A Healthy, Fruit-filled Cookie

June 11, 2013 § 1 Comment

Oh, and chocolate, too. There’s dark chocolate in these healthy cookies.

I was recently charged with finding a healthy cookie recipe for a gathering of friends. Healthy, but tasty. And a real cookie, not something that was just pretending to be a treat, something “cookie” in name only. And usually when I try to find a healthy alternative to a traditionally loaded-with-bad-stuff recipe, I turn to The Moosewood Cookbook. In this case, the Moosewood let me down.

But not Ellie Krieger. Ellie had (still has?) a Food Network show, Healthy Appetite, all about healthy cooking. When the Moosewood lets me down or becomes a little too earthy-crunchy-granola-ey, I turn to Ellie. And in this healthy cookie recipes, she totally did not disappoint.

First, I’m not a dietician. Is this recipe healthy? I’m taking Ellie’s word on it. But I can tell you it’s not loaded with a ton of butter, shortening, oil, cholesterol, and sugar. Some, but not a lot. There’s applesauce! There’s egg whites! Plus it has dried fruit – and I think we all agree fruit is a pretty good-for-you thing to eat. As for the dark chocolate, I think we’ve all heard reports about how it’s actually a good thing in small amounts.

Not only are they healthy, they are incredibly tasty. Incredibly. I’ve made four batches in the last week and there’s more on the way.

Healthy Cookies (aka Kitchen Sink Cookies) via Ellie Krieger’s Healthy Appetitekitchen sink cookies
Note: The recipe says it makes 18-20 cookies. Don’t believe it.

Ingredients
2 tbs unsalted butter, softened
2 tbs canola oil
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup applesauce
1 egg white
1 tsp vanilla
2/3 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup oatmeal
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped dried fruit (Ellie recommends cherries and apricots. I used a dried berry blend from Trader Joe’s)
1/4 cup lightly toasted walnuts
2 oz. dark chocolate, cut into chunks

1. Preheat oven to 375 F.

2. Combine butter, oil and brown sugar in the bowl of a mixer. Mix on high speed. Stop occasionally to scrape down bowl. Mix until mixture is light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add applesauce, egg white and vanilla, mix to combine. Add flour, oatmeal, salt and cinnamon and mix just until just combined. Add dried fruit, walnuts and chocolate and mix to combine.

3. Prepare a baking sheet by spraying with a light cooking spray OR use sheets of parchment. Scoop out 1 tbs of cookie dough at a time and roll into balls. (I used a small-sized ice cream scoop that’s a tad bit bigger than 1 tbs). Place 2-inches apart on the baking sheet. Press cookies down with the palm of your hand to flatten slightly (less butter = less spread). I advise you flour your palm a bit because the dough will stick.

4. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, or until lightly browned but still soft. Remove and cool on racks.

You’ll find that 1 tbs doesn’t make a big enough cookie. You’ll want HUGE cookies because they are incredibly good. But then, the larger the healthy cookie the less healthy it is, right? Let’s just disregard that logic for now.

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Homemade Fig Newtons

April 2, 2013 § 2 Comments

My mother is a sucker for cookies of any kind. And I, being her offspring, somehow inherited that trait. She would bake cookies, yes. But wasn’t it more exciting to experiment with the cookie treasures found on store shelves? Oh, what those Keebler Evles did to us. Chocolate-covered anything went directly into our shopping cart. Those chocolate-covered marshmallow puffs on a graham cracker-like cookie were Mom’s favorite. I also had a soft spot for those styrofoam-like wafer cookies with “vanilla creme” sandwiched inside.

But what I really, really liked were fig newtons.

I contend that I never ate that many fig newtons. Not really. Just one box on average a year. Thing is, I would eat an entire sleeve of them at each sitting. Why else would they put them in a sleeve? Ah, logic of childhood. And to have that metabolism again…

A few years ago when I saw that Joanne Chang’s Flour cookbook had a recipe for fig newtons, I was surprisingly conflicted. I love fig newtons—so wouldn’t gourmet fig newtons be the bomb? But … do I want the ability to create something so cravingly delicious? I mean, I’m not a calorie counter but these could be dangerous.

It took me three years to work up the nerve, but I finally made Flour’s fig newtons this weekend. Homemade fig jam in a shortbread cookie. Yes, they are cravingly delicious. Yes, it requires self control to not eat the entire batch. They’re also nothing like the original fig newton. It’s more of a pastry, really…like a slice of fig pie with a shortbread crust. This is dessert worthy of far more than a sleeve. This is a dessert of adult sophistication.

Homemade Fig Newtons (from Joanne Chang’s Flour Cookbook) IMG_3915
Fig Jam Filling
2+ pints ripe black mission figs, stems removed and figs quartered (2 is too little, 3 makes slightly too much)
1 orange, peeled, seeded and finely chopped (try to remove the white pith and membrane, too)
110 grams light brown sugar
1 tbs finely grated lemon zest (about 1 lemon)
1 tsp vanilla extract

Shortbread Dough
1 cup (2 sticks/228 grams) unsalted butter at room temp
75 grams granulated sugar
2 tbs confectioners’ sugar
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract
140 grams all-purpose flour
120 grams cake flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp kosher salt

1. Make the filling: Place quartered figs into a medium-sized, non-reactive saucepan. Add orange, brown sugar, lemon zest and salt. Heat on medium to simmer. Reduce to medium-low and simmer, uncovered for 40 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. The mixture will turn into something reminiscent of jam. Remove from heat and add the vanilla. Let cool completely and set aside for 2 hours. (You can also refrigerate for up to three days in an airtight container.)

2. Start to make the dough: Using a KitchenAid mixer with a paddle attachment, cream together the butter and both sugars on medium speed until mixture is fluffy. This takes about 5 minutes with stoppages now and then to scrape sides of bowls and the paddle. Once that is fluffy, add in egg yolk and vanilla on medium (stopping and scraping) for another 2 or 3 minutes.

3. Separately combine the two flours, baking powder and salt in a small bowl and sift or mix it together well (I added all into a sieve to sift). Add these dry ingredients into the wet ingredients with the mixer on low, and let it combine for another 15 seconds or so. Do the stop-and-scrape thing again.

4. Cut a large piece of plastic wrap and scoop out the dough onto it. Wrap it up well and press the dough into a 6-in. disk about an inch thick. Pop it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. At this point you can store it for up to 5 days or freeze it. If in the fridge for a long while, let it come to room temp for about 30 minutes before working it. If in the freezer, let it thaw out in fridge overnight.

5. Heat oven to 350F. While that is heating up, upwrap the dough disk and place onto a large piece of parchment paper. Add a bunch of flour to the parchment and onto a rolling pin, then gently roll the dough into a rectangle about 9 in. by 16 in. and about a 1/4-in. thick. Be careful not to pull or push the dough as this dough tears easily. Fix any tears by pressing together with your fingertips. I found it useful to trim the edges straight (saving the extra dough for treats later!).

6. With the long edge of the dough facing you, spoon the jam lengthwise across the center of the dough, left to right. The width of this jam “river” should be about 2.5 inches. You might not be able to fit all of the jam onto the dough. That’s okay—it’s tasty on toast. Once the jam river is down, you’ll grab the left and right edges of the parchment above the jam river and fold it down overtop of the jam. The dough should fold halfway down over the jam. Do the same with the bottom half of the dough, folding it up. Take pains to make sure these two dough halves meet in the middle, not overlapping and not having a gap. Side by side is what you are looking for. Once that happens, pinch those two dough halves together to seal, as well as the ends. Now, flip the jam-filled dough log over so the seam is on the bottom. Be careful! You may need to finagle it with adding another piece of parchment and rolling it over. Use your brain to figure it out.

IMG_3907

Use your brain to figure out how to turn this jam-filled log seam-side down without damaging it.

Use your brain to figure out how to turn this jam-filled log seam-side down without damaging it.

6 optional. At this point you can wrap it up and refrigerate or place in the freezer.

7. Pop it in the oven for 60 minutes or until golden brown all over. The recipe says 65-70 minutes, but it really depends on your oven. My edges were getting awfully dark, so I opted to take it out 5 minutes early. Let it cool on a wire rack for at least 2 hours—I know, it’s a crazy long time but you want the jam to firm up a bit. Once cool, cut into 1-in. pieces crosswise. Enjoy with hot tea or coffee. And realize things are so much better than when you were a kid.

 

Homemade Oreos: Even better than the original

February 1, 2012 § 6 Comments

“Dainty, where have you been?”

Well, I um … I’ve been around.

“Around? I haven’t heard from you in ages. What’s up? I mean, is something wrong? We’ve been kinda worried. Is it us? Did we do something? Or not do something?”

What? No! No no no. I’ve just been … well, remember when I said I wanted to read more? I’ve been reading. Every morning for an hour. And that was usually the time I hung around here.

“Oh. Well, what about switching it up to some other time?”

Yeah, about that … I’ve also gotten really into yoga. Like, every day or as much as I can. It’s exactly the thing I’ve been missing in my life and I love it. Time’s tight …

“No kidding. Well, what about that – yoga. Good for you. So … you’re here again … ”

I am. Absolutely. Here again. With some changes in the works over the next month or so. I know … I know, I teased y’all about that before. “Major stuff in the works!” But this time the ball is rolling – actually rolling – and there will definitely be bigger and better Dainty stuff to interest everyone in the coming weeks.

I promise.

Meanwhile, let’s talk homemade oreo cookies. It could be the most awesome childhood-memory-inducing cookie ever. That’s to Joanne Chang at Flour Bakery in Boston … literally at the end of my block … adults now have a decadent deep-chocolately lustful version to dream about. Seriously good stuff.

Now, with food blogging, printed cookbook recipes are shared all the time. And I really don’t like publicly posting recipes from bakeries in my neighborhood or who I kinda/sorta have a connection with. They gotta make money, right? How can they do that if their recipes are out in Googlespace?

BUT … I’ve made Flour’s version of oreos—and with several different additions—for several events now and I keep getting requests for the recipe. I owe it to my peeps to share. So, Joanne, please do forgive me for what I’m about to reveal.

A note before I get started: I make a Christmas version of these with 1/2 tsp of peppermint extract in the cream filling. And for my most recent batch—whose cream filling was made in an ice bucket in a hotel room in Louisville (no kidding)—I omitted the milk and added a full shot of bourbon. And believe me, the chocolate pairs really well with bourbon.

bourbon oreos

A shot of bourbon in the cream filling pairs really well with the chocolate.

So, with full credit going to Joanne and her sheer brilliant baking skills, here’s the recipe.

Homemade Oreos ala Flour Bakery

Chocolate Cookie Ingredients and Recipe

  • 1 cup (2 sticks unsalted butter, melted and cooled a bit
  • 150 g granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 200 g semisweet chocolate chips, melted and cooled a bit
  • 1 egg
  • 210 g unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 90 g Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp salt (kosher)
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, blend butter and sugar with the whisk attachment. Add in the vanilla and chocolate, then the egg, and mix until thoroughly combined.

2. In a different bowl, stir together the flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking soda. With the stand mixer on slow, carefully add the mixed dry ingredients. Turn up to low-medium for a bit until the dry and wet ingredients are well combined. Let the mixture sit at room temp for about an hour so it firms.

3. This is the tricky part so pay attention. Where going to take this dough and make it into long logs. And from these logs  you’ll slice off individual rounds that’ll bake up into the chocolate cookies. Got it?

First, let me say that Joanne makes these logs with a diameter of about 2.5 inches. That’s a pretty big cookie—and a fine cookie size, actually. But when I bake these, I am typically taking them to a party or something, and I find that smaller bite-sized cookies are better suited for partytime. That said … once the dough is firm, I split the dough into three or four equal piles. Place one pile onto a half-sheet-sized piece of parchment paper or waxed paper. With your hands, shape it into a log of about 1 or 1.5 inches in diameter. Roll the paper around the log a bit and roll it along the counter to make it a bit smoother, trying to get the air bubbles out (you can see them through the paper). Repeat with the remaining piles of dough, and then place the rolled dough into the refrigerator for 2 hours. You might find it helpful to reroll the logs a few times during the 2 hours so keep that log shape.

4. Preheat the oven to 325 and position a rack smack-dab in the middle. Prepare a couple of half-sheet pans with parchment paper. Remove a log from the fridge and unwrap. You might want to trim off both ends of the log so they are flat. Then slice the log into 1/4-inch thick rounds. With a 1 or 1.5 inch log, you’ll end up with about 30-35 slices. Place the slices onto the parchment paper about an inch apart. I can fit one whole log’s worth of cookies onto one sheet.

5. Pop them in the oven. For Joanne’s 2.5 inch cookies, they bake about 20-25 minutes. These smaller cookies will be done in 18 minutes. They’ll just be firm to the touch. Remove from the oven and let cool for about 5 minutes, then put them onto cooling racks. Chocolate cookies: Done.

Cream Filling Ingredients and Recipe

Peppermint oreos

Slightly overfill the oreo so the filling oozes out a bit, then roll in crushed candy canes. People won't stop calling you Martha.

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 230 g confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • suggested additions: 1/2 tsp peppermint extract for Mint Oreos; a shot of bourbon for Derby Oreos (omit milk)

This is awesome and easy to do while your cookies are hangin’ out and cooling.

1. Remember that stand mixer? Wash out the bowl, give it a dry, attach the paddle to the mixer and then beat the butter on low for about 30 seconds. You want it to be smooth.

2. Carefully add the confectioner’s sugar (you don’t want to make a cloud of it!) and the vanilla and beat until it’s perfectly smooth. Add the milk and salt and beat yet again until smooth. At some point the concoction will go from a butter yellow color to a whitish, and it’ll be stiff. You’re done!

Note about adding bourbon: I made two batches with bourbon. The first I included the milk and the filling was too soft. The second batch sans milk was much better. You need about a shot’s worth of liquor in order for the flavor to be apparent.

3. Now the fun part: filling. What I do is pair lay out the cookies – top side down – and match them up in pairs, hopefully getting them partnered with someone about their same size. I then put the filling into a Ziploc bag, seal it up, and push the filling down into one corner, creating a makeshift piping bag. Cut the corner, and carefully pipe out however much filling you want – about 2 tsp should do for a small cookie – onto one cookie in the pair. Top with the other and there you have it—an actually homemade oreo cookie.

Use a great-quality chocolate chip, vanilla and other flavorings and these can be orgasmic. I’ve had nothing but raves. These are truly a spectacular cookie. Thanks, Joanne!

Given the realm of possibilities here, what flavorings would you add to make these cookies your own? Leave a comment and let Dainty know.

Peanut Butter Cookies a la Flour

February 19, 2011 § 4 Comments

I have a new baking strategy. About once a week I walk over to the nearby Flour Bakery, scan the luscious goodies within the glass case, and pick something. Just one thing. The intention is try my best to replicate Joanne’s tasty treats.

The first was the oatmeal raisin cookie. If you didn’t get the low-down on this oatmeal experience, look over there in the previous posts. It was an unscheduled lesson in the importance of expiration dates.

But, this is a new day. And a new cookie. Peanut butter. Mmmmm … peanut butter. Hers is a big, wide cookie. Dotted with bits of peanut. Crisp. A hint of salt and, surprisingly, a tad greasy. And a nice peanut butter flavor.

What baking lesson will I learn this time?

I’m happy to report that no catastrophes occurred with this recipe. I followed the recipe to the “t.” All the ingredients were fresh. And the cookies turned out fabulously.(Want the recipe? Buy the Flour cookbook!)

Mmmmm .... peanut butter cookies

But, did I replicate the cookie? No. My batch was lighter in appearance, a bit softer, less salty, and not as greasy. And they didn’t spread as much.

A Flour peanut butter cookie and one of my own

Why? Two reasons. First, the baking process. The recipe says to bake 18-20 minutes (as I recall, I don’t have the book nearby). But because ovens are always fickle things, I prefer to go by the look of the cookie. Joanne says to remove cookies from the oven when the just start to turn golden around the edges, with the middle remaining lighter (again, I don’t have the book with me, but I’m pretty sure that’s what she recommends). And because I prefer a slightly undercooked cookie, I took them out the millisecond I saw the edges browning up.  Yes, I crouched on the floor staring through the oven’s window.

Second, and what I account as the major factor in the differences between the two cookies … the peanut butter. The recipe called for a chunky peanut butter. I happened to have smooth. And unsalted. I had a jar of Teddie natural peanut butter, which tends to be thicker and less oily than those childhood favorites Peter Pan and Jiff. Whatever is in those brands that make them smooth and creamy, Teddie doesn’t have it. And I’m kinda glad it doesn’t. Those cookies rocked.

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