Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Macaroon Brownies


I absolutely LOVE coconut.  Passover is one of my favorite holidays because macaroons are in abundance.  I may even have a soft spot for store bought canned macaroons.  Shhhh...don't tell Martha Stewart.


I found these macaroon brownies about a year ago when I was searching for new Passover recipes.  I made the brownies and brought them to a sedar which happened to consist of mostly non-Jews.  Needless to say, when it came time for dessert they plunged for these brownies and were shocked when I told them they were kosher for Passover...made with matzah meal and potato starch instead of flour.  They couldn't tell the difference.


This recipe is a great way to add a little extra coconut to your typical "Passover" brownie and to use up extra macaroons.  I haven't tried adding chopped macaroons to a regular brownie recipe (not for Passover), but I'm sure it would be delicious.  You could also add extra chocolate chips or nuts to this if you'd like.


Macaroon Brownies
adapted from The Washington Post

Ingredients

6 oz. chocolate (I used a combination of semisweet and bittersweet)
2 sticks butter
1 1/4 cups sugar (I used 3/4 cup granulated sugar and 1/2 cup brown sugar)
3 eggs
3/4 cup matzah meal
1/4 cup potato starch
1 pinch salt
2 cups coarsely chopped macaroons


Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 9 inch square baking pan with butter or spray.
 
Using a double boiler, melt the chocolate and butter in a medium bowl.  Stir to combine and set aside to cool to room temperature.

Add the sugar, matzah meal, potato starch, salt, and eggs to the chocolate/butter mixture.  Fold in the macaroon pieces.  Pour the batter in the prepared pan.

Bake the brownies for about 45 minutes, until dry to the touch and the top is beginning to crackle.  Transfer the pan to a wire rack and cool completely before cutting.  The brownies may feel flimsy when cutting, but they will eventually firm up. 


Just for fun...here is a picture of the sedar plate this year.  Thank you to my mom for making such a beautiful plate.


Meringue Layer Cake


I headed straight to the kitchen as soon as I arrived home from New York this afternoon.  I didn't even unpack...which is very unlike me!  I needed every spare minute I could find in order to have everything ready for my sedar tonight.


Meringues can be tricky to make, but not with this recipe.   You may think it's complicated just from the picture, but there are only 3 steps: making the meringe and then two types of whipped cream.  The recipe in The Essential Chocolate Chip Cookbook calls for chocolate whipped cream and coffee whipped cream, but I have found that the coffee whipped cream is a bit strong for my taste.  I decided to swap out the coffee whipped cream for plain vanilla whipped cream and was much happier with my choice.  I've also toyed with the idea of using strawberry whipped cream, but haven't gotten to it yet.  I think it would be a nice contrast to the different chocolate flavors in the dish.


Serving the cake can be a bit messy, but don't worry, it tastes better that way.  

Meringue Layer Cake
adapted from The Essential Chocolate Chip Cookbook by Elinor Klivans

Ingredients

Cake
1 cup powdered sugar
3 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
5 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips 
Sliced strawberries (for garnish)
Powdered sugar (for garnish)

Meringue Cake

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F. Cut 2 pieces of parchment paper to fit 2 baking sheets.  Trace three 8-inch circles on the parchment and leave room for another circle (not marked).  Line the baking sheets with the parchment, marked side down.
Sift the powdered sugar and cocoa powder into a small bowl and set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar on low speed until the whites are foamy and the cream of tartar is completely dissolved.  Beat on medium speed until the egg whites look shiny and smooth and the movement of the beaters forms lines in the beaten whites.  The whites should cling to the beaters when you stop the mixer and lift up the beaters.  Slowly beat in the sugar, 2 tablespoons at a time, then beat for about 1 minute.  Sprinkle the powdered sugar over the egg whites and mix on low speed.  Fold in the chocolate chips.

Use a spatula to spread equal amounts of the meringue mixture in each marked circle.  You will use about 3/4 of the mixture for the circles.  Spread the remaining meringue mixture in any shape about 1/2 inch thick on the baking sheet with only one circle.  This meringue will be broken into little pieces after baking to garnish the top of the cake.  

Bake for 1 hour until the meringues feel crisp and dry to the touch.  Turn off the oven and leave the meringues in the oven for 1 hour.

Remove the baking sheets from the oven and cool the meringues on baking sheets for about 30 minutes.

Make two types of whipped cream.

Chocolate Whipped Cream
1/3 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups cold heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
3 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl in the microwave or using a double boiler.  Stir until the chocolate is melted and smooth.  Set aside until completely cooled.  Beat the heavy cream, powdered sugar, cocoa powder, and vanilla until soft peaks form.  Whisk about 1 cup of the whipped cream into the chocolate until blended.  Fold in the remaining whipped cream.

Coffee Whipped Cream
3/4 cup cold heavy whipping cream
2 tsp. instant coffee powder
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Beat the cream, coffee powder, powdered sugar, and vanilla until firm peaks form.

Plain Vanilla Whipped Cream
3/4 cup cold heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract 

Beat the cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla until firm peaks form.

Strawberry Whipped Cream
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/3 cup sugar
4Tbsp. processed strawberries (take freshly washed strawberries and pulse in food processor until they become a thick, seedy liquid)

Whip the cream until it looks like whipped cream.  Mix in sugar. Mix in strawberries until just combined.

Spread a tablespoon of one whipped cream in the center of a serving plate to prevent the cake from sliding.  Place a meringue layer smooth side down on the plate.  Use a thin spatula to spread about 1 cup of the first whipped cream evenly over the meringue.


Top with another meringue layer and spread the second type of whipped cream over it.


Top the cake with the remaining meringue layer and spread the remaining of the first type of whipped cream over the top of the cake.


Crush the meringue for the garnish into pieces up to 1/2 inch in size and sprinkle them over the top of the cake.


At this point I've found it best to refrigerate the cake for a few hours before serving.  This helps the meringue soften so it's easier to cut into.


Just before serving, garnish with sliced strawberries if desired, and sift the powdered sugar lightly over the top of the cake.
 
Use a large sharp knife to cut the cake into slices.  The cake can be covered and refrigerated overnight.


Saturday, March 27, 2010

Chocolate Praline Bark



And the Passover baking marathon begins.  I will be in New York for the first night of sedar, then heading back to D.C. for the second night to host my own sedar with friends.  Our menu is quite extensive and I should first thank everyone for what they will be bringing.  That being said, my plan is to make the following: chocolate praline bark, macaroon brownies, meringue layer cake, flourless chocolate cake, strawberry jam, and BM dinner rolls.  I attempted macaroons twice today and failed miserably, so I think we will just have to make do with what we have!


This chocolate praline bark recipe is very simple and versatile.  For Passover I use matzah, but any other time of the year I use saltine crackers.  Yes, I said saltine crackers...the kind you eat when your not feeling well.  I promise you will not even taste the bottom layer because the crackers (or matzah) will be masked by the chocolatey caramel and nuts.  You can also use any and all kinds of nuts for this recipe, although when making the praline mixture I would stick to pecans.    


Chocolate Praline Bark
adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients
40 saltine crackers  or 2-3 pieces of matzah
1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. almond extract
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup almond slices, toasted
1/2 cup shredded coconut, toasted *optional

2/3 cup pecans, toasted

2/3 cup powdered sugar

To make the pecan praline you first toast the pecans for about 5 minutes.  Pour the powdered sugar into the pan and mix well.  


Continue stirring, making sure the sugar melts thoroughly but does not burn.  The mixture will turn brown and look like caramel.  


Spread this onto a sheet of parchment paper and refrigerate until you're ready for it later on.


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line an 11 X 17 inch baking sheet first with foil and then with parchment paper (you may need to cut the paper to fit to size).  Line the bottom of the baking sheet with crackers or matzah, covering all parts.


In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and brown sugar together and stir it over medium heat until it begins to boil.  Let the mixture boil for 3 more minutes while stirring continuously.  Remove from the heat and add the salt and vanilla/almond extract.  Quickly pour the mixture over the crackers or matzah and then spread, covering all parts.


Bake the caramel-covered sheet for 14-15 minutes, watching carefully because it may bubble or the corners may darken or burn quickly.  You should reduce the heat if you see this happening.  Remove the baking sheet from the oven and immediately cover with the chocolate chips. 


Let stand 5 minutes.  Take the praline out of the fridge and break into small pieces.  After 5 minutes the chocolate chips will have begun to melt, so now you can spread them evenly across the caramel.  


Next, sprinkle the praline pieces and the toasted almonds on top of the chocolate.  If you'd like to add toasted coconut, now is the time to do so.


Place the baking sheet in the fridge for about 20 minutes to harden and then break into pieces.


Store the pieces in a container in the fridge until you are ready to serve. 


 They also serve as great gifts...or as the prize for finding the Afikomen.  Congrats Matt!



Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Chocolate Hazelnut Maple Syrup Cookies



 Wow, what a week.  I just finished a 3 day work conference which really began a week ago and felt like it lasted a month.  I had been away from the kitchen for a while preparing for this conference, so I thought what better way to relieve some stress and celebrate a successful few days than baking a batch of cookies.  


I was browsing through a bookstore about a year ago when I stumbled upon Chocolate by Trish Deseine.  If you've read previous posts of mine you'll remember that chocolate is not my go-to dessert.  On the other hand, I like baking with chocolate because everyone else I know absolutely loves it and one of the reasons I enjoy baking is so I can share with others.  With this in mind I decided the book may come in handy and I made my purchase.


Don't be fooled by the name of this cookie.  Yes, it's a mouthful, but no, the recipe is not difficult.  In fact, the most difficult part may be waiting the three hours for the dough to chill before slicing and baking!  When you first open the oven, the smell of the maple syrup will permeate your house and make you want to grab a cookie right away.  Don't do it!  Wait for the cookies to cool and your patience will be rewarded.  I thought these cookies tasted like a bite-size french toast.  Others thought of chocolate chip pancakes, biscotti, and shortbread.  Let me know what you think. 


Chocolate Hazelnut Maple Syrup Cookies
adapted from Chocolate by Trish Deseine

Ingredients

1/4 cup light brown sugar
2 1/2 Tbsp. maple syrup
11 Tbsp. butter, softened
1 egg
2 cups flour
3 oz. semisweet or milk chocolate chips
1/2 cup hazelnuts, chopped (pecans, macadamia nuts, or walnuts can also be used)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. 

Beat the sugar, maple syrup, and butter until light and creamy.  Add the egg and mix thoroughly.  Add the flour and mix until combined.  Stir in the chocolate chips and nuts.  Shape the dough into a roll, wrap it in plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator for 3 hours or longer.

Remove the dough and cut into 1/4 inch thick slices.


Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  Bake for 18 minutes, until the cookies are golden on top.  Place on a wire rack to cool. 


Sunday, March 14, 2010

Rustic Chocolate Pie

 
 

This weekend a friend of mine hosted a make-your-own pizza dinner.  Keeping with the theme I decided that a rustic chocolate pie would fit in quite nice.  The pie crust is similar to that of a thin crust pizza, but instead of your typical sauce, veggies, and cheese this crust is topped with a fudgy and gooey chocolate-nut mixture.  I actually made two pies, one with nuts and one without.  Both worked very well, so don't worry about losing taste if you opt to omit the nuts. 
 

Rustic Chocolate Pie
adapted from Better Homes and Gardens magazine

Ingredients

3/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp. salt
5 Tbsp. cold unsalted butter
6 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped*
2 egg whites, at room temperature
1/8 tsp. cream of tartar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 cup sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
3/4 cup chopped pecans, walnuts, or hazelnuts**
3 Tbsp. pine nuts, toasted
   Chocolate shavings (optional)

*I used 3 oz. bittersweet and 3 oz. semisweet chocolate
**I used walnuts and hazelnuts


Crust

In a medium bowl mix together the flour and 1/4 tsp. salt.  Cut butter in chunks and add to bowl.  With a fork or pastry blender, cut butter into flour, tossing to coat until largest pieces are the size of pine nuts.  Do not let butter melt.  Drizzle 1 1/2 Tbsp. cold water over the mixture while tossing and mix until moist enough to hold together when pressed.  Add remaining water if needed.  Turn out the dough on plastic wrap and press into a disc.  Refrigerate 30 minutes or up to 3 days.

Let dough stand 30 minutes at room temperature or until pliable enough to roll without cracking.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  On lightly floured surface, roll dough to 14x9 inch oval about 1/8 inch thick, rotating and dusting flour to prevent sticking.  Brush excess flour from dough, fold in half to transfer to a parchment paper lined baking sheet.  Loosely fold and roll edge, without pressing, to form rimmed crust.  Bake 10 to 12 minutes (my crust took a few minutes longer) or until light golden brown (crust edge will be a little raw inside).  Reduce oven to 350 degrees F.

Filling

Melt the chocolate in the microwave for about 2 minutes, stopping to occasionally stir.  Once completely melted set aside.

In medium bowl, beat egg whites with cream of tartar and vanilla extract until soft peaks form.  Gradually add the sugar and 1/8 tsp. salt.  Beat until whites are stiff but not dry.  Pour the nuts and melted chocolate over whites; fold with spatula until batter is uniform in color.


Dollop filling on crust.  Spread to about 1/2 inch thick.  Bake about 10 minutes or until surface looks dry and slightly cracked- it will be fudgy on the inside.  Cool on baking sheet on rack.  Serve warm or cool.  Cover and refrigerate after 2 hours or up to 24 hours.  To serve, sprinkle pine nuts and chocolate shavings.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Surprise Cookies


The Academy Awards, also known as the Oscars, were on television tonight- so I invited a few friends over to watch, but in reality we all know they came for the pre-show and to critique outfits.  Naturally, these gatherings mean I will bake.  So I decided to try a recipe I'd been meaning to get to ever since my aunt gave me the Martha Stewart's Cookies book.  These Surprise cookies create a great combination of flavors with a moist chocolate cookie, gooey marshmallow, and smooth chocolate frosting.  We all thought they were Oscar worthy.  I hope you think so too.


Surprise Cookies
adapted from Martha Stewart’s Cookies

Ingredients

For the cookies:
1 ¾ cups flour
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 egg
½ cup whole milk (I used skim milk)
1 tsp vanilla extract
marshmallows, halved crosswise

For the frosting:
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
6 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ cup whole milk (I used skim milk)
½ tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

In a medium bowl, stir together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. 

Put butter and sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Mix on medium speed until pale, about 2 minutes.  Reduce speed to medium-low, mix in the egg, milk, and vanilla.  Mix in the flour mixture in small batches, until combined.

Using a spoon or an ice cream scoop, drop dough onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper, spacing 2 inches apart.  Bake cookies for about 8 to 10 minutes. (While the cookies bake, cut each marshmallow in half.) Immediately press a marshmallow half on top of each cookie.  Bake another 2 to 3 minutes more. 



Let cool completely on sheets on wire racks. 

To make the frosting, put the confectioners' sugar in a medium bowl.  Melt butter with the cocoa powder in a saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally.  Add the butter mixture to the confectioners' sugar.  Whisk in milk and vanilla.

Spread about 1 tablespoon of frosting on top of each cookie to cover the marshmallow.  Let stand until set about 10 minutes.  Cookies can be stored in a single layer in containers at room temperature for up to 2 days.


Saturday, March 6, 2010

Hamentaschen


Perhaps it's ironic that this recipe for hamentaschen came from a Jewish Baking book I received as a Christmas gift.  That being said, hamentaschen is a traditional Jewish treat made during the holiday of Purim when we remember the courage of Queen Esther who saved the Jewish people in the kingdom of Persia from persecution.

This was my first attempt at hamentaschen, so I enlisted the help of a good friend whom I knew would be able to show me how to properly fold the cookies into the perfect “hat” or “triangle.”  And indeed he did, although I still need practice.  His cookies were perfect whereas mine looked more like smiley faces.  Regardless of the shape, they turned out delicious and everyone at work the next day enjoyed them as well.

 

Traditional hamentaschen fillings include poppy seed, apricot, and prune, but for this recipe we used raspberry, nutella, and apricot.

Ingredients
adapted from A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking

½ cup vegetable shortening
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 ¼ cups sugar
3 eggs
¼ cup orange juice
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
4 cups flour
½ tsp salt
2 ½ tsp baking powder
1 egg (for egg wash)
Extra sugar for dusting
Fillings

In a bowl fit with an electric mixer or with a hand held mixer, mix together the shortening, butter, and sugar.   Add the eggs and blend until smooth.  Mix in the orange juice and vanilla extract.  Fold in the flour, salt, and baking powder and then mix until the dough is firm but soft.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and mold into a medium disc.  Cover and let rest for 10 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.   Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

Divide the dough into 2-4 smaller discs and work with one disc at a time.  Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to about 1/6 inch thickness.  Use a 3 inch cookie cutter (or do what I did and use a wide rimmed glass) and cut as many rounds as you can.  Transfer the rounds to the baking sheet and brush with egg wash.  Fill with a heaping teaspoonful of filling and now the fun begins.  Draw 3 sides together to form a triangle of sorts (it may help to first pinch together one point of the triangle and then fold up the other 2 sides). 


 Repeat this with the remaining dough and filling. Brush with additional egg wash and sprinkle with a pinch of sugar.

Bake for 18-25 minutes or until golden brown.  Cool on baking sheets.