Crystalized Ginger Shortbread Cookies

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Ginger Shortbread Cookies

This is a Barefoot Contessa recipe with some very minor modifications. There were only 6 reviews and two were negative on the Food Network site but 6 reviews isn’t enough to pay attention to. We love ginger and I had ordered some diced crystalized ginger from Nuts.com and I love their stuff, the flavors are always great and everything is fresh. It’s really important to get good ginger so that you get that fresh, spicy aroma and taste. (No, I’m not selling or profiting from mentioning their stuff, I just use it and like it, so I might as well let you know!)

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Lighter bake means a chewier inside… yum!

We loved these cookies. These shortbread are crumblier when the edges are darker, and chewier when baked lighter. Plus a little chew from the ginger. They had excellent flavor, even right out of the oven (Chris can never wait, he says he’s doing it for scientific purposes). They were very good after they had time to cool (the ginger bite is more subtle but comes up at the end) but they are even better the next day when the ginger permeates the cookie with more flavor and chewiness, so make these cookies 1 day ahead and you’ll be glad you did.

Makes about 36 cookies

Ingredients

  • 3/4 lb (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar (plus extra for sprinkling on top)
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup diced crystalized ginger (dry, not the stuff in syrup)

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 F
  • Im medium bowl whisk flour and salt
  • In bowl of electric mixer with paddle attachment beat the butter and 1 cup of sugar but don’t whip it, you just want them combined. Whipping the butter will ruin the cookie texture and the cookies will spread.
  • Add vanilla and 2 tsp water and mix just until combined
  • With mixer on low, slowly add flour mixture to the butter mixture until the dough starts to come together
  • Add the ginger until just incorporated
  • Dump it onto a lightly floured surface and shape into a flat disk
  • Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes (if you chill it longer you will need to let it sit out a bit so that you can roll it out but keep it cool and it will keep it’s shape)
  • Roll the dough to 3/8 thick (mine were closer to 1/4″ but probably somewhere in the middle) and cut out the cookies with a round cookie cutter (mine was a 2 1/2 inch round)
  • Place cookies on parchment on an ungreased baking sheet and sprinkle with sugar
  • If you are baking two trays of cookies at once then bake the for about 20 minutes, until the edges just start to get golden – a single tray will brown faster so shorten the time. We like them on the lighter side so that they are chewier.
  • Cool to room temperature, then store in an airtight container. Best served the next day for great flavor.

 

 

Jam Tarts

Dan & Kathy recently returned from a trip to London and Paris so I thought I would make some British jam tarts for Kathy’s belated birthday celebration. They were very cute and colorful but a good warning to give is that when you use jam filling, it will bubble up everywhere, especially when you use a jam with less pieces of fruit inside. The chunkier preserves stayed more stable. They were all delicious.

I can’t believe it, I thought I took a picture, but I didn’t! They were so cute and I hand cut little shapes for the top pastry layer… I didn’t have small cutters. Dan said it looked like lucky charm shapes, hearts, moons, stars, and diamonds. My knife skills didn’t allow for more. 🙂   They looked very similar to this photo (taken from BBC’s Good Food, but I didn’t follow their recipe):

tarts

I tested it with jams that we had in the house: raspberry (Smuckers), black currant (Bonne Maman), and cherry (Trader Joe’s). The raspberry and the cherry tied for favorites. The raspberry jam bubbled up a lot, though not enough fruit. I would use a better preserve next time. Black currant was a bit too sweet for us and while it performed the best by not splattering everywhere, it didn’t stand out enough. The cherry was great because it had large cherry halves in it, tasted like little pies! Tartness is needed to balance the delicious but buttery shortbread pastry. These would be great with lemon curd too.  Chris wants me to make it with apricot jam next time.

I made a number of modifications to this recipe if you would like to see the original.

JAM TARTS

YIELDS 18+

  • 8 ounces plain flour
  • 4 ounces butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
  • 1 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 2-4 tablespoons cold water
  • flour, for dusting
  • jam for filling: use any kind – I tested raspberry, black currant, and cherry. Favorites were raspberry and cherry.

DIRECTIONS

  1. Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl, add the butter and blend it in using your fingertips until the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs.
  2. Use a fork to blend in the water, adding a little at a time until the mixture comes together and you can form a ball with your hands.
  3. Wrap the pastry in a piece of plastic wrap and put it in the fridge for 30 minutes – this will make it easier to roll out.
  4. Turn the oven on to 400°F.
  5. Sprinkle the work surface and your rolling pin with a little flour and roll the pastry out to about 1/8 inch thick.
  6. Dip the cutter in flour then cut out as many circles as you can – I didn’t reroll the scraps and made 18 circles. You can make more with the scraps, but make sure you leave a little of the pastry scraps for the decorative pastry lids. Once you have the desired amount of circles, roll out the pastry scraps and cut out the required amount of toppers.
  7. Lay the rounds of pastry in a well-buttered mini muffin tin or tart tin and press them gently into place. Prick the base of each tart once with a fork.
  8. Put the tart tray into the oven and bake for 6 minutes until the pastry is very pale golden.
  9. Carefully put 1 heaped teaspoon of jam into each tart, and then top them off with a pastry top. Bake for another 12 minutes until jam is bubbling and pastry has just begun to have darker golden edging.
  10. Leave them to cool (not too long or the jam glues them to the tin) then gently lift the tarts out and leave to cool on a rack or plate.

Tin Roof Ice Cream (sooooo good)

Dad loves ice cream and chocolate and peanuts, so I thought that this recipe from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz would be perfect for his bday party.

Chris’ brother Brian got me hooked on homemade ice cream (his peppermint bark ice cream is amazing… we have made it twice in the past month and will make it again tomorrow) and I wanted to try this one.

The vanilla custard ice cream in this recipe is so delicious. It was the first time I ever used whole vanilla beans and they are much stickier than I realized! I would like to make it just like that next time (just the vanilla ice cream), forget the delicious fudge ripple or chocolate covered peanuts that I made to mix in!

There are a lot of steps but it was worth it. I put too much fudge ripple in with the ice cream container when I packed it for the freezer but it was so good. Next time I’ll follow Chris’ suggestion and replace the fudge ripple with caramel and make snickers ice cream!

tin roof ice cream

It really did look just like this. Aunt Mary had these cones and it was so delicious! This photo is from epicurious.

 

Tin Roof Ice Cream (David Lebovitz, The Perfect Scoop)

¾ cup whole milk
¾ cup granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
1½ cups heavy cream
½ vanilla bean, split lengthwise
4 large egg yolks
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
¾ cup Chocolate-Covered Peanuts (recipe follows)
Fudge Ripple (recipe follows)

For the Chocolate-Covered Peanuts:
4 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup roasted, unsalted peanuts

For the Fudge Ripple:
½ cup sugar
1/3 cup light corn syrup
½ cup water
6 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS:

1. Warm the milk, sugar, salt and ½ cup of the cream in a medium saucepan. With a sharp paring knife, scrape the flavorful seeds from the vanilla bean and add them, along with the pod, to the hot milk mixture. Cover, remove from the heat, and let steep at room temperature for 30 minutes.

2. Rewarm the vanilla-infused mixture. Pour the remaining 1 cup cream into a large bowl and set a mesh strainer on top. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.

3. Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. Pour the custard through the strainer and stir it into the cream to cool. Remove the vanilla bean, wipe it clean of any egg bits, and add it back to the custard. Stir in the vanilla and stir until cool over an ice bath. Chill thoroughly in the refrigerator.

4. When ready to churn the ice cream, remove the vanilla bean (it can be rinsed and reused). Freeze the ice cream in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. While the ice cream is freezing, chop the peanuts into bite-sized peanuts.

5. Fold the peanut pieces into the frozen ice cream as you remove it from the machine, and layer it with Fudge Ripple.

To make the Chocolate-Covered Peanuts:

1. Put the pieces of chocolate in an absolutely dry heatproof bowl. Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water to melt the chocolate, stirring until smooth. In the meantime, stretch a piece of plastic wrap over a dinner plate.

2. Once the chocolate is melted, remove it from the heat and stir in the peanuts, coating them with the chocolate. Spread the mixture on the plastic-lined plate and chill.

Mixing them in: Use a chef’s knife to chop the chocolate-covered block of peanuts into bite-sized pieces, then mix them into the ice cream as you remove it from the machine.

Storage: Chocolate-Covered Peanuts can be stored for several months in an air-tight container in the fridge.

To make the Fudge Ripple:

1. Whisk together the sugar, corn syrup, water, and cocoa powder in a medium saucepan. Heat over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture begins to bubble at the edges.

2. Continue to whisk until it just comes to a low boil. Cook for 1 minute, whisking frequently. Remove from the heat, stir in the vanilla, and let cool. Chill in the refrigerator before using.

Mixing it in: The Fudge Ripple should be thoroughly chilled, as it’s easiest to use when very cold. Just before you remove the ice cream from the machine, spoon some of the Fudge Ripple onto the bottom of the storage container. As you remove the ice cream from the machine, layer generous spoonfuls of the sauce between layers of ice cream. Avoid stirring the Fudge Ripple, as it will make the ice cream muddy looking.

Storage: Fudge Ripple can be stored for up to 2 weeks, covered, in the refrigerator.

Chocolate Pound Cake (Bundt)

This was Dad’s birthday cake for today’s party and it was really rich and delicious, not too sweet but very moist. I had cut down the amount of sugar from the original recipe [Chocolate Pound Cake III on allrecipes.com] after reading the many comments saying that the cake was too sweet. When I served it with a very sweet homemade tin roof ice cream (recipe to follow), the cake seemed hardly sweet at all. Eating it later with a little powdered sugar it was just perfect all by itself. If you would like the cake to be very sweet you can increase the amount of sugar.

INGREDIENTS:
1 1/2 cups butter, softened
2 1/4 cups white sugar [orig. called for 3 cups]
5 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon instant espresso dissolved in 1/4 cup hot water [orig called for 2 tsp regular instant coffee- I only had instant espresso]
1 cup buttermilk
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened dutched cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
confectioner’s sugar (for dusting after baking)
DIRECTIONS:
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease and flour a 10 inch Bundt pan. Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. [If you don’t sift this the cocoa powder will clump and you’ll have little nuggets of cocoa powder in the cake; the original recipe didn’t call for sifting].
2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Beat in the flour mixture alternately with the dissolved coffee and buttermilk. Pour batter into prepared pan.
3. Bake in the preheated oven for 70-75 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 20 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.

This cake is much better the next day, so I made it a day ahead so that the flavors would blend – keep it tightly wrapped in plastic wrap in a cool place. Top with confectioner’s sugar just before serving.

 

Peanut Butter and Jelly Cookies

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The last time I made PB&J thumbprint cookies they were too crunchy, I didn’t like them at all –  I had used a recipe from Martha Stewart’s cookie book. This new recipe is also a Martha Stewart recipe (from MS Living magazine, 2011) but the texture of this recipe is much better. I modified it only in the presentation – they are supposed to be heart-shaped but I think a simple circle is just fine (and easier).

Chris loved these straight from the oven. They were delicious the next day, soft and jammy and delicious. These were a hit at Dan & Kathy’s Easter dinner today.

Just be careful, don’t move them or stack them if they are still warm at all, they will collapse in the empty spaces! You can see that the jammy middle caved in on the top row – that one was warm when I moved it to the top of the pile.

Martha Stewart’s Peanut Butter and Jam Cookies 

makes about 24 cookies (my batch made 25)

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3-1/2 cup raspberry jam, stirred to loosen

Directions:

  1. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Beat butter and sugars with a mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy. Beat in peanut butter, then egg. Reduce speed to low, and beat in flour mixture until dough forms. If dough is sticky, refrigerate for 5 to 10 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll dough into 1 1/2-inch balls (I used a  2 tablespoon scoop). Arrange on parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing 1 1/2 inches apart. Press down to flatten into 1 3/4-inch rounds. Make indentation in center with bottom of 1/2 teaspoon measure. Refrigerate for 20 minutes.
  3. Bake for 12 minutes. Remove from oven, and re-press the indentation using the 1/2 tsp measure. Fill indentation of each with a generous 1/2 teaspoon jam. Bake until cookies are firm, 6 to 7 minutes more.

I also dyed some eggs – we had some dye in the back of the pantry for a few years and I figured I should use it. I only did 6 eggs, but forgot that ours are brown, but the colors took pretty well anyway! I only did the bright colors – the 4 on the right are their natural color.

eggs

Biscotti two ways

My holiday baking started a bit earlier than usual this year because our first family Christmas party is on the 22nd, so the cookies will have to last through 4 family Christmas parties over a 4 day stretch.

After work today I made 2 kinds of biscotti. Biscotti are great for extended holiday schedules because they stay fresh for so long. One is my Mom’s recipe which we all love, the other is an oldie but goodie from the Smitten Kitchen blog (in blog years, 2008 is an oldie!) which was actually taken from a 1993 N.Y. Times recipe. [1993 was an awesome year, my HS graduation and the height of grunge. As I write this I’m still wearing a flannel shirt – grunge is back!]

By the way, Chris loves to eat the biscotti ends after the first round of baking. He likes when they are still a little soft – but only the ends are really cooked through by that point. He asked if I could find a way to get them to cook through and still be soft. I think that using the dough to make drop cookies and cooking them for less time (8-10 minutes?) might work. I’ll have to test that out one day.

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Chocolate hazelnut biscotti – I love the way the egg wash makes the top shine

Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti
adapted from Smitten Kitchen  – her photos and tips are always excellent, especially the warning that this is the stickiest dough ever! My changes and notes are in bold. Note: this is a traditional crunchy biscotti recipe, good for dunking!

Total time: 1 hour    Makes about 60 40 biscotti

1 cup whole chopped hazelnuts, preferably blanched
2 1/2 cups flour, plus flour for work surface
1/2 cup Dutch-style cocoa powder
1 tablespoon espresso powder [I used instant espresso]
Pinch of salt [1/8 tsp]
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
4 large eggs
1 1/3 cups sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread hazelnuts [on baking sheet lined with parchment] and toast about 8-10 minutes, until lightly browned. Set toasted nuts aside.

2. In medium bowl add flour, cocoa, espresso powder, salt, baking soda, baking powder together and whisk to blend [simpler than sifting]. Set aside.

3. Beat eggs lightly, just until blended, in mixing bowl with whisk or in electric mixer. Remove two tablespoons of egg mixture to small dish and set aside. Beat sugar into remaining eggs until blended. Stir in flour mixture to form soft dough, then mix in hazelnuts [I used my mixer for all of this, including mixing in the hazelnuts; super easy!].

4. Divide the dough in half and place one portion on a well-floured work surface. (She is not kidding about this.) With floured hands, pat it into a six-inch square. Scatter half the hazelnuts on the dough and press them into the surface. Roll the dough into a cylinder about 2 inches in diameter and 12 to 15 inches long. Line the baking sheet with parchment paper and place the roll of dough on the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough. Brush the tops of both rolls with the reserved egg.

5. Place in the oven [still at 350 F] and bake about 15 20-25 minutes, until firm to the touch. Allow the loaves to cool on a rack for 10 minutes but keep the oven on. Transfer to a cutting board and cut on an angle into slices one-half-inch thick [I can’t do that, I did about 3/4″].  Return the slices to the baking sheet, laying them on their cut sides, and return them to the oven. Bake another 20 minutes [flipping them over half-way through the baking] until they are crisp and dry. Allow to cool completely before storing or serving. Store for up to 1 week in an airtight container.

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Cranberry walnut white chocolate biscotti – almond extract and pomegranate juice really add to the flavor… they smell so good!

Mom’s cranberry walnut biscotti are so delicious. They are just a tiny bit moister that traditional biscotti, but still crunchy. Almond extract and pomegranate juice also lend great flavor (and scent). I made just two changes to Mom’s recipe, I replaced cherry juice with pomegranate juice (because we always have that in the house), and I replaced the semi-sweet chocolate chips with white chocolate – I had to make something without semi-sweet chocolate – I must be the only baker that hates the smell of chocolate chips baking.

Cranberry Walnut White Chocolate Biscotti
Total time: 1 hour     Makes 2 dozen (when cut in 3/4″ish slices from a 6″ wide loaf – next time I will make the loaves only about 3″ wide so that I can get more biscotti)

3 cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped walnuts [next time I think I’ll use pistachios to add some more color]
1/2 cup white chocolate chips [Mom uses semi-sweet]
2 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt (a pinch)
1 Tbsp canola oil
2 tsp almond extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup cherry pomegranate juice
3 eggs

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Mix flour, sugar, cranberries, walnuts, chocolate chips, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.

2. In a smaller bowl, mix oil, extracts, juice, and eggs. Whisk until blended. Add wet to dry mixture and stir well until blended (no mixer needed, a spatula will work very well).

4. Turn dough out on to floured surface and knead just until smooth. Divide dough in half and shape each half into a 6″ wide rectangle. Place on parchment and flatten to 1″ thickness.

5. Bake for 30 minutes, then cool for 10 minutes on wire rack.

6. Slice in 1/2 to 3/4″ slices (on the diagonal) and place slices cut side down on parchment to bake for another 20 minutes, flipping the biscotti over half-way through the baking time. Cookies will be a bit softer than traditional biscotti when finished baking but will harden when cool. Allow them to cool completely before serving.

 

Pearl Tapioca Pudding

We had milk in the house so decided to make some tapioca for Chris. I had a spoonful. The sugar went straight to my head, but it was really rich and delicious!  🙂  This recipe was posted by Elise Bauer on Simply Recipes. I didn’t change much other than the addition of coconut milk because we had it.

sooo creamy and delicious!

sooo creamy and delicious! chris owes me big time.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 cup small pearl tapioca
  • 3 cups 1% milk (I used 2 3/4 cups milk and then added 1/4 cup coconut milk)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (just used a pinch instead)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla

METHOD

1. Soak tapioca for 10 minutes in cold water and drain.

2. Combine tapioca, milk, and salt in 1 1/2 quart pan on medium heat. Stir until boiling. Simmer 5 minutes, uncovered at the lowest possible heat, adding sugar gradually.

3. Beat eggs in a separate bowl. Mix in some of the hot tapioca very slowly to equalize the temperature of the two mixtures (to avoid curdling).

4. Return eggs to pan with tapioca. Slowly bring mixture barely to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and stir several minutes at a low simmer, stirring constantly until you get a nice thick pudding consistency. Cool 15 minutes. Add vanilla. Serve either warm or chilled.