Chai Chocolate Sables

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I have been having a crazy craving for cookies lately. I just want all of the cookies, ever. Now, for these cookies, I turned to Annie of Annie’s Eats (I mention her a lot, yes, but she is just so fantastic. If you ever need another food blog to read, go to her. She is amazing!), and I just wanted something with chocolate. As many of my friends know, there are three things in my life that are pretty much always around. Baking, books, and tea. Combine any of these, and I am a happy camper. These cookies are a combination of my love of tea, and my love of baking.

There are so many different kinds of chai tea, and most of them have some kind of flavour add-on. I am having a bit of a hard time finding a basic loose leaf chai tea without any of the added flavours. The chai tea I used in these cookies is actually the same chai tea I used in my Chai Tea Ice Cream a few months ago. It’s a vanilla chai, but the vanilla flavour is so subtle that it lets the original chai spices shine. Add in some chocolate to the chai, and hello, heaven.
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The best thing about sables is that the dough can be made in advance and frozen until you need it. That’s the beauty of these cookies. Make the dough, freeze it, and don’t bake it until you want the cookies. These cookies are meant to be baked straight from frozen, so life becomes so much easier. Also, do you see the beautiful flecks of tea in these cookies? Gorgeous.

Ingredients

Yield: About 2-3 dozen, depending on thickness

For the cookie dough:

1 c. butter, at room temperature
2½ tbsp. chai tea, from about 5 tea bags, or finely ground loose leaf chai
2/3 c. sugar
2 egg yolks
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
2¼ c. flour
½ tsp. salt
½ c. chocolate chips

To finish:

Turbinado sugar, for coating (regular sugar works as well)
1 egg white mixed with 1 tbsp. water

In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter, chai tea, and sugar until smooth and fluffy. Blend in egg yolks, one at a time, followed by the vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, mix in the flour and salt until a thick, cohesive dough forms. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Lay out a large piece of parchment paper, and transfer the dough to the paper. Roll out into a log, about 1¾ inches in diameter. Roll up the dough in the parchment paper, crimping the ends to seal, and place in the freezer for 2-3 hours, or until ready to bake.

When you are ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350°F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats, and whisk together the egg white and the water in a small bowl. Unroll the cookie dough log, and pour a line of turbinado sugar (or regular white sugar) on the parchment paper. Brush the egg mixture on the cookie dough log, then roll in the sugar, so the log is coated. With a sharp knife, slice cookies depending on desired thickness. Usually, aim for about ½-inch thick or slightly less.

Bake for 14-15 minutes total, rotating pans halfway through. Cookies should be just slightly golden brown around the edges at the most. Let cool on pans for about 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to finish cooling.

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Pumpkin Cake with Cinnamon Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

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Well, autumn is just around the corner. The one thing that ushers in autumn more than anything else is pumpkin. You know what I’m talking about. Pumpkin spice explosion, everywhere. Lattes, cookies, muffins, donuts, you name it, there is probably a pumpkin or pumpkin spice version.

I am also a fan of pumpkin, and pumpkin spice. This cake, as soon as I saw it, I was excited. This is a pumpkin recipe that really showcases the pumpkin, and tempers down the spice a little bit. There is only spices in the frosting, so the cake really lets the pumpkin shine. I found the original recipe for this cake here, and she has developed several original cake recipes. While I am confident in my own baking skills, I am not confident enough to create my own cake recipe… yet.

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Back to the cake. Fall is one of my favourite seasons, half because I was born in September. This seemed like one of the perfect recipes to welcome in the autumn season. I also used a couple of the cake baking tricks I have been raving about.

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Firstly, I wrapped each cake pan in one of my homemade “Bake Even” strips. These are just strips of old towels that I have cut to fit around my cake pans. Run them under cold water, then squeeze out most of the water, so that they are damp, but not wet. Use safety pins to secure the towel strips around the cake pans. These help the cakes bake up level.

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Secondly, I used my miracle cake release. I’ve talked about this before. It’s just equal parts of flour, shortening, and vegetable oil, so it really doesn’t go bad. I made the recipe I have with half a cup of each, whisked together so there is no lumps. Whenever you bake a cake, just brush on the pans with a pastry brush, and that counts as greasing and flouring your pans. The cakes just slide out of the pan once they are finished. So simple. Trust me, this cake release works.

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Ingredients

Yield: 1 9-inch three-layer cake

For the cake:

3 c. flour
1½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
¾ c. butter, softened
2 c. sugar
3 eggs
1 tbsp. vanilla
1 15 oz. can pumpkin puree
¼ c. vegetable oil
1 c. milk

For the frosting:

12 oz. (1½ packages) cream cheese
¾ c. butter, softened
3 tbsp. maple syrup
2 tsp. vanilla
2 tsp. cinnamon
6 c. icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 300°F. Grease 3 9 inch pans and set aside. If using bake-even strips, attach them before greasing the pans.

In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, and salt, and set aside. In the bowl of a mixer, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time, then add vanilla, pumpkin, and oil and mix until smooth. Mix in the flour mixture alternately with the milk, until batter is smooth.

Divide batter equally between three pans. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove from oven, let cool on racks for 5 minutes, then transfer to the freezer for 45 minutes. (This is to help keep the cakes moist by stopping the residual baking from the heat of the pans.)

While the cakes are in the freezer, prepare the frosting. In the bowl of a mixer, beat together the cream cheese and butter until fluffy and evenly combined. Add in maple syrup, vanilla, and cinnamon, and combine with cream cheese mixture. Add in the icing sugar, 1 or 2 cups at a time, beating on low until it is all incorporated, then on high to make sure the frosting gets light and fluffy.

To build the cake, place one cake layer on a platter or cake stand. Top with a thick layer of icing. Cover with the second cake layer, another thick layer of icing, and place the last cake layer on top. Coat the cake in a thin crumb coat (this step is optional), and freeze for 10 minutes to set. Generously apply the rest of the frosting to the top and sides of the cake, adding decorations as desired.

Keep in the refrigerator until ready to slice and serve.

Classic Cinnamon Rolls

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I love cinnamon rolls, and I do not make them nearly enough. Every time I make them, I am usually dissatisfied with the end result. I can never get them just right. I made this recipe once before, and they were good, but not perfect. Well, the fact that I am sharing this recipe with you is a testament to the adage “Practice makes perfect”.

Be patient with this recipe. It takes time, and a lot of it, to make this recipe, but the results are worth it. Trust in the recipe. I was a little weary at first, because it seemed like the dough did not want to rise at all. I thought the yeast had not been activated properly, and I was getting discouraged. There had been a bit of a rise, but nowhere near the doubling in size the recipe is supposed to do. Since this is Annie’s recipe, she has some great troubleshooting tips as well if you take a gander over to her blog!

Then, I decided to leave it alone, not monitor the dough constantly, and Paul and I went for a quick walk. I came back, and magic happened! The dough rose, to the doubled size, and everything turned out.

Like I said, trust the recipe. If you are patient, this recipe will turn out. As a side note, here is a tip for helping dough to rise. I find that no matter where I live, my house is always a bit on the cold side. Not freeze-your-butt-off-cold, but slightly chillier than comfortable. (Before you say so, we always have the furnace turned on when it’s cold. The only time we don’t have the furnace on is in the summer. Apparently, Paul and I have bad luck with choosing houses that don’t always hold as much heat as they should. Side note over, sorry!)
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It helps when you have a bit of a drafty house, to turn on your oven to about 200°F, let it preheat, then turn the oven off. Leave for about 5 minutes with the door closed, then place the yeasted dough into the warmed oven. The residual heat from the oven will help your dough to rise, which is especially helpful in a place like Southern Alberta, where the winters and falls can last for longer than you think, and get quite cold.

Cinnamon rolls are so great, because they are extremely versatile. Paul is a fan of raisins in his, I am a sucker for the classic, cinnamon sugar filled, glazed roll. You can frost them instead of glaze them, throw some fruit, chocolate, caramel, or nuts in there, the possibilities are endless!

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Ingredients

Yield: 8-16 rolls, depending on cut size (I cut mine quite large, and got 9 rolls)

For the dough:

6½ tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
5½ tbsp. butter
1 large egg, slightly beaten
1 tsp. lemon extract or lemon zest
3½ c. flour
2 tsp. instant (rapid rise) yeast
1 1/8 c. to 1¼ c. milk or buttermilk, at room temperature

For the filling:

6½ tbsp. sugar
1½ tsp. cinnamon

For the glaze:

4 c. icing sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
½ – 1 tsp. lemon or orange extract
6 tbsp. to ½ c. warm milk

For the dough, cream together the butter, sugar, and salt together in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Whip in the egg and lemon extract or zest until smooth. Add in the flour, yeast, and milk, and mix on low speed until the dough forms a ball. Switch to the dough hook, and increase the mixer speed to medium, mixing until the dough is silky and supple, tacky, but not sticky. You may need to add small amounts of flour or water to get the dough to the proper consistency.

Lightly oil a large bowl, and transfer the dough to the bowl, turning once to coat. Cover with plastic wrap, and leave in a warm place to rise until doubled in size, about 2 hours, sometimes longer.

After dough doubles in size, whisk together sugar and cinnamon for filling and set aside. Lightly spray your countertop or a large wooden cutting board with cooking spray. Transfer dough from the bowl to the oiled surface, and sprinkle the top lightly with flour. Roll out the dough gently, being very careful not to roll the dough too thin or too hard, or the dough will become tough. With a rolling pin, roll the dough out into a large rectangle. The larger the rectangle, the thinner the rolls, and you will get more rolls.

Line a baking tray with parchment paper, and sprinkle the cinnamon sugar filling over the rectangle, and roll into a log, from the long side of the dough rectangle. Keep the dough roll as tight as you can while rolling. With the seam side down, cut into equal sized pieces, thicker for larger and less rolls, thinner for smaller and more rolls.

Place the buns about half an inch apart on the baking sheet, so they are close, but not touching. Leave to proof at room temperature about 75-90 minutes, until they have nearly doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Bake the rolls for 20-30 minutes, until golden brown. Cool the rolls on the pan for 10 minutes. While rolls are baking and cooling, prepare the glaze. Sift the icing sugar into a bowl, then add the warm milk to the sugar a few tablespoons at a time, whisking briskly. Add in the vanilla and the orange or lemon extract. Add more milk as needed, as when finished, the glaze should be a smooth, thick paste. Drizzle the glaze over the slightly cooled rolls, and allow to cool for about 15-20 minutes longer before serving.