vrijdag 24 augustus 2007

Nougat & the corn syrup saga

I love nougat. Actually, I love almost anything sweet, nutty, caramel-y and chocolatey, but that's besides the point. I love nougat and was thrilled to find a recipe for it on the Foodnetwork webpage by Jacques Torres, find it here: (http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/recipes/recipe/0,,FOOD_9936_18050,00.html?rsrc=search).
I never made nougat before and this recipe looked like a challenge, but I'm all for that. So I tried it, loved it, and never looked back to buying nougat :o). And the only challenge left with this recipe, is cutting the nougat when ready. I'm telling you, it's a work out all by itsself.

Now there's this one little problem. As easily as you can buy corn syrup (one of the key ingredients in the recipe) in the US, I never expected it to be a problem here in the Netherlands. I bought it on vacation in the US a few times, armed with plastic bags and cushioning to not have the stuff spread all over my suitcase, but the nougat was all worth it. But of course I ran out of syrup very soon. I looked everywhere. Supermarkets, asian stores, markets, specialty stores, Turkish stores, you name it, I went there. Without any luck I might add. Finally, one store owner told me there was just 'no interest' in this product and no self-respecting import firm would buy it. I was perplexed. No interest? I am full of interest! But nothing helped. I went to the trusted friends and experts at the Fine Cooking message board, and Adele (thank you!) found me a substitute, for which you basically boil water and sugar to the soft ball stage. So I did. And it looked fine, until the syrup cooled and got a lot harder to handle than corn syrup with its pouring consistency. But hey, I had come this far, I wasn't about to give up.

I found another nougat recipe in a Martha Stewart magazine and bravely fought with the sugar syrup that was almost impossible to get out of its container. I made the nougat, fought another battle when it stuck to the pan, but all was forgotten when I tried it. It's not as good as the Torres recipe, but it's nougat, and what's not to love?

I got out my chocolate equipment, figured this was a good time to polish off those skills as well, and after another battle (the chocolate just did NOT want to behave and the nougat threatened to fall apart), this is the result:

Now I know you have to be in a very good mood to even call this 'rustic looking', but again, it's nougat :o). I think that after all the battling involved these little bars actually aren't half bad. I think a few people will be happy to share them with us, without judging their appearance. So long story short, I'll be making the sugar syrup again, as well as the Torres nougat recipe, and will be giving lots of it away as Christmas gifts. Properly cut and chocolate dipped, that is :o)

maandag 20 augustus 2007

Chocolate dipped melting moments

As I said in my previous post, I made the dough for the chocolate dipped melting moments and today I baked the cookies off. The dough gets very firm in the fridge, and needs some handling for it to get malleable and rollable. You roll out the dough in prtions into ropes, then cut the ropes into pieces, form them into crescents and bake. After baking, they are rolled in powdered sugar, and when cooled off, one end is dipped into chocolate.

When I was rolling the cookies in the powdered sugar, three broke (as the author warned would probably happen). I tasted one of the broken ones, and I liked them so much I got out my favorite 70% chocolate to dip them in :o).

So there you have them. Lovely looking, very delicate and not to mention *delicious* cookies. A definate winner!

zondag 19 augustus 2007

Three nut fingers

I went back to the starting point of this blog, which is 'Rose's Christmas cookies'. I heard people say good things about the 'three nut fingers', had all ingredients on hand and gave them a try. I loved the idea of a sandy, nutty cookie, being a big fan of mexican wedding cakes (I never can stop eating those when they are around). The cookies were very easily put together, baked, and rolled in superfine sugar.

The result is a nice, small cookie with a good taste, but in all honesty I think they're on the dry side. They are a little mealy when you first bite into them, as they fall completely apart in your mouth, until the nutty taste shines through which makes up for that, even if at least partially. I have the dough for the 'chocolate dipped melting moments' in the fridge and will bake them off later.
Aaahh, I love quiet, Sunday mornings, when there really is nothing better to do than bake cookies :o)

zaterdag 11 augustus 2007

Chocolate covered, chocolate chip cookie mud balls

I know I said I was venturing into other cookie books, but I got stuck with Big, fat cookies one more week ;o). My mom asked me to make her some cranberry/pecan biscotti, and since I was looking up the recipe, I decided to give another chocolate cookie a go, as I had such succes with two others. So chocolate covered chocolate chipe cookie mud balls it was.

Making the cookie was a very unusual proces (at least to me). Ms. Klivans has you bake the cookies, crumble them while the chocolate chips are still in the melted stage, form balls, let the chocolate harden in the fridge, then cover the balls in melted chocolate.
I baked the cookies, this time in my mom's oven, which was kind of hard because it reacts totally different from mine, takes longer baking times and can't be set as precise as I like with my anal tendencies when it comes to baking ;o). So the cookies took longer, spread a lot (not that it's a new thing....) but I just proceeded. I broke up the cookies will still pretty hot and thought it would be a disaster as they seemed greasy. I now realize that it was because they were so hot that the butter couln't possibly have set either. There wasn't a lot of butter in the recipe, so that couldn't be a problem anyway. But they firmed up, I coated them in chocolate, let them firm up again the fridge and they are definately *good*! I did use only half a cookie for each ball to make them not as monstrous, and it was a good decision. They look like somewhat large filled chocolates, and are definately as nice as that. Very rich, chocolatey, and still some crunch from the cookies. I'd definately recommend trying them.

zaterdag 4 augustus 2007

Orange pecan brown sugar cookies

I've decided that although I didn't exactly stick to my initial plan of baking everything in 'Rose's Christmas cookies', I'm still trying out new recipes, mostly of cookies, so the title of my blog still holds truth ;o). Which menas I can happily blog about any cookie I've tried which is what I'm doing!

This week I made the 'orange pecan brown sugar cookies from 'Big, fat, cookies' to try and make up for last week's disaster. The author describes how lovely her house smells whenever she makes these cookies and it sounded so appealing I wanted to accomplish that as well. These cookies have a lot of chopped pecans and plenty of orange zest to give them flavor. The dough contains no eggs and no leavening and is very easy to put together. I started baking the first batch, and even if Ms. Klivans prodicted a lot of spreading, I quickly feared that last week's spreading fest into pancake-like cookies was happening all over again. We talked about this problem extensively over at Fine Cooking's 'Cooks talk' where it was suggested to increase baking temperature to prevent spreading. So I quickly changed my oven setting from upper/lower heat to convection (as you're supposed to decrease the temperature about 20 degrees, as all cookbooks say) and left it at the same temp. And miracle of miracles: it worked!! The cookies spread less and stayed a cookie-like thickness. Even though sometimes, one of four on my sheet didn't want to behave and spread anyway (strange).
So I think they came out well, at least they looked very appetizing, see for yourself:

Now taste-wise, I was disappointed. Yes they are orange-y, and there's plenty of pecans too. I just thought they were very sweet and not all that interesting. My husband liked them fine, though they're not his favorite either.
I guess I should have changed the title of this blog into 'cookie book journey', because I think I'm ready to move on to another book. I'm glad I still have a lot to choose from :o).