Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Chocolate Gravy

Growing up in my family... the weekend meant one thing: A BIG BREAKFAST. Every Saturday and Sunday morning... my mom fixed the works for breakfast. Biscuits and gravy (both from scratch, of course), eggs, sausage, and bacon. And since I was a snot-nosed kid, I usually poured myself a bowl of cornflakes for my breakfast. I had no idea what I was missing.

Sometimes, though... when we had company or if my mom was craving it (and always during the week when us kids were out for snow) my mom would make chocolate gravy.

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking what everyone I've ever told about Chocolate Gravy thinks.... chocolate? in gravy? Ewwww... gross.

But, it's not that. It's essentially chocolate syrup/ganache that is thinned out a bit with some milk to be close to the consistency of a gravy. Hence the name Chocolate Gravy.

Chocolate gravy poured over a hot biscuit is like nothing you've ever had before, I assure you. It's heaven. The gravy soaks into the biscuit and I think it actually brings out the flavor of the biscuit more. And when the biscuits have a nice crispy edge to them, you get a wonderful chocolatey crunch.

Now, chocolate gravy is reserved for Christmas morning, when the family tradition of a big breakfast is brought back to life. This year, I attempted to learn how to make it... but like any recipe of my mom's, it's always... "a little of this... a lot of that..." no exact measurements (which is also why the chocolate gravy is never the same twice). But, I did learn a little more about it... My maternal grandma used to make the chocolate gravy without vanilla or butter. I guess the tendency was to put the butter on your biscuit and then pour the gravy over it. My mom has always put butter and vanilla in her chocolate gravy and I think that's probably the best way to do it...

Mom's Chocolate Gravy

Again, these are not exact measurements, but they're fairly close. In the past, we've thrown some chocolate chips in to melt into the gravy to make it thicker and extra rich... but that almost tastes too gourmet (not enough like I remembered from my childhood). But if you want an uber chocolatey gravy, I'd suggest trying that.

1 tbsp flour
3/4 cup sugar
4-5 tbsp of cocoa
Pinch of salt
2 cups of milk (depending on how thick you want yout gravy, maybe less)
2 tbsp butter
1 tsp vanilla

Put all the dry ingredients into a saucepan on the stove. Gradually add in your milk, a little at a time over medium heat. Whisking/stirring to keep the lumps to a medium. Cook over medium heat till mixture comes together and thickens a little. (If it thickens too much, just pour a little more milk in).

After cooking for a few minutes and the gravy is the consistency you want, take off the stove and stir in your butter till it melts and the vanilla.

Spoon over biscuits.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

TWD: Tall & Creamy Cheesecake

Cheesecake is hands down one of my favorite desserts. Not only are cheesecakes delicious... but they're so simple and inexpensive to make and yet... when you make one from scratch and take it somewhere... people act like you're a baking genius. Seriously... you want to make something easy, cheap, and something that can be done ahead of time that will knock people's socks off?? Cheesecake is your answer.

I was excited that Anne of Anne Strawberry chose Dorie's Basic cheesecake recipe Tall and Creamy Cheesecake for this week's Tuesdays with Dorie, because I love trying out new recipes.

My previous go-to recipe for Cheesecake was a Tyler Florence recipe. It's foolproof. I've made it 100 times... with splenda, with sugar, with a water bath, without a waterbath. Seriously folks you can't mess this cheesecake up. It's light and fluffy with a little tang from the sour cream and lemon and it's white and crack-proof on top. A gorgeous, delicious cheesecake.

But, move over Tyler... there's a new cheesecake in town. Dorie's cheesecake is texturally my favorite cheesecake. It's cheesecake how I like it... soft and creamy, but not gooey (as I find cheesecake factory's cheesecakes to be). I think after making a few cheesecakes now... that I prefer cheesecakes with more heavy cream than sour cream. I think the cream is what makes for a browned top, but I don't mind that. I'll take flavor over looks any day. This recipe calls for both, but you can choose to omit one and use entirely the other, or a mixture of sour cream and cream. I used a mixture. Some sour cream and some heavy cream.

This cheesecake is dynamite and will definitely be my cheesecake recipe from now on.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

TWD: Butterscotch Pudding

Butterscotch. Let me just start off by telling you how much I love butterscotch. I always pick out the butterscotch first in an assortment of hard candies. I love the sweet and the buttery mixed together. It really is a match made in heaven.

So, to say I was excited about making Butterscotch Pudding for this week's Tuesdays with Dorie, is a bit of an understatement. I had visions of using this pudding in a tart shell for a Butterscotch Pudding Tart. Because... honestly... how good does that sound??

I was over at my parents house on Saturday morning and decided to rummage around their liquor cabinet (because, they seriously have anything and everything you would need in terms of liquor... its like going to a free liquor store). I knew my dad would have some Johnny Walker Black (which... I know.. is blended whiskey or whatever... semantics) until I saw this little jewel...

Glenfiddich 15 year reserve SINGLE MALT. Exactly what I was looking for! Just for kicks I poured my mom and I out some in a little glass, because honestly, I'd never had scotch before. Nevermind that it was like 10:30 in the morning. First, I smelled it and about gagged. And then I took a sip and seriously thought my tongue was going to burn off and that I would die choking on it. It was bad. My mom took a sip and I expected her response to be the same... I waited patiently looking at her, wanting her to join in the disgust for scotch with me... But she threw the glass back and after her non-chalant reaction I wouldn't have been surprised if she'd stuck her tongue down in the glass and licked it. I mean. Jeez... she pounded that scotch like nobody's business. Finally she said... "Hmm... would be better with a little water."

For those of you keeping score that's...

Mom: 1

Amy: 0

In the "who's a better drunk category. "

I didn't let the taste of the scotch deter me... I was determined that this was going to be a kick ass pudding. I got home and remembering how quick on your feet you have to be when making pudding, I laid out all my ingredients like I was on Emeril or something. I made only a half batch... because I was planning on just making two little adorable butterscotch pudding tarts.

The recipe came together quickly. I was glad I was prepared, because it made things go soooo much smoother. But, as it was coming together I noticed the pale, ashy, disgusting color that it was becoming and I was hoping that the vanilla and scotch would help fix that a bit.
It didn't and I thought... well who cares, I'll just cover the top in whipped cream. I decided to give the pudding a taste before I whipped up my tarts....
One word describes this pudding: Scotch. It should be called Scotch pudding. I mean... there is no buttery-ness whatsoever. But, if you love scotch... you'd freaking love this pudding. So... make this for your Mom (in my case, who apparently doesn't mind the taste of scotch) or your cirrhosis plagued uncle.
Thanks to Donna of Spatulas, Corkscrews & Suitcases (Cute blog name!) for picking out this recipe. Maybe once I "acquire" my scotch palate, I'll be into this pudding. Until then, I guess I'll stick to my artificial butterscotch flavors.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Nigella's Banana Bread (err... Muffins)

Last year for Christmas, my dear friend April bought me How to Be a Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson. Clearly... she knows me well. I mean, if there is anything in this world that I want to be... it is definitely a domestic goddess. And if there is anything in this world that I am NOT, it's definitely a domestic goddess. So, there ya go. Perfect gift.

So, I've had this cookbook for over a year (she gave me my present early) and I have YET to make something from it. I've probably read the whole thing, including most of the recipes... and while I enjoy reading the intros to the recipes and the way Nigella describes the food, nothing has jumped out at me screaming: MAKE ME NOW. Which, is a shame, because... I NEED to become a domestic goddess. I mean... I'm a single 28 year old girl. When I say I NEED to become a domestic goddess, I'm not kidding. I need a man, folks. And everyone knows... Domestic Goddessdom= Snagging a Dude.

Finally, last night with three big bananas at the peak of the ripeness, I decided to start my quest to become that domestic goddess.

I cracked open the book and found this recipe for banana bread, that I decided to make into muffins instead. I was a little surprised that the recipe didn't include instructions for myself... like, I was expecting it to say...

First, go into your wardrobe and pick out the tightest, deepest v-neck sweater that you have. Put it on. Next, curl your hair with a curling iron, so that you have soft, bouncy curls. Then put on extra mascara and black eyeliner and a little bit of a pale pink lipstick. Put on your sexiest, highest heels and pour yourself a glass of wine. Now you are ready to bake.

But, it didn't. So, I put on my apron, stayed in my sweatpants and tshirt, and pulled my hair back and got to work. I know, very non-domestic goddessy of me.

Anyway, I'm ALWAYS finagling with quick bread recipes. Trying to make them healthier and lighter (I know... AGAIN very non-domestic goddessy of me... Sheesh. Maybe I'm not cut out for this domestic goddess jazz). And this recipe was no different. I did some butter and sugar substitutions, added some pumpkin I'm trying to use up for some extra nutrients and moisture and voila... Heathy-ish Banana Muffins.

They turned out well... a good banana flavor and very moist. Next time, I'll add nuts and wear some stilettos.

Nigella's Banana Bread (muffins)
adapted from How to Become a Domestic Goddess

So, this is how I made the recipe. So, there are a few substitions and changes. She also added boozy raisins to her batter, but I opted out of that.

Make sure to cook these muffins through. With all the extra fruit they are VERY moist and therefore aren't delicious right out of the oven. They are kind of gooey at first and need to set and cool a good bit. Once they do, though, they are a really good, easy, healthy muffin recipe. And if you want to completely stray from the the domestic goddess route, then try some whole wheat flour, instead of all white. (I know, shameful!).

1 cup + 2 tbsp all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup splenda
2 large eggs
3 medium-large, very ripe bananas, mashed
1/3 cup unsweetened pumpkin puree
1 tsp vanilla extract

Grease a muffin tin.

Preheat the oven to 325F and get started on the rest.

Put the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium sized bowl and, using your hands or a wooden spoon, combine well.

In a large bowl, mix the melted butter, applesauce and sugars and beat until blended. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then the mashed bananas and pumpkin. Then, with your spoon, stir in the vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture a third at a time, stirring well after each bit. Pour into muffin tin. They don't rise much, so I filled them pretty much to the top and bake in the middle of the oven for about a 45 minutes (but check after 30). When it's ready, an inserted toothpick or fine skewer should come out cleanish. Leave in the pan on a rack to cool.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Spicy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

So, yesterday I was telling you about the buttery jam cookies that no one wanted at the party, right? Well, today, I'm going to tell you about the star of the party.

Who would have thought? An oatmeal raisin cookie would outshine... cheesecake, jam cookies, and brownies? That's how damn tasty this recipe is. It's everything that you expect an oatmeal raisin cookie to be... chewy with subtle hints of spice. Sturdy in texture, but complex in flavor. This is the oatmeal cookie that can go mano-e-mano against a chocolate chip cookie. Yes, you heard me.... mano-e-mano. It's that good.

These cookies were so good that people were shoving them in their pockets to take home with them. Thankfully, my mom had some cookie tins with these and other cookies in them to give to guests to take home, so that the cookies didn't have to endure the lint and used kleenex lining the bottoms of their coat pockets. This is an oatmeal cookie recipe that I'll whip up on a whim. I mean... normally that's reserved only for peanut butter cookies or chocolate chip cookies... but step aside old favorites... there's a new cookie in town...
Spicy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
Originally Beth's Spicy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

The mix of shortening and butter is what gives this cookie it's chew... I know, a lot of people don't like using shortening (although I could care less), but it's important for the chewiness. So, if you like chewy cookies, definitely follow this recipe verbatim.

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup butter flavored shortening
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups rolled oats
1 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

In a large bowl, cream together the butter, butter flavored shortening, brown sugar, white sugar, eggs, and vanilla until smooth. Combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and salt; stir into the sugar mixture. Stir in the oats and raisins. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake 10 to 12 minutes until light and golden. Do not overbake. Let them cool for 2 minutes before removing from cookie sheets to cool completely. Store in airtight container.

Yield: 3 Dozen.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

TWD: Buttery Jam Cookies

Continuing on with the Smorgasboard (I know I didnt spell that right) of holiday cookies... Heather of Randomosity and the Girl chose Buttery Jam Cookies for this week's Tuesdays with Dorie. And Heather, I'm right there with you... how could you go wrong with a recipe called... Buttery Jam Cookies?

These cookies are super moist and tender and very cakey. Not really the consistency of your regular ole cookie. I added cherry preserves and since these were going to be on a cookie tray at a Christmas Party, I festive-ed them up with little maraschino cherries on top.

These cookies were good, but not as good as I had hoped. They honestly didn't have much flavor at all. I added additional cherry preserves to the recipe, as I just didn't think the amount called for in the recipe would be enough for my cherry-loving self, but they didn't have an overwhelming cherry flavor. Or, even a slight cherry flavor.

I rolled and flattened my cookies out with wet hands when putting them on my cookie sheet, because I had heard other TWDers saying that they ended up looking exactly how you placed them on the cookie sheet... and I wanted a smooth looking cookie, not a biscuity, sconey cookie.

Sadly, no one touched these cookies on the cookie tray. I thought maybe they were a little too retro-y looking with the maraschino cherry and all.

All-in-all not a bad cookie at all... but nothing to write home about. Not buttery or jam-y. Hmph. Oh well...

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Brown Sugar Cookies

There comes a point in your 28 years of life that you start to think that you've tried every imaginable type of cookie. I mean... especially if you've got a sweet tooth like mine. Obviously there are going to be variations of cookies that I haven't tried, but I didn't really expect to come across a flavor profile in a cookie that seemed different to me. So, I was VERY surprised when I bit into one of these cookies...

Brown Sugar Cookies.

See... I know exactly what you're thinking. You're thinking that you already know how these cookies taste without even tasting them. You can imagine in your head what a brown sugar cookie would taste like, right???

Well, you're wrong. Because this cookie is deceptively titled. You see... it should be called...

Out of this world browned butter brown sugar cookie.

BROWNED BUTTER. OH MY GOD WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN ALL MY LIFE? Sweet, sweet browned butter. Wow. I mean, sure I'd heard of browned butter pasta sauces and whatnot, but browned butter in a cookie. GENIUS. I'm sorry. I don't mean to keep shouting at you... but these cookies are so DAMN good.

Originally, I think this is a Cook's Illustrated Recipe... and bless their hearts for thinking of putting browned butter and brown sugar into a cookie. These cookies are rich and interesting without being pretentious. Texturally, they're what you'd expect from a brown sugar cookie... molassey and chewy with crispy edges. But the flavor... the flavor is so deep. I feel like it could be described like a wine... it starts off sweet and then finishes with a deep, rich butter flavor that lingers on your palate. Awesomeness. I will definitely make these again and you should try them, too.

I found the recipe here

But, because I love them so much... I'm reposting the recipe for you (and me)

Brown Sugar Cookies
Makes 2 Dozen Cookies
from Cook's Illustrated

Here's a tip on browning the butter... brown it in a skillet. I first tried in a saucepan and it was taking forever. Transferred it to a skillet and voile! Way quicker. But, be careful not to burn the butter!

14 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 3/4 sticks)
1/4 cup granulated sugar (about 1 3/4 ounces)
2 cups packed dark brown sugar (14 ounces)
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour plus 2 tablespoons (about 10 1/2 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Heat 10 tablespoons of the butter in a pan over medium-high heat until melted. Continue to cook the butter until it is browned a dark golden color and smells nutty, about 1 to 3 minutes. Transfer the browned butter to a bowl and stir the rest of the butter into the hot butter until it melts- let this rest for 15 min. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a baking dish, mix granulated sugar and a ¼ cup of the brown sugar until combined well; set this mixture aside to roll dough balls in. Mix flour, baking soda, and baking powder in a bowl. Add 1 ¾ cup brown sugar and salt to cooled butter and mix until there are no lumps. Add egg, yolk, and vanilla to butter mixture and mix well, then add flour and mix until just combined. Roll dough into balls about 1 ½ inches in diameter, and roll balls in brown sugar and white sugar mixture. Place balls about 2 inches apart on parchment lined baking sheets.

Bake sheets one at a time until cookies are puffy and lightly browned, about 12- 14 minutes. (It says the cookies will look slightly raw between some of the cracks and seem underdone, but be careful not to overbake.) Cool on sheet for about 5 minutes and then transfer to a rack to cool.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Masterpiece White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies

There is a company here in Nashville called The Christie Cookie. They have three basic cookie recipes: Chocolate Chip, Oatmeal Raisin, and White Chocolate Macadamia. Now, let me just state for the record that their White Chocolate Macadamia nut cookie is sublime. It's buttery, and soft, and the white chocolate is sweet and the nuts crunchy. It's like the white chocolate macadamia nut cookie at it's very best. But... it still has that "mass production" type of feel to it. You know what I mean? Like, it's delicious... but you taste it and can tell it's not homemade.

Anyway... any white chocolate macadamia nut cookie that I eat automatically gets compared to the Christie Cookie.

This recipe is from Anna over at Cookie Madness and this is the second time I've made this cookie. It is delicious. It has the addition of Baileys Liquor in it... and while you can't really pinpoint that flavor in the end result, it does give the cookies an additional depth of flavor. These cookies bake up thick and sturdy and are very easy to make.

My mom invited me over this past weekend for a Cookie Baking Bonanza and this was one of the recipes we made. In comparison to the Christie Cookie... these are a little different. These are not as soft and less buttery. I think sometime, I'll try this recipe with some butter flavored shortening added (in place of some of the butter) and add some toffee chips to the batter to see if I can get the consistency, crumb, and flavor profile of the Christie Cookie. Regardless, if you're looking for an awesome white chocolate chip cookie recipe... this should be your starting (and ending!) point.

Recipe at Anna's Blog for Masterpiece White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

TWD: Grandma's All Occasion Sugar Cookies

Well... not my Grandma's. More like Dorie's Grandma and Dorie's Husband's Grandma.

Semantics aside, this Tuesdays with Dorie recipe was chosen by Ulrike of Kuchenlatein. Ulrike has a lovely blog and as I'm writing this post, it finally occured to me to try to figure out what the heck Kuchenlatein means... and all I can find in google are kitchen latin or dog latin? Oh well... foreign languages were never my strong suit.

Truth be told... I'm not much of a sugar cookie girl. Particularly not the type of sugar cookies that get decorated, because they always seem hard and flavorless and merely vehicles for decoration. And folks, I take taste over appearance ANY day.

So, when this recipe was announced I was like... oh great.... another opportunity for me to take something that is supposed to be decorated and dolled up and turn it into something very ugly and tasteless. Hooray.

The cookie itself wasn't bad. But... again... it's a crunchy-ish, plain cookie that needs an eye for detail to pretty it up. Better eyes than I have, that is...

Anyway... I did make some stars and christmas trees and decorated them with some food coloring added to some melted white chocolate chips... so, I can at least say my cookies are festive! Check out Ulrike's blog for the recipe!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

TWD: Linzer Sables

Before I signed up for Tuesdays with Dorie, I'd never heard of a linzer sable. I mean... I'd be apt to call these cookies Jam Sandwich cookies or something equally white trashy. I'm kind of an advocate of the name of something telling you what it's going to taste like. Because, if I tell my brother, Mike... "These are Linzer Sable Cookies" he's going to look at me with a snarl and push the plate aside with a... "ummm... no thanks. Where's the chocolate pie?" So, while it sounds cool to say... "Linzer Sables" I ended up making these for thanksgiving and just told everyone... "These are Chocolate Hazelnut Sandwich Cookies." Cause that's what mine were.

I used hazelnuts for the nut in the dough and for the filling I ended up using a crunchy chocolate hazelnut spread (think... crunchy nutella. You can buy it at world market). I think all the people who actually tried the cookies, liked them. But honestly, they were a little out of the ordinary looking on our thanksgiving dessert buffet. The smell of cinnamon and hazelnuts was intoxicating and I found the dough to be very easy to work with. I ended up using a 2 inch round shot glass for the cookie cutter and the end of a decorating tip (per Dorie's suggestion) for the center. Usually, I'm not patient enough for fussy looking cookies like these. But these weren't fussy at all. They just look that way!

Next time, I will use jam in the center though. I think that the cinnamon would go better with a nice jam inside... and it would look prettier to have a glistening red or pink showing through the center instead of the dark brown. The most surprising thing to me about these cookies was that they weren't hard and crunchy. I expected them to be, but they actually turned out firm, yet soft. Not crumbly like a shortbread (although, I think technically a sable is supposed to be like a shortbread, yes?), but soft. When you bit into them, they didnt break into a million pieces like I feared they would.

Thanks to Noskos of Living the Life for choosing this recipe.

Oh and sorry for the crappy photos. I had to photograph the cookies at night in bad lighting. Ugh.