Posts tagged ‘cookies’
summer, sand and sandwiches
30 September 2012
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.
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.
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 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
- in a medium-size bowl, whisk together the butter and granulated sugar until well combined.
- whisk in the vanilla and melted chocolate, then add the egg, and whisk until completely incorporated.
- in another medium-size bowl, mix together the flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking soda.
- using a spoon, stir the flour mixture into the chocolate mixture to form a dough.
- let sit at room temperature for an hour.
- transfer the dough to a 15-inch square of parchment paper.
- shape the dough into a rough log, about 10 inches long and 2 1/2 inches wide.
- roll the parchment paper around the log.
- with the log fully encased in parchment, roll until smooth, maintaining the 2 1/2-inch diameter.
- put in the frig for at least 2 hours or until firm; reroll every 15 minutes or so to maintain the round shape.
- preheat oven to 325 degrees.
- cover baking sheets with parchment paper.
- cut the dough log into 1/4-inch slices, and place them at least 1 inch apart on the baking sheets.
- 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.
- let the cookies cool to room temperature on the baking sheets.
- to make the filling, using a hand mixer, cream the butter on low speed for around 30 seconds, or until soft and smooth.
- add the confectioners’ sugar and beat until the mixture is completely smooth.
- add the nut butter and salt, and beat until smooth.
- scoop one rounded tablespoon of the filling onto the bottom of one cookie.
- 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.
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
rainy days and sundays
16 March 2010
what i’ve got they used to call the blues. uh, yeah. perhaps generated by a relentless Sunday afternoon downpour? just a thought. nothing better than discovering one of the best cookie recipes ever to warm the heart and to make the entire house smell like heaven. amen.
Chocolate – Chunk Oatmeal Cookies with Pecans and Dried Cherries
a recipe from Cook’s Illustrated, with a tweak or two
makes 16 oversize chewy, buttery, decadent cookies
12 tablespoons organic butter, softened but still cool (i used salted butter and cut the salt in the original recipe in half)
1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar, packed
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups unbleached organic white flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cup organic old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup pecans, chopped (recipe says to toast, but not my personal preference)
1 cup dried tart cherries
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate (like Scharffen Berger), chopped into uneven chunks (about 3/4 cup)
- heat oven to 350F.
- line 2 large (18 by 12-inch) baking sheets with parchment paper.
- in a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; set aside.
- in another medium bowl, combine the oats, pecans, cherries and chocolate chunks; set aside.
- in a stand mixer with a flat beater attachment, beat butter and sugar at medium speed until there are no sugar lumps.
- scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add the egg and vanilla.
- beat on medium-low speed until fully incorporated.
- with the mixer on low, add the flour mixture until just combined.
- with the mixer still running on low, gradually add the oat mixture until just incorporated.
- with a rubber spatula, give the dough one final stir to ensure there are no flour pockets and ingredients are evenly distributed.
- divide the dough evenly into 16 portions, each about 1/4 cup.
- roll the dough between your palms into balls about 2 inches in diameter.
- stagger 8 balls on each baking sheet, spacing them about 2 1/2 inches apart.
- using your hands, gently press each dough ball until it’s 1-inch thick.
- bake for 12 minutes (in my oven, 10 minutes), then rotate the baking sheet and continue to bake until the cookies are medium brown and the edges have begun to set, but the centers are still soft (the cookies will seem underdone and will appear raw, wet and shiny in cracks), about another 8 to 10 minutes (in my oven, another 5 minutes).
- cool cookies on baking sheets on a wire rack for 5 minutes.
- using a wide metal spatula, transfer cookies to wire rack, and cool to room temperature.
down with a giant glass of organic whole milk. glorious!
already deeply saddened that cherry season is now but a distant memory, i turned on Food Network over the weekend to catch an episode of Iron Chef America. as is the tradition, the chairman melodramatically waved his hand to reveal the secret ingredient: mounds of luscious, fresh cherries. Bings. Rainiers. Montmorencys. sheer torture. i could defrost some of the pie filling i put up this summer. no, exercise some self discipline; you’re saving that for the holidays. hmmmm. i could open the five-pound bag of tart, dried Montmorency cherries that just arrived from Cherry Republic. brilliant! not really, but it was a sound alternative to preserving the remaining quantity of precious cherry pie filling. and i knew immediately what i wanted to bake: rugelach.
rugelach—or little twists in Yiddish—are rolled, crescent-shaped cookies filled with dried fruit (like raisins or currents or apricots), chocolate, preserves or a combination thereof. when i was still quite small, my dad and i would go on a weekly run to our local Jewish bakery, where Bill, one of dad’s World War II Army buddies, served as the head baker. from my tiny vantage point, the bakery’s endlessly long, shiny silver and glass cases filled with pastries and bagels intrigued and overwhelmed. Bill made it simple by handing me a rugelach. sticky and sweet, the cookie made an indelible impression. but it wasn’t until a few years ago that they became a standard in my holiday cookie-baking repertoire.
i love the process of making rugelach: aside from the fun of playing with dough, when i brush the preserves on it, i feel like an artist mixing paint on an easel. yeah, i should probably stick to writing. the recipe below is a little twist on Martha’s: the plump, moist, puckery dried cherries serve as the perfect counterpoint to the sweeter Hero black cherry preserves i slather on the rugelach dough.
consume this tangy, sweet treat with a cup of tea or coffee or a big glass of milk. i can never eat just one. or two. i used up all my self discipline on saving the pie filling.
a variation based on a recipe from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook
i encourage you to look at the original recipe for filling variations; i’m sure you can come up with some cool ideas of your own. enjoy!
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large egg yolks
2 1/3 cups organic unbleached flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 cup walnuts (pecans work, too)
pinch of ground cinnamon
pinch of salt
1 cup Hero black cherry preserves, melted (i just leave it out at room temp)
2 cups tart, dried cherries
1 egg, lightly beaten
fine sanding sugar or granulated sugar for sprinkling
- in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and cream cheese on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes; scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- add the sugar and salt; beat until combined and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
- add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating to combine after each.
- with the mixer on low speed, add the flour to combine.
- mix in vanilla.
- turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface.
- divide dough into three equal pieces, and shape each into flattened disks.
- wrap the disks in plastic, and refrigerate for at least an hour or overnight.
- preheat the oven to 325F.
- line a jelly roll pan with parchment paper and set aside.
- for the filling: in a food processor (i use the small, three-cup KitchenAid chopper), pulse together the walnuts, sugar, cinnamon and salt until finely ground; set aside.
- on a lightly floured work surface (i use a roll pat mat), roll out one disk of dough into a 12 x 8-inch rectangle (long side facing you), about 1/4-inch thick.
- brush the top of the dough evenly with the preserves.
- sprinkle 1/3 of the walnut mixture onto the layer of preserves; use the back of a spoon to press the walnuts into the dough.
- sprinkle on 1/3 of the dried cherries; press the cherries gently into the dough.
- tightly roll the dough into a log.
- place seam-side down on pan, pinching the ends of each side of the log together. tuck ends under log.
- repeat the process for the remaining two dough disks. (place the logs 2 inches apart on the pan.)
- chill the pan with the logs in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
- with a long, sharp knife, at 1-inch intervals, make 3/4-inch deep cuts crosswise in the dough. make sure not to cut all the way through the log.
- lightly beat the remaining egg, and brush over the tops of the rugelach; sprinkle with sanding sugar.
- bake each batch until lightly golden brown, about 35 – 40 minutes (in my oven this takes only about 30 minutes; watch over carefully, so the rugelach doesn’t overcook).
- place the pan on a wire rack, and cool for 20 – 30 minutes in the pan.
- transfer the logs one at a time to a cutting board, and slice all the way through.
- return cookies to rack to finish cooling.
Martha’s recipe states rugelach can be kept in an airtight container for up to four days. i’ve found that they keep really well for a week. and they are perfect gift to ship for the holidays.
cookies, tea and sympathy
21 September 2009
last Saturday night can be summed up simply: dreary. rainy. cold. Winnie, observing the weather with disdain, had gone to bed early—flipped on her back, with legs protruding in the air. i could hear Elroy snoring deeply and rhythmically. to combat a total case of where-the-heck-did-summer-go blues, i decided to switch the remote to Ghost, crank up the KitchenAid stand mixer and whip up a batch of one of my favorite foul (um, i mean fall)-weather treats: chewy ginger cookies.
as soon as the first batch’s spicy scent began to permeate the family room, i started to feel a whole lot better. i made a cup of tea. put a few cookies on a plate. and contentedly settled in to watch one of my favorite modern-day classics. the love inside, you take it with you. grateful that you also leave some of it behind.
Chewy Ginger Cookies
from Country Inn and Bed and Breakfast Cookbook
makes 4-dozen cookies
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups butter
1/2 cup molasses
4 1/2 to 5 cups unbleached organic flour
3 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ginger
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
turbinado sugar for rolling
- preheat oven to 350F.
- in a mixer with paddle attachment, cream together sugar, butter, eggs and molasses.
- in a separate bowl, whisk together all dry ingredients.
- add dry ingredients to creamed mixture, until a dough forms.
- create small, walnut-size dough balls, and roll each in sugar.
- place about 2 inches apart on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper.
- bake for 8 – 10 minutes, or until crinkled and slightly brown.
these easy-to-make cookies retain their spicy, sugary, buttery essence in an air-tight container—ideal to send to faraway family members and friends. if they’re really, really nice to you.
5 September 2009
inspiration comes in many forms. and i welcome whatever form it takes. through my posts, you may have already learned how much i admire my backyard bees (front yard, too, guys…no offense intended). as fall begins to crowd out summer, the lavender menu becomes sparse. but the bees continue to savor every bit of every lavender head remaining in bloom. it is to their tenacity and commitment i bake and dedicate this recipe.
and so it isn’t missed by including as an endnote, i want to thank KPLU (Seattle’s NPR News and All That Jazz) host and food-lover Dick Stein for giving me the jolt of inspiration i needed to actually begin this blog. after ruminating about it for many months, a segment of Food for Thought, hosted by Dick and Seattle Times food critic Nancy Leson, put me over the edge (um, in a good way). the topic of that week’s broadcast? donuts (see the scout’s truth north very first blog post). Dick was also kind enough to point me to the totally hip recording of The Ink Spots’ Donuts, played during the segment. caution: like donuts themselves, the recording can be addicting.
Bee-Inspired Lemon-Lavender Shortbread
a variation based on a recipe from Everyday FOOD
reported to make 36 cookies; in my sometimes imperfect kitchen, it makes more like 24
1 cup (2 sticks) butter (i don’t use unsalted as noted in the original recipe), at room temperature
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups unbleached organic flour
1 1/2 tablespoons culinary lavender
grated zest of 2 lemons
yellow sanding sugar (optional)
- beat butter, sugar, vanilla and salt with an electric mixer until smooth. on low speed, add flour, mixing just until a dough forms.
- mix in lavender and lemon zest.
- divide dough in half; place each half on a piece of parchment paper. with floured hands, gently roll each into a 1 1/2-inch-diameter log. if you are so moved, sprinkle sanding sugar on logs, roll to press in.
- wrap the logs tightly in the parchment and stick in the fridge until firm (60 – 90 minutes).
- preheat oven to 350F.
- with a serrated knife, slice dough into 3/8-inch-thick pieces. if dough begins to crumble, stop immediately and let stand at room temp for 5 to 10 minutes.
- place slices on cookie sheets, about 1 inch apart (i put parchment paper on my sheets).
- bake about 15 minutes, until the cookies are very lightly golden around the edges.
- let sit on cookie sheets for a minute or two, then completely cool on wire rack.
i actually think the serrated knife makes these cookies look a little ratty around the bottom edge; next time i might try an alternative. the shortbread keeps wonderfully in an air-tight container for a week or perhaps even longer. but i wouldn’t know; they’re snarfed up too quickly. not my best photography, but the shortbread is lovely—light and buttery.