January 31, 2013

Rhubarb Bars

Robin, 31 January 2013, “Cheerful Things”

Crust:

¾ c plain/unbleached white flour

¼ c ground oatmeal:  whizz ordinary porridge oats in your blender or food processor.  You can also leave them whole, but in this case I like the texture better ground.

8 T lightly salted butter, room temperature, chopped up in preparation to being smushed into the flour and oatmeal

5-6T icing/confectioner’s sugar

1 egg white for glazing

Rhubarb:

1 large egg, room temperature

½ c caster/granulated sugar.  I know, caster is finer grained.  It’s not going to matter here.

¼ c dark brown sugar.  You can cut this down to 2 T and replace with 2 more T of the white.  I like dark brown sugar.

2-6 T ordinary white flour

4 c sliced rhubarb.  NOTE that both how thick you slice it and how much sugar and flour you use should vary with your rhubarb.  If it’s young and sweet and tender, cut big fat chunks and trim the sugar.  If the stalks look like the legs of sea monsters, slice more severely.  If it’s really wet, add more flour.  If it’s relatively dry, add less.

Optional:  1 tsp cinnamon

Or handful of fresh mint leaves, slightly shredded

If you have a food processor, you can make the pastry in it.  I have one but I still make pastry with a knife or the back of a spoon and one hand.†  Stir the flour and oatmeal and sugar (and cinnamon if you’re using it) together and then cut in the butter.  You want to rub it together till it’s reasonably homogenous but don’t suffer over it.  If you’re using unground oatmeal, add it last, after the pastry is mostly finished.  Press this into the bottom of an 8” square pan and glaze with the egg white.  The original recipe tells you to tip the pan back and forth.  My egg whites do not behave very helpfully.  I use either my fingers or a brush.  If you have any egg white left over—this should be a glaze, not a pond—tip it out.  Bake 350°F about 25 minutes.  Take it out and let cool.

Whisk the egg.  Whisk in the flour and sugar.  Stir in the rhubarb.  When the pastry is cool enough that you can pick the pan up in your bare hands, pour the rhubarb over, and put this in the oven for about an hour.  Cool COMPLETELY before cutting, and chances are, rhubarb being rhubarb, you’ll still be serving it in bowls.  Sprinkle mint leaves over, if you like mint leaves.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies

Robin, 20 Sept 2011, ‘Announcement’

¼ c soft butter. I did once make these with all peanut butter and mysteriously it wasn’t as successful. The straight butter brings out the peanut flavour somehow—as well as producing a better crumb—or again it may have been that particular jar/batch of peanut butter. Peanut butter isn’t as variable as honey, but it’s surprisingly variable nonetheless, especially, I suspect, if you decant it from giant vats at your health food shop, which I used to do, when I had a health food shop with giant peanut-butter vats. The original recipe called for equal amounts of butter and peanut butter, however, which I don’t approve of either. This is about the peanut butter. Well, and the chocolate.**

½ c chunky peanut butter. This may need adjusting depending on how squidgy your peanut butter is. But stand by to add more flour if the dough is very soft and goopy.***

1 c well tamped down dark brown sugar

1 large egg

1 tsp vanilla extract (NOT FLAVOURING. That hellgoddess obsession: use REAL VANILLA.)

2 c flour. I recommend half standard white and half spelt. They make white spelt now, if you can get hold of it. When I was still making these you could only get wholemeal spelt, and you could push up the percentage to about ¾ spelt, but you need a little plain white to lighten the texture. I’d try it with wholemeal and white spelt. The spelt flavour goes really well with the peanut butter.

1 tsp baking powder

½ tsp baking soda

1 c chopped dark chocolate or semisweet chocolate chips

I’ve been known to add ½c chopped hazelnuts. No, not peanuts. Hazelnuts are more interesting, and to my taste they go with peanut butter better than most of the other standard nuts—almonds, walnuts, cashews. I bet Macadamias would be good too.

Cream butter and peanut butter together thoroughly, then brown sugar. Then beat in egg, finally vanilla. Beat AND BEAT till fluffy. Mix the baking powder and soda into the flour(s), stir till all the same colour, then add to the creamed stuff. Beat till blended but no more. Stir in chocolate chips last.

Drop on greased or parchment-paper-lined cookie sheets. 350°F, probably about 12 minutes, till they’re just going brown around the edges. They’ll be fragile when they come out, so leave them alone till they’re at least half cool. This is why I use parchment paper: you can just pull it, cookies still in place, off the sheets. Of course then you run out of counter space†, but hey.

Less (Almost) Instant Chocolate Gratification, But Still Pretty Fast

Robin, 21 Jan 2012, ‘Death-deflecting Chocolate’

10 oz dark chocolate

6 T butter

1 egg

½ tsp vanilla

1 c granulated sugar

1 ¼ c plain flour

½ tsp baking powder

Reserve about 2T of the sugar.

Melt chocolate and butter together and cool. Beat the egg, then beat in the sugar till light and pale. Add the chocolate mixture when it’s cool enough not to cook the egg** and the vanilla. Then add the flour. If it gets too stiff to stir easily, knead the rest in.

Break off bits of the dough and roll cookies into big round pebbles the size of walnuts. (I do this between my palms. Some people prefer a table.) Roll in the reserved sugar. Then space out on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. I squish them very lightly with a finger so they don’t roll around. They will not be pretty if they turn themselves from free electrons into molecule clumps. Ahem. You can get the lot on a single baking sheet, but use all the space, they do spread.

400° for 8-10 minutes. They crack all over.

They don’t take nearly as long to cool as the refrigerator bars do to set.

Iced Chocolate Cookies

30 Oct 2010, Robin ‘PEGASUS and Cake, continued’.

3 c sifted plain flour

2 tsp baking powder

½ tsp baking soda

pinch salt‡

½ c cocoa powder

½ c butter

1 c granulated sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

½ c buttermilk or soured milk

Sift the dry and set aside, mush‡‡ the butter and sugar together, beat in the eggs, then the vanilla. Add half the sifted dry, beat, then the buttermilk, beat, then the rest of the dry. Beat hard. Drop on parchment-paper-lined cookie sheets: 350°F about 12 minutes. They’ll still be softish, but the bottoms will be firm. (They may also subside a little as they cool. Don’t worry.)

Before they cool completely, ladle some frosting on them. Quantities and texture are up to you. If you want them to be really decorative, make your icing thin enough to pour, put the cookies on a rack that will be easy to wash later, and pour over. Finish the job with grated chocolate (after they’ve finished cooling). I tend to prefer the less artistic but more graphic approach, which is to say lots of frosting. I usually use about 3T butter, 3c icing sugar, 4 T milk and 1 ½ tsp vanilla.

‡ I have mixed feelings about salt. It does heighten the chocolateyness of chocolate, but . . . salt is everywhere. Like sugar. And here we’re concentrating on the sugar. The original recipe calls for 1 teaspoon salt. Good grief.

‡‡ The more you mush, which is to say cream, the smoother the eventual result. I find that beautifully thorough, cooking-school creaming is a bit wasted on cookies. It’s even more wasted on cookies that are about to be curdled by soured milk anyway. Cream enough to produce something relatively homogenous, and don’t sweat it.

Leftover-Christmas-Chocolate Bars

11 Feb 2011, Robin ‘Teeth, chocolate and bells’.

I realise that the concept of leftover chocolate is foreign to many of us, and once upon a time it would have been foreign to me too and at least mildly implausible to Peter. But that was Then. This is Now. Peter has mouth trouble and I have Post Menopausal Zero Metabolism. Meanwhile, however, we are notorious for loving chocolate, so people tend to give it to us. I do not wish to discourage this excellent habit. And furthermore now that I’ve invented Leftover-Christmas-Chocolate Bars I may have to arrange for leftover chocolate henceforth.†

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Butter a 13 x 9” pan

¾ c butter

1 ¾ c sugar

2 large eggs, room temp

1 ½ tsp REAL vanilla††

1 ½ c all-purpose flour

1 ½ tsp baking powder††

½ c unsweetened cocoa powder

1 c chopped-up Leftover Chocolate. The point here is that it should be lots of different kinds. I had four or five different sorts plus some ginger fudge. Don’t chop too small or it’ll disappear in the baking.

Cream butter and sugar. I scrape with the spoon in my right hand and knead with my left. Better results sooner. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Then the dry stuff. Be sure everything is THOROUGHLY mixed. Then finally stir in the chopped-up chocolate.

Bake about half an hour. I started checking after about twenty minutes because there’s kind of a lot of chocolate involved and I wanted to make sure nothing untoward happened. It’ll still be slightly squidgy when you take it out, and I assume it’ll fall a little—mine did, but I was expecting it to. This is a sign of excellent chewy-squidginess-with-crunch-around-the-edges to come. I also wasn’t sure what the ginger fudge would do if it was baked so I sprinkled it over the top and put the pan back in the oven for five minutes, just to melt it enough to stick.

From a health and safety standpoint I have to admit these are not a great deal better than pure chocolate, but they are fearfully good. And they give you something to pass around during your handbell tea break.

All Butter All The Time Molasses Cookies

Sunshine Contest – Round 2, 18 Aug 10

I adjusted a couple of different Molasses cookie recipes to come up with this. It’s a flat buttery salty chewy spice cookie, and they invariably get annihilated rather quickly.

12 T. unsalted butter
1 c. sugar
1/4 c. molasses (we like the brand Grandma’s best)
1 egg
1 3/4 c. flour
1/2 tsp. cloves
1 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda

Oven at 350F.
Melt butter.
Mix with sugar and molasses. Thoroughly.
Lightly beat egg, and add to butter mixture.
Sift (or whisk) remaining ingrediants.
Add dry mixture to wet mixture.
Drop tablespoons of the cookie dough on cookie sheets.
Leave some space between as they will spread when baking.
Bake 10 minutes, and then start checking at 2-3 min intervals until done. (The lifecycle of the baking molasses cookie is like so: spread, puff up, flatten out, harden. I like to remove them when they’ve flattened out.)
Let them cool for a few minutes to set before attempting to move them. A good way to do this is to bake them on a silpat or parchment paper, and then move the whole liner off the cookie sheet onto someplace appropriate to cool. But you can also leave them on the cookie sheet to cool too, but then you’re out a cookie sheet. Also, they’ll cool slower. If you try to move them (with a spatula or your fingers) too early they won’t be structurally sound, and they’ll fall apart, so be patient. These keep really well.

Oatmeal Fudge Bars

Sunshine Contest – Round 2, 14 Aug 10

Every time I make these, someone asks for the recipe. They’re a must have for any recipe “library.”

Oatmeal Dough
1 cup butter *
1 ½ cups brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 ½ cups flour
1 teaspoon of baking soda
a pinch salt
3 cups of oatmeal

Chocolate Filling
12 oz semi-sweet or dark chocolate
2 tablespoons butter
14 oz can of sweetened-condensed milk**

Directions
Cream together wet ingredients (butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla.) In another bowl, mix together dry ingredients (cinnamon, flour, soda, salt, and oatmeal.) Slowly, add the dry to wet. Do not over mix. Spread 2/3rds of dough into the bottom of a 9 inch by 12 inch glass baking dish. In a double broiler, melt the chocolate and butter together. Then add sweetened-condensed milk to chocolate and stir until incorporated. Pour over dough in baking dish. Sprinkle remaining dough over chocolate layer and bake at 350 degrees F for about 25 minutes or until the edges are golden brown. Makes two dozen.

*You may substitute half a cup of butter for half a cup of applesauce or mashed bananas.

**If you wish to make your own sweetened-condensed milk, heat 1 cup of evaporated milk with 1 and ¼ cups sugar in a saucepan. Stir until dissolved completely. You may also make your own evaporated milk by simmering milk in a saucepan until reduced to 60%.

Lemon Almond Thumbprint Cookies

Sunshine Contest – Round 2, 14 Aug 10

(adapted from Emeril’s Thumbprint Cookies)

* 1/2 cup raspberry jam
* 1 tbsp of water
* 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
* 1 tsp baking powder
* 1/4 tsp salt
* 2 sticks (1 cup) butter, at room temperature
* 2/3 cup sugar
* 2 large egg yolks
* 1/2 tbsp finely grated lemon zest
* 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
* 1 teaspoon pure almond extract
* 1/4 cup of chopped almonds

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter 2 large baking sheets. In a small bowl, combine the jam and water. Stir to combine.
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt and whisk to blend. In a large bowl using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and creamy. Beat in the egg yolks, lemon zest, lemon juice and vanilla. Add the flour mixture in 2 additions and beat just until moist clumps form. Gather the dough together into a ball.

Pinch off the dough to form 1-inch balls. Place on the prepared baking sheets, spacing 1-inch apart. Use your floured index finger or 1/2 teaspoon measuring spoon to create depressions in the center of each ball. Place the chopped almonds in a shallow bowl. Roll the sides of the cookie in the toasted almonds and then place on the baking sheet. Fill each indentation with nearly 1/2 teaspoon of the jam mixture. Bake until golden brown, about 15-20 minutes.

Transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool completely.

Alan’s Cookies

Sunshine Contest – Round 2, 13 Aug 10

An old recipe for chocolate chip oatmeal cookies that I adapted to suit my then boyfriend, now husband (he has eaten these cookies for 29 years…)

1 cups butter
2 cups dark brown sugar
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 eggs
2 T water
1 t. vanilla
1 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
3 cups rolled oats, toasted
2 1/2 cups chocolate chips
2 cups raisins
1 1/2 cups walnut pieces

I use a mixer for the first part: cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, water and vanilla; beat well. Add flour, soda and salt; mix well. Remove from mixer, dump add all the other ingredients into the bowl, then stir it with your rubber spatula or a wooden spoon until everything is evenly distributed.

Drop by spoonfuls onto a baking sheet and bake at 375 for 10-15 minutes, depending on the heat of your oven and whether you like crispy cookies (me) or soft cookies (Alan). If you are making the soft kind, take them out when they look slightly damp in the center and allow to cool on the sheet before removing.

This recipe makes 60 cookies unless SOMEONE gets in the uncooked dough before you are done.

Chai Spice/Aztec Chocolate Sugar Cookies

Sunshine Contest – Round 2, 13 Aug 10

I can’t remember where I got the original recipe from but I’ve tweaked it significantly, according to the theory that if I have an intense, flavorful cookie, I *might* be able to eat 1 or 2 a day instead of the whole batch at once!

Makes around 24 cookies, if I remember correctly. For some reason I didn’t write that part down…

Ingredients:
2 3/4 cups flour
3-4 teaspoons of chai spice mix (see below)(according to taste)
2-3 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder (according to taste)
1/4-3/4 teaspoons of cayenne pepper (according to taste)
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (preferably real rather than imitation)
additional sugar for rolling

Chai Spice Mix:
Notes: You can use any spice blend you like, including pre-mixed chai spice blends from the store. I emptied out one of my 10-year old clove spice containers and used it for mixing up the spices for this recipe, so I had a place to store the leftover mix for next time, or maybe for tea.

2 parts ground Cinnamon
2 parts ground Cloves
3 parts ground Cardamom

I used a 1/2 teaspoon as my part size for the mix, and doubled it for a double recipe of the cookies. You can also add other spices to taste, such as ginger, nutmeg, allspice, etc., but this simple 3-spice blend worked really well!

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Mix flour, chai spice mix, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt; set this flour mixture aside until step 6.
3. Mix cocoa powder and cayenne pepper together and set aside until step 8.
4. Beat the softened butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar in a large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. (I’m not sure how fluffy mine got, but it worked out ok. Just make sure it’s all mixed thoroughly together.)
5. Beat in the eggs and vanilla.
6. Gradually add flour mixture on low speed until well mixed.
7. Split the dough in half. Set one half aside for the chai spice cookies.
8. Add the cocoa powder/cayenne pepper blend to the second half for the Aztec chocolate cookies. Since it’s already dough at this point, I use a spoon to spread the dough out in the mixing bowl and sprinkle the mix over it, then use the mixer again until the dough is brown from the cocoa powder.
9. Cover (or wrap in plastic-wrap, or stuff in a ziplock bag) and refrigerate 2 hours or until dough is firm and easy to handle.
10. Shape dough into 1-inch balls, roll each ball in the additional sugar and place them 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. (Don’t worry if the balls are irregular – they’ll melt into nice even circles anyway. The recipe I adapted says not to grease your baking pan, but it works ok either way.)
11. Bake for 6-8 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove baking sheets from oven and let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for 1 minute, then transfer them to cooling racks and let them cool completely.

Notes: Pouring the additional sugar in a small bowl or saucer and rolling the balls of dough in that works well.
The dough softens quickly as it warms up, so if you have more dough than you can fit on your baking sheets in one go, I recommend putting it back in the refrigerator until you’re ready to do the next set.
The cookies are tasty right out of the oven, but the spice flavors really intensify if you let the cookies sit overnight. Enjoy!

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