Thursday, December 19, 2013

First of the Cookies to be Delivered Tomorrow

This is the typical assortment:
Thumbprints - Berry, Mocha, Almond Hearts, Fig ’n’ Flax Thumbprint Cookies, Rosemary-Kissed Orange Thumbprint Cookies, Berry-Sage Thumbprints with my friend Kat's berry jam, Lemon Basil Thumbprints

Icebox Cookies - Apricot-Walnut Triangles, Candied Ginger & Sesame Slices, Cocoa White Chocolate–Cherry Sable

Other - Brown-Butter Oatmeal Cookies, Chocolate Pretzels, Gingersnaps w/ Lemon Ginger Buttercream (I think these are my favorite), Stained Glass Trees, Maple Walnut Macarons, Cardamom Orange Spritz, Cassis Pepper Spritz w/ Black Pepper, and Dutch Windmills - Speculaas - Speculoos

Maple Walnut Macarons
 The macarons taste wonderful, which is a very good thing because they really don't look anything like real macarons. I had first time success and since then, haven't been able to get the beautiful, shiny cookies. I guess I'll have to try again. I think my big problem is that I made them way too small and overcooked them because I didn't realize they were small. I substituted most of the confectioners sugar with maple sugar and the filling is a buttercream with maple syrup and walnuts.
Gingerbread w/ lemon ginger buttercream
Gingersnaps filled with a buttercream flavored with lemon zest and candied ginger.
amaretti cookies

Shara & Alan's favorites - amaretti cookies. I learned that I shouldn't bake these on the silicon mat because it trapped too much moisture and the bottoms didn't get dry enough and they stuck pretty badly. But it did make them stick together nicely to make a sandwich.

I looked at several recipes for Speculoos and almost made the recipe from Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours By Dorie Greenspan , but settled on one from someone's blog that had the same Springerle rolling pin I had. I think it was very similar but he said to start with cold butter where I didn't listen and used room temp. One thing I didn't do well enough was sift the brown sugar and those lovely brown clumps are said sugar. I tried to pass them off as brown sugar candy bits, but couldn't lie. They still taste wonderful!
Apricot Walnut Triangles

Apricot Walnut Triangles - these are amazing. I make an apricot walnut bread and thought the combination would make a good cookie and it does. Just a simple dough - Dorie's Sable actually, and rolled the apricots & walnuts, then formed into a triangle. Refrigerated, sliced & baked. The easiest cookies.

GInger Slices
Took the other 1/2 of the Sable dough and added Garam Masala, candied ginger and rolled the logs in sesame. The candied ginger/sesame was from Smitten Kitchen. Again, slice and bake. Some were overcooked, but we managed to eat the rejects!
Another from Smitten Kitchen. Got a thing in my head for chocolate pretzels, maybe from the Balsam cookie assortments my dad used to bring home from his deli when I was a kid.

Maybe next year I'll recreate this assortment! One more kind to make - think it will need to be more slice and bakes so I can use my new cookie stencils with.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Cookie Therapy

Thursday I had a procedure done to my eye - it was icky and more traumatic than I would have thought. Next day I was almost all better, but when I got home from the appointment I relaxed for a few and then needed to do something to calm myself and be in control. Cookies came to my rescue. I had a nice time all by myself, carefully making thumbprint cookies. I realized as I was doing it that it made me feel much better about myself and not worry so much about my eye, which was hurting a bit and grossing me out. I never would have been able to concentrate on anything involving words, but working with my hands did the trick.
Rosemary Orange Thumbprints

Mocha Berry Shortbread Hearts

Lemon Basil Merlot Jelly filled Shortbread

And this weekend I got a lot more baked!
Chocolate Pretzels

Stained Glass Cookies

Cocoa Sables w/ White Chocolate & Cherries

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Brown Butter Oatmeal Cookies

There's nothing like the smell of brown butter. I love these cookies but honestly don't think they're better than just smelling the butter - not that that stopped me from eating a couple, as you can see by the picture. As I was cropping it, I noticed the 1/4 cookie left on the rack. At least I know they're good enough to share!

Friday, December 06, 2013

Holiday Cookie Time

I'm deeply immersed in everything cookies, from the Cookie Walk at church to holiday baking. First came the Hanukkah Cookies, baked with Shara & my mom.

Then we made the Chocolate Covered Cherry Cookies for the Cookie Walk

The Morello Cherries from Trader Joes are so much better than marachino.

Next came the first of the Christmas Cookies. We tried our new Oxo Good Grips cookie press. I have to find out how to get the cookies to stick to the ungreased cookie sheet but when it worked, they came out nice. This is an experimental cookie - Cardamom Orange. I boiled down orange juice to add to the dough with the egg. I made it a pretty thick syrup so I don't think it made much of a difference with the texture. It's based on these Swedish Christmas Cookies.

If anyone wants to buy the press, you can get it at Amazon. I like the press itself. It cleaned very easily, the discs changed quickly and you can see the dough in the press as well as air pockets. I just have to find a recipe that will be a bit stickier maybe? It wasn't a recipe specific to a press, so I'm hoping that was the issue. I may have to try another batch!
So next on the agenda? I'm not sure but I have about 100 recipes I'd like to try. You can check out my Pinterest board of possibilities here.

Follow Laurie Lessner's board Recipes - Holiday Baking on Pinterest.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Homemade Marshmallows

The other night we had s'mores outside by a campfire. We had a package of peeps and one actual marshmallow. I obviously needed to restock. We were at the market yesterday and once again, I looked at the ingredients and this time I didn't give in and get the bag with the artificial colors and flavors and stuck to my word and made homemade marshmallows. It's the exact same process as the 7 minute frosting I like so much, except marshmallows have the added gelatin. I didn't do as some and get gelatin from grass-fed cows. I had a bunch of Knox from long ago and put that to use.

After looking at several recipes online, I decided to give David Lebovitz's a try. I did see the post by Smitten Kitchen, and was careful not to let my compulsion to scrape overtake the process. I can't do her experience justice and recommend you read it yourself. It's a very funny cautionary tale. I'd like to try the no-egg white version (what she used) next time. I'm not thrilled using so much gelatin, but they look really good and I probably don't have to worry so much about them not drying out, as the humid day kept mine from doing. I also couldn't wait to eat them and didn't let them dry out for as long as recommended - 4 - 24 hours. I thought 8 hours would be enough and on a dry day, probably would be. Regardless, they tasted great, if they did end up being a little foamy after heating. They weren't as hard as they should have been but I from reading more, I found out one pouch of Knox gelatin is 7 grams, and the recipe said to use 17 grams or 2 packets, not specifying a brand. So more gelatine next time.

Still, it was easy and much better than the artificial stuff.

gently spread out on the cornstarch/confectioners sugar, drying

hard to decide which to have - orange, sea salt, or chili chocolate

awaiting the torch

again, Alan happy with any excuse to use the torch

Sunday, August 11, 2013

My Sushi Special - made w/ brown rice, from Asia Sushi Grill - a usual fallback when I can't figure out what to have. It was good but the fish was a little dry. Next time I'll take the time to figure out better what to order. But it's good because it also comes with miso soup and salad.
Shara's sushi dinner - caterpiller roll, unagi roll and salmon roll. Her new favorite is eel. There were only three pieces or the unagi roll and 1/2 order of miso soup leftover.
I'd been in the mood for blueberry pancakes since we went picking a few weeks ago and today I made a batch for Alan and myself. Shara didn't want them. She doesn't like cooked fruit. They were very good.
Here's my usual recipe:
1 cup flour (I use 1/2 whole wheat, 1/2 white)
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
dash salt
1 egg
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup almond milk
1/3 cup water
1 tsp. Mexican vanilla
1 cup blueberries

Dessert this evening was another item off our end of summer bucket list - s'mores. Shara wanted to blow up some peeps (the idea came from our neighbor) and that was a terrific idea because we only had one whole marshmallow and a few that were chopped up from some baking experiment. I actually think they were rolled into hearts from Valentines day. So these weren't the freshest either. The peeps are great because the sugar caramelizes in the fire and the bitter flavor dissipates too. They are fragile, so melting the chocolate with your flaming marshmallow doesn't work with peeps. They don't flame much and are quick to start falling off the stick. Not worth sacrificing it to the fire.

This was interesting - Shara whittled a whole in hers to get it in the fire to melt a bit. It actually worked!

Monday, August 05, 2013

Cleveland Conference

Fun conference in Cleveland. Nice that we were able to do some exploring Saturday night. Went to Bar Cento for dinner and the West Market to look at local foods. Brought back jerky and smokies (slim Jim's) for the family from J and J Meats. I liked them a lot more than u thought I would. The jerky was similar to Chinese boneless ribs.

Sunnyside Pizza from Bar Cento

We also ate very well at the conference. Much too well. Breakfast the first two mornings was fruit and pastry. The last day were eggs (a little too runny for me), bacon (skipped), home fries (had some loaded with Frank's), fruit, and cheese blintzes with strawberry sauce (very good, creamy, stuffed crepe. Not fried, but soft. I had two.)
cheese blintzes

Lunches were also above average for a conference. First day was a box lunch. We didn't run to the tables fast enough so ended up with turkey, lettuce, tomato, bacon & cheese on a croissant. I took off the bacon & cheese. An apple, bag of chips(skipped), an amazing Blondie, and a lifesaver mint. I saved the Blondie and earlier tonight, heated it in the microwave and it got a little crispy caramelized on the bottom. With some vanilla frozen yogurt, it was delish.
The second day lunch was a Caesar salad, herb crusted chicken breast, roast vegetables (heavy on the green beans), mashed potatoes, and what sent us over the edge was a slice of key lime pie. Let's just say it was hard to concentrate on the publisher and author who were up next.

Here are some other photos of the West Side Marketplace - the indoor market was heavy on the meats but across the street was another market where they had all the produce vendors - a bit like Haymarket.

fun lights

And I can't forget the party at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. That was a fantastic party - great band, good food, access to the museum, and for dessert - a sundae bar. Missed the brownies, but believe me, they weren't really missed.

Monday, July 15, 2013

And the beet goes on

Had some beets in the fridge and didn't want to bother cooking them so confirmed that raw beets aren't very different than cooked and decided to throw together a beet slaw. Ingredients kept going in the bowl -
grated beets
lemon juice (my lime had seen better days)
fresh, frozen dill
crushed garlic
greek yogurt
diced cucumbers
salt & pepper

Mixed it all together and it tasted like garlic dill pickles. I couldn't taste the beets at all and that was just fine with the rest of the family, who don't like beets but love pickles!
And you certainly can't beat the color:

Friday, July 12, 2013

Birthday Dinner

 Last week Alan and Shara planned and cooked a dinner for me so I could relax on my birthday. Since my birthday is often hectic, we decided to wait until after July 4th and had it on July 5th instead. The menu was as follows:
Rainbow Rolls w/ peanut dipping sauce
Teriyaki Salmon
Cheesy Cauliflower Rice
Wine provided by Shara
Small Cake

It was delicious, though the red cabbage in the rolls ended up being radiccio and was a bit bitter. The cake wasn't a cake but a pie - chocolate cream from the Pie Guys. A pie we could all love, since I'm the only fruit pie fan in the house.
Speaking of fruit pie, I'm always looking for lower calorie fruit pie options and played around with making a lower calorie "shrub". I feel like I succeeded. This one has:
whole wheat pastry flour
almond milk
almond extract
wheat bran
Mix that together & top a bunch of fruit. In this case, it was cherries, rhubarb and blueberries. It was very yummy topped with frozen yogurt for a dessert or plain greek yogurt for breakfast.