Monthly Archives

March 2010

World Peace Cookies

March 30, 2010

Not all that long ago, yet too long ago, I took what was the most magical, wondrous, and tasty trip of my 22 years of life. For eight blissful days, my step-mom, Andrea, and I navigated the streets and sights of Paris. Classes at Le Cordon Bleu in the morning, early afternoon naps, cups of near perfect coffee, and more beautiful artwork and architecture than one can even possibly process in eight days. Sure, it rained hard the first four days of the trip, and I did a dreadful job packing appropriate clothes for the weather, but none of that seemed to matter. I was falling in love with Paris. 

Did I mention we ate well? Armed with a list of places to see and eat from my deputy editor (this is one woman who knows her way around Paris) we hopscotched around the city, checking restaurants and bakeries off our list as the days passed by. I was told that visiting Pierre Herme was an absolute must. When we finally arrived I was enchanted by a tiny jewel box of a bakery with a line a mile long – patrons in search of the most amazing sweets on earth. 
Yes, I spent 6 euro (around $9.50 at the time) on a single macaron, but oh was it worth it. What I didn’t have was one of these World Peace Cookies. And though I replicated them in my own kitchen, with the help of Dorie Greenspan who convinced Pierre Herme to cough it up for us home cooks, I hope someday to try one from the source. Right now I can’t imagine how these cookies could get any better. They are, like Paris itself, magical. Crumbly, light, rich, and chewy all at once – the kind of cookies that make you believe anything is possible. 
Follow the recipe carefully. It is by no means a difficult recipe, but the dough may prove a bit tricky to work with. Make sure the butter is very soft, refrigerate the dough for the recommended 3 or more hours, and let the cookies cool completely on the cookie sheet before moving them. Remember these tips and you should have cookies that evoke world peace, or a cookie riot, in no time.

World Peace Cookies
From Paris Sweets by Dorie Greenspan 

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 stick plus 3 tablespoons (11 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel or 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chips, or a generous 3/4 cup store-bought mini chocolate chips

1. Sift the flour, cocoa and baking soda together.
2. Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy. Add both sugars, the salt and vanilla extract and beat for 2 minutes more.
3. Turn off the mixer. Pour in the dry ingredients, drape a kitchen towel over the stand mixer to protect yourself and your kitchen from flying flour and pulse the mixer at low speed about 5 times, a second or two each time. Take a peek — if there is still a lot of flour on the surface of the dough, pulse a couple of times more; if not, remove the towel. Continuing at low speed, mix for about 30 seconds more, just until the flour disappears into the dough — for the best texture, work the dough as little as possible once the flour is added, and don’t be concerned if the dough looks a little crumbly. Toss in the chocolate pieces and mix only to incorporate.
4. Turn the dough out onto a work surface, gather it together and divide it in half. Working with one half at a time, shape the dough into logs that are 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Wrap the logs in plastic wrap and refrigerate them for at least 3 hours. (The dough can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months. If you’ve frozen the dough, you needn’t defrost it before baking — just slice the logs into cookies and bake the cookies 1 minute longer.)
Getting Ready to Bake:
5. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.
6. Using a sharp thin knife, slice the logs into rounds that are 1/2 inch thick. (The rounds are likely to crack as you’re cutting them — don’t be concerned, just squeeze the bits back onto each cookie.) Arrange the rounds on the baking sheets, leaving about 1 inch between them.
7. Bake the cookies one sheet at a time for 12 minutes — they won’t look done, nor will they be firm, but that’s just the way they should be. Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack and let the cookies rest until they are only just warm, at which point you can serve them or let them reach room temperature.
Happy Baking! 

Double Chocolate Muffins

March 28, 2010

Weekends are near the top of my list of favorite things, and while there may not be a hard and fast formula for a great weekend, I’ve found that if you combine at least two of the following, you are guaranteed to have a fabulous two days:

*Beautiful weather
*Loved ones
*Baking a new recipe
*Good food
*Lots of coffee

I was lucky enough to have a weekend that included all of the above. And while I would hardly be able to justify baking chocolate muffins for breakfast on my own, J.’s visit and some extra time on a Sunday morning was enough to inspire trying out a new recipe. I’ve had The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook on my book shelf for almost six months now, but thus far the closest I’ve gotten to using it has been looking at the pretty pictures.

I’m a little bit sad I didn’t start baking from it earlier because these Double Chocolate Muffins were to die for. Serious chocolate goodness for my boyfriend who loves chocolate just as much as any girl I know. And the best part was that I could mix it all together in one bowl, with a whisk and nothing else. The only question I have now is what is the difference between a muffin and a cupcake? After eating these, I’m all sorts of confused….

Double Chocolate Muffins
Adapted from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook
*1 egg
*1/2 cup sugar
*3 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
*1/2 cup all-purpose flour
*1/8 tsp. salt
*1 tsp. baking powder
*1/3 cup milk
*5 Tbsp. butter, melted
*3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

*Preheat oven to 350*F. Line a mini-muffin tin or regular muffin tin with liners, or grease the tin with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.
*In a medium mixing bowl, beat together egg and sugar. Beat in the cocoa powder, flour, salt, and baking powder until well combined. Beat in the milk, followed by the melted butter until just combined, followed by the chocolate chips.
*Spoon the batter into the baking tins, filling each 2/3 of the way full. Bake 12 minutes for mini-muffins or 28-30 minutes for regular-sized muffins. Cool on wire racks.

Happy Baking!


Black Bean and Corn Salsa

March 25, 2010

 It’s a beautiful day here in Iowa. The kind of day that makes you forget winter ever existed and makes you fall in love with this crazy state all over again. Goodbye boots, heavy coats, scarves, and gloves. Hello sundresses, sandals, sunglasses and the like. Well, maybe I’m getting a bit ahead of myself since it’s only going to be sunny and 51* today – hardly flip flop and swim suit weather. But there’s no denying this weather has got me in a summer state of mind.

When it comes to summer foods, there’s something so simple and refreshing about chips and salsa. This less than traditional salsa is one of my favorites for its ease, versatility, and plain old deliciousness. Sure, it’s great for dipping chips into, but is also a heartier version than the tomato-based varieties, making it perfect for serving in fajitas, on tacos, or as another nacho topping. If you want a bit more heat, up the amount of chili powder, toss in a chopped jalapeño or a few dashes of hot sauce. This salsa saves well in the fridge for up to a week. However, add the avocado just before serving to avoid browning or discoloration.

 Black Bean and Corn Salsa
*1 (15-oz.) can black beans
*1 (15-oz.) can whole kernel corn
*1-2 avocados
*1/4 cup chopped cilantro
*Juice of 1 lime
*2 Tbsp. olive oil
*1/4 tsp. chili powder
*Salt and black pepper

*Wash and drain the black beans and corn in a strainer/colander. Place the strained beans and corn in a serving bowl.
*Peel and chop the avocado(s) and add to the corn mixture. Add in the cilantro, lime juice, olive oil, and chili powder. Toss to coat. Salt and pepper to taste.

Happy Cooking!


Tangy Dijon Coleslaw

March 21, 2010

Yesterday I…..

…spent too much money on a high-tech scale that tells not only weight but body fat percentage.

…tried on swimsuits during a quick trip to return a dress at the mall.

…came to the realization that summer is right around the corner, and a spring vacation to Florida (hello beach!) is even closer.

Apparently I’m a glutton for punishment, because I can’t imagine what else would result in such behavior. But I tell you all this so you’ll understand why Espresso and Cream is getting a bit of a healthy makeover. Not to worry, there will still be sweets every now and again. Just think of it as me doing my part as a food blogger to get you ready for swimsuit season.

I’ve never really been a fan of coleslaw. Covered in so much white mayonnaise dressing you can hardly see any of the ingredients, it’s always seemed like the vegetable equivalent of lunchroom mystery meat. So to remedy this problem and make peace with coleslaw once and for all, I set to work creating a dressing that wouldn’t cover up the ingredients, but enhance them. Zippy, tangy, with the right combination of sweet and salty, (and no mayo!) this is not your run of the mill coleslaw. If you’ve had issues with slaw in the past, give this recipe a try.

Tangy Dijon Coleslaw
*2 cups shredded carrots
*3 1/2 – 4 cups red cabbage, shredded or thinly sliced
*1/4 cup light sour cream
For dressing:
*1/4 cup Dijon mustard
*3 Tbsp. olive oil
*2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
*2 Tbsp. cider vinegar
*1 Tbsp. dried dill
*1/2 tsp. ground cumin
*1 tsp. kosher salt (or 1/2 tsp. regular salt)
*1 Tbsp. brown sugar

Chopped fresh cilantro or parsley for garnishing (optional)

*Place carrots and cabbage in a large bowl.
*In a small bowl or glass, combine all the ingredients for the dressing and whisk until well combined. Pour the dressing over the carrot/cabbage mixture and toss to coat evenly. Top with freshly chopped cilantro or parsley, if desired. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Serve within 1-2 hours of tossing with dressing.

Make it a meal:
*Toss in two cups of shredded chicken (those rotisserie chickens at the grocery store are great for this!) and serve in toasted pita breads or on whole wheat hamburger buns.

Happy cooking!


White Chocolate Cream Puffs

March 20, 2010

Looking back at my childhood, I think my mom was preparing me for a career in food. I may not have eaten a peanut butter and jelly sandwich until 7th grade and have yet to try gravy, but I did frequently experience the joy of biting into a freshly baked sourdough roll or sitting down to a dinner of homemade beef stew and biscuits. And while other parents may have run to the bakery on occasion, my mom whipped up a batch of cream puffs.

I can still remember the way the wooden spoon swirled the dough around in the pan and the magic of pulling the cream puffs out of the oven – transformed from spoonfuls of dough into hollow puffs perfect for filling with rich cream. They are the kind of dessert that makes you wonder why you would ever buy another cream filled doughnut again.

White Chocolate Cream Puffs
Adapted from Mango Cream Puffs | Bon Appétit, May 2006
*1 cup whole milk
*1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, diced
*1/4 teaspoon salt
*3/4 cup all purpose flour
*4 large eggs
*2 large egg yolks

*1 cup heavy cream
*1 tsp. vanilla extract
*1 cup white chocolate chips
*1 Tbsp. vegetable oil

For puffs:
Preheat oven to 375°F. Line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Bring milk, butter, and salt to boil in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring until butter melts. Add flour all at once. Reduce heat to medium and stir with wooden spoon until dough forms ball and some batter films bottom of pan thickly, about 4 minutes. Transfer dough to medium bowl and cool 5 minutes. Using electric mixer, beat in eggs and yolks 1 at a time.

Drop dough by generous tablespoonfuls 3 inches apart onto baking sheets, making about 12 puffs.

Bake puffs 15 minutes. Reverse sheets and bake puffs until deep golden, about 10 minutes longer. Make small slit in side of each puff. Return to oven, turn off heat, and let dry 15 minutes. (Can be made 6 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.)

For cream:

While puffs cool, make cream. Melt the white chocolate chips until smooth. Add the oil to the white chocolate and stir until well combined. Allow the chocolate to cool slightly (just slightly above room temperature). Combine cream and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat on high speed for 1-2 minutes. With the mixer running, slowly pour the white chocolate mixture into the cream. Beat until stiff peaks form. Refrigerate until ready to use.

To assemble, with a small sharp knife, cut the cream puffs in half horizontally. Spoon cream by heaping tablespoons in between the layers. Drizzle with caramel sauce or chocolate sauce, if desired.

Happy Baking!