Saturday, December 20, 2014

Red Velvet Crackle Cookies

Christmas is less than a week away and I can hardly believe it. It just crept up on me out of nowhere, and I'm entering a slight state of panic. The state where I feel like I'm close to finishing all my Christmas shopping, but it's really not quite done; the state where I'm still trying to figure out what to bake for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, but I then realize that there is no way I'll have time to bake everything.  My brain is currently jumbled with ideas for treats I should have baked and shared and things I think there's still time to share, and I just got this very inexplicable craving to bake and ice sugar cookies, something I never ever do because it requires patience that I don't have.  

In any case, let's try to break away from that mess of a brain I have right now and instead focus on what I actually have managed to accomplish in these past weeks, these Red Velvet Crackle Cookies being one of them.  I had been thinking about making something like these for a little while now, and then I ended up seeing them on the cover of this month's Food Network Magazine.  I'm sure it was just a happy coincidence, but it made these cookies happen.   

For me, crackle cookies bring an element of nostalgia.  I remember making them in my 7th (or was it 8th?) grade home economics class as part of our "baking" portion of the curriculum.  I shudder a bit every time I think back to that class.  They were part of the class because they're easy, very hard to screw up, and really tasty. Fast forward a few years, and I remember my sister asking me to make a chocolate crackle cookie to share on the blog (also around Christmas time).  They're just a wonderful cookie that is comforting and tasty, because after all, what's not to love about a chocolate cookie with a soft brownie texture and a powdered sugar exterior?  

Nothing, that's what. 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Greek Yogurt Panna Cotta

If I had to pick a non-chocolate dessert to eat for the rest of my lift (I say non-chocolate because a chocolate dessert will easily beat out any other), it would be panna cotta.  I tried panna cotta for the first time a few years back when I was helping my cousin make one for a family gathering, and I remember thinking that this was a really, really strange dessert.  I just couldn't understand how combining milk and cream and sugar could be good (clearly I hadn't attempted to make ice cream yet), and adding gelatin into the mix just seemed like a recipe for something really funky. I wasn't convinced that we had a winning dessert on our hands, but my cousin assured me that this was something special.  Needless to say, she was completely right. I hadn't tasted anything quite like it before, but my mind had been changed- cream, milk, sugar, and gelatin are a recipe for something DELISH!

I like playing with variations on the traditional panna cotta, just to see what other interesting flavors are possible.  I've made a buttermilk panna cotta that I thought was delicious, and this particular recipe for a panna cotta made with Greek yogurt is one that I've had my eye on for quite some time. I was inspired by Chobani's  #MadeWithChobani project, and I figured that with the holidays literally around the corner, now would be the perfect time to finally try out this recipe. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Coconut Thumbprint Cookies, and the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap

And it's time to wrap up this year's Food Blogger Cookie Swap! This is my second year participating, and I had just as much fun this time around as I did the first time.  It was great getting to be part of such a great cause (if you didn't know, in order to take part in the swap, you have to first make a donation to Cookies For Kids Cancer, a fantastic nonprofit that works exclusively towards finding ways to combat pediatric cancer), and it makes the whole swap just that much sweeter. In the swap itself, you are randomly paired with three other bloggers, and to each you must send one dozen cookies, all from the same recipe.  In return, you receive one dozen cookies from three other bloggers, so you end up with three dozen different cookies.  It sounds a little confusing, but it's really quite simple once you get involved.  Both times that I've participated, I haven't been able to decide if deciding what to bake or the waiting for my boxes of cookies to arrive in the mail is more fun!

While it's definitely a close call, I think that this year, I may have had more fun waiting for my cookies to arrive.  I always have such a hard time deciding what to bake, because these aren't just any old cookies that need to be made- they need to be sturdy and durable enough to withstand a few days in the mail, yet still taste as delicious as they day they were made, if not better! Last year, I made these amazing Fudge Brownie Cookies with Cherries and Pistachio, but this year I wanted something completely different.  Since I went with a chocolate cookie last year, I wanted this year's cookie to be completely chocolate-free.  While browsing through recipes, I came across my favorite lemony thumbprint cookies, and I realized that might be the best option for the cookie swap.  They're easy to make and definitely taste good after a few days (I know this from experience), so I figured they'd be ok to stand up to a few days tied up with the US Postal Service.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Sesame and Poppy Palmiers

I've loved palmiers for as long as I can remember.  Years ago, my dad was taking a Saturday art class at the Art Students League in Manhattan, and on his return trip home, he would always stop at the Hot and Crusty in Penn Station and buy me and my sister an elephant ear (the palmier's most popular nickname) or black and white cookie.  I loved both, but the elephant ear was my favorite.  It was massive, so my sister and I would always split it right down the middle.  Sometimes he would bring us one that was covered in chocolate, but my favorite were the classic, caramelized sugar palmiers.

My dad is no longer taking his Saturday art classes, but I've made palmiers for myself a few times since then. They're one of the simplest cookies you can make, but they're also one of the most delicious.  They become tricky is you use homemade puff pastry, but a good quality store-bought puff pastry will be just as delicious. I've never attempted to make puff pastry myself, but I think I'd like to one day.  Working with the massive quantity of butter needed for puff pastry makes me feel a bit nervous; I prefer to work with large quantities of butter that I can't actually see.  Know what I mean?

Friday, December 5, 2014

Rugelach with Raspberries and Walnuts

I don't think there's a cookie that I enjoy more than a well-made rugelach. Its only competition would probably be a freshly baked, still warm from the oven chocolate chip cookie, but aside from that, I can't think of a cookie I enjoy more.  They're more than just cookies; they're delectable little pastries filled with all kinds of delicious things.  My favorite rugelach are filled with apricot preserves and pistachios, but rugelach filled with raspberry jam and walnuts are also perfection.  So, when the Baddish Group reached out to me and asked if I wanted to try out Dorie Greenspan's famous rugelach recipe from her newest book, Baking Chez Moi, I couldn't say no. 

The challenge wasn't just to make Dorie's rugelach recipe- I also got the chance to work with Driscoll's raspberries to prepare a delicious filling for my rugelach, a perfect match! I normally use ready-made jams and preserves when making rugelach, so I was excited to try out this new approach.  I first started by preparing the raspberry filling.  I took beautiful ruby-red raspberries and cooked them with a little sugar and freshly squeezed lemon juice. As the fruit cooked down and broke apart, it thickened just slightly.  After cooling and chilling in the fridge, the fruity mixture transformed into a thick spreadable filling. Once the filling was done, it was time to tackle the rugelach dough. 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Cranberry and Pecan Praline Ice Cream

I know, I know, we're practically on the biggest foodie day of the whole entire year (it's the day after tomorrow and I STILL don't know what I'm baking up), and here I am, bringing you ice cream.  Some parts of the country are buried in snow, and other parts are getting ready for the snow that's on its way, yet somehow, I find sharing an ice cream recipe to be perfectly reasonable. I mean, this particular frozen treat is studded with ruby red cranberries and sweet and crunchy pecan praline, which to me, seems to be the perfect blend of cool ice cream and warm fall flavors.  It's an ice cream treat that's Thanksgiving-worthy. 

I really think that ice cream is my favorite treat, ever.  As much as I love cake and cookies, ice cream is just a whole different thing. I find ice cream so comforting, and it's an indulgence that I don't think I'll ever be able to say no to. Regardless of the temperature outside, ice cream is the one pick me up that will always bring a smile to my face, and it's one of my favorite ways to end a big meal (or any meal, really). I don't know about you, but as much as I love pie and cake, sometimes the thought of eating a thick wedge seems less than ideal after I've eaten a huge meal.  Ice cream somehow seems lighter to me, and is a sweet treat that I'll look forward to more for dessert.  Serving ice cream for dessert on Thanksgiving doesn't need to be reserved to plain vanilla on the side of a slice of pie (not that there's anything wrong with that: see here).  The ice cream itself can be the star of the dessert spread!

Friday, November 21, 2014

My Favorite Apple Pie

I can hardly believe that Thanksgiving is less than a week away.  Where the time went, I'll never know, but all I can say is that I woke up on Monday morning, and it suddenly hit me. Holy crap. Thanksgiving is a week away and I'm not prepared at all. I've been busy at work and busy on other projects, and I have misplaced my beloved Moleskine notebook with all of my recipe ideas and blog post notes.  One thing led to another, and I realized that I hadn't created a game plan for Thanksgiving posts at all. Some ideas definitely crossed my mind, but I just never looked at a calender to see how close we actually were to Thanksgiving.  That's why there's an absence of pumpkin and sweet potato and whatnot, but at least there's apple pie. 

Fortunately, I did have enough foresight to at least make an apple pie last weekend. To me, apple pie is the ultimate pie- there's no pie that's better (in the fall at least, in summer time, when fresh peaches are abundant, then all bets are off), and I just love making pie.  I can't really explain why pie-making is something I enjoy so much, but I just do.  The treat that comes closest to the excitement I feel whenever I make double-crust pies is a layer cake, but even then, layer cakes don't produce the same feeling of anticipation and enjoyment that a good double crust pie can.  There's something about finally having gotten the feel for knowing when pie dough is just ready, or knowing that your lattice is finally as pretty as you wanted it, or seeing that your crimped edges are perfectly fluted.  Making a good pie just makes me feel proud, because making a beautiful and tasty pie feels like such an accomplishment. 

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