Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Festive Chocolate Snowflake Peanut Butter Cookies


Tis the time of year when you are asked to make holiday treats for every party, gathering, and the  occasional Tuesday. I made bark for my husbands work and when my work holiday party came around I wanted to bake something different. I love those peanut butter kisses cookies and in a fit of inspiration at Target, I found a bag of dove chocolates with embossed snowflakes on them and they looked much more festive than normal Hershey kisses. And lets face it there is nothing wrong with Hershey but Dove is oh so, so good.

Word to the warning it takes a lot longer for the dove chocolate to set up after you put them on the cookies. It was like hot, melting to the touch still, two hours after I had made them. I finally put them in the fridge for a bit and they set right up. So moral of the story, let them cool on a baking rack till the cookies are cool and then put them in the fridge afterwards for about an hour to set up the chocolate. Also try not to touch the chocolate before its set or you will smear your beautiful snowflakes. You have been warned!

Recipe makes about 2 dozen cookies

Ingredients:
 
1 stick Salted Butter, (its what I had on hand, if you use unsalted butter I would add a pinch of salt to the recipe) softened to room temperature  
1/2 cup Dark Brown Sugar
1/4 cup White Granulated Sugar
1 Egg
3/4 cup Peanut Butter (creamy kind is recommended)
1 tsp. Vanilla
1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
1 1/4 cup All-Purpose Flour

First in a small bowl combined the flour and baking soda. Next in a large mixing bowl, use either a hand-held mixer or stand mixer, and cream together the butter and the brown and white sugar on medium speed.

After they are creamed together mix in first the peanut butter, than egg, and lastly the vanilla. Make sure you scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. 

After everything is mixed together. Slowly mix in the baking soda and flour. I usually do this step with a wooden spoon but you can continue to us the mixture if you prefer. Make sure you mix to just combine the ingredients. You no not want to over mix the dough. After you are done place the dough in the fridge for about 30 minutes to chill.
 
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Use either an ungreased cookie sheet or a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Roll about 1 1/2 tbsps. of dough into a ball. Place them on the cookie sheet and bake for 8-9 minutes. Cookies will be soft and puffy when they are done.
 
While the cookies are baking unwrap the chocolates. After the cookies are done take them out and place them on a cooling rack. Place a chocolate snowflake in the center of each cookie and press down lightly.
 
After the cookies have cooled place them in the in the fridge to cool for about an hour to set up the chocolate.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Chocolate Carmel Pretzel Bark with Sea Salt


I cannot believe we are already into the second week of December and I only decorated my Christmas tree last night. I haven't posted in a while and its not for a lack of cooking but in my holiday, grad school, end of the quarter work craziness, and a two week trip home for Thanksgiving I manage to take one photo from all my cooking. I made delicious spanakopita cups no photo, a homemade chocolate cream pie that is so good you will want to marry it, no photo, asparagus quiche, honey mustard chicken, chicken noodle soup, parmesan meatballs, peppermint bark no photo, no photo, no photo, no photo and you get the picture but I did capture one picture for one of the best barks I have ever made. Sweet and salty, crunchy, a little chewy and ohh so addictive.

My mom found this recipe on pinterest and I tweaked it a bit because I found the directions were a little lacking on making the caramel. I ended up making two batches because in the first batch the caramel came out way to soft and never set up. The first batch of bark was still delicious but the consistency out of the freezer for a few minutes was like a messy snickers bar. Good but since I was sending this with my husband to work, I didn't want to be responsible for people smearing caramel all over their dress clothes. The second batch was much firmer and can be left of the freezer without turning into a gooey mess.


Chocolate Carmel Pretzel Bark with Sea Salt

1 bag of Chocolate Chips (either semi-sweet or milk)
1/2 bag of Mini Pretzels Twists (you want enough to cover a baking sheet in even rows)
1 cup of Brown Sugar, packed
2 sticks Butter
Generous amount of Sea Salt
Parchment Paper


First preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Than arrange your pretzels in even rows on a baking sheet covered in parchment paper. You really need to use the parchment paper here, otherwise you will never get it off the baking sheet and you don't want to use wax paper, since it goes in the oven.

Second heat the butter and sugar over medium heat in a medium size sauce pan. You want to cook the caramel until its at softball stage. Here is a link to explain what the soft-ball stage is, there is also information if you have a candy thermometer.  Once the caramel has reach softball stage. Pour the caramel evenly over the pretzels.

Place the caramel covered pretzels in the oven for about 3 minutes. After 3 minutes take it out and sprinkle the chocolate chips over the caramel pretzels. Put them back in the oven for about 1 more minute till chocolate starts to melt. With a flat spatula or knife carefully spread the chocolate evenly over the caramel. Generously sprinkle the chocolate with sea salt.

Let cool for about 20 minutes and than place in the freezer for a few hours before serving.







Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Galette-Style Apple Tart



Two apple desserts in a row, I was not kidding the other day when I said we were swimming in apples. I have eaten an apple a day for the past two weeks, made an apple crisp and a baked German apple pancake (looked great tasted blah) and I still have a full bowl. Like I have mentioned before, most fruit pies aren't really my thing, but my husband loves them and has lovingly suggested about 22 times in the past four days, that he would really like an apple pie like really, really, really like one pretty please. He even batted his eyelashes and everything,  clearly subtlety is not his strong suit!

So finally after four days, I gave in and made an apple tart with the warning that he was on his own eating the whole thing.. so far I heard no complaints, just chewing.

Yes an apple tart, not an apple pie because funnily enough after procrastinating for a week about making the pie, I didn't have enough apples and the puny ones that were left, would not have made very good pie but this tart came together super easy and with only one crust you could think of it as a low-carb apple pie (but that might be reaching).

This is a Galette style tart which is French for I don't own a tart pan. No not really but you could easily make this with a tart pan but the Galette style is more rustic and it means you dirty one less pan.

Ingredients:
One pie crust recipe here
Five or Six Small Apples (That is what I had left, you could use more for fuller tart, you could all substitute different fruits peaches, pears or berries)
1/2 tsp. Lemon Juice (optional)
1/2 tsp. Cinnamon
1/4 tsp. Nutmeg
1/2 tsp. Vanilla
4 tbsp. Granulated Sugar
2 tbsp. Butter, melted

Glaze
3 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. apple juice
1 tbsp. water

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Make the pie crust and form into a small disk, refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

Peel core and slice your apples, if your apples were all sweet like mine you can sprinkle with a little lemon juice.

After your dough has chilled, roll out to about a 12 to 14 inch circle. Place the dough on a parchment paper baking sheet and place the apples overlapping in a ring starting two inches in from the outside edge.  Continue layer  inward until you have reached the center. Sprinkle the apples with 2 tbsp. of sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla. Fold the two inch edges of the dough over the apples and crimp at 1 inch intervals.

Brush the dough and apples with the melted butter and sprinkle the remaining 2 tbsps. of sugar onto the dough.

Place tart in middle of the oven and bake for about 35 to 40 minutes. Rotate the tart after about 15 minutes. Tart is done when apples are soft and the crust is golden brown.

While tart is cooling, make the glaze. The glaze is optional but worth it. Combine sugar, water and apple juice in small sauce pan and  heat over medium heat. You want to thicken the glaze until it has a syrupy consistency. Brush the glaze over the tart with a pastry brush and serve while still warm!