Fresh Fruit Tart with Pastry Cream

Fresh Fruit Tart with Pastry Cream

My cousin, T, recently graduated from optometry school.

And to be honest, it kind of trips me out. I still remember him following me and his sister around when he was a kid and now he’s all grown up and taking care of people’s eyeballs.

Yup, I said “eyeballs“. :)

Fresh Fruit Tart with Pastry Cream

For T’s graduation party, I gave him a few options of desserts to choose from for me to make. He chose a fruit tart which worked out great for me since I had been wanting to try out this pastry cream recipe for some time now. It came together beautifully—silky, rich, and delicious. And since it’s so easy to pull together, I turned to Alice Medrich’s  recipe for a shortbread-like tart crust. Buttery goodness!

Fresh Fruit Tart with Pastry Cream

And not only was this tart delicious but it’s quite a looker, too! :)

Have a great week, Friends!

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Fresh Fruit Tart with Pastry Cream
Makes one 10-inch tart

Ingredients:

Pastry Cream (America’s Test Kitchen):
2 Cups Half-and-Half
½ Cup Sugar
Pinch Salt
5 Large Egg Yolks
3 Tablespoon Cornstarch
4 Tablespoon Cold Unsalted Butter, cut into 4 pieces
1½ Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Crust (From Alice Medrich):
8 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter, melted
¼ Cup Sugar
1/8 Teaspoon Salt
¾ Teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract
1 Cup All Purpose Flour

Topping:
Fresh Blueberries
Fresh Raspberries
Fresh Blackberries
Kiwis, peeled and sliced
½ Cup Apple Jelly

Prepare the pastry cream. Bring the half-and-half, 6 tablespoons of the sugar, and the salt to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium high heat, stirring occasionally. As the half-and-half mixture begins to simmer, whisk the egg yolks, cornstarch, and remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar together in a medium bowl until smooth. Slowly whisk about 1 cup of the simmering half-and-half mixture into the yolks to temper, then slowly whisk the tempered yolks back into the simmering saucepan. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, whisking vigorously, until the mixture is thickened and a few bubbles burst on the surface, about 30 seconds. Off the heat, stir in the butter and vanilla. Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl, lay a sheet of plastic wrap directly on the surface, and refrigerate the pastry cream until chilled and firm, about 3 hours.

While the pastry cream chills, repare the crust. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Mix the butter, sugar, salt, and vanilla in a medium bowl with a fork. Add the flour and mix just until well blended with a pastry blender or a large fork. Don’t worry if the dough seems too soft. Press all of the dough very thinly and evenly into the sides and bottom of an 10-inch tart pan. If it seems like the butter is getting too oily and it’s becoming difficult to manipulate the dough, simply put it in the fridge for a few minutes, it’ll become easier to handle. Using a fork, prick the dough all over the bottom and sides. Place a large piece of parchment paper on top of dough and fill with pie weights or dry beans. Press weights to the edges of dough and bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Remove parchment and weights and continue baking until deeply golden in color, approximately 10 minutes longer. Remove from oven and place on cooling rack.

To assemble, spread the chilled pastry cream evenly over the bottom of the cooled tart shell. Shingle the kiwis around the edge, then a row of blackberries, then raspberries, and finally pile the blueberries in the center. Melt the jelly in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally to smooth out any lumps. Using a pastry brush, dab the melted jelly over the fruit. Enjoy!

Muggles’ Fish and Chips

Muggles' Fish and Chips

11+ years…..

11+ years I’ve been engrossed in the world of Patronus charms, invisibility cloaks, house elves, and Quidditch.

11+ years I’ve arrived in costume at stores for their early book release parties, stood in line for midnight movie premiere showings, and took online quizzes to find out which House I would be “sorted” in (Gryffindor, of course).

Muggles' Fish and Chips

So as the final movie installment of the Harry Potter saga comes to a close this Friday in the States, I find myself mixed with feelings of utter glee and sadness. Kind of like at your college graduation…..excited for closure yet somehow saddened to see it end. Bittersweet.

As a tribute (damn, that J.K. Rowlings is brilliant), I wanted to make something “British” to send off some of my favorite characters. And of course, the first thing that came to my mind was Fish and Chips. Cliche? Maybe, but I love Fish and Chips :)


Muggles' Fish and Chips

 

These Fish and Chips from America’s Test Kitchen are easily some of the best I’ve ever had. The cod remained moist and flavorful through the frying process and the batter was utterly crispy—-even after 20+ minutes out of the fryer. I decided to serve this classic with a kicked up version of tartar sauce that was amped up with prepared horseradish. But if you’re not a fan, feel free to omit as you see fit.

And why did I call it “Muggles’ Fish and Chips“? Simple really….because THIS muggle made them!

But trust me on this, these Fish and Chips are so delish that even “He Who Must Not Be Named” would change his ways after taking a bite. Well….at least he would stop and think twice. :)

Here’s to an incredible adventure that has inspired millions of children (and adults!) across the world to become excited about reading and believing in MAGIC…..

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Muggles’ Fish and Chips
Serves 4

Ingredients:

Fish (From Americas Test Kitchen):
1 1/2 Cups All-Purpose Flour
1/2 Cup Cornstarch
1/2 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
1/2 Teaspoon Paprika
1/8 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
Table Salt
1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1 1/2 Pounds 1-inch-thick Cod Fillet or Haddock, cut into eight 3-ounce pieces
1 1/2 Cups Beer (12 ounces), cold

Chips (From Americas Test Kitchen):
3 Pounds Russet Potatoes, peeled, ends and sides squared off, and cut lengthwise into 1/2 inch by 1/2-inch fries
3 Quarts Peanut Oil (or canola oil), plus 1/4 additional cup

Tartar Sauce:
1/2 Cup Mayonnaise
1 Tablespoon White Wine Vinegar
1 Tablespoon Caper Berries, roughly chopped
1/2 Tablespoon Prepared Horseradish
2 Teaspoons Dijon Mustard
Kosher Salt and Pepper to taste

Prepare tartar sauce by whisking all the ingredients in a a bowl until fully incorporated. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Place cut fries in large microwaveable bowl, toss with 1/4 cup oil, and cover with plastic wrap. Microwave on high power until potatoes are partially translucent and pliable but still offer some resistance when pierced with tip of paring knife, 6 to 8 minutes, tossing them with rubber spatula halfway through cooking time. Carefully pull back plastic wrap from side farthest from you and drain potatoes into large mesh strainer set over sink. Rinse well under cold running water. Spread potatoes onto kitchen towels and pat dry. Let rest until room temperature, at least 10 minutes and up to 1 hour.

While fries cool, whisk flour, cornstarch, cayenne, paprika, pepper, and 2 teaspoons salt in large mixing bowl; transfer 3/4 cup of
mixture to rimmed baking sheet. Add baking powder to bowl and whisk to combine.

In heavy-bottomed Dutch oven, heat 2 quarts oil over medium heat to 350 degrees. Add fries to hot oil and increase heat to high. Fry, stirring with mesh spider or slotted metal spoon, until potatoes turn light golden and just begin to brown at corners, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer fries to thick paper bag or paper towels to drain.

Reduce heat to medium-high, add remaining quart of oil, and heat oil to 375 degrees. Meanwhile, thoroughly dry fish with paper towels and dredge each piece in flour mixture on baking sheet; transfer pieces to wire rack, shaking off excess flour. Add 1 1/4 cups beer to flour mixture in mixing bowl and stir until mixture is just combined (batter will be lumpy). Add remaining beer as needed, 1 tablespoon at a time, whisking after each addition, until batter falls from whisk in thin, steady stream and leaves faint trail across surface of batter. Using tongs, dip 1 piece fish in batter and let excess run off, shaking gently. Place battered fish back onto baking sheet with flour mixture and turn to coat both sides. Repeat with remaining fish, keeping pieces in single layer on baking sheet.

When oil reaches 375 degrees, increase heat to high and add battered fish to oil with tongs, gently shaking off excess flour. Fry,
stirring occasionally, until golden brown, 7 to 8 minutes. Transfer fish to thick paper bag or paper towels to drain. Allow oil to return to 375 degrees.

Add all fries back to oil and fry until golden brown and crisp, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to fresh paper bag or paper towels to drain.
Season fries with salt to taste and serve immediately with fish, fresh lemon, and tartar sauce.

Strawberry Ice Cream

Strawberry Ice Cream

Have I ever mentioned that I’m the youngest of 5?

Over the years, it’s really had its perks. Don’t let people tell you otherwise. :)

Sure, I’ve had my share of hand-me-downs. But by the time my parents got to me, they were way too worn out by my sibs…..so admittedly, I had it MUCH easier than them. My grandparents babied me and in fact, even my elder sibs were known to indulge me from time to time.

When I was in kindergarten, my sis P, would often meet me at my bus stop to walk me home. And on some occasions, she would make a pit stop at Dairy Queen on our way home to indulge me in some VERY special treats. I would fluctuate between ordering a Lime Mister Misty Float—a Peanut Buster Parfait-–or even a simple Dipped Cone. All of them were amazing delights!

Strawberry Ice Cream

So when I began making a Strawberry Ice Cream the other day (due to our excess of berries from Tanaka Farms), my sis P said the house smelled like Dairy Queen.

Quite the compliment, if I do say myself.

Sweet. Tangy. Fragrant.

Just how strawberries should smell.

And the end result tasted even better than it smelled. Creamy and packed FULL of berry flavor. Due to our super fresh berries, I even halved the amount of sugar in the recipe. But if you find that your berries are slightly lacking in punch—by all means, go the full amount.

In my opinion, iconic desserts like this should always evoke childhood memories. But I do wonder, did Dairy Queen put vodka in their ice creams too? :)

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Strawberry Ice Cream
From America’s Test Kitchen

Ingredients:

1 ½ Cups Heavy Cream
1 ¼ Cups Whole Milk
1 Cup Sugar
6 Whole Egg Yolks
1 Quart Strawberries, hulled and sliced
Pinch of Salt
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 Teaspoon Lemon Juice
3 Tablespoons Vodka

Set a fine mesh strainer over a medium sized bowl and set the bowl over a large container of ice water. Heat the cream, milk, and ¼ cup sugar in a medium size sauce pan over medium heat stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar, until steam appears and the liquid is hot (175 degrees) about 5 minutes.

When the milk mixture is hot, in a separate bowl, whisk the yolks and remaining ¼ cup of sugar together until smooth. Slowly whisk about 1 cup of the hot milk mixture (temper) into the yolks. Then slowly whisk the tempered yolk mixture back into the remaining hot milk mixture. Continue to cook the custard mixture over medium heat until it is very hot but not simmering (180-185 degrees).

Strain the custard mixture into the bowl set in the ice bath and let cool, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes. Remove the custard mixture from the ice bath, cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 3 hours.

Meanwhile, bring the strawberries, salt, and remaining sugar to a simmer in a medium sized saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook, smashing the berries slightly, until they have released their juices and are broken down, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until needed.

Strain the berry mixture through a fine mesh strainer. Stir the strained juices, vanilla, and lemon into the chilled custard mixture. Pour the mixture into the ice cream canister and churn following the manufacturers instructions until the mixture resembles soft served ice cream. Toss the strained strawberries with the vodka and add to the machine when there is about 2 minutes remaining before the churning is complete.

Transfer the ice cream to an airtight container and press plastic wrap against the surface. Cover the container and freeze the ice cream until it is firm—about 3 hours.

Panko-Crusted Baked Chicken Fingers

Panko Crusted Baked Chicken Fingers

 

Now that I’m back on a “normal” work schedule, I need meals that are relatively quick to prepare but still make me happy to end the day with. And let’s face it, who couldn’t use another quick recipe in their back pocket?

These Panko-Crusted Baked Chicken Fingers fit the bill P-E-R-F-E-C-T-L-Y! Not only are they palette pleasing but they are a healthier version of the much beloved chicken tenders. I was initially concerned that the oven baking process wouldn’t yield the crisp texture that we all love. But to my delight, these chicken fingers had a super crunchy exterior and juicy interior.

Both adults and munchkins alike will be begging you to make these all of the time!

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Panko-Crusted Baked Chicken Fingers
From America’s Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook

Ingredients:

2 cups panko breadcrumbs
2 tbsp. canola oil
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. garlic powder
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
3 large egg whites
1 tbsp. water
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. minced fresh thyme or ¼ tsp. dried
Cooking spray
1½ lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into ¾-inch wide strips


Preheat the oven to 475˚ F.  In a large skillet, toss the panko with the oil.  Toast over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 8-10 minutes.  Transfer the toasted crumbs to a shallow dish or pie plate.

In a second shallow dish, whisk together the flour, garlic powder, salt, and cayenne pepper.  In a bowl, whisk together the egg whites, water, mustard and thyme.

Spray a wire rack lightly with cooking spray and place over a rimmed baking sheet.  Working in batches, dredge a few pieces of the chicken in the flour, then the egg whites, and finally the breadcrumbs to coat, shaking off the excess between each step.  Lay the coated pieces on the prepared wire rack and repeat with the remaining chicken.

Spray the tops of the chicken pieces lightly with the cooking spray.  Bake until the chicken is cooked through, 10-12 minutes.  Serve warm.

Chicken Tikka Masala

Chicken Tikka Masala

 

Without a doubt, Indian fare is one of my favorite cuisines. I love the deep layers of flavors and spices—delicious.

But the reasons why I love it so much is also why I have never really prepared Indian food before. I was intimidated. Totally overwhelmed.

Of the scores of recipes I’ve reviewed, the ingredient lists have always thrown me off. A huge laundry list of spices—-all of which I knew were integral to the deep flavors that I loved so much. So whenever I had hankerings for Channa Masala, Curried Paneer, Samosas—-I would head straight to my favorite Indian spot and order up the goodies.

But then the other day I became set on making Homemade Naan for the first time. And in this gal’s opinion, very little goes better with Naan than Chicken Tikka Masala. MMMMM! This popular chicken curry with it’s creamy, tomato sauce is easily my favorite Indian dish. Is it authentically Indian? I don’t think so…..I’ve actually heard that it was created in London. Nonetheless, I love it.

I recalled an episode I saw of America’s Test Kitchen when they prepared Chicken Tikka Masala. It seemed so simple and relied on Garam Masala as the primary spice agent. As Garam Masala is a blend of a variety of spices, there was no need for me to purchase a ton of different seasonings! P-E-R-F-E-C-T!

 

Chicken Tikka Masala

 

While I was preparing this dish, the aromas quickly filled the entire house—- and it smelled amazing! It was fairly easy to prepare and was really flavorful. I was worried that the boneless/skinless chicken would be dried out due to the cooking method. But I was pleasantly surprised to find the meat to be quite moist—probably as a result of the generous coating of yogurt that sealed in the juices. The photos here show the Chicken Tikka Masala served with a Turmeric Rice but Basmati would be perfect with it, too.

In the end, we had a lot of sauce left over and I didn’t want to waste all of that great flavor. So the next day, I lightly grilled some prawns and threw them into the sauce. It was really delicious and became a wonderful seafood option!

All in all—I was quite happy with this Chicken Tikka Masala and will definitely make it again! My Host Family in Chennai would be proud :)

*Friday’s Post: Saag Aloo (Spinach and Potatoes Curry)


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Chicken Tikka Masala
From America’s Test Kitchen: Cooking for Two

Ingredients:

For the Chicken
1/2 Teaspoon Garam Masala
1/8 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
Two (6 to 8-ounce) Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts, trimmed
1/2 Cup Plain Yogurt
1 Tablespoon Vegetable Oil
2 Garlic Cloves, minced
2 Teaspoons Grated or Minced Fresh Ginger

For the Sauce
One (14.5-ounce) Can Whole Tomatoes
2 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
1 Small Onion, minced (about 1/2 cup)
1 Garlic Clove, minced
1 Teaspoon Grated or Minced Fresh Ginger
1 Small Serrano Chile, stemmed, seeded, and minced
1 1/2 Teaspoons Tomato Paste
1 1/2 Teaspoons Garam Masala
1 Teaspoon Sugar
Salt
1/3 Cup Plain Yogurt
2 Tablespoons Chopped Fresh Cilantro


Make the chicken
1. Combine the garam masala, cayenne, and salt in a bowl. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels, then coat the chicken thoroughly with the spices, pressing to help them adhere. Place the chicken on a plate, cover, and refrigerate for 30 to 60 minutes. Whisk the yogurt, oil, garlic, and ginger together in a medium bowl, cover, and refrigerate until needed.

Make the sauce
1. Process the tomatoes with their juice in a food processor until pureed, about 15 seconds. Heat the oil in large saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and cook until softened and lightly browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the garlic, ginger, chile, tomato paste, and garam masala and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

2. Stir in the processed tomatoes, sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon salt, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes. Off the heat, stir in the yogurt and cover to keep warm.

3. Meanwhile, adjust an oven rack to be 6 inches from the broiler element, and heat the broiler. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and top with a wire rack. Using tongs, dip the chicken into the yogurt mixture so that it is thickly coated and arrange on the prepared wire rack; discard any excess yogurt mixture. Broil the chicken until the exterior is lightly charred in spots and the thickest part of the breasts registers 160 to 165 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, 10 to 18 minutes, flipping the chicken halfway through cooking.

4. Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes, then cut into 1-inch chunks. Stir the chicken pieces into the warm sauce (do not simmer the chicken in the sauce). Stir in the cilantro, season with salt to taste, and serve.

NOTE: I’m not sure why, but the ingredients shown on the episode of ATK are slightly different than what is actually published in their cookbook. What you see here is the cookbook method.

Cook’s Illustrated Paella

Spanish Paella prepared in a Dutch Oven

I’ll tell ya…..the holidays were quite productive in our kitchen. From sweets to savories to old time classics and new Foodventures. What a whirlwind!

On one particular evening, we were able to check off another dish off my “must make” list—PAELLA! We turned to Cook’s Illustrated version of Paella since it didn’t require the traditional paella pan but used a heavy dutch oven instead. It was perfect because although I love the look of paella pans I don’t have the storage space to keep them.

We were all very happy with the end results of the dish. Especially because we achieved the coveted soccarat–the crunchy rice that forms at the bottom of the pan!

I did have two “uh-oh” moments that were completely my fault. First, we added much more seafood than the recipe called for. When it comes to seafood in my family—more is better. As a result of the extra seafood, we had so much excess liquid in the pot. We ended up having to spoon out some of the liquid because too much moisture equals no soccarat.

The second challenge we needed to problem solve was that I left the lid on during step 6. The lid trapped the steam into the pot and would have never allowed the lovely soccarat layer to form. Per my sister’s quick thinking, we took off the lid and returned the pot into the oven under the broiler setting. The paella was left under the broiler until it browned and then we switched it back to the stove (lid off!) to complete step 6. PHEW! Luckily it all worked! Lesson learned.

This Paella was just a Pot of Goodness. You’re going to want to make this one. For Reals. Like right now.

Just learn from my mistakes and read each step carefully :)

Cheers Friends!

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Paella
From Cooking at Home with America’s Test Kitchen 2006

This paella recipe calls for making it in a Dutch oven (the Dutch oven should be 11 to 12 inches in diameter with at least a 6-quart capacity). With minor modifications, it can also be made in a paella pan. Cured Spanish chorizo is the sausage of choice for paella, but fresh chorizo or Portuguese linguiça is an acceptable substitute.

Soccarat, a layer of crusty browned rice that forms on the bottom of the pan, is a traditional part of paella. In our paella, soccarat does not develop because most of the cooking is done in the oven. We have provided instructions to develop soccarat in step 5; if you prefer, skip this step and go directly from step 4 to step 6.—the Editors of Cook’s Illustrated

Ingredients:

1 Pound Extra-Large Shrimp (21 to 25 per pound), peeled and deveined
Salt and Ground Black Pepper
Olive Oil
8 or 9 Medium Garlic Cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press (2 generous tablespoons)
1 Pound Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs, each thigh trimmed of excess fat and halved crosswise
1 Red Bell Pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut pole to pole into 1/2-inch-wide strips
8 Ounces Spanish Chorizo, sliced 1/2 inch thick on the bias
1 Medium Onion, chopped fine (about 1 cup)
One 14.5 Ounce Can Diced Tomatoes, drained, minced, and drained again
2 Cups Valencia or Arborio Rice
3 Cups Low-Sodium Chicken Broth
1/3 Cup Dry White Wine
1/2 Teaspoon Saffron Threads, crumbled
1 Dried Bay Leaf
1 Dozen Mussels, scrubbed and debearded
1/2 Cup Frozen Peas, thawed
2 Tablespoons Chopped Fresh Parsley Leaves
1 Lemon, cut into wedges, for serving

1. Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position; heat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Toss the shrimp, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, 1 tablespoon oil, and 1 teaspoon of the garlic in a medium bowl; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed. Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper; set aside.

2. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering but not smoking. Add the pepper strips and cook, stirring occasionally, until the skin begins to blister and turn spotty black, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer the pepper to a small plate and set aside.

3. Add 1 teaspoon oil to the now-empty Dutch oven; heat the oil until shimmering but not smoking. Add the chicken pieces in a single layer; cook, without moving the pieces, until browned, about 3 minutes. Turn the pieces and brown on the second side, about 3 minutes longer; transfer the chicken to a medium bowl. Reduce the heat to medium and add the chorizo to the pot; cook, stirring frequently, until deeply browned and the fat begins to render, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer the chorizo to the bowl with the chicken and set aside.

4. Add enough oil to the fat in the Dutch oven to equal 2 tablespoons; heat over medium heat until shimmering but not smoking. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 3 minutes; stir in the remaining garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the tomatoes; cook until the mixture begins to darken and thicken slightly, about 3 minutes. Stir in the rice and cook until the grains are well coated with the tomato mixture, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the chicken broth, wine, saffron, bay leaf, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Return the chicken and chorizo to the pot, increase the heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil, uncovered, stirring occasionally. Cover the pot and transfer it to the oven; cook until the rice absorbs almost all of the liquid, about 15 minutes.

5. Remove the paella from the oven (close the oven door to retain heat). Uncover the paella; scatter the shrimp over the rice, insert the mussels hinged-side down into the rice (so they stand upright), arrange the bell pepper strips in a pinwheel pattern, and scatter the peas over the top. Cover and return to the oven; cook until the shrimp are opaque and the mussels have opened, 10 to 12 minutes.

6. Optional: If soccarat (see headnote) is desired, set the Dutch oven, uncovered, over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, rotating the pot 180 degrees after about 2 minutes for even browning.

7. Let the paella stand, covered, about 5 minutes. Discard any mussels that have not opened and the bay leaf, if it can be easily removed. Sprinkle the paella with the parsley and serve, passing the lemon wedges separately.

Triple Chocolate Mint Cookies

Triple Chocolate Mint Cookies


I think if you asked most people what their earliest candy memories were, they would probably say licorice, jellybeans, lollipops, or even chocolate bars. Nope, not me. My earliest candy memories were of Andes Chocolate Mints. Sure, it may seem strange for a 4-year old to love Andes Mints, but they were the special treats that our grandparents would give us—mostly by my Grandpa, Ôn.

When we were good (or needing consoling), he would hand us a few of the one-inch rectangles of minty-chocolate goodness. I would savor each little piece, allowing it to slowly melt in my mouth. Yum. And to this day, I attribute my love of “minty” things to these delicious confections.

So you can imagine my delight when I came across a bag of Andes Mint Chocolate Baking Bits at the local grocery store. (And they were on sale, too–SCORE!) So many options came across my mind of how to incorporate these minty bits into some type of decadent dessert. Should I make Brownies? Cupcakes? Ice cream?

Upon my sister’s suggestion, I settled on Cookies and looked to America’s Test Kitchen for some guidance. The recipe below is quite similar to the Chocolate Toffee Cookies I had made a few months ago with the same rich, brownie-like consistency. But of course what made these cookies so special were the bits of mint sprinkled throughout each bite. Truly reminiscent of Andes Chocolate Mints and my childhood.

Now Friends, a question for you…….What was your  favorite childhood candy?

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Triple Chocolate Mint Cookies
Adapted from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Book

Ingredients:

16 Ounces Semi-Sweet Chocolate
2 Cups All-Purpose Flour
½ Cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
2 Teaspoon Baking Powder
¾ Teaspoon Salt
4 Large Eggs
2 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract
10 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter, room temperature
1½ Cups Brown Sugar
½ Cup Granulated Sugar
1½ Cups Andes Mint Chocolate Baking Bits

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, with the oven racks in the upper-middle and lower-middle positions. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, melt semi-sweet chocolate. This can be done by placing the bowl over a pot of simmering water (for a make-shift double-boiler) or in the microwave at 50% power. Stir and set aside to cool.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl, using a hand electric mixer), beat butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar at medium at speed until the mixture is light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Add one egg a time to the butter mixture, beating after each addition. Add vanilla extract and beat until combined. Add the cooled melted chocolate and beat until well combined.

Reduce the mixer speed to low and gradually add the flour mixture. Mix until just combined. Stir in mint-chocolate baking bits. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the mixture sit at room temperature for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the mixture is easy to scoop and fudge-like.

Using 3 tablespoons of dough for each cookie, roll the dough into balls and place on the prepared baking sheets, 2 inches apart. Place the baking sheets in the oven and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, switching the position of the sheets and rotating them back to front halfway through baking. The cookies are baked when the edges are set, but the center are still soft. The cookies will still look a little raw in between the cracks, but are done.

Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for 10 minutes, then remove to a wire rack. Repeat with the rest of the dough, using cooled cookie sheets. Serve the cookies warm or at room temperature.

Makes 25 to 30 cookies.

Note: I only had dark-coated baking sheets on hand when making these and found that the bottoms of the cookies were too dark despite the decrease in oven temperature to compensate for the sheets. As a result, I switched to using Silpats instead of parchment and had much better results.



Triple Chocolate Mint Cookies
Did I mention that these would be delicious as a vessel for Ice cream Sandwiches? YUM!