Category Archives: Cookies & Candy

Comfort on a cold day: Toasted Anise Cake

frozen_fennel

During the coldest days of the year, I make frequent trips out to the chicken coop. The hens are fine of course, they’re rated to about -20F (-30 if you speak Celsius), and a few of them will happily wade around in snow up to their egg-holes as long as the sun is shining — but the eggs freeze solid and explode if left in the nests for too long.

frozen_chicken_coop

no_skating

I’m nowhere near as cold-hardy as the chickens, but once I’m outside I marvel at the stark beauty of the icy yard and almost manage to forget about the cold.

ice_on_the_pond

ice_designs

In the end I’m always glad to be forced out into the elements, because it makes the house seem that much warmer when I come in.

bake_in_loaf_pan

Especially when I have a batch of these toasted anise cake slices fresh out of the oven. They make the house smell heavenly, and the crunchy texture (similar to biscotti) is perfect alongside a steaming hot cup of coffee or tea. Or a bowl of sorbet, when the days get warmer again.

enjoy_with_coffee_or_tea

Toasted Anise Cake

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Total Time: 2 hours

Yield: About 12 cookies

Toasted Anise Cake

These toasty cake slices are similar to biscotti, and are delicious with a hot cup of coffee or a bowl of lemon sorbet.

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/3 teaspoon salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 5 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons anise seeds, finely crushed
  • Special equipment:
  • mortar & pestle
  • stand mixer
  • 8 1/2 by 4 1/2" loaf pan

Instructions

  1. Put rack in the middle of oven and preheat to 350F. Lightly butter and flour loaf pan.
  2. Crush anise seeds using mortar and pestle.
  3. Sift together flour, baking powder, anise, and salt in a small bowl.
  4. Beat eggs and sugar in a mixer bowl at high speed until tripled in volume, and thick enough to form a ribbon that takes 2 seconds to fall apart when beater is lifted (about 12-18 minutes)
  5. Sift flour mixture over egg mixture in 3 batches, folding in each batch.
  6. Gently stir in butter, and immediately pour batter into loaf pan and smooth top.
  7. Bake until loaf is golden brown and a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 35-45 minutes. Cool in pan for 5 minutes, and then turn out onto a cutting board (right side up) and cool for 30 minutes.
  8. Preheat oven to 400F.
  9. Trim ends and cut loaf into 1/2-inch-thick slides. Arrange slices on a baking sheet and bake until undersides are golden brown, about 7 minutes. Flip and bake until the other side browns, about 5 minutes more. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Notes

Adapted from Gourmet.

http://www.homegrowngourmet.org/toasted-anise-cake/

Chocolate Covered Mints

homemade_junior_mints

I’ve always been a fan of soft, chocolate-covered mints — Junior Mints, Peppermint Patties, I love them all equally but don’t much venture into the candy aisle these days. However, they’ve been lurking in the back of my brain’s “to make” file for years now. I finally caved when, during a night of Christmas baking, I realized that I had TWO bottles of good quality peppermint extract taking up space in my cupboard.

Dip_in_melted_chocolate

I turned to two of my favorite cookbooks¬†for inspiration. Both were in agreement on the basic proportions, except for the most important flavor¬†— one recipe calls for 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract to 2 1/2 cups of powdered sugar, and the other a full tablespoon per 2 cups of sugar (for the record, the latter also says you can use peppermint oil but I haven’t tried it). I settled for 1/2 tablespoon of extract and found it to be perfectly minty.

humble_ingredients

Just ignore that corn syrup lurking behind the more wholesome ingredients.

I generally avoid corn syrup, but this is one of a few cases where I use it in a recipe because there wasn’t a reliable substitute available (and hey, it’s only a tablespoon). I considered trying a batch with honey instead, since it’s hygroscopic like corn syrup, but thought it might change the color and flavor too much (if you try it, I’d love to hear how it turns out!). However, I did have excellent luck replacing the shortening in the original recipes with extra-virgin coconut oil. That counts for something, right?

scraping_the_bowl

heart_shaped_patties_not_recommended

For my trial run, I tried to make patties with a little heart-shaped cookie cutter but their shape didn’t hold up well during a brief trip through melted chocolate (a 1″ round might work better). I soon realized I couldn’t eat the entire batch in the name of quality control, and moved on to Plan B — rolling each heart into a little ball. They were much easier to coat in chocolate, if not as cute.

fresh_minty_balls

The finished candy can be stored in the fridge or freezer, layered between pieces of parchment paper in an airtight container. I recommend storing them near the back, where they won’t be as visible.

layer_in_airtight_container_and_hide

Chocolate Covered Mints

Prep Time: 1 hour

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 4 hours

Yield: About 25 bite-sized mints

Chocolate Covered Mints

Cool, creamy and refreshing. These homemade treats are like Junior Mints or Peppermint Patties, but way better than anything you'll find in the candy aisle.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups powdered confectioner's sugar
  • 1 tbsp extra-virgin coconut oil, softened
  • 1 tbsp light corn syrup
  • 1 1/2 tsp pure peppermint extract
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 1 1/2 cups good quality dark chocolate chips or pieces

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl combine sugar, salt, corn syrup, oil, peppermint extract, and water. Form a workable dough using a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment, or kneading by hand, adding a bit of extra water if necessary.
  2. If making balls, a metal measuring spoon works well to divvy up the dough (I used 1/4 tsp). Roll pieces of dough into balls by hand and put them on a cookie sheet in the freezer for at least 2 hours. If making patties, place the dough between two sheets of wax paper or plastic wrap and roll out to about 1/4 or 1/2 inch thickness, then freeze for 30-60 minutes before cutting out the patties. Place cutouts on a cookie sheet to freeze for at least 2 hours.
  3. Heat chocolate in a metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely-simmering water until it melts, let it cool to about 80F, and then heat it once again -- this tempers the chocolate and gives you a nice shiny coating on your candy.
  4. Let the chocolate cool for a few minutes, then take the mint centers out of the freezer a few at a time. Use a fork to quickly roll them in the chocolate, then tap off the excess and place on a lightly oiled cookie sheet. Freeze until hard, then give the cookie sheet a shake to release the mints. Some may stick and lose pieces of their chocolate shell, you can just reheat the leftover chocolate and patch them (or better yet, eat them immediately).
  5. Store mints between layers of parchment paper in an airtight container, in the fridge or freezer. Bring to room temperature before serving, or enjoy them frozen.

Notes

Adapted from Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It (by Karen Solomon) and Gourmet.

http://www.homegrowngourmet.org/chocolate-covered-mints/