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Archive for the ‘cookies’ Category

The produce at our local markets has grown and multiplied from a few sparse punnet baskets and bunches of herbs to tables creaking and groaning under the plenitude and abundance of Summer Harvest; farmers groggy and bewildered by the weeks of harvesting, packing, selling, counting and chatting with the locals.  Speaking of local, have you seen this? It’s a message I wish more people would take to heart and it comes from an unusual source; more proof that the message is sinking in to a larger audience and being picked up as a marketing tool by larger corporations.  Nothing wrong with that, if you ask me. Let’s get this voice out there a bit, yes?

I’ve taken a little hiatus, so to speak, from the blogosphere to concentrate on various little projects that have kept me out of trouble over the warmer months.  The last week, however, I’ve been a captive to my kitchen, a large quantity of jamming jars and boxes and bags of fresh produce that I’ve been slowly turning into the most delicious, tempting, multi-coloured jars of preserves, pickles, chutneys and jams.  I’ve gone through all my aprons, tea towels, wooden spoons and dish soap in an attempt to keep up with the seemingly never ending supply of this wonderful season’s fruits and vegetables.  I’ve stirred bubbling pots of sticky, syrupy jams until my arms have gone into spasm.  I’ve washed utensils and sieves and strainers until my fingernails have become soft as jelly.  And I’ve loved every hot, sweaty, sticky minute of it.  I look at the mountain of red and purple and green jars growing larger and larger on the counter and think forward to the cold months coming too soon to meet us, and the joy we’ll all get opening up those jars, Summer springing forth again like a surprise visit from an old family friend as we dip into the sticky, sweet, sour or bitter preserves inside. But more about that later.  It’s time for a little catch up.

While I have been absent in the digital sense, I’ve been far from quiet in the kitchen.  In fact, as absent from or tired of I get of one thing or another, somehow I always have time for the kitchen.  I find that the act of cooking in the kitchen metomorphosizes  to suite my mood: from a comforting hug for a bruised or bitter soul to an outward expression of joy and happy energy, the kitchen shapes itself around my current mood, filling in the gaps, holding me upright, much in the same way as that personification of love, the ever supportive Mr P.  And Stirring and seasoning and sieving my way through the last few months, I’ve made a couple share-worthy things:

strawbrhubmix

Like a trio of Strawberry and Rhubarb concoctions not tried before in the Lick Your Own Bowl Kitchen:

Firstly, a Strawberry Rhubarb bread pudding made with an unopened, left over Panettoni from Christmas.

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Then came a Strawberry Rhubarb Cookie Sandwich, using up a half batch of sugar cookie dough left in the fridge from a previous endeavor.

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Finally, for a picnic with friends on the banks of Lake Ontario, celebrating Canada’s Birthday, tartlets of Strawberry Rhubarb Mousse with a minted Strawberry Rhubarb Salsa.

StrawbrhubmousseStrawbrhubmousse1Strawbrhubmousse2

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You know the saying, “when life gives you lemons, make lemon aide”, well my philosophy in life runs in the same vein: When the banana’s of your life turn black, make banana bread.” Which is my way of saying, when life’s being a little rough with you, eat cake. Also, it ties in rather neatly with my Waste-not-want-not upbringing. For a change, however, it being The Season of Great Changes and all, I eschewed all things expected and made something a little crazier. When asked to provide, and I quote, A Simple, No Fuss (with a pointed raised eyebrow, Ms Vickers) Dessert for an evening of screaming and gasping over the new series of Battlestar Galactica, what better remedy to such an unnatural request than brownies; and with those last two, very black banana’s staring at me from the bottom of the dusty fruit bowl, what else could I do but provide Banana Chocolate Brownies? These turned out to be a bit drier than my normal brownie recipe, which I usually diligently obey Nigella’s instruction on, but that made them just perfect with a big, yummy scoop of banana ice-cream.

*note: I put a cup of walnuts on top of the mixture before baking to make a walnut-like crust, but go ahead and mix them into the batter before baking. Ditto with the white choc chips, or go super wild and use dark choc chips for extra punch.

Banana Chocolate Brownies

adapted from The Canadian Living Test Kitchen

80 ml butter (⅓ cup)
185g dark chocolate, chopped (I used a mix of 60 and 70%)
150ml sugar (⅔ cup)
2 eggs
Heaping, oozing ½ cup mashed, ripe banana (the blacker the better)
2 tsp Vanilla
150ml flour (⅔ cup)
1tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
¼ cup white chocolate chips
1 cup walnuts, broken up

– pre-heat oven to 350˚F

– line an 8″ square baking tin (or equivalent)

-in a heavy bottomed saucepan, melt chocolate and butter. Let cool a bit, then whisk in the sugar.

– in a separate bowl, whisk the eggs with the banana and vanilla. Add to the chocolate mix.

– whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt, sift into chocolate and mix well.

– scraped into baking tin, top with nuts.

– bake for about 30 mins until set in the middle. Remove from oven, top with white chocolate chips and allow to cool for about 10 minutes before cutting.

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Crunchies1

Crunchies are something a lot of South Africans grew up with, like Hershey’s Kisses in North America, or hot, roasted chestnuts in Europe. Yet, I never ever thought that they were in fact a purely South African treat.

“What are those?” I was often asked when giving out Cookie Gifts last year at this time.
“Crunchies. You know, like your Mum used to make.”

Blank stares all around. Which is when I discovered, with a little help from my friend Google, that the reason most people here in Toronto had never heard of a Crunchie is because they’d, well, never heard of Crunchies. Hmm. This didn’t seem right to me when I had such marvelous memories of my own Mum baking batches of them for us kids every winter and every birthday. Yummy, the smell of bubbling golden syrup, the crunchy, chewy squares we were somehow allowed to eat so many of. We never thought of them as even vaguely healthy as kids, when somehow healthy meant things like broccoli and lentils, blech, and yet, as an adult, I can see why these were the cookies our parents were so keen to get us eating. Not that they’re made of lentils, mind you, but when you compare them to so many of the other choices out there, they’re positively angelic, and getting children to eat their oats porrige … well, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. So here it is, North America. Go forth and Crunch for all you’re worth. You’ll not regret it.

Crunchies3

Crunchies

1½ sticks butter
2 Tbsp golden syrup (eg: Lyles)
¾ cup sugar
1 tsp bicarb
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 cups whole rolled oats (not the quick cook kind)
1 cup coconut
1 Tbsp orange rind, finely grated

– preheat the oven to 350˚F

– melt the butter with the sugar and syrup. Bring to the boil and as soon as it starts to bubble, add the bicarb and mix, removing from heat

– mix all the dry ingredients in a large bowl and add the butter mix, using your hands if need be to mix evenly.

– press the mixture into a greased roasting tin or swiss roll tin, getting the mixture to about ½ an inch thick.

– bake for 15 minutes until golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool for a couple minutes before cutting into squares. Allow to cool for a further 10 mins before removing from pan.

crunchies2

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basler brunsli

These little hearts of joy were a new thing for my cookie collection this year. This is traditional Swiss cookie-making at it’s best, if you ask me. Chocolate, cinnamon, cloves and almonds, what’s not to like? And with no butter or other fat in it, it’s a conscience-soothing nibble at this cookie-glut time of the year. Goodness, it doesn’t even use the yolk of the egg, so you have a great excuse to make real custard for your Christmas pudding this year as well. I’m just so in love with these cookies, I made two batches instead of one and intend to extend their seasonal allocation right past Christmas Nibbles on to Spring Snack and Summer Ice-cream Garnish.

A friend gave me lovely gift of fair-trade cocoa and vanilla sugar, which I used to make the second batch. Just too yummy.

basler brunsli 2

The dough can seem a little tricky the first time you make these, not being quite so doughy as crumbly, but just keep the batches you work with small, the rest in the freezer, and keep working the crumble, nutty, chocolatey mass together one cookie at a time if need be.

*note: I used turbinado (Raw) sugar for the top sprinkling because I like the slightly golden colour and the texture, but you can get large sugar crystals in all sorts and colours so don’t feel limited.

**note: for the first batch I used Callebaut Couverture, chopped up and on the second batch I got a little lazy and used Callebaut Choc Chips. I found the chips a little harder than the couverture and ended up having to warm them, along with the cocoa and spices, over a bowl of warm water until just before the chocolate started to melt in order to grind the chocolate up.

***note: if you don’t want to use the alcohol, substitute water or apple juice. Although, the actual alcohol will evaporate during cooking, so it’s perfectly fine for children. Also try using Kahlua for some fun.

basler brunsli 3

Basler Brunsli

250g good dark chocolate, 70%, chopped
⅓ cup cocoa powder
2 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp cloves
2 egg whites
¼ cup icing sugar
3 cups ground almonds
3 Tbsp Brandy or other
Course sugar for sprinkling (about ¼ cup)

– blend the chocolate, cocoa and spices in a food processor until finely ground

– add almonds and mix well

– in a large bowl, whip the eggwhites until frothy. Add the icing sugar in two batches, whipping well between additions, until firm peaks form

– fold in the chocolate-almond mix and the brandy

– form into two logs, wrap in plastic and freeze for at least 30 mins

– preheat the oven to 325˚F

– working with one batch of dough at a time, sprinkle your pastry board with sugar and roll dough out carefully over sugar until 1cm thick. Cut shapes (traditionally 2″ hearts are used) and place on a cookie tray. Sprinkle each cookie with sugar crystals, pressing slightly on each cookie to embed the sugar a little.

– bake in the oven for 18 – 20 mins

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Christmas Cookie selection

Phew! Finally I can sit down to a nice cup of tea, wipe the flour from my forehead and, more importantly, wash my apron. The poor thing is starting to look more like a piece of modern sculpture than an apron, so covered is it in flour and cookie dough and various bits of other pastry. But what a bake it was! Even though I didn’t get around to making the shortbread I wanted to, or those cheddar and rosemary crackers, my freezer is chock-a-block full of a large enough variety of Christmas Cheer. Enough to make me wonder quite seriously about that gym membership pamphlet the postman so kindly popped through my letter slot this morning. I’ll need a team of hungry elves to get through this lot!

I truly do revel in this time of year, here in the cold, white north. Each season brings its own joys and flavours, but somehow, despite my love of all things fresh in the Summer, and warm in the Autumn, it’s the Winter that puts a smile in my heart. Just put a pot of hot, mulled apple cider on the stove and I’m in heaven. I’ve always been a Winter person, loving, from an early age, the bite of cold on my cheeks and nose, and the burrowing one must do into warm woolens and snuggly sweaters. Thank goodness the somewhat more Winter-weary Mr P puts on a brave and tenacious spirit when ever I want to walk to Destination B instead of taking a warm and comfy street car because I do love a stomp in the snow. It’s the time of the year when any one can act like a child again and not risk immediate institutionalisation.

Christmas Cookie selection 2

I made this year pretty much what I made last year, in terms of cookies, which include traditional seasonal favourites like the somewhat crunchy, somewhat chewy Molasses Spice cookies; Gingerbread men with silver buttons and Royal smiles; peanut butter cookies, perfect with a glass of milk, plus a couple less traditional types like chocolate-orange harlequins, South African Crunchies and Basler Brunsli (which is currently my favourite Christmas treat).

One or two recipes to follow…

xxx

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