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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.

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:

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. This book is about a young man, a young father also, who loses his beloved wife. He’s barely functioning, trying to get through a day, taking care of his young son. And visiting the cemetery (the one in Montmartre, Paris). There are several peripheral characters (his son, a neighbor and best friend of his departed wife, a good guy friend too, plus a young woman he befriends at the cemetery). As a parting request, his wife asks him to write 33 letters to her after she’s gone, and to put them in a special box hidden in the cemetery monument. And that begins the story.

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. It became a monument, of sorts, a lovely garden too, and people became friends, heard their stories of the tsunami and watched as they approached the phone booth, entered, and began to talk solemnly to their loved ones. This book is just amazing. I found myself tearing up several times. Maybe not for everyone, but I can’t imagine anyone not appreciating the poignancy of this special phone booth. And what it did to heal people through grief. I sure could identify.

As you’ve read here many times, I marvel at authors who come up with unusual premises for their books. This one Meet Me in Monaco: A Novel of Grace Kelly’s Royal Wedding. And yes, it IS somewhat about Grace Kelly’s wedding, but most of the novel is about a young woman perfume designer, Sophie, who accidentally rescues Grace Kelly from the relentless photographers who hound her every move. It begins when Grace visits Monaco for the Cannes Film Festival, and a few days later she meets Prince Rainier. Young Sophie becomes Grace’s friend, and actually, so does the relentless photographer. I can remember when Grace Kelly married the Prince – the fairy tale come true. It was quite the big news (I was in my late teens then). Definitely this story is a romance, but not the sappy type you may be used to. Loved the book.

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. The book IS a novel, but the event is true. 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. On the voyage the ship encounters a hurricane and several giraffes are lost, but two young ones survive. The story is of their journey across the United States in the care of two oh-so-different people, both with a mission. A young boy (barely an adult) becomes the driver (his only goal is his desire to go to California), with the zoo’s delegate (a middle-aged man with a past), and it’s the story about these two misfits and their caring for the giraffes, feeding them (that’s a laugh – onions play a big part). No freeways existed back then, and the mental picture of the vehicle they used (basically a small truck) with the two giraffes confined within two tall boxes precariously strapped to the truck, and their driving and carrying-on getting under bridges and over rivers is just a hoot. I so wanted this story to be true – parts of it ARE true. Worth reading if you enjoy such animal stories. The giraffes survive, thankfully, and they both lived to a ripe old age at the zoo!

Also a kind of quirky book by Beth Miller, The Missing Letters of Mrs. Bright. Picture a middle-aged woman, slogging through life with a not-very-attentive husband, grown children, and one day she decides to leave. Completely. Maybe she had a bucket list of sorts, and she knew none of those places would ever happen in her life if she stayed put. She sets off to find a long-lost girlfriend. The book is about her journey. Her travels. Friendships, and lost friendships. Everyone can probably empathize with Kay Bright as she examines her life. And yes, there are letters and chapters with her daughter, Stella. Cute book.

Katherine Center’s book, Things You Save in a Fire: A Novel is certainly vivid. There aren’t very many women firefighters out there in the world – this is about one. A novel, however. About her work life and the harrassment she endures (some of it’s with love, some not) and about her relationships. The pros and cons of transferring to a different fire station (just like any job move, not always smooth). Good read.

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. Such relationships were fraught with problems from the very strict Japanese families who resented the American presence in their country, to the American military higher-ups who made it impossible for the servicemen to marry Japanese nationals. Could hardly put it down. Yes, it’s a romance of sorts, but not in the typical sense of today’s novel-romance-writing. There aren’t always happy beginnings, middles or endings, but the in between made for very interesting reading.

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. Wow. What an eye-opener. Of their small but loyal family enclaves, the hard-scrabble lives they led, the near poverty level of farming. I’d never heard that any Indian migrants were a part of farming here in California. Obviously they made up a very small percentage of the immigrants who settled there.

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. Fascinating glimpse into the hardships not only for patients (the war-wounded) but for the underappreciated and hardworking staff at various hospitals (even a tent one in Normandy where she worked for many months after D-Day). She meets her to-be husband and even that is fraught with difficulty from many angles.

Could hardly put down Krueger’s book, This Tender Land: A Novel. My friend Ann recommended it. I was gripped with the story within the first paragraph, and it never stopped until I turned the last page. 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. Some very ugly things happen at that school. Eventually they  escape, and they are “on the run.” With a few others with them. If you loved Huckleberry Finn, you’ll have a great appreciation for this story as they use a canoe to get themselves down river. Never having very much to eat and getting into trouble way too often, and authorities on their tail. Well, you just have to read the book to find out what happens.

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. The book is heartbreaking, but one of those that everyone should read. The hardship, the hunger, the dirt and dust, the failed crops, the lack of rain, then the story picks up again in central California, back in the day when the wealthy growers just used up the migrants. I don’t want to spoil the story. So worth reading. Hannah really knows how to weave a story.

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 woman in the South. Into a town (that probably doesn’t exist) that prides itself on being light-skinned blacks. The father was very dark, but he plays no part, really, in this story. Growing up, the girls leave home at 18 to find their way in New Orleans. Suddenly, one twin disappears (her clothes and suitcase all gone in the wink of an eye). Her twin left behind has no idea what’s happened to her. As the story reveals, with divided paths, one twin continues her life as a black woman, and the other twin, the one who left, is able to pass as a white woman. She marries well, has a daughter. Well, let’s just say that there are lots of wicked webs woven throughout the story, starting from the girls’ mother who never wants to speak again of her lost daughter. But you know where this is going, don’t you? Things are found out. The author does a great job of weaving the story apart and then back together.

What a book. The Only Woman in the Room: A Novel by Marie Benedict. A novelized biography of Hedy Lamarr, the famous actress. She was a brilliant mind, and a beautiful woman. It tells the story of her coming of age, how she navigated the world of acting back in that time period (she was Austrian, and Hitler was in power). The writing was very well done – to tell Hedy’s story with detail and poignancy. Eventually Hedy made it to the U.S. and her life story changed, but still had its difficulties. I loved the book, beginning to end. She should have become an engineer as she invented several war related bomb tools. 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, when aristocrats were chased and killed, guillotined in many cases. There is a young couple (part of the royal court) who escape to a remote small castle owned by his family, located on the edge of France and Italy, hoping to wait out the revolution and hoping the villagers love and care about them. Then jump to current day as a small English group of close friends decide to retire somewhere on the continent, and settle on a small abandoned castle in the remote hills of France along the Italian border. Got the picture? The historian in the group is quite interested in the history of the home, and clues are revealed (in the tower) that lead her and the group on a quest to discover what happened to the couple who used to live there. There was a fire once upon a time. There’s an pesky ghost. There’s also a very old child’s doll/playhouse on the grounds. Plus there’s a small graveyard. It is VERY intriguing. 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. The story is all about Mary, her growing up, her scholarly pursuits, and then from the moment she meets Jesus as a young man. The story follows along to and beyond his death on the cross. In the time of Christ it was extremely uncommon for a man not to marry. It was almost unseemly. Fraught with suspicions, I’d suppose. Although scripture, as scripture, does not play a very strong part here, if you’ve read the Bible you’ll see many of the stories of Jesus’ life through Mary’s eyes. 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. Her husband was a journalist, and his life was always in danger because he wrote the truth, and that was taking a risk. The story is about her escape, with harrowing chapters as she makes her way north from Acapulco, with various major detours, one step, or sometimes nothing more than a hair’s width ahead of the cartel minions trying to find her. I could NOT put this book down. The author is not Hispanic, and some have criticized her for that, but she did her research, and many authors write about places and people they are not. I have nothing but respect for her having told this story. You need to read this.

Also read JoJo Moyes’ book, The Giver of Stars. Oh gosh, what a GREAT book. Alice, living in an English home which lacks much, leaps to agree to marry a visiting American. It was an escape for her. He is a man of some family wealth, and she travels from England to Kentucky, during the 1920s. Once settled into the family home, she discovers married life is not what she had expected. Affection is lacking, and she must share the home with her tyrannical father-in-law, the owner of mines in the deep mountains. And with the ghost of the deceased mother-in-law. The family cook won’t tolerate Alice’s help in the kitchen. Alice is terribly lonely and unhappy. The town doesn’t much like this English woman with her funny way of speaking. But then, she meets a woman who encourages her to join the Horseback Librarians. With trepidation, she begins traversing the remote hills, through unbelievable weather, to deliver old, battered and tattered books to the remote inhabitants of the area. She makes friends, wonderful, loving people from all walks of life. There is tremendous tension from the danger of the mines, the unions trying to get a foothold, plus the unraveling of her marriage, including the dreaded father-in-law who feels she should answer to him, behave as he wants. Uh, no. Alice goes her own route. Her new friends become her family, and, oh, what love. There has been much criticism of Moyes’ possible plagiarism of another book regarding the Horseback Librarians. I read the other book – but I didn’t feel remotely as intrigued by that story as I was by Moyes’ version. A feel good story, but it takes some while getting to that “feel good” part, nearly to the end.

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. It’s about Ellen. Her early years, under much hardship. About her teens, some of it as an orphan. Then a young adult, which includes marriage, a marriage blanc, which I didn’t understand until you learn the meaning. Then a child enters the picture, a child that will become a focus for the remainder of the book. Through the war, and beyond. I cried several times, as will you, I suspect. What’s a constant is the descriptions of the place, a town called Upton, near Southampton. About the hills and dales, the flora and fauna, the rain, the mud sometimes, the flooding sometimes. But throughout, it’s about neighbors caring for neighbors, and about love. A must read. Would make a really good book club read.

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.

Best book I’ve read recently. Not new. Called 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. I stayed up all hours to keep reading. The book was written from the many journals and writing compiled by her children. Her name: Mary Ingles. And it chronicles her 1000-mile trek in treacherous weather and over uncharted ground. What an amazing woman, and what a story.

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. This book is the story of her life. The people she met, the men in her life, her children, and always about her indefatigable energy for life. Always hoping to return to Jamaica.

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, the son of a farming family, who sabotages everything in his being regarding going to school and leaves as soon as he is able (probably about 8th grade, I’d guess). And becomes a shepherd. And at night, he read literature that he accumulated from his grandfather. And then what happens to him as he grows up. Riveting.

 

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 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.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

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.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

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!

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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.

Posted in Cookies, Desserts, on November 14th, 2020.

gooey_fudge_brownies

A post from Sara . . .

This is my new go-to brownie recipe.  It’s a bit more challenging than the one-bowl recipes but well worth it.  They taste great out of oven (if my kids are home, I usually loose 1/4 of the tray within minutes of removing it from the oven!).  And soooo much better frozen.  They are the true dense, chewy chocolaty taste that I feel brownies should be. The recipe comes from the back of the Rodelle brand cocoa package. It’s been on the back of their product for years and years.

The recipe requires the extra step of melting the butter with sugar to make a syrup.  Then the 5 (that’s right, 5) eggs makes the chewy (and tender) factor.  You can double this recipe easily and bake it in a large sheet pan.  Don’t skip the parchment paper on the bottom for easy removal. The recipe says it makes 12, but I think I cut them smaller, so I get about 18 out of the 9×13 pan.

I’ve been known to modify the recipe by adding these items:

1. melted smooth peanut butter and swirl it in

2. or dulce de leche and swirl it in

3. or stack it on top of a batch of my chocolate chip cookies in bar form.

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Gooey Fudge Brownies from Rodelle

Recipe By: Rodelle’s famous recipe
Serving Size: 12 (or 18)

1 cup butter — PLUS 2 tbsp
2 1/4 cups sugar
5 large eggs
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup flour — PLUS 1 tablespoon
3/4 cup cocoa powder — PLUS 1 tablespoon
1/4 tablespoon salt
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup chopped nuts — (optional)

NOTE: If you cut smaller squares, you’ll get more than 12 brownies.
1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
2. Line 9×13 pan with parchment paper and spray lightly with cooking spray.
3. Melt butter and sugar in a heavy saucepan on very low heat. Let the mixture cool slightly and transfer to a large bowl. Add eggs gradually, mixing well. Add vanilla extract.
4. Sift dry ingredients together and add to egg mixture, stirring gently and minimally.
Add chocolate chips and nuts (if using). Pour into prepared pan and bake approximately 35 minutes – do NOT overbake or you’ll lose the fudgy, gooey texture!
5. Cool before cutting. Turn onto a surface and peel parchment paper off. Cut into squares. They are great frozen, just so you know.
Per Serving: 431 Calories; 25g Fat (48.6% calories from fat); 6g Protein; 52g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 118mg Cholesterol; 298mg Sodium; 42g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 35mg Calcium; 2mg Iron; 200mg Potassium; 124mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Cookies, Desserts, on August 26th, 2020.

whoopie_pies

A post from Sara . . .

Do you remember that childhood treat, the Whoopie Pie?  That hand-held delectably moist chocolate cake with marshmallow buttercream inside?  I recently made this recipe again. I can’t remember when I made it last but whoa, was it good! My kids and their friends who are now in their 20’s ate them within 2 days and I made a double batch! I’ve already been asked to make more. They are an excellent make ahead individual dessert that travels well and freezes easily.

My suggestions while making the cakes:

  • Use a scoop so that the cakes are close in size and shape.  That way they can be matched up easily to make the sandwich-style “pie.”
  • Keep the cake batter chilled, as it tends to spread out if it gets too warm.
  • When assembling the pies I paired the cakes on a cooling rack. Then flip every other row onto its top to expose the flat bottom of the cake for frosting.
  • Use a smaller scoop to add frosting.  It spreads out on its own, no need to use a knife.  I topped each upside down frosted cake with another so that both cake tops were showing.
  • If it’s warm, the top cake will slide.  So once assembled,  immediately refrigerate to solidify the frosting.

Due to COVID, I chose to wrap each pie individually in plastic wrap so the kids could just grab and enjoy.  

The recipe makes 8 pies but they are quite large.  I think using a smaller scoop and making twice as many would be better next time. There is a Wilton 12-Cavity Whoopie Pie Baking Pan available on amazon, but those are the larger (standard) size. If  you decide to make them smaller, just use a cookie sheet. These dessert cookies are very rich and full of flavor so I believe the smaller size is a better choice.

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Whoopie Pies

Serving Size: 8 (or 16, if you make them half-size)

CAKES:
2 cups all purpose flour
2/3 cup dutch-process cocoa powder
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup unsalted butter — softened
1 cup brown sugar — packed
1 large egg
FILLING:
1/2 cup softened butter
1 1/4 cups confectioner’s sugar
2 cups marshmallow cream topping
1 teaspoon vanilla

Notes: Sara’s advice – make smaller cookies, about half as large as indicated, which would give a double yield. These are very rich.
1. Mix flour, cocoa, soda and salt in a bowl.
2. Stir together he buttermilk and vanilla.
3. Beat together sugar and butter in large bowl until mixture is very pale and fluffy.
4. Add egg. Reduce speed, then add buttermilk mixture with flour mixture, alternately, starting and ending with flour.
5. Spoon 1/4 cup batter on greased baking sheet, 2″ apart. Bake in 350°F oven for 12 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely.
6. FILLING: Mix all ingredients together in electric mixer. Spread 1 large tablespoon of filling onto flat side of cake. Top with a second cake, flat side down. Chill immediately.
Per Serving (for 8 cookies): 695 Calories; 26g Fat (32.7% calories from fat); 7g Protein; 113g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 87mg Cholesterol; 674mg Sodium; 65g Total Sugars; 1mcg Vitamin D; 75mg Calcium; 3mg Iron; 300mg Potassium; 137mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Cookies, on June 21st, 2020.

sandy_cc_nutbutter_cookies

Yes, chocolate chip, but with a decidedly different texture and flavor profile.

Necessity is the mother of invention. During the time when I was eschewing nearly all carbs, I had collected a lot of recipes, including this one for a GF cookie (although this one I made here is not quite GF). I was all out of my last batch of choc chip cookies, so needed to find something new to try. I wanted to make something that had next to no sugar, and very little if any flour. This recipe came into being. I had almond butter on hand. In little 1 ounce packages. Hmm. But not enough to make 6 tablespoons. But I did have peanut butter, so I combined the two. Neither flavor really prevailed in the finished cookie, which was fine with me. The recipe called for coconut butter (oil), but I used unsalted butter. It also called for coconut sugar. I had some, but decided to use some monkfruit sweetener in addition, so I did half and half. I had the pure blanched almond flour on hand, but I also had some of Trader Joe’s almond meal (which contains some of the almond skin – hence these cookies have a little more dark/speckled look to them. The recipe also called for coconut flour, so that’s when I substituted regular wheat flour, all purpose. It was only 1/3 cup, so hardly any carbs for the whole recipe.

I’ve renamed the recipe because these cookies have a different texture – not exactly like pecan sandies – but they’re similar in texture. So even though they’re chocolate chip, with a hint of peanut butter, they do have a different texture than any chocolate chip cookie I’ve ever made.

sandy_cc_nutbutter_cookies_closeupMixing it up was no trouble – into my stand mixer went the ingredients in a specific order. Refrigerated butter needs nothing more than 10 seconds in my microwave to be softened. No more, no less.

Knowing that I’d veered away from the original recipe with a lot of different ingredients, I wasn’t sure how they would turn out during the baking process, so I baked just two at first, thinking that I could add more flour or something else if it needed it. Once out of the oven they were incredibly soft and tender. They looked done, but when I touched the top of the cookie, it was almost a wet pouf, but once I let them cool  on the sheet first, they were easy to remove from the cookie sheet. And they were fine. Just fine. Better than fine!Next time I’ll add some chopped walnuts, just because I like choc chip cookies with nuts. So you could easily add 1/3 cup of them to this recipe, or not; your choice. You’ll get a yield of a couple more cookies.

What’s GOOD: definitely chocolate chip. Definitely different texture (but good). Like them a lot. I wouldn’t change a thing.

What’s NOT: only if you don’t have almond flour, or almond butter. Easy to make. Can be refrigerated before baking.

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Sandy Chocolate Chip Nut Butter Cookies – nearly GF

Recipe By: Adapted from a paleo blog cookie recipe
Serving Size: 34

6 tablespoons unsalted butter — softened
3/8 cup coconut sugar — or regular sugar, or use more monkfruit
3/8 cup monkfruit sweetener
3 tablespoons almond butter
3 tablespoons peanut butter
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 large egg
1 cup almond meal — or almond flour
1/3 cup all purpose flour — or substitute coconut flour if you want a GF cookie
3/4 cup chocolate chips
1/3 cup chopped walnuts — optional

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. In a mixing bowl (stand or hand mixer) combine the softened butter, sugars, almond butter, peanut butter and vanilla. Mix until smooth, about a minute.
3. Beat in egg until combined, then add almond meal and flour and continue beating just until it’s mixed. Add chocolate chips and walnuts (if using) and beat until incorporated.
4. Use parchment paper on cookie sheets to prevent sticking. Using a cookie scoop, place rounded balls of dough on cookie sheets, about 1 1/2″ apart.
5. Bake for 11-13 minutes, depending on your oven. Mine took 12 minutes. Recommend: Bake two cookies first, to see how long they need to bake. They’ll still be very soft when you remove them from the oven. Allow to cool on the cookie sheets, then taste to make sure they’re “done.” Bake remaining cookies. Freeze for long term storage, or eat them within 3 days if left at room temp.
Per Serving: 86 Calories; 7g Fat (63.0% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 7g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 12mg Cholesterol; 12mg Sodium; 2g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 23mg Calcium; trace Iron; 63mg Potassium; 42mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Cookies, on April 9th, 2020.

mega_ginger_cookies

This recipe was a winner of some kind of contest. A good reason to try them.

Whenever I input a recipe into my MasterCook software, and it has some kind of special accolades, I usually write it into the title so I can see it easily when I’m scanning through the list of recipes to try. In this case I wrote after cookies – “Sunset winner.” It’s been a few years ago, I think, but this cookie did win something. It might have been for Christmas cookies? I don’t recall. They contain an inordinate amount of crystallized ginger – plus ground ginger – so yes, these really have a ginger pungency. Not overwhelming by any means. I used every bit of crystallized ginger I could find in my pantry, and I’m not even sure I had quite enough. But it was close enough.

The making of the cookies was exceedingly easy – it got mixed up in the food processor – not my normal bowl of choice for making cookies and I will say, I had to remove half of it (I made a double batch) in order for the food processor to mix it sufficiently. Then remove that to do the second half. Then the dough was refrigerated – for me it was overnight. It would be best if you chilled it overnight if you took it out for about 30-45 minutes before trying to roll them in sugar. If the dough is cold, it’s harder to do that part.

mega_ginger_cookies_sheetpanI used my cookie scoop, but with that, I made them smaller than the scoop. I think the double recipe was supposed to make 72. Uhm, no, it didn’t. It made more like 48, but perhaps I made them much bigger. They were supposed to be 1-inch balls. I’m sure mine were a tad bigger than that. I have offered to bake cookies for a memorial service reception – as I write this, it was supposed to take place tomorrow, but with the Covad-19 overwhelming our country, the service has been indefinitely postponed. But I made them now and will just store in the freezer until they’re needed.

The only alteration I would make – and I did make in the recipe attached – was to reduce the amount of sugar. I thought the cookies were overly sweet. So, if you make these, taste the dough (note: the dough has raw egg in it) to see if you think it’s sweet enough with the reduced sugar amount. The original recipe called for 1/3 cup sugar to mix with the ginger, and 1/3 cup sugar mixed with the dough. You could also use 1/4 cup rounded on each measurement. I’ve not included this information in the pdf recipe attached. The difference could be the amount of sugar used in the crystallized ginger. Every product could be different.

What’s GOOD: lots of gingery flavor, crisp. Chewy. Love the craggy, crackled tops. Very sweet. I changed the amount of sugar in the attached recipe – read the above paragraph for more information.

What’s NOT: nary a thing that I can think of, unless you don’t like ginger!

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Mega-Ginger Cookies

Recipe By: Sunset Magazine winning cookie
Serving Size: 36

1/2 cup crystallized ginger — chopped
1/4 cup sugar
COOKIES:
4 1/2 tablespoons butter — at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1/8 cup molasses
3/4 large egg
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons sugar — for rolling dough

1. In a food processor (or blender), whirl chopped ginger and sugar until ginger is very finely ground. Pour from container.
2. In the same container, whirl butter and sugar until fluffy.
3. Add ginger mixture, molasses, and egg; pulse to mix.
4. In a bowl, mix flour, baking soda, ground ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Pulse into butter mixture.
5. Cover dough and chill until firm to the touch, about 1 hour. If chilled overnight, allow to sit at room temp for 30-40 minutes to warm slightly.
6. Preheat oven to 350°F. Shape dough into 1-inch balls and coat in remaining sugar (use a little more sugar if needed). Place balls 2 to 3 inches apart on nonstick or oiled baking sheets.
7. Bake until slightly darker brown, 11 to 12 minutes, switching positions of baking sheets halfway through. Cookie tops will be crackled in appearance. They’re very soft when they come out of the oven, so allow to cool slightly, then transfer cookies to racks to cool. Make ahead: Up to one week, stored airtight at room temperature; frozen, up to 4 months.
Per Serving: 60 Calories; 2g Fat (24.1% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 11g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 8mg Cholesterol; 71mg Sodium.

Posted in Cookies, on April 3rd, 2020.

cc_cookies_alice_medrich

Are you really tired of reading another chocolate chip cookie recipe from me? My apologies, but I guess I’ll be forever on the quest for the perfect one.

I’m assuming most of you are on house arrest, aka shelter-in-place like I am. Social Distancing. What a phrase – we’ll remember that word forever, won’t we? As I write this, I’m on day 17 of being at home all day, all night, with not a single trip out of my driveway. In many ways, I’m lucky – I live in a big house, and I use most of the rooms  – living room for my phone calls on my cell – dining room table for a project now and then – kitchen all the time because I’m cooking a lot more than usual – my kitchen dining table is where I eat most of my meals – and my family room with TV (on from about 8am to 8 pm every day) and the gas fireplace nearby. Master bedroom of course, my big bath and dressing room area gets daily use, and my very comfortable library/study up there where I watch TV in the  evenings.

My report? I’m fine – feeling fine, no symptoms. My next door neighbor, Josee, has been a lifesaver for me – she goes shopping for me about once a week or every other week. The high school kids at my church are also available for shopping – all I have to do is send a list, put out some cash and shopping bags and they bring it back an hour later. I stay busy enough, I guess. I do watch the TV more than usual – tuned into news most of the hours, then in the late evening I go upstairs to my comfy study and start watching some of my recorded shows that take my mind off coronavirus. Have you seen this picture?

Screen Shot 2020-03-30 at 1.49.08 PM

That’s my neighbor’s very well-trained standard Doberman. I was sent a similar picture of a little Chihuahua with similar wording but had an acronym on the photo that wasn’t nice language – I sent it to my neighbor and she took a picture of Batman and added the same lingo but with the word “heck” instead of the f word.

Anyway, I belly-laughed so hard over this picture. Laughing is good for us, you know?

In my normal life I’m so busy I rarely have enough time to read or go up to my studio (an unused room in my house at the moment) to draw or paint. Reading I’m doing (see sidebar on my web page for what I’ve read recently). Cooking, I’m doing. But most everything else has fallen by the wayside. Have I cleaned my house? Nope. I’ve paid the two women who come clean my house for me, but I told them not to come in. I’ll do that again next week when they’d be due to come again. And I’ll pay them anyway as I know they need the money. I can’t seem to concentrate on doing other things. A couple of days earlier this week we had really beautiful weather here in Orange County and I went outside and sat in my nice outdoor furniture, under the umbrella and read for awhile, always conscious of the fresh air, the birds singing and the butterflies flitting.

What I crave is comfort food. What I really want is a pasta casserole (haven’t made one). Or things like mashed potatoes (haven’t done that either). Soup has been a mainstay on my table and you’ll have another recipe up soon – a delicious creamy chicken poblano chile from Joanna Gaines. Delicious. Most nights I have a big green salad. My neighbor is bringing me fresh salmon today from her shopping run, so I’ll have that with some fresh asparagus tonight.

Comfort food: [from wikipedia] The term comfort food has been traced back at least to 1966, when the Palm Beach Post used it in a story: “Adults, when under severe emotional stress, turn to what could be called ‘comfort food’—food associated with the security of childhood, like mother’s poached egg or famous chicken soup.”

I can’t say that I turn my mind to poached eggs. Or chicken soup either as my mother didn’t make chicken soup (my dad wouldn’t eat chicken). It might be better for me if I indulged in pasta or potatoes – rather than chocolate chip cookies! I don’t know about you, but I have a favorite brand of chocolate chips. I grew up on Nestlé’s semisweet, but oh no, since the advent of dark chocolate chips, I’m all over those, and Ghiradelli Bittersweet are my favorite. They’re very hard to find these days – have you noticed? I even considered ordering a 25 pound bag from amazon, but it was semisweet and I want bittersweet. So I’m figuring that lots of other households are baking chocolate chip cookies just like I am. My neighbor took a photo of the shelf at the grocery store – empty of Ghiradelli’s bittersweet. Sigh. So, since I’m nearly out of them in my own pantry, I dug into my chocolate stash and found a bag of Callibaut very bitter chocolate chips. They’re fine – I like them. So I’ll certainly have a couple more recipes’ worth before I’m desperate for Ghiradelli. Now that I’ve alerted my neighbor to look for them, she’ll probably hunt for them whenever she’s shopping.

cc_cookies_dough_aliceTurning to a cookbook I’ve had for awhile (I think I bought it just before Dave passed away) I found several cc cookie recipes that would suffice, but this one, Alice Medrich’s favorite, seemed to leap off the page. When I began I didn’t realize how different the batter/dough would be. This recipe uses melted butter  – certainly a variant that was not something I’ve ever done for cc cookies. The butter is combined with the regular and brown sugars, eggs, then the dry ingredients. The dough has a totally different look – it’s wet. See photo. I’m not sure you can tell from the photo  – it really does LOOK wet, although the dough is handle-able and pliable. It’s not sticky in the least.

The only other variant was that it recommended at least an hour or two of chilling (even overnight if time permitted). I did an hour. Then used my scoop for 1-tablespoon sized mounds. My baking sheets don’t require foil or parchment – they baked up perfectly.

What’s GOOD: gee, I really like these cc cookies. I want to try them with Ghiradelli, but other than that, they’re a perfect complement to a hot cup of coffee or tea. Or a mid-afternoon snack.

What’s NOT: nothing really. My problem is that I know they’re in the freezer . . . .

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

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Chocolate Chip Cookies Alice Medrich

Recipe: From Alice Medrich’s cookbook: Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy
Serving Size: 60 (I got about 54)

10 1/8 ounces all purpose flour — about 2 cups
1 teaspoon baking soda
8 ounces unsalted butter — melted, cooled slightly
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2 cups chocolate chips
1 cup walnuts — chopped, or pecans

1. Melt butter and set aside to cool for 2-3 minutes.
2. Combine in a bowl the flour and baking soda. Stir well and break up any lumps.
3. In a bowl combine the melted butter with sugars, vanilla and salt. Mix in the eggs. Stir in flour mixture just until all the dry ingredients are moistened. Stir in chips and walnuts. [This dough looks WET – very different than usual because of the melted butter used – see photo.] Chill dough for at least an hour, or overnight. If chilling overnight, let the bowl sit out at room temp for 20-30 minutes to warm up slightly.
4. Preheat oven to 375°F. Scoop dough into 1-tablespoon mounds and place on greased or foil lined cookie sheets. Bake cookies for 9-11 minutes, rotating pans and switching them halfway through. Cookies should be golden brown on the edges, and no longer look wet on top. Remove pans from oven and allow to sit for 1-2 minutes until cookies “set.” Remove to rack to cool completely. They will keep at room temp for several days if stored in an airtight container. Otherwise, freeze them.
NOTES: you may substitute raisins for chocolate chips. Also, you may remove chocolate chips and use only pecans (double the quantity). This latter is one of Alice’s favorite variations.
Per Serving: 115 Calories; 7g Fat (49.4% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 14g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 15mg Cholesterol; 61mg Sodium.

Posted in Cookies, on January 28th, 2020.

thin_crispy_cc_cookies_stack

One might think these aren’t mixed or baked correctly. They are, actually. They’re supposed to look like that, and act like that when these hit the hot oven.

Really, I think I was pussy-footing around about cookies – when I made and posted the chocolate log/biscotti last week. What I really wanted to make was choc chip cookies, but I was trying to convince myself not to. Since they’re not all that good for us – butter, chocolate, sugar, etc. And my problem is that if they’re available – meaning they’re IN my freezer – I want to enjoy one every day. And I shouldn’t. None of us should. But then, David Lebovitz posted a new chocolate chip recipe, and I got sucked down that vortex of I want – I want – I want. So I gave in and made these.

The recipe originated with Joanne Chang, a chef/baker of renown (her bakery, Flour, in Boston). She’s written a bunch of cookbooks. She’s slender/thin (how does she DO that and own/run a bakery and develop recipes?). Anyway, I think this recipe came from her most recently published cookbook. David Lebovitz adapted it slightly (reducing the amount of flour in it) and posted it on his website.

thin_crispy_cc_cookies_topWhat’s different about these? You have to use superfine sugar (I whizzed up regular sugar in the food processor). You have to whip up the butter and sugars until they’re really light and fluffy. It gives these cookies a totally different batter-feel. And when they pop in the oven they spread a lot. So the baking sheet can only hold six to seven of them at a time. But then, this recipe only makes 25 cookies. The cookies that David Lebovitz made were even thinner than mine – and even more slumped than mine – slumped with little whorls of ridges. There’s another recipe here on my blog that has very thin, slumped chocolate chip cookies and I don’t really understand how the chemistry works that way – it can’t be just the lesser amount of flour.

But thin, chocolate chip cookies it is and I loved them. Hard to make? – no. Much the same ingredients as every other chocolate chip cookie out there with a mix of white and brown sugar, vanilla, egg, flour, in this case, baking soda not powder, and chocolate chips and little bit of water. There are nuances of that chemistry – far be it from me to understand it. For the last half of the cookies I added some very finely chopped walnuts. I know, blasphemy for some. I like them with nuts in them. This recipe has less flour in it than Joanne Chang’s original recipe, per David L.

These will be going into the freezer and I’ll hope to eat only one. A day. And savor every bite.

What’s GOOD: the thin, crispy texture, for sure. That’s what these cookies are all about. If you like soft, cakey cookies, skip by this recipe. Thin, chewy a little bit, all about the mouth-feel of the caramelization of the dark brown sugar. And then the chips. Use good chips, not Nestle’s. They recommended Guittard. I used Ghirardelli dark chocolate. In sum, though, I think I like my other iteration of these thin, slumped cookies better that did slump and have whorls. These cookies definitely have dark brown sugar caramelization going on in the cookie itself, just so you know.

What’s NOT: nothing at all. These are really delicious.

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

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Thin, Crisp Chocolate Chip Cookies

Recipe By: David Lebovitz from Joanne Chang
Serving Size: 25

8 ounces unsalted butter — (225g) at room temperature
1 cup superfine sugar — (200g) (see headnote)
1/2 cup light brown sugar — (100g) firmly-packed
1 large egg — at room temperature
3 tablespoons water — (45g)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups flour — (245g)
1 1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt — or kosher salt, or if using Morton’s kosher salt, use 3/4 teaspoon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups bittersweet chocolate — (280g, 10 ounces) or semisweet chocolate chips

1. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or by hand with a wooden spoon or spatula in a bowl, beat the butter and sugars on medium speed until light and creamy, about 5 minutes.
2. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula, reaching down to the bottom of the mixer bowl. Beat in the egg, WATER, and vanilla.
3. In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, salt, and baking soda. Add the chocolate chips, and toss in the flour mixture. With the mixer on low speed, stir in the flour and chocolate chip mixture until thoroughly combined. Cover the bowl (or transfer to a smaller container, and cover) and refrigerate the dough at least 3 to 4 hours, or overnight.
4. To bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Line two baking sheet with parchment paper. Arrange the dough, formed in 1 1/4-inch (1/4 cup, 45g) balls on the baking sheet, spaced at least 3-inches (8cm) apart. (They will spread, so expect to get 5 or 6 on a standard baking sheet.) Press the cookies down slightly (use a bit of water on your hand as the batter is very wet and sticky) with your hand and bake until the cookies have spread and just until there are no light patches across the center, rotating the baking sheet(s) midway during baking so they bake evenly. They’ll take about 13-14 minutes, but best to check the cookies a few minutes before and use the visual clues, rather than adhere to strict baking time, to get them just right.
5. Remove the cookies from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack and cool completely.
Per Serving: 132 Calories; 6g Fat (35.6% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 21g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 8mg Cholesterol; 157mg Sodium.

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