Thursday, November 27, 2008

Chocolate Hazelnut Crinkle Cookies

So I know today is like some big important American Holiday, but it's also another important day: it's the Puma's birthday!

This last weekend while rehearsing bread recipes for T-day (I was in charge of bread, weee!) I also made these cookies to put in the mail to the ATL.

They are a little complicated, yes, but they are supremely delicious - moist, chewy, crinkly outside and infused with amazing hazelnut flavor. The classic chocolate crinkle is good, but if you want to kick it up, hazelnut ain't a bad way to go.

I've been making them since their first appearance in Gourmet in December of 2006, and they haven't disappointed yet. If the snowy white outside is very important to you, be very liberal with the powdered sugar. I hope you like them!

Chocolate Hazelnut Crinkle Cookies
adapted from Gourmet, December 2006

2/3 cup hazelnuts
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
6 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (no more than 60% cacao if marked), finely chopped
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup confectioners sugar

Make dough:
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F.

Toast hazelnuts in a shallow baking pan in oven until skins split and nuts are pale golden, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven (turn oven off), then wrap hazelnuts in a kitchen towel and rub to remove any loose skins. Cool nuts completely. Pulse nuts with granulated sugar in a food processor until finely chopped.

Melt chocolate in a metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water or in top of a double boiler, stirring until smooth. Remove bowl from heat and set aside.

Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.

Beat together butter and brown sugar in another bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until creamy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in melted chocolate until combined. Add milk and vanilla, beating to incorporate. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture, mixing until just combined. Stir in nut mixture. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and chill dough until firm, 2 to 3 hours.

Form and bake cookies:
Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

Sift confectioners sugar into a bowl. Halve dough and chill 1 half, wrapped in plastic wrap. Roll remaining half into 1-inch balls, placing them on a sheet of wax paper as rolled. Roll balls, 3 or 4 at a time, in confectioners sugar to coat generously and arrange 2 inches apart on lined baking sheets.

Bake, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until cookies are puffed and cracked and edges feel dry (but centers are still slightly soft), 12 to 18 minutes total. Transfer cookies (still on parchment) to racks to cool completely.

While first batch is baking, roll remaining dough into balls. Line cooled cookie sheets with fresh parchment, then coat balls with confectioners sugar and bake in same manner.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

Hello, lover. Chocolate. Peanut Butter. Cake. Are there any more beautiful words in the English language? Sigh...
Oof, sorry, I was in a reverie. A peanut butter cream cheese frosting induced reverie. I know, weird, right? Peanut butter and cream cheese, and it is SO good. I ate the leftovers on graham crackers once the cake was thoroughly frosted.

I've been eyeing this recipe for months, but I didn't have any occasion to make it, until Michelle at work announced she's having a baby, and she didn't mean getting another puppy.

This was the finale of the baby shower Hugh and I hosted last week, and I think it was quite well received... though we did manage to save a piece for Jack (the husband/baby daddy).

If you like peanut butter cups and rich desserts, give it a try. Oh! Or try it as cupcakes... I bet they would be easier to frost. You could skip the glaze, too... hm. I'm giving myself ideas.

Sour Cream-Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting and Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze
adapted from Sky High, Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes, via Smitten Kitchen

Makes an 8-inch triple-layer cake; serves 16 or more

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup neutral vegetable oil, such as canola
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottoms and sides of three 8-inch round cakepans. Line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment or waxed paper and butter the paper.

2. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Whisk to combine them well. Add the oil and sour cream and whisk to blend. Gradually beat in the water. Blend in the vinegar and vanilla. Whisk in the eggs and beat until well blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and be sure the batter is well mixed. Divide among the 3 prepared cake pans.

3. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean. Let cool in the pans for about 20 minutes. Invert onto wire racks, carefully peel off the paper liners, and let cool completely. I took Deb's advice here and froze the layers on paper plates, thank goodness, because this is a very very soft cake.

4. To frost the cake, place one layer, flat side up, on a cake stand or large serving plate. Spread 2/3 cup cup of the Peanut Butter Frosting evenly over the top. Repeat with the next layer. Place the last layer on top and frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting. Chill the frosted cake thoroughly.

5. To decorate with the Chocolate–Peanut Butter Glaze, simply pour the warm glaze over the top of the cake, and using an offset spatula, spread it evenly over the top just to the edges so that it runs down the sides of the cake in long drips. Refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 30 minutes to allow the glaze and frosting to set completely. Remove about 1 hour before serving.

Peanut Butter Frosting aka the frosting that killed my hand mixer
Makes about 5 cups

10 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
5 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2/3 cup smooth peanut butter, preferably a commercial brand (because oil doesn’t separate out)

1. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar 1 cup at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl often. Continue to beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes.

2. Add the peanut butter and beat until thoroughly blended.

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze
Makes about 1 1/2 cups

8 ounces seimsweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 cup half-and-half

1. In the top of d double boiler or in a bowl set over simmering water, combine the chocolate, peanut butter, and corn syrup. Cook, whisking often, until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.

2. Remove from the heat and whisk in the half-and-half, beating until smooth. Use while still warm.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Yellow Eye Bean Salad

So, do you guys remember that bean salad my mom made back in July? And how I said I was going to make it "soon"? Ooooh, hee hee heee! Right. It's been nearly 5 months, but I did! I made it! Hugh and I hosted a baby shower on Monday so I took the day off (naughty Bruno, very bad) and cooked... for like 8 hours. It was excellent.

Seriously though, I was happy to have an excuse to revisit the recipe. It's based on a recipe by BAM! himself, though he calls for black eyed peas. Instead, I used Rancho Gordo yellow eyes.

It's pretty straightforward: cook the beans, chop the veggies, add the dressing & seasoning and let it sit in the fridge for a few hours. If you're in Boston and you have a fridge full of beer, you could also put it on your back deck because IT'S ONLY 30 DEGREES. You know, if you want. Just a suggestion. You should give it a stir every hour or so, too.

Take it out an hour before you want to eat it, stir again, and put it in the pretty bowl you thought you lost. I would caution that you should use good beans here, since they are the star of the show, but if you use canned... well, I won't tell.

PS - there's bacon. Did I mention that?

Yellow Eye Bean Salad
adapted from Emeril Lagasse

1 lb dried beans of your choice, soaked for a few hours, cooked and cooled or three 15 oz cans
4-5 slices of bacon, crisp cooked and crumbled
1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1/2 cup good olive oil
1/2 medium red onion, chopped fine
1 medium red bell pepper, chopped fine
1/4 cup chopped green onions
1 jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped (leave a few seeds if you want more heat)
1/4 cup parsley, leaves only, chopped
2 small or 1 large clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp creole seasoning (see below)
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

Combine all ingredients and refrigerate (or porch-erate) 3-4 hours or overnight, stirring occasionally. Let sit at room temp for 45 minutes before serving.

Serves many.

For DIY creole seasoning, combine the following thoroughly and store in an airtight container:

2.5 parts paprika
2 parts salt
2 parts garlic powder
1 part dried oregano
1 part black pepper
1 part dried thyme
1 part cayenne pepper
1 part onion powder

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

What I did yesterday

I made a three layer peanut butter chocolate cake, a yellow eye bean salad, and chicken empanadas. I did NOT go to work. Today I DO have to go to work, but I'll tell you all about the deliciousness this week!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Rosemary Cracker Bread

It's sort of a strange thing, this, cracker. Bread? Cracker bread? I saw it over on Smitten Kitchen first, she referred to it as a Crisp Rosemary Flatbread, and apparently that's what they called it in Gourmet this summer. I don't know guys, I think it's too shattery to be called a flatbread. There's virtually no chewiness, and it makes crumbs like CRAZY. Crumbs like I only eat it standing over the sink in the kitchen, and then I clean the counter. Absolutely NOT the sort of thing you'd want to eat in bed.

But it is the sort of thing you want to EAT, period. It's flaky and crispy and salty, which I love, and the rosemary gives it a delightful herby punch. It comes together in approximately no time at all, and I bet it would be delicious smeared with goat cheese or sundried tomato spread or tapenade. I've been eating it instead of toast with my scrambled eggs all week! If you've got half an hour (including baking time!) you should give this cracker/bread a shot.

Rosemary Cracker Bread

1 3/4 unbleached AP flour
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup oil plus more for drizzling
flaky sea salt (I used Maldon)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees with a heavy baking sheet upside down on the middle rack.

In a medium bowl, stir together flour, chopped rosemary, baking powder, and salt. Add water and oil and gently stir into flour with a wooden spoon until a dough forms. Knead dough gently in the bowl 4 or 5 times until the dough ball is cohesive.

Divide dough into 3 pieces and roll out 1 piece on a sheet of parchment paper into a 10-inch round or oval or whatever wonky puzzle piece shape you can. It should be thin, and you should keep the other pieces covered until you're ready to roll them out.

Brush the top lightly with additional oil and if you want, scatter small clusters of rosemary leaves on top, pressing in slightly. Sprinkle with sea salt (don't skip this part!). Slide round (still on parchment) onto preheated baking sheet and bake until pale golden and browned in spots, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer bread to a rack to cool, then make 2 more rounds (1 at a time) on fresh parchment, brush with oil and salt and bake each round. Break into pieces if you want.

If cooled completely, cracker bread will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for a few days.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Creamy Sweet Potato Soup

It's finally starting to get chilly on the regular here in Boston, and I find myself craving the old standby soup and crusty bread dinner at least once a week. I had picked up a few sweet potatoes on a whim at the farmer's market last week so I browsed around the interwebs for some ideas and decided sweet potato soup was just the ticket.

Loosely based on Elise's sweet potato soup from an old issue of Bon Appetit and cut way down in proportions, this warm and faintly sweet bowl of yum was *almost* exactly what I was after. I didn't have any maple syrup, so I added a tiny bit of brown sugar, but I think I added too much. I'm leaving it off the ingredient list here, but if you taste yours and it's missing something, try sweetening it up a bit. Next time I think I will also add more aleppo pepper or red pepper flakes to up the spiciness, which I find myself enjoying more and more lately.

This was also my first attempt at using plain soy milk in cooking, but I thought it would work since soup is generally forgiving. The sweet potatoes add body and creaminess to the soup when blended anyway, so I didn't need to add much. As a result of that substitution, I find myself with one of the few truly vegan offerings in my humble vegetarian/vegan label. Sweet.

Sweet Potato Soup
adapted from Simply Recipes

2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 lg celery stalk, chopped, leaves reserved for garnish
1 lg garlic clove, chopped
just over 1 lb sweet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1 inch chunks
2 cups vegetable broth or stock
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp aleppo pepper or crushed red pepper
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup soy milk

Heat the olive oil in a medium sauce pot over medium-low heat. Add the onion, celery stalk, and garlic and saute until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Adjust the heat down if necessary so the garlic doesn't brown. Add the sweet potato chunks, broth and spices and simmer over low heat, covered, until the sweet potato is tender all the way through, 15-20 minutes. Add the soy milk and taste, season with salt and pepper.

Turn off the soup and let it cool for 5-10 minutes before pureeing in batches in a blender. You could also use an immersion blender, if yours had not broken the second time you used it. Serve topped with chopped celery leaves

Serves 2-3

Friday, November 7, 2008

Boiled Kale

So I know this doesn't look much like a celebratory meal, but how about if I just tell you that on Tuesday we stayed up very late eating Hugh's crab dip and Adam's black bean dip and hummus and I put my hand upon your hip, when I dip, you dip, we dip so much DIP. Wow. That sentence really got away from me, huh? ANYWAY. Between planning for the people coming over to watch the election results and then watching the election results and then being really tired from staying up so late, I did not do a very good job documenting my meals over the last week. I made some turkey chili. It was ok.

A couple of weeks ago, though, I took Molly's advice: I boiled some kale. I toasted some bread. I fried an egg.

It was a cold night, and this was a soul-satisfying meal for such an evening. It was simple and filling. I won't tell you the method, because Molly does a better job of interpreting Zuni than I could, but I will suggest you give it a try. I'm heading up to Maine this weekend, but I will be back next week with plenty to discuss - Hugh and I are hosting a baby shower this month and I'm doing the food... chocolate peanut butter cake, anyone?

Monday, November 3, 2008

Impromptu Veggie Soup

Over the summer I took Kalyn's advice and pureed a lot of the bounty from my basil plant to stick in the freezer. It came in awfully handy last weekend when I made myself this tasty two-serving pot of soup for dinner. I realize it's sort of mean to tell you about that now since it's NOVEMBER OMG HOW'D THAT HAPPEN??, but the idea is if you have some tasty things around, soup is easy! Check your crisper for veggies. Saute said veggies. Add Some stock and maybe some canned tomatoes. Add beans. (Or leftover rice, or small pasta... you get the idea.) Taste and season and hey look! Soup!

Aside: Not that you could POSSIBLY forget what tomorrow is, unless you've been under the proverbial rock for the last two years, but DON'T forget to vote. Seriously. It's important.

Clean out the crisper veggie soup

2T olive oil
1 rib celery, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
2 small carrots, sliced into rounds
1 sprig of thyme, leaves only, minced if you like
1 14 oz can tomatoes, diced (I used fire roasted)
3/4 can white beans
1/3 c basil puree
2 c chicken stock

In a medium pot over medium heat, cook the celery, carrots and onion until the onion is translucent. Add the tomatoes and stock, turn heat to medium-low and simmer until the carrots are tender but not mushy 10-15 minutes. Add the thyme leaves, basil puree and white beans plus salt and pepper to taste and let simmer until heated through, about 2 minutes.

Serves 2-3 (or if you're home by yourself on a Sunday, 1 big dinner and 1 lunch.)