Wednesday, July 29, 2015

"Almond Joy" Biscotti

If I were to list my mother's favorite flavors, the list would start with chocolate, lemon, coconut and almond.  These Almond-Joy Biscotti would definitely hit three of her favorites!

Almond Joy was first introduced in 1946 by the Winjamy Candy Company in Boston, Massachusetts.  It had replaced the Dream Bar, created in 1936 that contained diced almonds and coconut.  In 1978 Peter Paul merged with the Cadbury Candy Company, then in 1988, Hershey's purchased the U.S. portion of the company.  Even though, Peter Paul doesn't own any portion of the company, the name still appears on the wrapper.  Remember the jingle in the 70s..."sometimes you feel like a nut, and sometimes you don't...Almond Joy got nuts, Mounds don't!"  Well, these biscotti don't have Almond Joys chopped up in them, but I did incorporate almonds, coconut, and chocolate to get my spin on this very popular combination.

Almond Joy Biscotti
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1/2 cup sweetened coconut
1 cup mini chocolate chips
1 cup chopped almond slices
2 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt

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

In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together thoroughly.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed with a rubber spatula.  Add the extracts and mix once more.

Add the coconut, chocolate chips and almonds with 1 cup of the flour, baking powder, and salt to the batter.  Mix on low until blended.  Remove from the stand and stir in the remaining 1 cup of flour.  Divide the dough and pat them into 12" x 3" logs.  Dampen your hands and smooth the top of the dough.
Bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes, until golden brown.
Allow to cool about 10 minutes, then use a serrated knife to slice the logs into 3/4-inch slices.  Place face down on a parchment lined baking pan.  Return to the oven and bake 7 minutes, remove from the oven and turn the slices over and bake another 7 minutes.
Allow to cool completely before packing them up into your cookie jar:-D  These cookies have a long shelf life, but I highly doubt they will last very long.  Enjoy! 

Monday, July 13, 2015

Fruit & Nut Pistachio~Zucchini Bread

I remember very well helping my grandfather plant the vegetable garden that he would share with us.  In fact, he once told me, "you're the only one, other than me, that I will allow to use the rototiller."  Yes, I loved gardening even then, but moreover, he said, "it's because you can till a straight line!"

The first time I planted zucchini I learned it was a different technique; making mounds that I would poke my finger in, about 1-inch, and place 3-4 seeds in each one.  As my grandfather taught me, it was "insurance" that each mound had a plant come up. However, emotionally it was very hard to pull 2 or 3 plants out of the mound and toss them when they all came up!

Zucchini (or as it's known in Europe, Courgette) is a summer squash, usually dark or light green, although there is also a hybrid golden yellow variety.  Most people think of squash as a vegetable, but it is indeed a fruit, which has both female (the blossom) and male (where the petiole meets the stem) in the leaf axis.  The plants can be abundant with fruit and most of us wonder how many dishes we can make.  It's low in calories and has useful amounts of foliate, potassium and Vitamin A.    I think I've come up with some pretty good recipes: breads, pickles, cakes, muffins, breaded, soups...etc!  I once sent my sister a pile of recipes when she found she was knee-deep in zucchini from the garden:-)

Today, I made a lovely bread and pumped up the "green" with Pistachio Flour and finely chopped pistachios.
Pistachios are an excellent source of healthy fats, fiber and iron and particularly replacing some of the all-purpose flour with this nut flour, cuts down on the carbohydrates we are all trying to watch.  I also added some dried fruits to make this a wholesome bread to start the day or have as a snack with your afternoon tea or coffee.

Fruit & Nut Pistachio~Zucchini Bread
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup vegetable (or canola) oil
2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1 T Vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. Almond extract
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
3 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
2 medium zucchinis, grated

1 cup Pistachio flour
3/4 cup sour cream
1 cup finely chopped pistachio nuts
1 cup of dried fruit (I used 1/2 cup chopped dates and 1/2 cup Peach Jammy Bits ) 

Preheat oven to 350F-degrees.  Spray two loaf pans (9" x 4") with cooking spray or greased with shortening.

In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter, oil, and sugar together.  While the mixer is running on low, add the eggs, one at a time.  Turn mixer speed up to medium and continue to mix until fluffy.
Add the extracts and mix once more.  Remove the bowl from the stand and add the dry ingredients, dried fruit, chopped nuts, and sour cream.  Stir with a rubber spatula to combine everything.
Divide the batter between the two loaf pans.  Place in the preheated oven and bake for 55-60 minutes or until tester comes out cleanly.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool 7-10 minutes before turning them out onto a cutting board.
A lovely slice of bread was well worth waiting for to start the day.  
This is a healthy recipe to add to your collection of zucchini recipes--check out some of my past recipes on the blog.  Enjoy!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Chocolate Cookies with White Chocolate Chunks

Mid-week and it's HOT...I'm talking mid 90s and humidity that makes it feel over a 100-degrees! My baking has to be done in the morning for sure and I thought of course, chocolate will make everything better.  And, I wanted to bake a treat for the crew that's working on the treehouse amid this weather.

Finishing touches need to be done--railings, screens on all sides, screen door installed, interior walls with blackboard paint, swings, including a tire swing and a sliding pole.  Pretty grand for our Grands!

I chose white chocolate to add to these brownie-like cookies; it's my favorite.  Consisting of cocoa butter, sugar, and milk solids, it's technically not chocolate since it does not contain cocoa solids.  During the manufacturing process the dark solids become separated from the fatty content and don't recombine.  This means that "white chocolate" contains only trace amounts of caffeine and theobromine (bitter alkaloid of the cocoa plant) and lack the antioxidants that bittersweet chocolate touts as a healthy choice.  White chocolate was launched in 1930s by a Swiss company Nestle, but it wasn't until 1945 that Kuno Baedeker would develop a white chocolate bar for The Merckens Chocolate company in America.   I also think it gives a nice contrast to the bittersweet chocolate I melted for the basis of the cookie, but you might decide to add more dark chocolate and that's your choice, of course:-D

Chocolate Cookies with White Chocolate Chunks
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
6 oz bittersweet chocolate, melted using a double boiler method
3/4 cup King Arthur all-purpose flour
1/4 unsweetened alkalized cocoa powder 
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
3 (4 oz) white chocolate bars, cut into 1/2-inch chunks

Sift together the dry ingredients, using a sifter or you can place in a separate bowl and use a wire whisk to blend.  Set aside.

Chop the bittersweet chocolate finely and place in a bowl over a pan with simmering water, making sure the water isn't high enough to touch the bottom of the bowl.  Melt over low heat.  Remove bowl and allow to cool slightly.
 In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars thoroughly.  Add the egg, egg yolk and vanilla extract and blend together.  Scrape the sides of the bowl with rubber spatula as needed.

Remove the bowl from the stand and using the rubber spatula, add the flour mixture gradually.  Incorporate thoroughly and then add the chopped white chocolate.

Chill the mixture about 25-30 minutes.  Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350F-degrees.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper.  Use a 2-tablespoon-sized scoop to measure out the dough and place on the lined sheets.  Make sure you leave about 2-inches between cookies.  Bake for 12 minutes, approx. (mine took a little less because I use the Convection setting on my oven).

Allow the cookies to cool about 7-10 minutes before transferring them to a rack to cool completely.

My sister will probably have her's with a cup of black coffee mid-afternoon, but I chose to take a break, pour a glass of lemonade and sit out on the screened in porch and watch the construction process...reading my latest book.  Enjoy!

Saturday, July 4, 2015

June's Apron Winner...4th of July Cookies & July's Give-Away Apron

My mother had a saying in her kitchen..."The faster I go, the behinder I get!"  That's just how I'm feeling since making the cross-country move almost two years ago.  I've been discombobulated with moving twice (make that three times because we had to live in the basement for 10 days while our floors were being installed), signing to do my 3-D flowers with a new company, trying to get my gardens put in, and just the everyday chores of running a household.  Whew, that made me tired just listing them:-D  A little behind, but the winner of June's cheery apron is Vee!  Yes, you eligible to win multiple times and I will get this mailed to you soon.

Now, today's post is a tribute to our wonderful country--Happy Birthday, America! you don't look a day over 239 years!!

Growing up in Maryland, I have visited Fort McHenry on several occasions and each time, I get chills thinking about Francis Scott Key writing the poem "The Defense of Fort McHenry" in 1814 describing the battle of the War of 1812, that would go on to be our National Anthem. Our flag stood steadfast during the bombing and can only imagine the depth of emotion that went into his writing. This poem was first recognized by the United States Navy in 1889, and by Woodrow Wilson in 1916, but wasn't made our National Anthem until a resolution of Congress in 1931 and signed by President Herbert Hoover. 

...O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave,
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

The red, white, and blue "banner" of our country, sewn by Betsy Ross in 1776, at the request of George Washington, was not recognized until 1777 by the 2nd Continental Congress as our National Flag.  The cookies I made has a red and white stripe (a small representation of the 13 colonies) and the star for the states that have grown to 50.  A fun project, but for me, growing up in a military family, means so much more with the pride I feel for being born and raised in this country.  Hope you all have a memorable 4th of July.

4th of July Cookies
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 1/2 cups KAF All-purpose Flour

Paste colors in Red & Royal Blue
Equipment--a small star cookie cutter

Make up the dough.  In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar thoroughly, scraping down the sides with a rubber spatula as needed.  While the mixer is running on low, add the egg and vanilla.  Scrape the sides once more.  Add the dry ingredients together and mix until the dough comes together.

Form the dough into a large ball and divide in half.
With one half, roll to a 12" x 2 1/2" tube.
Wrap this tube with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator.  Divide the second ball into two-thirds for red and one-third for blue.  Using "surgical gloves" work about 1/2 tsp. of red paste color into the larger ball.

Place the ball onto parchment paper and form a rectangle with your hands.

Place another sheet of parchment over this dough and roll it to a rectangle, approx. 12" long x 6" wide.  Take the vanilla tube out of the refrigerator and place in the center, then, roll the red dough around it and seal.

Wrap in the parchment, then, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate.
Finally, using a new pair of gloves, work about 1/3-1/2 tsp. of blue paste color into it.
Flatten this ball slightly and wrap in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate all the components 2-3 hours or even overnight.

Preheat oven to 350F-degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  Roll the blue dough out, between parchment paper (don't add extra flour or your cookies will be "tough.")
Use a serrated knife to slice the red/white dough, approximately 1/4" thick.  Use the small cookie cutter to cut a star in the center of the white dough, then, cut a star from the blue dough and insert into the opening.
Repeat with all the slices.
Bake cookies for 8-10 minutes in the preheated oven.  Remove from oven and let rest for a few minutes before transferring them to a rack to cool completely.  Repeat with remaining dough--this recipe made 2 1/2 dozen.  With the leftover white dough stars, you can be creative and place 3 together and sprinkle with colored sugared or re-roll the dough into a tube and roll in sugar, refrigerate an hour and slice and bake.  Your choice...because in America, you have that right.  Enjoy!

Finally, this month's apron proudly displays the colors of Red-White & Blue and you could be the lucky recipient (and don't have to live in America, I ship internationally too:-D) if you post a comment to any of the posts for July.  Good luck and again Happy 4th of July!