Monday, March 26, 2012

International Desserts, Month 7

(Subtitle: mega fail)

"Bruiti Ma Buoni" means ugly but good in Italian.  That is supposed to be the idea behind these cookies.  They are supposed to be lumpy and ugly, and really tasty. 

Um, yeah.

I saw these cookies on an episode of "David Rocco's Italy" and I thought they looked awesome.  Simple, easy ingredient list, pretty much all stuff I already had in the house!  And, since they are an Italian thing, they qualified for the International Desserts series.

I have no real idea what happened to these.  I followed the directions, I swear!  But, the first batch I  baked for the recommended time and they were totally burnt.  So the next batch I baked less, and those, and the ones after them, totally stuck to the pan.  That's why the photo is so bad, and why they are still on the pan in the photo.  I peeled a couple of them off to eat, and they were okay, but not anything great.  Sort of disappointing, actually.

So, I'm going to give you the recipe, and you can make them if you want, but I'm not actually going to recommend them.

Brutti Ma Buoni
Source: Cooking Channel

6 egg whites
1 cup toasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
1 cup toasted almonds, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon amaretto

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment, or butter and flour them.

In a bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form.  Gently fold in the hazelnuts, almonds, sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla and amaretto until all ingredients are evenly distributed.

Spoon blobs of batter onto prepared baking sheets, leaving approximately 1-inch between each cookie. Bake 30 minutes (um, don't do that), or until firm to the touch.  If you prefer chewier cookies, underbake them slightly.  Remove the cookies to a wire rack and lest rest for 30 minutes, or until cooled.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Another spin on a regular

You all know I love monster cookies.  It's just so much fun to look in the cabinet, see what I have, and throw all kinds of things into a cookie.  So satisfying.  I came across this recipe, called "Chocoholic Cookies", and I knew I had to make it.  It didn't really start out as a monster cookie -- the original recipe only calls for semi-sweet chocolate chips, but I knew I could easily change that.  Also, the original suggests dipping half of each cookie into melted white chocolate, but I opted to (sloppily) drizzle the white chocolate on instead.  I prefer the more even coverage.

There is a note in the recipe that says not to alter the order in which the ingredients are added.  I'm not entirely sure why, but I went with it.  I didn't notice that these cookies were any different from regular cookies, but whatever.  I don't really want to find out what happens when you do alter the order, because that could result in a sad loss of a whole batch of cookies.

Chocoholic (Monster) Cookies
Source: Life Happening and Fun on the Farm
Makes a few dozen.

2 cups rolled oats (old-fashioned, not quick)
2 cups of your favorite add-ins (chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, etc) - more if you like
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
1 tbsp milk
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
9 oz white chocolate
1 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or lightly grease with butter. Author's note: Do not alter the order in which the ingredients are combined.

In a large bowl, combine the oats and other mix-ins; set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the butter and sugars until creamy. In a medium bowl, sift or whisk the flour, baking soda, salt, and cocoa, then slowly add to the butter mixture. Stir until combined.

The dough will be very stiff at this point.  Do not fear. Combine the milk, vanilla, and eggs. Stir slightly. Slowly add to the butter mixture and mix until thoroughly combined. Pour in the oats and other add-ins; stir until well mixed.

Using a medium cookie scoop, drop batter 2 inches apart on parchment lined sheets. Bake 9-12 minutes, longer if your cookies are larger, until cooked through. Cool on pan until completely cool, or transfer to a wire rack after a few minutes.

Once cookies are completely cooled, melt the white chocolate with the veggie oil in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water.  You can either dip the cookies in the melted chocolate, or drizzle it over the top of the cookies, using a fork.  Cool completely, and let the white chocolate set up.  Store between layers of wax paper in an airtight contained in a cool place.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Happy Pi(e) Day

At some time in your life, someone you know will need a pie. 

Happy Pi(e) Day.

Dutch Apple Pie
Source: America's Test Kitchen "Family Baking Book"

1 recipe for single-crust pie dough (I always make an all-butter crust. you can find that recipe here. for this pie, you can just use half of the recipe. it freezes well.)

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon yellow cornmeal
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 1/2 pounds firm tart apples, peeled, cored and sliced in 1/4 inch thick slices
2 pounds firm sweet apples, peeled, cored and sliced in 1/4 inch thick slices
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup golden raisins (i used craisins instead)
1/2 cup heavy cream

  1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 375 degrees. Line your chilled pie crust with a double layer of aluminum foil and fill with pie weights. Bake until the pie dough looks dry and is light in color, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer the pie plate to a wire rack and remove the weights and foil. Leave the oven at 375, and adjust the oven rack to the lowest position, and place a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet on the rack.
  2. For the streusel: Mix the flour, sugars, and cornmeal together in a medium bowl, then drizzle with the melted butter. Stir the streusel with a fork until roughly combined.
  3. For the filling: Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Stir in the apples, sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the apples have softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the raisins and continue to cook, covered, until some of the apples have begun to break down, about 7 minutes longer.
  4. Drain the apples thoroughly through a colander, reserving the juice. Combine the drained juice and cream in a small saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until very thick and reduced by half, about 3 minutes.
  5. Spread the apples into the baked pie crust and drizzle with the cream mixture. Sprinkle the streusel evenly over the top. Place the pie on the heated baking sheet and bake until the crust and streusel have browned, about 25 minutes. Let the pie cool on a wire rack until the filling has set, about 2 hours. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Have I mentioned...

That I love lemon desserts?  I do not care for lemon candy, but give me a lemon dessert, and I'm in.  Also strange is that I don't prefer cheesecake.  It was never my thing until I had some that was really really good.  But even now, it's still not what I choose if given options.  However, lemon + cheesecake = divine! 

This dessert takes a delicious lemon cheesecake bar, and adds a wonderful crunchy creme brulee crust on the top.  So many good things happening in one little bar!  And, they were pretty simple to put together, and should actually be made ahead (except for the torching), so that's a plus.

Let's talk about the torching, shall we?  I have a small blow torch.  It's not one of those tiny "creme brulee" torches you find in housewares stores -- it's actually a little blow torch.  I don't get to use it often, so I get kind of excited when I get to pull it out.  When I made these bars, my excitement lasted approximately 1 minute, until the torch started to run out of fuel.  No big deal, I have more, so I refueled it.  I must have grossly underestimated the amount of fuel that either goes from the butane can into the torch, or the amount that was needed to burn the sugar, because I had to refuel so many times.  I think, at best, I could get through 2 bars before needing to refuel.  I got frustrated.  So for the last 3 bars, I thought I would just stick them under the broiler for a second and see how that worked.

Warning - when you use the broiler to torch sugar, DO NOT WALK AWAY! Not even for a second.  I did, and this is what happened:

So, let my sadness be a warning to you.  Keep close when  you use the broiler!  Good thing I only did 3 bars!

Lemon Cheesecake Creme Brulee Bars
Source: Lauren's Latest

1/2 cup softened butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 oz softened cream cheese
1-14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 egg
2 tablespoons lemon zest
6 tablespoons lemon juice
5 tablespoons fine granulated sugar for brulee-ing, approximately

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line at 8x8 inch glass dish with parchment paper and lightly spray with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine butter, sugar, flour and vanilla until dough forms. Press evenly into the bottom of prepared dish. Set aside.

In another bowl, whip cream cheese.  Stir in sweetened condensed milk. Scrape sides and mix again. Pour in egg, lemon zest and juice. Mix until mixture starts to thicken, 20-30 seconds. Scrape sides and mix again briefly. Pour over cookie bottom and smooth the top. Bake 20-25 minutes or until cheesecake is set completely. Cool, then refrigerate. 

When completely cool, cut into 16 squares and separate (fp note: i found it easiest to lift the whole thing out of the pan using the parchment and then cut it.). Sprinkle the tops of each square with 1 teaspoon of sugar and spread around with your finger to evenly distribute sugar. Torch the tops until the sugar melts and turns an amber color. Return squares to the fridge until ready to serve.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Cookies that travel

I have a couple of friends that I have recently wanted to send cookies to, but these friends live on the other side of the country, so I needed a cookie that would travel well.  Not too fragile, longer shelf life, and of course, tasty.  Shortbread cookies fit the bill for this particularly well. 

Please allow me to extol to you the virtues of the shortbread cookie.  They are tasty when made in their original, unflavored way, but they are so versatile!  You can add any number of flavorings to get all kinds of different tastes!  It also helps that they are super simple to make, and you can make the dough days ahead and just let it hang out in your fridge until you're ready to slice and bake!  I'm actually going to share with you two different shortbread recipes -- not just different in final product, but also different in preparation.  Honestly, I liked both cookies, so you pick which method you like best.

Earl Grey Shortbread Cookies
Makes: 2 dozen or so

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons loose Earl Grey tea bags
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature

In a food processor, pulse together the flour, tea, and salt, until the tea is just spotted throughout the flour. Add the confectioners' sugar, vanilla, and butter.  Pulse together just until a dough is formed. Place dough on a sheet of plastic wrap, and roll into a log, about 2 1/2 inches in diameter. Twist each end of the wrap tightly, and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. 

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Slice the log into 1/3-inch thick disks. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Baked until the edges are just brown, about 12 minutes. Let cool on sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks and cool completely.

White Chocolate & Cherry Shortbread Cookies
Source: Love and Olive Oil
Makes about 4 dozen cookies

2/3 cup maraschino cherries, drained
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup cold butter, cut into cubes
12 ounces good quality white chocolate, finely chopped
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 drops red food coloring
2 teaspoons vegetable oil

Pulse cherries briefly in a food processor until finely chopped. This should produce about 1/2 cup of chopped cherries.  Spread them out on a double layer of paper towels to remove any excess liquid.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour and sugar. Add the butter and pulse until mixture resembles fine crumbs. Add the drained cherries and 4 ounces of the chopped chocolate. Pulse briefly to combine. Finally, ad the almond extract and food coloring.  Knead the mixture until it comes together in a smooth ball.  (fp note: cover any surfaces with plastic wrap that will be in contact with the dough. food coloring makes a mess, yo.)

Divide dough in half, and roll each half into a cylinder approximately 1 1/2 inches in diameter by 10 inches long.  Roll up in parchment paper or plastic wrap, twisting ends to seal. Refrigerate for at least  1 hour or until firm.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Working with one log at a time, slice it into disks about 3/8" thick and place on parchment lined baking sheets. Back for 10 to 12 minutes or until centers are set and bottoms are lightly golden. Cool on the cookie sheet for a few minutes before removing to a cooling rack to cool completely.

To prepare the white chocolate drizzle:  Melt the remaining white chocolate with the veggie oil in a bowl set over a pot of simmering water, stirring constantly to prevent burning.  When it is cool enough to not burn you, but still liquid, put it in a piping bag fitted with a small round tip (fp note: normally i would put it in a squeeze bottle, but i don't have a funnel, so getting the chocolate into the bottle was too much hassle.).  Drizzle the melted chocolate on the cooled cookies and leave them alone until the chocolate has set. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Sweets for my Sweetie

It's that time of year again! That's right, it's the Hubster's birthday!  And, true to tradition, I sent him to work with cupcakes.  But not just any cupcakes.  You see, for the Hubster, simple is not really better.  More is better, so whatever I was going to make had to have lots going on.  The cupcakes we chose this year are banana split cupcakes. 

The basic idea:  banana cake, with strawberry and pineapple filling, whipped cream frosting, chocolate drizzle, sprinkles, and a cherry. 

I have to be honest and tell you that I haven't actually eaten one of these.  I sent the majority of them to work with the Hubster, and there is one ugly one left in the fridge.  I might get to it tonight, but I'm not sure about that.  But, I did eat some of the cake, and it was really tasty, and I KNOW I love the frosting.  So, really, what's not to like?

I found this recipe over on Annie's Eats.  She has a wonderful blog, and you should check it out if you haven't already.  I did make a few changes:  I made a different frosting, and I made a milk chocolate gananche instead of semi-sweet.  The reason I made different frosting is because I wanted something a little more stable than a traditional whipped cream frosting.  The one I made, which came from America's Test Kitchen, has cream cheese in it, so it is more stable, has more body, and a nice little bit of tang.  The recipe I used is reflected below.

Banana Split Cupcakes
Source: Annie's Eats, with frosting from America's Test Kitchen
Makes about 30 cupcakes

For the cupcakes:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
12 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temp
2 1/2 cups sugar
6 eggs
1 cup plus 2 tbsp. buttermilk
1 1/3 cups mashed ripe banana (about 4 bananas)

For the filling:
1 lb strawberries, hulled and diced small
2 tbsp confectioners' sugar
12 oz. crushed pineapple, drained

For the frosting:
1 8oz block cream cheese, room temp
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups heavy cream

For the ganache:
8oz chocolate, chopped
1 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp light corn syrup

For garnish:
Multi-colored sprinkles
Maraschino cherries

To make the cupcakes:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Line cupcake pans with paper liners. In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder and salt; whisk together and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment cream together the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Reduce the mixer speed to medium low and add in eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Mix in the mashed banana until well combined. With the mixer on low speed alternately add the dry ingredients and buttermilk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and mixing only until just incorporated.

Divide the batter between the prepared cupcake liners, filling each about 2/3 to 3/4 full. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20-22 minutes. Allow to cool in the pan 5-10 minutes, then transfer the cupcakes to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the strawberry filling:
Combine the strawberries and confectioners' sugar in a medium bowl. Toss well, smashing slightly with a fork. Allow the berries to macerate at least 20-30 minutes.

To fill the cupcakes, cut a small cone out of the center of each cupcake with a paring knife or small biscuit cutter. Add a teaspoon or two of the strawberry filling to the center of each cupcake. Top with a teaspoon or two of the crushed pineapple.  Cover with a disk cut out of the cake you cut out of the center.

To make the frosting:
Whip the cream cheese, sugar, salt and vanilla in a bowl with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy.  Gradually add the heavy cream and whip until stiff peaks form. Add the frosting to a piping bag fitting with a large round tip. Pipe a swirl of frosting onto each cupcake and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

To make the ganache:
Place the chopped chocolate in a heat proof bowl.  Bring the cream to a simmer over medium-high heat. Remove from the heat and pour the hot cream over the chocolate; let stand 1-2 minutes. Whisk together until a thick, smooth ganache forms. Blend in the corn syrup. Let stand at room temperature at least 10 minutes so the ganache is not hot. The longer you let it hang out, the thicker it gets.

To finish the cupcakes, pour a spoonful of the ganache over the whipped cream topping of each cupcake (fp note: do this over something. the ganache makes a mess). Garnish with sprinkles and maraschino cherries before the ganache sets. Chill until ready to serve.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Water horses need love too! and sprinkles.

Most people, when making cut-out cookies for Valentine's Day, would choose a shape that is more easily associated with the holiday, like hearts, or cupids.  I, on the other hand, would like to challenge that a little.  Yes, those cookies are shaped like hippos.  What do hippos have to do with a holiday that is about love?  Well, I say they do, so there you go.  And they have pink icing, and some of them have heart sprinkles, so they are festive.

The cookies themselves are chocolate sugar cookies.  So good.  And easy to make! I used the recipe from The Way the Cookie Crumbles, and I would definitely use it again.  I added about a teaspoon of instant espresso, because I usually do when I make chocolate things.  It's tasty and it accentuates the chocolate flavor.  But, if you don't already have, don't feel like you have to run out and buy it just for this.

The royal icing recipe is the same that I used for my gingerbread men from Christmas.  I like it because it doesn't use meringue powder, or any other ingredient that I don't already have in the house. If you feel squicky about the raw egg whites, then you should find another recipe that you like better.  As you can see, my icing technique leaves a lot to be desired.  There are lots of tutorials on the interwebz that will teach you how to do it really well, so I'm not even going to try.  For me, getting the cookie covered, and adding some sprinkles was enough.

Let's talk about the sprinkles.  I have a lot of them.  It's slightly ridiculous.  I know I show you three different kinds of sprinkles in the photo, but I actually used 5 kinds.  My faves are the ones in the photo.  And yes, the silver stars are edible.  Those sprinkles, like the hippo cookie-cutter itself, were a gift from a friend, and they were both so fun to use! 

Chocolate Sugar Cookies
Makes a good amount. I don't remember how many it made.

2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa, sifted
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temp
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs, also room temp
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon instant espresso (optional)

In a large bowl, combine flour, cocoa and baking powder (fp note: i find i get the best results from sifting everything together.  removes any lumps and mixes everything, in one step.).  Set aside.  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and salt on medium until creamy, about 1 minute.  With the mixer running, gradually add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.  Add the eggs, one at a time, making sure each egg is fully combined before adding the next.  Add the vanilla and instant espresso.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the beater as needed. Reduce mixer speed to low and slowly add the flour mixture, mixing until just combined, with no pockets of flour.  Divide dough into two portions and shape each portion into a 1-inch thick disk, and wrap in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for at least an hour.

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Lightly flour a sheet of wax paper.  Transfer the chilled dough to the wax paper and top with another sheet of paper.  Roll the dough out to1/8" thickness, using just enough flour to keep the dough from sticking to the paper.  Cut out your shapes and place on the baking sheet.  Re-roll the scraps as much as you want.  (fp note: at this point, when i have a full sheet of cut outs, i put the sheet in the fridge for about 15 minutes.  i feel like this reduces spreading.) Bake cookies just until the tops look dry, but are still soft, about 8 minutes.  Let cool on the sheet for a couple of minutes, and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

After the cookies are completely cooled, frost to your hearts' content!  (fp note: hearts'? hearts? heart's? i don't know.)