Thursday, August 11, 2016

double chocolate almond biscotti

Biscotti with coffee or cappuccino is one of my favorite combinations.  The crisp biscotti dipped into the coffee to soften it slightly is just great.  This recipe is called double chocolate as it contains cocoa and chocolate chips but to be honest I don't always have chocolate chips on hand and when I don't I still make them but omit the chips.  Sometimes I have the chips but no nuts and I have omitted them as well and they still are terrific. 

Biscotti is a type of Italian cookie that is baked twice.  The dough is formed into a low, long loaf and baked until set.  Then, after cooling for a few minutes the baked loaves are sliced diagonally into one-half inch wide slices and them the slices are baked again to dry them out and crisp them.  Dry and crunchy.  Perfect for dunking.

There are tons of recipes with seemingly unlimited number of flavors and add ins, dried fruit, nuts, chips.  This recipe is chocolate, with chocolate chips and toasted almonds.

double chocolate almond biscotti

2 cups flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped
3/4 cup chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350°.  Sift together the flour, cocoa, soda and salt into a small bowl.  Then mix together the eggs, sugar and extracts.  Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients.  If too sticky water can be added a tablespoon at a time.  Add the nuts and chocolate chips.  Divide the dough in half and roll each portion into a long log on a lightly floured board.  Place the two rolls on a parchment lined baking sheet and flatten slightly making a longish oblong loaf.  Bake 25 minutes.  Remove from oven and cool 15 minutes.  Lift each loaf onto a cutting board and using a serrated knife cut each loaf diagonally in 1/2 inch wide slices.  Place the slices cut side down back on the parchment lined pan and return to the oven to bake an additional 20-30 minutes turning the pan midway thru the baking time.  Mine are usually done in 20 minutes.  Once cooled completely they can be stored in an airtight container.  They can be drizzled with melted chocolate or dipped either one end or one edge in chocolate and chilled until the chocolate is firm.        

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Frozen Zabaglione

Zabaglione is an Italian dessert custard made with egg yolks, sugar and sweet wine.  It is also known as Sabayon, Zabayon, Zabajone or Zabaione.    The recipe that I found is frozen.  Often it is served topped with berries or stone fruits.                                                                                                                                                                        
The process is pretty easy.  The egg yolks, sugar and wine is combined in a double boiler or Bain-marie.  It is cooked and stirred until thickened and then placed in a ice water bath to cool.  When cooked to room temperature heavy cream which has been whipped is mixed in and then the the custard is placed in a shallow dish and placed in the freezer for at least 8 hours. 

Frozen Zabaglione

6 large egg yolks
3/4 cup dessert wine
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup heavy cream, softly whipped
few drops fresh lemon juice

Prepare an ice bath, a large bowl with ice and water.  Place the yolks, sugar and wine in the double boiler and whisk together.  Place the double boiler over water at a low boil, whisking continuously until it thickens and holds its shape for a few seconds when you drop it off the whisk onto the surface of the mixture.  Do not overcook.  It may take 8 minutes to reach the desired thickness.  Remove the bowl from the boiling water and place the bowl in the ice water bath.  Stir occasionally while it cools to room temperature.  When cool fold in the whipped cream and the lemon juice and then place the mixture in a shallow dish and cover and freeze for 8 hours.

Original recipe from here.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

French Macarons

I have been practicing making macarons and trying different recipes and techniques with the hope of mastering this cookie.  I have a pinterest board devoted to strictly macarons and there are 56 pins including some videos.  I figured if a preteen girl can make these on video I should be able to learn it as well. In one of the videos the many places where failure could happen were elaborated.  Wrong proportion of ingredients, meringue too stiff or not stiff enough, over mixing or under mixing the almond flour/powdered sugar mixture into the meringue, improper baking--any of these could cause no feet, spreading feet, hollow centers, cracked tops, or not level tops.  To be truthful, I have experienced all of those failures and each time I tried something new.  Here is what worked for me.

1.  I have a stand mixer with a large bowl and I had trouble getting my meringue to work with three egg whites.  I eventually tried doubling the recipe and with the larger quantity of egg whites my meringue turned out great, lots of volume and nice moderately stiff peaks.

2.  My oven has a convection fan that can be used and I found that I had better results with the fan off and just the bake setting. 

3.  When baking the macarons I preheated the oven to 375 and when it was at temperature I lowered the temperature to 350 as I put the pan in.   When I took the pan out I reheated the oven back to 375 and when it was again hot I put the next pan in and lowered the temp again.

4.  I have good quality, heavy baking sheets and even with those I found that I had better success when I stacked two pans together in the oven.  I also used the rack in the lower part of the oven and baked them one set of stacked pans at a time.

5..  Once the macaron batter is ready a piping bag is used to pipe the macarons onto a parchment lined baking sheet.  The baking sheet is then rapped firmly on a flat surface, first one end and then the other.  The macarons rest for at least fifteen minutes until the tops are slightly dry to the touch before baking.  The dried tops allows the top to raise as one piece forming the feet during the baking.

6.  After baking I allowed the macarons to partially cool on the baking sheet and then slid the parchment off of the pan and left the macarons to cool completely on the parchment.  Once they are fully cooled they can be gently peeled off the parchment.

7.  The last step is to match up similar sized macarons and make sandwich cookies with piped buttercream or ganache between.  They filled cookies should be refrigerated for 12-24 hours after assembling before eating for the best taste and texture.  The aged cookies should have a crisp outer shell and a moist chewy center.

French Macarons

170 grams almond flour or finely ground almonds
300 grams confectioners sugar
egg whites from 6 large eggs
110 grams granulated sugar

Place the egg whites in mixer and begin beating.  Mix on medium speed until frothy then slowly add the granulated sugar.  Increase the mixer speed to medium high and whip until moderately stiff peaks.  Meanwhile place the confectioners sugar and ground almonds in a food processor and process.  Sift the mixture and discard any larger particles.  Add one half of the dry mixture to the eggs and fold together.  Add the remaining dry mixture and fold 15 or 20 times until incorporated and the mixture flows off the spatula in a thick ribbon and slowly levels itself in the bowl.  Do not over mix.  If the mixture remains mounded fold one or two more times.  If coloring is to be added to the batter it should be added at the start of the folding so that no additional folding or stirring is required to incorporate the color.  The color will fade slightly during the baking so add a little more coloring than you think that you will need.

Fill  a piping bag with a large round tip and pipe small mounds on the parchment lined sheet.  The mounds should spread slightly and flatten.  Grasp the cookie sheet with both hands on one end and rap the other end firmly on a table or countertop.  Swap ends and rap the other end too. Allow the filled sheet to rest for at least 15 minutes, preferably 30-60 minutes.  . 

Preheat the oven to 375.  When preheated place the cookie sheet on another cookie sheet and place the stacked sheets in the oven on a low rack.  Reduce the temperature to 350 and bake for 15-18 minutes removing them from the oven before they brown. 

Buttercream filling

1 stick butter
Confectioners sugar
1/4 teaspoon almond or vanilla extract

Place the softened butter in the bowl of a food processor. Add confectioners sugar and pulse.  Check the consistency and add more sugar until a soft consistency that will pipe easily but still hold its shape.  Too stiff and the filling may damage the fragile cookies.  Pipe filling onto the underside of one macaron and top with a similarly sized macaron.  Allow the filled cookies to age in the refrigerator 12-24 hours and up to 3 days.  Can be frozen.   

Adapted from here utilizing tips from here and here.

Monday, May 18, 2015

homemade payday bars

Payday candy bars are a favorite.  I like the combination of sweet and salty.  These couldn't be easier to make. 
the finished candy bars

bottom layer--dry roasted peanuts in a buttered pan

pb chips and butter melting

in goes the sweetened condensed milk


marshmallows and chip mixture

middle layer--marshmallow peanut butter chip mix tops the nuts

top layer--peanuts pressed onto the middle layer

Homemade payday bars

16 ounces dry roasted peanuts
2 cups peanut butter chips
3 Tbsp butter
14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
10.5 ounce bag mini marshmallows
1-2 Tbsp flaked sea salt

Butter a 9x13 cake pan.  Place 1/2 of the dry roasted peanuts in the bottom of the pan.  Melt the peanut butter chips and the butter in a microwave or double boiler.  If using the microwave heat in 30 second intervals at 50% power, stirring after each until melted.  Add the sweetened condensed milk.  Microwave on high for one more minute and stir until smooth.  Fold in the marshmallows until the marshmallows are coated with the peanut butter mixture.  Pour over the nuts and spread out pressing the remaining nuts over the top surface.  Top with flakes sea salt and chill for one hour.  Cut into squares.

Source: here

Sunday, May 17, 2015

homemade butterfinger bars

I am serving supper for a meeting and wanted to have a trio of bite size desserts to serve to our meeting members.  I decided on homemade candy bars.  This is a recipe that I had pinned quite a while ago but have not tried yet.  I am a Butterfinger fan.  This recipe uses only three ingredients.  Two are melted together and patted into a glass baking pan.  Once they have cooled they are coated in the third ingredient and allowed to set.  The three ingredients?  Candy corn, peanut butter and milk chocolate chips.  The original recipe called for melting the candy corn in a microwave.  My microwave is not working right now and I am trying to decide before I repair it if I really need one as I rarely use it.  So I used a double boiler.  It seemed to take forever for the candy to melt but once it does, the peanut butter is added.  I left my pan on the stove while the peanut butter melted and was incorporated into the candy corn as it seemed that the melted candy needed a little more heat to melt the peanut butter. 
candy corn and peanut butter
 Once it was incorporated I placed it in a parchment lined glass 8 inch square pan and pressed it into an even layer.   When I got to actually dipping the centers I was thinking that my pieces were thicker than a true butterfinger and I cut some of them in half.  Next time I will try a 9 inch square pan to see if that is a nicer thickness for the center.  `
the cooling center mixture
The original recipe called for allowing it to cool and then using a pizza cutter to cut into bars.  I let it cool for a while but while it was still warm I lifted the parchment out of the pan and used my bench scraper to cut it into pieces and then let it finish cooling. 

I used my chocolate melter to melt the chocolate chips and then I dipped the cool centers into the chocolate, coating all sides and allowing most of the excess to drip back into the pan.  I them placed the coated centers on parchment to allow the coating to set. 
finished candy bars

Homemade butterfinger candy bars

3 cups candy corn candies
1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter

2 cups milk chocolate chips or candy melts

Melt the candy corn.  This took a long time in the double boiler.  Add the peanut butter to the warm melted candy and the heat of the candy corn should melt the peanut butter but if it does not put it back on the heat or in the microwave for a little longer.  Stir to thoroughly combine.  Press the center mixture into a parchment lined square pan and allow to cool.  While still warm cut into bars.  Once the centers are cool dip them into the melted Chocolate. 

source: here

homemade twix cookies

I found these candy bar cookies on facebook and they couldn't be easier.  The base is a shortbread cookie cut with a cookie cutter.  I used a circle but they could just as easily be cut with a pizza cutter into strips and then the strips cut into shorter lengths to make a shape more resembling the candy bar.  Once baked and cooked, caramel candies are melted with a little bit of evaporated milk and applied to the cookies.  There was a little bit of a learning curve.  I was thinking that I could apply  the correct amount to the center of a few cookies and come back later to spread it into a nice circle but it started setting up immediately.  I will next time do one cookie at a time.  Once the caramel is set chocolate chips are melted with a small amount of shortening.  The melted chocolate is placed on top of the caramel and allowed to set up.  If you are in a hurry you can place the cookies in the refrigerator to set the chocolate but mine set up just fine at room temperature.  I am thinking that a squeeze bottle for might work for both the caramel and the chocolate to apply neatly on the cookie as long as you could keep it warm and free flowing.  Might be worth a try. 

the finished product

baking the cookes

melting the caramels

applying the caramel layer

Homemade Twix candy bar cookies

Shortbread cookie layer
1 1/2 cups butter (3 sticks)
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt.

Caramel layer
15 ounce bag of caramels, unwrapped
2 Tbsp evaporated milk

Chocolate layer
2 cups milk chocolate chips
2 tsp shortening

Preheat oven to 350 .  Cream together the butter and powdered sugar.  Add the vanilla.  Add the flour and salt and mix until thoroughly combined.  I used my stand mixer but a hand mixer, food processor and a bowl and spoon would all work.  Roll out the dough rather thickly, 1/4 to 3/8 inch thick and cut into desired shapes.  Place on parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 14-16 minutes.  Once cool, melt the caramels with the evaporated milk in a double boiler or microwave.  Next time I will try my chocolate melter for the caramels and see if that will work.  When the caramel is set melt the chocolate chips and shortening and apply to the top of the caramel and allow to harden.    

Source: here