Sunday, December 22, 2013

Turtle Thumbprint Cookies (AKA Chocolate Caramel Thumbprint Cookies)

This was the cookie that I mentioned in my last post: Salted Caramel Coconut Thumbprint Cookies. These cookies are soft and chocolatey sweet with a little crunchy note from the pecans and a finishing touch from the soft caramel filling. They are truly wonderful and I'm so glad my cousin Jaci gave me the recipe. :) (I did change it a smidge, but not much)
   I even omitted the nuts and made Chocolate Caramel Thumbprint Cookies for my friend's tree-nut allergic husband. :)

Here's the recipe:

Turtle Thumbprint Cookies (AKA Chocolate Caramel Thumbprint Cookies)

1 cup flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick (8 Tbsp) butter, softened (I always use salted)
2/3 cup sugar
1 egg separated
2 Tbsp milk
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups finely chopped pecans (can be omitted if needed)
15 caramels, unwrapped
3 Tbsp cream
1/3 cup chocolate chips

Combine flour, cocoa and salt and set aside. Beat together butter and sugar. Add the egg yolk, milk and vanilla. Add the flour until just combined. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.  Preheat the oven to 350F. Whip the egg white in a bowl until frothy. Put the finely chopped nuts into another bowl. Roll the dough into 1 inch balls. Roll each ball in the egg white and then in the nuts. Place 2 inches apart on a parchment lined baking sheet and make an indentation into the top of each cookie (using your thumb or a 1/2 tsp measuring spoon). Bake @ 350F until set - about 12 minutes, rotating half way through. Repress indentations and let cool on the baking sheets while you make the caramel.
   In a small sauce pan, heat together the cream and the unwrapped caramels over low heat. Stir constantly until smooth. *Using a 1/2 tsp measuring spoon, fill each cookie indentation.
   Melt the chocolate chips in the microwave. Heat for 30 seconds, stir and repeat until the chocolate is smooth. Put into a piping bag or a small zip-top bag and cut the corner off leaving an 1/8 inch hole. Slowly pipe stripes onto each cookie. Let set before moving.

*You can reheat the caramel if it sets up before all the cookies are filled.
**The caramel stays soft in the center, so be careful when packaging because they can stick to each other and other holiday goodies. Wax paper works nicely as a barrier.

Salted Caramel Coconut Tumbprint Cookies

About a week ago I asked my friends and family on Facebook what their favorite cookie was. I got many delicious responses; almost all of which I've never made. So, I was on a cookie making mission. I wanted to try all of cookies that had just been suggested to me, and while I haven't made it through all of them yet, I am well on my way.
   My cousin Jaci said this was one of her favorites (along with a chocolate and caramel thumbprint cookie that I'll share with you in a bit), and she was gracious enough to give me a recipe. Tried as I might to stick to the letter of this recipe, I still changed it a bit - and the recipe listed reflects my changes. I brought these along to a Christmas party my family and I attended last night, and the hostess liked these cookies so much that she asked for the recipe. So, Ramona this is for you. :)
    While I didn't take step by step pictures of the process, the instructions should explain it all. If you have any questions just leave a comment and I'll be more than happy to help you out!
    These really are quite tasty little morsels, and I'm glad I have the recipe so I can make them again and again.

Here is it:

Coconut Thumbprints with Salted Caramel

1 1/2 sticks of butter, softened (I always use salted)
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp coconut extract
1 3/4 cups flour
1/4 tsp table salt
1 egg, seperated
6 oz sweetened flaked coconut
15 caramels, unwrapped
3 Tbsp cream
coarse Kosher salt or flaky Sea Salt

Cream together the butter and sugar. Add the vanilla and coconut extracts along with the egg yolk. Mix in salt and flour. Form into 1 inch balls (I had to squeeze the mixture together and then roll it into balls). Whip the egg white until frothy. Roll each ball into the egg white and then into the coconut. Place onto a parchment line baking sheet and press and indentation into the top of each cookie (using your thumb or a 1/2 tsp measuring spoon). Optional: refrigerate for 1 hour before baking. 
   When you're ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350F. Bake for 10 minutes on the top rack and then repress the indentations using a 1/2 tsp measuring spoon (so you don't burn yourself!). Rotate the pans and cook for another 2-7 minutes. The cookie should be set and the coconut browned but not burnt. 
   Place the unwrapped caramels into a sauce pan along with the cream, and heat together over low heat stirring constantly. When the caramels are melted and the mixture is smooth you are ready to fill your cookies. *Using a 1/2 tsp measuring spoon, fill each cookie indentation. Sprinkle with sea salt (or Kosher salt) and then let **set before moving or packaging. 

*You can reheat the caramel if it sets before all the cookies are filled.
**The caramel stays soft in the center, so be careful when packaging because they can stick to each other and other holiday goodies. Wax paper works nicely as a barrier.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Angel Wings

 This year, I wanted to do a cookie/holiday treat tray that was a little different. I wanted to add new cookies that I've never made before. While on my quest to find desirable holiday cookies I came across these Angel Wings that were featured on Sugar and Grace. They were originally found in a Taste of Home 2009 magazine. (If you want to see some adorable pictures of her Angel Wings then you should check out her site. She's a photographer, where as I am not. My pictures will never be award winning, but they get the point across.)
   These cookies are light and buttery, with a crisp sugar coating and a hint of cinnamon flavor. It's almost as if they were made with store bought puff pastry, but they weren't. They are made 100% from scratch and that gives you just a little bit of bragging rites. You don't have to tell anyone how easy they are, just take the praises that follow after people try your new cookie concoction.
   While these cookies are easy, they do take some planning and forethought. The dough needs to be made in advance. Make it in the morning, if you want to serve it in the evening - or better yet, you can make it a day or two a head of time. I made mine 2 days before I baked it. I made them for my holiday cookie trays and I'm making another batch today for a cookie exchange party the kids and I are attending tomorrow. In a world that is filled with so many amazing cookie recipes, I'm glad I found these. (FYI: if you don't want to make them to give away, they are wonderful to enjoy with a hot beverage, and the dough freezes well for later baking.)
    Enough talking, let's get baking.

The first step is to cut up the butter. 1 cup (2 sticks) of cold butter needs to be cubed up. I like salted butter, but unsalted works just as well.

Add the butter to a bowl containing 1 1/2 cups AP flour. Cut the butter into the flour using two knives or a pastry cutter. 

Your looking for most of the butter to be in pea-sized pieces with a few larger chunks still remaining. Like this:

Next, add in 1/2 cup of sour cream.

Gently mix everything, until the sour cream is mostly worked in (I used a fork, but a rubber spatula would would too.)

Now push the dough down and fold it over on itself. Repeating until it is no longer crumbly. Just press . . .

And fold . . .

When it is one mass, then divide it into fourths.

See all the lovely layers created by folding it over on itself? They will help the cookie bake up light a flaky.

Take each section of the dough and form it into a rectangular (ish) shape. 

Then wrap it up in plastic wrap (I like Press n Seal), nice and tight.

Place your little bundles in the fridge until you're read for them. (Like I said before, you can do this one day ahead or two like I did.)

On the day you want to bake them, take one bundle out at a time. Have a bowl ready with 2/3 cup sugar. Place a large piece of parchment paper down on a flat work surface and sprinkle the paper with 2 Tbsp of the sugar. This is what you are rolling the dough out on (instead of flour) to prevent sticking. The rolling sugar is also the only time that the dough is sweetened, so don't skimp!

Next, unwrap one bundle and roll the dough into the remaining sugar, covering all sides.

Gently roll out the dough, working from the middle out, adding more sugar as the dough gets sticky.

You want to roll it out into a 12x5 rectangle. My first one ended up being more of an oval than a rectangle,

so I just folded in the edges,

and rolled them flat. My rolling pin is about 12 inches long, so I use that as my guide. This is close enough.

Next, lightly score the dough in half (I used the measuring spoon). You just want to get an idea of where the middle is.

Sprinkle 3/4 tsp of ground cinnamon onto the dough. I usually do 1/4 tsp for each side and then do the last 1/4 tsp over both sides. 

Roll each end up (like rolling cinnamon rolls) towards the center. Stop at the middle line.

When both ends are rolled in you have a scroll shape. These are going to be your Angel Wings.

Wrap the whole thing up in plastic wrap (I just use the same piece the dough was wrapped in before), and place it in the freezer. (The recipe said 30 minutes, but I left mine for 1 hour and it was o.k.) If you are looking to freeze this dough in advance for later baking, this would be the step that you stop at. Make sure it is wrapped tightly, and place in a labeled zip-top freezer bag with all the air removed. Then, when you want to bake it, let it sit on the counter for 30 minutes - just until it is able to be cut. And you can bake immediately. :) I love time savers and planning ahead.

When all the dough sections have been turned into angel wings scrolls (above), and they have been freezing for 30 minutes, you can get the sugar ready.
   To the remaining sugar in the bowl, add 1 Tbsp of large sugar crystals. The original recipe calls for Turbanado sugar, but I don't keep that on hand. I do, however, have this white sparkling sugar for making my girls birthday cakes "sparkle." It works beautifully.

One Tbsp is all you need. See the lovely large crystals?

Mix it in with the regular granulated sugar, so that it's evenly distributed.

Preheat the oven to 375F. Remove the dough from the freezer (again one at a time, so they stay as cold as possible). And cut each scroll into 1/2 inch pieces.

Roll each piece into the sugar you just prepared, covering both sides.

Place the cookies 2 inches apart on a parchment line baking sheet.

Bake for 17 minutes, and this is how they come out. Beautiful.

 Now, just add it to your cookie tray, or enjoy them with a hot beverage. They really are something special.
Here's the recipe:
from Sugar and Spice

Angel Wings

1 cup cold butter, cubed
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup sour cream
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon, divided
2/3 cup sugar
1 Tbs Turnbinado sugar or Sparkling Sugar

Cut the butter into the flour using a pastry cutter, until the butter is mostly in pea-sized pieces. Stir in the sour cream until just combined. Press down the dough and fold over onto itself, repeating until the dough comes together into a solid mass. Divide the dough into four equal parts. Shape each fourth into a rectangular shape and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for several hours or up to 2 days. 
  Place a large sheet of parchment paper on a clean work surface. Put 2/3 cup granulated sugar in a bowl. Sprinkle 2 Tbsp of the sugar on the parchment paper. Remove the dough from the fridge, one bundle at a time. Unwrap the dough and roll all sides in the bowl of sugar. Then, using a rolling pin, roll the dough out on the sugar coated parchment paper. Add more sugar as needed to prevent the dough from sticking. Roll the dough into a 12x5 inch rectangle. Gently mark the dough dough the middle, creating two 6x5 visual halves. (Just score the dough, but DO NOT CUT it.) Sprinkle the dough evenly with 3/4 tsp cinnamon. Roll each half of the dough toward the middle line, making a scroll shape. Wrap the scroll tightly in plastic wrap and freeze for 30 minutes. Repeat with all the remaining dough bundles. (At this point you can leave in the freezer for later baking.)
   When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375F. Add 1 Tbsp Turbinado or Sparkling Sugar to the remaining sugar in the bowl used before. Mix well. Take one scroll out of the freezer at a time. Cut into 1/2 in pieces and roll each piece in the sugar. Place 2 inches apart on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and bake for 17-20 minutes, until golden brown. Let set on baking sheet before moving.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Rolo Pretzel Bites

The very first holiday treat I made this year were these Rolo Pretzel Bites. Why? Because they are quite possibly my favorite holiday treat of all time - and they couldn't be easier or faster. With 3 ingredients and in about 10 minutes you will have a candy that everyone will rave over. You can find the recipe for this from the back of any Rolo candies package (at least at this time of year, I haven't looked durring other seasons). They are the perfect sweet treat. Chewy, crunchy, sweet, salty and it has chocolate - which is always a bonus in my book!
   I can't praise these enough. If you've never had them before, then you should definitely make up a batch now. Seriously . . . go make some!

Here's all it takes:

Lay out some pretzels on a parchment lined baking sheet. I used a little over 1/2 of a 12 oz bag. Any shape will do, but I thought the square ones would hold the candy in the middle better.

If you live out of the US, or have never seen a package of Rolos, this is what the bag looks like:

 Then unwrap the Rolos candies (I used 2 12 oz packages) and place one Rolo on top of each pretzel.

Place the whole thing into a 350F degree oven for 5 minutes. Then take them out and press a pecan on top, smashing the candy down slightly. Repeat with all the Rolo topped pretzels and you're done!

Voila! Rolo Pretzel Bites. Now, if you can refrain from eating all of them right now, you can let them cool and harden again to give away to friends and loved ones. (But I won't judge you if you eat them as you wait for them to cool. . . I certainly did!)

Here's the recipe:

Rolo Pretzel Bites

2 12 oz bags of Rolos candies, unwrapped
about 1/2 a 12 oz bag of mini pretzels (you may use more, depending on how many broken pieces are in the bag)
pecan halves (about 2-3 cups)

Place whole pretzels on a parchment lined baking sheet in a single layer. Top each pretzel with an unwrapped Rolo candy. Bake for 5 minutes @ 350F. Then gently press a pecan half onto each Rolo. Let cool and set before packaging or moving.  

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Grandma Roberts' Parker House Rolls

These are my all-time favorite rolls. They are my Grandma's Parker House Rolls, and they are the only rolls worth the time and attention to make. (My No-Knead Rich Dinner Rolls work nicely in a pinch, though.) So, of course I'll be adding them to the menu for Thanksgiving tomorrow. My grandma recently passed away. While I'm saddened that she's no longer on this Earth, I am grateful that I can remember her and feel her here with me when I make her recipes.  I know she's looking down on me and I'm sure she would be happy that I am carrying on some of her traditions.
   Her original recipe calls for melted shortening as the fat in the dough, I have made this recipe with oil and melted butter as well and they all turn out wonderfully. She also wrote the recipe to include cake yeast, but since I never have that on hand I addapted it to use dry, instant yeast. These rolls are in no way a low-fat food, but one bite and you'll fall in love with them too. They are unbelievably soft and delightful. My grandma knew what she was doing when she made these!

This is how it starts:

Milk goes into a small sauce pan to heat up. (I have also done this step in the microwave.)

While the milk is heating, put the yeast into 1 cup of either lukewarm milk or water. (I tend to use milk. I think it makes for a softer roll.) Grandma's recipe says "lukewarm" but I would make sure that the temp of the liquid is at least 105F. You want to wake up the yeast. (She had the hands of a farmer's wife, so I'm sure her lukewarm is different than mine.) :)

Just mix the yeast and milk (or water) and set aside. I am using instant, rapid rise yeast so there is no need for me to wait for the yeast to foam or "bloom" but if you are using cake yeast or regular dry yeast you will want to make sure that the yeast is completely dissolved and the mixture gets a little foamy before you continue.

When the milk is scalded (hot but not boiling) turn it off.

Add in the sugar,

and salt.

And stir to combine, until the sugar is dissolved. Set this aside to cool slightly (down to at least to 120F)

In a large bowl (I used my stand mixer. - This was before it died on me. . . sniff, sniff.) Add in your fat of choice: melted shortening, or vegetable oil, or melted butter. (Grandma's recipe says to add this in the middle, with the flour, but for convenience I add it at the beginning. I'm going to give you her recipe at the end, so you may notice the changes, but note that you can add the fat at the beginning or the middle and it turns out great either way.)

To the melted fat, add the yeast mixture. (Again, you'll notice that I didn't dissolve my yeast completely, because I am using rapid rise yeast and there is no need to do that.)

Add in some of the flour, and then turn the mixer on low. (Or mix in the flour and then add the next ingredients.)

While the mixer is on low, add the warm milk/sugar/salt mixture. (If mixing by hand, just stir it in slowly.)

When the mixture is smooth (like this) then you can start adding more flour.

Add it one cup at a time, so that the flour can get incorporated evenly. The recipe calls for 6 cups of flour, but I find that depending on the day I may need more or less.

When the dough comes together into a soft ball, and pulls away from the sides it's done. (If mixing by hand, you will want to knead it by hand for at least 5 minutes to get it to come together.)
The dough should be very soft, but not sticky.

Set it aside in a warm place to rise for about an hour (it needs to at least double in size). I just out the towel over the bowl of my stand mixer and left it where it was on the counter, because my kitchen was warm.

After an hour, check on the dough. It should be rising nicely.

Knead the dough again (I just turned on my stand mixer for a few minutes.)

On a floured work surface, roll out the dough into a rectangle. (Or as close to it as you can.) Then portion the dough out. I like to cut 1 inch strips and then cut the strips into squares. I fold the squares over on themselves to make little balls. (For more detailed pictures on forming the dough balls see my No-Knead Rich Dinner Rolls post). This recipe will make 24 normal sized rolls, or 12 gigantic rolls (like I made this time).

When all the dough balls are portioned out, place them in a buttered baking dish (I use a 9x13 when making 12 rolls and a 10x15 dish - or 9x13 plus an 8x8 - when I make 24 rolls) and brush them with melted butter. (Grandma's recipe says to "Use melted butter generously". I find that I use 1/2 stick, melted butter to accomplish this and brush the dough balls all liberally.) My mom says that she has seen Grandma take the back of a knife and use it to fold the rolls in half, and place more butter inside each roll. I have tried that, and I don't get a folded roll (like the traditional Parker House style). Instead my butter gets absorbed into my roll, and they still bake up in one mass. So, I usually forgo that step. It's not listed in the recipe, it's just something that my mom saw my Grandma do.

Set the rolls aside (again covered and in a warm place) to rise for another 30 minutes to 1 hour. They should double in size again. The longer they rise, the lighter the rolls will be.

After the second rise, brush with more butter (if they don't look shiny anymore) and bake them @ 350F for 20 minutes, or until golden brown and they sound hollow when you tap them. Remove them from the oven and then again, liberally brush them with butter (another 1/2 stick, melted). I never said this was diet food. But they are heavenly. And on days like Thanksgiving, it's completely appropriate. :)
 Other options for baking these up is to make smaller dough balls and place 3 together in a muffin tin to make clover rolls. (Even just 2 to a muffin tin works nicely - they end up looking like those brown and serve rolls you can buy at the store.) If you like your rolls more crusty, you can bake them spaced out on a cookie sheet. I prefer mine more on the soft side, so I like using a baking dish.

These are THE BEST rolls, and I try to use that term sparingly. I find that in the Pinterest world of today it is really over used, but I sincerely mean it. I've not found a better roll! They are a family staple at our table. I hope they find a place at yours too!

Here's the recipe:
  This is her recipe, but all of the parenthesis are mine. :)

Grandma Roberts' Parker House Rolls

1 cup milk
1 cup lukewarm milk or water (recommended 105F)
1 T salt
5 T sugar
1 cake yeast (or 1 T dry yeast - I use rapid rise yeast)
6 T melted shortening (or veg oil, or melted butter)
6 cups sifted flour (maybe more depending on the day)
*butter (1 stick -8 oz-, divided and melted. I like salted butter, but unsalted is fine.)

In a small sauce pan scald the milk (heat to just before boiling), and turn off the heat. Add the sugar and salt and stir to dissolve. Set aside to cool (to 120F). Dissolve yeast in lukewarm milk (or water) and add to the (scalded and cooled) milk mixture. Add in 3 cups of the flour and stir. Add in the shortening (or butter or oil) and the remaining flour. Rise and knead twice. Use melted butter generously. (This means: knead the flour on a floured work surface until it comes together into a soft, but not sticky ball. Rise for 1 hour - until doubled - and then knead it again. Divide it into rolls, and brush liberally with 1/2 stick of melted butter. Cover and let rise for a second time, until  at least doubled in size.) Bake @ 350 for 15-20 minutes (or until golden brown and sound hollow when tapped. Liberally brush the hot rolls with the other 1/2 stick of melted butter and cover with a towel until ready to serve.)