the pecans.

Toasted Coconut Bars
courtesy of Bon Appetit Magazine/prior to 2005

1 cup or 2 sticks of cold unsalted butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 1/4 cups flour

2 tbs canned cream of coconut
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 large eggs
3 tbs melted unsalted butter
1 tbs milk
1 cup light brown sugar (packed)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tbs flour
1 1/2 cups sweetened shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 325 degrees and line a 9X13 inch pan, covering bottom and two long sides with some overhang on each side for handles.

For the crust, sift together the flour and sugar in a medium bowl.  Then pour in a food processor.  Cut cold butter into cubes and put in with dry mixture.  Pulse processor with on off turns until mixture turns into a dough.  Pat dough into pan, reaching all sides and corners evenly.  Place in fridge to chill for 15 minutes.

Remove pan from fridge and place in oven. Bake dough for about 25 minutes.  Dough should have golden edges when done.  Remove and let cool. Turn oven off.

Once crust has cooled, preheat oven to 300 degrees.   Then sprinkle coconut evenly over the crust and set aside.

In a small bowl, place all the remaining ingredients, except for melted butter.  Whisk together until no lumps remain.  Then fold in melted butter.  When butter is all blended, slowly pour mixture over the coconut layer in the pan.  Take care to make sure that it is poured evenly over the top.

Bake for about 45 minutes.  When done baking, topping should be golden brown, crusty on edges and set.  Let cool in pan over rack for 30 minutes.  Then take a knife and slide between the pan and the pastry on the short sides.  Lift pastry out of the pan, using the parchment handles on the long sides and place on rack.  Once completely cool, cut and serve.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Lemon Cream Sandwich Cookies

Easter is right around the corner, but I am opting out of the traditional colored eggs and chocolate candy. That food sounds too heavy for a hot day. Instead, I will be munching on these lemony morsels while drinking some fresh lemonade.

These cookies are a great choice for any barbecue or any family get together. They are easy to transport and easily served.  The zest of the lemon is prevalent in the cookie as well as the cream, but it is not tart like a lemon cooler cookie. This recipe makes about 24 cookies and the dough has to rest in the fridge at least 4 hours or overnight prior to baking.

Lemon Cream Sandwich Cookies
courtesy of Bon Appetit/Jan 2009

2 eggs
2 egg yolks
1 cup or 2 sticks of butter
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tbs grated lemon peel
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3 3/4 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar

1/2 cup or 1 stick butter
1/8 tsp salt
1 1/2 tbs lemon peel
2 cups powdered sugar

To make the cookies, put the lemon zest and lemon juice in a sauce pan and boil for four minutes or until only 2 tablespoons remain.  Remove from heat and pour liquid into heatproof bowl to cool.  Set aside.

In a medium bowl, sift together salt, baking soda and flour.  This bowl will also be set aside.

Place butter in a large bowl and cream with an electric mixer until fluffy and smooth.  Continue to beat and add sugar, blending all ingredients together. Then,one by one, beat each egg and yolk into the batter until completely blended.  Each addition should take about 30 seconds.  Add the boiled lemon mixture to the batter and beat again for another 30 seconds.

Form the dough by adding all the sifted ingredients into the batter and mix with a wooden spoon.  Once no dry streaks remain, cover and place dough in fridge.  Dough will need to chill at least 4 hours and up to 1 day.

After the chilling stage, line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  Prepare a smooth surface for the dough by sprinkling with flour.  Also, lightly dust your rolling pin with flour and take out a 2 inch biscuit or cookie cutter.  Then preheat the oven to 375 degrees. 

Remove bowl of dough from fridge and split dough in half. Place one piece on the floured surface and return the other to the fridge. Roll dough out to about a 3/8 inch thickness.  Using your cutter, cut out cookies and place on cookie sheet.  12 cookies fit on a standard size sheet.

Put cookies in oven and bake for about 12 minutes.  They are done when the edges are toasted.  Remove pan and let cookies cool on baking sheet for about 5 minutes.  Then transfer to a rack to finish cooling.  Repeat the forming and baking process for the remaining piece of dough.

Once all the cookies are baked, team them up for the sandwiches.  Even though you used a cookie cutter, they all will come out a little different. The tops and bottoms should be closely matched in size.

To make the filling, mash together the lemon zest with the salt until a paste is formed. Put paste in a medium size bowl and add butter.  Using an electric mixer, beat the three ingredients together until it reaches a creamy consistency.  Add 1/2 cup of the powdered sugar and beat for 1 minute.  Continue to add the sugar in 1/2 cup intervals, beating after each addition.

Place 2 teaspoons of the filling on the flat side of each bottom cookie chosen for the sandwiches.  Once all the filling is distributed evenly on the bottom cookies, place the other matching cookie on top, flat side down.  Evenly press the cookie pieces together to form each sandwich.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Cinnamon Walnut Horns

These rustic walnut horns are a nice change of pace from the big fluffy Boardwalk Cinnamon Rolls that I made back in February. Cinnamon rolls, traditionally with lots of dough and a little bit of filling, originated in Sweden. I believe that pastries with the thinner dough came from France. In addition, the use of walnuts in this recipe points to France. Lots of walnuts are harvested out of the south of France and used in many desserts.   

The little crescent gems have a thin dough that is embedded with cinnamon and walnuts.  Then, before the dough is rolled up, it is sprinkled with more cinnamon and walnuts.  The result is a crispy, caramelized pastry that is overflowing with nutty goodness. Note that this recipe yields about 20 horns and the dough is refrigerated overnight.  The original dough recipe is double what you need, you can either double the filling for 40 horns, keep extra dough for other use, or cut the dough recipe in half (like I did as given below).  Cutting it in half means a specific measurement for the egg yolks and the yeast, for the original recipe called for 3 eggs and a packet of yeast.

Cinnamon Walnut Horns
courtesy of  Great Coffeecakes Cookbook by Carol Walter 

 Ingredients/ Dough
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup milk
1 egg yolk and 1 1/2 tsp of egg yolk (scramble for measurement)
2 tbs warm water
2 tbs sugar
4 tbs butter or half stick (softened and cubed)
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbs and 3/4 tsp yeast

1 egg beaten with 2 tsps of water for egg wash
1 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 2/3 cups walnuts
5 tbs granulated sugar
3 tbs light brown sugar

Make the dough the day before serving. Place warm water in a small bowl and add 1 1/2 tsp of the sugar.  Then sprinkle in the yeast and do not stir.  Put a small saucer over the bowl and set the timer for 5 minutes.  After the 5 minutes, uncover and stir with a fork and then cover again. Letting it set for at least 2 minutes or more until it is called for in the next steps.

Sift together the flour, salt and remaining sugar in a large stand mixer bowl.  Add the cubes of butter and mix on low until it reaches crumb texture.  It should take about 2-4 minutes.

In a separate bowl, mix together the vanilla,egg yolks and milk with a fork.  Pour this mixture and the dissolved yeast into the bowl of dry ingredients.  Mix on low speed for 15 seconds, scrape sides of bowl and mix again for 30 seconds.  The result is a very soft dough.

Take another bowl out and butter the insides.  Empty the dough into the bowl and use floured hands to smooth the top.  Then smooth a thin amount of butter over the top and cover with plastic wrap.  Place bowl in the refrigerator for dough to chill at least overnight or up to 3 days.

The next day, the nuts will need to be prepped in a food processor for the filling.  Put nuts in the processor and pulse 5 or 6 times so they are coarsely chopped.  Take out 1 cup of the chopped nuts, place in a bowl and set aside.

Put 3 tbs of granulated sugar, all of brown sugar and 3/4 tsp cinnamon inside processor bowl with remaining nuts.  Pulse processor 6-8 times until the nuts are medium chopped.  Pour in another small bowl and set aside.

In a third bowl, mix the remaining cinnamon and granulated sugar.

To assemble the crescents, first line baking sheet with parchment paper. Then remove the bowl of dough from the fridge. Divide dough in half and put one half back into fridge.

On a clean workspace, sprinkle 1/4 of the coarse walnuts and 1/4 of the cinnamon sugar mixture.  Roll the dough in the sprinkles on the workspace, shaping it into a log. Continue to roll until the log has picked up all of the sprinkled mixture.

Take out a rolling pin and roll the dough into a 6X15 inch parallelogram.  The 15 inches should be parallel to the counter in front of you.  I rolled the dough thin and then kept pushing in sides and smoothing to get to the right size and shape.  The rolling pin should be rolled at an angle from bottom right to upper left and vice versa to help achieve the desired shape.

Now that you have the correct size, brush top side with egg wash.  Then sprinkle on 1/2 of the remaining nut and 1/2 of the remaining cinnamon mixtures and press it into the dough.  Cut the dough into 10 triangles, by making a zig zag.  There should be five-cut point down and five-cut point up, each being 3 inches at the widest point.  Also, cut a nick in the middle of the 3 inches about 1/2 inch long.  The nick will help you stretch the dough when rolling.

Each piece of dough is to be rolled into a crescent.  The 3 inch side is the start with the point at the end. Try to stretch the dough as you roll and roll tightly.  Put pressure on the end to make sure it is sealed, but do not roll backwards.  Place on baking sheet and curve ends to form a crescent.

Repeat the process with the other piece of dough. Then cover crescents and let rise in a warm place for 45-60 minutes.  15 minutes prior to completion of rising time, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Bake horns for 18-20 minutes, switching racks and rotating pans halfway through baking time.

Remove and place on cooling rack.  Dust with powdered sugar when warm and dust again prior to serving.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Ice Cream:Chocolate or Chocolate Malt ?

The original recipe is used for this ice cream is actually a recipe for white chocolate malt ice cream.  I decided to use dark chocolate instead. For the malt powder, I chose the vanilla over the chocolate.

It is now day 2 and I still cannot taste any of the malt.  Perhaps I should have used milk chocolate or used chocolate malt powder.  The chocolate flavor has over powered the malt.

While not malty, I do find this to still be a tasty and rich chocolate ice cream. Also, I really liked the fact it set up fast. The ice cream ended up being a very hard, and creamy indulgence.  I have had problems in the past with ice cream being too soft or becoming icy upon freezing. One bite of the dairy goodness made me forget the 90 degree heat that we had yesterday.

Anyhow, due to my issues above, I have posted the original recipe without my changes.  However, I encourage you to experiment based on your tastes.  What chocolate you use and if you use malt at all is up to you.  In addition, you may want to put in other things such as 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, chopped toasted nuts, cookies or candy.  Those additions would need to be stirred in right before the ice cream is transferred from the ice cream maker to another bowl for freezing. This recipe makes 1 1/2 quarts.

White Chocolate Malt Ice Cream
adapted from Live, Love, Eat Cookbook by Wolfgang Puck

10 oz white chocolate (broken into small chunks)
1/2 cup malt powder
2 cups whole milk
8 egg yolks (room temp)
2 cups heavy cream
1 small bag of crushed ice

Pour the milk and cream into a large saucepan and place on medium high heat.  Let mixture come to a boil and then remove.  Set mixture aside.

Put the egg yolks in a large stainless steel bowl.  Whisk the yolks until well blended.  Then slowly add the hot milk mixture while continuing to whisk.  This may take two people or you may need to spoon the hot milk into the egg yolks with a ladle and whisk after every spoonful.

Once all the milk is blended into the yolks, pour back in the saucepan.  Cook over medium heat, stirring once in a while with a wooden spoon.  The ice cream batter is done cooking when it does not drip off the spoon and leaves a coating on the back. This should take about 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat.

At this point, you will need to melt the chocolate.  I did mine in a double boiler, but Wolfgang's instructions are to use a microwave, so I will include his method.

Take chocolate and place in microwaveable bowl.  Cover with a paper towel and cook for 30 seconds in the microwave and stir. This microwave/stir process should be repeated more than once and up to 3 times.  When you stir the mixture, you will be able to determine when it is all melted and smooth. Pour melted chocolate into ice cream batter and whisk until blended.  

Pour 1 cup of ice cream batter from the saucepan into a heatproof bowl.  Add the malted milk powder to the 1 cup of ice cream batter and stir until all is dissolved.  Return the malt mixture back into the saucepan and stir with a wooden spoon.

Then drain the mixture through a sieve into another heatproof bowl.  Once the saucepan is empty, grab a large bowl (big enough for the heatproof bowl to fit inside) and fill it with the ice.  Then place the bowl of ice cream batter inside the ice bowl and let cool.  After the mixture is completely cold, transfer to a ice cream maker and follow manufacturer's instructions.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Brioche Bread

This recipe comes from a cookbook for French breads.  The author was lucky enough to trek all around France and persuaded chefs to part with their bread recipes.  Then he came back to the states and converted the recipes for home bakers.

This recipe comes from Le Havre, a port city that is close to Normandy.  There are several bakeries in that town with windows full of braided loaves filled with raisins or cheese.  The loaves, called brioche, are a favorite among the townspeople.

Since I have not made this bread before, I opted to make it without any filling.  The loaves turned out great, crusty on the edges and a buttery soft interior.  The bread looks to be very dense, but is not heavy at all.  I have had my share of dense bread and it usually starts with whole wheat flour.

This bread does take a lot of time due to numerous sessions of rising. The active part of the recipe is not difficult, so if you are around the house all day (for whatever reason) consider making it. You will be glad you did.  Start 1 day before you want to serve the bread.  The second day is just for another rising time and baking.  This recipe makes 2 loaves.

Brioche Loaves
adapted from The Breads of France cookbook 

1 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees)
5 eggs (room temp)
3/4 lb butter or 3 sticks (room temp and cut into small chunks)
2 packages or 4 1/2 tsp of regular yeast
1/3 cup non fat dry milk
1 tbs sugar
2 tsp of salt
5 cups flour and more for dusting when kneading
1 tbs milk (for top glaze)
1 egg (for top glaze)

 In a large bowl, sift together only 2 cups of the flour and all the salt.  Then whisk in yeast, sugar and dry milk. With a wooden spoon, form a well in the middle of the flour mixture big enough to hold one cup in the center.  Then pour in the warm water. Fold the flour mixture inside the bowl into the pool of water in the center, making a dough.

Add each egg into the batter one by one, stirring to with each addition to distribute throughout the batter. Drop the chunks of butter into the mixture.  The butter should be blended to the point that only small chunks of butter exist in the dough.

The additional amount of flour (3 cups) can now be added in one cup increments.  You can use a spoon or your hands to make sure all the flour is incorporated into the dough.

Turn dough onto floured surface and set the timer for 7 minutes. The dough will be sticky and soft. Knead for a few minutes with your hands, adding flour when needed.  Then take a small break by forcefully dropping the dough on the work surface.  Continue with this process until the timer goes off.

Shape the dough into a ball and place it in a well oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise undisturbed for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.  The rise should be at room temp (70-75 degrees).

After the first rising, the dough should be double in volume.  Take off the plastic wrap and punch down dough. Roll the ball of dough upside down and place back in bowl.  Cover and let rise again for 1 hour. The dough will need to be punched down, rolled and covered once the 2nd rising is complete.

Take the bowl of dough and place in fridge overnight or at least 6 hours.  Once the chilling time is complete, prepare your pans by greasing the inside.  Divide the dough into 16 equal pieces.  Roll 8 pieces into balls and the other 8 pieces into cylinders or logs to fit the width of the pan.  Place the 8 balls in one pan, alternating them from left to right in the 4 1/2 inch width, going down the length of the pan.  In the other pan, lay the logs with each small end touching the left and right of the 4 1/2 inch width going down the length of the pan.

Cover each pan with wax paper and set aside to rise for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. 20 minutes prior to completion of rising time, preheat oven to 380 degrees.

Take a small bowl and beat together the top glaze ingredients.  After the last rise noted above, uncover the loaves and brush the glaze on top. Covering all top areas, including corners. Place each loaf in oven on middle rack and set timer at 18 minutes for loaves to bake.  Once timer goes off, rotate pans and bake for an additional 17 minutes. Bread is done baking when it has a golden color and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.

Remove pans from the oven and run a knife around the edges.  Then release loaves from pan and turn upright  on rack to cool.  Handle carefully, because the places where the dough joins is fragile.  Should you want a more toasty loaf, place back in oven (without pan) for 5 to 8 minutes.

Then enjoy a taste of France in your own kitchen!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Bananas Foster Cupcakes

This cupcake flavor goes all the way back to a restaurant in New Orleans around 1951.  It was all the rage back then, even Eisenhower considered Bananas Foster one of his favorite desserts.

The restaurant, called Brennan's, is still going strong in Louisiana.  Even though you do not hear much about this particular dessert, Brennan 's continues to have the dessert on its menu. Every year they manage to light up over 35,000 pounds of bananas to make Bananas Foster at the request of their customers. That information leads you to the conclusion that it is really worth trying.

This recipe makes about 17-18 cupcakes.  The little bit of rice flour helps lighten up the texture of these cupcakes.  However, since the bananas are not pureed, the cupcakes are dense. Do not let that put you off, because they are still quite tasty. The cake part is very moist with chunks of bananas and the light crunch of the toasted coconut on top adds a nice contrasting texture. 

Bananas Foster Cupcakes
courtesy of Elle's New England Kitchen 

Ingredients/Banana Foster
1/2 cup rum
2 tbs of water
4 tbs unsalted butter
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
4 under ripe bananas, sliced in half lengthwise

1/2 cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup butter (room temp)
2 eggs (room temp)
bananas (separated from sauce) from recipe for Bananas Foster
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 baking soda
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup rice flour (brown or white)
1 1/2 cups regular flour

Ingredients/Buttercream Frosting
Banana Foster sauce (separated from bananas in recipe)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup butter (room temp)
1/2 tsp salt
3 cups confectioners sugar
1 small bag of sweetened coconut (14 oz), toasted

Making the Bananas Foster is the first step in creating your cupcakes. Take out a 10 inch saucepan and place the butter inside.  Put saucepan on low heat to melt the butter.  Then add allspice,nutmeg and brown sugar. Stir with a wooden spoon until sugar is dissolved.  This should take about 4-5 minutes.

Mix in the water and heat up until it starts to simmer.  Put each of the banana slices, cut side down, into the pan.  While the bananas are cooking, spoon sauce over top.  Continue to cook for about 1 minute.  Turn slices over and let that side cook as you spoon more sauce over top.  Bananas are done after 2nd side has cooked for 1 minute.  Remove bananas from saucepan and place in heat proof bowl. Set aside.

Make sure that the sauce is still simmering in the saucepan, once the bananas are removed. You made need to turn up the heat to bring it back to simmer. Than carefully pour in the rum.  The alcohol may ignite at this time or you may need to light with a match after all the rum is poured in.  The rum burns off and flame dies out in about 2 minutes.

During the cooking time, the sauce have become syrupy.  If it is not, then cook for 4 minutes until thickened.  Note that upon cooling it will thicken even more.  Remove saucepan from heat and pour sauce into heat proof bowl and set aside.

While the syrup and bananas are cooling, the batter for the cupcakes can be made.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare muffin tins by greasing the top edge of the holders and placing liners in cups.

In a medium bowl, sift together both flours, salt, baking soda and baking powder. Set aside.  Take out an electric mixer and place butter and both sugars inside large bowl.  Beat ingredients together with electric mixer until smooth and fluffy.  This should take about 3-4 minutes.

Continue to beat mixture and add bananas until evenly blended.  Add 1 egg at a time, beating after each addition.  Then beat in the vanilla extract and then set mixer aside.

With a wooden spoon, fold half of the flour mixture into the batter. Once no dry spots remain in the batter, stir in the buttermilk. Lastly, fold the remaining flour mixture into the batter.

Using a ice cream scoop or spoon, drop batter into cupcake liners, filling about 3/4 full.  Bake in oven until tester comes out clean, about 20-22 minutes. Pan should be rotated halfway through the cooking time. Remove from oven and let cupcakes cool in pan for 5 minutes. Then transfer to a rack to finish cooling.

To create frosting, sift together confectioners sugar and salt. Then add butter and beat with an electric mixer on low speed.  After 2 minutes, increase the speed and beat for an additional 3 minutes.  Mixture should be fluffy and smooth.  Pour in the sauce and the vanilla extract.  Beat for 1 more minute.

To frost the cooled cupcakes, drop a mound of frosting on top of each. Make sure the frosting is evenly divided and completely used up.  With a butter knife, go back and smooth out the mound on the top of the cupcake (it does not have to be perfect looking due to the last step).

Then take each frosted cupcake and dip upside down into the bowl of toasted coconut. Turn right side up and they are ready to serve.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Blueberry Hand Pies

I have been watching America's Next Restaurant where 3 investors are looking for a new fast food idea from contestants. One of the big things they seem to be looking for is something you can eat on the go.

There is one contestant that does not believe that people walk around and eat.  Well, in this busy society a lot of people do not have enough time for a sit down meal, so creating a move able feast has quite a bit of popularity.

I guess if we all believed like that contestant, there would be a number of  things that would not exist. There would be no reason to have sandwiches or burgers.  Also, food trucks would be unheard of. All the foods we would eat would have to be cut from piece of a bigger item.

Maybe it is not so much walking around, but the issue of food safety. Perhaps it's because of the horror stories about the restaurant buffet line, but getting that eighth or ninth piece of something that has sat out for awhile is not something I really want. I am sure you will agree that having something individually prepared is always safer.

These blueberry hand pies are great for lunchboxes and a snack on the go. With a flaky crust and a filling that is not too sweet (filling recipe only has 1/4 cup sugar), they hit the spot without being overly indulgent. If you are not worried about that, these pies can be served with ice cream. This recipe makes for 9 or 10 baked hand pies. Feel free to substitute any frozen berry of your choice.

Wild Blueberry Hand Pies
courtesy of A Southern Grace   
4 tbs buttermilk
1/2 cup or 1 stick of butter (cold and cubed)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbs sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cup flour
1 egg yolk
1 tbs water

1 tsp lemon zest
1 tbs and 1 1/2 tsp cornstarch
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp lemon juice
2 cups frozen blueberries (or raspberries, blackberries)

cinnamon & sugar
 or vanilla bean sugar (you can add ground vanilla to sugar or grind bean into sugar)

Prepare two baking sheets by lining with parchment paper.  Set aside.

To make the pie dough, sift together salt, sugar and flour in a large bowl.  Add the cubed butter and cut into flour mixture with pastry cutter or fork until it becomes sandy and crumbly in texture.

In a small bowl mix together the buttermilk and vanilla extract.  Then pour into dry ingredients and mix with a wooden spoon until a dough is formed.  Roll dough into a ball and place on a big sheet of plastic wrap.  Flatten into a disk and cover with plastic wrap and place in fridge.  Set timer for 30 minutes.

When the timer goes off, set for another 30 minutes.  During this additional 30 minutes of chilling time, you will make the filling.  Take out a non stick pot and add all the filling ingredients.  Put pot over low heat and stir with a wooden spoon, making sure all ingredients are blended.  The berries will release all their the juices in about 4 minutes time.

Increase the heat to medium high and continue to stir.  The juice will thicken as you stir.  Once you can clear a gap in the bottom of the pot with your spoon without having the blueberry mixture running together to cover the gap, it is pie filling consistency.  Mine took about 7 minutes. Remove pot and pour filling into a heat proof bowl. Set aside.

After dough has chilled, take out half and roll onto a floured surface.  Roll it out big enough so you can cut out 5 circles that are 4-5 inches in diameter.  Cut the circles and save the scraps for patches, in case the blueberry filling runs out while you are forming the pies.

Place each circle on prepared baking sheet about 2 inches apart.  Then put about 1 heaping tablespoon of filling in the middle of each circle.

In a small bowl, mix together the egg yolk and water to make egg wash.  Brush the egg wash on 1/2 of the rim of each pie dough piece.  Then fold over and seal edges.  You can do this by using a fork or sealing with fingertips.  I used my fingertips and stood the dough up like a taco to seal.  Then I laid the hand pie back on its side. This process helped keep the filling from oozing out.  Should some ooze out, do not forget about using the dough scraps to patch these areas.

Once the 5 pies are formed, place in fridge and set timer for 30 minutes.  Also, cover and place the bowl with the remaining egg wash in the fridge. Then preheat oven to 375 degrees.  As those pies are chilling, you can take the other half of the dough and form the rest of the pies as stated above.

When the timer goes off, take out the sheet with the first set of formed pies.  Cut 2 small slits in each..  Brush top and sides of pie with egg wash.  Then sprinkle on the topping.

Bake in oven for 16-18 minutes. Filling is bubbling and pie edges are toasted when done.  Let cool on pan for 5 minutes and transfer to rack to finish cooling.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Pretzel Dogs

This has to be the ultimate in bar food.  If you love big salty pretzels, then these will really hit the spot.

You don't see these served in Texas much, but they are really popular along the east coast.  They are considered so good and popular, it has the staying power to remain on the menu at pubs and restaurants-no matter how many times the ownership changes.

Also, these dogs are great for kids parties or at casual parties such as sports watching or poker.  After baking, they can be kept warm in the oven until your guests are ready to eat.  Just make sure that you use a spatula to remove them from the pan after baking and transfer to another pan to keep warm. This recipe makes 12 dogs. 

Pretzel Dogs
courtesy of Food Mayhem

1 tsp kosher coarse salt (plus extra for sprinkling)
1/2 tsp table salt
4 tbs melted butter
1 tbs vegetable oil
1 1/4 cup warm water
1/2 cup plus 1 tsp sugar
4 tsp active dry yeast
1 1/4 cup warm water
4 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup baking soda
4 cups hot water (for dipping)
12 hot dogs or sausages (any type as long as already fully cooked)

Mix together 1 tsp sugar, 1 1/4 cup warm water and yeast in a small bowl.  Set aside for 10 minutes, it will turn into a creamy consistency.

In a large stand mixer bowl, sift together 3 1/2 cups flour, both salts and 1/2 cup sugar.  Add yeast and vegetable oil, stirring with a wooden spoon until moistened.

Then put the dough hook in your mixer and turn on low to knead the dough. Set timer for 5 minutes.  Add the last cup of flour and turn on machine to knead.  If after a few minutes of kneading the dough seems too dry, add one or two tablespoons of water.

Once the dough has been kneaded for 5 minutes, remove and round it into a ball.  Put it in a well oiled bowl, cover and place bowl in a warm place for dough to rise.  Set timer for 1 hour for the rising cycle. Dough should double in size during this time.

Prepare baking sheets by coating heavily with oil or non stick spray and preheat oven to 450 degrees. 

After the rising cycle is complete, mix together the hot water and baking soda in a bowl. This will be the bath that the pretzel dogs are dipped in prior to baking.  Set bowl aside. Then take out the oiled bowl and remove the dough. Divide it into 12 equal pieces. Take each piece and roll into a long thin rope that is about 2 or 2 1/2 times the length of the hot dog.

Now the dough will need to be twisted around the hot dog.  Take the bottom part of the dog and spiral the dough around the dog, overlapping the dough around the first rope end and tucking the last end under the dough..  I rolled the dog over the dough on the counter top, but you can use two hands to hold the dog and twist the dough around.  Whichever method is easiest.

After each dog has the dough twist, dip entirely into the baking soda bath.  Then place on baking sheet. Continue with the process, stirring the bath occasionally, until all dogs are on the baking sheet. Bake in oven for about 8-12 minutes.  Dogs are done when dough has browned on all sides and there is a small gap between bread and dog. Remove, brush with melted butter and sprinkle with coarse salt.