Friday, September 25, 2009

Friday Favorite - Lux Egg Timer

Have you ever seen one of these? This egg timer takes the guesswork out of boiling an egg. You can find these at stores like Bed, Bath, and Beyond on their kitchen gadget wall or at And they're only about 5 dollars. Here's how the timer works:

Place your eggs and the egg timer in a saucepan. Cover the eggs with about an inch of cold water. Bring the water slowly to a simmer. As the water heats and cooks the eggs, the timer begins to get a dark ring starting on the outside. Can you see it?

As the dark ring reaches the desired mark on the timer, you know the egg is done! Drain the eggs and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking. Split the eggs down the middle with a small thin knife and scoop the eggs out with a spoon. Top with a little butter if you want and some salt and pepper. Yup! Perfectly cooked soft-boiled eggs (or medium or hard)! Every time!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Lemon Shortbread Cookies and a Gift Basket

Our friends recently had their third child, a beautiful baby girl. We wanted to send a gift, but what do you send the proud parents who probably already have most of the baby things they need from the first two children? What does a mother who has three small children really need? Speaking from my own experience, I'd say the parents probably need some sleep and little peace and serenity. I can't help too much with their lack of sleep, but maybe they might look forward to a special treat with a cup of tea at naptime. So we sent a pink package filled with vanilla almond biscotti, lemon shortbread cookies, and raspberry streusel bars, a tea sampler, and a book for baby. The little pink "suitcase" can be used later for doll's clothing or to keep extra wipes or burp cloths looking neat in the baby's bedroom.

These shortbread cookies are a perfect teatime snack. I used the recipe for basic shortbread from Martha Stewart's Cookies and added a little lemon zest (orange would be good too). I rolled the dough out and used a cookie cutter to cut fluted rectangles. They had a nice, sandy texture and terrific flavor. Keep an eye on them and bake them until the edges are just beginning to brown.

Recommended tools: Microplane zester, Silpat baking mat or parchment paper

Lemon Shortbread Cookies
adapted from Martha Stewart's Cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp table salt
1 cup unsalted butter, at cool room temperature
3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
zest of one lemon

Sift together flour and salt into a bowl. Put butter into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium-high speed until fluffy, 3-5 minutes, scraping down the sides of bowl when needed. Gradually add the confectioners' sugar and lemon zest; beat until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture all at once; mix until just combined. Shape dough into a small, flat round and wrap with plastic. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F with rack in the center of oven. Roll dough out to 1/4-inch thickness, using a small amount of flour on the work surface and rolling pin to prevent sticking. Cut into desired shapes and place cookies on a Silpat-lined baking sheet. Place the cookie sheet in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes. Bake until cookies a just starting to turn golden brown, about 20-25 minutes. Cool completely on the cookie sheet.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Vanilla Almond Biscotti

Biscotti are one of my favorite things to make. I love to dip them in morning coffee or afternoon tea. Sit down on a chilly afternoon with some tea and biscotti, and you will feel instantly pampered and calmed - that is until the kids get home from school. Since the days are getting a bit colder, I'm beginning to crave this biscotti again. Use a long serrated knife like the one in this post to cut the baked biscotti logs into slices before they go back into the oven for a second baking.

For my gingerbread biscotti recipe, click here.

Vanilla Almond Biscotti
adapted from Gourmet, January 2009

1 cup sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
3 tablespoons brandy
2 teaspoons pure almond extract
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup whole almonds with skin
3 large eggs
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Stir together sugar, butter, brandy, and extracts in a large bowl, then stir in almonds and eggs. Stir in flour, baking powder, and salt until just combined.
Chill dough, covered, 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.
Using moistened hands, halve dough and form 2 (16-by 2-inch) loaves on an ungreased large baking sheet.
Bake until pale golden, about 30 minutes. Carefully transfer loaves to a rack and cool 15 minutes.
Cut loaves into 3/4-inch slices with a serrated knife.
Arrange biscotti, with a cut side down, on a clean baking sheet and bake until golden, 25 to 30 minutes, turning the biscotti over about halfway through baking time. Transfer to rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container up to one week.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Coconut Cookies with Nutella Filling

I wish I could tell you that I made these cookies. I didn't. However, I'm happy to tell you that my daughter did! Ellen wanted to make some cookies last week - all by herself. She didn't want to make the cookies I had been craving - our favorite chocolate chip cookies - she wanted to try something different. I knew she liked coconut and these coconut cookies from Pastry Pal were on my mind. We had all the ingredients on hand and she went to work.
I was hovering a bit at first, but I could tell she was a little irritated with me (I know, it's hard to believe that a 13-year old could get irritated with her mom). I guess I got the hint when she said, "Mom, I don't want any help!" So I left the kitchen. It was hard not to go and peek at what was making the whole house smell so wonderful, but I showed some restraint and when I was finally allowed in the kitchen again, I found these beautiful and delicious cookies! - and even more importantly, not a single burned finger!
The cookies tasted like macaroons, but with a satisfying crunch. They were so good by themselves and even better with a dollop of Nutella between them. As much as I love Nutella, I have never baked with it. I just couldn't imagine anything better than eating it straight from the jar with a spoon or maybe dipping some cashews in it for a bedtime snack (you should try it - the combination is fabulous!) But completely out of laziness and not desiring to do more dishes than necessary (no melting or mixing required), the filling of choice was Nutella and I must say it was genius! My heart is swelling with pride!
Coconut Cookies
1 1/2 cups (190 g) all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 stick (168 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cups (240 6) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 cup (80 g) unsweetened shredded coconut
Nutella for filling. if desired

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Cream butter until smooth.
2. Pour in the sugar and the vanilla extract and beat that in for another 30 seconds.
3. Add eggs one at a time, and allow each one to mix in completely before adding in the next.
4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Then add it to the bowl with butter and sugar.
5. Stir it in and fold in the shredded coconut
6. Scoop tablespoon-sized mounds on to a parchment lined baking sheet. Space them about 2 inches apart since they spread like they mean it.
7. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven until the edges turn golden, about 10-12 minutes. Let cool. Enjoy as they are or fill with Nutella.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Cinnamon Raisin Bread You Can Make in 5 Minutes!

Well, the 5 minutes claim is a bit deceiving. I made this recipe from the cookbook Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. I've tried 3 recipes from this book so far and they have all turned out great. My post for the basic boule can be found here. The hands-on time probably is about 5 minutes, the rest is waiting for the bread to rise or bake - with no kneading necessary. I made the dough for this bread a few days ago, let it rise 2 hours on the counter and placed the dough in the refrigerator until I had time to bake it - you can leave it in the fridge for up to 7 days. On baking day, pull the dough out of the fridge, shape it, roll it, fill it, and let it rest for a while in the loaf pan. Then place the loaf in the oven and wait for the delicious aromas to waft through the house! So, yes, it does take about 5 minutes to make the dough, and 5 minutes (maybe 10) to assemble on baking day, but you really cannot leave the house and go to work while the bread is rising or baking. You can, however, set the timer and go do other things around the house while the bread is doing its thing. A total of about 2 hours on dough-making day, and 3 hours on baking day for this recipe. This bread is fabulous toasted with a little butter.

Buttermilk Bread Dough
adapted from Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day

2 cups lukewarm water
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons coarse salt ( I will use a bit less next time)
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
6 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (I use King Arthur brand)

1. Mix the yeast, salt, and sugar with the water and buttermilk in your heavy-duty stand mixer.
2. Mix in the flour all at once using the dough hook attachment.
3. Cover (not airtight), and allow to rest at room temperature until the dough rises and collapses (or flattens on top), approximately 2 hours. (I transfer the dough from the mixer bowl to a large dough bucket for rising and refrigerating.)
4. Refrigerate and use the dough within the next 7 days.
5. (Follow the instructions for cinnamon-raisin bread below at this point or continue with these directions if making a plain loaf.) On baking day, lightly spray a 9x4 loaf pan with cooking spray. Dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and cut off a 1 1/2-pound piece. Dust the piece with more flour and quickly shape it into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go. Elongate the ball into an oval.
6. Drop the dough into the prepared pan. You want to fill the pan slightly more than half full.
7. Allow the dough to rest for 1 hour and 40 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Dust the loaf with flour and slash the top, using the tip of a sharp knife. Brush the top surface with melted butter.
8. Bake the bread near the center of the oven for about 45 minutes, or until golden brown.
9. Remove from the pan. Allow to cool completely before slicing.

Cinnamon-Raisin Bread
adapted from Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day

1 1/2 pounds buttermilk bread dough (recipe above)
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup raisins
egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water)

1. Spray a 9x4x3-inch loaf pan with baking spray. Set aside. Dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and cut off a 1 1/2-pound (cantaloupe size) piece. Dust the piece with more flour and quickly shape it into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go.
2. With a rolling pin, roll out the dough to an 8x16-inch rectangle about 1/4-inch thick, dusting the board and rolling pin with flour as needed. You may need to use a metal dough scraper to loosen rolled dough from the board as you are working with it.
3. Using a pastry brush, cover the surface of the dough lightly with egg wash. Mix together the sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle the mixture evenly over the dough. Evenly distribute the raisins in a single layer over the dough.
4. Starting from the short side, roll it up jelly-roll style. Pinch the edges together, tucking the ends under.
5. Place the loaf seam side down in the prepared pan. Allow to rest 1 hour and 40 minutes.
6. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from pan and allow to cool completely on a cooling rack before slicing.


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