Daring bakers: Honey panna cotta and chocolate florentines

February 27, 2011 § 1 Comment

The February 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mallory from A Sofa in the Kitchen. She chose to challenge everyone to make Panna Cotta from a Giada De Laurentiis recipe and Nestle Florentine Cookies.

The blog has been quiet for a while, but I was finally inspired to do some baking again, especially thanks to the Daring Bakers challenge for February.  This month we were challenged to make some creamy panna cotta and some crunchy florentine cookies.  I think this is a great dessert combination, so I jumped on board and actually made this dessert twice this month!  I was in a bit of a rush to take the photos, so I don’t think they quite do the deliciousness justice, but you’ll get the idea.

For the panna cotta, I went with a somewhat lighter, tangier version and incorporated some yogurt, honey and orange juice.  The sweet and chocolately florentines were a really great pairing–  I even recommend scooping up some panna cotta with a piece of the florentine– yum!

Honey yogurt panna cotta
Adapted from Martha Stewart
Yield: 8 servings
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 envelope (1/4 ounce) unflavored gelatin
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 1 cup plain low-fat yogurt
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup fresh squeeze orange juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
1. Prepare individual ramekins for the panna cotta by applying a non-stick spray and dusting with sugar.  Tap off the extra sugar and set the dishes aside. (Alternatively, serve panna cotta in wine glasses or ramekins without unmolding makes this step unnecessary.)
2. Pour the cold water in a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over it.  Let it sit for 5 minutes.
3. In a large bowl, whisk the yogurt, honey, orange juice and vanilla extract.
4.  In a medium saucepan, dissolve the sugar in the cream and bring to a boil.
5.  Remove the cream from the heat and mix in the gelatin. Stir quickly to dissolve.
6.  Pour the cream and gelatin mixture through a fine mesh sieve into the yogurt mixture.  Whisk well until combined.
7. Divide the mixture between the ramekins and chill for at least 4 hours.
8. To unmold from the ramekins, slid a knife around the outside, turn upside and tap out of the ramekin.  Drizzle with honey and zest of orange before serving.
Chocolate florentine cookies
Yield: 2-3 dozen cookies
  • 2/3 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 cups quick oats
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • 1½ cups dark chocolate

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper or a silpat and set aside.

2.  Melt butter and let it cool slightly.  Add butter to a large bowl.

3.  Add the oats, sugar, flour, milk, corn syrup, vanilla extract and salt to the bowl.  Mix well to incorporate all ingredients.

4.  Drop a tablespoon on to the baking sheet, placing cookies 3 inches apart.

5. Bake for 6-8 minutes, rotating once during baking.

6.  Remove from the oven and let cookies cool completely on the baking sheet.  (They will be too fragile to remove from the baking sheet until cooled.)

7.  Once the cookies have cooled completely, melt the chocolate in the microwave or using a double boiler.  Spread the melted chocolate on one cookie and sandwich another cookie on top.  Drizzle more chocolate on top if desired.

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Guest baker: Candied ginger cookies with lemon glaze

January 9, 2011 § 2 Comments

As promised, I wanted to share the other cookies we enjoyed this holiday season, courtesy of my baking-apprentice-turned-expert sister.  She selected these cookies and baked them pretty much entirely herself; my supervisory role was limited to reading the ingredients, which I couldn’t even manage to do properly.  So, I can’t claim any credit for the success of these cookies, but I will say that they disappeared the fastest at our holiday gatherings.  They offer a great balance to rich meals– a little spark of ginger and lemon with every bite.  I will most definitely be keeping these in my cookie repertoire.  The recipe is adapted from Martha Stewart, again.

Candied ginger cookies with lemon glaze

Yield: about 4 dozen (depending on cookie cutter size)

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (and some for dusting)
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp plus a pinch salt
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped candied ginger
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tblsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 tblsp lemon zest
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tblsp honey
  • 5 tblsp plus 1 tsp water

1. In a medium bowl, whisk to combine flour, baking powder and 3/4 tsp salt.

2. In the bowl of a standing mixer or using a hand mixer, beat the butter and brown sugar until fluffy, approximately 3-4 minutes at a medium-high speed.

3. Add the chopped ginger and beat an additional 2 minutes.

4. Beat in the egg and vanilla until well-combined.

5. Reduce speed to low and slowly add the flour mixture.  Mix until a dough just comes together.

6. Divide dough in half and place on a piece of plastic wrap.  Shape the dough into a disc, wrap in plastic and chill for at least one hour (up to 3 days).

7. When the dough is chilled, preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line baking sheets with parchment paper or a silpat.

8. Place half the dough on a lightly floured surface and roll it to 1/4 inch thickness.

9.  Cut out cookies with a cookie cutter (here we used a 2-inch round cutter) and place about 1 inch apart on a cookie sheet. Reroll scraps one time and cut additional cookies.  Chill cookies on the cookie sheet for 10 minutes before baking.

10. Bake 12-14 minutes at 350 degrees F, rotating sheets halfway through the baking time.  The edges should become light golden brown.

11. Transfer the cookies on the parchment paper to racks to cool completely.

12.  While the first batch is cooling, repeat baking with the other half of the dough.

13.  To prepare the glaze, combine confectioner’s sugar, lemon zest and juice, honey, water and a pinch of salt in a medium bowl.  Whisk until smooth.

14.  When the cookies are completely cool, place a baking sheet under the cooling racks and drizzle the cookies with glaze using a fork.  Let the cookies stand until the glaze has set, about 20-30 minutes.  The cookies can be stored in an airtight container, with parchment or wax paper between layers, for 3-5 days at room temperature.

Guest baker: Mexican hot chocolate cookies

January 1, 2011 § 2 Comments

Today is the first day in 11 days that my house is quiet.  There are no more house guests or meals to prepare or excursions to organize. I’m happy to be coming down from the holiday buzz, especially because I was feeling a bit under the weather this holiday week.  Fortunately, my sister was here to help complete the holiday baking, because I was not going to be able to do it alone.  She is just beginning to delve into baking, so I was happy to supervise as she mixed up our holiday treats.  I have to admit, I was a bit hesitant to give up control in the kitchen.  My sister has been both unsure of her baking in the past, and exhibited some questionable skill, having specialized in the “unicookie”.

I need not have worried though.  She has moved well beyond the unicookie, and no longer feels the need to watch the development of every baked good in the oven.  She did a superb job making these mexican hot chocolate cookies (and some other cookies, which will be the subject of the next blog post).  I adapted this recipe from Martha Stewart’s Holiday Cookies .  I had made them previously, and felt like the chocolate flavor needed to be enhanced a bit, so I added chocolate chips to the mix.  I also liked the idea of a sugared crunch on the outside, but the mixture in the original recipe didn’t deliver as I’d hoped.  So, I opted to add the cinnamon and chile directly to the cookie batter and crust the cookies with some raw turbinado sugar for a sweet crunch.  I was really happy with the texture of these cookies– perfectly chewy on the inside, with just a bit of crunch on the outside.  They also have an addictive combination of chocolate and chile, where the spicy kick builds up as you eat through the cookie.  Fortunately for me, we still have a few leftover, despite all the visitors.  I just need to keep them away from everyone else, including one fat cat.  Thanks to my sister for making some truly delicious treats for the holidays.  

Mexican hot chocolate cookies

Yields 2-3 dozen

  • 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground chipotle chiles (or other chiles)
  • 1 cup softened unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 8 oz. semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup raw turbinado sugar

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silpats and set aside. (The texture of these cookies turns out much better on a baking sheet without rims on all sides.)

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, cream of tartar, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and chile powder.

3. Using a handheld or standing mixer, beat together the butter and granulated sugar until it is pale and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes.

4.  Add eggs one a time and beat to combine in to mixture.

5.  Turn down the mixer speed and slowly add the dry ingredient mixture, beating until just combined.

6. Add the chocolate chips and fold in to the batter using a rubber spatula until evenly distributed.

7.  Add the turbinado sugar to a small bowl.  Using a tablespoon, remove dough from the mixture and form approximately 1 inch balls by rolling in your hands.  Roll these in the sugar on all sides.  Place on the prepared baking sheets, 3 inches apart.

8.  Bake at 400 degrees F approximately 10 minutes, or until the cookies begin to crack on the top.

9.  Remove from the oven, and keep on baking sheets for 5 minutes. Transfer to a rack for cooling.  The cookies can be stored in an airtight container for at least one week.

Chocolate souffle cookies

September 23, 2010 § Leave a comment

It’s been a week full o’ cookies here!  This past weekend I attended a cookie baking party.  We all brought our own ingredients, prepared the cookies, baked them at the party and then exchanged cookies.  Needless to say, I am cookied out this week!  For the party, I wanted to prepare some cookies that required me to bring as few ingredients as possible and not too much prep time.  So, I decided to try some chocolate souffle cookies.  I was inspired by the recipe in The Best of Fine Cooking Chocolate! issue. Here’s what you need:

  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/8 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup granulates sugar
  • 6 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate**

**Very important:  use high quality chocolate because the chocolate is front and center in these cookies.  I had bought some 73.5% El Rey Apamate cacao discs for a previous chocolate-centric dessert that I never ended up making, so I decided to use it for these cookies.  It certainly doesn’t have to be all that fancy, but you know, something tasty.

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

2. Melt the chocolate in the microwave (slowly!) or using a double-boiler.  Set aside and let it cool slightly.

3. Using a mixer, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks form.

4.  Add the vanilla and sugar gradually as you continue beating.  Continue beating until stiff peaks form.

5.  Gently pour the chocolate over the egg whites.  Using a spatula, fold the chocolate in to the egg whites until just mixed.

6. Using a tablespoon, quickly scoop the mixture and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Bake for 10-12 minutes.  They should be shiny and slightly crackled outside, and look a bit gooey on the inside.

Notes on these cookies: If you like chocolate, you’ll love these cookies!  They have some intense chocolate flavor.  I was really happy with the chocolate part of these cookies, but the souffle didn’t work out quite as good as I had hoped.  The cookies looked a bit puffier when I pulled them out of the oven, but I think the souffle collapsed a bit as they cooled.  My egg whites never got as stiff as I wanted, although they didn’t dry out either.  I’m not sure exactly what the explanation was for this, so I’ll need to work on that for next time.

The recipe calls for using a teaspoon for scooping the cookies, but this seemed really small to me.  Well, I should have followed it.  These are intense cookies and eating half of one is about the perfect after dinner treat.  Next time, I’ll definitely be using that teaspoon!  I’m sure this will help the yield too– I only ended up with 19 cookies (kind of a sad number for a cookie baking party), when the recipe says it should be 40.  So, next time: smaller cookies and better souffle!

Oatmeal chocolate chip cookies

September 21, 2010 § Leave a comment

This past weekend, our neighbors/landlords set off on a journey to the far away land known as Palm Springs.  The last time we left on a trip, we were greeted with two slices of cake in our fridge (and happy, well-fed kitties).  So, I figured the least I could do was provide them with a tasty treat for their road trip to the desert.  What better treat can you have on a road trip than sweet and satisfying, chewy and chocolatey oatmeal chocolate chip cookies?  Certainly none that I could think of.  So, in my attempt to expand my baking repertoire, I tried a new-to-me recipe, again from Baking Illustrated.  With the exception of using whole wheat pastry flour instead of the called-for all-purpose flour, I made no changes to the recipe, so I will point you in the direction of the Cook’s Illustrated website.  Also, from what I read on the blogs, this recipe is very similar to the one on the Quaker Oats package, although there is less butter and sugar in the Quaker Oats recipe.  I’ll let you make the call on which recipe to use.

Notes on these cookies: These cookies were perfect, and yet they stirred up some complex emotions for me.  On one hand, I delighted in their chewiness, the perfect, slightly-crispy outside and moistness inside.   On the other hand, I sadly came to the conclusion that oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, even perfect ones, are not my favorite kind of cookie.  Rather, my favorite kind of cookie is actually chocolate chip oatmeal cookies.  The difference, I decided, is that the chocolate chip oatmeal cookie has a chocolate chip cookie base, and then oats are added to provide some texture and depth to the cookies, differing from the oat cookie that then has chocolate chips added to it.  One of these days I’ll make some chocolate chip oatmeal cookies and elaborate some more then.  Something to look forward to.  

From the picture above, you might have noticed that I made two different batches of cookies.  I split the dough in half and to one half, I added some large Guittard milk chocolate chips, and to the other half, I added soy-free, nut-free, dairy-free (anti-allergen) semisweet minichips by EnjoyLife.  I’ll save the discussion of our household food allergies for another day, but suffice it to say, I really liked the look of the minichip cookies, but preferred the taste and texture of the larger chip cookies.  The oats and minichips are similar sizes, which makes for a relatively uniform cookie shape, which I find appealing.  But these chips are just not as smooth and don’t melt as well as the larger, full of soy lecithin chips, so I’ve preferred snacking on the large chip version.  And when I say snacking, I really mean breakfasting, lunching, and dinnering.  Oatmeal is good for you, right?

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