Friday, February 27, 2009

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dunkers

I've wanted to send a cookie package off to my friend in Japan for quite a while now but I've been so paranoid about what would happen to the cookies in their journey over there. Whether or not they'd dry out was my biggest concern. (I'm extremely paranoid about baked goods drying out before they reach their recipients in general.) Second biggest concern was if they'd crumble. My plan was to make cookies that were meant to be dry. Yes shortbread of course came to mind but no, I wanted something more exciting than shortbread! (Which is a crazy thought because to me shortbread is incredibly exciting. And actually shortbread is what I did end up sending but more on that later.*) So I decided to try out this recipe for what looked like chocolate chip biscotti, though they're called "chocolate chip cookie dunkers". Well, these are no biscotti.

They're basically a big chocolate chip cookie bar that you cut to look like biscotti and bake kind of in the style of biscotti, but they are not meant to be cooked for too long as you get that over cooked caramelized type flavour that is not at all typical of biscotti. And I baked them longer than I should've, trying to somehow magically transform them into biscotti. In conclusion, I did not end up sending these. Nor really eating them. I didn't think they were that good actually. But then I took them to school and one of my classmates fell crazily in love with them, and another told me that a couple of weeks later she had basically the same cookie served on the side of a dessert in a restaurant.

So I'm sharing this recipe with you because I know there are people out there who will love them. And certainly if you don't try to "biscotti-fy" them, you can just enjoy them as chocolate chip cookie bars (aka a lazy but equally delicious way to make chocolate chip cookies). Though I did overbake them, it seemed like they would be yummy if not overbaked (if that makes sense).

*Later will actually not come for a few weeks probably with the backlog of things I have to post about but I made matcha shortbread, chocolate dipped cherry shortbread, and coconut shortbread. All delicious.

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
Any Way You Want It Biscotti
Chocolate Marble Chunk Cookies
Neiman Marcus Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dunkers
Adapted from BH&G Christmas Cookies 2007 Magazine

My adaptation was to use 1/2 cup butter instead of 1/4 cup butter + 1/4 cup shortening. I didn't add the 1/2 cup chopped nuts, nor did I dip them in chocolate but I will include the chocolate dipping in the recipe.

Makes 18

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips

6 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 tbsp shortening

1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a 9x9x2 inch baking pan with foil, extending foil over edges of pan; set pan aside.

2. Beat butter in a medium bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add brown sugar, granulated sugar, and baking soda. Beat until combined, scraping side of bowl occasionally. Beat in the egg and vanilla until combined. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Stir in any remaining flour. Stir in miniature semisweet chocolate pieces.

3. Press dough evenly on bottom of prepared baking pan. Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until evenly golden brown and center is set. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 1 hour. Reduce oven tempearture to 325F.

4. Use foil to lift baked mixture out of pan and to a cutting board; remove foil. Cut baked mixture into 9x1/2 inch slices using a serrated knife. Place slices, cut sides down, 1 inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for about 20 minutes or until crisp, turning carefully halfway through baking time. Cool completely on the cookie sheet on a wire rack. Trim ends if desired.

5. Microwave chopped chocolate and 1 tablespoon shortening in a small microwave-safe bowl on 50% power (medium) for 2 to 3 minutes or until chocolate is melted and smooth, stirring twice. Brush or spread one end of each cookie stick with melted chocolate mixture; let excess drip down sides of cookie. Let stand about 1 hour or until set.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Mushroom Crescents

While I really love baking, I don't often bake savoury things - and I really should more often. At least I can eat the savoury things as part of a meal, plus savoury baked goods are often delicious. Like these mushroom crescents. And delicious doesn't begin to describe them. Unshareable would be a better description (and I'm sure that isn't actually a word) as it will be hard to part with even one of these yummy little things.

The mushroom/onion/herb filling is extremely addictive. It's yummy as the filling in these little pastries, and it's yummy just eaten with a spoon. The pastry is really easy to make and easy to work with, which was great for me because usually I hate rolling out dough. And the pastry was super tasty and slightly flakey and really good. Combine the filling and the dough, incredibly yummy as I've already said.

I know I'll be making these again, and I'll be making the filling again for other purposes and trying other fillings as well. So far the ones I want to try are brie & pears, roasted garlic & feta, and caramelized onions and aged cheddar. Let me know if you have any other suggestions! Sadly I forgot to take a picture of the inside of the crescents.

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Pasta with Portobello Mushrooms in Wine Sauce
Portobello Fettuccine with Spinach Pesto, Roasted Peppers and Romano Cheese
French Barley Salad
Caramelized Onion, Sage and Cheddar Muffins

Mushroom Crescents
Adapted from The Complete Canadian Living Baking Book

Makes about 40 pieces.

2 tbsp butter
1 small onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 tsp dried thyme
3/4 tsp dried sage
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups finely chopped portobello mushrooms
1 1/2 cups finely chopped button mushrooms
1/3 cup white wine

4 oz (125 g) cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup butter, softened
1 cup all purpose flour
1 egg, beaten

In large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat; fry onion, garlic, thyme, sage, pepper and salt, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, about 3 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high. Add portobello and button mushrooms; fry, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 10 minutes. Stir in wine, scraping up brown bits from bottom of pan. Cook until liquid is evaporated, about 5 minutes. Let cool to room temperature.

In large bowl, beat cream cheese with butter until fluffy. Stir in flour until dough begins to form; knead in bowl until smooth. Divide dough in half; flatten into 2 discs. Wrap; refrigerate until firm, at least 30 minutes or up to 2 days.

On lightly floured surface, roll out each disc into 10 inch (25 cm) circle. With 2 1/2 inch (6 cm) round cookie cutter, cut out circles, rerolling scraps. Working with 6 circles at a time, brush edges lightly with egg. Place 1 tsp (5 mL) of the filling in centre of each; fold dough over filling, pinching edges to seal. Place, 1 inch (2.5 cm) apart, on baking sheet. (Can be frozen at this point.) Brush tops with remaining egg.

Bake in centre of 400F oven until light golden, 12 to 15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Creamy Coconut Cake

Coconut is one of my favourite foods/flavours yet I've never made an all out coconut cake until this one. Coconut cake filled with coconut custard cream and iced with coconut buttercream, and topped with more coconut. Mmm coconut. I know it seems like there are a lot of components, but the cream filling and buttercream are made with the coconut custard so it's not as much work as it seems. Or maybe I was just in coconut bliss so I didn't notice.

This cake is definitely a continuation of my love affair with Tish Boyle's The Cake Book. I think I want to make literally every cake in it. I made this cake for Christmas Eve dessert hence the snowman plate (and an indication of my back log of things to post about!)

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Coconut Lemon Bundt Cake
Matcha Coconut Madeleines
Chocolate Oatmeal Coconut Cookies
Coconut Cream Pie

Creamy Coconut Cake
Adapted from The Cake Book

I'll write out the original recipe but I halved it and made a 4 layer 5 inch round cake. I also omitted the 1 tbsp Malibu coconut rum (or dark rum) meant to go in the custard, and I didn't use the rum soaking syrup which was meant to be spread on every cake layer before the custard.

Makes one 9 inch cake, serving 12 to 16.

Coconut Cake Layers
Coconut Custard
Coconut Cream Filling
Coconut Buttercream

Coconut Cake Layers
3 1/4 cups (325 g) sifted cake flour
1 tbsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup (8 oz) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
6 large egg whites
2 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup coconut milk
2/3 cup whole milk
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut

1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350F. Grease the bottom and sides of two 9-inch round cake pans. Dust the pans with flour.

2. Sift together the cake flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl. Whisk to combine.

3. Mix the coconut milk and milk. Set aside.

4. In the bowl of an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat the butter at medium-high speed until creamy, about 30 seconds. Gradually add the sugar and beat at high speed until light, about 2 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and add the egg whites one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally. Beat in the vanilla extract. If you have a splatter shield for yourm ixer, attach it now (the milk tends to splash as you add it). Add the flour mixture at low speed in three additions, alternating with the milk/coconut milk mixture into two additions and mixing just until the flour is incorporated. Fold in the sweetened flaked coconut.

5. Bake the cake for 25 to 30 minutes, until lightly browned around the edges. Cool the cakes in the pans on wire racks for 15 minutes.

6. Invert the layers onto the racks and cool upside down completely.

Coconut Custard
1 1/2 cups (360 mL) whole milk, or as needed
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
4 large egg yolks
1/3 cup (66 g) granulated sugar
3 tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Combine the milk and coconut in a medium saucepan, and heat over medium heat until the milk is just under a boil. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside to steep for 1 hour.

2. Strain the milk through a sieve, pressing down on the coconut with a spoon to extract as much liquid as possible. Measure the milk; you should have 1 1/3 cups. If you have less, add a little more milk to make up the difference.

3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the yolks, sugar and cornstarch; set aside.

4. Return the coconut-infused milk to the saucepan and bring it to a gentle boil. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk about 1/3 cup of the hot milk into the yolk mixture. Return the mixture to the saucepan, place over medium-high heat, and bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Boil, whisking constantly, for 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat, scrape the bottom of the pan with a spatula, and whisk until smooth. Quickly strain the custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a medium bowl. Whisk in the vanilla extract.

5. Set the bowl containing the coconut mixture in a larger bowl filled about one-third of the way with ice water (be careful that the water doesn't splash into the coconut mixture). Stir the custard frequently until it is slightly chilled, about 15 minutes.

Coconut Cream Filling
3/4 cup Coconut Custard (see above)
3/4 cup (180 mL) heavy cream

1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, using the whisk attachment, beat the 3/4 cup coconut custard with the heavy cream at high speed until the mixture is light and forms soft peaks. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.

Coconut Buttercream
1 1/2 cups (12 oz) unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup confectioners' sugar
3/4 cup Coconut Custard (see above)
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt

1. In a clean mixer bowl, using the paddle attachment, beat the butter and confectioners' sugar at high speed until very light and creamy, about 4 minutes. Add the 3/4 cup coconut custard, vanilla extract, and salt and beat at medium speed until blended and smooth.

Assemble the Cake
1 cup shredded coconut

1. Using a long serrated knife, trim off the domed tops of the cakes so that they are even. Cut each cake horizontally into 2 layers. Reserve one of the flat bottom layers for the top of the cake. Place another cake layer cut side up on a cardboard cake round or flat serving plate. Spoon one-third of the filling onto the cake and, using a small offset metal spatula, spread it into an even layer, leaving a 1/2 inch border around the edge of the cake. Top with another cake layer. Top with another one-third of the filling. Repeat with another layer and the remaining filling. Place the last layer cut side down on top of the cake.

2. Frost the sides and top of the cake with the buttercream. Pat the coconut onto the sides of the cake.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Outrageous Oreo Crunch Brownies

Now these brownies are just dangerous. It made a huge 9x13 pan (and this was halving the recipe) and I ended up freezing most of them. And now for the past couple of months I've been slowly nibbling away at my stash. I love eating them frozen - they're so fudgey, rich and chocolatey. Yum yum dangerous. Of course they're delicious at room temperature too.

Oh and guess what? I finally got the Baker's Edge Brownie Pan!!! I've yet to use it but can't wait to try it out. Mind you when I use it I'm going to want to eat the whole pan because brownie edge pieces are really hard to resist. Actually I'm thinking about making Peabody's snickerdoodle blondies in it. How good do those look?

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Quintuple Chocolate Brownies
Rich Chocolate Cheesecake
Chocolate Chunk Malt Cookies
Chocolate Fudge Souffle Bars

Outrageous Oreo Crunch Brownies
Adapted from Ina Garten found on La cuisine d'Hélène

2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter
1/2 pound semisweet chocolate, chopped
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
3 eggs
1 1/2 tablespoons instant coffee granules
1 tablespoons vanilla
1 cup + 2 tbsp sugar
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp flour
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
25 Oreo cookies, chopped

Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Butter and flour a 9"x13" baking pan.

In a heatproof medium bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, heat butter, chocolate chips and unsweetened chocolate until melted and smooth. Allow to cool slightly.

In a large bowl, whisk eggs, coffee, vanilla and sugar. Blend chocolate mixture into egg mixture; cool to room temperature.

In a medium bowl, sift together 1/2 cup flour, baking powder and salt. Add flour mixture to chocolate mixture. In a small bowl, stir Oreos and remaining 2 tablespoons flour. Add Oreo mixture to chocolate mixture. Pour batter into baking pan and smooth top with a rubber spatula.

Bake 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted 3 inches from center comes out clean; do not overbake. Allow to cool. Refrigerate until cold then cut into squares.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

White Chocolate Whalers

Alright enough of that healthy stuff eh? Forget about the spinach balls I just posted about (though they were yummy too) and let's get back to the baked goods!!

I think what drew me to these cookies is that there's rice krispies in them. I was really curious as to how they would turn out. The first time I made them I used puffed brown rice (no sugar) - and while the cookies were good, they weren't quite right and they looked really weird with all these giant pieces of puffed rice sticking out. So I finally made them for a second time with rice krispies, and opted not to roll the cookies in the rice krispies this time. The cookie is definitely better with real rice krispies. Unfortunately no the rice krispies don't stay very crispy, so perhaps it's more of a novelty thing.

The flavour of the cookies however is outstanding. White chocolate + orange + soft cookie = yumyumyum. These cookies are supposed to be giant but the second time I made them I made tiny ones - so really the size is up to you. On a somewhat related note, I'm enjoying my journey through Carole Walter's Great Cookies. So far I've only made pecan tassies and these and they've both been really good.

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Orange Berry Muffins
White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies
Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
Lemon Cheesecake

White Chocolate Whalers
Adapted from Great Cookies

Makes 18 4-inch cookies (or more if you make them smaller)

If you decide to make your cookies smaller, check them around 10 minutes instead of leaving them for the recommended 16 to 18 for larger cookies.

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 tbsp grated orange zest
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 large egg yolks
4 large egg whites
1 cup superfine sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 cups crispy rice cereal
10.5 oz white chocolate, chopped, or 1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips

1. Position the shelves in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Heat the oven to 325F. Line the cookie sheets with parchment or silpat.

2. Melt the butter with the orange zest over low heat. Set aside to cool to tepid.

3. Combine the flour and salt. Set aside.

4. In the large bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whip attachment, beat the egg yolks and whites on medium speed until thick and lightened in colour. Add the sugar 1 tablespoon at a time, then increase the speed to medium-high and beat until well blended, about 1 minute more. Slowly pour in the butter-zest mixture, then add the vanilla. Mix for 1 minute longer to combine, scraping down the bowl as needed. The mixture will thicken as it is beaten.

5. Using an oversized rubber spatula, fold in the crispy rice cereal. Strain the dry ingredients over the batter, folding gently with the rubber spatula, until just combined. Fold in the chocolate pieces.

6. Place the remaining crispy rice cereal in a flat dish (a pie plate works well). Using a #16 ice cream scoop, drop mounds of dough on the cookie sheet (6 per sheet, spacing them about 3 inches apart). Using the hell of your hand, flatten into 3 inch disks.

7. Bake 16 to 18 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown. To ensure even browning, two-thirds of the way through baking rotate the sheets top to bottom and front to back. Let rest for 10 minutes, or until firm enough to handle, before loosening with a large metal spatula. Transfer to cooling racks.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Spinach Balls

I came across these spinach balls in ExtraVeganZa and thought they sounded interesting and different, and they were. I wouldn't say they're a super favourite thing but they're something new to try, and would be great to freeze and have on hand for when you don't have any time but want something healthy.

Overall I'm not sure what to think of ExtraVeganZa yet. So far I've only made the wild rice almond cherry pilaf and these, and both were okay but nothing spectacular. There are a lot of baking recipes in there though that I need to try out, like a recipe for spelt dinner rolls. Anyone have a favourite recipe from this cookbook they can recommend?

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Pasta with Creamy Spinach Walnut Sauce
Spinach Walnut Pesto
Spinach and Mushroom Ravioli
Spaghetti and Bean Balls with Onion & Roasted Garlic Tomato Sauce

Spinach Balls
Adapted from ExtraVeganZa

The onion powder was fairly strong so I would cut back on it next time.

225 g (9 oz) frozen spinach, thawed
1 medium onion, chopped
2 pieces whole wheat bread, toasted & ground into crumbs
3/4 cup ground almonds
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1 tsp dried dill
1 tsp onion powder

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Place the spinach and onion in a food processor and blend on high until a coarse paste begins to form. Add the bread crumbs, 3/4 cups ground almonds, oil, soy sauce, rice flour, dill and onion powder, then blend again until all of the ingredients are thoroughly combined.

Use a small cookie scoop (or larger, depending on the ball size you want) to scoop out balls. Place on a prepared baking sheet (with parchment or a silpat, etc). Bake in oven for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow the balls to cool on the sheet. Serve warm.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Pecan Tassies

Finally I am onto posting about the things I baked at Christmas! I made these for my mom because she loves pecan tarts/pies/whatever. The crust is a cream cheese dough and it's not really sweet at all. I wasn't sure if this was a good thing (because it paired well with the sweet filling) or a bad thing (because it wasn't like the crusts I'm used to?) But after eating many a pecan tassie, I've decided it's a very good thing. The cream cheese dough is deliciously delicious and a bit flakey. I think I was expecting a more firm/crispy crust but the cream cheese crust is a bit softer. I'll be making these again as they are quite addictive.

The recipe might seem a bit intimidating or time consuming but it's really not that bad. Just make the dough one day, refrigerate, and do everything the next day. I love love loved that I didn't have to roll out dough and cut out little circles. It was so easy to just roll out balls of dough and push them into the mini muffin tin. A bonus is that they freeze amazingly well.

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Pecan Sour Cream Biscuits
Hello Dolly Bars
Apple Pie with Brown Sugar Streusel Topping
Pecan Honey Sticky Buns

Pecan Tassies
Adapted from Great Cookies

Makes 4 dozen 1 3/4" tassies.

1 recipe cream cheese pastry (recipe follows)

2 large eggs
2 cups lightly packed brown sugar
2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups coarsely chopped lightly toasted pecans, divided

1. Divide each rectangle of pastry into 24 1-inch squares. Roll each square into a ball and place into mini-muffin tins. Mold the dough into each hole, pressing it up the sides. Chill while preparing the filling.

2. Preheat the oven to 325F.

3. Place the eggs, brown sugar, butter, salt, and vanilla in a large bowl. Whisk together until smooth.

4. Distribute 1 cup of the pecans among the pastry lined muffin cups. Empty the filling into a measuring cup with a spout and pour the mixture into the tins, filling them no more than 2/3 full. Sprinkle the tops with the remaining 1 cup nuts.

5. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown around the edges. Rotate the pans from top to bottom and front to back towards the end of baking time. Let stand 5 minutes. using the tip of a paring knife, run the blade carefully around the edges of the muffin cups to loosen the tassies. When the tassies are cool enough to handle, remove them from the pan and set on cooling racks. The tassies can either be eased out with the tip of the knife. If you only have one mini muffin pan like me, repeat process with the second pan.

Cream Cheese Pastry

The original recipe suggests you do everything by hand but that's not so fun for me so I modified that and did it in my stand mixer.

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
2 cups all purpose flour, spooned in and leveled
1/4 tsp salt

1. Using a stand mixer and the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and cream cheese until smooth and blended.

2. Mix in 1 cup of the flour and the salt, working until almost incorporated. Mix in another 1/2 cup flour, working until the flour is almost incorporated. Complete the process by kneading in another 1/2 cup flour. Be careful not to overwork.

3. With lightly floured hands, shape the dough into a mound, then divide in half and form two 5 inch rectangles. Wrap with plastic. Chill for at least 4 hours or up to 3 days.