chocolate dipped fruitcake cookies

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Is everybody ready for the holidays? It’s been a busy busy season already. So far, I’ve made gingerbread houses at two back-to-back gingerbread parties, and attended one of my favorite annual holiday soirees. As per usual, I’m running a little behind on getting my cards mailed, and I still haven’t figured out what I’ll be baking. I have a feeling things are going to start getting crazy around here in the next couple of days. But it wouldn’t be the holidays if I wasn’t baking and gift making up until the last possible moment. That’s just how I roll.

And it wouldn’t be the holidays without cookies. And this is definitely a holiday cookie.

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I know most people are unenthusiastic about fruitcake. And understandably so. Fruitcake has a bad rap. Growing up, my parents would receive fruitcakes as holiday gifts, which would go uneaten, and eventually get thrown away, year after year. There was just something kind of unappetizing about that brick of pastry dimpled with weird, artificially colored fruit. I couldn’t get into it.

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It wasn’t until my twenties that I came to appreciate fruitcake. One Christmas, my Auntie Pam gave my dad a tiny loaf of homemade fruitcake. And since my very talented auntie (who happens to be one of my personal foodie heroes) made this confection herself, I knew I had to at least have a nibble. The cake was chock full of really good quality dried fruits and nuts, and there wasn’t a bright green cherry in sight. It was superb. I slowly ate the entire loaf all by myself, and totally forgot to share with my dad.

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Though I’ve contemplated making my own fruitcake, I’ve yet to commit to such a project. From what I’ve gathered, it’s a labor intensive endeavor and requires ripening time, which means I would have to start a couple of weeks before Christmas. As you’ve probably figured out by now, I’m not the best at doing things and planning in advance. So when I landed on this recipe for fruitcake cookies, I felt like I had to make them.

chocolate dipped fruitcake cookies

This is a fantastic cookie. It’s a buttery cookie dough studded with dried figs, apricots, raisins, and pecans, so there are a variety of textures and flavors. And because it’s the holidays and I like things just a little on the decadent side, I thought a dip in some melted bittersweet chocolate , or even a drizzle, would make these extra special. Everything is better with chocolate, right?

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chocolate dipped fruitcake cookies

adapted just barely from the barefoot contessa

makes about 5 dozen cookies

1/2 pound dried figs

1/4 pound raisins

2 ounces candied cherries, coarsely chopped

2 ounces dried apricots, coarsely chopped

1 tablespoon honey

2 tablespoons dry sherry

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

6 ounces chopped pecans

kosher salt

1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 cup superfine sugar

1/3 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed

1 extra-large egg

2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour

12 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped

Snip off the hard stems of the figs with scissors or a small knife and coarsely chop the figs. In a medium bowl, combine the figs, raisins, cherries, apricots, honey, sherry, lemon juice, pecans, and a pinch of salt. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to sit overnight at room temperature.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, cloves, superfine sugar, and brown sugar on medium speed until smooth, about 3 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, add the egg and mix until incorporated. With the mixer still on low, slowly add the flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt just until combined. Don’t over mix! Add the fruits and nuts, including any liquid in the bowl.

Divide the dough in half and place each half on the long edge of a 12 by 18-inch piece of parchment or waxed paper. Roll each half into a log, 1 1/2 to 1 3/4-inch thick, making an 18-inch-long roll. Refrigerate the dough for several hours, or until firm.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

With a small, sharp knife, cut the logs into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Place the slices 1/2-inch apart on parchment-lined sheet pans and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until lightly golden. Cool for 5 minutes on cookie sheets, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

To temper the chocolate for dipping, bring 1 inch of water to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Reduce the heat to very low. Place 8 ounces of the chocolate in a wide, heatproof bowl. Transfer the bowl to the saucepan, being sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. Let stand, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate reaches 110° to 112°F on a thermometer. Remove the bowl from the heat and place on a kitchen towel. Add the remaining 4 ounces of chocolate and stir until melted. Let stand, stirring every minute or so, until the chocolate reaches 88°F.

Line a sheet pan with fresh parchment paper. One at a time, dip a cookie in the melted chocolate, letting the chocolate come about half way up the sides of the cookie. Give the cookie a gentle shake to remove the excess chocolate, then carefully place the cookie on the pan. Push each cookie with your finger to move it about 1/8 inch from its position on the pan to dislodge and remove the “foot” the chocolate has formed. Let the cookies stand until the chocolate sets.

If you prefer a less chocolatey cookie, you can drizzle each cookie with melted chocolate rather than dipping.

chocolate fruitcake cookies

buttered popcorn butterscotch cookies

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Let’s all just stop for a moment and take a deep breath. Now exhale. Maybe I speak just for myself, but I’m pretty sure everybody needed that.

Now we can talk about cookies. We like cookies around here. But they don’t happen very often. Luckily for us, my friend Marilen coordinates a quarterly cookie swap with a handful of the girls in the office. And so this week we have cookies.

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Because it’s so close to Halloween, I wanted to do a really fun, lighthearted cookie. Yes, I did just say that. Let me explain. I feel like there is a cookie fit for every occasion. In my mind, anything with dark chocolate or really good cocoa powder is more suitable for a grown-up gathering, rather than a bunch of kiddos. And macarons are perfect for something fancy, like a tea party or a bridal shower. And a good ole chocolate chip cookie is the right cookie for anyone that needs some comforting. I really spend a lot of time thinking about this kind of stuff. What can I say? This is straight from the mind of a crazy person.

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Anyway, I remembered a buttered popcorn cookie I had seen while flipping through The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook a few weeks back and I knew I was onto something. But I felt like it needed a little something to really make it pop. At first I thought bittersweet chocolate. Then white chocolate crossed my mind for a split second, though I’m not such a fan of white chocolate. And then it occurred to me – buttered popcorn + butterscotch chips = fun and delish (fundelicious!). I was certain I had found the winning combination.

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You guys, this is a really good cookie. It’s the first popcorn cookie I’ve ever had – popcorn in a cookie is mind blowing stuff. These cookies are strangely addictive. Some pieces of popcorn are crisp while others get a little soft, but in a good way. Kind of like those slightly stale bricks of Wright’s Pink Popcorn that I absolutely adore. Buttered popcorn, combined with sweet butterscotch chips in a buttery cookie dough; I don’t know how to describe it other than it’s like sweet, magical buttery butteriness. And there you go.

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buttered popcorn butterscotch cookies 

adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman

makes 24 cookies

2 tablespoons vegetable oil 

1/4 cup popcorn kernels 

1/4 kosher teaspoon salt 

1 tablespoon butter, melted 

1/2 cup butter, softened 

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar 

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg 

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 

1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour 

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt 

1/2 cup butterscotch chips

*alternately, you can substitute the first 4 ingredients with 4-1/2 cups popped microwave popcorn 

Pour the oil over the bottom of a large saucepan that had a lid. Add the popcorn kernels, shaking the pan around so the kernels arein one layer. Cover the pot and heat it over medium-high heat. Once the kernels start to  pop, keep the sauce pan moving until all the kernels have popped and you no longer hear popping, about 5 to 7 minutes total. Pour the melted butter and 1/4 teaspoon salt over the popcorn and toss. Transfer the popcorn to a bowl and remove any unpopped kernels. You should have 4 to 4-1/2 cups popcorn. Let cool.

Preheat your oven to 350F. In a large bowl, cream together the softened butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, egg,  and vanilla until smooth. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Stir the dry ingredients into the butter mixture. Fold the butterscotch chips and popcorn into the batter until it is evenly distributed throughout. Don’t worry if the popcorn breaks up a bit.

Scoop heaping tablespoons of dough onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, leaving 2 inches between each cookie. Bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes, until the edges are light brown. Let them sit on the hot baking sheet for a few minutes to firm up before transferring them to a rack to cool.

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pretzel toffee with chocolate and almonds

pretzel toffee with chocolate and almonds

I’m sorry. I know you’ve probably reached your threshold for holiday sweets at this point. But I feel like I would be doing you a huge disservice if I didn’t share this with you.

pretzels

You might already be familiar with cracker toffee. I’ve been making it every year since I first encountered it here. Crackers (saltines or matzo), swimming in brown sugar toffee and topped with dark chocolate, toasted almonds, and sea salt – it is dangerously addictive. I make at least one batch of cracker toffee every holiday season because people love the stuff. It’s the right thing to do.

chocolate and pretzels

I brought the matzo toffee to a Secret Santa party last week and the entire tin was empty by the end of the day, which is always the sign of a winning treat. Even though I’ve had it a million times, I had to try a piece (quality testing). As I munched, I started thinking about pretzels. I’ve had pretzels on the brain the past few months, and have been meaning to make a toffee covered pretzel of some sort. And then I realized that the matzo could very easily be swapped out for pretzels.

pretzel toffee with chocolate and almonds

So that’s exactly what I did a few days later. I picked up a bag of pretzel sticks and went to town. I decided that cellophane bags filled with hunks of pretzel toffee were going to be a nice little surprise for the peeps this year. I packed up most of it, but made sure to save a few pieces for myself. Salty, sweet, crunchy, nutty, chocolatey – all the bases are covered. Just do it.

pretzel toffee in bags

pretzel toffee with chocolate and almonds 

adapted from smitten kitchen

makes one 11×17-inch sheet of toffee

1/2 pound pretzel sticks 

1 cup (2 sticks or 8 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into a few large pieces

1 cup packed light brown sugar

a big pinch of sea salt

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 cups semi- or bittersweet chocolate chips (or a combination of both)

1 cup sliced almonds, toasted

extra sea salt for sprinkling (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line an 11-by-17-inch baking sheet completely with foil, and then line the base of the foil with parchment paper, cut to fit.

Line the bottom of the baking sheet with pretzel sticks, covering as much of the pan as possible.

In a medium heavy-duty saucepan, melt the butter and brown sugar together, and stir it over medium heat until it begins to boil. Once it has begun boiling, let it bubble for three more minutes, stirring it well. It will thicken a bit as it cooks. Remove from the heat and add the salt and vanilla, and then quickly pour it over the pretzels. You’ll want to spread it quickly, as it will begin to set as soon as it is poured.

Bake the caramel-covered pretzels for 15 minutes, watching carefully as it will bubble and the corners might darken too quickly and/or burn. You can reduce the heat if you see this happening.

Remove from oven and immediately cover with chocolate chips. Let stand five minutes, and then spread them evenly across the caramel. An offset spatula works great here. If you’re using them, sprinkle the chocolate with toasted almonds and/or sea salt.

Once completely cool, break it into pieces and store in an airtight container.

best of (a holiday round-up)

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Season’s Greetings! It’s really happening. Since I’ve adopted the tradition of giving mostly food gifts, my kitchen becomes a factory of sorts this time of year. While I really love to do a little bit of experimenting during the holidays, I have a few go-to treats that I can’t do without. Here are a few of my favorites. If you’re looking for some last minute gift ideas, this is for you.

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granola – I’ve heard that this granola has become somewhat legendary in certain circles. People tell me that it’s become their favorite and that they’ve passed the recipe on to others, which makes me incredibly happy. Granola is surprisingly easy to make and totally customizable – add whatever seeds or nuts or dried fruit you like. I love this granola mixed in with a big dollop of plain Greek yogurt. And if you put it in a Mason jar and tie it with some pretty ribbon or fancy twine, you’ve got yourself the perfect gift.

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vanilla marshmallows – The first time I made these marshmallows, I was shocked by how insanely good a plain marshmallow could be. These are perfection. Pair them with a tin of hot cocoa, or some graham crackers and a bar of dark chocolate and you’re all set.

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fleur de sel caramels - I could not let a holiday season pass without whipping up at least one batch of these caramels. Rich, chewy caramels topped with a sprinkle of fleur de sel – need I say more? I know a handful of people who look forward to seeing these caramels every Christmas, and I can’t say that I blame them.

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quince jam - My obsession with quince is relentless. Every Christmas, I make some sort of quince treat; whether it’s membrillo or jam or jelly, I just love this stuff. Since quince pairs really nicely with cheese, I like to give jars of quince jam with a wedge of Manchego. It’s the perfect gift for the foodie(s) in your life.

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rugelach – Rugelach is one of my all-time favorites. These little crescent-shape pastries are one of those treats that really get me going, especially because they’re not super easy to come by in these parts. A tin of ruggies is such a treat. Your friends and family will be impressed.

I know we’re nearing the big day, but I might have one or two new goodies to share with you before then. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that I get everything done over here. In the meantime, I hope you’re getting all of your holiday shopping and/or treat-making taken care of and enjoying these days with loved ones. I’m hoping to sneak in a little down time – I’m so ready for some warm, spiced apple cider (with a nice big splash of bourbon). Happy Holidays, my dears!

 

black ‘n gold chocolate sables

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Hello, stranger! It’s been a mighty long time. I sort of checked out a few weeks ago and haven’t been able to get much done around here. I am still without a Christmas list because I’m having a serious aversion to shopping this year. And I’ve yet to mail a single holiday card. Uh-oh.

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The good news is I’m actually really enjoying this holiday season. I took part in my very first cookie swap earlier this month, which was super fun (and left me with a major sugar hangover). My vintage Christmas trees have gone up at home and at work, and my collection of little Christmas elves is on display. There’s also this playlist I created for Little Magazine. If you need some muzac to get yourself into the holiday spirit, this is for you. There’s also this gem from a few years back.

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You might’ve noticed this little guy in the green suit that makes his appearance every December. He’s my fave. Something about his expression reminds me of the Mona Lisa – a little mysterious, a little bit naughty. He loves delicious sweet treats, especially cookies.

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I made these chocolate sables for the cookie swap I mentioned earlier. These are Dorie Greenspan’s famous “world peace” cookies. They’ve been on my to-do list for a while. I had the most insane chocolate shortbread cookie at a party a few months back and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it, so I figured now was a good time to bust these out. I love chocolate sables because they’re so unassuming. But it only takes one bite to realize you’ve hit the cookie jackpot – buttery, crumbly, and oh-so-chocolatey. Because it’s the holidays (and because I love me some bling), I thought it would be fun to add a little gold sparkle to these. How could anyone possibly say no to a gold-encrusted cookie? ‘Tis the season…

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black ‘n gold chocolate sables

makes about 3 dozen cookies

adapted just slightly from Dorie Greenspan via The New York Times Style Magazine 

1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/3 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 stick plus 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

2/3 cup packed light brown sugar

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel or 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

5 ounces best-quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chip-size bits

1 egg yolk

gold sanding sugar

Sift the flour, cocoa and baking soda together. Put the butter in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat at medium speed until the butter is soft and creamy. Add the sugars, salt and vanilla extract and beat for another 1 or 2 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and add the sifted dry ingredients. Mix only until the dry ingredients are incorporated (the dough may look crumbly). For the best texture, work the dough as little as possible. Toss in the chocolate; mix to incorporate.

Turn the dough out onto a smooth work surface, divide in half and, working with one half at a time, shape the dough into a log that is 1 1/2 inches in diameter. (As you’re shaping the log, flatten it once or twice and roll it up from one long side to the other, to make certain you haven’t got an air channel.) Wrap the logs in plastic wrap and chill them for at least 1 hour. (Wrapped airtight, the logs can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for 1 month.)

Center a rack in the oven; preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Whisk egg yolk in a small bowl to loosen; lightly brush all over 1 log. Sprinkle with (or roll in) sanding sugar. Repeat with the second log.

Working with a sharp, thin-bladed knife, slice rounds 1/2-inch thick. (If the cookies break, squeeze the broken-off bit back onto the cookie.) Place the cookies on the parchment-lined sheets, leaving an inch of space between them. Bake only 1 sheet at a time and bake each sheet for 12 minutes. (The cookies will not look done nor will they be firm, but that is the way they should be.) Transfer the sheet to a cooling rack and let the cookies rest, on the sheet, until they are only just warm. Repeat with the second sheet of cookies.

elfie takes a cookie break

rosewater and raspberry macarons

rose and raspberry macarons

Homegirl is ready for a vacation. For real. Nothing sounds better right now than a cocktail at sunset on the beach overlooking the ocean. Memorial Day weekend cannot come soon enough.

pink meringue

It’s been a bit of a madhouse over here. Actually, it’s been more like a real live test kitchen. I spent last weekend trying out a few new cupcake recipes and new frostings. It was fun, but if I look at another cupcake, I think I might stomp a foot or throw myself on the kitchen floor. I need a break from the sweets.

macarons

But not until we discuss Swiss buttercream and macarons. There is something very rewarding about making a great batch of Swiss buttercream, which I think has to do with that moment of uncertainty in the process – why does this look curdled? how long do I need to beat this before it comes together? I’ve tried a couple of recipes over the years and have had success with all of them. So I thought I’d try something new, just for fun.

raspberry buttercream

There’s a reason why people say “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. The new recipe didn’t have the silkiness that you expect from a Swiss buttercream, it was more of a meringue. So I started adding butter. And adding butter. I added almost 5 additional sticks of butter to make it right. Which left me with a whole lot of buttercream since I was only frosting one 9-inch cake that day (which, too, was a disaster).

macaron

What do you do when you accidentally make enough Swiss buttercream to cover a wedding cake? It turns out that you can freeze it. You can also use it to fill macarons. And I love any excuse to make macarons.

A surplus of buttercream is also a good excuse to play with different flavors. On that particular day, I had raspberries on the brain and a little bit of extra raspberry jam on hand. I also had my eye on a bottle of rosewater that was kind of begging to go into the macaron batter. Roses and raspberries, kind of perfect together if you ask me.

rose and raspberry macarons

rosewater and raspberry macarons

from i ♥ macarons by Hisako Ogita

makes about 2 dozen macarons

for the macarons:

2/3 cup (3 ounces/85 grams) almond meal

1-1/2 cups (5.25 ounces/150 grams) powdered sugar (use powdered sugar that doesn’t contain cornstarch)

3 large egg whites, at room temperature

5 tablespoons (65 grams) granulated sugar

1/2  teaspoon rose water

pink food coloring (optional)

Cut a sheet of parchment paper to fit your baking sheet. Trace 1-inch circles on the paper, spacing them at least 1/2 inch apart. This will be your guide for piping your macarons. Place parchment on baking sheet (pencil/ink side face down). Set aside.

In a food processor, grind the almond meal and powdered sugar together to a fine powder. Sift the mixture through a medium-mesh sieve. Repeat. Set aside. Place the mixture in the refrigerator if it is warm in your work area.

In a stainless steel mixing bowl, beat egg whites on high speed until they are foamy. Gradually add the granulated sugar to the egg whites and continue to beat on high speed until they reach stiff, glossy peaks. Add the rosewater and food coloring and mix lightly.

Add half of the sifted flour mixture to the meringue. Stir with a large spatula,  scooping up from the bottom of the bowl. Add the rest of the flour and mix lightly in a circular motion.

When the flour is incorporated into the meringue, press and spread the batter against the sides of the bowl. Scoop the batter from the bottom and turn it upside down. Repeat this process about 15 times, but no more than 20 strokes. When the batter becomes nicely firm and drips slowly as you scoop it with a spatula, the mixture is ready.

Attach a 1 centimeter round pastry tip to a pastry bag and pour the batter into the bag. Squeeze the batter onto the center of the circles traced on the parchment-lined baking sheet. Make small circles as the batter tends to spread. Rap the baking sheet firmly against a table or counter top. This helps the macarons hold their rounded shape and helps the pied (little foot) to form.

Dry the batter at room temperature, uncovered, until a slight crust forms on the surface, about 30 minutes to one hour. When the batter no longer sticks to your finger when touched, the drying process is complete.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Position the rack  in the center of the oven. Stack the baking sheet with the batter onto an empty baking sheet and place in the oven. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through baking time. If the insides of the macarons are still soft after 15 minutes, lower the temperature to 300°F, cover the tray with aluminum foil, and bake for another 2 to 3 minutes. When the macarons are done, remove the baking sheet from the oven and cool on a wire rack. When the macarons are completely cooled, remove them from the baking sheet. Macarons can be kept in the refrigerator in a sealed container for about one week.

for the raspberry Swiss buttercream filling:

adapted from Baked Explorations by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito

5 large egg whites

1-1/2 cups sugar

2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes, cool but not cold

1/4 teaspoon salt

2-4 tablespoons raspberry jam

In the bowl of an electric mixer, whisk the egg whites and sugar together. Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water but do not let the water touch the bottom of the bowl. Heat the mixture until the sugar is completely dissolved and the color is a milky white, about 2 to 3 minutes.

With the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat on low then increase to  medium-high speed until smooth and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Remove the whisk attachment and replace with the paddle attachment. Add the cubed butter and beat on medium-high  speed until smooth and fluffy, about 5 minutes. If the butter looks like it’s breaking, keep beating until it comes together.

Add the salt and 2 tablespoons of raspberry jam and beat until completely incorporated. Taste buttercream and add more jam for a stronger raspberry flavor.

to assemble your macarons:

Pour the buttercream in a pastry bag fitted with a star tip. Pipe the filling on the flat side of the macaron puff. Cover the bottom puff with another puff, flat side facing in. Gently press the top puff into place.


rugelach

It’s about to be a factory of sweets up in this joint. I’m making my list and checking it twice. And I’m getting excited.

These rugelach are most definitely adding to the excitement. Whenever I go to New York, I make sure I get my fill of rugelach. And for whatever reason, I pretty much only eat them when I’m in New York. Until this past weekend.

The original plan was to make a chocolate babka. But I was reviewing recipes and they all involved several hours from start to finish, as most yeast doughs do. This usually is not a deterrent for me, but my hours are precious these days and I just couldn’t commit to such a lengthy project.

And then this rugelach recipe winked at me. And I just knew. I love it when a new recipe works out perfectly, no mishaps, no funny business.

If you’ve never had rugelach, you’re in for a treat. They’re sort of a cookie-pastry hybrid; tender, flaky cream cheese dough, filled with preserves and nuts and cinnamon-sugar and rolled into little cresents. As they bake, the sugar mixture melts into the preserves, which become a little bit sticky and caramelized and the dough puffs around it. And since they’re not terribly sweet, they are dangerously easy to eat.

rugelach

from Sarabeth’s Bakery: From My Hands to Yours by Sarabeth Levine

makes 36 cookies

16 tablespoons unsalted butter (2 sticks), room temperature, cut into 1/2-inch cubes 

8 ounces cream cheese, softened, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt

2-1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2 cup raspberry or apricot preserves, or a mixture of the two

1/4 cup (1 ounce) finely chopped walnuts

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1 tablespoon light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon Dutch-processed cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

confectioner’s sugar, for dusting

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and cream cheese on medium-high speed until evenly combined, stopping the mixer once or twice to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, about 2 minutes. Beat in 2 tablespoons of sugar, vanilla, and salt. Reduce the speed to low. Add 1-1/4 cups of the flour and mix just until incorporated, then repeat with the remaining 1 cup of flour. Do not overmix.

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Flour your hands and gently knead to be sure that the ingredients are evenly distributed, about 10 seconds. Divide the dough into thirds. Shape each portion into a 1-inch thick disk and wrap each in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until chilled and firm, about 2 hours.

To make the filling, combine the walnuts, 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, brown sugar, cocoa, and cinnamon in a small bowl; set aside.

Position the racks in the center and top third of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Line two half-sheet pans with parchment paper.

Working with one disk of dough at a time, unwrap and place on a lightly floured work surface. Sprinkle the top of the dough with flour, and roll out into a 13-inch-diameter circle. Using a small offset metal spatula, spread with about 2 tablespoons of the preserves, leaving a 2-inch diameter space in the center of the dough, and a 1-inch border around the edge. Sprinkle the jam with about 2 tablespoons of the sugar mixture. Using a sharp pizza wheel or large knife, cut the dough into quarters, then cut each quarter into 3 wedges, to give a total of 12 wedges. One at a time, starting at the wide end, fold the corners in about 1/4-inch and then roll up. Do not roll the rugelach too tightly or the filling will ooze out. Wipe your fingers clean after rolling each rugelach to avoid getting jam on the outside of the cookies. Place each rugelach on the pans about 1-inch apart, with the point of each facing down. Curve the ends of the rugelach slightly toward the center to make a crescent. Repeat this process with the other two disks of dough.

Bake until lightly browned, about 30 minutes. Cool completely on the pans. The cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 5 days. Just before serving, sift with confectioners’ sugar.

peanut butter and jelly thumbprint cookies

And so it begins. ‘Tis the season for goodies. Are you ready?

I’ve been obsessed with Concord grape jam since I made my first batch last month. And I’ve been wanting to do something with it other than just smother it on top of peanut butter and saltines.

And then I figured it out – peanut butter and jelly thumbprint cookies. How could you not love the idea of peanut butter cookies with a well of your favorite jam in the center?

These are peanut butter and jelly love. And if you’re more of a peanut butter and chocolate person, you could swap out the jam for a little ganache or chocolate frosting. Santa will approve either way.

peanut butter and jelly thumbprint cookies

from Martha Stewart Living

makes about 40 cookies

1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup smooth peanut butter

4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

1/3 cup packed light-brown sugar

1/3 cup granulated sugar, plus more for rolling

1 large egg

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup jam (grape or seedless raspberry are favorites)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat peanut butter and butter on medium speed until smooth. Add sugars, and beat until pale and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla, and beat until incorporated. Reduce speed to low. Add dry ingredients, and mix until combined.

Using a small (1 tablespoon) ice cream scoop, scoop dough and form into balls. Roll each ball in granulated sugar, and transfer to parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing about 2 inches apart.

Bake until cookies are puffy, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven, and make indentations in centers by pressing with the handle end of a wooden spoon. Return to oven, and bake until edges are golden, 6 to 7 minutes more. Transfer sheets to wire racks, and let cool completely.

Heat jam in a small saucepan, stirring, until loosened, about 30 seconds. Spoon about 1/2 teaspoon into each indentation. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container in a single layer for up to 1 week.

iced oatmeal cookies

Let cookie season commence! Maybe you’re thinking it’s a little early to declare the beginning of cookie season. But before you know it, it will be Halloween which turns into November which turns into December and cookies will be flying in and out of your oven. So why not get a head start, a little pre-holiday warm up?

The truth of the matter is that I’m just excited about these cookies. And I need to share them with you. Right now. I’m not sure why I waited so long, but almost a year has passed since I flagged this recipe and I couldn’t be more happy about finally getting around to it.

In Good to the Grain, Kim Boyce describes these cookies as being reminiscent of Mother’s iced oatmeal cookies. She couldn’t be more dead-on. When I was growing up, my maternal grandmother always kept a package Mother’s cookies on her kitchen table. I never realized until just a few years ago that Mother’s Cookies were a West Coast thing. Being that their factory was in Oakland, they were in just about every grocery store in the Bay Area during my childhood. The iced oatmeal were my favorite (I also loved the pink and white, sprinkle covered Circus Animal cookies). Dunked in a cold glass of milk, the crisp cookie would soften slightly and melt in your mouth on contact. It was the best after school treat.

These are the closest I’ve come to a homemade version of the Mother’s classic. It’s a crunchy cookie, not wafer thin, but not as bulky as your typical oatmeal cookie, with a hardened drizzle of sugary icing on top. They have a nice amount of spice from cinnamon and nutmeg. And they’re just a bit buttery, which might make them even better than the original.

iced oatmeal cookies

adapted from Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce

makes 16-20 cookies

dry mix:

2 cups rolled oats

2 cups multigrain flour mix (see below for recipe)

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 cup dark brown sugar

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

wet mix:

8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

2 eggs

frosting:

2-1/4 cups powdered sugar

5 to 6 tablespoons whole milk

1 tablespoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

multigrain flour:

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup oat flour

1/2 cup barley flour

1/4 cup millet flour

1/4 cup rye flour

For the multigrain flour, measure all the flours into a bowl and whisk together.

Place two racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 350F. Grease two baking sheets with butter or line with parchment paper.

In a food processor, grind the oats to a coarse meal that still has a few large flakes, about 10 seconds.

Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl, pouring any remaining bits left in the sifter into the bowl. Add the ground oats to the dry ingredients. In a small bowl, whisk the butter and eggs until thoroughly combined. Using a spatula, add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and combine.

If you want thin cookies, bake the dough just after you mix it. For a thicker, chewier cookie, chill the dough for at least an hour.

For large cookies, scoop balls of dough about 3 tablespoons in size onto the cookie sheets, leaving 3 inches between them, or 6 per sheet – the cookies will spread quite a bit, so do not put them too close together. (If you prefer a medium size cookie, an extra heaping tablespoon of dough should do the trick.)

Bake for 16-20 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through. The cookies are ready when they are evenly brown across the top. Cool the cookies on a rack while you bake the rest of the dough and make the frosting.

For the frosting, whisk together the powdered sugar, milk, cinnamon, and salt until smooth  and about the consistency of honey. If the frosting is too thick, add a bit more milk. If it’s too thin, add more powdered sugar.

Decorate the cooled cookies on a rack or a sheet of parchment. Drizzle the icing over the cookies one at a time, making irregular lattice designs over the entire tops of the cookies. Let the frosting set for 30 minutes before eating. Cookies are best eaten the day they’re made. They will keep in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

coconut macaroons

Here’s something you figure out by the time you reach your late twenties: baby mamas = baby showers. When you approach your thirties, people start having babies. All at once. Including your besties.

With the efforts of four talented ladies and some awesome caterers, we threw an amazing shower on a gorgeous August Sunday.

Mrs. Baby Mama isn’t so much into babies or showers, so the focus was most definitely the food. The s+s gastro grub team prepared a menu for us that went something like this:

waffle beef dogs with maple syrup – a fun take on the classic corndog. like a pig-in-a-blanket on a stick.

crispy pork belly with 63 degree egg and kimchee puree – the slow-cooked egg is slightly custardy and super tasty when mixed with the kimchee puree, which becomes a dip for the crispy pork. 

beet, compressed watermelon, and heirloom tomato salad – perfectly dressed, super refreshing, best of  summer on a plate. 

seared tri tip with chimichurri and  grilled corn on the cob – ladies who love meat are we, especially paired with the bright flavors of the chimichurri. 

And then there was dessert.

Sometimes I impress even myself. I managed to crank out two types of vegan cupcakes – red velvet and banana chocolate, raspberry pavlovas, and chocolate-dipped coconut macaroons, made special for the Mama-to-be, who has been on a serious macaroon kick.

I couldn’t have asked for a better coconut macaroon, especially considering that my first attempt was disastrous and had to be thrown away. Of all the desserts, they were definitely the highlight for me. We’re talking crispy toasted coconut on the outside, tender and chewy coconut in the middle, dipped and drizzled with rich bittersweet chocolate – perfection. For a simple cookie, it hit all of the marks. I wonder if one day the little boo, who is due two days after my birthday, will enjoy these macaroons as much as her mama and I.

coconut macaroons

adapted from Baking at Home with The Culinary Institute of America

makes 20 medium sized macaroons

1 cup granulated sugar, divided

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

3-1/2 cups shredded unsweetened coconut

6 large egg whites

1/4 teaspoon orange zest

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 pound bittersweet chocolate, chopped

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.

Combine 1/3 cup of sugar with the flour and set aside.

Combine the remaining 2/3 cup sugar, coconut, and egg whites in a heat-proof bowl. Place over a pan of simmering water, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens and holds together, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat. Fold in the flour mixture, orange zest, and vanilla extract.

Using a small ice cream scoop with a release mechanism, drop spoonfuls of batter onto the prepared cookie sheets, spacing them 2 inches apart.

In batches, bake until the macaroons are light golden brown on the outside but still soft enough to give slightly when pressed lightly with your fingertip, 20-25 minutes. Transfer the macaroons still on the parchment paper to a wire rack to cool completely.

Line the cookie sheets with clean parchment paper and set aside.

Once the macaroons are cool, place 2/3 of the chopped chocolate in a heat-proof bowl. Place over a pan of simmering water and stir often, making sure not to let any steam or moisture come in contact with the chocolate. Continue until chocolate is completely melted and has reached a temperature of 110-120°F. Remove from heat and add the reserved chocolate and stir until it cools to 90°F.

Carefully lift the macaroons from the parchment paper one at a time and carefully dip the bottom of each macaroon in the melted chocolate, letting excess chocolate drip back into the bowl. Place on the prepared cookie sheet. When all macaroons have been dipped, dip a fork in the melted chocolate and drizzle chocolate over the macaroons in a thin stream, using a back and forth motion. Let chocolate harden completely before transferring macaroons to an airtight container.