Monday, May 21, 2012

Chocolate Shortbread Fingers

The month of May has been rather hectic for us, which hasn’t left much time for baking.  This past weekend we had a wedding where we stayed overnight so by the time we got back on Sunday I was looking for something that wouldn’t take long to whip up.  These Chocolate Shortbread Fingers fit the bill as they have a minimal number of ingredients and only bake for 20 minutes.  Plus it’s always nice when you can just throw one baking sheet in the oven and be done with it.

I appreciated the simplicity of these cookies – nice and chocolaty with hint of cinnamon.  They’re not as gooey as Dennis would like (they are shortbread, after all), but the flavor is spot on.  When you’re looking for a simple but attractive cookie to feed a crowd, it would be hard to beat these.

Chocolate Shortbread Fingers (adapted from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook)

3 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
2 ½ cups + 2 tablespoons flour
4 ½ tablespoons Dutch-process cocoa powder (I used 3 tablespoons of Dutch-process, then used this Black Onyx cocoa for the rest to really bring out the chocolate flavor)
Heaping ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 cup superfine sugar (I just took regular granulated sugar and put it in the food processor for about 30 seconds)
Granulated sugar, for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 325.  Butter a 12 x 8 inch rimmed baking sheet and line with parchment paper, leaving a 10inch overhang on long sides.  Set aside.  In a medium bowl whisk together flour, cocoa, cinnamon, salt, and baking soda until combined. 

In a mixer beat the butter and superfine sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 3-4 minutes.  Add flour mixture and beat on medium speed until just combined.

Spread dough evenly in the prepared pan, either with an offset spatula (this always gives me problems) or patting down with your fingers using Saran wrap.  Chill in the fridge or freezer until firm, about 15 minutes.  Prick dough all over using a fork and bake until just firm to the touch, about 20 minutes.  Transfer to a cooling rack.  While still hot, cut the shortbread into pieces.  Sprinkle with granulated sugar. 

Monday, May 7, 2012

Slow Cooker Chicken and Dumplings

Spring started out rather warm in the area, but recently it’s been pretty dreary.  On one of those rainy Sundays Dennis and I decided to try out a Chicken and Dumplings recipe, since that’s one of his favorite stews.  This recipe came from a slow cooker cookbook, but if you wanted to do it on a weekday you would have to prepare most of it the night before.  You could just dump it in the slow cooker that night, leave it in the fridge, then plug in the slow cooker the following morning.

I loved the way this recipe turned out – it not only warmed us up but also tasted great.  Be warned that this makes a lot of servings.  We each had a big bowl that night, and it also provided me with lunch for the rest of the week.  I’m hoping the cooler weather is on its way out, but if not at least I have an excuse to make this again.

Slow Cooker Chicken and Dumplings (from Slow Cooker Revolution)

2-3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 onions, minced
2 celery stalks, sliced ¼ inch thick
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
½ teaspoon dried thyme
1/3 cup flour
1/4 cup dry sherry
4 ½ cups low-sodium chicken broth
4 carrots, peeled and sliced ¼ inch thick
2 bay leaves
1 cup frozen peas
3 tablespoons fresh parsley

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole milk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter

Dry the chicken with paper towels and season with salt and pepper.  Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat just until smoking.  Brown half of the chicken lightly on both sides, 5-8 minutes, then transfer to a bowl.  Repeat with 1 tablespoon more oil and remaining chicken, and transfer to bowl.

Heat remaining tablespoon oil over medium-high heat until shimmering.  Add onions, celery, garlic, tomato paste, and thyme, cooking until vegetables are softened and lightly browned, 8-10 minutes.  Stir in flour and cook for one minute.  Slowly whisk in sherry, scraping up any browned bits.  Whisk in 1 cup broth, smoothing out any lumps, and transfer to slow cooker.

Stir remaining 3 ½ cups broth, carrots, and bay leaves into slow cooker.  Nestle browned chicken with any accumulated juice into slow cooker.  Cover and cook until chicken is tender, about 4-6 hours on low.

Transfer chicken to cutting board and let it cool slightly.  Shred into bite-size pieces.  Let stew settle for a few minutes, then remove any fat from surface.  Discard bay leaves.

Stir shredded chicken, peas, and parsley into stew, and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Add additional broth if needed.  Cover and cook on high until simmering (or transfer to large pot and bring to simmer over medium heat).

For the dumplings:

Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in large bowl.  Microwave milk and butter together until warm, about 1 minute, then whisk to melt butter.  Stir milk mixture into flour mixture until just smooth and incorporated.

Drop golf ball-size dumplings on top of simmering stew.  Cover and cook until dumplings have doubled in size, 25 to 35 minutes.  Serve.