Saturday, March 8, 2014

Vanilla

Homemade vanilla extract smells so wonderful and is a great gift for a wide range of people!    Even non bakers can add a splash to their coffee or fresh whipped cream or even their morning yogurt smoothie. 



To make 1 quart:

3.5 cups vodka (not the good stuff, but get a decent brand)
1/2 cup bourbon or sometimes brandy or sometimes rum (another 1/2 cup vanilla would also work)
2oz vanilla beans, each one split down the middle

Place all in a quart jar and shake well - you should see the seeds in the liquid.    Repeat every couple days for three months.




Vanilla extract, brewed in my Pennsylvania home for at least three months with three simple ingredients:   whole vanilla beans, vodka and a splash of bourbon.

I started making my own vanilla because I wanted a strong vanilla with no fillers.   I only brew double strength.   What is "Double Strength" or "Double Fold" vanilla?   Brewed with twice the vanilla beans for more of the vanilla scent and flavor.

No corn syrup.   No water.  No artificial flavors

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Hot Fudge!

An approximate recipe:

about 16 ounces of dark / semi sweet chocolate  - broken up if bars - I used a really diverse brand mix from my chocolate bar cannister, but all "dark" chocolate.   Semi-sweet chocolate chips would work too.
1 1/2 sticks of butter

1 1/2 cups corn syrup
1 tablespoon instant coffee or espresso powder
1 can sweetened condensed milk
2 tablespoons vanilla


Heat chocolate and butter in a heavy saucepan over low heat, stirring frequently.    Stir until completely melted and smooth.      Add corn syrup, espresso powder, sweetened condensed milk.     Continue to cook, stirring frequently, for about 30 minutes.      Turn off heat, stir in vanilla.    Store in jars in fridge for up to three months.   


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Rolled shortbread cutout cookies ... i.e the best buttery sugar Christmas cookie EVER

the JOY cookies, stocking and star above are from this recipe.


Ingredients:

2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup sugar
2 sticks cold butter, cut into chunks
1 large egg yolk
1 1/2 tablespoons light cream (or half and half or heavy - I've used all three at different times)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Mix flour, salt, sugar together in bowl of mixer or food processor.      Add butter and mix until it's a crumbly consistency.     Whisk together yolk, cream and vanilla, then knead into butter/flour mixture.  

Divide dough in half and roll out each piece between two sheets of wax paper or parchment.    Chill on a baking sheet in your fridge, on the porch in December or in the freezer for even a few weeks.  

Preheat oven to 325 and line baking pans with parchment. 

Cut desired shapes with cookie cutters, re-rolling and re-chilling scraps.      Bake about 12 minutes, until the edges brown ever so slightly.   Be careful not to move the cookies too quickly so they don't break.


Variation:   to add color BEFORE baking mix serious paste food colors with some cream and brush onto cookies BEFORE baking.    Alternately sprinkle with colored sugar BEFORE baking.     Or wait until after they've cooled and then do a butter icing or royal icing!  

Raspberry Pecan Rugelach - or my new favorite Jewish Christmas Cookie!

So in visiting Zabar's in NYC, in addition to becoming completely addicted to their spectacular $8/pound coffee, I discovered a wonderful little pastry called Rugelach.     Getting it shipped from New York to Philly is a bit pricey though, so I decided to try my hand at making it.   




Ingredients:

2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 sticks cold butter, cubed
1 (8oz) package cold cream cheese, cubed
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup raspberry preserves
powdered sugar
finely chopped nuts (I used pecans)


1.  Mix salt and flour together in food processor big bowl.

2.  Add butter and cream cheese, and pulse about 12 times, until it looks a bit sandy / crumbly.

3.  whisk together yolk and vanilla.    Add to processor and turn on until a soft dough forms.

4.  Split dough into four equal balls, wrap each in parchment or wax paper, flatten into a disc about an inch thick and chill at least 20 minutes, or a couple of days.

** preheat oven to 375 **

5.  Sprinkle a work surface with powdered sugar.   Use more powdered sugar on rolling pin.  (don't skimp - the dough itself has no sugar)  Take just one piece out and roll into a messy thin circle-like shape.    

6.  Microwave jam enough to soften, and mix in some powdered sugar.    Spread thinly on dough and sprinkle with nuts.  

7.   Slice dough (using a pizza cutter if you have one) into 16 wedges.    Starting from thick end, roll each up and place on parchment lined baking pan.    Chill this pan for about twenty minutes (I just put it on my porch in December).  

8.  Bake for 20-25 minutes until lightly browned.   

So far I've only tried raspberry/pecan filling, but it's common to see walnut/brown sugar/cinnamon or chocolate or apricot (with apricot jam and chopped dried apricots)  


Wonderful macaroons that just happen to be gluten free

Coconut Macaroons Recipe 
Ingredients:
 14 ounces sweetened shredded coconut
 1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk 
 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 
 2 extra-large egg whites, at room temperature
 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Combine the coconut, condensed milk, and vanilla in a large bowl. Whip the egg whites and salt on high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until they make medium-firm peaks. Carefully fold the egg whites into the coconut mixture.

Drop the batter onto sheet pans lined with parchment paper using either a 1 3/4-inch diameter ice cream scoop, or 2 teaspoons. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown.

Cream Cheese Almond cookies

A yummy new cookie, I put together with a variation from a rugelach dough!




2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup vanilla sugar
2 sticks cold butter, cubed
1 (8oz) package cold cream cheese, cubed
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp almond extract
squeeze of orange juice


In a food processor quickly blend flour, salt and sugars.   (Just use a cup of powdered sugar if you don't have vanilla sugar).     Add butter and cream cheese and pulse until crumbly - about 12 pulses.     Whisk together egg yolk and flavorings and add, then run food processor until dough forms.

Split dough into four pieces, and roll out between parchment paper.    Chill (I put mine out on my porch in December).     Then cut with round cookie cutters.   (I used the mouth of a standard canning jar).  Transfer each round to a parchment lined baking pan.

Place a small (about 2 tsp) bit of marzipan onto one side of the round, then fold and seal the half moon.   I pressed one sliver of almond into the top of each cookie for easy identification as an almond cookie. 

Bake at 375 for 15-20 minutes, until lightly browned.   Immediately sprinkle with powdered sugar and cool completely before transferring to a storage container.  

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Gluten Free Peanut Butter Cookies: Just remember 1

1 cup peanut butter (I prefer Jif)
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup chopped peanuts

Mx the first five ingredients well, then add chopped peanuts.  Taking rounded tablespoons of dough, roll into balls.    Roll balls in sugar or just sprinkle on top.   Flatten slightly with the bottom of a glass.   Bake on parchment paper, in a 350 degree oven, for about 15 minutes.    IMPORTANT:  allow these to cool a few minutes before you remove them to wire racks to cool completely. 

If desired, press a Hershey's kiss, (or a dark chocolate drop) into the cookie IMMEDIATELY after removing from oven!