Friday, January 29, 2010

Sugared Cinema: Stranger Than Fiction

As Harold took a bite of Bavarian sugar cookie, he finally felt as if everything was going to be okay. Sometimes, when we lose ourselves in fear and despair, in routine and constancy, in hopelessness and tragedy, we can thank God for Bavarian sugar cookies.

Harold Crick (Will Ferrell) is an IRS auditor who is forced to change his methodical ways when he starts to hear his life being unfavorably narrated in his head.  When the voice predicts the exact day and time of his death, Harold tries desperately to alter his fate all while trying to juggle work and an unexpected romance with a hot-headed baker, Miss Pascal (Maggie Gyllenhaal.)

Will Ferrell in a serious role?  It works.  It really works.

Today's post is inspired by Miss Pascal's bavarian sugar cookies.  Soft, delicately sweet and best of all, heart-shaped.

Here's what you'll need:

3/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

(caution: yellow pics ahead.  I still haven't learned how to use Photostore or whatever it's called.)

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together.

Beat in eggs

and vanilla

until smoooove. 

Stir in flour, salt and baking power until combined.

And this is why it's important to have tongs around at all times.  Especially if you're 5'3".

Cover the bowl and let it hang out in the fridge for about an hour.

Time to get your roll on.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Now, there are two methods that you can use:  you can a) roll your dough out on a surface dusted with powdered sugar then transfer the cookies to your parchment-lined baking sheet...

...or you can b) make your life just a tad bit easier and roll it out right on the parchment.  If you're like me, you'll go easier route.  If you're Bear Grylls, go with the first option.

I used Wilton's fondant cut-outs for the cookies.  The biggest heart, of course!

Hey.  Cut it out. 
(1" apart.)

Remove the excess dough, leaving the sweet little darlings behind.

Slide the parchment onto a baking sheet and into the oven.

Bake for 6-8 minutes until the cookies edges are just ever so lightly browned.  You don't want these cookies to be too done.

Roll out the remaining dough and repeat the process.

Once they've cooled (and you've eaten a few test cookies), frost and sprinkle away!


And we can't forget a beer to go with our treats.  It's Friday...let's tripel it up.

Koningshoeven Trappist Ale.  8% abv.  100% yummy.

You little heartbreaker.

...sometimes, when we lose ourselves in fear and despair, in routine and constancy, in hopelessness and tragedy, we can thank God for Bavarian sugar cookies.

Yes, indeed.

Thursday, January 28, 2010


Sugared Cinema Fridays.

A movie.
A sweet to go with it.
And a beer to go with that.

Every Friday.

But today is Thursday.  So bye.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Molasses gets a makeover.

What's the first thing you think of when you hear the word "molasses"?

Okay, besides rum, what's the first thing you think of? 

Me?  I think old fashioned.  Dinah Shore.  Shoofly pie.  This lady.

It's 2010.  Time for a makeover, grandma.  Burn those Skip Bo cards while you're at it, too.

It's no secret that the addition of chocolate to most recipes can mean wonderful, diet-destroying things.  Adding it to gingerbread cookies?  It'll knock your saddle shoes right off.

Courtesy of Martha "I'm Not Human, I'm a Domestic Robot, like Rosie in the Jetsons" Stewart.

Here's what you'll need:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 stick unsalted butter
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup unsulfured molasses
1 teaspoon baking soda
7 ounces semisweet chocolate
1/4 cup granulated sugar

Alright, let's do this.

Line 1-2 baking sheets with parchment paper.  In a medium bowl, sift together flour, ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and cocoa.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and grated ginger until whitened, about 4 minutes.

By the way, grating ginger is up there with chopping onions.  I can't stand doing either.  My coworker let me in on a really useful tip:  freeze your ginger before using it.  It's easier to grate and less messy.  Thanks Helen!  You rock.

Add the brown shugga.  Now whip it.

Add molasses.  Whip it good.

In a small bowl, dissolve the baking soda in 1 1/2 teaspoons of boiling water. 

Beat half of the flour mixture into the butter mixture.

Beat in baking soda mixture then the remaining half of flour mixture.  Chop chocolate into 1/4 inch chunks and mix in.  If you have a bag of Old Faithfuls on hand, you can use those instead.

Turn your dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap. 

Pat the big, honking mound of dough out to about a 1 inch thickness.

Pat pat pat.

Seal it up snugly in the plastic wrap.

Throw it (figuratively) into the fridge and let it chill (literally) until it's firm, about 2 hours.

While you wait, have a beer.

Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA.  If you're a fan of their Pale Ale (one of the original and most well-known domestic craft beers), you'll adore Torpedo. 

Alright, back to baking.

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. 

Roll the dough into 1 1/2 inch balls and place 2 inches apart on baking sheet. 

After taking this pic, I flattened them slightly with the heel of my hand so that I could get a more traditional "cookie-shaped" cookie.

Refrigerate for 20 more minutes.  Gotta keep those babies firm!

Roll each cookie in granulated sugar.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until the surfaces crack slightly.

Let them cool for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack.

Oh man.  These smell heavenly.

Welcome to the future, old fashioned molasses. 

Thursday, January 21, 2010

It's the most wonderful time of the year...

...for beer lovers.

Every January, after the holiday rush comes to a screeching halt, seasonal depression starts to rear its pale, sun-deprived head and naked fraser fir trees line neighborhood curbs all across the country, something special comes our way from the great-laked state of Michigan.

Bell's Hopslam. 

It's a dude being crushed by a giant hop.  Pretty self-explanatory.

But to elaborate:

If you're not familiar with the beer and its phenomenon, it's the equivalent of finding a Golden Ticket.  Run home, Charlie!  Run straight home and don't stop until you get there!

The day it was released, Berry White came home with a case of Wonka bars Hopslam.  I could hear him oh-my-god'ing over and over in the kitchen, seconds before his first sip.  I managed to sneak in just in time. 

And that, friends, is a true beer fan.  Cheers.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

It was Colonel Custard in the kitchen with the plastic ladle.

In English, it means "burnt cream."  But we'll just stick to the French translation and call it creme brulee.  It sounds prettier.

I didn't actually try creme brulee until a few years ago.  When faced with a dessert menu, I would always go for something chocolate-based or key lime pie.  I finally gave it a go after reading a particularly convincing description.  Breaking through that crunchy layer of caramelized sugar and sinking the spoon into the was like finding buried pirate treasure.  Creamy, delicious pirate treasure.

For some reason, I felt intimidated by the notion of making it from scratch.  Doesn't it seem like the simpler a dessert looks, the harder it is to make?  I wasn't about to trust just anybody's recipe for my first venture.  I turned to Ina Garten (aka the Barefoot Contessa) to walk me through.

Here's what you'll need:

1 extra-large egg
4 extra-large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar, plus 1 teaspoon for each serving
3 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon orange liqueur (Grand Marnier or something similar)

I only made half a recipe but if you want to make the full 5-6 servings, follow the ingredient list above.

Preheat your baking machine to 300 degrees F.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the egg, egg yolks and 1/2 cup of sugar together on low speed until just combined.

Meanwhile, scald the cream in a small saucepan until it's very hot to the touch but not boiled.

If you're afraid of burning yourself, this would be a good time to recruit a helper: an ex, the coworker who stole your lunch from the work fridge, etc.

With the mixer on low speed, slowly ladle the cream into the eggs.

Add the vanilla and orange liqueur.  I didn't have any Grand Marnier so I used amaretto instead.

Disaronno on the rocks?  Sorry, had to say it.

Pour mixture into 6-8 ounce ramekins until almost full.

Place the ramekins in a baking pan and carefully pour boiling water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins.

 Carefully slide those bad French boys into the oven and bake for 35 to 40 minutes.

While the custards bake, have a beer.

Flying Dog Raging Bitch Belgian-style IPA.

This is eerily close to how I look approximately 12 times during the calendar year.  Mike would agree.

To test the custards, give the pan a gentle shake.  If they resist jiggling, they're done.  Remove the ramekins from the water bath and cool to room temperature.

Once they've cooled, pop them in the fridge for a few hours.  Or better yet, let them chill overnight.

Sweet dreams, mes cheries.

To serve, sprinkle a layer of sugar evenly on top of each ramekin and heat with a kitchen blowtorch.  If you don't have a blowtorch laying around (I mean, really...who doesn't), place them under the broiler on the highest rack until the sugar starts to get all golden, bubbly and irresistable.

Allow to sit at room temperature for a few minutes until the caramelized sugar hardens.

All that's missing is a spoon, an eye patch and a talking parrott to echo all your "Mmm"s, "Ahhh"s and "Holy crap, this is the bomb..."s.

Enjoy, mateys.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Who's your daddy.

Don't fret, my little pint.  Prohibition was repealed. 

Speakeasy Ales and Lagers began in 1997 and hails from (where else?) San Francisco.  And boy, do they make some yummy beer.  Speakeasy brews a variety of styles, many of which are only available on tap, but their four flagship beers helped solidify their role in the microbrewing world.  Prohibition Amber Ale, Untouchable Pale Ale, Double Daddy Imperial India Pale Ale (IPA) and, my personal favorite, Big Daddy IPA are available in bottles all year round at many beer retailers.

Big Daddy, meet Three Baking Sheets' readers. 

Readers, Big Daddy.

This beer looks pretty sexy in a glass.  It pours a clear golden color with a rich, billowy head.  The aroma is of grapefruit rind, hops and a hint of caramel which all come through as you drink it.  It starts off mildly sweet and malty on the tongue and has a pleasantly bitter finish.  A GREAT staple beer.  Bring it to your next Power Pad party or whatever it is kids do these days.

Wait.  Something is definitely missing.

Something sweet.  Something...muffin-y.

Oddly enough, I have a pan of warm banana streusel muffins within oven mitt's reach.

A hefeweizen would complement these muffins nicely but since they're pretty sweet as is, I decided to pair them with an IPA to counter some of that sweetness.

Come to Big Daddy, you banana muffin you.

I gotta tell you...these go really well together.  Like Simon and Garfunkel.  Woodward and Lothrop.  Organic peanut butter and real fruit preserves.  But not like Reese and Jake.  Rest in peace, my favorite celebrity relationship.