Friday, January 17, 2014

Coconut and Double Chocolate Almond Flour Cookies

Coconut and Chocolate Almond Flour Cookies

Gosh. There are so many things I could say right now, and none of them would really be about these cookies, which are really, really good. I'm trying to figure out in life what I can cut back on to give me more space in my brain and my schedule. I keep thinking that blogging is one of those things, and yet here I am, blogging. I wanted to get this recipe out though, because even though these cookies are what I would call "unusual," I would also call them, "dense, chewy, coconutty, chocolatey, and satisfying." 
They're a great gluten free cookie that I wish my gluten-limited son would try. You definitely have to not hate coconut to eat these, so if these look good to you, but your not a fan of coconut, try this recipe for Double Chocolate Almond Flour Cookies.

Coconut and Double Chocolate Almond Flour Cookies
   --adapted from The Wannabe Chef who adapted recipe from The Food Lovers' Primal Palate

Ingredients:
  • 1/4 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup virgin coconut oil, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 1/2 cups almond flour (I used Trader Joe's Just Almond Meal today, but I also use Bob's Red Mill Almond Meal/Flour sometimes)
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 cup chocolate chips, or 16 Dove Dark Chocolate Promises, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut
Instructions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Sift cocoa powder into a medium bowl. Stir in almond flour using a wire whisk.
Cream butter, coconut oil and sugars until very light, about 2-3 minutes.  Add egg and vanilla and beat until incorporated.  Add salt and baking soda and beat until incorporated. Mix in cocoa and almond flour mixture.  Stir in chocolate chips and shredded coconut.
Scoop about two tablespoon mounds onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet (or use a medium sized cookie scoop), placing about an inch and a half apart.  Gently smoosh dough to make almost 1/2-inch thick disks.  
Bake at 375 degrees for 8-10 minutes, or until puffed and cracked.
Allow to cool on cookie sheet for about 5 minutes before moving to a cooling rack to finish cooling.


Makes about 28 cookies.


Sunday, January 12, 2014

Mexican Churros

Delicate and fluffy Mexican churros 

I was wanting to make churros again, but not the gluten free kind. I'm still trying to make what I think is the perfect churro: crisp and slightly chewy on the outside, fluffy and almost undercooked on the inside. This recipe produced a crisp exterior and a light, fluffy, almost airy interior. I think "delicate" might be the word I'm looking for. The outside is very light as well, though, so it didn't provide the slight chew I was looking for. Maybe I need to mix it longer to develop the gluten--and maybe reduce the recipe to only one egg. I'm not sure when I'll be attempting them again, though, because seriously, I cannot keep frying up churros to blog about. It's just not wise.
The original recipe at Little Inspiration calls for 1/2 cup maseca and 1/2 cup all-purpose flour. I reduced the masa flour to 1/4 cup because I was a little wary of adding a lot of corn flavor. It was a good call for me. I liked the very slight corn tortilla flavor in the background with a tiny little cornmeal bite to the churro. I think you could use all all-purpose flour if you don't have any masa flour on hand.
At any rate, if you're looking for a light, fluffy churro and you're not afraid of frying your food, give these a try.

Mexican Churros
    --Adapted from Little Inspiration

Ingredients:
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1/4 cup masa flour
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 3 eggs
  • canola oil for frying
  • 1/2 cup sugar plus 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
You will also need:
  • Piping bag with large closed star tip
  • Paper towel
  • Tongs
Instructions:
In a heavy bottomed medium saucepan, bring water, butter, sugar and salt to a boil.
Add the vanilla extract and then the masa flour and all purpose flour. Stir until mixture comes together forming a sort of ball and pulls away from the sides of the pan. Transfer dough to a mixing bowl and allow to cool for about 10 minutes.
Add eggs, one at a time, mixing thoroughly between each addition (you can use an electric mixer, a stand mixer, or a spoon). Transfer dough to the piping bag and set aside.
Mix the sugar and ground cinnamon and place in a glass or metal brownie pan. Line a plate or a cooling rack with paper towels.
Heat about 1 1/2 to 2 inches of canola oil to about 350 degrees Fahrenheit in a high rimmed frying pan/saute pan (anything you feel comfortable frying in). 
Carefully squeeze ropes about 3-5 inches in length into the oil, using a pair of kitchen shears to cut the "rope" of dough. Allow about 2 inches between ropes. My pan allowed 4-5 churros to be fried at a time.
When churros are well browned on one side, use tongs to turn them over and fry on the other side until well browned as well. Remove churros with tongs to the paper towel lined plate/cooling rack. 
Squeeze more churros into the oil. While those fry, gently toss the freshly fried churros in the cinnamon sugar mixture and then place on a serving plate or on another paper towel lined plate.
Serve warm.
Makes about 20-25 short churros


Dough before adding any eggs
Dough after third egg has been added,
and now ready for the piping bag
Ready for a cinnamon sugar coating

Monday, January 6, 2014

Gluten Free Cinnamon Rolls

Gluten Free Cinnamon Rolls

With the wind chill today at -35 degrees Fahrenheit, the boys and I have the day off of school. Because I have so many other things I should be doing, I decided to finally bake up some gluten free cinnamon rolls for my gluten-limited boy. So far he's eaten three, so I think it's safe to say that these are a success. Even baked five minutes longer than the original Better Batter recipe and cooled completely, these are still too gooey for me. BetterBatter.org calls these a "Cinnabon Clone," which is probably why they're extra gooey. I've always thought Cinnabons were under-baked, but apparently lots of people like them that way. Good thing I'm not much of a cinnamon roll eater any more.
These are a great gluten free option for those who really need to be gluten free, but as with pretty much most cinnamon rolls, the only healthy thing about these is how they feed the soul. I'm just glad I was able to do that today for my kid.

Gluten Free Cinnamon Rolls (for doubled recipe, see below)
     --Adapted from BetterBatter.org

Ingredients

Dough:
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 2 1/4 cups* Better Batter Gluten Free Flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
Filling:
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 2 1/3 tablespoons butter, very soft
Topping:
  • 1 1/2 ounces cream cheese
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 pinch salt
Instructions
In a microwave safe bowl or measuring cup, add the milk and 1/3 cup butter and microwave on high for about 50-60 seconds. Stir until butter is completely melted and then check with your (clean) finger to see if it's just warm. If it feels hot, allow to cool to just warm.
Into a medium sized bowl, measure out the flour, salt, sugar, and yeast. Stir to mix those dry ingredients.
When milk/butter is warm, pour into the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the egg, and pour on the dry ingredients. Mix to moisten the dry ingredients and then scrape the sides of the bowl. Mix on high for 3 minutes. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise for about 35-45 minutes (technically until doubled, but mine didn't appear to double).
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Mix the first three filling ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
Butter a 10 inch by 7 inch baking dish and set aside.
Lay out a 20 inch piece of plastic wrap and dust with an even, thin layer of flour. Scrape dough onto dusted plastic wrap and sprinkle with more flour. Gently shape dough into about a 12 inch by 18 inch rectangle by pressing, shaping, and rolling with a rolling pin.
Spread the 2 1/3 tablespoons of very soft butter over the surface of the rectangle of dough, and then sprinkle evenly with the filling mixture. Gently roll the rectangle into a log, starting at one of the long edges. You may want to use a pastry brush to gently brush away excess flour as you roll.
Mark the dough log into eighths and then cut into eight pieces using a 2-3 foot length of dental floss (you can use a knife, but I always like using the floss method because it keeps the rolls' round shape better).
Place rolls into the pan, 4 x 2. Cover lightly with plastic wrap and allow to rise until doubled, about 30 minutes.
Bake rolls at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes, until deep golden brown on top. While rolls bake, prepare the topping by mixing all of the ingredients with a hand mixer in a medium sized bowl.
When rolls are done, remove from oven and allow to cool for about 2-3 minutes before adding the topping. Place about a 1 tablespoon dollop of topping onto each roll and then use the back of a spoon or a knife to spread it evenly over each roll. Allow rolls to cool a little more before serving.
Makes 8 reasonably sized cinnamon rolls
*For a dryer, less gooey roll, add another 1/2 cup of Better Batter flour for a total of 2 3/4 cups flour.






This day I doubled the recipe and made 12 rolls.
Max ate four over two days and I froze the rest
individually and wrapped them in wax paper.
My kids love these cinnamon rolls so much, the smaller batch I started making just doesn't do it. I mean, there are enough rolls for them to eat for a couple of days, but I wanted to freeze several for the following weekend or two because I'm not up for making cinnamon rolls (and Gluten Free French Sandiwch Rolls) more than one weekend a month. The second time I did this, I was not thinking, or I hadn't gotten enough sleep, so I accidentally put in 5 1/2 cups flour instead of the called for 4 1/2 for a doubled recipe. I'd been doubling the recipe in my head as I went along. I actually prefer the rolls with more flour because they're not so gooey. I'm posting the doubled recipe here so next time when I make these I don't have to actually do any math in my head. Maybe it will come in handy for you too.
Note: The recipe as written below does NOT have the extra cup of flour, so the rolls will still be gooey. There is a *to indicate you need to add an extra cup of flour to the recipe as written in order to get the less gooey rolls.

Doubled Batch of Gluten Free Cinnamon Rolls
     --Adapted from BetterBatter.org

Ingredients

Dough:
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2/3 cup butter
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 4 1/2 cups* Better Batter Gluten Free Flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast**
Filling:
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspooon salt
  • 5 tablespoons butter, very soft
Topping:
  • 3 ounces cream cheese
  • 4 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
Instructions
In a microwave safe bowl or measuring cup, add the milk and 1/3 cup butter and microwave on high for about 50-60 seconds. Stir until butter is completely melted and then check with your (clean) finger to see if it's just warm. If it feels hot, allow to cool to just warm.
Into a medium sized bowl, measure out the flour, salt, sugar, and yeast. Stir to mix those dry ingredients.
When milk/butter is warm, pour into the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the egg, and pour on the dry ingredients. Mix to moisten the dry ingredients and then scrape the sides of the bowl. Mix on high for 3 minutes. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise for about 35-45 minutes (technically until doubled, but mine didn't appear to double).
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Mix the first three filling ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
Butter a 10 inch by 7 inch baking dish and set aside.
Lay out a 20 inch piece of plastic wrap and dust with an even, thin layer of flour. Scrape dough onto dusted plastic wrap and sprinkle with more flour. Gently shape dough into about a 12 inch by 18 inch rectangle by pressing, shaping, and rolling with a rolling pin.
Spread the 2 1/3 tablespoons of very soft butter over the surface of the rectangle of dough, and then sprinkle evenly with the filling mixture. Gently roll the rectangle into a log, starting at one of the long edges. You may want to use a pastry brush to gently brush away excess flour as you roll.
Mark the dough log into eighths and then cut into eight pieces using a 2-3 foot length of dental floss (you can use a knife, but I always like using the floss method because it keeps the rolls' round shape better).
Place rolls into the pan, 4 x 2. Cover lightly with plastic wrap and allow to rise until doubled, about 30 minutes.
Bake rolls at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes, until deep golden brown on top. While rolls bake, prepare the topping by mixing all of the ingredients with a hand mixer in a medium sized bowl.
When rolls are done, remove from oven and allow to cool for about 2-3 minutes before adding the topping. Place about a 1 tablespoon dollop of topping onto each roll and then use the back of a spoon or a knife to spread it evenly over each roll. Allow rolls to cool a little more before serving.
Makes 12 cinnamon rolls

*For a dryer, less gooey roll, add another cup of Better Batter flour, for a total of 5 1/2 cups of flour.
**One packet of dry yeast is 2 1/4 teaspoons. If that's all you have, I'm sure it will work fine, but you may need to add another 10-15 minutes to the rise times.

Gluten Free Cinnamon Roll with the extra flour--less gooey



Frozen Bubbles

Beautiful frozen bubbles.





A Facebook friend the other day posted a link to an article on Distractify which had tons of beautiful pictures of these frozen bubbles. The article indicated that a mom and her son just blew some bubbles in below freezing weather and BA-BAM! Works of art!
I know this is a food blog, but since this is what I did this morning, and because it required a recipe for bubbles, I'm posting it. One of the perks of having my own blog is being able to do what I want to on it, and today I want to post pics of my beautiful frozen bubbles. I know I have several other things I should be doing on this "cold" day where school has been shut down due to -35 degree wind chill, but I've got aaaaalllll day. If you have time today and it's freezing outside, I think you need to give this a try.
Have fun!


Bubble Solution
    --Adapted from BubbleBlowers.com

Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup Dawn dish soap
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons corn syrup
Instructions:
Gently mix the three ingredients in a glass measuring cup. Pour about a half cup into a small drinking cup. Go outside into freezing cold weather and blow some bubbles. I recommend using a bubble wand with smallish holes because the larger bubbles seemed to just pop. The small ones are the ones that landed and froze.


Sunday, January 5, 2014

My Mini Chocolate Birthday Cakes


My Mini Chocolate Birthday Cakes:
Four layers of chocolate cake with three different fillings
(from top to bottom: cocoa whipped cream, mascarpone
frosting, and French silk pie filling) and then topped with 
a dark chocolate ganache.
First of all, yes, this is a complicated recipe. It took me most of Saturday afternoon to complete these little cakes, and I had already baked the cake the night before. Consider yourself warned...
Now that you've been warned, I'll tell the tale of these fabulous little cakes. The administrative staff of the high school my husband is VP at had their "Christmas" party last night, and so I decided that I needed to make something to wow them. This is a group of people I've baked a lot for, so I didn't want to go with anything boring. At first I thought about making My Chocolate Birthday Cake because it is so very delicious, but cutting a large cake can be so cumbersome and messy. And I'm never sure how large to make the slices. I don't want people to feel obligated to eat a large piece, but I don't want to be skimpy either.
So this is what I ended up with. I was a little afraid they'd turn out ugly because that happens sometimes when I have high hopes for a new idea, but you know what? They turned out really cute, I think; and they're just as delicious as the original full-size cake. The taste is super chocolatey and very creamy. The thin layers of cake are really just a vehicle for the yummy creamy fillings. 
When the hostess asked what the cake was called, I wasn't sure what to tell her. The original cake has such a funky name. I don't even remember what I told her last night, but I'm calling them "My Mini Chocolate Birthday Cakes" for now. There's probably a better name, but I don't have the time, creativity, or unction to think of one at the moment.
Again, this is a complicated recipe, but if you're up for it, they are well worth the effort.

My Mini Chocolate Birthday Cakes

Cake Ingredients (adapted from Ghirardelli.com) :
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder 
  • 1 1/2 cups sifted cake flour
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons King Arthur Flour Cake Enhancer (optional)
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cake Instructions: Preheat oven to 350ºF.  Prepare a 13 x 18 inch half sheet pan by buttering and flouring the edges and spraying the bottom with non-stick cooking spray. Then line the very bottom with a piece of parchment paper cut to fit it exactly.  Into a mixer bowl fitted with a whisk attachment, sift flour with ground chocolate, cake enhancer, sugar, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt. Add butter and 3/4 cup buttermilk. Beat on low speed to combine ingredients. Scrape sides of bowl and then beat on low-medium speed for 2 minutes. Add 1/4 cup buttermilk, eggs, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Beat additional 2 minutes.  Spread batter evenly into prepared pan. Bake at 350ºF for 20 to 25 minutes, or until cake is set and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with only a couple of cling-ons. Take care not to under-bake this cake. Set pan on a cooling rack and allow to cool completely. You can do this the night before and cover cake tightly until the next day.
Cover the top with a sheet of parchment paper or wax paper. Place a cutting board that exceeds the edges of the pan on top of the parchment/wax paper covered pan and invert the cake onto the cutting board. You will end up with the sheet cake on top of the paper on top of the cutting board.
Using a 2 1/2 inch biscuit cutter, carefully cut out circles of cake, getting in as tight as you can so as not to waste cake. Remove the scraps as you go along (and save them for later). You should end up with 24-28 circles. I ended up with 24, 2.5 inch circles and 4, 2.25 inch circles. The smaller ones were the samples we tried at home before taking them to our dinner party. (Also be sure to set the cake scraps aside so you can make a little trifle using the leftover fillings and cake.)
With a serrated knife, carefully slice each circle in half to create two layers from each circle (I told you this was complicated).
Cover cake with plastic wrap while you prepare the fillings.

French Silk Pie Layer Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened, but cool
  • 1/4 cup white C & H sugar
  • 11 unwrapped dark chocolate Dove Promises (about 3 ounces)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
French Silk Pie Layer Instructions (adapted from allrecipes.com):  
            In a double boiler, melt Dove Promises about 2/3 of the way.  Remove top of double boiler and continue to stir until chocolate is completely melted.  Set aside to cool further.  I recommend cooling until the chocolate starts to thicken slightly so that it won't melt the butter and will be firm enough to withstand the next cake layer on top of it without smooshing out the sides.
            Cream butter.  Gradually add sugar, creaming well.  Blend in melted and cooled chocolate and vanilla.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating 4 minutes after each addition with an electric mixer on medium speed.  
           Scoop silk pie filling into a pastry bag fitted with a large piping tip. Either start the layering process* now, or place in the refrigerator while you prepare the other fillings.


Mascarpone Cream Frosting Ingredients:
  • 8 oz. mascarpone cheese
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
Mascarpone Cream Frosting Instructions:  In a mixer bowl, cream mascarpone, vanilla extract & sugar.  Add cream and whip on high until stiff.  Scoop frosting into a pastry bag fitted with a large piping tip. Place in the refrigerator while you prepare the cocoa whipped cream.


Cocoa Whipped Cream Ingredients:
  • 1/4 cup powdered cocoa
  • 1/4cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons hot tap water
  • 1 cup cold heavy whipping cream
Cocoa Whipped Cream Instructions: In mixer bowl with a wire whisk attachment, mix cocoa, sugar & hot water, mixing to form a paste.  Allow to cool before adding cream.  Add cream and start mixing on low to incorporate cream into cocoa paste.  Stop the mixer and scrape the bow.  Mix on high until stiff peaks form. Scoop cocoa whipped cream into a pastry bag fitted with a large piping tip.

Assembling the Cakes/*Layering Process:

Once you've made the French silk pie layer, you can start the assembly process. 


Take 12-14 cupcake liners and flatten. Place them on another half sheet pan, ready to receive the cake layers

Working with only two to four mini cakes at a time, place the top half of a circle top-down onto the center of a flattened cupcake liner. Pipe about a 1/4 inch layer of French silk pie filling onto that bottom cake layer, and place the other half circle of cake on top, bottom-up. It's kind of important to match the layers with their circles so you keep the height of each cake consistent. Repeat until you have twelve cakes started.

Pipe a 1/4 inch layer of mascarpone frosting onto each little cake and place another half circle layer on top, again taking care to use two specific cake circles for each mini cake.

Pipe a 1/4 inch layer of cocoa whipped cream onto the third layer of cake and top with the final layer, cut side toward the cocoa whipped cream. 

Ganache Ingredients:
  • 14 Dove Dark Chocolate Promises, unwrapped and roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
Ganache Instructions:

Place chopped chocolate in a heat-proof bowl.
In a small pan over medium heat, bring the cream and butter just to a simmer.  Pour cream over chocolate and allow to sit for about 5 minutes.  
Stir to combine chocolate & cream.  
Spoon about a tablespoon or so of ganache on top of each mini cake and gently spread the ganache so it drips a little over the edges. If you end up with extra ganache, you can add more to each cake, or just eat it right then and there.

Refrigerate cakes until ready to serve.

Makes 12-14 mini cakes


I think this pic gives a better idea of the
size of the cakes. This was just before the
ganache was added to the tops.
You end up with more filling than cake,
but that didn't bother me at all.


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