Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Chocolate Peppermint Shortbread Bars

This is my last post on Christmas cookies that I made these past weeks.  Since it's the last, it's also my favorite!  I love anything peppermint this time of year; I've eaten peppermint bark candies and thin mint cookies, drunk peppermint tea and peppermint mocha coffee.  These bars have buttery base, then it's the sweet and peppermint layer, and lastly it's the smooth dark chocolate top.  Ah, so heavenly!  

With this post, I'm sending a Merry Christmas to you all!  I'll be busy tomorrow and Christmas day, enjoying time with my family.

Chocolate Peppermint Shortbread Bars

Makes 30, 2 ½-x-¾"-bars

For shortbread crust:
12 tablespoons (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
½ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
2 egg yolks
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

For peppermint and chocolate layers:
3 ½ cups powdered sugar, sifted
4 Tablespoons boiling water
½ teaspoon peppermint extract
⅓ cups peppermint candy, such as starlight mints, crushed
7 oz. bittersweet chocolate
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 350F.  Lightly spray 8 x 8" pan with oil.  Line pan with parchment paper to the top edges of the pan.  With a stand or handheld mixer, cream butter, sugar, and salt until fluffy, approximately 3-4 minutes, scraping down the sides and bottom.  Add yolks, one at a time, then vanilla and mix until incorporated.  Add flour all at once and mix at low speed until combined; do not overwork.  Press dough into prepared pan and level the surface.  Prick with a fork in several places and bake 15-18 minutes, until edges are golden brown.  Allow to cool completely before proceeding with next steps.

Make peppermint layer:  Place powdered sugar in a bowl, add boiling water and extract then mix with a rubber spatula until smooth.  Add crushed candy and mix well.  Working quickly, spread over cooled crust and level.  Refrigerate for 1 hour.

Chop chocolate and place into microwaveable bowl.  Heat 1 minute on 60% power.  Mix with a rubber spatula then heat again 30 seconds, mix, then heat another 30 seconds.  Add oil and blend well.  If there are lumps, heat again 30 seconds, being careful not to scorch.  When smooth, pour over peppermint and quickly spread into an even layer to cover.  Allow chocolate to harden.

Lift parchment paper to remove the pan.  Using a large, sharp knife, slice into bars of desired size and serve.

Note:  be sure to use genuine peppermint extract or oil and good quality bittersweet chocolate.  They make the difference in these bars.

Source:  adapted from Market of Choice website

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Rum Raisin Shortbread

Here's another batch baked yesterday.  I chose to make rum raisin shortbreads because we all love rum raisin flavor!  In fact, I'm thinking of making a rum raisin cheesecake sometime, perhaps for New Year's dessert.  Anyway, this is a shortbread dough but it won't be overly crumbly as traditional shortbread that doesn't have any addition--such as nuts or dried fruits.  The raisins here are replaced by currants, which I adore even more, and since they've been soaked in rum, there's no way that the dough can be dry.  But, it doesn't mean that I don't like this, au contraire, I like it very much.  The aroma is heady and they're eaten daily with plenty of tea or coffee--these shortbreads are best eaten as soon as possible :)  If you want to keep it, stack them in layer between wax paper in an airtight container.  Speaking of container, that glass container in the photo is my mom's.  She's had it since I was perhaps in high school.  It's a great container with cute duckies prints, now I can use for my own cookies.

Rum Raisin Shortbread

Makes about 4 dozens

½ cup dark rum
1 cup currants
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
¾ cup confectioners' sugar
½ teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup finely shredded unsweetened coconut
1 teaspoon coarse salt

Combine rum and currants in an airtight container; let sit at room temperature overnight.  Drain; reserving 2 tablespoons rum

Put butter, confectioners' sugar, and zest in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Beat until creamy and smooth, about 2 minutes.  Add vanilla and reserved rum.  Beat well, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.  Reduce speed to low.  Add flour, coconut, and salt, and beat for 3 minutes.  Stir in currants by hand.  Divide dough in half and form each into a log about 1 ½ inches in diameter; wrap in parchment, and refrigerate 1 hour (or up to 3 days).

Preheat oven to 325F.  Remove dough from parchment; slice into ¼-inch-thick rounds.  Place on parchment paper--lined baking sheets, spacing about 1 inch apart.  Bake until pale golden, about 20 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through.  Transfer to wire racks to cool completely.  Cookies can be stored in airtight containers at room temperature up to 1 week.

Source:  adapted from Martha Stewarts' Cookies

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Pumpkin Cake Doughnuts

In a family, each member will have different preference of foods and it's unavoidable.  But in case of doughnut or donut, depending on which spelling is preferred, all of us here love it so much.  My son, especially; he's not one to look for cakes but he'd ask for doughnut every so often.  His favorite is the plain and glazed, my favorite is the Boston creme whereas my husband will go for chocolate glazed.

So far I haven't tried making yeast doughnuts at home.  I wanted to try this baked doughnut recipe first because it's easier and slightly healthier--if you can ignore the amount of sugar, oil and eggs.  I bookmarked the recipe from King Arthur Flour website a while ago because it looked yummy.  Now, I know that I've said my family didn't like pumpkin before.  They don't really like it in a pie form but in cakes or doughnuts or muffins form or in anything that doesn't taste truly like pumpkin, they'll tolerate.  I know, I know, what can I do?  They're family :)

So we had these for breakfast today, and you know what, they're not too bad.  They're soft and moist with the right note of spices and pumpkin.  Of course, these won't replace the traditional deep-fried ones but they're easier to make and still come out superb.  I didn't mind eating it with black coffee just like the real doughnuts.

Pumpkin Cake Doughnuts

Yield 12 baked doughnuts

For the doughnuts:
½ cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
1 ½ cups pumpkin puree (canned pumpkin)
1 ½ teaspoons pumpkin pie spice, or ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon plus heaping ¼ teaspoon each ground nutmeg and ground ginger
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 ¾ cups + 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour

For sugar coating:
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Lightly grease two standard doughnut pans.

Beat together the oil, eggs, sugar, pumpkin, spices, salt, and baking powder until smooth.

Add the flour, stirring just until smooth.

Fill the wells of the doughnut pans about ¾ full; use a scant ¼ cup of batter in each well.

Bake the doughnuts for 15 to 18 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of one comes out clean.

Remove the doughnuts from the oven, and after about 5 minutes, loosen their edges, and transfer them to a rack to cool.

While the doughnuts are still warm (but no longer fragile), gently shake them in a bag with the cinnamon sugar mixture.  Cool completely, and store (not wrapped tight) at room temperature for several days.

Source:  King Arthur Flour

Friday, December 12, 2014

Macadamia and White Chocolate Chunk Cookies

This cookie is my son's favorite and I'm not afraid to say that this has become my favorite as well.  The texture of the cookie is crispy on the edges but a bit chewy in the inner part. This recipe is taken from Alice Medrich's cookies book and I'm a fan of her recipes and when I make them, I'm seldom disappointed. 

When I bake this, I'll put one in his lunch box so that he can enjoy a treat for his school lunch.  He's getting very good at finishing everything I pack in his lunch box, so it's a joy to know that he's well fed :)

Macadamia and White Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Makes about 36 cookies

¾ cup rolled oats
¾ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and still warm
⅓ cup granulated sugar
⅓ cup packed brown sugar
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 cup dry-roasted salted macadamia nuts, coarsely chopped
6 ounces chopped white chocolate

Pulverize the oats in the processor or blender until fine.  Add the flour, baking soda, and salt and pulse to combine.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the melted butter with the sugars and vanilla.  Whisk in the egg.  Stir in the flour mixture just until all of the dry ingredients are moistened.  Let the mixture cool for a few minutes if it is at all warm.  Stir in the nuts and chocolate chips.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, and preferably overnight.

Preheat the oven to 325F.  Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven.

Remove the dough from refrigerator to soften.  Scoop rounded tablespoons of dough and place about 2 inches apart on the ungreased pans.  Bake until the cookies are deep golden brown, 13 to 15 minutes.  Rotate the pans from top to bottom and from front to back halfway through the baking time to ensure even baking.  Transfer the cookies to racks to cool.  Cool cookies completely before storing or stacking.  May be kept in an airtight container for several days.

Source:  Chewy, Gooey, Crispy, Crunchy Melt-In-Your-Mouth Cookies by Alice Medrich

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Apple-Pear Praline Pie

Here I am, back after Thanksgiving break.  I had a great holiday with my parents and I hope you, readers, had a great time with your loved ones.  When it's time to go back to work, I wasn't so excited, but my work schedule is actually not a bad one.  In a about 2 weeks time, I'll have a winter break for two weeks!  

My husband and I finally replaced the igniter in our oven today.  I feel so giddy right now, it's like having a new oven!  For a few weeks I couldn't do any baking nor making any menu because I couldn't forecast whether I'd still have my oven or not.  I could end up having to buy a new one, which I wanted to avoid.  Now I can bake cookies!  More pies!  Make that Dutch pancakes for breakfast!  

Taking apart that old igniter was a pain though, because the old screw has lost its grooves which made it hard to unscrew.  We had to use all kinds of tools, and hoping that it wouldn't break the screw because we still had to reuse it to attach the new igniter.  In the end, the new one got installed; what's supposed to be a 15-minute job took about an hour, yeah, it's never that easy.  When I pushed the button to bake and set the temperature, it seemed like an eternity, but lo and behold, it worked right away without me having to use a fire retardant :)

To end my happy dance, I'm going to share the recipe of apple-pear praline pie.  This was the pie that I made for Thanksgiving day; it was a hit with my family, especially since it's eaten with vanilla ice cream.  My family wasn't a big fan of pumpkin pie anyway so making this was a smarter plan.  We had too much to eat, of course, and I was punished by having some extra pounds packed into my belly.  Oh well, I have 3 weeks of dieting before the food galore starts again :D

Apple-Pear Praline Pie

Makes 8 servings

1 recipe Nut Pastry
¾ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 cups thinly sliced, peeled tart apples
3 cups sliced, peeled pears
2 tablespoons butter, cut up
¼ cup unsalted butter
½ cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons milk or half-and-half

Preheat oven to 375F.  Prepare Nut Pastry.  On a lightly floured surface use your hands to slightly flatten one pastry ball.  Roll it from center to edges into a circle about 12 inches in diameter.  Wrap pastry circle around the rolling pin.  Unroll pastry into a 9-inch pie plate.  Roll remaining ball into a circle about 12 inches in diameter.

In a large bowl, combine granulated sugar, flour, nutmeg, cinnamon, and dash of salt.  Add apples and pears; gently toss until coated.  Transfer apple mixture to the pastry-lined pie plate.  Dot with the 2 tablespoons butter.  Fold bottom pastry under and crimp as desired.  Roll second pastry circle; with leaf-shape/acorn-shaped/any shape cookie cutter, cut out shapes from second pastry circle.  Arrange cutouts on top of filling.  

To prevent overbrowning, cover edge of pie with foil.  Place a foil-lined baking sheet on the rack below the pie in oven.  Bake for 50 minutes; remove foil.  Bake for 30 to 40 minutes more or until filling is bubbly.  Transfer to a wire rack.

In a small saucepan, melt the ¼ cup butter over medium heat.  Gradually stir in brown sugar and milk.  Cook and stir until mixture comes to a boil.  Carefully spoon over baked pie.  Return pie to oven; bake for 2 to 3 minutes more or until topping bubbles.  Cool on wire rack.

Nut Pastry

In a large bowl, stir together 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour, ¼ cup ground toasted almonds or pecans, and 1 teaspoon salt.  Using a pastry blender, cut into ¼ cup shortening and ¼ cup unsalted butter, cut up, until pieces are pea size.  Sprinkle 1 tablespoon ice water over part of the flour mixture; toss gently with a fork.  Push moistened pastry to one side of bowl.  Repeat moistening flour mixture, using 1 tablespoon ice water at a time, until all of the flour mixture is moistened (½ to ⅔ cup ice water total). Gather flour mixture into a ball, kneading gently until it holds together.  Divide pastry in half; form halves into balls.

Source:  Holiday Recipes Better Homes and Garden 2013