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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Nothing says Easter like chocolatey, coconut goodness

When I asked my brother what type of cookies he would like for Easter he simply said chocolate...which provided me with much flexibility. I selected Sunset Magazine's Chocolate Macadamia Nut Clusters. These cookies were a breeze to make and had a rich chocolatey flavor. Between the chocolate and the coconut, they are pretty sweet, but the macadamia works perfectly to offset the sugar overload. As is par for the course, I messed up the recipe the first time round: instead of melting the butter and chocolate together, I melted the chocolate by itself and creamed the butter with the sugar. It all ends up in the same bowl, so no harm done. Creaming the butter with the sugar is a pretty common, basic step in the cookie dough making world, hence an easy mistake to make. I did melt the butter with the chocolate on the second batch I made and there was no discernible difference in final product. Note that for the mixed in chocolate chips and coconut, I used semi-sweet mini chips and grated (not long shreds) sweetened coconut. I found this worked better than big chips and big shreds of coconut.

The other cookies in the photo are sugar cookies with royal icing and white sanding sugar. I had intended to roll out the cookies to make bunny and egg cutouts, but the dough simply would not roll; it kept cracking and falling apart. The dough was just too dry. With no other options, I just rolled the dough into balls and then pressed them down with the bottom of a glass.

Chocolate Macadamia Nut Clusters (adapted from Sunset Magazine)
8 oz of chopped bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate
1/4 cup of butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3 tablespoon all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup mini chocolate chips
1 cup unsalted roasted macadamia nuts
1 cup grated sweetened coconut

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In a heat proof bowl, melt chocolate and butter together over simmering to boiling water until smooth. When completely melted and smooth, remove bowl from heat and let cool 15 minutes or so.

With an electric mixer, mix sugar, eggs and vanilla. Add in melted chocolate/butter mixture. Add in flour and baking powder until just combined (don't over beat). Stir in chocolate chips, coconut and macadamia nuts.

Drop 1 tablespoon at a time onto prepared cookie sheet. Bake until edges are firm but middles are soft about 10 minutes or so (I went about 12 minutes in my oven). Remove from oven and let sit approximately 5 minutes on cookie sheet before transferring to wire rack.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Low Fat Banana Soda Bread

I saw this other ("other" simply meaning not the one I always make) Irish Soda Bread recipe on that had all these glowing reviews. What intrigued me was that the recipe did not call for butter or buttermilk...which is what I believed made the recipe I learned in Camp Fire Girls so great. I went out and bought a pint of sour cream to make this soda bread....but on the same day I decided to try the recipe, I stumbled onto a low fat beef stroganoff recipe which also needed sour cream. I wanted to make both recipes but I was going to end up 8 ounces short on sour cream and I did not want to make another trip to the store (gas prices are outrageous right now!). So, I compromised and substituted 8 oz of sour cream in the soda bread with 1 medium overripe mashed banana resulting in......low fat banana soda bread! The first day, the banana flavor really wasn't apparent but on the second day onward, the banana flavor started to come through. The bread baked up really nicely and made a huge loaf but to me was missing that little something that butter brings to the table. Would I make it again? Sure, if I have some left over sour cream that I am trying use up...but for my yearly 3/17 Irish Soda Bread, I am going to stick with my buttermilk based recipe.

Low Fat Banana Soda Bread (adapted from Rosie's Irish Soda Bread on
3 1/2 cups of flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
8 ounces low fat sour cream
1 medium mashed banana
2 eggs
About 1 cup of raisins

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 9 inch springform pan with non-stick cooking spray (I use Trader Joe Olive Oil spray) and set aside.
Combine all of the dry ingredients in a medium sized bowl and set aside.
In a separate bowl, beat eggs and then add in sour cream and mashed banana.
Stir egg mixture into the dry ingredients (batter will be thick). Add in raisins...turn into prepared pan and using your hands, form into a mound (flour your hands a little if the dough is too sticky). Using a knife, press a cross into the top of the loaf and then place in oven.
Back for about 45-50 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean.