Sunday, December 26, 2010

Cat Cora's Cinnamon Chicken

So I haven't bought meat to cook for about a year now.  The reasoning could be a whole series of posts, so I'll just say it's for environmental/economic reasons; I still eat meat, but I don't when I can avoid it.  This is a dish I made once before I stopped cooking meat and it's probably the first thing I will do when I buy chicken again.  But even better: my family does eat meat and really prefer not to constantly eat vegetarian food like I do.  My mom said we should make a simple chicken dish last week, and I recommended this, since it is one of my favorites.  As many people know (and I've probably mentioned more than a few times), I really love cinnamon.  So I'm just going to copy the recipe, I didn't make any modifications this time.  But my grad student I don't want to deal with chicken way of making it last time was using boneless skinless chicken breasts, I think I used 3 when I did it that way.  I think it's awesome served with broccoli, but that's usually my go to green vegetable too.  And it's really easy to plate nicely. Then again, my parents' plates make everything look a little nicer than mine.  So I'm just going to copy the recipe, I feel bad not giving you any of my own touches, but like I said, it's probably my favorite chicken dish, so I thought it was worthwhile to share.  It comes from Cat Cora via the Oprah website.  Oh, I guess my one note is that I didn't think 2 1/2 tsp was enough rub, so I made a lot more, mostly by adding extra cinnamon (go figure).

Servings: Serves 4
Greek Cinnamon Stewed Chicken
  • 1 chicken (2 1/2 to 3 pounds), cut into 8 pieces (legs, breast and thighs)
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 cloves garlic , peeled and minced
  • 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion , peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste
  • 1 Tbsp. dried Italian herb seasoning
  • 1 cup orzo , cooked according to package directions
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Preboil water with sea salt.

Pat the chicken dry with paper towels. A wet chicken will cause the oil to splatter while the chicken is sautéing. Mix the cinnamon, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Rub the chicken pieces on all sides with the seasoning.

Heat the olive oil in a large, nonreactive, deep skillet over high heat. A 12-inch skillet with sides about 2 1/2 to 3 inches high will allow you to brown all the chicken at once. If you don't have a skillet large enough, brown them in two batches using 1/2 the oil for each batch. What's important is that the chicken isn't overcrowded, which would cause them to steam rather than brown.

Add the chicken to the oil and brown for about 4 to 5 minutes on each side. Turn the pieces using a metal spatula, as they have a tendency to stick to the pan. Remove the pieces when they are well browned on all sides.

Mince three of the garlic cloves. Lower the heat to medium-high, and add the onions and minced garlic. Cook for about 3 minutes, stirring constantly, until the onions have softened and are a rich golden brown. Add about 1/2 cup of the water and scrape the bottom of the pan with a spatula or spoon to deglaze the pan, loosening any particles stuck on the bottom.

When the water has evaporated, add the remaining 1 1/2 cups of water, tomato paste, Italian seasoning and remaining 2 garlic cloves, minced.

Return the chicken to the pan. The liquid should cover about 3/4 of the chicken pieces. Cover the pot and simmer over medium-high heat for about 30 to 40 minutes, or until the chicken is tender and thoroughly cooked. If the sauce becomes too thick, it can be thinned with a little more water. Season the finished sauce with kosher salt and pepper to taste. Serve over orzo, cooked according to package directions, and sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Daring Bakers: December 2010, Stollen!

Stollen is one of those things that is all over the place in Wisconsin, even the Italian bakeries sell it, but I haven't seen it anywhere else.  However, it's also crazy expensive, usually about $10 for a pound loaf.  Over Thanksgiving break I saw it at the grocery store for $15 for a pound loaf, and thought "gee, I could definitely make it for less than that, if only I had a good recipe."  Then again, I don't usually like Stollen (or anything with candied cherries for that matter), so I thought my parents would appreciate the gesture, but I wouldn't really care.  And then low and behold, the Daring Bakers challenge for this month was making stollen.  Seriously, many of the challenges since I've started have tapped into what's been on the top of my list to try baking, for instance the ice cream cakes this summer (well, at very least, the ice cream), Crostada, souffle, perogies, apple butter, and now Stollen!  And because I made it, I reduced the amount of raisins and added dried apricots and cranberries instead and left out the stupid candied cherries.  And low and behold, I liked it!  That's because it is basically bread with stuff I approve of: cinnamon, vanilla, orange and lemon zests, orange extract (there was candied peel, but I can deal with a little of that), and of course, dried apricots (and other fruits too).  My dad said it was the best Stollen ever, which means I will probably have to make it every year for the rest of my life, but that's okay.  It's a new Christmas tradition and it's one I fully support.  Now the challenge will be getting my brother to try it.

The 2010 December Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Penny of Sweet Sadie’s Baking. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make Stollen. She adapted a friend’s family recipe and combined it with information from friends, techniques from Peter Reinhart’s book.........and Martha Stewart’s demonstration. 

Here's what I did:
Stollen Wreath 
Makes one large wreath or two traditional shaped Stollen loaves. Serves 10-12 people 
1/2 cup (60ml) lukewarm water (110º F / 43º C) 
2 packages (4 1/2 teaspoons) (22 ml) (14 grams) (1/2 oz) active dry yeast 
1 cup (240 ml) milk 
10 tablespoons (150 ml) (140 grams) unsalted butter (can use salted butter) 
6 cups (1320 ml) (27 ozs) (770 grams) all-purpose (plain) flour plus more for flouring
1/2 cup (120 ml) (115 gms) sugar 
3/4 teaspoon (3 ••• ml) (4 ••• grams) salt
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (6 grams) cinnamon 
3 large eggs, lightly beaten 
Grated zest of 1 lemon and 1 orange 
2 teaspoons (10 ml) (very good) vanilla extract 
1 teaspoon (5 ml) lemon extract or orange extract 
3/4 cup (180 ml) (4 ••• ozs) (135 grams) lemon peel
1/3 cup (240 ml) (6 ozs) (170 gms) firmly packed raisins 
1/3 cup dried apricots cut into small pieces
1/3 cup mixed golden raisins and cranberries (there may have been a few dried blueberries and cherries in there, but I tried to pick them out)
3 tablespoons (45ml) dark rum 
1 cup- a little since my mom used some to decorate cookies (240 ml) (3 ••• ozs) (100 grams) flaked almonds 
Melted unsalted butter for coating the wreath 
Confectioners’ (icing) (powdered) sugar for dusting wreath 
Note: If you don’t want to use alcohol, double the lemon or orange extract or you could use the juice from the zested orange. 
Soak the raisins 
In a small bowl, soak the raisins in the rum (or in the orange juice from the zested orange) and set aside. See Note under raisins. I soaked these for about 8 hours

To make the dough 
Pour 1/2 cup (60 ml) warm water into a small bowl, sprinkle with yeast and let stand 5 minutes. Stir to dissolve yeast completely. 
In a small saucepan, combine 1 cup (240 ml) milk and 10 tablespoons (150 ml) butter over medium - low heat until butter is melted. Let stand until lukewarm, about 5 minutes. 
Lightly beat eggs in a small bowl and add lemon and vanilla extracts. 
In a large mixing bowl (4 qt) (4 liters) (or in the bowl of an electric mixer with paddle attachment), stir together the flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, orange and lemon zests. 
Then stir in (or mix on low speed with the paddle attachment) the yeast/water mixture, eggs and the lukewarm milk/butter mixture. This should take about 2 minutes. It should be a soft, but not sticky ball. When the dough comes together, cover the bowl with either plastic or a tea cloth and let rest for 10 minutes. 
Add in the mixed peel, soaked fruit and almonds and mix with your hands or on low speed to incorporate. Here is where you can add the cherries if you would like. Be delicate with the cherries or all your dough will turn red! 
Sprinkle flour on the counter, transfer the dough to the counter, and begin kneading (or mixing with the dough hook) to distribute the fruit evenly, adding additional flour if needed. The dough should be soft and satiny, tacky but not sticky. Knead for approximately 8 minutes (6 minutes by machine). I kneaded for a lot more than this, maybe 15 minutes before i was convinced it was the right texture.  This may have been longer than what the recipe actually wanted, but i was happy with the texture of the end result.  The full six minutes of kneading is needed to distribute the dried fruit and other ingredients and to make the dough have a reasonable bread-dough consistency. You can tell when the dough is kneaded enough – a few raisins will start to fall off the dough onto the counter because at the beginning of the kneading process the dough is very sticky and the raisins will be held into the dough but when the dough is done it is tacky which isn't enough to bind the outside raisins onto the dough ball. Since this is an actual bread, I tried to use the window pane test of pulling a small piece apart and accepting it as done when the piece didn't tear.  However all the stuff in the bread made it tear, even after 15 minutes.
Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling around to coat it with the oil. (I just buttered the bowl and called it a day) Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. 
Put it in the fridge overnight. The dough becomes very firm in the fridge (since the butter goes firm) but it does rise slowly… the raw dough can be kept in the refrigerator up to a week and then baked on the day you want.  I kept this in my mom's car in "the big refrigerator" known as out garage.
Shaping the Dough and Baking the Wreath 
1. Let the dough rest for 2 hours after taking out of the fridge in order to warm slightly. 
2. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. 
3. Preheat oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4 with the oven rack on the middle shelf. 
4. Punch dough down, roll into a rectangle about 16 x 24 inches (40 x 61 cms) and 1/4 inch (6 mm) thick. This is what you are supposed to do.  How people roll into rectangles is beyond me.  I rolled it into an ellipse and rolled parallel to the major access of the ellipse.  it worked fine, though one side of the Stollen was a little smaller than the other.  I served that side first and no one noticed.

Starting with a long side, roll up tightly, forming a long, thin cylinder. 
Transfer the cylinder roll to the sheet pan. Join the ends together, trying to overlap the layers to make the seam stronger and pinch with your fingers to make it stick, forming a large circle. You can form it around a bowl to keep the shape. 
Using a sharp or serrated knife, make cuts along outside of circle, in 2-inch (5 cm) intervals, cutting 2/3 of the way through the dough. 
Twist each segment outward, forming a wreath shape. Mist the dough with spray oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap.

Proof for approximately 2 hours at room temperature, or until about 1 1/2 times its original size. 
Bake the stollen for 20 minutes, then rotate the pan 180 degrees for even baking and continue to bake for 20 to 30 minutes. The bread will bake to a dark mahogany color, should register 190°F/88°C in the center of the loaf, and should sound hollow when thumped on the bottom. 
Transfer to a cooling rack and brush the top with melted butter while still hot. 
Immediately tap a layer of powdered sugar over the top through a sieve or sifter. 
Wait for 1 minute, then tap another layer over the first. 
The bread should be coated generously with the powdered sugar. 
Let cool at least an hour before serving. Coat the stollen in butter and icing sugar three times, since this many coatings helps keeps the stollen fresh - especially if you intend on sending it in the mail as Christmas presents! 
When completely cool, store in a plastic bag. Or leave it out uncovered overnight to dry out slightly, German style. 
The stollen tastes even better in a couple of days and it toasts superbly…. so delicious with butter and a cup of tea….mmmmm 
The more rum and the more coatings of butter and sugar you use the longer it will store. 
The following is for the recipe as written and uses the 45 mls of rum and two coatings of butter and icing sugar 
1. Stollen freezes beautifully about 4 months 
2. The baked stollen stores well for 2 weeks covered in foil and plastic wrap on the counter at room temperature and 
3. One month in the refrigerator well covered with foil and plastic wrap. 

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Daring Cooks: November 2010 Souffle

I'm a couple weeks behind on this post because once I missed the deadline I decided there was no hurry anyway.

When I found our Daring Bakers for October was donuts, I was heartbroken (hyperbole).  I did not want to make donuts and I've been meaning for several months to make a souffle.  Each month I have one or two things I hope the challenge is, and in October, I definitely wanted it to be souffle.

But then, Daring COOKS challenge was souffles for November.  So my friend and I decided to team up since you have to eat souffles right away and it's quite hard to cut it down to serve one.  We decided to make one savory and one chocolate.  Since after all, you can't make a souffle without making a chocolate one, it just seems wrong.

They really weren't quite as hard as I thought.  I mean we were very careful to follow all directions to a tee, but they ended up fine.  Except for the two chocolate souffles that exploded.  See photo.

Dave and Linda from Monkeyshines in the Kitchen chose Soufflés as our November 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge! Dave and Linda provided many of their own delicious recipes plus a sinfully decadent chocolate soufflé recipe adapted from Gordon Ramsay’s recipe found at the BBC Good Food website. 

Chocolate Souffle 
Adapted From BBC Good Food Recipe by Gordon Ramsay 
2 Tbsp (30 ml) 1 oz (30g) unsalted butter, for greasing 
Cocoa powder or finely grated chocolate 

2 tbsp (30 ml) (18 gm) (2/3 oz) plain (all-purpose) flour 
2 tsp (10 gm) (0.35 oz) caster (superfine) sugar (regular sugar is OK) 
½ tsp (4½ gm) (0.15 oz) corn starch (aka cornflour) 
1 medium egg yolk  (we just used small large eggs)
1 medium whole egg 
4 Tbsp (60 ml) milk 
5 Tbsp (75 ml) heavy cream (or double cream) 
3 oz (90gm) good-quality dark chocolate preferably 70+% cocoa solids, broken in pieces 
2 Tbsp (30 ml) (15 gm) (½ oz) unsweetened cocoa powder 
Optional: 2 tsp orange zest or 2 tsp minced chipotle chile en adobo or 1 tsp chipotle chile powder. (The chile version is a Monkeyshines favorite!) I clearly added cayenne.  Anyone who knows me should guess that.
Optional: powdered sugar for dusting 

6 medium egg whites  (we used 5 large egg whites)
6½ Tbsp (95 ml) 3 oz (90g) superfine/caster sugar (if you don’t have it, regular sugar is OK) 

1. Heat oven to moderate 375 ˚F/190 ˚C/gas mark 5. 
2. Take four 1 cup/~240ml soufflé dishes and brush them completely with softened butter. Tip a little cocoa powder or grated chocolate into each dish, roll the dish around tilting it as you do so it is evenly lined all round. 
3. For the crème patisserie, mix the flour, sugar and corn starch into a small bowl. Put egg yolk and whole egg into a medium sized bowl, beat lightly, then beat in half of the flour mixture to give a smooth paste. Tip in the rest of the flour mixture and cocoa powder and mix well. 
4. To make the ganache, pour the milk and cream into a pan and bring just to the boil. Remove from the heat. Add the chocolate and beat until it is melted and smooth with no lumps. 
5. Gradually stir hot chocolate ganache into the paste from step 3, and add the orange zest or chile if using. This is your crème patisserie. 
6. Whisk the egg whites to soft peaks with an electric whisk. Sprinkle in the sugar as you are mixing. Keep whisking to give stiff, firm peaks to give volume to the soufflés. 

7. Stir about 2 tbsp (30 ml) of the beaten egg whites into the crème 
patisserie. Carefully fold in a third of the rest, cutting through the 
mixture. Fold in another third (take care not to lose the volume), 
then fold in the rest. 
8. Spoon the mixture into the dishes. Run a spoon across the top of 
each dish so the mixture is completely flat. Take a little time to 
wipe any splashes off the outside of each dish, or they will burn 
on while cooking. 
9. Bake the soufflés for 15-17 minutes. 
10. The soufflés should have risen by about two thirds of their original height and jiggle when moved, but be set on top. 

We adapted the Watercress Souffle to a spinach and cheese souffle.  I'll include our changes in blue.

Watercress Soufflé 
A Monkeyshines in the Kitchen recipe 
2 Tbsp 1 oz/30g butter plus additional for the soufflé dish 
3½ Tbsp (55 ml) 1 oz/30g plain (all purpose) flour 
1 cup/8 fluid oz (240ml) milk 
½ cup (120 ml) 2 oz/60g parmesan cheese, finely grated plus additional for the soufflé dish (we used white cheddar and parmesan to coat the dish)
1 cup (250ml) 2 oz/60g finely chopped de-stemmed watercress (can substitute spinach) – about 1 large bunch (this measure is the leaves after they’ve been washed, de-stemmed, and chopped) (I think we used about this, a little less SPINACH than this because it's easier to find than watercress, and added about half as much finely diced onion, that we also patted dry)
4 large eggs, separated 
½ tsp (2½ ml) (3 gm) (.1 oz) prepared mustard 
¼ tsp (1¼ ml) (1½ gm) (0.05 oz) cream of tartar* 
Salt and pepper to taste 

* If you can’t find cream of tartar, a dash (~ ½ tsp) of lemon juice can be substituted 
1. Butter the soufflé dish(es) thoroughly, then grate a small amount of cheese in each dish and tap so that the sides are evenly coated with the cheese. Place the dish(es) in the refrigerator until needed (according to some sites, this helps the soufflé climb). 
2. Preheat the oven to moderate 350º F / 180º C / gas mark 4 
3. Wash and chop the watercress if you haven’t already. 
4. Finely grate the parmesan cheese 
5. In a medium sized saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat, then stir in the flour to make a roux. Cook 1 minute, then add the milk, a little at a time, and stir until just thickened, about 1 minute. Add the cheese and stir until it’s just melted. Remove from heat then add the watercress and salt and pepper. 
6. In a larger pan, bring water to a gentle simmer. Whisk the egg yolks in a bowl set just over this water until pale and slightly foamy – about 6 minutes. (I held the bowl just above the simmering water to be sure I didn’t cook the eggs) 
7. Mix the egg yolks into the watercress sauce. 
8. Beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until they form stiff peaks yet are still glossy. 
9. Fold the egg whites into the sauce in 3 additions so that it’s evenly mixed, but you don’t lose too much volume. 
10. Remove the soufflé dish from the refrigerator and spoon the mix into it. Use a spatula to even the tops of the soufflés and wipe off any spills. 
11. Bake 25 minutes for small dishes or 40 minutes if using a large soufflé dish, then serve immediately. 

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Daring Cooks December 2010: Poached Eggs

Jenn and Jill have challenged The Daring Cooks to learn to perfect the technique of poaching an egg. They chose Eggs Benedict recipe from Alton Brown, Oeufs en Meurette from Cooking with Wine by Anne Willan, and Homemade Sundried Tomato & Pine Nut Seitan Sausages (poached) courtesy of Trudy of Veggie num num.
I made the following Oeufs en Meurette recipe for my family when I was home over Thanksgiving.  Halving it did not serve 4 people very well.  However, it was fantastic and great use of a bottle of wine that my family deemed a dud.  My dad wanted to throw the wine away but it turned into a great sauce.  Even my brother said that the meal was good, which is a very rare occurrence.  I served the wine soaked veggies with the meal, since they were tasty and even my brother ate them.  I thought it would be a waste not to serve them.  i did however have trouble poaching/presenting the eggs.  They did not look as pretty as eggs in pictures always do, but they were cooked perfectly.  I still need to get better at keeping the whites together.  I even swirled the liquid and followed all recommended techniques.  And then when we were trying to photograph, the eggs slid out of the whites and made for less pretty pictures.  But it was already pretty ugly due to the color of the wine.  That's okay, it tasted good and the eggs were perfectly done.  It was altogether a good meal.
Oeufs en Meurette
If you wish to halve this recipe, make sure to adjust your large shallow pan size accordingly so that you have enough depth for poaching your eggs. The poached eggs and the meurette sauce can be made up to a day in advance. Just take care store the poached eggs in a bowl of water in the fridge, and the meurette sauce can be easily reheated.
8 eggs (size is your choice)
1 bottle red wine (750ml/25 fl. oz.)
2 cups (400ml/16 fl. oz.) chicken stock*‡
1 onion, sliced
1 carrot, sliced
1 celery stalk, sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
Bouquet garni (thyme, parsley, bay leaf)
½ tsp. (2 ½ ml/3g) black peppercorns
2 Tbl. (30 ml/30g) butter°
¼ lb. (115g) mushrooms, sliced
¼ lb (115g) bacon, diced‡
16 pearl onions, peeled (200g/7oz.)
Vegetable oil for frying
8 slices of baguette, ¼” (6mm) thick
2 Tbl. (30 ml/30g) butter, room temp.°
2 Tbl. (30 ml/20g) flour *
salt and pepper
*for gluten free make sure to use gluten free stock and gluten free flour
‡ for vegetarian use vegetable stock, and omit bacon.
° for dairy free use a dairy free margarine.
Other notes on ingredients:
• You can use salted or unsalted butter, you will just have to adjust your “salt & pepper to taste” accordingly. I use unsalted.
• As this is a Burgundian dish, a full-bodied red wine like a pinot noir is a great wine to use for this dish. Anne Willan recommends a fruity red wine and I personally love the way a bold pinot noir works with this sauce, though you certainly can use whatever you like best. She also notes that you can make ouefs au mersault. Mersault is the famed white wine region of Bourgogne, and is generally made using chardonnay grapes, so it would be ok to choose a white wine if you want (though I have never tried it with white). No matter what wine you choose, make sure it is not too dry nor too sweet.
• To make a bouquet garni, just take the herbs (a few sprigs of each) and tie them together into a little bundle. Since the sauce will reduce for a while, it’s ok if you don’t have the fresh herbs – there will be time for flavor to come out of dried ones (for ex. fresh bay leaf may be hard to find). Alternatively, if you don’t have a way to tie them, you could just add the whole sprigs/bay leaves to the sauce and then just make sure to remove them when the sauce is done reducing.
1. Heat wine and stock together in a large pan and poach eggs a couple at a time for 3-4 min. Yolks should be firming but still a little soft. Set them aside.
2. Add the veggies, herbs, and peppercorns to the poaching liquid and let the sauce simmer until reduced to half volume. This will become the meurette sauce.
3. In a separate large skillet, melt 1 tbs. (15ml/15g) of the butter on medium-high heat and sauté the mushrooms until soft and then set aside. Add in another 1 tbs. (15ml/15g) butter and the bacon, frying until browned, then set aside on a paper towel. Turn down the heat to medium, add in the pearl onions and sauté until softened and browned. Then drain off the fat and add the bacon and mushrooms back to the pan and set aside off the heat for the moment.
4. In a medium skillet, heat a few tbs. of oil and then fry the baguette slices until browned on each side. Add more oil as needed. Set the fried bread (croûtes) on a paper towel and then place on a baking sheet in an oven that is set to 200F/95C/gas mark 1/4 or whatever your lowest setting is to keep them warm.
5. Blend 2 Tbl. (30ml/30g) butter and flour together to form a paste of sorts that will be used as the thickener for the sauce. Whisk this into the reduction sauce until the sauce starts to thicken.
Strain the sauce over the skillet of mushrooms, bacon and onions, and return the skillet to heat, bringing to a boil. Season with salt & pepper to taste, then set aside again.
6. Reheat the eggs by placing them in hot water for a quick minute. To serve, plate a poached egg on top of a croûte, and then ladle some of the mushrooms/bacon/onions and sauce on top.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Swedish Cardamom Bread

I've heard of cardamom as a major spice used around Christmas time for Scandinavian baked goods.  And since I acquired Fancy White Cardamom pods this summer, I've been looking forward to making a good authentic Swedish Cardamom bread.  I found one online that was passed to a guy by his grandparents and I thought that sounded reasonable.  I tried it and somehow it reminds me of Christmas morning even though no on in my family cooks with cardamom or is Swedish.  But the cardamom and bread right out of the oven are warming, which is something all Christmas breakfasts aim to be.  And Christmas is the time of the sweet spices (probably because they are warming), which is also familiar even if the specific spice isn't.  Then again, cardamom is in apple pie spice and that comes up a lot.

So clearly it's a braided bread.  This isn't hard though.  Just separate the bread into 3 sections and make sure they are thin enough to work with, I think mine were about 1 inch diameter, then braid in the regular way, closing the ends together at the end.  Also note, I found it weird that there was only one rise for the bread, and it didn't rise much during it.  It did however puff up once it was in the oven.

I would however, recommend cutting back on the cardamom is you use pods and grind them yourself like I did.  It had a pretty intense flavor, which somewhat overpowered the bready goodness, which is something I greatly appreciate.  I also baked it for significantly longer than the recipe called for, I think around 32 minutes.

Also, since I'm in Atlanta and not, say Sweden, I had to add about half a cup of extra flour to be able to work with the dough.  Even in cold weather, there's a lot of moisture in the air.

Here's the recipe.  There is no point in me recopying it, the story and my adjustments are what count.  But my adjustments are not adjustments everyone should make, just people who grind their own cardamom and live in humid climates.  However, the baking extra time is recommended, most likely.  Also, I used an oven, not a bread machine, and hence the traditional recipe.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Christmas Cookies

Although I usually love baking, when Christmas comes around, I'm usually a candy maker.  I also do not prefer spice cookies, largely because they are often heavy on the ginger and molasses, ginger which I can take in small doses or in savory foods and molasses which I prefer to avoid.  But Tuesday I decided to make cookies.  I had some plans, all of which required getting extra ingredients, but it was 23 when I got up, so I decided to try to bake with what I had instead.  Which, based on my spice cabinet, is spice cookies.  My favorites were probably the tea cookies.  I used Samurai Chai Mate from Teavana, though the recipe calls for Lady Grey, I decided to use what I had and I thought Chai sounded good and Christmasy.  I could see Jasmine working in spring.  The picture (which admittedly is a little fuzzy) is what I had left today, mostly the Chocolate Box cookies.  All were pretty easy and I managed to bake all of them start to finish except for dipping all of the Chocolate Box cookies in less than 4 hours, plus a good deal of the cleanup.

Chocolate Box Cookies (makes about 50)
1 1/2 c self rising flour
1/4 c cocoa powder
1 tsp apple pie spice (I used a heaping half teaspoon of cinnamon, slightly more than a 1/8 tsp of allspice, 1/8 tsp nutmeg, 1/8 tsp ginger and a dash of cardamom)
1/4 c unsalted butter at room temperature
generous 1/2 c caster sugar (I used 1/2 c regular and it was fine), oh and generous means plus 2 Tbsp per cup
1 egg
1 egg yolk (in other news, I need to make meringues because I have 9 egg whites in my freezer)
For decorating:
Milk Chocolate
Dark Chocolate
White chocolate
Cocoa powder, almonds, cinnamon, etc

  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Put flour, cocoa powder, spice and butter in a food processor (or use your hands).  Process until thorougly blended  Add sugar, egg, egg yolk, and mix into smooth dough.
  3. Turn dough to a lightly floured surface and knead gently.  Cut the dough in half (I actually used fourths because I misread "lightly" as "well" and pushed the flour to the other side of my cutting board and therefore worked on a smaller surface) and roll each piece in the palms of your hands (misread that too) to form two logs 13 inches long.
  4. Cut into 1/2 slices (this may even be too thick if you really want to make these look like chocolate box pieces, which is the goal).  place slices on greased baking sheet.  Chill for at least 30 minutes (oops, I missed this part completely).
  5. Bake for 10 minutes until slightly risen. Transfer to wire rack to cool.
  6. Decorate by melting chocolate and dipping, drizzling and otherwise making pretty as you see fit.  I really don't think you need instructions for this.  Just make them pretty as you want them to look.
Spicy Pepper Cookies (makes about 48)
Quick note: These don't have raw eggs so I tasted the dough and was worried about the amount of pepper I added, but after baking, it became more subtle.  Though I would recommend tasting the dough to make sure none of the flavors are too weak.

1 3/4 c flour
1/2 c cornstarch (oops, I missed this, but I'm sure it's for the texture and I liked the texture they ended up)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp allspice
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 c butter at room temperature
scant (I just unpacked) 1/3 c brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp lemon zest
1/4 c whipping cream
3/4 c finely ground almonds
  1. Preheat oven to 350.  Sift together flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and spices.
  2. Cream together butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in vanilla and lemon zest.
  3. Add the flour mixture, alternating with the cream (it's hard to alternate when there is only a 1/4 cup, but I added it in 2 additions), starting and ending with the flour mixture.  FYI, I know this is terrible form, but to save myself an extra bowl, I measured the flour, added some at a time and 2-3 of the other ingredients at each addition.  It worked fine, though not perfect.  And I missed the cornstarch.
  4. Stir in the ground almonds.
  5. Shape dough into 3/4 inch balls (I assumed that was radius, based on the picture in the book, and with that assumption, I got 41, which is about right considering I forgot the cornstarch)
  6. Bake on ungreased (my sheet had a little leftover grease from the chocolate box cookies) baking sheet about 1 inch apart.  Bake 15-20 minutes until golden brown underneath.
  7. Leave cookies on the sheets for about a minute to firm up before transferring to a metal rack to cool.
Tea Finger Cookies
10 Tbsp unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2 c light brown sugar
1-2 Tbsp tea leaves (the book says Lady Grey, but use whatever)
1 egg, beaten
1 3/4 c flour
demerara (raw) sugar for sprinkling, though I used turbiando since someone gave it to me, so that's what i had
  1. Beat butter and sugar until light and creamy.  Stir in tea leaves until well combined.  Beat in egg, then carefully fold in flour.
  2. Using your hands, roll the dough on a lightly floured surface into a cylinder about 9 inches long
  3. Gently press down on the top of the dough cylinder, wrap in plastic wrap and refridgerate for about an hour until dough is thin enough to slice.
  4. Preheat oven to 375
  5. Using a sharp knife (even better, a floured knife), cut dough cylinder into 1/4 inch slices.  Place parchment paper on 2-3 baking sheets and lay the slices on the baking sheet, slightly apart.
  6. Sprinkle cookies with a little demerara sugar and bake for 10-15 minutes until lightly browned.  Remove from oven and remove from pan and cool on a wire rack.