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Filtering by Category: holidays

Chewy Chewy Chewy Molasses Cookies

Patricia Reitz

Chewy, chewy, chewy, chewy, really yummy, and chewy is how I describe these fantastic molasses cookies. They’re my new cookie obsession! Yes, the intoxicating sweet and spicy aroma of these cookies will pull you in, but their delicious flavor and chewy texture will keep you coming back for more!

Feel free to pull out your stand mixer if you like, but this simple recipe can easily be mixed with a hand mixer.

Start by whisking together the flour, baking soda, ground ginger, ground cloves, ground cinnamon, and fine salt in a medium mixing bowl.

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Set aside.

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In another mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar, oil, molasses, and egg.

This is where your mouth starts to water. Just sayin’!

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry.

Mix on medium speed until no traces of dry ingredients remain.

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Use a #50 scoop to portion the dough. You can place the dough directly on a silicone-lined sheet pan, or….

Roll the dough in the palm of your hands; then coat with granulated sugar.

Sometimes time is a factor and rolling the dough can eat up precious minutes in one’s schedule, but I have to say, the sugar-coated cookies look the most festive after baking.

Bake as directed and allow cookies to cool for 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely. Store cookies in an airtight container to maintain chewiness.

Items used to make this recipe:


Chewy Chewy Chewy Molasses Cookies

makes 24 cookies (#50 scoop)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all purpose flour

  • 2 teaspoons baking soda

  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt

  • 1 cup granulated sugar

  • 3/4 cup neutral flavor vegetable oil

  • 1/4 cup molasses

  • 1 large egg

  • optional: 1/4 cup granulated sugar for rolling

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 275F and place rack in center position.

  2. Line 2 half sheet pans with silicone liners; set aside until needed.

  3. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and salt; set aside.

  4. In another mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar, oil, molasses, and egg.

  5. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and use and hand mixer to combine on medium speed until no traces of dry ingredients remain.

  6. Use a #50 scoop to portion dough, 12 cookies per silicone-lined half sheet pan (optional, roll dough into balls and coat with granulated sugar before baking).

  7. Bake cookies, one tray at a time, in center of preheated oven for 18-20 minutes.

  8. Remove from oven and rest for 5 minutes before transferring to a rack to cool completely.

  9. Store cookies in an airtight container.

Note: if the cookies lose their chewiness, place in an airtight container with a damp paper towel. The cookies will soften nicely within a few hours.

adapted from Shelby at The Queens Cabinet.

Cream Puffs

Patricia Reitz

Cream puffs are the perfect crowd-pleasing treat because absolutely everybody loves them. The pastry shells can be baked and frozen up to a month ahead of time, and the filling can be made and refrigerated a day or two ahead. When you’re ready to serve them, just whip up a batch of whipped cream, fold it into the pastry cream, and spoon or pipe it into the empty pastry shells. Finish with a quick sprinkling of confectioner’s sugar and get ready to be the hit of the party.

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We'll start by making the pastry which is technically called pate a choux (sounds like pot-ah-shoo).

In a 4-quart nonstick saucepan, heat water, milk, butter, salt, and sugar until it boils.

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While you're waiting for the mixture to boil, have the flour and eggs ready to go.

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Okay, the milk mixture is just starting to boil - time to add the flour.

Add all the flour at once...

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And stir vigorously until all the liquid is absorbed.

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When all the liquid is absorbed, continue stirring constantly...

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Until a smooth paste forms and pulls away from the sides of the pan.  We're not quite there yet, but almost.

Just a few more moments and we're done.  Remove the pan from the heat and transfer the dough to the bowl of a stand mixer.

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Add the eggs, mixing one at a time, until no traces of raw egg remains. If you don’t have a stand mixer, you can stir the eggs in by hand - it’ll take some time, but you can do it.

Transfer the mixture to a large pastry bag fitted with a large star tip (like this one).  I like to use disposable bags (like these).  Using a star tip helps the pastry dough expand evenly in the oven.

I piped long skinny shapes for eclairs as well as round mounds for cream puffs, but didn’t get photos of the cream puff mounds - oops. You’ll figure it out though.

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When the mounds are done baking, allow them to cool slightly, turn each puff upside down, poke a hole in the bottom with a paring knife or skewer, and allow excess steam to escape. Allow them to cool completely before cutting the pastry shells in half and proceeding with the recipe.

Note: if you plan to freeze the puffs for use later, flash freeze the cooled, uncut pastry shells for about an hour, then transfer to an airtight freezer-safe container for up to a month. Thaw overnight, in the refrigerator, inside the airtight container.

cream puff recipe

To assemble, cut the pastry shell puffs in half with a serrated knife and fill with a mixture made of 50% pastry cream and 50% sweetened whipped cream. You can spoon the mixture in, or you can use a pastry bag fitted with a pasty tip as shown.

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Once filled, sprinkle with a dusting of confectioner’s sugar and serve immediately. Enjoy!

Items I used to make this recipe:


Cream Puffs

makes about 20

Ingredients

Pastry Shells:

  • 1/2 cup water

  • 1/2 cup whole milk

  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • 1 teaspoon table salt

  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar

  • 1 cup all purpose flour

  • 5 large eggs

  • confectioner's sugar for dusting

Filling (equal parts of each):

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 450F and place rack in center position.

  2. In a 4-quart nonstick saucepan, heat the milk, water, butter, salt, and sugar until it boils.

  3. Immediately add the flour and stir vigorously until all the liquid is absorbed by the flour and a paste forms; continue stirring constantly until the paste dries out and forms a ball that cleans the sides of the pan.

  4. Transfer the paste to the bowl of a stand mixer or food processor and allow it to cool for a couple of minutes. 

  5. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until each is fully incorporated.

  6. Transfer paste to a large disposable pastry bag that has been fitted with a large star tip (I used Ateco #826).

  7. Pipe the paste into 3-inch round by 1-inch tall mounds on a silpat lined sheet pan; dust with confectioner's sugar.

  8. Bake in 450F oven for 5 minutes, then reduce heat to 350F and continue baking for 25 to 30 minutes more.  

  9. Remove from oven and allow to rest until they're cool enough to handle, then poke a couple of vent holes in the bottom and allow to cool completely.

  10. When completely cool, fill with a mixture of 1 part pastry cream and 1 part sweetened whipped cream.

Snowball Cookies

Patricia Reitz

Whether you call them snowballs, Russian tea cakes, or Mexican wedding cookies, these melt-in-your-mouth cookies are a must for so many people during the holidays. It seems no cookie platter is complete without them. I like to make them with ground pecans, but feel free to substitute ground walnuts or almonds.

This cookie dough is extremely easy to make as long as you start with room temperature butter. Just place all the ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer and combine until no traces of dry flour remain. If you use BeaterBlade attachment, you won’t have to stop and scrape down the sides of your bowl.

Tip: Whatever you do, don’t be tempted to microwave cold butter to soften it - melted butter and softened butter act very different in recipes so just be patient and wait until the butter reaches room temperature naturally.

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Use a #60 cookie scoop to portion out the dough.

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Place them evenly on a silicone lined half sheet pan and bake as directed below. If you like, roll the dough into balls (I don’t because they roll all over the place).

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Allow the cookies to cool for about 5 minutes before rolling in confectioner’s sugar.

Tip: I like to store used vanilla bean pods in my confectioner’s sugar. It really improves the flavor.

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Just remove the vanilla bean pods from the confectioner’s sugar while you roll the cookies so they don’t get in your way. Replace them when you’re done.

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Mmmm… your kitchen is going to smell like vanilla!

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Allow the cookies to cool completely and, if you like, give them a 2nd toss in the confectioner’s sugar. Enjoy!

Items used to make this recipe:


Snowball Cookies (aka Russian Tea Cakes or Mexican Wedding Cookies)

makes 48 cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (226g) unsalted butter, room temperature (70F)

  • 1/2 cup (63g) confectioner’s sugar, sifted

  • 1 teaspoon (4g) pure vanilla extract

  • 2 1/4 cups (270g) all purpose flour

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 3/4 cup (90g) finely chopped toasted pecans (or walnuts or almonds)

  • extra confectioner’s sugar for coating the cookies

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375F and place rack in center position.

  2. Place the first 6 ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a BeaterBlade or paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until no traces of dry flour remain (if you us a paddle attachment, scrape down sides of bowl as needed).

  3. Use a #60 cookie scoop to portion 12 cookies per tray; bake one tray at a time for 8-10 minutes.

  4. Remove cookies from oven and allow to rest on tray for 5 minutes before rolling in confectioner’s sugar; return cookies to tray and allow to cool completely before rolling in confectioner’s sugar a second time.

Note: to toast pecans, place in a 350F oven for 5 minutes; cool completely before using.

Sweet Pumpkin Spice Bread

Patricia Reitz

It’s October which means pumpkin spice season has arrived. I like a few pumpkin spice things, but I know some people who are completely obsessed. They go gaga for everything pumpkin spice. Whether you fall into that obsessed category or not, you’ll love this simple quick bread. And feel free to use canned pumpkin puree (not canned pie filling), which is often less fibrous than fresh pumpkin puree.

Note: If you’d like to try making your own pumpkin puree, pick up a sugar pumpkin from your local farmer’s market. Cut it in half and scoop out the seeds, place it cut side down on a rimmed, oiled half sheet pan, piercing the halves in several places with a sharp knife. Bake in a 400F oven for about 30 minutes, or until the flesh is soft and can easily be scooped out. Cool completely, then puree in a food processor or blender until smooth (you can skip this step if your pumpkin isn’t too fibrous).

Start by preheating the oven to 350F and place the oven rack in the lower middle positions. Prepare your pan by spraying with Baker’s Joy; set aside until needed.

In a mixing bowl, combine the pumpkin, applesauce, sugar, and eggs.

Whisk to combine.

In another mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

Whisk well to combine.

Pour the pumpkin mixture into the flour mixture and mix well with a rubber or silicone spatula.

No traces of dry ingredients should remain.

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Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake as directed below.

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Cool completely before serving. Enjoy!


PUMPKIN SPICE BREAD

makes one 4.5 x 8.5-inch loaf

Ingredients

  • 1 cup pumpkin puree (fresh or canned)

  • 4 ounces applesauce

  • 1 1/3 cup granulated sugar

  • 2 large eggs

  • 1 1/2 cup all purpose flour

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg (or double if using dried)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F, coat a 9x5-inch metal loaf pan with Baker’s Joy spray, and place oven rack in lower center position.

  2. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the pumpkin puree, applesauce, sugar, and eggs; set aside.

  3. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cloves, and cinnamon.

  4. Pour pumpkin mixture into flour mixture and whisk until no dry lumps remain.

  5. Spread batter evenly in prepared loaf pan and bake for 50-60 minutes or until a wooden skewer inserted in the center (and all the way down to the bottom of the pan) comes out clean.

  6. Remove bread from oven and rest for 10- 15 minutes before unmolding.

  7. Allow bread to cool completely on a rack before slicing.

Notes

  • To make pumpkin puree, preheat oven to 400F. Cut pumpkin in half, scoop out and remove seeds. Place halves, cut side down, on an oiled half sheet pan. Pierce skin with knife in several places. Bake for about 30 minutes or until the outer skin softens and gives under pressure. When cool enough to handle, scoop flesh and use a food processor or blender to puree (you can skip this step if your squash doesn't have a stringy texture).

  • Freeze leftover pureed pumpkin in 1-cup portions so you can bake a fresh loaf whenever the mood strikes.

  • This bread freezes beautifully when vacuum sealed or wrapped well in plastic followed by heavy-duty foil, being sure to seal very well. Thaw overnight in the fridge before unwrapping.

Chocolate Raspberry Tarts

Patricia Reitz

One of my favorite ways to feature fresh, juicy raspberries is to use them to top decadent individually-sized chocolate tarts.  Such an impressive presentation, but so very easy to pull off.  Let me show you how easy they are to make.

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First, start with a batch of pate sucree (sweet dough) that's been chilling for about 30 minutes.  Press the pate sucree into mini tart pans (these are the ones I have).  I love individually sized desserts, and these are small enough to enjoy all by yourself, but they're not too small to share with someone special.

Now it's time to "bake them blind", which may sound really weird to someone not familiar with the technique, but basically it's partially baking the pie crust.  We do this by lining the tart crust with crumpled parchment paper (crumpling helps it easily fit the contours of the tart), then fill it with a variety of things that will 1) conduct heat, which will allow the crust to bake, and 2) keep the walls of the tart from slumping during the baking process.  

You can purchase metal or ceramic pie weights made specifically for the purpose of blind baking, but there are several substitutions you can use - dried beans, uncooked rice, or even granulated sugar.  Dried beans that have been used for this purpose can no longer be cooked for consumption, but they can be reused again and again so I let them cool completely, then store them in a jar in the pantry for next time.  Rice and sugar will toast slightly, but can be used for other recipes - they'll get slightly toasted in the oven, which imparts a lovely flavor.

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See how the crumpled parchment is able to hug the contours of the tart?  Much easier than trying to do the same thing with a piece of flat parchment, believe me!

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Fill with beans (or rice, sugar, pie weights, etc).  Chill well while the oven preheats.  Chilling the pate sucree before baking helps to keep it from shrinking during the baking process.

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After 10-15 minutes, the sides of the tart will be set and you can remove the parchment and its contents.  You can see how the sides have lost their shine, but the bottom of the tarts need more time in the oven so return them for another 10 minutes or so.

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You'll know they're done when they look dry and are firm to the touch.  Set aside to cool while you make the ganache filling.  

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To make the ganache, heat cream until just before it begins to boil.

Pour over your chopped chocolate and let it sit, undisturbed, for a few minutes.  Then whisk together until smooth.

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Pour the ganache into the baked tart shells.

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Chill for at least 15 minutes before adding the raspberries so they don't sink into the chocolate. 

When you're ready to serve, sprinkle the berries with a little confectioner's sugar and remove the sides of the tart pan.

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Place the tart on something elevated, yet small enough for the sides of the tart pan to fit over.  Here I'm using an egg cup.  Using gentle pressure, push the sides of the pan down.  

Enjoy!

Items used to make this recipe:


Individual Chocolate Raspberry Tarts

makes 6 mini tarts (or one 9-inch tart)

Ingredients

Pate Sucree Crust:

Filling:

Garnish:

  • 3 pints fresh raspberries

  • confectioners sugar

  • mint sprigs

Directions

To Make Pate Sucree:

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a BeaterBlade or flat paddle attachment, combine the ingredients until fully combined and no traces of dry ingredients remain.

  2. Wrap will with plastic and chill for 30-60 minutes.

  3. Divide dough equally between 6 individual tart pans with removable bottoms and press evenly across bottom and up sides; chill for at least 15 minutes (or up to several days if wrapped well with plastic).

  4. Preheat oven to 325F and line chilled tart shells with parchment paper filled with beans, rice, sugar, or pie weights.

  5. Place filled tart shells on silpat-lined sheet pan and bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the sides of the tarts are set; remove parchment and return empty shells to oven to continue baking for another 10 minutes or until the bottom crust is set.

  6. Allow tart shells to cool until while you make the filling.

To Make the Filling:

  1. Place chopped chocolate in a heat-safe bowl; set aside.

  2. In a medium heavy-bottom saucepan, heat cream and butter until just before it reaches the boiling point (small bubbles will form around the edges).

  3. Remove cream/butter mixture from the heat and pour over chocolate.

  4. Let the chocolate and cream steep together for 2-3 minutes.

  5. Add the espresso powder and pure vanilla extract; whisk gently until smooth and shiny.

  6. Divide filling between tart shells, leaving 1/4-inch space at the top of each shell; chill for at least 15 minutes before adding berries.

To Serve:

  1. Top with fresh raspberries and sprinkle with confectioners sugar.

  2. Carefully remove sides of tart pan as shown above, and garnish with fresh mint.

Homemade Cannoli

Patricia Reitz

A big holiday weekend is just around the corner.... and when I think of big holidays, I think of big family gatherings.... and when I think of big family gatherings, I think of big platters of delicious cannoli!  If you live in a big city, you're likely able to get your hands on some pretty good cannoli, but I live in the burbs, were a good cannoli is practically unheard of, so I make my own.  And now you can make your own too - this is how it's done. 

Note:  plan ahead, the filling needs to be prepared about 24 hours before using.  The cannoli shells can be used immediately after cooking, but you can also make them several days ahead of time if you store them in an airtight container (or freeze for up to a month).

Start by mixing together a simple cannoli shell dough, similar to the way you'd make pie dough.  I like to make my dough in the food processor (if you want to see that, check out my all-butter pie crust tutorial). 

The dough will look crumbly, but should hold together when compressed.  The least messy way to do this is to place the crumbles in a large zipper bag and press them into a disk shape.

Seal the bag and place the dough in the fridge.

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The dough should chill for at least 30 minutes before rolling.

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When it's time to roll the dough, remove it from the fridge and dust it with a little flour.

Now go down to the basement and dig out your pasta machine (am I right??).  Set the rollers at the widest setting.  For my machine, the widest setting starts at #1, but some machines that would actually be the thinnest setting.  You'll be able to figure out the widest setting on your machine pretty easily.

No pasta machine?  No problem - you can use a rolling pin, but I have to tell you, using a pasta machine is so much more fun! 

Ok, now that your pasta machine's rollers are set for the widest setting, pass the flour-dusted cannoli dough through the rollers.  If you have any kids around, I bet they'd enjoy cranking the handle.

Adjust the rollers of the pasta machine one level thinner.  Dust the now elongated piece of dough with a little more flour and pass it through the machine again.

Continue dusting, adjusting, and rolling, one level at a time, until the dough is very thin like (1/16-inch) - level #5 on my machine (the thinner you roll the dough, the more bubbles will appear on the shells when you fry them).

Continue dusting, rolling, adjusting... dusting, rolling, adjusting....

making cannoli shells at home - recipe and photos.

When you've reached the 5th level, stop rolling and grab a 4-inch round cutter..  Dust the cutter in flour and start cutting the cannoli shells.

The round cutouts aren't quite ready to use yet...

One more quick pass through the pasta machine, this time on the 6th level.  This will turn the round cutouts into ovals - you'll see why in a moment.

Alrighty, time to wrap the dough around the stainless cannoli forms.

Add a dab of water just where the two ends overlap.  Be careful not to get water on the cannoli form because it will cause the dough to stick and the shell will break when you try to remove it.

Press the overlapping edges together well to make sure they're sealed.  If you don't, they can pop open and fall off the form during frying.

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If you like, you can flare the ends a little.  Honestly, it looks nice, but I don't usually bother.

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Continue rolling the shells while you heat several inches of peanut oil in a deep pan.  

Heat the oil to 360F.  A good candy/oil thermometer is vital (I have this one).

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You should also have ready a pair of tongs to remove the shells from the hot oil, and a paper towel lined sheet pan to place them on.  

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CAREFULLY place the dough-wrapped cannoli forms in the oil and cook until brown and bubbly, being careful not to crowd the pan.  Watch the oil temp - it shouldn't fall below 350F. 

The shells will deepen in color a bit after being removed from the oil so it's not a bad idea to make a few practice ones first.

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Carefully remove the extremely hot cannoli forms from the oil and place them on a paper towel-lined sheet pan to cool for a few minutes (watch for hot oil inside the forms).  Carefully slide the shells off the forms (if the shells are too hot, hold them with a clean kitchen towel).   Allow the forms to cool completely before wrapping with more dough.  Continue until all the shells are done.

Remember what I told about not pressing the seams closed well enough?  Oops!  No biggie, cook's treat ;).  

Let me point out a few differences between the two shells above.  The non-flared one on the left started with a thinner disk of dough (resulting in tiny surface bubbles), but you can see by the color that it was left in the hot oil just a little too long.  The flared one on the right started with slightly thicker dough (larger surface bubbles), but it spent the right amount of time in the hot oil.

The shells should be allowed to cool completely before storing in an airtight container for up to a week (or freeze for up to a month).  

IMPORTANT:  Don't fill the cannoli shells until just before serving.

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To make the filling, drain ricotta cheese in a cloth lined strainer overnight in the fridge.  Cover with plastic to keep the cheese from absorbing any refrigerator odors. 

Once all the excess whey has drained from the ricotta, add the softened mascarpone cheese, heavy cream, confectioner's sugar, pure vanilla extract (use the best), and ground cinnamon.  Mix them well and chill for 8-12 hours for best flavor.

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When you're ready to fill the shells (shortly before serving), put the filling in a large pastry bag (I like these) or large, heavy-duty zipper bag and cut a 1/2-inch hole at the tip.  Squeeze the filling into each end of the cannoli shells, then dip in chopped pistachios or mini chocolate chips (or both!).  Place the cannoli on a platter and dust with confectioner's sugar (this nifty tool is fun).  

Items used to make this recipe:


Homemade Cannoli

makes about 24 cannoli (leftover cannoli dough can be frozen for use later)

Ingredients

Cannoli Shells:

  • 2 cups all purpose flour

  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar

  • 1/4 teaspoon fine salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • 1 egg yolk

  • 1/2 cup dry white or rose wine

Cannoli Filling:

  • 2 cups very well drained ricotta cheese (see notes below)

  • 6 ounces mascarpone cheese, softened to room temperature

  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream

  • 1/2 - 3/4 cup confectioner's sugar, sifted

  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • mini chocolate chips and chopped pistachios for garnish

Directions

To make the cannoli dough:

  1. In the bowl of a small food processor, combine the flour, sugar, salt, and cinnamon.

  2. Add the butter, egg yolk, and wine, pulsing until the mixture looks uniformly crumbled.

  3. Place crumbles in zipper bag and press into a disk shape.

  4. Seal bag well and chill for at least 30 minutes before rolling.

To make the cannoli shells:

  1. Roll dough very thin (about 1/16th-inch) using pasta machine, dusting with flour as needed to prevent sticking.

  2. Cut 4-inch circles using a round biscuit of cookie cutter and pass each round through the pasta machine one more time to turn the round into an oval.

  3. Wrap oval dough around stainless cannoli forms; moisted overlapping edges with a little water and press well to seal (keeping water off cannoli form.

  4. Fry shells in 360F oil until bubbly and golden; remove from heat, drain, and remove from forms when cool enough to do so. Cool completely before filling. Leftover shells can be stored in an airtight container for up to 1 week (or frozen for up to a month).

To make the filling:

  1. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle or BeaterBlade attachment, place drained ricotta, mascarpone, cream, confectioner's sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon; beat on medium speed until smooth.

  2. Place mixture in a pastry bag or sturdy zip top bag; refrigerate until ready to use. Don't fill shells until serving.

Notes:

  • To drain ricotta, place in a sieve lined with cheesecloth (or coffee filter, linen tea towel, etc) and suspend over a bowl; cover well with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator overnight.

  • Prepared filling should chill 8-12 hours for best flavor.

  • For best results, fill shells just before serving.

Simple Heart Cookies

Patricia Reitz

You don't need the skills of a pastry chef to make these adorable cookies - with just a few simple tools, you can make them too!  Follow me into the kitchen and I'll show you how it's done. 

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To begin, you'll need waxed paper, a rolling pin, rolling guides (1/8-inch and 1/16-inch thicknesses to make these cookies)....

How to make professional looking heart / Valentine's Day cookies with no skills! Recipe and how-to photos.

And fondant plunger cutters.  The large heart cutter is available in this set, and the small one came from this set.  If you want a large heart that can be personalized to say anything, check out this set.

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You'll also need some good quality fondant.  Some of the brands available in my area that I like are satin ice, fondarific, duff goldman, and fat daddios.  I do not care for wilton. 

I always keep white fondant on hand because I can custom color it any way I like, but it's also nice to keep darker colors on hand (red, brown, black) because it's hard to achieve the deep saturation mixing gel colors in manually.

(this isn't a necessary tool, but it sure is handy) 

When I'm working with large quantities of fondant, I keep it in a bread proofing box set at 90F (keeping the fondant sealed in an airtight container the whole time).  When I'm ready to work with the fondant, it's warm enough that I can roll it easily without first having to knead it until it's soft and workable.

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Love my bread proofing box from Brod & Taylor.  It's great for proofing bread dough, of course, but it has a temperature range of 70-120F, so it's good for making yogurt, melting chocolate, and keeping tempered chocolate in temper too.  The newest model has a temperature range of 70-195F.

Best cookie decorating hack ever!

Alright, while the fondant is still warm and soft, roll it out between two layers of waxed paper (1/16-inch thickness) and use fondant plunger to cut shapes and imprint designs.  

How to decorate cookies with fondant

Remove scraps and allow fondant shapes to sit at room temperature until needed (they'll firm up as they rest).  Do this step before baking the cookiesbecause you'll want them ready to go when the cookies come out of the oven.

Check out this clever way to use fondant plunger cutters.

For the cookies:  roll cookie dough between two layers of waxed paper (1/8-inch thickness) and use fondant plunger to cut out shapes (no need to imprint the designs here).

Note:  If the cookie dough cutouts get too soft to move without getting distorted, slide the waxed paper onto a sheet pan and pop it in the fridge to firm the dough before transferring the cutouts to a silpat lined half sheet pan to bake as directed (as shown in this graham cracker post I shared a number of years ago).

The easiest way to decorate cookies ever!

Remove the cookies from the oven and immediately place the prepared fondant cutouts on top. 

Cookie Decorating Hack for any holiday or occasion, with recipe and photos. Valentine's Day Cookies, Easter Cookies, Baby Shower Cookies, Christmas Cookies, Halloween Cookies, Fall / Thanksgiving Cookies.

As the cookies cool, the residual heat will melt the fondant cutouts just enough that they will bond to the cookies.   

Awesome cookie hack

Enjoy!

Items used to make this recipe:


CHOCOLATE CUTOUT COOKIES

makes 40-60 cookies

Ingredients

Directions

To make the cookie dough:

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the BeaterBlade attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium high speed for 30 seconds.

  3. Add egg and vanilla; beat to combine.

  4. Add flour mixture and beat until incorporated.

  5. Remove dough from mixer bowl and wrap well with plastic wrap; chill for 1-3 hours.

  6. Preheat oven to 375F.

  7. Roll each dough portion to 1/8-inch thickness between 2 layers of wax paper.

  8. Cut out desired shapes with plunger cutters, without plunging the design into the cutout (dust cutter in flour if needed).

  9. Chill dough before transferring cutouts to sheet pan to prevent distorting.

  10. Place cookies 2-inches apart on silpat lined sheet pan.

  11. Bake for 6-8 minutes; remove from oven and top with fondant cutouts (cut to 1/16-inch thick) that have the design pressed into them.

  12. Cool completely before serving. Store in airtight container between with wax paper between layers.

Note:  Recipe makes 40-60 cookies, depending on size.  Plan to use about 1/2 pound fondant (I like to buy white fondant so I can color it any way I like).  Fondant cutouts can be made a day or more in advance if stored on wax or parchment paper in an airtight container.  If the cookies cool before fondant toppers are applied, you can warm the cookies for a few seconds in the microwave (but I recommend applying the fondant to cookies as soon as they come out of the oven).

English Toffee

Patricia Reitz

Seriously, is there anything better than caramelized sugar?  Ok, maybe caramelized sugar, a stick of butter, lightly toasted almonds, and a glorious robe of melted chocolate.  Heaven help me, this stuff is amazing!  

Before beginning, have ready a half sheet pan lined with a silpat liner.

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Also, make sure you have chopped chocolate ready to go.  I'm a huge dark chocolate fan, but you can certainly use milk chocolate if that's your thing.

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And another thing you need before you start is toasted, sliced almonds.  I place the almonds on an unlined half sheet pan and pop them into a cold oven.  Then I turn the oven on to 350F and slowly toast them until golden brown and fragrant.  

Allow the almonds to cool completely, then chop them into smaller bits in a food processor, being careful not to chop them too much.  You still want to recognize they are sliced almonds.

Alternatively, you can place the almonds in a resealable bag and crush with a rolling pin.

Ok, now that the half sheet pan is prepared, and the chocolate and almonds are ready to go, it's time to start cooking - in a 3 or 4-quart saucepan, heat butter, water, corn syrup, and dark brown sugar over medium-high heat.  

Have an instant read digital thermometer, pure vanilla extract, and baking soda nearby.

The toffee mixture should be stirred occasionally until it reaches the proper temperature.  Note that I used a nonstick pan for easy cleanup.

Stop cooking when the toffee reaches 285F.

English Toffee recipe with lots of how-to photos - ButterYum

Stir in the vanilla and baking soda; stir vigorously to combine.

Pour mixture onto silpat lined half sheet pan.

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Spread mixture with an offset spatula.  I like my toffee on the thin side so I spread mine out more than directed by the recipe. 

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While the toffee is still hot, evenly sprinkle the chocolate bits all over.

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Allow chocolate to rest on the hot toffee for 5 minutes.

Use an offset spatula to spread the melted chocolate evenly over the toffee.

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While the chocolate is still warm, sprinkle the toasted almonds evenly all over.

how to make English Toffee from scratch - recipe and how-to photos - ButterYum

Pop the whole tray into the fridge until the toffee and chocolate set.  Break into pieces and enjoy.


English Toffee

makes 12 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped into small pieces

  • 3/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted and cooled completely

  • 1 1/4 cups brown sugar (light or dark), packed

  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup

  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • 2 tablespoons water

  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Directions

  1. Begin by lining a half sheet pan with a silpat liner (I have 6!) and measure out all the ingredients.

  2. Place toasted almonds in the bowl of a food processor and pulse 2 or 3 times to break into smaller bits, being careful not to make the pieces too small. Alternatively, you can place the toasted almonds in a resealable bag and crush them with a rolling pin.

  3. In a 3 or 4-quart heavy bottomed, preferably nonstick, saucepan over medium-high heat, combine butter, corn syrup, butter, and water; heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture reaches 285F.

  4. Remove mixture from heat and vigorously stir in the vanilla and baking soda.

  5. Pour the mixture onto a silpat lined half sheet pan; use an offset spatula to spread thinly over the silpat.

  6. While the toffee is still hot, sprinkle the chocolate bits evenly all over; allow chocolate to soften from the residual heat for a few minutes, then use an offset spatula to spread the chocolate into an even layer (I like to stop just short of the edge of the toffee).

  7. Immediately sprinkle the almond pieces evenly all over the melted chocolate.

  8. Place the toffee in the refrigerator for 10 minutes; remove from fridge and break into serving pieces. Store at room temperature in an airtight container with waxed paper between layers.

Note: To toast almonds, spread in a single layer on an unlined half sheet pan and place in a cold oven; turn the oven on to 350F and allow the almonds to toast for 8-12 minutes until lightly browned and fragrant (watch them carefully).  Cool completely before using.

adapted from The Baking Bible