Monday, December 13, 2010

Salted Caramel Thumbprint Cookies

What could be wrong when you have salted caramel?  Nothing.  It holds true for these cookies for sure.  You expect a mouthful of overwhelming sweetness when you bite into these, but the salty flavor sneaks in there and completes the flavor profile in an amazing way.  These are also super easy so you really have no excuse not to make these right away. 

Salted Caramel Thumbprint Cookies
**Recipe from A Cozy Kitchen


1 1/2 Sticks unsalted butter, softened
1/2 Cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 Cup all purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 Cup granulated sugar
2 1/2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/4 Cup heavy whipping cream

To make cookies:
Cream butter and sugar together until fluffy.  Mix in vanilla.  Separately sift together flour and salt.  With mixer on low speed, add flour mixture to the creamed butter and sugar.  Mix until dough comes together.  Place on a sheet of plastic wrap, flatten into a rectangle, wrap up in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes. 

Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees F when you take the dough out of the fridge.  Roll the dough into 1 1/4 inch balls and place them on an ungreased cookie sheet.  Lightly press your finger into each cookie to make an indent.  Bake for 10-15 minutes or until they are just golden.  Let them cool.

While cookies are cooling make your caramel: combine sugar with 2 tablespoons of water in a saucepan and do not stir.  Cook over medium-high heat, swirling as it begins to brown, until it has become a dark caramel.  While the sugar is caramelizing, heat your cream either in a saucepan or in the microwave, until just warm.  Take your caramel off of the heat and stir in your room temperature butter.  Whisk until completely combined.  Add warmed cream and whisk vigorously. 

Once the cookies are cooled spoon a teaspoon of warm caramel into the indentation on each cookie and top with sea salt.  These can be eaten warm and gooey or cold and set.  Either way they are perfection. 

Home Made Peppermint Patties

These were amazingly good, and that's a good thing because they were a serious pain in the butt to make (and clean-up was a ton of work).  Before I tasted them I vowed to never make them again.  Then Tim and his friends came upstairs to test them out.  They really liked them. I tried one and had to admit that they had a point.  I was still defending my position on never making them, but they chose to ignore me and keep eating.  Then, I took them to church the next day, and everyone loved them-even a friend who does not especially like the chocolate-mint combo.  So now I think I will have to make them again.  Probably only once a year, but that will be enough to appease Tim and everyone else who got to taste the glory of these little bundles of goodness.  I think it is something you should try once.  Have an extra set of hands around for the chocolate dipping phase-this gets really messy, and you have to move quick. 

Peppermint Patties

*Recipe from Savory Sweet Life

1 Can of sweetened condensed milk
5 1/2 Cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 Tablespoon peppermint extract
3 Cups semisweet chocolate chips
3 Tablespoons shortening

Combine sweetened condensed milk, peppermint extract, and 2 cups of powdered sugar in a mixing bowl, and mix on medium speed until well blended. 
Add more sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, until dough is firm, and can be handled somewhat easily.
Using slightly wet hands (this helps keep the patties from sticking to you) roll the dough into 3/4 inch balls and place on parchment paper.  Slightly flatten each ball.  Put patties in the freezer for 30 minutes.
Toward the end of the freezing time get to work on your chocolate.  Put the chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl and microwave in 30 second increments.  Stir after each heating, and stop once chocolate can be stirred smooth.  Stir shortening into chocolate. 
Dip each patty into the chocolate to completely coat it.  You will have to see what method works well for you.  You can do this by placing the patty on a fork and dipping it, or by simply using your hands to dip and coat each patty.  I found that the fork got caked with chocolate and peppermint so the extra chocolate could not drip off, and abandoned the fork pretty quickly.  You have to work pretty fast, and return the patties to the freezer if they start to get too soft and sticky.  This is why it is good to have an extra person around for this step.  Place coated patties on parchment and allow them to set until they are dry to the touch.  These are also delicious straight out of the freezer.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Yeasted Thanksgiving Cornbread with Cranberries

Mmmmmh  this was good.  Maybe more of a dessert than a mealtime bread, but I happily ate it next to my turkey and mashed potatoes.  The cranberry center is moist and refreshing next to all that heavy food, and I wouldn't mind seeing this at more family dinners.  You can also bake up a loaf of the basic dough to have a plain "cornbread" that we all thought tasted more like sourdough, but was delicious anyways.  The base dough recipe is supposed to make three loaves but I used all of it to make two: one plain, and one with cranberries.  I think that is the way to go, and I plan to do this again soon.

**both recipes are taken from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a day**

Broa (Portuguese Corn Bread)
3 Cups Lukewarm water
1 1/2 Tablespoons Granulated Yeast
1/1/2 Tablespoons Kosher Salt
1 1/2 Cups Corn Meal
5 Cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

Mix the yeast and salt with the water in a 5-quart bowl (preferably the bowl to your stand mixer if you have a dough hook).  If not, and 5-quart container will do.

Mix in the remaining dry ingredients without kneading, using a spoon, a 14-cup capacity food processor with a dough blade, or a heavy-duty stand mixer fitted with the dough hook.  If you're not using a machine, you may need to use wet hands to incorporate the last bit of flour.

Cover (not air-tight), and allow to rest at room temperature until the dough rises and collapses, about 2 hours. 

The dough can be used immediately after the rise, or it can be refrigerated and used within 10 days.  The dough is MUCH easier to work with after it has been refrigerated. 

When you are ready to bake your bread:
Dust the surface of the dough with flour and cut of a 1-lb (grapefruit sized) piece.  Dust the piece with more flour and quickly shape it into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating a quarter turn as you go.  Flatten and allow to rise on a cornmeal covered pizza peel for 40 minutes.

Twenty minutes before baking time, pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees F with a baking stone on the center rack, place an empty broiler tray on any other shelf that won't interfere with the rising bread. 

Just before baking sprinkle the loaf liberally with cornmeal and slash a tic-tac-toe pattern in the top with a serrated knife.

Slide the dough onto the baking stone.  Pour one cup of hot water into the broiler tray and quickly shut the door.  Bake for about 30 minutes, until deeply browned and firm.

Allow to cool before slicing or eating.  (You better hope Tim is not around if you want to follow that step).

Yeasted Thanksgiving Corn Bread With Cranberries

1 1/2 lbs broa dough (approximately one cantaloupe sized piece)
1/2 cup fresh cranberries or 1/3 cup dried
4 tablespoons Sugar
Zest of half of an orange
3 Tablespoons softened butter
12-inch cast iron pan

Dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and cut off a 1 1/2 lb piece.  Dust the piece with more flour and quickly shape it into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating a quarter turn as you go.

Flatten the ball with your hands to a thickness of 1/2 inch.  Sprinkle the dough with cranberries, sugar, and orange zest.  Roll up the dough-jelly roll style-to incorporate the filling.  Shape into a ball again and flatten until it is about the size of your pan. 

Grease a cast iron pan with butter, being sure to coat the sides of the pan as well, Place the dough into the pan.  Allow the dough to rest for 1 hour and 20 minutes (just 40 minutes if you are using fresh, unrefrigerated dough), 

Twenty minutes before baking time, pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees F and place a broiler tray on any other shelf that won't interfere with the bread rising. 

Just before baking, heat the cast iron pan on the stove over medium heat for about 2 minutes-just enough to start caramelizing the bottom crust. 

Place the pan on a rack near the center of the oven.  Pour one cup of hot water into the broiler tray and quickly shut the door.  Check the bread for browning after about 20 minutes.  The baking time will depend upon the pan being used, but will probably be about 30 minutes.  The loaf should be a rich yellow-brown when done. 

Carefully turn the hot loaf out onto a plate or cut wedges directly out of the pan. 

Honey-Preserved Clementines

I am pretty excited about this.  Clementines are one of those things that pop around once a year and disappear just as you are getting into the habit of enjoying them every day (at least once a day).  They are delicious little, seedless, easy-to-peel beauties.  They are bright. and festive, and easy to stick in a bowl as an edible centerpiece when you have friends or family over.  This recipe gives the ability to preserve the delicious flavor of winter for a few extra months.  I haven't been able to taste the results as I just made these last night and they have to sit in the fridge for about a week before you can eat them.  They smell wonderful though, and this method supposedly transforms the structure of the clementine, making the rind ultra tender so that you can eat the entire thing.  I cannot wait to pop this jar open next week.

Honey-Preserved Clementines
*recipe from Fine Cooking Dec '09/Jan '10
1 Cup Honey
1 Cup Granulated Sugar
5 Whole Cloves
2 Green Cardamom Pods
1 Cinnamon Stick
5-7 Firm Clementines cut horizontally into 3/4-inch slices
1 Quart sized canning jar with a lid

Thoroughly wash your clementines.
In a 4-qt saucepan, bring 1 cup water, honey, sugar, cloves, cardamom, and cinnamon stick to a boil over high heat.  
Gently slip the clementines into the liquid without stirring.  If any slices are mostly rind, place them rind side-down.  Return liquid to a full boil and then reduce heat to low.  Cover, and simmer for 10 minutes.  Remove the pan from heat, cover, and set aside for 8-12 hours.
Spoon and gently pack the slices into your quart jar.  Bring the syrup to a boil over medium-high heat, boil 3 minutes to concentrate the flavors.  Pour syrup over the slices to cover and discard any extra,  Cool to room temperature.  Cover and refrigerate for 1 week before eating.  These will store in your refrigerator for up to 3 months.

Serving Suggestions:
Stir into yogurt
add to frosting for a cake
use as a topping for ice cream
stuff into cored apples before baking
add to beef stew
add to lamb tagine
use in a stuffing for roast turkey, chicken, or duck