I finally finished my Christmas shopping. Not one who likes to shop under "normal" circumstances, venturing out during the full-swing hustle and bustle of the holiday season makes me just want to hurt someone. I always manage to get the shopping cart with the bent wheel that pulls to the left like a wrecked car and it's always fate that I end up in line behind the "Why the hell can't you pick an item with a price tag on it??" lady. Instead of visions of sugar plums, I'm seeing a crime scene unfold right in the middle of Nordstroms.
Short of coming home and slugging a liter of vodka to calm my nerves, I decided to create my own crime scene with these funny but slightly macabre ABC (Already Been Chewed) gingerbread cookie cutters. Nothing tickles me more than the thought of the look on my friends' faces when they raid the cookie platter and find one of these appendageless men hiding amongst the other goodies.
This sugar cookie recipe is delicious and super easy to work with, but keep in mind the dough needs to be really cold for best results, so roll it out and work in small batches. Refrigerate again between batches, if necessary. To color the decorator icing, I find it best to use the Wilton gel colors as opposed to regular food coloring because the colors are more vibrant and just follow the directions on the Wilton meringue powder canister for royal icing (add water to thin it to desired consistency).
Let your slightly deranged imagination run wild when decorating!
Roll-out Sugar Cookies
recipe from Contessa's Kitchen message forum
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Heat oven to 375°F
In large bowl, beat powdered sugar and butter on low speed until light and fluffy. Stir in vanilla, almond extract and egg. Stir in flour and baking soda. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours. Divide dough in half. Roll each half ¼ inch thick on lightly floured surface. Cut into desired seasonal shapes with 2 to 2 ½ inch cookie cutters. If cookies will not be frosted, sprinkle with sugar. On ungreased cookie sheet, place cutouts 2 inches apart (I use parchment paper). Bake 7 to 8 minutes or until edges are light brown. Immediately remove from cookie sheet to cooling rack. Ice when cool, if desired.
Good Eats and Meets! Charlotte hosted the third Italian Cook-off this past Sunday in conjunction with the Italian Social Club. You may remember this post from the last event where I
pretended to be was a gracious loser to the traditional tiramisu.
In a sense, I guess that post was nothing but a big huge lie because while I pretended to subscribe to that whole, "It's not whether you win or lose but how you play the game" theory, I was really a sore loser. I never even knew the name of the person who defeated me but I cursed the 9x13 Pyrex baking dish with the blue plastic lid that the tiramisu was served in. I rolled my eyes and snarled my lip when I recounted how I was beaten by that unknown person.
But as fate would have it, my path crossed with that person this summer and it would not be until after The Godfather and I had become very good friends that I found out I had been fraternizing with the enemy. I'm pretty much over (not really) the humiliation of being stripped of my culinary crown but when it was announced there would be another competition, I started developing my strategy for taking his Nona's tiramisu DOWN!!
I wanted to play dirty ~ make my attack personal and cut to the bone ~ so I played upon The Godfather's emotions by competing with a recipe that he had confided was a personal favorite of his. It was a recipe learned by his close friend from his hometown while training in FL and later prepared in the friend's bakery and cafe in NY. After scouring the internet and finding the original recipe, I wanted to put my own spin on it, and so a Pecan Hazelnut Tart topped with Chocolate Nutella Mousse and served with Warm Toffee Sauce was dessert entry #21 for the Italian Cook-off.
I should preface the ending of my story by saying that much to my dismay, The Godfather decided not to compete this year. I'd like to think it was because he had no tricks other than tiramisu up his sleeve and knew that I was no match for him this year...knew he'd suffer defeat in front of all his peers...knew that I was a force to be reckoned with. He said he didn't have the time to prepare something. Yeah, yeah. Whatev....
The story ends with loss yet again. I was up against stiff competition and this year a lemon ricotta cheesecake cookie was the crowd favorite. I didn't mind the defeat so much this time because when I fell from the pedestal last year, I gained a friendship. Who knew there was a lesson to be learned in humility??
Check out these photos from the Good Eats and Meets! Charlotte event and catch a glimpse of The Godfather impressing the ladies with his saxaphone playing skills instead of his kitchen prowess. And make this over-the-top decadant chocolate tart while you're at it. Win or lose, it is truly delicious.
Pecan Hazelnut Tart with Chocolate Nutella Mousse & served with Warm Toffee Sauce
inspired by R.G.'s Restaurant, Tampa, FL
1/2 pound pecan pieces
1/2 pound hazelnut pieces
4 ounces unsalted butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 ounces water
Grind nuts in food processor about 45 seconds and place in mixing bowl. Melt butter completely and add sugar. Keep heating and stirring until thick smooth paste. Remove from heat and add water, stirring constantly to create a syrup. Pour mixture over nuts and mix thoroughly. Butter and flour a 12-inch tart pan. Press nut mixture into pan and place in 325 degree F oven for 10 minutes or until golden brown. Remove and let cool at room temperature.
14 ounces semisweet chocolate
1 (13 oz)jar Nutella
32 ounces heavy whipping cream
2 ounces vegetable oil
In a double boiler, melt chocolate and Nutella and add vegetable oil. Chocolate mixture should be smooth and almost liquid. Whip cream to form soft peaks. Add hot chocolate mixture while stirring constantly (slow speed of mixer will do fine). When chocolate and cream are combined, refrigerate for at 2 hours.
After 2 hours, remove from refrigerator and stir by hand to make sure mousse is smooth and without lumps. Spoon into pastry bag and pipe mousse into crust. Refrigerate complete pie.
1/2 pound unsalted butter
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1 pint heavy cream
Melt butter over medium-high heat and add sugar. Stir mixture frequently. Continue this process until mixture has reached a deep caramel color. Butter and sugar at this point will be separating, which is okay. Remove from heat and while stirring constantly, slowly add heavy cream. Caution: When adding the cream, mixture will bubble up and very hot steam will be released. Use a whisk with a long handle or wear an oven mitt. After cream is added, strain toffee sauce into container and let cool. Sauce is kept refrigerated and therefore will need to be heated when serving. Yields 1 quart sauce. (The extra sauce makes an excellent topping for ice cream)
The Best Part:
To serve: Cut pie into 12 to 16 pieces. Serve individually with 2 ounces of Toffee Sauce ladled over. For added pizzazz, top also with a flourish of fudge sauce and a glob of whipped cream.
Yields 1 (12-inch) pie.