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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Christmas Morning: Cranberry, Orange Cinnamon Breakfast Rolls

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MerryChristmas_2013Christmas is a special time of year where making memories, celebrating traditions, spending time with friends and family , and enjoying delicious meals all come together.  Every year we take the time to celebrate together, just us ( our little growing family) in our own way.  It’s our way to take the time to make our own traditions, and making food is a big part of it.  We pick recipes that include our favorite things, that you wouldn’t ( or couldn’t) make regularly.  Mostly, we enjoy the precious time together and reminisce on all the years past and look forward to the next ahead.  These rolls are the perfect way to start your Christmas morning, and are part of the tradition to bake something decadent for breakfast to eat while opening gifts with coffee, and this year a little snow falling and a few baby kicks made it that much more perfect.

Cranberry-Orange Breakfast Buns, adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Dough adapted (mostly in technique) from Alton Brown

Tart cranberries muddle with just enough brown sugar that they sweeten, but are miles from toothache-level sweetness. Orange zest blooms inside a buttery, tender, rich dough. And there’s just enough orange icing to cap the buns, not drench them in candy. I’d call them grown-up cinnamon buns.

This is an overnight recipe; the dough will rise for the first time when you make it, and the second time in the fridge overnight. I thought this would be annoying, but it’s actually perfect. You don’t have to wake up at the crack of dawn to make breakfast buns, and the slow rise in the fridge overnight makes for a very well developed flavor.

Yield: 12 buns. This recipe could be halved and baked in a 9-inch round or 8×8-inch baking pan.

Dough:
4 large egg yolks
1 large whole egg
1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
6 tablespoons (85 grams) butter, melted, plus additional to grease pan
3/4 cup (175 ml) buttermilk
Zest of 1 orange, finely grated (to be used in dough and filling, below)
3 3/4 cups (470 grams) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting counter
1 packet (7 grams or 2 1/4 teaspoons) instant dry yeast
1 1/4 teaspoons coarse or kosher salt, or more to taste
1 teaspoon oil for bowl

Filling:
1 1/2 tablespoons (20 grams) butter

1 cup (190 grams) packed light brown sugar

1 cup (115 grams) fresh cranberries

1 teaspoon cinnamon

Orange zest leftover from above

Icing:
3 1/2 tablespoons (55 ml) orange juice

2 cups (240 grams) powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 tablespoons vanilla greek yogurt

Make the dough: In the bottom of the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk the yolks, whole egg, sugar, butter, buttermilk and 3/4 of the orange zest together (saving the rest for the filling). Add 2 cups of the flour along with the yeast and salt; stir until evenly moistened. Switch to the dough hook and add the remaining 1 3/4 cups flour and let the dough hook knead the mixture on low speed for 5 to 7 minutes. The dough should be soft and moist, but not overly sticky. Scrape the dough into a large, lightly oiled bowl (I usually scrape my dough briefly onto the counter, oil the mixing bowl, and scrape the dough back into it) and cover it with plastic wrap. Let dough rise at room temperature until doubled, which will take between 2 and 2 1/2 hours.

[Don’t have a stand mixer? Stir the mixture together with a wooden spoon, then continue stirring and beating it about in a large bowl for several minutes, until it comes together. Turn the dough out onto a floured counter and knead it for another 5 minutes. It will stick; don’t sweat it. Just scrape everything up and into the oiled bowl when it’s time to let it rise. Try to resist adding extra flour when it sticks; it will only toughen the dough. That would be sad.]

Prepare the filling: Melt the butter and set it aside. In a food processor, pulse the whole cranberries until they’re ground to a coarse rubble, but not fully pureed. You’ll need to scrape the machine down once or twice. Set them aside.

[Don’t have a food processor? Just hand chop them very well, as if to coarsely mince them.]

Assemble the buns: Butter a 9×13-inch baking dish, a heavier ceramic or glass dish is ideal here. Turn the risen dough out onto a floured work surface and roll it into a rectangle that is 18 inches wide (the side nearest to you) and 12 or so inches long. (It’s okay if it goes longer/thinner.) Brush the dough with the melted butter. Sprinkle it with the brown sugar. Scatter the ground cranberries over it, then the remaining orange zest.

Roll the dough into a tight, 18-inch long spiral. Using a sharp serrated knife, very, very gently saw the log into 1 1/2-inch sections; you should get 12. Arrange the buns evenly spread out in your baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight, or up to 16 hours.

The next morning, bake the buns: Take your buns out of the fridge 30 minutes before you’d like to bake them, to allow them to warm up slightly. Heat your oven to 350 degrees F. Bake your buns until they’re puffed and golden (the internal temperature should read 190 degrees F), approximately 30 minutes.

Transfer pan to a cooling rack and let cool slightly. Make the icing by whisking the orange juice and powdered sugar together. Spread a little on each bun, or drizzle it over the whole pan. Serve immediately.

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

Just the title is enough, really, but then LOOK at that photo.  Who doesn’t want to enjoy these decadent, fall sweet warm gooey breakfast treats?  Growing up, my sister and I made a lot of these, out of a can, and even though I will always treasure those memories, nothing is better than the real thing- ever.  Cinnamon is one of those smells that brings fall and winter to a beautiful place…  it’s HOME, it’s love and it’s aroma baking something delicious in the oven is enough to bring everyone to the table eager to see what you’ve created.  The pumpkin is very subtle and has just enough hint of flavor to know these aren’t ordinary but extraordinary.  These rolls are made from simple pantry ingredients, and made the night before, they are very easy to make.  This is the second time this kitchen has made them, the first time they turned out just a bit drier then I would prefer, so this time I’ve tweaked the recipe to make them gooey ooey tender light and perfect.  I found the dough very easy to work with, I didn’t even need a rolling pin this time, the dough was so tender and pliable that I just stretched it to the size needed on a very well floured surface.  Here’s the thing- this isn’t going to be a quick recipe, it takes time to rise and time to assembled and more time to rise, but it IS easy and the ingredients are easy so do not be intimidated.  I made these last night and when indicated, stored them in the fridge to make today AND tomorrow for our sleepover guests!  It serves 10 people total, or 6-8 very hungry people… heheheehee  Now, go bake!!

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls
Adapted from Baked Elements

Dough
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, to be divided
2/3 cup whole milk, warmed (but not over 116 degrees)
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (from 1 .25-ounce or 7 gram envelope yeast)
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling out
1/4 cup (packed) light or dark brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
2/3 cups pumpkin puree, canned
1 large egg
Butter for coating rising bowl

Filling
3/4 cup light or dark brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon table salt
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Glaze
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons milk
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Make your dough: Melt your butter in a little saucepan, lightly brown it for extra flavor: when the butter has melted, keep cooking it over medium heat for a few additional minutes. It will become hissy and sizzle a lot, then take on a nutty flavor as golden bits form at the bottom of the pot. Remove from heat and pour in to a clean small bowl- set aside to cool slightly.

Combine your warmed milk and yeast in a small bowl and set aside. After five to seven minutes, it should be a bit foamy. If it’s not, you might have some bad yeast and should start again with a newer packet.

In the bottom of the bowl of an electric mixer combine flour, sugars, salt and spices. Add just 1/4 cup of your browned butter and stir to combine. Add yeast-milk mixture, pumpkin and egg and mix combined. Switch mixer to a dough hook and run it for 5 minutes on low.

Scrape mixture into a large buttered bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside for 1 hour in a draft-free place; it should just about double.

While it is rising, line the bottom of two 9-inch round cake pans (8-inch round should work too, as does an 8-inch square) with parchment paper and butter the sides of the pan and the paper.

Assemble buns: Scoop dough onto a very well floured surface and flour the top of it well. With a rolling pin, roll the dough to an approximately 16×11-inch rectangle. Brush reserved melted/browned butter over dough. Stir together remaining filling ingredients and sprinkle mixture evenly over dough. Starting on a longer side, roll the dough into a tight spiral. It’s going to make a mess because the dough is crazy soft and some stuff spills off the ends; don’t sweat it. It will all be delicious in the end.

Here’s how to cut cinnamon rolls without squishing their pretty spirals: With a sharp serrated knife, using absolutely no pressure whatsoever (only the weight of the blade should land on the dough) gently saw your log with a back-forth motion into approximately 1-inch sections. When a soft dough like this is rolled, it tends to grow longer, which means that you’ll have the option to either make more buns (say, 18 instead of 16) or just cut them a little larger (in generous inches).

Divide buns between two prepared pans. You can sprinkle any sugar that fell off onto the counter over them. Cover each pan with plastic wrap and let rise for another 45 minutes.

If you’re doing this ahead of time, you can now put them in the fridge overnight. In the morning, leave them out for an hour to warm up and finish rising.

15 minutes before you’re ready to bake them, heat the oven to 350°F. Meanwhile, you can make the glaze. Beat your cream cheese until it is light and fluffy. Add powdered sugar and vanilla. Drizzle in milk until you get the consistency you’re looking for, either thick enough to ice or thin enough to drizzle.

Finish your buns: Remove the plastic and bake buns for 25 minutes, until puffed and golden and the aroma is intoxicating transfer pans to wire cooling racks and drizzle/schmear with cream cheese glaze, and ENJOY every sticky finger licking bite.

Christmas Cookies!!!!

Merry Christmas!  We made some holiday favorites this weekend, Gingersnaps, Pecan Cups, and Double Chocolate Peppermint Bark- all taste tested and approved, so rest easy, if you make these cookies Santa will surely give you what you asked for this year! 
Pecan Cup Cookies
Filling
1/2 C. chopped pecans
1 egg
3/4 C. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 pinch salt
Crust/dough
1/4 C. butter
1-3 oz. pkg. cream cheese
1 C. flour
Directions:

– Spray 24 count mini muffin pan with Pam or the like.

– Cream butter and cheese, add flour, and blend well.
– Divide into quarters. Then divide each half into quarters.
– Make a small ball and drop into pan, fit each ball to cup.
– Fill each cup w/ filling, do not overfill, you should see the crust
– Then bake at 350 F for 17 minutes. Then at 250 F for 10 minutes.
– Knock pan to loosen, do not cool in pan.
– Place on cooling rack and sprinkle with powdered sugar
yeild: 24 Cups
Gingersnaps
1 C. sugar
3/4 C. margarine, softened (you can use butter)
1/4 C. molasses
1 egg
2 C. flour
2 tsp. soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. cloves

Directions:

– Lightly grease cookie sheets
– Combine first 4 ingredients; blend well
– Stir in remaining ingredients
– Chill dough
– Heat oven to 375 F
– Shape dough into 1″ balls, roll in sugar
– Place 2″ apart on cookie sheet
– Bake 8-10 minutes; cool 1-2 minutes
 Yeild: 6 dozen cookies
Double Chocolate Peppermint Bark
1 pound Dark Chocolate
1 pound White Chocolate
1 ½ teaspoons peppermint extract (divided)
6 Candy Canes, crushed
Directions:
– Line a jelly roll pan ( or 12 1/2 x 17 1/2 x 1 edge) with parchment paper
– Place candy canes in a plastic bag, crush in to 1/4-inch chunks or smaller
– Melt the dark chocolate in a double boiler, stir in ½ tsp. peppermint extract
– Pour mixture evenly onto prepared pan and place in the freezer to harden
– Melt the white chocolate in a double boiler, stir in 1 tsp. peppermint extract
– Pour mixture onto dark chocolate layer in cookie sheet, spread evenly quickly and top with candy canes
– Place in the refrigerator for 45 minutes or until firm
– Remove from cookie sheet and break into pieces (like peanut brittle)
Yeild: 2 pounds of candy