Sunday, November 19, 2017

Favorite Cookie Round Up

With the holidays coming up, most bloggers are getting ready by digging up their favorite recipes from the past or searching for something new and delicious for cookie swaps or to surprise guests. This year, I decided to bring out some tasty gems from the past.

One the recipe I chose is a traditional favorite from the Hershey website that has not been posted previously. The others are in the blog history. As you know, all recipe books have indexes on types of cookies. I feel that this compilation covers most of the types listed. If I was limited to only making one of these recipes, it would be quite difficult since they all are wonderful in flavor as well as texture.

If you only have the time for one recipe, remember that there is no "wrong" choice here. Time to click on one of these links and get started in the kitchen!

Chocolate Covered Alfajores - Two tasty vanilla cookies sealed together with Dulce de Leche and dipped in chocolate. Caramel and chocolate with the crunch of a cookie- a nice package of what good is.

Spicy Date Filled Cookies - a decorative, crunchy round cookie filled with dates, nuts and spices. There is enough exotic flavor in one of these to transport you to another country.

Minnies Chocolate Chip Supreme Cookies - A monster cookie that has all the components to make these the ultimate treat for kids- toffee, milk chocolate, dark chocolate and nuts.

Peanut Butter Blossoms - this traditional combo of peanut butter and milk chocolate is so tasty that the recipe has remained as a keeper in a countless number of recipe boxes.

Maple Pecan Pinwheel Cookies - A nice example of format change. These gems have all the flavor of pecan pie in the form of a cookie- one layer of flaky crust and one layer of maple/brown sugar and pecans all rolled up in a round swirl.

Hmmm..after typing all of this I am hungry for some cookies!

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Eggnog Spice Cookies

There are days when patience wins out overall. I have been looking for eggnog for the last few weeks and it finally showed up at the grocers. Prior to this I even asked one of the clerks when it would be coming in and she answered that no one even tells her what creamers will arrive. 

However, today have my eggnog (not a creamer) and the grocery clerk is probably still stocking the store. The sweet holiday flavor of that beverage was just the thing I wanted to capture in the form of a cookie. The main issue was that it was a liquid and the flavor components of most cookies originate from powder or very little liquid.

The best way to enhance the flavor of any type of liquid is to boil it down. As it boils, the water evaporates off, leaving a stronger flavor behind. This was also the fix to having too much liquid in the cookie dough.

The final result to experimenting is a cookie that is soft and chewy, sort of like the texture of bar cookies. Since I like bar cookies, the fact that they did not have a crispy texture was not important. The dough retained the delicious and unmistakable flavor of eggnog after baking, which was exactly what I wanted. Now we are into the Christmas flavor category! To enhance this even more, I topped the cookies with a glaze that has a touch of gingerbread flavored whiskey and added some sprinkles of little gingerbread men. This recipe makes about 2 dz cookies.

Now it is time to start the festivities, so on to the recipe....

Eggnog Spice Cookies                                                                   
by flourtrader

1/2 cup of eggnog
1 egg (separated)
1 1/2 tsp melted butter
2 tbs sour cream
1 3/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt (optional)
3/4 cup sugar

3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp whiskey (preferably gingerbread spiced)
1 tbs plus 1 tsp water
holiday sprinkles (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Also, dust a flat work surface with flour.

Fill a saucepan with eggnog. Place over medium heat and let simmer, stirring constantly. Let cook down until reduced to 1/3 cup. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg and salt (if using). Set aside. Using a medium size bowl, whisk egg yolk. Add sour cream, sugar, cooled eggnog and melted butter and stir until blended together. Fold in half of the sifted ingredients until no dry streaks remain. Then add the remaining dry ingredients and blend into a smooth dough. The dough should be somewhat stiff and sticky.

Using a scoop or tablespoon, drop about 6 mounds of dough onto the floured surface. Form the mounds of dough into 5 inch logs. Cover one end of each log with a little of the egg white and shape the log into a circle and seal the ends together. Place on a baking sheet about 1 inch apart. Repeat the process again with 6 mounds, forming into circles.

Once the baking sheet is full of the shaped cookies, bake in oven for 9-12 minutes or until golden brown on the bottom. Let cool on sheet for 2-3 minutes and then transfer to rack to completely cool.

For the glaze, start by placing a sheet of parchment or wax paper on a flat surface.  Using a 2 inch deep bowl (like a pasta bowl) stir together water, powdered sugar and whiskey. Dip the top of each cookie into the icing and let the excess drip off and place on paper. Top with holiday sprinkles and let set until topping is dry.

Tips and Notes:
1. You can eliminate the whiskey topping by replacing with water and adding nutmeg and cinnamon. How much spice is according to your personal preference.

2. The dough circles are very light and delicate, so they had to be reshaped a little when transferred to the baking sheet. To remedy this, you can form the cookies right on the parchment lined baking sheet, just take care not to "over flour" the surface of the parchment.

3. If you prefer not to ice these cookies, you can use a sugary spice mix (cinnamon/nutmeg/sugar blend) on top prior to baking. Mix in 1 tablespoon  of water to the egg white and brush on top of each cookie. Sprinkle the spice mix on top of each cookie then bake as stated previously.

4. The flavor of these cookies does develop with time and are best eaten a day or two after baking.

5. The cookies (with the exception of the bottom) do not brown when baking. The surface appearance does not determine if they are done baking, it still remains white/ivory when done.

6. Due to the delicate nature of the cookies, do not attempt to place on cooling rack after dipping in icing. Once the icing has set up and dried, they may be too difficult to remove without breaking.
                             **LAST YEAR: Caramel Apple Blondie Cheesecake**

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Baklava Cake

I am not sure about other food bloggers, but there are times when I struggle with shortcut ingredients when creating and baking in the kitchen. The use of cake mixes and pudding mixes are a few examples of those type of ingredients. Additives in some ingredients can really change the end result and some (if implemented properly) can have no effect.

There are some ingredients on my list that will never have a substitute. One of them is heavy whipping cream. Even if I am using it as a topping to a dessert, nothing but the real deal will do.

This particular recipe has a shortcut which has impacted the texture in a positive way. It has all the flavor of traditional baklava, but is void of phyllo (filo) dough, which requires buttering each thin layer and stacking one on top of each other. Instead of phyllo dough, another dough component is created that bakes up into a moist cake. The new dough component comes together fairly quickly and is a lot easier to work with.

This wonderful cake has pulled together all the flavors that you would expect in a Middle Eastern dessert. The filling is a spicy combo of cinnamon, cardamon and walnuts while the cake layers support the exotic syrup made up of honey and rose water. The final element is a dusting of pistachios on top.

So if you are looking to try a traditional dessert from another country, this recipe for baklava cake is the perfect choice. You will not have to spend all day in the kitchen and your dinner guests will be impressed by its delicious flavor.

Baklava Cake
adapted from Persian Mama blog 

1 tsp baking soda
1 cup plain yogurt
8 oz or 2 sticks melted butter
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup sugar
4 1/2 to 5 cups flour

Ingredients/Walnut Filling
2 eggs (yolks separated from whites)
3/4 cup powdered sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp cardamon
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts
1 tsp cold water

1 tbs plus 1 tsp rose water
1 1/2 cups water
1 tbs and 1 1/2 tsp honey
1 1/2 cups of sugar
1/4 cup ground pistachios

Prepare a 9x13 cake pan by buttering the interior and dusting with flour. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Fill a large bowl with all the first 6 ingredients listed above for the dough. Mix with a wooden spoon until combined into a smooth batter. Set aside.

To make the dry filling, whisk together the powdered sugar, cinnamon and cardamon. Then stir in the walnuts.

Take the bowl of the batter and fold in 1/2 cup of the flour. Continue with this process, adding the flour in increments, until a dough mass is formed. You may not need to add all 5 cups of the flour. The dough is the correct consistency when it no longer sticks to the inside of the bowl. Divide the dough equally in half.

Place a sheet of wax or parchment paper on a flat surface. Put 1/2 of the dough on top of the paper and cover with another sheet. Roll the dough out to form a rectangle that will fit in the bottom of the pan. Once rolled out, remove the top sheet of paper and roll the dough around the rolling pin or flip it into the pan. Press the dough down into the pan and make sure the dough is even from corner to corner.

Whisk the egg whites until they are foamy on the surface. Using a pastry brush, brush a light coat of the egg whites onto the surface of the dough. At this point, there will be some leftover egg whites, set aside. Take the dry filling mix and sprinkle evenly over the top of the dough. The little bit of remaining egg whites can be poured on top.

Roll out the second layer of the dough in the same manner as the first. Then carefully lay it evenly over the top of the filling and press down lightly. Make sure that all the filling is completely covered. Fill a small bowl with the egg yolks and water. Blend together to form an egg wash.

Using a sharp knife, carefully cut into the dough layers to form about 20 rectangular single servings. Brush the egg wash on top of each single serving, avoiding the cut edges. Place in oven and let bake until done. The cake is done when when each serving has a toasty, golden hue. The baking time is about 35-40 minutes.

While the cake is baking, the syrup topping can be made. Whisk together the water, sugar and honey in a small saucepan. Place over medium heat and let come to a boil. Let the mixture boil for about 3 minutes and remove from heat. Whisk in the rose water and set aside to cool until the cake is finished baking.

Remove the cake from the oven and place on a baking sheet. Cut the servings again with a knife, following the same lines as cut before. Pour the syrup over the top of the hot cake and let it soak in until completely absorbed by the cake. Sprinkle the ground pistachios over the top of the sticky cake. Place the pan over a rack to cool completely. Once it reaches room temperature, it is ready to serve.

Tips and Notes:
1. It is the rosewater that adds a unique flavor to the cake, so a substitute would change the flavor. Rosewater can be found on line or at a specialty store. If you are unable to find this ingredient, you can replace it with about 2 tsp of vanilla extract.

2. Be careful when brushing on the egg wash. It can pool together in puddles which will bake up into a yellow tinge on the surface of the cake. You do not have to use all the egg wash-just enough to cover each serving and leave a 1/4 inch border around the cut edge.

3. The drizzling of the remaining egg whites on the filling does not have to be perfect. There will not be enough left after you have brushed it on the surface of the first layer of dough to worry about drizzling it evenly.

4. This dessert can be stored in the freezer for serving at a later time. Separate it into individual servings and place in an air tight freezer container with a layer of parchment over the surface.
                                     **LAST YEAR: Chocolate Swirled Pumpkin Bars**