Saturday, December 18, 2010

Pretzel S'mores

My S'mores -- Messy, Not Elegant, but Crowd Pleasers
You may be asking yourself, "Isn't she going to blog about the craft and business of writing?"  Yes. Later. I write in the mornings and, from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day, I spend a lot of time happily baking and cooking which to me is the Anti-Writing. I guess it's not really the opposite of writing but it's more of a complement to it. Still creative, but in a different way. There was a brief period in my young adult years when I considered going to culinary school.  I've been cooking and baking since I was a little kid--the same time I started writing. I share a passion for each.

So, on to Pretzel S'mores. An easy and messy recipe with a completely addictive result. I love the combination of salty and sweet.

I've obtained some of my favorite recipes from the backs of boxes and bags of sugar, flour, chocolate chips, etc. and from product ads. I saw this recipe for Pretzel S'mores in a Rold Gold Pretzel ad. I looked on the Net for the recipe and couldn't find it. It wasn't even on the Rold Gold site.  What's up, Frito-Lay marketing geniuses?  I'll help you out.  Here it is, as printed with my notes:

ROLD GOLD Pretzel S'mores

Break apart a 16 oz. semisweet chocolate bar. (I used a bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips.) Set some aside for grating over finished s'mores. (Unnecessary. See my later comment.) 

Place chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and heat until melted and smooth, stirring every 30 seconds.

Cover cookie sheet with parchment or wax paper and lay out 20 ROLD GOLD Classic Style Tiny Twists Pretzels.  (There was plenty of chocolate for more than 20 pretzels. Fill the pan.)

The Gorgeous Photo from the Ad. Mine Did Not Look Like This.
Place melted chocolate in a piping bag (what I did) or create your own by placing chocolate in a small plastic bag and snipping off one corner (Might try this next time because cleaning the chocolate from the piping bag was a mess).

Fill pretzel opening with melted chocolate and allow to cool. (I didn't completely fill holes.)

Once cool, place 2 teaspoons of marshmallow creme on each chocolate-filled pretzel and top with a pretzel, pressing gently.  (I was barely able to fit a generous teaspoon of the creme on top. It squishes out.)

Grate extra chocolate over finished Pretzel S'mores and enjoy. (Grating chocolate on top is an extra unnecessary step IMHO and rather like gilding a lily, but whatever.)

I recommend putting them together right before serving. They start to melt almost immediately, the tops sliding to one side. I put them in the fridge which helps. Don't know what freezing would do to them.  They were fine after being refrigerated overnight. Before serving, I set each one on a small piece of wax paper because they stick to the serving plate.  We had a couple of friends over and they were a big hit, especially with the guys. I put the leftovers back into the fridge and they didn't hold up after a second day.

I would make this recipe again.

Bon appetit!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Perfected: Lemon Custard Cookies

I'm going to just say it: I make the best lemon custard cookies.  Over the many years that I've been baking them, I've honed a recipe that is simple on the surface yet the devil is in the details. 

My Thanksgiving batch with a Shawnee vase from my collection.
I've become a lemon custard cookie snob.  I can eyeball a batch made by others from ten paces and determine with pretty good accuracy whether they're good or not. Pale yellow custard?  Not tart enough.  Runny custard?  Underdone. Fluffy custard or gummy custard?  I have no idea what causes that but it's just wrong.  Crumbly, thick crust?  Underdone or not packed well into the pan or... gasp... I don't even want to know if you didn't use real butter.

The perfect lemon custard cookie has a tart, smooth lemon pie layer that's gelled but not gummy atop a buttery, crisp yet tender shortbread crust. When you bite into it, your lips slightly pucker like at the beginning of a kiss. The shortbread crumbles and melts and you feel a memory of tartness at the back of your throat. There is always a moment of silence. 

Notes before proceeding: Do not be afraid of the lemon!  On the other hand, don't tip over into sour.  You need to find the delicate balance between lemon and sugar.  And only use fresh lemon juice.  Banish that bottled Real Lemon!  It tastes metallic. Go no further if you're even thinking about using it. 

Leery of tasting the raw custard for tartness?  I suppose you could go on faith, but I've been eating raw batter since I was a kid.

Ready?  Here we go.


Pre-heat oven to 350

For crust:

1/2 cup sifted powdered sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cubes unsalted cold butter

Put powdered sugar and flour into a medium bowl.  Cut butter into the bowl.  Blend together with a pastry blender, fork, or fingers (my favorite) until evenly crumbly. Pat firmly and evenly into a 9" x 12" pan.  Bake 10 to 15 minutes until slightly brown on bottom and sides and top has brown patches and looks solid--not doughy.  Watch as it can burn quickly.  Be careful not to under cook the crust as it won't bake much more when it's filled and will be too crumbly if it's underdone. Take out pan and set on a rack.

For filling:

Freshly squeeze lemons until you get about 7 to 8 tablespoons of juice (about 3 or 4 medium lemons).
Strain the juice through a sieve to remove seeds and pulp.
3 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 tablespoons flour

Note on the sugar: you may be tempted to cut the quantity. It is a lot of sugar, but when you cut it (once I cut it to 1 cup), the custard won't have the right consistency.

In a medium bowl, mix together by hand the eggs, sugar, and flour.  Add about 6 tablespoons of lemon juice then taste for tartness. The tartness of lemons can vary. Add more lemon until you achieve the tartness you like, but be bold! Batter should be a little more tart than you want in the finished cookie because a bit of tartness is lost in cooking.

Pour filling on hot crust.  Bake 20 minutes longer or until custard is firm in the middle. Should have little bubbles here and there on the surface.

Sprinkle on powdered sugar while still hot.

Cool and cut into squares.

Serving tip: If you're bringing the cookies to share, cut and plate them ahead of time. They are sticky and hard to get out of the pan without breaking. If you bring the full pan, your masterpiece will be delicious but ugly from people jabbing and breaking the cookies.

Bon appetit!