Category Archives: Cookies

Bourbon Balls, Redux

Just made these again – a seriously adult version with Valrhona cocoa, toasted almonds, and Bulleit bourbon.  Welcome to 2011!

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Apricot Spice Bars

Well, looks like it’s another baking post. I’ve been meaning to work on some non-dessert courses soon, but when I’m stressed (as I am during finals), baking is just all I want to do. This particular recipe is another non-vintage one: it’s actually a modified Baked recipe, tweaked to accommodate the massive amounts of baharat I have hanging around.

My love for the Rosemary Apricot Squares from Baked is well documented, and I’ve been meaning to make them for a while. I’ve also been thinking about ways to change up the recipe flavors and use spices other than rosemary (if you want the classic rosemary version check out this great post). I remembered this afternoon that dried fruit (including apricots) are often featured in Middle Eastern cooking, so to celebrate finishing finals I decided to see how Baharat Apricot Bars worked out…Here they are!

And a close-up…

Apricot Spice Bars (Makes 9 large or 12 medium)**

For the shortbread base:
1 3/4 c. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
2 1/2 tsp. baharat or garam masala (or rosemary, in the original recipe)
12 tbsp. (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 c. confectioner’s sugar
3/4 tsp. vanilla (I used triple sec)

For the apricot filling:
2 c. dried apricots
1/2 c. sugar
3 tbsp. honey
2 tbsp. brandy (used triple sec here too)
Pinch salt

For crumb topping:
1/2 c. flour
1/2 c. packed dark brown sugar
1/3 c. sliced almonds (original recipe calls for chopped pecans)
3 tbsp. cold unsalted butter

1. Combine apricot ingredients in a pot with water (1 1/2 c. if your apricots are very dry, 3/4-1 c. if they’re the moister vacuum-packed kind) and simmer for 40-50 minutes, until liquid is evaporated or very syrupy.
(NOTE: Watch your apricots carefully in the last stages of cooking.  I wandered off in my post-final-exam daze and started watching a very mesmerizing episode of What Not To Wear, and my apricots got a little too syrupy: they started to get some serious caramelization going.  This tasted fine with the baharat, which is intensely flavorful, but would totally kill this recipe if you used rosemary.)
2. While the apricots are cooking, spray a 9-inch square baking pan with nonstick spray and line it with parchment paper.
3. Whisk flour, salt, and your spice of choice together in a medium bowl. In a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, blend butter, vanilla, and confectioner’s sugar until fluffy. Put the mixer on its lowest speed and add the flour mix in a gradual trickle.
4. Pat the resulting dough into the prepared pan. Place the pan in the fridge for at least 30 minutes and preheat the oven to 350 degrees in the meantime. Bake the crust 25 to 30 minutes, until golden, rotating the pan halfway through. Cool on a rack and leave the oven on.
5. The apricot syrup should be done by down; puree it until smooth and let cool.
6. Combine all the topping ingredients except the butter in the bowl of a mixer and blend for about 15 seconds with the paddle attachment. Now add the butter and blend for about 1 minute, until the mixture is crumbly.
7. Spread the apricot filling over the shortbread, then sprinkle the crumb topping over it. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the crumb gets a little brown (and the nuts are nice and toasty!). Let cool for 30 minutes, then lift out using the edges of the parchment and cut into squares. Enjoy!

**I’ve included the original recipe’s indications as well, so you can make Rosemary Apricot OR Spicy Apricot Squares!

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Baking, Clothes Swap, and New Camera!

It’s getting close to law school finals time (OK, well finals time is here but I’m lucky enough that my exams and papers are nicely spaced out). I took the time this week, though, to try a couple of new baking recipes for a clothing swap party with some friends, and for an end-of-semester party for my favorite seminar. I’ve done many swap parties with friends from home, but this was my first in New York. My friend Jewish Girl was kind enough to host and provide tasty dessert wine (well – tasty once we managed to remove the far-too-durable wax seal on top) and these adorable cupcakes decorated to look like meatballs and spaghetti:

You should read here about her adventures making them!

I brought Bourbon Balls. I kind of cheated and got a 1960s Kentucky Cookbook out of the university library, and I just could not resist when I found these boozy little bonbons in there…Seriously. They’re really boozy. This recipe is a Southern classic and they apparently do NOT kid around down there when it comes to bourbon…

In addition to these, I whipped up some key lime bars from Martha Stewart’s Cookie Cookbook, so I’d have plenty of sweets for my seminar. I love Martha: it gets me every time that this cookbook’s table of contents is a) pictorial, b) organized by texture (i.e., one page for “Cakey,” another for “Crumbly,” etc.). This book was published only 2 years ago, but I think it’s a total classic. It’s also got a lot of great takes on classic recipes – like these bars:

Finally, before I get down to recipes…I have to give a shout-out to my dad, who is directly responsible (via my Chanukah present – a gorgeous new Olympus EP-2) for the vastly improved photo quality on this blog. Thanks, Dad! And Happy Chanukah!  And one last picture just for good measure…

Key Lime Bars (Makes about 16)

1 c. finely ground graham cracker crumbs
2 1/2 tbsp. finely ground graham cracker crumbs
1/3 c. sugar
5 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
3 large egg yolks
1 1/2 tsp. finely grated lime zest
2/3 c. fresh Key lime juice, (about 23 Key limes total)
1 c. sweetened condensed milk (14 ounces)
For garnish:
1/4 c. heavy cream
2 Key limes, thinly sliced into half-moons
1. Make crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Stir together graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and butter in a small bowl. Press evenly onto bottom of an 8-inch square glass baking dish. Bake until dry and golden brown, about 10 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack. (Leave oven on.)
2. Make filling: Put egg yolks and lime zest in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Mix on high speed until very thick, about 5 minutes. Reduce speed to medium. Add condensed milk in a slow, steady stream, mixing constantly. Raise speed to high; mix until thick, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low. Add lime juice; mix until just combined.
3. Spread filling evenly over crust using a spatula. Bake, rotating dish halfway through, until filling is just set, about 10 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack. Refrigerate at least 4 hours (or overnight).
4. Cut into 2-by-2-inch bars. Put cream in the clean bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the clean whisk attachment. Mix on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form. Garnish bars with whipped cream and a slice of lime. Ungarnished bars can be refrigerated in an airtight container up to 3 days.

Read more at Marthastewart.com: Key Lime Bars – Martha Stewart Recipes

 

Bourbon Balls (Makes about 24)

1 c. ground Nilla wafers or graham crackers
1 c. ground pecans
2 tbsp. cocoa powder
2 tbsp. light corn syrup
1/4 c. bourbon
1/2 c. powdered sugar

This one is super easy – you don’t even need to bake anything!

Mix all the ingredients together and form into balls 3/4 to 1 inch in diameter. Roll the balls in powdered sugar, place on a baking sheet covered in wax paper, and refrigerate for at least an hour. Enjoy!

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Originality (Part 1). And brownies.

These brownies are not a vintage recipe. They are, in fact, on the cutting edge of brownie-making. I am, however, reading an article on originality for my favorite class (a super-geeky intellectual property seminar), so I figured this would be an optimal time to do that post I promised on cooking and creativity.

Baked, in Red Hook, Brooklyn, produces amazing, well-crafted baked goods. I’m more than a little obsessed with their apricot-rosemary bars – they’re really good streusel-topped fruit bars, and Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito had the excellent idea of baking rosemary into the shortbread crust to really make the fruit pop. They also came up with a recipe for black hole-like brownie – dense and dark, with irresistible pull. In 2008, they were kind enough to publish this recipe in their first cookbook. Of course, the recipe is now all over the internet.

Recipes are not copyrighted, so Matt and Renato can do nothing about this. Yet, they followed that first cookbook up with a second last month. The above-mentioned apricot bars are included in this compilation, and I’ve already found that recipe posted online. There was talk this summer among mixologists about copyright protection for cocktail creations; this is not really legally feasible for a whole slew of reasons but, perhaps more importantly, it seems to cut against cooking culture and tradition.

The article I read this week proposes varying levels of copyright protection keyed to the level of a work’s originality. Recipes, by their nature, would very, very rarely reach the level of originality required under this rubric for strong protection. Even something really exciting and “new” like the Baked rosemary-apricot bars build on an underlying recipe and rework it by adding a single new ingredient. The Baked Brownie is new and different – but brownies themselves are old hat. But how different is this recipe from the 1960s Tennessee brownie recipe I posted a few weeks ago? Come to think, how far is the Roman fish dish I wrote about from the scrambled eggs and lox you can find at most diners?

I took the Baked Brownie and substituted bourbon for vanilla (as I always do with chocolate recipes). Smitten Kitchen (linked above) added chipotle chili powder. The process of tweaking goes on, and the communal nature of cooking and food is reinforced by copying. And those are enough thoughts for today…more coming soon…

For now, have some pretty pictures and the superb (and easy) recipe I’ve been nattering on about for several paragraphs now:

I actually made 2 pans. Because I am constitutionally incapable of making non-massive quantities of food. The profile view:

And, finally, the recipe:

The Baked Brownie (Makes 24)

Notes:
1. Use a dark cocoa powder, like Valrhona. A pale, light-colored cocoa does not have enough depth.
2. Make sure your eggs are room temperature and do not overbeat them into the batter.
3. Make sure you check your brownies often while baking. Once the brownies have been overbaked slightly, they have reached the point of no return.

1 1/4 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. dark cocoa powder
11 oz. quality dark chocolate (60-72%), chopped coarsely
8 oz. butter (2 sticks), cut into 1 inch cubes
1 tsp. instant espresso powder
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
5 large eggs, room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla extract (or bourbon!)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Butter the sides and bottom of a glass or light colored metal pan 9x13x2 pan.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, the salt, and cocoa powder.
4. Configure a large sized double boiler. Place the chocolate, the butter, and the instant espresso powder in the bowl of the double boiler and stir occasionally until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and combined.
5. Turn off the heat, but keep the bowl over the water of the double boiler and add both sugars. Whisk the sugars until completely combined and remove the bowl from the pan. Mixture should be room temperature.
6. Add three eggs to the chocolate/butter mixture and whisk until just combined. Add the remaining eggs and whisk until just combined. Add the vanilla and stir until combined. Do not over-beat the batter at this stage or your brownies will be cakey.
7. Sprinkle the flour/cocoa/salt mix over the chocolate. Using a spatula (DO NOT USE A WHISK) fold the dry into the wet until there is just a trace amount of the flour/cocoa mix visible.
8. Pour the mixture into the pan and smooth the top with your spatula. Bake the brownies for 30 minutes (rotate the pan half-way through baking) and check to make sure the brownies are completely done by sticking a toothpick into the center of the pan (seriously – mine finished in 28 minutes). The brownies are done when the toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs.
9. I know it’s tough but…Cool the brownies completely before cutting and serving.

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Before Momofuku Compost Cookies…

..there were Shaker Potato Chip Cookies!  And they were packed with salty sweet crunchy awesomeness!

In all seriousness, though, this recipe from Sister Bertha Linsday in “The Best of Shaker Cooking” (1970) provokes some thoughts about cooking and originality. I’d eaten and baked “Garbage Cookies” (chocolate chip/raisin/oatmeal/whatever) years before David Chang and Christina Tosi started selling their famous Compost Cookies at Momofuku Milk Bar. I thought the idea of adding savory snack foods, however, was truly original…until I came across my Shaker Cooking book.

I made these Wednesday. This week has been crazy (hence the late/short post) but more discussion of baking and originality can be expected soon.

Shaker Potato Chip Cookies (Makes about 48)

1 c. white sugar
1 c. brown sugar
1 c. butter (2 sticks)
2 eggs, well beaten
2 c. flour
2 c. oats (“old fashioned” not instant)
2 c. crushed potato chips
1 c. chopped nuts (walnuts work really well)
1 c. raisins or chopped dates
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla

Cream butter and sugar, add beaten eggs. Mix together with all other ingredients and drop by tablespoonfuls on a greased baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes.

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Baking Double Header

I somehow volunteered to bake for a law school event today: the prospect of trying new recipes and having someone else foot the butter bill was simply irresistible. Prune dumplings are a little esoteric for the usual lecture attendee crowd, so I cast about for some more mainstream recipe and found two in “The Southern Cook Book.”

This book was one of my first acquisitions, and it’s still one of my favorites. It’s a small trade paperback, but is packed full (the print is pretty tiny) of recipes collected from all over the South. Though I know people who would be incredibly offended by this, I must admit I’m pretty happy that the author construed “the South” to include Texas and Louisiana: those states bring in some really fun flavors. Each recipe in the Book comes with an attribution: the brownie recipe I tried, for example, was from Mrs. Frank M. De Friese, of Knoxville, TN.

It can sometimes be surprisingly tough to find vintage cookie recipes. There’s about one awesome cake recipe for every housewife, but flipping through old books really shows that most fancy cookies and bars are pretty recent inventions.

In Tennessee, though, they apparently got a little more creative. To whit: Mrs. De Friese came up with the absolutely awesome idea of melting marshmallows on top of brownies. Her recipe calls for another chocolate layer on top of the marshmallows – frosting or fudge (I’m sure fudge frosting would be perfect too), but I felt this might be too cloyingly sweet. So, I added my third layer at the bottom: I used a graham cracker crust under the brownie and the marshmallow topping to turn these into my very own S’Mores Brownies.

Because I was baking for a crowd I figured one pan of brownies (however rich and gooey) would not quite to it. So, I went in the complete opposite direction…and tried out a Scripture Cake. In a Scripture Cakes recipe, ingredients are set out by Bible verse references so, for example, “cake” is indicated by 1 Kings 19:6, which reads, “Behold, there was a cake baken on the coals.” I was incredibly confused when I saw a bunch of Bible verse citations in my cookbook, so of course I immediately resolved to try the recipe. The internet tells me that these cake recipes were used in the nineteenth century to simultaneously teach girls baking and Bible; the other versions I came across are of the same type as the one in my book – plain cake with dried fruit, nuts, and a little honey. Very Holy Land.

I think you can tell from this picture which bar is which:

S’Mores Brownies (nee Iced Fudge Cakes) (Makes 24 brownies)

Crust:
1 c. ground graham crackers
6 tbsp. butter, melted
3 tbsp. sugar

Brownies:
1 1/2 sticks butter
4 oz. semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate
2 c. sugar
6 eggs
Pinch soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. bourbon*
1 1/2 c. flour
1 bag marshmallows

*(Tip: I always use bourbon in chocolate recipes instead of vanilla. I think it adds depth and is less cloying)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Spread the graham crumbs in the bottom of a 9 x 13 pan, pour in the 3 tbsp. sugar, and shake around to mix things up. Pour the melted butter over the crumbs, mush it all around to moisten all the crumbs, and pat the mixture evenly across the bottom of the pan. Bake for 8 minutes and set aside.
3. Melt the chocolate and butter together over low heat.
4. Add the sugar and eggs and stir until the mixture starts to lose some of its graininess.
5. Stir in the bourbon, soda, salt, and baking powder. Then add the flour and mix until smooth.
6. Pour the batter over the graham crust and bake for 15-20 minutes, until the outer edges of the brownie are set and crusted and just the middle is still fudgy.
7. Remove from the brownies from the oven and place marshmallows on top. Put the pan back in for about 3 minutes, until the marshmallows are puffed and starting to brown on top.
8. Take the pan out again and turn the oven up to broil. Spread the semi-melted marshmallows around as evenly as possible and put the pan back in the oven for another minute or two until the top gets nice and brown in places.
9. Let cool and enjoy! The topping will be a gooey mess, but if you didn’t know that already and don’t enjoy it, you need to take your inner child out to a campfire sometime really soon.

Now, let’s get Biblical…

Scripture Cake (Makes 24  2″x2″ pieces)

1 c. Judges 5:25 (butter)
2 c. Jeremiah 6:20 (sugar)
3 1/2 c. 1 Kings 4:22 (flour)
2 c. 1 Samuel 25:18 (raisins)*
2 c. chopped 1 Samuel 25:18 (figs)*
1 c. Genesis 43:11 (sliced almonds, toasted)
1 c. Judges 4:19 (milk)
6 Isaiah 10:14 (eggs)
A little Leviticus 2:13 (salt)
2 tbsp. Exodus 16:31 (honey)
1 Kings 10:2 (1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1 tsp. each cloves and ginger)
2 tsp. 1 Corinthians 5:6 (baking powder)

“Follow Solomon’s advice for making good boys, in first clause Proverbs 23:14 and you will have a good cake.”

I’m not kidding. The book actually says that. Here’s a little more specific guidance, though…

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Butter and flour a 9×13 pan. A tube or bundt pan would also probably work well.
3. Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy (about 2 minutes on high in a mixer). Add the eggs and beat until pale yellow and light in texture.
4. Add the honey, baking powder, and spices and mix well. Keep the mixer on low and alternate adding milk and flour (I usually do each in 3 batches). Mix just until blended.
5. Dump the nuts and fruit in and mix until evenly distributed.
6. Pour the batter into the pan, spread it evenly, and bake for about 40-50 minutes until the top of the cake is golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

*I substituted a few prunes and some chopped candied ginger with good results – just make sure you have 4 cups dried fruit.

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What is “Vintage”?

I’ve been casting around for a recipe suitable for a “first post.”  Should I start with a something outrageously kitschy?  Resurrect a glorious culinary gem?  I eventually thought: what’s more vintage than my grandma’s recipe box?  If I’m going to be exploring culinary history, I might as well start by exploring my own.  So, my first post is a tribute to my Grandma Viv: Rugelach.

This tribute is not as literal as it could be.  I mostly remember my father’s mother making rugelach very simply, from leftover pie dough and cinnamon sugar.  With her in mind, though, I’ve cobbled together the following: Joy of Cooking dough (pretty vintage itself), one recipe with a more traditional filling (raspberry jam, cinnamon sugar, shaved chocolate) and one with an original filling (peach jam and candied ginger – I call this “original” but my dad and grandpa would probably condemn it as “goyische”).

I’ve cobbled together a couple of old recipes, and added a new twist.  For me, though, “vintage” isn’t just about the publication date of a book: it encompasses old world feelings and traditions, apron-wearing, seafoam green, new wonder at the usefulness of a Kitchenaid mixer.  For me, rugelach carry all that and more.  So, for my Grandma, for Mrs. Rombauer, and for Bubbes everywhere…

Two Kinds of Rugelach (Makes 24-30)
For dough:
6 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2 1/4 c. flour

For filling:
Peach jam or seedless raspberry jam
Cinnamon sugar
Candied ginger, chopped OR bittersweet chocolate, grated

1. Mix the cream cheese and butter until fluffy and well combined (about 20-30 seconds on medium-high in a stand mixer).
2. Add all the flour at once and mix on slow until it forms a solid mass with the butter and cheese. Turn this mass out onto a floured surface and knead it about half a dozen times, until there are no large chunks of butter or cream cheese visible in the dough.
3. Separate the dough into 3 parts and pat these sections into discs about 1 inch thick. Cover the discs in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.
4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
5. Remove one disc of dough from the fridge and roll it out on a floured surface to 1/8-inch thick circle. Cut the circle into 8 or 10 pie-shaped wedges, keeping these wedges together in their original circle.
6. Spread about 1/4 c. of the jam of your choice on the round of dough, avoiding the center and leaving a band of clean dough about an inch wide at the outer edge. Sprinkle about 1 tbsp. cinnamon sugar over the jam and then 1 tbsp. of chocolate shavings (if using raspberry jam) or 3 tbsp. chopped ginger (if using peach).
7. Starting from the outer edge, roll each slice in toward the center point. Place the resulting roll point-down on a cookie sheet covered in parchment.
8. Repeat for the second and third discs of dough.
9. Bake 20-25 minutes until the cookies are golden brown on top.
10. Cool and enjoy!

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