December 31, 2008

Sweet Endings- Cheesecake Tartlettes

While I'm a big fan of holidays in general, New Years Eve has never endeared itself to me. Instead of running around town in uncomfortable shoes, setting all my hopes for the new year on one night of revelry, I prefer to ring in 2009 from my living room with a glass of champagne and this year, a slice of cheesecake. With an eye on my upcoming resolutions (eat healthy, lose weight, ugh so boring) I opted out of a the tall portion of Dorie's Tall and Creamy Cheescake and made tarlettes instead. This one is Meyer Lemon.

Here's Blueberry.
And with the leftover batter, I threw in a Raspberry Ramekin version.

So after you're done raising your glass, how about raising a spoon, and wishing everyone a sweet and happy new year.

December 25, 2008

So Very Nice

I must have been a very good girl this year because I got dinner at Joel Robuchon in my stocking. Six mind blowing courses comprised of some of the most coveted ingredients- black truffles, foie gras, oxtail, and kobe beef. A decadent chocolate dessert featuring dark chocolate shards, chocolate cream, coffee creme brulee, and gold dusted rice krispies all covered in a warm ganache. And then there were the carts- the first one with over 20 varieties of breads and rolls, later a trio of satiny ice creams, and finally, when you think you couldn't possibly eat another bite, a 3 level trolly containing every type of french cookie, marshmallows, and a gorgeous array artisanal chocolates. A meal so inspiring I can't adequately describe it at this time except to say it was a once in a lifetime experience. Being naughty is fun but for a meal that good, it pays to be nice.
Thanks Santa!

December 20, 2008

Kamikaze Cookie Bombs

The holiday season is full force, with the baking, eating, shopping, eating, and did I mention the baking? Until now I've been pawning off my holiday treats on my husbands co-workers but now that he is on vacation, what is a avid baker who is still desperately trying to fit into her skinny jeans to do? With so many cookie recipes to try and my "limited waist availability" situation there was really only one recourse- the neighbors. Lucky for me, some of my dearest friends just happen to live within a 2 block radius of my house. Perfect for sneaking by and making a little sweet-filled deposit on their doorstep at odd hours. Foisting goodies on unsuspecting friends and neighbors is a wonderful holiday tradition to start in your town. If stealth cookie gift bombs are wrong, I don't want to be right!

Almond Cardamom Stars With Orange Icing
adapted from Cooking Light, December 2008
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup almond paste, crumbled
1 tbsp butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
1/3 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
3 tbsp canola oil

2 cups powdered sugar
2 tbsp skim milk
1 tbsp fresh orange juice
1 tsp orange zest

Pulse 1 cup sugar, baking soda, cardamon and salt in a food processor until combined. Add almond paste and butter until blended. Combine juice and oil in a separate bowl then slowly add to dough and process until dough forms a ball. Working with half the dough at a time, press dough into a square on plastic wrap. Cover with additinal wrap and roll out to 1/4 inch thickness. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 375F. Remove plastic wrap from dough and cut out stars with a cookie cutter. Place on parchment lined baking sheets and bake for 6-8 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on wire racks.
Prepare icing by whisking sugar, milk, juice and zest in a small bowl until smooth. Spoon over cookies and chill 1 hour.

Cinnamon Sugar Palmiers
adapted from Ina Garten & Nooschi
1 packaged store bought puff pastry sheets, thawed
2 cups sugar
1/8 tsp kosher salt
2 tbsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 450F. Combine sugar, salt and cinnamon. Using parchment or wax paper, place one sheet of puff pastry over an even layer of the sugar mixture. Sprinkle another layer of sugar on top of the pastry and roll out into a 13x13 inch square, making sure the sugar is pressed evenly into the dough. Fold the sides of the square towards the center so they go halfway to the middle. Fold them again so the two folds meet exactly at the middle of the dough. Then fold 1 half over the other half as though closing a book. You will have 6 layers. Slice dough into 3/8 inch slices and arrange on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 6 minutes until the bottoms have turned golden brown, then flip cookies over with a spatula and bake for an additional 2-4 minutes until the tops have carmelized. Transfer to a wire rack to cool

December 17, 2008


Now, I know there is no such thing as "recession proof," but I didn't think we'd hit rock bottom until my chocolate class was canceled due to lack of interest. Lack of interest! In chocolate! Have we sunk so low? Is Armageddon here? Is it time to throw in the spatula (er, towel) and hunker down in the bomb shelter to await imminent destruction?
Rather than admit defeat, I looked to you, the foodie blogosphere, for guidance. And you talked me down off the ledge and gave me Peppermint Bark.

Phew that was a close one! Thank you Leslie, April, Jamie and Jen for your recipes and for showing me all is not lost. Together, we can save ourselves, and the $24 dollars William Sonoma charges for a tin of the stuff, one homemade confection at a time!

Window or Aisle

Remember when flying was fun? When you could show up 30 minutes before your flight, check bags for free, and count on a circumspect turkey sandwich to go with your peanuts on most cross country trips? Well, those days are definitely over friends as air travel has become something akin to a root canal in terms of pain, discomfort, and impact on your wallet size. As much as I was thrilled to have made it home to Florida to celebrate my Mom's wedding, the journey home left me tired, cranky and desperate for a day spent recovering on my couch with a cup of tea and some homemade treats. This week's TWD, Buttery Jam Cookies really fit that bill. Made from ingredients I already had on hand, these soft, cakey cookies are stress-free because they are a cinch to make and ready in no time. Forget all the hustle and bustle of the yuletide rush and take a (tea) time out. And while your relaxing, check out Tuesdays With Dorie to see what my fellow bakers are cooking up this holiday season.

December 8, 2008

Lemon Ginger Sugar Cookies

It's not that I'm lacking in holiday spirit- in fact I have a garage full of decorations waiting to be put up, and a boxful of Christmas cookie cutters ready to go. It's just that I'm headed to Florida this week so I'm putting the holiday frenzy on hold until I get back. Instead of wreaths or snowmen decorated with sprinkles and red hots (which I can't wait to make upon my return) for this weeks' TWD, Grandma's All Occasion Sugar Cookies, I give you Lemon Ginger Slice And Bakes. I added lemon zest to the sugar and a teaspoon of ginger to the flour mixture before chilling, slicing and baking these little lovelies. They are topped with icing made from lemon juice and powdered sugar, and some multicolored sugar crystals. Light and fragrant, the are the perfect cookie to munch while packing for the Sunshine State.

December 7, 2008

Reduce Reuse Recycle

Admittedly, there was a time when I was wasteful. Never a big leftover fan, meals I cooked would often go from table to tupperware to trash, without ever giving a second thought to how much mileage I was getting out of my food. Now that I try to cook every day, I want to try new recipes without spending a fortune on groceries so I've taken to seeking inspiration for meals by rummaging in the fridge rather than trolling the grocery aisles. This year, Thanksgiving leftovers yielded much more than turkey sandwiches- although I sure ate a heck of a lot of those. Leftover filling from my Butternut Squash Turnover appetizer became
Butternut Squash and Mushroom Cous Cous.

Slow cooked turkey stock became an excellent base for Matzo Ball Soup. And, thanks to Nicole at For The Love of Food, leftover pumpkin puree found a new home in a deliciously light Pumpkin Custard.

What's in your fridge that can be re-purposed?

December 3, 2008

Cool Yule Pie

Even though the malls have been playing Jingle Bells for weeks, and Starbucks switched to holiday cups the day after Halloween, we have a strict rule in my house that no Christmas music will be played until Thanksgiving day. Then, its non-stop until New Years Eve! I love Christmas music and have quite a lot of it so picking a favorite song, that would also translate into pie form for December's You Want Pie's With That, was tough. Scanning my itunes library, today desperate for ideas, I started listening to Cool Yule by Louis Armstrong and inspiration finally struck- Cool Yule Chocolate Peppermint Pie! It starts with chocolate wafer cookie crust, a layer of mint chip ice cream, and then topped off with rich dark chocolate ganache. It's like a peppermint patty from your freezer!

Cool Yule Pie
1 package chocolate wafers
2 tbsp melted butter
1 pint mint chip ice cream, softened
5 oz semisweet chocolate pieces
1/4 cup heavy cream
pinch of salt

Using a food processor (or brute force) grind up chocolate wafers. In a medium bowl, combine with melted butter, then pat into a 9 inch tart pan. Carefully spread softened ice cream over the crust, filling the pan almost to the top. Freeze for at least an hour, until set.

In a medium saucepan, bring heavy cream and salt to a bowl, then pour over chocolate pieces and whisk until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Let cool to room temperature.

Using a spatula, spread the ganache over the tart and return to the freezer to set for at least another ten minutes before serving.

December 2, 2008

Lemon Linzer Sables

Cookie season is officially upon us people! After the last leftover turkey sandwich has been eaten and all of the dishes are finally done, it is time to bust out the rolling pins and fire up the Christmas cookie assemble line! Usually I spend a few days poring recipes from my many cooking magazines looking for edible gift ideas. This year I've some extra help from the TWD elves with the cornucopia of cookie recipes that have been selected for December. First on the list, Linzer Sables.

I used hazelnut meal in the cookie dough and filled them with Trader Joe's (highly addictive) lemon curd. The cookies came out light and crisp with a hint of spice and a satisfying zing from the lemon. Definitely a great way to kickoff cookie season!