weeknight gourmet

Category : Dessert

Christmas Cookies: Cocoa Thumbprints

In case you are still in the baking mood, here are some chocolate cookies that are a nice take on traditional thumbprints!  This is not my favorite chocolate Christmas cookie recipe but they are tasty.  I think I like a richer chocolate flavor.  For those of you who are not chocoholics, this might be the Christmas cookie for you!  Tim thinks they are delicious!

Cocoa Thumbprints
Food Network Magazine

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar, plus 1/2 cup for rolling
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • Sprinkles, mini marshmallows, mini candies or dried fruit, for filling

Whisk the flour, 3/4 cup granulated sugar, the cocoa powder, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Add the melted butter and eggs and stir until combined. Cover and refrigerate the dough until firm, about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment. Place the confectioners’ sugar and the remaining 1/2 cup granulated sugar in 2 separate small bowls. Roll scant tablespoonfuls of dough into balls; roll in the granulated sugar and then in the confectioners’ sugar. Place 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheets. Lightly flatten each ball with your fingers and make a deep 1/2-inch-wide indentation in the centers with your thumb. Place your choice of filling in the indentation.

Bake the cookies until puffed and slightly cracked, about 10 minutes. Let cool 3 minutes on the baking sheets, then transfer to racks to cool completely.

Christmas Candy: Dark Chocolate Almond Bark

I’ve never really made candy before.  I associated making candy with other recipes that require you to be more precise than I really enjoy being.  I assumed you always needed a candy thermometer and I already have way more kitchen equipment than either of my kitchens can handle.

But this Dark Chocolate Almond Bark changes everything!!!  It was amazing and so easy to make!  The caramel – which is the only thing you actually have to prepare — comes together quickly.  I could not find Marcona almonds so I used blanched and slivered almonds.

I think the key to the bark though is high quality chocolate and not to forget the coarse sea salt!  I used Guittard 63% Extra Dark Chocolate Chips.  Yum!

I plan to make another batch tonight using pistachios in my attempt to recreate Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Roasted Pistachio Toffee.  Unfortunately I’m out of Guittard chocolate so we’ll see how Trader Joe’s dark chocolate does.

Note: Thank you to Bon Appetit’s website for the photo.  I didn’t have my camera when I made the bark.

Chocolate-Almond Bark with Sea Salt
Bon Appetit

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups roasted Marcona almonds (not in oil)
  • 1 pound good-quality dark chocolate (62%–70% cacao), finely chopped
  • Coarse sea salt (for sprinkling)

Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or foil. Combine sugar with 2 Tbsp. water in a small saucepan. Stir over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil and cook, occasionally swirling pan and brushing down sides with a wet pastry brush, until caramel is dark amber, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Immediately add butter; whisk until melted. Add almonds; stir until well coated. Transfer to baking sheet, spreading out to separate nuts. Let cool. Break up any large clumps of nuts. Set aside 1/4 of nuts.

Stir chocolate in a medium bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water until melted. Remove from heat, add nuts from baking sheet, and stir quickly to combine. Spread chocolate-nut mixture on same baking sheet, keeping nuts in a single layer. Top with the reserved nuts; sprinkle with salt. Chill until chocolate is set, about 3 hours.

Break bark into pieces and store between layers of parchment or waxed paper. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 week ahead. Keep chilled.

Makes about 1 3/4 lb.

Christmas Cookies: Lemon Ricotta Cookies

I made these cookies for Tim’s “snack day” at work along with the Chocolate Peppermint Thumbprints.  Mine did not turn out as pretty as Giada’s but they were delicious!  So moist from the *whole* container of ricotta cheese.  And, such great lemon flavor from the zest in the cookie and the very lemony glaze.

Just a couple of notes:

The glaze recipe made just enough to cover all the cookies.  So be generous but not overly so when coating the cookies.

I have started to always line my cookie sheets with parchment paper or my Silpat mat.  The cookies bake more evenly and are easy to remove from the cookie sheet.  And, clean up is a breeze — just throw out the paper or wipe down the mat!

Lastly, if you don’t own a Microplane zester, it really is an amazing tool to zest citrus.  You can use it to grate parmesan cheese, and I’ve even seen people use it on garlic cloves and ginger.

Enjoy!

Lemon Ricotta Cookies
Giada de Laurentiis

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 (15-ounce) container whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 lemon, zested

Glaze:

  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 lemon, zested

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Cookies: In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In the large bowl combine the butter and the sugar. Using an electric mixer beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating until incorporated. Add the ricotta cheese, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Beat to combine. Stir in the dry ingredients.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Spoon the dough (about 2 tablespoons for each cookie) onto the baking sheets. Bake for 15 minutes, until slightly golden at the edges. Remove from the oven and let the cookies rest on the baking sheet for 20 minutes.

Glaze: Combine the powdered sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest in a small bowl and stir until smooth. Spoon about 1/2-teaspoon onto each cookie and use the back of the spoon to gently spread. Let the glaze harden for about 2 hours. Pack the cookies into a decorative container.

Christmas Cookies: Chocolate Peppermint Thumbprints

My friend Emily made these cookies for Thanksgiving and they were delicious!  I needed to make a holiday treat for Tim’s office so I decided to make them.  What says Christmas more than chocolate + peppermint?!

Do not overbake the cookies.  I followed the instructions exactly and the cookies were so moist and delicious.

To make the chocolate – peppermint filling, all you need is butter, chocolate chips, and some peppermint extract.  You can pipe the filling through a Ziploc bag with a corner cut off.

The cookies were a hit in Tim’s office.  I think they were all gone within two days!  I was a little sad I didn’t save any for myself but my waistline probably thanks me.

Chocolate Peppermint Thumbprints
Everyday Food

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1 1/4 cups (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 5 ounces semisweet chocolate chips (3/4 cup)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure peppermint extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, with racks in upper and lower thirds. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, and salt. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat 1 cup each butter and sugar on medium-high until light and fluffy, 3 minutes. Add egg and vanilla; beat to combine. With mixer on low, gradually add flour mixture and beat to combine. Place 1/2 cup sugar in a small bowl. Roll dough into 1-inch balls, then roll in sugar to coat. Place balls, 1 inch apart, on two parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake 5 minutes. Remove sheets from oven; with the small end of a melon baller or the bottom of a small round measuring spoon, make an indentation in center of each cookie.

Bake until cookies are just set but still look moist, 4 minutes (do not overbake). Let cool on sheets on wire racks. In a microwave-safe bowl, microwave chocolate chips and ¼ cup butter in 10-second increments until melted; stir in peppermint extract. Let cool until thick enough to pipe, 5 minutes. Transfer mixture to a large zip-top bag; snip 1/4-inch hole in one corner. Pipe chocolate into cookie indentations. (Store in airtight containers, up to 1 week.)

Active time: 35 minutes

Total time: 50 minutes + cooling

Makes 4 dozen

Holiday Menu: Honey-Mustard Pork Roast with Bacon, Baby Arugula Salad & Cauliflower Gratin

The day after Christmas is my father-in-law’s birthday.  Tim’s immediately family came up to the Berkshires on the 26th to celebrate.  We had the delicious and festive menu below.  The pork I have made before and it was even better than I remember!  The bacon and the honey mustard coating gives amazing flavor to the meat.  This is the first time I made the Barefoot Contessa’s Cauliflower Gratin and it was a huge hit!  Who wouldn’t love cauliflower with a nice cream sauce and lots of Gruyere. I had some leftover Brussels Sprouts & Butternut Squash.  The dish reheated nicely.

We finished the birthday meal with a delectable Red Velvet Cake.  So moist!  And the cream cheese frosting was amazing!

Honey-Mustard Pork Roast with Baby Arugula Salad

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Cauliflower Gratin

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Brussels Sprouts & Butternut Squash with Bacon Vinaigrette (leftovers from Xmas)

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The Best Red Velvet Cake

Holiday Menu: The Best Red Velvet Cake

I wish I had a photo of this cake but it was too hectic getting the meal on the table and entertaining guests.  But trust me, it was amazing looking and tasting!

I turned to my favorite source of the cake recipes — the Cake Mix Doctor.  She starts with a basic cake mix and adds all sorts of goodness to come up with some delectable cakes!

The red velvet cake required a number of ingredients beyond the cake mix but was super easy to make.  I do not have three cake pans so I just made a two layer cake and allowed the cake to cook for a bit longer since there was more batter in the pan.

The cream cheese frosting was delicious as well.  Make sure to allow the butter and cream cheese to come to room temperature and to sift the confectioner’s sugar.

There is no doubt I will be making this cake again!

The Best Red Velvet Cake
The Cake Mix Doctor

  • Solid vegetable oil shortening, for greasing the pans
  • Flour, for dusting the pans
  • 1 (18.5-ounce) package plain butter recipe golden cake mix
  • 2 ½ tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/3 cups buttermilk
  • 1 (1-ounce) bottle red food coloring
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, melted
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
Place rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly grease 3 9-inch round cake pans with shortening, then dust with flour. Shake out excess flour and set the pans aside.
Place the cake mix, cocoa powder, buttermilk, food coloring, melted butter, eggs, vanilla, baking soda and vinegar in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer on low speed until ingredients are incorporated, 1 minute. Stop machine and scrape down side of bowl with rubber spatula. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes longer, scraping the side of the bowl again if needed. The batter should look well-blended. Divide batter evenly among 3 prepared pans, about 1 ½ cups batter per pan, smoothing the tops with rubber spatula. Place pans in the oven. If your oven is not large enough to hold 3 pans on center rack, place 2 on that rack and one in the center of the rack above.
Bake cake layers until they just start to pull away from the sides of the pans and the tops spring back when lightly pressed with a finger, 17 to 21 minutes. The layer on the higher rack may bake faster so test it for doneness first.
Transfer cake pans to wire racks and cool for 5 minutes. Run a dinner knife around the edge of each layer and give the pans a good shake to loosen cakes. Invert each layer onto a wire rack, then invert it again onto another rack so the cakes are right side up. Let the layers cool completely. Make frosting.
To assemble the cake, transfer one cake layer, right side up, to a serving platter. Spread the top with some of the frosting. Place a second cake layer, right side up, on top of the first and frost the top. Repeat this process with the third layer. Frost the side of the cake with a thin coat just to set the crumbs. Use the remaining frosting to go back over this and liberally frost the side, working with smooth, clean strokes. To make slicing easier, place uncovered cake in the refrigerator until frosting sets, 20 minutes.
Cream Cheese Frosting:
Place 1 (8-ounce) package reduced-fat cream cheese and 1 stick (8 tablespoons) of room-temperature butter in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer on high speed until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. Stop machine and scrape down side of bowl with rubber spatula. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 4 cups sifted powdered sugar; beat on medium speed until well combined. Increase the mixer speed to high and beat the frosting for 1 minute longer.

Christmas Cookies: Dried Cherry & Almond Cookies

I knew that Tim and I would love these cookies!  He loves cherries and I love any baked good with almond extract.  The cookies are amazing!  A wonderful combination of almond, cinnamon, vanilla, and tartness from the cherries.

Dried Cherry & Almond Cookies
Giada de Laurentiis

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup, plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup coarsely chopped dried tart cherries (see Cook’s Note)
  • 1/2 cup slivered, blanched almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped (see Cook’s Note)

Icing:

  • 2 3/4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons water, plus extra, as needed

For the Cookies:

In a large bowl, with an electric mixer, beat the butter, sugar, vanilla extract, almond extract, cinnamon, and salt until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes, then beat in the egg. Add the flour and beat on the lowest speed until just blended. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the dried cherries and almonds.

Transfer the dough to a sheet of plastic wrap and shape it into a log, about 12-inches long and 1 1/2-inches in diameter. Wrap the dough in the plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. (Dough can be made up to 3 days in advance).

Arrange an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 heavy baking sheets with parchment paper.

Cut the log crosswise into 1/2-inch thick slices. Transfer the dough slices to the prepared baking sheets, spacing them about 1-inch apart. Bake until the cookies are golden around the edges and puffed, about 15 minutes. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely before icing, about 30 minutes.

For the Icing:

Put the powdered sugar in a medium bowl. Gradually whisk in the vanilla extract and water, adding more water, 1 teaspoon at a time, until the mixture becomes a drizzling consistency. (Makes about 2/3 cups icing, enough to ice both variations.)

Put the cooled cookies on a wire rack set over a baking sheet. Using a spoon or a fork, drizzle the cookies with the icing, allowing any excess icing to drip onto the baking sheet. Allow the icing to set before serving, about 1 hour.

Cook’s Note: To toast the almonds, arrange them in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 350 degree F oven for 6 to 8 minutes until lightly toasted. Cool completely before using.

Cook’s Note Alternative:

Replace the dried cherries with 1/2 cup coarsely chopped dried apricots and add 2 tablespoons of toasted pine nuts. Also, use 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and omit the almond extract.

Christmas Cookies: Chocolate Espresso Snowcaps

Not a lot of comments on this recipe other than that these are DELICIOUS!  I used semi-sweet chocolate rather than bittersweet.   The cookies are amazing chocolate-y bites.  Soft and chewy!

Chocolate Espresso Snowcaps
Everyday Food

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 4 teaspoons instant espresso
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 4 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for coating
In a medium bowl, sift together flour, cocoa, espresso, baking powder, and salt. With an electric mixer, cream butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg until well combined; mix in cooled chocolate. With mixer on low, gradually add flour mixture; beat in milk until just combined. Flatten dough into a disk; wrap in plastic. Freeze until firm, about 45 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Pour confectioners’ sugar (about 1/2 cup) into a medium bowl; working in batches, roll balls in sugar two times, letting them sit in sugar between coatings.
Place on prepared baking sheets, 2 inches apart. Bake until cookies have spread and coating is cracked, 12 to 14 minutes; cookies will still be soft to the touch. Cool cookies on a wire rack.

Christmas Cookies: Angeletti

We were supposed to be in the Berkshires this weekend with friends but unfortunately Charlotte got sick.  We planned to get our tree and really get into the Christmas spirit.  Instead, I was in our apartment for 48 straight hours.  But I did have the chance to do some baking.

These cookies from Real Simple are light and fluffy and covered with some delicious icing made from confectioner’s sugar.  I love how festive they look with the nonpareils.

Make sure to not over bake the cookies.  7 minutes was perfect in my oven.  Enjoy!

Angeletti
Real Simple

  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled, plus more for rolling the dough
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Glaze:
  • 1 1/3 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons multicolor nonpareil sprinkles, for decoration (optional)
Heat oven to 375° F.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the butter, granulated sugar, vanilla, and eggs until blended. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt and mix until just combined (do not overmix).
With floured hands, roll level tablespoonfuls of the dough into balls and place on parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing them 2 inches apart. Bake until puffed and the bottoms are pale golden, 7 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.
Make the glaze: In a small bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar, 2 tablespoons water, and the vanilla until the mixture forms a thick but pourable glaze (add more water if necessary).
Dip the top of each cookie into the glaze and let set, rounded side up, on a rack set over a piece of parchment paper. Sprinkle with non-pareils, if using. Allow the glaze to set, about 20 minutes. Store the cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.

Holiday Desserts: Bourbon Pecan Pie

Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving!  We had a great holiday with Tim’s family and Charlotte loved her first big holiday.

Tim’s brother and his wife hosted Thanksgiving.  I brought two pies — an Apple Crumb and a Pecan Pie.  I had never made a pecan pie before but it is among Tim’s favorites and after 11 years together I figured he deserved one.  🙂  I solicited some advice on the pecan pie and my friend Todd insisted that the recipe include bourbon and my friend Mary suggested I look into Paula Deen recipes.  Both proved to be excellent pieces of advice!

The pie was devoured!  There wasn’t a single crumb left.  Apparently this will be my “go-to” pecan pie recipe!

Bourbon Pecan Pie
Paula Deen

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup dark corn syrup
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups pecan halves
  • 2 tablespoons good-quality bourbon
  • 1 (9-inch) deep-dish pie shell, unbaked

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

In a medium bowl, stir together the sugar and melted butter. Add the corn syrup, eggs, pecans, and bourbon, and stir until all ingredients are combined. Pour mixture into an unbaked pie shell, and place on a heavy-duty cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees F, and continue to bake for an additional 25 minutes, or until pie is set. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack.