Monday, December 20, 2010

Jam Sandwiches

I have a confession to make -- I don't really like Christmas cookies. I love cutting them out, decorating them with my mom and sister, making the goopy colored frosting, but at the end of the day, they taste like straight butter and flour. I had given up on Christmas cookies until, on a whim, I opened up my Baking Illustrated cookbook and, lo and behold, I found the greatest Christmas cookies of all time: jam sandwiches.

It turns out the secret ingredients for the perfect sugar cookie are a) superfine sugar, b) two sticks of butter, and c) cream cheese. As always a stand mixer takes all of the guess work out of making these, and liberal use of parchment paper makes rolling/cutting/cleanup incredibly easy. Be sure to refrigerate the dough in between steps and to eat one of the cookie holes right when it comes out of the oven. I think I've found my favorite cookie recipe ever.

Jam Sandwiches
  • 2 1/2 c (12 1/2 oz) AP flour
  • 3/4 c (5 1/2 oz) superfine sugar (granulated sugar, pulverized in the food processor for 30 sec)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 16 Tbsp (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened but still cool, cut into sixteen 1/2" pieces
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 Tbsp turbinado, Demerara, or white decorating sugar
  • 1 1/4 c (12 oz) raspberry jam, strained
  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, mix the flour, sugar, and salt at low speed until combined. With the mixer running on low, add the butter a piece at a time. Continue to mix until the mixture looks crumbly and slighty wet. Add the vanilla and cream cheese and mix for another 30 seconds.
  2. Knead the dough by hand in the bowl for a few turns, then turn the dough out onto the countertop. divide in half and wrap each half in plastic and refrigerate for at least half an hour.
  3. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Roll out one half of the dough to an even 1/8" thickness between 2 large sheets of parchment paper. Slide the rolled tough, still on the parchment, onto a baking sheet and refrigerate until firm, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, repeat with the rest of the dough.
  4. Cut out the cookies with a 2" round cookie cutter and transfer to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, rotating the sheet halfway through, until the cookies are golden brown. Roll out the the remaining dough, sprinkle the sugar over the dough, and use a 3/4" round cookie cutter to cut out the centers of the rounds. Bake as before.
  5. When the cookies have cooled, add about 1 tsp of jam on the base cookies and put the cut-out cookies on top. Let stand until set, about 30 minutes.

Secret bonus song I made on my Kaossilator while making these this weekend:

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Sound and Vision - Fra Angelico and Britten

The Annunciation, Fra Angelico (1437-1446)

It's nice to have such a cultured family. My mom loves medieval and early Renaissance painting, especially Fra Angelico, and she passed a lot of that appreciation on to me and my sister, who got her BA in art history. One of my favorite trips we've ever taken together was to the Cloisters in NYC. Not only do my mom and sister love art, but my brother is a music professor, and every once in a while he sends me some of the music he's working on, like the Faure songs I've posted here. He's currently coaching the second of five canticles Benjamin Britten wrote for tenor, countertenor, and piano. The original text for this piece is taken directly from Chester's mystery plays, a cycle of 15th century plays based on biblical texts.

The connection between the Britten piece and the Fra Angelico painting isn't just the concurrence of the art and the text, it's their shared depiction of contact with the supernatural. Everything about the Fra Angelico painting is otherworldly, from the over-sized figures and Gabriel's rainbow wings to the beauty of the painting itself (and, you know, the whole idea of the annunciation to begin with), and Britten's portrayal of the voice of God at the beginning of this piece is almost scarily awe-inspiring.

Britten's Canticle II - Abraham and Issac

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Mussamun Curry Paste

My brother and his wife got me a great curry cookbook for Christmas a few years ago, and after opening it up the other day, I got hungry for some labor-intensive Indian food. In the back are a few recipes for curry paste (red, green, yellow) and one for "Thai-Style Mussamun Curry Paste" that serves as a base for an interesting curry containing chicken, potatoes, and peanuts. After looking at the ingredient list I knew I had to make it.

This paste has a bunch of sweet spices and an undercurrent of a kick from the dried chiles. Apparently it some ceremonial purposes in Thailand (weddings, births, ordinations of Buddhist monks), and it tastes pretty incredible. All the up-front work you put in pays off, since making homemade curry is so quick with some curry paste on hand. I happend to have all the whole spices (except for the turmeric), so I went overkill: here's a photo of some cardamom pods I cracked open, just to give you an idea of how far you can take this recipe if you're in the mood.

The Mussamun curry recipe in this cookbook calls for 2 cans of coconut milk, 2 lbs cut up chicken breast, 1 large peeled, chopped potato, and 1 onion cut into chunks, along with 1/2 c dry-roasted salted peanuts, 2 Tbsp brown sugar, 3 Tbsp dissolved tamarind paste, 2 Tbsp lime juice, and salt to taste. Combine 5 Tbsp curry paste with 1/2 c of coconut milk over medium-high heat, lightly brown the chicken, then add everything else besides the lime juice. Bring to a boil, simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, add the lime juice, and serve with basmati rice. FYI, I also made this with a couple of blocks of cubed, pan-fried extra firm tofu (frozen overnight, thawed during the day, and hand-squeezed dry), adding the tofu a few minutes before taking the curry off the heat, and it was at least as good as the original recipe.

Thai-Style Mussamun Curry Paste
  • 15 small dried red chili peppers (chiles de arbol, the slender ones about the size of your pinkie)
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 c coarsely chopped onion
  • 1/2 c chopped garlic
  • 3 Tbsp minced fresh lemongrass (the white sections of about 3 stalks)
  • 1 tbsp minced fresh ginger
  • few Tbsp water
  1. Stem the chilies, remove the seeds, and cut them into small pieces using kitchen shears. There will be about 1/4 c of dried chilies. Place in a small bowl and add warm water to cover, then soak for about 15 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, combine cumin and coriander seds in a small, dry frying pan. Toast over medium heat for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring often, until fragrant and slightly darkened. Remove from heat and combine with the rest of the spices. In a food processor, combine the onion, garlic, lemongrass, ginger, 2 Tbsp of water, drained chilies, and the spice mixture. Process to a fairly smooth, evenly colored-paste.
  3. Transfer to an airtight jar and seal. Refrigerate until needed for up to 1 months, or freeze for up to 6 months.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Indian Skillet Black-Eyed Peas

Ever since my awesome friends Erik and Kelly turned me on to Moosewood Restaurant's New Classics cookbook I have been cooking from it compulsively. Every single recipe, except for one bland potato/pasta/pesto dish, has been a showstopper. This recipe for spiced black-eyed peas is one of my favorites.

Like most fun recipes, this one has a couple of secret ingredients: tamarind paste, which is pretty easy to find in a Whole Foods/co-op/ethnic grocery, and ground cardamom. It's definitely a little more effort to buy cardamom pods, pound them open, fish out the flavor crystals, and grind them by hand, but it smells and tastes amazing. You know that moment when you throw a bunch of spices into a pan of hot oil and onion and garlic? This recipe dials that moment up to 10.

I really went overboard with my favorite spices, easily doubling the amount of fresh ginger and cardamom. Any way you make it, this recipe has an amazing flavor profile and is one of the most satisfying bean dishes I've ever made. Score another one for Moosewood!

  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 c chopped onions
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp minced fresh ginger
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp tamarind concentrate, dissolved in 1 c warm water
  • 3 c cooked black-eyed peas (equal to two 16 oz cans, rinsed and drained)
  • 1/2 c chopped fresh tomatoes
  • 2 c rinsed and chopped fresh spinach

  1. Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet or nonreactive saucepan. Add the onions and garlic and saute on medium-high heat until the onions are soft and beginning to brown, about 10 minutes.
  2. Add the ginger, cayenne, cinnamon, cardamom, coriander, and salt and mix well. Stir in the water and tamarind and black eyed peas, cover, and simmer for about 10 minutes.
  3. Add the tomatoes and spinach and cook just until the spinach wilts, about 1 minute. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Strawberries, Two Ways

Strawberry Shortcakes, c/o Baking Illustrated

A few weeks ago, at the height of strawberry season, I was eating strawberries with everything (especially Greek yogurt). This having been my first strawberry season with my new copy of Baking Illustrated in hand, I knew I had to make their strawberry shortcakes. They turned out great - slightly sweetened biscuits, mascerated strawberries, a generous portion of whipped cream - just about everything you'd want. Thankfully, my obsession didn't stop there.

Strawberry Brown Butter Bettys, c/o Smitten Kitchen

Just as this unbelievably delicious and easy banana bread cobbler recipe rendered banana bread obsolete, the strawberry brown butter bettys on were so perfect that I'll probably never make strawberry shortcakes again. Still, both of these recipes are well worth your time.

  • 8 c strawberries, hulled
  • 6 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 c (10 oz) AP flour
  • 5 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 8 Tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-in cubes
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 c plus 1 Tsbp half-and-half or whole milk
  • 1 egg white, lightly beaten
  • 2 c whipped cream (+ 1 tsp vanilla)
  1. For the fruit: Crush 3 cups of the hulled strawberries with a potato masher. Slice the remaining 5 cups of berries and stir into the crushed berries, along with the sugar. Set the fruit aside and mascerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours.
  2. For the shortcakes: Set an oven rack to the lower-middle position and preheat to 425 degrees. Pulse the flour, 3 Tbsp of the sugar, baking powder, and salt in a food processor. Scatter the cold butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until it resembles coarse meal, about fifteen 1-second pulses. Transfer to a medium bowl.
  3. Mix the beaten egg and half and half in a mesuring cup. Add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients and mix until large clumps are formed. Turn onto a floured work surface and lightly knead until combined.
  4. Pat the dough until a 9"x6" rectangle, about 3/4" thick, making sure not to overwork the dough. Cut out 6 dough rounds with a 2 3/4" biscuit cutter. Brush with beaten egg white, and sprinkle with remaining sugar.
  5. Bake until golden brown, 12 to 14 minutes. Place the baking sheet on a wire rack and cool until warm, about 10 minutes.
  6. Split each shortcake, portion fruit over the bottom, add a dollop of whipped cream, and cap with the cake top.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Serious Moonlight

Serious Moonlight

My friend Darcy and I have an inexplicable attachment to the lyric about the "serious moonlight" in Bowie's "Let's Dance". Last month we were both at our mutual friends' wedding, and that's the song they chose for their first dance. For whatever reason, that lyric embedded itself into my brain. After that night I was super inspired to put together a compilation that evokes nighttime and all that it entails: dreams, sleep, sex, confusion, and, of course, field recordings of frogs. It's meant to be listened to at dusk with the lights out and the windows open. As usual, just unpack the zip file and drag the songs into iTunes, and they'll sort themselves in the Mixes genre under "Serious Moonlight".
  1. The Moody Blues - The Sun Set (3.03)
  2. Arovane - Tomorrow Morning (1.46)
  3. Serge Gainsbourg - Valse de Melody (1.32)
  4. Leila - Something (1.29)
  5. The Durutti Column - Sleep Will Come (1.49)
  6. Euros Childs - Roedd Hi'n Nofio Yn Y Bore Bach (3.30)
  7. David Sylvian - The Heart Knows Better (7.52)
  8. Linda Perhacs - Parallelograms (4.34)
  9. Colin Blunstone - Her Song (3.31)
  10. Matt Sweeny & Bonnie 'Prince' Billy - Blood Embrace (7.57)
  11. The Clientele - Lamplight (6.44)
  12. Datacide - Flashback Signal (15.55)
  13. Björk - Headphones (5.40)

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Autechre and Bruce Gilbert

Autechre - os veix3 (2010)

Bruce Gilbert - Angel Food (1987)

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Udon with Shiitake Mushrooms and Kale in Miso Broth

I'm just getting over being sick for a full month, and when I'm sick I crave Japanese food. I wish I had found this recipe when I was just coming down with the plague. It's cheap, comforting, easy, and incredibly satisfying. It's also arguably the healthiest thing I've ever made in the kitchen.

This recipe comes from the venerable Veganomicon and features red miso, which magically enhances any broth-y entree.

Since I live alone, I bought all the ingredients, prepped the onions and mushrooms, set half of them aside, and cooked a half recipe two days in a row. Fresh udon noodles should be available at any halfway-fancy grocery store - in fact, I've never seen dried udon noodles, so fresh noodles may be easier to find. I also at least doubled the amount of fresh ginger in this recipe, but your ginger threshold may not be as high as mine.

  • 1/2 lb fresh or dried udon noodles
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 medium red onion, sliced into thin half-moons
  • 4 oz shiitake mushrooms, rinsed, stems trimmed, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp ginger, minced
  • 2 Tbsp mirin (optional)
  • 2 cups water
  • 3 Tbsp miso (preferably red, if using light add another Tbsp)
  • 4 c chopped kale
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  1. Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the udon per the directions. Fresh udon will take about 2 min. Drain, rinse with cool water, and set aside.
  2. Saute the onion and mushrooms in the oil over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and saute for another minute.
  3. Add the mirin, water, soy sauce, and miso, and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce the heat and add the kale. Toss with tongs until kale has wilted, about a minute.
  4. Add the noodles, toss again, and serve.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Narcissus Album

There was an op-ed column on the New York Times website this week that really struck me. I love articles that examine our relationships with each other, ourselves, and our tastes in the context of the internet (one of the reasons why Hipster Runoff is my favorite website), and Roger Cohen's article, entitled "The Narcissus Society," discusses what has happened to our values and self-perception in the past decade.
"Community — a stable job, shared national experience, extended family, labor unions — has vanished or eroded. In its place have come a frenzied individualism, solipsistic screen-gazing, the disembodied pleasures of social networking, [...]. Feelings of anxiety and inadequacy grow in the lonely chamber of self-absorption and projection."
He's on to something isn't he? While research suggests that our on-line personalities are actually more true to life than we may think, our relationships on the internet are essentially about "broadcasting personal content to a multitude of people," as the Wired article puts it. At the end of the day, that's what this and all blogs are about: a one-way dissemination of content designed to imprint a specific image of the author.

When I was in 9th grade, on the suggestion of the NME (which I loved in high school), I sat down at the listening station at Millenium Music in West Ashley and listened to Orbital's second album for the first time. The opening notes of "Lush 3-1" pouring in through those headphones was mindblowing. Orbital and Aphex Twin and Autechre opened up a whole new world for me. I think the defining characteristic of this stuff wasn't necessarily the fact that it was made without guitars but that it was way more abstract than the verse-chorus-verse music I had heard up to that point. There's a lot of emotional content to this music (Aphex Twin's "Fingerbib" is a perfect example), but there's not a lot of narrative. I was really impressed by their ability to make such technically complicated, affecting music without any pretentions of relatability akin to pop music.


The contrast between the first big step in developing my own music tastes -- the less relatable the music, the more I liked it -- and how I listen to music now is something that Roger Cohen's article realized in me. I think as you get older and you start accumulating more good and bad experiences, you can't help but find some comfort or catharsis through music, which enables the listener to relate his own life to the music, even if it's abstract. For instance, for me, Nobukazu Takemura's "Icefall" and Talk Talk's "I Believe in You" are embarassingly affecting. Songs like these fit into a very specific space in my emotional composition. This neo-spiritual space is exactly the kind of content I like to disseminate on my blog. Of course, on some level I'm only doing so to impart a particular image of myself, which is pretty narcissistic (via Roger Cohen).

I've been working on a compilation for a few months, and I figured, what better way to acknowledge the intention and effect of my blog than to make a mix that's purposefully all about me and my musical taste and post it on my blog? Even I would probably get bored with nothing but songs like "Icefall," so instead this brief and highly listenable compilation is just about different aspects of my life here in Boise. I have exactly one friend here, a super cool co-worker who is another California transplant, but besides that, it's just me and my toys and my cookware and Malcolm. Since I see my two or so years here are a preparation for the rest of my life, I don't mind it too much. This set of songs are available here, and I even wrote up a little listening guide. There's some stuff on here that probably only I could love (e.g. Oorutaichi), but that's part of the point, isn't it?

Narcissus Album

  1. Oorutaichi - Jurasy Human (1.47)
    If there were a TV show about me and Malcolm, this would be our theme song.
  2. Space Opera - Country Max (3.23)
    Setting the tone with some help from my favorite mp3 blog, The Rising Storm.
  3. Warren Zevon - The French Inhaler (3.47)
    A story-song about hard work, disappointment, isolation, etc.
  4. Animal Collective - What Would I Want? Sky (6.46)
    Pretty much awe-inspiring.
  5. Cylob - Morning (3.05)
    The cymbal that's just a tiny bit too loud reminds me of my alarm.
  6. Broadcast and the Focus Group - I See, So I See So (2.09)
    A groggy drive to work .
  7. PJ Harvey - Working for the Man (4.49)
    Ad pedem litterae. Big thanks to my sister for reminding me of just how badass To Bring You My Love is.
  8. Boris - Parting (7.33)
    Like 15 seconds of awesome metal stretched to 8 face-melting minutes.
  9. The Beach Boys - I'm So Young (2.33)
    A song for me and Kat.
  10. XTC - Harvest Festival (4.15)
    "that longing look"
  11. Orbital - Belfast (8.07)
    A big deal early in my musical life.
  12. The Clientele - Walking In the Park (1.38)
    My favorite outro.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

House Tour and Kaossilator Demo

Since Kat came last weekend and gave me some great advice on how to arrange my little apartment, it finally feels like home. I took some photos and made a folder on Picasa for anybody who's interested in seeing how it came together. The older I get, the more fussy my living arrangements, and I love it. I can't believe I lived with other people for so long. There are still some things to fix up here and there but it's great to finally have a livable space again.

From Boise Apartment Photos

Of all my finds over the past couple of years, one of my favorites by far is my map of the southeast US from the Alameda antiques fair. I got an amazing deal on it and I love how it looks perfect in my living area. I also couldn't wait to share this:

From Boise Apartment Photos

This is my new toy, the KORG Kaossilator dynamic phrase synthesizer. It's basically a touchpad-controlled loop generator, and it is the most awesome purchase I've made in a long, long time. It's got a ton of voices/sound effects/drum hits/preset drum patterns, and it gives you complete control of BPM and loop length (anywhere from 1/32 of a beat to 8 full beats), as well as 31 different scales, 49 different gate arpeggiators that sound the selected sample at different intervals of the beat, and the ability to record loops and layer them. I've had so much fun with it the past couple of weeks that I figured I would post some quick (~20 second) samples to give you an idea of how easy it is to lose hours playing with this thing.

Starting out with the 'flap' lead running through gate arpeggiator 09. 'Egyptian' scale, 145 bpm.

Adding a BD/SD3 drum hit to each downbeat.

Layering on the 'auto techno' drum pattern using one of the more basic presets.

Testing out the trance chord before adding it to the other fixed layers.

Fixed the trance chord with a surge in the cutoff during the second bar. At this point I was set. I played around with this backing track for at least half an hour.

Playing with the low-frequency oscillation on a sweep sound effect.

From Boise Apartment Photos

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Astro-Sound of Magnificence, or my first post where I actually blog about my life

This is my friend from Clemson, Clay.


We met, of course, through Clemson's student-run radio station, WSBF. I met all of my best friends from college through the radio station one way or another. One of the unexpected benefits of going to such a backwoods, yee-haw cow college was that the weird people congregated pretty quickly. To give you an idea of what we had to work with, we always made it a point to attend one of the cultural highlights of year: Spittoono, a self-described redneck festival held at the National Guard Armory. After the spittin' contest and mud dancing, we would go to the lake for a midnight swim.

Probably my favorite picture from my college days.

If co-opting Spittoono was our tradition, the frat boys at Clemson held the tradition of dressing up in their finery for the Clemson home football games, when the population of Clemson quadrupled and the campus became a parking lot for tailgaiters. I love beer and nice clothes as much as the next man, and needless to say the frat boys at Clemson were first-order douchebags, so we made our own tradition wherein we too could dress pretty and get drunk. That tradition was the Red Eye Society, where we would get up early on MLK Jr. Day (8ish), put on red ties, and drink all day long.

This was the year before we had an adventure in an abandoned school.

We may have not have been the most normal people by Clemson's standards, but Clay was way out there. The first time we hung out, he brought a crate of CDs to my freshman dorm. Lush, Momus, Pulp, etc. -- he'd been listening to a lot of really good music for a really long time, and none of it was Jack Johnson. In person, Clay is totally unassuming, but like Popeye with a mouthful of spinach, in the presence of music he becomes another person entirely. Some of my favorite memories of college were the WSBF house shows where the no-talent local bands (term of endearment) would play badly and too loud. For a blessed couple of years, Clay would fill in between bands at these house shows as Karaoke Klay. Once he had set up his equipment and pressed play, he was no longer Clay. I don't know if I've ever seen someone commit to something as completely as Clay did to becoming Karaoke Klay. The images of a house full of drunk outcasts from a Greek life/Fellowship of Christian Atheletes/Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management (Party Right Through May)-major college like Clemson, singing along with KK to Mr. Roboto and of Clay humping the floor during the breakdown of "Hungry Like the Wolf" will be forever burned into my mind.

The Karaoke Klay stance.

Clay doesn't have a traditionally "good" voice, but he knows and loves too much good music not to know how he sounds. And I think it's awesome. He's been making his own music for years, and he recently made an album called "The Monkey of Love". You can hear it on his myspace page. He's made me a few mix CDs over the years too, and while unpacking my place in Boise a couple weeks ago I pulled out this gem:

The Astro-Sound of Magnificence

It's a compilation of exotica/lounge/orchestral pop he made me a couple of years ago, and for whatever reason, it really grabbed me. I've been listening to it a ton the past couple of weeks. I don't have much of this sort of thing in my music library, but there are some fun, catchy songs on here. If you hate kitsch or groovy female vocals stay away, but if not, I invite you to take a peek into the mind of a very unique guy.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Honey-Lavender Biscotti

This was my first attempt at biscotti, so I of course turned to my Baking Illustrated cookbook. Turns out I really like big chunks of almonds/hazelnuts/etc. in my biscotti, so these guys weren't my favorite. Interesting to be sure, but the flavor is very subtle. I think that they would have been much more interesting with a more assertive honey, like a spicy clover honey. The run-of-the-mill honey I used just faded into the background. I have to say, however, that the aroma that filled my apartment while these were baking was out of this world -- creamy, buttery tones with heady citrus and lavender notes floating overhead. Words don't suffice.

I used the lessons I learned in making these for the chocolate almond biscotti below, specifically the tricks with the wax paper and keeping my hands good and floured. The "cylinders" I was able to form with this dough were hideous. Still, a good learning experience, and like I said, the aroma. Wow.

  • 2 1/4 c (11 1/4 oz) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2/3 c (4 2/3 oz) sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 Tbsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp minced zest from 1 orange
  • 1 Tbsp dried lavender blossoms
  1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl, set aside.
  2. Whisk the sugar and eggs in a large bowl to a light lemon color; stir in the honey, vanilla, orange zest, and lavender. Sprinkle the dry ingredients over the egg mixture, then fold in until just combined.
  3. Divide the dough in half and place one portion on a work surface covered with floured wax paper or parchment paper. With floured hands, pat it into a cylinder about 2 inches in diameter and 12 to 15 inches long. Repeat with the second half of the dough. Cut the parchment paper and, using the paper as a sling, roll the dough into a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Repeat with the remaining dough.
  4. Place in the oven and bake about 35 minutes, rotating halfway through, until firm to the touch. Transfer to a cutting board, let cool for 5 minutes, then cut on an angle into slices one-half-inch thick. Return the slices to the baking sheet, laying them on their cut sides, and return them to the oven. Bake another 15 minutes, turning over each cookie halfway through, until they are crisp and golden brown on each side. Allow to cool completely before storing or serving.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Chocolate Almond (Cherry) Biscotti

Over the holidays, somebody's mom made me some killer biscotti, and I got to wondering why I had never made any at home before. This dreamy chocolate biscotti recipe was altered from a recipe I found on smitten kitchen, with some tweaks. The obvious ones for me were to substitute hazelnuts for almonds and fit some dark chocolate chunks in there. My less inspired inspiration was to put some chopped dried cherries in the dough. In my effort to make these biscotti tooth-chippingly hard, I reduced the cherries to, more or less, char, which definitely didn't help the flavor. I guess there's a reason people don't put dried fruit in biscotti.

As far as technique goes, wax paper or parchment paper really does wonders for making sure you don't get biscotti dough club hands when trying to work the dough into a cylinder. I formed each half on a large piece of wax paper, cut the paper down the middle, and used each sling to transfer the dough to the baking sheet. Easy as cake. Once my personal effects finally show up here in Boise (tomorrow!), I will definitely be making these guys again. Stay tuned for another, completely different batch of biscotti I made earlier this month, which I'll post here soon.

  • 3/4 cup toasted, blanched almonds
  • 3/4 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 2 1/2 cups flour, plus flour for work surface
  • 1/2 cup Dutch-style cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon espresso powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread hazelnuts on baking sheet and toast about 10 minutes, until lightly browned. If hazelnuts are not blanched, toast them until the skins begin to crack, then remove them from oven and wrap them in clean linen or cotton towel (not terrycloth). Rub hot nuts to remove most of the skin. Set toasted nuts aside.
  2. Sift the flour, cocoa, espresso powder, salt, baking soda and baking powder together and set aside.
  3. Beat eggs lightly, just until blended, in mixing bowl with whisk or in electric mixer. Remove two tablespoons of egg mixture to small dish and set aside. Beat sugar into remaining eggs until blended. Stir in flour mixture to form soft dough. Stir in chocolate chips and chopped almonds.
  4. Divide the dough in half and place one portion on a work surface covered with floured wax paper or parchment paper. With floured hands, pat it into a cylinder about 2 inches in diameter and 12 to 15 inches long. Repeat with the second half of the dough. Cut the parchment paper and, using the paper as a sling, roll the dough into a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Repeat with the remaining dough. Brush the tops of both rolls with the reserved egg.
  5. Place in the oven and bake about 20 minutes, until firm to the touch. Transfer to a cutting board, let cool for 5 minutes, then cut on an angle into slices one-half-inch thick. Return the slices to the baking sheet, laying them on their cut sides, and return them to the oven. Bake another 25 minutes, until they are crisp and dry. Allow to cool completely before storing or serving.