Friday, December 31, 2010

Sweet and Spicy Nuts

It's Friday, the day that cooks and bloggers scattered around the globe post food they've prepared from Dorie Greenspan's book Around My French Table as part of the French Fridays With Dorie cooking group. Each month there is a list of recipes, and we can cook and post them in any order, as we have the time and inclination. This week I've chosen to post the Sweet and Spicy Nuts. According to Dorie, the French are most likely to serve something simple, such as nuts, along with drinks. And whether you are French or not, these nuts are the perfect nibbles to serve at a party, making this just the thing to post for New Year's Eve!

The first time I made these nuts was back in November when I attended an event in Madison, Connecticut, where Dorie read excerpts from her book and gave a little talk before giving each member of the audience personal attention as she signed our cookbooks. Dorie was, of course, utterly charming, and meeting her was a highlight of 2010 for me.

I knew that I wanted to bring something edible to the book signing for Dorie. My initial thought was, "Oh, I know, I'll make something from Dorie's book." I chose the nuts, because they would travel well, and didn't really realize how daunting it was - to cook Dorie's own food to serve to Dorie herself - until the nuts were already in the oven.

n.o.e.'s notes:

[edited to add: you can find the recipe for the Sweet and Spicy Cocktail Nuts on Dorie's blog]

- I used pecans, because I wanted to have something from my home state of Georgia for Dorie.

- Although Dorie gives lots of possible variations on seasonings for the nuts, I used the chili powder as specified in the main recipe.

- The nuts are quite easy to prepare. First you mix the nuts with egg whites then coat them with sugar and spice mixture. Then the nuts are baked until they are dry and a bit browned.

- I substituted palm sugar for the granulated white sugar.

- Pecans have lots of little crevices that catch and hold the egg whites and spices.

- It's a bit tedious to take each nut out of the seasoning and place it individually onto the baking sheet, but Dorie says that's how it's done, so I did it.

- There was a good bit of egg whites and spices left in the bowl, so I tossed in some more pecans and coated them also.

- I've also made this recipe with almonds and curry powder, pictured below.

the verdict:

Maybe it's as surreal for Dorie to taste her recipes, but cooked by other people, as it is for us to make her recipes and have her taste the results? Any musing along that line, however, was rendered irrelevant by the graciousness of Dorie. "Oh, these are good," she said, "your nuts are so nice and separate; mine always stick together." I had to laugh, "Dorie, I just placed them individually, as you said to do!" And then I had to admit that I'd changed the recipe by substituting the kind of sugar, although, the nuts were delicious that way. Unfortunately, in all the excitement, I didn't take a single picture of those pecans.

My next batch, the almonds with curry, was also quite good. The third time I made the nuts, I went back to the pecan/chili powder combination. These got just a tad too toasty in the oven, as you can see in the top picture, but luckily were still enjoyed by all.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

{TWD} Pecan Sour Cream Biscuits

One of the appealing parts of the Tuesdays With Dorie baking group is the variety - and essential unpredictability - of the recipes selected. With a different "host" each week, the chosen recipes reflect not only the season but also the tastes of the various TWD members, as they choose the recipes from Baking: From My Home to Yours which attract them.

At busy times of the year, it can be a little bit tricky to fit the TWD recipes into the menu, planning, so this week, just like at Thanksgiving, we were free to choose a "rewind" recipe; something that we previously missed. After a bit of searching and thinking, I decided to choose a breakfast item. We had house guests for Christmas week, and at such times it's nice to pull something fresh from the oven first thing in the morning.

n.o.e.'s notes:

- These biscuits were originally chosen by Ashley of Eat Me, Delicous, in February 2008. You can find the recipe on her post.

- I baked these for breakfast on Christmas Eve and I was doing a million things at the same time. I mixed, rolled, cut and popped the biscuits in the oven, and was in the middle of congratulating myself on what a great job I'd done, when I realized that I'd left out the brown sugar. Luckily the biscuits are incredibly easy to throw together that I whipped up another batch immediately. This time I mixed up my steps and added the liquids without working the butter into the flour first. So I tried to mix the dough enough to incorporate the butter without overmixing and making the biscuits tough. No matter how they turned out, I wasn't going to bake these a third time just to get it right. Too much else on the "to do" list on Christmas Eve.

- I used a cutter that was slightly smaller than the specified 2 inches. Despite my worries about them, both batches of biscuits rose quite well in the oven, and I ended up with very tall petite biscuits.

the verdict:

I ended up liking both versions of these biscuits. The unsweetened ones were particularly good with salted butter or a piece of smoky bacon. The brown sugar version had a nice sweet edge, but I wouldn't exactly say that they tasted very strongly of caramel. The pecans provided a nice textural interest. From the way these biscuits disappeared from the serving plate, I'd say they were a big hit with everyone on Christmas Eve.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Eggnog Cheesecake

Eggnog by itself, as a drink, is a fairly divisive substance. On one side is the majority vocal "eeewww" crowd and the smaller, but passionate "best thing ever" camp. My family falls pretty squarely in the second group; we love nothing better than a glass of eggnog, big or small, spiked or not, before or after meals.
Turning eggnog into baked goods gains it a bigger audience; I've made eggnog scones, eggnog cinnamon rolls, and when I saw Sunset Magazine's recipe for Eggnog Cheesecake, I knew it would be the perfect thing to bake for my daughter A.L.E.'s fiance, K., who was visiting our home during the Christmas holidays and who loves cheesecake.

n.o.e.'s notes:
- You can find the recipe here
- I made a half recipe into a mini cheesecake in a 6 inch springform pan.
- Rather than the graham cracker crust in the recipe, I substituted gingersnaps for a little spicy bite.
- This cheesecake uses a fair amount of nutmeg, so a microplane comes in very handy to grate the fresh nutmeg.
- I skipped the whipped cream on top.
the verdict:
This was a lovely, creamy cheesecake with a mild nutmeg-y eggnog flavor. K. enjoyed "his" cheesecake and generously let us help him polish it off!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

{TWD} Cardamom Crumb Cake

With all of the Christmas cookie and special occasion dessert baking going on at this time of year, I'll have to say that a breakfast-appropriate cake - one that Dorie Greenspan describes as "not too sweet" - was a very welcome Tuesdays With Dorie baking assignment this week. The Cardamom Crumb Cake contains the flavors, cardamom, orange zest, and coffee. I had a hard time imagining how those tastes could possibly combine, so I just had to bake it the way Dorie wrote it to see how it turned out.

n.o.e.'s notes:

- We can thank Jill of Jill's Blog for choosing the crumb cake this week. For the recipe, check out her blog post.

- I made half a recipe in a medium loaf pan, saving a few spoonfuls of batter for a tiny loaf.

- The only variation I made was to add a pinch of salt and a tiny bit of additional sugar to the crumb topping.

the verdict:

This is definitely not a run-of-the-mill crumb cake. Dorie says it's "exotic" and I couldn't agree with her more. It took me three bites to decide what I thought about the cake, then I loved it! The individual flavors combined in a mysterious yet appealing way and it had a pleasing crunch from the walnuts and the browned edges.

Here are reactions from family members:

My daughter JDE: "I'd eat it again. The salt in the topping is compelling"

My daughter ALE: "I'm tired of regular coffee cakes that are so sweet and not nuanced. This is definitely a cool coffee cake, very challenging, with surprises all along the way, and deeper layers of flavor. Ooh, now I taste the coffee."

My husband: "I like it. Please make more."

Monday, December 20, 2010

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Shallots

If Christmas can be said to have a vegetable, I think the honor would go to brussels sprouts. They are a fabulous winter accompaniment to a hearty meal, but they rarely get to play a memorable role. This recipe for Skillet-Braised Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Shallots, from the The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook, just might change that. With bacon and bits of caramelized shallots, brussels sprouts get gussied up for the holiday (but they're just as comfortable at a weekday family meal.)

n.o.e.'s notes:

- The recipe, which I've included below, is pretty simple:

- I used Benton's bacon, and because it is so strong in smoky flavor, I used a little less than the recipe specified.

- I found that my sprouts cooked a bit quicker than the recipe advises, so my advice is to watch them carefully - the first time I made this, they were almost overcooked. Since I like a little more crispness to the sprouts, I've reduced the cooking time.

the verdict:

I'm glad to find such an easy and delicious way to prepare brussels sprouts. There was enough bacon to lend the sprouts great flavor but not so much that it overpowered the goodness of the sprouts. This has definitely become my regular brussels sprouts recipe, but it's also my company-worthy brussels sprouts recipe!

the recipe:

Skillet Braised Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Shallots

4 oz bacon (4 slices) sliced about 1/4 in wide
2 shallots, sliced
1 lb brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved through stem
1/2 c water
1 T unsalted butter
1 T red wine vinegar

1. Cook bacon and shallots together in skillet over medium heat about 10 min. Transfer to paper towels to drain.

2. Add brussels sprouts, water and 1/2 tsp salt to skillet, cover and simmer over medium-high heat until brussels sprouts are bright green, about 9 minutes or less.

3. Uncover skillet and cook until the liquid has evaporated and sprouts are tender, about 5 minutes or less.

4. Remove from heat, and stir in bacon and shallots, butter and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper as needed.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Best Cookbooks - Links and Lists

If you like cooking, or reading, or cookbooks, or if you just like reading about cookbooks, this post is designed for you. Round about early December I started seeing, and reading, year-end lists of best cookbook. I saved the links and now I have a sizeable collection from various sources. Most are lists of books actually published in 2010. There are books that appear on nearly all of the lists, and there are some that show up only once. But each book has a reason for being listed, and it makes for fascinating reading, and wonderful gift-planning, to sort through them.

I've arranged the links thus: the first group contains lists from familiar media sources, such as major newspapers and food magazines; the second group has lists from food writers and bloggers. Next I've singled out a few notable cookbook review projects that are a bit out of the ordinary, and finally I've provided my own list of the books, some new and some older, that were most useful in my kitchen this year.

There are enough links here to provide you with material to while away long winter hours - and that's without even ordering anything! You'll also find suggestions to help with your Christmas gift-giving, and truth be told, gift-receiving.

After sifting through these lists, I now have a steady stream of USPS carriers and UPS trucks bringing packages to my doorstep. Many of my intended gift recipients happen to be readers of this blog, now they can expect cookbook gifts! And I am confident that there will be *ahem* a cookbook or three under the tree for me on Christmas morning.

Whether you choose to purchase at your local independent bookseller, or order from Amazon up until the very last possible moment, if you love to cook from cookbooks it's a safe bet that you will find something fabulous somewhere in this post.

I apologize for the formatting glitches in this post. Try as I might, and I actually tried to decipher the html, I couldn't get rid of some inconsistencies.

Amazon's Top 20 "Most Wished For" Cooking, Food & Wine Books
The Guardian's 25 Best Cookbooks of 2010
Epicurious' Best Cookbooks of 2010
NPR's Best Cookbooks Of 2010
Publisher's Weekly (25 more favorites)
The LA Times Great Cookbooks to Give and Receive
The New York Times Year's Best Cookbooks

Best Cookbooks ~ lists from food writers and bloggers

Gluten-free girl's 10 Best Cookbooks of 2010(Plus 2 More) [not necessarily gluten-free]
Michael Ruhlman's Books for the Holidays
Pastrygirl's The Best of Baking Cookbooks 2010
David Lebovitz's Best Cookbooks of 2010
the kitchn's My Favorite Baking Books of 2010
Cheryl Sterman Rule's Notable Cookbook Releases of 2010

Of particular interest:

In his list, food writer Jonathan Gold didn't focus on newly published cookbooks but on those books in his kitchen which are the most worn and stained. Here's the resulting list: 10 most battered cookbooks in Jonathan Gold's kitchen:

In order to generate a more accurate list of best cookbooks of the year, the Huffington Post Food editors first looked at a bunch of other lists. Only those cookbooks that had been listed on several other lists made the final cut: .

More than a single list, Food writer Kathleen Flinn is writing a series of posts in the month of December that she calls 25 Important Food Books - 2010. In her words, "I’ll be showcasing 25 books that had an impact on me in the past year. They’re not necessarily new books or classics or the ones you’d expect, but rather 25 books that I think everyone should know about for one reason or another". (The book posts are the ones from December 6 through 31)

The 2010 Tournament of Cookbooks, aka The Piglet, is a project of the fabulous site Food 52. Sixteen top cookbooks published in 2010 were placed in brackets, and an impressive array of food-world judges rendered verdicts on each matchup. The tournament is now complete, with a final winner declared, but you can explore all of the action by checking out the links in the right hand column on the tournament page. I found this to be wildly entertaining, and promptly lost half of a morning to reading this year's match-ups. When I realized that the 2009 Tournament was also accessible online, I lost the other half.

A Baker's Dozen of Cookbooks I Enjoyed in 2010
I. Savory and/or Comprehensive

Mark Bittman, How to Cook Everything - This book may not have absolutely everything in the world, but it certainly has everything I'm likely to cook and a good bit that I'm not. It's clear, it's comprehensive, and it's good. When I want to research an ingredient or a method of cooking, I'll reach for Bittman or my old Joy of Cooking.

Dorie Greenspan, Around My French Table - As a devoted fan of Greenspan's previous book, Baking: From My Home to Yours, it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that I'd buy this 2010 book. Greenspan branches out into savory food in her newest work, and she brings to it her trademark clarity and charm. Recipes I've enjoyed include the kuri squash soup and the fish en papillote. Oh, and I've made the sweet and spicy cocktail nuts three times already.

Rick Bayless, Mexican Every Day - Last year I was lucky enough to eat at Bayless' restaurant Topolobampo in Chicago, and at the end of the meal I purchased this book. For the most part the recipes are quite quick but the techniques and flavor combinations are far beyond the average Mexican-inspired recipes. Bayless' avocado and mango salad has become a standby in my kitchen, and I've loved several of the fish dishes as well.

Thomas Keller, Ad Hoc At Home - I bought this book when it was first published in 2009 when I got an excellent price on Amazon, but I suspected that I'd never actually cook from it. The book is gorgeous, and is sized more for the coffee table than the kitchen table, but it would be a shame to keep it for display. I read in an interview that Thomas Keller wanted the book to be used so much that it ended up spattered and stained, and at this point my copy is well on its way. Although some of the recipes are a little (or a lot) more complicated than my usual fare, Keller is clear and precise in his directions, and I've loved everything I've cooked from the book. The leek bread pudding was a favorite at Thanksgiving and we enjoyed the duck breasts for Christmas dinner last year (yes, both were in 2009 but I have continued to cook from the book this year)

Ruth Reichl, The Gourmet Cookbook - If you're feeling nostalgic for Gourmet magazine, this book might be the most comforting place to turn. You can most likely find all of your old favorite recipes between the yellow covers of this cookbook, and discover new favorites too. Since I started cooking my collard greens and kale Brazilian style, I've not prepared them any other way. And the chili is just about the best I've ever tasted.

II. Baking and Sweets

Alice Medrich, Pure Dessert - For my birthday last year I went to the bookstore to purchase a specific cookbook, but this book caught my eye and I came home with it instead. The book is organized by flavors (milk, nuts, fruit, etc.) rather than type of dessert (cake, cookie, tart, etc.) The recipes are unusual but not weird. I've made the lemon bars, Italian chocolate torte, and chocolate wafers.

I just bought Medrich's new cookie book, Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy, and I anticipate that I will love it also. I've tasted five of the cookies, baked by Medrich herself at a baking class. I enjoyed all of them, especially the ginger cookies, which are extraordinary, and which I immediately baked in my own kitchen.

Davis Lebovitz, Ready for Dessert - For this 2010 book David Lebovitz completely reworked and updated all of his favorite recipes for sweets. The result is a large book completely packed with beautifully-photographed temptingly-presented desserts. Although Lebovitz is known for his chocolate creations, non-chocolate selections make up significantly more than half of the recipes. The fresh ginger cake is beyond wonderful, and the chocolate racines cake was also delicious.

Lebovitz's previous book, The Perfect Scoop, is now available in paperback. It is a comprehensive collection of frozen confections, from the basic - but perfect - vanilla ice cream to more unusual flavors such as black pepper ice cream. I make ice cream at least once a week and this book is almost always on my counter.

Nick Malgieri, The Modern Baker - What initially drew me to this book is that it has a savory pies and tarts section, tucked in there among the cakes and specialty yeast breads and cookies. But I baked other things, including the yellow cake, the blackberry jam cake before making the delicious walnut, scallion and gruyere tart, and what I love about the book is that Malgieri streamlines the baking process for each baked good, so the preparation is simpler, and more elegant.

Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson, Tartine - This book is stylish and the recipes I've tried have been impeccable. I've especially loved the almond breakfast cake and the soft gingerbread cookies. Based on my success with this book, I'd be excited about the new-in-2010 Tartine Bread.

Dan Lepard, The Art of Handmade Bread - Dan Lepard, a baker from England, has devised a revolutionary method of preparing bread dough, and his breads have totally revolutionized my life. The only reason that this book is not constantly open is that I have memorized the recipe for his Simple Milk Loaf; it's simple and simply the best toasting bread I've ever had. There are other brilliant bread recipes, but the Milk Loaf is worth the (very low) price of the paperback book.

Peter Reinhart, The Bread Baker's Apprentice - I've been - very slowly - baking my way through this book; I've now passed the halfway mark and can truthfully say that there's not been a bad recipe to date. The book is worth owning for the bagels alone - making those homemade with his recipe is truly life-changing. Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads is similarly terrific, but I didn't use it much in 2010, as I was busy with the BBA recipes. I also have Reinhart's newer book, Artisan Breads Every Day, but haven't baked from it yet.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

{TWD} Apple Coconut Family Cake

The past few months have brought a bounty of apple recipes into my life. I've baked apple bundt cakes (here and here), apple tart, apple tart cake, and apple pie. Not to mention apple breakfast bread, apple granola, apple bread pudding, a few batches of applesauce, and a repeat baking of my very favorite apple ginger cake. There were even apples in the cranberry galette I baked last month. I'll have to admit, however, that I've never paired apple with coconut. But Dorie Greenspan has, in this week's recipe for the Tuesdays With Dorie baking group, Apple Coconut Family Cake. There was only one way to see how that flavor combination would taste, so with the prospect of serving this cake to the members of my book group (who have been subjected to enjoyed most of the other apple recipes) I set forth to bake the cake.

n.o.e.'s notes:

- Amber Marie of the blog Cobbler du Monde chose the recipe, which you can find by clicking over to her post.

- I made 3/4 recipe in an 8" springform pan (the full recipe is scaled for a 9" pan).

- We didn't have any yogurt in the house, so I used plain kefir. Actually, yogurt, kefir and buttermilk are all cultured dairy products and can be used interchangeably in baked goods.

- I combined the tail ends of a couple of bags of unsweetened and sweetened coconut, although I would have rather used all unsweetened.

- Instead of the dark rum I used King Arthur's boiled cider.

- By mistake I forgot to reduce the sugar to 3/4, and ended up adding a full recipe's worth of sugar. Luckily, Dorie's recipes don't tend to be super-sweet, so the 33% extra sugar didn't ruin the recipe.

- For the flavorless oil I used grapeseed oil. There's a huge bottle of the stuff in my fridge, and I'm always glad to have a chance to put it to use.

the verdict:

Dorie calls this a "family cake" which sounds cozy and comforting, and just a bit rustic. And that's a perfect description for the cake, which I served to friends as well as family. I kept asking my tasters, "this isn't as good as some of the other apple cakes, right?" and the response kept being "maybe not, but this is really good" and then they cut another piece. I had to hide a piece to photograph the next morning, and even then, I was only able to get a quick snap before the cake became breakfast.

It really was a delightful cake: moist, soft, and a bit chewy (from the coconut). The coconut flavor was quite a subtle presence; taking a back seat to the apple.

So there you have it. A lovely, homey apple cake that you can easily serve to guests. And to family too!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Triple Ginger Cookies

I've never actually participated in a cookie exchange - one of those get-togethers where everyone brings cookies to share and at the end everyone leaves with an assortment of cookies baked by others - but they always sound like such fun. This year my friend Di proposed a cookie exchange with a bunch of our baking friends. That would have been cool enough, but this was no ordinary cookie exchange. You see, the bakers in this exchange happen to be are scattered over 9 or 10 time zones, with no chance of meeting in person. Rather than cookies actually changing hands, this is a Virtual Cookie Exchange. The cookies are real, baked by each of us in our own kitches, and they are shared with one and all in a virtual manner - on our blogs!

Di will prepare a roundup with links to all of the various cookie posts, and you can participate too! Just visit our blogs and bake the ones that appeal to you.

I'd be pretty remiss if I didn't point out that my daughter A.L.E. designed the logo for the Virtual Cookie Exchange. Being a proud mom, I'm also going to say that she's uber-talented and accepts art commissions.

My favorite Christmas cookies are the ones with molasses and plenty of of spice so that's the direction I looked when it came time to choose a recipe to share. I wanted to try a new recipe, but it also had to be a great cookie.

Luckily, last Friday I was in Houston and met up with fellow bloggers Jessica and Jeannette. Jessica and I took a class at Central Market - Alice Medrich demonstrated 5 recipes from her new book Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy. For over two hours, Medrich mixed and stirred, scooped and piped, all the while giving us tips and tricks for better cookie baking. She whipped up 5 different cookies and each person in the room got to enjoy all of the different cookie varieties. There were flat crispy chocolate chip cookies, biscotti, peanut butter meringues, ginger cookies, and brownies. I enjoyed every last crumb! At the end of class, when she was signing our books, Alice Medrich asked me, "Which cookie was your favorite?" Without hesitating, I replied, "The ginger ones!"

So thanks to Alice Medrich, I have the perfect cookie to share in the cookie exchange. Medrich calls them "My Ginger Cookies" or "Screaming Ginger Cookies" - to me they're Triple Ginger Cookies.

n.o.e.'s notes:

- I've included the recipe at the end of the post.

- Kudos to Alice Medrich for including weights as well as volume measurements for the sugar and flour in her recipes. I'd actually be even happier if the recipes contained weights for more of the ingredients. I've included as many as I could, see below.

- The recipe is not difficult, but because of the chopping and grating, it is a bit time consuming. On the plus side, these cookies use melted butter, so no creaming of butter.

the verdict:

These are - hands down - the best ginger/molasses cookie I've tasted!

I'm pretty sure that the fresh ginger is what puts these cookies at the top of the ginger-cookie list. I love how the three kinds of ginger - plenty of each - play together, and how the ginger gets solid support from a generous measure of cinnamon and allspice. The cookies are wonderful when they are baked to a chewy texture, but equally delicious when a bit crisper. The book gives tips for baking this recipe with less gingery heat, just in case you aren't the ginger fanatic that I am. Going to the opposite extreme, I'd add a bit of ground black pepper the next time I make this recipe; I love the bite that it adds to baked goods with ginger.

Thanks, Di for organizing the exchange. I can't wait to see all the cookies that everyone else has posted!

Screaming Ginger Cookies, aka Triple Ginger Cookies
recipe by Alice Medrich, from her book Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy.


  • 2 cups (9 oz) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground allspice
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 8 tbsp (1 stick; 2 oz) unsalted butter, melted and still warm
  • ¼ cup (2T, 100 g) unsulfured mild or full-flavored molasses (Medrich says not blackstrap)
  • ½ cup (3.5 oz, 100 g) granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup (2.33 oz, 67 g) firmly packed brown sugar or light muscovado (I used dark muscovado)
  • 2 tbsp (16 g) finely minced or grated fresh ginger root
  • 1 large egg (50 grams without shell)
  • ¾ cup (4 oz) finely chopped crystallized ginger (1/4-inch dice)
  • About ½ cup Demerara or turbinado sugar for rolling (I used turbinado, also called raw sugar)


preheat the oven to 350F

Position the oven racks in the top third and lower third of the oven.

Line the baking sheets with parchment paper, or leave sheet unlined.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, allspice, and salt in a medium bowl and mix thoroughly with a whisk or fork.

Combine the warm butter, molasses, both sugars, fresh ginger, and egg in a large bowl and mix thoroughly. Add the flour mixture and chopped candied ginger and stir until incorporated. The dough will be soft.

Form the dough into 1-inch balls (1/2 oz of dough for each). Roll the balls in the Demerara or raw sugar and place them 2 inches apart on the baking sheet. Bake, in batches (form the rest of the balls while the first batch is baking ), for 10 to 12 minutes, or until they puff up and crack on the surface and then begin to deflate in the oven. Rotate and turn the sheets about halfway through the baking time. For chewier cookies, remove them from the oven when at least half or more of the cookies have begun to deflate; for crunchier edges with chewy centers, bake a minute or so longer.

Cool the cookies completely before storing.

Other ginger molasses cookies that I've known and loved:
Dorie Greenspan's
Molasses Spice Cookies
Fine Cooking Double Ginger Crackles that Tracey baked recently.
Another great ginger cookie is
this one from the blog Prudence Pennywise.

I tried to bake the gluten free version of these cookies that Medrich gives instructions for, but used double the egg white by mistake and ended up with a delightful wheat-free gingerbread rather than cookies.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

{TWD} Translucent Maple Tuiles

Many a time when browsing through Dorie Greenspan's book I'd stopped by the page for the Translucent Maple Tuiles. In the picture they are absolutely gorgeous; shining golden curved cookies on a plate, yet as I looked at them, invariably my thought was "aargh, how will these ever turn out when I try to bake them?" It's the curved part that looks and sounds tricky: a process that involves taking cookies hot out of the oven, somehow getting them off the cookie sheet, then draping them on a cylindrical object. Once cooled, they maintain a curved form. Or at least that's the theory.

This week the tuiles are the assignment for the Tuesdays With Dorie baking group. Time to face this somewhat intimidating recipe head on. After all, that's why I joined the group, to learn new techniques. Right? Right!

n.o.e.'s notes:

- The maple tuiles recipe was chosen by Clivia of Bubie’s Little Baker, who is Canadian. I must confess, Clivia, I used New York State maple syrup for my tuiles. Clivia's tuiles post has the recipe, or you can look in the book on page 173.

- The dough couldn't be easier to mix up - just stir together a few room temperature ingredients, including butter, maple syrup, brown sugar, and flour. Looking back, I wish I'd used Grade B maple syrup, as it has a stronger maple flavor, and I'm all about the maple. Following a tip from this week's P&Q post I cut the amount of butter by about a teaspoon or two. The dough chills for a few hours, or two days in my case. Dorie says the dough can be made up to a week in advance.

- A whole bunch of Tuesdays With Dorie bakers who are on Twitter picked a time and baked this recipe "together," tweeting their experiences as they went. I was a bit late to the party, so I just read all of the tweets and had plenty of tips when I baked mine. From what I gathered, bakers were using cooler ovens than Dorie's 400 degree recommendation, and the cookies were baking pretty quickly. Engineerbaker said that she was using parchment (even though the recipe says to bake on an unlined cookie sheet.) That was all the permission (excuse?) I needed, and I was ready to bake - on a parchment, no less.

- I used my tiny melon baller to scoop out the dough. The little balls were maybe dime-sized in diameter.

- Dorie talks about removing the cookies from the sheet and draping them "with alacrity," surely a recipe for disaster in my hands. I realized that if I baked each cookie on its own 3 inch square of parchment I could skip the spatula entirely (although I lined up at least 4 different ones, just in case.) It worked perfectly! I could lift the parchment square, let the cookie cool for a few seconds, then peel the cookie from the parchment and drape it.

- I had to play with the oven temperature and time a bit. I baked the first batch in an oven that was not hot enough. The tuiles curved nicely, but were pliable even when cooled, so they flattened out when left to their own devices. 375 degrees for approximately 7 minutes ended up being perfect.

- Draping the cookies over my rolling pin produced a curve that wasn't as dramatic as I wanted. I searched around my kitchen, and ended up using spice bottles and the handle to my dough whisk. After I finished, I realized that a broom handle would have been perfect. I would wrap it - actually I wrapped all of my cylinders - first with plastic wrap so the cookies would be on a clean surface and so that the surface wouldn't absorb the grease from the hot cookies.

It was so much fun forming the curved tuiles that I experimented with making tuile cups. After trying a few different techniques, and here's what I devised:

- Scoop or roll the balls somewhere between a nickel and a quarter in diameter. Place them in the center of a 5" square piece of parchment (can re-use from cookie to cookie) and bake. For me, 375 worked the best. Start checking them at about 5 minutes, and remove from the oven when the cookies are bubbling and browned.

- Let the tuiles cool -flat - on the parchment, then remove them from the parchment and place each over the open top of a custard cup or ramekin, put back into the oven for about 45 seconds, or until softened. The cookie may start to sag into the cup, which shows that is is warm and malleable. Take the cookie sheet out of the oven and gently press the warm cookie down into the inside of the cup. Let cool. Because there is so much butter in these cookies, they will easily release from the cup.

the verdict:

Despite my early trepidation, the tuiles were lots of fun to make. With simple-to-throw-together dough and a baking time of just minutes, they deliver a lot of wow! for very little effort. Not only that, but they taste scrumptious. We especially loved them as ice cream cups, accompanied by rum ice cream and toasted coconut ice cream.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Red Kuri Squash Soup and my 400th Post!

Back when I began my blog I might have - rashly - thought that of course I'd still be blogging 29 months later, but from my current vantage point I'm a bit surprised that I'm still at it, writing, photographing, and posting the food that I prepare and that we eat. And although I was tempted to reach back into my stack of draft blog posts - my backlog hovers at around 150 posts at varying stages of readiness, for this my 400th post I will feature a recipe that I made yesterday.

At dinner last evening I was telling my family that my next post would be my blog's 400th and that I was unsure which recipe to use. My husband stopped, soup spoon halfway to his mouth and said, "Post this soup." So here it is, Red Kuri Squash Soup from Dorie Greenspan's newest book, Around My French Table. And really, it's only fitting that I use a recipe of Dorie's because it is her previous book, Baking From My Home to Yours and the baking group Tuesdays With Dorie that got me started on the whole blogging enterprise.

I'll be honest, here. Before today I'd never eaten kuri squash in my life. But it was pretty much a mission for me this fall. When cool weather hits, or when it hits places that have cool weather, the food world fairly explodes with recipes for winter squashes: butternut, pumpkin, acorn, and lesser known types such as kabocha, delicata, and kuri.

I was walking through the produce section of Whole Foods a few weeks ago and pounced when I saw a display of kuri squash. Luckily winter squash has a long shelf life, even if that shelf happens to be my kitchen counter, and yesterday's stormy weather gave me just the excuse to cut into that kuri and make some soup.

n.o.e.'s notes:

- The soup is beyond simple to make. Dorie shared the method in this post on her blog.

- The recipe calls for simmering the squash and some leeks in equal parts of milk and water. Luckily I had some leeks in the fridge, but I was running a bit short on milk. It was far too cozy and dry in my house for a run to the grocery store, so I mixed in a lot of half-and-half, a bit of milk, and some water. A little extra butterfat never hurt a soup. I'm sure the French would agree.

- After half an hour or so of simmering, I used my immersion blender to puree the soup right in the 4 quart soup pot. There was at least 2 quarts of soup, and given that two of the three humans in our household don't care for squash, I was pretty sure I'd be giving away several pints of soup.

the verdict:

My daughter wandered into the kitchen as I was pureeing the soup and readying it for its photo session. We had a late afternoon soup snack together. Her reaction? "Mom, I love this soup. Don't give any of it away."

A couple of hours later, when dinner time rolled around, my daughter asked for soup. Then my husband requested a bowl. After he tasted it, I thought I heard him say, "This is really rich." I must have had the half and half substitution on the brain because he really said, "This is really good!"

So there you have it: my two squash-haters loved this simple, easy soup. I think you will too; it is smooth in texture and flavor. The nutty flavor of the kuri comes through and is perfectly accented by a bit of nutmeg and black pepper. That big vat of soup will disappear in short order, as I can see it on the lunch, snack, and dinner menu for the next several days. And I envision licking the bowl when the last drop has been served.

In honor of my 400th post, I am going to make a donation to the Atlanta Community Food Bank, so that others in my community might be able to eat.