A mom's journal of the sweet things in her life...

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Pizzelles (repost)

This is my final post before Christmas. It's actually a re-post - but if you're new around these parts, then you may have missed it. These are, hands-down, my favorite Christmas cookie. Actually, I'm not sure they're "Christmas cookies" at all, but this seems to be the only time I make them, which is a huge oversight on my part. You obviously need a pizzelle iron to make them, which not everybody has, but everybody should in my humble opinion.
I grew up eating Pizzelles, not because my mom made them, but because my Italian friends' moms made them. I always got so excited when I saw them come out - usually in a simple ice-cream bucket. No frills, nothing fancy about them, just a simple waffle cookie that packed a lot of flavor.
I've tested these cookies out on my friends who grew up eating Pizzelles to see if they measure up, and I've been given the stamp of approval. In fact, I've been told they're even better than the ones they remember. I've made three batches this Christmas - they don't last long - which is always the sure sign of a good recipe.
Wishing you all a wonderful Christmas with loved ones.
Recipe for Pizzelles
(Source: Brown Eyed Baker)
Yield: Approximately 3 dozen
6 eggs
1 cup butter, melted
1½ cups sugar
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon anise extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3½ cups all-purpose flour

Beat the eggs on medium speed until pale and thick. Add the melted butter and mix until thoroughly combined. With the mixer still running, add the sugar and mix until combined. Add the extracts and continue to mix. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the flour, mixing until combined. Preheat the pizzelle iron according to the manufacturer’s directions. When ready, drop batter by heaping tablespoon onto iron, close, and hold closed for as long as the manufacturer states. (For me it's usually less than a minute.) When ready, open iron and remove pizzelle with a rubber spatula. Repeat until all batter is used.
Note: Be sure to drop the batter slightly above the center of the iron otherwise it won't spread properly.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Milk Chocolate Nutella Sea Salt Fudge

This fudge is super easy and really, really delicious. It's silky and creamy, and while it is definitely sweet, as all fudges are, I've definitely had much sweeter fudge than this. And it doesn't have that dry, grainy texture that a lot of fudges have. Think truffles...that's the best way to describe the texture. Plus, there's no need for a candy thermometer. You could totally whip up a batch of this in 10 minutes flat.

Recipe for Milk Chocolate Nutella Sea Salt Fudge
(Adapted from: Tasty Kitchen)

14 ounces of sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 ounces, good quality milk chocolate, chopped
1 cup Nutella
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1/4 teaspoon (approximately) sea salt

Prepare and 8x8 inch pan by spraying generously with non-stick cooking spray and then lining with parchment paper, leaving a 2 inch overhang on all sides. In a medium-large glass bowl combine all the ingredients except the salt. Place bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and stir until the mixture is smooth and the chocolate has melted. Pour mixture into prepared pan and sprinkle with sea salt. Chill until set, at least 2 hours. Remove fudge from pan by pulling on the overhang, and cut into small squares.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

White Chocolate Cornflake Crunch & Pretzel Clusters

Have you heard of the Momofuko Milk Bar cookies? They look crazy good. Crazy. Good. These are not them. These are something else entirely. Momofuko cookies are basically a very buttery chocolate chip cookie batter with marshmallows and 'cornflake crunch'. But this 'cornflake crunch' is a recipe unto itself. The cornflake crunch consists of crushed cornflakes, butter, milk powder, salt and a tiny bit of sugar. It's baked at a low temperature until it becomes golden. Then it's added to the cookie recipe. Totally decadent. Totally right up my alley.
I decided to make those cookies. HOWEVER. After I made the cornflake crunch, I went back to the recipe for the actual cookies, and it was then that I decided to read the reviews. Turns out very few people had success with the cookie itself. Too much butter, not holding its shape etc. Some of the commenters/reviewers were downright pissed off about the recipe, claiming that there was clearly an error on the website. So I found myself in a bit of a conundrum. Had I actually read those reviews earlier, I would not have gone out and purchased a box of Cornflakes and made this 'Cornflake Crunch'. But alas, I am not a planner. I was knee deep in the process and had no idea what the hell to do with all my cornflake crunch, which despite the article, is not something I would eat on its own. It's good, but it needs to be part of something bigger.
Perhaps the cookie recipe will be revisited in time, but for now, I'm in no mood to tinker around with something that may or may not turn out. I haven't the time nor the patience. So, instead of just tossing the Cornflake Crunch, I tucked it away until I could figure out what to do with it. Well. I may have stumbled onto something people! I ended up melting some white chocolate, which, as you know, is very sweet, and adding the Cornflake Crunch as well as a handful of broken pretzels and voila! "White Chocolate Cornflake Crunch & Pretzel Clusters" was born. It's delicious! Sweet and salty, and perfectly crunchy. Not to mention super easy too. I've seen chocolate covered cornflakes a few times, but this takes that concept to a whole new level. These cornflakes are buttery and toasted, so much better than just using regular cornflakes. So...if you're looking for an interesting and easy candy to make for your Christmas holiday baking, look no further. Some of the best dishes come from kitchen blunders and improvising. Case and point.

10 ounces of good quality white chocolate
1/2 cup (approximately) broken pretzels
1 3/4 cups (approximately) Cornflake Crunch  *recipe follows

Melt chocolate in medium bowl. Once completely melted and smooth, add pretzels and Cornflake Crunch. Mix well. Drop by teaspoon onto parchment lined cookie sheet. Chill until chocolate is set.

Recipe for Cornflake Crunch:
Yields about four cups
5 c. cornflakes
½ c. milk powder
3 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. kosher salt
9 tbsp. butter, melted
Heat oven to 275 degrees F.
In a medium bowl, with your hands, crush cornflakes to ¼ of their original size. Add milk powder, sugar, and salt; toss to mix. Add butter; toss to coat. (As you toss, the butter will act as glue, binding the dry ingredients to the cereal, creating small clusters.) On a parchment- or Silpat-lined sheet pan, spread clusters and bake for 20 minutes, at which point they should look toasted, smell buttery, and crunch gently when cooled slightly and chewed. Cool completely before storing or using in a recipe. Stored in an airtight container at room temperature, the crunch will keep fresh for one week; in the fridge or freezer, it will keep with one month.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Almond Roca

This is my second attempt at Almond Roca this week. My first attempt was with a recipe that looked simple. There was no candy thermometer involved. It said to boil the sugar mixture for 12 minutes exactly. Skeptical, I decided to give it a go, I like easy recipes, and felt like taking the easy way out. BIG mistake. My sugar was burnt at 10 minutes and the whole batch was tossed. 
Undeterred, I searched for another recipe, resigned to the fact that a candy thermometer would be key in getting the sugar to the correct doneness. It's true what they say, the temperature of the sugar rises very slowly in the beginning, and then when it's close to being done, it goes up fast. It's critical to watch it diligently once you get to about 280 degrees F. Keep stirring, and don't take your eyes off that thermometer. Candy making tips...from me...now that's rich.
If I can do this, anyone can. Don't attempt this without a thermometer. Unless, of course, you've been doing this for a long time and are psychic and just know that precise magical time when the sugar is ready. But for the rest of regular folks, a candy thermometer is an excellent investment.
Recipe for Almond Roca
(adapted from All Recipes)

1 cup whole natural almonds
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons boiling water
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 1/2 cups (or thereabouts) chopped milk chocolate

Toast your almonds on a baking sheet at 350 degrees F. for approximately 15 minutes. Check them at 10 minutes, by cutting an almond in half, it should be slightly golden inside. Remove from oven, let cool, and then coarsely chop. Grease a 9x13 baking pan. Sprinkle chopped almonds evenly in pan. In a saucepan over low heat, melt butter. Add sugar and stir constantly until gently boiling. Add water and corn syrup. Allow to a boil over medium heat; stirring often, until a candy thermometer reads 300 degrees F (hard-crack stage). (I pulled mine off at 295 degrees). Quickly pour over almonds. Spread the sugar mixture as best you can to cover all the almonds. 
Don't worry if you can't get it into all the corners. It will start to harden immediately. Sprinkle chocolate on top; let stand for 1-2 minutes or until melted. 
Spread chocolate over candy.
 Cool completely; break into pieces.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Vanilla Roll Out Cookies

 "The elves are watching." Words that I've repeated dozens of times a day in the past few weeks. They are an excellent behavior modification strategy, a 'veiled threat', if you will, without the need of further clarifications for potential consequences should they decide not to stop doing whatever it is they are doing at the time these words are spoken.
The mere utterance of words "the elves are watching" has stopped brewing temper tantrums right in their tracks. Any and all plans for mutiny when bed time is announced have been completely aborted. Those words have brought peace when the kids are in the throes of serious bickering matches. They've made their mouths magically open to try new foods they'd previously refused to even allow on their plates in the past.
They're magical words. And I am saddened by the fact that their power will cease to pack as much punch in less than one week's time. My window for manipulating my children with that simple sentence is closing on me. And I'm wracking my brain for something equally as effective.
Now back to the baking. I baked up a double batch of these cookies for my daughter's kindergarten class to decorate. Knowing that the finished product would likely be adorned with gobs of sugary icing and copious amounts of sprinkles, I began searching for a sugar cookie that didn't have too much...well...sugar. Because sugar cookies are quite sweet on their own, never mind if they've been decorated, I opted to make these cookies instead. These are mildly sweet. The perfect canvass for little fingers to express their artistic side. I would, however, note that if you're looking for a sweet 'sugar cookie', these ones might not quite fit the bill. Unless, of course, you prefer your cookies not very sweet, then these are perfect.

I didn't bother to photograph the cookies I made for my daughter's class - they weren't decorated so there was no point. But these miniature stars...they're made from scrap dough. If you roll your dough out between two pieces of parchment, then there's no need for extra flour. (And given that these cookies aren't very sweet - you really don't want any extra flour.) But the other benefit of rolling them between parchment is that you can re-roll more than twice. (I never use the dough after it's been rolled twice cause the cookies tend to be tough and laden with excess flour.) The stars came from the third rolling and were the perfect little cookie to use up our Christmas colored smarties, not to mention keep my son happy, who was not impressed when informed that the bigger cookies were not, in fact, for him.

(Source: Dorie Greenspan via Bon Appetit)

10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
seeds from one vanilla bean
2 cups all purpose flour

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter at medium speed until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add sugar and salt and beat until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add egg; beat until well blended, about 1 minute. Reduce speed to low and beat in vanilla and vanilla bean. Add flour and beat on low speed just to blend. Gather dough into ball; divide in half. Form each half into ball and flatten into disk. Wrap disks separately in plastic and chill until firm, at least 4 hours. Can be made 2 days ahead. Keep chilled.

Position rack in center of oven; preheat to 350°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Working with 1 disk at a time, roll out dough between 2 sheets of waxed or parchment paper to 1/8-inch thickness for smaller (2-inch) cookies and 1/4-inch thickness for larger (3- to 4-inch) cookies. Using decorative cookie cutters, cut out cookies and transfer to prepared sheets, spacing 1 inch apart. If cookies become too soft to transfer to baking sheets, place in freezer on waxed paper for 5 minutes before continuing. Gather scraps, roll out dough, and cut more cookies, repeating until all dough is used. If not icing cookies, decorate with sprinkles or other sugar toppings, if desired.

Bake 1 sheet at a time until cookies are firm on top and golden around edges, about 10 to 12 minutes depending on size. Cool completely on rack.

*Mix approximately 1/2 cup of icing sugar with 1 tsp. of corn syrup and enough water to make a thin paste. Pipe a small dot of the paste onto the cookies and press a smartie onto the cooled cookie.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Candy Cane Blossoms

I made these cookies for my kido's Christmas concert. I only managed to get 24 cookies out of this recipe so I didn't let him have one the day I baked them. After his performance at his concert, he made a bee-line to the cookie table and grabbed one. I love how loyal he is to his mom - with all the other options on the table, he still wanted the ones I made. 
I adore the festive look of these cookies. Another perfect one for the kids- a sugar cookie rolled in colored sugar (or sprinkles) and then a candy cane Hershey's kiss pressed into the center. No surprises here, they taste exactly like they look...sweet but delicious. I'll definitely make these again for the kids next Christmas.

Recipe for Candy Cane Blossoms
(Source: With Sprinkles on Top)
1 bag Hershey’s Kisses Candy Cane Kisses, unwrapped
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 egg
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 Tablespoons milk
Red and green colored sugar

Preheat over to 350 degrees F.
Stir together flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl and set aside. Beat butter, sugar, vanilla, and egg in bowl of stand mixer with paddle attachment until well blended. Add flour mixture alternately with milk to the butter mixture, beating until well blended. Shape dough into 1 inch balls. Roll in red and/or green colored sugar. Place on parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake 8 – 10 minutes or until edges are lightly browned and cookies are set. Remove from oven and allow to cool 2 to 3 minutes. Press candy piece into center of each cookie. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Soft and Chewy Chocolate Smartie Cookies

Perhaps not a traditional Christmas cookie, but rather an old favorite with the kids, adorned with Christmas colored smarties so that it fits in with all the other seasonal treats. Substitute M&M's if you want, or even white or regular chocolate chips. They're versatile and delicious. Perfect for taking to Christmas school functions, because most kids will reach for something with chocolate and candy rather than shortbread.

Recipe for Soft and Chewy Chocolate Smartie Cookies
(adapted from What's Megan Making)
1 cup unsalted butter (room temp)
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
2 cups flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. kosher salt (if using regular salt, use only 1/4 tsp.)
1 1/2 cups smarties, divided

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla until combined. Slowly add in the flour mixture while mixing on the lowest speed. Mix until just incorporated. Stir in 1 cup of the smarties, reserving the remaining 1/2 cup. Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Press a few of the remaining smarties into the dough balls before baking.
Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are set, but centers are still puffy. Let cool on baking sheet for 2-3 minutes, then transfer to a wire cooling rack.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Candied Almonds

There's nothing better than recipes like this one. It's super easy and the end result is as good as I'd hoped. I've already hidden these in the back of my freezer cause I know that they wouldn't stand a chance if I left them out. This is the perfect snack to put out on Christmas night for everyone to nibble on while having drinks and waiting for dinner.
If you're going to double the recipe, which isn't a bad idea, you'll need to use two cookie sheets to bake them. You want to roast the nuts in a single layer - otherwise you'll wind up with a mess of sugar and nuts stuck together.
These almonds are the perfect combination of salty and sweet, with a hint of cinnamon. You can reduce the salt by 1/2 teaspoon if you prefer them to be sweeter than salty - but if you like a hit of both - keep the salt as is. Make sure you use a larger grain salt here (like kosher), if you used table salt it would overwhelm them.

Recipe for Candied Almonds
(adapted from Smitten Kitchen)
1/3 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup white granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
pinch of cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 pound raw almonds with skin
1 egg white
1 tablespoon water

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. 
Mix sugars, salt, cayenne, and cinnamon in a small bowl, ensuring there are no lumps remaining from the brown sugar and set aside. In a medium bowl, beat egg white and water until frothy. Add almonds, and toss to coat evenly. Sprinkle nuts with all of the sugar mixture, tossing until evenly coated. Spread sugared nuts in a single layer on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a silpat. Bake for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from oven, and separate nuts as they cool. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Brown Butter Toffee Shortbread Squares with Caramel and Chocolate

If you're totally "over" the sweet and salty combo - then you should just leave now. This recipe is not for you, unless of course you adapt it, which, come to think of it, wouldn't be hard at all (i.e. leave out the salt - or use unsalted butter - but don't do both). So I take that back, you can totally stay. 
Last year, I made a homemade version of twix bars. They were insanely good and quickly made the short list for this year's Christmas baking. However, while browsing recipes I stumbled on Toffee Squares by Joy of Cooking. They are a simple bar composed of a base of toffee-like shortbread, and then topped with chocolate and almonds. They're probably good as is, but I wouldn't know cause I went ahead and tweaked it beyond recognition.
What I ended up with was these, a buttery toffee-like shortbread base, (intensified with browned butter no less), with a chewy caramel layer, and a silky milk chocolate topping. With these squares on a plate of Christmas baking, no one is going to bother with the plain jane shortbread cookies sitting next to them. That's a fact. 
You do have to get over your type A personality though when it comes to cutting them. The base will crumble a bit, rendering it impossible to get a picture perfect square. But once you taste them, you'll get over that. I sure did.
Recipe for Brown Butter Toffee Shortbread Squares with Caramel and Chocolate
(adapted from Joy of Baking)
For the Base:
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp. kosher salt (again, if you don't want them salty, you could omit - but don't omit if you're also using unsalted butter)
For the caramel layer:
1 package of craft caramels (340 gram bag), unwrapped
2 Tbsp. cream
For the chocolate layer:
6 ounces of good quality milk chocolate (or semi-sweet if you prefer, but I wouldn't recommend using chocolate chips - splurge on the good stuff here)

Heat your oven to 350 degrees F. Melt the butter in a small sauce pan. Continue to cook until it is golden brown in color. Remove from heat. Add brown sugar and vanilla, mix well. Add flour and salt and mix until completely incorporated. Press the mixture into a foil-lined 9 inch square pan. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until golden brown on the edges. Let cool.
Put unwrapped caramels and cream into a microwave safe bowl. Heat on high for about 2 to 3 minutes, checking often and stirring in between. Only cook until you are able to get a smooth consistency. Pour over cooled crust. 
Allow to harden in the fridge for about 10 minutes. Melt chocolate. Pour over caramel and chill until set. Cut into small squares.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Modern Bakers: Chocolate Sandwich Cookies (with milk chocolate filling)

For this round of the Modern Bakers, it was decided that we'd skip to the cookies chapter, given that the season of baking Christmas treats was upon us, and pretty much everyone bakes cookies in December anyway. It's hardly a surprise that I chose the Chocolate Sandwich Cookies with Milk Chocolate Filling. It was really a no-brainer.
The dough for the cookies themselves was not the easiest to work with. I had to really work it over with my hands in order to make it pliable. It was quite crumbly, and quick to tear. So I found that allowing it to soften after it was chilled was necessary, and I took great care to ensure that my rolling pin was well floured to prevent the tears and clumps of dough from sticking onto the pin. Be patient with it, and don't press too hard when rolling. That's my advice. 
After it was rolled and cut, it was necessary to use a very thin metal spatula to get the cut cookie off the work surface without breaking it and I would therefore urge to use a well-floured work surface, or roll it on parchment as I did. I refrigerated the cut cookies for about 10 minutes before baking them off to preserve the shape. The recipe says to bake for 15 to 20 minutes. I figured that I was erring on the side of caution by taking them out at 15 minutes, and found them over-baked. They actually tasted burnt. Thankfully, I hadn't put all the cookies in at the same time and only wasted about 1/3 of the batter. 10 minutes was plenty, so watch them closely, as chocolate cookies are harder to judge because of their brown color. 
Now, can we talk about the filling? Cream, melted milk chocolate and softened butter are whisked together to form the most amazing, rich and silky filling. Ever. I would have happily eaten the filling on its own with a spoon, it's that good. 
I pulled out all the stops for this one and used the last of my good milk chocolate. It was well worth it. 
Once the cream and melted chocolate are cooled, you whisk in the softened butter and then allow the mixture to sit until it reaches a spreadable consistency. 
These cookies are more work than your average cookie for sure, but I don't think you'll be disappointed. The cookies themselves aren't overly sweet, which complements the filling perfectly. They're great for kids and adults alike.
If you're looking for a great Christmas gift for someone in your life who loves to bake, I would definitely recommend this one. I have more than my share of cook books, and this is one of the few that I would refuse to part with. You can buy the Modern Bakers Cookbook here.

Related Posts with Thumbnails