May 8, 2011

word to my mother

Happy Mother's Day, Mommy Dearest! You sure do deserve your own special mention. I would not be me if not for you and we go back and forth on this all the time but I can never say it enough. I am very fortunate to have never wished "not to be my mother" when I was a bratty teen, even in the heat of slamming a door in your face or smashing something valuable into pieces (we have a history of tempers in our family but they are balanced with our fierce loyalty to each other, deal with it). Never have you looked down upon me or offered unsolicited advice (even if I don't outright say "help me," you always know when to). You forever have an open ear, even if you weren't thrilled with what was being said into it. I will forever love your mantra "anything you do, I did ten times worse to my mother when I was your age" and thus never felt the need to "rebel" and always felt I had a certain freedom. This resulted in the above mentioned need to spill all to you. If I ever have a secret, it never lasts long because it eats me alive and I have to come crawling to my Mommy Dearest for advice.

Words never suffice for these such days that should really be celebrated every day and so I will move on to something wholly inspired by my mom's taste buds. Clean, to the point with a dash of tartness. All her and all of my love.

Lemon-Ginger Cookie Sandwiches

from Big Fat Cookies
Yield: 9 large, 18 small
2 C all-purpose flour
1/2 t salt
2 1/2 t ground ginger
1 t ground cinnamon
1 C unsalted butter, room temperature
1 C confectioners sugar
2 t finely grated lemon zest
1 t vanilla extract I added 1/2 t almond extract because my mom loves that flavor
1 C (4 oz) whole blanched almonds, toasted and finely ground

1/2 C unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 C confectioners sugar
2 t finely grated lemon zest
1 T fresh lemon juice

1. Sift the flower, salt, ginger and cinnamon into a bowl.
2. In a large bowl, beat the butter and powdered sugar in a mixer until fully incorporated. On low, mix in lemon zest, vanilla and ground almonds.
3. Beat in the flour mixture until the flour is incorporated and the dough holds together and pulls away from the side of the bowl.
4. Divide the dough in half and form two 6-inch disks. Wrap each one in plastic wrap and refrigerate until they is cold and firm enough to roll, about 30-40 minutes. While dough is chilling, preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
5. Unwrap one piece of dough. Flour the rolling surface and roll out dough about 1/4 inch thick. Using a round cookie cutter 3 1/4 to 3 1/2-inch circles or smaller, cut out cookies (9-18). Unwrap the other piece of dough and cut out remaining cookies, to have an even number. Cut a circle or other shape from the center of half of the cookies.
6. Bake the cookies, one sheet at a time, until the edges are light brown and tops firm, 15-20 minutes. Cool the cookies for 5 minutes on the baking sheets, then transfer to cooling racks.

1. In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter, powdered sugar, lemon zest and lemon juice until smooth.
2. Spread the frosting onto cookies that do not have the holes in the center and make sandwiches with those that do have holes. Store in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

Nutrition (per1/18): 285 cal, 18g fat, 43mg sod, 28g carb, 16g sugar, 1g fiber, 3g protein

April 20, 2011

it's what's in the middle that counts

"You've been silent for a month and you are giving us bars?! Really?" I know that's what you are thinking and yes, I am. "Oat bars? AGAIN?" Yes, but these are different, I promise. I make bars and cookies and individual things a lot because I'm often doling them out for meetings with large groups of people and as much as I love cake and pie and tarts, you have to save all of that manhandling with the serving knife for your family. That and certain people need portion control. Come on, you all have that person in the office (or home, ahem) who thinks that "just one slice" equates to a quarter of the cake and before you know it a cake for sixteen has turned into a cake for six. Then you have people like me who say "oh just a sliver" and ten slivers later you've had two whole pieces. I am not in denial, people, I know my weaknesses. That being said, there is something awe-inspiring about toting in a nice, round confection eight inches across and six inches deep with simple, chic . I will have to tame the pie wrangler sooner or later.

Back to important matters, these squares are fabulous and I didn't do any crazy tweakage from the original recipe...the first time I made them. I am still perfecting a white chocolate pistachio version and if you master it before I, please let me know. I have a feeling it has to do with much more sugar occurring in white "chocolate" than dark and I need to mess around with that a bit. Ignoring the chemistry behind these for now, though, I have to say, these bars have satisfied my longing for Keebler® MAGIC MIDDLES! Do you remember these? Were you actually birthed when these things were in existence? I think I OD'd on these cookies around the same time I did on Cool Ranch Doritos® and Pizzarias Chips (also discontinued) but like all things from the past, they come back and haunt me every so often and I wonder why, oh why did they ever go away? The centers to these bars have the same melty-but-not-gooey consistency when left at room temp. If you put them in the fridge, they firm up nicely and are equally as enjoyable. However, if you want a trip down '90s junk food lane, leave them on your table and nix the nuts.

Chocolate Oatmeal Almost-Candy Bars

adapted from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan
Yield: 32

oatmeal dough
2 1/2 C all-purpose flour
1 t baking soda
1 t salt
1/2 t ground cinnamon
1 stick and 6T unsalted butter, room temperature
2 C brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs
2 t pure vanilla extract
3 C old-fashioned (rolled) oats

chocolate filling
14-oz can sweetened condensed milk, any fat content
2 C (12 oz) semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 T unsalted butter
1/4 t salt
1 t pure vanilla extract
3/4 C salted peanuts, coarsely chopped I think anything goes here. I tried macadamias, almonds and cashews and they all turned out great!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 9-by-13-inch baking pan with foil or grease thoroughly.
oatmeal dough
1. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon and set aside.
2. With an electric mixer, cream together butter and brown sugar on medium speed until thoroughly combined.
3. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating for a minute after each egg goes in. Beat in the vanilla. The mixture should be light and fluffy.
4. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing until just incorporated. Still on low speed, or working by hand with a rubber spatula, stir in the oats.
5. Set aside 1 1/2 to 2 cups of the mixture, then evenly press the remaining dough over the bottom of the pan. Set aside while you prepare the chocolate layer.

chocolate filling
1. If you don't have a double-boiler, set a heat-proof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water.
2. Put the condensed milk, chocolate chips, butter, and salt in the bowl and stir occasionally until the milk is warm and the chocolate and butter are melted. Remove the bowl from the pan of water and stir in the vanilla and nuts.
3. Pour the warm chocolate over the oatmeal crust, then drop the remaining oatmeal mixture over the top in clumps.
4. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the topping is golden brown and the chocolate layer is matte and starting to come away from the sides of the pan. Transfer the baking pan to a rack and cool for about 2 hours before cutting.

Nutrition: 341 cal, 17.5g fat, 190mg sod, 42g carb, 23g sugar, 1g fiber, 4g protein

yummy things still exist

I do this a lot in life. I just kind of...trail off and leave people hanging. It's become a learned thing. Something I would like to blame on other people for introducing it to me or me to it but really it has been there all along. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed and responsible for every piece of minutia that is in my life. Will my best friend be just a smidgen more annoyed with me today if I put off calling her again or will she be colossally annoyed to the point of not talking to me at all, ever? If I wait one more day to send in my grad application will I not get in? If I eat this piece of cookie will it go straight to that awful place where my ass meets my hips and force me to wear a wetsuit for my single beach jaunt this summer? This stuff keeps me up at night, every night and basically has since I was twelve. So, sometimes I let things slide and pretend they are not there and that is basically what I have done here.  Not because this is a thorn in my side, more because I have let some other stuff be. LAME, I KNOW. Trust me, I have a pile of sweet treats (and hopefully not so sweet because I think even I am getting a toothache) that I'll be tossing out there. So sit tight and praise to you if you even peek in here anymore!