Sunday, March 30, 2008

French Chocolate Macaroons

This recipe is courtesy Luscious Chocolate Desserts, and yes, all of the desserts have indeed been luscious. Generally, you think of macaroons as having coconut, but traditionally, they were done with almonds. These almond macaroons were fabulous and very well received. If you don't normally stock blanched almonds, just blanch your own. It's very easy to do; just plunge them in to hot water, boil for 1 minute, then plunge them in to cold water, peel off the skins, and let them dry on paper towels.

1/2 cup blanched whole almonds
1 3/4 cups confectioners' sugar
3 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
3 large egg whites
Pinch of salt
2 tsp. granulated sugar

Preheat the oven to 400F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Pulse the almonds with 1 cup of the confectioners' sugar in a food processor until finely ground. Add the cocoa powder and the remaining 3/4 cup confectioners' sugar and pulse until well blended. Beat the egg whites with the salt with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until the whites form soft peaks when the beaters are lifted. Add the granulated sugar and beat just until the whites form stiff peaks when the beaters are lifted. With a whisk or a rubber spatula, gently fold in the almond mixture.

Transfer the batter to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain tip. Pipe out 1-inch-diameter mounds about 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake for 6-8 minutes, until the tops are cracked and appear dry but the macaroons are still slightly soft to the touch. Transfer the cookies, still on the parchment paper, to barely dampened kitchen towels and let cool for 5 minutes. Carefully peel the paper off the macaroons and transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
5 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

Bring the cream just to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the cocoa powder. Add the chocolate and butter and whisk until smooth. Let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate, covered, for at least 30 minutes, or until the filling is firm enough to hold its shape when spread. Spread generously on the flat side of half of the macaroons. Top with the remaining macaroons, flat side down, pressing together gently to form sandwiches. Makes about 20 sandwich cookies.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Onion Tarts with Mixed Greens

Here's a new twist on salad, courtesy Williams-Sonoma. This recipe pairs a lightly tossed salad on a flaky, baked onion tart and really is more tart than salad. It's great with lean, grilled meat or just by itself for a light meal. I'm not a fan of goat cheese, so I used blue cheese instead.

Savory Tart Dough
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. sugar
12 Tbs. unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
6 to 7 Tbs. ice water

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and sugar. Using a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut in the butter until pea-size crumbs form. Add the water 1 Tbs. at a time and mix with your hands, adding more water as needed until the dough comes together. It should be moist but not sticky.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, divide into 2 balls and shape each into a 5-inch disk. Cover separately with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out each dough disk into a 12-inch round about 1/8 inch thick. Using a small knife, trim the uneven edges. Transfer each round to a parchment-lined baking sheet and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Onion Tarts with Mixed Greens
2 rolled-out rounds savory tart dough, each 12" in diameter
5 Tbs. olive oil
4 yellow onions, thinly sliced
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp. minced fresh thyme
2 Tbs. minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
4 tsp. balsamic vinegar
1 egg, lightly beaten
4 oz. mixed salad greens
2 oz. goat cheese, crumbled

Position rack in lower third of oven; preheat to 400F. In saute pan over medium-high heat, warm 3 Tbs. oil. Add onions, salt, and pepper; cook 15-20 minutes. Add garlic; cook 1 minute. Add thyme, parsley, and 2 tsp. vinegar; cook 2 minutes. Let cool. Spread half of onion mixture on each dough round, leaving 1" border. Fold dough up; pinch together at 2" intervals. Brush dough with beaten egg. Bake 30-35 minutes. Cool 10 minutes.

In bowl, whisk 2 tsp. vinegar, 2 Tbs. oil, salt, and pepper. Toss half of vinaigrette with greens; place rest in a mister. Top tarts with salad; sprinkle with cheese. Mist salads with vinaigrette. Serves 8.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

My Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies

This should have been my first post to explain the name of this blog, but I've finally gotten around to taking pictures of my cookies. Sure, I've made plenty of cookies over the past few months, but I always forget to take pictures before they get eaten. They don't last more than a day at our house. I played with this recipe for months, and to you, it may look just like any other recipe. However, I've learned how to get the dough to turn out just right to make the perfect cookie.

1 c. butter, softened
3/4 c. brown sugar
3/4 c. white sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 t. vanilla
1 1/2 t. salt
1 t. baking soda
3(+/-) c. flour
3/4 c. Guittard semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 c. butterscotch or white chips

Cream the butter with the sugars until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, vanilla, salt, and soda. Add enough flour so that the dough is firm but slightly wet, but not too sticky or too stiff. Stir in desired chocolate chips. Using a large ice cream scoop, scoop onto aluminum air bake pans. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes. (If using other pans, decrease baking time by 2-3 minutes). Cookies should be set and just starting to brown. Let rest for 2-3 minutes. Remove to racks to cool. Makes 18 large cookies.
For a chewier cookie, swap out one of the egg whites for 2 T. of milk and increase the ratio of brown to white sugar. For a flatter, more buttery cookie, decrease the flour by 1/4 - 1/2 c. You can also make these cookies much smaller if you prefer, but the man of the house likes a cookie of substance. I increased the salt and vanilla amounts because it adds more flavor to the dough. Also, you could try using shortening or margarine instead of butter. I find that it makes a fluffier cookie, but it just doesn't have as good of flavor. I used to make these cookies half butter, half shortening, but in the end, all butter is better.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Luck of the Irish!

In honor of St. Patrick's Day, I made the "traditional" Irish meal: corned beef and cabbage, boiled potatoes and carrots, Irish soda bread, and shamrock shortbread cookies for dessert. The meal turned out great, but I remember my mom's corned beef tasting better. She cooks it in the pressure cooker, and I just simmered mine in the crock pot. Maybe that had something to do with it....In any case, we ate our meal in remembrance of the day, though we
can't tell you the reason why we celebrate the day or eat the "traditional" meal. We aren't Irish, but it is still fun to try new cuisine and learn something about other cultures.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Pots de Creme

Well, I'm finally posting again, but I've done plenty of baking and cooking even though I haven't posted. Our recent favorites include fabulous chocolate-caramel-pecan cookies, kahlua pork, southwestern nacho bake, and ham-and-swiss stromboli. Maybe I'll actually get around to taking pictures and putting up recipes, especially for how to make the best chocolate chip cookies.

These pots de creme were very good; pretty much a glorified chocolate pudding, but much, much richer. Oh how I do love chocolate. If it ain't chocolate, it ain't dessert. At least, that's my motto, and I've converted Barrett. He used to live a life of savory and salty, but with me, it's all about the sweet.