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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Who can make the sun rise?

I know some folks complain and shake their heads in disbelief when the stores start putting out the Easter candy the day after Valentine's Day. Not me. I look forward to 2/15 as the day that spiced jelly beans and pastel colored M&Ms make their well deserved annual comeback.

This year I bought 2 big (2 lbs each) packages of Peanut M&Ms the second they hit the shelves with the intention of making those "bird's nest" macaroons (the ones w/ the M&M on top). I never did make them....but I did eat all of those Peanut M&Ms over the course of a few weeks. I ate a few while making dinner, doing the laundry, another handful or three while dusting..."little rewards" for all my hard work. Then I got a coupon to buy 2 more bags...and buy them I did! More rewards for myself for a hard day at work, making it through the week, picking up groceries....

So here we are a couple of pounds of Peant M&Ms later: I have had to reinstate my candy ban. My problem with Peanut M&Ms actually started back in college...I ate them daily. When they started to disrupt my sleep patterns, I realized I need to back off. Like any addiction, it was a day to day struggle for alwhile. Every now and again, like Easter, I try dipping my toes in the Peanut M&M pond to see if I can handle their magic without falling off the deep end...apparently, I am not quite there yet.

Sure, the pictures above show there were other candies in my Easter basket but for this M&M addict, all I see are Peanut M&Ms.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Act and you may have dinner, wait and you are dinner...Klingon proverb

Kringlor are the K cookie...but the word reminded me of Klingons, so I had to open with a famous Klingon proverb. Anyway, Kringlor (Twists) are Scandinavian cookies. Per Wikipedia, kringlor is the plural of kringle which refers to the pretzel-like knot rather than the pastry itself. Sprinkled on top of the cookie is pearl or course decorating sugar (can be found in food specialty stores) which also lends to the pretzel look, making you wonder if the first bite will be sweet or savory.

I found the recipe in Sunset Magazine's Best-Ever Cookies special issue (Dec 2009). The recipe can also be found on their website. They give credit for the recipe to Mary Johnson and Anna Erickson, early Scandinavian immigrants.

Makes about 60 cookies

1 cup (1/2 lb) butter, room tempeture
1 cup granulated sugar
2 hard-cooked large egg yolks
1 large egg, separated (yolk will go into the batter, white will be reserved to brush top of cookies)
1 large egg
1/4 teaspoon salt (I used sea salt)
3 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup pearl or course decorating sugar (I used used Sugar in the Raw)

1. In a bowl, with an electric mixer on high, beat butter and granulated sugar until smooth. Add hard cooked egg yolks, uncooked egg yolk, uncooked whole egg, and salt. Beat on medium speed until blended. Stir in flour.

2. Shape into 1 inch balls; cover with plastic wrap. on a lightly floured board (I used a marble pasty board), roll each ball under your plam into a 6 inch long rope. On baking sheet, twist each rope into a figure eight and press ends lightly together. Space each twist about 1 inch apart (I was able to get 12 cookies on each sheet). Beat remaining egg white to blend; lightly brush over twists. Sprinkle with pearl sugar.

3. Bake in 350 degree oven until twists are golden brown, about 18 to 20 minutes. Switch pan positions halfway through baking. With a wide spatula, tranfer twists to racks to cool.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Tilt your head back and finish the cup!

Victor and I went to the LA Beer Festival on the Sony Studios lot on April 10th. The sponsors of the event were Eat, Drink, Play LA .We had a such a great time last year sampling the beers and enjoying Hollywood U2 (best tribute band ever! you must check them out) that naturally we got tickets for this year's event.

The best beer we had at last year's event was Shock Top Belgium White which is actually an Anheuser-Busch product! In our area, we have been able to find Shock Top mainly at Whole Foods. There were a few mirco-brews that were pleasant and a few that were so bad we actually had to pour them out.

This year, the overall quality of the beer seemed to be better. We only poured out one imported hefeweizen that tasted soapy. Our hands down favorite was Napa Smith's Amber Ale but I have no idea where I can buy it. Their website currently does not have any information on where the beer can be purchased....why have a product and then not let people know where it can be found? I just emailed them for more hopefully I can buy some soon!

This year's band was Petty Cash.....while they were fine musicians, they were no Hollywood U2. Hollywood U2 has personality...they dress like the U2, they call themselves Hollywood Bono and Hollywood Edge...and they have a sense of humor about themselves. The first picture above is Hollywood U2...look how much fun they are having! Petty Cash played music and played it well but just lacked some stage presence.


Sunday, April 11, 2010

She don't use jelly....

In my on-going Cookies A to Z quest, I am finally on the letter J. There are not a lot of cookie recipes out there that start with the letter J except cookies with jams or jellies. Since I had already done Austrian Jam cookies for the letter A (in retrospect, I probably should have made something with applesauce for the letter A...), I selected PB & J cookies for the letter J. This recipe is from The Cookie and Biscuit Bible by Catherine Atkinson p. 140.

The recipe said to roll the dough into little balls about the size of a walnut. The dough was a little dry, so the rolling part wasn't the easiest, but it wasn't impossible either. For the first few that I rolled, I was picturing an already cracked I made them a little small. Then it dawned on me that they probably meant a walnut still in it's shell...which makes more sense because why would the author pick an non-round object to decribe the size to roll something into?

The recipe called for seedless rasberry jam for the filling, but I could only find rasberry jam with I went with 2 different fillings, both from Trader Joes:
- Trader Joe's Organic Strawberry Jam
- Trader Joe's Seedless Blackberry Preserves
The strawberry jam was a little too thin and didn't really hold up that well against of the weight of the cookies. The blackberry preserves, however, were great.

8 oz crunchy peanut butter with no sugar added (I used Trader Joe's Crunchy Salted Natural Peanut Butter)
6 tbsp unsalted sweet butter at room tempeture, diced
1/2 cup golden caster (superfine) sugar (I didn't have this so I used regular old table sugar)
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 large egg, beaten
1 1/4 cups self rising flour
1 cup favorite jam or jelly

1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Put the peanut butter and butter in a large bowl and beat together until well combined and creamy.

2. Add the caster and brown sugars and mix. Add the beaten egg and blend well. Sift in the flour and mix to a stiff dough.

3. Roll the dough into walnut-size balls (uncracked walnuts apparently) between the palms of your hands. Place the balls on the prepared baking sheets and gently flatten each one with the back of a fork to make a rough-textured cookie with a ridged surface (Don't worry if the dough cracks slightly).

4. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until cooked but not browned. Using a palette knife (metal spatula) transfer to a wire rack to cool.

5. Spoon jam on to one cookie and top with a second. Continue to sandwich the cookies in this way.

KRD NOTE: I assembled the cookies as we were eating them so that they didn't get too soggy. I got 46 single cookies out of this dough, so 23 when sandwiched.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

What's better than a coconut treat? Chocolate dipped coconut!

Happy Easter! Where has the year gone!? And why is coconut so closely associated with Easter? I am not an expert by any means, but I believe it's more the time of year rather than the holiday itself. Passover is typically around the same time of year as Easter and there are specific food restrictions in Orthodox Judiasm. Leavened products are prohibited during the festival. Macaroons are a sweet treat that can be made without any perhaps that is why we see more coconut treats in the spring? That being said, these macaroons actually do contain some flour and therefore, would not fall into the unleavened category.....
Chocolate-Dipped Coconut Macarooms (from Sunset Magazine Best Ever Cookies Dec 2008)
4 large egg whites
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
3 1/2 cup lightly packed sweetened flaked dried coconut
4 ounces of semisweet chocolate, chopped

1. In a bowl, with an electric mixer on high speed, beat egg whites until frothy. Beat in vanilla, sugar and flour until well blended. Stir in coconut.

2. Drop dough in 1 tbsp portions, about 2 inches apart, onto parchment paper lined baking sheets.

3. Bake in 325 degree oven until macaroons are golden, about 20 minutes. If baking more than one pan at a time, switch pan positions halfway through baking. With a wide spatula, transfer macaroons to racks to cool immediately.

4. In a heat proof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water (bottom of bowl should not touch water), stir chopped chocolate until melted. To temper the chocolate, do not heat above 110 degrees (use candy thermometer if you have one). Remove chocolate from heat when it reaches 110 degrees. Hold a macaroon on one edge and dip other side into the melted chocolate to coat 1/2 of the cookie. Shake off excess chocolate and set macaroon on wax paper lined baking sheet. Repeat on all cookies.

The chocolate should harden back to a "dry" or solid state if the chocolate was tempered properly. In the above photos, the bottom photo shows the cookies right after they were dipped (chocolate appears wet) and the top photo shows the same cookies about an hour or so can see that the chocolate has hardened back to a "dry" state.

Ginger snaps!

For our wedding, I wanted to make cookies for the wedding favors. However, given everything we were trying to pull together, plus all the pre-wedding jitters, I was not able to do that. We end up filling favor bags with Asher's Dark Chocolate nonpareils and Hershey's kisses ( pictures).

When we got back to Los Angeles, we had a dinner celebration with our friends who could not make it to Philly for the wedding. For this event, I could execute my cookie favor plan! I found a recipe in Sunset magazine (December 2008) that said it made about 100 cookies...Perfect! These were super easy to make and very tasty to eat...The magazine article had a few different variations of cookies that you could make with this dough including rolled out shapes, Dulce De Leche sandwich cookies and Lemon Meringue-filled gingersnap snowflake cookies...I went with the simple "roll in sugar" method and then put about 3 cookies in each favor bag.

1 cup butter, room tempeture
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup unsulphured molasses (I used Grandmom's which is pretty easy to find at any grocery store)
1 large egg
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp each: ground cloves, nutmeg and freshly ground pepper

1. Beat butter and brown sugar together in a bowl with a mixer on medium speed until well blended. Mix in molasses, then egg, until blended, scraping bowl as necessary.

2. In small bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt and spices; add to butter mixture on low speed mixing until combined.

3. Divide dough in half. Shape each into a disk, wrap in plastic and chill until firm, about 3 hrs.

4. In a bowl, mix 1/2 tsp cinnamon and 1/4 cup granulated sugar.

5. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Unwrap dough roll into individual balls (about 1 tbsp each) and drop in sugar mixture. Roll ball around to coat and then transfer to baking sheets lined with parchment paper.

6. Bake cookies until dry looking and just starting to brown on edges about 8 minutes. Let cookies cool on racks.

She put da lime in the coconut...

I have been really bad about updating my blog. The wedding took a lot out of me...then the holidays, then I had jury duty....but I was still baking and taking photos the whole time! So, here are some highlights from the last few months.

I made these Coconut and Lime Macaroons back in November I believe. They are not the most picturesque but they were quite tasty. The recipe is from The Cookie and Biscuit Bible by Catherine Atkins (p. 111). These were really tasty the first few days. After that, the lime flavor started to fade.

4 large egg whites
3 cups sweetened desiccated (dry shredded) coconut
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 cup confectioners' sugar
grated rind of 1 lime
4 tsp lime juice
approx 1 tbsp pistachio nuts, chopped

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Put the egg whites, desiccated coconut, sugar, vanilla and flour in a large heavy pan. Mix well.

Place over low heat and cook for 6-8 minutes, stirring constantly to make sure it does not stick. When the mixture becomes the consistency of thick porridge, remove from heat.

Place spoonfuls of the mixture in rocky piles of the lined bakcing sheets. Bake for 12-13 minutes until golden brown. Remove from the over and leave to cool completely on baking sheets.

To make topping, put the confectioners' sugar and lime rind into a bowl and add enough lime juice to give a think pouring consistency. Place a spoonful of icing on each macaroon. Sprinkle chopped pistachio nuts on top and serve.