Tag Archives: vanilla

cow pie {chocolate chip cookies}

when i first started baking (decades ago.  decades.  ouch.), i couldn’t make a chocolate chip cookie that didn’t resemble a cow pie.  the cow pie isn’t a very appealing image, i know, but it very aptly described their appearance – wide, flat and bumpy.  looking back, i’m sure this propensity to spread had more to do with my technique than it did with the recipe.  too soft butter (i probably used margarine in those early days – shudder.), too hot an oven,  over beating the dough, using super-dark cookie sheets…all my own missteps.  i had always viewed my cow pie cookies as inferiors to their puffy, golden, cakey cousins, and have been disappointed with just about every single batch i’ve ever made, until last night.

TDHH knows all he has to do is utter the words “i wish we could have some cookies/cake/brownies tonight” and i’ll have my apron tied and ingredients out before he actually finishes his sentence.  i love baking that much.

so last night he requested chocolate chip cookies.   i had already started mentally perusing my recipes, wondering which would yield the least cowpieish cookies, when he clarified that he was hoping for thin, buttery chocolate chip cookies.  a sincere request for cow pies?  really?

i recalled a recipe which met this very description and used fridge-cold butter*, a specification which makes these ideal for a spontaneous treat.  i had scrawled it into my recipe book years ago, and if i recall correctly, it belongs to david lebovitz.  now, i don’t know if his recipe was meant to produce  cow pies, but it does for me, reliably, and i had always considered this a drawback until i came to my cookie senses last night.

these cookies are very thin and golden and studded with dark chocolate chips.  they are buttery and sugary and vanilla-y.  they are at once crispy and chewy.  what in the world is inferior about that?  these cookies are, in a word, sublime – sublime enough to have made me appreciate every bit of their cowpieness and to have been deemed worthy of a spot near the top of my imaginary cookie recipe podium.

*don’t be bothered by this.  it works.  really.

•  •  •

david lebovitz’s (cow pie) {chocolate chip cookies}  (i probably don’t need to restate this, but they’re from david lebovitz)
makes about 2 dozen

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
8 tbsp (1/2 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2″ pieces
1 large egg
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp baking soda
1  1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1  1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (i used a combination of bittersweet chips, fudge chips and semi-sweet chips)
1 cup walnuts or pecans, toasted and chopped (we weren’t in the mood for nuts)

•preheat oven to 300°f.  beat the sugars and cold butter until smooth (i used my stand mixer – this is one you couldn’t do by hand).  mix in egg and vanilla and baking soda (adding the baking soda like this seemed weird to me).
•stir flour and salt together, then stir into the butter mixture.  stir in the chocolate chips (and nuts, if using).
•scoop batter into 2 tbsp balls and place 4″ apart on cookie sheet (i wonder if they would have spread less if i didn’t use parchment?).  bake for 18 minutes (mine were done in 15).  cool somewhat before handling as they’re fragile when hot.  enjoy!

•  •  •

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blushing and {banana yoghurt bundt cake}

isn’t it nice when someone makes your day?  loverbean, of the blog lemon salt, did just that when she bestowed upon me a kreativ blogger award last week.  how lovely!  it is especially exciting to be recognized by someone you admire (even though we’re strangers), and loverbean is ever so admirable.  if you love lemons and all things citrus, you’ll love her blog.  if you love baking, you’ll love her blog.  and, if you love soothing, fresh photos, you’ll love her blog.  many thanks for the pat on the back, loverbean!

now, before i do my kreativ blogger thing, i feel i must confess that i have yet to do my liebster thing (which i happily received a few weeks ago from another admirable blog and blogger, beautifully sewn).  i pledge today that i will catch up to my liebster and kreativ related duties very soon.  i promise.

•  •  •

since i can’t do a post without sharing something stirry or stitchy, i think it’s time for a recipe…

i buy bananas with the very best of intentions.  i don’t deliberately leave them to languish in the fruit bowl every week or two, it just happens.  the associated ‘waste guilt’ should be enough to make me stop buying them, but it’s not.  i manage to alleviate some of the guilt by throwing the inevitably over-ripe bananas into the freezer instead of the trash.  even the occasional avalanche of frozen, black bananas isn’t enough to put an end to my routine of banana neglect.  the good news here is that over-ripe bananas provide an excellent excuse to bake.

{please excuse this interruption, but my sad fruit bowl has reminded me of eddie izzard’s take on fickle fruit – it’s hilarious, but, for anyone unfamiliar with eddie, here’s a head’s up: he’s a cross-dressing, foul-mouthed, kind-hearted comedian, and the way he impersonates pears and oranges is priceless.}

instead of tossing these too soft bananas in the freezer, i sought out a more immediately noble end for them.  i usually make my mom’s banana loaf, which is dark and lovely and predictable, but i thought this would be the perfect occasion to dig into my newly acquired dorie greenspan cookbook: baking, from my home to yours.  out of her great selection of tasty sounding banana treats, i selected her ‘classic banana bundt cake’ as i wanted something that would taste even better the next day (my strategy here is that my colleagues will eat more of it than i do).  despite the fact that i’m saving it for work, i couldn’t help but try a piece as it was cooling – the sweet baked-banana aroma was too much to resist.  and, since i couldn’t wait until tomorrow to taste it, i certainly won’t wait until tomorrow to tell you how good it is (already) – the initial flavour is full-on banana with a side of vanilla.  yum.

•  •  •
banana yoghurt bundt cake (from dorie greenspan)
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature
about 4 very ripe bananas, mashed (you need 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 cups)
1 cup sour cream or plain yoghurt (i used yoghurt, but i think sour cream would give a deeper flavour)

•preheat oven to 350 f and generously butter a 9″-10″ bundt pan.
•whisk the flour, baking soda and salt together and set aside.
•in your stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until creamy, then add the sugar and beat at medium until pale and fluffy. beat in the vanilla, then the eggs, one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each egg is added. reduce mixer speed to stir and mix in the bananas, then mix in half of the dry ingredients, followed by the sour cream or yoghurt, followed by the rest of the flour mixture.
•scrape the batter into the prepared pan, rap it on the counter to de-bubble the batter, then smooth out the top.
•bake for 65-75 minutes (mine was done at 60, but i have a dark pan and a crazy oven), until a tester comes out clean. *peek at the cake half-way through and cover loosely with tinfoil if it’s getting too dark (i needed to cover mine). cool on a rack for 10 minutes before turning it out of the pan to cool completely. wrap the cooled cake in clingfilm and let it sit at room temperature overnight to allow the flavours to develop.
•wrapped airtight, the cake keeps at room temperature for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 2 months.

•  •  •

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the enigmatic ginger crunch

i think a great recipe is made even greater if it has a history of good memories behind it.  this is one of those recipes.

‘the enigmatic ginger crunch’ recipe came into my life when TDHH and i were exploring the maritimes this summer.  a spate of unseasonably cold and wet weather froze and saturated our usually more rugged selves and had us neglecting our tent in favour of a warm and dry b&b.  by the time we made it to lunenburg, nova scotia, we were beginning to lose hope in tourist accommodations.  we had come across too many sadly dated pastel colour schemes, surfaces covered with dead-eyed porcelain dolls and bowls of synthetic potpourri (IDS was not amused).  even TDHH, who has and will sleep anywhere, found the plethora of lace doilies and forced conversation with too-keen hosts eerily unpleasant.  then we found ‘1775 solomon house’ (one of the oldest historic homes in lunenburg) which was, by vast leaps and bounds, the most brilliant b&b we’ve ever experienced.  authentic, antique, welcoming and instantly comfortable.  the host, janet, artfully curated our time in lunenburg, ensuring we found the hidden beaches and out-of-the-way bakeries.  it turns out janet knows her way around the kitchen, too.

 

 

when we arrived late in the evening, we  found a dainty dish of these mysteriously delicious bites of glory awaiting us.  they didn’t look terribly exciting, but after one bite, i had to have the recipe.

thankfully, janet was willing to share.  i learned that janet is a former cafe-owner/chef from saskatchewan, who received the recipe by way of a new zealander customer of hers who traded it for a recipe of janet’s which she coveted.  going back a little further, i’ve read that the recipe originated many years ago in scotland and made its way to new zealand with what must have been a very discerning, food-loving scot.  such a convoluted path!

so now for the enigma explanation.  when i first tasted these, i was sure that they involved browned-butter.  others have queried cardamom or lavender.  no one who has tried them (in my presence, anyway) has correctly identified the flavour.  it turns out it comes simply from powdered ginger, butter and a splash of vanilla.

like most of the recipes i return to again and again, these ingredients create a fabulous flavour that belies their simple origin.  the combination of the thin ginger shortbread base and the smooth, subtly gingery fudge topping is a knock-out.  people have literally swooned when tasting them, and i daresay you will, too.  you may even taste the maritime architecture and the atlantic air.

• • •

ginger crunch, aka kiwi crunch (i found the same recipe in gourmet, december 1999)

for the base:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 8 or so pieces

for the topping:
3/4 stick (6 tbsp) unsalted butter
1 tbsp lyle’s golden syrup (corn syrup will do in a pinch)
1 cup icing sugar
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp vanilla

•sift the base ingredients together (i just whisk them) and blend in
the butter until it resembles coarse meal (i use my stand mixer). press evenly into a greased and parchment-lined 9×13″ metal pan (i learned that part the hard way – definitely line your pan). bake at 350°f for 15-25 minutes until golden and crisp (i know that’s a wide range in terms of time – what it means is don’t take your eyes off of it after the 15 minute mark – it browns quickly).

•just before the base is done (about 5 minutes if you can time it), melt the topping butter in a heavy pot, then whisk in the remaining ingredients until smooth. bring to a boil, then simmer, stirring, for about 30 seconds. remove the golden base from the oven and pour the topping over-top, tilting the pan to cover evenly. cool in the pan on a rack and cut into small squares or rectangles while cooling (for me, i wait 5-6 minutes so they’re cool enough that the topping is starting to set but not so cool that they crack). cool completely in pan.

yields about 2-5 dozen, depending on size cut.  squares keep at least 3 days in an airtight container.

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