I'm slowly making my way back into the kitchen. My husband and I took our first trip in two years without our French Bulldog, Bisous. We went to a part of the U.S. we love, Sonoma and Napa Valleys, where we were welcomed by temperatures in the low 70's. If you spent any time in Minnesota during this past winter, you will understand just how much we enjoyed northern California's weather...
The moment we returned home we headed straight for our veterinary clinic to pick up Bisous, where he had surgery for patella luxation the previous week. Recovery involves 8 weeks of physical therapy, meds, no stairs, no jumping on furniture, etc. My biggest fear is, when the 8 weeks are up we will find he still has a damaged knee; keeping Bisous still is not an easy feat. I never knew a Frenchie could be as physically active as Bisous. I have known many French Bulldogs through the years and not one has come close to Bisous' energy level. Right before I started noticing the limp/skip in Bisous' step, I saw him racing circles through our backyard moments before he flew over an entire raised bed in our garden. His size, weight, and activity level have not been his body's friend. In the information that was sent home with us from our vet, I read that 30 to 40 percent of dogs that have patella luxation in one knee will eventually have it in the other. The best thing I can do for Bisous is cut back on the amount of food he eats. Bisous was given to us by the breeder, at eight weeks of age, with Giardia. He was on heavy duty, hard on his system, meds for over four months. During that time we did everything possible to get him to eat, since the drugs killed his appetite. He now loves his food and sits in front of his empty bowl staring into it and crying. It's hard not to give him everything he wants.
I have not left our house since we brought Bisous home. Up until yesterday I have always been here with him. But we went next door last night for dinner (easy enough to run home occasionally and check on B). I made an appetizer (one that I need to bake again and photograph) plus, the cookies in this post. The Salted Chocolate Chunk Shortbread is a recipe by Alison Roman; photos of which are all over Instagram. NYT Cooking shared the recipe, and... voila! ... dessert last night along with Rudesheim Coffee. The falling snow outdoors was the perfect backdrop.
•Salted Chocolate Chunk Shortbread Cookies•
•recipe by Alison Roman, via NYT Cookiing
•yield: 24 cookies
• 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons salted butter, cold (room temp if you're using a handheld mixer), cut into 1/2-inch pieces
• 1/2 cup granulated sugar
• 1/4 cup light brown sugar
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
• 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
• 6 ounces semi-sweet or bittersweet dark chocolate chopped (not too fine, you want chunks, not little shards)
• 1 large egg, beaten
• Demerara sugar, for rolling
• Flaky sea salt, for sprinkling
1. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or an electric hand mixer, beat the butter, both sugars, and vanilla on medium-high till it's super light and fluffy (3-5 minutes for a stand mixer; 6-8 for a hand mixer). Using a spatula, scrape down the sides of the bowl and, with the mixer on low, slowly add the flour, followed by the chocolate chunks, and mix just to blend. If necessary, knead the dough with your hands to make sure the flour is totally incorporated. At this point, the dough should be smooth with no pockets of flour.
2. Divide the dough in half, placing each half on a large piece of plastic wrap. Use the plastic wrap and your hands to form the dough into a log shape. Rolling on the counter will help to smooth it out. Each half should form a 6-inch log, 2 to 2 1/4-inches in diameter (my logs ended up around 7-inches). Chill until totally firm, about two hours.
3. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Brush the outside of the logs with the beaten egg and roll them in the demerara sugar.
4. This is where I found I needed to let the logs warm up a bit. When I tried to slice the first cookie, it crumbled into pieces. I kept my dough in the refrigerator overnight and it was hard. I probably gave them about 10 minutes before I gently began slicing the dough with the serrated knife. Position your fingers on the dough where you are slicing. It's a bit awkward, but I had two fingers on the end of the log with the serrated knife between them and the rest of my hand. If any of the dough breaks off, gently press it into the cookie once on the baking sheet. These cookies are very forgiving. Place them on the prepared baking sheets, spacing 1-inch apart. Sprinkle with the flaky salt. Bake until the edges are just beginning to brown, approximately 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool slightly before sitting down with a glass of cold milk and trying not to eat them all!
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Two years ago for Father's Day, I bought my husband two raspberry bushes. He planted them at the back of our yard, next to the strawberries and behind the raised vegetable beds. I've honestly forgotten about them until this summer, since they're shielded by the tuteurs that hold my tomatoes. Several weeks ago he told me how he needed to build a 6 foot grid frame to support the two plants. I actually thought that sounded a bit excessive, but I didn't argue (well, maybe a little)... But you know what? They definitely needed the support of that frame. They're massive plants. Now, each morning I go out and pick a pint of raspberries. I just made a Cherry-Berry Pie (recipe HERE) that is a combination of sweet cherries, blueberries and my garden raspberries. Tomorrow there's going to be a raspberry cake. And if they continue to produce berries until the fall, there will be many more raspberry recipes ahead.
The other day, we were just eating the raspberries as is, with a little pastry sauce drizzled over. I thought a little shortbread cookie would be perfect with the berries.
• recipe from the Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook •
• 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
• 1 cup pecan pieces
• Pinch of salt
• 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
• 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1. Grind the flour, pecans, and salt in a food processor fitted with a steel blade to a fine powder. Set aside.
2. Using an electric mixer or a wooden spoon, cream the butter and sugar. When the mixture is very smooth and creamy, mix in the pecan mixture.
3. Gather the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 3 hours or overnight.
4. Preheat oven to 300˚F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
5. Roll out the dough 1/4-inch thick on a lightly floured surface. Cut into shapes with a 1-inch cookie cutter. Gather up the scraps, reroll, and cut into as many cookies as possible. Place on the prepared cookie sheets and bake until colored, 20 to 25 minutes.
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During the holiday season, our big celebration has always been on New Year's Day. That is when my husband and I host our annual brunch; an event that now spans 30 years.
What I don't do very often, however, is plan an event right before Christmas. But a week ago, feeling like I had the holidays under control, I asked friends who are in our gourmet "supper club" if they would like to come over for an evening of appetizers and drinks. Amazingly, during this very busy time of the year, everyone was free!
I cooked and baked some of my favorites, and I have links for you below to all of the foods on my menu.
And the best part, for me anyway, was pulling out favorite serving pieces, stands, and vintage decorations... and sharing it all with family and friends.
• Tortellini Salad with Snow Peas
• Zucchini Galettes with Fresh Ricotta and Lemon
• Époisses, Ham and Apple Tart
• Rolled Vanilla Christmas Tree Cookies
• Vanilla Shortbread Cookies
• Macademia Shortbread Biscotti
• Sablés à l'Orange et Raisins
• French Canelés
• Chocolat Chaud
... assorted cheeses, olives, salami, crackers, roasted peppers and drinks were also served
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Sometimes, all you need is a cookie and a French Bulldog...
I would see macarons in France, long before I ever noticed them at bakeries here in the United States. Patisserie Ladurée in Paris is well-known for its macarons (Rue Bonaparte, Left Bank location shown at right). And a Ladurée cart at Charles de Gaulle airport lets travelers grab last minute purchases of macarons before they board their flights.
But that has all changed. Now they are being sold in numerous locations across the U.S., and judging by photo-sharing sites, there are many home bakers making them as well. I think it would be safe to say that the French Macaron is the "it" cookie at the moment.
• 1 cup sweetened condensed milk
• 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
• 14 ounce package of sweetened shredded coconut
• 1 large egg whites
• 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
• 6 ounces finely chopped bittersweet chocolate
1. Preheat oven to 350˚F and position oven racks in the top and bottom third of the oven. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. In a large bowl, combine the sweetened condensed milk and vanilla. Stir in the shredded coconut and mix thoroughly.
3. Using a whisk or a handheld electric mixer, beat the egg whites and salt until firm peaks form. Using a spatula, fold the whites into the coconut mixture and finish by pushing mixture together in a mound.
4. Fill a small bowl with cold water and wet your hands. Gently form spoonfuls of the coconut mixture into small balls, around 1 1/4-inches in diameter and place on prepared baking sheets, spacing 2-inches apart.
5. Transfer baking sheets to the oven and bake, rotating and changing out position of pans halfway through, about 25 minutes. Macaroons should be golden brown in spots on top and underside.
6. Cool briefly on the baking sheets, then transfer macaroons to racks to cool completely.
7. In the meantime, melt the bittersweet chocolate either in a double boiler on the stove, or in a small bowl in the microwave. Dip half of the macaroon into the chocolate and place on a piece of waxed paper until set.
8. The macaroons will keep, uncovered at room temperature, for up to 3 days, or refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks. They can also be frozen for up to 6 months.
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This week I baked chocolate chip cookies and lavender-lemon scones. Both were delicious, but with results I had not anticipated. The cookies and the scones spread while in the oven, more than I ever thought they would. But hey... they were still good, and I would make both of them again, possibly with a little tweaking. If you're interested, here are the links...
And may I suggest... use a smaller round cutter for the cookies than the 2-inch dimension given in the recipe, or do as one reviewer did and cut the dough into small squares.
• 4 egg whites (1/2 cup)
• 1 cup granulated sugar
• 4 1/2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
• 3 cups cornflakes (preferably organic)
• 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 300˚F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Using a stand or handheld mixer, begin whipping the egg whites at medium speed and when frothy, slowly add the sugar. Increase speed to high and continue to whip until you have firm peaks. By hand, fold in the cornflakes, chopped chocolate, and vanilla.
3. Drop meringues in 1 tablespoon mounds, with 1-inch spaces between, onto prepared baking sheets. Bake cookies for 20 minutes total, switching baking sheet positions after 10 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on a baking rack.
TAKE a LOOK:
Daring Bakers Challenge
Desserts And Sweets
Friday Night Dinner
My Kitchen Renovation
New Years Day Brunch
Sweet And Savory Tarts