Thursday, December 30, 2010

10 grain bread

Hope everyone had a great Christmas, and is ready to hit the New Year running - some of us literally, but not me...yet...but I do need to get that 5 pounds off those cookies seem to have left on my scale.

I want to start this post by saying I love whole grain bread - for the most part. I love the flavor, I love the texture. There are so many varieties out there that I just love. However, I can't get the rest of my family to touch the stuff...

So, I got creative. After watching the America's Test Kitchen episode where they made bread, I thought I would try some of their tips and tricks. I wanted to try their recipe, but forgot and deleted the episode from my DVR.

I promptly forgot about my musings and inspiration until I was in the grocery store one day, and spotted some 10 grain hot cereal sitting next to the rye flour I was looking for...aahhh, yes, I remember now!

This bread is a bit different than what you may be used to for home made grain breads for a few reasons. Well, the first is obvious - I dropped mine on it's head when I was taking it out of the pan, so yours shouldn't look so, well, deformed...

I decided to use the 10 grain hot cereal based on that episode I saw. It's really a great idea! Since I don't make 10 grain bread all that often, buying one 10 grain cereal was a lot easier than buying each different grain individually.

The last difference is a bit more subtle. In an effort for this bread to be better received by my family, I designed this recipe so although it was at least part whole grain, it had extra vital wheat gluten added for texture and lift. AND, I added some vegetable oil so the bread would be softer. So, while some of you that prefer a heartier bread and texture may not like this, I was happy with the soft and fluffy version of my bread.

And, finally, before I talk a bit about how I made this bread, this is one of the things I made with it, and I recommend it! This is my new favorite grilled cheese - tillamook cheddar, gruyere, tomato, and jalapeno jelly. What a perfect combination. Grilled cheese is also great with onion jam - just saying!

10 grain bread
Makes 2 loaves

2/3 c. 10 grain hot cereal mix, mixed with 1 cup very hot water, let cool 15 minutes.
1/2 c. tepid water (just slightly above room temperature)
1/2 c. vegetable oil
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups unbleached flour (you may need more here)
1/3 c. vital wheat gluten
1/3 c. brown sugar or honey
2 T. or 2 packages instant yeast
1 t. salt

Oats or sunflower seeds, optional

In a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast over your 1/4 c. water. Sprinkle with a teaspoon of sugar and mix together. Wait to see if the yeast becomes bubbly. If it doesn't, discard and start again.

Once your yeast has bubbled, add to a large mixing bowl of a standing mixer the oil, whole wheat flour, wheat gluten, sugar or honey, cooled grain cereal mixture, and salt. Mix until just combined. Let rest 15 minutes.

Once mixture has rested, add 1 cup unbleached flour, and process with a dough hook. Add enough remaining flour to form a solid dough. Knead dough with a dough hook for approximately 5 minutes, or with your hands 10 minutes, adding flour a few tablespoons at a time. Your end result will be a non-sticky, cohesive dough. If you are using a dough hook, the dough should not stick to the bowl or your hands.

Place in a large oiled bowl, and let rise in a warm place until double, about 1-2 hours. Gently punch down and divide in 1/2. Shape loaves into the size of your loaf pan. I like to gently press my dough out into a rectangle, then roll it up and seal the edges. If desired, roll dough in oats or sunflower seeds.

Let rise again until double in size. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the bread has cooked completely (this is about 200 on an instant read thermometer). Take out of oven and let cool 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, remove from pan and let cool completely.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Christmas Cookie Explosion #9 - The Grand Finale!

This is my final Christmas post for this year. So, I thought I would show you what my Christmas Box looked like this year with all the yummy goodies inside. I made so many cookies. Each person I gave a box to got about 15 different cookies, gingerbread loaf, marshmallows, and my own brand of chex mix. I hope you all enjoyed eating as much as I enjoyed making it!

I don't know about you, but I'm ready for Christmas to be over already. The shopping is done, the bank account is empty, and most of the cookies have long been eaten. Time to move on to the budget tightening and pantry clearing January and February...First up, homemade marshmallows! I love making these. I don't know why. Maybe it's because there are so many different flavors I want to try. Maybe it's because I am just fascinated I can take a few very simple ingredients, mix them what seems like forever in my stand mixer, dump in a pan, and voila! Marshmallows!

I chose to do some experimenting with flavors this year. The reason I love the recipe I chose is because it's a rather small recipe, so you can make 2-3 smaller batches and vary the flavor. Last year, I made vanilla bean and peppermint. As an added touch, I crushed candy canes on top of the peppermint. They were great. I do have a caution for you though. If you use peppermint extract, it does get stronger with the age of the marshmallows, so be a little careful.

This year, I chose 4 very different flavors - well, actually 3 flavors and an experiment. First up was a request from my mom - Almond. They were really good just adding some almond extract. If you wanted to go all out, you could easily add some chopped toasted almonds to the powdered sugar you roll the marshmallows in.

The second one was my idea, and it was my favorite - root beer! Who doesn't love root beer marshmallows! They were so good - and tasted just like root beer! I loved them. They were perfect, and the root beer extract made them taste a little less sweet. To get the root beer taste, you do have to add a bit of Root Beer concentrate, but it was completely worth it (I added 1 Tablespoon).

The third I enjoyed just as much - Pandan! Everyone knows how much I love Pandan now that I know where to get the essence. For those of you that don't know what Pandan is, it's the screwpine leaf. Caleb first told me what Pandan is, apparently it's very common in Singapore, and a popular flavor for desserts. It's hard to describe the taste, but it is a very similar taste to coconut. And, yes, it is very green. I didn't add food coloring.

The fourth was as much an experiment than anything. While it turned out OK, it does need quite a bit of tweaking. I wanted kind of a brown sugar marshmallow, so I substituted brown sugar for white sugar, and added some cardamom. The result? They were very tasty, but they were also a different texture - wetter, and a bit stickier, if that makes any sense. Requires more testing once the holidays have passed, that's for sure.

I bought some cute little Christmas Bags to put the marshmallows in for the boxes. I thought that was such a cute idea.

I wanted to share this recipe as well. It's for home made cracker jack. I'm going to post the recipe I used from Brown Eyed Baker, since I didn't change it one bit, except to add more peanuts!

This stuff is great! Completely worth the effort. I have an air-pop machine, so I used popcorn from that, and I loved it! It's a great addition to any holiday cookie bag.

I also want to include a Peanut Brittle Recipe. I found this one on, and it was so similar to one I used already, I tried it out. It's great! The only change I made to this recipe is I didn't chop the peanuts - I like them whole!

The last thing I'm not including a recipe of that I put in my Christmas Boxes is Chex Mix. I love the regular flavored chex mix, and use that recipe often. To jazz it up, I put it in a blue bag, and add both chocolate and cheese flavored goldfish. I also add mixed nuts instead of plain peanuts. My family prefers it that way. And, I know that Amanda loves the goldfish!

Finally, I'm including my semi-famous Peanut Butter Fudge recipe! Whenever I mention Christmas baking to my family, I can rely on at least 3 of them saying "PEANUT BUTTER FUDGE!" I think next year, instead of making Brian a box cake and canned frosting like he requested, he's getting the

Yes, it is popular. I must warn you though, this is very sweet. I don't know how Brian can eat so much of it, but I can barely manage eating a 1 1/2" cube of the stuff. He can finish off a huge pan in a day...can't keep his hands out of it.

Wow, it's been an exhausting holiday season, and it's still 1 week until Christmas! Happy Holidays Everyone!

Peanut Butter Fudge
Source: Mom, heavily adapted

1/3 c. corn syrup
4 cups sugar
1 stick unsalted butter
1/3 c. cream
1 cup evaporated milk
1 cup peanut butter
1 8 oz jar marshmallow creme
1 Tablespoon vanilla

Lightly grease a 9x13 pan and set aside.

In a large heavy bottomed sauce pan, combine sugar, corn syrup, cream, and milk. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until it reaches 243 degrees on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat.

Stir in remaining ingredients (peanut butter, marshmallow cream, butter, and vanilla), and pour into the prepared pan. Let cool completely before cutting.

Homemade marshmallows
Adapted from: Alton Brown, Ina Garten, and Joy of Baking

1/3 c. water
1 envelope gelatin
2/3 c. sugar
1/3 c. light corn syrup
pinch salt
1 t. to 2 t. flavoring of your choice

Lots of powdered sugar!

In an 8x8 square pan, sprinkle approximately 1/4 c. powdered sugar, coating entire bottom very well.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine 1/2 of the water and the gelatin. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, corn syrup, and remaining water. Place on medium high heat and let mixture come to a boil without stirring. Heat until mixture reaches 240 on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat.

Turn your mixer on low, and slowly pour hot syrup over the gelatin. The best way to do this is to pour the hot mixture as close to the side of the bowl as possible so it won't touch the beaters, yet you won't spill it outside the mixing bowl. Once you have added all the hot mixture, turn the mixer on high until the mixture has tripled in volume and cooled, approximately 10 minutes. Add flavorings and salt, and combine, about 1minute more.

Scrape mixture into the prepared pan, being very careful - it's incredibly sticky. Spread it even with a damp spatula. Dust the top with more powdered sugar, and let set at least overnight.

To cut the marshmallows, the best way I can find is to take it out of the pan (carefully), dust a pizza cutter with powdered sugar, and cut your marshmallows into squares. Dust the cut edges with more powdered sugar, so they don't stick together.

Store in an air tight container for up to 2 weeks.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmas Cookie Explosion #8 - Swirls of goodness

Don't those look good? I think they do - and here's a little secret - they were great! The red swirls are flavored with Cinnamon Red Hot candy! Isn't that pretty cool? I had my doubts about the recipe, but they were really good.

The chocolate cookies are flavored with both vanilla and chocolate, and they have peppermint chocolate fudge filling. Don't be intimated by the fudge filling, it's really not difficult at all. I had visions of it being terrible, since for some reason, I can't seem to make chocolate fudge at all...

I would like to reference where I got these, but I can't find the sources. I found them written on a card in an old file cabinet of mine, with notes. I remember making them before, but really can't remember where I got the recipe (I'm sorry ;;).

Hope you all out there are having a great December!

Peppermint Fudge Cookies

For the cookies:
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 t. vanilla extract
1 t. peppermint extract (not peppermint oil)
2 1/2 c. flour
1/4 t. salt
1/2 t. baking powder
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled

In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in egg, and vanilla. Stir in flour, salt, and baking powder.

Divide dough in 1/2. In 1/2 of the dough, add the unsweetened chocolate and the peppermint extract, and mix until well combined. Set aside.

For the plain dough, roll out on a floured board in a large rectangle, about 1/4" thick. Rectangle should be about 9x13. Set aside. Roll out chocolate dough the same size as the plain dough. Place the chocolate dough on top of the plain dough, and roll up. Refrigerate roll 2 hours until firm, or can be frozen for up to 3 months.

To bake cookies, preheat oven to 350. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or a silpad. Slice cookies into 1/4" slices and place on baking sheet 1" apart. Bake 8-10 minutes until edges start to turn golden brown. Cool on wire rack

For the frosting:

1/3 c. milk
1/4 c. shortening
1 cup sugar
3 oz. unsweetened chocolate
1/2 t. peppermint extract

In a small pan, mix all ingredients but extract. Let chocolate and shortening melt over low heat. Once it is melted, raise heat to medium and heat to a rolling boil for 1 minute without stirring.

Remove from heat and add peppermint. Let cool without stirring about 30minutes. Beat until frosting is thick. Spread between cookies for a sandwich cookie.

Cinnamon Pinwheels
Adapted from Betty Crocker

2 c. flour
1/4 t. salt
1/2 c. cinnamon red hot candies
1/4 t. salt
3/4 c. sugar
3/4 c. butter
1 egg

In a food processor, process candies until finely ground. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in egg. Add salt and flour and combine until mixed.

Divide dough in 1/2. Mix the ground candies into 1/2 and set aside. For the plain 1/2, roll out on a lightly floured board into a 15x10 rectangle. Do the same with the cinnamon dough. Place the cinnamon dough on top of the plain dough. Roll up tightly, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 2 hours, or up to 3 days. At this point, the dough can be frozen for up to 3months.

When you are ready to bake the cookies, preheat oven to 325. Line cookie sheets with parchment or a silicone pad. Slice cookies 1/4" thin and place on cookie sheet. Bake 14-16 minutes until they start to turn golden around the edges. Cool on cookie sheet for 5 minutes, then remove to cooling rack.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

I ate a what?!? December Daring Cooks Challenge - Poaching Perfection

Jenn and Jill have challenged The Daring Cooks to learn to perfect the technique of poaching an egg. They chose Eggs Benedict recipe from Alton Brown, Oeufs en Meurette from Cooking with Wine by Anne Willan, and Homemade Sundried Tomato & Pine Nut Seitan Sausages (poached) courtesy of Trudy of Veggie num num.

I first must say I apologize for the picture. I have been playing around with my camera for various reasons, and didn't have the right settings for this. And, as usual, I was in a hurry to take the picture so I could eat my food before it got cold. And, I knew cold eggs would never get in my mouth...

I don't know what's happened to me. I used to love eggs. But, when I look back, I love them in things, or mixed with things. Breakfast is my favorite meal to eat at a restaurant because of all the scrummy choices of food...but at home when I think of breakfast, my stomach starts churning...

I think that's why I have never in my life had eggs bennedict. I was nervous. I was squeamish. Every time I thought I was ready to make these, my stomach did the ole flip.

Then I decided to put on my big girl panties and just do this. I have always wanted to make hollaindaise. I have always wanted to learn to poach an egg. Now was the perfect opportunity to do both.

To help me get over my fear, I made Alton's english muffins to go with my eggs bennedict. As you can see from the pic, those are awesome! I will make those again. As you can also tell from the picture, I squirmed out of the ham and/or bacon on my "breakfast" - which I chose to eat for dinner.

The result? I can see why this dish is so popular. I enjoyed the hollandaise sauce. I could appreciate the egg. While I did poach the egg to my version of perfection - a little solid yolk, solid white, and a little runnieness to the yolk, next time I'm going to cook that yolk until it's solid. And, next time, I'm going to add the ham/bacon!

Thank you again Jenn and Jill! Once again, Daring Cooks challenged me into doing something that has always been on my list of things to do. A special thanks to Audax for their insightful posts that helped me learn along the way.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Christmas Cookie Explosion #7 - A Huge Cookie Making Party

You know what's really fun? Especially if you have kids or nieces/nephews to share with? Making cookies for them to decorate. If the holidays can get you down, like I'm feeling right now, this is a good way to make them fun again. After all, even if things aren't going your way, it's hard to be upset or sad when you are decorating cookies.

My niece is going through the terrible teenagers...she's handling it quite well and has some grace about her that I have never had, and which I'm jealous of...I'm grateful for her grace - especially when her aunt shows up at her door with boxes of cookie dough and hands her a rolling pin...

We did have a ton of fun though. And, when we were done, there were cookies over every surface of the entire house. Even her Mom helped us decorate!

First up - gingerbread men! Well, Men and women! For some reason, Fawn was obsessed with making sure all the gingerbread men and women were properly clothed. After I made a bikini for one, we had to make a matching boyfriend for her...The muscle shirt was Fawn's touch. Aren't they a cute couple?

The snowmen weren't so lucky in the clothing department. They only got buttons and hats. I don't know if we were just tired, or were going for a minimalist look. We did some mini snowmen and mini-angels and sandwiched them together with some icing. All of our angels had flame wings.

We used a variety of things to decorate with, including colored frosting, edible markers, licorish, mini m&m's, and various candies. It's fun to go to a bulk store or a candy store before your party and look for cute edible things to decorate with.

We also made some cookie press cookies - cream cheese wreaths and almond trees. Those brought back a lot of memories!

If you have kids around, or want to turn your all grown up friends into kids again, have a cookie decorating party! You won't regret it

Friday, December 10, 2010

Christmas Cookie Explosion #6 - Fig Swirls

I must admit, figs are something that have grown on me as I get older. I think it has to do with not having fresh figs ever until I lived in California. Once I tasted them - I was hooked. They are fantastic. The true beauty, however, is they are perfect on their own.

Now that I don't live in California anymore, it's difficult, not to mention expensive, to get fresh figs. When I do see them, I do buy them, though. And, although I just love fresh figs (especially the black ones), I'm not so sold on dried ones. Sure, they have their uses (like dark chocolate fig oatmeal cookies, which is one of my favorites), but in general, I'm not much of a dried fruit fan.

These cookies changed my mind. They look gorgeous, and taste like a better, more grown up version of Fig Newtons. The pastry is light and flakey, and the filling is full of flavor. The orange juice and honey perfectly compliment the figs. And, don't they look just pretty for the holidays?

A quick not e on these cookies - they don't last, and don't freeze well. Sure, the dough freezes, so you could freeze the dough early, and then assemble and bake when you are ready, but the filled cookies don't freeze very well in my opinion, and the completed cookies lose a lot of texture when frozen.

Fig Swirls
Recipe courtesy of Gourmet Magazine, December 2005

For the dough:

1 3/4 c. flour
1/4 t. baking powder
1/4 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
1/2 c. unsalted butter, softened
4 oz cream cheese, softened
1 egg yolk
1 t. vanilla

For filling:

1 c. packed soft dried mission figs (8 oz)
3/4 c. mild honey
2 T. orange juice
2 t. orange zest
1/2 t. cinnamon

To make the dough:

Mix butter, cream cheese, egg yolk, and vanilla until very well combined. Add dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt) and mix until it just comes together. You can do this in a food processor, but I used a fork and my hands. Divide dough in 1/2 and chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, at least 90 minutes

To make the filling:

Puree figs, honey, juice, zest, and cinnamon in a food processor until almost smooth.

Assembling the cookies:

Roll out one piece of the dough into a 10x8 rectangle. Since this dough is kind of sticky, it's easiest to roll out between 2 pieces of wax paper and make sure to keep the dough cold. Spread 1/2 the filling on your dough, leaving a small border so you don't spill, and roll up into a 10" log.

Repeat with remaining ingredients and refrigerate logs until very firm, at least 4 hours, or up to 2 days.

Baking the cookies:

Preheat oven to 375. Cut logs into 1/3 to 1/2" thick slices and arrange on parchment paper lined cookie sheets about 2" apart. Bake until pastry is golden, 12-15 minutes. Cool on racks. Can be stored in airtight container up to 1 week.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Christmas 2010 Cookie Explosion #5 - Chocolate Surprise Cookies

Are we tired of cookies yet? Well, I'm not, especially since I have quite a few more to share with you...

I saw a recipe for chocolate caramel cookies on foodgawker quite a while back, and all I could think was yummy! From that post, I printed a recipe from for these.

Of course, while I was making them, I was thinking...hmm...wonder what else I can stuff them with.

So, of course, I had to forage in my freezer and kitchen for bits and bites to stuff in my chocolate cookies. I came up with a few good ideas, and one or two not so good ones.

The directions I read said to fill the cookies with chocolate coated caramel candies. I tried it, and it does work, but if you just have caramel, that works as well. This also gives you the awesome opportunity to add salted caramel to these. Other things that work? Coconut, almond paste (and these are yummy), mini peanut butter cups, and mini peppermint candies.

Things that don't work so well? frozen nutella (it turns to goo), halves of ferror rocher candies, truffles (more goo), and mini snickers bars (still more goo).

And, just in case you are wondering, I have almonds and peanuts on my work board because that's how I could tell the what I stuffed the cookies with! Had to have some sort of key.

Finally, I did want to talk a little about my experience with these cookies. Yes, they are very good. However, if you do use caramel, be sure to use parchment paper, and don't take them off the parchment until they are completely cool. I could not get them off the parchment paper while hot without making them look like folded origami. The caramel needed time to harden a bit from being in the oven, and they stick like mad to the cookie sheet without some sort of parchment/foil/etc.

Filled Chocolate Cookies

1 cup softened butter
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 t. vanilla extract
2 1/4 c. all purpose flour
1 t. baking soda
3/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
Filling for 48 cookies - chocolate covered caramel candies, 48 mini peanut butter cups, 4 oz. almond paste, etc.

Beat butter until creamy. Gradually beat in white sugar and brown sugar. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Combine flour, baking soda, and cocoa. Gradually add to butter mixture, beating well. Cover and chill at least 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 375. Divide dough into 4 parts. While working with one part, keep remaining dough in the refrigerator. Divide each part into 12 pieces. Quickly press each piece of dough around your filling. Roll into a ball. Place on a parchment covered baking sheet 2" apart. These cookies do spread, so be careful with placement.

Bake for 8 minutes. Let cool completely on parchment before removing.

NOTE: The site suggests topping with chopped walnuts and sugar before baking, but I preferred the cookies without.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Christmas 2010 Cookie Explosion #4 - Gingerbread Loaf

Yes, I know this isn't a cookie. But, it is my favorite holiday treat - gingerbread with cinnamon honey butter. Ever since I've tasted Starbucks Gingerbread, I have been looking for a great recipe.

Now, this really doesn't taste a lot like Starbuck's Gingerbread...but I still love it. It has a light texture, isn't too sweet, and has tons of spices in it. It's great for breakfast during the holidays.

I chose to make a quick cinnamon honey butter to go on top of this, because I thought it would give it that added taste. I was right - it was tasty as well.

As you can see from my pictures, I was scared to mix this the first time I made it, and ended up with some little flour lumps. Don't be afraid to really mix this batter - it is very thin, and can take it - well, it can take more mixing than I did, but less than the absolute maximum...

Gingerbread Loaf
Adapted from Taste of Home Magazine
Makes 2 loaves

4 cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon cloves
1 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
2 cups milk
1 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 325. In a large mixing bowl, combine the eggs, milk, syrup, and oil. Beat lightly, until well incorporated. Mix in flour, baking powder, sugar, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, soda, ginger, and salt until well mixed. It's ok to make sure the batter is completely incorporated and no lumps remain.

Grease and flour 2 9x5 loaf pans and divide the batter between the two pans. Bake 60-70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pan. Cool on wire rack.

Cinnamon Honey Butter

2 Tablespoons honey
4 tablespoons soft butter
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Combine all ingredients until well mixed.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Christmas 2010 Cookie Explosion #3 - Martha's Lime Meltaways

I'd like to say we are almost done with Christmas cookies, but the truth is we have only started. While I've finished baking - all those raw cookies I froze over 2 months time in 1 day! - I have a TON of pictures and recipes left...and I'm already thinking what I can do next

I'm always looking for a great lime cookie, and these are truly awesome. While I wouldn't crumble them up and use them for a cheesecake base (which is my true reason for looking for good lemon and lime cookies), these are little gems on their own. After all, look at that texture! They really do melt in your mouth! And, they taste a lot like lime!

I must admit, I approach the Martha Stewart website with caution, since some of the recipes I have tried on there just weren't successful for me, and one was just wrong. However, I don't regret picking this recipe. I love the lime taste of these little beauties.

I do recommend you follow the directions for them, and roll them into small cookies. They should be 1-2 bites, since they tend to fall apart. And, if they are any bigger, the wonderful texture kind of suffers.

These cookies do need a bit of TLC to make sure you get the wonderful melt-away texture. It's really important you don't over work the dough, so you should treat the cookie dough sort of like a biscuit or pie dough. Once you have added the flour, mix the dough until it just comes together. Then roll it and leave it alone...I know, that's tough to do for some of us.

When they are in the oven, after 6 or so minutes, watch them carefully. You want to take them out of the oven when the edges are just starting to brown. Trust me, they don't taste very good when they are overcooked.

And finally, don't be like me and rush to coat them in powdered sugar. If the cookies are too hot, the powdered sugar will melt, and they will become sticky. It's quite easy to fix this - just let them cool and coat them again. But, they will look a little off, and not like the delicate little bites they are supposed to look like.

Finally, my tip for today. It involves citrus fruit - lemon, lime, and oranges, to name a few. Whenever I use a lemon or lime, I always zest it first. I have a ziploc bag of each zest in the freezer for when the rind may not look appealing and I need it, or when I need more zest than juice. That way, I use the whole fruit. I am going to start doing this with oranges this year as well. You know, to get my moneys worth from the fruit. In addition, if you see a deal on citrus, you can always freeze the juice to use in sauces and soups. It freezes very well.

Lime Meltaways
From Martha Stewart

12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup confectioners sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
zest of 2 limes (because I wanted this extra fine, I chopped it a bit after I finely grated it)
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon vanilla (I used half this)
1 3/4 plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 tablespoons corn starch
1/4 teaspoon salt

In a mixing bowl, cream butter and 1/3 c. sugar until light and fluffy. Add lime zest, juice, and vanilla, and beat until fluffy.

Add flour, cornstarch, and salt, and mix until just combined. Divide dough in 1/2, and roll between parchment paper to form 2 1" logs. Chill at least 1 hour, or can be frozen for up to 2 months.

When ready to bake cookies, preheat oven to 350. Slice dough into 1/8" thick rounds (mine were a bit thicker). Place on cookie sheet, spacing cookies 1" apart. They don't spread, so don't worry too much about spacing.

Bake cookies at 350 for 15-20 minutes, until barely golden brown. Let cookies cool 15-20 minutes. While cookies are cooling, place the remaining 2/3 c. powdered sugar in a bag. When cookies are cool, put cookies, a few at a time, into the bag and shake gently to coat with sugar. Baked cookies can be stored up to 2weeks in an airtight container.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Christmas 2010 Cookie Explosion #2 - Fruitcake Cookies

Now, let's talk. I can tell that some of you really want to turn the page, or haven't even bothered to finish reading. Trust me, that's your loss.

Fruitcake has a bad rap, I know. When it comes to that packaged stuff, I don't like it either. I have a recipe that I like, but that's mainly after it's been so soaked in booze for over a month that I get a buzz every slice. But, that is another story.

My mom, however, does love fruitcake. Her diabetes, however, does not. So, I worked on these cookies. Now, they are not exactly diabetic friendly. But, one or two during the holidays instead of some fruitcake satisfies her cravings, and don't impact her too much.

I have to tell you though. Whether you love or hate fruitcake, give these cookies a try. One of the beauties of these, and, of course, making them yourself is, if you don't like a particular taste of fruitcake, just leave that dried fruit out, and replace it with something else. I don't care for citron or candied lemon in fruitcake, so I left it out.

I started this dough from Ina Garten's Dried Fruit cookies, but changed them quite a bit. Since my mom doesn't like the taste of alcohol, I substituted orange juice, and it works well. While Ina's have quite a few dates in it, I wanted a more balanced cookie, so I chose to reduce the number of dates in them, and add some dried cherries and dried blueberries. And, I added some quartered dried apricots for good measure.

One of the tricks of this recipe is letting the fruit soak in the orange juice overnight. However, if you don't have the time for that, you can gently heat the juice (don't let it boil), and pour it over your dried fruit. Let it sit for about an hour, and it will be good to go.

If you like dried fruit, I encourage you to give this recipe a try. You won't regret it! These also freeze very well. You can roll them into a log and freeze for up to 2 months. Nothing better than giving your Christmas guests fresh from the oven cookies. They will never know they have been in the freezer!

I've gave you a few tips tonight, and here's another one. When you are making slice and bake cookies, if you want to keep them perfectly round, every time you cut a cookie off the roll, roll the dough 1/4", then make the next cut. That way it won't get flat on one end. I deliberately made these cookies a bit rectangular, but if I wanted them round, that's what I would do.

Fruitcake Cookies
Inspired by: Dried Fruit Cookies by Ina Garten

Combined 3 1/2 cups dried fruit, I used 1 cup dates, 1/2 cup chopped apricots, 1/2 cup raisins, and 1 1/2 cups mixed cranberries, blueberries, and cherries
1/2 c. orange juice
1 T. maple syrup or honey
1 cup chopped toasted walnuts
1 cup butter, softened
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. nutmeg
1/2 c. dark brown sugar
1/3 c. sugar
1/2 t. salt
1 egg
2 1/2 c. all purpose flour

In a large plastic or glass bowl, combine the dried fruit, orange juice, and maple syrup. Cover, and let marinate overnight.

When ready to prepare cookies, combine butter, dark brown sugar, and sugar and mix until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and egg. Mix until well combined. Add flour and beat until fully combined. Add fruit mixture (most of the moisture from the juice will be absorbed, don't worry), and the nuts. Mix until evenly combined.

Divide mixture into 2 separate pieces, and from into 2" diameter logs. At this point, you can refrigerate or freeze the dough for up to 2 months (in the freezer, 1 week in the refrigerator). You will want to refrigerate until firm, or they won't slice well. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350. Slice in 1/2" thin with a very sharp knife, and place on parchment lined cookie sheets, about 1/2" apart. They don't spread, so they don't need to be too far apart. Bake 15-20 minutes until golden brown.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Christmas Cookie Explosion 2010 #1 - Ina's Ultimate Ginger Cookies

It's time to start thinking about your Christmas Cookies! Me? I just love them. Over the years, I've done various things for Christmas, but I always return to the cookie. They are so much fun.

However, they can be so much work. I did a lot of recipe testing and selecting this year...not to mention a few total screw ups...more on that later.

For those of you that think Christmas cookies are out of your area of expertise, they aren't. Most of the recipes I am going to share with you this year can be made ahead and frozen, then thawed and baked. I love those. Some will require some times, and others can require some decorating, if you wish. If you don't - slice roll in sugar and bake, then frost...they are just as tasty.

Now let's get to the first cookie recipe. I made this recipe after watching it on Barefoot Contessa. It's a great recipe. I did adjust the spices a bit, since I am continuing my love of ginger. I think that if you are going to call it the Ultimate Ginger cookie, it better taste more like ginger than cinnamon!

I first made this for Christmas last year. It was a big hit. My nephew, Ryan, astonished me by telling me this was his favorite cookie. I thought for sure it would be one of the chocolate ones.

I love these. They are moist, and chewy, and are very gingery. When I made some of these this year, I was worried, since I overcooked a sheet of them. Hey, it happens. I didn't sweat it, they were still good, just a little crunchy. Don't worry if you do, they were chewy the next day.

Don't be intimidated by the amount of ginger and/or candied ginger in this recipe. It just enhances the overall experience. These are great with a nice cup of hot tea, or dipped in some left over cream cheese frosting. For the holidays, I rolled them in red sugar to add a festive touch. They taste the same, regardless of the color of sugar, and I love them!

A word of caution, though. Don't try to get cute and put very finely chopped ginger in the sugar you use to roll the cookies in. It will burn...and that tastes pretty nasty.

They can be frozen before baking, either shaped on balls, or in one big lump. Thaw in the refrigerator, and bake as normal.

Now for a tip. I'm sure all of you may know this already, but if you are measuring sticky ingredients, such as molasses, honey, or corn syrup (or even peanut butter), they come out of the measuring cup easier if you measure oil first. If the recipe doesn't call for any oil, you can lightly spray the inside of the measuring cup for the same effect.

"Ultimate" Ginger Cookies
Adapted from: Ina Garten

2 1/4 c. all purpose flour (I used unbleached)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3 teaspoons ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt (I use kosher)
1 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/3 c. unsulfered molasses
1 egg, room temperature
1 1/4 cup chopped candied and/or crystalized ginger, finely chopped
Sugar for rolling the cookies in

Preheat the oven to 350. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper, or a silicone mat.

In a large bowl, beat the brown sugar, molasses, and oil for about 5 minutes, until a lighter color. Add egg and mix until well incorporated. Add cinnamon, ground ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and salt and mix. Mix in flour until well incorporated. Stir in the chopped ginger.

Measure out cookies in 2 teaspoon sizes. Roll into a ball, then roll each of the balls in granulated sugar. When you place them on the cookie sheet, flatten slightly. Bake for 13 minutes, and remove from oven. Let cool on cookie sheets for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire cooling rack.

Store in an air tight container when cooled.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thanksgiving Sweet Potatoes

Isn't that just darling? I visited the LeCreuset outlet store a few months back when I was visiting my friend Tim. Wow, is that place dangerous to my checkbook. Not only do they have these just wonderful dutch ovens and roasting pans, now they have an entire section of little casseroles, suitable for 1-2 servings. Just like this little garlic bulb.

You may ask what does this have to do with Thanksgiving? Well, it was the perfect opportunity to cook something in it! It also gives me the opportunity to talk about our Thanksgiving. We are a bit untraditional. When I was living in So. Cal, I flew Mom out every year for Thanksgiving. Since my brothers kind of missed the holidays, Mom decided to basically move the holiday to the Sunday before. So, she (and my brothers) got 2 Thanksgivings for a while.

Now that I'm closer to home, we still have our untraditional Thanksgiving the Sunday before. It gives my brothers the chance to build their own family traditions, and provides a stress free family dinner that's fun! And, I do some different things on Thanksgiving, although this year, I should do more than play video games...

So what secrets are contained in that little bulb of garlic?

My thanksgiving sweet potatoes, of course! This recipe...well, I've been making it for a few years now. I just love sweet potatoes, and eat quite a few of them. One of the things I don't like, however, is candied yams. They are just too sweet for me. So, I decided to come up with a recipe that wasn't so sweet, but still had a little sweetness to it.

Of course, since I developed this recipe during my vegan years, my thoughts turned to coconut milk. Since I love sweet potatoes in curry, I thought coconut milk would be a great way to cook sweet potatoes for Thanksgiving. And, I was right. The coconut milk adds a richness so you don't necessarily miss all the sugar.

After tweaking the recipe a bit, this has been the result. And, it's just delicious. I added a streusel-like topping a few years ago, so it would remind you of the toasted part of the marshmallows on candied yams, but still gave a little crunch and spice.

Based on a lot of things I've read, I tried putting some different spices in these this year. While I didn't like the result (I liked them a bit on the sweeter side, and I'm a bit of a pepper wimp), I can appreciate how some would enjoy a touch of cayenne or harissa added to the sweet potatoes.

If you are looking for a nice, tasty twist on your sweet potatoes this year, give these a try! You won't be disappointed. I usually cook these in a casserole dish, but they can easily be cooked in individual servings. This year, I cooked my own individual serving so I could have it for leftovers.

Now for my tip. I realize I have been negligent on my tips the last few posts, but I have been frantically working on Christmas Cookies. I hope you like the results, because they are coming soon! I can't wait. I even bought a bunch of boxes at Costco so I could bake all the remaining dough and give friendly gifts...

My tip today involves foreign cans. You know the ones. Since I buy things like coconut milk at Asian Grocery stores, sometimes I find the cans a bit difficult to open with my handy dandy American can opener. And I'm talking a manual can opener here - I'm not talented enough to be able to pull off using an electric one. If you find a can difficult to open, flip it over, and open the bottom instead of the top. There's always one side that is easier to open than the other, and you aren't going to hurt the can by opening the bottom instead of the top.

Thanksgiving Sweet Potatoes

1 lb sweet potatoes, peeled and shredded
1 14 oz can coconut milk
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. cardamom
1/2 t. harissa, or cayenne (totally optional, I won't add this again)
1 t. salt
1/3 c. orange juice
1/2 t. white pepper


1/4 c. butter, softened
1/3 c. brown sugar
1/4 t. nutmeg
1/2 t. cinnamon
2/3 c. chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients for the sweet potatoes. The milk may start to look curdled when you add the orange juice, but it really is fine. Place in an oven proof dish and bake for 30-40 minutes, until sweet potatoes are tender. The amount of time you bake them will depend on the dish. If you use a pie tin or an 8x8 baking pan, it can take up to 20-30 minutes only. If you cook the sweet potatoes in a deeper dish, it can take a bit longer to cook.

For the topping, combine all ingredients in a smaller bowl. Place on top of the sweet potatoes after they have been in the oven about 30-40 minutes. Continue baking at least 15 minutes, until the sweet potatoes and tender and a lot of the moisture has been baked out. Serve warm.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Thanksgiving Pumpkin Cheesecake

What are these little pumpkins nested on whipped cream hiding? Could it be a tasty Thanksgiving dessert? Yes, I know that pic probably isn't the best, but I love it. The little pumpkin candies appear to be floating on a cloud, with just darkness below them. Like they hold a little secret.

Well, they do hold a little secret. See what they are nested on? 9" of pure pumpkin cheesecake.

See what I mean? Aren't those pretty pumpkins all lined up in a row cute?

I've been working on this Pumpkin Cheesecake for quite a while now. I first started making it when I was in California. While my family can be quite the traditionalist when it comes to some holiday desserts, I can always make this for lucky friends and family outside of Thanksgiving. Right?

When I first delivered this, the first thing I heard was - why don't you make something other than cheesecake? Ok, so I guess not everyone is a fan of cheesecake.

This recipe might convert you. It's much more of a pumpkin custard than it is a cheesecake. I put quite a bit of pumpkin in it. And, a ton of spices. Yes, a ton. Cheesecakes have quite a bit of fat in them. So, that gave me the perfect opportunity to overdose on cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. yes, I still love ginger.

Yea, it really does look like someone took a bite out of this one. It was good. I realized after nibbling at it for a while, that I needed to put the fork down and take the pic before the entire thing disappeared.

One thing I did want to mention about this cheesecake. I use Ana's Ginger Biscuits for the base. One package is usually enough, but I get two, since they shrink at my house. Yep, I love those too. And, they are amazing with my sister in laws pumpkin dip.

The final picture is a just in case picture. Just in case you worry that your cheesecake could never look like mine, never fear. This is how it looked before I piped on the whipped cream. I had to taste it, you see. Wanted to make sure it was tasty. (:grin:)

Happy Thanksgiving all!

Pumpkin Cheesecake
Makes 1 9" cheesecake

For the crust:
8-10 ounces ginger cookies, finely chopped in a food processor (or in a ziploc bag with a rolling pin if you are feeling punchy)
1/3 c. finely chopped pecans
6 T. butter, melted

Combine all ingredients and press into the bottom and slightly up the sides of a 9" springform pan.

For the filling:

2 cups pumpkin puree
24 oz cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 c. brown sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 tablespoon ginger
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
1/3 c. corn starch

Preheat oven t0 350. Fill a very large roasting pan 1 1/2" full of water and put in the preheating oven. Be sure your springform pan can fit inside the roaster.

In a large mixing bowl, beat cream cheese lightly just to soften and incorporate a little air. Add brown sugar and continue beating about 3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, until mixture is well incorporated. Add pumpkin, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, salt, and corn starch. Continue mixing until there are no lumps, and mixture is a smooth consistency.

Pour mixture over your crust mixture, and place your springform pan in the waterbath in the oven. Bake 90-110 minutes, until cheesecake just has a little jiggle left in it. If you are a thermometer freak like me, the middle should read about 160.

Remove from the oven, and the waterbath, and let cool at room temperature for 2 hours, then put in refrigerator overnight to cool.

Serve with whipped cream.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

November 2010 Daring Cooks Challenge - Rise to the Occasion with a Souffle

Dave and Linda from Monkeyshines in the Kitchen chose Soufflés as our November 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge! Dave and Linda provided two of their own delicious recipes plus a sinfully decadent chocolate soufflé recipe adapted from Gordon Ramsay’s recipe found at the BBC Good Food website.

What an awesome challenge! Thank you Dave and Linda for the great job on selecting and hosting this challenge. I've always wanted to make a souffle. It has been on my "to try" list what seems like forever.

So, it was a great opportunity to get the little "push" I needed to complete this. I chose the chocolate souffle, with one change - I substituted semi-sweet chocolate for the bittersweet. I knew I was going to make this at my brothers house, and they don't care for the bittersweet chocolate, so semi-sweet was a good choice.

While this was my first time making a souffle, it was Fawn and Amanda's first time eating the souffle. They had no clue that I overcooked it by about 3 minutes. But, it was still good. A little less luxurious and rich than I was hoping, but it was still tasty.

You know, I had such plans for this challenge. But, it feels like that as my to do list grows, my actual output shrinks. Of course, I may not feel that way once I see the results of my HUGE Christmas Cookie Project I have been working on for about 6 weeks. So, stay tuned! Maybe I have been busier than I actually think!

Souffle's really aren't as tough as their reputation. I encourage to try one. If you don't like chocolate, check out the Daring Cooks blogroll for a ton of creativity on display and take your pick!

Chocolate Souffle

Adapted From BBC Good Food Recipe by Gordon Ramsay



2 Tbsp (30 ml) 1 oz (30g) unsalted butter, for greasing
Cocoa powder or finely grated chocolate


2 tbsp (30 ml) (18 gm) (2/3 oz) plain (all-purpose) flour
2 tsp (10 gm) (0.35 oz) caster (superfine) sugar (regular sugar is OK)
½ tsp (4½ gm) (0.15 oz) corn starch (aka cornflour)
1 medium egg yolk
1 medium whole egg
4 Tbsp (60 ml) milk
5 Tbsp (75 ml) heavy cream (or double cream)
3 oz (90gm) good-quality dark chocolate preferably 70+% cocoa solids, broken in pieces (I used semi-sweet)
2 Tbsp (30 ml) (15 gm) (½ oz) unsweetened cocoa powder


6 medium egg whites
6½ Tbsp (95 ml) 3 oz (90g) superfine/caster sugar (if you don’t have it, regular sugar is OK)


1. Heat oven to moderate 375 ˚F/190 ˚C/gas mark 5.
2. Take four 1 cup/~240ml soufflé dishes and brush them completely with softened butter. Tip a little cocoa powder or grated chocolate into each dish, roll the dish around tilting it as you do so it is evenly lined all round.
3. For the crème patisserie, mix the flour, sugar and corn starch into a small bowl. Put egg yolk and whole egg into a medium sized bowl, beat lightly, then beat in half of the flour mixture to give a smooth paste. Tip in the rest of the flour mixture and cocoa powder and mix well.
4. To make the ganache, pour the milk and cream into a pan and bring just to the boil. Remove from the heat. Add the chocolate and beat until it is melted and smooth with no lumps.
5. Gradually stir hot chocolate ganache into the paste from step 3, and add the orange zest or chile if using. This is your crème patisserie.
6. Whisk the egg whites to soft peaks with an electric whisk. Sprinkle in the sugar as you are mixing. Keep whisking to give stiff, firm peaks to give volume to the soufflés.
7. Stir about 2 tbsp (30 ml) of the beaten egg whites into the crème patisserie. Carefully fold in a third of the rest, cutting through the mixture. Fold in another third (take care not to lose the volume), then fold in the rest.
8. Spoon the mixture into the dishes. Run a spoon across the top of each dish so the mixture is completely flat. Take a little time to wipe any splashes off the outside of each dish, or they will burn on while cooking.
9. Bake the soufflés for 15-17 minutes.
10. The soufflés should have risen by about two thirds of their original height and jiggle when moved, but be set on top.

NOTE: You can also use one large dish for this, as I did. You need to adjust your cooking time to 35-40 minutes if you do!