Wednesday, August 31, 2011

World Peace Cookies

Planning is part of my daily routine. I make lists and organize my thoughts all day long. It must be a coping mechanism for having a bad memory. I find that if something is planned well, I anticipate and enjoy the event even more.

For the past few days, I have been preparing for my sister to visit us here in Denver. I have lists on what I am cooking and baking, lists for what we will take camping, and a list for options of things to do here in Denver during her visit. We are looking forward to shopping, camping, eating and talking the whole visit. Our puppies will play and we will laugh until we cry. Each moment will become a treasure for when we are apart the rest of the year.

The other day, along with changing the sheets and cleaning the guest bathroom, I made World Peace cookies to take with us camping. They will be the perfect snack around the fire or after a hike. This recipe is a must-try for all chocolate lovers!

World Peace Cookies 
Source: Baking from my home to yours ~ by Dorie Greenspan
Makes: 36 cookies

1¼ cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½    teaspoon baking soda
11   tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature  
2/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar
¼ cup sugar
½    teaspoon fleur de sel or ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt 
1  teaspoon pure vanilla extract
5  ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chips, or a generous ¾ cup mini chocolate chips 

Sift the flour, cocoa and baking soda together.

Beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy. Add both sugars, the salt and vanilla extract and beat for 2 minutes.

Pour in the dry ingredients, drape a kitchen towel over the mixer to protect yourself and the kitchen from flying flour and pulse the mixer at low speed about 5 times, a second or two each time. Take a peek - if there is still a lot of flour on the surface of the dough, pulse a couple of times more; if not, remove the towel. Continuing on low speed, mix for about 30 seconds more, just until the flour disappears into the dough - for the best texture work the dough as little as possible once the flour is added, and don't be concerned if the dough is a little crumbly. Toss in the chocolate pieces and mix only to incorporate.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface, gather it together and divide it in half. Working with one half at a time, shape the dough into logs that are 1½ inches in diameter. Wrap the logs in plastic wrap and refrigerate them for at least 3 hours.  (The dough can be refrigerated for up to 3 days for frozen for up to 2 months. If you've frozen the dough, you needn't defrost it before baking - just slice and bake the cookies 1 minute longer.)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats. Using a sharp thin knife, slice the logs into rounds that are ½ inch thick. (The rounds are likely to crack as you're cutting them - don't be concerned, just squeeze the bits back onto each cookie.) Arrange the rounds on the baking sheet, leaving about 1 inch between them. 

Bake the cookies one sheet at a time for 12 minutes - they won't look done, nor will they be firm, but that's just the way the should be. Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack and let the cookies rest until they are only just warm, at which point you can serve them or let them reach room temperature. 

Harmony's Thoughts
Although I love chocolate, I find that 5 ounces of chopped chocolate is too much for my liking. I scale the measurement down to about 3 ounces of finely chopped Valrhona chocolate.
Please use the best chocolate you can afford. It makes a difference!
Measure the thickness of the rounds as you slice them...a half inch is a thick slice.
I sprinkle the cookie with fleur de sel right before it goes into the oven as well...I little extra salt just does it for me.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Lemon-Ginger Scones

When my mom was visiting  in June, we drove to Boulder for the Celestial Seasoning Tea Factory Tour and afternoon tea at the Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse. While shopping along Pearl Street Mall, we stopped at Savory Spice Shop (actually on Broadway) and picked up some new spices and vanilla beans. One of the many baking items I chose was crystallized ginger. I have been anticipating the chance to use my crystallized ginger and a lemon ginger scone seemed perfect!

This is my basic cream scone recipe which has endless possibilities for flavor variants.

Basic Cream Scone
Adapted from source: Daniela's Lemon Cream Scones
Prep: 15 minutes   Bake: 15 minutes   Oven: 400˚F

2   cups all-purpose flour
½  cup sugar
1   tablespoon baking powder
½  teaspoon salt
½  cup butter
2   eggs
½  cup heavy cream

3   lemons, zested
3   teaspoons lemon juice
1   teaspoon lemon extract
3   tablespoons crystallized ginger, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, lemon zest, and crystallized ginger. Cut in the butter until it resembles small sized peas. Whisk eggs, heavy cream, lemon juice and lemon extract together. Add to mixture. Knead lightly until just incorporated. Roll out on a lightly floured table. Cut and place on parchment covered sheet pan. Bake 10 to 15 minutes, until puffed and golden. 

Harmony's Thoughts
I typically divide the dough in half and pat into two disks. Each disk yields 8 wedges.
Just a few variations I have done: Orange Fig, Blueberry Cinnamon, Cream Walnut

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Artisan Bread

One of my favorite times during my week is making bread. The patience it requires varies with the recipe, but the joy that it brings is equally rewarding. I don't own a bread machine, though I would like one at some juncture in my life, but for now I savor the smooth, sticky feel of bread dough under my hands and between my fingers as I knead with gusto. I'm sure others have used the same likeness, but as I make bread I correlate the process with growing as a person. In our lifetime, we will have moments where we feel as though we are being kneaded, punched down, and set out to rise. But the end result is a life well lived that turned out perfect in its own way. The bakers patience, love and tender care creates an aromatic, structured loaf of bread to savor.

The first time this recipe caught my eye, I was looking for a classic loaf with a little extra character. This artisan bread has become my go-to recipe for a loaf to be served with dinner, a cache of cheeses, or to show a little love. 

Artisan-Style Bread
Source: Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook
Prep: 45 minutes  Stand: 8 hours  Rest: 50 min 
Rise: 2.5 hours  Bake: 20 minutes  Oven: 450˚F
Makes: 2 loaves (28 slices)

1   cup warm water (105˚F to 155˚F)
¼  teaspoon active dry yeast
1   cup bread flour
1   tablespoon rye flour
¾  cup warm water (105˚F to 115˚F)
1   cup warm water (105˚F to 115˚F)
3   to 3¼ cups bread flour
2   teaspoons salt
½  teaspoon active dry yeast
     Spray bottle filled with water

Combine the 1 cup warm water and the ¼ teaspoon yeast; set aside for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl combine the 1 cup bread flour and the rye flour.

Stir yeast mixture; add 1 tablespoon of the yeast mixture to the flour mixture. Discard remaining yeast mixture. Add the  ¾ cup warm water to the flour mixture, stirring until combined. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature for 8 to 24 hours (surface of mixture should be bubbly).

Bubbly mixture after 16 hrs.

Add the 1 cup warm water to the flour mixture and stir until combined. In a large bowl stir together 3 cups of the bread flour, the salt, and the ½ teaspoon yeast; pour the water-flour mixture into the dry flour mixture. Using a wooden spoon, stir until combined. 

Turn dough out onto a well-floured surface. Knead dough only a couple of strokes (dough will be very sticky). Cover; let rest 20 minutes.

Knead dough for 3 to 5 minutes more (dough will be wetter and softer than you may be used to). If dough is too sticky to work with, knead in up to ¼ cup more flour. Dough should be smooth, but still sticky, after kneading. Place the dough in an ungreased large bowl. Cover bowl with plastic wrap (do not let plastic wrap touch the surface of the sticky dough); let rise until nearly double in size (2 to 2½ hours).

Turn dough out onto a heavily floured surface; divide dough in half (gently handle dough, trying not to disturb air holes). Using floured hands, gently form each dough half into a small rectangle. Cover each dough rectangle with a large bowl or towel; let rest for 30 minutes.

Using floured hands, gently pull each piece of dough into a 12-inch baguette or a 6-inch round loaf, gently handling dough so as not to disturb big bubbles inside. Roll the baguette-shaped dough onto parchment paper. Place the baguette dough in baguette pans, parchment-paper sides down. Gently place the round loaves into two greased 8-inch round baking pans. Cover; let rise until double in size (30 to 45 minutes). Preheat oven to 450˚F.

Ready to rise in baguette pan

Place pans in oven. Working quickly, heavily mist the inside of the oven, including the bread, with water. Bake about 20 minutes or until bread is a deep golden brown and sounds hollow when lightly tapped. Immediately remove from pans. Cool on wire racks. Share with love.

Harmony's Thoughts
I prefer to let the starter set out for 12-16 hrs.
If you do not own a baguette pan, please do the round loaves. 
I frequently use King Aurthur Bread Improver in this recipe.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Snow Crab Spread

Growing up in Adrian, Michigan seemed ordinary at the time. Adrian is a small town with the surrounding rural community comprised of farming. I pause to think on it now and wonder at the safety our small community provided. In high school, I began working for Merry Berry Farms and picked more fruits and vegetables than I can count. When I went to the farm, I felt a special connection with the fertile plants and trees around me and basked in the knowledge that God handcrafted each peach and raspberry I touched.

The most special aspect of Merry Berry Farm was the owners, Jim and Mary Ann. Their work ethic and kind love surrounded every part of my work. Their wisdom of how to nurture fruits and vegetables taught me methods that I use in my garden today.

One evening, after working for Jim and Mary Ann for a few years, they invited me out to eat all you can eat crab at a local restaurant in my hometown called The Brass Lantern. Truthfully, I was not as thrilled as they seemed to be, but I loved them dearly so I put on a brave face. Crab pleasantly surprised me. We laughed and talked that night while Jim extracted each piece of crab meat for me. It was a lovely evening and I smile often as I am now the one that cracks crab legs for others. 


Snow Crab Spread
Original Recipe

10  oz. snow crab meat (about 1½ lbs. crab legs)
¼   cup mayonnaise
1    teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
¼   teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
1    teaspoon lemon juice
2    green onions, sliced thinly 

Extract meat from crab legs, picking over for shells. Mix mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce, Old Bay seasoning and lemon juice in a small bowl until combined. Fold in crab meat gently taking care not to break apart lumps of crab meat. Sprinkle with green onions and chill until ready to serve.

Harmony's Thoughts
Use homemade mayonnaise if creates such a silky texture.
Serve on slices of bread, croissants, or sesame crackers, topped with fresh herbs. My favorite is lemon balm (pictured above)

Monday, August 15, 2011

Apricot Thumbprints

A few times a week I make a point to sit down with a pot of tea and a treat. Sometimes my teatime is with a friend or my husband, other times I sit quietly by myself and reflect on the day. There is a soothing quality to brewing a pot of tea. It connects me with generations of the past.The realization comes with age. My mother would be so proud!

These apricot thumbprints can be made with various ground nut and jam combinations. I chose walnuts and apricots this time and the combination was lovely with my cup of tea. They also accompanied me to a concert last night where I had a fabulous picnic with friends.

Apricot Thumbprints
Source: Baking by Dorie Greenspan

1 ¾ cups finely ground walnuts
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
2     sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½    cup sugar
1     teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½    teaspoon pure almond extract
       Powdered sugar, for dusting
       About 1 cup apricot jam

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Line baking sheet with parchment.

Whisk together the ground nuts and flour.

In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the extracts and beat to blend. Reduce the mixer speed to low and gradually add the nut-flour mixture, mixing only until it is incorporated into the dough.

Working with a teaspoonful of dough at a time, roll the dough between your palms to form small balls and place the balls 2 inches apart on the baking sheets. Steadying each cookie with the thumb and a finger of one hand, use the pinkie of your other hand to poke a hole in the center of each cookie. Be careful not to go all the way down to the baking sheet.

Bake for 15-18 minutes. The cookies should be only slightly colored - they may even look underdone, which is fine: they should not be overbaked. When the cookies are baked, remove the baking sheet from the oven and let the cookies rest on the sheet 2 minutes before transferring them to cooling racks with a wide metal spatula. Sift powdered sugar over them.

Bring the jam to a boil in a small saucepan over low heat, or in a microwave oven; remove from heat. Fill the indentations of the cookies with enough of the hot jam to come level with the tops. Cool to room temperature. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container for 3 days at room temperature or 2 months in the freezer. Enjoy with a friend.

Harmony's Thoughts
Think small when you roll these with a teaspoon of dough. I used an actual measuring teaspoon, not a teaspoon from my silverware. 
I baked these for about 10-12 minutes and only sifted powdered sugar and filled them as needed.
The cookie has the delicious texture of shortbread.