Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Strawberry-Chocolate Dessert Dumplings

Whether you call them dumplings, potstickers or gyoza, they're always delicious. Dumplings are a must-have dish every time I dine out at a Chinese restaurant, but very rarely do I make them at home. They're actually quite easy to make and these dumplings are unexpectedly sweet with a strawberry & chocolate filling. Since these dumplings are like no other, a soy dipping sauce just wouldn't work. So what sauce would work with a fruit-filled, sweet dumpling? Enter the balsamic reduction. A simple balsamic glaze serves as the perfect sauce for any strawberry treat. I chose strawberries because I happened to have them at home, but the filling possibilities are endless. Try figs and dark chocolate, bananas with Nutella, or even pears and walnuts. (A pan seared wonton wrapper can pretty much make any dessert combination delicious.) Here's a few tidbits of dumpling knowledge I picked up as I made these: 1. Make sure that lid goes on right as you pour the water in to steam the dumplings. Otherwise the hot oil will go everywhere! 2. Don't over stuff the wonton wrapper and pinch edges tightly to seal the seams. 3. Eat while they are still warm. 

Strawberry Dumplings
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. light brown sugar
1 lb. Strawberries, rinsed and chopped into small pieces
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
wonton wrappers
about 1 cup dark chocolate chips

1. In a small saucepan, bring the balsamic vinegar and 1/4 cup light brown sugar to a simmer. Continue to simmer until the mixture thickens and has reduced by half. Cool slightly, then transfer to a small bowl for serving.
2. While the balsamic/brown sugar mix is reducing, macerate the strawberries by placing the chopped strawberries into a bowl. Add the lemon juice and remaining 2 Tbsp. light brown sugar. Stir and set aside for at least 20 min. 
3. Working with one wonton wrapper at a time, place a heaping teaspoon full of the strawberry mix in the center of the wrapper. Add several chocolate chips on top of the strawberries. Wet your finger in a small bowl of water and use it to dampen all four edges of the wrapper. Bring two opposite corners of the wrapper up to meet one another and press them tightly together to seal, then bring the remaining two corners of the wrapper up to meet the first point. Squeeze seams along the four edges to seal completely and set dumpling aside. Work quickly so wrappers don't dry out. 
4. Heat 3 Tbsp. olive or vegetable oil in a skillet (that has a lid) on med-high. Place dumplings in a single flat layer on the oil and cook uncovered for 2-3 minutes to crisp the bottoms of the dumplings.
5. Reduce the heat t
o medium. Add 1/4 cup of water to the pan and quickly cover to steam the dumplings. Be careful, hot oil hurts! Steam for 3-4 minutes, then take off the lid and gently remove the dumplings to plate.
6. Generously drizzle the balsamic glaze on top of the dumplings (or even sprinkle with some confectioners sugar) and serve with the remaining glaze.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Happy Pi Day!

photo: thinkstockphoto
Happy Pi day everyone! Fitting, seeing as today is March 14...3.14! Math geeks out there must be brimming with excitement as today also happens to be Albert Einstein's birthday! I am so terribly bad at math that today almost makes my brain hurt, but you cannot deny the importance of math in baking. So today, my Pi day = Pie day! Obviously my love of pie has not gone unnoticed (see previous posts here and here). Inkling has posted a delicious Pie recipe on their blog from the epitome of cookbooks for math lovers, Modernist Cuisine at Home. It includes a Flaky Pie Crust and a Sous Vide Vanilla-Cinnamon Pastry Cream recipe that I need to make today! Check it out Here. Whatever you do this Pi day, take time to give thanks to all those amazing mathematicians out there. And honor Albert Einstein with a big slice of pie.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Lemon Shortbread Sandwich Cookies

Let's be honest...Valentines day is really just about the sweets. Anyone knows the secret to true love is a happy mix of sugar and butter. Even if you're not into baked treats, (you probably shouldn't be reading this blog, fyi) you can certainly appreciate the thoughtfulness of a homemade valentine. These shortbread cookies are deliciously crumbly and buttery, with a hint of lemon. Sandwiching berry preserves in-between the cookies make for the perfect sweet bite. I used Bonne Maman preserves, not just because they are absolutely delicious, but because their jars are perfect for gifting! Just scoop out the jam and store whatever you don't use to make the sandwich cookies in an airtight container in the fridge. Remove the labels with soap and warm water and let them dry completely before stacking the sandwich cookies inside. Red ribbon and a gift tag make this valentine festive and personal. I know my hubby will love these. Lucky for me, only 5 cookies fit in each jar. (That means I get to eat the rest:)

Lemon Shortbread Cookies
makes 12 sandwich cookies

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup confectioners' (powdered) sugar
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped out (or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract)
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
Zest of 1 lemon (about 1 tablespoon)
1/4 cup demerara sugar, like Sugar in the Raw
3 tablespoons of milk
Your favorite fruit preserves

1. Beat the butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth and pale yellow. Slowly add in the powdered sugar, beating until incorporated, then mix in the vanilla beans. Gradually add in the flour and salt, beating at low speed until blended. Mix in the lemon zest and turn dough out onto a sheet of plastic wrap. 
2. Shape the shortbread dough into a log, no more than 2" in diameter. Wrap the log up in the plastic wrap and freeze for at least an hour (or up to 1 month). 
3. Preheat oven to 350° and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place log onto a cutting board or large plate. Lightly brush dough with milk and sprinkle with demerara sugar, rotating the log as you work until all the dough is covered in sugar. Cut the log into 1/4" thick slices. Place slices 1 inch apart on the baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes or until edges are golden. 
4. Remove shortbread from baking sheets and let cool completely before filling with jam.
5. Sandwich a teaspoon of jam in between 2 cookies. Cookies will keep in an airtight container for about a week.

Don't put too much jam on the cookie, or it will squeeze out the sides.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Funfetti Cookie Dough Cubes

I know, I had you at funfetti. Is it the spectrum of sugary rainbow colors, or maybe the nostalgia of eating an ice cream cone covered with sprinkles? One thing we can all agree on is funfetti is awesome. You know what's even better than funfetti?...Cookie dough (Not that it ever stopped me, but this recipe is eggless, of course). Combine these two things and you've got yourself one magical treat. A throwback to our youth but fancy enough to serve as a legitimate dessert. My work here is done. (This is where I throw the microphone to the ground and walk away.)

Funfetti Cookie Dough Cubes
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup milk 
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup mini chocolate chips
1/2 cup rainbow sprinkles

Mix 1/2 cup of graham cracker crumbs and 1/4 cup of light brown sugar in a shallow dish. Fill another shallow dish with rainbow sprinkles (I like Nonpareils because they are smaller and cover more surface area.)
1. Beat butter and sugars in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed for a few minutes or until very light and fluffy. Add milk and vanilla. Mix in flour, baking soda and salt on low speed until incorporated. Stir in chocolate chips and sprinkles. Scoop dough into an 8x8" square dish lined with plastic wrap. Smooth dough with a spatula and cover with plastic wrap. Place dough in the freezer for at least 1 hour.

2. Remove dough from freezer and unwrap the plastic wrap. Use a sharp knife to trim the edges and create 1x1" cubes. Coat all but one side in the graham cracker mixture, then coat the final side in the sprinkles. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Pear, Brie & Raspberry Hand Pies

Pie is awesome! We can all agree on that, right? Once you find that perfect pie crust recipe, you're pretty much set for life. I've always loved my simple pie crust recipe, but with the addition of chopped walnuts, this crust becomes extra delicious. I used it to make these pear hand pies because I love individual servings. Plus, mini pies are adorable! Pears seemed the natural choice given the season and raspberries add beautiful color and a sweet tartness. The brie adds an unexpected savory punch. Also, who doesn't love melty brie!? All-in-all, this combo makes for one heck of a dessert.

Walnut Pie Crust
Makes enough dough about 12 hand pies
1 cup walnuts
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks very cold unsalted butter, cubed into 1/2 inch pieces 
1/3 cup ice water

1. Use a small food processor or knife to finely chop walnuts then toss in a large bowl. Add the flour, sugar, salt and butter. Use a pastry blender or a large fork to cut the butter cubes into the dry ingredients, working quickly and incorporating all of the flour mixture until the butter pieces are the size of peas. Make sure you don't over-work the butter. Visible chunks of butter = tasty flakiness!

2. Slowly drizzle the ice water into the flour mixture. Mix until the dough just begins to pull together, drizzling more water if needed. (You might not use all of the water.) Pull dough together, divide into 2 disks and wrap each one tightly with a piece of plastic wrap. Chill in the fridge for at least one hour or overnight.

Pie Filling
3 large pears (any variety you like), peeled cored and diced
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. flour
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
8 oz. chilled brie cheese, rind removed and diced (if the cheese isn't cold enough to cut with a knife, use your hands to pull into small pieces)
1 6oz. pack of raspberries, rinsed

Combine all the ingredients into a large bowl and stir to make sure everything is lightly coated with the flour/sugar.

Assemble the Pies
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. Remove one of the pie dough disks from the fridge and roll out to about 1/8" thickness on a floured work surface. Use a large circle cutter (Or an upside down mug) to create circles about 4" wide. Transfer to the baking sheet and repeat with the other disk of dough.

2. Spoon a giant spoonful of the pie filling into the center of the circles, then top with another dough circle. Crimp the edges with a fork and cut slits in the top to let them vent. 

3. Create an egg wash by mixing an egg in a small bowl with a teaspoon of water. Use a pastry brush to cover each pie. with the egg wash, then sprinkle with a pinch of sugar in the raw. 

4. Bake pies for 20-25 minutes, or until the crust is golden. Let them cool for a few minutes so you don't burn your mouth!

Don't let a little runaway pie filling scare you. They'll still taste great!