Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Devil's Food Cookies


Do you prefer cookies to be chewy or crunchy?  Cake-like or mushy?  Hard or soft?  How about ALL OF THE ABOVE?!  If you are a cake-like cookie person then you'll love this recipe.   It is so simple to make because you start with a box mix of devil's food cake.  Yes, I said cake!  The devil's food cake not only makes this cookie nice and fluffy, but it adds a special chocolate flavor which you don't find often.


If you haven't read my previous blog post about "The Cookie Table" you should go back and read it and also check out the New York Times piece explaining the Pittsburgh tradition.  I brought these devil's food cookies to my cousin's wedding this past weekend to add to her cookie table.  I think my uncle snagged most of them before they even made it onto the table :), so I hope the guests were able to try them!



Ingredients
adapted from The Food Network

1 box devil's food cake mix
2 eggs
1/4 cup hot water
1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
2 Tbsp flour
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup chopped toffee bits

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Beat together the cake mix, eggs, water, oil and flour on low speed until all ingredients are moistened- then beat on high speed for 2 minutes.  Fold in the chocolate and toffee pieces and pecans until well combined.  Drop by heaping tablespoons onto parchment lined baking sheets- make sure to space 2 inches apart.

Bake for 12-14 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let cool on the baking sheet for 3 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Cookie Table

 
The Cookie Table is an old tradition that I only recently discovered.  People in Pittsburgh, PA and Youngstown, OH have been hosting Cookie Tables at weddings for years, so my question to you is why hasn't this trend spread across the country?  Please leave a comment if you've been to a wedding with a Cookie Table!


I had my first experience with the Cookie Table this past weekend at my cousin's wedding.  Immediately upon arriving at the reception I headed to the table to hand in my cookies and help set up.  It was a lot of fun opening box after box after box filled with all types of cookies, some I had never even seen before.  I think it's safe to say that my sister-in-law and I became the official taste testers of the evening, so our two favorites were the mini burger cookies (pictured below) and the pistachio macaroon cookies from Mike's Pastry in Boston.  I give this Cooke Table an A++!


I'm pretty sure the burger cookies were made by sandwiching a thin mint between two nilla wafers, dyed green shredded coconut as the lettuce, and colored frosting as the ketchup and mustard.  Maybe whoever made these cookies can let me know if I'm correct.


How cute are these little guys!!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Cookies


Have you ever heard of HERSHEY'S Cinnamon Chips?  Unless you're from Pennsylvania, you probably have not.  My aunt in PA first introduced me to these delectable little chips and I have scoured the grocery stores in the D.C. area and never been able to find them. 


After coming home from a very long day of work and class and then missing the bus and having to walk home in the rain I found I had a package waiting for me at my front desk.  When I opened the package I couldn't believe what was in there...two packages of HERSHEY'S Cinnamon Chips from my aunt!!  What a nice surprise to come home to. 

If you can get your hands on these cinnamon chips you should give these cookies a try.  The cinnamon chip is such a unique flavor that most people haven't had before, so they will keep everyone guessing! 

Ingredients
adapted from HERSHEY'S

2 sticks butter, softened
1 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup white sugar
2 eggs
11/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 1/2 cups quick-cooking oats
1 2/3 cups HERSHEY'S Cinnamon Chips
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional)


Directions

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Beat the butter and both sugars in a bowl until creamy.  Add the eggs and vanilla and beat well.  Combine the flour and baking soda then add to the butter mixture and beat well.  Stir in the oats, cinnamon chips, and chocolate chips.

Drop by heaping teaspoons onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper.  Bake 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned.  Remove from the oven and cool for 1 minute before transferring cookies to a wire rack.  


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Chocolate and Apricot Scones



The final recipe for my baking filled weekend which sadly came to an end way too soon was scones.  I find scones to be a bit deceiving at times because I expect them to be super sweet, yet in reality they are not.  When I make them I usually sneak a little extra sugar on top hoping it will do the trick to satisfy my sweet tooth.  Sometimes I'm successful and other times I'm not so lucky, but the subtle sweetness of this particular recipe actually made me very happy.


These were the best batch of scones I have ever made!  They came out light and fluffy almost like biscuits, not dense like most scones you'll find in a store these days.  The apricots added a nice tart finish while the chocolate provided an extra touch of sweetness.  If you don't like apricots you can substitute them with any other dried fruit- blueberries, strawberries, currants, or even cranberries would work well.  


Chocolate and Apricot Scones
adapted from Ina Garten

Ingredients

4 cups plus 1 Tbsp flour
2 Tbsp sugar, plus additional for sprinkling
2 Tbsp baking powder
2 tsp salt
3/4 pound cold unsalted butter, diced
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup cold heavy cream
3/4 cup dried apricots, diced
3/4 cup mini chocolate chips
1 egg beaten with 2 Tbsp water or milk, for egg wash

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together the 4 cups of flour, 2 Tbsp sugar, baking powder, and salt. Blend in the cold butter at the lowest speed and mix until the butter is in pea-sized pieces. Mix together the eggs and heavy cream and quickly add them to the flour and butter mixture. Mix until just blended. 

Take half of the batter out of the bowl and set aside.  Toss the apricots with 1/2 Tbsp of flour, add them to the dough, and mix quickly. The dough may be a bit sticky.  Dump the dough out onto a well-floured surface and be sure it is well combined.  Place the reserved dough back in the bowl and toss the chocolate chips with 1/2 Tbsp flour and then mix them into the dough.  Dump this batch of dough onto another well-floured surface. 

Flour your hands and a rolling pin and roll the dough to 3/4-inch thick. You should see lumps of butter in the dough. Cut into squares and then cut them in half diagonally to make triangles. Place on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.

Brush the tops with the egg wash. Sprinkle with sugar (don't be shy-add extra like me) and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the outsides are crisp and the insides are fully baked.  Let cool on baking sheets.


Friday, May 7, 2010

Dulce de Leche Duos


My first experience with dulce de leche was the summer of 1999 when I bit into a dulce de leche filled croissant in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  I will never forget when I first laid eyes on this wonderful pastry, sitting on the shelf of the first shop I entered.  I was hooked after that first bite and have been searching for this croissant ever since.  Unfortunately dulce de leche pastries are not as easy to find in America as they are in Argentina, so I think I may have come up with a great idea for a future blog post!


Because I haven't found dulce de leche croissants nor created them yet (stay tuned to the blog), I figured I'd give these cookies a try.  They are definitely a fabulous substitute.  This creation consists of a thin cookie made with dulce de leche sandwiched together with more dulce de leche...lots and lots of dulce de leche!  You can either make your own dulce de leche or simply buy a jar from the store.  I made one batch, but didn't have enough for the entire recipe- so I sandwiched half of the cookies with the homemade version and the other half with the store bought dulce de leche.  I couldn't decide which version of the cookie I preferred because they were both just so scrumptious and irresistible.


Dulce de Leche Duos
adapted from The Food Librarian

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 sticks butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup dulce de leche, plus more for filling (about 1 1/4-1 1/2 cups)
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs

Directions

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

Whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter at medium speed until soft.  Add the 3/4 cup of dulce de leche and both sugars.  Beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each addition.  Reduce the mixer to low speed and add the dry ingredients, only mixing until they disappear into the batter.

Spoon the dough about a teaspoon in size onto the baking sheets and make sure to leave 2 inches between them.  Bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes until honey brown.  Remove from the oven and leave on the baking sheets for at least 2 minutes.  Using a wide metal spatula, transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

Now you can spread half of the cookies with dulce de leche and then sandwich them together.  


This was a special double Dulce de Leche Duo!  :)

Monday, May 3, 2010

Monkey Bread


What do you think of when you hear the words monkey bread?  Other than the strange name, I think of my mother.  We used to make this together when I was a little girl and I completely forgot about the amazing treat until about a year ago when I received a monkey bread mold as a birthday gift.   Williams-Sonoma claims monkey bread got its name from its appearance which resembles a playful group of monkeys jumbled together, but I'm not completely satisfied with this answer.  I thought it may be that pulling the bread apart resembles monkey behavior, but this answer received quite a bit of laughter.  If you have any ideas please do share!


After a 15 year hiatus, monkey bread finally made its way back into my kitchen.  I have now made it twice- once following the recipe below and a second time incorporating a bit of chocolate.  I, along with a few friends who have now tasted both versions, seem to prefer the traditional monkey bread recipe listed below, but that doesn't mean the chocolate monkey bread isn't for you!  To make the chocolate version you would simply add two tablespoons of cocoa powder to the cinnamon and sugar mixture.  I hope you try this recipe even if you do not have a monkey bread mold.  A bundt pan or angel food cake pan would also do the trick.  Additionally, Williams-Sonoma sells a great monkey bread mix, so if you are not up for making this from scratch here is your solution.  The directions for the mix differ from the version listed below, so make sure to follow whichever recipe you're using.


Monkey Bread
adapted from Williams-Sonoma 

Ingredients

For the dough
3/4 cup warm milk
1/2 cup warm water
2 Tbsp butter, melted
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 pckg rapid-rise yeast
3 1/4 cups flour, plus more for dusting
2 tsp salt

For the sugar coating
1 cup light brown sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1 stick butter, melted

For the glaze
4 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp water 

Directions

Spray the monkey bread mold with nonstick spray.

To make the dough: Whisk together the milk, water, melted butter, sugar, egg, and yeast.  

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook, mix the flour and salt and beat on low speed until combined.  Slowly add the milk mixture and beat for 2 minutes or until the dough comes together.  Increase the speed to medium and beat for another 5 minutes or until the dough is shiny and smooth.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 1 minute or until smooth.  Form the dough into a ball.  Spray the inside of a large bowl with nonstick cooking spray, place the dough in the bowl and coat the surface of the dough with cooking spray.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let stand in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

To prepare the sugar coating: In a medium bowl stir together the brown sugar and cinnamon.  Put the melted butter in a separate bowl.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and shape into an 8-inch square.  Cut the dough into 6 equal portions, then cut each piece cross wise into 8 pieces to form a total of 48 pieces.  Roll each piece into a ball, dip into the melted butter and then roll it in the sugar coating.  Stack the balls in the prepared mold and cover with plastic wrap.  Let rise in a warm place for 30-45 minutes.  

Position a rack in the lower third of your oven.  Place a baking sheet on the rack to catch any drips during baking.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Remove the plastic wrap from the mold and set on the baking sheet.  Bake uncovered for 20 minutes, then cover loosely with foil and continue baking for another 15-20 minutes until the top is golden brown and springs back when touched.

To make the glaze: In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the butter, brown sugar, syrup, cinnamon, and water.  Heat, whisking until the ingredients are dissolved.  Bring to a boil and boil for 1 minute.  Remove from the heat and cover to keep warm.

Transfer the mold to a wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes.  Turn the bread out onto a plate and let cool for 10 minutes.  Using a spoon, drizzle the warm glaze over the top and sides of the bread.  Let the glaze set for about 10 minutes.  Serve the bread warm. 



Sunday, May 2, 2010

Earl Grey Shortbread Cookies


Are you a Food Network fan?  I sure am. On weekdays I turn the news on in the morning when I'm getting ready for work, but on the weekends my tv is tuned to the Food Network.  My favorite Food Network chefs are the usual suspects...Giada, Paula Deen, Bobby Flay, and Ina Garten, but more recently I've begun to enjoy Claire Robinson's show, 5 Ingredient Fix.  All of her recipes are made with 5 ingredients or less...how simple is that!  A few weekends ago I watched her make earl grey shortbread cookies and found them so intriguing that I had to try them for myself.  They came out just as I had hoped- a hard but not too hard, buttery shortbread with a subtle hint of earl grey- very unique and unlike anything I've ever tasted. 


Earl Grey Shortbread Cookies
adapted from Claire Robinson

Ingredients

2 cups flour
2 Tbsp loose Earl Grey tea leaves
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 sticks butter, room temperature

Directions

In a food processor, pulse together the flour, tea, and salt until the tea is spotted throughout the flour.  Add the powdered sugar, vanilla, and butter.  Pulse together just until a dough is formed.  Place the dough on a sheet of plastic wrap and roll into a log about 2 1/2 inches in diameter.  Twist each end and chill in the refrigerator for 45 minutes.

While the dough is chilling, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Remove the logs from the refrigerator and slice into 1/3 inch thick disks.  Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, 2 inches apart.  Bake until the edges are just brown, about 15-17 minutes.  Let cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.