Snickerdoodles

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On our way home from the farmer’s market today, we crossed paths with a lady who was taking her cute black Labrador Retriever for a walk. She was wearing a great pair of rubber rain boots covered in pictures of Labs. I complemented her on the fun footwear.

As we walked away, I thought to myself: that lady must really love dogs.

I have an affectionate, long-haired, black cat named Merlot. And I think it would be a hoot to have a pair of rubber rain boots covered in pictures of cats.

But, if I ever was to step outside the house wearing feline themed footwear, I would forever be branded a crazy cat lady. Not a lady who must really love cats. Just a crazy cat lady.

It’s an unfortunate double standard, especially since dog owners are just as crazy as us cat owners!

Don’t deny it. You talk to your pooches. Let them follow you into the bathroom. You buy them needless gadgets, beds, clothes, organic treats and Halloween costumes.

Us cat folk don’t have the market cornered on crazy. All pet owners have a little crazy in them.

I guess that’s why I’ve grown accustomed to Merlot curling up on my lap, keyboard or mouse pad whenever I sit down to blog. I’ve learned how to work around her.

Now that the baby is here, I think Merlot has realized that one of the few times I am solo is when I’m on the computer. So blogging isn’t just mommy time, it’s also a time for me to hang out with my favourite feline.

So this blog post is brought to you, in part, by my sidekick Merlot!

I’ve been meaning to try baking Snickerdoodle cookies for such a long time. And I’m glad that I finally did!

Snickerdoodles are a very simple, but delicious. The star ingredients are cinnamon and sugar. The cookies are cakey and moist, and they freeze very well.

I used a recipe from one of my favourite cookbooks, Martha Stewart’s Cookies: The Very Best Treats To Bake And To Share.

These sweet cinnamony treats were a crowd pleaser, so give them a whirl! Enjoy!

Snickerdoodles

(From Martha Stewart’s Cookies: The Very Best Treats To Bake And To Share)

2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon coarse salt

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1 ½ cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

 

– Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Put butter and 1 ½ cups sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in eggs. Reduce speed to low; gradually mix in flour mixture.

– Stir together cinnamon and remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar in a small bowl. Shape dough into twenty 1 ¾ inch balls; roll in cinnamon sugar. Space 3 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.

– Bake cookies, rotating sheets halfway through, until edges are golden, 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool on sheets on wire racks.

 

Merlot the Cat sends her warmest regards!

Merlot the Cat sends her warmest regards!

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Sift it baby!

Mix the batter

Mix the batter

Shape the dough into Timbit sized balls, then roll in sweet, sweet cinnamon sugar

Shape the dough into Timbit sized balls, then roll in sweet, sweet cinnamon sugar

Line 'em up on your baking sheet

Line ’em up on your baking sheet

Fresh out of the oven!

Fresh out of the oven!

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Lemon Meringue Cookies


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For the past week, I have been trying to carve out a bit of kitchen time to give Joy the Baker’s recipe for Lemon Meringue Cookies a whirl. Each time I tried, it seemed like the fates were lined up against me. Or to put it less dramatically, my four-month-old daughter is teething and has been fussier than usual.

It would be great to squeeze in some baking during her nap time, but that’s way too unpredictable. Sometimes she snoozes for a couple of hours, other times it’s just a 10 minute power nap.

With meringue and lemon curd, I needed to wait for an uninterrupted stretch. I’m glad I didn’t hold my breath, because this never came!

So last night I found myself holding a crying baby in one hand and a meringue covered spatula in the other. And I thought it was tough to make meringue before!

I had every intention of trying to pipe lovely little star shaped meringue drops, like Joy. I had to settle for hastily pumped out blobs.

My husband took on bedtime duty so I could make the lemon curd. By that time I was so tired I completely forgot to add two of the eggs to the mixture. This left me whisking a liquidy pot of curd for way longer than I should have.

I thought all was lost. It was too late to start over, and I didn’t have enough lemons anyway. So I refrigerated my watery curd and misshaped meringues and headed to bed.

Maybe it was luck. Maybe it was the congealing power of butter. But overnight, the curd set perfectly and developed a delicious tart lemon flavor. And in the daylight, my meringues didn’t look quite so funny-looking.

Against all odds, I actually pulled off Joy’s yummy Lemon Meringue Cookies. Score one for the multi-tasking mom!

The original recipe is kind of long, so I suggest you just read it first hand on Joy’s blog here. My only suggestion is to reduce the baking time of the meringues. In my oven, they were completely done after 1.5 hours. Keep an eye on them, and judge for yourself.

It’s also worth mentioning that these tasty cookies are naturally glutton free!

Enjoy!

Beat the eggs, salt and sugar and until you get the elusive glossy, stiff peaks

Beat the eggs, salt and sugar and until you get the elusive glossy, stiff peaks

When life gives you lemons...make curd!

When life gives you lemons…make curd!

The curd comes together, despite the fact that I missed two key ingredients

The curd comes together, despite the fact that I missed two key ingredients. And yes, there is an out of season gingerbread man on my spatula.

The curd set perfectly overnight in the fridge.

The curd set perfectly overnight in the fridge.

Curd is the word!

Curd is the word!

Yum!

Yum!

 

The Chocolate Chip Cookie


I find myself conflicted.

On one hand, I have resolved to restart this baking blog. That means carving out a little time each week to putter in the kitchen and write. It also means that tasty treats will be frequently hanging out on our countertop.

On the other hand, I have also pledged to lose my last 15 pounds of post-baby weight. That means a 7 a.m. daily DVD date with Jillian Michaels and weekly yoga classes. It should also mean avoiding everything buttery, sugary and delicious.

I hope you see my dilemma.

But as a wise old philosopher once said, everything in moderation. That means have one cookie (or two, just definitely not three). Have a small slice of cake.

That seems reasonable to me. After all, I can’t imagine living in a calorie counted world that prohibits me from eating one of these…

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To me, one of life’s simple pleasures is biting into a freshly baked Martha Stewart chocolate chip cookie. Crunchy on the outside, chewy on the inside. And don’t forget about the melty chocolate chips. Yum!

I have tried many a chocolate chip cookie recipe, and this is by far my favourite. If I was stranded on a dessert island (pun intended) and was only allowed one recipe, it would be this one.

Martha has found the magical combination of white and light-brown sugars, and pinch of salt. Do not substitute or tweak the quantity of any ingredients. The reason these cookies taste so good is because they are chalk full of butter and sugar.

The recipe gives you options for cookie sizes. I like the 4 inchers, which bake for 15 minutes. They have good heft, density and texture.

Please give these a try – enjoy!

The Chocolate Chip Cookie

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
Salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups packed light-brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips or chunks (2 cups)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Sift flour, baking soda, and 1 1/4 teaspoons salt into a bowl.

Beat butter and sugars with a mixer on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

On low speed, beat in eggs, 1 at a time.

Add flour mixture in 3 additions.

Beat in vanilla.

Mix in chocolate chips.

Scoop dough onto baking sheets, using the measurements listed below. Bake until edges are dark gold but centers are pale gold and look a bit underdone (for chewy) or until centers are set (for crisp), according to times listed below. Transfer sheets to wire racks. Let cool for 5 minutes. Transfer cookies to racks. Let cool completely.

For 3-inch cookies, use a 1 1/2-inch scoop (2 tablespoons). Bake for about 11 minutes for chewy or 14 to 16 minutes for crisp. (Makes 4 dozen)

For 2 1/4-inch cookies, use a 1 1/4-inch scoop (1 tablespoon). Bake for about 10 minutes for chewy or 14 to 16 minutes for crisp. (Makes 8 dozen)

For 1 1/2-inch cookies, use 1/2 teaspoon dough. Bake for about 10 minutes for chewy or 14 to 16 minutes for crisp. (Makes 12 dozen)

For 4-inch cookies, use a 2 1/4-inch ice cream scoop (1/4 cup). Bake for 14 to 15 minutes for chewy or 18 to 20 minutes for crisp. (Note: I bake mine for 15 minutes)

ingred

The raw goods

Mix

Break out the trusty mixer

chips

I dare you not to eat a cup of this cookie dough. Seriously

scooped

I scoop generously – 1/4 cup per cookie

sheet

Voila!

Flower Blossom Sugar Cookies


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When I was a kid, I could mark the changing seasons by the sugar cookies that my mom brought home from one of our favourite bakeries, The Hot Oven.

At Halloween we munched on cookies cut into the shape of jack-o-lanterns, decorated with orange sprinkles. At Christmas, we nibbled neatly cut stockings and bells, dusted in red and green sprinkles. And at Easter, we enjoyed bunnies topped with pink and yellow sprinkles.

Not only are sugar cookies delicious, they are also multi-purpose. They’re kind of like the little black dress of the cookie jar. Same recipe, and all you have to do is dress them up a little.

Since I have a soft spot for sugar cookies, I couldn’t help but notice a recipe posted on Pinterest by Two Twenty One. What really caught my eye was the fact that these sugar cookies did not require rolling, refrigeration or cookie cutters. Now that’s my kind of recipe!

And as though the baking stars were aligned, the April issue of Martha Stewart Living explained how to shape ordinary sugar cookies into pretty spring flowers.

So here’s my take on Two Twenty One’s yummy original recipe. You’ll note that I’ve substituted margarine for butter, added more vanilla, dropped in some food colouring, tweaked the baking time and opted out of the icing. Enjoy!

Flower Blossom Sugar Cookies

1 cup margarine
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla
1 egg
2 ¾ cups of flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
small round candies of your choice, I used M&M easter eggs
food colouring of your choice (optional)
sprinkles (optional)

• Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
• Combine flour, baking soda and baking powder. Set aside.
• In a separate bowl, cream margarine and sugar. Add egg and vanilla. Add in dry ingredients. The dough will be very crumbly.
• Add 4-5 drops of food colouring. [NOTE: maybe you’ll have better luck than me, but I found that the dough did not evenly absorb the food colouring. So my cookies turned out yellow speckled]
• Roll dough into 1 inch balls. Cut 6 evenly spaced slits into each ball, radiating from the centre. Each slit should be ½ of the way through the ball. [NOTE: Martha suggests slits ¾ of the way through the ball, but I found this too deep]
• Press your finger into the center of each ball to spread out the “petals.” Drop a candy into each indentation. Drop some sprinkles on the top of each “flower,” if desired.
• Bake for 15 minutes. The cookies will come out very soft, but the outside will crisp up nicely and the centres will be chewy.

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The ingredients take their starting positions

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The dry and wet ingredients take their corners

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After combining the dry and wet, the finished dough should look crumbly

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The dough progression

My meringues, Nonna’s magic

 

On Christmas Eve, Santa Claus holds nothing over my Nonna. While he is wiggling his way down chimneys across the globe, she is making a little magic of her own – in the kitchen.

Crispy golden fritters, stuffed with sharp cheese and anchovies, lay waiting for us on the countertop. A true holiday comfort food, the warmth and simple flavours of this dish envelope your mouth and rekindle memories of Christmases past.

Next comes the baccala, or cod, which is cooked with a traditional medley of figs, raisins, walnuts and potatoes. The sweetness of the fruit is a perfect pairing to the saltiness of the cod. The walnuts bring the dish a rich flavour and unexpected texture.

And the pièce de résistance is my Nonna’s pasta di mare, a delicacy which only comes once a year. Her classic tomato sauce is enriched by the flavours of fresh shrimp, scallops, squid and crab. As she plates the dish, my Nonna generously ladles out the sugu, or sauce, until the spaghetti is fully bathed in red.

As is the case with most of my Nonna’s cooking, there are no written recipes for these Christmas dishes. She calculates according to taste and touch. This makes it incredibly challenging for us to try and nail down a recipe on paper. My mother was on a mission this year, and is fairly confident she captured all the essential ingredients. But I know, there will always be that extra something that only my Nonna can bring to the dish.

Light and delicious: coconut meringues!

While dinner on Christmas Eve and Day are my Nonna and mother’s domain (my mom does a juicy bacon draped turkey), I am on dessert duty. And this year, I decided to try coconut meringues. This came about for two main reasons: we had leftover egg whites, and the recipe was ultra simple. Added bonus: this is one cookie that doesn’t pack a high-calorie punch.

For the recipe, I turned to our trusty 1973 edition of The Joy of Cooking. There’s an innate credibility that seems to emanate from the yellowing, sauce-stained pages of TJC.   

A cookbook classic

The recipe couldn’t be easier. Five ingredients: sugar, egg whites, salt, vanilla and shredded coconut. I am happy to report that I successfully beat the egg whites into stiff glossy peaks. However, I decided not to sift the granulated sugar, as called for by the recipe. I didn’t think it would make a difference, and opted not to dirty another utensil.  Once the stiff peaks were achieved, I folded in vanilla and the shredded coconut.  That’s it.

The cookies tasted like macaroons, except they were crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. Next time, I might reduce the amount of sugar to ¾ of a cup, to make the cookies slightly less sweet. In one of the batches I added a teaspoon of coco powder, which gave a nice hint of chocolate flavour.

The ever elusive (at least for me) stiff, glossy peaks!

The only aspect of this recipe that I wasn’t thrilled with was the presentation. The meringues I made ended up flattening out like regular cookies. Perhaps I should have formed a Hersey Kiss shape by using an icing piper. I’ll give it a try next time.

 

 Also, be sure you let the meringues cool completely before removing them from the baking sheet. Otherwise, half the cookie gets stuck to the parchment paper, giving the meringue a slightly disembowelled look. Otherwise, this recipe is definitely a keeper. And I would go so far as to call it my most successful cookie to date!

  

 

 

Coconut Meringue Cookies (from The Joy of Cooking)

– 1 cup granulated sugar

– 3 egg whites

– 1/8 teaspoon salt

– 1 teaspoon vanilla

– 1 ¼ cup shredded coconut (I used unsweetened)

– 1 teaspoon coco powder (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
  2. With an electric mixer on high, beat egg whites and salt until stiff, glossy peaks form.
  3. Add the sugar very slowly, beating constantly on high. If desired, add coco powder.
  4. By hand, fold in vanilla and shredded coconut.
  5. Drop the batter from a teaspoon onto a greased and well-floured tin. Bake for about 25-30 minutes. Cookies should be firm to the touch, and slightly golden (not brown) in colour.

 

 

Crisp outside, chewy inside, with a hint of coco!

 

Tastes Like Fall

Ever since I pulled out my favourite scarf last week, I have embraced the fact that fall is upon us. And, I couldn’t be happier! I love everything that fall has to offer: crisp air, a beautiful palate of multi-coloured leaves, scarves, sweaters, pumpkin patches, haunted forests, and of course, Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is my favourite holiday because it has no pretence. It’s not about gifts and gimmicks and carols. It’s just about bringing families and friends together, and taking a minute out of our busy lives to be thankful for what we have. Oh, and all this is done over a succulent meal of turkey and harvest vegetables. What more can anyone want?

If fall were a taste, it would definitely be a combination of pumpkin spice and molasses. Even for an enthusiastic such as myself, I think September is a bit too early to plough into pumpkin pies, tarts and muffins. However, now is the perfect time to indulge in ginger molasses cookies. And I found the perfect recipe for the chewy treats on Let Her Bake Cake, which is another must read blog for baking aficionados.  

Quintessential flavours of fall: ground clove, cinnamon and ginger

Quintessential flavours of fall: ground clove, cinnamon and ginger

These cookies were easy, quick and delicious. Just melt, mix, dollop and bake for about 8 minutes. The ground cloves, cinnamon and ginger give the cookies a rich spicy flavour that is offset by the sugar and molasses. As for texture, the cookies were crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside. The only challenge I encountered was trying not to eat the whole plate of cookies in one sitting!

These cookies need their personal space - leave about 3 inches between each dollop

These cookies need their personal space - leave about 3 inches between each dollop

Here’s the recipe, which originally appeared in The Silver Palate Cookbook.

Molasses Cookies

  • Makes 12 to 18 cookies depending on size
  • 12 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 cup sugar (I use 3/4 cup)
  • 1/4 cup molasses or dark treacle
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda

 

  1. Preheat the oven to 175C. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and add the sugar and molasses. Lightly beat the egg and add to the butter mixture, stirring well.
  3. In a bowl whisk the dry ingredients together. Add to the wet ingredients and mix until everything is combined.
  4. Drop the batter by heaping tablespoons onto the cookie sheet. Leave about 3 inches between each one since the cookies will spread as they bake. Bake 8 to 10 minutes, just until the cookies darken and are beginning to set in the middle. The longer you bake the cookies, the crispier they will be.
  5. Transfer to a cooling rack until cool and store in an airtight container (providing you haven’t already eaten them all!)
Dare you to eat just one!

Dare you to eat just one!