Monday, December 31, 2012

Chocolate Cherry Sable Cookies

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At some point over the last few years, I decided that I really quite enjoy my own company. I mean, I'm really funny and clever, I have great taste in shoes, as evidenced by my wall-sized shoe rack (no, really, I may have a problem) and I'm always up for trying new things.

And being alone while I bake with my flour-dusted laptop and a cheesy Netflix/Hulu movie and/or murder mystery (not the really gruesome, scary kind, I'm more of a "Bones" and "Murder, She Wrote" fan) just gives me time to think and relax.

I only occasionally get distracted and burn trays of cookies (no timer in this apt here), but lucky for you, that's the hardest part! As long as you remember to take these puppies out of the oven, they're really simple and look so elegant!

Also, they're a kind of butter cookie, if that tells you anything...yum!

Chocolate Cherry Sable Cookies [click to print]
Makes about 4 dozen cookies
  • 4 oz butter, softened
  • 2 oz sugar
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 5 oz cake flour
  • 1-1/2 T. cocoa powder
  • 1/4 c. cherry jam
1) Preheat oven to 350 F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. 

2) In stand mixer, beat butter for about 20-30 seconds until smooth-ish. Slowly add in the sugar. Slowly add the egg. Add a small scoop of flour and beat until ingredients just pull together. Add remaining flour all at once and mix until just combined, scraping sides of bowl as necessary. 

3) Fit piping bag with a large star tip (I used #3B). Pipe dough onto prepared sheet, spacing about 1-1/2" apart. Dip your finger, or the end of a wooden spoon, in cocoa powder and press a dent in the center of the piped cookies. 

4) Fill ziploc sandwich bag with jam and snip off a small corner. Squeeze small amount of jam into depression in cookies. Refrigerate about 5 minutes until firm then bake for 8-11 minutes. Allow cookies to cool on sheet about 3 minutes before removing to wire racks to cool completely. 

Source: Adapted from L'Academie de Cuisine

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Hazelnut Ripple Banana Bread

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I had a jar of Nutella stashed in my pantry, staring me down. And then something happened to it and it disappeared. So...I didn't buy that stuff again until just recently due to my severe lack of self control. And now here it is, half a jar sitting all warm and creamy between layers of fluffy, moist banana bread, speckled with chunks of hazelnuts. Oh, my goodness.

I tried a few different recipes before getting this one down. Other versions swirl the Nutella through the top of the loaf, but that lets the chocolate overcook and get kind of dry and crumbly and burned before the bread is actually done baking. If you make a thick gooey layer in the middle, it stays exactly that way---thick and gooey. 

This is a perfect cold day sweet bread, especially if you eat it straight out of the oven with a glass of milk. Or in one hand on your way to work. Or for a light midday snack. It's pretty much good whenever. So yum.

Hazelnut Ripple Banana Bread [click to print]
Makes one loaf
  • 1/2 c. hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 1-1/2 c. flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 3 very ripe, extremely spotty bananas, mashed
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 1/3 c. unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 c. hazelnut spread (i.e. Nutella)
1) Preheat oven to 350 F. Line 9x4 loaf pan with parchment paper, allowing 2-3" overhang on each side of pan, or coat generously with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.

2) On another baking sheet, spread hazelnuts in an even layer and toast in oven about 12-15 minutes; or until fragrant and just barely browned. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Whisk together with flour, soda and salt; set aside.

3) In large bowl, mix bananas, sugar, butter, egg and vanilla, beating until well combined. Add flour mixture, in about two additions, mixing until just incorporated. 

4) Pour about half of the banana batter into the pan. Heat hazelnut spread about 15 seconds in microwave to soften and spread evenly over batter. Scoop remaining batter over last layer and spread evenly. Bake 50-60 minutes. Allow to cool in pan about 10 minutes, then remove to wire rack to cool completely. 

Source: Adapted from Lovin From the Oven

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Cranberry Almond Bread

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There's just something about cranberries that make me think twice. They're just so red and tart and scary looking...especially when they're dried. They just look too much like raisins to be trusted. But almond, on the other hand, I am absolutely in love with. This recipe dares you to combine these two flavors into a delicate sweet bread that is so worth the almond flour. 

You really can substitute the almond flour for the regular old all-purpose kind but the flavor profile won't be quite the same. And put down that almond extract. If you add too much, it will start to taste more artificial than delicious. So now that we're over that little issue, please bake this up and save me a nice thick slice for breakfast.

Cranberry Almond Bread [click to print]
Makes 1 loaf
  • 1-1/4 c. flour
  • 1/4 c. almond flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 c. cranberries, fresh, frozen or dried
  • 1/4 c. milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. almond extract
  • 1/2 c. butter
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 2 eggs
1) Preheat oven to 350 F. Line loaf pan with parchment paper, allowing about 3 inches overhang on either side of pan, or coat generously with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.

2) Whisk together flours, salt and baking powder. Toss cranberries in flour mixture to coat and set aside. In another bowl, whisk together milk and extracts; set aside.

3) In bowl of stand mixer, cream sugar and butter. Add eggs one at a time, incorporating well between each addition. Alternately add flour and milk mixtures, beginning and ending with flour, in about about three additions.

4) Pour batter in prepared pan and bake for 55-60 minutes or until the top is golden and it springs back when lightly touched.

Source: Adapted from Sweet Posy Dreams

Monday, December 3, 2012

Chocolate Bon Bons and Truffles

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I've been learning all kinds of fun things about chocolate the last few weeks. Remember how I'm taking that class at L'Academie de Cuisine? I wasn't ever very interested in chocolate or candy making. It always seemed difficult and gave me nightmares of nasty 3rd degree burns. Until now.

Chef Mark makes everything seem so easy, and it turns out, tempering chocolate still isn't my favorite thing but it's not so bad! And just look at all these beautiful candies we made! Anybody wanna get together for a candy making extravaganza?!
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