Cookie Dough Truffles

Cookie dough - appearing now everywhere either crumbled, as medallions or in chunks, from the frozen yogurt topping bar to the snack shop at the pool - gets glammed up for the holidays in the form of a truffle.  Importantly, this recipe contains no eggs.  We've all heard the warnings about raw eggs and just this month  of ready-to-bake commercial pre-packaged cookie dough being ready to bake, not ready to eat.  If you're one who still just can't resist raw dough, perhaps this simple recipe will be not only a safer but even more decadent treat, made of course, with basic ingredients from the SimplyCooking® Pantry.

cookie dough truffles

1/2 cup butter, room temperature
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 cups APflour
1/2 cup whole milk
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
pinch of salt
10 oz. dark chocolate chips
1 tsp. butter

With an electric stand or hand mixer, cream the butter and brown sugar.  Beat 2 minutes.  Add the flour, milk, powdered sugar, vanilla and salt.  Beat well.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill 1 hour.

Select serving trays or baking sheets that fit in your freezer and line with waxed paper.  Pans with sides that can stack, like cake pans or brownie pans work well if your freezer is narrow (or full).  Roll the chilled dough into 1 inch balls and place on the lined pans.  Freeze for 1 hour.

Place the chocolate and 1 tsp. butter in a pan or bowl set over a pot with 1" of barely simmering water.  (Don't let the upper pan touch the water.)  Stir as the chocolate melts, making sure the steam does not get too hot and scorch the chocolate.  The chocolate should be smooth and glossy.  Remove both pans from the heat.  Using a small tongs, dip  each ball in the chocolate and return to the lined tray.  Place in the freezer until well chilled.  Store in the refrigerator or freezer.  These are delicious served frozen.

Homemade Apple Pie

A simple technique for homemade apple pie is to fold a round of dough over fruit.  
If you have two large apples, a stick of butter, a cup or so of flour, a little sugar and a smattering of spices, you are on your way to a homemade apple pie.  Not sometime soon.  Not this weekend.  Tonight, I mean.  Many people veer away from making pies, at least from-scratch crust.  I believe this is due to the magnificent job food stylists do for magazines and television.  The pies look gorgeous; they are utter perfection with crimped sides, perfectly bronzed, lusciously bubbly and topped with an ornate leaf cluster cut from dough.  This is pie.  This may be even art.  But it's not Wabi-Sabi, a practice I embrace in life, in cooking and especially in making from-scratch crusts.

Wabi-Sabi is a Japanese aesthetic describing beauty which is "imperfect, impermanent  and incomplete."  It is the art of imperfection.   To the perfectly produced pie much I prefer the simplistic approach and rustic look of a fold-over pie.  A fine pasty crust can be made in seconds in a food processor.  Roll it out to a 13" circle and in the center pile sliced apples that have been tossed with a little sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg and cloves if you have it.  Fold the dough over the pile of apples, leaving an opening in the center for the apples to peak out.  Bake the pie on a baking sheet, instead of in a pie plate.  Slide the hot pastry off onto anything from an stained old butcher block board to a white plate or silver platter:  no matter,  the apple pie will look beautiful and most importantly taste utterly divine.  But be warned:  This simple everyday recipe for apple pie may make making pie an everyday affair.  Homemade apple pie is just that easy when served with a little Wabi-Sabi.

all-occasion pie and tart crust

1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1/4 cup water
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. AP flour
1 - 3 Tbsp. sugar (to taste)**
pinch of salt

Cut the butter into 1/2-inch pieces.  Place in a small bowl and chill for a few minutes in the freezer.  Place a measuring cup with 1/4 cup water in the freezer; just long enough to get it ice cold.  Place the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse 8 times.  Add the pieces of cold butter and pulse until the mixture is even and coarse.  With the motor running, slowly drizzle in the cold water.  Process until fine and crumbly and just starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl.  Remove and shape into a flat disc. Chill between two pieces of waxed paper for 1 hour.  

**Note:  Adjust the amount of sugar for your taste and what you are doing with the crust.  For a goat cheese tart use less sugar, perhaps more for a fruit pie.  

apple pie

1 All-Occasion Pie and Tart Crust
4 cups (2 large) apples, peeled and sliced
1/3 cup sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1 Tbsp. butter

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Place dough on a floured surface.  Roll out to a roughly 13-inch circle and lift onto a baking sheet.  Place the apple slices in a bowl.  Toss with sugar and spices and pile into the center of the dough.  Dot with 1 Tbsp. butter.

Fold the edges of the dough over the apple pile, leaving an opening about 2 or 3 inches in diameter.  Bake 30 minutes, or until the crust is lightly browned and the apples are bubbling.  Cool slightly and remove to a serving board or platter.

Baking Scones

Baking scones is really so easy and rewarding.  When you taste a particularly delicious one, you think there must be a secret; these must be hard to make.  But this is not the case.  Cream scones are the easiest of all.  You simply stir cream or whole milk into the dried ingredients; there's the dough.   It will be wet and look unmanageable.  Turn it out onto a heavily floured surface, working more flour into the dough, and in a few seconds a soft workable dough can be patted out, ready to cut.  The whole process takes just  a very few minutes.   You can make any number of delicious variations just by stirring in a handful of dried fruit or nuts.  The SimplyCooking® pantry includes dried cherries or cranberries which are a favorite in scones, useful in other baking, delicious in granola and a pantry necessity for pulling together salads.

I baked cream scones this morning.  I was taken back to the summer and sunny mornings spent at The Respite in Douglas, Michigan.  The Respite's scones, made by the owner's mother, are the best I've ever tasted.  They don't have them every day; only those days she feels like making them.  It can be disappointing to go in and find no scones.  Several years ago, I tried to get her secret but with no luck.  With that I decided to experiment and get as close as I could to hers.  I found cream scones, versus those using butter or buttermilk, provide the right crumb. Whole milk is in the SimplyCooking® Pantry and works as well as half and half.   I wanted to use all-purpose flour;  I don't bake enough to stock pastry flour or other varieties.  I also found the brand of baking powder makes a difference.  The Original Bakewell Cream produces the puffiest, highest scone, but for the Cream Scone recipe below, all brands work and will produce a nice soft pillow.

In the ten minutes it took my scones to bake, I sat and reflected on The Respite.  Respite means:  an interval of rest or relief.  What an invaluable thing these days.  Here, twenties music lightly wafts through the air as if swirling about with the breeze.  The door stands open.  There is the light hum of conversations by the locals.  It is after all a community congregating place.  A woman reads each day at the same table.  Another group of four laugh and talk.  Acqaintances recognize each other and shake hands, "I bought antiques from you."   "How have you been?  I want to catch up on all the news."  While you are there time stands still.  The world goes by ever so peacefully and cheerfully.  With my tray of scones  I hope to provide my family, today, with that interval of rest or relief to pay a bill, do a little computer work or homework, read, converse or just sit.  A respite from life:  whatever life means.

cream scones

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus additional
1/4 cup sugar, plus 2 tsp. for topping
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 handful dried cherries or cranberries
1 1/4 cups whole milk
1 Tbsp. butter, melted
1 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 400° F.  In a medium-sized bowl, stir together the dry ingredients.  Mix in the dried cherries and using the back of the spoon or spatula make a well in the center.  Pour the milk into the well and stir gently.  Empty the bowl onto a heavily floured surface.  The mixture will be quite wet.  Sprinkle additional flour on top of the dough and begin to knead, working in the additional flour.  Knead until a soft dough forms.  Pat it into a 9" circle.  Brush the melted butter over the dough.  Cut into 8 wedges.  Mix 1 tsp. cinnamon and 2 tsp. sugar in a small bowl.  Sprinkle each wedge lightly with cinnamon sugar and place on an ungreased baking sheet or a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Best served warm with Orange Butter.

orange butter

3 Tbsp. butter
Fresh orange zest

Bring the butter to room temperature.  Place in a small bowl and mash with a fork.  Mix orange zest.  Spread on hot scones.