Thursday, October 29, 2009

Halloween and Woodland Creature Sugar Cookies

I love cookie cutters. I love frosting sugar cookies. I love sending them off to friends. A few weeks ago I went in to sur la table, a dangerous adventure, and ended up buying (among other things...) 3 Halloween cookie cutters. I consider them an investment.

My friends Lisa and Roo came over and we made delicious butter cookies from a recipe in Cook's Illustrated that I had used to make Valentine's day cookies for Brad when he was out in L.A. and I was stuck in Boston. It is a delicious recipe that bakes up well - so long as you watch them VERY carefully, otherwise they will burn.

Brad then joined us and we frosted them with some simple butter cream frosting from the recipe on the back of the C&H Powdered Sugar. Delicious. Who doesn't love making and decorating cookies?

This is Fox in Boots. Brad decorated him. He is my favorite. And I'm not being patronizing, I promise.

Butter Cookies
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated

2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar (superfine if you have it - I didn't)
1/4 teaspoon table salt
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces at cool/room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons cream cheese

*The original recipe says to use a stand or hand-held mixer - I found this unnecessary and actually rather annoying, it kept spraying the flour everywhere. I've written it to be done by hand but you can use a mixer if you want.

1. Mix flour, sugar and salt together until combined. Mix in butter one piece at a time; continue to mix until mixture is crumbly and slightly wet. Add vanilla and cream cheese and mix until large clumps form.
2. Knead dough by hand in bowl for 2 to 3 turns to fom a large cohesive mass. Turn dough out onto countertop and divide in half. Pat into two 4-inch disks, wrap each in plastic and refrigerate until they begin to firm up, 20 to 30 minutes. (Dough can be chilled up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 weeks; defrost in refrigerator before using.)
3. Adjust oven rack to middle position (I have to put a few layers of foil on the bottom shelf to keep my cookies from burning but I think it's just the combination of my oven and my non-stick pan.) heat oven to 375 degrees. Roll out 1 dough disk to even 1/8 inch thickness between two sheets of parchment paper. Slide rolled dough on parchemnt paper onto baking sheet and chill until firm, about 10 minutes. Repeat with the second disk.
4. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Working with the first portion of rolled dough, cut into desired shapes and put them on the parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake until light golden brown, 8-10 minutes. Repeat with second portion of rolled dough. Cool cookies on wire rack to room temperature.
5. Decorate using whatever frosting/sprinkles you would like. Enjoy!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Key Lime Cheesecake

This is by no means a healthy dessert but it is extremely delicious and surprisingly easy. I never really ate cheesecake growing up and I kind of just assumed I didn't like it - boy was I wrong. My boyfriend hates cake (I know, it's hard to believe that anyone could hate cake) but he loves cheesecake which he has since informed me is a pie. I wanted to make some sort of delicious dessert and have a lovely romantic evening with him and so I decided to try out cheesecake. I was searching for a recipe and when I came across this one I knew this was what I had to make - Brad also loves Key Lime Pie, what could be better than both things together?

Let me just make a few notes for those who will attempt this - try to find fresh squeezed key lime juice because squeezing a pound and a half of limes is really time consuming and rather unpleasant. If you can't find fresh squeezed (100% juice - none of this concentrate crap) key lime juice get some key limes and start squeezing.

I found that rolling them on a cutting board first helped make them squeeze easier and cutting them in half around the middle and then quarters was the best way to get the most juice. Anyhow - it's totally worth it and I would make this again in a second... if I could find bottled lime juice.

Key Lime Cheesecake
Adapted from smittenkitchen

For crust

1 1/4 cups fine graham cracker crumbs (about 8 full graham crackers)
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted

For filling
2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese at room temperature
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 cup fresh key lime juice (strained from about 1 1/2 lb Key limes) or bottled
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs

Special equipment: a 9- to 9 1/2-inch springform pan

Make crust: Preheat oven to 350°F and butter bottom and side of springform pan.

Stir together crumbs, sugar, and butter in a bowl with a fork until combined, then press evenly onto bottom and one-third up side of pan. Bake crust in middle of oven for 8 minutes and cool in pan on a rack.

Make filling: Reduce oven temperature to 325°F.

Beat cream cheese with an electric mixer at medium speed until fluffy, then beat in sugar. Add lime juice, sour cream, and vanilla and beat until smooth. Mix in flour and salt at low speed, until just incorporated, then add eggs all at once and mix just until incorporated.

Pour filling into crust and set springform pan in a shallow baking pan or on a cookie sheet to catch the drips. Bake cake in middle of oven until set in center, 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes. It should be visibly set 3 inches in from the edge but the center should still wobble a little. Cool completely in springform pan on rack. (Cake will continue to set as it cools.)

Run a thin knife around edge of cake and remove side of pan. If desired, transfer cake with a large metal spatula to a serving plate.

You can also top this with whipped cream and fresh mango slices but I couldn't find mangoes and forgot to buy whipping cream - it didn't lack sweetness or flavor at all - more information on how to do this can be found in the original recipe.

*Next time I might double the crust - Although it was delicious this way I would have enjoyed a little bit more crunch.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

I know...

... I'm a horrible blogger. It's not that I didn't know this from the beginning and it's not that I haven't been cooking it's just that I haven't been photographing or blogging about it. I promise, I'll be better. I'll make it a... mid-October resolution if you will. Things to come? Apple Granola Crumble thing, more baked goods and perhaps even a lovely chicken. (I made Julia Child's whole chicken in a pot recipe and it was GLORIOUS but I didn't take pictures or blog about it, obviously, but I did it.) I promise I'll start blogging again.