We've got a problem in the Starbott household: a seriously unsustainable chocolate chip cookie habit. Ever the attentive wife, I frequently check in with R. to see what he's craving or interested in tasting. Lately, it's just chocolate chip cookies. No matter what I suggest and how many different options I propose, the response is an upturned nose. I've taken to mixing up a smallish batch of batter every week or two and then baking off a few cookies each evening for immediate consumption or next day's lunch.
All good so far, right? What's wrong with fresh chocolate chip cookies on demand? Well some of us *ahem* have baking blogs that require regular updating with new recipes (not the same old chocolate chip cookie recipe again and again, however delectable).
This week, when I got the call for chocolate chip cookies, I simply smiled, accepted my fate and retreated to the kitchen laboratory. Several recipes*, one hearty muhahaha and a fistful of toasted coconut later, I ended up with this coconut variation. They're crispy on the outside and gooey on the inside like the original, but the toasted coconut adds a certain je ne sais quoi. I think it's chew.
If I had known this first taste would be my last, I may have savoured them just a little bit more. I have no recollection of the final mix of ingredients, you see. My trusty notepad was just out of reach during experimentation and, afterwards, I was convinced my non-existent photographic memory would carry me through to the blog post. Alas, a one hit wonder is all these Toasted Coconut Chocolate Chunk Cookies were meant to be.
* Basically I opened up all of my cookbooks to their chocolate chip cookie recipe and did an unscientific eyeball comparison. It's amazing how nearly identical ingredients can be combined to produce such wide-ranging results. Tiny differences in the relative quantities of ingredients, the type(s) of sugar used and the method of preparation have far-reaching consequences for the finished cookie. From thin and crispy to thick and cakey, and everything in between.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Monday, March 23, 2009
Straight from the tin...
Look familiar? Readers in the Pacific Northwest may have come across boxes of Lesley Stowe's Raincoast Crisps in the aisles of their local grocer. Word on the street is that they've been spotted as far east as NYC, but maybe that's just internet hearsay. As I suspected, these crunchy nibbles are nothing more than biscotti masquerading as crackers. If you haven't tried the original, I'd encourage you to skip right to the knock-off version and save yourself the $9+/box.
I've replicated the rosemary raisin pecan crisps here, but let your imagination (or Lesley Stowe's!) guide you.
Rosemary Raisin Pecan Crisps
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup roasted pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup ground flaxseed
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly grease 2 loaf pans.
In a large bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda and salt. Add the buttermilk, brown sugar and honey and stir a few strokes. Add the raisins, pecans, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, flaxseed and rosemary and stir just until blended.
Distribute the batter evenly between the 2 prepared loaf pans. Bake until golden and springy to the touch (about 45 minutes). Remove from the pans and cool completely on a wire rack.
Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Slice the loaves into thin, even slices. (I found it easiest to flash freeze the loaves for a few hours before slicing.) Place the slices in a single layer on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for about 15 minutes. Flip once and bake for another 10 minutes, until crisp and deep golden.
Yields about 8 dozen crisps (depending on your cutting abilities)!
Notes: Best stored in a tin at room temperature. Once-baked loaves can be wrapped in plastic and tinfoil and frozen for several months. When you're ready for your next batch of crisps, there's no need to thaw. Simply slice the frozen loaf and allow a few extra minutes in the oven.
Source: A recipe making the rounds in Vancouver, Canada.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Moving requires packing, which involves sorting, which inevitably leads to purging. I think it's the only time in your life when it really makes sense to pull everything from its place and take a long, hard look at it. Who wants to waste energy moving something you're never going to use?
Spring cleaning is all fine and well, but the process begins to lose its appeal after you've emptied the contents of the hall closet onto the living room and rooted around in it for a few hours. When you've just moved into a new place, there's nowhere to sit, you've got nothing to eat and there's nothing to do but unpack all of those useful things you did end up bringing along. (Like those econometrics notes from grad school -- super important and consulted almost daily I swear.)
While taking stock of my ever-expanding cookie cutter collection, I discovered 2 things. First, I have an inordinate number of star cookie cutters (even for someone with a special connection to the icon). Second, I own a cookie cutter shaped liked a house of all things. I know, I can't figure it out either.
After some mid-packing pondering, I realized its boxy shape gives it quite an edge (no pun intended) over the others. Unlike my stumpless Christmas trees and headless men, these houses tend to stay intact on their way to the baking sheet.
Then it hit me.
Notes: I used this royal icing to (lazily) pipe the borders and a thinned version of the same icing in 2 colours for flooding.
Source: Dorie Greenspan's recipe for Grandma's All-Occasion Sugar Cookies, as posted by D. on her crafting co-blog, Kindred Crafters. Definitely one for the recipe file.
Sunday, March 08, 2009
It's been awhile. Too long.
See this flaky pastry? Well over a month old. Not that it's still around, mind you.
Nope, the baklava didn't last long. As the moving boxes bulged, so did our bellies. Before long, all of these tasty little triangles had disappeared and I was reduced to hiding among towers of neatly stacked boxes to scrape flecks of syrup-drenched phyllo from the pan. You think I'm kidding.
Yesiree, many things have changed since we moved, but a lot has stayed the same too. I'm still crumb hunting, for one, although I have since moved on to dulce de leche brownies and—as the boxes dwindle—find myself left with fewer and fewer places to conduct this clandestine activity.
I've still got a Frigidaire in my kitchen, but this one is 40 years newer (give or take a decade) and a whole lot sleeker. While I'm sorting outs its hot spots and finding new homes for all of my kitchen gadgets, why don't you get to chopping some nuts for your baklava?
By the time you're reduced to licking the pan of phyllo flakes and syrup drops, I should be back into the swing of things.
2 cups sugar
2/3 cup water
1 lemon, halved
1 orange, halved
1 1/2 (3-inch) cinnamon sticks
2/3 cup honey
3 1/4 cups whole almonds with skins, finely chopped
2 1/3 cups walnuts, finely chopped
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
28 sheets of phyllo dough, thawed
To prepare the syrup, combine the sugar and water in a medium saucepan. Add the lemon and orange juices, the fruit halves and the cinnamon sticks. Bring the mixture to a boil over moderate heat, uncovered. Stir occasionally until the sugar is dissolved, then simmer 10 minutes. Stir in the honey and return to a boil. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Strain the cooled mixture and discard the solids. Chill, uncovered, until cold (about 1 hour).
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Whisk together the almonds, walnuts, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt.
Generously brush a 9" x 13" glass baking dish with melted butter. Halve phyllo sheets crosswise, stack the sheets and keep them covered with a lightly dampened kitchen towel while you work Lay 2 sheets of phyllo in the bottom of the baking dish and brush the top sheet generously with butter. Continue layering sheets 2 at a time, staggering each set slightly to cover the bottom of the dish and brushing every second sheet generously with butter, until you have used 10 sheets of phyllo in total. After brushing the last layer with butter, spread a rounded 1 1/2 cups of nut mixture on top. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons butter.
Repeat the layering process 3 more times. Top with 10 more sheets of phyllo. (You will use 50 sheets of phyllo in total.) Butter the top and let the baklava stand at room temperature to set (about 10 to 15 minutes).
Using a sharp knife, cut the baklava into 16 equal rectangles. Cut each rectangle in half diagonally.
Bake until golden (about 50-60 minutes). Immediately move the pan to a cooling rack and, while still hot, slowly pour the cold syrup around the edges, in the cuts and over the top. Let stand at room temperature for at least 8 hours. Cover the baklava once it reaches room temperature.
Store baklava in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.
Source: Epicurious; originally published in Gourmet, June 2004.