Friday, December 13, 2013

Red Velvet Shortbread Cookies

As I was browsing cookie recipes on the Better Homes and Garden's website (how I got there, I have no idea!) I saw this recipe and knew it would be perfect for my dad. His favorite cookies tend to be shortbread or my un-iced gingerbread men/sugar cookies. His favorite nut is the pistachio, and these suggest dipping the cookie in either sprinkles or pistachios. I did make two versions, one with sprinkles and one with pistachios. 

The red velvet aspect makes it more festive and the subtle hint of cocoa powder makes them taste just like red velvet cake. If you don't have time to make them for Christmas, they'd also be perfect for Valentine's Day! (I doubled this recipe the first time, then tripled it the second, you will get about 15-18 cookies per single recipe below)

Red Velvet Shortbread Cookies
directions rewritten, recipe from Better Homes and Gardens

1 1/4 c. all purpose flour
1/3 c. sugar
2 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. butter
1 tbsp. red food coloring
3 oz. white chocolate, chips or chopped
Finely chopped pistachios (about 1/2 c.) or nonpareils (about 2 tbsp.)

Cream butter and sugar, add salt cocoa powder and red food coloring, mix well.
Gently fold in flour until it is absorbed. 
Lay a piece of plastic wrap out and form dough into a log, tightly wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 325*
Line a cookie sheet with parchment.
Slice cookies 1/4" wide and place 2" apart on cookie sheet.
Bake for 18-20 minutes, until puffed and set, cool on a wire rack to room temperature. 
Melt white chocolate in a small dish, dip cookies in chocolate and then sprinkle with nuts or nonpaerils, lay on plastic wrap to dry, about an hour. 
Place in an airtight container for up to a week.

Black and White Cookies

For a few years I've been wanting to make black and white cookies but they seemed intimidating. They're the kind of thing that if you screw it up, people will notice. They have such a distinct flavor and look and when they're good, they're GOOD. They're more of a cake-cookie than a hard, sturdy cookie and the secret getting the perfectly flat top is flipping them over and icing the bottom!

My older sister is a big black and white cookie fan so I decided to bite the bullet and try out black and whites for her Christmas cookie package. I used Smitten Kitchen's recipe and steps exactly so I would not mess up a single step. I'm not going to rewrite them because they're long and involved, I'll just give you a link to the recipe. Make these! Make them now! Smitten Kitchen's Black and White Cookies

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Fruitcake Cookies

Starting in late October, I create a document where I copy and paste Christmas cookie ideas for the year. I generally try to make about 6-8 of the old favorites and 6-8 new cookies. Since my Kitchenaid mixer didn't make it to Boise, along with my rolling pin, silpat, cookie cutters and a few other baking essentials, I had to rethink the list. While I normally make Gingerbread men cut outs, sugar cookie Christmas trees, chocolate sugar cookie snowflakes and spritz cookies, they weren't an option this year.

As I was noting recipes I thought to myself how it would be fun to make a certain cookie that each member of my family would really like. So over the next few days you'll see different cookies that I made hoping to make each family member feel extra special!

First up is my husband! He is one of the only people I know who love fruitcake. Seriously... So when I saw these Ina cookies I knew they'd be a hit with him. I made a few small changes to the original recipe. First, I couldn't get dried figs at the store and I didn't feel like trying another so I used dates. Turns out my husband prefers dates! Next, I soaked the fruit/nuts in Bourbon rather than sherry. Lastly I left out the candied cherries and used dried cherries instead. Do not be afraid of these cookies, yes Fruitcake is a polarizing thing, but they're so good! They plethora of dried fruit and nuts is just lightly held together with a brown sugary dough, totally delicious!

Fruitcake Cookies
loosely based on Ina Garten's recipe 

1 c. diced dried dates
1 c. diced dried apricots
1/2 c. golden raisins
1/2 c. dried cherries, chopped
1/2 c. dried cranberries
3 tbsp. Bourbon
1 tbsp. fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 tbsp. lemon zest
3/4 c. chopped pecans
1 c. butter, softened
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
2/3 c. light brown sugar, packed
1 large egg
2 2/3 c. all purpose flour

Toss dried fruit and pecans in a bowl, drizzle with bourbon, lemon juice and zest, add a pinch of kosher salt.
Cover and let fruit sit overnight at room temperature.
Cream butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl.
Add egg and cloves, mix well.
Add flour and mix until it is just combined, do not overmix.
Add fruit mixture and gently fold to distribute evenly.
Chill dough for at least one hour.
Preheat oven to 350*
Scoop dough by heaping tablespoons full into palms, roll into a ball then gently flatten into a disc, place 2" apart on a parchment lined cookie sheet.
Bake for 15-17 minutes until golden brown.
Cool on a metal rack and store in an airtight container for up to a week.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

White Cheddar Beer Mac and Cheese

(from my Instagram: ashmelzorn)

Back in October when my family took a trip to Oregon we visited Deschutes Brewery in Bend, Oregon. We began our meal with their Beer Cheese and pretzel dip which was insanely memorable. The cheese was a melted white cheddar laced with beer and there was coarse stone ground mustard rimming the bowl. When you swiped the pretzel through the mustard and into the cheese it was phenomenal. When it came time to make our Thanksgiving menu, I mentioned turning the beer cheese dip into a mac and cheese. I've had mac and cheese with mustard powder as an ingredient in the past, so I knew if I kept it subtle we'd have a winning dish.  

(Thanksgiving plate, mac and cheese is at twelve o'clock)

I used somewhat local Tillamook White Cheddar, which is delicious. We chose the Fat Tire Amber Ale because I'm not a fan of IPAs, which the dip used (we bought a 6-pack so I didn't want to get shorted out of the leftover beer!) This mac and cheese got better with each plate of leftovers! The beer taste was a little stronger and we declared it the best mac and cheese I've ever made!

White Cheddar Beer Mac and Cheese
Veggie by Season original

12 oz. short cut pasta (we used shells)
Kosher salt
2 tbsp. butter
1/2 large or 1 small yellow onion, minced
Black pepper
3 tbsp. flour
1 c. beer of choice
1 c. 2% milk
2 tbsp. coarse ground mustard (I like inglehoffer from World Market)
12 oz. fresh grated sharp white cheddar

Preheat oven to 400*
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt and add pasta, cook to al dente, about 8-10 minutes.
Heat a shallow skillet over medium-low heat, melt butter and add onions
Saute' onions for 2-3 minutes, until translucent, season with salt and black pepper.
Add flour, whisk to cook for a minute then turn heat up to medium-high.
Add beer, whisk flour clumps into beer and reduce liquid by half.
Add milk and bring mixture to a simmer, turn heat off.
Add mustard and cheese, use a spatula and stir using a figure-eight motion.
Taste cheese sauce and add more salt and pepper if necessary.
Drain pasta and pour into a baking dish, add cheese sauce and stir well to combine.
Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until desired brownness and crunch.