Monday, July 27, 2009

The Daring Bakers: (vegetarian) Mallows

The Daring Bakers challenge for this month was our choice of two Gale Gand cookie recipes: mallows - chocolate covered marshmallow cookies - or milanos (of Pepperidge Farm fame), or both. I have been on a mission to make vegetarian marshmallows for the past couple of months - I've tried 3 versions containing agar agar with no success - so I went for the mallows, hoping for a marshmallow miracle. And a marshmallow miracle I received.

My excitement has been rather hard to contain, actually. I'm a life-long vegetarian, though I did used to eat marshmallows as a kid - I don't think my mom knew what gelatin was, exactly. I didn't eat them often - only on camping trips, really, but oh how I loved a toasted marshmallow, and don't even get me started on s'mores... I have no idea when the last time I had a marshmallow was, but let me tell you it was a long time ago. A very long time ago.

Here is the miraculous vegetarian marshmallow recipe:

Marshmallows with Xanthan

by Elizabeth Falkner (Demolition Desserts)

• 60 mL water
• pinch of cream

of tartar
• 255 g sugar, granulated
• 255 g light corn syrup
• ½ vanilla bean
• 85 g egg white

s (about 3 egg whites)
• 5 g xanthan (0.76%)

Grind xanthan with a tablespoon of sugar. Set aside. Heat water, cream of tartar, remaining sugar, corn syrup and vanilla to 120ÂșC. Discard vanilla bean. Whisk egg whites for about 2 min until still soft. Continue whipping egg whites at slow speed while adding syrup slowly. Sprinkle xanthan mix while still whipping. Turn speed up and continue mixing for 2-3 min or until meringue pulls away from sides. Sprinkle a pan or baking sheet generously with cornstarch and spread out the meringue. Sprinkle top with cornstarch, cover with plastic and leave to set for 4 hours in a refrigerator. Cut marshmallows into desired shapes and dip cut surfaces in cornstarch.

I made these marshmallows yesterday, and since then I have been happily nibbling on them, toasting them on a fork over the flame on my stove, and tonight I had s'mores with homemade graham crackers. More on those tomorrow. These marshmallows are delicious.

Ah, but the reason for this post - the mallows. I must admit, I haven't tasted them yet, as my chocolate glaze is still setting. All of the components are delicious on their own, so I'm sure the cookies will be a big hit. They were fun and easy to make, and something very new and different for me as well. I'll post more pics when the chocolate is set.

The marshmallows were not entirely perfect - they stayed pretty gooey, even after a couple of days, so I'm going to play around with the recipe a bit, but they will most certainly be making frequent appearances in my house from now on. The possibilities are endless!!!

The July Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

SMS: Strawberry-Ruby Grapefruit Preserves + Dorie's Cream Biscuits

The task this week for Sweet Melissa Sundays was to make preserves. I've never made preserves, but it seemed simple enough when reading through the recipe. Though they didn't turn out quite as I expected them to...

I decided to make these without refined sugar, so that my 2 1/2 year old could partake. I was pretty much out of agave, so I used what I had left, along with some maple syrup for the sweetener. I sweetened to taste, but there was no more than 4 tablespoons in all.

Things seemed to be going well at the outset, everything was bubbling along nicely, her it started thickening but the apples were still rather firm, and the strawberries weren't breaking down much. I mashed everything as best as I could, and kept on cooking. Pretty soon, there was hardly any liquid left, so I added some water and put a lid on it to cook it more. I stirred it every couple of minutes, but it started to scorch a but, so I decided it was done enough, and I put it in a jar. I think this is probably a result of not using sugar, as it brings out the juices in fruits, and mine was not nearly as liquidy as other peoples'. Also, it didn't make much. Everyone said this recipe made a ton of preserves, so I cut it in half, but I didn't even get a pint...

It was delicious, however! We ate it this morning on some biscuits (which I'll get to in a second) and my son couldn't get enough. He said "I love your home-made jam, mommy", and gobbled up 2 biscuits.

These biscuits are amazing. They are the sweet cream biscuits from Baking From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan, and they don't have any butter in them! I'll admit, I was a skeptic - what is a biscuit without butter! - but I decided to have faith in Dorie and give them a shot. I am so glad I did, because they take about 3 minutes to put together: mix flour, baking soda and salt, stir in heavy cream, roll, cut and bake, and they are delicious. So delicious! They are light and fluffy and melt in your mouth. The only change I made was to omit the sugar. I will certainly be making these over and over - I've already made them twice in 3 days...

Thanks to Margot of Effort to Deliciousness for picking the preserves recipe, which you can find here. Take a look at the SMS blogroll for more sweet strawberry goodness!

Thursday, July 23, 2009


A couple of weeks ago, I was sitting around wanting a treat, but not knowing exactly what. When I realized I wanted something with the texture of a brownie but without all the chocolate - I honestly don't know what got into me! - the choice was obvious: blondies!

I've always enjoyed blondies, though they are not something I've eaten many of, and I had never made them. I needed a recipe.

The first recipe that came up on my search was from Simply Recipes, and when I saw that it was a guest post by Garrett McCord of Vanilla Garlic, I thought I'd give it a try. I've tried a couple of his recipes before with good results.

It is about as easy as a recipe can possibly be, and as delicious, and as addictive. As I mentioned, I first tried these a couple of weeks ago, (and then again a week later) but wasn't able to post them until now because they never lasted long enough to get a photo of them! Yikes! They are dangerous. Very, very dangerous.

The first two times I made them, I put chocolate chips directly in the batter. This last time, I managed to forget the chocolate chips until I had already filled my pan, so I decided to sprinkle them on top. I had some pecan pieces in my pantry, so I threw some of those on too. I didn't measure them out, but I'm guessing I added about 1/3-1/2 cup chocolate chips, and a heaping 1/4 cup finely chopped pecans.

Oh my. If they were dangerous before, they are now lethal. In the best possible way.

Here is the original recipe. The only tweak I am planning on making is to sprinkle them with some coarse ground salt. I love salty/sweet treats. Other than that, I think this recipe is pretty much perfect. It has wonderfully crispy edges, a soft, chewy center, a lovely paper thin top crust, it's fast and easy to make, what more could you want!!!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

TWD: Blackberry Blanc Manger

This week's TWD pick was a blanc manger. I will admit, I had never heard of a blanc manger until I read this recipe, and knowing what it is, it is not something I would ever make on my own. I don't like desserts with a custardy texture. I need crunch and chew. Also, this dessert is traditionally made with gelatin, and as I'm a vegetarian, I don't eat the stuff. There are a few substitutes out there, but my experimentation with them thus far - marshmallows using agar agar - has not been successful. Still, I wanted to give this a try.

I thought this was delicious - it is basically whipped cream, ground almonds to flavor it and gelatin (or in my case agar agar) to help it set - though to me it was more of a topping than a complete dessert. Dorie does say in her recipe notes that you can put it on a crust, and I think I would have preferred it that way. Perhaps I should have gone ahead and made a crust for it, but I like to make recipes as they are written the first time I make them. That way, I can see what the author intended, and made my alterations based on the finished product. If I make it again, it will definitely have a crust.

The recipe is for a raspberry blanc manger, though I used blackberries, as that's what we got at the farmer's market this week. The blackberries were a delicious contrast to the sweet, almondy flavor of the manger.

There were supposed to be berries folded into the mixture before it set, but something about that didn't appeal to me - I can't put my finger on just what it was. So I left them out, and topped my blanc manger with a blackberry coulis and fresh blackberries.

The almond meal I have has the skins in it, so my blanc manger isn't so much blanc as speckled.

In Dorie's recipe, the gelatin is mixed with 3 tablespoons of water to soften it, then it is heated so it will dissolve. It didn't seem like enough water for the agar agar, and I probably added about another 3.

The only change I would make taste-wise would be to use less sugar. It was quite sweet, even with the slightly tart berries. I think this would actually be pretty easy to make with agave, if it was added to the heavy cream as it was being whipped. Unfortunately, this didn't occur to me until after I had already made it. Ah well...

It is a simple enough dessert to make, but one that uses a surprising number of dishes, and for that one reason I probably won't make this very often.

Thanks to Susan of Sticky, Gooey, Creamy, Chewy for picking this recipe.

Monday, July 20, 2009

BBA Challenge: Casatiello

I wasn't going to make this bread. Casatiello is a brioche-like bread that is Italian in origin, and traditionally contains salami and cheese. I'm a life-long vegetarian, so the salami was definitely out, but for some reason I couldn't think of a substitute. Of course after I made the bread it dawned on me that sun-dried tomatoes would be fabulous, but since it didn't occur to me at the time - plus I didn't have any - I used toasted walnuts.

This was a delicious bread. The nuts and cheese complemented each other beautifully, and the bread itself was amazing. Light and rich at the same time, with a nice crunch from the nuts and wonderful little cheese pockets. I made a large loaf in a 9" pie pan - which made great sandwiches - and 6 rolls. I'm so glad I went ahead with this one, and I can't wait to make it again with sun-dried tomatoes.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Baking Extravaganza!!! (Sadly, no SMS)

My mom and I own a retail store together in downtown Asheville, NC called Nest Organics, and yesterday we celebrated our second anniversary of being in business! We threw a party in our store, complete with entertainment, massage, give-aways and of course food!!! I took it upon myself to cater the event. It was so fun, and so much work, and I was very pleased with all of the results.

I'll warn you ahead of time, this is going to be a loooooong post! I'll try to be as concise as possible, but I made 5 kinds of cookies, and 2 different brownies, and I've decided to put them all in one post. I already have so many things I've baked and photographed, but haven't had a chance to put up yet... Speaking of photographs, these aren't the best ones, but the light in my store wasn't very conducive to food photography, and the day was pretty much a blur, so it's a wonder I got any at all...

So, first up is a lemon ricotta cookie. The recipe is by Giada De Laurentiis, and can be found here. I don't have an individual photo of these, but they are the ones in the bottom right corner in the below photo. The recipe has a glaze to go along with them, but I omitted it just to simplify things. They are rather homely looking cookies, but they really surprised me with their deliciousness! They are a cakey cookie, but the ricotta in them makes them nice and chewy. I liked them baked a little longer than the recipe suggests - I thought they were best when they were lightly browned all over on the top an bottom. This made them slightly crispy, which was a nice contrast to the soft cookie. These were like the top of a cupcake, when it gets a little caramelized - do you know what I mean? - and I really loved them! They were easy to make, and delicious. My cookies spread a lot, so I found that 1 tbsp of dough worked better than 2 as the recipe suggests.

Next, we have 2 different cookies made from the same dough. The recipe is for caramel coated cardamom palmiers from Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich. I've said it once, and I'll say it again: if you don't already have this book, go buy it. Now! 

Medrich uses a cream cheese dough for these palmiers, instead of the traditional puff pastry. I decided to use half of a recipe for the palmiers and half to make some rugelach. 

Both cookies were sensational. The palmiers - which I think would be better named caramelized cardamom palmiers - were delicate, crunchy, not too sweet, and just lightly flavored with cardamom. The only change I might make to these would be to add a little more cardamom, actually. I love the stuff. The rugelach - which I filled with pomegranate raspberry jam, currants and pecans - was the first thing we ran out of, and was so melt-in-your-mouth heavenly, with a wonderful combination of soft and crunchy. I love rugelach. I love making it, I love the way it looks, the way it tastes, and these were no exception. 

Now, the brownies. I made the Martha Stewart double chocolate brownie, which I've posted about before, and the Baked brownie - which I was very excited to make, as it has gotten a lot of attention of late. I wish I had had the time to photograph the Martha Stewart brownies, because the photo in my post about them does not do them justice. They are just gorgeous brownies. They always have the most perfect paper-thin crust on top. The brownie in the foreground of the photo below is one of the Baked brownies. I stated a week or so ago that the Martha brownies were my favorite, and I'm not retracting that statement, but we may have a tie here. I tried to like one better than the other, but they are both so incredible though the Martha brownie is still my husband's favorite. They are both incredibly chocolatey and decadent. They are both fudgey, though the Baked brownie is more dense than the Martha one. Martha's brownies actually have a lightness to them. Everyone at the party flipped out over both brownies. They are so incredibly good, I don't know what more to say! Go make them both, maybe you'll have more insight than I do... 

Also from Baked, I made their peanut butter cookies. I have a love/hate relationship with peanut butter, but I usually like it in cookies. This was no exception. In fact, they were the best peanut butter cookies I've ever had! They are very soft, not dry at all like most that you find, and best of all, they have milk chocolate chunks in them which pair beautifully with the peanut butter. Unfortunately, I didn't even get a photo of these! I'll make them again soon, I promise. 

Last, but most certainly not least is the New York Times chocolate chip cookie adapted from Jacques Torres. I have mentioned on this blog before how picky I am about chocolate chip cookies. I have seen a lot of blogs comparing this recipe to Alton Brown's and the Toll House recipe. I've never had Alton's cookie, but really after eating the NYT version, there is no need. I have found cookie nirvana. The recipe calls for using 2 kinds of flour which I didn't have - cake and bread - so I just used all purpose. If they were this good with AP, I can't even imagine what they would be like as written. The only other change I made was to use chocolate chips instead of bittersweet feves. Since I was giving these out to hundreds of people for free, I just couldn't justify the expense. I will splurge when I'm just making them for family, however, because the only complaint I had about these was the sweetness of the chocolate. These cookies have a beautiful golden crispy edge, and a soft chewy middle - even when room temp. 

There are some very specific instructions in this recipe: it instructs you to make 18  3 1/4 oz cookies, and to refrigerate the dough for at least 36 hours before baking. The size of the cookies wasn't feasible for the party, but I had some extra dough which I did bake as written, and let me tell you: listen to the recipe! They were really good smaller, but they were spectacular bigger. I also wasn't able to give them 36 hours in the fridge - they had about 12 - for the party, but when we baked the bigger cookies they had rested that long. 

These were without a doubt the best chocolate chip cookies I have ever had, and that is saying something! 

It was an exhausting 12+ hours of baking over 2 days, but it was a blast, and so worth it! Sorry there is no SMS this week, but you can see why... Head on over to Melissa's blog Lulu the Baker to see the recipe for this week: Whole Orange Poppyseed Cake. It looks delicious, and I'm disappointed I didn't have a chance to make it. Yet...

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Basil Ice Cream

As promised, here is my post on basil ice cream.

I wanted to love it. I love basil, I love ice cream, so I should love basil ice cream, right???

After seeing a couple renditions here and here, I knew I had to give it a try, but honestly I was disappointed. I thought it the basil flavor was too strong, and I liked it best when it was served with things such as a blueberry compote. I may try it again with less basil - I think it should be more of a subtle flavor rather than in-your-face. That could have been the fault of my basil, though, because it was rather strong. I think it is also a bit of an acquired taste, as I did like it more over time, but I never loved it. I'm fairly determined to love this ice cream, so I will probably take another shot or two at it.

I used the recipe from Baking Obsession as a reference, but tweaked it here and there. Actually, looking at that recipe again, I tweaked it a lot. The recipe was more of a loose guide. I also see that there was a tablespoon of lemon juice that I omitted - I think I just forgot to add it, because I almost always have lemons around. Maybe that would have made a difference in my opinion of it, I don't know. Here is what I did:

Basil Ice Cream

15g basil (about 1 cup, pressed down, but not tightly packed)
1/3 c agave syrup
3 c heavy cream
3 large egg yolks
1/8 tsp salt

Blend basil and agave in food processor until the basil has been chopped into very small pieces.
In a large saucepan with the burner on medium, heat the heavy cream until it is almost boiling. Remove from heat. In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolks and salt. Using a measuring cup, pour the hot cream 1/4 cup at a time into the eggs to temper them, whisking constantly. When you've poured in about 1 1/2 cups, return it all to the saucepan, and cook over medium-low heat until the mixture coats the back of a spoon. Immediately pour into a quart-sized jar with lid, and leave out to cool to room temperature. Then, place the jar in the refrigerator for several hours - or overnight - to chill completely. When mixture is chilled, blend with immersion blender for about 1 minute, then pour into ice cream maker and follow manufacturer's instructions to churn.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

TWD: Brioche Peach Tart (one day late)

This week's TWD recipe was actually for a brioche plum tart, which I was excited to try, but alas the plums I purchased four days in advance hadn't ripened enough to use. I see some more roasted plum ice cream in my future, so I'm not complaining. Luckily, I found some gorgeous, ripe, sweet SC peaches. They worked beautifully.

This was a breeze to make, and even breezier to eat. I'm so glad that I'm involved in all of these baking groups, because without them who knows when I would have ever made brioche, and now I've made it three times!

This is a really yummy rustic-looking dessert, and one that was really easy to make sugar-free: I replaced the sugar in the brioche with agave, and just drizzled a little more on top of the peaches once they were arranged on the dough. As I said, I used peaches for the fruit; there is a layer of jam under the fruit, and for that I chose raspberry; for the nuts on top I went with almonds. It all worked together beautifully.

I was surprised at how quickly the crust browned, however. Dorie says to tent the tart at 20 min (in a 425 oven) but I checkd on mine at 15 minutes, and it was deep, deep brown already. Next time I make this, I'll tent it at 5 or 10 minutes.

Tune in tomorrow for basil ice cream (seen above)!

Thanks to Denise of Chez Us for choosing this recipe, you can find it on her blog.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

SMS: Agave Sweetened Ricotta Cheesecake with Blueberry Compote

This week's SMS recipe was for a lemon blueberry cheesecake with cornmeal crumble crust. That is not what I made. I had been wanting to make a ricotta cheesecake for some time, so this seemed like a good opportunity to try one out. I also wanted to sweeten it with agave so that my son could eat it. I researched ricotta cheesecake recipes online, and drawing from several different recipes I sort of made it up as I went along. The result was amazing. Amazing. Smooth, creamy, light, oh my. I will be making this again and again and again and again and again... Oh, and it was fast, too. About 10 minutes of prep tops! 

I'd like to try Melissa's cheesecake recipe one day soon, but for now, here's mine:

32 oz ricotta
3 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla 
zest of 1 lemon
3/4 c agave nectar

3 c walnuts
1/4 cup agave
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350. Butter a 9 inch spring-form pan.

Place walnuts, agave and salt in food processor. Pulse until crumbly in texture. Press into buttered 9 inch springform pan.

Blend ricotta in food processor until silky smooth - about 2 min. Transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer. On low, add agave 1/4 cup at a time, blending well with each addition. Add eggs 1 at a time, blending well with each addition. Stir in zest and vanilla. Pour into pan. Bake for 60-70 minutes (I baked for 70), covering with a foil tent at around 35-40 min. Bake until deep golden brown, and still slightly jiggly. 

Blueberry Compote:
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
3 tablespoons maple syrup or agave nectar
1/8 - 1/4 tsp salt

Place all ingredients in a small saucepan and cook on med low heat for about 20 min or until blueberries break down and mixture thickens.

Thanks to Eliana of A Chica Bakes for choosing this week's recipe. You can find the cheesecake recipe on her blog. 

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

BBA Challenge: Challah

The next bread we were supposed to make in the BBA Challenge was actually casatiello - an Italian bread containing salami and cheese. I'm a life-long vegetarian, so I was planning on tweaking the add-inns anyway, but I needed a bun to take to 4th of July dinner, and it didn't seem as appropriate as challah. So, I'm going out of order here, and I hope to make the casatiello sometime soon.

Back to the challah. This is something I've never made, and honestly, never eaten much of.

This bread was amazing. It made equally wonderful buns and loaf, and let me say that it makes spectacular French toast.

It was easy and fun to make, and I'm sure I'll make it again!

To the other BBA slow and steady bakers: I know I jumped a little ahead here, I just couldn't help myself!!! I'll get back in step with the next bread...

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

TWD: Tribute to Katharine Hepburn Brownies

Now I can add "brownie lover" to the long list of why I love Katharine Hepburn, and "Katharine Hepburn" to the long list of why I love Dorie Greenspan.

These brownies will not replace Martha Stewart's double chocolate brownies as my very favorite, but they are right up there. 

The simplicity of the method alone is enough for me to make them over and over: you melt butter in a large sauce pan, then add cocoa powder, eggs, instant coffee, cinnamon, 1/4 cup of flour, chopped chocolate and nuts to the pot. Pour into pan and bake. Couldn't be easier.

Though Dorie says to bake them for only 30 minutes, I found that they needed an extra 10.

The brownies bake up into thin, dense, fudgy super chocolaty treats that have light undertones of cinnamon and coffee. 

They were especially delicious when enjoyed with brown sugar vanilla ice cream.

Thanks to Lisa of Surviving Oz for picking this week's recipe. She is not an official member of TWD, but she did win the logo design contest that was recently held by Laurie - the TWD founder - and getting to choose a recipe was her prize!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

SMS: Brown Sugar Vanilla Affogato

Affogato is one of my all time favorite desserts, and it is a wonder that it isn't served in more restaurants. Given the simplicity of it, perhaps the various pastry chefs feel that it doesn't showcase their talents enough... 

Affogato means "drowned in coffee" and is simply a scoop of ice cream with a shot of espresso poured over it. Heaven...

Not the easiest thing to photograph successfully - as you can see from the soupy mess above -but what it lacks in beauty, it more than makes up for in taste.

For Sweet Melissa Sundays this week, Karen of Karen's Cookies Cakes & More chose the brown sugar vanilla ice cream for all of us to make this week. 

Honestly, I wasn't excited. I've never been much of a vanilla ice cream person, and I put this off until the last possible minute. 

The recipe contains nonfat dry milk which is something I would normally skip if I saw it in a recipe - we drink raw milk fresh from the farm, so dehydrated dairy isn't really my cup of tea - but in the recipe notes, Melissa says that this is the secret ingredient. She states that it absorbs some of the moisture in the mixture and allows the ice cream to be extra creamy. 

I don't know if it was the dry milk, the 5 egg yolks or something else, but this was some of the most unbelievably creamy ice cream I have ever had. I even loved it on its own, which says a lot about how amazing it is. I think it would be a great base for all kinds of flavors.

I was going to post a few scoops of this creamy goodness naked in a bowl, when I noticed some coffee from breakfast still sitting in the French press, and I knew exactly what was to become of the ice cream.

Thanks to Karen for picking this surprisingly amazing recipe, please visit her blog for the recipe, and visit the SMS bakers page to see everyone else's yummy ice cream.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Roasted Plum Ice Cream

I was reading a blog not long ago that mentioned roasted plum ice cream, and I was intrigued. I bought plums in anticipation of making it, but I couldn't find the post for the recipe when I looked for it again. Then a week or so ago, Nancy of the wonderful blog The Dogs Eat the Crumbs posted plum ice cream, based on a David Leibovitz recipe, so I got right to work. 

This ice cream was fantastic. Slightly tart from the plums, light, so creamy and delicious. It was so easy to scoop even after being in the freezer for several hours. Unlike the peach ice cream I made a few weeks ago, which was quite difficult to scoop. 

I can see using this recipe for all kinds of fruit, and I will certainly be trying many out over the coming sweltering weeks. 

Best of all, this recipe is so easy because it isn't a custard base, and there is very little actual work involved. Also, it is free from refined sugar. My son loved it. 

The original recipe that Nancy linked to is here, but I made few changes. This is what I did:

Roasted Plum Ice Cream

8 plums, quartered with the skin on
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon olive oil

Preheat oven to 400. Rub oil into 8x8 baking dish, just so there is a light coating. Place plums in baking dish and pour 1/4 cup maple syrup over them. Toss with your hands until all plums are coated and place baking dish in oven. Keepp plums in oven for 30-35 minutes - stirring every 10 minutes - or until they have softened and the edges are browned and slightly caramelized. Remove from oven, cool for 15-20 minutes, then pour entire contents of pan into a 1 qt jar. Place lid on jar and refrigerate overnight or until completely chilled. When chilled, pour cream, water and the remaining 1/2 cup maple syrup in the jar, and blend with an immersion blender until plums are completely pureed. Put back in fridge while you ready your ice cream maker. Pour mixture into ice cream maker, and follow manufacturer's instructions. When churned, transfer to container with lid and place in freezer for at least 2 hours before eating. Enjoy! I know we did!

Food blogger in the making?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Nibby Buckwheat Butter Cookies

I recently purchased Alice Medrich's book Pure Dessert. If you don't already own it, you should.

Pure Dessert is a beautiful book. The premise behind it is that desserts shouldn't be overcomplicated - so that flavors get lost - but pared down so that individual ingredients really come through. The book is divided into sections: The Flavors of Chocolate; The Flavors of Grain, Nuts and Seeds; The Flavors of Wine, Beer and Spirits, to name a few. And each section focuses on bringing out all of the complexities of flavors of each of those elements.

In Pure Dessert, Alice Medrich also uses ingredients in unusual and fresh ways, taking a common dessert and putting an unexpected spin on it. Some recipes that immediately come to mind are Golden Kamut Shortbread, Lebni Tart, Red Wine Granita, and the first (and only) recipe I've had a chance to try: Nibby Buckwheat Butter Cookies. Though trust me, you will be seeing all of the above - and then some - in the coming weeks!

One of the things that drew me to this cookie was the buckwheat flour. I don't think I've ever had it in anything except pancakes, so I was intrigued by its use in a cookie, and had no idea what to expect. Of course the nibs and the word "butter" were equally as enticing...

They don't look like much - they're rather homely little cookies - but boy are they fantastic!!! These have shot straight to the top of the list of my favorite cookies of all time. They are very sophisticated with the buckwheat and the nibs, both of which lend a bitterness to the cookie. They are just slightly sweet, and oh so buttery. Actually, the only change I would make to these - though I love them just the way they are -would be to try them with a little less butter. The recipe calls for 2 sticks, and they are a little on the greasy side. However, I would hate to mess with these too much, because they are so delicious.

I can't wait to try everything else in this book - and I do mean everything.

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