Saturday, September 17, 2011

Sasha's Kitchen: Black & White Cookies

Growing up, traditional black and white cookies - half chocolate glazed and half vanilla glazed - were one of my favorite kinds of cookies (second to tri-colored rainbow cookies, of course).  They're actually relatively straightforward to make at home, as well, and quite a rewarding treat.  I have to admit I am partial to the chocolate glazed side of the cookie, so much so that next time I make them, I might just have to make the cookie itself chocolate.  I'm a big fan of the bakery Baked, right here in Brooklyn for their reasonably priced but delicious baked goods from cakes to cookies to cupcakes, so I was thrilled to find a recipe for black & white cookies in the Baked Explorations cookbook last weekend.  A batch of cookies mades between 14-18 nice large black and white cookies which are a rewarding treat to eat at home and to share with friends and coworkers.  I got a lot of compliments on these!

Black & White Cookies (recipe from Baked Explorations)
3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 3/4 sticks of unsalted butter, cool
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 T pure vanilla extract
1 T freshly grated lemon zest

3 3/4 cups confectioners' sugar
4 to 5 T whole milk
3 T heavy cream
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup plus 2T dark unsweetened cocoa powder

Preheat the oven to 350. Line three baking sheets with parchment paper.  In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients for the cookies (flower, baking powder, baking soda and salt).  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy, about two minutes. Add the eggs and the yolk, one at a time and mix.  Add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the buttermilk (ending with the last flour addition). Add the vanilla and scrape down the bowl; add the lemon zest and mix.

Using a 1/4 cup scoop, drop the dough on the prepared baking sheets (beware, it will expand). You should fit about six cookies on a baking sheet. Be sure to space them apart to give them some room to spread and "grow."

Bake for 17 minutes, baking each sheet one at a time. Edges should be lightly browned. I found that the 17 minute time was pretty much right on the money.  Allow to cool completely before frosting.

To make the frosting, in a large bowl, whisk together the confectioners' sugar, milk, cream and vanilla. If the mixture is too thick, add milk by the teaspoon. Divide in half and add the chocolate powder to half of the mixture. Add a bit of milk by the teaspoon if you need to thin the chocolate a little bit.  Using a spatula, frost one half vanilla and allow to dry before frosting the other half with the chocolate glaze.  Let the frosted cookies set for one hour before serving.


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Sasha's Kitchen: Spicy Peach Salsa

Recently I took a preserving class at The Brooklyn Kitchen where we made this delicious peach salsa.  The recipe is in Sheri Brooks Vinton's new book Put 'em Up, which is a great guide for home preserving.  I made the spicy peach salsa from the book over the weekend at home, resulting in two large pint size jars of salsa. Yum! What could be better that a delicious peach salsa? I guess my love for peaches is showing here a bit. At any rate, I managed to do the boiling water method of preserving at home for one of the two jars, so it will be good until I want to use it. The other jar, I didn't seal, so we've been enjoying it all week. This salsa is great on fish or chicken, or just with some tortilla chips as a dip.

Sheri Brooks Vinton's Spicy Peach Salsa
3 pounds peaches, blanched and skin removed
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
1 T cumin
1 T salt
1 pound tomatoes, cored, seeded and diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 jalapeno pepper, diced
1 red onion, diced
1/4 cup minced cilantro

Prepare and ice bath in a large bowl. Bring a pot of water to boil and blanch two peaches in the hot water at a time (for me, three pounds was six large peaches). Blanch the fruit for thirty seconds in the boiling water before placing in the ice bath.  Remove the skin from the peaches. After blanching, it should just slip off.

Combien the vinegar, sugar, cumin and salt in a large dutch oven or other nonreactive pan.  Put the peaches and dice them, adding them to the pot as you go so they do not brown. Add the tomatoes, bell pepper, jalapeno and onion, as you dice them.  Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 15 minute until thickened. Add the cilantro and remove the salsa from the heat,  You can then can it using the boiling water preservation method, or you can refrigerate it for a week or two and enjoy it right away.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Sasha's Kitchen: Perfect Chocolate Souffle

I haven't been baking a lot lately, and sorry to disappoint, but my petit fours were a disaster. But I did make a killer chocolate souffle the other night that was enjoyed by all, along with some preserved homemade raspberry sauce.  This is a simple recipe, but it's a bit tricky to get a souffle just right.  Do not (under any circumstances) open the oven to check on your souffles after you put them in. You just have to wait until you know they will be done and take them out then.  I think that's the hardest part of souffle making.  The best souffles I have had have just the perfect combination of flavor and texture. I had an amazing vanilla souffle in Paris (which I will have to try to replicate soon - just thinking of it makes my mouth water). I've also had some great souffles here in New York at Capsouto Freres.  At any rate, last week, I made this basic souffle to serve with a raspberry sauce that I made from boatloads of farmers' market raspberries and preserved. The two flavors went together really nicely.

Chocolate Souffle (makes 4)
PAM - to spray the ramekins
1/3 cup of sugar
3 eggs, separated
pinch of cream of tartar
6 oz semi sweet or bittersweet chocolate
2/3 of a cup milk
1 T plus 2 tsp cornstarch
pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 400 before you begin. Spray four ramekins with PAM (or use butter) and sprinkle with a bit of sugar.  Whisk egg whites until frothy in a stand mixer with the whisk attachment. Add the cream of tartar and beat on high, slowly adding the sugar. Continue to beat on high until medium hard peaks form, about five minutes.

Whisk the milk and cornstarch in a saucepan.  Simmer until thick for about two minutes.  Whisk in the chocolate and egg yolks until combined. Gently fold in the egg whites using a spatula.  Divide among the four prepared ramekins.

Bake for about 16 minutes. Enjoy!
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