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Saturday, October 30, 2010

I Fall to Pieces

I recently entered these cookies in a bake-off contest on LA Times online. Below is my entry...I should mention, I did discuss with my mom prior to posting. My mom is a wonderful cook and taught me everything I in no way am I mocking her skills. Anyone that cooks and bakes, even the pros, knows that mistakes are made....sometimes to very positive results! Thanks Mom! Love You!

Almond Crescents (aka "The Crumbly Cookies")

For as long as I can remember, my mom has made “The Crumbly Cookies” every Christmas. She got the recipe from a friend. The cookies were delicious, but extremely delicate. They would fall apart in your hands when you pulled them out of the cookie tin she stored them in. The cookies melted in your mouth and tasted like almonds.

It wasn’t until I turned 10 years old that my sister and I discovered “The Crumbly Cookies” (our nickname for them) were really Almond Crescents. Why were they so crumbly? This mystery went unsolved until the year 2000!

It seems since everyone loved the cookies so much, my mom would double the recipe so we would have more to go around...or at least she thought she was doubling the recipe. For years, she was only doubling the butter! Even though my mom has corrected her mistake, we still call them “The Crumbly Cookies.” Her handwritten recipe now has all of the doubling instructions in parentheses, which is what I have included here. Make a double batch and enjoy!

* Directions for doubling the batch are in parentheses

7/8 cups of butter (3 1/2 sticks)

1/3 cup sugar (2/3 cup)

1/2 cup ground almonds (1 cup)

1 3/4 cup flour (3 1/2 cup)

2 tsp vanilla (4 tsp)

Be sure to set aside some extra granulated sugar to roll the cookies in after baking.

Directions: Cream butter and sugar. Add ground almonds, vanilla and flour. Store in refrigerator for 1 hour. Break off and roll small pieces of dough about the size of your little finger, bending slightly for crescent shape. Place rolled dough pieces on an ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes until golden brown on edges. Remove from baking sheet and roll in granulated sugar to coat thoroughly.

Spicy bites

My sister sent me a special request for some ginger cookies. She had sent me a link to a recipe for Triple Ginger Cookies on 101 Cookbooks last year which sounded intriguing. Twice I purchased fresh ginger in hopes of making these...but after reading the recipe, it seemed so involved that I never followed through. Finally, I pulled myself together and made these a few weeks ago. Between chopping the crystallized ginger to melting some of the ingredients on the stove, they are a bit of work....the original recipe also called for star anise, finely ground. I found star anise at Bristol Farms, but decided to substitute in Chinese Five spice rather than grounding the spice myself.

The end product was very tasty...

Triple Ginger Cookies (adapted slightly from 101 Cookbooks)

1/2 cup large grain sugar (turbinado)
2 cups of whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon Chinese Five Spice
4 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1/2 cup butter (one stick)
1/4 cup molasses
2/3 fine grain natural cane sugar, sifted
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 large egg, beaten
1 cup crystallized ginger, finely minced
2 lemons, zest only

Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Place large grain sugar in a bowl for coating.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, Chinese Five spice, ground ginger and salt.

Heat butter in a skillet until just barely melted. Stir in the molasses, natural cane sugar and fresh ginger. The mixture should be warm but not hot. Whisk in the egg. Now pour this mixture over the flour mixture, add crystallized ginger and lemon zest. Stir until just combined.

Roll about 1/2 teaspoon of dough into ball shape and then drop into the large grain sugar to coat. Place balls on prepared baking sheet a few inches apart. Bake for 7 to 10 minutes or until cookies puff up and crack.
Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Endless Love

This year marked 50 years of marriage for my parents. To celebrate the occasion, we threw a great party at Chadwick's Restaurant and Bar in Audubon, PA. Of course, some tasty cake was in order to top off the day. We ordered two sheet cakes from The Night Kitchen in Chesnut Hill. The first one, pictured directly above was a chocolate with rasberry filling. The second, top and middle pictures, was a vanilla cake with lemon curd. Both cakes were finished off with a tasty light buttercream. The vanilla with the lemon curd was the more popular of the two cakes, but both were delicious.

Homemade granola

I've mentioned my love of the breakfast foods before...I remember the first time I had granola as a kid. It was amazing! Nutty, crunchy, sweet....then I realized that one serving was only like a 1/3 cup. Portion control has always been an issue with me. I was used to eating puffy cereals like Honey Smacks, Super Sugar Crisps and Pops! where one serving was a huge I was sad to learn that this great tasting creation called granola, while technically better for me than my puffy sugary cereals, was as caloric as it was addictive.

Sadly, the calorie count of granola has not changed in the interim years. However, I like to think I have learned some self restraint. A few short years ago, I could not have ice cream in the house without finishing it within 3, it might be in the freezer for 2 weeks without me even thinking about it! Why? Self restraint. Anyway, back to the granola.....In the June 2010 issue of Bon Appetit magazine, there was a recipe for homemade granola. While it did not cluster up like some store bought granolas (not a problem, just not what I expected), it had a wonderful fresh taste....and to keep my portions on par, I kept my handy 1/3 cup measuring cup nearby....

Everyday Granola from the June 2010 issues of Bon Appetite (by Molly Wizenberg, Orangette)

3 cups of old fashioned oats
1 cup coarsly chopped pecans
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut (I used sweetened since that was all I had on hand and it was fine)
3 tablespoons (packed) brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt (I used sea salt)
1/3 cup honey
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (I used olive oil)
1 cup of assorted dried fruits (I used Trader Joe's Golden Berry Blend which has golden raisins, cherries, cranberries and blueberries)

Pre-heat over to 300 degrees F. Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment. Mix first 7 ingredients in large bowl.

Stir honey and oil in saucepan over medium-low heat until smooth. Pour honey mixture over oat mixture; toss. Spread on prepared sheet. Bake until golden, stirring every 10 minutes, about 40 minutes. Place sheet on rack. Stir granola; cool. Mix in fruit.

Can be made 1 week ahead. Store airtight.

Note, don't put the dried fruit in the oven....mix it in afterwards. If you put the fruit in the oven, it will become very hard and may break your teeth.

Thanks to Molly for such a wonderful recipe. Please check out Orangette if you have some time. Beautiful photos and interesting writing.