It’s been awhile since I’ve written. Writing is an interesting phenomenon for me. I used to write my memoirs of my mundane ordinary life. I did this on computer and then in some handwritten journals. I then wrote the blog. At present I am exchanging emails with my best friend from high school in the middle of this pandemic. She’s in the Midwest; I’m in the Northeast. The point is that these writing episodes do not seem to overlap. I’m writing either one or the other. And lately I decided to handwrite letters to my son who is in the Northwest. But here I am back on the blog.
It’s not that I have not been baking or cooking. Well, actually, I have been doing less as Hubby has picked up cooking and dinner making. He continues to make me breakfast as I go off to work, either at the Agency or to the Dining Room. Either commute is not a hardship as the Agency is just up the street and across the road. Most of my baking is for something sweet. I have made a few batches of brownies. The problem with that is we tend to eat the whole pan in one sitting, or in two days, whichever comes first!
So I wanted to make something chocolate but not brownies…again! For some reason I had a couple of cake mixes in the baking pantry. Why do I have these? Because I thought I would have to bake my own birthday cake which is traditionally German Chocolate. I have made German Chocolate cake from scratch but have no problem making it from a mix. I’m telling Hubby that I found coconut so have all the ingredients and plan to bake the cake. He has to tell me then that he has bought me the cake as a surprise and now I went and ruined his surprise!
In my search for something to bake I remembered a cookie bar made from cake mix and sweetened condensed milk. It takes me some time to find the recipe notebook with this scrap of cake mix box. These are called Macaroon Cookie Bars. They are sort of a brownie as well.
1 package chocolate cake mix: I used a German Chocolate mix. The original recipe was from a Devil’s Food Cake Mix
½ cup butter, softened
14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 ¼ cups flaked coconut; divide this to use the ¼ cup separately
1 cup chopped nuts; I used pecans
Mix the first 3 ingredients and press into a greased 13-inch x 9-inch baking dish. Mix the remaining ingredients except for ¼ cup of the coconut. Spread that mixture on top of the cake mix batter. Sprinkle the ¼ cup reserved coconut on top. Bake for 350 degree F for 30-35 minutes until golden brown. The edges will be the darkest. Cool completely and cut into squares.
I made two different shortbread recipes. And although they were tasty it is not something I plan to make regularly. For some reason I got it in my head that I wanted to make shortbread. Possibly from watching the GBBO. The only other time I made shortbread was from Cook’s Illustrated: https://mykitchenmythoughts.com/2017/01/29/millionaires-shortbread-and-citrus-salad/. (I can no longer figure out how to make a name for the link other than copying it. WordPress changed a little a while ago.)
That shortbread was fancy. Since then I found a similar recipe in one of my UK published cookbooks. So when I was thinking of shortbread that is where I went first. Basically it is butter, sugar, and flour.
4 1/2 ounces butter, softened (what an odd amount!)
scant 1/4 cup sugar
generous 1/8 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
pinch of salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
superfine sugar, for sprinkling (make this by processing regular sugar in your food processor)
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (150 C). Grease an 8-inch round pan with butter. Beat butter and sugars until fluffy. Sift flour and salt into the mixture and then the vanilla. Mix to form a soft dough.
Roll dough into an 8-inch circle. Place in prepared pan. Cut into 8 wedges. Prick all over and decorate the edge with the fork tines. I found that this took a little finesse since it was already in the pan. Bake for 30-35 minutes. It might even take 40 minutes. It should be crisp and pale golden in color. Sprinkle with the superfine sugar. Cut through the wedges again to be sure they are separated. Cool in pan before removing.
These were very thick and buttery. Tasted like shortbread. Very rich.
The next shortbread dough I made was from Mark Bitman’s How to Cook Everything. I followed his recipe exactly. It includes an egg. I made a batch cutting them out in circles. I forgot to take a picture. They were a very nice butter cookie but did not taste like I thought shortbread should taste. The second batch I made of this recipe I tried to be festive and stuffed pieces of dough into a Christmas cookie mold pan. Big mistake!
(Warning: this post does not contain a specific recipe. There will be links to two recipes though, one that I have written about before and one someone else’s.)
Chocolate chip cookies are the comfort food of cookiedom. Oh sure, you come across one of those oddities of people who don’t like chocolate but I think they must be aliens from outer space. No offense intended.
First I made the best chocolate chip cookie recipe EVER! to take to my weekend in Maine with “the girls”. We are all grown women ages 40s to 60s but we call this the girls’ weekend and have done for the past 5 years. The recipe is from Cook’s Illustrated and I wrote about it a while ago https://mykitchenmythoughts.com/2017/11/30/cooks-cookies-chocolate-chip/. The secret is the browning of some of the butter. It is a bit fussy to put together but absolutely worth it. Hubby and I ate a dozen of them before the weekend and then the camp neighbor took the remaining 4 in the bag. We thought he would only take one! We did have Sue’s chocolate cookies with nuts which were quite delicious too.
Meanwhile here I am trying to adjust to new progressive eyeglasses. I can see further better but this mid range and reading are a chore. And I have worn progressives for a number of years. I think my eye doctor did not test my reading range adequately but I did not want to write my own prescription by making an adjustment. It also takes 2-3 weeks to adjust just because it is a new prescription. Must have patience.
The next chocolate chip cookie is a tribute to the fall season when all the recipes are coming out as pumpkin spice. I like pumpkin but am not that fond of pumpkin spice coffee unless it is one of those fancy lattes with whipped cream and such. The description of this cookie sounded like a cookie I would eat, not cakey. I have made the pumpkin cookie recipe from my Betty Crocker cookbook and although tasty it was cakey. This promised to be “super soft, chewy, and filled with chocolate chips.” https://www.livewellbakeoften.com/pumpkin-chocolate-chip-cookies/. My first bite was heavenly. I do not like the phrase “to die for” but it would apply to these cookies.
I am continuing to enjoy having a house husband. I was never a proper housewife so had no idea what to expect. I think our advanced ages make this more workable than say a couple in their twenties. Hubby claims not to be fond of cats. Our cat Squeaky is the only pet remaining in our home. So, who feeds her “mushy food”, who brushes her fur? He is working hard at home refinishing the floors and scraping the layers of paint off the mantle, which is flying about and leaving paint spots on the floors. He is not worried about this so I won’t worry about it either. He is my handyman!
The third batch of chocolate chip cookies were eaten but not enjoyed. These were made by the recipe on the back of the package of almond flour I bought just for fun. I will not bother with this again. These were mushy in texture even though light brown on the edges and the bottoms. Hubby had the great idea of re-baking them to see if they would crisp up. I re-baked them the next day for another 10 minutes. They did crisp but were still not enjoyable.
Until next time, happy fall and fall baking! I’ve already made a pumpkin pie!
Life goes on at our home. I go to work, walking most days. Hubby continues his unproductive job search. We avoid getting run over by a car. We hope we did not board up the sparrow babies in their nest when we fixed the eave under the gutter. Really, we listened very closely and did not hear peeping for a several days. We watched and did not see momma and daddy sparrow going in to feed the young. We are trying not to feel guilty but did our best to honor the bird lives. Eminent domain? 😦
Hubby asked if I could do this. One of my nieces told me a few holiday seasons ago that they are easy to make. I looked through a few cookbooks and settled on Bittman’s How to Cook Everything. I will ‘fess up to two mistakes: I should have flattened the logs before baking the first time and I forgot to leave them in the oven until dry the second time. Oh, and I just smeared the chocolate on the after dipping did not work out so well.
1/2 stick butter (4 Tablespoons, softened)
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1-2 Tablespoons milk
1/2 cup dried cranberries
4 ounces dark chocolate orange with almonds chocolate bar, melted
Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and then add the extract. Mix dry ingredients and add to the dough a little at ta time and add the milk as needed to bring the dough together. Add the cranberries at this time as well.
Butter and flour two baking sheets. Divide dough in half and roll into logs about 2 inches wide. Bake these 30 minutes. Remove from oven. Lower oven temperature to 250 degrees F. When loaves are cool enough to touch use a serrated knife to cut them into 1/2 inch slices on the diagonal. Put these on the baking sheets and return to oven, turning them once, for 15-20 minutes. Cool on wire racks.
I then tried to dip them in melted chocolate. And then I glopped the chocolate on them as frosting. Very tasty. Very rich tasting. Hubby ate most of them.
Will I make these again? Not especially. Well, perhaps if Hubby asks nicely!
The summer weather cooled a bit and baking is now able to be done without making the house unbearable. Hubby and I did heave and ho (we have scrapes and bruises to prove that we are getting too old for this sort of thing) the too big AC unit into the sewing room window and put up curtains to partition the living room from the rest of the house but prefer to not have to use it if possible. So technically I could have heated the oven (ugh!) and then go sit in the cooled living room but I did not. Baking is not a past-time I have the urge to indulge in summer. I will confess that I have at least once succumbed to chocolate urges and baked a box of brownie mix. Then we ate that in two sittings. Not good for the waist line!
The idea that I would cook through the Betty Crocker cookbook was a bust. I may do some baking from it but the meat and vegetable recipes were too plain and uninteresting to me this year. I did not even bother to look in that book when deciding to make oatmeal cookies. Deciding to make oatmeal cookies delighted Hubby. Alas, I did not put M&Ms in them so technically they are not “Daddy Holiday Oatmeal Cookies”.
I found this cookbook while looking for a recipe to use. Actually it is the first book I looked at and since there was a recipe I did not look further.
The oatmeal cookie recipe is on page 33 and calls for 3 cups of goodies added to the batter. The only item I added to the original recipe was 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and then I mixed up the 3 cups of goodies for variety.
1 cup butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar, packed (doesn’t every baker know to pack brown sugar by now?)
2 eggs (also at room temperature if one remembers to put them out on the counter with the butter,or is this just for bread?)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups oatmeal (I don’t think it matters if this is instant, quick, or regular? I used quick-cooking.)
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup white chocolate morsels + 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup dried cranberries + 1/2 cup dried blueberries
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. This recipe goes together in the usual way: cream butter and sugars then add eggs, beating well after each, then add the vanilla. Whisk the dry ingredients together (flour through cinnamon in above list) and add to the creamed mixture. Then add the oatmeal and goodies. I combined these in a separate bowl first as well.
Scoop batter in heaping tablespoons onto ungreased cookie sheets and bake 10-12 minutes until lightly golden. Let sit on baking pan 1-2 minutes before removing to cooling racks. This step is very important or the cookies will fall apart. This made exactly 4 dozen cookies.
Hubby is having a few for breakfast with his coffee right now. I had thought I would take a plate of these to work but Hubby is enjoying them too much to deprive him of his treat. I did sneak a dozen of them into a freezer bag for later, maybe?
This week’s Betty Crocker’s Cookbook makes are Crisp Ginger Cookies (page 276) and Crisp Waffles (page 196).
I was reading about how to reduce the sugar in cookies and got inspired by this to make ginger snaps. Hubby likes the crisp ones and I like the chewy ones. These are crisp. The recipe says one can roll them out 1/8-inch thick or paper-thin. I rolled them into a log and cut them into 1/8-inch-ish rounds. The majority of the sugar in these is the molasses and I did not reduce that at all. And the original recipe calls for shortening so I use butter instead.
1/3 cup molasses
1/4 cup butter
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
dash of ground nutmeg
dash of ground allspice
Mix the molasses, butter, and brown sugar. I whisk together the dry ingredients in a separate bowl and then add this to the butter mixture. Beat until combined. This makes a smaller amount of cookie dough than I expected. The recipe said it would make 1 1/2 dozen 1/8-inch thick cookies or 3 dozen paper-thin. Once the dough is mixed, put in refrigerator for 4 hours. I left mine in the fridge for almost 24 hours.
Instructions say to roll out and cut in 3 inch rounds. As I was preparing to do this, I found the the dough was just as easy to shape into a log. I figured this would be just as good, so that is what I did. I carefully sliced the dough and put it on parchment paper and baked these in 375 degree F oven for 8 minutes. I was not sure if that was enough time, they looked soft, so I left them in the oven for one more minute. I slid them off the parchment onto the cooling rack. As they cooled they became crisp.
I have forsaken Sister’s tried and true sugar cookie recipe for the magazine’s. Cook’s Illustrated Holiday 2007 boasts The Best Sugar Cookies. Well, I thought I would see about that. They had a gingered option and because I love all things ginger, I made that version. I always have fresh ginger root in my freezer.
2 cups all-purpose flour (someday I am going to make everything with whole wheat pastry flour but not today)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
16 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened (I always use unsalted butter; I suppose if you use salted butter you could leave out the salt, but I am not certain of that.)
1 cup sugar, plus 1/2 cup for rolling dough
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
And for the gingered version:
in food processor, process 1 teaspoon (I used 1 inch fresh ginger root, peeled and minced) with the 1/2 cup sugar for rolling the dough for about 10-20 seconds. place this in a shallow bowl
add 2 tablespoons chopped crystallized ginger to the sugar along with the eggs and vanilla
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
Whisk dry ingredients together in medium bowl, set aside. In bowl of electric mixer, beat butter, 1 cup sugar and brown sugar until light and fluffy about 3 minutes. Add egg, vanilla, and crystallized ginger and beet about 30 seconds until combined. Add dry ingredients and mix until just combined; scrape down sides of bowl as needed.
Form dough into 1 to 1 1/2 inch balls and roll in the ginger sugar. The sugar was moist probably because my ginger was from the freezer. This actually helped it stick to the dough nicely. Place 2 inches apart on lined baking pans. Now butter a bottom of a drinking glass and dip in the gingered sugar and flatten each cookie to 3/4 inch thick.
Bake 15 minutes. Edges will be lightly browned. These spread some in the baking. My second pan kind of spread together but not too much. That doesn’t affect the taste.
These have a nice sugary crunch on the outside and are slightly chewy on the inside. The ginger is very subtle. I like them and so does Hubby. And we tend to think of sugar cookies as rather bland, but not these.
This is the absolute best chocolate chip cookie ever! Cook’s Illustrated May/June 2009 calls it “The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie.” I must agree. The only adaptation I make is using dark chocolate chips and not making them as big. The Cook’s way makes 16; I make 36.
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
14 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup white sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 1/4 cups dark chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts
I baked these at 350 degrees F. I just reviewed the recipe and it said for 375. Oh well!
This is the secret: heat and lightly brown 10 tablespoons of the butter being careful not to burn. This will take 3-5 minutes. Swirl pan during this time, or stir. Pour this into the mixer bowl and add the rest of the butter; stir until it is melted.
Add both sugars to the bowl along with the salt and vanilla. Whisk (I am using a beater here) until fully incorporated. Then add the egg and egg yolk and mix for 30 seconds. Let rest for 3 minutes. This is a bit fussy but is worth it. Do this 30 second/3 minute rest two more times. Stir in flour mixture and then chips and nuts.
I spooned heaping tablespoons of dough onto parchment lined baking pans. And baked them for 9 minutes. Let them set on the pan for one minute before removing to wire racks to cool.
I have tried the browning of the butter in other chocolate chip cookie recipes but it does not come out the same. When I first made these my son enjoyed the batter so much he wanted me to make some of the cookies without the chocolate chips!
It’s cookie baking time and being the season of the year that it is one would think that I would be making Christmas cookies, but no. I have found the most wonderful chocolate cookie from Cook’s Illustrated January/February 2009 edition. I was in awe of this cookie when I first made them. This is a cookie that I could have one or two with a cup of tea and be satisfied. Now that is unusual; with homemade cookies I can eat and eat and eat them, especially fresh out of the oven. But these are so rich and satisfying of that chocolate craving that one can be enough! This is my adaptation; I am not so fussy as the magazine.
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa; I use Hershey’s, don’t know if that is Dutch processed or not?
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
Whisk all the dry ingredients together in a bowl.
1/2 cup molasses; the original recipe calls for dark corn syrup
1 large egg white
1 teaspoon vanilla
Whisk these together in a small bowl.
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup sugar
Cream these together until light and fluffy about 3 minutes. Beat in egg mixture until fully incorporated and then the flour.
1 cup dark chocolate chips; I used Hershey’s special dark since the original recipe calls for 4 ounces of bittersweet chocolate chopped into 1/2 inch pieces.
Stir in the chocolate chips. Chill in fridge if desired; I did not bother. I had read that using wet hands to shape the dough into balls prevents the dough from sticking to the hands. It does work, somewhat. Roll the dough into balls. Make these uniform in size and adjust baking time accordingly. I used heaping tablespoons. Then roll in the sugar and place 2 inches apart on the parchment lines baking pans. Bake for 10 minutes. Let rest on the pan for at least one minute before removing to a wire rack for cooling.
I should have taken a picture of one with a bite out of it so you can see the darkness of the soft interior with a crispy outside. But I put them away so I would not feast on them over the course of the week, before packaging them to send to my favorite airman!
For this weekend’s dessert bake I made Millionaire’s Shortbread from the Cook’sIllustrated magazine. I had never really heard of these. They are apparently a rich British cookie.
I selected this recipe because I actually had all the ingredients called for exactly. This is a rare thing for Cook’s recipes and my pantry. I also followed the recipe verbatim. This is very unusual for me. When cutting the bars I did get cracked chocolate so I am not sure what happened there.
This recipe is from the November & December 2016 magazine. I tried to get the link but one has to subscribe to get this recipe. I have the magazine and it is on page 14-15. It’s a possibility that I can subscribe on-line because I have a subscription to the magazine but I have no clue as to how. Oh well! That being said, I don’t know if I should actually share the recipe? It’s not really mine to share!
A tray of these will go with Hubby to work to share with his co-workers, and I will take a plate as well to share with mine. The rest we will keep to nibble on for a bit of sweet during our week.
Speaking of Cook’s Illustrated, I did make their Citrus Salad with Arugula, Golden Raisins and Walnuts. The link is here, Citrus Salad. This was labor intensive to prepare the 2 grapefruits and 3 oranges. One had to peel, take all the pith off, remove seeds and slice. I used regular raisins because that is what I had on hand. It looks really nice.
I used green onions in the dressing instead of scallions. I dressed the fruit and then spooned it on the greens. I thought then that I could have a nice citrus fruit salad to serve with cottage cheese for lunch or breakfast on the following day. But noooo…
Ingredients for the dressing:
3 tablespoons olive oil
several green onions, white and green parts
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup toasted, chopped walnuts
a pinch of salt
The dressing was very nice. The salad was refreshing the evening I served it.But the next day the fruit tasted odd. Not good. Odd, as in maybe it went bad, odd? Next time I will keep all three parts separate and mix together only when ready to serve and only what will be eaten at that particular meal. I will make the dressing alone and use that for salads.