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Monthly Archives: December 2012

The Baking Frenzy

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Well the Christmas holiday is right around the corner, and I suppose you could say I’ve gone a bit mad with the baking. Christmas Eve will be celebrated at Boyfriend’s family home (his cousin’s) to be  exact. I usually bring dessert or some sort of after dinner treat, simply because it’s what I do. Growing up I was taught that the Hostess had to have something for herself, a bottle of wine, some nice cheese, a spa set, etc, and she shouldn’t ever have to worry about dessert.

Well, I have taken care of dessert, and then some!

First, I started off with  some chocolate crackle cookies with frosting and holiday sprinkles and some Ruby Thumbprint cookies, not to mention a new snickerdoodle recipe.

It’s a little difficult to imagine how many people these cookies alone will serve, however I have vanilla cake and chocolate guinness gingerbread ahead! I’m almost positive that I’ve started to crack. But in the most delicious way.

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Chocolate Christmas Cookies with Glaze

1 1/8 cups soft butter (2 1/4 sticks, 18 tbsp)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
Topping:
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup boiling water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
candy sprinkles or sanding sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F Line a cookie sheet with parchment or Silpat.

Cream butter and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Sift 1/3 c cocoa powder into the mixture and beat well. Sift together flour, baking soda and baking powder, and add to mixture. (Optionally, combine everything in a food processor and mix until combined.).

Form 1 tbsp sized balls. Place on cookie sheet at least 2″ apart, pressing down into fat discs. (The dough will be very sticky; gloves may be a good idea.).

Bake 15 minutes. The tops will develop a cracked appearance. Cool 15 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack until completely cooled. (Placing a sheet of newspaper under the rack will help catch drips in the next step.).

For the topping, combine 2 tbsp cocoa powder with confectioner’s sugar, boiling water and vanilla in a small saucepan. Heat over low heat and whisk until smooth. Cool 10 minutes.

Drizzle 1 tbsp of glaze on each cookie, spreading lightly with the back of the spoon, then sprinkle with sprinkles or sanding sugar. Work with 6 cookies at a time so the glaze doesn’t dry out before applying the sprinkles.

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Saveur Snickerdoodles

3 cups flour
2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. baking soda
1⁄4 tsp. kosher salt
1 3⁄4 cups sugar
16 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
5 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 1⁄2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 eggs

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt; set aside. Using a handheld mixer on medium speed, beat 1 1⁄2 cups sugar and the butter together in a medium bowl until pale and fluffy, 2 minutes.

Add 2 tsp. cinnamon and the vanilla; beat for 1 minute more. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add reserved dry ingredients; mix on low speed until just combined.

Refrigerate dough for 30 minutes.

Heat oven to 375°.

Combine remaining sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Remove dough from refrigerator and, using a 1-tbsp. measure, spoon out 48 portions, rolling each portion into a 1″ ball as you go. Roll each ball in cinnamon–sugar mixture to coat.

Arrange dough balls 2″ apart on 2 parchment paper–lined baking sheets. Bake until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a rack and let cool.

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Guinness Gingerbread

1 1/4 sticks 10 (tablespoons) butter, plus some for greasing
1 cup golden syrup (such as Lyle’s)
1 cup (packed) plus 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 cup stout (such as Guinness)
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/4 cups sour cream
2 eggs

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F.

Line your cake pan with aluminium foil and grease it, or grease your foil tray.

 Put the butter, syrup, dark brown sugar, stout, ginger, cinnamon and ground cloves into a pan and melt gently over a low heat.

Take off the heat and whisk in the flour and baking soda. You will need to be patient and whisk thoroughly to get rid of any lumps.

Whisk the sour cream and eggs together in a measuring jug and then beat into the gingerbread mixture, whisking again to get a smooth batter.

Pour this into your cake/foil pan, and bake for about 45 minutes; when it’s ready it will be “gleamingly” risen at the center, and coming away from the pan at the sides.

Let the gingerbread cool before cutting into slices or squares.

(I garnished my gingerbread after slicing, with some powdered sugar and pine trees with deer)

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Strawberry Thumbprint Cookies with Glitter (Adapted from Curry and Comfort)

1 box yellow cake mix
2 eggs
1/3 cup canola oil
almond meal as needed (about 2-3oz)
Strawberry jelly as needed ( or any jam/ jelly you prefer… strawberry, raspberry, grape, etc…)
Edible glitter (if you have any)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix everything except the glitter and almond meal,  in a large bowl, making sure it’s all well incorporated. Roll dough into 1 inch balls and roll again in the almond meal. I used a bowl to roll the dough in to make it easier to get the sides coated. The dough is very sticky, so this step isn’t necessary but a nice touch.

Using your thumb or index finger, indent a hole in the middle of the cookie, making sure not to go too low. Fill with your choice of jam/jelly.

Bake for 13-15 minutes. Let cool completely (about 15 minutes) before topping with glitter.
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The Chewiest Cookies and Some Good Readings

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 Considering that I have this week (and the next two weeks) off, I decided to start it right, by making some lovely chocolate chip cookies on Friday. Although I’ve made plenty of chocolate chip cookies, I could never get the Chips-Ahoy chewiness. As you can imagine, it’s been a very frustrating adventure with cookies.

Until this recipe came along. I’m almost 100% positive that the reason that it’s so chewy and lovely is due to the corn starch. THE SECRET INGREDIENT!

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Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

3/4 cup brown sugar, packed (I use light)

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup bread flour (all-purpose flour may be substituted and used exclusively in place of bread flour)

2 teaspoons cornstarch

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt, optional and to taste

12 ounces  semi-sweet chocolate chips

To the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on low speed until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the sugars and beat on medium-high speed until creamed and well combined, about 3 minutes.

Stop, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and add the egg, vanilla, and beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Stop, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and add the flours (solely using all-purpose flour will work, but the cookies will not be as chewy), corn starch, baking soda, salt, and mix until just combined, about 1 minute.

Add the chocolate chips and chunks, and either fold in by hand or beat for a few seconds on low speed. Transfer dough to an airtight container and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, up to 5 days (although chilling the dough is theoretically not necessary; in reality cookies spread less with chilled dough).

Preheat oven to 350F, line a baking sheet with a non-stick baking mat, parchment, or spray with cooking spray. Using a 2-ounce cookie scoop, form heaping mounds weighing 2 1/4-ounces each (weighed on a scale, which is approximately a scant 1/4-cup measure) and place them on the baking sheet, spaced at least 2 inches apart; I bake 8 cookies per sheet.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until barely golden brown around the edges, even if slightly undercooked in the center, noting the tops will not be browned and will be pale. Do not cook longer than ten minutes as cookies will darken and firm up as they cool (The cookies shown in the photos were baked for 9 minutes and have chewy edges with soft pillowy centers).

Allow cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing and transferring to a rack to finish cooling.

Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Alternatively, unbaked cookie dough can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, so consider baking only as many cookies as desired and save the remaining dough to be baked in the future when desired.

Now that you’ve got some cookies to eat, you need some books to read while enjoying them.

The Night Circus  is one of those books  that everyone is telling you about. Telling you to read it, to make sure you tell them you’re reading it, when you finish it, and to have coffee to discuss it. Seriously, this how I was introduced to the book, from four different people.

In any case, I can say that they were not wrong. This novel is wonderful! The only word that I can think to say about it is CHARMING. Although, if I try to explain specifics about why I love it, it might give too much away; and yes, any detail can be a ruinous moment with this lovely treasure.

It’s more than a description of a game, or a love story. It’s sort of Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes  with Water For Elephants mixed in, along with some fantastical bedazzlement.

Enough said.

I’ve read this book twice. First, when I got to page 76, and I had to get ready for… life, and I didn’t it pick it up till recently. The second time I read it, I devoted at least two hours a day to it, either at work or before bed, until I was sure I was so hooked I’d carry it with me everywhere.

I can only say that while I love all of Neil Gaiman’s stories, this one was sort of close to the heart. Although it was about an ex-convict (and his unfortunately short-lived marriage) and gods, both old and new, the stories of the gods, how they interact, what their motivations are for moving from location to location, and the general nature of stories, myths, figures, creatures, and gods of every region was very– human.

This story was one that I enjoyed the most, simply because the action kept coming and the protagonist refused to give up (as is the usual case), and in the end he received minimal answers for his efforts, a lot of grief and pain, and a little bit of peace of mind.

Peace of mind was something that I desperately needed when reading this gem.

I recommend it tenfold.

How to Make a Couple Brown Bananas Happy

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I was lucky enough to have the day off today. I make a very long list of things that I had to get done. A few of the items included cleaning the kitchen, finally shipping my portable piano to it’s lucky eBay owner, and doing my nails. While I was cleaning the kitchen however, I noticed two very sad, and very brown bananas staring at me from the fruit bowl.

The only logical thing would be to put them out of their misery and make…. BANANA BREAD.

I don’t really have a go to recipe, aside from my Chocolate Banana Bread, and that didn’t seem like the right thing this time of year, so I decided to go on random food blog searchers until something cause my eye. And in about five minutes I found this. I didn’t like the macadamia nut and the chocolate in the recipe, so I subbed in some chopped pecans and butterscotch chips!

Yum yum.

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You can follow the link to the JPEG recipe, and follow it directly, or sub in 1/2 cup butterscotch chips for the chocolate and about 3/4 cups of chopped pecans for the macadamia nuts.

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Mushroom Soup and a Long Week Behind Me

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This past week has been a little too crazy for my liking. I had to prepare my entire apartment for the bug people coming (I do not have bugs, however the new owners of the building insisted on putting everyone out, having them loose a day of work, and making everyone very angry on a weekday), and then put it all back together. On. A. Weekday.

Apparently, last time this happened it occurred Saturday morning and they had three guys for the whole building, not one. I survived the ordeal, and overall it was a little bit worth it. I was able to toss out a bunch of kitchen items that I didn’t need, and I was able to re organize my spices.

Not to mention, during the cleaning process I found a few sets of China I completely forgot I owned!

Prior to this nonsense, on Tuesday I had made the greatest mushroom soup. It’s my first, and only mushroom soup really, but the statement still stands.  I got the idea from this recipe, but when first reading over it it seemed a little too complex, what with the coring and peeling of an apple and the use of an immersion blender (I knew what was in store for me later that week so I was in no mood to do extra work, not even for food).

My version, if I do say so myself, it quite better!

Aside from the soup I was able to accomplish a bit of decorating for the holidays. Sadly, I couldn’t get a good image of my nutcracker, however, the rest of the rooms are coming along nicely. I’m not sure if’ll I be hosting any parties because of my busy and tiring schedule in December, but in any case there’s no harm in decorating just for oneself.

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Those pine cones there are the same ones I picked about a week ago with Boyfriend out in… NATURE! I baked them for about 23 minutes in 200 degree oven. The sap got a lovely sheen and gave the pine cones an almost lacquered effect.

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Lastly, my crochet project (Boyfriend’s mom’s Christmas present) is moving along nicely. I’m at a steady pace today, and I’m hoping (with determination), to get through half of it.

 

Now, without delay, the recipe for amazing soup. ENJOY

Mushroom and Garlic Soup

  • 1 large onion, chopped finely
  • 2 heads of garlic mashed, chopped, or otherwise pulverized (to your liking)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 lb mushrooms (I used baby bellas, but button work, too), thinly sliced
  • 1 can of chicken stock (roughly 2 cups)
  • 1 can of coconut milk, shaken in can before opening (to get it all mixed well)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 sprig of rosemary, fresh if possible
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tsp of nutmeg
  • 1 tsp of ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp bourbon sea salt (I found this at Williams Sonoma- if you don’t have it, course sea salt is good as well)
  • 3 fresh sprigs of dill

In a large pot, heat the oil and butter. Add the onions and garlic. Salt a bit so the juices are released. Cover and let cook about 7 minutes, stirring occasionally on low heat; careful not to burn the onions or garlic.

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Add the mushrooms and saute for 3 minutes. Add more salt (not the flavored salt), pepper, spices, rosemary stock, chicken stock, and coconut milk. Stir, and raise the temperature to medium-high. Cover and cook for 10 minutes.

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Make sure it’s not bubbling too much, and after 10 minutes uncover, and let cook on medium heat (bubbling away) for 20 minutes. Add the bourbon salt and half the dill (I didn’t chop it up, just ripped it up with my hands).  Take out the sprig of rosemary, and slowly stir for about 3 more minutes to thicken the soup a bit.

Add more dill when serving soup.

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