Friday, November 27, 2009

Lemongrass Snowball Cookies


I first spotted these about a year ago in Bon Appetit magazine as an advertisement from the "Real Butter" campaign. The picture was so beautiful, and I was intrigued by the use of lemongrass in a cookie. I was doubly intrigued that it was suggested as a Christmas cookie. I have always associated lemongrass with warm, sunny, tropical flavors.




Dried lemongrass is very inexpensive, and you won't need much. The small packet I had on hand cost .29 cents at the Asian market. The recipe also calls for white chocolate chips. They'll need to be chopped a little finer before going into the batter.


You'll also need coconut! How cute are these kitschy reindeer picks? I found them at Fancy Flours. I could spend all my time and money while browsing the online shop. I try to stay away. I TRY.


Lemongrass Snowballs

A recipe from the REALBUTTER campaign.

See Lemongrass Snowballs on Key Ingredient.





I liked these, in the end. They are definitely bright and lemony, with a slightly perfumed flavor. I suspect a step was missing from the original recipe, as the "snowballs" did not remain as round as I expected in the baking process. I would suggest after rolling these, chill them for an hour before baking.




I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving! Mark and I drove to our little mountain-home town about 45 minutes away from where we live now. Of course B-dog was thrilled to ride along.

These mountains have bid me "welcome home" countless times, and it never gets old.


I made a new dish for Thanksgiving this year. Roasted carrots and parsnips with fresh herbs. I know this is a blog for all sweet things, but I could not resist posting such a vibrant dish.

Roasted Carrots and Parsnips with Fresh Herbs

An easy and delicious side dish.

See Roasted Carrots and Parsnips with Fresh Herbs on Key Ingredient.





Parsnips are in season NOW! So, get 'em while they're best!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Pumpkin: Rolls and Shortages



Have you heard about the Great Canned Pumpkin Shortage of 2009? If you are a baker, perhaps you have. I noticed this in October. I explained to loved ones "No pumpkin - it just wasn't there!" and was met with a suspect "...maybe you were in the wrong aisle?" Indeed something was up. 1/3 of Nestle's crops were ruined by heavy rains, causing an apology by the company for shortages in grocery stores nationwide.

Living in the Southern US, I could probably throw a rock and hit someone with a pumpkin patch. So, as long as I know how to roast a pumpkin, the natives in our Thanksgiving clan will not be restless.


Pumpkin Roasting Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut one small pumpkin into quarters and lay on a large foil-lined cookie sheet. (you may need 2 pans depending on the size of your pumpkin) Bake for 45 minutes. Pumpkin should be soft when pierced with a fork. If it is still a little firm, bake for 10 - 15 minutes longer. Allow to cool completely. Scrape pumpkin flesh from rind and mash in a bowl. Refrigerate until ready to use.


Here's my very favorite Thanksgiving dessert to make with pumpkin.

My Favorite Pumpkin Roll

An adapted recipe,(although not by much) from the makers ...

See My Favorite Pumpkin Roll on Key Ingredient.





Cake ingredients:
¼             cup powdered sugar (to sprinkle on towel)
¾             cup all-purpose flour
½             teaspoon baking powder
½             teaspoon baking soda
2              teaspoons ground cinnamon
¼             teaspoon salt
3              large eggs
1              cup granulated sugar
⅔            cup canned pumpkin

Filling ingredients:
1              pkg. (8 oz.) cream cheese, at room temperature
1              cup powdered sugar, sifted
6              tablespoons butter or margarine, softened
1              teaspoon vanilla extract


Cake portion:
Preheat oven to 375° F. Grease 15 × 10-inch jelly-roll pan; line with wax paper. Grease and flour paper. Sprinkle a thin, cotton kitchen towel with powdered sugar.
Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in small bowl. Beat eggs and granulated sugar in large mixer bowl until thick. Beat in pumpkin. Stir in flour mixture. Spread evenly into prepared pan.
Bake for 13 to 15 minutes or until top of cake springs back when touched. (If using a dark-colored pan, begin checking for doneness at 11 minutes.) Immediately loosen and turn cake onto prepared towel. Carefully peel off paper. Roll up cake and towel together, starting with narrow end. Cool on wire rack.
Filling portion:
Beat cream cheese, 1 cup powdered sugar, butter and vanilla extract in small mixer bowl until smooth. Carefully unroll cake. Spread cream cheese mixture over cake. Re-roll cake. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least one hour. Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving, if desired.




I've recently noticed store-brand pumpkin has been fully stocked on the grocer's shelves where I shop. I would imagine the same is true for most grocery stores across the country. However, I would encourage you to explore the fresh option. Although not as convenient, the end result is much more rewarding.

I think we pumpkin-lovers just might survive this.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Yule Log Cookies


About a week ago I received a Woman's Day magazine in the mail. I'm not a subscriber, and was puzzled at first. Then I remembered my beloved Gourmet magazine is ending and this, perhaps, is supposed to be my consolation. (?)

I don't know yet, so maybe not.

I thumbed through and was delighted to see these Nutmeg Yule Log Cookies that meet all my holiday baking criteria:

  • festive -check!
  • unique -check!
  • easy (seemingly) - check!
  • seasonal flavor - check!
Woman's Day, you had me at Nutmeg.


Recipe is HERE, as well as Woman's Day.com.

First you'll divide the dough into 8 equal portions, and shape into a fat log. These go in the fridge to chill for an hour.



After these chill out, you'll take each portion of dough and roll out into a "snake" about 18" long. I could only get my dough to roll out to 15". Any smaller and the dough just broke apart.



You'll then cut at 3" increments, strait across. Then, you'll bias cut the three inch segments at both ends. Be sure to save the pieces, these will be the "knots" on your logs.



Brush with egg-wash and then place the leftover dough pieces (2 per) on each log.


I made a round indention at the end of each log, as well as each knot. I'm not sure why Woman's Day left this out of the directions. Clearly, there are indentions in the example pictures, but no mention of it in text.




I'd suggest icing them with white chocolate or vanilla frosting. I opted for the sprinkling of powdered sugar, and they were not sweet enough for my taste. I piped a little royal icing for the holly leaves and used jumbo nonpareils for the berries, which helped a little with the sweetness issue.


These are a bit time consuming, so be prepared to spend a couple hours sitting - would it be too corny to say "like a knot on a log"?

Yeah, I thought so.


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Chocolate Maltball Cookies


'Tis the Season for mailboxes everywhere to be stuffed with catalogs from vendors we've never even heard of. I have a rather embarrassing pile accumulating. I call it the "intend to" pile. I intend to browse them, but I've only made it through ONE. The one that caught my eye in particular, is called Napa Style. It's Michael Chiarello's baby and it is packed with food, wine accessories and home items. How did I not know this existed?

The catalog even piqued the Hub's interest. He found something in the food section (of course) that sounded right up his alley, "Gray Salt Shortbread Maltballs". After thoroughly reading the description, I just had to try to make my own version. I think they turned out pretty great.

Chocolate Maltball Cookies

This recipe is adapted from Michael Chiarello's recipe "Shortbread ...

See Chocolate Maltball Cookies on Key Ingredient.





The main difference between Chef Chiarello's version and mine is that I added malted milk directly into the shortbread batter. Although tempted to leave this out, I decided to go ahead with the salting of the unbaked cookies as directed by the original recipe. Am ever glad that I didn't skip this step. It adds an intensity of flavor that is a little more grown-up. Also I happened to have Sel Gris so I figured, what the hay. I'd go for it.


(Sel Gris, meaning "Grey Salt" is a French sea salt that has a mild briny flavor)



I spaced these out a little far, as they don't spread very much while baking.



One thing that I found a little fiddly, was the baking time for these. You'll know the cookies are done when the top begins to crack. (see below)



I decided to coat the rounded tops with chocolate instead of the entire cookie. I didn't want too much chocolate coating to kill the delicate malted milk flavor.


An added dusting of malted milk will make these even merrier.

I found that by adding the malted milk directly into the dough, when baked, gives these cookies a little chewy bite. It's a great texture and the malt flavor really comes through.



I really enjoyed making these. Mark and I have fond memories of both our Dads enjoying Chocolate Maltballs as a favorite snack. I'm really excited about sharing these with him tonight.

I hope you enjoy the cookie version of chocolate maltballs as much as I have!


Saturday, November 14, 2009

Healthy 2 Ingredient Pumpkin Spice Muffins


I love two-ingredient recipes. First there was the ever-so-easy French Palmiers, and now a healthified muffin that is perfect for the Fall season.

(I realize healthified is not a real word, but I do love saying it)

This recipe is originally from the Hungry Girl website. If you haven't checked it out you might want to take a peek. The catch phrase is "Tips and Tricks for Hungry Chicks" and they have lots of better-for-you options when trying to eat right.





The original version is called "Yum Yum Brownie Muffins", and is made with a boxed Devil's Food cake mix. It's a great way to get your chocolate fix without all the fat and calories. I decided to make the spiced version because, at the moment, I am in love with all things Autumn.

1 box of Spice Cake Mix
1 15 oz. can of Pumpkin

Directions

Combine the two ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Do not add anything else to the mixture! The batter will be very thick. Keep stirring until all ingredients are incorporated. DO NOT add water (or anything else) to thin the batter.
Place batter into muffin tins sprayed with non-stick spray. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.
Makes 12 regular or 36 mini muffins.

The batter will be thick, but don't let this fool you. The results yield a moist center with a nice crumb. These are not as sweet as some of the prepackaged muffins you may have tried, but they are just sweet enough.

I hope you enjoy! Everyone here did!























(and I do mean everyone)



P.S. The nutritional information is on the recipe card under the description tab along with Weight Watcher points.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Glittering Lemon Sandwich Cookies - the Sequel




I suppose it's about time I made these sparkling little gems. I mentioned them in an earlier post back in September. I mentioned that I saw them "dancing like sugarplums" in my head, and that I would make them and post pics "as soon as I can".

Well, a lot of things dance around in my head, and before I knew it November had arrived! But I know that you, gentle reader, will understand and forgive me. Time really flies!


Glittering Lemon Sandwich Cookies

Recipe by Gourmet Magazine 2008.

See Glittering Lemon Sandwich Cookies on Key Ingredient.




If you decide to make them I'd like to offer a few tips that may make your baking experience a little more enjoyable than mine was.





1. Replace the cornstarch
Many reviewers of this recipe (from various websites) said the 2/3 cup of cornstarch in this recipe gave the cookie and "off" taste. I replaced the cornstarch with rice flour. The results were great, and it did not alter the cookie's shape. They look pretty darn close to the Gourmet photo.


2. Recruit a friend
Do you know what a scant teaspoon looks like? This recipe makes 50 sandwich cookies, which means you'll be rolling 100 marble sized bits of dough through sanding sugar and reshaping them. If you go it alone, I would at least start earlier than my 9 pm venture last night.

3. Be Lazy
Instructions say to chill the dough balls for 30 minutes after they've been sugared. I skipped this step and mine still turned out great.


Finally made, this is a bright tasting, crumbly cookie that I would probably not make for anything less than a special occasion. They are beautiful, sparkling, petite, time consuming and kind of a pain. With that said, they are joyous to look at and would be an impressive addition to any holiday table

I'm looking forward to doing some simple, unfussy cooking this weekend -and stay tuned for some 2 ingredient pumpkin muffins! I hear they are excellent!

Love 'yuns!




P.S. Recipe by Gourmet. Sadly, the magazine ends with the November issue this year.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Step-by-step: French Palmiers

There's no good reason why you shouldn't be making these. Besides being absurdly easy, they are so very scrumptious. If you've never tasted them, think funnel cake meets caramelized sugary goodness. This is a cookie that anyone can make, with all the beauty and deliciousness you would expect from a French pastry.

You'll need 2 ingredients. Ready made puff pastry and a cup (or more) of sugar.




First thing you'll need to do is let your puff pastry thaw for about 25 minutes. Meanwhile preheat your oven to 450 degrees and prepare your work surface with approximately 1/2 cup of sugar. It sounds like a lot, (well it is, actually) but this amount is needed for maximum caramelizing in the oven. You'll need yet another 1/2 cup of sugar to cover the top of the pastry, so have that ready too.

Unfold the pastry on top of the sugared surface. You should be able to unfold the dough without it breaking at the seams.




Cover the dough with the additional 1/2 cup of sugar.

(I was home alone today, but at this point I was looking around to see if anyone was watching me use this much sugar. I have never watched me use this much sugar. It works out in the end though, trust me!)


Roll out the dough to an approximate 13"x13" square. The idea is to press as much sugar as possible into the dough on both sides of the pastry.



Now for the folding. So easy! Fold the sides in one inch at a time, then fold both sides together as if you are closing a book.



pimp myspace


You'll cut them at 1" increments and arrange them on parchment paper, cut side up.


Bake at 450 degrees for about 6-8 minutes, or until the sugar on the bottom of the cookies start to caramelize. Turn them over and bake for another 6-8 minutes. You'll want to watch these, to make sure they don't over-brown.


Will you love these as much as I do?


I think so.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Gettin' hitched!

Michael and Rebecca, what can I say? I'm thrilled to pieces for these two. I've known them both for quite a while through the Pathology group we all work(ed) for. When Michael asked if I would bake cupcakes and cookies for a Fall themed Smoky Mountain wedding, well gosh. I couldn't wait to get started.



I love Fall so much. I think PW summed it up for me when she tweeted "I would marry fall if I could". The next best thing (or better thing?) would be to get married in Fall. The wedding is being held today and the weather is perfect. I know hearts are glad all around.




We did three large platters of cupcakes, three smaller platters of cookies, and three baskets of favors. One of each went in the three adorable cabins they had rented.




Mmmm, the cupcake flavors:

  • Pumpkin chocolate chip with maple buttercream icing
  • Devil's food with chocolate buttercream icing
  • Red velvet with vanilla buttercream icing
  • Double vanilla with vanilla buttercream icing





Through this project I discovered my new favorite baking item. Check out these cupcake papers and baking cups from KAF. The finished product is more like a mini cake instead of a cupcake. No popping one of these into your mouth. You'll need a fork for sure.




OH, yes and how could I forget?! I received an email from Michael asking if he could add some Yankees cookies to his order. Of course!


*I am adding a disclaimer though. He did explain that he was not a big fan, but lots of the attendees would love them. What a nice guy, right?



So, in closing I would just like to thank Michael and Rebecca for giving me the opportunity to bake for one of the most memorable days in their lives.

Wishing you only the best,




P.S. Extra, extra special love and thanks to Meggy for the invaluable help. Plus, isn't she a cutie?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Round 2- National Cookie Network Baking Challenge

Wow, I don't think I've ever been so busy. I have around 200 not-yet-iced cookies on my to-do list. So then, why am I sitting behind the computer indulging in a blog post?




It's time for the National Cookie Network baking challenge for October!
Secret Ingredient: SQUASH!

Squash grow well here in the southern United States and I even have a favorite variety, the Cushaw. For this challenge, I wanted to make a roll-out cookie. I knew the addition of squash would make this super tricky. After doing much research on the matter, I came up with the recipe below.

Squash Cut-Out Cookies

This is a spiced cookie dough that can be rolled ...

See Squash Cut-Out Cookies on Key Ingredient.




The addition of squash in this recipe makes the dough very sticky. Be sure to knead a few times on a well floured surface until dough is pliable and does not stick to your rolling pin. I had a lot of fun making up this recipe, and to me, it tastes like Thanksgiving. I hope you enjoy it too!

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