Sunday, December 19, 2010

Chocolate Peppermint Bark

crushed candy canes, to yield about 2 cups
2 pounds tempered dark chocolate
2 pounds white chocolate
peppermint flavorings, optional

Preparing the bark:
Place candy canes in a plastic bag and hammer into 1/4-inch chunks or smaller.

Spread melted and tempered dark chocolate onto cookie sheet lined with parchment or waxed paper (or onto marble serving slab).

Melt the white chocolate in a double boiler. Combine about 1 cup of candy cane chunks with white chocolate (add peppermint flavoring at this point if desired.) Spread over the top of the dark chocolate, being careful not to mix the two chocolates (if the dark chocolate hasn't set up enough). Sprinkle reserved candy cane chunks over the top of the bark, and press down gently so that when the bark sets up, the candy canes are visible but not loose on the top of the bark.

Place in the refrigerator for 45 minutes or until firm. If bark was made on cookie sheet, remove from cookie sheet and break into pieces, like peanut brittle.

Makes about 4 pounds of candy


TF's Butternut Squash and Chestnut Lasagna

1/4 pound pancetta, chopped
1 medium yellow onion, minced
2 T extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons fresh sage leaves, chopped, plus additional leaves for garnish
1 pound fresh chestnuts, shelled and skinned (toasted pine nuts can be substituted)
3 cups butternut squash or pumpkin pieces
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 egg
1 cup ricotta

lasagna pasta or fresh pasta dough [recipe follows]

1 cup freshly grated pecorino cheese

* * * * * * * *

Pasta dough:
2 cups all purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
2 T extra virgin olive oil

cornmeal, for dusting

Preparing the pasta dough:
Combine the flour and salt on a flat work surface; shape into a mound and make a well in the center. Add the eggs and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil to the well and lightly beat with a fork. Gradually draw in the flour from the inside wall of the well in a circular motion. Use one hand for mixing and the other to protect the outer wall. Continue to incorporate all the flour until it forms a ball. Knead and fold the dough until elastic and smooth, this should take about 10 minutes. Brush the surface with the remaining olive oil and wrap the dough in plastic wrap; let rest for about 30 minutes to allow the gluten to relax.

Cut the ball of dough in half, cover and reserve the piece you are not immediately using to prevent it from drying out. Dust the counter and dough with a little flour. Form the dough into a rectangle and roll it through a pasta machine, 2 or 3 times, at widest setting. Pull and stretch the sheet of dough with the palm of your hand as it emerges from the rollers. Reduce the setting and crank the dough through again, 2 or 3 times. Continue tightening until the machine is at the narrowest setting; the dough should be paper-thin, about 1/8-inch thick (keep in mind, overly thick pasta tastes gummy.) Make 4 pieces, about 20-inches long and 6-inches wide.

Right before assembling the lasagna, bring 5 quarts of well-salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta sheets in the water, one at a time, for 2 minutes each. Drain, cool and set aside till ready to use.

* * * * * * *

Preparing the butternut squash and chestnut filling:
Place the pancetta in a large skillet over a medium flame. Cook for 5 minutes, until slightly crispy. Toss in the onion and olive oil and cook until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, sage, and chestnuts to the pan and cook for 10 minutes, stirring often. Toss in the squash pieces, chicken stock, and freshly grated nutmeg. Cover to steam. Let the squash cook for 20 minutes or until soft. Allow the stock to evaporate and then toss the squash and chestnut mixture into a large mixing bowl with the egg and ricotta. Stir and press with a wooden spoon. You can pulse with an immersion blender if you desire. Taste and adjust seasoning.

* * * * * * *

To assemble:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

The lasagna will resemble ribbon candy when finished. To assemble the lasagna, place the pasta sheet on your work surface. Coat the first 4 inches of the pasta with the squash filling and fold the long end of the pasta over the layer. Spread the next side of the pasta with a thin layer of the filling, fold over the pasta sheet, again about 4 inches, to cover the bottom layers. Sprinkle with pecorino and fold over the pasta again. Repeat until you have used the full length of the pasta sheet. Sprinkle the top with Pecorino and a sage leaf. Transfer to a greased sheet pan. Repeat for the remaining 3 sheets of pasta to make 4 "free form" lasagnas. Place the pan in the oven to bake for 20 minutes.

Serves 4 to 8


Classic Sugar Cookies, Nine Ways

Basic sugar cookie recipe, from which to build variations [see below].

Ingredients (per batch):
2 sticks unsalted butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon orange zest
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

sanding sugar for tops

Preparing the dough:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Beat butter, granulated sugar and confectioners' sugar until fluffy. Beat in egg yolks, vanilla and orange zest.

Whisk flour, baking powder and salt; stir into the butter mixture. Chill 30 minutes. Roll tablespoonfuls into balls and flatten; sprinkle with coarse sugar and bake 15 to 20 minutes.

* * * * * * *

Lime Coolers:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Make Classic Sugar Cookies with lime zest instead of orange. Whisk 1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar, 2 tablespoons green decorating sugar and 3 tablespoons lime juice, then spread over finished cookies.

* * * * * * * *

Brown-Betty Buttons:
Melt 2 sticks butter over medium heat until browned, then cool. Make Classic Sugar Cookie dough with the browned butter in place of the 2 sticks butter and use just 1 egg yolk and 3/4 cup granulated sugar total (omit confectioners'). Scoop into tiny balls and bake 10 to 12 minutes at 325 degrees F. Cool, then sandwich with raspberry jam and dust with confectioners' sugar.

* * * * * * * *

Peanut Butter Cookies:
Make Classic Sugar Cookie dough without zest. Add 1 cup peanut butter with the sugar. Roll into medium balls; press with a fork. Sprinkle with coarse sugar and bake 12 to 15 minutes at 350 degrees F.

* * * * * * * *

Black and Whites:
Make Classic Sugar Cookie dough without baking powder; chill 2 hours. Roll out to 1/8 inch thick, then cut into 2-inch rounds and chill 30 minutes. Bake 8 to 10 minutes at 350 degrees F. Cool, then spread with vanilla frosting on one side and chocolate on the other.

* * * * * * * *

Lemon Volcanoes:
Make Classic Sugar Cookie dough with 1 cup granulated sugar total (omit confectioners') and lemon zest instead of orange; omit baking powder. Chill. Pulse 1/4 cup granulated sugar and 1 tablespoon lemon zest in a food processor. Roll dough into two 1-inch-thick logs and roll in the lemon sugar. Freeze logs 20 minutes, then slice 1 inch thick. Bake 20 to 25 minutes at 325 degrees F.

* * * * * * * *

Holiday Windowpanes:
Make Classic Sugar Cookie dough without baking powder; chill 2 hours. Roll out to 1/4 inch thick and cut into large Christmas-tree shapes. Cut out smaller trees from centers. Place on silicone mats and bake 6 to 8 minutes at 350 degrees F, then sprinkle the centers with crushed hard candies and bake until melted, 2 to 5 more minutes.

* * * * * * * *

Sugar Sandwiches:
Make Classic Sugar Cookie dough without baking powder; chill 2 hours. Roll out to 1/4 inch thick and cut into 2-inch rounds. Chill 30 minutes, then bake 8 to 10 minutes at 350 degrees F. Cool, then sandwich with jam or frosting.

* * * * * * * *

Mexican Wedding Cookies:
Make Classic Sugar Cookie dough with almond extract instead of vanilla. Add 1 cup almond flour to the dry ingredients. Chill 30 minutes, then scoop into tiny balls and bake 20 to 25 minutes at 325 degrees F. Cool, then toss in confectioners' sugar.

* * * * * * * *

Pistachio Linzers:
Make Classic Sugar Cookie dough; add 3/4 cup ground pistachios with the flour. Roll out to 1/4 inch thick and cut into 2-inch rounds. Bake 10 to 15 minutes at 350 degrees F. Cool, then sandwich with cherry jam.


Christmas Sugar Cookies

Basic sugar cookie dough for decorating.

3 cups all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 T milk
powdered sugar, for rolling out dough

Preparing the cookies:
Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. Place butter and sugar in large bowl of electric stand mixer and beat until light in color. Add egg and milk and beat to combine. Put mixer on low speed, gradually add flour, and beat until mixture pulls away from the side of the bowl. Divide the dough in half, wrap in waxed paper, and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Sprinkle surface where you will roll out dough with powdered sugar. Remove 1 wrapped pack of dough from refrigerator at a time, sprinkle rolling pin with powdered sugar, and roll out dough to 1/4-inch thick. Move the dough around and check underneath frequently to make sure it is not sticking. If dough has warmed during rolling, place cold cookie sheet on top for 10 minutes to chill. Cut into desired shape, place at least 1-inch apart on greased baking sheet, parchment, or silicone baking mat, and bake for 7 to 9 minutes or until cookies are just beginning to turn brown around the edges, rotating cookie sheet halfway through baking time. Let sit on baking sheet for 2 minutes after removal from oven and then move to complete cooling on wire rack. Serve as is or ice as desired. Store in airtight container for up to 1 week.

Makes 3 dozen 2 1/2-inch cookies


TF's Bolognese Lasagna

2 pound dried lasagna noodles
extra virgin olive oil
2 pounds ground beef
2 pound ground Italian sausage
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, sliced
3 carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 T chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup finely chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley
1 T chopped oregano leaves
2 T all purpose flour
2 cups red wine
2 (28-ounce) cans San Marzano tomatoes
3 T heavy cream
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 quarts ricotta cheese, (2 containers)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound mozzarella cheese, shredded
grated parmesan and mozzarella, for topping

Preparing the lasagna:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Cook the lasagna noodles in plenty of boiling salted water until pliable and barely tender, about 10 minutes. Stir with a wooden spoon to prevent sticking. Drain the noodles thoroughly and coat with olive oil to keep them moist and easy to work with.

Coat a large skillet with olive oil, add beef and sausage and brown until no longer pink, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. In a food processor, combine the onion, carrots, celery, garlic, basil, parsley, an oregano. Process until pureed, add to the pan with the ground meat and stir to combine. Stir in the flour. Add the wine and cook until it has reduced by half. Stir in the tomatoes and add the heavy cream and the cinnamon.

In a mixing bowl, combine ricotta and the parmesan. Stir in the eggs and season with salt and pepper.

* * * * * * *

To assemble the lasagna:
Coat the bottom of a deep 13 by 9-inch pan with olive oil. Arrange 4 noodles lengthwise in a slightly overlapping layer on the sauce. Then line each end of the pan with a lasagna noodle. This forms a collar that holds in the corners. Dollop 1/2 of the ricotta mixture over the pasta, spread to the edges with a spatula. Spread 1/2 of the meat mixture over the ricotta. Sprinkle 1/2 of the mozzarella on top of the ricotta. Top with a ladle full of sauce, spread evenly. Repeat with the next layer of noodles, ricotta, sauce, and cheeses. Top last layer with noodles, sauce, shredded mozzarella and Parmesan. Tap the pan to force out air bubbles. Bake for 1 hour. Remove from oven. Let lasagna rest for 30 minutes so the noodles will settle and cut easily. Cut into 2-inch squares and serve.

Serves 8


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