Sunday, December 28, 2008

Happy Holidays!!

From my kitchen to yours, Happy Holidays!!

May your holidays be fun...

and golden...

and steeped in tradition*...

and snow-capped...

and drunken...

and perfect.

*Kiss up to Miss ieatdc in order to get her grandmother's mandel bread recipe. :)

Chocolate Rum Balls

My husband's coworker made rum balls for the office, and he brought one home for me... and wow. I would totally be drunk after just a few! I had never had one before, and intrigued, decided to make my own as this year's holiday treat for my family. (Even though my dad claims that bourbon balls are even better!) I found this recipe in Martha's cookie book, but it's also available on her site.

I had no idea what they were made of though. Would you believe brownies?! A batch of thin brownies is broken in pieces and rum is added until they're moist and rollable. That's it. Awesome.

Chocolate Rum Balls
3/4 c. (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
6 oz. semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
3 large eggs
1/2 c. packed light-brown sugar
1 t. vanilla extract
1/2 t. salt
3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 c. plus 2 T. dark rum
Coarse sanding sugar, for rolling (I used a light green for Christmas!)

Preheat oven to 350. Coat a 12x17-inch rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray; set aside. Melt butter and chocolate in a small heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, stirring occasionally. Set aside.

Whisk together eggs, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt in a large bowl. Stir in chocolate mixture, then fold in flour. Pour batter into prepared baking sheet. Spread evenly with a rubber spatula. Bake until top is shiny and a cake tester inserted into center comes out with some crumbs attached, about 10 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack.

Break up brownie into small pieces; transfer to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. With machine on low speed, pour in rum, and mix until crumbs start to come together to form a ball.

Shape into 1-inch balls and roll in sanding sugar to coat (I swirled them in a bowl of the sugar, similar to how I do snickerdoodles and chocolate crinkles). Transfer to a baking sheet; refrigerate, uncovered, until cold, about 2 hours. Serve chilled or at room temperature. Rum balls can be refrigerated in an airtight container up to 1 week.

Merry Christmas!

Chocolate Crinkles

I, again, needed more treats for a cookie exchange, an office party, and for holiday gifts, and after renting Martha's new cookie cookbook from the library, I chose these chocolate crinkles (she calls them crackles, I prefer crinkles...) after browsing through her "soft and chewy" chapter. With two types of chocolate, a pretty pattern on top, and a chewy consistency, I knew they'd be perfect. Plus, they make me think of snow!

Chocolate Crinkles
Yield: about 5 dozen, depending on size

8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. cocoa powder
2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
8 T. (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 c. brown sugar, firmly packed
2 large eggs
1 t. vanilla extract
1/3 c. milk
1 c. sugar
1 c. confectioners' sugar

Melt chocolate in a double boiler or a good nonstick pan, stirring constantly. Set aside and let cool. Sift together flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.

In the bowl of a heavy-duty electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla, and beat until well combined. Add melted chocolate. With mixer on low speed, alternate adding dry ingredients and milk until just combined. Divide the dough into quarters, wrap with plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator until firm, about 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove one portion of dough at a time from the refrigerator. Divide each portion into approximately 16 one-inch balls. Roll each in granulated sugar to coat, then in confectioners' sugar to coat fully. (I recommend handling the dough as little as possible; I had a small bowl for granulated sugar and another for confectioners' sugar and dropped several balls in at once and swirled them around the bowl without handling them.) Place the cookies 2 inches apart on a Silpat-lined baking sheet. Bake until cookies have flattened and the sugar splits, about 14 minutes.

Transfer from oven to a wire rack to let cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Note the time lapse! Raw then cooked!

Chocolate Cupcakes a la Georgetown Cupcake

Ahhh, the holidays are upon us and so is my return to chocolate recipes. Thanks for your patience as I got through fall, aka pumpkin and apple season. :) I needed to make several treats for various holiday parties, and I was in the mood for a good cupcake. Georgetown Cupcake, the quaint bakery in ritzy Georgetown, is my favorite cupcakery in the DC area. I think their cakes are moist, the frosting fluffy and perfectly piped on, and the creative decorations on top are just right! You will not be disappointed with the chocolate ganache cupcake!!!! Heaven!

Well, you know you've made it big when you show up on Martha, and the sisters who own and run the shop did just that recently... and shared the recipe for their basic chocolate cupcake. (The recipe on Martha's site also lists their vanilla frosting recipe, but seriously people, I don't believe in vanilla and you should know this by now.)

While I thought it was delicious, it certainly tastes better in the store itself, but I'm not about to purchase French butter, etc. However, I'll keep this one in my recipe stash. Mmmmm...

Avert your eyes. These cupcakes are naked...

Georgetown Chocolate Cupcakes
1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour, sifted
1/2 t. baking soda, sifted
1/4 t. salt
1 c. milk
1 1/4 t. pure vanilla extract
1/2 c. (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 c. sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 c. cocoa powder, sifted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a standard muffin tin with 12 cupcake liners; set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside. In another bowl, stir together milk and vanilla extract; set aside. (To save yet another bowl, I just added the vanilla to the glass measuring cup I used to measure the milk!)

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. With the mixer on low, add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add flour mixture in three parts, alternating with milk mixture; beat until just combined. (Inkpadchocolate's note: OMG it smelled so awesome at this point!) Add cocoa powder and beat until just combined. (OMG it smelled even better here!)

Fill each muffin cup two-thirds full with batter. (IPC's note: My cupcakes barely rose; I recommend filling them higher.) Transfer to oven and bake until a cake tester inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean, 18 to 20 minutes. Let cool in pans for two minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Frost with tooth-decaying frosting of choice. I chose my favorite Irish Cream Frosting, but you can do vanilla. I won't hold it against you. :)

Yes, admittedly, I frosted these at midnight and didn't have time for the frosting to warm up.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Giada's Apple Crostata

I puffy heart Giada. Some might say I'm obsessed with her. In any case, she comes up with completely delicious creations that aren't that hard to assemble, and this crostata is no exception. I made it twice and it's just so pretty and flaky and good. I even used her crust recipe for my Thanksgiving pumpkin pie! Be sure to follow the crust recipe carefully; using chilled butter and ice water is very important to any good crust.

Since I still had leftover apples from apple picking, I didn't use Golden Delicious or Pippin, but whatever I had on hand, and it worked out just fine.

Apple Crostata
1 1/2 cups flour
2 T. sugar
1/2 t. salt
10 T. (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3 T. ice water

2 small Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored, cut into 1/8-inch slices
1 Pippin apple, peeled, cored, cut into 1/8-inch slices
1/4 c. plus 1 T. sugar
1 t. lemon juice
1 large egg white, beaten with 1 T. water (for egg wash)
2 T. sliced almonds, toasted, for garnish (I omitted)

To make the crust: Mix the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor. Add the butter. Pulse until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Add the ice water and pulse until moist clumps form. Gather the dough into a ball; flatten into a disk. (If the dough still crumbles and does not form into a ball, add another tablespoon of ice water.) Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.

For the filling: Position the rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Combine the apples, 1/4 cup of sugar, and lemon juice in large bowl; toss gently to blend. Set aside for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, dust a large sheet of parchment paper with flour and roll out the dough on the paper to an 11-inch round. Transfer the dough on the parchment paper to a heavy large baking sheet. Spoon the apple mixture over the dough, leaving a 2-inch border. Fold the dough border over the filling to form an 8-inch round, leaving the apples exposed in the center. Pleat loosely and pinch the dough to seal any cracks. Brush the crust with the egg wash and sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar. (Note: Mine leaked apple juices both times I made this, despite pleating, and the juices burned the cookie sheet. Just watch it closely or don't add all the apple juices left in the bowl when you assemble the crostata.)

Bake the crostata until the crust is golden and the apples are tender, about 40 minutes. Transfer the baking sheet to a rack; cool for 10 minutes. Slide a metal spatula under the crust to free the crostata from the baking sheet. Cool the crostata to lukewarm. Sprinkle with the almonds and serve. (Or cut right into it and top with vanilla ice cream while it's still hot!!)

Find the maple leaf cutout amongst the same-colored apples and you win a prize. :)

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