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Jan 29, 2015
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Posts Tagged ‘Baking’

The Weekend Project: Bread & Butter

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015

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A new year always heralds hope of new beginnings and personal improvement. We vow that this year, we’ll cook better: healthier and more often, tackling more projects and challenging ourselves in the kitchen.

Yet three weeks into January, we find ourselves losing resolve. Who has time to embark on ambitious cooking resolutions while juggling work, laundry, bills and the trials of everyday life?

Thankfully, the most impressive and satisfying kitchen creations are usually the most flexible. This month’s Weekend Project is simpler than it seems. Baking your own bread and even whipping your own butter requires just a few minutes of actual activity on your part. If you can stir ingredients together and exercise patience, you’ll have warm loaves of ciabatta and Kugelhopf (an eggy European loaf studded with bacon and onion) smeared with freshly whipped butter on the table by Sunday dinner.

Bread making, that ancient practice of bringing flour and salt to life with yeast and water, is such a basic task, but it is one that can produce great works of beauty and endless variations. Bread is also extremely forgiving. Don’t have the right type of flour? Use a different one. Don’t have exactly an hour to wait around for it to rise? No worries, just toss it in the refrigerator to rise slowly and return to it the next day.

Bottom line: No excuses, people! Here, four simple rules to ensure success with any yeast bread:

 

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Proof your yeast to determine if it’s alive. To do so, take a small amount of the liquid used in the bread recipe (usually water or milk) and warm it to 95 to 115 degrees. You want the liquid warm enough to activate the dormant yeast but not so hot that you kill it. Stir in the yeast granules, and if desired, add a tablespoon of flour, honey or sugar to feed further. Then, simply let the yeast wake up and get the bubbly party started!

After five to 10 minutes, the yeast should be foamy with bubbles and soft brown lumps on its surface. It may even produce a sweet fermented aroma. If nothing has happened after 10 minutes, throw the jar or packets out and buy a new jar, which will keep at least a year in the refrigerator or freezer.

(A quick note on yeast: For the following recipes, be sure to purchase yeast labeled “active dry yeast,” not the “rapid rise” or “bread machine type.”)

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Don’t panic if you can’t babysit your dough all afternoon. A longer rise simply allows the bread to take on a richer more complex set of flavors as the colonies of yeast continue to grow. If you decide to extend your rise, cover the dough with a greased piece of plastic wrap instead of a towel to prevent the top from drying out.

Dough can even be prepared the night before baking. Simply cover it with greased plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. This slows the yeast’s metabolism so it will rise more slowly. The next morning, let the dough return to room temperature about 30 minutes before you work with it.

Want to speed things up? Find a nice warm spot to let the dough rest, and it will double in size in just 30 to 45 minutes. And if you’re really rushed, yes, you can just bake the bread. You’ll be amazed at how much it rises simply from a trip to the oven.

 

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Salt is critical to great flavor; in fact, the dough should taste a bit salty before you bake it. Just be sure you don’t add the salt until the last addition of flour, as it will slow the yeast growth. You can even add salt while kneading the dough to give the yeast a headstart.

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Consider the recipe a guide to ingredient amounts, not dogma. After proofing the yeast and adding other enriching ingredients (eggs, flour, butter, etc.), add the flour one cup at a time, mixing continuously until you achieve lightly sticky consistence you can knead. Flour is sensitive to humidity, so the amount may change each time you bake. Use less flour for lighter, airier loaves; use generous amounts of heavier flours for denser, Eastern European-style bread.

 

The Game Plan
Day 1:
Make the compound butters. Make the starter (biga) for the ciabatta.
Day 2: Make the ciabatta. Make the Kugelhopf.

The Shopping List*
1 quart heavy cream
3 anchovies
3 cloves roasted garlic (DIY here)
2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh herbs (parsley, chives, rosemary, thyme)
½ tsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. lemon zest
2 scant Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. active dry yeast
7 to 9 cups bread flour
8 slices bacon
1 onion
5 eggs

*This list assumes you have kosher salt, all-purpose flour, vegetable oil, olive oil, milk, butter and freshly ground black pepper. If not, you will need to purchase those items, too.

 

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Anchovy Garlic Butter
Makes 1 cup

2 cups heavy cream
1-2 cups ice water (with ice cubes)
1 Tbsp. plus ½ tsp. kosher salt
3 anchovies, finely minced
3 cloves roasted garlic, finely minced

Day 1: Pour the cream into a blender and whip on high speed until the fat solidifies into yellow butter and separates from the white liquid, 20 to 40 minutes, scraping down the sides of the blender as needed.
● Place a fine mesh sieve over a mixing bowl and line with cheesecloth or a clean linen towel. Pour the separated mixture through the sieve, collecting the buttermilk into the mixing bowl below. Gather the ends of the cheesecloth together and gently squeeze the butter to remove any additional liquid. Reserve the buttermilk for another use.
● Return the butter to the blender with the ice water. Wash the butter by blending 3 minutes, then pour the mixture through the strainer again, squeezing to remove any excess liquid. Discard the liquid.
● Place the butter into a mixing bowl and add the salt, anchovies and roasted garlic. Mix together until thoroughly combined. Store the butter, refrigerated, in an airtight jar up to 6 weeks or frozen 3 to 6 months.

 

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Herbed Butter
Makes 1 cup

2 cups heavy cream
1-2 cups ice water (with ice cubes)
1 Tbsp. plus ½ tsp. kosher salt
2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh herbs (parsley, chives, rosemary, thyme)
½ tsp. finely minced fresh garlic
1 tsp. lemon zest

Day 1: Pour the cream into a blender and whip on high speed until the fat solidifies into yellow butter and separates from the white liquid, 20 to 40 minutes, scraping down the sides of the blender as needed.
● Place a fine mesh sieve over a mixing bowl and line with cheesecloth or a clean linen towel. Pour the separated mixture through the sieve, collecting the buttermilk into the mixing bowl below. Gather the ends of the cheesecloth together and gently squeeze the butter to remove any additional liquid. Reserve the buttermilk for another use.
● Return the butter to the blender with the ice water. Wash the butter by blending 3 minutes, then pour the mixture through the strainer again, squeezing to remove any excess liquid. Discard the liquid.
● Place the butter into a mixing bowl and add the salt, herbs and garlic. Mix together until thoroughly combined. Store the butter, refrigerated, in an airtight jar up to 6 weeks or frozen 3 to 6 months.

 

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Ciabatta
Makes 2 loaves

1 tsp. dry active yeast, divided
1¼ cup warm water (95 to 115 degrees), divided
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 Tbsp. olive oil, plus more for greasing
2 cups bread flour
1½ tsp. kosher salt

Day 1: To make the biga, or starter, stir together ½ cup warm water and ½ teaspoon yeast in a small bowl and let sit 5 to 10 minutes until foamy. Add the all-purpose flour and mix thoroughly to create a small ball of dough. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 12 hours or overnight.
Day 2: Remove the biga from the refrigerator and let come to room temperature, about 30 minutes.
● Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, pour the remaining ¾ cup warm water and ½ teaspoon yeast in a large mixing bowl. Stir together and let sit 5 to 10 minutes until foamy.
● Add the biga, 1 cup bread flour and the olive oil and mix thoroughly with a large wooden spoon. Add the remaining 1 cup bread flour and the salt and mix again for 3 to 4 minutes. The dough will appear soupy. Cover with a clean towel or oiled plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature 1½ hours.
● Wipe down a clean surface with a damp towel and cover with piece of plastic wrap so it sticks to the wet surface. Dust the plastic wrap with all-purpose flour and scrape the dough onto the floured surface. Use floured hands to divide the dough into 2 halves. Form the dough into 2 10-by-4-inch rectangles.
● Lightly grease a sheet tray with olive oil. Pick up the sides of the plastic wrap and flip the loaves over onto the tray. Sprinkle the dough with more flour, then cover with a clean, floured kitchen towel. Let rise in a warm place 1½ hours.
● Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Bake the loaves 20 to 25 minutes, until the crust nut brown and the loaves sound hollow when knocked. Let cool on a breadboard or cooling rack.
● Serve with Herbed Butter or Anchovy Garlic Butter. Bread will keep, wrapped in plastic, 3 to 4 days or wrapped in paper, up to 1 week.

 

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Kugelhopf (Bacon and Onion Bread)
Makes 1 loaf

2 tsp. vegetable oil
2 scant Tbsp. dry active yeast
1¼ cups warm milk (95 to 115 degrees)
8 slices bacon, cut into ¼-inch lardons
1 medium onion, finely chopped
6 cups bread flour
2/3 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
5 eggs
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. black pepper, ground

Day 2: Generously coat a large mixing bowl and a bundt pan with 1 teaspoon each vegetable oil and set aside.
● In a large bowl, stir the yeast into the warm milk and let rest until bubble and foaming, 5 to 10 minutes.
● In a large steel or cast-iron skillet, cook the bacon over medium heat until crisp and brown, about 5 minutes. Add the onion and cook until it is soft and translucent, scraping any brown bits from the bottom of the pan while sauteing. Remove from heat and scrape the bacon, onions and rendered fat into a bowl to cool. Set aside.
● Add 1 cup flour to the proofed yeast and milk and mix thoroughly using a large wooden spoon about 1 minute. Add another 2 cups flour 1 cup at a time, stirring thoroughly between each addition.
● In small bowl, beat the eggs, then add them and the butter to the dough. Mix thoroughly, then add the salt and pepper and mix again. Add the remaining 3 cups flour, 1 cup at a time, stirring thoroughly between each addition. Stir in the cooled bacon, onions and grease into the dough until incorporated.
● Turn the dough out on a lightly floured surface and knead 3 to 5 minutes until all the ingredients are evenly distributed and the dough has a smooth, elastic surface. Place the dough in the mixing bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place 45 to 60 minutes.
● Punch down the dough and move it to the bundt pan. Cover with the plastic wrap and let rise again until dough reaches the top of the pan, 45 to 60 minutes.
● Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Bake the bread 40 to 45 minutes until the loaf is brown on the bottom and a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let cool 5 minutes, then turn the bread out onto a breadboard or cooling rack to continue cooling.
● Serve with Herbed Butter or Anchovy Garlic Butter. Bread will keep, wrapped in plastic, 3 to 4 days or wrapped in paper, up to 1 week.

 

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-photos by Michelle Volansky

Baked: Peppermint Red Velvet Cake Roll

Wednesday, January 21st, 2015

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Red velvet is hands-down my favorite cake. As much as I love a classic, fudgy chocolate cake, there’s no denying that a tangy cream cheese frosting is the perfect complement to a velvety, lighter chocolate cake.

But as much as I love red velvet, I’m sick to death of standard layer cakes and cupcakes, so I opted to roll this one up instead. While some of the cake fell apart, any mishaps were smothered under a layer of peppermint-tinged frosting. This recipe is also a great way to use up any leftover candy canes still lingering after the holidays. Crush them up and store them in a jar for recipes like these. The result is a delicious and stunning cake with a lovely minty aftertaste that would make for a lovely Valentine’s treat.

 

Peppermint Red Velvet Cake Roll
Adapted from a recipe on The Kitchn
6 to 8 servings

1 cup cake flour
⅓ cup cocoa powder
½ tsp. kosher salt
⅔ cup vegetable oil
¾ cup sugar
1 egg
2 Tbsp. red food coloring
½ tsp. vanilla extract
½ cup buttermilk
½ tsp. baking soda
¾ tsp. vinegar
2 cups powdered sugar, plus more for dusting, divided
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
4 oz. cream cheese
1 tsp. peppermint extract
2 Tbsp. milk
Crushed peppermint candy for garnish

● Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 10-by-15-inch jellyroll pan or a sheet pan with nonstick spray and line with parchment paper.
● In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the cake flour, cocoa powder and salt. Set aside. and salt in a bowl.
● In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the vegetable oil and sugar on medium speed until well blended, then beat in the egg. With machine on low speed, slowly add red food coloring and vanilla until mixed.
● Add half the flour mixture, then half the buttermilk until mixed thoroughly. Add the remaining flour mixture and buttermilk, scraping down the bowl until combined. Turn off machine.
● Place the baking soda in a small dish and stir in the vinegar. Add the mixture to the batter with the machine running on low until combined.
● Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake 15 to 20 minutes, until puffed. The cake should bounce back when you lightly press the top.
● Spread a clean kitchen towel on the counter and dust with powdered sugar. Flip the hot pan over to turn the cake out onto the towel. Remove the parchment paper. Dust the cake with more powdered sugar, then use the towel to carefully roll the hot cake into a spiral starting from the short side. Let cool wrapped in the towel, about 1 hour.
● Meanwhile, in the bowl of a standing mixer, beat together the butter, cream cheese, remaining 2 cups powdered sugar, milk and peppermint extract until combined. Set frosting aside.
● Carefully unroll the cake and spread with a ½-inch thick layer of frosting. Carefully roll the cake up again and gently move to a serving plate. Spread the remainder of the frosting all over the top of the cake, covering any cracks that may appear. Garnish with crushed peppermint candy.

By the Book: Ben Mims’ Grapefruit-Blackberry Bars

Saturday, January 17th, 2015

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Breakfast is supposedly the most important meal of the day, but I’d argue that the title should really go to dessert. Ben Mims seems to agree in his new book, Sweet & Southern: Classic Desserts with a Twist, the pages of which are filled with mouthwatering recipes for cakes, pies, custards, cookies and even frozen treats to tempt us dessert advocates.

Grapefruit always seems to be an underdog in the kitchen, never getting the attention it really deserves. So when I saw Mims’ recipe for Grapefruit-Blackberry Bars, I was intrigued by its combination of fruity, sour and sweet flavors.

 

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The cookie-like crust was an easy task, just quick mindless mixing of dry ingredients. The recipe called for a 9-by-13-inch pan, but I only had a 9-by-9-inch one available, so I made a mental note to let the bars cook a bit longer than the prescribed time. I also let it rest overnight in the refrigerator before baking the next morning while I made while I presumed would be an equally easy blackberry sauce.

However, my frugal self opted to buy an actual pomegranate instead of the $13 bottle of juice at the grocery store. Only when I returned to the Sauce office did I wonder how on earth I was going to juice a pomegranate. Squeeze each individual seed? Stick it in a blender? Maybe jam a straw in it and see if gravity could help me out? I ended up scooping the pomegranate seeds into a plastic zip-top bag, sealing it tight and whacking it until I had the entire tablespoon – yes, just a tablespoon – of juice needed for the sauce. It may not be the most professional way to do things, but it was certainly efficient (and entertaining to my audience of Sauce editors).

 

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The grapefruit makes it appearance in the filling, a mixture of more sugar, flour, eggs, and the juice and zest of a lemon and a grapefruit. Zesting an entire grapefruit proved to be quite the arm exercise. This recipe really makes you work for every tablespoon of flavor.

I poured the filling over my cooled cookie base and drizzled the blackberry sauce over it. I took some creative liberty to create a swirly masterpiece before popping it in the oven for 45 minutes, remembering my note to add time for my pan size, then moved it to the refrigerator later.

Four agonizing hours later, the result: sweet-tart bars oozing with citrus and berry flavor. The blackberry swirls on top were a feast for the eyes, as well. My bars were quite runny in the middle – akin to a half-baked gooey butter cake – but they were delicious nonetheless. The rich crust baked beautifully and served as a textural contract to all that slippery filling. I’d recommend skipping the confectioners’ sugar and using vanilla bean ice cream as a garnish instead. Your sweet tooth will thank you.

 

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Grapefruit-Blackberry Bars
12 to 16 servings

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3¾ cups granulated sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour
⅛ tsp. kosher salt
6 oz. blackberries
1 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
1 Tbsp. pomegranate juice
2 Tbsp. grated grapefruit zest
½ Tbsp. grated lemon zest
1 cup fresh grapefruit juice
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
6 large eggs
Confectioners’ sugar, for garnish

● Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9-by-13-inch baking pan evenly with baking spray.
● In a bowl, beat the butter and ½ cup of the granulated sugar with a handheld mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add 2 cups of the flour and the salt and mix until combined.
● Transfer the dough to the prepared pan and press it into the pan to cover the bottom and about halfway up the sides. (Place a sheet of plastic wrap on top of the dough and press so that hands don’t stick to the dough.) Refrigerate the dough for about 30 minutes.
● Bake until light brown, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly.
● In a small saucepan, combine the blackberries, ¼ cup granulated sugar, the lime juice, and pomegranate juice and bring to a boil over high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until thick, about 10 minutes.
● Remove from the heat and press through a fine-mesh sieve set over a bowl, pressing on the solids to extract all the juice from the berries. Let cool completely. Discard the solids.
● In a bowl, whisk together the remaining 3 cups granulated sugar and 1 cup flour (this is to prevent lumps of flour from forming in the filling), then add the grapefruit and lemon zests, grapefruit and lemon juice, and the eggs and whisk until smooth.
● Pour the filling onto the crust, then drizzle the blackberry sauce in stripes over the top. Drag a toothpick or knife through the filling and sauce to create swirls.
● Bake until the filling is just set in the middle but still slightly jiggly in the center, about 35 minutes. Let cool completely at room temperature, then refrigerate for at least 4 hours to set the filling before cutting into bars.

Reprinted with permission from Rizzoli Publishing

What’s your favorite way to use grapefruit? Tell us in the comments below for a chance to win a copy of Sweet & Southern.

Baked: Earl Grey Caramel Cake

Wednesday, January 7th, 2015

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This cake is deceptive. It’s so simple to make, yet it tastes unbelievably delicious and moist thanks to homemade caramel poured over the top. This recipe looks like it would be exceptionally sweet, but I added some herbal, savory elements like Earl Grey tea leaves, bergamot extract and some orange zest to keep the flavors balanced. Of course, if your sweet tooth won’t be denied, this recipe is divine as a simple caramel cake. Either way, it’s irresistible. If you really want to take the caramel goodness to the next level, poke holes in the cooled cake just before glazing and let the sauce seep into every pore. Enjoy and happy baking!

 

Earl Grey Caramel Cake
Adapted from Epicurious
Makes 1 8-inch square cake

1 stick (4 oz.) unsalted softened butter, plus more for greasing
2 cups plus 2 Tbsp. sifted cake flour (not self-rising)
1 tsp. baking powder
¾ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. plus a pinch kosher salt, divided
1 Tbsp. ground Earl Grey leaves
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. orange zest
1 tsp. bergamot extract
2 large eggs at room temperature
1 cup shaken buttermilk
1 cup heavy cream
½ cup packed light brown sugar
1 Tbsp. light corn syrup
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

• Preheat the oven to 350 and position a rack in the middle. Butter an 8-inch square cake pan, line the bottom with a square of parchment paper, then butter the parchment.
• In a mixing bowl, sift together the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, tea leaves and ½ teaspoon salt. Set aside.
• In another large mixing bowl, beat together the butter, sugar and orange zest on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes, then beat in the bergamot. Add the eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition, until combined. On low speed, beat the buttermilk until just combined (mixture may look curdled), then add the flour mixture in 3 batches, mixing on low speed until each addition is just incorporated.
• Pour the batter evenly in the cake pan, then rap the pan on counter several times to eliminate any air bubbles. Bake 35 to 40 minutes, until golden and a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Let cool in the pan on a rack 10 minutes, then run a knife around edge of pan, invert the cake onto rack and discard parchment. Flip the cake right-side up and let cool completely, about 1 hour.
• Make the glaze by bringing the cream, brown sugar, corn syrup and remaining pinch of salt to a boil in a 1½-quart heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Boil until the glaze reaches 210 degrees, about 12 to 14 minutes, then remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract.
• Place the cooling rack with the cake in a shallow baking pan. Pour the hot glaze on top of the cake, letting it run down the sides. Let cool until glaze is set, about 30 minutes.

Baked: S’more Pie with Marshmallow Meringue

Wednesday, December 24th, 2014

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I made this pie for Thanksgiving, and it was the hit dessert of the night. People were fighting over the last slice, which is the best compliment a baker can receive.

The crust is a simple graham cracker and butter base, although the recipe fits snugly into a prebaked graham cracker crust if you want to skip that fuss. The chocolate filling is to die for. It melts in your mouth and is similar to a ganache. You can make it days in advance; the filling holds up well in the refrigerator and doesn’t get too hard.

The topping is a meringue-marshmallow combination, which should be made and applied just before serving. The marshmallow fluff brings it closer to the actual s’mores flavor instead of a traditional meringue topping found on citrus pies. And of course, torching the top before serving looks gorgeous and adds a hint of smoky campfire goodness. Although it takes three components and a bit of effort, the payoff is well worth it. Enjoy and happy baking!

 

S’more Pie with Marshmallow Meringue
Adapted from a Smitten Kitchen recipe
Makes 1 9-inch pie

5 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
1½ cups graham cracker crumbs
¼ cup 2 Tbsp. plus sugar, divided
¼ tsp. kosher salt, divided
1 cup heavy cream
7 oz. fine-quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 large egg at room temperature
1 7-oz. jar Kraft Jet-puffed Marshmallow Creme
3 large egg whites

• Place an oven rack in the middle position and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter or spray a 9-inch pie pan.
• Stir together the butter, graham cracker crumbs, 2 tablespoons sugar and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a bowl until combined. Press the mixture evenly on the bottom and up the sides of the pie pan. Bake 12 to 15 minutes, then cool to room temperature, at least 45 minutes.
• Meanwhile, in a heavy saucepan, bring the cream just to a boil over medium-high heat, then turn remove from the burner and add the chocolate. Let stand 1 minute, then gently whisk until the chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth. Gently whisk in the egg until combined. Pour the mixture into the prepared crust.
• Cover the edges of pie with foil and bake 25 minutes, until the filling is just set and trembles slightly in center when gently shaken. Let the pie cool to room temperature on a rack (filling will firm as it cools), about 1 hour.
• Position a rack in the top third of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees.
• Using rubber spatula, scrape the marshmallow creme into large bowl. Set aside. Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites and remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt in another large bowl until foamy. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, and beat until stiff and glossy peaks form.
• Add ½ cup beaten egg whites to the marshmallow creme and fold with a rubber spatula or spoon just until incorporated to lighten (marshmallow creme is very sticky and will be difficult to blend at first, but it will become easier as remaining whites are folded in). Fold in the remaining whites in 2 additions just until incorporated. Spread the meringue over top of pie, mounding slightly in center and swirling with knife to create peaks.
• Bake just until the peaks and ridges of marshmallow meringue are lightly browned, about 4 minutes. Let stand at room temperature until meringue is cool. Serve immediately. The pie will keep up to 4 days, refrigerated, before adding the meringue topping.

Extra Sauce: 4 Holiday Cookies for Chocoholics

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2014

Sugar cookies make spirits bright, and gingerbread sings of the holidays, but deep down, our hearts will always belong to chocolate.

 

 

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1. Double-stuffed childhood favorites have nothing on these monster Chocolate Sandwich Cookies.

2. Nothing is as comforting as a chocolate chip cookie – except maybe the dual punch of these Chocolate Cookies.

 

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3. Chocolate chip cookies grow up with the addition of chocolate bitters to Triple Chocolate Cookies. Add cocoa powder and chocolate chips the holy trinity of cocoa goodness.

4. Macarons come in a rainbow of colors, but the luscious dark brown sheen of these Chocolate Macarons puts those pastel-hued babies to shame.

 

-photos by Carmen Troesser

Extra Sauce: 7 holiday cookie recipes like Grandma made

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

Whether she’s your Grandma, Nana, Nonna, Oma or Gram, she probably has a holiday cookie recipe you look forward to every December. This year, grab your apron and treat her to a one of these traditional – or not so traditional – treats. Here, 7 of our favorite holiday cookie recipes:

 

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1. These traditional Italian cookies flavored with almond and citrus are coated in snowy powdered sugar. Ricciarelli will melt away winter blues as they melts in your mouth.

2. For a cookie worth the wait, gather ingredients for Florentine Lace Cookies. Let the dough rest overnight, then drizzle this delicate almond treat with chocolate.

3. Opa! Hailing from the Greece, Kourambiedes are a decadent butter cookie that should find a place in your oven this holiday.

4. Holiday Shortbread is a beautiful canvas for seasonal ingredients like pumpkin, white chocolate and cranberries.

 

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5. Old World Springerles are an anise-flavored, pillow-shaped cookie that, after baking in a special mold, is almost too pretty to eat. Almost.

6. Bigger is better this holiday with these Cranberry Crunch Cookies that can be make regular sized (yawn) or super-sized for extra fun.

7. Black-White Christmas Cookies cover a simply spiced soft cookie with both chocolate and vanilla frosting – perfect for the indecisive sweet tooth.

 

-photos by Carmen Troesser

Baked: Coffee Creme Brulee

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014

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This is an elegant and unbelievably easy dessert for any dinner party. It seems like you spent hours perfecting it, when in fact it’s quick and simple. You can even let your guests torch or “brulee” the sugar on top just before serving.

I’ve made creme brulee countless times, and this time I added espresso powder. The result was a lovely coffee flavor that wasn’t too overpowering. The custard is smooth, not too sweet and melts in your mouth, while the torched sugar adds the right amount of sweetness and crunch. Make this for a party, and it’ll definitely be the star. Enjoy and happy baking!

 

Coffee Creme Brulee
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated
4 to 6 servings

2 cups heavy cream, divided
4 Tbsp. plus 4 to 8 tsp. granulated sugar, divided
1/8 tsp. kosher salt
6 large yolks
1 Tbsp. espresso powder (available at Kitchen Conservatory)
1 cinnamon stick (optional)
½ tsp. vanilla extract

Special equipment: brulee torch

• Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
• Stir ½ cup cream, sugar, espresso powder, cinnamon stick and salt together in a saucepan over medium heat.
• Meanwhile, put the ramekins in a baking pan and fill the pan with hot water very carefully.
• Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the remaining cream.
• In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks together and add in the vanilla extract. Slowly add in the cooled cream mixture and whisk it together. Strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer and pour it into the ramekins.
• Bake 35 to 40 minutes, until it is just barely set but the center still jiggles slightly. Let cool to room temperature, then cover with plastic wrap refrigerate at least 4 hours.
• A few minutes before serving, remove and sprinkle 1 to 2 teaspoons sugar on top of each and torch until melted and dark.

Wheatless Wednesday: Thumbprint Cookies

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014

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In winter, I’m drawn to tactile recipes that let me slow down and bake nourishing, delicious treats. This thumbprint cookie lets me get my hands right into the dough, stamping my signature into each one. Plus, it’s the perfect way to clean out those almost-empty jam jars taking up space in the fridge.

This recipe allows for a lot of variation. Choose any combination of raw or roasted nuts to achieve your desired flavor. For example, raw cashews and almonds will be a touch sweeter than, say, walnuts. You can also use any gluten-free baking mix; I used Pamela’s Pancake & Baking Mix, which includes a bit of leavening, but isn’t required. Experiment with liquid sweeteners like maple syrup or agave syrup, too, to find the perfect balance of sweet and savory.

Gluten-free Thumbprint Cookies
Makes 3 dozen

1½ cup roasted cashews
½ cup raw almonds
4 cups gluten-free old-fashioned oats or gluten-free oat groats
¼ tsp. sea salt
1½ cups gluten-free baking mix, such as Pamela’s Pancake & Baking Mix
1 cup coconut oil, melted
2/3 cup honey
1/3 cup molasses
1 tsp. vanilla extract
¼ cup hemp seeds*
Assorted jams for filling

• Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat mats.
• In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the cashews and almonds until coarsely ground and transfer to a large mixing bowl. Set aside.
• Pulse the oats and sea salt in the bowl of the food processor until coarsely ground, stopping before it becomes flour. Add the ground oats and the baking mix to the ground nuts and stir to combine. Add the coconut oil, honey, molasses and vanilla extract, mixing to thoroughly combine. Stir in the hemp seeds.
• Roll the dough into 1- to 2-inch balls and place them 2 inches apart on the baking sheets. If the dough feels too sticky, refrigerate 20 to 30 minutes.
• Indent the center of each cookie with your thumb, then fill each space with a bit of jam. Bake 15 to 17 minutes, until lightly browned.
• Let the cookies rest 10 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

*Hemp seeds are available at Whole Foods.

Baked: Maple-Black Pepper Cookies

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014

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Fill your home with the scent of maple, a lesser heralded but truly wonderful fall flavor when you bake these cookies. This recipe calls for high quality grade B syrup for the richest flavor and a surprise ingredient: black pepper. This spice is such an underrated tool for baking, adding a subtle kick at the end. Since maple can be rather sweet, pepper tempers it nicely.

These crisp buttery cookies are perfect for dipping in afternoon tea in the afternoon, a light dessert or even a great addition to your holiday cookie party. Enjoy and happy baking!
Maple-Black Pepper Cookies
Adapted from a Gourmet recipe
Makes about 30

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup granulated sugar
½ cup grade B maple syrup
1 large egg yolk
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

• In the bowl of a stand mixer or with a hand mixer, beat together the butter and sugar on medium-high until fluffy and light in color, about 5 minutes. Add the yolk and the maple syrup and beat again until combined.
• Use a spatula to fold in the flour, salt and pepper, until a slightly clumpy dough forms, using your hands if necessary. Form the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic and chill for at least 2 hours and up to 4 days.
• Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper.
• Roll out the dough on a floured surface to 1/8-inch thickness and use cookie cutters to create various shapes. Place cookies on the baking sheets and reroll the dough as needed until it is all used.
• Bake 8 to 11 minutes, until the edges are golden. Let cool completely on a wire rack. Cookies will keep in an airtight container about 1 week in the refrigerator and up to 1 month in the freezer.

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