Thursday, January 27, 2011

[Cookie 097] Cream Cheese-Lemon Bows


THERE IS SO MUCH GODDAMN SNOW EVERYWHERE I CAN'T BELIEVE IT! Oh my God!! The Mayans were right--they are sending us signals by burying the entirety of New York City under 85 feet of snow. I walked home last night, late, and there was so much snow I couldn't actually see any of the cars parked on the streets, and couldn't see where the sidewalks ended and the streets began! White blanket of snow everywhere, nothing is spared! Armageddon is here! It's all going to be over by 2012! But at least school was cancelled today :)

Screen shot 2011-01-27 at 4.42.17 PM
Thanks, New York Times, for capturing our misery.

During trying times like these, I like to hark back to the days of yore, when I was passing my winter days in 70-80ยบ weather in the land of Southern California. Those times were easy, carefree, and the sun was always kind to us. I never wore more than 1 sweater at a time and didn't fall down on my ass nearly as much. And during those warm winter days, we reaped the benefits of having a Meyer Lemon tree that produced such an excessive number of lemons that we didn't even know what to do with them all. And the thought of making lemon sorbet wasn't appalling, but enticing!


So, those pictures are half of the total number of lemons we harvested from our 1 solitary tree a few weeks ago. As you can see, we had quite a number of these citrus fruits. So, obviously I cracked open The Book and looked up all the lemon cookie recipes I had yet to make: Cream Cheese-Lemon Bows. Unfortunately, the recipe only calls for about 1 lemon, so that really didn't make much of a dent in our supply, but you do what you can! You juice the rest and make lemon juice ice cubes, and you peel the skin and freeze that too so you have lemon zest ready 2 go year round! Harvest the harvest forever!


But back to the cookies. These were really tasty! I have really come to love cream cheese based cookies because it gives the dough a little bit of a tangy bite, as well as a creamy buttery taste. And then with the lemon juice you get a really wonderful flavor, something a little out of the ordinary and just plain delicious. Piping the dough into bows can be a little bit of a pain in the ass, and most of mine ended up looking pretty shitty, but the ones that work out are indeed quite adorable. You could just as easily use a big fluted piping tip and make flower dots or whatever else you can manage. (Or use one of these? Never tried one, but maybe this would be a good recipe to try with one...)


So, being that it is winter and therefore A) lemon season, and B) cold and snowy outside, you really have no excuse not to make these. I want one right now. I want you to make some for me, because I'm too lazy to get out of my snuggie and go into the kitchen and bake something. Thankz.


Cream Cheese-Lemon Bows


  • 1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened
  • 3 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • Confectioners' sugar, for sprinkling

  • Directions

  • Put butter and cream cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until creamy. Mix in granulated sugar. Add egg, lemon zest, and lemon juice; mix well. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl; mix into butter mixture on low speed.
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place a small amount of the dough in a pastry bag fitted with a large French tip (such as Ateco #865). Holding tip very close to the surface, pipe 3 1/2-inch bows onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper; space 1 inch apart. Refill pastry bag as needed with remaining dough. Bake cookies until golden brown on bottom, about 12 minutes. Let cool on sheets on wire racks, and sprinkle with confectioners' sugar. Cookies can be stored in airtight containers at room temperature up to 3 days.

  • ****
    {End Results}
    Baking Difficultly: 3/5 (Making the dough is simple, it's just the pastry bag part that's a little tricky)
    Ingredient Accessibility: 4/5 (Right, and if you have a lemon tree, this would be a 5/5)
    Tastiness: 4.5/5
    Attractiveness: 4.5/5
    Is it worth it?: Definitely. Even if you don't do the bows, they just taste really yummy.

    Drink: I think a hot toddy would go well with this, but then again I'm just trying to find any excuse to have one of those.
    Song: Lemonworld -- The National
    Activity: Shoveling your car out from under 30 tons of snow! Yay!

    Friday, January 21, 2011

    [Cookie 096] Homemade Graham Crackers


    A few weeks ago I went to the Mojave Desert with my parents, just to get my dose of the wild west before I had to go back to the tame east. It was insanely beautiful, as usual, with its vast expanses of beautiful muted colors and variations of textures everywhere. I really love the landscape in California--it really has everything, from mountains to oceans to deserts to woods. And it's all pretty spectacular. This was no exception!


    Since we had to spend the night out there, we decided to car camp. Definitely felt luxurious compared to backpacking, since we got to bring as much snacks and frivolities as we wanted. So that, of course, included marshmallows to roast over the fire. However, we had no graham crackers, and no chocolate, so no s'mores. Sad! Should have made these Homemade Graham Crackers before we went on the trip!


    I've been waiting to try out this recipe for quite some time now. I love store bought graham crackers anyways, so the thought of making my own and knowing exactly what was going into them really appealed to me. They have both whole wheat flour as well as wheat germ, which makes for a hearty, wheaty flavor with a nice crunch to it. Perfect!


    For the honey, I used some of this super expensive stuff my mom picked up on a whim at the farmer's market (did I get that right, Mom?). Anyways, it's the kind that has an almost waxy texture, not clear and runny at all. You scoop it with a spoon and it even has granules of honey comb inside it. The flavor is much more complex than your regular old honey bear squirt tube kind that you buy at the supermarket, and this flavor really added to the cookie. I would recommend splurging on a fancy honey with a nice flavor (have you heard of Caramelized Honey? Got some from this guy--amazing!), because it really does make a difference.


    The recipe itself is pretty much your standard cookie-cutter recipe, except you divide the dough with a fluted device (which I didn't have--used a knife, not as purdy); but you could totally use cookie cutters if you want! But if you're looking for that traditional 4 rectangle graham cracker that you can split in half, follow the directions. And make sure to bake them fully, or else they won't be crisp and crackery. What could be worse than a slightly soft graham cracker? Well, a lot of things, but don't mess with something that's so classic!


    So, obviously the next logical step, after letting your graham crackers cool, is to make s'mores. I don't know about you guys, but I've always been a little irritated with the whole Hershey's bar thing. I know s'mores are supposed to be messy, but it's just impossible to bit into one and get an adequate amount of chocolate per bite. So, my dad had the brilliant idea to melt some chocolate chips and spread them on the graham crackers. Seems really obvious, but it's so much better! I'd try Nutella next time...


    Now get to makin' these so you can whip up some s'mores for the cold cold weekend ahead!


    Homemade Graham Crackers
    Makes 20


  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for working
  • 1 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup untoasted wheat germ
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened (2 sticks)
  • 3/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons high-quality honey

  • Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk flours, wheat germ, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon in a medium bowl; set aside.
  • Put butter, brown sugar, and honey into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Reduce speed to low. Add the flour mixture, and mix until combined.
  • Turn out dough onto a floured surface, and divide into quarters. Roll out each piece between 2 sheets of floured parchment paper into rectangles a bit larger than 9 by 6 inches, about 1/8 inch thick.
  • Using a fluted pastry wheel, trip the outermost edges or each rectangle, and divide into three 6 by 3-inch rectangles. Pressing lightly, so as not to cut all the way through, score each piece in half lengthwise and crosswise, to form four 3 by 1 1/2-inch crackers. Stack parchment and dough on a baking sheet and chill in freezer until firm, about 20 minutes.
  • Remove two sheets of dough from freezer. Pierce crackers using the tines of a fork. Transfer to large baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake, rotating halfway through, until dark golden brown, 8 to 9 minutes. Repeat with remaining dough. Let cool on sheet 5 minutes; transfer crackers to wire racks to cool completely.

  • ****
    {End Results}
    Baking Difficultly: 2/5
    Ingredient Accessibility: 4/5
    Tastiness: 4.5/5
    Attractiveness: 3.5/5
    Is it worth it?: Yes! A must try...

    Drink: Have you heard of this Marshmallow Milkshake? I'm a bit wary...
    Song: Ecstasy -- jj
    Activity: Camping, duh! Or making s'mores by the stove, if you're lazy.

    Wednesday, January 5, 2011

    [Cookie 095] Chocolate Waffle Cookies


    Hey team. Happy New Years!! Oh-ten is so last week; oh-leven is here to stay! 2011! Twenty-in-heaven! Two-thousand-agendum! I smell good things for this year, and a lot of those things have chocolate in them, so get ready.


    But first: Remember those Gingersnap Palmiers? You better, because it was only last week. Well get this: I made the second batch of dough on New Year's Eve, intending to take them to a party I was going to. And I decided that they might taste better if I didn't brush them with more of that molasses-ginger syrup (since that made them a little soggy), but instead sprinkle some turbinado sugar on them and bake them as is. Well, that worked out brilliantly and the cookies came out light, crispy, and delicious. I let them sit on the counter to cool and went about my business. I come downstairs, and half the batch is gone. Thanks Mom and Dad! They were very sorry and apparently had no idea I wanted to bring them to a NYE party (we won't get into my skepticism on that matter). Anyways, I leave for the party without cookies--am I really going to bring 10 cookies to a party? No!--have a nice time, ring in oh-leven with McDonald's fries (weird, I know), and then come home exhausted the next day only to find that....THEY ATE THE REST OF THE BATCH. Seriously, what the hell?? You can give a mouse/parents a cookie, and then something something something....end result: no cookies for you! Sad baker.


    Ranting. Sorry, bad way to start off my first post of the new year. Well, here's a better way to start off the new year: Chocolate Waffle Cookies! Yeah, fuck that new year's resolution diet thing! Eat these and you'll be happier anyways, and that should be everyones biggest resolution for oh-leven right? Happier, sappier, dapper! No waffling; just pick this recipe and go for it!


    Okay, but resolutions aside, how could you even turn down a cookie as cute as this? It looks like a baby waffle, but tastier!! I would have to admit, however, that these probably shouldn't be called cookies, since they are essentially just cake. But I'm not complaining! They are really fun to make and have a lovely flavor. There is a hefty amount of cinnamon in the dough, which really deepens the taste of the cookie when it is a day old. The glaze is nice too, but you could totally skip it or just glaze half the batch (that's what I did, since I ran out of glaze); with the unglazed ones, just pop them in the toaster oven and they get all warm and slightly crisped on the outside. Perfection. Add hot chocolate, or maybe just a glass of milk, and you're on your way to being Happiest Baker 2011 edition.


    So you're convinced now? You've dug up that old waffle maker hiding in the depths of that hard-to-reach pantry and you've turned your regular cocoa powder into Dutch-processed (do it, save yourself a lot of money!). Great! Here are a few pointers: Once you've made the batter, make sure your waffle iron has really gotten to its proper heat. I have a pretty ancient one and turns out it takes it about 3 days to preheat, so make sure you get it fully hot before you start making the cookies. If it isn't preheated, it will continue to rise in temperature and burn your cookies, or just make it so you're never quite sure when they'll be done. If you see smoke, it's too hot/finished!


    Another tip: Use a cookie scoop to drop the batter onto the waffle iron. It makes your "waffles" perfectly shaped and helps the whole process be a lot easier/less messy.


    Hurray! Your first cookies of the new year are beautiful and tasty! You are happier, I am happier knowing that you liked this recipe. On our way to being better people. Awesome.


    Chocolate Waffle Cookies
    Makes about 4 dozen (mine made only 3 dozen)


  • 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 18 tablespoons (2 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder, plus 2 tablespoons for icing
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar, plus more for dusting
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons milk
  • Vegetable oil cooking spray

  • Directions

  • Melt chocolate with 1 cup butter (2 sticks) in a saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Let cool slightly.
  • Put eggs, vanilla, and granulated sugar in bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until pale, 4 to 5 minutes. Mix in chocolate mixture, salt, cinnamon, 1/2 cup cocoa powder, and the flour.
  • Heat a waffle iron until hot. Lightly coat grids with cooking spray. Spoon about 1 tablespoon batter onto center of each waffle-iron square to make 1 1/2-inch rounds. Close cover; cook until set, about 1 1/2 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack, bottom sides up. Let cool completely. Repeat with remaining batter, coating grids with cooking spray after each batch.
  • Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Add confectioners' sugar and remaining 2 tablespoons cocoa powder; stir until smooth. Stir in milk.
  • Gently dip 1 surface of each cookie in icing so that just the waffle lines (not gaps) are coated. Repeat with remaining cookies and icing. Transfer to wire racks; let stand until set, about 10 minutes. Dust iced surfaces of cookies with confectioner's sugar. Cookies can be stored in single layers in airtight containers at room temperature up to 2 days.

  • ****
    {End Results}
    Baking Difficultly: 2/5
    Ingredient Accessibility: 5/5
    Tastiness: 4/5
    Attractiveness: 4.5/5
    Is it worth it?: Yes

    Drink: Hot chocolate, or coffee. Or milk. You know the "flavor palette" I'm goin' for here...
    Song: In the New Year -- The Walkmen
    Activity: Waffle waffle waffle. Saying the word waffle a lot. Good activity.