December 5th, 2012

Cookies and Patience

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Hello out there!
I realize that I’ve been away for awhile, but I have a few moments to check in, say hey, and share an update or two.
I am posting today from the Washington DC area, where I have been since Thanksgiving.

We are on Baby Vigil.

This baby, my first grandbaby, could be born at any time.
His or her “due date” was December 1st. (I know, it’s an approximation. Only 4% of the babies are born on the due date.)
But
The nursery is ready. The parents are ready. My daughter is really ready.

It’s just a matter of time. A lesson in patience. This miraculous thing will happen in its own rhythm.

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So, what to do while Waiting for Baby?
Time to exercise my grandmotherly skills.
Bake cookies.

It requires its own kind of timing and patience—although within a very tight framework.

I hadn’t made cookies for a while, and I was reminded of the art of the bake:
One minute can make the difference between a moist chewy cookie and one that shatters at the bite.
One minute–and a cookie could have a nice brown edge, or an overall brown burn.

Cookies are done when you think they aren’t quite done.
They continue to crispen on the sheetpan after they come out of the oven.

Timing and patience. Every oven is a little different. It requires the tricky but rewarding art of discernment.

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Today, I baked two kinds of drop cookies, contemporary takes on classic goodies. We’ll bring them to the hospital to share with the birth team, if we don’t eat them all. While waiting.

Number one is a double chocolate pistachio cookie, its dough rich with dark cocoa, butter, brown sugar, and a generous chop of bittersweet chocolate. Creme de cassis–just a splash– adds an intriguing hint of berry. I think you’ll like its topping of pistachios, toasted and flecked with salt.

The second takes the traditional oatmeal cookie as its base. Here I use organic brown sugar whipped into butter. Along with the rolled oats, I fold in dried blueberries and chopped bittersweet chocolate.

Blueberries and dark chocolate make an uncommon, but delicious pairing in the cookie. These are especially for the expectant father, my son-in-law. Blueberries and dark chocolate are his favorites.

While you’re in the midst of the holiday hustle, take a little time for yourself. Treat yourself with kindness and patience.
Have a cup of coffee or tea and a cookie or two.
Or three.
I’ll be back, soon I hope, with news about this baby. Or another cookie recipe.

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DOUBLE CHOCOLATE PISTACHIO COOKIES
1 cup (2 sticks) softened butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
3/4 cup cocoa
2 eggs
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoons creme de cassis (optional)
2 cups chopped bittersweet chocolate
1 cup chopped toasted pistachios

Cream softened butter and sugars together until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs.
In a separate bowl, whisk cocoa, flour, baking soda, and salt together. Beat into egg mixture.
Fold in vanilla, creme de cassis, and chopped bittersweet chocolate.
Line baking sheets with parchment.
Gather the dough in tablespoon-sized lumps and drop onto the baking sheet, leaving about 1″ space between cookies.
Sprinkle the tops with pistachio pieces. Gently press pieces into the dough.
Bake cookies in the center of a preheated 350 degree oven for approximately 10 minutes.
Remove from oven and allow to cool on a rack before using a spatula to remove from baking sheet.

Makes 4 dozen cookies
Note: both cookie recipes can be cut in half with fine results, if you want to make smaller batches.

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BLUEBERRY-OATMEAL-CHOCOLATE CHUNK COOKIES
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 1/2 cups Demerara (or turbinado, or organic brown) sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups oats (not the “quick” kind)
2 cups dried blueberries
2 cups chopped semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate

Cream softened butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs.
In a separate bowl, whisk flour, baking soda and salt together.
Beat into egg mixture, a little at a time.
Beat in oats.
Fold in dried blueberries and chopped chocolate.

Drop by the tablespoon onto parchment-lined baking sheet, leaving 1″ space between cookies.
Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 12 minutes.
Remove and cool on a rack.

Makes 4-5 dozen cookies

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Posted in Chocolate, Desserts, Recipes | 24 Comments »




November 9th, 2011

Maggie’s Fruit-n-Granola Bread

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She’s at it again. Friend Maggie has become quite the baker, and during our visit last week, she showed me how to make her latest favorite: a delicious—and easy— granola bread.

Doesn’t it look tempting?

It’s chock full of dried fruits, almonds, and honeyed grains. The dough itself is barely sweetened; the abundance of jewel-like fruits provides bursts of sweetness throughout the loaf.

If she could, Maggie would have you over right now, for “a set” on her porch in the country. We’d savor the fall afternoon with a buttery slice and cup of coffee. Lining the front of her yard are the shrubs called burning bush–at this moment in their brilliant red blaze. We’d watch the flurry of chickadees, snatching and storing seeds for the coming winter. We’d talk about oddities we experienced gardening this year–how the tomatoes put more of their energy into vines than fruit, and did you know that groundhogs could climb a fence and eat green beans?

Instead, we’ll have to do the next best thing, and show you how it’s done…

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What a fetching assembly of ingredients!

You could make this bread with just raisins and granola, if you prefer. And, if you’d rather put in pecans instead of almonds, you’d be well-pleased with the results.

Maggie had all kinds of dried fruits–apricots, blueberries, cherries, cranberries—in her pantry, so we took the “more is better” approach. For this bread, it proves to be the right one!

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Yes, it’s a kneaded, yeasted bread, but don’t be dismayed. Remember, Bread=Time. And most of that time means leaving the dough alone. (after a vigorous kneading!)

This recipe calls for one major rising, followed by a brief one, once the loaves are formed.

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The holidays are drawing near. Wrapped up in festive packaging, her fruit-n-granola bread would make a much appreciated gift.

Even better though, would be to have a loaf on hand to serve guests, sliced and smeared with soft butter. Served alongside a cup of hot coffee or tea—ah, I can’t think of a more pleasant way to share a chilly afternoon visiting with friends.

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MAGGIE’S FRUIT-N-GRANOLA BREAD

1/3 cup Rolled Oats (not the “quick” kind)
1 1/2 cups Dried Fruit (use a variety & dice if necessary)
1 tablespoon Unsalted Butter (substitute vegetable oil for vegan)
2 tablespoons Honey
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/2 cup boiling Water
1 cup Granola (chop into coarse crumbs if necessary)
1 cup lukewarm Water
1 pkg. Active Dry Yeast
2 1/2 cups Unbleached All-purpose Flour
1/2 cup Almonds, roughly chopped

In a large bowl, combine oats, 1/2 cup of the dried fruits, butter, honey, and salt. Add boiling water, mix well. Stir in granola and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine yeast and lukewarm water. Cover bowl with a dish towel and set aside to ferment.

When granola mixture has cooled down to lukewarm, stir in yeast mixture.

Stir in flour, 1 cup at a time. Stir in the remaining dried fruit and almonds. The dough will be fairly sticky.

Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface. Flour your hands, and adding flour as needed. knead the dough for about 8 minutes, or until it’s smooth and no longer sticky.

Place dough into an oiled bowl, making sure to coat all over. Cover bowl with a dish towel and place in a warm area – the oven with light on is a great place. Let rise until it’s doubled in size – 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Punch dough down. Cut in half and shape into two slightly oval balls. Place on an oiled sheet pan. Cover with a dish towel and let rise for 15 – 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375F. Bake for 35 – 40 minutes. It should have a golden brown crust and sound slightly hollow when tapped. Foolproof test is 190F on an instant read thermometer. Let cool on a wire rack.

Let cool for at least 10 minutes before slicing! (Gives you time to brew up that pot of coffee-)

Makes two small round loaves.

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Posted in Breads, Recipes, Vegan | 34 Comments »