Saturday, December 26, 2009

Vanilla Elf

This is one of the most precious gifts ever!
Thank you for the homemade vanilla, Nicole.
Do you have any stories to tell about the making of?
Happy 2010, DOTMCers.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Chocolate and Red Chili Cookies

The cookies I made for Nicole and Molly's Cookie Party received a warm welcome... literally. There was a snow-typhoon outside, so what better to bring the heat than some spicy hot double chocolate cookies?

I searched all over for a good recipe... I had some red chilis at home, and knew I wanted them in the cookie somehow. Some recipes called for jalapenos, some for ground/dried ancho chilis... so It ended up taking Martha's recipe for Double Chocolate Chip Cookies, but making some adjustments along the way.
I also substituted her call for chocolate chips and instead used a Lindt Dark Chocolate Chili bar, broken into pieces (I also melted another one of those chocolate bars into the batter).

I used 2 whole red chilis, but de-seeded them. If you want to tweak the heat, you can keep some cayenne pepper on hand to add in as well. This recipe is really great- the heat hits you after you've started chewing...a slow rise of warmth, then boom!

Recipe below the pics...-1 cup of flour
-1/2 cup of unsweetened dutch cocoa powder
-1/2 teaspoon baking soda
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-7 ounces of good-quality chocolate
( I used 2 Lindt Chili Chocolate bars total. Each bar is 3.5 3.5 oz. for melting & 3.5 oz. broken into chip-size bits)
-1/2 cup of butter
-1 & 1/2 cups of sugar
-2 large eggs
-3 Tablespoons (for medium spicy) of red chilis, finely chopped, de-seeded. (Or Cayenne pepper to taste)
-2 teaspoons of vanilla

Preheat the oven to 325'F degrees. Whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, salt; set aside. Melt 1 chocolate chili bar (coarsely chopped) with the butter in a small heat proof bowl over a pan of simmering water. Once melted, throw in the chopped chilis and incorporate well. Let cool slightly. I kept tasting this melted mix to get an idea of the heat level... it's the best way to gauge how hot a cookie (heh) you're gonna end up with.

2. Put the melted chocolate/chili mixture and the sugar, eggs, and vanilla in a big bowl and blend well. Gradually mix in the flour mixture. Fold in the other
(broken into chip-size bits) chocolate chili bar.

3. Drop dough onto parchment lined baking sheets, (the dough is super sticky) spacing two inches apart. Decorative sugar is optional (I used some red sugar sprinkles). Bake until cookies are flat and surfaces crack, about 12-15 minutes (cookies will be soft).

Cinnamon or Red Hots would work well in this recipe too.


While outside the 'Blizzard of 2009' raged, inside a storm of another kind waged a war against our will power and my waistline.
I have been baking every single night, ignoring my husbands pleas for dinner and missing my favorite shows damn it! I have been chained to the stove, oven mitts permanently on.
All in the name of sugar and flour and ....glory?
Luckily I have finally been able to get WFMU to come in on the kitchen radio- so it's not all bad.

I made three cookies for the 7th Annual Cookie Party

Lemon Wreaths
Honeyed Almond and Cherry Shortbread
and Cream Cheese Walnut coins!

All of the recipes are from Martha Stewart Living.
Though I could not find the first two on the site as of yet.
I made some adjustments to the first two cookie recipes. I used vanilla bean in the wreaths as everyone knows vanilla and lemon are true love BFFs.
Instead of macerating the cherries in Sherry,for the shortbread cookies, I used Rum and OJ and also replaced the sliced almonds (which I have an aversion to- they seem so unnatural) with roughly chopped almonds, which worked beautifully and added to the texture.

I think I decreased the amount of sugar in the walnut coins too, because seriously how much sugar can we consume in one month??!

These cookies were simple (and actually really fun for a dork like me) to make but honestly they were just back up singers for the showstoppers brought over by our very own Kat and Amelia. Rosemary Caramel?!? Red Chile Chocolate?!?! Whaaaaaaaaaa I am telling you those gals really BROUGHT IT.
Ladies! Would you share your recipes with the DOTMC gang???

Friday, December 18, 2009

Gingerbread Brooklyn Bridge

I made a Gingerbread Brooklyn Bridge. It is missing the cables but what can you do? Licorice rope does not grow on trees in Brooklyn.

I used this recipe from Martha with plenty left over for other cookies:

* 6 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
* 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
* 1 cup packed dark-brown sugar
* 4 teaspoons ground ginger
* 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
* 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
* 1 teaspoon finely ground pepper
* 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
* 2 large eggs
* 1 cup unsulfured molasses
* Royal Icing
* Fine sanding sugar, for sprinkling


1. Sift together flour, baking soda, and baking powder into a large bowl. Set aside.
2. Put butter and brown sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until fluffy. Mix in spices and salt, then eggs and molasses. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture; mix until just combined. Divide dough into thirds; wrap each in plastic. Refrigerate until cold, about 1 hour.
3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll out dough on a lightly floured work surface to a 1/4-inch thick. Cut into shapes. Bake for 12-14 minutes.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Mexican Wedding Cookies

One of my favorite desserts! Every year around the holidays I crave Mexican Wedding Cookies. This year, I decided to by-pass the pre-made cookies and make them myself. It turns out that they are easy to make and even yummier when they have been welded with your own hands. Beware of ants... they love confectioners sugar (e.g., don't eat them in bed). Enjoy and happy holidays!

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup confectioners’ sugar, plus more for coating baked cookies
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or almond extract
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup pecans, cut into very small pieces, some people prefer to use almonds or a mix of almonds, pecans, and walnuts

Cream the butter and sugar at low speed until it is smooth.
Mix in the vanilla.
At low speed gradually add the flour.
Mix in the pecans with a spatula.
With floured hands, take out about 1 tablespoon of dough and shape into a crescent or ball. Place onto prepared cookie sheets. Bake at 325 degrees for 15-20 minutes. When cool enough to handle but still warm, roll in additional confectioners' sugar or sift the confectioners’ sugar over the cooled cookies.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


I honestly have never thought about making a fruitcake until last year. Perhaps the desire to make one does not come until you reach your mid thirties or you are ready for the challenge of attempting to make good such a reviled cake. I don't believe I have ever even had a bite of fruitcake. I have seen the dark brown and glossy specimen at supermarkets..and shuddered at what they must taste like. I have tried panettone but that is as close as I would get. However that is a yeasted cake and American fruitcake is not (though this one does get some lift from egg whites). The one I finally chose, that seemed a pleasant place to start is Eudora Welty's recipe for White Fruitcake (traditionally referred to in the South as a grooms cake). As you can see below I adjusted the fruits because there is no way a green cherry will ever pass my lips if I can help it. Also, having been raised with Italian grandparents I have a strong attachment to candied citron, which is very common in Italian pastries.
I am thinking of this as "Fruitcake Light" as there are many out there that are all kinds of serious. Hopefully next fall if I plan right, (read: never gonna happen) I will have plenty of time to start some cakes and age them properly as is the way with the fruitcake.
Alas, I cannot even report to you how this one is, as I am waiting patiently for it to ahem, mature (read: repeatedly slosh with Bourbon over time).

NOTE: This recipe is from Southern Cakes by Nancie McDermott (which by the way, paired with Mrs. Rowe's Little Book of Southern Pies by Mollie Cox Bryan would make quite the holiday gift for the dessert or Southern crazed baker in your life.

Eudora Welty's
White Fruitcake

1 1/2 cups butter
2 cups sugar
6 eggs, separated
4 cups flour, sifted before measuring
flour for fruit and nuts
2 tsp. baking powder
pinch of salt
1 pound pecan meats (halves, preferably)
1 pound crystallized cherries, half green, half red (I used orange)
1 pound crystallized pineapple, clear (I used lemon)
some citron or lemon peel if desired
1 cup bourbon
1 tsp. vanilla
nutmeg if desired

Make the cake several weeks ahead of Christmas of you can.
The recipe makes three-medium-sized cakes or one large and one small. Prepare the pans -- the sort with a chimney or tube -- by greasing them well with Crisco and then lining them carefully with three layers of waxed paper, all greased as well.
Prepare the fruit and nuts ahead. Cut the pineapple in thin slivers and the cherries in half. Break up the pecan meats, reserving a handful or so shapely halves to decorate the tops of the cakes. Put in separate bowls, dusting the fruit and nuts lightly in sifting of flour, to keep the from clustering together in the batter.
In a very large wide mixing bowl ( a salad bowl or even a dishpan will serve) cream the butter very light, then beat in the sugar until all is smooth and creamy. Sift in the flour, with the baking powder and salt added, a little at a time, alternating with the unbeaten egg yolks added one at a time. When all this is creamy, add the floured fruits and nuts, gradually, scattering the lightly into the batter, stirring all the while, and add the bourbon in alteration little by little. Lastly, whip the eggwhites into peaks and fold in.
Set the oven low, about 250. Pour the batter into the cake-pans, remembering that they will rise. Decorate the tops with nuts. Bake for three hours or more, until they spring back to the touch and a straw inserted at the center comes out clean and dry. (if the top browns too soon, lay a sheet of foil lightly over.) When done, the cake should be a warm golden color.
When they've cooled enough to handle, run a spatula around the sides of each cake, cover the pan with a big plate , turn the pan over and slip the cake out. Cover the cake with another plate and turn rightside up. When cool, the cake can be wrapped in cloth or foil and stored in a tightly fitted tin box.
From time to time before Christmas you may improve it with a little more bourbon, dribbled over the top to be absorbed ans so ripen the cake before cutting. This cake will keep for a good while, in or out of the refrigerator.

Friday, December 04, 2009


'Tis the season for parties and punch.
You may not think to look to a book titled Screen Doors and Sweet Tea for inspiration for holiday parties, but you'd be remiss. For it contains a recipe for Milk Punch by the fabulous Martha Foose. The book is filled with many wonderful recipes actually and Martha's engaging tales. It's one of my favorites.
Back to the punch, some versions appear to be a lighter incarnation of eggnog without the eggs though some do add egg white for frothiness. In researching it's origins I found it is a popular drink in New Orleans, but enthusiasm for it is widespread.
I came across Benjamin Franklin's recipe which sounds great too, and involves soaking lemon rinds in brandy for 24 hours. (A lot of lemons!) I believe it is English in origin.

Though I plan on making real eggnog for the first time this year, and intend on trying Craig Claiborn's recipe, I'm looking forward to adding Milk Punch to the winter cocktail repertoire.

Here are some recipes:

Martha Foose's Milk Punch ( go get her book!)
Serves 1

1 ½ ounces good bourbon or brandy
2 ounces half-and-half
1 teaspoon superfine sugar
Drop of vanilla extract
Ice cubes
Freshly grated nutmeg

Combine the bourbon, half-and-half, sugar, and vanilla in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake thoroughly until the mixture is cold and frothy. Strain into a highball glass filled with ice. Top with a grating of nutmeg.

Coconut Milk Punch ( from Gourmet magazine- it's Vegan)

Make coconut milk:
Grate the meat of 1 coconut, wrap it in a damp cheesecloth, and squeeze it over a bowl to extract the milk.
Reserve the milk.
Transfer the cheesecloth-wrapped coconut to another bowl, open the cheesecloth, and pour 1/4 cup boiling water over the coconut.
When cool, squeeze the mixture through the cheesecloth into the bowl to extract all the liquid and add the reserved milk.

In a cocktail shaker combine
1/2 cup each of coconut milk and crushed ice,
3 tablespoons light rum,
1 tablespoon sugar syrup,
1/8 teaspoon vanilla and shake the liquid vigorously.
Strain the punch into an 8-ounce goblet and grate some nutmeg over it.
Makes 1 drink.