Seven Days of Cookies: Cacao Nib Meringues a la Tartine

Tartine. The storied bake shop in San Francisco. Everyone has a Tartine story, almostimg_7759 all begin with the length of the line and include a remark on the size of their gougeres (softball). Even my own review includes both.

During my just under three-year-stint living in the Bay Area, I only visited Tartine the one time. I lived in Oakland and there were so many cakes to see and pastries to try. But their Cacao Nib Rocher is a sweet for the ages. Unforgettable. A mini-Matterhorn of vanilla scented meringue studded with cacao nibs. Such simple ingredients, it’s hard to imagine just why these are so spectacular. But they are.

tartine-rocher

The original from Tartine

As it happens, I own the Tartine cookbook. It includes a Rocher recipe but for their Almond version. However, since I am Nib obsessed, I decided to adapt the almond recipe to see if I could approximate the deliciousness of the originals.

Turns out, I could! Almost: I used to help my mom make meringues for some 1970s showstopper of a dessert so I used her  instructions (a holiday nostalgia moment), which call for three egg whites, cornstarch, and granulated sugar. (Tartine’s Almond Rocher recipe calls for 2 egg whites and powdered sugar.) And yes, both recipes call for one cup of sugar. Friends, I just can’t. So I reduced to 3/4 cup and these are plenty sweet. They are crunchy on the outside and a bit marshmallowy on the inside. These are perfectly lovely for the holidays what with their snow white color and dark specks.

The meringues are delicious on their own, but I suggest balancing the sweetness by serving two on a plate with a small puddle of bitter orange marmalade (warmed and strained) to round out the flavor.

Cacao Nib Meringues a la Tartine

Adapted from the Tartine Cookbook

Ingredients

Whites from 3 large eggs (about 1/2 cup), room temperature

¼ tsp cream of tartar

Pinch of salt

3/4 tsp  vanilla

1 Tbs cornstarch

3/4 c granulated sugar

½ cup cocoa nibs (I use Valrhona)

Preparation

Preheat oven to 250° F. Line two baking sheets with parchment.

Whisk the cornstarch into the sugar in a small bowl.  Set aside.

Fit your mixer with the whisk attachment and combine the egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt in the bowl. Starting at low speed and gradually increasing to medium, whip until soft frothy peaks form.img_7755

Increase the speed to medium-high and gradually add the sugar/cornstarch mixture. Continue to beat until stiff peaks form when the whisk is lifted. Add the vanilla.

Continue beating until the mixture is glossy and very thick. Remove the bowl and, using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the cocoa nibs.

Using a #40 ice cream scoop, drop dollops of meringue on the prepared img_7756-copybaking sheets. You should get about 10 on each sheet. Use a small spoon to drop any remaining meringue on the tops of  the dollops on the sheet.

Bake for about 30-45 minutes, rotating and switching the sheets halfway through, until the meringues are crisp, dry to the touch on the outside (not sticky at all), and still white. When done, let cool on the pan on wire racks for 20 minutes or until completely cool.

Serve plain, or with two on a dessert plate alongside a teaspoon of bitter orange marmalade (1/4 cup heated in the microwave and strained).

Enjoy!

 

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Seven Days of Cookies: Cornmeal Fruit Biscotti

img_7733Here’s a thought. Make holiday cookies in September and take all photos. Then simply post, post, post in December.

Anyway, just in time for an afternoon break, these wonderful Cornmeal and Dried Fruit Biscotti from Alice Medrich are just waiting for a sip of Vin Santo.

The genius here is the addition of crushed aniseed. The licorice aroma might scare you at first, but steady on. It perfumes the cookies beautifully and is especially nice with the dried cranberries and apricots.

I love cornmeal-based sweets, both cakes and cookies. These do not disappoint. It took willpower not to tinker and add some orange  (because I love cranberry and orange so much), but Alice is a master of distinct flavor notes. Girlfriend does not need my help.

These cookies can be fragile so use a sharp serrated knife when cutting the baked loaf.

Cornmeal and Fruit Biscotti

Adapted from a recipe by Alice Medrich, Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies

Makes about 30

Ingredients

1 c plus 2 Tbs (5 oz) all-purpose flour

1 c  (5.375 oz) cornmeal (I used white)

½ tsp baking powder

¼ tsp salt

4 Tbs unsalted butter, softened

1 c (7 oz) white sugar

2 large eggs

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp finely grated lemon zest

1 Tbs aniseed, crushed

½ c  coarsely chopped dried cranberries

½ c  chopped dried apricots

1 c toasted, coarsely chopped almonds*

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

img_7722Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment and set aside.

Whisk the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt to blend.

Add flour mixture, mixing  until moistened. Mix in dried fruit and nuts.

Turn the dough out onto the parchment lined baking sheet, and with damp hands, pat and squish the dough into a 12-inch by 2-inch log. Usloafse a spatula or bench scraper to clean up any bits of dough clinging to the parchment around the log. (See pic at right: Pretty loaf on marble – no way to move that sticky baby to the pan. Use the parchment.)

Bake on the center oven rack for 35-40 minutes, rotating pan halfway through, until lightly browned and cracked on top. Cool on the cookie sheet on a rack for at least 15 minutes.

Slide the parchment onto a cutting surface. Use a long serrated knife to cut the loaf on a diagonal into slices about 3/8-inches wide. (If the loaf is too crumbly to cut, let cool completely.)

img_7730Transfer slices to cookie sheet, standing them ½ inch apart. Bake 15-20 minutes, until barely beginning to brown. Cool on rack. Once completely cooled, can be stored airtight for about two weeks.

Note: I cut my biscotti slices in half to increase my yield and, because, I don’t really like a long stick of biscotti.

Enjoy!

 

 

Seven Days of Cookies: Mast Bros. x 2

I’ve long loved the Mast Brothers Chocolate cookbook. It’s lovely to look at and full of img_7704amusing, literary anecdotes. The photos are dark and mysterious, the preparation guidelines have an insider’s vagueness, the cover is a glorious matte paper that evokes the 1940s.

In other words, these are speakeasy recipes. Best enjoyed with a bourbon-based artisanal cocktail in a booklined room, seated on a burnished leather Chesterfield that someone found in an alley. This is hipster baking. And I mean that in the very best way.

And, as I am with most things hipster, I’ve been slightly intimidated by the Masts. But I stepped up, making two recipes: Chocolate, Maple & Pecan Cookies and a variation on their Peanut Nib Brittle. (The brittle makes up for the non-cookbook Panforte from yesterday.)

Both are terrific. The maple sugar in the cookies is inspired. But both are true to their Brooklyn roots: These are treelight and firelight sweets, late night on Christmas Eve. Don’t forget the iced bourbon.

(By the way, the lovely plate is by Josie Jurczenia Clay, Berkeley, CA.)

Chocolate, Maple & Pecan Cookies

Adapted from Mast Brothers Chocolate, yield about 24 cookies

Ingredients

½ c pecans

1 c (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 ¾ c maple sugar

2 large eggs

1 ¼ c flour

1 Tbs baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp sea salt

10 oz dark chocolate chips (I use Guittard semisweet)

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350.

Toast pecans on a silpat-lined baking sheet for 10 minutes. Cool and coarsely chop.

img_7710Cream butter and maple sugar in a medium bowl until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and sea salt. Add to the butter/sugar mixture in two additions, beating until combined after each.

Stir in the pecans and chocolate chips.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.

Use a #40 ice cream scoop to form balls, placed two-inches apart on baking sheets. (I lined with parchment.)

Bake for 15 minutes. Cool one minute on baking sheet before moving to racks to cool completely.

Notes: These exceptionally delicious cookies came out flat, despite the baking powder and the chilling. I live in Los Angeles where maple sugar is a costly ingredient. I used the entire 8.8oz, $12 package from Whole Foods for these. I have since ordered a 48 oz tub of maple sugar from Amazon.

Almond Nib Brittle

Adapted from Mast Brothers Chocolate, yields 2 lbs.

The original recipe calls for peanuts. I don’t care for peanuts so I made this with an equal measure of toasted almonds.

Ingredients

2c granulated white sugar

½ c water

½ c honey

½ c cacao nibs (I use Valhrona)

½ c toasted and coarsely chopped almonds

2 Tbs unsalted butter

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp sea salt

Preparation

Arrange a silpat or waxed paper lined, rimmed baking sheet near the stove, along with the nuts and nibs, baking soda, and butter.

Combine sugar, water, and honey in a 1.5 quart saucepan. Bring to a simmer and withoutimg_7709 stirring, cook until golden brown. (I get nervous around boiling sugar and color instructions. I clipped on a candy thermometer and let it go to 300F.)

Remove from heat and quickly add the butter, baking soda, nuts and nibs. Stir until the butter is melted. Pour onto the prepared baking sheet and sprinkle with salt.

When cool, break into pieces.

Notes: This is fantastic.The honey notes come through strong in this brittle so be sure to use a great honey whose flavor you enjoy straight from the jar.

Enjoy!

Seven Days of Cookies: Panforte de Lebovitz

Hello, holiday baking! This year, Seven Days of Cookies focuses on recipes that I’ve never madeimg_7685 before. Last year was favorites, this year it’s newbies. (And though I do indeed own Dorie’s Cookies, I haven’t cracked it for this adventure.)

If you’re like me, you follow David Lebovitz (sweets + Paris makes him a must) across social media. He recently shared an article that said Americans are buying more cookbooks, but cooking less often. Um. Yeah. I have a cookbook library but actively use only a few volumes. I like reading the books, imagining the food, and then storing them away. The sheer number of

img_2886

A selection of my library.

cookbooks makes me so happy. So, even though I’d already decided to make only new-to-me recipes this year, I also decided to use my own cookbooks! (Sorry, Epicurious.)

Ok, well, that’s a teensy lie, but I’ll make up for it later in the week. Because the first treat this year is adapted from David Lebovitz: Panforte. I’ve never eaten panforte. In shops it always looks like nougat or halvah, neither of which I enjoy. Or super honey flavored or treacly. I also assumed back-breaking complexity. All of it.

Well, not David’s recipe! Super easy, few ingredients, fewer steps, and darn delicious. And, I have to add, impressive because it still looks like a hard duty enterprise. Impress yourself and then your friends and family.

This is first up because, as David points out, it can sit for weeks on your counter with no ill effect. The original recipe calls for candied fruit, such as citron. I have a box of beautiful fresh candied orange peel in the cupboard but I’m saving it. Not sure for what. So I used dried cherries for the fruit and pistachios for the nuts. Fantastico.

A few notes: I tried several times but I could not get 5 level tablespoons of cocoa powder to weigh 40g. I changed the battery in my scale, weighed other items of known weight….and ended up going with weight vs. measure. The result is nicely chocolately. The red chile pepper has gotten mixed reviews: Some people like the bite, others do not. I’m waiting to see if it mellows over a week. Lastly, the package of pistachios I used was a bit underweight so I made up the difference in almonds.

Panforte de Lebovitz

Adapted from a recipe by David Lebovitz

Makes one 9″ cake

Ingredients

5 Tbs (40g) unsweetened cocoa powder (Dutch-process or natural)

2 ½ c (325g) pistachios (shelled and unsalted)

¾ c (110g) flour

1 c (200g) dried cherries (coarsely chopped)

1 Tbs ground cinnamon

2 tsps ground ginger

1 ½ tsps fresh ground black pepper

Pinch of grated nutmeg

½  tsp red chile powder

3 oz (85g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped

1 c (200g) granulated white sugar

¾ c (210g) honey

extra cocoa powder, for dusting the pan

powdered sugar, for dusting the panforte

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 350F

Spray a 9 to 10-inch springform pan with nonstick spray. Dust the inside with cocoa powder, making sure to get it up the sides. Line the bottom with a round of parchment paper.

Spread the pistachios on a silpat-lined baking sheet and toast for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.

Reduce oven temperature to 325F.

In a large bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder, flour, cinnamon, ginger, black pepper, nutmeg, and red chile powder. Add in the cooled nuts and dried cherries, and mix well to ensure the fruit and nuts are well coated with the dry ingredients. Set aside.

img_7679Melt the chocolate in a heatproof glass measure in a microwave on the low setting, in 10 second bursts, until nearly melted. Stir until completely melted and set aside.

Heat the sugar and honey in a small saucepan (ideally nonstick) fitted with a candy thermometer until the temperature reads 240F.

Immediately pour the hot sugar syrup over the nut mixture, add the melted chocolate, and stir well. Use a large, sturdy wooden spoon and be prepared to really dig in there to mix this. It becomes more difficult as the sugar syrup cools so work diligently.

img_7680Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. David recommends using damp hands to press the mixture flat – works well.

Bake the panforte for 35 – 40 minutes; if you touch it, your finger will come away clean when it’s done. (Be careful not to overcook it or it will be too firm to cut when it’s cool.) Mine was done at 35 minutes.

img_7684Cool on a rack for 15 minutes, then run a warm knife around the edge to loosen it from the pan. Remove the springform carefully, then cool completely.

When cool, remove the bottom of the springform pan and peel away the parchment. Sprinkle the panforte with powdered sugar and rub it in with your hands, top, bottom, and sides.

Serve in thin slices.

Storage: Panforte can be kept for several months, well wrapped, at room temperature.

Enjoy!

 

After the Rain Apple Pie

So how is everyone? Still full? Almost done with the juice cleanse? Thanksgiving justimg_7527 doesn’t know when to quit, am I right?

My personal celebration of this holiday has, over the years, winnowed down to a solo affair. Sometimes I travel, sometimes I stay home and make my childhood favorite sides (alongside a couple of turkey slices from Whole Foods). Either way, it’s a happy holiday.

But, as with most holidays, or most days, really, the star of the show is dessert. Which I like to have a day or two later. Enough is enough on the day.

This year, I had apples on my mind. I’m not big into pies, I think I’ve said this before. But I was feeling creative and decided to create my own recipe. Because when it comes to apple pie, I don’t like sweet, I don’t like gluey, I don’t like mushy.

Earlier in the fall I created an apple tart recipe where I reduced two cups of fresh apple honeycrisp-picturecider to about ¼ c of syrup. Let me tell you, that cider syrup is sensational! I used it to glaze the top of the tart. I kept coming back to it in my mind, so when I decided to make a pie, I started there. Added a few spices and reduced it down. Still. so. good. I used it as the sweetener for apples.

The results were very very good, exactly what I was looking for in an apple pie: Great apple flavor, hints of spice, and a mellow sweetness.

Give it a try!

After the Rain Apple Pie*

Makes one 9-inch pie

Crust

img_7525Use your favorite crust recipe for a double crust pie. I always go all butter, but I know some of ya’ll like your Crisco. If it tastes good to you, it’ll taste good in this pie.

Divide your pie dough into two pieces, and roll each into a 13-inch  circle. Line a 9-inch glass pie plate with one circle, trimming to a ½-inch overhang. Cover the pie plate and the second circle of dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate while making the filling.

 

Filling Ingredients

2 c fresh apple cider, well shaken

One cinnamon stick

One star anise

Six whole cloves

About 6 whole black peppercorns

2 lbs Honeycrisp apples

Zest from one lemon

2 Tbs lemon juice

2 -3 Tbs tapioca

¼ c turbinado sugar

1 whole egg + 1 tsp milk for eggwash

Crystal sugar for sprinkling

Preparation

Add the cider and spices to a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower heat to maintain a strong simmer and reduce the cider to about 1/3 cup. This can take about an hour. It tends to bubble up so remove the pan from the heat frequently and stir to check consistency. You want it to coat the back of your spoon.

While the cider is reducing, prepare the apples. Wash and dry the apples. I like to leave the skin on. Core and cut into quarters, and, using a mandolin on the ¼” setting, slice the apples into a large bowl. Add the lemon zest and lemon juice, and stir to coat the apples. Add the tapioca and stir to thoroughly mix it in. Set apples aside. (My pie turned out super juicy using only the 2 Tbs of Tapioca. If your apples are juicy, use the 3 Tbs.)

When the cider has reduced to a syrup, pour it into a heatproof measuring cup and set aside to cool for about 10 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Position a rack in the center. Place a baking sheet on the lower rack to catch any drips.

Remove the pie plate and dough circle from the refrigerator. Brush the bottom, sides, and overhang of the crust with the egg wash.

Add the cooled syrup to the apples and stir well to combine. Taste an apple. If you want more sweetness, add up to ¼ c of turbinado sugar sprinkled over the apples and stirred to combine.

Mound the apples into the pie plate, pressing down to reduce the space between slices. Brush the rim of the crust with additional egg wash and lay the remaining circle of dough over the top of the apples. Fold the edge of the top crust under the overhang and crimp.

Brush the remaining egg wash over the entire pie, sprinkle with crystal sugar, and cut slits for steam.

Place the pie on the center rack and bake for about 20 minutes until the crust starts to brown. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 40-50 minutes until the crust is golden brown, juices are bubbling, and a thin sharp knife inserted into the slits meets little resistance from the apples.

Cool on a rack and serve warm or at room temperature. A dollop of crème fraiche or barely sweetened whipped cream is a nice touch.

Enjoy!

*Why “After the Rain”? Because I did make it a day after a rare Los Angeles rainstorm and because nostalgia, life, the election — it’s a lot.