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Archive for the ‘Cookies’ Category

Madeira

Once upon a time, a twenty-something pseudo-lawyer packed up her belongings (admittedly mostly kitchen supplies and records) and left the comfort of her home in New York to experience life in a land where people drive on the opposite side of the road.  And have funny accents.  And love digestives and Fawlty Towers (preferably when taken together). And use words like “queue” and “courgette”.  And put periods outside of quotation marks.  But, a funny thing happened to her when she got there: she realized that it wasn’t just London that she loved (though she loved it more than she could describe, particularly when she rode out her front door on her bicycle each morning headed to work, past the parks and the Victorian houses and the occasional irate taxi driver), but all the places she could so easily reach from there.  She soon discovered that there were far too many places to see and far too many foods to try (her stomach emphatically concurs).  The downside of this was that planning a weekend could often be a more daunting task than whatever she did at work all week.  The upside was, aside from the beauty and the people and the life-changing experiences, of course, all the new and wonderful things that she ate.

There are so many new culinary discoveries I want to document and share here, but let’s focus for once, Miss Rose, and begin at the beginning: a bank holiday weekend in Madeira, the “Hawaii of the Atlantic”, a true jewel of an island off the coast of Africa. Aside from the smell of tropical flowers following you wherever you walked, and the hikes up and down the beautiful levadas, it was the food that captivated us. From the fresh fish we ate each night, most memorably the scabbard that are found only in the water surrounding the island (a terrifying black fish that reminded me of Flotsam and Jetsam in The Little Mermaid, but which, once scrubbed diligently by the hard-working men in the Mercado dos Lavradores in the center of town each day, was a treat to have at the dinner table), to the fresh fruit that awaited us in the Mercado each morning, I would have to argue that the most memorable part of our trip was the discovery of some of the freshest, most delicious food we could have imagined. Not to mention, some of the largest quantities we could have imagined – Madeirans are nothing if not generous, and provide unlimited amounts of vegetables and fried maize, an island specialty, with each meal.

Madeira

Madeira

Madeira

Madeira

I left Madeira with a belly full of scabbard, annona and the most ripe and delicious passion fruit I’d ever tasted. And to this day, whenever I eat a passion fruit (interestingly enough, they are incredibly easy to find in London, though I am deeply saddened that the same can’t be said for my beloved annonas), I’m reminded of all the free samples I inhaled in the Mercado and, most especially, the banana-flavoured variety that FDW cut open for us all on the beach after a long afternoon of trekking.  I’m afraid they’ll never taste as sweet as they did on those unforgettable days in Madeira, but I believe they’re worth it for the memories alone.

Madeira

Passion Fruit Melting Moments
(From The Guardian Weekend, 5 July 2008)

These passion fruit cookies are deliciously light and summery and were serendipitously found in The Guardian Weekend magazine shortly after my return from Madeira, when my longing for fresh passion fruit was at its peak.

Passion Fruit Melting Moments

3 large passion fruit
200g unsalted butter, softened
250g icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
250g plain flour
75g cornflour or custard powder
50ml double cream

Cut two of the passion fruit in half and scrape out all the pulp. Pour the pulp into a bowl, seeds and all. Beat together the passion fruit, butter, 100g of the icing sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy, add the flours and work everything to a soft, smooth dough.

Preheat the oven to very low – 150C (130C fan-assisted)/300F/ gas mark 2. Line a tray with non-stick baking paper. Take spoonfuls of the dough and mould them into balls the size of a quail’s egg, then place on the tray spaced 2-3cm apart. Lightly flour each top, press the balls gently with the back of a fork and bake for 30-40 minutes, until crisp and lightly coloured.

Beat the remaining 150g icing sugar with the cream and the pulp from the third passion fruit. Sandwich the biscuits together when cold.

Madeira

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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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