Daring Bakers November Challenge 2012: Twelve Days of Cookies

Holiday season is the time for sharing and Peta of Peta Eats is sharing a dozen cookies, some classics and some of her own, from all over the world with us.

The challenge recipe I chose to make was the chocolate sables, recipe here.  I left out the egg yolk as I had read some other recipes on the internet that did not use it, so I thought I’d see how it went.  The cookies were delicious, crumbly with big chunks of chocolate and not too sweet.  They even seemed to get better with time!  Try them crumbled up in vanilla ice cream for an excellent version of cookies and cream.

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As my second cookie, I made Alfajores, which are South American corn starch based cookies, filled with dulce de leche.  I used the recipe from familyfoodie.com, which have a little lemon zest as well as vanilla for flavour.  Dulce de Leche, whilst readily available in Spain is quite expensive, so I made my own using the oven method, which seems a lot safer than boiling sweet and condensed milk in a pan and is also much faster.  Simply pour a can of sweetened condensed milk with a sprinkle of salt into a pyrex tray and bake at about 180 degrees until golden brown (time varies with your oven-mine took about an hour but my oven is terrible).  When it is golden whisk it up to get rid of any lumps and leave to cool and set a little before using.

The cookies were lovely and crumbly, although very sweet and with a tendency to stick your mouth together!

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 This was an excellent challenge, Ill probably make a few more cookies before Christmas hits!!

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Cake Truffles: Momofuku Genius

Peanut Caramel Banana Bread Truffles

I have spent the weekend delving into the sweet tooth heaven that is the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook by Christine Tosi.  Starting with the cereal milk ice cream, (recipe to follow- definitely the best ice cream I’ve made at home so far, and one of my favourite ice creams ever!), I then started perusing the internet looking at pictures of other fantastic creations from this New York bakery.

One picture that kept popping up was the Cake Truffle, in particular Birthday Cake Truffles, sold by the bakery.  These looked absolutely amazing, and combined two of my favourite things, truffles and cake.  I couldn’t locate a recipe for these bite sized cake balls, but after reading a number of blogs from people who had tried them, or made something similar it seemed it was simply a case of crumbling a cake, mixing it with icing and rolling into balls.  Perhaps with a quick roll in something to coat to improve the appearance. Obviously the quality and flavour of your original cake and icing will effect the ball. I’m not sure this is quite how Momofuku does them, as the menu seems to feature binding ingredients such as liquid cheesecake (further experimentation to come!), but it was a good starting point.

I had a couple of cakes in the freezer after a Saturday baking frenzy that resulted in three cakes and only two people to feed, so I thought I would experiment with those.

One cake was a banana peanut loaf and the other a mandarin and yogurt cake.  I quickly whipped up some salted caramel butter cream for the banana and chocolate butter cream for the mandarin, crumbled them up and mixed them in.  I then rolled the mixture into balls, rolled the banana cake in shredded coconut and the mandarin one in icing sugar and chilled in the fridge for a couple of hours.

not so attractive Mandarin Chocolate Cake Truffles- next time I'll coat them in chocolate

The resulting balls were amazing, dense and moist like the part of the cake that comes in contact with the icing and is really soft (my favourite part!).  They were definitely a huge improvement on the cakes themselves which were a little dry.  A great use of any slightly old/dry cake really, but probably tastes even better with a fresh moist one.

You could really do this with any cake you enjoy, or even a packet mix.  The icing possibilities are endless and these little bites make great, transportable treats.  I think next time I will chocolate coat them, and there will definitely be more than one next time!

Ghost Biscuits for Halloween- or tiny turd cookies

Ghostly cookies

 

Well I thought I’d put in a little extra effort and make some little ghost cookies for my kids classes this week to celebrate Halloween.  I was without a cookie cutter so I went for the more abstract hand shaped cookie look.  I’ve never actually made plain sugar cookies before as I don’t really like them, (there always seems to be so many better cookies out there to make….usually with chocolate chips!), but I thought the plain taste would appeal more to the kids. 

So I made plain sugar cookies with a white royal icing and piped on a face with a chocolate coloured royal icing.  Unfortunately my piping skills could use a little work!  Or so Breadhead seemed to think, when after taking one look at my cookies, told me I had made a white cookie, covered in small dog turds.  On closer inspection this was actually true.  Luckily the kids didn’t seem to mind, although I pretty sure they like anything that involves sugar, turd shaped or otherwise…..

The recipe itself was a throw it all in until it was the right consistency, but turned out well and held its shape in the oven.  I would probably add a bit more lemon to the icing for adults and maybe spice the cookies up with nutmeg, ginger or cinnamon and throw in a few chopped nuts!

Sugar Cookie Recipe:

1/2 cup white sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 cup butter softened

3 cups plain flour

2 eggs beaten

1 tsp vanilla essence

1 tsp baking powder

spices (nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger) optional

1.  Cream butter and sugar until light and creamy

2.  Add eggs and vanilla and beat to combine

3.  Add dry ingredients- sifted and stir to combine

4.  Roll dough into desired thickness and cut into desired shape with a cookie cutter or shape by hand.

5.  Place dough in fridge for half an hour- this helps them keep their shape in the oven

6.  Bake at 180 degrees celcius for 6-8 minutes or until lightly brown.

7.  Allow to cool before icing.

or a landscape of tiny turds!

Royal Icing Recipe:

2 eggs whites

3 cups icing sugar

2 tsp lemon juice.

1.  Whisk egg whites and lemon until bubbly

2.  Add icing sugar gradually whilst whisking

3.  Allow to ‘set’ in the fridge a little before icing.

4.  Add a little water if a thinner consistency is desired.

5.  Ice cooled cookies with a piping bag or simply spread with a spoon for a for rustic effect (remember the icing will spread so you don’t need to go right to the edges!).

6.  Decorate as desired and allow to set in fridge for a smooth finish.

Note: for coloured icing, simply add a few drops of food colouring or a little cocoa powder.

Chocolate con Churros…delicious but deadly

The British do fairly well on the unhealthy breaky front.  Think of a Full English, laden with bacon, sausages, eggs, toast with butter, beans, hash browns and all generously coated with a layer of tasty grease.  There is however, the odd chance of a vegetable sneaking in, be it a juicy tomato, a few fried mushrooms and hey, baked beans are veggies after all.

The Spanish have gone one up with the creation of churros, usually served with a side of chocolate for dunking, and possibly containing no nutritional benefit whatsoever aside from an excessive calorie injection.  According to some, churros  originated in the mountains of Spain, where shepherds cooked these doughnut like treats using only a pan and oil.  They were then eaten plain or dipped in sugar.  All very well if you are spending your day climbing mountains after reckless sheep and nights literally freezing off your fat!

Another theory as to their origin is that they were brought to Portugal from China when the Portuguese returned from the Ming Dynasty.  Although as they had not learned to ‘pull’ the dough, as the Chinese did, they started to pipe the dough, giving a star shaped product. Whichever theory is correct, they are now widely available all over Spain and South America.

Over time, churros con chocolate have morphed into the ultimate post party snack/breakfast.  Now everything happens just a little bit later in Spain, so generally young people are leaving the nightclubs after a night on the town at about 7am, obviously the perfect time for a quick breaky before heading home to sleep off the hangover for the entire day.

The churros themselves resemble long thin piped deep fried doughnuts and the chocolate, well, that’s what it is, literally a cup of melted chocolate, in which to dip your churros.  It is full on.  Definitely not a breakfast for the faint hearted, health conscious, or those at high risk of heart attack.  It does hit the spot after a night out on the town and a few drinks still in the belly to cloud the judgment though.

Portions are generally big, and in my experience the half way point is the limit, as this seems to be when I start to almost feel my arteries clogging as I continue to eat.  Despite this, if you get good ones, they are pretty amazing. The soft centered, crispy dough with a rich, creamy coating of thick molten chocolate is a pretty intense experience.  I have not tried making them as yet, they are pretty cheap and not the sort of thing you want to eat on a regular basis.  Best left for nights out that turn into mornings, where half the experience is hanging around the door of the Churreria at 5am to wait for it to open.

The whole thing is not particularly sweet.  I have never had Churros coated with sugar in Spain, although apparently they do exist.  I have found in general that they have a slightly salty almost savory flavour and the dipping chocolate is thick and rich, but not really sweet either.  The flavour, however, can vary from region to region in Spain, as can the shape.  In the South, churros are thicker and fatter (known as Purros elsewhere), whilst in the North they are thinner and with a harder outer coating.  They can also be found stuffed with chocolate cream, dulce de leche or vanilla, although these are more popular in Brazil and Mexico.  There is even a savory cheese stuffed version popular in Uruguay!

Well, love them or hate them, unlike so many foods these days, churros are never portrayed to be a health food.  You know what you are getting yourself into when you bite into that crispy fried shell, so enjoy.  Just not too often!

Churros con chocolate at Valour- perfect hangover fix?