Monday, December 20, 2010

She's Crafty

Just in case you haven't been plied with enough sweets yet (there are still 5 more days until Christmas!) I have another cookie recipe for you. I've been making these little macaroons for a couple of years now, and even though I'm not a coconut über fan, there's something light and elegant about these cookies. The chocolate is optional but...C'mon. I also like that they look like tiny snow covered mountains. If you squint. Really. Hard. And you're super stoked to spend your holiday in Aspen skiing and enjoying aprés-ski merriment so everything you see resembles a ski town...

OK this recipe is really easy. Really. Really. Easy. With only five ingredients all you need is a spoon and a bowl. Actually, you don't even need a spoon. You can mix everything with your hands if you feel like it. And if you think shaping my little pyramid shapes is way too complicated and crafty, then just roll the coconut mixture into little balls. Whatevs. Then bake, crush the sugar cookie competition, and enjoy!

Chocolate Dipped Coconut Macaroons (aka Snowy Peaks)
(From The Ski House Cookbook)

4 large egg whites
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 (14-ounce) package shredded sweetened coconut (about 5 1/3 cups)
1 (3.5-ounce) bittersweet chocolate bar, chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. In a large bowl, whisk the egg whites until frothy. Add the sugar, vanilla, and pinch of salt and stir to combine. Add the coconut and mix well.

2. Dampen your hands with cold water. Form a rounded tablespoon of the mixture into a haystack shape and place on a non-stick baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining mixture, spacing the stacks about 1-inch apart. Bake until golden brown, about 18 minutes, rotating the sheet halfway through baking. Remove the cookies from the pan while still warm to cool completely on racks. Repeat with remaining coconut batter.

3. Fill a small saucepan with 1-inch of water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and place a medium heat proof bowl on top so that the bottom is resting just above the simmering water. Add the chopped chocolate and stir until completely melted.

4. Turn off the heat and dip the bottom of each macaroon into the melted chocolate and place on wax paper to cool and harden. The macaroons can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Makes about 24 cookies.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Peace in Procrastination

I'm really good at procrastinating. Instead of studying I've cleaned my apartment, gone to the gym a few times, checked email, and spent time talking on the phone about how I should really be studying. I also made a batch of super chocolaty goodness otherwise known as World Peace Cookies. This recipe made the food blog rounds a few years ago and, even though I'm a little late to the party, they still rock. I made them for a work friend's birthday today so hope that they will be put to good use later tonight when the munchies set in. These would also be fantabulous holiday cookies for any of you who may have found yourself coerced into a cookie exchange. You'll be the belle of the cookie ball.

World Peace Cookies
(from Dorie Greenspan)

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
11 tablespoons (1 stick plus 3 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate (70 - 85% cacao), chopped (no pieces bigger than 1/3 inch)

1. Sift the flour, cocoa, and baking soda into medium bowl. Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth but not fluffy. Add both sugars, vanilla, and sea salt. Beat until fluffy, 2 minutes more.

2. Turn off the mixer. Add the flour mixture, cover to protect from flying flour, and beat on low speed just until blended. (The flour will just be incorporated and the mixture may be crumbly.) Add the chopped chocolate and mix just to distribute.

3. Divide the dough in half. Place each half on a sheet of plastic wrap. Form each half into 1 1/2-inch-diameter logs. Wrap each in plastic. Chill until firm, about 3 hours. DO AHEAD: Can be made 3 days ahead. Keep chilled.

4. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Using a thin sharp knife, cut the logs crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick rounds. Space 1-inch apart on the prepared sheets. Bake 1 sheet at a time until the cookies appear dry (cookies will not be firm or golden at edges), 11 to 12 minutes. Transfer the baking sheet to a rack and let the cookies rest until they are just warm. Remove from the baking sheet and serve or allow to come to room temperature.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Did Somebody Say Delivery?

It might seem crazy to make homemade pizza in New York City where you can get everything from a 99 cent slice, to a quintissential NYC pie, to an artisanal pizza from one the newly annointed pizzaiolos. I decided to give it a whirl anyway because somebody (Holla, Michael!) gave me a packet of Fleischmann's "pizza crust yeast" to try (and I just might be a little cray-cray). How is it any different from regular yeast you might ask? If you care? Well, at first I assumed that it was simply a marketing ploy to get you to buy it over regular old yeast packets, until Michael pointed out that it doesn't require any rising time. You just mix it up and roll it out. In the past I've used frozen pizza dough to make pizza, so at least I didn't have to plan ahead to defrost the dough.

I made a mozzarella, tomato, and basil pizza with all-purpose flour in the dough, and a mushroom and fontina pizza (no sauce) with whole wheat flour in the dough. Both versions of the dough mixed up and rolled out easily. My conclusion about the texture, however, left a little something to be desired. In both instances my pizza crust had a slightly bready consistency, so it kind of reminded me of a cheap frozen pizza you might have last had in college. I think I just prefer a little thinner, crunchier crust. I like the idea of having these little packets on hand, but I think I like calling 1-800 pizza delivery more.

Homemade Pizza with Pizza Crust Yeast

1 1/2 to 2 cups all-purpose flour
1 envelope Fleischmann's Pizza Crust Yeast
1-1/2 teaspoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup very warm water (120 to 130°F)
3 tablespoons oil
1/2 to 1 cup tomato sauce, if desired
Other toppings as desired

1. Preheat the oven to 450°F.

2. Combine 1 cup flour, undissolved yeast, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Add very warm water and the oil. Mix until well blended, about 1 minute. Gradually add 1/2 cup flour to make a soft dough. The dough should form a ball and will be slightly sticky. Knead* on a floured surface, adding additional flour if necessary, until smooth and elastic, about 4 minutes.

3. Pat the dough with floured hands to fill a greased pizza pan or baking sheet, or roll the dough on a floured counter to a 12-inch circle. Place on greased pizza pan or baking sheet. Form a rim by pinching the edge of the dough.

4. Top with desired toppings and bake on the lowest oven rack for 12 to 15 minutes, until cheese is bubbly and crust is browned.

*To knead the dough, add just enough flour to the dough and your hands to keep the dough from sticking. Flatten dough and fold it toward you.Using the heels of your hands, push the dough away with a rolling motion. Rotate dough a quarter turn and repeat the "fold, push and turn" steps. Keep kneading dough until it is smooth and elastic. Use a little more flour if dough becomes too sticky, always working the flour into the ball of dough.