February 23, 2010

TWD- Cookies (late!)

Since I'm fresh out of wheat germ, I present last week's Tuesdays with Dorie treat- Dorie's best chocolate chip cookies. I first made these about 1 1/2 years ago and they were a big (flat) flop. Someone even said the looked like cow patties, even if they tasted yummy! I thought that the results would be different this time- more recipes tried, more cookies made (how many in that time? Probably over a thousand- good thing I share!). So- I busted out my best, unsalted name brand butter that my husband says I won't let him use, which is kind of true. For half the batch I chopped up a Ghiradelli Luxe Milk Chocolate with Hazelnuts bar and for the other batch I put in Craisins, Walnuts, Oats, and White Chocolate. I chilled them and they still came out flat! I did take out the craisin-y batch early in hopes of saving it and they were better. I guess what I learned this week is stick with what works. It's great to try a new recipe but really, I've made hundreds of batches (at least) of chocolate chip cookies in my life. If I weren't a slacker I could show you pictures of me doing that since I was 10 or so. Making chocolate chip cookies with my mom is what sparked my love of cooking and baking and so I'm going to keep making them her way!

So... no recipe to post this week (you can find the original here or better yet buy the book already). But here are a few of my tips for the best chocolate chip cookies-

~Don't use too soft butter. Make sure it's soft enough to cream well but not on the verge of melting (which is a real possibility while baking in a hot, AZ kitchen!)
~Use plenty of good vanilla- I buy the bottle at Costco with the pour spout and dump it in
~Try new mixins- nuts, dried fruits, different chocolates, to get new flavors from the same basic dough
~Chill the dough for better looking cookies (I like to scoop then chill- it's faster and easier to shape)
~Scoop your dough with an ice cream scoop for even, pretty cookies
~Buy a few Silpat silicone baking sheets on ebay so you don't have to grease and clean up is a snap
~Wrap up your cooled, evenly sized cookies in a cellophane bag (they always have cute holiday ones at the Target Dollar Spot), tie with a ribbon, and people with think you're Martha Stewart. Really!

February 19, 2010

Vanilla Sandwich Cookies with Mint Filling

{printable recipe here}
Wow it's been a fast week! I didn't get to posting Dorie's chocolate chip cookies but they were a big, delicious mess. I know you all think everything I make is perfectly delicious, served up on time, right? Haha! Really though we've been busy working on the house. My baby strawberry turned five months this week, which is crazy fast, and her nursery is almost done. We found an awesome old bedroom set, that was very ugly but had lots of potential, and are painting it now. My mom finished her gorgeous bedding and I'm super excited to finish it up. I've finally hung some curtains in our bedroom and worked on getting pictures on our bare walls.

It's also been beautiful outside (60s and 70s, sunny but not at all hot) and so we've been making the most of our limited spring time here in sunny AZ. In honor of the beautiful weather I have one of my favorite cookies in a spring version- a soft, chewy vanilla cookie sandwiches a mint ganache made with my favorite (and shockingly green) mint chips from Guittard. I found them online here but don't know anything about that retailer. I know I can find them at Safeway here (especially around the holidays) and at Ream's and Macys in Utah. They're crazy delicious and worth hunting down if you love mint like I do. You could also sub in chocolate or make Martha's original raspberry version which is also delicious.You really can't go wrong with these cookies- I've even made a blueberry filling before. Let me know if you try any fun flavors. For the record I used butterscotch chips once and everyone said they were too sweet, but I know some people say there's no such thing!

I'm also happy to announce that Melody won the Safeway card from last week's giveaway. Get me your address and I'll have it sent right out!

Vanilla Sandwich Cookies with Mint Filling
adapted from Martha Stewart's Cookies, page 93

{printable recipe here}

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 sticks (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups plus 2 teaspoons sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise, seeds scraped and reserved (optional)
1 cup Guittard Mint Chips (or white chocolate and a few drops of peppermint extract)
1/3 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

Mix butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add egg, extract, and vanilla seeds; mix until smooth. Reduce speed to low. Gradually mix in flour mixture.

Scoop batter using a 1-inch ice cream scoop; space 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.

Bake cookies 4 minutes. Remove from oven; gently tap baking sheets on counter to flatten cookies. Return to oven, switching positions of sheets; bake until cookies are just set, 4 to 6 minutes more. Let cool on parchment on wire racks.

Melt mint chips in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Remove from heat; whisk in cream in a slow stream. Refrigerate 30 minutes.

Spread 1 tab cream on the undersides of half the cookies. Sandwich with remaining cookies. Cookies can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container up to 2 days (no way will they last that long, though!)

February 11, 2010

Happy Valentine's (Cookies)!

{printable recipe here}

Happy Valentine's! It's amazing to me how fast time flies. Last year we sent Valentine's cards to our families announcing Baby Strawberry's coming arrival in September. Now she's smiling, begging to try real food, and getting to be more fun every day. She's also pretty insistent on having my undivided attention so we've been keeping things pretty simple around here. You can't get much better than sugar cookies (especially since my Valentine can't eat chocolate!) I'm hoping to frost a bunch for the kids at Church on Sunday but for me I really love a yummy, light orange glaze. I cut the centers out with a small heart cutter and was surprised that everyone wanted the tiny hearts the most. I'll probably make just those next time! Thanks for reading along with my little blog. I'd give you each a cookie if I could!

Don't forget- the $50 Safeway gift card giveaway ends tomorrow night. Enter here.

Grandma's All Occasion Sugar Cookie Dough
from Dorie Greenspan- see the full recipe on page 146 here

{printable recipe here}

1 stick plus 2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 large egg plus 1 yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla and beat thoroughly. Add in dry ingredients slowly mix until just combined, being careful not to over mix. Divide dough into two disks, wrap in saran wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or until nice and chilled (sometimes I use frozen flour to speed the process up!)

Preheat the over to 350. Line two baking sheets with silicone mats or parchment. Roll out dough onto lightly floured surface to about 3/8 or 1/2 inch thickness and cut cookies out with cutters. Bake for 8 minutes for soft cookies (my favorite), 10 for crisp. Remove from oven, place onto cooling racks, and frost after cooled.

1 cup powdered sugar
Zest and juice of one orange
1 teaspoon meringue powder (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl until even and shiny. Dip cookies in glaze and set on a cooling rack to harden. Enjoy!

February 9, 2010

Super Peanut Butter Cheesecake Swirl Brownies

{printable recipe here}
This week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe is a simple, rich brownie. I love love love brownies. Of all the desserts I made they are probably my favorite (that and cheesecake) but I couldn't squeeze this recipe in. However, last minute my parents had a Super Bowl party and last minute (as in during the actual game) we decided we needed something sweet so I made my go-to brownies. I swirled in reduced fat cream cheese and broken Dove candies filled with Peanut butter for an extra surprise. They are kind of (I REALLY hate to say it) semi-homemade but when you're in a real hurry and the kids are crying semi is better than not at all. Maybe I'll eat my words on that later and maybe some of you will "unfriend" me or whatever but these brownies were eaten quicker than they were made. Which is saying something.

I like to line my pan with two pieces of aluminum foil- the first "hot dog style" folded to the width of the pan, the second "hamburger style" over the first. Then grease, then pour, then bake, then lift out beautiful brownies. Plus, if you're like me and have your husband take the brownies out, he'll ensure they aren't overly gooey like mine usually are. Ah, perfection is a close as a hastily lined brownie pan. Really, though, don't the scraped out and mangled brownies kind of ruin it for you? Try this next time or just let me know if I'm the only one who cares about such things.

Don't forget to enter my giveaway for a $50 giftcard to the Safeway family of stores here and see the rest of the real "brownies for Julia" at the TWD Blogroll.

Peanut Butter Cheesecake Brownies
from Anne Strawberry

{printable recipe here}

1 package Betty Crocker Deluxe brownie mix (I like the one with the chocolate chunks, not the fudge), prepared as instructed on the box
1 package Neufchatel (reduced fat) Cream Cheese (softened- on the counter or in the microwave on low power for one minute)
1 Egg
1/3 Cup Sugar
1 teaspoon Vanilla
10 Dove chocolates filled with peanut butter, broken into quarters (or your favorite candy bar, nut, etc)

Preheat the oven to 350. Prepare brownies as directed on the box and pour into prepared 9 x 13 baking dish.

In a small bowl, whip the cream cheese until soft and smooth (about one minute). Add the egg, sugar, and vanilla and mix until well combined. Dollop spoonfuls evenly over the brownies, drop on the candy, and use a butter knife to carefully swirl the pattern by pulling it through the batter until desired look is achieved.

Bake for about 30 minutes until they are done as you like them (gooey for me, just set for my Tall Man).

February 7, 2010

Pomegranate Swirl Cheesecake with Chocolate Cheerio Crust and a Giveaway

(this giveaway is now closed) Happy super bowl Sunday! Since I absolutely don't care about football (I'm tall- I've always liked basketball {players}) the Superbowl is just a good excuse for a party. It's been a fun weekend and I'm finally getting around to posting a winner for the General Mill's Chocolate Cheerio's giveaway. A trip to random.org has chosen Audra Roberts- so email me your address Audra and I'll get them right in the mail! Now here is the promised dessert featuring the cheerios. I made a crust using ground up Chocolate Cheerios. I figured they're a lot better for you than Oreos but still chocolately and delicious. I wasn't sure how it would turn out but I think it worked. I also swirled in some mini chocolate chips and pomegranate molasses I made with some juice that Pom Wonderful mailed me. Pomegranate juice is seriously healthy (my dad loves him and couldn't believe I was going to cook with it instead of letting him drink it all!) Alton Brown has an awesome episode on Pomegranates and I used his recipe for the molasses which I've kept in a jar in my fridge for a while. I tried making Molasses Crinkle cookies with it but the color and the flavor didn't come through- I'm saving the rest for some yummy pork loin. Back to the cheesecake. I just swirled in those two ingredients to my basic cheesecake batter from my favorite Lemon Curd Cheesecake. Between the cereal crust, reduced fat cream cheese, and pomegranate juice this is practically health food. Haha. You could also sub in cherry pie filling or something similar. As Ina would say, "Chocolate, Cream, Sugar, Butter- how bad can that be?"

Speaking of health food, Safeway and FiberOne Yogurt (through myBlogSpark) have given me a $50 Safeway gift card to give to one of my readers so you can try their yogurt. They sent me one and a coupon to try it so I could let you know what I thought. I couldn't believe how yummy it was. I used to have a Yoplait almost every morning in college but I've since consumed most of my yogurt frozen via Golden Spoon. I think this Fiber One Yogurt has changed my mind, though. It's crazy delicious and good for you too (for real, unlike my cheesecake). So leave a comment to be entered to win the gift card. And stop by Safeway- the four packs of yogurt are 2 for $4 through Tuesday. Make sure you leave a way for me to contact you and enter by Friday night, midnight AZ time. And if your store has it make sure you try the Key Lime flavor!

Pomegranate Swirl Cheesecake with Chocolate Cheerio Crust
by Anne Strawberry

2 1/2 Cups Chocolate Cheerios, crushed (in a baggie with a mallet or in the food processor)
1/4 Cup Melted Butter
1 Tablespoon Sugar
1 Tablespoon Cocoa Powder (I like Hershey's special dark)

Preheat the oven to 350. Combine all ingredients and press into four mini springform pans or one regular springform. A pie pan will also work if that's all you have. Make sure the layer is even and not too thick. Bake for 8 minutes and set aside to cool completely.

2 packages Neufchatel (1/3 less fat) Cream Cheese, completely softened
2/3 Cup Sugar
2 Eggs
1/2 Cup Sour Cream
1 teaspoon Vanilla
3 tablespoons Pomegranate Molasses (or cherry pie filling)
1/3 Cup Mini Chocolate Chips

Optional Garnish:
Chocolate Syrup or Sauce
Whipped Cream

Preheat the oven to 350. Beat cream cheese in stand mixer for two minutes, or until completely smooth. Add sugar and eggs and beat for one more minute. Mix in the sour cream and vanilla and divide mixture among pans. Spoon 1/2 tablespoon molasses at a time over the cheesecake, sprinkle on the chocolate chips, and use a butter knife to gently swirl it in.

Bake for 45 minutes for a full sized springform or 25-30 minutes for miniature pans (or until it looks set and doesn't jiggle too much- it may crack, but don't stress it!) Allow to cool at room temperature and then in the fridge until chilled. Serve with chocolate sauce and whipped cream.

February 2, 2010

Milk Chocolate Mini Bundt Cakes

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe is the Milk Chocolate Mini Bundt Cakes. I'm no bundt connoisseur like Mary but I did lust after one of those cathedral bundt pans at Williams Sonoma for a couple of years before I found this mini one on clearance there for $9.99 when I was pregnant with my little man (and my tall man was more than willing to placate his crazy wife, thank goodness!). Well I'll be honest and tell you I've only used it three times so far but the results have been adorable each time so I think it was worth it.

Really though, I have serious issues with baking pans. Every time I see a fancy pan I pick it up, look it over, and have to really convince myself to put it back (or if I'm at Ross or TJ Maxx and find a good deal I carefully put it in the cart and hope my husband doesn't notice my growing collection!). The pan I've really been looking to get lately is a Mini Cheesecake Pan, one that has the removable bottoms for perfect bite size cheesecake any time. Anyways, I hope I'm not the only one with these issues! Thank goodness for Tuesdays with Dorie and so many different recipes to test my boundaries and use my many purchases. I'm also grateful for the nice tall cabinet in my garage right outside my kitchen door to house my overflowing kitchen appliances and pans!

So back to these cakes. They come together in a snap and house a nice layer of cocoa powdered coated walnuts. That was my favorite part of the cake. Next time I would use bittersweet chocolate since the chocolate flavor was very weak and then top them with ganache. The melted chocolate with corn syrup never came together for me but my kitchen helpers were happy to eat it right away. We actually dipped almonds in the extra failed glaze and that snack was as delicious as the cake!

When my brother tried one he said, "it's kind of like a donut, eh." So my mom of course told him not to eat it if he didn't like it, to which he replied, "Oh I'll eat it, don't worry!" Yay for single guys, too funny. So while this wasn't our favorite we certainly ate it. Dorie is spoiling us all!

See the recipe at Kristen's blog and come back next week for Brownies. Yum.

Baby Strawberry (who is getting so big and starting to get mad when I don't share my baked goods with her) hopes you have a great day and reminds you to enter the Chocolate Cheerios Giveaway! I'll announce the winner this week and with any luck will have an awesome recipe featuring my favorite new cereal. And yes, it will be a dessert!