Monday, February 20, 2012

Secret Recipe Club~Apple Empanadas!

It's time for another Secret Recipe Club reveal. We took a little break in January, but we are back in full force this month, cooking and baking our way through the blogging world. For February, I was assigned  the blog, The Foodies at Work. This  blog is so unique, with the 2 girls who are the foodies, writing from two different cities. Melissa posts from Boston and Angela from New York City. This fantastic blog features original recipes, local food events, and restaurant reviews. Stop by their blog, and say hi! I made their Apples Empanadas a la mode today. They are just wonderful. They remind me of some wonderful commercial pies I used to eat when I was a little girl. The pies brought back warm memories for me!! Try these. You will love them!

Apple Empanadas a la Mode
4 tablespoon unsalted Butter
3 large Baking Apples
3 tablespoon Dark Brown Sugar
1 teaspoon Cinnamon
1 box frozen Puff Pastry, thawed(this takes about 40 minutes)
Flour, for dusting
Pinch Salt
Optional: 3 tablespoon Dark Rum
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Peel your apples.
Core your apples, and dice them into small bite sized pieces.
Melt the butter in a saucepan.
Once the butter is completely melted, add the apples
and stir them until they are soft. This does not take long.
Once the apples are soft, add your brown sugar,
cinnamon, salt, and rum, if you so desire. I omitted the rum.
Let this cook for 10 minutes, stirring often.
Once the 10 minutes are up, mush the apples with a fork
until it looks like lumpy applesauce.
During the 10 minutes, start to cut out your circles
from the puff pastry. Unfold the puff pastry. Use something 
that is 4-5 " in diameter to cut out your circles.You can see
that I used my funnel which was 4 1/2" wide. It worked great!
Using a paring knife or pastry wheel, cut out your circles.
There is 1 of the 4 circles I cut from 1 puff pastry sheet.
I made 1/2  of the recipe, 
so I only ended up with 4 empanadas.
Scoop 2 tablespoons of apple mixture onto each circle.
Fold each pastry circle in half. 
Pinch the ends closed.
Crimp the ends of the pastry with fork tines.
Pretty!
Take the 1 tablespoon of butter that you didn't use,
melt it, and gently spread it on the empanadas.
Poke a couple holes in the top of each pastry,
allowing it to vent while baking.
Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until they start to
turn light brown. 
Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream!
Enjoy!






Cookie Journey~Outline and Fill

Today I thought I would start my cookie journey by outlining a few cookies, and then filling them in. I baked my cookies using heart cookie cutters, and I made pink icing. They did not turn out like I wanted them to. I will say that I did all this late in the evening, and I was tired. Tomorrow I am going to try to decorate in the morning. I am just more alert in the morning!
I started with a bowl of the icing that I made yesterday.
I added a little water to make it a better consistency.
I drew a knife through the icing, and counted to 10
to see if it would be 10 seconds until the line disappeared.
It was, so the icing was a good consistency.
This is called 10 Second Icing!
I used an AmeriColor brand Soft Pink. I love this
brand because the color is dropped in by squeezing the
bottle. It is so easy to control.
I put in five drops and mixed.
I filled my bag about 1/3 full with the pink icing.
I outlined the heart cookie. I think I should have outlined 
by leaving a little bit of an edge,
 so the icing is not on the very edge of the cookie.
I filled in by continuing to go around the design until the 
heart was covered, then I moved the cookie back and forth
until all the spots were filled.
Then I did the same thing to several small cookies also.
They are ok. But just ok.
I wouldn't want to give them to anyone!
So therefore, they are not good!
But practice makes perfect, and I will continue to
make some more heart cookies.
For more information of how to decorate this way,
 go to Sweetopia's YouTube page. She has a 
wonderful tutorial on what I did today, except 
hers look so, so great!

See you tomorrow when we will do some
 add ons to the basic decorated cookie
that we did today!

Don't forget about our 
Random Acts of Kindness Giveaway Blog Hop!

We are giving away a cookie decorating kit full of
useful things you are sure to use!
Click on the link for your chance to win.
Our giveaway ends Tuesday at midnight!!
Thanks for joining me today!
Hope to see you tomorrow!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

My Cookie Journey! and A Giveaway!!

Today I am starting on my journey to be a better cookie baker and decorator. I originally said that I would be posting about my attempt to improve my lack of cookie decorating skills throughout the 5 days of participating in the Random Acts of Kindness Blog Hop. I will do that, but I am also going to continue to work on  improving my limited skills by practicing whenever possible and posting my accomplishments and failures on my blog every Thursday. This ensures that I will make a step toward fulfilling my goal of becoming a cookie decorator, because I will at least be practicing once a week! That day will forever be known as Cookie Journey Thursday!
So, let's get started. Today I am posting the cookie recipe and the icing recipe I usually use. It is very possible that both the cookie recipe and the icing recipe are ones you use. They are all over the internet, and I have read many blogs where cookie decorators use these recipes. The cookie recipe is called "No Fail Sugar Cookies". I found the recipe on the Kitchen Gifts blog. I love the recipe, and I have used it for years, but I made one change that has made it a great recipe for me. The original recipe calls for 6 cups flour. I use only 5. For some reason it just makes a better cookie for me.
NO FAIL SUGAR COOKIES
5 cups Flour
3 teaspoon Baking Powder
2 cups Butter
2 cups Sugar
2 Eggs
2 teaspoon Vanilla or Almond Extract
1 teaspoon Salt
Cream butter and sugar.....
until light and fluffy.
Add eggs and almond extract, and mix well.
Mix dry ingredients a little at a time to butter mixture.
Mix until flour is incorporated and the dough comes together.
The dough needs to be chilled. On the Kitchen Gifts web site
they recommend this great idea so you can start cutting out
your cookies sooner than later. Take a spatula full 
of dough, and put it in the middle of  a piece of
 parchment paper. Cover the dough with the same size
parchment paper. Roll out the dough to 1/4" thickness.
Place the dough on a baking sheet, cover with plastic, 
and let it chill in the refrigerator. Repeat the process
 until all the dough is used, and all the sheets of 
parchment are in the fridge. By the time you are done,
the first sheet you put in should be done. If not, wait about
1/2 hour. They should be done by then. 
Take out the first batch, cut out, and start baking at
350 degrees for 8-10 minutes.
The best thing is that you are not adding any additional 
 flour to your cookies.

If covered properly with the plastic, these can stay in
the fridge overnight. Many times I have made the recipe
before I go to bed, and then I cut them out and 
bake them in the morning.

ANTONIA74 ROYAL ICING
6 ounces warm Water
5 tablepoons Meringue Powder
1 teaspoon Cream of Tartar
2.25 pounds Confectioner's Sugar

I have been using this recipe for a little over a year,and I 
really like it. It makes up quick, and I have
had lots of comments of how good it tastes.
I found this recipe on the Cake Central website. I love this site.
I can truly spend hours browsing the cookies that bakers have
posted. It's a great site to see what's new and what everyone else is 
baking! There are so many talented people out there!! 
In the mixing bowl from your mixer, pour in the warm water
and the meringue powder. Mix it with a whisk until it is frothy
and has thickened a bit, about 30 seconds.
Add the cream of tartar and whisk for another 30 seconds.
Pour all of the confectioners sugar in the bowl, 
and place the bowl on the mixer.
Use your paddle attachment on low speed, and mix 
for 10 minutes. I usually stop the mixer at least one time 
during the 10 minutes to push down the icing that gathers
on the wall of the bowl.
Your icing will get smooth, thick and creamy.
Place in a sealed container until you are ready to use.

That's it. Tomorrow we will talk about some cookie 
decorating basics like how to outline and fill in.

Don't forget about the
 Random Acts of Kindness Giveaway Blog Hop!

We are giving away a cookie decorating kit full of
useful things you are sure to use!
Click on the link for your chance to win.
Our giveaway ends Monday!!

Thanks for joining me today!
Hope to see you tomorrow!


Friday, February 17, 2012

Random Acts of Kindness Giveaway Hop

The Freshman Cook is having a giveaway!!! I have linked up to the Random Acts of Kindness Giveaway Hop The giveaway starts today(Friday) and ends on Tuesday 2/21 at midnight.! That's only 5 days to enter to win!! There are 150 different blogs participating in this giveaway. Check them out at the bottom of this post. This is going to be fun!! What are we giving away?
 A Cookie Making, Baking, and Decorating Kit!
Your kit includes:
1 Sil-pin Rolling Pin
10 Various Cookie Cutters
5 Decorating Tips
Several Couples
Several Tip Covers
A wash bag for your decorating tips
2 Decorating Colors

How do you win? There are 2 ways. 
1 is mandatory. You must follow 
The Freshman Cook, and send me a comment 
that you are following.
The 2nd way to enter is to follow 
The Freshman Cook on Facebook. This is optional.
Then send me a comment telling me you "like"
The Freshman Cook on facebook.

That's it!
For the next 5 days of the giveaway, I will be sharing
my lack of cookie knowledge with you. 
I have always wanted to spend time
decorating cookies in the hope that I might 
get a little better.(I am terrible)
Well, throughout the giveaway, I will be sharing
my trial and tribulations  as I attempt to 
decorate a cookie I am happy with.
I hope you will join me!!  :)





Thursday, February 16, 2012

Improv Challenge~Carrot Cake Whoopie Pies!

Today is the day for the Improv Cooking Challenge!   This is such a fun challenge, I just love participating! This month our ingredients are carrots and ginger. I immediately thought of carrot cake, but I was looking for something a little smaller, like cookies. This got my brain thinking about cookies, and then whoopie pies, the ultimate cookie!
Carrot Cake Whoppie Pies
(adapted from Whoopie Pies by Sarah Billingsley)

2 cups Flour
1 1/2 teaspoons Baking Soda
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
1 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1 teaspoon Ground Ginger
1/2 teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon Salt
8 tablespoons Butter, softened
1/2 cup packed Light Brown Sugar
1/2 cup Sugar
2 Eggs
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 cup Grated Carrots

Whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder,
cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt together. 
Set aside.
In the bowl that you can use a mixer with, 
cream together the butter and both sugars. 
Cream on medium for  4-5 minutes
until light and fluffy. 
Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each one.
Mix in vanilla.
Add the dry ingredients and mix just until combined.
Add carrots.
Chill the batter in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
While the batter is chilling, make the cream cheese filling.
This is a recipe I have used for a very long time. I love it!
Cream Cheese Filling
8 ounces Cream Cheese
5 tablespoons Butter, softened
2 teaspoon Vanilla
2 cups Confectioners Sugar
Cream the cream cheese and butter together.
Add vanilla.
Add sugar 1 cup at a time. You might need more
if you want thicker filling.
Put filling in a pastry bag with a Wilton #12 tip.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Use a small cookie scoop, and place circle of dough
on your baking sheet. Cook for 10 minutes.
Let cool!
Pipe the filling onto the bottom of 1 cookie,.....
and put the other cookie on top.
Delicious!

Thanks for stopping by The Freshman Cook!



Improv Challenge