Monday, September 29, 2014

Vanilla Bean Glazed Gingerbread Cookies

Autumn began for us with a downpour -- 3 inches of rain and a chilly, barely 70-degrees and I realized summer was definitely behind us.  It also means the ingredients I've been baking with are now becoming pumpkin, apple, and ginger instead of strawberries, blueberries, and peaches!

Gingerbread was brought to Europe in 992 and to the United States with the first settlers.  In France, it is know as pain d'espices and in Germany as Lebkuchen, but the main ingredients seem to be very similar; honey or molasses and a range of spices.  Whether it's in the form of a cake or cookies, it definitely has become one of the best loved baked goods for the Fall and Winter here.

Vanilla Bean Glazed Gingerbread Cookies
3/4 cup (12 T) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup mild-flavor molasses
1 large egg
2 1/2 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
2 tsp. Baking Soda
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
2 tsp. Pumpkin Pie Spice*
*You can substitute 2 tsp. ground ginger, 3/4 tsp. cinnamon, 1/8 tsp. cloves and nutmeg for the Pumpkin Pie Spice. 

Preheat oven to 325F-degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter and brown sugar together.  Add the molasses and Pumpkin Pie Spice and mix thoroughly, scrapping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as necessary.

Add the dry ingredients and mix on low until the dough comes together.
Scoop the dough onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and flatten slightly with your hand.
The cookies will spread so be sure not to crowd them on the baking sheet--I did 8 at a time.
Bake in the preheated oven 15 minutes or until edges of the cookies are set.  Do not over bake!
Remove from the oven and allow to set for 10 minutes before transferring them to a rack to cool completely.
Vanilla Bean Glaze:
2 cups confectioners' sugar (icing sugar)
2 vanilla beans, split and scraped
3-4 T very hot water
Mix all the ingredients and spread on the slightly cooled cookies.  These cookie are delicious with a cup of tea or coffee, sitting by a fire (and yes, I did have the gas logs burning:-D) and making lists for the holidays around the corner. Enjoy! 


Saturday, September 20, 2014

September's Give-Away Apron...Scuppernong Grape Jelly and Double Chocolate Teacakes

I'm here!  It's been a long eight weeks of moving--twice, unpacking, family visiting and granddaughters staying another week...kittens running all over the place while flooring still had to be installed, but I'm back and still happily have my sanity.

I realize it's the 20th of September and it doesn't leave much time to comment, but if you're interested in winning this month's apron, in these soft colours that trumpet Fall is around the corner, just comment on this or any of the posts I will promise to do and this apron will be sent to you.

Now, to cooking in my new kitchen...another wonderful produce that I have been introduced to here in Carolina, is Scuppernong Grapes, which are native to the South.  I've made 18 jars of jelly, given a lot away, but enjoyed delicious PB & Grape Jelly sandwiches for my lunch (or a snack!) almost daily. These large grapes are usually green or bronze in colour and rounder than a white grape. They're a variety of Muscadine grapes and the "state" fruit of North Carolina. My friend, who provides me with fresh eggs, has a small vineyard and brought over several pickings and I shared my jelly recipe with her.  We made jelly last Sunday together and I did another batch this morning to replenish my winter supply:-D
These grapes were first cultivated in the 17th century in Tyrell County, North Carolina.  A hunter, named Isaac Alexander found them along the banks of the Scuppernong River.  The name traces back to the Algonquian word, ascopo, meaning "sweet bay tree."  The finish colour of the jelly is a deep, reddish purple, unlike the bluish purple of Concord grapes, but the familiar taste of grape will win you over--it did me.

Scuppernong Grape Jelly
Prepare jars by washing and rinsing 8 half-pint jars or 3 pint jars.  Fill almost with water and microwave half the jars for 4 minutes to sterilize.  Use tongs to remove the hot jars from the microwave, empty the water and turn jars upside-down on a paper-towel-lined pan.  Cover with a dish cloth while you make the jelly.  Place the rings and tops in a small sauce pan, covered with water, and bring to a boil, turn down to simmer until you need to seal the jars.

3 lbs. Scuppernong grapes, washed and roughly chopped in a food processor
1 pkg. Certo Liquid Pectin
2 T fresh lemon juice
7 cups granulated sugar

Place grapes in the food processor and pulse to chop (I did 3 lbs. in 2 batches).  Place the mixer in a large Dutch Oven pan with 1 cup water.  Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower temperature slightly and boil for 10 minutes.

Strain the mixture in cheesecloth-lined colander; I used my grandmother's colander with smaller holes.
You need 4 cups of juice for this recipe.  Place the juice, Certo liquid pectin, and fresh lemon juice in the Dutch Oven (I did wash my pan before using it again), and bring to a boil, stirring almost constantly.  When it comes to a rolling boil (one that you cannot stir down), add the sugar and stir constantly.  

Bring to a boil again and set the timer for 1 minute.
Ladle the jelly into the prepared jars, wiping around the rim of the jar with a wet paper towel to remove any spillage.  Seal with a lid and ring and turn jars upside-down.
Cover with the dish towel and let set 10-15 minutes.  When you turn the jars right-side up, you should hear a "pop."  Then, you'll know the jars are sealed and good for one year on the shelf; however, I doubt if any of this jelly will last that long!  If you have some left, but not enough for another full jar, place in a plastic container and refrigerate to use first.

 Double Chocolate Teacakes
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup + 2 T granulated sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup very strong coffee
2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 large eggs
3/4 cup Queen Guinevere Cake Flour
6 T King Arthur all-purpose flour
6 T Cocoa
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1 3/4 cup chopped bittersweet chocolate

Preheat oven to 350F-degrees.  Spray 1-9" x 5" loaf pan, or 8 well mini loaf pan with a baking spray and set aside.
Mix the buttermilk, coffee and vanilla extract together and set aside.
 In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together thoroughly.  Add the eggs, one at a time, until fully incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed with a rubber spatula.
Chop the chocolate.
Add the dry ingredients, alternately with the buttermilk/coffee mixture just until blended.  Stir in the chopped chocolate.  Note--the batter is somewhat thinner than most quick breads.
 Place in the loaf pan or scoop into the mini loaf pan as I used.
The recipe would have made 10 mini loaves, but I opted to bake two rounds to give away to a friend.
Bake for 25 minutes, if you use a mini loaf pan (or muffins) or 55 minutes for a regular-side loaf pan.
Cool 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool completely.  I simply dusted them with confectioners' sugar, but you could also do a drizzle of ganache--which would make these Triple Chocolate Teacakes! Enjoy!

My life is still hectic, but becoming a little more normal each day.  Our weather is beautiful and I'm longing to be outside planning new flower beds and knitting on our screened-in porch...maybe one day:-D