Saturday, December 31, 2011

Racines Cake for Christmas Eve

Welcome to my last post of 2011, a year that shall go down in (my) history as one of my least favorites. It was filled with anxiety, depression, heartache, disappointment, loneliness, and frustration. True, there were a few upsides (trip to Paris, anyone?), but in all, it was a year I wouldn't mind forgetting.

So instead of reflecting on the year that was, I would like to look forward to the year that will be. Granted, I started of 2011 with a great deal of optimism for what was sure to be a great year to come, but I am certain that 2012 has better things in store for me than 2011. I am hoping that my falling apart in 2011 only created an opportunity for me to put myself back together in a more fabulous shape in 2012.

So, in parting with 2011, I leave you with a recipe for a most delicious and simple chocolate cake. I wish I had thought to pair it with a peppermint whipped cream, since I served it on Christmas Eve, but it was just as delicious with the orange flower-scented whipped cream that I made. For me, this cake was simply perfect: light, chocolatey, and decadent. Fancy enough for a celebration, but simple enough to pull together in a pinch.

So fancy!
Racines Cake
from Ready for Dessert

10 oz bittersweet chocolate (I used 70%), chopped
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 tbsp freshly brewed espresso
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
6 lrg eggs, at room temp
1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp granulated sugar
2 tbsp cocoa nibs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare a 9-inch springform pan by buttering it and dusting it with cocoa powder.

In a large heatproof bowl, combine the chocolate, butter, and espresso and melt over a pan of simmering water. Stir until smooth, then remove from the heat and add the vanilla.

In a smaller bowl, combine the egg yolks and 1/4 cup sugar and beat on medium-high speed with a hand mixer until the mixture is light and creamy, about 1 minute.

In a clean, dry medium-sized bowl, beat the egg whites on low speed until they begin to hold shape. Add the 2 tbsp sugar and beat on high speed until the whites hold soft peaks.

Fold the egg yolks into the chocolate mixture, then fold in half of the egg whites. Carefully fold in the remaining whites until there are no streaks of white- don't overfold!

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, then sprinkle the cocoa nibs evenly over the top. Bake until the cake is barely set in the center, abut 25 minutes. Let cool completely.


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas Cookies 2011

Hazelnut Yumminess!
Yes, I'm a little late with my Christmas cookie post. Fashionably late, perhaps? No, probably not. I'm sure everyone is tired of Christmas cookies by now. But I'm here now to share my Christmas cookie creations of 2011.

The first cookie is inspired by the Chocolate Mexican Wedding Cookies that I made last year. I'm not a huge fan of pecans, but what I do love are hazelnuts. I thought if I swapped out the pecans for hazelnuts, that I would have a delicious Nutella-flavored cookie. And I was right. With the first bite into this creation, I was in love. We all know about my Nutella addiction, so it's pretty clear why these cookies were a hit with me. They also seemed to be a bit of a hit at work. And because they remind me of Ferrero Rochers,I am naming these little guys Rocher Cookies.

The other cookies is a hazelnut thumbprint cookie, using some of my mom's homemade Blackberry Port Jam (which, on its own, is amazing). I found a recipe online and it worked perfectly. The result was a crispy, buttery, hazelnutty, jammy cookie. It would be perfect with tea. I think my mom's jam paired rather nicely with the hazelnuts in this cookie. For the recipe, see this blog; note: I followed the recipe using hazelnuts and did not use almond extract. Almond extract is the devil.

They taste better than they look...
Rocher Cookies
adapted from The Ghirardelli Chocolate Cookbook

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temp.
1/3 cup powdered sugar
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup ground roasted hazelnuts
1/2 cup Ghirardelli Sweet Ground Chocolate and CocoaPinch of salt

1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup Ghirardelli Sweet Ground Chocolate and Cocoa

To make the cookies, in a large bowl, cream the butter and powdered sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla.

In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, hazelnuts, ground chocolate, and salt. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture and mix until well blended.

Wrap the dough with plastic wrap and chill for 1 to 2 hours, until firm.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Shape the dough into 1-inch balls (I used a 1-inch scoop). Place the balls 1 inch apart on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, until the cookies are firm to the touch. Cool for 1 minute on the cookie sheet, and then transfer to a wire rack.

To make coating, sift powdered sugar and ground chocolate into a shallow bowl. While the cookies are still warm, roll them in the coating.


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Orange Nutmeg Buttermilk Cookies

So, it's been awhile. A long while. I've had writer's block. I've also had a lot of things on my mind that have nothing to do with my baking, or at least nothing writeable. But I'm back now, and I suppose that's what matters.

Without delving too much into things, I will say that I have been dealing with depression for the past year, and went on medication for it in the past few months. One of the most annoying side effects of the medication was fatigue, to the point that I was sleeping until anywhere between noon and 2pm on weekends. I had lost all energy to do much of anything. My apartment turned into quite a pigsty, which was rather representative of how I felt on the inside.

Something that I have found when I tell someone that I have depression, is that the person's response is "what are you depressed about?" I am sure that the person is trying to get to the problem so that they can offer a solution, but sometimes when I am depressed, it isn't about anything really. Or maybe it's about everything. Some days I simply wake up feeling a sense of dread, like my body is filled with a black ooze that takes over my mind and tells me that I'm a nobody who will never do anything significant. Maybe the answer I should give to those who ask is that the future is scary as shit.

One thing that helps me keep going, however, is my baking. I love thinking about what I want to bake, concocting magical treats in my mind. Sometimes, I will make those ideas a reality. One such delicious treat is these orange nutmeg buttermilk cookies that I made a couple of weeks ago with my sister. I love the combination of orange and nutmeg, and these cookies are a wonderful way to enjoy that taste combination. The cookies are light and kind of cakey (sort of like a whoopie pie cake), with a little sweetness added by the orange glaze on top. We decorated the cookies with festive sprinkles in order to help get us into the holiday spirit. I highly recommend these to anyone- they're fairly easy to make, delicious, and a little unexpected.

Merry Christmas!

Orange Nutmeg Buttermilk Cookies

For Cookies
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp grated orange zest (more if you wish)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temp
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2/3 cup well-shaken buttermilk

For Glaze (this is half the original recipe, which I find is more than enough to frost the cookies)
3/4 cup confectioners sugar
1 tbsp well-shaken buttermilk
1/2 tbsp fresh orange juice

Make cookies:
Preheat oven to 350°F with one rack in the upper-middle position and the other rack in the lower-middle position. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, zest, baking soda, nutmeg, and salt.

Using an electric mixer, beat together butter and sugar in a large bowl until pale and fluffy. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in vanilla. Mix in flour mixture and buttermilk alternately in batches at low speed, beginning and ending with flour mixture, until smooth.

Drop tablespoons of dough about 1 1/2 inches apart onto baking sheets. Bake, 2 sheets at a time, until cookies are puffed and edges are golden, 12 to 15 minutes per batch, making sure to rotate the baking sheets halfway through the bake time. Cool cookies on sheets 1 minute, then transfer cookies to racks.

Glaze cookies:
Whisk together all glaze ingredients and brush onto tops of warm cookies. Add a flourish of sprinkled if you are so inclined.

Let stand until cookies are completely cooled and glaze is set.