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summer, sand and sandwiches

30 September 2012

dj

as i sit down to write this post, my mind rushes back to those first, early fall days of school. sitting at my desk, hands folded and donning a new dress (what a little lady) expertly chosen by my mother, i’d hang on every word uttered by my adored teachers. then, at their direction—and this was my favorite part—i’d choose a shiny new, razor-sharp #2 pencil and begin to craft my annual essay about  how i spent my summer vacation.

had i been assigned the same teacher two years in a row, she likely would have been lulled into a coma by the redundancy of my essays: 50 percent dedicated to the blast i had at girl scout camp and the remaining 50 percent to the wicked-good times i had with my family at the beach. i was never bored by either.

an older me, sis at the Cape

my parents, younger sister and i spent several summers down the Cape (translation: at Cape Cod, Massachusetts): wonderful, lazy weeks of swimming, combing the beach for sea shells and soaking up sunshine—without the oppression of inland humidity. but some of favorite beach days were spent at Crane’s Beach, on Massachusett’s north shore.

we’d jump out of bed early on a weekend morning and throw on our swimsuits. my dad would back the Impala out of the garage and pack the cooler with ice. then, mom would yell, what kind of sandwiches do you want, peanut butter and jelly? GAG. i think Cheryl wants peanut butter. can i please have bologna? in my mind, i said a bologna prayer. anything to avoid peanut butter.

with sandwiches, chips, sodas and Oreos snuggled inside the cooler, we headed to Crane’s. upon arrival, mom and dad scouted out an ideal location, spread out beach towels and hunkered down with books. my sister took her pail and shovel and began the dig to China. i’d walk down to the shore and up through the garnet sand to the dunes; we’d all take dips in the frigid water to cool down.

in a few hours, mom inevitably declared time for lunch! as inevitably, Cheryl’s peanut butter sandwich attracted sand, and she’d cry. i’d happily sit on my towel, munching on my bologna. in the middle of the afternoon, we’d haul ourselves back to the Impala and make the drive back to suburbia. satisfied with yet another beautiful New England day at the beach.

this summer’s essay: i spent a lot of time at the farmers’ markets, enjoying the amazing weather and cooking up dishes with fresh produce. i made a few pies and grilled a fair amount of pizzas. but didn’t begin baking in earnest until this month. ever on a quest to find a replacement for the dreaded peanut butter, i stumbled upon Artisana nut butters. their team was kind enough to send me some samples, and i decided to test out the pecan butter with a dense, dark chocolate sandwich cookie recipe, reminiscent of our best days at the north shore.

little sis, this one’s for you. infinitely better than what was on your white bread. and now i’ll have some nut butter to put on mine!

Homemade Chocolate Sandwich Cookies
a recipe from the flour cookbook with a slight variation
makes 16 – 18 good-size cookies
plan in advance, as the dough sits in two stages for a total time of at least 3 hours before baking.

INGREDIENTS

for dough
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate, melted and cooled slightly (recipe calls for chips; i used 4 2-ounce Schaffenberger semi-sweet squares)
1 egg
1 1/2 cups organic unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

for nut-butter filling
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup smooth nut butter (my pecan butter wasn’t completely smooth, but worked well and received kudos from those who snarfed them down and wanted more)
pinch of kosher salt

DIRECTIONS

  1. in a medium-size bowl, whisk together the butter and granulated sugar until well combined.
  2. whisk in the vanilla and melted chocolate, then add the egg, and whisk until completely incorporated.
  3. in another medium-size bowl, mix together the flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking soda.
  4. using a spoon, stir the flour mixture into the chocolate mixture to form a dough.
  5. let sit at room temperature for an hour.
  6. transfer the dough to a 15-inch square of parchment paper.
  7. shape the dough into a rough log, about 10 inches long and 2 1/2 inches wide.
  8. roll the parchment paper around the log.
  9. with the log fully encased in parchment, roll until smooth, maintaining the 2 1/2-inch diameter.
  10. put in the frig for at least 2 hours or until firm; reroll every 15 minutes or so to maintain the round shape.
  11. preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  12. cover baking sheets with parchment paper.
  13. cut the dough log into 1/4-inch slices, and place them at least 1 inch apart on the baking sheets.
  14. bake for around 16 – 20 minutes, or until the cookies are firm to the touch. they’re dark, so you won’t be able to see if they’re done by just looking.
  15. let the cookies cool to room temperature on the baking sheets.
  16. to make the filling, using a hand mixer, cream the butter on low speed for around 30 seconds, or until soft and smooth.
  17. add the confectioners’ sugar and beat until the mixture is completely smooth.
  18. add the nut butter and salt, and beat until smooth.
  19. scoop one rounded tablespoon of the filling onto the bottom of one cookie.
  20. top with a second cookie, bottom-side down, then press the cookies together to spread the filling toward the edges.

i sent some of these babies with Tootie to her monthly staff meeting. rumored to be a huge hit (hope you enjoy the recipe, gals!). much like Oreos, a perfect accompaniment to a tall glass of whole organic milk. i bet they’re even better eaten at the beach.

ENDNOTE

alternatively, you can make a vanilla cream filling with the following:

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon milk
pinch of kosher salt

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