Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Pi Day--Strawberry~Rhubarb

March 14th...3.14 (159265359) is Pi Day and like so many years before, I love to bake a pie, whether it be sweet or savory.  Today, wishing spring would come back, I made a Strawberry~Rhubarb Pie.  It wasn't so much about the filling, but the pie crust.  Recently, I did an on-line class with American Test Kitchen on pies and especially, "Fail-Proof Pie Crust."  Isn't that what makes a great pie?  Anyway, I was intrigued by a new ingredient, vodka.  I had heard people say they always used it in their dough, but never tried it for myself.

My mom made good pies and her crusts were most always made with shortening, not butter, although a few times, I knew she used lard.  When I was first married, I used only shortening; the recipe from The Betty Crocker cookbook, but then I took a pastry course at the CIA and learned it was butter that made the best pate brisee.  Of course, you had to be careful not to overwork the dough and form gluten!  I developed my own recipe that I've used so many times before on my blog, incorporating vinegar, large egg, and baking powder to give a Never-Fail Pie Dough that even with over working, it's still flakey.  However, the use of vodka stilled "called my name" and after making up pie dough today, I will never go back to anything else!

Fail-Proof Pie Crust
12 T ( 1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 c (8T) vegetable shortening, cut into pieces

Place the butter and shortening on separate plates and chill in the freezer at least 30 minutes. Also, in a 1-cup measure, add cold water and ice cubes and allow to chill.
Note:  You don't need a fancy vodka, but you should be storing it in the freezer!

2 1/2 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour (divided)
2 T granulated sugar
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1/4 cup chilled water
1/4 cup chilled vodka

In a food processor, mix 1 1/2 cups flour, sugar and salt and pulse a couple of times to incorporate.  Take the butter and shortening out of the freezer and scatter on top of the dry ingredients.  Pulse until no uneven clumps exist.  Add 1 cup flour and pulse 4 to 6 times.


Do not add the liquid to the food processor, but rather transfer this mixture to a large bowl.  Pour the water and vodka over the surface and use a rubber spatula to stir until the dough sticks together.
Divide the dough in half and wrap the 4-inch disk with plastic wrap.  Refrigerate 1 hour or up to 2 days.
Allow the dough to sit for 10 minutes before rolling out.  Makes enough for a 2-crust pie.

Lots of fruits and berries will be coming our way over the new few months of Spring/Summer; give this dough a try and see how wonderful it is.  Enjoy!


Friday, March 10, 2017

Orange~Chocolate Pistachio Sable'

Sable's is a French cookie that originated in Sable'-sur-Sarthe in 1670.  The word sable' means "sand" and it takes the place of the English word "breadcrumbs" in the context of baking.  Simply, the butter is rubbed into the sugar and flour to form particles of dough resembling breadcrumbs or sand! Today, I used my stand mixer and made these tender cookies.

I've always been impressed by these tender cookies in the bakeries and when I recently flew through Paris (on my way to Birmingham, England), I was in awe once more of the cases of beautiful cookies.  Since this week has definitely become Cookie Week, I decided to show you how easy these cookies are to make.  I've paired two of my favorite flavors, chocolate and orange and added roasted pistachios, but you can substitute for your taste.

Orange~Chocolate Pistachio Sable'

Orange Dough:
3/4 cup (170g) (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
Zest of one large orange
1 cup (120g) confectioners' (icing) sugar
1 large egg
1 T orange juice, fresh is the best
1 1/2 cups (188g) King Arthur all-purpose flour (plain flour)
1 1/4 cups (120g) Almond Flour
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
1 cup (113g) chopped roasted salted pistachios

In a bowl of a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat butter, confectioners' sugar and zest until fluffy--3 to 4 minutes.  Add the egg and juice and mix to combine; don't worry if the mixture  oks "curdled"--adding the dry ingredients will bring the dough together.  Gradually add the flours and salt, then the pistachios, beating just until they're combined.

Prepare an 8-inch square baking pan lined with plastic wrap and press the orange dough into it.
Place into the refrigerator to chill while you make up the chocolate dough.  No need to wash the mixing bowl!

Chocolate Dough:
1 cup (227g) (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (120g) confectioners' (icing) sugar
1 T orange juice
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups (188g) King Arthur all-purpose flour (plain flour)
1/2 cup (43g) unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
1 cup chopped roasted salted pistachios

1 cup (200g) Turbinado sugar for dipping the ends in before baking

Mix the chocolate dough as above for the orange dough.  Take out the pan with the orange dough from the refrigerator and press the chocolate dough on top.

Wrap the plastic wrap over the surface and place back into the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, until firm.

Preheat oven to 350F-degrees (178C-degrees).  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Remove from refrigerator and use the plastic wrap to "lift" the dough from the pan.  Place on a cutting board and using a serrated knife, divide dough into four logs.  Slice the logs into 1/4-inch slices.
Dip the ends into the Turbinado sugar.
Place on the baking sheet, spacing them at least 1/2-inch apart--I did a little more.
Bake in the preheated oven 10 to 12 minutes or until firm and just beginning to brown at the edges.  Let cool completely on a rack.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Malted Dark Chocolate Pecan Cookies

There's really nothing more comforting, as a kid or an adult, than a cookie.  I have fond memories of my mother baking peanut butter, snickerdoodle, and chocolate chip, among others, for our lunches or afternoon snack.   I also remember the "store-bought" ginger snaps that my grandparents kept in their cookie jar for us to have when we stopped in before our walk up the path to our home as we told them about our day.  And, when our daughters went to Mount Holyoke, I remember them telling me about the tradition of M & C's (milk and cookies) before retiring to their beds at night.

When I was in England, crisp cookies are called "biscuits."  The cookie has existed for as long as baking as been documented--back to the 7th century AD Persia, just shortly after sugar became common in the area.  They spread through England with the Muslim conquest of Spain and by the 14th century, they were common in all levels of society throughout Europe.  However, cookies came to America through the Dutch in New Amsterdam in the late 1620s.  The Dutch word, "kookie" was Anglicized to cookie by 1703.  Modern cookies, with butter and sugar creamed together was not common until the 18th century.  The chocolate chip cookie, which accounts for more than half of the cookies baked at home, was invented in 1930 at the Toll House Inn by Ruth Graves in Wakefield, Massachusetts.  I tweaked her recipe today and added Malted Milk Powder.

Malted Milk Powder is made from a mixture of malted barley, wheat flour, and evaporated whole milk.  Diastatic malt has enzymes that break down starch into sugar and this is what I used to add to my bread dough to help the dough rise and create a certain crust.  Today, it added a crispness to these cookies and I think, made them perfect dunkers!

Malted Dark Chocolate Pecan Cookies
(For my friends in Europe, especially England--I've converted measurements to grams as well)

14T (1 3/4 sticks) (200g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup (175g) firmly packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup (165g) granulated sugar
1 large egg + 1 yolk
2 tsp. Vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. water
2 cups (300g) King Arthur all-purpose flour (plain flour)
3/4 cup (90g) Malted Milk Powder
1/4 tsp. Kosher salt
1 1/4 cups (200g) bittersweet chocolate chips
1 cup (120g) pecans, chopped

Preheat oven to 325F-degrees (163C) and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a bowl of a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the melted butter and sugars together thoroughly.  Add the egg plus the yolk and mix together.  Add the vanilla extract and water, then cream once more.

Add the dry ingredients and mix on low, when almost incorporated, add the chocolate chips and pecans.  Mix to combine thoroughly.

Using a 1/4 cup scoop (or 1/4 cup measurement), measure out dough and place on the lined baking sheets, pressing down slightly on the mound of dough.

Leave space around the cookies to spread slightly.  I was able to get 6 large cookies per baking sheet.
Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes; I baked both sheets at once, rotating them on the oven shelf to ensure even baking and golden brown in color.
Remove cookies from the oven and allow to set on the sheet for 10 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool completely. Enjoy and Happy Spring from North Carolina!


My trip to Birmingham, England was memorable and even though I didn't get out while during the trade show, I certainly got to meet a lot of new friends.  Here's our booth:



We laughed that my sweater matched the carpet between the booths!


Saturday, March 4, 2017

Chocolate Peppermint Cookies & March's Give-Away Apron

You know what they say about the Girl Scout #1 cookies, Thin Mints--"when they're gone, they're gone for another year!"  Well, that's not necessarily true if you really love these cookies like we do.  I've come up with an easy recipe that comes pretty darn close so we can enjoy these cookies whenever the urge comes on.

Did you know the first cookie sales for the Girl Scouts was in 1917 by a troop in Muskogee, Oklahoma.  However, during World War II, the Girl Scouts sold calendars in addition to cookies because of the shortages of flour, sugar and butter.  In 2007, sales were estimates at about 1200 million boxes per year and as of 2015, the GSA began to offer the ability to purchase their cookies with credit/debit cards via an online site or "Digital Cookie" App!  Thin Mints, along with Samoas (which were renamed this year to Caramel DeLites) are among the top two most popular.  They're a rich chocolate with a hint of mint and my recipe delivers in taste and richness!

Chocolate Peppermint Cookies
12T ( 1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. peppermint extract (I used peppermint oil and reduced this to 1/8 tsp.)
1 1/2 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa
1 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. Kosher salt

Chocolate Glaze:
14 oz. bittersweet chocolate (397g)
1/2 tsp. vegetable oil
1/2 tsp. peppermint extract (I used 1/4 tsp. peppermint oil)

In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter thoroughly.  Add the sugar, while the mixer is running on low and continue to beat until fluffy.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.  Add the egg and extracts and beat once more.

Add the dry ingredients and mix on low until the dough is fully incorporated.

I divided the dough in half and I use pie dough rounds to roll out to the desired thickness of 1/4-inch.



Adversely, you could roll between parchment paper.  Rolling the dough "between" either is better because you're not adding extra flour to prevent sticking and making the cookies tough.
Chill the dough rounds about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350F-degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  I used a 2 1/2-inch round cookie cutter, but you can choose the size you want.  I was able to get 2 1/2 dozen using this size.

Bake for 8 minutes!  Allow to cool on the sheet pan for about five minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool completely.
While the cookies are cooling, melt the chocolate, oil, and peppermint flavoring (or oil) in a bowl over a saucepan with about 1 inch of water in it over low heat.

Once the chocolate is ALMOST completely melted, remove the bowl from the heat and continue to stir until the chocolate is completely melted.  This method helps to temper  the chocolate and give the finished cookie a shine!

I used a fork and placed a cookie on it to dip into the melted chocolate. Tap the fork against the side of the bowl to remove excess chocolate.   Have a sheet of parchment paper close by to place the dipped cookies on.
Recess putting the cookies in the refrigerator...allow them to set at room temperature.  Presto...if the Girl Scouts cookies are no longer available until next year, you've got a back-up.  Enjoy!


March's Give-Away Apron is brightly colored for the Spring season!  If you would like to win this apron, add a comment to any of the posts this month and you could be wearing this apron to bake in your kitchen.  Good luck!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Scottish Oat Crackers & February's Give-Away-Apron Winner

Dydd Gwyl Dewi Hapus!  In Welsh that is Happy St. David's Day and who doesn't need another day to celebrate?  Traditional festivities include wearing daffodils and leeks and is celebrated in Wales on March 1st, which is the date of Dewi Sant's death.  It marks the resistance of the Welsh to the Normans; resistance is something we Americans know a little something about! These oat crackers is something I had in the UK with a cheese plate and thought it would be nice to make for today, although they are typically Scottish!

Scottish Oat Crackers
1/2 cup Old Fashioned Oats toasted in a 350F-degree oven for 10 minutes.

Into a bowl of a food processor, pulse:

Toasted oats
3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. Kosher salt
1/2 tsp. ground pepper

12 T ( 1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
Add the butter to the dry ingredients and pulse until a the mixture resembles coarse sand.


3 T cold water
Add the water, through the feed tube while pulsing.  Pulse several times to bring the dough together.
Bring dough together and seal in plastic wrap.
Chill about 1 hour.  Roll dough out onto parchment paper, sprinkling 1/4 cup (or more) of old fashioned oats over the top surface.

Roll dough to a 10" x 12" rectangle and cut into 2" x 3" crackers, using a pastry cutter.
Chill the dough once more, about 15 minutes, then you can easily separate the crackers for baking.
Preheat oven to 350F-degrees.  Bake crackers for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown.
Let rest on baking sheet about 15 minutes, then remove to a rack and cool completely. Enjoy!

Congratulations to Donna Alice!  Please email me your address and I will send this beautiful apron to you!  Tomorrow, I will have March's apron up; at least that is my plan:-D


Sunday, February 26, 2017

Hot Fudge Pudding Cake

Hot Fudge Pudding Cake is, for me, the precursor to the contemporary Molten Lava Chocolate Cake.  A Fudge-like cake with a chocolate sauce is one my mother used to make.  I think the original recipe that she used was from the Betty Crocker Cookbook, but since I have it written down on a recipe card, I can only assume she "tweaked" it a bit...which was so like her.

You would think it has a truckload of butter and eggs with rich chocolate, but in actuality, it has only one egg, four tablespoons of butter, and uses cocoa powder!  I call it--"the poor man's molten cake."

Hot Fudge Pudding Cake

1 1/4 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup milk
1 large egg
2 tsp. vanilla extract
4 T unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

Topping:
3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder

1 1/2 cups hot water (you can also use hot coffee)

Preheat oven to 350F-degrees.  Butter a 8-inch square baking pan or ceramic dish (that's what I used)

In a large bowl, mix all the dry ingredients together and whisk to combine.  In a separate bowl, mix the wet ingredients (milk, egg, & vanilla extract).  Add the wet ingredients to the dry, along with the melted butter and stir to combine.  Spoon batter into the prepared baking dish and smooth the top.
Mix together the Topping ingredients and spoon on top of the cake batter.

Press the topping mixture slightly with an off-set spatula on top of the cake batter.  To make sure I don't spill anything--I place this in the oven, then pour the hot water over the mixture.

Carefully push the rack into the oven and bake for 35 to 45 minutes.  The cake should look set and the pudding is bubbling  I suggest (and I will do this next time) placing a parchment lined baking sheet under your dish in case any "pudding" bubbles over!
Spoon out the mixture into a dessert dish and yes, add a scoop of Vanilla Ice Cream.  Enjoy!

I had such a wonderful time in Birmingham, UK and will share some of the dishes I had in the next post.  I was so surprised how much the food had changed since I was there in 1993; fresh ingredients and some of the best bread I've ever had.

A pub we ate at in Coventry~Meriden had this plaque in the floor where the Centre of England is; very cool:-D