Saturday, December 29, 2012

Pinned there, done that: Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles

These were so fantastic I ended up having my husband taking a bunch to work just so I wouldn't have them end up on my thighs(and tummy, butt, etc) I also made some Kahlua Chocolate Mocha truffles the same day.  Trust me when I say this, dipping nine dozen truffles in one day is a dumb thing to do! I just can't stand in one place for that long of period of time without my body paying for it the next day.  If (and that's a BIG if) I could trust myself enough to avoid sneaking into the freezer to it them, it would work well to freeze these and just dip them into chocolate when you want them.  I know me though and that would not work.  But hey, if you have more will power than me just go ahead and give it a try!

These Chocolate chip cookie dough truffles, and their variations, have been pinned hundreds of times.  I'm more of a raw cookie dough gal than an actual baked cookie dough gal, so when I saw the pin I knew it had to be done.

This is the recipe I sort of  followed.  Here is what I did:
Chocolate chip cookie dough truffles

1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
1 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips
1-1/2 pounds chocolate, chopped, tempered and ready to use.

Cream together butter and brown sugar for a good three minutes.  It takes at least three minutes for the mixture to cream up nicely so don't try to cheat on this!  Add the vanilla and salt, mix together.  Slowly add the flour (I used the lowest speed on my Kitchen Aid mixer) mix to combine then add the sweetened condensed milk. Mix until well blended.  By hand stir in the 1 cup miniature chocolate chips (if you want nuts, go for it! But use 1/2 cup nuts and only 1/2 cup chocolate chips.)  Refrigerate dough for a couple of hours.  I used my smallest cookie scoop to make the truffles.  I found that when the dough was refrigerated before hand I didn't have any problems with the dough being sticky.  I also didn't have to roll them by hand since my scoop got them nice and tight.  I did have to stick the dough back into the refrigerator again once I was half way through as the dough started to get sticky.  Another half hour in the fridge and all was good again.  Hubby, however, liked the look of them being more rounded so he did a few trays that way for a photo.

I don't care to use the candy melts or almond bark for my candies, but hey - if that's your thing then I say go for it!  I must admit that it does make the job easier for dipping chocolates using those products. I bought some chocolate in bulk at the local Winco store a few months back.  It had to be tempered (tempering gives the chocolate that nice glossy look and also gives it the crisp crunch when you bite into it) but the word tempered sounds more scary than it really is. My chocolates didn't get the high gloss I usually get but that didn't alter the taste at all!
I believe this recipe made over five dozen truffles.... we won't discuss how many didn't get made since I picked at the dough throughout the process.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Daring Baker: Panettone

Ahhhhhh....... tis wonderful to be back in the baking scene once again.  While I'm still limited with what I can eat (yeah, like bread... no can do since its impossible for me to swallow) I can still make and share. Since my last surgery I've managed to lose 40 pounds and keep it off.  The surgeon told me that I had to get my BMI level to 25% to avoid having the surgery again and I have succeeded.  My stomach was wrapping itself around my diaphragm and they had to stretch and pull on my esophagus, too. Then just a few weeks after that surgery I had to have my gall bladder removed.  The tubing down then throat caused even more swelling so I have to wait a year from the surgery to see if the swallowing difficulties will be permanent or temporary.  

I've missed being part of the challenges I once belonged too and am quite excited to be part of most of them once more.  Unfortunately I have had to be put on the waiting list for Secret Recipe Club and will have to patiently await for that one.

The challenge for The Daring Baker this month was to make a Panettone.  Not familiar with it?? That's OK since I was not familiar either.  Marcellina tells us it is a traditional Italian Christmas bread.  Its made with candied fruits but she has generously allowed us to substitute with other ingredients (like chocolate!) Here is my version....

Blog-checking lines: The December 2012 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by the talented Marcellina of Marcellina in Cucina. Marcellina challenged us to create our own custom Panettone, a traditional Italian holiday bread!

This bread is like the brioche hamburger rolls I made with the black bean burgers. My mom said it reminds her of a Polish bread she grew up with, which tasted best slathered in butter.
I also would have liked to add more flavors to this bread... but since I was baking this bread with him in mind I just stuck with chocolate chips.  I think toasted coconut and Craisins would rock with the chocolate!
      For the Sponge
1 satchel (2¼ teaspoons) (7 gm) active dry yeast
1/3 cup (80 ml) warm water
½ cup (70 gm) unbleached all purpose flour

     First Dough
1 satchel (2¼ teaspoons) (7 gm) active dry yeast
3 tablespoons (45 ml) warm water
2 large eggs, at room temp
1¼ cup (175 gm) unbleached all-purpose (plain) flour
¼ cup (55 gm) (2 oz) sugar
½ cup (1 stick) (115 gm) unsalted butter, at room temp

     Second dough
2 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
2/3 cup (150 gm) (5-2/3 oz) sugar
3 tablespoons (45 ml) honey
1 tablespoon (15 ml) vanilla extract
1 teaspoon (5 ml) lemon essence/extract
1 teaspoon (5 ml) orange essence/extract
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (6 gm) salt
1 cup (2 sticks) (225 gm) unsalted butter, at room temp
3 cups (420 gm) (15 oz) unbleached all-purpose (plain) flour; plus up to (2/3 cup) 100 gm for kneading

1  cup chocolate chips

Mix the yeast and water in a small bowl and allow to stand until creamy. That’s about 10 minutes or so
Mix in the flour. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to double in size for about 20 to 30 minutes

First Dough
In the mixer bowl, mix together the yeast and water and allow to stand until creamy. Again, about 10 minutes or so With the paddle attached mix in the sponge, eggs, flour, and sugar.
Add in the butter and mix for 3 minutes until the dough is smooth and even.
Cover with plastic wrap and allow double in size, about 1 – 1 ¼ hours

Second dough
With the paddle add to the first dough the eggs, egg yolks, sugar, honey, vanilla, essences/extracts, and salt.
Mix in the butter until smooth.Add the flour and slowly incorporate.   At this stage the dough will seem a little too soft, like cookie dough. Replace the paddle with the dough hook and knead for about 2 minutes.
Turn out the dough and knead it on a well-floured surface until it sort of holds its shape.Don’t knead in too much flour but you may need as much as 2/3 cup (100 gm). Be careful the excess flour will affect the finished product.

First Rise
Oil a large bowl lightly, plop in your dough and cover with plastic wrap. Now we need to let it rise until it has tripled in size.

Take your dough and cut it in half. Remember we are making two panettoni. Combine all your filling ingredients and mix well. Press out one portion of dough into an oval shape. Sprinkle over one quarter of the filling and roll up the dough into a log.  Press out again into an oval shape and sprinkle over another quarter of the filling  Roll into a log shape again. Repeat with the second portion of dough Shape each into a ball and slip into your prepared pans, panettone papers or homemade panettone papers.

Cut an X into the top of each panettone and allow to double in size.
Rising time will vary according to method of first rise. If it has been in the refrigerator it could take 4 hours or more. If it has been rising on the kitchen bench in a warm place it should be doubled in about 2 hours.

When you think your dough has only about 30 minutes left to rise preheat your oven to moderately hot 400°F/200°C/gas mark 6 and adjust your oven racks
Just before baking carefully (don’t deflate it!) cut the X into the dough again and place in a knob (a nut) of butter.

Place your panettoni in the oven and bake for 10 minutes
Reduce the heat to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4 and bake for another 10 minutes
Reduce the heat again to moderate 325°F/160°C/gas mark 3 and bake for 30 minutes until the tops are well browned and a skewer inserted into the panettone comes out clean.

Cooling your panettone is also important. If you have use papers (commercial or homemade) lie your panettoni on their side cushioned with rolled up towels. Turn gently as they cool. If you have used pans cool in the pans for 30 minutes then remove and cushion with towels as above.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Sunday School: Bags for the homeless

In keeping with our theme this month for serving others, I had the kids make a bag to give to a home less person (or maybe one of the veterans you see asking for money).  If money was not an option then I would be able to make hundreds of these to take to the local shelter and include so much more... but, I live in reality and so just had each child make one bag (although I did also get my mom's class and one other class to do this too!) I found some free printable Gospel Tracts here and had the kids include those in the bags.  I also printed off some Bible verses that the kids can tape on to various items. All in all 18 bags were made!  Here is what I've got:
Bottled Water 
 Bible Verse:  Jesus said, "Everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again and again. Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst -not ever.  John 4:14

Pair of Socks
And the same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from His glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:19

Protein Bar  
I have the strength to face all conditions by the power that Christ gives me.  Philippians 4:13

Peanut Butter Crackers
Then Jesus said, "I am the bread that gives life.  No one who comes to me will ever be hungry.  No one who believes in me will ever be thirsty.  John 6:35

Hand/Foot Warmers
He will cover you with feathers and under His wing you will find refuge. His truth is your shield and refuge.  Psalm 91:4

I want to wish you all a merry Christmas.  Please pray for the families who have lost loved ones in the Connecticut school shooting.  I can't even begin to imagine how devastated the parents of the killed babies must be.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Sunday School: The Christmas Cookie Gospel

I love being able to focus on the needs of others, especially during the Christmas season.  While my class is grades 1 and 2, I find that they are at the best age to be excited about the Gospel.  I've noticed that these are the grades where the kids are less fearful of being judged by others.  Their gift is enthusiasm and they are so excited about being able to be in heaven with everyone they love.  Once kids get older, they are a bit more timid about doing something out of their comfort zone.  We decided to have the kids share the Gospel with someone by way of Christmas cookies.  I gleaned from a few ideas but pretty much this is mine so if you borrow it I would appreciate the credit and a link back here!
You may notice that we are missing one cookie... the Christmas tree.  Yes, I'm a bone head and totally forgot to cut that one out!  

Christmas Tree: We find presents underneath the Christmas tree. Christ loved us so much that he was born that He could die for us on an old rugged tree to take away our sin. This is s the best gift anyone can ever receive! 
" For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." Romans 6:23 

Angel: Throughout the Bible, God uses angels to deliver His messages for us.
But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." Luke 2:10-12

Star: The angel told the three wise men to follow the star and, when they did, it took them to Bethlehem where they found our Lord. God wants us to share our gifts, too.
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him." Matthew 2:1-2

Heart: The heart represents love. Do you know that God loves you and He loved you so much He gave you a sacrificial gift, His Son, Jesus Christ. 
For God so Loved the World that He gave His one and only son. That whoever should believe upon Him shall have eternal life. John 3:16

Cross: The cross represents life and Jesus. It is the reason why we celebrate Christmas. Jesus grew up and He learned to walk and talk and become a man. He went to the cross and died for our sins- past present and future. When we believe in Him, He forgives u s our sins and gives us eternal life. 
But God demonstrates his love for us in this:, While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8

Dove: The dove represents God’s Spirit. The Spirit of Jesus lives within us when we believe and receive Him into our life, which means we are never alone. God is always with us, to love and comfort us.
So keep at your work, this faith and love rooted in Christ, exactly as I set it out for you. It’s as sound as the day you first heard it from me. Guard this precious thing placed in your custody by the Holy Spirit who works in us. 2 Timothy 1:13-14

Candle: The candle represents light. The Bible tells us we are to let our light shine. Our faith, thoughts, and feelings are to be full of light. Christmas gives us a special opportunity to let our light shine. We can tell others about Jesus and that Christmas is His birthday.
In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:16

Snowman: If we receive Christ and confess Him as Lord, our sins will be washed whiter than snow.
Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. Isaiah 1:18

Church: A church is more than a building. It is a place where we can go to worship God our Father and fellowship among other believers. As believers we need to be there for each other so that we may encourage one another and hold each other accountable.
Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God which he bought with his own blood. Acts 20:28
the cookies completed, wrapped and a sheet of paper printed with the above message
Of course, the kids had to reward themselves with one final cookie.  They got to decorate and eat a gingerbread man (sugar cookie).  They really loaded the cookies up!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Pinned there, Done that: Pretzel Toffee

I am afraid that I have a bit of a Pinterest addiction... Ok, possibly more than a bit.  I just love seeing all the creative things out there.  See, I'm not a "creative" person.  Give me an idea and I can run with it, but I have to be given the idea.  That's where Pinterest comes in to play as they have ideas coming out of their ears! But I wanted to be more than a lurker on there (although lurking is just fine over there!) so I'm going to try to actually try some of the things I pinned. Which I am going to call my "Pinned There, Done That" section.
First up is this delicious looking pin from the Legume Loyalist website for Salted Chocolate Caramel Pretzel Bark .  It is very much like our family favorite of Saltine Cracker Toffee.  I love, love, love the M&M pretzels so this pin just made my day.  Just yesterday we gave the recipe a try using our recipe for the Saltine Cracker Toffee and just substituting pretzels for the crackers.  We actually crushed the crackers before laying them in the pan and I think we used to much. Next time I will lay out the crackers first to get a more accurate amount and then crush them.
This layer is too thick. It worked, but to create more of the Toffee Crunch you would either have to double the Toffee recipe, or reduce the amount of pretzels. You can see from the other picture that the toffee just barely covered everything.
Saltine Cracker Toffee

37 saltines cracker squares (this is equal to one package of the crackers I use)
1 cup butter, cubed
1 cup brown sugar
2 cups (12 ounce package) semisweet chocolate chips

Place crackers in a single layer in a foil-lined 15-in. x -10-in. x 1-in. baking pan. In a large saucepan, bring butter and brown sugar to a boil. Stir for three minutes longer with it at a strong boil.  Remove from heat and carefully pour over the saltines. rs.
Bake at 400° for 5 minutes, check to see it isn't burning and bake for another minute longer. Remove from oven and sprinkle top with the chocolate chips. Return to oven and  bake for another 1 to 3  minutes longer or until chips start to melt; spread chocolate evenly over top.
Chill for 15-20 minutes or until set; break into pieces. Store in the refrigerator in a covered container

Monday, December 3, 2012

Let the Christmas Season Begin :-)

I just love Christmas and it isn't uncommon for me to be watching Christmas movies and listening to Christmas songs year round.  This time of the year the Hallmark channel becomes my favorite television channel.  Yep, I'm one of those people.
I wish everyone in the family loved Christmas like I do.  My mom does (she lives with us) and so does my husband... but my son, well..... he really REALLY struggles with this time of year.  Part of it has to do with seasonal depression but also with his autism.  He finds so much fault, with himself, that he feels guilty receiving gifts. If he appreciates the gift then he feels guilty because he thinks he must of come off needy to the other person.  ACK!! His black and white world drives me crazy at times!  This year he also has the stress of college - which has been a major undertaking for him.  On top of that, he is frustrated with the ehlers-danlos syndrome and his joints popping out all the time on him.  How that boy has managed to not break his neck on the stairs is just by God's hand.  So if any of you are praying people... can you keep my son in your prayers.  Thanks!
This year I'm going to focus on the art of giving with my Sunday School class. I could not have asked for better planning myself, with a special missionary guest speaker at our church last Sunday.  I had the kids join the adult class and we listened to him share about his ministry in Tanzania.  His main focus is children's ministry but he also does so much more.
Next week the kids will be putting together bags for the homeless.  I found the idea on Pinterest (Oh how I love that site!!!) and we will be putting in a bottle of water, hand warmers, protein bars, peanut butter crackers, toothpaste, toothbrush and a Gospel tract.  I know that there are many other wonderful items out there we could put in and I wish that I had the money to add socks, gloves and hats, ect....
The following week the kids are going to decorate cookies for two families I know of that could use the holiday cheer.  They will also make a card for them and I will be putting together some baking items for the families to use for their own holiday baking.
Our last week (right before Christmas) We are going to put together small care packages for church members that have lost loved ones this year, people with medical needs, and those that have been home-bound. Again, simple little gifts but it will encourage the children to look beyond their own needs.  I'll update this a bit later with some pictures... for now I just wanted to share the ideas.
When it comes down to it, we all have the opportunity to enjoy the greatest gift of all; God's gift of His Son Jesus Christ.  He is the best thing we ever unwrapped! So take the time to thank or Lord and Savior - He is always available and loves to hear from us.

My new favorite Christmas song:  By Francesca Battistelli
Heaven Everywhere

I hear the bells, they're ringing loud and clear
You can't help but love this time of year
It's Christmastime, there's something in the air
There's a little bit of heaven everywhere
Somehow there's a little more of love
And maybe there's a little less of us
Or maybe we're just slightly more aware
There's a little bit of heaven everywhere
[Chorus:]It's the smile on a man who has finally found hope
It's the tears of a mother whose child has come home
It's the joy that we feel and the love that we share
There's a little bit of heaven everywhere
There's a little bit of heaven everywhere
It's funny how it takes a holiday
To show us how the world could truly change
If we all took the time to really care
There'd be a little more of heaven everywhere [Chorus]
It's the grace that we show to a world that needs hope
It's giving our lives knowing they're not our own
It's the joy that we feel and the love that we share
There's a little bit of heaven everywhere
There's a little bit of heaven everywhere
[Bridge:]Angels we have heard on high
Sweetly singing o'er the plain
And the mountains in reply
Echoing their joyous strains
Hallelujah, hallelujah
It's the joy that we feel and the love that we share
There's a little bit of heaven everywhere
There's a little bit of heaven everywhere
There's a little bit of heaven everywhere