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Here are the tastingspoons players. I’m in the middle (Carolyn). Daughter Sara on the right, and daughter-in-law Karen on the left. I started the blog in 2007, as a way to share recipes with my family. Now in 2021, I’ll still participate, but the two daughters are going to do more posting from here on out – well, I hope that’s not wishful thinking. They both lead very busy lives, so we’ll see.

We participate in an amazon program that rewards a little tiny $ something (pennies, really) if you purchase any books recommended (below), or buy products occasionally mentioned on the blog with an amazon link. 

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BOOK READING (from Carolyn):

At the moment I’m reading Amor Towles’ new book, The Lincoln Highway: A Novel. Literally I’ve just started it, but it’s a page turner. I think it’s still on the best seller list. A young man, Emmett, is released from a youth work camp (back in the day) and is returned home (by the camp warden) following the death of his father, to find that the home they’d lived in was in foreclosure. His mother abandoned them years before. His intent is to pick up his 8-year old brother and they will head off for Texas, but then he discovers two of his work-camp-mates had hidden themselves in the trunk of the warden’s car. Oh my goodness, such a tangled web. Fascinating, and Amor Towles has such a way with words. His sentences are like blooming flower vines, with metaphors in nearly every sentence. Such a gifted writer. Loving it so far.

If you’d like a mystery read, try Dete Meserve’s The Space Between. It’s just the kind of page-turner I enjoy – a wife returns to her home after being away on business for a few days, to find her husband missing and what he’s left for her is an unexplained bank deposit of a million dollars, a loaded Glock in the nightstand, and a video security system that’s been wiped clean. Oh there are plenty of twists and turns. Couldn’t put it down.

Read Alyson Richman’s historical novel called The Velvet Hours. Most of the book takes place in Paris, with a young woman and her grandmother, a very wealthy (but aging) woman who led a life of a semi-courtesan. Or at least a kept woman. But this grandmother was very astute and found ways to invest her money, to grow her money, and to buy very expensive goods. Then WWII intervenes, and the granddaughter has to close up her grandmother’s apartment, leaving it much the way it had been throughout her grandmother’s life, to escape the Nazis. Years go by, and finally answers are sought and found. An intriguing book, based on the author’s experience with an apartment that had been locked up similarly for decades, also in Paris.

Susan Meissner is one of my favorite authors. This book, The Nature of Fragile Things tells a very unusual story. About a young Irish immigrant, desperate to find a way out of poverty, answers an ad for a mail order bride. She moves to San Francisco and becomes the bride, and mother to the man’s young child. But all is not right with the world. Sophie senses an undercurrent about her husband’s life. He’s elusive, leaves her alone for days on end, doesn’t share her bed, and she begins to feel the only reason he wanted a wife was to care for the child. Then the world turns upside down with the 1906 earthquake. And then there’s more. . . and more. . . very gripping read.

Also read Rachel Hauck’s The Writing Desk. You could call this a romance. A young professional, a writer of one successful book, has writer’s block. Then she’s asked to go to Florida to help her mother (from whom she’s mostly estranged) through chemo. She goes, hoping she can find new inspiration. Oh the various twists this book can give you. There’s a guy she meets, but she’s keeping her boyfriend at home on the string, sort of. Then there’s the desk itself, that has history. Oh my, does it have history. Really interesting story, light reading.

One of my book clubs has us reading Matt Haig’s The Midnight Library: A Novel. What a premise for a book. About a library you can whiz to in the middle of the night and discover other lives you could have lived. And experience them. To find out the answers to those questions we ask ourselves sometimes, “I wonder what would have happened if I’d . . . .” taken that other job, gone out with that guy, taken that trip. That kind of thing. You’ll find out what happened to one particular woman who thought she had nothing left to live for. Good read. Very different. A bit space-agey. Sort of time travel, but not really. But yes, maybe.

James Shipman has written an intriguing book, It Is Well: A Novel, about a man who has lost his wife. And about a woman who has lost her husband. But their relationship stalls, big time, because the guy made a promise to his wife, and he feels duty-bound to honor it. There is much angst about it all. Much wringing of hands, some tears on her part. Nice book; good read.

I wrote up a post about this book: Most Spectacular Restaurant in the World: The Twin Towers, Windows on the World, and the Rebirth of New York by Tom Roston. Go read the full write-up if you’re interested. The book is a complete history of the famous restaurant on the 107th floor of one of the Twin Towers.

Also recently finished The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish. The book goes backwards and forwards in time, from the 1600s in London with the day-to-day lives of a group of Jews (who had to be very careful about how they worshiped) to current day as an old house is discovered to hold a treasure-trove of historical papers. The story is mostly about a young woman, educated, a Jew, who is the scribe (in secret) to an aging religious leader (in a time when women would have been verboten to hold such a position). And about her own curiosity about her religion and how she eventually begins writing letters (using a male pseudonym) to various Jewish leaders abroad, questioning their religious beliefs. The book is extraordinarily long – not that that kept me from turning a single page! – and complex with the cast of characters from the 1600s and the cast in today’s world of highly competitive experts analyzing the ancient papers. Altogether riveting book. Loved it from beginning to end.

I’m forever reading historical novels. The Lost Jewels: A Novel by Kirsty Manning is a mystery of sorts, going back in time in London in the time of aristocrats and their jewels (pearls, diamonds, gems of all kinds) sometimes made it into the hands of the digger or a maid. Then to current time as a young woman tries to ferret her family history and particularly about some old-old jewelry that they can’t quite figure out – how the grandmother came to have them. Fascinating tale.

Not for the faint of heart, Boat of Stone: A Novel by Maureen Earl tells the true tale of some misplaced Jews at the tale-end of WWII who ended up on Mauritius.

Colleen Hoover has written quite a book, It Ends with Us: A Novel, with a love story being the central theme, but again, this book is not for everyone – it can be an awakening for any reader not acquainted with domestic violence and how such injury can emerge as innocent (sort of) but then becomes something else. There is graphic detail here.

Erin Bartels wrote quite a complex story in The Words between Us: A Novel. We go alongside a young girl as she goes to high school, trying (somewhat unsuccessfully) to be anonymous (because her mother and father are both in prison), taking on a fake name. She meets a guy and they share a bond of reading and some romance. Years go by and she’s now owner of a failing independent bookstore (and married, or separated) and suddenly begins receiving a used book (that she recognizes) every day from a different place in the country. A message for sure, but where will it lead? Yes, it’s a romance. Lots of introspection going on. Enjoyed it.

Nicolas Barreau’s novel Love Letters from Montmartre: A Novel  is very poignant, very sweet book. Seems like I’ve read several books lately about grieving; this one has a charming ending, but as anyone who has gone through a grave loss of someone dear knows, you can’t predict day to day, week to week. “Snap out of it,” people say, thinking they’re helping.

Another very quirky book, that happens to contain a lot of historical truth is The Phone Booth at the Edge of the World: A Novel by Harry N. Abrams. Set in Japan just after the tsunami 10 years ago when 18,000 people died. At a private park miles away, some very special people installed a phone booth, with a phone (that didn’t work) at the edge of the park, and the survivors of the tsunami began wending their way there to “talk” to their deceased loved ones. Very poignant story.

No question, the most quirky book I’ve read of late, a recommendation from my friend Karen, West with Giraffes: A Novel by Lynda Rutledge. Back in the 1930s a small group of giraffes were brought across the Atlantic from Africa to New York, destined for the then-growing San Diego Zoo. The story is of their journey across the United States in the care of two oh-so-different people, both with a mission.

Riveting story of post-WWII- Japan in Ana Johns novel, The Woman in the White Kimono: A Novel. About a young Japanese girl who falls in love with an American serviceman.

Also read Rishi Reddi’s novel, Passage West: A Novel with a very different take on the migration of Indians (East India) to the California agricultural lands east of San Diego during the 1920s and 30s.

Maybe not everyone’s cup of tea, but the Mary Morris book, A Very Private Diary: A Nurse in Wartime tells the true day to day life of a young Irish girl who becomes a nurse, in England, France and Belgium in the midst of WWII and immediately after the war.

Could hardly put down Krueger’s book, This Tender Land: A Novel. Tells the harrowing story of a young boy, Odie, (and his brother Albert) who became orphans back in the 30s. At first there is a boarding school, part of an Indian (Native American) agreement, though they are not Indian. They escape, and they are “on the run.”

Just finished Kristin Hannah’s latest book, The Four Winds: A Novel. What a story. One I’ve never read about, although I certainly have heard about the “dust bowl” years when there was a steady migration of down-and-out farmers from the Midwest, to California, for what they hoped to be the American Dream. It tells the story of one particular family, the Martinellis, the grandparents, their son, his wife, and their two children.

Brit Bennett has written quite a book, The Vanishing Half: A Novel. It’s a novel, yet I’m sure there are such real-life situations. Twin girls are born to a young black woman in the South. Into a town (that probably doesn’t exist) that prides itself on being light-skinned blacks.

What a book. The Only Woman in the Room: A Novel by Marie Benedict. A novelized biography of Hedy Lamarr, the famous actress.  Very much worth reading.

Also read The Secret of the Chateau: Gripping and heartbreaking historical fiction with a mystery at its heart by Kathleen McGurl. There are two stories here. The historical part is just prior to and up to the French Revolution, and the second in current day as a group of friends purchase a crumbling chateau. Very interesting. I love historical novels like this, and this one in particular does have quite a mystery involved, too.

Also finished reading Sue Monk Kidd’s recent book, The Book of Longings: A Novel. It is a book that might challenge some Christian readers, as it tells the tale of Jesus marrying a woman named Mary. I loved the book from the first word to the last one. The book is believable to me, even though the Bible never says one way or the other that Jesus ever married. It’s been presumed he never did. But maybe he did?

Jeanine Cummins has written an eye-opener, American Dirt. A must read. Oh my goodness. I will never, ever, ever look at Mexican (and further southern) migrants, particularly those who are victims of the vicious cartels, without sympathy. It tells the story of a woman and her young son, who were lucky enough to hide when the cartel murdered every member of her family – her husband, her mother, and many others. It’s about her journey and escape to America.

Also read JoJo Moyes’ book, The Giver of Stars. Oh gosh, what a GREAT book. Alice joins the Horseback Librarians in the rural south.

Frances Liardet has written a blockbuster tale, We Must Be Brave. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Although the scene is WWII England, this book is not really about the war. It’s about the people at home, waiting it out, struggling with enough food, clothing and enough heat.

William Kent Krueger wrote Ordinary Grace. From amazon: a brilliantly moving account of a boy standing at the door of his young manhood, trying to understand a world that seems to be falling apart around him. It is an unforgettable novel about discovering the terrible price of wisdom and the enduring grace of God. It’s a coming of age story.

Follow the River: A Novel by James Alexander Thom. This one is also based on the history of a woman (married, pregnant) who was captured by the Shawnee, during the early settlement days east of the Ohio River, about 1755. And her eventual escape.

A Column of Fire: A Novel by Ken Follett. It takes place in the 1500s, in England, and has everything to do with the war between the Catholics and the Protestants, that raged throughout Europe during that time, culminating in the Spanish Inquisition.

My Name Is Resolute by Nancy Turner. She’s the author of another book of some renown, These is my Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1901 (P.S.). Resolute is what I’m discussing here. It’s fiction, but based some on a true story. Resolute, as a young girl from a privileged life on a plantation in Jamaica, was taken captive by slavers, eventually ended up in Colonial America.

The Shepherd’s Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape by James Rebanks. This is a memoir, so a true story, of a young man growing up in the Lake District of Northern England, who becomes a shepherd. Not just any-old shepherd – actually a well educated one. He knows how to weave a story.

 

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 January 15th, 2022.

Are you a fan of thumbprint cookies? I didn’t think I was, but these made me become one.

A post from Carolyn. These cookies, this recipe, comes from my friend, Linda T. My blog contains a number of her recipes over the  years. I visited her (she lives about an hour or so south of me, toward San Diego) a couple of weeks ago and she always makes me a lovely cup of coffee (she became a Nespresso fan too), and she always has some little sweet waiting for me when I get there. What a treat these were. Truly, I would never have reached for thumbprint cookies if there was a spread of cookies being served. They always seemed over-the-top sweet with the jam on top. Well, this recipe has turned me around completely. Maybe it’s just that this recipe comes from Ina Garten. Her recipes are always foolproof, just like the title of some of her cookbooks. Her recipes are reliable. And always good. This recipe comes from her 2002 Family Style cookbook.

What’s different about these is that instead of rolling the dough in chopped nuts, Ina has you do it in sweetened coconut. The making of these isn’t much different that most cookie doughs, although you do need to make time to chill the dough for awhile. It helps to have a kitchen scale, as she wants these to be 1 ounce each. The balls are placed on an ungreased cookie sheet, then you press a little thumb indentation in the top (not actually flattening the entire cookie). Ideally these are filled with raspberry or apricot jam, a mere 1/4 teaspoon. How do you even measure 1/4 teaspoon of jam, I ask? In other words, very little jam.

Speaking about Nespresso, as I was up above, I had to phone the customer service people there to have them walk me through why one of my machines wasn’t working quite right. They figured it out easily enough and we got it back in working order. While we were waiting for hot water to pump through to clean out the head, I casually mentioned to the nice guy, Ricardo, that I’m just a huge fan of Nespresso, period. That I now own three of them, and that I joke with my family (I do) that I need to be buried with my Nespresso machine, because it has to go with me to heaven. Ricardo just burst into laughter, telling me that was the funniest thing he’d heard all week, and could he share my story with his co-workers at their next staff meeting. I said yes, of course!

What’s GOOD: these cookies are just scrumptious. Just sweet enough. Not too sweet. Lovely with the coconut on the outside edges, with them lightly browned. Thank you, Linda, for making these. This recipe is a keeper, and perfect anytime, but particularly as Christmastime.

What’s NOT: nothing that I can think of.

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Thumbprint Cookies with Coconut

Recipe By: Ina Garten
Serving Size: 32

3/4 pound unsalted butter — at room temperature (3 cubes)
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 egg — beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
7 ounces shredded coconut meat — sweetened type
Raspberry and/or apricot jam

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until they are just combined and then add the vanilla. Separately, sift together the flour and salt. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture to the creamed butter and sugar. Mix until the dough starts to come together. Dump on a floured board and roll together into a flat disc. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.
3. Roll the dough into 1-1/4 inch balls. (If you have a scale, they should each weigh 1 ounce.) Dip each ball into the egg wash and then roll it in coconut. Place the balls on an ungreased cookie sheet and press a light indentation into the top of each with your finger. Drop 1/4 teaspoon of jam into each indentation. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the coconut is a golden brown. Cool and serve.
Per Serving: 175 Calories; 11g Fat (55.8% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 18g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 29mg Cholesterol; 23mg Sodium; 7g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 6mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 42mg Potassium; 27mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Cookies, on December 13th, 2021.

Have you ever tried potato chip cookies? I sure had not, but now I’m a fan.

A post from Carolyn. This recipe has been in my files for awhile. It came from Food52, and it just sounded so non-sensical. Potato chips in a cookie? Yet several commenters said they were wonderful, so I just had to try them. I never buy potato chips – they’re just something that I can walk right on by and never be tempted. Not that I don’t like them – I do. But I never crave them – maybe just a little bit with a ham sandwich. If I ever order a tuna sandwich (out) and potato chips are served with it, I’ll put some of the chips inside my sandwich. Not sure where that came from, though I know some people do that on lots of sandwiches.

Just so you know, an 8-ounce bag of Lay’s classic potato chips (that brand is called for here), when crushed (food processor) yielded about 3 1/4 cups. I have to laugh at myself – the original recipe called for 1-1/2 cups, but when I poured out the bag I ended up with over 3 cups and didn’t remember that I needed only 1-1/2 cups. So I put in the entire bag – 8 ounces – of potato chips. So the recipe has been changed below to indicate 3 cups of crushed potato chips.

The recipe starts with a pound of butter (whew!). But you won’t eat that many cookies at a sitting, and (of course) with all that butter, these just about melt in your mouth. The butter needs to be at room temp. My four cubes weren’t, so I put two cubes at a time into the microwave and zapped them for 10 seconds, then turned the cubes over and did another 10 seconds. All four cubes were perfectly softened. Into the stand mixer they went (it would be ideal if you have a stand mixer here because this next step takes awhile) and they got whipped for 10 full minutes. No guessing here – set the timer so you know.

At right you can see how light and fluffy the butter gets. There is nothing in there except butter at this point. Then you add in sugar, mix a bit, then add vanilla, then the potato chips and finely whizzed-up pecans. You mix that just until combined. Note, there is no leavening here – none whatsoever. No eggs. No baking powder.

The baking sheets need to be lined with parchment paper, then you use a small (tiny) scoop, or use two teaspoons to drop small rounded teaspoon-sized blobs onto the parchment. The first cookies I flattened with a glass, but the next trays I just let them drop as they were. Those cookies were a little more craggy on the top – more or less flattened – but not quite as flat-flat as the first trays. I’m fine with the more craggy ones – you can actually see the little tiny pieces of potato chips in those.  The picture at top shows the craggy ones. The original recipe didn’t call for pecans, but one of the commenters mentioned adding them, so I did too.

Scooping the cookies is a bit tedious – because the cookies are really small. I can’t say that I was all that diligent about getting each and every cookie uniformly sized. But they didn’t bake-up irregularly, so I think you’ll be fine whatever size you make them. I ended up with over 90 cookies, far more than I would have thought.

So the recipe indicates, the cookie improves on day two or three, but mine will go into the freezer, since that’s what I do with almost all cookies. I doubled the recipe that I’d found on Food52 because it indicated it made just 24 cookies. Nowhere near enough for what I needed. But doubling (and using more potato chips as I did) yielded over 90 cookies.

As I write this, my good friend Cherrie and I are going to get together to bake Christmas cookies. We always do cranberry noels, and she’s making a lemon icebox cookie (if they’re good I’ll post it after Christmas, probably). I’ve made these potato chip cookies already, and am not sure what other cookies I’ll do. At least one other. And I’ll be baking one batch of Golden Bishop’s Bread which is a must-have at my home over the holidays. My cousin Gary is driving south next week to be with me through the holidays. My granddaughter Taylor (the one living with me who’s in nursing school) is finishing up her second (of four) semesters and gets to have four weeks off before she returns after Christmas to start again. She’s leaving to go home to Placerville in a couple of days and SO happy to have a month off. This concentrated nursing school is grueling – on the days she has off  from school or clinical work at a local hospital, she’s closeted in her room studying and/or watching nursing school videos, and doing practice quizzes. Going for a 14-month BSN is not for sissies! I just love having this granddaughter of mine living with me. She’s a real joy to have around.

What’s GOOD: everything about them is good – the flavor, texture, the melt-in-your-mouth quality to them, the little bit of crunch from the potato chips and the pecans. They look pretty, and surprisingly they are more sturdy than I’d have thought, what with using mostly whipped butter as a batter. The recipe is a keeper. You might expect these to be extra salty, but they’re not at all. Surprisingly!

What’s NOT: only that you need to have potato chips on hand. And a pound of butter!!

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Potato Chip Cookies with Pecans

Recipe By: Adapted from Food 52
Serving Size: 90

2 cups unsalted butter — softened
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup pecans — chopped fine in food processor (optional)
3 cups potato chips — classic Lay’s potato chips, chopped finely in food processor (you can use less – – I accidentally doubled the amount)
3 tablespoons powdered sugar — to sprinkle on top

NOTE: The original cookie didn’t have pecans, but someone added them and said they were good, with more texture in the finished cookies. You can delete the pecans if you prefer.
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. Use a food processor to finely mince the potato chips and pecans (not together) and set aside. Do not over-process as you want the chips to still have some form.
3. Using an electric mixer (preferably a stand mixer), beat the butter until light and fluffy – at least 10 minutes. Do not skimp on the mixing time. Then add sugar and beat well. Add vanilla, then gradually add in the flour. Add the pecans and crushed potato chips last and mix until just combined.
4. Drop by the teaspoon onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet about 2 inches apart. If you don’t mind the tops being a little bit craggy, just mound the batter and they’ll flatten out in their own way.
5. Bake until slightly brown on the edges and still relatively white/creamy in the center of each cookie, about 10-11 minutes. Remove from oven and using a fine sieve, sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar while still warm. Keep in an airtight container for 2 to 3 days, or freeze for longer storage.
Per Serving: 107 Calories; 7g Fat (59.5% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 10g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 11mg Cholesterol; 42mg Sodium; 3g Total Sugars; 0mcg Vitamin D; 4mg Calcium; trace Iron; 102mg Potassium; 19mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Cookies, Desserts, on November 29th, 2021.

Pure bliss. Chocolate and nuts make my day. These are wonderful any time of year, but particularly so around the holidays.

This is a post from Carolyn, but actually Taylor made these. I merely helped a little and took photos. It’s such a joy to have this granddaughter of mine living with me. She wanted to make some cookies, asked me for some ideas and this one popped to the forefront. It’s a recipe from Food & Wine. Since she made them a month ago, I’ve made them as well and served them at a luncheon, topped with sweetened whipped cream. As I write this there are still 8-10 squares (I served larger squares as a dessert rather than a triangle or bar) in the frig. I wish they weren’t so darned delicious because I know that box beckons me nearly every day.

These aren’t hard to make at all, although they do have two steps – the shortbread crust, then the chocolate topping. You can combine the shortbread ingredients in a stand mixer or a food processor, which makes a dough. I’d separate the dough into about 6 pieces, then place them strategically on the sheet pan – which makes it easier to push the shortbread into the corners. There is just barely enough dough to fill a sheet pan.

You can see all the fingerprints in the dough (at left). It might have been nicer if we had used a flat glass to flatten it out, but it truly makes no difference in the finished product.

That gets baked (watch it so it doesn’t burn). Then you make the filling which is butter, dark brown sugar, a little bit of corn syrup, bittersweet chocolate, and cream. Once it cools slightly you add in the beaten eggs, and pour it out over the shortbread crust. That is baked awhile, then cooled slightly before you add the sea salt flakes on top. Cool completely, and they’re done. Oh so good.

At right you can see the baked bars, with all the pecans pebbling the surface. Once cooled you can cut them, or you can wait until they’re chilled. Be careful as you cut so the knife or sharp spatula doesn’t crack the shortbread. I cut them when they were room temp. After cutting, I put them into a refrigerator storage box with waxed paper separating the layers. Don’t put the cookies right on top of one another or it’ll ruin the chocolate top.

What’s GOOD: oh my goodness, so much chocolate and nut goodness. Loved these bars as a cookie or as a square piece as a dessert with the whipped cream on top. Altogether fabulous recipe. The chocolate part is a bit sticky, so when you handle them, do have them refrigerated first. And store them in the refrigerator. They make a bunch – they’re an easy dessert or cookie/bar to make. Great for the holidays.

What’s NOT: nothing really.

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Chocolate Pecan Shortbread Bars

Recipe By: Food & Wine magazine
Serving Size: 32

SHORTBREAD:
2 sticks unsalted butter — softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
CHOCOLATE TOPPING:
3 sticks unsalted butter
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate — finely chopped
2 tablespoons heavy cream
4 large eggs — beaten
3 cups pecan halves — chopped (10 ounces)
Flaky sea salt

1. SHORTBREAD: Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a 12-by-17-inch baking pan with foil, allowing it to extend 1/2 inch over the edge on all sides. Spray the foil with vegetable oil spray.
2. In a standing mixer or food processor, beat the butter with the confectioners’ sugar, flour and salt until a soft dough forms. Transfer the dough to the prepared pan, breaking it up into about 6 chunks and evenly place them on the baking sheet. Then use a flat-bottomed glass, to press the dough into an even layer. If you have difficulty, use your hands to gently coax the dough into the corners. Freeze the dough for about 10 minutes, until firm.
3. Bake the shortbread in the center of the oven for 20 minutes, until lightly golden. Do not overbake.
4. TOPPING: In a saucepan, combine the butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, chocolate and cream and cook over low heat just until melted and smooth. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly. If you add the eggs too soon, the hot chocolate mixture will “cook” the eggs, rather than thicken the topping. Add in the eggs, then fold in the pecans.
5. Spread the topping over the shortbread crust. Bake the shortbread bars for about 25 minutes, until the topping is set. Allow it to cool a few minutes, sprinkle lightly with sea salt, then cool to room temperature. Refrigerate until firm. Using the foil, carefully lift the bars out of the pan; discard the foil. Cut the shortbread into 32 triangles and serve. If you cut them into squares (larger) you can serve these as a stand-alone dessert with a topping of sweetened whipped cream. Or cut into triangles or smaller bars to serve as cookies. Store bars in refrigerator. You may stack them with pieces of waxed paper in between.
Per Serving: 312 Calories; 26g Fat (72.5% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 18g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 62mg Cholesterol; 34mg Sodium; 9g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 21mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 67mg Potassium; 52mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Cookies, on November 22nd, 2021.

Because the calendar says it’s Fall, I’m thinking about baking. Fall flavors. Gingerbread comes to mind.

Actually I made these a few weeks ago and they’re already long gone. In the interim I was helping both Karen and Sara with posting recipes of their own and I let this recipe sit in the wings. You’ve seen a lot of biscotti recipes around here in the last several months. I’ve convinced myself that a biscotti has less fat, calories and sugar (and since I make it with mostly artificial sugar) then I can have one now and then. Given my ‘druthers, I’d make either chocolate biscotti, or anise biscotti, or combination of chocolate and anise, but even I get tired of those after awhile. And since I write a blog, it was time for a variation. Something totally different.

This recipe actually came from the Challenge dairy company. Is Challenge a West Coast firm? My DIL, Karen, gave me this recipe several years ago and I just hadn’t gotten around to making them.

It took very little time to mix them up. Except for grating the fresh ginger. I have a little flat device for doing this, but still it took me about 10 minutes to get 1/4 cup of it! The dough I made in my stand mixer – the only caution I’d give you is to add the almonds and dried apricots slowly and mix it well. The mixture is kind of dry-ish, so the add-ins didn’t want to come together very well without striations of almonds or of dried apricots. So when I sliced the logs, some fell apart because they had too much of those in the middle. But it made no difference in the finished product, obviously. They tasted fine, even though some of them broke apart.

What’s GOOD: I liked the fall flavors – the spice mix of cinnamon, allspice, ginger, and the hint of molasses too. The biscotti are good. I won’t call them sensational, but then my palate is jaded because I love anise biscotti and/or chocolate ones. But it’s fall – these were nice.

What’s NOT: only the grating of 1/4 cup of fresh ginger. Otherwise, mixing these up and baking them were pretty easy.

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Gingerbread Biscotti with Apricots and Almonds

Recipe By: Challenge Dairy recipe
Serving Size: 30

1/2 cup unsalted butter — (1 stick) softened
1 cup sugar — or artificial sugar, or combo of both
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons molasses
1/4 cup grated ginger root — yes, freshly grated ginger root
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup chopped almonds — or sliced
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots — be sure to cut them into very small little cubes

1. Preheat oven to 325°F.
2. Cream butter, sugar, ground ginger and allspice until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, molasses and chopped ginger root. Combine flour, baking soda and salt; blend into butter mixture. With mixer on, slowly add almonds and apricots. Chill dough for ease of handling.
3. Divide dough in half. On a lightly floured surface, shape each portion into two 12-inch long logs. Place logs on a lightly buttered or parchment lined cookie sheet. If you have one of the corrugated-style baking sheets, neither parchment nor butter is required.
4. Bake 30-35 minutes or until firm. Cool for about 15 minutes, then using a long, serrated knife, cut diagonally into 3/8-inch slices. Place slices on a cookie sheet and bake at 250°F for approximately one hour to dry the biscotti. If you use a convection oven for this step, reduce time to about 40 minutes. If you run out of room on your baking sheets, stand some of the biscotti on the edges but leave enough room around them to dry out in the oven. Make sure they aren’t touching. Cool completely then freeze in plastic storage bags. They’re fine, eaten from a frozen state. Great with a cup of coffee or tea.
Per Serving: 135 Calories; 5g Fat (34.7% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 20g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 20mg Cholesterol; 85mg Sodium; 8g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 19mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 106mg Potassium; 42mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Cookies, on November 15th, 2021.

A post from Carolyn. My freezer was bare – of cookies.

Having resisted making more cookies for a couple of weeks, I knew I needed something new to stock the freezer. I found this recipe in my files – it says it came from the blog cookie madness, but when I researched her website I didn’t find them, so perhaps I was wrong. Have no idea then, of the origin of these cookies. There’s another recipe here on my blog for a cookie called Ranger Cookies. Any of  you ever made those? I think they have oats and walnuts in them too. These are similar. Maybe even better.

They were cinchy easy to make – first thing was to melt a couple of cubes of butter then let that cool. Meanwhile I roasted the whole almonds in a medium oven, then added the coconut on top and let all of that become golden brown. Once that had cooled some it was poured into the food processor and chopped up finely. Then I started the butter and sugar mixture (I used nearly all artificial sugar – golden brown Splenda, and So Nourished erythritol granulated form) in my stand mixer, added the egg, extracts and salt.

In another bowl I’d combined the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, soda and salt. I mixed that up a little bit with a whisk to distribute the cornstarch and the soda clumps (actually I poured that out into my palm to mash any little clumps first). Then that was added to the wet mixture just until it came together, then in went the corn flakes and lastly the chocolate chips. With very little mixing. I used my handy-dandy scoop to make rounds, flattened them slightly and baked the cookies for 16 minutes. They rested briefly on a rack because they were a bit too fragile to transfer immediately. Once cool, they’re quite sturdy. Packed into plastic bags, they’re now resting in the freezer for frequent visits by those of us in the house at the moment (my granddaughter and her dad, Todd, who is visiting). Can’t tell you how many times the freezer door has been opened and shut since I made these cookies. Does that tell you whether these cookies are worth making?

What’s GOOD: they’re simply wonderful. The cornstarch obviously adds some crispy texture to the cookies, but the corn flakes do too. Altogether great cookies. A winner of a recipe.

What’s NOT: nary a thing that I can think of. These are really good crispy cookies.

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Crispy Crunchy Almond Chocolate Chips Cookies

Recipe By: From the internet, somewhere
Serving Size: 60

1 cup almonds — whole, unsalted
2 cups sweetened coconut flakes — about 5 ounces
2 sticks unsalted butter — softened
1 cup brown sugar — I used Splenda brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar — I used 90% So Nourished erythritol
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 large egg
2 cups all-purpose flour — very lightly spooned, so scant the measurement slightly
1/3 cup cornstarch
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups corn flakes
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips — or bittersweet, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment or foil and set aside.
2, Place almonds in a 13×9 inch pan or rimmed cookie sheet and roast for 6 minutes. Dump coconut over almonds and roast both together for another 4-5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Reduce oven heat to 325°.
3. In a mixing bowl, cream butter, both sugars, both extracts and egg. In a separate bowl, thoroughly stir together flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir flour mixture into butter-sugar mixture.
4. Transfer almonds and coconut to a food processor and pulse until almonds are finely chopped. Add corn flakes and pulse 5 more times to crush cereal. Dump almond/coconut/cereal mixture into cookie batter and stir until batter comes together. Do not over mix. Add chocolate chips and mix very briefly.
5. Shape dough into 1-inch balls and place on cookie sheets. Press balls down slightly so that tops are flattened a little bit. Bake one sheet at a time for 16-18 minutes. Let cool for about 3 minutes on cookie sheet, then transfer to wire rack to cool. Store in plastic bags in the freezer for longer term storage. However, they may not last all that long.
Per Serving: 112 Calories; 6g Fat (46.6% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 14g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 11mg Cholesterol; 76mg Sodium; 8g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 20mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 49mg Potassium; 37mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Cookies, on August 16th, 2021.

Oh yum. Chocolate. Walnuts. Raisins. In a rich cookie. What’s there not to like?

A post from Carolyn. When I was a young-un, I read The Yearling, written by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. To this day I remember liking the book and I can’t tell you a thing about the story, other than it was set in Florida. But Rawlings’ name rolled off my tongue enough that I never forgot her name. Then I read her book, Cross Creek. Years went by and when I was visiting my first husband’s grandmother, I perused her cookbooks one day and noticed Cross Creek Cookery. My recollection is that I borrowed the book from her, and enjoyed reading the snippets of stories about her. And her recipes. Decades slipped by and I was reading a blog about Maida Heatter’s recipes (I do own two of her cookbooks) and up popped a recipe from Rawlings. I saved the recipe. Today was the day I finally got around to making them.

I don’t have the original recipe from Rawlings, but I have Heatter’s revised recipe, that contains no leavening (except eggs) and has the addition of some coffee. So the story goes. Heatter was driving across Florida, stopped at a gas station and inside, the owner served up a “brownie” that was (supposedly) Rawlings’ recipe. But the woman at the gas station was the one who added coffee. Maybe some one of my readers owns that Rawlings cookbook and can share the differences from there to here. Heatter thought they were more cookie than brownie, so they became such. Not sure if Rawlings’ original was called a brownie or a cookie.

Whatever they were called originally, the cookies are simple to make. The only slightly time consuming effort was to melt the unsweetened chocolate with the coffee. And cool it a bit before adding it to the butter-eggs mixture, then the eggs went in and flour; then the additions (walnuts, raisins [I used golden because that’s what I had on my pantry shelf] and chocolate chips). I used 3 cups of walnuts, not 4, which was in the original recipe. The batter is gooey – it’s not thin – but it’s certainly not moldable in your hands; far too wet for that, but using a spring-loaded cookie scoop they easily went onto cookie sheets and didn’t spread a bit. Mine baked for exactly 13 minutes and were done. Once cooled on a wire rack, they went into freezer bags and into the freezer for longer storage. I offered to take cookies to a reception following a memorial service for a dear friend’s husband, and she asked if her PEO sisters would bake cookies. Of course! When have I ever turned down the opportunity to bake cookies? . . . just as long as I get to keep just a few for myself!

What’s GOOD: just a lovely, fudgy, but cake-like cookie. Nice intense chocolate flavor. Like the chew with the addition of walnuts, raisins and chocolate chips. I’d definitely make them again.

What’s NOT: nothing that I can think of.

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Chocolate Cookies

Recipe By: Adapted from Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings by Maida Heatter
Serving Size: 60

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup espresso — or dissolve 4 tsp of instant coffee granules in water
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate — coarsely chopped
6 ounces unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1 cup raisins — black or golden
3 cups walnuts — chopped coarsely
2 cups chocolate chips

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and cover cookie sheets with parchment paper. Sift together the flour and salt and set aside.
2. Place unsweetened chocolate in a small saucepan with the espresso and melt over very, very low heat (definitely don’t allow it to burn), and stir until smooth. Remove from heat, stir and allow to cool for about 3-4 minutes.
3. In a mixing bowl, beat the butter until soft. Add the vanilla and then gradually add the sugar, beating until mixed. Add the chocolate mixture and mix well (it is okay if the mixture is still warm).
4. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating them in well. On low speed, add the flour mixture and beat just until mixed. Stir in the raisins, nuts and chocolate morsels.
5. Use a spring-loaded cookie scoop if possible, or use two spoons together to scoop and place on the parchment paper about 2 inches apart. Bake for 12-15 minutes, reversing the pans halfway through baking. The cookies are done when they barely spring back when pressed. Do not overbake. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Per Serving: 192 Calories; 12g Fat (57.1% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 18g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 20mg Cholesterol; 106mg Sodium; 12g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 26mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 121mg Potassium; 72mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Cookies, on July 2nd, 2021.

Another biscotti variation, this one adapted from Giada . . .

A post from Carolyn. If you’ve been reading my blog of late, you’ve seen a bunch of biscotti recipes. I’ve been on a roll with biscotti. It’s something I can make for myself and since I use fake sugar in it – truly I can’t tell the difference (from fake sugar vs. real sugar). They are quite low in calorie and fat (although some do have quite a bit of butter).

I went searching around on the ‘net to read more about biscotti. Way back when, biscotti were developed by Italian nonnas as a little sweet something that had to be dipped/dunked into hot liquid (obviously, espresso) in order to make them edible. Probably it was at a time in history when fat was precious, whether it be butter or olive oil. Earlier versions of biscotti had no fat in them. None. And truly, they were little, rock-hard nuggets; hence they sliced them thinly and when you dunked them, you could eat just the part that had been dunked. It would break off where it has softened. And there was a trick to how long that little slice was dunked. Too long, and it would fall off into the coffee. Ever had that happen? I sure have! In fact it happened to me recently, with one of my biscotti I’d made (that did have butter in it). As I said, there’s a trick to how long to dunk. If it has little fat in it, maybe a second or two longer. With fat, less time.

After I made the last batch of biscotti, I got to thinking. I had a bag of macadamia nuts. And I’d been thinking about buying some fresh dried apricots. As I thought, I conjured up a biscotti that had candied ginger (minced up finely), apricots (also very finely minced) and the macadamia nuts (also minced). But what spice to put in it? Vanilla? No. Anise? No, as I’ve done anise in all my recent biscotti. Cinnamon? No, that didn’t sound good. The more I thought, the more I thought I should use a savory herb – and bingo, rosemary. And goodness, I loved the flavor combo.

Using the Giada recipe I’d used most recently, I merely swapped out the add-ins for the apricots, macadamia nuts, crystallized ginger and a little pile of finely minced fresh rosemary. They baked up easily and I made a double batch.

During the two weekends I spent with Karen, teaching her how to post on the blog, we had some very intense sessions together, with her doing photos, staging some pictures here and there, and getting her acquainted with the back-end of posting. And I took a bag of the biscotti. The family seemed to enjoy it as much as I did. I’d definitely make this again. The only thing I might do differently is to use slivered almonds instead of macadamia nuts. The latter are so expensive, and their flavor is quite subtle. I think they were kind of lost as an ingredient in a flavorful biscotti. But if you love macadamia, by all means use them. I just felt you couldn’t really taste them as much as eating them out of hand.

What’s GOOD: loved the flavor combination. Loved the rosemary. Who knew that rosemary would add such a nice, gentle flavor in a cookie?

What’s NOT: nothing really – easy to make. Only caution – once they’re finished, with the really-firm dried apricots, it’s a “hard” cookie – – don’t break a tooth. I freeze all of my cookies, and when I grab one out of the freezer, those little nuggets are very hard. Advice: let them defrost 10-15 minutes before serving.

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Apricot, Macadamia, Ginger and Rosemary Biscotti

Recipe By: Adapted from a Giada de Laurentiis recipe
Serving Size: 48

4 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar — or sugar substitute
1 cup unsalted butter
4 large eggs
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary — very finely minced
1/2 cup crystallized ginger — minced
1/2 cup macadamia nuts — chopped (or slivered almonds)
1/2 cup dried apricots — minced

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. Line a heavy large baking sheet with parchment paper. Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl to blend. Using an electric mixer, beat the sugar and butter in a large bowl to blend. Beat in the eggs 1 at a time. Add the flour mixture and beat just until blended.
3. Into the bowl with the flour mixture, add the chopped apricots and mix. Separate any pieces that are sticking together. Add the nuts, crystallized ginger and rosemary.
4. With mixer running, slowly add the flour mixture and continue until all the flour has been incorporated.
5. Onto a floured board, pour the dough out, mix 4-5 times, pulling any stray pieces of apricot or nuts. Divide the dough into 4 pieces. Gently roll or flatted the dough pieces into about 12-14″ lengths, flattening the top slightly.
6. Bake the biscotti for 30 minutes, rotating and changing the pans after 15 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 30 minutes (no longer). Gently place each baked dough form onto a cutting board. Using a serrated knife, gently slice, on the diagonal, into 1/2 inch or less pieces, carefully holding each end as you saw, so the ends won’t break off.
7. Place cut slices back onto baking sheet, flat sides down, return to oven and bake for 7 minutes. Exchange location of pans, and turn them around and continue baking for about another 10 minutes. If you prefer the biscotti to be uniformly golden brown, turn them over after 5 minutes so the other side browns. Remove from oven, cool, then package into containers. They will keep at room temp (sealed) for several days. Ideally, freeze them, and remove 10-15 minutes before serving, as the apricots can be extremely firm when frozen. You don’t want to break a tooth!
Per Serving: 116 Calories; 5g Fat (41.1% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 16g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 26mg Cholesterol; 54mg Sodium; 6g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 28mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 47mg Potassium; 54mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Cookies, Desserts, on June 7th, 2021.

In cooking terms, what does “outrageous” mean to you?

A post from Carolyn.  So, outrageous . . . the word? Out of the box? Rich? Decadent? Probably all of the above. And this recipe qualifies on all counts. Maybe not so much on “out of the box” except that it’s an outrageous amount of chocolate in them. You can see on the right all the various packages of chocolate I unwrapped – unsweetened, semi-sweet plus the dark chocolate chips too.

Of course, the batch, baked in a half sheet pan, makes 20 (or more) servings, so to tell you that it calls for a pound of butter and nearly 3 pounds of chocolate . . . it does make a lot. I cut them into smaller pieces, so I got about 30+ squares from the pan. Not counting the two small one-inch square pieces I ate while the pan was cooling. . .

The recipe comes from Ina Garten. I think I saw her make these on her TV show awhile back – that’s probably why I already had it in my recipe collection. And perhaps it’s in one of her cookbooks as well? I haven’t checked. As I write this I’m having a wine tasting event here at my house. To serve a variety of wines with appropriate appetizers to go with them. Some white, some red. I’ve made home made caponata (I’ll post it soon – couldn’t believe that recipe wasn’t already here on the blog). I’m going to open a bottle of red after-dinner wine, which will go with the brownies. I still have a couple hundred bottles of wine in the wine cellar – 99% of them from when my DH Dave was still alive (and he’s been gone for 7 years now). And 95% of them are reds. A few of the bottles got poured out as they didn’t cellar well, but mostly the wine has been fabulous.  I did go out and purchase a couple bottles of Cloudy Bay sauvignon blanc, one of my favorites if I’m drinking a white. Many years ago Dave and I spent time in New Zealand, and I fell in love with Cloudy Bay wines.

Know from the beginning, that there are several steps:

Melt the semisweet and unsweetened chocolate and butter

Mix the 7 eggs, sugar and vanilla together

Mix the dry ingredients in a separate bowl

Mix the add-ins (chocolate chips and walnuts) separately, and coat with flour.

If you know all of the above when you start, you’ll get it all in the right order. First thing is to melt the chocolate and butter (either in the microwave – see the instructions – or over the stove in a double boiler or on top of a flame-tamer – the latter is what I did) and let it cool some. While you’re doing that, get all the rest of the ingredients together in their proper bowls. Heat the oven, then start mixing. The chocolate mixture does need to cool to room temp before you can proceed. Hot chocolate + raw eggs = scrambled eggs, maybe. So be careful.

The only unusual thing – after 20 minutes in the oven, open the door, pull out the rack, pick up the sheet pan a bit and rap the pan on the baking rack, to pump out any air trapped in between the pan and the parchment. After they finish baking, the brownies are cooled to room temp, refrigerated (yes) for an hour – THEN you can cut them. Makes for easier slicing. They’ll store in the frig (in an airtight container) for a week. Otherwise, freeze them, tightly wrapped in foil.

What’s GOOD: oh my gosh, are these wonderful. If you’re a chocoholic, you’ll be over the moon. I used dark chocolate chips so these were pure decadence for me. Wonderful. Marvelous. A keeper. Rich. Buttery. Yessss.

What’s NOT: don’t be on a diet when you make these.

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Outrageous Brownies

Recipe By: Ina Garten
Serving Size: 20 (or 30)

CHOCOLATE BUTTER MIXTURE:
16 ounces unsalted butter
16 ounces semisweet chocolate — finely chopped
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate — bar type, finely chopped (not cocoa)
EGG MIXTURE:
2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
7 large eggs
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
DRY MIXTURE:
1 cup all-purpose flour — divided
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
CHIPS & NUTS:
3 cups chopped walnuts
12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup flour

1. PREP: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 13×18-inch rimmed half sheet pan (or grease and line with parchment paper).
2. CHOCOLATE BUTTER MIXTURE: Place the butter, semisweet chocolate and unsweetened chocolate in a medium bowl and microwave on 50% power in 30-second increments, stirring after each, until completely melted and smooth. (Alternately, you can also melt the butter and chocolates in a double boiler on the stovetop). Allow to cool slightly.
3. EGG & SUGAR MIXTURE: In a large bowl, stir together the sugar, eggs, and vanilla with a wooden spoon. Stir the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture and allow to cool to room temperature.
4. DRY MIXTURE: In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Add to the cooled chocolate mixture and stir gently with the wooden spoon until mostly combined.
5. NUT & CHIPS MIXTURE: In a medium bowl, toss the walnuts and chocolate chips with 1/4 cup of flour, then add them to the chocolate batter and stir until totally incorporated. Pour into the baking sheet and spread into an even layer.
6. Bake for 20 minutes, then rap the baking sheet against the oven shelf to force the air to escape from between the pan and the brownie dough. Bake for an additional 15 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool thoroughly, then refrigerate for at least 1 hour, and cut into 20 large squares (and those are very large). Leftover brownies can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Freeze in foil for longer storage. If you cut smaller squares you can certainly have 30 servings that are more “normal” sized squares.
Per Serving (cut into 20 pieces): 670 Calories; 48g Fat (61.5% calories from fat); 9g Protein; 59g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 114mg Cholesterol; 205mg Sodium; 45g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 107mg Calcium; 4mg Iron; 335mg Potassium; 266mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Cookies, on March 24th, 2021.

dried_cherry_amaretto_almond_biscotti

See those dark cherries? Soaked in Amaretto. And almonds added too.

In my recipe arsenal I have two biscotti recipes I favor. Both posted here. Most recently my favorite is Chocolate (chip) Anise Biscotti; my other favorite is Chocolate Biscotti. I wanted to try something new, so I dug out some of my cookbooks and found this one in Martha Stewart’s Cookies: The Very Best Treats to Bake and to Share: A Baking Book cookbook. I can’t say that I’ve made very many of the recipes in it, but it’s a huge cookbook. And this one appealed to me. I had dried cherries (Trader Joe’s) and they were soaked in Amaretto I had on hand. I didn’t have whole blanched almonds on hand, but I did have slivered ones, so I chopped those up.

When I bake these days, I’m using more artificial sugar. My current favorite is So Nourished Erythritol Sweetener Granular – 1:1 Sugar Substitute. In this recipe I used a scant half cup of sugar and a scant half cup of the So Nourished sweetener. I cannot taste the artificial sugar at all – in other words, there were no off flavors or the cooling tendency people talk about. Next time I’ll proportion it with more of the erythritol.

The recipe called for sanding sugar – I probably have something in my pantry, but I didn’t add it – can’t say that I missed it. I did use some of the erythritol sprinkled on top, but it was absorbed into the biscotti, so you couldn’t see it once these were baked. I wouldn’t bother doing that.

The dried cherries are gently simmered in the Amaretto, so they’re nice and plump. They’re drained, and the remaining liquid is added to the dough, then the cherries and almonds are added in at the end. I used my stand mixer for all of it. The dough wasn’t hard to shape into logs, they baked easily enough, cooled for a set number of minutes, then I sliced them on the diagonal with a serrated knife, then back onto the cookies sheets to bake some more. The recipe indicates 8 minutes per side, but I think the biscotti needed about another 3-8 minutes of baking to get them dry enough. Once I frozen them, I can’t tell the difference, but when I ate one that was cooled after baking, it kind of broke off like a cookie would. I added those instructions into the recipe below.

What’s GOOD: liked the flavor – you can’t really taste the Amaretto – at least I couldn’t. The cherries, yes. Liked the crunch of the almonds. I put them all in the freezer and bring one out now and then. And they’re plenty firm if you eat them straight out of the freezer – be careful and don’t break a tooth! Yes, I’d make them again.

What’s NOT: nothing, really. I still like my other two favorites better, but these were nice for a change.

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Dried Cherry, Amaretto and Almond Biscotti

Recipe By: Martha Stewart’s Cookies
Serving Size: 36

1 3/4 cups dried cherries
1/2 cup Amaretto liqueur — (almond-flavored liqueur), plus more if needed
3 cups all-purpose flour — plus more for work surface
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt — use coarse if you have it
4 tablespoons unsalted butter — room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar — (may use half artificial sugar)
4 large eggs — (3 whole, 1 lightly beaten)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup blanched almonds — whole or slivered, chopped
3 tablespoons coarse sanding sugar

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Heat cherries and liqueur in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until cherries have softened, about 8 minutes. Drain, reserving 2 tablespoons liquid. If liquid equals less than 2 tablespoons, add enough liqueur to make 2 tablespoons.
2. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl. Put butter and granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Mix in 3 whole eggs, one at a time. Mix in reserved cherry liquid and the vanilla. Reduce speed to low, and gradually mix in flour mixture. Stir in cherries and almonds.
3. On a lightly floured surface, halve dough. Shape each half into a 12 1/2 by 2 1/2-inch log. Flatten logs to 1/2 inch thick. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with a parchment paper. Brush logs with beaten egg; sprinkle with the sanding sugar.
4. Bake 35 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Transfer to wire racks to cool, about 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees.
5. Cut each log on the diagonal into 16 to 18 pieces. Transfer pieces to racks, laying them on sides. Set racks on baking sheets. Bake 8 minutes; flip. Bake 8 minutes more. Test them to see if they’re on the crisp side – may need 3-5 more minutes in the oven. Let cool until crisp.
Per Serving: 127 Calories; 4g Fat (24.9% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 22g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 24mg Cholesterol; 62mg Sodium; 12g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 34mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 69mg Potassium; 65mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Cookies, on December 21st, 2020.

chocolate_anise_biscotti

Finally, I gave in to my wanting to bake something for Christmas. I really tried not to, but one morning I just knew. And oh, are these nice! Love my island with Christmas décor.

There’s no special baking marathon going on at my house this year. Usually, my friends Cherrie and Jackie spend a good part of a day baking all manner of Christmas cookies. But Covid has interrupted that venture. I have such a big kitchen, there is room for all three of us doing whatever needs to be done. And I have two ovens. But not happening this year. Boo-hoo. I’m not even doing Christmas cards this year. Perhaps the first year since I became an adult. My heart just isn’t in it.

But, I gave in to my cravings and decided to make biscotti. The recipe in my file says this one came from Giada. I haven’t gone searching, but it sounds logical since biscotti are an Italian invention, and she is Italian, for sure. Many eons ago I worked with a woman my age who was Italian, and every Christmas her mother made anise biscotti. Doreen would bring in part of the batch and choc_anise_biscotti_logshare it with the people in the office. I had never had anise – well, other than in Italian sausage, I suppose. I have a special anise cake here on my blog – if you’re interested and didn’t catch that recipe when it appeared. It’s my variation on Mark Miller’s recipe from Coyote Café in Santa Fe, New Mexico. But back in the mid 1970s, I’d never had anise in a baked good, for sure. I was enamored, and for some years I made them myself. But I found the dough kind of hard to work with. Well, not really the dough, it was the baked log – I found it so hard to cut it without each slice crumbling apart, breaking, particularly on the ends. My DH didn’t like anise cookies much – he didn’t eat them, so I stopped making them. Then I visited my friend Linda a few years ago and she served me her Almond-Anise Biscotti. Oh, gosh, they are good! In fact Linda sent me home with a little jar with Sambuca in it – I’m so glad I remember this . . . I’ll have to make them too. Then a couple of years ago I started choc_anise_biscotti_slicedmaking chocolate biscotti, and that was when the tide turned for me about how easy biscotti can be. Farmgirl Susan’s recipe was by far the easiest dough (biscotti type) I’d ever worked with.

However, I wasn’t sure when I started making THIS recipe that the dough would cooperate. But it did. I think I broke 3 slices of the biscotti during the slicing process. DO USE A BREAD KNIFE.

The dough is mixed (I used my stand mixer, but a hand mixer would work) and at the last you add in the chocolate chips. The dough was just barely on the sticky side, so I did sprinkle my countertop with a tiny bit of flour, molded it into the shape you see at top left, then carefully transferred the log to the parchment lined baking sheet.

choc_anise_biscotti_2nd_bakeInto a 350° oven it went for 30 minutes. At that point it was just tinged with golden color. The tray was removed and allowed to cool for 30 minutes. Do set a timer on this – you don’t want the baked log to get cooled down completely or you’ll have trouble slicing it. Slice – remember, serrated knife – into thin slices, lay flat (mostly flat – I had to stand a few of them up on their edges because the sheet pan was full) and bake for another 15 minutes. Then cool completely. I stacked these into freezer bags and that’s where they are now.

What’s GOOD: love the flavor. The anise is subtle here – if you wanted it to be more predominant, double the amount of anise. I liked it just fine. My anise seeds are a bit aged, so I actually used about 1 1/2 tsp, ground up finely in my spice grinder. And for me, the chocolate chips put them over the top. Delicious.

What’s NOT: they’re a little bit fragile to handle – be gentle! Otherwise, they are a perfect biscotti specimen!

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Chocolate Anise Biscotti

Recipe By: Giada de Laurentiis
Serving Size: 24

2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter — room temperature
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon anise seed — ground finely
1 cup chocolate chips

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. Line a heavy large baking sheet with parchment paper. Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl to blend. Using an electric mixer, beat the sugar and butter in a large bowl to blend. Beat in the eggs 1 at a time. Add the flour mixture and beat just until blended. Add the ground anise seed and mix well. Stir in the chocolate chips.
3. Scoop the dough out onto your countertop. If the dough is too sticky to mold, sprinkle your countertop with a little bit of flour (keep it to a minimum). Form the dough into a 16-inch-long, 3-inch-wide log. Transfer the log to the prepared baking sheet. Bake until light golden, about 30 minutes. Cool 30 minutes.
4. Carefully place the log on a cutting board. Using a serrated knife, cut the log on a diagonal into 1/2- to 3/4-inch-thick slices. You can slice them thinner, but they’ll be more fragile. Arrange the cookies, cut side down, on the same baking sheet. Bake the cookies until pale golden, about 15 minutes. Transfer the cookies to a rack and cool completely.Will keep at room temp for a few days; otherwise, stack and place in freezer bags and then in the freezer for longer storage. They taste just great as a frozen cookie (i.e., they’re not going to break a tooth!).
Per Serving: 140 Calories; 6g Fat (41.1% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 19g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 27mg Cholesterol; 59mg Sodium; 10g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 40mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 45mg Potassium; 64mg Phosphorus.

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