Monday, December 27, 2010

Dark Chocolate Cookies

Dark Chocolate Cookies
Ever since high school I've been looking for a chocolate cookie recipe that would taste like the ones I could get in the lunch line at Kennedy High School in La Palma, Calfornia.  Most days, the cookies were slightly undercooked in the middle, thick, and greasy.  I've tried I don't know how many recipes for chocolate cookies trying to replicate that taste.  Most were too thin, many weren't chocolately enough; none came close.  Even thought I'm posting this recipe, these cookies don't taste like them either.  They are delicious chocolate cookies nonetheless.  If I really want the recipe, perhaps I could just contact the school district to see if they still have that recipe.  Hmmm...just thought of that.
These cookies here are better underbaked, and disappointing when overbaked.  When you get them in that doneness zone, though, mmmmmm...they are one of my very favorite cookies.  And that's saying a lot coming from this cookie snob.  I go out of my way to make these cookies when I'm craving something really chocolately.  They almost taste like brownies.  Dark, chewy, fudgy, and best enjoyed with a glass of ice cold milk.

Dark Chocolate Cookies
    --Adapted from eupcurious.com

Ingredients:
  • ¾ cup King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
  • ¼ cup Crisco vegetable shortening
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ¾ to 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • ½ to ¾ cup chocolate chips (or better yet, chopped Dove dark chocolate)
Instructions:
Whisk together flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. (If your cocoa is lumpy, as mine tends to be, put it through a sieve or sifter first.)
Beat together butter, Crisco, and sugar with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy.  Then beat in eggs and vanilla until combined.  Add flour mixture and mix just until combined.  Stir in nuts and chocolate. Refrigerate for at least two hours.  (Note: I usually scoop them onto a wax paper lined cookie sheet and freeze at this point.  Then I transfer frozen dough balls to a zip-top bag so I can bake a few cookies at a time.)
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Drop level tablespoons of dough about 2 inches apart onto parchment-lined (or ungreased) baking sheets and bake in batches in middle of oven until puffed and set, about 9-12 minutes.  Start checking after 9 minutes to make sure they don't burn.  Allow to sit on pan for 2-3 minutes. Transfer cookies to a rack to cool.

Makes about 36 cookies.

Dough balls lined up to freeze




Saturday, December 25, 2010

Rugelach


Cinnamon Sugar Pecan Rugelach
Chocolate Rugelach
These "cookies" are super duper rich.  I mean, a cup of butter and a stick of cream cheese rich.  If you've never tasted rugelach, they're like a rich rolled up pie crust with a slightly sweet filling.  I've seen recipes that call for jam (boysenberry is delicious, but use sparingly), and I sometimes use mini chocolate chips, or like today, finely chopped Dove dark chocolate.  It's easy to do several different kinds, though, since you sort of end up with four different "logs" before cutting.  So, theoretically, you could do four different kinds.  This recipe is a variation on one I found on allrecipes.com, and it requires a food processor.  I suppose you could use a pastry blender in a pinch, although I've never tried it.
Rugelach

Ingredients

Dough:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
Filling:
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup finely chopped walnuts
Glaze:
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 teaspoon sugar, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1 teaspoon water      
Instructions
1.   Cut cold butter and cream cheese into bits. In food processor pulse flour, salt, butter, cream cheese and sour cream until crumbly. (I suppose you could also do this with a pastry cutter, but a food processor does a great job.)
2.   Pour half of the crumbly mixture onto a 1 ft. piece of plastic wrap, and shape into a rectangle about 5 x 8 inches or so. Wrap up in plastic wrap.  Repeat with the other half.  Refrigerate 2 hours to 2 days.
3.  Combine sugar, cinnamon, chopped walnuts. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Roll each rectangle into a rectangle that is between 1/8 and ¼ inch thick. Sprinkle rectangle with sugar/nut mixture. Press lightly into dough. With chef’s knife or pizza cutter, cut rectangle lengthwise into two thinner rectangles. Roll each rectangle to form a long log. 
4. Cut each log into 1½ inch segments, so you end up with 9-10 segments per log.  Place pieces onto either an ungreased baking sheet, or a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Beat egg white 1 tsp sugar and 1 tsp water.  Brush each piece with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar or cinnamon sugar.
 Bake rugelach in the center rack of your oven 22-24 minutes until lightly golden. Cool on wire racks. Store in airtight containers.

Chocolate rugelach, before baking
Cinnamon pecan rugelach, before baking


Saturday, December 18, 2010

Walnut Caramels


Walnut Caramels

This recipe comes from a tea magazine given to me by my neighbor, Jan.  She's a sweet older woman whom I only talk with about twice a year, but she likes giving me food-related things because she knows how much I love it.  I've always wanted to make a good caramel candy, and this recipe seems to work for me.  I think I got second or third place with these at the 2010 Iowa State Fair, but since it wasn't first place, I don't really remember.  I also like making these with almonds and then dipping the bottom half in Dove chocolate (milk or dark, both are fantastic--see pics at the end).  
These really aren't very hard to make, and they keep for quite a while in the fridge.  


Walnut Caramels

Ingredients

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • ½ cup light corn syrup
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup light brown sugar
  • ½ cup butter

  • ¼  cup honey
  • ¼ tsp coarse salt
  • 1 cup walnuts, toasted
  • seeds scraped from a 1-inch segment of vanilla bean pod
Instructions
1. Line an 8 x 8 inch baking dish with non-stick aluminum foil.  Set aside.
2. In a large heavy saucepan, combine cream, corn syrup, sugar, brown sugar, butter, honey, and salt.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring often.  Cook without stirring until mixture reaches 240°F.  Remove pan from heat.  Add walnuts and vanilla seeds, stirring well to combine.  Pour into prepared dish, and cover with plastic wrap.
3. Refrigerate until set, 2 to 4 hours.
4. Using foil as handles, lift caramel from dish.  Remove foil, and place caramel on a cutting board.  Before cutting, let caramel return to room temperature.  Cut into 1-inch squares.  Wrap individually in wax paper or cello wrap if not serving immediately.

Caramels with almonds

Caramels with almonds and milk chocolate

Caramels with almonds and dark chocolate


Cream Cheese & Dried Beef Dip


Cream Cheese & Dried Beef Dip


I don't even know what the official name of this recipe is, but I know I love it.  One of my colleagues at Clive Elementary makes this once or twice a year for various staff luncheons, birthdays, what have you.  She brings a huge bowl of the stuff alongside a huge bowl of bagel pieces that she has lovingly cut into bite-sized pieces for us to devour over the course of the day.  And devour it we do.

I finally got the recipe and made it myself, and oh my goodness.  I need to limit myself to once or twice a year with this recipe too, because it's addicting.  One recipe is plenty, but if you're making it for a crowd, I suggest making a recipe and a half.  That way, you ensure leftovers for yourself.  What you see pictured above is actually a half recipe.

Cream Cheese and Dried Beef Dip

Ingredients:
  • 2 packages cream cheese (8 oz. each)
  • 16 oz. sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon dry dill weed
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder (not garlic salt, but garlic POWDER)
  • 1 (5 oz.) jar Hormel dried beef*, chopped up
  • 6-8 plain bagels, sliced and cut into 8ths or 12ths.
Instructions:
Mix the first five ingredients together, refrigerate, and serve with bagels.

*Dried beef is also sold in 2.5 oz. packages in the prepackaged deli meat section of some grocery stores.

Just so you know what you're looking for in the store.


Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake


Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake
This is a relatively easy and VERY delicious chocolate cake. The only thing that I think might be difficult is that it calls for cake flour. I've never tried it with regular all-purpose flour, but it might be okay. The original recipe I got off of foodtv.com didn't call for any frosting, but I like to use the Ghirardelli Empress Frosting on this cake. It's more of a ganache than a frosting, and it's easy to make if you have Ghirardelli ground chocolate on hand.   
Be careful not to overbake this cake. It ruins it. And be sure to serve it with whipped cream.


Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake
   --adapted from foodtv.com

Ingredients:
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup real mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 3/4 cup Dutch process cocoa
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • powdered sugar, for garnish
  • sweetened whipped cream
Instructions:
Preheat oven to 350°F.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the sugar and mayonnaise until blended.  Add the vanilla and blend.  Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt, and add it to the mayonnaise mixture in 3 batches alternating with the buttermilk.
Pour into a greased and floured 9x9-inch baking pan.  Bake for 45-50 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.
Let cool on a wire rack, dust with confectioners sugar (or frost with your favorite chocolate icing*).  Serve with whipped cream.

*Here's the recipe for MY favorite chocolate icing.  If you use it for the mayonnaise cake, half the recipe and don't go through the icing process.  Just pour the chocolate liquid over the mayonnaise cake and let it soak into any cracks in the top of the cake.  

Empress Frosting

Ingredients:
  • 1/3 cup half and half                                    
  • ½ cup butter, cut up                                     
  • 2 Tbsp. Sugar
  • 1 ½ Ghirardelli Sweet Ground Chocolate
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
Instructions:
In 2-quart heavy saucepan, heat half and half with butter and sugar, stirring until blended.  Add ground chocolate, mixing with wire whip until smooth.  Heat on medium-low until mixture is thick and shiny and runs off the spoon like syrup and the first bubble appearts on the surface (160°F).  Do not boil or overcook frosting.  Cool 5 minutes, add vanilla.  Place pan of frosting in a bowl of ice and water (or snow in the winter).  Beat slowly with spoon until frosting holds shape.  Frost cake.  Refrigerate to set frosting.  Makes frosting for and 8-inch layer cake.



Friday, December 17, 2010

Crispy Caramelized Chex Mix



Crispy Caramelized Chex Mix
Brown sugar, butter, Chex...what more could you want?  This stuff is even more delicious than caramel corn; plus, you don't have to worry about the popcorn hulls sticking between your teeth and gums.  Eew.
Although I think I've developed an immunity to the addictiveness of this sweet & salty treat, most people who try it can't get enough, and then they go home and make some themselves because it's a very easy recipe.
I got this off of the Chex website, but since I printed this one out, they've changed it a little.  Of course, I made a few changes too.  I don't include M&Ms like they do, and I substitute some pretzels for some of the Chex, since I like sweet & salty things.  I also added nuts because I'm an adult now, and I can take it.  Any nuts work.  I've used macadamia nuts which was a successful addition, but today I used pecans because they were what I had.  


Crispy Caramelized Chex Mix
     --adapted from Chex website

Ingredients:
  • 6 cups Corn Chex cereal
  • 6 cups Rice Chex cereal
  • 6 cups pretzels
  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cups nuts (pecans and macadamia nuts are best)
Instructions:
Heat oven to 250°F. Spray a large roasting pan with no-stick cooking spray. (If you don't have a large roasting pan, you can use two cookie sheets or two 9 x 13 inch pans).  Place cereal, pretzels, and nuts in prepared pan.
Combine brown sugar, butter and syrup in 3-quart saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat until mixture comes to a boil (8 to 9 minutes). Continue cooking, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Remove from heat. Add baking soda; mix well.
Pour syrup mixture over cereal; toss gently until well coated. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes, or until coating is set. Cool and stir for 5-10 minutes, or until they don't stick together any more.  Store in an airtight container.
Makes about 18 cups

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