Monday, January 30, 2012

Chocolate and Vanilla Linzer Hearts

Chocolate and Vanilla Linzer Hearts - ButterYum
About 6 weeks ago I shared a recipe for Two-Tone Ganache Filled Snowflake Cookies that was so yummy, my family hasn't stopped talking about them.  So I thought I'd expand a bit on the recipe to make Linzer-like heart cookies for Valentine's Day, filled with my homemade Strawberry Jam.   

Note - the recipe makes half vanilla and half chocolate cookie dough.  Since the vanilla dough spreads more during baking, I suggest you use it to make the bottom halves of these cookies.    

 Check out this set of nesting heart cutters I found.

I rolled my cookie dough between layers of waxed paper.  I chose to use wax paper because flour would discolor the surface of the chocolate dough.  You can see the wax paper left a few wrinkles on the surface of the dough, but they disappeared in the oven. 

To prevent the cookie shapes from distorting when being moved, I slide the wax paper/cookie dough onto a sheet pan, cut the shapes on the pan, and pop the whole thing into the fridge so the dough can firm up.  Once chilled, I pop the individual shapes out of the sheet of dough and place them on a separate sheet pan to be baked.

 Here's one of the baked shapes - see all those raggedy edges?  Those little suckers might not bother you, but they sure do bother me... I use a toothpick to file them away - I just run it along the raggedy edges and Voila - all gone!

Yes, I know - Baking OCD, but look how the edges are all nice and smooth now.
I'm just saying.


Chocolate and Vanilla Linzer Heart Cookies
makes approximately 30-40 cookies

1/2 cup dark chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream

Cookie Dough:
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted (added to only one half of the dough - see directions below)

1/4 cup heavy cream
2 ounces high quality semi-sweet chocolate, chopped

powdered sugar
strawberry or raspberry jam 

To make the ganache:: 
Gently heat the cream and chocolate together; stirring until completely smooth and combined.  Cover and chill for 30 minutes (or make the ganache several hours in advance and let it sit at room temperature until it thickens to a piping consistency).

To make the cookie dough:
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the blade attachment, beat the butter on medium high speed for 30 seconds.  Add sugar, baking powder, and salt; beat until combined, scraping bowl as needed.  Add egg and vanilla; beat to combine.  Add flour until incorporated.  Divide dough into two portions; adding sifted cocoa powder to one portion.  Wrap each portion with plastic wrap and chill for 1-3 hours.

Preheat oven to 375F.  Roll the vanilla dough to 1/8-inch thickness on a lightly floured surface (or between two layers waxed paper).  Cut out the bottom cookies out of the vanilla dough using a heart-shaped cutter. Chill dough on waxed paper until firm before transferring cutouts to ungreased cookie sheet; spacing 2-inches apart.  Bake for 8 minutes or until edges are set;  cool completely on a cooling rack.  Repeat the process with the chocolate dough, but this time cut a small shape from the center of each cookie.  Chill and bake as directed above.  When the cookies are completed cool, sprinkle only the chocolate ones with powdered sugar (I left the smaller chocolate shapes unadorned). 

To assemble cookies:
Place the vanilla cookies upside down on your work surface.  Pipe a ganache "dam" on the bottom cookies (place the dam so it will be be hidden when the chocolate cookie tops are added).  The ganache dam will keep the jam from oozing out of the assembled cookies (and it tastes really, really delicious!).  Spoon about a teaspoon of jam inside the ganache dam; top each of the bottom cookies with a powder sugar dusted chocolate cookie.  Cookies may be assembled up to a day ahead.

Note - the dough can be made 2-3 days ahead (be sure to wrap each flavor individually and chill in an airtight container).  Alternately, cookies can be baked ahead of time - place unfilled cookies in an airtight container between layers of waxed paper - store at room temperature for 3 days or frozen for up to 3 months.  Thaw before assembling.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Biscuits with Sausage Gravy

Buttermilk Biscuits and Sausage Gravy - ButterYum
Want to show your family how much you love them?  Make them flaky buttermilk biscuits smothered in creamy sausage gravy.  Okay, I realize this is not a meal you should eat very often, but sometimes you need a little southern comfort and this dish is lick-your-plate-clean comfort food at its best!

Sausage Gravy
makes 3-4 cups (about 6 servings)

1 pound breakfast sausage, cooked (reserve fat drippings)
4 tablespoons fat (any one or a combination of the following: sausage or bacon drippings, or melted butter)
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon rubbed sage
1 teaspoon dried parsley

In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat, melt fat and add flour; whisking until until the mixture bubbles for a full minute.  Add milk, salt, pepper, sage, and parsley; continue whisking until the mixture comes to a boil and thickens.  Turn off heat and stir in cooked sausage.  Serve over homemade Buttermilk Biscuits.  The gravy will thicken as it cools - if needed, stir in a splash of milk to thin (works well when heating leftover gravy as well).

Buttermilk Biscuits - Photo Tutorial

Flaky Buttermilk Biscuits - ButterYum

We recently found out we'll be moving further south so I've decided it's time to start honing my biscuit skills.  Today will be the first of several biscuit recipe I post in the coming weeks while I search for the best recipe I can find.  First up is one I found a couple years ago on Food Wishes, a video blog by Chef John.   I adore how fluffy and tall these biscuits turn out.  Start to finish, they take about 30 minutes to make.  The family devours them.  And hey, these biscuits are fabulous with sausage gravy.

(excuse these nighttime photos, but let me show you Chef John's technique)
 Once the ingredients are mixed and they start to clump together, pour them out onto a floured surface or pastry cloth.  Gently press into a rectangle.

 Use a pastry scraper to fold the right third on top of the center of the rectangle.  Don't worry if the dough is crumbly at this point.

Repeat on the left side to complete one letter fold.  This process will done a total of 3 times.

Carefully turn the dough 1/4 turn.

Press into another rectangle and repeat the 3-step "letter fold" 2 more times (fold, fold, turn).

You can see how much smoother the dough is after the 2nd letter fold is complete.

After the 3rd letter fold, press or roll the dough into a 1/2-inch thick rectangle.  Cut biscuits and place on a lined sheet pan (push cutter straight down, don't twist).

Make a slight depression in the center of each biscuit, brush with buttermilk, bake.


Flaky Buttermilk Biscuits
recipe courtesy of Chef John
makes 12-15 biscuits (2 to 2 1/2-inches)

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into thin slices and chilled in the freezer
3/4 cup cold buttermilk, well shaken (plus a little more to brush onto unbaked biscuits)

Preheat oven to 425F.  Using a whisk, combine dry ingredients in medium mixing bowl.  Using a pastry blender (or your fingers), cut the butter into the flour mixture until the butter is broken down into the size of small pebbles (toss the whole bowl in the fridge to chill if the butter starts to soften).  Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour the icy cold buttermilk into the well.  Using a spatula, gently mix until most of the flour is moistened and the dough starts to form into a ball.  Dump the dough onto a well floured surface or pastry cloth.  Pat the dough into a rectangle and fold the dough into thirds (similar to folding a letter), turn the dough 1/4 turn and pat into a rectangle again; repeat folding and pressing 2 more times (for a total of 3 letter folds).  Roll or press dough into a 1/2-inch thick rectangle.  Cut biscuits using a floured biscuit cutter.  Gently place the biscuits onto a parchment or silicone lined sheet pan.  Using your thumb, gently press down on the center of each biscuit to make a slight depression.  Brush biscuits tops with buttermilk and bake for 15 minutes.  You can gather the scraps together and re-roll the dough to get 2 or 3 more biscuits, but they never rise as nicely as the first biscuits.  Instead, I prefer to make what I call Biscuit Bites by cutting the scraps into oddly shaped bite-size pieces.  Brush with buttermilk and bake until they're nicely browned - they make tasty little nibbles; great four soups and stews.

buttermilk brushed biscuit on left - no buttermilk on right

I did a little experiment to see if there would be a difference between biscuits that were brushed with buttermilk before baking and those that were not.  Can you guess which one got the buttermilk?  If you chose the biscuit on the left, you're right!     
Note - if you don't have any buttermilk in the house, you can make a good substitution using regular milk and vinegar.  To make one cup of buttermilk, mix 1 tablespoon white vinegar plus enough milk to equal one cup.  Give the mixture a stir and allow it to sit for about 5 minutes before using.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Southwestern Chicken Noodle Soup

Southwestern Chicken Noodle Soup - ButterYum

I hope everyone enjoyed the holidays - I certainly did.  I've been cooking up a storm so stay tuned for lots of yummy posts.  Let's start with Tina's Crazy Cooking Challenge.  This month's challenge - Chicken Noodle Soup.   I make my own chicken noodle soup often, so it felt a bit odd searching the internet for someone else's recipe to make, but I knew I found the one I wanted to try when I stumbled upon a blog called My Big Fat Geek Recipes. The Southwestern Chicken Noodle Soup sounded so good.  Let me say this, it did not disappoint - very, very tasty.  I'll definitely be making this one again.

This soup is made in a slow cooker, but it can easily be made on the stove top if time is limited.  To further reduce cooking time, serve with tortilla chips or corn chips instead of taking the time to cook pasta.  And feel free to use leftover cooked chicken if you have it (hint - or pick up a rotisserie chicken).  Add the cooked chicken to the soup just before serving; long enough to heat it through. Also consider changing the veggies to suit your family, and/or add beans, cheddar cheese, and a dollop of sour cream.  

Southwestern Chicken Noodle Soup
makes 10-12 servings

4-5 boneless chicken thighs, cut into bite size pieces
3 large carrots, chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 cup frozen corn
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup frozen green beans
1 tablespoons minced garlic
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes (no need to drain the juice)
8 cups water
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
1 tablespoon Mrs. Dash Southwestern Seasoning Blend (see my note below)
2 tablespoons Mrs. Dash Original Seasoning Blend (see my note below)
Cooked noodles, reserved

Place all the ingredients except the pasta in a slow cooker and cook on high for 6 hours.  Add cooked pasta to bowls just before serving.

My Notes - I at least doubled the veggies.  Also, I initially was tempted to use homemade chicken stock instead of water, fearing the finished soup wouldn't have enough flavor, but the seasoning blends, onions, and garlic provide plenty of flavor.  Lastly, I didn't have either of the Mrs. Dash seasoning blends the recipe called for, but I did have Mrs. Dash Fiesta Lime and Mrs. Dash Southwestern Chipotle so I used 1 1/2 tablespoons of each.