Tag Archives: dessert

Eat butter, preferably as shortbread

One of my sisters celebrated a birthday this week…a big birthday. I won’t say which one, but – to make this all about me for a second – it made me feel really old that I have a younger sister that is this age.

Wasn’t it just yesterday that we were driving to high school together through the gray Alaska mornings and singing along to the radio to keep each other awake? It seems like it couldn’t have been more than a couple weeks ago that we were crawling through six inches of snow in our new yard looking for a place to build our first snow fort. Or more than a couple years ago that we spent our afternoons after school tramping around the fields of our childhood home scanning the ground, looking for arrowheads and looking to avoid cow pies.

sisters

Where, oh where does the time go?

sisters

Since this was such a big birthday, we all chipped in and got her a present she’s been wanting for a while and that was equal to the occasion: a Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer. When I got my own stand mixer it totally changed my cooking/baking life, and I was so excited to give that gift to my sis. As a little extra treat for her day, I whipped up one of the recipes that makes me oh-so-thankful I have a stand mixer of my own.

zest and herbs

These are a basic shortbread cookie, with some additions that make them special enough for a birthday present. Shortbread cookies have a lot of butter, and as such, there is a lot of whipping together of sugar and butter. This is exactly the type of task that you want a stand mixer for (not to mention making bread and whipping egg whites).

Sure, you could do it with an electric hand mixer, but with a stand mixer you can turn the thing on and go about your business prepping the other ingredients. Then, a few minutes later, you can turn back to the mixer and find perfectly whipped sugar-butter. (Or butter-sugar, in the case of this recipe.)

creaming butter and sugar

It really is a thing of beauty. And the great thing about being in the decade we are both in now (you and I, little sis) is that you tend to care less about things that once seemed so important. Like eating too much butter.

sparkly shortbread

Meyer Lemon & Thyme Sparkly Shortbread Cookies

Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table
Makes about 36 cookies

These cookies keep fabulously well, and can be reliably sent across the country to a birthday girl (or boy). If you’re not sending half the batch away, you may also like to know that the uncooked dough can be frozen for later.

  • 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
  • zest of two Meyer lemons, divided
  • 2 sticks (16 tablespoons…!) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large egg yolks (save one of the whites)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme

Dump the 1/2 cup of granulated sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer. Zest one of the Meyer lemons on top of the sugar, and then rub the zest into the sugar. (This is an important step, trust Joy the Baker).

Beat butter, 1/2 cup of zested granulated sugar, powdered sugar, and salt together on medium speed until creamy and fluffy (about 3 minutes).

With the mixer on low speed, add in the egg yolks one at a time and beat until incorporated.  Then, still on low speed (the lowest you can go), add in the flour and thyme and blend until just incorporated – do not over mix. The dough will be very soft and pliant.

Divide the dough in half and dump onto two pieces of plastic wrap. Shape dough into logs about the size of a paper towel roll. Wrap each log up in the plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least three hours and up to three days. (If you are freezing any, you can just put it in the freezer at this point.)

While waiting for the dough to chill, make more zested sugar with the remaining two tablespoons of sugar and the zest from the second Meyer lemon. Do this on a piece of parchment paper or foil so that you can roll the logs in it to give them their sparkly crust. Set aside.

When you’re ready to bake, preheat oven to 350°. Brush the logs with the leftover egg white and roll in the reserved zested sugar. Then, cut the dough into 1/2-inch thick rounds. Bake on a lined baking sheet for 17-20 minutes, or until the cookies are golden around the edges, but still pale on the top.

Keep for yourself or send to someone you love. ❤

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A rebellious tart

Now that I’ve gotten your attention… Today is Pi Day! A day that food bloggers have co-opted and use as an excuse to post about pies. A little silly? Yes. Do I need more than the slightest nudge to talk about pie? No. So, here we are.

Except, I’m not really going to tell you about a pie. I’m going to tell you about a unique tart that is part pie and part cheesecake. I’m just a little rebellious that way, and so is this tart. Because it is incredibly easy to make, especially the crust. This is not something anyone has ever said about pie, especially the crust. And although there are recipes out there for “quick” and “easy” cheesecake…I’ve never been impressed. But this tart is easy, quick, and impressive. Best of both worlds.

crust dough

Now, it works out that I get to share this with you on Pi Day, but this tart is rooted in a recent fixation I’ve had on making labneh. Labneh is yogurt cheese, and you can make it at home simply by draining yogurt for a few days in the fridge. Ideally, it comes out the texture and firmness of a soft goat cheese and is similarly tangy and creamy, and just plain delightful.

The “recipe” (it’s more of a process, really) I used to make my labneh calls for using a full 32 oz. container of yogurt. So for whatever reason, I got a bee in my bonnet to try making some of the stuff, but didn’t really think through what I would do with it once I had it. Don’t get me wrong, it was delicious and I spread it on rice cakes and toast with jam for a couple days. But then it was still there – lots of it. This tart was my solution, and what an enjoyable solution it turned out to be.

tart filling

Back to pie for a moment: I love making traditional pie and homemade pie crust. I like a good challenge, and there are few kitchen challenges quite as daunting as pie crust. I’ve made some good crusts in my day (also some disasters!), but I can’t say that I’ve perfected it. I don’t know that I ever will – it’s like my White Whale. There is something about the mystique of it that keeps me coming back to try again.

But sometimes I just don’t want to expend the effort. Even Ahab took breaks from chasing the White Whale, right?! I imagine many people feel the same way (not about the dorky book joke, but about not wanting to expend effort).

tart crust

Don’t worry that you’re settling for an inferior dessert though. Despite being so easy to make, the crust for this tart works. It is buttery and holds its crunch, as the best tart crusts are and do. The filling is creamy, but also tangy, which saves it from being too rich and heavy, and it comes together in a snap (assuming you planned ahead and have your labneh ready to go). The baking process is also decidedly un-fussy. No need to chill it, freeze it, or put it in a water bath. You do need to be careful not to over-bake it, but that is easily done.

In summary: making labneh is fun, making this tart is easy, and it is a lovely dessert for an almost-spring Pi Day.

finished tarts

Labneh Tart (or Tartlets)

Barely adapted from Food52
Makes 1 tart or several tartlets, depending on size

I made this recipe into smaller tartlets; since it’s just the two of us here I wanted to portion it into multiple servings. This recipe will make four 4-inch tartlets, or one standard 9 1/2-inch tart. I also experimented with making even smaller tartlets in a muffin pan and that worked as well, so feel free to try different sizes to suit your dessert needs. You can get creative with the toppings, too. Blueberries were delicious and complemented the lemon, but other fruit would also work, and I think caramel would be lovely as well.

Crust:

  • 8 tablespoons butter (1 stick), melted
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour

Filling:

  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cup labneh
  • zest from one Meyer lemon
  • 1/4 cup frozen blueberries

Preheat oven to 350.

First, make the crust. Combine the butter, sugar, vanilla, and salt in a bowl. Mix in the flour until just blended. The dough will be very soft, but don’t worry, it’s supposed to be (see photo above in post).

Dump the dough into your tart pan. Or, if you are making tartlets, portion the dough out evenly. Then, press the dough out to cover the bottom and sides of the pan, making it as even as possible.

Put the pan(s) on a cookie sheet and bake until the crust is golden brown, about 25 minutes. When the crust is finished, remove it from the oven and lower the heat to 300.

While the crust is baking, make the filling. Whisk the eggs, sugar, salt, and vanilla together in a bowl. Then, whisk in the labneh, and then the zest.

Pour the filling into the par-baked crust(s) and spread it out evenly. Sprinkle the blueberries on top. Bake for about 20 minutes, until the filling is set around the edges but not in the middle – it should still be loose in the middle when you give it a little shake.

It will firm up once it’s out of the oven, so you don’t want to over-bake it. Check it a few times during the last 5 minutes or so to make sure you catch it while the middle still quivers. Cool completely before eating…this is not something you want to eat right out of the oven. That being said, we liked it better at room temperature than cold. So, if you refrigerate it, pull it out 20-30 minutes before serving to let it warm up.

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Bake sale bestseller: Snickerdoodles

It’s 1986. It’s my first solo shopping trip. I’m walking through aisles of canned foods, boxes, bags, filling my basket with the makings of a wonderful feast.

This particular shopping trip, and many more that followed it, was on the floor of the kitchen in my childhood home. The wares I was choosing from consisted of nearly every single dry food item from our cabinets, which my mom had taken out at my request and neatly organized in rows. My mom was a very patient woman.

me at 8

As I got older, in addition to “shopping” for food, I liked to help cook it. Well, actually my particular interest was in baking. Around age eight I had also developed my entrepreneurial streak and decided I wanted to have a bake sale. So, my mom and I set about making half a dozen different treats (again, I’d like to mention the patience) that I then bagged up and sold from behind an orange and yellow plastic table in front of the town post office.

Most of the bake sale items came from a thin, tattered (even then) cookie cookbook. I’ve never forgotten that cookbook – the look of the pictures and drawings, the way the pages felt, even the few oft-made recipes whose pages were dotted with grease and chocolate stains.

When David and I visited my family a few weeks ago I asked my mom if she still had that cookbook, fully expecting she had tossed it years ago. But she thought she did indeed still have it, and after digging out a pile of cookbooks that filled the dining room table she had retrieved it for me (the patience is still there). She also gave me a couple other cookbooks that she said I used to like to cook from as a kid and said I could have them all, including the well-loved cookie book.

kid cookbooks

I don’t know what this cookie cookbook is called or where it’s from – the front and back covers are gone, along with most of the introduction and index, and the spine is barely holding. But to me, it is a treasure.

Once I got home and had a day where I could actually bake something from it, I knew immediately what cookie I wanted to make first. The Snickerdoodles. The Snickerdoodle is the cookie that stands out in my memory of my bake sale days. I’m not quite sure why, because when flipping through the cookbook I found other recipes that looked more popular with my child-baked-goods-selling self.

The Cocoa Brownies page is particularly grimy and covered in stars, check marks, and other marginalia that leads me to believe it was a favorite. The recipe for Peanut Butter Cookies is furiously circled and includes meticulous notes, in my mom’s handwriting, on measurements for a double batch. I’m assuming these were for the benefit of an ambitious eight-year-old who didn’t know her multiplication tables yet.

But maybe, just maybe, the humble Snickerdoodle was the bake sale bestseller, because it is the one I remember most distinctly. There’s something about it – it seems simple, just a plain sugar cookie dough rolled in cinnamon-sugar. It’s really so much more than just the sum of its parts though, isn’t it? At least it is to me.

Snickerdoodles

First, there’s the magic that every kid knows as cinnamon-sugar. It can make even the plainest foods delicious (read: sweet). I loved to eat it on buttered toast, which now that I think about it has a very similar flavor profile to Snickerdoodles. And then there’s the texture of the Snickerdoodles: wonderfully soft and chewy, with just the slightest crust on the outside from the cinnamon-sugar.

cinnamon-sugar

There’s something else about Snickerdoodles though, at least this version from my youth. They have a distinct savory, umami-like taste to them that is really what makes them memorable for me. I ate a lot of cookies in order to be able to describe this taste (oh the things I do for you!)…and the best I could come up with is that it is almost metallic in quality. Ha! So much for that research. But I promise it’s not unpleasant. Please for the love of god, someone tell me you know what I’m talking about!

cream of tartar

Anyways, in the course of eating a couple (dozen!) of these cookies, I decided that the source of this unidentified taste had to come from either the cream of tartar or the shortening – or the combination of the two, plus the dash of salt? I drew this semi-conclusion because they are the only two ingredients in this recipe that are not in the other cookie recipes I’ve made in the recent past.

Cream of tartar is in there to act as an acid that helps the baking soda do its thing, which I assume is what causes them to puff up into thick little burgers instead of spreading out into a flat cookie. And, as we all know from the dilemma of pie crust, the shortening makes the cookie tender. Luckily though, there’s still enough butter to make sure they taste good.

creamed

Whatever this specific combination of ingredients is doing, when added all together they equal my childhood. One bite of one of these soft, savory-sweet cookies and I am back in the kitchen of our little trailer in Colorado.

I can feel the cold, hard countertop under my hands. I can see the sink underneath the kitchen’s only window that looks out into the street. I can see my mom there, doing dishes, watching my sister and brother play through that window. I want to walk up to her there, her past-self, and give her a big hug – for the patience she had already showed me at that point, and for all the patience that was to come. Thank you mom, I love you!

childhood cookie

Childhood Snickerdoodles

Adapted from the name-unknown cookie cookbook of my childhood
Makes about 2 dozen cookies

I hemmed and hawed a bit about posting these cookies. I mean, there’s shortening in them! What kind of hip foodie uses shortening?! Well, it turns out that a) I am not really a hip foodie and b) these cookies are just too nostalgically good for me not to share. That being said, if you have a Snickerdoodle recipe that is a bit more modern, but still retains that nostalgic taste, I’d love to hear about it in the comments. In the meantime, I will be enjoying these and maybe tinkering with them to create such a recipe myself.

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon

Heat oven to 400°.

Cream 1 1/2 cups sugar, butter, shortening, and eggs together in a stand mixer, or with a handheld mixer, until light yellow and fluffy.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt. Then add dry ingredients to wet, mixing until just incorporated.

Mix remaining sugar and ground cinnamon together in a shallow dish.

Shape dough by rounded teaspoonfuls into balls. Roll balls in cinnamon-sugar mixture. Then place about an inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake until set, 8-10 minutes. Immediately remove from cookie sheet to cooling rack.

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A surfeit of strawberries

We recently found ourselves in possession of a half-flat of strawberries over here. How does one come to possess a half-flat of strawberries you might ask? Welllll, we might have been over-excited to finally see these little red jewels make their blushing debut at the farmers market, and we might have over-bought. I am not afraid of a challenge though, especially not one as delicious as using up six pints of strawberries in as many days.

half flat of strawberries

The first thing I did with the delicate, sweet berries, beside pop of few of them into my mouth, is mix them with some rhubarb, sugar, and cornstarch. I then put that mixture into some cute little ramekins and buried it under a buttery, slightly salty crumb topping. Into the oven they went where they baked into a jammy, stewy, deliciously unctuous crumble.

I halved this Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble recipe from 101cookbooks and split the goods into four personal-sized portions. Top with ice cream or whipped cream, of course.

strawberries!

After dessert, I was satiated enough to start thinking about other, non-dessert ways to use my cache of berries. And my thoughts went straight to breakfast. My go-to breakfast the past few months has been a bowl of Greek yogurt topped with defrosted frozen mixed berries. It’s healthy and just a little sweet. I could (and did), of course, add fresh strawberries to my yogurt, but I wanted something slightly more daring (I lead an exciting life).

First, I turned to this Rhubarb Compote from Cucina Nicolina. I’ve been making this compote on a weekly basis ever since rhubarb showed up in the market a month or two ago. This time, I substituted one stalk of the rhubarb for a half pint of strawberries and made a dreamy Strawberry-Rhubarb Compote that is just perfect swirled into my favorite yogurt.

compote

I wasn’t done with breakfast though. I also tucked some strawberries and my remaining rhubarb snugly into a parchment paper pouch, following this recipe from a recent Bon Appetit, and roasted them in a hot oven. They softened into a lightly sweetened slump that settles over a mound of morning yogurt like a thick, delicious blanket…the only blanket I might like better is the down comforter on my bed that I have to leave to eat said yogurt in the morning.

Almost halfway through the half-flat, I was gaining steam. Another issue of Bon Appetit (I was a couple behind) revealed a quick and easy Strawberry Jam recipe that did not require actual canning – no water bath, no pectin, no fuss. A shredded Granny Smith apple provides the thickening agent and the jam keeps in the fridge for two weeks – far longer than you will manage to keep it around, I assure you.

fixins

On the day I found myself with less than two pints left, I looked out my window to find another gray, wet, chilly Seattle day. Juneuary, the seasoned locals apparently call it. But not me. Me and my strawberries were going to make it feel like summer, come hell or high water (or incessant rain). To accomplish this feat of suspended disbelief, I turned to my friend Eve Fox and her recipe for childhood summers spent in the sun: Strawberry Mint Lemonade. I made a double batch.

strawberry lemonade

Less than a pint of strawberries left, and I had saved the best for last. You see, David has a weakness for biscuits. And I have a weakness for whipped cream (I will seriously just eat a bowl of it on its own if someone doesn’t hold me back). Strawberries + biscuits + whipped cream? That equals strawberry shortcake.

Not just any strawberry shortcake though. Weeks previously I had bookmarked the recipe for James Beard’s Strawberry Shortcake that Food52 was generous enough to share with the world. It has a secret ingredient. I always love the idea of a secret ingredient – an unexpected twist that makes a recipe unique and is passed down from generation to generation. My imagination of a secret ingredient and the story behind it rarely is satisfied by reality though. There are tons of recipes that say they have a secret ingredient, but it is something common sense that isn’t actually a secret at all. This is not one of those recipes. This secret ingredient is everything I want a secret ingredient to be – weird, unexpected, from a mom who discovered it years and years ago. And, most importantly, it totally makes a difference in the recipe!

strawberry shortcake!

These shortcakes are truly the best I’ve ever had. They are very rich, while at the same time being impossibly light. They have an extremely delicate crumb, while still holding together enough to be the vehicle you need to shovel strawberries and whipped cream into your face. See? The best. You will have to make them yourself to find out what the secret ingredient is…or just click on this link, but I promise you will want to make them yourself.

And thus ended my journey down a road paved with strawberries. I had used them all up. Sad! I think I will buy another half-flat this weekend…

strawberry mom and baby

Strawberry Recipes

If you find yourself in a similar position of overabundance this summer – or in the more rational position of having a pint or two of berries – you won’t be disappointed if you give one of these recipes a spin. What’s your favorite strawberry recipe?

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When pumpkin bread is a health food: Seattle Staycation (part 1)

Hello world. I am coming to you today from Spring Break. It’s not the stereotypical Spring Break of course, no beach, no drunk college kids, and definitely no bikinis, but it’s my time to have a little less on my mind, more time to cook, and even a couple of days off.

backyard flowers

It is glorious.

We actually did think about going somewhere tropical over my break. All the conventional Seattle wisdom told us that this was the thing to do – to get a break from the gray and the clouds and the rain. For various reasons, however, we decided not to go anywhere. Instead, I am in the middle of what I’ve been calling my Seattle Staycation.

It may not feel like spring here (in fact, it still feels decidedly winter-like, snow and all!), but I am determined to enjoy my time off and make the most of it in my city. I’ve been dragging David around for much of it, and we’ve had a great time so far.

Last Thursday, I finally got to visit Book Larder – a cookbook store that opened a few months ago. Yes you read that right, it’s a book store that stocks only cookbooks! Or, in other words, heaven. As if I needed more reason to go, the store also hosts cookbook authors on a regular basis to do cookbook signings and cooking demonstrations, and on that night was hosting an event for Joy the Baker (aka Joy Wilson)!

Joy the Baker speaking at Book Larder

There’s Joy, talking to us about her new cookbook and answering all sorts of crazy questions about coconut flour and her life goals. I have read and loved the Joy the Baker blog for years, and am totally in love with her new cookbook. Each of the recipes I’ve made from it so far has been delicious, and all the recipes are approachable and completely drool-inducing.

Joy herself is also a delight, as I got to experience on Thursday. Here she is signing my book while we talk about how much we love our cats.

Joy signing my book

That was a highlight, but the fun times kept on coming. We spent one afternoon doing some fun exploring of Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. This included a massage for me (finally using a birthday present from two months ago!) at the lovely Massage Sanctuary. I highly recommend it, if you are ever so inclined and feeling indulgent. We also walked around Volunteer Park and visited the Conservatory where we got to a) be warm in the 80+ degree greenhouse (it was in the 30s outside) and b) see and read about an astounding number of beautiful and history-laden flowers. I know so much more about orchids now!

orchids at the conservatory

We also had lunch at the Volunteer Park Cafe, which has delicious vegetarian salads (I had a kale-squash-farro-lentil combo that I am obsessed with trying to recreate at home) and really good chocolate chip cookies.

One evening we headed downtown and went to see the new and much ballyhooed Paul Gauguin exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum. It is a wonderful exhibit and the audio tour they give you to guide you through is informative and enjoyable. Yay culture! Afterwards, we quickly got back to eating (which, if this blog post is any indication, is what we do 80% of the time) and had dinner at the Seatown Seabar and Rotisserie, right downtown by Pike Place Market.

seatown seabar, downtown seattle

We had king crab legs (oh la la!) and a little (cute!) chocolate peanut butter pie for dessert that was out of this world. I wish I could share a picture of it with you, but we devoured it before I thought of snapping a shot!

Other highlights include a concert at Columbia City Theater – a great show in a cozy space with awesome sound – yoga classes at a new (to me) studio called OmTown Yoga, a really cool bookstore called Third Place Books, as well as lots more eating…including:

  • Molly Moon’s for what I still think is the best ice cream I’ve ever had – such a treat!
  • Paseo for Cuban sandwiches and beans and rice. We had seafood sandwiches – shrimp and scallops – (since we don’t eat other meat) and they were excellent.
  • El Asadero, otherwise fondly known to us as the “burrito bus” because it is, yes, on an old school bus. It is also our favorite Mexican place in the city (so far).
  • Macrina Bakery for a delicious brunch and cupcakes that we somehow managed to save for dessert.

Macrina cupcakes

Whew! Just reading that makes me feel like I need to go for a run. It was all scrumptious though, and I don’t regret a bite. This is why, however, when I made the Vegan Pumpkin Bread from Joy the Baker’s new cookbook, it felt downright virtuous and healthy. More importantly though, it is delicious and is a perfect homage to a fabulous week.

vegan pumpkin bread

Vegan Pumpkin Bread

Adapted from the Joy the Baker Cookbook
Makes one 8×4-inch loaf

I halved this recipe, the one in the book makes two loaves, so that’s why the measurements are all a little funny. Even though I was only baking one loaf though, it still took almost an hour to cook so keep that in mind before starting the recipe!

  • 1 3/4 cup + 1/8 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg (if you don’t have fresh, you can substitute ground nutmeg)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 2 tbsp + 2 tsp maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp + 2 tsp water
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 6 whole pecan halves, for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease one 8×4-inch loaf pan (I only had a 9×5-incher and it worked just fine).

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices. In a medium bowl, whisk together the pumpkin puree, oil, maple syrup, and water.

Add the oil mixture all at once to the flour mixture. Use a spatula to fold the wet ingredients into the dry. Make sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl well and work in any dry bits of flour/sugar. Then fold in the chopped pecans.

Put the batter into the prepared pan and arrange the 6 whole pecans on top.

Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. Once out of the oven, let rest for 20 minutes, then invert onto a cooling rack.

Serve warm – plain or with a pat of butter.

yummy

I still have another few days of Spring Break left, so stay tuned for part 2 of my Seattle Staycation report! Also, if you want the updates on what I’m doing and where I’m gorging myself in real-time, follow me on Twitter or like me on Facebook where I post much more frequent updates.

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The holidays are coming, the holidays are coming!

They are. They are coming…somehow it is mid-November! How did that happen you ask? I have no idea.

I love the holidays though and really love the food part, so I am excited. But I actually feel a little robbed this year that I haven’t started thinking about what to make for Thanksgiving until now. I would usually have started the process of reading, bookmarking and drooling over recipes in October. Pesky graduate school! I have finally started thinking about it in earnest though, and wanted to share some of those thoughts with you.

pumpkins!

As you’ve probably picked up if you’ve read this blog (and/or if you know me, which, let’s be honest, is most of you that read this blog:) I am a vegetarian. And my boyfriend is too, which makes things easy. For our Thanksgiving we are going to have lots o’ veggies and things that are usually thought of as sides, but that to us are the main event.

I’ve also started combing through my various files and lists for holiday-y things to make for food gifts, which are my favorite type of Christmas gifts to give, and for things to just make during these two months. Because I can. Because during these two glorious months one can get away with using way more butter and cream than would usually be allowed in civilized society.

As with the last time I shared my recipe lists with you, I’d like to give you a few that I’ve made myself and would strongly recommend, as well as some that have made it onto my “to make” list and that I think could make it onto yours.

But! I would LOVE to hear what you are making for Thanksgiving, what your favorite Christmas treat is, or what you love to make this time of year just because you can. I need to make up for those few lost weeks of holiday-food-obsessing that grad school has robbed me of. Help me out and post a comment below!

apple!

Dishes I’ve made and would happily make again:

Dishes I’ve yet to make, but are on the Holiday list:

Desserts I’ve made and love:

Desserts I can’t wait to make:

A yummy way to use up leftover cranberry sauce:

Food to give as gifts:

Thank you so much for reading my meager offerings on this blog so far – I am thankful for you. Happy Thanksgiving!

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Cookies that make even flying better

I hate flying. This is not news to anyone who knows me, but for those of you who don’t, I can’t reiterate enough how much I hate flying. I actually border on having a phobia of it – I have panic attacks sometimes and take “calm-you-down” medicine whenever it’s ok for me to be sleepy on the other end of the flight.

In any case, I went on a trip to New York recently and had a great flight – free of any dramatics on my part, and that always makes me proud of myself.

Mt. Rainier

On this trip I was also reminded of a little piece of joy, amidst a sea of discomfort and fear, that I find in flying a certain airline (*ahem* I’m not going to name them specifically). This airline serves these lovely little crispy, spicy, holiday-y cookies instead of the standard peanuts or pretzels and I just love them! (the cookies, I am ambivalent about the airline).

They are sort of like ginger snaps, but there’s no molasses and they are much more buttery-tasting. They are called Biscoff cookies, and as soon as I got home from my trip I set about trying to replicate them in my own kitchen. I saved the wrapper from my flight, but its list of ingredients was not much help – containing (as does most packaged food) barely anything that one could actually use in a home kitchen…or would want to for that matter.

Luckily, almost immediately upon my return I saw an as yet unread blog post in my Google Reader from Dorie Greenspan about a cookie she calls Speculoos. In her post she mentioned that these cookies are called Biscoffs in the U.S.
Hello, serendipity!

I remembered the recipe for Speculoos from when I first poured through my newly arrived copy of Around My French Table, Dorie’s latest cookbook. So I pulled the tome off the top shelf and started flipping through it to find the recipe again. Now, let me just digress a little to gush about this book.

Around My French Table

This book, people! It is magical. Again, those who know me and know that I am a bit of a Francophile will not be surprised that I am enamored with a book (a substantial one at that!) that is all about French cooking. There are so many other reasons to love Dorie’s book though. It is just the right amount of modern and traditional to make it both accessible and decidedly un-stuffy. It is a book you could cook from for a month without getting bored – and without needing a heart surgeon (which is more than I can say for other beloved French cookbooks…sorry Julia). It is also chock-full of interesting tidbits of information about food and eating in France that I found just delightful.

When I first bought it I cooked from it constantly – I think we had some type of French soup for dinner 5 out of 7 nights a week for a while there. I had also gotten an immersion blender for Christmas, so that contributed to the soup craze too. And well, upon pulling it out to look for the Speculoos I become obsessed with it once more and have been cooking from it ever since. I will share some of those dishes with you in the coming days – including a lovely, seasonal celery root and apple soup. But for now: the Speculoos.

cookie dough

I fussed with the recipe a bit and ended up getting pretty darn close to recreating the Biscoffs I had on my flight. Close enough for my liking anyway. The egg I added to the recipe means that my version won’t keep as long as Dorie’s, but that wasn’t a problem in this house!

cookie cutter

These cookies smell like fall and the holidays and everything good about this time of year. We ate some of them warm, like you do when cookies first come out of the oven. But I must admit to liking them more once they cooled down because they got crisp and crunchy, just like my airline favorites. Enjoy with coffee, tea or a mug of warm apple cider.

cookies

Biscoff-Style Spice Cookies

Adapted from Around my French Table by Dorie Greenspan
Makes 25-50 cookies (depending on what size cookie cutter you use – I used a big one and it made 25)

Before you start making these, be aware that the rolled out dough needs to be chilled for 3 hours before it is solid enough for you to cut the cookies out. Also be prepared for the dough to be really crumbly – I mean really crumbly – when you finish mixing it. But have faith! You just have to work with it a bit and it will come together.

  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 2 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  • 7 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 large egg (you could probably substitute 1 tbsp of water here if you want them to keep longer)

First, whisk the dry ingredients together in a bowl: flour, salt, baking soda, and spices.

Beat the butter at medium speed (with a stand mixer or hand mixer) until creamy, then add the sugars to that and beat until well-blended (2-3 minutes).

Add the veg oil and egg to the sugar mixture and mix until combined.

With the mixer on low, add the dry ingredients slowly, mixing only until the flour disappears.

Once you incorporate all the flour, the dough will be crumbly. There might also be some flour left on the bottom of the bowl. Using your hands or a spatula, reach into the bowl and knead/squish the dough together enough to eliminate dry spots and to bring the dough together.

Divide the dough in half and working one half at a time, pat and press the dough (remember: crumbly!) together into a thick circle. Then roll the dough out between two pieces of plastic wrap until you have a circle that is about 1/4 inch thick.

Refrigerate the rolled out rounds of dough for at least 3 hours.

When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Remove one circle of dough from the refrigerator and, using a cookie cutter, cut out as many cookies as you can, carefully lifting the cookies onto the lined baking sheet as you go.

Round up the scraps when you are done, roll them out again quickly into a 1/4 inch round and cut out more cookies. Only do this once or twice for this first batch (if you do it more the dough will get too warm and start being sticky). If you have more dough left, put it back in the fridge and use it with the second batch.

Bake the cookies for 8-10 minutes, or until they are lightly golden and slightly browned around the edges. Allow the cookies to rest on the baking sheet for a couple of minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack.

Repeat with the second round of dough. For best results, wait until the cookies are completely cool to enjoy (trust me!)

eat me!

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