Friday, July 1, 2016

Red, White...and Funky (?) : Chocolate-Dipped, Chocolate Almond Stars

Such a weird blog post title. I have blog-post-title-writer's block.

Red, White...and funky...Star Cookies + recipe for chocolate-dipped, chocolate almond cut-outs!
So, I had this GREAT idea. The idea was to make some Jackson Pollock-inspired star cookies for the 4th of July. Jackson Pollock is famous for those super cool paintings where he dripped paint onto canvas. (Gosh, I loved my art history classes. I only wish I'd discovered them before junior year. Maybe it was just that I loved sitting in the dark looking at slides of pretty paintings. I'm not sure. This is discussion for another day.)

Chocolate-Dipped Chocolate Almond Cut-Out Cookies
I started with some chocolate-dipped chocolate almond cut-out cookies. I thought this was an original idea until I remembered the Trader Joe's chocolate-dipped star cookies we reviewed two weeks ago. Apparently, I don't have original ideas. 
Don't think you can eat just one. They're SO GOOD.

Recipe at the end of the post, but you'll make the cookies, let them cool, then dip them in chocolate. Place the dipped sides down on sheets of waxed paper.

chocolate-dipped, chocolate almond cut-out cookies!
I've really been loving this Ghirardelli dipping chocolate, but you can use chocolate almond bark or candy melts here, too. Instead of a bowl, try melting the chocolate in a glass pie pan for easier dipping.

chocolate-dipped, chocolate almond cut-out cookies!
Once they set up, you'll have a nice, smooth bottom. (Ah, I remember those days.)

Red, White...and funky...Star Cookies + recipe for chocolate-dipped, chocolate almond cut-outs!
OK...to decorate the cookies, do the following:
  • Make up a batch of this royal icing recipe. Flavor with a bit of almond extract.
  • Divide into three bowls and tint. I used: AmeriColor Super Red, Bright White, and for the blue: Royal Blue, mixed with Navy Blue.
  • Thin the icing with a bit of water until it's not super stiff, but not runny. 
Red, White...and funky...Star Cookies + recipe for chocolate-dipped, chocolate almond cut-outs!
  • Transfer the icing to piping bags and snip the tips. 
Red, White...and funky...Star Cookies + recipe for chocolate-dipped, chocolate almond cut-outs!
  • Squiggle over the cookies. 
red white and blue sprinkle mix
  • Add sprinkles. I used a mix of small patriotic stars, sugar pearls and larger red and blue stars (from a jar of primary colored stars). I also used some white nonpareils on the blue-only cookies. 
  • Let the cookies dry until the icing is completely dry, several hours. 
  • When dry, remove from the waxed paper, snapping off the excess icing. 

You can put the icing on as funky or as neat as you'd like. 

At first, I wanted super abstract, lines and squiggles going in all directions. All Jackson Pollock-y. 
Then I saw this:
Jackson Pollock-inspired Star Cookies + recipe for chocolate-dipped, chocolate almond cut-outs!
....and got scared. 

Red, White...and funky...Star Cookies + recipe for chocolate-dipped, chocolate almond cut-outs!
Red, White...and funky...Star Cookies + recipe for chocolate-dipped, chocolate almond cut-outs!
Actually, I liked the way they turned out in the end. 

Red, White...and funky...Star Cookies + recipe for chocolate-dipped, chocolate almond cut-outs!
If you want them a little less chaotic looking, make all your lines of icing go in one direction. 

Red, White...and funky...Star Cookies + recipe for chocolate-dipped, chocolate almond cut-outs!
Or, use a single color of icing. 

Red, White...and funky...Star Cookies + recipe for chocolate-dipped, chocolate almond cut-outs!
If you want to spend some time indoors this 4th of July weekend, these cookies are super fun and easy for the whole family to create. 

Red, White...and funky...Star Cookies + recipe for chocolate-dipped, chocolate almond cut-outs!
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Chocolate-Dipped Chocolate Almond Cut-Out Cookies
{makes 12-36 depending on the cutter size}

2 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1/2 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup cold salted butter, cut into chunks
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon almond extract
12-ounce package dipping chocolate

Line three cookie sheets with parchment. 

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, and baking powder. Set this mixture aside.

In the large bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until combined and fluffy. Beat in the egg and extracts until combined.

Add the flour/cocoa mixture in three parts, mixing on low speed. Scrape down the sides and bottoms of the bowl as needed. After the last addition, the dough will look very thick and crumbly.

The cocoa makes this dough soft and sticky. It’ll be easier to work with if you chill it prior to cutting. Divide the dough in half and form it into two discs. Wrap each disc in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes before rolling. Prepare a rolling surface, but instead of coating it with flour alone, cover it with a mixture of cocoa and flour. Roll out one disc of dough.

Cut out as many shapes from the dough as possible and place them on a prepared cookie sheet, about 2 inches apart.

[ Note: If the dough is crumbly or contains bits of unincorporated flour, knead it until it’s cohesive and of a uniform consistency.]

Place the cookie sheet in the freezer for 5 to 10 minutes. Freezing the cookies will help keep them from spreading. Meanwhile, knead the scraps and remaining dough together and continue the rolling, cutting, and freezing process on a second cookie sheet. After freezing, immediately place the cookies on the center rack of your oven and bake them for 9 to 12 minutes or until they appear done in the center. The baked cookies won’t change much in color. Remove the cookies from the oven and let them cool on the cookie sheets for 2 minutes. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

Once cooled, melt the dipping chocolate according to package directions. Instead of a bowl, try melting the chocolate in a glass pie pan for easier dipping. Dip the bottom of each cookie into the melted chocolate. Place on a waxed paper-lined cookie sheet to set up.

Have a happy...and funky...4th! 

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Texas Peach Pecan Cobbler

When the good folks at Ozarka Water contacted me to see if I'd write a little bit about what I love about Texas, it took me about a nanosecond to say yes.

Texas Peach Pecan Cobbler
We love Texas. Neither Mr. E or I were born here, but I've lived most of my life in Texas...and we've spent 18 of our almost 20 years of married life here. (Wow. I can't believe I just typed that sentence.)

Texas Peach Pecan Cobbler
Mr. E's job took us out-of-state for a few years and while it was beautiful, it was not our beloved Texas. I would go to the grocery store and think...they don't have tortilla chips and crackers and hamburger patties shaped like their state? What does the state flag here look like anyway? (You can't go far in Texas without seeing a Texas flag.)

Here's a short list of what I love about Texas:
  • Tex-Mex: this includes a long list of tacos, queso, salsa, and chips...my life (and my tummy) would be empty without it. 
  • BBQ: this is NOT a backyard cookout. BBQ is beef (do you hear that, Carolina?) slow cooked over low heat and served with a spicy tomato-based sauce. And pickles. And a slice of white bread. 
  • The Texas flag: When you're out-of-state and you see a Texas flag, it brings you right back home. 
  • Bluebonnets: If you've never seen a field of Texas bluebonnets, well, check out social media in the springtime. It's in our contract at Texans that we must plop our children in a field of them and take pictures...even if it's on the side of the highway. 
  • Willie Nelson and Lyle Lovett: Texas boys with a purely Texas sound.
  • Boots and Beer: I don't care where you are in Texas...a wedding, a 5-star restaurant, the symphony, a quinceanera...it's never too fancy for boots and beer. 
  • Whataburger, Blue Bell Ice Cream, Chuy's, Torchy's, Pappasitos: and a thousand other Texas food establishments and companies that know that it doesn't have to be fancy to be delicious. 
  • The people. We've lived in Dallas and Houston, and a few months in Amarillo for me. Texas people are friendly people. 
Texas Peach Pecan Cobbler
Two other things I love? Texas peaches and pecans. Be still my heart. 

Texas Peach Pecan Cobbler ... a must try even if you don't live in Texas!
This Texas Peach and Pecan Cobbler is easily the best cobbler I've ever made. Pecans are not typically found in cobbler, but I think they should be...they add texture, crunch, and flavor. The cobbler batter, sweetened with brown sugar so it's rich and caramel-y, bakes up a bit like a cake. The Texas peaches are coated in a warm almond syrup before adding them to the batter. Divine.

Serve it warm, topped with vanilla ice cream, preferably Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla. 

Texas Peach Pecan Cobbler
I don't know about you, but I am constantly drinking water. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, and all the hours in between. It's always water for me. Ozarka® Brand Natural Spring Water comes from three Texas springs and has a uniquely Texan taste.

Texas Peach Pecan Cobbler
Can't find it? Check out Ozarka delivery.

As part of Ozarka's #FromHereForHere campaign, they sent me a box of Texas goodies:
basket of Texas foods
Paqui tortilla chips, Snow's BBQ sauce, Yellowbird serrano sauce, The Jelly Queens BBQ sauce and rub, Taste Elevated mustard seeds, and Cookwell & Company queso.

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Texas Peach and Pecan Cobbler

1 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 TBSP salted butter, room temperature
2 eggs
3 TBSP milk
3/4 cup chopped Texas pecans
1/4 cup water
1/3 cup granulated sugar
juice of half lemon
1 teaspoon almond extract
3 cups peeled and chopped Texas peaches
vanilla ice cream

Grease an 8 x 8" pan. Preheat oven to 375.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together. Set aside.

Beat the brown sugar and butter together until combined, then beat in the eggs. Mix in the milk. On low speed, add the flour mixture just until incorporated. Stir in the pecans.

Pour batter into the prepared pan.

Heat the water and granulated sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Once the mixture comes to a simmer, lower the heat and keep at a simmer for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the lemon juice and almond extract. Turn off the heat and stir in the peaches.

Spoon the warm peaches and syrup over the batter.

Bake for 40-45 minutes, tenting with foil after 30 minutes.

Serve warm, topped with vanilla ice cream.

Texas Peach Pecan Cobbler
Do you live in Texas? Have you visited Texas? 
What do you love about it?


Monday, June 27, 2016

Cookies and Cream Cake

Jack started off his summer at camp with our parish youth group. This was his first time on an airplane without one of us and the longest I'd ever gone without seeing him. Jack was more than ready to go...it was his mother who'd been dragging her feet about letting him fly off to this camp for years now.
Jack's mother needs help.

cookies and cream cake
*This post is sponsored by Imperial Sugar.

Guess what? He had a FANTASTIC time. And I'm pretty sure he wasn't counting down the days until his return like someone else I know.

cookies and cream cake
Mr. E and I managed to survive! Empty nesters...for a week. Good practice for next year when Jack will be heading off to college.
*Let's not talk about that right now. Please pass the tissues.*

cookies and cream cake
I wanted to welcome Jack home with something a little special. A cake! There's really nothing more special than a layer cake, right?

cookies and cream cake
cookies cream cake batter photo cookies and cream cake 1 of 12.jpg
This one is a cookies and cream layer cake with Oreos in both the cake...

cookies and cream cake
...and the frosting.

cookies and cream cake
(Even pressed into the sides of the frosting.)

It's a beauty. The cake is light and moist with a fine crumb. The frosting is creamy and luscious. *sigh*

cookies and cream cake
Cookies and Cream Layer Cake. You're going to love it.

Don't wait until your kids comes back from camp to make it. Maybe make it while they're at camp and eat it all yourself. ;) Hey...why didn't I think of that?

I'm sharing my recipe over at Imperial Sugar
Go grab the recipe!

cookies and cream cake with Oreos in the cake and frosting!
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