Monday, April 25, 2011

April Showers

Aren’t they supposed to bring May flowers? Maybe so, but in my case, that April baby shower I hosted recently brought the need to get my back yard and patio cleaned up pronto. After a long winter and a series of serious April showers, this resulted in a few day’s work, but it was oh, so worth it!

The event was held on a warm and lovely Saturday afternoon. It was my hope that guests would drift outside in the backyard and indeed they did. When I sat down to plan the menu, I decided it should be simple, yet reflective of true Southern hospitality. Here is the end result:

Pimiento Cheese
Celery Sticks, Little Toasts

Deviled Eggs
Capers, Homemade Mayonnaise

Tea Sandwiches
Smoked Salmon, Herbed Butter
Cucumber, Goat Cheese, Fresh Dill

Southern Cheese Straws

“Reverse” Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Carla’s Lemon Bars

Honey-Pecan Bars

It ended up being perfect fare for a lovely afternoon. Despite a warning from a friend and co-host that guests don’t eat much at showers, this was not the case. They mingled … they ate … they talked … they ate … they stayed … they ate. In my mind, that’s what Southern hospitality is all about!

Alrighty then. Which of these recipes should I post first? You already know about the Honey-Pecan Bars (always a hit), so I think I’ll start with the cookies. Eat dessert first, right?

"REVERSE" CHOCOLATE CHUNK COOKIES" (adapted from Ina Garten)

1/2 lb. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 eggs, room temperature (I used extra-large)
2/3 cup cocoa powder (I used Valhrona)
2 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 11-oz. bags white chocolate chunks (available at Whole Paycheck Foods)

Place butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and cream well until light and fluffy, scraping down bowl several times.  Add the vanilla and beat well, then beat in eggs, one at a time.  Scrape down bowl then add cocoa and mix briefly to blend.

Sift flour, baking soda and salt into a bowl.  Add to the mixer bowl and beat on low until just blended.

Using a spatula, fold in white chocolate chunks. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and place in refrigerator to chill, at least 2 hours.

When dough is chilled, use an ice cream scoop to roll dough into small balls.  Place balls on a parchment-lined baking sheet, then place in freezer. 

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350-degrees.  Line a baking sheet (or sheets, depending upon how many cookies you want to bake) with parchment paper or a Silpat (silicone baking sheet).  Place frozen balls on pan, spacing 2 inches apart.  Bake for 15 minutes (cookies will not appear to be totally baked).  Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes in pan, then remove to a rack to cool completely.

*  As you already know, if you wrap the unbaked "balls" well, they will keep in the freezer for up to six months and you can bake them off whenever needed.  Freezer to oven!  This is extraordinarily helpful when unexpected guests show up or you have to provide something sweet on a moment's notice.

*  I am not necessarily a fan of white chocolate, but I happen to like it in this recipe.  It needs to be in chunks, though.  If you can't find them in the store, you can always chop up a couple of white chocolate bars.

*  I used a 1-oz. (1 3/4-inch) scoop which yielded 10 dozen cookies.  Needless to say, the overflow are resting comfortably in my freezer, awaiting the arrival of my teenaged nephews tomorrow. 

More recipes to follow ... if my nephews don't wear me out, that is.  The next couple of days will be filled with CNN Tours, a turn at the Mario Andretti race car facility and teaching them to drive a stick.  I just hope I can avoid the Coke Museum!

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