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Just finished reading 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 Novelby 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.

The Last Midwife: A Novel by Sandra Dallas. It’s a very, very good read. It tells the story of an older married woman who lives in a small mining town in the Colorado rockies (this is the mid-1800’s), and is well known by all because she’s the only midwife in the area. Often people can’t pay her anything, or very little for her days of service with little or no rest or food. Suddenly, a couple accuse her of strangling their infant (she arrived after the birth, actually). Hence the story is about how this small town rallies or rails for or against Gracy. She didn’t commit the crime, but not everyone can be convinced since the father is a wealthy man in the area who carries a lot of clout. There’s plenty of relationship issues here, which make really great fodder for a novel. And there are plenty of characters in the book that you’ll love or hate. Some secrets get dredged up too. Oh, such a good read.

On my recent road trip, I visited one of my local libraries and borrowed 5 books on tape. We listened to 3 of them. I’m a big fan of Craig Johnson, the author of a series of mysteries taking place in Wyoming, and a TV series on Netflix called Longmire. This book, A Serpent’s Tooth: A Longmire Mystery was really complex. Hard to explain, but it’s about graft and greed and oil. Worth reading, for sure. Also read Stone Kiss by Faye Kellerman, another complex mystery about Lt Decker, an LA cop who journeys to NYC to help out his family when a murder occurs. Lots of violence in this one.  Not particularly a fav book, I’d venture. Then read Leaving Time: A Novel by Jodi Picoult. I’ve read most of her books – always very riveting. In this book, you’ll learn a whole lot about elephants since the protagonist in it is a young girl whose mother disappeared when she was quite young. Her parents ran an elephant sanctuary in New Hampshire. In the ensuing years, Jenna has tried to find clues as to her mother’s whereabouts because she just cannot believe her mother would have up and abandoned her. There are a whole cast of characters (her mother, her father, employees at the sanctuary, a cop or two, and a psychic). All play fairly prominent roles. Fascinating book – I really liked it, almost as much for the education about the behavior of elephants as about the mystery. A great read.

Also on the trip, I read a book (on Kindle) for one of my book clubs, The Swans of Fifth Avenue: A Novel by Melanie Benjamin. It’s about the relationship between Truman Capote and his “swans,” a group of middle-aged high society ladies, and specifically Beth Paley. I don’t know whether to recommend this book or not. Truman Capote was not a nice man, although the whole novel (vs. non-fiction, which this is not) is conjured from speculation about the years Truman was kind of adopted by the group of women. He cared about all of them (most were married/divorced, and wealthy) but in the end he betrays them all by writing a novella about their secrets, their marriages, their affairs (theirs or their spouses, information they’d all shared with him, thinking he could be trusted with their innermost secrets). It was scandalous, and yes, all that part is true. I finished the book, but almost felt like I’d read a “dirty book.” There is no graphic detail in this book – it’s just what Capote did to destroy these women, supposedly his dear, darling “swans.” He was the villain in the book, and in his old age . . . well, I won’t spoil the story if you’re interested in reading it.

 

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 July 27th, 2016.

choc_chip_cookies_baked_cookbook

Why would I bake yet another cookie of the chocolate chip variety? I have nothing fewer, to date, than 20 similar recipes – on my index here on my blog, I have a category on the cookie page just for chocolate chip cookies.

Why would I do it? Well, it was the rhetoric that accompanied the recipe – that it had become the best chocolate chip cookie in her collection. Or something like – this is my go-to cc cookie. That kind of language perks my ears, piques my interest. It made me save the recipe, and ultimately, to make them. And I must admit, these cookies are downright fabulous. I prefer crispy chocolate chip cookies, and these definitely fit my mold, satisfying my craving for a crispy cookie. My first pans full I over baked them – the photo above. They were almost burned because I forgot to set the timer once I switched the pans around half way through. Suddenly I began to smell something hot – yep, these cookies. But oh gosh – they were so good! The next batches I was more careful and removed them after 14 minutes. They were perfectly golden on the outside but still slightly soft in the middle. Below is a photo of the cookies done at exactly 14 minutes. To adhere to the recipe instructions, these are still over-baked as she recommends taking them out when the edges are just golden. So if you make them you can decide for yourself.

cc_cookie_bakedThis recipe is much like most cc cookie recipes – I looked at this one side-by-side with my other favorite, the ones from Silver Moon bakery, and the ingredient list is nearly identical, with this one containing slightly less butter and a little less flour. About the same on everything else. These taste sweeter. Don’t know why. The batter is very sticky – the difference being the amount of flour as mentioned, I suppose. Hence the chilling time is necessary to make the dough manageable (to roll balls in your hands).

Next time I make these I’ll use a little less sugar and see if I like them even better. I got the recipe from CakeSpy (a blog). When she made these, she got the recipe from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking (cookbook) by Matt Lewis. CakeSpy changed the recipe only slightly to add walnuts and reduce the amount of chocolate chips by that amount. I always like cc cookies with both chips and walnuts, so I chose to use her variation on the cookbook recipe. I sent some home with granddaughter Taylor and her friends as they headed back to NoCal.

What’s GOOD: has this moved into #1 position in my ranking? Hmmm. Not sure. They’re awfully good, but I still think Silver Moon ones are my favorites. I’ll have to make a decision, I guess, in a few days about the ranking! I freeze my cc cookies, and I eat them frozen, so that will be my final test, eating the hard, frozen cookie. I must say, however, that his cookie was oh-so good, still slightly warm with a cold glass of milk. Yum.

What’s NOT: only that the batter has to chill for several hours. Not sure why, but it’s in the recipe. Maybe it helps them keep their shape better since they start out cold on the baking sheet. Fabulous cookies – can’t complain about anything!

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Chocolate Chip Cookies – from Baked (cookbook)

Recipe By: From Cakespy (blog) and she adapted it from Baked (cookbook)
Serving Size: 72

4 cups flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 cups unsalted butter — softened
2 cups packed dark brown sugar — (might use less next time)
1 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs
4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 1/3 cups walnuts

1. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, salt, and baking soda together; set aside.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugars together until smooth and creamy. Scrape down bowl and add eggs, one at a time, beating until incorporated. Mixture will look light and fluffy. Add vanilla and beat for 5 seconds.
3. Add the flour mixture, bit by bit, mixing after each addition.
4. Using a spatula or wooden spoon, fold in the chocolate chips and walnuts.
5. Cover the bowl tightly and put in the fridge for several hours.
6. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
7. You can bake larger cookies (2 tablespoons each) or smaller (2 teaspoons each). Use your hands to shape into perfect balls and erase any imperfections. Place on prepared baking sheets, leaving at least an inch between cookies.
8. Bake for 10-12 minutes for smaller cookies, 12-14 minutes for larger cookies. Rotate pans halfway through to ensure even baking. They’re done when the edges are golden and the tops are just starting to lose their shine.
9. Remove pan from oven and cool on wire rack. They are great warm, but you could also let them cool, if you’re so inclined.
10. These can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days or freeze for longer storage.
Per Serving: 168 Calories; 10g Fat (49.0% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 20g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 26mg Cholesterol; 102mg Sodium.

Posted in Cookies, on February 24th, 2016.

safari_seeded_cookiesOkay, listen up my friends. If you’ve learned to trust me when I tell you – these cookies are beyond wonderful. Not to be confused with the previous recipe I gave you  for “safari anzac cookies” (the one provided by the African safari camp chef and posted here in November). These are mostly ordinary cookie ingredients, but an altogether different method and a tweak or two.

When I made the last iteration of these cookies (I’ve now made 3) I was less than pleased, although all my friends raved about them, and I agreed they were “good” but they weren’t perfect. I suppose if I were the more professional kind of blogger I wouldn’t have even posted the last recipe – since I wasn’t satisfied with them. But I did because everybody loved them, yet I wasn’t sure what in the world I could do with them to make them better or “right” in my book.

So, I do what I tend to do best – I researched. I went on the web and looked up things about the CHEMISTRY of cookie baking. The myriad of sites I went to had varying opinions about why one ingredient resulted in this type, or that method made the cookies a different way. But before I even did that, I went to my cookie recipe file (in my MasterCook program) and looked at each and every recipe I have in there (a couple hundred) and examined my photos, and analyzed the ingredients. And as I got down to the R’s in my list I came across my old recipe for Ranger Cookies. They’re a crispy cookie that contains oatmeal and corn flakes and other various things. But I was really looking more at the cookie dough ingredients than anything else – not the add-ins. And I remembered how good those cookies are. Don’t know why I don’t make them more often because I really like them.

Then I went on the web and researched. What I learned was this:

(1) using all butter makes for a very crispy cookie that may spread;

(2) adding shortening will help cookies to be more firm in height (less spreading) because shortening melts at a higher temp;

(3) eggs add tenderness (well, of course) and they’re a binder as well, something to hold the batter together;

(4) molasses makes cookies darker, sweeter, and since it’s a liquid, cookies tend to spread some because of it which causes quicker browning;

(5) melting the butter/shortening and molasses before baking also encourages spreading, creating a thin, flat cookie; and then

(6) cake flour tends to give cookies a more cake-like texture – duh, that’s why it’s called cake flour!

As am aside, I don’t use Crisco anymore because it’s hydrogenated (medical researchers tell us that’s not such a good thing to eat) so I seek out Spectrum brand non-hydrogenated shortening. It’s carried at some of my local grocery stores, but not all – it’s in a blue and white round plastic tub next to the Crisco. If they carry it. If you can’t find a non-hydrogenated shortening, you can use margarine, but I don’t know how it would work because it’s basically an oil and when it gets warm it melts. The whole idea behind the shortening is that it doesn’t melt easily – except at high temp, higher than the melting (flash) point of butter.

SO, keeping all those do’s and don’t’s in mind, I swapped out some of the butter and added the non-hydrogenated shortening. There were no eggs, but liquid was needed, so I added a little swig of milk. I took out the molasses altogether and used a combo of white and brown sugar. I used all-purpose flour and left the leaveners the same. When I started out making these, I had no idea whether they would turn out – I took one thing from one recipe, another from a different recipe, added a couple of things and removed some. And I changed the method of mixing too. I’m not usually as adventuresome about creating cookies because there truly IS a chemistry to baking, but perhaps not as critical as in baking a cake with specific ratios needed.

Here’s what I did: first I creamed the softened butter and shortening together and mixed it until there weren’t any streaks of shortening. Then I added the sugars and vanilla. Meanwhile, I’d made a mixture of the flour (all-purpose) and baking powder, soda and salt. Into the cookie batter I added oatmeal and unsweetened coconut and mixed that well enough, then I added in the flour and milk until the batter was pulling together, then I added the seeds (sesame, flax and pumpkin). It looked good. The batter tasted right too. I baked just one sheet of them and let them rest a few minutes after baking to see if they were okay. More than okay!

I’ve given away most of these cookies already and can’t wait to make another batch. These cookies aren’t exactly like the ones we had on safari (those were much thicker and almost jaw-breakers to bite through) but I’m so happy with the results of my experimentation that I don’t want to try yet again. I’d thought about making yet another (4th) iteration with adding more cookie part and less add-ins, but have concluded these cookies are just perfect. I mean it. They are.

What’s GOOD: these are just magnificent cookies, if I do say so myself. Love the seeds. Love the texture and the crispness. Love everything about them. Try them and you’ll see what I mean.

What’s NOT: absolutely nothing. These are a winner!

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 14/15 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Safari Seeded Cookies

Recipe By: My very own cookie invention, 2016
Serving Size: 40

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
10 ounces unsalted butter
1/2 cup shortening — (preferably not hydrogenated) or Crisco (which is hydrogenated)
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup oatmeal
1 cup unsweetened coconut meat
3 tablespoons milk
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1/2 cup flax seeds
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds, roasted

NOTES: You can substitute other kinds of seeds for the ones used in this recipe, and you can use more of one than another – just use 1 1/2 cups of a combo of seeds of your choice. You can use regular Baker’s sweetened coconut, but reduce the sugar in the cookie batter by about 1/4 cup.
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. In a bowl combine the flour, soda, baking powder and salt. Stir to combine and set aside.
2. In a stand mixer combine the butter (softened in the microwave for about 10 seconds if the cubes are refrigerator-chilled) and shortening. Mix until both fats are completely combined and no streaks of shortening are visible. Add the brown and white sugars and vanilla and continue mixing until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.
3. Add oatmeal and coconut and continue mixing until combined.
4. Slowly add the flour, along with the milk, until all are mixed into the dough.
5. Add the sesame seeds, flax seeds and pumpkin seeds, and mix just until combined.
6. Scoop heaping tablespoons of the dough onto a Silpat-lined cookie sheet. Slightly flatten tops of each cookie with your fingertips, then bake for about 13-16 minutes, until the cookies are golden and the edges are even darker. (If, by some chance, your cookies spread too much, add in about a tablespoon of flour and mix the dough well.) They can be baked longer so they reach a very dark brown with no real differences except the cookie will be much more crispy. Remove from the oven and set the cookie sheet on a rack to cool for 3-5 minutes, then gently remove cookies from the pan to a rack to cool completely. Continue baking until all cookies are made. Seal in plastic bags and freeze, or they will keep at room temp for about 2 weeks.
Per Serving: 139 Calories; 12g Fat (73.0% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 8g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 16mg Cholesterol; 63mg Sodium.

Posted in Cookies, on December 21st, 2015.

choc_chip_cookies_food52

Yes, it IS a different kind of chocolate chip cookie – maybe you wouldn’t know the difference if you’re not a collector of variations of the chocolate chip cookie theme. I was standing in front of the light, so that’s why some look different in the photo.

Last month I made a quick trip up to Northern California to visit my daughter and her family who live there. While staying there I did do some cooking, rather than go out to eat for most meals. Dana made a spaghetti dinner one night, and I made those lemony chicken thighs I posted about a week or so ago. My daughter doesn’t cook much, and she never eats breakfast. Period. While there, I got the following message from my best friend Cherrie:

Okay you need to hurry home, read about this chocolate chip cookie and make them immediately.  I figure we could have some with coffee by Wednesday if you don’t get distracted.

I laughed when I read it – Cherrie almost never says something like that – but you see, she’s not much of a baker. She does bake Christmas cookies, and as I write this (in late November) we have a date scheduled for last week, actually, just before this recipe will post, when we’ll get together in my kitchen and bake up a whole bunch of cookies and divide them between 3 of us, Cherrie, Jackie and me. But Cherrie knows I’m a sucker when it comes to chocolate chip cookies. They are, hands down, my favorite cookie. Period.

If you read Food52, you may have already read about this cookie and tried it. If not, then you may want to read about it here. There are several major differences with this cookie – (1) there is no egg in the dough; (2) it uses vegetable oil instead of butter; (3) you absolutely MUST let the dough rest overnight in the refrigerator; (4) it’s vegan, in case you are interested in that aspect. With that in mind, I bought the ingredients while I was up in Placerville, and made them there, leaving most of them for Dana’s family to enjoy. I brought home 3, ate 2 and froze one for Cherrie. She got it last week, and I have forgotten to ask her what she thought of it. It wasn’t by Wednesday – it may have been 10 days later that I saw her, it was near dinnertime, and she surely would not have wanted to eat it then.

The cookies look and feel different – because they chill overnight, the dough is kind of hard to work with (I thought) and the cookies stood up – they weren’t flat at all like the cookies shown on Food52’s website. I used dark chocolate chips (which are specified in the recipe), but you could use anything you prefer – use the regular ones, which might be easier to manipulate in the chilled dough since they’re smaller than Ghiradelli’s. The baking part was about the same. The texture of the cookie was not quite as tender as regular ones (using butter and egg). And I thought the dough was less interesting – less flavorful because of the oil. Part of the joy of chocolate chip cookies, to me, is the cookie part, not just the chocolate chips.

What’s GOOD: well, they’re different. They’d probably keep longer since they have no egg in them. Most people at Food52 just raved about them. I’m not quite so enamored with them, but perhaps I should give them another try in my own kitchen. And I’d use regular chocolate chips next time. Will these become my go-to recipe? Nope, probably not. You’ll find my favorites listed on my Carolyn’s Favs with three chocolate chip cookies recipes listed as favorites.

What’s NOT: only that you must let the dough rest in the refrigerator overnight. For a die-hard chocolate chip cookie lover, that was hard to do! I did taste the dough (which you’d have no health problem doing in this recipe since you won’t be ingesting any raw egg), which seemed about the same as usual. Dough was a bit harder to work with when cold. A cookie scoop would help with that – my daughter didn’t have one, so I used an ice cream scoop instead.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 14/15 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Ovenly’s Secretly Vegan Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies

Recipe By: Food52, 2015
Serving Size: 18

2 cups all-purpose flour — 250 grams
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 1/4 cups dark chocolate chips — use at least 60% cocoa content
1/2 cup sugar — (100 grams)
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar — (110 grams) or dark brown sugar
1/2 cup canola oil — grapeseed, or any other neutral oil plus 1 tablespoon
1/4 cup water — plus 1 tablespoon
Coarse-grained sea salt or flaky sea salt like Maldon for garnish

1. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the chocolate chips to the flour mixture and toss to coat.
2. In a separate large bowl, whisk the sugars briskly with the canola oil and water until smooth and incorporated, about 2 minutes. Note: Use fresh, soft light brown sugar. If there are clumps, break them up with the back of a spoon or your hand before whisking.
3. Add the flour mixture to the sugar mixture, and then stir with a wooden spoon or a rubber spatula until just combined and no flour is visible. Do not overmix.
4. Cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate the dough for at least 12 hours and up to 24 hours. Do not skip this step.
5. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line two rimmed sheet pans with parchment paper. Remove dough from the refrigerator and use an ice cream scoop or a spoon to portion dough into 2-inch mounds. We recommend freezing the balls of dough for 10 minutes before baking as the cookies will retain their shape better while baking.
6. Sprinkle the balls of dough with coarse-grained sea salt (if freezing, remove balls of dough from the freezer first), and bake for 12 to 13 minutes, or until the edges are just golden. Do not over bake. Let cool completely before serving.
Per Serving: 223 Calories; 11g Fat (41.6% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 32g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 136mg Sodium.

Posted in Cookies, on December 7th, 2015.

no_bake_holiday_cookie_cubes

A cookie. A little bar. A little square of goodness. Chocolate, cookie crumbs (you’ll have to read below to learn what types), corn flakes (they are the little light colored horizontal striations you see buried in the cubes), nuts, dried cranberries and speculoos. What, you say? I know, you’ll need to read more about that below.

When I saw the picture of this little gem on Dorie Greenspan’s website, I just knew I needed to try them. The recipe was written up for her column at the Washington Post. What intrigued me were several things: (1) it was a no-bake cookie; (2) it called for 2 things I knew nothing about – Biscoff cookies (where have I been?) and speculoos (another, where have I been?); and (3) it was chocolate (yum). First, though, I had to FIND these elusive ingredients.

biscoff_cookie_package

Going down the aisle at my grocery store I found the Biscoff cookies. Because I rarely buy store-bought cookies, I guess I’ve just never noticed. They’re a butter spice cookie, probably made with dark brown sugar, I’d guess. They’re crispy. The manufacturer says they’re “Europe’s Favorite Cookie with Coffee.” Not remembering how much I needed, I ended up buying 2 packages. I only needed one. But, if I hadn’t found the other elusive ingredient I would have used the 2nd package to make the cookie butter.

speculoos_cookie_butter_trader_joesIn the write-up, Dorie mentioned that Trader Joe’s makes a speculoos cookie butter which is very similar to the Biscoff cookie, in a butter form, and sure enough, they do. Right next to their version of Nutella. In a jar (see photo) and I scooped a spoonful of it up for you to see – it has the same look and texture as peanut butter. It’s jarred, and it says right on it, don’t refrigerate it. Okay, got it. I used most of the jar for the filling of this cookie. Don’t know what I’ll ever use the rest of it for – maybe over the holidays someone will want to spread it on toast. Being me, I had to go look up more about speculoos – from wikipedia: Speculoos is a type of spiced shortcrust biscuit, traditionally baked for consumption on or just before St Nicholas’ feast in the Netherlands, Belgium, and around Christmas in the western and southern parts of Germany (and they make it into a spread, just like Biscoff does).

In my pantry I had corn flakes. I also had ample dried cranberries, and I chose to use almonds in this – you can use any kind of nut you’d like, or use a combination. The recipe calls for just 1/2 cup of nuts. First you make the cookie base. I whizzed up nearly all of one cookie package in the food processor until it was fine crumbs. Melted butter was added, then it was patted into the 9×9 pan – actually it might be an 8×8 pan, which is what Dorie calls for. I do suggest you press the cookie crumb layer firmly – if you don’t it will fall apart when you try to cut it into cubes later.

melting_choc_speculoos_butterThat is put into the freezer to firm up while you make the filling. In a big saucepan you melt butter, the speculoos cookie spread/butter and 12 ounces of chocolate. Dorie prefers a dark chocolate, which is what I used. Milk chocolate can be substituted, though. I used a flame-tamer to do that part because the mixture was very thick (the speculoos particularly – it’s sticky like peanut butter) and I didn’t want it to burn. I let it cool a bit, then added the corn flakes, dried cranberries and almonds. You can also use raisins, dried cherries or chopped up dried apricots instead of the cranberries. You stir all this together until you can’t see any more of the cornflake pieces, then gently scoop it on top of the frozen crumb crust. Press it down firmly all over (I didn’t do that quite enough) so the chocolate layer adheres to the crumbs.

layers_no_bake_cookiesThe mixture is spread out clear to the corners and you do squish it out and down as best you can. Chill several hours, or freeze. I can’t imagine trying to cut this from a frozen state. Getting this block of stuff out of the pan was a bit of challenge – I dipped the 8×8 pan into a pan of hot water for about a minute (being careful to not splash any water into the cookies), then used a narrow metal spatula to free all the edges. It came out easily at that point (Dorie actually recommends blowing a hair dryer all around the bottom and sides of the pan); I righted it, then cut it into cubes. Dorie recommended 7 sliced strips – I was only able to get 6 from my pan, then I carefully cut each of the long slices into cubes, so I got about 40. A serrated knife did not work for this (though Dorie suggests it). I found a big chef’s knife worked better. And as it was, I messed up a bunch of them where the crumb crust came unstuck. I’ve packaged them up in a plastic box and they’re in the refrigerator. Before serving, allow them to warm at room temp for about 15 minutes, Dorie suggests. My cubes were not very uniform – Dorie’s look like they’re cut with precision. It’s a bit hard to do – but that won’t matter to the taste of them.

What’s GOOD: love the flavor of these – the cookies give a different flavor and texture – the crunch in them is wonderful. I liked the corn flakes. All of it is good, and although it’s a no-bake cookie, you’ll still spend a bit of time making this. But it’s not like rolling out Christmas cookies, using a cookie cutter, then baking. I would think children would LOVE these. Haven’t tried them on any yet, but I will.

What’s NOT: nothing other than some time – saying it’s a no-bake cookie just means you don’t have to heat the oven. You’ll still spend a bit of time making them.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 14/15 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

No-Bake Cookie Cubes

Recipe By: Dorie Greenspan, column in Washington Post, 12/2015
Serving Size: 49 (or less)

CRUST:
1 1/4 cups Biscoff cookies — or graham cracker crumbs
6 tablespoons unsalted butter — (3/4 stick) melted
TOPPING:
6 tablespoons unsalted butter — (3/4 stick) cut into 6 pieces
1 cup spice cookie spread — such as Biscoff/Lotus or Speculoos
12 ounces chocolate — preferably semisweet or bittersweet, coarsely chopped (may substitute milk chocolate)
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt — (1/4 to 1/2)
4 cups corn flakes
1/2 cup raisins — or dried cranberries, chopped dried cherries or chopped dried apricots (or a mix of fruits)
1/2 cup slivered almonds — (toasted or plain), shelled pistachios, chopped walnuts or chopped pecans (or a mix of nuts)

1. CRUST: Pulse cookies until fine crumbs, then place in a medium bowl, pour over the melted butter, and, using a fork or your fingertips, mix until the crumbs are moist and evenly coated. Turn out into the 8-inch square pan, then use your fingertips to press and compact the crumbs into a crust. Freeze the crust while you make the topping.
2. TOPPING: Put the butter in a LARGE heavy-bottomed saucepan (such as a 3-to-4-quart pan), then add the cookie spread; finally, add the chocolate and salt (use the lesser amount if you’ll be adding salted nuts) to the pan. Cook over low heat, stirring as the ingredients melt, to form a smooth, glossy mixture. Turn off the heat and stir in the cornflakes, dried fruit and nuts, mixing until all the add-ins are coated with the chocolate mixture.
3. Remove the crust from the freezer; pour the topping over it and use a spatula to spread the topping across the crust, making sure to get it into the corners. Press firmly so the filling sticks to the bottom crust. Refrigerate for 4 hours; you want it to be solid.
4. To unmold, either warm the bottom and sides of the pan with hot air from a hair dryer (Dorie Greenspan’s preferred method) or dip the pan into hot water for about a minute, taking care not to let the water splash onto the chocolate.
5. Place a piece of parchment or wax paper over a rack or cutting board, and have another cutting board at hand. Run a round-edged table knife around the sides of the pan, and turn the pan over onto the paper. If the cookie slab doesn’t drop out of the pan, apply more heat. Once the slab is unmolded, carefully flip it over onto the other cutting board so the crust side is down.
6. It’s easiest to cut the slab into cubes using a long chef’s knife or a serrated slicing knife and a sawing motion. Cut cookie cubes that are roughly 1 inch square by slicing the slab into 7 rows and then cutting each row crosswise into 7 cookies. Store the cubes in the refrigerator or freezer, and allow them to sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes before serving. Biscoff’s are available at most grocery stores. Speculoos butter is available at Trader Joe’s. It resembles peanut butter.
Per Serving (not accurate as I forgot to add nutrition info on the speculoos): 111 Calories; 7g Fat (54.9% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 12g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 8mg Cholesterol; 58mg Sodium.

Posted in Cookies, on November 21st, 2015.

safari_anzac_biscuits1

Well, so . . . . we had some cookies while we were in the safari camps. They put them out for our game drive stops, and sometimes they served them after lunch, or at the sundowner stops as well. They called them biscuits since that’s the British tradition to call them so. They were really wonderful, so I asked for the recipe. There begins the tale.

There at the camp, they called these Anzac biscuits, but since I knew all about ANZAC Biscuits (ANZAC – Australia New Zealand Air Corps – click on the link to read my post about it) from our trip to Australia some years ago, I knew these weren’t ANZAC. But, oh well, they called them such, so I just added on the “safari” part. The original ANZAC biscuits were developed when World War II caused lots of rationing, and the biscuits would keep well if they were shipped to soldiers abroad.

safari_anzac_biscuitsThere at left is the photo I took of the cookies at the camp where these were served first. Do note how completely different these look than mine – more cookie than anything else. Whereas my cookies (above) are nearly all seeds and oats and coconut and almost nothing to hold them together.

The cookies are healthier than some – they contain some good nutritional stuff in them, as I mentioned. Lots of seeds. That’s part of what intrigued me about them – they had pumpkin seeds and flax seeds (that’s mostly what you see at left).

So once I was home for awhile, I decided to tackle this recipe – I bought a big bag of flax seeds, and a big bag of pumpkin seeds too. I thought I had sesame seeds, but couldn’t find them, so maybe next time I’ll add them too.

The recipe is fairly straight forward, other than the butter and syrup (Golden syrup or Karo) is melted together, and you also dissolve baking soda in boiling water and combine the two before adding that to the cookie dough. I used my stand mixer because I suspected the dough would be a bit unwieldy. Yes, it was. But I certainly didn’t know how much unwieldy it would be.

When the camp director handed me the recipe she mentioned that they also added about 1 1/2 cups of seeds. She’s written it in on the side. She mentioned flax, pumpkin and sesame. Okay. No problem. So, I did a combo of two of those and after adding in the oats and coconut, I poured in the seeds. And the mixer laboriously tried to mix it all up. It succeeded, but only barely. I had to do some of it by hand because it was fairly stiff.

Because the dough didn’t look like the camp cookies, I baked just one cookie sheet of them. And once out of the oven I groaned – these didn’t look anything like theirs. Oh dear. I decided to try another tray. Then I added in some chocolate chips and just a tiny bit of flour. Oh dear me. That mixture became almost impossible to work with, but I went ahead and made more cookies out of it. I really thought that I was going to have a monumental failure on my hands. At that point, though, what else could I do but try to make it work.

I ended up giving nearly all of them away, keeping only about 3-4 of the seeded ones without chips. The ones without any chocolate chips were better (to me anyway), though I rarely turn down chocolate in anything. And I’ve enjoyed eating them – chewing and chewing – as those seeds get stuck in your teeth (particularly the flax).

My take-away from this is – I think – that they SUBSTITUTE seeds for the oats and coconut – not adding them IN ADDITION TO. I reduced the amount of seeds from 1 1/2 cups to 1 1/4 cups only because I felt they had enough. But, for the sake of this recipe, I’m giving it to you exactly as I made them – with all the add-ins, which makes the cookies up top – mostly seeds, oats and coconut. And they’re really quite delicious. They just don’t look like the camp cookies. I took these to a friend who phoned me this morning to tell me she thought these were the BEST cookies she’d ever tasted and can’t wait to make them. And here I thought they were a failure! As I’ve had a cookie each day since I made these, I’m liking them even more. I may try them again with just seeds and try baking one tray first, to see how they turn out, then I may add in the oats and coconut anyway. If I make them again with changes, I’ll be sure to report all about it.

What’s GOOD: well, sometimes what you think is a failure turns out to be a great success. These aren’t quite like what I had on safari, but they’re really wonderful and worth making. They’re healthier than some, which is a bonus.

What’s NOT: they’re not a traditional cookie – they’re more add-ins than they are cookie. But I have no complaint!

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Safari Anzac Biscuits (cookies)

Recipe By: From “And Beyond” safari camps, Africa
Serving Size: 20-24

1 cup cake flour — [I think you could use all-purpose]
1 cup oatmeal
1 cup desiccated coconut — (desiccated means unsweetened)
1 cup light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
3 tablespoons golden syrup — or Karo syrup
2 tablespoons boiling water
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 cups seeds — flax, pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds

1. Preheat oven to 180° C or 350° F. Grease baking sheets.
2. Sift the flour into a large bowl, add oats, coconut, sugar and salt. Stir to combine.
3. Melt butter and syrup in a small saucepan over low heat.
4. Dissolve the baking soda in the boiling water and set aside.
5. Add water to the melted butter mixture, then add the liquid to the dry ingredients and mix well. Add the seeds and mix well.
6. Roll 1 1/2 T sized balls and place on greased cookie sheets. The batter is a bit on the dry side, so it takes some elbow grease to get them to hold their shape. Allow room for the cookies to spread. Flatten the dough some with the palm of your hand.
7. Bake for 10 minutes, or until golden brown. Do not over bake.
8. Remove from oven, place biscuits on cooling racks. Store in an airtight container for up to a month. The note on the recipe says: “Serve as a wake-up biscuit or for morning game drives.” Yes, indeed!
Per Serving: 239 Calories; 17g Fat (61.3% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 21g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 12mg Cholesterol; 145mg Sodium.

Posted in Cookies, on October 14th, 2015.

walnut_blk_pepper_cookies

Not savory cookies – no, these are the real deal – walnut cookies with a moderate jot of black pepper.

Needing some cookies to serve to my friends who were coming to play Scrabble, I saw this recipe online and thought what a wonderful combination – WALNUTS and BLACK PEPPER. And different, for sure. They were SO easy to make – I had them mixed and baked in a little more than an hour, and my hands-on time was probably no more than 20 minutes. The cookies are baked low (at 300°F) for 25 minutes. That’s a long time for cookies. I could smell the butter browning as they baked – I almost thought they were burning, but they weren’t. They bake until the bottoms begin to turn a golden yellow.

The recipe was adapted by one of the chefs at the James Beard Foundation (until today I’d never looked at their website). The original recipe came from a cookbook called Cooking with Italian Grandmothers: Recipes and Stories from Tuscany to Sicily. I don’t own that cookbook – it sounds like a wonderful one to browse through.

Actually, because I was still in the midst of remodeling the day my friends were coming, we ended up going to one of the other gal’s homes. I didn’t think they’d want to hear the pounding going on. My decks are getting completely re-done (yet more dry rot discovered), and the roofers are still pounding away. By the time this recipe airs, the roof, decks, and everything else should be finished. Thank goodness.

This is a crispy crunchy cookie (no eggs in the batter) – just butter, sugar, honey, black pepper, a dash of salt, finely pounded walnuts and flour. It mixed up in a jiffy in the stand mixer, and as usual, I had a hard time keeping my fingers out of the batter. I love cookie dough.

What’s GOOD: the combo of walnuts and pepper was different, but really good. The heat from the black pepper is subtle – don’t expect it to assault your taste buds – it doesn’t, but you’re barely aware of some residual heat once you’ve chewed and swallowed a bite or two.

What’s NOT: nothing at all.

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Walnut-Black Pepper Cookies

Recipe By: James Beard Foundation – This recipe is adapted from Cooking with Italian Grandmothers by Jessica Theroux.
Serving Size: 18

1/2 cup unsalted butter — softened
3 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper — (don’t skimp – it needs all of it)
A pinch of salt
3 tablespoons dark honey — such as wildflower or chestnut
1 cup walnuts — (4 ounces) pounded or coarsely ground
1 cup all-purpose flour
Granulated sugar for sprinkling the cookies

1. Preheat the oven to 300ºF. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Cream the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy. If the honey isn’t liquid, heat briefly in the microwave so it is pour-able. Add the black pepper, pinch of salt, and honey; mix to incorporate. Add the nuts and flour, and mix with the electric mixer until the dough forms moist clumps, a few minutes.
3. Roll large teaspoonfuls of the batter between your clean hands to make little balls. Place the balls on the baking sheet, and press down on them twice with the tines of a fork to make a crosshatch pattern. Sprinkle with a little bit of granulated sugar or sugar sprinkles.
4. Bake the cookies for 25 minutes, or until their bottoms have turned golden-nutty brown. Set aside to cool.
Per Serving: 132 Calories; 9g Fat (60.0% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 11g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 14mg Cholesterol; 1mg Sodium.

Posted in Cookies, on September 12th, 2015.

chocolate_almond_cookies

Finally, I made time to do a little baking. I was all out of cookies in the freezer, and I could have made some chocolate chip ones, which seem to be everybody’s favorite, but I looked elsewhere first. Since I still don’t have my “old” bunch of to-try recipes for the last few years (my computer guru guy is trying to make the time to find out if the files are lost), I’ve been adding new ones. I’ve probably added about a hundred recipes to my to-try ones, and they’re all kinds of things from lamb roast to rosemary oil to this, a cookie recipe. The original recipe came from Food & Wine, about a year or so ago, and that recipe was a chocolate pine nut recipe.

We make all kinds of compromises in life, don’t we? I sure do, on a daily basis. Most are easy; a few are harder. This one was easy – the recipe called for bittersweet chocolate, and the only kind I had was Trader Joe’s big block that contains chunks of almonds. I suppose I could have removed the almonds once I melted the chocolate, but I just decided to make these with almonds rather than pine nuts. See? Easy compromise. I love almonds. Below you can see the glob of batter before baking, and then after baking.

choc_almond_unbaked

choc_almond_baked

These cookies could be a version of cloud cookies since they’re almost flourless (there is 1/4 cup added flour). They have the consistency of really chewy brownies on the inside, but the outsides have a crackly crust. But a thin crust for sure.

The batter is simple enough – eggs and sugar, then the melted (and cooled) chocolate, then the tiny amount of flour, baking powder and salt. Then the toasted choc_almond_facealmonds are added in at the last. Took no time at all to put together. The batter is fairly liquid – it barely holds together. I noticed that after I’d baked 2 pans of cookies, the batter still remaining in the bowl had firmed up a little bit – made it easier to scoop and put on the cookie sheets. They’re baked 12 minutes, rotating the pans half way through. At the halfway point they were still VERY soft – I mushed one with the hot pad and it was like a glob of hot molten chocolate. Fortunately it didn’t get to my fingers or it would have burned! The cookies are very tender once you remove them from the oven. The recipe didn’t say when to remove them to a rack, so I tried right away and wow, it was hard. The ones that sat on the other baking sheet for 3-4 minutes were easier to remove. So I’ve added that info to the recipe. I think I’ll need to put each cookie on waxed paper because I think these will stick to each other if stacked. Or else freeze them on a baking sheet, then put them into a plastic bag and they’d be fine.

What’s GOOD: For sure this is chocolaty. The texture is delicious – the bit of crispy on the outside (but I imagine that would soften if left out at room temp). And the insides are chewy, fudgy almost. Stick to your teeth type. But still, it IS a cookie. The crackly top is interesting. Altogether good. Rich. I like that each cookie is only about 100 calories.
What’s NOT: they’re a bit fussy – or maybe fragile is a better word. Cooling and packaging them for freezing is a little bit of a nuisance. Or else freeze them on a baking sheet, then pile them into a freezer bag.

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Chocolate-Almond Cookies

Recipe By: Adapted from a recipe in Food & Wine Magazine, 2014
Serving Size: 30

3/4 cup sliced almonds
1/2 pound bittersweet chocolate — finely chopped
1/2 stick unsalted butter — cubed
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup superfine sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 325° and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. In a large skillet, toast the nuts over moderate heat, tossing occasionally, until they are golden, 5 to 7 minutes. (Alternately, toast them for about 6 minutes in a 350°F oven.) Cool completely.
2. Meanwhile, in a large heatproof bowl set over a medium saucepan of simmering water, melt the chopped chocolate with the butter, stirring occasionally, until smooth, 5 minutes; let cool completely.
3. In a small bowl, mix the flour with the baking powder and salt. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the eggs with the sugar at medium-high speed until thick and pale, about 3 minutes. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the melted chocolate, then fold in the dry ingredients. Stir in the almonds.
4. Bake the cookies in 2 batches: Scoop 1-tablespoon mounds of dough onto the prepared baking sheets, about 2 inches apart. Bake for about 12 minutes, until the cookies are dry around the edges and cracked on top; shift the sheets halfway through baking. Repeat with the remaining cookie dough.
5. Allow cookies to rest for 2-3 minutes on the baking sheet before attempting to transfer them to a rack, but do do that part then allow them to cool completely before serving. Freeze on a baking sheet, then package into freezer bags, or eat them in a hurry and don’t worry about packaging.
Per Serving: 102 Calories; 8g Fat (62.5% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 9g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 18mg Cholesterol; 38mg Sodium.

Posted in Cookies, on August 7th, 2015.

almond_paste_choc_chip_cookiesThe other day I decided I really needed to make some chocolate chip cookies. I haven’t made any in a long, long time and I do like to have some in the freezer. I guess I was craving them. There were some other cookies left over from Christmas still lurking in freezer corners. I tasted one and threw out the bag – they had zero flavor. That’s what you get for freezing cookies for 7 months! So new cookies were in order, but I wanted to do something different. Enter almond paste.

The original recipe came from Cheryl Sternman Rule’s blog, 5 Second Rule, one I read regularly. And her epiphany about these cookies is a bit round about, but she ended  up making little tiny balls of almond paste to mix in with the cookie dough at the last, so there would be some little pockets of straight-shot-almond-paste mixed in. A little flavor explosion. I thought I was going to make them the same way.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t keep almond paste on my pantry shelf. It just dries out. So, no, I didn’t have any almond paste. So, I’ll just make some. Hmmmph. I’ll only make enough to use for this recipe, since almond paste is really expensive stuff. I know from experience that using a part of a tube of it isn’t a good idea either, because then it really dries up fast.

So I researched almond paste recipes. That led to determining the difference between almond paste and marzipan (usually it’s the amount of sugar – more in marzipan according to several sources). But I went through my pantry and lo and almond_pastebehold I found a package of toasted almond flour (from King Arthur Flour). I opened it to see how it smelled – it smelled great, like toasted almond flour should. So I made almond paste with 3/4 cup of that flour, 3/4 cup of powdered sugar, a tetch of almond extract and one egg white.

That got whizzed up in the food processor and that’s what I ended up with (at right). A little bowl – exactly the 2 ounces I needed for the cookies. I thought.

Mixing up the cookie dough was simple enough. Cheryl explained that it’s basically the Tollhouse recipe, but she was so enamored with almond paste that she decided to incorporate the almond paste in little tiny balls. She had a tube of commercially produced almond paste. A product that is firm and will actually make into little balls. If you look at my bowl of home made almond paste, can you imagine trying to make little balls out of that? Impossible. I added more almond flour assuming it would firm up some. Not much. I tried to make it into little balls again. Nope. No luck at all. After adding yet more almond flour, I gave up and just added the paste into the cookie dough so it was mixed in totally. No little balls – it simply was too wet to work with that way.

cookies_on_baking_sheetSo, I made a bigger recipe than Cheryl did (double, actually) and I got about 50 cookies. She made hers a bit smaller, I think. I should have gotten 60. I used my handy-dandy cookie scoop, so they were all uniform.

The recipe said 10-14 minutes baking time – mine took 6 minutes, then I turned the sheet around 180° and another 6 minutes and they were done. So 12 minutes.

We’ve been having really humid weather – as I’m writing this it’s still morning and it’s 75° and 78% humidity outside and the A/C is already running. If nothing else the A/C helps lower the humidity. When I’m cooking I just have to keep the temp down – I’m miserable otherwise. That said, I left these cookies to sit out for about 2 hours on the kitchen island, on a rack. That was a mistake, because they became quite soft. Since I eat them frozen anyway, I probably won’t notice, but I should have packed them up as soon as they cooled. Lesson learned.

The day after I made these I took a bag of about 12 of them to a friend. He’s my financial adviser, but he’s almost more a friend than a financial adviser. He emailed me this morning – this is a guy who professes to not like sweets (i.e., when we go out to lunch he never orders dessert), and he thanked me for the cookies and said by far the 4th cookie he ate out of the bag was the best. Ha!

What’s GOOD: I really like these cookies – the almond paste adds a totally different flavor to choc chip cookies and I really enjoyed it. They’re simple – well, except for making the almond paste as that was an added step. Buy the paste if you want to, and refer to Cheryl’s recipe to add the little balls of paste inside the cookies.

What’s NOT: it’s a little bit more work than a traditional choc chip cookie recipe, but very worth it. No down side to me!

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Almond Paste and Chocolate Chip Cookies

Recipe By: Adapted from 5 Second Rule (blog) 12/2011
Serving Size: 50

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter — at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
1 1/3 cups chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups sliced almonds — toasted
ALMOND PASTE:
3/4 cup sliced almonds — or almond meal or King Arthur Flour’s toasted almond flour
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 large egg white

1. Preheat the oven to 375° F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone baking liners (Silpat).
2. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, soda, and salt.
3. ALMOND PASTE: In bowl of food processor combine almonds, (or almond meal or toasted almond flour), powdered sugar, and egg white. Continue processing until it is a smooth, cohesive gluey mixture. This makes about 2 ounces of almond paste.
4. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and two sugars. Add the egg, then the almond extract, beating well. Add the flour mixture in two additions, beating just until incorporated. Then add the almond paste and continue mixing until it’s smooth. Remove the bowl from the mixer. Fold in the mini chips and toasted almonds.
5. Bake for 10-14 minutes, rotating the sheet pans halfway though, and checking the undersides carefully to ensure they don’t burn. (For best texture, consider under-baking them rather than the alternative.) Stored airtight, they’ll keep a good 5 days. Otherwise, store in freezer for up to 2-3 months.
Per Serving: 141 Calories; 9g Fat (55.5% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 14g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 18mg Cholesterol; 74mg Sodium.

Posted in Cookies, Desserts, on July 10th, 2015.

classic_brownies_best_ever

Do you have food in the freezer that calls out to you? That sings your name and says “come hither?” Well, there’s a little box of these in my freezer and in the mid-afternoon when I need a pick-me-up, I swear, they start beckoning.

Not really, but they certainly could sing to me. These brownies. Oh my goodness. I’d forgotten all about these, about how fantastic they are, how chocolaty they are. I cut them into small pieces so I wouldn’t get carried away and I do take just ONE of them. I baked them for an event recently and hoped most of them would be eaten, but alas, there were about 15 of them left over. Oh, sigh. They’re in my freezer.

I posted this recipe back in 2007, a couple of months after I started writing this blog, and I waxed glorious about them then, and hadn’t made them since. It’s a recipe from Cook’s Illustrated – according to my notes it was published in 2004 and I think they call them Classic Brownies. The link at left is to my original post. The only thing different about this one is that I used walnuts instead of pecans.

There is one important point – DO use really good quality chocolate. I’m not sayin’ that these won’t be good if you use grocery store, cheaper chocolate. I had a chunk of Valrhona in my pantry and that’s what I used. It calls for unsweetened chocolate. Nothing about the preparation of these is difficult. There are dry ingredients.There are eggs, and then chocolate and butter that are melted together.

You can bake these in a 9×13 pan. Mine?: I used an odd shaped one. One of my cooking teachers recommended brownies_ready_to_bakeMagic Line, a U.S. company that produces real solid aluminum pans. They’re available on amazon in oodles of shapes and sizes. This one I used is a jelly roll pan, but I wasn’t making a jelly roll, obviously. What’s unique about Magic Line is the nice little lip they put on the edges, which makes it much easier to grab the hot pan out of the oven. Anyway, Parrish Magic Line 10 x 15 x 1 Inch Jelly Roll/Cookie Sheet is the one. In the photo at left I’ve lined the pan, both directions, with foil, with edges sticking out, to make it easier to remove once the brownies are cooled.

I wanted to have thinner brownies and more of them; hence I decided to use the larger pan. I baked them slightly less time, about 29 minutes, rather than 30-40 in the 9×13 pan. I used my Thermapen to check the internal temp and took them out when they reached 200° F. And, I used walnuts. I didn’t toast them – I was running low on time that day, so I took a shortcut. But toasting walnuts, or any nuts, before baking with them is a good idea.

What’s GOOD: everything about these is good, providing you like chocolate. The brownies are dense, but not gummy, and they’re just overflowing with good chocolate flavor. Now I remember why they’re called “best ever.” That was a designation from the folks at Cook’s Illustrated. You’ll hear raves, I promise you.

What’s NOT:  nothing, unless you don’t have any good unsweetened chocolate on hand. These are worth making a trip to a specialty store to find the Valrhona. Or Scharfenberger  would be fine too. Just use good chocolate, that’s all I ask!

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Classic Brownies (the best classic brownie ever)

Recipe By: Erika Bruce & Adam Reid, Cook’s Illustrated, 2004
Serving Size: 24 (or about 40 if you use the different pan size)

4 ounces walnuts — or pecans, chopped and toasted
1 1/4 cups cake flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
6 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate — chopped fine [I used Valrhona brand]
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
2 1/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 325°. Cut 18-inch length foil and fold lengthwise to 8 inch width. Fit foil into length of 13 x 9 inch baking dish (preferably glass), pushing it into corners and up sides of pan; allow excess to overhang pan edge. Cut 14-inch length foil and, if using extra-wide foil, fold lengthwise to 12-inch width; fit into width of baking pan in same manner, perpendicular to first sheet. Spray foil-lined pan with nonstick cooking spray. If using nuts, spread nuts evenly on rimmed baking sheet and toast in oven until fragrant, about 4-8 minutes. Set aside to cool. Whisk to combine flour, salt and baking powder in medium bowl. Set aside.
2. Melt chocolate and butter in large heatproof bowl set over saucepan of almost simmering water, stirring occasionally, until smooth. (Alternatively, in microwave, heat butter and chocolate in large microwave safe bowl on high for 45 seconds, then stir and heat for 30 seconds more. Stir again, and if necessary, repeat in 15-second increments; do not let chocolate burn.) When chocolate mixture is completely smooth, remove bowl from saucepan and gradually whisk in sugar. Add eggs one at a time, whisking after each addition until thoroughly combined. Whisk in vanilla. Add flour mixture in 3 additions, folding with rubber spatula until batter is completely smooth and homogenous.
3. Transfer batter to prepared pan; using spatula, spread batter into corners of pan and smooth surface. Sprinkle toasted nuts (if using them) evenly over batter and bake until toothpick or wooden skewer inserted into center of brownies comes out with few moist crumbs attached, 30-35 minutes, or until the brownies are at about 200° F on an instant-read thermometer. Cool pan on wire rack at room temperature about 2 hours, then remove brownies from pan by lifting foil overhang. Cut brownies into 2-inch squares and serve. Store leftovers in airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days (they won’t last that long!). NOTE: I used a 10x15x1 jelly roll pan to bake these, so it made about 40 brownies. When using that sized pan, they baked for about 29 minutes.
Per Serving (if making 24): 224 Calories; 13g Fat (50.2% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 26g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 51mg Cholesterol; 73mg Sodium.

Posted in Cookies, Desserts, on June 30th, 2015.

breadfarms_grahams

Can I just tell you that you have to make these and leave it at that? No, you probably won’t believe me, will you? I don’t use that kind of forceful declaration very often. Well, just believe me, okay?

Often I’m led down a cooking path by the description of a recipe. Maybe it’s something unusual about it – or in it – that piques my interest. Other times it’s because there’s such an interesting background story about it. Or maybe it’s a homegrown recipe from way back. In this case, it’s Molly Wizenberg, of Orangette blog, cookbook fame, and her husband’s restaurant Delancey fame too. I’ve always admired Molly’s writing – she has a gift of building up a great story and I was following her long before she became famous. I read her blog and liked it. This recipe came from her column in Saveur.

And I got hooked on it because of the story. She and her family were on a drive in Washington, and her daughter was hungry. So was everyone in the car and most of the stores were closed in Edison. They found Breadfarm was about to close – they grabbed some things and dived into the bags as they stood in the parking lot. What emanated from them all were ooohs and aaahs. But it was the little package of freshly baked graham crackers that made the biggest impression. They were gone before she arrived home. And, because you’re Molly Wizenberg, you obviously can pick up the phone and tell the people at Breadfarm that you want to feature them and their recipe in an article in Saveur.

I’m ever so glad she did. Normally I’d probably not make home made graham crackers. Crackers, in grahams_closeupgeneral, are a lot of work, and one meal, usually, and they’re gone. But Molly just made this graham cracker/cookie sound so divine that there just wasn’t anything to do but make these. First, however, I had to go shopping. I don’t stock whole wheat flour much – it turns rancid so quickly (the remainder is in the freezer for now). And I certainly had never used whole wheat pastry flour. Had to go to two stores before I found those items. It also uses wheat bran – another thing I don’t keep on hand because it doesn’t keep all that long, either.

Fortunately I read and re-read the recipe before I began to make them. Making these requires several visits to the freezer as the precious little graham cracker cargo are chilled and slightly frozen before baking. I was home anyway, so I was certain to make these at a time when I would have no distractions.

My kitchen freezer is very full. (Actually, this is a mini form of hoarding, I think – I can’t seem to ever get my freezer to some manageable amount of fullness – it’s always chock full.) So I had to slide the cookie sheets with the rolled out cookies/crackers on parchment into my garage freezer (yes, there is room there). It required 2 visits to the freezer, and technically they were supposed to have a 3rd visit, but I did a shortcut on that one.

The batter is easy enough to make – you cream the butter, sugar (she calls for cane sugar, I used moscovado) and honey for awhile, then add the dry ingredients in 3 separate additions and continue mixing until it pulls away from the workbowl using the stand mixer. The batter is divided in half and pressed into a 1-inch thick rectangle on parchment. A 2nd piece of parchment goes on top and a rolling rolled_perforatedpin is used to squeeze down the dough to 1/8 inch thickness.  The recipe says to keep the dough in its rectangular shape. Well, I couldn’t do that – I was handling it too much, so I just lived with the results of an oval shape and re-rolled the scraps. Some time was spent in the freezer, then you poke the crackers with a fork and either perforate the dough into squares, or in my case, I used a square cookie cutter, which worked just fine. Back into the freezer they go, so they’re cold-cold before you bake them. They are separated and placed on a parchment-lined baking sheet. And they’re baked.

And I remind you – you have to make these. They’re just SO good. They’d be loverly with cheese as an after-dinner course. I’m serving them with my lemon velvet gelato on Father’s Day – this won’t post until a week or so later.

What’s GOOD: the taste. Oh my yes, they taste wonderful. And although you will have spent more time than usual making a batch of these, you’ll be glad you did, if you can make the time to do it. They make a very nice snack, or a straight-out cookie. And maybe you’ll think it’s not so bad because it’s almost all whole wheat flours.

What’s NOT: nothing whatsoever is bad about the cookie/cracker. It just takes a bit of time to make. And they’re a little bit fussy – trying to get the dough flat and square as you roll it out – you don’t want them to be thicker on one side than the other, not only would they not bake evenly, but they’d look funny.

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Breadfarm’s Graham Crackers _ SAVEUR

Recipe By: From Molly Wizenberg’s blog, Orangette, and Saveur, 2015
Serving Size: 48

1 3/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon wheat bran — plus 2 teaspoons
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 sticks unsalted butter — softened
2/3 cup unrefined cane sugar — or turbinado sugar [I used moscovado]
2 tablespoons honey

1. In a medium bowl, whisk the flours with the wheat bran, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, sugar, and honey on medium speed, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl, until the mixture is creamy, 2 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients in three batches, stopping as needed to scrape down the bowl, until the flour is fully incorporated.
3. Continue beating until the dough comes together around the paddle, pulling away from the sides of the bowl.
4. Scrape the dough out onto a work surface and gather into a ball. Halve the dough ball and place each half on a 12” x 16” sheet of parchment paper. Pat each half into a 1”-thick rectangle and then cover with another sheet of parchment paper, lining it up with the first. Using a rolling pin, roll each dough half between the sheets of parchment to an even thickness of 1/8”, maintaining its rectangular shape [this was very difficult to do, so I made do with a big oval shape]. Carefully transfer the two dough halves, still between the parchment sheets, onto two baking sheets and freeze for 30 minutes.
5. Remove each sheet from the freezer, and transfer the parchment-wrapped dough sheets to a clean work surface. Remove the top sheet of parchment from each, and working quickly, use a fork or skewer to prick the dough sheets at roughly 1-inch intervals. Using a pizza cutter or a sharp knife, score the dough into 2-inch squares. Trim the scraps, and reserve to use for re-rolling and making more cookies. Return the pricked and scored dough sheets, still in single, large sheets, to the freezer for 15 to 20 minutes, until very firm.
6. Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven, and heat to 350°. Remove the chilled dough sheets from the freezer, and invert each onto a clean work surface. Peel away and discard the parchment paper and, working quickly, separate the dough sheets along the score lines, into individual squares. Place the squares onto three parchment paper-lined baking sheets, spacing them about 1 1/2 inches apart. Chill the squares on the baking sheets for 15 minutes.
7. Bake the squares for 14 minutes, until golden at the edges; rotate the baking sheets front to back and top to bottom halfway through cooking. Transfer to a rack and cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks. [I didn’t quite get 48 cookie/crackers out of my batch – probably because they were just a bit thicker than the 1/8 inch suggested – it’s hard to measure!]
Per Serving: 69 Calories; 4g Fat (49.7% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 8g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 10mg Cholesterol; 46mg Sodium.

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