Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day Treats / Coffee Walnut Cookies / Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake / Granola

For Valentine's Day I made Dave some portable treats that he could have at work all day. I made incredibly delicious Coffee Walnut Cookies, a big Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake, and for breakfast, some Granola with banana chips and dried cranberries and lots of seeds. Everything was good and much appreciated.

And in related non-food Valentines news, Dave gave me a V-Day guitar! Woo-hoo. I've been wanting to take lessons forever. It's the cutest guitar--very simple--but it sounds lovely. I've already figured out how to tune it! I have no innate musical abilities, but I think just learning the basics will be fun.

As a gift, I wanted to get Dave something outdoorsy and summery--we are both hot weather people and count the days all through winter until spring arrives. I shopped around on a really cool online store, Swingsets and More, which of course sells swing sets, but also lots of other neat outdoorsy type items. I found a bunch of things I think he'd love, and I decided to get him this. We play catch a lot when it's warm out, especially during BBQs and things, and with this he can play catch even if I'm busy manning (or womanning?) the grill. Neat! (Plus, I get to use it when he's not here).

Swingsets and More is one of the CSN stores, and after picking out Dave's gift, I shopped around some of the other departments. I found this Cotton Candy Maker. It is unusual because you can use sweetened or unsweetened hard candy to make the cotton candy! How cool is that!

I bought a bunch of hard candy to experiment with, so I will write up a review for the Cotton Candy Maker in the next week or so.

I also just noticed that CSN is having a big cast iron cookware sale, so if you need some extra pots and pans, this may be a good opportunity for you. I love Le Creuset and have a few pieces, and I covet Staub which is also on sale.

Back to food.
Here are the recipes for the cookie cake, the cookies, and the granola.

Seeded Granola
From Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce

1 cup raw pumpkin seeds
4 cups whole rolled oats
1 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/2 cup wheat germ
1/4 cup flax seeds
2 tablespoon brown sesame seeds
1 tablespoon black sesame seeds
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (I left this out)

1/2 cup honey (or agave)
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
3 ounces unsalted butter or margarine
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat oven to 325F. Spread the pumpkin seeds onto a baking sheet and bake until light golden-brown, about 18 minutes. Butter two baking sheets.

Measure dry ingredients, including pumpkin seeds, into a large bowl. Toss them all together with your hands.

For the syrup:
Measure the honey, brown sugar, butter, and salt into a heavy bottomed sauce-pot. Place it over medium heat, stir once, and cook until the syrup comes to an even boil, about 6 minutes.

As soon as the syrup has boiled, pour it over the oat mixture. Stir well with a spatula to coat every flake. Scrape the granola onto the prepared pans and spread into a single layer.

Bake for 10 minutes. Remove the sheets from the oven, close the oven door to retain the heat, and scrape the outer edges of the granola towards the center and the center out to the edges. Rotate the sheets from top to bottom racks. Continue baking. Repeat scraping and baking for a total of about 30 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Cool the granola on the pans and store in an airtight container.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake
From DamGoodSweet by David Guas

2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips or roughly chopped chunks
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 stick plus 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter (or margarine), at room temperature
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond
1 large egg

To make the ganache, place 3/4 cup of the chocolate in a small bowl. Bring the cream to a boil over medium heat and pour it over the chocolate. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside for 3 minutes, then whisk it from the center of the bowl out to the edges until smooth. Re-cover with plastic and set aside at room temperature for at least 6 hours or overnight.

To make the cookie cake, preheat the oven to 375F. Grease a 10-inch cake pan and line the bottom with parchment. Grease the parchment.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl and set aside. Using a mixer, cream the butter, sugar, and vanilla and almond extracts on medium speed until well combined. Beat in the egg. Add the dry ingredients and combine on low-speed until just a few dry streaks remain. Add the remaining chopped chocolate and mix for a few seconds until combined.

Scrape the batter into the prepared cake pan. Smooth the top of the batter. Bake until lightly golden and puffy around the edges, 18 to 22 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes and then run a paring knife around the edge of the pan to release the cake. Cool for at least 4 hours before un-molding and serving.

Using a pastry bag, streak the ganache across the top of the cake before serving.

Coffee-Walnut Cookies
From Pure Desserts by Alice Medrich

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup walnut halves or pieces
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground medium roast coffee beans, plus about 45 whole beans
14 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon brandy (I used Kahlua)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

Combine the flour, walnuts, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the nuts are finely ground. Add the ground coffee and pulse to mix. Add the butter and pulse until mixture looks damp and crumbly. Drizzle in the brandy and vanilla and pulse until the dough begins to clump up around the blade. Remove the dough, press it into a ball, and knead it by hand a few times to complete the mixing.

Form the dough into a 12-inch log. Wrap the dough and refrigerate for at least two hours, or preferably overnight.

Position the rack in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 350F. Use a sharp knife to cut the cold dough log into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Place the cookies at least 1 inch apart on the ungreased baking sheets.

Bake the cookies until light golden brown at the edges, 12 to 14 minutes, rotating the sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through the baking.

Let the cookies firm up on the pans for about 1 minute, then transfer them to a rack with an offset spatula. Cool completely.

Good to the Grain: Baking with Whole-Grain Flours

DamGoodSweet: Desserts to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth, New Orleans Style

Pure Dessert

Happy Valentine's Day!

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