Recipes so good it oughta' be a sin!


Saturday, May 29, 2010

Chocolate Coconut "Mounds" Cookies

"Sometimes you feel like a nut! Sometimes you don't!" While I was making these cookies that old jingle from the 1970's kept running through my head. I used to love Mounds and Almond Joy. I guess I still do, although I don't often buy them!

Tonight I wanted to do something a little off the beaten path. I've been experimenting with recipes from various books lately and thought it was about time to head into the kitchen and whip up something of my own. So, I started with a fairly routine recipe for chewy chocolate chip cookies and just sort of went wild from there. A little of this, a little of that and voila! Chocolate Coconut "Mounds" Cookies!

These are delicious and were incredible when they were still slightly warm (although great cool too!). I'd suggest popping these in a warm oven just before serving for an extra special delight!

This recipe uses good cocoa powder to create the chocolate cookie base. Then we add some rolled oats and some shredded coconut for chewy goodness. A couple of the secrets that give the chocolate cookie its depth of flavor are the addition of a tablespoon of Grand Marnier and a tablespoon of apricot preserves! You don't really taste them in the finished cookie but they bring out the chocolate flavors and when you first bite into the cookie you know there's a flavor there beneath the chocolate and coconut that compliments both.

I also used just a touch of butter in this recipe mainly for the taste. The oil in this recipe comes from vegetable shortening mainly.

I also got to use my brand new OXO cookie scoop for these! I have to say that I love that thing and will be getting them in all the various sizes! It was so easy to use and for once my cookies ended up nice and uniform rather than having half that were pretty and half that looked like they had mutated!

I hope you'll enjoy these delightful cookies.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Super Quick Sticky Buns

There's nothing better than fresh sticky buns or cinnamon rolls. The scent of cinnamon, sugar and butter wafting through the house is perhaps one of the nicest ways to start the day!

Making fresh sticky buns can be a pain. Making dough, waiting for it to rise, cooking fillings - it all is just so much work. But there is a better way! Ina Garten presents a superb shortcut recipe in her book Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics. Ina's recipe uses frozen puff pastry for the dough and a simple mixture of butter and brown sugar for everything else. It only takes about half an hour in the oven and maybe ten minutes to prepare and the taste is magnificent!

Ina's original recipe uses 12 small muffin cups, however I decided to halve her recipe and use my 6 large cups. I also opted to leave out the raisins, since I'm not a raisin fan and I substituted walnuts for the pecans she uses. I really loved this recipe and it was so simple to do with incredible flavor and presentation! I'll be using this shortcut instead of my much more involved cinnamon bun recipe that I did several weeks ago.

So, here we go with some super quick sticky buns...

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Orange Buttercream Genoise

This cake starts off with a Butter Genoise that is then layered with apricot glaze, Grand Marnier infused simple syrup and finally an orange buttercream frosting. Lovely tastes that are delicate and sweet all on a moist and airy sponge cake base.

I'll be the first to admit it - cake decorating is not my thing! I've never been able to achieve that perfectly sculpted and smooth frosting pictured in books. No matter how many top of the line tools I get, no matter how many times I try, it just never works out quite right.

But, the taste... now that I can get right! This Genoise was no exception. I decided to try this recipe from my copy of Baking by James Peterson since it was rather different from the usual cakes I make. I also have my two new half sheets from Williams-Sonoma so wanted to try them out with a sheet cake. The taste was magnificent even if the beauty left a bit to be desired. Hey, maybe everyone can chip in and send me to a cake decorating class. Maybe having someone show me hands on might work!

Anyway, this is a rather involved recipe but the end result is great and if you're a great cake decorator you can really show off for friends and family.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Lemon Streusel Bars

A little cookie, a little cake, a little streusel, a little pie - face it, this one is a little bit of everything to everyone!

This great bar cookie is an old Southern Living recipe that they feature in their Classic Southern Desserts cookbook. It features a flaky and buttery shortbread type crust with a luscious lemon filling that's topped by a crumbly streusel and powdered sugar. Tart, buttery, sweet and simply superb. This will become a classic in your repertoire, I'm sure!

Although this takes a while to make, it's actually pretty easy because you can bake it in steps. As you're cooking one part you can assemble the next part and clean up. By the end you're all done and ready to enjoy this magnificent lemony treat!

I also stumbled upon a great new tip when doing this. I recently got a new pastry cutter at Williams-Sonoma and had been using it to cut the butter into the dry ingredients on this dish since I don't own a food processor. When I'd finished with everything and cooled the bars I happened to spy my pastry cutter drying nearby. I figured I'd see if it would make nice straight cuts in my bars. Usually, when I use a knife to cut bar cookies they invariably end up a bit crooked and with broken edges. Sure enough, using my pastry cutter gave me beautiful straight lines and no crumbly edges!

So, here's the recipe for Lemon Streusel Bars! Enjoy!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Why Make Real Whipped Cream?

Back during the Christmas holidays we had a big family event up in Prescott Valley. I got a chance to finally meet all of Michael's brothers and sisters in person after 12 years! We had a great time with lots of food, lots of drink and lots of fun.

During all that my beautiful sister-in-law (sister-out-law?) Janis was preparing a dish that needed whipped cream. No one had gotten any Redi-Whip, Dream Whip or other store brands and everyone was at a loss. As it happened there was some heavy whipping cream in the fridge so I suggested just making some fresh whipped cream.

You'd have thought I'd suggested building a three stage rocket and flying to the moon. For some reason people have this strange idea that whipped cream is difficult. I think they often equate it with whipping egg whites (which can be tricky). In actuality, making real whipped cream is quite easy and the taste pay off is astounding. There's just no comparison between store bought "whipped toppings" and real whipped cream! It's luscious and airy with great flavor depth and enough texture to let you know that you're eating it. It's not just pretty - it's a complement to the food.

So, I told Janis how to make whipped cream and she did. They were astounded at the difference between real whipped cream and the stuff from a can (or tub). There's just no reason to skimp when making real whipped cream only takes a few minutes.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Lemon Chess Pie

Lemon Chess Pie... what an odd name when you think about it. You'd picture something maybe chocolate and vanilla that creates a fancy "checkerboard" or "chess board" appearance. However, this is actually the simplest of pies.

I've always wondered about the origins of the name. Obviously, it has nothing to do with the game of chess. There have been many explanations offered throughout the years from it being a corruption of "cheese" (although it contains no cheese) to being a corruption of the Southern pronunciation of "just pie" (jes' pie) to being a reference to a pie chest (sometimes called a pie safe) used to hold cooling pies in the days before refrigeration.

Who knows? But, what I do know is they're really simple to make and taste delicious. This is a great dessert when you have guests coming and don't have a lot of fancy ingredients in the house.

Make sure when you make this that you allow it to chill fully before serving. The coolness really brings out the lemony flavor. These are super sweet and are often served with coffee (chicory is best) after dinner or for brunch.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Lemon Cappellini with Grilled Chicken

When we were at A.J.'s Fine Foods the other day, I picked up some Cappellini Pasta among other things. I hadn't really thought much about what I'd use it in but it seemed like I'd been running across lots of great recipes that incorporated angel hair pasta so figured I might as well have some in the pantry.

As fate would have it I needed something for supper tonight and wanted to do something slightly different than our usual Saturday night sauteed chicken. So, I pulled out my box of Cappellini, a chicken breast and some of my ever present lemons and set to work on a Lemon Cappellini with Grilled Chicken.

It turned out quite good. The past is very lemony with a double hit of lemon juice and lemon zest. You can also play with the flavors in the chicken. I happened to have some on hand that is always on sale at our local grocery store. It's a boneless, skinless breast and is already seasoned lightly with peppers and other grilling herbs. However, you can use whatever you like and do it plain or with your favorite grilling spices and herbs.

This is really simple and is one in less than 20 minutes total. A little sprig of fresh basil or some lemon wedges make a nice garnish. This makes about 2 to 3 servings.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Peanut Butter "Girl Scout" Cookies

I believe they are now known as "Do-Si-Dos" or some such, but when I was younger they were just Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies and I loved them. I loved them so much I'd have gladly joined the Girl Scouts to get my fill of them!

To this day, they are my favorite cookie and I look forward to seeing the young ladies out selling their cookies each year.

I've mentioned them before, notably in my post on Lemon Tea Cookies based on recipe from the founder of the GSA. However, this recipe is one I ran across in several iterations across the web. Most were pretty similar give or take a slight measurement variation so I decided to pick one at random and try it out.

Why I decided to do this at four in the morning, I don't know. I guess, I thought it wouldn't be too difficult. After all, it's a basic drop cookie with a filling. What I found was that while the mixing was a snap, the baking took forever. Even using two half-sheet pans at a time, I still had enough to fill my entire kitchen! That's even counting the first flight which were no good for sandwich cookies because I used the wrong measurement for the dough when I baked it!

So, for the past 5 hours I've been putting cookies in the oven and taking them out, cooling them and finally making the filling and filling about 3/4 of them. The rest I'm just going to leave plain as I found they're pretty good just as a peanut butter cookie.

Here's a tip, when you get ready to fill these, use a piping bag and large tip. Trying to do it with a spoon gets messy and time consuming. When I switched to the piping bag things went quickly and efficiently.

They're not exact duplicates of my favorite Girl Scout cookies, but in a pinch they make a nice substitute!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Lemon-Lime Cookies

I've been trying to use up a bunch of limes and lemons I bought recently. I had originally thought of doing a key lime pie and maybe another lemon meringue but never got around to it.

Last night, I started thinking about a recipe I love for lemon cookies. Then I thought it would be really simple to substitute lime. Then I thought, why not make lemon and lime together? After all, it seems to work for Sprite and 7-Up.

So, I pulled out my old recipe and made a few tweaks and voila! Lemon-Lime cookies.

This is pretty easy and I added some yellow and green food coloring which ended up being very subtle although in the unbaked cookies the colors were beautiful!

They're also very tasty with a great citrus flavor that is not too tart or overwhelming.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mama's Day! - Mama and the Wine

We're not cooking today but rather remembering Mama as it's Mother's Day. Although she passed away some years ago, I can't help thinking of her when I'm in the kitchen. In fact, when I was putting together the Le Marquis et Creme Beurre, Menagere I could almost hear her whispering, "Call it whatever you want to baby, but it's a chocolate cake with some butter cream frosting." I did have to giggle. Several friends commented that it sounded so "sexy" and that would have tickled Mama to no end.

Of course, she was a pretty straightforward cook. Her food was delicious and without pretense which is often the best kind. In her kitchen taste always trumped presentation. After all, she thought chefs who said people "eat with their eyes" needed some lessons in anatomy. Taste was first and if it was pretty too, then that was so much the better. But pretty could never make something nasty taste good.

Around 1992 or 1993, I don't recall the specific date, she had moved into a small apartment. My father had died in 1990 and she'd broken her hip and had a number of complications a couple years later. So, she gave up her house and, with my youngest nephew who took care of her until her death, moved into "town."

Around the same time I had a good friend from London who was visiting. He was a lobbyist for Parliament and had decided to spend a month or two in the States visiting American friends. For about 2 weeks we toured historic areas of South Carolina, Georgia and North Carolina. We had a blast and he was fascinated with our colonial history and even our accents that retained so many archaic English words from the Restoration and Elizabethan periods. In fact, he presented me with a wonderful social history called "Albion's Seed: Four English Folkways in America." He also presented me with a very, very expensive bottle of Port whose brand is used in the House of Lords for traditional royal toasts. To this day, I have had few socio-historical discussions more interesting than those over dinner or lunch with Stuart following tours of historic sites.

After Stuart returned to London, I stuck the bottle of Port in Mama's pantry and promptly forgot about it. I'd intended to open it later in the year with some friends and since I was taking care of my grandmother, did not want to keep it in her cabinet (she was devoutly Methodist and disapproved of "liquor").

A few months went by and my very expensive Port went unnoticed. Then came the Christmas holiday season and the baking began.

Each year Mama would bake dozens of real fruit cakes, trays of cookies and candies and other assorted goodies for everyone she knew. One component of the fruit cakes was that they had to be soaked for several days in wine. Normally, she purchased a fairly inexpensive red wine at the grocery store. After all, the fruitier the wine the better in her book.

This year, though, she happened to notice my bottle of "wine" in the cabinet. After all, to her anything made from grapes and fermented is "wine" be it port, sherry, or Blue Nun! After work one night (I was chief ortho tech at a local hospital) I dropped by her apartment. There on her counter were a dozen fruitcakes and next to them my bottle of $300 Port!

Yes, those fruitcakes were soaking in my "wine"! I think my scream rattled the glass. My beautiful bottle of Port, the Port used to toast the Queen in Parliament was currently soaking into fruitcakes.

I grabbed what was left and quickly poured a glass. Of course, there were no wine glasses in Mama's house so it was a jelly glass from a Hardee's promotion circa 1978. Still, it was exquisite Port. But, all I managed to salvage was about a glass. The rest would be presented to friends in her fruitcakes. I'm sure those were the most flavorful ones she'd ever given for the holidays!

After that, I always made sure that she had plenty of her usual brands in the cabinet when it came baking season!

So, that's Mama and the Wine. Now, I think I'll have a glass of Port this evening with dinner and continue to reminisce about Mama.

If you've got a special Mama you want to honor today here are some suggestions for fabulous dishes:

Perfect 3 Egg Omelette
Banana Crunch Muffins
Cinnamon Rolls
Palmiers


Be sure to check out some of Mama's favorite recipes in Sweet Decadence: 101 Favorite Recipes (it also makes a great gift for your Mama!)

Friday, May 7, 2010

Lemon Mousse

Sometimes I just get in a mood and have to experiment in the kitchen. Yesterday was one of those times. I got a bee in my bonnet to do something different for supper so headed off to Sunflower Market about 1pm to grab ingredients for Sole Meuniere and Orange and Pecan Wild Rice. Both of those are Ina Garten recipes in her Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics cookbook.

I also decided to try her recipe for Lemon Mousse since I had lots of lemons to use up and I also had some snazzy new ramekins from World Market (4 for $2.99!) Of the entire meal, I think the Mousse was the biggest hit with the Dover Sole coming in second and the rice a distant third.

Michael's rating of the Orange and Pecan Wild Rice was a reserved "it's good." When pressed he expanded his review to include "it's different" and finally "I like it but it just needs to be a small portion alongside a few other things." However, he said the Dover Sole Meuniere was "very good." I didn't bother to try dragging out more of a critique on that one wanting to quit while I was ahead.

Anyway, I fell in love with the Lemon Mousse. It's fairly easy to do and is scrumptious and lemony. The only real change I might make to this recipe the next time I do it is to add the lemon curd just after heating the custard so that it can incorporate more fully into the dish. Adding it where Ina instructs tends to leave "chunks" of lemon curd floating in the mousse. Actually, it's kind of fun as far as taste because you get these little intense bursts of tart lemon while eating it. However, from a strictly aesthetic viewpoint it tends to interrupt the light yellow and fluffy appearance of the mousse. If you experiment, let me know how it turns out for you.

I don't often find myself propped against the kitchen counter licking the leftovers out of a bowl but after running my finger through the remainder of the mousse to test its flavor, I quickly dug out a spoon and finished off the bit that wouldn't fit in my ramekins! Yum! Smooth, tart, creamy, and light as air!

Ina's recipe makes enough for one 7 1/2" souffle dish. I used my small ramekins that measure about 3" across and had enough for about 5 or 6 easily. I probably could have made it to 7 if I'd had another ramekin handy. Instead, that last bit went right into my mouth!

I decorated these with some sweetened whipped cream placed in a pastry bag with a star tip. You can also use a bit of curled lemon peel or paper thin lemon wedges as garnish.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Coconut Macaroons Two Ways

I'm continuing on my coconut kick, rather to Michael's dismay since coconut is not his "favorite flavor." Oh well, I like it and had a big bag of coconut in the pantry that I wanted to get used up.

So, as I was browsing recipes for coconut dishes I came across an interesting number of variations on the classic coconut macaroon. The first recipe I came across was in James Peterson's Baking cookbook. It featured a classic macaroon made with whipped egg whites, sugar, and coconut. While the ingredients are simple, the assembly and baking are very time consuming.  First whipping the egg whites and finally baking at a low temperature for three (yes three) hours!

The next recipe was a classic from Southern Living that features egg whites, flour, sugar, coconut and flavorings. It's much quicker to make and requires no whipping of egg whites or long drawn out baking period.

So, I decided to do both and compare. The results were interesting. The classic recipe turned out a very light and delicate macaroon that is crisp and coconutty. The Southern Living recipe turned out a chewy and soft macaroon more akin to what you find in the grocery store. The taste test gave the ribbon to the Southern Living recipe. It's a much more substantial and tasty cookie. My only tweak to this when I do it again will be to reserve enough coconut to sprinkle the tops of the cookies just before baking.

So, here are two recipes for Coconut Macaroons.

Classic Recipe:

4 egg whites
3/4 cup sugar
12 oz. shredded sweetened coconut

Whip egg whites to medium peaks. Gradually add sugar and beat to stiff peaks. Fold in coconut and place batter in piping bag with large tip. Pipe 2" mounds onto baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake at 200° for 3 hours.

Southern Living Recipe:

4 egg whites
2 1/2 cups sweetened flaked coconut
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract (clear is best but either works)
1/4 tsp. Kosher salt
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. almond extract

Preheat oven to 325°. Stir together all ingredients in a large bowl. Drop dough by rounded teaspoons onto parchment lined baking sheet. Bake at 325° for 18 to 20 minutes or until edges are golden. Remove to wire racks to cool completely before serving.
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Sunday, May 2, 2010

Coconut Cream Pie

Coconut is second only to lemon as my favorite flavor in desserts. There's nothing quite like crunchy sweet coconut in a pie or cookie or cake or... well, you get the idea.

So, I decided to break in a new tart pan from Williams-Sonoma with a Coconut Cream Pie. This recipe is really fairly simple and is a classic from Southern Living and included in their Classic Southern Desserts cookbook.

The only real changes I've made to it is to use a stabilized whipped cream so that it will keep better for a few days. If you're going to be serving this for guests then there's no need to stabilize the cream. You can just make the pie ahead of time and refrigerate and then add fresh whipped cream just before serving.

This is a great little pie that looks nice and will impress your guests and family. You'll find this perfect for summer gatherings although, traditionally in the South, this is normally served around the Christmas holidays along with coconut cakes.

So, a classic Southern Coconut Cream Pie...

Recipe: Coconut Cream Pie

Summary: A classic Southern dessert with creamy coconut custard filling topped with homemade whipped cream and toasted coconut!

Ingredients

  • 1 refrigerated pie crust
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 3 tbs. butter
  • 1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
Stabilized Whipped Cream
  • 1 tsp. plain gelatin
  • 2 tbs. cold water
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 3 tbsp. powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425°. Fit 1 pie crust into a 9-inch pie plate or tart pan. Prick bottom and sides with a fork. Place parchment paper over crust and fill with pie weights, dried beans or rice. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Let cool on wire rack.
  2. Combine 1/2 cup sugar and cornstarch in heavy saucepan. Whisk together half-and-half and egg yolks. Gradually whisk egg mixture into sugar mixture. Bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking constantly. Allow to boil for 1 minute and remove from heat. Stir in butter, 1 cup coconut, and 1 tsp. vanilla. Place plastic wrap directly on warm custard to prevent film from forming. Allow to stand for 30 minutes.
  3. Remove plastic wrap and spoon custard into crust. cover and chill 30 minutes or until set.
  4. Preheat oven to 350°. Place 3 tbs. shredded coconut in single layer on shallow pan. Bake 5 to 6 minutes until toasted. Stir occasionally. Cool completely (about 15 minutes.) Watch coconut very closely as it only take a moment to go from toasted to burned!
Whipped Cream:
  1. Add gelatin to cold water in small pan. Set this over boiling water until it is clear. Do not stir. Cool to room temperature. Meanwhile whip the cream until it is medium thick. Pour gelatin mixture into the center of cream while mixer is going. Pour in the gelatin all at once and continue beating. Add powdered sugar and vanilla. Beat until cream stands in stiff peaks.
  2. Spread whipped cream on pie and sprinkle with toasted coconut. Return to refrigerator to chill or serve immediately.
Total time: 1 hour 15 min
Number of servings (yield): 8 slices
Meal type: dessert
Culinary tradition: USA (Southern)
Copyright © Buck Bannister and Sugar Pies.
Recipe adapted by Buck Bannister.

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