Monday, 16 January 2012

Aren't Thumbs the Best?

Here's a family favorite cookie (especially for the kids) and so easy to make! They also taste scrumptious. If you like mint chocolate, this is going to be a favorite of yours! 

Chocolate-Peppermint Thumbprints:


For the Cookie:

1 cup + 2-1/2 tbsp flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1-1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt

For filling:

4 oz (3/4 cup) chopped semi-sweet chocolate
3 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 3 pieces
1/4 tsp pure peppermint extract (Although, I added more. Just taste and drop, taste drop)

Make Cookies:

Sift the flour and cocoa together into a medium bowl. 
Mix cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. 
Add the vanilla and salt; continue beating until blended and smooth, about 1 minute more. 
Add the flour-cocoa mixture and mix on low speed until a soft dough forms, about 1 minute. 
Chill the dough in the refrigerator until firm enough to roll into balls, 40 to 60 minutes.

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. 

Using your palms, roll heaping teaspoonfuls of the dough into 1-inch balls. Arrange them 2 inches apart on the lined sheets. With a lightly floured thumb or index fingertip, press straight down into the middle of each ball almost to the cookie sheet to make a deep well. (Or use the end of a thick-handled wooden spoon.)
Bake one sheet at a time until the tops of the cookies look dry, 8 to 9 minutes. Gently redefine the indentations with the end of a wooden spoon. Let the cookies cool on the sheet for 5 minutes and then let them cool completely on racks.

Make Filling:

Put the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl set in a wide skillet of almost simmering water. Stir with a heatproof spatula until almost melted, 2 to 4 minutes. Remove the bowl from the heat and stir until melted and smooth, about 30 seconds more. 
Stir in the mint extract. Let the filling cool, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened and a bit warmer than room temperature, 30 to 40 minutes.

 Spoon the filling into a small pastry bag with a small plain tip. (Or use a small plastic bag and cut a tiny bit off a bottom corner of the bag.) Pipe the filling into the center of each cookie. Cool completely before serving or storing. The cookies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for 4 to 5 days.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Holiday Baking (Part 3)

The final part of my Holiday Baking trilogy!

Christmas Yule Log with Meringue Mushrooms!
Serves 20

The Meringue Mushrooms were made from this swiss meringue recipe:


4 egg whites
1 cup of sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tbsp of cocoa powder
3 oz melted semi-sweet chocolate
1 oz melted white chocolate (optional)

Fill saucepan with 2 inches of water; bring to a simmer. Place the egg whites and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer. Combine, using a hand-held wire whisk. Set bowl over saucepan of simmering water; continue to whisk.

Whisk constantly until all the sugar is dissolved and the mixture feels hot to the touch. Add Vanilla and transfer the bowl to mixer and whip, using the whisk attachment, on high speed until whites are glossy and stand in stiff peaks when the whisk is lifted, about 3 minutes. Then add the cocoa powder and fold in with a spatula.

Then just pipe the meringue into the mushroom stems and the mushroom tops. Like this: 

Bake for 2 hours on a preheated oven 225 degrees F.

Let the mushrooms cool and spread the melted chocolate on the bottoms of the tops. Use that to glue the stem and tops together. Chill the mushrooms so the chocolate hardens and you're done!

Red Velvet Cake:


 1 ½ cup all-purpose flour
6 tbsp cocoa powder
½ tsp baking soda
8 eggs
4 egg yolks
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
¼ cup canola oil
50 ml red food colorring
4 tsp white vinagre

Place rack in center of oven. Preheat oven to 350 ° F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper and butter.

In a bowl, combine flour, cocoa and baking soda. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk eggs and egg yolks and sugar with electric mixer until the mixture whitens and triples in volume or (10 to 15 minutes). While mixing at medium speed, add oil, red dye and vinegar.

Sift dry ingredients over egg mixture gently and incorporating. Spread on cookie cheets and spread evenly. Bake 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes. Invert cakes onto a parchment paper. Cover with a clean cloth and cool completely. 

To assemble the log, place the cakes on parchment paper next to one another and fill each with Caramel Cream (Recipe Below). Then roll the cakes as if its one long sheet. Then wrap the log in a clean dish towel and chill for at least 2 hours or overnight. 

Once the log has chilled, cut it diagonally to create branches.

Frost with Italian Meringue (Recipe also Below).

Add the Mushrooms and you have a fabulous Buche de Noel!

Caramel Cream:


1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup water
2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup creme fraiche or sour cream
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch of coarse salt

Prepare an ice-water bath. Heat sugar and water in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat until mixture boils and sugar dissolves, washing down sides of pan often with a wet pastry brush to prevent crystals from forming. Reduce heat to medium, and cook until sugar turns dark amber, 5 to 7 minutes more. Immediately remove from heat, and carefully whisk in 1 cup cream. Return to medium heat, and cook until sugar melts completely and mixture boils.

Remove from heat, and pour into a bowl set in ice-water bath. Let caramel cool, stirring often, for 10 minutes. Stir in creme fraiche (or sour cream), vanilla, and salt. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours or up to 5 days.

Just before using, beat remaining 1 cup cream until stiff peaks form. Gently fold into caramel sauce, using a rubber spatula, until incorporated. Whisk to thicken, about 1 minute.

Italian Meringue:


¼ cup water
1 ½ cup cugar
½ cup light corn syrup
6 egg whites

In a bowl, whisk the egg whites with electric mixer until soft peaks form.  Set aside.

In a saucepan, bring water, sugar and corn syrup to a boil. Boil until a candy thermometer reads 235 ° F Remove from heat.

Gradually add boiling syrup to egg whites, whisking. (The whites will swell and a little steam will emerge when you add the hot sugar). Continue to whisk for 10 to 15 minutes, until stiff peaks form.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Holiday Baking! (Part 2)

Better late than never, here are some baked goods that a made as a Christmas present.

Chocolate Drizzled Florentines (Recipe below):

These have a sugar cookie first layer that is baked first. 
I had to weigh down the dough so it doesn't shrink too much. I did this with beans but there are "baking beads" that you can buy that are reusable.

Then I filled the baked cookie dough with an almond candy filling that I cooked until golden brown.

Then I baked the whole pan until the candy hardened and the cookie has browned. 

Once the pan cools I popped the whole dough out and  scored it then cut through the cookie dough.
Then I cut through the candy layer in straight lines. I did this so the cookie wouldn't crack.

Now it just needs chocolate!!


Sugar Cookie Dough:


1-1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened 
1-1/2 tsp. finely chopped lemon zest 
3/4 cup granulated sugar 
1/2 tsp. table salt 
1 large egg 
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract 
1 lb. 5 oz. (4-2/3 cups) all-purpose flour 

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the softened butter, zest, sugar, salt, and vanilla extract and beat with the paddle until light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat it in well. In three additions, stir in the flour until blended. Spread the dough out, about an inch thick, on a sheet pan, cover with plastic wrap, and chill until firm. You can refrigerate the dough, wrapped well, for up to a week.

Almond Florentines:


1-3/4 cups granulated sugar
2 tbsp light corn syrup
3/4 cup water
14 tbsp unsalted butter
3/4 cup honey
1 cup heavy cream
2 tsp freshly grated orange zest
4 cups sliced almonds
6 oz semi-sweet chocolate

Lightly grease a half sheet pan (a sided pan that measures 11-1/2 x 16-1/2-inches). Line the pan with parchment.

Roll the chilled sugar cookie dough between two pieces of parchment into a rectangle until it's between 1/8 and 1/4 inch thick. Remove the top piece of parchment and flip the dough into the prepared half sheet pan so that it fits along the bottom and up the sides completely. If the dough cracks a bit, just press it back together. Press it into the sides of the pan; don't leave any gaps. Cut off any excess dough by running a rolling pin along the edges of the pan. Chill until firm.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line the dough with foil or parchment and weight it with dried beans or pie weights. Bake until the edges are golden, about 20 minutes. Remove the weights and the foil or parchment and continue to bake until completely set, about another 10 minutes. Let cool before filling.

In a large heavy-based saucepan, combine the sugar, corn syrup, and water and bring to a boil. Cook until the mixture becomes amber in color (approximately 350 degrees F to 360 degrees F on a candy thermometer). Immediately remove from the heat. Carefully add the butter and honey, return to the heat, and stir until dissolved. Bring the mixture back to a boil and carefully add the heavy cream and zest (the mixture will bubble up and may splatter). Boil the mixture until it reaches 250 degrees F on the candy thermometer. Remove from the heat and stir in the almonds (and candied citrus peel, if using). Quickly pour the mixture into the baked sugar cookie shell before the caramel cools. Spread the nut mixture evenly with a lightly greased spatula.

Bake until the topping begins to bubble, 18 to 20 minutes. Put the pan on a wire rack and let cool completely. Cut along the edge of the pan to loosen the edges. Turn the Florentines out, upside down, onto a clean cutting surface. Line two clean baking sheets with parchment.

With a serrated bread knife, score the ragged edges of the cookie crust, cutting through the crust but not the filling. With a large chef's knife, cut through the filling to trim off the ragged edges completely. Next, using the serrated knife, score 1-1/4-inch-wide horizontal bands top to bottom (again deeply, through the crust but not through the filling). To make the diamonds, score 1-1/4-inch strips starting at the top left corner and dividing that corner into two 45 degree angles. Continue scoring at this width and this angle until all the cookies are scored.

Follow the scoring lines with the chef's knife, using steady force to cut through the thick nut filling.

Turn each Florentine over and set on the clean sheet pans. Fill a pastry bag with a tiny tip (or a heavy plastic bag with a corner cut off, or a paper cone) with the melted chocolate (or use a fork dipped in the chocolate) and drizzle it on the diamonds. The cookies are best at room temperature but can be refrigerated if the kitchen is too warm for the chocolate to set.