Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Cookies make people happy

Recently I was asked to bake up something to donate to a bake sale for the local college chapter of Sigma Alpha Iota.  As an alumn of that chapter, and not one to pass up a chance to bake, I jumped right on that.  Having also picked up a couple of holiday cookie magazines, I was itching to make something new.  I wanted something that would look good, be fairly simple, and have a wide appeal.  I flipped through my magazines and picked out Cappuccino Crinkles.  How could I resist the sparkly, crunchy sugary exterior and the moist, fluffy chocolatey/coffee-ish interior? 

These cookies were pretty quick and easy to make, and they kept well (I gave most of them to the bake sale, but kept a few for us -- you know, in the name of quality assurance).  They are pretty rich, and would be so good with a cup of coffee or hot chocolate!

Cappuccino Crinkles

Source: Better Homes and Gardens 100 Best Cookies Magazine

1/3 cup butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon instant coffee or espresso crystals (i used espresso crystals because i had them)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 egg whites
1/3 cup vanilla low-fat yogurt
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds.  Add brown sugar, cocoa powder, coffee crystals, baking soda, and cinnamon.  Beat until combined, scraping side of the bowl occasionally.  Beat in egg whites and yogurt until combined.  Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer.  Using a wooden spoon, stir in any remaining flour.

(flourpile note:  at this point, i put the dough in the fridge for a while to firm up a little.  it felt too soft to roll into balls without making a huge mess.)

2.  Place granulate sugar in a small bowl.  Shape dough into 1-inch balls.  Roll balls in the sugar to coat.  Place balls 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.

3.  Bake in preheated oven for 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are firm.  Transfer cookies to a wire rack;  cool.  Makes about 32 cookies.

To store:  Place in layers separated by waxed paper in an airtight container; cover.  Store at room temperature for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 3 months.

I did notice that the cookies seemed kind of fudgey (I didn't think this was a good thing) when they were still warm, but became more cake-y as they cooled.  Totally worth waiting for them to cool.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

S'mores Cups

A while back, I made this tart.  As I said then, I was not thrilled with the results.  I was, however, enamoured of the fluffy marshmallow layer, and knew I wanted to use it again in something else.  It seemed like it would be perfect with a graham cracker crust and a chocolate drizzle.  Do you see where I'm going with this?  That's right, s'mores pie. 

But there's another little twist.  I had friends coming over, and when I invited them over, I told them that they would make the dessert of their choice.  They just said they wanted something that would be a finger food.

So, s'mores pie quickly became...  

S'mores cups

A note about the photo that I just have to share:  I made these, and served them to my friends, but saved out the prettiest one to photograph for the blog.  I put it on a separate plate.  Somehow during the clean up and the friends leaving, the pretty one got stuck on the plate with the rest of them.  The hubs wanted one, so he picked one up (guess which one...) and took a bite.  I immediately freaked out, realizing that the little plate I had put the pretty one on was empty, and the hubs was eating my photo subject!  But, it all worked out in the end, because the bite he took was nearly perfect, so I used the cup for the photo anyway.

These cups are pretty easy to make, and don't take a whole lot of hands-on time.  The crust has to cool a little, and the marshmallow layer needs time to set, but it's not a big deal. 

Graham Cracker Crust
Source: America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book

8 whole graham crackers, broken into 1-inch pieces
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3 tablespoons sugar

(Flour pile note:  first, i used cinnamon graham crackers, because i like the little extra flavor they give.  second, i made a bit of a change.  instead of the 3 tablespoons of sugar, i added about 1/4 or 1/3 cups of toffee bits.  it makes the crust a little crunchier and a slight bit sturdier, which is good when you are trying to have these things in your hands without them falling apart.)

Adjust and oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 325 degrees.  Process the graham cracker pieces to a food processor to fine, even crumbs, about 30 seconds.  If using the toffee bits, add them at this time and pulse a few times to combine.  Sprinkle the butter and sugar over the crumbs and pulse to incorporate.

At this time, you can press the mixture into a pie plate, or you can press it into muffin cups like I did.

If you are making this in muffin cups, line 8 of the cups of a muffin pan with paper liners.  Press about 1/3 cup of the crumb mixture into the bottom and up the sides of the cup.  I found this easiest when I dumped the crumbs in the cup, then sort of made a well in the center, and then used the measuring cup to pack down the crumbs in the muffin cup.

Bake the crusts for 12-14 minutes until browned and fragrant.  Mine puffed up a little during baking, but as they cooled they settled down.  Allow the cups to cool before filling.

For the marshmallow filling:
Source: Rachel Ray Magazine

1/3 cup milk
28 large marshmallows

In a double boiler, melt the marshmallows and milk, stirring frequently until smooth.  Remove from the heat and let it cool. 

When it's cooled some (I did this when the filling was slightly warmer than room temp), spoon the filling into the crust cups.  Put the cups in the fridge and let them set for about an hour. 

After the cups were cooled, I drizzled them with some melted chocolate.  To melt the chocolate, just put a couple of handfuls of chocolate (a broken up bar is best, but chips will work) into a double boiler and stir constantly until melted and smooth.  If the chocolate doesn't get thin enough to drizzle, put a few drops of vegetable oil in it.  After the chocolate was melted, I put it in a ziplock bag (let it cool enough to handle), snipped the tip off, and drizzled it on the cups.

You could also top these with some chocolate ganache, if you want more chocolate flavor.  I did not have all of the ingredients to make ganache, and also I prefer more marshmallow to chocolate in my s'mores, so the drizzle was just right for me.

I recommend that you let the chocolate set a little before serving, but that didn't happen as we were all eager to eat them.  Slightly messy, but oh sooooo good. 

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Pop Tarts, Take 2!!

I told you I would revisit making my pop tarts, since my first attempt was tasty, but not quite right.  This time around, I tried a different crust recipe. 


I was happy with the original filling, so I kept that (in fact, I had so much left over from the first time that I just froze it and thawed it to use this time).  The difference this time was the crust.  Previously, I used a regular pie crust, and while it was really good, it was also very flaky, which doesn't really work for pop tarts.  This time, I used my classic tart crust recipe, knowing that it was more like a cookie, and less like a flaky pastry.  It was a good choice.  They came out crisp, like a cookie, but also delightfully buttery and tender.  I made these small and round, because that's what I felt like doing.  I'm not very good at cutting perfect uniform rectangles, so it was much easier for me to just use a round cutter.  You could even make them into fun shapes, if you wanted to. 

The recipe for the crust can be found here.  The only thing I did differently was that I added about a teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice to the dough to give it a little extra flavor.  Totally not necessary if you don't feel like doing it.

The recipe for the filling can be found here, or on the back of a can of pureed pumpkin. 

The glaze is a simple mixture of powdered sugar, milk, and pumpkin pie spice.  I think I over glazed them yet again, but it's hard not to.  At least it tastes good.