Category Archives: Recipes

THE COOKIE TRADITION CONTINUES

As long-time readers here know, we do ten types of cookies to welcome the holidays. We do a mix of old time favorites, with a few new types each year, and have been slowly adding the tastiest of the new cookies to the regular roster. I think this year we’ve hit on the best assortment yet.

Here’s the spread, with links to the recipes (or close equivalents) where available.

  1. Peanut Butter. The Joy of Cooking standard, with one household adaptation. We use Teddy brand all-natural chunky peanut butter instead of the more usual and more industrial Jiff or Skippy. It gives a better texture, and a more intense, less kiddy-sweet peanut taste. And because it was a special gift – instead of the traditional fork-press decoration for the top, I use a sun-shaped cookie stamp to celebrate the solstice.
  2. Cinnamon swirls. I can’t take credit for this one. Their spiraled perfection is entirely one of Younger Daughter’s specialties. She uses the CIA’s Cinnamon Bun Cookies recipe. It’s a rolled refrigerator cookie that can be made and frozen ahead of time, then defrosted and baked when needed. The frosting is optional, and in my opinion, not needed because the cookie is sweet enough on its own. She leaves it off so the dramatic spiral is better displayed.
  3. Orange Marmalade Cookies. New this year, this is a soft cookie with a zingy, fresh orange icing. We are adding this one to our do-again list, for sure. We made these about half the size of the original, to keep with our bite-size cookie theme (with so many kinds, having smaller cookies allows a range of grazing). If you do them as small as ours (about 1.5 inch across) you will have too much icing. Either cut the recipe by about a third, or enjoy the leftover spread on muffins.
  4. Chocolate Chips. Pretty much the Nestle Toll House classic, minus the nuts since so many of the other cookies are nut-rich. This year I made them thinner and crispier, by special request.
  5. Triple Ginger Cookies. This was my special invention last year. The only difference between last year’s and this year’s is that last year I formed the cookies by rolling the dough in balls. This year I did “wild drop” using two teaspoons. I’m still looking for a really good name for this one.
  6. Earthquakes. Well, we call them that. Most people call them Chocolate Crinkles. No clue as to why we had so little seismic activity on the batch this year – very little dramatic cracking. But they taste the same – intensely chocolaty, like a bite size brownie. There are dozens of recipes out there for these. Mine is from Long Time Pal Kathryn, and uses butter, not oil as the shortening. Here’s something similar.
  7. Oysters. Another home invention – a sandwich cookie, of hazelnut spritz awith dark chocolate ganache filling. So named because the first time I did these I didn’t grind the nuts fine enough, and they clogged the cookie press, making strange, blobby shapes. We fitted those together as best we could, and named them accordingly.
  8. Buffalo Bourbon Balls. Some years we make these with rum, some years with bourbon, but always with pecans. This no-bake cookie was in a circa 1960s edition of the Buffalo News. It is much like this one, although my version uses a bit more cocoa and nuts by proportion, and makes a bigger batch.
  9. Mexican Wedding Cakes. Another must-have, this is an intensely rich shortbread, full of ground pecans, rolled twice in confectioner’s sugar (once warm, once when cooled). Our recipe is like this one, but again, scaled up to make a larger batch.
  10. Cut-Outs. We start with Rich Rolled Cookies from Joy of Cooking (1964 edition), and add lemon zest to the cookie itself. Then for the icing we dissolve powdered sugar in lemon juice (not milk or water), tint it with food coloring and paint/drip it onto the thoroughly cooled cookies.
  11. Ms. Jean’s fudge (not shown because it’s still setting up in the fridge). This year half the batch is with nuts and half is plain, in deference to my nut-adverse friends. Ms. Jean is a family friend, a beloved neighbor and my kids’ honorary Aunt, whose specialty is sharing joy, with a double helping over the holidays. Her’s is a standard quick-fudge, made from chocolate, butter, sweetened condensed milk, a splash of vanilla and a pinch of salt. The one on line most like it is this one from Cooking for Engineers, although Jean’s added a quarter tsp of vanilla and pinch of salt. Save yourself effort though – line your pan with plastic wrap to make getting the stuff out and cut MUCH easier. And have the pan lined are ready to go before you stir the milk into the chocolate.

Now, how do we manage to make all of these? Especially when I work and am not home all day? Over time, and in order. I start early in December, by making the bourbon balls. They need time to mellow, like a fruitcake. The peanut butter cookies are next because with their high oil content, they are a long-keeper. The last ones to be made are usually the Mexican Wedding Cakes because they are delicate and go stale more quickly than some of the others. Most nights that I bake I make a dough and fridge it, to bake on the next evening. On weekends I might do two or three batches in their entirety. As each cookie is finished, it is stowed away in its plastic-wrap lined tin, and its on to the next.

Oh! The holidays do come in a stampeding herd this year.

Happy Hannukah!

Last night was the first candle.

How could I end this post without linking to the latke recipe, too? 🙂

Ginger! Ginger! Ginger!

Another promise to share a recipe, listed here so that it has a stable source page and can be found again. This cookie is another of my mashups – derived from multiple sources, plus a bit of improvisation. I really like how this experiment turned out – an intensely gingery cookie, tempered by the “internal frosting” of the sweet white chips – and having now made it twice, I consider it successfully beta tested and ready to escape my kitchen

Triple Ginger-White Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes about 5-6 dozen cookies, depending on size.

Triple-Ginger White Chocolate Chip Cookies
(This batch was shaped by the ball method, not the two-teaspoon drop.)

Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup butter (one stick). NOT margarine.
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup white granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream (can sub light cream or milk if desired)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 Tbs ginger juice (Bottled from Ginger People, or grated fresh and squeezed from the pulp)
  • 2 1/3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1.5-2 Tbs ground ginger (the more, the hotter…)
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup finely diced crystallized ginger
  • 8 oz. white chocolate chips
Method
  1. Cream butter, add sugars and beat until fully combined
  2. Add egg, cream, vanilla, ginger juice, beat these wet ingredients until fully combined.
  3. In separate bowl, sift together the dry ingredients – flour, ground ginger, baking powder, baking soda, salt.
  4. Mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until fully combined into a light cookie dough.
  5. Stir the chopped crystallized ginger and white chocolate chips into the dough, aim for an even distribution throughout.
  6. Fridge the dough for at least an hour before baking.
  7. When ready, preheat oven to 325-deg-F.
  8. Line a cookie sheet with parchment or a non-stick baking mat.
  9. Either rolling the chilled dough into balls, slightly smaller than a walnut, or using two teaspoons to drop the batter without shaping it, form cookies, leaving about 3 inches between each (the cookies do spread).
  10. Bake one sheet at a time for 13 to 15 minutes (convection ovens require the lesser time, conventional may need the upper limit). Cookies should be pale and the undersides should not be deeply browned, as shown above.
  11. Remove from cookie sheet and cool on rack. Can be kept in a tightly covered tin in a cool place for up to 3 weeks, provided the cookie-crazed don’t snarf them up before then.

A PI OF PIES

More or less. Here you see them. A little over three, but probably not 3.14159… pies, exactly.

I posted this photo of our Thanksgiving pies to Facebook, and several friends wrote to me to ask for the recipes. So to the best of my ability, here it goes.

The recipes for the chocolate pecan and pumpkin are pretty exact. The apple-orange pie is more of a method description. All pies here were prepared with extensive help of Younger Daughter, who was responsible for most assembly, and all crust styling. The apple-orange and pecan pies used a home-made traditional lard crust (recipe at the end of this post), but you may sub in any crust you prefer. The pumpkin has its own very temperamental butter crust. Others may also be used, but the feisty butter crust is well worth the effort to attempt.

All of these pies were made in 9-inch glass pie plates, set on heavy, rimmed baking sheets. They were baked on the lowest rack of a convection oven, and baking times are set for that. If you use a metal pan all of these may take less time to bake. If you use a pre-made shell in a disposable aluminum pan, it may take even less time. Watch your pies carefully to forestall burning.

Chocolate Pecan Pie

This recipe is a smash-up among several, including a yummy brown butter pecan pie posted at Cookie Madness, the chocolate pecan pie recipe from The New York Times, and various other pecan pies/chocolate pies clawed from my collection of recipe books. While the Cookie Madness pie was luscious, it tended to not set firmly, even when overbaked. And the NYT pie worked well enough, but was rather under-nutted and a bit short on depth of flavor. The others were variants on a light corn syrup/dark corn syrup combo, and were often much sweeter than I prefer.

Ingredients
  • One 9-inch open face pie crust (no top crust), unbaked.
  • About 2 cups of pecans, sorted into beautiful whole halves, and the broken bits. There should be at least 1.5 cups of broken bits. The rest are decorative, so the exact quantity is up to you. If frugality requires, just use the 1.5 cups and decorate with pastry scrap cutouts instead.
  • 6 Tbs unsalted butter (NOT margarine)
  • 2 oz bittersweet chocolate (about 56 grams)
  • 3/4 cup dark brown corn syrup
  • 4 extra-large eggs
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 1/4 Tbs cocoa (actual cocoa, not hot chocolate mix)
  • OPTIONAL – 2 Tbs bourbon
  • OPTIONAL – Handful of chopped bittersweet chocolate, or chocolate chips
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp salt
Method
  1. Ready your chosen pie shell. It does NOT need to be pre-baked.
  2. Preheat oven to 350-deg F.
  3. Place pecans on a baking tray in a single layer and toast until fragrant. This will take only a couple of minutes, and they burn easily, so watch them carefully.
  4. Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Let it brown slightly, the color should be like light oak – not pretzels. Remove from heat and let rest for a couple of minutes until the pan cools off a bit but is still warm.
  5. Put chocolate into the pan with the hot, browned butter. Stir until melted and combined. Set aside on the counter to cool a bit more. 15 min is plenty. The butter/chocolate mixture should still be liquid and warm to the touch, but not hot.
  6. Whisk together the eggs, corn syrup, vanilla, bourbon, sugar, and salt.
  7. Whisk in the cocoa powder, make sure there are no lumps.
  8. Add the melted butter/chocolate, and stir until uniform in color.
  9. Place the unbaked pie shell on a rimmed cookie sheet or baking tray. Lining it with parchment or a silicon sheet will make cleanup later easier, and spare your oven if the filling splashes or bubbles over.
  10. Scatter the broken pecans evenly in the pie shell. If using the optional handful of chips or chopped chocolate, sprinkle that over the nuts.
  11. Slowly and carefully, pour your filling mix over the pecans and optional chips. You want to fill carefully so you don’t move the nuts around as you do so.
  12. Arrange the reserved whole half nuts over the top in any decorative manner you desire. It can be full coverage like ours, a ring around the rim, stripes, or anything you want given the quantity of nice pieces to hand. If you are pecan-challenged, you can use dough scraps cut into fancy shapes to decorate. Or just let it be plain.
  13. Bake at 350-degrees F for 30 to 40 minutes, until the center is just set and the pastry is nicely colored.
  14. Cool before serving, preferably on a wire rack. Whipped cream is the expected accompaniment.

Pumpkin Chiffon Pie

I originally got this pie recipe from the Washington Post, 23 November 1986. I do not see it in their on line archives.

The original called for one standard 16 oz can of pumpkin. Since it was written, standard cans of pumpkin have shrunken to 14 or 15 oz. depending on the maker. Scaling back the recipe to account for less pumpkin hasn’t worked for me, nor has buying two cans and having most of the second one left over. Instead we roast small sugar pumpkins in the oven until they are soft, then scrape out the flesh and freeze it in plastic bags, of 16 oz (weighed on a kitchen scale). One thawed out bag = one pie. And the roasted sugar pumpkins have a better flavor than the tinned stuff.

Warnings

The butter crust is extremely fussy to make, and even harder to transfer into the pie plate. It MUST be done the night before and fridged prior to use, and it has an alarming tendency to slump during blind baking. But it is especially tender and delicious, and really puts this pie over the top.

The recipe always makes MORE filling than fits in a standard 9-inch pie plate or a 10-inch quiche pan. I always have a “sidecar” – leftovers baked either in a mini crust (if I have extra crust left over from another recipe – the butter crust is JUST enough for one open face pie); or poured without a crust into an oven-safe ramekin and baked as a mini pumpkin “custard.”

Ingredients

For the butter crust

  • 1 1/2 cups unsifted flour, preferably refrigerated
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 stick of butter, very cold (NOT margarine)
  • 1 Tbs white granulated sugar
  • 1 yolk from extra-large size egg, very cold (save the white for the filling, below)
  • 2 Tbs ice water

For the filling

  • 3 extra-large eggs plus the white left over from the crust
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white granulated sugar plus 1 Tbs flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg (fresh grated is best)
  • 1/3 tsp allspice
  • 1 Tbs molasses
  • 1 Tbs vanilla
  • 16 oz. pureed pumpkin (canned or home-made)
  • 1 3/4 cup light cream at room temperature
Method

For the crust

  1. Preheat oven to 425-degrees F.
  2. Mix flour and salt in a bowl. Cut in butter into the flour using a pastry cutter or two knives, until the butter lumps are about lentil size. Blend butter and flour bits with fingertips to flake.
  3. Sprinkle with sugar and stir in.
  4. Combine yolk and 2 Tbs ice water. Mix this quickly into the dough.
  5. Press dough into a round cake, cover, and chill. The original recipe said for a half hour. I’ve found overnight is better.
  6. Roll out dough and fill deep dish pie pan or quiche pan. Dough will be very poorly behaved. It will require a lot of flour as you roll, and you’ll probably end up piecing it in the pan instead of transferring it as one unbroken sheet. Try to have enough overlap on the top edge of the pie plate to prevent sagging.
  7. Layer with a sheet of aluminum foil and fill with pie weights, beans, or pennies. (Fill to the top because the thing has a nasty habit of sagging if baked unsupported).
  8. Bake in preheated 425-degree oven for 12 minutes. Turn down the oven to 375-degrees, remove foil and pie weights, and bake for another 12 minutes. Shell will be very blonde, but will have lost the “raw” look. Set aside to cool for at least an hour before filling.

For the filling, and final baking

Note that you will probably have more filling than fits in one pie. If you have extra crust, make a “sidecar” in a ramekin or small oven proof dish. Or just pour the extra into a ramekin, small glass or other ceramic oven-safe dessert-size dish and bake as directed below.

  1. Preheat oven to 425-degrees F.
  2. Using a very large mixing bowl, beat the eggs until frothy.
  3. Beat in the sugars.
  4. Blend in spices.
  5. Stir in molasses and vanilla.
  6. Beat in the pumpkin.
  7. Whisk in the cream.
  8. Stir very slowly for a minute or two to dissipate bubbles.
  9. Place the pre-baked pie shell on a rimmed cookie sheet. Lining it first with baking parchment or a silicon sheet will simplify cleanup later.
  10. Slowly pour the filling mix into the pie pan, until it fills the shell to about 1/2 to 1/4 inch from the top. You will have leftover as mentioned above. Pour that into your sidecar container (with crust or without)
  11. Poke any bubbles on the surface of the pie/sidecar with a toothpick to burst.
  12. Bake pie and sidecar in lower third of a preheated 425-degree oven for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 325-degrees and bake for another 25 minutes. The sidecar should be done, with a set center, and should be removed now. Leave the main pie in the oven for another 15 minutes until the center is set.
  13. Let the pie cool for at least an hour before serving. Can be served warm, but it’s better if the pie sets up a bit more. A splat of real whipped cream on top is a family must-do.

Apple-Orange Pie aka “Son of Anonymous Apple Pie*”

This pie is a tribute to two friends of ours. both excellent cooks. One taught us basic apple pie procedures, and would host an annual pie-fest where she made them by the dozens, to freeze and bake throughout the year. The other was a keen researcher, and avid baker who dabbled in commercial cooking ventures. She redacted a historical recipe for an apple pie that was punched up with thin slices of candied bitter orange. I blend their two techniques together, but take the easy way out by using marmalade.

You can make this as a traditional full double-crust covered pie, but this year Younger Daughter hit upon using a lattice. I think the extra venting of the lattice yielded a firmer, less soupy, better textured filling, and minimized the boil-over that often happens with juicy apple pies.

Ingredients
  • Enough pie crust for a 9-inch covered pie, or a lattice pie, as you prefer
  • Six to seven firm baking apples. Cortland, Empire, Granny Smith or other tart varieties that hold shape are preferred. Avoid Delicious, Gala, Macoun and other sweet, softer eating apples.
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2-3 Tablespoons of cinnamon (to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • About 6 oz orange marmalade. Use only a kind made with sugar, not fructose. I recommend Bon Mamman Orange Marmalade (this is a little bit less than half a jar). 3 Tablespoons of unsalted butter (not margarine)
  • Juice from one small lemon.
Method
  1. Preheat oven to 375-degrees F
  2. Roll out your bottom crust and place it in a 9-inch glass pie plate. Prepare your chosen top crust (full closed pie, or lattice). Place both in the fridge while you prep the pie filling.
  3. Peel, core and slice the apples. To keep them from browning, as you work place the apple slices in a big bowl of cold water along with half of the lemon juice.
  4. Mix the cinnamon with the granulated sugar and kosher salt.
  5. Take the bottom crust out of the fridge, and liberally spread its inside and walls with marmalade.
  6. Take the apple slices out of the lemon water and toss them in a large bowl lined with a clean kitchen towel, to remove most of the wetness. They don’t need to be bone dry, but they should not be dripping.
  7. Tightly layer about a third of the apples in the bottom crust. Sprinkle them with about a third of the sugar-cinnamon mixture. Dot with chunks of about a third of the butter, and with scattered dollups of marmalade. Repeat twice more until all of the filling ingredients have been used up.
  8. Optional – if you like a tart pie, sprinkle about a tablespoon or two of lemon juice over the filling.
  9. Assemble your pie, using either a whole top crust or a lattice. If you are using a top crust, make sure to create at least three large vent holes for steam to escape. Decorate at will if you desire (but don’t clog the vent holes).
  10. Put the ready-to-bake pie on a rimmed baking sheet (preferably on baking parchment or a silicon mat for ease of clean-up). This pie WILL bubble over and make a mess of your oven otherwise. Guaranteed.
  11. Bake in the bottom third of your oven at 375-degrees for about 45 minutes, until the top and bottom are nicely colored, and juices have bubbled for at least 10 minutes. Glass pie plates make it easy to see if the bottom has browned. In all cases, and especially if you are using metal pie pans or pre-made crusts in aluminum pans, begin hovering and watching for done-ness at the 35 min mark. The pie is ready when a skewer inserted into it reveals that the apples inside are soft and easily pierced and the pastry is a pale gold.
  12. Cool before slicing. May be served warm, room temperature, or chilled. Whipped cream, ice cream, or other extras are always appreciated.

* If you are very good, I’ll explain “Anonymous Apple Pie.”
But that veers off into local SCA folklore.

Lard Pie Crust

This is the crust recipe I used for the apple-orange and pecan pies. It makes a very generous double-crust pie with lots left over for decoration, or enough for one less generous double-crust pie shell, plus one single crust shell. I double the recipe below when I bake pies, and use the extra for the sidecar, plus I have enough left over for a half-dozen pastries.

This recipe is closely adapted from several sources, including Sylvia’s Perfect Pie Crust, from the Tasty Kitchen blog.

Ingredients
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 extra-large egg
  • 1 1/2 cups lard, well chilled from the fridge.
  • 5 Tbs ice water
  • 1 Tbs white vinegar
  • 1 1/4 tsp kosher salt. 1 tsp if using regular table salt
Method
  1. Place the flour in a very large mixing bowl. Sprinkle it with all the salt. Cut the cold lard into cubes roughly an inch square and place them on top of the flour. With a pastry cutter, or two knives, cut the lard into the flour until the mix is uniform and the crumbs are about the size of raw oatmeal. Do not use your fingertips or the lard will warm up and the pastry will get sticky.
  2. In a separate small bowl, beat the egg, then pour it over the flour-lard-salt mix. Sprinkle with the vinegar, then with the icewater.
  3. Stir the mix until the dough comes together. Divide the resulting ball in thirds, and form into three flat disks. Wrap each one in plastic wrap or put it in a plastic bag. Refrigerate for at least an hour, better overnight. If desired, you can freeze the disks to use later, letting them thaw for an hour before rolling out.
  4. When ready to shape for your pie, sprinkle your VERY CLEAN countertop with flour and roll out with a rolling pin, starting at the center and working out, rotating the dough to maintain as circular a shape as possible. You may need to flour the top of the dough and your rolling pin, and use a bench scraper or spatula to free the dough from the counter as you go, especially in warmer weather or a hot kitchen. Continue until your circle is about a half-inch wider than the top of your pie plate, then transfer it to the pie pan and pat it into shape, fluting or pinching the top or otherwise decorating as desired.
  5. If you need to prebake/blind bake your shell, do so in a preheated 350-degree oven for about 15-20 minutes, until it just colors and no longer looks raw. Lining the empty shell with aluminum foil and using pie weights/beans/pennies for pre-baking will help keep it from slumping or bubbling up.

REVISIONIST SAMOSAS

When I was living in Pune, India, I posted about my attempt to make samosas there.  They turned out quite nicely with a good flavor, although my clumsy shaping ensured they were clearly not “desi” by birth.  I used some ingredients there that are sort-of, but not quite parallel to what I can find in US supermarkets here in the US.

For example – flour.  Wheat flour in Northern India is a huge staple.  Many people buy grain in bulk and grind it themselves, or bring it to a mill to grind.  Even the Western style supermarket I frequented offered bulk wheat purchase, with in-store milling to the fineness desired.  But I generally bought pre-milled bagged flour, of two types – attah and maida.  Maida is white flour; attah is whole wheat.  Both are much higher protein than US all purpose flour, and attah especially is often augmented by other grains or vitamin enrichment.

Another example are potatoes.  Here we are blessed with many kinds.  In India the potatoes were halfway between flaky white Idaho or Maine style potatoes, and the Yukon Gold yellow or waxy red russet types favored for boiling rather than baking.  They cooked up a bit firmer than whites, but were not as fine textured as the yellows or reds. I take advantage of US abundance and use a combo, relying on the yellows for texture and the whites for the substrate of the filling.  If you use just one type, an all purpose white potato will serve.

Spices.  There is no comparison, so I have tried to punch up the US version to reach the flavor levels of what we found in India.  There I was lucky enough to have received jars of “family masala” from our friends as gifts.  Every one was different, fiercely tasty, and oh, so good.  Pre-made garam masala here in the US is quite anemic by comparison.  The best of them that I’ve found was at Atlantic Spice in Truro.  Penzey’s is ok, but bland.  Kashmiri mirch (hot chili powder) is heavenly – fruity and complex.  Cayenne is hot but not as nuanced.  Some New Mexico style powdered chilis are too heavily smoked for this recipe. Try to find a less-smoked, fruity yet chili pepper powder use here.

Over the past weekend I had an occasion to make samosas again, making substitutions specific to what’s on hand here.  For example, I’ve tried to make the roti style flatbreads I used to make in Pune, but with equivocal success.  I suspected the flour.  Especially the white flour, which is too soft.  So I have made some changes to the types and proportions of flour, to get a better result.  Apologies for not having pix of the finished samosas, post frying.   They were too delicious, and did not survive long enough for photography.

Note that if you are shopping in a specialty grocery that caters to expat Indians, you will probably want to follow my original posting, and not the directions below.

One American Chick’s Sort-of-Samosas
Revised for a US kitchen

Makes 32 large snack-sized filled fried pastries
(makes filling for twice that many – extra may be frozen and used later)

Outside pastry:

1/2 cup white all-purpose flour

1/2 cup white bread flour

3/4 cup whole wheat flour  or whole wheat bread flour

2 1/2 Tbsp stick butter or clarified butter – MUST BE SOLID, NOT MELTED

3/4 cup water

1 tsp salt

3/4 tsp baking powder

Oil for deep-frying

Filling:

2 medium size yellow onions, diced (roughly 2 cups)

2 Tbsp oil or clarified butter for sautéing.

8 cloves garlic, minced fine

2 cups frozen peas

2-3 fist-size white potatoes, peeled

2-3 fist-size yellow potatoes, peeled

2 Tbs whole mustard seeds, preferably black

3 Tbs garam masala spice mix (or other spices to your taste).  Note that US-sold garam masala is usually quite weak.  If you have a fresh home-made blend or an imported blend from an import store, use less.

2-3 Tbs hot red pepper powder.  Kashmiri mirch is best, but if you can’t find import, choose a fruity and hot dried pepper rather than a heavily smoked paprika.  Use less if you don’t like fiery foods.

1/2 tsp dried coriander (I added this because the US masala was weak).

1/2 tsp dried oregano (I added this because the US masala was weak).

1 Tbs cumin powder (I added this because the US masala was weak).

1 tsp tumeric powder

3 Tbs clarified butter or stick butter for flavor

Fresh cilantro leaves  – about a big handful, de-stemmed and washed free of sand, then chopped roughly

3 Tbsp salt

Dipping sauce

1/2 small, sweet onion, like a Vidalia

1 clove of garlic

Large bunch of fresh cilantro leaves (the remainder of the bunch) de-stemmed and washed free of sand.

Salt to taste

1/2 Roma tomato or 6 or so cherry or grape tomatoes, seeded.

Instructions

1. Peel both kinds of potatoes, chunk them into two or three pieces and set them to boil until tender.  Drain the potatoes and salt them.

2. While the potatoes are cooking you’ll have some time.  Mix the two flours, the salt and baking powder together.  If lumpy, sift.  Work the hard clarified butter or stick butter into the flour mix with your fingertips or a fork, as if you were making scones or pie crust, until all the butter is incorporated, and the flour looks crumbly and grainy – past the point at which you’d stop if this was pie crust.

3. Add about half of the water to the flour/butter mix and combine.  Keep adding water slowly and mixing until the dough can be gathered up and briefly worked into a smooth mass.   Do not over-knead or the shells will be hard as rocks.  Set the dough aside under a damp cloth or in a plastic box.  The dough needs to rest and evenly hydrate for at least an hour before use.

4.  Take the cooked yellow potatoes and dice them into small chunks, about 1.5 cm (1/2 inch).  Precision isn’t important, you just want them to be small but noticeable bits in the stuffing.  Rough mash the white potatoes with the back of a fork or large slotted spoon.

5. In a VERY large frying pan, start a couple of tablespoons of oil over a medium heat.  Throw in the mustard seeds and listen/watch for them to begin popping, like mini popcorn.  When they pop, sauté the onions in the oil until light golden.  Add the minced garlic and sauté for a minute or two more, until the garlic is fragrant, but not brown.  Sprinkle all the dried spices, salt, and dried herbs onto the onions and sauté for another minute or two, until everything is very uniform and paste like spice coats the onion bits, smelling wonderful.  Toss in the potato cubes and let them get coated with the oily spicy oniony garlicky mix.  Then toss in the mashed potatoes and the remaining butter and stir all together to distribute the butter as it melts.  When incorporated, stir in the peas.  Taste it and add more salt if needed.  Let the stuffing heat on low for another ten minutes for the peas to thaw and cook, and for the flavors to meld.  Stir occasionally to scrape up any yummy bits from the bottom back into the filling, and to keep the potatoes from sticking to the bottom.  Fold in the fresh coriander leaves.  This fully cooked filling can be made way ahead and fridged until needed, although I suggest taking it out and letting it warm up before stuffing and frying the samosas, to ensure that the centers don’t remain cold.

6.  To assemble – have your filling ready.  Have a small rolling-pin ready.  Take the rested dough and divide it into 16 equal parts.  Put the parts back under the damp cloth towel or back into the plastic box until needed.   Take the first lump of dough.  Finger-flatten it into a fat pancake and pat it into some loose flour.  Roll it out into a circle, as large and as thin as you can (mine was about 6 inches around, and about an eighth of an inch thick).  Take a knife and cut the circle into two halves.  Each half will make one samosa.

7.  Try to follow this video’s folding logic.  Moisten the straight edge of the half circle with water, then pat it into a cone.  Hold the cone in one hand and fill it with the other hand, patting the filling in to make sure there are no air holes.  Moisten the top edge, then pinch the top of the samosa closed in the center (where the cone’s seam is), then pinch the seam shut left and right of that point.  Finally, fold the left and right corners of the newly formed seam together and pinch them, too.  The professional samosa chef does this by plopping the thing down on the counter and using the side of his hand to make the second seal, at the same time giving his pastry a nice, flat, triangular bottom.  Mine were more free-form, looking sort of like the back end of a fleeing chicken.  In spite of the laughably unorthodox shape, mine did stay closed while cooking, which is what counts.

rolling moistening the edge filling sealing

crimping and shaping  ready-to-fryfrying

8. As the samosas are done, place them on a plate or rack, making sure that they do not DO NOT touch each other.  If you are forming them ahead of time and intend to refrigerate before frying, this is an absolute necessity.   You can stack them in a large plastic box, but if you do, make sure each one is separated from the others, and waxed paper or plastic wrap between layers is highly advised.

9.  When the samosas are all formed they can be either baked or deep-fried three at a time in a small, deep saucepan.  The oil should be quite hot, but not smoking, and the samosas should take only a minute or two each to get golden brown.  I suggest letting them drain on a baking rack rather than on paper towels so that the bottoms don’t get soggy.

10.  To make the dipping sauce, use a small blender, the chopping box attachment on a stick blender, or a full size food processor to buzz the onion and garlic to mush.  Toss in the tomato, making sure to remove as much of the inner moisture as possible before doing so, and buzz to incorporate.  Then add the cilantro leaves.  Process until everything is evenly textured.  Add salt to taste.  You may want to pour off some excess liquid before serving – it depends on how juicy the vegetables were.

Serve the samosas hot with the dipping sauce, or cold.  They are best when still crispy, but also good after they’ve cooled.

All pix courtesy of Elder Daughter, who knows her way around a camera better than I.  The belan and chakla (rolling pin and platform) were hand made for me by family friend Rupesh Rocade’s father, and as you can see – are much used and appreciated!

CHECKING IN

Where have I been?  In Pune, but now home in the US for a brief visit. What have I been doing? Mostly wallowing in ennui.  For whatever reason, I have not been motivated to do much, not working on projects, researching, or writing here.

I can report that aside from the transoceanic trip, we did do one major thing.  We hosted a “happy hour” party for 25 of The Resident Male’s coworkers, holding it at the apartment.  I did all of the prep and cooking.  I made samosas, falafel, hummus, guacamole, and Chinese scallion pancakes (adding some minced hot peppers to the scallions).  I also improvised a mixed olive salad, and paneer with a Thai-style peanut sauce. Everyone had a good time, and using consumption as a barometer – the snacks were well received.  The scallion pancakes in particular were prime, and a do-again, for sure!

There is some minimal progress on my latest shawl.  I test-knit a new MMarioKnits product, but others were far speedier than me.  Most of the corrections I found were posted by others, and my finished project was not completed in time for photography for the cover of the pattern.  The main reason for this was a major lace disaster.  While photographing the piece, I managed to drop upwards of 90 stitches, and needed to ravel back to a solid point and re-knit.  After coming in so slowly for completion, I decided to punt the official as-written, minimal bind-off treatment, and add a knit-on lace edging.  I selected a simple one from Sharon Miller’s Heirloom Knitting, picked both for complimenting the lines of the shawl’s main motifs, and for being a multiple of 12 rows, and began.  I’m about two-thirds of the way around my circumference, and hope to be done soon.

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However, just because I’ve been a slouching, IPad/browser game playing slacker, doesn’t mean the rest of the world stands still.

I’ve said before that I get an enormous kick out of seeing what people do with the patterns and designs I post.  Occasionally, folk write to me to ask questions, or send me photos.  Other times, I track links to my pages back to the point of origin.  If I stumble across something I ask the owner if I can repost their work here, with links or attributions as they desire.  Here are the products of two people who sent me pix of their stitching this month.

Elaine from Australia delighted me with these two projects that include filling motifs from Ensamplario Atlantio:

for Francis's 60th reducedfor Murray's 50th crop-red

Both were presents for friends.  I’m not sure which one I like more – the piece for the Kiwi audiophile, or the one for the Lovecraft aficionado.

Meanwhile, Jordana in New York used two of the Ensamplario designs for the cover of a charming two-sided needle case.  Here are her photos of the work in progress, and the finished item:

needlebook-3

Needlebook-2aneedlebook-1a

Well done to Elaine and Jordana!  Special thanks to both of them for making my day!

SAMOSAS AND STUFF

An eventful week here at String India,  punctuated by the refusal of Windows Live Writer to run without crashing, which explains the lack of posts.

First, I present the results of a local yarn crawl.  Local Ravelry KnitPal RedHeadedWoman and I went on a yarn and stitching supply locating expedition to the center of Pune.  We crawled in and out of tiny shops that offered the most amazing variety of trims, beads, sequins, pre-stitched blouse yokes, and brocades. No where on earth does bling with the variety and joyful elan of India.   Yarn was harder to find, and real wool or silk was unicorn-rare.  But there were lots of colors of man-made fibers in various weights.

I came away with some crimson laceweight.  It’s about a 2/20 weight and in all probability, either all acrylic or an acrylic/nylon blend.  I’ve got roughly 400 grams (about 14 ounces), so I’d estimate that I have in the neighborhood of 4,500 yards.  I also got two fistfuls of small metallic beads, one silver tone, and one antique gold.  The princely haul below set me back about 600 rupees, roughly $11 US.

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Special thanks to RedHeadedWoman for the fun of poking around the market stalls!

Second, I present a happy food triumph of the slightly misshapen variety:  Samosas.

Samosas are one of the 10,000 snack foods for which India is famed.  It’s a highly adaptable fried or baked turnover, turning up with all sorts of fillings, in all sizes, and at all venues, from the most posh cocktail parties to street food stands.  About all I can see that unites them is a vaguely triangular shape and the happiness with which they are greeted.

I tried my hand at one of the most common types – a “truck stop size” samosa, filled with potatoes, peas and onions, spiced with lots of garlic and masala (a spice mix that varies from region to region and cook to cook).   We had ours with soup for dinner, but this is the type that’s most commonly available as street food, at roadside rest stops, or other places where food on the go is appreciated.

I started with this recipe, but quickly veered off on my own.  Note that the filling can be prepared way ahead and fridged, then brought back to room temperature before stuffing the samosas and frying them.

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Therefore, not pretending to offer up anything remotely resembling “authentic,” I present my own version.

LATE BREAKING UPDATE:  IF YOU WANT TO MAKE THESE IN A WESTERN KITCHEN, USING WESTERN INGREDIENTS, I HAVE POSTED A REVISED RECIPE HERE.

One American Chick’s Sort-of-Samosas
Makes 16 “truck stop lunch size” filled fried pastries

Outside pastry:

3/4 cup white all-purpose flour (maida)

3/4 cup whole wheat flour (atta)

2 Tbsp ghee or butter – MUST BE SOLID, NOT MELTED

1/2 cup water

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking powder

Oil for deep-frying

Filling:

2 medium size onions, chopped

2 Tbsp oil for sauteeing.

8 cloves garlic, minced fine

2 cups frozen or fresh peas

5 fist-size potatoes, peeled

2 tsp garam masala*, or other spices to your taste

1 Tbsp salt

Instructions

1. Peel the potatoes, chunk them into two or three pieces and set them to boil until tender.  Drain the potatoes and salt them.

2. While the potatoes are cooking you’ll have some time.  Mix the two flours, the salt and baking powder together.  If lumpy, sift.  Work the hard ghee or solid butter into the flour mix with your fingertips or a fork, as if you were making scones or pie crust, until all the butter is incorporated, and the flour looks crumbly and grainy – past the point at which you’d stop if this was pie crust.

3. Add about half of the water to the flour/butter mix and combine.  Keep adding water slowly and mixing until the dough can be gathered up and briefly worked into a smooth mass.  Do not over-knead or the shells will be hard as rocks.  Set the dough aside under a damp cloth or in a plastic box.

4.  Take about half of the cooked potatoes and dice them into small chunks, about 1.5 cm (1/2 inch).  Precision isn’t important, you just want them to be small but noticeable bits in the stuffing.  Rough mash the rest of the potatoes with the back of a fork or large slotted spoon.

5. In a large frying pan, saute the onions in the oil until light golden.  Add the minced garlic and saute for a minute or two more, until the garlic is fragrant, but not brown.  Sprinkle the masala mix onto the onions and saute for another minute or two.  Toss in the potato cubes and let them get coated with the oily spicy oniony garlicky mix.  Then toss in the mashed potatoes and stir all together.  When incorporated, stir in the peas.  Taste it and add more salt if needed.  Let the stuffing heat on low for another ten minutes for the peas to thaw and cook, and for the flavors to meld.  Stir occasionally to scrape up any yummy bits from the bottom back into the filling, and to keep the potatoes from sticking to the bottom.   This fully cooked filling can be made way ahead and fridged until needed, although I suggest taking it out and letting it warm up before stuffing and frying the samosas, to ensure that the center doesn’t remain cold.

6.  To assemble – have your filling ready.  Have a small rolling-pin ready.  Take the rested dough and divide it into 8 equal parts.  Put the parts back under the damp cloth towel or back into the plastic box until needed.   Take the first lump of dough.  Flatten it into a pancake and pat it into some loose flour.  Roll it out into a circle, as large and as thin as you can (mine was about 10 inches around, and about an eighth of an inch thick).  Take a knife and cut the circle into two halves.  Each half will make one samosa.

7.  Try to follow this video’s folding logic.  Moisten the straight edge of the half circle with water, then pat it into a cone.  Hold the cone in one hand and fill it with the other hand, patting the filling in to make sure there are no air holes.  Pinch the top of the samosa closed in the center (where the cone’s seam is), then pinch the seam shut left and right of that point.  Finally, fold the left and right corners of the newly formed seam together and pinch them, too.  The professional samosa chef does this by plopping the thing down on the counter and using the side of his hand to make the second seal, at the same time giving his pastry a nice, flat, triangular bottom.  Mine were more free-form, looking sort of like the back end of a fleeing chicken.  In spite of the laughably unorthodox shape, mine did stay closed while cooking, which is what counts.

8. As the samosas are done, place them on a plate or rack, making sure that they do not DO NOT touch each other.  If you are forming them ahead of time and intend to refrigerate before frying, this is an absolute necessity.   You can stack them in a large plastic box, but if you do, make sure each one is separated from the others, and waxed paper or plastic wrap between layers is highly advised.

9.  When the samosas are all formed they can be either baked or deep-fried.  I have no oven and have NOT tested my variant of the pastry for baking.  I fried mine, two at a time in a small, deep saucepan, and drained them on paper towels.

* Masala just means spice mix.  Garam masala means hot spice mix.  There are as many masala mixes as there are Indian households and cooks.  The one I dipped into for the potato filling was a home-made gift from Driver Rupesh’s family.  It’s a mix of red chili powder, anise, cloves, coriander, cumin, cinnamon and lord knows what else, pan roasted together and ground into tasty goodness.  I have another one that’s a home-made gift from work colleague Bavouk’s family.  It’s very different, with a subtle lemony/astringent perfume, and is especially delicious on vegetables and chickpeas.

BLINTZES IN BHARAT

Yes! Blintzes! Bharat being the name of this land to those who live here.  Perhaps missing comfort foods just a tad, I had a Stranger in a Strange Land kitchen interlude today, and share my results.

Long time readers here may remember that I shared my grandmother’s blintz recipe a while back.  Making them even in the US can be problematic because workable cheeses can be hard to find.  I’ve experimented with lots of different cheese mixes over the years, because the ones my grandmother used were not always available where I was living.  But inspired by paneer, which is like a super-dry farmer cheese, I was determined to make them here in India.  And make them, I did, with excellent success!

Here’s a modified blintz recipe, adapted to local ingredients and availability, and halved in quantity from my for-freezer storage original.  For the record, the paneer, dahi (an unsweetened thick yogurt) can be found in every market in India.  Mascarpone (a soft, spreadable cheese in the cream cheese family) was found in Auchan Hypermarket – the supermarket a couple of blocks from my apartment.  I’ve also seen it in Dorabjee’s.

Please note that blintzes are dairy, but not totally vegetarian, because both the crepes and the filling contain eggs.  For equipment you’ll need a grinder/blender, although a hand-held electric mixer would work even better, also a non-stick slope-sided omelet or crepe pan, a paper towel or basting brush, a couple of clean non-fuzzy/non-terry kitchen towels, and a ladle or scoop of some type.

Bharat Blintzes

Makes about 28-30 or so

For the crepes:

10 enormous heaping table tablespoons (as opposed to measuring spoons) of all-purpose flour (pile these so high that more can’t balance on the spoon)

3 pints of water

6 eggs

2 tsp salt

Vegetable oil for frying

For the filling:

600g paneer

200g mascarpone cheese

1/2 cup dahi

2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp ground black pepper

3 eggs

Directions

Making the crepes

Using the grinder/blender, and working with only HALF of each quantity above at a time (due to small blender carafe capacity), Combine water and flour until completely smooth with no lumps.  Blend in the eggs. Repeat with the other half of the ingredients, and mix the results of the two batches together.  This should give you a very runny vaguely yellowish batter.  It will be a bit frothy at first – let it sit for about 15 min to disperse some of the foam.

Spread out one clean kitchen towel in a safe spot near the stove.  Pour a VERY SMALL quantity of oil into your omelet pan, wiping most of it out with the paper towel.  Reserve the towel because you’ll use it again between crepes.  Set the pan to heat.  When the pan is hot, take it off the heat and ladle just enough batter into it that when the pan is swirled, the bottom is covered.  Set the pan back on the flame.  The edges of the crepe will release from the side of the pan and curl in, and the top of the crepe will eventually look dry and less shiny.  When that has happened, take the pan over to the towel and inverting the pan and rapping it on the towel, turn out the cooked crepe.  If it landed folded, spread it out to cool, with the cooked side up. Wipe the pan with the oily paper towel.

Keep making crepes until you run out of batter.  It should take only a minute or two for each new crepe to cool.  As they cool, stack them in a pile with the cooked side up.  The crepes should be thin enough that any pattern or printing on the kitchen towel should show through.  If they crack or are totally opaque, they are too thick.  You won’t get 28-30 from the recipe.  The crepes can be made ahead and left to sit, covered with another kitchen towel, but they should be filled on the same day as they are made.  If they are fridged between making and filling, let them come up to room temperature before you attempt to separate them.

Blintz-2

Making the filling:

I made the filling in three batches, again because of the limited capacity of my blender/grinder.  If you are using an hand-held electric mixer, there’s no reason not to do it all at once.

Using a third of the filling ingredients at a time, blend all together until smooth.  Combine the three batches and stir them together, just in case the division was less than perfect.

Filling and cooking the blintzes:

Place a crepe in front of you, cooked side up (you want the cooked side of the crepe to be in contact with the filling, and the uncooked side to be on the outside of the blintz) . Spoon one or two tablespoons of filling onto the bottom third of one side. Fold the bottom edge up over the filling. Fold in the left and right sides. Roll the crepe away from you to make a cylinder roughly the size of a Chinese eggroll. The filling should be entirely encased.

Blintz-1 blintz-3

These may be frozen or refrigerated at this point – both of these processes work best if the blintzes are not touching each other. Otherwise they might stick and the outsides might tear.

Saute lightly in vegetable oil starting with the “flap” side down. Blinzes are done when the skin is golden and the filling is firm. Serve with dahi, sour cream, or with applesauce or another sweet condiment.  This being India of course, any manner of savory, hot and sweet chutney might be used.

Blintz-4

Moral of the story: where there is a will (and cheeses) there is a way!

NIGHT OF THE LIVING COOKIE

Long time readers here will remember that December can’t happen without sufficient cookies. Ten kinds. This year, plus panforte and fudge. Which makes quite a pile on the sideboard:

What kinds?

Starting from the top, and going around clockwise, and ending in the center

1. Mexican Wedding Cakes – a pecan shortbread type. Very yummy.

2. Raspberry Thumbprints – Still looking for a good jam thumbprint cookie whose dough retains it shape better. And I suppose I’d be better off with jam instead of preserves, which don’t melt as evenly.

3. Mint Cocoa Swirls – Mint baking pieces were a gift from Needlework Pal Kathryn to Younger Daughter, who produced these. Slice and bake is an underrated cookie type. Will have to explore this more deeply in the future.

4. Oysters – a hazelnut spritz with dark chocolate ganache filling (my own invention).

5. Thin Ginger-Spice – this one (with a handful of finely minced preserved ginger for extra oomph) is rolled out with a peculiar gizmo to impart the design instead of using cookie cutters. I am told that cookies formed this way are called Spekulatius in Germany – Thanks Rainer!

6. Buffalo Bourbon Balls – I usually use rum in these but we were out, so I reverted to the original recipe and used bourbon.

7. Peanut Butter Sunburst – Instead of the traditional fork marking, we use a cookie stamp.

8. Earthquakes – a brownie bite style Chocolate Crinkle cookie, rich and very chocolaty. Nicknamed for the obvious fault lines.

9. Chocolate Chip – the traditional Toll House recipe, with nuts.

10. Lemon Cut-Outs – a standard sugar cookie, with extra lemon juice and zest in the cookie, plus a confectioners sugar icing made with lemon juice instead of the recommended royal icing.

The fudge declines to make an appearance, being still under sentence of refrigeration prior to being chunked into pieces. And yes, those are the two panfortes on the sideboard, marinating in Armagnac. I’ll top those with melted chocolate prior to consumption.


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COOKIE PARADE

As promised, proof that there are ten kinds (plus fudge) for 2009:

cookies-2009-4.jpg

1: Linzer Cookies – recipe from the King Arthur Flour website, this year with almond meal and using cherry preserves instead of raspberry. We used the smallest snowflake shape to make the center hole. The dough is very delicate and is best rolled out between waxed paper, with the center holes being cut after the cookie has been placed on a baking parchment covered cookie sheet. These really are best the day of making because the cookies tend to absorb moisture from the filling. They’re still very good, but they are softer and more cake-like if kept.

2. Light Spice Rolled Cookies –another from King Arthur (their cookie recipes are uniformly excellent). The only substitution I made was to use 1/4 tsp Chinese Five Spice Powder in place of ground cloves. (I don’t like a strong clove flavor). I used the cookie roller described in the last post. Aside from the advice posted there, I strongly suggest very lightly dusting the top of the dough with flour before trying to use the embossed roller, and using the roller without the handle. Cookies are light and crisp, not too sweet. Overall, this is an excellent ginger/spice tea biscuit, worth doing again. (This dough can also be rolled thin and cut out with conventional cutters if you don’t have the roller.)

3. Classic Peanut Butter Cookies – this one is from our circa 1970s copy of Joy of Cooking. We usually use crunchy peanut butter instead of smooth because it makes a better texture, but this year Younger Daughter has braces on her teeth and crunchy is banned for the duration. For decoration instead of the standard fork-tine checkerboard on top we use a cookie stamp, just because we have it. Peanut butter cookies tend to be moist and oily and keep a long time. They’re usually the second cookie we make in our march towards our requisite 10 types.

4. Buffalo Bourbon Balls – This is a standard no-bake cookie recipe that starts with ground store bought vanilla wafers, cocoa, and ground pecans. Ours comes from a version published in one of the Buffalo NY newspapers some time in the early 1960s. I’ve posted it before, but the recipe appears to have gone the way of all things so it’s repeated at the end of this post. We switched to using rum a few years ago, and prefer the results. Rum or bourbon, cookies also benefit from being made at least two weeks in advance so that the spirits mellow out. They’re always the first cookie we make each year because they keep so well.

5. Sugar Cookie Cutouts – this year in snowflake and holly leaf shapes only. Another classic cookie. This one is “Rich Rolled Cookies” also from our old Joy of Cooking. Our variant is to add a couple of drops of lemon extract to the batter, and to make the icing by using just enough lemon juice to make confectioner’s sugar spreadable, then dividing it into several smaller quantities, each tinted with food coloring. This icing hardens up nicely and if the cookies are left spread out after painting until they’re firm to the touch, will not cake up in the tin.

6. Chocolate Chip – our version of the official Toll House cookie recipe, although I do admit we splurge and use Ghirardelli semisweet chips and lots of broken pecans for an over the top touch.

7. Chocolate Crinkles – In this house they’re called Earthquakes because of all the fault lines. I alternate between the King Arthur Flour version, and a very similar cookie recipe from a clipping sent to me by long time pal Kathryn (Hi, Kathyn!). The King Arthur version is smack-you-in-the-face-with-chocolate, but the other one has a better texture and is less candy-sweet.

8. Pecan Sandies – Another recipe with Buffalo heritage, this one is an heirloom from my husband’s extended family. My variant is to sort through the bag of pecans and set aside the unbroken halves, then grind the bits to add to the batter. The pretty halves get dunked in water and pressed on the cookie tops just before baking. As you can see I’ve gotten a little better at shaping them over the years.

9. Easy Fudge – the condensed milk version. Super easy to make and a great way to use up leftover nuts from the other cookies. This year’s was bittersweet chocolate and walnuts. I repeated using the silicon oval baking forms to shape the pieces. Much neater and more uniform than the pat it into a pan and slice method.

10. Tatte Date Nut Rolls – recipe from the Boston Globe. This one was new this year. Preparation was very easy with a klutz-avoid rating of only 2 out of 10. The dough was well behaved, rich tasting dough and yummy date/walnut filling. Although it doesn’t look like there’s a ton of filling while the cookies are being made, the proportion of filling:cookie at the end is perfect. This is a keeper, but it’s not my ideal Christmas cookie. They taste fantastic, and would be the star of any holiday buffet, but they’re too delicate for plonking into cookie-share boxes, and like most fine pastry they do not keep especially long. (I’m thinking of all sorts of other fillings and will make this again for a dinner party, for sure.)

11. Oysters. My own invention. A hazelnut spritz sandwich cookie with a rich chocolate filling. It turns out that Younger Daughter is a dead-eye ace with the cookie press. She formed all of these this year. One caution – use one of the simple cookie press dies. The fancy shapes with small or narrow openings will not work. The ground hazelnuts will clog them and you’ll get the haphazard odd shapes that prompted this cookie’s name.

Buffalo Bourbon Balls

Adapted from the women’s pages of a Buffalo newspaper from the 1960s. Best if made at least two weeks in advance and allowed to mellow in a cookie tin.

Ingredients for cookies

1 12-oz. box

Store bought vanilla wafer cookies

2 cups

Confectioner’s sugar

1 cup

Finely chopped pecans

cup

Cocoa

cup

Rum

cup

Light corn syrup
Powdered sugar or cocoa or a mix of the two to rolls the balls in

Special equipment

Food processor

Directions:

1. Using food processor, grind cookies to powder. Remove from processor.

2. Using food processor, grind nuts finely. Add to cookie crumbs.

3. Sift sugar and cocoa together into crumb/nut mix.

4. Stir in rum and corn syrup. (Clean-up hint – measure the half cup rum into glass measuring cup, add light corn syrup to same cup until total volume equals 3/4 cup. Mix the two together in the measuring cup, then pour mix into dry ingredients. Much easier than trying to measure sticky syrup by itself). Keep stirring wet into dry ingredients until everything is combined (this may take a while).

5. Form into inch balls. Roll in confectioners sugar or a mix of cocoa and confectioners sugar to coat.

6. Store in a tightly covered container. Makes about 40-50 cookies, depending on size.

Variants: Use rum instead of bourbon. Walnut/Bourbon is a good combo. Use almonds and Amaretto; hazelnuts and Frangelica; or almonds and Chambord, Kirsch or other cherry or berry liqueur.


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COOKIE CODEX

Yes, it’s the end of December here at String, and that means cookies (and latkes). In spite of work younger daughter and I have managed to finish baking nine of our ten planned varieties. For 11, she’s stellar and can mix a batter on her own from the recipe without leaving the kitchen a disaster. She’s also dead eye accurate on the cookie gun, and can turn out uniform spritz cookies on her own. As a result we’ve managed tag team production, with me swooping in to do stuff that she prefers not to do, or juggling the sheets in and out of the oven.

This year’s production included a new item – a light gingerbread style cookie rolled out with a European style cookie roller:

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The recipe I used is from King Arthur Flour’s website – Light Spice Cookies. I had tried another from Fine Cooking, but was sadly disappointed. That dough has been relegated to pat-in-pie crust status.

The King Arthur cookies I had made before, using standard cut-out cookie cutters. They turn out quite nicely, sort of like gingery animal crackers, and are especially good when rolled out very thinly. For the record, I use Chinese 5 spice powder in place of ground cloves, just to be different and to tame the clove undertaste a bit (I don’t particularly like cloves).

Here you see the dough roller results. I think the roller’s impressions look a bit like a Mayan Codex.

cookies-2009-1.jpg

To get this result, I rolled out my dough very thin, less than 1/8 of an inch. Although it was tender and easy to manipulate, the handle of the cookie roller and not the cookie dough turned out to be the weak part of the system. Applying any pressure at all snapped the removable patterned cylinder out of its mooring. So I set the handle aside and used the heel of my hand to apply slow, even pressure as I rolled out the impressions. The raised bits on the roller are high enough to cut the cookies almost completely out. A small bit of encouragement with the tip of a very sharp knife was needed to release a couple of the tricker bits, like the cat’s tail, and the protruding feather of the upside down bird immediately above the cat (or is it a fox or wolf – it’s hard to tell).

In any case the cookies did separate nicely and the dough preserved the textured detail even after baking:

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Nice crisp (almost hard) grown-up ginger spice cookies. Not too soft, not too sweet. A perfect accompaniment to hot tea.

A full visual catalog of all ten kinds later this week. I promise.


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