Friday, December 24, 2010

Everything But the Kitchen Sink

Last year I called them Everything Cookies and in a previous post I referred to them as Leftover Cookies because I use all of the leftover ingredients from other recipes to create a new combination. As I labeled the cute bakery bags to mail them off, I realized people might think I was giving them cookies that were leftover and not freshly baked for their enjoyment. Hoping they'd have read my blog and understood the reference, I sent them off anyway. Recently, I received a funny email from a favorite friend whose 3 year old is a smart cookie herself, but the confusing name I chose stumped her:

A: "mommy i'm ready for one of miss jenn's cookies!"

M: "oh, sweetie, they are all gone. you ate the last one last night".

A: "but mommy, i just want a leftover one!"
I feel the need to keep "Leftover" in the name because this adorable dialogue makes me smile! My sister suggested E.B.T.K.S for Everything But the Kitchen Sink which gets the point across pretty plainly, too. I had to send an extra large batch off to Michigan on Monday because I kept eating them. Whatever you call them, don't give them all away.
Leftover / E.B.T.K.S Cookies
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup (gently packed) light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups old-fashioned oats (not instant)
1 1/2 cups ap flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups nuts
1 1/2 cups dried fruit
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
1 cup unsweetened coconut

The last 4 ingredients are where I play! I've used almonds, macadamia and hazelnuts; dried apricots and/or cherries and chopped dark chocolate instead of the chips. I don't always include the coconut, but the batch pictured here does.

Mix sugar, butter, vanilla and eggs together in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, combine oats, flour, baking soda, salt. Add dry ingredients to wet in 2-3 batches, mixing thoroughly in between. Then add all the goodies!! Bake 1 tbsp size dollops 2 inches apart on a parchment lined baking sheet at 375 for 10-12 minutes until lightly golden brown. Cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes then move to cooling racks.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Fill your Kitchen with Christmas

I make a variety of goodies every year and my favorite to bake are the Ginger Spice Cookies based on a recipe from Paula Deen. It's only 1 of 2 recipes I've ever made by Ms. Deen. This is because I enjoy going to the gym and wouldn't want to turn that routine into a weight loss regimen I'd inevitably require if I subscribed to her "butter makes everything better" style of cooking.

These Christmas-y cookies make your kitchen smell divine! They're crispy on the edges with a softer chew in the middle. The candied ginger melts slightly in each cookie. They're spicy and just sweet enough to please kids and adults alike. This recipe is a double batch and makes about 6 dozen.

Ginger Spiced Cookies
1 1/2 cups vegetable shortening
2 cups sugar, plus more for rolling
2 large eggs
1/2 cup molasses
4 cups ap flour
4 tsp baking soda
1/3 cup chopped candied ginger
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Using an electric mixer on low speed, cream the shortening and sugar until thoroughly combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, and molasses and beat until the mixture is a uniform color. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, candied ginger, cinnamon, ground ginger, cloves and salt. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the mixer and stir on low speed until combined. In your palms, roll the dough into 1 inch size balls and then roll in sugar. Gently flatten with your fingertips and place 1 inch apart on prepared baking sheets. Bake for 12 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes on sheets then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

p.s. The second recipe I made by Paula Deen was a "Better than Sex" cake I made for a friend's birthday. While it was delicious and didn't last long I think Paula needs to spend more time in other rooms besides the kitchen.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Vanillekipferl (Vanilla Crescents)

My husband can't stop eating these cookies! Last year I made a similar version that didn't include nuts, but I love the crunch walnuts and almonds add to these festive half moons. I made 4 dozen to bring to a cookie exchange, and another 8 dozen to send to family and friends. They're easy and despite the generous dusting of powdered sugar, they're not too sweet. I based my recipe on one from Saveur magazine. I bet if you substituted almond extract for vanilla and used only almonds you'd get a very fragrant twist! Instead of cutting the log into 48 pieces, I took about 1 1/2 tbsp from the dough to form each crescent and made a few more than 4 dozen.

Vanillekipferl (Vanilla Crescents)

makes 4 dozen

1 cup confectioner's sugar, plus more for finishing cookies
16 tbsp (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 tsp vanilla extract
5 oz walnuts and almonds, finely ground in food processor
2 1/4 cups flour, more for rolling

Heat oven to 325 and line baking sheets with parchment paper. Beat together sugar, butter and vanilla in a bowl. Mix in nuts and flour. Flour and roll into a cylinder; divide into 48 pieces. Roll each into a sausage shape. Taper ends; bend into a crescent. transfer to baking sheets spacing 1" apart. Bake until lightly golden, 12-15 minutes. Sift with confectioner's sugar. Let cool and sift in sugar once more before storing or serving.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Homemade Honeycomb

My European and Expat family and friends might know of a classic Cadbury candy: the Crunchie. This was one of my favorites! They've been making it since 1929 but my first taste was probably around 1990. Several years later I took a trip to London with 4 high school friends from the American School of the Hague. Like much of high school, there are so many memories where I look back and say, "I can't believe we did that!" This London trip included midnight shopping cart rides, toilet paper receipts, clothes hanger wine openers and fiberglass sleeping blankets to name a few! Although there wasn't much sleeping...

On the return ferry to Hoek van Holland we spent the remainder of our pounds in the candy machines. Way back then we could eat pounds of candy and still get into slinky dresses for prom at the Kurhaus! My choice was usually the milk chocolate covered honeycomb Crunchie.

I found a recipe in an issue of Oprah magazine and felt challenged to make my own! After two failed attempts (pictured below. I'm not shy) I researched a few more recipes online and settled on one by Elizabeth LaBau from I finally got the hang of it the result brought me back 15+ years!

Overcooked. Spread with spatula.
Tasted like burnt sugar.

Chocolate Dipped Honeycomb by Elizabeth LaBau, Guide
Prep time: 25 minutes

  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 generous tablespoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 12 ounces dark chocolate
  • 2 tablespoons shortening
  1. Prepare a rimmed baking sheet by lining it with aluminum foil and spraying the foil with nonstick cooking spray.
    Cooled too fast. Few tiny
    bubbles. Hard as a rock.
  3. Combine the sugar, corn syrup, honey and water in a saucepan large enough so that the mixture can triple in size and still be safely contained. Stir the ingredients together until the sugar is completely moistened. Using a wet pastry brush, wipe the sides of the saucepan to remove any stray sugar crystals.
  4. Insert a candy thermometer and cook the mixture over medium-high heat, without stirring, until the temperature reaches 300 degrees.
    Boiling sugar mixture.
  6. Once the candy is at the proper temperature, remove it from the heat and add the baking soda all at once. Immediately whisk the candy to incorporate the baking soda, and be careful—it will foam up a great deal!
  8. As soon as the baking soda is incorporated, pour the candy carefully onto the prepared sheet.
  9. Allow it to cool and harden completely, then break it into small pieces. Honeycomb can be eaten as-is, or you can dip it in chocolate:
  10. Combine the chocolate and shortening in a microwave-safe bowl, and microwave it to melt the chocolate completely, stirring every minute. Note that the amount of chocolate required may vary depending on how thick you made your honeycomb and how many pieces you made.
  11. Using two forks, dip the individual pieces in chocolate so that they are completely covered, and replace them on the baking sheet. Repeat with remaining honeycomb and refrigerate until chocolate is set. Best enjoyed within 24 hours.
    Third time's a charm!

    My melted chocolate was quite thick so I chose not to cover them entirely. A quick dip gives the Crunchie taste while leaving the pretty, airy honeycomb exposed.

    Also, don't discard the crumbs! Sprinkle them on ice cream or drop them in the remaining melted chocolate and let it cool in clumps on wax paper with your other honeycomb candies. They're delicious!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Holiday Baking Begins

Baking Season has begun in my kitchen. I went to Costco with my mother in law last weekend and bought a ridiculous amount of sugar, nuts, maple syrup, dried fruit, chocolate chips and plastic wrap. Tomorrow I'm heading to a cookie swap with my mom and I'm looking forward to see what her neighbors are whipping up this year. Here is what's on my list of goodies...I'm making some favorites that make the kitchen smell delightful, and also trying a new honeycomb candy to test my culinary capabilities:

Noci Croccanti (Hazelnut Brittle)
Vanillekipferl (Vanilla Crescents)
Marshmallows (Coconut and Vanilla)
Honeycombs (Chocolate and Plain)
Ginger Cookies
Granola (multiple varieties)
Leftover Cookies (f.k.a. Garbage Cookies)
Cheddar Straws

Luckily I have lots of time off before the holidays so I can relax and bake at my leisure. A few packages will travel cross country and some will show up at work next week. The best part of baking is giving your delicacies to people you care about. Stay tuned for recipes and photos!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Reduce! Reuse! Recycle! Risotto!

OK, so "Reduce" doesn't exactly make sense. Reusing or Recycling Risotto, however, is a grand idea and definitely deserves exclamation points! Arancini are of Sicilian origin and traditionally made with a simple risotto and filled with a dollop of meat and peas ragu, coated in breadcrumbs and fried in oil. Arancini means little oranges in Italian, which they resemble after frying. I've actually seen versions of arancini labeled "Rice Balls" and sold at local fairs and smaller pizzerias here in New Jersey; which is not surprising since there is a large population of people of Italian heritage in this state. Unless you've been living outside the United States, you probably already knew that and have seen an episode (or season) of one of the growing number of ridiculous programs depicting Italian Americans, especially those from New Jersey, in an unfavorable light. While my husband (not of Italian heritage) finds humor in those programs, I invariably find something better to do while they're on (e.g. cooking, laundry, alphabetizing the pantry). Alas I digress...

Certain foods just do not make great leftovers. Pasta and risotto are two high on my list. Except for perhaps a baked pasta like pasticcio which can be reheated in the oven to a crispier version of itself which is equally delicious. This recipe for arancini calls for leftover risotto rolled into balls and stuffed with a little cube of cheese. Like many Italian recipes, once you learn the method of preparing a dish the ingredient combinations are limitless. Let your risotto refrigerate overnight and work with it just from the fridge to avoid sticky fingers. Once they're coated with breadcrumbs, you can freeze them on a tray and then transfer them to a freezer bag to pop into hot oil for a quick appetizer or dinner with mixed greens.

I used mixed mushroom risotto and muenster cheese because that's what I had around the house. What arancini varieties can you come up with?


2 cups refrigerated leftover risotto
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups breadcrumbs
20 or so cubes of cheese
vegetable or canola oil for frying

Mix 1 egg and a sprinkle of breadcrumbs into the risotto. Scoop about 1 1/2 tablespoons of risotto into your hands and begin to form a ball. Press one cube of cheese into the middle and reform the ball so it's completely sealed. Roll the arancino in the 2nd beaten egg then breadcrumbs until thoroughly coated.

In a heavy bottomed pot heat about 2 inches of frying oil to 350 degrees. Drop 3 or 4 arancini at a time and brown them all over turning occasionally. Scoop them out with a spider skimmer and let drain on a paper towel. Sprinkle with salt and Parmesan cheese if desired. Keep them in a low oven until all arancini are cooked. Serve alongside a green salad or simple tomato sauce for dipping.