Julia Usher has created a fantastic book for those among us who enjoy the cookie swap. Her book extends the notion well beyond the annual holiday cookie swap. Her book shows that the cookie swap is perfectly suited to garden parties, showers, children’s birthdays, summer get-togethers, and more.Read More
I wasn’t surprised today to see the NYTimes report that after 48 Years, Julia Child has a best seller. Clearly, “Julie & Julia” has reawakened an interest in Julia Child and catapulted “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” to the top of the best-seller list. I know my purchase helped.
Funny but when my copy arrived from my favorite online bookseller on Friday, wrapped in a promotional flyer for the movie, I realized that it is unlikely to get much use. Why? Well first of all, it is about French cooking, a cuisine that I enjoy immensely, but don’t prepare at home. Second, the style of the book is unchanged from its first publication. Thus it is in the narrative style of other compendium cookbooks from the 1950s and 1960s, like “Joy of Cooking.” It has lots of text, a few illustrations and no beautiful photos of the final product to entice you into preparing it. Without the photos, I found no vicarious enjoyment. It looked hard. In fact, it looked as hard as the Escoffier cookbook that has been gathering dust for 20+ years in my cabinet.
I am glad I bought “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” It is always good to own a classic cookbook like this or “Joy of Cooking.” And when I need to know how to prepare Caneton Poele aux Navets, I will know where to turn.
In 48 years a lot has changed in cookbook publishing, television food shows and how we prepare and consume food in general. …next stop for me is Julie Powell’s book.Read More
I have been on a quest for cookie recipes from South and Central America. Today I found this fantastic recipe for Chocolate-Covered Dulce de Leche cookies on David Leite’s site. (David Leite taught the cookbook publishing class I attended last week at ICE. ) Doesn’t this sound delicious?
Dulce de Leche Cookies
For the dulce de leche
2 14-ounce cans sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons light rum
Pinch kosher salt
For the cookies
1 cup granulated sugar
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 ounces cream cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and chilled in the freezer for 10 minutes
2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and chilled in the freezer for 10 minutes
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
4 large egg yolks
For the chocolate glaze
16 tablespoons unsalted butter
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, at least 70% cacao, finely chopped
2 tablespoons corn syrup
For the toasted coconut
1 cup sweetened, shredded coconut, finely chopped and toasted in a 375°F (190°C) oven on a baking sheet until golden, about 8 to 10 minutes
Make the dulce de leche
Peel off the labels from the cans of sweetened condensed milk and open them, leaving the top resting on the milk. Wrap heavy foil over the top of each can, pushing down on the center of the foil and running fingers around the inner and outer rim of the can, so the can is sealed as tightly as possible. Place the cans in a three-quart sauce pan and fill the pan with hot tap water, leaving 1/2 inch of can above the waterline. Cover the sauce pan with a lid. Over high heat bring the water to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer for 3 hours. A little milk may spill into the water; don’t worry. What’s important is to maintain the water level by replacing it with hot tap water. The dulce de leche will look like a deep golden brown pudding thick enough for a fork to stand up in on its own.
Carefully remove the cans from the pot and, when cool enough to handle, pour the dulce de leche into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the vanilla, rum, and salt and process until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and cool to room temperature. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before using. (It re-thickens as it chills.) Keeps for 2 weeks.
Make the cookies
In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, process the sugar for about 15 seconds to a fine powder. Add the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt and run the motor for 15 seconds until well incorporated.
Evenly scatter the cream cheese and butter cubes over the flour mixture, breaking up any pieces that have clumped together. Combine the dough with 15 one-second on/off pulses until the flour looks like coarse meal.
In a small bowl beat the vanilla and the yolks. Pour them over the flour. Pulse with 10 one-second on/off turns, scrape down the sides, then process with the motor continuously running for about ten more seconds until the dough barely starts to come together and clings to the outer portion of the bowl, leaving the center clear. The dough will be dry and crumbly.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and push it together with your hands to form a ball. Do not knead. Divide the dough into thirds, pat each into a flat 5-inch disk, and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Take one disk out of the refrigerator and roll it out between two sheets of lightly floured waxed paper to a long oval shape 1/8 inch thick. If the dough sticks to the paper and is difficult to roll out, remove the waxed paper from one side, lightly flour the dough, replace the waxed paper, flip over, lightly flour the other side, then continue rolling. Roll out the other disks in the same manner. Place the dough ovals in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, or up to 2 days, or in the freezer for three months.
When you are ready to bake the alfajores, position the racks in the top third and bottom third of the oven and heat to 375°F (190°C). For best results, line ungreased baking sheets with parchment paper.
Take one sheet of dough out of the refrigerator at a time, remove the waxed paper from one side of the dough, lightly flour it, and replace the waxed paper. Flip it over, peel off the other sheet, and cut the dough into as many 2-inch rounds as possible, reserving the scraps. Place the cookies on the baking sheets about 1/2 inch apart. Continue with the remaining dough in the same manner. Combine all the scraps once and repeat the same steps for rolling, cutting, and baking.
Bake the cookies for 12 minutes, rotating the baking sheets halfway through baking time from front to back and top to bottom until the cookies have a golden edge and bottom. Let the cookies rest for 2 minutes on the baking sheet and then cool on wire racks. The cookies can be stored in an airtight plastic container at room temperature for 2 days or in the freezer for 3 months.
Make the chocolate glaze
In a microwave melt the butter in a 1-quart bowl on high power for about 1 minute.
Remove from the microwave and add the chocolate and corn syrup. Let stand for 1 minute; the heat from the butter should melt the chocolate. Then, stir until melted. If necessary, microwave on medium power for 20-second intervals.
Assemble the alfajores
Line the baking sheets with waxed paper and place wire racks on the paper. Place half the cookies on the racks. Spoon a heaping teaspoon of dulce de leche onto the center of each cookie. Top with another cookie and press until secure and the filling is evenly distributed.
Place an alfajor on a fork with long tines and hold it over the chocolate. Spoon a thin coating of the glaze over the cookie’s top and sides. (The bottom of the cookie does not get coated with chocolate.) With the cookie still on it, gently tap the fork on the bowl rim several times and then pull it across the bowl rim so any excess chocolate drips back into the bowl. Place the coated alfajor on the rack. Repeat with the remaining cookies, making sure they don’t touch each other. Place in the refrigerator for 1 hour until firm.
Place the toasted coconut in a shallow bowl. Set one cookie at a time on the coconut and press coconut only onto the cookie’s sides, edging it with coconut and sealing in the dulce de leche. Be careful not to get fingerprints on the chocolate top. Alfajores keep in the refrigerator for 3 days or the freezer for 3 months.Read More
After another day of 90F+ temperatures, I am starting to look forward to cooler weather, and Fall baking. At the top of my list for September baking is a new recipe which combines Fall harvest apples, almonds and unsweetened coconut in a moist, chewy cookie. This cookie is good for gluten-free diets and other special diets.
(makes about 12 cookies)
1 granny smith apple, peeled, cored and seeded
1 cup unsalted almonds
1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1 large egg, slightly beaten
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Line baking sheet with parchment.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Peel and quarter the apple.
Combine all ingredients, except for egg, in a food processor and pulse until coarsely ground.
Mix in egg and cinnamon.
Form into 1″ balls and flatten with bottom of a glass.
Bake at 350 degrees for about 15-20 minutes until light brown and firm to touch. Cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes. Remove to cooling rack and cool completely.
Store cookies in airtight container for 3-5 days.
About a year ago, while cleaning up my recipe collection, I discovered a long-forgotten homemade candy article from Gourmet magazine, December 1998. The article featured, among others, home-made peppermint patties, brown-sugar fudge and pistachio pralines. As you can only imagine, once I found that article, I started to dream about mastering the seven stages of molten sugar and the proper techniques to temper various types of chocolate.
Since last Fall, I have invested in a candy thermometer, practiced making truffles and started reading more about how to make chocolate confections of all sorts. There are two fantastic books that have guided my pursuit.
The first is Michael Recchiuti and Fran Gage’s book, Chocolate Obsession. Michael’s book includes recipes of his own commercial creations such as Force Noire Ganache, Kona Coffee Ganache, Burnt Carmel Sauce, and Chocolate-covered Caramelized Hazelnuts. Interestingly, I have sampled Michael’s fabulous artisanal confections for years, purchasing them for friends, family and self at Recchiuti.com. (They are all delicious.)
The second book is Andrew Garrison Shotts’ book, Making Artisan Chocolates. Andrew’s book focuses primarily on techniques. It is beautifully illustrated with color photographs which show how the basics of tempering and molding chocolate. His book also has a few charts that I have fallen in love with. One is a beer and chocolate pairing chart (who knew Guinness Stout went best with citrus infused milk chocolate.) The other is an inspirational chocolate and spice pairing guide. The chart gave me some interesting ideas for chocolate infusions and also inspired some ideas for cookie spice combos.
If you are interested in learning to make chocolate confections, I would recommend that you investigate both of these books.Read More