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Monday, January 6, 2014

Dark-Chocolate Rolled Cookies

Ice cream is optional ;)
Ok - who'm I kidding? Ice cream is never optional. :) I was originally looking for a delicious sugar cookie recipe when someone on ChowHound shared this chocolate rolled cookie recipe with me. These are fantastic! (and even better when you make them into ice cream sandwiches, which is what I suspect they were originally intended for).

One of the things I really like about this recipe is how easy they are to roll out. After chilling, if you let the dough come back to room temp they are so easy to roll out. Since you roll them between two pieces of parchment paper, you don't even need any flour so there's no mess to clean up!

They have a very dark chocolate taste, like the outside of an Oreo, so they really need milk or ice cream to balance them. If you're a dark chocolate lover, this is the cookie for you.

Ingredients:
  • 375 grams all purpose flour (or 3 cups properly measured)
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 sticks of unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 300 grams white sugar (1 1/2 cups)
  • 2 tsp instant coffee powder (you won't taste the coffee, but it really intensifies the chocolate!)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
Directions:
  1. Whisk flour, salt and baking powder then set aside.
  2. On medium speed, cream butter for 1 minute, then add sugar and coffee powder and cream for another 3 minutes.
  3. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  4. Add vanilla and cocoa, beating until completely mixed.
  5. Reduce speed to low and begin adding in flour mixture until incorporated. This should not take more than a minute. Don't overmix or the cookies will be tough.
  6. Scrape into a ball in the bowl, press plastic wrap on top and chill for at least one hour.
    
    Form into mound in center of bowl, cover with plastic wrap
  7. Preheat oven to 350F.
  8. Roll to about 1/8" between two pieces of parchment paper.
  9. Cut your shapes with cookie cutters, pull away the extra dough and slide the entire peach of parchment paper right onto your baking tray. That way, you don't have to fool around with trying to keep their shapes perfect. (You can also just cut the dough into squares or triangles, but if you're planning to make ice cream sandwiches you'll want to make sure they're all the same size and shape.)
    
    Using the two sheets of parchment paper
    makes rolling these out a breeze!
  10. Bake on silpat or parchment for 8 to 11 minutes. If making ice cream sandwiches, you'll want them to be on the softer side so you may want to stop at 7 or 8 minutes. (When they're crispy, they taste just like Oreos... so um... some scraps could end up in your shake or whatever. Just sayin'!)
  11. Cool 5 minutes, then move to a wire rack to finish cooling completely.
    
    Waiting for them to cool is the hardest part!
    
    Delicious with or without ice cream!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Rum Irish Cream

This is amazing on the rocks!

So let's just say you don't like egg nog... or perhaps homemade egg nog is out of your comfort zone because it contains raw eggs. Who doesn't like Irish cream? Nobody, that's who.

I call this "Rum Irish Cream" because it's the same recipe for making Irish Cream, but it uses rum instead of irish whiskey. I guess technically it would be called "Rum Cream", but then people would be like - what the heck is that?

I first heard about the recipe for homemade Irish Cream from my friend over at ScrapingtheBowl.com who discovered this while perusing DesignSponge.com. He loved it and that was good enough for me! Except, I don't really like Irish whiskey so I make it with rum or bourbon.

I changed the recipe slightly in that I wait to add the vanilla and almond extracts until the end because I want to make sure the flavors still have a presence even with the liquor.

Note of warning though - it's delicious and it will make you drunk, so you may need to keep an eye on Nana! ;)


All this will come together to make magic!

Ingredients:
  • 1 cup strong coffee (it really enhances the chocolate flavor and believe it or not, you won't taste the coffee in the end)
  • 1 tbsp dark cocoa
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 cups rum (or bourbon)
Directions:
  1. Put the coffee, cocoa, sugar and honey in a medium sauce pan and bring to a boil over medium heat.
  2. Reduce heat to low and add the cream.
  3. Simmer over low heat for 20 minutes until mixture begins to thicken, whisking frequently.
    
    When it begins to bubble up and you can't whisk it down,
    it's ready!
  4. Remove from heat and whisk in extracts and sweetened condensed milk.
  5. Once all are mixed well, whisk in the rum (or bourbon).
  6. Serve chilled. (I think it tastes best directly over ice)

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Ham logic


This post is about what I call "ham logic". Food is truly a science, not an art.

Along those lines... I once heard a story about a recently married woman who made an Easter ham. When she brought it to the table he stared at it, puzzled, because she'd cut off both ends of the ham.

"Why did you cut off the ends?" he asked.

"I don't know, that's the way my mother taught me. It has something to do with getting a good crust I think. That's just how it's done. " she said.

A few days later while talking to her mother she asked, "why do you cut the ends off the ham?"

Her mother said, "I don't know. That's how your grandmother always did it. I think it has something to do with letting the heat cook it evenly or something like that. I'll call and ask her."

So her mother called her grandmother who promptly tells her that she had to cut the ends off because her oven was too small to hold an entire ham.

Ham Logic.

And this, my friends, is how food myths are formed. Never accept them as fact because "that's just how it's done". Try to understand the science instead.

Authentic Homemade Pasta (Kitchen Aid Pasta Press)

It took 15 minutes to make! (not including the resting periods)


It's alive!!!!


When I first got my Kitchen Aid pasta press, I whipped it out of the box in a frenzy and couldn't wait to produce beautiful, professional pasta at home... which as you know if you have one of these is not how it actually turned out. :)

I followed several recipes in the book to the letter and none of them turned out well. During the first several attempts, the pasta stuck together immediately upon exiting the pasta extruder. In subsequent attempts, some of them didn't come out of it at all. When I finally got some pasta that came out and didn't stick together, it was gummy and chewy and tasted awful. I mean... srsly?? What's the point if it's not going to taste amazing? Why waste all that time doing it?

I'm not making pasta because it's novel. I'm making pasta because I want something that tastes amazing. (I love to make everything from scratch, but only if it tastes better than what's in the store. Brownies, for example, I've yet to find a recipe that tastes better than the 99 cent box of brownies at the store, so I won't be spending an hour making them from scratch!)

So after many failed attempts, I retired my Kitchen Aid pasta press to the pantry of misfit appliances where I fully expected it would eventually end up in a garage sale.

Years passed before my sister-in-law showed me how to make pasta with a hand cranked roller. I loved it. She showed me how to get the right texture, how to work the dough and pass it through the machine. She's an amazing cook and I worried that after she left I'd never be able to do it again. Luckily, her instruction was stellar and I quickly became a pasta-makin' machine. Santa even brought me the Kitchen Aid pasta roller for Christmas and behold! I was steps from developing a horrible fake Italian accent.

Still though... I couldn't help but wonder why the pasta press had been such an epic failure. Encouraged, I started doing research again hoping the interwebz would finally be full of sage advice. I was wrong but did learn a few critical things that led me to pasta press nirvana.

The first discovery was that pasta with egg in it causes the pasta to be really sticky and makes it impossible to use in a pasta press. The next big discovery was that egg makes it swell very large - so your macaroni that's the perfect size coming through the machine triples when you boil it. That's some really gnarly pasta! The final piece of information that I discovered is that the extruder actually kneads the dough as it's passing through so it has to be extremely dry but evenly hydrated.

Armed with this knowledge and some good old fashioned determination, I was able to pull together the correct ratio for making delicious pasta in the Kitchen Aid pasta press. It works perfectly in the pasta press time after time, never sticks together, and the texture is authentically Italian.

Finally! An easy recipe you can use for the pasta press to quickly whip out pasta for a casual weeknight dinner without making a huge floury mess.