Tag Archives: cookies

More Baking Therapy

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My friends are part of my family. They mean the world to me and I have endless love for them. So when they are hurting and heartbroken because life can be cruel sometimes, I take it personally. I want to sit on the couch and hold their hand and just be with them, so they don’t have to be in that scary and dark place alone. Except for those pesky hundreds of miles that separate us.

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I have a friend suffering a devastating loss and it upsets me. Because of the pain that I cannot take away and because there is so little I can do, amplified because I am not there during this difficult time. I have ceased to be amazed at how adult my life as become, which I suppose is a perfect example of my adultness. The problems that you fret over – they are the big ones, the ones with no good solutions and they weigh heavily upon me.

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So I bake. It is my therapy. Or perhaps, more realistically, my escape. To have a goal, a blueprint that you can see through to the end. Having complete control. Knowing the variables. My mother thinks that I am some frou-frou cook, making everything from scratch, taking the hard (and time-consuming) way to do things. I think she may have a point. Sure, I could make something easier, with fewer steps or more store-bought ingredients, but that’s not me. I like that I can choose the hard route. I like the process, the transformation of whole foods into something else. Cracking the eggs, straining the puree, using any and all of my extensive collection of measuring spoons. Lugging my gorgeous green stand mixer from the dining room to the kitchen counter. Dirtying every pot, mixing bowl and mesh strainer. Pouring a glass bourbon, and then a another one to help dull the edge of life. Because some nights you just need to bake until 1:30 in the morning. Even if it is a Tuesday night.

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I’ve had my eye on this recipe for these Pomegranate Clove Thumbprint Cookies every since I got my hands on Ripe by Cheryl Sternman Rule over the past summer. Then I spied a quirky Cranberry Curd recipe in a recent issue of Cooking Light and my gut told me they had to go together. My gut doesn’t usually steer me wrong and this is no exception. Don’t forget the pomegranate arils – they make the cookies unexpected and delightful. And the color? It simply speaks for itself.

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If you are lucky enough to have your friends nearby, invite them over and share an afternoon, some hugs and these cookies. Be warned however – they don’t travel well (I suspect gushy nature of the curd is at fault), which is why dear friend, I didn’t send them your way. Please forgive me.

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Pomegranate Clove Thumbprint Cookies with Cranberry Curd

The recipe for the cranberry curd makes about 3 cups of curd – way, way more than you need for these cookies. Seal it up in a jar and enjoy the seasonal treat on crackers, biscuits or buttermilk pancakes. It has a nice mouth-puckering quality to it, as all curds (and anything cranberries) should. This curd is slightly different than the curds I’ve made in the past (lemon curd I and II, rhubarb curd, blackberry curd – it’s possible I have an obsession…) as it calls for the butter and sugar to be beaten together before incorporating the eggs or adding any heat. I was a little apprehensive about the technique, but was satisfied with the result.

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Cranberry Curd
from Cooking Light, December 2012
 
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 (12-ounce) package fresh cranberries
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 large egg yolks
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier
 
Pomegranate Clove Thumbprint Cookies
from Ripe, by Cheryl Sternman Rule
makes ~20 cookies
 
1 cup (120 g) flour
1/2 cup (80 g) almond meal
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon (85 g) granulated sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
~1/4 cup cranberry curd
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For the cranberry curd:

Combine water, lemon juice and cranberries in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 5 minutes or until cranberries pop. Using an immersion blender, process until smooth (can also use a blender or food processor). Strain cranberry mixture through a fine meshed sieve over a bowl; discard solids.

Combine sugars and butter in a bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well combined. Add egg yolks and egg, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in cranberry mixture, cornstarch, and salt. Place mixture in the top of a double boiler. Cook over simmering water until a thermometer registers 160° and mixture thickens (about 10 minutes), stirring frequently. Remove from heat; let stand 5 minutes. Stir in liqueur. Strain through a fine meshed sieve once more. If using later, cover and refrigerate.

For the cookies:

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, cloves, cinnamon and salt. Set aside. In another large bowl, beat the butter until light and fluffy, ~2 minutes. Stream in the sugar and beat 2 minutes longer. Beat in the egg and vanilla extract. With the machine OFF, dump in the flour mixture. Turn on the mixer and stir at the lowest speed for 30 seconds and then increase speed to medium and beat just until the flour mixture in completely incorporated. Refrigerate the dough for at least one hour.

Preheat the oven to 375º and line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

Scoop ~1 1/2 tablespoons dough and portion into mounds. Using the end of a wooden spoon (or your thumb), form a depression in the middle of the cookie. Bake until the cookies are set and golden brown around the edges, 15 – 18 minutes. Cool completely. Fill each thumbprint with cranberry curd (the recipe suggests 1/4 teaspoon, I sort of just heaped it on…) and top with 4-5 pomegranate arils.

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Just Because … Oatmeal Cookies


This is not the first post I’ve written about oatmeal cookies (previous versions here and here) and it’s not likely to be the last. Growing up, cookies of the oatmeal variety were never my favorite (likely because my mother insisted on cramming them full of raisons, which should never have a place in cookies). Give me chocolate chip, sugar or even a snickerdoodle cookie before you give me an oatmeal one. I’m not exactly sure when the shift happened, but now, as a fully-fledged adult, when I crave a cookie – more often than not it’s an oatmeal one.

I like the substance to an oatmeal cookie and it’s hearty texture. Just a hint of spice elevates it to full-blown comfort food. And let’s face it, I’ve been in a less than stellar mood these past few weeks and am in need of some serious comfort food. I don’t care that we are still relishing the summertime or that stone fruits are coming into season. It was oatmeal cookies or nothing. And when I came across this recipe from the Tartine Bakery cookbook that included chocolate chips and walnuts … and just a few tablespoons of molasses, well I knew that these were the cookies for me.

And they were the cookies for Tuesdays’s lab meeting as well (not to mention a loaf of fresh baked zucchini bread). A lab member, who is limiting her sugar intake, looked longingly at my offerings. I, being the sweets pusher that I am, suggested “you could just have half a cookie” which is what she did. About five minutes later “eating half of one of those cookies is hard” was whispered in my ear.

I decided to take that as a compliment.

Chocolate-Oatmeal-Walnut Cookies
from Tartine by Chad Robertson and Elisabeth Prueitt
makes ~2 dozen
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12 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips
2 cups (285 g) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups (170 g) old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup butter
1 3/4 cups (350 g) granulated sugar
 4 teaspoon blackstrap or dark molasses
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (115 g) walnuts, coarsely chopped
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Preheat oven to 350º. Line baking sheet with parchment or non-stick liner (I used to never do this, but I’ve seen the error of my ways. It’s about 15x easier to get the cookies off, plus, the added bonus of easier clean up.)

In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and baking soda. Stir in oats. Set aside. Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until light and creamy. Slowly add the sugar and mix on medium speed until light in color and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the mixer as needed. Add the molasses and beat until well combined. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition before adding the next egg. Beat in the milk, vanilla and salt. Scrape down the sides of the mixer as needed. Add the flour mixture and mix on low speed until well incorporated. Fold in the chocolate chips and walnut pieces with a spatula.

Have a small bowl of water handy. Scoop the dough onto prepared baking sheet (I used an ice cream scoop – they were fairly substantial scoops – I fit abut eight per cookie sheet). Wet your fingers and pat the scoops down into ~3-inch rounds. (The water remarkably prevents cookie dough from sticking to your fingers).  Bake until the edges start to turn brown, but is still light in the middle, about 10-12 minutes. Let cool on pan for a few minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Rainy afternoons spent in the company of friends

These sesame poppy seed crisps demand a glass (or two) of wine, a rainy afternoon and the company of dear friends. I was lucky enough to extend the whole experience for an entire weekend. I flew myself, and these crisps out to North Carolina to spend a few days revisiting old haunts and experiencing new ones all the while talking, laughing, crying and avoiding the rain with two of my very closest friends.

I don’t form friendships easily. But those I do, run deep and strong. I am tempted to be angry at this cruel world of academics for scattering us across the country (California, Minnesota and North Carolina), but the truth is, it was academics that drew us together years ago as grad students in Durham. It’s not to be taken for granted, these friendships. I treasure these people who I can talk to about everything and nothing over the course of brunch.

But I miss them, and surprisingly, the South, terribly. I didn’t quite realize how much my heart ached for it until I was there, amidst the sultry smells and heavy air (with the exception of the passing of Ammendment One … how disappointing). The conversations, but not necessarily the content, were easy and fluid. It’s hard to believe that it’s been over two years since we all at Duke, toiling away at our PhDs through our young adulthood. But, two years it’s been and life marches forward. Despite the time, the distance and life, friendship survives. It might only be through emails, texts and the occasional weekend, but there it is.

And this particular weekend it involved sesame poppy seed crisps. Crisp like a cracker, sweet like a cookie and seemingly lighter than air. An excellent use for any leftover egg whites (perhaps from a recent batch of ice cream …). I stumbled upon the recipe here, a useful collection of uses for egg whites, sorted by how many the recipe calls for. One bite and visions of rainy afternoons with heartfelt discussion were dancing in my head. And I was lucky enough to have that turn into a reality.

Sesame Poppy Seed Crisps
from The Washington Post
makes approximately 4 dozen
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3 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
4 ounces (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
2 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
6 large egg whites
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon walnut oil
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Preheat the oven to 350º F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone liner.

Toast sesame seeds in a small, dry, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat until lightly browned and/or fragrant. Cool for a few minutes, then stir in the poppy seeds.

Combine the butter and sugar in a bowl. Beat on low speed until smooth, then on medium speed until fluffy. Stop to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the egg whites in thirds, beating on low speed to incorporate after each addition and stopping to scrape down the bowl as needed. Add the flour; beat (on low speed) until just combined.

Stir in the walnut oil, sesame and poppy seeds by hand. Transfer half of the batter to a piping bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain round tip or ziploc bag with the corner cut. (The remaining batter can stay at room temperature.) Pipe out 1-inch-wide disks on each baking sheet, spacing them 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake for about 15 minutes or until the cookies are just lightly browned on the edges.

Transfer the sheets to the stove top (off the heat) and let them sit for 5 minutes, then transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely before serving or storing. Repeat to use all of the batter.

Salted Oatmeal White Chocolate Cookies

Sometimes a girl just has to make cookies.

I don’t have a heartfelt story for these. No childhood nostalgia or celebrating the changing of the seasons. I just wanted to make cookies. Perhaps it was my lack of time in the kitchen over the weekend or because … well … because I just thought cookies sounded good. So at 11 pm on a random Tuesday night, that’s exactly what I did.

I knew that I wanted oatmeal cookies, the crispy, lighter-than-air kind. So I went searching and found this recipe over at Smitten Kitchen. And I had just the salt that I wanted to use to make these “salted.” While I was in Vancouver in July, I had wandered the farmer’s market and came across a whole variety of flavored sea salts. I indulged myself and bought myself three, including a blackberry-infused sea salt. And that, my friends, is what I used to sprinkle on these cookies.

I have to say, these cookies hit the spot. Sweet, but not too sweet, and just a little salty. I’ll say it again: sometimes a girl just has to make cookies. And sometimes a girl’s colleagues reap the benefits of her whims. So, you’re welcome, the 6th floor lunchroom.

Salted Oatmeal White Chocolate Cookies

from Smitten Kitchen

makes about 2 dozen
 
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14 tablespoons butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon table salt
2 1/2 cups oats
6 oz white chocolate
1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt, for sprinkling
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Beat butter and both sugars together until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Slowly add to butter and sugar mixture.

Gradually add oats and chopped white chocolate.

Scoop about 2 tablespoons dough and roll it into a ball. Flatten with fingers until about 1/2 inch tall. Sprinkle with a few flakes of sea salt. Bake at 350º for about 15 minutes.

Sometimes a girl just has to bake cookies.

Grabbers

I am a girl who goes through schools like other girls go through boys. (And to be honest, I think I have been with more schools than I have boys…)

I had a rocky start in my relationship with post-secondary education. My first year of college was spent at Washington State University. Let’s just say that WSU and I weren’t a good match. At the time I thought that is what I wanted (back in the day when I dreamed of being an architect) and when I was in high school it was the only college I applied to. Surprisingly, it turns out you don’t really know what you want when you are 18 years old. It liked to party and I was a wallflower. It was big into the Greek system and I was (and continue to be) fiercely independent. It was into school spirit, sports and activities and I am more of the theater rat sort. I wanted to stretch my brain further and in new directions and wasn’t interested in having a typical “college experience.” WSU just couldn’t give me what I needed. So we split after a year.

But that year of my life left a permanent scar on my psyche.

(It also brought amazing ice cream sandwiches, but I’ll get to that later)

South Puget Sound Community College was my rebound school. I was there for a year, going to school full time, working part time at the dental office and dancing with the local ballet company, Ballet Northwest. And while it was not true love, it was a solid sort and got me back on my feet again. It was there that I learned how to write, speak in public and articulately form arguments against religion. I fulfilled all the requirements for an Associate’s of Arts and was on my way.

I fell in love hard with Evergreen and while I was there, with science and the prospect of a life in research. A quirky, independent, non-traditional learning experience. My first true love. It was there I felt a sense of academic and social community and a staunch motivation to learn. I stayed with Evergreen even after I fulfilled all of the “requirements” for a Bachelor’s of Science and got a second Bachelor’s degree just because I wasn’t ready to part ways just yet.

But I eventually outgrew Evergreen and moved all the way across the country to Duke and its Ph.D. program. The longest and most serious relationship in my academic life. I mean, I was invested and completely absorbed into Duke and what it had to offer. In some ways my time at Duke has completely defined me. Exactly like how some girls are defined by the guy that they are with. And now that I am no longer with Duke, I’ve been trying to parse out my own feelings from the feelings at Duke about what it means to be in science and have a life in academics (and possibly a life outside of academics).

Now I am at the University of Minnesota. I don’t have that much to say about it. By the very nature of a post-doc, it’s not going to be a long-term relationship. I am kind of biding my time until something better comes along. Heaven forbid that I not be at some sort of academic institution. I am that girl who constantly has had a “boyfriend” (and by boyfriend, I mean school). It is what it is. But it is not going to last long, especially when I have an actual significant other at the University of Florida.

Will I find my life-long companion in an academic institution (a tenure-track position)? Or will I continue to flit through universities in a non-committal sort of way? Possibly this story will end in divorce and I’ll leave academics. At this point, it could go either way.

It’s been a long time since I was that lonely freshman at WSU, hating my life. But I was brave enough then to change my course and make my life what I wanted. There was however, one other bright, shiny light during my time at WSU – grabbers. Grabbers are ice cream sandwiches with oatmeal cookies, loaded with homemade ice cream and are sold at Ferdinand’s, the school creamery. Strawberry ice cream with oatmeal cookies? Talk about a fantastic combination.

I’ve been thinking a lot about grabbers and feeling like a freshman again as I try to decide what to do with my life. I’ve recently acquired an ice cream maker and for my maiden voyage I whipped up a batch of rhubarb ice cream (because that infatuation is going strong). Then I sandwiched it between two oatmeal cookies.

Dare I say it’s even better than Ferdinand’s?

I think I do.

Rhubarb Ice Cream Oatmeal Cookie Grabbers

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Oatmeal Cookies
adapted from The Essential New York Times cookbook
3/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups oats (not quick cooking)
 
Rhubarb Ice Cream
4 cups chopped rhubarb
1 cup sugar, divided
2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
4 egg yolks
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For the cookies:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Sift together flour, baking soda cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Set aside.

Beat the shortening and sugars in a large bowl just enough to blend well. Add the egg and vanilla. Continue to beat until thoroughly mixed.

Add the oats and mix again. Drop the dough by tablespoon fulls onto the cookie sheets, 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake until golden brown, 12 – 15 minutes. Transfer to racks to cool.

For the rhubarb ice cream:

Cook chopped rhubarb with 2/3 cup sugar over medium heat, until soft, about 10 minutes. Transfer to blender and puree until smooth.

Heat milk and cream in small saucepan over low heat, until steam starts to rise off the liquid. Take off heat.

Meanwhile, beat egg yolks and remaining 1/3 cup sugar together until light yellow.

Take a little bit (~1/2 cup) of the hot cream and whisk into the eggs. Whisk in the remaining cream. Set the bowl over a pot of simmering water and cook the custard until thick, about 5 minutes. It should coat the back of a spoon. Mix in the rhubarb puree and transfer to a spouted batter bowl. Chill completely.


Set up and turn on the ice cream maker. Slowly pour chilled custard into ice cream maker and churn for about 25 minutes.

Take about 1/3 cup of the soft-serve ice cream and scoop it onto an oatmeal cookie. Top with a second oatmeal cookie. Wrap well in plastic wrap and freeze for a couple of hours to let the ice cream ripen.