Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Mondays with Maida - Chocolate Raisin Cookies

Page 30 in the old book / page 46 in the new book

Baking cookies is not the first thing that comes to mind when deciding how to spend the day after Christmas. And in fact, I had trouble mustering up some enthusiasm for the project. Fortunately, this week’s recipe, Chocolate Raisin Cookies, is not difficult and didn’t require too much effort. Unfortunately, I had some trouble with these cookies – I made a minor substitution which might have affected the outcome, I made a mistake in mixing the dough, and I had trouble getting the timing right.

This recipe calls for sour cream in addition to quite a bit of butter. Since I had some leftover lowfat sour cream, I decided to use it rather than purchase more. I also goofed when mixing the dough. I should have added the melted chocolate to the butter/sugar/egg mixture before the sour cream. Instead, I accidentally added the sour cream first. I realized my mistake before I mixed in the sour cream, but thought the order couldn’t be that important. Wrong. When I added the chocolate, it seized. The dough appeared to have grated chocolate in it rather than melted chocolate. Lesson learned – next time I would scoop out the sour cream rather than mixing it in.

I had trouble again with timing. The recipe says the cookies should bake for 18 to 20 minutes but cautions that they shouldn’t be overbaked since the centers are supposed to be soft and chewy. I baked the first batch for 18 minutes. The cookies were very dark around the edges and appeared overdone. I kept reducing the time (the last batch was 13 minutes), but I don’t think any of the cookies remained chewy in the middle after cooling. These cookies are described as “both soft-chewy and crispy-crunchy”, which sounded really good to me. I didn’t achieve that result and was rather disappointed in the cookies. I can’t help but wonder, though, if I hadn’t made the substitution and hadn’t made that mistake, how they would have turned out.

Next time – Chocolate Banana Cookies.

Nutrition Facts

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Happy Holidays!

After all the hustle and bustle of holiday preparations, may you now find some quiet moments to enjoy the company of family and friends. Best wishes to all of you for a joyful holiday season!

Monday, December 20, 2004

Mondays with Maida - Coconut Grove Cookies

Page 28 in the old book / page 44 in the new book

Another chocolate drop cookie this week, but this one is very interesting. The base is chocolate with chunks of chocolate – quite similar to a couple of the cookies from past weeks – but they are topped with a chewy coconut and meringue mixture. Think Mounds bar inside out. They are not the most attractive cookies and those coconut topknots have minds of their own (about half wound up on the side after the cookies baked), but with nuggets of bittersweet chocolate within and that chewy coconut on top they taste great. The recipes in the old and new books are the same, though the new book calls for semisweet chocolate and lacks a note which is found in the old book. The old book lists sweet, bittersweet and semisweet chocolate as options and specifically mentions Lindt Excellence, Tobler Tradition, Lindt or Tobler extra-bittersweet, and Baker’s German Sweet as good choices. Since I needed 8 ounces of chocolate for this recipe, I decided to use Callebaut bittersweet which is sold by the pound in Whole Foods.

Except for the aforementioned problem with the coconut topping sliding off in baking, I had no trouble mixing or baking these cookies. I got lucky and managed to portion out the chocolate base and coconut topping so that I didn’t wind up running short on either one.

I liked these – they were fun to make and tasted very good. I am so ready to try some of the non-chocolate cookie recipes though! Speaking of which, Viv at Seattle Bon Vivant recently posted about an article on cookie baking that appeared in the Seattle Times. The article includes a recipe from Maida Heatter for Sour-Cream Ginger Cookies. If I keep on schedule, I’ll be posting about those cookies on February 14th. If they sound good to you, you may want to grab the recipe while you can.

Next time – Chocolate Raisin Cookies.

Nutrition Facts

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Cookie Weekend 2004

Every year I take a couple of days off and have myself a very long weekend of Christmas cookie baking. Inevitably other things come up, so it’s not like I’m baking cookies day and night, but it is definitely the focus of those three or four days. I usually bake six kinds of cookies. This year I baked seven – six plus my “Mondays with Maida” cookies. The other thing that was different (and fun) this year was that three of the recipes I tried came from other food bloggers.

Here’s what I made:

Chocolate pecan bars – I make these every year and they are always everyone’s favorite. They’re from a 1989 Karo corn syrup magazine ad and taste like a chocolate pecan pie.

Sugar cookies – page 193 in Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Cookies. I make these every year as well. This is a wonderful recipe – the cookies have great flavor and the dough handles beautifully.

Cardamom butter squares – page 120 in the December, 2004 Gourmet. (Gourmet's recipe was based on this recipe from McCormick. The recipe in Gourmet uses a little more cardamom and adds the icings.) These are tasty little cookies drizzled with chocolate and an espresso icing. They are easy, beautiful, and delicious!

Soetkoekies (spice wine cookies) – from Jeanne at Cook Sister!. This is a South African cookie loaded with spices, almonds and red wine too. You don’t even need a mixer for these and they taste great!

Chez Panisse Gingersnaps – from Renee at feeding dexygus seconds. Such a great story – I had to make them. I had a little trouble slicing them neatly, but they are still delicious.

Marzipan pine nut cookies – page 44 in the Spring 2004 Eating Well. Sam at Becks & Posh made these for IMBB10 and fortunately I just happened to have this issue of Eating Well. I’ve only eaten one of these (so far) – but I think this is my favorite new cookie this year. I plan to make a second batch so I can enjoy a few more!

Coconut Grove Cookies – page 28 in Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Cookies. More about these tomorrow!

Monday, December 13, 2004

Mondays with Maida - Chocolate Applesaucers

Page 26 in the old book / page 43 in the new book

I know what you’re saying, “OK, now this is starting to get a little old…” I promise, this is the last iced chocolate drop cookie for a little while. There’s one more, but it’s a few weeks off. Actually, it is rather interesting to make and compare a number of similar cookies. Since the changes from week to week are slight, I can start to get a feel for the effect that each small change has on the final product. Anyway, the cookies this week are called Chocolate Applesaucers and, as you might have guessed, they are made with applesauce. They also have walnuts, raisins and spices. Both the cookies and the icing are made with cocoa. The old book doesn’t specify which type of cocoa to use, but the new book calls for Dutch process cocoa, so that’s what I used.

These cookies are mixed in the mixer and go together quite easily. They are very large. The recipe instructs you to use a ¼ cup measuring cup to measure out the dough for each cookie and to only put 5 cookies on each sheet. The recipe is supposed to make 22 cookies, but I ended up with just 20. To get 22, you should probably use a scant ¼ cup for each. Because the cookies are so large, the recipe recommends that you prop up your cooling racks on something to increase the air circulation under the racks, hence my floating cookie racks…

The icing is very easy, but I found it thickened up pretty quickly – probably because the house is so cool. After I had iced half the cookies I added a little more water and the icing returned to a workable consistency. After a few more, I found it necessary to do this again but it was less effective. It probably would have helped if I had reheated the water (boiling water is called for in the recipe).

I was good all day in anticipation of eating one of these cookies. I was out Christmas shopping all afternoon (I’m done – yeah!!) and didn’t get started on them until after dinner. I ate my “sample” almost immediately after it was iced – I couldn’t hold out any longer! It had a nice crisp edge with a moist but not chewy interior, and of course all those walnuts and raisins. Both the cookie and icing have a rich, dark chocolate flavor. Very, very good – a solid B+.

Next time – Coconut Grove Cookies.

Nutrition Facts

Friday, December 10, 2004

SHF3 – Auntie Bee’s Cardamom Apricot Muffins

Sugar High Friday has rolled around again. Hosted by Zarah Maria of Food & Thoughts, the theme is “Spice Up Your Winter!” Participants were asked to include cardamom, nutmeg and/or allspice in their sweet creations.

I didn’t have to think about this very long before deciding that I would focus on cardamom. My great aunt, Auntie Bee, who passed away many years ago but still is very fondly remembered by my entire family, once told me that cardamom was her favorite spice. I don’t remember that she told me why, but I believe that she had a fascination with all things Swedish (probably because Uncle Ted’s family was Swedish) . This fascination apparently included Swedish cooking, because one of the cookbooks I inherited from her is titled “Good Food from Sweden”. Cardamom is commonly used in Scandanavian baked goods.

I looked through Auntie Bee's Swedish cookbook for recipes using cardamom. I found a couple that were possibilities, but the instructions all started with “Wash and dry butter.” I had no idea what that meant, although I’ve since found some instructions on-line for washing butter , and I suspect it is not necessary with the butter we purchase today.

Having ruled out the recipes from the Swedish cookbook, I was briefly at a loss as to where to turn next but then remembered that I have Auntie Bee’s recipe boxes! I looked through her recipes for cookies, cakes and breads and came up with several recipes using cardamom. There were recipes for a Coffee Braid, Holiday Cardamom Bread, Margo’s Danish Pastry, and Cardamom Fruit Muffins. I’d eventually like to try the other recipes, but for this occasion I went with the easy one – Cardamom Fruit Muffins. It is actually a variation of a recipe called “Rich & Sweet Muffins” that calls for the addition of ground cardamom and candied fruit. I swapped dried apricots for the candied fruit, cut the recipe in half, and added a cinnamon icing (an idea I got from the coffee braid recipe). The muffins were really wonderful. I don’t think I’ve ever made muffins with butter before. My usual recipe for blueberry muffins calls for melted butter, but I’ve always substituted vegetable oil. What a difference the butter makes! The crust is tender and crunchy-crumbly and the muffins live up to their name – they are rich and sweet!

Auntie Bee’s Cardamom Apricot Muffins

makes 6 – can be doubled

1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground cardamom
¼ cup softened butter
¼ cup sugar
1 egg
¼ cup milk
¼ cup chopped, dried apricots

Preheat oven to 375 F. Butter a 6 cup muffin tin. Sift together flour, baking powder, salt, and cardamom and set aside. Cream the butter with the sugar and then beat in the egg. On low speed add half the flour mixture, then the milk, and then the rest of the flour mixture. Add the apricots. Spoon batter into muffin tin and bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Allow to cool a little, then drizzle with cinnamon icing (strained confectioner’s sugar and a bit of cinnamon mixed with a little milk or cream). I used a sandwich bag with a corner clipped off to drizzle the icing.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Mondays with Maida - Key West Chocolate Treasures

Page 24 in the old book / page 41 in the new book

No need to adjust your set. Yes, these cookies do look very much like last week’s cookies. In fact, if you compare the list of ingredients they are very similar. Both recipes have the same amounts of flour, butter, dark brown sugar, egg and vanilla. However, this week’s cookies - Key West Chocolate Treasures – have more chocolate, sour cream rather than milk, coffee and coconut. The icing is slightly different as well, using sour cream rather than heavy cream. They are smaller than last week’s cookies and, to my taste, have a little more character.

These cookies are mixed in a mixer and are a little more bother than last week’s cookies – but not much. The only difficulty I had was in melting the chocolate for both the dough and the icing. I’ve heard of chocolate “seizing”, but I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced it before. I think I have now. The chocolate for the dough is melted together with ½ cup of coffee. The chocolate was nearly melted and all was well, when suddenly it started separating and looking a little clumpy. I wasn’t too concerned since this was going into the dough, and indeed it turned out fine. Once mixed into the butter, sugar and eggs, the chocolate was perfectly smooth. I was slightly more concerned about the chocolate for the icing, since the problem appeared to have been caused by a mistake I had made. I melted the chocolate and butter together, but should have included the sour cream as well. When I realized my mistake, I rather hastily threw in the sour cream. I put it back on the heat and stirred, but before long it was looking pretty awful. Some sort of liquid was separating out from the chocolate and the chocolate was very clumpy. I tried using a whisk and kept it on the heat, but nothing was helping. Miraculously, as soon as I stirred in some of the sugar, the chocolate became silken smooth.

These cookies are quite good. They are not as cakey as the Big Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cookies from last week, and are slightly chewy from the added coconut. The icing is delicious – I had a little leftover and kept going back and licking a little more off the spatula. Of the four cookies I’ve made so far, this is #2. My favorite so far is the first recipe I made – Chocolate Chocolate-Chip Cookies.

Next time – Chocolate Applesaucers.

Nutrition Facts

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Delicata Squash Soup with Arugula Pesto

When I started thinking about what to have for dinner last night I was thinking light and simple. It being December and pretty chilly outside, soup naturally came to mind. I had a Delicata squash in the fridge that had been there for a couple of weeks, so I decided to make use of it. I wanted to include some greens in the soup and thought that the slight bitterness of arugula might contrast nicely with the sweetness of the squash. It was then that my train of thought veered off track – what was to have been a simple supper became considerably more complicated.

Somewhere in one or more of the many food magazines I have browsed over the years, I know I’ve seen pesto used as a garnish for soup, though I had never tried it myself. The idea of an arugula pesto on top of squash soup sounded really good to me. Then I got a really crazy idea – instead of using Parmesan cheese in the pesto, what if I used aged Gouda? And… instead of using pine nuts, why not use pecans? I think the only reasons I thought of using the aged Gouda were that I happened to have some on hand and I really like it. I didn’t have a clue as to whether it would “go with” arugula. In fact I started worrying about the combination enough that I decided to validate it by doing a search in Google. My search turned up several salads that included arugula, aged Gouda and pecans, so I decided it must be an acceptable combination.

I envy people that can confidently work out a recipe in their head. I suppose much of that ability must come from experience eating and preparing many different foods, but to me it’s like being able to read a sheet of music and hear the music in your head – another skill that eludes me. Anyway, I have to rely on luck as much as anything. Occasionally it works.

The pesto worked. However, my angst over the choice of nuts and cheese was unnecessary. The arugula overpowers them. I think pine nuts and Parmesan would work equally well and would taste just about the same.

I was much more laid back about the soup (probably because this was more familiar territory). I roasted the Delicata squash to accentuate its sweetness, added a sautéed onion and some roasted garlic, pureed them together in the food processor and then added chicken stock.

I topped the soup with salty crisped bits of pancetta. The mix of contrasting flavors and textures was delicious. I had a heap of dishes to do, but it was worth it! Tonight I had the leftover pesto in a pasta dish, but it’s late and that will have to be another post…

Delicata Squash Soup with Arugula Pesto

3 cloves garlic
1/3 cup pecans, toasted and cooled
About half a bunch of arugula (I weighed mine after it was cleaned and I had 90 grams or about 3 packed cups)
1/3 cup olive oil
½ tsp salt
1/3 cup grated aged Gouda (mine weighed 15 grams or about ½ ounce)

2 Delicata squash (a little under 3 pounds total)
1 onion
1 head roasted garlic
3 to 4 cups chicken stock
¼ tsp salt
1 thick slice pancetta or bacon

Make the pesto: Place the garlic cloves in the food processor and pulse a few times. Add the pecans and process until finely chopped. Add the arugula, olive oil, and salt, and process until smooth. Place the pesto in a small bowl and then stir in the cheese. (Note: I went heavy on the arugula and light on the oil and cheese, but you could easily change the amounts to suit your preferences.)

Make the soup: Cut each squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Rub a little olive oil over the cut side of each half and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place cut side down in a baking dish (I had to use 2 to fit all four pieces) and bake at 350 for about 45 minutes or until tender. Meanwhile, cut the pancetta into fine dice and cook in a non-stick frying pan over medium high heat until crisp. Remove the bits from the pan and place on paper towel to drain. Pour off the accumulated fat. Dice an onion and sauté it in the same pan. Place the onions and roasted garlic in the food processor. When the squash is done, scoop the flesh from each shell and place in food processor. Process until smooth. Pour the pureed vegetables into a 3-quart pot and add the chicken stock and salt. Cook just until heated through. Ladle the soup into bowls and top each bowl with a generous tablespoonful of pesto and a sprinkle of pancetta bits.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Mondays with Maida - Big Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cookies

Page 22 in the old book / page 40 in the new book

First, a couple of administrative details… I’ve decided to add the nutrient facts to each post. I’m not sure this will be welcomed, so I’ve set it up so that you don’t have to look at it. There’s a link at the end of the post that will take you to another page where you can find out the number of calories, grams of fat, etc. I’ve calculated these using Living Cookbook (which, by the way, is a great program if you’re in the market for cookbook software). The program actually calculates the amounts of many other nutrients, so if there's something missing that you'd like me to include, let me know. I’ve also created an archive of all the Mondays with Maida posts and have put links to both the archive and the nutrient facts on the sidebar.

Now on to the important stuff! The next recipe in the “Drop Cookies” section of the book is for Big Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cookies. These are big, cakey cookies that are covered with a rich chocolate glaze. There is nary a hint of crunch in them, not even at the edges. They’re the sort of cookie I imagine would go over big with kids. They’re big, beautiful cookies and it took all my willpower to refrain from eating one until after dinner.

This is another easy cookie that doesn’t even require a mixer. The dough is mixed in a saucepan, and since the recipe makes only 18 cookies (I actually ended up with a few more), forming and baking the cookies is quick work. I had no trouble with these and found that the actual baking time fell within the recommended range. Unsweetened chocolate is used in both the cookie and the glaze.

These cookies are good, though I prefer something with a little more textural interest. I have to say, though, that the glaze makes them quite enticing. There’s a good amount of dark brown sugar in them, but I didn’t notice it as I did in the Chocolate Chocolate-Chip Cookies. That may be because I was distracted by the glaze and the cakey texture and wasn’t paying attention to such subtleties. I wish I could have another so that I could more accurately report on these things, but if you check out the nutrition facts you’ll see why I can’t.

Next time – Key West Chocolate Treasures.

Nutrition Facts

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving here in the States and I am thankful for many things, most of all my family and friends. This year I am also thankful for the friendship and sense of community that I have found among my fellow food bloggers. Checking my email for your thoughtful and supportive comments and visiting your blogs has become a part of my daily ritual and a source of great pleasure. So thank you all!

My family is going out to dinner tomorrow. It’s not something we normally do, though we have on occasion. Normally I’d rather eat our traditional meal of turkey, stuffing (either bread or pork and potato), butternut squash, mashed potatoes, baked sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, rutabaga, celery sticks, pickles, pumpkin pie and mince meat pie at one of our homes. This year I’m welcoming the chance to relax a little bit and enjoy a meal at a restaurant that as kids we thought was THE place to go. They’ve got the best popovers! Actually, we’ll be celebrating my sister-in-law’s birthday at my house tomorrow evening, so I’m still having to prepare a little for tomorrow. I’m keeping it simple since we’ll have eaten our big meal earlier in the day – I’m going to serve chicken soup and pecan pie (with candles in it!).

Here’s my mom’s recipe for pecan pie. Like the restaurant we’re going to tomorrow, this pie is something we thought was pretty special as kids – my mom didn’t make it very often, so when she did it was a real treat. It’s not nearly as sweet as other pecan pies I’ve had, but I’ve always preferred it to those others. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Pecan Pie

¼ cup butter
½ cup sugar
1 cup dark brown corn syrup
3 eggs, slightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla
¼ tsp salt
1 cup pecans, broken

Cream butter. Add sugar and cream well together. Add corn syrup, eggs, vanilla, salt, and pecans. Pour into pastry-lined pie plate. Bake at 425 F for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 F and bake for an additional 40 minutes. (You should probably shield the edge of the pastry with foil partway through cooking – I neglected to do that this time and you can see that the crust is quite dark.) Makes one eight-inch pie.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Monday with Maida - "Chocolate Street" Cookies

Page 21 in the old book / page 39 in the new book

Next up in the “Drop Cookies” section of the book is “Chocolate Street” Cookies. The quote marks are Maida Heatter’s, not mine. I find them rather curious (the quote marks, not the cookies), since this is the only cookie in the book that has them and they are not explained in any way. These cookies, which a note in the book says are sometimes called Brownie Drops, are smallish cookies, not too thick, and are crunchy in a fragile, crumbly way (as compared to the firm, candy-like crunch of the last two cookies) with a chewy center. The recipe in the old book calls for German’s sweet chocolate, but suggests a variation where the sweet chocolate is replaced with semi-sweet chocolate and the granulated sugar is replaced with dark brown sugar. The new book calls for semi-sweet chocolate and granulated sugar and does not mention any variations. I decided to go with the original recipe, tempted though I was to use the dark brown sugar.

The dough mixes up quite easily. The chocolate and a small amount of butter are melted in a double boiler and then combined with the other ingredients in a mixer. The ingredients are reminiscent of a brownie recipe – lots of chocolate, sugar and eggs and very little flour. There is also a little cinnamon in these, but I could not detect it in the finished cookie. With the exception of the German chocolate and possibly the walnuts, the ingredients are ones that I would generally have on hand.

These cookies are very good, but I think they might be better if they were a bit larger. I’d prefer more of a chewy center, though I might also have achieved this by reducing the baking time slightly. I think another time I would definitely give the semi-sweet chocolate and dark brown sugar variation a try.

Next time – Big Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cookies.

Nutrition Facts

Sunday, November 21, 2004

IMBB10 – Holiday Biscotti

This tenth go-round of the now famous Is My Blog Burning is hosted by Jennifer, aka The Domestic Goddess, and has as its theme “Cookie Swap”. Because of time constraints, I did not attempt to come up with a creation of my own, but instead turned to Epicurious for inspiration. When I came upon the Holiday Biscotti with Cranberries and Pistachios, I knew I’d found my cookie. They looked festive with red cranberries and green pistachios, sounded easy, and featured an ingredient that was new to me – pistachios.

I found shelled pistachios at Trader Joe’s, which made assembling the dough for these cookies extremely easy. The recipe indicates that the finished dough is sticky, but I found it was not difficult to handle. Forming the logs took just a minute or two and wasn’t messy at all. While baking, they smelled amazing – mostly from the butter and lemon, I think. There were a number of comments on the recipe at Epicurious that said a longer baking time was needed, so I upped the time to 33 minutes. After cooling I used a bread knife to slice the logs. There was some crumbling, but it wasn’t bad.

After a second bake and cooling, the cookies are finished with a dunk in some melted white chocolate and then briefly cooled in the refrigerator. I nibbled on the ends as I sliced the logs and ate one finished cookie. The cookies are delicious – the anise and lemon combination is wonderful and the white chocolate is the perfect final touch. I didn’t pick out a noticeable pistachio flavor, though. Maybe I need to eat another one…

Monday, November 15, 2004

Mondays with Maida – Santa Fe Chocolate Wafers

Page 20 in the old book / page 38 in the new book

Continuing on in the “Drop Cookies” section of the book, this week brings me to Santa Fe Chocolate Wafers. I should forewarn you that the book starts with about a dozen different chocolate drop cookies, so we’re going to be doing chocolate for the next couple of months! The Santa Fe Chocolate wafers are very thin, brittle chocolate cookies. The recipes in the old and new books are basically the same. The only minor difference is that the new book calls for semi-sweet chocolate cut into small pieces, while the old book calls for semi-sweet chocolate morsels.

The dough is mixed in a sauce pan, does not require a mixer, and is quick and easy to put together. While it is still warm, the dough is thin and more like a batter. It gets a little stiffer as it cools. There are no unusual ingredients and the only thing I didn’t have on hand was a jumbo egg. An extra large egg could also have been used, but all I had were large.

The note that accompanies this recipe characterizes these cookies as fragile, but they seem quite sturdy considering how thin they are. If properly packaged, they might even be suitable for mailing. I brought some to a family gathering last night and my mom thought they might make good ice cream sandwiches. I’m afraid they might be too crisp for that, but she brought some home and planned to give it a try. They taste very good, but are quite plain and not very exciting. They would certainly make a nice accompaniment to ice cream, though, as I think they are better suited to the role of a sidekick rather than star of the show.

Next time – “Chocolate Street” Cookies.

Nutrition Facts

Friday, November 12, 2004

Sugar High Friday – Try, try again…

Much as I love to make cookies, I’ve never had enough of a grasp of the science of baking to feel comfortable tinkering with a recipe. When it comes to cookies, I follow instructions. But for Sugar High Friday (SHF), as with Is My Blog Burning (IMBB), my goal is to create something that is my own (if for no other reason than so I can include the recipe in my post). Given that I failed to do so for the last SHF, the pressure was on for SHF2. The theme this time is Apples and the event is hosted again by it's founder, Jennifer of The Domestic Goddess.

As readers of my blog know, I’ve just started a long term cookie project. I’m planning (hoping) to make every cookie in Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Cookies, so of course it was one of her cookies that popped into my head when I was trying to come up with an idea. Her Cinnamon Almond Cookies are delicious – they have a cinnamon shortbread base covered with sliced almonds and topped with a lemon glaze. There’s a lot of cinnamon in the dough, enough to color the dough brown, but more importantly enough to give the cookies a distinctive cinnamon flavor. My idea was to take this base, add some pecans to the dough and then top the cookies with apple slices. The problems I anticipated were getting the apples and cookie base done at the same time, dealing with the moisture released by the apples, and making the apples stick to the cookies.

The last problem turned out to be relatively simple compared to the other two. I looked at apple tart recipes in my cookbooks and on-line and decided that apricot jam would be the perfect “glue” for this project. What I didn’t consider was that this would probably also contribute to the moisture problem. In my first attempt, I didn’t really address the moisture problem – I just hoped if I cooked the cookies a little longer and a little hotter there wouldn’t be a problem. I was wrong. Here’s the recipe from my first attempt…

Apple Tart Bars – Take One
(I don’t recommend you try this without making some adjustments)

2 sticks unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
1 cup finely chopped pecans
1/3 – ½ cup apricot jam
2 Granny Smith apples
1 tbs butter, melted
extra sugar to sprinkle on top

Preheat oven to 325 F. Butter a 10 ½ by 15 inch pan and line with parchment. Cream butter, add sugar and cinnamon and blend well. Add egg yolk and vanilla and blend. Gradually add flour at low speed and mix until incorporated. Add pecans. Press dough into pan and flatten (put wax paper on top and use a straight sided glass to smooth dough into an even layer). Warm the apricot jam in the microwave and stir to loosen it. Spread over the dough with a rubber spatula. Arrange thin slices of apple in a single layer over the dough. Brush melted butter over the apples and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 40 minutes, raise temperature to 350 F and bake for 15 minutes more or until apples are nicely browned.

If you follow the instructions above, what you remove from the oven will look lovely and smell heavenly, but it won’t be a cookie. Actually, it tastes pretty good, but the texture is soft and wet. It might be good hot with some vanilla ice cream.

I decided to try again but this time I would bake the dough first, then add the jam and apples and bake some more. My concern with this method was that the cookie might overcook by the time the apples were well cooked. For my second attempt, I decided to cut the recipe in half.

Apple Tart Bars – Take Two
(this works, though it still needs some timing and/or temperature adjustments)

1 stick unsalted butter
½ cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
about ½ egg yolk (I probably used a little more)
½ tsp vanilla
1 cup flour
¼ cup apricot jam
1 Granny Smith apple
2 tsp butter, melted
extra sugar to sprinkle on top

Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter an 8 inch square pan and line with parchment. Follow instructions above to mix dough and spread in pan, but do not add jam or apples yet. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove and spread with warm apricot jam. Arrange apples over jam, brush with melted butter, and sprinkle with sugar. Bake until apples are browned, about 40 minutes. (With this temperature and timing the cookies were overdone – probably should start with 300 F, which is the temperature in the original recipe, and raise the temperature to 350 after the apples are added.)

I have one more idea about how to make this work. Bake the cookie without the jam and apples for 45 minutes at 300 F. Cool, cut into bars and store. Bake the apple slices separately until nicely browned. To serve, spread some apricot jam on the cookie and top with an apple slice. I haven’t tried this and I’m not sure it would be quite as satisfying as having the apple baked into the cookie, but it might be the only way to get the cookie and the apple done just right.

I came home this evening and considered making one last try, but opted instead for the perfect apple dessert… a Pink Lady apple all by itself. Oh so easy, but oh so good!

Monday, November 08, 2004

Mondays with Maida - Chocolate Chocolate-Chip Cookies

Page 19 in the old book / page 37 in the new book

The recipe for Chocolate Chocolate-Chip Cookies is one of 39 in the “Drop Cookies” section of the book. They are thin bumpy cookies that are very crisp and have a rich chocolate flavor. I compared the recipe in the old book to the one in the new book and there was one slight change. The new book calls for Dutch process cocoa but the old book only says cocoa. I happened to have Dutch process on hand so I used that. The other interesting difference is that in the old book, Maida Heatter frequently suggests lining cookie sheets with foil, but the new book now suggests using parchment paper. I remember that not too long ago parchment paper could only be found (at great expense) in cooking specialty stores, so I think this change reflects the times.

The dough went together quite easily and most ingredients were things I had on hand. The one ingredient that was a little unusual was light cream. The recipe calls for just two tablespoons. I can’t help but think that with all the butter in this recipe, skim milk could have been substituted without any noticeable difference. The other interesting ingredient is dark brown sugar. I don’t think I’ve used it with chocolate before, but it complements the chocolate beautifully.

These are simple drop cookies with no special handling. The dough is fairly stiff and spoons out easily. The one difficulty I had was with the baking. The recipe says that the cookies should be baked for 12 to 13 minutes and I found this to be too long. It wasn’t until the last sheet of cookies that I finally got the timing right – it turned out that 10 minutes worked best for me (and I think my oven runs a little cool). The longer the cookies were in the more they spread. The cookies that baked for 11 to 13 minutes became thin and lacey and the flavor verged on burnt. After 10 minutes the cookies were still very crisp after cooling, but held together better and had great chocolate flavor. The cookies shown in the picture above were baked for 10 minutes, the one below was longer.

If properly baked, these cookies are rich and delicious with a wonderfully crisp texture.

Next time – Santa Fe Chocolate Wafers.

baked too long

Nutrition Facts

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Mondays with Maida

I’ve written before about what a great book Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Cookies is – last week when I made her Chocolate and Peanut Butter Ripples and back in August when I made her Plain Old-Fashioned Sugar Cookies and Cobblestones. Please indulge me once more as I tell you a little more about what this book means to me.

The copy I have is from the eighth printing in October, 1982. I assume I purchased my copy either in 1982 or 1983. I don’t remember what other cookbooks I had then, but I’m pretty sure this was among the first. I was living in an apartment then and I don’t think my cookbook collection had yet swelled anything close to its present size. This book quickly became my favorite and cookies became “my thing”. My copy of the book is well worn and well loved. It falls open to page 193 (the best sugar cookie recipe) and other favorites with little coaxing. Over the next couple of years I gave copies to my mom, my sister, my great aunt, and my future sister-in-law. When my youngest brother got married, this book was no longer in print, so I had to give my sister-in-law-to-be a new Maida Heater cookie book.

A few months ago I discovered Jessica’s Biscuit and found that they have copies of Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Cookies. I snapped up five copies – one has gone to my youngest brother and sister-in-law, another to my brother Bob, and three are stashed away in a box under my bed. Two of these copies are for my nieces, Christina who is 6 years old and Cassidy who is not quite 5 months old, and the last is just in case. Actually, now I’m thinking I should have bought a few more!

I’ve got a number of favorites that I make from time to time, but haven’t tried many new recipes from the book in quite a while. After making the Chocolate and Peanut Butter Ripples last week I got thinking… I’d love to make all the cookies in this book (I counted and there are a little over 150). My plan is to start at the beginning of the book and work my way through it, making approximately one batch of cookies every week. I haven’t quite worked out what I’ll do with all the cookies, but I think it will be a lot of fun. I also really like the idea of documenting this project through my blog – I don’t know how long my blog will be around, but I’d like to think that Cassidy and Christina will be able to read it when they start making cookies from there own copies of the book.

By the way, the recipes in Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Cookies were reprinted in 1997, along with cookie recipes from two of her other books, in Maida Heatter’s Cookies. This book is still in print and is available from Amazon. I got the book out of the library and the recipes that I’ve compared are virtually identical, though it doesn’t have the charming illustrations found in the older book.

Please join me tomorrow and every Monday for cookies from Maida Heatter!

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Happy Halloween!

It seemed like such a great idea…pumpkin and black beans. I think I was pulling something out of the freezer when it came to me. There was a little leftover pumpkin in there and I thought, “I bet that would be good in chili.” I mulled it over some more and then it came to me – Halloween Chili! And of course for Halloween Chili (with orange pumpkin), black beans were the logical choice.

I started out with my recipe for Cincinnati Chili and went from there. Cincinnati Chili, if you haven’t had it, is spicy but a little sweet. My recipe calls for pumpkin pie spice, honey and a little chocolate in addition to the more traditional chili seasonings of chili powder and cumin. I thought the seasonings in that recipe would work well with the pumpkin, although I chose to omit the chocolate. I started out swapping the pumpkin for the tomato sauce and then kept tasting and adding more things until I got it the way I liked it. I found in the beginning that the pumpkin made it heavy and dull. I added some hot sauce and increased the vinegar in the hopes of brightening it up a bit. Then I threw in more chili powder and more hot sauce. I finally gave in – it needed the acidity of tomatoes – so I threw in a can of tomatoes. At some point I also upped the pumpkin to a whole can since I didn’t want yet another small bit of it floating around in my freezer.

In the end, I was happy with it – even if it wasn’t quite the Halloween Chili I originally envisioned.

Halloween Chili

1 tbs olive oil
1 onion, coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 lb lean ground beef
3 tbs chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1½ tsp pumpkin pie spice
2 tbs cider vinegar
1 tbs honey
½ tsp salt
1 tsp hot sauce
1 15 oz can pumpkin
1 14 ½ oz can diced or stewed tomatoes, undrained
1 29 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup beef broth
1½ cup water

Heat the oil in a large dutch oven over medium high heat. Sauté the onions and garlic until the onions are golden. Add the ground beef. Break it up with the spoon and stir occasionally until it is browned all over. Add the remaining ingredients, bring to a simmer, lower heat and cook as long as you like. Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 30, 2004

OK Art – This one’s for you…

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Ripples

I’ve been in the mood to bake lately, but until today just hadn’t found the right excuse. Yesterday I got an email from a friend saying there was nothing he could eat in “my little kitchen”. So, I looked through my favorite cookie cookbook in search of a recipe that would be to his liking. I love to bake cookies, but most of my cookie baking occurs around the holidays. When it comes to holiday baking, peanut butter is not one of the flavors I gravitate towards. Today my selection criteria were a little different, and peanut butter sounded perfect.

The recipe I settled on, from Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Cookies, was Chocolate and Peanut Butter Ripples. They are thin, crisp cookies with a layer of peanut butter dough nestled between two chocolate layers. The cookies in the drawing that accompanies the recipe appear to have concentric circles of contrasting doughs: the bottom chocolate layer is the largest and is topped with a smaller layer of peanut butter which in turn is topped with another, smaller layer of chocolate.

The chocolate and peanut butter doughs are very simple and mix up quickly. The recipe calls for smooth peanut butter, but the only peanut butter I had on hand was the kind they grind in the grocery store, so I used that. I added a pinch of salt since there was none in the peanut butter. I was concerned that the consistency might cause some problems, but it seemed to work just fine. The flavor was great and the texture of the peanut butter layer was almost like the peanut butter in a Reese’s cup.

peanut butter and chocolate cookie doughs

Assembling the cookies takes a little time, but is not difficult. You drop a small mound of chocolate dough, then top it with a small mound of the peanut butter dough, and cap that with another little mound of chocolate. The peanut butter dough was a little crumbly, so I shaped it with my fingers rather than dropping it from a teaspoon. The recipe suggests using a fork dipped in sugar to flatten the cookie, but I quickly abandoned that approach in favor of using a small plastic spatula. The chocolate dough was very soft and the fork, even though it was sugared, kept pulling off parts of the top layer that pushed up through the tines. You could also use a small glass – but a flat surface is definitely preferable to a fork. I would make one change next time – the recipe instructs you to divide the chocolate dough in half and use equal amounts in the bottom and top layers. I followed those directions this time and as you can see in the picture above, my cookies didn’t “ripple”. To achieve the concentric circles shown in the illustration, I think you would need to use more chocolate dough in the bottom layer and only a small amount in the top layer. It would also be interesting to see what would happen if you didn’t bother to flatten the cookies before baking them. I’ll bet they would spread just the same.

ready to flatten and bake

The cookies were delicious and despite the fact that the peanut butter appears to have all but disappeared from the outside, when you bite into one of the cookies there is a distinct layer of peanut butter. Maida Heatter never lets me down.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Keeping Warm

Many of the last few days have been cold and wet – a bone chilling combo. Sunday afternoon, as I huddled in a blanket in front of the TV, I decided it was the perfect kind of day to try a recipe for “hot spiced tea”. Recently I have been trying to clear out some back issues of various cooking magazines and this was one of the recipes that I saved from an old issue of Everyday Food (sorry – I neglected to make note of which issue it was from).

This “hot spiced tea” is a milky tea infused with fresh ginger, cinnamon, cloves and black pepper and sweetened with honey. Unfortunately, in order to make the tea I had to go out into the cold and buy some 2% milk and fresh ginger. But once back home, I quickly mixed up a pot of the stuff and indulged in a cup. Mmmmmm – spicy, sweet and warm – like liquid gingerbread. Then it occurred to me – this must be like that chai tea I keep hearing about. Am I the only one in the world that didn’t know about it?

I put the leftovers in the refrigerator and found that the tea reheated beautifully in the microwave. What a wonderful thing to come home to on a soggy Monday night!

Sunday, October 24, 2004

IMBB 9 - Terrine for One

Today is the 9th edition of Is My Blog Burning. This time the host, Derrick of An Obsession with Food, has challenged us to create a terrine for the occasion. I decided early on that didn’t want to make a meat terrine or one with aspic, but I agonized over what I would make for the next couple of weeks. First I was leaning towards using polenta, then rice, and then I finally settled on potatoes.

According to Derrick’s terrine tutorial, a terrine is layered and is formed in a mold. I’m afraid the layering in my terrine is minimal. I layered roasted green peppers with a potato mixture in small Pyrex refrigerator dishes. I had originally thought I would use larger pieces of pepper, but then realized that might prevent the layers from sticking together. I ended up with six little strips of pepper in each terrine – which looks almost comical in cross-section.

The potato mixture is evidence of my current infatuation with roasted garlic. I used four small potatoes, one small onion, and a whole head of roasted garlic. After assembling the terrines, I chilled them briefly in the refrigerator and then unmolded them before baking. This method resulted in a nice, crusty exterior and ensured that the terrines came cleanly out of the molds. It’s possible that they could have been easily removed from the molds after baking, but I didn’t want to risk it!

This IMBB afforded me an opportunity to make use of my itty bitty canapé cutters. I cut shapes out of both red and green roasted pepper and placed them in the bottoms of the molds. It was a little tricky because the pepper pieces tend to move around when you press in the potato mixture – but it was fun!

My little terrines were quite tasty and I think they would be a wonderful for brunch or dinner. Best of all, they can be assembled ahead of time and held in the refrigerator until it is time to put them in the oven.

Individual Potato and Garlic Terrines with Roasted Pepper

Makes 2 terrines

4 small potatoes
1 small onion
1 head of roasted garlic
roasted pepper (12 strips plus cut-outs for garnish)
olive oil

Peel the potatoes, place in a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and simmer until tender. Drain and put in a medium bowl. Finely dice onion. Heat a small amount of olive oil in a frying pan over medium low heat. Sauté the onion until it starts to brown. Coarsely mash the potatoes, add the garlic (peel or squeeze from skins), sautéed onions, a little olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir together, using the spoon to break up and distribute the garlic.

Oil the molds (350 ml Pyrex refrigerator dishes) and arrange pepper cut-outs in the bottom. Carefully place the first layer of the potato mixture over the pepper pieces. Push 3 strips of pepper into first layer, cover with more potato, and then repeat. You should have three layers of potato with two layers of pepper strips. Place the molds in the refrigerator for about an hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 F. When ready to bake the terrines, run a knife along the straight edges of the mold and invert the mold over your hand. Shake gently to unmold and then place in baking dish. Brush all over with olive oil. Bake until golden – about an hour. Allow to cool slightly before serving.

Friday, October 22, 2004

IMBB Finds a Home

Is My Blog Burning (IMBB) has become such an integral part of the food blogging community that it's hard to believe it's not even a year old. Ron of loveSicily decided that it was time for a web site devoted to IMBB happenings and other food blogging events, so with IMBB founder Alberto's blessing, he set up It came on-line just a couple of weeks ago and Ron has been working hard to add features and make the site truly a virtual gathering place for food bloggers. So stop by and take a peek at the IMBB site and don't forget - IMBB 9 is this Sunday!

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Who could resist...

…a sign like this? Not me. I bought four heads, left one with Bob, and kept three for myself. This weekend I roasted two of them and made potato garlic soup. This is the first time I have roasted garlic where I have been happy with the results.

I followed Deborah Madison’s instructions in Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. Her method is a little different in that you don’t cut the top of the garlic off. You peel off most of the outer papery skin, drizzle a little olive oil over the garlic, add some water to the dish, and cover it tightly with foil. Bake covered for 45 minutes at 350 F, then remove the foil and bake for another 30 minutes.

The garlic smelled really good as it was cooking, but the soup was amazing – better than potpourri any day!! The soup was made simply of onions, potatoes, the unpeeled roasted cloves of garlic, olive oil, bay leaves, salt, and water. It’s passed through a food mill, finished with a little cream and garnished with chives. What I found really surprising was that it tasted like a soup made with a rich stock and yet it used only water. It was delicious.