Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Danish Hazelnut Butter Cookies Two Ways

After a welcome respite from hosting Thanksgiving, my husband and I have the house and yard decorated and now I'm ready to start baking for Christmas!  The first new recipe I wanted to try were these flaky and delicate Danish Hazelnut Butter Cookies from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book. 

Filled with toasted and ground hazelnuts, I topped each cookie with a whole hazelnut before baking, because I LOVE hazelnuts.  Not to worry if hazelnuts aren't your thing. You could easily substitute pecans or almonds in this recipe with great results. 

Never one to leave a good thing alone, I was inspired by some thumbprint cookies I had seen on Pinterest and decided to try the idea with the same hazelnut cookie dough and created Hazelnut Caramel and Chocolate Cookies. A marriage made in cookie heaven!  You will find instructions for both variations below. 

It is beginning to look a lot like Christmas!  We had our first measurable snowfall early this week.  Even though much of has melted already, I couldn't help snap a few shots while the tree limbs were coated with pristine, white snow in the evening. 

Have you done any holiday baking yet? What is your favorite Christmas cookie recipe?

Danish Hazelnut Butter Cookies

Printable Recipe

Makes about 48 cookies

2/3 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon fresh baking powder
1 cup hazelnuts, toasted and finely chopped

Preheat oven to 300F to toast the nuts. Spread them on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for about 8-10 minutes until fragrant and toasted. Allow to cool and place in a food processor. Pulse until finely ground, being careful not to turn the nuts into a paste.

In a large mixing bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until blended. Add the egg and mix until light and fluffy. Add the flour, baking powder and chopped hazelnuts and mix just until incorporated. Gather dough together and place in a smaller bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 400F.

Place parchment paper or a silicone baking mat on a large, rimmed baking sheet. 

Shape dough into balls about the size of small walnuts and place on prepared baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Press tops of cookies with a fork, making a criss-cross pattern. Top each with a whole hazelnut, if desired.

Bake for about 7-8 minutes or until lightly browned.

Hazelnut, Caramel, Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies
Use same recipe as above to make cookie dough.

Preheat oven to 400F.

Roll chilled dough into 1" balls and place on prepared baking sheet. Using your thumb, make an indentation in the center of each piece of dough.

Bake for about 8 minutes, or until lightly browned. Remove from oven and, using the back of a round, 1 teaspoon measuring spoon, press lightly into each indentation in cookie, being careful not to break cookie. Cool completely.

To Make Caramel Filling:

14 Vanilla Caramels, unwrapped
2 Tablespoons heavy (double) cream

In a small saucepan, melt caramels and cream together over low heat, stirring frequently, until smooth. Spoon about a teaspoon of caramel mixture into the center of each cookie. Cool completely.

To Make Chocolate Drizzle:

1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate pieces
1 teaspoon shortening or butter

Microwave for 30 second intervals until just melted, stirring after each interval. Allow to cool slightly and pour into a small pastry bag fitted with a tip with small round hole and pipe back and forth onto cooled cookies. Allow chocolate to cool completely. Refrigerating cookies will help the chocolate to set.

Basic cookie recipe adapted from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book by Beatrice Ojankangas.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Real Sourdough Bread made with Sourdough Starter

I have finally overcome my fear of sourdough starter and making sourdough bread!  This past summer, I ordered a sourdough starter from a seller on Etsy. The starter arrived in dried form, ready to have water and flour added to begin the activation process.  Then, a broken wrist aborted my sourdough plans.  A few weeks ago I found the envelope with the starter packet and decided to see if it was still good.  I've been feeding it according to the excellent directions that I received from the seller plus finding other tips online to keep it healthy and active.  And healthy it is!

Now I was finally ready to bake sourdough bread, but what recipe to use? I viewed countless recipes online and those included with my starter.  Then, I found one that used a spin on the the no-knead format and I knew that would be a great recipe for a beginner to use.

The starter was prepped and mixed with flour and salt, covered and left on the counter overnight.  The next morning, I was amazed to find a beautiful rise had occurred in my dough - without any yeast, just the magic of the live sourdough starter doing its thing.

After tucking the dough under and giving it two letter folds with oiled hands, I plopped it into my small enameled cast iron oval dutch oven and covered it for another two hours rise. 

Using the standard no-knead instructions that you may already know, the dutch oven was heated in a hot oven, the dough placed in the heated pot, parchment and all, and later, out came this gorgeous loaf of bread...

It did get a bit too brown on top but I followed the directions exactly instead of taking a peak into the oven a littler earlier.  Lesson learned. I was so excited to see how would it look inside that crusty exterior and most importantly, how would it taste?

After the first bite into the shattering, crisp crust and soft, sourdough-infused interior I was so amazed and delighted that I wanted to yell, "Look what I have created!", just like Tom Hanks in the movie "Cast Away" when he finally made a fire.

Yesterday, I made two more loaves.  Another regular sourdough loaf and a cranberry walnut sourdough, using a portion of starter that I had been feeding with rye flour. 

The latter didn't rise quite as well as the regular bread flour version but it was so delicious that I will be working on perfecting this recipe - perhaps with a whole wheat flour starter rather than rye. 

Even though it's too late to get a starter going and make this bread for Thanksgiving, if you love to bake bread as I do and want to try nurturing a sourdough starter, this is a great recipe and a fun project for the winter months.

In the meanwhile, I would like to wish all of your who celebrate Thanksgiving this week a very happy and safe holiday!  Coincidentally, this is what wandered through our yard early yesterday morning! This is only the second time we've seen turkeys in our yard and both times it was right before Thanksgiving. Are they trying to tell us something? 

No Knead Sourdough Bread

I bought a sourdough starter called Black Hills Gold Rush Sourdough Starter from WorldSourdoughs on Etsy.  This is not a paid promotion, I just recommend the product based on my experience. 

1 lb bread flour (use a digital scale to weigh the flour)
2-3 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup freshly fed sourdough starter
Luke warm or room temperature water

In the morning, remove your sourdough starter from the refrigerator (where I keep mine).  Remove 1/4 cup of starter and place in a small bowl or jar. Feed it with 1/4 cup of AP flour and 1/4 cup of room temperature water.  Stir and cover loosely with plastic wrap.  Keep on the kitchen counter until late afternoon.  Check to make sure it has bubbles and has increased in volume slightly (active). 

In the afternoon, weigh the flour and place in a large bowl with the salt.  Stir to combine.
Measure out 1/4 cup of starter into a 2 cup measure.  Add enough slightly warm or room temperature water to make 1-1/2 cups total liquid.  Stir together until blended. 

Pour the starter-water mixture over the flour and mix together with your hands or a large spoon, until no trace of dry flour remains.  You may need to add another tablespoon or so of water if your kitchen is dry. 
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and then a kitchen towel and allow to rest and rise overnight on the kitchen counter, about 12 to 18 hours. 

The next morning, prepare the dutch oven by placing a large piece of parchment paper over the non-handle sides and then pushing down along the bottom sides and folding back over the top sides, created creases where needed.  This will be your 'lifter' and also create a non-stick surface in your pot when baking.  I use a small, 3-1/2 quart Le Creuset oval Dutch oven but any small enameled cast iron Dutch oven will work. 

In the morning, you should have a good rise, hopefully doubled in volume.  With lightly oiled hands, fold the edges of the dough into the center, all around.  Then, pick up the dough and pull it into a rough rectangle and fold one end over the other (an envelope fold) and then repeat with the opposite sides.  Tuck any rough edges under and place the dough into the prepared parchment-lined dutch oven.  Cover again and allow to rest for two more hours.

30 minutes before the 2 hours is up, place the dutch oven and its cover in the oven and preheat to 450F.  At this point, I transferred my dough in it's parchment carrier, into a rectangular plastic storage container while the oven and Dutch oven preheats. You could also use a casserole dish or bowl as a temporary home for your dough. 

When the oven has preheated for 30 minutes, very carefully remove the Dutch oven and take off the top Place dough in it's parchment carrier into the hot dutch oven. Your may slash the top of the dough with a sharp knife if you wish but it is not necessary. (I've done it with slashing and without). Put the lid back on (it's HOT), and place the dutch oven back into the oven and bake for 30 minutes, covered. 

After 30 minutes, remove the lid and continue to bake for another 20-30 minutes, or until dark brown on the top.  Watch carefully during the last 10 minutes making sure the crust doesn't burn. 

Remove pot from oven and carefully remove bread by lifting it out with the parchment paper.  Allow to cool completely before slicing. 

Adapted from Duonyte's No Knead Sourdough Bread