Posts Tagged ‘flour’

Molasses Cookies

February 3, 2013

IMG_9560I don’t know about you, but I have two types of stores that I could literally live in (while handing over my full paycheck in exchange for goods!). Kitchen stores (ie: Sur La Table) and spice stores (ie: Penzey’s). And the funny thing about spice stores is that I don’t even really need to be on the lookout for a spice to spend a good half hour in this olfactory heaven. I just glance at the spices available, and the recipes that they generally display to get your creative juices flowing.

So last time I was at Penzey’s, I spotted a recipe for Molasses Cookies. At first glance I thought to myself, not sure I have ever made those and it has probably been since childhood last time I tasted them. But, I started thinking that a spiced cookie would be delicious in the winter – might even warm me up!

This recipe is originally from Linda Aukerman and to my surprise, has no butter. Apparently, when baking with just shortening (vs butter) it really affects the texture of the cookie. And I have to admit, the crunchy outside and super chewy inside is worth the ingredient switch. And, combined with the warming spice mixture, make this cookie amazing.

These cookies were a clear winner the minute we tasted them – or quite possibly the moment they came out of the oven and we could smell them. They also disappeared at work quite quickly.

Thanks to Penzey’s and Linda Aukerman for sharing a recipe that does warm me up on a cold winter night!

MOLASSES COOKIES
1 1/2 cups shortening, melted and cooled (do NOT substitute butter)
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup molasses
2 eggs
4 cups flour
4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp powdered ginger
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1/3 cup extra sugar or vanilla sugar for rolling (if you have a Penzey’s or spice shop nearby and can get the vanilla sugar, I highly recommend it!)

To the melted, cooled shortening add: the sugar, molasses and eggs. Beat well with hand mixer. In a separate bowl, sift together the dry ingredients. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, mixing to incorporate. Chill for at least an hour (can make the dough ahead and make the cookies the next day if desired). Preheat oven to 375. Using about a tablespoon of dough, form into balls. Roll in sugar and place on ungreased cookie sheets (although I would recommend a silicone mat or parchment paper), about 2 inches apart. Bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes. Check at 8 minutes. You want them to flatten but still be soft. Let the cookies cool for at least 2 minutes before removing them from the pan, as they can break if you try to pick them up when they are very hot. Cool on a cooling rack.

Homemade Fresh Pasta

May 22, 2011

There are certain things I just won’t cut corners on. I won’t make cookies from a box, bag or anything that says “break and bake.” I won’t ever buy marinara sauce from a jar. And I certainly wouldn’t dream of buying a pre-made cake.

But, before you think I don’t have a full-time job, multiple hobbies and a life outside the kitchen, let me tell you what I DO cut corners on. I will, every once in a while, buy a pie crust (my grandmother would cringe). I have been known to buy jams from a jar, salsa from a jar and – gasp – dips from a jar. But the one shortcut I did every week, every Thursday, without batting an eyelash, was buy fresh pasta. That is, however, until I went to Italy.

When I experienced a cooking class outside of Varenna with the talented Moreno, I had a new outlook on Italian cooking. Much like the view I have on cooking, Italians enjoy making the food as much as eating it. And, the more steps of the process your hands touch, make or mold, the more love you can put into the dish you will serve your loved ones. Dear Moreno made pasta from scratch. No attachments to mixers. No crank machines. Just his hands, a rolling pin and a few simple ingredients.

I would be fooling myself (and overestimating the size of my kitchen) if I thought I could make pasta with a rolling pin. But it did inspire me to make pasta. After all, I call it a sin to not make your own gravy, so why would I buy fresh pasta?

Step one was a pasta maker, and I was lucky enough to get one from my parents for Christmas. I couldn’t wait to try it. I searched back for Moreno’s recipe which had semolina flour (and I couldn’t find it anywhere) so I looked up a few recipes online for all-purpose flour. I cleared a Sunday afternoon, got out my machine, and went to work.

I would be lying if I told you the first time it was perfect – in fact, it was far from. The dough just didn’t feel right in my hands (sign one) then the crank number the recipe called for made the pasta feel too thin (sign two). But, it gave me enough hope to try again.

Four times, and four recipe alterations later, I finally got it. The perfect pasta noodle. While I am still mastering tagliatelle, I think ravioli might be a natural progression. However, anything more complex, I am buying from the store!

A few tips when you make pasta:
1. Don’t cut short kneading the dough. If you don’t do it for at least 10 minutes, the dough won’t be right. You will be tired, and wonder why, but you feel it in your hands when the dough takes form.
2. Don’t forget to let it rest. It needs this time after being needed for so long. At least for 3o minutes.
3. Don’t be afraid to use flour once the noodles are made in order to separate them.
4. Go into the process knowing you will tweak your recipe many times before finding one that works.
5. Allow yourself at least an hour for the process (if not a little more).
6. It tastes better and is much more fun if you make it while sipping red Italian wine and listening to Italian music.

I would love to give credit to someone this recipe but I used one I found online and changed it so much, I don’t even recognize it anymore. So, I suppose I should credit myself (although there surely are many duplicates out there).

So in Italian fashion, when I make pasta, the whole meal tastes of the love I put into it. I recently revisited my pistachio cream pasta the time I finally nailed my noodle recipe. It was almost like a different dish – a dish entirely made from scratch. No shortcuts. But lots of love.

HOMEMADE FRESH PASTA
Serves 2-3

1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
2 eggs, plus one egg yolk
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon olive oil
½ Tablespoon warm water

Put flour on a marble, wooden or smooth countertop and create a “volcano” and create a well in the center. In a bowl, mix the eggs, salt and olive oil. Pour the egg mixture into the well and slowly incorporate the flour into the eggs, pulling flour from the area around the well. You might have to add the yolk in multiple phases in order for it to fit in the well without spilling over.

As things begin to get incorporated, keep kneading (even if your well breaks) and add the water if necessary. This will be messy, but keep going! Once you have the mixture in a ball form, begin kneading the dough. Fold it in have and press against the counter. Start a timer and knead for no less than 10 minutes and you will see your dough begin to take shape.

Once your 10 minutes is up, cut your dough in half to form two little balls. Put them in a bowl (or two separate bowls) and cover with plastic wrap. Let them sit for at least 30 minutes to an hour.

If you are using a crank machine, take the first ball and press onto the counter to push into a flat pancake. Make sure your pasta maker is on the widest setting (mine is 7) and crank the dough through. Keep flour on the dough to keep it from getting sticky. Keep changing the setting every time until you get the thickness you want (for mine the perfect thickness is level 3). Then, crank it through the cutting side, keeping it floured and you have fresh pasta! This pasta can also be frozen, I am told, but I have yet to do it.

The flour with the well of egg mixture in the center.

My husband demonstrating how to knead the dough!

The balls of dough after they have been kneaded.

Passing the dough through the pasta press.

Cutting the pasta. The last step!

Dinner!

Coconut Bars

February 13, 2011

This past January, I spent 10 nights away from home on a business trip. My husband can certainly fend for himself – he was single for years before he met me after all. He is perfectly capable of dialing for takeout or making a simple meal for one. But, when you get married, you settle into roles. I make dinner, he takes out the trash. I scoop the kitty litter and he gets our cars cleaned. And, when I go out of town, I feel bad for putting my chores into his court.

So, I knew if I could at least make some sweets before leaving town, he would have something to nibble on that was made for him with love.

I had just bought The Gourmet Cookie Book which has the best cookie recipe from Gourmet magazine from the 1940s on. What I love about the book is not only the timeless classics, but the amazing photos of every recipe in the book. I made the coconut bars from 1953 because I had all the ingredients on hand – and it seemed a bit different.

These are sweet, so cut your pieces smaller than I did. But, they are simply amazing, and really require little ingredients. With some powdered sugar on top, they are beautiful as well.

So, if you are leaving town and want your family to have an always satisfied sweet tooth, these are great treats to leave behind!

COCONUT BARS
Makes 2 dozen

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cup brown sugar, divided
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour, divided
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup shredded coconut
pinch of salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 375.

Cream 1/2 cup butter. Add gradually 1/2 cup brown sugar and beat until smooth. Stir in 1 cup sifted flour and spread the batter in the bottom of an 8-inch square cake pan, buttered. Bake for 20 minutes.

Beat 2 eggs and 1 cup light brown sugar until smooth. Stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1 cup chopped walnuts, and 1/2 cup shredded coconut tosses with 2 tablespoons flour and a pinch of salt. Spread this batter over the baked crust and continue to bake for 20 minutes longer. Cool, sprinkle with powdered sugar, and cut into squares or bars.

Toffee Squares

December 12, 2010

The problem with making cookies for the holidays is that everyone has a different favorite. I can’t go through a holiday season without making jam thumbprints for my husband (his favorite) or brownies for my co-worker (her favorite) and so on and so forth. Every year I make 3 or 4 of the old favorites that without, whining would certainly commence. Then, I always try some new ones to be added to the rotation.

And, before my designated “Christmas Baking Day” (yes, I actually take a day off of work to do it), I had to bake a bit early since our holiday parties seemed to span a 2-week time frame. So, when I saw this recipe on epicurious.com, I thought it sounded like the perfect missing puzzle piece to my cookie line-up.

The original recipe comes from a booked called Very Merry Cookie Party by Virginia Van Vynckt and Barbara Grunes. I made the recipe in the second way suggested – with the inclusion of toffee bits.

I am actually a bit embarrassed to show how easy this recipe is, since only about 30 minutes total gives you an entire 9 x 13 of these sweet morsels. They are so good that only within about 4 days from my first batch, I will be making another for yet more holiday occasions.

Thanks to Very Merry Cookie Party for this amazing recipe – and the newest member of my holiday cookie favorites.

TOFFEE SQUARES
Makes about 48 squares (on 9×13 pan)

Crust:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose flour

Topping:
7 to 8 ounces milk chocolate, broken into pieces, or 1 1/2 cups milk chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped almonds, toasted
1/2 cup toffee bits

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with parchment. (or spray a nonstick pan with baking spray)

Prepare the crust. In a large bowl, with an electric mixer, beat together the butter and sugar on medium speed until light, about 2 minutes. Beat in the egg yolk, vanilla, and salt. On low speed, gradually beat in the flour just until mixed. The dough will be stiff. Pat the dough evenly over the bottom of the baking pan.

Bake in the center of the oven until pale gold on top, about 20 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven and scatter the chocolate pieces evenly over the crust. Return the pan to the oven for 1 minute. Remove the pan again and, using a knife, spread the chocolate evenly over the crust. Sprinkle evenly with the almonds.

Let cool completely in the pan on a wire rack. Using a sharp knife, cut into small squares, then carefully remove from the pan with a small offset spatula or an icing spatula.

Chocolate Toffee Cookies

July 7, 2010

So I realized that this is officially my first cookie recipe on this blog. At this point, it was looking like I either a) didn’t like to bake cookies, or b) didn’t like to eat cookies. I can assure you I love both. The ironic thing about it is I am one of those people who craves cookies at 10pm on a Tuesday night (or my husband does), and I decide to make them – from scratch. I have a few go-to recipes almost memorized, and it constantly amazes me how quickly you can make cookies from scratch (does anyone REALLY need break and bake??).

However, instead of blogging one of my go-to chocolate chips, my chocolate cherry or kitchen sink (I am sure all will follow in due time), I am going to blog one I tried this past week. I had been craving cookies every night for a while week, and after a weekend away eating my mom’s amazing cookies, I was beyond inspired. I love toffee (and who doesn’t like a little run in their cookie) so I figure I would give this one a whirl. I do have one word of warning – they are rich and addictive!

So, next time you are sitting on the couch on a Tuesday night thinking you want cookies, give these a try – guarantee you can have them done in 20 minutes!

Thanks to Bon Appetit for this one (by Ginny Leith Holland). I omitted the almonds it originally called for, but feel free to throw some in if you wish!

CHOCOLATE TOFFEE COOKIES

Makes 3 dozen

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 large egg
1 tablespoon dark rum
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups crushed chocolate-covered English toffee (such as Heath bar; about 7 ounces) or use one package of toffee bits

Preheat oven to 350°F. Beat butter and sugar in large bowl until fluffy. Add egg, rum and vanilla and beat until well blended. Sift flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt into small bowl. Stir dry ingredients into butter mixture. Mix in toffee and chopped almonds (if using).

Drop batter by heaping tablespoonfuls onto heavy large ungreased baking sheet, spacing 2 inches apart. Bake until cookies puff slightly and crack on top but are still soft to touch, about 11 minutes. Let cookies cool on sheet 1 minute. Transfer cookies to rack and cool completely (cookies will become crisp). Repeat shaping and baking with remaining batter. (Can be prepared 2 days ahead. Store in airtight container at room temperature.)


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