22 December 2012

Cappuccino Sticks



This recipe has been a family favorite for many years. It comes from an index card taped in my oldest recipe notebook.  It is written in my sister-in-law’s pretty handwriting, from a time when we were both recently married and often shared recipes when we got together.


I don’t make as many cookies at Christmastime as I used to.  Some seasons go by without me giving a thought to these wonderful cookies, laced with some of my favorite flavors.  Others go by without me being able to remember where I keep the recipe.  This year after my husband specifically asked if I would make a batch of these and after I managed to put my hands on the recipe card he suggested I put it on my blog….for safe keeping. 


If you like buttery-brown-sugar-sweetness married to the boldness of coffee and chocolate, you’ll be glad he did!



Cappuccino Sticks
Makes about 3 dozen cookies

2¼ cups flour
¼ cup brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon instant coffee powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ cup butter, at room temperature
¼ cup heavy cream
1 cup chocolate chips
½ cup finely chopped nuts, toasted

In a large bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, granulated sugar, coffee powder, salt and baking powder. 

Add the butter and  cream.  Beat until thoroughly blended.  Cover the dough and chill, if needed, until the dough is firm enough to shape.

Preheat oven to 375F. Using a rounded teaspoonful for each, shape dough into a  3” x  ½“ logs and place 2 inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet. 

Bake 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.  Cool on a wire rack.

Melt the chocolate chips in a small bowl.  Dip  one end of each cookie into the melted chocolate.  Shake off excess chocolate and dip into the chopped nuts, if desired. 

Great for dipping in coffee….

Enjoy!

16 December 2012

Traditional Gingerbread Cookies


My kitchen baking this holiday season seems to be all about ginger. Last week I went non-traditional with a light sugar dusted ginger cake spiced up with a dose of white pepper and drenched in a tart lemon glaze. The result was a nice change of pace.

This week I am back to doing it old-school, so old-school that my recipe is adapted from The Art of Cookery, published in London in 1760. This recipe for Ginger-Bread Cakes or Cookies came to me in a small booklet titled “Recipes from the Raleigh Tavern Bake Shop.” I picked it up on a visit to Colonial Williamsburg when I lived in Virginia in the 1980’s. There I was intrigued by a wonderful Gingerbread Cookie purchased from the bake shop. It had an interesting texture and a complex spiciness that made me want more. I asked about the recipe and was directed to this small book.

Inside I found a collection of delightfully authentic eighteenth-century recipes, with quantities of ingredients woven into the quaint and conversational directions. The recipe for Ginger-Bread Cakes begins with instructions to “take three pounds of flour…” then direct the reader to ‘make up the bread stiff; roll it out, and make it up into thin cakes…” before “baking them on tin plates in a slack oven.”

Fortunately each recipe is also translated into a more contemporary style using familiar terminology and quantities adapted to make them more manageable for today’s home cooks.

Remembering the taste of those hearty Williamsburg Gingerbread cookies I enjoyed so long ago I decided to dig out that recipe and try to recreate it this Christmas season. The recipe is fairly simple, as written in the book. Mixing the dough was quick and easy and used only one bowl, promising an easy clean-up. Mixing the sugar with the fresh spices I recently bought at Penzeys released a wonderful fragrance in the kitchen adding an extra festive edge to the process.

In the end I added more flour than the recipe called for and still needed to refrigerate the dough overnight before it was stiff enough for me to roll out successfully and cut into shapes. Once chilled I was able to cut out a selection of gingerbread men that were just the right size for dipping in coffee



and Ninja-bread Men that made use of the clever cookie cutters my youngest son gave me for Christmas last year.



If you prefer not to wait for the dough to chill you can instead roll or scoop it into 1-inch balls, roll the balls in course sugar and smash them slightly with a fork before baking. These cookies will be thicker and softer than those cut into shapes.


Traditional Gingerbread Cookies
adapted from Recipes from the Raleigh Tavern Bake Shop

1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons ginger
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon white pepper and/or ancho chile powder (optional)
½ teaspoon salt
1½ teaspoons baking soda
1 cup butter, melted
½ cup evaporated milk
1 cup unsulfered molasses
¾ teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
¾ teaspoon lemon extract (optional)
4½ - 5½ cups flour (I used all-purpose white flour)

Coarse decorator sugar crystals

Preheat oven to 375F.

In a large bowl combine the sugar, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, white pepper or ancho chile powder (if desired), salt, and baking soda, mixing well.

Add the melted butter, evaporated milk and molasses. Stir in extracts, if desired.

Add the flour, 1 cup at a time. (Note: the lesser amount of flour is best for shaping cookies into balls. For a dough that is easier to roll out and shape with cookie cutters, use the greater amount of flour.)

To make Gingerbread Rounds:

Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll each ball in coarse decorator sugar.

Place balls on greased cookie sheets. Mash each slightly with a fork or your thumb.

Bake at 375F for 10 - 12 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

To make Gingerbread Cut-outs:

Divide dough into thirds. Wrap each third in waxed paper or plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

When ready to shape the cookies remove one section of dough at a time. Place the dough on a floured surface and roll to a ¼-inch thickness. Flour cookie cutters and cut dough into shapes.

Place shapes on Greased cookie sheets. Sprinkle with coarse decorator sugar, if desired. 

Bake at 375F for 8 - 10 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

Enjoy!

07 December 2012

White Pepper and Ginger Lemon Cake


December is here with it the fresh festive fragrances of the season. Cinnamon, cloves, ginger along with other aromatic spices star in many favorite holiday recipes as they delight our senses and stir our memories. They brighten the flavor of our favorite cakes and cookies and satisfy our appetites for warmth and comfort in the kitchen.


Of these holiday spices I think ginger is my favorite. I am already three layers deep in my first bag of Pepperidge Farm Gingerman cookies this week.  They are delicious dipped in coffee and their dark ginger flavor along with the sparkle and crunch of their coarse sugar topping sets the mood for festive homemade treats yet to come.  Soon there will be plates of Pfefferneusse, Gingerbread Biscotti and Ginger Cookie Sticks to enjoy, not to mention an Old-Fashioned Gingerbread or two.


During the holiday season I most often think of ginger as part of a festive medley of spices; dark, rich and often sweetened with molasses. Sometimes, however, I am reminded that ginger can take some interesting turns, even in December. Here it is paired with white pepper to lend a gentle clean heat to its exotic spiciness and then brightened with a fresh lemon glaze.


This white ginger cake has a complex flavor that offers a unique variation on a holiday favorite. But beware! Once you've tasted it you won't want to limit it to just one season.  Enjoy it served at a spring tea or as a worthy foil to a tropical fruit medley on a fine summer evening.



White Pepper and Ginger Lemon Cake
From newspaper, attributed to “Maida Heatters’s Book of Great American Desserts”

Lemon Glaze

1/3 cup lemon juice
½ cup granulated sugar

Cake

Zest of 2 large lemons, finely grated
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
½–ounce piece fresh ginger root (about 1 x 1.5 inch piece), grated
3 cups all purpose flour
¾ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon double-acting baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground white pepper
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 ¾ cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk

To prepare the Lemon Glaze:

Combine the juice and sugar in a small bowl. Set aside and allow the mixture to stand while the cake is baking.

To prepare Cake:

Preheat oven to 325F. Prepare a 10 – 12 cup Bundt pan. (I used Wilton Dimensions Belle bundt pan.)

In a small bowl, combine the lemon zest, 2 Tablespoons of lemon juice and ginger. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and pepper until thoroughly combined. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, with an electric mixer at medium speed beat the butter until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes). Add the sugar and beat for another minute. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating until well incorporated after each addition.

With the mixer at low speed, add the flour mixture in 3 portions, alternating with the buttermilk in 2 portions, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Stir in the lemon-ginger mixture just until combined.

Transfer the batter to the prepared Bundt pan. Smooth the top.

Bake at 325F for 70 – 80 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean.

Remove from oven and let the cake rest in the pan for 5 – 10 minutes. Remove the cake from the pan and let it rest on a wire rack over a piece of aluminum foil.

Glaze the cake while it is still warm. Stir the glaze and, using a pastry brush, brush the glaze over the warm cake allowing some to drip down into the center hole. The cake should absorb all of the glaze. If some drips down onto the foil, pour it back over the cake. Allow the cake to cool completely.

Transfer the cooled cake to a serving plate. Serve....... or cover the cake with plastic wrap and allow the flavors to blend and mellow for a day or two.

Enjoy!