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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 2022, I’m still doing 99% of the blogging and holding out hope that these two lovely and excellent cooks will participate. They both lead very busy lives, so we’ll see.

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BOOK READING (from Carolyn):

Am in the middle of Tidelands,  by Philippa Gregory. It tells the tale of a peasant woman, Alinor (an herbalist and midwife), who lives barely above the poverty level, trying to raise two children, during the time of great turmoil in England, the rancorous civil war about Charles 1. Her husband has disappeared. The feudal system at the time isn’t any friend to Alinor. In comes a man (of course) who is a priest, but to the Catholic king, not the Protestant people, and everything Catholic is abhorred and suspect. A fascinating read, loving every chapter so far.

Read Reminders of Him, by Colleen Hoover. A page turner of a story. A young woman is convicted of a crime (young and foolish type). Once released her sole purpose is to be a part of her daughter’s life. Hoover has such a gift of story-telling and keeping you hanging on a cliff.

The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty. Oh my goodness. The wicked webs we weave. How in the world did the author even come UP with this wild story, but she did, and it kept me glued. Sophie walked away from her wedding day, and always wondered if she made the wrong decision. Then she inherits his aunt’s house, back in her home town, where the quizzical Munro baby disappearance provides a living for many of his family. Sophie moves there, only to have to unearth all the bad stuff that happened before. Quite a story.

Very funny and poignant story, Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont, by Elizabeth Taylor (no, not that one). Mrs. Palfrey, a woman of a certain age, moves into an old folks’ home in London. It’s a sort of hotel, but has full time elderly quirky residents. You get to know them all, and Mrs. Palfrey’s subterfuge effort to show off her “grandson.” I might not have ever picked up this book, but one of my book clubs had us read it, and I’m ever so glad I did.

I’ve been on a Moriarty tangent lately, this one Three Wishes, is about three triplets (women), two identical, one fraternal, as they progress through their 33rd year of life. So many twists and turns for each one. As someone said on amazon, Liane Moriarty never disappoints with providing a good story.

For one of my book clubs we read Lessons in Chemistry, by Bonnie Garmus. This book is so hard to describe. Elizabeth is a wizard at chemistry and struggles to be recognized for her intelligence and research. She meets a man at her company who is brilliant too. They make quite a pair. They have a child, then he suddenly dies. Her work isn’t taken seriously, so she leaves her employment and becomes an overnight phenom on a cooking show where she uses the chemical names for things like sodium chloride, etc. You go alongside her struggles, and her raising of her daughter. LOTS of humor, lots to discuss for a book club.

Horse. Oh my, is it a page turner. Loved it from the first page to the last. Sad when it ended. It’s a fictional creation but based on a real racehorse owned by a black man, back in the 1850s. Technically, the story is about a painting of the horse but there are many twists and turns. If you’ve ever enjoyed Brooks’ books in the past, this one won’t disappoint.

The Book of Lost Names, by Kristin Harmel (no, not Hannah). Certainly a little-known chunk of history about a woman who becomes a master forger during WWII to help get Jewish children out of France. Not easy to read, meaning the difficulty of anyone finding the means and place to DO the forgery and right under the noses of the Nazis. Really good read.

Liane Moriarty’s first novel, Three Wishes, follows the travails of adult triplets, so different, yet similar in many ways. Two are identical, the third is not. So alike, and so not. It takes you through a series of heart-wrenching events, seemingly unrelated, but ones that could bring a family to its breaking point and test the bonds of love and strength.

Recently I’ve read both of Erin French’s books, her cookbook, The Lost Kitchen, and since then her memoir, Finding Freedom. About her life growing up (difficult) about her coming of age mostly working in the family diner, flipper burgers and fries (and learning how much she liked to cook). Now she’s a very successful restaurant entrepreneur (The Lost Kitchen is also the name of her restaurant) in the miniscule town of Freedom, Maine. She’s not a classically trained chef, but she’s terrifically creative. See her TV series on Discover+ if you subscribe.

Migrations, by Charlotte McConaghy. To say that this book stretched my comfort zone is the least of it . . .think about a time in the not very distant future, when global warming has done it’s worst and nearly all animals are extinct.

Jo Jo Moyes has a bunch of books to her credit. And she writes well, with riveting stories. Everything I’ve read of hers has been good. This book, The Girl You Left Behind, is so different, so intriguing, so controversial and a fascinating historical story. There are two timelines here, one during WWI, in France, when a relatively unknown painter (in the style of Matisse) paints a picture of his wife. The war intervenes for both the husband and the wife.

Eli Shafak’s Island of Missing Trees. This book was just a page turner. If you’ve never read anything about the conflict in Cyprus (the island) between the Turks and the Greeks, you’re in for a big history lesson here. But, the entire story centers around a fig tree. You get into the head/brain/feelings of this big fig tree which plays a very central part of the story. You’ll learn a lot about animals, insects (ants, mosquitos, butterflies) and other flora and fauna of Cyprus.

If you’re a fan of Kazuo Ishiguro, you’ll find his newest book a league apart. Klara and the Sun. It takes place in the near future when we humans can go to a store and buy an AF (artificial friend). These robotic humanoid “things” have knowledge and personalities.

Also read Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty. Ohhh my, such a good book. I couldn’t put it down. Whatever you do, do not read the ending before you start the book. I’ve never understood people who do this. The book chronicles the day a mom just ups and disappears. The grown children come back home, in panic. The dad isn’t much help, and he becomes the prime suspect of foul play. There is no body, however.

Amor Towles’ new book, The Lincoln Highway: A Novel. Literally 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 December 16th, 2022.

Certainly I’d never heard of chocolate salami before, but was intrigued when I read the story about them. Italians claim the origin of the recipe, so do Germans, but so do Russians. Mine weren’t as round as the pictures online, but hey, made no difference to the taste!

A post from Carolyn. I think I mentioned recently that I decided to subscribe to the New York Times Food Section. It’s not a cheap purchase, but they offered it for half price ($20/year). If you’re interested, it’s still on offer at that price. I have nowhere near discovered all there is to know about their recipe archives, but this cookie recipe popped up and it’s just so different I had to try it.

So I read, back during the Soviet Russia era, some foodstuffs were hard to come by like cookies and cocoa powder. An ingenious cook combined shortbread cookies and cocoa along with chocolate (available) and hazelnuts (available) to spread the wealth, so to speak. Both the cocoa powder and the cookies then were enjoyed for a longer period of time. Although I have to say, eating one of these is nearly impossible.

A package of hazelnuts was staring at me, so I toasted them up first (about 5-7 minutes in my toaster oven at 375). Then I opened the package of Walker’s shortbread and used my meat pounder (flat) to kind-of mash up the cookies. In the photo above you can see toasted hazelnuts and pieces/crumbs of the cookies. The recipe suggested you sieve the cookies because you don’t want many crumbs. I didn’t wish to waste the crumbs, so I used them anyway. Just make sure you leave some little chunks – more chunks than crumbs if you can do it (and no, it’s not easy to do that).

Meanwhile you melt butter, sweetened condensed milk and bittersweet chocolate (I used Ghiradelli, bar type) and unsweetened cocoa powder. Once melted, it’s poured into the cookies and nuts mixture and after it cools a bit. Then you roll it into logs, trying to get them into a rounded shape, then seal up in waxed paper and foil for a longer chill.

My salami were not very round, so a day later I let the logs warm for about 45 minutes at room temperature and then rolled them on my countertop until they formed a more rounded shape. But, as you can see, I didn’t succeed very well with that! You sprinkle the logs with powdered sugar when you’re ready to serve them, then slice. I sliced mine thinner than the 1/4″ recommended. If you use a very slim knife you can do it. Don’t lay the slices in the sugar, however, as that messes up the visual of “salami.”

Oh my goodness, are these ever good. I suppose you could say they’re a variation of fudge, but with the addition of hazelnuts and cookie bits, they’re really not fudge.

What’s GOOD: well, I’m going to be adding this recipe to my regular Christmas cookie rotation. Or maybe not rotation – it’ll be a regular every year here on out. I liked that they were easy – EASY – to make. They’re a real keeper in my book. And, I’ll be adding this recipe to my favorites. Does that tell you how much I liked them?

What’s NOT: nothing whatsoever, other than you can’t eat these immediately – requires overnight or several hours of chilling to make the logs firm enough to slice.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Chocolate Salami

Recipe By: New York Times
Servings: 72

8 ounces shortbread cookies — tea biscuits, chocolate wafers or graham crackers (store-bought is fine), to make 2 cups cookie bits
1 1/3 cups hazelnuts — chopped toasted, or walnuts or pecans
16 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups sweetened condensed milk
9 ounces bittersweet chocolate — in bars or chips
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons kosher salt — or 1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/2 cup powdered sugar

1. Place cookies in a bowl and use a masher to crush them into bits. (The biggest pieces should be no larger than 1/2-inch square.) Dump mixture into a colander and shake to remove most of the tiny crumbs. You should have about 2 cups pieces remaining. Return to bowl and add nuts.
2. In a medium saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Whisk in condensed milk. If using bar chocolate, break into medium-size pieces. Add chocolate, cocoa powder and salt, and whisk until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth, about 2 minutes.
3. Scrape chocolate mixture into bowl with cookies. Stir together and set aside at room temperature for 15 minutes to firm up.
4. Meanwhile, lay 2 sheets of aluminum foil, each about 18 inches long, on a work surface. Top each with a sheet of waxed or parchment paper. Divide cookie mixture between the two. Using paper and your hands, shape and roll mixture into two cylinders of dough, each about 12 inches long and 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Roll dough up in the paper, then again in foil. Roll on the work surface to make sure the log is even, then twist the ends of the foil to secure.
5. Refrigerate the logs until firm, at least 1 hour. After 1 hour, check to make sure they are setting evenly. If necessary, roll on the work surface again until smooth (no need to remove the foil and paper). Refrigerate until fully set, another 2 hours or up to 3 days. If the log isn’t quite round, you can mold it another time – just leave out at room temp for about an hour, then roll the log on the countertop.
6. When ready to serve, remove logs from refrigerator and unwrap them on a work surface. Sprinkle confectioners’ sugar over them, turning to coat. Shake off excess and use a thin or serrated knife to slice into 1/4-inch rounds. Can be sliced in narrower slices if you’re careful. Plate and serve, or refrigerate up to 2 hours.
Per Serving: 113 Calories; 9g Fat (65.6% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 8g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 9mg Cholesterol; 85mg Sodium; 5g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 24mg Calcium; trace Iron; 59mg Potassium; 33mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Cookies, on December 2nd, 2022.

It’s holiday time, and my cousin Gary visits most years, and he’s gluten (or at least he’s for sure wheat)  intolerant.

A post from Carolyn. My cousin and I share one very important trait (hmmm, maybe it’s genetic?) – we love chocolate. He will always tell me, “no, don’t bake cookies for me,” but then I think, yes, I should. I didn’t ask him this year, I just made them. It’s the holidays. A reason to try a new GF recipe for him.

Recently the New York Times offered a subscription to their food section and archives (not the daily newspaper) at half price, for $20/year. I don’t know about you, but I think newspapers should offer recipes for free – maybe not the stories, but at least the recipes; but they don’t. Or at least most newspapers don’t. And particularly the New York Times. But at half price I thought it was a good buy. In the past when I’ve discovered the NYT had printed some great sounding recipe, I’d do a search all over the web, and sometimes I’d find the recipe somewhere else. But not always. One of my very favorite cookbooks I own is Amanda Hesser’s gigantic tome, The Essential New York Times Cookbook: The Recipes of Record, a 2021 re-release with new added content. I have the older edition – the one here is the recent one. The older one must be out of print already!

With that in mind, and my new subscription available, I decided to search for GF cookie recipes for Gary, and downloaded this one and made them for him. They’re very straight-forward. No unusual ingredients, providing you have almond flour on hand already. I do. I keep it in the freezer. Do use the pure almond flour – not the one from Trader Joe’s that has the skins included. I buy my blanched almond flour at Costco. I had a small bag of Bob’s Red Mill almond flour in my pantry (that had been there for well over a year) and it smelled just fine, so I’m not sure almond flour needs to be kept in the freezer after all. Might open up some new real estate in my jam-packed freezer.

In this case I used half artificial sugar, half real sugar; the recipe calls for both light brown and granulated; I use half Swerve brown, and half So Nourished erythritol granular. In sampling the finished cookies, I cannot tell there is any artificial sugar in them.

First it’s butter and sugars to be mixed, then eggs, then vanilla, and lastly the dry ingredients. With most new cookie recipes these days, I bake 2-3 of them first to make sure they’re the right consistency. These were; I made no adjustments except for the baking time. The cookies are scooped onto baking sheets and lightly flattened before baking for 13 1/2 minutes (in my oven, anyway). The original recipe made gigantic ones. I made traditional sized, and that’s the time they needed. These cookies were plumper than the ones shown in the newspaper photograph – theirs were very spread out, but still in a nice round shape. Mine were thicker – they barely settled a little in height when baked. That may be why they required a bit more baking time.

What’s GOOD: well, obviously, that they GF. GF cookies (at least those made with almond flour) tend to be a bit more “sandy” in texture. From a frozen state, I liked these better. They’re pretty fragile at room temperature. They’re still a bit fragile from frozen, but manageable. My cousin ate a few every day and liked them.

What’s NOT: nothing really, other than GF cookies tend to have a different texture. If you prefer tender, soft cookies, these will be perfect.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

GF Chocolate Chip Cookies

Recipe By: Adapted slightly from the New York Times
Servings: 60

5 1/2 cups almond flour — finely ground (blanched)
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
20 tablespoons unsalted butter — at room temperature
2/3 cup light brown sugar — I used half Swerve light brown
2/3 cup sugar — I used half Erythritol granular
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
24 ounces unsweetened chocolate — coarsely chopped or grated bar (or bittersweet) chocolate
1 1/4 cups walnuts — chopped (optional)
Sea salt (optional, for finishing)

1. Heat the oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk the almond flour, salt and baking soda to combine.
3. Using a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar on medium speed until very light, 3 to 4 minutes.
4. Add the egg and mix on medium speed to combine. Scrape the bowl well, then add the vanilla and mix to combine.
5. Add the dry ingredients and mix on low speed until just combined, about 10 seconds. Scrape the bowl well and mix on low speed to ensure the mixture is homogeneous.
6. Add the chocolate and walnuts; gently mix to incorporate it. Scoop the dough into heaping tablespoon mounds of dough, and transfer them to the prepared baking sheets. Stagger the rows to allow the cookies room to spread.
7. Gently press the cookies down slightly with your fingers. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt, if using. Bake the cookies, switching racks and rotating the sheets halfway through, until they’re golden brown around the edges and just barely set in the center, 11-13 minutes. Transfer sheets to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then transfer cookies with a spatula onto another rack to cool a bit more. Freeze for best storage. Cookies are fragile, so cool well before moving to a freezer bag.
Per Serving: 156 Calories; 13g Fat (73.4% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 8g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 17mg Cholesterol; 117mg Sodium; 4g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 18mg Calcium; 2mg Iron; 123mg Potassium; 66mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Cookies, on November 6th, 2022.

No, those aren’t biscotti. I know they look like them, but they’re not.

A post from Carolyn. A dear friend passed away recently at 96. Such a sweet PEO friend; she’ll be missed. Our PEO chapter offered to bake cookies for the reception, so I looked through my to-try files and this one seemed to fit the bill. They would transport well (with waxed paper between layers, that is) and they weren’t all that difficult to make. Plus they had fall, spicy flavors in them. A win-win.

This is a Dorie Greenspan recipe that I’d downloaded a year or two ago, but after reading the comments, I changed the recipe some. Many said they were too sweet. So I reduced the amount of brown sugar and the amount of molasses. I didn’t have enough golden raisins, so I used half of them and half currants. I also added some ground cardamom. I think you could still reduce the sugar in these, especially because of the icing, which is 98% sugar. I also have reduced the quantity of icing – it made too much.

They are baked in long logs – they seemed quite thick – I should have made the logs thinner, so because of that, I cut the pieces (after they were cooled and iced) into smaller ones. Usually hermits are kind of oblong-ish squares. Oblongs would have been way too big. So, therefore I cut them into thinner biscotti-like pieces.

The icing, Dorie said, could be made with lemon juice (in the powdered sugar) or rum, or milk. I opted to do two of the logs with lemon juice and two with dark, spiced rum. There is a difference in the color of the icing if you use spiced rum. I liked both, so use your preference.

What’s GOOD: easy to make, great for fall. Would be nice as Christmas cookies too. You can make the batter several days ahead. Am sure these would keep well – layer with waxed paper, though, so you don’t damage the icing.

What’s NOT: nothing, really .. . make sure you have golden raisins and/or currants.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Iced Spiced Hermits

Recipe By: Adapted from Dorie Greenspan
Servings: 48

4 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons Diamond Crystal salt — or 1 tsp. Morton kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 2/3 cups light brown sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter — room temperature
2 large eggs
1/3 cup molasses
3/4 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup currants
GLAZE:
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar — (220 g) sifted
4 tablespoons milk — (or more)or use fresh lemon juice, or rum

NOTES: I altered the original recipe – I used less brown sugar, less molasses and added ground cardamom. I also used some black currants (dried) in place of some of the golden raisins. Plus I reduced the quantity of the icing.
1. Whisk together flour, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, salt, baking soda, nutmeg, baking powder, and pepper in a medium bowl.
2. Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat brown sugar and butter until light and creamy, about 3 minutes. Beat in eggs and molasses, scraping down sides of bowl as needed, until incorporated, about 2 minutes. Reduce speed to low and add dry ingredients; beat until just combined. Add raisins and currants and mix just to evenly distribute. Cover and chill at least 30 minutes and up to 12 hours.
3. Place a rack in middle of oven; preheat to 350°. Divide dough in quarters and transfer to two parchment-lined baking sheets. Using wet hands, shape dough into two 12″-long logs (a plastic bowl scraper is helpful for this). Use your fingers or your palm to flatten the logs. They spread some, so don’t let the logs touch. Arrange on opposing long sides of baking sheet, spacing 2″ from long edges.
4. Bake logs until edges are just set but centers are still soft, 23–26 minutes (logs will spread and crack). At the halfway point, switch sheets and turn them around so they bake evenly. Remove and let cool on the baking sheet.
5. GLAZE: Whisk powdered sugar and milk (or rum or lemon juice) in a small bowl until smooth. Glaze should be thick but pourable; thin with more milk, juice or rum as needed. Drizzle glaze erratically over logs; let sit until set, at least 30 minutes. Using a serrated knife, slice logs crosswise 1″ thick (or slice 2″ thick and cut in half down the center for a squarish cookie). Store airtight at room temperature. Freeze for longer storage.
6. Do ahead: Cookie batter can be mixed up to 4 days ahead.
Per Serving: 131 Calories; 4g Fat (28.3% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 22g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 18mg Cholesterol; 131mg Sodium; 14g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 24mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 95mg Potassium; 27mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Cookies, Desserts, on October 30th, 2022.

Oh so tender little cakey bites with dried apricots and golden raisins plus a brandy syrup poured over the top. And then a lemony drizzle on top of that.

A post from Carolyn.  This isn’t a new recipe here on the blog, but it’s been years – YEARS – since I made them. And because I did – make them last week, that is – any of you who weren’t around in 2008 should know about them.

Originally the recipe came from a 1996 issue of Sunset Magazine. I’d put it into my recipe program way back then, and have made them many times. What appealed to me was the combination of apricots and brandy. And that’s still the same thing that encourages me to make them.

You mix up an easy batter  – kind of a cake type, not cookie type and pour it into a buttered 10×15 pan. You can do it in a 9×13 pan, but they’ll take a bit longer to bake. The cake is baked for about 25 minutes. Once out of the oven you pour over a syrup made up of sugar, apricot brandy and lemon juice. Once the bars have cooled, you drizzle on a lemony icing. That’s what you can see in the photo – the icing. The syrup completely soaks into the cake. Although the bars are not soggy or wet at all – you can taste the brandy, certainly, and you might think the brandy is in the icing. But no.

They keep at room temp (sealed in a container, of course) for three days, but after that you should freeze them, using waxed paper to separate the layers. When you store them at first you should separate them with waxed paper also.

What’s GOOD: Love the tender cake rather than firm, chewy cookie-style bar, exactly. Love-love the brandy in these (not much). Definitely something for adult palates. You probably don’t give your children bourbon balls – so you might not want to give them these bars either. So, so good with a cup of coffee or tea. They freeze well (separate with waxed paper). They lend themselves well to fall flavors or Christmas, but you could make them any time of year.

What’s NOT: nothing at all. Absolutely wonderful little nuggets.

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Brandied Apricot Bars

Recipe By: Sunset Magazine, 1996
Servings: 36

COOKIE/CAKE BATTER:
1 cup butter
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
4 large eggs
1 tbsp grated orange peel
1 tbsp vanilla
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 cups dried apricots — minced
2/3 cup golden raisins
BRANDY SYRUP:
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup apricot brandy — or Cointreau
3 teaspoons lemon juice
LEMON JUICE GLAZE:
4 teaspoons lemon juice
2/3 cup powdered sugar

NOTES: Be sure to use fresh dried apricots and golden raisins. If they’re the least bit firm (from sitting on your pantry shelf for months) rehydrate them in hot water for at least 30 minutes before draining, blotting dry and adding to the batter.
1. Preheat oven to 350°. In a large bowl, beat butter, 1/3 cup sugar, and brown sugar with mixer until fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition, then add orange peel and vanilla.
2. In separate bowl, mix flour, baking powder, soda and cinnamon. Stir into butter mixture along with apricots and raisins.
3. Pour batter into lightly buttered 10×15 in. pan. Bake for 25 minutes or until cookie is lightly browned and springs back in center. Set on rack to cool.
4. BRANDY SYRUP – Just before cookies are done, combine 1/3 cup sugar, brandy, and lemon juice in sauce pan. Bring to boil over high heat, remove and when cookie comes from oven, spoon warm apricot syrup evenly over it. Let cool completely, then cut into 3 dozen equal pieces and leave in pan.
5. Lemon Icing – mix lemon juice and powdered sugar until smooth. Drizzle over the cookies. Once drizzle is sort of dried, remove cookies from pan. Store airtight up to 3 days; after that freeze them.
Per Serving: 132 Calories; 6g Fat (38.7% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 19g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 34mg Cholesterol; 78mg Sodium; 11g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 23mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 132mg Potassium; 41mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Cookies, on September 6th, 2022.

A winner of a good cookie.

A post from Carolyn. In my recipe program, MasterCook, I have 344 cookie recipes. I’ve probably made half of them; maybe more. And, of course, I keep adding to the list. Last week I was preparing some food to ship off to my granddaughter who is in medical school in South Carolina. She’s been there for about 6 weeks now – loving it as far as I know. I’ve texted with her a few times. She studies a lot. Obviously! And although she likes to cook, she’s learning that she just doesn’t have much time to cook because of the amount of studying she must do. Fortunately, there’s a Trader Joe’s in her neighborhood. But food from home is always welcomed. I hope the cookies survive the flight across country in a box that may get thrown and tossed.

I made a batch of granola bars (with dried cranberries and walnuts). Not sure they will ever make the rotation again (they were all for her), but we’ll see what she says. They were very sticky and not as firm as I’d hoped. They were altogether too sweet for me, but then she’s young and needs nutrition in any form she can get it.

Then I made these cookies. I had started out with a recipe from Half Baked Harvest, but I altered it some. I’m not such a fan of cookies made with all brown sugar, so I used about 2/3 brown, and 1/3 regular white sugar. I’d debated about adding walnuts, but ended up not; I also reduced the quantity of chocolate chips. Otherwise, the recipe is mostly the same. Butter gets gently browned in a skillet. Be sure to use a light colored pan so you can SEE how brown the butter is getting. It goes from looking like golden melted butter to dark in a matter of about a minute. It needs to cool awhile before being added to the cookie batter.

I kept the dough in mounds (I thought they would ship better), but you can also flatten the dough on the pan too. In mounds, the cookies took about 13 minutes to bake (until golden brown). If flattened, they’d probably bake in 2-3 fewer minutes.

What’s GOOD: loved the crispy texture and taste. Good and nutritious. The chocolate doesn’t overwhelm the cookie but you know the chips are there. The browned butter adds a rich flavor. Yes, I’d make these again.

What’s NOT: nothing that I can think of . . . they’re really delicious.

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Oatmeal Browned Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Recipe By: Adapted from Half Baked Harvest
Servings: 60

4 sticks unsalted butter
1  1/4 cups brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
4 cups all-purpose flour
4 cups oatmeal — old fashioned
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 1/2 cups chocolate chips

1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Add the butter to a skillet set over medium heat. Cook until the butter begins to brown, about 3-4 minutes. Remove from the heat and transfer to a heatproof bowl. Let cool about 10 minutes.
3. In bowl of stand mixer, combine brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla, mixing until smooth. Add browned butter, then add flour, oats, baking soda, and salt. Gently fold in the chocolate. As the batch sits, it will get more firm (as the oatmeal absorbs liquid).
4. Using a scoop, make rounded tablespoon size balls and place 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheet. Bake 8 minutes. Rotate sheets and continue to bake for about 5 more minutes until are golden brown and show some dark brown around the edges.
5. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet. They will continue to cook slightly as they sit on the baking sheet. Let cool completely and store in an airtight container for up to 4 days or freeze for up to 3 months.
Per Serving: 175 Calories; 9g Fat (45.9% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 21g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 30mg Cholesterol; 112mg Sodium; 11g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 24mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 66mg Potassium; 54mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Cookies, Desserts, on August 2nd, 2022.

Bars that are kinda cookie, kinda dessert, a happy match of the two.

A post from Carolyn. It’s been years ago that I downloaded this recipe from a now-defunct food blog called Alpineberry. It’s been long ago enough that I don’t remember the writer’s name, just that I remember her blog’s name, and I’d made a note of it in my recipe, and I have a few other recipes from that blog too. This recipe is a keeper, for sure.

It does require the making of three layers (a crust, an apple layer and a cream cheese filling). None is hard to do – the most tedious is probably the peeling, coring and slicing (thinly) the apples. The crust contains the usual things plus some cream cheese AND both almond and vanilla extracts. Some of it is set aside to make the topping. The filling is a cream cheese, egg, sugar and lemon juice combination. You can barely see it on top of the apples in the picture above. It’s not a thick filling – just enough to provide some nice creamy texture to the finished bars.

The crust is baked, cooled some, then the apples are added (you use Granny Smith so the apple filling doesn’t turn into applesauce) and gently smoothed out. Then the cream cheese filling is poured on top and gently spread out. Then the topping (the remainder of the crust plus some almonds, flour and more sugar. Sliced almonds are added on the top. That’s it. Baked for about 50 minutes.

What’s GOOD: loved the apple flavor, the texture, the little creamy layer and the crunch of the almonds. Altogether delicious bar or dessert. My granddaughter Taylor loved these. They’re especially nice served with some vanilla ice cream, or whipped cream. But they don’t need embellishment – served as is would be fine too, even out of hand.

What’s NOT: nothing at all.

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Almond Apple Bars

Recipe By: From Alpineberry blog (no longer exists)
Servings: 12

CRUST:
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt — (or 1/4 tsp table salt)
3 ounces cream cheese — softened
4 tablespoons unsalted butter — softened
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup granulated sugar — may use half artificial sweetener
1/4 cup light brown sugar — may use half artificial sweetener
1/3 cup almonds — finely chopped
TOPPING:
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar — may use half artificial sweetener
2 tablespoons light brown sugar — may use half artificial sweetener
1/4 cup almonds — coarsely chopped
FILLING:
5 ounces cream cheese — softened at room temp.
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 pinch salt
1 pound Granny Smith apples — peeled, cored & cut into thin slices (about 3 apples)

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 9×9 inch square baking pan with parchment. Butter the parchment.
2. CRUST: Sift flour and salt. Set aside dry ingredients. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter on medium speed until smooth, about 1-2 minutes. Add the almond and vanilla extracts and beat on medium until smooth, about 1 minute. Add the granulated and brown sugars and beat on medium speed until blended, scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice. On low speed, mix in the flour-salt mixture and the 1/3 cup of finely chopped almonds just until the dough comes together. It should be crumbly.
3. Reserve about 2/3 cup of the crust mixture for the topping. Press the remaining dough evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan. You may use an offset spatula, your fingertips, or the bottom of a glass to smooth out the dough. Prick the dough all over with a fork. Bake until light golden, about 16-18 minutes. Remove crust from the oven.
4. TOPPING: While the crust bakes, make the topping by adding the flour, granulated and brown sugars to the reserved crust dough. Mix until well combined. It should be crumbly. Set aside topping and 1/4 cup coarsely chopped almonds while you make the filling.
5. FILLING: In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Beat in the egg, lemon juice and salt until well mixed.
6. ASSEMBLY: Arrange the apple slices over the baked crust. Pour cream cheese filling over the apples and gently spread (using an offset spatula) the filling to cover. Crumble the topping over the filling. Sprinkle with the almonds. Bake until light golden brown, about 45-50 minutes. Let the bars cool in the pan for about 30 minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely on a cooling rack before cutting.
Per Serving: 279 Calories; 14g Fat (45.7% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 34g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 45mg Cholesterol; 176mg Sodium; 20g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 49mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 151mg Potassium; 83mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Cookies, Desserts, on June 9th, 2022.

Have you learned to trust Ina Garten’s recipes?

A post from Carolyn. If you haven’t, you should trust Ina’s recipes. I’ve not ever thought of making a grand statement about Ina’s recipes, but here goes: I’ve never made an Ina Garten recipe that hasn’t been spot-on. She’s a genius in the kitchen. And almost never are her recipes difficult or laborious. Some are expensive since she uses nothing but the best ingredients like pounds of fresh crab right off the boat, or beef tenderloin, or imported cheeses. But many of her recipes are simple. Easy. And many use ordinary ingredients.

So speaking of lemon bars here . . . have you ever eaten some that were not quite up to snuff? I sure have. And I’ve made them too, and not been happy with the results. I mean – they were okay, but not exceptional. These – this recipe – goes into the exceptional category. Just the right amount of sweet to tart, and just the right amount of lemon filling to the sugary topping. And the right amount of crust too.

One time, years ago, I was making a recipe for an appetizer. Don’t even remember what it was, but it was a loosey-goosey kind of recipe – a little this and a little of that. Oh, I remember, it’s on my blog already, they’re called Ginger Picks. It required a little square of ham, a fresh piece of pear and a little nub of crystallized ginger. In making them, I needed to taste it to see if the flavors worked. They did, but I figured out that you needed a piece of ham in a just-so size, a piece of pear in a just-so size, and a piece of crystallized ginger in a just-right size. In order to be perfect, each needed to be a very particular size, otherwise it didn’t work. Hence the same with these lemon bars. They need to have each part – crust – filling – topping be just right.

What’s GOOD: that they’re perfect. Just the right amount of tart to sweet, filling to crust, all in one bite. Make these.

What’s NOT: really, nothing at all. Ina Garten is a wizard.

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Lemon Bars

Recipe By: Ina Garten
Serving Size: 40

CRUST:
1/2 pound unsalted butter — at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups flour
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
FILLING:
6 extra large eggs — at room temperature
3 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons lemon zest — grated, 4-6 lemons
1 cup lemon juice — freshly squeezed
1 cup flour Confectioners’ sugar — for dusting

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. For the crust, cream the butter and sugar until light in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Combine the flour and salt and, with the mixer on low, add to the butter until just mixed. Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and gather into a ball. Flatten the dough with floured hands and press it into a 9 by 13 by 2-inch baking sheet, building up a 1/2-inch edge on all sides. Chill.
3. Bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes, until very lightly browned. Let cool on a wire rack. Leave the oven on.
4. For the filling, whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and flour. Pour over the crust and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the filling is set. Let cool to room temperature. Cut into triangles and dust with confectioners’ sugar.
Per Serving: 156 Calories; 6g Fat (31.2% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 25g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 43mg Cholesterol; 20mg Sodium; 18g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 8mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 30mg Potassium; 29mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Cookies, Desserts, on May 27th, 2022.

A post from Sara: I’ve always been a huge fan of chocolate and peanut butter. And when you use chewy brownies and melted peanut butter? Well, simply fantastic. I made these little jewels to ship to my kids in school in the South. It packages and ships well enough. I do put each in its own cupcake paper so they don’t stick. Then I boxed them up in aluminum 8×8 throw away containers with lids before packaging in a shipping box.

I used my go-to recipe for chewy, dense brownies. They’ve been posted here on the blog before. After pouring the batter into 9×13 pan, melt 1/2 cup peanut butter. I use a glass measuring cup and heat it gently in the microwave so it’s easy to pour onto the brownie batter. Then use a knife and swirl peanut butter into brownie batter for a marble effect. (See photo at left)

Bake according to directions. Once cooled, frost with a basic peanut butter frosting recipe.

I use a Betty Crocker recipe, and once frosted you need to place the pan in the freezer for a few hours. Then I cut out the shape I wanted using a cookie cutter. Since it was Easter, I chose egg shapes. You freeze again for at least 30 mins. Then use a chocolate glaze made with dark chocolate chips and a smidge of margarine. Using your hands, each one is dipped into the chocolate and set on a rack to dry, then sprinkled with decoration before the chocolate sets.

What’s GOOD: I was really surprised at how easy and professional they looked. They were a huge hit as every bit of leftovers pieces (photo above right) were consumed at Easter. I guess everyone loves peanut butter and brownies as much as I do! The number of servings is based on cookie cutter size. In this case the batch made about 32. Would make a great gift in an Easter Basket.

What’s NOT: it takes a bit of time to make the various layers, but altogether they’re very easy to make. Allow for freezing time in between.

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Peanut Butter Chocolate Brownie Eggs

Recipe By: A combination created by Sara
Serving Size: 32

PEANUT BUTTER BROWNIES:
1 cup butter — PLUS 2 tablespoons
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)
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter — for swirling in batter
FROSTING:
1 cup butter — softened
1 cup creamy peanut butter
4 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
CHOCOLATE GLAZE:
1 cup dark chocolate chips
1 tablespoon margarine — yes, margarine, not butter
decorative sprinkles for the top

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 spread to edges if needed.
5. Melt the 1/2 cup peanut butter in a glass measuring cup in microwave on low power (spout is important here) until pourable. Pour on top of the brownie batter in the pan. Using a knife, swirl the peanut butter throughout.
6. Bake approximately 35 minutes – do NOT overbake or you’ll lose the fudgy, gooey texture! Cool completely.
7. FROSTING: Beat butter in medium bowl on medium speed until fluffy. Beat in peanut butter, 1/2 cup of the powdered sugar, the milk and vanilla. Gradually beat in remaining 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar, beating after each addition until smooth. Spread frosting all over the brownies, then place pan in freezer for 1-2 hours.
8. Using a cookie cutter (in this case an egg shape) cut brownies into preferred shape. Freeze again for about 30 minutes.
9. GLAZE: Melt chocolate chips and margarine in small saucepan over low heat until completely smooth. (Once cooled the margarine helps the chocolate to set up more firmly.)
10. Using your hands, dip each cookie/egg into chocolate to cover the top and sides. Set on a rack to cool, then sprinkle decorations on top before the chocolate cools and sets. Cool completely. To package for shipping, place each egg in a cupcake paper to keep them from sticking together. Pack in a disposable aluminum pan with a lid.
Per Serving: 378 Calories; 23g Fat (52.1% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 42g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 60mg Cholesterol; 207mg Sodium; 35g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 24mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 128mg Potassium; 50mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Cookies, on March 14th, 2022.

Ah, yes, yet another chocolate chip cookie recipe. Hope you’re not tired of them.

A post from Carolyn. Until recently I’d never heard of Zoë Francois. That is until I began watching Magnolia Network where she has her own show call Zoë Bakes. She’s a baker of high esteem and her shows are filmed (I’m assuming) in her home kitchen in Vermont (so quaint). 90% of her recipes are sweets. Some of them are quite fussy (well, they are to me, who doesn’t really like fussy cooking or baking). But hey, I’m always on the lookout for a new or different chocolate chip cookie recipe.

So what’s different about this one? (1) she uses some shortening in it – mostly butter as the fat quotient, and just a little shortening (which supposedly helps the cookies not spread); and (2) she has you chill the cookie balls, on the sheet, before baking. If you are at all interested in reading the ins and outs of chocolate chip cookies and the ingredients that go into them and how they make a cookie react, you should read the long intro to the recipe. It’s quite detailed and unless you’re a professional baker, I’d guess you’d learn something from it. I certainly did.

My granddaughter Taylor loves chocolate chip cookies. And if you’ve followed this blog for any length of time you’ve learned that I do too. As I write this up, Taylor’s been home in Northern California for 2 weeks on a spring break and will hit the grindstone tomorrow with new nursing classes and two different hospitals where she’ll be learning clinical skills. I wanted her to be able to take a few cookies to school or to snack on when she’s studying here at home.

Who doesn’t like a good chocolate chip cookie? Maybe some of those rare people (I know one person – yes Kerry, that’s you) who don’t really care for sweets. I dug out my stand mixer and started in on these. I actually 1 1/2 times the recipe, but the recipe below is the original, which makes 36 cookies regular sized, or 18 if you like the giant ones. I did measure the ingredients carefully, even using my scale for the chips and flour.

For quite awhile I’ve not been doing any baking (trying NOT to), and when I dug out my brown sugar I discovered every speck of brown sugar I had was hard as a rock. Oh dear. I wasn’t about to make a trip to the grocery store. So I googled “how to rehydrate brown sugar,” and there are plenty of recommendations. The one that worked for me was to measure out about 1 cup of the hard brown sugar (first I had to break it up with a mallet) and it went into a sealing type plastic bag, then I added exactly 3/4 tsp of water. You just throw it in the bag and zip it up. It went in the microwave for 15 seconds, then you mush it around by hand, in the bag, breaking apart any of the hard chunks. Then back into the microwave for 10 second increments (it took just one more 10 second round) to make this brown sugar as soft and pliable as a fresh one from the store. At first there was a wet streak (that’s normal) in the middle of the sugar, but as it warms up, it absorbs into the whole lot. Just keep massaging it around. Who knew?

As it turned out, I was lazy and didn’t do the chill-in-the-frig part. I just scooped them and baked them. The recipe indicated 375°F for 8-9 minutes (using the chilled ones), but after making several trays straight from the bowl, I settled on 355°F for 12 minutes exactly. My oven runs a little on the hot side, I’ve learned. I made some of them without walnuts and some with them (the baker didn’t add them, but I prefer with walnuts). I added a measurement of walnuts in the recipe below, so you can choose to or not. I also didn’t add the flaky sea salt to the top. When I tasted the dough I thought they were plenty salty, so didn’t want to add more.

What’s GOOD: really good choc chip cookies. Are they better than others? I liked that they held their shape. They were a little on the brownish side underneath – that’s why I reduced the oven temp a little bit. Try a test batch when you make them. My favorite chocolate chip cookies still remain the ones from the Silver Moon Bakery. Click the link to read my post about them.

What’s NOT: nothing at all. These were delicious. Over the top? Maybe not. Certainly good, however.

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Chocolate Chip Cookies from Zoe Francois

Recipe By: Zoe Francois, Magnolia Network
Serving Size: 36

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour — (320g) unbleached
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter — at room temperature
4 tablespoons shortening — (57g)
1 cup granulated sugar — (200g)
1 cup brown sugar — (230g) packed
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs — at room temperature
12 ounces chocolate — use 72% cocoa, chopped in largish chunks (about 1/4-inch wide)
Flaky Sea Salt
ADDITION: 1 cup walnuts, finely chopped (not in the original recipe)

NOTE: Reserve one small chunk of chopped chocolate to place on the top of each raw cookie. If you are using the flake sea salt on top of the cookies you might want to scant the salt measurement in the batter.
1. Whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl.
2. In a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter on medium speed until light and fluffy, then add the shortening until evenly mixed in. Add sugars and beat for 3 minutes on medium speed. Mix in vanilla. Add eggs one at a time and mix on medium-low speed just until incorporated. Add flour and mix just until incorporated. Mix in chocolate, leaving at least one chunk of chocolate that you place on top of each cookie. [If adding walnuts, add them at this time.]
3. Scoop cookie dough using a portion scoop. You can make the cookies larger or smaller, but it will effect the baking time.
4. Refrigerate the raw cookies (on the baking sheets) for at least 30 minutes if you are in a hurry, but they improve if you let them sit for 24-36 hours. Resting will make them taste better, be more uniform in shape and color nicely when they bake. After they are chilled you can bake them or freeze the dough balls for later baking.
5. To bake: Heat oven to 375°F. Bake 6 chilled cookie balls (the large ones), evenly spaced on a sheet pan in the middle of the oven for about 12-15 minutes. If you’re making smaller cookies, you can fit 9-12 on a sheet and they will bake in about 8-9 minutes. Watch carefully that they don’t burn. When the cookies are about 3/4 baked, remove pan and sprinkle with flaky sea salt. Continue baking. [For my oven, without chilling the dough, the cookies were best baked at 355°F for 12 minutes.]
6. Allow the cookies to cool slightly on the pan and then remove to a cooling rack.
Per Serving: 180 Calories; 11g Fat (52.4% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 19g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 21mg Cholesterol; 148mg Sodium; 10g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 17mg Calcium; 2mg Iron; 98mg Potassium; 54mg Phosphorus.

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.

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