Saturday, December 31, 2011

Favorite Recipes of 2011

I can't believe 2011 is almost over! I must say it was a pretty good year. I started my blog, began culinary school, found a a job that I love, and leaned a lot about baking. I wanted to share with you a few of my favorite recipes from 2011. I hope you all had a fantastic year and I wish you all a Happy and Healthy New Year!
Cinnamon Rolls

Vanilla Frosted Honey Cake

Cheddar Soda Bread

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumb Bars

Cheddar-Corn Spoon Bread

Raspberry Cream Cheese Layer Cake 

Junior Mint Brownies 


Chocolate Malt Ice Cream Cup Pies

Honey Goat Cheese Biscuits 

Vanilla Frozen Yogurt with Blackberry Lime Sauce 

White Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies 

Salted Chocolate Caramel Shortbread Bars 

Whole Wheat "Goldfish" Crackers 

Toasted Marshmallow and Malt Chocolate Layer Cake 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Junior Mint Brownies

This recipe comes from one of my favorite holiday cookbooks, The Pastry Queen Christmas by Rebecca Rather and Alison Oresman. I have found so many wonderful recipes in this cookbook, and these minty brownies are one of my absolute favorites. I really like this recipe because it is simple and produces a wonderfully moist and fudgy brownie. These brownies are quite rich so I would suggest cutting them into small bite-sized pieces which I found to be the perfect size for serving, especially at holiday parties.

Junior Mint Brownies 
1 cup Unsalted Butter
6 ounces Bittersweet Chocolate Chips (use at least 60% cocoa)
2 cups Sugar
4 Eggs
1 1/2 cups All-Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
2 teaspoons Vanilla
4 packages Junior Mints (1.84 ounces each)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9x13 inch pan with baking spray, line with parchment paper then spray parchment with baking spray. In a medium sized sauce pan over medium heat, melt butter and chocolate chips just until melted. Once melted remove from heat and allow mixture to cool for 10 minutes. In a separate bowl whisk together flour, sugar, and salt. Then in another bowl mix together the eggs and vanilla. Add the flour mixture and the egg mixture to the cooled chocolate and mix until just combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pan smooth the top then arrange the Junior Mints in even rows across the top of the batter, making rows of 10 down and 8 across. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until edges pull away from sides and center is set. Cool brownies in pan then freeze uncovered for about an hour to make the brownies easy to cut.

Recipe from The Pastry Queen Christmas 

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Gingerbread House

Have you ever made a gingerbread house from scratch? I made my first one recently and now I am hooked! What I really liked about making my gingerbread house from scratch was that it allowed me the flexibility to make my house any shape I wanted. I found a great template online, which I tweaked just a little bit for this house. There are many great free gingerbread templates available online, I will post a few links to the ones I found. All you need to do is print them off, trace them onto parchment paper (which by the way is a very important step, if you use regular paper it will stick to your gingerbread a create a huge mess) then cut out your template. Since this was my first gingerbread house I wanted to share with you some helpful hints that I learned through trial and error when making this house. 

Helpful Hints
1. The dollar store is a great place to buy candy for your house. 
2. Roll out your gingerbread house pieces on parchment paper and use a layer of plastic wrap over the top of the dough. This way you don't need to use any extra flour and it just makes things easier. 
3. Use cans to support the walls of your your house while the royal icing is drying. 
4. Attach the roof last, after the rest of your house has dried and is stable. Again use cans under the bottom edge of the roof to support it as it dries.
5. Disposable pastry bags will make this project 100 times easier, okay maybe not 100 times, but I found them to be extremely convenient. 
6. Trace or draw your template onto parchment paper, regular paper will stick to the gingerbread and create a big sad mess. I may or may not know this from personal experience :) (I know I mentioned this above, but seriously this is important!)
7. Use a ruler to guide you as you cut you your pieces and a pizza cutter to do the cutting.
8. Use a toothpick to poke holes through the parchment and dough as an outline for where to cut windows and doors, then use a small pairing knife to do the cutting.  
9. After you cut out your gingerbread house pieces carefully slide the parchment paper onto a baking sheet and place them in the freezer for a few minutes until pieces firm up a bit, this helps them keep their shape. 
10. Keep an eye on your gingerbread as it is baking, a few bubbles might pop up, when this happens use a toothpick to poke them down.

I am not sure where this recipe came from because I got it as a handout in class. I really liked this recipe because it was super easy to work with and there are no eggs used in the dough so I felt completely comfortable eating a bit of the dough as I made the house. I thought this dough was pretty tasty raw, but I would not recommend this recipe for cookies (unless you are going to use it to make cookie ornaments that will not be eaten) or if you plan on eating your gingerbread house because this dough bakes up quite hard which makes it great for stability, but not so great for eating. 

6 3/4 cup All Purpose Flour
1 tablespoon Cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons Ginger
1/2 teaspoon Salt 
1 1/2 cups Corn Syrup*
1 1/4 cups Brown Sugar*
1 cup Butter 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl whisk together the flour, cinnamon, ginger, and salt then set aside until needed. In a medium sized sauce pan over medium heat combine corn syrup, brown sugar, and butter. Stir mixture constantly until butter is melted. Pour butter mixture into flour mixture and knead together until dough forms. I found the dough easy to work with at this point, but if you find the dough too soft to handle place it in the refrigerator for a few minutes until it firms up a bit. On that note if you find the dough becomes too stiff to work with while you are rolling out the pieces to your gingerbread house just stick it in the microwave for 10 second increments until it becomes soft and easy to handle again. Roll out the dough 1/8' thick and then use template to cut out gingerbread pieces. Place gingerbread pieces in the freezer for a few minutes (see helpful hint #9 above). Bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden. Once baked place sheet pan on cooling rack and allow gingerbread to cool completely. 

* Dark or light corn syrup and brown sugar may be used, if you want darker gingerbread use dark corn syrup and brown sugar, for a lighter gingerbread use light corn syrup and brown sugar. 

Royal Icing 
This recipe was also a handout from class so I am not exactly sure where it came from, but it seems to be pretty standard. 

3/4 cup Warm Water 
5 tablespoons Meringue Powder
1 teaspoon Cream of Tarter
2 pounds Powdered Sugar
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract, if desired 

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk together the water and meringue powder by hand until foamy, about 30 seconds. Add the cream of tartar and whisk for another 30 seconds. Add the powdered sugar and turn mixer on low until incorporated, then increase the speed just a little and beat for 10 minutes. Icing should be thick, but still have a shine to it.

For thinner icing whisk in 1 tablespoon of water at a time until desired consistency is reached. For thicker icing whisk in 1 tablespoon of powdered sugar at a time until desired consistency is reached. Thicker icing is best for constructing your house. Thinner icing is best for making icicles and detailed piping work on your house. Cover icing with plastic wrap to prevent it from drying out. Divide icing up into smaller bowls and color with food coloring as desired. This is where I find disposable pastry bags very convenient because you don't have to clean out your pastry bag between colors, just fill the disposable bags with your different colors. 

To make the tree you will need ice cream cones, royal icing, a star tip, and a pastry bag. Fill your pastry bag fitted with the star attachment 1/2 to 3/4 of the way full with the royal icing. Holding the tip of the ice cream cone pipe stars around the base of the cone working your way up towards the tip. Once you get close to the tip carefully set the tree down on parchment paper in a spot where is can sit for a few hours until it dries completely and finish piping the stars at the top. Allow tree to dry completely before moving. 

To make the icicles you will need a pastry bag, a small round tip and royal icing. Fill your pastry bag fitted with the round attachment 1/2 to 3/4 of the way full with royal icing. Along the base of the roof, pipe out the icing and drag downwards to create an icicle. Continue along the entire base of the roof. 

To make the snowman you will need three large marshmallows, toothpicks, orange and brown food coloring, paper towels, royal icing, tweezers, and cocoa pearls (I found these ones at Trader Joe's). Dip one toothpick in orange food coloring and two toothpicks in brown food coloring then wipe off the excess with a paper towel, set aside to dry. Attach the marshmallows one on top of the other with royal icing. Attach the buttons, eyes, and, mouth by dipping each pearl in a little royal icing and use tweezers or your fingers (which ever you find easier) to attach them to the snowman. Hold for a  few seconds until icing sets up a little. Use a toothpick to poke holes for the arms and the nose. Cut the brown and orange toothpicks to desired lengths and dip the ends that will be inserted into the marshmallows into royal icing then attach them to the snowman. 

Links to Gingerbread House Templates

All Recipes This is the template I used