Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Caramel, Cashew and Chocolate coated Pretzels

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I hope that everyone had a great Christmas.  My husband made it back from his trip on Christmas Eve despite the crazy weather so I was very glad that we were all able to spend Christmas together.  I can't believe that it is all over and that we are starting a new year.  Where does the time go?  Remember when you were a kid and it seemed like time went so slow.  It always took so long to get to your birthday and to Christmas.  Now you turn around and another year has passed.

Enough of that, I should get on to the food.  I have been baking up a storm this season but unfortunately I didn't take pictures of most of it.  I know, what was I thinking?  A friend of mine paid me to make her holiday treats so I made 150 mint chocolate brownies covered with a mint chocolate ganache.  Absolutely delicious, but I only took one measly picture.  They were delicious though and it was really nice to have someone pay me to bake.  

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While I was making the brownies, I got a call from my mother-in-law who asked me to make her 160 cookies for some treat bags that she was putting together.  My mother-in-law is an amazing cook and baker so it was an honor for her to ask me to bake for her.  She had run out of time and needed them the next day so I had to put together those quickly.  Yet again, one measly picture.

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After all that baking, I still needed to put together my treats.  I decided to make these delicious pretzels that I dipped in chewy caramel, rolled in chopped cashews and then drizzled them with dark and white chocolate.  Can I say if these were a drug, I would be an addict.  I love the combination of salty and sweet and this one worked perfectly.  The sweet, creamy, chewy caramel and the salty nuts and pretzel were amazing.  Can you believe that after making these that I took not one picture?!    I think that I was just tired or something.  But, luckily, I needed to make some more today because I didn't get around to everyone before Christmas.  It's never to late for treats though, right?!

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Caramel Cashew and Chocolate Covered Pretzels

40 pretzel rods

One batch caramel (recipe follows)

1 ½ pounds chopped cashews

10 oz dark chocolate

10 oz white chocolate

1. Dip the pretzel rods into the slightly cooled caramel and then roll into the cashews. Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and allow to set up. After a few minutes, turn the pretzels over and reshape the caramel that has pooled on the bottom. Allow to cool completely.

2. Melt the dark chocolate over a double broiler, stirring frequently. Remove from heat when it is almost all melted. Stir until completely melted. Pour into a Ziploc freezer bag and clip a small hole in the corner. Drizzle the pretzels with the dark chocolate. Repeat with the white chocolate. Allow the chocolate to set up.


1-pound box dark brown sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup dark corn syrup
1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
Whipping cream (if necessary)

Combine all ingredients except for the whipping cream in heavy 2 1/2-quart saucepan (about 3 inches deep). Stir with wooden spatula or spoon over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves (no crystals are felt when caramel is rubbed between fingers), occasionally brushing down sides of pan with wet pastry brush, about 15 minutes.
Attach clip-on candy thermometer to side of pan. Increase heat to medium-high; cook caramel at rolling boil until thermometer registers 236°F, stirring constantly but slowly with clean wooden spatula and occasionally brushing down sides of pan with wet pastry brush, about 12 minutes. Pour caramel into glass bowl (do not scrape pan).

If caramel becomes too thick to dip into, add 1 to 2 tablespoons whipping cream and briefly whisk caramel in bowl over low heat to thin.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Chocolate sugar cookies

Well, I have kind of given up on the 12 days of cookie thing but I still plan on sharing more treats before the holidays.  I guess it wasn't the best idea to start that while I was working every night until midnight.  Things around here have been a little crazy.  I am so not ready for Christmas.  I haven't even been shopping!  I have just been so tired from working and trying to get the things around the house done.  I don't know how single parents do it?!  Anyway, now onto the cookies. 

Today, my kids and I went out to lunch with my Grandma.  After lunch was over, they were begging me for one of the cookies that was sitting in the display case.  Of course I said no but I prefaced that "No" with the promise of going home and making cookies.  When I asked them what kind they wanted to make, they all agreed on sugar cookies.  I thought that it would be fun to try to make chocolate sugar cookies.  To please everyone, I made one batch of chocolate and one batch of regular sugar cookie dough.

When it came to frosting these little cookies, I realized that I was all out cream cheese which is my staple for frosting.  So to top these off, we decided to make an almond glaze which went really well with the chocolate cookies and only took a minute to make.

Chocolate Sugar Cookies

6 Tbs butter, softened

1 cup sugar

1 egg

1 tsp. vanilla

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 tsp. fresh lemon juice

2 1/2 cups flour

1/2 cup cocoa powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1.  In a cup combine the heavy cream and the lemon juice and set aside to curdle the milk.  In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy.  While it's mixing, combine the dry ingredients into a large bowl stir to combine all the dry ingredients.

2.  Add the egg to the butter and sugar mixture and mix until well combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.Add teh vanilla and mix to combine.

3.  Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the butter  mixture and mix just to combine.  Add half of the cream mixture and mix to combine then follow that with half of the remaining flour.  Repeat with the remaining cream and then flour.  Mix only until just combined.

4.  Separate the dough into two discs and wrap in plastic wrap.  refrigerate for at least one hour. 

5.  Preheat the oven to 350°.  On a well floured surface, roll out the dough to desired thickness and cut with cookies cutters.  Bake for 7-9 minutes cookies are set in the middle.  Remove to a cooling rack.  Once cooled, frost as desired.

Almond Glaze

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1/2 tsp. almond extract

2-4 Tbs. heavy cream or milk

1.  Mix all of the ingredients adding more milk until the glaze has reached desired consistency.  Dip the top of each cookie into the glaze and place on cooling wrack to allow the glaze to set.

Friday, December 12, 2008

12 Days of Cookies: Caramels

Ok, so caramels aren't really cookies, but they are definitely something that I needed to include since I make them for my holiday treat plates.  This recipe was actually an extension of last months Daring Bakers Challenge.  We had the option of making these caramels along with the caramel cake.  I ran out of time last month but still wanted to give them a try.  I have used several different recipes for caramel and I wanted to see how this one measured up.  They were chewy and creamy with a hint of vanilla.  Absolutely delicious!


from Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich, Artisan Press, Copyright 2007, ISBN: 978-1579652111


1 cup golden syrup ( I used 1/2 cup light corn syrup and 1/2 cup dark corn syrup)
2 cups sugar
3/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 teaspoons pure ground vanilla beans, purchased or ground in a coffee or spice grinders, or 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks, softened

A 9-inch square baking pan
Candy thermometer

Line the bottom and sides of the baking pan with aluminum foil and grease the foil. Combine the golden syrup, sugar, and salt in a heavy 3-quart saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon, until the mixture begins to simmer around the edges. Wash the sugar and syrup from the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in water. Cover and cook for about 3 minutes. (Meanwhile, rinse the spatula or spoon before using it again later.)

Uncover the pan and wash down the sides once more. Attach the candy thermometer to the pan, without letting it touch the bottom of the pan, and cook, uncovered (without stirring) until the mixture reaches 305°F. Meanwhile, combine the cream and ground vanilla beans (not the extract) in a small saucepan and heat until tiny bubbles form around the edges of the pan. Turn off the heat and cover the pan to keep the cream hot.

When the sugar mixture reaches 305°F, turn off the heat and stir in the butter chunks. Gradually stir in the hot cream; it will bubble up and steam dramatically, so be careful. Turn the burner back on and adjust it so that the mixture boils energetically but not violently. Stir until any thickened syrup at the bottom of the pan is dissolved and the mixture is smooth. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, to about 245°F. Then cook, stirring constantly, to 260°f for soft, chewy caramels or 265°F; for firmer chewy caramels.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract, if using it. Pour the caramel into the lined pan. Let set for 4 to 5 hours, or overnight until firm.
Lift the pan liner from the pan and invert the sheet of caramel onto a sheet of parchment paper. Peel off the liner. Cut the caramels with an oiled knife. Wrap each caramel individually in wax paper or cellophane.

Fleur de Sel Caramels
: Extra salt, in the form of fleur de sel or another coarse flaked salt, brings out the flavor of the caramel and offers a little ying to the yang. Add an extra scant 1/4 teaspoon of coarse sea salt to the recipe. Or, to keep the salt crunchy, let the caramel cool and firm. Then sprinkle with two pinches of flaky salt and press it in. Invert, remove the pan liner, sprinkle with more salt. Then cut and wrap the caramels in wax paper or cellophane.

Nutmeg and Vanilla Bean Caramels: Add 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg to the cream before you heat it.
Cardamom Caramels: Omit the vanilla. Add 1/2 teaspoon slightly crushed cardamom seeds (from about 15 cardamom pods) to the cream before heating it. Strain the cream when you add it to the caramel; discard the seeds.

Caramel Sauce: Stop cooking any caramel recipe or variation when it reaches 225°F or, for a sauce that thickens like hot fudge over ice cream, 228°F. Pour it into a sauceboat to serve or into a heatproof jar for storage. The sauce can be stored in the refrigerator for ages and reheated gently in the microwave or a saucepan just until hot and flowing before use. You can stir in rum or brandy to taste. If the sauce is too thick or stiff to serve over ice cream, it can always be thinned with a little water or cream. Or, if you like a sauce that thickens more over ice cream, simmer it for a few minutes longer.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

12 Days of Cookies: Sables

There are very few things that are more mouthwatering than crumbly butter cookies.  They just about melt in your mouth and have a smooth and sweetly buttery taste.  The sugar crystals on the edges give them a slight crunch.  These are great dipped in chocolate too or flavored with nuts or lemon zest.  You can also substitute some of the flour for cocoa powder to make chocolate sables.  These really are a very versatile cookie which are perfect for any holiday cookie plate.


1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened

1/4 cup powdered sugar,sifted

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

2 large egg yolks, room temperature

2 cups flour

for brushing

egg yolk, beaten

course sugar

1.  In bowl of a mixer fitted the paddle attachment, beat the butter until creamy.  Add the sugars a and salt and beat just until incorporated.  With the mixer on low, add the yolks one at a time and mix to incorporate.  Dump the flour in a mix just until the flour disappears.  Give the dough one last mix by hand.

2.  Divide the dough in half and place on wax paper forming into logs.  Refrigerate for several hours.  The dough can also be frozen for a few months.

3.  Preheat the oven to 350°.  Brush one of the logs with a little of the beaten egg yolk and roll into the sugar to coat.  Carefully cut the dough using a sawing motion.  Place onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 15-20 minutes.

Monday, December 8, 2008

12 days of Cookies: Cartwheels

In hopes of being better prepared for Christmas this year, I have decided to start my holiday baking.  I thought it would be fun to share some of my favorite cookies/treats that I like to make for the holidays.  My hope is to share a new cookie or treat everyday for the next 12 days, which will take us pretty close to Christmas and should hopefully complete my holiday baking.

For my first day I thought I would share my Nana's Cartwheels.  She came up with these little gems to use up the extra pie dough from all of those extra holiday pies.  Now as a family we make extra pie dough in order to make these.  They are flaky, slightly chewy and covered in cinnamon and sugar.  The aroma when they bake is heavenly, and really, where where can you go wrong with pie dough, butter, cinnamon and sugar.


Pie dough:
3 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 heaping cup of shortening
cold water

1. Make the pie dough: Add the flour and salt to a large mixing bowl and mix to combine. Using two butter knives, cut in the shortening until it is the size of small peas. Move most of the mixture to one side. Sprinkle a Tablespoon or two of water over the small section of dough and mix with a fork to combine. Don’t over mix though. Pull a little more of the flour mixture over to the side; add another Tablespoon or so of water and mix. The dough should just come together but not be too wet or too dry. Continue this until all of the dough has been mixed with water. The amount of water will vary each time that you make it so don’t rely on any specific measure. I usually start out with a cup of cold water and don’t use all of it.
Shape the dough into 2 discs and wrap with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight.

pie dough
About 2 1/2 Tbs. of softened butter per disc of dough
about 1/3 cup packed brown sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Roll the pie dough out into a thin rectangle. Spread lightly with softened butter. Sprinkle with brown sugar and rub it all over the surface of the dough lightly covering the whole surface. Sprinkle evenly with cinnamon. Roll up like a jelly roll pinching the ends. Place seam side down onto a lightly greased cookie sheet curving the dough into a semi-circle. Make thin slices in the dough making sure not to cut all the way through the dough.  Sprinkle to top with a little white sugar if desired.

2. Bake for about 30-35 minutes or until the top is lightly browned and the filling is beginning to bubble out the sides.  Be careful not to overcook as they will firm up more when they cool. Let cool and slice into pieces using the slits in the dough as a guide.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Caramel Cake with the Daring Bakers


I hope that everyone had a great Thanksgiving.  I had a great time with all of my family.  I was really relaxed this year despite having 40 people over.  We had so much food.  In fact, we had a whole turkey left over which we didn't even carve.  My fridge is stocked with leftovers and several yummy pies which I am eating bite by bite right out of the pie plates.  I think this year could be the year that I gain a few extra pounds over the holidays.  It's just so hard to resist all of the delicious food.

Of course then there's the Daring Baker's challenge which came right after Thanksgiving.  Of course I had to be a procrastinator and was up finishing it tonight after 9 hours of work.  I am so tired so if this post doesn't make sense, forgive me.

This months challenge was a recipe form Shuna Fish Lydon for Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting.  Our hosts this month were Dolores from Culinary Curiosity, Alex from Brownie of the Blondie and  Jenny of  Foray into Food. And for those gluten free bakers Natalie of Gluten-a-Go-Go  lent a hand too.

I decided to halve the recipe and make cupcakes instead of one large cake because I really need more dessert around here just like I need a hole in my head.  Instead of lining my pan with liners I put in little squares of parchment.  I reduced the sugar slightly on the cupcakes and frosting after reading several posts about how sweet they both were.  Overall, my favorite part of this challenge was the frosting and let me tell you, I usually don't like frosting.  This one has a really caramely flavor from the brown butter and the caramel syrup.  It is absolutely delicious.  The cake was good too with a nice moist ,tight crumb.  I thought that it lacked a little caramel flavor.  I think next time I will  add a little more of the caramel syrup.

Overall, the challenge was quick easy and delicious.  I will be keeping that frosting recipe on hand for future use.  I can't wait to see what the Daring Bakers will have in store for us next month!

Caramel Cake With Caramelized Butter Frosting:

10 Tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/4 Cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 Cup Caramel Syrup (see recipe below)
2 each eggs, at room temperature
splash vanilla extract
2 Cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup milk, at room temperature

Preheat oven to 350F. Butter one tall (2 – 2.5 inch deep) 9-inch cake pan.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter until smooth. Add sugar and salt & cream until light and fluffy.

Slowly pour room temperature caramel syrup into bowl. Scrape down bowl and increase speed. Add eggs/vanilla extract a little at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down bowl again, beat mixture until light and uniform.

Sift flour and baking powder. Turn mixer to lowest speed, and add one third of the dry ingredients. When incorporated, add half of the milk, a little at a time. Add another third of the dry ingredients, then the other half of the milk and finish with the dry ingredients. {This is called the dry, wet, dry, wet, dry method in cake making. It is often employed when there is a high proportion of liquid in the batter.}

Take off mixer and by hand, use a spatula to do a few last folds, making sure batter is uniform. Turn batter into prepared cake pan. Place cake pan on cookie sheet or 1/2 sheet pan. Set first timer for 30 minutes, rotate pan and set timer for another 15-20 minutes. Your own oven will set the pace. Bake until sides pull away from the pan and skewer inserted in middle comes out clean. Cool cake completely before icing it. Cake will keep for three days outside of the refrigerator.

Caramel Syrup:
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1 cup water (for "stopping" the caramelization process)

In a small stainless steel saucepan, with tall sides, mix water and sugar until mixture feels like wet sand. Brush down any stray sugar crystals with wet pastry brush. Turn on heat to highest flame. Cook until smoking slightly: dark amber.
When color is achieved, very carefully pour in one cup of water. Caramel will jump and sputter about! It is very dangerous, so have long sleeves on and be prepared to step back.
Whisk over medium heat until it has reduced slightly and feels sticky between two fingers. {Obviously wait for it to cool on a spoon before touching it.}

Caramelized Butter Frosting:
12 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound confectioner’s sugar, sifted
4-6 tablespoons heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2-4 tablespoons caramel syrup
Kosher or sea salt to taste

Cook butter until brown. Pour through a fine meshed sieve into a heatproof bowl, set aside to cool.

Pour cooled brown butter into mixer bowl. In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, add confectioner's sugar a little at a time. When mixture looks too chunky to take any more, add a bit of cream and or caramel syrup. Repeat until mixture looks smooth and all confectioner's sugar has been incorporated. Add salt to taste.

Note: Caramelized butter frosting will keep in fridge for up to a month.To smooth out from cold, microwave a bit, then mix with paddle attachment until smooth and light.

Overall, I think the frosting is a keeper, I will keep that recipe tucked away for another time.  the cake was alright but nothing to jump through hoops for.  It was a fun and easy challenge.  I can't wait to see what next month will bring!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Individual Apple Pies

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I can't believe that November is just about over and that Thanksgiving is next week.  Were does the time go?  I love that we have a holiday where we can be gluttons.  I am already dreaming about all of the yummy food.  We usually have so much food that we are eating Thanksgiving for about a week.  I can't wait for the mashed potatoes and roasted veggies and stuffing and pie and...the list could go on and on.

I will be hosting Thanksgiving dinner again this year which means 30+ people will be invading my house.  We will cook 2 huge turkeys and a ham, 20 pounds of mashed  potatoes, stuffing, yams corn, rolls, squash and probably about 8-10 pies.  I love pie.  My mom would make me pie every year for my birthday so I have an affinity for good pie.  In fact, as I am typing this, I am eating the pie from the pictures and boy is it good.

This pie recipe is great if you are having a small Thanksgiving and would like to treat everyone to their own mini pies.  Obviously it won't work for my large gathering unless I was a masochist and wanted to stay up all  night baking a million little pies.   It would work well for any leftover pie dough that you have and is a great late night snack.  All you need are some little pot pie tins or ramekins, I think some mini tart pans would also work great.  I used a 6 oz. glass ramekin which worked perfectly.  There is nothing fancy about this pie, just the traditional apple pie.  If you wanted to change it up a bit you could throw in some chopped up caramels and toss in a few pecans or use some orange blossom honey in place of the sugar with a little added citrus zest.  You really can individualize this pie.  So, if you have a hankering for some apple pie, give this one a go.

Individual Apple Pies

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Pie dough

3 cups flour, spooned and leveled

1/4 tsp salt

2 Tbs. sugar

1/2 cup shortening

1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled butter cut into small pieces

Ice water

1.  In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar and salt.  Add the shortening and the butter and cut it into the flour using two knives or a pastry cutter.  You want the pieces of butter and shortening to be about the size of peas.

2.  Once the mixture is combined, move most of it to one side of the bowl.  Pour a Tablespoon of water over the small bit of flour mixture and pull the dough together with a fork.  Try to work the dough very little as overworking it will cause the gluten to form and will toughen the crust.  Move the moistened dough aside and pull aside some more of the dry flour mixture and repeat until the dough is moist enough to be formed into a ball.

3.  Separate the dough into 1/2 cup size balls of dough, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour.

for each individual pie

2 granny smith apples

1/4 cup sugar

2 tsp. flour

1 tsp. cinnamon

juice of 1/2 a small lemon

1 tsp butter cut into small pieces

for the glaze

1 egg yolk

2 tsp. heavy cream

sugar for sprinkling on top

1. Preheat the oven to 375°.  Peal, core and thinly slice the apples.  Sprinkle with the lemon juice and toss to combine.  Add the sugar, cinnamon and flour and toss to combine.  Set aside.

2.  Grease your ramekins.  Roll out one piece of dough at a time, you want the dough to be fairly thin as there is a large ratio of dough to apples.  Roll up onto rolling pan and then fit into the ramekin.  Trim the edges, leaving a little overhang.  Fill with the apples, you ant to mound up the apples as they will shrink down as they cook.  Top with the pieces of butter.

3.  Roll out a second piece of dough and either fit to the top of the pie or cut into strips for a lattice pattern.  If not using the lattice pattern, don't forget to poke holes in the top crust to allow the steam to escape.  Tuck the ends under with the bottom crust.

4.  Mix together the glaze ingredients and brush lightly onto the top crust.  Sprinkle with a little sugar.  Place on baking sheet to catch drips and bake for 30 minutes.  Cover the tops of the pies with foil and then bake for an additional 15-20 minutes or until bubbling and cooked through.  Let cool before eating.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Triple Threat Brownies

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Man, things have been so busy.  I feel like my life is racing out of control and leaving me behind.  All areas of my life seem to be disorganized.  It is amazing that I was finally able to get something up on my blog.  I apologize for my lack of posts.  I hope to make it up very soon.  It's not that I haven't made anything, it's just that I haven't had the time or energy to post it.  Hopefully that will all change here soon.  I would like to get a few great Thanksgiving dishes in here soon, so look for those soon.

Now, onto tonight's treat.  I have had this triple layer brownie in my mind for awhile now but have not had all of the ingredients on hand at one time, until last night.  These brownies were inspired by a triple layer mouse cake that I saw once on Martha Stewart several years back.  I thought it would be great to have 3 different layers in one brownie.  I was hoping for more of a distinction between the dark chocolate and the milk chocolate layers but even without that, they were still absolutely delicious!

The bottom layer is a rich dark chocolate brownie with bittersweet chocolate chips.  The middle is a creamy  milk chocolate brownie with Heath toffee pieces and the top layer is a white chocolate brownie with macadamia nuts.  I then drizzled the rich chocolaty layers with more dark chocolate.  What more can you ask for in one little brownie, it's got something for everyone.  These brownies are definitely a chocolate lovers dream.  Don't get overwhelmed by the list of ingredients.  As long as you have everything out and measured before hand the brownies will come together in a snap.

Triple Threat Brownies

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For the dark chocolate layer

4 Tbs. Butter

4 oz. dark chocolate

½ cup flour

2 Tbs. cocoa powder

¼ tsp. baking powder

¼ tsp. salt

½ cup sugar

1 egg + 1 egg yolk

½ cup dark chocolate chips

For the Milk Chocolate layer

4 Tbs. Butter

4 oz. milk chocolate

½ cup flour

2 Tbs. cocoa powder

¼ tsp. baking powder

¼ tsp. salt

½ cup sugar

1 egg + 1 egg yolk

½ cup toffee bits

For the white chocolate layer

4 Tbs. Butter

4 oz. white chocolate

½ cup flour + 2 Tbs. flour

¼ tsp. baking powder

¼ tsp. salt

½ cup sugar

1 egg + 1 egg white

½ cup macadamia nuts

1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a 13x9 pan with foil and spray with cooking spray, set aside. In 3 separate bowls, combine the chocolate and butter for each of the three layers. In another 3 bowls measure out the dry ingredients, excluding the sugar, for each layer.

2. Beginning with the dark chocolate layer, melt the butter and chocolate over a double broiler or in the microwave in 10 second intervals until melted. Remove from heat and stir in the sugar, then the eggs until well combined. Give the dry ingredients a quick stir and dump them into the chocolate mixture. Stir until just combined. Add the chocolate chips and stir to combine. Pour into the bottom of pan and spread out using a slightly damp offset spatula.

3. Continue with the other two layers in the same manner. Be careful when pouring and spreading in the pan so that the layers stay separated.

4. Bake for about 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached. Let cool in pan for about 1 hour then using the foil as handles, carefully remove the brownies from the pan and continue to cool in the fridge until well chilled, this helps when cutting. Cut into squares and drizzle with more melted dark chocolate if desired.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Homemade Ricotta

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I saw a recipe  homemade ricotta a few months ago and it has been in the back of my mind as something to try.  Lately I've had this hankering for some lasagna and thought that this would be a great time to try my hand at cheese making.  As far as cheese go, ricotta couldn't be simpler.  It doesn't require rennet or any special equipment aside from some cheesecloth and can be made in about 15 minutes, from start to finish.  It can also be seasoned in a variety of ways from sweet to savory.  The ricotta turned out perfect with a soft slightly grainy texture and a very mild flavor that tasted great once salted.  I would love to make another batch and mix in some honey and toasted walnuts and spread on a toasted baguette or make a ricotta cake.  There are just so many options for this mild and versatile cheese.

For the lasagna, I added a little olive oil and some basil and rosemary to the ricotta for flavor.   I loaded the lasagna with roasted eggplant, zucchini, portobello mushrooms and carrots.  Topped the noodles with a homemade marinara and smothered the whole thing with a tangy provolone cheese.  It may not have been my husbands favorite, due to the veggies, but for me it was heaven and way better than any Italian restaurant.  I actually threw this whole thing together, including the cheese making in about an hour.  Not bad for a delicious meal that was almost completely made from scratch, next time I'll have to make the pasta too.

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Homemade Ricotta

From the NY Times

2 quarts milk, preferably whole

2 cups buttermilk

1.  Line a colander with 4 layers of cheesecloth and set in the sink or over a bowl.

2.   Heat the milk and buttermilk in a large stockpot over high heat stirring constantly, scraping the bottom of the pan, to prevent scorching.  When the milk reaches about 170° the curds will separate form the liquid.  the milk will look like a cloudy water with very small curds mixed throughout.  Turn off the heat and pour the mixture into the cheesecloth and let drain for about 5 minutes.  Then gather the edges of the cheesecloth and gently pull together to remove any excess liquid.  Do not squeeze unless you want a drier ricotta.  Let drain for a few more minutes and season to taste.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Daring Bakers make Pizza

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It's time for another Daring Bakers challenge.  This month, Rosa from Rosa's Yummy Yums chose pizza as our challenge.  In all honesty, I make pizza quite often and wasn't really challenged but it sure was fun and absolutely delicious.  I love this crust recipe which was from Peter Reinhart's The Bread Bakers Apprentice.  It makes a chewy crust that is similar to a ciabatta bread and works so well with a wide variety of ingredients.

  I was able to make several pizzas with the one batch of dough.  The first was my tasty fall pizza which was inspired by my trip to a local farm and orchard.  Just a few miles down the road is a local orchard that has this cute little store in an old barn.  They sell all of their own produce which is always so delicious.   I was able to pick up some candy onions and a few pumpkins and squashes.  Now my pizza began to take shape.  I knew that the sweet onions would be great caramelized and the sweet and nutty butternut squash needed to be roasted.  I complimented the two ingredients with a creamy, salty fontina and viola my pizza was born. I actually ate it for breakfast and lunch.Kristen's Food October 2008 093

I then needed to make pizzas that the rest of my family would eat so I made a fresh batch of marinara and took the traditional route and made a pepperoni and a cheese pizza.  The family gobbled them all up and gave them both a big thumbs up.

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I still had two more balls of dough left the next day so I brushed the shaped dough with olive oil and some sea salt abd baked them.  Once they cooled off I spread them with a mixture of cream cheese and sour cream mixed with some seasonings and then topped them with fresh broccoli, cucumbers, red peppers, tomatoes and grated carrots.  It was light and tasty and worked well with the chewy crust.

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Overall, this was a very tasty and fun recipe and am glad that I was able to participate in this challenge.  If you're looking for a great pizza dough recipe, you must try this one, it is delicious!   And, don't forget to check out all of the other Daring Baker's tasty creations.


Original recipe taken from “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice” by Peter Reinhart.
Makes 6 pizza crusts (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter).

4 1/2 Cups  Unbleached high-gluten  bread flour or all purpose flour, chilled
1 3/4 Tsp Salt
1 Tsp Instant yeast
1/4 Cup  Olive oil or vegetable oil
1 3/4 Cups  Water, ice cold (40° F/4.5° C)
1 Tbs. sugar
Semolina/durum flour or cornmeal for dusting

1. Mix together the flour, salt and instant yeast in a big bowl (or in the bowl of your stand mixer).

2. Add the oil, sugar and cold water and mix well (with the help of a large wooden spoon or with the paddle attachment, on low speed) in order to form a sticky ball of dough. On a clean surface, knead for about 5-7 minutes, until the dough is smooth and the ingredients are homogeneously distributed. If it is too wet, add a little flour (not too much, though) and if it is too dry add 1 or 2 teaspoons extra water.
NOTE: If you are using an electric mixer, switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for the same amount of time.The dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom of the bowl. If the dough is too wet, sprinkle in a little more flour, so that it clears the sides. If, on the contrary, it clears the bottom of the bowl, dribble in a teaspoon or two of cold water.
The finished dough should be springy, elastic, and sticky, not just tacky, and register 50°-55° F/10°-13° C.

3. Flour a work surface or counter.  Line a jelly pan with baking paper/parchment. Lightly oil the paper.

4. With the help of a metal or plastic dough scraper, cut the dough into 6 equal pieces (or larger if you want to make larger pizzas).
NOTE: To avoid the dough from sticking to the scraper, dip the scraper into water between cuts.

5. Sprinkle some flour over the dough. Make sure your hands are dry and then flour them.  Gently round each piece into a ball.
NOTE: If the dough sticks to your hands, then dip your hands into the flour again.

6. Transfer the dough balls to the lined jelly pan and mist them generously with spray oil. Slip the pan into plastic bag or enclose in plastic food wrap.

7. Put the pan into the refrigerator and let the dough rest overnight or for up to thee days.
NOTE: You can store the dough balls in a zippered freezer bag if you want to save some of the dough for any future baking. In that case, pour some oil(a few tablespoons only) in a medium bowl and dip each dough ball into the oil, so that it is completely covered in oil. Then put each ball into a separate bag. Store the bags in the freezer for no longer than 3 months. The day before you plan to make pizza, remember to transfer the dough balls from the freezer to the refrigerator.

8. On the day you plan to eat pizza, exactly 2 hours before you make it, remove the desired number of dough balls from the refrigerator. Dust the counter with flour and spray lightly with oil. Place the dough balls on a floured surface and sprinkle them with flour. Dust your hands with flour and delicately press the dough into disks about 1/2 inch/1.3 cm thick and 5 inches/12.7 cm in diameter. Sprinkle with flour and mist with oil. Loosely cover the dough rounds with plastic wrap and then allow to rest for 2 hours.

9. At least 45 minutes before making the pizza, place a baking stone on the lower third of the oven.  Preheat the oven as hot as possible (500° F/260° C).
NOTE: If you do not have a baking stone, then use the back of a jelly pan. Do not preheat the pan.

10. Generously sprinkle the back of a jelly pan with semolina/durum flour or cornmeal. Flour your hands (palms, backs and knuckles). Take 1 piece of dough by lifting it with a pastry scraper. Lay the dough across your fists in a very delicate way and carefully stretch it by bouncing it in a circular motion on your hands, and by giving it a little stretch with each bounce. Once the dough has expanded outward, move to a full toss.

NOTE: Make only one pizza at a time.
During the tossing process, if the dough tends to stick to your hands, lay it down on the floured counter and reflour your hands, then continue the tossing and shaping.
In case you would be having trouble tossing the dough or if the dough never wants to expand and always springs back, let it rest for approximately 5-20 minutes in order for the gluten to relax fully,then try again.
You can also resort to using a rolling pin, although it isn’t as effective as the toss method.

11. When the dough has the shape you want (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter - for a 6 ounces/180g piece of dough), place it on the back of the jelly pan, making sure there is enough semolina/durum flour or cornmeal to allow it to slide and not stick to the pan.

12. Lightly top it with sweet or savory toppings of your choice.

13. Slide the garnished pizza onto the stone in the oven or bake directly on the jelly pan. Close the door and bake for abour 5-8 minutes.

If the top gets done before the bottom, you will need to move the stone or jelly pane to a lower shelf before the next round. On the contrary, if the bottom crisps before the cheese caramelizes, then you will need to raise the stone or jelly.

14. Take the pizza out of the oven and transfer it to a cutting board or your plate. In order to allow the cheese to set a little, wait 3-5 minutes before slicing or serving.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes with Chocolate Ganache

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I am going to start by saying that I love cheesecake. It is probably my one major vice out of all desserts. Most others I can put down and not eat after a few bites, but cheesecake is another story. In fact, when I made the cheesecake for a Daring Baker's challenge a few months ago I ate the whole thing , by myself. Now we aren't talking about a small cheesecake, we are talking about a 13x9 pan full of cheesecake. I left it in the fridge with a fork and would just come back throughout the day for a few little bites. Before I knew it, the cheesecake was gone.

I have been wanting to make cheesecake for a few weeks now. And was planning on making a full pan of cheesecake, but over the weeks, I used the cream cheese for other things. So, when I decided to make the these yesterday I only had one package of cream cheese left. I decided that the cheesecake would have to be mini. Now, this could be just as dangerous, the cheesecakes are perfectly bite size and just waiting there in the fridge for me to eat them. I had some pumpkin left over from those cookies and also some chocolate ganache from a cake and so I thought that I'd use those up too.

These little cheesecakes with pumpkin and chocolate turned out so delicious. I really need to get them out of the house before I eat them all! I tell you what, I could not for the life of me get my pumpkin hating husband to try these. So, more for me, he doesn't know what he is missing out on.

Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes with Chocolate GanacheKristen's Food October 2008 069

6 long sheets of graham crackers

1 Tbs. sugar

a pinch of salt

2 Tbs. butter, melted

1 pkg. (8oz.) cream cheese, softened

1/3 cup sugar

1 egg, room temperature

1/2 tsp vanilla

a pinch of salt

1 1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice

1/3 canned pumpkin

1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Spray a mini muffin pan with cooking spray and set aside.

2. Add the graham crackers, sugar and salt to food processor and process until graham crackers are fine crumbs. With the machine running, add the melted butter and mix to combine.

3. Put about 1 Tbs. of the crumb mixture into each mini muffin cup (it will make 16 mini cheesecakes). Press the crumbs into each cup. Bake the crusts for 8 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool on cooling rack while you mix the filling. Reduce the oven temperature to 325°. Bring a pot of water to a boil.

4. Rinse out the food processor. In food processor cream the cream cheese until smooth, scraping down the sides as needed. Add the sugar and cream for another minute or two. Add the egg and mix for another minute or two. Scrape down the sides as needed. Add the vanilla, salt, pumpkin pie spice and pumpkin and mix for another minute to combine. Scrape down the side and the bottom of the bowl and give it one last quick mix.

5. Pour the mixture into the crusts, filling to the top. Place the muffin pan onto a baking sheet. Place in the oven. Carefully pour the water into the baking pan being sure not to let it get into the muffin tin. you want the water to come about halfway up the muffin pan. Bake the cheesecakes at 325° for about 24 minutes. Carefully remove the muffin pan from the baking sheet and let cool on a cooling rack for 20 minutes. Then refrigerate them in the pan for another 30 minutes.

6. Carefully run a small thin knife around the edges of each cheesecake and pop them out the pan. Pour about a teaspoon of ganache (recipe follows) onto each cheesecake and spread if desired. Return to the fridge to let the ganache harden.

Chocolate Ganache

This recipe will make a lot more than you need (about 1 cup) but you can cut the recipe in half or make the entire batch and freeze the leftovers for a cake, truffle or a tart.Kristen's Food October 2008 075

6 oz. (good) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, like Lindt
6 oz. (¾ cup heavy cream
1 Tbsp. light corn syrup
¾ tsp. vanilla

1. Break the chocolate into 1-inch pieces and place in the basket of a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Transfer into a medium sized bowl and set aside.

2. Heat the cream and corn syrup in a saucepan, on low, until it reached a gentle boil. Once boiling, immediately and carefully pour over the chocolate. Leave it alone for one minute, then slowly stir and mix the chocolate and cream together until the chocolate is melted and incorporated into the cream. Carefully blend in vanilla. The glaze will thicken, but should still be pourable. If it doesn’t thicken, refrigerate for about 5 minutes, but make sure it doesn’t get too cold!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Pumpkin and Spice Sugar Cookies

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The weather is changing and the cool air has got me thinking pumpkin and spice. I really don't like the cold weather but I do love the warm spices and flavors that come with the season. I love all of the holidays and family get together's. I came from a small family so I love that my husbands family is a bit bigger and has huge family gatherings. I am already thinking of the fall foods like buttered butternut squash and pumpkin spiced cookies.

I was at the store yesterday buying a few ingredients to make cookies when I passed the pumpkin. I couldn't pass it up and knew that I needed to incorporate it somehow into my cookies. I didn't want to make the traditional pumpkin cookies but thought instead that it would be fun to try to incorporate the pumpkin into my buttermilk sugar cookie recipe. It turned out perfectly and in my book, is a total winner. I will be making these cookies again. I was even able to get my picky pumpkin hating husband to try one and actually eat the whole thing. It was pretty funny though, when he got home from work, I kept on asking him to try a cookie and he kept on saying, "I will in a minute" , acting like he was too busy at the moment. After 10 minutes of being too "busy" I stopped him and said, "Knock it off, you just don't want to try them because they have pumpkin in them, just try them!" He reluctantly took a little bite of one, and then another and he actually ate the whole cookie.

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The pumpkin is very subtle and I didn't put too much of the pumpkin pie spice in them so that it was only a little hint of the fall flavors. If you're a big spice fan then you could definitely add more of the pumpkin pie spice. I topped the cookies with a tangy cream cheese frosting, if you wanted more of the spice, you could even add a dash of the pumpkin pie spice into the frosting.

Pumpkin and Spice Cookies

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

2 cups sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

2 eggs

6 cups flour

1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

1 tsp. baking soda

2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

1/2 cup pureed pumpkin

1/2 cup buttermilk

1. In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, mix together the flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Whisk until combined. In another small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and pumpkin. Set both aside.

3. In the mixer, add the eggs, one at a time to the butter and sugar mixture, mixing well after each egg. Add the vanilla and mix until combined.

4. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture, mixing until almost combined. Now add 1/2 of the buttermilk mixture and then another third of the flour. Repeat with the last of the buttermilk and then the flour, mixing until just combined.

5. Divide the dough into thirds, shape into disks and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least an hour to firm the dough up.

6. Preheat the oven to 350°, roll out dough on a well floured counter and cut into desired shape. Bake on a cookie sheet for 8-10 minutes. Let cool for a minute on the cookie sheet and then remove cookies to a cooling rack. Once cooled frost as desired.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

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My husband has been begging me forever to just make some chocolate chip cookies. So, when he was gone on Saturday night, I rounded up the kids and we threw together a batch of these chewy chocolaty cookies as a surprise for when he got home. I love these because they are chewy due to the ground up oatmeal and the corn syrup (yes corn syrup, but you only use a little). I love to use mini chocolate chips and if my husband isn't looking a handful of finely chopped walnuts.

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I usually will make a batch of these and only bake up a dozen. the other 3 dozen I roll into balls, place them on a baking sheet and freeze. Once frozen, I move them to a plastic bag. I then have little cookie balls that I can pull out and bake whenever someone drops by or when I need a quick treat to bring somewhere. They can be baked frozen and only take a minute or two longer.

These cookies are pretty flat but they stay soft and chewy. Be sure to remove them from the oven once the edges are just beginning to turn golden brown and when the tops have little cracks on them. They will look a little doughy but will firm up once they cool off.

Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

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1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup packed brown sugar

1 1/2 Tbs. corn syrup (I used dark but light would also work)

2 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

3 cups of oatmeal, ground into a flour

1 cup flour

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

12 oz. chocolate chips, (I like mini)

1 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350°. In the bowl of a mixer with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy, about 5 min.

2. In a separate bowl, combine the oatmeal, flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Mix with a whisk to combine all of the ingredients.

3. In the mixer bowl with the butter, add the vanilla and corn syrup and mix to combine. With the mixer still running, add the eggs, one at a time, mixing until well combined.

4. With the mixer on low, slowly add the flour mixture a little at a time, mixing only until combined, do not over mix. Add the chocolate chips and nuts, if using ,and mix just until they are evenly mixed into the dough.

5. Using a scoop, scoop cookie dough into balls and place on baking sheet leaving 2 inches of space between each cookie. Bake at 350° for 9-11 minutes, or until the edges start to turn golden brown and the tops have little crack in them. the cookies will look a little doughy but they will set up as they cool off. Let them cool for a few minutes on the cookie sheet before removing them to a cooling rack.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Hot Buttery Pretzels

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This last weekend I had a chance to go out with some friends and we stopped by the mall for a little shopping. I happened to be absolutely starving and of course we passed one of those yummy pretzel shops that adorn malls everywhere. I passed it and really wanted to grab a pretzel but since we were going out to dinner afterwards I decided that I could wait. When I really want something and don't get it than it enters my thoughts until I finally give in. Thus my need to make some of those hot buttery mall pretzels.

I recently got the King Arthur Flour: Bakers Companion Cookbook and have been meaning to make their recipe for the mall-type pretzels. I decided today that my desire for those yummy pretzels could wait no longer and I am so glad that I made them. In fact the batch is already gone. My son kept sneaking them when I wasn't looking. I finally had to hide the last one so that I could eat it later when he was taking a nap.

If you love those yummy mall pretzels then you should try this recipe. It doesn't make the chewy, bagel-type pretzels but the soft, buttery doughy-type. A definite keeper in my book. For toppings I used sea salt for a few, cheddar cheese for a couple more and my favorite buttered and then lightly dusted with ranch powder (the kind you use to make ranch dip or dressing). Of course you could go for the sweet versions like cinnamon-sugar but I personally prefer all of the salty flavors.

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Buttery Mall-Type Pretzels

2 1/2 cups unbleached flour

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp sugar

2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast

7/8 to 1 cup water


1/2 cup warm water

1 tsp sugar

course salt

3 Tbs. salted butter, melted

1. Place all dough ingredients in bowl of mixer and mix until combined. Up the speed and knead for 5 minutes, until the dough is soft and smooth. Dust the dough lightly with flour and place in a plastic bag. Close bag and let rest for 30 minutes.

2. Preheat the oven to 500°. Spray 2 baking pans lightly with cooking spray. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. Let the pieces rest for 5 minutes uncovered.

3. Roll each piece of dough into a long thin rope, about 28 inches long. Twist each rope into a pretzel shape. Dip the pretzels into the warm water that has been mixed with 1 tsp. sugar and place them on the baking sheet. Sprinkle them lightly with salt if desired and let them rest for 10 minutes uncovered.

4. Bake pretzels for 8-9 minutes rotating the pans half way through. Remove the pretzels from the oven and brush them generously with the butter. Use all of the butter, it will absorb into the pretzels so keep on brushing them until it's gone. Top them with desired topping.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Cookies in a Jar

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It's the first day of Fall and that means that the holidays are quickly approaching. I really hate saying that already but I know that I need to start getting prepared. Two of my kids have birthdays near the holidays not to mention 6 of their cousins too. I also host Thanksgiving for about 40 people. There is so much for me to get ready. With all of that gift giving, I am usually really strapped for cash but love to give a few gifts to neighbors and teachers. This is a way to give a thoughtful gift without the huge price tag.

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There are a ton of recipes for cookies in a jar and this is just another one. I really like this recipe for several reasons. First off, I love oatmeal cookies, and second, it is very versatile, you can change up a few of the components to make different cookies. The results are a chewy chocolaty cookie that in my opinion is better once it has cooled off. ( I really hate hot, gooey chocolate. I know, I am weird!) I have been eating these for the past 3 days and have been rationalizing them as a good breakfast option because they have oatmeal and walnuts; and dark chocolate is full of antioxidants right?!

Kristen's Food September 2008 016

Cookies in a jar

1 1/3 cups oatmeal

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup sugar

1 cup chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, M&M's or a combination of them

1/2 cup walnuts (optional)

1 1/3 cup flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

1. Layer the ingredients in the jar in the order listed, packing each layer down tightly.

2. Make a tag with the following instructions: Preheat oven to 350°. Melt 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter and cool slightly. Lightly beat together the melted butter with 1 egg and 1tsp vanilla. Add the contents of the jar and mix to combine. The mixture will be really thick. Spoon by heaping tablespoons onto a greased cookie sheet and bake for about 10 minutes. Remove the cookies from the oven while they look a little doughy as they will really firm up after they cool.

Makes about 2 dozen cookies

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Cream Cheese filled Rolls

Kristen's Food September 2008 001

Did you think I wasn't going to come back? I have been out of the kitchen for the last 3 weeks, completely and absolutely sick. I couldn't even eat for the first 2 weeks. I am FINALLY feeling better and have returned to the kitchen. For the last week all I have been able to eat are white starchy foods, like bread and potatoes. I am a huge whole wheat girl so this was totally against the grain for me (gotta love that pun). That's not to say that I don't enjoy the white stuff now and again, I just don't make it a habit. So, as my first time back into the kitchen last night, I decided to make some white bread.

Kristen's Food September 2008 004

When I finally started feeling better and could really only eat the white starchy stuff, I began to think about these rolls that I would buy when I was away at school in Mexico. I had to catch a "combi" (think VW bus turned into a small scale mass transit system) every morning to get to school and right across the street from where I would catch it was a very large panederia (bread store). They had shelves full of freshly made breads and pastries. I always bought these little breads that were filled with cream cheese. As I was getting my appetite back, this is what I was thinking about eating. Now these aren't replicas of that bread ,as I think that nothing could really match the nostalgia and ambiance that went along with those little breads, but they sure are tasty.

Kristen's Food September 2008 008

I used Ina Garten's Honey white bread recipe because it is rich, soft and delicious. It is slightly like a brioche dough only a little lighter. It makes a wonderful loaf of bread or soft light rolls. It worked perfectly with these rolls. You could really make these either sweet or savory. I add a little bit of powdered sugar to the cream cheese, not enough to make it too sweet, just enough to take the tangy edge off. You could always add more sugar if you wanted to make it a sweeter bread and then just brush the hot rolls with cinnamon-honey butter. I kept these a little more savory and just brushed them with butter when they came out.

Honey Rolls with Cream Cheese

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1/2 cup warm water

2 pkg. dry yeast

2 tsp. sugar

1 1/2 cups warm whole milk

6 Tablespoons butter

1 1/2 TBS. honey

2 egg yolks

5 to 6 cups flour

1 TBS. kosher salt

1 egg white, lightly beaten

8 oz. cream cheese

3 Tbs. powdered sugar

1. Heat the milk, butter and honey in a small saucepan until warm and the butter melts. Set aside to cool slightly.

2. Place the water, sugar and yeast in the bowl of mixer and let sit for 5 minutes to allow the yeast to foam and dissolve.

3. Add the milk, butter and honey to the yeast mixture and mix to combine. Add 3 cups of the flour, salt and egg yolks and mix for about 5 minutes to combine.

4. Slowly add more flour until the dough cleans the side of the mixer bowl. Knead or mix for about 10 minutes more.

5. Grease a large bowl. Place the dough into the greased bowl turning to coat all sides of the dough. Cover loosely and allow to rise until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.

6. Mix the cream cheese and powdered sugar until combined. Refrigerate until ready to use.

7. Punch down the dough and divide into 20 rolls (about 60 grams each) or 10 rolls and 1 loaf of bread. Flatten each piece of dough place about 1 Tbs. of the cream cheese mixture into the middle. Fold the edges together and pinch to seal. Roll each ball on the counter pushing it between the palms of your hands to seal the dough and make the round roll shape. Place on a greased cookie sheet and cover lightly. Allow to rise for 30-45 minutes or until doubled in size.

8. Heat the oven to 350°. Brush the tops of the rolls with the beaten egg white. Bake the rolls for 13-15 minutes or until light brown. (Bake the loaf of bread for 35-45 minutes) Brush the tops with butter.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Eclairs anyone?


It's the end of the month and time for another Daring Baker's Challenge. I have been a huge procrastinator lately and so of course I didn't even start this challenge until last night. Luckily it was a pretty straight forward and quick one so I wasn't worried about getting it done. This month's recipe was eclairs by Pierre Herme, an amazing french pastry chef.

The recipe called for a basic pate choux dough, a chocolate pastry cream filling and a chocolate glaze. We were allowed to have a little creative leeway. The only rules were that we had to use Pierre Herme's choux dough recipe and we had to use at least one chocolate component. I decided to make the filling a vanilla cream cheese pastry cream and to stick with a chocolate ganache for the glaze. Pretty straight forward and not too creative but that's what you get when you put the challenge off until the last minute. Although not my most creative endeavor, the eclairs were still absolutely delicious, especially as a midnight snack!

Anyone who knows my family knows that they are all huge Simpson's fans. So, when my husband heard that this months challenge was eclairs he had to retrieve this clip from an episode where Homer was a food critic. It's pretty hilarious.

Pierre Hermé’s Chocolate Éclairs
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 20-24 Éclairs)


• Cream Puff Dough (see below for recipe), fresh and still warm

1) Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Divide the oven into thirds by
positioning the racks in the upper and lower half of the oven. Line two baking sheets with
waxed or parchment paper.

2) Fill a large pastry bag fitted with a 2/3 (2cm) plain tip nozzle with the warm cream puff dough.
Pipe the dough onto the baking sheets in long, 4 to 41/2 inches (about 11 cm) chubby fingers.
Leave about 2 inches (5 cm) space in between each dough strip to allow them room to puff.
The dough should give you enough to pipe 20-24 éclairs.

3) Slide both the baking sheets into the oven and bake for 7 minutes. After the 7 minutes, slip the
handle of a wooden spoon into the door to keep in ajar. When the éclairs have been in the
oven for a total of 12 minutes, rotate the sheets top to bottom and front to back. Continue
baking for a further 8 minutes or until the éclairs are puffed, golden and firm. The total baking
time should be approximately 20 minutes.

1) The éclairs can be kept in a cool, dry place for several hours before filling.

Assembling the éclairs:
• Chocolate glaze (see below for recipe)
• Chocolate pastry cream (see below for recipe)

1) Slice the éclairs horizontally, using a serrated knife and a gently sawing motion. Set aside the
bottoms and place the tops on a rack over a piece of parchment paper.

2) The glaze should be barely warm to the touch (between 95 – 104 degrees F or 35 – 40
degrees C, as measured on an instant read thermometer). Spread the glaze over the tops of
the éclairs using a metal icing spatula. Allow the tops to set and in the meantime fill the
bottoms with the pastry cream.

3) Pipe or spoon the pastry cream into the bottoms of the éclairs. Make sure you fill the bottoms
with enough cream to mound above the pastry. Place the glazed tops onto the pastry cream
and wriggle gently to settle them.

1) If you have chilled your chocolate glaze, reheat by placing it in a bowl over simmering water,
stirring it gently with a wooden spoon. Do not stir too vigorously as you do not want to create

2) The éclairs should be served as soon as they have been filled.

Pierre Hermé’s Cream Puff Dough
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 20-24 Éclairs)

• ½ cup (125g) whole milk
• ½ cup (125g) water
• 1 stick (4 ounces; 115g) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
• ¼ teaspoon sugar
• ¼ teaspoon salt
• 1 cup (140g) all-purpose flour
• 5 large eggs, at room temperature

1) In a heavy bottomed medium saucepan, bring the milk, water, butter, sugar and salt to the

2) Once the mixture is at a rolling boil, add all of the flour at once, reduce the heat to medium
and start to stir the mixture vigorously with a wooden spoon. The dough comes together very
quickly. Do not worry if a slight crust forms at the bottom of the pan, it’s supposed to. You
need to carry on stirring for a further 2-3 minutes to dry the dough. After this time the dough
will be very soft and smooth.

3) Transfer the dough into a bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using your
handmixer or if you still have the energy, continue by hand. Add the eggs one at a time,
beating after each egg has been added to incorporate it into the dough.
You will notice that after you have added the first egg, the dough will separate, once again do
not worry. As you keep working the dough, it will come back all together again by the time you
have added the third egg. In the end the dough should be thick and shiny and when lifted it
should fall back into the bowl in a ribbon.

4) The dough should be still warm. It is now ready to be used for the éclairs as directed above.

1) Once the dough is made you need to shape it immediately.
2) You can pipe the dough and the freeze it. Simply pipe the dough onto parchment-lined baking
sheets and slide the sheets into the freezer. Once the dough is completely frozen, transfer the
piped shapes into freezer bags. They can be kept in the freezer for up to a month.

Chocolate Pastry Cream
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by PierreHermé
• 2 cups (500g) whole milk
• 4 large egg yolks
• 6 tbsp (75g) sugar
• 3 tablespoons cornstarch, sifted
• 7 oz (200g) bittersweet chocolate, preferably Velrhona Guanaja, melted
• 2½ tbsp (1¼ oz: 40g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1) In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a boil. In the meantime, combine the yolks, sugar and cornstarch together and whisk in a heavy‐bottomed saucepan.
2) Once the milk has reached a boil, temper the yolks by whisking a couple spoonfuls of the hot milk into the yolk mixture.Continue whisking and slowly pour the rest of the milk into the tempered yolk mixture.
3) Strain the mixture back into the saucepan to remove any egg that may have scrambled. Place the pan over medium heat and whisk vigorously (without stop) until the mixture returns to a boil. Keep whisking vigorously for 1 to 2 more minutes (still over medium heat).Stir in the melted chocolate and then remove the pan from the heat.
4) Scrape the pastry cream into a small bowl and set it in an ice‐water bath to stop the cooking process. Make sure to continue stirring the mixture at this point so that it remains smooth.
5) Once the cream has reached a temperature of 140 F remove from the ice‐water bath and stir in the butter in three or four installments. Return the cream to the ice‐water bath to continue cooling, stirring occasionally, until it has completely cooled. The cream is now ready to use or store in the fridge.


1) The pastry cream can be made 2‐3 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator.
2) In order to avoid a skin forming on the pastry cream, cover with plastic wrap pressed onto the cream.
3) Tempering the eggs raises the temperature of the eggs slowly so that they do not scramble.
Chocolate Glaze
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 1 cup or 300g)
• 1/3 cup (80g) heavy cream
• 3½ oz (100g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
• 4 tsp (20 g) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces, at room temperature
• 7 tbsp (110 g) Chocolate Sauce (recipe below), warm or at room temperature
1)In a small saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a boil. Remove from the heat and slowly begin to add the chocolate, stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula.
2) Stirring gently, stir in the butter, piece by piece followed by the chocolate sauce.

1) If the chocolate glaze is too cool (i.e. not liquid enough) you may heat it briefly in the microwave or over a double boiler. A double boiler is basically a bowl sitting over (not touching) simmering water.
2) It is best to glaze the eclairs after the glaze is made, but if you are pressed for time, you can make the glaze a couple days ahead of time, store it in the fridge and bring it up to the proper temperature (95 to 104 F) when ready to glaze.

Chocolate Sauce
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 1½ cups or 525 g)

• 4½ oz (130 g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
• 1 cup (250 g) water
• ½ cup (125 g) crème fraîche, or heavy cream
• 1/3 cup (70 g) sugar
1) Place all the ingredients into a heavy‐bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil, making sure to stir constantly. Then reduce the heat to low and continue stirring with a wooden spoon until the sauce thickens.
2) It may take 10‐15 minutes for the sauce to thicken, but you will know when it is done when it coats the back of your spoon.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies

Kristen's Food August 2008 030 

Well,  school started back up last week and my house has quieted down significantly.  I didn't really realize how crazy it had gotten during the summer until now when we are back on a regular schedule.  While it's hard to have my kids in school it has also allowed me to get more things done around the house.  I actually haven't baked anything for awhile but I have made a few ice creams that I hope to post soon.  I plan on having more time to bake now that school is in.

When I was a kid, I always had to go to daycare right after school and then when I finally got old enough I was a latch-key kid.  Because of that I always envied the kids whose parents were at home waiting for them with freshly baked cookies or an after school snack.  I think because of that, I am so grateful that I am able to stay home with my kids.  I also overcompensate by having something freshly baked nearly everyday.  I am trying to come up with some healthy recipes so that I don't inadvertently make my kids unhealthy with all of my mothering.  There really isn't anything more comforting after a long day at school then a freshly baked treat.

Today's treat, that miraculously came out of the oven just as the kids were getting off the bus, was not really a healthy one but one that I made with what I had on hand (I really need to go to the grocery store!).   I had some peanut butter and a little bit of chocolate so I flipped through my favorite baking book (Dorie Greenspan's, Baking From my Home to Yours) and looked through the peanut butter section in the index.  I noticed the chocolate peanut butter cookies and thought that they would be a great hit in my house.  I was right, they were pretty darn good.  Although, I think that they'd be better sandwiched with some of the fresh vanilla ice cream I made a few weeks ago, too bad it was gone in one night!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Crisscrosses

Kristen's Food August 2008 033

2 cups flour

1/2 cup cocoa powder

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

1 tsp. cinnamon (optional)

2 sticks (1 cup) butter, softened

1 cup peanut butter

1 cup packed light brown sugar

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla

2 large eggs

1/3 cup chopped bittersweet chocolate

about 1/2 cup sugar, for rolling

1.  Preheat the oven to 350°.   In a large bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon (if using) and whisk to combine.

2.  In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter for 1-2 minutes or until smooth.  Add the peanut butter and beat for another minute.  Add both of the sugars and beat for about 3 minutes until light and fluffy.  With the mixer running add the eggs, one at a time mixing until each is combined, then add the vanilla.

3.  With the mixer on low, slowly add the flour mixture a little at a time.   Mix until just combined.  Add the chopped chocolate and mix to combine.

4.  In a shallow bowl add the 1/2 cup flour.  Scoop the cookie dough (which will be soft) into heaping tablespoons and roll into a ball.  Drop the rolled balls into the sugar and roll to coat all sides.  Place on cookie sheets leaving about 2 inches of space between each cookie.  Dip the tines of a fork into the sugar and make the crisscross pattern into each cookie.  Bake the cookies for about 11-12 minutes.  the cookies will be soft but will firm up as they sit out.  Remove the cookies to a cooling rack.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Caramelized Onion, Mushroom and Gorgonzola Pizza

Kristen's Food July 2008 086

I know That usually all of my posts are desserts but I just couldn't resist posting this delicious pizza I made the other night.  My husband was gone and so the kids and I had dinner by ourselves.  We had been out running errands so it was almost bed time when we got around to eating dinner.  I realized  that I needed to make them a quick dinner and get them to bed.  I got them all fed and into bed and decided that I should make myself a nice dinner.  This is what I came up with.  I must admit that I really love to eat by myself and actually prefer it to eating with everyone else.  There will be many night where I make the family dinner and then I make myself something when the kids are in bed.  I like to be able to enjoy making my own food and then be able to eat it in peace.  This night was no exception.  I took the time to make myself a nice meal and then sat down and enjoyed it in silence.

This pizza is really simple to make it just takes a little time.  Caramelizing the onions takes about 30-40 minutes but is well worth the wait.  I usually will make some extra and keep them in the fridge.  I love how the onions become sweet and soft, almost like a jam.  The  onions are the sauce to the pizza so don't skimp on the olive oil.  You need to olive oil to properly caramelize the onions plus it keeps the crust moist as it bakes.  If you think that you don't like blue cheese, you've have got to try it on this pizza.  The tanginess of the gorgonzola balances out the sweetness of the onions and they just taste so perfect together.

Caramelized Onion, Mushroom and Gorgonzola Pizza

Kristen's Food July 2008 094

1 large sweet onion, thinly sliced

2 Tbs. Olive oil, divided

1/2 tsp kosher salt

about 5 Crimini mushrooms ( button would work too), sliced

1/2 pound pizza dough

1/4 cup gorgonzola cheese

1/4 cup fresh parmesan cheese

fresh parsley, chopped, (for garnish)

1.  Heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Add 1 1/2 Tbs. of olive oil and heat for a minute.  Add the sliced onions and salt and stir to coat with the oil.  Reduce heat to medium-low and cook stirring occasionally until the onions turn a caramel brown color, about 30-40 minutes.

2.  Heat the remaining oil in the pan and quickly saute the mushrooms until cooked and brown.  Salt to taste

3.  Place a pizza stone on the middle rack of the oven and heat to 450°.  Roll out pizza dough to desired shape and place on a pizza peel that has been dusted with cornmeal.  Spread the pizza dough with the caramelized onions.  Cover with the mushrooms and then sprinkle with the gorgonzola and parmesan cheeses.

4.  Slide the pizza off the peel and onto the baking stone and bake for about 7-10 minutes or until the crust is baked through and the cheese has melted.  Sprinkle with parsley, if using.