Toffee Cookies with Chocolate and Cayenne

I hate Valentine’s Day. Wait, not quite correct. I hate all card-company made up holidays that make you think you need to purchase a (cheesy) card for someone and basically waste money. These holidays include both Mothers’ and Fathers’ Days too. Ugh, so gross.

Valentine’s the the most egregious though made up holiday.  Overpriced roses that have no smell whatsoever. A meal out that is meh at best and again, overpriced. Pressure for the whole evening and lord help you if you have just started a new relationship. Just wait and ask her/him out in March or something. Go out for Guinness on St. Patrick’s Day – it worked for me.

That said, I took a recent cookie recipe and make sweet little heart cookies with chocolate and then did the perfect thing – added cayenne. Hey, why not, right?

D&D_260816 Tbs unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 egg yolks
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate – Ghirardelli
1/4 cup chopped toasted walnuts
Fleur de sel / Maldon
cayenne

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together the butter and brown sugar. Add the egg yolks one at a time and mix well. Combine the flour and salt in a small bowl, then add the flour mixture to the butter-sugar mixture, mixing until well combined.

Shape the dough into a flat disk, wrap it in plastic, and refrigerate for 10 minutes.*

Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface to about 1/4 inch thick. Cut out hearts with a cookie cutter and place the cookies on the baking sheet.

Bake for 11 to 13 minutes, until the edges are golden brown. Let cool completely on the baking sheet.

Bring water to a simmer in a double boiler, or set up a heatproof bowl over a small saucepan with water in the bottom. Melt the chocolate over the simmering water. When the cookies are cool, spread them gently with a thin layer of melted chocolate. Before the chocolate dries, sprinkle lightly with the pecans and a few grains of fleur de sel and a pinch or so of cayenne – let your conscious be your guide here. Let the chocolate set. The cookies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. Makes 20 – 24 cookies – all depends on your cookie cutter.

*It took more than 10 minutes – way more – just leave the dough in the fridge overnight.

Johnson Brothers – Old Britian Castles – pink.

Toffee Cookies with Dark Chocolate Glaze

Here I am with another roll-out cookie. Why do I keep doing this to myself? This is my least favorite part of baking – cookies, crackers, pie crusts – rolling things out – even if I do have a great rolling pin – which I do. French rolling pin – made in America. Yep. D&D-9181

You get the idea. Ugh. But this just seems like such a good idea that I could not help myself.

I also plan to do this in my two day method to see if it works – make dough day one, and bake and chocolate on day two. We’ll see, as always.

Baked the cookies one day and did the chocolate bit the next day and then had way too much fun with the toppings – walnuts, Maldon salt, red sprinkles, and a little cayenne. And then did pretty much an evil thing. Mixed up all the cookies in the same container. Take a risk and see what you get. Let’s just say I put the cayenne on the smallest cookies. I think I really like bittersweet chocolate with cayenne. But pretty sure not all my friends will. Like I’ve said before my “test kitchen tasters.”

D&D_2615

16 Tbs unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 egg yolks
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate – Ghirardelli
1/4 cup chopped toasted walnuts
Fleur de sel / Maldon

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together the butter and brown sugar. Add the egg yolks one at a time and mix well. Combine the flour and salt in a small bowl, then add the flour mixture to the butter-sugar mixture, mixing until well combined.

Shape the dough into a flat disk, wrap it in plastic, and refrigerate for 10 minutes.*

Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface to about 1/4 inch thick. Cut out circles with a 2-inch round cutter and place the cookies on the baking sheet.

Bake for 11 to 13 minutes, until the edges are golden brown. Let cool completely on the baking sheet. Bring water to a simmer in a double boiler, or set up a heatproof bowl over a small saucepan with water in the bottom. Melt the chocolate over the simmering water. When the cookies are cool, spread them gently with a thin layer of melted chocolate. Before the chocolate dries, sprinkle lightly with the pecans and a few grains of fleur de sel. Let the chocolate set. The cookies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. Makes 20 – 24 cookies.

Source: The Kitchn adapted from Salty Sweets by Christie Matheson. I think you could sub out other nuts. I did – used walnuts but pecans were called for in the original recipe. Pistachios might be excellent as well, especially with the color contrast on the dark chocolate. Love me some pistachios, but I am keeping this bag for baking not for just munching on. Maybe. We shall see.

*Well, 10 minutes in the fridge was no where near enough. I did, sort of, leave the butter out for a couple of many days. So I left the dough in the fridge overnight and it worked out just fine. Not as an easy dough as the chocolate sugar cookie dough from the other day, but not too difficult.

Manchego Crackers

So I had Manchego and had to figure out something to do with it. I buy cheese like that – buy it and then figure something out. Improvisation or some such. Manchego is sheeps’ milk cheese from Spain – from the La Mancha region. I guess this is the sheep milk cheese cracker. I am a big fan of sheeps’ milk cheeses, and goats’ milk cheese, and cows’ milk cheese. Well you get the idea. Fan of cheese is all possible variations.

This is a new recipe to me – so here we go.

D&D_2057

6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces
3⁄4 cup all-purpose flour
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1⁄8 teaspoon cayenne
2 ounces Manchego cheese, finely grated

Place all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor, and pulse just until a dough forms. Do not overwork dough, or crackers will be tough.

Roll dough into a log about 1.5 inches in diameter (is that the right word for round-ish? – don’t know). Refrigerate. I usually just refrigerate overnight just to be safe and it seems to work well.

Preheat oven to 400° F. Slice dough into rounds about 1/4 inch thick and place on baking sheet lined with parchment. Dock the crackers with a fork. Bake in middle of oven until golden, about 10 minutes. Allow crackers to cool on the baking sheet for about 5 minutes, then transfer them directly to a cooling rack to cool.

Store crackers layered between sheets of wax paper in an airtight container at room temperature up to 4 days.

Adapted from Epicurious. Via http://lifecurrents.dw2.net/manchego-crackers/

~Original directions: Gather dough into a ball, and flatten into a 5-inch disk. Wrap dough in plastic wrap, and chill dough, until firm, about 30 minutes. The dough can be made ahead and chilled like this for up to 2 days.

Roll out dough on a floured surface with a floured rolling pin until about 1/8-inch thick, roughly 14-inch round.

Working quickly, cut out rounds with a 1 ¾ to 2-inch floured biscuit cutter, and arrange the rounds ½-inch apart on a silpat or parchment paper covered baking sheet. Re-roll scraps (but only once or they will get tough; chill first if soft), and cut out more rounds. Prick each round 2 or 3 times with a fork.

If your kitchen is warm, roll out dough between 2 sheets of wax paper.

~ Notes: I really hate rolling out crackers, or cookies for that matter. Let’s just keep it simple. I did the same thing with Scottish Sharp Cheddar Shortbread just last week. I’ll be damned if it doesn’t work. At least, I’m two for two right now and I shall just keep going. I guess my exception is my favorite sugar cookies. I am not sure how they could be made any other way – but that does not mean I am not open to trying something new.

Scottish Sharp Cheddar Shortbread

You know me – any chance at a cheese cracker, especially a cheddar cracker, and I am all in. This was a new recipe to me, but it seemed like it had all the things I like about a cheese cracker – with one glaring exception – you had to roll the damn dough out. Ugh. I just hate that beyond words. I will roll out sugar cookies. I will roll out pie dough, but why should I have to roll out crackers. It just seems unnecessary when you can roll cracker dough into a log – chill – slice – and bake and make perfectly good crackers.

D&D_2055

So I decided to buck the recipe and go for what made the most sense to me. Guess what? It totally worked and has made me be a little more critical of all future cracker recipes. Make it easier – why not; it also fits into my favorite way to bake – make the dough one day and bake a day (or two) later. Fits my work week baking plan to a T.

8 Tbs unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of cayenne pepper – 1/4 tsp at a minimum
8 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar cheese, finely shredded
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

Using electric mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat together butter, salt, black pepper, and cayenne at low speed just until blended. Add Cheddar and flour and mix at low speed just until smooth, Do not over-mix because that makes crappy crackers.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Bake shortbread until lightly golden and beginning to brown on edges, about 13 to 15 minutes. Cool on sheets 5 minutes, then transfer to racks to cool completely.

Source: Epicurious

Original Directions: Shape dough into disk, wrap in plastic wrap or waxed paper, and chill 30 minutes. On lightly floured surface, roll out dough to 1/4- to 1/8-inch-thick round. Using 1 1/2- to 2-inch round cutter, cut out rounds and arrange 1 1/2 inches apart on baking sheets. Reroll scraps if desired (rerolled scraps will be tougher).

This is why rolling out crackers is just annoying. I think I have figured out the best way to do it. Out of laziness. Yep, that is me.

Roquefort Crackers

Yet again, another cheese cracker. Obsessive though I may be, there is nothing wrong with adding more cheese crackers to my repertoire. I have learned that I like the slice and bake version of crackers the most because you can make the dough, roll it, and leave it in the fridge until you are ready to bake which makes for easy weeknight baking.

D&D_2038I have also learned to bake a test batch of 2 – 3 crackers if it is a new recipe just to see if the temperature and timing are okay. And I am glad I did that with this recipe.

You see, I had the oven at 400 degrees for another recipe and sliced up the dough for two test crackers on a parchment-lined baking sheet and baked it for the 8 minutes, turning half way through. The color was really good, but the center of the cracker was raw. I let them rest to see if they got a little crunchy as they cooled, but they did not.

So now my idea is to lower the temperature to 375 and baking them a bit longer. Fingers crossed this will work, because I think this might be a really good cracker. We shall see. 

Lo, and behold – the 375 degrees for about 8 minutes worked like a charm. Yippee for test crackers. 

8 Tbs unsalted butter, room temperature
8 ozs Roquefort, room temperature
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp cayenne

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter and Roquefort until smooth. Add flour and cayenne and mix until smooth.

Divide dough into two pieces and roll into 1 1/2 inch logs. Wrap in waxed paper. Refrigerate 12 hours.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Slice logs in 1/4 inch slices. Place on parchment lined baking sheet and bake 8 minutes until lightly browned – watch closely. Cool completely.

Source: bonappetit.com/recipes/article/Roquefort-Crackers / California American Cookbook.

This is just the kind of recipe story that I love. Sometimes family stories at just the best.

Needs more cayenne , but that always seems to be the case –  because I am me.

Crunchy Roasted Chickpeas

Chickpeas are so slightly amazing. Think hummus, think salads, and now roasted chickpeas.  I had being seeing recipes for this for a while, but this is the first time I tried it. But as usual, had to make a modification or two. D&D_1489

So this is …

2 cans of chickpeas, rinsed  – yes, that is a must – rinse them. Not kidding.
2 Tbs olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt
pinch cayenne
1 tsp dried chipotle chili pepper – do love this stuff for the smokey thing going on.
juice of half a lemon
1 Tbs Worcestershire sauce

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a roasting pan with foil, for easy clean up.

In a bowl, combine chickpeas, olive oil, salt, cayenne, chipotle pepper, lemon juice and Worcestershire. Mix to coat. Arrange in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, mixing the pan and rotating half way through. The chickpeas should be lightly browned. Allow to cool completely.

These were pretty amazing in my opinion. I think they might be good on a salad and they also might pretty good hummus too. Just a thought.

My thoughts on the Cracker Challenge – yep, that sounds slightly weird. Geh.

After the 2012 cracker challenge, I decided to make the ultimate cheese cracker – my own version. I took the following things into consideration: ingredients on hand, time to mix, log or flat, dough handling, time to chill, spice. nuts. flavor, crispiness, cost to make, and it all culminated in an all around winner which was – Parmesan Rosemary Walnut Shortbread.Will make that again, because I really love them. Because growing fresh Rosemary is simply easy – just put it in the garden in a place  that gets lots of sun, but not too much water – read: no sprinkler system.

D&D_1476That said, I took the best qualities from the 5 recipes I used and developed this. I think this just might be my first real recipe on my own – although with a little help. I do freelance in cooking, but baking is a completely different animal.

The cracker challenge sat for a while (until 2016), but now we are going to make my ultimate cracker and see if/how it measures up. I am not growing Rosemary – damn it. But we shall manage. Will soldier on. That is what I do. It is June 2016 and I cannot sleep, so this is what I decided to do. I’ll wear it proudly. It is June 2016 and I cannot sleep, so this is what I decided to do. I’ll wear it proudly.

6 ozs all-purpose flour – yes, we are measuring by weight – why else do I have the damn scale? Thank you Ruhlman.
2 ozs grated cheddar – plus just a bit because that is what I do.
2 ozs finely grated Parmesan – it really seems like a lot but in reality it is not, mostly.
1/2 tsp cayenne – I think next time – more, yes, please – more.
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped, but not too finely
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
4 ozs (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/2” pieces
1 egg yolk, with just a smidge of cold water

First thing, I chop the walnuts in the food processor and since everything else is going to be mixed in there, it is no big deal. Remove the walnuts.

To the food processor, add the flour, and cheeses, cayenne, walnuts, pepper and whir around a bit. Then add butter. Once that is combined, add the egg and water to the top of the dough and just pulse until it comes together. Then add the walnuts back in. Will not be long to come together.

Dump out on waxed paper and press together and then shape into a couple of logs. Chill overnight or up to three days.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment. Cut the logs in 3/4 inch slices or there abouts. Just try to make the slices very similar to each other. That way they bake the same way. It takes about 12 minutes to bake them, but you need turn them half way through. You want the edges slightly gold and the same with the bottom. That really is as far as you want to go in the baking these cheese crackers.

Hood got a bit of cheese, but the cracker rolls are in the fridge and ready to be baked and in my head, they will be good because the dough was not damn bad.

Nota bene:That is something I have learned – if the dough does not taste good, neither will the cookies or crackers.