Festive Dipped Pretzels

black and whites

I need to be honest with you – this post feels like a bit of a sham. It’s like when a popular blogger advises using cake mix to make “the perfect birthday treat!”, or “reveals” that frozen french fries are how she makes her frites so very photo-worthy. Look at me, I’m Sandra Lee. There’s nothing wrong with either of those things – because who doesn’t enjoy a festive Funfetti cake from time to time? (or yearly, no matter how old you get, ahem) – but let’s not get on a high horse about it cowboy!

So please note, I am on a very low horse about all this. It’s like one of those tiny ponies you can’t believe exist, but which totally do. (Nathan, are you reading this? If we can’t have a dog, I want a miniature horse!)

Do you want to make the perfect Christmas treat NO COOKING REQUIRED?! Do you want to create something gorgeous that takes very little skill or effort? Do you want to impress your friends and feel secretly smug? Then have I got a recipe for you!

FESTIVE DIPPED PRETZELS

Ingredients:

. 12 ounces of whatever type of dipping flavor you like! This year, we used semi-sweet chocolate chips, white baking chocolate, and peanut butter chips.

. Large bag of pretzel rods, wherever you can find them! I find that sourcing pretzel rods is one of the hardest parts of this recipe because dang these bad boys are difficult to find. We used Snyder’s of Hanover and they weren’t even broken when we bought them. Kudos to you, neighborhood grocery store!

. Holiday-themed sprinkles and toppings of your choice! We like sprinkles and colored sugar, but mini-M’n’Ms, tiny chocolate chips and mini marshmallows would also be fun!

gold swirl pretzels

Instructions:

1. Assemble all the ingredients and lay out a workspace: we cover the table and countertops in waxed paper so we have plenty of room for drying.

2. Coarsely chop the chocolate into small chunks. No chopping needed if you’re just using chocolate chips.

3. Lay either your white or dark chocolate in the top of a double boiler and turn the heat to medium-low. The water should never boil, or touch the bottom of the pan on top. This is especially true for white chocolate (which is not actually chocolate) and peanut butter. They have a much lower heat point, so just stay on low and be patient.

You can also melt your chips in the microwave, but I’ve found that method to be faster in the short term and more cumbersome in the long term. Chocolate on a double boiler will keep it’s consistency for however long this project takes.

4. Once the chocolate is liquid, you can start dipping! Depending on the depth of your pot, you can physically dip the pretzel or you may end up spooning it on and smoothing out with a spatula. Either way works.

5. Roll in toppings or sprinkle them on before the chocolate sets. This year, we also did a lot of striping and swirling, which, now that I type it, makes it sound like we were at an old timey church hall dance instead of just hanging in the kitchen. Decorate however works for you. My favorites are the chocolate peanut butter swirl with gold sprinkles. Like Reba says, FANCY.

6. Lay them out on the waxed paper to dry. Let them set overnight, just to make sure they’re good to go.

pretzels

Christmas Cookie Roundup

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December is here and we are officially into Christmas here in San Francisco. The lights went up last night, our tiny tree has been decorated (glitter ribbon! glitter ornaments! glitter everywhere! ) and the urge to bake cookies is strong. The urge to raid the Advent Calendar of all it’s treats is also strong, but I have held back. For now.

For those of you who are also getting into the cookie baking spirit, a little roundup of all the cookie recipes we’ve made here at Gourmet Style Girl:

Cocoa Creme de Menthe Cookies

Compost Cookies

Coffee Chocolate Chip Cookies

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

White Chocolate Cherry Shortbread Cookies

If you make these, let me know what time I should come over.

PS – more cookie and entertaining ideas on the Gourmet Style Girl Pinterest boards!

Coffee Chocolate Chip Cookies

Cookies on the rack

We’re having a snow day here in San Fran. What?! Calm down, everyone CALM DOWN. It’s not actually snowing. It just…feels like a snow day. With the long weekend ahead of us, with hikes and movie nights and craft projects (wedding invites being assembled here in Russia! Woot!), not to mention the omnipresent fog that rolled in late last night and is refusing to budge, something about today felt perfect for cozying up to work, write, bake and dream a la the best kinds of days, snow days.

Speaking of dreamy, has anyone out there ever had Coffee Cookie Dream ice-cream at Fenton’s? Fenton’s is a Bay Area institution. I almost just capitalized the I in institution, that’s how much I believe in Fenton’s. They make amazing flavors and whip up elaborate sundae creations in their diner-esque restaurant, which feels very old timey and festive. If there’s one thing I need in an ice-cream date, it’s festive people. Especially since I am actively trying NOT to eat so much ice-cream these days, because WEDDING.

Coffee Cookie Dream is coffee flavored ice-cream with chunks of both raw cookie dough and already baked chocolate chip cookie. I will wait while you moan aloud. Theerrree ya go. Yeah, I know. And I was craving some CC Dream (it can be abbreved, for those in the know) pretty seriously today, but with the blizzard outside (blizzard = complete lack of interest in driving anywhere) I decided to make coffee cookie dream cookies instead. And then probably pair them with ice-cream. Because DELICIOUS and OHMIGOD trumps WEDDING every time.

COFFEE CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

Ingredients:

. 1/2 cup (1 stick) of butter softened
. 1 cup light brown sugar
. 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
. 1 large egg
. 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
. 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
. 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
. 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
. 1/2 teaspoon salt
. 1 1/2 teaspoons instant coffee powder
. 1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Instructions:

1. Cream together butter, sugars, vanilla and the egg. I use a hand mixer, but those lucky enough to be in possession of a Kitchen Aid mixer should use it!

Cream ingredients together

2. Sift together the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, baking soda, and instant coffee powder.

3. Gently add the dry ingredients to the butter/egg/sugar mixture and continue to beat on low until mostly combined.

4. Add the chocolate chips. At this point, I abandon the hand mixer for good old fashioned mixing by hand, so as not to mutilate the chips.

5. Chill for 20 mins or so. I have found chillin’ to be an imperative step in baking, and also in life. #badpun #sorrynotsorry

Dough chillin'

6. Scoop out onto a cookie sheet – I use a proper cookie scoop, but a spoon will totally do – and bake for 20 minutes at 300 degrees.

7. Serve hot with a glass of almond milk and think of it like a modern, desserty almond latte. You are welcome.

OR! Or, you could serve one of these with a scoop of ice-cream if you’re feeling extra naughty and also not planning a wedding. Go you! You are probably having more fun in your everyday life than me because of it.

Cookies and milk

White Chocolate Cherry Shortbread

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There has been a lot of troubling news this week: the death of Nelson Mandela, Toronto’s crazy crack smoking mayor still being alive and speaking, and that horror that doth sing it’s own name: The Sound of Music: Live! 

The person who pit Carrie Underwood, bless her twanging blonde soul, against magical voice Goddess Audra McDonald, is either really, really mean or really, really hilarious. I don’t know which. I don’t. It’s a confusing world we live in.

Happily, there is one thing this week that is not sad, not crack-filled, nor confusing: these cookies. Yes, I did it. I segued right from crack and Carrie Underwood into cookies. Take that, writing degree.

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Straight from the archives of Better Homes and Gardens, (which is how you know they’re extra bad for you extra delicious) these little butter bombs are crumbly, sweet, and so festive it just kills me. You can’t help but crank up the Christmas tunes and put on your stripy Santa socks while you bake them.

And once they cool, maybe you eat them for breakfast, while blogging in your jammies and looking up the worst of the worst clips from The Sound of Music: Live! Because Hey! That’s a not sad, not crack filled, and not at all confusing way to spend the morning.

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Go forth and bake, young people!

WHITE CHOCOLATE CHERRY SHORTBREAD COOKIES

Ingredients:

. 1/2 cup of maraschino cherries, drained and chopped

. 2 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour

. 1/2 cup of sugar

. 1 cup of cold butter

. 12 ounces of white chocolate baking squares with cocoa butter, finely chopped

. 1/2 teaspoon of almond extract

. 2 drops red food coloring (optional)

. 2 teaspoons of shortening

. Sprinkles or edible glitter

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Spread cherries on paper towels to drain well.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour and sugar. Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter until mixture resembles fine crumbs. Stir in drained cherries and 4 ounces (2/3 cup) of the chopped chocolate. Stir in almond extract and, if desired, food coloring. Knead mixture until it forms a smooth ball.
  3. Shape dough into 3/4-inch balls, or just use a little cookie scoop. Place balls 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.
  4. Bake in preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes or until centers are set. Cool for 1 minute on cookie sheet. Transfer cookies to a wire rack and let cool.
  5. In a small saucepan, combine remaining 8 ounces white chocolate and the shortening. Cook and stir over low heat until melted. Dip half of each cookie into chocolate, allowing excess to drip off. If desired, roll the dipped portion in sprinkles.
  6. Place cookies on waxed paper until chocolate is set.

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Cream Cheese Pound Cake

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Nobody is happier that I made these pound cakes than my boyfriend. Not because he’s the biggest lover of pound cake per se – though, being a sweets monster, I’m sure he wouldn’t turn down a slice or twelve  – but because he likes things clean and organized, and most of the ingredients for this pound cake (except for the obvious refrigeratorables) have been out on the counter for almost a week, in anticipation. But then, my hand mixer died. And then I went to Boston for a few days. And then I had to write and organize our house, making it clearly impossible for me to also make pound cake that day.

You’re seeing a trend.

But yesterday, a new mixer was purchased. And today…today. Pound cake was made. And lo, that pound cake was amazing.

This recipe comes via Molly Wizenberg at Orangette, one of the loveliest food blogs out there. Sometimes I am intimidated to try her recipes because they seem to require a level of skill beyond my repertoire, but when Molly says something is exceptional and you also happen to have a weird amount of cream cheese in the fridge, you just try it on.

After a whole lotta mixing and a little bit of skepticism (I sincerely doubt Molly Wizenberg’s cakes looked at all like mine in all their crumply rumplyness) we have a dense, chewy pound cake on the counter for eating, and another one in the freezer, ready to be thawed, sliced and topped with lemon ice cream at a dinner party. It would also tasted exceptional topped with a spoonful of this.

If that’s not something to try on, I don’t know what is.

CREAM CHEESE POUND CAKE

Ingredients:

. 3 cups all-purpose flour
. 1 teaspoon baking powder
. ¼ teaspoon fine salt
. 2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
. One 8-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature
. 3 cups sugar
. 6 large eggs
. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions:

1.Preheat the oven to 325°F. Grease and flour two 9-by-5-inch loaf pans. I used coconut baking spray, for the teeniest, tiniest hint of coconut, then floured and lined with parchment.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

3. In another bowl, combine the butter and cream cheese and beat on low until fully creamed together. Add the sugar one cup at a time, then beat for two minutes more. Stop to scrape down the bowl when needed.

4. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each egg to make sure they’re all fully incorporated.

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5. Finally, add in the flour, a cup or so at a time, and beat until fully incorporated.

6. Plop the mixture into prepared pans and spread it out. It would be nice to say “pour into pans” or “spoon gently into pans” but I was, most definitely, plopping and spreading. Kitchen life isn’t all glitz and glam you know.

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7. Bake until the top is golden brown and an inserted toothpick comes out clean. The recommend times range from 55 minutes to an hour and 15 minutes. Mine took about an hour and 5 minutes. Just watch ’em!

8. Let the cakes cool completely in their pans. You can transfer to a wire rack, but I just left them in their pans for a few hours and then transferred them straight to the fridge and freezer respectively.

9. Serve to people you love. Like yourself! Because frankly, if you love yourself enough to allow for the midday pleasure of iced coffee, a few bites of pound cake, and a meditative glance out the kitchen window, then you are my kind of person.

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Chocolate Espresso Pie

My pie obsession is getting a bit out of hand. On the fourth of July I baked a bourbon vanilla cherry pie with a cinnamon sugar lattice crust (easier than it looks!) and the minute the pan was scraped clean, I was already dreaming about the next one.

After a week in hot and sticky Colorado, it hit me: cold, creamy chocolate pie. The perfect antidote to weather so hot your makeup slides down your face. Plus, when you inevitably have pie all over your mug, nobody will notice that mascara on your cheeks. WIN WIN!

The crust is the best part of this pie, so it’s critical to get it right. Luckily, it’s pretty easy. All you need is a pastry cutter and butter butter butter. Channel Paula Deen if it helps, that chunky minx. The filling is a swirl of espresso and chocolately goodness, with fluffy whipped cream on top. And whatever you do, don’t forget the dark chocolate curls* on top.

If your lipstick is on your chin, make this pie statly. And if it’s not, well then good for you. But you probably should still make this pie. Oh, don’t be like that. Just go do it.

CHOCOLATE ESPRESSO PIE

Ingredients:

Crust

. Two sticks (one cup) of extra cold butter

. 2.5 cups of flour

. 1 tablespoon sugar

. 1 teaspoon salt

. 4-6ish tablespoons ice water

Filling

. 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar

. 2 tablespoons cornstarch

. 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder

. 2 cups whole milk

. 1 cup bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips

. 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

. 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

. 1/2 cup chilled heavy whipping cream

Topping

. 1 cup heavy whipping cream

. 2 squares dark chocolate (I used Ghiradelli 60% dark)

Instructions:

1. Pour a big glass of ice water and set it to the side. We’ll get to this in a minute. Then, sift together dry crust ingredients, and cut in the cold butter until it’s in pea-sized balls. Don’t over mix or the dough will be chewy. This all makes sense if you’ve made a lot of pie crust before, but if you haven’t, I highly recommend you visit Deb’s pie crust tutorial over at Smitten Kitchen. The woman is a genius in the kitch and she explains it all so well. Scat now! And then come back. I’ll wait.

2. Once your ingredients are mixed, add water a tablespoon at a time until your dough can be formed into a ball. The water, like the butter, should be ice cold. It should be mentioned that grandma, my pie mentor, is always quite cautious with the water and is pretty stingy about it. She caps it at 4 tablespoons, but she is also a pie savant. I am only pie average, so I use as much water as it takes to get nice, well formed dough, somewhere around 6 tablespoons usually.

3. Roll out the crust gently, using a well-floured rolling pin. Don’t let it thin too much, and try not to roll it out more than once. Pie crust is a delicate little flower, so be gentle with it. IF it does get thin, pinch it together where needed and then transfer it over to the pie pan. I like to use two big spatulas, if I’m pie-ing it up alone, otherwise I enlist another pair of hands. Crust transferring is tricky business. If it ends up looking like this (photo below), that’s okay, just sort it out as best you can. This is the best part about pie – NOBODY CAN SEE INSIDE IT. Except for you, because I just showed you. Is showing someone your pie crust the culinary equivalent of flashing? Hm.

4. Prick some small holes in the crust with a fork, fill the crust with pie weights or dry beans and pre-bake for 15 minutes on 350. DON’T think “hmm, I have no dry beans nor weights, so instead I shall fill this crust with something else, like, oh I don’t know, RICE! What a great idea!” Hey guess what? That’s not a great idea. It’s actually a crap idea. You didn’t know that in the moment, I’m sure, but I’ll just put you out of your misery right now. Do not fill your pie with anything but beans or pie weights. If you haven’t either of these, do not fill your pie. Just pre-bake it and hope for the best. Otherwise you will be picking rice grains out of your beautiful pie crust, which would be weird, because who would do that? I don’t know who. Someone. Someone who is very nice and pretty and only average at pie, but trying. Yeah, probably them. Ahem.

5. It’s time for filling! You can make this gorgeous pudding, or you can use a box of chocolate pudding mix. It’s up to you. Remember how we’re not being pretentious about food? Yeah, THAT. No judgement. Whisk together 1/4 cup sugar, cornstarch, and 1 tablespoon of instant espresso powder in heavy medium saucepan.Gradually whisk in the milk over medium heat until everything boils and thickens. This should take about three minutes.

6. Take it off the stove, whisk in the chocolate chips, butter, and vanilla extract until it’s smooth, then cover and let it chill for about two hours. Go take a nap.

6. Once your pie crust cools, fill it with chilled pudding and let the whole shebang sit for at least an hour. Once it’s all gelled together, beat whipping cream on high for two minutes, smooth that fluff over the top and shave on the chocolate curls. A vegetable peeler makes the perfect dainty little curls, just watch your fingers. This is chocolate pie, not finger pie, people. Safety first.

Eat that pie, baby. Eat it real good. 

*Wouldn’t it be awesome if that were a gym maneuver? Instead of bicep curls, chocolate curls? Anybody want to start a petition? I’ll sign.

Gingerbread Cookies in Two Minutes (or less!)

If you’re wondering just what you should do with yourself in the last few days before Christmas, may I suggest you whip up some gingerbread cookies? Even though it doesn’t exactly take less than two minutes – in fact, many more minutes if you’re both cooking and filming –  these cookies are still an easy, festive way to amp up the holiday cheer and make your house smell divine.

Gingerbread Cookies in Two Minutes (or less!) from Hilary Davis on Vimeo.

Thanks to the guys from Sorted for this recipe. If you haven’t yet watched these young UK cooks, you’re missing out! And extra thanks to my brilliant friend D, for ingredients, help with filming, and friendship.

Recipe down below – in British!

Ingredients:

. 150g unsalted butter

. 120g brown sugar

. 5 tablespoons golden syrup

. 400g plain flour

. 1 heaping tablespoon baking soda

. 2 heaping tablespoons ground ginger

Instructions:

1. Preheat the oven to 170°C.
2. Melt the butter, sugar and syrup in a pan until smooth and the sugar has dissolved.
3. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for a few minutes.
4. Beat in the sieved flour, bicarb and ginger until a dough forms.
5. Allow it to cool until it’s okay to handle.
6. Dust a work surface with flour and roll the dough out to a thickness of 1cm. It may feel a little crumbly but that’s what makes it crisp when brittle when baked.
7. Cut out whatever shapes you want and arrange on a non-stick baking tray.
8. Bake for 10 minutes, then remove from the oven.

Makes 12

Cocoa Creme de Menthe Cookies

Eddy, my dear coworker who also happens to be the most amazing cook I know, is responsible for the delicious recipe that is about to befall you. The best cook and the best baker. Both. It’s a little shocking how good he is with chocolate pear tart and a london broil. So shocking, in fact, that I have invited myself over to dinner on multiple occasions, with little to no thought for manners or protocol. When someone is as good as Eddy, you just have to get aggressive.

According to Esquire, men don’t bake, but Eddy is a man among men. Similarly, these cookies can hold their own among a field of contenders. A big field. A wide field. A field full of flowers and unicorns and children who belong in a GAP ad. And…contenders. Did I already say that? Yes. Quick, look over there! Something shiny!

It’s a pretty standard cookie recipe until you get to the cocoa powder. Sweet cocoa powder! Something I typically reserve for cakes and brownies, the powder gives these cookies a dense, rich feeling that ordinary cookies just can’t match. The mint slices through the not-too-sweet cocoa taste with that refreshingly delicious feeling that mint brings to a dessert when done well (ie, non-toothpasty). Not to mention, this dough is among the most beautiful I’ve ever made – it looks like ice cream. One dessert, impersonating another. If you’re looking for your desserts to get all Victor/Victoria, this may just be the cookie recipe for you.

Plus, anyone can make them easily. Not just Eddy.

COCOA CREME DE MENTHE COOKIES

Ingredients:

. 1 2/3 cups flour

. 1 tsp. baking soda

. 1/3 cups sugar

. 3/4 cups brown sugar

. 1/3 cups cocoa powder

. 1 cup of butter

. 1 large egg

. 2 1/2 tsps. vanilla extract

. 1/2 tsp. salt

. A whole bag of andes mint chip or Nestle dark chocolate/mint chips

Instructions:

1. Combine the dry ingredients – flour, cocoa, baking soda, salt – and set them aside.

2. Cream the butter, sugar, and brown sugar in a large bowl, then beat in the egg and the vanilla.

3. Gradually add in the dry ingredients until well combined. Add the mint chips last and throw the whole mess into the refridge for an hour to chill. Or chillax. Whatever your dough prefers.

4. Preheat the oven to 350. Lightly grease two baking sheets and drop the dough by spoonfuls onto the sheets. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until browned on the bottom. Be careful when you transfer them over to the cooling racks – they have an almost brownie-like consistency and will break if you’re not careful!

Voila! C is for cookie!

Desserts en flambé

Nothing tastes better (to me) than that smoky, woodsy campfire smell. And – strangely enough – that extends to desserts. Last week I found this idea for french s’mores, and I knew I had to incorporate it into our camping expedition.

But having the sweet tooth I have, and living in San Francisco – home of Ghirardelli, TCHO, Recchiuti, Guittard – I knew that one type s’mores just wouldn’t cut it. Heck, one type of dessert wouldn’t cut it, which is why we had to have five different desserts and a whole lotta chocolate.

On the menu:

. French S’mores: two LU cookies + a toasted marshmallow

. San Francisco S’mores: Trader Joe’s cinnamon grahams + a Ghirardelli square + a toasted Miette marshmallow

. Regular S’mores: Regular graham crackers + 1/2 Hershey milk chocolate bar + a toasted grocery store marshmallow

. Bourbon bananas

. Spiced apples

Pick one, pick three, pick them all, but by all means, pick something off this list for your next camping trip. You’ll leave a little happier, a little chocolateier, and you might even have that woodsy campfire smell.

 

DESSERTS EN FLAMBÉ

Ingredients:

. Graham crackers

. Marshmallows

. Hershey’s milk chocolate bars

. LU Petite Ecoliers, in dark chocolate

. Artisan or homemade marshmallows, like these

. Ghirardelli dark chocolate squares with sea salt

. One apple

. One banana

. 1/4 cup spiced rum

. 1/4 cup packed brown sugar

 

Instructions:

1. Core out the apple and insert the packed brown sugar. Wrap the whole shebang in foil and throw it into the fire.

2. Cut a thin slice into a banana peel (leaving the majority of the peel intact) and slice the fruit into small, coin sized increments. Fill the gaps with bourbon and pieces from the Hershey’s bar. Close the peel and wrap that whole shebang in foil and throw it into the fire.

3. While the apple and banana cook, make your own variation on the s’mores listed above. If you feel really crazy (orrrrr a little drunk) you can mix them all together. I was really enjoying an open faced French s’more with a layer of almond butter, but the other campers did everything from Reese’s PB cups to apple/graham sandwiches. The choice is yours!

4. Finish eating your first s’more (let’s get real – you know you started one) and use tongs to gently pull the fruit out of the fire. Unwrap and let cool for a few minutes before you enjoy.

What are your favorite campfire desserts?