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Am still reading The Rent Collector by Camron Wright. Oh my. This book has so many layers: (1) the young, impoverished couple and their infant son who live, literally, in a dump in Cambodia and about the precarious structure, if you can even call it that, that comprises their “house” in the midst and perched on top of trash; (2) the woman who collects the rent (hence the title and yes, people have to PAY to live there); (3) the young son’s chronic illness; (4) how they make a living out of collecting and selling trash; and (4) the life saving grace and wisdom imparted by characters in the book as the young mother begins to learn to read. If you decide to read this book, please don’t stop at about page 15-20, thinking you just don’t know if you want to read about this. Please continue. It’s so worth it. Have a highlighter pen in your hand because you’ll find so many quotes you will want to remember. Believe it or not, there is also quite a bit in this about literature.

Recently finished C.J. Box’s book The Disappeared (A Joe Pickett Novel). I just love Box’s novels. They take place in present day semi-wild west, and chronicle the fish and game warden, Joe Pickett, as he unravels another crime in his territory. A woman has disappeared, and the governor has asked him to figure it out. He does, but the tale meanders through multiple layers of intriguing story. His books are riveting. Men and women enjoy his books – so if you have a fellow in your life or family that would enjoy an intriguing book (this is not espionage) then gift him one of Box’s books.

Also finished Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng. About a dysfunctional family, through and through. I picked this up from amazon from someone who read the book, named “McReader,” and she says: “Set in the 70s, the story follows a Chinese American blended family in Ohio. When Lydia [the daughter] is found floating in the lake, her family is forced to analyze what put her there. Was it pressure from her family to succeed? Was it pressure to fit in? Was it a crime of passion or convenience? I was spellbound reading the last half of this book. I loved each flawed family member, especially Hannah,. While the story went where I hoped it would go, I was not disappointed at all with the progression. It was also quite insightful on the prejudices that society had about Chinese Americans still during that timeframe and how careful parents have to be to put their dreams onto their children.” Such a good book and definitely worth reading. Would be a good book club read. You’ll be hearing more from this author. Am currently reading her next novel, Little Fires Everywhere.

The Boston Girl: A Novel by Anita Diamant. A very, very intriguing book. The book is written from the voice of a Jewish grandmother as she tells her granddaughter the saga of her life starting about 1910, who struggles with her own individuality, with her domineering mother who never says a kind word to her. It’s certainly a coming-of-age story as she grows up, finds a job, makes friends, joins a literary girls club, moves out, but still suffers under her mother’s thumb and tongue. She becomes a reporter on a local newspaper, which opens her eyes to more of the world than she ever knew. She finally meets the right man (of course!) and she shares the stories about her life, and her friends and family members as she grows up, giving some sage advice along the way. Part of the time she’s talking to herself – to her young self  (really wanting to tell young Addie to keep on, forgive herself for her perceived transgressions, to live life, and experience the world).

One of the best books I’ve read in a long time – Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. Rivers is a prodigious writer of Christian fiction, and I’d never read anything by her until now. As I write this, I’ve already read this, another one (below) and just purchased the Kindle trilogy called Mark of the Lion (Vol 1-3) that I haven’t yet started. (Two of my friends have said the trilogy is her best.) Redeeming Love details the fictional story of a godly man, Michael Hosea, forging his way in the era of the Gold Rush. He’s “driven” to rescue a beautiful prostitute who lives and works her trade in a nearby town. The entire book is about the story, the rescue, and it parallels a bit of scripture about Hosea who rescues a prostitute names Gomer. You get into the heads of both Hosea and the prostitute, named Angel. We read this for one of my book groups. A great read.

As soon as I finished the above book I promptly visited my church library and found a whole shelf of Rivers’ books, and grabbed one called The Atonement Child. This book takes place in the 1980s or 90s, about a young college student who is raped. She was engaged to be married, was a stellar student. The book chronicles what happens to her when she discovers she is pregnant from the rape. Every possible thing goes wrong in her life. I don’t want to spoil the story if you’re interested in reading it, but I couldn’t put it down. I ended up spending a good part of a day plowing through it. You hear her inner voice (I’m guessing this is a common thread in Rivers’ books) from a Christian perspective. Lots of meaty issues to discuss in a book club if your group would be interested and willing to talk about rape, abortion, adoption and the thorny issues surrounding all of those things, but with a Christian bent, for sure.

The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen. It’s kind of amazing how many and varied plot lines can be created from events of WWII. This is another one, about a current day woman who finds papers in the attic, after her father’s death, with references to “the child.” She never knew her father could have had another child – could she have a step-sibling somewhere? Her father she knew, had been shot down over Italy, but he never talked much about it. But of course, she must go to Italy to find out about this “child.” The book flips back and forth from this daughter on the search, to her father during the war, all of it taking place in a very small town in Tuscany. It’s about the varied people she meets who want her to go away and not dredge up anything about the war years (are they hiding something, you question), about how much she loves the landscape, and some of the people. And about the intense love affair between the injured pilot and a caring woman of the village. Very charming story. I could almost smell the flowers, taste the olives, hear the bees flitting, and loved the prose about the simple meals that were described. I really enjoyed the book. Perhaps not enough meat for a book club read, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy reading it nonetheless.

Leaving Blythe River: A Novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde. Almost a page turner. When one uses the phrase “coming of age,” it usually means (I think) love and loss/boyfriend/girlfriend, and in this case it’s somewhat that way. When Ethan, a 17-year old boy and his mother come home unexpectedly to find dad and his young secretary in a compromising position, all hell breaks loose. Separation happens instantly and just as his father moves out, his mother has to go take care of her aging mother. Ethan’s too young to be left in the NYC apartment alone, so Mom sends son to the father who is escaping from the world in Wyoming, living in a primitive A-frame house, and continuing his daily 20+ mile running journeys. Ethan and his father are barely speaking. They live in the middle of nowhere. Ethan feels betrayed by his father in every possible way, and somewhat by his mother for forcing him to live with his father for a temporary period. Then his father doesn’t return one day from his run. The authorities do a cursory search, but they are under the impression the dad wants to “get lost” on purpose. Ethan, although he thinks he doesn’t care, really does. What happens next is best left to you reading this book. Very interesting people (kind of loners) enter the picture and off they go to search. So worth reading.

The Girl With No Name by Diney Costelhoe. What a good book. Perhaps you’ve read before about the huge numbers of German refugee children who were sent to England before Hitler closed down any exits. This is a novel about one particular young girl, who is devastated when her mother puts her on one of the boats. She ends up in London, in an orphanage kind of place, and is eventually placed with a childless couple. She speaks no English. They speak no German, but they manage soon enough. Lisa (who eventually becomes Charlotte) is so homesick. She’s bullied at school, because most people and children don’t want any Germans there. A boy steps up to protect her, and as she grows up, she’s attracted to him. She shouldn’t be – he’s also German and from her own home town. He’s not a good match for her. You live with her through the blitz during all those war years and during one attack, she’s badly injured and loses her memory (and no ID on her). Through a series of mishaps she ends up in a village far from London, with a spinster woman who does eventually come to love her very much – they name her Charlotte and Charlotte she becomes. She goes to school there, still longing, though, for her mother and brother and her London foster family too. Then when she’s 16 she returns to London to help at the orphanage where she was originally placed and tries to find her foster parents. The story goes on from there, with the boy/man who “wants” her, the bad boy, and a good boy/man she befriends in the village in the country. Eventually she regains her memory. SUCH a good read.

The Girl with Seven Names by Hyanseo Lee. If you, like me, know little about North Korea and how it came to be what it is today, you’ve got to read this book. It’s a memoir written by a young woman who escaped from North Korea about 9 years ago. Her journey – and I mean JOURNEY – is harrowing, frightening, amazing, heart-rendering all at the same time. She chronicles the lives of the Kims (Kim Il-Sung, Kim Jong-Il to current Kim Jong Un), shares the strict propaganda that surrounds every North Korean citizen, the poverty and hunger, as well as the underground black market for food and goods. It took her awhile to get from North Korea, to China and eventually to South Korea, where she currently lives. She’s well educated and speaks English quite well. She was invited to be a speaker at a TED talk – you know about those, right? TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is a media organization which posts talks online for free distribution, under the slogan “ideas worth spreading.” I listen to them as  podcasts now and then. Always very educational, if sometimes over my head when it gets very technical. She works diligently for human rights now, doing her best to help other North Koreans escape. You owe it to yourself to read this book.

Also just finished reading The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian. Another WOW book. I’ve always liked the author – many years ago I read his book, Midwives and really liked it. Don’t confuse this book with the one I recently read, The Last Midwife: A Novel by Sandra Dallas that I reviewed recently. I think we read it in one of my book groups. He’s a brilliant writer, and this one has a lot of characters and twists. It’s a novel, but based on a lot of truth regarding the Armenian genocide. Most of the book takes place in Aleppo, Syria with some good Samaritan folk trying to help rescue people (mostly children) following the forced long marches the Turks made prodding the Turkish Armenians to exit their country. But it also jumps to near present day as a family member is trying to piece together obscure parts of her grandparents’ former lives there. She uncovers some hidden truths (many survivors of the genocide never-ever-ever wanted to talk about it) and a bit more about her Armenian heritage. A riveting book – I could hardly put it down. Lots to discuss for a book club read. I simply must read more of Bohjalian’s books (he’s written many).

The Good Widow: A Novel by Lisa Steinke. All I can say is “wow.” In a general sense, this book is based on the premise of The Pilot’s Wife. But this one has some totally different twists and turns. A young wife is met at the door by police, informing her that her husband has died in an auto accident. Then she finds out he died in Hawaii – not Kansas, where she thought he was, on business. Then she finds out there was a woman in the car. Then she meets the fiance of the woman passenger and the two of them embark on a fact-finding mission in Hawaii to discover the truth. Well, I’m just sayin’ . . . the plot thickens. And thickens. And thickens clear up to the last few pages. Hang onto your seat. A really, really good, suspenseful read.

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes. What a WONDERFUL book. It opens up a shameful part of America’s past, but one you might not have heard about before this. In the late 1800s thousands of Chinese workers were brought to the West Coast to help with a variety of construction projects and a myriad of other things where laborers were needed. Many settled, married and made a new life for themselves. But suddenly the white population didn’t want them here anymore and they summarily ordered them ALL out of our country. This book chronicles a young Chinese girl, who was on a ship that was supposed to take her family to China, but the ship’s captain decided en route to dump them all overboard, to drown. The girl’s father knew it was going to happen and in order to save her, he threw his daughter off the ship as they were passing Orcas Island (in the San Juan Islands west of Seattle). She was saved. The book switches from that time to current time as a woman is rebuilding her family’s home on Orcas and finds a beautifully embroidered silk Chinese robe sleeve hidden under a stair step. The book is about that sordid past and the young girl’s descendents, and about the woman who is rebuilding. Stunner of a novel. Good for a book club read, I think. It has a reader’s guide at the back with good questions for book groups.

How It All Began: A Novel by Penelope Lively. I find it hard to describe this book – it’s wonderful. I loved it. But describing it is perplexing. The title relates to one of the characters, a woman of a certain age, who is mugged, and has to go live with her daughter and son in law for awhile since she’s stuck with crutches and has mobility problems. That starts the cavalcade of events that spread around her, with the characters. And she knows nothing whatsoever about them, hardly. They’re all somewhat inter-related (not much family, but mostly by circumstance) and they all get into some rather logical and some peculiar relationships. You engage  with each and every one of them; at least I sure did; and was trying to tell some of them to back away from what they were about to do. Or “be careful;” or “don’t go there.” That kind of thing. There is nothing insidious, no mystery involved – it’s all about these people and what happens to them. I was sad when the book was finished. The author, Lively, does add a chapter at the end – I wonder if it wasn’t part of the master plan – that kind of tidies up everything, and you get to see all of the characters move on with their lives, happy or not, but mostly happy. Really enjoyed the book. Am not sure it would be a good book club read, as the only thing to discuss are the characters themselves. Lively paints these characters well; you can just picture them as they get themselves in and out of relationship mischief.

 

Tasting Spoons

My blog's namesake - small, old and some very dented engraved silver plated tea spoons that belonged to my mother-in-law, and I use them to taste my food as I'm cooking.

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Posted in Cookies, on February 20th, 2018.

cornflake_cc_meringue_cookies

If you have to eat GF, then these may float your boat. Or if you like meringue cookies in general, they might float your boat as well.

As you’ve read here many times, my cousin Gary is wheat intolerant, so I always try to make him a batch of cookies when he comes to visit over the holidays. I gave him several choices, and these were the ones he chose. I’m not altogether sure he loved them (maybe he’ll leave a comment here?) – he ate most of them, at least, but he forgot to take the remainder home with him (though I think it was an oversight). They weren’t my favorites – meringues generally are too sweet for me, but that’s just my preference. You know meringue cookies will be sweet in any case since they always are. I have changed the recipe below from 1 cup sugar to 7/8 cup of sugar to make them a bit less sweet.

I’m including the post here because some of my readers are GF, and they may want an opinion about them if they haven’t ever made them. The original recipe came from a Saveur magazine one in 2014 and came from Iceland.

They’re very easy to make – egg whites are whipped up well, sugar added in slowly, then you fold in the chopped chocolate, cornflakes and vanilla. That’s it. Scoop onto parchment-lined baking sheets, about 1” apart, and bake for 20 minutes.

What’s good: well, they’re GF. That’s a good thing for some. They’re a bit different because of the crunchy cornflake addition (liked that). Like the chocolate (I almost never turn down chocolate). They’re really sweet, as I mentioned (though I reduced the sugar in the recipe below to make them less so). They’re also lower in calorie (though not sugar carbs) than some cookies.

What’s NOT: if you need to eat GF, then you’ll definitely like them, I would guess! GF cookies in general, are not the easiest thing to make. Meringue cookies aren’t one of my favorite kind of cookies, but don’t take that as a true-negative about these – I’m just not partial to meringue cookies.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Chocolate-Cornflake Meringue Cookies GF

Recipe By: Adapted slightly from Saveur magazine, 12/2014
Serving Size: 24

4 large egg whites
7/8 cup sugar
4 1/2 ounces semisweet chocolate — roughly chopped
3 cups corn flakes
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

NOTE: do not use chocolate chips as they’re too heavy – they’ll sink to the bottom. Instead use chocolate squares chopped finely with a knife.
1. Heat oven to 300°. Using an electric hand mixer, beat whites while slowly adding sugar until stiff peaks form.
2. Fold in chocolate, cornflakes, and vanilla. Space tablespoon-size amounts of batter 1″ apart on parchment paper-lined baking sheets; bake until crisp, about 20 minutes. Store in an airtight tin or ziploc bag. Will keep for about a week; otherwise, freeze and defrost as needed.
Per Serving: 70 Calories; 2g Fat (19.6% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 14g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 47mg Sodium.

Posted in Cookies, on February 16th, 2018.

almond_anise_biscotti

Over Christmas I visited my good friend Linda, who lives in Carlsbad, a very sweet town north of San Diego. My cousin Gary was with me, and we couldn’t stay long. But, she served coffee and these gems. (Isn’t her mug the cutest thing? As you might guess, she’s a Scrabble fan.)

There are a number of recipes here on my blog from my friend Linda. Like her Bombay Chicken, Neva Tee’s Carrot Cake and  Crockpot Chicken Enchilada Soup. Oh, and a great lower-calorie dish (though you’d not know it), Chicken Madeira. OH, forgot her Lemon Chicken Soup with Orzo, too. She’s a terrific cook, and loves to entertain and serve not one but two or three things for us. We were only there for about 30 minutes, I think. I gobbled these down like there was no tomorrow. I think I had two (both dunked into my cup of coffee), but I wanted another one (I didn’t – but I think she gave me two to take home – yea). She’d also baked a loaf cake, but she wasn’t thrilled with it, so that won’t get posted here. But these cookies – oh  yes. I’ll be making them. Linda even gave me a little bitty container of Sambuca, that anise flavored liqueur which is an addition to these cookies since I don’t have any in my liquor pantry. I offered to let Linda write the blog post, but she just didn’t think she had the writing skill (she does!) to write as I do. . . oh well. She thinks I have some special writing skill. I don’t think I do – though I like to write, but I write like I’m talking to each and every one of you. It’s just a conversation we’re having, right? The other day I clicked a link to someone’s blog and it was just a recipe. That was it. Not a word of comment, yea or nay. Nothing. Why do that? What’s the use if you don’t have the person’s perspective on the recipe – was it good or not?

Image result for sambuca

I don’t suppose you would HAVE to use Sambuca, but it does add good flavor to these biscotti. There are many brands out there – the photo at left is just one example. I had a friend, Doreen (who actually introduced me to my DH, Dave, back in 1981) who was Italian and her mother made anise biscotti – this would have been the mid-70s. I fell in love with biscotti way back then, and have made her recipe many times over the years. Guess I haven’t made them since I started writing this blog in 2007, as I’ve not posted that recipe.

This original recipe comes from America’s Test Kitchen, and is an alteration from it, slightly. After making them once, Linda decided that the flavor needed to be amped up, so she added more anise and Sambuca. Normally the biscotti would be just almond, or anise, not both, but she decided to try it this way. I liked the combo.

There are more steps than the usual biscotti – you may want to read the recipe through before doing it. This is no last-minute quick cookie to make. But no steps are difficult or all that time consuming – well, other than having to draw a specific sized rectangle on the parchment paper so you get exact-sized finished biscotti. Thank you, Linda, for a great recipe. (And no, Linda, don’t buy me a Scrabble coffee mug – much as you might want to – I drink my coffee, always, out of smaller cups.)

What’s GOOD: the flavor, first and foremost! Loved the combination of anise AND almond, and the anise flavor is subtle – even though you use both anise seed and Sambuca. If you’re used to more-traditional anise biscotti, this won’t qualify, as the anise flavor is light, but noticeable.

What’s NOT: maybe the extra steps required, but not all that difficult in the big scheme of things for biscotti. These types of cookie always require double baking.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Almond Anise Biscotti

Recipe By: Adapted slightly from America’s Test Kitchen cookbook
Serving Size: 30

1 1/4 cups whole almonds — lightly toasted
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon anise seed
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 cup sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter — melted and cooled
1 tablespoon Sambuca
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
vegetable spray
1 large egg white — whisked with a little bit of water

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325°F. Using ruler and pencil, draw two 8×3″ rectangles, spaced 4″ apart on a piece of parchment paper. Grease baking sheet and place parchment on it.
2. Pulse 1 cup of the almonds in food processor until coarsely chopped, 8-10 pulses; transfer to bowl and set aside. Process remaining 1/4 cup almonds in food processor until finely ground, about 45 seconds. Add flour, baking powder, anise seed and salt, process to combine, about 15 seconds. Transfer flour mixture to second bowl. Process eggs in now empty food processor until lightened in color and almost doubled in volume, about 3 minutes. With processor running, slowly add sugar until thoroughly combined, about 15 seconds. Add melted butter, Sambuca and vanilla and process about 10 seconds. Transfer egg mixture to medium bowl. Sprinkle half of the flour mixture over egg mixture and using spatula, gently fold until just combined. Add remaining flour mixture and chopped almonds and gently fold until just combined.
3. Divide batter in half. Using floured hands, form each half into 8×3″ rectangles, using lines on parchment as a guide. Spray each loaf lightly with oil spray. Using rubber spatula lightly coated with oil spray, smooth tops and sides of rectangles. Gently brush tops of loaves with egg white wash.
4. Bake loaves until golden and just beginning to crack on top, 25-30 minutes, rotating pan halfway through.
5. Let loaves cool on baking sheet for 30 minutes. Transfer loaves to a cutting board. Using a serrated knife, slice each loaf on slight bias into 1/2″ thick slices. Lay slices, cut side down about 1/4″ apart on wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet. Bake until crisp and golden brown on both sides, about 35 minutes. flipping slices halfway through baking. Let cool completely before serving. Biscotti can be stored in airtight container for up to a month.
Per Serving: 130 Calories; 7g Fat (47.7% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 14g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 18mg Cholesterol; 58mg Sodium.

Posted in Cookies, on December 15th, 2017.

rugelach_sour_cherry_apricot_cashew

A bit labor intensive – no, scratch that – it’s moderately labor intensive – but worth the effort. A cream cheese dough surrounding the filling of dried sour cherries, apricot jam and lightly salted cashews.

If you’re a blogger, when you’ve prepared a recipe, and your fingers just ITCH to get at the keyboard to tell everyone all about it – well, you know you have something interesting. That’s me, this morning. I made these yesterday. And as I said above, I’m not telling you this is an easy cookie to make. There’s more work involved than in many. But if you were to do decorated cookies, then this probably isn’t all that different concerning time spent. The recipe came from Christopher Kimball’s new venture, Milk Street, and was in their magazine issue. They call them “Sour Cherry Rugelach.”

Rugelach (it has many different spellings) is of Jewish origins (Ashkenazic). Traditional rugelach are made in the form of a crescent by rolling a triangle of dough around a filling. This one’s just a bit different – a roll. And likely much easier than having to prepare each individual piece by hand.  I vote for that alternative (rolled) version! Rugelach dough is made of either a sour cream or cream cheese dough. The cream cheese variety is more of an American innovation. Some older versions used yeast as well.

rugelach_dough_foldedrugelach_preparing_rectangleThe cream cheese dough must be made a bit ahead as it has to be refrigerated for awhile. You can make the dough the day ahead (which I would do next time). The dough is made in a stand mixer (hand mixer would be probably work), gathered together into a ball and patted out into a relatively perfect rectangle. The dough is very pliable at this point, but you do rolling and folding 4 times and end up with the perfect rectangle again  (all the specific measurements are in the recipe below). The dough then is chilled awhile.

rugelach_preparing_logMeanwhile, make the filling (it could be done the day before too). I made one mistake – I mixed the chopped cashews into the filling – they were supposed to be sprinkled and patted down on top of the filling before rolling into the logs. But oh well, I don’t know that it really makes that much difference. The tart cherries (dried) I bought at Trader Joe’s – they’re called Dried Pitted Tart Montmorency Cherries.

Back to the dough – after being chilled, it’s a bit hard to roll out – I left it sitting out for about 5-7 minutes and then started rolling. Perfect! You roll it out into that perfect rectangle again. It’s cut into long strips and each long third becomes a little jelly roll, sort of, with the filling spooned down the center, then it’s rolled, edge sealed, placed on a parchment-lined baking sheet and refrigerated for at least 30 minutes (or overnight is okay too) and at that point you slice the log. The brilliant little trick is to just slice through the dough about 3/4 of the way through – that way when it’s baking, the filling doesn’t ooze out. Since I’d never made rugelach before, maybe that’s not a new trick at all, but just the way it’s done with all log-style rugelach.

rugelach_ready_to_bake

Once baked, the rugelachs need to rest on the baking sheet until cooled – the pastry will tear if you try to rush it. I made a double recipe of the one below. I couldn’t wait to enjoy a piece with my coffee. The recipe suggests cutting them in 2” logs, but I decided to do shorter ones, about 1 1/2” each. Once cooled, all of them went into a plastic bag and into the freezer.

What’s GOOD: love the flavor – the filling is tart/sweet (I like that). The dough is tender and it’s a perfect combination of dough to filling – not too much of either. They’re very pretty.

What’s NOT: All the work involved – rolling, chilling, filling, making the logs, chilling again, etc. But if you’re going to be home anyway, it’s not all that difficult, just takes awhile to do all the steps.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Sour Cherry, Apricot and Cashew Rugelach

Recipe By: Milk Street Magazine, 2017
Serving Size: 24 (or more)

DOUGH:
16 tablespoons butter — (use salted butter) cut into 1 T pats
8 ounces cream cheese — cut into small squares
3 tablespoons white sugar
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
260 grams all purpose flour
FILLING:
1 1/4 cups dried sour cherries — finely chopped
1 cup apricot preserves
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
9 tablespoons cashews — salted, roasted, finely chopped

3 teaspoons turbinado sugar — divided use
1 large egg — beaten

1. DOUGH: In a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat butter, cream cheese and white sugar on low until smooth, scraping bowl as needed, about 2 minutes. Add ground cardamom, salt and vanilla. Beat until combined. Add flour and beat on medium-low until the mixture comes together in a rough ball, about 30 seconds.
2. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured counter and gather into a cohesive mass. Using your hands and a rolling pin, form it into an 8×10″ rectangle with a short end parallel to the edge of the counter. Starting from the short end, fold into thirds, as you would a letter. Using a metal bench scraper, square the edges, then rotate the rectangle one quarter turn. Repeat the process of rolling out, folding and turning the dough 2 more times, ending with a folded rectangle of dough. Press the seams firmly, wrap the dough with plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 2 days.
3. FILLING: In a medium bowl, stir together the dried cherries, preserves, cardamom, cinnamon, cardamom and salt. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed; the filling may appear runny but the cherries will absorb the liquid.
4. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Remove dough from refrigerator, unwrap and transfer to a lightly floured counter. Allow to rest for about 4-6 minutes, then using a rolling pin, roll into a 13×12″ rectangle, squaring the edges with a metal bench scraper, cutting off edges as needed. Cut the dough into three 13 x 4″ strips. If the dough pulls back after cutting, gently roll each strip to the correct dimensions.
5. Working with one strip at a time, with a long side parallel to the edge of the counter, lightly brush the surface with the beaten egg. Mound 6 tablespoons of filling in a line down the center of the strip, leaving a 1 1/2″ margin on each side. Sprinkle 3 tablespoons of chopped cashews onto the filling, pressing them in. Starting with the side closest to you, lift the edge of the dough up and over the filling and roll the dough into a tight cylinder. Pinch the seam to seal, turn the cylinder seam side down and gently stretch it into a 16-inch log. Transfer, seam side down, to the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough, egg, filling and cashews, spacing the logs evenly on the baking sheet. You will have leftover egg. Refrigerate, uncovered, for 30 minutes or up to 24 hours. If refrigerating for longer than 30 minutes, cover with plastic wrap. Reserve the remaining beaten egg.
6. BAKING: Preheat oven to 375°F with a rack in the middle position. Brush each dough log with some of the remaining egg and sprinkle with a teaspoon of turbinado sugar. Using a knife, score each log at 2-inch intervals [I cut mine at 1 1/2″ or even shorter to make smaller cookies], cutting 3/4 of the way through. Do NOT cut all the way through the dough; the pieces should still hold together.
7. Bake until the logs are golden brown, 20-25 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheet on a wire rack for 30 minutes, then use a knife to fully cut and separate the cookies. If desired, use a knife to neaten the cut edges of the rugelach, while they are still warm, turn each cookie onto its side and very gently press the cut side to flatten. Let cool completely on a wire rack.
Per Serving (based on a 2-inch piece): 248 Calories; 13g Fat (46.3% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 30g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 40mg Cholesterol; 176mg Sodium.

Posted in Cookies, on November 27th, 2017.

saras_best_cc_cookies_plated

A post from Sara: This recipe is so old (close to 30 years ago, ugh, makes me feel old!) that I’m not even sure of its origin.  I’m pretty sure it’s from a woman I worked with by the name of Ms. Mackey.  It’s unique in that the flour to fat ratio is higher.  It produces the sweet, chewy cookie that I associate with chocolate chip cookies.  These cookies are undercooked just a bit to keep the tender chewiness.

cc_cookie_ball_handcc_cookie_ballThese are a huge hit at my kid’s sports events.  The recipe makes 6 dozen so there are plenty to feed everyone and if you use Ghirardelli chocolate, they are safe for nut allergy kids (omitting the optional walnuts). I’ve also been known to use them to make ice cream cookie sandwiches.  Another huge hit during the summer months.

cc_cookies_saras_bakedWhen making these cookies, please beat the sugars, butter and eggs 3 full minutes.  It’s important and if you watch you will see the dough lighten and fluff significantly.  And then, after baking, allow for a few minutes cooling time before removing them from the tray onto the wire racks.  Since these are slightly undercooked, they need the time to set before sliding a spatula underneath them. I’ve had many a time that I was impatient and the cookies crumbled (ha!). In our home, the crumbled cookies are fair game for anyone waiting for the freshest batch out of the oven.

What’s GOOD: These cookies are your basic, all around fantastic chocolate chip cookie.  Tender, chewy. A real crowd pleaser. The cookies freeze well as does the dough.

What’s NOT: The recipe is not easily cut in half due the odd number of  eggs.

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Sara’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

Recipe By: Sara’s recipe from a friend, 30 years ago
Serving Size: 72

1 pound dark brown sugar
1 pound unsalted butter — warmed to room temp
1 1/2 cups white sugar
3 large eggs — warmed to room temp
1 teaspoon salt — can add more if you like it more salty
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
6 cups all-purpose flour
24 ounces chocolate chips — (preferably Ghiradelli) *see note below about this
2 cups walnuts — chopped (optional)

NOTE: make sure butter is warmed to room temp. It makes a difference. The cookies will only be as good as the chocolate morsels you put into them – the better the quality, the better the cookies. * Ghiradelli is preferred. Chocoloate chips from Costco are a waste of money, as are ones from Trader Joe’s, IMHO. I prefer to use one bag of Ghiradelli 60% dark plus a bag of Ghiradelli milk chocolate.
1. Add brown sugar to bowl of stand mixer. Add white sugar and butter and mix on slow speed until well mixed.
2. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing slightly, then continue to mix at low speed until blended, then time it for THREE MINUTES. Turn up speed once everything is mixed.
3. Preheat oven to 350°F.
4. Add salt and baking soda. Continue beating. Add flour, one cup at a time as you SLOWLY mix it in. The bowl will be very full. Increase speed in between additions to mix in well. Turn off mixer and use thick wooden spoon to stir in chocolate chips and walnuts (if using).
5. Use a cookie scoop if you have one, or mound them one-inch high in your hand and roll gently to get a ball. Place on cookie sheet about 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake for 12 minutes (yes, you are undercooking them). Cookies should be cooked, barely. If you can see any part of the cookies that look like raw batter, bake for another minute. If you look closely they will still have some little glossy areas, which is what you want. Cookies must cool for 2-3 minutes on the sheet before using a spatula to remove to a wire rack to cool completely. They are very fragile, and if you eat them when still warm, they’ll be very soft inside and may crumble apart. These stale quickly, so it’s best to freeze them as soon as they’re cool.
Per Serving: 176 Calories; 10g Fat (49.8% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 21g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 23mg Cholesterol; 63mg Sodium.

Posted in Cookies, on October 14th, 2017.

choc_chip_cookies_fireball

Have I mentioned that I like Fireball? So when I saw a recipe for chocolate chip cookies with bourbon in it, well, my mind just said, use Fireball (or Tennessee Fire) instead.

A few nights a week I pour myself a little bit of Jack Daniels’ Tennessee Fire (a bourbon like Fireball) over ice, and add a little splash of Rumchata. It’s my drink of choice lately. Even more than having wine. I sit down in my family room and listen to news. Or I watch a recorded episode of Tiny House Hunters, The Incredible Dr. Pol, maybe Nova, or CBS’s Sunday Morning (a favorite). I have 2 DVRs (one in my family room, the other in my study upstairs – the room where I always watched TV when my DH was alive). He and I had different tastes in TV viewing. I recently had that room remodeled (was called “the office,” but now, because of what I’ve done, I’ve renamed it “the study”).

study_library_wall

That’s my new bookcase all along one wall. There is red grass cloth wallpaper behind all the shelves and the lamps. And you can see all the cat accessories on the floor. I think I mentioned that I gave away about 400 books a few months ago because this room was going to be re-done. And that is about the only place I can now store books. And Darci has told me I may NOT stack any books horizontally on top of books. Sigh. That means I can’t buy very many more books.

If you’re new to my blog, you may not know that I have always wanted my very own library, maybe looking something like a room at Downton Abbey, with a rail and ladder. Dreams. Where I could read Faulkner, Yeats, War and Peace, and definitely the Bible. Alas, that kind of room is not in my future.

But this one was attainable. Darci, my decorator, designed the wall’s profile, although I saw the lamp (they’re wall mounted, with a half-shade on the front) in the Bay Area about 2 years ago and sent her a photo of it and said “I want those somewhere in my house.” She designed the wall around the lamps. I now have 4 of them, 2 in that bookcase and 2 on the opposite wall, where I have 2 very comfy chairs. The floor is hard wood now, and there’s a gray area rug kind of centered. A mirror is going on the back corner behind the table lamp, and I haven’t hung much art in this room yet. My kitty cat spends lots of time in this room with me, lounging on the carpet, sharpening his claws on the cardboard box scratcher, or dragging his toys around. Since he’s blind, he hasn’t discovered the shelf up above – he could reach it if I taught him, but I don’t want to. I’d like him to stay off of it!

study_window_chairs

That’s the opposite wall, with the view window looking northwest. The shades have a remote control (LOVE that) so I can lower them if the reflections outside are too much for TV watching. I sit in the left chair with my feet propped up on the ottoman. I’m there many evenings. The drapes (long overdue because the fabric came from Europe) have just been installed. Kitty (Angel) perches on the top of the chairs, or even on the top of my desk chair. He sleeps often on the desk chair at night as he leaves furry evidence behind!

study_desk_wall

And lastly, there’s my desk. It was a regular closet in this room. Had the doors removed and the space framed in properly. The back is grass cloth wallpaper, and they’re both the same color (above shelves and at desk level) but the fluorescent lighting underneath turns red a bit blue! The top one looks orange, but it’s not. Photography doesn’t always make colors true. When I’m working there, my kitten cat thinks he HAS to be up on the desk with me, getting into any kind of mischief he can find. Like cables behind the monitor, a pen or pencil to bat around, or book corners to chew on. The file drawer on the right (below) I can open and he loves to slink in behind the files and lay on top of a stack of empty file folders I have there.

How did I get off on this tangent, I ask you? Well, onward, and back to these cookies. I hadn’t made any cookies in ages, and having seen the recipe at Bake of Break, I began, but I did make two changes. I used the Tennessee Fire instead of regular bourbon and I substituted walnuts for the pecans. Otherwise I followed Jennifer’s recipe. They certainly satisfy my craving for choc chip cookies (they live in my freezer and I eat them straight from there), and the flavor is lovely. You can’t taste the bourbon (there’s not enough to do that) but there IS a little elusive taste. Perhaps it’s the cinnamon (which is part of the Fireball profile), but it’s not noticeable either. Very nice recipe.

What’s GOOD: there’s hardly any chocolate chip cookie out there that I don’t like – except store-bought. This one is very good! And will keep me in cookies for a few more weeks. Yes, I’ll make them again, and I might add just a tad more Tennessee Fire.

What’s NOT: nary a thing.

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Fireball Chocolate Chip Cookies with Walnuts

Recipe By: Adapted from Bake or Break
Serving Size: 48

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter — softened
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 tablespoons Fireball whiskey — or Tennessee Fire
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
1 cup walnuts — chopped

1. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
2. Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter, brown sugar, and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Mix in the bourbon and vanilla.
3. Reduce mixer speed to low. Gradually add the flour mixture, mixing just until combined. Stir in the chocolate chips and walnuts.
4. Cover the dough and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Or, you can make them immediately.
5. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners.
6. Drop the dough by tablespoonfuls onto the prepared pans (use a 1-tablespoon cookie scoop). Bake, one pan at a time, 10 to 12 minutes or until the edges are browned. Refrigerate the remaining dough between batches.
7. Cool the cookies for 5 minutes on the pans. Then transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool completely.
Per Serving: 134 Calories; 8g Fat (49.4% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 16g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 19mg Cholesterol; 77mg Sodium.

Posted in Cookies, on March 8th, 2017.

choc_biscotti_

Why, oh why, did I wait so long to try these easy biscotti? They are just wonderful, and maybe even more so if they’re allowed to mellow for a few days. These must be easiest biscotti I’ve ever made.

Farmgirl Susan’s blog was one of the first ones I started following when I began reading blogs back in about 2004. I just loved reading her story about how she and her (then) husband wanted to move from California, got as far as Missouri, their car broke down, and the story starts from there. She shed the husband, found her hunky husband Joe, and has been writing and blogging from the backcountry ever since. She grows a lot of her own produce, barters all kinds of things with neighbors, and doesn’t get to grocery shop very often because they’re a loooong way from a town or city.

choc_biscotti_uprightSusan posted this recipe years ago. And I’m just plain embarrassed to say it’s been sitting in my to-try MasterCook file for years. YEARS! Too bad, cuz these are going to make a more frequent appearance in my house in the future. I rescued one biscotti (I tasted one when I made them) from the bag as I distributed most of them to friends and that one got dunked into my morning latte. OH-SO-GOOD!. Trust me on this one.

choc_biscotti_2nd_bakeSometimes biscotti is a bit persnickety. At least I’ve found them so. You bake them in a flat log the first time around, then you have to cut them into those unique and very recognizable angled flats, and bake them again to get them extra crispy. Often, in my experience, cutting the once-baked logs is problematical – you often break off ends, etc. These, however, were cinchy easy and the knife just cut perfectly. Susan mastered this recipe to a T. The only addition I might make would be nuts, or chocolate chips. But they’re pretty darned perfect just the way they are. Thank you, Susan, for a really great recipe!

What’s GOOD: how easy they are to make. Flavor is fabulous. They keep well. They satisfy a chocoholic’s cravings, they’re relatively low in calorie. Altogether wonderful cookie. Do try them.

What’s NOT: I can’t think of a single thing I didn’t like about these. They’ll be making a regular appearance in coming months.

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Farmgirl Susan’s Easy Chocolate Biscotti

Recipe By: Farmgirl Fare blog, 2005
Serving Size: 36

2/3 cup semisweet chocolate — (4 ounces) or dark chocolate chips (or chopped chocolate)
1/2 cup butter
2 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour — and up to 1/4 cup more if needed
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder — (Susan cautions – make sure it’s fresh)
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg white — beaten, for glaze (optional)
1 teaspoon espresso powder — (optional) or more, added into dry ingredients

1. Heat the oven to 350°. Melt the butter and chocolate together (I put them in a Pyrex measuring cup and microwave them) and set aside.
2. With an electric hand mixer, beat the eggs and sugar until lightened, about two minutes.
3. Add the vanilla and chocolate mixture.
4. Mix in the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt (and espresso powder, if using) just until combined. You should have a soft, but not sticky, dough. Add the extra 1/4 cup of flour if dough is too sticky.
5. Divide the dough in half. On a lightly floured surface, form each half into a log that is 3½ inches by 9 inches. Place the logs on a heavy duty baking sheet and brush with egg white if desired. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the tops are set. Update: some readers have said their loaves sliced better when cooked a little less than 25 minutes, so I’ve changed the directions accordingly.
6. Reduce the oven to 275°. Let the logs cool as long as you can (the cooler they are, the easier to cut), and then slice into 1/2-inch thick slices (I use a large serrated knife and push it through the loaves rather than ‘sawing’ the slices). Arrange the slices on baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, carefully turn the slices over, and bake for another 20 minutes.
7. Cool on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container or freeze.
Per Serving: 89 Calories; 4g Fat (37.7% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 13g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 19mg Cholesterol; 111mg Sodium.

Posted in Cookies, on March 3rd, 2017.

butterscotch_walnut_meringue_bars

You might think that all I eat is baked goods. A friend who looked at my blog recently thought that, but then, she didn’t delve very deeply into my posts. I probably have more desserts and cookies than any of the other categories. I just enjoy baking a lot. I have no cookies in my house at the moment.

Needing some cookies and things for an event recently, I looked at some newer recipes I’d added to my to-try list. This recipe came from Peabody, at SweetReciPEAS. She raved about them, so that was a good enough excuse to bake them for my event. They’re two layers – a brown sugar and butter base (with flour and egg), then you press walnuts into that layer; then you mix up the brown sugar meringue mixture and spread it on top. Bake. See? Easy. She used bourbon in the base and in the meringue topping too  (though you can use vanilla instead). Truly, I couldn’t taste the bourbon, but perhaps if they’d been omitted, they’d have been less flavorful – won’t know unless I try them side by side. Out of the entire 9×13 pan batch, I ate one and either served them at my event or gave them away to friends. I thought they might not keep all that long anyway.

They’re delicious. A bit of crunch from the bottom layer and a light crunch from the meringue. Plus the walnuts in there too. The meringue doesn’t exactly stick very well to the base, so be careful as you cut them up. Perhaps a whipped up raw egg in between might solve that problem, if you’re inclined to try it.

What’s GOOD: the flavor and crunch. They’re sweet – very sweet. If I make them again I’ll cut down on the sugar in both layers by just a tetch, but everyone I served them to raved about them. They almost have the sweetness of candy, but they’re definitely NOT candy. You could cut larger pieces, serve with whipped cream as a dessert portion. I made bars and got about 18 or so from the pan. Very different – the meringue has a golden hue – almost like taupe, from the brown sugar. Kind of different. Not everyone recognized that it was a meringue top.

What’s NOT: really, nothing. These are delicious. Easy to make.

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Butterscotch Walnut Meringue Bars

Recipe By: SweetReciPEAS, 2017
Serving Size: 18

BASE:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 Pinch salt
1 cup light brown sugar — firmly packed
1/2 cup cold butter — cut into pieces
2 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons bourbon — or vanilla
TOPPING:
2 egg whites
1 cup brown sugar — firmly packed
1 tablespoon bourbon
1 1/2 cups walnuts — chopped

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. 2. Spray a 9-x-13-inch baking pan with baking spray. Set aside.
2. BASE: Add the flour, baking powder, salt & brown sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse until the ingredients come together. Add the butter and process until the butter is the size of small peas. Add the egg yolk and bourbon and pulse until the mixture as the consistency of sandy clumps. Pat mixture into the pan and level off by pressing with a small offset spatula or spoon.
3. Top with walnuts. Push them into the dough. The dough is crumbly so it will need to be patted down again.
4. MERINGUE: Using a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment beat egg whites until they hold a peak when whisk is lifted. Add the brown sugar and beat at the highest speed about 4 minutes. Add the bourbon and beat for another minute. Spread the meringue over the walnut layer. The meringue does stick to the dough, sort of – the dough is sandy, so it’s not easy to spread. Just do you best you can. Bake 25 minutes or until tester inserted into pan comes out clean.
5. Let cool to room temperature and cut into squares.
Per Serving: 221 Calories; 12g Fat (47.2% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 25g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 37mg Cholesterol; 114mg Sodium.

Posted in Cookies, on January 12th, 2017.

lemon_wedding_cookies

These were cookies my friend Cherrie made the day we did a marathon Christmas cookie bake day. We only did 4 types of cookies last month – usually we do 5-6, but whew, that’s just too much.

Cherrie found this recipe at King Arthur Flour, and she was intrigued because of the lemon. We always make the Mexican Wedding cookies (same type, without lemon), but the lemon part added a really lovely flavor.

Ours (hers – I was making a different cookie a few feet away but watched her) didn’t come out as round as the unflavored ones, but surely it doesn’t matter. The recipe online calls for an ingredient we didn’t have – lemon juice powder. It sounds wonderful – a way to add concentrated lemon flavor without having to juice lemons. It is a sweetened product (with corn syrup) but it’s dry – a powder. You don’t use very much of it, so I may order it next time. We did without it. Am certain our cookies weren’t quite a lemony as the ones made with the powder added, but they’re pretty darned good the way they are.

These are simple to mix up – ample butter, of course, no eggs, but powdered sugar inside and outside. The lemon juice powder is combined with the powdered sugar for the coating (if you use it). They’re baked and are just a one-bite wonder. Delicious. The recipe indicated it made 50-60. Uh . . . no, it made about 32, so next time we’d definitely double the recipe. In fact, I think when I finish the recipe, I’ll double it for you – because 32 cookies definitely aren’t enough!

What’s GOOD: the lovely, but subtle lemon flavor. Love the texture of these anyway – light, crumbly and just one bite. Definitely a keeper. They’re small.

What’s NOT: rolling these in powdered sugar is a bit of a pain, but it doesn’t take all that long. Worth making anyway.

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Lemon Snowball Cookies

Recipe By: King Arthur Flour, 2011
Serving Size: 64

COOKIES:
2 cups unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt — if using salted butter, eliminate the salt
1 cup powdered sugar
4 teaspoons lemon zest — or lemon oil
4 cups all-purpose flour
ROLLING SUGAR:
4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup lemon juice powder — a King Arthur product

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. In a medium-sized bowl, beat together the butter and salt until soft and fluffy.
3. Mix in the confectioners’ or glazing sugar, and lemon oil or grated rind (zest).
4. Add the flour, mixing until well combined.
5. Form the dough into 1″ balls; a teaspoon cookie scoop is a real time-saver, and your cookies will be nice and uniform. Place the balls on an ungreased baking sheet.
6. Bake the cookies for 12 to 15 minutes. They should be very light brown on the bottom, and feel set on top.
7. Remove the cookies from the oven. Let them cool on the baking sheets for 3 minutes before disturbing; they’re very fragile when hot.
8. To finish the cookies: Sift the confectioners’ or glazing sugar with the lemon powder and place in a shallow pan. Roll the warm cookies in the sugar/lemon coating.
9. Let the cookies cool completely, then add edible glitter (if desired) to the coating and re-roll in the sugar. When completely cool, store cookies in airtight containers for 1 week, or freeze for longer storage.
Per Serving: 116 Calories; 6g Fat (44.8% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 15g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 16mg Cholesterol; 18mg Sodium.

Posted in Cookies, Desserts, on December 19th, 2016.

new_cream_cheese_brownies

Did you know there’s a somewhat different way to make cream cheese brownies? Neither did I, but they’re really, really good. Yes, better than the old recipe.

I’ve long been a fan of cream cheese brownies. Not that I make them all that often – it’s been a couple of years. But I watched a show on America’s Test Kitchen awhile back and they talked about some of the inherent problems that existed with the old-style ones. What’s new about these: (1) unsweetened chocolate provides a more bold chocolate flavor; (2) sour cream added some tang to the cream cheese layer; (3) a more cakey batter doesn’t allow the brownies to get soggy or dense; (4) no more dry edges because the cream cheese layer is spread all over the chocolate batter, then a reserved portion of chocolate is dolloped on top before the whole pan is swirled and baked.

cc_brownies_slingThe chefs at ATK felt that the two batters didn’t complement one another, so they set out making a bunch of changes. And it works. No question about that. I’ll be making these again and again. They also recommend preparing heavy-duty foil slings (both directions) in and out of the 8×8 pan. See photo above.

You prepare a chocolate batter. You make a cream cheese, sour cream, sugar and flour (very little) mixture that comprises the cream cheese layer, so to speak. cc_brownies_choc_batterThere on the right you can see the chocolate batter which was poured into the pan first. About 1/2 cup was reserved and set aside to dollop on top later.

cc_brownies_ch_layerAt left, see how you gently spread the cream cheese layer on top of the chocolate batter. You spread it almost out to the edges. THEN, you use that reserved chocolate batter (that needs to be heated in the microwave for 10-20 seconds to heat it up and make it more liquid) and you either pour or scoop it all over and around the top. Then you use a regular knife to swirl it – they tell you to do about 10-12 strokes. I did a zigzag patterncc_brownies_baked_swirled, going one way, then the other. I ended up with the photo at right of the finished pan.

The brownies are baked at 325°F. for about 35-40 minutes. Mine took the full 40 minutes and you need to stick your cake tester or toothpick into the chocolate portion, not the cream cheese part (it’s still retains a bit of a soft texture).

Once baked, you leave the brownies in the pan (in the slings) for an hour before removing them. If you do it too soon they won’t remain flat and stable (solid) on the bottom and the whole pan full would bend with the sling. I removed them after an hour or so, laid the foil edges over the top and let it sit overnight. They were still warm when I went to bed, so I left them out. They recommend you keep these refrigerated (because of the sour cream), but I think I’d let them come to room temp before serving.

What’s GOOD: these cream cheese brownies are really wonderful. I loved the more intense chocolate flavor. The cream cheese layer was a bit more stable (with the added flour) so the brownies weren’t dense at all, more cakey altogether. Loved these. As I mentioned, this is going to replace my old recipe, and yes, I’ll be making them again.

What’s NOT: nothing really. The foil slings take a bit of fussing with, to get them right, but they’re not difficult.

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New Cream Cheese Brownies

Recipe By: America’s Test Kitchen, 2016
Serving Size: 16

4 ounces cream cheese — cut into 8 pieces
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
BROWNIE BATTER:
2/3 cup all-purpose flour — (3 1/3 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate — chopped fine
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups sugar — (8 3/4 ounces)
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. FOR THE CREAM CHEESE FILLING: Microwave cream cheese until soft, 20 to 30 seconds. Add sour cream, sugar, and flour and whisk to combine. Set aside.
2. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Make foil sling for 8-inch square baking pan by folding 2 long sheets of aluminum foil so each is 8 inches wide. Lay sheets of foil in pan perpendicular to each other, with extra foil hanging over edges of pan. Push foil into corners and up sides of pan, smoothing foil flush to pan. Grease foil.
3. FOR THE BROWNIE BATTER: Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in bowl and set aside. Microwave chocolate and butter in bowl at 50 percent power, stirring occasionally, until melted, 1 to 2 minutes.
4. Whisk sugar, eggs, and vanilla together in medium bowl. Add melted chocolate mixture (do not clean bowl) and whisk until incorporated. Add flour mixture and fold to combine.
5. Transfer 1/2 cup batter to bowl used to melt chocolate. Spread remaining batter in prepared pan. Spread cream cheese filling evenly over batter.
6. Microwave bowl of reserved batter until warm and pourable, 10 to 20 seconds. Using spoon, dollop softened batter over cream cheese filling, 6 to 8 dollops. Using knife, swirl batter through cream cheese filling, making marbled pattern, 10 to 12 strokes, leaving 1/2-inch border around edges.
7. Bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out with few moist crumbs attached, 35 to 40 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking. Let cool in pan on wire rack for 1 hour.
8. Using foil overhang, lift brownies out of pan. Return brownies to wire rack and let cool completely, about 1 hour. Cut into 2-inch squares and serve.
Per Serving : 225 Calories; 14g Fat (54.3% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 24g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 53mg Cholesterol; 117mg Sodium.

Posted in Cookies, on November 13th, 2016.

choc_almond_cherry_cookies

Oh, goodness gracious! Trust me, you’ve GOT to try these cookies. If you love chocolate, this is a winner. If you like dried cherries, this is a winner. The combination makes it a double winner!

You know already if you read my blog, that I follow Food52’s blog regularly. When I saw this recipe a year ago I added it to my to-try recipes, but it’s taken me a year to get around to it. What a mistake to wait! These cookies are sensational. Merrill Stubbs is the co-owner, co-cook, co- everything at Food 52, along with Amanda Hesser. Merrill chimes in often, but not too often do you see a recipe that’s all to her credit. Here is one. She created it last year when Food52 did some kind of holiday food truck in NYC. It was her contribution to the food truck ‘show.’

choc_almond_cherry_dough_ballsThere is nothing all that unusual – other than some almond flour (I used the type carried at Trader Joe’s – it’s shelf stable and doesn’t get stale). It’s mixed with some AP flour, and baking soda, plus some powdered cocoa – my go-to type usually is Hershey’s Special Dark. I do have other cocoa on my shelves, but for a cookie, that type was just fine.

Butter, brown sugar and white sugar are mixed up thoroughly (with salt and vanilla), then you add in the flour/cocoa mixture, and lastly, some chopped up dark chocolate and chopped dried cherries are mixed in briefly. The dough is refrigerated for a bit (I only had time to chill it for about 35-40 minutes), then you scoop (cookie scoop) a small ball of it, roll choc_almond_cherry_balls_ready2bakeit in your palms, then roll it in granulated sugar. Onto parchment (or Silpat) lined baking sheets they go and baked for 12-14 minutes (mine took 13) at 325°F. They are VERY tender – they must cool on the cookie sheet, and then onto racks (on the parchment still) until fully cooled. I cheated and removed half of them from the parchment (so I wouldn’t have to use yet another sheet of parchment for that 3rd and final sheet tray) onto racks. A few cookies didn’t make it to the rack because they’re just so fragile until they’re fully cool. Just so you know. Lesson learned!

I’ve left the metric measurements in the recipe below because I think, in this recipe, the weight of the almond flour is important, not just the volume.

What’s GOOD: everything luscious little thing – the soft texture, the good dark chocolate, the little bits of chopped dried cherries and the unctuous mouth-flavor. Altogether wonderful in my book.

What’s NOT: nothing at all. Easy to mix up, chill a bit, relatively easy to roll and cover in granulated sugar. Bake. 1-2-3, done. I’m sure you’ll hear some mmmmms and ahssss.

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Chocolate Almond Cherry Cookies

Recipe By: Merrill Stubbs, Food 52
Serving Size: 36

125 grams almond flour (7/8 cup)
50 grams all-purpose flour (3/8 cup)
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder — [I used Hershey’s Special Dark]
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
11 tablespoons unsalted butter — softened
2/3 cup light brown sugar — packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar — plus more for dusting
1 1/4 teaspoons sea salt — flaky
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate — roughly chopped (pieces should be 1/3 inch or smaller)
2/3 cup dried cherries — chopped

1. Whisk together the almond flour, all-purpose flour, cocoa powder and baking soda.
2. Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter on medium speed until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula once.
3. Add both sugars, the salt and vanilla extract and beat for 2 minutes more. Turn off the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the dry ingredients, drape a kitchen towel over the mixer and pulse at low speed for 1 to 2 seconds, about 5 times. Remove the towel and keep beating at low speed for about 10 seconds more, until everything is just combined. Scrape down the bowl again.
4. Add the chopped chocolate and dried cherries and mix on low speed for another 5 seconds or so, just to incorporate. Transfer the dough to an airtight container and refrigerate for 30 to 60 minutes.
5. Center a rack in the oven and heat it to 325 °F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats. Pour about 1/2 cup sugar onto a large plate. Using your hands, form the dough into balls about an inch and a half in diameter. Roll the balls in the sugar and arrange them on the baking sheets, at least 2 inches apart.
6. Bake the cookies for 12 to 14 minutes; they should dome slightly in the middle, and they should look dry on the surface but still be soft to the touch. Cool the cookies on the baking sheets on racks for 5 minutes, then transfer the parchment to the racks to finish cooling.
Per Serving: 97 Calories; 6g Fat (54.8% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 10g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 9mg Cholesterol; 86mg Sodium.

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