December 11, 2017

Cookie Butter Cookies


How many of you have tried cookie butter?  I mean, it's a brilliant idea - spreadable cookie yumminess, and quite tasty, right?  But, I often feel that the usage of cookie butter is somewhat limited beyond a spoon into the jar.  Haha!  The idea of using cookie butter in place of peanut butter sound good, but I can never bring myself to make a cookie butter sandwich. ;-)

When shopping at Trader Joe's, I am always amazed at how many different cookie butter products I see: cookie butter cheesecake, cookie butter chocolate, cookie butter sandwich cookies, and the list goes on.  It was time to get creative with that jar of cookie butter sitting in the far back of the cabinet (purposely hidden to avoid temptation).  

So, here comes cookie butter cookies.  These soft, chewy cookies are rich and buttery with caramel and vanilla flavors and a hint of almond.  They just taste comforting, even though they are addicting!  

And, to make you feel less guilty, there's no added butter in these cookies, so they are technically butter free.  Cookie butter is different from regular cookie butter, after all.

Cookie Butter Cookies
Yields 2 dozen

Ingredients:
1 egg
1 cup cookie butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract
2 tsp. almond extract
3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp. all purpose flour (108 grams)
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cornstarch

Directions:
Prepare two large baking sheets with a silpat or parchment paper and set aside.  (You will need to stick these in the refrigerator, so if you don't have space, use two large plates, and you can prepare the baking sheets right before you bake.)

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a large bowl with a hand mixer), cream together the cookie butter, egg, brown sugar, and vanilla and almond extracts.  Beat until light and fluffy for about five minutes.  Then, add the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, and cornstarch.  Continue mixing on medium-low until just incorporated. 

Using a medium cookie scoop or a spoon (you want about 2 tbsp. of dough in each cookie dough ball), form cookie dough balls.  Place the dough onto the prepared baking sheets or onto the large plate.  Refrigerate for a minimum of five hours (overnight preferred).  

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350ºF.  Remove the cookie dough balls from the fridge and flatten slightly.  Place the baking sheets into the oven and bake for 8-9 minutes or until the cookies have set.  The cookies may seem "doughy" when you remove from the oven, but that's okay--they will firm up and be soft and chewy.  Do not over bake.  

Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for about 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.  Enjoy!

Source: Adapted from AverieCooks

December 5, 2017

Pork Ragout


This dish requires your patience, but you will be very well rewarded.  This is big flavor, simple ingredients, and all-around comfort food.

This dish isn't complicated, but it requires about two hours for the pork to cook and become tender.  Basically, you brown the pork and cook some onions and garlic.  Then, you add some white wine to deglaze the pot.  You could add red wine, but I think white wine keeps it a little lighter.  After, you add some tomatoes, herbs, and chicken broth, and you let the pork cook in an sauce of amazingness.  The pasta doesn't get cooked completely in the water because it will finish cooking when you add it to the sauce. At the end, you add some parm, some olive oil, and some arugula.  Finally, bon appetit!

You could make it in the slow cooker, but if you do, make sure you brown the pork before adding it into the slow cooker.

Instead of using forks to shred meat, use your stand mixer.  Yes, you read that right!  Add warm meat (with any bones removed) to the bowl of your stand mixer.  Put on the paddle attachment, and turn on your stand mixer to medium-low speed.  In about three minutes, you'll have perfectly shredded meat. It's much faster and easier than using the two fork method.

Next time you are looking for a hearty, insanely good, and tasty pasta dish for dinner--and have some time, give this one a try.

Pork Ragout
Yields 10 servings

Ingredients:
3 pound pork shoulder roast, cut into 3-inch chunks
1 1/2 tbsp. Kosher salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
3 tbsp. cooking oil (vegetable oil or grapeseed oil)
8 sprigs thyme
2 sprigs rosemary
1 bay leaf
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup white wine
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
Pinch red chili flakes
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 lb. rigatoni or penne pasta
1 Parmesan cheese rind
6 tbsp. freshly grated Parmesan, plus more as a desired
Arugula, if desired

Directions:
Use paper towels to dry the pork well and sprinkle on all sides with 1 tbsp. of the kosher salt and the pepper.  Heat 2 tbsp. of the cooking oil in a Dutch oven over high heat.  Working in batches, brown the pork on all sides, about 3-5 minutes per side.  Remove the pork to a plate and set aside.

Once the pork has been browned, reduce the heat to medium.  Add the remaining 1 tbsp. cooking oil.  Then, add the onions and the remaining Kosher salt.  Cook for about 8-10 minutes, stirring and scraping any brown bits.  Then, add the garlic and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes.  Deglaze with the white wine and cook until nearly dry, 8 to 10 minutes.

Then, add the chicken broth, crushed tomatoes, Parmesan rind, chili flakes, and herbs and bring to a simmer.  Return the pork to the pot and tuck it under the sauce.  Reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for about 2 hours until the pork is fork tender.

Remove the pork and shred it.  Remove the herbs from the sauce and add the pork back to the pot.  Stir in the olive oil and half of the grated Parmesan.  Keep warm over low heat.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta for about 1 or 2 minutes less than the package instructions.  Drain and add the pasta to the sauce, tossing to cook.  Finish cooking the pasta in the sauce and add a ladle of pasta water as needed.

Serve with the remaining Parmesan and a drizzle of olive oil, and garnish with baby arugula.

Source: The Giadzy

December 3, 2017

Bread Pudding


Over the last few years, I have made different Christmas breads at Christmas time.  I've made panettone, stollen, and my great grandmother's Christmas bread.  These breads all share some commonalities: they contain dry fruit, are slightly sweet, and make a fabulous French toast.  French toast with these types of bread is tastier since there are more flavors and textures!  If you are gifted with one of these breads at Christmas (and secretly or not-so-secretly hate it), save it for bread pudding or French toast!

Bread pudding reminds me of a richer French toast, so it seemed like a no brainer to try making bread pudding with a Christmas bread.  This would make a wonderful dessert for your Christmas dinner, and it would also be divine for a Christmas brunch.  I've also made this in a cupcake pan, which makes this easy for individual servings.

You could also prep it ahead.  After pouring the custard mixture over the bread, wrap tightly and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.  The next day, sprinkle the almonds over and bake away!

This is a luscious, creamy bread pudding that will be a hit with everyone.

Bread Pudding
Ingredients:
1 lb. bread of your choice (panettone or another bread with dry fruit recommended)
3 whole eggs
8 egg yolks
5 cups half-and-half
1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract
1 tsp. pure almond extract
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup sliced almonds
Butter, for greasing the dish

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
Cut the bread into 1-inch cubes and place onto a sheet pan in a single layer.  Toast the bread for about 10 minutes or so until lightly browned.

Grease a 9x12x2" baking dish with the butter.  Place the toasted bread cubes into the baking dish.

In a large bowl, whisk the whole eggs, egg yolks, half-and-half, vanilla and almond extracts, sugar, and spices.  Pour this mixture over the bread cubes in the baking dish.  Allow the dish to sit for 15 minutes for the bread to soak up the custard.  Then, scatter the sliced almonds over the top of the bread-custard mixture.

Place the baking dish into a larger pan and add hot tap water to the larger pan until the water is halfway up the side of the baking dish.  Cover the larger pan with aluminum foil and tent the foil so that it does not touch the pudding.  Poke a few holes in the foil so that steam can escape.

Bake the bread pudding for 45 minutes.  Then, uncover and bake for an additional 45 minutes or until the custard is set and the top of the pudding is light golden brown.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Source: Adapted from Ina Garten

November 19, 2017

Zimsterne (Cinnamon-Almond Meringue Stars)


It's Christmas cookie season, and I couldn't be more excited.  I love Christmas -- it's such a happy time of the year!

Today's recipe is for a classic German cookie, zimsterne.  They are cinnamon almond star cookies painted with meringue.  The cookies are chewy with a crunchy meringue topping.  They aren't super sweet, so these are a good cookie for your cookie trays as they will balance the other sweet Christmas cookies out there.

These cookies have simple ingredients, with the primary ingredients being just ground almonds and cinnamon.  There is no butter in these cookies!

These cookies are often found at German Christmas markets and appear at specialty stores during the Christmas season.  Back in the 1700s, cinnamon was an expensive and rare spice in Europe, and almonds were considered a food for royalty since they had to be imported.  So, these cookies typically only made an appearance at Christmas.

The dough is very sticky.  If you have a hard time with the cookie cutters, just use a spoon instead and make little moons. ;-)  Your efforts will be rewarded with one yummy Christmas cookie!

Zimsterne (Cinnamon-Almond Meringue Stars)
Yields 40 cookies

Ingredients:
3 egg whites
1/8 tsp. salt
200 grams (1 1/2 cups and 2 tbsp.) confectioners' sugar
300 grams (3 cups) finely ground raw almonds
2 tsp. ground cinnamon

Directions:
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, add the egg whites and salt.  Turn the mixer onto medium-high speed and gradually add the confectioners' sugar.  Continue mixing for 7-10 minutes or until the mixture is glossy and stiff.

Measure out 3/4 cup of the glossy meringue into a small bowl to reserve for later; you will use it for frosting the cookies.  Back in the bowl of the stand mixer, begin to gradually fold the ground almonds and the cinnamon into the egg whites.  Fold until the mixture becomes firm and slightly sticky.

Remove the dough from the bowl and wrap it in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours.

When ready to make the cookies, line two baking sheets with parchment paper or a silpat.  Unwrap the dough, and leave the plastic wrap underneath it.  Place a second piece of plastic wrap on top of the tough and row it out to 1/4 inch thickness.  Discard the top piece of plastic wrap.  Using a small star cookie cutter (about 1 1/2 inch in diameter), cut out the cookies.  Dip the cutter in cold water every 2-3 cookies to keep the dough from sticking.  Place the cookies on the prepared baking sheets.

Using a pastry push or a knife, spread the reserved meringue evenly over each star.  Allow the cookies to sit at room temperature for 12-24 hours.  This allows the meringue to dry.

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.  Position the baking rack at the bottom of the oven.  Bake the cookie sheets individually for 3-4 minutes, or until the meringue is set but snowy white.

Remove the baking sheet from the oven and allow the cookies to cool completely on the baking sheet.  Store in an airtight container.

Source: Classic German Baking
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