October 30, 2008

Smitten Chili for Halloween

This is the second soup we made for the Halloween party and it makes a big, crowd-pleasing portion of soup (leftovers freeze well, I'd guess, though I didn't have any!). I like a rich, flavorful chili with more beans and tomatoes than meat. I adapted a recipe from Smitten Kitchen and loved the final product. This would be easy to put together in the crockpot for a nice dinner ready after work, or just cooked on the stove in a dutch oven and held in the oven until ready to eat. Use whatever beans you have on hand and watch this chili disappear (don't forget to add corn, like I did!). Happy Halloween!

Smitten Chili
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen (from Real Simple Magazine)

1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef (or turkey, if you don't have a husband like mine who would never forgive you)
1 large onion, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup beef broth
1/3 cup chili powder (Yep, it's a ton, but you won't regret it)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa
2 14 1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 small can of tomato sauce
1 can green chilies
2 15 1/2-ounce cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 15 1/2-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 15 1/2-ounce can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup frozen corn
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons cider vinegar

To taste:
Sriracha chili sauce
1/2 to 1 teaspoon cayenne
1 to 2 tablespoons chipotle en adobo puree

Toppings and sides:
Sharp Cheddar
Sour cream
Minced jalapeno
Corn bread

Place a large Dutch oven or saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the beef and cook until browned, about 5 or 10 minutes. Add the onion, stirring well, and cook until translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more. Gradually add the broth, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the Dutch oven. Stir in the chili powder, cumin, cocoa, tomatoes, tomato sauce, and green chilies. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and let simmer for 10 minutes. Add the beans, salt, and vinegar, stirring well. Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes more. Adjust flavor with your spices of choice. Stir in the frozen corn and garnish with the cilantro, Cheddar, sour cream, and jalapeno, if desired. Serve hot in a bread bowl or with cornbread.

Mexican Winter Squash Soup

A couple of weeks ago I posted about left over pumpkin and how it was finding it's way to our table for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. During that time, we had a family Halloween party and everyone needed costumes. My son was dressing as a Dalmatian so we completed the deal by dressing as Roger and Anita from 101 Dalmatians. My mom still needed a costume and when we turned on Barefoot Contessa she looked at me and said, "I'll be Ina!" She has the haircut so it was all set. We were already bringing chili to dinner but decided we needed an Ina recipe for her to bring.

With leftover pumpkin in the fridge and a roasted squash ready to be used this soup came together quickly. The flavors were tasty but a needed a bit more, so I did a quick search and found Martha Stewart's Mexican Winter Squash soup. I added a few flavors from that recipe, lightened them both up a little, and ended up with a delicious, fall soup that still has a little kick. Perfect. I also got to use my new Martha Stewart cast iron "chili pan". It aspires to be classy French cookware, but at only $9 (Macy's has the best clearance!), I'll just pretend it's covered in red enamel. I love that it goes from stove top to oven and I have the feeling it will be making a lot more soups in the next little while.

Mexican Winter Squash Soup
adapted from Martha Stewart and Ina Garten
2 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
2 Cups Chopped Yellow Onions
1 15 ounce Can Pumpkin Puree (not Pumpkin Pie Filling)
1 1/2 Pounds Butternut Squash, Peeled, roasted, and cut into chunks
6 Cups Chicken Stock
1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1 teaspoon Freshly Ground Pepper
1/2 teaspoon Minced Garlic
1/2 teaspoon Ground Cumin
1 Chipotle pepper (from a Chipotle in adobo can)
1 teaspoon adobo sauce (from the Chipotle peppers)
1/4 bunch of Cilantro, stems and leaves
2 tablespoons half and half or sour cream

Heat the butter and oil in a heavy-bottomed pan and add the onions and cook over medium low for 10 minutes, or until translucent. Add the pumpkin puree, the butternut squash, chicken stock, salt, pepper, garlic, and cumin. Cover and simmer over medium low for about 15 minutes. Add the chipotle pepper, adobo sauce, and cilantro and blend with an immersion blender (or in batches in a blender) until smooth. Add extra chicken stock if the soup is too thick and add seasoning as necessary. Top with a drizzle of half and half, extra cilantro or croutons and serve.

October 28, 2008

TWD- Chocolate-Chocolate Cupcakes for Halloween!

Happy Halloween! Chocolate candy topped cupcakes seemed just right for Halloween and my helper and I had a great time making them. This week's Tuesdays with Dorie selection came from Clara of I heart food4thought (which is an awesome blog- amazing, beautiful food and so funny too!) She suggested decorating these chocolate ganache topped chocolate cupcakes for Halloween so I did just that and brought them to a little party for the kiddos.

The party was a success but we did not succeed in getting a decent picture of all the kids dressed up (squirmy little buggers!) They sure looked cute though!

My little guy (he's the doggy) could not keep his hands off these cupcakes! He's only getting taller and his reach extends past the top of the counter where he regularly snags Dorie treats while I turn to toss things into the sink or grab something from the pantry. He knows where the good stuff is.

Next time I make these, I'll make my ganache with milk chocolate since I'm just not as big of a fan of bittersweet as Dorie is (although I'm happy to report that Costco has the enormous bags of bittersweet Ghiradelli back in stock for the holidays!) I like it "in" things but I really prefer a nice frosting, although I'd happy take this ganache on top of a thick brownie.

I found these cupcakes a little dry and will be probably underbake them if I make them again. Next time I will also be careful not to overfill the cupcakes as I had a lot of run over that ruined almost all of my mini cupcakes! I never know what to expect when trying something new which is half the fun of Tuesdays with Dorie. Happy Halloween everyone!

October 27, 2008

Dirty Dishes

I saw this plate above the sink at my husband's Grandma's house and I instantly related. I'm guessing it's older than I am but I want one!

Last week I made two batches of cupcakes (yellow and strawberry) and one set of red velvet cup cake pops with my friend Auburn for a birthday party. That same day, I made a pie to take to dinner (thankfully I had the crust already made in the fridge from an earlier project). I made two batches of brownies for Cub scouts (one Oreo Cheesecake, one topped with Reese's peanut butter cups and Rolos). I also made Chocolate chocolate cupcakes (tomorrow's Dorie treat) for a Halloween party. I've had fun but I'll admit there have been a lot of dishes. And we've been eating very well (and not just desserts, I assure you, I've sent most of them right out of the house!)

October 24, 2008

Happy Anniversary!

This week is our fifth anniversary and, since my husband reads my blog, I wanted to tell him how much I love him! Here's a picture of us with our cake (Red velvet!) that I love. I had to smile this morning when I pulled a red velvet cake out of the oven- a total coincidence (I making cupcake pops today for a birthday party). It's funny how food instantly brings you back to certain times- because everytime I see a red velvet cake, I flash right back to this picture and that wonderful day. Happy anniversary honey!

October 23, 2008

Barefoot Chicken Vegetable Pot Pie

Chicken pot pie is a favorite at my house so I was excited about this weeks Barefoot Bloggers recipe, chosen by Deb from Kahakai Kitchen (she has a wonderful blog and is so nice, stop by!) I've actually made this recipe before, last fall, so this time I made a few changes.

Most importantly, I reduced the fat in the recipe and used a combination of olive oil and butter. I also added cubed rotisserie chicken, since I knew it would go off much better with a little "substance". For vegetables, I would suggest using whatever you have on hand or is in season- the quality is usually much better and the price is, too. This time I added green beans, peas, and extra carrots to Ina's recipe (leaving out the fennel). For flavoring, I skipped the liqueur and used extra chicken stock and Herbes de Provence (I got mine at Safeway, but this one at Williams Sonoma is adorable!). The seasoning is wonderful and great on pastas, soups, and more- it's become a staple in my pantry. I skipped the heavy cream and added some milk since my sauce was thickening a lot and I had some extra vegetables.

This is another winner from Ina- the filling is delicious (even with less butter!) and the pastry top has the perfect flavor and texture. If you're in a pinch for time, don't forget that you can make the pastry in the food processor and keep it in the fridge until you are ready to roll it out. You could also assemble the pies the night before and through them in the oven after work. Either way, it's delicious and worth the time to make these from scratch!

Chicken Vegetable Pot Pie
adapted from Ina Garten
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cups sliced yellow onions (2 onions)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups good chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon Herbs de Provence
1 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup whole milk
1 1/2 cups large-diced potatoes (about 3 small red potatoes)
1 cup chopped green beans
1 1/2 cups peeled, 3/4-inch-diced carrots (4 carrots)
1 1/2 cups peeled, 3/4-inch-diced butternut squash
1 1/2 cups frozen small whole onions (1/2 pound)
3/4 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup minced flat-leaf parsley

For the pastry:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1/4 pound cold unsalted butter, diced
1/2 to 2/3 cup ice water
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
Herbs de provence (for garnish)

Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat and add the olive oil. Add the onions and saute until translucent, 10 to 15 minutes. Add the flour, reduce the heat to low, and cook for 3 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Slowly add the stock, milk, herb de provence, salt, and pepper, and bring to a boil. Simmer for 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Season to taste- the sauce should be highly seasoned.

Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water for 10 minutes. Lift out with a sieve. Add the green beans, carrots, and squash to the pot and cook in the boiling water for 5 minutes. Drain well. Add the potatoes, mixed vegetables, onions, and parsley to the sauce and mix well.

For the pastry, mix the flour, salt, and baking powder in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Add the shortening and butter and mix quickly with your fingers until each piece is coated with flour. Pulse 10 times, or until the fat is the size of peas. With the motor running, add the ice water; process only enough to moisten the dough and have it just come together. Dump the dough out onto a floured board and knead quickly into a ball. Wrap the dough in plastic and allow it to rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Divide the filling equally among 6 ovenproof bowls. Divide the dough into sixths and roll each piece into circle just larger than the tops of the bowls. Brush the outside edges of each bowl with the egg wash, then place the dough on top. Trim the circle to 1/2-inch larger than the top of the bowl. Crimp the dough to fold over the sides, pressing it to make it stick. Brush the dough with egg wash and make 3 slits in the top. Sprinkle with sea salt and cracked pepper. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and the filling is bubbling hot.

October 21, 2008

TWD- Pumpkin Cheesecake Muffins

I've been excited about fall for a while and trying to catch the feeling despite the summery weather. While I was gone, though, fall came. It even hopped down to the fifties, although it's back up. Nonetheless, it's officially fall around here now and I couldn't be more excited. Apples, pumpkin baked goods, and soups are now on the menu. So when it came time to make these muffins, chosen by Kelly, my mind went spinning thinking about what to do with the rest of that enormous can of pumpkin (think Mexican Winter Squash soup- coming soon!) I've also read that pumpkin puree freezes well in case you have extra. I had some left over cheese filling from Ina's cheese danishes, just the right amount of chopped pecans, and half a bag of white chocolate chips. I think, for once, things kind of fell into place.

The muffins themselves are quick and easy to put together. They have lots of delicious fall spices that are reminiscent of my soft Molasses Crinkles. The pumpkin flavor is subtle but warm and inviting. As for the chocolate on top... I couldn't find sunflower seeds at Safeway (seriously?) so my muffins just needed something so they looked less bare! Next time, I think I'll add more cinnamon, a little whole wheat flour, and count this as a "healthy" breakfast. With the right mixins (think nuts and fruit instead of chocolate!) I think I really could justify these in place of a bowl of oatmeal, if only for the wonderful autumn ambiance they bring to the table.

There's nothing like Tuesdays with Dorie- the perfect pick me up. Excuse me while I go bake something else. Thank goodness I have lots of neighbors and family to share with. Don't forget to check Kelly's blog for the recipe. I've included the recipe for the filling I used in a few of the muffins. I think I prefer the cheesecake muffins, although I really mostly prefer the Orange Berry Muffins. Either way, every muffin I've tried from Baking has been delicious- so pick up a copy already!

Cheesecake Filling
(Note- this makes enough for half a danish recipe- so just make a bit or use a little whipped up cream cheese you have on hand!)

4 oz Neufchatel (reduced fat) cream cheese, softened
3 Tablespoons sugar
1 Large egg or 1/4 Cup Egg Beaters, at room temperature
1 Tablespoon Ricotta (optional)
1 teaspoon Vanilla extract
Pinch of Kosher salt

Combine all ingredients until smooth. Spoon or scoop muffin batter into prepared muffin pan, filling about halfway. Spoon a tablespoon of cream cheese filling on top and follow with a tablespoon of muffin batter. Bake according to recipe.

I'd also like to thank Nancy and Matt for these nice blog awards and for their kind words. They both have wonderful posts and are great reads you should check out!

October 16, 2008

Barefoot Bloggers- Cheese (and Pumpkin Swirl) Danish

When I realized today that this was my 100th post, I found it oddly fitting since my first post was about Ina as is this one. I'm still constantly impressed by the Barefoot Contessa's recipes, although I try to keep the flavor with a little less fat. For these danishes, I started by reducing the portion size- halving the recipe and cutting the pastry sheet into 9 pieces instead of 4. I also subbed out Neufchatel cheese for the cream cheese and used egg beaters instead of egg yolks. As for the Ricotta, I didn't have any on hand so I opted to use Cottage Cheese. To make up for the texture I just blended everything with an immersion blender. The end result was delicious, smooth, and rich- a nice balance of creamy filling and flaky crust.

I also made a few pumpkin swirl danishes by mixing in some cinnamon and pumpkin puree. They were tasty for fall and I love anything with cinnamon!

Pardon the vanity shot of my new platter I carried home from Greece. I didn't think it would make it home in one piece but I was pleasantly surprised when it did!

This weeks Barefoot Bloggers bonus recipe was chosen by Val and I was SO excited when I saw it. I love cheese danish and recently have developed a bit of a love affair with puff pastry. These came together quickly, the most time extensive part involving softening the cream cheese!

Easy Cheese (and Pumpkin Swirl) Danish
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa at Home by Ina Garten

4 oz Neufchatel (reduced fat) cream cheese, softened
3 Tablespoons sugar
1 Large egg or 1/4 Cup Egg Beaters, at room temperature
1 Tablespoon Ricotta or Cottage Cheese
1 teaspoon Vanilla extract
Pinch of Kosher salt
2 teaspoons Orange Zest
1 Sheet Frozen Puff Pastry, defrosted
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash

Pumpkin Swirl:
2 Tablespoons Pumpkin Puree, unsweetened
1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon

1 Tablespoon Orange Juice
1/2 teaspoon Orange Zest
3 Tablespoons Powdered Sugar
1/2 teaspoon Meringue Powder (optional, but a great addition if you have it!)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

Place the cream cheese & sugar in bowl of an electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment and cream together on low speed until smooth. With the mixer still on low, add the egg yolks, ricotta, vanilla, salt, and orange zest and mix until just combined. Don’t whip! If the mixture is not perfectly smooth, blend together with an immersion blender.

Unfold one sheet of pastry onto a lightly floured board and roll it slightly with a floured rolling pin until it’s a 10×10 inch square. Cut the sheet into three each direction to make nine squares.

Place a tablespoon of cheese filling into the middle of each of the 9 squares. Brush the border of each pastry with egg wash and fold two opposite corners to the center, brushing and overlapping the corners of each pastry so they firmly stick together. Brush the top of the pastries with egg wash. Place the pastries on the prepared sheet pan. Repeat with the second sheet of puff pastry and refrigerate the filled Danish for 15 minutes.

For Pumpkin Swirl- combine the pumpkin puree with equal parts cheese filling and gently stir- don't overmix! Spoon the mixture into the pastry as described above.

Bake the puff pastries for 20 to 23 minutes, rotating the pan once during baking, until puffed and brown.

To make the glaze-
Combine orange juice, zest, powdered sugar, and meringue powder and whisk until smooth. It should be a pourable consistency. Adjust liquid until the glaze drips from the spoon and then drizzle over the danishes.

October 14, 2008

I'm back!

I just got in from our whirlwind trip to Greece and, unfortunately, do not have the energy to make any Biscotti tonight for Tuesdays with Dorie!

My card reader is MIA (I'll thank my little guy for that) so I'll be back with pictures and more from the trip soon I hope, and with some more baked goods- I've missed my KitchenAid!

October 9, 2008

Barefoot Bloggers- Butternut Squash Risotto

This weeks Barefoot Bloggers recipe, Butternut Squash Risotto, was absolutely perfect. I had just bought a squash at the grocery store before I knew the recipe. I had all the other ingredients on hand and had been dying to use the saffron in my cupboard (also purchased for an Ina recipe). This was simple, if time consuming, to put together. The final product was delicious- the flavors went together perfectly. Next time I'll omit the extra kosher salt (unless I have low sodium chicken stock) and include more squash, since that was my favorite part. I seem to say this every week, but seriously, I love Ina- another fabulous recipe!

Butternut Squash Risotto
from Ina Garten

1 butternut squash (2 pounds)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
2 ounces pancetta, diced
1/2 cup minced shallots (2 large)
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice (10 ounces)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon saffron threads
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Peel the butternut squash, remove the seeds, and cut it into 3/4-inch cubes. You should have about 6 cups. Place the squash on a sheet pan and toss it with the olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, tossing once, until very tender. Set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the chicken stock in a small covered saucepan. Leave it on low heat to simmer.

In a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter and saute the pancetta and shallots on medium-low heat for 10 minutes, until the shallots are translucent but not browned. Add the rice and stir to coat the grains with butter. Add the wine and cook for 2 minutes. Add 2 full ladles of stock to the rice plus the saffron, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Stir, and simmer until the stock is absorbed, 5 to 10 minutes. Continue to add the stock, 2 ladles at a time, stirring every few minutes. Each time, cook until the mixture seems a little dry, then add more stock. Continue until the rice is cooked through, but still al dente, about 30 minutes total. Off the heat, add the roasted squash cubes and Parmesan. Mix well and serve.

October 8, 2008

Emma Hearts Knightley Pie

Just in case my family doesn't think I spend enough time making and photographing food, I decided to join a new blogging event- "You want pies with that?" Inspired by the movie Waitress, once a month we will make a new pie based on the monthly theme. This month's theme is "Movies" and so I decided to make a pie based on one of my favorites- Emma with Gwyneth Paltrow. I did some searching to see if I could find out anything about what people might have eaten during Jane Austen's time and found a lot of things I wouldn't want to eat! I did remember the picnic in the movie where the picked strawberries, and Harriet's present of walnuts from Mr. Martin (in the book). So that's where Emma Hearts Knightley Pie came from. A nutty shortbread crust, creamy strawberry filling, a sprinkle of nuts, and a generous topping of whipped cream with another sprinkling of nuts on top makes a truly delicious pie. And I hope you guys are proud that I didn't fall back on my old favorite- fruit on top of pastry cream.

And while it might not be exactly what Jane Austen's character ate, it was still a delicious pie to serve my own Mr. Knightley (it's an old picture but I think the feeling is the same as Emma's).

Sweet Tart Dough
from Baking by Dorie Greenspan

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup ground nuts (walnuts, pecans, etc- just pulse in food processor with a little powdered sugar)
½ cup confectioners’ sugar
¼ tsp salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 T) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk

Put the flour, nuts, sugar, and salt in a food processor and pulse a couple of times to combine. Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in- you should have some pieces the size of oatmeal fakes and others the size of peas. Stir the yolk, just to break it up, and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. When the egg is in, process in long pulses- about 10 seconds each- until the dough, which will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds. Just before you reach this stage, the sound of the machine working the dough will change- heads up. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and, very lightly and sparingly, knead the dough just to incorporate and dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing.

To press the dough into the pan: butter a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Press the dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan, using all but one little piece of dough, which you should save in the refrigerator to patch any cracks after the crust is baked. Don’t be too heavy handed- press the crust in so that the edges of the pieces cling to one another, but not so hard that the crust loses its crumbly texture. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferable longer, before baking.

To partially or fully bake the crust: center a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees F.

Butter the shiny side of aluminum foil and fit the foil, buttered side down, against the crust. (since you froze it, you can bake it without weights). Put the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake the crust for 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil. If the crust has puffed, carefully press it down with the back of a spoon. For partially baked crust, patch the crust if necessary, then transfer the crust to a cooling rack. To fully bake the crust, bake for another 8 minutes or so, or until it is firm and golden brown. Transfer pan to a rack and cool the crust to room temperature before filling.

Strawberry Cream

From Domino
2 Pounds of Strawberries, cleaned and hulled
1 ¼ cups whole milk
¾ cup sugar
5 Tablespoons cornstarch
3 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 1 lemon)

Place 2 pounds strawberries in a blender and blend on high until pureed, about 10 seconds (do in two batches if necessary).

Combine milk, sugar and cornstarch in a heavy-bottomed saucepan, and whisk until dissolved. Add the strawberry puree and lemon juice. Cook on high heat, whisking frequently, until the mixture is thick and bubbling (about 7 minutes); remove from heat. Pour into glass bowl and refrigerate 30 minutes.

After filling cools slightly, stir to loosen and spoon into the baked and cooled crust. Sprinkle with chopped nuts and return to refrigerated. Meanwhile, prepare whipped cream.

Whipped Cream:
1 cup heavy cream
2 Tablespoons confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract

Combine all ingredients in mixer and whip on high until stiff peaks form. Spread on top of pie and garnish with a strawberry.

October 7, 2008

TWD- Caramel-Peanut-Topped Brownie Cake

I knew this week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe was going to be ridiculously decadent when I first saw the picture. I also knew I couldn't keep this around the house. My husband can't have chocolate and I can't eat an enormous brownie cake alone. I wanted to reduce the recipe make it in my 4 inch spring form pans but they are in storage so I called Kristi and asked if she could take it off my hands.

I ended up making the cake in an 8 inch spring form pan and making a mini cake in a ramekin as well. That way, I reasoned, I could try it before sending it off to someone else (that always makes me nervous!) The cake came together quickly which was a good thing because my son was "helping" me and dumped about 2 tablespoons of salt into the mixer as I finished the batter! So, I threw that out and made it again. Then I made the caramel and in the middle of the process my husband emailed me an awesome house-hunting site- Zillow. Well I got distracted and burned the caramel so I made that again too! The second batch worked out great, but it was a little grainy since I couldn't find a pastry brush to brush down the sides of the pan. I read later that if you put a lid on the pan while the ingredients come to a boil the condensation will take care of any stray sugar crystals. Frankly, candy making is not my forte and I clearly didn't pay enough attention during that week of my cooking class in college.

Even though it wasn't perfect, the extra caramel was perfect on a little peach.

So, having made the caramel and cake twice and then snacked on too much caramel, I left the room only to find my tall little guy had reached over the counter onto the cooling rack and stolen my mini cake! He had such a look of smug satisfaction and enjoyed every bite, it was hilarious. He ate that whole thing without a bit of remorse, too.

I topped my remaining cake with the peanuts and caramel and sent it off on my trusty red platter. She said the cake was a little dry but liked the flavor and loved it with ice cream. I wish I could have cut a little piece for myself before it went off! Either way, I had a great time making this cake. There's just something therapeutic about baking. With the craziness of getting ready to go to Greece, I knew I didn't really have time for these little projects but I knew I needed to make the time. And I'm glad I did. Next time I'll likely make one of Dorie's brownie recipes and top it with the caramel and nuts since I prefer brownies to cake, but you can't beat the assembly and presentation of a cake- it's so satisfying! Thanks, Tammy, for the great choice. The recipe can be found on her blog.

October 2, 2008

Black and White Chocolate Chippers

I'm sure you've passed by Paradise Bakery at the mall- I certainly have, but I'd never eaten there. Now that I've tried the cookies, I know why everyone is eating there. Wow. One bite of that sample cookie and I knew I was hooked. Why are their cookies so delicious?! Do they use more butter? And they are so soft! I've tried a couple of flavors but the black and white chocolate chippers- soft, chewy, and not-too rich- those keep me coming back for more. So when a craving for these cookies hit Sunday afternoon, a quick Google search led me to Picky Palate. I'd tried another copycat recipe and the results were disastrous (a no egg cookie will not be trusted again in my house, let me tell you). But these little chippers... they are heavenly. For cocoa powder, I used Hershey's special dark. It gave the cookies an alarmingly dark chocolate color and the taste was absolutely perfect. I have four different cocoas in my pantry since every recipe seems to call for a different one. I finally read up on the differences and found this nice explanation. I also used Ghiradelli white chocolate chips. I love the size and taste- I just try to stock up when they are on sale and get the best of both worlds, price and quality. Chopped white chocolate would be even better if you have it.

Black and White Chocolate Chippers
Adapted from Picky Palate and Genesis of a Cook
Note: I used my regular cookie scoop and this recipe yielded about 40 cookies. I flattened them a tiny bit before baking so they weren't too round and puffy (I like them a little more uniform). These cookies are so rich that I would recommend making the cookies small and serving them with milk! (I would have used that darling little scoop they have at Williams Sonoma if I owned it- this is one cookie I wouldn't use my big ice cream scoop for!)

1 3/4 cups Flour (Be sure to level off- you don't want too much)
1 1/4 cups Cocoa powder (I used Hershey's Special Dark)
2 teaspoons Baking Soda
1/4 teaspoon Salt
3/4 cup Brown Sugar
1 cup Sugar
1 cup Butter, softened
2 eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons Pure Vanilla Extrat
2 cups white chocolate chips (One bag of Ghiradelli chips)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare baking sheets (Grease or line with Silpat or parchment paper).

Sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Set dry ingredients aside.

Cream together the butter, brown sugar and white sugar until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes in the KitchenAid). Add eggs one at a time, beating well with each addiction. Add vanilla and mix once to combine.

With the mixer on low, slowly add in the dry mixture, stirring until just incorporated. Fold in white chocolate chips. Scoop onto the prepared cookie sheet and squish slightly if flatter cookies are desired.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes until fluffy but still soft. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. Serve with milk and store in an airtight container.