Thursday, December 31, 2009

Rat King

I just wanted to show you the Torta Barozzi cake I made while visiting my family over Christmas.  I decided to stencil on my version of the Rat King in honor of Christmas and my sister's new rats named Leche and Shrute (left and right).  Plus, I am going to the Nutcracker in a few days and I am so excited.  Click here for the original recipe.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Dixie's Punch

Here is a very festive punch, which my grandma Dixie always made during the holidays. It is very simple and delicious. I made it for my coworkers last Friday and it was a hit. But beware, it can be dangerous depending on how much you drink ;)

Here are the ingredients which servers about 10-20 people (depending on how much they drink):

-1 can frozen orange juice, thawed
-1 can frozen lemonade, thawed
-1 can frozen limeade, thawed
-1 large bottle apricot nectar
-3 two-liter bottles of ginger ale - or more if you like
-Vodka, optional (As much as you can handle as my grandma would say)
-Fresh sliced fruit for garnish (I used oranges, lemons, and cranberries)

Pour everything together and stir until mixed well. Throw in fruit as a garnish. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Chewy Ginger Snaps

Okay, as promised here is the "World's Best Chewy Ginger Snap" (at least according to the Ginger People). I would have to agree though! These cookies are spicy, sweet, and a bit salty. This thin cookie is the perfect combination of a crunchy edge with a soft center. Plus, it is very easy to make.

Here are the ingredients for the World's Best Chewy Ginger Snaps by the Ginger People (makes about 3 dozen cookies):
-3/4 cup butter, softened (1 1/2 sticks)
-1 cup granulated sugar, plus more for rolling
-1/4 cup dark molasses
-1 egg
-2 teaspoons baking soda
-2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
-1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
-1 teaspoon ground ginger
-1 teaspoon cinnamon
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-3.5 ounces crystallized ginger, chopped coarsely

To begin, preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a large bowl combine butter, sugar, molasses, and egg with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.
Chop crystallized ginger and add to butter mixture. Mix to combine.
In a separate medium bowl, combine the rest of the dry ingredients. Sift or whisk ingredients together.
Combine the dry ingredients to the wet mixture. Beat until combined.
At this point, I like to chill the dough for a bit, but you don't have to. Form 1-inch balls, and roll in granulated sugar to coat.
Placed on greased cookie sheet (I used parchment paper) about 2 inches apart. Bake for 8-10 minutes.
Let cool on sheet for about a minute and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.Bring to a holiday party and enjoy all the praise for a simple, but delicious cookie.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Cookies Galore

Last year around this time, I became a human cookie factory for a weekend. I always think homemade gifts are the sweetest, plus it can be a way to save money during the most expensive month of the year. My coworkers always give each other gifts which I find to be really annoying (I am a total grinch), but since I like to bake I decided this could be both a nice gift and a fun activity. It ended up being a 4 day baking marathon. The first two days were dedicated to making dough and refrigerating it, and the final two was a non-stop bake-a-thon (literally 8 hours in the kitchen both days). By the end of it, I was completely exhausted and my feet were throbbing. I ended up making chocolate chip cookies, sugar cookies with royal icing, chewy ginger snaps, snickerdoodles, peppernuts, Fleur de Sel toffee, and candied citrus peel (click on any of the links to get the recipes). In my opinion, people were not impressed enough - so this year I am not going waste my time going to that much work.

This year for my office gifts I order some tins of Russian tea from Kusmi Tea and I am planning to make peppernuts to go along with each tin. Tomorrow I am going to my boss' cocktail party so I decided to make the chewy ginger snap cookies. I know she likes them so well. I will post about them probably Wednesday. If you are looking for an alternative chocolate chip cookie - the chewy ginger snaps are so good and perfect for the holiday season.

Below are pictures taken from last year's cookie making. I got all the packaging from my favorite paper store called Paper Presentation.

Rolling out the peppernut dough.

Tiny peppernut slices.

Peppernuts baked.

Chewy ginger snaps cooling.
Sugar cookies with Royal icing and sprinkled sugar.

Chocolate chip cookies cooling.

Fleur de sel toffee.

Candied orange peel drying.

Making labels.


Holiday Cards

This past week I have been devoting my time to making holiday cards. The last couple years I have been buying my cards, but because I had so much fun making my Thanksgiving invitations I thought I would make my own cards this year. I had no idea how time consuming making twenty-something cards would take, but now that I have finally finished them I am glad I made them. I tried to make it look like a baking sheet with cookies. Here they are below:

Friday, December 4, 2009

Cinnamon Ice Cream

As I mentioned in my previous post, I made cinnamon ice cream for Thanksgiving. I thought the ice cream would create a more special pie a la mode. It was packed with cinnamon, but it was not the type of flavor that would overpower the pies. This cinnamon ice cream came from David Lebovitz's The Perfect Scoop. Yes, I know I am obsessed. This recipe required making a custard, which isn't as intimidating as I thought it would be, but still something that takes a little more time and awareness.

Here are a few tips from Lebovitz on how to make custard:

*Before getting started, prepare an ice bath to quicken the chilling of the custard. This means a lot of ice and a cup or two of water so the cubes are just barely floating.
*Heat the milk or liquid in a medium-sized saucepan on the stove using a nonreactive cookware, such as stainless steel.
*In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks.
*The next step is to temper the yolks. This is a part where you need to be careful. Once the milk and is hot and steamy, slowly and gradually pour the milk into the egg yolks, constantly whisking so the egg yolks don't become cooked and you have eggy bits. David advises to remove the saucepan from the heat and ladle the liquid in whisking constantly.
*Scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan and then stir the custard over moderate heat using a heat-proof spatula or straight-edged wooden spoon. Cook, stirring nonstop, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. Be sure to scrape the bottom while stirring. Do not let the custard boil!
*You will know the custard is done when it begins to steam and you feel it just beginning to cook as you scrape the spatula across the bottom of the pan. You can test it by running your finger across the spatula coated with custard: it is done when your finger leaves a definite trail that doesn't flow back together.
*You can check for doneness with an instant read thermometer; it should read between 170 and 175 degrees Fahrenheit.
*Immediately pour the hot mixture through the strainer into the chilled bowl of cream in its ice bath and stir. Once cool, refrigerate thoroughly.
*If your custard does boil or curdle, you can rescue it by blending it while it is warm with an immersion or standing blender.

Here are the ingredients for David Lebovitz's Cinnamon Ice Cream, makes 2 quarts (which is double the original recipe):
-2 cups whole milk
-1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
-2 pinches of salt
-Twenty 3-inch cinnamon sticks, broken up
-4 cups heavy cream
-10 large egg yolks

To begin, warm the milk, sugar, salt, cinnamon sticks and 2 cups of cream in a medium saucepan.Once warm, cover and remove from the heat, and let steep at room temperature for 1 hour.
In the meantime, separate eggs and whisk egg yolks in medium bowl.Pour the remaining 2 cups cream and place mesh strainer on top. Prepare ice bath.Rewarm the cinnamon infused milk mixture. Remove the cinnamon sticks with a slotted spoon and discard them.
Slowly pour or ladle the warm mixture into the egg yolks, stirring constantly to prevent eggs from cooking. Then scrape the mixture back into the saucepan.
Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula.
Pour the custard through the strainer and into the cream. Stir over ice bath until cool.I needed to scrap the bottom more, but the custard still turned out fine.
Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator, then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.
Serve with alone or with your favorite fall pie.