Sunday, December 27, 2009

Maine Potato Candy

Potato candy. Weird, right? Weird, but delightful. Also known as needhams, this is a candy I made for the holidays. I didn't have a recipe and really wanted to use a recipe from a Mainer. Marg Standish pulled through again.

You would never ever know that this sweet coconut candy has potato in it. The recipe for the middle is perfect. I wouldn't alter that at all. The chocolate coating could use some altering. Marg uses wax in her candy coating. I find this really tricking to use. I ended up removing some of the unmelted wax when the coating looked really thin but I could have removed even more. Once you dip the coconut mixture into the chocolate and remove it the coating starts to solidify immediately. It just made things really messy. They were still quite pretty and of course tasty, but I would use a little less wax next time.

Source: Marjorie Standish
Yield: 4 dozen or so

3/4 c. mashed potato
1/2 tsp. salt
2 (1 lb.) pkgs. confectioner's sugar
1 stick butter
1/2 lb. flaked coconut
2 tsp. vanilla

Pare and cook potato to make 3/4 cup mashed potato (not seasoned). Add salt. Using a double boiler place stick butter in it and melt over boiling water. Add mashed potato, confectioner's sugar, flaked coconut and vanilla.
Mix well, then turn into a buttered jelly roll pan. Spread evenly. Place in a cool place to harden. When hard, cut into small squares and dip in the following chocolate mixture.


1 (12 oz.) pkg. chocolate bits
4 sq. unsweetened chocolate
1/2 cake paraffin (2 1/2 x 2 1/2) ) Yes, the same paraffin you melt to use on top of jelly)

Use double boiler, again. Place paraffin in top over boiling water to melt. Then add the 2 kinds of chocolate. Allow chocolate to melt. Stir well to mix ingredients.
A toothpick or cake tester may be used to dip the needham squares. Hold each square above chocolate mixture after dipping so the square drains well. Place on waxed paper to harden. Recipe will make 66 good sized needhams. Halves easily.

Mrs. York

You can just call me Mrs. York, as in, York Peppermint Patties. They are my favorite candy and I decided to make them for the holidays this year.

I think I have tried making them before and failed...I can't remember how my attempt failed but I remember throwing most of the filling out. Maybe it didn't stiffen too much. Eh.

Not this time. These. Are. Perfect. After dipping the first one a slow smile came over my face. These would certainly wow my family and friends. The chocolate was smooth. The middle was cool and minty. The balance of chocolate and mint was perfect. The looked gorgeous!

I didn't temper my chocolate. I didn't do anything to the chocolate other than melt it. I used Ghirardelli dark chocolate bits. Yum.

Oh...and I didn't have a 1 inch cookie cutter (I just ordered a set of round cutters from Amazon) so I used a shot glass. Worked perfect.

I will definitely make this again and again.

Peppermint Patties
Source: Gourmet Magazine
Yield: 3-4 dozen

2 1/2 cups confectioners sugar, divided
1 1/2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 1/2 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon pure peppermint extract
1 T shortening
10 ounces 70%-cacao bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

Make filling:
Beat 2 1/4 cups confectioners sugar with corn syrup, water, peppermint extract, shortening, and a pinch of salt using an electric mixer (with paddle attachment if using a stand mixer) at medium speed until just combined. Knead on a work surface dusted with remaining 1/4 cup confectioners sugar until smooth. Roll out between sheets of parchment paper on a large baking sheet into a 7- to 8-inch round (less than 1/4 inch thick). Freeze until firm, about 15 minutes. Remove top sheet of paper and sprinkle round with confectioners sugar. Replace top sheet, then flip round over and repeat sprinkling on other side.

Cut out as many rounds as possible with cutter, transferring to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Freeze until firm, at least 10 minutes. Meanwhile, gather scraps, reroll, and freeze, then cut out more rounds, freezing them.

Temper chocolate and coat filling:
Melt three fourths of chocolate in a metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water. Remove bowl from pan and add remaining chocolate, stirring until smooth. Cool until thermometer inserted at least 1/2 inch into chocolate registers 80°F.

Return water in pan to a boil and remove from heat. Set bowl with cooled chocolate over pan and reheat, stirring, until thermometer registers 88 to 91°F. Remove bowl from pan.

Balance 1 peppermint round on a fork and submerge in melted chocolate, letting excess drip off and scraping back of fork against rim of bowl if necessary, then return patty to sheet (to make decorative ridges on patty, immediately set bottom of fork briefly on top of patty, then lift fork straight up). Coat remaining rounds, rewarming chocolate to 88 to 91°F as necessary. Let patties stand until chocolate is set, about 1 hour.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Legen...wait for it...

DARY! (Get it?!...Barney Stinson? No?...tough crowd!)

Anyhow, these cookies are legendary. They are all over food blogs. And with good reason too!!

I have a chocolate chip cookie recipe that is mine, I altered it to fit my taste buds and I love it. So when I decided to try this recipe I figured that I would like mine better. Whelp. TIE. I can't say that I like either one better. They are actually quite similar in texture and taste. If you don't have a chocolate chip cookie recipe that you really like, try these.

This article will provide you with more than you ever wanted to know about chocolate chip cookies. I devoured every word like it was a cookie itself. That is good reading!!

New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookies
Source: New York Times
Yield 1.5 dozen cookies

2 cups minus 2 tablespoons
(8 1/2 ounces) cake flour
1 2/3 cups (8 1/2 ounces) bread flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
1 1/4 pounds bittersweet chocolate disks or fèves, at least 60 percent cacao content
Sea salt

1. Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.

2. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Drop chocolate pieces in and incorporate them without breaking them. Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. Dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.

3. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Set aside.

4. Scoop 6 3 1/2-ounce mounds of dough (the size of generous golf balls) onto baking sheet, making sure to turn horizontally any chocolate pieces that are poking up; it will make for a more attractive cookie. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown but still soft, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then slip cookies onto another rack to cool a bit more. Repeat with remaining dough, or reserve dough, refrigerated, for baking remaining batches the next day. Eat warm, with a big napkin.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Hershey's vs. MIL

Quite some time ago my mother in law made chocolate crinkles cookies. I had never had one and not one to ever ever turn down chocolate I tried one directly from the cooling rack. Delicious. Wonderful. Amazing. Later that year I purchased this little Hershey's baking booklet. You know the kind that is overpriced but suck you in at the supermarket register. Well that little booklet was worth the $5. I use it all the time. In the back there is a section of recipes that use dark chocolate and the book talks a little about antioxidents. One of the recipes included in that section is chocolate crinkles.

Now, keep in mind that MIL gave me the recipe for her cookies. I just never made them. And I thought, well...the Hershey's one is probably amazing. So I tried it. And it just wasn't the same. It looked just like hers. And yes, it was chocolately and yes, I ate half the batch. Just something was off. The next day I dug out the recipe MIL had given me years ago and gave that a go. MIL WINS!! I don't know what it is but that recipe is awesome. Love.

My "forever friend" Tina turned 26 for the 4th time this month. (That makes her 30!) Her boyfriend and friend worked together to get a group of Tina's friends together for dinner in the Old Port. I brought along a package of these cookies for my friend who shared them with her friends. A bit hit!!

Yes, dark chocolate is healthy!!

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

Source: MIL!
Yield: 2-3 dozen

1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 oz unsweetened baking chocolate, melted, cooled
2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup powdered sugar

1. In large bowl, mix oil, chocolate, granulated sugar and vanilla. Stir in eggs, one at a time. Stir in flour, baking powder and salt. Cover; refrigerate at least 3 hours.

2. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease cookie sheet with shortening or cooking spray.

3. Drop dough by teaspoonfuls into powdered sugar; roll around to coat and shape into balls. Place about 2 inches apart on cookie sheets.

4. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until almost no imprint remains when touched lightly in center. Immediately remove from cookie sheets to cooling racks.

Hershey's Cocoa Crinkle Cookies
Source: Hershey's
Yield: 3 dozen

2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2-1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Powdered sugar

Directions:1. Combine granulated sugar and oil in large bowl; add cocoa, beating until well blended. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Stir together flour, baking powder and salt; gradually add to cocoa mixture, beating well.

2. Cover; refrigerate until dough is firm enough to handle, at least 6 hours.

3. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease cookie sheet. Shape dough into 1-inch balls; roll in powdered sugar to coat. Place about 2 inches apart on prepared cookie sheet.

4. Bake 11 to 13 minutes or until almost no indentation remains when touched lightly and tops are crackled. Cool slightly. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely. About 4 dozen cookies.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Fall Harvest Bread

I love when a bread recipe makes two. One for me. One for you! For me, the best part of baking (besides gorging on delicious treats) is sharing the love.

I gave a loaf of this bread to my in-laws and heard praise for three days!! I will definitely make this bread again! My next batch will be for a brunch for girls from the Maine Nest. I think they are really going to like this! Pumpkin, apples, cranberries, and can't go wrong!!

Pardon the bad lighting in this photo but I wanted to show off the little tags that I include on most of my goodies. The finishing touch that makes it extra special (besides the love...that is what is so special about my baking!).

Fall Harvest Bread
Source: Good Things Catered
Yield: Two loaves

1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 c. sugar
1/4 c. light brown sugar
1/2 can (or 7.5 oz) pumpkin puree
2 large eggs
1/4 c. oil
1/4 c. applesauce
1/4 c. milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 medium apple (I like granny smith) peeled, cored, and diced
1 c. fresh cranberries
1 c. chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare 9x5 loaf pan or 5 mini loaf pans(or can sub muffin pan or double recipe for cake/bundt pan).

In large bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, salt and whisk to combine. In another large bowl, combine sugar, pumpkin, eggs, oil, applesauce, milk, vanilla and stir to combine well. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and stir until just barely blended. Fold in apples, cranberries and pecans. Spoon batter into prepared pan (it will be all lumpy - don't worry).

Bake for 60-70 minutes (35-40 minutes for mini loaves) or until wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool in pan for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool on wire rack completely (makes the slices much more clean.

Friday, December 11, 2009

White Chocolate Mousse

Every year I cater a brunch for my mother in law and her gal pals for the holidays. Normally I make a chocolate mousse and pipe it into chocolate shells. (Seen here.) This year MIL asked for white chocolate mousse in chocolate shells. Of course I couldn't find any chocolate shells. I had no recipe for white chocolate mousse...had never even made it before. This, possibly, could be a disaster.

I went to Epicurious to search for a white chocolate mousse recipe. Nearly all of them were boring, white chocolate and whipping cream. Really? Zzzzzzzzzz.

Then I saw Gale Gand's name and I knew I could trust her. She is fabulous and everything I have ever made from her recipes has been a success. She absolutely did not let me down with her white chocolate mousse recipe.

If you decide to try this recipe be sure to give yourself a couple days before you serve it. She has you melt the chocolate with the cream two days prior and then whip that one day prior. Believe is worth it. I will definitely make this again. I couldn't stop licking the spoon!!

White Chocolate Mousse
Source: Gale Gand from Food Network
Yield: 6 good size servings...12 small servings (who wants a small serving??!?!)

1 1/2 cups heavy cream
5 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup egg whites (from about 4 eggs)
2 tablespoons sugar

Two days before you plan to serve the dessert, in a small saucepan, heat the cream over medium heat just until it boils. Immediately turn off the heat. Place the chocolate in a medium bowl. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and whisk until melted and smooth. Strain into another bowl, cover, and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, remove the mixture from the refrigerator and, using a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment or a hand mixer, whip it into fluffy, soft peaks. Return to the refrigerator.

In a clean dry bowl, whip the egg whites until soft peaks form, then add the sugar and continue whipping until glossy and stiff, about 30 seconds more. Fold into the white chocolate mixture, and then spoon the mixture (or pipe through a pastry bag) into glasses. I topped mine with crushed candy cane.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Holiday Traditions

You know it is the holiday season when Chex mix makes the rounds. I won't post the recipe because you all know it and I don't alter mine at all.

Let's talk holiday traditions, shall we? Growing up when we decorated the tree we always had snacks. I remember having Chex Mix and peanut butter fudge. It really makes me miss my mom to think of that. I can actually see her with that big pot that my father has, I think it was passed down from his father, in the kitchen with the yellow stove and the plaid carpet. (Who puts carpet in a kitchen?!) And we would be picking out which ornaments we wanted to put on the tree. We all had our special ornaments. I miss times like that.

I'm wondering...what do you do when you decorate your tree? Do you have treats? Do you play Christmas music? And for my Jewish friend who I miss a super duper really extra lot...what are you planning for the holidays?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Battle OREO

You may have noticed that I made Oreos not too long ago. For that batch I used a Food Network Magazine recipe. The result...good. Not great. Certainly not terrible. I think I was turned off by all the work you had to do to get the cookie part finished. Ugh.

In my Internet travels I have seen a lot of people making Oreos. Two trusted blog sites, Joy the Baker and Smitten Kitchen both did a variation of the Oreo and...well...I didn't know which would I made both. :) I think homemade Oreos will make a fabulous holiday gift and really wow people at gatherings. I must have the perfect cookie. Here, the chocolate wafer cookie recipes go head to head.

Note: Joy didn't make Oreos but chocolate sandwich cookies with various fillings. I found that the Smitten Kitchen filling is perfect. I actually added a tiny bit of peppermint to the filling and thought it was fabulous. So in this battle the filling is not a factor.

Joy the Baker's Cookies:

Smitten Kitchen's Cookies:
The verdict: Joy the Baker's wafer cookie hardly edged out Smitten Kitchen's chocolate wafer. The SK recipe was a bit easier because you don't have to roll out the dough. My first try at these cookies left me with huge saucers. Be sure to use a small round of dough. Joy's cookie recipe resulted in a very light, delicate cookie. It sort of melts in your mouth. I love it. I have some in the freezer to see how they thaw for ease in holiday preparations. (They freeze well...both kinds)
Whichever you decide is your favorite, I hope you enjoy them. Actually, I promise you will enjoy them.

The Best Homemade Oreo Cookies
Sources: Smitten Kitchen and Joy the Baker
Yield: 3 dozen cookies

3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cup plus 3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 cup plus 1 Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
15 Tablespoons (7 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter, but into 3/4-inch cubes, at room temperature (this is important)

For the filling:
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) room-temperature, unsalted butter
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Position the racks in the lower and upper thirds of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt and mix on low speed. With the mixer running, add the butter a few pieces at a time. The mixture will have a sandy texture at first and then will begin to form peddle-size pieces. As soon as the dough starts to come together, stop the mixer. Make sure all the butter is well incorporated. If there are large butter pockets, mix for a few seconds more.

Form and roll the dough straight from the mixer. The dough becomes hard to work with if chilled.

Transfer the dough to a board and use the heel of your hand or a pastry scraper to shape the dough into a block about 5 by 7 inches. Cut the block into two pieces.

One at a time, roll each block of dough between two pieces of lightly floured parchment paper until about 1/8-inch thick. Using a cookie cutter, cut into 2 inch rounds. Place 1/2 to 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheet. You can form and roll the dough scraps once after the first roll.

Bake for 12-15 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through the baking. Remove from the oven and cool on the sheets for 2 to 5 minutes. They’ll be too soft to move straight from the oven. Transfer the cookies to a cooling rack and let cool completely.

For filling, combine butter and shortening then add sugar and vanilla and peppermint if desired. Beat until fluffy.

To Assemble the Cookies:

Place half of the cookies upside down on a work surface. Place a dollop of filling on half of the cookies and top with another. Smoosh down a bit to spread the frosting to the edges.

The cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 7 days.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Vegan Mushroom Wild Rice Soup

Here is another vegan recipe from the Candle Cafe Cookbook. (Can you tell that I like the book??)

Something that I have always been confused about is what wine to use in cooking. The majority of the time a recipe will call for "dry white wine". Well WTF is that?! I just drink what's cheap! I stumbled upon this thread on Chow and found it extremely helpful. The one that hooked me is, "Most often dry vermouth, Noilly Pratt to be exact. That is what Juila used and my mom." Julia and moms always know what to do. I had a hard time finding Noilly Pratt though. I'm still on the lookout for it.

What I did buy are those silly little bottles of wine that come in a four pack. I felt like a dork at the cashier but it is economical and practical! I used nearly one bottle for this soup and put the rest of the bottle (a screw cap which is good) in the fridge. About a week later a recipe I was making called for dry white wine. PERFECT! I love when things work out. (it's the little things in life that make me happy)

I thought this soup was awesome. A great flavor from the leeks and I think you can never go wrong with wild rice and mushrooms!

Mushroom Wild Rice Soup

Source: The Candle Cafe Cookbook
Yield: 6 servings

1/2 cup plus 4t dry white wine
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 small onion, diced
1/4 leek, rinsed and chopped
12 large mushrooms, sliced
1/2t thyme
1/2t oregano
4 cups vegetable broth
1 cup cooked wild rice
4t white flour

In large saucepan heat 1/2 cup wine to simmer. Add garlic, onion, leek and simmer 10 minutes until tender.

Add mushrooms, thyme, oregano and simmer 5 minutes or until mushrooms are tender. Add broth and bring to low boil. Simmer 20 minutes then stir in cooked rice.

Dissolve flour in remaining wine and add to soup. Bring back to boil.

Season with S&P and serve.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Cobb Salad...the vegan way

Get out the vegetable peeler! You are going to peel carrots...lots of carrots...then...even more carrots!! But I swear to you, it is worth it.

This recipe came from the Candle Cafe Cookbook that I received as a gift a year or so ago. I'm certainly cooking vegan much more now that I have a couple good cookbooks to reference. I love the tofu salad part of this recipe, it has great flavor and I took a scoop of it (no veggies or salad) for my lunch the day after making this. I think you could put that tofu salad in a wrap and be delighted with that lunch.

Candle Cafe Cobb Salad with Carrot Ginger Dressing
Source: Candle Cafe Cookbook
Yield: 2 servings

1 pound tofu, cubed
2T chopped fresh dill
2T chopped parsley
4 scallions, finely chopped
1/4T white miso
1/2 cup tahini
1t fresh lemon juice
1 celery stalk, chopped
1/2 cup shredded carrots
4 cup mesclun
1 large tomato, sliced
3 thin slices soy cheese
5 button mushrooms, sliced
1 cup homemade croutons
1 cup shredded carrots
8 slices tempeh bacon
1/2 cup dressing (recipe below)

Bring pot of water to boil, add tofu and cook 1 minute.

Mix blanched tofu, dill, parsley, scallions, miso, tahini, S&P and lemon juice. Fold in celery and carrots.

Assemble rest of ingredients as salad and top with a big scoop of tofu mixture. Pour dressing over salad prior to serving.

Carrot Ginger Dressing
1/4 cup minced fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1/4 cup diced onions
2 cups shredded carrots
2T apple juice
1t toasted sesame oil
1 cup safflower oil
1/2 cup cider vinegar

Blend ginger, garlic, onions and carrots in food processor. Add apple juice, sesame oil, safflower oil and vinegar slowly until well blended.