Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Happy Baking

Almost 2 days of baking and my cookie boxes are complete...whew! I made nine different cookies and a new candy called Brigadeiros, a Brazilian confection that is a cross between a truffle and fudge.
Some cookies are familiar ones I've made in the last few months--Red Velvet Triple C Cookies, Cardamon~Cranberry Crescents, and Pecan Tassies, but then I always like to try some new ones and this year I made up a Chocolate~Pistachio Ice Box Cookies with Orange Buttercream.

My Grandma Gladys introduced me to Ice Box Cookies which which got their name after the late 1800s, when the first ice boxes appeared.  These cookies were mixed up, formed in a roll, then, sliced and baked later.  Very convenient for the busy housewife.  I love them because they can be made up ahead of time, stored in the refrigerator or freezer and baked when needed.  I think Grandma Gladys started making these when she went to work after my mother and uncle went to school.  Anyway, ice box cookies are great on their own, but with a buttercream, ganache, or even Dulce de leche spread in between to make a sandwich cookie, it's even better.

Pistaschio Chocolate Ice Box Cookies with Orange Buttercream
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1/2 cup finely ground Pistaschios

1/2 cup Dutch-processed cocoa
2 large egg yolks
4 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour

In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter and confectioners' sugar for 3-5 minutes.  Add the salt and the pistachios and mix to blend.  Add the egg yolks, one at a time and beat well after each one.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix again.
Add the flour and mix on medium until the dough comes together.
 Divide the dough in half and drop dough on a piece of plastic wrap.  Form dough into a roll--I did mine in a square, but it could have been round too.

 I made the roll 1 1/2-inches x 1 1/2-inches, but again, it's your choice.

Chill dough at least 3-4 hours, but you can also place these rolls in a freezer bag and store them up to 6 months.

To Bake:  Preheat oven to 375F-degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper.
Slice cookies 1/4-inch thick and place about  1 1/2 to 2 inches apart.  Bake until they look set, which for me was 8 minutes.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool 5 minutes on the baking sheet.  Transfer to a rack and cool completely.

Orange Buttercream
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 tsp. grated orange zest
2-3 T fresh orange juice

In the stand mixer, using the whisk attachment, cream the butter and confectioners' sugar thoroughly.  Add the orange zest  Add the orange juice, one tablespoon at a time until the mixture is light and fluffy.
Use an off-set spatula to spread on the bottom of the cookie, then, top with a second cookie.
These not only taste fantastic, but they're a pretty additional to my Christmas box.  Lucky family and friends will receive their boxes tomorrow.  One more thing checked off the list.  Enjoy!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Joe Frogger Cookies

This is my BIG baking week as I need to get my cookie boxes sent to family and friends.  I can hardly believe that one week from today, it's Christmas--where did the time go?

This year, I'm feeling very nostalgic and wanted my baking to reflect that feeling.  The first cookie I'm making is called a Joe Frogger that dates back to Colonial times in Marblehead, Massachusetts.  It's been a cherished cookie by generations of residents there, but also in our family.  I love this ginger/molasses cookie because, to me, it "tastes" like Christmas and secondly, it can be made up ahead of time.  The cookie was originally baked by a man known as Old Black Joe Brown and an Aunt Crese, who maintained a tavern on Gingerbread Hill (isn't that fitting!) in Marblehead.  The fishermen would take barrels of Joe Froggers with them on their trips because the cookies would keep for long periods of time.

This recipe comes from an old book I bought years ago when we lived in Massachusetts, called New England Cookery, which is, unfortunately, out of print.  I have since found recipes for Joe Froggers in other books, but I will tell you, do not substitute butter for the vegetable shortening--the cookie will spread and lose its shape.  Also, the original Joe Froggers were much larger--about the size of a coffee can, but the baking time I'm giving you is for a 3-inch cookie so they'll fit in my cookie boxes.  Feel free to make them large like the traditional ones, just increase the time; you're looking for dark around the edges and firm in the centers.

Joe Frogger Cookies
1/2 cup vegetable shortening (I used the sticks for convenience)
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 cup molasses
3 1/2 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp. allspice
2 T dark rum
1/3 cup hot water

Mix the dry ingredients in a medium bowl, whisking to combine.  Set aside.  In a stand mixer, using a paddle attachment, beat the shortening, brown sugar and molasses together.

Combine the hot water and rum and alternately add with the dry ingredients to the sugar/molasses mixture.  (If the dough is dry, add a tablespoon or two of additional water.)

I place a sheet of parchment on my dough board and scooped up half of the dough on top.  

Place a second sheet over the dough and roll it to 1/4-inch thick.  

Place this on a baking sheet and repeat with the other half of the dough.  

Refrigerate the two doughs for at least two hours.  *The original recipe called for doing this step with waxed paper and that works too.

Preheat oven to 375F-degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment.

Cut the dough into 3-inch cookies with either a round or scalloped cutter.  

Remove the excess dough from around the cut cookies and use an off set spatula to lift and place on the prepared cookie sheets. 

Bake 10 - 12 minutes (I bake using CONVECTION heat, so I set the temperature on 360F-degrees and baked for 10 minutes).  As explained above, the cookies are baked with they are dark around the edges and firm in the centers.  

Let the cookies cool for at lease 5 minutes on the baking sheets before transferring them to a rack to cool completely.

Some kind of ginger cookie has always been part of my holiday baking and these simple cookies meet that criteria.  Our grandson arrives on Wednesday and he's already asked me to have my Kelly's Giant Ginger cookies waiting for him, which I will also bake, but I bet he's going to like these too.   And, with a cup of cocoa, these are great for Santa!

Later, I'm mixing up chocolate/pistachio dough that I will form into rolls and refrigerate to bake tomorrow. It's going to have an orange buttercream filling--Come back and visit.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

YES VIRGINIA...there is a December Give-Away!

I feel like the rabbit in Alice in Wonderland..."I'm late for a very important date..." in posting this month's Give Away apron, but somehow it's done and one more thing checked off my list (of about a hundred!)

I can't even count how many Christmas Eve's I've stayed up all night finishing sewing projects, wrapping presents or baking.  The television (in the early years) would have all the old movies on--A Christmas Carol with Alastair Sim, Jack Warner and Kathleen Harrison and my all time favorite, It's A Wonderful Life with Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed while I frantically tried to get everything done; now I watch them on DVD.  I feel this Christmas Eve will be no different.  My mother said to me once, "The hurrier you go, the behinder you get!" and that is oh so true, but I came across this verse that I find calming and I hope you do too while you're scrambling to get everything done.

It is never too late to be happy;
It is never too late to smile;
It is never too late to extend a hand;
With a cheering word once in a while.
For there's never a sorrow or worry
In all this green-covered earth
But is followed soon by a gladsome joy
And a generous measure of mirth.
~Jeanette H. Carey

If you find your way to my blog and post, your name will be entered to win this apron, sewn with love and from my heart.  Happy Holidays. XOXO

Monday, December 12, 2011

Bittersweet Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies with Salted Caramel

My mother believed that chocolate made everything better and at times, I also believe this to be true.  Moreover, when she first tasted really good chocolate, there was no going back to the less expensive brands.  I have inherited those same taste buds and when we moved to the Pacific Northwest, I discovered Fran's Chocolates, a chocolatier founded in Seattle, who makes really good chocolates!  As Fran Bigelow states in her book, Pure Chocolate, "A few lucky people are born to chocolate. Others, like myself, fall into it later in life and spend the rest of their lives mastering its magic."  That also describes my mother and this cookie I create today is in her honor of teaching me the appreciation of good chocolate, with a twist from Fran Bigelow, who got me hooked on chocolate salted caramels.

Thumbprint cookies have been one of my favorite cookies to bake each year during the holidays.  Normally, I do the buttery, shortbread dough, rolled in finely ground nuts, then, add my homemade raspberry, strawberry, or peach jam to the centers.  My family loves them and they will be part of my cookie boxes for gifts as usual.  However, this chocolate version is my way of adding something new and keeping them on their toes ;-)! 

I've included, once more, my recipe for Homemade Caramel, which is very easy to make, but, keep in mind, you can also use a store bought brand, or even melt wrapped caramels with about 3 tablespoons of heavy cream to fill the centers.  I understand with time flying by, shortcuts may be necessary, so don't feel guilty.  If you make your own caramel, there will be about a cup or more left over.  I will be  placing my leftover in a sterilized 8oz jam jar, sealed, and shipped to my daughter, Erin.  She loves caramel over ice cream and since she's unable to travel this holiday, it will be a special homemade treat.

Homemade Caramel
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
I use C & H's Baker's Sugar, which is an ultrafine pure cane sugar, much like caster sugar

1 cup Light Karo Syrup
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
4 T unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1 cup heavy cream
1 tsp. Vanilla extract

In a 2 quart sauce pan, combine the sugar and Karo syrup together, stirring to blend well, however, once you place the pan over heat, DO NOT STIR!   

Place sauce pan over medium heat.  When the mixture turns a golden brown (this takes about 7 minutes, but don't go away or get distracted doing something else), remove pan immediately from the heat and add the butter.  The mixture will bubble up and at this time, you can stir to incorporate the butter.  Now, slowly add the heavy cream--the mixture will not only bubble, but release steam.  For safety reasons, you can use a hot pad to pour the cream to protect your hands.  Don't panic if a "lump" of caramel forms; trust me, the mixture is still hot enough that you will be able to stir that lump away.  Finally, add the vanilla and stir once more.  

The mixture will be quite thin, but as it cools, it will thicken up.  (You could also pour this mixture into a square pan, brushed with butter and it will set so you can make your own soft caramels as gifts.)  I transferred the mixture to a heat-proof bowl to cool while I started the bittersweet thumbprint cookies, stirring occasionally to speed up the cooling. 

Bittersweet Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into cubes, set at room temperature
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp. Vanilla extract
3 oz. bittersweet chocolate, melted
1/2 cup Dutch-processed cocoa
2 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt

Additional: Coarse Sea Salt 

Preheat oven to 350F-degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the room temperature butter and sugar until fluffy.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add melted bittersweet chocolate and vanilla and mix to combine.

In a separate bowl, mix all the dry ingredients (the last five listed) and use a whisk to combine.  Add the dry ingredients to the batter and mix on low speed just to combine.

Use a 2-tablespoon scoop to measure out the dough onto the parchment-lined baking sheet.  

Bake 10-11 minutes, until the tops look dry and cracked.  Remove from the oven and immediately use the small end of a pastry tamper or the rounded end of a large wooden spoon to create a "well" in the center of the cookie.  Allow to cool about 5 minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to a rack to cool completely.

Use about 1/2 teaspoon of caramel to fill the wells.  

Sprinkle with a few grains of coarse sea salt to finish off the cookie.  

Allow the cookie to set at least an hour before storing in a airtight container in a cool, dry place.

My friends know me all too well...and for my birthday this year, I received not one, but two boxes of Fran's Chocolates.  These cookies, with the deep, dark chocolate taste and combined with the salted caramel pay tribute to two women who have inspired me to find the magic.  Enjoy!


Sunday, December 11, 2011

Teriyaki Veggie Burgers with Parmesan~Black Pepper Buns

One of my mother's secrets to  keeping us healthy for the holidays was getting us to eat our daily serving of vegetables and fruits, mostly fresh, but if out of season, it would be ones she had canned from the summer bounty.  I believe she made veggies so appealing, especially to me, because even when I was younger, I was not much of a meat-eater.  I loved her vegetable soup and can still make that a meal whether it's winter or summer!  So, when I decided to come up with my version of a veggie burger, I kept this in mind--if it's flavorful, no one will miss the meat!  On top of that, I decided to make a unique bun that would enhance the presentation complete with roasted potatoes and corn off the cob, that I preserved from the summer, the meal left my hubby asking for more ;-)

Teriyaki Veggie Burgers
1 small onion
2 medium carrots
8 oz. mushrooms (I used the white button, but you could do crimini or shitaki)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-15oz can black beans
2 cups brown rice, cooked
1/4 cup teriyaki sauce
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup Panko bread crumbs

Cook brown rice as directed.  [For 2 cups--1 cup of brown rice and 2 1/2 cups of water; cook 45-55 minutes on med/low until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender]
In a food processor or VitaMix, chop the onion, carrots and mushrooms.  Heat a large skillet and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Add the veggies and saute until the onion is translucent and the mushrooms have released their liquid.  Add the garlic and cook until carrots are tender.
Place the veggies and black beans back in the food processor and pulse several times to pulverize the beans slightly.  Transfer mixture to a large bowl with the brown rice.  Add the teriyaki sauce, cheese, and bread crumbs and mix to combine.  Cover with plastic wrap and chill the mixture about 30 minutes to 1 hour.
While mixture is chilling, start the buns.

Parmesan~Black Pepper Buns
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1/2 cup 2% milk
1/4 cup (4T) unsalted butter
2 T active dry yeast
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp. freshly ground pepper
5 to 5 1/2 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
4 T unsalted butter, melted additionally

In a stand mixer, using a paddle attachment, mix the sugar, egg and salt together.  In a 2-cup glass measure, microwave the milk and 4 tablespoons of butter until butter has melted--about 45 seconds.
Add warm water to the glass measure to bring up the level to 2 cups of liquid

 While the mixer is running, slowly add the liquid to the bowl, incorporating it completely with the sugar and egg mixture.  Feel the outside of the bowl, if it's not too warm, while the mixer is running, sprinkle the yeast over the mixture.  Turn mixer off and let yeast rest 5-10 minutes (to proof).
 Add the Parmesan cheese, pepper and 2 cups of flour.  Mix to combine, adding 1 more cup of flour.  Change the paddle attachment to the dough hook and add 2 more cups of flour.  Mix on low speed, adding more flour as needed until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl and have kneaded it about 6-8 minutes.
 Transfer dough to a lightly floured board and knead to a smooth ball.
In a large glass bowl, place 2 tablespoons of melted butter and coat the sides.  Place dough, top side down, then, turn it upright (this coats the top of the dough with butter).  Cover the bowl, tightly, with plastic wrap and let rise 45 minutes to 1 hour (or until double).
Punch dough down and divide into 12 pieces.  Roll each piece into a ball and flatten.  Place on a baking sheet, brushed with melted butter.  Brush tops of the buns with more melted butter and cover with plastic wrap to rise--about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375F-degrees.  
Sprinkle sesame seeds on top of the buns and bake for 18 minutes.
Set aside while you finish the the veggie burgers.

Teriyaki Veggie Burgers--continued
Remove veggie burger mixture from refrigerator.  I used a new "gadget" I found this summer at Williams-Sonoma to press my own burgers.
 I placed two squares of parchment underneath the form and scooped up, about 1/3 cup, of the veggie mixture.  
 Press down with the top, which I lightly sprayed with a cooking oil spray.
 Lift the form and place the patties on a baking sheet.  Repeat until all the mixture is used--it made 10 patties.
Heat a skillet or a grill pan on medium high.  Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Brush the tops of the veggie burgers with additional teriyaki sauce and place in the hot skillet.  Cook 3-5 minutes on each side, brushing the other side with more teriyaki sauce.  Add a slice of sharp cheddar cheese, if desired and serve on the Parmesan~Black Pepper Buns with lettuce and tomato.

After dinner, it was time to tackle the tree and get that lit and decorated.  

I feel I'm so far behind this holiday with being away after Thanksgiving and in just 10 days our grandson arrives.  PANIC! but I know, some how, I will get it all done...hopefully.  Enjoy! 

One more thing...the best thing about being part of the "crafting" industry is meeting so many creative people.  One of my dear friends, I've learned, is a finalist in The Washington Post 2011Holiday contest with a star garland she created.  I've included the site for you to view and vote for your favorite. 


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Holiday Pistachio~Dried Cherry Biscotti

One of the things I remember most about baking for the holidays with my mother was the early preparation she did to eliminate the mad-rush to get everything done for Christmas.  Some cookies were started as early as the second week following Thanksgiving and certainly, her fruitcakes would be made before December even crept in.  So, now that I'm home again, my thoughts turn to those memories as I begin my holiday baking.

Biscotti is a perfect cookie to consider for baking ahead.  This cookie, or as they were originally known as, biscotti di Prato, for the Italian city of origin, has become one of the most popular treats found in coffee shops. This twice-baked biscuit not only freezes well (up to 6 weeks) but can easily be stored for up to 3 weeks in an airtight container in a cool, dry environment.  Furthermore, they travel well, which for me when I'm shipping cookies to family, is an important factor. 

Today, I chose dried cherries and pistachios with a touch of lemon zest, but the combinations are endless when it comes to creating a favorite.

Although the original biscotti contained no yeast, fat (butter or oil) or milk, I typically bake an American version that does have butter or oil in combination with eggs.  Some of the popular additions to the dough are nuts (walnuts, hazelnuts, or pistachios), dried fruit (cherries, cranberries, blueberries, currants), bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate bits or chunks, and of course cocoa, substituted for some of the flour.  The first biscotti I ever had was flavored lightly with anise and orange zest, which is still a favorite for me to bake.

Holiday Pistachio~Dried Cherry Biscotti

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut in small 1/2-inch cubes to soften
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. lemon zest
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
1 cup pistachios, coarsely chopped
2/3 cup dried cherries, softened and coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 350F-degrees.  Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Soak the dried cherries in boiling water for 15 to 30 minutes.  Drain and coarsely chop.  Coarsely chop the pistachios and set both aside.

In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugar and lemon zest.  Beat in eggs, one at a time, scraping the sides bowl in between.  Add the vanilla and salt.  Whisk the flour and baking powder together in a separate bowl, then, add to the creamed mixture, beating on low just until blended.  Stir in the pistachios and cherries.
Form the dough into a 16-inch x 3-inch log.  Wet hands to smooth the dough.  Bake in the preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes until golden.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 15 to 20 minutes.  Lower oven temperature to 325F-degrees.

Transfer the baked log, using the parchment paper under it, to a cutting board.  

Using a sharp, serrated knife, cut the log diagonally into 3/4-inch thick slices.  Arrange the biscotti on the same baking sheet, covered with a new sheet of parchment, and bake for an additional 15 minutes.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before transferring to a rack to cool completely.

Additionally, you can melt 12-ounces of white chocolate over a double-boiler to dip half of the cooled biscotti into.  Shake off the excess chocolate and place on a baking sheet until the chocolate sets.  You can refrigerate the biscotti for about 35 minutes to speed up the process.  

As panic sets in, as the holiday draws near, having a little help of baking ahead certainly calms me.  It will be one less last minute thing to be done before our grandson arrives for a visit.  Let the baking begin--Enjoy!