Tuesday, December 30, 2008

December Daring Bakers Challenge: French Yule Log

french yule log

"Is it that time of the month again?" OCT asked when he saw me running with mixing bowl in hand, between the laptop and the kitchen.

Indeed, it's time for another Daring Bakers' Challenge. I missed the November challenge when I went home for vacation. And I almost give the french yule log amiss too, because of my unusual tight schedule this month. In the end, I decided to do it, because this may be my last Daring Bakers' Challenge.

french yule log

There's some exciting change around here, which will prevent me from spending as much time as I'd love in my kitchen. But no, I am not pregnant. In case you wonder.

I am moving to Chicago on Jan 1 alone and will stay in the Windy City for another 6 months. I am excited but at the same time apprehensive of the challenges that lies ahead. More on that in my next post.

This month's challenge is brought to us by the adventurous Hilda from Saffron and Blueberry and Marion from Il En Faut Peu Pour Etre Heureux.They have chosen a French Yule Log by Flore from Florilege Gourmand. It turned out to be the most laborious Daring Bakers challenges I have participated. Perhaps it's my lack of foresight. I should have made detailed plan when making desserts of multiple components.

Well, it's almost 2009, and I don't want to spend the remaining time in year 2008 whining on the technical difficulties I faced when tackling the yule log, (such as the hot sugar syrup that harden too fast in the mousse and the never setting icing!) Neither should I lament on the miscalculation of dacquoise surface required to cover the log. That was all, as the saying goes- water under the bridge.


I am not entirely happy with the asthetic of the cake. I know I could do better. But that's under my 2009 resolutions. For now, I am going to dig in and enjoy a slice of cake before all the madness of moving ensues.....

Check out all the delicious french yule logs that dropped on blogsphere this festive season here.


French Yule Log

Element #1 Dacquoise Biscuit (Almond Cake)

Preparation time: 10 mn + 15 mn for baking

Equipment: 2 mixing bowls, hand or stand mixer with whisk attachment, spatula, baking pan such as a 10”x15” jelly-roll pan, parchment paper

Note: You can use the Dacquoise for the bottom of your Yule Log only, or as bottom and top layers, or if using a Yule log mold (half-pipe) to line your entire mold with the biscuit. Take care to spread the Dacquoise accordingly. Try to bake the Dacquoise the same day you assemble the log to keep it as moist as possible.

2.8 oz (3/4cup + 1Tbsp / 80g) almond meal
1.75 oz (1/2 cup / 50g) confectioner’s sugar
2Tbsp (15g) all-purpose flour
3.5oz (100g / ~100ml) about 3 medium egg whites
1.75 oz (4 Tbsp / 50g) granulated sugar

Finely mix the almond meal and the confectioner's sugar. (If you have a mixer, you can use it by pulsing the ingredients together for no longer than 30 seconds).

Sift the flour into the mix. Beat the eggs whites, gradually adding the granulated sugar until stiff. Pour the almond meal mixture into the egg whites and blend delicately with a spatula.

Grease a piece of parchment paper and line your baking pan with it.Spread the batter on a piece of parchment paper to an area slightly larger than your desired shape (circle, long strip etc...) and to a height of 1/3 inches (8mm).

Bake at 350°F (180°C) for approximately 15 minutes (depends on your oven), until golden.

Let cool and cut to the desired shape.

Element #2 Dark Chocolate Mousse

Preparation time: 20mn

Equipment: stand or hand mixer with whisk attachment, thermometer, double boiler or equivalent, spatula

Note: You will see that a Pate a Bombe is mentioned in this recipe. A Pate a Bombe is a term used for egg yolks beaten with a sugar syrup, then aerated. It is the base used for many mousse and buttercream recipes. It makes mousses and buttercreams more stable, particularly if they are to be frozen, so that they do not melt as quickly or collapse under the weight of heavier items such as the crème brulee insert.
In the Vanilla Mousse variation, pastry cream is made to the same effect.
In the Mango Mousse variation, Italian meringue is made to the same effect. Italian meringue is a simple syrup added to egg whites as they are beaten until stiff. It has the same consistency as Swiss meringue (thick and glossy) which we have used before in challenge recipes as a base for buttercream.
The Whipped Cream option contains no gelatin, so beware of how fast it may melt.
Gelatin is the gelifying agent in all of the following recipes, but if you would like to use agar-agar, here are the equivalencies: 8g powdered gelatin = 1 (0.25 oz) envelope powdered gelatin = 1 Tbsp powdered gelatin = 1 Tbsp Agar-Agar.
1 Tbsp. of agar-agar flakes is equal to 1 tsp. of agar-agar powder.

2.5 sheets gelatin or 5g / 1 + 1/4 tsp powdered gelatin
1.5 oz (3 Tbsp / 40g) granulated sugar
1 ½ tsp (10g) glucose or thick corn syrup
0.5 oz (15g) water
50g egg yolks (about 3 medium)
6.2 oz (175g) dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
1.5 cups (350g) heavy cream (35% fat content)

Soften the gelatin in cold water. (If using powdered gelatin, follow the directions on the package.)

Make a Pate a Bombe: Beat the egg yolks until very light in colour (approximately 5 minutes until almost white).

Cook the sugar, glucose syrup and water on medium heat for approximately 3 minutes (if you have a candy thermometer, the mixture should reach 244°F (118°C). If you do not have a candy thermometer, test the sugar temperature by dipping the tip of a knife into the syrup then into a bowl of ice water, if it forms a soft ball in the water then you have reached the correct temperature.

Add the sugar syrup to the beaten yolks carefully by pouring it into the mixture in a thin stream while continuing to beat the yolks. You can do this by hand but it’s easier to do this with an electric mixer. Continue beating until cool (approximately 5 minutes). The batter should become thick and foamy.

In a double boiler or equivalent, heat 2 tablespoons (30g) of cream to boiling. Add the chopped chocolate and stir until melted and smooth.

Whip the remainder of the cream until stiff.Pour the melted chocolate over the softened gelatin, mixing well. Let the gelatin and chocolate cool slightly and then stir in ½ cup (100g) of WHIPPED cream to temper. Add the Pate a Bombe. Add in the rest of the WHIPPED cream (220g) mixing gently with a spatula.

Element #3 Dark Chocolate Ganache Insert

Preparation time: 10mn

Equipment: pan, whisk. If you have plunging mixer (a vertical hand mixer used to make soups and other liquids), it comes in handy.

Note: Because the ganache hardens as it cools, you should make it right before you intend to use it to facilitate piping it onto the log during assembly. Please be careful when caramelizing the sugar and then adding the cream. It may splatter and boil.

1.75 oz (4 Tbsp / 50g) granulated sugar
4.5oz (2/3 cup – 1 Tbsp/ 135g) heavy cream (35% fat content)
5 oz (135g) dark chocolate, finely chopped
3Tbsp + 1/2tsp (45g) unsalted butter softened

Make a caramel: Using the dry method, melt the sugar by spreading it in an even layer in a small saucepan with high sides. Heat over medium-high heat, watching it carefully as the sugar begins to melt. Never stir the mixture. As the sugar starts to melt, swirl the pan occasionally to allow the sugar to melt evenly. Cook to dark amber color.

While the sugar is melting, heat the cream until boiling. Pour cream into the caramel and stir thoroughly. Be very careful as it may splatter and boil. Pour the hot caramel-milk mixture over the dark chocolate. Wait 30 seconds and stir until smooth.

Add the softened butter and whip hard and fast (if you have a plunging mixer use it). The chocolate should be smooth and shiny.

Element #4 Chocolate Crisp Insert

Preparation time: 10 mn

Equipment: Small saucepan.
Double boiler (or one small saucepan in another), wax paper

3.5 oz (100g) milk chocolate
1 2/3 Tbsp (25g) unsalted butter
2 Tbsp (1 oz / 30g) praline
1 oz. rice krispies

Melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler.

Add the praline and the rice Krispies. Mix quickly to thoroughly coat with the chocolate.

Spread between two sheets of wax paper to a size slightly larger than your desired shape. Refrigerate until hard.

Element #5 Vanilla Crème Brulée Insert

Preparation time: 15mn + 1h infusing + 1h baking

Equipment: Small saucepan, mixing bowl, baking mold, wax paper

Note: The vanilla crème brulée can be flavored differently by simply replacing the vanilla with something else e.g. cardamom, lavender, etc...

1/2 cup (115g) heavy cream (35% fat content)
½ cup (115g) whole milk
4 medium-sized (72g) egg yolks
0.75 oz (2 Tbsp / 25g) granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean

Heat the milk, cream, and scraped vanilla bean to just boiling. Remove from the stove and let the vanilla infuse for about 1 hour.

Whisk together the sugar and egg yolks (but do not beat until white). Pour the vanilla-infused milk over the sugar/yolk mixture. Mix well.

Wipe with a very wet cloth and then cover your baking mold (whatever shape is going to fit on the inside of your Yule log/cake) with parchment paper. Pour the cream into the mold and bake at 210°F (100°C) for about 1 hour or until firm on the edges and slightly wobbly in the center.

Element #6 Dark Chocolate Icing

Preparation time: 25 minutes (10mn if you don’t count softening the gelatin)

Equipment: Small bowl, small saucepan

Note: Because the icing gelifies quickly, you should make it at the last minute.
For other gelatin equivalencies or gelatin to agar-agar equivalencies, look at the notes for the mousse component.

4g / ½ Tbsp powdered gelatin or 2 sheets gelatin
¼ cup (60g) heavy cream (35 % fat content)
2.1 oz (5 Tbsp / 60g) granulated sugar
¼ cup (50g) water
1/3 cup (30g) unsweetened cocoa powder

Soften the gelatin in cold water for 15 minutes. Boil the rest of the ingredients and cook an additional 3 minutes after boiling.Add gelatin to the chocolate mixture. Mix well.

Let cool while checking the texture regularly. As soon as the mixture is smooth and coats a spoon well (it is starting to gelify), use immediately.

Assembling the yule log:
1) Line your mold or pan, whatever its shape, with rhodoid (clear hard plastic, I usually use transparencies cut to the desired shape, it’s easier to find than cellulose acetate which is what rhodoid translates to in English) OR plastic film. Rhodoid will give you a smoother shape but you may have a hard time using it depending on the kind of mold you’re using.

Cut the Dacquoise into a shape fitting your mold and set it in there. If you are using an actual Yule mold which is in the shape of a half-pipe, you want the Dacquoise to cover the entire half-pipe portion of the mold.

Pipe one third of the Mousse component on the Dacquoise.

Take the Creme Brulee Insert out of the freezer at the last minute and set on top of the mousse. Press down gently to slightly ensconce it in the mousse.

Pipe second third of the Mousse component around and on top of the Creme Brulee Insert.

Cut the Praline/Crisp Insert to a size slightly smaller than your mold so that it can be surrounded by mousse. Lay it on top of the mousse you just piped into the mold.

Pipe the last third of the Mousse component on top of the Praline Insert.

Freeze for a few hours to set. Take out of the freezer.

Pipe the Ganache Insert onto the frozen mousse leaving a slight eidge so that ganache doesn’t seep out when you set the Dacquoise on top.

Close with the last strip of Dacquoise. (in my case, the praline chocolate crisp insert)

Freeze until the next day.


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Dear Friends......

christmas 2008

May Christmas
bring you happiness
and many dreams come true,
And may the love you give
throughout the year
come right back to you.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

christmas 08

And remember good food are meant to be shared with people you care.



Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas Baking III: Korova Cookies with Cocoa Nib

korova cookies

Korova Cookies, also known as World Peace Cookies is possibly my most favorite chocolate cookies. Naturally, I have to include some in the cookie tin I was sending to sister in law and ST.

To make it extra special, I added some Valrhona cocoa nibs which I brought back from Singapore. Thanks to my friend Evan, who pointed me to the Varlhona distributor in Singapore. It was soooo much cheaper to buy in bulk!


I got a pound of that good stuff with the same price I paid for the Scharffen Berger 6oz pack of cocoa nibs.So readers, embrace yourself for many more cocoa nibs related recipes in the near future of my little blog. I can't help it!

korova cookies

The Korova Cookies are mighty tasty even without cocoa nibs. But a healthy dose of nibs give the chocolatey cookies a crunchy and intriguing edge. I topped the cookies with some salted cherry blossoms Grace passed me a few months ago in place of fleur de sel.

Korova Cookies with Cocoa Nibs aka World Peace Cookies
adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Dutch processed cocoa powder)
1/2 tsp baking soda
11 tbsps unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup packed, light brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp fleur de sel or 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 (3.5 oz) 72% chocolate (I used green & black), chopped
1 oz cocoa nibs
salted cherry blossom ( optional)

Sift flour, cocoa powder and baking soda together.

Working with a mixer with paddle attachment, beat the butter until soft and creamy. Add both sugars, salt and vanilla and beat for 2 minutes more.

Turn off the mixer, pour in the dry ingredients. Pulse the mixture at low speed for 5 times, with one to two seconds each time, until the flour disappear into the dough. Try to work the dough as little as possible for better texture. Toss in the chocolate pieces and cocoa nibs and mix only to incorporate.

Turn the dough out onto a piece of saran wrap, roughly shape it into a log, approximately 1.5 inch.

tip:For perfect round, I split the paper towel core to half in the center, and place the wrapped dough in the center. Tie the paper core on both ends and freeze the perfect round dough in the freezer until ready to bake.

Slice the dough into 1/2 inch rounds, don't be concerned if the dough crack as you cut them, simply squeeze the bits back to the cookies.

Tip:To minimize crack, try to cut the chocolate chunks into smaller chips, that way the chocolate can disperse more evenly into the dough. Also, if you put the dough in freezer, wait about 5 minutes to let the dough soften a bit.

Bake at 325F for 12 minutes. They won't look done nor firm, but that's the way they should be. Transfer to cool.


Sunday, December 21, 2008

Christmas Baking Part II: Pistachio & Cranberry Icebox Cookies

Pistachio and Cranberry Icebox Cookies

"What cookies do you want me to include in your cookies box?" I asked sister in law earlier last week.
"Chocolate chips cookies, almond cocoa nib sticks! And something christmassy." She enthused.

Something Christmassy? I considered making the Cherry Garcia Biscotti or the Decorated Sugar Cookies. In the end, the favorite cookies slideshow that Gourmet.com put up changed my mind. Folks at Gourmet has choosen the pistachio & cranberry icebox cookies as their favorite for year 2006.

The same cookies I made for friends when that issue came out. Despite their festive appearance, the resulting cookies were quite forgetable. I didn't even blog about it then.

"Did I miss something?" I think long and hard. All I could recall, is the omitted decorative sugar in the last step. I didn't think it was a make or break factor then.

To satisfy my curiousity, I got myself a big bottle of the glittery sugar this year and sprinkled it liberally on the shaped square log before slicing and baking them. I also replaced the orange zest with lemon zest, because I always have extra lemons in the fridge.

pistachio and cranberry cookies

My verdict? The pistachio & cranberry icebox cookies are totally worthy of their prime location in the packed cookies tin! The decorative sugars transformed the otherwise forgetable cookies into something seductive and memorable. It provides the crunchy sweet edges to the buttery cookies that makes them down right addictive.

If you are planning to make these cookies, learn from my mistake- don't omit the decorative sugar! And make a double batches.

Want more cookie recipes?
Cherry Garcia Biscotti
Nutella Two Tone Cookies
Pinwheel Cookies
Decorated Sugar Cookies
Coffee Hazelnut Cookies
Hot Chocolate Cookies
Peppermint Cookie and Cream Brownie

Pistachio & Cranberry Icebox Cookies
adopted from Gourmet.com

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
zest from 1 lemon
1/2 cup shelled pistachios, roughly chopped (2 1/4 oz; not dyed red)
1/3 cup dried cranberries (1 1/4 oz)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup decorative sugar (preferably coarse)

Stir together flour, cinnamon, and salt in a bowl.

Beat together butter, granulated sugar, and zest in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture in 3 batches, mixing until dough just comes together in clumps, then mix in pistachios and cranberries. Gather and press dough together, then divide into 2 equal pieces. Using a sheet of plastic wrap or wax paper as an aid, form each piece of dough into a log about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Square off long sides of each log to form a bar, then chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, until very firm, at least 2 hours.

Slice and bake cookies:
Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

Brush egg over all 4 long sides of bars (but not ends). Sprinkle decorative sugar on a separate sheet of parchment or wax paper and press bars into sugar, coating well.
Cut each bar crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices, rotating bar after cutting each slice to help keep square shape. (If dough gets too soft to slice, freeze bars briefly until firm.) Arrange cookies about 1/2 inch apart on lined baking sheets.

Bake cookies, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until edges are pale golden, 15 to 18 minutes total. Transfer cookies from parchment to racks using a slotted spatula and cool completely.

Cooks’ notes:
Dough bars can be chilled up to 3 days or frozen, wrapped in plastic wrap and then foil, 1 month (thaw frozen dough in refrigerator just until dough can be sliced).
Cookies keep in an airtight container at room temperature 5 days.


Friday, December 19, 2008

Christmas Baking Part I : Chocolate and Peppermint Cookies

playing with picnik!

"I am late in my Christmas baking!" I told OCT when I realised it's less than 2 weeks before we celebrate our 4th Christmas here.

Earlier this week, I baked 4 different kinds of cookies and have them packed and shipped, the seconds they cooled down.

I have wanted to attempt fancier cookies and spread our cookies love to more friends overseas, but things are crazy around here. We have no choice but to abort our grand plan.

One of the cookies on my baking list is the Not- Neiman Marcus's Chocolate Chip Cookies from Nancy Baggett's "The All American Cookies book". I can't believe I have quietly made them so many times without telling you! This is one of my favorite cookie recipes. During Christmas season, I like to add chopped Andes peppermint thins into the batter to make a chocolate and peppermint cookies. It is not a complicated recipe, but the cookies benefitted from the use of oat flour, (which is basically rolled oats grinded in a food processor),various kind of sweeteners and chocolate. It is everything that a good cookie should be, at least in my book!

Tis the season to make cookies

Whenever I make this cookie, OCT openly wonder why the author has to incorporate peppermint chips as an ingredient.
"The cookies would be better without the peppermint chips!" He said.

Of course, I never let on the truth - that "special touch" is my stroke of brilliant! If you are not a peppermint fan too, simply omit it and substituted chopped milk chocolate to the batter. Nuts are optional too.

Here's some of the cookies I made last year:
Cherry Garcia Biscotti
Nutella Two Tone Cookies
Pinwheel Cookies
Decorated Sugar Cookies
Coffee Hazelnut Cookies
Hot Chocolate Cookies
Peppermint Cookie and Cream Brownie

Chocolate and Peppermint Cookies (aka Not Neiman Marcus's Chocolate Chip Cookies)
adapted from Nancy Baggett's " The All- American Cookie Book"

2 cups old fashioned rolled oats (grind to a fine powder in a food processor, blender or coffee grinder)
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly softened
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 large eggs
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 bag (11.5 oz) semisweet/ bittersweet chocolate chips
3.5 oz chopped Andes Peppermint Thins (or chopped milk chocolate)
1 cup (4 ounces) chopped walnut (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Combine the grinded oat, all purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl and mix well, set aside.

In a mixer bowl, with an electric mixer on medium speed, beat butter unil light and fluffy. Add the brown sugar, granulated sugar and corn syrup and beat until well blended and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla extract and beat until incorporated. Beat in about half of the flour mixture. Beat in the chocolate and peppermint chips, nuts (if using), and remaining flour mixture until evenly incorporated. Let stand for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the dough firms up just slightly.

Depending on how big you want the cookies, use an ice cream scoop or teaspoon to drop rounds of dough onto parchment paper. Bake the cookies for 6-12 minutes, or until tinged with brown and just beginning to firm up in the centers, for very moist cookies. Becareful not to overbake. Bake longer if you prefer crispy cookies.

Transfer baking sheet to a wire rack and let stand until the cookies firm up slightly, 3-4 minutes. Using a spatula, transfer cookies to wire rack to cool completely before storing in airtight container. Cookies keep for 1 weeks or can be frozen for up to 1 month.


Monday, December 15, 2008

And the winners are.....

Thanks everyone for your participation in my little lucky draw! The three Hershey baskets go to........

Eliza, Rachel and Kevin!

Congratulations guys! I will drop you an email later for your addresses. The baskets will be sent directly by Hersheys.

On another not so great news, my laptop died on me last Sat. :(
But OCT got me a new one tonight! I lost all the photos in the old laptop because I did't backup! What a bummer.Lesson learned. The hard way.

oatmeal cookies

Here's a sneak peak of something I made this afternoon, along with other treats, all ready to be sent off! More on that later, after I have the new laptop set up.

Have a good week ahead everyone!


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Almond Cocoa Nib Sticks and a Giveaway!

almond sticks

Unlike some of my caring, thoughtful and meticulous friends, who have started Christmas baking and packing well ahead of time, I procastinate. I blame everything on the jetlag since I returned from Asia last Thursday.The horrible food on board, various transits and the long hours flights have zapped out most of my energy. All I want to do, is curling up on my favorite spot, drooling over the food photos on tastespotting and foodgawker and eating the snacks I sneaked in from Malaysia.

Having said that, I have shortlisted some cookies to be included in my baking list this holiday, and a list of friends, who may receive the cookies. (It all depends on whether I could bake and send them out on time! )

almond sticks2

One of the cookies I intend to make this year is Almond Cocoa Nib Sticks from Alice Medrich's Bittersweet.I have made them once to be sent overseas. Not only are they sturdy enough to withstand the potential abuse when mailed; according to OCT, they taste pretty darn good too. So good that he who usually doesn't like cookies can't stop munching them. I have to stop OCT from snatching yet another stick in order to have enough to fill up a box I need to send.

The almond cocoa nib sticks are not as hard as biscotti but don't crumble as easily as shortbread cookies. They would be perfect by the side of a steaming cup of tea. Although OCT would add that it tastes just as awesome as it is-buttery, nutty, crunchy with a hint of cacao.

Almond Cocoa Nib Sticks
adopted from Alice Medrich's- Bittersweet

3/4 cup (3 3/4 ounces) whole blanched almonds
1 cup plus 2 T. all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 t. salt
6 T. unsalted butter, cut into chunks
2 T. water
1 t. pure vanilla extract
1/8 t. pure almond extract
1/4 cup Cocoa Nibs

Combine the almonds, flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor, and pulse until the almonds are reduced to a fine meal. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture looks like a mass of crumbs. Combine the water, vanilla, and almond extract, drizzle them into the processor bowl and pulse just until the dough looks damp. Add the cocoa nibs and pulse only until evenly dispersed.

The dough will not form a smooth cohesive mass - it will be crumbly, but it will stick together when you press it. Turn it out on a large sheet of foil and form it into a 6 x 9 inch rectangle a scant 1/2 inch thick. fold the foil over the dough and press firmly with your hands to compress it, then wrap it airtight. Slide a cookie sheet under the package and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Position the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment or wax paper.

Use a long sharp knife to trim one short edge of the dough rectangle to even it. Then cut a slice a scant 3/8 inch wide and use the knife to transfer the delicate slice to the cookie sheet. Repeat with the rest of the dough, transferring each slice as it is cut and placing them at least 1 inch apart. If some break, just push them back together, or bake them broken - they will look and taste great anyway.

Bake, rotating the cookie sheets from top to bottom and front to back half way through the baking time, 12-14 minutes, or until the cookies are golden at the edges. Set the pans on the racks to cool completely. (The cookies can be stored, airtight, for several days).

Makes about 30, 6-inch sticks


And now, onto something fun- the Giveaway! The good folks at The Hershey Company are offering to send 3 baskets full of baking goodies, which include: 2 varieties of Hershey Kisses, Peanut Butter, flour, brownie mixes, cocoa powder, spatula, mixing bowl and oven mitt to 3 lucky readers of Fresh From The Oven!


photo provided by The Hershey Company

All you have to do, is leave me a comment to tell me what's your favorite cookies for the holiday season. The deadline is 14th Dec, which is this Sunday. I will conduct a drawing on Monday morning, and 3 lucky readers will each receive a goodies basket, courtesy of The Hershey Company.

The only catch? It's only open to US and Canada residents.


Sunday, December 07, 2008

Cream Scones and life back to normal


You may think it's a cliche, but time really flies faster when you are having fun. We reluctantly bid our loved ones farewell last Thursday after a 3 weeks vacation in Singapore and Malaysia. The journey back was exhausting, as usual. Both of us walked pass the custom and immigration like zombies, only to come alive when we realized that we had left our carry-on luggage (with both our laptops)somewhere at the immigration check point! Thank God for the TSA staff, who went in to search for us three times, and had it found!

The incident almost costed us our connecting flight back to Atlanta. We were at the gate 10 minutes before its takeoff. Our luggages however, couldn't make it on time. Looking on the bright side, we were happy that someone sent them to our doorstep the next day for only 2 dollars. And that's the tip I gave the guy for carrying them up to my apartment on the second floor. After a 24 hours of flying and transiting, the last thing we desire, is to carry our unbelievably heavy bags up those stairs!

So yes, life is back to normal. I am almost fully recovered from the jet-lag, having slept most of my Friday and Sat away. The coming weeks are going to be super busy around here, there are cookies to be baked, parcels to be sent and some important decisions to be made.

And my first ever giveaway too! I will tell you more about it early next week.

chocolate chips scones

Meanwhile, here's the cream scones I made sometime ago for a friend's house moving. I figured they were easy to eat and provided a delicious source of energy before the physical labor ahead of us.

The cream scones recipe from Alice Medrich is richer than my usual standby, which uses buttermilk as the binding agent. If you are looking for something indulgent for the weekend breakfast or tea time, give this a try.

Making scones by hand is a surprising easy and rewarding experience. If you are making scones for the first time, here's my simple guide to delicate and flaky scones.

Cream Scones with Chocolate Chunks
adapted from Alice Medrich's Bittersweet

2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar, plus sugar for sprinkling
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 to 4 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 1/4 cups heavy cream, cold
1 tbsp milk or cream for brushing the tops

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 425F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt together thoroughly. Stir in the chopped chocolate. Make a well in the center and pour the cream into it. Use a rubber spatula to push the dry ingredients from the sides of the bowl into the well, cutting and turning the mixture just until the dry ingredients are almost entirely moistened and the dough looks rough and shaggy. Gather the dough into a lump and knead it gently against the sides of the bowl five or more times, pressing in the loose pieces, until the dough just holds together (it should not be smooth) and the sides of the bowl are fairly clean.

On a lightly floured surface, pat the dough into an 8.5 inch round about 3/4 inches thick.*at this point, I like to cover the dough in saran wrap and chill for at least half an hour,before proceeding to the rest of the steps. The dough is more manageable upon chilling. You can also keep the dough for up to 1 month at this stage, and bake it without defrosting first. Just lightly score the dough into 12 wedges, so that it's easier to cut and bake later. *

Cut into 12 wedges. Place them at least 1 inch apart on the lined baking sheet. Brush the tops with cream or milk and sprinkle lightly with sugar.

Bake until the tops are golden brown, 12-15 minutes. Let cool on a rack, and serve warm or at room temperature.

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