Archive for December, 2008

Latkes

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008

In honor of Hanukkah, which David and I do not celebrate, we had corned beef and potato latkes for dinner last night. Really, this was just an excuse to eat corned beef and latkes, which are both delicious. The corned beef was just a pre-made roast cooked in my new crock pot, so nothing fancy or difficult there. I did look at a few recipes online, and took the recommendation to add some apple cider vinegar to the liquid in the crockpot. It turned out well–very flavorful, and the leftovers were good enough that we had to fight a little over who got the last sandwich. I won.

I also made Latkes for the first time, using this recipe from Smitten Kitchen. The directions and tips were spot on. The cheesecloth made draining the potatoes quick and painless. There’s a surprising amount of water in potatoes!

The potato pancakes turned out great. They were golden and crispy in just a few minutes. I served them with sour cream and applesauce. There wasn’t a single one left, which is a good sign.

Potato Pancakes [Latkes]

1 large baking potato (1 pound), peeled
1 small onion (4 ounces), peeled (I used the remaining Mayan Sweet from the French Onion Soup, grated on a microplane )
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Peanut oil, for frying (Olive Oil worked fine)

In a food processor or on a box grater, coarsely shred the potato and onion. For longer strands, lay the potato sideways in the chute of your food processor. Transfer to a colander or wrap in a cheesecloth sling, and squeeze as dry as possible. Let stand for 2 minutes, then squeeze dry again.

In a large bowl, whisk the flour, egg, salt and pepper together. Stir in the potato onion mixture until all pieces are evenly coated.

In a medium skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil until shimmering. Drop packed teaspoons of the potato mixture into the skillet and flatten them with the back of a spoon. Cook the latkes over moderately high heat until the edges are golden, about 1 1/2 minutes; flip and cook until golden on the bottom, about 1 minute. Drain on paper towels. Repeat with the remaining potato mixture, adding more oil to the skillet as needed.

P.S. Happy New Year!

French Onion Soup

Tuesday, December 30th, 2008

As I’ve said before, Alton Brown is usually our first stop when looking to make a classic dish for the first time. This post is mostly about David’s adventures in French Onion Soup, since he is the one who likes french onion soup, wanted to make french onion soup, and received a Christmas gift of soup crocks for the sole purpose of making french onion soup.

I, personally, am not a big fan of onions. I used to avoid them altogether, but now I can use them sparingly and pick around them. I don’t even mind the flavor of them, most times. I would say that I’m growing into them. I can certainly get behind the traditional cheesy crouton topping on french onion soup.  Still, onion soup is a lot of onions. So this one was all David.

A month or so ago, David set out to make french onion soup. He watched the appropriate episode of Good Eats, printed out the recipe from Food Network, bought Mayan Sweet onions, Italian Fontina, and our favorite sourdough bread at Costco, and was all ready to make them, until we realized that our Corningware ramekins weren’t safe to use under the broiler. That disappointment made broiler-safe soup bowls the perfect Christmas gift for David.

Shopping on behalf of my grandmother, I purchased four soup crocks for David the weekend after Thanksgiving, and they’ve been wrapped up under the tree ever since. Of course, in the spirit of Christmas, I didn’t mention them, and David’s desire for french onion soup waned. That is, until David and I went out with my parents for dinner at a fancy-pants steakhouse, and David ordered their Baked 5 Onion Soup as a starter. My mom, who had been shopping with me after Thanksgiving, turned to David while he was eating his soup and said “How did you like your little soup things?”

A week before Christmas.

With the proverbial cat out of the bag, David began looking forward to making his own french onion soup. Fast forward to the week after Christmas. Soup crocks in hand, David got everything together to make French Onion Soup yesterday, and this time, it was a success.

Alton Brown’s French Onion Soup
Makes about 8 bowls of soup

Ingredients

  • 5 sweet onions (like Vidalias) or a combination of sweet and red onions (about 4 pounds) (We used Mayan Sweet, and they were very sweet)
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups white wine (we used a dry chardonnay)
  • 10 ounces canned beef consume
  • 10 ounces chicken broth
  • 10 ounces apple cider (unfiltered is best) (We used organic apple juice, because cider wasn’t available)
  • Bouquet garni; thyme sprigs, bay leaf and parsley tied together with kitchen string
  • 1 loaf country style bread (We used Boudin sourdough bread)
  • Kosher salt
  • Ground black pepper
  • Splash of Cognac (optional) (We used brandy)
  • 1 cup Fontina or Gruyere cheese grated (We chose Fontina, yum!)

Directions

Trim the ends off each onion then halve lengthwise. Remove peel and finely slice into half moon shapes. Set electric skillet to 300 degrees and add butter. We do not have an electric skillet, and did not buy one just for this recipe. This step worked just fine in a stock pot on the stove over medium-low heat. Once butter has melted add a layer of onions and sprinkle with a little salt. Repeat layering onions and salt until all onions are in the skillet. Do not try stirring until onions have sweated down for 15 to 20 minutes. After that, stir occasionally until onions are dark mahogany and reduced to approximately 2 cups. This should take 45 minutes to 1 hour. Do not worry about burning.

Add enough wine to cover the onions and turn heat to high, reducing the wine to a syrup consistency. Add consume, chicken broth, apple cider and bouquet garni. Reduce heat and simmer 15 to 20 minutes.

Place oven rack in top 1/3 of oven and heat broiler.

Cut country bread in rounds large enough to fit mouth of oven safe soup crocks. Place the slices on a baking sheet and place under broiler for 1 minute.

Season soup mixture with salt, pepper and cognac. Remove bouquet garni and ladle soup into crocks leaving one inch to the lip. Place bread round, toasted side down, on top of soup and top with grated cheese. Broil until cheese is bubbly and golden, 1 to 2 minutes.

Note: As I said, I don’t like onions. However, this soup was quite good. It had a rich, flavorful broth, and the one slice of onion I ate tasted fine. I guess. For an onion. It was mostly mental at that point, really, because the soup was good. I especially like the part where it’s topped with a tasty crouton and melty, bubbly cheese. I love cheese.

I bet we’ll make this again. I know David enjoyed it, and I liked the broth well enough to dip my roast beef panini (my backup, in the event that I didn’t care for onion soup) in it. I thought that this version tasted better than the one at Morton’s, actually. The flavors of David’s soup were a little more layered and complex than the Five Onion Soup, and David’s was definitely sweeter.

Basic Waffles

Monday, December 29th, 2008

David and I got married in August, and we’ve been planning to use our new Cuisinart Waffle Iron ever since. Of course, we both work, and David’s definitely not a breakfast-for-dinner kind of guy, plus he usually sleeps later than I do on the weekends. The point of all that is to say that we do not end up eating breakfast together very often. So up until this weekend, we’d never gotten around to making waffles.

Alton Brown is kind of a standby for us, and when we go to make something for the first time, we usually start with his recipes. And we adore his pancake recipe, among others. The basic waffle recipe, however, seems to be lacking something. It may be that our waffle iron just isn’t hot enough, but the waffles did not get crispy. Otherwise, they were delicious. Great flavor, fluffy, not too sweet. I just wish I could’ve gotten them crispier.

Alton Brown’s Basic Waffle Recipe
Makes 8 Waffles

Ingredients

  • 4 3/4 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 1 cup
  • 4 3/4 ounces whole-wheat flour, approximately 1 cup (I did not have whole wheat flour, so I used all purpose)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 whole eggs, beaten
  • 2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
  • 16 ounces buttermilk, room temperature
  • Vegetable spray, for waffle iron

Directions

Preheat waffle iron according to manufacturer’s directions.

In a medium bowl whisk together the flours, soda, baking powder, salt, and sugar. In another bowl beat together eggs and melted butter, and then add the buttermilk. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir until combined. Allow to rest for 5 minutes.

Ladle half a cup of waffle batter onto the iron according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Close iron top and cook until the waffle is golden on both sides and is easily removed from iron. Tip: Do not press down on the lid of the waffle iron, just rest it on top of the batter. This will help reduce the mess and waste of batter dripping down the sides of the iron. Serve immediately or keep warm in a 200 degree F oven until ready to serve.

Note: I’m not sure if I’ll try to make these again–I may do what I can to adjust things and see if I can crisp them up, but I might just try a different recipe next time. The comments on Food Network’s site show that we aren’t the first people to have this issue.

I will say that the leftover waffles were excellent frozen and reheated in the toaster this morning. They were perfectly crispy; I just wish I could get them that crispy in the first place.

Coq Au Vin

Sunday, December 28th, 2008

Yesterday was a pretty great day, all in all. David and I spent the afternoon at Bed, Bath & Beyond and The Chopping Block, picking up all sorts of odds and ends that I’m very excited about, and then I made dinner. After receiving all of the cookbooks at Christmas, I knew I wanted to try something new. After a lot of debate, I settled on coq au vin. Even then, I had a choice to make, because I had two competing recipes for coq au vin, Ina Garten’s from the Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics cookbook, and Casey’s coq au vin from the Top Chef Cookbook.

I’ve never had coq au vin, though it’s been on my list of things to try for quite some time now (in part, I think I was waiting and hoping for a dutch oven, but I’m glad I went forward without it). I decided to make the Barefoot Contessa version, since it seemed to be more true to the original dish. It was a good decision.

Dinner last night was, quite honestly, one of the most delicious things I’ve eaten in a very long time.

Coq Au Vin
Adapted from The Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics by Ina Garten

  • 2 tablespoons good quality olive oil
  • 4 ounces good bacon or pancetta, diced
  • 3 1/2 lbs skin on, bone in chicken thighs
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 pound carrots, cut diagonally in 1-inch pieces
  • 1 yellow onion, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
  • 1/4 cup Cognac or good brandy
  • 1/2 bottle (375 ml) good dry red wine such as Burgundy
  • 1 cup good chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 10 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, divided
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 pound frozen small whole onions (frozen onions weren’t available at our sore, so I used ones from a jar)
  • 1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, stems removed and thickly sliced (I skipped the mushrooms)

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F.

Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven. Add the bacon and cook over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove the bacon to a plate with a slotted spoon.

Meanwhile, lay the chicken out on paper towels and pat dry. Liberally sprinkle the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper. When the bacon is removed, brown the chicken pieces in a single layer for about 5 minutes, turning to brown evenly. Remove the chicken to the plate with the bacon. Set aside.

Add the carrots, onions, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper to the pan and cook over medium heat for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute.

Add the Cognac and carefully light with a match to burn off the alcohol. Carefully.

Add the bacon, chicken, and any juices that collected on the plate back into the pot. Add the wine, chicken stock, and thyme and bring to a simmer. Cover the pot with a tight fitting lid and place in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes, until the chicken is just not pink. Remove from the oven and place on top of the stove.

Mash 1 tablespoon of butter and the flour together and stir into the stew. Add the frozen onions. In a medium saute pan, add the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter and cook the mushrooms over medium-low heat for 5 to 10 minutes, until browned. Add to the stew. Bring the stew to a simmer and cook for another 10 minutes. Season to taste. Serve hot.

Note: I served this dish with herbed mashed potatoes (my own recipe, below) and a crusty loaf of italian bread, to soak up all of the sauce. The only Burgandy available at our local wine shop was $41 a bottle, so we went with a different dry french red that the shop recommended, a Cotes du Rhone. It was dry, and flavorful, but without a fruit taste, which was exactly what this dish needed. I don’t have a good dutch oven, as I mentioned, but because the recipe you see above was cut in half from the original, I was able to put it all together in a deep, oven-safe skillet with a lid.

I will absolutely make this dish again. It was unbeliveably good, and a perfect end to a rainy day. The chicken was perfectly cooked, the vegetables had great flavor and the sauce was rich and smooth. A glamorous, gourmet sort of comfort food.

Herbed Mashed Potatoes
My own recipe

  • 4-5 large yukon gold potatoes, washed, peeled, and cubed
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 5 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves stripped and finely chopped.
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream

Place the cubed potatoes in a pot of cold, salted water and bring to a boil. Boil until fork tender, about 20-25 minutes.

Drain, and return to the hot pot, to remove any excess water. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.

Add half the butter and half the cream and mix at medium speed with a hand mixer, until lumps are gone. Add additional butter and cream until desired consistency is reached.

Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir in sour cream and fresh thyme.


Italian Chicken Sticks

Saturday, December 27th, 2008

Last night, while trying to scrounge up a dinner based on ingredients on hand, I remembered a recipe for chicken tenders that I had seen on the Food Network, and thought I would try it.

The recipe was for Paula Deen’s Italian Chicken Sticks. The recipe itself is nothing spectacular, not even the type of thing I would usually need a recipe for (I can bread chicken tenders with bread crumbs, thanks). The thing that stuck out in my mind was that in true Paula Deen fashion, the recipe starts with a stick of “buttah.” She dips the raw chicken in melted butter before dredging in the seasoned bread crumbs and then bakes the chicken fingers until crispy. It sounded just crazy enough to work. It also had a 5-Star rating on the Food Network website–I scanned the comments and didn’t find any complaints, so I went ahead and tried it.

The chicken fingers were fine, but not really enough bang for the butter-dipped caloric buck. The recipe was easy, and the chicken tenders were seasoned well and crispy, but I doubt I’ll make this recipe again. I can pull off a better “chicken stick” without the butter, thanks.

By the way, If you’re looking for a good chicken tenders recipe, I’d recommend Giada’s Crunchy Parmesan Chicken Tenders over these “sticks” any day.

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Paula Deen’s Italian Chicken Sticks

  • 1 cup seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Pinch ground red pepper
  • 8 boneless chicken breast halves, cut into 1/2-inch strips
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) melted butter
  • Marinara sauce or honey mustard, for dipping

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

In a pie plate or platter, combine the bread crumbs, Parmesan, thyme, basil, oregano, salt, garlic powder, and red pepper. Dip the chicken strips in the melted butter, then dredge them in the bread crumb mixture. Place the chicken strips in a single layer on a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through. Serve the chicken sticks hot with marinara sauce, or serve hot or cold with honey mustard.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 26th, 2008

So, I guess the secret’s out. I like to cook. And so does David.

We got so many awesome gifts this year, and the majority of them were food or kitchen related. I’m really looking forward to using all of them.

  1. The Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics cookbook.
  2. Soup Crocks from Le Gourmet Chef.
  3. Hamilton Beech 3-in-1 Slow Cooker
  4. Pinch Bowls from the Pampered Chef.
  5. A flour sifter, for all that baking I’ve been doing.
  6. New stainless steel measuring cups.
  7. A white marble mortar and pestle.
  8. A “3-in-1 Kitchen Master” that chops, grinds spices, and has some sort of electric corkscrew.
  9. Four white wine glasses.
  10. Four rocks glasses.
  11. A beer can chicken roaster.
  12. Pasta Roller and Cutter attachment set for our Kitchenaid mixer.
  13. A piping bag and tips (no more pseudo-piping with Ziploc bags for me!)
  14. Williams-Sonoma Sauteing cookbook.
  15. Top Chef: The Cookbook.
  16. Kylie Kwong’s Simple Chinese Cooking cookbook.
  17. The Best Slow Cooker One Pot & Casserole cookbook.
  18. The latest issues of Gourmet and Food & Wine magazines.
  19. An Ice Cream Maker attachment for our Kitchenaid mixer. (Technically, I got two of these, so one will have to go back to the store).
  20. A Remote Grill Thermometer.
  21. Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream & Dessert cookbook.
  22. A pouring shield for our Kitchenaid mixer.
  23. A new cooler (with an eye towards one that can hold a turkey while it’s brined)

Is that enough? You would think so. But there are a few other fabulous gifts from my husband still to come.

First, I get to go choose my own knife, because our one quality knife was chosen for him, and while it’s much better than cheap knives and it’s pretty cool, it doesn’t really fit my hand as well as it does David’s hand.  I’ve wanted one of my own for a while. Along with that, I get a Knife Skills Class from The Chopping Block. After that,  I get to choose two or three other classes from their lineup–and they all look fantastic. It looks like it’s going to be impossible to choose.

All in all, Christmas was fantastic, and I can’t wait to get into the kitchen with this stuff.

Happy Holidays, Everyone!

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies in the World

Thursday, December 25th, 2008

I know that’s quite a title. A pretty audacious claim that I’m making. And it’s hard to say, really, what the best chocolate chip cookie in the world is, because everyone’s ideal cookie is different. Some people like them crunchy, some people like them chewy, some people like dark chocolate in them, or nuts. Some people like them with M&M’s, some people like just the plain old Nestle Tollhouse kind. Or Chips Ahoy. I’m sure someone out there thinks Chips Ahoy cookies are the best chocolate chip cookies in the world. And I guess these cookies aren’t for them.

These are actually the best chocolate chip cookies in the world.

I didn’t come up with the recipe. It’s been floating around the internet for a while now, ever since it was published in the New York Times. Oddly enough, David came across it through his various internet sources about the same time that Orangette convinced me to make them.

I’m glad she did!

These cookies are delicious. They manage to be crispy on the outside, but chewy on the inside. They are delicious on their own, but stand up well against a glass of milk. You might not be able to tell from the picture below, but they are HUGE for homemade chocolate chip cookies. 4 or 5 inches across, easily.

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Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from The New York Times

Like Orangette, I have to plug the use of the kitchen scale here. Both volume and weight measurements are included, but using the scale is so much easier. I just put the bowl from my stand mixer right on top of the scale, tare it, and measure away. It’s super simple! If you have a scale, I recommend using it. If you don’t have a scale, I recommend that you get one!

  • 2 cups minus 2 Tbsp. (8 ½ oz.) cake flour
  • 1 2/3 cups (8 ½ oz.) bread flour
  • 1 ¼ tsp. baking soda
  • 1 ½ tsp. baking powder
  • 1 ½ tsp. coarse salt, such as kosher
  • 2 ½ sticks (1 ¼ cups; 10 oz.) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 ¼ cups (10 oz.) light brown sugar
  • 1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. (8 oz.) granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 ¼ pounds bittersweet chocolate chips or chunks, preferably about 60% cacao content, such as Ghirardelli
  • Sea salt, such as Maldon (I skipped this, because I don’t have it)

Combine flours, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Whisk well; then set aside.

Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars until very light and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Mix in the vanilla. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Reduce the mixer speed to low; then add dry ingredients, and mix until just combined. Add the chocolate chips, and mix briefly to incorporate. Press plastic wrap against the dough, and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. The dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.

When you’re ready to bake, preheat oven to 350°F. Remove the bowl of dough from the refrigerator, and allow it to soften slightly. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat.

Using a standard-size ice cream scoop  scoop six mounds of dough onto the baking sheet, making sure to space them evenly. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt, and bake until golden brown but still soft, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer the baking sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then transfer the cookies onto the rack to cool a bit more.

Repeat with remaining dough.

Yield: About 24 (5-inch) cookies.

P.S. Merry Christmas, Everyone!

Holiday Peppermint Bark

Wednesday, December 24th, 2008

My secret santa at work bought me a whole great gift basket of baking supplies, as I mentioned before. The basket included, among other things, a Nestle Tollhouse cookbook. The book is full of cute, simple recipes. They’re easy to follow, include great pictures, and even better, the book is built like a kid’s board book, so you can simply wipe off any stray cookie ingredients that end up splattering the pages.

I am not the neatest cook in the world.

There were a number of recipes that looked tasty and worth a try, but the one that I sampled this time around was the Holiday Peppermint Bark. It was so simple that I’m almost afraid to disclose the recipe here. It looks fancy and tastes great, and those who have tried it will lose respect for me when they learn how simple it really was. But here goes.

Nestle’s Best Loved Recipes – Holiday Peppermint Bark
Makes about 1 pound of candy

  • 2 Cups (one 12 ounce package) White Chocolate Chips (Yup, I use Nestle Premier White Morsels)
  • 24 hard peppermint candies, unwrapped.
  1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Microwave morsels in medium-sized microwave-safe bowl on medium-high setting (70%) for 1 minute. Stir. Microwave at additional 10 to 15 second intervals, stirring just until morsels are melted.
  3. Place peppermint candies in a heavy-duty Ziploc bag. Crush candies using rolling pin or other heavy object.  While holding a strainer over the melted chocolate, pour crushed candy into strainer. Shake to release all small candy pieces into the melted chocolate. Reserve larger pieces in the strainer. Stir chocolate-peppermint mixture.
  4. Spread mixture on prepared baking sheet. Spring with reserved candy pieces and press in lightly. Let stand for about 1 hour or until firm. Break into pieces.

I really enjoyed this recipe. It was ridiculously simple, and the results are really very tasty. Yes, I know that white chocolate is not chocolate, strictly speaking, but that’s okay. I thought the bark looked pretty impressive for how easy it was to make. I’m sure I’ll make this again.

Peanut Butter Thumbprint Cookies with Salted Peanut Caramel

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

Out of this year’s batch of Christmas cookies, this has been far and away everyone’s favorite.

The result is a crispy peanut butter cookie, with a creamy caramel and chopped peanuts at the center. To finish them, I piped some of the extra chocolate topping leftover from the Paradise Macaroons over the top (and by piped, I mean put into a ziploc bag, snipped the corner, and squeezed–but whatever works!).

I found this recipe on another blog, but I can’t seem to find it right now. I’ll have to link to it when I do.

Peanut Butter Cookies with Peanut Caramel

Adapted from The Art and Soul of Baking by Cindy Mushet

Cookie Dough:

  • 8 tablespoons (115g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (120g) packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup (200g) creamy  peanut butter (use regular peanut butter, not any fancy natural type).
  • 1 3/4 cups (250g) flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat the oven to 350F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the butter, brown and granulated sugar until smooth. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until well blended.

3. Beat in the peanut butter.

4. In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the peanut butter mixture and beat until there are no patches of flour. Be careful to add the flour in small batches, or you will end up with a cloud of flour in your kitchen.

5. Scoop up tablespoon-sized portions of the dough (I used a cookie scooper, kind of like a miniature ice cream scoop) and roll each piece between your hands so they’re as smooth as possible. Try to avoid cracks whenever possible.

6. Space them 1 1/2-inches apart on the baking sheets, and use your thumb to make an indentation at the center of each one. The sides will crack; just push them back together as much as possible.

7. Bake the cookies for 13-16 minutes, rotating the baking sheets midway during cooking, until they are light-golden brown and the edges barely start to darken. Remove from oven, and while they’re warm, press in to reinforce each depression. Your original indentations will have puffed up, and they need to be replaced. They’ll be too hot to use your thumb–I used the cork from a wine bottle, and it was perfect, but you could also use the end of a wooden spoon. Let cool completely.

Salted Peanut Caramel:

  • 1 cup (250ml) heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup (125ml) water
  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup (100g) finely chopped roasted salted peanuts

8. Start by warming the cream in a saucepan or in the microwave. You want it to be hot, but not to the point that it boils.

9. Cook the water, 1 cup sugar, corn syrup, and salt in a saucepan over medium-high heat until it turns a nice, golden brown color.

10. Remove from heat and immediately whisk in the hot cream in a slow, steady stream.

11. As it cools, the caramel will set up. When it has thickened to a caramel sauce, but is still pourable, mix in the chopped peanuts. Spoon some of the caramel into each cooled cookie.

Note: As I mentioned above, I used some of the leftover chocolate from the Paradise Macaroons, and it finishes the cookies nicely. Be sure to let the filled cookies cool for at least an hour before trying to top with chocolate. Also, I had at least twice a much caramel as I actually needed, and while I can imagine a number of possibilities for it, I wasn’t prepared for any of them, so it went to waste.

I will definitely make these cookies again. I think they’d be great filled with jelly or jam, for a PB&J flavor, or maybe with pure chocolate at the center. I might have to play with some other combinations.

Cream Cheese Walnut Cookies

Monday, December 22nd, 2008

And we’re back to the baking!

This recipe is from Martha Stewart’s website. I’m not always a fan of Martha’s recipes, but these cookies sounded good, and I’m glad I tried them.

The texture is rich and crumbly, like a shortbread. They are not overly sweet, but have a nice flavor. I toasted the walnuts and cooled them again before mixing into the cookie dough, and there’s a lovely walnut taste throughout the each cookie. The cookies are a great little crunchy treat–a nice break from some of the sweeter, heavier treats so prevalent this time of year.

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Cream Cheese Walnut Cookies
Makes about 4 dozen

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 6 ounces cream cheese, (not whipped) room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups walnut halves (1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped), 1 cup finely chopped

  1. Whisk together flour and salt in a large bowl; set aside. Put butter and cream cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Mix in sugar and vanilla. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture, and mix until just combined (do not overmix). Mix in toasted walnuts.
  2. Transfer dough to a work surface. Divide in half; shape each half into an 8 1/2-inch long log about 2 inches in diameter. Wrap each log in parchment paper; freeze until firm, about 30 minutes or up to 2 weeks.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 with racks in upper and lower thirds. Unwrap 1 log, and roll in 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, coating completely. Cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds. Space 1 inch apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.
  4. Bake cookies, rotating halfway through, until golden around edges, 18 to 20 minutes. Let cool on sheets on wire racks. Repeat with remaining log and remaining 1/2 cup chopped walnuts. Cookies can be stored in airtight containers at room temperature up to 3 days.

Note: I did use a bit of egg wash to get the nuts to stick to the frozen cookie dough logs. One batch of this dough made 4 dozen cookies, easily. In my experience, you don’t always get the yield that you would expect from cookies, but these delivered. Not surprisingly, the taste reminds me of a rich cheesecake. They were especially amazing straight from the oven.