Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Homespun P.B. Cups with Garam Masala & Honey

I wanted to sneak in another edible gift recipe this week. For all of you last minute gift seekers, this will do it! I've been thinking about making homemade peanut butter cups, but after browsing over recipes, I wasn't feeling inspired. Traditionally you would make the chocolate cup, most commonly out of chocolate chips. Then you would fill them with a peanut butter and powdered sugar filling. The end product is great don't get me wrong, but if I'm going to make these, I'm really going to make these well. I was pondering different fillings, or different chocolates, but I wasn't making progress. Then my coworker gave me a spoonful of Asian Jazz Yumbutter. Whoa baby.

 Produced by the OM Boys Food Movement in Madison Wisconsin, this peanut butter is not only the best peanut butter I have ever tasted, but every time you buy a jar you help put an end to malnutrition in developing countries. Check out their website, www.yumbutter.com and get the lowdown. Asian Jazz Yumbutter is ground from peanuts grown in the US and blended with cumin, turmeric, cayenne pepper, garlic, sea slat, and love. I just received my first case at the Co-op (check out the deli cooler), and we've already sold several!! As you can imagine, it sparked visions of alternative peanut butter fillings for my homemade peanut butter cups.

I settled on peanut butter ground fresh here at the Cook County Whole Foods Co-op. You can't beat freshly ground peanut butter,or so I thought. (I will note that fresh ground peanut butter reacts very differently than other peanut butters. The flavor is remarkable, but it lacks the creaminess of jarred peanut butter. I thought it made the filling a little on the dry side, but the flavor was great. I would suggest using a creamy, all natural peanut butter from a jar. One of my favorite things about blogging about food is that it is one part writing, one part cooking, and one part chemistry. Some times recipes work out, and sometimes there is room for further exploration.)  After my Yumbutter experience I knew I wanted to add some subtle spice to the peanut filling, and I settled on Garam Masala. This spice blend contains black pepper, cloves, cinnamon, cumin, and cardamon. The flavors make me think of apple pie, or spiced cider. I also wanted to make the filling sweet, but not too sweet. I settled on sweetening the peanut filling with honey. This gave the filling the sweetness it needed, and I flavor of the honey paired well with the Garam Masala. I should also mention that I used equal parts dark and milk chocolate, but you could use one or the other, depending on your preference.

Homespun P.B. Cups

8 ounces dark chocolate
8 ounces milk chocolate
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup honey
1/4  tsp Garam Masala
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt

Prepare a mini muffin pan with liners. The recipe yields one 24 count mini muffin pan's worth of P.B. cups.

Over a double boiler, melt the chocolate. Spoon a teaspoon full of the melted chocolate into each muffin cup and swirl it around with the backside of a small spoon. You want to get the chocolate up the sides, making sure you have a thick layer of chocolate on the bottom as well as the sides. (This part is the most involved, and I promise it gets better after this.) Allow the cups to harder in the fridge for about 10 minutes.

Prepare the peanut butter filling by mixing the P.B, honey, Garam Masala, honey, vanilla, and salt.
Place a spoonful of the filling in each cup, filling it about 3/4 full- leave enough space to cover with chocolate.

Spoon a half of a teaspoon or so of chocolate over the filling, sealing the filling in, finishing the chocolate cup.

Sprinkle tops with flakes of sea salt, or garnish with a roasted peanut. Allow to chill in the fridge until set, about 10 minutes. Share with friends, family, and radio hosts! Belly up!!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Sugar Cookies with Chocolate & Peppermint

the cutout cookie army
the finished product!
Edible gift number two. Buttery Christmas cutout cookies drizzled with chocolate and sprinkled with crushed peppermint sticks. I am a big fan of pairing chocolate and peppermint. When Girl Scouts come around pushing those Thin Mint cookies, I cannot resist.We've packaged these beauties in cellophane, trussed them up with ribbon, and they adorn the checkout lanes at the Co-op.  They are the perfect edible gift to share!!

Sugar Cookie Cutouts with Chocolate & Peppermint

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
2 Tbl sour cream
1 tsp vanilla extract

bittersweet chocolate, melted
candy canes, crushed

Sift  first 3 ingredients into a medium bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and 1 cup sugar in a large bowl and blend well. Add egg, sour cream, and vanilla, and beat for about 1 minute. Beat dry ingredients in 2 additions until just blended. Gather dough together, divide in half. Flatten each half into a disk, wrap in plastic and chill1 hour. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Keep chilled. Softened dough slightly at room temperature before rolling out.)

Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Sprinkle work surface and top of dough with additional sugar. Working with 1 disk at a time, roll out dough to 1/4 inch thickness (dough will be very soft). Using assorted 2 to 3 inch cookie cutters, cut out cookies. Transfer to prepared sheets, spacing 1 inch apart. Gather scraps and roll out on a sugared surface and cut out more cookies. Repeat until all the dough is used. Chill all cookies on baking sheets at least 15 minutes and up to 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake cookies, 1 sheet at a time, until light golden at edges, about 12 minutes. Transfer cookies to racks and cool completely.

Melt with chocolate in a double boiler, being careful to remove the chocolate when it is almost done. Finish stirring the chocolate until it is smooth. Drizzle the cooled cookies with chocolate. Alternately, you could dip half of the cookie in the chocolate. Before the chocolate has cooled and set, sprinkle with crushed peppermint candy canes. Belly up!!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Espresso Shortbread

Christmas is very near. I become over-zealous about making homemade gifts around this holiday, especially ones that are to be eaten. I can't help it. To combat this craze, I have decided to blog away on as many edible gift recipes as I can. Everyone needs an outlet, right? I'll be tucking a jar of spiced white peach jam, which I blogged about back in July, into everyone's stocking this year. The spices of the jam; ginger, cinnamon, cardamon and allspice are warming and welcoming into the snowy holiday. I'll also be making dozens of cookies which will both overwhelm and over- sugar my family. One of my favorite cookies is shortbread. This versatile, buttery cookie can be a vehicle for many flavors, my favorite being espresso. Each  cookie ends up tasting like a wonderful, sweet cup of espresso which I love so very much. Using ground espresso beans gives these cookies the intense coffee flavor and a delicate crunch.

Espresso Shortbread

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup confectioners' sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup ground espresso
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar until creamy and smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the vanilla and beat well. On low speed, mix in the flour, espresso, and salt until just combined  Form the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic, and chill for at least 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Roll the dough between two sheets of plastic wrap or wax paper to 1/4 inch thick. Using a sharp knife, cut the shortbread into 2 inch squares and place them 1 inch apart on ungreased baking sheets. Prick the shortbread with a fork and bake until pale golden around the edges, 20 to 24 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack.

To make chocolate dipped or chocolate drizzled espresso shortbread, melt 2 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, remove it from the heat, and add another 1 1/2 ounces chopped bittersweet chocolate. Stir continuously until the chocolate is at room temperature. Dip each cookie halfway into melted chocolate, then place them on a wire rack and let stand undisturbed until the chocolate sets, about 2 hours.

Serve with a well made cup of java! Belly up!!

*these cookies may provoke a rowdy afternoon if consumed by children