Monday, December 31, 2012

the end of a year.

I survived 2012.  I never expected it to be a monumental year, one filled with big changes and life altering situations but, somehow in the span of 365 days my life flipped around and I somehow landed on the other side.  I traveled on a plane for 24 hours (thanks to those lovely things called sleeping pills) to see the untouched lands of Africa.  I saw one of my closest friends get married.  I ate a meal at Per Se, Thirty Acres, and Miyake. I threw a lot of alfresco dinner parties.  I found a bar cart!  I ate the most perfect tomato.  I celebrated 6 plus years with a boy who knows me better then I know myself (7 years on Friday!).  I survived (mostly unscathed) a hurricane and the loss of our home.  I have spent the better part of the last two months shopping (a lot) in order to make us a new home.  (I have been able to bring all my decor inspiration and visions to life.)  And then there was the cooking.  I cooked a lot (a lot).  I baked homemade bread, I made sushi, I perfected my homemade tortilla recipe, I cranked out a lot of homemade pasta, and I failed and succeeded at many things.  But the single biggest event of 2012 was the rather innocent purchase of a fancy-shmancy camera that was to be used in an effort to capture every second of our Africa trip.  This camera became the catalyst to start a blog, and somehow the blog led to the creation of business cards and then catering and then cooking lessons and then selling Christmas cookies, and then…I guess we’ll see. 

Wishing you a most happy New Year. 

Image via here

Sunday, December 30, 2012

chocolate chip cookies.

I know the chocolate chip cookie is the most basic of all cookies.  Everyone no matter how little they cook probably has a go to chocolate chip cookie recipe - the kind of thing they can whip up on any random Sunday afternoon in order to have fresh booked cookies to be devoured while watching bad TV (don't tell me I'm the only one who does this).  I have also tried almost all of your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipes - I have spent the better part of the past 3 years searching for  the chocolate chip cookie recipe.  I have gone highbrow and lowbrow.  I have used all-purpose flour and bread flour.  I have allowed my dough to sit 48 hours in the fridge before baking the cookies off.  I have tried what feels like everything and yet I still have not found that perfect cookie (not to say my attempts were failed attempts in anyway but they all seemed to lack that certain je ne sais quai that makes the cookie perfect or maybe I am just overly tough on myself).  But I have found a chocolate chip cookie recipe that satisfies me (for the moment) - the edges bake up crispy, the middle is soft and chewy, there is more then enough chocolate involved, and the flaky sea salt a top the cookie makes it utterly grown up (while still adhering to to the promise of it being a perfect childhood favorite).  

Chocolate Chip Cookies
Recipe adopted from Ad Hoc by Thomas Keller 

Ok my notes - I used the good butter and the good chocolate (Pulga and Valhrona!), it really makes a world of a difference.  I also let the batter rest overnight in the fridge before baking them - the 24-36 hour rest really make the flavors meld.  I'll also be the first to say that the sea salt is absolutely necessary.  You can thank me later. 

Makes about 20 4-inch cookies 

2 1/3 cups + 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
5 ounces 55% chocolate, cut into chip-sized pieces (about 1 ¼ cups)
5 ounces 70-72% chocolate, cut into chip-sized pieces (about 1 ¼ cups)
¾ cup toasted walnuts, finely chopped
½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces (at room temperature)
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
¾ cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
Flaky sea salt for sprinkling

In a large bowl combine the flour, baking soda, and kosher salt.  Set aside. 

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat half the butter on medium speed until fairly smooth. Add both sugars and the remaining butter, and beat until well combined, then beat for a few minutes, until the mixture is light and creamy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until the first one is incorporated before adding the next and scraping the bowl as necessary.  Add the vanilla.  Add the dry ingredients and mix on low speed to combine. Mix in the chocolate and nuts.

Remove the bowl from the mixer and fold the dough with a spatula to be sure that the chocolate is evenly incorporated.  Place the dough in the fridge for at least 24 hours to allow the dough to rest and the flavors to incorporate.  (The dough or shaped cookies can be refrigerated, well wrapped, for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 2 weeks. Freeze shaped cookies on the baking sheets until firm, then transfer to freezer containers.  Defrost frozen cookies overnight in the refrigerator before baking.)

Position the oven racks in the lower and upper thirds of the oven and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with Silpats or parchment paper.  Using about 2 level tablespoons per cookie, shape the dough into balls. Arrange 8 cookies on each pan, leaving about 2 inches between them, because the dough will spread.  Top each ball of dough with a sprinkle of flaky sea salt.  Bake for 12 minutes, or until the tops are no longer shiny, switching the position and rotating the pans halfway through the baking.
Cool the cookies on the pans on cooling racks for about 2 minutes to firm up a bit, then transfer to the racks to cool completely. Repeat to bake the remaining cookies. (The cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 days.)

Friday, December 28, 2012

spiced ginger oatmeal drop.

All in the name of research, I’ve made it my job to eat a lot of cookies this month.  I needed to try everyone’s offerings in order to discern the good from the bad.  I've been focusing most of my attention on the ginger cookie (I am in shock with regards to the number of varieties available) and have discovered that my favorite ginger cookies all pack a serious cinnamon spice kick and a big ginger punch.  Many of the previous ginger cookies I made lacked the spice and were also a little too crispy and snapish for me (I fall in the chewy ginger cookie camp, I can't help it), so I went to the wall of cookbooks to see if I could find a recipe that encompassed the spice I crave with chewy bite I adore.  What I found was a recipe from the wonderfully fabulous One Girl Cookie cookbook (I highly recommend a visit to their store in Brooklyn  the cookies are utterly adorable and everything is unbelievably delicious) for a spiced ginger oatmeal drop.  I wasn't too sure about the oatmeal at first, I thought it would take away from the maturity of the ginger cookie (because obviously ginger cookies are a super mature cookie) but I found the oatmeal gave it the perfect bite.  The cinnamon provides a nice bold flavor and the chunks of candied ginger pack the ginger punch I so adore.  

Spiced Ginger Oatmeal Drops
Recipe from One Girl Cookies 

Makes about 30 cookies

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon table salt
1 cup candied ginger, finely chopped
2 ½ cups old fashioned rolled oats
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, ground ginger, and salt. Stir in the candied ginger and the oats.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and brown sugar on medium speed until light yellow and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the egg and vanilla, and mix on medium speed for 1 minute. Reduce the speed to low, add the flour mixture, and mix for 30 seconds.

Take the mixing bowl off the mixer and finish mixing the dough with a rubber spatula, about 30 seconds. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate the dough for at least 1 hour, or overnight if possible.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Using a small cookie scoop or a spoon, scoop out a small round of dough, about 1 ½ tablespoons in size. Roll the scoop into a ball between the palms of your hands, and place it on a paper parchment–lined baking sheet. Gently press the ball onto the baking sheet. Repeat, leaving 1 inch between cookies.

Bake the cookies for 14 to 16 minutes, until they have darkened slightly. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack and let them cool.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

christmas pink and grey.

I am currently unpacking the (the very generous plethora) of presents we got and trying to bring some level of organization to this apartment.  Pretty much everything I got is either fuchsia  grey, gold or cooking related (it's very easy to tell what I will like.)    I am also back to cooking, something other then a cookie (for at least a night) - I have a lot of things lined up since I am now the proud owner of three new cookbooks.  I expect I will be spending the next few days nesting under the piles of new blankets we were given devouring new recipes.  Thank goodness it's a quiet week.  Oh and I will also be plotting how I can get a pink table into our apartment without Tyler thinking he's lost all his manhood (I am trying to convince him the offsetting grey decreases the feminine pink side.  So far he's not buying it.)

Image via Pinterest.  

Monday, December 24, 2012

cornmeal biscotti.

As a half-Italian I fully embrace coffee and all things coffee related.  I have a hard time adapting to the American mentality of chugging overly sweetened chain-brand coffee at the crack of dawn in an effort to wake up and survive another work-day.  I much prefer the Italian mentality of leisurely enjoying an afternoon espresso in a tiny white cup with a matching saucer and a side of subtly sweet cookies while reading the newspaper (or doing absolutely nothing).  I barely have time to eat my lunch, so I don't foresee myself having the opportunity to enjoy a relaxing afternoon cup of coffee on a daily basis so I save that for the weekends when I can spend an hour devouring cookbooks and eating biscotti dunked in frothy coffee.  I have tried many biscotti recipes but the below version from David Lebovitz's blog is my current favorite.  The small addition of butter makes these a little less toothsome then many other recipes which is something I love.  The cornmeal provides a wonderful textured crunch in every bite and the addition of the tart dried cherries provides a nice fruity tang.  The below recipe makes a plethora of cookies which is great for gift-giving and they can also be stored for weeks at a time making them the perfect cookie to have on hand when friends stop by for an spontaneous afternoon visit.  

Cornmeal Biscotti
Recipe via David Lebovitz

About 60 Cookies

1 1/2 cups (210g) flour
1/2 cup (70g) cornmeal, preferably stone-ground
1 cup (200g) sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
zest of one lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract, or 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
4 tablespoons (55g) melted butter (salted or unsalted)
1 cup (100g) walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
½ cup (60 grams) dried sour cherries, chopped

Preheat the oven to 350ºF (175ºC.) Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking soda, and salt.

In a separate bowl, mix together the eggs, lemon zest, and vanilla or almond extract. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the beaten eggs. Add the butter, then mix until the dough is wet and crumbly. Add the nuts and cherries and stir to get them mixed well into the dough.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and knead a few times until smooth. Divide the dough in two, and roll each portion into a 13-inch (33cm) long, then transfer them to the baking sheet. Leave ample space between the two logs as the dough will spread a bit during baking.

Bake the logs for 20 minutes, or until they feel set. Remove them from the oven and let cool for 20 minutes. Reduce the heat of the oven to 250ºF (120ºC.)

Using a sharp serrated knife, slice the longs crosswise into individual cookies, each about 1/3-inch (1cm.) Place the biscotti on the baking sheet, cut side down, and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the biscotti from the oven and turn each one over, then continue to cook for 10 to 20 minutes more, until golden brown.

Let cookies cool completely, then store in an airtight container. These biscotti will keep for at least two weeks.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

chocolate-dipped coconut macaroons.

Holiday cookies will for now and forever be a big deal to my family (and specific cookies will forever be embedded in my mind as a reminder of Christmas).  Delivering boxes to friends and family on Christmas Eve (while wearing the ever present Santa hats) will always signify to me that we've reached the apex of the holiday and that running downstairs to open presents just as the sun begins to rise, is just around the corner (I will for now and forever be a child when it comes to the holidays, you always need someone in your family to be the kid).  The Christmas cookies present a  a continuum every year - it's always tough to decide which new ones to try and which old ones will live to survive another year.  I'm a sucker for keeping tradition alive, I like knowing that once a year I will be reminded of certain flavors, it's a comforting thing.  My mom has a plethora of cookies she makes every year (which is probably why I decided it was a smart idea to make 12 cookies in a month) and I wont share all of her cookie secrets but I figured I could get away with sharing the coconut macaroon. I find these irresistible - the combination of sweet coconut with bittersweet chocolate has always been a favorite of mine.  These are like a sophisticated Mounds bar - a little more elegant and sophisticated which seems utterly appropriate around the holidays.  

Chocolate-Dipped Coconut Macaroons
Recipe via Gourmet Magazine

4 large egg whites
1 1/3 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
2 1/2 cups sweetned flaked coconut
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
8 ounces quality bittersweet chocolate

In a heavy saucepan stir together the egg whites, the sugar, the salt, the vanilla, and the coconut, sift in the flour, and stir the mixture until it is combined well. Cook the mixture over moderate heat, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes, increase the heat to moderately high, and cook the mixture, stirring constantly, for 3 to 5 minutes more, or until it is thickened and begins to pull away from the bottom and side of the pan. Transfer the mixture to a bowl, let it cool slightly, and chill it, its surface covered with plastic wrap, until it is just cold. Drop heaping teaspoons of the dough 2 inches apart onto buttered baking sheets and bake the macaroons in batches in the middle of a preheated 300°F. oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until they are pale golden. Transfer the macaroons to a rack and let them cool.

In a small metal bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water melt the chocolate, stirring until it is smooth, remove the bowl from the heat, and dip the macaroons, 1 at a time, into the chocolate, coating them halfway and letting any excess drip off. Transfer the macaroons as they are dipped to a foil-lined tray and chill them for 30 minutes to 1 hour, or until the chocolate is set. The macaroons keep, chilled and separated by layers of wax paper, in an airtight container for 3 days. (If the macaroons are made in advance, let them stand at room temperature for 20 minutes before serving.)

Thursday, December 20, 2012

t'was almost christmas.

Spending my evening in front of the stove baking batches and batches of cookies and contemplating whether or not I could sneak a peak at my Christmas gifts that the boy oh so obviously left under the tree.  It's officially Christmas time.  

Wishing I had things a little more put together, something along the lines of the below.  But I'm happy the gifts are purchased we have lots of cookies and a pretty cute tree.    Plus, there is always next year. 

Image via here!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

cornmeal lime cookies.

As a slightly obsessive compulsive person when it comes to travel plans I find it very difficult to go on even the shortest of trips without researching ahead of time where to eat, what to see, and what to do.  Spreadsheets are created, in-depth notes are written, and maps detailing every last stop are drawn out (it’s exhausting travelling with me – I am not one to sit still.) So when the boy and I made a weekend jaunt last year up to the Boston area, I made an exhaustive list of things to do and on the very top of the list was a visit to the infamous Flour Bakery.  It’s been on my list of places to visit for a while and when I finally made it there, I realized why I wanted to go for so long, it is filled with everything that makes me happy.  Sandwiches made on freshly baked bread, homemade breakfast treats, and every type of cookie imaginable (all of them the size of my head). I purchased us a rather large box of cookies to take home (all for scientific taste testing purposes) and found myself most enamored with the cornmeal-lime cookies.  These seemed so un-assuming but they packed a serious citrus punch and had the most glorious texture from the addition of cornmeal.  I nicknamed these the palate cleanser cookie because they aren’t too sweet and seem like the perfect cookie to have after all the other heavy holiday cookies.    

Cornmeal Lime Cookies
Recipe from Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston’s Flour Bakery + Cafe by Joanne Chang

Makes 14-16 cookies

For the Cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons finely grated lime zest (about 4 limes)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flower
1/2 cup medium-coarse yellow cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Lime Glaze

1 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons water
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (1 – 1 1/2 limes)
1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated lime zest (about 1 lime)

Position rack in the center of the over and heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a handheld mixer or a wooden spoon), cream together the butter and granulated sugar on medium speed for about 5 minutes or until light and fluffy. (This step will take 10 minutes if using a handheld mixer or a spoon). Stop the mixer a few times and use the rubber spatula to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl and the paddle to release any clinging butter or sugar. Add the lime zest and beat on medium speed for about 1 minute to release the lime flavor. Add the eggs and vanilla and continue to beat on medium speed for 2 to 3 minutes, or until thoroughly combined. Scrape the bowl and the paddle again to make sure the eggs are thoroughly incorporated.
In a small bowl, stir together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt. On low speed (or with the wooden spoon), slowly add the flour mixture to the butter-sugar mixture and then mix until the flour is completely incorporated and the dough is evenly mixed.
Drop the dough in scant 1-tablespoon sized balls onto a baking sheet, spacing them about 2 inches apart. Flatten each ball slightly with the palm of your hand.
Bake 10-12 minutes or until the cookies are pale brown on the edges, still pale in the center, and just firm to the touch in the center. Be careful not to overbake the cookies and let the tops brown. Let cook on the baking sheet on a wire rack for 15 to 20 minutes, then transfer to the rack to cool to room temperature or just a bit warmer before glazing. (if you try to glaze the cookies while they are still hot, the glaze will run off).

To make the glaze: While the cookies are cooling, in a small bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar, water, lime juice, and lime zest until smooth. You should have about 1/2 cup. (The glaze can be made up to 1 week ahead and stored in an airtight container at room temperature).
Brush the cookies with a thin layer of the glaze, then allow the glaze to set for about 10 minutes before serving or storing.
The cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. The unbaked dough can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

passion fruit truffles + coconut truffles.

Very few things make me happier and improve my mood faster then my own box of truffles.  I will be the first to admit that the quickest way to my heart is through my stomach and I am always happiest when consuming chocolate.  Truffles are fancy and indulgent and when you open a box, it looks as if you are opening a box of jewels, which as a girl who loves any and all sparkly objects, makes me very excited.  The problem with truffles is that because they are considered a fancy food, they end up being reserved for special occasions, which is a real shame if you ask me.  I want to bring the fancy to the everyday – I want to eat truffles in sweatpants and I could only validate doing that if I made my own which I finally did this past weekend.  I don’t know why I waited so long to do so but I am glad I finally did because these really are incredible and easy and so fancy especially if you roll them in sparkly pink sanding sugar.  The addition of passion fruit pulp to the ganache gives the perfect amount of fruity tartness (and in my mind there is no better pairing then passion fruit and chocolate) .  I plan to consume many of these while watching Christmas shows in sweatpants over the course of the next week. 

Passion Fruit Truffles
Recipe adapted from the Purple Foodie

Makes about 18 truffles

Let’s talk about chocolate.  The first time I made these I used only dark chocolate and I found them to be far too tart (even with the addition of some sugar).  I decided milk chocolate alone would be too sweet so I did so playing around and found that 100 grams of milk chocolate and 100 grams of 70-75% cocoa content works amazingly well.  Obviously the sanding sugar is optional but I have the say the pink and gold is pretty amazing (cocoa powder would also work incredibly well).  Also!  Passion fruit pulp and all fruit pulps can be found at Spanish supermarkets.  I found some by Goya.

Now – I have also used this recipe as a jumping off point for other truffle varieties namely coconut truffles rolled in toasted hazelnuts.  Recipes for both versions below.

200 grams chocolate (100 grams milk and 100 grams 70-75% dark), finely chopped
80 grams passion fruit pulp
10 grams cream
10 grams honey
15 grams butter, diced
Cocoa powder or sanding sugar for coating

Add the chocolate to a steel or plastic mixing bowl and set aside.

In a saucepan, add the passion fruit pulp, cream, and honey, and bring it to a gentle simmer.  Pour this over the chocolate and stir until it all comes together.  There should be no pieces of chocolate and the ganache should look thick and shinny. Add the butter while still warm, and stir it until it has melted into the ganche, making it even shinier. 

Refrigerate the ganache for 20 – 30 minutes.  Line a tray with foil and set aside.  On a plate pour some sanding sugar or cocoa powder and set aside.  After the ganache has set, remove the bowl from the fridge.  Take about 2 teaspoons of ganache and roll it in your hand to form a ball, then roll the ball in the sugar or cocoa powder. Make sure you coat all sides!  Place the truffles on the foil lined sheet.  Repeat with the remaining ganache.  When all truffles are rolled place the tray in the fridge for 10 minutes and then eat!  You can store the truffles in a sealed container in the fridge for a week. 

Coconut Truffles

200 grams chocolate (100 grams milk and 100 grams 70-75% dark), finely chopped
80 grams coconut pulp
10 grams cream
10 grams honey
15 grams butter, diced
About 1 cup finely chopped toasted hazelnuts for coating (toast the hazelnuts and then chop in a food processor)

Add the chocolate to a steel or plastic mixing bowl and set aside.

In a saucepan, add the coconut pulp, cream, and honey, and bring it to a gentle simmer.  Pour this over the chocolate and stir until it all comes together.  There should be no pieces of chocolate and the ganache should look thick and shinny. Add the butter while still warm, and stir it until it has melted into the ganche, making it even shinier. 

Refrigerate the ganache for 20 – 30 minutes.  Line a tray with foil and set aside.  On a plate pour the toasted hazlenuts.  After the ganache has set, remove the bowl from the fridge.  Take about 2 teaspoons of ganache and roll it in your hand to form a ball, then roll the ball in the hazelnut pieces.  Make sure you coat all sides!  Place the truffles on the foil-lined sheet.  Repeat with the remaining ganache.  When all truffles are rolled place the tray in the fridge for 10 minutes and then eat!  You can store the truffles in a sealed container in the fridge for a week. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

chocolate cherry skillet bread.

It's safe to say I will never be one of those girls who can turn down a piece of really good bread.  I get that it's bad for your diet, I read all the fashion magazines but, it seems sacrilegious to just omit it from your life.  Bread is the basis for all good things and I can't in good faith ever give it up.  (Now maybe I should consume it in moderation but really where is the fun in that.)  I will continue to bake it with abandon and nosh on it with dinner and consume it in all it's glory until the day I die which is how I found myself making dough for chocolate cherry bread at ten o'clock last night.  No sane person starts bread making at such a late hour (sane people are at the bar and socializing instead of sitting on the floor of their home surrounded by cookbooks trying to figure out what other holiday cookies to make), but I am not sane in the slightest and I wanted to wake up on Saturday morning to consume freshly baked bread with my freshly brewed coffee just because I felt like it.  As I sit here typing this having just finished a quarter of a loaf, I can say with a certain degree of happiness that I am very glad I'm a little crazy.  This is sweet but not too sweet, indulgent but not overly so, and it pairs perfectly with both jam and goat cheese (because I obviously had to try both for testing purposes).  It bakes up beautifully and it really is the most perfect companion to a large cup of coffee.

Chocolate Cherry Skillet Bread
Recipe from See You in the Morning Blog

1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/4 cup buttermilk, warmed (to 110 degrees)
2 large eggs
3 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into chunks
1 cup dark chocolate chunks
1/2 cup chopped tart dried cherries
Raw sugar, for sprinkling

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, dissolve the yeast and sugar in the buttermilk and let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes. Add 2 eggs, the flour, and the salt and mix on low speed until combined. Add the butter and beat on medium-high speed until the butter is incorporated. Fit the mixer with the dough hook and knead the dough on low speed for about 5 minutes. The dough will be very sticky. Add the chocolate chunks and cherries and knead just long enough to incorporate them into the dough. Scrape the dough into a ball, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm, draft-free spot until it doubles, about 1 1/2 hours. I let the dough rise in an oven that has been warmed to 150 and then turned off. 

Line two 10 inch cast iron skillets or baking pan of your choice with parchment. Dump dough onto a lightly floured work surface and punch down. Divide the dough in half and form into 2 rounds. While you lightly handle the dough, the slightly melted chocolate will form streaks in the dough. Place each mass of dough into the pans, cover with kitchen towels and set aside to rise until puffed, about 1 hour. 

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350.  Sprinkle the tops with a little raw sugar and bake until golden brown, about 30-35 minutes. Let cool slightly and serve. 

These breads are best served the day they are baked and best eaten warm. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

leek tart with aged goat cheese.

As a "foodie" person I feel that I am expected to like all foods or at least lack utter disdain for almost all foods.  But I have to confess, I can't stand onion (in particular raw onion).  I have tried it on tacos and burgers and in salads but no matter how I try it I can't bring myself to enjoy it.  Something about the smell and the taste and the crunch just bothers me immensely - I don't think I will ever get over this one.  So I've learned to work around it (mostly be avoiding all dishes that contain raw onions..) but also by cooking and using alternatives like shallots and my personal favorite leeks.  Leeks are the greatest thing - they are an onion/garlic hybrid and when you slow cook them they get so unbelievably soft and sweet and succulent that I go weak in the knees for them.  I love them most when combined with some form of cheese (I can thank the French for that), so when I came across the simplest of French tarts that combined leeks with goat cheese, I quickly found an excuse to make it.  This tart is the kind of thing that impresses people - it looks fancy and French and most people would think you spent half the day making it, but really its quick and easy and comes together in about an hour and tastes divine.  I am looking forward to serving thick wedges of it with a simple a green salad and a glass of cold white wine for an impossibly chic dinner (but really I will probably end up eating it while sitting on the floor around our makeshift dinning room table.  One day I will be chic).  

Leek Tart with Aged Goat Cheese (Flamiche Aux Poireaux)

If you want to make this in an hour I suggest making the tart dough, placing it in the frezzer and then make the leek confit while its in the freezer.  By the time the confit is done, the dough is also ready and after that you can relax and watch TV while it bakes!

For the Crust 
Recipe from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (140 grams) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (30 grams) yellow cornmeal
1/4 teaspoon table salt
6 tablespoons (85 grams or 3/4 stick) unsalted butter, chilled and diced
1 large egg

For the Filling
Recipe from Bon Appetit

1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup crumbled aged goat cheese (such as Bucheron, rind trimmed)
1 1/2 cups leek confit (recipe below for the leek confit)

In a large bowl combine the flour, cornmeal, and salt.  Work the butter into the dry ingredients with a pastry blender, fork, or your fingertips until only tiny bits remain visible   Add the egg, and mix with a form until the dough forms - using a little bit of elbow grease if the dough doesn't form together immediately.  (This whole thing can also be done rather easily in the food processor by combining the flour, cornmeal, and salt into the processor.  Add the butter and pulse the machine until the butter is in very tiny bites.  Add the egg and run the machine until the dough starts to clump together.)  

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a 12 inch circle.  Place the dough over a 9 inch fluted, removeable bottom tart pan.  Carefully press the dough against the bottom and sides of the tart pan.  Run your rolling pin firmly over the top edge of your pastry pan to remove excess dough.  Place the tart pan in the freezer for 20 - 30 minutes.  

Whisk milk, cream, egg, egg yolk, and salt in a large bowl.  Remove the tart pan from the freezer and place it on a baking sheet with edges. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of the cheese over the bottom of the dough.  Top that with the leek confit and then sprinkle the remaining cheese.  Pour milk mixture over.  Bake until filling has puffed and is golden brown in spots, and center looks set about 35 - 40 minutes.  Transfer to rack to cool slightly.  Serve warm or at room temperature.  

Leek Confit
Recipe from Bon Appetit

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
4 large leeks (white and light green parts only) halved lengthwise, cut crosswise into 1/4 inch thick slices (about 5 cups)
2 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon salt

Melt butter in a large pot over medium-low heat.  Add leeks; stir to coat.  Stir in water and salt. Cover pot, reduce heat to low.  Cook until leeks are tender, stirring often, about 25 minutes.  Uncover and cook to evaporate excess water, 2-3 minutes.  Serve warm.  Can be made 1 week ahead.  Keep chilled.  Rewarm before serving.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

christmas trees.

I am currently elbow deep in butter and chocolate and leeks (but not all three together - that would be weird, I think).  I forget how much baking and cooking is required around the holidays but, it feels nice to be back in familiar territory, surrounded by my "friends" (friends being Mr. Cusinart and Mr. Kitchen Aid).  Christmas music has been on heavy rotation and it makes for nice background noise to the whirl of the mixing beaters.  I promise to be back tomorrow evening with food recipes (truffles and tarts oh my!) but until then you can look at this pretty amazing picture of a "Christmas Tree", it almost makes me want to convert from the real to the fake..almost.  (If only I could convince Tyler to let me have both a real tree and a fake tree!) 

Image from here!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

pink and more pink.

Much to my better half's chagrin I am currently craving everything pink.  Sometimes I feel bad about this and sometimes I feel like it's my right as a girl to love pink as much as I do.  

Image via Pinterest.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

sugar cookies.

The ubiquitous sugar cookie.  It's so plain and simple and so not me.  I'm a girl who likes a lot of add-in's and bold flavors and cookies that scream loudly with their presence.  Sugar cookies don't do that.  They are the stand-by, reliable boy-friend of cookies.  You always know what a sugar cookie is going to taste like (butter and sugar anyone?).  But, I couldn't ignore the fact that it's the holidays and somehow sugar cookies are synonymous with the holidays and it seemed to me if I was going to spend the next 20 days knee deep in butter that I needed to make at least one old faithful of cookies.  So I researched, because if I was going to make a sugar cookie I wanted to make the best one I could and I knew I wanted it to be easy.  A sugar cookie should be easy.  It shouldn't require you to roll out dough on a heavily floured surface and working quickly with your plethora of holiday shaped cookie cutters cut the dough out and then have to decorate with multiple bowls of heavily dyed icing.  Oh no.  That is not for me.  So I decided on a slice and bake dough and one color icing (white icing, no dye for me) and gold sprinkles (the gold sprinkles came about because we may have made a visit to the Williams Sonoma Outlet and the only way I was going to be allowed to logically buy them was if I had a project planned with them - thus the sugar cookies!).  These are so simple and they really are delightful (the vanilla flavor is perfectly pronounced).  I love them most because you can store a log of dough in the freezer and have cookies whenever you want.  Which is the best thing to have in your freezer around the holidays.  

Sugar Cookies
Recipe from Dorie Greenspan Baking From My Home to Yours

2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon double-acting baking powder
1 stick plus 2 tablespoons (10 tablespoons total) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Whisk the flour, salt and baking powder together and keep close by.

Working in a mixer with the paddle attachment, if you have one, beat the butter at medium speed for a minute or so, until it is smooth.  Still beating, add the sugar and continue to beat for about 2 minutes, until the butter is light and pale.  Add the egg and the yolk and beat another minute or two.  Reduce the mixer speed to low and steadily add the flour mixture, mixing only until it has been incorporated.  When mixed, the dough will be soft, creamy and appealingly malleable. 

Turn the dough out onto a counter and divide it in half.  Shape each half into a chubby sausage (the diameter of the sausage is up to you - I usually like cookies that are about 2 inches or more across) and wrap in plastic.  Chill the packets for at least 2 hours.  (Well wrapped, the dough can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months.)

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Have two lined baking sheets ready.  You will want to cut the dough at 1/4-inch intervals with a sharp thin-bladed knife, place the slices of dough rounds on one of the baking sheets, leaving about 1 1/2 inches of space between each cookie.

Bake the cookies, one sheet at a time, for 9 to 11 minutes, rotating the sheet at the mid-point.  The cookies should feel firm, but they should not color much if at all. Let cool on a wire rack.  At this point they can be eaten or you can frost them with my frosting below!

Vanilla Icing

1 cup confectioners sugar
2 1/2 - 3 teaspoons heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Sprinkles for decorating (optional but highly suggested)

In a small bowl, place the confectioners sugar.  Add in the heavy cream and vanilla and stir to combine.  The mixture should be thick like icing.  If it's too thick, add a little more heavy cream, until its the desired consistency.  Place a small dollop of icing on each cookie and spread it around.  Top with sprinkles.  

Saturday, December 8, 2012

salted dark chocolate espresso cookies.

I have a little sister.  Her name is Hayley.  She is the more organized and put-together version of myself (seriously I always feel like I am half dressed with wrinkled clothes when I am around her, actually I feel that way around a lot of people but especially her).  She is the only person who has kept me sane during this entire "Hurricane Redecoration Ordeal" (probably because she majors in interior design and is hands down the most organized person I know.)  Hayley can't eat dairy or soy or basically 90% of the food in this world (which is a tragedy if you ask me, I mean life without cheese just seems unlivable to me) so I feel really bad for her.  Do you know how many products contain soy?  Almost every product! (I would know as I've become somewhat of an expert in terms of reading labels in the supermarket.  When I do find something she can eat I then then jump up and down and scream excitedly   It's quite the scene.)  I always feel most bad for her around the holidays because as you can imagine almost all cookies contain butter and chocolate and cream and pretty much all the good things that she can't eat.  So I set out this year to find a holiday cookie recipe that should could eat and low and behold after a decent amount of searching I found it and it is amazing.  (Let's just say I tried some of the batter..)  The fat in this cookie is coconut oil and the oil imparts the most amazing flavor.  The final cookie tastes like the grown-up version of an Almond Joy (but a little more subtle and a lot less sweet).  I have to say this may be one of my most favorite cookies now as well.  

Salted Dark Chocolate Espresso Cookies
Recipe adapted from Desserts for Breakfast

Makes about 2 dozen cookies

285 grams (10 ounces) good quality 85% dark chocolate (I used Green and Black Organic which can be found at many supermarkets - the 85% doesn't contain soy but the lower levels like 70% do)
53 grams (1/4 cup) coconut oil
43 grams (1/3 cup) all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs at room temperature
267 grams (1 1/3 cups) sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Flaked sea salt for sprinkling 

Finely chop 170 grams (6 ounces) chocolate and place it in a heat proof bowl with the coconut oil.  Microwave for 20 second intervals, stirring in between each interval, and continue doing this until all of the chocolate is melted.  (This can also be done in a double boiler but I always find the microwave to be easier as long as you don't microwave it for 5 minutes without stirring and then burn all of your expensive chocolate!)  Set aside to cool to room temperature.  Cut the remaining 114 grams (4 ounces) into large chunks (about the size of big chocolate chips.  Set aside.

In a bowl, whisk to combine the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Set aside.  

In a mixer bowl with the paddle attachment, combine the eggs, sugar, espresso powder and vanilla extract .  Beat on medium high for about 5 minutes, until pale and fluffy and the batter drops off the beaters in a thick ribbon.  Fold in the flour mixture, followed by the cooled melted chocolate mixture.  Fold in the chocolate chunks.  Cover and chill until firm about 1 hour (or chill in the freezer for about 30 minutes.)  

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  On a lined or greased cookie sheet, drop 1 to 1 1/2 inch balls of dough, leaving about 2 inches between each ball.  Sprinkle the dough balls with salt flakes.  Bake the sheets one at a time for 8 - 10 minutes, rotating once half-way through baking.  The centers should still be soft when you remove the pans from the oven.  Let the cookies cool briefly before enjoying hot, or store in air-tight containers for about 2 days.  Serve with a shot of milk.  

Thursday, December 6, 2012

everything but the kitchen.

I've spent the last couple of weeks scouring the internet for hours and hours on end looking at what feels like the good, the bad, and the ugly of furniture, lights, and bedding.  It is a tiring task trying to uncover the piece that is exactly like what you imagine in your head.  I am a person who always has a vision.  When I am heading to a fancy event (which is maybe once every 6 months), I spend far too much time coming up with the look I am going for and then even more time trying to find that look (which never ever happens - whenever you want something it's no where to be seen like the long red skirt I am currently on the search for.)  Being me can be utterly exhausting which is probably why I find this whole process of redecorating an entire apartment utterly exhausting.  I shouldn't say I've found the whole process tiring - I've enjoyed the hours spent on Pinterest over-analyzing every room I see, it's like legally spying!  Below are a few of the looks that have caught my eye and are helping me dictate what it is that I want - a little eclectic, a little fancy, a whole lot of me.  

All images via Pinterest

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

chocolate raspberry rugelach.

Something you should know about me is that I love the month of December.  I love the holidays and the twinkling lights on every tree and building I pass.  I love the never-ending stream of Christmas music that is played in every single store.  I love listening to “All I Want for Christmas Is You” on repeat (much to the chagrin of Tyler who can’t stand the song.  I still think he is lying to me WHO DOESN’T LOVE THAT SONG.)  I love the act of picking out a Christmas tree and spending a Saturday afternoon decorating it and mentioning to Tyler that every single ornament that I put on the tree is my favorite ornament.  I love a lot about the month but what I love most is the fact that I can eat cookies for breakfast (and pretty much every meal of the day) without feeling guilty because cookie calories don’t count around the holidays (or so I decided).  Let’s also be honest, I started a blog so I could make an excessive amount of sweets and use the cover of “This will be so great on my blog” in order to validate making them.  So without further ado you can now look forward to the 12 Days of Cookies.   (If I am going to make cookies let’s go big and make 12 types of cookies since I short changed you all on Thanksgiving recipes last month.  I still feel so sad about it but I blame Sandy!)  We are going to make December a very food filled month starting with cookie #1 being these Raspberry Chocolate Rugelach from my newest cookbook acquisition The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook (thanks Carrie!).  These are a tender, flaky cookie that are filled with a combination of my three favorite things - jam, chocolate, and nuts.  It's kind of like a rugelach on steroids since you never see all three of these ingredients in one cookie.  These are over the top in the best possible way.  

Chocolate Raspberry Rugelach
Recipe from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

Makes 48 cookies

For the Dough

16 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon table salt
2 cups (250 grams) all-purpose flour

For the Filling

2/3 cup (215 grams) raspberry jam (preferably seedless)
2/3 cup (135 grams) sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces or 41 grams) pecans toasted and finely chopped
1/2 cup (3 ounces or 85 grams) finely chopped bittersweet chocolate

For the Glaze

1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon water
Coarse sanding sugar for sprinkling

Make the dough: In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter and cream cheese together until they are light and fluffy.  In a medium bowl, combine the salt and the flour, then pour the flour mixture into the mixer.  Beat on a lower speed until the flour just disappears   Scrape dough onto a large piece of plastic wrap and shape as best as you can into a flatish package,  Wrap well in plastic and chill in the fridge for two hours or up to 3 days.  The dough can be frozen for up to 2 months.  

Prepare the fillings: Heat your jam in a small saucepan until it simmers.  This will loosen it so it will be easier to spread thinly.  Set the warm jam aside.

Grab four small dishes.  Stir together your sugar and cinnamon in one and set it aside. In your second dish, put the pecans.  In your third dish, put the chocolate.  In the last one whisk together the egg yolk and water until it is smooth.  At this point you will also want to take out a rolling pin, flour the counter, get an offset spatula or small butter knife to spread the jam, a knife for cutting the dough, line a baking sheet with parchment, and grab a spoon for the dry toppings.  

Assemble the rugelach:  Divide the chilled dough into thirds.  On a well floured counter, roll the first third (the remaining two-thirds can remain in the fridge), into a large thin circle, about 12 inches in diameter.  

Spread 3 tablespoons jam thinly over your dough.  Sprinkle with 3 tablespoons cinnamon sugar, 2 tablespoons chopped chocolate, and 1 tablespoon chopped nuts.  Use your knife to divide the dough into 16 wedges.  Roll each wedge tightly from the outside to the center.  Transfer the rugelach to a baking sheet, keeping the pointed end of each rugelach tucked under and space them 1 inch apart.  Place the baking sheet in the fridge while you prepare the rest.  

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees while you are preparing the rest and chilling the already made rugelach.  

Bake the rugelach:  Before baking, brush the rugelach with the egg wash yolk.  Sprinkle with coarse sugar.  Bake the rugleach for 20 - 25 minutes until they are puffed and golden brown.  Transfer the rugelach to to cooling racks while they are still hot - this is important because the jam that spills out will harden as it cools, making the cookies harder to remove from the paper.  Serve cold or at room temperature.