Saturday, February 20, 2010

Cookies: Sable Cut-Outs

When I lived in Seattle I worked very near Pike Place Market and one of my favorite treats was a chocolate sable cookie from Le Panier Bakery.  They're huge, full of hazelnut and chocolate and delicious.  So, when I came across this recipe for sable cookies, I had to add chocolate and hazelnuts.  And since I was making them for my neighbor's Anti-Valentine's Day party, they had to be hearts (some with holes in them).

Sable Cookies
Makes 24 to 36

10 Tbsp. butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. mini chocolate chips
1/2 c. finely chopped hazelnuts

Cream together the butter and sugar. Add egg and extract. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to the creamed mixture, slowly.  Fold in chocolate chips and nuts.  Divide into halves or thirds and place each portion on a sheet of parchment paper.  Top with another sheet of parchment paper and roll out between sheets.  Refrigerate for 1-2 hours.  Remove top layer of parchment, cut out desired shape, place on tray and bake at 350 F for 10-12 minutes.  Let rest on sheet for a few minutes before moving to cooling rack.

The recipe was great and didn't need any fussing, I just added the mini chocolate chips and finely chopped hazelnuts (the small size is important folks).

Then I plopped some of the dough between two sheets of parchment, rolled it to an even thickness and stashed them in the fridge.

After an hour or two, I took them out and removed the top sheet of parchment.  I grabbed my cookie cutters and went to town.  You have to press fairly hard to get the cookie cutters through the chocolate and nuts, but since the dough is pre-rolled, it stays very chilled and makes a very nice cut-out.

After you've placed them on your silicone lined tray, bake until golden brown.

Mmm, so good.

And by far, the easiest cut out cookies I've ever made.  The 'parchment pre-roll' is the way to go, I promise.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Valentine's Gifts

So, after making the fudge and toffee, I had to do something with all of it.  T, got the bulk of it, in a lovely heart shaped box that I picked up at Surfa's (I linked to the cafe, but it's attached to a restaurant supply store, with great stuff.)  I also got the candy liners from there as well.

Want to see more candy goodness?...K

You might also be noticing those molded chocolates in there, these were a fail.  I used metal petit-four cake tins and they did not release the chocolates well.  Out of the dozen I made (they're filled with white chocolate ganache) only 4 stayed 'together'.  T loved 'em, so I guess that's good.

But I still had candy left over, so I took some to my co-workers.  I used favor boxes that I had lying around from Paper Source.  

I cut some hearts out of card stock, taped them at the bottom and bent up the edges a bit.

Just enough for a sweet fix (or enough to make you have a horrible craving for chocolate the rest of the day).

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

My First Time: Toffee

This Recipe is from The Joy of Cooking

English Toffee
About 1.5 pounds

1 3/4 c. sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
2 teaspoons of vanilla or 1 tablespoon of dark rum
4 ounces of bittersweet, semisweet or milk chocolate, finely chopped or grated
1/2 cup almonds, toasted and finely chopped

Combine first 4 ingredients in a large, heavy saucepan.  Stir over low heat until the sugar is dissolved.  Wash down the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in warm water.  Bring to a boil and boil for 3 minutes.  Place a warmed candy thermometer in the pan ad cook, stirring frequently, to about 280 F, the soft-crack stage.  The syrup will be light colored and thick.

Remove from heat and stir in vanilla (or rum) with a wooden spoon.
Pour the candy into a silicone or parchment lined 13x9 pan and let cool for 3 minutes.

Sprinkle the hot toffee with prepared chocolate.  Let stand for 1-2 minutes, then spread the chocolate evenly across the toffee with a small offset spatula.

Sprinkle the almonds (I used hazelnuts) on top of the layer of chocolate.

Refrigerate for 20 minutes to set the chocolate.  Break the toffee into pieces.  Store between layers of wax paper in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 month.

So, my favorite toffee is the kind you get at See's.  It's amazing, it's sort of sandy and doesn't get sticky as you chew it.  This recipe is probably more on the sticky side, but I stored the leftovers with the fudge and after a day or two, some moisture left the fudge and made it less good, but it totally enhanced the toffee to be just like the stuff from See's.  I'll have to figure out how to replicate it without my happy accident, but I will try.

Monday, February 15, 2010

My First Time: Fudge

My recipe came from The Joy of Cooking

Fudge Cockaigne
About 1.25 pounds; 52 pieces

1 cup minus 1 tablespoon of milk
2 cups sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, grated
3 tablespoons of unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chopped nuts

Bring milk to a boil in a large saucepan.
Remove from heat, add sugar, salt and chocolate and stir until the sugar is dissolved:
Bring to a boil and cook 5 minutes, washing down any sugar crystals that may have formed on the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in warm water.  Reduce the heat, place a warmed candy thermometer in the pan, and cook, without stirring, to 234 F, the soft-ball stage.  

When nearing 234 F, there will be a fine overall bubbling with, simultaneously, a coarser pattern, as thought the fine bubbled areas were being pulled down for quilting into the coarser ones.  Remove from the heat without jostling or stirring.
Cool the fudge to 110 F. You may hasten the process by placing the pan in a large pan of cold water until the bottom of the pan has cooled.

Stir in butter and vanilla
Beat until it thickens and begins to lose its sheen.  At this point, the drip from the spoon, when you flip it over, holds its shape against the bottom of the spoon.  Quickly stir in nuts.

Pour the fudge into a buttered 8-inch square pan (I lined with parchment).  Cut into pieces before it hardens (I forgot to do this and shouldn't have, it just crumbled and broke when trying to cut it).

The finished product.

This isn't the super creamy fudge that you get at most places, but it's also not as dry and dark as the fudge that comes from the recipe off the back of the Hershey's cocoa tin.  It doesn't use corn syrup, because I try to avoid that ingredient, so that may explain the lack of super creaminess.  It was very good though, and every last bit was devoured.

(On a side note, I don't know about you, but the descriptions in The Joy of Cooking are really helpful, they just make sense to me)

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine's Breakfast

I've never been much of a Valentine's Day fanatic, but it was our first year as a married couple and there's so much loveliness on blogs that I feel I must aspire to (at least a little bit).  So here's a heart shaped pat of butter on top of lovely flocked paper from Paper Source next to our syrup and powdered sugar shaker for breakfast on the big day.

I used some paper flowers from my trial run for my wedding flower wall, added color blocked place mats made out of watercolor paper and card stock and called it a day.  Then we woke up and made breakfast together.  T mastered the bacon and eggs, while I handled waffle duty, I even used cookie cutters to make those into adorable little hearts.  We had mimosas made with rose sparkling wine, sparkling cranberry juice and orange juice.

It was a terrific way to start the day, and maybe even a Valentine's tradition.  Later we went on an 18 mile bike ride and then headed out to dinner.  I sort of insisted on a reservation being made (I may have also dropped a few reminders the week before V-day as well).  T didn't disappoint, we went to Caffe Pinguini, it was an adorable Italian place near the beach in Playa del Rey and my salmon literally melted in my mouth.

I think it's safe to say we can check this Valentine's Day off as a success!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Handmade: Valentines

I participated in the Weddingbee Valentine Swap this year, and to be honest, I feel like a gross underachiever.  I thought mine were so cute, until I saw the ones made by just about everyone else.  Anyway, I still think mine were kinda cute, so here goes.

Step 1: Buy lots of pretty pink and red paper from Paper Source.  I used the A2 size in Fuschia, Blossom and  Red.  I also used fancy, flocked paper for texture.

Step 2: Cut into funky shapes. Get out those pinking shears.

Step 3: Sew around the edges  I used the largest zig-zag stitch on my machine.

Step 4: Cut out a heart to tuck into the card.  I taped on a pinked strip of paper for interest.

Step 5: Write something you'd like to read on a Valentine.

Don't worry, it's a blank white card on the back, with plenty of room to write about your undying love for that special someone.

What I learned:  It's hard to sew through 4-5 pieces of cardstock, so for the rest of them, I arranged the pieces so the most layers I'd sew through would be 3.