December 6, 2012

Spicy Gingerbread Cookies

Not that I need another reason, but the holiday season provides a great opportunity to bake up tasty bits of cheer. This recipe is not one of mine, but a fabulous concoction from Liz Prueitt of Tartine and I am so happy to have found it. I have never been a big fan of gingerbread, but if I’d known from the start it can taste so spicy, so warm, and just plain delicious, I would have been making these long ago.

Don’t be discouraged by the list of ingredients, each and every one of them plays an integral part in the dynamic flavor of the dough. Also, don’t let the lack of instant gratification put you off of making these, as the dough does need to rest overnight before baking. If you like soft gingerbread, apply the glaze while the cookies are still warm from the oven. If you prefer a crisp gingerbread, leave off the glaze. Either way, your tastebuds and anyone you share these with will thank you.

Gingerbread Cookies
3-3/4 C all-purpose flour
4 tsp ground ginger
1 T cocoa powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1-1/2 tsp ground cloves
1-1/4 tsp fine black pepper, freshly ground
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 C unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 C + 2 T sugar
1 large egg
1/2 C blackstrap or other dark molasses
2 T light corn syrup

1 C confectioners sugar
2 T water

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, ginger, cocoa powder, cinnamon, cloves, pepper, salt, and baking soda and set aside.

Using a stand mixer, beat the butter on medium-high speed until creamy. Turn mixer to low speed, slowly add the sugar, and then mix on medium speed until mixture is smooth. Add the egg and mix well, then add the molasses and corn syrup, beating until combined. Scrape down sides of bowl and add the flour mixture, then beat on low speed until the dough comes together.

Place the dough on a large piece of plastic wrap and flatten into a rectangle about 1-inch thick. Securely cover the dough with the wrap and refrigerate overnight.

When ready to bake, heat the oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

On a floured work surface, with a floured rolling pin, roll out the dough to 1/3-inch thick. Before you roll out the dough, it may be easier to set aside half of the dough in the refrigerator. (I securely wrapped half of the dough and froze for baking later in December.) You can cut rectangles, use cookie cutters, cookie stamps, or patterned rolling pins for your cookies.

Once shaped, place the cookies on the prepared baking sheet, spacing them about one inch apart. The dough can be gathered and rolled again until all of the dough has been used up.

Bake until lightly golden along the sides but still soft to the touch in the centers. Baking can take anywhere from 7-15 minutes, depending on the size of cookies. I recommend checking after 8 minutes of baking, especially if using a convection oven. Once done, allow the cookies to cool on the pans for about 5 minutes then move to a wire rack for complete cooling and glazing.

If using the glaze, you want to apply it while the cookies are still warm. To prepare the glaze, whisk confectioners sugar and water together until smooth. Evenly brush a light coat of glaze on the top of each cookie.

Will make about 48 cutout cookies, more or less depending on size.

August 23, 2012

Breakfast Strata

Since it’s been so hot this summer, I thought that a nice indoor brunch with friends would be a welcome change of pace. The menu I selected was ideal for an early day meal because just about everything was prepared the evening before. All that needed to be done in the morning was to make mini quiche filling and then pop all of the dishes in the oven. It took a little bit of coordination to bake the various goodies because the temperature needed was not the same for everything. All worked out well and the table was surrounded with great friends, laughs, and food.

I made a variety of dishes to suit everyone’s tastes and to make sure no one went hungry. Plates were loaded up with this breakfast strata, hashbrown casserole, mini quiche, cinnamon rolls, and fresh sliced strawberries. A strata is a great way to feed many people with little work involved. Another positive is that you can get creative by adding the goodness of green chilis, jalepenos, mushrooms, bacon, or whatever else you prefer.

Breakfast Strata
1 lb sausage, cooked and drained of oil
7-8 slices of white bread, torn or cubed into small pieces
3 C shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 C onion, diced
8 eggs
1-1/3 C water
5 oz milk
1 pkg Mccormick country gravy mix

Lightly spray a 9-inch x 13-inch casserole dish.

Lay the bread pieces in the bottom of the prepared dish. Crumble the cooled sausage over the bread and then evenly sprinkle the onions and shredded cheese on top.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, water, milk, and gravy mix. Gently pour the egg mixture evenly throughout the casserole dish.

Cover with plastic film and refrigerate overnight.

When ready to bake, heat oven to 350ºF and bake for 50-55 minutes, until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Let stand for 10 minutes, then serve.

Serves 6-8

August 14, 2012

Oatmeal and Peanut Butter Cookies Revamped

I recently made two normally very basic cookie recipes, and kicked them into high gear by adding even more sweet goodness into them. Both of the revamped results were even better than I could have imagined. The array of flavors made each bite unique, while never overpowering the base of the cookie.

My oatmeal cookie is a favorite to many people and when I started making them, I only wanted oats filling it up. My sister, who loves these and came up with the name, has always insisted on nuts. While she was out here for a visit, I made her a batch before she headed back home. Half the batch was just oats and the other half I added chocolate chips, coconut, and pecans.

O-O-Oatmeal Cookies
3/4 C all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 C unsalted butter, room temperature
1 C light brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 C old-fashioned rolled oats (use 3 C if omitting all other mix-ins)
1/2 C chocolate chips
1/2 C sweetened shredded coconut
1/2 C pecans or walnuts, chopped

Heat oven to 350º F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt.

Using a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and mix to combine.

Add the flour mixture and mix just until dough has formed. Add oats and additional mix-ins and mix just until incorporated.

Place spoonfuls of batter about 2 inches apart on a baking sheet and slightly flatten.  Bake for 8-10 minutes, until golden brown around the edges and set in the middle. Remove from the oven and let the cookies cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat until all of the dough has been used, allowing cookie sheets to cool before placing the next batch on sheets to bake.

makes 36 3-inch round cookies

If you know me, you’ve probably received baked goods as a gift, a thank you, or just because. As much as I like peanut butter, I’ve never been a huge fan of peanut butter cookies and so didn’t have a recipe on hand. This is the first time using one from Smitten Kitchen and they really hit the spot. They baked up perfectly crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. I did make one little change by using butterscotch chips instead of peanut butter ones. The mix-ins made a huge impact, providing an additional hint of sweet from the chocolate and a tang from the butterscotch chips.

Loaded Peanut Butter Cookies
1-1/4 C all-purpose flour
3/4 t baking soda
1/2 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
1/2 C unsalted butter, room temperature
1 C peanut butter
3/4 C sugar
1/2 C light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 egg
1 T milk
1 t vanilla
1/2 C chocolate chips
1/2 C butterscotch chips
1 T sugar, for rolling the cookies in

Heat the oven to 350ºF. Set aside 2 baking sheets.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

Using an electric mixer, blend together the butter and peanut butter. Add both of the sugars and beat until fluffy. Add the egg, milk, and vanilla and mix until smooth.

Add the flour mixture and mix until incorporated. Gently mix in the chocolate and butterscotch chips.

Form the cookie dough into small balls and roll in the sugar. Place on baking sheets, about 2 inches apart and slightly flatten with the tines of a fork or the back of a spatula. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until lightly golden around the edges. Remove from the oven and let the cookies cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat until all of the dough has been used, allowing cookie sheets to cool before placing the next batch on sheets to bake.

Makes 34 3-inch round cookies that I highly recommend enjoying with a cold glass of milk!

August 10, 2012

Flaky Pineapple Squares

My mom recently leant me a cookbook that she and some ladies put together in 1979. I was after one particular recipe, but as I flipped through the typewritten pages, I stumbled across a recipe that I had forgotten all about. As soon as I saw the words flaky pineapple squares with my mom’s name next to it, my mouth started to water. How could I have forgotten about these bars?! Slightly sweetened pineapple sandwiched between a flaky crust that gets a subtle nutty taste from all of the butter baked in. I had to make these and I had the perfect opportunity to share them because I really could and would have eaten them all. By myself. Happily.

Since making these bars was unscheduled, I only made a half batch. I ended up putting myself in a bind with time, but it all worked out and I was actually 15 minutes early with all of my baked goods. Whew! Had I been thinking, I would have rolled out the entire piece of dough and then folded it in half to complete the assembly.

Flaky Pineapple Squares
4 C all-purpose flour
1 lb unsalted butter
1 C sour cream
1 t vanilla
2 - 20oz cans crushed pineapple, drained
1 C sugar
3 T corn starch
confectioners sugar, for dusting

Using a food processor, pastry blender, or two knives, cut the butter into the flour. Mix in the sour cream and vanilla until combined and dough forms. (I did it quickly by hand so as to not allow the butter to be warmed by me) Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours.

In a large saucepan, cook the pineapple, sugar, and corn starch over medium heat. Gently stir the mixture until it thickens, about 5-7 minutes. Set aside to cool completely.

Once ready to assemble the bars, heat the oven to 325º F. On a lightly floured surface, roll out half of the dough and place it on an ungreased jelly roll pan or cookie sheet. Gently spread the pineapple filling evenly over the dough almost up to the edges. Roll out the remaining half of dough and gently lay on top of the pineapple.

Bake for 50-55 minutes, until the top is golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool. Cut into desired sizes and dust with confectioners sugar. Can yield up to 70 bite size pieces.