Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Baking-Chocolate all over the place!

Ganache filled Mocha Shortbread Cookies are one of the most decadent recipes I bake at Christmas. I make the dough and usually have plenty left to freeze for Valentine's day heart cookies.  This year I started the task as usual but decided to use a tiny star shaped cookie cutter instead of the round one from years past.  My trusty old Kitchen Aid mixer was ready for the task.  But was I?  Apparently not.  I sifted the dry ingredients together while the butter, sugar and vanilla were creaming away in KA's bowl. The liquid was added even though my husband drank the last drop of Kahlua so I had to sub Meyer's Rum.  No problem.  Next I started to add the dry ingredients to the bowl of creamed mixture in KA.  Why didn't I remember that I had a shield for the bowl??? I have every attachment Kitchen Aid made for this machine and I didn't think to get the shield out!
After the first cup was added there was little flurry of flour-cocoa powder but not bad.  I thought I could cover the mixer with a dish towel like I have done before. I added some more dry ingredients and while trying to get the towel in place the metal measuring cup I was using to scoop the dry ingredients with slipped out of my hand and into the bowl with the machine running. I tried to turn it off but instead turned it to the highest setting..... You can just imagine my kitchen as well as my person.  I looked like I just came down a chimney.  Breathing in cocoa and flour is not a good thing either. My main concern is that I may have broken my Kitchen Aid.  My husband helped me dislodge the bowl as it was quite stuck. We freed it, cleaned up the mess and continued on with the shield in place this time. KA worked perfectly. What I forgot is that I have the smaller version which doesn't hold more than 6 c. of flour. I was at the limit. When I thought the dough had come together I scooped some out and formed a disk to chill. I then find out that the bottom third was dry ingredients so I had to throw it all into a large bowl and work the first disk back into it until it came together.  What should have taken me 45 min. max took 2 hours.
Okay, the disks are resting in the refrig, I knocked out the Ganache filling now onto Rocky Road.
Not enough walnuts so I added pistachio nuts to make up the difference along with  milk chocolate and mini marshmallows. Turned out great and it is so easy! I got the recipe from Sunset Magazine a few years ago.

Rocky Road and Mocha Shorbreads..the rest were packed up and shipped out for Christmas gifts.

Mocha Shortbread Cookies filled with Ganache

1 1/2 c. cocoa powder
4 c. all purpose flour
       Sift together
1 lb. butter
1 T. vanilla
1 c. granulated sugar
       Cream together with an electric mixer
1T. instant espresso powder
1T. Kahlua
        Dissolve espresso powder in the Kahlua and add to creamed mixture.  Add dry ingredients a little at a time so they blend in. A bowl shield is recommended if using a stand mixture for easy pouring.
Scrape out the dough and cut into 3 portions, form into disks, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled.
Preheat oven to 375.  Roll out dough and cut with small cookie cutters.  I usually use 1"round but this year I used a 1" star.  Bake on parchment lined cookie sheets 7-8 min. depending on the size of the cookies.
Cool before filling.

4 oz. bittersweet chocolate
1/4 c. heavy cream
1 T. corn syrup

Chop chocolate and put into a food processor.  Heat cream to boiling.  Add to chocolate and process until smooth, add corn syrup.  Chill mixture.  Either pipe onto cookies if serving open faced or spread the filling onto one cookie  if making sandwiched cookies.   Makes about 6 doz. sandwiches.

These along with my other goodies were packed up and shipped far far away for Christmas gifts.
That was all she wrote for my Christmas baking this year.  My wish list, as usual, was much longer, pretty sugar cookies that I could decorate, Nut brittles, Crackle Cookies from Martha Stewart's "Holiday Cookies" and jam filled thumbprints would have been nice.  Maybe next year.
Merry Christmas to you all!!!!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmas Baking-The Reality

Cookie baking is on the agenda.  The stupid pinched  nerve in my hip is really bugging me but I figured Oatmeal cookies two ways would be easy since I can't go Christmas shopping yet because I can't walk very far.  The "dream" cookie was one I found in one of Martha Stewart magazines. It was "Cookie of the Month".  I cut it out and have been wanting to try it.

"Oatmeal cookies with dried apricots and white chocolate"

3/4 c. A.P. flour
3/4 c. oatmeal
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 stick room temp. butter
1/8 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 large egg
4 oz. white chocolate chips ( or chopped up from a block)
3/4 c. chopped dried apricots
        Preheat oven 350*
Combine flour, oatmeal and baking soda in a bowl.  Cream butter and sugars in a mixer until pale yellow. Add salt, vanilla and egg and beat 1 minute until thoroughly mixed in.  Add flour mixture a little at a time until combined. Stir in chocolate and apricots.  I missed the part where she said to cover and refrigerate until cold about 30 min.  I just dropped  heaping teaspoonfuls onto my cookie sheets and baked them for 10 min. until the edges were golden brown. To make them more holiday-ish I sprinkled them with green sugar sprinkles.
They were and are very tender with the tang of the apricots and super sweetness of white chocolate.
I got a little over 2 dozen. You could easily double the recipe and make them bigger using a tablespoon.

A word about cookie sheets.  I have three thin aluminum sheetpans. I keep them really clean so they are still shiny and don't need to be oiled or anything.  If I used my regular heavy duty sheetpans I would line them with parchment paper.

Dried Apricot and White Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

Oatmeal cookie #2 was my basic off the Quaker Oatmeal box cookie with 1/2 c each dried cranberries, chocolate chips and chopped pecans added. Oh, I also add 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. clove and 1/4 tsp nutmeg to the dough.  This time I added 1/4 c. cognac for the liquid but they came out a little drier than when I use milk.  They were sprinkled with red sugar crystals.
Next is Chocolate O'Rama!!!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Christmas Baking-the Dreams and the Reality

Every year I dig out my Christmas baking file along with Martha Stewart's Holiday Cookies magazine which is filed near the baking file.  The recipes look soooo good. I have many tried and true that I HAVE to make for family and friends. What about the ones that I haven't tried yet?  The recipes and beauty pictures are waiting for me each year in my folder. Every year I make a list of what I will make, persimmon breads, sugar cookies cut out and frosted, chocolate truffle cookies filled with ganache, my special oatmeal cookies with cranberries instead of raisins, Millionaire's short bread, spiced nuts, peppermint bark, brittles and on and on. I keep my lists and laugh at the ones crossed off as " not enough time". I make half recipes and put together little boxes to send back East to my three Aunts and my brother Bobby and his kids. Today I have the folder out and am dreaming once again. My notepad is right here beside me and the list is started. I will not include peppermint bark as it is in every catalog on earth, Williams Sonoma, Crate & Barrel, Trader Joe's and who knows where else. Rocky Road Bark is on the list instead and persimmon breads for sure as I have an abundance of them this year. I let them get mushy ripe then froze them in ziplock bags. One bag is defrosting as I type this.

The recipe I have used for so many years that I can't remember when I first baked them is from "Beard on Bread" by James Beard. I love that book and have practically baked my way through it since it was published in the 1970's.  It is worth a try and here is the recipe with my little tweaks.

Persimmon Bread
3 1/2 c. sifted all purpose flour( unbleached is fine too)
1 1/2 tsp. sea salt
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. gr. coriander
2 1/2 c. sugar
1 c. melted unsalted butter
4 eggs, lightly beaten
2/3 c. cognac (my favorite ingredient)
2 c. persimmon puree , the pulp of very ripe persimmons, no need to peel.
1 1/2 c. coarsely chopped nuts, hazelnuts are my choice but walnuts are delish too.
2 c. dried currants

Preheat oven to 350* Butter and flour molds.  This fills 4, 3-4 c. molds. 
Sift the dry ingredients into the mixing bowl of a Kitchen Aid mixer or other bowl.  Make a well in the center and add melted butter, eggs, Cognac, persimmon puree, nuts and raisins. Mix the dough until it is smooth.
Fill the molds 3/4 full and bake 1 hour or until a cake tester comes out clean.  Cool the molds before removing the breads. 
These can be made in advance, wrap in plastic wrap and foil and refrigerate 1-2 weeks or freeze.

My fun thing to do with part of the batter is to fill my mini tart pans and bake them off. They can then be wrapped as part of my cookie boxes.

The Minis

Persimmon breads ready for the oven

45 minutes later.....

On to the next project after we get the tree up. Oatmeal cookies! I hope Steve can eat them. They are his favorite but with his dry mouth it may be a challenge. Maybe I'll pour him a cup of eggnog to dip them in.

By the way I am following a couple of really good blogs:  Tigress in a Jam and Tigress in a Pickle,
What Julia Ate, Hitchhiking to Heaven and Orangette.