Almond Chocolate Chunk Cookies

almond choc chip tastefood

I apologize if this messes with any diet resolutions, but here’s to a little balance and wishing you all a delicious new year with a bundle of sweetness, a dose of nuttiness, and pinch of salt.

Almond butter does wondrous things to this chocolate chunk cookie. It’s not as pronounced in flavor as peanut butter which, in my opinion, can overwhelm a cookie. Almond butter is mellower, adding a rich, golden background to the dough with a hint of roasted nuts. A dusting of sea salt is an extra touch – optional but highly recommended. A little salt makes everything taste better – even sweets – especially when chocolate is involved.

Almond Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes about 36 cookies

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup unsalted creamy almond butter (not raw)
7 ounces chopped dark chocolate
Sea salt flakes for garnish, optional

1. Whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl and set aside.
2. Cream the butter and sugars in the bowl of an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and mix well. Add the almond butter and mix until smooth.
3. Dump the flour  into the mixing bowl and mix until all of the ingredients are incorporated without over-mixing. Stir in the chocolate, including all of the little pieces and dusty bits (they will melt into the batter). Refrigerate the batter for at least one hour or up to 24 hours.
4. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Drop rounded tablespoons of the dough on baking sheets lined with parchment. Add a tiny pinch of sea salt flakes to each cookie, if desired. Bake until light golden, 12 to 14 minutes.
5. Slide the parchment and cookies on a rack to cool. The cookies will continue to firm up while cooling.

Coconut Chocolate Macaroons

coconut macaron tastefood

Happy Passover: Chocolate Dipped Coconut Macaroons

The bane of my childhood candy experience was a Mounds Bar. I just didn’t get it. I would bite into the promising chocolate nugget, which would immediately give way to a chewy, shredded, nutty interior, that, in my opinion, had no rightful place in a chocolate bar. It was clearly the texture that I did not like. I was mystified by my friends who bought super-sized packages of Almond Joys to scarf down when we were at the movies. Every halloween when my brothers and I would pile our loot in the middle of the kitchen table, gloating and eyeing trade-ups, my chocolate covered coconut bars were the first to offer up with no regrets. Sadly, my brothers were not so keen on coconut either, so the negotiating could get ugly.

As a parent, it baffled me that my children loved coconut. But as chief cookie baker, I stepped up to the plate and used coconut more and more freely in bars, cakes, and cookies. And, you know what? I, too, developed a fondness for this tropical “nut”, appreciating its flaky fresh and nutty interruption in a sea of sugar. I guess you could say I grew up.

I eat coconut now – unforced – and prefer it paired with dark chocolate. Sometimes I make macaroons, a jumble of coconut bound together with egg white and condensed milk. Yes, the milk is icky-sweet, but it seems to yield the best juicy-soft interior, which is what prevents dryness and distinguishes a great macaroon. I’ve followed a recipe from Ina Garten from time to time, but switch out some of the sweetened coconut with unsweetened, which I find reduces excessive cloyness. Oh, and I always dunk them in dark chocolate, of course – which has a magnificent grounding effect on, well, everything.

Chocolate Dipped Coconut Macaroons
Makes about 24

14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
8 ounces sweetened shredded coconut
6 ounces unsweetened shredded coconut
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large egg whites, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
6 ounces dark (70%) chocolate, melted

Heat the oven to 350°F (180° C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Combine the milk, coconut, and vanilla in a large bowl and stir to blend.
Beat the egg whites and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer until soft peaks form and then fold into the coconut.

Drop heaping tablespoon-sized mounds of coconut on the baking sheet. Bake until golden brown, about 25 minutes. Remove and cool completely on a rack. Dip one half of each macaroon in the melted chocolate and transfer to a board or platter lined with parchment. Refrigerate until set.

Lemon Bars with Sea Salt

lemon sea salt bars tastefood

Whether you are knee deep in snow or lucky enough to live where lemons grow on trees, these lemon bars will bring a ray of sunshine to your plate. Picture a zingy sweet-tart filling rippling with lemon zest, anchored to a buttery shortbread crust. A smidge of sea salt adorning the top keeps all sweetness in check, allowing the puckery citrus to shine through. These bars are thoroughly addictive and guaranteed to brighten your day. One bar will never be enough.

Lemon Bars with Sea Salt

This recipe is adapted from and inspired by many sources, including Ina Garten, Food52,  and my personal weakness for sea salt. Makes 32 (2-inch) square bars.

Shortbread:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup unsalted butter, slightly softened but still cool, cut into cubes

Filling:
4 large eggs
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Garnish:
Confectioners sugar
Sea salt flakes, such as Maldon

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9 by 13-inch baking pan, then line the pan with parchment and butter the parchment.
2. Combine the shortbread ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix until the dough resembles coarse lumps and just begins to come together. Dump the dough into the prepared pan and, with your fingers, evenly press the dough to cover the bottom of the pan.
3. Bake the crust until it just begins to turn golden, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven, but do not turn off the oven heat.
4. Whisk the filling ingredients together in a large bowl until blended, then evenly pour over the crust. Return the pan to the oven and bake until the filling is set but not coloring, about 25 minutes. Remove and cool completely on a rack.
5. Cut into bars. Dust with confectioners’ sugar and lightly sprinkle with sea salt flakes before serving.

Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry and a recipe for Rugelach

practicalpantry

Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry

I met Cathy Barrow for the first time this weekend, but I’ve know her for many years. That’s the funny thing about virtual communities. We were early members of Food52 contributing recipes and competing together since its inception. When she launched Charcutepalooza with Kim Foster, a year long meat curing blog event in 2011, I gladly rolled up my sleeves, and participated in a year’s worth of charcuterie-making projects. As Cathy’s career segued into writing with a focus on preserving, I followed her articles in the New York Times and Washington Post. It came as no surprise to me that she would then tackle the topic of preserving food in a cookbook. And knowing her track record, it was also completely natural that she would approach it in an epic, vastly knowledgeable and entirely approachable format, with plenty of appealing recipes to boot. This weekend, Cathy was in San Francisco promoting her book, Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry. It was hard to believe we were meeting for the first time; she felt like an old friend.

rugelach

A rustic interpretation of Cathy’s rugelach

No matter where you stand in the canning and preserving spectrum of experience (I call myself a vicarious sideliner), this is a bible worth owning. Whether you are a preserver at heart with a vast pantry stocked to the gills, or a minimalist who simply wants to extend the ample farmers market bounty in a few jars, this book has something for novices, experts and dabblers alike. It provides clear instruction, helpful tips, and easy to master techniques for preserving fruits, vegetables, meats, and fish, canning beans and soups and making cheese. All of this is provided in a a beautifully compiled tome illustrated with 150 stunning photographs by  Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton (of Canal House fame).

As Cathy says, her goal was to provide a vision of what to do with all of your jars of homemade goodness: She didn’t want to simply think about what goes inside of the jar, she wants to inspire us to put the contents of that jar to use. She entices the reader with myriad Bonus Recipes that incorporate all of the great pantry food you create with her book. Examples include a Kale and Potato Galette with Duck Fat Crust, made from home cured duck confit; Grilled Cheese with homemade Fig Marmalade; Beet Salad with Orange and Candied Pecans with home-canned beets. Or how about Hula Skirt Steak with homemade Carmen Miranda Tropical Fruit? I love it when people think outside of the jar.

Raspberry Almond Rugelach
Reprinted with permission from Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry

Dough:
4 ounces homemade or store bought cream cheese
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Filling:
1/4 cup toasted nuts (I used almonds), finely chopped
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 tablespoons soft fresh bread crumbs
1/2 cup preserves (I used raspberry)

1 egg yolk, beaten

1. To make the dough, cut the butter and cream cheese into 1-inch cubes. Place the butter, cream cheese, flour, and salt in a metal bowl and freeze for 30 minutes.
2. Transfer the chilled ingredients to a food processor and pulse until the dough forms a shaggy ball, about 20 pulses. Alternatively, cut the butter and cream cheese into the flour with a pastry cutter or two table knives to combine. Scrape the moist, sticky dough onto a floured countertop and form into a 6-inch disk. Wrap in wax paper and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight.
3. Line a baking sheet with parchment. In a small bowl mix together the nuts, sugar, and bread crumbs.
4. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a 9-inch circle. Spread the jam across the surface of the dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Sprinkle the nut mixture over the jam.
5. Using a sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut the disk into 16 wedges. Starting from the wide end of the long triangle, roll each segment up and press on the pointy end to seal. Place seam side down on the baking sheet and place the pan in the freezer for at least 2 hours.
6. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Brush the egg yolk gently on the tops of the cookies. Place another baking sheet under the cookie-filled sheet (this will keep the rugelach from burning on the bottom). Bake for 22 to 25 minutes. The nuts and jam will have squished out a little and be a little messy; that’s okay. The bottoms of the rugelach should be caramelized, not burned. Transfer to a rack to cool completely, about 1 hour.
7. Store between layers of wax paper in a tightly covered container for up to 3 weeks.

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

oatmeal raisin tastefood.jpg
This recipe is the closest I have come to my idea of a perfect oatmeal raisin cookie. It’s packed with oats and raisins with just a little flour to bind it all together, along with a blast of wheat germ for nutty crunch. The result is a crisp and chewy cookie that’s wholesome and rich at once. There is no white sugar in this recipe – only brown sugar which creates a deep caramel sweetness which dissolves in the mouth with every bite.

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Refrigerating the cookies before baking will ensure a thicker, chewier cookie. Makes about 30 (2-inch) cookies.

1 3/4 cups light brown sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups old fashioned oats
1/2 cup wheat germ
1 1/2 cups raisins

Whisk the sugar, butter, egg and vanilla together in a large bowl until smooth. Mix the flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt together in a small bowl. Stir the flour into the butter and sugar and thoroughly combine. Stir in the oats and wheat germ. Add the raisins. Refrigerate the dough for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Drop rounded tablespoons of the dough onto a baking sheet lined with parchment, leaving 2 inches between each cookie. Bake until the cookies are set in the middle and golden brown, 12 to 14 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on a rack.

Almond Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

almond choc chip tastefood

~ Almond Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies ~

This is no ordinary chocolate chip cookie. It has all of the delectable aspects of a traditional tollhouse-style cookie, but then ups the ante with the addition of almond butter and sea salt. Almond butter does wondrous things to the dough. It’s not as pronounced in flavor as peanut butter which can overwhelm a cookie. Almond butter is mellower with notes of deeply roasted nuts, adding a subtle, golden background to the dough. A dusting of sea salt is an extra flourish – optional but highly recommended. A little salt makes everything taste better, even sweets – especially when chocolate is involved.

(Please accept my apologies if this messes with your New Year’s diet resolutions…)

Almond Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes 36 cookies

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup unsalted creamy almond butter (not raw)
1 cup semisweet or dark chocolate chips

Whisk the flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl; set aside. Cream the butter and sugars in the bowl of an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla. Mix well. Mix in the almond butter until smooth. Add the flour and mix to combine, then stir in the chocolate. Refrigerate the batter for at least one hour. (Batter may be refrigerated for up to 24 hours – if you can wait that long).
Heat oven to 350 F. Drop rounded tablespoons of dough on baking sheets lined with parchment. Bake until light golden, about 14 minutes.

Optional: Sprinkle a few flakes of sea salt on the cookies before baking.

Orange, Chocolate and Almond Biscotti

Orange, Chocolate and Almond Biscotti


~ Orange, Chocolate and Almond Biscotti ~

Biscotti are a twice-baked crisp Italian cookie, famously crunchy and perfect for dipping in coffee or milk. Many variations exist, including the traditional anise or almond biscotti, as well as cocoa infused chocolate biscotti. In this recipe I threw in everything I like in a cookie: chocolate, raisins, toasted almonds and orange zest. It sounds like a busy list of ingredients, but the resulting cookie was delightfully simple and not overly sweet.

Orange, Chocolate and Almond Biscotti
I added raisins to the biscotti as an afterthought for a little sweetness and texture; they may be omitted if you prefer a drier biscotti. I recommend using golden raisins for their color and flavor if you can find them.

Makes  approximately 30 biscotti.

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons Cointreau or Gran Marnier
1  teaspoon vanilla extract
1 heaping tablespoon orange zest
3.5 ounces (100 g.) finely chopped or grated dark chocolate
1 cup finely chopped toasted almonds
3/4 cup raisins (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Combine the flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder and salt in a bowl of an electric mixer. Mix briefly to combine. Whisk eggs, oil, orange liqueur, vanilla and zest together in a separate bowl. Add the wet ingredients to the flour. Beat on medium speed until combined, 1 minute. Stir in chocolate, raisins and almonds.
Divide dough in half. Transfer to baking sheet and shape each half into a log the length of the baking sheet. Flatten each log into a 2 inch wide strip. Bake until firm and beginning to color, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven and cool 15 minutes.
Reduce oven to 300 F. (150 C.)  Transfer biscotti to a cutting board. Cut in 3/4 inch strips with a serrated knife.  Arrange cut side down on baking sheet. Bake until they are lightly golden, about 20 minutes, turning them halfway through cooking. Remove from oven and cool completely on racks. Store in an airtight container for up to a week.