Ninjabread men

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CHUCK NORRIS! These ninjas are cut out for action!

My friend M (actually I have two friends named M, but this one is the boy) gave me a very cool gift last year and I have been waiting for December to use it. It’s a set of 3 ninja cookie cutters. M has a penchant for gifting me with ninja-related presents and the cookie cutters were just SO AWESOME.

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Ingredients:

  •  ⅔ C shortening
  • ½ C brown sugar, packed
  • 2 TSP ginger, ground
  • 1 TSP cinnamon
  • ¼ TSP cloves, ground
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 egg
  • ¾ C molasses
  • 3 C flour
  • 1 TSP baking soda
  • ½ TSP baking powder

Instructions:

1. Moving like the wind, pre-heat your oven to 190°C / 375°F.

2. Quietly cream together the shortening, sugar, spices, and salt.

3. Beat in egg, to death. Add molasses and blend into the night.

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4. Sift together flour, baking soda, and baking powder. Add dry mixture to the wet with deadly accuracy. Cream together as if your life depends on it.

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5. Roll the dough to ⅛ thickness, as even and smooth as the deadliest katana. Your hands move like a whisper, cutting the dark shapes into the dough.

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6. Release the ninjas. Transfer them to a baking sheet that has been greased with lightning or lined with parchment paper.

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7. Bake 6-7 min. Cool on rack. (Here is Boyfriend taking them out of the oven for me.)

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Oh noes! The ninjas are burnt. Let’s try another round.

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8. Frost with traditional ninja accessories. (I used my basic butter cream and divided the bowl of frosting in thirds. One part I left plain, and the other two I added highly concentrated no-taste black and no-taste red pigment. To achieve a darker black, I added cocoa to that bowl because it’s a lot easier to get black frosting if you start with chocolate frosting.)

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I didn’t use the red dye yet, I’m going to let it sit overnight to darken. Stay tuned for more ninjas later this weekend.

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Go ninja go!

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Verdict:

Making these was a lot of fun. The first few ninjabread that I rolled did not turn out so well. As I was transferring them to the cookie sheet, I squished them. They ended up misshapen and burnt.

For the second batch I got Boyfriend Unit to hold a piece of parchment paper tightly against the cookie pan, and I  plopped the dough right on to that, and rolled it out, cut the shapes, and then just peeled the excess away so the ninjas did not have to be moved. It worked much better.

The ninjas tasted pretty nice. I’ve never made gingerbreads before, they are tricky to work with. I have new respect for my sister J’s skills.

Playlist: Placebo – Running Up That Hill

Nanny’s date squares

My nanny was a fabulous cook. I remember most of her cooking quite fondly, especially her date squares. When I was in elementary school, each afternoon I would walk to Nanny’s house, and she would be waiting with lunch ready for me. We would chat, and watch Batman and Fun House, and then she would waive me off, and sing, “Off you go, into the wild blue yonder!” as I walked back up the hill to school. I haven’t eaten a date square since she died.

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Mom sent me this recipe (basically the Purity recipe, with extra dates). I opened the carton of dates today, and the smell hit me. I picked up my knife and put it down. I put the dates back in the carton. Then I dumped them out again. For a moment it felt like I was back in Nanny’s kitchen. But I opened my eyes, and there was just me, and a pile of dates, waiting to be chopped. Would these be close to my memory of her date squares?

Time required: 3 hr (2 hr is cooling time)

Yields: 48 squares

Total cost if you have none of the ingredients: $30

Cost per square: 62 cents

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Kitchen implements I used:

  • 8″ square pan
  • tin foil
  • pastry blender

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb pitted dates, halved
  • 1 TBSP brown sugar
  • ½ C water
  • 1 C flour
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ⅛ tsp salt
  • 1 C butter, softened
  • 1 C lightly-packed brown sugar
  • 2 C rolled oats

Instructions:

1. Pre-heat oven to 162°C / 325°F. Line pan with foil and grease.

2. In a sauce pan combine: dates, sugar, and water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 min or until it reaches the mushy consistency of jam. Set aside to cool.

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I worried that I scorched the dates, and put more water in them and simmered for another 5 minutes.

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3. In a large bowl combine: flour, baking soda, and salt.

4. Cut in butter.

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5. Cut in brown sugar and oats. My pastry blender got gunked up by the oats so I used my hands for this part.

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6. Press half of the mixture into greased pan. Couldn’t take a picture of this as both hands were covered in food by this point.

7. Cover evenly with date filling. I used a spoon to smooth it down.

8. Cover with remaining topping mixture. It doesn’t really crumble, but you can pinch it apart and drop it randomly, it’s not supposed to be completely covered so it doesn’t matter if there are gaps.

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9. Bake 35-40 min until light golden brown.

10. Cool completely before cutting.

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Hmm. Looks right. Smells right.

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Verdict: And tastes right. These were good; not as good as Nanny’s, but pretty good. I was afraid they would suck, and I would be sad. But they were good, and I was still a bit sad. But a little happy too.

Date squares are gloriously sticky, juicy, sweet, and a little bit crunchy. They go great with a cup of tea, which I am enjoying right now.

Playlist: Stateless – Bloodstream

Christmas chocolates ver 2.0

 

 

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and up in the city,
We made lots of chocolate, but not in a jiffy
The boxes were packed and sent on the train,
In hopes that my peeps would enjoy them again.

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What is better than chocolate? If you guessed “not very much” you would be right, and if you guessed “homemade chocolates” you’re be righter. More right? Whatever.

I have just finished eating a chocolate, which we made last week as Christmas gifts for family and friends. Last year we had lots of pretty boxes. I sort of forgot to order more boxes and we ran out this time. Luckily Boyfriend channeled MacGyver and made me some DIY boxes.

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I was really excited to make chocolates again this year because we got all the extra chocolate moulds I wanted, and had two of each shape, which makes it a lot easier to do.  Here is the map.

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Tried two new flavours this year: milk chocolate and toasted almond, and semi-sweet chocolate caramel chews. Said bye-bye to the dulche de leche and chocolate ganache.

I am so over the idea of Toblerone ganache. It never works out. “Toblerone goo” would be more apt. Never again! I’m just melting solid Toblerone bars from now on.

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I really love making chocolates. Just looking at them fills me with joy. I have a few more boxes to give to some friends. 😉

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I also made my peppermint bark. Le yum.

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What type of chocolate is your favourite?