Cookies For The Big Guy

It's coming on Christmas, they're cutting down trees...

And making Grinch omelets.

But I promised you cookies and, for the sake of a jolly old guy in a red suit, cookies you shall get.

Classic Christmas cookies - cut-out sugar cookies piped with royal icing, usually - are fun to make and nice to look at (especially these. And these), but sometimes they're, um... annoying. And before you gasp and yell "blasphemy!" I should tell you that I'm Jewish, so, you know. That's already sort of a done deal.

I love a good classic Christmas cookie, but a good classic Christmas cookie takes time and patience. The mixing, the rolling, the chilling, the baking, the cooling. Then the mixing of the royal icing and the coloring and the piping and the flooding and then, quite importantly, the drying. Only then can you bite the head off an unsuspecting snowman.

This Christmas, I'm going for simplicity and warm, comforting flavor. Chocolate chip. Pumpkin whoopie pies. Chewy holiday spiced snickerdoodles!

I think, even for a Jew, Santa would approve.

Chewy Holiday Spiced Snickerdoodles
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1.5 cups sugar, plus extra (about 1/4 cup extra) for rolling
  • 3 oz cream cheese, cut into small pieces
  • 6 tbsp butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon,
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves

Preheat oven to 350ºF.

Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a medium-sized bowl.

Combine the 1.5 cups sugar and the cream cheese in a large bowl, then pour the warm butter on top and whisk to combine. The mixture will be slightly lumpy. Whisk in the oil until combined, and then add the egg, milk and vanilla and whisk until smooth. Add the flour mixture all at once, and beat gently until the dough forms.

Using a spoon or an ice cream scoop, portion out the dough by the heaping tablespoon, and roll gently into balls. Put some sugar in a shallow bowl (about 1/4 cup) and stir in the spices. Roll each dough ball in the spice/sugar mixture, and place on a baking sheet, evenly spaced. Gently press each ball of dough with your hand or the back of a drinking glass to flatten slightly. Bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes, until the edges are just set and the cookies look slightly cracked. If you can't decide if they're done, take the cookies out of the oven. In the case of these chewy delights, underbaked is better than over.

Serve with a tall glass of milk for Santa, and maybe a side of carrots for Rudolph et al.


Just Take A Second

I know I should be focusing on holiday cookies right now (both today's snow flurries and the calendar say we're well into December), but I want to linger over Thanksgiving for a bit. I mean, at this point, what's the harm in another piece of pie?

classic pumpkin pie

roast capon

Gramma Inez's pumpkin cheesecake with cranberry swirl

roasted root vegetables

Or some homemade brioche rolls?

sweet potato brioche rolls

sweet potatoes with pecans and parmesan. and toasted mallows.

roasted Brussels sprouts with crispy pancetta

Can I just take a second to say... yum?

I've been basking in the full-bellied warmth of Thanksgiving for the past week and a half, thinking about all the time spent in the kitchen, the scent of warm butter, fresh herbs, and toasted pecans, Emily's très adorable table decorations, and the hilarity that ensues when you combine a table full of cousins and an iPhone app called "FatBooth."

Julie, Casey & Teddy post FatBooth

new cousin Julie (yay!) and Casey

Mama and Popsicle

As far as I'm concerned, cookies can wait another week. I'd rather have another slice of pie.

I would be proud to partake of your pecan pie

With that in mind, allow me to present my official 2010 Pie Lover's Gift Guide:
So, there you have it - a comprehensive guide to most things pie, just in time for the holidays. Next stop - cookieville.


We Will Eat

Know what's nice about November?


November means pumpkins.

pumpkin whoopie pies! Thanks for the recipe, Martha.

And squash!

bulgar wheat salad with roast butternut squash and goat cheese

And crackly orange leaves, and crisp, chilly days, and Thanksgiving menu planning.

After much family chatter (mostly just lots of emailing with Aunts Maggie and Lis), this year's menu is finished. Deliciously. Want to see?

Thanksgiving 2010:

Inez's Chopped Chicken Liver on Crackers
Gravlax with Mustard Sauce and Fresh Dill

Roast Capon with Lemon and Thyme
Italian Sausage, Mushroom & Sage Stuffing
Cornbread Stuffing with Chorizo & Fennel
Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Roasted Root Vegetables with Crumbled Goat Cheese
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta
Sweet Potatoes with Pecans and Parmesan
Cranberry Fruit Conserve
Sweet Potato Brioche Rolls

Pumpkin Pie
Pecan Pie
Apple Betty
Fresh Cinnamon Whipped Cream
Chocolate Whoopie Pies

What do you think? It's lots of food, but then, there are a lot of us, and we do Thanksgiving right. This year, it'll probably go something like this: we'll pour drinks. Then we'll argue about who actually won the family football game, get caught up on all of the family gossip over gravlax and chicken liver, pour (another) glass of wine, and then we will eat, in earnest. And we will eat. And then? We'll moan about being full while we watch football and eat leftovers.

Personally, I can't wait. What are you planning to have on your Thanksgiving table this year?


I Made A Video

About my favorite sandwich. Because I'm very normal and definitely do not have too much time on my hands.


Peanut Butter & Jelly!

(Starring Peanut Butter & Jelly).


Apple Betty and Me

On a beautiful Saturday in October, when sisters are readily available, it's important to go apple picking.

Not everyone can have sisters, and that's too bad, but everyone can find a few apples somewhere, and everyone should, at least once, try to make an apple betty.

If the gosh darn gee whiz wholesomeness of the name alone doesn't get you (I mean, come on - apple betty! Paging June Cleaver...), maybe the brown sugar shortbread base piled with spiced apples, gingersnap cookie crumbs and a wash of melted butter will.

If you think something like this sounds awesome, that's because it is. Awesome. The shortbread is rich and warm and, thanks to the brown sugar, tastes almost like caramel. The apples roll around in a bit of sugar, ground cinnamon, cloves and ginger, get a shot of citrus juice and vanilla, and are then buried in a mess of spicy gingersnaps and doused with smooth, liquid butter, which, of course, permeates the entire betty with a round richness that's just so good you could cry. You could cry, people.

But, instead of crying, you'll probably ask yourself what the hell apple pie is even doing here anymore, and deftly cut yourself another slice. Of the easiest and most delicious apple dessert you'll make this fall: a betty.

Apple Betty
Adapted from
Gourmet Magazine, September 2000

Since I came across this recipe a week ago, I've made it twice. Two times. In one week. Apple betty and I made our debut at a fun family dinner in Philadelphia, and we were applauded so thoroughly I thought I'd bring her out again to celebrate the recent engagement (!) of my dear friends Jenny and Steve. Betty didn't disappoint on her second outing, even though I used graham cracker crumbs instead of ginger snaps.

  • 1 1/2 - 2 cups homemade or store bought gingersnaps
for shortbread base:
  • 1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
for apple filling:
  • 1 1/4 sticks (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons) unsalted butter
  • 2 lb tart apples (I like Granny Smith, Golden Delicious or McIntosh)
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • juice from 1/2 orange
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup granulated sugar, divided
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350ºF.

To make shortbread: Pulse the flour, brown sugar, and salt in a food processor until combined. Add the butter and pulse until small lumps form (the dough will not seem to fully come together, but will look sandy). Sprinkle the dough into the bottom of a 9 x 13 inch baking dish and press evenly to form the base of the apple betty. Bake in the middle rack of the oven for about 20 minutes, or until lightly browned.

While the shortbread bakes, grind your gingersnaps and prepare your filling. Place gingersnaps in a food processor and pulse until they look like bread crumbs. Peel, core and slice apples into 1/4-inch slices, and place in a large bowl. Sprinkle apples with 1/3 cup of sugar, ground cinnamon, cloves and ginger. Squeeze citrus juices on top of apples and add vanilla extract. Stir apples with clean hands or a spoon to evenly coat with sugar, juice and spices. In a separate, smaller bowl, stir together flour and 2/3 cup sugar.

Melt the 1 1/4 sticks butter on the stove top or in the microwave.

When the shortbread is out of the oven and still warm, sprinkle it with half of the sugar/flour mixture. Layer the apples, then the remaining sugar/flour mixture, and top with an even sprinkling of ground gingersnaps. Drizzle the melted butter on top of it all, and

bake in upper third of oven, pressing down on filling with a metal spatula halfway through baking, until apples are very tender and gingersnap crumbs are deeply golden, 50 minutes to 1 hour total. Cool 20 minutes in pan on a rack. Serve with generous scoops of vanilla ice cream.

Serves 10-12.


Sort of a Beautiful Place

As it turns out, I was in Seattle last weekend. I'd never been before, and it's sort of a beautiful place, if you're into amazing markets and fresh fish and misty ocean views.

I spent the weekend eating and boating and biking, walking through parks and markets, and surrounding myself with fleece-wearing, messenger-bag-toting computer geniuses. I even stumbled upon some sort of medieval sword fighting slash jousting convention in Gas Works Park (definitely a highlight of the trip - and definitely still kicking myself for not getting a photo).

I touched a starfish at the Seattle Aquarium,

and got completely overwhelmed at Pike Place Market.

I ate the best crumpet I've ever tasted at The Crumpet Shop, a little tea nook and bakery on 1st Avenue by Pike Street.

And y'know what? It barely rained a drop. All that talk about Seattle being all wet and brooding? Lies. They don't want you to know, but Seattle is actually gorgeous and flecked with sunshine (at least, it is in September). That said, I might have to go back and double check the whole weather situation. It'd be a sacrifice, but I think it's one I'm willing to make - for my readers, of course. The trip would totally be a weather-researching thing. I mean, it'd have nothing to do with crumpets, that's for sure.

Crumpets with Butter, Ricotta and Jam

Recipe from The Bread Book by Linda Collister & Anthony Blake

  • 2 cups (230g) bread flour
  • 1 2/3 cups (230g) all purpose flour
  • ¾ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 envelope active dry yeast (2 ¼ teaspoons), plus ½ teaspoon sugar
  • 2 ¼ cups (510ml) lukewarm water
  • 2 teaspoons (10g) salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 2/3 cup (140ml) lukewarm milk
  • unsalted butter
  • whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • your favorite jam (I like blackberry)

Sift together the flours and cream of tartar into a large bowl. Mix the yeast and the sugar with ¾ cup lukewarm water and let stand until foamy, 5 to 10 minutes. Stir in the remaining lukewarm water.

Combine the yeast mixture with the flours in the bowl of an electric mixer set with the paddle attachment. Mix until you get a very thick, but smooth batter. (If you don't have an electric mixer, use a wooden spoon and beat vigorously for about two minutes). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let stand in a warm spot until the batter rises and then falls, about 1 hour.

Add the salt and beat the batter for about 1 minute. Then re-cover the bowl and let stand in a warm spot for 15 to 20 minutes to rest.

Dissolve the baking soda in the lukewarm milk. Then gently stir it into the batter. If the batter seems too stiff, add a bit of lukewarm water to loosen it up a bit. (You'll know if the batter is too stiff if, when you fry up a crumpet, no holes form - crumpets are supposed to be very light and full of holes. No holes = too stiff, add water).

Heat an oiled griddle or frying pan (cast iron works best) over moderately low heat for about 3 minutes until very hot. Put a well-greased crumpet ring (who owns crumpet rings? Feel free to use a round cookie cutter) on the griddle. Spoon or pour 1/3 cup of the batter into the ring. The amount of batter will depend on the size of your crumpet ring (or cookie cutter).

As soon as the batter is poured into the ring, it should begin to form holes. If holes do not form, add a little more lukewarm water, a tablespoon at a time, to the batter in the bowl and try again. If the batter is too thin and runs out under the ring, gently work in a little more all-purpose flour and try again. Once the batter is the proper consistency, continue cooking the crumpets in batches, three or four at a time. As soon as the top surface is set and covered with holes, 7 to 8 minutes, the crumpet is ready to flip over.

To flip the crumpet, remove the ring with a towel or tongs, then turn the crumpet carefully with a spatula. The cooked side should be chestnut brown. Cook the second, holey side of the crumpet for 2 to 3 minutes, or until pale golden. The crumpet should be about ¾ inch thick. Remove the crumpet from the griddle. Grease the crumpet rings well after each use.

While the crumpets are still warm, slather each with a pat of butter, a mound of ricotta and a spoonful of jam. Eat immediately, accompanied by a cup of tea and, if you can find one, a fleece-wearing computer genius.

Makes about 18 crumpets.