13 February 2017

Chewy Chocolate Meringue Cookies


A Demanding Recipe

I don’t cook as much as I used to. In the past year or so I have posted about it even less. Times change, as do circumstances. I have fewer mouths to feed these days and my kitchen remains in transition. Yet sometimes I still happen across a new recipe that demands to be shared. Chewy Chocolate Meringue Cookies is one of those recipes.

I found this recipe in Parade Magazine as I looked through the pages of the AJC one Sunday morning. A photo of beautiful dark chocolate cookies drew me into the text. Like many of the best recipes, on first read it struck me as both familiar and totally new.

Taking It to a New Level

On the one hand, this recipe is not all that different than the Chocolate Chip Meringue Cookies I have been making most of my life. That was my mother’s recipe and a family favorite made from just a few ingredients that could be found in even a sparsely stocked kitchen most of the time.

On the other hand, this recipe takes those ingredients to a new level of intensity and relevance, producing a cookie that is denser, chewier, more flavorful and that satisfies on a whole different level. Besides that, it is gluten free adding to its general appeal. All told, it has become a personal favorite and is an excellent cookie to share with someone special this Valentine’s Day!


Chewy Chocolate Meringue Cookies
Slightly adapted from a recipe in Parade Magazine

Makes about 3 dozen cookies

4 egg whites, at room temperature
½ teaspoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon espresso powder
¼ teaspoon ground chipotle pepper
pinch of salt
¾ cup sugar
12 oz dark chocolate, melted and cooled
½ cup toasted chopped walnuts

walnut halves for garnish

Preheat oven to 325F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Beat together egg whites, lemon juice and vanilla until foamy. Add sugar gradually, beating until stiff peaks form.

Stir espresso powder and chipotle pepper into cooled chocolate. Fold chocolate mixture and chopped walnuts into the beaten egg whites.

Scoop the batter into a gallon-sized Ziploc freezer bag. Seal it, then cut a ¾-inch opening across a lower corner of the bag. Use it as a pastry bag to pipe 2-inch cookies onto the parchment lined cookie sheets. Top each cookie with a walnut half.

Bake at 325F for 15 minutes, or until outside is set and dry. Cool on pans. Remove from parchment sheets and store in an airtight container.

Enjoy!

04 February 2017

Sour Cream Cinnamon Coffee Cake


Cold Conditions

I think there are times when we could all use a little more sweetness in our lives. I have found this winter to be one of those times. Everywhere I turn there are hurtful words, false assumptions, and wild accusations. For those already burdened by personal challenges such harsh conditions can really take their toll.

My personal antidote comes from the kitchen. That’s where I retreat when life turns cold or unkind. This week it comes in the form of a sweet new recipe for a coffee cake. This cake has a crumb softened by sour cream and a streusel warmed by a healthy measure of cinnamon.


Sweet Antidotes

Cloistered in my kitchen I turned from the front page conflicts and drama to the Food section of the local paper. There I saw a story about a Sour Cream Coffee Cake that had been passed down from generation to generation. Remembering that I had some left over sour cream in the refrigerator after making Cornflake Casserole for my son, I took note.

While the recipe in the paper was tempting I took a page from my own family’s traditions and looked to Taste of Home, a magazine Aunt Hen subscribed to and often cooked from, for a recipe that better fit the ingredients I had on hand. While I didn’t have quite as much sour cream as it called for, I filled out the measure with a little milk. Otherwise I didn’t change a thing in baking this sweet conclusion to a cold winter day.


Sour Cream Cinnamon Coffee Cake
From tasteofhome.com

Topping:

¼ cup sugar
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
½ cup chopped pecans (or walnuts)

Cake Batter:

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 325F.

Grease a 9-inch square pan. Set aside. (If you don’t have this size try a 10-inch springform pan or a 9 x 13 inch rectangular pan. The baking time may vary slightly so watch carefully.)

In a small bowl, combine the ingredients for the topping. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, sour cream and vanilla. Add dry ingredients, stirring just until combined.

Spread half of the batter in the prepared pan. Sprinkle half of the topping over the batter. Spoon the remaining batter over the topping layer in dollops. Spread lightly. Sprinkle the remaining topping over all.

Bake at 325F for 40 – 45 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

Enjoy!

18 January 2017

Quick Whole Wheat Molasses Bread


Out With the Old

Last year, after decluttering the house with many rounds of "Ten Things", I was able to apply still another layer of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Finally, I cast a more critical eye on not only my kitchen cabinets but my pantry as well. I started by tossing a few items that were out of date or past their prime. Next I shared spices and other ingredients I wasn't likely to use up while they were in their prime. Then I challenged myself to cook through food I had purchased in moments of inspiration that waned shortly after I unpacked them at home.

By September both my pantry and my freezer were neat and spare. I enjoyed the newfound sense of space. I could create a shopping list with a minimum of sorting through what was on hand. I could find what I needed with a glance. Then came the holidays.

No regrets! I enjoyed stocking up and baking through the season. Now, though, it is time to deal with my pantry again. Luckily I learned a lot last year and have some great new recipes that use up the bits and pieces that tend to linger into the New Year.


January Style

Today I will be baking Whole Wheat Molasses Bread from a Mark Bittman recipe I discovered at Cookie + Kate. This recipe is super simple to put together. It requires a minimum of ingredients and measuring tools. It is also wonderfully adaptable: a recipe that works well with a variety of flours and sweeteners. It will use up the rest of that jar of molasses left on my shelf after trying a new recipe for Gingerbread Cookies. If I don’t have enough I’ll throw in some honey or maple syrup to round out the ½ cup measurement. It will also use up some miscellaneous bits of flour left over from Christmas baking. All-purpose flour, bread flour, whole wheat flour or a combination, all work well here. A little cornmeal adds texture if you have it in your pantry. If not, you can use a little more flour instead.

This is a January–style quick bread. It has a rugged sweetness, maybe even an acquired savor. My husband didn’t care for it. Even I didn’t love it at first bite. It wasn’t until I sliced it and stored it in the freezer that I came to fully appreciate it’s character. From the freezer, slice by slice, I happily munched through several loaves within a few weeks. For breakfast I toasted it, twice, to bring out its endearing rustic qualities.

Warm from the toaster, this bread is quick to invite a few more leftovers to the table. It is delicious topped with what you have on hand. Kate suggests almond butter, cream cheese or Homemade Citrus Curd. I will use the rest of the chunky peanut butter that I bought to make Aunt Hen's Peanut Butter Fudge for Christmas, and top it with a few cocao nibs to add crunch, bring out a bittersweet edge and complement a satisfying finish.


Quick Whole Wheat Molasses Bread
from Diner's Journal via Cookie + Kate

1 2/3 cup buttermilk (or plain yogurt, or 2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar stirred into 1½ cups milk)
2½ cups whole wheat flour ( or white, white whole wheat, or bread flour)
½ cup cornmeal (or more flour)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ cup molasses (or honey, maple syrup, or combination)

Preheat oven to 325F. Grease a loaf pan and set aside.

If using buttermilk or yogurt, skip this step. If using regular milk, sour it by warming the milk gently (1 minute in microwave should do it) and stirring in the vinegar. Set aside for at least 5 minutes.

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, cornmeal, salt and baking soda.

In a small bowl, stir together the molasses (or other sweetener) and buttermilk, soured milk or yogurt.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir together with a wooden spoon, just until combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Bake at 325F until the loaf is firm and a toothpick inserted just off center comes out clean, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Allow the bread to cool in pan for 15 minutes. Remove loaf from pan and allow to fully cool on a wire rack.

Slice and Enjoy!