Monthly Archives: March 2014

Two-Tone Brownies

What happens when you take the perfect brownie recipe, and then ice the brownies with a simple cream cheese frosting? You get a two-town brownie. But don’t leave it at that; add a simple chocolate ganache frosting on top of the cream cheese frosting and you have these wonderful brownies.

tt-brownies 002

To begin, the brownie recipe itself is perfect! the espresso powder really sharpens the chocolate taste of these little treats. The brownie is dense, and not all floury like so many recipes. For the brownie itself, this recipe is something you will want in your repertoire.

But then the toppings are added, and you end up with the most decadent brownie you ever tasted. Each of the topping layers by itself is good, but together and on the brownie you have perfection in a brownie.

The recipe only makes 16 pieces, but these brownies are rich, and you will find that the 16 pieces are a good number. And besides, if you really need more, you can always make the recipe again.

Two-Tone Brownies

Brownies:

  • 6 Tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter
  • 3 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped (1/2 cup)
  • 1 Tablespoon instant espresso powder
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line an 8 x 8 x 2″ square baking pan with aluminum foil with overhang; coat with cooking spray.

In a medium-size sauce pan, heat together over low heat stirring until melted and smooth the butter, chocolate and espresso powder. Remove from heat, add and stir until smooth the sugar, eggs, vanilla and salt. Add the flour, cinnamon and nuts.

Scrape and spread into prepared pan. Bake for about 25 minutes or until set in center. Let cool in pan on wire rack.

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 4 oz. cream cheese at room temperature
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Beat in a small bowl at high speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes, all the ingredients. Spread evenly over cooled brownie base. Refrigerate until set -about 1 hour.

Chocolate Frosting

  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
  • 3 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped (1/2 cup)
  • 1 Tablespoon butter

In a small pan bring to simmering the cream and espresso powder. Add chocolate. Remove from heat and let stand 3 minutes. Add butter. Stir until chocolate and butter are melted and mixture is smooth. Pour over cream cheese frosting; spread in an even layer. Refrigerate 2 hours or overnight. Cut into 16 bars.

Kammerjunkere (Groom’s Cookies)

I received this recipe from my sister Ann; she had it labeled as Groom’s Cookies. I have since learned that its name is Kammerjunkere. The cookie is rolled out paper thin and cut with cookie cutters. At first I was nervous about trying the recipe; it seemed to be weird in that it called for 4 cups of molasses, and 15 cups of flour. That was just too much in my way of thinking.

grooms 002

So, I cut the recipe in half to try it, and it still makes a lot of dough. I am trying something different in cookie cutters- going very small, and so I could have nicely done with just one fourth of the original recipe. But, it doesn’t seem to divide directly into that smaller portion. Ann says that she has used cookie cutters as large as 4 x 5 inches to make these cookies. She also warned me not to ice the entire cookie, but to just use a few highlights on them. The molasses tends to draw moisture and that would interact with the icing to keep it from drying completely. (The hearts in the photo measure about 1.5 x 1.75 inches).

Before I got started making the recipe, I decided to do a web search to see what others might have done for Groom’s Cookies. Most of what I found were regular old sugar cookies cut into hearts, and then frosted like a black tuxedo- nothing near for what I was looking. Then I found a site with Danish cooking recipes, and there with the title Kammerjunkere was the exact same recipe my sister had sent.

Groom’s Cookies (Danish Kammerjunkere)

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbs. baking soda
  • 4 Tbs. water or milk
  • 3/4 lbs. butter, softened
  • 3/4 lbs. brown sugar
  • 2 Tbs. ground cloves
  • 2 Tbs. ground cinnamon
  • 4 cups molasses
  • 15 cups flour
  • 2 tsp. lemon zest
  • 8 oz. brandy

Directions

Soak the baking soda in the water or milk.

Cream the butter and sugar. Add the spices and molasses to the creamed mix and mix them in. Stir in the flour using a large wooden spoon, and then the lemon zest and the brandy. The dough should be very stiff; add more flour if necessary but cautiously. Then add the soda and water/milk.

Divide the dough into manageable units, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Roll the dough very thin- less than 1/8 inch in thickness and cut. Bake on greased cookie sheets, or on silicon mats until brown

Decorate with icing


Before I give you the ingredients for a half-size batch, let me give you some hints about what I learned.

I used milk instead of water for soaking the baking soda. When I finished the dough, I made it into 4 packets wrapped and flattened into disks; those packets still contain a lot of dough, and I probably would have been better served to make 8 packets. I ended up cutting the packet in half before putting it on my board to roll it out. (And my recommendation for 8 packets is for a half-recipe of cookie dough).

And I also caution you to use the large wooden spoon to stir in the flour; I started to use a hand mixer, and I nearly killed the motor of the mixer. There was smoke! So I saved the mixer and got out my big wooden spoon.

grooms 004

HALF_RECIPE

Groom’s Cookies (Danish Kammerjunkere)

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbs. baking soda
  • 2 Tbs. water or milk
  • 12 Tbs. butter, softened
  • 6 oz. brown sugar
  • 1 Tbs. ground cloves
  • 1 Tbs. ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups molasses
  • 7.5 cups flour
  • 1 tsp. lemon zest
  • 4 oz. brandy


If you would rather work in volume instead of weight, the 6 ounces of brown sugar is 12 Tablespoons. I looked up some volume/weight equivalences for interest, and the 15 cups of flour is about 4 pounds, and thus the 7.5 cups of flour is about 2 pounds.

My experience in rolling out the dough to paper thin is that the dough is very sticky, and needs lots of flour on both the rolling pin and the work board. I even experienced that the flour was all absorbed, or moved from under the center of the piece as I rolled, and would be stuck when I went to cutout the cookies and move them. I learned quickly to only cut the cookies from the edge of the dough after I had rolled it, and to scrape the center part back up to start again with more flour on the board.

The direction to cook until brown is not the type of a direction that the nerd in me likes. I quickly learned on the first pan of cookies that “until brown” was about 5 minutes; much longer than that and you could start to smell burning.

Salted Caramel Cookies

A few weeks ago, I was at my favorite bake shop – Blake’s Decorette Shop– looking for chocolate and molds in order to make Easter bunnies. I mean, what is Easter without a chocolate rabbit from which to bite the ears? Anyway, in looking at the various types of chocolate, I happened to see a bin that said “Sea Salt Caramel Wafers”. I know how great Salted Caramel tastes; when Mindy and I go to Molly Moons for ice cream, we often have some salted caramel. So, I bought a package. At that time, I didn’t have any idea about how I would use it.

bonbons 003

So, this week I decided to put the salted caramel into cookies. I decided it should go into two different kinds of cookies- Bon Bons, and Chocolate Chip cookies. And I have just finished that exercise and have to say that it really puts a new flavor pallet on those cookies.

The Bon Bon cookies were quite simple to change to use the wafers instead of the candy kiss. I put two wafers in each ball, and the operation was no different than wrapping the dough around the candy kiss. Because the dough has so much nut flour in it, it is easy to handle.

choc chip 003

I can’t say the same for the chocolate chip cookies; I think I have said before that the Toll House cookie recipe is my favorite, and that is what I used this time. The dough is quite sticky, and you need to work around the chocolate chips and chopped nuts. I increased the size of the scoop/disher I was using to try to add more dough and help me seal the two salted caramel wafers inside the cookie. I tried to do an operation similar to wrapping the Bon Bon dough around the wafers. I have since read that you might make two small balls of the dough – about 1 Tablespoon each- and then squeeze the wafers between the two balls. I have also had a suggestion that refrigerating the dough for a while before working with it might make it less sticky. Again, I did not try that this time.

Rugelach

While searching the internet for versions of the Hamanteschen, I ran across a second Jewish cookie that looked interesting; in fact, I first thought of it as a miniature cinnamon roll, and I do love a good cinnamon roll. I asked my neighbor Esther about it, and she gave me a recipe from one of her friends that has received rave reviews and has in the past been requested for many of those tables of 2-bite goodies.

rugelach 004

Back in December of 2009, the Oregonian newspaper in the FoodDay section, did a search for the best Rugelach in town. I think they state it best when they say “…we were pretty proud of our results — until we spent an afternoon making rugelach with Margaret Hasson.”

It is Margaret’s recipe that Esther gave to me, and after I made the recipe and took some to Esther to critique, it appeared that I didn’t need to change anything. So here is Margaret’s recipe.

Rugelach

Margaret Hasson

The Filling

Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup apricot preserves
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
Directions

Stir together in a bowl; refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.

The Dough

Ingredients
  • 1 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 1 8 oz. package cream cheese, softened
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
Directions

Blend butter, cream cheese and flour, either by hand or in a stand mixer. Divide dough into 3 balls. Wrap each in plastic wrap. Refrigerate 3 to 4 hours or until firm enough to roll.

Ingredients
  • 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/4 Teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 to 3 Tablespoons melted butter
  • Extra granulated sugar
Directions

Combine the cinnamon and sugar.

Putting It All Together

On a lightly floured surgace or silicon mat, roll one ball of dough into a 12-inch circle. Cut the circle into 16 wedges with a sharp knife dipped in flour. Place 1 teaspoon of filling across the wide end of each wedge. Starting at the wide end, roll toward the point.

Place cookies, point side down, on ungreased cookie sheet. Brush top of cookie with the Topping butter, sprinkle with the Topping sugar and cinnamon mixtuer.

Bake 22 minutes in a 375 degree oven.

Cool enouth to handle, remove from cookie sheet, dip bottoms of cookies in the Topping extra granulated sugar and place on wax paper to cool completely.

Makes 4 dozen cookies.

rugelach 005

When I rolled my dough, it was difficult to get it all the way out to a 12-inch circle, but I did get it there. The edges at that point were starting to get feathered because they were so thin. This doesn’t really matter as they get rolled into the center of the cookie.

I have read versions of this cookie that roll the dough to only 9-inch circle, and versions that cut only 12 wedges. Each of these has a result in the size of the cookie, making it either thicker or wider. I like Margaret’s 12-inch, 16 wedge size as a nice 2-bite size.

The filling is very sticky; try to get it in the center of the wide end of the wedge so that it doesn’t come out the sides as you roll the cookie.

Hamanteschen Cookies with Prune Filling

About a year ago, my neighbor Esther showed me filled Jewish cookies called Hamanteschen, and I decided I wanted to add that to my cookie repetoire. Hamanteschen is a cookie that is used to celebrate Purim, a Jewish holiday to remember Queen Esther and her saving the Jewish people of Persia. I will let you look elsewhere for the full story; the name of the cookie means Haman’s hat, or Haman’s ear, or Haman’s purse or pocket. I personally like Haman’s ear.

I did a bunch of research on the internet and tried to develop what I thought was a good dough for the cookie. My early attempts seemed to be very dry, and I thought I would be either filling the Hamanteschen with gravy, or serving it with gravy; the dough was like a dense biscuit. I finally got a dough that was lighter and moister, and that is the recipe I will show below. And it is the dough I used for these cookies.

hamantaschen 7

I took some of these cookies to Esther and asked for her appraisal. She immediately gave me a dozen of her version of the Hamsnteschen, and addressed the short-comings of mine. As you can see, her cookies are more open and lighter looking. She ended up giving me her recipes which I also publishing below.

rugelach 007

If you look at the many recipes for the cookie, you will find that there is difference of opinions about both the size of the circle to cut from the dough, and to the thickness to which the dough is rolled. After working with both Esther’s and my own dough, I think the answer for me is that the dough should be rolled to 1/8 inch thick, and should be cut with a diameter not greater that 2 1/2 inches. Increasing either dimension will add extra dough to the cookie, and take it out of the 2-bite range.

Errol’s Hamanteschen Dough

Ingredients

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • zest of 1/2 an orange
  • filling (see below)

Directions

Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in the food processor and pulse to mix. Add the oil and pulse. In a bowl, combine the sugar, eggs, orange juice and zest; add it to the food processor and pulse to mix. Do not over mix. Divide the dough into 2 disks, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Roll out the dough on a floured work surface to 1/8 inch thick. Cut out disks with a diameter not greater than 2 1/2 inches. Place a teaspoon of filling in the center of the disk. Fold the sides of the disk over the filling in three places to form a triangular shape, and pinch the corners together. A little of the filling should still show in the center. Place on the baking sheet and continue forming cookies until either the dough runs out or the baking sheet is full. Scrap dough can be rerolled to form more cookies.

Bake for 12-15 minutes.

The filling is one of the keys to a good Hamanteschen that Esther discussed with me. She knew by the way my cookies were folded over the top that I had used preserves as a filling.
For filling, I used a jar of preserves; apricot preserves seems to be a common choice, but I have seen, and used raspberry preserves. I have also seen a suggestion to add a couple chocolate chips with the raspberry preserves- chocolate and raspberry is a common combination among bakers.

But Esther said that preserves are too thin, and will run if the cookie doesn’t hold its shape. Instead, the filling needs to be thick and stand on its own. She gave me her recipe, and with it I did not have any runny filling. So I will not recommend using the staight preserves in the cookie although many of the internet site recipes seem to go that direction.

One of the big problems you will experience the first time you make these cookies is the unfolding of the sides. I found that if I used a finger dipped in water to run around the edge of the disk, it seemed to stick together better. I still had individual cookies that didn’t keep their shape, but I had fewer failures using the extra moisture. Esther goes a step further; if you look closely at her cookies, you will see that after pinching the corner together, she then rolls the corner over on itself to further lock it in place.

I used an old biscuit cutter to cut my disks. I have also tried different size drinking glasses, and other objects with a round shape. So look around and find the disk cutter that will be the best size to use; it doesn’t have to be a special cookie cutter; just be circular.

Esther’s Hamanteschen Recipes

Dough

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons melted honey
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 heaping teaspoon baking powder
  • Enough flour to roll (approximately 5 ½ cups)

Directions

Cream the butter and sugar. Add the honey, then the eggs, and finally the dry ingredients.
Divide the dough into 3 parts.
Roll a dough part about 1/4 inch thick. Cut into rounds, fill, and make the three corner shape.
Bake on greased pan until brown.

Prune Filling

Ingredients

  • 1 cup prunes soaked in water 2 hours
  • 1 cup raisins washed
  • 1 cup dates
  • ½ cup nuts optional
  • 1/2 cup jam or preserves
  • Juice of one lemon

Directions

Put the prunes, raisins, dates and nuts through a mincer such as a food processor.
Add the jam and lemon juice and mix thoroughly.

I modified the recipe slightly for my use. Having tried rolling the dough to 1/4 inch thick, I knew I didn’t like the results, so I rolled the dough down to 1/8 inch thick. I did not use a greased pan, but instead used my cookie sheets covered with my silicon mats. I baked the cookies at 350 degrees for about 14 minutes.

Esther likes the bottoms of the Hamanteschen to be browned. To get that effect, she cooks them on the bottom rack of the oven for half the time, and then raise them to the middle rack of the oven to finish cooking. I followed her advice in this area and tried to brown the bottoms of the cookies, but the silicon mats seem to protect the cookie from the heat to some extent. I left the cookies on the bottom rack for 9 minutes before moving them to the middle rack for another 4 minutes. There is a very light tanning of the bottoms.

Recently, I found an apricot filling that I feel should be included with this recipe.

hamantaschen 011

Apricot Filling for Hamanteschen Cookies

Ingredients

  • 2 cups finely chopped dried apricots
  • 1 1/3 cups orange juice
  • 2/3 cup honey
  • zest from 1/2 an orange

Directions

Place the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer until the moisture is absorbed and the apricots are soft. Let cool.

I chopped my apricots in the food processor by pulsing until they seemed consistent. It took me about 1/2 hour to get the moisture absorbed from the mixture. At that point, the taste was very tangy; more so than I would like. I let the mixture cool in the refrigerator for a couple days before I could make more cookies, and the taste had smoothed and was no longer the tangy orange zest flavor that it had been.

Cake Decorating Level 1

Recently, I took the Level 1 Cake Decorating class at the Decorette Shop. I thought it would be interesting to talk about what I learned. The idea of the class was to prepare us to make nice cakes for any occasion. The class was 7 weeks long, meeting for 3 hours one day each week. I know that you can buy a cake mix and frosting at the grocery store, and produce a nice enough cake for a celebration. What I didn’t know was that you can put more into the production and have a better cake.

The photos in this article are pictures of what I produced. I discovered that I an a good engineer in that I can copy what is shown me, but I am not an artist like some of my classmates. They seemed to have a better picture of how colors went together.

The first meeting of the class was to provide a list of material that we would need for the class; such things as piping bags and tips, wet cloths, aprons, and gel paste colors were among the many items on the list. We also got to work with Royal Icing to do color flow like I had done in the Cookie Decorating class. And, we were introduced to Molding Sugar and how to make and use it.

Our assignment for the second week was to bake and bring a 9 x 13 cake; it was recommended that we use a box and a half of whatever cake mix we chose.

In class the second week, we learned how to split the cake evenly and put a layer of filling in the split. Then we cut the cake up to form an old-fashion baby buggy. Finally, we learned how to pipe frosting in several ways to finish the cake; we used star-fill, basket weave, zig zag, and shells.

wk2 001

In class the third week, we learned how to pipe many different flowers as decorations on our cakes.

PicMonkey Collage

For week 4, we needed to bring a dome-shape cake to class; the idea was to make a doll cake. However, anyone that didn’t want to buy the special cake pan could create a dome in other ways. And anyone that didn’t want to buy the doll could do whatever they wanted with the dome cake. I went ahead and bought the pan and made a true doll cake.

wk4 doll 002

In class the fifth week we worked on piping figurines.

PicMonkey CollageX
Xwk5 char 011
Xwk5 char 013

In the sixth week, we made our third cake and took it to class. This class taught us more border design piping on the cakes. It also refreshed some of the ideas from our first two cakes, such as filling, and crumb coating. We also learned more about frosting a cake; up to now the cakes were not frosted, but covered with piped patterns. This week, we frosted the cake and put the patterns on the frosted cake. The two patterns we tried were Cornelli lace, and lattice. The edges were then piped with one of the patterns we had learned earlier- shells and zig zag.

wk6 cake 001

And finally in week seven we learned how to stack cakes. In this week we baked, and processed two cakes to the smooth frosting stage. In class we learned how to stack the smaller cake on the larger cake. And then we were free to decorate the cakes in any way we wanted. I chose to repeat the border designs from week 6 on my larger cake, and nearly ran out of time. A 10 inch cake is a long way around.

wk7 005

I think it is important to recognize that we all like to bake cakes for different occasions, but we generally do not worry about crumb coating, about smooth frosting, or doing major decorations on the cake. We probably never consider stacking cakes. This level 1 Cake Decorating class teaches the student some of these techniques and develops a confidence in the student for moving ahead with making nice looking cakes.