Saturday, December 7, 2019

CARAMEL FUDGE BALLS: Retro Ad & Recipe for the Holidays

I love all the Vintage/Retro Cookie Ads for the Holidays. So much fun, and recipes that are still so delicious and easy to make. Here's one from Diamond Walnuts for Caramel Fudge Balls. This recipe definitely earns a place on the Cookie Table!




Friday, December 6, 2019

HOW TO PACK AND SHIP COOKIES FOR THE HOLIDAYS!

It's National Cookie Week, and I've been posting Cookie Tips and Cookie Recipes.

Since it's early in the month, I thought I'd post some Tips on Packing and Shipping Cookies for the Holidays. If you're sending cookies to friends and family here and overseas (military), you'll want to get started. I've put together a few helpful hints, and I welcome any other tips that have worked for you. There are many ways to actually send homemade cookies -- USPS, FedEx, UPS.

Tips on how to Pack Cookies to Ship.

Starting with the right type of cookie is the key.

Cookies to avoid:
Fragile, buttery cookies that could end up as crumbs.
Cookies with jam or cream-filled centers.
Cookies that will be smudged or broken if stacked together.

Cookies to include:
(Drop Cookies) Chocolate Chip or ( Bar Cookies), Biscotti, Gingersnaps, Sugar Cookies, Shortbread or Oatmeal.

Always Double-Box your cookies.
You can use plastic containers or a a sturdy carton or box to hold cookie containers. Always add packing materials around the first container. More on that below.

Now for the actual cookie box.
I'm partial to decorative tins. I pick them up at the flea market, garage sales, and the White Elephant Sale. They're pretty and useful. However, you may want to use locking plastic containers which create a good seal every time. Alternatively, you can use a shoebox or a coffee can. Either must be clean and 'scent' free.

Be sure and line the container with parchment paper or crumpled wax paper.

I probably don't need to remind you, but you should wrap different types of cookies separately, so the flavors and textures don't 'leak'. Crisp cookies get soggy next to soft ones. You can use plastic wrap between layers--and over the top.

Even better is to cushion each cookie. Wrap them in pairs or individually in plastic wrap or small plastic bags. Then put them in ziploc bags. Stack them in your container vertically or horizontally, packing tightly to avoid them moving, but not too tightly that you crush them.

Here's a great tip to keep your cookies fresh and moist. Add some marshmallows to the tin--loosely not in plastic.

If you're not using plastic sealed boxes, put plastic wrap over the top of the box before you close the lid, letting it drape over, to create an airtight seal. If you're using a tin, tape around the lid to add to the seal.

Before putting your container of cookies in the shipping box, put packing materials around for cushioning. Use a heavyweight cardboard shipping box, if you can. Bubble wrap or crumpled newspaper or foam peanuts are great for cushioning. Add at least 2 inches on each side of your cookie gift box write fragile and perishable on all sides of the box.

Send overnight if you can, so they don't end up sitting in a warehouse. If not, be sure and mail early in the week, so they don't end up in the warehouse for extra days.

What cookies are you sending? Any packing and shipping tips to add?

Thursday, December 5, 2019

RICH CHOCOLATE REINDEER COOKIES: National Cookie Week

Yesterday was Cookie Day, but the cookie making continues throughout this week which is National Cookie Week! Well, really, the baking continues throughout the month!

Yesterday I posted Tips for Making the Very Best Cookies. I can never have enough cookies--or cookie recipes. As much as I love Chocolate Chip cookies, Rich Dark Chocolate Cookies are my favorite. I love a good crisp chocolate cookie with a rich chocolate-y taste. As always that is achieved by using an excellent quality chocolate or cocoa and a perfect recipe.

I saw this recipe in the New York Times a few years ago as the cover story of The Holiday Issue, and I realized I'd made this recipe in the past. And, since the holidays are coming up, I advise you to get out your holiday cookie cutters for this cookie. Reindeer Cookie Cutters are my favorite, and I have several because my last name is Rudolph! For the red noses on chocolate cookies, use a bit of red icing. You can make it, or buy a can or mix at the store. These cookies can be decorated, but why mess with a good thing? I like my cookies unadulterated. If you do decorate these cookies, use royal icing. Of course, you can use other shaped cookie cutters, such as Santa, Stars, Christmas Trees. Get creative with your cutters!

This recipe was sent to The New York Times several years ago by Mari Pfeiffer, a reader in California; it’s from the cookbook “Great Cookies,” published in 2003 by Carole Walter. The cookies have the great flavors of cocoa powder, unsweetened chocolate, and espresso powder.

RICH CHOCOLATE REINDEER COOKIES

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp sifted Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
8 Tbsp unsalted butter, slightly softened
1 cup superfine sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp instant espresso powder, dissolved in 1/2 tsp boiling water
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted in double boiler (I use 90% cacao from Guittard and cut back a bit on sugar)
Optional: Royal icing, for decorating

Directions
Sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In large bowl of standing mixer, beat butter on medium speed until creamy and light in color, about 3 minutes. Add sugar in steady stream, continuing to beat for 2 minutes. Add egg, vanilla, and espresso mixture. Continue beating, scraping down sides of bowl as needed, then mix in melted chocolate.

Reduce speed to low. Add dry ingredients in two batches, mixing just enough to combine after each addition. Divide dough in two and form into two flattened disks. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 2 hours.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats. Roll out chilled dough between 2 sheets of parchment or wax paper until it's 3/16-inch thick. Cut into shapes, using cookie cutters of different sizes to use as much dough as possible. (The dough will not be as good if it is rolled out a second time.) Transfer cookies to baking sheets, 1/2 inch apart.

Bake for 9 to 11 minutes, rotating sheets once to ensure even baking, or until cookies look set on top and have slight sheen. Remove from oven and wait 2 minutes before transferring cookies to wire racks to cool.  

Frost with royal icing, if desired.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

TIPS FOR MAKING THE VERY BEST COOKIES: National Cookie Day

Today is National Cookie Day! Perfect holiday--just in time for the Holidays. I've seen some wonderful new recipes and decorating techniques this season. Be sure and do a few searches to expand your Cookie Repertoire! You can never have too many cookie recipes!

Here are a few Cookie Making Tips. Love to hear any tips you have.

COOKIE MAKING TIPS

1. For me the most important 'rule' (this is not a tip, it's a rule) is to make sure you Chill the Dough. DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP. Put the dough in the refrigerator for a few hours or put it in the freezer for 10 minutes. While you're working, if the dough becomes soft, just pop it back in the freezer for a few minutes.

2. Use the Correct Ingredients. If you haven't made the recipe before, follow it exactly and measure the ingredients carefully. You can experiment on your next attempts.

3. Up for debate: Some say that you should always roll out your dough between sheets of Wax Paper, not Parchment, because wax paper peels easily off the top of the dough. If you do this, you can then cut out the cookies, and they'll peel right off the bottom sheet. And, yet, some people swear by parchment. Give them both a try and see what you think.

3. Add Salt and Leavening to Butter and Sugar Mixture. If you really want your salt and leavening well distributed throughout the dough, beat it in with the butter and sugar.

4. Fats are major to the spread of a cookie. Generally speaking, fat equals flat, crispy cookies while less fat equals higher, cake-like cookies. Speaking of fats: Whipped spreads are not good for baking. Use butter, margarine, or shortening (Crisco). I mostly use unsalted butter, and I add salt as an ingredient.

5. Sugars: White sugar makes a crisper cookie than brown sugar or honey. Cookies made from brown sugar absorb moisture after baking, so they stay chewy. Most chocolate chip cookie recipes contain both brown and white sugars.

How to keep brown sugar soft? Put a marshmallow or a piece of white bread in the container. The white bread won’t get moldy nor will the marshmallow, and you’ll always have soft brown sugar. I like marshmallow better .. maybe it's just aesthetics.

6. Mixing: Proper mixing is important. Some recipes have a creaming step in which the fat and sugars are beaten together until light-colored and fluffy. Other cookies require a sandy texture, so the fat is cut into the flour. Over-mixing can incorporate too much air into the dough, resulting in flat, overly spread-out cookies. Follow the recipe instructions.

7. Temperature: Unless specified, ingredients should be at room temperature before mixing. Yes, Virginia, take the butter out the night before. For cut cookies, chill the cookie dough before baking. The cookies will hold their shape better. For drop cookies, you can keep them at room temperature before baking; the spoonfuls of dough will spread and flatten out.

8. Equipment and Baking: Not surprising to anyone who bakes, different baking sheets and ovens produce different results. I use rimmed baking sheets (jellyroll pans) for cookies rather than thin flat sheet pans, although some people swear by flat unrimmed cookie sheets. Instead of greasing each baking sheet, I use parchment for easy cookie removal and clean-up. Some of my friends use a silipat liner, but I don't.

9. Use fresh ingredients. I always replace baking soda, flour, spices, and baking powder at the beginning of the cookie making holiday season. This goes for chocolate, too, of course! You're working hard on these cookies, and you want the very best ingredients.

10. Making a big batch of cookies? Be sure and cool the cookie sheet before baking another batch. Otherwise your dough might melt, and you'll have weird looking cookies.

11. Be sure and cool cookies on a wire rack. Don't skip this step or the bottoms might become soggy. And, definitely cool completely before storing them.
However, my friend Patti swears by using brown paper grocery bags instead of wire racks. She says the cookies come out well, and the paper absorbs any greasiness.

Love to hear other tips! Please comment!

Illustration from Lyle the Crocodile.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

CHOCOLATE ORANGE MARZIPAN CAKE: Guest Post by Carol Glaser

I love when my mystery and chocolate worlds collide. Here's a guest post from a new mystery author but old friend, Carol Glaser. Yum!

Carol Glaser:
CHOCOLATE ORANGE MARZIPAN CAKE

This Chocolate Orange Marzipan Cake was my 60th birthday treat. I started with a recipe for Salted Chocolate Rye Cake that I found at Baking with Aimee and made changes based on our household's dietary restrictions (less salt, spelt flour instead of wheat flour, blood orange olive oil instead of butter, orange juice instead of cream). I added marzipan because, well, you know, it's marzipan.

When I had all my ingredients gathered and thought I was ready to start baking, I realized that the original (British) recipe measures the ingredients in grams and milliliters, rather than the ounces and cups I'm used to. I set to work converting the measurements but then thought, Wait—I could be shopping for new measuring cups! This calls for a trip to the kitchen store! Yippee! I love shopping for new gadgets. And I almost made it to the car before I realized, Wait—I already have a scale that will weigh in grams and a measuring cup with mils conveniently located opposite ounces. So, no shopping. Which was just as well because I already have plenty of kitchen stuff. I never get rid of anything. (I still bake my Passover sponge cake in the dented aluminum pan that I inherited from my grandmother 30 years ago. She watches over the baking.)

Marzipan 
(Can be made ahead)
1 ½ cups confectioner's sugar
1 ½ cups almond flour
1 egg white (save the yolk for the cake)
1 tsp almond extract

In a food processor, combine the dry ingredients and pulse to mix. Add the wet ingredients and mix until a ball is formed. It should be pliable but not sticky. Wrap and store in the fridge.

Cake 
157 grams spelt flour
157 grams rye flour
95 grams cocoa powder
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 baking soda
1 tsp salt
Zest from one orange

150 ml blood orange olive oil (available from Rancho Olivos)
300 grams sugar
2 whole eggs plus one yolk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract

600 ml orange juice

Sift the dry ingredients (flours, cocoa, baking powder, and soda), and stir in the orange zest. Set aside. Using a stand mixer, beat the olive oil and sugar for a couple of minutes. Add the eggs and extracts. On low speed, slowly add the dry ingredients and orange juice, alternating. Divide the batter evenly among three oiled and floured 8" cake pans and bake in a preheated oven (325 in my convection oven). The cake is done one when a toothpick comes out clean and the center springs back when touched. Let cool for 10 to 15 minutes before removing from pans and finish cooling on racks.

Frosting 
370 grams dark chocolate (I used bittersweet chocolate chips)
240 ml boiling orange juice
60 ml blood orange olive oil (available from Rancho Olivos)

Place the chocolate in the bowl of a stand mixer. Pour the hot OJ over the chocolate and let sit for a minute to let the chocolate melt, then mix at low speed until combined. Slowly add the oil.

Constructing and decorating the cake: 
Marzipan
Three layers of cake
Frosting
½ pint or more of orange marmalade
Yellow and red food coloring

Roll out the marzipan and cut out two 8" circles, using your cake pans as a guide. Spread the top of the first layer with orange marmalade, add a layer of marzipan, spread another layer of marmalade, add another layer of cake. Repeat. Spread the frosting on the top and sides.

The leftover marzipan can be used for decorations. The oranges on this cake were my first attempt. I had a lot of fun and was happy that they got the general idea across. I put a piece of undyed marzipan aside for the pith and kneaded orange dye (about 20 drops of yellow to one drop of red) into the remainder, adding a bit of almond flour when it got wet. I rolled the dyed marzipan into a tube, cut slices from the tube, and decorated with the undyed "pith."

Despite the many substitutions, the cake itself came out dense and fudgy, as described in the original recipe, and was delicious with the orange and almond flavors.

***

Carol Glaser is the author of Down the Well: A Trump Era Mystery, which was longlisted for the 2019 CWA Debut Dagger and is now out in the world, looking for an agent. It is set in a kitchen store.

PEPPERMINT MOCHA LATTE: National Peppermint Latte Day

Brr...it's cold and wet all over the U.S. today. Perfect for a Peppermint Mocha Latte to celebrate National Peppermint Latte Day! Here's an easy and delicious recipe. Bookmark it for the holidays, too! Don't have time? Starbucks sells Peppermint Mocha Caffe Latte in cans (limited holiday edition). Following is the Copycat Starbucks recipe that appeared in Parade Magazine.

PEPPERMINT MOCHA LATTE

Ingredients
1/2 cup whole milk
1 cup brewed coffee
2 Tbsp chopped chocolate, milk or dark
1 tsp sugar, honey, or agave
1/8-1/4 tsp peppermint extract, NOT mint extract
Aerosol whipped topping
Crushed up candy canes or peppermint candies and mini-chocolate chips

Directions
In small saucepan, heat milk, coffee, sugar, and chocolate. Stir until chocolate is melted. Simmer for 1 minute. Add peppermint extract. Stir and simmer for a minute more. Pour into mug. Top with whipped cream and crushed peppermints.
Serves 1.

Monday, December 2, 2019

GRAND MARNIER CHOCOLATE CHIP FRITTERS: National Fritters Day!

I'm a huge fan of Fritters, of any kind. Well, I'm happy with just about anything that's fried. I heard a chef on Chopped say, "I'm from Kentucky. If I don't know what an ingredient is, I fry it." Love that motto!

So today is National Fritter Day. According to Wikipedia, a fritter is "any kind of food coated in batter and deep fried. Although very similar to a doughnut, a fritter differs in the fact that it requires some base ingredient beyond the dough it is cooked with." Want to know more? Read about Fritters from Renee Shelton at The Pastry Sampler.

In the past I posted a recipe for Easy Chocolate Fritters, and they're wonderful, but here's another recipe for Chocolate Chip Fritters that also included 'orange' in the liqueur -- Grand Marnier-- and a lot of orange zest. How great is that? Fritters are usually served best when they're still warm, so invite a crowd! This would be perfect for a holiday gathering. They remind me of canolli! Not surprising since this recipe is adapted from "Proud Italian Cook," a great source for terrific recipes!

GRAND MARNIER CHOCOLATE CHIP FRITTERS

Ingredients
3 eggs, lightly beaten
2 Tbsp sugar
1 pound ricotta or marscapone
1 cup flour
4 tsp baking powder
3 Tbsp Grand Marnier
Zest of 1 orange
Mini DARK chocolate chips
Dash of salt
Canola oil
Confectioners sugar

Directions
Combine eggs, sugar, ricotta (or marscapone), flour, baking powder, Grand Marnier, zest, chocolate chips, and salt in medium bowl. Mix well, cover, and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Pour oil into wide but shallow saucepan, couple inches deep, and heat over medium-high heat.
Drop (be careful!) rounded teaspoons of batter into hot oil and fry, a few at time, until golden, about 5 minutes.
Drain on paper towels, dust with powdered sugar, and serve right away!

How easy is this?!

Sunday, December 1, 2019

CHOCOLATE FRIED HAND PIES: Fried Pie Day

Who doesn't love Pie? Fried Pie? Oh, yes.. Chocolate? Be still my heart ... literally. Chocolate Fried Hand Pies! What a great way to celebrate Fried Pie Day!

CHOCOLATE FRIED PIE!

Ingredients:

Chocolate Pudding (filling) 
1/2 cup Dutch unsweetened cocoa powder
1-1/8 cup sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
3/4 tsp salt
1-1/2 cups milk
1-1/2 cups half & half
2 tsp pure vanilla
2 tsp butter
1/4 cup chocolate chips

Buttermilk Crust 
2 cups flour
2 Tbsp sugar
1/8 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
 2/3 cup shortening
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 egg
1 Tbsp water

Directions:

Chocolate Pudding

Filling 
In medium saucepan, mix cocoa, sugar, cornstarch, and salt, whisk well. Gradually add milk and half & half to dry ingredients in saucepan. Whisk until smooth and well blended. Cook over medium heat stirring constantly. Bring mixture to a boil and boil for 1 minute, remove from heat.
Add butter, vanilla, and chocolate chips.
Whisk until chocolate and butter is melted, pour into bowel and place plastic wrap pressed onto surface to prevent skin and refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours.

Pie Dough/Crust 
Mix all dry ingredients and cut in the shortening. Beat egg with buttermilk and add in all at once. Stir just enough to form a ball. If it feels like you are forcing it into ball, you made need to add 1 more tablespoon of water. Roll out dough 1/8-inch thick, cut your shapes with cookie cutters (heart shapes for Valentine's Day?). Place 2 to 3 tablespoons of cooled pudding, brush water around edge of bottom dough. Gently stretch top over bottom, press edges down with fingers and crimp with fork.
Fry for about 1-1/2 minutes on each side in hot oil.
If using a deep fryer, total frying time is about 3 to 3-1/2 minutes at 365.
If you bake, brush tops with a beaten egg or milk & bake for 20-22 minutes at 425.