Christmas COOKIES!

Every year, for eight years now!, we host a cookie party.  Myself, my sister and my mom all plan a fabulous menu which always includes the famous Angel’s Breath Martini, a stocking stuffed with goodies to be guessed, a dirty Santa ornament exchange and of course a TO DIE FOR cookie recipe each.  All the ladies that come celebrate say it’s their favorite party, we all really have a lot of fun.  This year I made Chocolate Crinkle Cookies, and I have to say, they are the best cookie on earth of you are in to that whole chocolately flavor perfection with a crisp shell and soft yet chewy inside… IT’s a secret recipe from Cook’s Illustrated but I have it here for you guys!  I recommend using 1 tsp of instant coffee only and parchment paper is a must.  The dough needs to set for that 10 minutes and it’s very sticky- so use that scooper to plop it right into the granulated sugar and get it coated with sugar before try to form a ball.  I did bake one sheet at a time ( tripled the recipe) and did NOT need to rotate my pan around…

crinkle

 

Jason’s shot above

my iPhone shot of THREE DOZEN cookies!

CHOCOLATE CRINKLE COOKIES
From Cook’s Illustrated | November/December 2014

MAKES 22 COOKIES

Both natural and Dutch-processed cocoa will work in this recipe. Our favorite natural cocoa is Hershey’s Natural Cocoa Unsweetened; our favorite Dutch-processed cocoa is Droste Cocoa. Our preferred unsweetened chocolate is Hershey’s Unsweetened Baking Bar.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup (5 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (1 1/2 ounces) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups packed (10 1/2 ounces) brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1-4 teaspoons instant espresso powder (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) confectioners’ sugar

    INSTRUCTIONS

    1. 1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in bowl.

      2. Whisk brown sugar; eggs; espresso powder, if using; and vanilla together in large bowl. Combine chocolate and butter in bowl and microwave at 50 percent power, stirring occasionally, until melted, 2 to 3 minutes.

      3. Whisk chocolate mixture into egg mixture until combined. Fold in flour mixture until no dry streaks remain. Let dough sit at room temperature for 10 minutes.

      4. Place granulated sugar and confectioners’ sugar in separate shallow dishes. Working with 2 tablespoons dough (or use #30 scoop) at a time, roll into balls. Drop dough balls directly into granulated sugar and roll to coat. Transfer dough balls to confectioners’ sugar and roll to coat evenly. Evenly space dough balls on prepared sheets, 11 per sheet.

      5. Bake cookies, 1 sheet at a time, until puffed and cracked and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft (cookies will look raw between cracks and seem underdone), about 12 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through baking. Let cool completely on sheet before serving.

  • cookie placement
  • MAXIMIZING CHOCOLATE FLAVOR

    Both unsweetened bar chocolate and cocoa powder add chocolate flavor to our cookies because they contain cocoa solids, but they each have another less obvious way to boost the chocolate. Cocoa’s starch content allows us to cut back on flour, while the chocolate’s cocoa butter means we can use fewer tablespoons of dairy butter. And that translates to bigger, undiluted chocolate flavor. To amplify it further, we also add several teaspoons of espresso powder.

    HOW GRANULATED SUGAR CREATES MORE CRINKLES

    Most cookies have top crusts that remain relatively soft and flexible as the cookies set during baking. However, if the top surface dries out before the cookie is finished spreading and rising, it hardens, cracks, and pulls apart, producing an attractive crinkly, cracked exterior.

    While we found that multiple factors can affect how quickly the top dries out and thus how many cracks are formed (including the temperature of the dough and how rapidly it spreads in the oven), a simple tweak turned out to be key to producing a maximum number of fissures: rolling the balls of dough in granulated sugar before rolling them in powdered sugar.

    Coating the cookies with either type of sugar draws out moisture from their surface, promoting cracks by drying out their tops before the interiors set. But granulated sugar does so more efficiently because of its coarse, crystalline structure. As the crystals absorb moisture, some—but not all—dissolve into a syrup. As the cookies continue to bake, the moisture evaporates, and the sugar begins to recrystallize, a process that is accelerated by the undissolved sugar crystals, which act as “seed” crystals. When enough new crystals form, they begin drawing out moisture once again. The upshot: acookie with a faster-drying surface that is more prone to cracking.

WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS:

Chocolate crinkle cookies are usually tooth-achingly sweet, with just a couple of wide gaping cracks instead of a crackly surface. For cookies that live up to the name, we use a combination of unsweetened chocolate and cocoa powder (plus a boost from espresso powder) for a deep, rich chocolate flavor. Using brown sugar instead of granulated lends a more complex, tempered sweetness with a bitter molasses edge that complements the chocolate. A combination of both baking powder and baking soda gave us cookies with the right amount of lift and spread, helping produce good fissures on the outside. But the real key was rolling the cookies in granulated sugar before the powdered sugar. It helped produce the perfect crackly exterior and kept the powdered sugar coating in place.

My Happy Helper baking with mommy…

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Fettuccine with Braised Short Rib Tomato Sauce

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Let’s talk pasta.  Versatile, filling, satisfying- pasta.  But this is not your ordinary pasta dish, this is something special.  It’s so special that I really hope you will make because it’s almost impossible to describe it’s amazingness in this post.  It’s the best meat sauce we have ever had- Bolognese- step aside- a new sauce is in town.  This recipe does take time to cook, but it is so simple to make so do not be intimidated.  Coming from the gal who loves a good marinara with fresh basil and mozzarella, I would trade up for this short rib sauce any day.  Jason’s been on a short rib kick, it’s been great, we’ve made this recipe, and then he ordered a Braised Short Rib Sugo dish at Homestead during restaurant week, and he was so blown away that we decided to try to re-create it at home.  We’re nerds like that.  So happens that Jason found the perfect recipe, from none other than Giada herself.  A few tweaks from our kitchen to make it even easier and we had perfection.  The chocolate shavings on top to finish the dish are imperative, weirdly necessary and so perfect paired with this meal in a bowl or on a plate.  Please make this recipe and be blown away like we were.  Short ribs are super affordable cuts of meat, and when cooked correctly like in this, they are transformed.  Let’s hope this broth based, veggie filled, meat sauce is the trick to kicking this cold I got to enjoy all weekend… I’ll let you know how that goes, in the meantime you go and Enjoy, cook, create, eat and Enjoy!!

0222Adapted from Giada’s Short Ribs with Tagliatelle

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time 3 hours and 30 minutes

Yields 4-6 servings

Ingredients
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 ounces chopped bacon
2 1/2 pounds short ribs
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 medium onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1/2 cup fresh parsley stems and leaves
3 cloves garlic
1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 1/2 cups beef  stock, reduced sodium
3/4 cup red wine
1 pound fettuccine pasta
4 to 6 teaspoons shaved bittersweet chocolate

Directions
Place the olive oil in a large heavy soup pot over medium heat. Cook the bacon until golden and crisp, about 4 minutes. Meanwhile, season the short ribs with salt and pepper, and dredge in the flour. Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon from the pan to a paper towel lined plate and set aside. Add the short ribs to the pan and brown on all sides, about 7 minutes total.

Meanwhile, combine the onion, carrot, parsley and garlic in a food processor and blend until finely minced. Then add the tomatoes and tomato paste and pulse.

Once the short ribs are browned, carefully add the mixture from the food processor to the pot. Return the bacon to the pot and stir. Add the rosemary, thyme, oregano, beef broth, and wine. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 1 hour and 45 minutes. Remove the lid and simmer for another 1 hour and 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the meat and bones from the pot. Discard the bones. Shred the meat and return it to the pot. Season with 3/4 teaspoon salt and 3/4 teaspoon pepper, or to taste.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid. Add the pasta to the pot and stir to combine. Add the reserved pasta liquid 1/4 cup at a time, if needed, to moisten the pasta. Transfer to serving bowls, top each bowl with 1 teaspoon of chocolate shavings. Serve immediately.

Happy Birthday Cake: Chocolate Cake with Peanut Buttercream Frosting and Chocolate Genache Topping

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Jason is officially in his thirties!  I just had to make my very special husband an extra special cake that would truly make his day extraordinary.  I searched high and low and even considered buying a Portillo’s chocolate cake ( you know because it’s amazing, affordable and I am pregnant) but I really wanted to do something homemade, from the heart.  When I found this recipe, of course it’s Smitten Kitchen that could create something so perfect, so decadent: Chocolate Cake with Peanut Buttercream Frosting and Chocolate Genache, yes you read that correct, I knew it was perfect for my peanut butter loving husband that requested a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting.  And holy cow, it was more than I, we, could ever imagine.  I mean, think about the most amazing flavors, the richest moistest perfect cake, frosted with heavenly peanut butter(cream), and covered in more chocolate….  I can’t explain how amazing this is well enough, you just have to trust me and make this.  Since it was just us for birthday cake this year ( after a night out with friends and family to celebrate of course) I cut the cake recipe in half, which worked perfect, except that it was still an entire cake and there’s just 2.5 of us eating it… we got our fill!  I did make the full frosting recipe and had some left over, because cutting in in half made too little frosting.  This serves 10 people easily, but if you want to serve more people use the original recipe from the link.

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Sour Cream-Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting and Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen who adapted from, only barely, from Sky High: Irresistable Triple-Layer Cakes

This cake is INTENSE. Serve it with a nice glass of milk!

Makes an 8-inch double-layer cake; serves 10-12

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2  cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup sour cream
3/4 cups water
1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottoms and sides of two 8-inch round cakepans. Line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment 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 evenly among the 2 prepared cake pans.

3. Bake for 30-35  minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean. Let cool in the pans for about 5 minutes, cover the top of pans loosely with plastic wrap and place in freezer for 20 inures, this locks in the moisture and makes it easier to frost.  Remove from freezer and invert onto wire racks, carefully peel off the paper liners.

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, place the second layer on top and frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting. (Deb note 1: Making a crumb coat of frosting–a thin layer that binds the dark crumbs to the cake so they don’t show up in the final outer frosting layer–is a great idea for this cake, or any with a dark cake and lighter-colored frosting. Once you “mask” your cake, let it chill for 15 to 30 minutes until firm, then use the remainder of the frosting to create a smooth final coating. Deb note 2: Once the cake is fully frosted, it helps to chill it again and let it firm up. The cooler and more set the peanut butter frosting is, the better drip effect you’ll get from the Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze.)

5. To decorate with the Chocolate–Peanut Butter Glaze, put the cake plate on a large baking sheet to catch any drips. Simply pour the 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. Decorate the top with chopped peanut brittle.

Peanut Butter Frosting
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 3/4 cups

4 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1.5 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/4 cup half-and-half

1. In the top of a 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.

Peanut Butter Brown Rice Crispie Treats with Chocolate Frosting

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A little square of heaven, not a single one of these EVER goes to waste.  This recipe is made from memory of a similar treat my friend’s mom used to make when I was in high school.  I have no clue what her proportions were but recreating it was pretty simple, these are semi- homemade and SO delicious.  I like to think they are a healthier version of cookies/ cakes/ brownies, especially after finding the Rice Crispies brand makes Whole Grain Brown Rice Cripies.  They work perfectly all topped with frosting and a hint of peanut butter, mmmm I wish I made more.

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 1 package (10 oz., about 40) regular marshmallows
  • 2/3 cup Peanut Butter
  • 6 cups Kellogg’s® Brown Rice Krispies® Gluten Free cereal
  • 1 jar Chocolate Frosting

DIRECTIONS

1. In large saucepan melt butter over low heat. Add marshmallows and stir until completely melted.  Add in peanut butter to combine, then remove from heat.2. Add Rice Crispies cereal. Stir until well coated.

3. Using buttered hands evenly press mixture into 13 x 9 x 2-inch pan coated with cooking spray. Cool.

4. Spread chocolate frosting on top
5. Cut into 2-inch squares ( or large 3″ squares!).  Best if served the same day or cover well for up to 4 days

Dark Chocolate Guinness Cookies

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Pinterest strikes again, I couldn’t resist trying this recipe.  AND it happens to be the winner of the best cookie ever ( and I’m never allowed to make any other cookies, which would only pale in comparison), as proclaimed by Jason.  This decadent treat is the perfect texture- soft inside with gooey chocolate chips and a slight crisp outer edge.  They have a very rich chocolate flavor, intensified by the unique Guinness addition.  I used a small ice cream scoop to make about 45 perfect cookies.  If you are making these, and don’t have self control, make them for a party/ work/ friends because you won’t be able to stop eating them… until they are all gone, which would be sad.  I used 1/2 whole wheat flour in ours but if you don’t have it, just use 2 cups AP flour.  I like to add whole grain where you can, and in these cookies there is NO way anyone would think there was anything like that in there 🙂

Adapted from: Heather Christo via Pinterest photo

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup Guinness
  • 1 cup All Purpose flour
  • 1 cup Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
  • 1 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 12 ounces Ghiradelli dark chocolate chips

Instructions

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and prepare air bake cookie sheets with a silpat or parchment paper

2. In the bowl of a standing mixer, mix together the butter and sugar until light and creamy

3. Add the eggs and beat until fluffy

4. Add the Guinness and mix until fully combined, scraping down the bowl as necessary

5. Combine the dry ingredients and add to the batter, add in the chocolate chips and mix well

6. Scoop the batter onto the sheet pan using 2 spoons or a small ice cream scooper, and bake the cookies for 11 minutes.

7. Let the cookies cool on the sheet pan for 2 minutes before removing them to a cooling rack, then enjoy!

Preparation time: 10 minute(s)

Cooking time: 11 minute(s)

Happy Halloween- Crocktoberfest!

My work had a really fun Crocktoberfest where we all brought in some delicious food to share, not only did I make Smitten Kitchen’s Italian Cabbage Rolls but I couldn’t resist making another childhood favorite DIRT PUDDING!  I just love the stuff, it’s chocolate mousse and Oreos… and much much more- and it was a HUGE hit, everyone was so happy.  You want to brighten someone’s day, make them dirt!  Dirt Pudding that is:

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Adapted From: Taste of Home

Ingredients

  • 1 package (8 ounces) 1/3 Less fat PHILADELPHIA® Cream Cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 3-1/2 cups cold 2% milk
  • 2 packages (3.4 ounces each) instant chocolate pudding mix
  • 1 carton (12 ounces) frozen whipped topping, thawed
  • 1 package (15-1/2 ounces) Oreo cookies
  • Gummy Worms, optional

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter and confectioners’ sugar until smooth. In a large bowl, whisk milk and pudding mixes for 2 minutes; let stand for 2 minutes or until soft-set. Gradually stir into cream cheese mixture. Fold in whipped topping.
  2. Spread 1-1/3 cups of crushed cookies into an ungreased 13-in. x 9-in. or Trifle dish. Layer with half of the pudding mixture and half of the remaining cookies. Repeat layers. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving. Serve with gummy worms if desired! Yield: 20 servings.

Laura’s Chocolate Banana Soufflés- Reader Recipe

For our very first Reader’s Recipe post we have Laura’s found recipe for a rich, warm, fudgy, and healthy Chocolate Banana Soufflé.  The addition of banana in a chocolate dessert is always a welcome addition, it really added to that perfect light and creamy texture.  The souffle will fall after 10 minutes so it’s important to plan ahead and serve right away.  We enjoyed it with a dollop of organic whipped topping and a glass of chocolate wine- (pictured).  The wine was light and very sweet, with a hint of cocoa flavoring.  If you love chocolate and Muscato, this is your new dessert wine.  This recipe is a great starting point for many other variations, you could add grated lemon zest and almond extract… or substitute pureed squash for the bananas with grated cinnamon or nutmeg.  Really the options are endless and this is a perfect healthy treat that no one would think is this good for you- so, seriously enjoy!!!  And thank you Laura for this great new addition to our cookblog and for being our very first Reader REcipe!

Chocolate Banana Soufflés
Recipe adapted from Baking Bites

Servings: 4 • Serving Size: 6 oz

  • 2 ripe medium bananas, mashed
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • butter flavored cooking spray

Preheat over to 400F. Coat 4, 6 oz ramekins with butter flavored cooking spray. Place on a baking sheet.

In a medium bowl, mash bananas and vanilla together. Sift cornstarch and cocoa powder over bananas and stir well.

In another medium bowl, beat egg whites with sugar until they form soft peaks. Fold 1/3 of egg whites into banana mixture. When incorporated, fold in the rest of the egg whites. Spoon mixture into ramekins.

Wipe the top 1/4 inch “collar” of the ramekin to remove any excess batter so that the souffle will rise straight and place ramekins on a baking sheet. Bake at 400°F for 15 minutes. Serve immediately.

Calories: 131.2 • Fat: 3.6 g • Carb: 23.5 g • Fiber: 3.2 g • Protein: 4.8 g