Thursday, December 22, 2016

cocoa-tahini cookies with sesame crunch.

Since purchasing Dorie's Cookies back in November, I've already made 5 different recipes from it and have earmarked at least 25 others.   

I haven't fallen this hard for a cookbook in a long time.   

Dorie's Cookies is the kind of book that every baker should have in their arsenal.  It's interesting, reliable, and quite frankly delicious.  It feels as if you have a friend in your kitchen guiding you to try new things (both flavors and techniques).  It's a cookie bible and I see myself turning to it season after season, year after year.

The first cookie I made were these Cocoa-Tahini Cookies with Sesame Crunch.   They felt like a such a modern-rift on a classic chocolate cookie (I love updated versions of classics).  The final product is a delight.  Tender, nutty, and exciting.  The pop of the sesame crunch provides the perfect textural contrast to the chocolate cookie base.   It would make the perfect addition to any holiday cookie plate though I expect these to be year-round favorites in our house.   

Cocoa-Tahini Cookies with Sesame Crunch
Recipe from Dorie's Cookies

Makes about 24 cookies

For the Sesame Crunch

2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons water
1/4 cup (40 grams) hulled white sesame seeds

For the Cookies

3/4 cup (102 grams) all-purpose flour
1/3 cup (28 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons; 3 ounces; 85 grams) butter, cut into chunks, at room temperature
1/4 cup (63 grams) tahini (stir very well before measuring)
3/4 cup (150 grams) sugar
1/3 cup (67 grams) packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 large egg, at room temperature
6 ounces (170 grams) semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped, or 1 cup (170 grams) dark chocolate chips
Flaky sea salt for sprinkling (optional but I recommend it)   

To Make the Crunch: Put a silicone baking mat on the counter near your stove or lightly butter the underside of a baking sheet.   Sprinkle the sugar evenly over the bottom of a small heavy skillet, drizzle over the water and place the pan over medium-high heat.   The sugar will boil and then, after 3-5 minutes, will start to change color. If during this time the sugar bubbles up the sides of the pan, wash the sides down with a brush (silicone is great here) dipped in cold water.  When about one quarter of the sugar has changed color, gently stir it with s silicone spatula or wooden spoon until you've got a fairly even pale amber color (the color of beer) - a matter of seconds not minutes.  Pour in the sesame seeds and stir to coat them evenly with caramel.   Don't worry if you see a little smoke rising from the mixture, just keep stirring until the seeds are coated.  Turn the caramelized seeds out onto the silicone mat (or baking sheet) spread them as thin as possible and allow to cool.  Finely chop the caramelize seeds (you'll have a scant 1/2 cup of crunch).  To clean your skillet, fill it with water and bring the water to a boil - the caramel will melt.   

To Make the Cookies: Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.   Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.   

Whisk together the flour, cocoa, and baking soda.

Working with a stand mixer fitter with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat the butter, tahini, both sugars and the salt together on medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes.  Add the egg and beat for a minute or so, then use a sturdy spatula to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.   With the mixer off, add the flour mixture all at once and beat on low speed until the dry ingredients are almost but not completely incorporated.  Pour in the chopped chocolate and sesame crunch and mix until the dry ingredients have disappeared.  Give the dough, which will look like frosting, a few finishing turns with the spatula.   

Using a medium cookie scoop, scoop out level portions of dough or use a tablespoon to get rounded spoonfuls, place the mounds of dough at least 2 inches apart on the baking sheet - these are spreaders. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt if using.  

Bake the cookies for 13-15 minutes, rotating the pans top to bottom and front to back after 7 minutes. At 13 minutes the cookies will look unset; at 15 only the edges will be unset.  They'll both be fine, one just a little firmer then the other - your choice! (Note - I took mine out at the 13 minute mark.) Place the baking sheets on racks and let the cookies rest for 5 minutes before carefully transferring them to the racks to firm and cool. Repeat with any remaining dough.     

Storing - The dough can be refrigerated, well wrapped, for up to 3 days.  The cookies will keep in a container at room temperature for about 4 days.   They'll get a little firmer and sandier, but their flavor and appeal won't diminish.  Wrapped airtight, they can be frozen for up to 2 months.   

Friday, December 9, 2016

black-bottom oatmeal pie.

It's December (when did that happen?).   We should be talking about cookies and trust me I have a lot of cookies I want to talk about but it felt cruel to not discuss this pie because it's one of the absolute best things I've made (maybe ever?).   

This my friends is the so-called Poor' Man's Version of Pecan Pie.  In my opinion, it's better then pecan pie. Maybe because I have a fondness for oats?  Maybe because I subbed the corn syrup in the original recipe with golden syrup?  Have you ever had golden syrup?  You should go to your nearest Whole Foods (that's where I found mine) and seek it out.  It's the way better version of corn syrup with a subtle caramel flavor and I am quite frankly obsessed.   Maybe I love it because there is a thin layer of bittersweet chocolate ganache at the base of the pie which provides the perfect counterpart to the goo layer.  

Because of all those reasons I love this pie and I imagine you will too.   

Black Bottom Oatmeal Pie
Recipe from Four and Twenty Blackbirds Cookbook

I dialed the brown sugar back a tiny bit to 1/2 cup (100 grams).  Your choice!


1 1/4 cups (155 grams) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons (6 grams) granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon (3 grams) fine sea or table salt
1 stick (4 ounces or 115 grams) cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1/4 cup (60 ml) very cold water, plus an additional tablespoon if needed


1 1/2 cups (120 grams) rolled oats
1/4 cup (60 ml) heavy cream
4 ounces (115 grams) bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup (145 grams) packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
5 tablespoons (70 grams) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup golden syrup 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
4 large eggs

Make the pie dough: By hand, with my one-bowl method: In the bottom of a large bowl, combine the flour, salt and sugar. Work the butter into the flour with your fingertips or a pastry blender until mixture resembles a coarse meal and the largest bits of butter are the size of tiny peas. (Some people like to do this by freezing the stick of butter and coarsely grating it into the flour, but I haven’t found the results as flaky.) Add 1/4 cup cold water and stir with a spoon or flexible silicone spatula until large clumps form. Use your hands to knead the dough together, right in the bottom of the bowl. If necessary to bring the dough together, you can add the last tablespoon of water.

With a food processor: In the work bowl of a food processor, combine flour, salt and sugar. Add butter and pulse machine until mixture resembles a coarse meal and the largest bits of butter are the size of tiny peas. Turn mixture out into mixing bowl. Add 1/4 cup cold water and stir with a spoon or flexible silicone spatula until large clumps form. Use your hands to knead the dough together, right in the bottom of the bowl. If necessary to bring the dough together, you can add the last tablespoon of water.

Both methods: Wrap dough in a sheet of plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour, or up to 48 hours, or you can quick-firm this in the freezer for 15 minutes. Longer than 2 days, it’s best to freeze it until needed.

Form the crust: On a floured counter, roll the dough out into a 12 to 13-inch circle-ish shape. Fold dough gently in quarters without creasing and transfer to a 9-inch standard (not deep-dish) pie plate. Unfold dough and trim overhang to about 1/2-inch. Fold overhang under edge of pie crust and crimp decoratively. If not parbaking, place in fridge until ready to fill. If parbaking, place in freezer for 20 minutes, until solid.

Par-bake the crust: [Optional, but will lead to a crispier base.] Heat oven 400°F (205°C). Line frozen crust with lightly buttered or oiled foil. Fill with pie weights, dried beans or pennies. Bake on a rimmed baking sheet for 20 minutes. Carefully remove foil and weights and let cool completely before filling.

Heat oven: (Or reduce oven heat, if you just par-baked your crust) to 350°F (175°C).

Prepare filling: Spread oats on a rimmed baking sheet and toast in the oven for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally. Set aside to cool. Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F (165°C).

To make the black bottom, bring the cream just to a boil over medium heat in a small saucepan. Pour in chocolate pieces and whisk until melted and smooth. Scrape the chocolate into the bottom of the cooled pie shell and spread evenly. Place in freezer while making the filling.

To make the oatmeal layer, in a large bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, ginger, salt, and melted butter. Add the corn syrup, vanilla, and cider vinegar and whisk to combine. Add the eggs one at a time, whisking well after each addition. Stir in the cooled oats. Place chocolate-coated pie shell on a rimmed baking sheet and pour filling over.

Bake: For 55 to 70 minutes, rotating 180 degrees for even color if needed halfway through. The pie is done with the edges are set and puffed slightly and the center is slightly firm to the touch but still has a little give — like gelatin. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack, 2 to 3 hours. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

Do ahead: The pie will keep refrigerated for 3 days or at room temperature for 2 days.

Monday, December 5, 2016

a 2016 christmas wishlist.

The Best Garlands We’ve Ever Seen via @domainehome:

Over the last couple of weeks I debated over putting together a Christmas wishlist.  Since buying a home I've developed a strong aversion to things/stuff unless...

1 - The item is insanely practical.
2 - It literally makes my heart skip a beat.   

So needless to say, Christmas which is all about (mostly) impractical objects wrapped in shinny boxes, is leaving me feeling a wee-bit overwhelmed.   Tyler is probably thrilled to hear about this.   

Tyler and I will be gifting to each other a weekend away in January (location TBD) and will be donating to some charities that are going to be negatively impacted by the presidency of you know who (also known as the man who can't-stop-tweeting about things that should be a non-priority TO THE PRESIDENT ELECT).   

Over the last couple of months, I've kept a running list of things our new home needs so without further ado, this is all I (and our home) wants for Christmas.  

1 - A Milk Frother - I previously owned one but it saw it's demise during the great flood of 2012 (i.e. Hurricane Sandy).  I never replaced it because I thought to myself  "you don't really need this" but then when I was home for Thanksgiving my dad made me coffee with frothed milk and it was so much better then coffee without frothed milk.  So yeah, now I want one again.    

2 - A Dust Buster - Asking for this makes me feel as if I'm 50 but yes, I want a dust buster.  We don't have the need for a full-fledged vacuum since the majority of our home is hardwood, but a dust buster for sucking up dust bunnies and pet hair is something we need.  This one fits the bill nicely.   

3 - More Serving Utensils - Tyler and I hosted our first official-large scale holiday soiree this past weekend and it made me realize we could benefit from a couple of more serving utensils.  Keeping with the theme of our apartment, I want them in brass!

4 - Dusters (big and little) - Our apartment is like a dust magnet.  I'm not sure if it's due to us being on the 4th floor or something else but there is so much dust.  We've been using the Swiffer to clean but it just feels so wasteful.  A real old-fashioned duster that can be cleaned and used again and again seems like the perfect solution.   (Big duster also be found here.)

5 - An Angora Beanie - Yes, this is an expensive hat.  When I tried it on, I said to myself this is really nice but you don't really need it.  And yes, I don't really need it, but I can't stop thinking about it.  It's the first hat that I've tried on and just really loved.  The color's great, it's soft, and it actually looks good!  In the winter, you're bundled up and all anyone ever sees's is your jacket and your hat so you might as well wear a really good hat.  

6 - A Garlic Press - I love garlic but I hate mincing it.  Especially for salad dressings since it takes forever to mince it small enough that you don't feel as if you are eating pieces of raw garlic.  This press gets rave reviews from the team over at Serious Eats and for that reason I want it.   

7 - A Quartz Co. Parka - Since adopting Jackson, Tyler and I have spent a lot of time outdoors at the dog park or on walks which has made me realize I really need a nice warm jacket.  I love this one. It's warm, stylish, and Made in Canada.  It costs a lot, but its a jacket you have forever and that makes it worth it.  (Oh and my color choice?  Olive grey (size medium).)   

8 - Soom Tahini - I asked for it last year and I'm asking for it again.  It's the world's best tahini and I need more of it.

9 - A Natural Sheepskin Rug - I've been obsessed with this rug for a while since the tan color feels so different then the white rugs you see everywhere.  It would look great thrown over our chair in the living room and will make everything feel that much more cozy.   

Other random items of interest - a gift certificate for Anson Mills (so I can buy more oats), socks, and Trader Joe's chocolate covered mint faux-oreos (they are awesome). 
Image via Pinterest.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

warm hummus with spiced lamb.

I've tried to find things to make me laugh over the past couple of weeks.  John Oliver helped, so did the Biden/Obama memes that are circulating.   Hearing about all the people donating to Planned Parenthood in Mike Pence's name is about as genius as it gets.  But even with all of this, the election still hurts.  I think it will for some time. 

I've also spent a lot of time in the kitchen; looking for ways to find comfort in the everyday and the things I can control.  I spotted this hummus recipe on David Lebovitz's blog and everything about it was calling to me.   Warm hummus paired with spiced and fragrant lamb eaten with toasted pita is my kind of ethnic comfort food. It's the perfect dish to be served as part of a large mezze smorgasbord which means it begs to be served at your next party.  

Warm Hummus with Spiced Lamb
Recipe adapted from David Lebovitz 

The hummus should be served warm along with the spiced lamb. This is one of those places where the often-maligned microwave oven could come in handy, to rewarm it before topping it with the spiced lamb mixture. Conversely, you can warm the hummus is shallow baking dish, in a 300ºF (150ºC) oven, covered with foil for 15 minutes. 

8 ounces (225g) ground lamb

1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup (110g) canned chopped tomatoes, with liquid
1/4 cup (60ml) chickpea cooking liquid, chicken stock, or water
4 scallions, chopped (white and green parts)
1 1/2 teaspoons harissa
A squeeze of fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
Hummus for serving (this is my go-to recipe)   
Additions: Pita or other flatbread, good feta, pickled carrots 

Heat the 1 tablespoon of oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the lamb, season with the salt, and cook it, breaking it up as it cooks, until it's almost cooked through, about 4 minutes.

Add the allspice, black pepper, cinnamon, tomatoes and 1/4 cup (60ml) chickpea liquid. Cook until the liquids are slightly thickened, about 3 minutes.

Stir in the scallions and harissa and cook for another couple of minutes, until the liquid is reduced (but the meat is still very juicy) then remove from heat and add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Mix in the flat-leaf parsley.

Serving and storage: To serve, spoon the warm hummus onto a serving plate or bowl and use the back of a soupspoon to make a crater in the middle of it, leaving a rim. Spoon the spiced lamb into the middle of the hummus and sprinkle with pine nuts.

Both the hummus and lamb sausage can be made in advance and refrigerated up to 3 days.