Saturday, February 14, 2009

Valentine Cookies

January issue of Food & Wine had many wonderful milk chocolate recipes. One was milk chocolate cookies sandwiching malt buttercream. It had a malt power in the filling and Master doesn't like malt so I wasn't sure what I was going to do but I knew I wanted to do heart shaped sandwich cookies as I really haven't ever made sandwich cookies before. So I asked a good friend for a recommendation and she suggested coffee butter cream. The recipe in Food & Wine didn't have the chocolate drizzle on them but I thought they needed a little something more. So added dark chocolate drizzle. My friend suggested them dipped in white chocolate - I just didn't have any white chocolate so did the dark chocolate drizzle.

This cookie dough was really awful to work with but they taste really good. The recipe doesn't have eggs in it so it just didn't bind together well. It was very crumbly and didn't roll out well. But I eventually got through it. I wouldn't make these again unless 1) Master said make them and 2) it was a very special occasion. These are just not cookies to whip up to have cookies. They are work. But they were perfect for Master as a Valentine Day gift. He loves them. Oh and these aren't cookies to make for a crowd. I got 21 cookies out of them (each sandwich cookie of course using 2 cookies.)

COOKIE Ingredients

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
6 ounces milk chocolate, melted and cooled slightly
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper (if you want - I didn't - I just sprayed baking sheets with cooking spray as I can't get away without it in the altitude)

2. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the butter with the brown sugar and granulated sugar until smooth. Add the melted chocolate and vanilla and beat until smooth. In a small bowl, whisk the flour with the cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the bowl and beat at low speed just until incorporated. Roll the dough between 2 sheets of parchment paper to a scant 1/4-inch thickness and refrigerate until firm, about 15 minutes.

3. Using a 2-inch round cookie cutter, stamp out as many rounds as possible and transfer to the baking sheets, 1 inch apart. Gather the scraps and chill, with the cut-out rounds, for 10 minutes. Reroll the scraps and stamp out more rounds. (obviously I used several sizes of heart cookie cutters)

4. Bake the cookies in the lower and middle thirds of the oven for about 10 minutes, until dry and set; shift the pans halfway through baking. Transfer the cookies to a rack and let cool completely.

The buttercream filling - I just did a regular buttercream. I don't really use a recipe for it anymore. And then I just added some coffee.

Here is the original recipe on Food & Wine website.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Valentine Cupcakes

Last year I made Red Velvet cupcakes for Valentine's Day. I hadn't made red velvet in a long time and it sounded really good especially for Valentine's Day. So I made them and topped them with cream cheese frosting and a red hot. I think maybe they look like little boobs - but they weren't meant that way. This year I hope to be making - today - chocolate cut out cookies that I am going to sandwich together with a filling but I haven't decided what kind of filling yet.

Red Velvet Cupcakes

3 1/2 cups cake flour
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 ½ cups sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
6 tablespoons red food coloring
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoons cider vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. In a small bowl, whisk together the red food coloring, cocoa, and vanilla. Add to the batter and mix well.

In a measuring cup, stir the salt into the buttermilk. Add to the batter in three parts alternating with the flour. With each addition, beat until the ingredients are incorporated, but do not overbeat. In a small bowl, stir together the cider vinegar and baking soda. Add to the batter and mix well. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the batter in the bowl, making sure the ingredients are well blended and the batter is smooth.

This recipe makes 2 dozen cupcakes. Use 2 muffin pans with 12 (1/2-cup) muffin cups each and line each cup with a paper liner. Bake about 20 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool the cupcakes in the pan 10 minutes, then remove from the pan and cool completely on a rack before icing.

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 pkg. (8 oz.) Cream Cheese, softened
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter or margarine, softened
1 tsp. vanilla
1 pkg. (16 oz.) powdered sugar (about 4 cups), sifted

Beat cream cheese, butter and vanilla in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until well blended.

Add sugar gradually, beating until well blended after each addition.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Chase Away the Winter Blues

Getting the winter blues? How about inviting some people over for game night and have a Hot Chocolate Bar. There is so many possibilities. And you can create a hot chocolate bar on any kind of budget.

Just some basics:
Use matching fancy mugs, casual mugs you pick up at the goodwill, on clearance or use all the miss matched mugs in your cupboard

Just have a few key basic hot chocolates flavors so that your guests can flavor them with the add-ins. So milk chocolate, white chocolate and dark chocolate are good choices. Keep the hot chocolate hot in slow cookers or even thermal carafes.

Have your add-ins in little containers. Maybe divided appetizer trays or little bowls. Or you could even have a theme such as summer beach party to bring the summer to the winter.
    For a summer theme - You could use little plastic pails with shovels and maybe set them in a homemade table top sandbox. And thread add-ins on umbrella cocktail toothpicks/skewers,hand out leis and hang up lanterns

Stirrers - again can be simple as spoons or coffee stirrers to homemade ones on chocolate dipped peppermint sticks or pretzels.

Make sure they are chopped finely so that they melt quickly.

marshmallows of course (try making homemade marshmallows)

flavored whipped cream

crushed peppermint sticks, butterscotch candies or other flavored hard candies such as jolly ranchers.

flavored liqueurs or syrups

orange rind twists

candied ginger

cinnamon, nutmeg, cayenne or chili powder

chopped up candy bars (Milky Ways, Hershey chocolate bars, 3 Musketeers), caramels, truffles (hazelnut, raspberry, espresso)

chocolate, mint or butterscotch chips

Serve the cocoa with salty snacks such as popcorn, crackers and pretzels. And chase the winter blues away with good friends and hot cocoa.


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