Friday, December 30, 2011

Kicking 2011 to the Curb

Well, it's been a year, hasn't it?
Everyone is doing those "Year in Review" things, and who am I to argue with tradition? So let's just recap 2011 at Cafe 305, shall we?

I made roasted pesto chicken.

We did some remodeling. First they took away my only bathroom.

Then when they gave it back, they took away my only kitchen.

They did eventually give it back, (the bathroom too) and it was better than ever! Definitely worth living in filth and squalor for a few weeks.

Then Tony Rosenfeld and I cooked some steaks to celebrate. Well, I cooked and Tony coached. From Boston. Where he lives and has never met me in person, actually.

Then before the shiny even wore off on the new kitchen, we found out we were going to go to Canada for two semesters. Starting THIS FREAKING FALL. OH MY GOD!

Then I cooked some more to frantically try to use up the "new" in my kitchen before we left.

Then my parents came to visit.

Then I got diagnosed with breast cancer. And the plug was pulled on the Canada trip until next year.

Then I made peanut butter cookies to make myself feel better.

Not fun. (Phillip Birmingham, I never did finish that Jell-O.)

But Pootie got me a star projector for my hospital stay.

That made it marginally better. Then I got home, and good friends and family cooked and cleaned for us, and sent flowers, and made things a lot more tolerable. It was really amazing and flattering how many people stepped up to help, and sent good wishes and moral support.  I was lucky. And Facebook was awesome. It kept me in touch and was a consistent morale booster. Nice to know that many people who will take a minute and just say "Hey, I'm thinking about you."

It was conversely kind of interesting and a little surprising to see who went into hiding, but that's not a complaint. I promise. I understand. Cancer is one of those things that's kind of hard for a lot of people to take. It's difficult to know what to say. Or do. And it's scary. I get that.

Or, hey, maybe some people decided they just didn't like me. I get that, too.

Then I got a little better and started cooking again.

Then I got even better, and Christmas was looming, and I did a lot of baking for my friends at the office.

Then we gussied up and had a small dinner party to thank our good friends who had helped us so much after my first surgery. This year, I just wasn't up to the full-blown Christmas extravaganza we usually have.

Sometimes I clean up pretty good!
Then I had another surgery.

OK, this is getting seriously old.
Then we had Christmas. And I got some chit-kicking cowboy boots.

And I got a good follow-up from my surgeon. And some Peppermint Ice Cream.

So while my nerves are pretty well shot for the year with all the upheaval and stress, my major surgeries are all finished - just a couple of minor cosmetic procedures left - and I'm half a pint of peppermint ice cream down and armed with a pair of kickass cowboy boots.

2011, don't let the screen door hit your backside on the way out, and oh, hey -2012?

Look the hell out. I'm comin', and I'm gonna make Godzilla look like the Geico lizard.

Happy New Year, y'all!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Eggnog Pound Cake with Rum Glaze

I usually take advantage of the holidays to snag a container of eggnog at the grocery (no, of course I don't make my own) and make this cake. And drink the remaining eggnog with bourbon. The rum glaze isn't overpowering, so this pound cake is just fine to toast with a little butter and have for breakfast with coffee. Hey, don't judge. I eat oatmeal almost every morning. Sometimes I need a break.

Start out by getting the glaze going. In a small saucepan, add 2 Tbs. rum (or you can certainly use bourbon), 2 Tbs. of water, and 1/4 cup of sugar. Simmer on low heat until the sugar is dissolved and the glaze is a little thicker - not quite syrup consistency, but just shy of that. Set it aside.

The cake itself is a standard pound cake with the addition of eggnog and rum for the liquid.

Preheat the oven to 325F. Grease and flour a tube pan, bundt cake pan, or use several small loaf or bundt pans so you can share with friends.

Mix together 1 cup of eggnog, 1 tsp. of vanilla and 2 Tbs. of dark rum. Set that aside. Sift together 3 cups of flour, 2 tsp. of baking powder, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/8 tsp. nutmeg (I sometimes use 1/4 tsp. I like nutmeg.) and set aside. In a stand mixer, beat 1 cup of softened butter with 2 cups of sugar until it's light and fluffy. Then add 3 eggs one at a time, beating until incorporated before adding the next egg. Turn the speed to low and add the dry ingredients alternately with the eggnog mixture, ending with dry ingredients. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan or pans and bake for 45 - 55 minutes.

Cool the cake in the pan for about fifteen minutes, then remove.

Now you're ready to put on the glaze. Do it while the cake is still warm.

Just brush it right on there.

I made several small bundt cakes and a couple of small loaves.

You can tell someone didn't grease and flour her mini bundt pan properly.
It does taste like eggnog. Perfect for the holidays. If you'd like to bake a glass of nog, here's the .pdf. Merry Christmas, folks!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Cookie Week at Cafe 305: Pinwheel Cookies

Our final cookie of Cookie Week at Cafe 305 is the Pinwheel Cookie. I made these with some trepidation the first time I saw them in Fine Cooking. I thought "Oh, lord, these look too hard for me. I'm sure I'll screw them all up and mine will look like blobs instead of spirals."

I was wrong.

Impressive, no?
The recipe and instructions look a little daunting, but that's because they're detailed and precise. These guys are simple to mix up, the dough is very pliable and easy to work with, the logs are great to keep in the freezer and thaw and cook as you need them, and they are DELICIOUS. In short, they have everything going for them.

I should have taken pictures of the process, but I needed both hands and Pootie was busy doing something far away from the kitchen.

Pinwheel Cookies
Recipe By: Carole Walter
Recipe Source: Fine Cooking 68

13 ½     oz            (3 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
½         tsp           table salt
¼         tsp           baking soda
10         oz            (1-1/4 cups) unsalted butter, slightly softened
 2 ¾      cups         granulated sugar
 1          large       egg
 1 ½      tsp           pure vanilla extract
 1         tsp           instant espresso powder
 2         Tbs           boiling water
 3         Tbs           unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder
 3          oz            bittersweet chocolate, melted and still warm

Mix the dough:
Sift together the flour, salt, and baking soda. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter on medium-low speed until smooth, about 2 min. Add the sugar in a steady stream and mix for another 2 min. Add the egg and vanilla and mix until well combined, scraping the bowl as needed. Reduce the speed to low and add the dry ingredients in two additions, mixing just until combined. Remove 2  cups less 2  Tbs. of the dough and set aside.

Dissolve the espresso powder in the boiling water and set aside briefly to cool. Then mix the espresso and cocoa powder into the remaining dough. Reduce the mixer speed to low, add the warm melted chocolate and mix just until thoroughly combined.

Roll the pinwheel logs:
Portion each flavor of dough into three equal pieces. (For accuracy, use a scale.) Shape each piece into a 5x5-inch square on a piece of plastic wrap and wrap well. The  chocolate will be thicker than the vanilla. Refrigerate the dough for 30 min. (If the dough becomes too hard, let it stand at room temperature for a few minutes before rolling).

While the dough is chilling, tear off twelve 12-inch squares of waxed paper. Roll each piece of dough into a 7x7-inch square between two sheets of the waxed paper. Without removing the waxed paper, layer the squares of dough on a baking sheet and refrigerate for 10 to 15  min. Have ready three 15-inch sheets of plastic wrap.

To shape the cookies, remove one square of the vanilla dough and one square of the chocolate dough from the refrigerator and peel off the top sheet of waxed paper from each. Invert the chocolate square over the vanilla square (or vanilla can go on top of chocolate; try some of each for variety), taking care to align the two layers as evenly as possible. Using your rolling pin, gently roll over the dough to seal the layers together. Peel off the top layer of waxed paper.

Starting with the edge of the dough closest to you, carefully curl the edge of the dough up and over with your fingertips, so no space is visible in the center of the pinwheel.

Using the waxed paper as an aid, continue rolling the dough into a tight cylinder. After the cylinder is formed, roll it back and forth on the counter to slightly elongate it and compact it. Transfer the log to the plastic wrap, centering it on the long edge closest to you. Roll tightly, twisting the ends of the plastic firmly to seal. With your hands on either end of the log, push firmly toward the center to compact the dough. It should be about 9 inches long and 1-1/2  inches thick. Repeat with remaining dough. Refrigerate the logs until firm enough to slice, about 3  hours, or freeze for up to three months.

Bake the cookies:
Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Heat the oven to 350°F. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment. Working with one log at a time, use a sharp, thin-bladed knife to slice the dough into 3/16-inch rounds. Set the rounds about 1 inch apart on the prepared pans and bake until the tops of the cookies feel set, 12 to 14 min. (don’t let the edges become too brown). To ensure even browning, rotate the sheets as needed during baking. Let the baked cookies stand for 1 minute on the pan. While they’re still warm, use a thin metal spatula to transfer them to racks. When cool, store between sheets of waxed paper in an airtight container for up to two weeks, or freeze for up to three months.

If you'd like to roll these around on your counter, here is the link to Fine Cooking, where you can print it out. I'd also suggest that if you have a cook on your Christmas list, get them a subscription to the magazine or to the online features. It's well worth it.

Merry Christmas, folks!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Cookie Week at Cafe 305: Rum Balls

I confess, these are not my thing. I make them every year because Greg at the office requests them. (He actually begs, so how could I say no?) I always warn him not to eat too many of these before driving home. They're potent!

I'm sure you've seen these a thousand times. I'm not a fan of the texture. Crushed up Nilla wafers mixed with nuts and cocoa and corn syrup and booze - I'll often use bourbon instead of rum, because I like bourbon better. But for me, they're just too sweet and mooshy. I don't like fudge either. These would be in that family. So if you like fudge, and booze, you'll probably love these. They're fast and easy. Like you will be if you have too many of them. Did I mention they're potent?

  • 3      cups          vanilla wafer crumbs
  • 3      Tbs           cocoa
  • 1      cup           toasted pecans, chopped
  • 1      cup           powdered sugar
  • 3      Tbs           dark corn syrup
  • 1/2  cup           Dark rum (or bourbon)

Blend all ingredients together. Form into balls.

If you'd like to booze up some vanilla wafers, here's the .pdf.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Cookie Week at Cafe 305: Peppermint Crescents

I love these, of course. They're peppermint, and I love, love, love peppermint. And peppermint is Christmasy! Also, Karen at the office requested them. They're her second-favorite, right behind the potato chip cookies.

These are easy to mix up, and only slightly fiddly to make.

  • 1        cup           butter, softened
  • 2/3     cup           powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2   tsp           peppermint extract
  • 1/4     tsp           salt
  • 2 1/2  cups         flour
  • 1        cup          powdered sugar,  for rolling
  •                         Finely crushed hard peppermint candy (about ¼ cup)

Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Add 2/3 cup powdered sugar, 1 teaspoon peppermint extract, and salt; beat well.  Gradually add flour to butter mixture, beating at low speed just until blended after each addition. Divide dough in half. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill about half an hour.

Working with 1 portion of dough at a time, divide each portion into 12 pieces. Roll each piece into a 2-inch log; curve ends of each log to form a crescent. Place crescents 2 inches apart on a parchment lined pan.

Mix the crushed peppermint candy with about 1 cup of powdered sugar in a small bowl and set aside.

Bake at 325°F for 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool briefly on baking sheets, then while the cookies are still arm, roll in the bowl of the powdered sugar and peppermint, then cool on wire racks.

If you'd like to peppermint up your Christmas, here is the .pdf.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Cookie Week at Cafe 305: Dad's Toffee Chocolate Chip Cookies

These are my second-most requested cookie from the office. My dad's Toffee Chocolate Chip Cookies.

We actually had a discussion about these the other day. He thought they had an egg in them. I told him the recipe he gave me didn't. (He hasn't made them in a while.) I prefer them without it, personally. Without the egg, they're crumblier - more like a pecan sandy/shortbread type cookie instead of a standard chocolate chip thing.

Dad's Toffee Chocolate Chip Cookies

  •  1       cup          butter, melted
  •  2/3    cup          brown sugar
  •  3/4    cup          sugar
  •  1       tsp           salt
  •  3/4    tsp           baking soda
  •  1 3/4 cups         all-purpose flour
  •  1       tsp           vanilla
  •  1       cup          toffee chips
  •  1       cup          chocolate chips
  •  1       cup          chopped pecans
1. Mix butter and sugar together. Add salt, baking soda, and vanilla. Add
all chips and pecans. Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto a parchment lined cookie sheet and bake at 350 for 10 - 12 minutes.

 If you'd like to try these with or without an egg, here's the .pdf.