Monday, May 28, 2007

Mondays with Maida - Coconut Pennies

Page 224 in the old book / page 251 in the new book

Time for another chapter in the continuing saga of Cathy's coconut adventures... As you may recall from last week, the cookies billed as "semisoft" turned out very crunchy. Well, this week the cookies described as "crisper" (than last week's Coconut Washboards) were actually quite chewy. I suppose there could be some other explanation, but at the moment my assumption is that it all comes down to the coconut.

Last week I used unsweetened, dessicated coconut. This week I used a store brand of sweetened "flaked" coconut. The flakes of this coconut are broader and shorter than either the "Angel Flake" or "Fancy Shred" Baker's coconut you may be familiar with and I think account for the chewiness of these cookies. I neglected to take a picture of the coconut, but Leigh suggested I do a post with pictures of the various types, which I think is a great idea, so look for that sometime soon.

This recipe had small amounts of cinnamon and nutmeg in it, but I couldn't detect either. The cookies are most noticeably sweet, rich (two sticks of butter'll do it), and chewy. I didn't think they were as good as the Coconut Washboards, but they earned equal marks from the cookie panel.

Here's the panel...

Suzanne: "The cookie reminded me of a dry, chewy, oatmeal cookie. I don’t know if I really tasted the coconut except it did make the cookie chewy. This wasn’t one of my favorites. Rating - 3.0"

Laura: "Chewy and sweet - not as coconutty as I would have expected, but still a very delicious cookie. Rating - 4.0"

Denny: "Very good. Crunchy and coconutty. Minus one for no chocolate makes them a 3.0 to my tastebuds. Rating - 3.0"

Terri: "These have a chewier texture then the Washboards from last week. I prefer these. The amount of coconut is just enough to give them a coconut flavor but not like a macaroon. I'm not sure why the name 'Pennies' except the shape is round! Rating - 3.5"

Overall rating by the panel - 3.4

Next week - Cracker-Barrel Raisin Cookies (oh-oh, Suzanne's not going to like that...)

Nutrition Facts

Monday, May 21, 2007

Mondays with Maida - Coconut Washboards

Page 223 in the old book / page 249 in the new book

OK, here we go with my big coconut dilemma again. A conundrum that is only aggravated by the fact that I currently possess four different kinds of coconut, all of which must eventually be used up. Ideally I would try each kind of coconut in each recipe, but I'm afraid for now it's going to be try one and see how it turns out...

I made this week's Coconut Washboards with the unsweetened, dessicated coconut. This time, I did not rehydrate the coconut and I measured it by weight. The cookies turned out very crunchy - which was how I envisioned them (for me, that name conjures up an image of a store-bought cookie from my past), but a little different from the semisoft cookie described in the recipe notes.

The other difference I noticed was that the dough was easy to handle. In fact, I didn't need to chill the dough before shaping. Each portion of dough is first rolled into a sausage shape, then flattened, then pressed with a fork. It takes a little time, but is easy and nearly foolproof.

I thought the cookies were very good, but I'm curious to try the recipe again using sweetened, shredded coconut, which I expect would produce a cookie closer to the semisoft cookie Maida describes. Here's the panel...

Suzanne: "This was a plain-looking, rectangular shaped, big (but not thick) cookie. Even though it was plain-looking, the taste was anything but plain. I love the crunch of the cookie and the coconut, buttery taste. It tasted great with my morning coffee. Rating - 4.0"

Laura: "Crunchy and yummy - not too sweet - just right! I would have liked just a tad more coconut, but overall a very delish cookie. Rating - 4.0"

Denny: "These were good. I liked the crunch and the coconut taste. Minus one for no chocolate makes them a 2.0. Rating - 2.0"

Terri: "If you like the combination of coconut and crunchiness, this is the cookie for you! I particularly like coconut and found this cookie had just right amount... not as much as a macaroon. Also, a nice size cookie since it's rectangular in shape - with ridges like a washboard. Rating - 3.5"

Overall rating by the panel - 3.4

Next week - Coconut Pennies

Nutrition Facts

Monday, May 14, 2007

Mondays with Maida - Danish Butter Sandwiches

Page 221 in the old book / page 248 in the new book

These big, sweet cookies definitely have eye appeal, but they are very big and very sweet - too much so for some. I didn't test them on any kids, but I imagine they'd love them. I thought these buttery, crunchy cookies were very good, but my conscience was troubled with the knowledge that there were over two sticks of butter in just 24 cookies - that's 2 1/4 teaspoons per cookie!

They're very easy to make, but I had one little problem. To shape the cookies you roll them into balls, flatten them slightly between your hands, and then use a fork to imprint them with the stripey design. As you can see above, the dough was a little crumbly, so when I flattened the balls they tended to split on the sides. The only remedy I can think of (except - perish the thought - add more butter), would be to try beating the dough a little longer. The instructions are to beat it until the mixture holds together, but maybe I didn't let it go quite long enough.

I found my kitchen scale came in very handy in shaping these cookies. Since I find those cues for sizing cookies confusing (is a well-rounded teaspoon more or less than a rounded teaspoon?), lately I've been using the scale to create sort of an exemplar cookie. I weigh all the dough and then divide it by the number of cookies it's supposed to make to find the weight of one cookie (say 25 grams). Then, I weigh out 25 grams (or whatever the amount is) of dough and I can see exactly how big each cookie is supposed to be. With these cookies, since it's important that they be uniformly sized and it was a small batch, I weighed each portion.

By the way, the beautiful tray the cookies are sitting on was given to me by Zarah when she visited about this time last year. The gorgeous spring weather that has finally arrived has me fondly recalling her visit and wishing we could make it an annual tradition!

Here's the panel...

Suzanne: "The cookies were very attractive with indentation lines going down the center of the cookie. I guess I’m not a fan of sandwich cookies. I’d rather eat one at a time. Maybe that’s why people (me) separate Oreo’s and eat the center filling before eating each cookie separately. I thought the center browned butter filling was too sweet. The cookie was rather plain tasting. Rating - 3.0"

Laura: "Yummy, buttery, delicious cookies with added treat of a creamy sweet icing in between. Rating - 4.0"

Denny: "OK, nothing special, so nothing to say. Minus one for no chocolate. Rating - 2.0"

Terri: "These are delicious - if you like shortbread cookies you'll love these ones. These sandwich cookies are like two shortbreads with butter creme holding them together. Very sweet and buttery. I particularly like the crunchy crispness in the texture. Rating - 4.0"

Overall rating by the panel - 3.3

Next week - Coconut Washboards

Nutrition Facts

Sunday, May 13, 2007

I can't like that

A while back, my three year old neice, Cassidy, and my brother came to my house for dinner. I thought I'd come up with an ingenious plan to get her to eat the tomato and chickpea dish that I was serving. I put a little of the pureed mixture (sans the whole chickpeas) in a small bowl and presented it to her with some crackers. I told her it was "dip" - Cassidy calls anything in which you dunk something else dip (the ketchup for french fries, the tamarind chutney for pappadums, etc.). Though Cassidy has become a picky eater, she loves dipping and I thought she'd be so charmed by the presentation she'd forget to scrutinize what it was she was about to eat.

Ha - wishful thinking. I set it before her, she gave it one look and pronounced, "I can't like that". Of course, I had to stifle my laughter - she'd obviously confused "can't" with "don't". Or had she? I thought about it a little and realized that for so many of the foods I say I don't like, it really would be more honest to say that I can't like them. Whether it's the appearance or just of idea of it, I've passed judgement before even tasting. It would be so much easier to be open-minded about food - why can't I?

I'm afraid won't be answering that question today, but I did want to share the latest food which I've decided I can't like (though, in this case I am mildly curious) - the Kool-Aid Pickle, aka the Koolickle.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Mondays with Maida - French Filbert Macaroons

Page 219 in the old book / page 246 in the new book

Funny that this cookie comes so soon after my revisit with its Italian cousin, Brutti ma Buoni, or as Maria Grammatico calls them, Belli et Brutti. Last time I tried that recipe which is made with almonds, I was thinking it might be interesting to try it with hazelnuts rather than almonds. Little did I know that I was just a couple of weeks away from trying Maida's take on that very thing. According to Maida, these cookies are traditional for Christmas in France.

Her version has not only the expected nuts, sugar and egg whites, but also a small amount of seedless black raspberry jam and finely minced candied cherries. There's not enough of either to provide more than a hint of flavor, but that's OK - hazelnuts are the star here and their flavor comes through loud and clear. What the jam and cherries do is help make the cookies moist and chewy. Hazelnut... moist and chewy... I think we have a winner!

These cookies are very easy to make. I used the food processor to grind the nuts and it worked well. I worried that I should add some sugar to prevent the ground nuts from turning to butter, but that was not a problem at all. I didn't get them ground quite as evenly as I'd hoped, but the few larger bits of nut here and there provided a nice texture.

Here's the panel...

Suzanne: "I enjoyed the taste of the cookie, but didn’t care for the texture. The texture was extremely chewy and I felt like I was chewing gummy bears. I think that it probably was the candied cherries that make the cookie so chewy. The cookie took too much work to enjoy. Rating - 3.0"

Laura: "Very moist and chewy. Lovely flavor of hazelnuts. Rating - 3.5"

Denny: "Excellent. Very tasty and not as crunchy as they look. Couldn't pick out the raspberry taste, but the cherries added to the overall excellence of the cookie. Minus one for no chocolate makes them a 3.5 for me. Surprisingly good since I'm not much for regular macaroons. Rating - 3.5"

Terri: "These are absolutely fantastic! If I closed my eyes while eating one of them, I'd think I was in a French pastry shop! These macaroons are chewy and have just the right amount of hazelnuts, jam, and candied cherries. They are all blended so well, one can see a slight reddish tint in the cookies. Rating - 5.0"

Overall rating by the panel - 3.8

Next week - Danish Butter Sandwiches

Nutrition Facts

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Meet me in St. Louis

When Nupur invited me to come visit her in St. Louis, she didn't have to twist my arm. We had gotten together a couple of times while she was in New York, and each time I truly enjoyed our time together, but it was cut short because one or the other of us had to hurry off somewhere else. Needless to say, the idea of a whole weekend to visit with Nupur and V. (and let's not forget Dale) sounded perfect to me!

There was much to enjoy - lots of fabulous food, the St. Louis Gateway Arch, Soulard Market, Ted Drewes Frozen Custard, mini donuts (see below), Global Foods, Gus' Pretzels, Forest Park, and the gorgeous mosaics in the nearby Cathedral Basilica - but more than anything else, I enjoyed the company of Nupur and V. I had lots of time to talk with Nupur during the weekend and I was truly impressed by her passion for living life responsibly and well, be it by eating healthfully, or by reusing and recycling, or by living an uncluttered life. I came away from the weekend energized and inspired.

It should come as no surprise that Nupur is amazing in the kitchen. I was fortunate enough not only to partake of the meals she prepared, but to look over her shoulder as she prepared them. I will be revisiting the archives of One Hot Stove with even greater enthusiasm (and Nupur, don't be surprised if you get an email or two begging for recipes I can't find on your blog!)

Nupur and V. - thank you so very much for welcoming me so warmly into your home!

That fine Soulard Market delicacy... mini donuts!