Friday, December 23, 2011

Revisiting an old recipe

Rosemary, Pine nut, and Pumpkin Seed Shortbread Cookies

I've written about these cookies before.  In fact, the last time I wrote about them, it was also right before Christmas.  That fact is merely coincidental.  It's not that these are holiday cookies per se, but they are unique in their flavor and texture and I like making them because they are different and delicious.  I came back to this recipe -- making a few changes, of course -- because I had been on the search for the prefect recipe to send to B.

B. is the one who cooks for me.  He is the one who dances with me in the living room.  And he is currently living an ocean away from me.  As part of his Christmas gift, I decided to send him cookies.  This may sound like a simple decision, but in reality, it was one that I agonized over for weeks.  Yes, weeks.  I couldn't send mediocre cookies.  I couldn't send cookies that he'd already tasted before.  And I had to send cookies that would travel well, since even with fast shipping, it was likely to take about 5 days for them to get to him.  

These cookies were winners.

These Rosemary, Pine nut, and Pumpkin Seed Shortbread Cookies are both savory and sweet.  Browned butter and ground, toasted nuts and seeds make the cookies very fragrant.  The rosemary and vanilla add an earthy sweetness.  There is nothing like these cookies.  They are flavorful, incredibly easy to eat, and so different that no one who you serve this to will forget about them.  (It may help that rosemary aids with long-term memory).  And don't worry, despite all the savory sounding ingredients, these cookies can most definitely be served as a dessert item.  They are also great as a gift since they can be easily packaged and they keep for a good amount of time (as do most shortbread cookies, since they aren't particularly moist).

These cookies made it safely to B.'s doorstep last night and now that they have his stamp of approval (and his mother's!), I share the recipe with you.

Merry (early) Christmas!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Best Ginger Cookies you'll ever eat in your life

Really.  Stop your searching.  This is it.  These are the best ginger cookies you'll ever eat in your life.

They are spicy, intoxicating, slightly chewy cookies with crispy edges.  They smell delicious and they taste amazing.  They are so good I'm scrapping all the other recipes I've ever tried.  I've made these cookies four times in the past week.  I can't get enough of them.  I have no more left and just thinking about them makes me want to go whip up a batch right now at 3am and bake some just so I can eat some more.  Thank goodness it's the holidays so this kind of behavior isn't deemed too inappropriate.

These cookies are laced with ginger.  They have ground ginger, fresh ginger, and crystallized ginger.  I know most people don't keep the last ingredient in their kitchens commonly, but it is worth it to buy yourself some.  I bought mine on Amazon for a very reasonable price.  The crystallized ginger really adds great warmth to the flavor of the cookies and are an integral part of what makes the cookies spicy in a mellow, round way (not at all overwhelming).  The original recipe doesn't call for browned butter or cinnamon, but I love the depth of flavor the browned butter adds to the cookies and the fragrance and warmth that the cinnamon imparts.  They are perfect for the holidays.  They are just the kind of thing you want to share with family and friends, and they are delicious with a tall glass of milk.

I'm salivating just writing about these.  I think I'm going to have to make another batch.  I think you want to too.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Getting my sugar rush in New York City

I've lived almost all my life about 25 minutes away from DC.  I grew up thinking it was completely normal for an area to have a couple dozen free museums and hundreds of amazing restaurants.  It was so normal to me that I never really ventured much into the city.  Why bother?  It'd always be there when I wanted it.  Sure, when friends and family came to visit, I took them into the capital and showed them around, and sure, my family celebrated many, many birthdays eating out at various places like Central, CityZen, Vidalia, and Hook, but I was never a city girl.

Now, I live about 25 minutes (via train) from New York City.  And the city that never sleeps has somehow seduced me.  I used to get lost here all the time when I would come visit during college.  I would get frustrated by the complicated subway system (don't try to tell me it's simple when there's always rerouting due to construction!) and confused by words like "Midtown" and "borough."
But now I don't walk around staring at my smartphone for directions anymore, and I can actually kind of navigate the subway.  I have my places that I like to go to eat, and the other day someone actually asked me for directions (mistaken for a native, yes!).  Best of all, for the first time ever, I've experienced what Christmas looks like in the Big Apple.  The lights, the tree (frankly, it's a bit overrated), the window displays, the holiday market...

I love the holiday market.  After stumbling upon the one at Union Square the weekend before Thanksgiving, I've now been back three times.  I know there are other markets, but I just can't get enough of this one.  I love the artisan booths, the food stalls, and the farmer's market.  Most of all, I love Wafels and Dinges.  And yes, I did spell that right.
This food stall is also a food truck that you may have seen around the city if you're a native (which I clearly am not).  And they make the most amazing waffles I've ever tasted.  I don't even like waffles.  But these ones?  These ones I love.  As their menu will tell you, their liège wafel with spekuloos spread and whipped cream is the "legendary and glorious victor of the Battle with the Great Flay."  In other words, it won Throwdown with Bobby Flay.  And I can see why.  These chewy waffles are fragrant and fluffy with caramelized edges and they are delicious when eaten with spekuloos spread.  You really can't compare them to any other waffle you've tasted.  These are in a league of their own.

liège wafel with spekuloos spread and strawberries, from Wafels and Dinges

And if there's only one other place you have time to hit up before leaving the city?  I'd recommend the Doughnut Plant.  I've known about this place for years now, and it really is worth the hype.  The first I ever tried the doughnuts, I was visiting the city with my parents for my 17th birthday.  We bought a dozen doughnuts for the four of us, intending on bringing some home, but oh, how foolish we were.  We were completely unprepared for how good those doughnuts would be.  That box did not make it home intact.  Thankfully, I learned my lesson.  The place is still as good today as it was years ago when I first went, and now when I go here to get doughnuts for myself and two of my best friends, the order is for half a dozen doughnuts.  That's right.  Three girls, six doughnuts.  Best sugar high ever.

clockwise from top right: vanilla bean glaze with strawberry jelly, banana nut, blueberry,
peanut butter glaze with strawberry filling, Valrhona  chocolate, coconut cream
The yeasted doughnuts are my favorite, being so light and fluffy.  They have a great texture to them--just the right amount of bite and chew--and the flavors are fantastic.  My personal favorite is the take on a PB+J sandwich.  The yeast doughnuts are filled with fruit jam made from scratch and then they are topped with a delicious peanut butter glaze and peanuts.  Heavenly.  The coconut creme doughnut is also a revelation.  I wasn't so sure about ordering it the last time I went, but the guy behind the counter convinced me, and so I tried it and boy, am I glad I did.  The Doughnut Plant is great at getting flavors spot on.  None of that artificial stuff.  I'm not normally a coconut person because I don't like coconut flavoring, but real coconut is delicious.  And that's what I got from that doughnut.  Doughnut Plant does not disappoint.
Doughtnut Plant's peanut butter glazed, blackberry jam filled yeast doughnut.  Yum!

Doughnut Plant
379 Grand St (between Essex St & Norfolk St)
New York, NY 10002
Tel. 212-505-3700
open Tues-Sun 6:30 am till they sell out (normally around 5-6pm)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Two Types of Gingerbread Cookies

As I mentioned in my previous post, The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap has been bringing dozens of cookies to bloggers across the nation for the past couple weeks.  I thought about baking my popular oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, or maybe my caramel scented chocolate chip cookies, but I've already posted both of those recipes, and according to the rules, this recipe had to be an unposted one.  I also wanted the cookies to have a holiday feel to them, something to snack on with a cup of milk in hand, while wrapping presents (you know, if you're the type to wrap presents early).  So I went with a quick and easy gingerbread recipe that requires no wasted time rolling and cutting shapes.  In fact, if you don't want to, you don't even have to chill the dough.  It has just enough ginger to be lightly spicy, but is well balanced by cinnamon, all spice, and cloves, and gets just enough of a little kick from some black pepper.  The recipe for these gingerbread cookies makes about 40, which is just perfect, since one batch was enough to mail a dozen to three random food bloggers.  Olivia over at Love, Life, and Pictures was one of the recipients, and she took this gorgeous picture of the gingerbread cookies I sent her.

If you're looking for a more adult, more dark and spicy cookie, this second recipe is for a more mature crowd.  They are laced with real ginger and rum.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Food Blogger Cookies Swap

I've been blogging about food for a while now, but I've never really gotten involved in any major food blogger projects.  No Daring Baker, no Weekend Herb Blogging, no nothing.  But this year I stumbled upon The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap.  The idea behind this project was essentially a giant secret Santa but the only gift you could give/receive were cookies.  Sound like fun?  I think so.

Each participant was given the name of three other food bloggers and then the giver's job was to bake 3 dozen cookies and send a dozen to each receiver.  And in turn, the giver would later receive three different boxes of a dozen cookies each from other bloggers.  Now that the cookie swap part is done, on Monday, all the participants will be posting their cookie recipes on their blogs.

I received my first package on Monday, some caramel scotch bars from Table Talk and Walk.  Today I got two packages.  The first was some egg nog cookies — their flavor was spot on! — from West Coast Girl East Coast Life.  The second package contained some of the best cookies I've ever received: ginger snap cookies makes with three different kinds of ginger, made by Nora (I'm including her name, since there are two bloggers who post to that site).  With this cookie swap, I can say that there really is no better feeling in the world than receiving a package and knowing that there are baked goodies inside with your name written all over them.

In a few days I will post the recipe for the gingerbread cookies that I baked and sent out.  In the meantime, here are some enticing pictures.

Caramel-Scotch Bars
Eggnog cookies

Ginger snap cookies made with three kinds of ginger... yum!