Posts tagged ‘Baking’

April 5, 2012

Chocolate Dipped Macaroons

Chocolate Dipped Macaroons

Passover is quickly upon us, and I’m excited to be hosting this year. With a challenge to make a spread of delicious Passover dishes for my guests, I push thoughts of serving crostini with prosciutto out of my head. Do you remember my run-in with Alan as I wrapped chicken in bacon for Rosh Hashanah? I know I can make him proud this year.

Passover seders growing up were infrequent at best. It seemed we weren’t able to pull it together every year, but when we did my grandmother made a spread of all her finest fare. I can still picture my grandfather sitting at the table, in charge of the seder, yelling at my grandmother to sit down and promulgating assertively when it was time to drink the wine. I can recall at a very young age grandpa telling my mother it was fine for me to drink the wine, it would just make me sleepy. Was he trying to silence me? I certainly wasn’t missing any important Jewish lessons at our seder table, that’s for sure. He would usually lead the seder like this, “The Jews crossed the desert. Drink the wine. Forget it – let’s eat!” While other families spent hours going through the Haggadah, page by page, in painful detail, our seder was more like the abridged version of the cliff notes. In retrospect, I guess I shouldn’t be complaining but I know there’s a happy medium out there. I didn’t learn about the plagues until I bought my daughter a Rugrats Passover book when she was a toddler. Not normal! Come to think of it, this whole Passover experience might have been what led me to join our shul.

The last Passover seder with my grandparents I can remember, I was in my twenties. In a rush to get through the one page of the Haggadah my grandfather would commit to reading, we jumped right into the pot roast and ate ourselves sick. While we sat drinking coffee and eating dessert, proudly rubbing our full bellies, my grandmother leaped up from her chair and announced that she had forgotten that there was a turkey in the oven! Really?! I guess we know now where I get my inability to make small quantities of food. We didn’t even miss that turkey. I guess we ate it for lunch the next day. We are a family of crazy foodies going back for generations.

My father’s favorite food was anything with coconut. I discovered this recipe for coconut macaroons, originally adapted from the Barefoot Contessa and they are the perfect Passover treat. My dad would have loved them.

INGREDIENTS (makes about 25 cookies)

  • 14oz sweetened shredded coconut
  • 14oz sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 egg whites at room temperature
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the egg whites to beautiful peaks, not too stiff. In a second bowl, combine the coconut, condensed milk, vanilla and salt. Carefully fold the egg whites into the coconut mixture a little at a time, being careful not to overmix. Drop the batter onto parchment lined baking sheets using a cookie scoop. You want them to be fairly large, about a heaping tablespoon. The recipe should make about 25 cookies.

Bake the cookies for about 18-20 minutes, switching the cookie sheets around halfway through. Bake until the cookies are nicely browned on the tops. Remove and cool on a rack. Meanwhile, to melt the chocolate, place the chips in a glass bowl and microwave for about 60 seconds. They won’t look melted, but give them a stir and put them back in, turning on the microwave for 30 second intervals, until the chocolate is just about melted. Stir again and it should be properly smooth and glossy. Watch it closely in the microwave. You don’t want it to heat up too much. Only until it is just coming together.

Place a sheet of fresh parchment paper on a cookie sheet and dip one half of each cookie in the melted chocolate. Place the chocolate dipped cookies on the parchment and put the sheet pan in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes or until the chocolate is set. I usually make half of my macaroons chocolate dipped and leave the other half plain. So yummy!

* Here’s the recipe for my grandmother’s pot roast if you are planning a holiday meal or just want to make something special for dinner tonight.

March 4, 2012

Martha’s Irish Soda Bread

I’m not really the Martha Stewart type. I’m not crafty, inventive or much of a farm girl. In fact, I find her very intimidating. Just this week she made rock dominos and draft dodgers. Do I need rock dominos? She also decoupaged a chest of drawers. That will never happen here. She taught her followers how to store bread, wallpaper glass coasters and decorate pencils. Uh oh! I didn’t know I was supposed to decorate my pencils? We’ve got a lot of pencils lying around here – I’m going to be busy.

She made half a dozen different kinds of cookies and included how to turn cookies into an art project (really?). She’s also offering crowd-pleasing casserole recipes in the food section of her website. Aren’t you exhausted? I am, thank God I’m lying in bed writing this post.

The emotions that come over me when I think of Martha are a combination of admiration (25%), disbelief (25%), and irritation (50%). Am I less of a woman because I didn’t have a Valentine’s Day Crafternoon? Yes, she called it Crafternoon. I’m always misplacing my sewing machine when it’s time to make my heart-shaped pot-holders. I’ll try harder next year. Truth be told, I don’t even know how to sew or decoupage. I don’t think my lack of craftiness is holding me back in life. At least I can cook. No more kvetching!

Although the admiration I feel for Martha only makes up 25% of my total Martha emotions, let’s focus on admiration. This Martha Stewart Baking Handbook is truly my favorite. I love it, but shhhh, don’t tell Martha. I’m more of a cook than a baker, so when I have a baking question I often turn to this book. She includes lots of helpful information on baking techniques, measurements, bakeware and tools. She has included what seems to be, every basic baking recipe I’ll ever need – with photos! If you want to add one comprehensive baking book to your cookbook library, I would buy this one.

When a special occasion rolls around, I can always count on my fabulous aunt to send a new cookbook my way. Until this moment, I don’t know if she knew how much I’m looking forward to receiving my next book. She gifted me this Martha Stewart book, and my whole family thanks her when I make Martha’s black and white cookies. They’re the cookies that eat like a cake. I know my New York/New Jersey followers know these cookies well. With St. Patrick’s Day around the corner, I’ve made her Irish Soda bread. I’m really the only one in the house who likes it… alas, I end up eating the whole thing. I can attest that it’s simple to make and delicious. If you love Irish Soda bread and live close to me, please come over and help me eat this, I’m getting full.

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day and thank you Martha!

Martha’s Irish Soda Bread

Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp caraway seeds
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter, cold and cut into small pieces
  • 2 cups raisins (I like to use a combination – 1 cup golden and 1 cup regular raisins)
  • 1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tbsp heavy cream

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, caraway seeds, baking powder and salt. Cut the cold butter into the flour mixture using a pastry blender. You want the mixture to look like pea sized crumbs. It’s ok for there to be larger crumbs throughout the mixture as well. Toss in the raisins and combine.

In a separate bowl, whisk the whole egg with the buttermilk and baking soda until properly combined. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the egg mixture. Using a rubber spatula, begin to combine the wet and dry ingredients. Make sure you scrape from the bottom of the bowl to incorporate all the dry ingredients. Combine until the dough just comes together.

Now use your hands to form the dough into a round dome shape and transfer to a parchment paper lined cookie sheet.

Beat the remaining egg yolk with the heavy cream and brush the top of the dough with the mixture. Using a sharp paring knife, cut a cross on the top of the dough, in the center, about 3/4 inch deep. Bake in your preheated oven until it turns a deep golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean – about 1 hour and 10 minutes.

Remove the bread from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack. Store leftovers at room temperature wrapped tightly in plastic wrap. Bread will last for up to 3 days.

Enjoy slathered with lots of good butter!

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