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Chocolate Chip Hamantaschen Dough with Chocolate Truffle Filling

15 Mar

Have you tried to use chocolate chips to fill a hamantaschen? Of course you have! And did it turn into a chalky dry disappointing mess? Of course it did! And since any kind of negative feelings on Purim are just plain and simple against the rules, I am here to help.

What you want to do is think outside the box, or bag, in this case, and add your chocolate chips to the dough. Then, not only do you get speckled, freckled happiness, but these pied beauties will bring joy to any chocolate lover you choose to bestow them upon.

side view

freckled speckled hapiness

You will need to finely chop the chocolate and add some fresh orange zest as a nod to the land of Israel and Golda Meir’s famous chocolate chip cookie recipe. But the rest is pretty straightforward and mostly foolproof. The wow factor here is the orange zest so be sure not to skip it.

finely chopped

finely chopped chocolate

You can make the dough and truffle filling up to 3 days ahead and then assemble when you are ready.

Chocolate Chip Hamantaschen Dough

  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 2 sticks butter at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Zest from one large orange
  • 2 eggs at room temperature
  • 4 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, finely chopped
  1. Put the sugar and butter into the bowl of a stand mixer and whip for 3 minutes or until light and fluffy. Scrape down sides as needed.
  2. Add the vanilla extract and orange zest and stir.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring after each.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  5. Add flour mixture to the batter and mix well.
  6. Add the finely chopped chocolate chips and mix until well combined.
sugar

sugar

and butter

and butter

mix it up

mix it up

for 3 minutes

for 3 minutes

until fluffy

until fluffy

whisk together dry ingredients

whisk together dry ingredients

add dry to wet

add dry to wet

mix

mix

1/2 cup chocolate chips

1/2 cup chocolate chips

finely chopped

finely chopped

add to batter and mix

add to batter and mix

chocolate chip dough

chocolate chip dough

Truffle Filling

  • 8 ounces of chocolate
  • 6 ounces of heavy cream
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  1. Put the chocolate chips, heavy cream, and pinch of salt into a microwave safe bowl. Microwave for one minute and stir. Then heat in 20 second increments and stir until melted and smooth.
  2. Place in fridge until firm.

To assemble:

  1. Rip off a hunk of dough and form into a ball. Roll out with a rolling pin until about ¼ of an inch thick. Cut out a circle using a 3” cookie cutter or cup. Repeat.
  2. Put a dollop of the truffle filling in the center of each round (you can use Nutella if you don’t want to make the filling).
  3. Lift sides of dough toward center to form a triangle and pinch seams together to seal. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  4. Bake at 350° F for 12 minutes. Let cool before eating to give the filling a chance to firm up.
grab a handful and make a ball

grab a handful and make a ball

roll it out

roll it out

cut

cut

fill

fill

fold

fold

like this

like this

and this

and this

perfection

perfection

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The Cinco de Mayo Blog: Mexican Chocolate Sauce

5 May

It is Cinco de Mayo weekend and time for a fiesta!  For me, Cinco started last week when I was on two morning news shows promoting Mrs. Wages salsa, guacamole, and queso dip. What fun!

See the clips here:

This one is my favorite! Tim Ezell and April were a hoot!

http://fox2now.com/2013/05/02/easy-salsa-guacamole/

Elliot politely refused my sombrero but it didn’t stop me from having a blast!

http://fox2now.com/2013/05/03/three-amigos-of-cinco-de-mayo-snacks/

For my own Cinco celebration at home with friends, I wanted to do something special after the tortilla chip crumbs were brushed away—so, for dessert, I served  Ibarra Mexican Chocolate Sauce over vanilla bean ice cream!

Ibarraaaaaah!

Ibarraaaaaah!

Ten years ago I went with my husband to a conference in San Diego. We stayed at a hotel that overlooked the bay and had a view of Coronado Island.

At the time, my boys were little, 2 and 5, and my girl was not yet on the horizon. It was the first time I was getting on a plane to go somewhere without my kids. It was just two years after 9/11 and getting on a plane was still a little anxiety provoking, to say the least.

The third Lord of the Rings movie had just come out in theaters, and I was almost done reading Return of the King, rushing to finish before seeing it in the theater, which we planned to do on New Year’s Eve on our trip.

We lived in a small town at the time, Winona, Minnesota, and the New Yorker in me was desperate to go to a city, any city, and eat great food and be around hoards of people. So off we went.

It was an icy December, and getting on a tiny propeller plane from La Crosse, Wisconsin, to the Twin Cities was no comfort as it shook and shivered to get off of the ground. I watched the blinding whiteness of snowy Minnesota disappear as we headed to what I hoped was a lush, green California.

When we got to San Diego we were told they were having the coldest winter in recent history. I pulled my coat tightly around me and braced myself for the chilly California weather and an exciting week without my two loves I had left far behind at home.

Return of the King weighed heavily on my mind—I fretted as I read.  Frodo had risked everything to travel far and away and save Middle Earth. Surely I could make it through the week without going to pieces over missing my boys. Frodo and I, we were in this together.

On December 31 we took the bright red trolley to Old Town. A couple of stops further and we would have been in Tijuana. I wouldn’t have dared to travel over any borders with my kids so far behind, so Old Town was as far as we went.

We spent a very enjoyable day browsing ceramic lizards and other hand painted pottery in the Mexican art galleries. We ate delicious Mexican food and drank wide and wobbly glassfulls of margaritas rimmed in salt with clinking cubes of ice. We sat outside under a chilly sky with brightly colored restaurant décor and lively music playing all around us.

That night we would ring in the New Year by sitting through a late showing of Return of the King, too excited to do anything else. But first we would shop at a the Mexican stores—our Minnesota house was too tiny for more art, but the grocery store was pure delight. One of the things I purchased that day was a large box of Ibarra chocolate with plans to make hot cocoa as soon as we returned home from our trip. It was something I could share with my boys from our trip that would warm us up together from the harsh Minnesota cold.

Ibarra

Ibarra

I kept the bag of Ibarra on my lap during the movie that night, and clutched it tightly as I watched Frodo destroy the ring and restore balance to his world. We would go home the next day.

Home was filled with hugs and kisses and joy and cups of hot Mexican cocoa.

All of these years later I rediscovered the yellow box of Ibarra, 5 more paper-wrapped discs waiting patiently to be transformed into more cocoa. But instead I made something much, much better: Mexican Chocolate Sauce.

Ibarra disc

Ibarra disc

On our table I put out the sombreros from my TV cooking demo from earlier in the day. I hung the paper Mexican flags from our window and made bowls of queso, salsa, and guacamole. We had our Cinco de Mayo dinner with friends, and for dessert, little white bowls of vanilla ice cream topped with warm Ibarra chocolate sauce: the flavor rich and spicy; the texture enhanced by the slight sugary crunch and the subtle hint of cinnamon; the chocolate flavor deepened by a splash of Kahlua and silky cream.

Ooooo

Ooooo

We were transported to magical places…

Ibarra Mexican Chocolate Sauce

  • 5 large disks or a scant pound of Ibarra chocolate
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons Kahlua
  1. Place the chocolate and the cream in a microwave safe glass bowl. Microwave it for 1 minute, stir, and microwave it for another minute. Continue to heat in 20 second increments, stirring each time until the cream is very warm and the chocolate begins to melt. Let stand for a few minutes and stir until smooth.
  2. Let cool to room temp and serve over vanilla ice cream.
Yum!

Yum!

Almond Macaroon Cookies, Two Ways

29 Mar

Chocolate Almond Macaroon Cookies

Chocolate Almond Macaroons

Chocolate Almond Macaroons

Ingredients:

  • 3 ounces chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 1 cup ground almonds (I use Trader Joe’s Almond Meal but you can grind your own using blanched almonds)
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 egg whites

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325° F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. Mix together the almonds and the sugar, then mix in the egg whites.  Next, gradually add the cooled chocolate, stirring until mixture is smooth.
  3. Make twelve 1-inch balls of batter and place them on the baking sheet. Or you can use a medium cookie scoop and drop them onto the baking sheet if you prefer.  Flatten them slightly, so they have a smooth round shape.
  4. Bake for 12-14 minutes. Remove macaroons from the oven and cool on a rack. When completely cool gently peel them from the parchment paper and enjoy!

Simple Almond Macaroon Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups ground almonds (Trader Joe’s Almond Meal works great or you can grind your own using blanched almonds)
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 egg whites

Directions:

    1. Preheat oven to 425°F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
    2. Mix the almonds with the sugar and extract.
    3. Add the egg white and and work the mixture very well holds together in a stiff paste.
    4. Make twelve 1 1/2-inch balls of dough and flatten them slightly, or you can use a medium cookie scoop and drop the batter onto the parchment paper.
    5. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until very lightly colored.  They will be soft, but they will harden as they cool.  Leave on tray until firm before removing from parchment paper.
Ground almonds and sugar

Ground almonds and sugar

add egg whites and vanilla

add egg whites and vanilla

mix into a paste

mix into a paste

roll into balls

roll into balls

flatten

flatten

bake

bake

Salted Chocolate Caramel Tart with Almond Macaroon Crust

28 Mar

Salted Chocolate Caramel Tart with Almond Macaroon Crust

 

Salted Chocolate Caramel Tart

Salted Chocolate Caramel Tart

 

For the crust:

  • 2 cups almond meal ( I get it at Trader Joe’s but you can grind your own)
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg white

 

To make the crust:

  1. Preheat oven to 425° F. Generously butter a 9-inch tart pan and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together the almond meal, sugar, vanilla, and egg white.
  3. Spoon it into the prepared pan and gently press it into the bottom and up the sides. Bake for 10 minutes and let cool on a rack. While crust is cooling, make the caramel.
Butter the tart pan

Butter the tart pan

Mix the almonds, egg white, and vanilla

Mix the almonds, egg white, and vanilla

Into the pan

Into the pan

Press it into the pan

Press it into the pan

Baked

Baked and cooled

 

 

For the caramel:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 6 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon salt

 

To make the caramel:

  1. In a medium-sized saucepan, heat the sugar on medium-high heat. Stir constantly with a heat-proof rubber spatula until the sugar melts. Caution: melted sugar is very hot! Once you have started to melt the sugar do not stick your finger in or lick the spoon to taste—you will get burned!
  2. Heat the sugar until it turns a golden caramel color. If you have an insta-read or candy thermometer it will be ready at 350F. If you don’t have one, just go by the color. But be careful—the caramel will go past that point very quickly and burn fast. Remove it from the heat as soon as it turns to caramel—it will continue to cook even after removed from the heat.
  3. Add the butter and whisk until butter is fully incorporated. The caramel may bubble up as you to do this.
  4. Add the cream and whisk until the caramel becomes smooth. Add the vanilla and salt and whisk again.
  5. Let cool slightly and pour into the macaroon crust to completely coat the bottom. Now you are ready to make the chocolate glaze.
I'm melting

I’m melting

Melting

Melting

still melting

still melting

melting

caramel!

Butter

Butter

add cream and whisk until smooth

add cream then whisk until smooth

Pour into crust

Pour into crust

 

 

For the chocolate:

  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • Flaky sea salt for sprinkling on top

 

 

To make the chocolate glaze:

  1. Put all chocolate glaze ingredients into a bowl and microwave for one minute. Let stand for a minute or two and then stir until smooth.
  2. Pour the chocolate glaze over the caramel filling and lightly sprinkle with flaky sea salt. Let chill in the fridge until firm about two hours.
In the bowl

In the bowl

into the microwave

into the microwave

stir

stir

pour

pour

a sprinkle of salt

a sprinkle of salt

Salted Chocolate Caramel Tart

Salted Chocolate Caramel Tart

 

 

Lemon Tart with Coconut Macaroon Crust

25 Mar

This one speaks for itself:

Lemon Tart for Passover

Lemon Tart for Passover

Lemon Tart with Coconut Macaroon Crust

For the crust:

  • 3 ½ cups sweetened coconut
  • 3 large egg whites
  • ¾ teaspoon vanilla extract

For the filling:

  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1-14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large lemons, juiced (1/2 cup) and zested

To make the crust:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Generously butter a 9-inch tart pan. In a medium bowl mix together the coconut, egg whites, and vanilla extract. Lightly press mixture against the bottom and sides of the tart pan to form the walls of the crust.
  2. Bake for 10-15 minutes until the crust is lightly golden. Remove from oven and let cool on a rack while you make the filling. Lower oven temp to 325°F.

To make the filling:

  1. In a medium bowl whisk together the egg yolks, sweetened condensed milk, vanilla extract, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Pour the filling into the cooled shell and bake until just set 15-20 minutes. Set on a rack to cool, then refrigerate until chilled.
Mix the coconut, egg whites, vanilla

Mix the coconut, egg whites, vanilla

Butter the pan

Butter the pan

Into the prepared pan

Into the prepared pan

Form the crust

Form the crust and bake

While the crust cools make the filling--egg yolks

While the crust cools make the filling–egg yolks

Sweetened condensed milk

Sweetened condensed milk

Add vanilla

Add vanilla

and lemon zest

and lemon zest

Fresh squeezed lemon juice

Fresh squeezed lemon juice

Whisk it together

Whisk it together

Crust is ready to be filled

Crust is ready to be filled

Bake it

Bake it

All set

All set

Glistening gorgeousness

Glistening gorgeousness

Chill it

Chill it

Lemon Tart for Passover

Lemon Tart for Passover

Whoop! Here it is–The Whoopie Pie Blog

9 Mar

If you haven’t noticed, I have a lot of opinions about food. My opinion about Whoopie Pie is, that it is good. But these, my friends, are great!

Whoopie pie!

Whoopie pie!

These can be made hamburger-sized, bun and all, but you can make them smaller if you are into mini things. Part of their charm, if you ask me, is the size, and are not necessarily meant to be delicate. But do as you will.

I say make them big and eat one for lunch.

Lunch is served

Lunch is served

The soft, moist, fluffy chocolate cake will stick to your fingers, reminiscent of the cream filled snack cake in little plastic packages from your childhood, but fresh and homemade.

Chocolatey good

Chocolatey good

The cream is somehow very un-marshmallow-like and more the stuff that dreams are made of, if one were to dream about cream-filled dessert.

I do…

Dreamy

Dreamy

They are just about foolproof, so go ahead and mis-measure a little, sift or not, substitute here and there–it is entirely up to you.

The only few things I will insist upon, is that you must use vegetable shortening & butter when specified to get the proper texture of cake and cream; and it is the Marshamallow  Fluff  brand I recommend since both the brand and the dessert are classics.

This is the shtuff

This is the shtuff

So experience a little high, and get it on with these Whoopie Pies.

Classic Whoopie Pies

For the chocolate cake:

  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable shortening
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup milk
  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt onto a sheet of wax paper.
  3. Into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (yes, you can just use a hand-held mixer instead), beat together the butter, shortening, and brown sugar on low speed until just combined. Increase the speed to medium and beat until fluffy and smooth, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla and beat for another 2 minutes.
  4. Add half of the flour mixture and half of the milk mixture to the batter and beat on low until just incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Add the remaining flour mixture and the rest of the milk and beat until completely combined.
  5. Using a cookie scoop (sm, med, or lg), drop batter onto one of the prepared baking sheets, spacing them at least 2 inches apart (1 Tablespoon for 2” cakes, 2 T for 3”, and 3 T for 4”).
  6. Bake one sheet at a time for about 10 minutes each, or until the cakes spring back when pressed gently. Remove from the oven and let the cakes cool on the sheet for about 5 minutes before transferring them to a rack to cool completely.

Makes about 48 two-inch cakes which will make 24 Whoopie Pies, or 36 three-inch cakes which will make 18 W.P.’s., or like I did, 24 four-inch cakes for 12 hamburger sized W.P.’s!

For the marshmallow filling:

  • 1 ½ cups Marshmallow Fluff
  • 1 ¼ cups vegetable shortening
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the Marshmallow Fluff and the vegetable shortening, starting on low and increasing the medium speed until the mixture is smooth and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce mixer speed to low, add the confectioners’ sugar and the vanilla, and beat until thoroughly incorporated. Increase mixer speed to medium and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes more.

To assemble:

  1. Using a cookie scoop or a spoon put a large dollop in the center of half of the cookies. Top with another cookie and gently press down to help the cream spread. Eat right away or store between sheets of wax paper in a sealed container large enough to fit the Whoopie Pies.
Flour

Flour

Cocoa

Cocoa

The sifter

The sifter

Adding cocoa to the flour

Adding cocoa to the flour

Ready to sift

Ready to sift

Sifting in progress

Sifting in progress

Done sifting

Done sifting

Ready to cream butter and sugar

Ready to cream butter and sugar

Creaming

Creaming

Vanilla

Vanilla

An egg

An egg

Mixin' it up

Mixin’ it up

Add egg and vanilla

Add egg and vanilla

Add half the milk

Add half the milk

Add half the flour mixture

Add half the flour mixture

Batter mixing

Batter mixing

Almost done

Almost done

Scrape down the sides

Scrape down the sides

Beautiful batter

Beautiful batter

Get the scoop

Get the scoop

Drop it

Drop it

Ready to bake

Ready to bake

All lined up

All lined up

Transformed

Transformed

Chocolatey good

Chocolatey good

All fluf

All fluf

Whip it

Whip it

Add vanilla

Add vanilla

Dreamy

Dreamy

A scoop

A scoop

Filling in place

Filling in place

Beginning to look like dessert

Beginning to look like dessert

Yum

Yum

Lookin' good

Lookin’ good

mmm...

mmm…

The topper

The topper

Whoopie pie!

Whoopie pie!

A small army of dessert

A small army of dessert

Heavenly

Heavenly

Whoopie!

Whoopie!

Yum

Yum

Lunch is served

Lunch is served

Happiness

Happiness

Bombshell Blondies

14 Dec

We all know blondies have more fun and I’m here to prove it to you.

Now, I like a good brownie now and again, but I will tell you there is not too much variation when the point is chocolate, chocolate, and more chocolate.

But blondies on the other hand are like a blank canvas, waiting for the artist to color it in.

And usually folks fall on one side of the camp or the other, and I am on Team Blondie all the way.

I am not a chocoholic as many people proclaim to be.

Carboholic, yes (see All Hail Kale), but chocolate, not so much, and prefer it as more of an accent to something else rather than the main attraction.

I’ve been asked what the difference is between these and a “pan cookie” and I can tell you that this isn’t any old drop cookie recipe shoved into an 8 x 8 pan. Instead, it is a carefully thought out combination of ingredients, each having its own special job, but together create a taste explosion.

The texture, chewy and dense, will satisfy the most hardcore brownie lover (you are a tough bunch, btw).

The sugar and butter caramelize and people will ask what your secret ingredient is, and even try to guess (butterscotch, caramel, toffee). But no, alas, it is just the transformation of seemingly everyday things that creates this illusion.

And as for the kosher salt, well, this in fact is key here. It gives the blondies balance so they do not come off cloyingly sweet or garish in their dessert-ness, and instead create a depth that brings out all of the other flavors, especially enhancing the bit of chocolate that goes in.

These are buxom blondies, that eat like a meal with their hearty, toothsome, cakey texture, the meatiness of the nuts, the ever-pleasant burst of chocolate in every bite. They sit in all their glory on their plate waiting for someone to fall game to their voluptuous appeal, laden with deliciousness.

This is dessert after all and it doesn’t play fair.

But alas, life is not always fair, and blondies really do have more fun. Feel free switch it up and add raspberries and coconut, or chopped peanut butter cups, or nothing at all.

But this is how I like it and I am a fun gal, after all.

Me being fun

Me being fun

 

Bombshell Blondies

2 sticks unsalted butter

2 1 ½ cups firmly packed light brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

½ cups all-purpose flour, spooned into the measuring cup and then leveled

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon kosher salt, slightly rounded

¾ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (okay, make it heaping if you must)

¾ cups chopped pecans

1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Butter an 8 x 8 or 9 x 9 square baking pan. Line the pan with a piece of parchment paper, leaving an overhang on 2 sides; then butter the parchment (the butter here will help form a crisp exterior).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

2. In a large bowl, melt the 2 sticks of butter in the microwave and let cool for a few minutes.

melt the butter

melt the butter

 

3. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, the baking powder, and salt; set aside.

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4. Into the large bowl with melted and slightly cooled butter, whisk in the brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla until smooth.  Add the flour mixture and mix until just combined (do not over mix). Fold in the chocolate chips and pecans.

add the sugar

add the sugar

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

yin yang of chocolate and pecans

yin yang of chocolate and pecans

stir to combine

stir to combine

 

4. Spoon the batter in the prepared pan and even out the top.

scoop the batter on the parchment paper

scoop the batter on the parchment paper

spread evenly

spread evenly

5. Bake until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, 40 minutes for a 9 x 9 pan, and 45 minutes for an 8 x 8. Let cool completely in the pan on a rack.  Holding the paper overhang, lift out the blondies. Cut into 16 squares (or cut them again to make 32 slices or triangles).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We are all fun over here at my house!

We are all fun over here at my house!

Cloud Cookies, aka Chocolate Chip Meringues

25 Nov

It is just after Thanksgiving and probably best to take it a little easy when it comes to eating dessert.  If your family served nine kinds of pie—This. Means. You.

I don’t mean anyone should skip dessert entirely—I would never suggest anything as radical as that—but here is an opportunity to eat something a little lighter.

I wouldn’t call this healthy or good for you, but honestly, it is not too bad, as far as desserts go.

These are easy to make, so if you just spent days cleaning and cooking for T-Day, then this is surely the way to go. And you probably have all of the ingredients in your house already, since there are only four. But note: don’t make these on a rainy or humid day—ironically these Cloud Cookies won’t turn out.

It starts off simply–first you take three large eggs and leave them at room temp for about an hour or so. If you don’t have time to spare, then take your three eggs and put them in a bowl of hot tap water for 5 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 275° F and line a large baking sheet or two with parchment paper and set aside.

Next, you crack the eggs, and separate the white from the yolk using any one of the following methods:

1. Pour the yolk from shell-half to shell-half, letting the white drip down into a bowl.

2. Crack the egg into a bowl and carefully reach in and take the yolk out with your hand.

3. Buy a fancy-schmancy egg separator from a high-end food store and let gravity do the work.

Put your room temperature egg whites and a pinch of salt into the bowl of a stand mixer.  And yes, you can use a hand-held mixer if that is what you have.  Let the eggs whip for a few minutes on high until billowy peaks form. Add half of the sugar and beat some more.

Add the rest of the sugar, so as not to deflate your whipped whites, and continue to whip until glossy firm peaks form.

At this point their shiny white ethereal beauty will tempt you to stick a finger in to taste, as they will resemble the most gorgeous bowl of whipped cream, but I’d advise against this as salmonella is an ever-looming threat of un-cooked eggs.

Resist, and then finally, fold in the chocolate chips.

 

Dreamy

For the next step you could pipe them prettily onto your baking sheet, but I say, just grab two spoons and go for it.

 

A spoonful…

Take a small spoonful and use the second spoon to push it off to make little dollops in rows leaving a little space between each. Don’t worry about making them perfect—they are much more fun to eat when they have a little bit of personality.

 

Little spoonfuls

Bake time will be an hour total, but don’t think of this as baking per se, but instead think of it as a drying out process that will give the cookies their magical crispiness. Place them in the oven for 30 minutes at 275°F. And then lower the temp to 250°F for the final 30 minutes.

 

Little clouds

Remove the cloud-like meringues from the oven and let them cool on a rack, although admittedly, I never can wait and always burn my tongue a bit. When you sink your teeth into these and experience the sugary sweet shattering of the meringue’s exterior and are rewarded with a little burst of chocolate in each bite, you will be pleased.

Yum!

Warning: be sure to eat over a plate as sugary shards will fly:

Once bitten

 

Cloud Cookies or Chocolate Chip Meringues

  • 3 egg whites, at room temp
  • Pinch of salt
  • ¾ cups sugar
  • ¾ cup chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 275°. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. Place egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer with a pinch of salt. Whip until they go from clear to white and frothy and keep mixing, stopping to check when soft peaks form.
  3. Add half of the sugar and continue to whip until firm peaks form.
  4. Add the rest of the sugar and whip until glossy.
  5. Gently fold in the chocolate chips.
  6. Using two spoons place dollops of the mixture onto the parchment paper in rows.
  7. Place in the oven for 30 minutes. Then lower the oven temp to 250° and let bake for another 30 minutes.
  8. Remove trays from the oven to a rack and let cool.

3…

2…

1…

All gone.

 

 

 

 

From Aura’s Passover Test Kitchen: Heavenly Chocolate Ganache Cake Balls and Chocolate Meringue Almond Bark

27 Mar

Here it is folks, up to the minute breaking news from right here in Aura’s Test Kitchen and pomegranatesandhoney.blogspot.com. I’ve been in the kitchen trying to reinvent Passover. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it can be done. No more matzo flavored chocolate cake. No more weird tasting egg-puffed chiffon cakes. No more getting dessert out of a can.

We are free, so let’s eat like it! No need to be enslaved to your grandmother’s fruit compote recipe forever.
Every year I consider it my personal mission to come up with one or two never seen before Passover recipes. I have fond memories of my mom’s Passover desserts from childhood. But let’s face it, Passover desserts taste odd. Maybe some of you look forward to that matzo cake meal flavor, but I say let’s leave matzo where it belongs—on the seder table. On your dessert table, put these, because, well, why not?
I bring to you my latest creations…
Heavenly Chocolate Ganache Cake Balls
·          One and half 8 ounce packages pre-made Passover cake, such as Osem marble cake or pound cake (12 ounces total)
·         ¼ cup cream (dairy-free creamer is ok too)
·         ½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips or chopped chocolate
·         ½ teaspoon almond extract
·         10 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate  plus 1/2 cup cream for the coating, or if you want a hard chocolate shell use 10 ounces of chocolate almond bark candy coating
·         1 ½  tablespoon finely chopped almonds
1.      Crumble the cake into a large bowl. You will get about 4 cups of cake crumbs.
2.      Put the cream and chocolate chips into a microwave safe bowl and cook for 1 minute. Stir until smooth. Add almond extract and stir again.
3.      Pour the chocolate mixture into the cake crumbs and stir until well combined.
4.      Line a baking sheet with wax paper. Using a small cookie scoop (will make 36 truffle sized balls) or a medium cookie scoop (will make 18-2 ½ inch cake balls) scoop out the batter and roll into balls. Place on tray and place tray into freezer. Note: it is quicker to make the balls larger, but it is cuter to make them smaller. It’s your choice, and may it be the toughest decision you’ll make all day.
5.      Melt the 10 ounces of chocolate and the half cup cream in a dish in the microwave; let stand for a few minutes then whisk together until smooth, or for a hard chocolate shell melt 10 ounces of chocolate almond bark or chocolate candy coating.
6.      Dip each ball in the melted chocolate using 2 forks, and give them a gentle shake before removing from the bowl to remove excess chocolate.
7.      Place on wax paper and sprinkle each with a pinch of chopped almonds as you go along, so the almonds stick to the still-wet chocolate. If you wait too long the chocolate will harden and the almonds won’t stick.
8.      Let the chocolate harden or stick them in the freezer and remove 30 minutes before serving. Feel free to double the recipe—I would if I were you. These are over-the-top delicious and you won’t taste any matzo in this dessert.

Aaaaahhh, heaven!!!

 Chocolate Meringue Almond Bark

·         ½ cup blanched almonds
·         ¼ cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar
·         4 fresh egg whites (none of that stuff in a carton—it won’t work)
·         Pinch of salt
·         1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
·         1/3 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
1.      Preheat oven to 250°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2.      Place ¼ cup of the almonds and 1 teaspoon sugar into a food processor and pulse until it resembles crumbs. Finely chop the remaining almonds.
3.      Using an electric mixer, whip the egg whites and salt until very soft peaks have formed and it looks like whipped cream (but it won’t taste like it, so get your finger out of the bowl!). With the mixer running, slowly add the remaining ¼ cup of sugar and the cocoa powder a little at a time.  Whip until stiff peaks form, taking care not to over beat. With a rubber spatula gently fold in the reserved sugar-almond mixture.
4.      Spread the mixture onto the parchment paper in an even layer, about ½ inch thick. Sprinkle with the chopped almonds and the mini-chocolate chips. Bake for one hour, turn off oven, and leave it oven the oven another hour to dry out further. Remove from oven and cool for an additional hour (yes, that is 3 hours total so plan ahead).
5.      To serve, break into pieces, and be prepared to be completely blissed out.
6.      Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days if you are cooking ahead, which I hope you are.

Yum!

Hamantaschen, The Ultimate Purim Schpiel, De-Mystified

4 Mar
Hamantaschen are classic Purim cookies.  Tradition says, large ones represent Haman’s hat; small ones represent his ear or his pocket, literally translating to “Haman’s pocket.”  Another story tells us that the three corners represent Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the founding fathers of Judiasm.

Blah. Blah. Blah.

If you ask me, I will tell you that hamantaschen represent the thing that really saved the Jews from destruction, and that my friends is this–Queen Esther’s, um, er, how to put this delicately, please tell me you know what I am going to say.
My very smart husband has cautioned me against using any overly-specific words in this blog, although I want to. If I write the word, my name will be forever linked to it, thanks to Google algorithms. My heart is pounding as I type this—I have waited years in which to come out with this and go public with such a shocking statement.
oprfuHH Hopefully by now you have figured out that I am referring to Queen Esther’s special pocket and not Haman’s.
Queen Esther!
The day I realized this, was the day my life as a Jewish girl ended and my time as a Jewish woman began. Stories are told to us as children are glossed-over versions of the real thing, packaged prettily to keep us innocent, and this is a good thing. Sometimes, a person has to come to their own conclusions when the time is right. And then they never look at things the same way again.
I am not alone in my belief–there are feminist Jewish writings on what the hamantaschen really means at websites such as lilith.org. The more you think about it, the more you know I am right. As shock wears off, acceptance sets in.
Sure, in medieval times it was the custom to make a pastry in the shape of your enemy and then to eat it to make the enemy disappear. And yes, this is what I will swear to publicly at any of my Purim-themed cooking classes, and anyone within earshot will be amazed at this fact because it is very interesting. But this is not the only reason we eat them.
It is un-Jewish to focus on war, violence, killing when it comes to holidays. Instead, we focus on food, playful traditions, and fun-filled folklore for children. No, the story of Hanukkah is not really about the miracle of the oil. It is a story about war and oppression, and one has to wait until adulthood to realize that the atrocities that go with any war also happened there. Same with the story of Purim—there are secrets within secrets as the plot unravels, some not to be revealed until we are ready to hear them.
The joke goes, “They tried to kill us, we survived, let’s eat.” Does this sound like a reason to make pastry in the shape of a triangle hat—he wasn’t a Colonial American, or a pirate, and not a wizard either. Pointed ears? Come on, Spock, Vampires, Elves of the Woodland Realm, yes, but a person working for the King of Persia, nope, don’t think so.
Try this recipe, my favorite, and as you are making your 10th hamantashen and filling it with poppy seeds or raspberry jam, you will start to have a moment of enlightenment. And by the time your 40th is done, you too will know my words ring true.
Here is to Queen Esther, who did what any good queen would do to save her people. The greatest power she had saved us all, and to celebrate, we eat it.
I completely understand if you can’t bear to look me in the eye after reading this one. Don’t worry, you’ll come around. So have that celebratory Purim drink, and be happy for goodness sakes, it’s Purim!
Queen Esther’s Hamantaschen
        ·       1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
·         1 cup margarine or unsalted butter, very soft
·         4 large eggs
·         1 tablespoon juice and all of the zest of one  orange
·         1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
·         4 cups unbleached flour
·         2 teaspoons baking powder
·         Pinch of salt
·         Filling suggestions: seedless blackberry or raspberry jam, lemon curd, strawberry, apricot or blueberry preserves,  Israeli chocolate spread or Nutella, pie filling, pastry filling, any flavor you’d like, even poppy seed or prune if you are a traditionalist, which I am not.
1. Preheat oven to 350°. Line 2 baking trays with parchment paper and set aside.

2. Place sugar and butter in a large bowl and cream together with an electric mixer until smooth and creamy.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each one is added. Add vanilla extract, orange juice and zest, mixing well. Add flour, baking powder and salt, and mix until a soft dough forms and all ingredients are incorporated, making the softest, most beautiful dough you have even seen.

3.  On a floured board, using a rolling pin, roll out a portion of the dough to approximately ¼ inch thick. If dough is too soft or too sticky sprinkle a little extra flour on the board and on the rolling pin. With a three-inch cookie cutter, cut out circles. Place a teaspoon of filling in center of each circle. 

5. To shape, fold up the left and right sides and pinch it together into a corner.  Fold up the third side and pinch the last two corners to make a complete triangle.

6. Place on cookie sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes.  Let cool before eating if you can.

Not-For-Cookie-Monster Chocolate Chip Cookies

17 Jan

That’s right, you heard me. I wouldn’t in a million years share these with Cookie Monster. Now, before you jump to conclusions, wondering what kind of person would say such a thing, I can explain. 
 

Cookie Monster will eat ANY cookies. He does not have a discriminating palate and likes them all equally: oatmeal raisin, peanut butter, sugar cookies. He shovels them in with wild abandon and shows no respect for either the cookie or the cookie maker.  About now, you, the reader, are thinking that you have much more in common with Cookie Monster than you do with an elitist like me. Perhaps you think I am cruel to speak ill of the precious puppet that defined the eating habits of a generation. But stick with me.
Cookie Monster does not taste his food. Tasting involves biting, chewing, and swallowing, and he does none of those things. He is not, shall we say, a monster in the moment.
The cookies don’t make it far into C.M.’s mouth and make a mighty mess that I am sure makes his mother feel blue. Not to mention it is a waste of perfectly good cookies on the floor.
Now of course we can all relate to the joy he feels; the kid in all of us knows what this is like. But it can be done with dignity.
Even my four-year-old will take time to savor a cookie. And my eighty-three-year-old dad, who bears more resemblance to Cookie Monster than I should admit, in appearance, eating habits, and voice, who will tell you he came to America to eat cake for breakfast, appreciates when a cookie, these cookies in particular, are (in your best Cookie Monster voice) mmmmm…good!
Now, if you like fluffy-thick-cake-like cookies, these are not the ones for you. Although I will argue that you cannot help but love these too. These cookies, like me, try their darndest to make everyone happy: thin, crispy, chewy, chunky. When I eat them, I wonder how one cookie can be all things to everyone, but this one can.
And when you make and eat these, you will see that this is a simple cookie, and whether you eat one or one hundred and one, these are meant to be savored.
There are a few guidelines to making these, but they are very simple:
 First, have all ingredients at room temperature. The butter and the egg will not perform correctly if taken straight from the frigid climate of the refrigerator. It really is no effort at all to leave them on the kitchen counter for an hour or so while they keep each other in good company.
Second, use good quality ingredients. Sure you CAN use any flour, butter, vanilla, and chocolate but just because you CAN do something doesn’t mean you SHOULD do something. Instead, and if you want to these to live up to my promise of perfection, then you must heed my words. European style butter, such as Plugria, will do wonders for the taste and texture of this cookie. The vanilla matters too—none of that imitation stuff here. Whether you use McCormick or Penzey’s, Nielson Massey or Watkins, just make sure it is the real deal. The flour must be unbleached, and preferably King Arthur, but Gold’s will do. And for chocolate, you are expecting me to say here that the better the chocolate the better the cookie, but instead I will tell you that the secret weapon is using a mixture of chocolate chips (pick 2): minis, chunks, chips, dark, milk, semi-sweet, and you will wow even the most jaded chocolate chip cookie eater. You might even make good ol’ C.M. stop in his tracks to taste this cookie.
The last couple of words of wisdom here: have all ingredients measured and close at hand. And while baking these, one tray at a time (none of that double rack rotating halfway through business), don’t leave the kitchen. Be there for your cookies to remove them right on cue.
So, stop and smell the cookies, but be sure to really savor them too.
For the cookie monster in all of us:
Not-For-Cookie-Monster Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose unbleached flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
  • ½  teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, at room temp.
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1 large egg, at room temp.
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup assorted chocolate chips (see above)
  • 1 cup chopped nuts, optional (pecans are my fave!) 
1.      Preheat oven to 350°. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
2.      In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, and the salt.
3.      In a large bowl, place the butter and both sugars and cream together using an electric mixer for about 3 minutes until smooth and fluffy. Add the egg and the vanilla and mix well.
4.      Add the flour mixture and mix well. Add the chocolate chips and nuts and mix until just combined.
5.      Using a medium sized cookie scoop drop dough onto the baking sheets, leaving a couple of inches between them. Bake for about 10 minutes or until golden.
6.      Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for a minute or two and then remove them to a cooling rack. Eat them warm or cool, but for the love of cookie monster, eat them slowly.
 
 
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