Sunday, April 27, 2014

Cherry Almond Cobbler Cookies

Here it is.  A good recipe for making individual cobblers without using ramekins.  Besides the assembly, just make the two cookies and the filling.  One pan to wash when it comes to the filling and only dessert plates and forks to wash when nothing is left to eat!

Sandwiched in between the cookies are whole cherries (bought frozen) flavored with cinnamon and lemon.  For the cookies, almond streusel is baked on to the top cookie and the bottom is plain.

I did have to tweak the recipe in regards to volume on both the streusel and the filling.  Even with the tweak , I was surprised at the amount of cherries needed for just a little over 2 dz sandwich cookies. More cherries than the syrupy liquid....hmmm...not really a bad thing!

These would be perfect for the 4th of July celebration.  That is if you can wait that long.

Cherry Almond Cobbler Cookies
adapted from the Cooking Channel

Ingredients/Cherry Crumble
1/4 cup chopped blanched almonds
1 1/3 cup flour
1/4 cup of sugar
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/2 cup or 1 stick of butter
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp gnd cinnamon

Ingredients/Cookie Dough
2 eggs
1 cup or 2 sticks of butter
1/4 cup corn syrup
1 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
4 cups of flour
2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup chopped dried cherries
1/2 cup packed brown sugar 
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup confectioners sugar

Ingredients/Cherry Filling
3 lbs frozen cherries, thawed and drained
2 tbs lemon juice
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Start with making the crumble.  Melt the butter in a small saucepan, remove from heat. Stir in the almond extract. Next, fill a medium size bowl with both sugars, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Mix until evenly distributed.   Pour the liquid into the sugar mixture, stir and then mix in the flour.  Then fold in the chopped almonds with a wooden spoon and set aside.

To make the dough, you will need 3 bowls: two medium size and one from a stand mixer. In the first bowl, stir together all the sugars.  In another bowl, sift together baking soda, flour and salt.  In the third and stand mixer bowl, add the butter.  Beat the butter on medium speed, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Continue to beat until the butter has a smooth consistency.  Mix one egg into the butter, beating for about 30 seconds.  Repeat with the additional egg.  Then add the corn syrup and both extracts.  Beat for another 30 seconds.  Remove bowl from mixer and fold in the sifted ingredients.  When no dry streaks remain, stir in the dried cherries.

Separate dough into halves.  The first half will make up the bottom of the cookies. Scoop out a heaping tablespoon of dough and flatten it on the prepared cookie sheet. It should be about 2 1/2 to 2 3/4 inches in diameter.  Repeat with process, making sure the flattened cookies are about 1 inch apart on the baking sheet.  Bake for about 9-12 minutes or until cookies have a toasty or golden hue on the edges.  Let rest on baking sheet for 2 minutes, then transfer to rack to completely cool.  For the top cookie, follow the same instructions with one difference: before your dough is completely flattened to size, evenly sprinkle a heaping tablespoon of streusel on top.  Then press down lightly to flatten to desired size. Once all are baked, turn off the oven.

After all the cookies have cooled, match the tops with the bottoms.  Since they are free form, they will not match perfectly, but this task will keep you from having a big difference in size from top to bottom.

To start on the filling, you will need a cake pan (I used a 9X13 size) and foil to cover the top.  Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  In a large mixing bowl blend the cinnamon, salt, cornstarch, lemon juice and the granulated sugar.  Then fold in the cherries.  Pour mixture into cake pan and spread evenly.  Cover tightly with foil and place in oven to bake for 30-45 minutes.  At 15 minute intervals, remove from oven, uncover and stir.  Then cover and place back in oven.  After baking, uncover and let cool for 15 minutes.  It should be like pie filling, not watery but not rubbery either. If it still has a watery consistency, cover and put back in oven to bake some more and check at 15 minute intervals.  Bear in mind mixture will thicken upon cooling. Let cherry mixture completely cool prior to using as filling.  My cook time was the full 45 minutes.

To assemble, spoon desired amount of filling on bottom cookie and top with streusel cookie.

Tips and Notes:
1.  Make sure your cherries are completely frozen and well drained.  Otherwise, filling cook time will be longer to eliminate the excess liquid.

2. I have thought that maybe rolling the dough between waxed paper and cutting it into circles is a way to go for a more exact match of top and bottom cookies, but the issue would be pressing the streusel on top. Also, I was very liberal with the streusel, making sure the cookie was completely covered, even the edges.

3. Other tweaks to the cookie part of this recipe include chopping dried cherries and almonds.  Also there was no reference to type of cherries (fresh, frozen, dried) used in the cookie dough so I opted for the dried.

4. The cookies are chewy and soft in texture which makes them a bit delicate.  Care is needed when handling. When assembling do not press down on the top cookie, just set on top.  The cookies can be eaten by hand, but due to the filling they are better served with a fork.

5. Since the filling is not completely enclosed in the cookie, assemble and serve the same day.
                                  **LAST YEAR: Ube Macapuno Cake**

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Minnie's Chocolate Chip Supreme Cookies

There are a variety of chocolate chip cookie recipes out there as there are different preferences.  So much that it is a task just to zero in on the most favorite type.  In scanning recipes, I came across a Disney recipe that encompassed some uniqueness to it that had wonderful results.

Kids do know a thing or two about cookies.  Also, who else but Disney to know kids and what kids like?   Let's talk size first.  These are not like grandma's dainty tea cookies.  They are big cookies, about the size of a DVD disc.  Also, much to a child's delight,they are packed with a myriad of different type of morsels in them.  Most of the add ins are some type of chocolate.  Also, that texture of crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside is another factor that brings out a smile.

Kids love these cookies.  No longer a kid?  Don't despair..these cookies will bring out the inner child, no matter what the age.  Oh and don't forget the milk. Chocolate chip cookies should always be served with milk or as Carl says "ice cream please!" This recipe makes 1 dozen large cookies.

Hope everyone is having a super Easter filled with family, friends and great food!

Minnie's Chocolate Chip Supreme Cookies
Adapted from Disney Diner

2 tbs water
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup butter,  room temperature
3/4 cup semi sweet choc chips
6 oz bittersweet choc, chopped
3/4 cup milk choc wafers/candy melts
3/4 cup toffee bits
1 cup chopped pecans
3/4 cup powdered (not granulated) sugar
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 2/3 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda

Prepare two baking sheets by lining with parchment paper.  Fill bowl of a stand mixer with butter and both types of sugar.  Beat at medium high speed for 1 minute. The mixture should have a fluffy consistency.  Then beat in egg, water and vanilla. Set aside.

In another bowl, sift together flour salt and baking soda.  Using a wooden spoon or spatula, fold sifted ingredients into butter/sugar blend.  Once no dry streaks remain, then the add ins can be mixed in.  The recipe suggests adding each of the chocolate ingredients in separate batches, mixing in after each addition.  Then fold in the toffee bits and the last addition is stirring in the nuts.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  While the oven is heating up, scoop out mounds of dough with an ice cream scoop and place on cookie sheets.  Remember that this recipe makes around 1 dz large cookies.  With correct spacing of the mounds, there should be about 5 to a pan.  After all the mounds are made, place baking sheets in the freezer to firm up for about 15-20 minutes.

Once chilling process is complete, place in oven to bake for two minutes. The flash bake is a technique for creating a crispy outside to the cookies.  After the two minutes, reduce temperature to 350 degrees and bake for about 15 minutes.  The cookies should be golden brown on the edges when done. Let cookies cool on pan for 5 minutes and then transfer to a rack to finish cooling.

Tips and Notes:
1.This is a good base cookie dough recipe, feel free to experiment with you own choice of add ins.
2. The cookie has a chewy interior which gives the impression of it not being done in the middle when they come out of the oven.  Be careful not to over bake.
                               **LAST YEAR: Peach Oatmeal Cookies**

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Black Walnut Madeira Cake

As most of us know, when dealing with a strongly flavored ingredient, there has to be another ingredient which mellows that flavor.  We all have choked at one time or another, when someone prepares something in which the flavor is overpowering.  My situation involved cilantro and I had a friend that stated hers was banana.  However, when reviewing strong flavors, black walnuts fall into that category.  The perfect offset for that slightly bitter taste of black walnuts would be something sweet.  In this particular recipe, Madeira wine is included in the batter and the cake is topped with an extra sweet icing and a sprinkling of more nuts.  They both play an important part in creating a good balance of flavors.

Black Walnut Madeira Cake
adapted from My Great Recipes

Ingredients/ Loaf Cake
1/2 cup chopped black walnuts
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup Madeira wine
3 egg whites
1/2 cup butter
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cream of tartar 
1 1/2 cups flour

Ingredients/ Frosting
2 tbs butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 tbs milk
chopped walnuts for sprinkling top

Prepare the 9X5 inch loaf pan by greasing the interior.   Also, line bottom and 2 sides (with excess overhang) with parchment paper.  Grease the surface of the parchment paper touching the sides and bottom.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Fill a bowl with butter and both sugars and beat on high speed for one minute.  Set aside.  Sift together the flour, cream of tartar and baking soda.  Fold 1/3 of the sifted ingredients into the butter/sugar mixture.  Pour in the milk and stir until smooth. Stir in the next 1/3 of the sifted ingredients and then mix in the Madeira wine.  Lastly, fold in the rest of the dry ingredients and set aside.

In another bowl, beat egg whites on high speed until it reaches the stiff peak stage.  Gently fold the egg whites into the prepared batter until evenly distributed.  Then mix in the walnut pieces.   Bake cake in oven for about 45-50 minutes or until tester indicates done. Cool 10 minutes in pan then run a knife between the cake and the pan on the sides without parchment.  Lift cake out of pan with excess overhang of parchment and place on rack to completely cool.

For the frosting, beat together the butter and brown sugar on medium high speed with an electric mixer.  Then add the powdered sugar, vanilla extract and milk, stirring to combine.  Once the frosting has the desired consistency, spread on the top surface of the cake.  Then sprinkle with walnut pieces, if desired.

Tips and Notes:
1.  Both the wine and the nuts are the stand out flavors in this recipe.  You can use Marsala and regular walnuts, but the flavor will not be the same.
2. Since the frosting is made with brown sugar, it does need some time to set.  As it sets, the texture will not be as gritty like the newly made frosting.  Be aware that it is very sweet, but the sprinkling of the nuts tones that down.
                                       **LAST YEAR: Chocolate Chunk Cream Cake**     



Sunday, April 6, 2014

Pecan Coffeecake

The thing that most people enjoyed about this coffeecake was the flavor of the cake part, not the filling or the topping.  The two pecan elements were good, but the extra flavor of the cake was a delicious surprise. Usually most coffeecakes are plain, letting the filling and topping be the highlight of flavor.  We all have experienced that plain bite of coffeecake, you know, the one that has no filling or much topping with it.  So, since filling and topping in every bite is hard to guarantee, the next best thing is to make the cake taste delicious on its own.

This recipe uses lemon zest in the batter, which paired nicely with the pecan filling.  Yet if that was not enough, the icing has espresso in it. So, if your standard breakfast has reached that blah stage, change it up with this coffeecake. It will definitely make for a better morning.

Pecan Coffeecake
adapted from My Great Recipe Cards

Ingredients/ Cake
1 egg
1/2 cup warm milk (105-115 degrees)
1/4 cup butter (room temp)
5 tbs cold butter, cut into cubes
2 tbs shortening
2/3 cup bread flour
1 1/4 cups bread flour
1 pkg active dry yeast
1/2 cup sugar
grated zest from one lemon
1/4 tsp salt

Ingredients/ Filling
1/3 cup butter
3 tbs shortening
1/3 cup flour
2/3 cup dark brown sugar (packed)
2/3 cup finely chopped pecans

Ingredients/ Topping
1 egg mixed with 1 tbs water (egg glaze)
2 tsp hot water
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp instant espresso powder
whole pecans for placing on top

For the cake, sprinkle yeast in warm milk.  Stir with a fork until yeast has dissolved.  Fold in 2/3 cups of the flour.  Cover and set aside.

Using a handheld or stand mixer, beat together butter, sugar and shortening until fluffy.  Add the egg, salt and lemon zest and beat for 30 seconds on medium speed.  Then stir in yeast/flour mixture, set aside. Fill another bowl with the remaining 1 1/4 cups of bread flour.  Using a pastry blender, cut the butter cubes into the flour until it is crumbly and the clumps are about pea sized.  Then add the yeast/flour mixture, stirring until all is blended and it forms a dough.  Cover and let dough chill for 2 hours.

While dough is chilling, the filling can be made.  Beat the butter and shortening together until light and creamy.  Using a handheld mixer on medium speed, mix in the dark brown sugar.  Then fold in the chopped pecans.  Lastly, stir in the flour until evenly distributed.  Also, prepare 2 baking sheets by lining with parchment paper.

Prepare a flat surface by dusting with flour.  Remove the dough from the refrigerator and knead dough on surface about 18 turns.  Divide dough in half.  Roll one piece of dough into a rectangle, measuring about 10X14 inches.  Take out 1/2 of the filling and spread down the center of the length of the dough, leaving about a 2 1/2 inch border on either side. Fold borders of dough over the top of the dough that is spread with filling.  Overlap each side by 1/4 of an inch, pinching the center of the dough together to seal.  Also, to further seal the dough, take a rolling pin and lightly roll over the top in a few strokes. Flip sealed dough over and center on a prepared baking sheet.  Repeat process with the remaining dough and filling.

Make 1/2 inch slashes on each side of the length of each coffeecake.  Use a knife and prick the top of the dough.  Brush with the egg glaze and place pecans decoratively on top.  Let cakes rise on baking sheets for 30 minutes.  During the rising time, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Once rise time is completed, bake cakes for 30-35 minutes until golden brown.  Remove and let cool for 15 minutes before icing.  Let cakes stay on baking sheet until completely cool.

The icing can be started by dissolving the espresso powder in the hot water.  Then stir in powdered sugar until smooth.  Drizzle over the top of each cake.

Tips and Notes:
1. This coffeecake can be made thinner by rolling out to a wider shape after the dough has been folded over the filling. This will create a thinner type of pastry that will be more crispy as compared to the one in the above picture.
2. Watch the hue of the dough while baking.  The first one I baked came out too dark.  The one in the picture was covered in foil halfway through baking so it would not get too brown. 
                                    **TWO YEARS AGO: Berry Meringue Slices**