Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies

Growing up, I lived in an area with many people from various parts of Latin America. This meant that most grocery stories had aisles of Hispanic foods, and several of them made them into the staples at my house. One was Abuelita hot chocolate tablets (not a paid advertisement), where you could drop a chocolate tablet and hot milk in a blender and in no time, you would have a delicious, spicy hot chocolate. Coffee shops would sell Mexican mochas, which would be a spicy mocha. These were delicious times.

I came across a recipe from Aaron Sanchez on the Food Network website for "Cinnamon-Spiced Hot Chocolate Cookies." I adapted it slightly and renamed it to what I think he meant. Chocolate mixed with spices has Mexican heritage and we should be proud to say so!

Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
generous pinch black pepper
generous pinch cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
6 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
1/2 cup dulce de leche (or more if you are making sandwich cookies)
1/4 cup almonds, toasted and chopped

  1.  Mix flour, cocoa powder, spices, baking soda, and salt together in a small bowl.
  2. Cream butter and sugars until sugar is well incorporated. Beat in vanilla and egg, scraping down the bowl.
  3. Gradually add dry ingredients, mixing until just blended.
  4. Lay out sheet of plastic wrap and dump dough into a pile on top, using plastic to form it into a log shaped roll.
  5. Chill about 30 minutes, and take out to roll into smoother cylinder.
  6. Let chill at least another hour but preferably overnight.
  7. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  8. Slice cookies to desired size but try to make them close in size.
  9. Bake 10-11 minutes, but do not overbake!
  10. When completely cool, you can choose to make sandwich cookies by spreading one cookie with 1 tbsp dulce de leche and sandwiching on another. Or you can "drizzle" dulce de leche on top and sprinkle with almonds. (To drizzle dulce de leche it is likely you will need to heat it, otherwise it is more accurate that you will just glomp it on the cookie. Tasty but not as attractive. Cookie pictured had dulce squeezed on from a ziploc that had been heated for about 15 seconds in the microwave.)
I found I preferred these after they'd sat around with the dulce, at least overnight. You could leave the dulce and almonds out if you needed a cookie that was easier to transport, but it's definitely an elevation of the entire recipe!

Monday, December 18, 2017

Double Chocolate Almond Biscotti

This is based on the Chocolate Biscotti recipe in Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan. It made the rounds a few years ago during the Tuesdays with Dorie baking series a bunch of bloggers participated in, but I didn't make that recipe.

Mom, don't read this! Ha.

I have not done a lot of holiday baking this year.

Partly because of a trip in early December, partly because the weather is wrong, partly because holidays are strange after a death in the family, and traditions are all wrapped up in memories.

What I should really do is make peanut brittle and fudge, the two things my Dad would spend an entire day making around the holidays. But I'm not there yet.

My Mom asked me if I could make her some biscotti, so I decided to try a new recipe. I will have some on the way to her the day this posts.

Biscotti should be shipped separately from other baked goods, because extra moisture in other items may soften the cookies. And with biscotti, it's all about the "twice-baked" texture.

Double Chocolate Almond Biscotti

2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tbsp instant espresso powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 stick (6 tbsp) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp (at most) or a drop of almond extract (it's strong! don't add more!)
1 cup slivered almonds
3/4 cup mini chocolate chips

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment.
2. Sift together the flour, cocoa, espresso powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
3. Beat the butter and sugar together on medium speed until pale, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs and extract(s), scraping down the sides of the bowl, and beat for another 2 minutes. Reduce mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients in three additions, mixing only until a dough forms. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Mix in the nuts and chocolate, then turn the dough out onto a work surface and press in escaped ingredients.
4. Divide the dough in half. Working with one half at a time, roll the dough into 12-inch-long logs. Flatten the log with the palm of your hand, so that it is 1/2 to 1 inch high, about 2 inches across and rectangular in shape. Lift onto baking sheet. Repeat for second half of the dough.
5. Bake the logs for about 25 minutes, or until they are just slightly firm. Remove the baking sheet from the oven, put it on a cooling rack and cool for 20 minutes. Leave the oven on.
6. Using a long serrated knife, cut each log into slices between 1/2 and 3/4 inch thick. Stand the slices up on the baking sheet with space between each and bake again, this time for 10 minutes. Let cool.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Afternoon Tea in St. Augustine, Florida

It appears that the options I will describe below are temporary and linked to the Dressing Downton exhibit at the Lightner Museum, but I hope either site changes its mind and starts offering afternoon tea on a regular basis. Why not?

My husband and I recently spent half a week in St. Augustine, one of our favorite places to visit in the southeast. This time around we decided to do more of the historical places, including the Lightner Museum, the Castillo de San Marcos, the Flagler history tour, a carriage ride, and even a tour at the place we stayed, The Collector Inn. Since the Dressing Downton exhibit was also at the Lightner, they offered afternoon tea at the Cafe Alcazar (now through January 4, 2018.)

The tea required reservations, and we were very fortunate that someone working there took pity on us and added a table, as they were technically booked when we tried making reservations. The cafe is in what used to be the pool of Flagler's second huge hotel in St. Augustine, and is now the center of the Lightner Museum. Tea started with a soup or salad course along with iced tea, while they took our hot tea orders (pretty smart, I thought!). The rest of the tea is portrayed above, with sandwiches on the bottom, scones and a cookie in the middle, and tiny sweets on the top. While we had tea, they played music from Downton Abbey. They sent us home with samples of the hot teas on offer, so everyone was able to try at least two kinds - one in the pot, and one in loose leaf brewed at home.

It looks like after this particular exhibit moves on, and afternoon tea goes along with it, you can continue to lunch at the Cafe Alcazar.

I recently discovered that you can also have afternoon tea and view Gosford Park at the nearby Corazon Cinema and Cafe.  That's a place we will want to visit in the future, because we didn't make it this time around.

Monday, December 04, 2017

Pumpkin Spelt Scones with Maple Glaze

I have been watching the new episode of Martha Bakes (not a paid advertisement) and this season she is focused on what she calls healthy baking and is really more about alternative flours. (I clarify this because just using an alternative flour does not necessarily cut down on carbs, but can, so your mileage will vary as to if the alternatives are healthier.) Many of the recipes seem to come from a newer cookbook by Martha, A New Way to Bake.

The pumpkin spelt scones she made looked good and I had not yet tried spelt in baking, which is not low-carb but is supposed to be easier to digest than all-purpose flour. One of the blogs I use frequently, Chocolate Covered Katie, seems to use spelt flour most often! Most places that discuss spelt recommend using only half spelt in a recipe because using all spelt flour can cause structural problems. Martha referred to this as creating a "tender" texture, and I decided to go with it for the first time. Next time I'd mix spelt with other flours, because the others were right! But these were still tasty. I did use coconut sugar instead of real, to try to cut back some on the carbs.

Pumpkin Spelt Scones with Maple Glaze
(recipe from Martha Stewart via Martha Bakes on PBS.org)

2 cups spelt flour
1/3 cup natural cane sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon ground ginger
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Coarse salt
1 stick (1/2 cup frozen unsalted butter, grated on large holes of a box grater; plus 1 tablespoon melted
2 tablespoons heavy cream, plus more for brushing
1 large egg, room temperature
1/3 cup canned unsweetened pumpkin puree
½ cup confectioners’ sugar
2 to 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a bowl, whisk together flour, cane sugar, baking powder, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ¾ teaspoon salt. Stir in grated butter.
  2. In another bowl, whisk together cream, egg, and pumpkin; stir into flour mixture just until dough forms. (It will still be crumbly.) Pat into a 6-inch round on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush with cream. Using a knife or bench scraper, cut dough into 8 wedges, and pull 2 inches apart.
  3. Bake, rotating sheet halfway through, until scones are golden brown, about 20 minutes. Let cool completely on sheet on a wire rack.
  4. In a small bowl, stir together melted butter, confectioners’ sugar, 2 tablespoons maple syrup, and a pinch of salt until smooth. If glaze is too thick, add additional maple syrup, 1 teaspoon at a time. Dip tops of scones in glaze and transfer to rack set on baking sheet. Allow glaze to set for 30 minutes before serving. (Scones are best the day they’re made but can be kept in a single layer in an airtight container up to 1 day.)