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Mindy Segal's strawberry rhubarb rugelach with oatmeal streusel

Just a few days after I made only a small dent in my coconut stash, I started another baking project. This one was a bit of a potschke, a bit of a fuss, that required several steps over the course of two days. I was reviewing Mindy Segal’s Cookie Love for the Forward and found myself deep in the rugelach chapter. That’s right, people, an entire chapter on rugelach and their similarly-made, differently-shaped Polish cousins, kolatchkes. (Don’t the Kolatchkes sound like a nice family you’d like to have over for dinner? I would definitely invite them.)

In the introduction to her book, Mindy writes “Spring is here only after I’ve made strawberry rhubarb rugelach.” With the weather we were having, I was ready to do anything to will spring on. Anything. Even spend two days making cookies.

So, I picked up a few pounds of strawberries. No, not the ones below – these I snagged this morning at the farmers market (!!!) – but a plastic box of uniformly red, decent enough berries.

strawberries

I grabbed a couple stalks of rhubarb, also from the grocery store, and heated them up with the berries. Everything mushed together, eventually slumping into a soft pot of preserves, sweet with berries, tart with rhubarb, and just enough sugar to help the grocery store produce along.

strawberry rhubarb preserves

Want a closer look?

strawberry rhubarb preserves

Whoa, that’s close.

I pulsed together an oatmeal streusel crumble.

Mindy Segal's oatmeal streusel

And made a cream cheese dough that I covered with fruit and sprinkled with streusel.

 Mindy Segal's strawberry rhubarb rugelach with oatmeal streusel

I sliced the dough into triangles. OK, officially, those are trapezoids.

Mindy Segal's strawberry rhubarb rugelach with oatmeal streusel

Then rolled them up.

Mindy Segal's strawberry rhubarb rugelach with oatmeal streusel

And covered them with more streusel.

Mindy Segal's strawberry rhubarb rugelach with oatmeal streusel

And popped them in the oven.

Through the glass, I could see the dough puffing and browning and falling. The pink fruit bubbling and leaking from its spiraled home.

Mindy Segal's strawberry rhubarb rugelach with oatmeal streusel

Out of the oven, the rugelach cooled, and dribs and drabs of caramelized preserves hardened into edges of brittle.

Mindy Segal's strawberry rhubarb rugelach with oatmeal streusel

The dough was soft and flakey, ribboned with pucker-y berries, and punctuated by nubbins of crispy streusel.

I thought about eating them all. Myself. But I didn’t. I shared.

Mindy Segal's strawberry rhubarb rugelach with oatmeal streusel

Strawberry rhubarb rugelach with oatmeal streusel

From Mindy Segal’s Cookie Love. I’ve modified the order of the steps and some of the language to best reflect how I made the rugelach. The recipe is long, so make sure to read through the whole thing through before starting.

There are a lot of components to make here and many ingredients require chilling, so I made these over the course of two days. On the morning of day 1, I macerated the fruit and let it sit in the fridge for a few hours. Later that evening, I cooked down the fruit preserves and then prepared the cream cheese dough, chilling it overnight. On day 2, I made the oatmeal crumble and then assembled and baked off the rugelach. 

Makes 48 rugelach

For the cookies:

– 1 recipe Classic Cream Cheese Dough (see below), divided in half and chilled
– 1 recipe Strawberry Rhubarb Preserves (see below)
– 2 cups Oatmeal Streusel (see below)
– cooking spray
– 1 egg white, lightly beaten
– ¼ cup granulated sugar

Roll out. Put a sheet of parchment paper the same dimensions as a half sheet (13 by 18-inch) pan on the work surface and dust lightly with flour. Remove one dough half from the refrigerator (it should have been chilling for at least 2 hours and should be pretty solid) and place on top. Using a rolling pin and a pastry roller, roll the dough half into a rectangle, leaving a 1-inch border from the edge of the parchment paper. The dough should be just shy of ¼-inch thick. If the edges become uneven, push a bench scraper against the sides to straighten them out. To keep the dough from sticking to the parchment paper, periodically dust the top lightly with flour, cover with another piece of parchment paper, and, sandwiching the dough between both sheets of parchment paper, flip the dough and paper over. Peel off the top layer of parchment paper and continue to roll. Repeat with the second dough half.

Chill. Stack both sheets of dough on top of each other and refrigerate until chilled, approximately 30 minutes.

Heat. Heat the oven to 350°F. Line a few half sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly coat with nonstick cooking spray.

Fill. Invert the sheets of dough onto the work surface and peel off the top sheet
of parchment paper. For each sheet of dough, spread ¾ cup of strawberry rhubarb preserves in a thin, even layer across the surface. Sprinkle approximately ½ cup of streusel per sheet over the preserves. Trim the edges.

Slice. Using a dough cutter or a pizza cutter, divide the sheet in half lengthwise into two long strips. Working with one strip at a time and moving crosswise, cut out triangles with flat tips, with each base approximately 1½ inches wide and each tip approximately ¼-inch wide. Shoot for 12 triangles per strip.

Roll up. Using an offset spatula or dough cutter, separate a triangle away from the rest of the dough. Starting from the base, roll the dough 
up like a crescent roll. Place tip-side down on the prepared sheet pan and repeat with the remaining triangles, spacing them on the pans 1 inch apart. Brush the tops with the egg white and sprinkle with the sugar. Sprinkle the tops generously with the remaining
 1 cup streusel.

Bake. Bake one pan at a time for 15 minutes. Rotate the pan and bake for another 
8 to 10 minutes, or until the streusel is golden brown.

Cool. Let the cookies cool on the sheet pan for 1 to 2 minutes (do not wait too long or the preserves will stick to the parchment paper). Using an offset spatula, transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with the remaining dough.

Store. Rugelach can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days. Rolled, unbaked rugelach can be refrigerated for up to 1 week.

***

Classic cream cheese dough

From Mindy Segal’s Cookie Love. This is the basic cream cheese dough that Mindy uses for rugelach, kolachkes, and even her own version of fig newtons. The dough really needs to stay cold, so I popped it back in the fridge a few times while I was rolling it out if it started to feel too delicate. I saved half of the cream cheese dough and brought it to a friend’s house – her daughters and I rolled out the dough and stuffed it with a combination of peanut butter, chocolate chips, and butterscotch chips. 

Makes 2 (13 by 18-inch) sheets of dough

– 1 C (8 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
– 1 C (8 oz) cream cheese, at room temperature
– 1/3 C plus 1 T granulated sugar
– 1 t pure vanilla extract
– 2 C unbleached all-purpose flour
– 1 t kosher salt
– 1 teaspoon sea salt flakes

Mix. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the butter on medium speed for 5 to 10 seconds. Add the cream cheese and mix on medium speed to combine, 10 to 15 seconds. Add the sugar and beat on medium speed until aerated, approximately 3 minutes. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula to bring the batter together.

Mix some more. On medium speed, add the vanilla, mixing briefly until incorporated. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula to bring the batter together. In a bowl, whisk together the flour and salts. Add the flour mixture all at once and mix on low speed until the dough just comes together but still looks shaggy, approximately 30 seconds. Do not overmix. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer. With a plastic bench scraper, bring the dough completely together by hand.

Chill. Stretch two sheets of plastic wrap on a work surface. Divide the dough in half (each half will weigh around 14½ ounces) and place a half on each piece of plastic. Pat the dough into rectangles, wrap tightly, and refrigerate until chilled throughout, at least 2 hours or up to 1 week.

***

Strawberry rhubarb preserves

From Mindy Segal’s Cookie Love. To get one pound of hulled strawberries, you’ll need to start with about 1.5 pounds of unhulled berries. These preserves are definitely puckery – which works nicely for the regulach since the streusel adds another sweet element and baking seems to intensify the fruit’s sweetness – but you might want to add more sugar to taste. Any leftover preserves are great mixed with yogurt or poured over ice cream. 

Makes about 2 cups

– 2 C finely diced rhubarb (approximately 2 large stalks)
– 1 lb washed, hulled, and dried strawberries, finely diced
– ¾ C granulated sugar
– 1 T freshly squeezed orange juice

Macerate. Combine the rhubarb, strawberries, granulated sugar, and orange juice in a bowl and let macerate for at least
 4 hours at room temperature or cover and refrigerate overnight.

Heat. In a high-sided, heavy pot, heat the fruit mixture over medium-high heat until the juices start to boil and foam. Lower the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally to prevent the bottom from scorching, until most of the liquid has evaporated and the rhubarb has broken down completely, approximately 30 minutes. You will have close to
 2 cups. Transfer to a storage container and refrigerate until completely chilled, at least 2 hours.

***

Oatmeal streusel

From Mindy Segal’s Cookie Love

Makes 2 cups

– 6 T (3 oz) cold, unsalted butter, cubed
– 6 T firmly packed light brown sugar
– 1¼ C unbleached all-purpose flour
– 6 T old-fashioned oats
– 1/2 t kosher salt

Pulse. In a food processor, pulse together the butter, sugar, flour, oats, and salt until it forms a fine meal, and the butter is evenly incorporated. Do not over-process.

Chill. Transfer to a storage container and chill completely, approximately 1 hour. Or freeze and use within 1 month.

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on its own

Up until recently, I’d never been much of a coconut fan, but a brief glance in my cabinets might convince you otherwise. In a bit of overzealous, absent-minded Passover grocery shopping, I ended up with several pounds of shredded and flaked coconut. I do things like this more often that I’d care to admit. I bet you do too. (Please, tell me you do.) Baking up a half-dozen batches of macaroons over the holiday barely made a dent in my coconut stash. After Passover, I toasted up some for granola and sprinkled a bit more on lentils, and this cake is where I suspect the rest of that coconut will end up.

Coconut tea cake

It’s a simple loaf cake strewn with shredded coconut and laced with coconut milk. I found it in Dorie Greenspan‘s Baking: From My Home to Yours and the time that passed between my reading the head note and pulling out my mixer couldn’t have been more than three minutes. Four, tops. Dorie describes it as a “dry cake” – the kind that her Austrian friend grew up with, the kind without frosting or fuss, without too much going on, the kind you can eat any time of day (or night). Now this is my kind of cake.

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while now, you might have noticed that I don’t really decorate cakes. This stems less from laziness per se (though that definitely factors into the equation) and more from a strongly-held belief that a cake should be good enough to stand on its own with no frosting, glaze, or sprinkle in sight. In fact, if I have to choose between a cupcake and a muffin, I’ll almost always go with a muffin. I think this stems from the fact that the special occasion cake we ate growing up was my mom’s chocolate chip pound cake – with a dense crumb and pockets of chocolate, this bundt cake just as good straight from the freezer as out of the oven. And my mom usually made a double batch, so more often than not, there was a chunk of frozen cake wrapped and re-wrapped in plastic, sometimes hidden in the ice cube maker.

But back to the coconut. I made just a few tweaks to Dorie’s original recipe, adding lime zest as Dorie suggests and substituting vegetable oil for melted butter to make a non-dairy version. Since a can of coconut milk is typically just under two cups, each time I’ve make this cake, I’ve doubled the recipe, making up the remainder of the second cup with water.

As Dorie says, the cake is a little dry and has a thin sugary top crust that shatters under the gentle pressure of a knife. Like biscotti, a slice pairs perfectly with a cup of coffee or tea. Like all good pound cakes, it lasts several days on the counter, tastes even better a few days in, and freezes easily. It’s coconut-y without being too coconut-y, if you know what I mean. And what I mean is that a few self-proclaimed coconut-haters liked the cake. By which I mean that I didn’t tell them there was coconut it in and they happily ate several slices each. If you want, you can bake the cake in two rounds, frost it, and cover it with toasted coconut for the birthday of a special coconut loving friend. But Meira, the birthday girl, and I agreed that the cake is best on its own.

Coconut Tea Cake 

Adapted from Dorie Greenspan‘s Baking: From My Home to Yours. Make sure to use regular unsweetened coconut milk rather than the light stuff which leaves the cake a little rubbery. 

Makes 2 8- or 9-inch loaf pans (the original recipe calls for a 9- to 10-inch bundt pan)

– 2 C flour

– 1 t baking powder

– pinch salt

– 2 limes for zest and juice

– 2 C sugar

– 4 large eggs, preferably at room temperature

– 1 t vanilla extract

– 3/4 C shredded unsweetened dried coconut

– 1 C canned unsweetened coconut milk (stir before measuring)

– 1/4 C vegetable oil, plus more for greasing the pans

Prep. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease 2 8- or 9-inch loaf pans.

Sift. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together.

Zest. In the bowl of a stand mixer, zest the limes over the sugar. With your fingers, rub the zest into the sugar until it’s aromatic.

Whisk. In a small bowl, whisk together the coconut milk, oil, and lime juice (2-3 tablespoons).

Beat. With the whisk attachment of your stand mixer, beat the eggs and sugar/lime zest at medium-high speed until pale, thick, and almost doubled in volume, about 3 minutes. Beat in the vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, scraping down the sides of the bowl and needed and stopping just when the flour disappears.

Mix. Keeping the mixer on low, add the dried coconut, mixing only until it’s blended, then steadily pour in the hot milk. When the mixture is smooth, stop mixing and give the batter a couple of turns with a rubber spatula, just to make certain that any ingredients that might have fallen to the bottom of the bowl are incorporated.

Bake. Pour the batter into the pans and give them a few back-and-forth shakes to even the batter. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the cake is golden brown and a thin knife or cake tester inserted deep in the center comes out clean. Transfer the cake to a rack and cook for 10 minutes before unyielding onto the rack to cool to room temperature.

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It’s a mid-March Friday night in an Irish pub, and three girls are perched on stools padded by their heavy winter coats. They rustle for wallets in their over-filled bags, settle their tab, and drain the last drops from their glasses – two beers and a cider. As they turn on their stools and scramble to gather their coats purses hats gloves, an elderly gentleman enters the bar.

Cap pulled over his eyes, an oversized jacket hanging off his shoulders, a plaid scarf wrapped around his neck, he introduces himself as Nick. “Ladies, where are you going?”

“We’re heading home.”

“Why? You’re going to leave me here all alone?”

“We have to get home…it’s been a long night. We need our beauty rest.”

“What were you doing before you got here?”

“We were at a shabbat dinner.”

“Oh, you’re Jewish? You’re Jewish!”

“Yes, we are.”

“Have you seen Fiddler on the Roof? I love Fiddler on the Roof. Have you seen it?”

“Yes, we have.”

“I love Fiddler on the Roof! Do you know what else?”

“What?”

“I love matzah. I eat it all year.”

He reaches into his coat pocket and pulls out a few shards of matzah. Then into his shirt pocket for a few more. And his pants pocket for another handful. He hands a piece to each of the girls.

“I always keep matzah in my pockets. I have to have it with me all the time, I just love matzah so much. I love Fiddler on the Roof too.”

The girls smile and take a few steps backwards towards the door, tightening scarves and adjusting hats, all while holding on to their matzah gifts.

“Now girls, don’t leave me here all alone.”

“We have to go. It’s late.”

“Please don’t go.”

They smile again and turn away. He grabs the hand of the closest girl and swoops in with a peck on the cheek.

The girls giggle and walk into the wind, leaving behind the warmth of the bar and Nick with his matzah.

True story.

Happy holiday of matzah. Whether you celebrate this week or all year round or not at all.

Here’s some dessert. No, it’s not remotely related to the story. orange  blossom macaroons OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Orange Blossom Macaroons

Adapted from Alice Medrich’s recipe, new classic coconut macaroons 2.0, in her book “Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies.” The key is to buy the largest unsweetened coconut flakes (sometimes called coconut chips) instead of shredded coconut. I replaced vanilla with orange blossom water and added orange zest. Medrich suggests a half-dozen variations, including pressing a square of dark chocolate into the still-warm macaroon, adding lime zest and cinnamon, or mixing in pecans, chocolate and dried sour cherries.

I first published this recipe in The Forward‘s Passover 2015 section.

Makes about 30 cookies

– 4 large egg whites

– 3 1/2 C unsweetened dried flaked coconut (also known as coconut chips, not shredded)

– 3/4 C sugar

– 1 t orange zest

– 2 t orange blossom water

– a generous pinch salt

Mix. In a heavy stockpot over very low heat or a large stainless steel bowl set directly in a wide skillet of barely simmering water, combine all of the ingredients. Stir the mixture with a silicone spatula, scraping the bottom to prevent burning and lowering the heat if it starts to brown. Initially the mix will be really sticky, glossy and stringy. Continue to stir for about 5-7 minutes until mixture is very hot to the touch and the egg whites have thickened slightly and become opaque. At that point, there will be no more strings. Be careful because hot sugar can burn.

Wait. Set the batter aside for 30 minutes to let the coconut absorb more of the goop.

Prep. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350°F. Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven.

Scoop. Drop heaping tablespoons of batter about 2 inches apart on the lined baking sheets. The piles of coconut will look a bit shaggy and may fall apart a little bit. Keep a small dish of water nearby and use wet fingertips to neaten things up.

Bake. Bake for about 5 minutes, just until the coconut tips begin to color, rotating the pans from top to bottom and from front to back halfway through the baking time to ensure even baking.

Keep baking. Lower the temperature to 325°F and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes, until the cookies are a beautiful cream and gold with deeper brown edges, again rotating the pans from top to bottom and from front to back halfway through the baking time. If the coconut tips are browning too fast, lower the heat to 300°F. Set the pans or just the liners on racks to cool — the macaroons will still be a bit soft, but will crisp up as they cool. Be careful handling the macaroons at this point because hot sugar can burn. Let cool completely before gently peeling the parchment away from each cookie.

Store. The cookies are best on the day they are baked — the exterior is crisp and chewy and the interior soft and moist. Although the crispy edges will soften, the cookies remain delicious stored in an airtight container for 4 to 5 days.

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early or late

Well, Purim has already come and gone, and while I planned to publish a recipe for hamantashen before the holiday this year, it’s now so late that I think it’s reasonable to say I’m really really early for next year’s celebration.

pistachio rose hamantashen

I’ve never had much luck with hamantashen, but I was inspired by Breads‘ apple and marzipan varieties of the three-cornered treats and decided to have a go at it. My first instinct was to commandeer a recipe for sweet tart dough (pâte sucrée) and wrap it around diced apples and cinnamon, like little triangular apple tarts. But despite my best efforts to fold and seal the edges, the dough wouldn’t hold together and there just wasn’t room for enough apple filling for the pastries to taste like much of anything.

Frustrated, but not defeated, I made a pistachio filling, based on a recipe for frangipane almond cream. I flavored the pistachio with rose water as an ode to my favorite Persian flavor combination; last year, I made pistachio rose biscotti for my mishloach manot.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

pistachio rose paste

After a bit of research, I turned to my friend Leah‘s dough recipe and everything quickly came together. (Check out her cookbook that will be released tomorrow – it’s a keeper!) After a few practice runs, I figured out a few tricks for hamantashen success that I’m sharing now so you’ll have more than enough time to practice before next Purim rolls around.

First, make sure to roll out the dough quite thin – Leah suggests 1/8-inch. I initially had a difficult time getting my dough thin enough. It’s not that I measured, but after baking off the first few tashen, I noticed that the cookie to filling ratio was too high and the cookie part was nicely golden on the outside but undercooked in the middle. I found it much easier to roll out no more than a quarter of the batch at a time. Then smoosh the scraps back together and roll it out again, adding a knob of dough, bit by bit, until you finish the batch. As a general rule, I like to roll dough on a sheet of parchment (or between two sheets) so I don’t need to use extra flour.

Now, let’s chat about the fillings. Most importantly, only use a teaspoon of filling for each 3-inch round.  You will want to add more. Don’t or you’ll have a difficult time folding the dough and and the filling will leak out any which way it can. If you use jam that’s liquidy, like my jam was, no matter how good you are at folding, the jam will make a mess.

hamantashen with jam OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

strawberry rhubarb hamantashen

I like the caramelized jam, and was peeling it off the parchment and eating it like candy, but it would have been nice if it had stayed put. So either use a thicker jam, or strain some of the juice out. The pistachio filling that I made was pretty thick, and baked up almost cookie-like, so once I got the folding down, it behaved and even rose a bit as it baked, filling out the hamantashen. I suspect brownie batter would work quite well too. Just saying.

pistachio rose hamantashen

As for closing up the hamantashen, I vote for folding up the sides and weaving the three flaps one over another as if closing a cardboard box without tape. Then pinch the points to seal everything in. Also, while you’re folding up your hamantashen, I highly recommend humming La Kova Sheli Shalosh Pinot / לכובע שלי שלוש פינות (check out this stylized version) or, in English, My Hat It Has Three Corners.

Before we get to the recipe, here’s a little fun reading for your week.

If you give a dude a kale chip.

The New York Times on shooting food porn.

In case you’re *ahem* still trying to organize your kitchen more than a month after moving to a new place. And on a related note, tidying up.

pistachio rose hamantashen

Pistachio rose hamantashen

Makes about 36 hamantashen (depending on size)

– 1 batch hamantashen dough (below)

– 1 batch pistachio frangipane (below)

Prep. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Roll and cut. Remove a quarter of the dough from the refrigerator, making sure to wrap the remaining dough well. Roll the dough out on a sheet of parchment (or between 2 sheets) to 1/8-inch thickness. Use a 3-inch round cookie cutter – I actually used a 3 1/2-inch glass because that’s what I had – to cut out as many circles as possible and transfer them to the parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover the circles with plastic wrap or a sheet of parchment paper to prevent the dough from drying out. Re-roll the scraps and additional dough from the refrigerator until you fill the baking sheet.

Fold. Spoon 1 teaspoon of pistachio filling into the center of each dough circle. Fold the left side over on an angle, followed by the right side. Fold the bottom flat up, tucking one end under the side flap to make a triangle-shaped pocket. The filling should be visible in the center. Pinch the seams firmly to seal.

Repeat. Repeat the process with the remaining dough and filling.

Bake. Bake until lightly golden and browned at the corners, about 15 to 18 minutes, until the cookies are cooked through. Remove from the oven and let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly.

Store. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

***

Hamantashen dough

From Leah Koenig via Food52. Just one bowl! No stand mixer required! 

Makes enough dough for about 36 hamantashen (depending on size)

– 2 eggs

– 1 T water, plus more if needed

– 1/4 C vegetable oil

– 1/2 C sugar

– 2 1/2 C flour, plus more if needed

– 1 t baking powder

– 1/2 t kosher salt

Whisk. In a large bowl, lightly whisk the eggs. Continue whisking in the water, vegetable oil, and sugar until combined.

Mix. You could mix the flour, baking powder and salt together in a second bowl. But rather than dirty another bowl, just pour about half the flour into the bowl on top of the egg mixture. Sprinkle the baking powder and salt over the flour and use a fork to mix together the dry ingredients without disturbing the wet ingredients  below. Then, with a spatula or large spoon, stir everything together. Add in the remaining flour and mix until the dough begins to come together. Turn the dough out onto a flat surface and knead a few times with your hands until it is smooth, but not sticky. (If the dough appears too dry, knead in more water, 1 teaspoon — and no more! — at a time. If it looks too wet, knead in up to 1/4 cup more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, until you reach the right consistency.)

Chill. Gather the dough, then divide it in half with a knife and form into two flat disks (to make it easier to roll out later). Wrap each disk tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or up to overnight.

***

Pistachio frangipane

Frangipane is an almond pastry cream. Here I replaced the almonds with pistachios and added rose water for a baklava-like flavor. I based the recipe off of my pear frangipane tart and Cannelle et Vanille‘s mini peach and pistachio frangipane tarts. You can make the recipe parve by replacing the melted butter with vegetable oil. 

Makes about 2 cups

1 3/4 C unsalted shelled pistachios

2/3 C sugar

1/2 t salt

2 eggs

2 t rose water

3 T melted butter

1/4 + 2 T C flour

Pulse. In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, pulse the nuts, sugar, and salt until the mix is ground to the consistency of a fine cornmeal. Don’t let the nuts turn into a paste just yet.

Process. Add the eggs and pulse to combine. Then add rose water and melted butter and mix until the consistency of cake batter. Add flour 2 tablespoons at a time and mix until all the flour is integrated and the paste starts clumping up over the blade and rolling around the bowl.

Store. Keep the pistachio paste in the refrigerator. If  you have any left over, you can bake up tablespoonfuls of paste into cookies (350ºF for about 12 minutes).

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as a way to celebrate

One year, for my birthday, I bought myself a suit. It was the first designer anything I had ever purchased and, with its lovely pattern, its boucle texture, its leather trim, it made me feel very special. Every time I wore it, I told people I was wearing my birthday suit.

This year, on my birthday (December 8th, in case you want to mark your calendar for next year) there was no designer suit, but there were cookies. Whole wheat chocolate chunk cookies.

whole wheat chocolate chip cookies

Now, there are two types of cookie people: the chewys and the crispys. (Or is that the chewies and the crispies?) I am squarely on team crispy and that’s where the cookies pictured above fall. If, however, you root for team chewy, stop reading right now and head over to the original recipe. According to Jess, who introduced me to this recipe, the cookies have an interior that is “soft, even borderline flakey.”

The first time I baked them up, I followed the recipe to a T and, well, I didn’t like the cookies very much. They were big – three tablespoons of dough big – and puffy and, if you can imagine this, sort of fluffy in the center. And yet, flawed as their texture was, the nutty-without-nuts taste was intriguing, and I couldn’t stop thinking about them.

One year went by, two years, then three, the cookies almost forgotten, until a big bag of whole wheat flour called to me from the cupboard. I played around with the recipe, making batch after batch and tweaking flours (2:1:1 whole wheat to graham to white makes a nice combo but is too fussy), sugars (less brown sugar equals less chewy), cookies size (I like them small), and baking temperature and time (lower the temp and bake for longer). Finally, finally, five batches in, I nailed the recipe.

I send to few dozen cookies to a few friends, including Meira and Caroline, as a hey-I’m-just-thinking-about-you kind of surprise. Two days before my birthday, their mother Monica emailed me: “Did you send Meira cookies because it was your birthday?” I hadn’t, but I liked that she thought of me as someone who takes care of other people as a way to celebrate.

So I baked another batch of cookies and invited friends over for an impromptu evening of birthday nibbles and bubbles. More on what I cooked in a bit, but for now, the cookies.

Whole wheat chocolate chunk cookies

Adapted from Kim Boyce’s Good to the Grain, as published on Food 52. I made a few changes to keep the cookies crisp, and in case you’re curious, here’s what I did, using using The Food Lab: The Science of the Best Chocolate Chip Cookies article to guide my experimentation.

1) Most importantly, I replaced half of the brown sugar with Demerara sugar. Using a crystalized sugar instead of brown helps the cookies crisp, and Demerara retains some of the molasses and toffee flavor of brown sugar. You could also use white sugar, so 1 1/2 cups white sugar, 1/2 cup brown sugar. 

2) I increased the amount of chocolate by 50%. Because, chocolate.

3) Rather than three tablespoons of dough per cookie, I used one tablespoon. After scooping the dough onto the cookie sheet, I smushed them with the palm of my hand so they would bake more evenly, eliminating that chewy center. The consistency ends up on the denser side, almost shortbread-like.

4) I lowered the temperature and increased the baking time to encourage the cookies to spread as much as possible, which isn’t very much.

5) I only bake one sheet of cookies at a time. I don’t like to fuss with rotating trays from top to bottom, front to back. 

6) The original recipe has you cool the cookies on parchment, which I assume encourages them to retain a bit of moisture – not what I want at all. Instead, when the cookies are cool enough to touch, I transfer them straight to a cooling rack.

Makes 7-8 dozen small cookies

– 12 oz bittersweet chocolate

– 1 C (2 sticks) cold butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

– 1 C white sugar

– 1/2 C Demerara sugar (or turbinado or sugar in the raw)

– 1/2 C brown sugar

– 2 eggs

– 1 T vanilla extract

– 3 C whole wheat flour

– 1 1/2 t baking powder

– 1 t baking soda

– 2 t kosher salt

Prep. Preheat the oven to 325ºF. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Chop the chocolate into 1/4-inch chunks.

Mix. Add the butter and the sugars to the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. With the mixer on low speed, mix just until the butter and sugars are blended, about 2 minutes. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until each is combined. Mix in the vanilla. The batter might look curdled at this point, but don’t worry.

Keep mixing. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add this mixture to the bowl and blend on low speed until the flour is barely combined, about 30 seconds. You’ll probably find some extra flour lurking at the bottom of the bowl, so scrape down the sides and bottom.

Keep mixing. Add the chocolate all at once to the batter. Mix on low speed until the chocolate is evenly combined. Use a spatula to again scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, and use your hands to fully incorporate all the ingredients, kneading lightly.

Scoop. Scoop dough onto the parchment-lined baking sheet, using a 1-tablespoon ice cream scoop, at 2-inch intervals.

Press. With the palm of your hand or a wooden spoon, press the cookie dough until it’s about 1/4-inch thick.

Bake. Bake the cookies for 16 to 20 minutes until the cookies are evenly dark brown and dry to the touch. Allow the cookies to cool on the sheet for about 5 minutes until you can pick them up and transfer them to a cooling rack. Repeat with the remaining dough – you can re-use the parchment.

Store. While for many cookies, I like to scoop out the entire batch and then freeze the scooplets so that I can bake up a half-dozen or so when the mood strikes, it doesn’t work as well for these cookies because of their crumbly dough. So, just bake all of the cookies and store them in an airtight tin or in the freezer. If you’re afraid you’ll eat them all … well, that’s when you give them away as gifts.

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open all hours

I woke up to a white sky this morning and, while it will no doubt further complicate my travel plans above and beyond the usual pre-holiday Manhattan exodus traffic, I just love the first snow of the season. I trekked through the light storm, one that fluctuated between gentle flakes and stinging hail, to Adeena‘s place to pick up peanut butter brownies to support Sharsheret‘s annual Pies for Prevention sale. (Check out this post for a bit more about the pie sale, Adeena’s mom Steffi, and a recipe for pumpkin cranberry bread.)

I felt a little sheepish showing up in Adeena’s apartment where nearly every surface was covered with pumpkin or pecan or chocolate chip pie having just outed myself as a pie hater. But I brought a piece of cake as a peace offering.

The cake is an Italian olive oil cake strewn with shredded pumpkin (or in this case, kabocha squash) and studded with toasted cashews. I recently transferred from Union Square Cafe to Marta — the newest restaurant in our family and inspired by the uber-thin crust Roman pizza — and was editing our menu a few weeks ago when I noticed a new dolci item: torta di zucca. I snagged a slice, downed it a few bites, and started to plot a way to get the (parve!) recipe.

Plotting wasn’t really necessary as all I had to do was ask our head baker, Chef Pat Clark. We chatted for a bit in the prep kitchen while he stirred a huge pot of marmalade over a low flame, and then he emailed me the directions he wrote out for his team.

all manner of pumpkin

I spent a day tweaking the recipe, converting the gram measurements to cups, trying a few different winter squashes, testing different-sized pans, and tracking oven time like a hawk. By evening, I had reproduced the torta in my own kitchen.

The torta bakes up tall and proud. Due to its long time in the oven, the edges are thick and golden brown — a crust that pie wishes it had. The cake interior has a tight crumb punctuated by delicate squash ribbons and cashew nubbins. Its top is slick with a burst of citrus. Day two cake can stand on its own, but throw a slice in the toaster and smear it with a little butter or marmalade for a real breakfast treat. The freezer is kind to this cake, so, please, double the recipe. Or triple it.

Marta's torta di zucca

Now, earlier this month after a particularly bad day, I was speaking to my aunt Leslie, the one who always hosts Thanksgiving. Sessie is a great listener and had some helpful advice and when I thanked her, she said, “call me any time. As Bubbie used to say, ‘open all hours.’”

As I walked home from Adeena’s today, ducking beneath the shelter of scaffolding wherever I could and ticking off a mental packing list, that refrain kept interrupting my thoughts. Open all hours.

So, as we approach Thanksgiving and we get together with people we love, people we like, people we like a little less, people who drive us crazy, people we’re crazy for, I consider myself blessed to have a handful of people in my life who are open all hours for me. They live in my neighborhood and downtown, have moved away or have been far away for years, reside in the US and out. Luckily, they understand when I only bring three-quarters of a cake to dinner.

Marta's torta di zucca

Here are a few more stories of Thanksgivings past

2013: Cornbread apple stuffing

2012: Applesauce (with our without cranberries)

2011: Pumpkin cranberry bread

2010: Chocolate chip pound cake and wild mushroom soup

And now, the recipe.

Marta's torta di zucca

Marta’s Torta di Zucca (Roasted Pumpkin and Cashew Olive Oil Cake)

Adapted from Marta’s Torta di Zucca by Chef Pat Clark.

I tested this cake with kobucha squash and butternut squash, and both worked well. A 1 ½ pound gourd has about 1 pound of usable squash which, shredded, yields 2 ¼ very tightly packed cups. Use what every squash you like, just make sure to watch carefully while it roasts so that it doesn’t burn. You can substitute any nut for the cashews – I think almonds or pecans would work nicely. While Clark’s original recipe called for hand-grating the squash, I used my food processor which yielded slightly thicker pieces of squash.

The bake time for this cake is quite long and will vary depending on your oven and the type of pan that you use. I used a 9-inch round springform pan with high sides and the total bake time was one hour and ten minutes. For the first 30 minutes or so, cover the pan with aluminum foil that you’ve poked holes in – this will allow the cake to bake without letting the top burn. The holes prevent the cake from steaming.

The cake will indeed soak up all of the lemon-orange glaze, just keep at it. 

Serves 8 to 10

For the cake

– 1 ½ lb kobucha squash (or 1 lb pre-peeled and cut butternut squash)

– ¾ C cashews

– 2 ½ C all-purpose flour, plus extra for preparing the pan

– 1 t baking powder

– ½ t baking soda

– 1 ½ t kosher salt

– 3 large eggs

– 1 ¾ C white sugar

– 1 C less 1 T extra-virgin olive oil

– 2 t vanilla extract

For the citrus glaze

– ½ C orange juice

– ¼ C lemon juice

– ¼ C sugar

– ¾ C confectioner’s sugar

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Grate. Cut the squash into quarters. Remove the stringy bits and seeds. Use a vegetable peeler to remove the outer layer of your squash. Grate the squash using the large holes on a box grater or a food processor.

Dry. Spread the grated squash out on a baking tray and flash in the oven for 8-10 minutes to remove excess moisture from the squash (a little color is okay, but don’t let the squash burn).

Toast. Turn the oven down to 350° F. Toast the cashews for about 5 minutes until just slightly browned. Allow the nuts to cool and then coarsely chop.

Spray and dust. Prepare a 9-inch springform pan with high sides by lightly spraying with oil. Dust the greased pan with flour, covering all surfaces and tapping out the excess flour.

Sift. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Mix. With a stand mixer on medium to medium-high, paddle together the eggs, sugar, olive oil, and vanilla until light and creamy. Turn off the mixer and scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula.

Mix, more gently this time. Add the dry ingredients all at once. Mix on low until just together. Use a rubber spatula and scrape down the mixing bowl again. Add the squash and toasted nuts all at once, mixing on low until just incorporated. Don’t overmix.

Bake. Poke a few holes in a piece of aluminum foil large enough to cover your cake. Lightly tent the top of the cake, leaving room so it won’t touch the surface of the cake as it rises. Place the pan on the middle rack of the oven. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil tent, rotate cake, and bake for 35-45 more minutes. Toothpick test the dead center to make sure your cake is fully baked.

Whisk. While the cake is baking, whisk together the citrus glaze ingredients and leave on top of the stove to fully dissolve sugar. Whisk again prior to use.

Brush. Cool for 15-20 minutes and de-pan onto a cooling rack. Immediately use a pastry brush to coat the top and sides with glaze, making sure to use all the glaze. You will think it’s too much, but it’s not. Allow the cake to completely cool before cutting.

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I am a very, very lucky girl. Remember when I spent a day with Dorie Greenspan? Well, I met up with her again and then I wrote about it for The Forward.

See, she just published a cookbook, Baking Chez Moi, and kicked off  her book tour at the 92nd Street Y where we were able to gab for a bit before she climbed onto a tall stool (she’s quite petite, so it was a bit of a climb) and chatted with Julia Moskin from the New York Times in front of a packed room.

Dressed in a royal blue tunic with black leggings and ballet flats, her bright scarf draped loosely around her neck, Dorie greeted me with one of her fabulously warm hugs.

Here are a few of my favorite Dorie-isms.

Dorie defined quality in baking as “ingredients and the care with which you make things.”

When asked whether she believes in such a thing as a “white thumb” for pastry, she responded with a resounding no. “My father couldn’t even find the kitchen and my mother made shopping lists instead of dinner. [Dorie’s father owned a supermarket in Brooklyn, and her mother would organized her grocery list by aisle]. Baking is like playing piano. At first you just make noise. But you work on it every day and you see yourself getting better. I taught myself to bake from books, learned that it takes desire to do it.”

On baking versus cooking: “I love baking. I always return to it when I’m stressed out. It’s the process, the ingredients, getting dirty, everything under my nails. I love the magic of it… You cook for yourself and other people, but when you bake, you don’t bake for yourself, you bake to share. You bake for love and for people you love.”

Reflecting on her entertaining style, Dorie said,  “I’m a higgledy piggledy, loosey goosey cook at home and I think that’s how you should be!” She likes to invite people over on the spur of the moment, and even on New Year’s Eve, she rarely finalizes a menu until the day before.

I found this wildly reassuring and, when a friend told me she’d be in town visiting, I offered up chez moi for a spur-of-the-moment potluck lunch with a couple of our friends. Though my Manhattan apartment is small, can feel cramped when my hair frizzes up, and never seems tidy enough for company, I decided to make one of Dorie’s treats to share. I baked a batch of fruit-and-nut croquants, adding a handful of chocolate chips to these mandelbread-like cookies for good measure. One friend brought wine and challah. Another made meatballs. I tossed together a few small salads. We whiled away the cold rainy afternoon, catching up, sipping tea and nibbling on croquants.

Dorie Greenspan's fruit and nut croquets

I’ve copied from Baking Chez Moi Dorie’s recipe for Fruit and Nut Croquants, but have a few notes of my own. First, I skipped all of the optional flavors, so no almond extract, orange zest, nutmeg, or cloves. I made two batches and forgot to sprinkle the second pair of loaves with sugar – no biggie. I couldn’t resist a little chocolate, so for the 8 ounces of fruit and nut mixture, I used 4 ounces whole almonds, 2 ounces dried tart cherries, and 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips.

Dorie Greenspan’s fruit and nut croquants

The word croquant can be both an adjective and a noun. As an adjective, it’s easy: It means “crunchy.” As a noun, it can be confusing: It usually refers to a cookie, but there are bunches of cookies that carry the appellation and, depending on who’s making them and where, the cookies can vary in size, shape, flavor and degree of croquant-ness. Say croquant, and most French cookie lovers think of the ones from the south of France, which are usually studded with whole almonds and flavored with orange-flower water

However, the croquants that really caught my attention came from a small bakery in Lyon. The Lyonnaise cookies weren’t flavored with orange-flower water — in fact, I didn’t detect any flavoring at all — and in addition to lots of almonds, they had other nuts and dried fruits. They looked similar to biscotti or mandelbrot, the Eastern European version of the double-baked sweet, and while they were called croquant, they didn’t quite live up to their name (or their nickname: casse-dents, which means “tooth breakers”) — they were crunchy on the outside and just a little softer and chewier on the inside.

I’ve flavored these with vanilla, but if a whiff of orange-flower water appeals to you, go ahead and add it. When I’ve got oranges in the house or, better yet, tangerines or clementines, I add some grated zest whether I’m using vanilla or orange-flower water, or a combination of both. As for the nuts and dried fruits, I leave their selection up to you, although I think you should go heavier on the nuts than the fruit. For sure you should have whole almonds (preferably with their skins on), but you can also use cashews, walnuts, (skinned) hazelnuts, macadamias or pistachios. Similarly, while I often add golden raisins, there’s no reason not to consider dried cherries, pieces of dried apricots or even slim wedges of dried figs.

Makes about 30 cookies

2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 large egg white, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon pure almond extract (optional)
Finely grated zest of 1 tangerine or orange (optional)
¾ cup (150 grams) sugar
2 cups (272 grams) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
Pinch of ground cloves (optional)
8 ounces (227 grams) dried fruits and whole nuts (see above)
Sugar, for sprinkling

1) Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350˚F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

2) Put the eggs and egg white in a liquid measuring cup, add the vanilla and the almond extract, if you’re using it, and beat the eggs lightly with a fork, just until they’re foamy.

3) If you’re using grated zest, put it in the bowl of a stand mixer, or in a large bowl in which you can use a hand mixer. Add the sugar and, using your fingertips, rub the sugar and zest together until the sugar is moist and fragrant (or just add the sugar to the bowl). Add the flour, baking powder, salt and spices, if you’re using them. Fit the stand mixer with the paddle attachment, set the bowl on the stand and turn the mixer to low, just to blend the ingredients. If you’re using a hand mixer, just use a whisk to combine the ingredients.

4) With the mixer on low, steadily pour in the eggs. Once the dough starts to come together, add the dried fruits and nuts and keep mixing until the dough cleans the sides of the bowl. You’ll probably have dry ingredients in the bottom of the bowl; use a flexible spatula to stir them into the sticky dough.

5) Spoon half the dough onto the lined baking sheet a few inches away from one of the long sides, and use your fingers and the spatula to cajole the dough into a log that’s 10 to 12 inches long and 2 to 2½ inches wide. The log will be rectangular, not domed, and pretty rough and ragged. Shape a second log with the remaining dough on the other side of the baking sheet. Leave space between the logs — they will spread as they bake. Sprinkle the logs with sugar.

Dorie Greenspan's fruit and nut croquants

6) Bake the logs for 45 to 50 minutes, or until browned and firm to the touch. (If you want the croquants to be softer and chewier, bake them for 40 minutes.) Place each log on a cutting board, wait 5 minutes and then, using a serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion, cut into slices about ½-inch thick. Transfer the slices to a rack and allow them to cool to room temperature.

Dorie Greenspan's fruit and nut croquants

Serving: It’s hard to resist dunking these cookies, so don’t. They’re great with coffee, tea, red wine or dessert wine.

Dorie Greenspan's fruit and nut croquets

Storing: Moisture and crunch don’t mix, so find a dry place for these; a cookie jar, tin or storage tub works well, but because they’re meant to be hard, I just keep them in an uncovered bowl or basket. Yes, they get firmer, but I’m fine with that. If your cookies lose their crunch, heat them in a 350˚ F oven for about 10 minutes.

Dorie Greenspan's fruit and nut croquets

 

 

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This year has felt like a series of beginnings. New city, new apartment, new job, another new apartment. So I’m especially excited to spend Rosh Hashanah with Meira, who herself is having a year of beginnings. An engagement, a wedding, an expanded family, a house. I’ve often celebrated holidays and shabbat with her family in Atlanta. I  believe this will be Meira’s first time hosting Rosh Hashanah outside of Atlanta, and I’m thrilled to be starting off the new year with her and Alan, Alexa, Samantha, and my sister Robyn.

I’m picking up challah from Breads and will be baking apfelstrudel with the girls. Robyn is in charge of selecting a few new fruits.

I decided to also bake something special to commemorate this year. I wanted to come up with a new recipe rather than relying on my tried and true honey cake or apple cake. Because while there’s comfort in the familiar, we’re all navigating uncharted territory these days and I wanted to come up with a treat that would reflect that.

At 8:32 am on Tuesday, I sent Meira a text: “I just had an ammmmmmmaaaaaaaazzzzzzzzzing idea. Honey. Coconut. Macaroons.” My mind was made up. This would be the new dessert for 5775.

honey macaroonns

Note, however, that Meira didn’t actually say she thought honey coconut macaroons were an amazing idea. Nor did she say they weren’t. So, I went ahead and made them and am keeping my fingers crossed that she likes them.

I came across a few recipes online for paleo macaroons that replace all the refined sugar with honey. And I did some reading about how to substitute honey for sugar in baking. Here are the basics:

1) Most sources claim you can substitute one cup of honey for the first cup of sugar. After the first cup, you should use a 1/2 to 3/4 cup honey for each cup sugar.

2) For each cup of honey you use, reduce the liquids in the batter by 1/4 cup. Unfortunately this becomes impossible when the only liquid in your recipe is 1/4 cup of egg whites which is the binder keeping everything together.

3) Honey browns faster than sugar. To avoid burning, lower the oven temperature by 25ºF and reduce baking time.

4) Honey is acidic. To counteract the acidity, add 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon baking soda (a base) for each cup of honey.

For my first batch, I used this macaroon recipe as a base since it has always served me well. I replaced all the sugar with honey, increased the amount of coconut to counteract the additional moisture in the honey, and added some baking soda. The batter never really came together. It had the strange quality of sticking to everything else except itself. I did what I could to gather the coconut bits into a scoop, pack them in really tight, and then drop them onto parchment paper. I wet my fingertips to wrangle each scoop into a manageable clump. In the oven, out of the oven, and the macaroons never set, they just fell into a sweet soggy mess with browned edges.

Luckily I had a few pounds of coconut in my pantry, so I started over. I used the same base recipe, but this time only replaced some of the sugar with honey and used less total sweetener. I added just a half-cup extra coconut to counter the honey’s moisture. And, as before, I added a smidge of baking soda. The macaroons scooped out nicely, just as they have in the past. They baked up crispy on the outside, moist on the inside. They are a little more delicate than their all-sugar cousins. They brown more quickly, so you need to keep a close eye on them. And because of the moisture added by the honey, they do soften a few hours  out of the oven.

I can’t wait to bring them to Meira’s.

honey coconut macaroons

I always feel the need to offer up some sort of benediction before Rosh Hashanah, maybe some words of wisdom for the new year, perhaps a reflection on the previous year, if only because on the best of days, one could call this medium a publication and on that same best of days, one could call me a writer.

So here goes. 5775, the new year, is a palindrome. I find it soothing – the knowledge that we’ll live day to day, month to month, season to season, and eventually be welcomed back by something familiar. They say that you have to push yourself out of your comfort zone in order to grow. This year I feel confident that when I’m out of my comfort zone, when I’m growing, when I’m unsteady on my feet, I’ll always have something, someone, some place familiar to keep me grounded. And I wish the same for you.

L’shanah tovah u’metukah! Have a wonderful and sweet new year!

Honey macaroons

I modified this tried and true macaroon recipe, reducing the sugar and adding honey at the end. Since the honey is the whole point of these macaroons, use something at least one step up from the squeezie bear. Here I used sunflower honey. Orange blossom honey would be amazing as well. I’d stay away from darker honeys such as buckwheat. 

Out of the oven, the macaroons have a lovely crisp shell, but they do soften after a few hours. I recommend storing them in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer  (keep them cold so they don’t squish), and then popping them in a 300ºF oven (or a toaster) to crisp them back up before serving.

On a related note, I’m looking forward to Joanne Chang‘s next cookbook about baking with less sugar and hope she has an all honey macaroon to try.

Makes 4 dozen

– 3 1/2 C unsweetened shredded coconut

– 3/4 C sugar

 – 5 egg whites

– 1/4 t baking soda

– pinch salt

– 1/2 C honey

Heat. In a heavy-bottomed pot (I use a Le Creuset; you can use a double boiler if you think your pot won’t be thick enough), combine all of the ingredients except the honey.  Stir with a silicone spatula over low heat, scraping the bottom to prevent burning. Continue to stir for about 5-7 minutes until it’s very hot to the touch. Remove from the heat and stir in the honey.

Cool. Refrigerate the mix until cold, approximately 30 minutes.

Prep. Preheat the oven to 300ºF. Line a cookie sheet with parchment.

Scoop. Once the mixture is cooled, scoop level tablespoons of  it onto the parchment, leaving about an inch between (they won’t spread). If you want your macaroons to be smooth, you can roll the spoonfuls into balls, but I prefer to leave them a little shaggy.

Bake.  Bake for 20 minutes until the coconut toasts and turns a golden brown. Take a peek at 10 and 15 minutes to make sure they’re not browning too quickly, particularly around the edges. When you take the macaroons out, they should still be a little soft. As they cool, they’ll harden a bit.

Store. Keep the macaroons in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer. They’ll soften a bit, but you can perk them up with a few minutes in a 300ºF oven – let them toast and then they’ll harden as they cool, good as if just baked.

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On the third Friday in July, I met Dorie.

Dorie Greenspan

I want so badly to tell you all about it. About how, at a fundraiser for Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, my friend Ruby won a high-stakes bidding war to spend a day baking with Dorie in her Connecticut home. How she asked Adeena and me to join her.

About how Dorie bounded out of her house when we arrived, a scarf tied just so and a dark denim-colored apron wrapped around her spotless white oxford shirt. How she greeted me with one of the warmest, tightest hugs I’ve ever received. How her husband proudly showed us the collection of cars that he and his son have restored together over the past several years. How their house is more French than if it were in the middle of Paris, its walls covered with iconic vintage French posters, an entire corner dedicated to Gallic roosters, a farm table set with a purple and red jacquard tea towel and spread with rich yogurt, berries, and granola.

About how my pâte sucreé crust fell apart as I tried to roll it over the pan. How Dorie helped me patch it into a piecemeal press-in crust that she said even Martha Stewart would be proud of. How, when she realized that we had left out the butter, Dorie quickly scrapped our biscuit dough and started a new batch without missing a beat. How her assistant Mary taught us to pour cream over a spatula into a pan of near-boiling sugar to make caramel without vigorous bubbling and scary splattering.

About our alfresco lunch of simple vegetable salads, salmon smoked then baked, ricotta-herb dip, generous pours of rosé, and loaves of bread baked by Michael.

I want to tell you about the cookies we made. The two tarts we made. The strawberry shortcakes we made.

But mostly I want to tell you about the friend that I made, a friendship that developed over the course of the afternoon. About Dorie and Michael’s genuine invitation to come back to spend the day with them again. About Dorie’s goodbye hug that was even warmer and even tighter than the one she greeted me with just hours before.

Dorie and me!

There’s so much more to tell, but I’m on a brief layover at the airport in Vienna typing on a QWERTZ kezboard, er keyboard, and my flight’s about to board, and I can’t in good conscience leave you without the recipe for plum and rose shortcakes, adapted from Dorie’s one for double strawberry and rose shortcakes.

Dorie told us she had the idea to marry rose with strawberry when she learned at the Driscoll’s farm that the fruit is a member of the rose family. Strawberry season is short in my neighborhood and when I went to the greenmarket just a few days after our visit, the farmers told that the local harvest had ended. But stone fruits were – and still are – in their prime. Turns out, plums and other drupes are also roses, as Robert Frost knew:

The rose is a rose,
And was always a rose.
But the theory now goes
That the apple’s a rose,
And the pear is, and so’s
The plum, I suppose.
The dear only knows
What will next prove a rose.
You, of course, are a rose –
But were always a rose.

I’ll leave poetic analysis to the experts, but I guess that I, perhaps subconsciously, have always made the connection between plums and roses: exactly two years ago, I added rose water to Dorie’s dimply plum cake.

Dorie – the strawberry’s a rose and the plum is a rose. You, of course, are a rose. With toes, I suppose. And now I’m just being plain silly.

I’ll see y’all when I get back from vacation with my sister. Until then, I give you plum and rose shortcakes.

Plum and rose shortcakesPlum and rose shortcakes

Makes 12 – 20 servings, depending on the size of the biscuit cutter

Adapted from double strawberry and rose shortcakes recipe that Dorie developed for Driscoll’s, as taught to Ruby, Adeena, and me by Dorie herself. I replaced Dorie’s rose extract with rose water which is a bit easier to find and found that you need about four times as much rose water as extract.

For the plum compote:

Makes about 2 cups

I’ve started adding this compote to my morning yogurt and granola. Also, ice cream.

– 1 1/2 lb sugar plums, roughly chopped (about 3 cups)

– 3 T sugar

– 1 T rose water (or 3/4 t rose extract)

Cook. Toss the chopped plums in a small saucepan with the sugar. Put the pan over medium heat and cook, stirring, for 10 to 30 minutes, depending on the ripeness of your fruit, until the plums soften and slump into a thick sauce. Scrape the compote into a bowl, stir in the rose water or extract, and cool to room temperature. You can make the compote up to 3 days ahead and keep it covered in the refrigerator.

For the lemon-buttermilk biscuits:

Makes 12-20, depending on the size of your biscuit cutter.

Dorie prefers petite biscuits about 2 inches in diameter.

– 1 1/2 T sugar

– freshly grated zest of 1 lemon

– 2 C (272 g) all-purpose flour, plus more for sprinkling

– 1 T baking powder

– 1/2 t fine sea salt

– 1/4 t baking soda

– 6 T (3/4 stick; 76 g) cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

– 3/4 C (180ml) cold buttermilk

Preheat. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 425ºF. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

Rub. Put the sugar and lemon zest in a large bowl and, working with your fingertips, rub the ingredients together unit the sugar is moist and fragrant. Add the rest of the dry ingredients to the bowl and whisk to combine. Drop in the pieces of cold butter and, again using your fingertips, crus rub, and blend the butter in. You’ll have flakes of butter and small pieces and this is just right.

Stir. Pour the cold buttermilk over the mixture, switch to a fork and toss and stir everything together until the milk is absorbed. Your dough might look like curds, but that’s fine. Don’t stir too much, too vigorously or for too long, and if there ar a few dry spots in the bottom of the bowl, ignore them. Reach into the bowl and knead the dough gently, folding it over on itself and turning it over 6 to 8 times.

Roll. Dust a work surface lightly with flour, turn out the dough, and still using your hands, pat the dough out until it is 1/2-inch thick. (The thickness sis what’s important here). Using a high-sided 2-inch cutter, cut out biscuits and place them on the baking sheet. Make sure to push the cutter up and down without twisting or turning so as not to crush the layers that you’ve worked so hard to create. Pat the scraps together until they’re 1/2-inch thick and cut out as many biscuits as you can. (The leftover dough can be cut into biscuits, but they won’t wise as high or as evenly ad the others – you can keep them as your baker’s treat.)

Bake. Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until the biscuits have risen gloriously and their tops and bottoms are holder brown Transfer the baking shed to a cooling rack and allow the biscuits to cool until they reach room temperature. (The biscuits can be made up to 6 hours ahead; keep them uncovered at room temperature.)

For the whipped cream:

– 1 C (240ml) very cold heavy cream

– 2 T confectiners’ sugar, sifted

– 1 t pure vanilla extract

– 1 T rose water (or 3/4 t rose extract)

Beat. Working with an electric mixer, theta the cream just until it mounds softly. Still beating, add the sugar, followed by the vanilla and rose water until the cream is fully whipped and holds firm peaks. The whipped cream can be made up to 3 hours ahead and keep tightly covered in the refrigerator; whisk a couple of times before using).

For the topping:

– 1/2 – 3/4 pound sugar plums

Slice. Just before you’re ready to put the shortcakes together, use a sharp knife to slice wedges of plums.

For assembly:

Split the biscuits and set the tops aside. Spoon compote in the center of each biscuit bottom followed by a scoop of whipped cream. Balance the biscuit top on the whipped cream and serve with plum slices.

Plum and rose shortcakes

 

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rhubarb thyme muffins

Once my maitre d’ trail was complete, I found my way back to the kitchen where my refrigerator was overflowing with greenmarket treasures. The crimson celery-like stalks of rhubarb beckoned.

rhubarb

Now, rhubarb and I don’t have much history. I’m not a fan of cooked berries unless they’re blue or come from a bog, so classic strawberry rhubarb pie, and, by association, rhubarb on its own, and I aren’t the best of friends. We don’t dislike each other; we just don’t run in the same circles.

We tried once to hang out – last year when I clipped a Saveur article and drooled over an upside down cake where rhubarb played the starring role. I read the reviews but never made it to the theater of my oven to see diva rhubarb on stage. She waited for me in the cold backstage of my fridge until she went sad and limp. This year, though, I made it my business to rekindle (or is it kindle?) a friendship. So, I got chopping, which I realize is where this little anthropomorphism should probably cease.

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I cooked down the rhubarb in a few generous pats of butter and a pile of sugar, more mountain than molehill. I looked for caramelization as the recipe suggested, but found only stringy mush in a pool of buttery syrup, more lake than puddle. With a combination of dismay (the rhubarb was, um, interesting looking) and intrigue (but its sweet and tart flavor was swoon-worthy), I persevered. I prepared a cake batter, covered the mess of rhubarb, slid the pan into the oven, and then pulled it out.

rhubarb upside down cake, downside up

The flip was a bit less than successful, so there’s no photo of a cake tinged pink. And with rhubarb mush, there was definitely no chance of a lovely cake covered in still discernable rhubarb pieces, flecked with crunchy caramelization. It tasted good enough, but when half of the cake remained after I brought it to family meal at the restaurant, I decided the recipe wasn’t worth a second try.

Nonetheless, it left me with a glimmer of hope. The next day, I went back to the market, brought home even more rhubarb, and sweated it out. Literally. It was one of those days when I had to close all of my window shades at high noon to keep the temperature in my apartment manageable even before I fired up the oven. And once the oven began its steady preheating climb, I had to turn on the air conditioning. But the rhubarb made me do it, and so do it I did.

My plan: muffins. While the oven was preheating, I made rhubarb compote. I diced the rhubarb and threw in some thyme…


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…then loaded it up with sugar and lemon…

rhubarb, thyme, lemon, sugar

…and melted it down…

rhubarb thyme compote

… to a silky compote. Looks a little like cranberry applesauce, no?

I threw together the cake batter I had used earlier, reducing the sugar and adding thyme to keep the muffins more breakfast than dessert. I scooped the batter into muffin tins, dotted with compote, and added another light blanket of batter.

rhubarb thyme muffins

Into the oven, and out of that oven, and off went the oven, and on stayed the air conditioning.

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Rhubarb thyme muffins

This recipe is inspired by a rhubarb upside-down cake in last year’s Saveur. I modified the caramelized rhubarb (which turned into mush, for me at least) into a lush not-too-sweet, still-somewhat-tart compote to which I added thyme based on this recipe. I used thyme because 1) I had it and 2) to keep this muffins out of cupcake territory. You’ll have about 1/2 – 3/4 cup extra compote – it’s fabulous spooned over Greek yogurt with a few clusters of granola. I also added some raw rhubarb to the batter – it cooks up nicely and gives some extra texture and a burst of tartness to the muffins. If I do try to make another rhubarb upside-down cake (and I have another pound-plus of stalks in my fridge), I’m going to go with raw rhubarb on the bottom, à la Melissa Clark’s recipe (read her notes here). 

You’ll need a total of 1 1/4 pounds of rhubarb to yield 4 cups chopped. 

Makes 16 muffins

For the compote:

– 3 C diced rhubarb

– 1/2 C sugar

– 1/4 t dried thyme

– 1 lemon for zest and juice

– pinch salt

For the muffin batter:

–  2 C flour

–  1 C sugar

–  4 eggs

–  1 C canola oil

–  2 t baking powder

– 1 t salt

–  1 t vanilla

– 1 C diced rhubarb

Prep. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Grease a muffin pan.

Simmer. Stir together the compote ingredients in a pot and bring to a boil. Lower heat to medium-high and continue to simmer until the rhubarb cooks down to the consistency of applesauce, about 15 minutes. Let cool.

Mix. Meanwhile, mix together the batter ingredients. You can mix this all by hand in less time than it takes to drag your stand mixer out of the cabinet.

Arrange. Fill each muffin cup with a scant 1/4 cup of batter. Top with 2 teaspoons of compote and an additional tablespoon of batter per muffin cup.

Bake. Bake the muffins for 20 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.

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