Tag Archives: baking

A Tale of Two Cookies

Ever since I posted that I’m not much of a baker, I’ve gotten emails from readers sharing their favorite holiday cookie recipes. And as, by Murphy’s law, I seem to be on the radar for email chain letters re: sharing holiday cookie recipes, I’ve decided to give a few of these a whirl. I’m glad I did. The first one is the ginger-iest triple play ginger cookie I’ve had. And the second, in its browned butter spooned up self, is my new favorite indulgence. I wish there was some way to make up a few batches, put them out on one of my grandmother’s china plates in cyber space, and share them with you. Happy holidays. yrs. Laura

Ginger Spice Cookies

ingredients:

2 1/2 tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 1/4 cup crystallized ginger, finely chopped
5 cups all-purpose flour
4 t. ground ginger
2 t. ground cinnamon
1 t. ground cloves
1/2 t. ground white pepper
1 t. baking soda
1 t. table salt

3 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup molasses

Other ingredients needed:

Turbinado sugar
powdered sugar
milk

Whisk flour, spices, soda, salt, and
pepper together in a bowl; set aside

Cream butter and both sugars
together in a bowl with a mixer
until smooth.

Add egg, beat until incorporated,
then beat in the molasses, gradually
add flour mixture, mixing just to
combine. Chill dough until slightly
firm, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350; line baking
sheets with parchment (or use a Silpat.)

Scoop out about a tablespoon size amount
and smooth into balls, coat in sugar, and
arrange on baking sheets, about 2″ apart.

Flatten balls with the bottom of a
measuring cup, then bake 10-12 min.
(9-10 min. for softer cookies)

Ice with p. sugar/milk mixture (about 1 c. sugar to 1T. milk, paste like)

Makes about 5 dozen.

Browned Butter Spoon Cookies

2 sticks (1 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt, slightly rounded
1/3 cup fruit preserves (your choice)

Make dough:
Fill kitchen sink with about 2 inches of cold water. Melt butter in a 2- to 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until butter turns golden with a nutlike fragrance and flecks on bottom of pan turn a rich caramel brown, 10 to 12 minutes. (Butter will initially foam, then dissipate. A thicker foam will appear and cover the surface just before butter begins to brown; stir more frequently toward end of cooking.) Place pan in sink to stop cooking, then cool, stirring frequently, until butter starts to look opaque, about 4 minutes. Remove pan from sink and stir in sugar and vanilla.

Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl and stir into butter mixture until a dough forms. Shape into a ball, wrap with plastic wrap, and let stand at cool room temperature 1 to 2 hours (to allow flavors to develop).

Form and bake cookies:
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 325°F.

Press a piece of dough into bowl of teaspoon, flattening top, then slide out and place, flat side down, on an ungreased baking sheet. (Dough will feel crumbly, but will become cohesive when pressed.) Continue forming cookies and arranging on sheet. Bake cookies until just pale golden, 8 to 15 minutes. Cool cookies on sheet on a rack 5 minutes, then transfer cookies to rack and cool completely, about 30 minutes.

Assemble cookies:
While cookies cool, heat preserves in a small saucepan over low heat until just runny, then pour through a sieve into a small bowl, pressing hard on solids, and cool completely.

Spread the flat side of a cookie with a thin layer of preserves. Sandwich with flat side of another cookie. Continue with remaining cookies and preserves, then let stand until set, about 45 minutes. Transfer cookies to an airtight container and wait 2 days before eating.

Cooks’ notes:
• Dough can be made 12 hours before baking and chilled, covered. Bring to room temperature to soften slightly before forming cookies, about 30 minutes.
• Cookies keep in an airtight container at room temperature 2 weeks.

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Holiday Baking Panic

My Pear Brandy Applesauce

As I’ve written before on this blog, I am not much of a baker.  Mostly it’s because I’m too stubborn to follow directions (I know, my loss.)   I like to riff on recipes, and that can work beautifully on the stove-top, but not so much when it comes to measuring out ingredients that make things rise and lift and puff.  So this time of year, I do things like make applesauce and add pear brandy to it and think pretty highly of myself. 

NOT my Bouche de Noel

Yesterday, at school pick up, one of my children announced, inbetween “can we go get ice cream,” and “my boots fell apart and I had to duct tape them together, but that’s okay, they look pretty cool that way because I used purple duct tape”….this little benign morsel of holiday cheer: “We’re having a party in French class tomorrow, and I promised my teacher I’d bring a Bouche de Noel (otherwise known as a Yule Log– you know, with the meringue mushrooms.) That’s what I get for addicting myself, and consequently my family, to the Food Network.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” I said. This after an entire day wrapping presents and putting up garlands. Fun in theory, until your back starts to hurt, and you start swearing at tape dispensers and can’t find the scissors for the fiftieth time. “You want to make a Bouche de Noel TONIGHT?” Yup, those little eyes begged from the back seat right there in my rearview mirror. Ugh.

Bouche de Noel is one of those things that I’ve planned on making one day. Like, when I have grandchildren or need to impress a visiting queen or something. It involves layering and rolling and whimsy and frosting prowess– things I aspire to have one day. But not last night. Last night I wanted to pour out a glass of vino and lie on the couch by the fire and watch old Christmas musicals like White Christmas. Still, I’m a sucker for the word “Yes” when it comes to delivering in the way of homemade goodies and my children’s wildest dreams…so to the grocery store we went (mind you, I’d just been to Costco, something I dread– I have a hard time with the smells of hotdogs and radial tires comingling).

And you know…sometimes you just can’t be that homemade kinda gal– not this time of year– not when you start to resent this season that is supposed to be about love and giving and receiving and “dreaming,” as my father used to say with a tear in his eye, gazing up at the Christmas tree. So I gave myself a colossal break– grabbed the Betty Crocker and the pre-made frosting and the whipped cream in a can and called it good.

My child said, “Oh, I feel kind of sad, not making it from scratch. We’ve never made a box cake before. It won’t be made with love.” Tough crackers, I wanted to say, but instead I said something like, “Well sometimes you need to give yourself a break. It’ll still be made with love. It’s all in the intention.” Then I grabbed another box of cake mix just in case, because I had zero confidence in this “loving” endeavor.

I’d seen Tyler Florence make a Bouche de Noel recently on TV and I recalled needing to make a sheet cake, and then cut it in half making thin layers to cover in whipped cream and roll. (maybe we could just get a bunch of Ho-hos and line them up, yes? No.) I remember something about the dough needing to be especially springy and moist (my least favorite word). It said right there on the box: “Moist.” This, as a result of putting the called for cup of vegetable oil into your cake mix, and no, not EVOO. So I grabbed a bottle of Wesson oil– something I hadn’t seen since about 1972. And off we went.

After dumping out two attempts, a few hours later, this is what we came up with. Not so bad. My kid made little French flags taped to toothpicks instead of woodland meringues and we smiled at each other, pleased. “You’re a lot different than you used to be,” he said. “You used to be more Martha Stewart-ish.” It’s true. “It’s important to have range,” I said. Thank you, in this case, Betty Crocker.

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Pear Cake Bliss


Okay, I know I said that I don’t bake– not to any large extent, but I ran into a friend at the copy store and she was copying this recipe for friends and I demanded one. I have a thing for pears. And if ever there was a need in the English language for OMG…this might just be its landing place. You will love yourself for making it. You will love the bubbling brown sugar and butter. You will love the pear juice on your fingers as you arrange them in a cast iron pan. You will love that maybe your great grandmother made the same cake because those women were savvy with a cast iron pan. Sip some pear brandy with it. And…OMG.

Golden Pear Cake
Step One:
Ingredients:
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar

Melt butter in 9-inch cast-iron or oven proof skillet. Stir in brown sugar. Cook and stir until sugar is melted and bubbly. Cool.

Step Two:
Ingredients:
3 or 4 pears, cored, peeled, and thinly sliced

Arrange pear slices in skillet

Step Three:
Ingredients:
1 1/2 cup flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Combine dry ingredients in small bowl.

Step Four:
Ingredients:
1/2 cup softened butter
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
2/3 cup milk

Beat butter and sugar until combined. Beat in vanilla and eggs (one at a time). Stir in dry ingredients with milk until just combined, alternating between milk and dry ingredients. Spoon batter over pears.

Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes. Cool 5 minutes
Loosen cake from pan. Invert onto serving plate.

Enjoy warm or cold!

Here is my other favorite fruit: Can you tell me what to do with it that might be within my realm of abilities?

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Co-create Cake.


I wish I could say that I baked this cake. I didn’t. My writer/blogger friend Brigetta’s husband did. I don’t like baking. I’m not good at following directions and improv doesn’t work so well in that arena unless you already know the basics. I love to cook, instead, and leave the baking to other more patient people. This gorgeous cake arrived in my kitchen and at the last minute, I was moved to put the borage on it (the blue flowers) from my garden.

I believe in collaboration. Moments like these present themselves every day, and I am learning to join in the dance of them. Who are you? Why did you show up in my life? What can we co-create? I’ve spent so many years thinking I had to do everything alone. But so much of the beauty of life is in intimacy. Sharing. The empathic journey. So I am a new believer in co-creating. I believe in admitting when you’re not good at something and being okay with it. And I believe in creating beauty, however it is that you come to it. Today it came in cake. What can you co-create today? I’d love to hear about it!

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Filed under Food, My Posts