Saturday, January 8, 2011

Eggnog Thumbprints

I don't like eggnog, but I love these tasty little cookies. This is another cookie that I make every year at Christmastime.

I have a previous blog post about thumbprints. These are very similar to my regular thumbprints. I have a recipe for these thumbprints, but this year, I improvised a bit. I made a HUGE batch of my regular thumbprint dough. I made jam thumbprints rolled in walnuts. I made thumbprints with chocolate icing, some rolled in walnuts, some rolled in sprinkles. I also made thumbprints with white icing. Again, some were rolled in walnuts and some in sprinkles. I had some extra dough after making all those different varieties. I thought that maybe I could just use my regular dough and just add some nutmeg to it. After all, my eggnog thumbprint recipe is pretty much just a generic thumbprint cookie with nutmeg in it. So, I grated some fresh nutmeg and dumped it in. I rolled them in walnuts and baked them. They smelled wonderful. I love nutmeg, so of course I thought that they smelled wonderful. I made the rum infused icing for the top, sprinkled on a little more nutmeg, and they were perfect! This is a great example of how easily you can change things up in the kitchen when you are baking. Work with what you have! But always make sure that you have fresh nutmeg!

Fresh nutmeg is one of those things that I always have in my pantry. It makes a huge difference in flavor in my opinion. It is not terribly expensive, and it lasts quite a long time. When you buy fresh nutmeg, what you are actually buying is the seed of the nutmeg tree. Interestingly, both nutmeg and mace are derived from the same tree. To use fresh nutmeg, you just need a microplane grater. There is absolutely no need to buy a fancy nutmeg grater. A microplane does the job just fine. It is a great multitasker to pick up if you don't have one.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

English Toffee

It has been a long time since I last posted. I was sick before the holiday which put me behind. Then, with the holidays, I was super busy. Anyway, I made lots of cookies, of course. So, my next several blog posts will be about Christmas cookies :)

I made English Toffee for the first time this year. I have a lot of cookies that I have to make every year, but I always like to try a few new recipes. I have to admit, candy making is not really my thing. I don't dislike it necessarily. I suppose it intimidates me. I gave it a whirl anyway because I LOVE toffee. It was surprisingly easy! First you have to chop and toast almonds. The next step is to cook the actual toffee. You must have a candy thermometer for this step. And, you have to watch carefully. You have to cook it to the correct temperature or it will not be the right texture. It has to then be poured onto a very generously greased pan. Luckily I have asbestos fingers and can handle very hot food because before it is quite set, it has to be lifted off the pan onto a cake board. To me, the most difficult part is the chocolate. I am REALLY intimidated by chocolate. Tempering chocolate is something that I have never quite mastered, and I like to be really good at everything that I do. Just ask my husband :) So, next you must temper chocolate and coat one side with chocolate and almonds. Flip the toffee, and repeat. I must say, it was delicious. The chocolate was tempered perfectly too! I was very proud of myself for attempting this recipe that I was so scared to try. And I was even more proud that it was super yummy!

Good quality chocolate products, including dark, milk, and white, are often called couverture. Couverture means "coating" in French. When couverture is used to coat candies, cookies, and any other confection, it must first be tempered. Tempering involves carefully melting chocolate without letting it get too warm, then bringing it back down to a lower temperature. This process requires a fair amount of skill and practice.