Ginger cookie, triple ginger cookie, ginger three ways cookie

Ginger Cookies, Three Ways

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Delicious, crinkled ginger three ways cookies.

A good friend of mine had hipped me to my winning ginger snap/molasses spice cookie recipe and for me, that meant the end of tweaking.  Even though I am a chronic recipe tinkerer, when something gets high marks, is asked for repeatedly, I leave it alone.  Until another good friend suggested that there was a cookie of equal, if not greater merit by the Canyon Ranch called Triple Ginger Cookies.  I made it and though I must say it was a very, very, very good cookie, I was missing some of the flavors from the other cookie that I loved, namely cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.   So just for fun, I added them in to see whether or not it would make it better.  It did.  Know what else made it better? Full-fat cream cheese (the original recipe calls for low-fat cream cheese, which is gross).

Of course, playing with ingredients and fat means adjusting the baking time.  The original recipe calls for a 9 minute baking time, but I found using small balls (1 inch scoop as a go-by), I needed about 16 minutes to get these to the right texture.   Now that’s a subjective matter based on whether or not you like them pudding-soft or or teeth-breakingly crisp, or somewhere in between.
Ingredients
  • ⅓ cup unsalted butter
  • ⅔ cream cheese
  • 1½ cups brown sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • ⅓ cup black strap molasses
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ tsp himalayan sea salt¾ cup white whole-wheat flour
  • 1½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • ½ tsp ground cloves
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • 2 Tbsp peeled and minced fresh ginger root
  • ½ cup minced crystallized ginger
  • 1/2 cup sugar, for rolling.
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter, cream cheese and sugar on low speed with an electric mixer. Add egg yolk and molasses and mix on low until just combined.
  3. Combine dry ingredients, whisk thoroughly.
  4. Add to wet ingredients.
  5. Mix briefly by hand, and a brief mix with the stand mixer (I find this is necessary).
  6. If possible, wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or over night.
  7. Using your hands or smallest scoop, create balls.
  8. Dip and roll in sugar.
  9. Add to a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper.
  10. Bake for about 15 minutes.  Cookies should have a crinkled look and be relatively flat.
  11. Cool for five minutes and serve.
no_knead_challah

No Knead Challah

There are a lot of Challah recipes out there.  They range from sweet to savory and cover a wide range of origins.   Growing up, I found challah to be a somewhat dry and flavorless bread that was usually served with no butter or topping, and very often at the point when I was at my hungriest (it is a tradition to slice a challah at the end of the Saturday morning services) and I would have eaten anything.   I never thought too much about it, but as I got older, I was introduced to Challah French Toast, which was a revelation that made me realize I must have challah in the house at all times.  This led me to Cheryl Ann’s (of Brookline) challah, which some fans have noted is more like a Mardi Gras King Cake than a traditional challah, as it so sweet, fluffy and eggy.

Challahs from other institutions like Whole Foods are good but have a strange smell when toasted.  (This is kind of a turn-off, and I will refrain from my opinions of the smell)

This recipe below is modified from the King Arthur No-Knead Challah recipe, which I have modified slightly over the years.   I have also made it Vegan, using Earth Balance, Egg Replacer and Agave.  Still pretty good.

The recipe (and tradition) call for the challah to be braided.  While I very much enjoyed learning how to do this (the indispensable but short video here), I found that the key to a light and fluffy challah (or any yeasted, baked product) was to handle it as little as possible once it was in it’s near-final form.   Since the holiday challahs are round (to convey and celebrate the circular nature of life, etc.) I decided rolling out the dough into a log and baking it in a 9″ round was infinitely easier and resulted in a better final product.

Also, a bread thermometer is a good investment, but I have found that at 35 minutes at 350 degrees, this comes out perfect every time.

Challah

  • 7 3/4 cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons instant yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water (plus more, if necessary)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup melted and cooled unsalted butter  (you can substitute oil or margarine if you need it to be dairy free or kosher, but I have found it has much less flavor). 

Topping

  • 1 egg (any size) beaten with 1 tablespoon cold water
  • Poppy seeds to cover (about 1/3 of a bottle).

Directions
(I never use the bread mixer attachment on my stand mixer or the like alternative. I always do this by hand).

  1. Combine your dry  ingredients and whisk thoroughly.
  2. Make a well, and add the wet ingredients.
  3. Use a spatula to mix the ingredients until you have a cohesive dough; finish with your hands.  You should have a craggy, sticky ball of dough.  You may need to add water if it’s too dry, or a bit of flour to make it easier to handle.
  4. Cover the bowl, and let the dough rise for at least 2 hours.
  5. Refrigerate the dough overnight if possible.
  6. Remove from fridge and separate into two. (King Arthur says it can be made into three, but I like bigger 9″ rounds).
  7. Roll into a log and coil into a 9″ inch (Pam-sprayed) round cake pan.
  8. Allow the challah to rise for about 2 hours.
  9. Preheat the oven to 350°F.   Prepare the topping.
  10. With a pastry brush, brush the challah over every visible surface.
  11. Lay on the poppy seeds, heavy.
  12. Bake the Challah for 35 minutes. Don’t open the oven.   Use a bread thermometer to ensure it’s at 190°F.  Once that’s the case, you can put away your bread thermometer, you won’t need it.
Let cool (until you can hold it to slice it), about 15 minutes.  Serve warm with butter, hummus, apples and honey or other toppings.      Great for toasting, and for making Challah French Toast a few days later.

The Federalist Flavors- Alexander Hamilton 1/11/17

For Alexander Hamilton’s birthday, I gleefully re-present the collection of flavors (The Federalist Flavors) I worked to create with my sister-in-law at Jane’s Ice Cream and my family (my brother  did the poster and ice cream containers)! We did it as a labor of love and then they were able to share it with the original cast of Hamilton at the Richard Rogers for an ice cream social.

Again, we did it just to thank the incredible cast and crew for creating the most incredible broadway show of our generation. When Hamilton: An American Musical posted the ice cream menu to their Instagram feed (https://www.instagram.com/p/BD6-8Sgo9Yc/), it got over 31k likes and 16k comments. For Hamilton that’s not unusual, but it was exciting to be a part of! We were huge fans and the fans loved it! The Hamilton flavors aren’t available to the world but the great Ice Cream of Jane’s Ice Cream is. Happy birthday to the 10 Dollar Founding Father!  #alexanderhamilton #janesicecream

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Arugula Salad, The Best Ever

If you are a reader of this blog you know that I never claim to completely invent my recipes, and that this blog is simply an expression of ideas that may make regular or standard issues easier or more appealing than they are from existing popular or standard recipes.   But very often, if not always, the recipes begin somewhere else.  This salad was created by my wife, and I don’t know if she was just feeling inspired but it is my single favorite salad of all of time and I never want another salad if it’s not this.  OK, I will eat other salads, but if you ask me it will be this all the time.

Ingredients

  • Arugula (1 bag, bunch)
  • olive oil
  • 2-3 shallots, carmelized
  • ~4 tablespoons of sunflower seeds
  • ~ 1 cup feta cheese
  • Juice of half/whole lemon (to taste)
  • Balsamic vinegar (to taste)  (I like Fini but don’t use cheap supermarket stuff).

Directions

  1. Add Arugula to salad bowl, add lemon.
  2. Add feta cheese.
  3. Sprinkle sunflower seeds.
  4. Heat olive oil in frying pan, about four tablespoons (this is the only oil in the salad).  When hot, add sliced shallots.  Carmelize.
  5. Add contents of pan (oil, shallots) to salad bowl.
  6. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar.
  7. Toss and serve.

Schnitzel (Boneless Fried Chicken)

img_1736I found schnitzel to be ubiquitous when I visited Israel, and like their hummus, delicious everywhere I had it.  Their schnitzel is so much better than what ours has become, basically a chicken nugget- that I was inspired to try and recreate it.  Of course thanks to the Internet, that’s pretty easy since there are lots of great recipes out there.   The one I started with is from Janna Gurr.  As she notes, and I agree with, it is best served with hummus, pickles and something green, like a salad.

Even though it is fried in oil, a good schnitzel should be light — not heavy, so make sure your oil is the right temperature and get your pieces in and out quickly.

Ingredients:

  • 2.5 half pounds of chicken.  (If you buy fillets you won’t have to pound them).
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, seasoned with:
    • Onion powder
    • Garlic Salt
    • White Pepper
    • Adobo Seasoning
  • 1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
  • Dijon mustard
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Canola and Peanut oil for frying 

Directions

  1. If necessary, pound your chicken to scallopini thickness or whenever your hand gets tired (I find it optimal to not just pound but also cut the breasts in half or smaller.  This allows me to put more pieces in the pan at once, cook them faster and provide each one with more crispy surface.  But that is for you to decide).
  2. Beat the eggs in a bowl with dijon mustard and 1-2 tablespoons water.
  3. Prepare the flour by sifting it together with the additional spices.
  4. Add your Panko to a bowl and prepare a plate covered with wax paper next to it for finished pieces.
  5. First—Dip chicken in flour mixture.  Then, shaking off the excess, drag through egg mixture, and when done, drop in Panko. Place finished pieces on wax paper while you prepare oil.
  6. Using at least a 12-inch cast iron pan or equivalent, heat your oils to medium high temperature.  I find that the addition of a small amount of peanut oil adds a tremendous amount of flavor where canola oil has almost no flavor at all.  I tried sesame oil but it has too much flavor.
  7. Fry each piece for 2-3 minutes.  They should be golden brown, not dark brown.
  8. Salt them upon taking them out from the oil, and set them on brown paper bags (if your grocery provides these) or paper towels to try.

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Favorite Oatmeal for Winter Mornings

oatmealIf you cook most of the meals in your house you are likely to either fall into a rut or grasp greatness by experimenting with new things.  I am always trying to simultaneously improve what I’m making and trying to capture some far-off, once-tasted flavor or texture that I experienced in the past. Sometimes I have an innovation so small (like using the toaster for Grilled Cheese) that I don’t feel it’s worthy of writing down. But when I get requests from my family, I know I should.  This my family’s favorite oatmeal for winter mornings recipe.  If you know me and have read this blog, then you’ll know it’s nothing complicated– just a matter of adding some extra stuff to an existing recipe (on the Quaker Oatmeal box. Is that what you call a round container made of cardboard?).

The recipe calls for making two cups of oatmeal as its largest size– but that’s hardly enough for one hungry person, let alone a family. I initially doubled it but didn’t want to choose between milk and water as the liquid- so I used both.  I also felt that the end product prepared as recommended was relatively tasteless (see my previous experience with that here). Since oatmeal contains a significant benefit of fiber, I thought, “how can I make it more appealing to kids?” Of course the answer is sugar, but in what form, how much and what else?  Following the lead of every other instant oatmeal on the shelf*, I added cinnamon, brown sugar and nutmeg and rather than add lots more sugar, I opted for maple syrup extract, which is has more flavor and less sugar than its fully syrupy parent.

Of course, vanilla and more salt than the recipe calls for, and I have experimented with adding a tablespoon of butter for ‘soul.’     Lastly, I understand that not everyone likes the same inclusions so I prepare those separately.  For the serving pictured above it was toasted pecans and raisins.   It was a hit.

Ingredients

  •  4 cups oatmeal (I used Quaker Oats–different oatmeals may have different cooking times)
  • 1 3/4 cups Milk
  • 1 3/4 cups water
  • 4 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/8 tsp salt (to taste)
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/16 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla (optional)
  • 1/8 tsp maple extract

Optional Inclusions

  • 1 tbsp butter
  • raisins or dried cranberries
  • Toasted pecans or walnuts

 

Directions
Again, nothing special here:

  1. Boil the milk/water combination
  2. Add the oatmeal.
  3. Simmer (stay close by) for 10 minutes.
  4. At about 9 minutes add the other ingredients.
  5. Serve in individual bowls and serve inclusions separately.

 

*Note: whether you utilize the fat/sugar grams or glycemic index to measure your food’s health you can tell that a majority of the available instant oatmeals are loaded and should be avoided at most costs.  Check out the Internet if you want detailed analysis.

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Maple Pecan Oatmeal Scones with Maple Vanilla Coffee Icing

Maple Pecan Oatmeal Scones

Maple Pecan Oatmeal Scones, just browned and drizzled (well, covered) with maple-vanilla-coffee-cinnamon icing

I did not drink coffee in college, and it was only in my mid-twenties that I started going to a coffee shop every morning on my way to work.   There happened to be an incredible and locally-owned coffee shop near me in Washington Square called Beans, which served incredible coffee and homemade (if you can call commercially rendered products that) baked goods including what turned out to be my go-to order, a maple oatmeal scone.   Beans closed, and though I ordered a few more scones in my life, I figured my maple oatmeal days were gone.   However, Starbucks began offering them, and in doing so, caused a propagation of hundreds of copycat recipes all over the Internet.   Looking through a bunch of them, I was surprised by how much STUFF they all had in them– I seem to remember scones being simple– made of flour, salt, baking powder, butter and maybe a bit of milk or water.

I didn’t like any of the recipes, so I was forced to improvise one from a few different sources.  Some recommended using quick oats instead of regular, and some suggested grinding the oats– I left ’em whole.

I noted some used maple syrup extract and some used maple syrup.   I had both, so I figured why not?  I like the addition of pecans, but not on top, I thought they needed to be crushed.  Also, where’s the vanilla?

All the recipes do say- don’t overmix,  and cut it into 8 pieces (pizza style).  I did that I did find that they were beautiful, but I also found them to be way too big– for one serving, anyway.

As for the icing, though I am committed to the low arts, I did allow myself to ‘kitchen-sink’ it a bit– I did throw in a bunch of stuff.  But it does taste really good.

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup quaker oats
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 2tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 cup crushed pecans
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 Sticks) cold butter, cut
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp maple extract
  • 2 eggs

Icing

  • 5 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter (salted)
  • 2 tablespoons Dave’s all-natural coffee syrup
  • 2 teaspoons maple extract
  • 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup whole mil (+ up to 1/4 cup of milk to make the icing “pourable”)
  • 1/6 tsp of cinnamon

 

Directions:

In a bowl, combine your dry ingredients– flour, oats, pecans, baking powder, sugar and salt.  Add the cubed butter and use a pastry blender to mix.   Everyone says stop when you have just a few pea-shaped pieces of butter left but I often large malt-ball size pieces left, so I say stop when it gets to a cohesive place where you can likely lift it as one piece.

Assemble your wet ingredients in a 2 cup measure– buttermilk first, maple syrup, then eggs, vanilla and maple extract.  Whisk to combine and add to the dry ingredients DO NOT OVERMIX.   Shape into a pizza and cut 8 slices.   If too large, cut on the diagonal and make more, or if you had the presence of mind, make two round discs and cut into pizza slices.

Heat oven to 400 degrees and bake for about 20 minutes on parchment paper or slipat.   Take out and let rest for 5 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack.  When cooled,  create icing by combining ingredients and using milk to ensure the icing is not hard but pourable.

I wanted to create an artistic drizzle, but instead I just painted the thing like it was Benjamin Moore Eggshell white and I had a roller.   If you’re disciplined, you can pipe on your icing, but whatever you do, try to let them cool and set.   Try to save some for morning coffee.

 

 

#cookiefail— M&M Cookies

Why are M&M Cookies a #cookiefail?  I know people like them.   Most of the time, they are just plain sugar cookies that have M&Ms shoved in them. Sometimes they are chocolate chip cookies without chips and have M&Ms substituted.   I personally don’t like or buy M&M cookies, because mostly, they are dry and crumbly, the cookie part tastes bad and the M&Ms are often broken.  These problems are almost always compounded by the cookie being wrapped in cellophane, often attempting to mask the age of the cookie.   I know what you’re thinking.  You’re thinking “it’s easy for you, you make cookies all

M&M Cookie, bakery tray, cookies at a bagel shop

M&M Cookies are part of what’s wrong with the world today.

the time, you don’t have to buy cookies at a bakery, bagel shop or small grocery store.”  But it’s not true.  I get the urge for cookies all the time, and I often act on that urge, if only to taste a cookie to see if it’s something incredible.   Though I have loved many chocolate chip and sugar cookies in my life, the M&M cookie is nearly always  a disappointment (very much like those chocolate chip cookies with hundreds of tiny chips on them instead of inside them).   I implore all you readers to refrain from buying them now, and in the future, and perhaps they will disappear entirely.

Why am I hater on the M&M Cookie?  It’s really because of a revelation I had several years ago, while eating cookie dough ice cream (another meld of desserts).  I thought “I don’t really want cookie dough ice cream, I just want the cookie dough.  I realized that I could make (or buy) better cookie dough then I was getting in the ice cream.  Also, there wasn’t very much cookie dough.  Why was I eating all that plain vanilla ice cream when I could have been using those calories more effectively eating more cookie dough?    From that moment on I never again ordered cookie dough ice cream.  And the same goes for M&M Cookies.  If you want M&Ms, buy some.  If you want a sugar cookie, make some or buy some.  But you are not going to convince me that either of those things get better in combination with each other.   The M&Ms don’t taste better cooked, or get better when they are cracked or covered with cellophane.  Very often, the people making these cookies are using the worst, plainest, and least appealing cookie base to host a few cents worth of candy to get you to buy it.  M&Ms and cookies are not two great tastes that go together.  They are not peanut butter and chocolate, or even peanut butter and jelly.  They need to be kept separately, at least in my cookie jar.

Tequilas.Reviews

My favorite tequila, ArteNOM 1146.

My favorite tequila, ArteNOM 1146.

I have launched a new blog called http://tequilas.reviews.   I am doing this because I love Tequila and have found it always and even increasingly difficult to find good, reliable information on my favorite spirit.  There’s a lot of information out there, but it seems a good deal of it is put out there by the liquor distributors.  I have nothing against them at all, but I’d like to see some fan pages!  And so I thought I would start one rather than complain.   Please come and see it!

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Crazily Addictive Banana Pancakes

Every once in a while my daughter, who is the lieutenant chef, has a special request, and of course, within reason, we try to accommodate it.  This morning was Banana Pancakes.   Cliche, right?  We often get them at Harry’s in West Roxbury (where they are to die for) but that does require getting up and getting dressed. We found a great recipe at Kitchen Treaty that we played with. I knew it would be good because it involves buttermilk.  The recipe had a few revolutionary suggestions.  One was to let the batter sit after combining it, so the rising agent (baking powder) can do its job. Brilliant!  Pancakes were definitely the fluffiest banana pancakes we have ever created.  Also, the suggestion of using a scooper was a mind-blowing improvement that I never thought of, and significantly aided the process.    As a postscript you should know that there is never anything in my house but real maple syrup and this is for two reasons.  One, I live in New England, so of course great (and super-expensive) maple syrup is always available.  Two, “Pancake Syrup” is a horrifying fraud that aside is likely to negatively affect your health with its ingredients.

pancakes, banana pancakes, fluffy banana pancakes

Fluffy, hot, delicious and just-slightly crispy banana pancakes are so good you will be sorry you made them.

In any case, this is a good morning activity, but the clean up was extensive (and not yet done as of this writing).

INGREDIENTS:
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 2 bananas (if you only have green ones, you can add 1/4 table banana extract)
  • 2 large eggs (room temperature)
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter  (room-temperature soft or melted and cooled)
  • 1  tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Two shakes of cinnamon
  • 1/16 teaspoon butterscotch extract
  • Powdered sugar or maple syrup (or both) for topping

DIRECTIONS:

  1. First assess your bananas– if they are green-ish, like mine, we found you could submerge them in hot water for about 5 minutes to make them softer and slightly sweeter.   That’s helpful, but not a total solution.   Because greenish bananas are less sweet and have less flavor, we added about 1/4th teaspoon of banana extract.  Also, if you get a hot buttered pan and you can get a ‘crisp’ exterior, it will bring out more of the banana flavor.
  2. Add your bananas to the bowl of a standing mixer. This can ensure a good mashing.  If you have anger issues, you can mash them separately and later.  Add the buttermilk, eggs (one at a time), butter, vanilla, banana extract if using and butterscotch.
  3. In a separate bowl, sift and add the the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Whisk together to combine.
  4. Add dry ingredients to your wet one.  Mix gently.
  5. Let the batter rest for about 5 minutes. You’ll see bubbles.  (Depending on your pan’s size, you can likely make a test pancake, and by the time it’s done and eaten you’ll be ready to make the rest)
  6. Melt butter in a large frying plan. Using an ice cream scoop, I was able to do two at a time.  I feel it’s necessary to wipe-dry the pan between pancakes because it facilitates better pancakes and reduces the chance of burning the butter.  When the pancakes bubble, flip them over, and then after about 35 seconds, take them out.
  7. Serve with sides, topping and maple syrup.  You can make them early and toast them to suit late-risers.