Jaffa Cakes

LU Pim's

Today, Spring said “hello” through sunshine, orange blossom-scented breezes and a Mexican couple dressed in their Sunday best peddling Jesus’s resurrection door-to-door. My neighbor says it’s going to rain again tomorrow. Could Mother Nature truly be that fickle?

For today only, then, I bathe in sunbeams.

Jaffa Cakes

  • Servings: 24 cookies
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These British biscuits are a favorite of mine, but usually I succumb to the packaged variety, called Lu Pim’s in the States. It’s a textural thing – the crack of dark chocolate giving way to a gelatin layer atop a sliver of cake.

Ingredients


Gelatin Layer
– 1 pkg. gelatin (1/4 oz.)
– ½ cup fresh orange juice
– zest of 1 orange
– ¼ cup sugar
Cake Layer
– 2 large eggs
– ¼ cup sugar
– ¼ cup flour, sifted
Chocolate Layer
– 4 oz. bittersweet chocolate (at least 70% cocoa)

Directions

  1. Combine gelatin with a bit of orange juice to soften. Meanwhile, heat remaining juice, zest and sugar on a saucepan until sugar has completely dissolved. Remove from heat, add softened gelatin and stir until gelatin is dissolved. Briefly return to heat, if necessary.  Pour into a 8” square pan, cover and refrigerate until firm, about one hour. Cut gelatin in 1-1 ¼ inch circles using a small cutter.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 24-cup mini muffin tin with baking spray. On top of a double-boiler, beat eggs and sugar together until pale and fluffy using a hand-held mixer, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, gently fold in flour with a rubber spatula. Fill each muffin cup with a teaspoon dollop of batter, filling each cup no more than 1/3 full. Bake for 8-10 minutes until edges are golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan and then gentle remove cakes.
  3. Break chocolate into small pieces and heat in a microwave in 15-second bursts, stirring occasionally until ¾ melted. Remove from microwave and continue stirring until fully melted. set chocolate aside for 5 minutes to cool and stiffen slightly (this is the lazy girl’s way to temper chocolate).
  4. Place a round of orange gelatin atop each cake round. Dollop each gelatin round with chocolate and gently nudge the chocolate to the edge, fully covering the gelatin. It’s okay if the cake edges aren’t completely covered. Set aside until chocolate is fully set. Store covered for up to two days.

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Chocolate Walnut Cookies

Chocolate Walnut Cookies

I’m calling it emotional whiplash. I’ve done a 360 in three months. Providence proved a fickle companion. I’m back to November’s discontent. Others’ decisions to retire, to fire, to stay has flung me back to the beginning yet again. One step forward, three steps back.

Speaking of going back to the beginning, this is a riff on a cookie I created for my final Culinary School menu. In an effort to self-soothe, I ate the entire dozen in one sitting. It didn’t work.


Chocolate Walnut Cookies

Lower in calories than a normal chocolate cookie recipe, easy to make, and loaded with good fats from the walnuts – however,  I  still recommend sharing.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons cocoa powder (unsweetened)
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • pinch salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg white
  • powdered sugar (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pulse pecans and sugar in a food processor until mixture resembles sand. Add cocoa powder, cinnamon, salt, extract, and egg white. Process until dough comes together in a large ball.
  2. Measure dough into 12 balls. Roll in powdered sugar, and place on a lightly-coated baking sheet. Press dough balls with a back of a glass until they measure about 1.5” – 2” across. Bake 10-12 minutes. Cool slightly before removing from pan.

Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Chocolate Chunk Cookies

In 2011, I started  ranking my daily satisfaction quotient. On my morning commute, top down on the convertible, wind in my hair, sun shining on my face, I considered my level of happiness each morning. My ranking was a consistently favorable 7 to 8 – even on a Monday. Life was good.

Fast forward a handful of years, add a revolving door of various managers, include a load of new policies designed to thwart me at every turn, suppress my ability to contribute – and my average daily ranking crept down to a paltry 4.5. For three years, life sucked.

This Friday, I noticed that my ranking catapulted back to an 8… perhaps even an 8.5, and not because of the impending 3 days weekend. How did I do it? How did I turn things around? I quit my job. After 15 years, I joyfully submitted my resignation. One indignity too many, straw and camel’s back stuff, convinced me that it was time.

And, as it’s supposed to happen when one takes a huge risk, Providence prevailed. Within a few weeks, a new job posted, within the same company, but with a group that I respect and adore– and I got the job! I feel good.  C’mon 2017, my groove is coming back.

Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Adapted from David Lebovitz’s chocolate chip cookies

Ingredients

  • 175 grams all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 115 grams unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 110 grams light brown sugar
  • 75 grams sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 200 grams bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 115 grams, walnuts, toasted and chopped

Directions

  1. Whisk together flour, soda and salt. Beat together butter, sugars and vanilla. Add egg and beat well. Stir in flour mixture until incorporated. Stir in chocolate and nuts.
  2. Cover dough and refrigerate for 24 hours.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat. Drop cookie dough by tablespoons about 1” apart. Bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes, rotating the sheets midway through baking. If you prefer a soft cookie, scale back on time as needed.

Bittersweet Chocolate Spice Mostaccioli

Bittersweet Chocolate Spice Mostaccioli

At dinner tonight, I noticed a female cook working the line. Tall and graceful, with delicate earrings dangling from her ears, she moved thoughtfully, preparing each dish deliberately and unhurried. Her figure skater grace was eclipsed by the customary bravado of her hockey player fellow cooks, and yet, surprisingly, the boys left her to her own methods, without remark. Could she be an owner and thus excluded from the usual kitchen hazing? During my (short- lived) kitchen exploits, lacking the obligatory culinary machismo wasn’t tolerated by the rest of the line. She had the same forearm burns as the boys, turned out the same dishes, but with a tranquility and fluidity not typically found in a restaurant. It was a pleasure to watch her and gave me hope as a female chef.

Bittersweet Chocolate Spice Mostaccioli

  • Servings: 32 cookies
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Adapted from Epicurious’s Chocolate Hazelnut Spiced Cookies

Ingredients


– 1 ½ cups hazelnuts, toasted and skin removed, or toasted almonds, or 9 oz. toasted almond meal
– ¾ cup sugar
– ½ cup all-purpose flour
– 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (divided)
– 1 teaspoon baking soda
– ¾ teaspoon salt
– ½ teaspoon cinnamon
– 1/8 teaspoon cloves
– 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
– 3 Tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into ½ inch cubes
– Grated zest from one orange (about 1 Tablespoon)
– 3 Tablespoons fresh orange juice
– 2 Tablespoons rum or hazelnut flavored liqueur (divided)
– ½ cup confectioners sugar
– 3 Tablespoons water
– 3 Tablespoons toasted nuts or toasted cocoa nibs

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Line a sheet pan with parchment or a silicone liner and spray with cooking spray.
  2. In a food processor, pulse nuts, sugar, flour, cocoa, baking soda, salt, and spices until finely chopped. Add butter and zest and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add juice and 1 Tablespoon rum and pulse until dough comes together into a ball, but is still crumbly.
  3. Form tablespoons of dough into balls (18-20 grams each) and slightly flatten to about 1 ½ inches, arranging 1 inch apart on sheet pan. It’s important the butter in the dough remains cold prior to baking.
  4. Bake cookies until puffed and slightly cracked, about 15 minutes. Cool on a wire rack until barely warm.
  5. Meanwhile, whisk together confectioners sugar, ½ cup cocoa powder, 1 Tablespoon rum and water until smooth. Frost each cookie with a bit of icing and sprinkle with nuts or cocoa nibs. Frosting the slightly warm cookies will ensure icing spreads smoothly. Let cookies stand until icing is set, about 1 hour. These cookies remain soft and improve with age if kept in an airtight container at room temperature.
  6. Variation: reduce salt to 1/4 teaspoon and substitute toasted nuts/cocoa nibs with a sprinkle of sea salt.

Candied Orange and Anise Biscotti

Candied Orange and Anise Biscotti

Our search for Clarity occasionally demands us to set aside to-do lists in favor of prayer books. It inters us within a temple of quiet solitude, away from the dazzle of worldliness, insisting on reflection. Our weaving of elaborate plans is replaced by solemn contemplation. When I ache with this azan in my ear, I bow at my kitchen’s altar for answers often found within the merging of butter, sugar and flour.

Candied Orange and Anise Biscotti

Flavored with candied orange and anise, these cookies are a nod to the French sweet bread, gibassier

Ingredients


– 3/4 cup sugar
– 8 oz. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
– 2 teaspoons orange flower water
– 3 eggs
– 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
– ½ cup almond flour
– 2 teaspoons baking powder
– ¼ teaspoon salt
– 1/3 cup candied orange peel, finely chopped
– 1 teaspoon anise seeds, toasted and slightly crushed

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a sheet pan with parchment and spray with cooking spray.
  2. In a stand mixer, beat sugar and butter until pale and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition. Add extract and beat well.
  3. Add flour, almond flour, baking powder and salt and mix until blended. Add candied orange peel and anise and mix until just combined.
  4. Shape dough into two rolls the length of the sheet pan. Flatten each to 3” wide. Bake 20-25 minutes until set and barely beginning to brown. Cool 10 minutes. Cut rolls ½” thick across into 18 biscotti each. 5. Arrange biscotti on their sides on sheet pan and bake 8-10 minutes. Turn cookies over and bake an additional 5 minutes. Bake cookies until dry and crispy, but not brown. I enjoy these treats dipped in a cappuccino or glass of milk.