On Procrastination and Chocolate.

Teaser; no chocolate here, though I must say that I made a fabulous chocolate rye brownie recently that I highly recommend trying. You’ll find the link here.

~I needed something self indulgent after a weekend of crafting gifts for others.

FullSizeRenderWriting recipes at times can be challenging. I like to buck the line at precision; and there are times when my “recipes” are just an approximation of this and that. Needless to say, this works much better in the realm of cooking, rather than baking, as there is a bit of science and technique one must follow.

IMG_9827That being said, sometimes it’s perfectly reasonable to “go offline” and trust instinct to guide us in the kitchen. Sometimes precision lies in the imprecision. As in life, occasionally we need to deviate from the path in front of us, the recipe, the method, and allow internal wisdom to navigate.

IMG_9828There are an abundance of holiday cookie ideas floating around at the moment, and I was struck by the simplicity of this Japanese tea flavored almond cookie. That’s often all it takes, an idea, an inspiration, and what follows is an outpouring of measures to translate it into something of my own (along with the mental inventory of what is in my pantry). This cookie had me thinking about shortbread. I’ve been making shortbread from a recipe I’ve refined over the years, a mash of several great ideas, that offers a perfect balance of sandiness, crisp and sweet, and I thought about adding a bit of matcha tea powder to flavor the dough.

As a ran through the park, other variations of tea-infused shortbread cookies came to mind, and by the time I’d arrived home, I’d committed myself to several hours in the kitchen. I was able to produce a batch each of earl grey, matcha and chai varieties before running out of flour…which led to the invention of a rye flour shortbread, flecked with pieces of candied and dried ginger.

IMG_9830In retrospect, I might boost the salt a bit, add an extra pinch. Increase the tea to 2.5 or even 3 teaspoons, and add a bit of freshly grated ginger to the rye version.

IMG_9776Use the recipes that follow as a template; an approximation of wet:dry, and tailor to suit your taste. Don’t be afraid to make a mistake. Errors are the building blocks to perfection.

IMG_9835These cookies go well with tea, obviously, or tucked into a lunchsack for an afternoon treat. There are fairly benign and can be justified is eaten any time of the day.

IMG_9837I’m trying a method-driven writing technique, rather than the standard approach, however the ingredients are all there. I hope you enjoy it.

Much Love,

J

Tea-Infused Shortbread

*This recipe includes rye flour, which pairs well with ginger. For a more truly authentic shortbread, use 1 cup unbleached flour, omitting the rye, and 2-2.5 teaspoons of ground tea of choice to sub in for the ginger.

Beat 1/2 cup butter wth 1/3 cup powdered sugar until light and fluffy.

Add to that 1 tbsp fresh grated ginger and 3-ish tbsp chopped candied ginger.

In a separate bowl, combine 2/3 cup unbleached flour with 1/3 cup rye flour, 2 tbsp tapioca flour (if you have it – makes them really light and sandy), 1/2 tsp salt and 1 tsp powdered ginger.

Mix it all together until just combined, then turn out onto some parchment and knead together, minimally.

Roll out 1/4-inch thick, then let dough rest in the fridge for about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 325F.

Using cookie cutters of choice, cut and set on parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for ~16 minutes, turning about halfway through. You want them to be just barely golden.

Allow to cool for a couple of minutes on baking sheet, then move to baking rack to cool completely.

Decorate, as desired 😘

This post is dedicated to D. Thank you inspiring me to cook, create, write, not to mention doing the dishes! I miss that.

Rêver de l’été (Dreaming of Summer)

The heaps of gray, shadowy, wet days and Winter’s chill have left me with a sweet longing for Summer. At the market, I seem to gravitate toward citrus; the shiny orbs of Cara Cara pink navels, with their pink-hued flesh and pucker-y sweetness; the kumquat, with its deceptively-sweet peel and shockingly sour insides; the crimson flesh and clean bright taste of blood oranges..mmm. And so to nurture my creative side as well as satisfy a roaring sweet tooth, I drew upon citrus as inspiration.

Orange Almond Sablés

Orange Almond Sablés

Often, I do my best creative work while running. That may seem odd to some, however I’ve found that running serves as an outlet not only for expending physical energy, it is a catalyst for new ideas. These seedlings are kneaded and churned about as I navigate urban trails and sidewalks; often as the sun is just starting to make its presence known. I see flavors and textures come together, then the vision takes form, and I’m off to the store, list in hand.

IMG_0614

I recalled a luxuriously silky buttermilk panna cotta I’d made this summer that involved steeping lavender buds and vanilla beans in buttermilk and cream. That fragrance! The buttermilk added a nice perky bit of tart, fooling the palate and masking some of the richness of the butterfat. A friend of mine with whom I’ve shared several meals over the years said it was probably the best dessert they’d had. A high complement, for sure!

Panna Cotta (honey orange rosemary)Rosemary-scented honey and orange panna cotta

And so this weekend, with citrus on my mind, I came up with not one, but two desserts to share. Neither of them yield instant gratification, however if you are willing to set aside an afternoon, I assure that dessert will be stunning. The honey panna cotta has only the faintest hint of rosemary and marries nicely with the orange zest. The cookies are based off a classic French butter cookie, the sablé. They make a perfect tea cookie; lightly scented with almond and the essential oils of orange zest. I recommend using unsalted European butter, if you can find it, as European butter has a higher fat content that is fabulous in baked goods.

best butter.

best butter.

Sablé dough

Of course, cookies are always good for sharing, so I managed to set aside a few for a neighbor.

Sablé, ready to go.

Enjoy, and much love.

J

Honey Panna Cotta with Rosemary and Orange

1 packet gelatin
1 c  whole milk
2 cup whipping cream (not half and half)
1/3 c honey
1 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp grated orange zest
2 sprigs rosemary
*Simple Syrup (optional)
1/4 c orange juice
 2 Tbsp honey

/–

Method
pour milk into a saucepan; sprinkle gelatin atop and allow to soften for ~5 minutes.
Add cream, honey, and remaining ingrediets. turn heat to low, whisking steadily to combine.
Add rosemary and zest; furn heat to medium and stir occasionally until barely steaming. Remove from heat and steep ~15 minutes.
Pour into ramekinsand allow to chilll nthe referigerator for at least four hours
Pour into 6 ramekins and refrigerate for ~4 hours, until set.

*For simple syrup, combine honey and orange juice in small saucepan over medium heat; stir and allow to bubble softly for ~ 5minutes. remove from heat. Reserve and pour over panna cotta prior to serving.

Orange Almond Sablé

2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter; softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 Tbsp orange zest
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted before measuring
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 large egg yolks
1 tsp almond extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
*Decoration
1 egg yolk
Granulated sugar

Method

  1. In a small bowl, mix orange zest with granulated sugar until fragrant. Add powdered sugar and sea salt to combine
  2. In a stand mixer, cream butter. Add sugar and mix to combine.
  3. Add egg yolks and almond extract; beat until incorporated
  4. Lastly, add flour. Mix only until pastry forms a cohesive mass; this is reminiscent of pie pastry; you’ll want the end result to be light and crumbly
  5. Form dough into two, 9-inch logs, wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours (at least 3)
  6. When ready to bake. preheat oven to 350 degrees
  7. Line baking sheet with parchment paper
  8. Remove dough from refrigerator, brush logs with egg yolk and granulated sugar.
  9. Using a sharp knife; slice into 1/3 to 1/2-inch rounds.
  10. Bake 15-20 minutes; longer if the cookies are on the thicker side. Cookies are ready when the bottom and sides are golden; the tops should remain pale.

Allow to rest for a couple of minutes on cookie sheet, then remove to cool completely on wire rack