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Monday, December 22, 2014

Mint & Double Chocolate Chip Blondies


Can we just take a moment to reflect on the fact that Christmas is THIS WEEK ... and I haven't done a single thing to prep for the holiday. Gifts? Pffft. Cookies? What are those? Thankfully, I don't have to host this year. Good thing too - nary a holiday decoration can be found in my house; not even a mouse. I've been a wee bit busy, if you hadn't guessed (as noted by my absence from this space - - hi, campers!).

But not so busy that I couldn't find time to make blondies for all you wonderful people out there on the interwebs. This was my first foray into making blondies, and I was pleasantly surprised at how uncomplicated it was. Maybe it's a food blogger thing - but half the time I go into a recipe development and testing with girded loins because I think it will be the hardest thing I've ever made (the Bûche de Noël still holds that particular honor). Maybe, I just like to set myself to be surprised by the ease at which something comes together.


But I digress. So. Blondies. Quite possibly the best things since sliced bread, no? I think my favorite thing about this simple dessert is that they're not all that terribly sweet when compared with other brownie-esque desserts. I've never been a fan of a brownie (or a dessert, really) that after one bite I'm reaching for a gallon of water because it's way too sweet. Since blondies don't register on the high end of the sweet scale one can do super fun things like: ADD ALL THE CHOCOLATE CHIPS.

Not that I find that the least bit exciting, at all. Not one stinking bit. #allthechocolateallthetime

What makes these non-brownies so perfect for this time of year is the addition of everyone's favorite seasonal flavor: MINT. And it just pairs so well with chocolate. I mean ... yum! Which is probably why every coffee house worth their salt has something on their menu akin to McBuck's Peppermint Mocha.

These come together quickly and are a crowd favorite (I took a batch to work - smashing hit); there's not much more you could ask of a holiday dessert.


Mint & Double Chocolate Chip Blondies

Ingredients

3/4 cup butter (room temperature)
3/4 cup brown sugar (packed)
1/4 cup white sugar
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup Toll House dark chocolate and mint morsels


Directions

Cream the butter with brown sugar and white sugar for 3-4 minutes in a stand mixer. Add the egg and vanilla extract, mixing until well combined.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and baking soda. Slowly add to the wet mixture until well combined.

Add the chocolate chips and hand mix using a wooden spoon. This will be a very dry dough so don't worry, you didn't mess up.

Chill for 30 minutes to an hour or up to 24 hours. When you're ready to bake, preheat oven to 350°F.

Press dough into a greased 10x6 (or 8x8) baking pan. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until the outer edges are brown.

Let cool 5 minutes then serve.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Cranberry Linzer Torte


First - hello, campers. Second - tomorrow is Thanksgiving here in the States (just in case you've lost track of your calendar like yours truly). It's the one day a year where we try to consume a few days of calories in one meal. And usually, after that, slip into a tryptophan-induced coma on the couch. What? Like you've never fallen asleep on the couch after consuming too much turkey, mashed potatoes, GRAVY, assorted veggies, and pie mit schlag.

There's this other thing that shows up at Thanksgiving a lot. It's small, red, and strangely tart: the cranberry. I must admit, if I were to ignore anything on Thanksgiving it would be the humble cranberry. I don't do cranberry sauce: canned, homemade, jelled ... just nope. There's something about the taste of the little ruby jeweled fruit and where it hits me in the back of the throat.

However you put cranberries in a baked good and I'm all over it like white on rice. Scones. Cookies. Bread. Cake. Biscotti.

And now, tortes.


I can't express to you how freaking AH-MAZING the dough smells after chilling in the fridge over night (well ... more like 24 hours in my case). Lord, I wanted to sit right down on the kitchen floor and eat the dough by itself. I may have tasted a bit of it (read: a lot ... I know, raw eggs - shame on me); this dough will be in my life forever, and ever. It tastes of sugar, cinnamon, citrus and, toasted nuts - each note shines through and alerts your pallet to it's presence, but does not overwhelm.

Making the cranberry filling is as easy as you suspect it to be, and if you've ever made any kind of jelly / jam / or marmalade you too can make the filling for this torte (which in a pinch could sub for a nice cranberry sauce).

The best part about this whole recipe is everything can be made a head of time. It can even be assembled ahead of time and baked later (or even baked then frozen). Really - could you ask for anything better?


The tartness (even with all the sugar) of the cranberries, melded with the subtle sweetness of the dough gives your the perfect non-sweet dessert. It's light. It's fresh. This torte will hold up well next to perennial favorites of pumpkin and pecan pie.

All I can say is: well done, New York Times. Well done.


Cranberry Linzer Torte
Modified from the New York Times


Ingredients:

Filling:

12 ounces cranberries
2 cups sugar
Zest of 1 orange
Juice of 1 orange, plus water to equal 3/4 cup
Pinch of salt

Dough:

3/4 cup hazelnuts
3/4 cup almonds
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
14 TBSP unsalted butter, plus more for greasing the pan
3/4 cup sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
Zest of 1 orange
1 large egg, plus 1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt


Directions:

Filling:

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Lower heat to a brisk simmer and stir frequently, until cranberries burst. Continue cooking, mashing fruit a bit with the back of a spoon, until thick as jam, about 30 minutes. Set aside. (Filling may be prepared in advance.)

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Place hazelnuts and almonds on a baking sheet and bake about 10 minutes, until well browned. Rub skins off hazelnuts while still warm, discarding skins. Cool nuts, then grind finely in a food processor, adding 3 tablespoons of flour to keep them from becoming oily. (Nuts should have the texture of coarse cornmeal.) Set aside.

Dough:

In the bowl of a stand mixer with whisk attachment, combine butter, sugar, and lemon and orange zest. Beat until sugar is dissolved and mixture is pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in egg, egg yolk and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, mix together ground nuts, the rest of the flour, cinnamon, baking powder and salt. Add to butter mixture in three parts, mixing each time until it forms a slightly sticky dough.

Divide dough into two pieces, one slightly bigger. Form larger piece into a ball, wrap and flatten to a 1-inch thickness. Form smaller piece into a rough rectangle, wrap and flatten to a 1-inch thickness about 4 by 5 inches. Chill 3 to 4 hours, or overnight.

Heat oven to 350. Butter and flour an 11-inch fluted French tart pan. Remove dough from refrigerator and let stand for 10 minutes. On floured parchment paper, roll the larger piece of dough into a 12-inch circle, dusting the top with flour as necessary. If dough is difficult to handle, chill again. Pat evenly into pan until sides and bottom are completely lined with dough about 1/8-inch thick. Refrigerate or freeze tart shell until firm.

Roll out smaller piece of dough on floured parchment paper to rectangle about 10 by 12 inches and 1/8-inch thick. Cut into strips about 3/4 inch by 12 inches. Transfer parchment to a tray and refrigerate or freeze until firm.

Torte:

Spread cranberry jam evenly into shell. Lay strips across top in a lattice pattern. Form remaining dough scraps into a rope 1/2 inch in diameter and use it to encircle outer edge of tart. Score diagonally with the handle of a spoon or flute with fingers to make a border.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until jam is bubbling and pastry is lightly browned. Let cool, and dust with powdered sugar if desired. Serve in small wedges.