Friday, December 17, 2010

Candy. INSIDE. A Cookie.

Becca, here.

Catching up on the 12 days of cookies that have turned into the 20 days. Oh well, just spreading the cookie love a little longer, right?

So here we have Day #10.  Alton Brown's Peppermint Pinwheels.  Mine didn't turn out very pinwheel-ish. But they were still edible so all was not lost.

Some adjustments I made:
1. I bought sugar cookie dough.  I had every intention of making them during finals but that didn't happen. Still, it was easier to have pre-made dough this time around.
2. I made the dough and didn't use it for 2 days.  Woops.  When I melted the chocolate and added it to the dough, I didn't realize that it would harden the dough when it was in the fridge.  So I had to wait until I would be around long enough to let it thaw out and then make.
3. I don't have a rolling pin (still...come on Christmas!) and couldn't find a hammer.  So my candy cane pieces were quite large.  If you like candy canes then you'll love these! I did.

Chocolate Peppermint Pinwheels

Gather up:
1 batch Sugar Cookies, recipe follows
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg yolk (I didn't use this...or the vanilla, since I bought my own dough)
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
1/2 cup crushed candy canes or peppermint candies

Here's what you do:

Divide the dough in half and add chocolate and vanilla to 1 half and incorporate with hands. Add egg yolk, peppermint extract, and crushed candy to other half of dough and incorporate with hands. Cover both with plastic and chill for approximately 5 minutes. Roll out doughs separately to approximately 1/4-inch thickness. Place peppermint dough on top of chocolate and press together around the edges. Using waxed paper or flexible cutting board underneath, roll dough into log. Wrap in waxed paper and refrigerate for 2 hours.

(When I made mine, they were really difficult to make 'pinwheels' so they turned into something swirled like)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Remove dough from the refrigerator and cut into 1/2-inch slices. Place cookies 1-inch apart on greased baking sheet, parchment, or silicone baking mat and bake for 12 to 13 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through cooking time. Remove from oven and let sit on baking sheet for 2 minutes, then move to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Sugar Cookie:

3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon milk
Powdered sugar, for rolling out dough
Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. Place butter and sugar in large bowl of electric stand mixer and beat until light in color. Add egg and milk and beat to combine. Put mixer on low speed, gradually add flour, and beat until mixture pulls away from the side of the bowl. Divide the dough in half, wrap in waxed paper, and refrigerate for 2 hours.

I hope you're beginning to like cookies!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

day 9: fruit and nut shortbread

Ally, here.

Like I said before, we're playing a bit of catch up here.

Day 9 of the ultimately awesome cookie baking extravaganza delivered a recipe for fruit and nut shortbread cookies. I will be completely honest with you here and tell you that I had no desire to blog about these cookies. I don't like shortbread. I don't really enjoy dried fruit and chocolate. But, we promised to bake these cookies, so that's what I did. And I'm here to deliver the bad news that they weren't very good. But I'm also here to deliver my ideas for making them delicious.

Melissa d'Arabian's Fruit and Nut Holiday Shortbread

-1 stick butter, at room temperature
-1/3 cup sugar
-1 cup flour
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-1/4 cup chopped pecans
-1/4 cup dried cranberries
-2 tablespoons mini chocolate chips
-2 tablespoons orange marmalade

Now, if you're like me, you probably read that last ingredient and immediately started singing "Lady Marmalade" in your head. You should know that marmalade is basically a jam, not just a Christina Aguilera song. Although I remember jamming out to that song a time or two.

Anyway, back to the directions.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Cream the butter and the sugar in a bowl with an electric mixer.

In a small bowl, mix the flour and salt. Add to the butter and sugar mixture, a little at a time, until just uniform. Gather the dough into a ball and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

Roll the dough out to about a 1/2-inch thickness and cut into squares or rectangles. Place on an ungreased baking sheet and bake 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the pecans, dried cranberries, chocolate chips, and orange marmalade.

Remove the cookies from the oven and top with the marmalade mixture. Bake for 7 or 8 more minutes.

Maybe you are one of those people who genuinely enjoys shortbread cookies and the dried fruit and chocolate combination. If so, more power to you. You should try these.

If you are more like me, forget about the marmalade mixture and try drizzling these with chocolate. And maybe sprinkle some peanuts on top of that. The shortbread cookies themselves weren't bad, but the topping just wasn't for me. Let me know if you try anything different!

You're going to love it!

day 8: a variation on the assignment

Ally, here.

We apologize for the lack of posting. We've been baking, but we've also been studying and writing papers and taking tests. But we will catch up now!

Day 8 of the great Christmas cookie challenge delivered a PB and J Thumbprint cookie recipe to my inbox. Now, I looked at those and thought, "I love peanut butter cookies," because I really do love peanut butter cookies. They are probably in my top five favorite cookies of all time. Unfortunately, when it came to baking time, I wasn't quite in the mood for peanut butter and JELLY cookies. To quote the husband, "If I wanted peanut butter and jelly, I'd make myself a sandwich." So I improvised.

If you'd like to check out the recipe in it's original form, please feel free to get your fill of PB and J. Otherwise, follow me for a slightly altered version.

Be warned, once again, that the dough requires a bit of time in the refrigerator before baking. I always wish someone would tell me that before I get started, so I'm extending that courtesy to you. You're welcome.

-1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
-1/2 cup peanut butter
-1/2 cup light brown sugar
-1/2 cup sugar
-1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
-1 egg
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-1 1/2 cups flour (I used whole wheat, of course, but it made the cookies taste really healthy.)
-sugar in the raw

Beat the butter, peanut butter, brown sugar, and sugar with an electric mixer until creamy. Add the vanilla, egg, and salt, and blend until combined.

Add the flour in half cup intervals.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl so that all of the dough is together. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. (I cheated a little here and only left mine in the fridge for an hour and a half. I wanted cookies.)

Preheat the oven to 350.

Using a tablespoon, scoop the dough and roll into balls using the palms of your hands. Roll in sugar in the raw and place on a baking sheet. Repeat for the rest of the balls.

Flatten the cookies using the method of your choosing. I just stuck my thumb on top of them to form a little thumbprint, but you can also use a spoon or fork, depending on your preference.

Bake for 10-12 minutes.

Now, I left the jelly off of mine, so I had to add a little something extra. I made a simple powdered sugar frosting that really complemented the peanut butter flavor. Originally, I had planned on drizzling the cookies with chocolate, but after a disastrous chocolate microwaving incident, I gave up and just made the icing.

For the icing, just mix about a cup of powdered sugar with a few tablespoons of water. I always start out with a little powdered sugar and just add more to get to the consistency I desire. Add about a 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla and you're good to go!

I would also like to give the suggestion of using crunchy, rather than creamy, peanut butter. I have always wanted to try that, but I honestly forgot to do it when I made the cookies. If you try it, please let me know how it tastes!

You're going to love it!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

day 7: raspberry cake bars

Ally, here.

We're more than halfway through the 12 days of cookies! Day 7 brings Sandra Lee's raspberry cake bars. I've made something really similar to this before, but I used oats as the topping, I believe. I have to say I preferred the added crunch of the oats, but the husband seemed to be a big fan of the sugar cookie topping.

If you're looking for a quick and simple dessert, this is it. It's virtually impossible to mess up, even if you don't measure anything (which I didn't). With that said, onto the recipe!

Sandra Lee's Raspberry Cake Bars

-1 package (18-oz) refrigerated sugar cookie dough
-3/4 teaspoon lemon extract
-1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam
-1/4 cup chopped pecans

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Sandra Lee suggests lining an 8-inch pan with foil. If you do this, I recommend spraying some cooking spray on the foil, as my dessert stuck a bit to the sides.

Knead together the cookie dough and lemon extract. Press 2/3 of the dough into the bottom of the baking dish.

Spread the jam over the dough. Sprinkle the remainder of the cookie dough over the top of the jam. Scatter the pecans on top.

Bake about 35 minutes, until the edges are brown and the center is cooked through. Let it cool in the pan. Lift the foil to remove the bars.

Like I said, it's pretty simple. You're going to love it. 

I never understood why the term 'Turtle' describes desserts.

Becca, here.

Catching up, here is Day 6.  They are deeeeeelicious. 
Bringing them to a going away party tonight so we roomates + fiance don't have to continue the laborious task of eating cookies. It's a tough job.

Turtle Graham Bars by Claire Robinson

Gather up:
Approximately 14 graham crackers
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 cup chopped pecans
Kosher salt, to taste (I forgot this, but oh well!)
12 ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped (I used semi-sweet and it was still delicious)

Begin by:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Line a rimmed baking sheet with a silicone mat.
Arrange the graham crackers in a single layer on the lined baking sheet.

  Put the butter, brown sugar, pecans, and a pinch of salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil.
Boil for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring constantly.

Pour the butter mixture evenly over the graham crackers and bake for 15 minutes.
Remove and set aside.

Meanwhile, melt the chocolate in a glass bowl placed over simmering water.
Pour the chocolate over the toffee-covered graham crackers and spread evenly.
Chill completely in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes. Cut into bars.

I added dried cherries to mine as well! Have fun with it!

If I had a lemon for every time it was 70˚ in December

Becca, here.

Living in Baton Rouge you're sure to enjoy a day of summer, in December.  Today was such a day.
These Lemon Ricotta Cookies were perfect for the weather.
And, they were the first (I might add) that I have made as an engaged lady! Hooray!
Fitting too, since my future groom loves all things lemon.

So here you have it, Day 5 (we might be out of order by now..)
Lemon Ricotta Cookies by the lovely Giada De Laurentiis.

Gather up:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 (15-ounce) container whole milk ricotta cheese (I used 16, which I guess doesn't matter)
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 lemon, zested

And have enough for a glaze:
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 lemon, zested

Preheat oven to 375degrees F.

In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder, and salt.
Set aside.

In the large bowl combine the butter and the sugar.
Using an electric mixer beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating until incorporated.
Add the ricotta cheese, lemon juice, and lemon zest.
Beat to combine. Stir in the dry ingredients.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper (or aluminum foil works too!)

Spoon the dough (about 2 tablespoons for each cookie) onto the baking sheets.
(I only did about 1/2 a tablespoon because mind spread out so much! Do what you like...)
Bake for 15 minutes, until slightly golden at the edges.
Remove from the oven and let the cookies rest on the baking sheet for 20 minutes.

Glaze away:
Combine the powdered sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest in a small bowl and stir until smooth.
Brush glaze ontop of cookies (as much or as little as you like)
Let the glaze harden for about 2 hours.(or two minutes if you just can't wait)

Enjoy some sunshine on your (sunny/snowy/rainy) December day!

Friday, December 3, 2010

on the fourth day of Christmas, Food Network gave to me, a whole bunch of biscotti

Ally, here.

The fourth day of cookies brings biscotti. Specifically, Food Network requested dried cherry and almond biscotti. Unfortunately, I don't like cherries and I didn't have any almonds on hand. So I improvised with dried cranberries, and left the nuts out, altogether.

The recipe also called for something called turbinado sugar. Apparently it's sugar with much larger crystals. Rather than searching the stores for this, I just used sugar in the raw, which I think is pretty similar and always proves to be delicious.

You can check out the original recipe here. Otherwise, here's my adapted recipe for cranberry biscotti with chocolate ganache.

Here's what you'll need:

-1 stick butter, at room temperature
-1 cup sugar
-2 eggs, plus 1 egg white
-1 teaspoon vanilla extract
-2 cups flour (I used whole wheat, of course)
-1 teaspoon baking powder
-pinch of salt
-1 cup dried cranberries
-2 tablespoons sugar in the raw

chocolate ganache:
-1/2 cup heavy cream
-4 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips

Here's what to do:

1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

2. Use an electric mixer to combine the butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in the eggs and vanilla.

3. Mix in the flour, baking powder, and salt. Fold in the dried cranberries.

4. Divide the dough in half and roll into two logs. (I found this part of the recipe a little bit confusing. I'm still not sure what kind of logs they are referring to, but I made mine into thick, flattened ovals.) Place on a baking sheet, at least 3 inches apart, as the dough will spread.

5. Mix the egg white with a little water. Brush over the dough and sprinkle with sugar in the raw. Bake for 30 minutes.

6. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes. Place the cooled biscotti on a cutting board and slice the biscotti apart into 1-inch thick slices. Put these back on the baking sheets and bake for 10-15 minutes more, or until hardened. Cool completely on a rack.

chocolate ganache:
1. Put the whipping cream and chocolate chips in a microwaveable bowl. Microwave for 1 minute, then stir. Continue to microwave in 15 second intervals, stirring in between, until smooth and creamy.

2. Once the biscotti is completely cooled, dip in ganache and place on parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Refrigerate to harden the ganache.

And that's that, folks. This stuff is pretty darn good. I made it to take to a Christmas party tonight, and I'm afraid the husband and I have already taken out a good portion of the batch.

You're going to love it.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

a coconut Christmas

Ally, here.

Let me begin by saying that today was the perfect day for Christmas baking. It was snowing this morning in Lexington, and there's really nothing better than watching the snow fall while whipping up some cookies (and warming yourself by the oven). I love, love, love snow and I love, love, love baking. That, and the fact that I still had some chocolate gooey butter cookies left from the first day of this adventure, made for a perfect combination.

Now, I'll tell you that I was a little disappointed when the day's cookie assignment arrived in my inbox. Coconut Macaroons. I don't like coconut. Really, the only way I will willingly consume coconut is when it's presented by a girl scout and masked in the chocolate delight of a samoa. But I promised you cookies, so I ventured out to the store (in the snow!) and bought some shredded coconut.

Perhaps you like coconut. If so, this is certainly your recipe. The cookies were a really delightful consistency, and were ridiculously easy to make. But be warned that they look a bit like cheddar biscuits when they come out of the oven.

With all of that out of the way, let's get to baking. The Barefoot Contessa's recipe for coconut macaroons will make you feel like you're on a tropical island, rather than a frozen tundra.

Here's what you'll need:

-14 oz. sweetened shredded coconut
-14 oz. sweetened condensed milk
-1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
-2 extra-large egg whites, at room temperature
-1/4 teaspoon salt

Here's what to do:

1. Preheat the oven to 325.

2. Combine the coconut, condensed milk, and vanilla in a large bowl.

3. Whip the egg whites and the salt in a bowl with an electric mixer on high speed. They will form medium-firm peaks.

4. Fold the egg whites into the coconut mixture.

5. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper and drop the dough onto the sheets using two spoons or an ice cream scoop.

6. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown.

Now, let me tell you a few things about this recipe. You'll look at the bag of coconut shavings and think, wow, this is a lot of coconut. This is true. And you'll look at your two little eggs whites and think, wow, this is not a lot of egg whites. This is not true. Once you start beating the egg whites with your mixer, they will grow into this awesome, (comparatively) enormous white mixture that will seriously amaze you. I've never mixed egg whites like this before and I thought it was pretty darn cool.

The smell of these cookies will fill your kitchen (or your whole apartment, in my case) with joy. You're going to love it (if you like coconut, that is)!

Day Number Two of Cookie Ambitions

Becca, here.

Woke up this morning to find out that I'd be making a Garam Masala-Chocolate Ginger Cookie. 
#1. What is garam masala? Nevermind, I had it. Thank you spice rack from Target 2 Christmas's ago.
#2.  Where does one find molasses? Next to the syrup of course.  (I bought mine for $4)
#3.  How do you peel ginger? With the back of a spoon. Thanks Food Network.

Garam Masala-Chocolate Gingerbread
by Aarti Sequeria

Here's what you'll be needing to scrounge up:

Dry ingredients:
3 cups all purpose flour, plus for dusting
2/3 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon fine salt
1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala (Indian spice blend)

12 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature (1 1/2 sticks)
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup molasses

Combine all the dry ingredients.

Then in another bowl beat the butter with a mixer on medium-high speed until butter is smooth.
Add the sugar and ginger; continue to beat over medium-high speed until light and fluffy.
Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat in the egg until fully incorporated.
Add the molasses and continue to beat until fully incorporated.
Add the flour in 2 batches and mix on low until combined and forms a sticky dough.
Divide the dough in half, wrap in plastic wrap, and pat into 2 (1/2-inch thick) rectangles.
Chill for at least 2 hours and up to overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Line 3 to 4 baking sheets with parchment paper/grease
Lightly dust a clean work surface with flour.
Roll each portion of the dough into a 1/4-inch thick rectangle
(still waiting on that rolling pin for Christmas)
My dough was pretty sticky so you'll need to keep cool in fridge between pans.
Bake until the cookies for about 12 minutes.
Transfer to a rack to cool completely.

The recipe said to decorate with a chocolate glaze or royal icing.  Also it suggested rose petals to decorate.  Sorry Aarti, no time for fancy decor when I'm baking between homework.

I went for sugar and peppermint. 
It really made the cookie I think. 
And while i'm not 100% on them quite yet, I'm happy to try it!

If you've got some garam masala laying around, go on and try it.

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