Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Cheers and Happy New Year!

Milk Punch is something we make every year for the holidays, usually around Christmas and New Years. Sometimes we even have it with formal brunches- Easter, Mothers Day etc. There is a restaurant in town that has this every Sunday on their elaborate brunch menu. It is so good. We used to go, just to have the milk punch- seems crazy, I know. But it's that good. Then one year, they printed the recipe in the Wednesday food section of the newspaper. My MIL clipped it and has been making it ever since. But then she gave my husband the recipe and now he makes it.

My husband made this a few days ago for Christmas Eve and between 6 adults and an hour, this boozy punch was completely consumed. It has easily become my mother's favorite drink, and hopefully yours too. Cheers and Happy New Year!
  • 1/2 Gallon Quality Vanilla Ice Cream*
  • 1 cup Milk
  • 1/2 cup Bourbon
  • 1/4 cup White Rum
  • 1 Jigger (1.5 oz.) Brandy
  • Nutmeg for garnish, optional

Allow ice cream to soften (mostly melted, but not all the way) in carton, then pour into a 2 quart pitcher. Pour milk, bourbon, rum and brandy over melted ice cream and stir.

Serve in your favorite cocktail glass and sprinkle with ground nutmeg for garnish.

**Makes 2 Quarts/ Half Gallon**

NOTE: The pitcher may seem really full because you're adding half a gallon of ice cream to a half gallon (2 quart) pitcher, but it will melt down. Once you add the liquid, it will make 2 quarts, exactly. Can be made ahead of time, but it will taste stronger the longer it ferments. If you don't like it too strong, add a bit more milk.

*We prefer using Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla or Natural Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Monday, December 29, 2008

Holiday Must Have

Pumkin empanadas are one of the things we used to make around the holidays when I was younger. Now that we're older we buy them rather than making them. My grandfather and step dad went to the Mexican bakery to buy some goodies and came back with pineapple and pumpkin empanadas, cookies and pan de huevo (egg bread). Mexican pastries are not very sweet, and are usually very simple looking.
The empanadas we bought were okay, but they were a little soft and mushy and didn't have a lot of flavor. So we made some! And they were so much better. They had a nice texture and the filling was so much more flavorful. Even my step dad who says he doesn't like pumpkin had two of them!
Pumpkin Empanadas adapted from Esperanza's Cafe (Fort Worth, TX) via Gourmet Sleuth

Pumpkin Filling:

  • 1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon all spice

Empanada Dough:

  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 (1/4 ounce) packages dry yeast (4 1/2 teaspoons)
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 generous pinches cinnamon
  • 3 cups flour, divided in half
  • generous 3/4 cup vegetable shortening

For filling: Mix ingredients together and set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

For the dough: Combine water, sugar, salt, yeast, baking powder, and cinnamon. Using an electric mixer, gradually blend in half of the flour. Add shortening and thoroughly mix, then gradually blend in remaining flour. Divide dough into 4 equal parts, then shape each into 4 dough balls. Slap the dough balls between the palms of your well-floured hands until somewhat flattened, then roll on a floured surface until circles approximately 4 inches in diameter and 1/8 inch thick. Put about 1 1/2 tablespoons of filling in the center of each circle, fold over, and seal edges by pressing lightly with a fork on both sides.

Bake on greased cookie sheet until golden brown, 18 to 20 minutes (watch carefully; they can burn quickly).

**Makes 16 empanadas**

NOTE: If the dough is not sticking together when you crimp it with a fork, put a little water on your finger and run it along the edge of the dough before crimping it together. This will give you a better seal so the filling doesn't seep out.

I poked a few holes (using a fork) in the top of the empanadas to help the steam release while baking. And because my mother and grandmother and mother said I should, I put egg wash on them and sprinkled them with cinnamon sugar.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Day 7- Holiday Biscotti

These little biscotti are so photogenic. They're so pretty and so tasty and they're chock full of creamy white chocolate, crunchy pistachios and jewel toned cranberries.

I've never made biscotti before, but I am a pro at eating them :-) My favorite biscotti flavor is French Lavender from Jake's Natural Foods. The lavender is subtle and the candied lemon peel inside the biscotti is chewy and it's just so good! But these biscotti are different. They're more like dessert than they are for breakfast. The cookie itself isn't too sweet, but the half dunked part is.

These are the perfect treat for the holidays. The red and green make them festive, but change out the fruit and nuts to your liking. Almonds, dried cherries and dark chocolate would be good, or dried apricots, pecans and milk chocolate! Mmm, I'm gonna have to experiment.

Holiday Biscotti from Shawnda

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp. Amaretto or almond extract
  • 1 cup shelled raw unsalted pistachios
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 3/4 cup high-quality white chocolate chips (for biscotti)
  • 8 oz high-quality white chocolate (for dipping)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line large baking sheet with parchment paper.

Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat sugar, eggs, oil, and almond extract or Amaretto liquor in large bowl until well blended. Add flour mixture and beat until smooth. Stir in pistachios, dried cranberries, and 3/4 cup chopped white chocolate by hand. Divide dough in half and form into two 12-inch-long strips on prepared baking sheet, spacing strips 3 inches apart. Using wet fingertips, shape each strip into 3-inch-wide log, pressing for even thickness. Logs may look slightly lumpy, but try to make the top as smooth as possible by pressing the cranberries and pistachios into the dough.

Bake logs until lightly browned, about 30 minutes. Cool logs on sheet for a minimum of 30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325°F. Carefully transfer logs to cutting board and slice about 1/2-3/4-inch thick. Place them back on the same baking sheet with parchment paper (I used the same sheet) standing biscotti upright, spacing about 1/4 inch apart, in 3 rows. Bake until pale golden (biscotti may be soft but will firm as they cool), about 20 minutes. Allow to cool completely on baking sheet.

Line another large baking sheet with parchment paper. Place remaining chopped white chocolate in medium glass bowl. Microwave on a low temp for 30seconds at a time, until smooth. Dip one end or 1 side of each biscotti in chocolate; place on baking sheet. Chill until chocolate is set, about 30 minutes.

**Makes 2-3 dozen**

NOTE: These can be made ahead of time. Arrange in single layer in airtight container and chill up to 5 days or freeze up to 2 weeks.

I cut mine at a slight angle to make them a bit longer. Also, I only got about 2 dozen biscotti from this recipe because I cut them about 3/4-1-inch wide. Any thinner and they would have crumbled. Allow the biscotti to cool COMPLETELY before cutting. This will help reduce the crumbs.

Also, with all my holiday baking, I ran out of vanilla. Gasp!!! And I lent my almond extract to my mom for her Thanksgiving pie baking, so I used Amaretto instead of almond extract. No wonder these biscotti were so good :-)

Merry Christmas Everyone! See you next year!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Day 6- Cinnamon Sugar Spritz Cookies

AKA Too Much Butter Cookies

AKA The Cookies That Won

AKA I Hate These #$@&* Cookies

My mom gave me a cookie press for Christmas about 3 years ago. I've never used it til today. I guess I was intimidated by the press, or maybe I convinced myself I didn't like them. I'm not sure, but it remained unopened in the box for a very long time. It's not like it was hidden or put away somewhere I couldn't find it, it was in my kitchen island, next to my lean mean fat reducing grilling machine. I look at it often, but I never had a recipe for Spritz, so there it sat.

I was browsing through blogs and came across a recipe for Spritz cookies. I bookmarked it. They were really cute, but they didn't have anything in them that seemed overly exciting. They just seemed like pressed sugar cookies, and I already had a recipe for sugar cookies. I googled "spritz" and came across Cinnamon spritz, but there wasn't a recipe. So I thought I'd just adapt the recipe that everyone said was so good by adding a little ground cinnamon, and sprinkling cinnamon sugar over the top- kind of like a snickerdoodle.

Then, I softened my butter, sifted my flour, sifted the flour again, creamed the butter and sugar, added the vanilla, stirred, added the flour, read the cookie press instructions, loaded the smokin' gun and went to town. The dough seemed really soft, but then again I've never made these before, so what do I know. I pressed, I had fun, I even got Mr. h to press a few trees out. It was a little exciting and I wondered why I had waited so long to use the cookie press. I popped them into the oven and 10 minutes later I had made thin, salty, buttery, tender, unrecognizable trees, or more like blobs.

I read the recipe, read it again, then again and then (!) I realized I added way too much butter. I added 3 sticks of butter! Which is twice the amount I needed, but I didn't realize it until I had already baked 2 sheets of cookies :-( I added more flour, more sugar, and more vanilla. I reloaded the gun and it was so stiff, the dough kept oozing out of the gun without me pressing the trigger. I emptied the barrel, added the extra egg yolk I had forgotten, and reloaded. STILL STIFF. I emptied the barrel again, while flinging dough all over the kitchen and myself and cussing up a storm. I added a very tiny amount of milk and reblended the dough. I loaded the gun one more time and the texture was finally perfect.

The flavor was great. The texture was tender and buttery and my husband loved them. He kept walking by and stealing the little tree blobs. Now don't be turned off by all my ranting. As long as you follow the recipe closely (unlike I did) and don't double the butter (like I did) they'll be great and hassle free. I hope you don't have to have your husband pick crusted dough out of your hair. Have fun!

Cinnamon Sugar Spritz Cookies adapted from Peabody (You will need a cookie press in order to make these cookies)

  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • cinnamon sugar for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350F. Line several cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Sift flour into a bowl. Add in the salt and cinnamon and sift again. It is important to sift the flour twice.

In a stand mixer, beat butter on medium speed for several minutes until soft. With the mixer on low speed, add the sugar in a slow stream and beat until light and fluffy. Add in the egg yolk and both extracts and mix until combined. Then add in the flour mixture and mix until combined.

Load the dough into the cookie press per the manufacturer’s instructions. Press cookies onto the cookie sheets about 1 ½ inches apart. Decorate the cookies with sprinkles, candies, and other decorations. I sprinkled cinnamon sugar on mine. Bake for 8-10 minutes until golden. Cool cookie sheets on a wire rack.

**Makes about 5 dozen small cookies**

Here are my tree blobs, they kinda look like arrowheads!

And now a prettier tree :-) Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Day 5- Dark Chocolate Toffee Cookies

This recipe was given to me by my ex-boss' mother several years ago. Only, the original recipe dubbed- Yummy White Chocolate Toffee Cookies- called for white chocolate chunks. I fell in love with this cookie the first time I had it. They were so sweet and buttery.
I decided since I was already making a couple other cookies this Christmas using white chocolate, I'd use intense dark chocolate (70 % cocoa) bars from Lindt instead. I chopped up a couple of bars, then added enough semi-sweet chips to make 12 ounces. Both versions are wonderfully delicious. They're buttery, chewy on the inside, crisp on the outside, caramelly from the toffee and rich from the dark chocolate. These are good! My husband had 4 total as I was baking them. He kept walking through the kitchen to eat them. He liked these better than the white chocolate version because they weren't as sweet. Use whatever chocolate you like!
Dark Chocolate Toffee Cookies
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup toffee bits
  • 1 pkg. (12 oz.) dark chocolate chips or chunks

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cream butter and both sugars together, then add egg and vanilla, stir. Mix in flour, baking soda, and salt just til combined. Stir in toffee bits and chocolate.

Drop dough by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes or until lightly golden. Allow to cool for a couple minutes before removing to a rack to cool completely.

**makes 6 dozen**

NOTE: This recipe was originally made with white chocolate chunks. They're really good that way, but a little too sweet. I subbed dark chocolate for the white and added a little vanilla and they were perfect!

I don't have a small ice cream scoop (hopefully there wil be one in my stocking this year!) so I rolled the dough into one-inch balls so they were uniform sizes, but you can use two spoons to drop the cookie dough on the cookie sheet.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Day 4- Chocolate White Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Whew, that's a mouthful! These cookies come from the Barefoot Contessa, or Ina Garten, as I like to refer to her. I love her because she seems so real. And because she's not afraid of making a mess in the kitchen. She really cooks on her show in her own home. It doesn't seem as forced or set up as some of the other F.ood Network shows. She cooks and bakes to make people happy and I love that. She seems genuine.

As I was watching her show, I scribbled down this recipe on a note pad. That was probably a year ago, maybe??? That's how long I've been lusting after these chunky cookies. I bought her boxed mix earlier this year to try them out and they were delish! They were expensive (about $10) for a boxed mix, but they make great gifts. I bought a couple when we went on vacation so I could bake without all the fuss. The cookies came together almost instantly with very little effort and the end result was scrumptious.

Chocolate White Chocolate Chunk Cookies from Barefoot Contessa

  • 1/2 pound unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 pounds good white chocolate, coarsely chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, cream the butter and both sugars until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla, then the eggs, 1 at a time, and mix well. Add the cocoa and mix again. Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt and add to the chocolate dough. Mix until just combined. Fold in the chopped white chocolate.

Drop the dough on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, using a 1 3/4-inch ice cream scoop or a generously rounded tablespoon. Dampen your hands and flatten the dough slightly. Bake for exactly 15 minutes (the cookies will seem underdone). Remove from the oven and let cool slightly on the pan, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

**Makes 40-48 cookies**

NOTE: This recipe calls for 1 1/2 pounds of chopped white chocolate. That's a ton of chocolate! I bought a 10x2-inch block of white chocolate a couple months ago in preparation for these cookies. I never actually referred to the recipe to see how much I needed. When I checked the label on the chocolate it was only half a pound. I choppe dit all up and it seemed like plenty, but according to the recipe, I needed triple the amount, so I added a couple handfuls of white chocolate chips. I used a total of 1 pound of white chocolate.

Don't use cheap white chocolate in these cookies. I used Callebaut White Chocolate. Cut up a few bars of white chocolate or use Ghiradelli baking bars if you can't find chunks, or use white chocolate morsels, just make sure they're not vanilla or vanillin chips. And whatever you do, don't use white vanilla coating (that's not chocolate!)

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Day 3- Aunt Mary's Sugar Cookies

This recipe has been in our family for years. My aunt Mary is the baker of the family back home. She bakes and sews and crafts and knits. And I wonder where I get it from? Anyway, she usually makes this recipe every year by the ton, then she passes it out to family and friends to decorate. Since I don't live at home anymore, I don't get cookie dough :-(
About 3 years ago, when my grandmother came to visit, she brought me almond extract, frozen cookie dough and a recipe! So now I can share with you. I really like this recipe because the dough is made with powdered sugar instead of granulated sugar, which means the dough is tender and soft. It's easy to roll out, and you can keep rolling the scraps without the dough getting tough. The end result is a crisp, but tender cookie, that's not too sweet. That is until they're generously sprinkled with coarse sugar and sprinkles.
Aunt Mary's Sugar Cookies
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. almond extract
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. cream of tartar*

Cream butter and powdered sugar together in a large bowl. Stir in egg, vanilla and almond extract til well combined. Stir in flour, baking soda, and cream of tartar. Divide dough in half and form them into discs. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Roll out dough onto a lightly floured surface and cut out shapes using your favorite cookie cutters. Sprinkle with colored sugar, sprinkles, or chocolate candies. Put cookies back into the fridge** for a few minutes until they harden up a bit (about 5 minutes). Bake until edges turn a light golden brown, about 8-12 minutes depending on the size of your cookies.

**Makes about 4 dozen**

NOTE: *I don't have cream of tartar in my pantry. I have never needed it before this recipe, so what's the point? If you don't have it either, don't go out and buy any just for these cookies. Substitute the baking soda and cream of tartar for baking powder. So this recipe called for 1 tsp. each baking soda and cream of tartar. I added 2 tsp. of baking powder instead and it worked out just fine.

** You don't have to put your cookies back in the fridge, but if you do, they'll keep their shape better and they don't spread out as much. But then again, if you like pudgy gingerbread boys and girls, skip this step.

Don't overbake your cookies. Santa and his reindeer don't like burnt cookies. And don't forget the milk :-)

Related Posts with Thumbnails