Espresso Ganache Filling for Cookie Sandwiches

While toiling away in the kitchen today, I made up an Espresso Ganache recipe to use as a cookie sandwich filling. I really liked the way it turned out. If you’re interested, here it is:

1/4C heavy cream (I used eggnog)
1 Tbsp unsalted butter

Melt the butter in the cream over medium heat till it comes to a simmering boil.

4 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped up

Pour the boiling cream mixture over the chocolate in a heat resistant bowl, and let it stand for two minutes before slowly whisking the ingredients in small circles. Let this cool down and thicken up before adding the next two ingredients.

Note: If you need the cream and chocolate mixture to cool down rapidly and thicken up a bit, place the bowl in the fridge or freezer for ten minutes, and then give it a stir.

3 Tbsp instant espresso powder
1 1/2 – 2 C powdered sugar (more or less -I was eyeballing it)

After mixing the cream mixture with the chocolate chunks to blend it all, add the espresso powder and powdered sugar. Mix well till it’s all combined and the mix thickens to a lovely spread consistency.

Using a spoon, knife or offset spatula, spread a liberal amount between the cookies and let it rest to set, or eat immediately.

Should yield enough for 4 dozen sandwich cookies.

Mixed Fruit Brown Betty

This is a cobbler (A.K.A.: crumble, Brown Betty or crisp) I made the other night after work when I was especially burned out and in need of a great comforting dessert that I could put together without having to read or follow a cookbook or an online recipes. Basically, I used the formula I always do for my fruit cobblers, and threw in whatever I felt would work that was kicking around at the time.

I used a bag of frozen mixed berries I bought at the grocery store back when they were on sale for this very type of occasion. It was a mix of strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries. I cut the bag open at the top and down from sternum to tailpipe, and dropped the frozen lump into my baking pan. While that came up in temperature enough that I could break it up with my wooden spoon, I assembled the rest of the filling in a small bowl, and then assembled the topping ingredients in a slightly bigger bowl. When everything was prepped and the fruit was softened up enough, I took the butter out of the fridge and diced it up into half inch cubes, and separated them into two piles – one for the top, one for the bottom of the cobbler.

Here is what I came up with the other night for ingredients. The overall taste was spot on my target, and the husband was really into it. WIN!

Auntie Stacey’s¬†Mixed Fruit Brown Betty:
1 Bag Frozen Mixed Fruit, enough to fill a 6-8 serving medium size baking dish
1 Pinch Salt
1 Tea Ground Cinnamon
1/4 Tea Ground Cardamom (optional – I happen to always have it on hand)
1/4 C Brown Sugar, lightly packed
4 Tbsp Cornstarch
3 Tbsp Cold Butter, cubed
Juice of half a Lime

Mix this into a small bowl and toss it over the fruit. Use a spatula to mix everything enough. None of the ingredients have to be perfectly incorporated, and there’s no need to work the butter cubes into the filling’s dry ingredients. This is a rustic dessert, not a sophisticated Cherries Jubilee.

1 1/2 C Old Fashioned Oats
1/2 C Flour
3 Tbsp Cold Butter, cubed
1/4 Tea Ground Cinnamon

Using a butter cutting gadget, or two knives, or your fingers, cut up the butter and incorporate as much of the finer dry ingredients for the topping into the butter as you want. Again, it doesn’t have to be perfect or even all smooshed up. It’s a rustic dessert, so leave some clumps untouched and unsmooshed.

Top the filling with this crumbled mixture and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes uncovered. Leaving it uncovered will allow the oats in the topping to crisp up nicely as it deepens in colour.

Let it rest at least 20 minutes before you dig in. At least! I let mine rest up to a full hour sometimes. What the rest period does for the dessert is to allow more time for the mixture of cornstarch and brown sugar in the filling to cook down all liquid coming out of the fruit into a love thickened syrup. That syrup, by the way, is great spooned over some ice cream or whipped cream should you serve that alongside this dessert. (And I highly recommend that you do.)

PS: I was so frazzled from work the other night, we ate it all over two days and never once thought about taking a picture for this blog entry. My apologies. You all know what cobblers look like, right? If not, and you don’t or can’t wait till I make this again to photograph, you can always use Google images to see what these desserts looks like.

Enjoy!

Blackberry & Pear Crisp

BB-Pear_Crisp-9BB_Pear_Crisp-5[ Blackberry & Pear Crisp – fresh out of the oven ]

Today a customer gave us our first batch of blackberries off one of the bushes he has in his side yard at home after the husband fixed his computer. (Not as a payment, but as an extra, “Here. This is for you because I remember your wife and you love these from last year when I brought you some at the store,” sort of way.) And we did.

He gave us about one and a half cups, and kindly washed them for us, so all I had to do was peel and cut up the lone pear we had in the fridge to add to the berries for this recipe. I love when a great plan comes together on the fly like this.

So, my challenge wasn’t what kind of crisp I wanted to make, but rather to scale the one recipe I love the most down to something that will use up everything I have onhand and will also fit nicely into two small baking dishes. I adapted the following to make a 2-person serving. Hope you all like it.

Auntie Stacey’s Blackberry & Pear Crisp:
2 C Blackberries + Pears (you can make them even or a bit more of one over the other)
3 Tbsp Brown Sugar
1-2 Tbsp Cornstarch

1/2 C Rolled Oats
1/3 C Flour
3 Tbsp Brown Sugar
1 1/2 – 2 Tbsp Butter (unsalted, cold and cubed)

BB_Pear_Crisp-3

[ Blackberry & Pear Crisp – ready for the oven ]

In a small bowl, mix the sugar and cornstarch; lightly toss with the fruit, or if they berries are too tender, drop the mixture over the fruit as it sits in the baking dishes.

In the bowl again, mix the oats, flour and sugar. Top each baking dish with half of this mixture. Place the small cubes over top of the topping within half an inch of each other.

No need to go overboard or to crowd. If you leftover cubes, chill them for the next crisp you do or use them for your next corn-on-the-cob dinner.

Bake the crisps at 350 for 35 minutes, or until bubbling hot and most of the topping has crisped up.

BB-Pear_Crisp-6

Cool till the fruit can be eaten without scaling the mouth, and serve with French Vanilla ice cream or, if you have it, freshly whipped cream topping.

Yields: 2

BB-Pear_Crisp-10

{ So good. So, so good. ]

Homemade Hotdog Buns

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It’s Canada Day, and that means hotdogs and hamburgers made on the grill in a backyard or in a park by some water close enough to the fireworks hours later. It’s how we do it north of the 49th, kids. And we like it this way!

What we don’t like – or, what I should say I don’t like – is finding out our hotdog buns are moldy on a day when the stores are closed for a national holiday. It bums me out. But, because I discovered this problem very last night, I had lots of time today to make buns from scratch. Yes, I make bread, too. I make it ALL, baby.

{evil laughter}

I don’t have a stock bun recipe so I was planning to scour the innerweebs when Joy The Baker, bless her generous heart, decided this was the weekend she was going to post about her homemade hotdog buns. It was meant to be. ūüôā

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From this…

HotDogBuns-10

To this.

I halved the ingredient amounts to make a smaller batch than her recipe yields, but if you’re having a crowd over, Joy’s recipe will give you 18 regular 4″-5″ buns per batch. There’s still time to make a whole mess of these buns if you need more than that. They’re fast, straightforward and easy to make. I assure you. If you’ve ever kneaded dough before, you’ll be fine with this recipe. Pay attention to your type of yeast (I learned the hard way a month ago) and how to use it, and you should be fine.

HotDogBuns-2

 

I made half the batch with poppy seeds, fresh cracked pepper and big grains of salt, and the other half only got the coarse salt. I liked the salted one, and my husband loved the all dressed up one. I took care to make these buns a full 7″ so the overgrown Costco sausages the boy loves so much would be evenly matched up bite for bite. He complains a lot about rinky-dink store bought buns not being long enough. So, needless to say, he was happy with these buns in ever respect.

Try these buns. You’ll love them. And they took me less than an hour – start to finish.

OK, we’re off to hit a movie if we can, so enjoy your holiday, everyone.

Happy 146th birthday, Canada!

A Batch of Cupcakes for Two

CupcakeFor2

[ Click picture to embiggen. Recipe & picture courtesy @AmberReed. ]

Sometimes I want something baked that’s a bit sweeter than a muffin, but I don’t want to make a full batch or a big production of it because half the time I want to taste test a new flavour combination I’ve thought up or found someone talking about online, and it just happens to be one the husband doesn’t like or isn’t into like Espresso Double Chocolate (for when I’m PMS’ing), so what is a girl supposed to do – park herself in front of a dozen muffins or cupcakes till they’re all disappeared from the house?

Uh, not going to happen!

I figure most of you feel the same way I do about not wanting a bunch of baked goods kicking around in the house, seductively calling out your name in the middle of the night from the kitchen all the way to your bedroom, like so:

“Psst! Hey, you! Oh good, you’re awake. Can’t sleep, eh? Me neither. Remember me? I’m those delicious treats you baked today. Come to the kitchen and visit. C’mon, just a short visit, and then I’ll have you back in bed in no time at all. I promise. I know you can hearrrrrrrr meeeeeee…” <– How many times has this happened to us, right?

Well, it doesn’t have to happen anymore. That’s right, the picture at the top of this post holds the perfect solution to our shared dilema, kids. Give it a go next time you’re craving.

(Don’t lie. We all crave. I know you’re shaking your head right now, but you’re also giggling because you know I know I’m busting you!)

Edit: The second set of increments in the picture are all missing their slashes to turn them into fractions.¬†If you don’t correct your measurements, you’ll have a HUGE mess on your hands. Bake them at 350 degrees for 15-18 mins.

Cookie Dough Pie Crust

pie-dough(Picture from Google Images)

I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not a flaky pie crust kinda gal. I’m always choking and sputtering when I eat pie, and I also don’t enjoy the taste much. I know that leaves me in the minority, but there’s not much I can do about it besides conspicuously pick most of the pie shell away as I eat a slice when in public.

I’ve been considering how to make butter tarts without a crust for two days now. I still don’t have *the* answer. :-\ But, I have a few ideas for alternative butter tart presentations.

butter_tart_squaresOne idea is to bake them into squares with a blondie bottom. I came across butter tarts in squares like these great ones from MyFriendsBakery.ca, and while I like that idea a lot, I fear the traditionalists in my husband’s side of the family may reject my butter tarts if there not wrapped in pastry shell love.

I want to play around with making a cookie dough crust to see if that would work out or not. Wish me luck.

Auntie Stacey’s Carrot Cookies

Auntie Stacey’s Carrot Cookies
1/2 C (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 C brown sugar, packed
1/4 C white sugar
1 egg yolk
3/4 C flour (your choice – I use all purpose)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 C teaspoon rolled oats
3/4 C carrots, shredded
1/3 C dried fruit or chocolate chunks (your choice)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1. Cream your butter and then mix in the sugars; add the yolk and mix till all is moistened.
2. Stir the flour and salt together; spoon into the mixing bowl with the machine running on its lowest setting.
3. Carefully spoon the last three ingredients into the mixing bowl while the machine is running on its lowest setting till everything is blended nicely.
4. Drop and flatten spoonfuls onto parchment lined cookie sheets and bake for 15-20 minutes per batch.

Dip part of cookies into melted chocolate when cooled if PMS’ing.

‘For Two’ Recipe Blog

ButteredPecanSconesforsite

[ Click picture to embiggen ]

I keep meaning to tell Ellen and Wendy about a blog that serves up recipes for two single servings. The blog is called Dessert For Two, and it’s run by the lovely and friendly Christina. She goes by @DessertForTwo on Twitter so if you ever have a question, that’s probably the best place to grab her attention.

I love this blog. Often I will want to cook or bake something out of the blue but I don’t want a million bits of leftover kicking around going stale after we’ve satiated our hankerings. This site fits the bill because Christina has probably already taken the time to figure out the reduced ingredient¬†increments¬†for whatever we want to make into a micro batch.

For example, today I was thinking I would make some scones for breakfast tomorrow, and not just any scones, but bacon infused scones. I went to her site, searched “scone” and a few recipes came up. I really like this one for Buttered Pecan Scones. Yummy. (See her picture above for what they look like.) All I have to do is follow one and sub out the flavour ingredients for the bacon, and I’ll be off to the races.

I will post my results tomorrow if they turn out as well as I think they will. Stay tuned.

Old Fashioned Oatmeal Cookies

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[ Click picture to embiggen ]
Old Fashioned Oatmeal Cookies:
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs (room temperature)
1/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon vanilla

 

4 cups rolled oats (the 5-minute kind)
1+1/2 cups cups all-purpose flour
1 cup finely crushed graham crackers (about 15)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt

OPTIONS:
7oz marshmallow creme (Fluff) topped with¬†45-50 Hershey Kisses, unwrapped (S’Mores)
1 to 1+1/2 cup dried cranberries (Craisins)
1 to 1+1/2 cup chocolate chips

1. In a medium bowl whisk the oats, flour, graham crackers, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt together until well combined. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl beat the butter on medium speed for 30 seconds the beat in both sugars, scraping down the side of the bowl.
3. Beat in the eggs, milk and vanilla just until combined.
4. Beat in as much of the flour mixture as you can with the mixer, if it gets too thick for your mixer stir by hand until just combined.
5. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, or roll the dough out into logs in wax paper, and chill at least 1 hour but no longer than 4 hours.
6. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or lightly grease.
7. Scoop up slightly rounded tablespoonfuls of dough and lightly roll into a ball, or cut up your logs into dough slices. Place each about 2 inches apart on prepared cookie sheets and bake 8 minutes.
8. Remove from oven to cool off on wire racks.¬†Note:¬†If making the S’mores version use the back of a measuring spoon to make a small indent in the center of each cookie before dropping teaspoonfuls (use another spoon to scrape it off the measuring spoon) of marshmallow fluff into each one and then push a kiss down into the center of that.
9. Store in one layer in a tightly covered container up to one week – although truth be told, they’ve never last that long around here.

I make these cookies almost weekly now. I routinely split the dough up into six measured out 10-oz blobs which I then roll into 2″ thick logs in sheets of waxed paper to create small bake batches. I twist the ends of the wax paper like a bon bon candy would be to seal the logs up, and chill them in the fridge for close to 2 hours before baking. Oh, and with my bench scraper (or the blade of my big chef’s knife) I flatten each end of the logs so all of the cookies are even and uniform when I cut them.

The husband loves when I add dried cranberries (Craisins) into these cookies, but I’ve also added other stuff like chocolate chips, nuts, Fluff & Hershey Kisses, etc. Be as creative as you like. There are some suggestions above at the bottom of the recipe listing. You can even wait till after you measure each blob out to add your extra ingredients to make six different cookie logs in one go as long as you’re organized enough to do so.

Conversely, these cookies are delicious enough to stand on their own without any extras added. Just the bare bones cookie dough, all on its own. Try it. You’ll see what I mean.

Normally I split the batch of dough rolls to give three away to my in-laws, and reserve the other three to bake up small batches of a dozen bite size cookies for us to enjoy. I tend to bake one roll every other day to replenish our cookie stash. These cookies hold their soft, chewy texture really well, too. The proof of that is I left one cookie out all night by accident (OOPS) and the next morning it tasted just as fresh as it had the day before we made them.

This dough can also be frozen if you’re planning to use them at Christmas. I would recommend making these no longer than 3 months in advance if you so inclined to have your freezer that stocked up. I find making doughs and baking so many different cookies at Christmas stressful, so I like to start stockpiling around the last week of November and make one new cookie batch to freeze every week as time permits. In the end, all I have to do is cut, bake, cool and decorate as I wrap gifts. Saves me loads of time on doing dishes and fridge space as the doughs require chilling.

And finally, the logs should each yield at least 6 healthy cookies, or if you are modest or want to stretch the dough as far as you can make it go, you can probably make close to 16 thin¬†cookies (but not paper thin — no one likes that!). I approach cutting up the long as I do cutting up sushi rolls. (Cut the log in half; line up those halves side by side and cut in half, and cut outward from there until all log sections are uniformly sliced up.)

Enjoy!

Pistachio-Cranberry Butter Tarts

ButterTart

Finally got around to making those much talked about butter tarts today. I made as many of the butter tarts as I had filling for (38 mini tarts), and then made a half batch of filling using pistachios and dried cranberries in place of the traditional raisins and pecans (for the final 10 tarts). I prefer those to the traditional butter tart. I highly recommend them!

Pistachio-CranButterTarts-8

I took this All Recipes version for these dead easy¬†Mississipi Butter Tarts and simply subbed out the fruit and nut selections. That’s it. Oh, and I also didn’t have any cream in the house, so I made my own using a bit of melted butter and added that to some milk, whisking enough so they emulsified. (Ratio for the butter to milk is 1:3) Again, I used store bought mini pie shells that I blind baked, cooled down, then filled and baked.¬†Easy-peasy.

Enjoy! Let me know how you like these after you test drive them at home.