Oatmeal Cookies and a Trash Talking Scotsman

 

Sad.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).  That kind of sad.

That’s what I think has been causing my sense of self worth to crater for the last week. Those menacing dark clouds and torrential rains may have nourished my garden, but they sure tipped my mood toward melancholia.

When I’m blue, I get food cravings. Big ones. Often, it is refried beans–straight out of the can. More times than I want to admit, it’s been gorgonzola. This week’s craving has been for oatmeal cookies–a  favorite indulgence from my childhood. As a little girl, I could put away a whole package of those crisp flat oatmeal cookies that came right off the supermarket shelves.

Lest I feel guilty about my cookie indulgence,  I want to say up front: oats are good for you! I know. I know. It’s a cookie. But still.

Sages from the ages, Hippocrates and Galen among them,  have noted the healing properties inherent in oats, giving oats credit for everything from curing a cold to acting as a desiccant for the skin. More recently, scientific evidence has identified oat and oat bran consumption as an effective tool in the fight against heart disease.

Despite long-held beliefs that oats were a part of a healthy human diet, the early cultivation of oats was skewed towards feed grain for animals. In fact, until the 19th century, only the Irish and the Scots incorporated oats as a regular and significant part of their diets.

According to a publication about oats by The American Association of Cereal Chemists (Yes. There is such a group.), the consumption of oats by the Scots led to a dust up of sorts with the English. The AACC credits Sir Walter Scott with chronicling the details of that English-Scottish tiff and with uncovering what is undoubtedly history’s most famous quotation about oats. According to Scott, the renowned English writer Samuel Johnson, in a moment of puerility, described oats as “a grain which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people.” Johnson’s slur drew blood in Scotland and a prominent Scottish nobleman, Lord Elibank, responded to Johnson’s insult with a bit of trash talk, replying:  “True, but where can you find such horses, where such men?” Take that, Samuel Johnson!

So, it goes to figure that it was Scottish settlers who brought oats to North America. Interestingly, because oats were believed to be a food for the infirm, most oatmeal was sold in pharmacies in those early days  Gradually, oats got a reputation as a healthy breakfast cereal for broader public consumption and was moved to the grocery aisles.

Here is a very good recipe for oatmeal cookies. It’s easy. It’s quick. There are lots of healthy oats. You’ll feel better.

Me? It’s drizzling here this morning but, sitting here with a plate of warm cookies, a steaming hot cup of tea, and a dozing sweet Juliet in my lap, I’m seeing nothing but blue skies. Life is good.

 

The original recipe appeared on the AllRecipes site. A link to that recipe appears at the end of this post.

Oatmeal Cookies

20 minPrep Time

15 minCook Time

35 minTotal Time

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Ingredients

  • 1 C. softened butter
  • 1 C. brown sugar (firmly packed)
  • 1/2 C. white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 t. vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 C. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 t. baking soda
  • 2 t. ground cinnamon
  • 1 t. salt
  • 3 C. quick-cooking oats
  • 1 C. chopped walnuts

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Cream butter, brown sugar and white sugar together in a large bowl. Add eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly after each egg is added. Add vanilla. (I used my Kitchen Aid standing mixer with its paddle attachment for this step.)
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt together. Add this dry mixture gradually to the butter/egg mixture. Add oats and walnuts. Mix until just blended.
  4. Drop heaping teaspoonfuls of cookie dough onto the cookie sheets. Allow two inches between each cookie to allow the cookies to spread while cooking.
  5. Bake at 325 degrees F. for fifteen minutes or until cookies are beginning to turn a light brown and are firming up. Remove from oven and cool on a rack.
Cuisine: American | Recipe Type: Cookies
http://bluecayenne.com/oatmeal-cookies-trash-talking-scotsman

Here is the link to the original recipe:

Excellent Oatmeal Cookies

 

 

 

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Grandma’s Sourdough Biscuits

 

After decades of procrastinating, I bought some sourdough starter from King Arthur Flour. Sourdough starter is “a fermented dough retained from one baking to another,” according to their site.  For $8.95, King Arthur sent me a small plastic jar containing one ounce of their classic starter.

I fed it. (I’m a good person.)

I gave it a name. (Kellyanne.)

And I waited.

Kellyanne frothed like she was supposed to. Then, after eight hours sitting on the top of my microwave, she began to emit little gas bubbles that floated to the top of the starter batter.

Kellyanne was alive!

(I felt like Dr. Frankenstein must have felt when the monster came to life–or, at least, like Gene Wilder did.)

Then, I procrastinated again. Kellyanne languished in my refrigerator.

Whenever I opened my refrigerator, there sat Kellyanne. Guilt. I felt guilt.

So I fed her every day or two. I owed her that.

Crankily (is that a word?),  it seemed to me that I had added one more hungry creature to my seemingly-endless morning feeding ritual here in Huntington Beach. Kibble for Juliet. Bananas and Harrison’s for Moti. Pellets for the Koi. And now, flour and water for Kellyanne.

Then, in one of my late night bouts of sleeplessness, I tapped in “sourdough recipes” and there was grandma–grandma’s sourdough biscuits that is–with forty-five positive reviews. “Pollen,” who posted the recipe, cooed that her grandma “makes these every time we go over to dinner.” Bleary-eyed, I decided that, if these biscuits were good enough for Pollen and her Grandma, they might be good enough for me and Kellyanne. I pushed print.

Before I post the recipe, let me me give you a little more of Kellyanne’s bio.

King Arthur’s Flour boasts that Kellyanne is a sourdough starter “lovingly nurtured for over a century.” This piqued my interest. It’s 2017. A hundred years would put Kellyanne’s birth roughly around the time of World War I. It was a stinking war but I liked the connection. Since sourdough starter  is a marriage of local wild yeast with lactobacilli, that means my Kellyanne is a modern-day bit of time travel. Kellyanne is related to the wild yeast that was floating around when Wilson was President, Ataturk was beginning the great republican experiment in Turkey (that Erdogan is destroying), Wilfred Owen was writing “Dulce et Decorum est”  and Siegfried Sassoon was writing “Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man.” How cool is that?

Moving beyond the history…  According to the King Arthur Flour site, when sourdough starter is fed,  you make it your own. The wild yeast, a tiny fungus, here in Huntington Beach insinuates itself into my Vermont-originated starter from King Arthur and a unique new living leavening is born. So, Kellyanne is mine. The biscuits you eat at my table are unlike any you might eat even a mile away. Again, how cool is that?

So, how long has this been going on? Apparently, records of sourdough microflora date back at least to 1500 b.c. and the Ancient Egyptians. Wild beer drinkers that they were (I didn’t know that.), there was a lot of wild yeast floating around Upper Egypt. Serendipitously, some of the wild yeast from the beer settled into some flour and there you were–sourdough starter.

Here is the link to King Arthur’s Flour:

 

http://www.kingarthurflour.com/shop/items/classic-fresh-sourdough-starter-1-oz

Yields 8 Biscuits

Grandma’s Sourdough Biscuits
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Ingredients

  • 1 C. flour
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 1/2 t. baking soda
  • 2 t. baking powder
  • 1/3 C. butter (cold)
  • 1 C. sourdough starter

Instructions

  1. Sift flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder into a large bowl. Add cold butter and cut it into the flour mixture. Add the sourdough starter and mix until the mixture turns into a dough.
  2. Turn the dough out on to a lightly floured board and knead the dough a few times until it becomes smooth and elastic.
  3. Pat the dough into a 3/4 inch high round. Use a biscuit cutter to cut the dough into eight biscuits.
  4. Bake in a 425 degree F. oven for 12-15 minutes until slightly brown.
Cuisine: American | Recipe Type: Biscuits
http://bluecayenne.com/grandmas-sourdough-biscuits

Here is the link to the original recipe for Grandma’s Sourdough Biscuits:

http://www.food.com/recipe/grandmas-sourdough-biscuits-18995

 

 

 

 

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Porcini Mushroom Risotto

 

 

I confess that making risotto isn’t (or hasn’t been) a strong suit for me. Don’t get me wrong, I love rice. It is just that, somehow, risotto always seemed like it would be complicated to prepare.

Then my world changed. I got an Instant Pot.

The Instant Pot is a multi-function pressure cooker. You can, of course, pressure cook in it. You also can sauté. Or, you can make yogurt. Or, you can use it as a steamer or a slow cooker. You can pretty much do it all. (It’s sort of the Meryl Streep of kitchen appliances.)

 

Here is a link to Instant Pot’s website:

http://instantpot.com

No…wait! Where is the history of risotto, you ask?

Rice is believed to have first been introduced to Italy during the Middle Ages via the Arab invasions. Subsequently, Italian farmers found that the Mediterranean climate was well-suited to the cultivation of short grain rice. Yuge profits.

Then, leave it to Italian cooks, the  inspired combination of rice. stock, onions, butter, wine, Parmesan and saffron followed. Risotto was born. According to one site (Anna Maria’s Open Kitchen), “the legend of the invention of Risotto alla Milanese goes back to the year 1574. The Duomo di Milano, the magnificent Gothic cathedral, was being built, and a young apprentice named Valerius was in charge of staining the decorated glass for the windows. Everybody was teasing him because he appeared to have added saffron to the pigments to obtain a more brilliant color.

Tired of the teasing, he decided to return the joke and added saffron to the rice to be served at his master’s wedding. The rice turned out so good that the idea spread immediately throughout the city and became the popular dish we know today.”

You go, Valerius! Kind of far-fetched, but then who doesn’t like a good story?

This is my first foray into risotto but this recipe is quite good. I hope to up my game. Sur La Table has a cooking class focused on risotto. I’m signing up. Stay tuned.

 

 

 

Yields 4 Servings

Porcini Mushroom Risotto
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Ingredients

  • 1 T. olive oil or butter
  • 1/2 C. finely chopped onions
  • 1 1/2 C. arborio rice
  • 1/2 C. dry white wine or dry vermouth
  • 3 to 3 1/2 C. vegetable broth
  • 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms (broken into bits)
  • 1 C. frozen peas
  • 1/2 C. grated Parmesan (or Asiago) plus more to pass at the table
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 2 T. chopped parsley (for garnish)

Instructions

  1. If you are using an Instant Pot, follow the directions in the instruction booklet. Use the sauté feature to sauté the onions in the hot butter (or oil), Add the arborio rice and stir it until it is totally mixed with the sautéed onion and totally covered in the butter (or oil). Sauté for about 30 seconds while stirring constantly. Next, str in the wine and sauté until the rice has absorbed the wine. Then, stir in the 3 cups of broth and the porcini mushroom pieces. As you do this, be sure to scrape the bottom of the pot to dislodge any rice that might be sticking to the bottom of the cooker.
  2. If you are using a traditional pressure cooker, follow the directions in the instruction booklet. Start the dish by heating the butter or oil in the pressure cooker pot on your stove. Stir in the onions and sauté. Add the arborio rice and stir it until it is totally mixed with the sautéed onion and totally covered in butter (or oil). Sauté for about 30 seconds while stirring constantly.Next, str in the wine and sauté until the rice has absorbed the wine. Then, stir in the 3 cups of broth and the porcini mushroom pieces. As you do this, be sure to scrape the bottom of the pot to dislodge any rice that might be sticking to the bottom of the cooker.
  3. Now, lock the lid of your cooker in place. Be sure everything is done properly with this step before proceeding.
  4. If using the Instant Pot pressure cooker, cook on high setting for four minutes. If using the traditional pressure cooker, pressure cook at high pressure for four minutes.
  5. Turn off the heat.
  6. Quick release the pressure in your cooker following the directions in your instruction book. Remove the lid from your cooker.
  7. If using the Instant Pot, stir the risotto vigorously with the pot set at sauté. If using a traditional pressure cooker, put the cooker pot back on your stove over medium high heat and stir vigorously.
  8. Your risotto may look soupy at this point. If it does, boil the liquid down. Be sure to stir the risotto while you are doing this to keep your risotto from sticking. My risotto, cooked in the Instant Pot, did not need to boil off any liquid. Conversely, if your risotto is too dry, stir in half cups of broth until you have a consistency you like. Stir in the peas.
  9. Turn off the heat under your pot. Stir in Parmesan and salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with chopped parsley. Pass extra Parmesan at the table.
Cuisine: Italian | Recipe Type: Risotto
http://bluecayenne.com/porcini-mushroom-risotto

Here is the link to the original NY Times recipe for this dish:

 

https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1015845-pressure-cooker-porcini-risotto

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Banana Upside Down Cake

 

I have a parrot, actually an umbrella cockatoo, named Moti. Moti is twenty-seven years old and quite the diva, especially about her food. In Moti’s world there is no sunshine if she doesn’t find a half a banana in her food dish each morning. Moti is quite a foodie, too. She holds the banana in her claw with the cut side up and puts pieces of her other food on top of the banana so that she can mix the foods together as she eats.  Smart Moti.

Bananas are a very healthy part of any diet–human or avian. They are low in calories at approximately 110 calories per banana. They are fat free. A banana gives you 18% of your body’s daily requirement for potassium and 15% of your Vitamin C.  Interestingly, bananas are also rich in tryptophan, that mood-elevating neuro transmitter that can also help you fall asleep. What’s not to love?

Try as we may, though, Moti and I can’t seem to keep up with the bananas in our fruit bowl. We always seem to have some disgusting overripe ones. We can only eat so much banana bread (another of Moti’s fav foods–especially baked with lots of walnuts). What to do?

I recently saw this banana upside down cake recipe on David Lebovitz’ blog and I knew that I had to try it. It didn’t disappoint. It is rich and beautiful– a cinnamon and vanilla flavored cake underneath a very pretty caramelized banana crown.

By the way, bananas are the fourth largest fruit crop in the world (after grapes, citrus fruit and apples). Per capita, Americans consume an average of twenty-seven pounds of bananas each year. Whoa! That’s a lot of bananas.

Here is your banana trivia question for the day. Is a banana (a) a legume (b) a berry ( c) a grain (d) a nut?  You got it right if you chose answer “b.” Bananas are the seedless berries of a tree-sized herbaceous plant commonly, and incorrectly, referred to as a banana tree.

Trivia question number 2: Is a bunch of bananas referred to as (a) a hand  (b) a finger  ( c) a foot  (d) an elbow? Count yourself correct if you answered (a) a hand. The individual bananas are called “fingers.” I knew you would find that fascinating.

Trivia question number 3: Banana peels can be used for which of the following purposes? (a) polishing your shoes (b) rubbing on your forehead to relieve a headache ( c) fertilizing your roses (d) all of the above. The correct answer, according to the banana experts, is (d). Who knew?

You will find a link to Lebovitz’ blog at the end of this post.

Yields 10-12 servings

Banana Upside Down Cake

30 minPrep Time

30 minCook Time

1 hrTotal Time

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Ingredients

  • For the banana topping
  • 4 T. (55 g) butter (salted)
  • 1/2 C plus 2 T. (110g) packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean (split lengthwise and seeds scraped)
  • 1 T. rum
  • 4-5 medium bananas (about 1 1/4 pounds or 565 g)
  • For the cake
  • 1 1/2 C. (175 g) all purpose flour (sifted)
  • 1 1/2 t. baking powder
  • 3/4 t. salt
  • 1/2 t. ground cinnamon
  • 8 T. (4 ounces or 115g) unsalted butter (cubed and at room temperature)
  • 3/4 C. (150g) granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs (at room temperature)
  • 1/2 C. (125 ml) whole or low fat milk (at room temperature)
  • 1 t. vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. For the topping
  3. Heat 4 T. (55g) butter, brown sugar and vanilla seeds in a 10-inch cast iron skillet on top of your stove.Stir this mixture constantly until the ingredients are well mixed, liquified and beginning to bubble. Take the pan off the heat and stir in the rum and the split vanilla bean.
  4. Peel the bananas and cut them lengthwise. Then, cut each banana piece into thirds lengthwise. . You will have long slender banana pieces. It is not a problem if some of the banana pieces break, Carefully arrange the banana slices on top of the brown sugar mixture in the skillet.
  5. For the cake
  6. Sift the flour into a large bowl and whisk baking powder, salt and cinnamon into the flour. Set this mixture aside.
  7. Attach your paddle attachment to your stand mixer and beat the butter and the granulated sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping the sides of the bowl between additions.
  8. Turn your mixer to its slow speed and add half the dry ingredients to the sugar mixture. Add the milk and the vanilla. Add the rest of the dry ingredients. Mix these ingredients only until they are just incorporated. You need to be careful not to overmix or your cake will not be tender.
  9. Pour the batter into the skilled and on top of the brown sugar and banana mixture you have prepared.
  10. Bake cake for 30 to 35 minutes. When the cake is done, a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake will come out clean. Also, the cake should be firm to your touch when it is done.
  11. Cool cake in the pan on a rack for ten minutes. Then, run a knife around the edge of the cooled cake. Invert the cake over a large serving plate. (Be careful when you do this. You don't want hot caramel on your hands.)

Notes

My cake was prettiest on the day it was baked. On day two, the bananas began to darken.

http://bluecayenne.com/banana-upside-down-cake

Here is a link to David Lebovitz’ blog and to the original recipe:

http://www.davidlebovitz.com/banana-upside-down-cake-recipe/

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Love and Ginger Cake

 

During the Middle Ages, rich European ladies slipped their favorite knights a bit of gingerbread before an important tournament. Sweet, aromatic, crumbly, swoon-worthy gingerbread. How utterly romantic is that!?

If you need proof, the painting below portrays a lady and her knight. Theirs was a chivalrous era when upper class marriages were loveless and arranged. To compensate for the emotional void, feudal society permitted (mostly) chaste courtly love outside of marriage. If you look closely,  I’m pretty sure (well…I’m almost sure)  the damsel in the painting has a bag of gingerbread tucked under her seat cushion.

 

Later, during the Renaissance, gingerbread and romance were once again joined. Famously, Tudor Queen Elizabeth I had her court bakers prepare sugar-iced gingerbread men to resemble the important dignitaries (and eligible suitors) who visited her court. At just the right moment, she ceremoniously presented the sweet tokens to her astounded male guests. (You know, of course, what a flirt Elizabeth was! Just look at this delightful clip from Rowan Atkinson’s silly and wonderful Black Adder series. I guarantee that you won’t be able to “unsee” Miranda Richardson’s giggley and imperious portrayal of the flirtatious queen.  Queen Elizabeth and Black Adder )

What is the moral of these two stories? Gingerbread is the go-to gift for the important men in your life.

If you don’t have a man in your life, no problem. Those medieval and renaissance ladies had that one covered, too. Wrapped in ribbons, gingerbread husbands were sold at most European fairs during those times. Also called fairlings, the husbands were  gingerbread cakes fashioned like men and decorated with gilt. Pitchmen touted them as talismen to improve one’s romantic prospects. Gullible and lonely young damsels took the bait and the husbands sold like hotcakes gingerbread.

Here is the recipe for an outstanding ginger cake from David Lebovitz’ Ready For Dessert cookbook. Incredibly moist, the cake delivers a real jolt of peppery ginger flavor. It is great for breakfast but also makes an elegant dessert served with a scoop of the best quality French vanilla ice cream you can find. Share it with someone you love. You have history on your side.

Fresh Ginger Cake

Spicy ginger cake

30 minPrep Time

1 hrCook Time

1 hr, 30 Total Time

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Ingredients

  • 4 oz. fresh peeled and thinly sliced ginger
  • 1 C. mild-flavored molasses
  • 1 C. sugar
  • 1 C. vegetable oil (I used canola)
  • 2 1/2 C. all-purpose flour
  • 1 t. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 t. ground cloves
  • 1/2 t. ground black pepper
  • 1 C. water
  • 2 t. baking soda
  • 2 large eggs (room temperature and slightly beaten)
  • powdered sugar

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Prepare a 9-inch springform pan or a round cake pan by buttering the bottom of the pan and covering the bottom with a round of parchment paper.
  3. Peel and thinly slice the fresh ginger. Put ginger slices into a food processor and process until the ginger is minced. Set aside.
  4. Combine molasses, sugar and oil in a large bowl. Stir to combine.Set aside.
  5. In another bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, cloves, and black pepper.Set aside.
  6. Heat water to boil in a small saucepan. Add baking soda to the water and stir. Then, whisk the hot water into the molasses mixture. Add the chopped ginger.
  7. Gradually sift the flour mixture into the molasses/water mixture while stirring to combine. Stir in the lightly beaten eggs. Stir mixture until all the ingredients are combined.
  8. Pour batter into your pan and bake for approximately one hour or until the top of the cake springs back when touched and a toothpick comes out clean when stuck into the top center of the cake.
  9. Cool on a wire rack. The cake is best served after sitting overnight to let the ginger flavor mellow and permeate the cake.
  10. Serve with powdered sugar sprinkled over the top of the cake.
Cuisine: American/European | Recipe Type: Dessert

Notes

The recipe recommends baking the cake for one hour at 350 degrees F. My cake was baked in 45 minutes. I have a new oven that I'm breaking in and I'm still learning its eccentricities, but you may want to watch your cake carefully and test it for doneness earlier than the recipe's recommended one hour.

http://bluecayenne.com/love-and-ginger-cake

 

 

 

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Binge Cooking Chocolate-Dipped Coconut Macaroons

 

Uh-oh!  I’m in a dangerous place.

I’m binge cooking cookies. Fortunately, I have neighbors who are willing to humor me and take some of my cookie glut off my hands.

I recently posted a chocolate cookie recipe from Dorie Greenspan’s new book, Dorie’s Cookies. Now I have a new cookie love, David Lebovitz’ Chocolate-Dipped Coconut Macaroons from his book Ready for Dessert: My Best Recipes.

I’m eating one (OK. Maybe I’m eating five.) of the macaroons as I write this post.

And, Oh My!  These are just wonderful. Chewy coconut macaroons–crunchy on the outside, soft in the middle. Decadent chocolate on the bottom. Pretty presentation. Chocolate smeared on my keyboard.

The backstory of the macaroon is pretty interesting.

In the beginning… there was the Italian amaretti. Then, there were French macarons. Finally, can-do American cooks stepped up to the plate. The glorious coconut macaroon was born.

Here is the story.

The modern-day macaroon/macaron is descended from an Italian almond paste cookie, the amaretti. Food historians believe that Arab traders introduced almonds into Italy during the Middle Ages. By the 8th Century, a recipe for an amaretti-type cookie can be traced to a Venetian convent.  Struggling to balance its books, the convent apparently began offering bitter almond-flavored “amaretti”cookies for sale. They had a culinary hit on their hands .

As travel across the European continent became safer, the recipe for the popular Italian amaretti cookie was carried north where inventive cooks began to experiment, substituting new ingredients and more egg whites in their iterations of the cookie. The Northern European cookie, now renamed a macaron, became quite a bit lighter. The geographical transfer of this meringue cookie was helped, apparently, by a political marriage of convenience.  Henry II of France married Catherine d’Medicis of Italy.  A 16th Century “foodie,” the  zaftig Catherine is believed to have brought her Italian chefs with her to the French court where they prepared macarons for the wedding celebration. Pretty soon, anybody who was anybody in France was serving macarons. These cookies were flat, though. Not flat flavorless but flat flat. Think:  single-layered rounded cookies.  It was not until the early 20th century that French chefs began to sandwich a filling between two layers of the meringue macarons and, violà, they invented what has become by far the best-selling cookie pastry in French bakeries. (More about macarons and a recipe in a later post. I promise.)

Meanwhile, in other parts of Europe and America, clever cooks switched up the amaretti and macaron recipe ingredients in a different way. The modern macaroon with its crisp outer layer and soft, chewy middle, was born when shredded coconut, newly available to European and American cooks in the late 19th Century,  was used to replace the almonds used in the French and Italian recipes. This sensational new cookie, the macaroon, frequently was dipped in chocolate to push its flavor over the top.

The evolution of the coconut macaroon got a particular boost in America in the 1871 when a Spanish brig laden with coconuts shipwrecked off the Florida coast and entrepreneurial Floridians turned disaster into dollars by cultivating coco palms from the remnants of the ship’s cargo that floated ashore. Quickly, better methods for processing and preserving shredded coconut were developed. (It was the Industrial Revolution in America, people! Anything was possible.) Overnight, shredded baking coconut was being distributed widely across the United States, unleashing quite a coconut party. Cooks turned out everything from coconut cream pies to ambrosia to, well, macaroons.

Which is better? Macaroons or macarons?

As I sit here eating my bounty of macaroons, I think it is a tie. Obviously, though, there is some disagreement.

 

David Lebovitz recently republished this recipe on his blog, DavidLebovitz.com. The  link to his book/blog recipe appears at the bottom of this post.

 

Chocolate-Dipped Coconut Macaroons
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Ingredients

  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1 1/4 C. (250 g) sugar
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 1 T. honey
  • 2 1/2 C. (200 g) unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/4 C. (35 g) flour
  • 1/2 t. vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste (I used paste)
  • 2 ounces (55 g) chopped bittersweet or semisweet chocolate (I used Guittard Chocolate)

Instructions

  1. Mix egg whites, sugar, salt and honey together in a large pan. Place pan on your stove over a low heat and stir until the mixture barely begins to warm. (You want this mixture to be tepid. Be careful not to overheat it.)
  2. Add in coconut, flour and vanilla. Stir. Increase heat to medium and continue to stir until the cookie dough comes together as a thick mashed potato-like mass. Remove from the heat. Put dough into a bowl and let it cool to room temperature.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  4. Line cookie sheet(s) with parchment. Using a cookie scoop or a tablespoon, scoop dough out of bowl and form into balls about 1 1/2 inch in diameter. Space cookies evenly on cookie sheet.
  5. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes. You want the macaroons to take on a golden brown color. Remove from the oven and set the cookie pan on a rack. Let the cookies cool completely.
  6. While the cookies are cooling, melt chopped chocolate in a double boiler or in your microwave.
  7. Cover another cookie sheet with parchment. Dip each cooled cookie in the melted chocolate and then place on parchment you've placed on top of the cookie sheet. Once you have dipped all the cookies, place the cookie sheet in the refrigerator for five to ten minutes to set the chocolate.
http://bluecayenne.com/binge-cooking-chocolate-dipped-coconut-macaroons

Here is the link to David Lebovitz’ original recipe for these macaroons:

http://www.davidlebovitz.com/an-american-mac-1/

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Black-Eyed (Cow) Pea Salad for the New Year!

 

OK everyone. All together now. Say cowpeas.

That’s what black-eyed peas are. They are a type of cowpeas, “one of the most ancient crops known to man” according to Purdue’s horticultural Jefferson Institute, and the real shocker is that they aren’t really peas at all. Instead, they are an African relative of the mung bean. Who knew?

Cowpeas are believed to have been introduced to the United States via the slave trade. And, as the story goes, the consumption of black-eyed cowpeas later became a New Year’s day tradition in the South as a result of the Civil War. According to Texas A and M’s website, the 40-day siege of Vicksburg left residents of that area on the verge of starvation and was illustrative of Southern food shortages and suffering during the war. As the Northern armies scoured the countryside for food, they apparently left the black-eyed cowpeas in the fields, thinking they were good only as animal feed. Southerners knew otherwise. Once the war was over, the consumption of black-eyed peas (along with greens and cornbread)  on January 1 became a Southern paean to survival both for southern whites and for newly-emancipated blacks.

Over the years, the New Year’s Day peas-greens-cornbread meal has also taken on other meanings. The three foods are humble food, so it is said that eating them on the first day of the year acknowledges one’s humility. Also, the black-eye has come to be associated with finding prosperity and wealth in the new year. As the saying goes, “peas for pennies, greens for dollars, cornbread for gold.” Some even believe that you need to eat exactly 365 black-eyed peas on January 1 to ensure that prosperity. (That’s a little less that 2/3 C. of dried beans. I was curious how onerous the 365 rule was and I counted.– I know. I know. I have no life. Even sweet little Juliet thought I was out of my mind as I counted the little dried cowpeas one by one.)

Today, the world’s largest crops of cowpeas are cultivated in Africa where Nigeria and Niger are leading producers, but black-eyed cowpeas are grown all over the world and are a major crop here in California. Worldwide, it is estimated that 1.24 million tons are grown from dry seed each year. That’s a whole lot of cowpeas.

No doubt a big part of the world-wide popularity of cowpeas is their ease of cultivation. The plants have a deep taproot that makes them more tolerant of drought and heat than other beans. Nutritionally, you get a lot of bang for your buck, too.  Low in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium, they are a good source of protein and fiber. In fact, a serving of cowpeas provides about the same protein as 2 ounces of meat.

I was searching around for an interesting recipe for black-eyed peas for my New Year’s meal and came across this Black-Eyed Pea Salad recipe. I enjoyed the addition of diced sweet potatoes to the black-eyes and was really taken by the tangy vinegar dressing that is tossed with the mixture.

Best wishes for a great new year. Remember to eat your black-eyed peas. Many of you missed the traditional January 1 meal, but it still can’t hurt to eat a few cowpeas for luck. A little prosperity couldn’t hurt either!

The link to the original recipe from which this recipe was adapted appears at the bottom of this post.

 

Black-Eyed Pea Salad for the New Year!
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Ingredients

  • For the Salad
  • 1/2 medium red onion or sweet onion (finely chopped)
  • 1 small red bell pepper (finely chopped)
  • 1/2 to 1 jalapeño (chopped)
  • 2 T. chopped green onions
  • 2 T. chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 pound roasted sweet potatoes cut into 1/4 inch dice
  • 4 C. freshly-cooked or canned black-eyed peas (drained and rinsed)
  • For the Dressing
  • 1/4 C. unseasoned rice wine vinegar
  • 1/4 C. canola oil
  • 1/2 t. sugar
  • 2 T. honey
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 C. black-eyed peas (freshly cooked or canned) drained and rinsed

Instructions

  1. Peel and dice sweet potato into 1/4 inch dice. Toss in a small amount of olive oil and spread on a roasting pan. Roast in a 350 degree F. oven until tender (20-25 minutes depending upon your oven). Let diced sweet potatoes cool.
  2. Combine onion, red bell pepper, jalapeño, green onions, chopped parsley leaves in a large bowl.
  3. Whisk rice wine vinegar, canola oil, sugar, honey, salt and black pepper in a small bowl. Add to the onion mixture and stir to combine. Set aside to allow the flavors to marry.
  4. Gently fold black-eyed peas into the dressing in the large bowl. Let the bean salad marinate in the dressing in your refrigerator for up to 8 hours before serving. Fold in extra dressing to your taste just before serving. Garnish with chopped parsley.

Notes

The black-eyed peas absorb most of the dressing. I found that adding additional dressing to the beans just before serving gave the salad a boost.

I most enjoyed this salad served slightly warm or at room temperature.

http://bluecayenne.com/black-eyed-cow-pea-salad-for-the-new-year

 

This recipe was adapted from a recipe that originally appeared on the Sweet Savant website. Here is a link to that recipe:

Black Eyed Peas Sweet Potato Salad

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Crepes with Raspberry-Cassis Sauce

 

I’m having a bit of a pity party about being alone on New Year’s Eve, so I decided to cook today.

Several days ago I discovered this Martha Rose Shulman recipe on the New York Times site. One of my indulgences in life is to subscribe to the NY Times. It is pricey but the writing soars and the food section is wonderful. I don’t know of another newspaper with that dedication to its food section.

This recipe combines warm crepes with a lime zest-infused Greek yogurt filling and sauces the whole thing with a fresh raspberry sauce. What’s not to love here?

A link to the original NY Times/Martha Rose Shulman recipe appears at the end of this post.

 

 

Crepes with Raspberry-Cassis Sauce
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Ingredients

  • Crepes
  • 1 1/4 C. low-fat milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 1/3 C. water
  • 1 T. sugar
  • 1/3 C. plus 1 T. unbleached all-purpose flour (sifted)
  • 1/3 C. plus 1 T. whole wheat flour (sifted)
  • 3 T. unsalted butter (melted)
  • 1 t. finely-grated lime zest
  • Raspberry Sauce
  • 1/4 C. sugar
  • 1/2 t. rose water
  • 1 6-ounce box raspberries (about 1 1/4 C.)
  • 1 T. creme de cassis liqueur
  • Yogurt Filling
  • 1 1/4 C. plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 T. plus 1 t. mild honey
  • 1 1/4 t. finely grated lime zest
  • 1 to 1 1/2 t. fresh lime juice
  • Garnish
  • 1 6-ounce box raspberries
  • powdered sugar for dusting

Instructions

  1. For the crepe batter, mix milk, eggs, salt and sugar in your blender. When those ingredients are mixed, add the flours (with the motor running) and the melted butter for one minute. Your batter should be well-mixed and smooth. Pour your batter into a bowl and stir in the lime zest. Let the batter rest on your counter for at least 30 minutes.
  2. For the raspberry sauce, mix 1/3 C. water and sugar in a small saucepan and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer until the sugar has totally dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in rose water, raspberries and cassis liqueur. Return the raspberry mixture to the heat and bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and strain mixture into a bowl. Press the raspberry pulp through strainer with a spatula and discard seeds. Whisk or stir to blend pulp and syrup and set aside.
  3. For the yogurt sauce, whisk yogurt, honey, lime zest and lime juice. Taste and adjust sweetness. Set aside.
  4. To make the crepes ,heat 8-inch non-stick crepe pan over medium-high heat and brush lightly with butter. With pan lifted off heat, pour 1/4 C. batter to coat the bottom of the pan. Tilt and swirl pan to distribute batter in an even layer. Return pan to heat and cook crepe for about one minute, until edges color and bottom of crepe is lightly browned. Crepe should not stick to pan. Flip crepe over and cook for 30 seconds on the other side, until speckled. Turn out onto a plate Continue with remaining batter, brushing pan occasionally with butter.
  5. To assemble the crepes,spread a rounded tablespoon of the yogurt mixture over each crepe, drizzle on 1/2 t. raspberry sauce. Fold crepe in half and then in half again. Place on plate. When all crepes are made and filled, spoon sauce over the crepes, garnish with raspberries and dust with powdered sugar. Serve.
http://bluecayenne.com/crepes-with-raspberry-cassis-sauce

Here is the link to the original NY Times recipe:

Ny Times Recipe for Crepes with Raspberry-Cassis Sauce

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World peace anyone?

 

Me, too.

These cookies, called World Peace Cookies,  are from renown baker Dorie Greenspan’s bestselling new cookbook,  Dorie’s Cookies. (Buy the book for someone you love. It is a wonderful cookbook with inspired recipes for both sweet and savory cookies.)

In the introduction to Greenspan’s  World Peace Cookie recipe, she uses the word “phenomenal” to describe these cookies. No exaggeration there in my opinion. These cookies are knock-your-socks-off chocolaty. They’re tender. They’re edgy with just a hint of fleur de sel. They are everything you want a cookie to be.

Greenspan credits the original recipe to France’s most-acknowledged pastry chef, Pierre Herme. Originally called Korova Cookies after Herme’s restaurant,  the cookies have followed a circuitous route to their current name. Greenspan credits a Paris neighbor with the idea of naming the cookies World Peace Cookies, an idea she embraced and included in her cookbooks.

With justified pride, Greenspan notes that an Internet search for “World Peace Cookie” yields more than ten million references.

The Food 52 food site says of these cookies, “Of all the cookies you will bake (and eat) this holiday season, this is the one people will remember.” 

Huffington Post published a food article yesterday titled “The Recipes that Changed our Lives in 2016.” Greenspan’s World Peace cookie is among the recipes listed.

My message to you as we approach a new year fraught with uncertainty is to put your money on world peace (cookies).

Happy New Year to you all. Thank you for reading Blue Cayenne and thank you for recommending this blog to your friends.

 

World Peace Cookies
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Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 C. all purpose flour
  • 1/3 C. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 t. baking soda
  • 1 stick plus 3 T. unsalted butter (cut into chunks (at room temperature)
  • 2/3 C. packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 C. sugar
  • 1/2 t. fleur de sel or /14 t. fine sea salt
  • 1 t. pure vanilla extract
  • 5 ounces best-quality bittersweet chocolate (chopped into irregular bits)

Instructions

  1. Sift flour, baking soda and cocoa together. Set aside.
  2. Using your Kitchen Aid mixer with its paddle attachment, beat butter and both sugars together on medium speed until soft, creamy and totally mixed together. This will take about 3 minutes. Beat in salt an vanilla until well mixed With mixer set on low, add the sifted dry ingredients. Beat on low until the dough forms big, moist curds. Add the chocolate pieces and mix. (According to Greenspan, this is an unpredictable dough. Sometimes it is crumbly and sometimes it comes together and cleans the sides of the bowl. Whatever happens, she says the cookies will be wonderful.)
  3. Scoop the dough out of the mixer and onto a work surface. The dough should come together in a ball. Knead it to bring it together in a ball if necessary. Divide the dough in half. Shape the dough into two logs. Each log should be 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Wrap logs in plastic wrap and freeze for at least 2 hours (or refrigerate for at least 3 hours.)
  4. Heat your oven to 325 degrees F. Position the rack in your oven in the middle of the oven.
  5. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. Working with one log at a time, slice logs into 1/2 inch thick rounds. Place rounds on a cookie sheet with cookies placed two inches apart. (Do not prepare the second log of cookies until the first one has baked.)
  6. Bake the cookies for 12 minutes. Do not open oven door. At the end of twelve minutes, remove the cookies from the oven and place the cookie sheet on a wire rack to cool. (Cookies won't look done at twelve minutes but that is the correct time to remove them from the oven. They will solidify as they cool. )

Notes

Greenspan recommends splurging on the chocolate you use in these cookies. She recommends using Valrhona chocolate. Valrhona chocolate is available on Amazon, at Sur La Table and other quality food purveyors.

http://bluecayenne.com/world-peace-anyone

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