Friday, December 23, 2011

Citrus Buttercream Sandwich Cookies

Citrus buttercream sandwich cookies were part of my Christmas goody gift package this year.  When I went soliciting ideas for Christmas cookies one of my friends suggested a citrus cookie.  Honestly it took me by surprise, as I'm a chocolate and caramel cookie kind of Witch.  A citrus cookie would be different and very holiday appropriate, after all the best citrus fruits are ripe in December.  I wasn't sure what kind of citrus cookie to make, however.  I tossed around a few ideas, a thumbprint type of cookie, filled with a citrus curd maybe?  What about a citrus shortbread with a citrus glaze?  Both sounded quite nice but really my mind kept wandering to a sandwich cookie, something that incorporated both of those ideas, filled and crispy all at once.  Now that the type had been hammered down to  a sandwich cookie, it was a matter of figuring out what kind of cookie I wanted to make for the sandwich.  Shortbread tends to really just crumble away for me so I decided it wasn't what I wanted here.  A standard drop cookie isn't structurally strong enough to support filling and a top cookie, not to mention their round shape isn't what I was looking for here.  Back to the drawing board.

That's when I went blog hopping and discovered Culinary Connection's by Peabody's recipe for Citrus sandwich cookies.  Immediately I knew I had my recipe.  The Witch changed a few very minor things; I used the zest of clementines instead of orange and I added lime zest into the mix as well.  The colors of the zest are so pretty in the pale yellow citrus dough, which was a pleasure to work with, not dry or crumbly and rolled out easily.  Baking the cookies released the essential oils of the citrus zests, adding their flavorful perfume to the cookie.  The filling is a reduction of orange and lemon juices whipped into a buttercream, their tangy acidity help balance the sweetness of the filling.  A touch of heavy cream keeps the melt in your mouth soft.

The cookies looked impressive once finished.  The colorful zest peeping through the cookie with the pale buttercream centers were very pretty.  The Kitchen Witch is very sad to say that she never got to taste one in it's finished state.  The recipe made 32 sandwich cookies, the exact number of recipients on my goodie gift list this year.  I was able to snag a broken piece of cookie, it was delicious, slightly chewy and rich, and the buttercream I sampled and enjoyed.  Yet the finished product I didn't get.  Sob!  That's ok, I'll just have to make these beauties again soon.  Enjoy!

Citrus Sandwich Cookies 
Makes 32 sandwich cookies
Source:  Culinary Connections 
2 cups all purpose flour
¼ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
14 TBSP unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg yolk
 2 tsp finely grated lemon zest
 1 tsp finely grated orange zest
1 tsp finely grated lime zest

Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar at medium speed for 3 minutes. Add egg and zest and beat until combined.

Reduce to slow speed and add flour mixture just until well blended. Scrape dough onto a work surface and gather it up into a disk. Wrap the disc in plastic warp and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, until firm(up to 3 days).

350F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silpat.

Place the chilled dough on a lightly floured work surface and sprinkle lightly with flour. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out to a thickness of 1/8 inch.

Using a small cookie cutter, cut out as many cookies possible from the dough. Transfer dough to baking sheets and bake for 9-11 minutes or until lightly browned on the bottom(not the top).

Transfer the cookies to wire racks and cool completely.

Citrus buttercream filling 
¼ cup orange juice
1 TBSP lemon juice
6 TBSP unsalted butter, softened
1 ½ cups powdered sugar
1 TBSP heavy cream
pinch of salt

 In a small nonreactive saucepan, bring the orange and lemon juices to a boil over high heat and boil for 3 to 5 minutes, or until reduced by half (3T).  Let cool completely.

 In a bowl of an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat the butter, powdered sugar, cream, salt and cooled citrus juices at medium speed until smooth and fluffy.

Pipe fiilling onto the bottom of one of the cookies. Top with another cookie. Press the cookies lightly together. Repeat with the remaining cookies and filing.

Store cookies in the fridge.  Allow to warm to room temperature before serving.

Nutrition Facts provided by SparkPeople recipe calculator
  32 Servings
Amount Per Serving
 Total Fat7.6 g

 Saturated Fat4.7 g

 Polyunsaturated Fat0.3 g

  Monounsaturated Fat2.2 g
Cholesterol26.5 mg
Sodium23.6 mg
 Potassium16.4 mg
Total Carbohydrate18.1 g

Dietary Fiber0.2 g

Sugars12.0 g
Protein1.0 g

Traditional Beef Stew

Beef Stew was one of those things we rarely had growing up. My Witchy Sisters and I LOVED the canned Dinty Moore Beef Stew (sacrilege I know) until my parents freaked me out one day by saying they didn't know what kind of meat it was in the stew, it could be tongue or something like that. And in my oh so mature 13 year old mind I said "EW!!" and abandon the canned beef stew entirely. Not a bad thing necessarily! So, after I was completely grossed out about canned beef stew, I still had a beef stew jones that needed to be satisfied. I asked, begged even, my mother to make stew for us. Being a wonderful mom she did; however being a fairly lousy cook, it was 'Stew Starter' beef stew. Anyone remember this stuff? A paper canister filled with dehydrated veggies and flavors, a seasoning packet filled with salt and chemicals, just add water and beef and in 4 brief hours, voila, stew. Ish. Stew-ish is exactly what this was. The broth was thin and insipid, not rich and hearty. The beef was tough and chewy - obviously the wrong cut was used. The veggies were still slightly firm from the dehydration/rehydration process and lacked any nutritional value or flavor. Sure the canister says Stew Starter but man, what a disappointment. Finally the Witch said enough is enough and learned how to make beef stew. Real beef stew!

The stew I offer to you all today is quite possibly one of the best beef stews the Kitchen Witch has ever created. The beef is fall apart tender and oh so flavorful. The veggies have texture and flavor, all of which enhance the stew. Herbs are used sparingly, just enough to add the sweet perfume but not enough to overwhelm the rich brown gravy. Like most soups, this stew if very forgiving and accepting of pretty much any veggie you want to offer it. I kept it traditional with carrots, celery, onion, potatoes and peas. The gravy gets some extra rich flavor from the use of mushroom base, a product that the fine folks at Better than Bullion produce. It's basically concentrated mushroom soup in a jar, all natural and organic to boot! It adds a great depth of flavor with out any visual mushrooms, a great way to get that flavor in when you have mushroom haters around. The use of it isn't required but it will make your dish that much better. If you can't find it you can always sautee up some mushrooms and add them to the stew.

When beef stew is done properly it's as warm and comforting as a hand knitted sweater or a hug from your Mom. Since I'm the worlds laziest knitter, consider this my knitted sweater to you. I hope it keeps you warm and comfortable. Enjoy!

Traditional Beef Stew
Makes 6-8 servings
1 three (3) pound chuck roast, cut into 1.5 inch cubes, excess fat trimmed
6 carrots cut into rounds
3 stalks celery, diced fine
1/2 onion sliced thin
4 cloves garlic minced fine
3 sprigs thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
6-7 cups water
1 T Mushroom base (Better than Bouillon) - optional
3/4 c red wine (shiraz is fine)
1/3 c frozen peas
9-10 small red bliss potatoes, cut into quarters
salt and pepper to taste
3T corn starch
2T oil

Cut the meat into cubes and pat dry.  Heat a dutch oven over medium high heat and add the oil.  Once hot brown the cubed beef in 3 batches.  Brown beef aggressively, about 2-3 minutes on each side.  Once browned remove from pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Repeat until all meat is browned.

In the same pan add the onions, carrots, garlic and celery.  Cook about 5 minutes or until the onions start to brown and soften.  Add the water and mushroom base, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.  Add meat, herbs and wine, bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer.  Cover stew and simmer on medium low for 1 hour.

Stir stew.  Taste for season.  Please note that the stew is NOT done and this is NOT a final season, it's merely a chance to add more salt if need be, or if it's too salty, a touch more water to dilute things a bit.  Adjust seasoning as needed, recover stew and continue cooking for another hour.

Stir stew.  Add the potatoes, recover and simmer for 30 minutes.  After 30 min stir the stew and taste for season.  Make a slurry of the cornstarch and about 2-3T of water and add to the stew, stirring well while adding to avoid lumps.  Allow stew to simmer for another 15 minutes before serving and enjoying.

Nutrition Factscalculated by SparkPeople Recipe calculator
Amount Per Serving
Calories 508.7
Total Fat 12.7 g
Saturated Fat 4.7 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.7 g
Monounsaturated Fat 5.5 g
Cholesterol 126.4 mg
Sodium 643.2 mg
Potassium 1,754.4 mg
Total Carbohydrate 50.8 g
Dietary Fiber 7.1 g
Sugars 5.0 g
Protein 42.8 g

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Molasses Spice Cookies

Molasses cookies are the Witches' husband's favorite cookie ever. His Grandma used to make the BEST molasses cookies!! Last holiday season I was searching for a newer version of the molasses cookie, something to dress up the standard spicy treat. I stumbled across this recipe from a blog, but after over 365 days of NOT posting this post (because I forgot to take photos of the cookies, D'oh!) I have completely forgotten which blog it came from. And for that I apologize. The Kitchen Witch did do a google search to see if I could find it to give proper credit where it's due...alas I was unsuccessful in locating the original source. Sorry about that!

Back to the cookies! These molasses spice cookies start off the same as Grandma's, but they take a turn at Spicy Town with the addition of cardamom and black pepper. Yes, I said black pepper. In a baked good. It's tasty, too! A generous 2 teaspoons of ground ginger helps reinforce that these are indeed spice cookies and they pack a wallop! But behind that spicy bite is a mellow sweetness and a delightful chewiness to the cookie. The molasses really make these a crispy outside, chewy inside cookie, which makes me a very happy Witch indeed!

These cookies are not a favorite of the Little Witch, she thinks they're too spicy. I tend to agree with her, they are spicy, but I like that. They are spicy, not necessarily 'hot' but spicy and not overly sweet, and therefore tend to not be a preferred cookie of the kids. And that's ok in this Witches' opinion. After all the cloying sweet Holiday treats, it's nice to have a bit of spice and subtle sweetness. And best of all, Santa loves these cookies! I hope you enjoy them.

Happy Yule to you and yours!

Molasses Spice Cookies makes 3 dozen, 2 cookies per serving
Source: Unknown; inspired by a blogger with good taste!
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup molasses (not blackstrap)
2 tbsp honey
1 large egg
2 1/3 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground cardamom (7 pods ground)
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
sugar, for rolling

Preheat oven to 350F.

In a work bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in molasses, honey and egg until smooth.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, spices and salt.

Working by hand, or with a mixer on low speed, stir flour mixture into molasses mixture.

Roll dough into 1-inch balls and roll each ball in extra sugar before placing on baking sheet.

Bake cookies for 10-12 minutes, until the edges are set but not browned.

Cool for 5-10 minutes on baking sheet, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

Nutrition Facts calculated at SparkPeople recipe calculator
Amount Per Serving
Calories 177.8
Total Fat 5.6 g
Saturated Fat 3.3 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.3 g
Monounsaturated Fat 1.6 g
Cholesterol 24.1 mg
Sodium 211.1 mg
Potassium 91.0 mg
Total Carbohydrate 30.5 g
Dietary Fiber 0.4 g
Sugars 17.3 g
Protein 2
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