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Archive for July, 2009

FDW Birthday Cookies

When it comes to my brother, FDW, I am nothing if not his biggest fan.  I love everything about him, even his excessively diplomatic tendencies and penchant for yelling me up a hill when I feel like I’m about to have a heart attack on my bike.  I don’t know where I’d be if my mother hadn’t graciously carried him to July 12, 1985 for me (thanks, mom), but I can guarantee that I wouldn’t be the baking beast I am today if he wasn’t around to be my built-in taste tester.  If I were lucky enough to be home with him on this, the first day of his 25th year, I’d no doubt be baking him an elaborate birthday cake, filled with enough dark chocolate and calories to last him at least until after his next 20 mile afternoon run.  But, I’m sadly not within cake baking range this year, and so I decided to do whatever I could to bring something sweet to him from a distance.  It’s harder than I thought to find anything to bake that’s guaranteed to make it across an ocean in a cardboard box in one piece, but I figured Smitten Kitchen cookies would be a safe bet.  Nothing that could melt, nothing that could smoosh, but something a bit salty, something sufficiently chocolate-y, something…FDW.  And, 24 hours and one unconscionable FedEx bill later, here they are: sweets for the sweet.  Happy birthday from the girl who ACCIDENTALLY kicked you in the teeth as a child.  Ich lieb dich.

Homemade Oreos
(From Smitten Kitchen)

For the chocolate wafers:

1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 ¼ sticks) room-temperature, unsalted butter
1 large egg

For the filling:

¼ cup (½ stick) room-temperature, unsalted butter
¼ cup vegetable shortening
2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Set two racks in the middle of the oven. Preheat to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a food processor, or bowl of an electric mixer, thoroughly mix the flour, cocoa, baking soda and powder, salt, and sugar. While pulsing, or on low speed, add the butter, and then the egg. Continue processing or mixing until dough comes together in a mass.

Take rounded teaspoons of batter and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet approximately two inches apart. With moistened hands, slightly flatten the dough. Bake for 9 minutes, rotating once for even baking. Set baking sheets on a rack to cool.

To make the cream, place butter and shortening in a mixing bowl, and at low speed, gradually beat in the sugar and vanilla. Turn the mixer on high and beat for 2 to 3 minutes until filling is light and fluffy.

To assemble the cookies, in a pastry bag with a 1/2 inch, round tip, pipe teaspoon-size blobs of cream into the center of one cookie. Place another cookie, equal in size to the first, on top of the cream. Lightly press, to work the filling evenly to the outsides of the cookie. Continue this process until all the cookies have been sandwiched with cream. Dunk generously in a large glass of milk.

Yield: 25 to 30 sandwich cookies (or enough to fill half of a large FedEx box).

FDW Birthday Cookies

 

Crispy Salted Oatmeal White Chocolate Cookies
(Adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

1 cup all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
14 tablespoons (1 ¾ sticks) unsalted butter, slightly softened
1 cup sugar
¼ cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 ½ cups old-fashioned rolled oats
6 ounces good-quality white chocolate bar, chopped 
1 teaspoon (or more – a little salt on top wonderfully complements the sweet and makes most any cookie better) flaky sea salt (fleur de sel) for sprinkling on top

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Line baking sheet with parchment paper or Silpat. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.

Beat butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Scrape down bowl with rubber spatula, then add egg and vanilla and beat until incorporated. Scrape down bowl again. Add flour mixture gradually and mix until just incorporated and smooth. Gradually add oats and white chocolate and mix until well incorporated.

Divide dough into 24 equal portions, each about 2 tablespoons. Roll between palms into balls, then place on lined baking sheets about 2 ½ inches apart. Using fingertips, gently press down each ball to about ¾-inch thickness.

Sprinkle a few flakes of sea salt on each cookie.

Bake until cookies are deep golden brown, about 13 to 16 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through. Transfer baking sheet to wire rack to cool.

Yield: 24 cookies (or more than enough to fill half of a large FedEx box).

FDW Birthday Cookies

And, finally, the birthday boy’s reaction and cookie assessment from across the pond:

The sun was glistening brightly off the tiny wave crests of our pool in New Paltz, at the home my sister and I spent our youth – and a great deal of our adult life – occupying. It was as a shadow passed through this daytime constellation that I saw the signature purple and orange of an important package with 2nd Day Air stamped on every side. One look at the thing and you could tell that it had been through an ordeal not much different than the one that I was celebrating on that day; two pivotal pieces fit together and protected from the outside world, then making the long journey though tubes and atriums, ultimately blinking back its lids to a bright summer day. As I held my birthright in my arms, I untied its tiny ribbons to get a peak at what eggs had wrought… not a crying, bald child, but fully developed homemade oreos and salted caramel with white chocolate oatmeal cookies. The oreos survived the trip perfectly, only a few dark crumbs lining the bottom of the container. The salted caramel oatmeal cookies did not quite fare as well; while at least 50 percent were whole, the rest had some sides cracked off, which actually served to allow me to snack on the treats even more, without the audacity of having to take an entire cookie.

I almost felt bad removing one oreo from the container, they all fit together so perfectly that, much like normal oreo containers, I had to remove equal numbers from each column as I went along. From its weight, I could tell that it was going to be different than a normal oreo, and if one were looking to get the same textural sensation of a hard cookie and soft cream, he would not like this. But for me, it was grand, the fragile cream nestled between two chocolate pillows for protection. I tried one whole (amazingly intense), in bites (to savor each bite), split down the middle (doesn’t quite work with these) and finally, and what became my favorite, by letting each little bite melt in my mouth before chewing. This was the way I ate all of the rest of them. If you let the chocolate and cream mix together in your mouth, you get an entirely different taste, much like dunking an oreo in milk before eating. It was fantastic, and I highly recommend it to others.

Then it was time to move onto those little golden crumbles. I chewed right into one at first, but after having sucked on the oreos, I decided to try the same on the oatmeal cookie. Now, I know what you’re thinking… sucking on an oatmeal cookies must be like treating your mouth to sandpaper. Oddly enough, it isn’t. In this case, if you suck on the cookie or let it sit in your mouth before chewing, the salted caramel taste really comes out, like the first taste of a Werther’s Original or a Riesen’s candy (which you wouldn’t bite right into!), and then the white chocolate hits you a moment later. It’s then that I began to chew the cookie and let it swirl around in my mouth like the fine delicacy it was. These cookies so different than anything I could have expected to try. I have grown so used to my oatmeal raisin, white chocolate macadamia nut and chocolate chip that I never thought about what it was in any of those that I like the best (the oatmeal, the white chocolate (I know it’s not even really chocolate, but hey, sometimes it’s great) and the nostalgia, respectively). This cookie combined all three and added to it the salted caramel. I felt like this was the kind of cookie I would have been served by the old country grandmother I never had with a glass of warm milk while sitting in a rocking chair and looking out at shimmering fields of grain.

All in all, the cookies were fantastic and a wonderful birthday present. I would highly recommend sending the oreos if you want to get them to someone a distance off, but the oatmeal cookies will fare about as well as any other oatmeal cookie, so unless you are really proud of them and want to show off to your loved ones, save them for yourself (and maybe break them into little pieces anyway because it makes the number you have eaten seem far, far lower).

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I wonder if all of us who have wandered far from home miss it most on holidays, when we picture our families gathering together to celebrate without us. How far removed we feel, how alone and forgotten and devoid of tradition! Most days I feel an almost home here, a happy life an ocean away from the one I used to know. But so it always is that on one summer day in July all I crave is my backyard and family and fireworks and food. And so it was that we took to the grill yesterday with a mission: to combine a bit of the tradition we’ve left behind with a bit of gluten and dairy-free fare for another displaced American and Rick Bayless fan, our good friend, BL. The following is a sampling of our holiday meal, complete with an English classic thrown in to commemorate the losing side of this red, white and blue holiday. It may not be home, but it sure tastes good.

Traditional (or Not So Traditional) Pimm’s No. 1

Fill a jug or glass with ice. Mix one part Pimm’s No. 1 with 3 parts chilled ginger ale (traditional, according to our resident expert, RB) or lemonade* (not so traditional, but my personal preference). Add a sprig of mint and slices of cucumber, orange and strawberry.

*Note: English lemonade is a decidedly different beast than its American counterpart, namely in that it’s clear and fizzy.

Creamy Potato Salad with Lemon and Fresh Herbs
(from Bon Appetit, July 2007)

This has become a summer/4th of July staple and one of King H’s specialties (stay tuned for his other speciality, deep dish pizza) – I’m going to go out on a limb and say it is the finest I’ve ever tasted!

3 pounds (roughly 1 ½ kgs) baby red potatoes
3 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
¾ cup mayonnaise
3 medium green onions, thinly sliced
1 celery stalk, cut into ⅓-inch cubes
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
¼ cup chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
1 ½ teaspoons finely grated lemon peel

Bring potatoes to boil in large pot of water. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 17 minutes. Drain; let stand until cool enough to handle, about 20 minutes.

Cut potatoes into ¾-inch pieces. Place 1 layer of potatoes in large bowl; sprinkle with some of vinegar and salt and pepper. Continue layering potatoes with vinegar, salt, and pepper. Add all remaining ingredients; toss. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and chill (Note: this can be made up to eight hours ahead – the flavours meld together beautifully in the fridge).

Yield: 8 servings.

Hickory House Baked Beans: Rick Bayless Style
(adapted from Saveur, Issue #76)

½ large red bell pepper
2 15 oz. cans, drained or 3-3 ½ cups,
drained cooked pinto beans (don’t forget to soak these overnight!)
1 cup (430 grams) barbecue sauce
2 tbsp. dark brown sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Stem and seed bell pepper, cut into ¼-inch pieces, and put into a 2-quart or 8″ x 8″ baking dish. Add beans, barbecue sauce, brown sugar, and ½ cup (120 ml) water to dish and mix well.

Bake until top is glazed-looking and browned, the beans start to peek up from the liquid, and the liquid is bubbling vigorously around the edges, 45-60 minutes. Let cool slightly before serving.

Yield: 4-6 servings.

Pork Ribs with Orange and Smoked Paprika Sauce
(adapted from Bon Appetit, June 2008)

1 cup (165 ml) sweet orange marmalade
¼ cup (60 ml) white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon smoked paprika plus more for sprinkling
1 ¼ teaspoons ground cumin plus more for sprinkling
8 meaty pork ribs

Prepare barbecue (medium-low heat). Blend first 3 ingredients, 1 tablespoon paprika, and 1 ¼ teaspoons cumin in medium bowl. Season sauce with salt and pepper. Transfer half of sauce to small pitcher and reserve.

Sprinkle ribs on all sides with paprika, cumin, salt, and pepper. Grill 20 minutes, turning occasionally. Brush ribs with some of sauce from bowl. Grill until slightly charred and cooked to medium-rare, brushing with remaining sauce in bowl, about 15 minutes. Transfer ribs to platter. Drizzle with some of reserved sauce in pitcher and sprinkle with salt and pepper; pass remaining sauce. Serve with sour cream or tomatillo salsa.

Yield: 3 servings.

Grilled Pineapple and Blueberry Lavender Ice Cream with Hot Fudge Sauce

For the pineapple:

Peel and slice one pineapple and coat both sides of each slice with honey. Grill for 5 minutes on each side.

For the Lavender Blueberry Ice Cream:
(adapted from the New York Times Dessert Cookbook)

1 cup (240 ml) whole milk
1 teaspoon culinary lavender
½ cup (100 grams) sugar
6 egg yolks
1 cup (240 ml) heavy/double cream
1 cup (roughly 200 grams) blueberries, pureed in a food processor
2 teaspoons vanilla

In a small saucepan, bring the milk and lavender to a simmer over medium heat. Remove from heat immediately and let the mixture sit for 30 minutes.

In a heavy bottomed saucepan or in a double boiler, whisk the sugar, eggs, heavy cream and lavender milk mixture together. Heat on medium, stirring constantly until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Be careful not to let it boil or the eggs will curdle. Remove from heat and let it cool to room temperature. Then pour it into a metal bowl, place a piece of saran wrap on the surface of the liquid and refrigerate until cool, about one hour.

Strain the lavender out. Fold in the vanilla and blueberries. Pour the mixture into an ice cream maker and churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

For the Hot Fudge Sauce:
(from Smitten Kitchen)

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
3 tablespoons (45 grams) butter, unsalted
⅔ cup (165 ml) water
⅓ cup (65 grams) sugar
6 tablespoons (90 ml) corn syrup
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon (15 ml) vanilla extract

Melt the chocolate and butter very slowly in a double boiler or in the microwave, stirring frequently until combined. Meanwhile, heat the water to boiling in the small, heavy saucepan. When the butter and chocolate have melted, stir the mixture into the boiling water. Add the sugar, corn syrup and salt and mix until smooth. Turn the heat up and stir until mixture starts to boil; adjust heat so that sauce is just maintained at the boiling point, stirring occasionally. Allow sauce to boil for nine minutes.

Remove from heat and cool for 15 minutes. Stir in the vanilla extract and serve warm over ice cream.

Yield: 2 ½ cups (600 ml).

P.S. I can attest to the fact that the hot fudge tasted delicious on not only the ice cream and pineapples, but also on any other fruits I could scrounge up in the house to test it on:


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