Turtle Thumbprint Cookies

turtles-1

Turtles — although slightly misleading in name — have always been one of my favorite chocolates, but I haven’t had one in years. I’m a huge fan of caramel, chocolate, and pecans, and turtles have all of these wrapped in one delicious bite. So when I found this recipe for turtle thumbprint cookies on Handle the Heat (an AWESOME food blog — seriously, go check it out), I knew I had to try it.

Although there are a lot of steps in the recipe, it’s actually pretty easy: the cookies have a bunch of components, but all are super simple to make: the dough comes together fast, and the caramel filling uses pre-made caramels, so it’s just a matter of combing with cream and melting. The only change I would recommend is the method for piping the chocolate drizzle on top: you don’t need to use a pastry bag of any kind — just dip a fork in the melted chocolate and shake it over the cookies (on a parchment paper, of course). It sounds like a weird method on paper, but, trust me, it works.

turtle cookies-2

The result is delicious, and these disappeared right away. Despite having a lot of sweet components, the recipe is well-balanced and not overwhelming. The cookie is actually pretty neutral (in terms of sweetness), so it’s a good base for the gooey caramel and chocolate drizzle, as well as the crunchy pecans. If you’re a fan of turtles — or just plain awesome cookies — give these a try! If I can make them (and I’m terrible at baking cookies), these are pretty much foolproof.

turtle-4

Here’s the recipe, slightly modified, via Handle the Heat:

Ingredients

For the Cookies:

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg, separated
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup pecans, finely chopped (NB: I found that I needed a little extra, so keep that in mind)

For the Caramel Thumbprint:

  • 16 unwrapped caramel squares
  • 3 tablespoons whipping cream
  • Fleur de sel, or other flaked sea salt, for sprinkling, optional

For the Chocolate Drizzle:

  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil or shortening

 

turtles-3

Directions

For the cookies:

  1. In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until well combined and fluffy. Add in the egg yolk, milk, and vanilla extract. Reserve the egg white in a separate container, cover, and refrigerate until ready to bake.
  2. In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, and salt. Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat just until combined. Cover the dough and refrigerate for 1 hour or overnight, or until the dough is chilled and firm.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.
  4. Lightly beat the reserved egg white. Shape the dough into 1-inch balls. Dip each ball in the egg white, then roll in the pecans, pressing lightly to coat well. Place on the prepared baking sheet. Lightly press down the center of each ball with your thumb.
  5. Bake for 12 to 13 minutes, or until set. Set the baking sheet on a cooling rack and let cool until just warm.

For the caramel:

  1. While the cookies are baking, combine the caramel squares and cream in a small saucepan set over low heat. Cook, stirring often, until the caramels are melted and the mixture is smooth.
  2. When the cookies are warm, press down the center of each cookie again with your thumb or the opposite end of a wooden spatula. Spoon about a 1/2 teaspoon of caramel into each thumbprint. Sprinkle the caramel with Fleur de sel to taste. Let cool completely.

For the chocolate drizzle:

  1. In a small heat-safe bowl, heat the chocolate chips and oil in the microwave for 1 minute. Stir until smooth. Using a fork, dip the tips of the fork into the chocolate and shake the chocolate out over the cookies. Make sure to use a layer of parchment paper to catch the excess chocolate. Let the chocolate set before serving or storing in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Advertisements

White Chocolate-Dipped Biscotti

IMG_3380

This post is a little overdue, given that I’ve been hoarding these photos since Christmas….but I figured they’re just as appropriate now, given my current location in Italy (which, actually, has been rather lacking in biscotti…)

Honestly, these biscotti are delicious any time of year, and the white chocolate gives them that extra kick of sweetness. I’m not even a huge fan of biscotti (seeing as I have a major sweet tooth), but these are killer. And so easy to make!

This recipe is from Giada and is a version of her traditional biscotti with a Christmas spin. If you don’t have white chocolate on hand or prefer your biscotti plain, you can easily skip the dipping part of the recipe. See below!

IMG_3290

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup pistachios, coarsely chopped
  • 2/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 12 ounces good-quality white chocolate, chopped
  • Sugar crystals, for garnish

IMG_3386

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Line a heavy large baking sheet with parchment paper. Whisk the flour and baking powder in a medium bowl to blend. Using an electric mixer, beat the sugar, butter, lemon zest, and salt in a large bowl to blend. Beat in the eggs 1 at a time. Add the flour mixture and beat just until blended. Stir in the pistachios and cranberries.
  3. Form the dough into a 13-inch long, 3-inch wide log on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until light golden, about 40 minutes. Cool for 30 minutes.
  4. Place the log on the cutting board. Using a sharp serrated knife, cut the log on a diagonal into 1/2 to 3/4-inch-thick slices. Arrange the biscotti, cut side down, on the baking sheet. Bake the biscotti until they are pale golden, about 15 minutes. Transfer the biscotti to a rack and cool completely.
  5. Stir the chocolate in a bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water until the chocolate melts. Dip half of the biscotti into the melted chocolate. Gently shake off the excess chocolate. Place the biscotti on the baking sheet for the chocolate to set. Sprinkle with the sugar crystals. Refrigerate until the chocolate is firm, about 35 minutes.

Enjoy!

My Favorite Baklava

1-img_3329

Hello, readers! Sorry it’s been a while. I’m in the midst of finals at the moment (read: procrastinating on my philosophy paper), but I’ll be able to catch up on all the posting I’ve missed soon…and thank you ALL for your lovely comments (and emails)! I read all of them — they really do make my day, and I promise I will try to respond to everyone as soon as I can.

Here I’m posting my favorite baklava recipe. This stuff is so good that my aunt was sneaking it out in napkins during our family’s annual Christmas party. If you’ve never been a baklava fan, I hope you still give this a try — it’s made with walnuts and rosewater (as opposed to pistachios and honey) and is divine when served cold so that the sugars all have adequate time to soak in. I’m a bit of a connoisseur of baklava — I’ve tried baklava at every restaurant I’ve been to that serves it, and nothing has even come close to this.

This is a Lebanese recipe, and you can find it buried in this ancient New York Time’s article (1989 what up), but I’ve also reproduced it below, with a few edits that really help simplify the process. Making baklava may seem intimidating, but I promise — it’s one of the easiest things you’ll ever do. You need to be patient and thorough, but otherwise no special skills are required! See my pointers below before you begin if you’re hesitant.

1-img_3347

Some tips for making baklava:

  • Make sure you butter thoroughly between every layer of phyllo. There is no such thing as too much butter! (Also, if you don’t use enough, the pieces will flake apart). Also be sure to give the corners special attention.
  • Use a glass/pyrex dish — it makes baking and clean up super easy.
  • Baklava stores at room temperature for days — just be sure to cover with aluminum foil/cling-wrap/etc.
  • If you can’t find rose water, you can also substitute orange blossom water (although I don’t really see how that would be any easier to find). You can usually find both in specialty grocery stores like Whole Foods, etc. If all else fails, you can order online (I promise, it’s totally worth it).
  • To thaw the phyllo dough, simply place it in the fridge the night before you plan on making the baklava. This will ensure that the sheets are not too brittle or too thawed, and will be easiest to handle! Sometimes they can still become a little flaky, though — not to worry! Just patch up the layers as best you can (with butter, of course) and the baklava will be just as delicious.
  • Don’t be a perfectionist about clarifying the butter. It will taste the same in the end.

1-img_3335

Ingredients:

For the syrup:

  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons rose water

For the pastry:

  • 1 pound unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups finely chopped walnuts
  • 2 tablespoons rose water
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 16-oz. package frozen phyllo pastry, thawed (should contain 2 separate rolls of pastry)

1-img_3345

Directions:

  1. To make sugar syrup, boil together sugar and water for about 2 minutes over high heat, being careful it does not burn or boil over. Just before removing from heat, stir in the rose water. Let cool slightly, then refrigerate until ready to use.
  2. To make the pastry, first clarify the butter. Melt in a pan over gentle heat. Spoon off the milky froth that rises to the top and the solid residue that settles to the bottom. One pound of butter should yield about 1 1/2 cups clarified butter. You can pour the butter into a mug for ease of use later on.
  3. Place walnuts and rose water in bowl of food processor and process in spurts until walnuts are minced. (The rose water helps keep walnuts from getting oily.) Add sugar and process briefly to mix well.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  5. Spread a sheet of plastic wrap or aluminum foil on a work surface. Open phyllo pastry and spread on the surface.
  6. Using the clarified butter and a pastry brush or clean paintbrush, butter a 10- by 14-inch baking pan liberally, bottom and sides. Place one sheet of phyllo pastry in bottom of pan. Butter surface of pastry. Proceed with the remaining sheets, buttering each one, until you have used about half the sheets in the box (aka one package). The phyllo sheets may be somewhat crowded in the pan, folded up a little along the sides and at each end. Be sure to butter the corners of the pastry.
  7. Distribute the walnut mixture over the pastry in an even layer.
  8. Place the remaining phyllo sheets over the walnut mixture, again buttering liberally between each layer. When all the sheets have been used, cut the pastry with a sharp knife lengthwise into strips about 1 inch wide, then on the diagonal to make diamonds. Be sure to cut right down through to the bottom of the pan. Pour any remaining clarified butter over the top of the pastry.
  9. Place in oven for 30 minutes, then raise temperature to 425 degrees and bake an additional 10 minutes, or until pastry is puffed and golden brown on top. Remove from oven and immediately pour cold syrup over hot pastry. Set aside to cool to room temperature before serving.

Let me know if you end up trying this recipe — it’s one of my favorites, and I’ve made it more times than I can count. If you like Middle Eastern/Greek food or simply awesome pastry desserts, you’ll love this stuff. (And sorry I don’t have more photos of the actual process…I realize in retrospect that would have been helpful for this recipe.)

Also, I’ll be posting more in a week or so…look out for some more DIY and travel posts next!

Apple Cider Caramels

cider2

I’m a big fan of caramel — whether it’s homemade, drizzled on top of a warm brownie, or inside a Twix bar. Sometimes I think I may like caramel more than chocolate (gasp!). Once I finally learned that you could make caramels at home, I tried. And failed. The first time I forgot to even let the sugar caramelize (oops), the second time they were still too gooey, and the third time they were brittle as toffee. Not so delicious.

cider8

But I am proud to say that I have finally achieved caramel perfection. People say making caramels is easy — and it is, once you’ve practiced a few times so you know what you’re looking for and you’ve found a brilliant recipe. These caramels are from the insanely awesome Smitten Kitchen — a blog any foodie should follow for foolproof recipes, gorgeous photos, and lucid writing. These caramels, incidentally, also make great holiday gifts — just layer some in a large mason jar and tie with raffia or a festive ribbon. That is, if you don’t eat all of them first.

cider7

A few notes before you begin:

  • I didn’t have flaky salt, so I reduced the amount to 1 1/2 teaspoons.
  • Boiling down the cider took me a solid hour, so know that the time will vary. At a certain point, it will begin to bubble violently, and then you know that its almost done. This happens very fast — keep a close eye on it after 40 minutes or so. (I posted a photo of what it should look like later in this post.)
  • Better to let the caramels harden at room temperature over night — be patient, I promise its worth it! They’ll harden faster in the fridge, too, but when you take them out they’ll get gooey and messy.
  • I used canola oil for knife in order to cut the caramels. Do it — it helps infinitely.

cider4

cider3

And below is the fabulous recipe, from Smitten Kitchen:

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups apple cider
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons flaky sea salt
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • Neutral oil for the knife

cider1

What your apple cider should look like when it’s done boiling (sans the burnt spot).

cider10

Directions: 

  1. Boil the apple cider in a 3- to- 4- quart saucepan over high heat until it is reduced to a dark, thick syrup, between 1/3 and 1/2 cup in volume. This can take 30 minutes or 1 hour. Stir occasionally.
  2. Meanwhile, line the bottom and sides of an 8- inch straight- sided square metal baking pan with 2 long sheets of crisscrossed parchment. Set it aside. Stir the cinnamon and flaky salt together in a small dish.
  3. Once you are finished reducing the apple cider, remove it from the heat and stir in the butter, sugars, and heavy cream. Return the pot to medium- high heat with a candy thermometer attached to the side, and let it boil until the thermometer reads 252 degrees, only about 5 minutes. Keep a close eye on it. (Don’t have a candy or deep- fry thermometer? Have a bowl of very cold water ready, and cook the caramel until a tiny spoonful dropped into the water becomes firm, chewy, and able to be plied into a ball.)
  4. Immediately remove caramel from heat, add the cinnamon- salt mixture, and give the caramel several stirs to distribute it evenly. Pour caramel into the prepared pan. Let it sit until cool and firm—about 2 hours, though it goes faster in the fridge. Once caramel is firm, use your parchment paper sling to transfer the block to a cutting board. Use a well- oiled knife, oiling it after each cut (trust me!), to cut the caramel into 1-by-1-inch squares. Wrap each one in a 4-inch square of waxed paper, twisting the sides to close. Caramels will be somewhat on the soft side at room temperature, and chewy/firm from the fridge.

cider6

cider5

All I have to say is: go make these. Now.

Edible Art

{Chocolate Spice Moroccan Market Table for Brides Magazine | Amy Atlas Events}

As anyone who has kept up with this blog for some time (and you are champs!) would know, I do seem to have a certain penchant for desserts (don’t we all…). And I’m also a huge fan of stylish decor. When hosting parties, I’m always nitpicking over every single detail to make the atmosphere perfect — and so, these beautiful dessert tables are a huge inspiration to me. The displays are stunning and definitely help set the tone for the event. And the food looks delicious, of course!

Here is just a sampling of some of the yummy dessert table inspiration I’ve found — be sure to check out the designers’ websites for even more photos! (Trust me, their portfolios are drool-worthy…)

{Bridal Brunch Dessert Table | Amy Atlas Events}

{Poolside Dessert Table in the Hamptons | Amy Atlas Events}

{Missoni-Inspired Dessert Table for InStyle | Amy Atlas Events}

{Candy Shop Dessert Table | Amy Atlas Events}

{Graphic and Glitz Dessert Table | Shauna Younge Dessert Tables}

{Bridal Party Dessert Table | Shauna Younge Dessert Tables}

{Ice Cream Dessert Table | Jillian Event Design & Styling | Source: 100 Layer Cake}

{Lemon Dessert Table | Design 2 Decor | Source: Sweet Tooth}

I am blown away by the creativity and detail that goes into crafting these tables. The results are simply stunning and I wish I could post tons more photos. (If you want more inspiration, be sure to check out the portfolios of the designers featured in this post.) As you can see, there is quite the mix of styles out there, and something to suit every taste. I can’t wait to draw on these photos for inspiration when the opportunity comes for me to make my own dessert table!

{Sources: All images are property of their respective owners, as noted.}