Dating someone new entails navigating a precarious route – not unlike those rickety rope bridges suspended above Amazonian rivers. Say the wrong thing, show too much interest – or not enough – and the entire contraption and both of you plunge into the abyss below. Sheer disaster. I’ve learned to tread slowly and deliberately along that path.
Last week, I baked 200 cookies for two catering jobs. On Wednesday, I was also going out with a new guy. My initial thought was to grab a few cookies, pop them in a decorative bag tied with raffia and give them to him as a little gift. Why not? Baking is what I do and I was already in it for over 16 dozen. What’s a few more cookies? Yet dating caution overrode these initial innocuous intentions. How would he interpret the gesture? Would he think I spent all day baking exclusively for HIM? Would I be accused of moving too quickly? I could hear him tell a friend:
“Shit, dude, it was our second date and she was already baking me cookies! Psycho!”
So, I decided against the cookies. I’ll save my talents for now. If we manage to survive a few more dates, then maybe I’ll break out my baking prowess.
This is my favorite cookie dough when faced with a large baking project. The dough can be shaped and flavored in myriad ways limited only by imagination.
Preheat oven to 350⁰ F. Cream butter and sugars in a stand mixture until light and fluffy. Slowly add beaten egg and vanilla until incorporated. Add salt to flour and gently stir in. Don’t overmix. Your dough is ready to use!
To make Cherry Streusel Triangles: Cover 9×9” pan with aluminum foil, leaving an overhang. Butter foil well. Press 9 oz. of Basic Butter cookie dough into pan. Deck dough with fork and bake for about 15 minutes until just beginning to brown. Cool for about 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile, mix cherry jam with zest and set aside. Mix an additional 2 oz. of Basic Butter Cookie dough with 3 Tablespoons brown sugar, 1 Tablespoon flour and ¾ teaspoon cinnamon.
Spread jam evenly over baked dough, leaving a ¼” rim and sprinkle with streusel. Bake until cherry filling is bubbly, 20-25 minutes. Cool cookies completely. Cut in 16 squares, cut each square in two triangles. Mix powdered sugar with enough water to make a glaze. Drizzle glaze over cookies. Makes 32 cookies.
Are you a Chocoholic – a craver of all things chocolate? Come into my lair, darling…my aspiration for this recipe is your personal entrapment. If my baking raison d’être is luring you into my den of culinary debauchery, guaranteeing your enslavement, what would your cocoa kryptonite look like? My money is on these – thick layers of creamy bittersweet ganache sandwiched between soft jumbo double-chocolate cookies.
In fact, I may have overdone it – a pinch too much. Neither my 14-year old niece, my sister-in-law, nor I could eat an entire cookie. One of these cookies wouldn’t just enslave you, it would incapacitate you. I recommend you go with the standard size option listed below.
P.S. After naming these, I discovered that “Motherload Cookies” is also the name of a strain of marijuana. Rather than change the name, I decided to keep it – you’ll need to be stoned to eat an entire jumbo size cookie.
The “jumbo” cookies are too much, even for those addicted to chocolate. I recommend the standard size if you want to remain upright after eating one. This recipe was adapted from The Sugar Cube bakery’s Triple-Threat Chocolate Cookies.
32 oz. bittersweet chocolate chips, divided (YIKES!)
½ cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon instant espresso powder
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 Tablespoons flour
¾ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped toasted walnuts
1 ½ cups heavy whipping cream
Place 12 oz. chocolate chips and butter in a microwave safe bowl and microwave, stirring every 30 seconds, until completely melted (about 90 seconds). Set aside to cool slightly.
In a small bowl, whisk together eggs, sugar, espresso powder, and vanilla. In another small bowl, stir together flour, baking powder and salt. Stir egg mixture into melted chocolate until fully incorporated. Then add flour mixture, stirring until combined. Stir in 8 oz. of chocolate chips and toasted walnuts. Cover and refrigerate until firm, about 60 minutes.
Make ganache by placing the remaining 12 oz. of chocolate chips and heavy whipping cream in a microwave safe bowl and microwave, stirring every 30 seconds, until completely melted (60-90 seconds). Cover and refrigerate until spreadable consistency, about 90 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets will Silicone or parchment paper. Scoop dough onto sheets, placed about 1” apart (2 Tablespoons dough for jumbo, 1 Tablespoon for standard size cookies). With the bottom of a glass or similar, press dough to flatten into even ½” thick rounds. Bake until cookies no longer look wet, but they are still soft ( about 12 minutes for jumbo and 10 minutes for standard size). Cool cookies on sheets then transfer to racks.
Generously spread flat side of half the cookies with ganache and top with remaining cookies. Cookies filled with ganache will keep, covered, at room temperature for two days. More than two days, store filled cookies in refrigerator, bring to room temperature before eating. Pour yourself a tall glass of ice-cold milk and enjoy.
This recipe is the inevitable and tasty Venn diagram ensuing from 1) a recent purchase of an entire pound of Thai tea leaves with 2) my continual gelato flavor experimentation – a result of a previous 2013 trip to Italy to indulgently attend Gelato School.
Heat milk to 104 degrees. Remove from heat, add Thai tea mix, stir, cover and let steep for 1 to 1 ½ hours. Strain tea leaves, pressing to extract as much flavor as possible. Re-warm milk mixture. At 104 degrees, add sugar, corn syrup and salt. Continue heating and stirring milk mixture. At 144 degrees, add powdered milk mixed well with guar gum and carob. Heat milk to 194 degrees to pasteurize and immediately remove from heat.
Cool milk mixture in ice bath, adding cream and vanilla extract when mixture’s temperature is reduced to 144 degrees. Emulsify with a stick blender. When mixture has cooled to room temperature, pour through a sieve and refrigerate overnight.
Make gelato in ice cream maker and process according to manufacturer’s directions. Savor the flavor of Thai iced tea in creamy gelato form.
I have a confession. I’ve never baked a strawberry rhubarb pie. Are you surprised? And if I’m being completely honest, until today, I’d never eaten one either. That’s a shame, I know now, since the strawberries’ sweetness marries quite perfectly with the tart rhubarb – and you can’t go wrong wrapping it all up in a flaky pastry crust (she says as she polishes off her second slice). I didn’t know. I blame this whole rhubarb ignorance tragedy on growing up in Southern California. Rhubarb needs a cold climate to grow, something not in abundance in the sunny state. Rhubarb pie isn’t that common here. Deep fried avocado on a stick? You bet! Rhubarb? Perhaps not. I also blame mom – I don’t think she was a fan of rhubarb, so it never graced our table.
My friend, Ben, recently declared it his favorite pie and asked me to make one a few months back. Frankly, I was a little daunted to work with rhubarb; hearing parts of it were poisonous. It’s actually quite straightforward – wash it, cut off the leaves (the poisonous part), trim the top and the bottom of the stalk to remove any dried, soggy or damaged bits and finally, on any larger stalks, remove any fibrous ribs with a paring knife (just like celery!).
Strawberries and Rhubarb – truly a quintessential combo. This first pie iteration was mine for testing, but needs no alterations. The next one is Ben’s.
This crust is adapted from The Pioneer Woman and makes three thin crusts or two crusts with plenty of leftover dough for decorations (or a second crumb-topped pie).
½ cup unsalted butter
1 cup Crisco
1 Egg, beaten
5 Tablespoons cold water
1 Tablespoon white vinegar
3 cups All-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 ½ lbs. rhubarb, trimmed and cut into ½ inch thick slices (about 3 ½ cups)
1 lbs. fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced (about 3 ½ cups)
½ cup sugar
¼ cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon lemon zest
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup quick-cooking tapioca
¼ cup panko crumbs
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 teaspoon water
2 Tablespoons turbinado sugar (raw sugar) or white sugar
Chill butter and Crisco until very cold by placing both in the freezer for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, combine egg, water, and vinegar in a small bowl and set aside. Place flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Add butter and Crisco to flour and pulse on/off until mixture resembles course meal (you can also combine the flour and fats using a pastry blender if you don’t want to drag out your processor – more effort, less clean-up). Scrape mixture into a large bowl, add egg mixture, and stir until combined. Don’t overwork dough.
Separate the dough into thirds (If you prefer a more substantial crust, separate in half) and roll into balls. Wrap each ball in plastic wrap and freeze for about 15 to 20 minutes to chill. (If you will be storing the dough in the freezer for a longer period, form dough into a disk and seal in a Ziplock bag. Thaw 15 minutes before using).
Meanwhile, make the filling. In a large bowl, combine rhubarb and strawberries and set aside. In a smaller bowl, combine sugars, zest, salt and tapioca. Set aside. (I keep sugar and fruit separate until the last minute to reduce the amount of accumulated juices)
Preheat the oven to 400⁰. In between two sheets of waxed paper, roll out the bottom crust, starting at the center and working your way out into a 11” – 12” circle. Once the dough is the correct size, peel off the top layer of waxed paper and, using the bottom sheet, transfer the dough to a 9” pie pan. Flip the dough over, peel off the bottom sheet, and gently press the dough into the pan. Go around the pie pan tucking the dough to make a clean edge. Freeze until second crust is rolled out. Roll out the second crust into a 12” circle between two sheets of waxed paper and transfer to freezer until ready to use.
Remove the bottom crust from the freezer. Sprinkle with panko crumbs (this helps avoid a soggy bottom crust). Combine reserved sugar/tapioca mixture with fruit, stir well, and mound filling inside bottom pie crust. Dot filling with bits of unsalted butter. Remove top crust from freezer. Peel off top sheet of waxed paper, flip crust on top of filling, and trim top pie dough so that overhang beyond the pie plate lip is only about 1/2-inch. Tuck rim of dough underneath itself and crimp decoratively. Cut a few decorative vents on top of pie. Transfer pie to a baking sheet and brush egg yolk mixture over dough and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 20 minutes then reduce temperature to 350⁰ and bake for an additional 30 – 35 minutes, until the pie is golden and the juices bubble visibly. Transfer pie to wire rack to cool. While warm pie is heaven, it’s important to let the pie fully cool giving the tapioca time to do its work or you’ll have a flash flood of filling. When fully cool, the juices gel.
It’s big. It’s frighteningly big – delivered on Monday by two terrifyingly loud men driving an enormous truck with the words “Sears” written on the outside. “Sears” must be another name for “Pit of Hell” because surely that’s where they came from. I shot under the bed as soon as they rumbled into the driveway, barely escaping with my life. They put that thing – that stacked, humongously large, mechanical thing, in the place my human mysteriously calls the “laundry room,” but has always been known to me as my dining room and bathroom. And now it’s the lair of that grotesque, murderous thing. I will not…I cannot…be in the same room with it. I am quite sure it would swallow me whole should I step within 10 feet of it – a little feline amuse bouche. After it arrived, I didn’t eat or pee for two days, fearing my demise, should I get too close. My human, anxious for my bladder’s capacity, finally moved my bathroom outside of that hideous thing’s striking distance, and not a moment too soon – I was pacing and loudly professing my need to relieve myself, like a pathetic dog at the back door. It’s humiliating to act like that, but necessary when your life’s genuinely at stake. She wasn’t so quick to move my meals to a new location. She thought she’d wear me down. Once I smelled chicken and gravy breakfast emanating from that hellacious pit, she believed I would venture forth, but I did not succumb. One glance at that looming thing and I’d dash to safety. My fear was stronger than her resolve and she finally moved my bowl from the view of that monstrous thing, concerned I’d collapse from my hunger strike. It’s been seven days now and I’ve gotten no closer to its den. My human has tried enticing me with my favorite treats scattered at the mouth of its lair, but I will not budge. I see through her ruse – while I’m innocently nibbling away at my “treaties,” that gruesome thing gobbles me up in its maw. Why my human wants me dead I can’t comprehend – I thought she loved me…she tells me so, anyway. I obviously can’t trust her – or that humongous thing. The world is a very scary place and I must be vigilantly cautious – or face an untimely death. For now, that monster hasn’t stirred from its lair and I feel safe here napping on the couch. I’m lucky to still be alive.
Rather than the traditional fruit compote spooned over pound cake, this recipe calls for spooning the pound cake on the fruit and baking both for a comforting treat.
2 cup mixed berries (fresh or frozen, thawed)
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
4 Tablespoons sugar, divided
⅛ teaspoon salt
⅛ teaspoon almond extract
¼ cup flour
2 Tablespoons sliced almonds
Preheat oven to 350⁰. Scatter berries in a small 4-cup baking dish. In a medium bowl, beat together butter and 3 Tablespoons sugar until light an fluffy. Beat in egg, salt and almond extract. Fold in flour.
Dollop batter over top of berries. Sprinkle with remaining 1 Tablespoon sugar and sliced almonds. Bake for 30 minutes or until top is golden. Let cool 10 minutes. Serve warm, plain or with sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.