Thursday, December 29, 2011

Candy Cane Cookies

Christmas is a time when we celebrate the birth of Jesus.  Candy canes are a traditional candy that you find at this time.  I've heard people say that the shape of the candy is a shepherd's staff because Jesus is the good Shepherd and that the red color is used to symbolize the blood he shed as the sacrifice to pay the debt for our sins.  Whether or not that is really why they are red and white or shaped in a crook, I don't know.  But it's a neat reminder of Jesus' sacrifice for us! 
Right after I made those molasses cookies I made these peppermint butter cookies.  I had planned to make them before our holiday schedule started, but I seemed to run out of time.  These do require a brief, 30-minute chill time (or could be made the night before and pulled out when you want to use them...that's what I did) but they are fun and worth it.

  My dad liked them but, I think, prefers the traditional nut butter cookie.  The peppermint adds a fun, holiday spin on it, though.  Joanie, Mama's best friend, thought they were SO cute!  Such fun to tell her they were from the cookbook she gave me for my birthday last year.  :-)  Try them out sometime...I think they're still appropriate for a New Year's party!

Peppermint Crescents from Southern Living Incredible Cookies
1 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup powdered sugar (you'll use a TOTAL of 2 2/3 cups)
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
2 1/2 cups flour
1 cup powdered sugar, for dipping
1 cup powdered sugar, for icing
2 1/2 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
coarsely crushed peppermints

Cream butter in electric mixer until smooth.  Add 2/3 cup powdered sugar and extract.  Gradually add flour to the butter mixture.  Place dough in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes (or overnight).  When ready, preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Pull off about a walnut sized piece of dough and roll into a 2-inch roll.  Shape it into a crescent and place on a baking stone.  Keep shaping until pan is full.  Bake for 18 minutes. 

Remove from oven and allow to cool for one minute.  Then roll warm cookies in powdered sugar.  Repeat above process until all the dough is used.  You will have about 36 cookies. 
In a small bowl, combine remaining 1 cup powdered sugar, milk, and extract to make a glaze.  Drizzle this over the cooled cookies.  Then sprinkle the peppermint bits over the icing and press gently to settle the candy.  Allow icing to set.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Slow as Molasses

So, I'm on the last day of six WONDERFUL days off.  They have actually gone by fairly SUCH a good way!  The strange thing about being a resident is that when I have more than 2 days off in a row, I feel like I've been away from the hospital for AGES; sometimes this even happens when I have only one day off.  You just get used to working every single day.  Is that bad?!  ;-)  Anyway, I've had a great bread but wish that it could be just a few days longer.  Alas, it cannot! 

While my parents were here, I decided to try a new recipe from my Southern Living Cookie cookbook.  My dad loves molasses cookies and there was one in here I needed to try.  I almost made it completely wrong but actually read the directions before I got started!  Good thing!  This recipe works a bit differently than normal but I think it gives great results.  First, you melt the shortening and then stir in all the wet ingredients.  Then you mix the dry ingredients together in the mixer and pour the WET ingredients into the dry rather than the usual other way around. 
It led to a nice dough that was very easy to work with; not wet like the other molasses cookie recipe I have. Another plus to this chill time!  Just be sure to set your'll have molasses-snaps if you don't! 

Molasses-Sugar Cookies from Southern Living Incredible Cookies
3/4 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1 egg
2 1/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/4 cup sugar, for rolling

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Melt shortening in a saucepan over low heat.  Remove from heat and cool.  Stir in the sugar, molasses and egg.  In a mixer bowl, combine dry ingredients through cloves.  Gradually add the sugar mixture, beating on medium speed until blended.  Make 1-inch balls with the dough and roll each ball in the 1/4 cup sugar.  Place balls on baking sheet or stone.  Place in oven and bake for 8-10 minutes (nine was best for me).  Remove from oven and then to cooling rack to cool.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

French Country Loaf....Failure!

I started reading Julie and Julia last night.  Now, I've only gotten about a half chapter in, but I seem to remember that Julie had several failures during her cook-through of Julia's cookbook.  Now, I am not cooking through that book but this was one of the few times I have tried something French...and it was a failure!   
Our Daring Bakers Host for December 2011 was Jessica of My Recipe Project and she showed us how fun it is to create Sour Dough bread in our own kitchens! She provided us with Sour Dough recipes from Bread Matters by AndrewWhitley as well as delicious recipes to use our Sour Dough bread in from Tonia George’s Things on Toast and Canteen’s Great British Food!  Now, I am by no means a bread baking expert.  However, several years ago I would make bread weekly!  I used a starter and the bread was yummy!  It did, though, use yeast...which is quite different from this sourdough bread.  I process of making the bread was actually fairly simple.  The timing of it, though, didn't fit my schedule.  I think that may be part of the problem.  I had to let the dough sit a lot more than called for.

This resulted in a fairly flat loaf.  It does TASTE like a typical french bread and I guess that a country bread is more dense and tough than usual...but I felt like it just didn't turn out like it should have!  It did make me want to pull out my sourdough recipe...hmmm!  There may be a bread revival soon!  Oh...and the cookies in the background?  Be watching for the recipe!

French Country Bread
Servings: 1 large loaf plus extra wheat starter for further baking
Wheat Starter - Day 1:
4 1/2 tablespoons (70 ml) (40 gm/1 ½ oz) stoneground breadmaking whole-wheat or graham flour
3 tablespoons (45 ml) water
Total scant ½ cup (115 ml) (3 oz/85 gm)
1. In a Tupperware or plastic container, mix the flour and water into a paste.
2. Set the lid on top gently, cover with a plastic bag, to prevent messes in case it grows more than expected!
3. Set somewhere warm (around 86 F if possible). I sometimes put mine on a windowsill near a radiator, but even if it’s not that warm, you’ll still get a starter going – it might just take longer.

Wheat Starter - Day 2:

4 1/2 tablespoons (70 ml) (40 gm/1 ½ oz) stoneground breadmaking whole-wheat or graham flour
3 tablespoons (45 ml) water
scant 1/2 cup (115 ml) (3 oz/85 gm) starter from Day 1
Total scant cup (230 ml) (6 oz/170 gm)
1. Stir the flour and water into the mixture from Day 1, cover, and return to its warm place.
Wheat Starter - Day 3:
4 1/2 tablespoons (70 ml) (40 gm/1 ½ oz) stoneground breadmaking whole-wheat or graham flour
4 teaspoons (20 ml) water
scant 1 cup (230 ml) (6 oz/170 gm) starter from Day 2
Total 1⅓ cup (320 ml) (230 gm/8-1/10 oz)
1. Stir the flour and water into the mixture from Day 2, cover, and return to its warm place.
Wheat Starter - Day 4:
3/4 cup plus 1½ tablespoons (205 ml) (120 gm/4 ¼ oz) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup less 4 teaspoons (100 ml) water
1⅓ cup (320 ml) (230 gm/8 oz) starter from Day 3
Total scant 2⅔ cup (625 ml) (440 gm/15½ oz)
1. Stir the flour and water into the mixture from Day 3, cover, and return to its warm place. At this point it should be bubbling and smell yeasty. If not, repeat this process for a further day or so until it is!
French Country Bread
Stage 1: Refreshing the leaven
1 cup less 1 tablespoon (225 ml) (160 gm/5 ⅔ oz) wheat Leaven Starter
6 tablespoons less 1 teaspoon (85 ml) (50 gm/1¾ oz) stoneground bread making whole-wheat or graham flour
1 cup plus 2 teaspoons (250 ml) (150 gm/5 ⅓ oz) unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 cup (120 ml) water
Production Leaven Total 2¾ cups plus 4 teaspoons (680 ml) (480 gm /1 lb 1 oz)
1. Mix everything into a sloppy dough. It may be fairly stiff at this stage. Cover and set aside for 4 hours, until bubbling and expanded slightly.
French Country Bread
Stage 2: Making the final dough
3/4 cup less 1 teaspoon (175 ml) (100 gm/3 ½ oz) stoneground breadmaking whole-wheat or graham flour, plus more for dusting
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (510 ml) (300gm/10 ½ oz) unbleached all-purpose flour
1¼ teaspoons (7½ ml) (7 gm/¼ oz) sea salt or ⅔ teaspoon (3⅓ ml) (3 gm/⅛ oz) table salt
1 ¼ cups (300 ml) water
1 ¾ cups (425 ml) (300 gm/10 ½ oz) production leaven – this should leave some (1 cup) for your next loaf.
Total 6 cups less 2 tablespoons 1415 ml (1007 gm/35 ½ oz/2 lb 3½ oz)
1. Mix the dough with all the ingredients except the production leaven. It will be a soft dough.
2. Knead on an UNFLOURED surface for about 8-10 minutes, getting the tips of your fingers wet if you need to. You can use dough scrapers to stretch and fold the dough at this stage, or air knead if you prefer. Basically, you want to stretch the dough and fold it over itself repeatedly until you have a smoother, more elastic dough.
See my demonstration here:
3. Smooth your dough into a circle, then scoop your production leaven into the centre. You want to fold the edges of the dough up to incorporate the leaven, but this might be a messy process. Knead for a couple minutes until the leaven is fully incorporated in the dough. See my demonstration here:
4. Spread some water on a clean bit of your work surface and lay the dough on top. Cover with an upturned bowl, lining the rim of the bowl with a bit of water. Leave for an hour, so that the gluten can develop and the yeasts can begin to aerate the dough.
5. Once your dough has rested, you can begin to stretch and fold it. Using wet hands and a dough scraper, stretch the dough away from you as far as you can without breaking it and fold it back in on itself. Repeat this in each direction, to the right, towards you, and to the left. This will help create a more ‘vertical’ dough, ready for proofing. See my demonstration here:
6. Heavily flour a banneton/proofing basket with whole wheat flour and rest your dough, seam side up, in the basket. Put the basket in a large plastic bag, inflate it, and seal it. Set aside somewhere warm for 3-5 hours, or until it has expanded a fair bit. It is ready to bake when the dough responds to a gently poke by slowly pressing back to shape.
7. Preheat the oven to hot 425°F/220°C/gas mark 7. Line a baking sheet with parchment, then carefully invert the dough onto the sheet. I like to put the baking sheet on top of the basket, then gently flip it over so as to disturb the dough as little as possible. Make 2-3 cuts on top of the loaf and bake for 40-50 minutes, reducing the temperature to moderately hot 400°F/200°C/gas mark 6 after 10 minutes.
8. Cool on a cooling rack.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Crunch...or New Years!

I had planned to post this a few days before Christmas and make a play of the title of this fun snack.  But, alas, I got busy and did not post.  This is one of my favorite snacks at Christmas and it is so easy with few ingredients.  It's pretty much a sweet Chex mix but uses Crispix.  The brown sugar and butter give this a toffee taste.  At first, I was worried about the texture because it was initially pretty soft; but after it cools (BTW, remove it from the pans to cool some other will stick to the pans!) everything has a great crunchy texture!  Try it out on your friends at New Years.

Christmas Crunch
1 box Crispix cereal
1 can mixed nuts
1 stick butter
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 cup brown sugar

Preheat oven to 325.  In a large bowl mix the cereal and nuts together.  In a separate bowl, melt butter and sugar together.  Stir in corn syrup. Pour this mixture over the cereal and stir until well coated.  Pour cereal onto 1-2 cookie sheets.  Place in oven and bake for an hour, stirring every 15 minutes.  After the fourth 15-minute interval (one hour total time) remove from oven and pour cereal onto waxed paper to cool.  Enjoy!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

"For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder; and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of peace." Isaiah 9:6

So thankful for the gift of Jesus, sent to Earth to be the final sacrifice for all.  Glory to God!  Hope you have a wonderful day!  Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Wisemen and Chocolate Cake

My church had its Christmas music last weekend.  It was a great time of worship and giving glory to God!  So thankful that in Jesus, He gave us everything we need to satisfy our hearts!  Follow the example of the wisemen.  They "had it all," wealth, wisdom, prestige...and they gave it all to worship Jesus, the One who could satisfy their souls, forgive sins, and redeem them!
After the music, my Sunday School class had a Christmas party.  Mr. Randy made eye round, and no, I'm not joshin' you (sorry, inside joke!); and we put together a potato and salad bar.  Everyone brought something for the salad/potato bar and/or dessert.  Being typical Claire, I went in search of a new recipe to try!  I didn't have to go far, though.  I actually used one of the recipes that I had saved in my e-mail.  It's for a triple chocolate cake, and, unbeknownst to me, was from Cooking Light.  It was fairly simple to put together, though I think I did rush it some.  I should have let the filling chill overnight before putting the cake together.  When I got up on Sunday morning the top layer had slid off the bottom one.  Sigh!  Thankfully, it went back fairly easily.  I think that topping it with a ganache gives the cake an elegant appearance, enabling you to see the filling as well.  The cake was pretty good but I thought it was a tad dry...though that could be because I chose the longer cooking time, afraid it wasn't done at first check.  The filling, however, added moisture to the overall cake.  So, if you're looking for a good option for a lower guilt dessert, try this one.  I think everyone enjoyed it!  I mean, I sent several people home with leftovers. :-)

Triple Chocolate Cake from Cooking Light
1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 3/4 cups sugar
6 tablespoons butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 egg whites
1/2 cup fat-free sour cream (or Greek yogurt)
8 ounces cake flour (it says about 2 cups...sure looked like more than that to me!)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine boiling water and cocoa.  Add 2 oz. bittersweet chocolate and stir until mixture becomes smooth.  Cool to room temperature.  In a large mixing bowl, put the sugar, butter, and vanilla and beat for 1 minute.  Add egg whites, one at a time, beating between each addition. Add sour cream/yogurt, then beat for 2 minutes more.  Combine the flour, baking powder, soda and salt.  Add the flour mixture and cocoa mixture alternating - being and end with the flour mixture.

Spray two round cake pans with cooking spray.  I used Pam with flour (for the first's pretty cool!).  Divide the batter between the two pans.  Drop each pan on the countertop to allow air bubbles to rise to the top.  Bake for about 30 minutes or until a toothpick in the center comes out clean.  Cool for 10 minutes, then remove from pan and allow to completely cool on cooling racks.

1/3 cup skim milk (I used almond milk)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablesoon cornstarch
4 ounces milk chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup cool whip, thawed

Combine milk, sugar, cornstarch together in a saucepan over medium heat.  Stir constantly until mixture comes to a boil.  Remove from heat and add the chocolate.  Stir until mixture becomes smooth.  Cover and chill.  When cooled, uncover and fold in the cool whip.

1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
3 tablespoons milk (I used almond)
2 teaspoons butter
1/8 teaspoon instant espresso granules
1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, chopped (I used semi-sweet)

Combine powdered sugar and remaining ingredients in a saucepan over low heat.  Cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. 

To assemble cake, place one layer of cake on cake plate.  Spread filling on top of this layer with 1/4 inch border.  Place second layer on top.  Then pour glaze on top, spreading it so that it covers the top of the cake and drizzles down the sides.  Enjoy!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Halloween (?) Squares

I'm making a list, checking it grocery list that is!  I think that I shall do some baking this weekend.  I haven't done much recently and my friends at work have noticed...but I've been busy!  These are some quick, easy chocolate treats that I made in October for the ER. 

They are called Rocky Road Halloween Squares, so I figured that they would be perfect for an October treat.  However, they would also be a perfect Christmas tray treat!  So, easy to make!  Just melt, pour, stir, pour, and cut...then enjoy!  All of the ER nurses, doctors, residents, and respiratory therapists enjoyed them.  I think they liked the combination of the sweet and salty...which I'm a bit partial to as well.  So, if you need a quick and easy treat, try these out!

Rocky Road Halloween Squares from my mom
1 12ox. package chocolate chips
1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
2 Tablespoons butter
2 cups dry roasted peanuts
10.5 oz. bag mini-marshmallows

Melt chocolate chips and butter (you can do this in the microwave slowly, or over a double boiler). Combine nuts and marshmallows.  Pour the chocolate over this mixture and stir until all is coated well.  Place waxed paper in a 13X9 pan then spread the nut/marshmallow mixture into the pan.  Chill 2 hours or until firm.  Remove from pan and cut into squares.  Enjoy!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Pancakes with a Sous Chef and Photographer

When discussing what we liked at a local restaurant that serves brunch on Saturday and Sunday, D revealed that he likes chocolate chip pancakes.  So, last week, I went to his house and made breakfast for dinner.  Little did I know that I would have a sous chef in Miss K.  And even more to my surprise was that I suddenly had a photographer!

First off, this is the best pancake recipe's Daddy's.  Secondly, pancakes really ended up being a good toddler sous chef dish...until it came time to cook them on the hot griddle...had a few squeals until Miss Sous Chef was distracted enough not to care!

  I put raspberries in mine and D had chocolate chips in his.  So, confession time...I've never really eaten chocolate chip pancakes!  Strawberry, blueberry...yes. 

And I've MADE chocolate chip pancakes but never eaten them.  Per D, no syrup needed.  So, I tried!  He's right! No syrup needed.  It was pretty good.  Not saying I'm going to convert my fruit to chocolate...but still good.  As to Miss K, she was a fan of the chocolate chips and the syrup...with a few bites on pancake thrown in.  :-) Now, heat up your griddle, grab your favorite sous chef, and cook something yummy!  Here's the recipe if you're in the mood for pancakes!
Daddy's Pancakes
1+ cups flour
1 T baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 T sugar
1 egg
2 T oil
½ cup buttermilk
½ cup milk - I added more...probably about 2-3 tablespoons
splash of vanilla, I don't know how much, just put some in
Add ins - fruit, chocolate chips, etc.

Sift together flour, baking powder, sugar, salt.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, oil and milks.  Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir with a fork. 

Add more milk to get the desired consistency.  You want it easily pourable but not runny.  While you are making the batter, heat a griddle to medium high heat...when you sprinkle drops of water on the griddle, it should sizzle but not immediately evaporate.  Using a 1/4-1/3 cup measure, pour batter on the griddle.  At this time, put your add-ins on if you're using them.  Wait for bubbles to appear on the top and to see the edges of the pancake start to cook.  When you see this, you're ready to flip the pancakes.  Then cook on the second side until the outside has the desired golden color.  Remove to a plate and butter immediately.  Enjoy with whatever topping you want and people you love!  Don't forget to let your sous chef have some! ;-)

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Black Bean Soup

Right after Thanksgiving, we had a few days of cold.  Guess what I made...SOUP!  Today, I'd have to pretend it was cold...yet again (though it is supposed to be COLD on Tuesday!) but this soup was quite good...even enjoyed by a toddler.  Woo Hoo!  I saw the recipe from Jenna several months ago and have had it bookmarked for a while.  When I made the potato soup, I thought about doing this one but realized that I wouldn't have time.  This last week, however, was the perfect time to go for it. I was on my last few days of elective, i.e., getting out early, and it was cold.  So, when D asked what I was doing, I offered to share my soup...aren't I nice?!  ;-) 

First let me say, without realizing it, I modified this recipe A LOT!  I didn't have any onions, so I completely skipped step one.  Then I assumed that it was just a throw it all in kind of recipe.  Basically, it is; but, if you have onions, check out the original recipe here.  At first, I was a little concerned.  It has 2 tablespoons of chili powder in it, and I thought that it tasted a little too acidic. 

I will say, however, that it did mellow and gain quite a good flavor over time. I served mine with cornbread.  When I put it in her bowl, K immediately put her spoon in and ate some.  "Yummy!  Beans!"  Score!  D said he liked it too and saved some leftovers for later.  I did think that it was more of a soup than a chili, so I've changed the title.  If you want a nice warm soup with a little spice, but not too much, try this soup!  Delicious, filling, and healthy!

Spicy Black Bean Soup adapted from Jenna
8 oz dried black beans
2 14.5 oz cans diced fire roasted tomatoes with green chilies
6 cups vegetable stock
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried onion

In a large stock pot, place all ingredients.  Stir well. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 3 hours.  Serve chili with grated cheese and sour cream.
Yield: 4 servings