Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Chocolate Fudge Cookies with Mango Buttercream Filling

There were mangoes on my counter. Crying out for butter and sugar. And chocolate. They really wanted chocolate. 

That and I was totally interested in the concept of flourless chocolate cookies. The fudge quotient in my life needed to be filled. 

And so we find the perfect combination of dark, heavy cocoa and light, tangy mango.

In the beginning there is powdered sugar, cocoa and salt.

And you've got to use the dark cocoa. Embrace that dark devil.

Add egg whites until you get it to the super-thick-brownie-batter point.

Then toss in the chocolate chips.

Make little baby chocolate mounds on a parchment or silpat lined baking sheet. Trust me, you need all the help the paper/mat provides. These suckers are sticky and spread out quite a bit!

Let them bake until shiny and split on top. They puff up a little. Don't worry, they sink when they cool down. 

Now, DON'T TOUCH them. The cookies need to completely cool on the sheet. Don't even peek at them. Your patience will be rewarded. 

Now, for the icing, start with butter. 

Whip it. Whip it good.

Puree some mango. Or buy it pureed, if you can.

Now, alternate additions of mango and powdered sugar until you have a taste and consistency that you like.

Then slather it all over half the cookies. Use the other half to sandwich them. 

Make sure to refrigerate the cookies. The delicious buttercream needs to be kept cool, or it will melt and get all smooshy. 

They are rich enough that I decided to cut them in half before sending them into work with Mr. S. If I had cut the cookies prior to sandwiching them, it would have been much less messy....

Not that I minded cleaning up the leftovers!

Fudgey Chocolate Cookie Sandwiches with Mango Buttercream
Makes 14 sandwiches
Adapted from Chocolate & Carrots

For cookies:
3 c. powdered sugar
2/3 c. dark cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
3 or 4 egg whites
1 1/2 c. 60% cocoa bittersweet chocolate chips

For filling:
1 stick (1/2 c.) butter, softened
3 to 3.5 c. powdered sugar
1 mango, peeled and pureed or 1 c. mango puree

For the cookies - preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together powdered sugar, cocoa and salt. Whisk in the egg whites, starting with 3, adding the fourth only if the batter is too thick. I only needed 3, but my eggs were labeled "large." Once the batter looks like brownie batter, add the chocolate chips. 

Using a regular silverware spoon, create little mounds of  batter, well spaced on a parchment or silpat lined baking sheet. Bake for 12-14 minutes or until the tops are shiny and cracked and cookies are a little puffed. 

Remove pans from oven and allow to cool completely before attempting to remove cookies. This gives you plenty of time to make the filling. 

Put the butter in a medium bowl. Using a hand mixer, beat it until fluffy. Add a 1/2 cup of powdered sugar and mix it in. Then a few tablespoons of mango puree, mixing that in. Alternate 1/2 cups of powdered sugar and tablespoons of puree until you achieve a consistency and taste that you like.

Peel the cookies off the parchment/silpat. If you want to make 1/2 cookie sandwiches, now would be a good time to cut the cookies in half. Fill half the number of cookies with the mango mixture, and top them with the other half. Place the sandwiched cookies in the refrigerator for the filling to set.

You won't have to wait long for the cookies to disappear....

Monday, February 27, 2012

A Simple Supper

This past week I was sick. Really sick. There was no cooking going on.

But that didn't mean I wasn't dreaming of what I wanted to make....

Roast chicken

I made one awhile back.

It started like this:

Apples and carrots, salt and pepper, then a lemon and onion inside.

The recipe is really simple. Put it in a cast iron skillet and roast it. For awhile. Until the bird reaches the temperature it needs to. I add apples, cause I like them. They get all caramelized and sweet.

I suppose if you need a real recipe you can talk to Martha.

The end result was this.

I don't have a pretty plated photo cause I didn't plate it. I picked it and used the chicken for other things (like pot pie). But now... oooohh. I want chicken!

Friday, February 24, 2012

San Francisco Polenta Bread

I like to bring home "treasures" from the grocery store. New-to-me, exciting little things with which I can play. Typically things that go well with butter. Not a rule, but it usually turns out that way.

I blame this habit entirely on my mother. When I was young, I would go with her to the grocery store. In order to keep me happy/occupied/expand my horizons, she would occasionally let me pick out something weird and we would buy it. This is how we tried star fruit, kumquats, and many other things that my Midwestern mother didn't know what to do with. We would adventure.

This has directly led to my purchase of Golden Pheasant Polenta.

It was on the shelf at Safeway. I'd never seen this brand before. The packaging was pretty. There were recipes on the back.

We didn't have any polenta at home... *rationalize, rationalize, rationalize*

And since we are so close to San Fran, I decided that the first thing I would make would be the bread. It was a good choice.

First, the sifted flour. I want to share a trick that my entire extended family uses - waxed paper.

Sift flour onto waxed paper. Spoon what you need into the measuring cup (don't pack it down - the whole point of sifting is to add air).

Pick up the paper and use it to pour the excess flour back into the container.

Fold up the paper and store under your sifter for the next time.

You now have a clean counter, and you've not wasted any flour. You're welcome.

Back to the bread -

Mix the dry ingredients together.

Mix the wet ingredients together.

Mix the wet into the dry.

Pour into a greased 8x8.

Bake until golden.

Eat with butter and honey.

That was totally not hard.

San Francisco Polenta Bread
Adapted from Golden Pheasant Polenta bag
Serves 6-8

1 c. sifted flour
1 c. polenta
3 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 c. sugar
1 c. milk
1/4 c. vegetable oil
1 egg

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, mix together flour, polenta, baking soda, salt, and sugar. In a smaller bowl, mix milk, oil, and egg, making sure to mix well enough to beat the egg. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Combine with a few quick strokes. Pour into greased 8x8 glass baking dish. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until golden brown. 

Watch out - it goes fast!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Pollo Pot Pie

Now, after that kerfuffle (please, family! Say you still love me!), to satisfy the midwestern side of my tastebuds.

Chicken pot pie is one of the great comfort foods. I'm fairly sure that between the ages of 7 and 13, I personally consumed a vast quantity of the stuff. Only what I craved was the frozen out-of-a-box stuff. There's no shame in that.

But now that I'm a grown-up and can control my own freezer space, I choose to stock ice cream. And the occasional frozen pizza - for emergencies only. 

I found some puff pastry in there, squirreled away from the last time I needed it. I also happened to have leftover roasted chicken. Oh boy! Pot pie time!

But I didn't want to do the regular version. Mostly because I didn't have any carrots. But I did have black beans. Ole! Pollo Pot Pie it is!

I always start with the chopping first - onion, jalapeno, roasted red pepper and garlic.

Saute the onions in butter and olive oil. Wait a few minutes, then add the chopped garlic.

Don't forget to warm up the milk and chicken stock!

It doesn't need to boil, it just needs to be close.

Once the onions are nicely translucent, add the spices and the flour.

Stir it all up, and let it cook for 1-2 minutes. Then, slowly add the milk mixture.

Once you've whisked the heck out of it, add the chilies in adobo liquid, jalapenos, red pepper, and peas.

Then add the black beans and chicken. Mmmm. Mexican-ized!

Grab your ramekins and cut out the puff pastry circles.

Make them slightly larger than the ramekins themselves. (If you don't have ramekins, you can use a pie plate or other shallow-ish dish.)

Fill them up with the chicken mixture and top with pastry.

Crimp it a little, like a double crusted pie. I used the leftover pastry to make pretty decorations....

So pretty, I'm sure I want to eat them!

Then again.....

Pollo Pot Pie
Serves 3-4
Adapted from Alton's Curry Pot Pie

1 small white onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 jalapeno, de-seeded and diced
4 tbsp roasted red peppers, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp butter
1/2 c. milk
1 1/2 c. chicken stock
1 tsp Mexican oregano
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp cumin seeds
3 tbsp flour
1 tbsp chiles in adobo sauce
1/2 c. frozen peas
1/2 c. black beans
2 c. cooked chicken, cubed
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Heat the olive oil, butter and onion in a large saute pan on medium heat. Cook onions 2-3 minutes, add garlic. Cook another 2-3 minutes, until translucent. Warm the milk and chicken stock in a small saucepan. To the onion mixture, add the flour, paprika, cumin seed, and oregano. Stir well. Cook for 1-2 minutes. Slowly whisk in the milk mixture. Stir in the adobo sauce, peas, jalapeno, and red pepper. Add the black beans and chicken. Salt and pepper to taste.

Make sure the puff pastry is cut to fit your vessel (I used 2 medium sized ramekins and had a little mixture left over, you can use a pie plate, a square glass dish, or whatever you've got). Fill your vessel, top with pastry. Place vessel on a baking sheet and put in the oven for 25 minutes, until pastry is golden brown and mixture is bubbly.

I'd wait a little while after it comes out of the oven to eat it. Or you'll burn your tastebuds off!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Preparing for Mardi Gras

Today is the Monday before Fat Tuesday, which is the day before Ash Wednesday when many church-going folks decide to give up sweets. Thus - cake! 

And not just any cake. The traditional Mardi Gras cake, King's Cake. I have fond memories of heading down the block to the Gutowsky's house for the annual crawfish boil and King's Cake eating party. They were from Louisiana, where such things were normal. My mom is from Indiana. I quickly learned which state had a stronger food culture. 

Mrs. Gutowsky was an amazing lady, and she ran a hell of a Mardi Gras party. There were beads, toys, and plenty of delicious food. Most of it they cooked themselves, but not the cake. It was special. It came from a bakery. 

According to Wikipedia, King's Cake exists in many parts of the world, served typically between Epiphany and Fat Tuesday. But in the southern US, it is associated almost exclusively with Mardi Gras. And it always contains a small trinket (typically a plastic baby) that represents the Christ Child. Whoever got the trinket in their piece was supposed to host the party next year. We didn't play it that way though. Obviously.

Since Mr. S and I moved to California, I figured I'd be out of luck for Mardi Gras. I didn't realize how right I was. There is absolutely nothing happening! I was so distraught, I had to do something. 

This is a hybrid King's Cake. Not the traditional Southern one with pecans and raisins. I decided to give it a California twist with local fruits and nuts: apricots and pistachios!

First, scald the milk and add the butter. Then wait for it to cool....

In the mean time, foam the yeast in warm water and a tablespoon of sugar.

In a large bowl, mix the yeast, milk, eggs, sugar and salt.

Add freshly ground nutmeg. I mean it. It makes a huge difference.

Then add your flour, a cup at a time. 

Once it becomes too hard to whisk in, use your hands and turn out for kneading. Knead for 8-10 minutes, adding flour when too sticky to work, until smooth and springy.

Grease a large bowl (as my mother says "this is the only reason why you keep a jar of Criso around").

Gather the dough into a ball. Dump it, head first, into the greased bowl. Slosh it around and turn it over so that all sides have a thin coating of shortening. 

Let it rise until doubled (1 1/2 hours or so).

Now, for the filling. Pistachios, apricots, cinnamon, brown sugar...

...butter, flour, vanilla, and honey. Hey! Save some for the cake!

Roll out the dough into a 10x16 rectangle and cover with filling.

Using your fingers, roll up the dough jellyroll style, starting from the wide end.

Once rolled, form into an oval on a parchment covered cookie sheet. Snip around the circle, cutting down about a 1/3 of the way.

Let it rise one more time, then bake.

Once baked, stuff the Christ trinket into the cake. I'm using a brass button (because apparently you can't find little plastic babies at the grocery store).

Then drizzle with icing and sprinklize.

Oh, the beauty!

California King's Cake
Makes 1 cake
Adapted from All Recipes

1/2 c. milk
2 tbsp butter
1 package active dry yeast
1/3 c. warm water (110 degrees F)
1/4 c. sugar - 1/2 tbsp reserved
1 egg
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
3 1/2 c. all-purpose flour

1/2 c. packed brown sugar
1/2 tbsp ground cinnamon
1/3 c. chopped pistachios
1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 c. dried apricots, diced
1/4 c. melted butter
2 tbsp honey
1 tsp vanilla

1 c. confectioners' (powdered) sugar
1 tbsp water

For the pastry - 
Pour milk into a small saucepan and scald (cook till there's little bubbles around the sides of the pan, and there's steam rising). Pull from the heat and add butter. Let sit till the mixture reaches room temperature. In a small bowl mix warm water, yeast, and 1/2 tbsp of sugar. Let sit 5-10 minutes until nice and foamy.

In a large bowl, combine the milk mixture, yeast mixture, remaining sugar, egg, salt and nutmeg. Whisk or beat until completely incorporated. Add flour, one cup at a time, beating after each addition. Turn out onto floured work surface and knead until smooth and springy (8-10 minutes), sprinkling on more flour as necessary. 

Grease up a large bowl. Gather your dough into a ball. Dump the ball into the bowl and swoosh it around, flipping it over. This gives the dough ball a thin layer of shortening all over, keeping it moist. Cover the bowl with a towel and let rise until doubled in size.

When risen, roll out the dough into an approximate 10"x16" rectangle. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

For the filling -
In a medium bowl, mix pistachios, apricots, flour, cinnamon and brown sugar.  Melt the butter and mix in honey and vanilla. Pour butter mixture over the sugar mixture and combine.

Spread the filling evenly over the dough. 

Roll the dough, jellyroll style, starting on the wide side. Move the roll to a parchment lined cookie sheet. Join the ends to create an oval. Using kitchen shears or scissors, snip a third of the way down the tube. Let rise again, for 30-45 minutes.

Slide into the 375 degree oven for 30 minutes. If using a Christ trinket, insert into the cake after removal from the oven.

While cake is still warm, mix powdered sugar and water for icing. Drizzle icing over the cake and top immediately with colored sugars.

*** If you want to make a more traditional King's Cake, substitute chopped pecans for the pistachios and raisins for the apricots.

Who wants the next piece?