Monday, October 5, 2015

Fennel and Lemon Shortbread Cookies

Not too fennely. Just the right sweetness. 
The Neighbor has a lovely garden. In the garden grows fennel among many other things. The Neighbor being the kind woman that she is allows me to pinch things here and there. She also will feed my kitties when I leave town for a fun weekend.

I offer to pay her in cookies. She enjoys shortbread, any shortbread is good, but something with difference is welcome.

I put these together.

Fennel & Lemon Zest Shortbread

1 cup butter
0.5 cup powdered sugar
0.25 cup cornstarch
1.50 cup flour
1 teaspoon fresh fennel seed, plus twenty for decorating (or used dried ones and do what you can to grind them)
0.50 teaspoon lemon zest
0.50 teaspoon sea salt

more sea salt for sprinkling-big crystal sugar for sprinkling too.

In a stand mixer cream the butter. Add the sugar. Blend well. Mince the fennel seeds and zest as finely as you can. If you sea salt it big, add it to the cutting board with the seeds and zest and make it smaller too. To the butter and sugar mixture add the remaining ingredients. Run the mixture stopping the scrape the sides. Keep the machine running until the dough comes together.  It will look like it will not, but magically it does! Don't look away and stop the machine as soon as the dough as cohesive. If it runs too long you'll get tough cookies.

On a parchment lined pan scoop (I use 0.75 ounce) the dough. It makes twenty cookies. Using the bottom of a glass, dipped in flour, your hand or other flattish thing (I actually used a large measuring spoon to get the cookies pictured with the cutie meadow in the middle look) flatten the cookies. Put a fennel seed in the center of each. It's pretty but it also says, "this is a special cookie." Put a few grains of salt on top and some big sugar.

So pretty.
Bake at 350 for 15 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. Put them on a fancy plate or in a baggie and give half to your neighbor. The other half are for you. I mean who gives away a full batch of cookies, ever?

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Mussels with Fennel and Cream - Cooking Club

Mussels, Rosemary Flatbread, Zucchini Salad

I've gain entry into a cooking club.

Doesn't that sound exclusive? Really, I put a request out on the facebook neighborhood page to start a club and some like minded people showed interest. We had our first to do and it was a smashing success.

Our main dish was Mussels with Fennel and it was creamy and oh so good. We as a nation should do fennel so much more. We made a quick Rosemary Flat Bread, because we are doing this after work and making a yeast bread seemed to be too time consuming. Plus we made a zucchini salad. Of the three the mussels were the hit.

Frankly it all could have tasted like soap and I'd still be saying it was fantastic because the company was delightful and the conversation non-stop. I will happily spend more time with this group. So yeah!

Mussels with Fennel

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 shallots, minced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
0.50 teaspoon salt
1 bulb of fennel, about a cup and half
2 cups white wine
3 pounds mussels
1.5 cup heavy cream

Clean the mussels. Discard any broken or dead, opened mussels. Knock them together just in case they are sleeping with their shells open. Remove the beard. In a large bowl soak the mussels in water to which a couple tablespoons of water has been added. Change the water a few times.

In a skillet which has a tight fitting lid, saute the shallots and garlic. When it they are fragrant and soft add the fennel seeds. Let cook 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the bulb and salt and cook 15 minutes letting the fennel get a little color. Add the white wine and and reduce down by half or more. You can off the heat and wait until everything else is ready to serve at this point. The mussels go quickly now.

With medium-high heat add the mussels and cover with the lid. After 5 minutes stir and check to see if any are still unopened. Stir and return the lid for 3 more minutes or until all the mussels are open. Add the cream and stir. Bring the pan to light boil, basting the mussels with the pan sauce.

Serve immediately with wine and new friends.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Black and White Cookies

Iconic Black and White Cookie

I'm not going to lie. I was humming Ebony and Ivory as I iced these cookies.

They are iconic in ways I was unaware until I was sharing with my work friends. I got more than one "like on Seinfeld" or "Starbucks used to have these!"

They are really cake like. Very soft, but not too delicate. I can see why the world loves them.

They are totally beautiful. The recipe is pretty fantastic too. The only thing I'd do differently is make them a wee bit smaller. They were actually too much cookie to eat in one go. I used a blue scoop, which is 2 ounce. I'd go with a 1.5 ounce scoop if you have one. Some folks say draw circles on the underside of your parchment. I'd rather scoop two - 3/4 ouncers on top of each other because that just has to be easier. If you don't have at least one cookie scoop it's a great gift to ask for from Santa.

Black And White Cookies

5 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened
1.75 cup sugar
4 eggs
0.25 teaspoon lemon extract
0.5 teaspoon vanilla extract
0.5 cup milk

4 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons hot water
2 tablespoons corn syrup
0.5 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate chopped finely

Preheat oven 350 degree. Prepare two baking sheets with cooking sprayed parchment.

In a large bowl combine the flour, baking powder and salt.
In a different bowl cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs one at a time. Add the extracts. Add 1/3 the flour, mix. Add 1/2 of the milk, 1/3 the flour, the last of milk then the flour; mixing and scraping between each addition. (Is there an easier way to describe that?)

Form the cookies on the sheet. Try for consistent sizes. Shoot for 22-24 cookies. I got 18 from the too large ones. Flatten the cookies while keeping their roundness as best possible. They do spread some while baking. Bake for 20 minutes. Rotate halfway through the baking time if your oven bakes unevenly. Allow cookies to completely cool.

For the icing mix the sugar, water, syrup and vanilla in a microwaveable bowl or a bowl you can heat on a double boiler. Using a small spatula, flip the cookie over, ice half of each cookie. Catch the drips. Heat the remaining icing and add the chocolate, stir it in. Ice the second half of the cookie. Allow to set 30 minutes. They will dry firm and not sticky.

All the pretty giant cookies.

These do terrifically in plastic wrap and frozen. You know, if you had to.

The size and colors correspond and are universal. I remember when I learned that and I thought it was super clever. 

Monday, September 14, 2015

Rainbow Sprinkle Biscotti

Rainbow Sprinkle Biscotti

I saw a picture of these while flipping through the internet and fell in love.

I'm a fan of biscotti in general and how can you not smile at sprinkles.

Rainbow Biscotti
What the loaf looks like after it's first time in the oven. 

1 cup sugar
0.5 cup oil
4 eggs, (one separated)
3.25 cup flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons imitation vanilla
0.33 cup sprinkles

1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon corn syrup
2 tablespoons hot water
1.5 tablespoon imitation vanilla
2 tablespoons sprinkles

Preheat oven 350 degrees.

In a bowl combine sugar and oil. Add three eggs and one yolk, save the one white for brushing on top the biscotti before baking. Add the remaining ingredients. Mix thoroughly.

Shape into one large skinny log on a parchment lined baking sheet. Brush with egg white. Bake 30 minutes.

Remove from oven and let cool enough to handle. Cut into 20 pieces, stand up on a cookie sheet and return to the oven and bake for and additional 15-20 minutes.

Cool completely. And make the icing. To ice them quickly push them together into a log. With parchment below quickly spread the icing over the cookies, covering the top and sides thickly. It will run. Top with sprinkles before the icing sets. Allow to dry. Make 18 cookies. (Eat the ends when no one is looking.)

Dip in coffee or milk.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Streusel Oat Banana Walnut Muffins

Banana Walnut Muffins
There comes a point in time when you have to commit to using the collection of bananas you've tossed into the freezer as they've gone from yellow to brown to just not okay. You toss them in the freezer, peeled or maybe unpeeled, and forget about them until space is limited. I think of these as guilt reduction bananas because I actually use the bananas (and maybe some nuts) instead of throwing them out. Also, the neighbors get some and that just good community building. This wins times a million.

There isn't anything spectacular about this recipe other than it's a solid, not going to spill over the sides of your muffin pan cups nor be too dry kind of recipe. You don't have to fret. I promise.

The only little bit of a tricky thing about this recipe is that it takes buttermilk powder, which is a fun thing to have in the house. If you use real butter milk, strain your banana goop and use only the banana solids. It will reduce the liquid in the muffin.

Oat Topping

0.25 cup butter
0.50 cup flour
0.25 cup sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
0.50 cup quick oats
pinch of salt

Muffin Batter

1.25 cup sugar
0.5 cup butter
2 eggs
3 bananas, super ripe, drained, reserve and measure the liquid
0.5 cup of banana liquid
1 tsp. vanilla
2.5 cups flour
2 tablespoons buttermilk powder (or 0.5 cup buttermilk)
2 tsp. baking powder
0.5 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
0.25 ginger, allspice and cloves
1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Topping-heat the butter to soft in a microwavable bowl. Add the remaining ingredients, toss with fingers until combined. Squeeze it into fragile lumps. Set aside.

In a bowl cream the sugar and butter. Add eggs. Add bananas, liquid and vanilla.
In a separate bowl combine flour buttermilk powder, salt and spice. Combine until just moistened. Add the nuts by hand.

Line 24 muffin cups with paper, scoop batter evenly between the cups, about half full. Top with crumble, making small clumps as you put it on the muffin.

Bake for 17-21 minutes.

Oh, I've been asked why I type my recipes in decimals and not fractions. Mostly it's because I scale recipes for a living and the first step is converting fractions to decimals. It's how my brain works.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Surprising Hawaiian Macaroni Salad

Piles of Hawaiian Macaroni Salad

Why is it surprising? It looks like what you might find at any picnic but it's totally a flavor powerhouse.

This is not your granny's Macaroni Salad. I had it at a local Hawaiian restaurant and then went on a quest to find a recipe on the internet.

The problem is that people keep repeating the same recipe and publishing it. That's okay but totally meh. I would have to guess that there are as many Hawaiian macaroni salads as there are Ohio grandma's recipes for the pickle relish sweet macaroni salad. There were a few that gave the technique, which is important, and broke down the reason why it works. So I took what I found and made it my own.

Surprising Hawaiian Macaroni Salad

1 pound elbow macaroni
2 tsp. sea salt to boil

0.75 cup cider or red wine vinegar

2 cups heavy, real mayonnaise
1 cup sour cream
1 cup milk
4 teaspoons brown sugar
0.25 teaspoon white pepper
0.5 teaspoon kosher salt
4 green onions, minced
1 cup grated carrots
0.5 cup celery, minced

Boil the elbow macaroni in salty water. Boil until the noodles are soft up to a half hour. Drain. Do not rinse or cool. While hot pour vinegar over the noodles and toss. Let cool on the counter while you prep the remaining ingredients. That's the trick.

Combine the mayo, sour cream, milk, brown sugar, pepper and salt in a bowl. Grate the carrot, mince the celery and green onions.  Add the vegetables and dressing to the noodles. Cool in the refrigerator and serve. It's usually better the second day.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Peachy Peach Pie

Peachy Peach Pie
I'm not one to vacillate. 

I actually hate vacillating, even in a fan. I mean, blow one way or don't blow at all. It doesn't make me popular. I know that but you do know where I stand on pretty much everything. No one will call me wishy-washy, ever. When Divergent came out, the book, the movie, it was all the rage to figure out your faction. Everyone, with glee almost, told me I was Candor. Not one person vacillated about me. 

Peaches are vexing. They may very well be my favorite fruit. But I love strawberries and goodness knows I love an apple. Cooked plums can send me in a revery unparalleled and don't get me started on citrus. I've made lemon curd to give as gifts only to eat it up instead, because well, I wanted to. Or maybe I have a problem. I seem to be full of a little too much self-awareness for a recipe page. At anyrate, peaches are in season and I've given myself a tummy ache. 

I had to buy more. I was feeling too lazy to 'put them up' and I have a tiny freezer so freezing them really isn't really a solution. I decided to make  a giant deep dish pie. I have a place to share it tomorrow, so here's what I did.  

Peachy Peach Pie

10 peaches
juice of 1 lemon
0.75 cup sugar
0.75 cup flour, less if they are not juicy peaches
0.5 tsp. salt
0.25 tsp nutmeg, freshly grated
1 tablespoon butter 

2.5 cups white flour
0.5 tsp. salt
0.5 cup Crisco (so what)
about 0.5 cup cold water

sugar for sprinkling on top

For the filling, peel the peaches by dropping them in boiling water for 1 minute then putting them in an ice water bath. Remove the pits and slice. Toss the peaches in the juice of the lemon. Add the sugar, flour, salt and nutmeg. Stir until the flour is absorbed in the moisture of the peaches. Set aside while you make and roll the crusts. 

For the crust, stir the salt into the flour. Cut in the shortening. Rub it together quickly and lightly so you don't heat the fat too much. Add water until it holds together when you take a pinch. Use as little water as possible. Make 2 balls of dough, one bigger than the other. The bigger one is the bottom crust. Roll it between two sheets of parchment, line the pie pan. 

Pour in the pie filling into the lined pan. Dot with butter. 

Roll the second dough ball. It doesn't need to be as big because it doesn't need to go up the sides of the pie pan. I made a lattice in the picture but a solid top is fine too. Cut holes to vent the pie if you make a solid top. I fold the excess dough under the lip of the crust and pinch it into a ridge I then flute. The hint to fluting is turn the pie not your hand as you go around the edge. 

Sprinkle with sugar.

Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour 20 minutes on a parchment lined pan that's bigger than your pie pan, to capture any bubbling fruit.