Tag Archives: Baking

Going Nuts for Mokonuts’ Cookies

My friend T turned me on to this Paris bakery via a New York Times recipe, which Dorie Greenspan adapted from their unusual rye-cranberry-chocolate chunk cookie.

I made these yesterday and agree with the raves. T wrote about them this morning in her entertaining blog and I couldn’t wait to share the recipe with you. My only caveat is that the directions say that the dough makes 15 cookies, which seemed enormous. So I made 18 (roughly 2.5″ diameter) instead, and next time might go even smaller, perhaps 20 cookies, as they are quite hearty and filling. Enjoy, and let me know if you try them!

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You Say Biscuit, I Say Cookie, We All Say Yummy

IMG-0028This week, I was inspired to bake up some digestive biscuits – probably because I’d been watching “Victoria” on TV. They turned out beautifully and I became curious about their origins.

The first digestive biscuit (“cookie” in American English) was the McVitie’s Digestive, created in 1892 by Alexander Grant, a young new company employee. The biscuit was given its name because it was thought that its high baking soda content served as an aid to food digestion.

I was skeptical – and wondering how many you’d have to eat to get any benefit – but according to LiveStrong.com, “ Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate*) helps to break down fatty substances and food particles, making them easier to digest and calming the turmoil in your stomach.”

In any case, digestives are a delicious, light cookie made with mostly whole-wheat flour for a nice fiber content. I wouldn’t call them health food but when your sweet tooth is calling they probably stack up pretty well compared with other cookies. (I’m talking to you, chocolate chips!)

It’s easy to make your own, and the butter tastes better than the palm oil in commercial products.

RECIPE (Adapted from King Arthur Flour)

Ingredients Click here for measurement by grams or ounces

  • 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • (my addition: a pinch of salt)
  • 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 cup cold milk

Instructions

  1.  Preheat your oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a couple of baking sheets, or line them with parchment paper.
  2. There are two options for blending ingredients: Hand method: Measure the flour and baking powder into a mixing bowl. Using a pastry blender, two knives, or your fingertips, rub the butter into the flour mixture. Add the sugar, (salt) and enough milk to make a stiff dough. Gently and briefly knead this mixture on a floured surface until smooth. Food Processor: Pulse the flour, (salt,) sugar, butter and baking powder in a food processor just long enough to create pea-sized bits of butter. Add milk and pulse briefly, just until mixture comes together. Be careful not to over blend.
  3. Roll out the dough to approximately 1/8″ thick, and cut into circles. Traditionally, the biscuits are about 2 1/2″ in diameter (a slightly smaller cookie cutter is the perfect size since they will not spread out much).
  4. Place the cutout cookies on the prepared baking sheets. Prick them all over with a fork, and bake until pale gold, about 15 minutes.
  5. Remove the cookies from the oven, and cool right in the pan. Store airtight at room temperature for up to a week or refrigerate if you like them extra crispy; freeze for longer storage.

YIELD: about 3 dozen cookies. Particularly delicious with a pot of freshly-brewed tea.

*In case you’re wondering: Baking soda has only one ingredient, sodium bicarbonate. Sodium bicarbonate is a base that reacts when it comes into contact with acids, like buttermilk, yogurt or vinegar. Baking powder also contains two acids.

Delicious Wishes for the Holidays

To celebrate this season of giving and sharing, I’m passing along an old favorite.  May your holiday and New Year be filled with health, happiness, good cheer and everything you find meaningful. xo, Alisa

Focaccia with olives and rosemary

Bon Appétit |  May 1995

This recipe was inspired by one from olive oil expert Lidia Colavita. You can make a meal around the bread by offering it as an accompaniment to bean soup.

Serves 8.

Ingredients

2 cups warm water (105°F; to 115°F;)
2 teaspoons dry yeast
4 1/2 cups (about) all purpose flour
2 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons olive oil
24 black or green brine-cured olives (such as Kalamata or Greek),
pitted, halved
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried

Preparation

Place 2 cups warm water in large bowl. Sprinkle dry yeast over; stir with fork. Let stand until yeast dissolves, about 10 minutes.Add 4 1/4 cups flour and salt to yeast mixture and stir to blend well (dough will be sticky). Knead dough on floured surface until smooth and elastic, adding more flour by tablespoonfuls if dough is sticky, about 10 minutes. Form dough into ball. Oil large bowl; add dough, turning to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in warm area until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours. Punch down dough; knead into ball and return to same bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in warm area until doubled, about 45 minutes or less

Coat 15×10-inch baking sheet with 1 tablespoon oil. Punch down dough. Transfer to prepared sheet. Using fingertips, press out dough to 13×10-inch rectangle. Let dough rest 10 minutes. Drizzle 2 tablespoons oil over dough. Sprinkle olives and chopped rosemary evenly over. Let dough rise uncovered in warm area until puffy, about 25 minutes.

Preheat oven to 475°F. Press fingertips all over dough, forming indentations. Bake bread until brown and crusty, about 20 minutes. Serve bread warm or at room temperature.

The Joys of Improv

Leftovers! Why does that word have such an unfortunate connotation — “sad”, “dreary”, “unwanted”? For example: Last to be chosen for softball (that would be me in 6th grade). Late to losing one’s virginity (also me… age 20). Third tier invitee to a wedding or party (not me I hope, although I’ve never found out if I was on the C list.)

But in fact you can make amazing things out of leftovers because they invoke your creativity. Only downside… you’ll never make that dish the same way twice.

I refuse to take credit when a recipe I’ve read in a book turns out ok. All I had to do was read and follow instructions. (On second thought, maybe credit IS due because I suck at following instructions; just ask my Long Suffering Husband.)

Still, isn’t it much more fun to wing it without a net and make something up? That’s what we’re faced with at this point in the season, when we’re close to shutting down the summer house and have to invent recipes based on what’s in the fridge/freezer that needs to be used because I have some weird Puritanical Streak or Jewish Guilt telling me it’s a SIN TO WASTE FOOD!!!!

Last night, the LSH combined basic rice with leftover salsa, leftover cheddar and mozzarella, turmeric, salt and pepper, paprika, chili powder and moribund sliced jalapenos to create Mexican rice. Probably not authentic, but definitely tasty and it hit all the points for Using Up Crap In the Fridge.

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Below is an adaptation of a favorite recipe, tweaked to use up various bits of excellent cheese that were malingering in the fridge. Feel free to substitute other nuts and adjust based on your own leftovers; there’s pretty much no wrong way to make this.

Cheesy Shortbread Leaves

Ingredients

  • 3.5 ounces crumbled cheese (about ½ cup), e.g. gruyère/cheddar/conté
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • ½ cup all purpose flour
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • ¼ teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh tarragon
  • 1/3 cup almonds, finely chopped

Preparation

  1. Blend cheese and butter in food processor until creamy.
  2. Add flour, cornstarch, mustard, tarragon, salt and pepper. Pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal.
  3. Add nuts and process just until it forms moist clumps.
  4. Gather dough into a ball. Flatten into a disk and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.
  5. Preheat oven to 325° F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  6. Roll out dough between sheets of plastic wrap to 1/8″-1/4” thickness. Remove the top sheet of plastic and using a 2” x 1” leaf-shaped cookie cutter, cut out leaves. Note: if you don’t have a cookie cutter, you can roll the dough into a log, chill until firm enough to cut but not super-cold, and then cut slices instead. Gather dough scraps and re-roll to make additional leaves.
  7. Transfer leaves to baking sheets and bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes.

Makes about 4 dozen, depending on thickness of dough and size of cookie cutter.

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“Got Your Goat” Quick Bread

“There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance” wrote Shakespeare in Hamlet.  Unfortunately I don’t remember where I first saw the original recipe and I’ve made a few changes to it along the way.

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Being blessed (or cursed, as the case may be) with abundantly-growing rosemary in our hot climate, I’m always looking for a new way to use it. This tangy, crunchy, slightly sweet loaf is super-easy to make. It’s also very versatile.  Substitute any of your favorite herbs or nuts, or add raisins, chopped figs or kalamata olives for a different flavor.

Savory Quick Bread

Ingredients:

  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup lowfat milk
  • 4 tablespoons softened butter (unsalted)
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary (or 1 teaspoon dried and crumbled)
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped pecans
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup all purpose unbleached white flour
  • 2 ounces goat cheese (very cold), cut or crumbled into small chunks

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Directions:

  • Heat the oven to 350℉.  Butter a 9″ loaf pan (or use Baker’s Joy spray).
  • Beat the egg in a medium bowl and whisk in the milk and butter. Don’t worry if you still have small lumps of butter after whisking.
  • In a large bowl, stir together baking powder, rosemary, lemon zest, pecans, salt and flours.
  • Add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients and stir everything together with a wooden spoon until barely combined.
  • Sprinkle goat cheese pieces over the batter and fold in gently with 2 or 3 strokes.
  • Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake about 50 minutes or until a tester or toothpick inserted in the middle of the bread comes out clean.

Yield: about 12 servings

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