Sugar cookies have always been a big part of my life, most specifically at Christmas time since they were a staple on the cookie platters we gave to other families in our neighborhood as gifts.  But as a little girl I was in love with the Publix bakery sugar cookies.  I’d purposely go grocery shopping with my Mom just so I could get the free cookie since I was a member of the Publix kids cookie club.  Something about the pale white chewy cookies with their tops covered in sanding sugar made my day.  You see my Mom’s definition of a sugar cookie was using her Grandmother’s recipe for sugar wafer cookies.  These cookies are super thin, crispy, and can only be decorated with superfine sanding sugar or a light sprinkle of nonpareils for fear that the decoration would take away from the simplicity of the wafer.  As you can imagine as a child they weren’t exactly my definition of a sugar cookie.

So here I am all grown up and still hooked on a simple sugar cookie.  My love of sugar cookies with glacé icing started when I was just dating Kyle.  At Valentine’s day his mom would get these delicious heart shaped cookies covered with this delicate glass like icing in shades of purple and pink from a local lady we fondly call the “Cookie Lady”.  We loved these cookies so much that we wanted to give them as favors at our wedding but much to our dismay the Cookie Lady was having a knee replacement two weeks before our wedding and would be out of commission.

A few months ago, I decided I’d like to try making a delicious sugar cookie myself.  I started trying out various recipes over the next weeks and settled on this particular one because of the addition of lemon zest which lends a bright undertone to what could be a very plain cookie.  Don’t get me wrong, these by no means taste lemony there is just something about the addition of zest that kicks it up a notch so to speak.  I also like this recipe because they roll out quite nicely with little effort unlike a few of the other recipes I tried.  The icing is very simple to put together and allows endless decorating possibilities.  But be warned it is rather unappetizing if you were to taste it right out of the bowl.  I promise though on top of a sugar cookie it is not only tasty but beautiful.

cookies

Sugar Cookies

Yields: about 4 dozen three-inch cookies

Ingredients:
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 large egg
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:
In the bowl of a stand mixture, cream together the butter and sugar.  Next, add the egg, lemon zest, and vanilla.  Beat on low until well blended.  In a small bowl combine the flour and salt.  With stand mixer still on low gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture.  Mix until the flour has been incorporated.

Next, scrape half of the dough onto a sheet of wax paper or plastic wrap.  Use the wrap to flatten the dough into a round disc.  Repeat with the remaining dough.  Refrigerate the dough for atleast 2 hours but no longer than 3 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350°.  On a lightly flour surface roll the dough out to 1/8-inch thickness. Using your favorite cookie cutters, cut out the shapes and transfer the cookies to a parchment lined cookie sheet.  Form the remaining scraps of dough into a flat disc and re-chill before rolling out again.  Bake the cookies for 8-12 minutes or until the begin to brown around the edges.  Let the cookies sit for about 2 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.  Let the cook sheet cool completely before using it again for the next batch.  Decorate as desired.

Glacé Icing

Ingredients:
1 lb. powdered sugar, you will need more if you would like to reach a consistency for piping
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons milk
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 teaspoon almond extract or extract or your choice
Gel food coloring for tinting the icing

Directions:
Using an electric mixer or a whisk, combine the powdered sugar and the milk.  Continue to beat until the mixture is smooth and lump free.  Once this consistency has been reached add the corn syrup and extract.  Again, beat until smooth.  The icing should run off of the whisk in a pretty thin drizzle.  The consistency of the icing at this point is best used for glazing.  If you’d like to use it for piping you will need to add more powdered sugar until it will still run off of the whisk but in a very slow, thick stream.  It is pretty fail-proof, if you find it is too thick add a little splash of milk and if it is too thin add a little more powdered sugar.  This icing is best tinted with gel food coloring.  Place the cookies on a wire rack with wax paper underneath to decorate.  You can spread the icing over the cookie with the back of the spoon just until you reach the edge leaving a border or spread it to the edge letting the excess drip off.  I have done it both ways and have had excellent results.

Source: Food from Books and Our Best Bites


Baked Ziti

09Sep09

I’ve always been a fan of baked ziti…well really just about any baked pasta dish.  I mean who doesn’t enjoy pasta smothered with cheese?!  This recipe promised a flavorful dish without the rubbery cheese, grainy sauce, and mushy noodles found in many other baked ziti recipes.  It definitely lived up to those expectations!  I think it had a lot to do with the technique used in making a white sauce with a cottage cheese base versus traditional ricotta cheese.  Not to mention the use of tons fresh basil, which I love.  It was fabulous and the friends we had over for dinner that night agreed this dish was by far one of the best they’d had.  It does however make a huge pan of ziti, so I would recommend inviting some friends over for a great meal or be prepared to eat lots of leftovers during the week.  Either way, this recipe is worth the extra effort!

zitiresize

Ingredients:
1 lb. 1% cottage cheese
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups parmesan cheese, grated
1 lb. ziti noodles
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 (28 oz.) can tomato sauce
1 (14.5 oz.) can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon sugar
Ground black pepper, to taste
3/4 teaspoon cornstarch
1 cup heavy cream
8 oz. low-moisture mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/4-inch pieces (about 1 1/2 cups)

Directions:
Adjust oven rack to the middle position and preheat oven to 350°.

In a large dutch oven over high heat bring 4 quarts of water to a boil.  When water is boiling stir in 1 tablespoon of salt and ziti noodles.  Stir occasionally until pasta is softened but not cooked through, about 5-7 minutes.  Drain pasta and leave in colander.  Do not was the dutch oven as in will be used again shortly.

In a medium bowl, combine the cottage cheese, eggs, and 1 cup of the parmesan cheese.  Over medium heat, in a 12-inch skillet heat the garlic and olive oil until the garlic is fragrant but not brown approximately 2 minutes.  Stir in the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, and oregano.  Simmer for about 10 minutes or until thickened.  Remove pan from the heat and stir in 1/2 cup of basil and sugar.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch and heavy cream.  Transfer the mixture to the dutch oven set over a medium heat.  Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook until it is thickened, about 3-4 minutes.  Once thickened, remove the pot from the heat and stir in the cottage cheese mixture, 1 cup of the tomato sauce, and 3/4 cup of the diced mozzarella until combined.  Add the cooked ziti and stir to coat.

Transfer the pasta to a 13×9 inch baking dish.  Spread the remaining tomato sauce evenly over the pasta.  Sprinkle the top with the remaining 3/4 cup mozzarella and 1/2 cup parmesan.  Cover the baking dish with foil and bake for 30 minutes.  After 30 minutes, remove the foil and cook for approximately 30 minutes longer or until the cheese is bubbling and beginning to brown.  Cool for 20 minutes.  Sprinkle the top with the remaining 2 tablespoons of basil and serve.

Source: Cook’s Illustrated Magazine March & April 2009 Issue


A few weeks ago we celebrated my friend April’s 27th birthday!  April and I have had many conversations about her past birthdays and the requirement of a chocolate chip cookie cake to make the day.  At first I thought I would just make a batch of chocolate chip cookie dough, bake it in a jelly roll pan and pipe the edges with chocolate ganache frosting.  But being the over the top individual that I am I thought that might be a little plain for my taste, ridiculous I know.  So, for the next few days I brainstormed ideas until I remembered this recipe I bookmarked in my Google reader months ago.  April loves chocolate so instead of using just butterscotch morsels I decided to mix half butterscotch and half semi-sweet morsels into the batter.  Boy did it ever exceed my expectations, it was fabulous!  Like Annie said, a little goes a long way because it is so rich.  In true April style, we had some vanilla Publix frozen yogurt to go with it!!  And yes, according to April it must be the Publix brand!  Happy 27th birthday girlfriend, here’s to a being another year older!

bittersweetweb

Ingredients:

For the cake:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
11 oz. package butterscotch morsels, divided
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate morsels

For the butterscotch ganache:
3/4 cup butterscotch morsels
6 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
3 tablespoons unsalted butter

For the chocolate ganache:
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons water

Directions:

For the cake:
Preheat the oven to 350°.  Butter and flour the sides of two 5-inch round cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper.  In a mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.  In the bowl of a stand mixer combine the butter, brown sugar, and vanilla on low until creamy.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Again with the mixer on low add the eggs one at a time until incorporated.  With the mixer still running, slowly add the flour mixture just until combined.  Stir in 1/2 cup each of the butterscotch and semi-sweet morsels with a rubber spatula.  Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared pans.  Sprinkle the tops with the remaining butterscotch and semi-sweet morsels.  Bake for 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Transfer the pans to a wire rack and allow to cool completely.  Once cooled remove from pans and peel the parchment paper from the bottoms.

For the butterscotch ganache:
Place the butterscotch morsels in a small heatproof bowl.  In a small saucepan, combine the cream and butter.  Warm over medium-high heat until the mixture is almost boiling.  Pour the heated cream mixture over the butterscotch morsels.  Allow to sit for 30 seconds before stirring until smooth.

For the chocolate ganache:
Place the chopped bittersweet chocolate in a small heatproof bowl.  In a small saucepan, combine the cream, sugar, and water.  Over medium-high heat bring the mixture to a boil.  Pour the heated cream mixture over the bittersweet chocolate.  Allow to sit for 30 seconds before stirring until smooth.  Let the glaze sit approximately 15 minutes until it thickens a bit.

To assemble the cake:
Place the two brownie cakes on a wire rack the has wax paper underneath it.  Drizzle butterscotch ganache over the top of one of the layers so that is drips over the egdes.  Do the same with a small amount of the chocolate ganache over the same layer.  Place the remaining layer on top of the first.  Top with the remaining chocolate ganache so that it also drips over the edges.  Transfer the cake to a serving platter.  Decorate the top with remaining butterscotch morsels.

Source:  Bakerella, as seen on Annie Eat’s


Well what can I say, I have once again fallen off of the food blogging bandwagon.  Sorry about that folks, somewhere in between my board exam, vacation, and the start of my third year rotations blogging found itself on the back burner.  But I am happy to report that I am back and to start off the month I have a great recipe to share!  I know that a few months ago I told you about a really great recipe for pizza dough but guess what, I have found another.  I like this one because it can be made rather impromptu unlike the other which requires an overnight chill in the fridge.  I knew this was an obvious hit with Kyle when he asked me to make this a week after its original debut.  This can also be assembled ahead of time and held in fridge overnight, which makes it a possible contender for a busy weeknight dinner.  I served this with a simple cesar salad which made for a wonderful dinner.

stromboli2

Ingredients:

2 cups bread flour, plus extra for the work surface

1 teaspoon instant or rapid-rise yeast

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon olive oil

3/4 cup warm water

4 oz. thinly sliced pepperoni

1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1 teaspoon sesame seeds

Homemade or store-bought pizza sauce for dipping

Directions:

Combine the flour, yeast, and salt in the food processor.  With the processor on low, pour the oil and then the water through the feed tube slowly. Continue processing until the dough comes together forming a rough ball.  Let the dough rest for 2 minutes and then process for 30 seconds longer.  Turn the dough out on to a lightly floured surface and knead by hand for about 5 minutes.  Add additional flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking.  Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Place the bowl in a warm place until doubled in size, 1-1 1\2 hours.  Once the dough has doubled in size, gently deflate the dough with your fist and turn it out on to an unfloured work surface.  Reshape the dough into a ball and cover with plastic wrap which has been lightly sprayed with nonstick cooking spray.  Let the dough rest for 15 – 30 minutes but no longer.

Preheat oven to 400°.  Brush rimmed baking sheet with olive oil and set aside.

Lightly flour the work surface.  Roll the dough in to a 12 inch by 10 inch rectangle, about 1/4 inch thick.  Place pepperoni on to the dough leaving a 1 inch border.  Next top the with the shredded mozzarella and parmesan cheese.  Brush the edges of the dough with water.  Starting from the long edge of the rectangle roll the dough tightly into a long cylinder, pressing the edges to seal.  Transfer the stomboli to the oiled baking sheet, seam side down.  Brush the top with the beaten egg and sprinkle with sesame seeds.  Cover the stromboli lightly with aluminum foil which has been lightly sprayed with nonstick cooking spray.  Bake for 20 minutes.  After 20 minutes remove the foil and continue to bake until it is golden brown, about 25 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for 5 mintues.

**Make-ahead directions:  Cover the assembled stromboli with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.  Increase the covered baking time to 25 minutes.

Source: Cooks Illustrated – Make Ahead Recipes – Spring 2009


Mango Sorbet

17May09

Wow!  It’s been far too long since I have made something that is blog worthy.  Lately, my days consist of studying for my upcoming board exam and very little adventurous cooking.  I am quite sure you already know how to make Kraft mac-and-cheese and there’s no need to blog about the blue box.  But I digress and move forward…on to the good stuff.

What might you ask is so great about living in south Florida during the sweltering summer?  Well, besides living about 5 miles from the beach….living next door to a tree that produces loads of these and a neighbor that lets you have as many as you want!

mangoes - cropped

We moved in last year just in time to try one of the last mangoes that was left on the tree and man was it good.  So when I saw this recipe in Cook’s Illustrated a few months ago I quickly marked the page and waited patiently for the fruit to ripen.  This recipe far exceed my expectations, it was by no means grainy or icy.  Just creamy and wonderful.  Our fruit was really ripe, so next time I think I won’t add the full amount of sugar but regardless it was still delicious.  I planned to take it over to a friend’s house for dessert so I made a double batch which I highly recommend.  Here’s to the beginning of a wonderful summer!

sorbet cropped

Mango Sorbet

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

3 medium sized mangoes

½ cup cold water

¾ + 1 tablespoon sugar

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon vodka

Directions:

To make the mango puree you will need to peel and pit the mangoes.  I am not an expert at cutting mangoes; in fact they scared me just a little.  I am sure there is a correct way to do it but I found that it was easiest to make two vertical cuts around the pit and then scoop the flesh out.  It’s quite difficult to describe without pictures so just do the best that you can! 

Cover with plastic wrap or a lid and place in the refrigerator until it is completely chilled.  I ended up leaving in the refrigerator overnight.  However, if you’re anxious to get this made you can place the bowl over and ice bath and stir until it has a nice chill.  Pour the chilled mixture into the container of an ice cream machine and churn until frozen. 

At this point you can eat it as is but I prefer to put it in an airtight container in the freezer to achieve a firmer consistency. 

This can be kept in the freezer for up to 3 days but trust me, it won’t last that long.

 

Source:  Spring Entertaining from Cook’s Illustrated


butterflies

Whew…glad that’s done!  These were really fun to make but quite time consuming.  This idea came from a great book called “Hello, Cupcake”, I love it’s approach to cupcake decorating…no fancy tools or skills required.  That is right up my alley.  Happy Spring!

Just a disclaimer before I get started with the instructions:  I used the butterfly  and antenna templates from the book “Hello, cupcake”, with that being said I would encourage you to think about purchasing the book.  Why you ask?  Because it is a great book with lots of wonderful ideas that the average Jane can make and also because I have decided not to scan the template and post it out of respect for the author/copyright issues.  My other suggestion would be to find a template on-line or free hand the shape yourself.

Ok so here goes…

To start you will need 24 vanilla or chocolate cupcakes baked in brown paper liners.  Seeing that brown cupcake liners are not that easy to find in the store I ended up using the regular ole pink and yellow ones, but if you want to copy these exactly then head on over to www.confectioneryhouse.com where they can be ordered.  Ok, now that we have that covered I have a confession….I used a cake mix and canned frosting!  Anyone that knows me is now laughing uncontrollably as they know I shudder every time canned frosting is mentioned.  However, I would encourage you to use these shortcuts if you opt to make these beauties because by the end of the night you will be swearing at the ungodly number of brown and orange wings sitting all over your kitchen. 

“Hello, Cupcake” does suggest that you tweak the box mix a little…

1 box (18.25) cake mix ( Steer clear of the mixes with pudding, and the lighter cakes such an angel food)

1 cup buttermilk in place of the water called for on the  box

4 large eggs in place of the number called for on the box

Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes and then cool completely

 

Now that we have discussed that we can move on to the assembly process.

Ingredients:

24 chocolate or vanilla cupcakes baked in brown paper liners

2 cups dark chocolate melting wafers

2 cups orange candy melting wafers

3 tablespoons white nonpareils

3/4 cup dark chocolate frosting

1 can (16oz.) vanilla frosting

Yellow food coloring

72 brown M&M’s

Directions:

Place 5 or so wing and antennae templates on 2-3 cookie sheets and tape down. I found that it was easier to cut squares of wax paper versus piping 5 sets of wings on one big sheet of wax paper.  Next, place 1 cup of the chocolate melts in a ziploc bag. DO NOT SEAL THE BAG.  Microwave in 10 second intervals, massaging the wafers in between until melted.  It took about 30 seconds to get to a smooth consistency.  Press out the excess air and seal the bag.  Repeat this process with the orange candy melts.  Snip a 1/16-inch corner from each bag.

Working on one wing at a time and using the melted dark cocoa, outline the template on wax paper.  Go over the outline several times until you have a nice thick line.  Fill in with the orange melted candy.  At this point you may be thinking it doesn’t look very good but have faith the next step with amaze you.  Tap or shimmy the pan to slightly flatten and meld the color together.  With a toothpick, pull the dark cocoa into the orange to create a beautiful wing design.  Sprinkle the dark cocoa edges with a few of the white nonpareils while that candy is still liquid.  Repeat this until you have 12 small sets and 15 large sets.  Place the cookie sheets in the refrigerator until set, about 5 minutes.  Follow the same procedure to make the antennae, using the melted dark chocolate.

Spoon the chocolate frosting into a ziplock bag, press out the excess air, seal, and set aside.  Tint the vanilla frosting pale yellow with food coloring.  Spread the yellow frosting on top of the cupcakes.

Whew…we’re finally ready to assemble the butterflies…are you tired yet??

Place two of the M&M’s, 1/2 inch apart on the cupcake.  This can be directly on top or somewhat to the side, it is entirely up to you!  Carefully peel the wings from the wax paper.  Press the inside edge of the wing into the frosting about 1/4 inch apart, allowing the wings to lean on the M&M’s.  You can put two of the smaller butterflies on some of the cupcakes.  Next, peel the antennae from the wax paper and gently press them into the frosting at the head of the butterfly.

Snip a 1/8 inch corner from the bag of chocolate frosting.  Starting at the antennae pipe 4 to 5 small beads of frosting down the length of wings to create a body.  On the last bead, draw the frosting into a small point. 

Arrange the cupcakes on a large platter fairly close together.  And finally, give yourself and pat on the back and TAKE A PICTURE…trust me…once they’ve been devoured you will want proof of your hard work.

 

Source: “Hello, Cupcake” by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson


Homemade Pizza

30Mar09

img_3152

About two years ago Kyle and I had the opportunity to spend the morning at a small cooking school here in Ft. Lauderdale.  On that particular Saturday the subject at hand was homemade pizza, it covered everything from the dough, to the sauce, and even the toppings! We had a great time together that day making and eating pizza until we were so full we had to roll ourselves out of the school.  Did I mention they sent us home with 2 batches of dough and 8 cooked pizzas?  Whoa!  Yes, I know this recipe requires some prep work and even a food scale but it is WELL worth it!  Oh and please excuse the nasty pizza stone….

Basic Pizza Dough

Ingredients:

½ oz. fresh yeast OR 1 package active dry yeast

9 oz. water of which ½ is chilled

14 oz. bread flour

King Author is recommended.  Also you can use either white or wheat flour depending on preference. If using wheat flour you may need to add a little more flour to get the dough to the proper consistency. We’ve found that the ratio of 10 oz. white/4 oz. wheat is a great.

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon honey

2 teaspoons sea salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

 Directions:

If using dry yeast:

Place the yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar in a small bowl.  Add 2 tablespoons of water and stir with a fork until yeast is dissolved.  Let yeast mixture sit for approximately 10 minutes or until it doubles in size.  After 10 minutes place the chilled water and yeast into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook.  Mix on low speed until incorporated. 

If using fresh yeast:

Place the chilled water and yeast into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook.  Mix on low speed until incorporated.

 For both:

After the yeast and water are incorporated stop the mixer and add the flour, sugar, and honey.  Mix on medium speed until all ingredients are incorporated.  Stop the mixer once again and add the salt and olive oil.  

Next, allow the gluten to fully develop by mixing the dough on medium speed for 10-12 minutes.  In the early stages, watch the dough making sure that it pulls away from the sides of the bowl.  If it does not you may need to add a little more flour.  

Remove the dough from the bowl and cut the dough into four 6oz. pieces. 

Brush the pieces lightly with olive oil and refrigerate overnight

img_31451

Simple Tomato Sauce 

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon EVOO

1 medium onion, diced

1 (35oz.) can of CENTO Italian peeled tomatos

1 (10oz.) can of tomato puree

Salt and Pepper to taste

Dried or fresh oregano to taste

Directions:

Over medium heat in a large saucepan, heat the EVOO and when hot add in the onion. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes until they are translucent.  Add the garlic, when fragrant add the oregano and cook for 1-2 minutes.  Next, add the tomatoes and the puree.  With a potato masher, crush the tomatoes to the desired consistency.  Cook uncovered for 45 minutes.  Cool sauce completely before using it on the pizza dough.

On to the assembly process:

Gather your favorite toppings and approximately 4 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese.

Preheat oven with pizza stone in it to 500°F.

Take one dough piece out of the refrigerator and place it on a lightly floured surface.  Press the dough out flat with your fingers.  Next, lay the dough over the back of your hands and pull you hands away from one another to stretch the dough.  Stretch the dough out to about an eight inch circle, leaving the edge a little thicker.  Place the stretched dough onto a board (we have found that a clean piece of cardboard works great) that has been generously sprinkled with corn meal. 

 Apply the sauce first, then any meat or veggies, and finally top with cheese.  Slide the pizza onto the preheated pizza stone in the oven.

 Cook for 10 minutes, turning it half way through to ensure even cooking.

 

 Source: Chef Jean Pierre’s Cooking School




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