Yum Peaceful Cooking: 2011

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Whole Wheat Oatmeal Raisin Muffins

Not long ago I was challenged.....to make a "healthy muffin". I thought about it for a minute. Asked..."you mean, as in...good for you? Whole wheat? Applesauce? Low fat? That sort of thing?!" And all the while, wondering...why would I want to do that? Next thing I knew.....I heard myself saying..."sure" (in a small, doubtful voice). When I think of "healthy muffins"....I think of earthy, lacking in flavor...cardboard tasting muffins. Probably because that's what the ones I've had at those coffee shops tasted like. Even the not so healthy ones aren't all that great. I usually end up eating the tops off of them and tossing out the rest. (Is that why I have a muffin top?)

I took up the challenge and got started right away. I looked up several recipes. Came across a few that claimed to be healthy but contained things like corn syrup and white flour. I'm sure there are several recipes out there that are wonderful and perfectly healthy. I just didn't come across them and my attention span was waning.

After some research (watching Good Eats) and making some major alterations to a few recipes combined, I came up with a wonderful recipe. The muffins were moist, light and very flavorful. I did some calculations and found out that each muffin is about 163 cal (most those coffee shop  muffins are over double in cals. (at least)....holy cow!!) and they didn't taste anything like cardboard. You wouldn't even know they're whole wheat AND contain wheat bran. Actually....these beauties taste like those famous Vanishing Oatmeal Cookies. If your News Years resolution this year has anything to do with changing some of your eating habits, this would be perfect. 

Say you're not into raisins? Just add some berries instead (or nothing). Want a little crunch? Add some nuts. I think if you take the basics of this recipe and just swap out the cinnamon and/or raisins...you can make it anything you want.

Whole Wheat Oatmeal Raisin Muffins
Printable Version

1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour, sifted
1 cup quick cooking oats
3/4 cup wheat bran
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup raisins
1 cup applesauce
1/2 cup fat free Greek yogurt
1 TB vegetable oil
1 TB honey (optional)
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 TB or so of raw sugar (optional)
Cooking spray

Preheat your oven to 375' F
Spray 12 muffin tins with the cooking spray

In a large bowl, combine the flour, oats, bran, brown sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. In a small bowl, combine the applesauce, yogurt, oil, honey, egg and vanilla.

Make a well in the dry ingredients. Add the applesauce mixture to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. You don't want to over stir or you'll end up with a dense muffin. (These aren't like cupcakes which require lots of beating).

Spoon the mixture into the prepared muffin tins. Sprinkle the tops of each muffin with the raw sugar.

Bake for 18 minutes or until the muffins spring back when touched in the center.

Immediately remove from the tins and let cool a tiny bit before eating.

And there you have it....muffins that are so good you won't believe they're healthy. 

I think I would consider this challenge a victory.

If I don't see you until next year....have a happy, safe and prosperous New Year!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Playing with Godiva Limited Edition Coffees

Yes...I know it's winter. I know it's cold out there...and I know that's ice cream. Sometimes it's just the thing a gal needs. Especially when it's doused in Godiva's Limited Edition Caramel Pecan Bark Coffee...made into an extract.

Once again....I'm late.

On my blog posting!!! (ya I know, there's a different kind of "late" that's associated with ice cream. That ain't it.) A while back, through the Foodbuzz Tastemakers Program I received two bags of Godiva Chocolatier Coffee. One bag was Pumpkin Spice and the other bag was Caramel Pecan Bark. I should've posted about my experience a month ago....but like I said. I'm late. I apologize to both Foodbuzz and Godiva.

I have to say this....of all the flavored coffees out there...Godiva makes THE best! Rich, deep, and well blended. The flavor combinations are just fantastic. I'm particularly in love with the Caramel Pecan Bark. I've run out and am in need of more!!

So....what did I do with these coffees? Well...I attempted a latte. At home. Without a latte maker thingy bob. It wasn't difficult. It was a bit fun. Don't compare my attempts to what you'd get at any of those fancy coffee shops by any means.

I used the Pumpkin Spice coffee for my latte. You see, I'd found a bottle of Pumpkin Pie Cream Liqueur and thought the two had to go together. A no brainer. Which is a good thing because in the morning...I can only deal with no brainers. And yes....I did drink a spiked latte in the morning. And loved every moment.

I started off by making a very strong pot of Pumpkin Spice coffee. Then I heated up some half and half. Got out my handy dandy immersion blender and whipped that half and half into a foaming frenzy

It never did get as foamy as the coffee shops....but it was fun anyway. I then filled my mug half way with coffee. Now for the fun part.....that shot of Pumpkin Pie Cream liqueur.

Pour one shot in with the coffee. Yes...only 1 shot. It was morning....remember? Next I added the frenzied foamy half and half.

I tried to garnish it with a bit of cinnamon. All it did was agitate the foam. There actually was a lot more foam on that baby before the cinnamon arrived.

It was a very nice way to start the day. Fun and easy. I don't have exact measurements for the ratio between coffee and foam. I think thats a personal taste thing. I'm looking forward to having another go at it on Christmas morning.

Now for my favorite flavor.....the Caramel Pecan Bark. YUM!!! It's on my grocery list....I need more! It's that good.

I did make something rather fun with it though.....

Coffee Extract
Printable Version
1 1/3 cups fresh ground coffee
1 cup cold water

Place the coffee grounds in a glass jar. Pour the water over the grounds. Close the jar and keep it in a dark place for 3 days.

After the 3 days are up....line a strainer with cheesecloth and strain the "mud". It doesn't make much....but its wonderfully.....strong....coffee extract.

Store in a little bottle and keep in the refrigerator. I don't know what the shelf life is. I've had mine a couple of weeks...and it's still fine. Just know one thing....it can't take the place of vanilla extract. I tried. It doesn't do anything for the flavor of the dessert. So sad.

But....it does taste fantastic on vanilla ice cream

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Almond Crisp Cookies

A loooooong time ago....when I was a young wife and mother (early 90's?), I use to subscribe to a series of "Leisure Arts Publication" books. The books arrived monthly and had a different theme each month. Then they came out with a Christmas series and I was all over those babies. I loved looking through the books and "planning" on making something....sometime. The books had, not only recipes....but cute little crafty things as well. Now that I think of it though...I don't remember making a single thing from any of the books. But one can't always rely on my memory...so don't hold me to it.

Last weekend while I was pulling out my boxes of Christmas decorations, I came across a couple of the Christmas books...specifically....The Spirit of Christmas Cookbook....how fun does that sound?! So of course I sat down right away....I mean...I did need a rest after futzing around in the garage, right? I came across the Almond Crisps recipe and saw how easy they seemed...with only 5 ingredients! I can do that!!

I think what really caught my eye though...was thier lacy appearance and the promise of sweet, crisp yumminess. And that's exactly what I got. Very caramelly....delicate and delicious!

This recipe calls for ground, blanched almonds. I had a bag of raw whole almonds in my freezer (I keep all my nuts in the freezer) and I really didn't want to spend the money on already ground blanched ones.....so I did a little research and found out how to do it on my own.

How to blanch almonds: bring some water to a boil (enough to cover the amount of almonds you're going to blanche), remove the pan from the heat, toss in the almonds and let them sit there for a bit....until the water is cool enough to be able to place your hand in it without burning yourself. Then gently squeeze one almond at a time between your thumb and forefinger....causing the almond to simply slip right out of it's own skin. Lay them out to dry on a towel.

Once dry...the almonds are ready to grind.

How to grind almonds: Place 1 cup of almonds at a time into a food processor along with a few tablespoons of sugar and grind away. If you're using a blender, grind 1/2 cup at a time. The sugar is necessary when grinding nuts. It prevents the ground nuts from becoming oily and lumpy which would make it near impossible to add to other dry ingredients. (at least that's what Julia Child says...and I will take her word for it).

If you don't want to go through all of that...then by all means....buy yourself a bag, already done. I'm too much of a cheapskate.

Almond Crisps
Printable Version

2/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons finely ground blanched almonds
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine
2 tablespoons whipping cream
1 tablespoon all purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350'. Line your cookie sheet with parchment paper or grease it. You will be baking only 4 crisps at a time. They need lots of room to spread (hey!! I resemble that remark!!). Plus...when it comes time to "roll" them....they'll cool off too much by the time you get to the last one if you're working with more than 4 at a time. (That'll make sense in a minute)

Combine all of the ingredients into a nice big 10" skillet. Cook over a low heat, stirring constantly until the butter has completely melted and the mixture is well combined. It'll kinda resemble a grainy type gravy.

Turn the heat down to very low, to keep your mixture warm (stir occasionally) . Drop mixture by heaping tablespoonfuls onto the prepared baking sheet....4 cookies...at least 2 inches apart. More if you have room....I think I had 4" in between the little blobs.

The book says to bake for 5 minutes. That was not the case for me....at all. I don't know if my "heaping tablespoonfuls" were more than theirs....but I ended up cooking mine for 8 - 10 minutes. Keep an eye on them. They're done when they're nice and golden brown.

Let them cool for just a second! Gently loosen the cookie with a spatula and turn it over.

As you can see, the bottoms are nice and smooth. Quickly roll each one around the handle of a wooden spoon. 

Place on a rack and allow to  cool completely.

Here are a few hints and tips. I found that it worked best when I did one cookie at a time....flip, roll....then moved on to next. What this did was allow the other cookies to remain warm on the sheet. Once the cookie cools, it becomes too delicate and crispy to roll. But!!! If a cookie does become too firm to roll just stick it back in the oven for a minute until it softens up, then proceed.

They're fun, delicious and so pretty!

I'm definitely adding this recipe to my yearly Christmas Cookie baking list. Here are my other favorites that have become a tradition in my household:

Ginger Cookies: Soft, chewy, spicy and very addictive. Perfect with a cup of tea. If you want to make Gingerbread Man Cookies....just add an additional 1/4 cup of flour to recipe. I haven't tried it yet so I can't guarantee the results.

Eggnog Kringla: Soft, light and delicately sweet with just a hint of eggnog flavor.

Linzer Sandwich Cookies: These are probably the most festive Christmas Cookie I bake....buttery and nutty and are sure to impress your guests.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Berry Medley Muffins

I knooooow! They're doing that weird thing in the middle. But, ya know what? That's what happens when you put yummy gooey goodness inside.

It's all under control. No worries. Except for the fact that I can't decide if these are for breakfast or dessert. (as if that's going to dictate when I eat them!)

Not too long ago I was given a whole little pile of coupons for free Duncan Hines and Comstock-Wilderness Fruit Filling stuffs as part of the Foodbuzz Tastemakers program. Perfect timing with the holidays coming up. A girlfriend of mine found cans of Comstock Fruit Filling....Limited Edition Berry Medley. Limited Edition? I've never experienced limited edition food.....kinda makes ya feel a little special or something.

Limited Edition.

Why limited? Why not always? Are they testing the market....to see how much we like the combination of Strawberries, Raspberries and Blueberries? Come on....no test needed guys. It's wonderful! Let's remove the "limited" and make it a permanent "New" Edition to the Comstock family line. Seriously.....out of all the pie fillings I've tried, this is my favorite. There's something about those particular berries that work so well together.

Although...I didn't use mine in a pie. You see, after my little Duncan Hines shopping spree (you should see my cupboard!!! I've got some fun things in there to play with), I grabbed the box of 100% Whole Grain Blueberry Streusel Muffin Mix and the can of Limited Edition Berry Medley and went to work on a combination of my own.

Berry Medley Muffins
Printable Version

1 box of Duncan Hines 100% Whole Grain Blueberry Streusel Muffin Mix
2 eggs
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/2 can Berry Medley, Comstock Pie Filling & Topping
4 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/2 tablespoons of a beaten egg
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 375' F. Line 12 muffin tins with cupcake liners. 

For the filling, combine the cream cheese, 1 1/2 TB egg, sugar and vanilla. Mix with a spoon until mostly smooth. Lumps will happen. But if you use a mixer, all the filling will end up stuck on the beaters. Set the filling aside, but do not chill, while we get the muffins going.

Follow the instructions on the back of the box. Easy stuff really...combine the stuff in the box with the eggs, water and oil....but being careful not to over stir. Lumps.....no worries. Rinse the can of blueberries that came in the box with the muffin mix and fold them into the batter.

Now for the fun part. Not the "funnest" part....but just fun. (the funnest part comes at the end when you get to eat them!)

Fill each muffin cup about 1/2 full with the batter, reserving the remainder of the batter. Then put a dollop (about a tablespoon) of pie filling in the middle

Now get that filling that we set aside earlier and put a dollop on top of the berries.

I think its about a tablespoons worth as well. Just eyeball it as you try to evenly divide the filling amongst all 12 muffins.

Get the remainder of the batter and evenly divide it between the muffins to cover up the filling. If it's not perfect....don't stress. It'll all be fine in the end. I had a few that weren't completely covered with batter. Once you have distributed the remainder of the batter, top with the streusel that's provided in the box of muffin mix.

Place in the oven and bake for about 20 - 23 minutes. Or until the tops are golden brown and the crumb mix is lightly brown. You can't do the toothpick test....the inside is just too darned gooey.

Gee, darn.

Let it cool for about 5 - 10 minutes

But wait!!!

You need a fork! Trust me on this one. This is one muffin you can not eat without some sort of utensil

You know what happens when you take a photo like that? It ends up in your mouth. So then you take another photo, just in case...different angle and pose.....and poof! That one ends up in your mouth. After a few more shots......

Ya...thats what happens. True story.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Classico Alfredo Sauce.....LIGHT!

I must start off by apologizing to both the Foodbuzz Tastemaker program and to Classico.

A while back, I received a jar of Classico Light Creamy Alfredo Pasta Sauce as part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker program. I was suppose to write about my experience by November 15th. Well, as you can see, that date has come and gone. All of a sudden it's December!

How did that happen?!

It's almost next year! The holiday season is upon us (I attended my work holiday party last night.....so it's official). All of a sudden I find myself smack dab in the middle of the busiest time of year. In the next 30 days not only do I have to get ready for Christmas (haven't even thought about shopping yet), but there are 3 birthdays in my household to celebrate.

And let's not forget about.......the dark side of the holidays. The side that no one wants to experience but most of us do. The side that we all joke about.....but deep down, we're cringing. The side that invokes numerous resolutions for the new year.

The ever dreaded gaining of weight! (noooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!)

And...that's where Classico's Light Creamy Alfredo Pasta Sauce comes in. Not only is it perfect for a hectic night when you have zero time to cook dinner, but it's light! 60 calories per 1/4 cup serving (5 grams of fat....ya, i know....most of those calories are fat calories but it's better than the non-light stuff).

Ok...now let me just say something here. I stay away from canned, boxed and jarred foods as much as possible. Not always....but I do what I can. I'm not going to say that I make everything we eat in this house from scratch. I'm not going to say that I don't stock up on processed foods. I have plenty in my cupboard because there are nights when time is limited and what's in my cupboard is better than fast food (although a Big Mac now and then sure does hit the spot).

With that said....I have never been a fan of alfredo sauce in a jar. Even "doctored up" it's never impressed me. So I was a bit leery about what to expect from my little jar sitting on the counter. And even more leery because of the scary word on the label. That word that messes with flavor on so many levels. LIGHT! Oh man.

So it sat there for a couple of weeks. Reminding me. Daily. That I had to give this jar a shot.  I had to let it have its "say". Even while the memories of past experiences (taste buds never forget) still lingered in the back of my mind. To the point where...when the night finally came...I was prepared to doctor it up. I had my garlic ready. Salt and pepper were on the side lines. I even had some cream willing to come to the rescue if needed. Lets not forget to mention Parmesan cheese....who was begging to be the hero.

With all that at my beck and call...I set out to cook dinner. I had picked up from the deli, a bag of ravioli filled with chicken and cheese or maybe it was mushroom...I forget. I boiled it as directed then decided to saute it with some garlic

I then sauteed some mushrooms and onions and set those off to the side. All this going on while the sauce was heating up in a pan.

Then came big moment. Spoon in hand....thoughts of whether or not I'd need the gang to come in and save my dinner. I could just hear the garlic chomping at the bit......Parmesan was trembling with anticipation as I raised the spoon to my mouth.....

And tasted

My eyebrows raised....

The expression of pleasant surprise came over my face. I tasted again....just to be sure I was right. And yes! It was good. Nothing else was needed. Dinner was ready to serve...as is!

Classico Light Creamy Alfredo Pasta Sauce was a hit! Served over a plate of ravioli and topped with a few sauteed onions and mushrooms, this thick and creamy...and yes, LIGHT sauce was good. 

Let me end this by saying...if I am ever in a pinch and need a quick fix for alfredo sauce...I will not hesitate to use this again. 

Thank you Classico for allowing me to try your Light Creamy Alfredo Sauce.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Spaghetti Squash Boat and a WINNER!

Spaghetti squash. What do you do with that?!

I remember my mom making it once when I was a child. I wasn't impressed. I mean...spaghetti is one of the favorite foods of a child. Mess with it, and you could be asking for some serious trouble. Soooo...when mom served her spaghetti sauce over a shredded winter squash (because she was always trying to make us eat healthier)...I'm sure the whole lot of us revolted in one way or another. Poor mom. She's a great cook. She tried so hard to keep us kids healthy...back when "healthy eating" wasn't "in". Kids just don't always appreciate what their parents are trying to do for them. So...That was the end of my spaghetti squash experience.

Until recently.

My youngest (who's no long a "child" and will only be a teenager for another month) has been wanting me to make spaghetti squash for quite some time now. Because the idea didn't thrill me...I just never got around to it. The two of us took a little vacation during the summer to visit my family. Of course "Grandma" was more than eager and willing to make some for dinner. Problem was, we couldn't find it in the stores in August. (ya...its a winter squash).

A week or so later, when we were back home, I did see it at the stores. I bought it. I let it sit in my fridge for longer than it should've been. So I bought another one. I mean....I wasn't excited about playing with this stringy...rather large squash. It wasn't motivating. But I wanted to make it for my girls. Who happen to eat a lot healthier than I do. And are way more into the whole "health" thing than I am.

The time came to just do it. And that's when I happened to see a marvelous thing on TV. One of those cooking channels. I think it was Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dive or something...where they were interviewing the chef, who served his spaghetti, inside the squash shell. Well! How cool is that!

I was motivated then....thinking....'this could be fun!'

Btw....yes, I will get around to announcing the winner of the Tate's Bake Shop Cookbook and Whole Wheat Dark Chocolate Cookies giveaway. But I just wanted to tell you about my squash experience first. You don't mind too much, do you?

I don't have a recipe for this. It's more of a method. And I've already explained the madness behind the method...so here goes.

Spaghetti Squash Boats

Start bringing a large pot of water to a boil. While that's in progress...get your spaghetti squash and wash it. Get a good, sharp knife. I cut the ends off a little because they didn't look pretty...but I don't think its necessary. And its not easy...so you might want to save yourself the trouble. Cut the squash in half, length wise. You will see seeds in there that might remind you of pumpkin seeds. Yes you can roast them just like you would pumpkin seeds. I didn't. I should've. Scrape the seeds and strands out. Not the meat of the squash. Just the inside crud stuff.

Once your pot of water is boiling, place the squash halves in. Boil for about 20 minutes. Remove and drain. I placed them on a baking sheet, upside down so the excess water could drip out. Let them cool a bit.

While the squash is cooling, get your sauce ready. I used marinara sauce with some ground Italian seasoned turkey sausage. I then added some big chunks of cut up veggies to thicken everything up...such as zucchini, yellow squash, tomatoes, mushrooms and tossed those in. I did not want a runny sauce or even a thin sauce. I wanted chunky!

Once the squash is cool enough to touch, take a fork and start pulling the "meat" away...which will separate into thin strands, resembling spaghetti noodles. Leave about 1/2" of the squash unshredded so that your boat has stability.

Take those strands and add them to the sauce

Allow to cook a bit...say 15 minutes or so, on a low heat. This will give everyone in the pot a chance to get to know each other before they get cozy in the boat.

While that's happening, get out some mozzarella cheese and cut into nice thick slices, about 1/4" or so. The quantity will depend on how cheesy you want to get.

Line each squash with slices of cheese

Get your oven turned on a good high heat....maybe 450' F. Mound the boats with your sauce mixture and then top it all off with more cheese
Stick in the oven and let it get all hot and melty. The amount of time will depend on how hot your oven is and how close everything is to the heat source. I believe these babies were in there for about 10 minutes or so. Just keep an eye on it.  If it's not happening quick enough...adjust the temperature..move the oven rack. Whatever works. Take it out when it looks like this...

And enjoy your melty spaghetti squash boat. The "noodles" have a crisp texture. They're not soft and tender like pasta. They flavor is almost non-existent and will not interfere with the other flavors going on in your meal. 

Spaghetti squash is a great carb alternative. And contains all sorts of nutrients, folic acid, beta carotene, vitamin A, potassium....and is only 42 calories per cup. I think...if I hadn't loaded this boat up with cheese, it would've been a very healthy meal. But I just couldn't resist the cheese.

And now....the moment you all have been waiting for.....

The winner is.......(drum roll please)........

PATTI T!!!!!

Woo hooo!!! Congrats girlfriend! All I need is your address so Tate's Bake Shop can send out your goodies :)  You can email your info to me: peacefulcooking at gmail dot com

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Chuckies Cookies and Tate's Bake Shop Giveaway

Cookies. There are so many kinds out there and several textures....soft, fluffy, thin, chewy, crispy. We all have our favorites. Some of us are picky....some of us aren't. Me? A cookie is a cookie. I love 'em all.

October is National Cookie Month and I'm barely getting there...by the skin of my teeth. It's finally cooling off a bit and I wasn't frowned upon for turning on the oven. Do you know how happy I was when the mercury dropped below 90'? And I got to make a beautiful batch of thin, chewy cookies from a recipe in Tate's Bake Shop Cookbook called Chuckies? Woo hooo!!! I have made a few recipes from this cookbook (which, by the way, is one of my all time favorite dessert cookbooks) in the past and have loved every one of them:

Chocolate Jumbles
Anadama Bread
Cappuccino Shortbread

And there are several more that I want to must try!

A few weeks ago, Tate's Bake Shop sent me 3 bags of their new award winning cookies, Whole Wheat Dark Chocolate All Natural Cookies

They almost vanished before my eyes...a bag left the house that night to a "kick-back" with one of my daughters. The next day, another bag disappeared at my office and the last bag disappeared somewhere in between. I think I got to eat 2 cookies. They were delicious! Thin, crispy yet the chocolate chips were soft (one of the first things my youngest, chocolate-loving daughter noticed with approval). I'm not a "whole wheat" fan. I just don't care for that earthy flavor but to be honest...I couldn't even tell that these cookies were whole wheat. Which is a huge plus in my book.

With all that said.....I have the pleasure of GIVING AWAY 3 bags of these fabulous Whole Wheat Dark Chocolate All Natural Cookies....AND a copy of the Tate's Bake Shop Cookbook,

autographed by Kathleen King, the owner and baker at Tate's Bake Shop in Southhampton, New York. If you're not familiar with them...I highly recommend checking them out... 

On their website
or on FaceBook
or.... on Twitter

And now....for the cookies I baked for National Cookie Month....Chuckies. I made only 1 change. And it was out of necessity on my part rather then with the intent to alter or improve. You see, I thought I had bittersweet chocolate at home so I didn't buy any. But I didn't. Therefore, instead of having chunks of chocolate in this amazing cookie, I had a Mexican chocolate flavored dough. Which was wonderful. But I still wanna bake these again the way they are intended in the cookbook. You see...I had just bought some Mexican Chocolate (had no idea what for at the time....but I figured these cookies would be a great way to put the chocolate to the text). Only I didn't know that the kind of Mexican chocolate I purchased is intended for hot chocolate and it is not that great to eat...as in chunks...in cookies. Apparently, the chocolate is a bit grainy. But this was the chocolate I had at home (I seriously did not want to go to the store again). Soooo, with a little help from my wonderful baking buddies....whom I can go to with all sorts of questions and someone will have an answer....I was informed that I could stick the Mexican chocolate in a food processor, grind it up and use it that way (Thank you Lee...you're the bestest!!!). Which I did. With delicious results.

Chuckies with Mexican Chocolate
Printable Version

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup butter, at room temperature
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar (dark or light...whatever you have)
1 cup sugar
2 TB corn syrup
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 lg eggs
1 1/2 cups bittersweet chocolate chunks (or 6.2 oz of Mexican chocolate)
1 1/2 cups macadamia nuts, lightly toasted and chopped
2 cups coconut, lightly toasted

Preheat the oven to 350' F. Cover 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper (or grease them)

To toast the nuts and coconut, spread on a cookie sheet and bake at 350' for about 10 minutes or more. Shake the pan part way through to ensure you get an even toast.

In a large bowl, combine your flour, ground Mexican chocolate if thats the route you're taking, baking soda and salt.

And while you're at it, get in touch with the child in you and play with your food

In another bowl, cream together the butter and sugars. Add in the corn syrup and vanilla . Mix until just combined. Add the eggs and mix them lightly.

Then add the flour mixture to the creamed butter mixture until just combined. In other words...don't over mix.

Stir in the nuts and coconut and chocolate chunks (if that's the route you're going).

Using a small ice cream scoop, or 2 tablespoons, scoop and drop the dough onto your prepared cookie sheets. Leave at least 2 inches...if not more (don't skimp on the space.....you will need it!!) and bake them for about 18 minutes or until the edges start to brown.

Allow to cool for 10 minutes before removing from the cookie sheet. Be warned...they may not even last that long!

Place on a cooling rack and let them cool completely.

If by chance you over bake this cookie and you find yourself with a rather hard, crunchy cookie (ya...I did that with a few of them). Don't worry. Don't fret. Don't beat yourself up over it.

There's a cure.

Place the cooled, hard cookies in a sealed container or baggy along with a slice of bread. Leave it for several hours or overnight. The cookies will absorb the moisture from the bread and become nice and moist again!

And now for the Giveaway! Are you ready?

To enter to win 3 bags of Tate's Whole Wheat Dark Chocolate All Natural Cookies....AND a copy of the Tate's Bake Shop Cookbook, autographed by Kathleen King....

Leave a comment (please note that if your comment doesn't link to your blog or email address and I have no way of contacting you....you will forfeit your winnings :( Make sure I have a way to contact you!!)
"Like" me on Facebook.com/pages/Peaceful-Cooking
"Like" Tate's Bake Shop on  Facebook.com/TatesBakeShop
"Follow" me on Twitter.com/#!/ImStuffed
"Follow" Tate's Bake Shop on Twitter.com/#!/TatesBakeShop

All entries must be made by 11:59 p.m. pst, Sunday, November 6, 2011

I will announce the winner in about a week or so! Good luck and enjoy!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Ciabatta Bread

I've been playing with my sourdough starter since last April. I've made dozens of loaves of sourdough bread. (to find out how to make your own starter click here --->Sourdough Starter<---). This is the second ciabatta bread I've made and I think it's the best bread I've ever made. 

Before I continue, let me say...today, October 16th, is World Bread Day (ya i know...it's just about over..and by the time you see it, it will be yesterday...but hey...it's here). I discovered this quite by accident just a couple of hours ago and it just so happened that I had this ciabatta baking in the oven at the very same time. So I thought I'd better participate. 

Bake Bread for World Bread Day 2011

The purpose of World Bread Day is to stir up awareness of those who are not as fortunate as others. Those who do not have enough food to eat. Not that baking this loaf of bread will do anything for the world hunger problem, but maybe it will remind you to donate food to your local shelter or food bank. 

So, are you wondering what made this particular ciabatta loaf so special or different than anything I've made in the past? It's due to the "mother dough". Something about mother dough that makes a loaf of bread......better. The crust, the crumb....the flavor. It's almost like the bread is more...I dunno...mature? It has a particular depth to it that I have not experienced in any of my breads in the past. A mother dough is basically like a biga, only it's for sourdough breads. It's a cold pre-ferment and is made with wild yeast (a.k.a. sourdough starter) and has anywhere from 50 - 80% hydration. My standard sourdough starter is at 166% hydration (1 cup of existing starter with 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of water added). Btw, the recipe is from an e-book called Discovering Sourdough (NorthwestSourdough.com)

Making a mother dough is not difficult....

Motherdough @ 80% hydration
4.5 oz of 166% hydration sourdough starter
5 oz water
8 oz bread flour

In a good sized container (at least double the size of the amount of ingredients) combine the ingredients well and let it sit at room temperature for 4 hours. Cover loosely and let sit in the fridge for 2 or 3 days. Thats it. No fuss, no muss. If it goes beyond 5 days....well, you'll need to start over. So I highly recommend that you begin this process on Wednesday or Thursday. Actually, if you're going to bake the bread of Sunday, you can start this as late as Friday.

When you're ready to bake your ciabatta (you need to start your this in the morning), take your mother dough out of the fridge. You will see a nicely developed gooey dough

Get out your ciabatta ingredients:

Ciabatta (makes 2 loaves)

All of the mother dough that you made
1 cup water, room temperature, divided
1/2 cup canned milk
1 TB vegetable oil
4 cups bread flour
2 1/2 tsp salt

Pour the mother dough into a large bowl or into the bowl of your dough mixer

Add 6 oz of water (setting 2 oz aside), the canned milk, vegetable oil and the flour. Mix on low speed for about 3 minutes. Or, if you're like me and you don't have a dough mixer, stir with a heavy duty spoon for a bit then get your hands in there and mix, and twist and turn until everything is incorporated...this can be done in about 3 minutes and will look something like this:

Cover it up with plastic wrap and let it rest for 20 minutes.

Then....add the salt and mix the dough for 5 minutes (using the lowest speed if you're using a mixer). Toward the end, slowly add the remaining 2 oz of water.

Place the dough into a folding trough (or large casserole dish) and let it sit for 4 hours, lightly covered, at room temperature. Every hour, fold or stir the dough. For more in depth instructions on folding the dough, please click --->HERE<---

Once the 4 hours are up, pour the dough onto a very well floured surface. Divide the dough in half (about 1.5 lbs each). Now you will have two big thick blobs of sticky dough. Take one of the blobs and fold it over on itself (just as you did in the "folding trough") and place it on a well floured baking sheet. Do the same to the other blob.

Cover and let rest for about 1 to 1 1/2 hrs.

Preheat the oven to 450' F.

Using your finger tips, make dimples in the dough, then gently stretch the dough to make the loaves a big longer.

Place the baking sheet into the oven along with a small oven proof dish with water in it (I used a ramekin). Bake for 15 minutes. Turn the loaves around, reduce the heat to 425' F and bake for another 15 - 20 minutes or until a deep golden redish brown.

Allow the loaves to cool thoroughly before slicing.

Then watch them disappear. If you can manage to save a slice for yourself, which I hope you do since you put all that work into such a wonderful loaf of bread, slather it with butter and drizzle a bit of honey on it. Crumble up some of your favorite cheese and pour yourself a glass of wine.

Sit outside, watch the sunset and know that its been a glorious day. Count your blessings and make plans to share with those who are less fortunate than you are. There are countless ways to do this...whether you give money, donate canned goods or drop off lightly used items to a thrift store that provides for a shelter. It's the least we can do.