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Sunday
Feb132011

Last Minute Valentine's Day Suggestions



For those of you who are operating under the wire, last minute, and wait....tomorrow's WHAT day? Yeah, you. Here's a recap of suggestions for you:

Stuff to Buy

Chocolate:

In Brooklyn try: Mast Brothers or Nunu Chocolates

In Soho try: Kee's Chocolates

In Chelsea try: Cocoa V

Flowers:

In Brooklyn try: Saipua

In Hoboken try: Sobsey's Produce

Coffee:

Intelligentsia Coffee (You can only find this in Chicago and Los Angeles, but you can click here to find locations)

Irving Farm Coffee

Stumptown Coffee

San’Eustachio

Stuff to Make:

Valentine Heart Cookies (also comes with Linzer and Ice Cream Sandwich variations)

French Toast Hearts with Nutella OR Heart Shaped Toasts with Honey Butter

Pizza (hey, it would work for me)
Friday
Feb112011

Dorie Greenspan's Pop-Up Cookie Bar



I was able to scamper uptown today for Dorie Greenspan's Pop-Up Cookie Bar and Food Blogger meet 'n' greet. I am extremely glad I did. The little box of cookies I have ("I'll have one of each please!") is now hiding behind one of my monitors so no one in the office spots it...

The Cookie Bar Pop up has popped down for now (the cookies all sold out), but you can check here for future engagements.

So far, I've enjoyed a Jammer, which is a combo of sablés, Sarabeth jam and streusel. It's like a cake in cookie form. I especially loved the streusel topping and the thickly cut bed of cookie on which it was perched. In the cab ride back to the office I started in on a Chocolate Chunker, which is the winner for me. SO moist. Ridiculously so (probably because of the Valrhona Chocolate – cocoa, pure unsweetened, Jivara Milk Chocolate and Extra-Bitter) with whole salted cashews and giant dried cherries. It knocked my socks off. Well, it was either the cookie or the cab driver's inventive traffic maneuvers.

Definitely head over to the Cookie Bar NYC website to stay updated on the next pop-up!

And thanks to Dorie Greenspan for the rad cookies. Yeah, I said the cookies were rad. So?
Friday
Feb112011

French Toast Bread Pudding with Brioche Leftovers



So, I'm sure you're all planning on making our Heart Shaped Nutella French Toast OR the Heart Shaped Toasts with Honey Butter for  your sweetheart (or for yourself - why not?) this Valentine's Day.

But what to do with all those left-over pieces of Brioche after you've cut out the heart shapes? Don't be hasty and throw them away! Remember what haste makes. That's right: waste. And who would waste perfectly good Brioche? Not this girl. I did something with mine. I made French Toast Bread Pudding. Who wouldn't? Here's how:

What You Need:
Your leftover Brioche, torn to pieces and thrown into a 9" pie dish
3/4 cup of cranberries (you can use raisins if you like)
2 large whole eggs
1/2  cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups milk (I use milk from Ronnybrook Farm, because it's local, fresh and awesome).
2 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Confectioner's sugar for dusting and decoration

What To Do:
Place your Brioche pieces in a 9" round pie dish. You can use a rectangular dish if you like as well. Add in your cranberries (or raisins) and toss to combine.

In a separate bowl, mix together with a whisk the milk, eggs and all the other ingredients. Pour this mixture over the bread and berries in the pie dish. Cover and refrigerate at least an hour, but overnight works too if you'd like to prepare it ahead of time and forget about it for a while.

When you're ready to bake, heat your oven to 350 degrees. Uncover the dish and pop it in the oven for about 45 minutes. It should turn golden brown on top. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with confectioner's sugar.

Eat it warm, cold, for breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert....or late night. Leave no Brioche behind!

Thursday
Feb102011

John and Elana at Brooklyn Exposed



Hello, everyone! We have a special feature today over at Brooklyn Exposed. John and I run rampant through Brooklyn sampling chocolate from Mast Brothers and Nunu Chocolates. You can read about it here. Also included is a recipe for Spicy Hot Chocolate featuring a Mast Brothers chocolate bar.

Wednesday
Feb092011

Chocolate Valentine Cookies



Because you made me cookies! That's why I talk to you. You did make me cookies, right? No? Oh. Well, you might want to get going on that. These are one of my favorite types of cookie (right along with the pizzelle and the Russian Tea Cakes), but I only make them once a year for Valentine's Day.

This chocolate butter cookie recipe is one of Marmo's, so I can't take credit. She's been making them since John and I were weeeeee lil' ones. One of the reasons I like these cookies is that they have a nice soft "give" to them when you bite in. Not too hard, not too soft, juuuuuust right. Using a good quality unsweetened cocoa powder will give them a rich and not too sweet chocolate flavor. And, as an added bonus, even though they are fantastic plain, you can convert them into a bunch of different cookies: like  linzer cookies with some strawberry jam filling, or ice cream sandwich cookies. Here's how you do it:



Basic Recipe for Chocolate Valentine Hearts:

What You Need:
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 egg
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 3/4 cup flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder

What To Do:
In a large bowl, beat the sugar and 1 cup (2 sticks) butter until light and fluffy. The color will turn pale yellow. Add the milk, vanilla and egg and blend well. I used my food processor for this, and it worked quite nicely, but you can also use a hand-held mixer.

Lightly spoon the flour into a measuring cup and level it off at the top. Gradually mix in your measured flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and powder. Mix until combined.

Chill the dough for at least 1 hour in the refrigerator.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. On a floured surface, roll out the chilled dough to 1/8 inch thickness. Cut with heart shaped (or any-shaped) cookie cutters and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 9-11 minutes, remove and let cool.

Linzer Cookie Variation:

What You Need (in addition to the above):
A jar of your favorite flavor of jam (I used Stonewall Kitchen Strawberry Preserves)
Confectioner's sugar for dusting

What To Do:

If you can find them, use nesting cookie cutters, so that you can cut out a smaller heart from the inside of one of the larger hearts. This allows you to see the jam inside.

Bake the cookies as instructed above.

Once your cookies have cooled, spread some jam on one side of a heart cookie, and top with the cut-out version. Line them all up and sprinkle on some Confectioner's sugar to make them fancy!



Ice Cream Sandwich Variation:

What You Need (in addition to the basic recipe):
A pint of your favorite ice cream (I used Talenti Black Cherry Gelato. A note on this: the consistency of Talenti is on the soft side. It makes for melty sandwiches. Which isn't a bad thing, I'm just warning you).

What To Do:
Bake the cookies as instructed.

Once they have cooled, spread some ice cream on one cookie, then top with another to make a sandwich. You can even pop them in the freezer after they are assembled so they can keep for a while. This has the added bonus of re-freezing the ice cream so it's not running all over the place.

Another idea:
You can also get alphabet cookie cutters and spell out messages, like I did in the first photo. I now have an entire cookie alphabet that hangs out in my fridge. Designers like this kind of hands-on typography. It gives us a thrill.