Friday, May 27, 2011

20-Minute Tartlets

Sometimes, you need dessert.  Quickly.  So quickly, in fact, you may be seduced by the likes of things like refrigerated cookie dough, instant pudding, Nutella straight from the jar.  That's okay.  You can give into those temptations and still make something very fancy-pants indeed.  Behold... the 20-minute tartlet.  Don't believe me?  Read on...

So you start with log of cookie dough.  Sugar cookie dough.  Then you roll it into little balls, I'm going to say just shy of an inch in diameter.  (If you have a 24-cup mini-muffin pan, you should have just a bit of dough leftover.) 

Then you smush it.  I tried doing this with a shot glass, but found that the concave bottom made for uneven smushage.  I stared around my kitchen blankly.  Aha!  The lid from a 2-liter bottle of Diet Coke.  This worked perfectly.  I pressed it in and wiggled it just a bit and had a perfect little shell.  (Now, if you're one of those I-don't-drink-soda types, don't talk to me.  Use some other bottle top, but, truly, don't talk to me.)

Bake your shells in a 350-degree oven for about 12 minutes, or until they're nice and golden brown.  They may look rather puffy when you take them out.  Fear not, they will fall and look something like this:

You can fill your shells with anything you'd like.  For an afternoon tea, I used instant vanilla pudding (enhanced with a touch of vanilla and almond extracts) and some shaved chocolate.  Unfortunately, they were devoured before I had the chance to snap a photo.

With the leftover shells, I made myself a nice midnight snack, stuffing each with a generous spoonful of Nutella:

Technically, these might be a bit, um, much.  Then again, maybe not.  I sure enjoyed them.  A whole hazelnut right on top would be like the cookie version of a Rocher.  Mmmm...

I love sophisticated desserts as much as the next person.  But really, I love dessert just about any way I can get it.  Sometimes, you've just got to keep it simple to...

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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Wanna-Be-British Baker

If you know me at all, it's likely you've heard me say that I should live in England.  As an English major, it's hard not to have a soft spot for such a literary mecca.  I am, after all, the Literate Baker.  England also has one of the most endearing culinary traditions: afternoon tea.

Now, tea fare is no stranger to this blog.  I've waxed poetic about scones and tarts and all sorts of bite-sized bits of lovely sweetness.  Today, the tradition continues with yet another variation on scones.  If you've attempted the Chai Spice Scones, the recipe will look familiar.  Both are takes on a Barefoot Contessa recipe that has become the base for most of my scones.

Today, I offer you a marriage of orange and vanilla that I couldn't help but name...

Dreamsicle Scones

2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
zest of 1 orange
3/4 cup butter, diced
2 eggs
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 ounces white chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons sanding sugar (optional)

Combine flour, baking powder, salt, and orange zest.  Blend or cut in butter until the size of small peas.  Add white chocolate.  Meanwhile, mix together eggs, cream, and vanilla.

Add wet ingredients to dry and blend until dough just comes together.  Dump onto a floured surface and knead 4-5 times to bring dough together.  Pat or roll to approximately 1/2 inch thick. 

Cut into your favorite scone shape (I used a fluted, 2-inch round cutter.) Sprinkle with sanding sugar.

Bake at 400 degrees for 15-18 minutes, until golden brown.

These babies are great on their own.  If however, you're in the mood to guild the lily, you could combine 2 ounces of softened cream cheese, 2 tablespoons of sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract, and 1/2 cup of heavy cream.  Whip together for a couple of minutes and you've got something that isn't Devonshire cream, but that is so tasty you won't mind that it isn't. 

So, the next time you find yourself longing for London, bake up a batch of these, brew yourself a pot of something nice, and let loose your wildest British accent.  All in all, a most loverly way to...

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Monday, May 2, 2011

Bark You Want to Bite

So, every time I make truffles or cake shots, I dread the "dipping."  On one level, this is because I want an enrobing machine.  You know, like the ones on every other episode of Unwrapped.  At the very least, I'd like a fancy chocolate tempering contraption.  On another, much more reasonable level, it's that dipping small quantities of product is a challenge.  You don't want to melt too much chocolate and waste it; you don't want to melt not enough chocolate and find your self scraping the bowl.

Since I don't see a $15,000 piece of candy equipment in my immediate future, I've come up with the next best solution:  chocolate bark!  No, really.

See, the problem lies in having chocolate leftover.  You can't really re-melt it without major streaking, so you have to do something with it.  There's little easier than dumping it on some parchment paper and sprinkling with tasty accoutrements.  It's so easy, there is no recipe.  There are only ideas...

Here I have some lovely milk chocolate to which I've added toasted pecans and sea salt:

Here's a dabbling in dark chocolate--I added toasted almonds and dried cranberries:

What else?  How about dried bananas?  Or apricots?  Dried cherries might actually make me swoon.  Any nut would be great.  You could even go with crushed pretzels.  Or potato chips.   

I've always thought of bark as a great gift.  Perhaps that's why I don't think of it every time I have extra chocolate.  The timing doesn't match.  Now that I have put the ideas together, one of two things will happen:  I'll become one of those people who gives little gifts of chocolate for no reason at all or I'll gain twenty pounds.  I'm going to go with the former.  It's almost summer, after all, and I've a yen to show some skin.  Gotta keep an eye on the old figure, eh? 

Make some for fun, make some to make someone smile, make some to...

Keep it sweet.
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