Wednesday, February 27, 2013

February's Delights


February was a wonderful month filled with delicious and tempting sweets for all.  I developed a chocolate cookie made to be used with a multitude of cookie cutters for any type of celebration or baking project.  The cookies in that post were cut with a nice heart cutter that I use every now and then (it comes with a stamp made to imprint messages onto the surface of the cookie), because I wanted to ship them out to my niece & nephews.  What I love about the chocolate cookie dough is that, not only does it taste chocolaty and decadent, it is also wonderful to roll out and cut.  The cookies remain perfectly shaped when they come out of the oven, so royal icing decorations can be applied with ease.

Those beautiful heart cookies that were iced for my niece and nephews were such a hit with both you readers and my little ones!  I’m glad they were enjoyed all around.  Icing them was such fun over the weekend afternoon I set aside for them, but it wasn’t all perfection (keep reading!).  I’m not afraid to show my bloopers, because mistakes & accidents can happen, and do happen sometimes.  

The special Cakes & Cupcakes magazine published by Martha Stewart Living is such a nice special edition highlighting some of their best sweet edibles.  I love that particular issue and I hope many of you have had the good fortune of buying one.  They’re still available so don’t pass it up!

One word: Nemo.  I’m not sure when it happened, but it seems as if all of a sudden these winter storms of ours have gotten named.  Who knew?  I know that a lot of you in the New England states suffered power outages and large amounts of snowfall that took days to clear up.  I’m grateful that in our part of the mid-Atlantic we were spared that crippling snow.  Ours was a mere 3-4 inch snowfall which I captured the morning after.  


There were plenty of other posts I touched on during the month such as some healthy oat bran muffins, some very light hot milk sponge cake layers which were turned into a Boston Cream Pie and my favorite Meatballs Marinara.  Let's not forget some collectible Martha by Mail too!  The delights of February are sweet enough to get a second glance, so let's not waste another moment.  



I’m so pleased with this particular recipe because I love a good chocolate cookie that keeps its shape during baking.  If I’m going to ice them then they have to be level so that I don’t run into problems.  One could add a little bit of spice to the basic recipe, but if you want chocolate through & through, leave them as they are.  Flocking the cookies with sanding sugar before they get baked gives them a sparkly finish.  It’s up to you to decide how simple or elaborate you want them.



When I set out to ice these special cookies, I kid you not, I had no design in mind.  I first mixed a few shades of royal icing, applied the piping tips to my pastry bags and let my imagination run wild.  You don’t need me to tell you that my niece and nephews loved every last one of the hearts I sent them.  They shared of course! 

So while I was designing the cookies I did run into a small problem.  I was so busy icing them that I completely did not notice my sweater cuff resting on the icing of two cookies that were near me.  It wasn’t until I lifted my arm that I saw what I had done.  The icing flowed off the two cookies and my decorations were ruined!  Rather than getting too upset by this, I simply set them aside and brewed some hot tea.  I devoured one during this tea break and ate the other one the following day; I forged ahead with the rest of the cookies.  Waste not, want not!


The ruined cookies.
Thank YOU readers for making this particular post so popular.  The number of hits I received for this story went through the roof!  My hope is that all of you cookie bakers out there make beautiful heart cookies this year for a special celebration.  You can stick with one design and make dozens or you can make more personalized ones like I did.  





This special issue from Martha Stewart Living is still available at stores and newsstands so look for it.  It’s so easy to get inspired by a cake or two from the magazine when you go through it.  I’ve been in the mood to make one of the chocolate cakes or some amazing vanilla cupcakes.  We’ll see.  So much cake, so little time!





That snowstorm that hit the Northeast is nothing but a memory now.  We were so fortunate in our area to have gotten only a few inches of snow that weekend.  I’m already looking forward to spring and Mother Nature is certainly giving us hints of it here and there.  I’ve noticed the snowdrops peeking through, I’ve seen a multitude of crocus bulbs scattered underneath certain trees opening up now and the robins seem to be everywhere.  As much as I like cold weather, I also love the pleasant temperatures and breezes of spring. 



If you haven’t tried making these healthy muffins you really should.  Because they freeze so well, you can make one batch or two and have the rest at a later date.  I thaw the muffins overnight and then toast them in the morning to have with a cup of coffee.  Very delicious!  By all means, substitute raisins, dried blueberries, chopped up apricots or even chopped up dates if you want.  Make them your own and don’t feel one ounce of guilt eating a chocolate oat bran muffin.






The Martha by Mail Apothecary Jars are must-haves for me.  I rely on them throughout the year to hold various pantry items, sometimes switching their contents depending on what I’m doing in my kitchen.  Since I do a lot of baking, I keep flour and sugar in a few of these so that I can scoop out what I need with ease.  If, for some reason, I need to clean the jars, I wipe the lids with a lightly dampened cloth and rinse the glass in my sink with lukewarm water.  The glass gets dried immediately with clean kitchen towels in order to prevent water spots.  


A reader wrote to me saying that he owned the versions that were sold at Macy’s when The Martha Stewart Collection was first introduced.  I remember seeing them in stores when I initially looked at the merchandise, but since I already owned the ones from Martha by Mail, I passed them up.  The ones from Macy’s are roughly the same size as the 3 gallon Martha by Mail ones.  These department store versions have light blue lids with gaskets underneath to make the jars airtight.  Thank you Kenn for the photograph!



Oh boy, sponge cake!  Those lighter than air cake layers are mouthwateringly good enough to use any number of ways.  Making them into a jelly roll is easy if you pour the batter into a sheet pan (watch the cake closely because it will be done in about half the time as a round cake layer).  If you’re a fan of genoise cakes, then you’re going to be a fan of hot milk sponge cakes.  It may seem daunting to pour hot milk into a cake batter, but in the end, it works marvelously.  Cover the layers in a light buttercream for an Easter luncheon or in softly whipped cream for a Mother’s Day dinner.  You can also make them into the classic Boston Cream Pie.  Keep reading...





How delicious is this cake?  A few of my friends found it so good to look at that they made one at home.  You have no idea how thrilled I was to hear this because the cake is a sure winner with anyone who likes cream-filled cakes.  A smooth custard that’s flavored with vanilla beans gets sandwiched between two lovely sponge cake layers, which are then covered with a wonderful chocolate ganache.  What could be better?


This cake was made by my friend Cheryl's mother.  It was baked for Cheryl's sister, Denise, who lives in the Bay Area.  I'm told they adored it!  



Turkey meatballs simmered to perfection in a rich marinara sauce is comfort food for me.  Whether I have them with spaghetti or on a roll for a sandwich, I love how tasty they are.  I’ve been known to eat them with a fork and nothing else.  They’re that good!  I suppose if you wanted to serve them as an appetizer, you could make them even smaller and serve them with toothpicks for guests.  The meatballs are savory, succulent, tasty and so gratifying.  You may not have any leftovers at the end of the day!




March is here and spring is definitely in the air.  I’m looking forward to the changes in the barren landscape in the coming weeks.  We may not get the full splendor of spring in March, but the harbingers of spring are surely going to make themselves visible quite soon.  I hope many of you have had a good winter and are looking to spring with as much anticipation as I am.  

Thank you all for your continued support,

David

2 comments:

  1. Those chocolate cookies were a raging hit at my house, David! One addition that can be made to those delectable treats, if you like, is espresso powder. I have a chocolate cupcake recipe that calls for it, and I think I'll add some the next time I make your cookies. :)

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  2. That is great Nancy!! I'm happy they worked for you and that your family loved them. Ooooo, espresso powder would absolutely be wonderful in these cookies. That's what it's all about--making them your own!

    Happy Baking,
    David

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