December 25, 2011

Pecan logs

Dear Readers, 

Merry Christmas/Happy Hanukkah/Merry day of eating/getting gifts/and baking! I actually made these a few days ago but decided to save their posting for a later time and one of our readers suggested that these baked goods go up next! Although the previous post on gingersnap palmiers was my mom and my favorite recipe of the year, these pecan logs have been on the top of my brother's list and the recipe was requested from a few friends that got to taste them as well. So from my blog world to your kitchen, here's a little Christmas gift!

The original recipe was again from my go-to-holiday Martha Stewart's Cookies book but I adapted it quite a bit. I thought the original didn't have enough sugar in it - leaving it more of a nutty short bread than the cinnamony, sugary concoction you see here. 

In addition to adding some holiday spice into the dough itself, I also spiced up the nutty coating with a sugar and cinnamon mixture (much like snickerdoodles) and the woody, fragrant flavors of the toasted pecans melded beautifully with the sweetness that I added. These logs break apart into a crumbly goodness into your mouth and they're fabulously delicious. Absolutely perfect for Christmas or rather, any other time where a cookie is needed.

And the fun doesn't stop there! you can roll these guys instead of into logs, into little dough balls and make cinnamon-y pecan poppers! ...Gosh that sounds good, maybe even drizzle with some dark chocolate?...mmm...they'd wrap up adorably as little balls into gift bags...must remember to do that next year...

Enjoy these logs by the fireplace! or perhaps, paired with a yule log? Log themed dessert platter? Alright, that's enough of the log jokes.

Happy Holidays to all!

Pecan Logs
Adapted from Martha Stewart's Cookies

2 cups pecans, toasted
2 teaspoons cinnamon, divided (optional)
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 large egg
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon granulated sugar (optional)

To toast the pecans, arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet at 350F for about 10 minutes. Let cool and process pecans in a food processor until finely ground. Be careful not to over grind or the pecans will form a paste. Set aside

In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking powder, salt and 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon in a bowl. If you're like me, you can go heavy handed on the cinnamon for an even greater kick. This is the part that I adapted so the cinnamon is also optional. In yet another bowl, mix the butter and confectioners' sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla until well combined.

Add in your dry ingredient mixtures and half of the ground pecans and wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate until cold, about 30 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 350F and roll out your dough into log shaped little cookies. The original recipe said about 1 tablespoon per log but honestly, I eyeballed it until they were about the size that I desired. Now, here is the other adapted part that is optional. I added in a tablespoon of sugar and another teaspoon of cinnamon into the remaining ground pecans. Then, mix this new nutty, sugary concoction and generously roll your logs around in them. You can even press the nuts into the log a bit and go for a second roll.

Place on parchment paper lined baking sheets and bake about 1 inch apart (they don't spread much at all). Bake until pale golden about 14-15 minutes.

Let cool and then eat up! They were a huge hit this year! Enjoy!

December 23, 2011

Linzer Cookies

Toasted almonds, vanilla, lemon, and red raspberry make for a delicious combination in this lovely cookie.  This festive treat is inspired by the Linzer torte, an Austrian pastry named after the city of Linz near the Czech border.  The torte dates back to the 17th century, but modern adaptations have evolved into the Linzer Cookie you see here. Enjoy!

1 cup sliced almonds
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
Zest of 1 lemon
Powdered sugar for dusting
3/4 cup Seedless Red Raspberry Jam

Recipe developed from Joy of Baking

1. The toasting of the almonds is an important step to give these cookies wonderful color and flavor. This can be done by placing them on a baking sheet and baking for 8 to 10 minutes at 350 F.  Alternatively (and more easily in my opinion) put them in a skillet over medium heat and stir frequently for about 5 minutes until they are light brown and fragrant (be careful, they will burn easily if you don’t watch them).  Cool the nuts and finely grind them in a food processor with about ¼ cup of the granulated sugar (the sugar prevents the forming of a paste). 
2.  Combine the flour, cinnamon, and salt in a small bowl.
3.  In a large bowl, beat the butter and remaining sugar until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes). Beat in the vanilla, egg, and lemon zest.  Beat in the ground nuts.  Add in the flour mixture and beat until combined.
4.   Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate until firm.  This will take at least an hour, but you can also make the dough in advance and keep it in the refrigerator until you bake within the next couple of days. 
5.  When ready to bake, take half of the chilled dough and roll until about 1/8 to 1/4 inch thickness.  Cut into rounds with a 2 to 3 inch round cookie cutter.  With half of the rounds, cut a star (or heart…or whatever tiny cookie cutter you can find) out of the center.  Reroll scraps and continue with the other half of refrigerated dough, returning to the refrigerator to chill and make more manageable, if needed. 
6.  Bake cookies at 350 F for 11 to 12 minutes, or until very light brown. Place on a wire rack to cool. These can be stored for another couple days in an airtight container.  But once assembled, they should be served promptly for maximum crispness.
7.  Once cool, put only the rounds WITH the cutouts on parchment or a large plate and dust with powdered sugar.
8.  Put the jam in a bowl and mix with a fork until smooth. Spread a thin layer of jam on the rounds WITHOUT cutouts and top with a sugar dusted round WITH a cutout. 

Happy holidays!

December 22, 2011

I'm dreaming of a gingery, buttery Christmas.

No school, no stress, all baking. 

Okay guys - if anyone is in my predicament, it's been a few days into the holiday season and there are cookies everywhere I look. I curse myself as I shove flavor after flavor of flaky goodness into my mouth and then I realize that most of the stuff I'm putting down my throat is cookies that I've made - which is why I more or less have to give them away...immediately. 

These gingersnap palmiers has been an absolute holiday FAVORITE this year. 

These beautiful cookies are made with puff pastry layered with a mix of gingerbread like ingredients carefully melted into a molasses syrup and a sugar dusting. When they bake - they wallow in bubbling goo and beg to be brushed with more syrup. And the best part? They're made with a little bit of fresh ginger - and the hint of ginger root is not at all overpowering. It's subtle, spicy, warm, and everything the holidays embody. Every bite makes you want to just close your eyes and get lost in the flavors.

They're crispy, they're crunchy, they're abso-freaking-shove-in-your-mouth-worthy. Even better? They're a creative change from the usual sugar and short bread assortment of the season (don't worry, there will be a post of those too).

I've heard a few of you are making these recipes - you guys gotta try this one out! Fair warning: there is a good amount of time that these guys have to sit in the freezer so they are a good prep now and bake later treat.  They're a little more challenging technically than the other posts but man, are they worth it.

They make for great gifts for others, or yourself. I just packed up the last of these to give away (thank goodness)

Happy Holidays to all of you wonderful readers!! More to come!

Gingersnap Palmiers
Adapted from Martha Stewart's Cookies (one of my favorite go to holiday cook books)

14 ounces thawed frozen puff pastry - cut into two 10X7 inch pieces

For the molasses syrup
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup dark unsulfured molasses
2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger (the best part!)
1/4 cup water

For the sugar coatings
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper (yup, it's delicious)

Mix all of the ingredients for the molasses together in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer, whisking until the sugar has dissolved. Let the goo slightly thicken and let the flavors of ginger and christmas waft through your kitchen for 1-2 more minutes and then let cool.

While your goo is cooling, mix the ingredients for your sugar mixture in another bowl.

Time to start on the dough! It's very important that your puff pastry is fully thawed. If not, it will crack at the seams and you will be unable to roll these guys into their characteristic buttery-fly (ha!) shape. I did the whole assembly process on a sheet of saran wrap - I found that it was the easiest method.

Take a generous amount of your sugar mixture and spread it around the saran wrap to about the size of your first 10X7 inch thawed puff pastry. Then, put your puff pastry onto this sugar and slightly press the sugar into your pastry with a rolling pin. Next, brush a thick layer of molasses syrup onto the non-sugared side of your pastry which should now be facing you. Then, using that syrup like a glue, sprinkle another generous amount of sugar. Set your sugar mixture aside and cover your syrup as well. Don't toss it!

To make the palmier shapes, start rolling lengthwise on each side of your pastry and meet in the middle. Seal the middle with some more syrup. Now, here is why working with saran wrap works well. The leftover sugar that you didn't get onto the outside will still be on the saran wrap. Just wrap your roll of palmier with this saran wrap tightly and pop it into the freezer for at least 3 hours or overnight - ensuring maximum sugar contact! Repeat for your 2nd sheet!

Now that your rolls are hardened, preheat your oven to 425F and take your saran wrapped palmiers out of the freezer and cut with seal side down into 1/2 inch pieces. You should get about 3 dozen out of your two rolls. Roll each of your little guys in the sugar and place 2 inches apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Flatten with the palms of your hands a little bit so they spread out.

Pop them into the oven for 8 minutes. They'll be bubbly and delicious! Take them out and reduce to 400F. While they are out and sitting, brush the side that is not on the baking sheet with syrup and flip your cookies. Back into the oven for 8 more minutes and then let them cook completely. The syrup will harden up like candy as it cools and they'll get this glaze that will make you want to lick it off right then and there and burn off your tongue, but don't do it - not recommended.

**note: the original recipe called for 10 minutes baking at both the 425 and 400 oven settings but I found that this left some of my babies burnt, so 8 was a safe bet for me - always a good idea to do a tester batch**

^^ adorable gift idea - pack in jars and tie with a festive ribbon! I'm definitely doubling the recipe next year...oor....tomorrow.

Enjoy Enjoy!

December 14, 2011

Twas the night before an exam...

When all through the house, all the spatulas were stirring - even the whisk.
The baking sheets were out by the oven with care
In hopes that delicious red velvet cookies - would soon be there. 

The cream cheese frosting was nestled all snug in its dough....

While visions of chocolate topping danced in their heads
And my fiance in his jumpsuit (don't ask) and I in my apron
Had settled my brains for a pre-exam bake. 

Red Velvet Cookies: stuffed with cream cheese frosting and topped with white chocolate (yes)

Adapted a lot from: two peas and their pod
*note: if you use the original recipe: expect proportions to come out very differently*

For the cookies
1 box red velvet cake mix 
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 large eggs
1/2 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the cheesecake filling:
4 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the white chocolate drizzle:
8 ounces white chocolate bar, tempered (see previous post)

Preheat the oven to 350F

Whisk together the flour and cake mix until there are no more lumps. Then add in the eggs, oil, and vanilla extract. Cover the dough with saran wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour. 

Onto the filling! Mix all three ingredients together until well combined then partition out into ~1/2 teaspoon measurements OR do my technique. I scooped out millions of little balls with a melon baller (soooo adorable) and then split them into two later. Either way - be it by teaspoon or melon baller, freeze for at least one hour. 

For these next steps, working on parchment paper was convenient and suggested! After both have chilled, take out 1/4 cup of the cookie dough and split this dough into two. Each now 1/8 ball will be one cookie. Take your 1/8 and flatten out the dough. Then, take your melon balled cream cheese filling and split it also into two. The reason I am dividing all of these into two is because the original recipe makes 10 ENORMOUS cookies, and I'd rather have 20 logical sized ones. Either way, place your now 1/2 teaspoon sized cream cheese filling onto the middle of your flattened cookie and roll up the sides of the dough around the cream cheese filling into a ball. It should just look like a giant red velvet cookie dough ball (but oh how the eye deceives!!) 

Place these little guys with plenty of room to spare. It would be smart to do a tester batch to see how much yours will spread in your oven, humidity, and general working conditions. Bake them on parchment paper lined sheets for 10 minutes exactly for perfectly soft cookies or a bit more for crispy.I found that 10 minutes resulted in the most ideal, ideal, ideal cookie. 

Once out, take them off the baking pan and let cool before drizzling. For the white chocolate drizzle, temper the bar as per previous post and drizzle away! You can use a fork or make a pastry bag out of the corner of a ziploc bag.

The perfect holiday cookie!!! Enjoy! It's absolutely fantastic!

December 9, 2011

Oh - Nanaimo!

Never heard of them before? Well you aren’t alone.  Named after a city in British Columbia (click for pronunciation...thanks Merriam Webster), the Nanaimo Bar is a popular Canadian cookie shrouded in mystery.  

These triple layer bar cookies were fabled to have first surfaced in the 1950s when a Nanaimo housewife entered the recipe in a magazine contest.  However, the magazine was never identified and to complicate things further, the bars have been known to masquerade under other such names as New York Bars, or London Smog Bars. 

Whatever the case, we are happy to have found the Nanaimo Bar and his festive cousin, the Mint Nanaimo Bar, to share with you (Look Holiday colors!!!)! 

Giving credit where it’s due: Cakespy 

Based on the recipe from Nanaimo's Visitor Bureau - a recipe which won the Ultimate Nanaimo Bar recipe contest held in none other than Nanaimo, BC.

Bottom Layer - The Crust (or coconut oreo bliss!!!)

½ cup unsalted butter
¼ cup granulated sugar
5 tbsp. cocoa (we used Dutch process, or you can use regular)
1 egg, beaten  
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 ¼ cups graham wafer crumbs
½ c. finely chopped pecans
1 cup coconut (sweetened or unsweetened) – pulse this a few times in the food processor to get it into more manageable pieces

Melt the first three ingredients in a double boiler. It will melt into a delicious lava-like substance that smells heavenly! (Seriously, Sam almost melted her face off in the bowl). Remove from heat. Next, temper in the egg. (Basically, take a little bit of the chocolate lava and add it to the egg while stirring constantly. Then take this “tempered” egg and add it to the chocolate lava while whisking constantly. This is done to prevent the egg from curdling…no one wants that.)
Put the mixture back on the double boiler and continuously whisk until it thickens. Take it off the heat (for the last time!) and stir in the vanilla. Add in the crumbs, coconut, and nuts.
Line an 8" x 8" pan with foil and spray it with baking spray to prevent sticking. Press the mixture into an even layer in the prepared pan. Cover it with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for about an hour, so that when you spread the middle layer on, it won’t crumble.  

Middle Layer - The White Buttercream...or Green Mint Buttercream

½ cup unsalted butter
½ tsp vanilla extract
2 to 3 tablespoons light cream
2 tablespoons instant vanilla pudding powder
2 cups confectioner’s sugar

Mint Version
½ teaspoon peppermint extract
About 2 drops of green food coloring

Cream butter until smooth.  Add vanilla, 2 tablespoons cream, pudding powder, and sugar. (Don’t forget the mint ingredients if you're going to be festive). Beat this all together until it gets light and like beautiful cake frosting. Add more cream to get the perfect spreadable consistency. Get the crust out of the refrigerator and spread the buttercream over it. Return to the refrigerator and chill for another hour.

Top Layer
4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter

Melt the chocolate and butter in the double boiler. Pour it over the second layer and spread it with the back of a spoon or a knife. Put the pan back in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes for the chocolate to set.
After those last 30 minutes of chilling are finally up, take the pan out of the refrigerator and lift the foil out of the pan and onto a cutting board. Trim off the ragged edges (about half an inch - but for God sake don't throw them away - we recommend eating them, more or less immediately) and cut into squares with a sharp knife, wiping the knife clean between cuts...And behold! The Legendary Nanaimo Bar! 

Enjoy Enjoy!
Elyse & Sam

December 2, 2011

One more (blackberry) pie

Hello readers!

I apologize for another pie entry but this past week was Thanksgiving - the holiday of all holidays for pies! I mean, being thankful and gluttony (pies). So Elyse and I split up into our respective homes and starting baking away.

In light of the results of Elyse's crust-off below - I also used a butter based crust from the diva herself: Martha Stewart (I choose to overlook her jail bird period). For those of you that wonder what "corn meal" consistency should look like when cutting butter into flour, there she is. There is something so rustic about making pie crust. Given the spirits of the holidays, I already had a pumpkin pie sitting on the table, Elyse had the pecan down, so clearly fruit was left!

Hello you glistening beauties. I definitely spent a good amount of time running my hands over these babies and smiling at their untarnished very berry silhouettes.

 What's that? you want to go a little closer?

Are you dying yet? I certainly was. Dying. Butter crust? Gosh the flakiness practically jumps off into my mouth - no fork needed. mmm MMMM mmm. I am thankful for cameras, ovens, perfect berries, and chilled butter.

P.S. stay tuned for holiday cookies!!! (cookies!!!!!!)

Blackberry Pie
Adapted from epicurious

6 cups blackberries
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 c. cornstarch
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter (optional)
1 egg white, slightly beaten
1 tablespoon sanding sugar

Preheat the oven to 400F.

Rinse out your berries (feel free to drool over their beauty while they're sitting in their colanders) and toss them in the granulated sugar, cornstarch, optional butter (for the coronary artery conscious) and lemon juice. Let it sit while tossing occasionally for about 20 minutes

Place berries into prepared pie crust (see recipe above) and then top with lattice crust on top - feel free to do a little or as much lattice as you'd like. Brush the top of your lattice with egg white and sprinkle with sanding sugar. For those of you that dont have sanding sugar and want to make this a.s.a.p, you can steal "RAW" sugar packets from Starbucks (I didn't just say that...but you can)

Bake on a baking sheet (fruit will spill over with cooking) to avoid mess in bottom of the oven for about 1 hour - 1 hour and 10 minutes. I also covered my edges with tin foil for fear that the edges would burn prematurely, it's usually a good idea if your pie is going to be baking for more than hour.

Cool before serving and while you're cooling, might as well go get some ICE CREAM! mmmMM this pie is scrumptious a la mode!


**The original recipe called for tapioca to aid in the thickening process but I found the cornstarch works out just fine**


November 25, 2011

A Tale of Two Pies

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Thanksgiving has finally arrived, but what pie crust recipe will yield the most flaky, delicious crust for all the pies I am going to be making? Pie crusts can be a big hassle. I have tried countless recipes with varying combinations of shortening, butter, oil, eggs, and even the odd ingredient such as vinegar, that promises to be “the best” or “the easiest.”
So this Thanksgiving, I decided to do a little test of my own. I made TWO pecan pies - identical except for the crust – and subjected them to rigorous double blind testing to determine which had superior taste and texture.
For the test, I decided to try out an all butter crust versus an oil crust. (Crisco shortening no longer has a place in my kitchen…med school has taught me that hydrogenated palm oil is very, very bad for you. Trust me, don’t eat it!)
Pie #1 was the clear winner on taste and texture. It was an all butter crust based on a recipe from simply recipes

Butter Pie Crust Ingredients
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
8 Tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, very-cold, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
4 to 6 Tbsp ice water, very cold
  1. Cut the butter into small cubes and place it in the freezer for at least 15 minutes. This is quite important in putting together a pie crust that will be flaky and tender.
  2. Combine the flour, salt, and sugar.
  3. If you have a food processor, feel free to proceed as in the recipe that I linked to above.
  4. As for me, I got out my pastry cutter (you could use a fork or couple butter knives) and went to town. With the flour mixture in a large bowl, add the frozen butter and begin cutting it into smaller pieces. Many people will tell you to get the butter “pea sized” or make the mixture resemble course crumbs. Well, some of my butter was pea sized (even larger) and some was more crumbly. It doesn’t really matter – just get most of the butter broken up and incorporated into the flour.
  5. Add 4 tbp of ice water and mix it in with a fork. DO NOT overwork the dough. We aren’t kneading bread here and do not want to develop the gluten in the dough. You’ll probably need to add another tbsp of water but this depends on the humidity of your kitchen.
  6. When the dough is JUST beginning to hold together (it is still going to be crumbly) put it in a large plastic zip bag. Form it into a ball and place in the refrigerator for about 15 to 30 minutes (this will give you time to make the filling).
  7. Roll out your dough with a rolling pin between two sheets of wax paper and a little flour if needed to keep it from sticking. Flute or crimp the edges.
  8. Fill as desired (I recommend pecan pie filling!) and bake according to recipe.

For those interested, Pie #2 was an oil crust from king arthur flour in which I used canola oil. Don’t get me wrong - this pie crust went together quite easily, looked great, and tasted good. But it lacked the caramelly flakiness that only a butter pastry can provide. I’ll definitely pull this recipe out when I want a healthier, quicker alternative. But that day is not today…on to the pecan pie filling!

Pecan Pie Filling Ingredients
1 cup Karo Corn Syrup
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups pecans (optional - save about 10 nice looking pecans to decorate the top)
Pie crust (use the butter crust!)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  2. Mix together the first 5 ingredients in a large bowl.
  3. Stir in the pecans.
  4. Pour the filling into crust and arrange the extra pecans in a circular pattern on the top.
  5. Bake for 60 to 70 minutes.

And here is the end result…
It is a far, far better pie that you see here than I have ever made before (sorry, enough with the Dickens references). But truly, the crust is flaky, the filling is SOOOOO sugary and ooey gooey. Happy holidays and enjoy!

November 18, 2011

CandyLand!! (and tempering)

Hello new readers!

Thanks for stopping by! We promise you won't regret this, do you know why? We do: peppermint bark!! This bark was suggested and we were absolutely thrilled at the idea of trying to improve our photographing skills (iPhone 4...we're missing a fancy camera :(...). What better subject than this bark!?

You know why else this bark was the best idea ever? It's a great opportunity to talk about a disliked subject: tempering. Tempering is what you have to do to make your melted chocolate harden up again. Ever try to dip anything in melted chocolate chips and realize the only way you could get that chocolate shell was to stick it in the fridge but if you wanted to eat it at room temperature...forget it!!

Did it ever drive anyone else crazy that none of the recipes ever specified how to get the chocolate to harden? Did they just assume we all knew to how to temper? Well - we personally were infuriated and frustrated by it. What is that missing step? Tempering!

We forewarn you - you can get around this quite easily by buying candy coats at your local craft store - those melt and reharden like a charm but they do have a bad side: heart attacks. Did you hear us? H.e.a.r.t. A.t.t.a.c.k.s. They're made with heart stopping palm oil so if you love your friends and family - it's worth it to temper. Just read the notes in the recipe below and you'll never have to wonder again how the chefs on tv magically got their chocolate to solidify at room temperature.

But seriously - back to more important things - like this bark. Black under white under RED AND WHITE!? Creamy and crunchy at the same time? Textures and colors!? Ahhhhhhhhh! It's too much! No, it's not - it's beautiful, not to mention delicious.

Peppermint Bark
1 lb dark/semi/milk chocolate
1 lb white chocolate
smashed up candy canes
1 teaspoon of peppermint extract
       1 candy thermometer (with measurements around the 80-100F marks) **must have**
       1 rubber (not wood) spatula

Before we start - make sure your chocolate is in bar form not the chips that you get in bags (very important).

First: Temper the semisweet/dark chocolate. Reserve 1/3 of your chocolate for seeding (don't melt it). Melt the rest of your chocolate to 115F over a double boiler. If you don't have one - ghetto it up as described in my previous entry. Use that thermometer! Do NOT bring it up over 115 and keep stirring with your rubber spatula. Once you're at 115, quickly remove from heat and add in 1/2 tsp of your extract (at this point, feel free to get lost in the blissful smell that is chocolate and peppermint) Transfer to a heat proof surface and keep stirring adding in that last 1/3 un-melted chocolate. Stir, stir, stir until the temperature has dropped to 80F. Use that thermometer! Then the most important part! Return the chocolate to heat for a few seconds until it's back up to 88-90F. Do NOT go above 90F. 

Now your chocolate is tempered! You can use this now for dipping anything and it will get that beautiful hardened shell!! Secret revealed! For this bark, spread it out evenly on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and stick it in the freezer for 5 mins. 

Second: Temper your white chocolate. Do the same thing as for the semisweet but bring it up to 110F, lower down to 80, and only back up to 87F. Use the remaining 1/2 tsp extract and layer it on top of the semi-sweet sheet. 

Finally: sprinkle that crushed peppermint on it, cool to harden, and break into bark

Enjoy Enjoy Enjoy!!! 

***you can make these bars like we did with two chocolates, or you can do it with just one! Just adjust the extract accordingly **

Elyse and Sam

November 15, 2011

Food Blog? Who us? Couldn't be!

Hello World!

Two medical students here, using our time in our tiny kitchens as little islands of sanity in our lives (mostly baking, some cooking). After Elyse had to endure sitting next to me day after day, lecture after lecture as I clicked through food blog after food blog - we decided - why not start one? (Thanks to our lovely English major friend for the naming of said blog!)

Elyse gets to use her college photography skills, Sam gets to use her deep inner fat child, and we both get to share our love of these beautiful culinary creations that we like to call - Baked Goods!

So for our first entry we wanted to try something from a blog that Sam is personally obsessed with. What blog you ask? Well the Blue Eyed Baker's of course! ( They may have replaced Sam's fanatical obsession of the lovely Giada de Laurentiis or even the sisters of Georgetown Cupcakes.

Being caffeine dependent medical students - what better recipe to start with than these decadent espresso brownies? (There is no better recipe - rhetorical question). These beautiful creations were adapted a bit from the original blue eyed recipe by replacing half the chocolate chips with white chocolate and we coated them with a dusting of confectioner's sugar

Ahhhh!! the beautiful scene of powdered sugar cascading down a moonscape of chocolate ooey-gooey-goodness!
How did we make these babies you ask? well ask no further! (but please don't forget the original geniuses: BEB)
Better than Coffee Brownies 

2 cups dark brown sugar
1 ½ sticks (¾ cups) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons instant espresso coffee
2 eggs, room temperature
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
2 cups  all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
6 ounces semi sweet chocolate chips, 6 ounces white chocoalte chips
Set that oven to 375F.  Grease and flour a 13- by 9-inch baking pan (I get a huge kick out of buttering a pan followed by flouring - it leaves the most beautiful footprint of flour where butter once stepped).  
Dissolve your espresso in 1 tbsp of boiling water and just put to the side
Melt the butter and sugar over heat. You can do this either in microwave as suggested as the Blue Eyed Bakers or do what I have always done - ghetto double boiler!!! I take a heat proof mixing bowl and set it over a pot half filled with water. Set the heat to med-high and mix as the heat transfers without burning your precious sugar. Once the mix has melted into a delicious dark brown molasses heart-stopping mess, remove from heat, mix in dissolved espresso and cool (on the counter or in the fridge). 
While your butter/sugar mixture is cooling - mix your dry ingredients in another bowl. Then, after the sugar and butter have cooled to room temperature - add the eggs and vanilla (to avoid scrambling the eggs)
Finally - incorporate the flour mixture and finally your chocolate chips and pour your chunky yet velvety  chocolate yet coffee filled batter into that lovely buttered and floured pan and bake for 25 minutes.  I took the BEB advice and took these babies out a little before 25 minutes letting the carry over heat do the rest of the work and man, did they turn out OOEY GOOEY.  p.e.r.f.e.c.t.i.o.n.

**Ideas: we replaced half the chocolate chips with white chocolate but given the holiday season - feel free to spice it up with caramel chips, mint chips, pecans, walnuts?! We may try adding some cocoa straight into the batter next time too!**

Hope you all enjoyed our first post - we so enjoyed making it. Happy Eatings!!!
Elyse & Sam