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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Cookie Dough Truffles



Bob and I threw an appetizers and desserts party at our townhouse on Sunday night. We called the party "Hello and Goodbye" to allow our friends and family to say "hello" and "goodbye" to our townhouse before we start packing up for the move to our new home. Everyone was asked to bring their favorite appetizer or dessert to share, and I made a few that I've been wanting to try forever.

Here's a picture of my contributions to the party (more recipes to come!):

I've been wanting to try these Cookie Dough Truffles for a long time. I LOVE cookie dough - seriously I'd eat a whole batch of it right out of the bowl. The great thing about these truffles is that they don't contain raw eggs. I know my pregnant and nursing guests appreciated that!

I thought these truffles tasted amazing! They were a bit more work than I anticipated, but I've indicated some tips in the recipe below. I know at least one reader who had some trouble with chocolate-dipping the Oreo Truffles, so hopefully these tips will work for those as well.

Cookie Dough Truffles

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1-14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 pounds semisweet (or bittersweet) chocolate, coarsely chopped
Vegetable shortening (optional)
Mini chocolate chips (for garnish)

1. Combine the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl and cream on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

2. Beat in the flour, sweetened condensed milk, and vanilla until incorporated and smooth. Stir in the chocolate chips. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until the mixture has firmed up enough to form balls.

3. Shape the chilled cookie dough mixture into 1-1½ inch balls. Place on a baking sheet lined with wax paper. Cover loosely, transfer the pan to the freezer and chill for 1-2 hours.

4. When ready to dip the truffles, melt the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water or very carefully in the microwave. The key to easily dipping the truffles is to the correct consistency of chocolate - make sure your chocolate melted is fairly thin. Mine was not, so I added tiny amounts of vegetable shortening (Crisco) to achieve the correct consistency. I think I added about a tablespoon to the chocolate mixture, perhaps a tad more.

5. Dip each chilled truffle, one at a time, coating in chocolate and shaking gently to remove the excess. (My aunt helped with this part!) To facilitate dipping, we took a wooden kabob skewer and used it to pick up a truffle, then swirled the truffle in the chocolate, then transfered the dipped truffle to a wax-paper lined surface. We twisted the skewer back and forth to remove it from the truffle. You can also use a fork to help remove the skewer. The optional mini-chocolate chip garnish will hide any imperfections left behind. Alternatively, you can use two forks to roll the truffle around in the chocolate and then, lifting the truffle out with the forks, let the excess chocolate run off. Note: If at any point during dipping, the cookie dough balls become too soft, return to the freezer to chill for 30 minutes. If using mini chocolate chips for garnish, sprinkle on top quickly after dipping each truffle before the chocolate sets.

6. Once all the truffles have been dipped, store them in the refrigerator (or freezer) until ready to serve.

Source: Adapted from Annie's Eats

Thursday, August 19, 2010

French Vanilla Ice Cream


Although July in St. Louis tends to get unbearably hot, especially this year, it's also the month when one of my favorite fruits reaches its peak - peaches! A local farm sells the best peaches around, and each year I look forward to a fresh peach pie. And what is best served alongside a fresh peach pie? Vanilla ice cream of course! My dad has been asking why I haven't made him any ice cream this summer, so this was the perfect opportunity.

I turned to my trusty Ben & Jerry's Homemade Ice Cream & Dessert Book for this one, and it turned out fantastic. Ultra-creamy with a nice, pronounced vanilla flavor. This recipe uses raw eggs, so avoid if you fall in a high-risk group for food-borne illness, but if you're not and it doesn't bother you, the eggs add a nice richness to the ice cream. I would think that the equivalent amount of a pasteurized egg substitute might work as well, but I'm not certain.

French Vanilla Ice Cream

2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups heavy or whipping cream
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1. Whisk the eggs in a mixing bowl until light and fluff, 1 to 2 minutes. Whisk in the sugar, a little at a time, then continue whisking until completely blended, about 1 minute more. Pour in the cream, milk, and vanilla and whisk to blend.

2. Transfer the mixture to an ice cream maker and freeze following the manufacturer's instructions.

Makes 1 quart

(Serve with fresh peach pie!)


Source: Ben & Jerry's Homemade Ice Cream & Dessert Book

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Caprese Salad Skewers





I have some big news to share - we bought a house!!! It actually happened the same week as our "house heart-break." We were able to move past that and ended up finding a great house that suits us well. Within a few hours of making the offer, the sellers had countered, and we had accepted. We were able to get a 60-day escrow so we don't overlap with our current lease, so we close September 17. We are really excited! I waited until after the inspection to announce it, so hopefully we won't have any snags along the way.

Because we are no longer spending every week night house hunting, I've felt a little more up for cooking, so hopefully the pace of my posts will pick up a bit :)

I actually made this fun appetizer to take to a work potluck several weeks ago. I saw the idea on some blogs last summer and have wanted to try it ever since. The concept is so simple that it doesn't really require a recipe, rather just a list of ingredients and basic instructions. So here goes:

Caprese Salad Skewers

Cherry tomatoes
Fresh mozzarella balls (or cubes)
Fresh basil leaves
4 - 6" wooden skewers
Garlic pepper/salt, optional
Balsamic vinegar
Extra virgin olive oil

Assemble tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil on skewers. Sprinkle with garlic pepper/salt (I used a McCormick grinder), to taste. Chill until ready to serve. Offer balsamic vinegar and olive oil while serving.

Monday, August 9, 2010

S'mores Cheesecake Bars

This is pretty much all I've been baking lately . . .

One of my labmates told me about this cartoon, and I couldn't resist. If you've ever done lab research before (Kerstin!), you probably enjoyed this cartoon!






Our lab had a potluck dinner two weeks ago, and I decided to bring dessert. While I have about a million dessert recipes just waiting to be made, this one popped into my head. It just screams summer to me - anything S'mores makes me think of camping, and we've actually made S'mores several times this summer while waiting for our charcoal briquets to burn out. Bars are a great dessert to take to a party because people can just grab them.

These bars were pretty simple to make and definitely worth the effort. I'm convinced that placing the marshmallows on by hand in perfectly aligned rows will fulfill the OCD tendency in anyone! Everyone at the party who tried these really liked them, and they were so impressed with the presentation. This is one of those desserts that looks much harder that it is, which is always a nice surprise. The original recipes makes an 8 x 8-inch pan, but since there we going to be about 20 people at the party, I doubled it and used a 13 x 9-inch pan. The bars slice very cleanly as long as you wipe off the knife (or pizza chopper) between cuts.

I promise another post this week!!! :)

S'mores Cheesecake Bars

For the crust:
2 cup graham cracker crumbs
2 tablespoons sugar
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the cheesecake:
8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
16 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup marshmallow cream
4 teaspoons cocoa powder
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
4 large eggs

For the topping:
3 cups mini marshmallows
Milk chocolate chips, melted (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a 13 × 9-inch baking pan with foil; spray lightly with cooking spray.

2. To make the crust, combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and melted butter in a small bowl. Stir together with a fork until well combined. Press the mixture in an even layer into the bottom of the prepared baking pan. Bake 10 minutes; transfer to a wire rack while you prepare the filling. Reduce the oven temperature to 325F.

3. To make the filling, place the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Heat until melted and smooth, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.

4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the cream cheese, sour cream and marshmallow cream. Beat on medium-high speed until smooth and well combined, 1-2 minutes. Blend in the cocoa powder, vanilla extract and eggs until incorporated. Stir in the melted chocolate until well blended. Pour the filling over the graham cracker crust and smooth the top with a spatula.

5. Bake about 25 - 30 minutes, or until the center is just set (does not jiggle when shaken gently.) Remove from the oven.

6. Evenly top the cheesecake layer with the mini marshmallows. Return to the oven for 2-3 minutes, just long enough so the marshmallows begin to melt into each other. Watch carefully! They brown very quickly. I just parked myself in front of the oven window.

7. Remove the pan from the oven and allow to cool. Once the cheesecake has reached room temperature, drizzle with melted milk chocolate if desired. I simply melted chocolate chips carefully in the microwave, transfered them to a resealable sandwich bag with a tiny bit of the corner cut off, and made diagonal stripes each way on the marshmallows. Very simple technique that looks impressive!

8. Transfer to the refrigerator and chill 2-3 hours before slicing and serving.

Source: Adapted from Annie's Eats and Sugar Plum

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