I know I was extolling the virtues of sharing all over Instagram last week, but I realized today that for all the baking I did last week, I didn’t have any treats (savoury or sweet) left in the house. I remedied that by picking up a pint of strawberries this afternoon and am now battling the urge to re-purpose the goat’s cheese I’ve got saved for Cook the Book Fridays – there’s nothing nicer than a goat cheese and strawberry tartine at this time of year. Except maybe fresh summer strawberries all on their own. So, the goat cheese is safe for now.
I do admit to hanging on to more of this rhubarb tart than I usually do for the baked goods I make. Rhubarb is one of my favourite things in the garden and my estimation of my fair share of a rhubarb dish may be a little skewed. This was wonderful the day it was baked and it was still good for breakfast the next day (or so). Its base is Dorie’s sweet tart dough, cookie-ish without being overly sweet. The filling is rhubarb brightened with lime juice and zest and covered in custard, then topped with streusel.
I could eat variations of this tart with whatever happens to be in season and enjoy them very much, but I’d always be counting down the months to when it’s time to harvest the rhubarb from the garden.
Luckily, there’s still some rhubarb to be had, though I rarely make the same thing twice with it in the same season – my rhubarb recipe file is ridiculously large. Once it’s gone, I’ll console myself with all the other berries and stone fruits to come.
I’ll also start getting to know my new friend – a very kind Co-op neighbour gave me some sourdough starter at a meeting tonight. So, if you have any sourdough advice, let me know. I’m determined not to let it die!
You can find the rest of the Tuesdays with Dorie crew’s entries on this month’s recipes here.
I found out recently that some of my neighbours think that my diet consists mostly of dessert. So much so that I’ve been told that one of my housing co-op neighbours was dumbfounded when a very healthy vegan meal I made was described to her. I guess between my Instagram feed and my fondness for bringing treats to meetings and gatherings, people may be thinking of staging an intervention. (In East Van, this would look like a gentle redirection in the food co-op toward the alternative flours and sweeteners.)
I suppose I should start posting my everyday eating a little more often, but I’m not starting today. I got a new oven this morning and what better way to test it than to bake up some chocolate chip cookies? One of this month’s Tuesdays with Dorie choices is her Newest Chocolate Chip Cookie, which I’ve been wanting to try ever since I vehemently disagreed with the judgement that put Dorie out of this year’s Piglet competition. Personally, I love adding chopped chocolate dust to cookies and I was especially intrigued by the hints of nutmeg and coriander in the cookie.
Of course, my timing isn’t perfect. These are the kind of chocolate chippers that benefit from a night’s rest. I gave the dough an hour in the fridge and popped in a test batch. My research so far tells me I have nothing to regret in having made that decision. I am curious to know if I’ll think they’re even better when I bake the rest of the cookies tomorrow, though. Right now I can tell you that they’re a little soft, a little chewy, a little crisp, and very delicious. For an even better description of these cookies, head over to Sarah Jampel’s Food52 article, which has links to this recipe and to Dorie’s Classic Best Chocolate Chip Cookies, too.
These cookies bring me back to my Girl Guides days, when one of the requirements for camp was to bring three dozen sturdy cookies along for snack times. There were always some of these, along with Ranger cookies, oatmeal raisin, and good old chocolate chip. I’ve made them myself on a number of occasions, but not for many years.
That’s a shame, because these cookies are the perfect cookie jar cookies – they never get tooth-breakingly hard or deplorably dry and they’re just as good for a snack on a hike as they are for an unfussy dessert.
This version of the cookie (or biscuit, as they’re called in Australia and New Zealand) is particularly special for the Tuesdays with Dorie crowd, because it was provided to Dorie by one of our own, Mardi of eat. live. travel. write. (Mardi is also about to join the ranks of cookbook authors, with a cookbook due to come out in Fall, 2018.)
She made hers to mark ANZAC Day, which takes place on April 25th. If you’d like to try your hand at these this year, you can pick up a copy of Dorie’s Cookies, or try Mardi’s version.
This month hasn’t been one for cooking very much from cookbooks for me. There have been a lot of improvised meals and dishes that I cook from memory and adjust to what I have on hand. The list of dishes that I can rely on that way has grown year-by-year and I have my love of cookbooks to thank for that, along with the guidance of many good cooks, starting with my mother.
I include chocolate chip cookies on the list of foods I can make without reference to a recipe, but I’m always interested in trying new recipes for them. I don’t have a Platonic ideal recipe for these cookies – I am happy whether they’re chewy, crispy, cakey, or barely there between chunks of chocolate. I’ve enjoyed them with all sorts of flour combinations, add ins, and variations. So I’m open to any new twist or trick I can add to my chocolate chip cookie repertoire.
This recipe promised a crispy cookie, but I ended up with one that was fluffier, instead. I’m not sure if it was the addition of oats (a variation on the oatmeal raisin variation given in the recipe), if it was my conversion of the recipe from weights to cups, or if it was a misinterpretation of a British ingredient. I suspect it was the conversion. No matter, though, because the cookies were delicious, even if they looked nothing like their inspiration.
I added a little more salt, along with some cardamom and nutmeg, to the recipe, otherwise I think they’d have been under-seasoned. That might be my North American palate speaking, or the garden-variety butter I used.
I expect I’ll cook a little more from cookbooks next month, especially as spring has begun in earnest here and early local produce will soon appear. I’ve got some River Cottage recipes bookmarked for just that reason.
You can find the rest of the group’s posts, here. I encourage you to check them out – you’ll meet some wonderful bloggers while creating some wonderful meals.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
I discovered Irvin Lin’s blog, Eat the Love, way back in 2010, when he participated in a round up of gluten-free Thanksgiving dishes hosted by Shauna Ahern of Gluten-Free Girl. I was struck by the creativity of his recipes, his openness to experimentation, and the visual impact of his blog. I loved the voice in his posts, combining stories and recipes in a smart and engaging way, while also genuinely connecting with his readers. His gorgeous creations should have been intimidating, but the way he wrote his descriptions and instructions had the opposite effect – making the reader feel that his projects were doable and that they’d be rewarded with flavour, even if they didn’t achieve picture-perfect results.
Over the years Lin’s blog has only gotten better, so it’s not surprising that he’s come out with a cookbook. It’s one that showcases what’s best about his approach to baking – inventive, playful, rooted in classics, but unafraid to explore new directions. When I first paged through Marbled, Swirled, and Layered, it was the flavour combinations that I noticed first – throughout his primary recipes and variations, he makes choices that show the title of his book doesn’t just refer to his dishes’ structure – he layers, swirls, and marbles flavour, too.
Lin does so with an attention to detail that I suspect comes from his background in design. His recipe titles reflect this – like his Lemon and Fresh Mint Shaker Tart with Masa Harina Crust or Seville Orange Bars with Salted Shortbread and Gin Meringue – but you can follow this precision right into the ingredients list. He uses alternative flours, browns butter, adds fruit or herbs or extracts, all in service of bringing flavours and textures together in inventive and delightful combinations.
For anyone who has been baking for a decade or three, these innovations are fun to try and the finished products are gratifying to serve. For anyone who is just starting out as a baker, his clear instructions will help you create complex and lovely baked goods that will make people think you’re an old hand.
The first recipe I tried, Chocolate, Peanut Butter, and Butterscotch Layered Cookies, is simple enough to make with kids, but its flavours are complex. The bottom layer combines browned butter and brown sugar to make a soft and chewy base that could pass for a peanut butter cookie. But that flavour is hidden in the top chocolate layer, cleverly signaled by a crosshatch.
I made this cookie as a donation to a bake sale table and they disappeared so quickly, I had to go home and make another batch.
My next holiday event was a cookie swap, so I stayed in the Cookies chapter and tried my hand at the Chocolate-Vanilla Checkerboard Cookies. These are old-fashioned butter cookies that are updated with vanilla bean and chocolate extract. They look complicated to construct, but Lin’s instructions walked me through the process quickly and perfectly (though I could use a little more symmetry in my execution).
I baked them all, filling my six-bag quota and bringing the rest to the swap for snacking. I had none to take back home with me.
Well, that’s not entirely true. The scraps from squaring off the checkerboard cookies are layered and twisted into a log, then sliced and baked. I left this log in the fridge, bringing it out to bake for my parents. They didn’t last long, either.
Then, I skipped from the front of the book to the back for Blueberry-Lemon Muffins with Cinnamon-Cardamom Swirl. Whenever I visit my parents, I try to leave them some treats in the freezer to last them until my next visit. These muffins almost didn’t make it there. The spiced swirl through the classic combination of blueberry and lemon makes these muffins pretty irresistible. And the instructions are clear and detailed enough to guide even a beginning baker to muffin success, especially with the helpful end note that explains the muffin method.
The last recipe I tested is also the one I’ve kindly been given permission to share with you – Carrot and Parsnip Layer Cake with Honey-Cream Cheese Frosting.
It’s a showstopper of a cake, but it’s rooted in the kind of cake that many of us grew up eating at picnics and potlucks. I really appreciate the way that Lin takes these old-fashioned favourites and brings them forward into the 21st Century.
The parsnip is an underloved vegetable that can be terrific in savoury or sweet dishes, but is usually relegated to a mash, soup base, or mixed roasted veg. Here it’s paired with its more popular cousin and allowed to shine in its own right.
Lin layers and contrasts flavours in this cake, while choosing ingredients that increase the complexity of texture and taste. It’s a long way from the potluck carrot cakes I remember, but it’s nearly as simple to create.
I actually made this cake twice. The first time was on Thursday morning (when this post was supposed to go up). I’d decided to make it for my parents, so that they could share it with our family and their friends. But, while the layers were cooling, the weather reports got increasingly hysterical and I ended up leaving before I could make the icing and assemble the cake. The promised Vancouver ‘snowpocalypse’ never really happened, but I didn’t have time to bake again until yesterday.
My pans were a little smaller than called for, but quite deep, so I have a taller cake than the original. It makes it a tiny bit unwieldy, but it is also quite spectacular. The contrast in colour between the outer and inner layers is striking and the spices used in each contrast just as beautifully. Almond flour gives the cake a soft texture and subtle nuttiness, while pineapple complicates the sweetness and makes the cake incredibly moist. The honey in the icing deepens its sweetness and compliments the flavours of the cake. And the coconut flakes that garnish the sides add a welcome crunch and another subtle flavour pairing with the pineapple inside.
I’ve been delivering wedges of this cake to co-op neighbours and friends. I’ll be sharing the rest at a committee meeting tomorrow. As with everything I’ve baked so far from this cookbook, there won’t be any leftovers for long.
CARROT AND PARSNIP LAYER CAKE WITH HONEY-CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
I’m a creature of habit, so when my friend Annelies invited me to dinner in a neighborhood here in San Francisco that I rarely frequent, I jumped at the chance. Not only did I get to dine at a new restaurant, but I got to hang out with a friend too. After our meal, we agreed to split a dessert and were particularly smitten with the idea of the parsnip cake on the menu. Like carrot, parsnip has a subtle earthy and nutty sweetness when cooked. I’ve taken it even further, though, layering parsnip cake with carrot cake to really up the game. The deeper, almost creamy parsnip makes the common carrot brighter and more vibrant. With honey-sweetened cream cheese frosting and a sprinkling of toasted coconut, this dense winter vegetable cake is now one of my favorites.
3 3⁄4 cups (525 g) all-purpose flour
3⁄4 cup (90 g) almond flour or meal
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1⁄2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 cups (600 g) granulated sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 large eggs
1 large egg white
1 cup (6 ounces or 170 g) finely chopped fresh pineapple (or drained canned crushed pineapple)
1 pound (455 g) carrots, finely grated
1 1⁄2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1⁄2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1⁄2 pound (225 g) parsnips, finely grated
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1⁄4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
HONEY–CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
16 ounces (455 g or 2 bricks) cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup (225 g or 2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1⁄2 cup (140 g) honey
1 cup (115 g) powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups (170 g) unsweetened coconut flakes
MAKE THE CAKE BATTER
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Coat three 9-inch round cake pans with cooking spray and line the bottom of each with a round of parchment paper.
Place the flour, almond meal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl and stir vigorously with a balloon whisk until the ingredients are evenly distributed and uniform in color. Place the sugar, oil, and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat together for about 30 seconds on medium speed to incorporate. Add the eggs, one at time, beating until each is
incorporated before adding the next, then add the egg white. Scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula and then add the dry ingredients and mix on low speed until incorporated. Add the pineapple and mix until incorporated.
Scoop about one-third of the batter into a separate bowl. To the remaining larger amount of batter in the mixer bowl, add the carrots, cinnamon, turmeric, and cardamom, and fold to combine. To the second bowl of batter, add the parsnips, ginger, and nutmeg, and fold to combine. Pour the parsnip cake batter into one cake pan and divide the carrot batter between the other two cake pans.
Bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then run a thin butter knife around the pan and invert the cakes onto wire racks to cool completely.
MAKE THE HONEY– CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
Combine the cream cheese, butter, honey, powdered sugar, and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat until the frosting is pale and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Refrigerate the frosting for at least 30 minutes to firm up.
ASSEMBLE THE CAKE
Toast the coconut in a large dry skillet over medium-high heat, stirring gently, until golden brown (some of the coconut will brown faster than the rest; that’s fine). Immediately pour the coconut into a bowl to cool. Take the frosting out of the fridge and beat on medium speed for about 15 seconds to loosen it up. Place one carrot cake layer on a cake platter or stand, flat side up, and spread some frosting over the top of that layer. Place the parsnip layer over the frosting and repeat. Place the final carrot cake layer over the parsnip layer and frost the top and sides of the cake. Using your hands, pat the toasted coconut all over the sides of the cake. Brush any stray coconut off the platter before serving.
* Unsweetened coconut flakes can be difficult to find. Some upscale grocery stores carry it, and often you can find it in the bulk section, where you can buy just enough for your recipe. At regular grocery stores, if it isn’t stocked in the baking section next to the sweetened shredded coconut, look for it near the dried fruit like raisins, dried ginger, and dried papaya. If you can’t find it, though, the sweetened or unsweetened shredded coconut in the baking section will work. Just toast it over medium-low heat and pay extra attention if you use the sweetened shredded coconut. The sugar in the sweetened coconut will caramelize and burn faster than unsweetened shredded coconut.
I feel as though I’ve just scratched the surface of this cookbook. There are tarts, bars, and cobblers I can’t wait to try; deceptively humble quick breads alongside project bakes that are beautifully simplified. There are even a few savoury baked goods along the way.
Lin’s regard for his audience and enthusiasm for his art come through in his recipes, his headnotes, and in the helpful guides he provides throughout. He even includes recipes for his favourite gluten-free flour blends, making his baking as accessible as possible. Paired with his terrific instruction and delicious flavours, it’s no wonder this book is making all the year-end ‘best of’ lists.
Gift Giver’s Guide: For the modern baker, the discerning dessert-maker, the best guest, and the playful patissier.
Come back on Saturday for a review of a book that will solve all your holiday postprandial dilemmas.
*This giveaway is open to residents of Canada. You must have a Canadian mailing address. The winner will be required to answer the following skill testing question: 16 X 37 =_____ This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook. We hereby release Facebook of any liability. Winner(s) will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. Entrants must provide a valid email address where they can be reached. Each of the winners must respond to the email announcing their win within 48 hours, or another winner will be chosen. No purchase of any product is required. If you have any additional questions – feel free to send us an email!
You can find links to the rest of my Holiday Cookbook Review Series giveaways here. They’re all open until December 22nd.