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Archive for the ‘Desserts’ Category

I had about a cup of the rhubarb puree leftover from making rhubarb margaritas a couple of weeks ago, and I absolutely hate to throw away leftovers.  So, I decided to dry it.  You could really do this with any fruit puree – be creative!  If you don’t have a fruit dryer, this does take some time (about 5-7 hours), so plan accordingly.  I had a day of house cleaning planned this past weekend though, so I was going to be home for most of the day.  Dried fruit that you buy at the store is often VERY sweet.  Making your own lets you cut down on the sugar a bit, and make the flavor more to your liking.  This would be a great snack for the kids too instead of those scary fruit roll-ups you buy at the store!

Fruit Leather, adapted from jam it, pickle it, cure it, by Karen Solomon

1 cup rhubarb, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces

1/4 cup sugar

zest of one lemon

1/4 cup of water

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan.  Cook over medium heat until rhubarb is soft, about 20 minutes.  Puree mixture into a food processor or blender.

Preheat the oven to 150 degrees, or if your oven can’t get below 170 degrees, set it to its lowest temperature and lodge a wooden spoon into the door to keep it ajar.

Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and spread the puree into a large rectangle of even thickness, about 1/8 to 1/4 inch.

Place the pan in the center of the oven for 5 to 7 hours, checking after 5 hours.  The fruit should be sticky but not wet, throughout; the center is usually the last to dry.

Once sticky all over, remove the pan from the oven and gently peel the fruit from the parchment paper, releasing it from all 4 edges first, then peeling up the middle.  Flip it over, and return it to the oven for another 30 minutes.

Tear off a clean piece of parchment or waxed paper larger than the sheet of fruit leather.  Roll 2 inches of the paper over the fruit, then from the long side roll the whole thing up like a jelly roll.  With a sharp knife, slice the rolled-up log into 1-inch pieces.

Solomen’s recipe uses apple butter to make the fruit leather, but she also suggests 1 1/2 cups of pureed bananas or 1 1/2 cups of pureed strawberries.

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Since my husband and I started our diet in January, all I can think about is making things that are “unhealthy”.  Well this weekend I knew I’d be able to unload this batch of cookies, so I thought I’d indulge my craving.  This recipe is adapted from the book, “jam it, pickle it, cure it” by Karen Solomon.  It is a fun little book of DIY basics like bacon, cheese, butter, marshmallows and even drinks.  It’s got a little bit of everything actually!  It’s a newer cookbook of mine, and I’m looking forward to trying more of the recipes.

These cookies were good, but I think I would have preferred the cookie to be a little more crisp.  These kind of tasted like a chocolate shortbread, but not as sweet.  The filling sweetened them up just enough though!

Chocolate sandwich cookies

Cookies:

1 cup granulated sugar

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

½ cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon kosher salt

¾ cup unsalted  butter, chopped into cubes

2 egg yolks

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

½ cup bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips, melted and cooled

2 tablespoons water

Filling:

2 cups confectioners’ sugar

2 tablespoons light corn syrup

3 tablespoons light cream (the original recipe called for evaporated milk, but cream worked fine as a substitute)

*note:  I doubled the original recipe because it wasn’t even enough for 1/3 of my batch of cookies.

To make the cookies in a food processor, start by processing the granulated sugar for 30 seconds, then adding the flour, baking powder, salt, and cocoa to combine.  If not using a food processor, in a bowl, combine the superfine sugar with the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt.  Add the butter and combine just until coarse crumbs form.  Blend in the egg yolks and vanilla.  Scrape the melted chocolate intot he batter and mix to combine completely.  Add the water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough comes together when squeezed in your hand.  Note that the batter will be crumbly, but cohesive.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F, and grease 2 baking sheets. (I just used my silicon liners.)  adjust the oven rack to the center of the oven.

Gather the dough together on top of a piece of parchment paper or wax paper with a scraper nearby.  Divide the dough in half, and shape each piece into a flat square.  Set one square aside and roll out the first square by covering it with a second sheet of parchment paper, and flattening it into a large rectangle about 13”x15” (the dough will be about ¼ inch thick).

Cut out as many cookies as you can using an inverted glass or cookie cutter, use a size to your preference.  I chose to make mine smaller, like traditional Oreo cookies.  Gather the remaining scraps of dough and cut out more cookies.  Note that a scraper is a great tool for moving the cookies from counter to baking sheet.

Bake the first sheet by itself for 7 to 9 minutes, or until the edges are slightly dark, they smell very chocolaty, and the cookies are brown on the bottom.  The cookies will rise during baking, but flatten out again once cool.  Let them cool on the baking sheet for 2 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.

Meanwhile, repeat the rolling and the cutting with the second half of the dough.  Roll out the scrap pieces of dough between the papers again, and cut out as many cookies as possible.  If the dough gets too soft to work with, leave on parchment and chill in the fridge or the freezer for a few minutes.

Bake the cookies as above.  Cool all the cookies on a rack for about 30 minutes, or until they are cooled to room temperature, before sandwiching.

To make the filling, in a large bowl combine the confectioners’ sugar, corn syrup, and milk until they form a sticky mass.  Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag.  Alternatively, use a sealable plastic bag, and snip off a tiny corner of the bag with scissors.

To assemble the cookies, with the flat side of a cookie facing up, squeeze out icing onto the center of a cookie and lay the flat side of another cookie on top, giving it a twist to spread the icing around.  The amount of icing you use will depend on the size of the cookies, so you’ll have to use your own judgment.  Note that as the cookies sit, the icing will spread a bit more.  It’s best to let the cookies firm up a little before serving, about 1 hour.

Store at room temperature, in an airtight container, up to 1 week.

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Lebovitz does not disappoint.  Seriously, if you are ever looking for a new cookbook, you can’t go wrong with one of his.  He is also exceptionally witty on Twitter!  We had some family over on Saturday to celebrate my brother and sister-in-law’s purchase of a new home, as well as my husband’s promotion to offensive coordinator for the Varsity team next year!  Unfortunately a promotion in name only, but still a reason to celebrate – I don’ t have to be there at 5:00pm for the sophomore games on Friday nights anymore!  Kidding.   But the hubs is very excited.

Back to baking.  I had some leftover ginger from the chicken meatballs I made earlier that week, so I wanted to find something to use it up.  Enter the fresh ginger cake.  This cake turned out delicious, and I felt like it was somewhat healthy because there isn’t any butter, and I substituted applesauce for the vegetable oil.  So we’ll call it a guilt-free dessert!  And don’t worry, it tastes great too.  I used raspberries to make a simple compote by adding sugar and lemon juice and simmering for a few minutes.  I think any combination of berries would work, or a plum-raspberry compote as David suggests in his book.

Fresh Ginger Cake, adapted from Ready for Dessert, by David Lebovitz

4-ounce piece fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced

1 cup mild-flavored molasses

1 cup sugar

1 cup applesauce  (the original recipe calls for vegetable oil, but the applesauce turned out fine!)

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground cloves

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

1 cup water

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 large eggs, room temperature

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform or round cake pan with 2-inch sides and line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper.

In a food processor fitted with the metal blade or with a chef’s knife, chop the ginger until very fine.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together the molasses, sugar, and oil.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, cloves, and pepper.

In a small saucepan, bring the water to a boil, then stir in the baking soda.  Whisk the hot water into the molasses mixture, then add the chopped ginger.

Gradually sift the flour mixture over the molasses mixture, whisking to combine.  Add the eggs and whisk until thoroughly blended.  Scrape the batter into the prepared springform or cake pan and bake until the top of the cake springs back when lightly pressed with a finger or a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 1 hour.  Let cool completely.

Run a knife around the sides of the cake to help loosen it from the pan.  Invert the cake onto a plate, peel off the parchment paper, then re-invert it onto a serving platter.

I served this cake with raspberry compote and whipped cream.  Good reviews all around!

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I often buy things at the grocery store that catch my eye, but have no idea what I am going to do with them once I get home.  I usually find something creative to do with these ingredients, but it has caused my pantry to fill up with a lot of useless items too.  In this particular case, I had two cans of coconut milk in my pantry.  I knew I wanted to make something sweet, and I happen to have all of the other necessary ingredients ready in my kitchen for ice cream!  We’ve had a couple of warm days in the Midwest this week, so I feeling like something tropical was in order.  It wasn’t that warm, but we get excited about 50 in Chicago in February.  I adapted this recipe from Clotilde’s Chocolate and Zucchini blog.  She calls it Glace Coco du Placard or Coconut Ice Cream from the Pantry.

Toasted Coconut Ice Cream

– 1 cup unsweetened or sweetened dried grated coconut
– 1 1/2 cups light whipping cream
– 1 small can (13 fl. oz.) good-quality unsweetened coconut milk, I used Trader Joe’s Light Coconut Milk
– 1 to 2 tablespoons light rum, to taste
– 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
– 3/4 cup sugar (use 1/2 cup sugar if using sweetened coconut)

Makes about 1 liter (1 quart).

Pre-freeze the bowl of your ice cream maker.

Toast the grated coconut in a dry skillet until golden and fragrant; set aside to cool completely.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the cream, coconut milk, rum, vanilla, and sugar until blended. Refrigerate until well chilled.

Whisk again before using, and freeze using your ice cream maker. Halfway through the churning, when the mixture has thickened to a custard-like consistency, pour the toasted coconut into the ice cream maker so that it blends into the ice cream.

The husband and I enjoyed this right out of the container, but a nice serving suggestion would be to make an “Almond Joy” sundae by topping a couple of scoops with chocolate syrup and sliced almonds…because sometimes you feel like a nut.

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The husband and I are on a healthy kick like everyone else in January, so my options for baking feel kind of limited at the moment.  With that being said, I still need to satisfy my sweet tooth.  I found this recipe for granola bars on www.allrecipes.com, and I modified it a bit with the ingredients I had on hand.  I also wanted to make this recipe a bit healthier, so I cut down on the sugar and used canola oil instead of vegetable oil.  You can use this recipe and make a number of modifications to suit your taste buds or what you have in your pantry.

Cranberry Almond Granola Bars, yields 20 bars

Ingredients

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup wheat germ
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup cranberries
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Generously grease a 9×13 inch baking pan.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the oats, brown sugar, wheat germ, cinnamon, flour, cranberries, almonds and salt. Make a well in the center, and pour in the honey, egg, oil and vanilla. Mix well using your hands. Pat the mixture evenly into the prepared pan.
  3. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes in the preheated oven, until the bars begin to turn golden at the edges. Cool for 5 minutes, then cut into bars while still warm. Do not allow the bars to cool completely before cutting, or they will be too hard to cut.

You can wrap these up individually in plastic wrap, or keep in a plastic bag so they will stay chewy.  They make a great snack or even breakfast.  Enjoy!

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I’d been eyeing recipes for these cute little candies for months, especially now that it’s citrus season.  My husband’s aunt Bridget, who is an amazing cook, had these candied goodies at Christmas Eve dinner.  I improvised a bit with what I had on hand in the house.  Below are the two recipes I used for the cranberries, lemon, clementine, blood orange and grapefruit peels.  They look so pretty, and taste delicious too!

Candied Orange Peels, adapted from the Food Network website

Yields about 2 cups

Ingredients

  • 6 thick-skinned Valencia or navel oranges (or any type of citrus peel)
  • 4 1/2 cups sugar, plus extra for rolling
  • 1 1/2 cups water

Directions

Cut tops and bottoms off of the fruites and score them into quarters, cutting down only into the peel and not into the fruit. Peel the skin and pith of the fruit in large pieces, use the inside of the fruit for another recipe. Cut the peel into strips about 1/4-inch wide. Put the orange peel in a large saucepan with cold water to cover, bring to a boil over high heat. Then pour off the water. Repeat 1 or 2 more times depending up how assertive you want the peels to be. (Test kitchen liked the texture of a 3 time blanch best, it also mellowed the bitterness. But it is a matter of preference.) *Note:  I blanched the grapefruit peels 6 times because they were more bitter than the oranges and lemons.  Remove the peels from the pan.

Whisk the sugar with 1 1/2 cups water. Bring to a simmer and cook for 8 to 9 minutes (If you took the sugar’s temperature with a candy thermometer it would be at the soft thread stage, 230 to 234 degrees F.) Add the peels and simmer gently, reducing heat to retain a simmer. Cook until the peels get translucent, about 45 minutes. Resist the urge to stir the peels or you may introduce sugar crystals into the syrup. If necessary, swirl the pan to move the peels around. Drain the peels, (save the syrup for ice tea.) Roll the peels in sugar and dry on a rack, for 4 to 5 hours. Return to the sugar to store.

Sugared Cranberries, yields 9 1/3 cups servings

Ingredients

  • 2  cups  granulated sugar
  • 2  cups  water
  • 2  cups  fresh cranberries
  • 3/4  cup  superfine sugar

Preparation

Combine granulated sugar and water in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring mixture until sugar dissolves. Bring to a simmer; remove from heat. (Do not boil or the cranberries may pop when added.) Stir in cranberries; pour mixture into a bowl. Cover and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.

Drain cranberries in a colander over a bowl, reserving steeping liquid, if desired. Place superfine sugar in a shallow dish. Add the cranberries, rolling to coat with sugar. Spread sugared cranberries in a single layer on a baking sheet; let stand at room temperature 1 hour or until dry.

Note: The steeping liquid clings to the berries and helps the sugar adhere. Store in an airtight container in a cool place for up to a week.

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It’s not too late for holiday candy making. If you’re like me, holiday plans and get-together seem to run well into January these days.  Truffles would be the perfect thing to make for a New Year’s Eve party to share, or as a hostess gift!  Below are two recipes I concocted for friends and family gifts this year.  Chocolate Peppermint (which tasted like Frango Mints) and a Toasted Coconut Rum.  You can be as creative as you’d like with truffles though by adding different extracts and coatings.  Anything goes really! 

Basic Truffle Recipe

11 ounces good quality chocolate (I used Ghiradelli’s 60%cocoa chocolate chips, this is just under two cups)

2/3 cup heavy cream (make sure you don’t use light cream or their won’t be enough fat content for the ganache to thicken properly)

various coatings (i.e. cocoa powder, chopped nuts, toasted coconut, colored sugar, crushed peppermint candies, candied ginger, etc.)

optional – 1 tsp  flavored extract

Bring heavy cream to a boil in a small heavy saucepan.  Pour the cream over the chocolate, then stir with a whisk (don’t beat or you’ll incorporate air), until the ganache is smooth.  If this doesn’t quite melt the chocolate, you can put the bowl of chocolate and cream in the microwave and heat in 15 second intervals, stirring in between.  This would be the time to add a flavored extract or alcohol if you desire.

Chill the ganache in the refrigerator for at least an hour, or until it holds it’s shape.  When ready to form the truffles, I prefer using a small scoop or teaspoon.  Roll the pieces of chocolate into a ball between your hands.  If you plan on coating the truffles with cocoa powder or dipping them in chocolate, it’s a good idea to chill them again for a few minutes so they don’t lose their shape. 

Toss the truffles in the coating of your choice.  I use a fork to do this, again so you keep their in tact.  If you want to coat your truffles in chocolate, you’ll need to temper the coating chocolate so that it hardens.  You can find a good how-to on tempering here.  If you are lazy, or over-commit yourself like I do and want a quick coating, just melt some of the Wilton chocolate melts to dip your truffles in!

Store in refrigerator.

Chocolate Peppermint Truffles

11 ounces good quality chocolate

2/3 cup heavy cream

1 tsp  peppermint extract

1 bag Wilton chocolate melts, dark chocolate variety

Follow instructions in Basic Truffle recipe, but chill formed truffles for about 20 minutes longer before dipping in chocolate melts.  Melt or temper chocolate, and use a fork to roll the formed truffle around before setting on a parchment lined baking sheet to cool.  Store in refrigerator. 

Toasted Coconut Rum Truffles

11 ounces good quality chocolate

2/3 cup heavy cream

1/3 cup shredded sweetened or unsweetened coconut, toasted

1 tsp  coconut extract

1 tsp Malibu coconut rum (optional)

Follow instructions in Basic Truffle recipe, but roll in toasted coconut after truffles are formed.  Store in refrigerator.

I apologize for the lack of pictures in this post, but my hands were full of chocolate during this WHOLE process and my husband wasn’t at home to be on camera duty!  I will have to make again and post pictures later. 🙂

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