Sunday, February 28, 2010

Food Blog and Chocolate Chip Cookies

This recipe looks amazing for all you fellow chocoholics!!!

Oh My Goodness! You MUST visit this blog and see the recipes this gal has!
I made the Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies this afternoon - they are scrumptious! Move over Otis Spunkmeyer - these are better!!

For those of you spoiled by me.. here's the recipe from her blog.... but, you really should look at the blog yourself.... :)

Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
(Source: Baking Illustrated, page 434)
Makes about 18 large cookies.
These oversized cookies are chewy and thick, like many of the chocolate chip cookies sold in gourmet shops and cookie stores. They rely on melted butter and an extra egg yolk to keep their texture soft. These cookies are best served warm from the oven but will retain their texture even when cooled. To ensure the proper texture, cool the cookies on the baking sheet. Oversized baking sheets allow you to get all the dough into the oven at one time. If you’re using smaller baking sheets, put fewer cookies on each sheet and bake them in batches.

2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (10 5/8 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled until warm
1 cup packed (7 ounces) light or dark brown sugar
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1-1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (Ghiradelli)

1. Adjust the oven racks to the upper- and lower-middle positions and heat the oven to 325 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper or spray them with nonstick cooking spray.
2. Whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl; set aside.
3. Either by hand or with an electric mixer, mix the butter and sugars until thoroughly blended. Beat in the egg, yolk, and vanilla until combined. Add the dry ingredients and beat at low speed just until combined. Stir in the chips to taste.
4. Roll a scant 1/4 cup of the dough into a ball. Hold the dough ball with the fingertips of both hands and pull into 2 equal halves. Rotate the halves 90 degrees and, with jagged surfaces facing up, join the halves together at their base, again forming a single ball, being careful not to smooth the dough’s uneven surface. Place the formed dough balls on the prepared baking sheets, jagged surface up, spacing them 2 1/2 inches apart.
5. Bake until the cookies are light golden grown and the outer edges start to harden yet the centers are still soft and puffy, 15 to 18 minutes, rotating the baking sheets front to back and top to bottom halfway through the baking time. Cool the cookies on the sheets. Remove the cooled cookies from the baking sheets with a side metal spatula.

Note: I tried the rolling method described, but finally just made very large rough balls of dough. They baked fine!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Oat and Fruit Muffins

Warm muffins on a cold winter day.... makes my tummy cozy!

Oat and Fruit Muffins
2 cups self-rising flour
1 cup old-fashioned or quick-cooking oatmeal (NOT instant!)
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar (light or dark - no matter which)
2 eggs
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup cooking oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup dried fruit ( I used SunMaid Fruit Bits)
1/2 cup chopped nuts, optional

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. If you have convection, this is a great time to use it - same temp.
Grease 12 muffin cups. In a large bowl, combine flour, oatmeal and brown sugar; mix well.
In a small bowl, lightly beat eggs. Add milk and vanilla; blend well. Add to flour mixture; stir just until dry ingredients are moistened. Batter will be lumpy! Gently fold in dried fruit and nuts. Fill greased muffin cups 3/4 full. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes (10 -12 in convection) or until golden brown. Serve hot!

* If you don't have self-rising flour, add 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt to each cup of all-purpose flour.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tuscany and a Quick Recipe

We're getting ready for our next BIG adventure. We're going to Tuscany for 10 days at the end of April. So far, we've booked our flights, booked a B&B in Tuscany where the owners are formerly from CA and are a cookbook author and and artist. They have an organic olive grove and press their own oil (for sale, of course). Then we will go north to Lucca, Florence and Siena.

Plans are still coming together for that part of the trip - stay tuned! Meanwhile, here is one of our favorite "Guilty Pleasures"... very Italian!

From an Italian Foodie Blog........

I don’t think Nutella needs any introduction, but what you might not know is that this famous worldwide chocolate spread passed through a series of transformations before becoming the nutella you know now. Originally it had a loaf shape and had to be sliced to be placed on bread. It then transformed to a spread and was named “pasta gianduja”. Pasta meaning paste, in this case, and gianduja was referring to the famous carnival mask from the Piedmont region. Its origins date back to 1940, just at the beginning of War World II. At that time chocolate was hard to find, so Mr. Pietro Ferrero added hazelnuts which were, and still are, abundant in Piedmont and created an affordable snack for everyone. In 1964 Nutella® became the creamy chocolate hazelnut flavor we all know. I’m amazed that after so many products disappeared over the years that nutella has remained and has become part of our Italian culture.
I have a special affection to nutella because it reminds me of my childhood. I used to eat it spread on a soft slice of white bread just like in the picture on the label, but my favorite way was, and still is, to eat it directly from the jar. I know I Know I shouldn’t but it’s such a delight. I’m not able to resist nutella, when I see a jar of nutella my hand reaches out for the spoon and there’s nothing that can stop it from dipping into the chocolate. That’s exactly what happened when I prepared these mini croissants. I finished the rest of the jar slowly a little bit at the time and at the end of the day, to my surprise, it was magically gone as well as all the croissants.
These croissants are fast to prepare and can be an energetic breakfast or a mid afternoon snack for your kids. They’re easily ready in 20 minutes and they can also be eaten at room temperature if you’re able to resist. Mine were gone before they could cool off.

Mini croissants with Nutella®
1 round or rectangular puff pastry sheet or 1 can crescent roll dough
Powdered sugar (optional)

Yields: 12 croissants

Heat up the oven to 350°Cut the puff pastry sheet in 12 wedges if round. Or cut crescent rolls in half, making 16 triangles from a can. Place a heaping teaspoon of nutella on the wider end of the wedge and roll it until you form a croissant. Pinch the ends of it and give it a crescent shape.Place all the croissants on a baking sheet covered by parchment paper and bake for 10-15 minutes.Let them cool for 5 minutes, if you’re able to wait. Before serving them you can sprinkle them with powdered sugar, too.

Monday, February 22, 2010

New Days!

Ok, I'm officially tired of snow and have redesigned my blog to eliminate all snow pics, etc. in hopes of discouraging snow from coming our way! HA!

Bring on spring... warm days, bulbs popping up with spring flowers not far behind, robins singing and grilled food!

It CAN'T be far........

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Steps in Marshmallow making.....

It's a sticky mess, but the good news is hot water takes care of it all..... think about how marshmallows dissolve in hot chocolate!

Smooth the sticky mess into a foil lined 9x12-inch pan with a wet knife.
Then wait....... 4 hrs!
Finally, dump it out onto a surface covered in powdered sugar and cut into shapes.
Dust with powdered sugar on all sides.
(My hands were covered with sugar and marshmallow cream - couldn't get pics of that step!! )
Store in air tight container for up to 2 weeks. Place parchment paper or wax paper between layers. I'm betting they don't stay around here for 2 weeks!

Homemade Marshmallows

IF you have kids, or are a kid at heart, you've got to try these.  These are so easy to make and soooo good! You'll never want a Kraft marshmallow again. I even dipped some in melted chocolate and crushed peppermint.... like eating a cloud!

Homemade Marshmallows

These can be layered between sheets of parchment and stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to two weeks.

Nonstick vegetable oil spray - PAM
1 cup cold water, divided
3 (1/4-ounce) envelopes unflavored Knox gelatin
2 cups sugar
2/3 cup light corn syrup (Karo)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted

Line a 13x9x2-inch metal baking pan with foil. Coat foil lightly with nonstick spray.

Pour 1/2 cup cold water into bowl of heavy-duty mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Sprinkle gelatin over water. Let stand until gelatin softens and absorbs water, at least 15 minutes.

Combine 2 cups sugar, corn syrup, salt, and remaining 1/2 cup cold water in heavy bottom medium -size saucepan. Stir over medium low heat until sugar dissolves, brushing down sides of pan with wet pastry brush. Attach candy thermometer to side of pan. Increase heat and bring syrup to boil. Boil, without stirring, until syrup reaches 240°F, about 8 minutes. ( see tip below)

With mixer running at low speed, slowly pour hot syrup into gelatin mixture in thin stream down side of bowl (avoid pouring syrup onto whisk, as it may splash). Gradually increase speed to high and beat until mixture is very thick and stiff, about 15 minutes. Add vanilla and beat to blend, about 30 seconds longer. (Gather the kids around. This is the amazing part - watching this bowl of wet goo, turn into white creamy fluff!)

Scrape marshmallow mixture into prepared pan. Smooth top with wet spatula. Let stand uncovered at room temperature until firm, about 4 hours. (Don't stress over the mess, it cleans up easily with hot water and is well worth it!)

Sift generous dusting of powdered sugar onto work surface, forming rectangle slightly larger than 13x9 inches. Turn marshmallow slab out onto starch-sugar mixture; peel off foil. Sift more powdered sugar over marshmallow slab. Coat pizza wheel or large sharp knife (or cookie cutters) with water or nonstick spray. Cut marshmallows into squares or other shapes. Toss each in remaining powdered sugar to coat. Transfer marshmallows to rack, shaking off excess mixture.

Tips: If you don't have a candy thermometer, after boiling for 6 minutes, drop a very small amount of the hot mixture into a cup of cold water. If you can pick it up between your fingers and it forms a soft ball, it is done!

You'll get better results using a stand mixer. The mixture is very sticky and stiff. If you're using a heavy duty mixer (Kitchenaid) don't over mix. Its ready when it looks like marshmallow cream.

For really thick marshmallows, pour into a foil lined 9-inch square pan.

The hardest part is waiting 4 hrs to cut and eat the marshmallows!! The pan can sit overnight, too.

Add flavorings of your choice. I made one batch with 1 teaspoon almond extract and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract along with pink food color.

Use cookie cutters to make cute shapes. Stick them on a craft stick and dip in melted chocolate... the options are endless!!


Monday, February 8, 2010

Deep Dense Chocolate Cake - easy, too!

Mississippi Mud Cake
16 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon whiskey
3/4 cup sugar
8 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 cups hot water
1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Whipped cream, for serving
1 sprig mint, for decoration (optional)

Preheat over to 350 degrees F.
Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the whiskey, sugar, chocolate and water. Stir over low heat until the chocolate is just melted and the mixture is smooth. Sift the flour and cocoa powder together and gradually beat into the chocolate mixture. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until combined.
Pour the mixture into a greased and lined 9-inch round cake pan and bake for 40-45 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Leave the cake in the pan for 15 minutes before turning out to cool.
Serve warm or cold with whipped cream and decorated with a sprig of mint, if desired.

The Most Delicious Chicken!!

If you like rotisserrie chicken , grocery store style, you'll LOVE this recipe. I made it last nite for dinner and wished I had cooked 2 chickens instead of one!

The Most Delicious Chicken
1 whole chicken
1 large onion, thickly sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 large lemon, cut into 4 pieces
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3 tablespoons butter, melted
Fresh rosemary sprigs, if desired ( or 2 teaspoons dried rosemary)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Wash chicken and remove giblets. Pat dry with a paper towel. Place sliced onion and olive oil in a large baking dish, tossing the onion in the oil. Place the chicken on top of the onion. Generously salt and pepper the cavity of the chicken. Place lemon wedges in the cavity along with 1/2 of the garlic and a few sprigs rosemary, if desired. Lift skin of chicken breast and slide remaining garlic under the skin. Brush entire chicken with melted butter, sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Bake at 425 degrees for 1 hour 15 minutes. ( If chicken is large, add 15 minutes to cooking time.)
Remove from oven and tent with foil (or cover with pan lid), let rest for 15 minutes. Slice and serve with juices from pan. YUUMMMM!

Note: I remove the lemon wedges after baking and squeeze the juice over the chicken before serving.