On Pictures and Cameras

I have been dabbling with the blog for a bit and the pictures I have taken have been great. I have noticed that I  need to have a better eye when taking pictures.A couple of things have slipped through recently. Firstly the wine bottle showing in the mixer pictures on the Chewy Chocolate Pinwheel Cookies. While the Pinot Noir was excellent with dinner the night before the picture was taken, the fact that the dead soldier was in the shot was both amusing (to me) and disappointing.

Another recent gaff was in the skinning hazelnuts post. The problem was the background printing on a Silpat under the hazelnuts that were cooling. The printing was showing upside down. Too funny looking back on it.

The cameras I have been using for the blog are:

Sony DSC-HX9V and Canon AS 570 IS

Canon AS 570 IS


iPhone 4


I love all of them but for different, but equal reasons. The Canon was my first real camera that had good really good resolution and features. I took some 6000 pictures on my trusty Canon, but alas the lens retraction mechanism started to fail and needed replacing.

My iPhone is great . Excellent resolution and always handy and therefore a great thing to grab when my main camera is not easily available.

My newest acquisition is theSony … .Amazing Camera. HD & 3D video recording. 16 MP camera and great other features. With an extra battery and a fast charger this camera has become my favorite.

I hope you like the pictures. Feedback is always appreciated.

Happy Baking – And Eating!

Chewy Coconut Chocolate Pinwheel Cookie Recipe

Chewy Coconut Chocolate Pinwheel Cookie RecipeI chose this cookie this year to add some taste variety to the gifts that I give away and add some visual difference. A pinwheel cookie does just the thing. I originally found this recipe once again from Martha in a Christmas baking supplement a bunch of years ago.

It has been a few years since I last made this cookie but I remember it being tender, tasty, but a little too big.  For this year’s version I changed the chocolate mix, added some additional vanilla, and made the cookies smaller. And of course I can mix and assemble them early to bake off nearer Christmas time.

For this cookie recipe I used:

Chewy Coconut Chocolate Pinwheel Cookies

13 1/2 Ounces of Unsalted Butter
3 Cups of Sugar
3 Large Eggs
4 1/2 Teaspoons of Vanilla
6 Cups of Cake Flour (not self rising)
1 1/2 Teaspoons of Baking Soda
1 1/2 Teaspoons of Salt
4 1/2 Cups of Unsweetened Shredded Coconut
9 Ounces of Bittersweet Chocolate
9 Ounces of Milk Chocolate
1 Cup of Sweetened Condensed Milk

Chewy Coconut Chocolate Pinwheel Cookies

Measure out the chocolates and 1/2 an ounce of unsalted butter and set aside. Heat water under a double boiler.

In a small bowl place the egg and vanilla for ease in adding later.

Chewy Coconut Chocolate Pinwheel Cookies

Measure out Cake Flour, Baking Soda, and Salt and sift into a medium bowl.

Chewy Coconut Chocolate Pinwheel Cookies

Beat butter and sugar in a mixer with a flat paddle for at least 2 minutes on medium speed.

Chewy Coconut Chocolate Pinwheel Cookies

Scrape down the bowl and add the Egg and Vanilla and mix for another 2 minutes and scrape down the bowl once more.

Chewy Coconut Chocolate Pinwheel Cookies

With the mixer on slow, add the flour mixture a little at a time until the dough comes together and scrape down the bowl again.

With the mixer still on low add the Coconut until just combined.

Chewy Coconut Chocolate Pinwheel Cookies

Place dough on a piece of parchment paper that is larger than 10 x 15 inches. Place another same sized piece of parchment over the dough. Roll out and form a rectangle that is 10 x 15 inches in size.

Chewy Coconut Chocolate Pinwheel Cookies

Melt the reserved chocolate and butter in a double boiler until the mixture melts, but just barely. Remove from the heat and stir in the condensed milk until it comes together. The texture will change to a fudgy texture.

Chewy Coconut Chocolate Pinwheel Cookies

Then take the chocolate mixture and spread it onto the dough. Leave 1/2 to 1 inch border on each long side of the dough.

Chewy Coconut Chocolate Pinwheel Cookies

With the tip of a sharp knife, cut the chocolate covered dough longways down the middle. Put one piece of the dough aside. You may wish to put a cutting board under the dough before cutting.

Chewy Coconut Chocolate Pinwheel Cookies

Starting with the full chocolate edge of the dough start rolling towards you using the parchment to help roll the dough up into a long log. The bare edge is used to seal the cookie up.

Chewy Coconut Chocolate Pinwheel Cookies

Chill the dough log for 1/2 hour. Unwrap log and place on a cutting board. Cut the log into 1/2 to 1/3 inch thick pieces.

From this point I have laid the cut pieces out and frozen them to bake off at a later date. Stay tuned later for the baking.


Even more after the jump:
Some Extra Pictures:

Adding the vanilla & egg.
Chewy Coconut Chocolate Pinwheel Cookies – Adding the coconut.
Chewy Coconut Chocolate Pinwheel Cookies – The finished dough.
Chewy Coconut Chocolate Pinwheel Cookies – Rolling between parchment.
Chewy Coconut Chocolate Pinwheel Cookies – Getting the size right.
Chewy Coconut Chocolate Pinwheel Cookies – Starting the chocolate.
Chewy Coconut Chocolate Pinwheel Cookies – Melted chocolate.
Chewy Coconut Chocolate Pinwheel Cookies – Spreading the chocolate mixture.
Chewy Coconut Chocolate Pinwheel Cookies – Beginning the roll.

Linzer Cookie Recipe – Mixed

Linzer Cookie Recipe

This cookie recipe is in the mix as a special request. It is a cookie recipe that does take some time to prepare as it is a 2 part cookie and hazelnuts have to be prepared. I prepared the hazelnuts here.

There are recipes for Linzer Cookies everywhere. The challenge is choosing one and choosing a recipe that works. For a Christmas cookie being given as a gift, and as a recipe I have never attempted before, I decided to choose a recipe from Martha Stewart.

For this Holiday 2011 Cookie Recipe I used:

Linzer Cookies – Mixed and ready for the freezer

40 Ounces of Toasted Hazelnuts
4 Pounds of Butter
4 Cups of Sugar
8 Large Eggs
8 Teaspoons of Vanilla
8 1/2 Cups of Unbleached Flour
8 Teaspoons of Baking Powder
8 Teaspoons of Cinnamon
2 Teaspoons of Nutmeg
2 Teaspoons of Salt
– all ingredients should be room temperature

In the future I will also use:
1 1/2 Quarts of Raspberry Jam
1 Cup of Icing Sugar

Linzer Cookies – Ground Hazelnuts

The first step was to put the nuts through the food processor fitted with the steel blade and chop the hazelnuts until they are as fine as possible. If the hazelnuts nuts do not process as finely as you want them to be feel free to add some sugar from the rest of the recipe and continue run the food processor for a minute or so

Linzer Cookies – Sifted Dry Ingredients

In a large bowl sift flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Add the ground hazelnuts to this mixture, Mix with your hand to avoid any clumps of hazelnuts.

Linzer Cookies – Creaming the Butter & Sugar

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment cream the butter and sugar at medium speed for 2 to 3 minutes. Scrape down the bowl after a minute or so.

Linzer Cookies – Adding the Eggs

Add the egg and vanilla to the butter mixture and continue to mix at medium speed for another 2 to 3 minutes, scraping the bowl once during the mixing. Scrape down the bow once more.

Linzer Cookies – Final mixing

Slowly add the flour to the butter mixture while the mixer is on low until combined. You will need to scrape the bowl down once or twice.

Remove the mixture from the bowl and wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate or freeze.

Forming, baking, and filling to be completed at a later date. Subscribe to ensure you see the follow up.

More pictures after the jump:

Linzer Cookies – Dry and Wet Ingredients
Linzer Cookies – Mixing after adding flour & hazelnuts

How to Skin Hazelnuts

Skinning Hazelnuts – The finished Hazelnuts

This year I need to use about 7 pounds of hazelnuts for the Linzer Cookie and Lebkuchen recipes that I want to make. I usually try to avoid 2 hazelnut recipes in one year but there was a special request. So here I am talking about how to remove the skins from hazelnuts.

There are two popular ways to remove skins. The first way is to roast the hazelnuts in the oven for 10 – 15 minutes at 350 degrees then place the hot hazelnuts in a tea towel and vigorously rub the papery skins off. I have tried this. For small batches or recipes where you definitely need the whole hazelnut this is the best way to get the task done. In my experience 75% to 80% of the skins come off.

For 7 pounds the heat and rub process is a long tedious task that makes a huge mess.

The way I have removed the skins from hazelnuts is to briefly boil them in water with baking soda added to the pot. I don’t believe you save any time with this method but you do end up with 95% of the skins being removed.

To skin 2 pounds of hazelnuts you will need:

Skinning Hazelnuts

1 – 4 Quart sauce pan filled with 2 Quarts of Water
2 –  Pounds of Hazelnuts
3 – Tablespoons of Baking Soda
1 – Colander
1 – 3 to 4 Quart bowl
1 – Baking sheet

Skinning Hazelnuts – Boiling

Bring the water to a boil and then add the baking soda. Add the hazel nuts and bring to a boil for 3 minutes. Before the hazelnuts boil a brown scum will rise. Skim the residue off until it no longer rises.

Skinning Hazelnuts – Rinsing the Skins Off

Pour the boiled hazelnuts into a colander and rinse for 2 minutes under cool running water. Run your hands through the nuts while the water is running to start the skin removal process and cool the hazelnuts quickly.

Once the hazelnuts have cooled shake the water from the colander then place the colander on a plate on the counter.

Skinning Hazelnuts – Skins Removed

With cool running water gently pull the skin off of each nut and place the nut in a bowl. Continue until complete.

The whole process took me about 45 minutes.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

After the nuts have been skinned and the colander has been cleaned of wayward skins drain the skinned hazelnuts. Place the drained hazelnuts on the baking sheet and place in the oven. Start checking the hazelnuts for dryness about 30 minutes into the roasting time. Nuts should be dry and hollow sounding. This can take up to 45 minutes.

Cool the hazelnuts then place them in a freezer bag and freeze until needed.

While this method does take time about 95% of the skins are removed. The one downside is not every nut survives in the whole state. Great for my purposes this year.

Happy Skinning & Baking!

More below…..

Skinning Hazelnuts – Skimming Remnants
Skinning Hazelnuts – Cooled Hazelnuts
Skinning Hazelnuts – Skin Remains

Shopping List over 1/2 Done!

After choosing which cookie recipes to make each year, the challenge is finding the ingredients. Now flour, sugars, and butter is always easier to find than say oblates (for lebkuchen).

Some of the shopping problem is finding quality ingredients at a decent enough price. We all know this challenge.There are many choices for vanilla but few are really good. A few are too expensive. And only one really fits my “standard”. So finding the right price on the right vanilla is the challenge here.

I found flour was a strange one to buy a couple of years ago. In bag, from a brand I normally do not buy, there was a lot of grit. Thankfully I tend to sift all flour before using it. Lesson learned. After this experience I now sift flour without exception even though I don’t buy the other brand any more.

2011 Christmas Cookies – The Shopping Loot!

Other items like oblates and citrus peel can be the biggest challenge. Citrus peel at the grocery store tends to be mostly flavoured rutabega (a turnip!) – not in my Lekuchen!! Oblates (the thin paper-like backing on Lebkuchen) are nearly impossible to find locally. I did find some oblates in the city for the first time in years at a specialty store. The oblates I am using this year are from a grocery store purchase in Cologne Germany when I was in vacation earlier this year.

One item I am having trouble locating is coco butter. I only need about 75 grams or so (2.5 ounces) meaning the one pound bag is just way to much.

So now after a few trips to a few stores my shopping is over 1/2 done! The rest I will finish this coming weekend. Wish me luck with the coco butter.

Special Thanks to Starbucks for the great coffee and Bell for the internet connection this morning while my power was out.

2011 Holiday Cookie Baking Schedule

Due to at least one fortunate vacation break I am going  to mix some of the holiday cookie recipe doughs in advance and freeze them. This is so that I can accommodate another possible trip and be ready for our annual Christmas party on December 3rd.

When I return from the vacation(s) I can then thaw the recipe and continue with baking them off and complete everything by December 3!

October 5 Prepare Hazelnuts
October 6 Linzer cookie recipe  Dough
October 7 Chocolate Pinwheel cookie recipe dough
October 8 Chocolate Drizzle spice cookie recipe dough
October 12 Spiced Cardamom cookie recipe dough
October 13 Chewy Molasses Spice cookie recipe dough
October 14 Chocolate Peppermint cookie recipe dough
October 15 Lime Cornmeal cookie recipe dough

See something you want? Let me know.

2011 Christmas Cookies – First Shopping Trip

2011 Holiday Cookie / Baking Shopping List

Now that I have my holiday cookie / baking list complete I can work on the shopping list. So.. Here it is:
White Flour – 16 PoundsCake Flour – 5 Pounds

Whole Wheat Flour – 5 Pounds

Icing Sugar – 7 Pounds

Sugar – 15 Pounds

Molasses – 2 Cups

Light Brown Sugar – 2 Pounds

Dark Brown Sugar – 2 Pounds

Cornmeal – 10 Cups

Rolled Oats – 1 Pound

Baking Soda – 1 Container

Baking Powder – 1 Container

Dessicated Coconut – 4.5 Cups

Shredded Coconut – 1 Small Bag

Dark Corn Syrup – 1 Large Bottle

Light Corn Syrup – 3 Large Bottles

Condensed Milk – 1 Cup

Vanilla Extract – 8 Ounces

Cardamom – 1 Container

Peppermint Extract – 1 Bottle

Cinnamon – 1 Container

Orange Zest – 5 Large Oranges

Lemon Zest – 3 Lemons

Granny Smith Apples – 5

Zucchini (Medium) – 5

Limes – 2 Large Bags

Walnuts – 1 bag

Whole Almonds – 2 Large Bags

Raisins – 1 Bag

Chocolate (Milk) – 1.5 Pounds

White Chocolate – 6 Pounds

Maraschino Cherries – 2 Large Jars

Pecans – 2 Bags

Hazelnuts – 3 Bags

Milk – 2 Cups

Eggs (Large) – 6 Dozen

Heavy Cream – 2 Cups

Butter (Unsalted) – 14 Pounds

Candy Canes – 24

Candied Lemon Peel – 375 Grams

Candied Orange Peel – 275 Grams

Cocoa Butter – 75 Grams

Raspberry Jam – 1.5 L

150 70 MM Oblates

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