Category Archives: dessert

Chocolate Hazelnut Crackles (Nutella Cookies)

This post combines two of my favourites, reading mysteries and baking. And chocolate. (But that’s pretty low down on my list of faves, to be honest.)

I’ve read almost all of the Joanne Fluke mysteries but can’t remember trying out any of the recipes she includes in each novel until I finished “Blackberry Pie Murder” late last night. One of the cookie recipes featured Nutella, and since I have most of a jar of the hazelnut chocolate spread in my pantry, I thought I’d give it a try. I just made half the recipe (2 1/2 – 3 dozen cookies) as I didn’t want to use up most of my unsalted butter.

The cookies were very good freshly baked, though I think they were even better a few hours later as the flavour developed/ripened. They’re not overly sweet so I liked them better than many sweeter cookies I’ve tried. I baked for the shorter time suggested as I wanted a chewy rather than a crunchy result. If you don’t want to just eat them plain with a cup of cold milk, turn them into ice cream sandwiches. If you want a fancier presentation, press a small hazelnut on top of the cookie ball before baking.

If you don’t think you can get a hold of the book from your library, you can find the recipe on line at “The Sugared Teacup” blog. (Sorry, the direct link is no longer valid.) below.

Chocolate Hazelnut Crackles (Nutella Cookies) – makes 5 to 6 dozen cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 cups brown sugar, firmly packed
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup Nutella
2 large eggs, well beaten
3 cups all-purpose flour

Melt the butter (in a saucepan or microwave) and pour into a large mixing bowl. Add the brown sugar and vanilla. Beat well until the sugar is mixed in well. Add the baking soda, baking powder, and salt and stir.

Add the Nutella and stir in until smooth and then add the beaten eggs and stir.

Add the flour and continue mixing until all the ingredients are thoroughly combined.

Form the dough into walnut-sized (~1 tbsp) balls and place them on a greased (or parchment paper lined) cookie sheet, 12 to a half sheet. (If the dough is too sticky to form into balls, chill it for a half hour or so).

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Bake the cookies for 8 to 10 minutes. The balls will flatten out all by themselves. (Note: For more chewy cookies, bake at the lesser time.)

Cool the cookies on the cookie sheet for 2 minutes and then remove them to a wire rack with a thin metal spatula to finish cooling.

*****

Recipe from Joanne Fluke’s Blackberry Pie Murder. New York: Kensington Publishing Corporation, 2014.

Sweets to the Sweet … Raspberry Jello Mini Meringues

NOTE: I’ve made all three desserts (citrus curd, madeleines and meringues) before. However, there’s a new TWIST for the meringue recipe.

Although not having a huge sweet tooth, I recently developed a lemon craving and decided to make lemon curd with the two lemons in my fridge. I had enough citrus juice for my recipe as I was able to supplement the shortage with lime juice, but ran short of zest for my second planned dessert … madeleines. I was sure I had some lemon zest in the freezer but I was wrong and ended up using orange zest instead. I love that citrus varieties are mostly interchangeable in cooking.

After making a batch of lemon curd, I ended up with extra egg whites.

Now, I’ve tossed more than my share of egg whites down the drain in my time,  as I can only eat so many meringues and pavlovas and my single attempt at sponge cake was met with disaster. However, these bright coloured mini meringues caught my eye while web surfing. They get their colour and flavour from something that many of us have in our pantries … a package of Jello. You’ll notice that the vibrant colour of the mixture pales dramatically as the whites are being beaten so, if you want something brighter, you’ll  have to add gel paste to boost the colour of the final product.

Raspberry Jello mini meringues – You can find the recipe for these meringues on line here.

I decided to pipe these mini meringues I was hoping for lovely ridges on the final product but I had problems getting stiff peaks, and the ridges softened by the time I got the entire tray piped and into the oven. Of course, you can spoon out larger mounds and and serve them as colourful pavlovas topped with whipped cream and fresh fruits.

Orange poppy seed madeleines – Madeleine pans will give your little cakes the classic design when presented bottom side up, but if you don’t have any, you can certainly bake the little butter cakes in mini muffin tins.

Duck Fat Brioche, Oreo Fudge and Chicken Livers

Work is slow in January, after the return from the Christmas break, and as teachers gear up for the last few weeks before the end of the fall semester. So, when I was at home on the first day back, I decided to make another batch of the duck fat brioche dough that I’ve posted already. In the meantime, I’ve eaten several of the rolls I made and assembled sandwiches from the rest, which are all wrapped up and in the freezer. So, I need bread.

I decided to post the brioche recipe to make it more convenient for anyone who wants to give it a try and doesn’t want to have to deal with eliminating the sourdough starter from the recipe.

You can shape the dough in various ways, as seen in the previous post. I made 9 inch long hoagies and rolls using a couple of different braiding techniques, this time.

One strand braids, Easter wreaths and a mini hoagie

Duck Fat Brioche Dough – makes ~ 1 kg/2.2 lb dough, enough for about 16 buns or rolls

1 cup warm milk (or 1 cup water and 1 tbsp milk powder)
1 tbsp dry active yeast
1 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
4 1/4-4 1/2 all purpose flour (or a combination of all purpose, bread and semolina flour), divided
1/4 cup melted duck fat (or bacon fat or butter, if you can’t get the duck fat )
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 large egg and 1 tbsp water, for egg wash

Dissolve the sugar in the warm milk, then stir in the yeast. Let sit and proof until foamy, about 10-15 min depending on temperature in the room.

In a large bowl, add 2 cups of flour and the salt and mix through. Make a well in the middle and add your eggs, melted fat and yeast mixture. Beat well with a large wooden or metal spoon until you get a sticky batter. Gradually stir in the remaining flour, 1/3-1/2 cup at a time until you can no longer stir it and a ball starts forming around the spoon. Turn the batter onto a lightly floured working surface and gradually knead in more flour until you get a soft but not sticky dough. It will take you about 7-10 minutes. You can take a break after 5 minutes. Cover the dough with the bowl that you made your bread in and after a few minutes continue kneading.

Oil a large bowl, place your ball of dough into the bowl and turn it around a bit so the ball gets lightly coated with oil as well. Cover the bowl with a large sheet of plastic food wrap and a clean towel and place in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size, 1 – 1 1/2 hr depending on the temperature in the room.

Turn the risen dough out onto a lightly floured surface and cut into 2 portions. Divide each half into 8 portions and shape as desired.

Cover with an oiled sheet of plastic food wrap (oil the one you used previously) and a clean towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 45 min to 1 hr.

Preheat the oven to 425 deg F. (For the buns or rolls, you can preheat the oven to 375-400 deg F.)

Brush the buns or rolls with egg wash and bake until the top is golden brown and the bottom is firm, about 18-22 minutes. If you think you need to bake a bit longer, cover the tops with a sheet of aluminum foil and continue baking for several more minutes.

Hoagie buns – you can make about 8 6-8 inch long buns (113.5 g/ 1/4 lb each). When baked, you’ll end up with a 9 inch long hoagie or submarine bun. For 12 inch hoagies, you might want to use double the amount of dough (227 g/ 1/2 lb)

For the Oreo cookie fudge switch-up, I used the basic vanilla fudge recipe, added a couple of ounces of finely shaved white chocolate and 6 crumbled Oreo cookies.

I know not everyone likes chicken livers but I do. So I bought 2 pounds, cleaned them up and then fried them in a couple of tablespoons of canola oil with a finely chopped onion, a splash of French brandy and a bit of paprika for colour. Delicious over mashed potatoes or the creamy polenta below.

Happy New Year! … Leg of Lamb Roast and Oreo Cheesecake

Sorry for the belated post but I’ve been a bit lazy so I’ve got a bunch of stuff to share.

I made an Oreo cheesecake to go with my simple boneless leg of lamb roast New Year’s dinner.

The slices I cut for my dinner were from the fatty end of the roast and a BIT underdone so the roast, including the slices you see on the plate, went back into the oven for another 15 minutes. (Lesson learned, try the directions ON the package before you get creative.) The lamb looked like the picture below when I ate it.

The much nicer end of the roast

I didn’t have a lot of inspiration for a pretty cheesecake plating so here’s a profile shot.

Most of the cheesecake went into the freezer.

December 2016 Cooking Wrap-Up

Cooking wise, if not in other respects, 2016 has been a successful year.

I made a second sourdough starter with canned pineapple juice and whole wheat flour and then made some great breads with it. I thickened it up quite a bit compared to the one I made in 2105 and that may have accounted for some of the success. Experience helped as well, as I’m less hesitant about trying new sourdough recipes. I did revisit the old stand-by, regular yeast, and made a delicious honey challah just before Christmas. Definitely something I’ll be repeating next year.

Bacon, Cheddar Cheese and Cracked Black Pepper Sourdough loaf and round Honey Challah

Crumb of the challah

Cooking on an even stricter budget than ever before resulted in having to be creative with simple ingredients bought on sale, like chicken, pork and ground beef, or leftovers, and the results were mostly successful. You’ll have to scroll back through the posts to see them. I do miss fish, seafood and steak however. I’m also grocery shopping less often and there’s less wastage as I try to use up what’s most perishable first. I’m also going back to basics with the dishes I’ve been making such as cookies and fudge. I haven’t been buying as many jarred sauces as in the past, while using up the ones I already have in things like stir-fries.

The meat sauce I made recently with a simple spaghetti sauce base was delicious as well as economical.  One pound of ground beef was stretched to make eight cups of sauce.

I turned some leftover mashed sweet potato into muffins with raisins for added sweetness using a recipe found on Rachel Ray’s web site.

And because I missed seafood … I bought a package of mussels in garlic sauce on sale, and one of cooked shrimp, and made this pasta dish with the spaghetti sauce.

Christmas Duck Dinner (2016)

Christmas for one doesn’t have to be dull and boring. I always set the table for two. This year, I used my mom’s Christmas china … I bought it for her at Canadian Tire many, many years ago. The turkey platter (only $10) picked up at the same place is perfect for this year’s duck. I found the old linen tablecloth tucked away under a stack of ‘good’ dish towels in the bathroom closet.

Duck and orange is a classic pairing but, instead of an orange sauce, I added oranges to my kale salad and dressing. Or rather, Kraft did.

Drippings from roasting the duck made a tasty base for gravy.

Bread pudding made with leftover Nutella, chocolate and pecan babka, Bree Drummond’s easy caramel sauce and a scoop of French vanilla ice cream

I spent a bit over $13 CDN for the duck (2.3 kg) but there’s enough meat for at least 4-5 servings. And the carcass (not in the picture) will end up as stock.

Date Nut Quick Bread (Repost from LJ)

I was gifted with a 2 pound tub of dried dates this week and while searching for a good recipe ran across my own post on LJ from February 2015. I didn’t start posting seriously to this blog until the following month and I started by reposting a few older recipes/posts that I was particularly proud of. This simple quick bread wasn’t considered worthy of inclusion, at that time, but I’ve grown to appreciate its merits, so here you go.

Date and Pecan Quick Bread – makes one – 9 x 5 x 3 inch (23 x 13 x 8 cm) loaf, or two – 8 x 4 x 2 1/2 inch (20 x 10 x 6.5 cm) loaves

8 oz (225 grams) dried pitted dates, coarsely chopped (about 1 1/2 cups firmly packed coarsely chopped dates)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup (240 ml) boiling water
1/2 cup (50 grams) pecans or walnuts
2 cups (260 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (105 grams) firmly packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (optional)
1/2 cup (113 grams) cold unsalted butter, diced
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

In a bowl mix the chopped dates with the baking soda and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Pour 1 cup (240 ml) of boiling water over the dates, stir, and leave to cool to room temperature (this takes about 30 minutes).

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Butter a loaf pan or spray it with a nonstick vegetable spray.

Then line the bottom of the pan with a piece of parchment paper. (NOTE: I used disposable aluminum pans and just sprayed with PAM, no parchment paper needed.)

Place the walnuts on a baking sheet and bake at 350 deg F for about 8-10 minutes or until lightly brown and fragrant. Let cool and then chop coarsely.

Place the flour, sugar, baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon salt and ground cinnamon in a large bowl. Add the diced butter and using a pastry blender, cut in until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Stir in the chopped walnuts.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg with the vanilla extract.

Then add the beaten egg mixture and the cooled dates (along with the water) to the flour mixture and stir just until combined.

Place the batter into your prepared pan, smoothing the top with the back of a spoon.

Bake about 55 to 65 minutes or until the bread is golden brown and set, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Place on a wire rack to cool and then remove the bread from the pan. This bread will keep for several days at room temperature. It can also be frozen.

NOTE: I divided the mixture evenly among 2 aluminum pans and baked for a total of 40 minutes, rotating the pans after 20 minutes.

Coconut Oatmeal Cookies

Simple to make, with a crisp texture and just a bit sweet, a batch of these cookies can be put together while your oven preheats and the butter is melted.

Coconut Oatmeal Cookies – makes 5-6 dozen cookies

NOTE: 2nd amount is for a half recipe

2 cups oatmeal (rolled oats)                                  / 1 cup
3 cups Baker’s Sweetened Coconut                     / 1 1/2 cups
2 cups flour                                                                 / 1 cup
2 cups sugar, white                                                  / 1 cup
2 tsp baking powder                                                / 1 tsp
2 cups (4 sticks) melted butter**, cooled        / 1 cup
2 eggs, slightly beaten                                           / 1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract                                                 / 1/2 tsp

** used salted butter

Preheat oven to 350 deg F.

Combine all dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Add the wet ingredients and make sure everything is mixed together. The dough will be wet and sticky.

Place teaspoonfuls of the batter on a cookie sheet about 2 inches apart. The cookies will spread so only add 12 cookies per sheet.

Bake for 12-15 until the cookies are golden brown around the edges.

Let cool on baking sheet for 10 min then transfer to a cooling rack using a thin flexible metal spatula.

* * *

Trial 1 (cookies on the left): Cookies were baked right after the dough was mixed. It took 15 min for the edges to brown and the bottom to be golden. Spread quite a bit.

Trial 2 (cookies on the right) : In an attempt to reduce the spreading, the rest of the dough was shaped into 1 inch balls and refrigerated for 30 min. A second tray was baked at that point. Butter was observed to ooze out and pool around the cookie after about 5-10 minutes. As the cookies were not done after 15 min, they were baked for an additional 5 minutes. During this time, the butter disappeared. Next time, I might reduce the butter used, by 2-4 tbsp on a half recipe.

* * *

Peanut Butter and Chocolate-Mint Fudge

I know it seems like I’m a bit fudge obsessed lately but it’s the easiest sweet I can make with pantry ingredients I have right now.

And, I’m still ticked off at the thought of paying $16 a pound (check Amazon if you don’t believe me) for something anyone can make at home, without a candy thermometer. And for someone who has candy making issues, that’s a strong statement.

So, on Friday, I made Peanut Butter fudge. I wonder what substituting the peanut butter with Nutella would taste like? Anyone want to give this a try? Maybe just a half recipe.

I know it’s not pretty but I recycled an aluminum foil loaf pan cause it was the only thing I had that was the right size. There’s a block of vanilla fudge in the picture for a colour comparison.

Peanut Butter Fudge – makes about 3 pounds

2 cups brown sugar
2 cups white sugar
1 cup milk
1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Mix brown and white sugar with the milk in large pot; bring mixture to a boil. Stir in peanut butter and butter, reduce heat to medium and bring the mixture back to boil (stirring constantly). Remove the pot from the heat once the temperature has reached 115 C/239 F or the soft ball stage. Let cool for 5 min.

Add vanilla to the mixture; stir vigorously until the fudge looses its glossy sheen. Pour fudge into a buttered 8×8″ pan. Let cool and cut into 1 inch pieces.

Trial 2: (10/20/2016) Made a half batch of the original recipe. Melted ingredients at medium-high and once it started boiling, I reduced the heat to medium (5). It only took 6-7 min. of boiling to get to the soft ball stage. Stirred for a few minutes and then put the pan into a sink with an inch or so of cold water and in a few minutes more of stirring, it was thick enough to pour. Pour FAST and scrape out with firm spatula so you get most of the stuff on the sides and bottom into your pan.

And yesterday, I made Chocolate-Mint fudge using the vanilla fudge recipe as a base. This is the best textured batch of fudge I’ve made to date.

Chocolate-Mint Variation: After letting the fudge cool, for 5 minutes, I added 1 oz of finely chopped high cocoa fat chocolate to the mixture and 1 tsp of mint extract and beat it until the chocolate had melted and the fudge had lost its sheen while still being pourable.

You can use the basic vanilla fudge recipe to make many variations by adding different extracts, food colourings to part or all of it, nuts or dried fruits. A Black Forest variation with well drained maraschino cherries and a pink fudge layer comes to mind.