Saturday, January 9, 2010

Vacation Time!

Cthulu-Carrot

I'm going on vacation for a few weeks, and although I will be bringing my laptop (and taking lots of photos, no doubt), I'm not sure I'll be blogging much, if at all! So, for now, here is a photo of a mutant carrot I got in my last CSA pick up, which I have named Mr. Squiddy (okay, I didn't really name it). In the meantime, keep an eye on my Flickr stream for photos which I will hopefully be uploading as we go! And I anticipate at least 5 shots of milk tea, because Hong Kong, here I come!

Christmas Cookies-Part 1

Christmas Cookie Box-2009

Should I post a separate entry for each kind of cookie? Naaaah....that would definitely be more ambitious than I am feeling right now. So I think I'll just break it into two posts and just include a couple of the recipes--of course, if there is one you really want and I don't post it, send me an email! So I'll just go more or less in order--this year, I made 7 different kinds of cookies for my gift boxes and arranged them in takeout packages (it just occurred to me I never took a photo of the outside of a box, oh well! They were just tied shut with hot pink raffia, anyway.)

So, starting at the top left, we have sparkling cranberry gems!

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I saw these over at Bakers Banter where they have an excellent step by step photo tutorial on making these. You would never guess it, but these cookies are made entirely with whole wheat flour and contain no butter at all! Plus cranberries? Hello health food! Alright, that might be stretching it a bit, but seriously, compared to the other cookies that I made, these are really quite virtuous! And if you've got a food processor then mixing up this batter takes no more than 5 minutes. A quick bake, and you've got moist, chewy, tangy cookies with just a little crunch from the sugar crystals.

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Gratuitous extra photo, mostly to show off this awesome bowl I bought at this year's Bust Holiday Craftacular. It occurred to me that I don't think I've ever bought an actual gift for anyone there--I always end up with a bunch of stuff for myself. This is from SKT Ceramics; she had a whole range of bowls (and cups, and dishes) with different animals, but the penguin chicks were my favorite. I couldn't resist this and it's perfect for holding cookies, no?

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Next, green tea shortbread. I've previously posted about these here--the only difference I've made this time is to dip the surface of the cookies in sugar before baking. I love these--if you make them, make sure you pick a good powdered green tea (read the label--there are some instant green tea mixes that are sweetened and have creamer added, which you definitely do not want).

Double Ginger Cookies

And next, one of my favorite cookies of all time--double ginger chews! These use both ground ginger AND crystallized ginger, so they are really, really gingery. Not everyone's cup of tea, I admit, but they are so spicy sweet and delicious, and as long as you don't overbake them, they are nicely chewy (even overbaked, they are still pretty great). The coarse sugar they're rolled in is optional, but provides a great crunch, not to mention a nice sparkle!

Lime sables

These are the cookies that you can barely see in the box photo--lime sabl├ęs, which, as far as I can tell, is basically a shortbread. In this case, it's been flavored with a lot of grated lime zest, which makes for lovely green flecks all through the dough and a fantastic smell. I would add a drop or two of lime oil next time though, for a really limey flavor.

Lime sugar

The zest is rubbed together with the sugar before being combined with the other ingredients. I can't tell you how amazing this smells, but I want to just keep bowls of it around everywhere--way better than scented candles or anything like that. Anyway, enough of my babbling, on to the recipes!

Sparkling Cranberry Gems from King Arthur Flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour (I used King Arthur's, naturally)
1 1/2 cups dried cranberries
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pats
3 tablespoons milk
Coarse sugar for rolling the cookies in

Place the flour and dried cranberries in the bowl of a food processor. Process until the cranberries are coarsely shredded. Alternately, toss the cranberries with flour and chop roughly with a large knife. I did it both ways, and honestly, chopping with a knife doesn't take much longer.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Whisk together the flour/cranberry mixture, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add the vanilla and butter, mixing until the butter is thoroughly distributed, but some pea-sized chunks still remain. Dribble in the milk while mixing; the dough will become cohesive.

Pour some coarse sugar into a shallow dish or pie plate. Scoop dough by the teaspoonful (I used a small cookie scoop) into the dish and roll to cover. Place on baking sheets, about an inch apart, and press flat. The original recipe says to bake for 16-17 minutes, but I found that mine were done in around 10. You don't want them to brown much (just around the edges). Cool on a rack.

Double Ginger Cookies
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. salt
2/3 cup canola oil
1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup molasses
1 egg
1 cup chopped crystallized ginger
1/2 cup coarse sugar

Preheat oven to 325F. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, spices and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.

Beat together the oil, brown sugar and molasses until well blended. Add the whole egg and stir until blended. Stir in the flour mixture and the crystallized ginger.

Use a size 40 ice cream scooper (or tablespoon cookie scoop) to make balls of dough; roll these in the coarse sugar and place on prepared baking sheets about an inch and a half apart. Flatten slightly with the bottom of a glass dipped in sugar. Bake until the tops of the cookies are just barely set; they will also crackle and puff, but will flatten out a bit as they cool. For soft, chewy cookies, this will take about 12-13 minutes of baking. If you want crunchy cookies, bake a few minutes longer. Cool on a rack. These are excellent keeper cookies and can be made several weeks ahead of time.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year!

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Well, I hope you all had a safe and happy new year's eve. Mine was very quiet, which I felt like I needed, and the best part was sleeping in really late this morning. I love sleeping and I never feel like I get enough during the week! I've been having a nice leisurely morning so far, and made myself a bowl of sweet bean soup for my first breakfast of 2010. This is not a very good photo of it--it's made with mung beans (although usually sold in packages labelled as "green beans" at Chinese groceries), pearl barley, some rock sugar, and a lot of water. Sweet bean soups might be a strange concept to some, but trust me, this is really comfort food! Ordinarily I would have made some little rice dumplings with glutinous rice flour to go in it, but a. I'm lazy and b. I had some tong yuan leftover from the solstice.

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Tong yuan are basically glutinous rice flour dumplings with a sweet filling--common ones are black sesame, red bean, or lotus, but my favorite is peanut! These aren't that hard to make from scratch, but, well, see point a above. Much easier to buy and keep in the freezer.

I still have cookie posts coming; hopefully I will get some of those up before I leave for vacation--but more on that later. Here's to the new year--may it be the best so far!