Thursday, May 31, 2012

Lemon Poppyseed Cranberry Icebox Cookies

These are cookies for a tea party.



They're buttery, evenly sized, and have polka dots of cranberry scattered throughout.

So I had a tea party, with iced tea because, well, it's been hot in Chicago.

Did you know you can use wet-erase markers on glasses (and probably on glazed ceramic tea cups/saucers, too, but don't quote me on it) to tell whose is whose? It slides right off in the dishwasher or just under the tap. That's common scents!


With the cookies, we served grapes and cheese and crackers. It was no-fuss entertaining.


Grapes are awesome because they're easy to find most of the year, people like them, they're bite sized so no one stains anything, and all you have to do is wash them and put them in a bowl. More common scents right thurr.


And cheese and crackers add body to the spread.

I should add that the dough for the cookies needs to chill, so it's a make-ahead affair. I kept mine in the fridge for a couple of days and it baked up wonderfully. Slicing cold cookie logs is such fun...you get to see the pretty insides!



It's simple. After all, it's having friends over to chat that counts, not tablescaping and flimsy paper umbrellas and napkin rings that you hand origami-ed.


Lemon Poppyseed Cranberry Icebox Cookies
Yield: about 45 cookies, plus the weird looking ends (they make great snacking!)

Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup powdered sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons lemon zest (zest from 1 whole lemon)
1 cup dried cranberries
2 tablespoon poppy seeds


Method:
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour and salt. Set aside.
  2. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat together the butter and sugar on medium speed until soft and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add egg, yolk, and vanilla, and beat until well blended, another 2 minutes. Stop the mixer to scrape down the bowl as necessary.
  3. Add the flour mixture, lemon zest, cranberries, and poppy seeds, all at once, to the egg mixture and beat on low speed until just incorporated. 
  4. Divide the dough in half and place each half on a sheet of waxed paper. Press each half into a log 1 inch in diameter. Roll into plastic wrap and store in the fridge to chill for at least 3 hours, although overnight is best.
  5. When ready to bake, place racks in the middle and upper third of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F (or 325 degrees F convection). Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  6. Remove the dough from the refrigerator, unwrap, and use a knife to slice dough into 1/3-inch-thick rounds. Place on baking sheet about 1 inch apart.
  7. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until barely browned around the edges, rotating halfway through baking. Remove from the oven and cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.
Cookies will last in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days.

Adapted from Joy the Baker Cookbook.

P.S. I half wanted to make a lemon glaze with powdered sugar and lemon juice and drizzle it over...if that mood strikes you, let me know how it goes! Or, sub in different fruits, different zests (Joy used orange), different seeds. It's up to you!

P.P.S. Joy's recipe came from smitten kitchen, who got it from Dorie Greenspan.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Peanut Butter Cup Truffles

It's the end of the the school year...and for me, the end of high school. And that means thanking the people who have been there for the whole thing.



These were for my friend, as a belated birthday present. Happy Birthday Lindsey!!

Let me put this out there right now.
Peanut butter. Chocolate. Truffle.



Did you just feel super excited in your taste buds? I did. (P.S. My mom calls that "ZING" because she gets that feeling when she smells Celestial Seasonings Zinger Teas)

These are delicious. Amazing. Transcendent. So so so much better than Reece's, but incredibly familiar at the same time.



ANDDDD...

I learned to temper chocolate! Turns out it's not as fussy as I expected, and I felt remarkably at ease, compared to that time I made chocolate cookies and the chocolate seized up in the microwave.

I used Nestle chocolate for the coating on these truffles. None of that fancy pants business.

But I did use bars, which makes the whole thing work a lot better. They put stuff in chocolate chips so they stay melty in your chocolate chip cookies for longer. And while that is extraordinarily desirable when one is making chocolate chip cookies and doesn't make a whole lot of difference if you're making brownies, it does mess with the tempering process.




Tempering is important because it makes the chocolate able to fully re-solidify so you don't have to refrigerate it after you have melted it. If you don't want to take the trouble (it does take some time, especially if you've never tempered chocolate before), just keep the truffles in the refrigerator.

Have at it! Conquor your cooking fears!



Peanut Butter Cup Truffles
Yield: about 18 truffles

Ingredients:
1/2 cup (4.5 ounces) creamy peanut butter
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1/2 plus 1/8 cups (2.5 ounces) powdered sugar
8 ounces chocolate (I used a mixture of dark and semisweet, but milk would be delicious too!)

Method:
  1. In a medium saucepan, combine the peanut butter, butter and brown sugar over medium heat. Heat until completely melted and starting to bubble a little, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat. Add the powdered sugar a ¼ cup at a time (sift if it's clumpy), stirring until completely combined with the peanut butter mixture after each addition. Let cool, then pop in the fridge for about 30 minutes.
  2. Scoop portions of the peanut butter mixture (put it back in the fridge if it gets too soft) and roll into balls. Set on a baking sheet lined with wax paper and put in the freezer while you prepare the tempered chocolate.
  3. Temper chocolate. Feel the glory. Or don't and just melt it in the microwave or a double boiler.
  4. Dip peanut butter insides in chocolate, completely coating. (I didn't get the coating over everything on some of them and they dripped peanut butter grease...not attractive). Let set on the baking sheet at room temperature if you've tempered your chocolate or in the fridge if not.
  5. Eat and enjoy!

Adapted from Brown Eyed Baker.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies with Sea Salt

These cookies were inspired by a visit to my dad's cousin's restaurant in Berkeley, The Elmwood Cafe. It's a beautiful place, right next to a bookshop, and the food is beautiful too!


That little heart card is a ballot to vote for the charity you want half of Elmwood Cafe's profits to go to. They have boxes up on the wall and you can slip the card into one of them to cast your vote.

There are so many windows, and the decor is homey, with tables outside, lots of mason jars, and a huge wooden sidebar.

Those glasses in the picture above? Yeah...that's homemade soda. I had ginger soda (SO not like Schwepps Ginger Ale, but delicious all the same) and my dad had rosemary. There are a whole bunch to choose from, plus cappuccinos, teas (see above), and all the usual culprits.

The food is really, really fresh. Their menu changes seasonally, and they buy a lot of local, organic produce.
My sandwich was a croque monsieur with pear and whole grain mustard. Yum!!


And, of course, what would lunch be without dessert? Her chocolate chip cookie with sea salt is what inspired this post, but also on this plate are a chocolate croissant half and a bit of coffeecake!


My goodness, did we leave feeling nurtured :)

So, on to these cookies. Last time I posted a chocolate chip cookie recipe, it was for crunchy ones. And don't get me wrong, I love them, but this here is the chocolate chip cookie recipe I have made so many times that I have the double batch measurements written into the margin. It's the one I bring to school to impress people.

It is chewy.
It is delicious.


And this time, I added walnuts and sea salt. Walnuts because I like 'em and my mom's out of town (she's not a fan), but also because I have a very vivid memory of giving my English teacher a cookie with walnuts last year and he remarked on how they made the cookie special. Since these were to thank my teachers for writing me college recs, I really wanted to include walnuts.

(people, I promise this isn't creepy. It's just a weird thing I remembered)



Oh plus, I used good chocolate. Always a good investment. Apparently Costco carries big bags of Callebaut chocolate now, which makes me Oh So Happy.


Just look at dem walnuts.

Make these cookies...and spread the love!

Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies with Sea Salt
Yield: about 30 cookies, depending on how big you make them!

Ingredients:
2 cups 2 tablespoons AP Flour (10 5/8 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) butter, melted and cooled until warm
1 cup packed (7 ounces) brown sugar--light or brown is fine
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups walnuts, toasted and chopped
sea salt, to top

Method:

  1. Adjust the oven racks to the upper- and lower-middle positions and heat the oven to 325 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper or spray them with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl; set aside.
  3. Either by hand or with an electric mixer, mix the butter and sugars until thoroughly blended. Beat in the egg, yolk, and vanilla until combined. Add the dry ingredients and beat at low speed just until combined. Stir in the chips and walnuts.
  4. Roll a scant ¼ cup of the dough into a ball. Break it apart and try and mash the halves back together so the craggy broken surface is on top (see this website for illustrations...and by the way this is basically the same recipe). Place on baking sheets 2 inches apart and sprinkle with the sea salt.
  5. Bake until cookies are just starting to turn golden at the edges, with still soft and puffy centers, about 15-18 minutes, rotating top/bottom and front/back midway through baking. Cool on the sheets.
Impress people! Thanks Kara for the inspiration!

Recipe from Baking Illustrated.