Thursday, January 26, 2012

Sprinkle Cookies

My friend Little E came to visit me recently because he wanted to make some cookies. I am not too sure if he was visiting me or my sprinkle drawer, but we had a fun time regardless. He loves all colored sprinkles and sugars- but can you blame him? They come in so many pretty colors, sizes and shapes that the possibilities for creations are endless.

Obviously, from the size of my sprinkle drawer, I too have a thing for sprinkles, so I'm glad to have a friend who is willing to spend the entire afternoon playing in my sprinkle drawer with me. I knew we would need a cookie where sprinkles would be the star, and Mini Me's chewy sugar cookie   recipe was perfect. She got the recipe from her friend T many years ago when they were in grade school and has been making them for any and all occasions since 3rd grade. Although she is back at school and couldn't join our sprinkle party, I borrowed her recipe because I knew they would be the perfect to make with a three year old. 

These cookies are super fast to put together, and can be decorated for just about any holiday or theme you can imagine. They bake up soft and chewy in just a few minutes, which is especially important when you have an eager taste tester at the ready. 

Mini Me's  Sprinkle Cookies

2 3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Mix together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

2. In mixing bowl cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, beat in egg and vanilla. Gradually beat in the dry ingredients.

3.Shape into 1 to 1 1/2 inch balls. Moisten the top of the ball with either buttermilk or milk (this helps the sprinkle adhere to the cookie.  However, Little E and I skipped this step and went straight to the sprinkles) and dip in sprinkles. 

5.Place on cookie sheet lined with a slipat and bake. In a regular oven at 375 for 10 minutes or convection oven at 350 for about 8 minutes.
Makes about 4 dozen cookies
printable recipe

Foodie Friday at Designs by Gollum

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Lemon Meringue Cake

The Improv Challenge for this month, hosted by Kristen at the Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker, was to use lemon and sour cream in a recipe. There are so many ways to use these two ingredients, and there are several recipes that I love for cakes, frostings, and doughnuts using lemon and sour cream, but I wanted to make something new. I had a big bowl of egg whites that I needed to use, so I put together a few of our favorite things and ended up with this Lemon Meringue cake. I made discs of crispy meringue, layered them with a lemon curd filling, and finished the whole thing with whipped cream combined with sour cream. I do have to admit that the sour cream is an afterthought in this recipe. It gives the topping a nice tang, but honestly you could omit it. 

We liked that this dessert is easy to make ahead, either in its entirety, or just the components. Boy Mimi liked the crispy, just assembled version best, while Mimi Jr. liked it once it had been in the refrigerator for a few hours; it still had a slight meringue crunch, but the lemon filling had begun to soften the layers just a bit.If you are in a jam and you don't have time to make the meringue and lemon curd, you could easily make this with store bought lemon curd and meringue cookies. In that case, I would use a spring form pan to help hold the layers together. Once the cake has chilled for a few hours, release the sides of the pan and cover the the sides and top of the cake as directed in the recipe.

Lemon Meringue Cake
Meringue disks 
Lemon curd
2 cups heavy whipping cream 
1/4 cup sour cream 
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
lemon zest 

Meringue disks

4 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon cream of tarter
1 cup sugar 
1 teaspoon vanilla 

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Grease and flour 2 baking sheets or line with silpats. 

In a stand mixer whisk the egg white and cream of tarter until frothy. Continue beating and add the sugar one tablespoon at a time. When all the sugar is incorporated, add vanilla and beat for 1 –2 minutes more. When the beater is lifted out the whites should be very stiff with unbending peaks.
Using a pastry bag or spoon and spatula pipe or spread meringue onto prepared pans in three 8 inch circles (I put 2 on one pan and the third on the second pan).

Bake in a 250 degree oven for 1 1/2 hours. Meringues should be white to pale amber when done. Turn off the heat and leave meringues in the closed oven for 3 to 4 hours. Store cooled disks airtight at room temperature as long as 5 days.

Lemon Curd
Via the Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum 

4 large egg yolks 
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoon sugar  
1/2 cup lemon juice
2 oz unsalted butter, softened 
pinch of salt 
2 teaspoons lemon zest

In a heavy (Non-corrodible) sauce pan beat egg yolks and sugar until well blended. Stir in the butter, lemon juice and salt. Cook over medium-low heat without bringing to a boil, stirring constantly until thickened and the mixture coats the back of a spoon (I cooked mine for a total of 10 minutes). The mixture will be opaque. When the curd has thickened, pour through a fine mesh strainer over a bowl, pressing with the back of a spoon until only coarse residue remains. Stir in the lemon zest and cool. Pour into an air tight container and refrigerate until cold. The curd will continue to thicken while it chills. 

To assemble: 

Beat 1 1/2 cups of the heavy whipping cream with 1/4 cup sugar until stiff peaks form. 

Fold 2/3 of the cream into the lemon curd. Set aside 1/2 cup of the lemon curd mixture.

Place one meringue disk on a plate and cover with 1/2 of the lemon curd and cream mixture. Top with a second meringue layer and cover with remaining lemon mixture. Top with the third meringue layer. 

Add the reserved lemon curd/cream mixture to the remaining whipped cream. Fold together until fully incorporated. Use this to lightly cover the sides and top of the cake.

Beat together the remaining 1/2 cup of cream with 1/4 cup sour cream and 2 tablespoon sugar until soft to firm peaks form. Cover the top of the cake with this and sprinkle with lemon zest.

Refrigerate cake for 3 hours or overnight to mellow for easy cutting, or serve soon for a crispier (and slightly messier) cake. 

printable recipe

Link:Foodie Friday at Design by Gollum


Improv Challenge

Monday, January 9, 2012

Homemade Ricotta Cheese

 Every year we do a New Year's Eve dinner with a small group of friends. The evening is full of good food, great wine, and lots of laughs. My friend Mrs. C and I get together a few days before the party to flip through cookbooks for recipe inspiration, and when we came across this homemade ricotta, I knew that I had to make it for an appetizer. It looked so simple, but also creamy, rich, and smooth. The cheese was so good that I've made it three times since our party, and every time I get a batch mixed up, it disappears rather quickly.   We used the herb mixture listed below, but you can easily adapt it to use any of you favorite herb combinations, or just serve it with a heavy drizzle of olive oil and lots of salt and cracked black pepper. 

The ricotta has a fine curd and is easy to spread, and is not grainy like the types you buy in the grocery store. I think it would be perfect for cannoli filling, but it has never lasted long enough for me to give it a try. I haven't baked with it yet so I can't say how it reacts to heat after it is made, but next time I make lasagna I will definitely take the time to make this first and try it out.

Ricotta Cheese
makes about 2 cups
adapted from Ina Garten's How Easy Is That

4 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar

Set a large sieve over a deep bowl. Dampen 2 layers of  cheese cloth with water and line the sieve with the cheesecloth.
Pour the milk and cream into a stainless-steel or enameled pot. Stir in salt. Bring to a full boil *Many recipes for ricotta require you to heat the milk only  to 180 degrees. Because I did not want my ricotta to taste like cooked milk I did not bring the milk mixture to a full boil, but heated it to about 190 degrees, where you could see the boil was just about to start*. Turn off heat and stir in the vinegar. Allow the mixture to stand for 1 minute until it curdles. It will separate into thick parts (the curds) and milky parts (the whey).
Pour the mixture into the cheesecloth lined sieve and allow it to drain into the bowl at room temperature for 20 to 25 minutes, occasionally discarding the liquid that collects in the bowl.  The longer you let the mixture drain, the thicker the ricotta. Transfer the ricotta to a bowl, use immediately or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. The ricotta will keep refrigerated for 4 to 5 days
printable recipe

Herbed Ricotta Bruschettas
adapted from Ina Garten's How Easy Is That
2 cups ricotta
3 tablespoon minced scallions
2 tablespoons minced fresh dill
1 tablespoon minced fresh chives
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 baguette
olive oil

Combine the ricotta, scallions, dill, chives and 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper Mix well.
Slice the baguette and drizzle with olive oil,and toast in a 375 degree oven until just beginning to turn golden brown, turning the bread slices over after about 5 minutes (about 10 minutes total). Remove from oven and rub the bread with garlic clove. Serve with the herbed ricotta cheese
printable recipe