Shortbread for Mother's Day

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Many years ago, I fell in love with shortbread cookies and decided to sell them. My stepdaughter Beth, who has great artistic talent, and is now an architect, made this sign which I put up in the basement of our apartment house. I only ever got one order. I brought a sample to Georgia DeLucca of Dean & Delucca and his verdict was: "Did you ever try Danish Lurpack butter? It needs salt." I strongly disagreed. Loving salt though I do, this one cookie, which has only butter, sugar, and flour, is the soul of purity and needs nothing more. (I did manage to suspend disbelief and tried the Lurpack butter, but even one grain of salt stood out in an unpleasant way. Thus ended my career as a cookie baking saleswoman and I went on to write The Cake Bible, and then Rose's Christmas Cookies, in which this recipe resides. I tried many different types of flours and sugars including part rice flour, which adds crispness, but bleached all-purpose flour is my favorite for this cookie. Scottish Shortbread CookiesMakes: 4 dozen 1-1/2 inch cookies Equipment: cookie sheets, no preparation needed

unsalted butter: 284 grams/10 ounces

powdered sugar: 28 grams/1/4 cup lightly spooned into cup and leveled off

granulated sugar: 50 grams: 1/4 cup

bleached all-purpose flour: 362 grams/3 cups, lightly spooned into cup and leveled off.

 

Cut the butter into 1/2 to 1 inch cubes. Wrap it, and refrigerate. In a food processor, process the sugars for about 1 minute until the sugar is very fine. Add the butter and pulse until the sugar disappears. Add the flour and pulse until there are a lot of moist, crumbly little pieces and no dry flour particles remain. Empty the mixture into a plastic bag and press it together. Remove the dough and knead it lightly until it holds together.

Set 2 oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Preheat the oven to 275°F/135°C. Measure 2 level teaspoons or 1 scant tablespoon of the dough and knead each piece by flattening it between your palms and then rolling it into a 1 inch ball. Place each ball on the cookie sheets, flattening it with a cookie press, fork, or the bottom a tumbler, lightly moistened with water. Work with one ball at a time, right after rolling it, so that it does not crack around the edges. Leave about 1 inch between the flattened cookies.

Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until pale golden (do not brown). For even baking, rotate the cookie sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through the baking period. Use a small angled metal spatula or pancake turner to transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool completely.

For the Love of Eiswein--A Christmas Story

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first published December 1997, for the Los Angeles Times SyndicateThere are those who truly believe in the cliche that love is blind and indeed they are often right. Life isn't perfect, so we tend to fill in the gaps with our creative imagination, and a certain degree of purposeful lack of vision can go far in keeping things going. But given those rare times when one is hit with the real thing that never disappoints, is lasting, in fact mellows and improves with age, and for which one can actually remove the rose colored glasses so often necessary for enchantment, only a fool would fail to treasure such beneficence. There were few such fools Christmas Eve 1996 when the Gods bestowed the gift of the most perfect conditions to date for making Eiswein to many vineyards throughout the wine growing regions of Germany.

Grapes, other than dessert wine grapes, are normally harvested in October. The advantage of allowing grapes to sit longer on the vine is that more flavor and sweetness can develop. The risk, however, is that they usually start to deteriorate before the temperature drops in mid January. The longer the wait, the higher the risk that it will all be for naught and the entire crop wasted. When grapes freeze, the watery part freezes solid but the sugary juices containing flavors remain liquid. The grapes must be pressed before thawing so that only the naturally concentrated juices are released and the watery part stays frozen and left behind.

Because it is impossible to predict just how long the temperature will cooperate, it is advisable to pick the grapes immediately. When vintners emerged from mid-night mass on Christmas Eve, to discover that an unprecedented early drop in temperature had frozen the perfectly ripened grapes, they felt as if they had been given a Christmas present. It was the same heart-warming story in many vineyards throughout Germany: Fellow parishioners volunteered to go immediately to the vineyards to help pick the precious harvest before the grapes could defrost and spoil.

Eiswein, was invented in 1965 in Germany, the world's Northern-most wine growing region. It is usually made with either the Riesling, or Scheurebe grape (a cross between Riesling and Muller-Thurgau). It's intensity is at least equal to that of the renowned trockenbeerenauslese, fondly referred to as tba. Eiswein, however, has more purity of flavor because the freezing process does not impart any additional flavors. The concentration of grapes for tba is caused by botrytis (aka noble rot). Botrytis, which is a fungus, breaks down the skin of the grape, causing the water to evaporate and the grape to shrivel. The botrytis also adds a distinctive burnt sugar-like tartness which masks some of the grape's flavor. The most conscientious growers remove any botrytis affected grapes before making the Eiswein.

The 1996 Eiswein harvest had the advantage not only of an early freeze but also of exceptionally clean botrytis free conditions and, of course, this is reflected in the extraordinary quality of the wine. We all know that too much sweetness can quickly become cloying, but the beauty of a great German Eiswein is that the natural high acidity of the grape lends a provocative stinging poignancy, much desired balance between sweetness and fruit, and aging potential of as long as 100 years. Though often easy to drink even when very young, it isn't until about 10 years that the sweetness and acidity come into full married balance, with layers of unfolding flavors. It only takes a little glass of this liquid joy to go a long way and once experienced, it is impossible to forget.

Eiswein, retailing from $65 to $150 for 350 ml., is relatively inexpensive if you consider that for every glass you are drinking the equivalent of ten glasses that would have been produced from the same grapes had they not undergone the concentration. Besides, Christmas comes but once a year and Eiswein more seldom still. And once opened, the wine will keep refrigerated to be savored repeatedly over several weeks.

People are always asking what to eat with a wine that fills the mouth with such honeyed ambrosial nectar, it's like eating a glorious liquid dessert. My choice would be the simplest and finest cookie I know: the almond crescent. Crisp, buttery, impossibly fragile, with the faintest whisper of cinnamon, they will prove the point that one perfect thing deserves another. And, this recipe takes very little time to make in a food processor. 1996 Eisweins that I have enjoyed in the various wine regions of Germany which are exported to U.S.A. include: Selbach-Oster (Mosel), Hermann Donnhoff (Nahe), Gunderloch (Rheinhessen), Heyl zu Hernsheim (Rheinhessen), Josef Biffar (Pfalz), Fuhrmann-Eymael (Pfalz), Muller-Catoir (Pfalz),Von Buhl (Pfalz), Dr. Heger (Baden), Salwey (Baden).

Rose's Crescents

2/3 cup blanched sliced almonds 1/3 cup sugar (preferably superfine)
16 tablespoons unsalted butter
1-2/3 cups bleached all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
Topping 1/2 cup superfine sugar 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Place oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat to 325˚F.

In food processor, process almonds and sugar until very finely ground. Cut butter into few pieces and add with motor running. Process until smooth. Scrape sides of bowl. Add flour and sprinkle salt on top. Pulse just to incorporate. (Electric mixer method: Soften butter. Grind almonds fine in nut grinder. Combine almonds, butter, and sugar and beat til fluffy. Stir together flour and salt and beat on low speed until incorporated.)

Scrape dough onto plastic wrap; press into thick disk, wrap well and chill 2 hours or until firm. Divide dough into 8. Work with 1 piece, keeping rest chilled. Knead dough with floured hands until malleable. Pinch off pieces and roll into 3/4-inch round balls. Roll on lightly floured counter into cylinders with tapered ends, about 3-inches long by 1/2 inch thick. Form each into crescent shape and place on ungreased cookie sheets, 1-inch apart.

Bake 14 to 16 minutes or until set but not brown. For even baking, rotate cookie sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through baking.

Topping: Stir together sugar and cinnamon until uniform. Cool cookies on sheets 10 minutes. While still warm, with small offset spatula or pancake turner, lift each cookies from sheet and dip in topping, turning gently to coat well. Cool on racks.

Store: Airtight, 1 month room temperature, refrigerator, several months in freezer.

Makes 5 dozen cookies.

Note: To make superfine in food processor, simply process fine granulated sugar for several minutes until fine as sand.

Shirl's Cranberry Scone Thins

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Shirl Gard, pastry chef and consultant, recently sent me her version of my Cranberry Scone Toppers from The Baking Bible. This is one of my favorite recipes and she has done an excellent presentation including step by step photos. Check out the posting on her website. What could be more gratifying than sharing recipes and inspiring other professionals to create one's of their own! Oh wait--I know--their having the graciousness and professionalism to credit the originator of the recipe as did Shirl.!

My New Marvelous Mini Silicone Cake Pan

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Harold Import Company European-Grade Silicone Rose Levy Beranbaum's Marvelous Mini Cake Pan, Red I created this silicone pan, inspired by the French financier pan, to bake mini cakes but most of all for brownies. They pop right out--each with a perfect shape and size and fine crust all around that keeps them from staling. It's far easier getting the batter into the molds than having to cut them afterwards!

This batter can be made ahead and transported as there is no leavening to dissipate.

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The brownies are light in texture but get their exceptional moistness from cream cheese and fudginess from the best quality cocoa and chocolate. for extra creaminess optional little plugs of ganache are poured into holes made with a chop stick after baking. It is most gratifying to see people casually pop a brownie in their mouths expecting something ordinary and then watch their eyes widen in glad surprise. chocolate never gets better than this.

Oven Temperature:  325°F.

Baking time:  ­12 to 15 minutes

Makes:  Fourteen 3 inch by 1 inch by 1  1/8 inch high brownies

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Special Equipment:

Financier molds, preferably silicone, filmed with baking spray with flour or shortening and flour.

Preheat the Oven

20 minutes or longer before baking, set an oven rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F.

Toast the Pecans

Place the pecans on a cookie sheet and toast them, stirring occasionally, for about 7 minutes or until very lightly browned.  Cool completely.

Melt the Chocolate and Butter

In a double boiler over hot water or microwave-proof bowl, melt the butter and chocolate, stirring 2 or 3 times.

Mix the Batter

Beat in the cocoa, then the sugar, beating until it is incorporated.  (If you are doing this by hand, use a whisk.)  Beat in the eggs and vanilla.  When incorporated, beat in the cream cheese until only small bits remain.  Add the flour and salt  and mix only until the flour is fully moistened.  Stir in the nuts and scrape the batter into a piping bag or freezer-weight zipseal bag. (You can use a spoon but it's a lot faster and easier to use a pastry bag or zipseal bag with one corner cut.)

Fill the Molds

If using a silicone mold, set it on a baking sheet and pipe the batter into the cavities, filling them about three-quarters full (1.5 ounces/45 grams in each). With a small off-set spatula or the back of a spoon, smooth the tops.

Bake the Brownies

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until the batter has set. The batter will puff and rise a little above the top of the cavities but sinks slightly on cooling. An instant read thermometer should register about 194˚F. and if pressed lightly with a finger tip they will spring back.

While the Brownie are Baking, Prepare the Ganache

Melt the chocolate in a microwave, using 15 seconds bursts on high power and stirring several times, or in a double boiler over hot but not simmering water, stirring occasionally.  Add the cream and stir gently until the mixture is smooth and dark.  If necessary (if the cream was too cold and the mixture not entirely smooth), return it to the heat until totally fluid and uniform in color.

Fill the Brownies

As soon as the brownies are removed from the oven, grease the end of a wooden chopstick or dowel (1/4 inch diameter) and insert it into the brownie, at 3 evenly-spaced intervals, all the way to the bottom, twisting slightly as you insert and withdraw it.  Fill the holes with the ganache until slightly rounded above the surface of the brownie.

Place the pan on a wire rack and cool completely.  The ganache will sink in as it cools and more ganache can be added, to fill in any depressions, as long as the brownie is still warm enough to melt it.  (If necessary, you can set the brownies under a lamp to heat the ganache puddles and make them smooth.) If making the optional ganache plugs, allow it to sit at room temperature until the puddles are firm to the touch. Then invert the mold of if using silicone, push each out with your finger pressed against the bottom of the mold. (If not making the ganache the brownies can be removed after 10 minutes of cooling.

Store wrapped airtight in plastic wrap and stored in an airtight container: 1 week at room temperature, 1 month refrigerated, or several months frozen.  Try eating them frozen or chilled if you like a chewy brownie, room temperature for a softer creamier texture.

Cherry Version

Replace nuts with 2 ounces dried tart cherries, chopped plus 2 T Cherry Herring or half Kirsch half water.

A Sublime New Cookie for the Holidays

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It is a rare treat these days to meet with friends and to have dinner in New York City, so when my long time dearest friend and protégé David Shamah and I planned a special reunion and celebration, the restaurant we chose was Drew Nierporent's new Bâtard. We had a very early 5:45 reservation which we loved because we had a whole hour of quiet conversation before the restaurant filled to capacity and the noise level rose. We were offered a glass of excellent champagne while we perused the menu and enjoyed the lovely decor and perfect subdued lighting (note the exquisite plaster bas-relief walls behind David in this photo). My appetizer was a silken and flavorful work of art: YELLOWFIN TUNA marinated radish, quinoa, bok choi David's appetizer was a richly luxurious terrine: SHORT RIB & TAFELSPITZ TERRINE smoked egg, german sesame, apple For the main course, we shared a fabulous Colorado lamb dish: LAMB FOR TWO roasted rack, confit shoulder, crispy lamb bacon, turnips, grilled lemon Instead of ordering two desserts, we decided to share the epiosse--my favorite cheese: EPOISSES mushroom vinaigrette, cipollini, grilled baguette followed by: CARAMELIZED MILK BREAD blueberries, brown butter ice cream The milk bread was a delicious combination of soft, moist, and airy interior coated with a gossamer-fine crust of wondrously brittle sugar. And just as we thought we had fnished, chef Markus Glocker sent out the amazing Lubeck marzipan cookies. As a non-marzipan lover I was blown away by how perfect these were. The virtue of marzipan is how it keeps its moisture so that the insides of the cookies are moist, creamy, and chewy, the topping crunchy with sliced almonds and lightly browned marzipan. But what elevated them to exceptional perfection of balance was the unexpected highlight of salt. Here is the recipe for you to enjoy for your holiday baking. I encourage you to purchase the Lubeck marzipan which is imported by Swiss Chalet Fine Foods from Germany. (They also carry Darbo--the best apricot preserves.) It has the most silken texture and delicious flavor of any marzipan I've ever tasted. Note: Any leftover marzipan can be frozen for months. Also, I tested the recipe with unblanched almonds, as that is what I had on hand, and liked the added flavor and color contrast. In Austria and Germany this type of cookie is called "marzipan horns" because they are usually shaped to suggest horns, but I've renamed them in honor of the marvelous chef and restaurant:

Glocker Marzipan Bâtards.

Makes: (24) 2 inch cookies

Preheat oven to 350°F/175°C

twenty minutes or longer before baking the cookies.

Set an oven rack at the middle level. Bake 12 to 14 minutes

Special Equipment: One 17-1/4 by 12-1/4 by 1 inch half sheet pan, or 15 by 12 inch cookie sheet, lined with parchment

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In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the marzipan, sugar, honey, and egg white. Cover tightly and allow it to sit until all ingredients are room temperature--at least 30 minutes. Attach the flat beater and mix on low speed for 1 to 2 minutes until all the ingredients are smoothly combined. Scrape the mixture into a medium bowl, cover tightly, and refrigerate for 2 or up to 24 hours.

Arrange the sliced almonds on a sheet pan or large plate, in a single layer. Have a small bowl of water on the counter to moisten your fingers and palms lightly, which will help prevent the marzipan mixture from sticking. Scoop out 24pieces of dough. If weighing, each will be 17 grams. Roll each piece of dough between the palms of your hands (lightly moistened with water) to form a ball about 1 inch in size. Roll the balls in the almonds to coat them and then press them down into the almonds to flatten to 1/2 inch high by 1-1/2 inch in diameter. Set each cookie a minimum of 1 inch apart on the parchment lined pan. Bake the cookies for 6 minutes.

Rotate the pan and continue baking for 6 to 8 minutes until lightly browned and when pressed in the center they have only a slight amount of give. Remove the pan to a rack and allow the cookies to cool for 10 minutes before brushing them with apricot glaze. In a small microwavable bowl or cup, combine the strained apricot preserves and 3/4 teaspoon of water and heat until just beginning to bubble. (Alternatively heat them in a small saucepan over low heat.) Brush a very thin layer of apricot onto each cookie. You will need only about 2 tablespoons of the glaze. Then sprinkle with the salt, crushing any large flakes between your thumb and index finger. Allow the cookies to cool for 20 minutes before serving.

Store at room temperature or refrigerated. They will stay soft and chewy for about 1 week. To store the cookies, place them in an airtight container with parchment sheets between each layer of cookies.

Note re the apricot preserves: You will need to start with about 4-1/2 tablespoons/3 ounces/87 grams of preserves to get 3 tablespoons/2.2 ounces/62 grams of strained preserves.

Cookie Recipes

My dear friend and high school classmate June Lebell (those of you in the NY area might know her beautiful voice as former long-time hostess on WQXR) forwarded me this amazing collection of cookies I thought you'd all enjoy. (By the way, June is now living in Sarasota and busy as ever doing restaurant, music and theater reviews, speaking engagements, etc.)1-2-3 Cookies 7 Layer Cookies Allie Nelson's Famous Snickerdoodle Cookies Almond Crescent Shortbread Amish Sugar Cookies Andies Candies Cookies Angel Crisps Angenets Applesauce Cookies Apricot Fold-Overs Aunt Edy's Molasses Crinkles Auntie Linda's Ginger Gems Bakeless Dream Cookies Banana Drop Cookies Best Chocolate Chip Cookies in the World Biscotti Biscotti Blueberry Cookies Boiled Chocolate Oatmeal Drop Cookies Bronwnies Brown Sugar Shortbread Brownie Cookies Brownie Delight Brownies Buccaneer Snowballs Buried Cherry Cookies Butter Cookies Butter Nut Balls Butterballs Butterscotch Haystacks C.O.P. Cookies Candy Cane Cookies Candy Cookies Caramel Shortbread Cheesecake Brownies Cherry Buns Cherry Crowns Cherry Winks Chewies Chewy Noels Chinese Chews/Haystacks Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars Chocolate Chip Cookies Chocolate Chip Meltaways Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookies Chocolate Christmas Trees Chocolate Cream Cheese Squares Chocolate Crinkles Chocolate Mint Snow-Top Cookies Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies (no bake) Chocolate Snowball Cookies Chocolate Streusel Bars Chocolate Sundae Cookies Chocolate Walnut Crumb Bars Choco-Scotch Crunchies Choose A Cookie Dough Recipe Christmas Crackers Christmas Crunch Bars Christmas Ginger Snaps Christmas Macaroons Christmas Mice Cookies Christmas Shaped Cookies Church Window Cookies Coconut Cookies Congo Squares Cookie in a Jar Corn Flakes Cookies Cornflake Christmas Wreaths Cowboy Cookies (oatmeal) Cream Cheese Cookies with Apricot Filling Crème De Menthe Chocolate Squares Crème Wafers Crescent Cookies Crispy Crunchies Date Nut Balls Date-nut Pinwheel Cookies Diabetic Peanut Butter Cookies Disgustingly Rich Brownies Doodles Double chocolate chip cookies Double-Chocolate Crinkles Eatmore Cookies Eggnog Cookies Elizabeth's Sugar Cookies Elves Quick Fudge Brownies Emily Dickinson's Gingerbread Cookie Recipe Emily's Best Brownies Famous Oatmeal Cookies Firemen Cookies Fluffy Shortbread Cookies Forgotten Cookies Frosted Peanut Butter Brownies Fruit Cake Cookies Fruitcake Squares Fry Pan Cookies Gems Ginger Cookies Ginger Crinkles Gingerbread Baby Gingerbread Cookies with Butter Cream Icing Gingerbread Men Gingerbread Men Ginny's Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies Glory's Golden Graham Squares Glory's Sugar Cookies Gramma Chapman's chocolate coconut drops Grandma Elsie's Zimt (cinnamon) Cookies Grandma J's Butter Cookies Grandma Olson's Parkay Cookies Great Grandmothers Sugar Cookies Gum Drop Cookies Gumdrop Gems Haystack Cookies Ho-Ho Bars Holiday Cereal Snaps Holiday Chocolate Butter Cookies Holiday Raisin Walnut Bars Holly Cookies Hungarian Cookies (Little Nut Rolls) Ice Box Cookies Irresistible Peanut Butter Cookies Italian Cookies Jacob's Peppermint Snowballs Jam Bars Jessica's Famous Brownies Jessie's Chocolate Chip Cookies Jubilee Jumbles Juliet's Peanut Butter Blossoms Jumbo Chocolate Chip Cookies Kentucky Colonels Kiefle (cream cheese cookies with jam filling) Kifflings Kiss Cookies Lacy Swedish Almond Wafers Lemon Angel Bar Cookies Lemon Bars Lemon Cake Cookies Lemon Cream Cheese Cookies Lemon Squares Linzer Tarts Log Cabin Cookies Luscious Lemon Squares M&M Cookies Magic Cookie Bars Melt in Your Mouth Cutout Sugar Cookies Melting Shortbread Meme's Cream Cheese Cookies Milk Chocolate Florentine Cookies Mincemeat Cookies Mincemeat Goodies Molasses Cookies Molasses Forest Cookies Molasses Sugar Cookies Mom Mom's Crescent Cookies Mom-Mom's Ginger Cookies Mom's Nutmeg Sugar Cookies Mom's Old Fashion "Puffy" Sugar Cookies Monster Cookies Moravian Christmas Cookies Nana's Famous Soft Southern Cookies Nitey Nite Cookies No Bake Chocolate Cookies No Bake Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies No Bake Cookies No Bake Cookies No Bake Peanut Butter Cookies No-Bake Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies No-Bake Cookies Norwegian Sugar Cookies Nut Balls Oatmeal Bars Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Nut Cookies Oatmeal Coconut Crisps Oatmeal Cookies Oatmeal Scotchies Old Fashioned Sugar Cookies Ooey Gooey Caramel Chocolate Dunk Ooey Gooey Squares Orange Slice Cookies Parking Lot Cookies Peanut Blossoms Peanut Butter Bars Peanut Butter Blossoms Peanut Butter Cereal Cookies Peanut Butter Chewies Peanut Butter Chocolate Bars Peanut Butter Cookies Peanut Butter Cookies Peanut butter fingers Peanut Butter Reindeer Peanut Butter Surprises Peanut Marshmallow Cookies Pecan Puff Cookies Peppermint Snowballs Peppernuts Persimmon Cookies Persimmon Cookies Petey's Yummy Spicy Almond Thins Pfeffernuesse Pffefferneuse Cookies Pineapple Filled Cookies Pizzelles Potato Chip Cookies Potato Flake Cookies Praline Cookies Praline Strips Pterodactyl Nests Pumpkin Bars Pumpkin Bars Pumpkin Chip Cookies Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies Pumpkin Cookies Queen Biscuits Quick Cookies Raised Sugar Cookies Raisin Filled Oatmeal Bars Raspberry Meringue Bars Really Peanutty Butter Cookies Reese`s Brownies Reese's Peanut Butter Bars Rich Flavor Christmas Cookies Rich Lemon Bars Ricotta Cheese Cookies Royal Almond Christmas Bars Rudolph Cinnamon Cookies Russian Tea Cookies Russian Teacakes Samantha & Kelsey's Chocolate Chip Cookies Sand Art Brownies Santa Claus Cookie Pops Santa Claus Cookies Santa's Butterscotch Melts Santa's Shorts Santa's Special Squares Scotch Cakes Scotch Shortbread Scotcharoos Scotcheroos Seven Layer Cookies Short Bread Cookies Shortbread Skor Squares Snicker Doodle Cookies Snickerdoodles Snickerdoodles Snow Balls Sour Cream Apple Squares Sour Cream Christmas Cookies Special K Cookies Spice Cookies Spicy Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Spritz Cookies Stained Glass Window Cookies Stir & Drop Sugar Cookies Sugar Cookies Sugar Cookies Sugar Cookies Swedish Pepparkakor (Pepper Cake) Cookies Swedish Sugar Cookies Sweet Marie's Swiss Treats Taralle (Italian Cookies) Tea Time Tassies Texas Brownies The Best Shortbread in The World Thumbprint Cookies Thumbprint Cookies Toffee Squares Traditional Christmas Sugar Cookies Traditional Gingerbread Men Cookies Triple-Chocolate Chip Cookies Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies Vanilla Waffer Balls Walnut Butter Cookies Walnut Crumb Bars White Chip Chocolate Cookies Wild Oatmeal Cookies Will's Famous Apple Jack Cookies Yummy Yummy Peanut Butter Blossoms

Barcelona Brownies

i promised to write about my recent trip to barcelona but that was before i knew that in three days i would be doing 5 demos, 2 newspaper interviews, 2 t.v. shows, and a 5 hour photo session! i never saw much of barcelona but i did eat and drink wonderfully! i'll just have to go back on vacation some day soon.

the visit officially began with a demo in a chocolate museum school, followed by a lecture to the baker's guild of spain. the challenge presented by the demo was to offer a recipe that was chocolate, was uniquely american, didn't take long to prepare or bake, showed off the lékué silicone bakeware--my host--and not be dependent on either flour or leavening. it has been my experience that european flour produces vastly different results from what i am accustomed.

after much deliberation, it turned out that there was only one perfect possibility: the beloved brownie, baked in individual molds. the traditional small ingot shape of the financier mold seemed like an excellent choice. and now that i've perfected this recipe i'll probably never make brownies in the usual square pan again! in the silicone financier pan, the brownies pop right out--each with a perfect shape and size and fine crust all around that keeps them from staling. it's far easier getting the batter into the molds than having to cut them afterwards! You can even use the batter to make madeleines.

this batter can be made ahead and transported as there is no leavening to dissipate.

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these brownies are light in texture but get their exceptional moistness from cream cheese and fudginess from the best quality cocoa and chocolate. for extra creaminess optional little plugs of ganache are poured into holes made with a chop stick after baking. it was gratifying to see the students casually pop a brownie in their mouths expecting something ordinary and then watch their eyes widen in glad surprise. chocolate never gets better than this.

Oven Temperature:  325°F.

Baking time:  ­12 to 15 minutes

Makes:  Fourteen 3 inch by 1 inch by 1  1/8 inch high brownies

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Special Equipment:

Financier molds, preferably silicone, filmed with baking spray with flour or shortening and flour.

Preheat the Oven

20 minutes or longer before baking, set an oven rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F.

Toast the Pecans

Place the pecans on a cookie sheet and toast them, stirring occasionally, for about 7 minutes or until very lightly browned.  Cool completely.

Melt the Chocolate and Butter

In a double boiler over hot water or microwave-proof bowl, melt the butter and chocolate, stirring 2 or 3 times.

Mix the Batter

Beat in the cocoa, then the sugar, beating until it is incorporated.  (If you are doing this by hand, use a whisk.)  Beat in the eggs and vanilla.  When incorporated, beat in the cream cheese until only small bits remain.  Add the flour and salt  and mix only until the flour is fully moistened.  Stir in the nuts and scrape the batter into a piping bag or freezer-weight zipseal bag. (You can use a spoon but it's a lot faster and easier to use a pastry bag or zipseal bag with one corner cut.)

Fill the Molds

If using a silicone mold, set it on a baking sheet and pipe the batter into the cavities, filling them about three-quarters full (1.5 ounces/45 grams in each). With a small off-set spatula or the back of a spoon, smooth the tops.

Bake the Brownies

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until the batter has set. The batter will puff and rise a little above the top of the cavities but sinks slightly on cooling. An instant read thermometer should register about 194˚F. and if pressed lightly with a finger tip they will spring back.

While the Brownie are Baking, Prepare the Ganache

Melt the chocolate in a microwave, using 15 seconds bursts on high power and stirring several times, or in a double boiler over hot but not simmering water, stirring occasionally.  Add the cream and stir gently until the mixture is smooth and dark.  If necessary (if the cream was too cold and the mixture not entirely smooth), return it to the heat until totally fluid and uniform in color.

Fill the Brownies

As soon as the brownies are removed from the oven, grease the end of a wooden chopstick or dowel (1/4 inch diameter) and insert it into the brownie, at 3 evenly-spaced intervals, all the way to the bottom, twisting slightly as you insert and withdraw it.  Fill the holes with the ganache until slightly rounded above the surface of the brownie.

Place the pan on a wire rack and cool completely.  The ganache will sink in as it cools and more ganache can be added, to fill in any depressions, as long as the brownie is still warm enough to melt it.  (If necessary, you can set the brownies under a lamp to heat the ganache puddles and make them smooth.) If making the optional ganache plugs, allow it to sit at room temperature until the puddles are firm to the touch. Then invert the mold of if using silicone, push each out with your finger pressed against the bottom of the mold. (If not making the ganache the brownies can be removed after 10 minutes of cooling.

Store wrapped airtight in plastic wrap and stored in an airtight container: 1 week at room temperature, 1 month refrigerated, or several months frozen.  Try eating them frozen or chilled if you like a chewy brownie, room temperature for a softer creamier texture.

Cherry Version

Replace nuts with 2 ounces dried tart cherries, chopped plus 2 T Cherry Herring or half Kirsch half water.

Beranbaum Family Fudge

my stepson michael and his wife frances had the good judgment to space their kids a few years and 6 months apart which makes it just perfect for a biannual visit to snohomish washington for each of their birthdays. elyse, who is just turning 6, was born right before christmas, and haley, who will be turning 10 was born in june. this also gives us the chance to experience two different seasons along with seasonal activities in such a beautiful location.this years' christmas visit started off with a request from the kids to make cookies. haley wanted her favorite: chocolate chips without nuts, And elyse wanted to try a chocolate fudge recipe that was in one of her books called "strawberry shortcake." since it was meant for kids to make, i figured it would be quick and easy but when i discovered that we were 1/4 cup short of sweetened condensed milk, i decided to add 2 tablespoons of butter instead. frances told me they all preferred bittersweet chocolate so instead of using 1 cup of semi-sweet chips and 1 cup of milk chips called for in the recipe we used 2 cups of bittersweet chocolate chips. we decided to start off with the chocolate chip cookie batter as it's easier to shape after chilling so while it was chilling we could whip up the fudge. it was great fun for all of us. the kids donned their aprons, chefs hats and potholders i had sent them 2 years ago, got up on their step stools, and were most adept at exchanging turns for every step of the process. i wasn't expecting to like the fudge because i've always found it to be too sweet and grainy but i have to say this fudge recipe, in all its simplicity, was absolutely fabulous. we all loved it so much it will be sure to become part of a family tradition. Butter an 8 x 8 inch pan and line it with a piece of waxed paper In the top of a double boiler, combine 2 cups of chocolate chips, preferably bittersweet, a 12 ounce can (1-1/4 cups) sweetened condensed milk, 2 tablespoons unsalted butter and 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract. Set it over simmering water and heat, stirring often, until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is smooth. Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan and smooth the top so that it is even. Place it in the frig and allow it to chill and set for at least 2 hours. cut the fudge into 1 inch squares and then keep it covered with plastic wrap.

Lisa Yockelson's Bittersweet Chocolate Brownies

Makes 16 brownies

When a brownie batter supports little chunks of premium bittersweet chocolate, a delectable thing happens–the small chunks of chocolate form pools of goodness throughout, and the sweet resonates with flavor. Even though I can’t, you should try to restrain yourself from cutting the brownies too soon.

Bittersweet brownie batter

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Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Film the inside of a 9 by 9 by 2-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.

Mix the batter
Sift the all-purpose flour, cake flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt onto a sheet of waxed paper. In a small bowl, toss the chocolate chunks with 1 teaspoon of the sifted mixture.
In a medium-size mixing bowl, whisk the melted butter, melted unsweetened chocolate, and melted bittersweet chocolate until smooth. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs until blended, about 15 seconds. Add the sugar and whisk until combined, 30 to 45 seconds. Blend in the vanilla extract and melted butter-chocolate mixture. Sift the flour mixture over and stir to form a batter, mixing thoroughly until the particles of flour are absorbed, using a whisk or flat wooden paddle. Stir in the chocolate chunks.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Smooth the top with a rubber spatula.
Bake, cool, and cut the brownies Bake the brownies in the preheated oven for 30 to 33 minutes, or until gently set. Let the brownies stand in the pan on a cooling rack for 3 hours. With a small sharp knife, cut the sweet into four quarters, then cut each quarter into 4 squares. Remove the brownies from the baking pan, using a small offset metal spatula. Store in an airtight tin.
Sift confectioners’ sugar on top of the brownies just before serving, if you wish.

Bake-and-serve within 3 days.

Study The chopped bittersweet chocolate forms creamy pools of flavor in the baked brownies. The following bittersweet chocolates are worth noting for using in the recipe (both for the chunks and melted chocolate):

Valrhona Extra Amer Bittersweet 61% cacao;
Valrhona Le Noir Amer 71% cacao;
Valrhona Le Noir Gastronomie 61% cacao;
Valrhona Caraïbe Dark Chocolate 66% cocoa;
Valrhona Le Noir Gastronomie Chocolat Noir Bittersweet Chocolate 61% cocoa;
Valrhona Grand Cru Noir Manjari Gastronomie Chocolat Noir Dark Chocolate 64% cocoa;
Valrhona Equatoriale Chocolat de Couverture Noir Dark Bittersweet Couverture 55% cacao;
Michel Cluizel Chocolat Amer Dark Chocolate 60% cacao;
Michel Cluizel Ilha Toma 65% cocoa;
Lindt Chocolate Créé à Berne Swiss Bittersweet Chocolate;
or, Lindt Excellence Swiss Bittersweet Chocolate.

Ben Franklin & Lisa

JENNIFER MACDONALD AND THE WINNING CAKE I've always thought that september should be the beginning of the year instead of january. january is the quietist month after all the holiday hubbub, but in september new york wakes up from summer hibernation and is at its most event-full! the top two baking related events for me this september were the beginning of an extensive celebration of ben franklin's 300th birthday in philly and the d.c. launch of my dear friend and colleague lisa yockelson's long awaited, exquisitely written, and magnificently published cookbook: "ChocolateChocolate." it seemed perfectly appropriate that lisa's event came on the heels of the ben franklin one as ben franklin is the muse of writers of all books. after all, where would be without his invention--the printing press! the benjamin franklin event was held in the franklin institute science museum where many of the city's top bakers prepared desserts that will be featured on their menus during the year long celebration, with themes designed to honor him. only five of them, however, actually entered the official birthday cake contest. the winner was assistant pastry chef jennifer macdonald from the fountain restaurant at the four seasons hotel philadelphia who prepared a cake modeled after benjamin franklin's desk with realistically tinted wood-grained rolled fondant as the wood and feather pen, and green blown sugar apples so perfectly executed that two of the judges (dorie greenspan and i) thought they were real apples. the third judge, roland mesnier, former white house pastry chef, wasn't fooled for an instant as he himself is master of the rare art of blown sugar.

the following week was a longer car trip to d.c. for lisa yockelson's book launch. as a fellow baker, cookbook writer, and kindred spirit, lisa and I are in lively competition over who can do the most helpful and lovely things for the other! while many cookbook authors, especially those in the same field, are possessive of their editors, lisa , in an act of extreme generosity introduced me to her beloved editor--pam chirls of wiley. lisa knew of my dream to do a beautiful four color comprehensive cake book published with the quality of her chocolate book (few publisher do this kind of book), and she also suspected that we would work wonderfully together. to surprise her, and support her new book, I joined pam chirls for a weekend of celebration, beginning friday night with a quiet late dinner in a neighborhood restaurant near georgetown where we had a gab-fest of bake and book-talk, and culminating with a grand party thrown by her friend and designer, Frank Babb Randolph, in his beautiful townhouse. saturday night's celebration dinner was at the mini bar of jose andres's café atlantico where we were presented with a seemingly endless array of mini courses each more stunning to the senses than the next. another highlight of the weekend was a saturday afternoon book signing at the french linen store yves delorme in bethesda, md. as lisa has incorporated many of their exquisite linens into the photographs of her new book. recipes from the book were prepared for the guests but hidden behind the back of the store was a special stash of brownies lisa herself had prepared for her special friends visiting from out of town. these brownies will explain better than words why she is called "diva of deep dark and fudgy." here's the recipe for bittersweet chocolate brownies.