Monthly Archives: August 2015

Memories of Meals Past: Danish Butter Cookies

Crunchy bits of buttery delight!

Crunchy bits of buttery delight!

Every now and then I like to send in some of my baking to the DH’s workplace. I like to bake for the experience of it, to try out a new recipe or a new technique. But as much as I like to eat my baking, I also like to fit into my clothes. So I bake and then I send it off with the DH to work! Makes me happy, makes the DH happy, and apparently also makes his colleagues happy. Win, win, yes? *grin*

And speaking of baking, the latest baking I’ve done is to try out a Danish Butter Cookie recipe than I found on Pinterest the other night. (And in this household, insomnia = Pinterest surfing = lists of recipe I want to try = too many baked goods for me and the DH to eat by ourselves.)

I love those Danish butter cookies that come in those blue tins. I’m sure you know the ones I mean! I could happily crunch through a dozen of those with a glass of milk. So when I found this recipe, I was very happy! This is the fastest recipe for cookie dough that I have ever come across — you literally dump everything in a mixer, mix it for a minute, and you’re done. I considered using a cookie press, but ended up just using a piping bag with a star tip. It took some squeezing to get the dough out of the piping bag, but once I got the hang of it, it came out just fine.

I did have to pipe a double layer of dough in order to get the shape I wanted, as they do sort of melt and spread in the oven, but once I did that, it was great.

The flavour is nice, but not QUITE as buttery as I’d like it to taste. That said, there’s an entire cup of butter in it, and any more and the cookies wouldn’t hold their shape.

My rating? Four whisks up! Because it’s easy to mix, and pipe (would be super-easy in a cookie press), and bake. And it has a nice delicate crunch! You could easily top these with coarse sugar to really get that butter cookie look, but I like them as it.

Milk and cookies, anyone?

Next Post: Something with vegetables, for realz. My fridge is full of vegetables and my Pinterest sleuthing has inspired me!

Crackle-Topped Bubble Eclairs & Things I Learnt Making Them

Crackle top éclairs -- perfectly puffed mouthfuls!

Crackle top éclairs — perfectly puffed mouthfuls!

My online bake-a-long group is making Dorie Greenspan’s Bubble Éclairs  from her Baking Chez Moi cookbook this week, and I chose to make them with a crackle topping. They were definitely tasty, and also definitely more of a learning experience than I expected, even with previous éclair-making experience.

Things I learnt while making them:

  • If the DH says that something is burning, the éclairs  are NOT burning, and in fact, are underdone.
  • One should leave the éclairs  in the oven until browner than one thinks is good (remember that ‘French bake’!) or they’ll collapse on you faster than you can say ‘souffle’. Ask me how I know. *le sigh* 
  • 1/2 the amount of crackle-top topping that Dorie recommends is just right.
  • When Dorie says to use two cookie trays, she doesn’t mean squeeze it all onto one tray. Really. Because your bubble éclairs will become one giant éclair, and then separate into mini éclairs. Missing the point of the bubble.
  • My eyes are bigger than my stomach, aka I can eat fewer éclairs than I think and I should have halved the recipe. *groans and clutches stomach*  But I also should have doubled the amount of whipped cream that I made.

I think that sums up my experience! Now let me break it down:

Éclairs are such a fancy looking dessert, but they’re really not that hard to make. You mix up the (very egg-y) batter, pipe it onto a baking tray, bake it, let it cool, and then pipe it full of something delicious, such as pastry cream, chocolate mousse, or whipped cream.

Crackle topping in process.

Crackle topping in process.

I chose to do the crackle-top éclairs, as I couldn’t find any of the coarse pearl-type sugar that Dorie talks about. I even dragged the DH to IKEA on the weekend, ostensibly to look at buying a wall unit, but in reality, to search out the sugar that Dorie says is available there. And if the DH is reading this: “Hi Honey! Hey, it was two birds with one stone, yes? Now have an éclair!” And by the way, the sugar wasn’t available at IKEA. (On the bright side, we’ve settled on a wall unit for the bedroom!)

How to make the éclairs? One makes the crackle-top dough (tastes like sugar cookie dough, btw), cuts out little circles (I used a champagne glass), and freezes them.

So far, so good. Seems adequately spaced, doesn't it?

So far, so good. Seems adequately spaced, doesn’t it?

Then you mix up the éclair batter by boiling the butter, milk, sugar, salt, and water in a  saucepan, then mixing in the flour until a paste-y sort of dough forms. Switch the batter to a mixer, and add in the eggs one at a time, until batter is shiny. Pipe it onto a silicone mat lined cookie tray, place the frozen crackle top circles on top, and pop it into the oven to bake.

As I said, éclairs really aren’t hard to make. Unless you under-bake them, and then all your hard work goes ‘poof’. Some pictorial proof.

Just a wee bit fallen. And they were so perfect when I pulled them out of the oven!

Just a wee bit fallen. And they were so perfect when I pulled them out of the oven!

When I took the éclairs out of the oven, they were perfect! All golden-domed and perfectly baked, high and proud. Admittedly, I did squeeze all the dough onto one cookie tray, and Dorie does say to use two, but I thought hey, it fits! Until it baked up and it didn’t. The tray became one giant bubble éclair. Which isn’t a problem, really, right? It’s like a croquembouche, but flat! A new dessert design! Then 5 minutes passed and the lovely golden domes went pffft, becoming crackled-topped pancakes. Ok, so not that bad, but that’s what it felt like. All my hard work, gone in one puff of air.

So. Next time. Bake until more brown than I think is right! I did bake for the minimum time that Dorie says to do, but next time I’ll go for the maximum. And possibly beyond.

My lone official "bubble éclair"!

My lone official “bubble éclair”!

Then I filled the prettiest ones with whipped cream. But ran out of whipping cream and so froze the rejects. I know that they’re best the day that they’re made, but, eh. And maybe ice cream will puff them back up to pleasing plumpness.

Speaking of plumpness, my hips will never be the same after this cookbook, I tell you. (I may have eaten an éclair or four. That crackle topping though — not only tasty, but adds this fabulous textural element to each bite!)

Next Post: Something low-cal, I think. After those deliciously rich éclairs, I’m craving some veggies!

Homemade Copycat Oreos: Chocolate, Vanilla, and Mint with Bonus Chocolate-Dip

 

Copycat Oreos text

When I was growing up, I was a Girl Guide (known in the States as Girl Scouts) and we always sold cookies to raise funds for our activities. In Canada, the cookies came in two kinds: chocolate and vanilla. People would buy them buy the dozens and freeze them for future eating. Ha! Future eating. Pff. Like they lasted that long.

The Girl Guide cookies were made by Christie cookies ( of “Mr. Christie, you make goooood cookies!” and Oreos fame). From what I understand, at one point the contract expired, and the Girl Guides of Canada switched to making the thin mint version (chocolate cookie covered in chocolate) which are also good, but…just not as good, in my opinion. Interestingly, Christie put a few new versions of cookies on the market around the same time that they stopped producing the original cookies for the GGC, Golden Oreos being one (which to me, taste EXACTLY like the vanilla GG cookies I used to sell). Coincidence? Only Mr. Christie knows for sure! (And if you remember the ad that I’m referring to in the previous sentence, you’re probably old enough to remember the cookies, as I do. *grin*)

A few months ago, I made a chocolate torte, and I thought the crust would make a great cookie with a few tweaks. And I thought that my peppermint patty recipe might make for a great cookie filling. I put all these ideas down in my blog notes file on my computer and let it percolate for a few months. And finally…I put it together, and voila, Homemade Copycat Oreos! I made chocolate ones, vanilla ones, and mint ones, and covered some of them in chocolate and sprinkles. So yum!

Cutting out the cookies. Using my vintage Tuppercare cookie cutter!

Cutting out the cookies. Using my vintage Tuppercare cookie cutter!

Here’s my recipe:

HOMEMADE COPYCAT OREOS

For the cookies

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened  
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 ¾ cups flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa 
  • 2 eggs

Mix sugar and butter together and add in the eggs. Add in the flour and cocoa. Flatten onto parchment/wax paper and chill until firm. Cut out circles with a cookie cutter and bake on ungreased cookie sheet 325, 8-10 min., depending on your thickness. Cool and place on cookie rack.

Rolling out the filling between two pieces of parchment paper. So fragrantly yummy!

Rolling out the filling between two pieces of parchment paper. So fragrantly yummy!

For the filling

  • 1 ½ c. icing sugar
  • 5 tbsp. melted butter
  • plus: 1 tbsp. cocoa and 1 tsp. vanilla extract for chocolate filling; 1 tsp. vanilla extract for vanilla filling; or 1/2 tsp. mint extract for mint filling

Mix the icing sugar and butter together until it forms a pliable dough. Divide into two: add cocoa and vanilla to one half in order to make the chocolate filling. Add vanilla extract to the other half in order to make the vanilla filling. If you want to make a mint version, make up some more filling and add mint extract to taste (I added 1/2 tsp. mint extract to half of the filling recipe). Roll the filling out between two pieces of parchment/wax paper, and cut out using the same size cookie cutter that you used for your cookies. Chill in the freezer until firm.

The filling setting up in the freezer.

The filling setting up in the freezer.

Putting it together

  • chocolate melting wafers

Melt the chocolate wafers in a cup in the microwave, in 15 s. bursts, stirring between every burst. Take two of the cookies and a filling. Dab a drop of chocolate on the inside of each of the cookies, and sandwich the filling in between. Repeat for all cookies and fillings.

Putting it all together for a mouthful of yum!

Putting it all together for a mouthful of yum! Double-stuff all the way!

If you want to cover them in chocolate for copycat chocolate-dipped oreos, you can use the leftover melted chocolate to do so. I balanced a cookie sandwich on a fork covered with melted chocolate, and spooned chocolate over the cookie, then placed them on a wax paper covered cookie tray. I sprinkled themed sprinkles on top (chocolate sprinkles for chocolate filling, green sugar for mint filling) while the chocolate coating was still wet. Place in freezer until chocolate is set. Eat!

Note: the chocolate-covered cookies will melt with handling or summer heat, so keep in fridge unless eating.

Your classic milk and cookies. Preservative-free!

Your classic milk and cookies. Preservative-free!

These cookies are soooo yummy! And, what I like, they’re healthier than the store-bought version, because they’re free of preservatives. I mean, they ARE cookies, and have lots of sugar and butter and such, but hey, no preservatives! Which makes them healthy, right? Which means I can eat more, right? I think that’s a yes! *grin*

Next Post: Maybe a recipe from my mother-in-law, maybe some bubble eclairs from my bake-a-long group. Both are yummy!

Post-Edit Post-Script: In my on-going quest for foodie fame and (sure, why not) fortune, I’m taking part in Christie Jordan’s Meal Plan Monday post. Check it out, and hey, share this post! Much appreciated, y’all! <– look, she’s influenced me already! 🙂

BCM: I Can Bake A Cherry Pie! Or at least a Cherry Crumb Tart

I waited until it cooled just enough not to scald my tongue. Then, feasting time!

I waited until it cooled just enough not to scald my tongue. Then, feasting time!

This week’s Baking Chez Moi bake-a-long recipe is for Cherry Crumb Tart. In classic Dorie Greenspan style, she starts off the recipe by describing how she came up with the idea to make a tart with cherries after a drive through Alsace, France. As for me, my strongest association with cherries in baked form is that old folksong, which will now be your new earworm: Can she make a cherry pie, Billy Boy, Billy Boy?

The entire time I was making this tart, I was humming the song to myself, albeit with some mondegreens.

Can she make a cherry pie, Billy Boy, Billy Boy
Can she make a cherry pie, Pretty Billy?
She can make a cherry pie,
that’s the apple of my eye,
but she’s a young thing, and cannot leave her mother!   

Eh. Close enough. And speaking of close enough, this recipe calls for a lot of butter (yum!) and since I don’t have a scale, I sort of eyeballed it when the recipe called for 6 tbsp. here and 6 tbsp. there. So my final product may be a bit buttery, but again…eh, close enough. *grin*

Tart crust plus cherries -- it's a gonna be goot!

Tart crust plus cherries — it’s a gonna be goot!

So. The recipe! You start with a sweet tart dough base, partially baked, and fill it with an almond cream. Dorie suggests using kirsch to really bring out that cherry flavour, or otherwise sticking with vanilla extract. Me being me, I didn’t have kirsch in the house, but I did have some leftover red wine, so I used a capful of that, plus a scant tsp. of vanilla extract. The (raw and eggy) filling was delicious with that hint of red wine!

On top of the almond cream-filled tart, you place a layer of fresh cherries. Dorie suggests using a chopstick to pit the cherries if one doesn’t have a cherry pitter. The idea is to keep the cherries whole, so one just pokes the chopstick into the cherry to push the pit out. Can I just say that this is a) a brilliant idea, and b) my poor bamboo chopstick will never be the same again.

Ringed round with cherries!

Ringed round with cherries!

Fresh cherries? Have a LOT of juice. And by a lot, I mean my chopstick is stained a lovely plum colour, as are my fingernails. In fact, both of my hands are sporting a pinkish hue. I mopped up cherry juice splatters from the kitchen island, the sink counter, the tile behind the sink (I was facing the opposite direction, incidentally), the floor, and there were even spatters on my sock-clad feet. At one point, the DH came out of his man cave and exclaimed over the mess I’d made of the kitchen. I chased him out of my working space by threatening to hug him with my cherry-juice stained self and he promptly bolted. Ah, the joys of domesticity!

Too much butter. Or, just enough?

Too much butter. Or, just enough?

Once the cherries were placed on the almond cream-filled tart, it was popped into the oven and baked for a good 45 minutes. Then you pull it back out and put on the final layer: the streusel! Back into the oven it goes for another half hour, until the top is golden brown and the cherries are merrily bubbling away in their juices (or in my case, butter. See above).

Then it’s time to feast!

Verdict: Cherry Crumb Tart — worth the cherry juice stains! Am going to grab another sliver and go curl up on the couch with a book and some pillows. A good book, a cherry tart, what more could I ask for? Life is good. : )

Next Post: My homemade Oreos! Assuming I can find the pieces of paper that I scrawled my cooking notes on. Otherwise maybe my Twisted Spinach and Feta Pie. (I know, I have a thing for pies.)

Making the Most of Leftovers: Easy Pickled Vegetables

Pickled veggies displayed prior to consumption.

Pickled veggies displayed prior to consumption.

Given that I’m not a morning person, I usually prepare the day’s lunches the night before. Tonight I was making Thai spring rolls, and had some sliced green peppers left over. And given that I have a waste not, want not philosophy when it comes to food, you know I had to use them up somehow. So I made some pickled vegetables!

Want to make some too? They’re the work of a few minutes only!

Easy Pickled Vegetables

  • 3 small carrots, sliced thinly
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 1/2 green pepper, cut in thin strips length-wise
  • pinch mustard powder
  • 1 c. water
  • 1/2 c. white vinegear
  • 1/2 c. apple cider vinegar
  • pinch black pepper
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 bay leaf
  • pinch of hot pepper flakes

Mix vinegars, water, and all spices (so everything but the veggies) in a bowl and heat in the microwave for 3 minutes. The pickling brine should be nice and hot when you pour it over the chopped vegetables in a large bowl. Make sure to press down the veggies so that they all get bathed in the brine; I stirred and pressed down gently with a potato masher, repeatedly for about 5 minutes. Then I scooped the veggies into sterilized jars, making sure to top up with brine to cover all the veggies in the jar. Let them sit for at least overnight. And then voila — condiment time!

Stirring the veggies with the pickling juice.

Stirring the veggies with the pickling juice.

I used these quantities and ended up with just the right amount to fill three half pint jars. Given that I fully expect to eat these pickled veggies within a few weeks, I only sterilized the jars in the microwave. I’ll keep the jars in the fridge until used, but had I done a quick water bath, they would be properly canned and could stay on my cupboard shelves for several months. But they’re too tasty to last that long!

Now, what shall I use these pickled recipes on? I shall probably use it as a topping for veggie burgers, sandwiches, and salads. I’ve used previous batches on pizza, which was surprisingly delicious with crumbled feta. Mmm…now I want to eat! Maybe I’ll just eat one of the Thai spring rolls that I had leftover from tomorrow’s lunch prep. Yes, that’s what I’ll do!

Next Post: Cherry Pie, a la Francais! Followed by homemade copycat oreos. Chocolate-dipped copycat oreos. So. Good!

Post-Pub Edit: Do link-ups work? Bloggers say that they increase blog traffic, and hey, I’m all for that! So this is now my contribution to Christy Jordan’s latest link-up.