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Friday, December 23, 2011

Side by Side Chocolate Chip Cookies (or High Five Cookies)

Chocolate Chip Cookies are a common addition to any dessert table, but they're also an almost guaranteed success.  Who doesn't love a chocolate chip cookie?  Especially when it's just slightly under baked, and oh so soft and chewy.  If you want to bring Chocolate Chip cookies to your cookie exchange or to your family's holiday gathering, but want a unique twist to wow your cookie-loving friends, then keep maybe this is the right recipe for you.  This is basically one chocolate chip cookie dough, split into two - One half is left as a standard chocolate chip cookie, and the other half gets a healthy dose of Cocoa Powder to make it a double chocolate chip cookie.  Then, you sit the two doughs Side by Side on the cookie pan before baking.  Daniel wanted to call these "High Five" cookies because the two doughs do a high five before being placed onto the pan.  I just love the mental image I get when I imagine two chocolate chip cookie dough balls doing a high five and then jumping onto a cookie sheet.  :)


I've made recipes from this great little cookbook before, but I think it deserves a revisiting.  The original chocolate chip cookie recipe this is based off of is from Little Old Lady Recipes.  It really is such a charming little book.  Tried and true recipes from grandmothers are included alongside delightful portraits photos of grandmas.  I made some adaptations and have included these below.






Side by Side Chocolate Chip Cookies, adapted from Little Old Lady Recipes
Ingredients:
1 cup + 2 Tablespoons all purpose flour
3 Tablespoons Cocoa Powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temp
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 large egg, room temp
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 325, and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugars.  Add the egg and vanilla.  Then, add baking soda, and salt.  Add 1 cup of the flour and mix until just incorporated.  Remove half of the dough from the bowl, and set aside.  In the electric mixer, add the remaining 2 tablespoons flour and half of the chocolate chips.  Mix until just incorporated, then drop by the tablespoon onto the prepared cookie sheets.  Now, add the reserved half of the dough back into the stand mixer bowl.  Add the cocoa powder and the remaining chocolate chips.  Drop by the tablespoon onto the cookie sheet so that each standard chocolate chip cookie dough ball has a double chocolate chip cookie dough ball beside it.  With your finger, make the two dough balls touch.  Bake for 8 - 12 minutes or until cookies begin to brown at the edges.  Remove to rack to cool.  







Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Tree Meringue Pops & How-To Video





Need an idea for a very quick, unique Christmas dessert?  Our Round Cake Pop Stand turned these simple little meringue bites into an impressive Christmas display.  All it is is a simple meringue piped into a tree shape using a star tip.  The tree is topped with an edible star decoration and they're baked. Voila!  I'll bet the Christmas parties you're going to haven't seen a meringue pop display like this one :)  


I recommend inserting the lollipop stick while the meringues are still warm (and haven't hardened all the way) to make your life a lot easier.  




Christmas Tree Meringue Pops, from adapted from Penguin Says Feed Me
Ingredients:
2 egg whites
125 grams granulated sugar
A pinch of vanilla extract
Green food coloring
Star shaped edible decorations
Lollipop Sticks
Round Cake Pop Stand


Preheat oven to 250 F. Beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Add in the vanilla and beat to incorporate.
Gradually, while beating, add the sugar until glossy, firm peaks form. Once the sugar has been incorporated, add the green food colouring until the desired colour is achieved.  
Scoop the meringue mixture into a piping bag fitted with a star tip.  Pipe dollops of meringue onto parchment lined cookie sheets, keeping the bases of the trees a little over the size of a quarter.  Press a star decoration into the top of the meringue tree.   
Bake for 35 - 40 minutes.  While meringues are still warm, use a clean awl to gently make a hole in the bottom of the meringue.  Be careful!  These guys can crack.  Insert stick in the hole and put the stick on the Cake Pop Stand.  


Check out this video of Daniel, the piping expert, making some meringue Christmas trees:
video





Friday, December 16, 2011

Gingerbread Cake Bites with Lemon Frosting


Around this time of year about 5 or 6 years ago, a neighbor brought over a platter of homemade petit fours for the holidays.  It had a few different flavors of cake cut into adorable little squares, each topped with a different type of frosting. I can't remember anything that was on that platter besides one: gingerbread cake with lemon frosting.  I only ate one of the tiny one inch cake bites, but it was so good I still remember it to this day.  

When I got word of Hodgson Mill's holiday recipe contest, "Have a Grain Holiday!" I felt short on good ideas.  I tried out a few different recipes using both their Bread Flour and their Whole Wheat flour but I wasn't thrilled with anything.  Finally, I thought about those gingerbread cake bites and I started trying to make my own version of the bite sized dessert.  I don't know how these would compare to those little bites from a few years ago, but these are pretty delicious.  The gingerbread cake is spicy and moist, and the tangy lemon frosting serves is a nice complement.  Plus, since it uses Hodgson Mill's Whole Wheat Graham flour, it is nutritious, too.  With this type of flour, "the entire natural bran and germ are stone ground, preserving all of the grain's natural nutrients and great taste, with no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives." 

Gingerbread Cake Bites with Lemon Frosting, serving size: 40-50 bite sized squares.
Preparation time: approximately 2 hours
Ingredients:
1 ½ cups Hodgson Mill Whole Wheat flour
½ cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon cloves
a pinch of ground pepper
¾ stick of unsalted butter (6 Tablespoons), room temperature
2/3 cup brown sugar packed
¼ cup molasses
¼ light corn syrup
1 egg, beaten
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ cup boiling water
2 Tablespoons milk

For the Gingerbread Cake:
Spray a 9 x 13 pan with nonstick spray and line with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 325 F.
Mix the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, soda, salt, spices and pepper together and set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter.  Gradually add the brown sugar and cream thoroughly. Beat in molasses and corn syrup.
In a separate bowl, beat the egg until foamy.  Then, add it to the butter mixture. Stir in the vanilla.
Add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture and mix just until combined, being careful not to overbeat. 
Slowly, pour in the boiling water and the milk.  Mixture will be very runny.  Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and spread with a spatula.
Bake for about 30-35 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.  Allow to cool all the way, and then chill in the refrigerator.

For the Lemon Frosting:
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
zest from ½ a large lemon
juice from ½ a large lemon
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 cups powdered sugar
Lemon peel for garnish, optional

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter until light and fluffy.  Add the zest and vanilla.  Slowly add the powdered sugar.  Add the lemon juice and beat on medium-high for 5 minutes.  When the cake is chilled and  slightly firm to the touch, spread the frosting on the cake with an offset spatula.  Using a pizza cutter, cute the cake into small squares.  If desired, top each square with a small strip of lemon zest to garnish.  


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Contest Winner!

And the winner is...#5 comment, Melissa! Melissa said "My mom's date and nut bread spread with cream cheese. If she doesn't make it, I have no doubt some family members would cry!" Congratulations Melissa! You have 24 hours to claim your prize.  Please either email me at: info@thesmartbaker.com or leave a message on this post with your email address.  


Holiday baked goodie coming soon to Ice Cream Before Dinner using Hodgson Mill's high-quality flour!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Hodgson Mill and a Giveaway

Good ingredients really makes all the difference in a recipe.  People always talk about using high quality chocolates and extracts when baking, but rarely do people talk about the type of flour they use.  After the first time I bought a higher quality flour than I had used in the past, I never went back.  


Recently, Hodgson Mill began a holiday recipe contest.  Stay tuned for a holiday treat recipe using their wonderful flours coming up on Ice Cream Before Dinner very soon!  In addition to a new holiday recipe, I'll also be hosting a giveaway for $25 to Hodgson Mill's online store!!  


To enter to win, simply post a comment on this blog post describing your family's favorite holiday treat recipe.  


For a second entry to win, write a post on Twitter or Facebook linking to this blog post saying: "I just entered to win a $25 gift certificate to Hodgson Mill at Ice Cream Before Dinner!"  Then, leave a second comment on this post saying you did so.


The contest will end Tuesday, Dec. 13th at Midnight and the winner will be contacted Wednesday.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Smart Baker at Cocoa Village Craft Fair

The Smart Baker blogging to you live from the Cocoa Village Holiday Craft Fair!  



You mean you don't have a fake oven?

Our towers even look nice with store bought cupcakes!  So if you're short on time planning your holiday party, you can still have an elegant dessert display.

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