July 30, 2010

Black and White Cookies

There are many recipes I've been keeping from you lately but it's more out of blogger lazyness than a real desire to keep them hidden.  There are some Vegan Chipotle Veggie Burgers, an Israeli Cous Cous Salad with Broccoli Pesto, yummy Buckwheat Granola and, oh yeah, these Black and White Cookies.

I decided to share this one today because, well, it's the best looking and I guess I'm superficial like that. I was  so happy with the way these cookies turned out.  Instead of being 'brown and white,' which was a momentary fear, and instead of sloppy lumpy frosting or wonky elliptical shapes, to me, they looked New York bakery-style authentic.

I made these with a great friend from high-school (and fellow baking enthusiast) and we both thought the texture (cake-y cookie, smooth hard-when-set frosting) was pretty spot on.  Though Black and Whites aren't the most flavorful cookie (our families reminded us of that when they tried them), we both thought the taste was nearly identical to those that you'd buy from a local bakery.  The cookie was tender with a very subtle lemon-y undertone and the chocolate frosting was quite good.  The white frosting, however, could be improved and I've added suggestions for doing just that to the recipe below.

Overall, I thought these cookies were a big success and if you're someone who takes pleasure in time consuming and precise recipes (like me) then I think you'll find them a joy to make.

Black and White Cookies 
Makes about 32 medium-large cookies

For Cookies
Barely adapted from Gourmet

3 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1 ½ teaspoon vanilla
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 ½ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon lemon zest (or 1/4 teaspoon lemon extract)
3 large eggs

For Icing
I think adding a 1/4 teaspoon lemon zest or an 1/8 teaspoon lemon extract to ONLY the vanilla frosting might help the flavor even more.  If you decide to do this, make sure you split the frosting mixture in half (note in prep. before adding in the lemon, otherwise you'll also have lemon-y chocolate).
Barely adapted from Smitten Kitchen
4 cups confectioners’ sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla (optional)
1/3 to 1/2 cup water
[I needed at least 2/3 of a cup added over time]
3 ounces very bitter or unsweetened chocolate

1 teaspoon light corn syrup
1 to 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa (optional)


For Cookies
Preheat oven to 350°F. Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Stir together buttermilk and vanilla in a cup.

Beat together butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes, then add the lemon zest and egg, beating until combined well. Mix in flour mixture and buttermilk mixture alternately in batches at low speed (scraping down side of bowl occasionally), beginning and ending with flour mixture. Mix until smooth.

Spoon 1/4 cups of batter (I made my cookies slightly smaller than this for a more manageable size) about 2 inches apart onto a parchment lined baking sheet using the back of a spoon or your finger to shape them into neat circles.  Bake in middle of oven until the edges begin to brown 15 to 17 minutes (for large cookies). Transfer with a metal spatula to a rack to cool.

For Icing
Boil a cup or so of water in a small pot. Place confectioners’ sugar in large, heat-safe mixing bowl. Gradually stir in enough boiling water to the sugar to make a thick, spreadable mixture. Err on the side of caution because a too-thin frosting is hard to undo. Leave remaining boiling water on the stove.

Mix in the vanilla. (If you're going to add lemon zest or extract to the white frosting, split the confectioners sugar/water mixture in half at this point and only add the lemon to half) Spread frosting on half of the flat side of each cookie (the side that was against the baking sheet). Once all cookie halves have been frosted, place the bowl of the remaining frosting over the hot water and bring it back to a simmer (creating a double-boiler). Stir in the bitter or unsweetened chocolate until melted, as well as the light corn syrup.

Ice the remaining half of the cookies with the chocolate frosting. I find that the chocolate frosting is especially prone to getting too dry, so don’t worry about whisking in an extra teaspoon or so of that hot water from time to smooth it back into a shiny frosting.

Let the frosting set. Store in an airtight container. These cookies keep for a few days, but are best on the first or second. Because of the cake nature of the bases, they can get stale quickly.

July 25, 2010

Good Rugelach, Better Pictures

A few of you may remember something I posted awhile ago, all the way back in December but, if you don't, and I can't really blame you, let me refresh your memory:

I made some Rugelach, the taste of which made me slightly nostalgic for New York.  Recently, I decided to make some more.  And take better pictures.

I used the exact same Dorie Greenspan recipe from my original post but made them with half whole wheat pastry flour, which I am happy to report was absolutely indiscernible.  This gives me high hopes for a 100% whole wheat version (still with all the butter and cream cheese though, I'm not that crazy).

This time I made one chocolate version very similar to the one I made last time and one cinnamon sugar version that was pretty much perfection, if I do say so myself.  For the cinnamon sugar version, I used apricot jam, a cinnamon sugar mixture made from 1 T white sugar, 1 T brown sugar and 1 T cinnamon.  I think I also used a few chopped walnuts. 

What really made the cinnamon sugar ones stand out for me, love for cinnamon aside, was the fact that I rolled the dough a bit thinner, which allowed me to make tighter, more professional looking cookies.  I also invested ($3.99, big investment) in a small pastry brush, which I used to apply the egg wash a bit more precisely than my fingers were able to...

I hope you enjoy the better pictures.

July 17, 2010

Ricotta with Vanilla Sugar Croutons and Berry Syrup

I don't have too many words for you today.  But I do have this beautiful dessert.

Oddly enough, I came across this recipe at the gym as I was spinning away on some sort of machine, trying to get my mind off the fact that I was spinning away on said machine.  The magazine was Women's Health and the recipe comes from Giada de Laurentiis.  I know most people have their own opinions about the Food Network and it's 'chefs' but I'm alright with it.  I've made a recipe of Giada's before and enjoyed it very much so I don't think I'm above the Food Network (even if I may not share the cooking philosophy of all of it's stars).

Ok, that's already more words than I'd planned on but here's the bottom line: these croutons are amazing; sweet, buttery, crunchy, sugar-crusted, vanilla bean-y amazing.  Do not skip out on them.  They make this dessert.  And, in case you were wondering, you should probably make this dessert too.

Ricotta with Vanilla Sugar Croutons and Berry Syrup
I made some changes in the type and amount of sugar used in this recipe.  I used raw sugar for the syrup and croutons and cut it back by half for the syrup.  I also used agave nectar in the ricotta.  Additionally, I used a blackberries, cherries, and a plum for the syrup because I felt they would complement the flavors nicely and I'm not the biggest fan of blueberries (unless they are in baked goods).  Feel free to experiment!

Adapted from Giada de Laurentiis
(serves 4-6)

1/4 ciabatta loaf (4 oz), cut into 1-inch cubes (4 cups)
1.5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon raw sugar
1/4 vanilla bean

Berry Syrup
1/2 cup fresh orange juice (from 1 medium orange)
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar
1 small plum, chopped
1 cup blackberries
handful of cherries, halved and pitted

1 1/2 cups part skim ricotta cheese
3 tsp grated orange zest (from 1 medium orange)
1 tsp grated lemon zest (from 1 lemon)
1 tablespoon agave
1/4 vanilla bean
fresh mint sprigs or leaves, for garnish

For croutons: Preheat oven to 400°F.  In a small saucepan, melt the butter and scrape in 1/4 of a vanilla bean (halve the vanilla bean horizontally, cut it in half vertically and use the tip of a sharp knife to scrape out the seeds).  In a medium bowl, toss together bread cubes and melted vanilla bean butter. Add the raw sugar and toss to coat.  Arrange bread cubes in a single layer on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet and bake until golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Cool completely.

For berry syrup: In a small stainless-steel saucepan, bring orange juice, lemon juice, and sugar to a simmer over medium-low heat. Stir until sugar has dissolved, 2 to 3 minutes. Add blackberries, chopped plum and cherries; simmer until the fruit softens, 6 to 8 minutes. Cool syrup to room temperature. 

For ricotta: Combine ricotta, orange zest, lemon zest, 1/4 of a vanilla bean and agave in a medium bowl. Mix well.

To serve: Divide ricotta and berry syrup among 4- 6 decorative bowls.  Top with croutons. Garnish with mint sprigs is desired.

July 6, 2010

Vegan French Toast with Creamy Coconut Milk Maple Syrup

I wish I could come back here and say that it's taken me three weeks to post because I've been perfecting a wonderfully complicated recipe and crafting the perfect way to tell you all about it.  Unfortunately, the truth is much more mundane.  I mentioned before that I was moving and now, well, I've moved.  A very sweaty night and a very early morning packing up my car and clearing those last few pieces of crap things out of my apartment, two ten hour days in the car, a stop at a lovely bed and breakfast, a scenic trip to Fallingwater (which also included getting a bit lost and slightly freaked out when I was running low on gas on a two lane road with nary a gas station in sight...), lots of Wait Wait Don't Tell Me podcasts, an unintened drive through Manhattan and finally,  finally, I'm home.  But, quite honestly, it doesn't really feel like home anymore and, more honestly, it hasn't in a while.

But on a happier note(!), I made this Vegan French Toast for breakfast a few days before I left.  I used one of the last pieces of my homemade cinnamon raisin bread (recipe hopefully to come sometime soon, I'm still perfecting that one).  It's definitely not my usual breakfast but it's a nice change of pace and very well suited for a relaxing Sunday morning with a hot cup of coffee and the paper.

I want to keep cooking and keep blogging while I'm "home" but lately, I've been feeling a bit uninspired in the kitchen.  Perhaps because it's not my kitchen, or because it's quite a bit messier than my past kitchens have been, or because there are often other people using the kitchen when I want to cook.  Whatever the reason(s) it's put a bit of a damper on my usual cooking and eating, but I'm trying to get back.  Send me some inspiring recipes to help!

Vegan French Toast
Ingredients (for one)

1 thick piece of bread or two thin (I used a homemade whole wheat cinnamon raisin)
1/4- 1/3 cup light coconut milk
1 tablespoon ground flaxseed
1/2 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2- 3 tablespoons toasted wheat germ
1/2 tablespoon coconut oil
1 banana, sliced
2 teaspoons roasted almond butter (optional)
extra cinnamon for garnish (optional)

Spread the toasted wheat germ in a thin layer on a small plate and set aside.  Mix the coconut milk, ground flaxseed, cinnamon, and vanilla together with a fork in a shallow dish (something that will be able to fit the bread, so you don't have to dirty two dishes).

Begin to heat the coconut oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Dip the bread into the coconut milk mixture and let it soak at least 20 seconds on each side (more or less depending on the thickness/ porosity of your bread).  Next, dip the bread into the wheat germ mixture and make sure to evenly coat both sides.

Drop the bread onto the hot skillet and cook for about 2 minutes on each side.  You want the wheat germ crust to get slightly crunchy and the bread to be fully warmed through.

Serve topped with sliced banana, roasted almond butter, a sprinkle of cinnamon and coconut milk maple syrup (recipe below).

Creamy Coconut Milk Maple Syrup
Inspired by Angela's Low Sugar Maple Syrup

1 tablespoon grade B maple syrup
1- 2 tablespoons light coconut milk

Mix ingredients together in a small ramekin.  Drizzle over French Toast or use for dipping.