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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Black-and-white desserts

Happy New Year!  Wishing you all a happy, heathy, and prosperous new year!

My plans for New Years Eve include dinner with friends and attending a party.  A black-and-white themed party.  According to the invitation, the dress code and food/snacks will fall into the color theme; drinks will not.  Now, while I don't know that the host or hostess (one of them is my friend's coworker), I (obviously) offered to bring some home-baked treats.  I asked my friend what she thought they might like - she said black and white goodies.  Then she suggested black and white cookies.

This is not the first time my friend had requested that I make them, but last time I decided on mini-cheesecakes with individual crusts (for a NYC themed party she threw).  So suffice it to say that when she suggested them again this time, I figured I'd take a stab at them...along with a few other black and white desserts (because when have I ever been known to make things simple for myself?).

The plan was to start with the black and white cookies.  I figured they'd need the longest to sit and let the icing harden.  But I needed to wait for the butter to come to room temperature.  So while I was waiting for that, I started with the cheesecake brownies.  Then I moved onto the black and white cookies.  And lastly, the chocolate hazelnut crinkle cookies.  I debated the crinkle cookies because they're covered in powdered sugar (and guests will be wearing either white or black - which does not look good when covered in powdered sugar), but ultimately decided to make them because (a) they are so perfectly black and white, and (b) I had been wanting to make these for a while and I finally had an excuse....er, I mean occasion.

Cheesecake Brownies - Top Row (from David Lebovitz, from Ready for Dessert)
Chocolate-Hazelnut Crinkle Cookies - Middle Row (from Epicurious.com)
Black and White Cookies - Bottom Rows (from Smitten Kitchen)

A few notes:

1. I made my brownies in a 9 x 9 pan.  I recommend an 8 x 8 pan (I don't have one, which is why I used the 9 x 9).  Also, I used dark chocolate chips in mine.  I would definitely recommended using semi-sweet chips in them when you make them.  Or leave them out entirely.
2. The crinkle cookies call for 1/4 cup whole milk.  I only drink skim and the grocery store only had whole milk in half gallons, but I didn't need that much.  Another recipe called for some milk, so I went with 2%.  The cookies were fine with the 2%.
3. The chocolate icing for the black and white cookies was way too thick and almost impossible to spread.  I ended up adding extra boiling water by the teaspoon until it was smooth enough to spread.  I also added another drop of the light corn syrup.  In the end I think they came out nicely (though not as professional-looking as those you can get in bakeries here in NYC).

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Brownie thins

I had extra walnuts laying around from the candied walnuts I made the other day.  I had a recipe for Brownie Thin cookies that I wanted to make, and I was convinced they called for walnuts (I mean, aren't walnuts the go-to nut for brownies?!) -- but they didn't.  I decided that I'd make them with walnuts anyway.

The recipe says that the cookies taste just like the top layer of a brownie - so the taste of a brownie with a lot fewer calories?  Sign me up!

Honestly, I'm not a fan of nuts in my baked goods - the only things I think nuts should be baked in are carrot cake and zucchini bread, though don't ask me why (I'm honestly not sure) - so I made some with the walnuts and some without.  The walnut ones looked nicer.

Brownie Thins (from Epicurious.com)

6 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into cubes
2 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
3 Tbsp + 1 tsp flour
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract (I might make it without almond extract next time and double the vanilla...or use hazelnut extract and use hazelnuts on top instead of walnuts, or pistachios)
pinch of coarse kosher salt
nonstick vegetable oil spray
1/4 cup chopped pistachios (I used walnuts)


Place the rack in lowest third of oven.

Preheat to 350°F. Butter 2 baking sheets.

Place butter and chocolate in medium microwave-safe bowl.  Microwave on medium-high power until almost completely melted, about 1 minute.  Whisk until smooth.  Add sugar and egg; whisking again until smooth, about 1 minute. Add flour, both extracts, and salt; stir just to blend.

Let batter stand 10 minutes.

Scoop rounded teaspoonfuls batter onto prepared baking sheets, spacing apart (12 per sheet - I got 10 per sheet). Spray sheet of plastic wrap lightly with nonstick spray. Place, sprayed side down, over cookies. Using fingers, press each mound into 21/2- to 2 3/4-inch round. Remove plastic wrap (I pressed mine down with my fingers - I was out of Pam - they probably didn't get as thin as they were supposed to).

Sprinkle pistachios over rounds. Bake cookies, 1 sheet at a time, until slightly darker at edges and firm in center, about 7 minutes.

Cool on sheet 2 minutes. Transfer cookies to rack; cool completely.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Vanilla caramels

The original name of this recipe is "Chocolate-Dipped Vanilla Caramels," but I have yet to decide if I'm going to be dipping the caramels in chocolate or not (they're very sweet and tasty on their own).

Two nights ago I was talking to my aunt, and she said she had been looking for a good salted caramel.  I know it was just conversation, but I heard challenge!  Since I had been meaning to make these anyway, I took the opportunity to make them last night.  They're time intensive, yes, but well worth it. 

On Saturday night I made the caramel, and left it out to cool and set overnight.  The directions said to let it set, which I interpreted meant to keep it on the counter overnight.  The following morning they were still soft/a little runny (when I cut a bite to taste), so I put them in the fridge as I headed out to work. 
This is the caramel after it was poured into the tray:

When I got home, they were firm enough to cut into squares, but didn't hold their shape so well.  Nonetheless, I tried dipping them into the chocolate.  Not so successful.  These are the two best ones:

  Coated in bittersweet chocolate and sprinked with some salt

2 sticks unsalted butter
2.5 cups sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
1 Tbsp coarse sea salt, crumbled (plus more to sprinkle on top of dipped caramels

1 pound bittersweet chocolate, melted, optional


Line a 9x13" rimmed baking tray with tin foil and coat with nonstick spray. 

In a heavy saucepan, melt the butter.  Add the sugar, corn syrup, and heavy cream and bring to a boil; stirring until sugar dissolves.  Add the vanilla seeds.  Cook over moderately low heat, stirring, until a golden caramel forms and temperature reaches 245F, about 1 hour.  Stir in 1 Tbsp salt.  Scrape caramel into pan.  Let cool and set completely overnight (mine needed to be kept in the fridge).

Lightly oil a sheet of parchment paper and line 2 baking sheets with wax paper.  Invert the caramel onto the parchment paper and peel off the foil.  Using a sharp knife (or a pizza cutter, as I did), cut the caramel into 1 inch wide strips horizontally and then vertically, ending up with 1" squares.  Dip the squares into the chocolate, tap off excess, and put onto the wax paper-lined trays.  Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and refrigerate for 10 minutes.  Undipped caramels can be wrapped in wax paper and tied with thread or string.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Candied espresso walnuts

I found the easiest recipe for awesome candied walnuts.  Of course, the recipe didn't say "easiest candied walnuts," but they were incredibly easy to make!  I had almost all the ingredients on hand, which made them a convenient thing to make on Christmas Eve, when I got back to my apartment at 6 p.m. and didn't have time to run to the store (since they were most likely closed, given the holiday).  The only thing I did differently was that I used finely ground coffee instead of espresso, since that is what I had on hand.  My only suggestion - up the cinnamon a little bit.  Otherwise, they're a keeper just as they are - super flavorful and easy to make!

This picture doesn't even do them justice, sadly.
Candied Espresso Walnuts (from Bon Appetit)
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
2/3 cup sugar
2 T finely ground espresso beans (I used regular finely ground coffee)
1 T instant espresso powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon (In the future I'd use a full teaspoon)
1/4 tsp salt
1 large egg white
4 cups walnut halves


Preheat oven to 325F.

Whisk together sugar, ground espresso beans, instant espresso, cinnamon, and salt.  Set aside.

Whisk egg white in a large bowl until frothy.  Add walnuts and toss until coated.  Sprinkle with dry mixture, mix to coat.  Spread them onto prepared sheet in a single layer.

Bake for 5 minutes.  Loosen with spatula, toss, and rearrange into a single layer again.  Bake until walnuts are dry to the touch, about another 5 minutes.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Holiday treats for my doormen

I finally assembled the box of cookies for my doormen.  As I mentioned in the post earlier today, I had really wanted to make a whole bunch of other treats that I just didn't get around to making.  Since I have most of the ingredients here, I think my doormen may be getting a box of New Years treats, as well.  My hope is that this it not the complete box of treats, and I'm hoping I have some time before work to toss the fruit jellies in some sugar and add them to the box.  But, as of now, here is the final box:

There are giant sugar cookies, double chocolate chunk cookies, chocolate chip-double stuffed Oreo-brownie bars, apricot and raspberry jam thumbprint cookies, Oreo truffles (aka Oreo "cake" balls - some with peppermint topping), and lemony-lime cookies!
Happy Holidays, whichever you celebrate, and Happy New Year!!

Jam thumbprint cookies

Today I made jam thumbprint cookies.  I don't know why, but I think they're festive.  Maybe it's the shiny jewel colored centers?  But anyway, these were the finishing touches for my box of cookies for my doormen.  I have to say, in all honesty, that I had wanted to make a whole bunch of other treats to put in this box (peppermint truffle cups, cappuccino brownies, regular chocolate chip cookies, candied walnuts), I simply ran out of time.  I'm hoping I have a little free time in the morning to cut the fruit jellies, toss them in the sugar, and sneak them into the box before I deliver it on my way to work.

But first, the jam thumbprint cookies.  This recipe is from Epicurious.  Their idea and presentation is, I think, super cute, but I think it's a bit time intensive.  So, I skip the whole "Trios" part - they have you making 3 small thumbprint cookies, each with a different flavor of jam (strawberry, raspberry, apricot) and intentionally doing what every baker hates - placing the cookies close enough so that when then spread during baking, they attach themselves to each other!  Instead, I just make individual, slightly larger, jam thumbprint cookies.  The raspberry and apricot are my favorites, so that is what I stuck with today, but i've made them with tons of different flavors in the past - peach, apricot, cherry, raspberry, strawberry...the list can go on and on!

Jam Thumbprint Cookies (my adaptation of Trios)

2.5 cups flour
1 tsp salt
2 sticks (1/2 pound) butter, softened
1 egg
1 cup sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla

jam or preserves of your choice

Whisk together flour and salt, set aside.
Beat butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy.  Add egg and vanilla. 
Then, mix in flour mixture in 3 batches, until a dough forms.
Divide into two pieces.  Wrap each in plastic wrap.  Chill in fridge until firm, about 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Line 2 baking trays with parchment paper.

Take out dough and roll into balls, spacing them about 2 inches apart.  Once all of the dough balls are on the baking tray, take the end of a wooden spoon and press it into the center of the cookie, making a cavity.  Place a small amount of jam/preserves in the center (don't overfill them).  Bake until cooked through and edges are golden brown (the original recipe says 15-20 minutes, mine were done in about 8-10).  Cool for about 5 minutes on baking tray then move to a cooling rack.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Apple-potato latkes with cinnamon sour cream

Today I had a productive day.  Did paperwork for a project I'm working on, had a meeting, had lunch with two friends, edited my paper so far (on the subway - I'm quite good at multitasking), picked up a gift for my dad, found a recipe I had been looking for, went to the grocery store, made the changes to my paper, started defrosting the baked goods in the freezer (so I can package them up tomorrow), finished my paper, made cookie dough, made the recipe I had found earlier in the day, printed a final copy of my paper to edit on the train to work tomorrow, and finally sat down to have dinner and taste one of these Apple-Potato Latkes with Cinnamon Sour Cream!  I didn't get to start the peppermint truffle cups today, though, as I had originally planned.

I saw this recipe for these latkes about a week and a half ago on the subway when the woman standing in front of me was reading whatever was on the flip page of this recipe, so that the recipe was facing me (no, I was not reading over her shoulder, a pet peeve of mine, although I find myself doing it from time to time).  I had been meaning to look up the recipe since then, but finally did it today.  Being that I'm not really a fan of fried things, but am more so not a fan of my apartment smelling like fried potatoes and onions for weeks on end, I decided to try baking these instead of frying them.

I brushed a tray with olive oil, and allowed the tray to get hot in the over before putting the latke batter on them and baking them, flipping them over half-way through.  (By baking them, I feel it is completely legit to include them on my baking blog.)  The only problem is that they didn't get browned or crispy, although they had the flavor of being fried without the excess oil.  So, I was forced to fry the second batch.  Unfortunately, I don't really feel like you can taste the apples in these, which is sad considering I love applesauce on my latkes and figured this recipe would taste like applesauce on a latke.  Oddly, though, I liked the cinnamon sour cream.  Luckily for me, my mom makes the BEST latkes in the world, so I'm not too shaken up about these...

Apple-Potato Latkes with Cinnamon Sour Cream (courtesy of The New York Times)

6 Tbsp sour cream or greek yogurt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp maple syrup

2 golden delicious apples, peeled and cored
1 large russett potato, peeled
1 medium yellow onion, peeled
2/3 cup flour
3 large eggs
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper (I used white, simply because it was more accessible than the black)
1 1/4 tsp baking powder

Olive oil, for frying

1. Mix together the sour cream (or Greek yogurt), cinnamon, and maple syrup.  Put aside in fridge until ready to serve.

2. Coarsely grate the potato, apples, and onion (this is where my new food processor came in handy).  Afterwards, strain VERY WELL to get as much moisture out as possible.  [I lined a strainer with paper towels, put the mixture in there, and then took it out in 1/5ths and rang them out in paper towels].

3. Transfer mixture to a bowl and add the eggs, salt, pepper, flour, and baking powder.  Mix until the flour is absorbed.

4. Fry in hot oil, in small batches.  Drop heaping tablespoons of mixture into hot oil, flattening them with the spatula, frying 3-4 minutes per side until deep golden brown.  Remove and place on a paper towel-lined plate.

5. When serving, place a dollop of the cinnamon sour cream on top.

Happy Channukkah!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

New book to add to the bookshelf

This morning I went out to run a few errands.  Pick up a very belated gift for a coworker.  Buy a giant cup of coffee.  Then I randomly wandered into Williams-Sonoma.  Now, mind you, there is never a time when I "randomly wander" into Williams-Sonoma, it's more as if a magnetic force pulls me in.  But thats besides the point.  After that, I wandered into Sur la Table (this was, in fact, wandering in, as I initially walked by to see when they were opening, only to discover that they had already opened.  It was a sign.  I had to go in).

I left with the things I had initially set out to purchase - the gift for my coworker and a ridiculously large coffee - but also came home with a new baking book, from Williams-Sonoma.  My hands were too full to really look through the cookbooks at Sur la Table, but there is one I'd like to go back and look at in the near future.

Expect some recipes from this new baking book, once I've had time to sift through them all (and once I've finished my paper).

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Chocolate chip cookie, Oreo, and brownie bars

It's funny what happens to me on my walk home from work.  Or rather what I do on said walk.  I check my email on my phone.  Then I take a glimpse at Facebook.  And I come across this, a recipe for chocolate chip cookie-Oreo-brownie bars, posted on a friend's page.  I decided that I'd need to make these.  Tonight.  Because I clearly have nothing else more pressing on my agenda.  No 10-15 page paper due in a week, nope, nothing...So I stopped at the grocery store on my way home and bought double stuffed Oreos (since I pretty much have everything else I'll need for this at home already, and despite my recent Oreo recipe, I don't particularly love Oreos nor do I keep a stash of them on hand at home). 

I did a few things differently:
1. I made chocolate chip cookie dough (but not the one from the blog) - I used an old standby, Toll House chocolate chip cookie dough
2. I made brownies from scratch to put on top, instead of using a boxed mix.  Just because that simply (or not so simply) is the way I do things.

Chocolate Chip Cookie - Oreo - Brownie Bars (!!)
I wanted to make these from the minute I heard about them (which was, admittedly, about 3 and a half hours ago).  Not necessarily because I want to eat them, but because of the wow factor.  I mean cookies, brownies, and double stuffed oreos in one baked treat?!  How awesome is that?

I made these using the Toll House chocolate chip cookie recipe on the back of the bag, double stuffed Oreos, and a brownie recipe that I had used in the past (minus the peanuts the original called for).

The recipe is as follows:

Chocolate Chip Cookie Part (Straight off the bag of Toll House Semi-Sweet Morsels)
(The original recipe calls for 2 and 1/4 cups of flour, but the blog said to use a little less flour than you normally would)

2 cups of flour (all-purpose)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar (granulated sugar)
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups (12 oz package) Toll House semi-sweet chocolate morsels

Directions: combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl.  Set aside.  Beat butter, both sugars, and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Gradually beat in flour mixture.  Stir in morsels.

Brownie Layer
This brownie recipe is the same recipe as the peanut brownie layer from the Peanut Butter and Fudge Brownies with Salted Peanuts from Epicurious that I made about 2 months ago.  I took out the peanuts and added a little extra salt (because I left out the salted peanuts).  Below are the ingredients I used for this batch of brownies.

3/4 cup unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks)
7 oz bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, chopped (I used bittersweet)
3 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
4 large eggs
1 cup all purpose flour

Directions: Melt butter and both chocolates in a heavy large sauce pan (I didn't read it closely, and instead did mine in a homemade double-boiler, which worked perfectly fine, too).  Remove from heat, and whisk in sugar, vanilla, and salt.  Add eggs, 1 at a time.  Fold in flour.

To assemble
Preehat the oven to 350F.  Line a 9x13" baking tray with wax paper and spray with cooking spray.  Spread the cookie dough on the bottom (I had to use my hands because every time I used the spatula, the whole piece of wax paper would shift).  Cover the cookie layer with a layer of double stuffed Oreos.  I pushed mine into the cookie dough just a little bit.  Pour the brownie batter over it and spread it till its flat and even.  Bake for 45-55 minutes.

And the finished product:

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Sugar cookies

The last few times I made sugar cookies, I made the "roll them out, cut them with cookie cutters, and decorate with royal icing" variety.  I came across this recipe for giant sugar cookies from Martha Stewart.  I have to admit I was a little hesitant to make these cookies because they called for sour cream.  But they taste great!

I baked them it batches, and in the first batch, some of them had these weird raised cracked tops (but, I figured, it was all good, cause I tasted a funny-cracked-top one):

For the second batch, I rolled them into balls and then flattened them a little before sprinkling them with the sugar:

The cookies ended up coming out pretty round and with "normal" tops:

The edges are crispy and the centers are chewy.  Fantastic sugar cookies (despite the odd ingredient, sour cream).  I think that these would be a great bake sale cookie.

Fruit Jellies

I had been wanting to make these candies for a while, but school just got in the way!  I think the hardest part was deciding on the flavor combinations.  I ended up deciding on pineapple-raspberry and white grape-apricot.

The first batch I made was the pineapple-raspberry one.  The jar of raspberry preserves said it had 18 oz in it, but when I measured out the 2 cups of jam I needed, I didn't have enough (2 cups should be 16 oz), so I ended up making pineapple-raspberry-strawberry fruit jellies instead.  I was a little disappointed that when I poured it into the tray (I used a 9x9 pan, since I don't own an 8x8 pan), a whitish pink film  formed over most of the surface.  I sat there trying to skim it off (mostly unsuccessfully), only later to realize I could cut it off once I cut the candies into cubes, before tossing it in the sugar.  Something to keep in mind when I make the white grape-apricot ones...

I had so much of the pineapple-raspberry-strawberry batch that I halved the recipe (a trend I've noticed I make a habit of) for the white grape-apricot one.

The best part of this recipe?  Four ingredients.  Yup, you read that correctly.  Four.  Another great thing about these is that they can be made up to 2 weeks in advance!  That means that I can include some of them in my tray for my doormen (you know me, always thinking ahead!).  (Mine got soft after they sat out for a while, so I recommend keeping them in the fridge until just before serving.)

Fruit Jellies (courtesy of Martha Stewart)
You can make these with any flavor combination of juice and jam - let your imagination run wild!

1 and 1/3 cups of fruit juice (or water) - divided
1 oz gelatin (4 packets of 1/4 oz each)
2 and 1/2 cups of sugar - divided
2 cups fruit jam or preserves

Place 2/3 cup of juice in a small bowl, and sprinkle with the gelatin.  Let sit for 5 minutes.

In a medium saucepan, mix the remaining 2/3 cup of juice with 1 1/2 cups of sugar and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring, utnil sugar has dissolved.  Add preserves and whisk until combined.  Return to a boil and cook until thick and syrupy.  Add gelatin mixture and whisk until gelatin dissolves.  Pour through a fine-mesh sieve into an 8x8 inch baking dish (I used a 9x9, which works too).  Refrigerate until set, about 3 hours (or up to 2 weeks).

Before serving: place remaining 1 cup of sugar in a shallow plate/bowl.  Cut fruit jellies into 1 inch squares.  Toss in sugar to coat just before serving.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Lemony (lime) slice-and-bake cookies

I went out for a lovely dinner with a friend of mine on Friday night.  After dinner, I went to the grocery store to pick up a few things, and then I came home and did what any stressed out, overworked grad student with a looming paper deadline would do - I whipped up a batch of Lemony (Lime) Slice-and-Bake cookies.  I found this recipe for Lemony Slice-and-Bake cookies, but I much prefer lime to lemon, so I used both lemon and lime in the recipe.

The dough is incredibly easy to make.  When I rolled it out, I used some wax paper and rolled it directly in that, minimizing the mess on my counter (because although I have the time to make and bake the cookies, I just don't have the time to clean the counter...clearly).  I'm planning on baking one of the logs tonight, and freezing the other for a few weeks, until I need to bake them for my doormen (I'm trying to be productive with my stress-induced baking).  And working on my paper while the dough chills.

It's hard to tell in the cookies above, but after I drizzled them with the icing (which I made with both lemon and lime juices), I added some of the finger lime "caviar" to them as added decoration and flavor (sadly, it doesn't show up so well because I've been taking most of my photos with my iPhone right now). 

I even took the ends, re-rolled them into a mini log, and rolled that in coarse sanding sugar, and sliced it into mini cookies:

And all plated and ready for serving:

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Oreo "Cake" Balls

A long time ago I came across this website called Bakerella - I may have been told about it by a friend, I don't even remember.  She makes these things called cake balls and cake pops (she even has a cookbook out now).  My friends LOVE these things!  My friend (the one who just told me that her favorite dessert is tiramisu, I had thought it was red velvet cake) loves red velvet cake, so pretty immediately after I found Bakerella, I made red velvet cake balls.  And then chocolate ones.  I initially hesitated putting them on this blog (because they're made from - gasp! - boxed cake mix and store-bought icing) but I rationalized that they do involve some baking, so they're legit.  I've only ever made red velvet cake-cream cheese icing and double dark chocolate cake balls (and taught my friend how to make them, in a vanilla cake-chocolate icing variety), but they're always a hit, so I figure why mess with a good thing?  This time, though, I decided I'd mix it up a little....instead of decorating chocolate cake balls with sprinkles (as I sometimes do), I was going to adorn them with crushed candy canes, all in the holiday spirit...

But I remembered having seen a recipe for Oreo balls when I looked at Bakerella's site that first time (see, the recipe for cake balls is so easy that I memorized it the first time I made them and hadn't ventured back to the site since), so I figured I'd try those out with the crushed peppermint candies on top instead.  Why not, right?  (disclaimer: this recipe involves NO baking whatsoever, but I decided to put it on the blog anyway).  I'll make some cake balls soon and show you what they look like.

In the mean time, feel free to drool over these Oreo "Cake" Balls!  My next attempt will be with holiday peppermint Oreos (or Trader Joe's brand "oreos" in peppermint)...

This recipe is great because it calls for two ingredients (plus the chocolate to dip them into) and involves no baking, so you can literally make them on a whim [the cake balls take a lot longer to make].  I need to figure out the best way to use the white chocolate coating, since some of the Oreo mixture gets mixed in with the white chocolate and makes it not purely white.  I think the best thing to do is a double dip - basically leave off the topping after the first dipping, and then melt more white chocolate later and redip them, and put the topping/decorations on after the second dipping.  I'll have to try that next time. 

Oreo mixture scooped into balls, all the oreo balls waiting to be dipped into the chocolate, white chocolate coated oreo balls with crushed oreo and peppermint candy toppings, white and dark chocolate coated oreo balls with crushed oreo and peppermint candy toppings cooling before being put into the fridge and packaged up, and served

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Double chocolate chunk cookies

Today I decided to start trying out some of those recipes I had found earlier in the week.  I mean, it's December already, and I have limited time to test recipes before the holidays.  While I fancy myself a good baker, I don't think home-baked treats by yours truly is a fair holiday tip for my doormen, so every year in addition to giving them a monetary tip I give them a tray of cookies.  Cookies, mini cupcakes, brownies, even some homemade candies and peppermint bark all adorn a less-than-gorgeous disposable tin pan covered with doilies.  Honestly, I don't think they mind the lackluster serving tray.

This is the tray from 3 years ago:

Triple chocolate chip cookies, jam thumbprints, and spiced cardamom star cookies

I like to change some of the cookies I make every year, so tonight I tried a new recipe.  These are Double Chocolate Chunk Cookies courtesy of Martha Stewart.  Two things: (1) follow the directions and don't overbake them.  (2) my cookies ended up being HUGE:

Regardless of their size, they're really good.  I have a feeling they'll be making it onto this year's cookie platter...

Cheddar crackers

I bought my food processor over a week ago (8 days, to be exact), and I've been wanting to use it since I brought it back to my apartment the following day.  See, I can be like a kid sometimes, and want to use a new toy as soon as it has been purchased.  It sat in the box for exactly a week until I opened it today to make cheddar cheese crackers.  These crackers have been touted as being homemade goldfish crackers, yet I am waiting to purchase a fish cookie cutter (how cute!) until I confirm that the crackers are worth it.  I decided on making these crackers for two reasons.  First of all, the only recipes I have at this point that require a food processor are these crackers and pie crust, and frankly, I'm not making pies for a while.  Secondly, I had seen a recipe for another version of cheddar crackers several months ago, but promptly forgot about it (since I didn't have a food processor at the time) until another recipe came into my inbox as part of a "homemade food gifts" ideas list.  Cheddar crackers it is!

I bought enough cheddar cheese to make 2 batches of the dough (a little more than that, but not enough for 3 batches, which I now regret).  I was measuring out the ingredients in order to make a batch, and I remembered that I had some truffle salt, so instead of regular salt in the first batch, I used truffle salt.  For the second batch, I had thought that it would be fun to add another spice, but couldn't figure out which one....chives?  rosemary?  paprika?  Then I found my Northwoods Seasoning (a mixture of  salt, Hungarian sweet paprika, Tellicherry black pepper, thyme, cracked rosemary, granulated garlic, and chipotle) and knew I had found the perfect seasoning (as an aside: I think the Northwoods Seasoning has a kick, but they do make a Northwoods Fire seasoning, which is spicier).

Northwoods Cheddar and Truffle Cheddar Crackers
I got this recipe from a blog, who got it from another blog, who got it from....well, you get the picture.  I don't know the original owner of the recipe, but eventually I traced it all the way back to this blog (which I'm sure got it from somewhere else). Of course I didn't get there when I started out, so I thought I was so clever for choosing white pepper over black pepper (the recipe I found just said pepper).

Oh....and you can bet I'll be ordering that adorable little fish cookie cutter in the near future (I only wish it came even smaller than this one)!

Cheddar Cheese Crackers
(from savoryseasonings.blogspot.com, via homecookinginmontana.blogspot.com, via http://www.thekitchn.com/)
My comments are in italics

1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. white ground pepper (optional)
4 Tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
8 ounces grated cheddar cheese (I used freshly grated cheddar cheese and not the pre-shredded bagged stuff)
3-4 Tbsp water

(For the first batch I used 3/4 tsp truffle salt instead of regular salt and the white pepper - they weren't truffle-y enough, not sure if it just needed more truffle salt or if it's because my truffle salt is aged (um, well, just old).  In the second batch, I used 3/4 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp white pepper, but added a teaspoon plus a hearty shake of Northwoods Seasoning [and yes, I realized that there is both salt and pepper in the Northwoods as well, which didn't really matter at all because they are AWESOME].  I didn't really get the spice of the Northwoods when they had baked, so if you're looking for spicy cheddar crackers (as had been my goal), it might be good to go with the Northwoods Fire.)

Pulse the flour, salt, and pepper (if using) in a food processor (I added the Northwoods here, too).  Add the butter a little at a time while pulsing, until it looks like coarse meal.  Then add the cheese a little at a time until it again looks like coarse meal.  Add water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until it becomes a ball of dough (I only needed 3 tablespoons of water in each batch).

Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill for 20 minutes (and up to 24 hours). 

Roll the dough directly onto the baking sheet to 1/8  inch thickness.  Cut dough using a knife or pizza cutter (the recipes vary in terms of the shape you should cut them into.  Personally, I think triangles are the cutest, so I went with that), then bake at 350° F for 15-20 minutes or until crackers are golden brown.

Store in an airtight container for up to one week or freeze.

The possibilities to me are really endless...white cheddar instead of yellow cheddar...maybe pepper jack instead of cheddar all together?!  Onion powder, garlic powder, chives....the list can go on and on...