Monday, July 27, 2009

Mallows & Milans

The July Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network.

I love cookies so this challenge was very exciting! Making marshmallows has been on my to-try list for a while as well. For this reason, I started with the mallow-esque cookies first. The wafer base was a simple tasty cookie. I did them the day before I was to make marshmallows. Making marshmallows goes quickly at first - the sugar solution started boiling much faster than I expected and I was scrambling to get the gelatin bloomed in time. Then it came time to whip the egg whites to soft peaks which took a few minutes and then it was time to mix the sugar solution and the egg white solution and I was foolishly using a hand mixer. This part felt like it took forever! I'm pretty sure it would have been simpler and faster with my stand mixer, but that didn't occur to me in the first 15 minutes of mixing with the hand mixer and by then I wasn't switching! So lesson learned: USE A STAND MIXER when making marshmallows!It is true what they say, the homemade marshmallows were soft, light, airy, delicate... amazing and totally different from store bought. They easily piped onto the cookies and waited a bit to firm up before we did the chocolate dipping. These cookies were only hard for me because cookies are all about quick gratification of a sugar craving usually and these take several waiting stages to make! 2 long hours later, I mixed my oil and chocolate, being careful to keep the temperature low to prevent chocolate issues. Then I dipped the marshmallow cookies in the chocolate and put them out to harden. Which they never did. Perhaps because I keep my house at 80 F in the summer, or perhaps too much oil? or perhaps I didn't temper it as well as I thought I did. I'm not sure. They went into the fridge to develop a shell though and then I could photograph them and finally sample them!They do taste like little bites of moon pie, a delicacy I haven't had since I was a small child. And they are very much like mallowmars, according to my DH and friends. I took them to a party and they were a big hit. My only complaint about the recipe is that the dough portion makes WAY more than 2 dozen cookies (I cooked up half the dough and got 3 dozen easily) while marshmallow filling wise, I had just enough for 2 dozen cookies and enough chocolate maybe for 3 or 4 dozen. So the cookie recipe should be scaled down or halved when made again. I'm freezing all the extra wafer cookies to use next time we want some mallows!Recipe:

Mallows(Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies)
Recipe courtesy Gale Gand, from Food Network website

Prep Time: 10 min Inactive Prep Time: 5 min Cook Time: 10 min Serves: about 2 dozen cookies

• 3 cups (375grams/13.23oz) all purpose flour
• 1/2 cup (112.5grams/3.97oz) white sugar
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
• 3/8 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 12 tablespoons (170 grams/ 6 oz) unsalted butter
• 3 eggs, whisked together
• Homemade marshmallows, recipe follows
• Chocolate glaze, recipe follows

1. In a mixer with the paddle attachment, blend the dry ingredients.
2. On low speed, add the butter and mix until sandy.
3. Add the eggs and mix until combine.
4. Form the dough into a disk, wrap with clingfilm or parchment and refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to 3 days.
5. When ready to bake, grease a cookie sheet or line it with parchment paper or a silicon mat.
6. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
7. Roll out the dough to 1/8-inch thickness, on a lightly floured surface. Use a 1 to 1 1/2 inches cookie cutter to cut out small rounds of dough.
8. Transfer to the prepared pan and bake for 10 minutes or until light golden brown. Let cool to room temperature.
9. Pipe a “kiss” of marshmallow onto each cookie. Let set at room temperature for 2 hours.
10. Line a cookie sheet with parchment or silicon mat.
11. One at a time, gently drop the marshmallow-topped cookies into the hot chocolate glaze.
12. Lift out with a fork and let excess chocolate drip back into the bowl.
13. Place on the prepared pan and let set at room temperature until the coating is firm, about 1 to 2 hours.

Note: if you don’t want to make your own marshmallows, you can cut a large marshmallow in half and place on the cookie base. Heat in a preheated 350-degree oven to slump the marshmallow slightly, it will expand and brown a little. Let cool, then proceed with the chocolate dipping.

Homemade marshmallows:
• 1/4 cup water
• 1/4 cup light corn syrup
• 3/4 cup (168.76 grams/5.95oz) sugar
• 1 tablespoon powdered gelatin
• 2 tablespoons cold water
• 2 egg whites , room temperature
• 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. In a saucepan, combine the water, corn syrup, and sugar, bring to a boil until “soft-ball” stage, or 235 degrees on a candy thermometer.
2. Sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water and let dissolve.
3. Remove the syrup from the heat, add the gelatin, and mix.
4. Whip the whites until soft peaks form and pour the syrup into the whites.
5. Add the vanilla and continue whipping until stiff.
6. Transfer to a pastry bag.

Chocolate glaze:
• 12 ounces semisweet chocolate
• 2 ounces cocoa butter or vegetable oil

1. Melt the 2 ingredients together in the top of a double boiler or a bowl set over barely simmering water.

Making the Milans:

I didn't make the milans until the last day before the challenge, it looked like a quick and easy recipe, since it had a ganache like filling and I've dealt with ganache several times in the past. The tricky part with them was the cookies which are piped out onto cookie sheets for baking. I didn't have any parchment paper or silicon mats on hand, and usually its not too big of a deal but for these cookies it was an issue. They are very sugary and caramelize to the pan if left on at cooling. But you have to let them cool on the pan because they are so soft coming out of the oven! At any rate, my first few batches are not very pretty to look at and I'm not going to be able to get parchment paper before publishing this to make some prettier cookies. These cookies are very rich. Love the hint of orange taste in the ganache and the vanilla/lemon combo in the cookies. I wish I'd halved this recipe too because they are so rich! We did need more ganache filling because DH liked it thicker between the cookie wafers.
Milan Cookies

Recipe courtesy Gale Gand, from Food Network website
Prep Time: 20 min Cook Time: 1 hr Serves: about 3 dozen cookies

• 12 tablespoons (170grams/ 6 oz) unsalted butter, softened
• 2 1/2 cups (312.5 grams/ 11.02 oz) powdered sugar
• 7/8 cup egg whites (from about 6 eggs)
• 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
• 2 tablespoons lemon extract
• 1 1/2 cups (187.5grams/ 6.61 oz) all purpose flour
• Cookie filling, recipe follows

Cookie filling:
• 1/2 cup heavy cream
• 8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
• 1 orange, zested

1. In a mixer with paddle attachment cream the butter and the sugar.
2. Add the egg whites gradually and then mix in the vanilla and lemon extracts.
3. Add the flour and mix until just well mixed.
4. With a small (1/4-inch) plain tip, pipe 1-inch sections of batter onto a parchment-lined sheet pan, spacing them 2 inches apart as they spread.
5. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes or until light golden brown around the edges. Let cool on the pan.
6. While waiting for the cookies to cool, in a small saucepan over medium flame, scald cream.
7. Pour hot cream over chocolate in a bowl, whisk to melt chocolate, add zest and blend well.
8. Set aside to cool (the mixture will thicken as it cools).
9. Spread a thin amount of the filling onto the flat side of a cookie while the filling is still soft and press the flat side of a second cookie on top.
10. Repeat with the remainder of the cookies.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Black Bean Enchilada Bake

Another entry in the frugal dinners category, this one is tasty, healthy & filling. It's also quick to pull together once your beans are ready (which takes a bit of pre planning but is worth it from a cost perspective!)

Start 2 days before by putting your black beans to soak. Rinse and sort a pound of black beans, then cover with water in a large bowl and leave overnight to soak. The next morning, drain, rinse and put in the slow cooker. Cover with water and put on low for several hours or the whole day until they are cooked. Cool down and place in the fridge in storage. Use 2 cups in the following recipe. The remaining 3-4 cups of beans will keep up to a week in the fridge for other recipes or you can place single layer on a cookie sheet in the freezer to freeze individually and transfer to a freezer bag once mostly frozen. This way you won't have a frozen lump of beans.

Now to make the enchiladas you'll need:

1 T oil
1 large onion $0.10
3 cloves garlic, minced $0.10
2 cups of your cooked black beans $0.30
1 cup frozen corn kernels $0.50
1 tsp cumin
2.5 cups salsa, divided $1
6-8 small tortillas, corn or flour $1
1/2 - 1 cup shredded cheese (Monterey Jack, Cheddar, combo...) $1

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium high heat, saute onion and garlic for 2-3 minutes. Add the beans, corn, cumin and 1/2 cup of salsa. Cook for 3-4 minutes, coarsely mashing beans with the back of spoon or a potato masher. Spoon 1/3 cup of filling into each tortilla, roll up. Spoon 1/2 cup salsa into 11x7 or 8x8 baking dish. Arrange tortillas seam side down, top with remaining salsa. Cover with foil. Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes. Uncover, top with cheese, bake 2 minutes longer or until cheese is melted. Makes 4-6 servings (or more depending on what you serve it with!)

Total cost of meal: ~$4

This was a big hit with my boys & DH. Meatless main dishes that satisfy them are awesome! Using dried black beans really makes it cheap too! Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Red, White & Blue Popsicles

Strawberry puree made from white grape juice and a couple strawberries on the bottom layer, topped with vanilla yogurt and then some blueberry puree made from blueberries and white grape juice. Freeze in a fun popsicle mold and you have your own healthy rocket pops!

Another popsicle option - make smoothies and freeze into popsicles. These are a mixture of orange juice, spinach, banana, blueberry, strawberry and yogurt. The spinach does not give any flavor and a good blender mixes it up so small the kids never see it. A fun way to get in a "green smoothie"!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Honey & Spice Banana Muffins

The first time I made this muffin recipe I found on the side of a cereal box, we were pleasantly surprised. They smelled amazing and were quite tasty. Since then we have tried several types of flake cereals and had them all work wonderfully in this recipe.

These delicious muffins are a great way to use overripe bananas or bran cereal. But you don't really need a reason to make them, they are so delicious! These egg-free muffins could easily be dairy free and gluten free as well. Using freshly grated nutmeg is great fun too. Hope you enjoy them!

1 cup bran flakes cereal
1/4 cup milk
1 cup flour
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup butter/margarine, melted
2/3 cup mashed ripe banana
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

Heat oven to 375. In a small bowl, soak cereal in milk for 5 minutes. In a large bowl, combine remaining ingredients, then add cereal mixture. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until well mixed (1-2 minutes). Spoon into greased or paper-lined 12-cup muffin pan, filling cups 2/3 full. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until tops spring back when touched lightly. Cool 5 minutes; removed from pan. Yield: 12 muffins


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