Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Barefoot Contessa's Shortbread Cookies

Last night I made shortbread cookies for the very first time...this was a very good decision!
These cookies are DREAMY!!!

I chose to make Ina Garten's (The Barefoot Contessa) recipe, because everything I've made of hers has always made me look like a better cook than I really am!  These cookies are so easy to make, and they are incredibly buttery, light and delicious!!!  My husband loves shortbread cookies, and he went wild over these!  Well, we both did!

These cookies are "deceptively light", as Mr. Cozy said, because of all the butter that's actually in them!  I've been wanting to make these for some time, so I thought what's a better time to try a new cookie recipe than at Christmas?!?

So after sugaring half of them and dipping the the other half batch of cookies in tempered semisweet Scharffen Berger chocolate we had to indulge in a couple while watching The Holiday in front of the fire last night.  Sigh. Perfect night with my hubby! 

Today we're enjoying just a couple more with milk and are now going to our neighbor's homes to deliver the rest!  What is better than receiving a surprise tin of homemade cookies around Christmas-time, and perhaps in return you get to spend a little time with people you don't often see!  After that, we will be having a wrapping "party".  Sounds more fun that way, right?!

The Barefoot Contessa's Shortbread Cookies

3/4 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
(I also used some sparkling sugar for sprinkling)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 to 7 ounces "very good" semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
(I used about 4 oz. because I wanted to leave half the batch plain.)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix together the butter and 1 cup of sugar until they are just combined.

Add the vanilla.  In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and salt.

(This sifter has seen better days...)

Add them to the butter-and-sugar mixture.

Mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together.

Dump onto a surface dusted with flour and shape into a flat disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.

Roll the dough 1/2-inch thick and cut with a 3 by 1-inch finger-shaped cutter.
 I used a 1 1/2 in. round biscuit cutter instead.

Place the cookies on an ungreased baking sheet and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the edges begin to brown. Allow to cool to room temperature.

When the cookies are cool, place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Put half of the chocolate in a glass bowl and microwave on high power for 30 seconds. Stir with a wooden spoon. Continue to heat and stir in 30-second increments until the chocolate is just melted. Add the remaining chocolate and allow it to sit at room temperature, stirring often, until it's completely smooth. Stir vigorously until the chocolate is smooth and slightly cooled; stirring makes it glossier.

(This method is tempering. It prevents the chocolate from burning and ensures a very smooth and glossy finish even after cooled.)

Drizzle 1/2 of each cookie with just enough chocolate to coat it.

 Eat up or Give Away--Either way, you'll get pleasure!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Amazing Chocolate Praline Bark & Christmas Decor

I'm pretty excited to share with you with a recipe I just made last night!  It's soooo good!  Buttery like toffee, sugary like pralines and rich with's delicious and so easy to make!

I've made versions that are very similar to this --thanks to Shareen!-- but I just kind of winged this recipe with what I had and it turned out scrumptious! 

I was trying to make something to give to my husband to take to work today for his fellow med students.  I wanted to use ingredients that I had on hand, because it was a very cold, rainy night last night and I really didn't want to get back out to the grocery. I was just fine in my snuggly home that I do not take for granted!

 I wanted to make something that I don't usually make, but something incredible! 
This chocolate praline bark really fit the bill!   We were both surprised at how addicting these little things are.

I must say though, I made all of them to only eat 2 tiny pieces!  It was very bittersweet to give all of these yummies away, although I do LOVE baking for other!  Especially at Christmas-time!  
It's a time for giving.

These little goodies would be perfect gifts to package up!  Simple and easy with everyday ingredients.  You can really add whatever candy you want on top, but whatever you do you must use the pecans!  We both agreed that they not only make the house smell unbelievably cozy while baking, but they really make this candy over the top!!
I hope this chocolate praline bark gives you a new idea to add to your baking-palooza  this holiday season!

(Enjoyed my fire this morning, and isn't this little gingerbread tea pot adorable!?  I love him:)

Christmas-Time Chocolate Praline Bark

 1 sleeve graham crackers

1/2 c. butter

1/4 c. brown sugar, packed well

1/8 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. vanilla

1 c. pecans, roughly chopped

1/2 c. white chocolate chips

2 squares chocolate "bark"/candy coating, chopped

1/2 c. semi sweet chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cover a sheet pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper.  Spray with cooking spray.

Lay out the graham crackers right next to each other on the sheet pan.

In a saucepan, melt butter and sugar together and bring it to a boil for 2 minutes.  Take off the heat; add vanilla.

Pour mixture over the graham crackers.  Spread with spoon if you need to reach all the corners.

Sprinkle pecans evenly all over the top and bake for 10-12 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt chopped chocolate bark carefully. (I did it in the microwave).  I melted in 30 second intervals, stirring in between to avoid burning.  When bark is melted, add chocolate chips.  Stir until melted and heat a few more second in microwave if you need to.  Please remember chocolate burn easily.
(I did add a tiny smidgen of corn syrup here to give the chocolate a gloss. Optional.)

When the praline bark comes out of the oven, wait a few minutes, then sprinkle white chocolate chips all over and drizzle with melted chocolate.

Refrigerate to harden up faster.  Will only take about 30 minutes.

Break your yummy candy into shards to resemble bark.  Store tightly and enjoy!


I wanted to share with you a bit more of my Christmas decor! I decorate my home to my taste...something that's cozy-classic with a bit of whimsy!

He's my very favorite little birdie!  Gotta love the hat!

I got these stockings last year at an antique&gift shop.  I thought they were cute!
The basket is for our Christmas cards we receive.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

I Simply Remember my Favorite Things....Coca Cola Birthday Cake and Christmas!

Happy Birthday to Mr. Cozy!!!
We celebrated with his parents by each enjoying a slice of  coke cake --as we call it--which is a long standing favorite birthday cake with some cinnamon hazelnut coffee!  It was a perfect night of catching up with family that doesn't get to visit too often.  It started by going out for a nice dinner and coming back to our place for a delish dessert by the cozy Christmas tree.  We both felt blessed!

Here are my (favorite!) Christmas dishes.  They are Johnson Bros. Old Britain Castles Pink Christmas Green Tree. 

I came across 4 salad/dessert  plates in T.J. Maxx with my Mom a couple years ago and grabbed them.  Never thinking I'd run across anymore.

October of that year Mr. Cozy and I went to Asheville, NC for our 5th Anniversary and I randomly stumbled upon 6 more of them in an adorable store in Hendersonville, NC!  I was thrilled!  So now I have 10 of those plates!  I usually use them for dessert. 

My parents gave me 10 mugs last year as part of my Christmas (thanks, Mom!) and now I'm set for dessert and coffee during the holiday season! 

The pattern is so pretty and delicate.  It's an vintage/antique pattern and that's probably why I like it so much.  I am very much into a red and green Christmas with lots of old fashioned and nostalgia mixed in.  To me, there is nothing cozier than that!  :)

Back to the yummies!
Have you ever had a Coca Cola cake before?  It's something that's apparently a Southern favorite, but I'd never heard of it before I celebrated a birthday with my husband.

This is one of his most requested birthday cakes that he grew up asking for.  It's usually made in a sheet pan with a delicious, drippy chocolate-y icing.  But I wanted to make it look just a little more special this year by making it into a layered cake.  I found this equally delicious, less drippy, recipe online that's just right!  Everyone agreed it was so good, even my mother-in-love, and it's her cake recipe!

This decadent cake is made with Coke but tastes like an incredibly rich chocolate cake. There's also lots of chocolate, melted marshmallows and buttermilk to make an incredibly moist cake.

Topped with toasted pecans and chocolate shavings for a look that's totally birthday worthy!

The icing recipe I used is one that's perfect for a layered cake.  It has a more firm consistency than a recipe I have for a sheet cake.  That one is poured over the cake while still warm!  (Mmmm, I'll have to share that soon!)
This icing recipe is heaven.  It's difficult not to taste test from the bowl too often!

I mean, doesn't it look like a whipped chocolate cloud?

Just in time for the festive parties and gatherings, this cake would be a show stopper on a chilly December night with a hot cup of coffee or a frosty glass of milk!

Whatever you do today, remember the true reason for this wonderful holiday, Christmas.  It's the birthday celebration of our Savior and my Lord, Jesus Christ!

Why not make a cake for His birthday?

Coca Cola Cake
2. c. all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 c. sugar
1/2 c. butter
1 1/2 c. small marshmallows
1/2 c. oil
1 c. Coke(any brand)
1/2 c. low fat buttermilk
2 eggs,set out for 30 minutes if possible
3 Tbsp. cocoa
1 tsp. vanilla extract


Sift dry ingredients together.

Melt butter, marshmallows, oil and Coke.

Bring to a boil and pour over dry ingredients.Add buttermilk, vanilla and eggs.  Beat well.

(Notice my new stand mixer hard at work for me!)

Pour batter into 2 well greased and floured (I like baking sprays) 8" pans.
Bake @ 325 degrees for about 40-45 minutes or until set and toothpick come out clean.

Coca Cola Frosting
(This is my modified version of what I found on Relish. com.  The exact proportions of chocolate and sugar may vary according to your own taste.) 

1 c. butter (2 stick)
1/4 c. Coke
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1 Tbsp. cocoa powder
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, melted
1 lb. powdered sugar, sifted
1 c. pecans, toasted


Cream butter in bowl using a mixer until smooth.

Add Coke and vanilla.  Mix on low speed until smooth.

Add cocoa powder and chocolate.  Mix 'till smooth and scrape down sides of bowl.

Beat in sugar 1/2 c. at a time on low.  Keeping mixer on low, beating until very smooth.

Icing is best made one day ahead.

The night before, I assembled the cake once cooled. I spread a very thin layer of icing (don't have a picture) on the cake to seal in the moisture and it helps icing the rest of the cake much easier next day. 
Refrigerate the cake overnight.

(In between the layers I put icing and some of the toasted pecans.)

Ice the cake smooth, then for a whipped looking effect, use the back of a spoon to makes swirls all over the cake!

Ganish the top with toasted pecans or stir in them in the icing.

Here's my old fashioned, traditional Christmas tree that we love!
(There will be more decor pictures to come:)

Merry Christmas!!!