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Salted Butter Breakups Food always tastes better when it’s shared. But here’s the dilemma: Would you actually want to share a super-sized butter cookie that contains the perfect balance of flavors – not too sweet and not too salty – and the perfect balance of textures – crispy on the outside and delightfully soft and chewy on the inside? Its name, Salted Butter Breakups, indicates that this big delicious cookie is meant to be broken up and shared. Bake one up to share with friends or succumb to temptation and eat the entire sweet glory all by yourself. You choose.

Salted Butter Breakups
Adapted from From Around My French Table, by Dorie Greenspan

INGREDIENTS
1¾ cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
3/4 to 1 teaspoon sel gris or kosher salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into 18 pieces
3 to 5 tablespoons cold water
1 egg yolk, for the glaze

DIRECTIONS
1. Put the flour, sugar and salt in the workbowl of a food processor and pulse to combine. Drop in the pieces of butter and pulse until the mixture looks like coarse meal – you’ll have big, pea-size pieces and small flakes. With the machine running, start adding the cold water gradually. Add just enough water to produce a dough that almost forms a ball. When you reach into the bowl to feel the dough, it should be very malleable.

2. Scrape the dough onto a work surface, form it into a square and pat the square down to flatten it a bit. Wrap the dough in plastic and chill it for about 1 hour (or as long as overnight).

3. When you’re ready to bake, center a rack in the oven and preheat the over to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper.

4. Remove the dough from the fridge and, if it’s very hard, bash it a few times with your rolling pin to soften it. Put the dough between sheets of plastic film or wax paper and roll it – or pat it – into a rectangle that’s about 1/4-inch thick and about 5-x-11 inches; accuracy and neatness don’t count for a lot here. Transfer the dough to the lined baking sheet.

5. Beat the egg yolk with a few drops of cold water and, using a pastry brush, paint the top surface of the dough with the egg wash. Using the back of a table fork, decorate the cookie in a cross-hatch pattern.

6. Bake the cookie for 30 to 40 minutes, or until it is golden. It will be firm to the touch, but have a little spring when pressed in the center – the perfect breakup is crisp on the outside and still tender within. Transfer the baking sheet to a rack and allow the cookie to cool to room temperature.

Serving: If fun is what you’re after, bring the breakup to the table whole and let everyone break off pieces big and small; if order suits you better, break the cookie in the kitchen and serve the pieces on a plate.

Storing: The baked cookie will keep in a container for about 3 days. You can make the dough up to 3 days ahead and keep it in the refrigerator, or you can wrap it airtight and freeze it for up to 2 months. Don’t brush the dough with egg wash until you’re ready to bake it.

Makes 4 servings

LINNELL’S NOTES:
1. Sel gris means gray salt in French. It is a coarse-textured flavorful salt harvested in France.

2. My husband liked the salty bite this cookie had, so the next time I make this cookie, I will try adding 1 teaspoon of salt instead of the 3/4 teaspoon that I used.

3. I baked the cookie for about 30 minutes. Because I thought the edges were the tastiest part, next time I will bake it a little bit longer to get more of the crispy browned-butter flavor throughout.

4. Although the cookie can be stored in an airtight container for a few days, it loses its crispiness. It’s best when consumed within a couple of hours after baking.

5. This cookie alone makes an easy dessert, but if you accompany it with some fresh seasonal fruit, such as peaches or berries, it becomes a fabulous dessert treat.

ENJOY!

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Thumbprint Cookies The combination of having a summer cold, a craving for something sweet to eat, and not wanting to go out in the drizzling rain prompted me to get out the butter and fire up the oven. Ever since I bought some thumbprint cookies coated with nuts at a bakery, I’ve been craving them. Somehow, while under the influence of cold medications, I groggily managed to find a thumbprint cookie recipe and make the cookies. There’s nothing better than a spot of hot tea to ease a cold and chase away a rainy day, unless of course, you bake a buttery cookie coated with crunchy nuts and filled with tart jam to accompany that cup of tea!

Thumbprint Cookies
Joy of Baking.com

Ingredients:
1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated white sugar
1 large egg, separated
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup ( 130 grams) all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (100 grams) hazelnuts, almonds, pecans, or walnuts, toasted and finely chopped
1/2 cup jam

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) and place rack in center of oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand-mixer), cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (2-3) minutes. Add the egg yolk and vanilla extract and beat until combined.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Add the flour mixture to the batter and beat just until combined. (If the batter is too soft to roll into balls, refrigerate for about 30 minutes.)

4. In a small bowl, whisk the egg white until frothy. Place the chopped nuts on a plate. Roll the dough into 1-inch (2.54 cm) balls. Taking one ball of dough at a time, dip first into the egg white and then lightly roll into the nuts. Place on the prepared baking sheet spacing about 1-inch apart. Using your thumb or end of a wooden spoon, make an indentation into the center of each cookie and fill with about 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon of jam.

5. Bake for about 13 to 15 minutes or until cookies are set and the nuts have nicely browned. Remove from oven and place on wire rack to cool.

Notes:
To toast the nuts, spread them on a baking sheet and bake in a 350 degree F oven for 8 – 10 minutes. The nuts are done when when they are light-golden brown in color and fragrant.

If you are planning to store these cookies, I like to bake them without the jam. Just reduce the baking time by a few minutes. These cookies can be stored for about a week. Fill the cookies with jam the same day as serving.

Makes about 20 cookies

Linnell’s Notes:
1. This recipe is very adaptable. You can add nuts or withhold the nuts. You can choose any flavor of jam that you want. I used red current jam, since that is what I had in the refrigerator.
2. The next time I make these, I will make them larger in size and increase the baking time accordingly. I want them to be a chunkier type of cookie, rather than small dainty cookies.
3. To make the indentations in the dough, I pressed the rounded bottoms of either my 1/4 teaspoon measuring spoon or my 1/2 teaspoon measuring spoon. They created very nice wells for the jam.

Enjoy!

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Light, fluffy, buttermilk biscuits, hot out of the oven, sit on the kitchen counter waiting to be slathered with butter and honey. When gently pried apart, the crisp exteriors yield to delectable oh-so-tender interiors. Having eaten my share of convenient, store-bought, “canned” biscuits in the past, there’s still nothing better or as welcoming in the morning to me as a basket of warm homemade biscuits. This is breakfast, very simply, at it’s best!

Helen’s Buttermilk Skyscrapers
As featured in the As American as Apple Pie cookbook by Phillip Stephen Schulz

Ingredients:
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon sugar
2/3 cup (1-1/3 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled, plus 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1½ cups buttermilk

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

2. Sift the flour with the baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar in a large bowl. Cut in the butter with a knife. Blend with a pastry blender until the texture of coarse crumbs.

3. Stir in the buttermilk with a wooden spoon to form a soft dough. Knead briefly on a lightly floured board. Roll dough out 1¼ inches thick. Cut into 3-inch rounds and arrange with sides touching in a buttered 9-inch square cake pan. Brush the tops with the melted butter. Bake until golden, about 25 minutes.

Makes 8 or 9 large biscuits

Linnell’s Notes:
1. Keep the butter in the refrigerator until it’s time to use it. The butter needs to be well-chilled, so that it forms small pockets of fat in the biscuit dough. The fat must melt during the baking process and not the dough-making process. As the butter pockets melt, CO2 from the leavening agents takes their place and makes the biscuits rise and become fluffy.

2. The less you handle the dough, the more tender your biscuits will be. Overworking the dough develops gluten and breaks down the butter pockets.

3. Biscuits are baked quickly, hence the super hot oven. Because of this and the butter coating on top, watch these biscuits carefully after about 15 minutes in the oven. The tops can turn very dark or burn if you’re not paying attention to them.

4. For best results, make sure your baking powder and baking soda are fresh and not close to their expiring date.

Enjoy!

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A dose of caffeine sent my heart into a five-hour roller coaster ride that ultimately landed me in an urgent care center. While being examined, I described the rhythms of my heart to the emergency room doctor as “CLUNK-clunk” and Beedeebeedeebeedeebeedeebeedeebee . . . .”  He explained that one of the “wires” in my heart is “frayed” and he ordered an EKG. While waiting with me to have the EKG, my husband flipped through the pages of a magazine. “You should make these,” he said. “Make what?” I replied distractedly. “These bars,” he said showing me a photograph in a magazine. “They look so good! Go ask the receptionist if she can make a photocopy of it for us,” I urged. A few minutes later he returned, sat down and said, “She said we could take the whole magazine. And, on second thought,” he continued, “maybe you shouldn’t make these.” “Why not?” I asked. Sheepishly he replied, “I read over the recipe and . . . it has caffeine in it.”  Caffeine or not, I still made these buttery, coffee-flavored bars that are topped off with the perfect complement – a whiskey-flavored glaze. Maybe these blondies will make your heart race, too!

Chewy Irish Coffee Blondies
Recipe from Martha Stewart

Ingredients for the Blondies:
2 sticks unsalted butter, plus more for the pan
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups packed light-brown sugar
3 tablespoons freshly ground coffee
Salt
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup sliced almonds, skin on

Ingredients for the Glaze:
1 tablespoon melted butter, warm
2 tablespoons Irish whiskey
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted

Directions:
1. Make the blondies: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking pan, and line with parchment so that it overhangs on all sides. Butter parchment. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and baking soda.

2. Melt butter, and pour into a mixing bowl with brown sugar, ground coffee, and 1 teaspoon salt. Stir to combine. Stir in eggs and vanilla extract. Stir in flour mixture until just combined. Pour batter into pan, and sprinkle with almonds. Bake 27-30 minutes, depending on how chewy you like your blondies (a shorter baking time results in a chewier blondie). Let cool completely.

3. Make the glaze: Whisk together butter and whiskey. Gradually whisk in confectioners’ sugar until glaze is thick but pourable (you may not need all the sugar). Using a spoon or a pastry bag fitted with a plain round tip, drizzle glaze over blondies in a rough crosshatch pattern. Let glaze dry 1 hour. Cut blondie into 2-inch squares. (Blondies can be stored at room temperature up to 2 days.)

Makes 24.

Linnell’s Notes:
1. The batter is very thick. Spread it out in the pan with the back of a spoon or a spatula before baking.
2. I like my blondies chewy, so I baked them for only 27 minutes.
3. I cut about a half-inch off the corner of a disposable, plastic, sandwich bag and inserted a round pastry tip. Next, I put the glaze in the bag and squeezed the glaze over the uncut blondie.

Enjoy!

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“Mom’s going to love these,” I thought to myself as I whipped up a batch of French Breakfast Puffs. Cinnamon-sugar coats tender, buttery mounds of baked perfection. Although their exteriors are golden, one bite gives way to a moist and tender muffin-like texture. I know my mom will really enjoy nibbling on these while sipping her morning coffee. Serve these delicious morsels at any brunch, but why not plan ahead to Mother’s Day?

French Breakfast Puffs
Recipe from The American Country Inn and Bed And Breakfast Cookbook

Ingredients:
1/3 cup shortening, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1½ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup milk
*******************************
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
6 tablespoons butter, melted

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease muffin cups.
2. In a large bowl cream together the shortening, sugar, and egg.
3. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg.
4. Stir flour mixture into the sugar mixture, alternately with the milk.
5. Fill the prepared muffin cups 2/3 full.
6. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown.
7. In a small bowl combine the sugar and cinnamon. Roll the warm muffins in melted butter, then in the cinnamon and sugar mixture. Serve hot.

Makes 12 muffins.

Linnell’s Notes:
1. If you don’t like the taste of nutmeg, you can leave it out. One time I accidentally left the nutmeg out and the puffs still tasted great. Nutmeg does lend more depth to the overall flavor, though.

2. I melt one cube of butter (8 T) and always barely have enough to coat all the puffs.

Enjoy!

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Other than me, my husband’s favorite nut is the cashew. After one bite of these buttery, crunchy, cashew cookies topped with a creamy browned butter frosting, he’ll have to decide which nut rules his heart. Which will it be . . . the baked or the baker?

Browned Butter Cashew Shortbread Cookies
Recipe from Land O’Lakes

Cookie Ingredients:
1-1/2 cups butter
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1-3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup finely chopped cashews

Frosting Ingredients:
1-1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 to 2 tablespoons fat free half & half or milk

Directions:
1. Melt butter in a 2-quart heavy saucepan over medium heat. Cook stirring constantly and watching closely, until butter just begins to turn golden brown (7-11 minutes). The butter will get foamy and bubbly. Immediately remove from heat.

2. Pour 1-1/4 cups browned butter into small bowl; pour remaining butter into another small bowl. Refrigerate both bowls of browned butter until cool (1 hour).

3. Heat oven to 350 degrees F.

4. Combine 1-1/4 cups cooled brown butter, brown sugar, 1/2 cup powdered sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla in a large bowl. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until creamy. Reduce speed to low; add flour. Beat until well mixed. Stir in chopped cashews.

5. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place 1-inch apart onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 10-13 minutes or until set. Cool completely.

6. Combine remaining browned butter, powdered sugar and vanilla in small bowl. Beat at medium speed, adding enough half & half for desired frosting consistency, until smooth. Spread frosting over cooled cookies. Top each with cashew half.

Makes 4-1/2 dozen cookies.

Linnell’s Notes:
1. Make sure to use at least a 2 quart saucepan to brown the butter. The butter will foam up as it is heated and you don’t want it to spill over on your stove top.

2. Cool the bowls of hot browned butter on the counter top before placing them in the refrigerator. You don’t want to lower the temperature of your refrigerator by placing something hot into it.

3. By the time I measured out all the other ingredients, the large bowl of browned butter had cooled sufficiently in the refrigerator to be used in the dough.

4. I used unsalted butter and salted cashews, because that is what I had on hand. I favor low sodium food, so the cookies tasted fine to me. For those of you who like food a little saltier, go ahead and add a pinch of salt to the dough mixture.

5. If the dough is too sticky to shape into balls, place it in the refrigerator for a while. Also, keep a small bowl of water nearby. Wet your hands with water before rolling the dough balls. The water helps to keep the dough from sticking to your hands.

6. Because these are butter-rich cookies, I used parchment paper to cover my cookie sheets. Remember you can reuse parchment paper. After the cookie sheets have cooled, wipe down the parchment paper with a wet paper towel. Let dry and store paper on top of cookies sheets in your cabinet.

Enjoy!

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I lost myself today. I mean I lost myself in the sense of not caring where I was or what time it was. Feeling a little creatively blocked this morning, I grabbed my camera and went outside to photograph my rose garden. There is nothing quite like losing yourself in the magnificence of nature, in my case a rose garden during its first bloom of the season. The first bloom of the season is always a show stopper. After being dormant for many months, the roses put forth a tremendous effort to produce a caliber and profusion of blossoms not seen during the rest of the year. One hundred and sixty-four photos later my head cleared and creative ideas flowed again.

#1 – Flower Power
Here’s a thoughtful way to recycle flowers! If you are planning an event that has flower power, such as a wedding, contact the Flower Power Foundation. Its web site states, “The Flower Power Foundation is currently working in association with world-renowned hospice care centers, nursing and rehabilitation centers, rape crisis centers, Alzheimer facilities, and hospitals. Since inception we have facilitated millions of flowers from being discarded and turning them into heart opening experiences for the receivers and the givers. We are passionate about living in a society that takes care of each other now.”

The wheels of this foundation may not have arrived in your area, yet, but the concept is still viable. Why not recycle and rearrange flowers from an event and give them to those who would really appreciate beautiful gifts of hope?

#2 – Wine Bottles In Your Garden!
If you have a lot of empty wine bottles around the house, here’s a way to recycle them. An an article in Lifehacker suggests using wine bottles as garden edging. Bottles are stuck neck down into the soil, two rows wide to form a protective border around vegetable gardens.

#3 – Aphids, Aphids, and Aphids
How many different types of aphids exist? I must have seen at least five types in my garden today. According to Wikipedia there are about 4,400 species! To rid my rose garden of aphids, I dislodge them with a blast of water or run my gloved hand along the stems to brush them off. For more ideas on how to get rid of aphids read this article.

#4 -Reusing Parchment Paper
When I bake cookies I always cover my cookie sheets with parchment paper. Most of the time it’s parchment paper that’s been used before. Every time I’m done baking, I wipe the grease and crumbs off the paper with a slightly damp cloth. After it dries I store the paper on the cookie sheets so they’re ready for my next baking adventure!

#5 – Find Beauty Every Day
You cannot control the world outside, but you can choose what you bring into yourself. If you do not see anything of value in life, begin by finding one thing of beauty every day until it becomes a habit.
Ron Rathbun, meditation teacher

Happy Mother’s Day to all you wonderfully dedicated mothers out there!

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