Thursday, December 20, 2012

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

We all have those recipes that we grew up with.  The ones we ate each year around the holidays when we went to family functions.  The ones that we came to expect.  The ones that, if they were missing, it just would not feel like Christmas.  This recipe for chocolate crinkle cookies is one of mine.  For as long as I can remember (and almost certainly before that), these cookies have always appeared on my grandmother's Christmas table and, if they were to suddenly disappear, they would most definitely be missed.   And, now that I live so far away from home, if I want these on my table at Christmas, I have to get to work and make them myself, which I do--every single year.

As a child, I used to go after these cookies because they contained chocolate, and, when given the option, I always chose chocolate.  However, the truth is that these cookies are much more complex and interesting than straight-up chocolate cookies. The recipe calls for lemon zest and ground almonds, giving these cookies a faint bright note of citrus and the depth of nuts.  So,  my adult self, who actually appreciates flavors beyond that of rich, unadulterated, chocolate, actually loves these cookies even more than I did as a child. 

What foods do you associate with the holidays?

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies
Yield: Approximately 36 cookies

2 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped roughly
2 eggs
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup canola oil
1 lemon rind (grated)
2 tsps baking powder
1/2 cup ground almonds
1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup icing sugar

  1. Melt the chocolate and set it aside to cool.  I pop it in the microwave for  30 second increments, stirring after each one, until the chocolate is melted.
  2. In a separate bowl, I beat the eggs, oil, and sugar together.  Add ground almonds, lemon rind, and stir in chocolate, and beat the batter until everything is combined.
  3. Whisk together flour and baking powder in a separate bowl.  Add the flour mixture slowly, beating after 1/2 cup-sized additions.  If you are using a hand mixer and not a powerful stand mixer, you will likely need to start working the dough  by hand, with a wooden spoon, once you have added approximately 1 1/2 cups of flour.  The dough will be pretty thick.
  4. Put the dough in the fridge for fifteen minutes.  While it is chilling, heat oven to 350 and line baking sheets with parchment paper.
  5. After it is done chilling, form balls into tablespoon-sized balls.  Roll them in icing sugar to coat, and place them on the cookie sheets with space in between for the cookies to grow.  Bake for 8-10 minutes.  Remove from oven and leave on cookie sheets for two minutes before transferring cookies to a wire rack to cool.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

TWD: Finnish Pulla

I love it when I try a new recipe and immediately decide that it is a keeper.  That is exactly what happened with this recipe for Finnish Pulla.  It was easy to throw together, deliciously spiced, slightly sweet, and absolutely beautiful.  In fact, to stop us from eating it all within a short period of time, I took half the wreath and put it in the freezer.  I am thinking that it might just make us some delicious French Toast on Christmas morning!

For the recipe, please head on over to The Daily Morsel.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Maple Granola

Am I alone in my love-hate relationship with granola?  I have always loved the taste and the crunchy texture, especially when paired with yogurt, but I have always hated that most granola out there contains a stupendous amount of sugar as well as all sorts of scary ingredients whose names I can't even pronounce.  So, a long time ago, I simply stopped buying and eating granola..  Naturally, before swearing it off entirely, I had tried making my own granola once, but it just wasn't the same.  The mix never clumped and the taste was quite bland.  The end result was that I had to force feed myself the entire ten-cup batch until it was done.  Needless to say, I didn't even consider making granola an option after that.  At least not until my copy of the Smitten Kitchen cookbook arrived in the mail a few weeks ago.

Deb Perelman's book doesn't disappoint.  If you have been reading her site for years, as I have, you will find that the photos and the text of the book are comfortingly familiar.  And, if the recipes I have already tried are any indication, you will also find that the quality of the recipes in the book meet the same high standard as the ones featured on her site.  And, what is my favorite recipe so far?  Well, that would have to be the one for big cluster maple granola.  You see, this recipe does something that the other granola recipe tried didn't:  it clumps.  It might be something simple, but it makes all the difference in the world.  This recipe is also not as sweet as  most granola recipes and it uses maple as its sweetener so it has that wonderfully luxurious maple taste that evokes fond memories of Canadian winters for me.  So, as you might have guessed, this is one recipe that I will be making over and over again.  In fact, it is so good, that I might just include it in my Christmas gift baskets.

Maple Granola
Yield: About 6 1/2 cups
Slightly Adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup chopped almonds
2/3 cup chopped pecans
2 tbsps olive oil
1/2 tsp coarse salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup Grade B maple syrup
1 large egg white
1 1/2 chopped dates (or other dried fruit)

  1. Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees and line one large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together all ingredients.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil and maple syrup.  Pour mixture over dry ingredients and toss them together until the wet ingredients are evenly distributed among the dry mixture.
  4. In that same small bowl, whisk an egg white until it is foamy.  Pour over ingredients and toss until you are certain that the egg white is evenly distributed.  This is really important because the egg white will help the granola cluster together.
  5. Spread granola evenly over parchment paper.
  6. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes.  About halfway through, remove baking sheet from the oven and, using a spatula, flip the granola gently.  It will still be loose at this point so don't worry if you don't see any large granola clusters. Before putting it back in the oven, I pressed the granola against the baking sheet with the back of the spatula to help it stick together.  Place back in oven until it has finished baking.  When it is done, it will appear dry and the edges will have browned nicely.  At this point, remove it from the oven and let it cool completely so that the clusters set before you remove it from the baking sheet.    After cooling, mine looked like a large granola bar with some loose pieces and so I simply broke it apart and placed it into a storage container along with the dates.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Meyer Lemon Cardamom Crinkle Cookies

Don't you love that feeling when you try a new recipe for the first time and you immediately realize that you have found one to add to your repertoire?  That is exactly what happened with this recipe.  Last week, I had just finished making my chocolate crinkle cookies when I came across a recipe for this lemony variation on that classic holiday cookie.  I have to admit that I wasn't sure what to expect at first, but these cookies are nothing short of delicious.  The meyer lemon and cardamom both lend their bright flavors in this recipe, giving these cookies a little bit of a kick.  This combination of flavors makes them the perfect break from the cloying and overly sweet cookies that we all eat during the holiday season and it makes them so unique and so special, that I knew I would be blogging about them.

Lemon Cardamom Crinkle Cookies
Source: Cooking Channel
Yield: 3 dozen

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp cardamom
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
zest of 4 meyer lemons
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 extra large eggs
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup powdered sugar
  1. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, cardamom, baking powder, and lemon zest.
  2. In a separate bowl, cream the butter and sugar together with a hand mixer for just over one minute.  Then add the eggs and vanilla and continue beating until the mixture is perfectly combined.  Add half the flour mixture and beat on low until the flour is incorporated into the wet ingredients.  Repeat with the other half of the batter.
  3. Cover the cookie dough and let it rest in the fridge for about half an hour.
  4. When it is time to work with the dough, preheat the oven to 350 and line two baking sheets with cardamom.  Place powdered sugar in a dish.
  5. Form dough in tablespoon-sized balls.  Cover them in powdered sugar.  Make sure that they are coated with a thick layer of sugar because the sugar will dissolve as the cookies bake and you want some of it to still stay visible to get that powdered-crinkle-cookie effect.
  6. Place the doughs on the cookie sheet, leaving room for the cookies to spread and bake for 8-10 minutes.  They will be ready when the edges look a little golden.  After removing them from the oven, let them sit on the cookie sheet for two minutes before placing them on a wire rack to cool.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Ginger Snaps {12 Weeks of Christmas Treats}

Is there anything that says Christmas like a gingersnap?  As far as I'm concerned, there really isn't.  That is why I  decided to make some for my family's tree-trimming session last Friday evening.  Take a gingersnap or two and add a hot chocolate and a lit up tree and you have everything you need to ease you into the holiday season.

Now, for those of you who have been following along, a few weeks ago, I shared a recipe for ginger cookies.  You might wonder why I would make post two recipes for ginger cookies withing about a month of one another.  Well, the answer is simple.  The only thing these two cookies have in common is the fact that the word "ginger" is in the name.  The other recipe yields a cookie that has a soft interior while these ones are hard and crispy, like a graham cracker.  Second, those cookies are predominantly sweet in taste with an additional kick from the spices whereas these ones call for so much ginger, that you will find your mouth almost tingling as you eat them.  Third, while the other recipe makes drop cookies, this one requires you to make the dough, refrigerate it, roll it out, and then refrigerate it again before baking so they are best made when you have a little extra time (of course, you could always make the dough and then freeze it for later use if you want to be able to make ginger snaps at a moment's notice). However, the fact that you can cut them with a cookie cutter into stars, stockings, or trees certainly does make them feel more festive and just a little more special on that cookie tray.

Spicy Gingersnap Cookies
Inspired by a recipe for graham crackers on Smitten Kitchen
Yield: 24

Yep, that's right.  Yesterday's post was a granola from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook and today's recipe was inspired by her graham cracker recipe, which I adore.  I made the crackers to have something natural and not-too-sweet on hand for when guests are over and there are people eating dessert in front of him but I ate a lot of them myself because they were so delicious.  And, as I was enjoying their crisp, crunchy texture, it occurred to me that if I spiced up the batter and swapped the honey for molasses, I could probably make fantastic gingersnaps.  Needless to say, my experiment worked out beautifully.  However, I did cut her recipe in half.  Using a 2.5" star-shaped cookie cutter, I got exactly 24 cookies.

1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup plus 1 tsp. whole wheat flour (I used white whole wheat flour)
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
2 tsp powdered ginger
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
3 tbsp candied ginger, minced
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp sea salt
3.5 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes and frozen
2.5 tbsp molasses (not blackstrap)
2.5 tbsp of milk
1/2 tbsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup granulated sugar for sugar coating.
  1.  Combine the  flour, sugar, spices, crystallized ginger, baking soda, and salt to the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse the mixture to combine the ingredients.  Yes, your minced ginger will get even smaller and won't even always be discernible in the mixture, but it will give your cookies that ultra spicy kick.
  2.  Add butter  Pulse on and off until mixture is the texture of coarse meal and the biggest lumps are approximately pea-sized.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together molasses, milk, and vanilla extract.
  4. Pour it over the dry ingredients and  pulse it until the dough begins to come together.  Turn dough out onto a floured surface.  Pat it together into a square and cover tightly with plastic wrap.  Store in refrigerator for at least two hours.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  5. Once dough has chilled, take about half of the dough and roll it out on a floured cutting board.  I also sprinkle flour on top of the dough and roll it out until it is about 1/8" thick.  Lightly flour a cookie cutter and cut dough.  Then dip shapes into the bowl of sugar to create sugar-coated tops.  Place them onto the baking sheets and place them in the fridge to chill for another forty minutes or place them in the freezer for twenty minutes.  This ensures that the crackers will keep their shape.  While the fist sheets are chilling, I preheat the oven to 350 degrees (ensure that one oven rack is at the bottom of the oven and the other at the top) and continue rolling and cutting the rest of the dough on baking-sheet-sized sheets of parchment paper.  I then place them on a cutting board while they are chilling.  This way I can pop them in the oven shortly after taking the first batch out since they will have already chilled.
  6. Place one cookie sheet on the bottom rack and one at the top.  I bake mine for a total of 12 minutes and they turn out perfectly crunchy.  Any more than that, and they burn, but that will depend upon your oven.  They are ready when they are brown and slightly firm to the touch.
  7. Let them cool on the cookie sheet for 3 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool.

Thanks again to Menu Planning Magic for organizing this hop!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

TWD: Best Ever Brownies

As I am a serious (and incorrigible) chocoholic, perhaps it shouldn't come as a surprise that I love brownies.  In fact, to say that I love them might even be an understatement.  To me there is nothing like a dense, fudgey brownie; one that is so rich that I can't stand to take more than a couple of bites before I have to stop eating and turn to my coffee.  These brownies deliver exactly that kind of chocolate punch.

This recipe was excellent.  I'm not sure if I have a favorite brownie recipe.  I have a few I like and I choose the one I make by how much time I have to spend on it and which ingredients I have in the pantry.  I could see myself making these again.  The whipped egg whites that are folded in give the interior of these brownies a nearly mousse-like consistency, which is certainly a novelty and they are as rich as any of my other recipes are.

If you are interested in trying these out, see A Beautiful Mess.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Chocolate Cherry Almond Biscotti {12 Weeks of Christmas Treats}

Biscotti are the best holiday cookies.  They taste delicious, they are not overly rich, and they accompany a coffee better than any other treat on the planet. Additional bonuses include their long shelf-life, which makes them perfect for care packages, and their cute appearance.

Every year, I give little packages of biscotti as gifts.  Usually I include some almond biscotti and some double chocolate ones, but this year I wanted to add a third variety.  So, I decided to make chocolate cherry almond biscotti.  So, I played around with my almond biscotti recipe and I tried many different permutations.  Sometimes I put in more almonds than cherries, sometimes I put the chocolate right into the biscotti, and other times I used ground almonds in place of some of the flour.  Ultimately, I decided that the best version of this cookie had more cherries than almonds, no chocolate in the dough,  and was finished off with a dip into tempered chocolate. 

What makes these biscotti particularly great is the burst of flavor in each and every bite.  You can get that by dipping a side in chocolate and by cutting the sour cherries in half so that twice as many bites include their wonderful tang. 

Chocolate Cherry Almond Biscotti
Yield: 48

2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs 
1/4 cup butter, melted 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
1/2 cup dried sour cherries, halved
1/4 cup almond slivers
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
6 oz chocolate, chopped (either milk chocolate or semi-sweet depending on your taste).

  1. Adjust rack to center position and heat the oven to 350 degree. Line a cookie sheet with wax or parchment paper.
  2. Place the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, almonds, and cherries in a large bowl and stir to combine. In a small bowl combine the eggs, butter and vanilla and whisk to fully combine.
  3. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the egg mixture. Using a rubber spatula, mix to combine until a rough dough forms.
  4. Dump the dough onto a work surface and knead until the dough comes together.  It may appear dry at first, but it will all come together eventually. 
  5. Start to form the dough into a big, fat cigar and cut it in half. Form each half into a cigar about 1 inch thick, 2 inches wide and about 12 inches long. Place them onto the cookie sheet and lightly press with fingers to slightly flat cigars.
  6. Bake for 25 minutes reversing the pan halfway through. The bars will be firm to the touch and just slightly browned. Remove from the oven and lower the temperature to 300 degrees. Let the cookies cool on the cookie sheet for 15 minutes.
  7. Remove cookies to a cutting board using two spatulas. Using a sharp knife, slice the bars on an angle about 1/2 inch thick to form the biscotti. Lay them back on the cookie sheet with either cut side down and place back in oven for 10 minutes. Turn each cookie to expose the other cut side and place in oven for another 10 minutes.
  8. Let cool on a rack to room temperature. Place cookies in an airtight container and keep for up to a week.  These cookies also freeze very well.
  9. Temper the chocolate.  ( You could simply melt it and dip the biscotti in it, but to get the chocolate to keep its sheen, have a snap, and stay solid at room temperature, you will have to temper it.  I followed these directions and had beautifully tempered chocolate.  When I'm too lazy to temper it, my chocolate is a little sticky at room temperature, but still perfectly delicious).
  10. Dip the biscotti in the chocolate so that one side is covered and let it set on a baking sheet covered in wax paper until solid.

 Thank you once again to Brenda at Meal Planning Magic for putting so much time and effort into making this hop happen!