Cookbooks we like

If Santa didn’t grant all your wishes this Christmas, here are a few cookbooks you might want to consider:



The Smitten Kitchen by Deb Perlman. From the famous food blogger, a chatty (maybe too chatty?) book with well thought-out recipes. I bought this one for my vegetarian son-in-law because of the interesting-sounding veggie recipes. There were quite a few recipes that the carnivores in the household would enjoy also.



Barefoot Contessa Foolproof by Ina Garten. The Food Channel’s greatest asset has come out with another winner. Great recipes for entertaining or just preparing a special meal for family. Ina’s great style gives clear instructions for preparing foods that are widely available. I love the many lobster recipes since lobster seems to go on sale at my market regularly. Can’t wait to try the lobster corn fritters!



Canal House Cooks Every Day by Melissa Hamilton and Christopher Hirsheimer. You may be familiar with the smaller books they issue 3 times a year but this is a heftier volume filled with fabulous seasonal recipes. Nothing pretentious here just beautiful food beautifully prepared. This was another gift for by son-in-law. Again, not a vegetarian book, but one with lots of recipes he can enjoy.


Click on "Betty's Kitchen Fare Store" below right to shop at our
Amazon outlet for these books and more.

Chocolate Tarts (Part of Christmas Cookie Series)

Whenever I threaten to cut back on the number of Christmas Cookies I bake each year, I can count on several family members saying "Not the Chocolate Tarts!". These are a labor-intensive cookie but well worth the effort. I shared this recipe with a friend many years ago and she used to say she wasn't sure whether to thank me or not since her children loved them too and demanded they appear on the table every Christmas. Give them a try and let me know whether or not you think they are worth the effort!

Chocolate Tarts

Ingredients:

½ cup butter at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 egg, at room temperature
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and slightly cooled
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon red food coloring
2 cups flour
Fudge Filling - recipe follows

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter at moderately high speed. Gradually add sugar, beating until well blended. add egg and continue to beat until mixture is light and fluffy. Add chocolate, vanilla, salt and food coloring. Beat to blend. Reduce speed to low and gradually add the flour, scraping sides of bowl often.

Remove from bowl, shape into disk, wrap in waxed paper and chill for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, using 2 tablespoons melted shortening and pastry brush, thoroughly grease 6 dozen tiny tart pans.

To line each mold, take a rounded teaspoonful of the dough and shape it into a ball, fill all molds. With your fingers, press the ball of dough onto the bottom and sides of the mold in a thin layer. Place molds on cookie sheets and bake at 350° for 15 minutes.

With a paring knife, gently loosen cookie cups from molds. Place on wire racks to cool completely. Fill each about ¾ full with Fudge Filling. Let stand at room temperature until filling is set.

Fudge Filling

1½ cups sugar
⅓ cup milk
¼ cup butter
1½ ounces unsweetened chocolate
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
⅛ teaspoon salt

Combine all ingredients in a heavy saucepan. Place over moderate heat and stir until chocolate and butter are melted; bring to a boil. Remove pan from heat.
Stir vigorously until mixture is slightly thickened but still pours. Keep warm over hot water or very low heat. Spoon into Chocolate Tarts.

WATCH THE VIDEO DEMONSTRATION:




COMMENTS:

Oh Betty, these chocolate tarts look divine! They may be labor intensive, but you can tell that they will be definitely worth the effort. One question, why do you use that small amount of red food color in the dough? My next quest will be to locate some mini tart pans! Thanks for another great recipe and instructions! Auntnancy77 (Youtube)

Hi Nancy,

The red food coloring helps to make a contrast between the cookie dough and the filling. You may eliminate it but I think it makes for a better looking tart.

I have been searching for the tart pans for ages. Mine are well over 40 years old and I bought them from Maid of Scandinavia - a company long since gone. The nearest I have seen are from New York Cake Supply but they are over 2 inches in diameter - the ones I use are just over an inch. If you are successful in finding them, please let me know. Happy Holidays!


Rugelach (Part of Christmas cookie series)

Betty's Annual Christmas Cookies

The first recipe I had for these wonderful cookies was called simply “Apricot Pastries”. It was a number of years later that I discovered they were actually Rugelach. By then, they were firmly ensconced in my Christmas cookie repertoire. In addition to the original apricot filling, I have added a raspberry, chocolate, coconut filling. I have to warn you - these are very addictive!

Apricot Pastries

Ingredients:

1 cup butter
2 cups flour
1 beaten egg yolk
½ cup sour cream
½ cup apricot preserves
½ cup flaked coconut
¼ cup finely chopped pecans
granulated sugar

With pastry blender, cut butter into flour until crumbly.
Combine egg yolk and sour cream and blend into flour mixture.
Wrap dough in wax paper and chill several hours or overnight.
Divide into 4 equal parts. Roll into 10" circle keeping remaining dough chilled.

Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons apricot preserves, 2 tablespoons coconut, 1 tablespoon pecans. Don't use too much jam - it will only leak out and make a mess!
Divide into twelve sections (like a pie). Roll up each section starting with wide end and dip in sugar.
Bake at 350° for 20 minutes.

Makes 4 dozen

Alternate filling:

4 tablespoons seedless raspberry jam
¼ cup finely flaked coconut
¼ cup miniature semisweet chocolate pieces
½ cup finely chopped walnuts
¼ cup sugar
3 tablespoons cinnamon sugar (optional)

Proceed as with Apricot Pastries

Makes 4 dozen

WATCH THE VIDEO DEMONSTRATION

Thumbprint Cookies (Part of Christmas Cookie Series)

Another one of my favorites, these are a pretty - and tasty - addition to any cookie tray. One batch of dough is enough to make three different varieties of this popular cookie. Of course if you need lots of cookies, make a full batch of each! See the video for how to make a paper cone for easy filling of these cookies.

Thumbprint Cookies

Ingredients:

¾ pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3½ cups flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water and strained, for egg wash
½ cup sweetened flaked coconut, finely chopped
½ cup finely chopped nuts
½ cup crushed peppermint candy canes or candies
2 tablespoons each raspberry and apricot jam, heated and strained and placed in a paper cone for piping.
24 chocolate morsels

Preheat the oven to 350º.


In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until they are just combined and then add the vanilla. Sift together the flour and salt. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture to the creamed butter and sugar. Mix until the dough starts to come together. Dump on a floured board and roll together into a flat disc. Wrap in waxed paper and chill for 30 minutes.


Roll the dough into 72 small balls. Dip 24 balls into the egg wash and then roll in coconut. 




Place the balls on parchment-lined cookie sheet and press an indentation into the top of each with a wooden spoon handle. 



Pipe ¼ teaspoon of apricot jam into each indentation. 

Repeat using egg wash, nuts and raspberry jam.


Repeat using peppermint candy and press a chocolate morsel into the center of each cookie.




Bake for 20 to 25 minutes.






Cooks tip: If your kitchen is warm and dough becomes too soft, place finished cookies in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes before baking. Straining the egg wash is an extra step, but it pays off by making it much easier to dip the cookies.

Makes about 6 dozen cookies.


WATCH THE VIDEO:

 

How to Temper Chocolate


"Proper tempering gives chocolate a smooth and glossy finish and won't melt on your fingers as easily as improperly tempered chocolate."

Here are the clearest instructions I have found for this process. It is time consuming but it does work. If you are going to melt a pound of chocolate, have several different kinds of cookies that you plan to dip already made so that you don't waste or have to re-temper your chocolate.

Chop your chocolate . It is best to use at least 1 pound of chocolate, as it is easier to temper (and retain the temper) of larger amounts of chocolate. If this is more than you need, you can always save the extra for later use. Be sure that your chocolate is in block or bar form, not chocolate chips. The chips have additives that allow them to retain their shape at higher temperatures, and so they will not temper properly.

Melt 2/3 of your chocolate. Place it in the top of a double boiler, set over simmering water. Securely clip a chocolate or instant-read thermometer to the side of the boiler to monitor the chocolate’s temperature.

Stir gently but steadily as the chocolate melts and heats up. Use a rubber spatula, not a wooden or metal spoon.

Bring the chocolate to 115 degrees Fahrenheit (46 C) for dark chocolate or 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43 C) for milk or white chocolate. Do not allow the chocolate to exceed its recommended temperature. When it is at the right temperature, remove it from the heat, wipe the bottom of the bowl, and set it on a heat-proof surface.

Add the remaining chunks of chocolate and stir gently to incorporate. The warm chocolate will melt the chopped chocolate, and the newly added chocolate will bring down the temperature of the warm chocolate.

Cool the chocolate. Once the chocolate gets below 84 degrees F (29 C), remove the remaining chunks of chocolate. They can be cooled, wrapped in plastic wrap, and saved for another use.

Reheat the chocolate briefly.Place the chocolate bowl over the warm water in the double boiler for 5-10 seconds, remove it and stir, and repeat, until the temperature reaches 88-89 degrees F (31 C), or 87 F (30 C) for milk and white chocolate. Do not leave the chocolate over the hot water, or allow it to exceed 91 degrees.

Your chocolate should now be tempered! To make sure it has been done properly, do a spot test: spread a spoonful thinly over an area of waxed paper and allow it to cool. If the chocolate is shiny and smooth, it is properly tempered. If it is dull or streaky, it has not been tempered correctly. From: Elizabeth LaBau, About.com Guide


Tips:


To use tempered chocolate, you must keep it warm but not hot, ideally in the 85-88 F degree range (86 degrees for milk and white chocolate). You can either keep it over a pan of warm (but not simmering) water, stirring occasionally, or try placing it on an electric heating pad set to “low.” Whichever method you choose, it’s important to stir often so that the chocolate remains a uniform temperature throughout.

Note: The heating pad trick is a great one, which I use, just remember to place it in a plastic bag first so that you don't end up with a chocolate-coated heating pad!


WATCH THE VIDEO:


Meringue Kisses

My Christmas/Holiday cookie platter



Here is one of our Christmas cookie platter favorites: Meringue Kisses

3 egg whites, at room temperature
½ teaspoon cream of tarter
1 cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon mint flavoring
a few drops of green food coloring

Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 350°.

Using the whisk attachment on a stand mixer (you may also use a hand mixer - it will just take a little longer) start beating the egg whites.  When they become foamy, add the cream of tarter and continue beating adding the sugar very gradually until the mixture is quite stiff - it should hold a peak.  Add the flavoring and coloring and transfer the mixture to a piping bag fitted with a star tip.

Pipe out small stars onto the parchment - they won't spread so they can be fairly close together.  If you like, pipe out some sticks as demonstrated.

Bake for 1 hour.  Allow to cool completely before dipping in tempered chocolate.  (Instructions for tempering follow.)

Watch the video demonstration;