Monday, December 20, 2010

Effing busy...(and Happy Holidays!)

That about sums it up! The month of December has been absolutely bonkers...tshirt selling, baking, craziness at my 9-5, holiday shopping, general merrymaking...whew.

My New Year's resolution is to make more time for writing and photography, so as a result I'll hopefully be posting here more. Realistically this is probably my last post of 2010 (and my 45th since I started the blog, hard to believe!) and I thought I'd share one of the lifesaving recipes of my holiday season thus far - Martha Stewart's Easy Chocolate Truffles.  They really truly are easy. On a day when I was baking for 8 hours to prepare for an epic culinary holiday party, focused on egg bread banana's foster pudding and delicate shortbread Argentinian sandwich cookies, making these truffles was a breeze...almost relaxing. I mean it was no nap, but these lovely dollops of indulgent goodness could not be easier to make, and come with a huge payoff.  You can assemble the chocolate cream easily and quickly, then address other things for the 3 hours that it is chilling out in the fridge. I made straight up semisweet chocolate ones, and added some Nutella to part of the batch as well. They can be rolled in cocoa, toasted chopped nuts, sprinkles, whatever.  

Christmas is about 5 seconds away, so let these tasty truffles come to your rescue if you're in need! They make excellent gifts too - just remind the receivers to refrigerate!

Happy Holidays dear readers, and Happy 2011...See you then!

Easy Chocolate Truffles
from M-Stew's Everyday Food

16 ounces dark or semisweet chocolate, or a combo, finely chopped (I used semisweet Ghirardelli)
1 2/3 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
Unsweetened cocoa powder, for rolling
Desired coating (I used the cocoa powder mixed with a bit of sweetened cocoa powder, as well as a couple of kinds of could also use chopped nuts, etc)

Place chocolate in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan, heat cream until it begins to simmer. Pour over chocolate. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let stand for 10 minutes. Uncover and whisk chocolate mixture until smooth. Mix in vanilla and salt. Pour into a 9-inch pie plate and let cool 15 minutes. Cover with plastic and refrigerate until completely set, about 3 hours.

With a melon baller, 1-inch scoop or a teaspoon, scoop out chocolate mixture and place on parchment paper or foil. Coat hands with cocoa and roll truffles into balls. Place on parchment-lined baking sheet. Refrigerate until set, about 15 minutes.  Roll in desired coating before serving or packing.

To store, cover with plastic and refrigerate, up to 2 weeks.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Momofuku strikes again!

I swear I am not obsessed peoples…but I probably will not rest until I try every Momofuku bakery recipe that I can get my hands on. It’s a completely rational affliction. The results have been amazing without fail, and the techniques involved are always interesting and different from what I’m used to…I should buy powdered milk?  Okay. These cookies contain more sugar than flour? Fine! Mix the wet ingredients for 10 minutes on medium high? Ummm…sure. But it actually works.  It’s kind of like cookie mad science.

This past weekend I wanted to create a cookie that would keep me and my fellow crafty vendors alive and properly sugared for 8 hours of craft show madness at Bazaar Bizarre in Boston. It had to be something ridiculous and awesome – Momofuku Compost Cookies fit the bill…compost in that you throw in whatever (within reason!) you’ve got left over around the pantry.

FDF1's crafty table at Bazaar Bizarre

I found the recipe a while ago on a blog called Momofuku for 2, which I think I’ve mentioned here before. It’s pretty simple and really adaptable to your particular tastes – a chewy, super sweet but salty cookie full of your favorite sweet baking extras (think chocolate chips, etc) and salty snacks (pretzels, chips, what have you). This likely either sounds completely amazing or totally gross to you…either way you need to try these evil cookies out! 

Momofuku Milk Bar Compost Cookie Recipe
from Momofuku for 2, followed exactly

Makes about 20 cookies, easily doubled

1/2 cup butter, room temperature (1 stick)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1/2 tablespoon corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup of your favorite baking ingredients (I used semi-sweet chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, and oats...other ideas are milk chocolate, coconut, raisins, marshmallows, peanut butter cups...)
3/4 cup of your favorite salty snack foods (I used pretzels and could also try chips, nuts, crackers...I'd just avoid anything with a strong flavor other than 'salty', i.e oniony or cheesy...)

In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream butter, sugars and corn syrup on medium high for 2-3 minutes until fluffy and pale yellow in color.  Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl with a spatula.

On a lower speed, add egg and vanilla to incorporate.  Increase mixing speed to medium-high and mix for 10 minutes (for real!).  During this time the sugar granules will fully dissolve, the mixture will become an almost pale white color and your creamed mixture will double in size.

After 10 minutes, on a lower speed add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Mix 45-60 seconds, just until the dough comes together and all dry ingredients have been incorporated.  Scrape down the sides.

On the same low speed, add your sweet baking ingredients and mix 30- 45 seconds until evenly incorporated.  Do the same with your salty additions, mixing until just combined.

Scoop dough into balls (about 2 tablespoons each) and place on parchment lined cookie sheets (about 12 per sheet).  Wrap scooped cookie dough tightly and refrigerate at least 1 hour, or up to 1 week.  Don't bake your cookies at room temperature!  The dough is really creamy and won't hold its shape unless chilled.

Preheat oven to 400˚.  Bake cookies 9-11 minutes - they will puff, crackle and spread.  

At 9 minutes cookies should have brown edges, and be just barely browning in the center.  If they're not, leave them in 1 or 2 more minutes, until the right color is achieved.

Cool cookies completely on cookie sheets - they'll be really soft when they come out of the oven, so you don't want to move them.  Enjoy!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Don’t Fear the Phyllo.

When I told my mom I was making a phyllo pastry dessert as my contribution to Thanksgiving dinner at my 90-year-old grandmother’s house, she flat out noted that I was definitely going to hate myself for this choice. Her most vivid memory of working with these whispery delicate temperamental sheets of dough is a horribly botched spinach and feta “experimental dinner” (part of her acclaimed early 90s series, when she mutinied against the family’s wishes in hopes of creating a healthier, more interesting and international dining experience).

Anyway, in some ways she was right – phyllo is a huge pain, but not so much that you should avoid it. It’s actually kind of a fun challenge. When you buy it frozen, it generally comes in quantities of 50 sheets because it’s pretty much a given that you’ll wreck roughly 1000 of those (that math is accurate). Once you wrangle it properly (usually with a lot of melted butter) it behaves as it should, and after a short time in the oven becomes a flaky yet substantial treat.

Now I know everyone is over Thanksgiving, including myself. In fact, I’m kind of over autumn at this point – the sugarplums have moved into my head and I’m ready to trade apples, cider, pumpkins and pears for ginger, cranberries, chocolate and mint. But before we do that, check this recipe – a tart composed of phyllo layered with butter, sugar and pecans, topped with pear and apple…and more butter and sugar. If you don’t bore as easily with the seasons as I do, try it out!  If you do, it will still be here next year.

Pear and Phyllo Crisp
adapted from Martha Stewart Living

1/2 cup pecans, toasted and finely chopped
1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/4 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, plus more for dusting (different from sprinkling, no?)
6 sheets frozen phyllo dough (M-Stew says 11 1/2 x 15 inches, mine were a bit smaller, no bigs)
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
2 small firm pears (I used Forelle, Sekel work too)
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled

Preheat oven to 400˚ with racked in second to top position (so probably one level above where you usually have it).  Combine pecans, breadcrumbs, sugar and cinnamon.

Line a baking sheet with parchment, and top with 1 phyllo sheet.  Brush phyllo all over with butter, and sprinkle pecan mixture evenly over top.  Repeat 4 times.  Top with remaining phyllo sheet, and brush with all but two tablespoons of butter (you may need to melt a bit more butter for this...I did).

Slice pears and apples 1/8 inch thick; discard seeds.  Arrange pear and apple slices in a single layer on phyllo, leaving space between fruit and a 1/4-inch border around the edges.  Brush fruit with reserved 2 tablespoons butter.  Sprinkle with sugar, then dust with cinnamon.  Bake, rotating sheet halfway through until phyllo is golden brown and fruit is soft, 15-20 minutes.*  Let cool slightly and cut into pieces.

*Cooking time is going to vary wildly depending on what type of baking sheet you use.  I used a dark sheet and it took barely 15 minutes, even with parchment.  If you use a lighter sheet, it could take over 20 minutes, or you may need to try a higher oven rack.  Know your oven and watch this once it's in - it would be a shame to burn it after all that!