Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Snickers Cookies on Sticks or NOT

I gotta tell ya, when I first spied these cookies, the attraction was a fun recipe for baking with leftover Halloween candy. Instead, Snickers Cookies are dreamy good, the best cookies I’ve made all year. Think “peanut butter cookie with a Snickers bar inside” but then take a bite, oh so chewy and what’s that? Oh my, it’s chocolate and caramel and nougat right inside. The sticks are optional, the cookies themselves, not.

Snickers Cookies on Sticks (or NOT)


TESTIMONIALS
"[My husband] says they're the best cookies I've ever made ..." ~ LeAnne
"These are fantastic!! ... Definitely a keeper." ~ -K


Peel the petals from a daisy to answer, “Does he love me? Does he not?” Visit a clairvoyant to learn “Is it a boy or a girl?” Consult a fortune cookie to foretell the future.

Could a recipe for Snickers Cookies on Sticks reveal what kind of moms we might be? A mom who bakes a plateful of homemade cookies for after-school treats? Or a mom who organizes fun Halloween cooking projects for kids?

So buzzed my brain as I fussed to put mini Snickers bars onto sticks. Why had the idea of cookie-wrapped candy bars shoved me to the fridge to get out the butter? What was it about wrapping Snickers bars in peanut butter cookie dough that wedged itself in my mind?

The Against: Cookies are not sticky or melty, they don’t need a stick!

The For: Turns out, putting cookies on a stick is plain easy and eating cookies on sticks is plain fun.

But in the end, it wasn’t the sticks at all, it was the cookies. With or without sticks, Snickers Cookies are roll-your-eyes good, much more than a novelty cookie, way more than a fun idea for baking with leftover Halloween candy.

Snickers Cookies may be lumpy and unremarkable in appearance but I tell you, one chewy, peanut-y, chocolate-y, caramel-y and nougat-y bite and I was smittttt-ten.

So what kind of mom would I have been if I’d been lucky enough to have children? No daisy, no clairvoyant, no fortune cookie needed to know this truth. I would bake cookies, lots of cookies. And I would bake Snickers Cookies, put half on sticks, then give up the fuss and just toss the rest in the oven. It’s the cookies – the Snickers bar cookies – not the sticks.

ALANNA’s TIPS The sticks come from Wilton. Look for them at a Michaels craft store in the cake-decorating section or here on Amazon. The sharp tip of a corn-holder helped start a shallow hole for inserting the stick into the Snickers bars. The tip of a knife would work too. Half an egg? Yes, that’s because I halved the inspiring recipe. So either double the recipe to use a whole egg or do like I did: whisk a whole egg, then use half for the cookie dough. Chances are, using the whole egg wouldn’t be a problem either. I used about 20 grams of dough for each cookie, leaving the mixing bowl on my favorite kitchen scale, breaking off 20 grams at a time.
Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Do you have a favorite Halloween recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail via recipes@kitchen-parade.com. How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. Never miss a recipe! If you like this recipe, sign up for a free e-mail subscription. If you like Kitchen Parade, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. Follow Kitchen Parade on Facebook!

SNICKERS COOKIES on STICKS (or NOT)

Hands-on time: 45 minutes
Time to table: 90 minutes
Makes about 18
    SNICKERS
  • Mini-size Snickers bars
  • Sticks, optional (see TIPS)
    COOKIE DOUGH
  • 4 tablespoons (half a stick or 113g) butter, warmed to room temperature
  • 1/4 cup (55g) sugar
  • 1/4 cup (55g) brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup (65g) creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 a large egg (what? see TIPS)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

SNICKERS Unwrap the Snickers bars. Optional: Carefully insert a stick into the bottom of each bar, without piercing the top, see TIPS. Freeze until the cookie dough is ready.

COOKIE DOUGH Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugars with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the peanut butter and combine well. Add the egg and vanilla, mix until well combined. Add the remaining ingredients and combine well.

WRAP Break the dough into about 18 pieces (see TIPS). Work quickly from here on, so the Snickers don’t thaw. Flatten a piece of dough between your hands and wrap it evenly around the Snickers bar, sealing the dough around the stick. Arrange the cookies around the outside edge of the baking sheet, the sticks crossing each other in the center. (Allow at least an inch between the cookies, they spread.)

BAKE Bake for about 12 minutes. Let cool completely. Repeat as needed.

Adapted from The Ardent Cook by Helen S. Fletcher, long-time St. Louis professional baker and brand-new St. Louis food blogger. Her recipe for Cookie Pops has great method photos, especially for the larger Snickers “fun size” bars. Welcome to food blogging, Helen!
NUTRITION ESTIMATE
Per Cookie: 130 Calories; 7g Tot Fat; 3g Sat Fat; 13mg Cholesterol; 116mg Sodium; 16g Carb; 1g Fiber; 11g Sugar; 3g Protein; Weight Watchers Old Points 2.5 & PointsPlus 3 This recipe has been 'Alanna-sized' with smaller portion size. Even so, I was surprised that these cookies added up to a rounded-up 3 points. Are you too? I thought that using the smallest Snickers bars would make them fall right into the one-point mark. But it turns out that each Snickers mini is one point all by itself (the “serving size” on the package is four minis, so a grand total of four points). Even small bites add up when you add on …

Per Snickers Mini Bar: 42 Calories; 2g Tot Fat; 1g Sat Fat; 1mg Cholesterol; 22mg Sodium; 6g Carb; 0g Fiber; 5g Sugar; 1g Protein; Weight Watchers Old Points 1 & PointsPlus 1

A Few Tips

Find something to help start the hole where the stick will be inserted. Once the sticks are inserted, freeze the Snickers bars while mixing the cookie dough. Some times, a little of the Snickers bar will ooze out. That is NOT a bad thing.

More Candy & Cookie Combinations

(hover for a description, click a photo for a recipe)
Gum Drop Cookies Perfect M&M Cookies Graham Cracker Toffee

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What Do You Do With Leftover Halloween Candy?

Leave an idea in the comments. Me, I used to throw it away. Now I'm going to sorting through the bag on a hunt for Snickers bars and one guess what I'll make then ...


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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Pan de Muerto
('Bread of the Dead' Celebration Bread)

Just in time for 'Days of the Dead' joyously celebrated in Latin America and by the Latino diaspora, Diana Kennedy's traditional recipe for Pan de Muerto (Bread of the Dead), used to help communicate with loved ones who have passed on. This recipe is the latest in an ongoing series featuring 'celebration breads' – traditional special-occasion breads from across the world.

Pan de Muerto (Bread for Day of the Dead)

“Home is where your graves are.”

It’s an idyllic spot, Elm Park Cemetery, the cemetery in the small Minnesota town I still call home, even though for four decades, I’ve not lived there, only visited. The namesake elms are long lost to Dutch elm disease but other trees reach skyward now, clumps of birch, tall straight ash, a few long-needled pines. Hills rise from the river, offering a certain privacy, pocket by pocket. The cemetery is a mile or so south of town, close enough that when a veteran is lost, the honor guard still walks the coffin there for burial.

When my sister and I were girls, before Memorial Day, my father took us along to help clean the graves, a solemn task. At the polished granite monument engraved KELLOGG, we clipped wayward grass at its foot, then washed its cold surface with sudsy water. The stone marks my grandparents’ burial place; nearby is a flat stone, the only physical memory of a sister who died before birth. Nearby are graves with familiar local names, Rassmussen, Robinson, Helgeson.

One year, I discovered an unmarked wooden cross in the oldest section. The next day, fresh flowers rested against the cross; the caretaker said no one knew who was buried there, only that flowers appeared throughout the year.

Many years later, my sister, her young sons and I visited the family graves, a pilgrimage of sorts. Six-year old Matthew took me aside. “I’d like to say a prayer for Grampa and Gramma.” Sure, I smiled, touched that he felt connection to these people he knew by name not memory. He knelt beside the grave and bowed his head, murmuring softly. A few moments later, he looked up, smiled and ran off to chase his little brother around a tall monument.

Memories of my hometown cemetery flooded back last year while baking a loaf of Pan de Muerto, ‘Bread of the Dead’.

The occasion was Días de los Muertos, Latin America's 'Day(s) of the Dead' – but a joyous celebration, not somber, not morbid!

Tradition says that on All Saint’s Day (November 1) and All Soul’s Day (November 2), it’s easier for those who have passed to communicate with the living. So families flock to cemeteries to remember their loved ones, bearing food and small gifts.

The practice dates back to the Aztec belief that death is not the end of life but a portal to another existence. Bread and sugar were the last request, to help on the journey.

Enter the modern-day Pan de Muerto in its many variations, both by culture and by family. Mine is adapted from Diana Kennedy, the doyenne of Mexican cuisine.

So what is the bread like? Like most celebration breads from across the world, it is barely sweet but rich with both eggs and butter. This version is flavored with a bit of citrus, either from zest or extract.

What is most distinctive about Pan de Muerto is its appearance. The dough is shaped into ‘bones’ or ‘skulls’ – it sounds creepy but when fashioned with yeast and flour is quite beautiful.

With any luck, all our loved ones will appreciate its beauty and special taste.

ALANNA’s TIPS Aii, bread recipes just look long and complicated. This is a simple bread, really, please don’t be put off by the detailed instructions, ones I’ve included so that even inexperienced bread-bakers will feel confidence. The written instructions for forming the bread may sound confusing. Check the photos below to see how simple it is to form the dough into the pieces that create the distinctive look of Pan de Muerto. All shall be clear! For an underlying citrus flavor, I used lemon extract but you could also use the zest of a lemon or orange. This bread was tested using my oven’s convection feature that automatically reduces the temperature from 375F to 350F and compensates by circulating the hot air with a fan.

CELEBRATION BREAD:
RECIPE for PAN de MUERTO

Hands-on time: 1 hour over six hours
Time to table: about 6 hours
Makes 1 large loaf or 3 or 4 smaller ones
  • Oil, for bowl

Mix flour, yeast and salt in the bowl of standing mixer using the dough hook. Slowly add the water and eggs, continue beating until the dough becomes a single sturdy mass, about 5 minutes. Shape into a ball and transfer to a large lightly oiled bowl, rubbing the ball against the sides to coat with oil. Cover with a clean towel and let rise in a warm spot until the starter doubles, about 2 hours.


    BREAD DOUGH
  • Starter, torn into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 7 tablespoons soft butter
  • 1-1/2 cups flour, fluffed to aerate before measuring or 225g
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract (see TIPS)
  • Oil, for bowl

Mix the starter, sugar and butter in bowl of standing mixer using the mixing paddle. Whisk together the yolks, water and extract. Slowly mix in 1/3 of the flour, half the yolks, 1/3 the flour, the remaining half the yolks, then the remaining flour. Mix well until a smooth, slightly sticky dough forms. Form a round ball and transfer to the same lightly oiled bowl again, rub the ball against the sides to lightly coat with oil. Cover with a clean towel.

OPTION 1: Let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 90 minutes.

OPTION 2: Refrigerate for 12 hours to let flavors develop. Return the dough to room temperature.


FORM LOAVES

If making multiple loaves, cut dough into two or three or four pieces and repeat as needed. For visual cues on how to form the distinctive sections of the loaves, see the photo set below.

Lightly oil two baking sheets. For one loaf, cut off three-fourths of the dough to form the base; cut the remaining dough into four pieces, each one will become a ‘bone’. (See the left photo, below.) To form the base, place the large piece on a lightly floured surface. With your fingers, press the dough into a large round about a half inch thick. With your fingertips, flatten the outer edge. Transfer to a baking sheet. (See the center photo, below.) To form a bone, shape a cylinder from one of the four pieces. Pinch the center, then roll the center until the piece is long enough to span the base, leaving a bulb at each end; pinch each bulb to form the tip of the bone. Carefully transfer the bone to the second baking sheet, repeat with remaining pieces.

Cover both baking sheets with towels and let rise in a warm place for about an hour.


    BAKE
  • 1 egg yolk, whisked with 1 teaspoon water
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • Sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 375F for one loaf, 400F for smaller loaves (see TIPS). (See the right photo, below.) Gently arrange the ‘bones’ across the top of the base. Brush the bread gently with the yolk-water mixture, being sure to get into crevasses but not allowing the mixture to pool. Bake for about 15 minutes until the bread is well browned and springy. Turn off the oven, open the door and let the bread sit for another 5 minutes. Remove from the oven, brush the bread with melted butter, then dust generously with sugar.

When cool, cut into slices. Bread best on first day but keeps for a second day and is delicious toasted afterward.

NUTRITION ESTIMATE Assumes 32 slices, per slice: 113 Calories; 4g Tot Fat; 2g Sat Fat; 54mg Cholesterol; 83mg Sodium; 15g Carb; 1g Fiber; 4g Sugar; 3g Protein; Weight Watchers Old Points 2 & PointsPlus 3
Adapted from The Art of Mexican Cooking by Diana Kennedy, a much-recommended book for cooks wanting to explore authentic Mexican cuisine. My Disclosure Promise

How to Form the Distinctive "Bones"
in a Loaf of Pan de Muerto

(recipe above)
To form the base, place the large piece on a lightly floured surface. With your fingers, press the dough into a large round about a half inch thick. With your fingertips, flatten the outer edge. To form a bone, shape a cylinder from one of the four pieces. Pinch the center, then roll the center until the piece is long enough to span the base, leaving a bulb at each end; pinch each bulb to form the tip of the bone. After rising, gently arrange the ‘bones’ across the top of the base.
Left - To form the base, place the large piece on a lightly floured surface. With your fingers, press the dough into a large round about a half inch thick. With your fingertips, flatten the outer edge.
Center - To form a bone, shape a cylinder from one of the four pieces. Pinch the center, then roll the center until the piece is long enough to span the base, leaving a bulb at each end; pinch each bulb to form the tip of the bone.
Right - After rising, gently arrange the ‘bones’ across the top of the base.
Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Do you have a favorite recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail via recipes@kitchen-parade.com. How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. Never miss a recipe! If you like this recipe, sign up for a free e-mail subscription. If you like Kitchen Parade, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. Follow Kitchen Parade on Facebook!

Is There a 'Celebration Bread' Traditional In Your Family?

It's likely a recipe passed down at least one generation, some times several generations. It's likely a bread that you make once a year, for some special occasion, often a religious holiday. Share the story and if you'd be willing to share the recipe, too, that would be lovely but sure isn't required.

In my family, the 'celebration bread' is Hot Cross Buns on Good Friday. Watch my collection of celebration breads grow over the next few years. I haven't baked from it yet but I'm learning lots from Celebration Breads: Recipes, Tales, and Traditions by Betsy Oppenneer.

Of course, there's also the perspective that hot bread from the oven, any day, any bread, is just cause for celebration. :-)


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