Sunday, October 27, 2013

Chocolate Sugar Cookies

I have a huge bag of dutch processed cocoa.  I think purely the description won me over when I saw it.." luminous, intense red and very flavorful".  The bag is so big it always beckons when I open the cabinet.

My first source in order to find a recipe using this ingredient is a cookbook called Flour.  This particular cookbook makes note that all recipes that have cocoa as a ingredient actually call for Dutch processed.  None of them call for natural cocoa.  However, nothing there appealed to me so I cracked open the Martha Stewart Cookies cookbook.

I found a recipe for a big tasty chocolate cookie.  The flavor was very rich, but in my book the rich taste of chocolate never has its limits.  As far as the texture, the day these are baked they are crisp on the outside and every so chewy on the inside.  Probably very close to a brownie.  However, the down side is that the texture is not everlasting.  I brought them to work and they were very crumbly.  That did not phase the chocolate eaters, for they popped them in the microwave to warm them up which brought all that texture right back.

The recipe does say they last only for 2 days at room temp, so these are not ones to sit in the cookie jar to eat now as well as later.  That is, if you have an aversion to the step of reheating them in the microwave. This recipe makes eight cookies about 3-4 inches in diameter

Giant Chocolate Sugar Cookies
adapted from Martha Stewart's Cookies

1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup or 1 stick of baking powder
1/2 cup vegetable shortening (melted and cooled)
1 egg
1/2 unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar

Prepare 2 baking sheets by lining with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

In a medium size bowl, sift together the flour, salt , baking powder and cocoa.  Set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the melted shortening and mix on medium speed until blended.  For a final 45 seconds, beat in the egg and vanilla extract.

Then using a wooden spoon or spatula, fold the sifted ingredients into the wet batter in increments.  Mixing in about 1/3 of the dry ingredients in each increment.  Finish blending in the last 1/3 of the flour mixture, making sure no dry streaks remain.  Drop by scoops evenly onto the baking sheet.  There should be 4 scoops per pan, each dough lump being about 2 1/2 inches in diameter and sitting on the pan 4 inches apart from each other.

Place pan in oven and bake for about 18-20 minutes, rotating pan at the halfway mark.  The edges will be crisp when done.  Remove pan from oven and transfer cookies to wire rack to cool.
                               **LAST YEAR: Chocolate Hazelnut Cupcakes**

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Pineapple Squares with Coconut Streusel seems to make me think of warm summer days in California.  Most likely due to the fact we lived right across the street from an orange grove.  Since it has been overcast and rainy, I was thinking back on those days and wanted something citrus for breakfast.  Not juice but a baked good.  However, I wanted something that was less common than a lemon poppy seed muffin.

Looking in a coffeecake cookbook, this particular recipe caught my eye.  I was quite happy with the 3 kinds of citrus included in the ingredients.  Being in the form of a bar and using sour cream as an ingredient did make for great texture.  Also, what better way to tie all the citrus flavors together by topping the bars with a chewy coconut streusel?

One important tip before going into the recipe, taste test the completed bar instead of the components. I did find myself sampling the streusel more times than I needed to prior to putting it on the cake!

Pineapple Squares with Coconut Streusel
adapted from Great Coffeecakes and More

Ingredients/Coconut Streusel
1/2 cup sifted powdered sugar
1/8 tsp grated nutmeg
1 cup flour
1 cup sweetened coconut
1/2 tsp orange zest
6 tbs butter

2 large eggs (whites separated from yolks)
1/3 sour cream
1 (8 oz) can crushed pineapple (well drained)
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1/4 tsp salt
2/3 cup plus 3 tbs sugar
1 tsp fresh orange zest
1 tsp fresh lemon zest
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 3/4 cup cake flour
3 tbs orange juice

To make the streusel, start by preheating the oven to 325 degrees. Sprinkle the coconut evenly into a shallow pan and place in the oven.  Toast the coconut for about 8-10 minutes, but remove every two to three minutes and stir to make sure coconut does not burn.  The coconut should turn a golden brown when done.  Remove pan and let the coconut cool completely.  Then break up any large pieces and set aside.

Place orange zest and butter in a small saucepan.  Remove from heat once the butter is completely melted.  Let cool to a lukewarm temperature.  Add the 3 dry ingredients and the toasted coconut.  Let the mixture sit for about 10-15 minutes before using.

For the cake, turn the temperature up on the oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare a 9X13 inch size pan by buttering the interior.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.  Load a food processor with a metal blade and fill bowl with the crushed pineapple.  Run processor for about 10 seconds.  Place pineapple in a small bowl until ready to use.

Cut butter into 1 inch cubes and add to the bowl of a stand mixer.  Then add the lemon and orange zests.  Beat on medium speed for about 2 minutes until smooth.  Continue to beat mixture and add the sugar, one tablespoon at a time until the additions total 2/3 of a cup.  Add one egg yolk and beat for 30 seconds.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the other egg yolk, beating again for 30 seconds.  Fold in the crushed pineapple.

In a separate bowl, mix together the sour cream, vanilla extract and orange juice. 

Add 1/3 of the sifted ingredients to the butter/sugar/egg yolk batter and stir until no dry streaks remain.  Then mix in 1/2 of the sour cream blend to the batter.  Repeat the process, ending by mixing  the last 1/3 of the sifted ingredients into the batter.  Set aside.

Using a wire whisk or a small handheld mixer, beat egg whites until soft peaks form.  Add one tablespoon of sugar and beat for 30 seconds.  Repeat this process 2 times, using the additional tablespoons of sugar.

Add 1/3 of the whipped egg whites to the batter and fold in, only making 20 turns with a flexible spatula.  Fold in the remaining egg whites for about 40 turns.  Transfer batter to prepared pan and smooth out to an even layer.  Sprinkle streusel over the batter, covering top and edges equally. Pat down lightly using a metal spatula to get streusel to adhere to batter.

Bake until tester comes out clean, which should take about 30-35 minutes.  Let cake cool in pan for about 20 minutes.  Should you not want to serve from the pan, recipe suggests inverting twice onto foil covered cooling racks, so coconut streusel is still facing upward.  Either way, cake should be completely cooled before cutting and serving.
                                               **LAST YEAR:Bourbon Maple Bars**


Sunday, October 6, 2013

Chocolate Caramel Candy

I have been thinking about getting a chocolate tempering machine.  They are great for preparing chocolate for dipping cookies into or drizzling on baked goods that need that extra touch.  However, it is one of those gadgets that you wonder if you will ever get enough use to justify the cost.

The recipe here does not require any fancy equipment, but it does deliver a lot of delicious flavor. A mix of different chips melted together makes up the bottom and top layers.  Then the filling in between is a nutty layer of nougat and a layer of caramel.  Consider this to be a homemade version of the famous Snickers bars.  The hardest part of this recipe is waiting for it to chill before eating!

Chocolate Caramel Candy
adapted from Taste of Home

Ingredients/ Bottom layer
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup milk chocolate chips
1/4 cup butterscotch chips
2 tsp butter

1/4 cup evaporated milk
1 1/2 cups marshmallow cream
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cups chopped salted peanuts

Ingredients/Caramel Layer
14 oz pkg of caramels
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream

Ingredients/ Icing
1/4 cup butterscotch chips
1/4 cup peanut butter
1 cup milk chocolate chips

Prepare a 9x13 size cake pan by lining with foil.  Then melt the 2 tsp of butter and use it the coat the interior of the pan.  Set aside and start making the layers.

For the bottom layer,  fill a saucepan with both types of chips and peanut butter. Place the saucepan over low heat.  Stir constantly until mixture is melted. Then spoon into prepared pan, smoothing out the top so it is even.  Place the pan in the fridge to chill for abut 30 minutes or longer.  This layer needs to set up firmly.

To make the filling, place butter in a small saucepan over medium temperature.  Once the butter is melted, add sugar and milk and let come to a gentle boil. Turn the heat to medium low and stir.  Let the mixture cook for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly.  Remove from the heat and add marshmallow cream, peanut butter and vanilla and mix until smooth.  Fold in the salted nuts.  Remove the pan from the fridge and spoon this filling over the top of the first layer.  Smooth out the top and place pan back in the fridge, allowing for at least 30 minutes for the the layer to set up.

Unwrap all the caramels and drop them into a small saucepan.  Then add the cream and place saucepan over medium heat for about 4 minutes, stirring until all the caramels are melted and mixed in with the cream.  Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.  Take out the pan from the fridge and spread the caramel layer over the filling, making sure all areas are covered evenly and the surface is smooth. Place pan back in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes.

For the top layer,  melt peanut butter in a saucepan over low heat. When completely melted, add milk chocolate chips and butterscotch chips.  Keep stirring until it is smooth and all chips are totally melted.  Pour mixture over the last layer and smooth it out on top.  Place pan in fridge for a minimum of 4 hours.  It will also be fine if left in the fridge overnight.

After the chilling stage, let sit at room temperature 20 minutes.  Pull candy out of pan by lifting up the foil liner.  Invert the candy slab and peel off all the foil.  Invert again and place on cutting board and cut into one inch squares.

1. These are better left frozen until served.  Room temperature turns these into a mess of sticky chocolate and stringy caramel.
                                **LAST YEAR:Chocolate Chunk Pumpkin Bread Pudding**