25th Anniversary Hoyt Street Cookie Exchange

InvitationMy invitation to “cookie bomb” the Annual Hoyt Street Cookie Exchange was taped to my front door. Isn’t it precious? This is a special year because it is the 25th Anniversary. I don’t live in the neighborhood but I get an invite from my friend Joy every year. She hosted it this year and did a bang up job.

I started a new job six weeks ago and my life has been crazy. Check out my other blog, the patty beat, to see the details of that. As I was reflecting just yesterday, that when life is crazy anyway, throw a major holiday and family wedding in the mix and *%#@!*#@!

I planned in advance knowing I would have little time this week get it altogether.

the recipe

I chose the recipe from Cook’s Country December/January 2015 and it was the Grand Prize Winner of the Christmas Cookie Contest entitled Chocolate Croissant Cookies by Karen Cope of Minneapolis, MN. The requirement for the cookie exchange is to make 5 dozen cookies to share among a group of people and take home a smorgasbord of cookies to share for the holidays I made the dough in advance and popped it in the freezer for the past two weeks. I put it in the refrigerator 24 hours before assembly for it to thaw.

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The dough is a mini version of the croissant. The chocolate bars are placed in the center, fold over the dough and pop it in the oven.

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Rolling out and cutting the dough into twenty 4 x 2 inch pieces was the challenging part of the construction.

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I was pretty amazed that I rolled out and assembled the cookies in 2 hours. The last batch was warm from the oven and placed separately from the first two batches. Didn’t want the chocolate to schmush.

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Lucky for me Joy had two lovely plates for me to put my cookies on to display.

Chocolate Croissant Cookies

Every year the cookies become more creative.

St Nick cookies

 St Nick Cookies

 

Almond Coconut Cookies

 Almond Coconut cookies

reindeer cookies

 Reindeer Cookies

Heath bar cookies

Pecan Pie Bars

snowman cookies

 Snowman Cookies

Joy displayed a poster of all the pictures from all the past years and it was a nice to reflect on the past and look to the future.

Hoyt Street Cookie Exchange

 The 25th Annual Hoyt Street Cookie Exchange 2014

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Oh my goodness, Christmas is here!

Oh how the month has flown. Christmas is upon us and I finally sat down to chronicle my food adventures.

Cookies for Santa

Do-It-Yourself Vanilla

I saw directions for homemade vanilla extract all over Pintrest.com this season for DIY gifts. But it was the post from, the host of The Splendid Table, that made the most sense to me. In my opinion, Lynne Rossetto Kasper is the voice of reason out there in the blogging and media world of food and cooking. Follow the web connection of The Splendid Table- Vanilla Extract to see the recipe and directions.

Vanilla Beans

vodka and bottles

split the vanilla beans

fermenting vanilla beans

24th Annual Hoyt Street Cookie Exchange

2013 Cookie Exchange group picture

quilted cookie plate

“Quilted” Sugar Cookies (aren’t they darling?)

Chocolate Pistachio Sables'

Chocolate-Pistachio Sablés from Bon Appétit  magazine December 2013

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Chocolate Almond Shortbread

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Sesame Street Cookies

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I don’t know what the name of these cookies but they were really tasty.

Patty’s Points:

1. The homemake vanilla extract takes at least 4 weeks to ferment. I started making mine before Thanksgiving. I have yet to try it out to see how it tastes. I gave it to true bakers who really were excited to receive it as gifts.

2. Vanilla beans and vodka are best to buy in bulk to keep the cost down. Costco was my main stop. I made 10 bottles of extract = 40 beans and 2 large (1500 ml) bottles of American vodka=$15.00 each. Each bean averaged about $1.20 which is a good deal. Think of it like a sourdough bread starter; you can replenish the vodka, add more beans and even use the beans for another recipe.

3. The cookie exchange was fabulous. Many people said the cookies were the best efforts in years. Of course, the talk of the party were Pat’s sugar cookies with the edible quilt square pattern atop. She ordered them online. I’ll have to corner her to find out where she got them.

4. I made Chocolate-Pistachio Sablés- from Bon Appétit  and Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Bars. I had a theme of cookies with sea salt.

The Chocolate-Pistchio Sablés were great for a working person as myself. I made them a month ago and prepped them for the freezer. I thawed, sliced and baked them a day before the party. The sea salt is placed atop each cookie before baking. Next time I’ll make the rolled dough a little thicker for a bigger diameter cookie.

 I saw several Salted Caramel Bar cookie recipes online and quickly deduced how easy they were. Make your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe and place half of the dough in a lightly buttered 8 x 11 baking pan. Melt 6 oz of caramel squares with 1-3 TBSP of milk or cream or purchase a 6 oz jar of caramel sauce. Melt the squares in the microwave 30 seconds at a time, stirring until smooth. Place the slightly cooled caramel atop the cookie dough and sprinkle with sea salt. Place the other half of the cookie dough atop the caramel and smooth with an oiled spatula. Sprinkle the top of the dough again with sea salt. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 40-45 minutes, turning the pan halfway through for even baking. Let the dough rest because it will be very soft with the dough and caramel. Cut into two inch squares.

Happy Christmas and New Year to all my readers and fellow bloggers. Enjoy your time with family, friends, neighbors and colleagues.

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King Oscar’s Torta

Oscar's Torta

The second annual Epiphany Party, the twelfth day of Christmas was held this past Sunday. Last year I made The Gift Cake so I thought I would continue the tradition of making a cake.

I saw the recipe for Oscar’s Torta recently published in the January 2013 edition of Martha Stewart Living magazine. This cake, with lots of hazelnuts, is named for Oscar II (1829-1907), king of Sweden and Norway.

January 2013 Living

Ingredients

Cake:

12 egg whites, room temperature

3 3/4 C powdered sugar

15 oz hazelnuts, chopped fine

1 3/4 sticks butter, plus more for pans

Glaze:

8 egg yolks

1 C cream

1 C sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1/4 tsp coarse salt

2 TBSP sliced almonds toasted,for garnish

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Butter three 9-inch round cake pans, and line bottoms with parchment; butter parchment. Separate eggs, placing 12 egg whites in 1 bowl and 8 egg yolks in another (reserve remaining 4 yolks for another use). Beat egg whites with a mixer until stiff peaks form. Gently fold in hazelnuts and confectioners’ sugar. Divide among pans, and bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into centers comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Let cakes cool in pans 10 minutes. Invert cakes onto wire racks, and let cool completely. (Cake layers can be made 1 day ahead, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerated.)

Lightly whisk egg yolks in a bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Whisk in cream, granulated sugar, and salt, whisking constantly until mixture is thickened and coats the back of a spoon. Remove from heat, and let cool in a bowl of ice water until cold (you should have 2 cups).

Melt butter (do not let it color), and add vanilla. Stir into egg-yolk mixture. Place 1 cake layer on a cake stand or serving plate, and spread with 1/2 cup glaze. Repeat with a second layer and another 1/2 cup glaze. Place third layer on top, and spread with remaining 1 1/2 cups glaze, letting it drip down sides of cake. Dust with confectioners’ sugar, and garnish with almonds. Refrigerate until ready to serve

Patty’s Points:

1. One of my friends discouraged me from making the cake due to the cost and labor intensive prep of the hazelnuts. 15 ounces of hazelnuts cost $5.50 which wasn’t too bad. The challenge was the removal of the hazelnut skins and chopping of the nuts. My daughter looked up on the internet this website on how to shell hazelnuts. Luckily I didn’t have to crack the nuts open, only remove the bitter skins.

hazelnuts

bitter skins

2. After roasting the nuts in the oven I placed them in a wet towel to steam for 2-3 minutes. I then rubbed them in a towel to remove the skins. It took me several attempts at repeating the process to get the skins removed. About a quarter of the nuts still had the skins adhered. Apparently that small amount doesn’t cause any bitterness to the entire recipe.

Chopped hazelnuts

putting it together

3.  The entire preparation of the cake and glaze took four hours, which was about the entire length of a football game.  My spouse was busy watching the Packers v. Vikings game. He was happy the Packers won. I was really tired by the time it was all completed.

Packer backer

4. The cake was a hit at the Epiphany Party. A woman who is gluten-free was excited about the cake and wanted the recipe.

5. If the recipe had some cocoa in the recipe it would replicate the flavor of Nutella, which I am a fan. Maybe next time.

Christmas time is here

It’s been wildly busy month in my kitchen and at my job. I now have a break in the action to post the events of the past four weeks.

Celebration #1. Out to dinner celebrating a co-worker’s birthday. The Irish Cream Liqueur were gifts to my girlfriends.

Gift giving Baileys

Celebration #2. Char and Dwayne hosted a fondue party. Three fondue electric plates were placed down the middle of the table and each hot plate had two bowls: one for cheese and one for hot oil. We dipped apples and bread in the cheese and we cooked steak cubes in the oil, dipping them in steak or horseradish sauce. Dessert was pound cake cubes and strawberries dipped into melted chocolate.

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Celebration #3. The 23rd Annual Hoyt Street Cookie Exchange. It was a grand gathering of baking talents.

23rd Annual Hoyt Street Cookie Exchange

I made peppermint cream cheese brownies (recipe below).

peppermint cream cheese brownies

Final Celebration-Christmas dinner. We made a Roasted Garlic Herb Crusted Strip Roast featured on Epicurious.com. It was flavorful and tender. I think we found a winner!

strip roast

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Patty’s Points.

1. The Irish Cream Liqueur should be shaken before serving. It can be stored in the refrigerator for one month. The bottles came from The Container Store but any pretty bottle can be used.

2. The fondue electric heating plates and bowls were vintage and obtained from garage and estate sales. I have never seen anything like them. I loved that they were so versatile. I want one just like it!

3. I adapted the Cream Cheese Brownies recipe from The New Best Recipe Cookbook (2004).

Peppermint Cream Cheese Brownies  

Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees

Brownie Base:

Dry ingredients: 2/3 C flour + ¼ tsp. salt’+ ½ tsp. baking powder

Wet ingredients: 2 oz. unsweetened chocolate + 4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate+8TBSP butter+1 C sugar + 2 tsp. vanilla + 3 eggs

Cream Cheese Filling: 8 oz. cream cheese softened, +1/4 C sugar+1/2 tsp. vanilla + 1 egg yolk+ 4 crushed candy canes

Directions:

Spray 8” square baking pan with non-stick spray. Fold two 16” pieces of foil or parchment paper lengthwise to measure 8” wide. Fit one sheet into the bottom of greased pan (the overhang will help in removal of bake brownies). Fit the 2nd sheet in the pan perpendicular to the 1st sheet. Spray the sheets with non-stick spray.

Whisk flour, baking powder, salt in a bowl and set aside.

In medium heatproof bowel set over a pan of simmering water, melt the chocolate and butter, stir until incorporated. Remove from heat and whisk in the sugar, vanilla. Cool. Whisk in the eggs one at a time until fully incorporated.

In a small bowl beat cream cheese with sugar, vanilla, egg yolk and peppermint (optional) until evenly blended.

Pour half the brownie batter into the prepared pan. Drop half the cream cheese mixture by spoonfuls over the batter. Repeat layering the remaining brownie batter and cream cheese filling. Use the blade of a table knife or spoon handle and swirl the batter creating a marbling effect.

Bake in oven until the edges of the brownies have puffed slightly, the center feels not quite firm when touched lightly or a toothpick inserted comes out with moist fudgy crumbs adhered to it; about 50-60 minutes.

Cool brownies in pan on wire rack 5 minutes. Remove brownies from the pan using the foil or parchment handles Place brownies on wire rack; allow them to cool to room temperature. Refrigerate until chilled 3 hours Cut into 2 inch squares. Will keep in refrigerator for 5 days

brownies and peppermint ice cream

The brownies make a great dessert served with Peppermint Ice Cream and peppermint sticks. I am taking this to a dinner party tonight.

The Epiphany is the official twelfth day of Christmas so there are ten more days of celebrating!

 

 

Making Christmas Cheer (aka Holiday Hooch)

Me and PhyllisMy friend Phyllis retired from my workplace earlier this year. At her retirement party she talked about how she makes her own liqueur at Christmas. I asked her to give me a call because this would be a first for me. She makes her version of Bailey’s Irish Cream and Limoncello. This will be a post in two parts. We will focus on the Homemade Irish Cream Liqueur first.

Ingredients for Bailey's

Phyllis handed me the recipe from an old newspaper clipping. I also found a similar version at The Cupcake Project.

Homemade Eggless Irish Cream Liqueur

1 1/4 to 1 3/4 Cups of Irish whiskey, brandy, rum, bourbon, scotch or rye whiskey

1- 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk

2 Cups whipping cream or half and half

2 TBSP chocolate syrup

2 tsp instant coffee

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp almond extract

Place the ingredients in the blender and whirr away. Serve in a lovely liqueur glass.

Phyllis’s Points

1.Phyllis likes using rum for her recipe. She says it has a smoother taste.

2.Phyllis’s late husband preferred half and half instead of cream. He thought is was way too  thick with the cream.

3. The more chocolate syrup the better. When I held the measuring spoon over the blender the chocolate syrup just kept oozing out of the bottle, overflowing the spoon. Phyllis likes her chocolate. Again, all about your taste preference.

4. Makes a great gift for friends and family. Get yourself some beautiful bottles, labels and ribbon and you have an easy and thoughtful gift.

Doesn’t that beautiful bottle of Irish Cream Liqueur look inviting by the fireplace? Makes me want to go grab a blanket and cuddle up with some holiday cheer!

Bailey's by the fire

The Gift Cake

I was given this book several years ago by a dear friend, Esther’s Gift. This holiday book is part of the Mitford book series by Jan Karon, set in England. This short story is about Esther who makes Orange Marmalade Cake for her friends as gifts for Christmas. Our music group, is having a party today to celebrate the Epiphany, when the Three Wise Men brought gifts to the baby Jesus. My gift to my friends is to make this awesome cake and celebrate the end of the Christmas season.

Esther’s Orange Marmalade Layer Cake

serves 10-12 people

For the Cake:

3 C cake flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 C softened, unsalted butter

2 C granulated sugar

3 eggs, room temperature, slightly beaten

1 TBSP grated orange zest

1 1/2 tsp vanilla extracted

1 C buttermilk

For the Orange Syrup:

1 C freshly squeezed orange juice

1/2 C sugar

For the Filling:

1- 12 ounce jar of orange marmalade

For the Frosting:

3/4 C well-chilled heavy cream

3 TBSP sugar

3/4 well-chilled sour cream

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter two 9-inch round cake pans, line with parchment paper and butter and flour the paper, shaking out the excess.

2. In a bowel, sift the flour, soda and salt.

3. In another bowl, beat the butter with an electric mixer until smooth, Add the sugar, a little at a time, beat until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, orange zest, and vanilla. Beat the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk until well combined.

4. Evenly divide the batter between the pans, smooth, rap each pan on the counter to expel any air pockets or bubbles then place in the oven. Bake for 45 minutes, or use a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer to racks and cool in the pans for 20 minutes.

Make the Orange Syrup:

5. In a bowl, stir together the orange juice and sugar until sugar is dissolved

6. With a toothpick poke holes 1/2 inch intervals in the cake layers. Spoon the syrup over each layer, allowing th syrup to be completely absorbed. Let the layers cool completely.

Make the filling:

7. In a small saucepan, set over moderate heat the marmalade until just melted. Let cool 5 minutes.

Make the Frosting:

8. In a bowl, whisk the heavy cream with the sugar until foam firm peaks. Add the sour cream, a little at a time and whisk until mixture is spreading consistency.

Assemble the Cake:

9. Arrange, one of the layers on a cake plate and peel off the parchment paper. Spread the 2/3 of the marmalade over the top spreading it evenly. Invert the remaining the layer onto the top of the first layer, peel of the paper and spoon the remaining marmalade into the center of it, leavening a 1 and 1/2 inch border around the edge. Frost the sides and the top border with the frosting, leaving the marmalade on the top of the cake exposed. Chill at least 2 hours before serving.

Patty’s Points:

1. Putting the cake together was the most challenging part of the recipe. The whipped cream was fabulous, but I needed to be doubled. After I made the second batch, I realized that the whipped cream wasn’t as cold as it could be and it didn’t whip as stiffly.

2. The marmalade was applied after the whipped cream and worked out better.

3. What a fun cake to make and the batter was divine! I can hardly wait to taste the final product in a few hours.

Happy end of Christmas!