A little present for you…

Sorry I have not posted much lately.  My family traveled to Arizona last week to visit my husbands parents.  It was my daughter’s first plane trip and she did great.  She loved waving at all the passengers around us and checking out the view.

Now I am home and working on some new recipes, one especially good one for chocolate coconut cookies!  In the meantime I wanted to share some of my new favorite blogs, consider it my Christmas present to you.  Enjoy!

(never home)maker – A beautiful blog with some great recipes, I want to try the Banana Cake with Chocolate Frosting.

Tongue-N-Cheeky – This is such a fun blog, I love her design and cheeky attitude.  Plus you have to check out the Autumn Sack Lunch, what an amazing post.

Dolce Dente – This site has some great eggless dessert recipes, the eggless Tiramisu sounds amazing!

Uncommon Pumpkin Cheesecake

I have been enjoying developing my own recipes lately and my latest endeavor is a Pumpkin Cheesecake with Chocolate Hazelnut Ganache.  I got the idea when I was trying to think of an entry for the WMUR/Common Man Favorite Holiday Dessert Contest.  I had to tape a video as my entry so you can see me making it here.  I made three cheesecakes in three days to get the recipe right and then do the taping, it was an overload of cheesecake at my house.  Luckily, I have a family that is more than willing to sample my recipes and give comments.

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Chocolate Hazelnut Ganache

Crust:

½ cup toasted hazelnuts

¼ cup sugar

7 graham crackers

1 tsp cinnamon

5 Tbsp melted butter

Preheat the oven to 350*F.  Grind the hazelnuts and sugar in the food processor until roughly chopped.  Add the graham crackers and cinnamon and pulse until fine crumbs.  Dump the crumbs into a 9 inch springform pan and add the melted butter.  Stir together until all the crumbs are moist and then press on the bottom and half way up the sides of the pan to form a crust.  Bake for 10 minutes and then let cool slightly.

Filling:

2 8oz packages of cream cheese, softened

1 aseptic container of firm silken tofu

1 cup light brown sugar

3 Tbsp cornstarch

1 tsp cinnamon

2 tsp vanilla

1 can pumpkin puree

Puree the cream cheese and tofu in the food processor until combined.  Add the brown sugar, cornstarch and cinnamon and blend until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.  Add the vanilla and pumpkin and blend until uniform, scraping down the sides of the bowl.  Pour into prepared crust and bake for 50-55 minutes or until the center is set but still slightly jiggly.

Ganache:

8 oz semi-sweet chocolate

pinch of salt

1 cup heavy cream

2 tsp hazelnut syrup

½ cup toasted chopped hazelnuts

When the cheesecake is done let it cool for 30 minutes and then make your ganache.  Break the chocolate up into small piece and place in small bowl with the salt.  Heat the cream in the microwave for about 1 minute or until simmering.  Pour the cream over the chocolate and let sit for a few minutes.  Stir the cream and chocolate together until smooth.  Stir in the hazelnut syrup.  Pour the ganache over the cheesecake and tilt the pan to coat the top evenly.  Sprinkle the hazelnuts over the top and press lightly into the ganache.  Chill at least five hours but preferably over night.  Serves 12.

Daring Bakers Challenge: Cannoli

This month I took part in my first Daring Bakers Challenge.  I was so excited to learn that the challenge this month was Cannoli.  When I lived in Boston I lived in the North End, which is the Italian section.  I was surrounded by Italian bakeries filled with delicious pastries that I couldn’t eat because I was gluten free.  Now that I can eat gluten again and make my own cannoli!  This was a great challenge, not too difficult because I have deep fried donuts before and so have experience with the hot oil.  I found the dough a little difficult to work with but once I figured out that I could get it thin enough if I used the pasta machine it was a piece of cake.  I made a full batch of dough but only used half and ended up with 20 shells. The filling is AMAZING!, rich and creamy, definitely better the next day when the candied orange peel had a chance to flavor the cream.  I will definitely be pulling out this recipe from time to time when I get the craving for the North End.

The November 2009 Daring Bakers Challenge was chosen and hosted by Lisa Michele of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. She chose the Italian Pastry, Cannolo (Cannoli is plural), using the cookbooks Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and The Sopranos Family Cookbook by Allen Rucker; recipes by Michelle Scicolone, as ingredient/direction guides. She added her own modifications/changes, so the recipe is not 100% verbatim from either book.


 

CANNOLI SHELLS (This is a half recipe and I got 20 shells)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp sugar
½ tsp unsweetened baking cocoa powder
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp salt
1 ½ Tbsp vegetable or olive oil
1 tsp white wine vinegar (I used cider vinegar)
Approximately 1/4 cup sweet Marsala or any white or red wine you have on hand (I used grape juice)
Vegetable or any neutral oil for frying – about 2 quarts

Note – If you want chocolate cannoli dough, substitute a few tablespoons of the flour (about 25%) with a few tablespoons of dark, unsweetened cocoa powder (Dutch process) and a little more wine until you have a workable dough (Thanks to Audax).

CANNOLI FILLING
2 cups ricotta cheese, drained
1 cup confectioner’s sugar, (more or less, depending on how sweet you want it), sifted
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or the beans from one vanilla bean
2 ounces of finely chopped, candied orange peel

3 tablespoons (approx. 1 ounce) finely chopped good quality chocolate of your choice (I used semi-sweet chocolate)

Note – If you want chocolate ricotta filling, add a few tablespoons of dark, unsweetened cocoa powder to the above recipe, and thin it out with a few drops of warm water if too thick to pipe.

DIRECTIONS FOR SHELLS:
1. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer or food processor, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, cinnamon, and salt. Stir in the oil, vinegar, and enough of the wine to make a soft dough. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and well blended, about 2 minutes. Shape the dough into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest in the fridge from 2 hours to overnight.

2. Cut the dough into two pieces. Keep the remaining dough covered while you work. Lightly flour a large cutting or pastry board and roll the dough until super thin, about 1/16 to 1/8” thick (An area of about 13 inches by 18 inches should give you that). Cut out 3 to 5-inch circles (3-inch – small/medium; 4-inch – medium/large; 5-inch- large.  Your choice). Roll the cut out circle into an oval, rolling it larger and thinner if it’s shrunk a little.  (I rolled out the dough as thin as I could and it was still too thick so I then cut circles and used a pasta machine to roll each piece thinner and then cut out my finale circle.)

3. Oil the outside of the cannoli tubes.  Roll a dough oval from the long side (If square, position like a diamond, and place tube/form on the corner closest to you, then roll) around each tube/form and dab a little water on the dough where the edges overlap. (Avoid getting water on the tube, or the pastry will stick to it.) Press well to seal.

4. In a deep heavy saucepan, pour enough oil to reach a depth of 3 inches, or if using an electric deep-fryer, follow the manufacturer’s directions. Heat the oil to 375°F (190 °C) on a deep fry thermometer, or until a small piece of the dough or bread cube placed in the oil sizzles and browns in 1 minute. Have ready a tray or sheet pan lined with paper towels or paper bags.

5. Carefully lower a few of the cannoli tubes into the hot oil. Do not crowd the pan. Fry the shells until golden, about 2 minutes, turning them so that they brown evenly.  (I found that my shells browned very quickly and I only fried them for about 45 seconds to 1 minute.)

8. Lift a cannoli tube with a wire skimmer or large slotted spoon, out of the oil. Using tongs, grasp the cannoli tube at one end. Very carefully remove the cannoli tube with the open sides straight up and down so that the oil flows back into the pan. Place the tube on paper towels or bags to drain. Repeat with the remaining tubes. While they are still hot, grasp the tubes with a potholder and pull the cannoli shells off the tubes with a pair of tongs, or with your hand protected by an oven mitt or towel. Let the shells cool completely on the paper towels. Place shells on cooling rack until ready to fill.

9. Repeat making and frying the shells with the remaining dough. If you are reusing the cannoli tubes, let them cool before wrapping them in the dough.

DIRECTIONS FOR FILLING:
1. Line a strainer with cheesecloth. Place the ricotta in the strainer over a bowl, and cover with plastic wrap and a towel. Weight it down with a heavy can, and let the ricotta drain in the refrigerator for several hours to overnight.

2. In a bowl with electric mixer, beat ricotta until smooth and creamy. Beat in confectioner’s sugar, cinnamon, vanilla and blend until smooth.  (My ricotta was a little too drained but I just added some heavy cream and the filling came out perfect.)  Transfer to another bowl and stir in chocolate and zest. Chill until firm. (The filling can be made up to 24 hours prior to filling the shells. Just cover and keep refrigerated).

ASSEMBLE THE CANNOLI:
1. When ready to serve…fill a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain or star tip, or a ziplock bag, with the ricotta cream. If using a ziplock bag, cut about 1/2 inch off one corner. Insert the tip in the cannoli shell and squeeze gently until the shell is half filled. Turn the shell and fill the other side. You can also use a teaspoon to do this, although it’s messier and will take longer.

2. Press or dip cannoli in chopped pistachios, grated chocolate/mini chocolate chips, candied fruit or zest into the cream at each end. Dust with confectioner’s sugar and/or drizzles of melted chocolate if desired.

Ginger Pumpkin Sconelets

Ginger Pumpkin Sconelets

Ginger Pumpkin Sconelets

Adapted from the King Arther recipe

2 3/4 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

1/3 cup sugar

3/4 tsp salt

1 Tbsp baking powder

2 tsp powdered ginger

1/2 cup cold butter

1/2 cup chopped candied ginger

3/4 cup pumpkin puree

2 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup milk

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.  Mix together the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and ginger.  Cut in the butter until it is crumbly.  Add the candied ginger and mix.  Whisk together the pumpkin, vanilla and milk.  Add to the dry ingredients and mix until just incorporated, don’t over mix or you will have tough scones.  Dump the dough on to the lined cookie sheet and from a 8″x8″ square about 3/4 of an inch thick.  Place in freezer for 30 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 425*F.  Using a pizza cutter cut the dough into sixteen squares and then cut each square into two triangles.  You should have 32 small triangles now.  Spread them out on the cookie sheet and bake in the oven for 20-22 minutes, until golden brown.  Remove from oven and let cool on sheet for five minutes and then move to cooling rack and cool completely.  Make 32 scones.

Vanilla Glaze

1 cup sifted confectioners sugar

1 tsp vanilla

2-3 Tbsp milk

Mix all ingredients together until it forms a thin glaze.  Drizzle the glaze over the scones to coat the top of each one.

Why are they called Cowboy Cookies?

Cause they have nuts!

Hehe.

I had never heard of Cowboy Cookies before but when I got the new “Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar” they were one of the recipes that I wanted to try.  I couldn’t figure out why they were called Cowboy Cookies though, I mean what does oatmeal, coconut, pecans and chocolate have to do with cowboys?  Then my cousin, Sophie, filled me in.  I guess it all makes sense…

Anyway, these are awesome cookies.  They are chewy and dense in a good way, very moist in the center and full of chocolate and toasted pecans.  They are also huge!  They are the size of two regular cookies but I still wanted to eat more than one because they were so delicious.  I made 20 cookies and they were gone in less than a day, we were fighting over the last cookie too.  I would bake these when you are going to be alone so you can have them all to yourself.  Maybe that is why they are called Cowboy Cookies, because you need to be miles from the nearest person to keep from sharing!

Cowboy CookiesCowboy Cookies

From “Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar”

2 cups quick-cooking oats

2 cups all-purpose flour (I used white wheat)

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

2/3 cup canola oil

2/3 cup sugar

3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar (I used light brown)

1/2 cup nondairy milk (I used soy)

1 Tbsp ground flax seed

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup shredded coconut

1 generous cup semisweet chocolate chunks or chips

1 cup toasted pecan pieces*

Preheat oven to 350*F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  In a medium size bowl, stir together the oats, flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.  In a large bowl, beat together the oil, sugar, brown sugar, nondairy milk, flax seeds and vanilla.  Fold in the coconut and then half the flour mixture.  Fold in the remaining flour, adding the chocolate and pecans before the mixture is completely combined.  For each cookie, drop a 1/4 cup of dough onto the cookie sheets.  Leave about 2 inches between each cookie.  Flatten each cookie slightly using moistened fingers.  Bake for 14-16 minutes, until edges start to brown.  Let cookies cool on cookies sheet for five minutes and then move to cooling rack.  Store in a loosely covered container.  Makes 2 dozen.

*To toast pecans, place them on a baking sheet and place them in the oven as it preheats.  Keep a close eye on them, they should be fragrant and just golden brown when done.  Let them cool before chopping and adding to the cookies.

Prizewinning!!! Peanut Butter Cup Pie

Our local paper the Concord Monitor held a Thanksgiving pie contest last week.  The results came out earlier this week and I placed fifth!  I was so excited!  You can see the top five recipes here.

The pie I made was my favorite Peanut Butter Cup Pie.  It is so quick and easy, especially if you use a ready made graham cracker crust.  It is even vegan.  Don’t be scared of the tofu, I swear you can’t taste it.  I like to feed it to people who don’t eat tofu and not tell them until after they eat the pie.  I know it is a little evil but they are always pleasantly surprised.  This picture are not the greatest but really how do you make brown pie look beautiful?

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie

Prizewinning Peanut Butter Cup Pie

14 oz silken tofu

1/2 cup maple syrup or agave

1 cup peanut butter

1 cup chocolate chips

1 prepared graham cracker crust

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the tofu and maple syrup. In a small microwave-safe bowl, combine the peanut butter and chocolate chips. Microwave for 30 seconds then stir and microwave in 15-second intervals, stirring each time, until melted and smooth. With the blade running, slowly pour the chocolate peanut butter mixture into the food processor. Scrape down the sides of the work bowl and process until smooth. Pour into graham cracker crust and refrigerate at least four hours or overnight. Serves 12.

Cookbook Review: Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar

I had ordered “Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar” in August not realizing that it was not going to be published until last month.  It was a long wait for it to arrive in my mail box last week but boy was it worth it!  I had heard so many good things about Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero’s (of The Post Punk Kitchen) first book “Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World” that I was excited to see they were doing a cookie book.  As much as I like cupcakes, cookies are my favorite thing to bake, they are easy to mix up and just the right size to grab when you need a little pick me up.

I have already made three of their recipes and they have all been really good. First I made the Brekky Banana Cookies, which were lovely, chewy little cookies that taste just like Banana Bread.  Next I made Mexican Chocolate Snickerdoodles, although I left out the Mexican part, and the Peanut Butter Blondies for a girl’s night out.  Everyone loved them and the few leftovers were devoured at home.

The nice thing about this book is you don’t need all sorts of weird ingredients, they use things that can be found in most households.  There are some recipes that call for tofu and some that use ground flax seed but those can be found in most grocery stores.  The other thing that is nice is that a bunch of the recipes call for oil instead of vegan margarine, it is nice to have that option for when I can’t get to the big city and buy margarine.  I can’t wait to make more cookies from this book.

Cookies on a board

From left to right: Brekky Banana Cookies, Peanut Butter Blondies, Mexican Chocolate Snickerdoodles

Brekky Banana Cookies

Adapted from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar

1 very ripe medium banana

1/3 cup canola oil

2/3 cup agave

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup white wheat flour

2 Tbsp ground flax seed

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp cinnamon

2 cups quick cooking or rolled oats (I used rolled oats)

1/2 cups chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350*F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper, or light grease.  In a mixing bowl, mash the banana well.  Add the oil, agave, and vanilla and mix with a strong fork.  Add the flour, flax seed, baking soda, salt and cinnamon and mix until the dry ingredients are just moistened.  Add the oatmeal and walnuts and mix well.  Roll the dough into balls slightly smaller than a golf ball.  Flatten it a bit in your hands and place each ball about 2 inches apart on the cookie sheet.  Bake for 10-12 minutes, until lightly browned.  Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for 2 minutes, then transfer them to a cooling rack.

Mexican Chocolate Snickerdoodles

Adapted From Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar

For the topping:

1/3 cup sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

For the cookies:

1/2 cup canola oil

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup maple syrup or agave (I used agave)

3 Tbsp nondairy milk

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 2/3 cups white wheat flour

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon  (the original recipe called for a 1/2 tsp of cinnamon and a 1/2 tsp of cayenne)

Preheat oven to 350*F.  Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.  Mix the topping ingredients together on a large dinner plate.  Set aside.  In a medium-size mixing bowl, use a fork to vigorously mix together the oil, sugar, syrup or agave, milk and vanilla.  Sift in the remaining ingredients, stirring as you add them.  Once all the ingredients are added, mix until you’ve got a pliable dough.  Roll the dough into walnut-size balls.  Pat the dough balls into the sugar topping to flatten into roughly 2-inch discs.  Transfer the dough balls to a baking sheet, sugar side up, at least 2 inches apart (they do spread).  Bake 10 to 12 minutes; they should be a bit spread and crackly on top.  Remove the cookies from the oven and let the cool for 5 minutes, then transfer them to wire racks to cool completely.

Peanut Butter Blondies

Adapted from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar

3/4 cup peanut butter

1/3 cup oil

1 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup nondairy milk

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup white wheat flour

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/3 cup chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350*F.  Lightly grease a metal 8×8 inch baking dish.  In a mixing bowl, use a fork to vigorously mix together peanut butter, oil, and sugar.  Stir in the milk and vanilla.  Stir in the flour, salt and baking powder.  Once you get the flour somewhat mixed in, it’s easier to just use your hands to knead the dough until soft.  It will be very very thick and won’t spread on its own.  Transfer dough to the baking pan and press it into place.  Sprinkle the chocolate chips on top and lightly press them into the dough.  Bake for 22 to 25 minutes; the blondie edges should be just barely darkened.  The top will appear soft, and that’s okay.  Remove the blondies from the oven and cool completely before slicing.