Thursday, December 22, 2005

Cacao Tea 

In our quest to find the perfectly acceptable modernized version of Aztec Drinking Chocolate, we've tried many things, including the molten chocolate of French fame.

Our search took us to Trinidad, and their scrumptious Cacao Tea. They flavor their smooth drinking chocolate with bay leaves, ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg. It's not Aztec, but it is delicious.

We bought a pound of chocolate nibs for our experimentation, grinding them in a warmed mortar. This was tedious and the mortar needed frequent warming. On a happy thought, we brought out the Magic Bullet blender (which is highly useful for small jobs and easy to clean afterwards) and used the flat blade for coffee grinding, and ground the rest of the nibs in that. This ground them very finely into a thick paste.

After the nibs were ground, we added the spices to the paste, along with some sugar, and reground it until it was well mixed. Then we shaped the paste into small sticks (about an ounce) on parchment paper and dried it in a warm oven overnight. The sticks were dense and fragrant.

Using one stick, we reground it, then whisked the grindings in boiling water. Trinidad style meant adding sweetened condensed milk to the hot cacao tea.

Again, not very Aztec, but this is a taste sensation you really have to try at least once in your life. With or without the sweetened condensed milk, the tea was tasty and full of texture. The ground nibs float, and if you chew them, you get a boost in chocolate flavor that I really liked.

If you don't have cacao nibs, you can use 70% cacao baking chocolate instead. It's less textured, but the flavor is all there.

So, Cacao Tea is definitely going to be considered for the menu at the Cracked Cauldron.

I know - when will it open? This is a question we are all asking ourselves. After that rush of optimism, things seem to have tapered off considerably, but we are working hard. Manager is working towards achieving some of the credentials potential investors and loan officers want to see, and that takes time.

She currently getting management and cash-flow and budgeting skills, and is still checking out the culinary schools that have opened nearby. Most of them seem to be for general culinary skills, where she wants certification specifically in baking and pastry making.

It may be necesary to save up money and send her to a school in another state to get the certifications she feels will help her convince investors she knows what she's doing.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Pizzelles and Gingerbread Biscotti 

Gingerbread Biscotti

1 cup almonds, blanched and toasted
3/4 cup sugar
1 stick of butter
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup minced fresh ginger
3 eggs
3 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

To blanch almonds: Bring 2 cups of water to a rolling boil. Add raw almonds, and let the water reach a boil again. Let the almonds boil 1 minute. Remove from the heat and rinse with cold water. The skins will peel off easily.

To toast the blanched almonds: Spread the almonds on an ungreased baking sheet and toast at 350º until lightly browned - about 10-15 minutes. Stir occassionally.

To make the biscotti: Beat sugar, molasses, honey, butter, and ginger together. Add eggs one at a time. Mix the flour with the baking powder and spices and coarsely chopped almonds. Mix the flour with the sugar. On greased baking sheets, pat the dough into 4 flat loaves about 1/2 thick and 2 inches wide. Bake at 350º 25 minutes - until browned and bit springy to the touch. Cool until you can handle the loaves, then cut into 1/2 inch diagonal slices. Arrange the slices on the baking sheets and bake for another 15-18 minutes.

Cool completely and dip into a cinnamon glaze.

Pumpkin Pizzelles

If you don't have a pizzelle iron, consider making some other type of cookie. Substituting a waffle iron for a pizzelle or krumkake iron just doesn't cut it - the cookies come out too thick and limp or burnt and in either case - nasty. But if you do have a pizelle iron, this is a yummy cookie.

1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 eggs
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
dried cranberries, chopped pecans, and/or mini chocolate chips

Preheat the pizzelle iron. Beat the sugar and butter until light and fluffy, then add the eggs, pumpkin, and vanilla. Sift the dry ingredients together, then fold into the sugar mix. Add your choice of dried cranberries, chopped nuts, or chocolate chips.

Lightly brush the pizzelle iron with butter, then drop the recommended amount of dough onto the iron. Close the lid and bake for 90 seconds.

Remove. Before the cookies cool, you can shape them into cones or rolls or shallow bowls, if you want, or leave them flat.

Repeat buttering the iron and dropping on dough and baking it until all the dough is gone.

If you shape the cookies, you can fill them with ice cream, whipped creams, fresh fruits (not canned - too juicy and it will make the cookie soggy), puddings or other desserts. Serve immediately after filling so the cookie is still crisp when it's eaten.

Yummy Cookie Day! 

May you all have a Yummy Cookie Day!

Monday, December 05, 2005


I broke the camera when I went to take pictures of the cookies, so there won't be any pictures here for a while.

But, I will post some of the recipes to compensate for lack of photography.

The first was an experiment with Nutella, making biscotti.

4 large eggs, on of them divided
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup Nutella, divided 3/4 and 1/4
1/3 cup dried wild blueberries
1 cup chopped nuts (I used toasted hazelnuts)
2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons sugar
for the glaze:
1/4 cup powdered sugar
the rest of the Nutella
3 tablespoons boiling water

To Make
Pre-heat the oven to 350º and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. You could lightly grease it instead, but I prefer parchment paper. Beat the Nutella with the granulated suager, then beat in 3 whole eggs and 1 egg yolk. Slight beat and save the egg white for later. Stir in the dried blueberries and nuts. Mix the flour, salt and baking powder together and stir that in. It will make a thick, dense dough that is very sticky. Nothing you do will change that, so just resign yourself to getting icky hands when you shape this dough into 2 12" flattened logs. Wash your hands to get the sticky Nutella off. Set the logs on the parchment paper (wash your hands again if you need to), brush with the slightly beaten egg white, and sprinkle with the 2 tablespoons of sugar. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Remove them from hte oven and let them cool for about 10 mintes, then slice diagonally in 1/2" strips. Lay these flat on the baking sheet and return to a 300º oven for another 30 minutes. Let them cool completely. Whick together the Nutella with the boiling water, then add the powdered sugar to form a glaze for the biscotti. Dip either the entire bottom in or dip one end in. For extra pretties - dip into chopped toasted hazelnuts.

Tomorrow, I will tell you about the Gingerbread Biscotti and the Pumpkin Pizelles.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Cookie Day 

Once again, we approach Cookie Day.

And we do so still without a physical location.

I know it's taking a very long time, but we really are working towards getting the Cracked Cauldron open in a real, physical place.

Manager is working at getting some experience and certifications that will allow potential investors to be more comfortable with her avant garde ideas on running a bakery. That her ideas have borne fruit for others over the past year is one indication of her ability to be a trend setter, to know what her customers will want almost before they want it, and to be prepared to offer it as soon as possible.

But that's not enough for the leery Oklahoma investors. They want her to take a far more traditional approach - even though indications are that such an approach carries with it far higher failure rates.

Ok - even though her ideas have no failure rate because they are still unproven as a new business, they have proven to turn around several businesses that were otherwise floundering. Unconventional? Yes. Unproven? Possibly. Unworkable? Not at all.

So, anyway, we've neeb working on several cookie recipes to debut this Cookie Day. One is a variant on our delicious pizelles. I've added sweet potato and pumpkin to the batter, along with a few spices, raisins, and nuts. It is very yummy and crisp - a perfect accompaniment to hot cider or coffee.

Another is a remodel of pfeffernusse - using spices from India - including just a teeniest pinch of asafoetida. It's amazing, what that does to the cookie! Asafoetida is a stinky herb, probably one of the worst smelling herbs ever, yet, in teensy tinsy micro-pinches, like pepper, it enhances the other flavors of the dish. I'm calling this variant Snowfire Drops, because the peppermint in it is cooling, the Indian spices are heating, and the powdered sugar coating is meltingly yummy.

Then, we have 2 new biscotti: a Nutella Biscotti and a Gingerbread Biscotti. If you love Nutella as much as I do - that smooth blend of hazelnuts and chocolate, the crunchy Nutella Biscotti is heaven. And if you love gingerbread, but want something a little more sophisticated, the Gingerbread Biscotti fits that bill to a T. It's a dark gold biscotti with a spicy cinnamon glaze. Eat it with hot cocoa or a rich unflavored coffe to get the best experience of the cookie.

We've also been playing around with shortbreads, as we are wont to do. This year, for the winter season, we've designed a shortbread spiced with nutmeg and cardamon and white pepper, the flour partially replaced with finely ground nuts (almond and pecan), and glazed lightly with cinnamon and orange.

I wish we were open so everyone could sample these seasonal delights.

We'll be baking htem this weekend, so I'll post pictures next week, along with recipes.

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