Saturday, January 22, 2011

Shortbread Cookies Dipped in Chocolate

I am heading to a baby shower tomorrow and need to bring a dessert. I decided to make cookies but wanted to make something different that I haven't made about shortbread? I went ahead and made a basic recipe which a friend gave me a while back with some of my own tweaks incorporated -- like dipping them in chocolate with pink sprinkles! My friend Erika knows she is having a baby girl and I had some pink sprinkles in the house -- it was perfect. These came out great and the extra chocolate that was left over I spread onto wax paper and made into shapes -- I can use these as toppers to cupcakes or a cake another day.

Shortbread Recipe
My original recipe

2 ½ cups of cake flour
1 cup of room temperature butter
½ cup confectioners sugar
2 tsp vanilla
½ cup chocolate chips
¼ sprinkles of your choice

Directions: Mix butter and sugar in an electric mixer or by hand until well combined. Add vanilla and mix again until smooth and fluffy. Add all the cake flour and mix until completely combined. Take a 20" long sheet of wax or parchment paper and lay flat on a counter. Pour all of the dough into the center of paper and shape into a rectangle. Fold over half the paper and smooth the rectangle out until it is about a ½" thick and about 3 inches high. Fold over the sides and top of wax paper and mold into a smooth edged rectangle and refrigerate for 2-4 hours. When you are ready to bake the cookies, take the dough out of the refrigerator and preheat oven to 350°. Cut the dough into ¼" slices and place on an ungreased cookie sheet about an inch apart. Bake for 16-18 minutes or until the edges are almost browned. You don't want the cookies to brown too much instead keep there light color. Remove the cookies from the oven and place them on a cooling rack. Let cookies cool completely before dipping into chocolate.

After mixing all the ingredients together, I molded the shortbread into a ½" thick rectangle.

Once the dough is chilled, dice it up into ¼" thick slices.

To make the chocolate dipping sauce, place the chocolate chips in the microwave for one minute and then mix with a metal spoon. If it is not melted enough, put in microwave for another 30 seconds and mix again. You can then start dipping the cooled cookies in the chocolate and place on a waxed sheet of paper. Sprinkle your topping choice on the chocolate part before it dries.

Finished cookies.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Pear Frangipane Crostata

I needed to bring a dessert to our friends house for a potluck dinner tonight. So, I was browsing through my binder which contains printed recipes that catch my attention on-line or either that I rip out of my magazines. This recipe for a Pear Frangipane Crostata looked yummy and I have never made anything like this before. Plus, I had all the ingredients I needed at home already -- minus the almond paste which was super expensive ($6 for a 7 ounce tube!) I made my own pie crust for the first time which really wasn't hard to make if you own a food processor. The Crostata came out great and we served it with Tahitian vanilla ice cream. This recipe is a keeper!

Perfect Piecrust
Recipe complements of Ladies Home Journal magazine
Prep: 15 min

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp sugar
12 tbsp (1 ½ sticks) cold, unsalted butter, cut into pieces
¼ cup chilled shortening
1 Tbsp white vinegar
½ cup very cold water

Directions: In a food processor, pulse together the flour, salt and sugar. Add the butter and shortening. Pulse 8 to 10 times or until mixture is coarse crumbs and some of the butter is pea-size. (Alternately, combine in a bowl using a pastry blender or a fork.) In a measuring cup, combine vinegar with ½ cup cold water. While pulsing processor, drizzle in just enough water mixture to form dough, 5 to 8 tbsp. (Dough may be slightly dry but will hold together when you pinch it.) Halve dough, wrap in plastic wrap and press into disks. Chill 1 hour or until ready to use. May be frozen for up to 2 months.

Pear Frangipane Crostata
Recipe complements of Ladies Home Journal magazine
Prep: 35 min, Start to finish: 1 hr 15 min
All assembled and ready for the oven.
4 oz almond paste
2 eggs
4 tsp cornstarch
 tsp salt
1 single crust of Perfect Piecrust (see recipe above)
3 pears, cored, cut into 1/2-inch slices
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp apricot preserves
¼ cup sliced almonds, toasted
Directions: Heat oven to 375° with rack in the lower third. In a food processor, combine almond paste, 1 egg, cornstarch and salt until completely blended. Roll crust on flour-dusted parchment into a 12- to 13-inch circle. Spread almond mixture in the center, leaving a 2-inch space around the edge. Toss pears with lemon juice and arrange on top of almond mixture. Gently fold over crust edge,pleating, just covering edges of pears. Transfer crostata, on parchment, to a baking sheet. Whisk remaining egg and brush edge of crust with a little egg wash. Bake until crust is deep golden and pears are soft, about 40 min; cover crostata loosely with foil for the last 10 min to prevent over browning. Heat apricot preserves and brush over pears. Sprinkle with almonds and serve warm or cooled. Makes 6 servings.
All dressed and ready for the party.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

3-Course Meal

For three years while our dining room was being renovated, we really didn't have too many people over for dinner. Honestly, who really enjoys eating a nice dinner on their lap? So now that our dining room is done, I just love having people over for dinner. Since it was a holiday yesterday and I didn't have to work, we had some friends over for a dinner. We had a three-course meal -- for starter I made a Roasted Pear Spinach Salad and two loaves of homemade french bread, for the main course it was Beer-Can Roasted Chicken with sweet potatoes and onion and for dessert a Creme Brulee with berries on the side. I used three different recipes, two which I found in the magazines I was reading this week (Better Home and Gardens and Martha Stewart Living) and one from on-line. The salad and chicken recipes are definitely keepers but I may have to try a different Creme Brulee recipe next time. Here they are:

Roasted Pear Spinach Salad
Recipe by Stonewall Kitchen Winter Celebrations cookbook

Ingredients: (original recipe calls for ciabatta bread and blue cheese but I made my own french bread. For full recipe click on link above)
1 teaspoon butter
2 pears
1 ½ teaspoons sugar
½ cup sliced almonds
1 cup dried cranberries
⅓ cup cider vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
6 ounces baby spinach

Directions: Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Grease baking sheet with butter. Core pears and cut each into 8 wedges; toss with sugar and place on baking sheet, cut sides down. Bake 15 minutes until soft and browned on undersides. Transfer to waxed paper to cool. Place almonds on an ungreased baking sheet and toast 3 to 5 minutes, then transfer to a bowl. Stir in half of the cranberries and set aside. Meanwhile, in blender, combine the remaining cranberries, vinegar, honey, and mustard. Blend until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. With blender running, add ⅓ cup oil in a slow steady stream. In a bowl, toss together the spinach, half the almond mixture, and vinaigrette to taste. Divide greens among tumblers; top with pears, toasts, and additional almond mixture. Serve immediately.
Beer-Can Roasted Chicken with Fig-Jam Pan Sauce
Recipe by
Prep: 15 minutes Total: 1 hour 20 minutes, Serves 4 to 6

Chicken before adding the sweet potatoes and then going into the oven.
Ingredients: (I unfortunately could not find fig jam so substituted it with Apricot Jam. Also, I added sweet potatoes and onions to this recipe)
1 whole chicken (about 4 1/2 pounds)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
Coarse salt
1 can stout, such as Guinness
1 small bunch fresh thyme
¼ cup water
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons fig jam
My additions: 3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1" cubes and one medium Spanish onion thinly sliced

Directions: Preheat oven to 450 degrees, with rack in lowest position. Pat chicken dry with paper towels. Rub skin with butter, and season with salt. Pour out ½ cup stout from can; reserve. Poke holes in top of can using a church key. Place thyme in can, and set in a large ovenproof skillet (I used a roasting pan). Place chicken over can, balancing legs to keep it standing like a tripod. Toss the sweet potatoes and onions in olive oil and spread on the bottom of the pan with the chicken.

Carefully transfer chicken to oven, breast side first. Roast for 20 minutes. Baste with pan juices. Roast, basting twice, until juices run clear and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of a thigh reaches 155 degrees, about 25 minutes more.
Carefully remove skillet from oven. (Steady chicken with 1 hand, using paper towels or mitts to protect your hand.) Let chicken rest (it will continue to cook) until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of a thigh reaches 165 degrees, about 10 minutes, then remove from can. Let chicken rest for 10 minutes before serving.
Meanwhile, discard can, and pour pan juices into a cup; skim fat. Return juices to skillet over medium-high heat. Pour in reserved ½ cup stout, and bring to a simmer, scraping up brown bits. Mix together water and flour. Whisk into skillet. Boil for 1 minute. Whisk in jam. Simmer until thick, about 2 minutes. Serve chicken with sauce.
As for the Dessert recipe, since it is not a keeper in my book, I am not going to display the entire recipe however, it is available here.