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Lillian’s preschool did an exercise the other day with all the kids.  They asked them what they wanted to be when they grow up, how many kids they wanted to have, and what their parents did for a job.

Lillian’s answer: I want to be Ariel so I can dive into the water; five kids; and the best – my daddy works in Seattle and my mommy cooks dinner.


Although her perception might be that I cook dinner when she would like me to be playing dollhouse with her, I do love that she knows I am doing it and someday, we will do it together.

Some of the answers were really quite funny.  My favorite was: My mommy is a doctor and my daddy lays by the pool.  Somehow I am not sure that child’s parents were too thrilled with the BIG posterboard relaying this information.

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This dessert is nuts!  Well, anyone who makes this dessert nuts and I guess that says a lot about me.  I attempted this dessert for our final Christmas celebration of the year.  I was going to be in the presence of two wonderful cooks and since they think of me as the “baker,” I had to deliver the goods.  This looked fancy enough and it allowed me to make something I have never made before – meringues!

If you find yourself with a free 3 hours, go for it.  The nice thing is, you can make each of the separate parts separately and assemble them for serving.  Don’t assemble it too far ahead though, the meringues soak up the liquid from the custard.

Meringues:

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and tape the sides down to make sure that the paper lies flat. (I used blue painters tape as you can see – scotch tape doesn’t work at all)

Separate 6 eggs and set the yolks aside.

In a heatproof bowl set over simmering water, combine the sugar and egg whites.  Whisk until the sugar dissolves, about 3-5 minutes.  I actually dipped my finger in and rubbed the whites between my fingers to make sure the sugar dissolved.

Once all the sugar crystals are dissolved, transfer to a standing mixer and beat until you have stiff peaks.  You can tell you have a stiff peak when you tap the eggs with your beater and they stand straight up.  I made this easy by using my standing mixer bowl on my double broiler.


Fold in the vanilla very gently.  Fill your pastry bag about ½ full and pipe the meringues onto the parchment paper.  I didn’t have a big enough tip to make the meringues in one quick circle, so I went over them a second time to increase their height.  ( I am NOT a meringue expert, but it was fun to try something new and they look SO cool!)

Bake for 1 ½ to 2 hours.  The meringues will be crisp and lightly brown.  I actually tapped on the tops to see how hollow they sounded.  Do NOT remove them from the oven.  Turn the oven off and leave them there.  Once completely cool, store the meringues in an airtight container until you are ready to serve.  (Sorry for the strange blue light on this photo.)

Custard:

Here comes the not so fun part.  The efficient way to do this is to make the custard while the meringues are baking.  I, however, did not do this.  I made the meringues the night prior to the custard and made the process VERY long.

In a heat-proof bowl set over simmering water, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, salt, and flour.  At the same time, heat the milk in a saucepan until it just starts to foam around the sides.  You do not want it to boil.

Add the milk (mixed with the tsp vanilla) and pour slowly into the eggs.  Whisk until well combined.  Now, you just have to stand there – forever.  It takes over an hour for the custard to reach the right thickness.  I stood there with the latest People magazine so I didn’t get too bored.

Once it is the right thickness – feels like pudding – push through a fine mesh strainer and cover with plastic wrap.  You need to have the plastic wrap right on top of the pudding so that it doesn’t form a skin.  Allow it to cool to room temperature prior to storing it the refrigerator.

Assembly:

Prepare your whipping cream by mixing the heavy cream with a little bit of sugar – about ¼ cup.  Toast the sliced almonds at 350 degrees for about 8 minutes.

Layer the dessert with a meringue cookie, pudding, whipped cream, and almonds.  SERVE!

It is a stellar presentation and a wonderfully tasting dessert.  Just be prepared to spend some time in the kitchen.

Angel Icebox Dessert
adapted from Hot Polka Dot

Meringue:

6 egg whites
1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Custard:

6 egg yolks
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup flour
3 cup whole milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

1 pint whipping cream
Almonds, sliced and toasted for garnish

Preheat oven to 200 degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and tape down flat with masking (or painter’s tape.)

Meringue: Mix together egg whites and sugar in a heat-proof bowl and place over simmering water.  Dissolve the sugar – takes about 3-5 minutes.  Transfer to a standing mixer and mix at high speed until stiff peaks form.  Gently fold in vanilla and fill a pastry bag 1/2 full with meringue.  Using a large decorating tip, create rosettes on the baking sheets.  Once they are the desired size and height, bake for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until the meringues are crisp, slightly browned, and sound hollow when tapped.

Custard: In a heat-proof bowl, combine the egg yolks, sugar, salt, and flour and set over a pan filled with simmering water.  In a separate saucepan, heat the milk until foam forms around the edges – do not boil.   Stir in the vanilla and then slowly pour the hot milk into the egg mixture, whisking until completely combined.  Stirring constantly, cook the custard until it reaches the consistency of thick pudding.  Remove from the heat and push through a fine sieve into another bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap, placing the wrap directly on the custard to prevent a skin from forming.  Allow to cool to room temperature and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Assembly: Toast the sliced almonds in a 350 degree oven for 8 minutes.  Whisk the whipping cream with a 1/4 cup sugar.  On a serving plate, place one meringue cookie, top with custard, whipping cream, and toasted almonds.

So – does anyone else have a dessert that has taken FOREVER, but was totally worth it in the end?

I don’t know how I missed it, but this weekend is a three day weekend and I.HAVE.NOTHING.PLANNED! Until today. Normally, my baking/cooking is relegated to the end of the day after work when natural lighting is not an option and my pictures turn out dingy and dull. I also don’t have the energy to do anything with too many steps or ingredients (hence the 3 ingredient shortbread I made last night.)

However, when I found out that I would have THREE whole days to cook and bake until my heart’s content, I decided to climb some never before attempted culinary mountains. And, I hope that by writing them down here, I will actually do it.

I felt like I needed to counteract the sweets with some savory items (so my husband doesn’t tell me to stop blogging due to his mass consumption of my baked goods), but they just aren’t as much fun to make or eat.  I did have one idea of how to bring the savory into it by attempting homemade pasta  in the form of Butternut Squash Ravioli with some kind of sauce.  I can’t decide between a whiskey cream sauce and an orange/balsamic sauce. Suggestions?

Also, I am tackling the french macaroon by making Pistachio Cocoa Nib Macaroons with Bourbon Buttercream.  Apparently, if you can master the french macaroon, anything is possible.

My final item will be either a Burnt Sugar Bundt Cake or a layered Crepe Cake. The first involves crackling hard burnt sugar shards and if anyone knows me and my history with hot liquid sugar, you are right to be concerned. The latter cake would teach me how to make crepes – it is a beautifully layered cake made of 20 crepes and delicious pastry cream.

Of those options, which would you choose to make if you had three days to cook and bake whatever you chose?

For some reason I have always avoided making this dish.  Every time we see it offered somewhere or on a food tv show, my husband asks me to make it but it just hasn’t been my thing.  I think it was the versions with the dumplings that really turned me off – the texture was just something that didn’t appeal.  When I saw a version online that has biscuits – I started to drool (not literally).  I loved the idea of using biscuits instead so that they were crunchy on the top and not doughy and boiled.  Plus, just the process of making biscuits makes me happy.  High-rising disks of pure buttery enjoyment – so perfectly round and flaky.  (I am making you hungry, aren’t I?)

I looked through a couple of other recipes for similar dishes and wound up mashing two together for what I think is the perfect combination of a light creamy soup, shredded chicken, delicious vegetables, and crunchy topped buttery biscuits.

Prep the vegetables by dicing the carrots, celery and onions.  Set aside.


Lay out the chicken pieces on a cutting board and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  (sorry for the raw chicken photo – I know a lot of people can’t handle it.)

Dredge a whole cut-up fryer in flour (two breasts, two wings, two drumsticks, and two thighs) and set aside.  Rather than cut up a whole fryer, you can simply purchase these all set to go.

Heat olive oil and butter in a dutch oven

In two separate batches, brown the chicken on both sides (about 4 minutes per side or until the chicken lifts easily from the pan.)  You want that really rich color on the chicken.  It adds great flavor to the finished soup.  Once all the pieces are browned, remove them to a clean plate and set aside.

Wipe the pan out if you need to (my butter solids had browned a little too much) and put a little bit of olive oil back in the pan.  Once heated, put the vegetables into the pan and cook until the onions are soft and translucent.

Add your seasonings and crushed garlic next.  Cook for another 2 minutes.  Evenly distribute flour over the vegetables and cook for 1 minute.

While whisking, pour in 4-6 cups chicken stock (4 cups gives you a really thick chicken soup).  Place chicken pieces back in the pot, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.

While the soup simmers, prepare the biscuits – by far my FAVORITE part of the meal.

Cut up the butter into small pieces and place it and the shortening in a small bowl.  Stash in the freezer while you prepare the dry ingredients.

Whisk together the dry ingredients.  Cut in the butter and shortening until it resembles coarse meal.  Stir in the cheese.   In another small bowl, whisk the egg and then add to the buttermilk.  All at once, add the buttermilk/egg to the dry ingredients and stir together using a fork until it mostly clumps together.  Place onto a flat surface lightly dusted with flour, knead 4-5 times, and roll out to 1/2 inch thick.  Using a biscuit cutter or a glass, cut out 4-5 biscuits.

Once your soup has simmered for 20 minutes, pull out the chicken and using two forks, shred the chicken into small pieces.  I used the back of the fork to slide the skin off of the meat and then holding one fork still in a chunk of meat, used my right hand to pull small pieces of chicken away.

Place chicken back into the soup and stir, adding in about 1/4 cup heavy cream.  Dropping the biscuits in is kind of funny…you have to kind of slide them in.  Don’t worry if they submerge slightly, they will pop out.

Bake biscuits for 20 minutes in the hot oven until they are golden brown on top and the chicken soup is bubbly.

Serve!  This dinner is essential comfort food.  Filling, creamy, rich, and delicious.  I will definitely be making this again and again.  A new winter favorite!

Chicken and Biscuits

Soup
4-6 cups chicken stock
3 carrots, diced
1 onion, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
1 whole cut-up fryer
2 T olive oil
2 T butter
3 T flour
1 t thyme
1/4 t nutmeg
1/4 t sea salt
1/4 t ground white pepper
3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed

Biscuits
1 1/3 cup flour
1 1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t sea salt
2 T cold butter, cut into small pieces
2 T shortening
1/3 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 egg
1/3 cup buttermilk

Soup: Chop up the carrot, onion, and celery – set aside.  Dredge the chicken in flour and in two batches, brown in the butter and olive oil – set aside.  Using a little more butter, cook the vegetables until the onion is clear and translucent.  Stir in the spices and garlic – cook for 2-3 minutes.  Sprinkle 3 T flour over the vegetables and cook for 1 minute more.  Whisk in the chicken stock.  Add the chicken pieces back to the soup and simmer for 20 minutes.

Biscuits: Whisk together the dry ingredients.  Cut in the chilled butter and shortening until it resembles coarse meal.  Stir in the shredded cheese.  Whisk the egg in a separate bowl and combine with the buttermilk.  Add the liquid all at once to the dry ingredients and stir until it just begins to combine.  Dump out on a flat surface coated with a light dusting of flour.  Knead 4-5 times and then roll out to 1/2 inch thick.  Using a biscuit cutter, cut out 4-5 biscuits.

Assembly: Remove the chicken from the soup and using two forks, shred into small pieces.  Add it back to the soup along with a 1/4 cup heavy cream and stir. Drop/place the biscuits into the soup and bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes or until the biscuits are golden and the soup is bubbly.

Serve with one biscuit per bowl!

What is your favorite wintertime dish?

PS – to cool your soup down quickly, take two frozen and sealed water bottles and drop them into the soup.  They will quickly bring down the temperature of the soup, making it ready to store in the refrigerator.  When I am done using them, I run them through the dishwasher and stash them back in the freezer for a future use.

This weekend the snickerdoodle family was up north of Seattle for our last Christmas celebration.  We had delicious food and this –

Pomegranate Champagne – my new holiday favorite!

It is ABOUT time. I named this blog Snickerdoodle Baby because that is our nickname for our little girl – along with stinky bum, princess snicklefritz, baby bunny, and many more.  New to this whole blog thing, I didn’t realize how many times my blog would show up in google searches for those actually searching for Snickerdoodles!  So, I decided it was about time to make some and I found a recipe on allrecipes that looked perfect!  Enter Mrs. Sigg’s Snickerdoodles!  I made these specific ones almost entirely due to the name – makes me want to meet Mrs. Sigg.  These cookies are incredibly easy, delicious, and appropriately sweet, spicy, AND old-fashioned.

Cream together the butter, shortening, sugar, eggs, and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, cream of tarter, soda and salt.  Am I the only one who has ever wandered what on earth cream of tartar really is?  It is like the mystery spice – if it really even IS a spice.  So, like any good blogger, I looked into it!  What I found is kind of disturbing.  It is not a spice at all, but rather potassium hydrogen tartrate.  REALLY makes you want to cook with it, doesn’t it?  Actually, it is created on the inside of wine barrels during the fermentation process.  Yum.  Like baking powder, it doesn’t do anything in its dry form, but reacts in the mixing bowl or oven as a stabilizing agent.

Add your dry ingredients to the creamed butter/sugar mixture.

Mix until combined!

In a separate small bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon and set aside – it will be the coating for your cookies.  Set aside and roll your dough into perfect little balls using a small cookie scoop.  I used to do a couple at a time, roll them and then set them on the sheet.  What I’ve found is easier, is to roll all the dough at once, setting the balls on a sheet of waxed paper.  That way, when your hands get all cinnamon-sugary, you won’t have to dip them into the dough bowl again.

Roll your dough balls – that just sounds kind of funny – in the sugar/cinnamon.  One tip, roll each ball separately.  If you attempt to roll more than one, you will primarily coat the cookies in cinnamon.  You can see in the baked cookies that the darker ones received proportionately more cinnamon on the coating than sugar.  If you roll one by one, you get a more even cinnamon/sugar coating.  (Can you believe I actually just wrote four sentences about how to roll a cookie in cinnamon and sugar?)  Place on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes.

ENJOY!!!


Mrs. Sigg’s Snickerdoodles
adapted from allrecipes

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons white sugar
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Cream together first 5 ingredients until light and fluffy.  With the mixer on low speed, stir in the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt until completely combined.  Form the dough into balls and place on a piece of waxed paper.  In a separate shallow bowl or plate, combine the sugar and cinnamon.  Roll each cookie individually in the sugar and cinnamon and place on a baking sheet.  Bake for 8-10 minutes.  Transfer immediately to a wire cooling rack and try to keep yourself from eating them all!

I was all set to post the recipe for Snickerdoodles (thought it was about time given the name of my blog), but I made this last night and it was so delicious, I wanted to write about it first. This tart is fabulous, easy, and will receive rave reviews (and recipe requests) by whomever tries it. I took this into work today and we were all trying to find the perfect descriptors for it. The best thing we could come up with – and even it falls short – is the best brownie batter you have ever had complimented by a buttery crust. If ever there was a dessert I could sit down and eat in its entirety, this is it. I can see it as the perfect compliment to any dinner and paired with a great glass of pinot noir or rich coffee. Make this RIGHT NOW!

This recipe comes from my new cookbook The Pastry Queen.  Along with some scrumptious Texas-sized recipes, the book chronicles the comings and goings of the regulars to Rebecca Rather’s Texas bakery, Rather Sweet Bakery & Cafe.  She has created this wonderful meeting place for the locals in Fredricksburg, TX where they feel free to jump behind the register and ring up their own breakfast if the cafe is too busy – now THAT is my idea of a local bakery.

Tart Crust – I LOVED this tart crust recipe because it allowed you to do all the mixing in a standing mixer – my kind of tart crust.  With a paddle attachment, mix together your dry ingredients (flour, salt, and sugar.)  Drop in 2/3 cup butter – diced into small 1/2 inch cubes.  With your mixer on low, mix until it resembles coarse crumbles – you still want to have pea sized pieces of butter so be sure not to mix it too long.

Whisk the egg slightly along with the cream and add to your flour/butter mixture.  If you can’t form the dough into a ball, add a little bit more cream.

Once it starts to come together, form it into a disk, cover tightly with plastic wrap and stick it in the refrigerator for an hour.  (Don’t you just LOVE stretch-tile plastic warp?  It just sticks so much better to things!)

Filling – preheat your oven to 350 degrees and toast your walnuts for 8 minutes or until golden brown.  The recipe calls for “coarsely” chopped walnuts.  I think everyone probably has a different idea of what coarsely chopped nuts look like, so I found a great description online.  Also, make sure you note when using nuts in baking, how they ask for them.  This recipe calls for 1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped nuts (you measure AFTER you chop) which is very different than 1 1/2 cups walnuts, coarsely chopped (measure first, chop second).

Using your microwave and a microwave-safe bowl (you can also use a double boiler, but I choose the EASY method), melt the butter and chocolate.  The recipe allows you to choose the proportions of dark to semi-sweet chocolate you want to use.  I love dark chocolate so I used more of that than semi-sweet.  Of the 14 ounces  called for, I used 10 oz of 60% cocoa chocolate and 4 oz of semi-sweet – it wound up being really well balanced.  Not too dark, but not to sweet.


Whisk in the sugar and then the eggs, one at a time.

Whisk in the remaining ingredients (vanilla, salt, cream, and whiskey).  Those are the most perfect four ingredients for ANYTHING.  How can you go wrong with vanilla, cream, whiskey, and salt?

Remove your tart dough from the refrigerator, unwrap, and place on a well-floured surface.  (Notice my new marble pastry slab?  Isn’t is beautiful!?)  Fold in half and place in your tart shell.

Lightly press the dough into the sides and then using the tart pan edge – which was kind of sharp on mine – remove any excess dough.


Pour in your toasted nuts and evenly distribute along the bottom of the tart.

Pour in your chocolate using a back and forth movement to evenly layer it on top of the nuts.  Once you’ve got it all in there, use an offset spreader or knife to push it into the crevices of the tart pan.  You will want to eat it at this point, but wait – it still has to bake. 🙂

Place it in your preheated oven (350 degrees) and bake for 50 minutes.  It might seem a bit undercooked when you pull it out, but the jiggle is what you want – don’t think jiggly thighs – think jiggly yummy brownie batter – much more enticing.


And while it bakes, you can defer cleaning up the monstrous mess in your kitchen and play with one of your own fairy princesses (complete with terrible plastic high heels) instead!

Once cool and set – takes about two hours – you can slice and serve or set aside covered for later!  Although I didn’t end up serving it this way, next time I will make some cinnamon whipped cream and top each slice with a dollop (don’t you love that word.)  it is just fun to say – DOLLOP!

Silken Chocolate-Walnut Tart
adapted from The Pastry Queen

Tart Crust
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 t salt
1/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup butter
1 large egg, beaten lightly
1/3 cup cold heavy whipping cream

Filling
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts
3/4 cup unsalted butter
14 ounces good quality chocolate (dark and/or semi-sweet)
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
2 t vanilla
1/2 t salt
2/3 cup heavy whipping cream
2 T dark rum or whiskey (I used whiskey)

Instructions:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees

Tart Crust: Mix your dry ingredients together in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.  Drop in your butter – cut into 1/2 inch pieces – and mix for about 1 1/2 minutes or until it resembles coarse meal with pea sized pieces of butter.  Lightly whisk your egg and add it with the cream into the butter/flour.  Mix on low until just combined.  If the dough is not sticking together, you can add a little bit more cream in VERY small increments until it starts to combine.  Form into a disk, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 1 hour.  When it is chilled and ready, roll it out on a well-floured surface to a 10″ disk.  Fold in half and place in your tart pan, pressing gently to the sides.  Remove any excess dough so that the crust is even with the tart pan’s sides.  Set aside for chocolate filling.

Filling: In a 350 degree oven, toast walnuts until lightly browned and fragrant – about 8 minutes.  Set aside to cool.  Melt chocolate and butter in the microwave, stirring intermittently until smooth.  Whisk in the sugar and then each egg separately – whisking after each egg is added until completely combined.  Pour in the cream, vanilla, salt, and whiskey – stirring until it is smooth, silky, and totally yummy looking.

Line the bottom of the waiting tart shell with the walnuts, placing them evenly over the bottom of the shell.  Pour chocolate over the walnuts in thick ribbons so you don’t have to do much spreading.  Evenly and gently spread the chocolate until it completely covers the nuts and is touching the shell on all sides.  Bake in the preheated oven for 50 minutes.  Tart will be slightly jiggly, but will set as it cools.  Cool for at least two hours!  Either serve immediately or cover and set aside for later.

So – what will your proportions of chocolate be?  Are you more of a semi-sweet person or will you use all dark?