Friday, December 16, 2011

Cookies Day Six - The Grand Finale - Macarons with Dark Chocolate Ganache

I was very afraid of making these because I have never made them before. I have not even attempted to make meringues yet either, so I was not sure what I was in for. Thankfully enough it was not the total disaster I was expecting (there were a few casualties but not too many). Here is the basic recipe for the Macarons:

1 1/4 Cups Powdered Sugar
2/3 Cup Ground Almonds
3 Egg Whites (from three large to extra-large eggs)
Pinch of salt
3 TBSP Caster Sugar

In a mixing bowl combine the powdered sugar and ground almonds with a whisk until well distributed.
In a separate mixing bowl add the egg whites and salt and mix with an electric mixer with the whisk attachment. Beat until the egg whites start to form stiff peaks.
Continue beating the egg whites while adding the caster sugar 1/2 a teaspoon at a time until the sugar is well incorporated. By this point your egg whites should be completely white and forming firm stiff peaks. 
Continue beating and add your food coloring and any flavor you want (if desired)
Stop beating egg white mixture and start folding in the powdered sugar and ground almond mixture using a large scraper or metal spoon, adding the dry ingredients in 1 tablespoon at a time to ensure that they are well incorporated into the egg whites. The texture of the mixture should resemble that of molten lava.
Put your mixture in a piping bag with a tip that has a smooth round opening about 3/8 inch in diameter (I used the Round Tip 12 in my Wilton decorating set).
On a baking sheet lined with parchment, start piping the mixture into nice even rounds about 1 to 2 inches in diameter. Leave about 1 inch in between each round.
Once done piping make sure to strongly tap the bottom of the baking sheets to displace any trapped air bubbles.
Let the trays rest for at least 15 minutes to allow them to set. You will know when they are ready because they will not feel sticky or wet when you touch them. They will have developed a dry coat while still having a little give.
Preheat your oven to 320 degrees Fahrenheit. Place one baking tray in oven at a time ensuring that they are centered in the oven.
Bake for 10 minutes or until the tops are hard and shiny and the bottoms are dry. Repeat with any other ready to go baking sheets.
Remove from oven and leave to cool.
In the meantime start making your chocolate ganache.

Poor Man's Dark Chocolate Ganache

15 TBSP Good Quality Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
5 TBSP Vegetable Oil (preferably Extra Virgin Olive Oil)
3/4 Cup Heavy Cream
1 TBSP Light Brown Sugar

In a mixing bowl add the oil and slowly add in your cocoa powder to ensure that the powder is well incorporated and does not form any lumps. Once the mixture is well formed into a nice chocolate paste set it aside.
In a small sauce pan add the heavy cream and heat it up. Slowly incorporate the brown sugar and bring the cream to a boil.
Once the cream is boiling remove from heat and immediately start incorporating into the chocolate paste. Using a mixer on low speed start mixing the cream and the chocolate until you have a soft, smooth and creamy chocolate mixture.
Let the mixture cool a bit. Bring over your macaron halves and place as much ganache as desired on one half and sandwich it with the second half.

Enjoy :)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Cookies Day Five - Simple Chocolate Biscotti

I had mixed opinions about biscotti. The flavor combinations were always very enticing, but it was always the rock hard texture of these treats that made them a less desirable option. That was until I learned how to make them at home. I was able to get them to a texture that still had a crunchy exterior but would not break your teeth when you tried biting into them. I also learned that the simpler the recipe (less added ingredients) the better. Here is the recipe:

Simple Chocolate Biscotti

2 1/4 Cups Flour
2/3 Cup Cocoa Powder
1 1/2 Cups Sugar
1 tsp Baking Powder
3 Large Eggs
2 Egg Yolks
1 TBSP Vanilla Extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Mix the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. 
Mix the eggs, egg yolks and vanilla extract in a separate mixing bowl. 
Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients a little bit at a time to ensure that they are incorporated evenly. Once all the ingredients are well incorporated divide your dough in half. place each half on separate baking sheets and shape each into a log approximately 3 inches wide by 10 inches long and about 1/2 thick. This dough will be very dense but very easy to handle so it will not be too cumbersome for you to shape.
Place baking sheets in oven and bake for about 20 minutes.
Remove from oven and allow to cool for about five minutes.
Slice loaves into 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick pieces. 
Place the slices back on the baking sheets spreading them just slightly apart and place them back in the oven for another 5 minutes.
Remove form the oven cool and serve with a nice cup of tea or some creamy hot chocolate.
Enjoy :)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Cookies Day Four - Alfajores de Dulce de Leche :)

One of the many reasons I love my stepfather (other than he is the best stepdad anyone could ever have) is the fact that, were it not for him and the fact that he is Argentinian I might have never had Alfajores. My first experience with these tasty treats was when my parents arrived back from a trip to Argentina and my mother brought us a very generic/commercialized version of Alfajores. I admit that I absolutely loved them but only until I met their original counterparts. My husband and I had this distinct pleasure when we went to Argentina and had them at a local bakery. The bakery ones wiped the floor with the commercial version. There was no contest.

I never thought I would be able to find a recipe for alfajores that I could make at home, but the great Martha Stewart has proved me wrong. For her recipe complete with how to make your own dulce de leche follow this link.

If you like rich desserts or treats these cookies are definitely for you.

Cookies Day Three - Mini Linzer Tarts

I have always loved linzer tarts. To me they just speak of childhood. I have never been to a place where they were not available, so I guess in a way I find them comforting because they are familiar (and absolutely delicious). Here is the recipe:

1 Cup (2 sticks) salted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
31/2 Cups flour, plus more for work surface
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Cookie Cutters: 1) 2 1/2 Inch diameter and 1) 1 Inch  diameter

Powdered sugar, for dusting
Raspberry jam for the filling

Put the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl and combine until light and fluffy. Add the egg and mix until well incorporated. Add the vanilla extract and mix until well incorporated.
In a separate bowl combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Whisk until the dry ingredients are evenly distributed.
Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture slowly to ensure even integration and to prevent clumps.
Divide the dough in half and flatten each half  into a disk. Wrap the disks in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Take out one of the dough disks and roll out on a floured surface. Roll dough out to about 1/4 inch thick.
Cut out disks using the 2 1/2 inch diameter cookie cutter.
Cut out the center of half of the disks using the 1 inch diameter cookie cutter.
Place the disks onto cookie sheets and place in the oven.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until the edges of the cookies brown.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
Once cool separate the hollow disks from the whole ones and dust the hollow disks with powdered sugar.
Take the whole disks and put a generous amount of raspberry jam on each of them (how much is entirely up to you but try to make it so that it is not so much that it will become a mess when people bite into the cookies).
Place the powdered hollow disks on top of the whole ones with the jelly on top and bask in the wonderful glow of the perfect fruity, sweet treat.

Enjoy :)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Cookies Day Two Revisited - Short Bread Lemon Curd Sandwiches

Finally here it is the cookie I was intending to make yesterday. In this one the filling was the first thing I was thinking about and then I had to think about what kind of cookie would make a great compliment for it. I know that lemon is not exactly the king of filling one would generally think about during this time of year. I just thought that it would be excellent for bringing a little of that summer brightness and feeling that those of us who don't live in warm climate areas during this season, wish we could have. So here is the recipe for both the cookies and the lemon curd filling:

Shortbread Cookies
Yields about 6 Dozen

1 Cup (2 sticks) Salted Butter
1 Cup Powdered Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
2 1/4 C Flour

In a large bowl combine the butter and sugar with a mixer until the sugar is completely incorporated and the mixture looks light and fluffy. Add the vanilla extract and mix until well incorporated. Slowly add the flour in. Toward the end of mixing this dough you might need to stop your mixer (if it is a small handheld one. If you have a kitchen aid you don't need to worry about this) and knead the dough with the heel of your hand in order to ensure the flour is evenly incorporated throughout the dough. The dough will have a consistency almost like pie crust dough except a little heavier. Separate half the dough and roll into a cylinder about 1 1/2 to 2 inches in diameter. Roll the cylinder into a sheet of saran/plastic wrap. Repeat this step with the remaining half. Refrigerate the dough for at least an hour to allow the dough to firm.

While your dough is resting in the fridge you can set to the task of making your lemon curd. Here is the recipe adapted from the one I found in Macarons-Chick and Delicious French Treats by Annie Rigg:

Lemon Curd

3 Egg Yolks
1 TBSP Heavy Cream
1/3 Cup caster/superfine sugar
3 TBSP unsalted butter
Grated Zest and Juice from 1 Lemon

You can make the curd using either a double boiler or simply a heatproof bowl over a pot of slowly boiling water over medium low heat. Place your butter in the bowl and let it melt down. Slowly add in the sugar to ensure that it incorporates evenly into the butter and preventing it from creating lumps. Beat the egg yolks and heavy cream together and slowly add the mixture into the batter stirring frequently using a whisk (you want to temper your egg mixture in, otherwise you will wind up with a sweet scrambled egg mess).At this point you should have a nice thick sauce in your bowl. Add in the lemon zest and juiceand continue to stir frequently until the curd is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. In all the entire process should take you about 15 to 20 minutes. 

Now bake your cookies. Preheat oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Take out your dough cylinders and cut into 1/4 inch slices. Place on baking sheets about 1 inch apart. Place in oven and bake from 15-20 minutes or until the edges start to brown.   I would like to mention that if you have an oven that does not heat evenly it is best to place your baking sheets on the rack that is furthest from the heat source in order to ensure that the cookies are baked evenly since these are a bit thicker and heavier than most other cookies.

Once your cookies are baked and cooled start making your sandwiches with the lemon curd use as much The recipe for the curd will fill about 36 sandwiches if you use a little over 1/2 teaspoon for each. Ofcourse if you want to be more generous with this filling (and who could blame you) you should probably double the recipe for the curd so that you can fill cookies to your hearts content. 

I hope you enjoy these.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Cookies Day Two - A Happy Mistake Lace Cookies

 I think I must have been high (on what I do not know...probably just tired) when I copied the recipe for what were supposed to be short bread cookies. In any case, I miscalculated the amount of flour that was supposed to go into the dough. I had a nagging feeling that the consistency of it was still too lose when I was putting it in the saran wrap to make two rolls of dough, but I chucked it up to my crappy handheld mixer and cursed it yet again for not being able to give me the proper consistency. I let the dough rest in the fridge for the rest of the day while I went and tried to get some final Christmas gifts together. When I came back from this venture I set to the task of thinly slicing the rolls of dough, put the slices on the baking sheets and proceeded to put them in the preheated oven. About five minutes into baking I went to turn on the oven light so that I could check on the progress the cookies were making. As I did my heart sank. the dough was a thin flat bubbling mess. Or so I thought. I took out what I was getting ready to qualify as a baking disaster and set it aside to wait for the mess to cool off so that I could scrape it off. 

It was only after they cooled off and I picked the first one up that I realized that maybe this was not the great disaster I thought it could be. Although thin, the cookie remnant I picked up was firm and crispy and perfectly round, so I took a tentative bite and I thought I heard an angel choir belt out the most perfect of notes. 

Man I thought I was so screwed and here was this thin tasty cookie. I can't even begin to tell you how relieved I was that it didn't suck. It was not what I had intended to make at all but I am glad that it was not a complete loss. So here it is, the recipe of my disaster turned yummy goodness:

Nydia's Almost Disaster Lace Cookies
Yields about 4 dozen

1 Cup (2 Sticks of salted butter)
1 Cup Powdered Sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 Cup Flour

Mix the butter and the sugar (with a nice mixer that obeys the laws of low and  high speeds, not a crappy handheld one) until they are nice and fluffy. Add the vanilla extract and mix in until well incorporated. Add the flour in slowly to incorporate evenly into the batter. remove half the dough and scoop it in onto a sheet of saran wrap so that you can shape it into a nice even dough tube using the saran wrap to contain the dough like a sausage about 1to 1 1/2  inch in diameter. Repeat this step with the remaining half and place both cookie dough sausages into your fridge to cool and firm up for at least and hour. 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Take out the dough from the fridge and slice into 3/8 inch thick slices. Place the slices on your baking sheet about 2" apart. Place baking sheets in oven and be prepared to take them out after about 5-7 minutes later. Or if you prefer you can watch them until you see the disks of dough turn into thin bubbling sheets and their edges start to brown (or if you prefer let them brown completely). Take them out of the oven and let them cool before removing from the baking sheet. 

Now you can either eat these on their own or you can use them as awesome decorations on a bowl of ice cream.

I will still be posting the cookies I was intending to make today as I have rectified my flour quantities and am in the process of getting my dough ready for the oven. Stay tuned.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Six Days Of Cookies - Day One Gingerbread People with Lemon Drizzle


I am a bit late with my Holiday cookie making, but as it has been said before, better late than never. The first batch of cookies are these cute gingerbread people. I got the basic recipe for the cookies along with the lemon drizzle recipe from the Martha Stewart Site. However I am not sure it was a result of my crappy handheld mixer or the recipe itself, but I found that the dough came out too soft so I had to add some more flour to it to get it to the consistency I needed for the gingerbread peeps to be solid enough to transfer to the baking sheets. The lemon drizzle was perfect. I  decided that instead of drizzling it I would pipe it onto the cookies so that I could create the eyes mouth and center patterns. My daughter and husband have taste tested them extensively and their verdict is that these are good eats.

This was a great start for the bakeorama that will ensue in the coming days here in my home. Hope all of you are having as much fun with your holiday baking as I am so far.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Something to look forward to

With the holidays already well underway I have something to definitely look forward to. I ordered Macarons- Chic & Delicious French Treats by Annie Rigg as an early Christmas present to myself. Of course this means that those cookie gifts I am planning on putting together will definitely benefit from this addition to my culinary library (rest at ease family and friends). 

I love Macarons because they are beautiful to look at, but most importantly they can also be tiny little pieces of heaven come to cheer up your sweet taste buds. I am almost as giddy as a five year old on Christmas Eve waiting for this book to arrive. I guess this also means that I will be posting with the results of this venture into the unknown. I love a challenge.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Polpette in Park Slope - Now That's a Tasty Hero

 Yesterday was my husband's birthday, which meant that he was the master of the day and got to pick what it was that he wanted to do and eat. Since he had been craving a meatball hero for a while he asked if we could check out Polpette in Park Slope. This was a huge success because he has finally found what he has declared the perfect meatball hero. We started out with Vinny's Potato Salad, which was fantastic because unlike typical potato salads, this one was not overpowered by the awful acidity of vinegar. It was a smooth tasty medley of roasted red bliss potatoes sweet peppers and garlic aioli, with some other secret ingredients.

Vinny's Potato Salad

I ordered Josephine's Famous meatballs with mozzarella plated a la Strazzare, which means the meatballs were crushed inside a soft roll. It was tasty and filling and everything a great meatball sandwich should be.

 My husband ordered the Porco Due Eroe, which entailed pork meatballs topped with fennel sausage with tomato cream sauce in hero bread. It was all sorts of wonderful and he almost looked like Rachel Ray while he was eating it, right down to the orgasmic finale.

Polpette definitely delivered the quintessential meatball hero. We will be back for sure.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Wonton Potato Curry Pockets - AKA Curry Puffs without the puff

These little treats are jam packed with flavor. They were inspired by Thai restaurant curry puffs which I have been wanting to make for a long time. I was trying to put together a dinner because One of my husband's cousins was coming over. I made my Thai Style chicken with the coconut curry sauce, jasmin rice and some steamed broccoli, but I was feeling like we should have a pre-diner snack, so I concocted a recipe and tried to put it together with the least amount of hassle.

For the filling:

2 TBSP butter
2 Medium Shallots (sliced thin)
2 large cloves of garlic (minced)
1 Green onion (sliced thin)
2 large Yukon gold potatoes (Diced)
1 Large carrot (diced)
2 TBSP Mild Yellow Curry powder
1/2 Cup of water

For the pockets:

1 Pack of wonton wrappers


Melt the butter in a medium sauce pan on medium heat. Add the shallots, garlic and green onions until the shallots become translucent and  start to caramelize. Add the potatoes and carrot and cook for 5 minutes stirring frequently to prevent ingredients form burning. Add the water and curry making sure to add the curry powder slowly to prevent lumps. Cook until the water is reduced enough to make a thick gravy. 

Set the filling aside and get your wonton wrappers ready by slicing them diagonally to create triangles. Once this is done start getting your Pockets together. The pictures below show the step by step procedure on how to fold your wrappers and get them ready for frying/sauteing.

 place your wonton triangle on a flat surface

 Place about 1 teaspoon of filling 
at the center of your wonton triangle

 Make your first fold as shown above.

 Make your second fold as shown above.

 Make your third fold as shown above.

Finally tuck the last corner under to complete your triangle shaped pocket.

To cook these simply fry in a large pan with a thin layer of Safflower or canola oil until they are golden brown on both sides. Serve with either duck sauce or red chilly dipping sauce. Enjoy.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Apple Pie Cupcakes

Apologies for the very amateur looking pics but I had to take these in a hurry since I could not predict if the cupcakes would disappear like smoke after my little girl and husband got a hold of them. I got the recipe for the cupcakes from one of my new favorite blogs Bake, Robot!. I adapted only two things about the recipe. I made my own apple filling and I made up my own icing recipe. Here are the recipes for both:

Apple Filling

3 medium sized Gala Apples (cored and cut into 1/4" squares)
1 1/2 TBSP Butter
1 Small Stick of Cinammon
2 TBSP Sugar

In a small sauce pan melt the butter on medium heat and immediately add the apples and stick of cinnamon. Slowly incorporate the sugar so that it has a chance to incorporate evenly into the apples. Cook mixture for about 15 minutes stirring frequently to prevent burning. Stirring will also help to thicken up the filling. Take off the burner once the filling has reached your desired consistency. Set aside to insert into the center of your cupcakes once they are cooled off. I so wish i had one of those cute and helpful Williams Sonoma cupcake corer. Must pick one up soon.  

Cinnamon Butter Cream Icing

1 1/2 Sticks of Butter (in small cubes)
Powdered Sugar (about 2 cups or so depending on your taste)
1/4 Cup whipping cream 
1 TBSP Cinnamon (freshly ground preferred)

Place your butter in a medium bowl and using your mixer on a medium high setting soften the butter until it becomes creamy. Start adding powdered sugar a little bit at a time alternating with the whipping cream until you achieve the consistency and level of sweetness you desire. If you want it a little heavier add more powdered sugar. If you want it a little softer add a little more whipping cream. Finally add the cinnamon until it is evenly incorporated into the icing. Now put this bad boy on your apple filled cupcakes and give yourself some sweet loving. I promise these will love you back.