Adventures in homemade, budget aware cooking.

Posts tagged “Sweet

Ranger Cookies

Yesterday, I gleefully pulled Harry Potter #2 AND #5 off the shelf at my local library.  I was so excited to find these two books available.  Don’t worry that #1, 3 or 4 weren’t available.  I have read the series so many times now it doesn’t matter which book I jump into (it probably wouldn’t matter which chapter either…)  How many times is it okay to read the same book?  Your favourite book?  Seven?

Anyways, the whole situation got me thinking about my cooking philosophy.  I often scour cookbooks in search of new recipes to try and new things to make.  When I find something that the husband and I love, I tend to file the recipe away the same as I do for the mediocre ones I come across.  To me, food isn’t like books.  I really struggle to re-make things!  I think it’s a disease, really.

I made the BEST ranger cookies ever a few days ago.  I need to remember to treat this recipe like one of my favourite books.  I need to make it again.  These cookies were gooey in the middle and crispy around the edges.  The brown sugar and butter gave them a caramel flavour.  And, unlike the last Ranger Cookie recipe I failed with, they were FLAT!  Maybe you don’t like your cookies flat, but that’s how mum’s always were and that’s how I think they should be.  (If you don’t want flat cookie – the horror – refrigerate your batter between uses and avoid putting your batter on hot cookie sheets.)

Ranger Cookies (Makes 4 dozen… don’t worry, they are THAT good.  You’ll eat them all)

  • ¾ cup butter
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • 2 small eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 ½ cup flour
  • ¾ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 ½ cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup raisins
  • ½ cup shredded coconut
  • ½ chopped walnuts

*Instead of the raisins, coconut and nuts, feel free to put in whatever you like.

Cream the butter.  Add the sugars and cream.  Add the eggs and vanilla.  Mix.  Stir in the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Combine.  Stir in the remaining ingredients.  Drop batter onto ungreased baking sheets.  Cook for 8-10 minutes at 375F.  Let sit for 1 minute, then remove them to cooling racks.

I took my out of the oven when the middles were still uncooked.  They firmed up on the cooling racks.


Dim Sum Honey Buns

I promise, I’m almost done with my Chinese cravings… (Tonight we’re having Mexican – see?)  These dessert “Honey Buns” are so good and it took me forever to work out the recipe, so enjoy it!  The husband said about these soft, sweet filled buns “You should make these for my family so they see the delicious things you make for me!”  The recipe makes 24 buns (which is a ton!) but you can freeze them for 3 months.

Baked Bao Dough (traditionally, these are steamed, but I don’t have a steamer.  When I get one, you will get the steamed dough recipe!)   adapted from “Dim Sum: The Art of Chinese Tea”

  • 3 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 sugar
  • 1/4 shortening
  • 1/4 cup plus 1/4 cup lukewarm water, divided
  • 1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1 cup milk

Combine 2 cups of flour, salt and sugar in a large bowl.  Cut in the shortening (with a pastry knife or two knives).  In a small bowl, mix 1/4 cup lukewarm water and yeast.  Leave 5 min.  Put milk and 1/3 cup water in a saucepan.  Heat to 110F (warm).  Remove from heat.  Stir in the yeast.  Add liquid mixture to the flour mixture.  Mix.  Add the remaining flour.  Turn dough onto a floured surface.  Knead 5-8 min.  Put in a greased bowl.  Turn to grease the top.  Cover.  Let rise 2 hours.

Make the filling.

Honey Bun Custard Filling (there is no honey involved here…)

  • 2 1/2 oz butter (6 tbsp)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tsp yellow food colouring
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Melt the butter.  In a medium bowl, Beat the eggs and the sugar until the sugar dissolves.  Stir in the butter.  Stir in the cornstarch.  Add the milk, vanilla and food colouring.  Heat in a saucepan until gently boiling.  Whisk constantly until thickened.  Remove from heat.  If the custard is lumpy, add more milk and stir well.  Cool to room temperature.

Make the Rolls.

Oil 2 baking sheets.  Punch down the dough.  On a floured surface, pat it into a 8 x 12″ rectangle.  Cut it into 24 squares.  Using one square at a time, flatten the dough into a 2 1/2″ circle.  Fill by placing a heaping tsp of the filling in the center of the dough.  Gather the edges together and pinch shut.  Place pinched-side-down on a baking sheet.  Let the buns rise another 30 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 350F.  Brush the rolls with a beaten egg.  Cook for 20-25 minutes.  Serve warm.


Strawberry Fool

Sometimes I really want to be in the kitchen, but the thought of cooking another meal is very upsetting and overwhelming.  I open up my recipe books and my box of recipe cards trying to come up with yet another brilliant idea for dinner and am instantly bombarded with sweet treats and desserts and candies and chocolate.  All I want to make are treats.

Friday night, I attempted Marcus Wareing’s Strawberry Fool – which as it turns out is so easy a fool (aka me) could make it.  It’s a thick and creamy strawberry mousse and was nicely complemented by fresh leaves of mint from my mother-in-law’s garden.  I liked it, my husband liked it, and two siblings liked it too.  4 out of 4.  Pretty good percentages.

Strawberry Fool (adapted from Marcus Wareing’s “Cook the Perfect…”)

  • 2 lbs fresh strawberries, hulled and quartered
  • juice from 1/2 a lemon
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 package of gelatin
  • 1/4 cup ice-cold water
  • 1 cup cream
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 2/3 cup cream
  • 1 tbsp icing sugar
  • Mint leaves

Heat a saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add strawberries, lemon juice and sugar.  Cook 15 min, stirring frequently.  Remove from heat.  Mix gelatin in 1/4 cup ice-cold water until dissolved.  Pour strawberries into a blender and puree.  Pour into a large bowl.  Stir gelatin mixture into warm puree until gelatin is dissolved.  Cover and refrigerate 1/2 hour.  Lightly whip 1 cup cream.  Stir the yogurt into the puree.  Fold in the cream.  Divide among six glasses and chill overnight. Combine cream and icing sugar.  Top strawberry fool with whipped cream and garnish with mint leaves.


Arroz Con Leche

A few years ago, I spent a year and a half in Southern California serving a mission for my Church. I spend that time with the Hispanic population in the area, and came to love their culinary traditions (well, some of them).
I could never quite fall in love with Menudo (a traditional soup made from cow stomach) or anything that involved tongue – but this sweet rice and milk dessert gained a favourable place on my palate. I love the thick, hearty porridge-like consistency and the way the raisins soften as though they are slowly transforming back into grapes.

Rice is such a huge staple in Latin American cooking, but that doesn’t make it easy for us gringos to get right. Growing up, I remember joking about the fact that Mum’s rice was usually soupy. And perhaps to counteract that, my first endeavors to make rice resulted in hard, crunchy grains that my husband and I both pretended were fluffy and, well, cooked… Arroz con Leche scared me for a long time. My food cravings eventually overcame my food fears, and, I’m happy to report it turned out well!

Arroz Con Leche (rice with milk)
– 1/2 cup rice (short-medium grain)
– 4 cups milk
– 1 cinnamon stick
– 1/2 cup brown sugar
– 1/2 raisins
– 1 tsp vanilla
– 2 tbsp butter
– ground cinnamon to garnish

In a saucepan, combine rice, milk and cinnamon stick. Heat on medium-high just until milk starts to boil. Lower heat to low and let mixture simmer, stirring often (scraping sides and bottom of pot) for 45 min. Add the sugar and the raisins and continue cooking on low for another 15 min. Stir in the vanilla and the butter and cook another 5 min. Garnish with ground cinnamon. Serve hot or cold.

I like to eat some when it’s hot, refrigerate the rest and eat it cold the next morning for breakfast. Sabe muy rico!


Chocolate Zucchini Loaf

When I was little, to my mum’s chagrin, my culinary tastes weren’t quite as developed as they are now.  My hatred extended from onions and mushrooms (I haven’t quite got over my mushroom aversion yet) to milk, and I think even sporadically through my childhood, ice cream.   I was difficult to feed.  Needless to say zucchini was a long-time resident on my personal food blacklist.

While the delicate and subtle flavour that zucchini’s emit rarely penetrated my palette, I think I rather hated the idea of the zucchini: a long, green vegetable an oddly spongy texture. Yuck.

Imagine my surprise when Mum produced a delicious smelling, moist chocolaty loaf that tasted just like chocolate cake but had a foundation of nothing other than the formidable legume?  My surprise was great indeed.  I’m sure I tried to hate the loaf solely on principle, but chocolate has a way of over-powering most principles (at least for me anyways).

Chocolate Zucchini Loaf:

  • 1 cup chopped zucchini (mine was pretty mushy…)
  • 1/2 cup apple sauce (or you can use oil if you want to)
  • 2 small eggs
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla
  • 1 cups sugar (use less if you use sweetened apple sauce)
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp backing powder

In a blender, blend zucchini, apple sauce, eggs and vanilla.  In a medium sized bowl, combine the dry ingredients.  Pour the zucchini mixture into the dry ingredients and mix with a spatula (if you use apple sauce instead of the traditional oil, the less you have to stir it to combine the batter, the better).  Pour batter into a greased loaf pan (9×5) and bake at 325F for 50 to 60 minutes.  Cool on a rack.