Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Incredible Chocolate Crinkles

The first time I made Chocolate Crinkles it was in the 70s; the recipe called for oil, not butter and although everyone liked them, I knew one day I'd discover a way to make this cookie even more perfect.  Cookies are really one of the hardest confections to really get right--in fact, it's where knowledge of science really comes in handy. Knowing what purpose baking soda and powder does, the ratio and sugar to the other ingredients and of course how to mix the ingredients.  Thanks to an episode of America Test Kitchens on PBS, all these were explained and their diligence in testing gave me an incredible Chocolate Crinkle!

What was achieved to make these incredible was a soft, but not gooey center with a firm outer layer, but just to touch, not hard.  What I had been doing wrong was my ratio of sugar to chocolate.  Most Crinkles call for semi-sweet with cocoa, but these call for unsweetened with added cocoa; this gives the soft center instead of wet!  Also, and this is important, you are going to mix the ingredients by hand.  No stand or hand mixer needed, but I did end up using three bowls to mix the dry, wet, and melted chocolate and butter.  Another step was to let the dough rest for 10-15 minutes to firm up instead of chilling in the refrigerator.  Finally, the balls are rolled in granulated sugar, then the confectioners' sugar so the confectioners' sugar doesn't melt away and become a Jackson Pollock look-alike:-D

Incredible Chocolate Crinkles 
Makes 22 cookies
1 cup KAF  (King Arthur Flour) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup Dutch-processed cocoa
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
4 tsp. espresso powder (optional, but really brings out the flavor of the chocolate)
In a medium bowl, whisk these ingredients together and set aside.

4 oz. unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped
4 T unsalted butter
In a small bowl, microwave, at 50% power until melted--about 1-2 minutes, at 35-40 seconds at a time.

1 1/2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
In a large bowl, stir the wet ingredients with the brown sugar until smooth.

Mix the melted chocolate/butter mixture into the wet ingredients, then, add the dry ingredients and stir until smooth.  Allow to set on the counter for 10-15 minutes for the batter to firm up. While the dough is setting, Preheat oven to 325F-degrees and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Place 1/2 cup of granulated sugar and 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar into two bowls.

Use a #30 scoop (I just found out that it gets this number because a gallon of ice cream would produce 30 scoops with this size.) to measure the dough.  Place the mound, first in the granulated sugar, covering it entirely with it, then, move it to the confectioners' sugar to coat completely.  Place the ball of dough on the lines cookie sheet--spacing 11 cookies on each sheet.

Bake one sheet at a time for 12 minutes--don't over bake!  The cookie is done when the sides of the cookies feel firm, but the center still looks somewhat moist.  Remove the pan from the oven and cool cookies on the baking sheet.  Repeat with the second baking sheet.
Meanwhile, the cookies are cooling and my little darlings are sleeping during this rainy Spring day...

This is an excellent recipe and doesn't something chocolate sound good right about now.  Enjoy!

Friday, April 3, 2015

Secret Ingredient Spice Cookies & April's Give-Away Apron

The month of April symbolizes showers, trees and flowers bursting forth,  Easter, and my Dad's birthday on April 12th (he would have been 95 years old).  So, it wasn't by accident that I chose (or it chose me) a fabric with Sailboats on it; besides being retired from US Navy, he was an avid sailor on his twin keel sailboat,  Rhiannon (Irish witch).
Dad bringing Rhiannon up the Chesapeake Bay  
If you would like a chance to win this apron, please leave a comment on any one of my posts this month!

Now, for these unusual spice cookies...I love a good mystery and in fact, if you haven't already read The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins I highly recommend it.  However, we're talking cookies and the mystery ingredient.
wait for it...........
Yes, it's ketchup!  Before you say yuck (and I know my daughter, Erin will because she hates ketchup) I must say these reminded me of a spice cake my mother baked made with tomato soup in the 60s.  How many of you have made that cake?  Well, it's delicious too and I know if you told your family what was in it, they probably wouldn't even try it:-D  These cookies are unique and heading straight to my sister's house today for an Easter surprise.

Secret Ingredient Spice Cookies
3 1/2 cups KAF all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1 cup granulated sugar
4T (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup molasses
1/3 cup ketchup (I used Heinz)
1 large egg
2 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350F-degrees.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
In a glass bowl, mix the butter, oil, molasses and ketchup and microwave 30 seconds on high, repeating until the butter has melted.
In a stand mixer, using a paddle attachment, place all the dry ingredients in and mix on low to combine.  While mixer is running, slowly add the melted butter mixture.  Next, add the egg and vanilla and continue mixing until thorough combined.

Place Sparkling Sugar or granulated sugar in a small bowl.  Scoop tablespoon size pieces of dough, roll in a ball and dip the tops in the sugar.

Bake in the preheated oven for 10-12 minutes or until lightly brown.  Allow to cool a few minutes, then, transfer to a rack to cool completely.  

Secret ingredient and all, these are wonderful cookies...just don't tell the family. Enjoy!

Happy Easter to All!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Best Chocolate Baked April Fools! and March's Apron Winner

Easter, to me is all about the chocolate...not the treble:-D  And, these baked doughnuts deliver that and then some!  Wouldn't these be scrumptious for your Easter brunch table?  Easy to make and I can guarantee they stay moist for 3-5 days in an air-tight container, so making them the night before is, as they say, "a piece of cake!"

Baking with my mother was always fun at holidays--making our own chocolate Easter eggs, Hot Cross Buns, cookies and pies.  Even as life gets hectic, I try to hold to tradition as much as I can, coming up with quicker versions of our family's favorites.

Chocolate Baked Doughnuts
2/3 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder
1 3/4 cups KAF all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup milk (not skim)
1/3 cup sour cream
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup ( 1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F-degrees.  Spray two doughnut pans with a baking spray and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer (or a large bowl and use a hand mixer) using the paddle attachment, place all the dry ingredients in and mix on low to combined.  Mix in the eggs, one a time, then, add the milk, sour cream and vanilla extract.  Mix until well combined.  Finally, while the mixer is running, add the melted butter and continue to mix until the dough is smooth. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides.
Spoon the dough into the prepared pans, filling them a bit over 3/4 full.  Smooth the tops.
Bake in the preheated oven about 12-15 minutes, checking after 12 minutes.  Test with a toothpick inserted in the middle; should come out clean.
The recipe makes easily 12-15 doughnuts, so you may have to repeat with baking a third pan.
Invert the doughnuts on a rack.  While slightly warm, dip into the Glaze or you can coat the doughnuts with~

In a bag, combine:
Sugar/Cocoa/Cinnamon Coating:
2 T granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
Place warm doughnuts into the bag and shake to coat.

Make while the doughnuts are baking.
1 1/4 cups semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 T Light Karo Syrup
Pinch of Salt

Heat the heavy cream, Karo syrup and salt in a small sauce pan until "bubbles" appear around the edges.  Pour the heated cream mixture over the chips in a small glass bowl.  Allow to sit a few minutes, then stir until smooth.  Dip the tops of the doughnuts and place on a parchment lined rack. 
I added a sprinkling of chopped peanuts...I live in the South, but you could also add Sprinkles to remind you of those processed doughnuts at your favorite shop.  Enjoy!

Now, the winner of March's sweet cherry apron is Nancy C from NancyCreative blog!  Just email me your address and I'll get this pretty apron off to you ASAP!

Tomorrow, I'll have an unusual cookie with April's Give-Away fooling!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Apple Cheesecake Bread

I thought I'd come up with a bread that would be perfect for those days when the sun is shining, temperatures are in the 70s, you've worked in the garden most of the day and now just want to sit back, enjoy a glass of wine on your porch or deck. Tall order...maybe not! That day was yesterday and an assortment of cheeses and fruit seemed like the way to end it.

My grandpa Frank loved a slice of cheese with apple pie, so this combination seemed very natural to me. I used, Manchego, Tipsy Goat, Harvati, Smoked Gouda, and an Irish cheese called Dubliner; Honey Crisp apples were the perfect choice for fruit.

Apple Cheesecake Bread
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature*
8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, at room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups Natural applesauce (I used Motts, but you could make your own)
3 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. Apple Pie Spice
1 cup pecans (or walnuts) chopped

*If you cut your butter into 1/2-inch cubes, it will soften quicker!

Preheat oven to 350F-degrees.  I used my tea loaf pan + a mini bundt, but this will easily make a 12-cup Bundt cake, or 2- 9"x 4" loaves.  Grease and flour (I use a baking spray that combines both) the pan(s) of your choice, filling them about two-thirds high.

In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter and cream cheese together.  While the mixer is running on low, slowly add the sugar, then push the speed up to med/high and mix until fluffy.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.  Add the eggs, one at a time, until incorporated, then, add the applesauce and vanilla and mix and scrape down the sides again.

Add the dry ingredients and nuts and mix on low just until combined.  
Spoon batter into the prepared pans. Bake tea loaf pan about 40-45 minutes, small bundts about 30- 35 minutes, loaf pans 40-45 minutes, and 12-cup bundt about 45-50 minutes, but check using a wooden skewer when the center is done just in case.
That's it!  Warm, wonderful apple bread and cheese was the best way to end a perfect day. Enjoy!


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Today marks the cultural and religious celebration of Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland.  My family has roots in Ireland, so this was observed in our home with my Mom making soda bread and of course, cooking Corned Beef, cabbage, and potatoes.  The feast of St. Patrick on March 17th, marks his death; he was born in Roman Britain during the 4th century.  According to his history, much written by him, he was kidnapped by Irish raiders and taken as a slave to Gaelic Ireland, where he spent six years working as a shepherd. During that time, he found God.  That's why his symbol of a three-leaved shamrock is for the Holy Trinity.

I will make Cheddar Cheese Irish Soda Bread this afternoon, but I also made a few Irish desserts for after dinner.  Tea Brack, also known as Irish Freckle Bread, resembles a fruit cake often served for breakfast.
The recipe came in an email from King Arthur for Tea Brack this past Sunday.  I used hot Irish Breakfast Tea, poured over dried fruits; the recipe called for raisins, currants, pitted prunes, and chopped dates, but I didn't have prunes, so I used a cup of dried cranberries, which I liked very much.

Filled with all those dried fruits, the cake was moist and full of flavor.

This morning, I made another recipe from that email--Pistachio Shortbread.
Perfect for the "green theme" of the day, this shortbread would be a wonderful ending to the dinner you have planned.

Hope you have a lovely day celebrating St. Patrick...I must go and bake my soda bread. Enjoy!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Mushroom Bourguignon & Mashed Cauliflower

Last year, my husband and daughter flew to Las Vegas for a family wedding (unfortunately, with work I wasn't able to attend).  Our daughter had previous eaten at the Wynn Restaurant Tableau on a trip there and couldn't wait to introduce her Dad to the vegetarian menu offered.  After going on line and seeing the selection, I decided I could come up with a dish that could easily be offered there, but also, give "meat-eaters" an alternative without giving up the taste!

Bourguignon has been a favorite in my family and yes, I've made the recipe from Julia Child cookbook on several occasion.  However, a couple of decades ago, when everyone in my family started eating vegetarian, I had to come up with an alternative.  Portabello mushrooms was the obvious choice because they will hold up to the slow cooking of this dish and some people have said, "they have a beef-like taste."
To accompany this dish, I usually do mashed potatoes, however, keeping with a healthy alternative, I did mashed cauliflower, something I made when Kelly was diagnosed with breast cancer and told to limit her carbs.  Mashed cauliflower is such an excellent substitute that my hubby thought they were mashed potatoes!  Finally, I baked rolls and added haricot verts to balance the entree, but the Bourguignon was definitely the star.

Mushroom Bourguignon (Serves 4, but can be easily doubled)
4 large Portabello Mushrooms, cleaned and cut into chunks
2 large onions, chopped
1 bunch of carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/4" pieces
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1 bay leaf
1 lb. white button mushrooms, cleaned and slice
1 1/2 cups Burgundy
2 cups water
1 cube"Not beef"bouillon (or you can use vegetable stock)
1 T tomato paste
6 T Olive Oil
1-2 T unsalted butter
1 cup chopped parsley
Preheat the oven to 375F-degrees. Prepare the vegetables--the Portabello need to have the "gills" scraped out; I use a teaspoon.  Clean all the mushrooms by using a damp paper towel to rub off any dirt.  Don't soak or run under water because mushroom will absorb the water.

Saute the onions and garlic in two tablespoons of Olive Oil until the onions are translucent.  Add the carrots and cooks about 7-10 minutes longer. Add the bay leaf and seasonings.
Transfer this mixture to a Dutch Oven.  Without cleaning the pan, heat again and add about 3 tablespoons of olive oil and saute the Portabello mushrooms (in batches so you don't over crowd).
Once the mushrooms are lightly browned, transfer them to the Dutch Oven too.  Add the water to the sauce pan with the bouillon cube and tomato paste and heat until the cube has dissolved.  Add this liquid and the 1 1/2 cups of burgundy to the Dutch Oven, covered and place in the oven to cook for 45-50 minutes.

About 15 minutes before the time has elapsed, saute the white button mushrooms in 2 T of olive oil and 1 or 2 T unsalted butter.  Cook until all the liquid the mushrooms release is absorbed.

Add these mushrooms and parsley to the Dutch oven and lower the temperature to 350F-degrees with the cover removed. Mix 3 T cornstarch dissolved in 1/4 cup of water, add to the mixture and stir to incorporate the "thickening" agent.

Mashed Cauliflower
2 heads of cauliflower, cleaned and cut into florets

Steam the cauliflower using a steam rack or pan double boiler pan with a sieve in about 1-inch of water, about 10 minutes or until tender.  Save the liquid.

To mash the cauliflower--I used my Vita-Mix, but you can also use a food processor.
Add the florets to the machine, along with 3 T of reserved liquid and 1-2 cloves of garlic sauteed in 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Process until mashed.  I did add 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter, salt and pepper to taste and 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese.

This vegetarian version has all the flavor the original does and I would bet even Julia Child would love it.  If you don't like Portabello mushrooms (something I can't fathom) you could substitute a produce by Gardein called "beef tips). Enjoy!


Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Red Velvet~Cherry Chip Oatmeal Cookies

There's nothing like a good cookie...and this is a good cookie!  I was inspired by a new product from Nestles'--Toll House "DelightFulls; a filled baking morsel.
It comes in several flavors (I've used the Peanut Butter filled already), but today, I decided on the Cherry flavored filling.  As my sister and I say, "I wonder how they did it?", but they did.  These chips are just a little larger than regular chocolate chips, so they must have used Elves:-D  Combined with the Southern flare of Red Velvet and the wholesomeness of oatmeal, these cookies are sure to Delight you too!

Red Velvet~Cherry Chip Oatmeal Cookies
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp. Almond flavoring
1 tsp. Vanilla extract
1 T Red Velvet flavoring (or you can use red food coloring
2 T Cocoa (I used Cocoa Rouge to boost the flavor and color)
Both of these products can be found at King Arthur Catalogue  
1 1/2 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
3 cups Old-fashioned Oatmeal
1/2 cup dried cherries, chopped
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 pkg. Nestles' Toll House Cherry-flavored baking chips

Preheat oven to 350F-degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment and set aside.

In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter, then add the sugars and beat until fluffy.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.  Add the flavorings, extract, and cocoa and mix again.

Add the dry ingredients, dried cherries, then the chips and mix just until combined.

Scoop the cookies with a #20 scoop (about 1/4 cup) onto the lined baking sheets, leaving about two inches between them.  Use your fingers to press down slightly on the scooped dough.
Bake for 12 minutes in the preheated oven.  Allow the cookies to cool slightly, then remove to a rack to cool completely...or if you're like me, a warm cookie is almost like heaven!
Now, who cares what the weather brings--Enjoy!