Monthly Archives: December 2008

holiday hangover

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while christmas may be over, i am still in the holiday spirit (known as after-christmas shopping!). since i didn’t get to see some of my high school friends before christmas, i’m having some belated gift exchanges this week. hence the prolonged baking spree (yes!). here is one recipe i baked before but never documented– so of course, i had to make it again.

this cranberry pistachio biscotti is perfection. a crumbly-crunchy-buttery perfection. it’s not too sweet or overcomplicated. the bursts of tart cranberry and roasted pistachio come out in every bite.

i did alter the recipe a bit with the addition of more cranberries, pistachios, butter (you know, all the good stuff) and some orange zest. make these cookies– the next christmas is only 362 days away. 

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Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti
adapted from Martha Stewart

2/3 cup dried cranberries
½ cup boiling water
3 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling
1 teaspoon orange zest
3 large eggs, plus 1 for brushing loaves
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
¾ cup pistachios
12 ounces white chocolate, melted 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.

Place cranberries in a small bowl; add boiling water. Let stand until plump, about 15 minutes. Drain, and set aside.

Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the orange zest and then the 3 eggs, one at a time, beating to incorporate after each addition and scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in vanilla. Add flour mixture, and mix on low speed until combined. Mix in cranberries and pistachios.  

Turn out dough onto a floured surface (dough will be rather sticky); divide in half. Shape each piece into a 16-by-2-inch log, and transfer to prepared baking sheet, about 3 inches apart. With the palm of your hand, flatten logs slightly. Brush beaten egg over surface of the dough logs, and sprinkle generously with sugar.

Bake, rotating sheet halfway through, until logs are slightly firm to touch, about 20-25 minutes. Transfer logs on parchment paper to a wire rack to cool slightly, about 10-15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees.

Place logs on a cutting board. Using a serrated knife, cut logs crosswise on the diagonal into ½-inch-thick slices. Place a wire rack on a large rimmed baking sheet. Arrange slices, cut sides down, on rack. Bake until firm to touch, about 15 minutes. Remove pan from oven; let biscotti cool completely on rack. Biscotti can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

Can be dipped in the melted white chocolate for a special touch.

Yield: 3 dozen

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gingerbread fest

as promised, here are the lovely gingerbread masterpieces created from the hands of myself, my sister, and my 10-year old brother. 

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brother's, sister's, mine

Gingerbread Dough

1 cup light corn syrup
½ cup firmly packed brown sugar
½ cup butter
4 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon ginger
1 tablespoon cinnamon

In a small pan, cook corn syrup, brown sugar and butter over medium heat, stirring until smooth and cool.

In a large bowl, combine flour, ginger, and cinnamon.  Whisk together.  Add corn syrup mixture, stirring until dough forms.  Chill dough for at least an hour. 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  On a lightly floured surface, roll dough to about 1/4-inch thick rectangle.  The dough is stiff and hard to roll but your biceps will survive.  Cut templates and place on baking sheets.  Bake for 15-20 minutes until the edges are just browned.  Let cool slightly on sheets before transferring to racks.  Let cookies cool completely before construction and decoration.

Meringue Icing

1 pound confectioners’ sugar
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
2 egg whites
¼ cup boiling water

In a bowl, combine the confectioners’ sugar, cream of tartar and egg whites.  Whisk together until combined.  Slowly add the boiling water one tablespoon at a time.  Beat until icing forms stiff peaks.  Use generously for house

Yield: one 5 x 4 x 6 inch house + 2-3 extra figures

we decorated our little houses to a diabetic heart’s content. 
my favorites: my cookie crisp rooftop,  my brother’s pretzel fence, and my sister’s rooftop scaling gingerbread man, GINGY. this is one family tradition i never get tired of.

MERRY CHRISTMAS eve and happy 23rd anniversary to my parents… don’t forget to leave cookies & milk for santa tonight!

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cookies galore!

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so in my last post i mentioned cookies yet did not follow up with a single recipe (i thought the sticky buns were enough to induce a sufficient sugar coma). but as promised, this post is purely dedicated to COOKIES! 

maybe it’s because they appeal to the childhood hearts of old and young but cookies are my go-to baking treats. they’re easy to put together, easy to eat, and simply indulgent to a fault!  as a little girl, i loved helping to bake cookies with my mom as it is so friendly for little hands– ok, enough gushing let’s get to the good stuff!

Above are the basic Peanut Butter Blossoms with a twist.  We ran out of Hershey kisses so instead substituted with CRUNCH bells and mini marshmallows + Hershey’s chocolate (kinda like a jazzy smores cookie!)  definitely an upgrade for the holidays.

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for my brother’s 5th grade teacher and our neighbor, i decided to bake two recipes i’ve been dying to try: Martha Stewart’s Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti and Alton Brown’s Paradise Macaroons.  then to top it all off we (my brother and i) made his favorite Linzer Cookies for his whole class. too many cookies? never.

sadly there are NO pictures (i know, i’m kicking myself in the tuckus for that laziness) i promise they were all delicious– quality recipes that produced perfect holiday cookies.

on another cookie note, last night was our annual GINGERBREAD house night!

post on that to come. promise!

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home for the holidays

the best part about coming back home as a college student is the lure of gluttony. after living on frozen meals and cereal for the past 4 months, it’s good to stuff whatever food is in plain sight, just because you can! i’ve been baking up a storm these days. in particular, cookies, cookies, cookies… and  a sticky bun or two.

i'm hot, sticky sweeeet

i'm hot, sticky sweeeet

i followed the honey pecan sticky bun recipe by dorie greenspan and came out with these lovelies then proceeded to watch my family gobble up these goodies. personally, i have to say i still prefer good ole fashioned no-nuts cinnamon rolls with cream cheese frosting but these have definitely won a place in my sticky sweet heart.

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Pecan Honey Sticky Buns
from Dorie Greenspan, Baking: From My Home To Yours

For the Glaze:
1 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
¼ cup honey
1 ½ cups pecans (whole or
pieces)

For the Filling:
¼ cup sugar
3 tablespoons (packed) light brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

For the Buns:
½ recipe dough for Golden Brioche loaves (see below), chilled and ready to shape (make the full recipe and cut the dough in half after refrigerating it overnight)

Generously butter a 9-x-13-inch baking pan (a Pyrex pan is perfect for this).

To make the glaze: In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring the brown sugar, butter, and honey to a boil over medium-low heat, stirring frequently to dissolve the sugar. Pour the glaze into the buttered pan, evening it out as best you can by tilting the pan or spreading the glaze with a heatproof spatula. Sprinkle over the pecans.

To make the filling: Mix the sugars and cinnamon together in a bowl. If necessary, in another bowl, work the butter with a spatula until it is soft, smooth and spreadable.

To shape the buns: On a flour-dusted work surface, roll the chilled dough into a 16-inch square. Using your fingers or a pastry brush, spread the softened butter over the dough. Sprinkle the dough with the cinnamon sugar, leaving a 1-inch strip bare on the side farthest from you. Starting with the side nearest you, roll the dough into a cylinder, keeping the roll as tight as you can. (At this point, you can wrap the dough airtight and freeze it for up to 2 months. Or, if you want to make just part of the recipe now, you can use as much of the dough as you’d like and freeze the remainder. Reduce the glaze recipe accordingly).

With a chef’s knife, using a gentle sawing motion, trim just a tiny bit from the ends of the roll if they’re very ragged or not well filled, then cut the log into 1-inch thick buns. (Because you trim the ragged ends of the dough, and you may have lost a little length in the rolling, you will get 15 buns, not 16.) Fit the buns into the pan cut side down, leaving some space between them.

Lightly cover the pan with a clean dry dish towel and set the pan in a warm place until the buns have doubled in volume, about 1 hour and 45 minutes. The buns are properly risen when they are puffy, soft, doubled and, in all likelihood, touching one another.

Getting ready to bake: When the buns have almost fully risen, center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375F. Remove the dish towel and put the pan on a baking sheet.

Bake the sticky buns for about 30 minutes, or until they are puffed and gorgeously golden; the glaze will be bubbling away merrily. Pull the pan from the oven. The sticky buns must be unmolded minutes after they come out of the oven. If you do not have a rimmed platter large enough to hold them, use a baking sheet lined with a silicone mate or buttered foil. Be careful – the glaze is super-hot and super-sticky.

Golden Brioche Dough 
from Dorie Greenspan, Baking: From My Home To Yours

(This recipe makes enough for two brioche loaves. If you divide the dough in half, you would use half for the sticky buns, and you can freeze the other half for a later date, or make a brioche loaf out of it.)

2 packets active dry yeast (each packet of yeast contains approx. 2 ¼ teaspoons)
1/3 cup just-warm-to-the-touch water
1/3 cup just-warm-to-the-touch whole milk
3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
3 large eggs, at room temperature
¼ cup sugar
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature but still slightly firm

Glaze (you would brush this on brioche loaves, but not on the sticky buns):
1 large egg
1 tablespoon water

To Make The Brioche: Put the yeast, water and milk in the bowl of a stand mixer and, using a wooden spoon, stir until the yeast is dissolved. Add the flour and salt, and fit into the mixer with the dough hook, if you have one. Toss a kitchen towel over the mixer, covering the bowl as completely as you can– this will help keep you, the counter and your kitchen floor from being showered in flour. Turn the mixer on and off a few short pulses, just to dampen the flour (yes, you can peek to see how you’re doing), then remove the towel, increase the mixer speed to medium-low and mix for a minute or two, just until the flour is moistened. At this point, you’ll have a fairly dry, shaggy mess.
Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula, set the mixer to low and add the eggs, followed by the sugar. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat for about 3 minutes, until the dough forms a ball. Reduce the speed to low and add the butter in 2-tablespoon-size chunks, beating until each piece is almost incorporated before adding the next. You’ll have a dough that is very soft, almost like batter. Increase the speed to medium-high and continue to beat until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, about 10 minutes.
Transfer the dough to a clean bowl (or wash out the mixer bowl and use it), cover with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature until nearly doubled in size, 40 to 60 minutes, depending upon the warmth of your room.
Deflate the dough by lifting it up around the edges and letting it fall with a slap to the bowl. Cover the bowl with the plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator. Slap the dough down in the bowl every 30 minutes until it stops rising, about 2 hours, then leave the uncovered dough in the refrigerator to chill overnight.
(After this, you can proceed with the recipe to make the brioche loaves, or make the sticky buns instead, or freeze all or part of the dough for later use.)

The next day, butter and flour two 8 ½-x-4 ½-inch pans.
Pull the dough from the fridge and divide it into 2 equal pieces. Cut each piece of the dough into 4 equal pieces and roll each piece into a log about 3 ½ inches long. Arrange 4 logs crosswise in the bottom of each pan. Put the pans on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat, cover the pans lightly with wax paper and leave the loaves at room temperature until the dough almost fills the pans, 1 to 2 hours. (Again, rising time with depend on how warm the room is.)

Getting Ready To Bake: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400F.
To Make the Glaze: Beat the egg with the water. Using a pastry brush, gently brush the tops of the loaves with the glaze.
Bake the loaves until they are well risen and deeply golden, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer the pans to racks to cool for 15 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the pans and turn the loaves out onto the racks. Invert again and cool for at least 1 hour.

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