Thursday, August 30, 2012

Nutella-Stuffed Chocolate Chip Lava Cookies

Nutella-Stuffed Chocolate Chip Lava Cookies - made August 25, 2012 , recipe adapted from Alli-n-Son blog

Can you say yummy goodness?  Because I can with this lava cookie experiment.  I have to credit my sister with this, or rather the onset of her visit.  If you recall, my sister's favorite dessert is molten chocolate cake or lava cake.  I've tried various recipes in the past and usually am thwarted in finding the recipe for lava cake goodness that I aspire to.  My sister was coming up to visit one of her daughters (my niece who now goes to college in the area) and wanted "something chocolate".  Rather than making another attempt at a lava cake, I decided to try and make a lava cookie instead.  I'd been wanting to try this brown butter chocolate chip cookie from Alli-n-Son's blog so it seemed like a good time to try out both.

First of all, I love just about anything with browned butter.  The fragrant smell alone could bring me to my knees to worship at its hedonistic altar.  And the super deliciousness of its taste?  Uber goodness.  Second, instead of chocolate chips, I sacrificed chopped up one of the blocks of milk chocolate I had brought back from Switzerland last month, thereby almost guaranteeing this was going to turn out well.  You can't go wrong with Swiss chocolate - it's one of the universal truths of the Baking Gods.  After I made this cookie dough, it smelled so good I almost ate the dough.  And I never eat cookie dough, much preferring the baked version.  So for me to consider snitching cookie dough because it smelled and looked so good is almost unheard of.  If you're a cookie dough lover, make a pact with yourself that you will reserve some dough to actually bake.  Otherwise, you're going to miss out on a really good lava cookie.

I used nutella as the lava portion for the middle of the cookie but if nutella isn't your thing, you can also use caramel, biscoff spread or even melt some chocolate chips and add a little butter to keep it liquid for a pure chocolate center.  The nutella worked stupendously well in this cookie (I'm bringing out all the superlatives for this recipe because it was just that good).  You can serve this with ice cream but I found it doesn't need it because it's a good standalone dessert even without ice cream.  I may try a different version with a white chocolate chip cookie and biscoff spread next time.  As soon as I've run enough miles to work off this original version.

Oh, and I also baked a non-lava version of this cookie and that was pretty good too.  It had the thickness and chewy texture I love in my chocolate chip cookies.  BTW, for anyone with a sharp eye, you'll notice this recipe is almost exactly like the Alton Brown one, with the exception of 1/4 more bread flour and 1/2 teaspoon less salt.

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon slices
2 1/2 cups bread flour
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt (I used fleur de sel but you can also use regular salt)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 tablespoons milk
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups milk chocolate chunks
  1. In a small pot melt the butter over medium heat, whisking occasionally. Once melted, the butter will foam up, then subside. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until light brown specks form at the bottom of the pot and the butter has a nutty aroma.  Careful not to let it burn. Remove from heat and pour into a glass bowl. Set aside to cool. 
  2. In a small bowl, sift together the bread flour, salt and baking soda. Set aside. 
  3. In a small bowl whisk together the milk, egg, egg yolk and vanilla extract. Set aside. 
  4. Using an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, on medium speed cream together the cooled browned butter and sugars for 2 minutes. 
  5. On low speed, add in the egg mixture, mixing until well combined, about 30 seconds. 
  6. Slowly stir in the flour mixture, mixing until well combined, scraping down the sides as needed. 
  7. Stir in the chocolate chunks.  Form into dough balls, dropping a spoonful of nutella in the middle and wrapping the dough around to cover the filling completely.  Alternatively you can drop a spoonful of dough in a ramekin, drop a dollop of nutella over it then cover with another spoonful of dough, filling the ramekin 2/3 full.
  8. Chill the dough balls (or ramekins) in the fridge overnight or up to 48 hours. 
  9. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. 
  10. Line two cookie sheets parchment paper. 
  11. Place dough balls about 2 inches apart on each pan. Flatten balls slightly.  If using ramekins, place on unlined baking sheet.
  12. Bake for 10-12 minutes, rotating the pans half way through for evening browning. 
  13. Cool slightly before moving to a wire rack to cool completely.  Serve warm.
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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Caramel Cream Cheese Swirl Brownies

Caramel Cream Cheese Swirl Brownies - made August 24, 2012, recipe adapted from The Brownie Experience by Lisa Tanner

This is another brownie I made for my fellow Relay for Life walkers.  This is from the oldest brownie book in my collection, going on 24 years or more.  I decided to dress it up a bit and in addition to the cream cheese swirl, I marbled in salted caramel on top of the cream cheese mixture.  This didn't have the dark chocolate flavor you'd get from using unsweetened chocolate or cocoa so it's more of a semisweet brownie sweetened further with the cream cheese and caramel.  It was moist, both due to underbaking (must always underbake brownies) and the caramel.  I always forget though that the Trader Joe's salted caramel has a tendency to incorporate itself into the brownie batter so rather than distinct ribbons of caramel running through the cream cheese and fudge brownie, it bakes into the brownie itself so it's somewhat indistinct.  Still good though but rich so you might want to cut these into small pieces.

3 tablespoons butter
4 ounces semisweet chocolate or 2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 3-ounce package cream cheese, softened
¼ cup sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon flour
2 eggs
¾ cup sugar
½ cup flour
½ teaspoon baking powder 
½ teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/3 cup caramel, optional

1.     Preheat oven to 350˚F.  Butter an 8” square pan.
2.     Melt together 3 tablespoons butter and chocolate over low heat; set aside to cool.  Using electric mixer, cream 2 tablespoons soft butter with cream cheese until fluffy.  Beat in ¼ cup sugar, 1 egg, 1 tablespoon flour and 1 teaspoon vanilla.  In a separate bowl, with wire whisk, beat 2 eggs until foamy.  Add ¾ cup sugar, beating until well-blended.  Stir in ½ cup flour, baking powder and salt until combined.  Blend in melted chocolate mixture and vanilla.  Spread ½ of chocolate batter evenly in pan.  Spread cream cheese mixture over top. Drizzle caramel over cream cheese, if using.  Drop spoonfuls of remaining chocolate batter on top of cheese layer, swirling top layers gently with a knife to marbleize.
3.     Bake about 45 minutes, or until top is golden and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
4.     Cool completely in pan before cutting into bars.  Store in refrigerator.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Oatmeal Toffee Bars

Oatmeal Toffee Bars - made August 24, 2012, recipe adapted from 125 Cookies to Bake, Nibble and Savor by Elinor Klivans

This past Saturday, I participated in the Relay for Life, a 24-hour relay walk to raise funds for the American Cancer Society, in honor of Zoe, my friend's daughter who passed away 5 days after her 16th birthday earlier this summer.  I'm happy to announce that Team Zoe made Jade status and was the first team in the local Relay's history to raise over $10,000.  One third of the funds were raised by Teo, Zoe's 9-year-old brother who I blogged about earlier.  Many thanks to all of you who supported Teo and his fundraising efforts.

For relay day, I did a bit of baking (of course) to share with my fellow walkers, including this recipe for Oatmeal Toffee Bars.  I was actually going to make oatmeal cookies but was short on time as my sister was visiting and my niece was coming over so I went with these bar cookies instead.  They couldn't be easier to make and turned out pretty well.  They were a cross between a blondie and a chocolate chip oatmeal cookie.  I didn't get the crunch of the pecans and toffee as much as I expected but overall, they were a nice, chewy bar.  I could pretend they were for carbo-loading because of the oatmeal, but factor in the butter, sugar, chocolate chips and toffee and well - let's not kid ourselves.  Good thing I did all that relay walking.

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons (1 ½ sticks) soft unsalted butter
½ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ½ cups oatmeal (not quick-cooking)
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
2 cups (about 10 ounces) coarsely crushed toffee candy, such as Heath Bars or Skor
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips

1.     Position a rack in the middle of the oven.  Preheat oven to 325°F.    Line a 9 x 13” baking pan with foil and lightly spray with nonstick cooking spray.
2.     Stir the flour, baking soda and salt together in a small bowl.  Set aside.
3.     Put the butter, sugar, and brown sugar in the large bowl of an electric mixer and beat on low speed for about 30 seconds until smooth.  Stir in the egg and vanilla and mix until thoroughly blended.  Stir in the oatmeal.  Mix in the flour mixture just until it is incorporated.  Stir in the pecans and crushed toffee.  Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan.
4.     Bake until the toothpick inserted in the center comes out sticky but not dripped with batter and the edges are light brown, about 25 minutes.  Cool thoroughly in the baking pan on a wire rack.

Chef In Training   

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Intense Chocolate Brownies

Intense Chocolate Brownies - made August 18, 2012, recipe adapted from Flour by Joanne Chang

The "Frosted" Chocolate Brownies I made before this didn't make enough for what I needed them for so I also nutella crunch-ized this brownie recipe from Joanne Chang's Flour baking book.  I did make a couple of minor adjustments to the amounts of chocolate as her original recipe called for 5 1/2 ounces of unsweetened chocolate and 2 1/2 ounces of bittersweet chocolate.  I didn't want to trouble with measuring out half ounces of unsweetened chocolate so I decreased the amount to an even 5 ounces.  I also had a bar of Lindt bittersweet chocolate that was 3 1/2 ounces so I added the whole bar instead of breaking off a 1/2 ounce piece to eat.  It would probably be the world's biggest irony if I said I didn't need the calories from nibbling on the base ingredients but it's actually true.  I don't even lick the bowl or the mixing spoon (I can hear the thud of many bakers fainting at this quirk).  But if I'm going to eat empty calories, I'd prefer the finished product.

This was a good brownie but I have to give the slight edge to Elinor Klivans' recipe for the Frosted Chocolate Brownies as being the tiniest bit better.  The difficulty with making a 9 x 13 pan of brownies is you have to bake it longer for the middle to get to just the right point.  So the edges may be "done" which, while not dry, is still not as fudgy as I would prefer.  You can solve that problem with this brownie by making a half recipe in a 8" pan.  But I still think I like the texture from the Frosted Chocolate Brownies better as it was a bit more fudgy.

5 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
3 ½ ounces bittersweet chocolate (62 to 70% cacao), chopped
¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 ¾ sticks) unsalted butter, melted
5 eggs
2 cups (400 grams) sugar
1 ¼ cups (175 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt

1.     Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 325F.  Line a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with foil and spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray.
2.     Place the unsweetened chocolate and bittersweet chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl.  Place over (not touching) barely simmering water in a saucepan and heat, stirring occasionally, until completely melted and smooth.  Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter until well mixed.  Let cool slightly.
3.     Place the eggs in a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment.  On low speed, slowly beat in the sugar for about 1 minute total, or until frothy and somewhat thick.  Using a rubber spatula, fold in the chocolate mixture.
4.     In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Using the spatula, gently fold the flour mixture into the egg-chocolate mixture until thoroughly combined.  Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and spread in an even layer with the spatula (the batter will be thick).
5.     Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until a knife slipped into the center of the pan comes out with a few wet crumbs on it.  Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for at least 2 hours, or until completely cool.  Cut into 16 bars.
6.     The brownies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.  Or they can be well wrapped in plastic wrap and frozen for up to 2 weeks, thaw at room temperature for 3 to 4 hours.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Minneapolis, Minnesota - Day 2 dinner

Just by looking at the pictures, you might wonder if all I did in Minneapolis was eat.  It probably seems like it.  I did attend the all-day meeting that was the entire purpose of the trip.  And I did workout two more times after the first night.  You just won't catch me posting pictures of me in all my sweaty (non)glory in the gym.  So here's the food instead.  For the second night's dinner, we went to an Italian restaurant called La Bar Grassa.  We shared entrees family style and of course, dessert.  Another wonderful meal with great company.  We all had a good time.  Enjoy the meal with your eyes - at least it's calorie-free that way.

Gnocchi in Orange Sauce got rave reviews from the team
Pressed Chicken - juicy and perfectly seasoned
Blanket Noodles in a Veal Ragu sauce
Spaghetti Carbonara
Soft Eggs with Lobster - my favorite of the appetizers
Chocolate Ice Cream Sandwich Cookies with Creme Anglaise
Crespelle with butterscotch filling
Apricot Torte

Minneapolis, Minnesota - Day 1 dinner

Earlier this week I went on a business trip to Minneapolis.  I was only there for 3 days and 2 nights and as soon as I landed on the first afternoon and checked into the hotel, I went straight to the gym to run on the treadmill.  We were meeting our events management firm for dinner that night  and they are fantastic at hosting clients so I figured it would be good eats.  Which meant I had to get a workout in before then in anticipation of those calories I knew I would gladly consume.  Which was good because yes, we ate and yes, it was good food.  We went to a place called Seven Sushi and Steak Ultralounge & Skybar, had appetizers on their rooftop level (it was beautiful weather) and dinner on the mezzanine.  Pictures say thousands of words so I will just showcase some of what we ate.  I took a picture of my entree and all the desserts we ordered to share.  It seemed a bit rude to go around taking pictures of everyone else's entree (I do try to have some manners) but my colleagues were kind enough to humor me taking pictures of the desserts before they dug in.  Although you will notice the spoon mark in the Chocolate Dome below where someone started to sample before I could snap the picture.  After that they were good sports about letting me get the shot in.  For people who don't understand why other people take pictures of food, yes, I'm that annoying person.
My entree: tenderloin filet with lump crab in a honey butter sauce - yum
Molten Chocolate Cake
Chocolate Mousse Cake
Warm Blueberry Bread Pudding
Chocolate Dome
Strawberry Chantilly

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Lemon Loaf

Lemon Loaf - made August 18, 2012 from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito

I'm still going through lemons from my mom's lemon tree and it's still the height of summer so a lemon loaf cake seemed like a good idea to fit with the season and use up nature's bounty.  I like the recipes I've tried so far from both of the Baked books I have and this was no exception.  It makes a nice lemon pound cake with extra lemon flavor coming from both the soaking syrup and the lemon glaze.  I only made a half recipe though and divided it amongst 4 mini loaf pans.  I think it would've been better if I only used 3 mini loaf pans so the loaves wouldn't have been quite so flat.  I think of this as a tea cake as it seems like it would be good to serve at an afternoon tea.  Not that I drink tea but I imagine this would be appropriate to serve at one.  It's not too sweet and you can slice it thin if you wish or chunky (even better) if you prefer.

1 ½ cups cake flour
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 ¼ cups sugar
8 large eggs, at room temperature
¼ cup grated lemon zest (from about 4 lemons)
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
½ cup sour cream, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
For the Lemon Syrup:
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup sugar
For the Lemon Glaze:
2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
4 to 6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease bottom and sides of two 9 x 5-inch loaf pans; dust with flour, tapping out excess.
  2. In a medium bowl, sift together both flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, on low speed combine sugar, eggs, lemon zest, and lemon juice. With the mixer still running, drizzle the butter into the bowl. Add the sour cream and vanilla and mix to combine. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Remove bowl from mixer.
  4. Sprinkle in the flour mixture over the batter, one third at a time, folding gently after each addition until just combined. Do not overmix.
  5. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. Bake in the center of the oven for 20 minutes, rotate the pans, reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees F and bake for another 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean. Let cool in the pans for 15 minutes.
  6. While the loaf is cooling, make the lemon syrup in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir together the lemon juice and sugar until the sugar is completely dissolved. Once dissolved, continue to cook for 3 more minutes. Remove from the heat; set aside.
  7. Remove loaves to a wire rack on top of a baking sheet. Use a toothpick to poke holes in the tops and sides of the loaves. Brush the tops and sides of the loaves with the lemon syrup. Let the syrup soak into the cake and brush again. Let the cakes cool completely.
  8. To make the lemon glaze, in a small bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar and 4 tablespoons of the lemon juice. The mixture should be thick but pourable. Add up to another tablespoon of lemon juice if the mixture is too stiff. Pour the lemon glaze over the top of each loaf and let it drip down the sides. Let the lemon glaze harden, about 15 minutes, before serving.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cake

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cake - made August 18, 2012 from Bake or Break blog

My nieces are heading back to college and you know what that means - it's care package time again!  I've actually been delaying sending out another care package because it's pretty hot here and where they are and that means I have to factor in the risk of baked goods melting en route and not being up to snuff to being eaten.  This recipe, which I found on another foodie blog and pinned, fit my requirements of something that would survive summer temps.  The only chocolate was from the chips and I figured it wouldn't be the end of the world if they softened a bit before they reached their final destination.

For peanut butter lovers, this is a good cake.  It's got a perfect cakey texture, the peanut butter flavor is good without being overpowering and the chocolate chips provide a complementary taste to the peanut butter flavor.  If you like a bit more crunch in your cake, add toasted chopped peanuts to the streusel but keep the creamy peanut butter instead of using the chunky version unless you also like nuts in your cake (I don't).

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups light brown sugar
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 eggs
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Line a 9″x 13″ baking pan with foil and coat lightly with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. Using an electric mixer, combine flour, brown sugar, peanut butter, and butter. Remove 1 cup of mixture and set aside.
  3. Mix in baking powder and baking soda. Mix in milk and vanilla. Add eggs, 1 at a time, mixing well after each addition.
  4. Transfer batter to prepared pan. Sprinkle top with reserved flour mixture and chocolate chips. Bake 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

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Monday, August 20, 2012

"Frosted" Chocolate Brownies

Frosted Chocolate Brownies - made August 18, 2012 from Cookies, Brownies and Bars by Elinor Klivans

I feel like I haven't tried out new brownie recipes in awhile but that's about to change with a vengeance.  I needed some to take on a business trip to Minneapolis, some for care packages and some for friends I'm walking with in the Relay for Life walk for Team Zoe.  Brownies are the easiest things to make ahead of time, freeze and bring whenever I needed them so my focus goes back to my baking roots, as it were.

This brownie called for Chocolate Frosting in the original recipe but when I was typing it up, I forgot to also type up the frosting recipe and I didn't want to go hunting for the original book on my (embarrassingly overflowing) bookshelves.  So I went with my favorite topping for plain brownies: nutella crunch.  This brownie recipe is from Elinor Klivans and after her A Really Good Brownie recipe, I'm starting to think she, along with Lisa Yockelson, really knows her brownies.  This recipe makes another excellent brownie with the perfect fudgy texture and taste.  Even without the nutella crunch topping, this brownie could stand alone on its own merits. As always, the top 2 cardinal rules with brownies: use the good chocolate and don't overbake.

¾ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
5 ounces unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped (I used Scharffenberger)
1 cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
2 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Chocolate Frosting of your choice or Nutella Crunch topping below

Nutella Crunch Topping
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
2/3 cup Nutella
1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 cup crispy rice cereal

1.     Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 325˚F. Line a 9 x 9 x 2” baking pan with foil and spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray.
2.     In a double boiler insert or a large metal bowl that fits on the rim of a saucepan, combine the butter and the chocolate.  Place the insert or bowl on the saucepan over, but not touching, barely simmering water.  Heat, stirring often, until the chocolate is melted and smooth, 3-4 minutes.  Gently lift the bowl out of the pan and set aside to cool slightly.
3.     In a small bowl, sift together the flour and salt; set aside.  In a large bowl, combine the eggs and sugar and whisk to blend, about 45 seconds.  Add the slightly cooled chocolate mixture and the vanilla and whisk until the mixture is evenly colored.  Whisk in the flour mixture just until incorporated.
4.     Pour the batter into the prepared pan.  Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs attached, 30-35 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack and let cool until the top is room temperature, about 1 hour.
5.     Holding the ends of the foil, lift the cooled brownie onto a cutting surface.  Using an offset spatula, spread the frosting evenly over the top of the brownie.  Use a warmed knife to cut the brownie into 25 squares.  Store the brownies in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days,

If making the Nutella crunch topping, melt chocolate chips, nutella and butter over top half of double boiler over hot water, stirring until smooth.  Add crispy rice cereal and coat evenly with chocolate nutella mixture.  Spread in an even layer over brownies and let cool completely. 

  Chef In Training

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Relay for Life

Last month, I posted the sad news that my friend Maria's daughter, Zoe, passed away 5 days after her 16th birthday from Ewing's Sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer.  Next Saturday, August 25, I and many friends and family of Zoe's will be participating in Relay for Life for the American Cancer Society on Team Zoe.  Each participant pledges to raise a certain amount and all the money raises goes to the American Cancer Society to help fund research to eradicate cancer once and for all.

Zoe's 9-year-old brother, Teo, is also going to walk in the Relay for his courageous sister.  Teo started his fundraising yesterday morning with a goal of $100 and by the time I first saw the posting on facebook, two hours had passed and he had already reached his goal.  I donated anyway because I wanted to support Teo's efforts and help him become one of the top fundraisers for the Relay.  I spread the word through my facebook page and also posted a thread on an online fitness board I've been going to for years.  I hate asking people for money, even for a good cause, but this one was special and I wanted to help Teo all I could.  I was very touched by all the responses from online friends, most of whom I had never met.  But that didn't stop them from showing their support for a 9-year-old boy they had never met either but who touched them for what he was doing for the sister he loved and misses so much.  Thanks to Laura, Nancy, Harper, Debbie, Shannon, Julie and many other friends and family, as of today, Teo was the #4 individual fundraiser of the Relay and Team Zoe was #1.

Check out Teo's fundraising page and feel free to support with a tax-deductible donation if you're inclined and/or your thoughts and prayers for Teo and Zoe's family as they channel their grief and missing Zoe into something positive that could someday prevent other families from going through what they did.  As Teo says, "I don't want anyone else to experience cancer!"  This is a very special 9-year-old indeed.

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Biscuits

Cream Cheese Biscuits - made August 13, 2012, recipe adapted from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook

The original recipe was titled "Cream Cheese and Chive Biscuits" but I didn't have chives. Since I don't cook, there's no reason for chives to be in my possession.  I do, however, have cinnamon so I added a teaspoon of that to the dough to see how that would go with the cream cheese. This made for a very sticky dough and I'm always paranoid about adding too much flour when I roll it out in case the biscuits turn out dry so I lived with the difficulty of working with a sticky dough rather than risk over-flouring it.  I like the concept of how to make this because the turning and rolling was reminiscent of a laminated dough (think Danishes and croissants) so I was hoping for something flaky.  Added bonus that it uses buttermilk.

This turned out pretty well, maybe because it's hard to go wrong with eating warm biscuit(s) with butter melting over it them.  The cinnamon wasn't as pronounced as I would've thought so it might be better to go with more than 1 teaspoon. They weren't flaky in the sense that croissants are flaky but they weren't too dense either.  The outside was crunchy and the inside was "mealy" if that's a good word for it.  Despite the cream cheese in the dough, I didn't get much of a tang from the cream cheese which for me was good since I don't actually like a strong cream cheese flavor.  It would probably be more interesting with chives, should I ever actually buy chives for any reason.

2 ½ cups all purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 ¼ teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 stick unsalted butter, cold, cut into pieces
4 ounces cream cheese, cold, cut into pieces
1 ¼ cups buttermilk
  1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Set aside.  In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, sugar and cinnamon.  Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut in the butter and cream cheese until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs with a few larger clumps remaining.
  2. Pour in the buttermilk; using a fork, mix in the buttermilk until incorporated and the dough just comes together.  The dough will be slightly sticky; do not overmix.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface.  With floured fingertips, gently knead about four times, until all the crumbs are incorporated and the dough is smooth.  With a lightly floured rolling pin, gently roll out the dough to an 11 by 8-inch rectangle, about 1 inch thick.  Using a bench scraper or long offset spatula to lift the ends of the dough, fold the rectangle into thirds (like a business letter).  Give the dough a quarter turn.  Roll out the dough again to the same dimensions and repeat the folding process.  Wrap with plastic, and refrigerate for 30 minutes. 
  4. Return the dough to the work surface.  Roll out as before, and repeat the folding process. Give the dough another quarter turn, roll out the dough one more time, again in a rectangle about 1 inch thick.  Using a sharp knife, trim and discard ¼ inch from all sides; divide the rectangle into 12 equal squares or rectangles.  Place on the prepared baking sheet about 1 ½ inches apart.  Refrigerate for 1 hour.
  5. Preheat oven to 425°F.  Bake, rotating the sheet halfway through, until the biscuits are golden and flecked with brown spots, 15 to 18 minutes.  Transfer the biscuits to a wire rack to cool.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Orange Sandwich Cookies

Orange Sandwich Cookies - made August 12, 2012 from Shugary Sweets' blog

I blogged earlier about how much I enjoy oranges and orange-flavored confections, puzzling as to why I don't bake things like orange cookies more often.  Still can't tell you why but I'm certainly glad I did when I tried this recipe.  This is a very good orange cookie with orange cream filling.  Even my "we don't really like sweets" parents enjoyed this cookie when I brought some over last Sunday.  The dough is easy to make, easy to work with and the cookies come out moist with crisp edges.  Just don't overbake them - 10 minutes in my oven was perfect to get a nice texture to the cookies.  I also used my small ice cream scoop and made smaller cookies since they were going to end up being sandwich cookies.  The cookies don't spread very much so they were the perfect thickness.  I altered the filling slightly as I prefer to use orange juice instead of orange extract or heavy cream but please click on the recipe title to go back to the original recipe on Shugary Sweets' blog.  Overall, an excellent cookie with a summer flavor.

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp orange extract
1 egg
1 generous tablespoon orange zest
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
pinch of salt
2 cups flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda

Cream Filling
1/2 cup butter
2 cup powdered sugar
2-3 tablespoons orange juice (less or more depending on your preference for the consistency of the filling)
  1. For the cookies, cream butter and sugar until smooth. Add vanilla and orange extracts and egg. Beat about 2 minutes. Beat in zest of two oranges (about 1 heaping tablespoon) and 2 Tbsp of fresh orange juice. Scrape sides of bowl and add in dry ingredients.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Drop by tablespoon and bake in a 350 degree oven for 9-11 minutes. Allow to cool completely.
  3. For the filling, beat butter with powdered sugar.  Add enough orange juice to achieve desired consistency/ Spread filling between two cookies of like size. Store in airtight container.