Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Induge On Shortbread Cookies

My new cookbook, Indulge, is written by Claire Clark, the head pastry chef at Thomas Keller's French Laundry. Out of all my trips to Yountville, I have never been to French Laundry, and probably never will because I can't find anything I would eat, except for the dessert. (Unless they have a children's menu I could order from) So the next best thing to visiting French Laundry for me is this cookbook. The very first recipe in the book, shortbread, seemed like a good non-intimidating start. The hardest part about the recipe, and all the recipes in the book, are the measurements which are by weight. I don't necessarily mind because I have a small cute scale that I use quite a bit, but it's not the most convenient. So, I made this recipe using the weight measurements and then converted them to the North American volume measurements for next time.

Shortbread Cookies
Adapted from Indulge Cookbook

1 2/3 cup plus 1 tbs flour
1/4 cup plus 1 Tbs granulated sugar, processed in food processor for 1 minute
1 Tbs vanilla paste
11 Tbs butter, at room temperature

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix flour and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Add butter and vanilla to the bowl. Rub butter into dry ingredients using your fingertips. When the mixture begins to come together, use your hands to help form into a ball.
On a lightly floured surface roll dough out to 1/2 inch thick. Cut and place on a lined baking sheet.
Bake for 15 minutes, then turn the baking sheet and continue to bake for another 10 minutes, or until the shortbread is golden brown. Remove from the oven and dust with a little granulated sugar.

While I am not a shortbread connoisseur, the only shortbread cookie I have had are from the Girl Scouts, these cookies turned out terrific. These are very delicate cookies that melts in your mouth. I would love to play around with them next time, covering in caramel, dipping in chocolate, or like I do with the Girl Scout Trefoils, sandwich them with chocolate frosting.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things

I hope everyone had a nice Christmas. I spent Christmas Eve with my mom's side of the family. I brought over my Just Dance games for the wii and we had a blast dancing until the late hours of the night. Christmas Day we woke up early and opened presents from Santa and rationed out the presents under the tree, hoping to keep the kids somewhat calm. And since I was trying to keep the kids calm on Christmas Day, why not make super sugary French Toast, right? We spent the rest of the day at my dad's house and had a delicious Christmas dinner with turkey, mashed potatoes and the best dressing/stuffing ever. It was another great holiday spent with the people I love. Oh yeah, and I got a few cool things too :)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Homemade Oreo Cookies

I am dunker, well maybe more of a drowner. I drop the whole Oreo into the milk and let it sit, fishing out with a spoon a few seconds later. I had never heard of homemade Oreos until Bouchon Bakery, where they are known as TKO's, they are good, but not one of my must haves when I visit.(I know you are probably tired of hearing about Thomas Keller, but bear with me I only have a few more recipes.)  With all my Christmas baking I though Oreos would be a great cookie to leave for Santa. The recipe is super simple and the ingredenits are fairly basic so you can whip these up just in time for Christmas Eve.

Oreo Cookies

1 1/2 cups plus 3Tbs flour
3/4 cups sugar
3/4 cups plus 1 Tbs cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt
15 Tbs unsalted butter, cut into 3/4" cubes, at room temperature

1/2 cup heavy cream
8 oz. white chocolate

For Cookies:
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt, and mix on low speed. with the mixer still on low, add the butter a piece at a time. Continue mixing until pebble size pieces form, about 4 minutes. Form into a ball with hands
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Seperate the dough into 2 pieces. Roll each piece of dough between 2 pieces of plastic wrap to 1/8 inch thick. Cut into shapes with cookie cutters. Place 1/2 inch apart on baking sheet lined with Silpat liners.
Bake for 12-15 minutes, roating halfway through baking. Remove and cool in the pan for 5 minutes.

For Filling:

Bring cream to a simmer in a saucepan. Pour over chocolate in a medium bowl, and let stand for 5 minutes. Stir until smooth. Let cool completely in the refrigerator checking every 15 minutes. Whisk until fluffy. Using a pastry bag pipe filling on one side of cookie and sandwich. 
There you have it, grown up Oreos.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas Tree Cupcakes

While scrolling through the Queen's website (Martha Stewart of coarse), I saw the prettiest Christmas cupcake idea. Using Thomas Keller's Devil's Food Cupcake recipe might have been a mistake though. I had reservations in using it because I wasn't thrilled with his cupcake when I got it at Bouchon Bakery in Las Vegas, but I wanted to still try it just to keep on the Thomas Keller kick I am on. The cupcake did taste just like the one in Vegas, but that wasn't a good thing, it is not very chocolaty and has an odd chewy texture. Well, I tried it and now I can go back to my trusty vegan recipe.
The Christmas tree cupcakes themselves came out very cute, and as I tease my daughter, when it comes to baking "it's whats on the outside that counts". It takes quite a bit of frosting, but the results are worth it. Martha says to use a waffle cone, but I used sugar cones and I think they came out just as nice as hers.

I frosted the cupcakes like I normally do with a ? tip. Then using a small tip and bag, ?, I frosted the cones leaving just enough room at the top to hold it by. Then I put the cone on the cupcake and finished frosting. I loved the way they turned out, I even made another forest of cupcakes using my favorite color, Pink.

Have fun with these.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Chocolate Dipped Marshmallows.....Take Two

The thought of making marshmallows tends to really impress people, if only they knew how easy it really was. Every time I make them I picture the old Rice Krispie Treat commercial with the mom throwing flour on her face and water from the fish bowl. Dipping them in chocolate on the other hand can be tricky.

I have been making marshmallows for a couple of years using a recipe from Food Network, but then I found a Thomas Keller recipe and it turned out to be even easier. This batch of marshmallows I wanted to make more "holiday", so I added peppermint extract and red food coloring.  Everything went well until it came time to temper the chocolate for dipping. The tempering just wasn't working right, but instead of stopping and starting over like I knew I should I continued on and ruined the two batches of marshmallows. In the trash they went, and I started all over again.
The second time I wasn't going to risk ruining another batch of marshmallows so I bought chocolate candy melts instead of real chocolate, removing the need to fuss with tempering. After dipping the marshmallows I called in for some reinforcements to help sprinkle white dragees on the regular marshmallows, and peppermint sprinkles on the peppermint marshmallows.

Adapted from Thomas Keller's French Laundry

3 envelopes unflavored Knox gelatin
1/2 cup cold water
2 cups sugar
2/3 cups corn syrup
1/4 cup water
1/4 tsp salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract (add 2 tsp peppermint extract if making peppermint marshmallows)
red food coloring (if making peppermint)
powdered sugar

Lightly oil 13x9 pan.

In a bowl of a stand mixer, mix 3 envelopes of gelatin and 1/2 cup cold water. Let stand for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine 2 cups sugar, 2/3 cups corn syrup, and 1/4 cup water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and boil hard for 1 minute. 
with mixer turned on low speed add the boiling syrup, carefully increasing the speed to high. Add 1/4 tsp salt and beat for 10 minutes. durring last 30 seconds add 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract (if peppermint add 2 tsp extract and red food coloring)
Pour into prepared pan and let sit overnight.

If not dipping in chocolate - cut marshmallows with knife and dredge in powdered sugar.

To cover in chocolate - Cut marshmallows and set aside. Lay out waxed paper for marshmallows to dry on. Melt candy melts according to the package. use you left hand to remove marshmallows from the pan and your right hand to dip in chocolate. If you want to put sprinkles on top it is best to recruit help with hands that aren't sticky or chocolatey.

The marshmallows were fabulous, so much better than store bought, even people who don't like marshmallows will like these. Dipping them in chocolate just adds another dimension of decadence.
These definitely will add a WOW factor to your holiday dessert trays.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

When A Gingerbread Man Is Not The Man Of Your Dreams

 I haven't had a celebrity crush since Corey Haim in Lost Boys, that is until I went to Thomas Kellers Bouchon Bakery several years ago. One boring Saturday afternoon I stalked researched Thomas Keller on google, 4 hours and 10 minutes later I had 37 recipes that I was so excited to try. So far they had all been wonderful, then just like Corey Haim in Dream a Little Dream II, Thomas Keller let me down.
My dad loves gingerbread so I was so excited to find a Thomas Keller gingerbread cookie recipe. After reading the recipe a few times to get familiar with it, I started making the spiciest cookie dough I have ever smelled. The recipe was very straight forward so I whipped it up in no time and refrigerated it overnight. The next day I took it straight out of the refrigerator to roll out and it was a goopy mess. After repeated attempts I did manage to get 3 gingerbread men cut out and transferred to a cookie sheet. 12 minutes in the oven and the Gingerbread men came out in need of a trip to the Biggest Looser Ranch, and a good laser resurfacing. With dough to soft for my nerves to handle, I ended up just using my cookie scoop for the next few batches, then threw the rest down the garbage disposal.
Taking the few plain gingerbread cookies with me to my dads Christmas party, I reluctantly placed them out on a plate, and within minutes they were devoured, people loved them. They ended up more like gingerbread than a gingerbread cookie, soft, moist and spicy. So if you are looking for a cookie for gingerbread lovers this is it, if you are looking for a cookie you can decorate cute then this is NOT it.

Gingerbread Cookies
From Yahoo's website Shine

3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 ¼ teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons ground ginger
1 ¼ tablespoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon cloves
½ cup +  2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 ¼ cup dark brown sugar
1 ¼ cup molasses
2 eggs
2 ¼ Teaspoons vanilla extract

1.    Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices.
2.    Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and the sugar together on medium speed until light and fluffy.
3.    Add the molasses and vanilla extract and mix to combine. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
4.    Add the eggs and mix on low speed for one minute.
5.    Add the dry ingredients in three parts, mixing just to combine after each addition.
6.    Refrigerate the dough for 1 hour. (I refrigerated overnight)
7.    When the dough is thoroughly chilled, remove from the refrigerator and roll it out to ¼ of an inch. (I used a cookie scoop)
8.    Cut into shapes using cookie cutters and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a non-stick liner. (Good luck with that)
9.    Bake at 325F for 12 to 18 minutes, depending on the size of the cookie.
10.    Cool the cookies on a rack.
11.    To make the icing, sift the sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the egg whites and lemon juice, and using the paddle attachment, start to mix on low speed then mix on medium speed until the mixture is smooth.
12.    If the icing is too thick, add a few drops of water. If it is too loose, add a little more powdered sugar.
13.    Divide the icing between small bowls and color as desired.
14.    Use your imagination to decorate the cookies
(Don't need to do any of this, because these cookies are not the decorating type)

As disappointed as I am with this as a gingerbread man recipe, it really is a tasty gingerbread flavored cookie, and a crowd pleasser during the holidays. It tasted so good, I actually made the recipe again to take into my office.


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