Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Chocolate Crackle Cookies

Cookies, cookies, and more cookies. You've got to eat them while you can before the wave of New Year's guilt, so here's an easy and plentiful recipe to get your end-of-the-year fix.

These cookies are a personal favorite - they look pretty and are made of chocolate. How can you lose?

This dough keeps well in the fridge for a few days so you don't have to bake them all at once. You can divide the dough into balls, freeze them in a ziploc bag and then sugar and bake them at the ready any day. Fresh cookies in an instant!

If you haven't gotten the picture, these are probably not diabetic-friendly snacks, so I apologize, but I don't feel guilty, because it's only Dec 29...

Chocolate Crackle Cookies
from Martha Stewart

yields 5 dozen cookies

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup Dutch cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/3 cups light-brown sugar, firmly packed
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup milk
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup confectioners' sugar, plus more for rolling

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Chop bittersweet chocolate into small bits, and melt over medium heat in a heat-proof bowl or the top of a double boiler set over a pan of simmering water. Set aside to cool. Sift together flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt.

In the bowl of a heavy-duty electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and light-brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla, and beat until well combined. Add melted chocolate. With mixer on low speed, alternate adding dry ingredients and milk until just combined. Divide the dough into quarters, wrap with plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator until firm, about 2 hours.

On a clean countertop, roll each portion of dough into a log approximately 16 inches long and 1 inch in diameter, using confectioners’ sugar to prevent sticking. Wrap logs in plastic wrap, and transfer to a baking sheet. Chill for 30 minutes. Cut each log into 1-inch pieces, toss in granulated sugar and then toss in confectioners’ sugar, a few at a time. Using your hands, roll the pieces into a ball shape. If any of the cocoa-colored dough is visible, roll dough in confectioners’ sugar again to coat completely. Place the cookies 2 inches apart on a Silpat-lined baking sheet. Bake until cookies have flattened and the sugar splits, 12 to15 minutes.

Transfer from oven to a wire rack to let cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
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Saturday, December 25, 2010

Gingerbread Cupcakes

 Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse...
Ok, I'm just going to skip to the end so I can wish you all a good Christmas and good night!

These gingerbread cupcakes were at hit a my family's Christmas celebration. They are moist, but not dense, and you can smell the wonderful gingerbread spices the moment you come near them.

The gingerbread men toppers with holly and candy canes and gingerbread mice turned out so cute, too!

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Gingerbread Cupcakes
adapted from Martha Stewart

yields 16 cupcakes

2 teaspoons baking soda
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup packed dark-brown sugar
1 cup unsulphered molasses
2 large eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a small saucepan, bring 1 cup water to a boil. In a bowl, combine boiling water and baking soda. Set aside. In a large bowl, sift together flour, ground spices, salt, and baking powder. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter until light. Beat in the brown sugar until fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. Beat in the molasses, baking-soda mixture, and flour mixture. Beat in the eggs. Fill the cupcake papers three-quarters full, making sure that the batter is divided evenly. Bake cupcakes until a toothpick inserted in the center of them comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Let cupcakes cool a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before decorating.

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
yields 4 cups

24 tablespoons (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
3 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

With an electric mixer, beat butter for 3 minutes. Reduce speed to medium and add sugar 1/2 cup at a time. Add vanilla.

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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Winter Bark

Tis the season for bark, and thank goodness for that, because bark is one of the simplest holiday treats to concoct!
After making cookies, pies, tarts, meringues, cakes, trifles, and truffles, this will almost feel like cheating but the taste is not cheated, not one bit. It's as easy as this: 1) Melt some chocolates. 2) Add some nuts, berries, or candies. 3) Stick in the fridge for an hour and Voila! 4) Marvel at the magic.
And best of all you can be an artist in your very own kitchen. That's right - it's time to break out your inner Matisse...
or Jackson Pollock...
Just have fun with it! You can't mess up the presentation of this, I promise. And even if you do, you can eat it all and no one will ever know ;-)
For this bark I stuck with the simplicity and used only white chocolate, dark chocolate, and peanuts, but feel free to let your imagination run wild.

Winter Bark
adapted from Martha Stewart

yields 1 1/4 pounds

8 ounces white chocolate, finely chopped
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
7 ounces (1 1/2 cups) salted cocktail peanuts

Place white chocolate in a heatproof bowl, set over a pan of simmering water, stirring frequently, until chocolate melts. Remove from heat and set aside. Place bittersweet chocolate in a heatproof bowl and melt the same way as the white chocolate. Remove from heat and stir in the peanuts.

Spread on a lined, rimmed baking sheet, spreading peanuts in a single layer, and drop spoonfuls of white chocolate on top.
Swirl chocolates with a skewer. Refrigerate until bark is set, about 1 hour. Break bark into large pieces. Bark will keep, covered and refrigerated, for up to 2 weeks! Enjoy.

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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Ciambelle (Lemon Wreath Cookies)

Christmas time is here! The ground is covered in snow, A Charlie Brown Christmas by the Vince Guaraldi Trio is spinning in the CD player, and the tree is decorated.

In my family, "Christmas" is also synonymous with "Baking" specifically Cookies. The house is covered with flour and frosting the days leading up to this beautiful holiday. So I invite you to join my family to live these cookie-filled moments with us. The first treat of the season is Ciambelle. 

"Ciambelle" in Italian can refer to any ring-shaped cookie, cake, or donut. In this case Ciambelle is a lemon wreath cookie, a buttery cookie base, covered in a lemon glaze, and decorated with nonpareils.

These flakey and flavorful cookies pair excellently with a warm cup of tea and are sure to become a Christmas classic, just like lights on the tree.

Ciambelle (Lemon Wreath Cookies)
adapted from Martha Stewart's Holiday Cookies 2010 Issue

yields 6 dozen lemon wreath cookies

3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (3 - 4 lemons depending on their size)
1 cup unsalted butter
3 eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 cups confectioners' sugar
white nonpareils, for decorating

Preheat oven to 350F. Whisk to combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Zest and juice lemons.

In a separate bowl, beat butter, granulated sugar, and zest with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy. Add eggs and beat until incorporated. Add vanilla and 1 teaspoon of lemon juice. Reduce speed to low and gradually add the flour mixture until combined.

Scoop 1 tablespoon of dough and transfer to a lightly floured surface. Roll dough into a 4-inch rope. Bring ends together, overlapping slightly, and press together to form a ring.

Repeat with remaining dough. Transfer rings to a parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing at least 1 1/2 inches apart.

Bake for 9 minutes. Then rotate the sheet and bake for another 9 minutes or until pale golden on bottoms and around edges. Let cool completely on wire racks.

Whisk confectioners' sugar and remaining lemon juice until smooth. Dip top of each cookie into the glaze, letting the excess drip off.

Return cookies to wire racks, glazed side up, and sprinkle with nonpareils. Let dry completely. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

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