Triple Chocolate-Hazelnut Cookies

There are many perks to living on Long Island – being readily close to a beach (although I am not a beach person per se I more so enjoy going to a nearby marina and watching the water, it’s quite calming,) I can be in NYC in about an hour and I can also visit some great wineries an hour in the opposite direction. A group of friends and I make it a point at least once a year – especially when the weather starts to get warmer – to visit the wineries. Although it’s not always the Long Island ones, Hudson Valley also has some great ones that are within driving distance as well. We usually do a potluck of sorts in terms of bringing things to eat and I usually volunteer to bring dessert. Last weekend we had our wine outing and I decided to make a batch of Triple Chocolate-Hazelnut Cookies. These could also be coined “Death by Chocolate Cookies.” They are incredible chocolaty thanks to the three chocolates used: Bittersweet (the base of the cookie which prevents it from being overly sweet), white and milk chocolate.

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My weekdays are usually split into three parts: Errands in the morning, midday, errands in the afternoon. I was squeezing baking these cookies into that midday part so I was pretty focused on getting my measurements for my ingredients ready prior to mixing. Not to say that I am usually a scatter brain baker, but, I usually assemble my ingredients together and then measure as I go along.

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I began by melting chopped bittersweet chocolate with unsalted butter in the microwave in 30-second intervals. You may be tempted to up the time for melting chocolate, but, it really is important to do so in shorter increments and whisking the chocolate between each of the intervals. By upping the time you may end up scorching the chocolate… I speak from experience. Once the chocolate and butter were melted I added in vanilla extract and whisked the mixture until it was smooth.

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Next, I beat two large eggs on medium speed with my stand mixer until they were foamy. Following that I gradually added in sugar until the mixture was thick and pale yellow.

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I then added in the melted chocolate mixture and then a flour mixture (flour, baking powder and salt) and continued mixing until it was just combined.

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And finally I folded in the hazelnuts (which I had blanched & toasted) and white and milk chocolate chips.

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My batter was then ready…

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I dropped the batter by tablespoonful onto parchment lined baking sheets. One thing I did notice was that as the batter sat it became thicker so next time I make these cookies I’ll let the batter sit for a few minutes before dropping them onto the cookie sheets.

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I baked the cookies in a preheated 350 F oven for about 12 minutes and then let them cool on the sheet for a few minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.

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After they were cooled I packed them up for the following day’s adventure.

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Overall, these cookies are winning recipe that I will be making again. As for the wine tasting, it was a great day as always. Some of the wine we tried was good, some, I don’t ever need to try again, but what makes the day great is being with wonderful friends and enjoying views like these!

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And seeing cute signs like this…

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Triple Chocolate-Hazelnut Cookies

Makes: 24 Cookies

Ingredients:

1 cup blanched hazelnuts, chopped

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 large eggs

3/4 cup sugar

1 cup milk chocolate chips

1 cup white chocolate chips

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Spread the hazelnuts on a baking sheet and baked then until golden, about 7 minutes. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.

2. Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl and set aside. Combine the bittersweet chocolate and butter in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave in 30-second intervals, whisking, until melted. Add the vanilla and continue whisking until smooth, set aside.

3. Beat the eggs in a large with a mixer on medium speed until foamy, about 1 minute. Gradually add the sugar and continue beating until thick and pale yellow, about 6 minutes. Gradually add the melted chocolate mixture and beat until combined. Reduce the mixer to speed to low and add the flour mixture and beat until just combined. Fold in the hazelnuts and chocolate chips.

4. Drop the batter by tablespoonful 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake until the cookies are slightly puffed and crackly, 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes on the sheets, and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Rainbow Cookies

Christmas week is finally here and holiday baking is more than likely in high gear for most of you. I know I have quite a few different cookies to bake over the next few days. I was already busy last week trying out some recipes. One of those recipes is actually one that I have tried twice before without much success, but luckily I didn’t strike out with this third attempt. These Rainbow Cookies came out perfect and were well worth the time and numerous steps it took to make them! I’m not sure what exactly led to my success this time, maybe it was the jelly roll pans I used as opposed to the baking dishes or rimmed cookie sheets I used in the past, or me diligently following the recipe exactly as written and reading and re-reading it to make sure I followed it properly or maybe it was just due to sheer patience and dedication. Whichever it was I am just happy to say I finally succeeded in making one of my favorite cookies!

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I began making the batter by mixing together almond paste and sugar until it formed into fine crumbles.

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Next I added in 2 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter a few pieces at a time.

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And finally I added in 4 large eggs yolks one at a time.

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In a separate bowl I sifted 2 cups of flour and then sprinkled salt on top.

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I then added the flour to batter and mixed it until it was just combined.

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In another bowl I whisked 4 large egg whites until they were foamy and then slowly added 2 tablespoons of sugar and continued whisking until firm peaks formed.

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Once the egg whites were ready I gently folded them into the batter.

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Next I evenly divided the batter among three bowls and tinted one a deep salmon color, another a bright green color and I left the third uncolored.

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Following that I spread the batter among three prepared (I first sprayed them with baking spray and then lined them with parchment paper) jelly roll pans.

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After baking the layers in a 350 F oven for about 10 minutes I let them cool completely in the pans on wire racks.

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Then it was time to start assembling the cookies… I began by spreading the green layer with a decent amount of seedless raspberry jam.

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Next I slid the uncolored layer onto the raspberry covered green layer and covered it with raspberry preserves as well.

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And finally I slid the salmon color on top.

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After wrapping it with plastic wrap and then covering it with one of the jelly roll pans and a few of my old college textbooks I placed the assembled layers in the refrigerator overnight.

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The following day I unmolded the layers and trimmed them to make straight edges.

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I then melted bittersweet chocolate and poured it over the layers.

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After letting it set for a few minutes I scraped wavy lines into the chocolate with a fork.

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And finally once the chocolate had set a little more I cut the cake into cookies. First by making vertical cuts.

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And then horizontal cuts.

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And then it was time to enjoy all my hard work and these cookies were definitely worth every minute of it!

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Rainbow Cookies

Recipe courtesy Lidia Bastianich for Food Network Magazine

Ingredients:

2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into pieces and softened, plus more for the pans

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for the pans

8 ounces almond paste

1 cup sugar

4 large eggs, separated

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Red and green food coloring (gel preferred)

1 15 -ounce jar smooth apricot jam*

Cooking spray

1 pound bittersweet chocolate, chopped

*I used seedless Raspberry Jam

Directions:

You’ll need three 9-by-12-inch jelly roll pans or rimmed baking sheets to make these layered cookies.

Prep the pans: Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven; preheat to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour three 9-by-12-inch jelly roll pans or rimmed baking sheets and line with parchment paper.

Make the batter: Combine the almond paste and 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until the mixture is in fine crumbles. Beat in 2 1/2 sticks butter, a few pieces at a time, until well combined. Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time, until smooth.

Sift 2 cups flour onto a sheet of parchment and sprinkle the salt on top; add to the mixer bowl and beat until just combined.

In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until foamy; while whisking, slowly add the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and whisk until firm peaks form (or use a hand mixer). Fold about one-third of the egg white mixture into the batter with a rubber spatula, then gently fold in the rest. The batter should be fluffy.

Color the batter: Divide the batter evenly among 3 bowls. Stir enough red food coloring into 1 bowl to make a deep salmon color. Stir enough green food coloring into another bowl to make a medium green color. Leave the third bowl uncolored.

Bake the layers: Transfer the batter to the prepared pans (one pan for each color). Dip an offset spatula in water and spread the batter to the edge of each pan, smoothing the tops. Bake, switching the position of the pans halfway through, until the cakes are cooked through and just beginning to brown around the edges, 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool completely in the pans on wire racks.

Assemble the layers: Spread half of the jam evenly over the green cake layer almost all the way to the edges. Unmold the plain cake layer by inverting it onto another pan or cutting board; peel off the parchment.

Carefully slide the plain layer onto the green layer (use a wide offset spatula to help you, if necessary). Spread the remaining jam on top of the plain layer. Unmold the red cake layer and slide it onto the plain layer.

Cover the cake with plastic wrap and top with one of the empty pans; place several heavy cans on top to weigh down the layers. Refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.

Unmold the cake: Remove the cans and plastic wrap. Place a cutting board on top of the cake and flip to unmold it onto the cutting board. Remove the parchment from the top of the green layer.

Trim the cake: Trim the sides with a knife to make straight edges. Spray a wire rack with cooking spray; set the rack over a baking sheet. Carefully slide the cake onto the rack, using a wide offset spatula to help you, if necessary.

Cover in chocolate: Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water; pour over the cake. Dip an offset spatula in the hot water and smooth the top and sides. Let set slightly. Scrape wavy lines into the chocolate with a fork; let cool a few more minutes until the chocolate is mostly set but still slightly tacky.

Cut into pieces: Slide the cake back onto the cutting board. Slice crosswise into 6 strips, then cut each strip into 8 rectangular pieces. For clean edges, dip the knife in warm water and wipe it with a cloth between cuts. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

 

 

In Honor of Pi Day… A Banana Cream Pie

Happy Pi Day! What can I say; I am a bit of a math geek. It was my favorite subject throughout school and I was a Mathematics/Economics major in college. I sometimes think that my love of math is what drives some of my hobbies. Take baking; it’s not like cooking where a pinch of this and that can turn out something great. If an ingredient is slightly off when you bake you may end up with something completely inedible. When you are knitting or crocheting (especially knitting) being off with your count can completely mess up whatever you are making and with beading and jewelry making symmetry is key and adding one extra bead, stone or whatever can completely throw off the aesthetics of the final product. But, back to Pi Day… We celebrate it on this day (March 14th) since the first three numbers of Pi are 3.14. Some other things to note about this lovely number… It’s irrational (meaning it cannot be written as a ratio,) it’s never ending (3.14159…) and the decimal never repeats. So, in honor of this day I decided to bake a pie – how original!?!? – not just any pie though a pie I have never actually tried before – a Banana Cream Pie. I thought about making this pie a few weeks ago when I had a few ripe bananas staring at me in my kitchen, but then they got eaten so I decided to save the pie for today.

So, I had every intention of making my pie crust from scratch, well, let me clarify, I did make one from scratch and although I followed the directions exactly after baking it for slightly less time that directed it still came out a bit overcooked so I just opted to go with a store bought crust and baked it according to the directions on the package. Unfortunately my edge was a little uneven but I knew that wouldn’t take away from the taste.

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While the crust was cooling I began making the banana cream filling. To begin I prepped those ingredients that needed a bit of prepping: slicing three bananas, separating four eggs for the yolks and cutting up 2 tbsp. of butter.
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In a medium saucepan I combined sugar, cornstarch and salt and then whisked in milk. I cooked this over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture was thick and bubbling.
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I then whisked the milk mixture in with the eggs yolks. 
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After the milk and eggs were completely incorporated I returned the mixture to the saucepan and cooked it over medium heat once again stirring it constantly until it boiled.
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I then strained the mixture through a sieve…
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And then mixed in the butter and once it was melted I folded in the bananas.
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It was then time to pour the banana cream into the cooled pie crust and then cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate it until the cream was set.
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Once the pie was set I made a whipped cream topping for it and sprinkled it with shaved chocolate curls.
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Banana Cream Pie

Ingredients:

All-purpose flour, for dusting

1 recipe Pate Brisee to Make Two 9-Inch Single-Crust Pies or One Double-Crust or Lattice-Crust Pie (http://www.marthastewart.com/258439/pate-brisee), use 1 disc and reserve remaining disc for another use*

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup cornstarch

1/4 teaspoon coarse salt

4 large egg yolks

2 cups whole milk

2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

3 ripe bananas, halved lengthwise, then thinly sliced crosswise

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

2 teaspoons confectioners’ sugar

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 block (about 5 ounces) bittersweet chocolate

*I opted to use a store-bought pie crust

Directions 

1. Make the crust: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out dough into a 14-inch round (1/4 inch thick). Fit dough into a 9-inch pie plate. Trim dough to extend above edges by 1 inch, fold under, and crimp. Prick bottom with a fork, and freeze until firm, about 15 minutes. Cut a large round of parchment paper (about 11 inches), and place in pie shell, allowing excess to extend above edges. Fill with pie weights. Freeze until cold, about 10 minutes.

2. Bake crust 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees. Remove pie weights and parchment, and bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes more. Let cool on a wire rack.

3. Make the filling: Combine granulated sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a bowl. Add egg yolks, and whisk until smooth. Bring milk to a simmer in a saucepan over medium heat. Add 1/2 cup milk to yolk mixture in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly. Pour mixture into pan with hot milk, and cook, whisking constantly, until mixture begins to bubble and is very thick, about 6 minutes.

4. Pour milk mixture through a large-mesh sieve into a bowl. Add butter, and stir until melted. Fold in bananas. Pour into crust. Place plastic wrap directly on surface of filling to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate for 2 hours.

5. Make the topping: Beat together cream, sugar, and vanilla until soft peaks form. Spread whipped cream over filling. Using a rubber spatula or the back of a spoon, shape topping into peaks.

6. Using a vegetable peeler, shave chocolate at a 45-degree angle, and scatter over pie. (You will only need about 1 ounce of chocolate for the shavings, but it will be easier to shave if you start with a larger piece than you need.) Serve.

 

A Slow Cooker Hit And Half Miss

The cold days of winter call for warm and hearty soups (or stews) to help keep you feeling warm and toasty to beat the winter chill. In a recent issue of Rachael Ray Magazine I came across one such soup that had the added bonus of being made in a slow cooker. A kitchen item I do enjoy using but don’t use often enough.

This stew – a Sausage, Bean & Spinach Stew  – was a cinch to make and was ready in about four hours. I began by adding white beans, chopped onions, carrots & celery, garlic, bay leaves and chicken broth to my slow cooker and cooking it on high heat for three and a half hours. I then added sausage meatballs and let them cook in the soup for about twenty-five minutes. Finally, I added in the spinach for the final ten minutes.

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Final verdict… The stew was delicious. I’ll definitely be it making again. But, I think next time I’ll cook the meatballs a little before adding them to the soup.

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Since I had my slow cooker out from obscurity I figured I would finally try making a dessert in it – a Triple Chocolate Brownie recipe I came across from Martha Stewart.

To begin I whisked together my dry ingredients: flour, unsweetened cocoa powder, baking powder and salt.

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To get started on my wet ingredients I melted butter and bittersweet chocolate together.

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After giving it a few good stirs I added in sugar and eggs.

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I then folded it into the dry mixture along with walnuts and semi-sweet chocolate chips.

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I then poured it into my slow cooker, which I sprayed with cooking spray and lined the bottom of with parchment paper.

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I cooked it on low for four hours, the final half hour uncovered.

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After letting it cool in the insert for two hours I flipped out the brownies to sadly discover that the edges were quite burnt and definitely not edible.

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All was not lost though… After some clever cutting I was left with six, albeit irregularly shaped, brownies that were quite tasty and definitely not lacking in chocolate flavor.

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Baking in a slow cooker… definitely not my first choice for delicious desserts, but, I wouldn’t rule out trying it again, just not brownies though!

Sausage, Bean & Spinach Stew

Ingredients

1 pound dried large white beans, such as great northern, rinsed and picked through

8 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1 onion, peeled and finely chopped

2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped

2 ribs celery, finely chopped

6 cloves garlic, finely chopped

8 sprigs fresh thyme*

1 bay leaf**

Parmesan rind (optional)*

1 pound sweet or spicy Italian sausage, casings removed, shaped into 1/2-inch meatballs

1 bunch spinach, trimmed

Juice of 1/2 lemon*

Crusty bread, for serving

Directions

In a large slow cooker, stir together the beans, chicken broth, onion, carrots, celery, garlic, thyme, bay leaf and Parmesan rind, if using. Cover and cook on high heat until the beans are nearly tender, about 3 1/2 hours.

Place the sausage meatballs on top of the beans. Cover; cook until the meatballs are no longer pink in the center, about 25 minutes.

Discard the thyme sprigs, bay leaf and Parmesan rind. Stir in the spinach, then cover and let stand until the spinach wilts, 10 minutes.

Stir in the lemon juice; season. Serve with crusty bread.

*I omitted these ingredients when I made my soup

**I added in two bay leaves as opposed to just one

Slow-Cooker Triple Chocolate Brownies

Ingredients

Nonstick cooking spray

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

1 cup sugar

3 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup walnut halves, coarsely chopped

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (6 ounces)

Directions

Lightly coat a 5-quart slow-cooker insert with cooking spray. Line bottom with parchment paper and lightly coat with spray. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt.

Place butter and chocolate in a medium microwave-safe bowl and microwave in 30-second increments, stirring after each, until chocolate is melted. Add sugar; stir to combine. Stir in eggs. Add flour mixture, walnuts, and chocolate chips and stir just until moistened (do not overmix). Transfer to slow cooker and smooth top.

Cover and cook on low, 3 1/2 hours. Uncover and cook 30 minutes. Remove insert from slow cooker and run a knife around edge to loosen brownies. Let cool completely in insert on a wire rack, about 2 hours. Turn out onto a work surface and cut into 14 brownies.