Dorie’s Cookies – Salted Chocolate-Caramel Bars

Julia Child quotation apron

Last week, when I needed a little inspiration, I ran into a friend from my housing co-operative. She told me to stop by her house on my way home from walking the dog, because she had a little present for me. It turned out to be the apron you can see at the top of the post, featuring one of my favourite Julia Child quotations. I like to bring baked goods to meetings, both because it gives me an excuse to bake more often and because I believe sharing food helps build community. (I also believe sharing sugar helps get us through our agendas faster, but that part may not be supported by science.)

The third week of each month is meeting-heavy for me, and the meetings tend to be busy ones. I brought the rest of the Breton galettes to one meeting, pulling out the second log of dough a little late in the day and having to bring the cookies freshly filled and still cooling on the pan. But, at least they made it there.

Salted Chocolate-Caramel Bars

Later that week, I baked Dorie’s salted chocolate-caramel bars, intending to bring them to another meeting. Though the shortbread baked up beautifully and the caramel topping came together exactly as described, the topping didn’t set by the time I had to leave for my meeting. I was afraid to bring them, as I didn’t want strings of caramel spread across our board table. So, I cut them into squares, still in the pan, and left them on the counter to finish setting.

When I returned, the topping was still quite soft, so I put the whole pan in the refrigerator and hoped for the best. By morning, the bars were easy to pull apart and the topping was set (if still a little soft). For the purposes of scientific research, I tried them straight out of the refrigerator and then again when they’d come to room temperature. They’re excellent either way, but I recommend exercising a little patience. When they’re at room temperature, the caramel becomes ooey-gooey in that way that every child delights in and every adult of good character should, too.

The best part is that they keep well in the fridge, so I was able to share these over several days, making sure to partake in a respectable number myself. I’ll definitely be making these again, but a day ahead if I plan to share them. I can’t think of a better way to turn a meeting into a party.

Salted Chocolate-Caramel Bars

March’s Dorie’s Cookies goodness can be found here and here at Tuesdays with Dorie.

Dorie’s Cookies – “Corked” Breton Galettes

"Corked" Breton Galettes

Have you been following this year’s Piglet Tournament of Cookbooks, over at Food52? It’s one of my favourite events of the year and it’s unfailingly entertaining.

Today, Dorie’s Cookies made it into the semi-final round, courtesy of a beautifully written, well-considered judgement by New York Times literary critic, Dwight Garner. I allow myself to get quite worked up about the reviews in the competition, all in good fun. My favourite ones don’t necessarily jibe with my choices for the winners of each round. For me, it’s the quality of the writer’s voice, the wholeheartedness of their explorations of each book, and the clarity of their reasoning that win me over. In this case, the winner was exactly the one I would have chosen myself.

I especially like Garner’s description of his wife and daughter’s devotion to Dorie. They sound like wise and discerning women. I read the review early this morning and thought about it again while I was making the dough for these galettes. Dorie’s books are all full of careful guidance and clever techniques. This dough comes together exactly as she describes, needs to be frozen only for an hour, and shapes itself perfectly using Dorie’s muffin tin trick.

I baked one log’s worth of cookies, leaving the other in the freezer for future cookie emergencies. I used jam that my mother’s friend Marianna made and I’m going to deliver some of the cookies to her mother, returning the kindness. Some will most certainly be eaten as I read through the rest of this week’s Piglet judgements, which inevitably make me hungry.

Who do you think will take this year’s Piglet trophy? I’m rooting for Dorie, but this competition is notoriously difficult to predict.

The first round of Dorie’s Cookies goodness for this month can be found here, at Tuesdays with Dorie.

Dorie’s Cookies – Valentine’s Day Share-a-Heart & Rose-Hibiscus Shortbread Fans

Rose-Hibiscus Shortbread Fans

In troubled times, nothing seems as healing as sharing food and company. I need to keep that in mind, the next time busy-ness and bitterness keep me away from my keyboard. Besides, in a city where the average rents are skyrocketing, we’re going to have to learn to rely on one another for sustenance and support. So, connecting through writing and food may become tools for survival as much as pleasurable pastimes.

That’s why Dorie Greenspan’s #cookiesandkindness initiative is such a timely project. Homemade cookies bring cheer while nourishing us in a deeply satisfying way – they may not be dinner, but psychologically and primally speaking, they will help assuage what ails you.

Valentine’s Day Share-a-Heart Cookies

Valentine's Day Share-a-Heart Cookies

Cookies certainly helped soothe my fellow committee members when we met on the evening of Valentine’s Day. I didn’t make one of the giant break-apart hearts that the recipe calls for, since it wouldn’t have fit on the table (or on the agenda, for that matter). Instead, passing these chocolate wafers around the table brought a necessary bit of cheer to the evening.

They remind me of Dorie’s Hot Chocolate Panna Cotta from Baking Chez Moi, with the same cocoa-forward flavour. The salt I used was a bit assertive, so I’ll probably reduce the quantity by 1/4 teaspoon next time I make these, but they were otherwise perfect. One of the delights of this book has been discovering how many delicious variations there can be for what seems like one of the most straightforward of cookies.

Rose-Hibiscus Shortbread Fans

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Shortbread is another cookie with simple roots and infinite variations. This version is made for showing off and sharing. Subtle notes of rose complement the brightness of hibiscus. My tea also included lemongrass, which added another layer of flavour. Rice flour increases the sandy texture of the cookies, which is welcome in shortbread. It’s perfect for an afternoon tea of dreaming and planning for a better future.

I want to believe we can beat the historical odds against curbing inequality. I hope that affordable housing solutions like housing co-operatives can once again build diverse communities in our cities. I’d like to see intersectionality become the guiding principle in movements and in everyday life.

Along the way, I’ll be baking and cooking to soothe myself and to nourish those around me. It’s a small thing, but it’s a necessary one.

February’s Dorie’s Cookies goodness can be found here and here at Tuesdays with Dorie.

Dorie’s Cookies – World Peace Cookies

World Peace Cookies

The story of Dorie Greenspan’s World Peace Cookies is quite famous in home-baking circles. It may be hard to believe that a little cookie could bring the world together, but eating one makes anything seem plausible. Come to think of it, whenever I’ve brought World Peace Cookies to a meeting, decision-making has been relatively peaceful, too. There may be something to this theory.

Roll and bake sablé cookies create a lot of peace in the kitchen, too. I try and keep a few logs of various kinds in the freezer, so that I can bake on a moment’s notice. To keep your own peace of mind, make sure you treat this dough with patience, leaving it in the mixer until it really comes together, then working it into logs that hold together and are solid throughout. Your efforts will be well-rewarded.

Bonus Bake: Christmas Spice Cookies

Christmas Spice Cookies

These Christmas Spice Cookies were scheduled for December, and I made them in time for Christmas, but I didn’t have much time for posting to the blog last month. So, I’m presenting them now.

They’re one of four variations Dorie provides for her Do-Almost-Anything Vanilla Cookie Dough and they live up to their holiday-inspired name. These cookies are delicately spiced, allowing the vanilla dough to shine, and they’re the perfect foil for the deeper flavours of gingerbread and chocolate on the cookie tray. They’re also a great alternative to sugar cookies, with a more complex flavour than the usual cut-out Christmas favourites.

I’m a big fan of both of Dorie’s Do-Almost-Anything Doughs. They’re easy to work with, full of flavour, and batched big enough to make several variations or an office party’s worth of one kind of cookie.

This week’s Dorie’s Cookies goodness can be found here, along with posts about the other Tuesdays with Dorie selected recipe for December, Breakfast Biscotti.

Baking Chez Moi – Granola Cake and Honey-Yogurt Mousse

Honey-Yogurt Mousse

January is a tough month for bakers, professional or amateur. So many people have sworn off…well, food…that it can be hard to find takers for anything sweet or rich. This month’s Tuesdays with Dorie picks from Baking Chez Moi will gently lure almost anyone back onto the dessert wagon. Neither of them are too sweet and they’re both perfect comfort foods, for me at least.

With the relentlessly icy winter we’ve been having, a cup of tea and a comforting treat are exactly what’s needed to chase away the chill.

Granola Cake

Granola Cake

This cake reminds me of the “snacking cakes” we used to have in our lunchboxes in elementary school. Invariably baked in a 9″ x 13″ pan, they existed at the corner of cake and cookie. I don’t remember any that incorporated granola, but it’s a brilliant addition. I used muesli in mine, which was perhaps a little less sweet than granola would have been, but I found the cake just right – not too soft to eat out of hand, without being too dry; sweet enough to eat by itself, but not so sweet you’d pass up a little compote or ice cream on the side. I cut the cake into small squares, saving a few for myself this week and freezing the rest to share later this month.

Honey-Yogurt Mousse

Honey-Yogurt Mousse

I’ve made this recipe a few times now and it has even made a guest appearance on the blog once before.

I love desserts like this, homey enough for a weeknight meal, but also just as nice for a special meal – it’s all in the presentation. This mousse is as simple to make as panna cotta, but there’s a little extra prep time needed for straining the yogurt.

I’ve made it with flavoured yogurts and plain, served it with whipped crème fraîche, macerated berries, or all on its own. I do think Dorie’s suggestion to serve it with a crunchy cookie sounds brilliant, but I’ve yet to try that.

I think if more people knew how easy it is to produce a simple dessert like this or panna cotta, scratch pudding, or even pots de crème, sales of boxed puddings and gelatin desserts would plummet, don’t you?

Here’s to a year full of ordinary delights (punctuated with splashier ones for special occasions), on the table and across the rest of our lives.

You can find the rest of the Tuesdays with Dorie crew’s entries on this month’s recipes here.

Dorie’s Cookies – Pfefferneusse

I can’t seem to stop baking lately, with cookbook reviews, craft fairs, cookie swaps, and family get-togethers whisking me through November at a faster pace than I care for. The compensation is that the holidays are just around the corner and all that baking will go to good use. 

Well, except that some of it was donated and almost all the rest was shared and shared again, until I realized that I’d only managed to stash away some biscotti in the freezer. Everything else was gone.

Which sounds like a sad story, but honestly, I’m happy to have a reason to bake more. It’s my favourite way to gear up for the holidays.

These Pfefferneusse (or pepper nuts) were a great way to start. They’re full of spices and pecans, Christmas staples, and they can be dipped in chocoate or dusted with icing sugar, making them pretty and even tastier.

I’ll be sharing these Christmas week, so I left all but a few plain and popped them into the freezer.

However, I’m considering making another batch, so I can share them a little sooner. They’re this month’s Cookies and Kindness selection. Dorie has shared the recipe and you can make some to make someone’s day.

This week’s Dorie’s Cookies goodness can be found here, along with posts about the other Tuesdays with Dorie selected recipe for December, Christmas Spice Cookies.

Dorie’s Cookies – Chocolate Crème Sandwiches

Chocolate Crème Sandwiches

It feels right that new Dorie Greenspan cook-alongs start in the fall. Obviously, it’s tied to the fall book release season, but it also coincides with the waning of summer and the year’s retreat. What better way to combat the cold and darkness than to dig into a cookbook full of rich, comforting food with a steady and nurturing guide?

Even better, these cook-along provide a host of virtual companions to combat the nesting urge that settles on so many of us in the winter months. And since the subject of Dorie’s latest book is cookies, the quintessential sharing food, your in person social life won’t wane, either.

For my first foray into this new book, I made Chocolate Crème Sandwiches, one of the two November picks from this cookbook for Tuesdays with Dorie. They’re a homemade version of Oreos, but I like them a whole lot more. Especially since I made a grown up version – instead of vanilla, I flavoured the filling with Bailey’s Irish Cream.

Dorie mentions in the headnote that this dough is easy to work with and it’s truly a dream. I only baked a few cookies tonight, cutting the rest out and freezing them. Now, I’ve got a bag full of them, ready to bake when needed. The filling lasts for a few days, so fresh-baked cookies will be on the menu for the rest of the week.

As much as I’d like to keep them all to myself – the salt to sweet ratio is just perfect, as is the chocolately crunch – I’ll be sharing these, in the spirit of Dorie’s new project, Cookies & Kindness. She’s sharing recipes from the book monthly and encouraging others to bake and spread a little kindness wherever they may. I think that’s a lovely practice and I hope it encourages me to bake more often, so I can spread some kindness to my family, friends, and neighbours.

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If you want to get on the bandwagon, and you live in Canada, you’ll be eligible to win yourself a copy, courtesy of Raincoast Books, when I post my full review of Dorie’s Cookies as part of my annual holiday cookbook review. It all starts on November 10th and I’ve got a great line up again this year.

This week’s Dorie’s Cookies goodness can be found here, along with posts about the other Tuesdays with Dorie selected recipe for November, Peanut Butter Change-Ups.

Baking Chez Moi – Custardy Apple Squares

Custardy Apple Squares

I always gravitated to the humanities in school – literature and writing, history and philosophy – these subjects, along with the more concrete elements of the sciences, grabbed my attention and often felt almost effortless. Math, however, was not my natural element and I remained convinced that I had no talent for it.

But, I’m kinder to myself than I once was and realize now that I had been delving into math from a very young age. I just expressed it in the form of cookies and cakes. It may not be higher math, but baking is certainly one of the more satisfying – and even elegant – ways to experience math.

So, even though I can only experience the majesty of black holes and fractals through popular science writing, I am able to witness the wonder of a few simple ingredients coming together in precise proportion to create something magically more than the sum of its parts.

Dorie’s apple squares are a lovely example of this kind of culinary marvel. A little flour, milk, butter, sugar, and eggs transform into something that isn’t quite cake and isn’t quite custard. In different proportions, the same ingredients can produce everything from a rich bread to a sturdy sponge cake.

This recipe is quite similar to one of my favourite apple desserts, Marie-Hélène’s Apple Cake, but with its own unique texture and snackable square shape. I differentiated it further from its rum-rich cousin by taking Dorie’s suggestion of using a tiny drop of almond extract in the batter, which somehow manages to enrich the apple flavour even more.

Nicola apples

I used some gorgeous Nicola apples that I found at my local food co-op today, but these would be great with any baking apples (or pears, another one of Dorie’s variation suggestions).

These won’t last long, but the good news is that they’re quick to prepare, even with the 40-minute bake factored in. Delicious dessert that requires a minimum of effort and uses pantry staples. That might be the baker’s golden ratio.

You can find the rest of the Tuesdays with Dorie crew’s entries on this recipe here or here, along with posts about this month’s other selected recipe, Pear Tart with Crunchy Almond Topping.

Baking with Julia – The Big Finish

Baking with Julia

All the way back in 2012, Tuesdays with Dorie started working their way through Baking with Julia. They’d recently finished baking through Dorie Greenspan‘s Baking, From My Home to Yours and wanted to continue with another of her books. Meanwhile, I’d been participating in French Fridays with Dorie, which was tackling Dorie’s terrific Around My French Table.

Thinking this would be a great project to do with my teenaged nieces, I jumped on board. I created a collaborative blog, The Family That Bakes Together…, and we were off to the races. Or the kitchen, really.

We didn’t last through the project. As my nieces became adults, it became too difficult to co-ordinate baking dates. But, I’ll always cherish the experiences we had in our Baking with Julia adventures and I’d like to think they will, too. I’ve followed along since, reading some of the posts of those who continued with the project, and I love finding occasions to bake from the book on my own.

Since the logistics of getting together to bake the group’s final recipe would have proved impossible, I’ve decided to share some of my favourite posts from our year-and-a-bit on the project. Though honestly, I read through all the posts with relish, enjoying the memories they evoked. If you have the opportunity to bake or cook (or do anything you love to do, really) with two or more generations, do it – it’s a wonderful experience.

Kat’s meditation on sisters and chocolate.

How my French-Canadian mother made Irish Soda Bread her signature bread.

Jessica’s debut post: Hungarian Shortbread.

How making biscotti revealed Kat’s power-hungry ambitions.

Jessica waxes poetic about pie and cake.

The most fun I’ve had writing a post, on this blog or my own: Bagel Throwdown.

Kat evokes Proust and Jessica makes madeleines.

The real stars of the show are the stalwarts that baked their way through the whole book. I can hardly wait to read their posts, detailing their experience with the project’s crowning glory – Martha Stewart’s Glorious Wedding Cake.

After you head over and congratulate them, you might want to consider joining in on the other project the group is working on – working through Dorie’s Baking Chez Moi. I join in when I can and everything I’ve made has been fantastic. Or, you can jump on board Dorie’s latest initiative, Cookies & Kindness, and help spread some joy.

Baking Chez Moi – Rice Pudding with Spiced Hibiscus Syrup

Vanilla bean rice pudding with blueberries and spiced hibiscus syrup

I’ve had Dorie’s rice pudding before, with lemony caramel apples. It’s different from the rice pudding I grew up with, which was all about making leftover rice delicious. (Though even that kind of rice pudding can put on some party clothes.)

Dorie’s rice pudding uses arborio rice, which is simmered in whole milk and flavoured with a little sugar and half a vanilla bean. It’s simple, rich and delicious, the perfect backdrop for flavours in every season.

In summer, she recommends spiced hibiscus syrup and fresh strawberries. We’re well into blueberry season here, so I used those instead. They’re just as nice a pairing for hibiscus as strawberries and they’re what was freshest at the market today.

Spiced Hibiscus Syrup

As a bonus, there is plenty of leftover hibiscus syrup. I mixed a tablespoonful into some cold Pelligrino earlier today, but there are endless cocktail and mocktail possibilities for this jar of simple syrup. Or, I could just spend the rest of the week drizzling it over ice cream.

You can find the rest of the Tuesdays with Dorie crew’s entries on this recipe here or here, along with posts about this month’s other selected recipe, Rose Frasier.