Sunday, December 24, 2006

A Merry Christmas to all!

Well, my promise to be more active didn't hold up, did it? This isn't good because I really did mean to. I can't believe that Christmas is here already. Can you?

I have already decided that the chocolate thumbprints I made before are good enough to be considered a Christmas favourite for the recipe files. I made at least 10 batches of them during the first week of December for home, school nosh or gift donation.

oooey, gooey cinnybun centers--it's all butter,brown sugar and cinnamon, baby!

Now I have cinnamon buns to look forward to on Christmas morning. Never has there been a Christmas without those gooey, bready, sweet confections (sans icing...bleah!). EVER. It wouldn't be the same.

I hope all of you out there have a wonderful winter holiday season and enjoy the traditional treats it brings. Peace, Love and Harmony to you All!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Thumbs up to Christmas

I guess sometimes you can just loathe the idea of using the kitchen. Especially when you are busy and reinvigorating your love of teaching. It’s not that that I didn’t cook some creative things. I roasted duck for the first time in my life back in September and, according to the Frog, it turned out perfectly. I’ve just spent so much time trying to be creative all day at school that all I wanted to do at home was crash. Well known, quick recipes have been the norm. No Boeuf Bourguignon. No sushi. Nothing that required too much planning or thought. But now that reporting period is over and I feel more in the swing of things at school, I’m coming back to haunt the foodie blog halls. After all, who can resist the temptation of Christmas baking. I’m already ten-fold happier with the scent of spilled cinnamon wafting up from my be-floured clothes and the multi-coloured lights glimmering around the computer nook window.

I’m actually playing around with a recipe right now that has been one of my less favourite family Christmas cookies--the well-known thumbprint. When you are in the mood for them they are so perfectly sweet and rich with their dabble of nuts and little cup of gooey jam. But I’m often not in the mood for them because I find them too sweet and, okay, let’s face it—I really don’t like the walnuts on them. So I’m on the hunt for a good thumbprint recipe that will satisfy a sweet tooth without being too cloying and a little less walnutty. I'm not even sure what I'm looking for. I'll know when I've found it. ;-)

Experiment thumbprint cookie # 1 : Chocolate thumbprint cookies
Source: One Smart Cookie by Julie Van Rosendaal
Tweaks: for half the recipe, I added chestnut spread in the indentation
Marks out of 10: 8 (quite good as a carrier but base can't stand on its own as well)

¼ cup stick margarine or butter, softened (I used salted butter)
½ cup sugar
¼ cup packed brown sugar
2 tbsp corn syrup ( I used golden)
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla
½ tsp instant coffee granules, dissolved in 1 tsp water
1 ½ cups flour
1/3 cup cocoa
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
¼- 1/3 cup raspberry jam or other preserves ( I used raspberry for ½ the batch and
chestnut for the other ½)

icing sugar for sprinkling (optional) (I used ground up pink decorating sugar for
the raspberry preserves and cinnamon for the chestnut spread)

* Preheat oven to 375ºF
* In a large bowl, beat butter, sugar and brown sugar until well-blended. Beat in corn syrup, egg, vanilla, and coffee until smooth
* In a medium bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add to the sugar mixture and stir by hand just until you have a soft dough.
* Roll dough into 1” – 1 1/2” balls, and place 1” – 2” apart on a cookie sheet that has been sprayed with nonstick spray (I actually used parchment paper and it worked just fine). Make an indentation in the middle of each cookie with your thumb ( I dusted my thumb with flour after I found the dough too sticky to use just my thumb). Fill each dent with jam.
* Bake the cookies for 12-15 minutes, until just set around the edges. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. If you like, sprinkle cooked cookies with icing sugar (or crushed sugar/ cinnamon in my case)
* Makes 2 dozen cookies.

My thoughts:
(1)The chocolate dough acts as a good carrier for a more prominently-flavoured filling. The French chestnut spread I had was relatively weak in flavour to stand on its own but with a touch of cinnamon it was certainly elevated. Raspberry, of course, took center stage and needed little help. In fact, it made the chocolate really come out in the base cookie.
(2)The timing they give was probably fine for a less finicky oven as mine. Keeping it to a 11 minute period was just fine and made the cookie more chewy, which I like. You really have to be careful with the timing of cooking. The first batch was a bit dark around the edges because I relied on the book’s timings instead of instinct.

The results