Monday, January 28, 2013

Decadent Double Chocolate Chip + Espresso Cookies

Decadent Double Chocolate Chip + Espresso Cookies
Kelley Gondring

Preheat oven 350º

In a small bowl, melt:
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

To an electric mixing bowl, add:
8 tablespoons butter, softened
1 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon + 1 1/2 teaspoons finely ground coffee [I used decaf hazelnut]
1 tablespoon sour cherry juice*

Cream together on high about 2 minutes. Mix in melted chocolate.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Mix until evenly combined.

1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips
1/2 cup packed sour cherries, pitted, drained and coarsely chopped*

*I used sour cherries because I had them on-hand in my freezer. If sour cherries aren't available, substitute dried cherries and leave out the cherry juice all together.

Let the dough sit for at least five minutes, which will allow it to firm up (aka: the melted chocolate will continue to cool and harden).

Place spoonfuls of the dough on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. Don't place cookies too close together, as they cookies will spread when warmed. Bake 10-12 minutes or until the centers of the cookies are set. Let cool for several minutes before transferring to wire cooling rack(s).

Eat up!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Rosemary + Sea Salt Wheat Bread

Rosemary + Sea Salt Wheat Bread
Kelley Gondring

In a large bowl, combine:
5.5 ounces bread flour
1.3 ounces wheat flour
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon yeast
1 1/3 cup warm water

Use a wooden spoon to mix together, about 2 minutes.

Over the proofed yeast, sift:
1/2 teaspoon yeast
10.3 ounces bread flour

This second batch of flour and yeast should completely cover the first batch. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm area of the kitchen and let rise for 3-4 hours.

Remove plastic wrap add to the mixture:
1 1/2 teaspoons dried rosemary
1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Use a wooden spoon and mix until the dough comes together. Place dough on the counter and knead until it comes together and the gluten can start to develop, about 5 minutes. If the dough is too sticky to work with, add as much as 2 tablespoons of bread flour. If the dough is still very sticky, cover with the bowl and allow the dough to rest for 20 minutes.

After dough has rested, knead for 5-10 minutes so that the dough is elastic and smooth.

Coat the bowl and dough with olive oil and place dough in the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap. Set in warm place for an hour or until the dough has doubled.

Once dough has doubled, remove from the bowl and firmly press down. Form a ball with the dough 6 inches wide and 2 inches high. Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Let rise in warm place for 45 minutes or until dough is doubled.

While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 475º.

Score the top of the bread with an X. Use a bashing brush to spread olive oil over the dough. Sprinkle with coarse sea salt and dried rosemary.

In a large casserole dish, place 1 cup of ice cubes. Place in the bottom of the oven and then place the bread on the rack just above the casserole dish. Bake for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 425º and bake for 25-30 minutes.

Transfer to wire cooling rack. Let cool slightly before cutting. Serve before dinner with a bit of olive oil and ground black pepper or with your favorite Italian dish (like Eggplant Parmesan, Sweet Sausage + Spinach Lasagna, or Spinach Ravioli).

Eat up!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Stock in Thank You Cards

Dear Audrey-

It has been two weeks since your arrival and you wouldn't believe how many people love you to pieces already. Considering the number of thank you cards I have written in the last several months, it probably would have been prudent for me to go ahead to buy stock in both Hallmark and Papyrus. And believe me when I say that I am not complaining! It is jaw-dropping to think about how generous friends, family members (immediate and distantly related), co-workers, and even neighbors have been, both before and after you were born. You've gotten clothes from people I barely know. Friends of mine who don't live in Winston-Salem have delivered casseroles and bagels. And another wonderful friend came to our house amid her busy schedule to take newborn photos of you. You even have a rhodolite garnet - your birth stone - beautifully cut by a long-time family friend. And that is just the tip of the iceberg. They say it takes a village to raise a child and Audrey, I'd say your parents are lucky enough to have an entire city!

Before we had you, I wouldn't have believed it was possible to see you change every day (especially when the days sometimes run together because you keep your mother up much of the night). Your dad and I talked about how ridiculous we would have found any other parents' of a newborn if they'd said that to us, but you literally change every single day! I mean, the day you were born, you had these narrow fingers with no fat paired with long, skinny nails. And then one day I looked down while you were nursing and your fingers had fattened up and your nails had widened! I'd been with you every moment - when did this happen!?!

Audrey, I wish it were possible to capture all of the faces you make because I want to remember them forever. Sometimes you look at me out of the corner of your eye when you're nursing and I can see the sassy teenager you will one day become, daring me to take away what you're working on. Or you'll furrow your brow - at what, I'm not sure - giving me the cutest grumpy face I think I've ever seen (this is especially amazing when you're wearing your green monster onesie!). And then there are the times you smile, eyes closed and body utterly relaxed. I know that your smiles are involuntary at this point, but that doesn't matter to me one bit. One day soon enough you will discover that you can control your mouth, your arms, your legs.

My favorite times are those when I actually can't see your face at all. It's when you are curled up in fetal position, passed out on my chest. You still haven't regulated the consistency of your breaths, so sometimes they are deep, soft, and regular while other times they are shallow and quick. These are the times, dear Audrey, that new motherhood is at its best. When sleep deprivation stops mattering, at least for that one moment. When it is easy to forget the banshee-like screams that belted out of your little mouth just minutes before. When I can close my eyes and just be with you.

You made your way into this world on a Saturday night after twenty-two hours of labor. Your dad cut the cord and the nurses placed you right on my chest. I cried. You cried. Your dad cried. It was a messy, beautiful, amazing moment that I will never forget. A lifetime of motherhood awaits and I cannot wait to share many more messy and beautiful and amazing moments with you.


First stop: Winston-Salem, NC
You are an excellent napper - especially during the day...

Putting forth a great grumpy face.
And then a hint of a smile.

French Onion Soup

Before I went out on maternity leave, I tried to find and tuck away a stash of recipes that I would be easy to make while caring for an infant. This is the first one I've used and think it went pretty well. From start to finish, it takes about 3 1/2 hours to complete this recipe; however most of that time is for the onions to cook in the oven with no attention needed. The most time-consuming part is cutting up the onions (which I did with Audrey in the next room and the fan on the stove going full blast, as I was apprehensive about the onions bothering her eyes) and that could really be done the day before if necessary. We had this soup for dinner and put the rest in the freezer for another day. It was the perfect dinner for a gross, rainy night.

French Onion Soup
adapted from America's Test Kitchen

Serves 6.

Preheat oven 400º

To a large oven-safe pot, add:
9 medium yellow onions, peeled and thinly sliced from pole to pole
4 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon salt

Cover and place in preheated oven. Bake for 2 1/2 hours, stirring after 45 minutes and again after 90 minutes. Remove from oven and place on stove over medium-high heat.

Cook uncovered for ~15 minutes, stirring every so often, until moisture evaporates.

1/2 cup water
Cook for ~5 minutes, stirring until water evaporates.

1/2 cup water
Cook for ~5 minutes, stirring until water evaporates.

The onions will be dark brown at this point, which is why they will taste so good in your soup!

1/2 cup dry vermouth
Cook for ~ 5 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated.

2 cups beef broth
4 cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf

Let simmer for 30 minutes to develop the flavors. Remove bay leaf prior to serving. Meanwhile, prepare toasted baguette slices.

Place on a lipped cookie sheet:
24 slices of french baguette

Drizzle liberally on both sides with extra virgin olive oil. Sprinkle with coarse salt, cracked black pepper, and dried thyme. Place in oven and bake for 10-12 minutes, flipping halfway through.

Remove from the oven. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and cover each piece of bread with a slice of gruyere cheese*. Place back in oven and broil for 60-90 seconds or until cheese is bubbly.

*Gruyere is the traditional cheese used when making french onion soup; however, I must admit that I didn't have any so I used Muenster cheese instead and thought it was quite delicious!

Place four pieces of bread in each bowl of soup.

Eat up!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Blood Orange + Chocolate Cheesecake

One of the interesting things about writing a *mostly* food blog is that I end up not wanting to make dishes more than once. Case-in-point: Dad's birthday yesterday. I contemplated making both a Lemon Meringue Pie and a Key Lime Cheesecake, as he has raved about both in the past. But if I repeated, there would be no new blog post to create. So I was challenged to think of a new dessert that Dad would enjoy, I had the ability and time to make, and that I had not made previously.

As I was pondering what to create, I knew that I should pick something that had a bite to it; Dad loves tangy! I thought about what citrus options were out there that I hadn't used before and landed on the blood orange. With more bite than a traditional orange, I asked Jason to pick up a couple from Harris Teeter, along with the other necessary ingredients for a cheesecake. (I settled on cheesecake not only because Dad loves it, but because they can be made ahead of time AND they are excellent as a frozen leftover.) As I began to make it, I decided to incorporate chocolate into the crust. When that worked, I also found a use for the super-dark chocolate bar sitting in my pantry that was supposed to go to Grandpa for Christmas (oops!).

In addition to being excited that this cheesecake actually turned out to be delicious, I am also excited because I finally figured out how to bake the cheesecake so that I didn't have to serve it on the springform pan bottom. The solution is really pretty simple: Line the bottom of the springform pan with parchment paper. Once the cheesecake is cool, this allows you to carefully lift the cheesecake and place it on a serving plate. To remove the parchment paper, simply use a spatula to lift one side of the cheesecake and carefully slide the parchment paper from underneath. Repeat from several angles to completely remove.

So last night Dad came to the house and enjoyed a Mellow Mushroom pizza dinner followed by birthday cheesecake to celebrate his sixty-third year on Earth.

Blood Orange + Chocolate Cheesecake
Kelley Gondring

Preheat oven 500º

In a food processor, combine:
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup sugar
6 tablespoons melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pulse together until all ingredients are incorporated. Scrape down the sides and pulse an additional ten seconds. Pour into a 9" springform pan lined with parchment paper. Spread crumbs evenly across the bottom, using the back of a spoon to firmly pack. Place in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Custard Filling
In a large electric mixing bowl, add:
2 8 ounce packages cream cheese, softened
2 8 ounce packages reduced fat cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar

Using the paddle attachment, mix at moderate speed for thirty seconds.

One at a time, add:
4 egg yolks
Scrape down sides of bowl after each addition.

After the last egg yolk addition, keep the mixer on low while slowly adding:
2/3 cup freshly squeezed blood orange juice [2 medium blood oranges]
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon minced blood orange zest

Mix until just incorporated.

Reserve 1 1/2 cups of the custard and immediately pour the rest of the custard into the lined springform pan.

In a medium microwave-safe bowl, melt:
3 ounces super dark chocolate [I used most of a Ghirardelli Midnight Reverie 86% cocoa bar]*
Working quickly, add 1 tablespoon sugar and the reserved custard to the chocolate and thoroughly mix together. Place large dollops (4-6) of the chocolate custard on top of the custard already in the springform pan. Use a butter knife to swirl the chocolate custard into the non-chocolate custard.**

*Feel free to substitute bittersweet chocolate and skip the extra sugar
**Because the chocolate custard is thick, it isn't going to spread super-easily. That is okay!

Bake at 500º for 15 minutes. Cover loosely with a piece of aluminum foil to keep the top from getting too brown.

Reduce heat to 200º and bake for 65 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare topping.

In a small bowl, combine:
8 ounces sour cream
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon minced blood orange zest

After cheesecake has cooked 55 minutes, remove from the oven and evenly spread the sour cream mixture over top of the cheesecake. Place back in the oven for the final 10 minutes.

Turn off the oven and use a wooden spoon to hold the oven door ajar. Let the cheesecake sit for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely before refrigerating.

Garnish with cocoa powder and coarsely chopped dark chocolate (if I could leave the house easily, I would have garnished each piece with an orange chocolate Ghirardelli square).

Eat up!

Butterscotch + Oatmeal Cookies

These cookies were my first cooking experience with a newborn! One of my best friends, Ashley, was stopping by the house to meet Audrey and it just happened to be her 30th birthday. And I must say that Ashley has never looked better! It sounds cheesy to say, but Ashley has one of those personalities that just shines. She pretty much always has a contagious smile on her face - a fact that my friend, Stacey, and I discussed on Sunday. What's even more impressive is that her smile is genuine. Even when things aren't going her way, she puts her best foot - and her bright smile - forward. She reminds me that the glass is always half full.

I decided to put on my Moby wrap, place Audrey safely inside it, and make birthday cookies for my sweet friend. The cookie making was a success, though the whole process took significantly more time than it would have three weeks ago! That's okay, though, because this beautiful daughter of mine is worth the extra minutes spent in my favorite room of the house!

What I don't have are pictures of these cookies. In the past, this would have stopped me from creating a post, as I would have waited to make the cookies again to get a picture. But I am practicing an adapted line from Stacey's recent blog post: Better finished than perfect. Instead, I will share two of my favorite pictures of the birthday girl and me.

Happy Birthday, Ash!

Butterscotch + Oatmeal Cookies
Kelley Gondring

In a large electric mixing bowl, cream together:
2 eggs
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Once dry ingredients are evenly incorporated, mix in:
2 heaping cups rolled oats
1 scant cup butterscotch chips
1/2 cup toffee chips

Drop by the spoonful onto greased cookie sheets. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer to wire cooling rack immediately.

Eat up!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Heavenly Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Custard Frosting

This is one of the best chocolate cakes I've ever made. So far I've made it as a birthday cake for both my brother and my brother-in-law and tripled the recipe to make 72+ cupcakes for a retirement celebration honoring one of the assistant district attorneys with whom I've worked for the last three years. For those of you who choose to make this recipe for cupcakes, there will be a good bit of leftover frosting. I don't mind this at all because it freezes beautifully and makes life much easier in the future!

Thankfully when I made all those cupcakes in my non-commercial kitchen on a Monday night, I had the assistance of my friend and neighbor, Traci. It was a late night, but would have been FAR later without her awesome help!

Heavenly Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Custard Frosting
adapted from epicurious

Makes one 9" cake or ~24 cupcakes

Heavenly Chocolate Cake
In a large electric mixing bowl, combine:
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar

Cream together until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes.

One at a time, mix in:
4 large eggs
After each addition, scrape down side of the bowl.

Mix in:
2 oz unsweetened chocolate, melted and slightly cooled
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

In a medium bowl, sift together:
2 cups flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients to the electric mixing bowl. Mix until just incorporated. Scrape down sides of the bowl. Alternate adding remaining dry ingredients with adding:
1 1/2 cups buttermilk

For cake, pour into two 9" cake pans, greased and floured. Bake 30-35 minutes. Let cool in pans for 10-15 minutes before removing and setting on wire cooling rack to finish cooling. Let cool completely before frosting.

For cupcakes, ~1/3 cup batter into lined cupcake tins. Bake 20-25 minutes. Transfer to wire cooling rack. Let cool completely before frosting.

Chocolate Custard Frosting
In a medium saucepan, heat:
2/3 cup whole milk

In a large electric mixing bowl, whisk together:
3 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon flour
1/3 cup confectioners sugar

Whisking constantly, slowly add about half of the heated milk to the eggs. Transfer back into the saucepan and bring custard to a simmer, whisking together for about 2 minutes. At this point, the custard will be thick.

Transfer the thickened custard back to bowl. Cover with plastic wrap so that the plastic is directly on top of the custard. Place in refrigerator until cool, about 45 minutes.

Remove custard from the fridge and add:
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup confectioners sugar

Using whisk attachment, beat on medium until ingredients are evenly incorporated.

Two tablespoons at a time, whisk in:
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, softened

Finally, add:
10 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted + cooled
Beat until well incorporated.

Frost cake/cupcakes. Decorate as desired.

Eat up!