Posts Tagged With: nutmeg

White Chocolate Chip Pecan Cookies

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With Labor Day on its way out the door and schoolchildren taking its place, classic snacks are on the brain.  Parents in this modern age are determined to nourish their offspring with “healthy snack” – you know, those that crunch like carrots and don’t contain trans fats, packaging, or any other frivolities.

I’m not saying throw away dreams of good calories and vitamins abound…but when I came home from school as the leaves turned brown, I wanted a cookie.  Yes, I was “that kid.”

The chocolate chip cookie dipped in milk is classic and (taking a hint from the many clothing advertisements cropping up this season…) classic never goes out of style. As such, I admit to having cookie brain lately…where at many moments during the day, I crave a cookie.  The presence or absence of a cookie wreaks havoc on emotions – just take a look at cookie monster ! Happiness and sadness hinge upon the presence of one, buttery morsel lying at the bottom of the jar.

Some kind of goodie clearly had to be made…so I landed upon a white chocolate chip pecan cookie. Soft and chewy with a little burst of spice from time to time, these treats are perfect for that 2pm lull when coffee calls and you seek an energy burst.  Or when you get home off the train and can’t yet imagine dinner. Even breakfast (if you throw caution to the wind !) justifies a nibble.

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Now, I’ll admit:  I like white chocolate BUT I use it to appease those who can’t sleep at night after having eaten “real” chocolate…as a result, I stirred in a handful of semi-sweet chips to the recipe at the end…as I don’t have any problem snoozing after cookie consumption.

Whether you suffer from cookie brain or not, this spin on the classic chocolate chip delight is sure to leave you (or your children) grinning.

Ingredients: 

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
2 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
Pinch salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp allspice
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1 cup chopped pecans
1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips
1/2 chocolate chips (optional)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375F. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter until light and smooth.  You can do this with an electric mixer or by hand.

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Add the white and brown sugar, whipping until lightened in color and almost pillowy.  Add the eggs one by one, mixing well after each addition.  Don’t worry if your batter adopts a strange texture – this often happens if the eggs are not room temperature.  Their chilly, refrigerated state makes the butter cringe.  It is okay – adding the flour will make everyone get along. Toss in the two teaspoons of vanilla and give the mess a whirl.  Be sure to scrape down the sides from time to time – make sure all the butter is getting incorporated into the batter.

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In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, salt, and spices.  I enjoy the snickerdoodle-esque (quite the adjective) quality cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice bring to these cookies.  Makes me feel a little like Remy in Ratatouille.  It offsets the pecan nicely – very much a fall flavor.  If, however, you prefer the more standard flavor profile, you can skip them and no harm will come to the cookies.

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Slowly add the flour mixture in to the batter, being careful not to mix too quickly (or else flour will be everywhere in the kitchen – EVERYWHERE.  Like this). Once combined, stir in the pecans and the chocolate chips.  Taste.  Whatever anyone ever told you about not eating the batter is to be ignored.

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On a baking sheet (which you may or may not line with parchment paper – it’s up to you), drop the cookies by tablespoonful.  I like to shape them into rounds but it’s definitely not an exact science…they will spread out a bit so be sure to leave about an inch to two inches of space between each bit of dough.

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Bake for 10-15 minutes but be sure to use your nose: once you can smell the cookies, chances are good that they are done. I prefer soft bites but if you like crispy cookies, by all means cook them longer.

Once out of the oven, remove them from the baking sheet and let them cool on a wire rack…but remember – warm, just-out-of-the-oven cookies are the best, so you should probably eat one or two.  With some milk.  Just a “serving suggestion”. 🙂

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As for the rest, save them for snacking and relieving cookie brain symptoms !  Bon appétit !

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Plum Tart with Greek Yogurt

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Fall is in full swing and in this swanky apartment we’re eating…PLUMS !

I know, I know…plums ?  Aren’t you supposed to be making pumpkin-themed everything ?

Yes yes, plums !  Pumpkin is so passé* – everyone is devouring pumpkin goods.  Time to give those plums a little lovin’ !  Perhaps this post of positively pleasant “P” sounds presents a perfect place for plum pizzazz !

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In any case, it is true that plum season extends into early fall – October – and I am, for the first time, taking advantage of this fact.  I used to dislike plums.  Well, perhaps dislike isn’t the proper term.  Ignore may be a better one.  Plums were, in a word, strange. Why ?  Because they morph into prunes, that’s why.  I couldn’t bring myself to eat either fruit.  It was strange, therefore, when I walked into Trader Joe’s, saw a “basket” of plums looking for a home, felt spontaneous and snatched them up and POW a memory popped in my head:  for my birthday, while in France forever ago, my host dad, Pierre, made me a birthday dessert. Considering my host family and I were not particularly chummy, I was very touched by the gesture.  A beautiful, rustic plum tart sat in front of me, paired with a book about Dijon.  I can’t believe I’d buried that memory so deep, and it took a basket of unassuming plums to trigger it.

So then I had it.  The IDEA.  I would make a plum tart for my birthday…hence, here is my birthday “cake” thrown together with little time to spare before a 20s’-themed bash !  As you can tell, from the top picture, it was devoured in record time.  It’s a quick fix (if you buy your crust, and I did…I know, tsk tsk) that is pleasantly tart and lightly spiced.  This recipe uses a Greek yogurt “custard” topping, but I think, were I to remake it (and there are still a few dusty plums kicking around my cuisine…) I would skip the cream and make the tarte tout simplement avec des prunes.

I used the recipe from Mary Anna Esposita, the woman who taught me more about tomatoes via her great cooking show “Ciao Italia” than I think I needed to know as an 8 year-old.

Here’s the original recipe; the one noted below is with my adjustments.
Ingredients :
7 plums, cut into slices
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp nutmeg
Sprinkle ginger
2 egg yolks
3/4 cup greek yogurt (plain)
3 tbsp additional sugar
Preheat the oven to 400F.  If you are making your own crust – you are fabulous and better than me this go around.  Prepare the crust and place it in a greased tart pan (or pie dish, or quiche pan – whatever you have will probably do).  I’d give the crust a little toast before placing the plums, but it is not required and the tart will not combust or fail to cook in time if you don’t.
Slice the plums into fairly thin sections – I made mine into little segments (like a fan, kind of) in order to make the tart look nice.  You are welcome to cut the plums in a less careful manner and throw them in the pan.  Taste will not be affected.  You can’t judge a book by its cover.  Right ?  Right.
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Arrange the plums in concentric circles (if desired) in the bottom of the pie pan.  I started in the “middle” and worked my way out.
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In a separate bowl, mix together the sugar and the spices, stirring well to combine.
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Dust the plums with the sugar mixture – don’t be afraid to really bury them !  As the plums cook and release water, it will mix with the sugar combination to make this wonderful caramel-like substance at the bottom of the tart.  It’s delicious with ice cream.  Yummmmmm.  Top with the juice of the lemon – I just gave that citrus fruit a good squeeze directly overtop the plum and sugar combination.
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Place this in the oven until the plums are soft – about 10 minutes – then remove from the oven.  You are WELCOME to just eat this as your tart and not continue.  It looks so good, I have half a mind to try it like this with my remaining plums….
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In another bowl, whisk together the 3 tbsp of sugar, egg yolks, and yogurt.  Pour this mixture over the tart, being sure to work from the inside out and try to evenly distribute the custard.  Place the tart back into the oven and cook for about 10 more minutes or until the custard has set- you should be able to touch the top and pull a little of the custard out on your finger.  It’s sort of in a semi-solid state.
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Let the tart cool a little before serving to your hungry party guests !
Bon appétit ! 🙂
*I hold nothing against pumpkin goods…in fact, I’ve been cooking them a lot.  I just wanted to be DIFFERENT.
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Vegan Chocolate Cake with Blackberry Filling and Spiced Chocolate Buttercream

Yes, you read the title right.

Vegan chocolate cake.  Vegan buttercream.  Vegan dessert.

I think I am probably the most omnivorous person around – I really love all types of food.  Meat, milk, fish, vegetables, sugar (obviously)…the list goes on.  Baking with limitations, therefore, is not my forte.  However, one of my closest friends is vegan, choosing to eliminate all sorts of ingredients commonly found in sweet delights from her diet (which totally amazes me.  I could never do it, so PROPS TO YOU, Miss Bailey !).  When her birthday rolled around, I was DETERMINED to concoct a vegan-friendly dessert…for what is a birthday without cake ??  Though it was definitely an adventure for me (the ingredients list is more exotic than normal…did you know vegan butter exists ?!  Super cool !), the end result was pretty tasty – I would definitely make the cake again.  While I’ll admit that it feels strange to make a cake without eggs, the texture is exactly the same as any chocolate cake I’ve ever eaten and I bet a blind taste test would fool you.

In order to make the cake a little interesting, I chose to fill the center layer with blackberry jam and add spices to the frosting – there is nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves added to the frosting to bring in a little texture and round out the cocoa flavors.

Give it a try – you’ll be pleasantly surprised.  🙂

For the cake :

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup natural cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 3/4 cup unsweetened soy milk
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1 2/3 cups sugar
1 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
A few shakes of cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 325˚F. Grease two 9-inch round cake pans and line them with parchment paper.  Combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and baking powder in a large mixing bowl and stir to combine. In a separate bowl, whisk together the soy milk, vinegar, sugar, oil, and vanilla. I know, it looks a little odd – vinegar and olive oil usually connote salad dressing – but I promise it works out in the end !

Pour the milk mixture into the flour mixture and stir with a spoon until well combined.

Spoon or scrape the mixture into the prepared cake pan and bake for 40 to 55 minutes.  You’ll know it’s done when you smell the cake and a fork comes out clean.

Run a knife around the edges of the pan to loosen before inverting the cake onto a wire rack (or if you are a lowly college student, on a plate dusted with confectioners’ sugar) to cool.

For the filling :

Blackberry jam – I used about 1/3 of a jar….but this part is entirely subjective – use as much or as little as you please.  Also, I think that raspberry jams would be DELICIOUS in place of blackberry.

For the frosting :

1/2 stick vegan butter
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 cup cocoa powder (more or less depending on your love of bitterness)
1/4 cup soy milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp cloves

In a large bowl, whisk the vegan butter until it’s creamy.  Add the cocoa powder first, blending slowly until well incorporated (start slow simply to avoid cocoa powder explosions…that fine dust tends to make me sneeze when it clouds the air).  Add the vanilla and the powdered sugar, adding the soy milk when necessary to assure a good texture. Add the spices last.

Make sure to taste along the way to make sure everything is to your liking – I gave my ratios of spices BUT THEY ARE APPROXIMATE as I tend to make it up as I go, adding a dash of this and a dash of that until I find the taste I prefer.  It’s good to be spontaneous.  🙂

Assembly :

First, center one layer of the cake on a plate that has been dusted with powdered sugar.  This will be useful when the time come to cut the cake, as each slice will be easy to remove.

Using a flat metal spatula, (or a knife…again…I lack proper tools) spread a very thin layer of the frosting on the cake.  As we are going to add jam, this thin coating of frosting will keep the cake from going soggy on the inside.

Once evenly distributed, add the jam, spreading with the back of a spoon.  I love jam, so I was rather liberal with the amount I put on the inside…it is your call.

Prepare the second cake layer by spreading another thin layer of frosting on the side that will touch the jam.  Once ready, flip this layer onto the jam layer. It’s a process but it isn’t that difficult – if you miss, just pick the cake up and put it back on.  No harm done !

Cover the rest of the cake with the frosting.  Dust the top with a combination of the spices used in the frosting – it looks classy and tastes good, too.

We obviously decorated ours with candles….

Happy Birthday, Bailey & Ambika and bon appétit !

 

 

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