Thursday, February 26, 2015

Porchetta-Style Roast Pork

"For the first time I know what it is to eat. I have gained four pounds. I get frantically hungry, and the food I eat gives me lingering pleasure. I never ate before in this deep carnal way...I want to bite into life and to be torn by it." (Anaïs Nin, author) What would life be like if every meal (or at least one meal a day) we ate was one that made both our heads and hearts race? Ones leaving us momentarily speechless so we could just take in the moment. Or making us forget all of those fast-food, frozen entree, junk food, mystery meat, or spaghetti-dinner meals we had ever eaten. Could such a life even be possible? The answer to those questions depends on whether or not you really, truly believe anything is possible. (I believe.) Great food doesn't always have to be labor or time intensive, but great food almost always needs great ingredients (unless you believe you can make a silk purse out of a sow's ear). And with fresh ingredients so readily accessible nowadays, the making of great food is always possible.

Okay, a Pollyanna as I can be sometimes be, let me show a moment of practicality. We may not always have time in our busy lives to turn every meal into a memorable moment. I do get that. Getting up early or working late doesn't always leave us with enough energy to even want to make a mess in the kitchen. The hecticness or stresses of the day can temporarily zap our culinary creativity causing us to even forget how to make creamy scrambled eggs. But most of us have a little more discretionary time on the weekends (that is, if we don't overextend ourselves) to create those 'don't want to leave the table' kind of memorable meals for family and friends. If you are looking for that best use of one's time in the making of one of those meals, make this Porchetta-Style Roast Pork. 

In Italy, porchetta traditionally refers to spit-roasting a deboned and stuffed baby pig seasoned with fennel, garlic, rosemary, and lemon. But the last time I checked no one surprised me by having a wood-burning oven installed in the backyard. However, this rich, moist, flavorful Porchetta-Style Roast Pork has all of the intense flavors without as much work. After one bite of the warm pork along with a bite of the garlic and spice rubbed crust, my friend's husband described the experience as an 'oral orgasm'. I found this to be one of the most simultaneously hilarious and disturbing food reviews I had ever heard. Although truth be told, this also ranks up there as one of the best compliments ever received. For those of you who, like me, have had only gray, on the dry side pork roasts or those over cooked, tough pork chops, maybe its' time to give your taste buds and mouth an incredibly pleasurable experience.

The Porchetta-Style Roast Pork is easy to make, however, it is a two-day process as the pork needs to marinate overnight (24 hours) before it goes into the oven. The grocery store just happened to have pork shoulder on sale this past week (although its' relatively inexpensive when not on sale). The Bon Appetit recipe called for a boneless pork shoulder, however, the bone-in pork shoulders were the ones on sale. Not a problem as I adjusted (increase) the roasting time (which had the added benefit of increasing the amount of aroma time). The marinade or rub for the pork is made with toasted fennel seeds, black peppercorns, Aleppo pepper (or dried crushed red pepper), kosher salt and garlic. The combination of these spices not only creates incredible flavor to the meat and transforms the top of the roast into something most at the table will want to fight over. Be careful to who you give a knife to at the table.

Fennel is one of those highly aromatic, ancient Mediterranean spices. Toasting the fennel seeds makes their flavor stronger and spicier. In a small skillet over medium heat, two tablespoons of fennel are stirred constantly until slightly darker in color and their aroma is released (approximately 4-5 minutes). Once cooled, they are combined with the black peppercorns, (coarse) kosher salt and Aleppo pepper in a food mill or food processor and processed to a medium-fine consistency (but not ground to a fine powder).

After rubbing the pork with the minced garlic, the spice mixture is rubbed into it. After loosely covering the pork with wax paper, refrigerate overnight (24 hours). 

The marinated roast is removed from the refrigerator for about an hour before going into a preheated 450 degree (F) oven. Brush the baking sheet with extra-virgin olive oil and evenly drizzle an additional two tablespoons over the roast. After the pork roasts at 450 degrees (F) for thirty minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees. The roast will continue to cook for 3 - 3 1/2 hours (time for 5-6 deboned pork shoulder) or 4 - 4 1/2 hours (time for a bone-in 7 - 8 pound pork shoulder) until it reaches an internal temperature of 190 degrees at the thickest part of the roast. At 190 degrees the pork becomes perfectly sliceable, almost pull apart tender. Allow the roast to rest for 15-30 minutes before slicing and serving. See notes below regarding internal temperature of the porchetta.

I don't remember when I learned not all carrots were orange, but they could be yellow or red and equally as sweet when roasted at a high temperature. The roasted orange, yellow, and red carrots complimented the Porchetta-Style Roast Pork perfectly. So would some homemade applesauce or mashed potatoes. Put out some great bottles of white wine and be prepared for everyone to linger around the table for longer than usual. If you have never been a big fan of pork roasts, you definitely will after making this one as the long, slow cooking process makes for an incredibly moist pork roast. Perfect to serve for company or even more perfect to make while you are binge watching your favorite shows (the third season of House of Cards starts this weekend).  

Note: Any leftover pork would make for great pulled-pork sandwiches. Shred the meat before refrigerating.

Porchetta-Style Roast Pork (inspired by the recipe shared in the Bon Appetit, June 2010 issue)


2 Tablespoons fennel seeds
1 Tablespoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper (or dried crushed red pepper)
5 1/2 - 6 pound boneless pork shoulder (Boston Butt) or a 7 1/2 - 8 pound pork shoulder bone-in (roasting time will be longer)
6-7 large garlic cloves, minced
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus additional for brushing the pan


1. Place fennel seeds in a small skillet. Over medium-high heat stir frequently until slightly darker in color and fragrant (4-5 minutes). Transfer to a spice mill or small food processor.
2. Add kosher salt, peppercorns, and Aleppo pepper. Grind to a medium-fine consistency (not powder).
3. Place pork in a baking pan/dish. Rub minced garlic all over pork. Then coat with spice mixture.
4. Loosely cover rubbed pork with wax paper and refrigerate overnight (approximately 24 hours).
5. Preheat oven to 450 degrees (F). Remove refrigerated roast and allow to sit out at room temperature for an hour before placing in the oven.
6. Brush a large rimmed baking sheet with extra-virgin olive oil. Place roast, fat side up and rub intact, in the center of the sheet. Drizzle evenly with 2 Tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil.
7. Roast pork for 30 minutes. Reduce temperature to 300 degrees (F) and continue to roast until very tender and thermometer reaches 180 degrees (F) (approximately 3 - 3 1/2 hours). Note: If roasting a 7 1/2 pound bone-in pork shoulder baking time could range from 4 - 4/12 hours.
8. Transfer roasted pork to cutting board. Allow to rest 15-30 minutes before slicing.
9. Serve with roasted carrots, applesauce, and/or mashed potatoes.

Notes: (1) The Bon Appetit recipe called for requiring the roast to have an internal temperature of 190 degrees, however, after making this porcetta twice, the roast is sliceable, juicy and perfect with an internal temperature of 180 degrees. (2) To make a gravy, pour and scrape all of the pan juices/bits into a small saucepan. Add 1/2 cup white wine. Mix 2 Tablespoons of all-purpose flour with 1/2 cup of whole milk until smooth. Cook juices/wine over medium heat. Slowly add flour/milk mixture. Stir constantly until mixture is smooth. Add additional wine as necessary to reach preferred consistency. Season only with pepper.

A Winter day in Northern Wisconsin.

Monday, February 23, 2015

World Peace Cookies

"You can't connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something: your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well worn path." (Steve Jobs). For the past couple of weeks I had been obsessively checking the weather forecast for northern Wisconsin watching to see if a blizzard would be passing through during my planned getaway. Driving in treacherous snowy weather is not high on my list of favorite things to do (one knuckle clenching driving experience on Independence Pass on the way to Aspen one year was enough for me). As my trip approached, I breathed a sigh of relief knowing snow was not in forecast. However, the predictions for the air temperature in the days before I was leaving were a little off or rather I should say they were significantly off. Like more than twenty degrees off. Toe and hand warmers, my long North Face coat, scarves, boots, a hat, gloves, and multiple layers of clothing made taking photos in 25 and 35 degree below zero temperatures tolerable, but just barely. Not that anyone would have heard me (I don't think I saw any other insane humans out taking photos or on hikes on those record cold days), but I thought it best to wait until I got in the car to scream, as if that would help to relieve the pain of my exposed frozen fingers. It didn't. And other than wimping out to get sunrise photos (my threshold for pain wasn't high enough), I was determined to not let the dangerous cold completely thwart my little photography expedition. It didn't. Already I envision a return trip back to capture all of the images, paths, and roads seen but not taken. Only this next trip won't happen until temperatures become winter weather balmy-like (in other words, thirty degrees above zero or higher). Even I have my glutton for punishment limits.

At the end of each day spent outdoors I craved something warm to drink or eat. Note to self: On your next trip bring mulled wine or some chocolate chip cookie dough. But satisfying my need for something warm to drink or something warm and chocolatey to eat wouldn't be met until I returned home. For awhile now I had been wanting to make Pierre Herme's and Dorie Greenspan's World Peace cookies as the idea of a cookie described as a cross between a shortbread and salted chocolate chip cookie sounded like the best of all cookie combinations. In my world, these World Peace cookies were destined to be made with white chocolate chips instead of bittersweet chocolate chips as a way of paying homage to and reliving all of my wild adventures over the past couple of days in the snow and ice. Admittedly I am not a big fan of delayed gratification, however, these cookies were definitely worth the wait.

Both standard and metric measures for the ingredients are listed in the recipe below. After reading some  of the reviews on these cookies (dough was too crumbly and not coming together), I went with the metric measurement approach. Whether you measure or weigh your ingredients may not really matter. What matters most is beating the butter and sugars until light, fluffy and creamy. While I used the white chocolate chips, I imagine they would be equally delicious with bittersweet, peanut butter or mint chocolate chips.

This is a crumbly dough, but surprisingly it comes together when it is formed into two 1 1/2 inch in diameter logs. The logs of dough are chilled in the refrigerator for at least three hours but can be chilled for several days. But seriously, who could wait that long? Only someone with a high tolerance for personal deprivation. Note: Use a thin, sharp knife when cutting the cookies. Running the knife under hot water and drying it helps to keep each cookie round intact. However, if bits of the cookie break off (and they will) simply press them back into the cookie.

Like most shortbread cookies, these cookies are baked at a low oven temperature (325 degrees), but for a much shorter baking time. The half inch slices of the chilled cookie dough are baked for only 12-13 minutes. Yes, they will not look done when you remove them from the oven. But when they come to room temperature they will be, they become perfect. Even more perfect when accompanied by a glass of ice cold milk.

Because I cut these cookies thick (much closer to a 1/2 inch), I ended up with 24 cookies (versus the 36 indicated in the original recipe). Next time I will cut them slightly thinner, maybe somewhere between 1/4 and 1/3 of an inch.

It didn't take me nearly as many years to make these cookies as it did for me to return to a place in Wisconsin I had not been for decades, but had only experienced in summer and fall. While each season has its' own unique beauty, winter there created some of the most wondrous landscapes. The extreme cold weather made it hard at times for me to focus (aka brain freeze), I actually at the end of each day my eyes were more exhausted than my body as there was so much to take in. As brutally cold and tough to endure as the weather was (have I whined enough about the cold yet?), some of my heart stopping, gasping out loud moments came when I found some incredible icicles along the rocks in a cove on Lake Michigan; seeing more than a hundred geese take flight in a snow covered corn field (if only my hands had been warm enough for me to change the lens on my camera); and, watching sunsets over a bay covered with waves of frozen ice and snow. My other heart stopping moments are stories for another time. I can't help but wonder what a spring landscape there looks like. Suppose I will have to wait to find out. I hear destiny calling. And I should be completely warmed up by then.

World Peace Cookies (inspired by Pierre Herme and Dorie Greenspan's World Peace Cookies recipe)

1 1/4 cups (175 grams) all-purpose flour
1/3 cup (30 grams) unsweetened cocoa
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
11 Tablespoons (150 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
2/3 cup (120 grams) light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon fleur del sel or 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
5 ounces (150 grams) white chocolate chips (or bitter sweet chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, or chopped bitter or semisweet chocolate)

1. Sift flour, cocoa and baking soda together. Set aside.
2. Using a standing mixer with a paddle attachment, beat butter on medium speed until soft and creamy.
3. Add granulated sugar, brown sugar, vanilla and salt. Beat for two additional minutes. Turn off mixer.
4. Pour in dry ingredients. Cover top of bowl with a kitchen towel (to prevent flying flour), pulsing mixer at low speed about 5 times (a second or two each time). If there is still flour on the surface of the dough, pulse a couple more times. Remove towel and continue mixing on low seep for approximately 30 seconds or until all of the flour disappears into the dough (try to work the dough as little as possible for a better finished cookie texture). 
5. Add chocolate pieces and still until mixed in.
6. Turn the dough out onto a work surface (it will be very crumbly, but do not worry). Divide in half, shape each half into a log approximately 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours (dough can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months).
7. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
8. Using a sharp knife, slice logs into generous 1/4 inch or 1/2 inch rounds. If the rounds crack, just squeeze the bits back into each cookie). Place rounds on baking sheet. Note: To assist in the cutting process, run knife under hot water, dry and then cut.
9. Baking only one cookie sheet at a time, bake for approximately 12 minutes. Note: The cookies will not look done, nor will they be firm, but that is the way they should be. 
10. Transfer cookies to a cooling rack. Eat at room temperature.
11. Store cookies in a covered container.

Views of a harbor overlooking a bay and an old cherry truck sitting in an even older barn.

Seeing horses in a pasture made the drive back home on a snowy day a little less stressful.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Chicken Marbella Dark

This past weekend I bought a new pair of running shoes at one of the local running stores. I live in what I have called a 'running town'. In addition to there being two running stores, there are numerous running clubs, running camps for kids, more than a half dozen races hosted by local organizations, and a high school having a significant number of state championship teams. Even though it wasn't that long ago that I would have considered myself a 'runner', someone who ran four to five times a week, 5ks, 10ks and 5 milers, several half-marathons and two marathons, it feels like those running days were a lifetime ago. So during the long, thorough process of being fitted for a new pair of shoes, the young 'runner' who was helping me make a good shoe 'fit' purchase decision (steering me away from choosing a shoe based solely on color and towards one to help me compensate for my pronation issues) asked me what my running goals were. Not someone to be cagey or evasive (traits I see as being disingenuous), I shared my desire to run a few races in the year ahead. And then before I knew it I was signed up to train for a 5k (sometimes you have to go back and start at the beginning) when my only goal that day was to buy a new pair of running shoes! I guess somedays you need someone else to push you when you haven't been able to push yourself off of that 'thinking about it' place. Needless to say, I came out of the store with more than a pair of shoes. And I have an eighteen year old cross country runner heading off to college in the fall to study engineering at a Big Ten school to thank for pushing me.

An even longer time period has passed since I made the Silver Palate's Chicken Marbella. So long ago I couldn't even remember what it tasted like or what I served it with. For whatever reason or reasons I never incorporated it into my repertoire of go to chicken dishes. But that too is now about to change. Maybe it was making this dish with only chicken thighs and chicken legs instead of pieces of cut-up chicken; maybe it was using Mexican instead of Mediterranean oregano; maybe it was using a Chardonnay I would actually drink; or maybe it was the combination of flavors of the Chicken Marbella Dark and Roasted Artichoke Orzo that made me look at this dish very differently. I would be remiss if I did not also mention the intoxicating aroma of this dish as it baked in the oven. Whatever it was that pushed me back into making the Chicken Marbella (the dark version), I was just glad I was open to being influenced into revisiting the recipe.

Chicken Marbella Dark is the kind of dish you want to serve for Sunday supper, for a dinner with friends, at a graduation party, at an Academy Awards gathering, or to make just because you absolutely love chicken. This is one of those dishes where 90 percent of the prep work is done the day before, making the day of entertaining so much less hectic. And in the words of the cooking goddess Ina Garten 'how easy is that?'.

One of the keys to this dish is giving it time to marinate in the olive oil, red wine vinegar, bay leaves, chopped garlic, the mexican oregano, salt/pepper, Spanish olives, capers and prunes (yes, prunes) overnight. Don't listen to anyone who tells you marinating for several hours is good enough. Unless of course you are someone who settles for good enough. Trust me when I say this marinade elevates chicken thighs and chicken legs to new heights of deliciousness. That is, if you allow it to marinate in the refrigerator overnight. 

About an hour before you are ready to bake the chicken, remove from the refrigerator, transfer to a baking dish large and deep enough to accommodate all of the pieces of chicken and the additional ingredients of light brown sugar and white wine. The pan I used worked, but next time I should give the pieces of chicken just a little more breathing room so each piece can fully brown. After laying out the individual pieces of chicken in your pan, pour the marinade over it. Top with one cup of light brown sugar and one cup of white wine. I used a chardonnay but any white blend would work. Choose a wine you would enjoy drinking and not the white wine someone brought you as a gift that you couldn't figure out to do with. 

The Chicken Marbella Dark bakes in a preheated 350 degree (F) oven for 50 to 60 minutes. The chicken is ready to remove from the oven when it has browned; when the juices run clear after being pierced with a sharp knife; and when the temperature of the chicken ranges between 165-170 degrees. The doneness of chicken has more to do with temperature than color. And remember, the temperature of chicken will increase from 5 to 10 degrees if allowed to rest (loosely covered) for five to ten minutes.

The baked chicken is transferred to a serving platter and topped with freshly chopped parsley. The remaining juices enhanced with the white wine can be poured into a gravy boat and served alongside the chicken. The Chicken Marbella Dark can be served warm or at room temperature, making it perfect for buffet style entertaining.

The Roasted Artichoke Orzo I made to accompany the chicken could not have been a more perfect and easy to make compliment. This was nothing more than drizzling some olive oil, salt and pepper over a drained, cut up into quarters can of artichokes and roasting for 30 to 35 minutes at 350 degrees (F) along with cooking two cups of orzo. Added to the roasted artichokes and cooked orzo were a couple of tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil, a teaspoon of lemon zest, two tablespoons of chopped parsley, and some salt and pepper to taste. It is that easy. Note: The artichokes can be roasted earlier in the day, making this dish easy for last minute assembly. 

The changes made to some of the ingredients along with the use of dark meat only created a dish very different than the one I remembered (which was probably why I didn't keep making it). Mostly savory with a little bit of sweetness from the dried prunes and brown sugar, I can honestly say this now may be one of my favorite chicken dishes. So if by chance you had made and tasted Chicken Marbella before but weren't overly wowed by it, maybe I can push you into reconsidering making it again by borrowing from Nike. Just do it.

Chicken Marbella Dark (inspired by the Chicken Marbella recipe from The Silver Palate Cookbook written by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins)

2 1/2 pounds chicken thighs, with skins
2 12 pounds chicken legs
1 large head of garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup dried mexican oregano 
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup whole pitted prunes
1/2 cup pitted Spanish green olives
1/2 cup larger sized capers, with a Tablespoon of juice
6 bay leaves
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup white wine (recommend a Chardonnay or white blend)
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

1. In a large bowl, combine the garlic, salt, pepper, oregano, red wine vinegar, olive oil, prunes, olives, capers and bay leaves. 
2. Add chicken thighs and chicken legs to the marinade. Mix to coat all pieces of chicken. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Note: Stir several times to ensure all pieces of the chicken are marinated evenly.
3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F). Remove chicken from refrigerator at least 30 minutes before baking.
4. Arrange chicken in a single layer in a large shallow baking dish. Spoon marinade over the chicken.
5. Evenly sprinkle the brown sugar over the chicken.
6. Pour white wine around the sides of the baking dish.
7. Bake chicken for 50 to 60 minutes, or until juices run clear.
8. Transfer baked chicken to a serving platter. Using a slotted spoon, arrange the prunes, olives and capers over the chicken. Spoon some of the remaining pan juices over the chicken. Note: Transfer remaining pan juices to a gravy boat and serve along side of the chicken.
9. Top with chopped parsley.
10. Serve immediately or at room temperature.
Note: Serve with a side of roasted artichoke orzo; basmati rice; or couscous.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Rosewater Glazed Madeleines

Maybe it was the photos of rock formations in Moab, Utah or the sun setting in Grand Junction, Colorado my sister sent or the incredible photos of western Washington State posted to Facebook by a rather gifted photographer I know only through Facebook that finally pushed me into making plans to see landscapes different than the one I am living in. My other excitement for the week was finally returning back to gym after a rather long hiatus. For awhile I had been working out five to six days a week and then I let the holidays alter my routine. I never cease to be amazed at how much better I feel after working out. Why I have not been able to internalize this feeling into a 'habit' speaks to so many things as well as why change can sometimes be hard. The motivation for the return to the gym was in part prompted by reading the quote 'Quit saying you don't have time. You have time for what you make time for in life.' If someone had not already taken credit for those two sentences, I would have put my name to them. It's always a red flag when someone you care about tells you they are 'too busy' just as it's a red flag when you tell yourself you are 'too busy'. In my world, busy is one of those four letter words, one that can be hurtful to hear as well as harmful (to oneself) to utter. And this week, the time had finally come (again) for me to make time to workout. Thank goodness the bottle of Motrin hadn't expired.

These Rosewater Glazed Madeleines were not going to be my next post, Chicken Marbella was. Best laid plans often go awry or so they say. But after making and tasting them, I couldn't wait until next week to share them with you. I could think of no better way to give you the sense of the transformational deliciousness of these small rich cakes, than to share the eloquence of the writing of Marcel Proust. In his book 'Remembrance of Things Past' he wrote '....when one day in winter, on my return home, my mother, seeing that I was cold, offered me some tea, a think I did not ordinarily take. I declined at first, and then, for no particular reason, changed my mind. She sent for one of those squat, plump little cakes called petites madeleines, which look as though they had been molded in the fluted valve of a scallop shell. And soon, mechanically, dispirited after a dreary day with the prospect of a depressing morrow, I raised my lips a spoonful of the tea in which I soaked a morsel of the cake. No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shiver ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, something isolated, detached, with no suggestion of its origin. And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its' brevity illusory, this new sensation having had the effect which loves has, of filling me with a precious essence; or rather this essence was not in me, it-was-me. I had ceased now to feel mediocre, contingent, mortal. When could it have come to me, this all-powerful joy? I sensed that is was connected with the taste of the tea and the cake, but that infinitely transcended those savors....' Do madeleines really have the power to evoke feelings of love and euphoria? I suppose you will have to taste one to find out.

Many years ago I had bought a madeleine pan, most likely with the intention of making madeleines. For some reason I cannot remember when I bought this pan, however, by looking at I could tell that it had never been used. Oh, those best laid plans. This past week one of David Lebovitz's madeleine recipes appeared in a social media posting. For some unexplainable reason, this long overdue inspiration and motivation was enough to send me on the hunt for that madeleine pan. Had the person who shall remain nameless not organized all of my bakeware while I was living out east, my search for the madeleine pan could have led me to either abandon my madeleine baking plans or sent me out to buy another one. The more likely outcome would have been the later. 

Before I started making these madeleines I thought it might be wise to see what other madeleine recipes attributed to David Lebovitz had been posted. Considering I had already waited quite some time before making them, adding another hour or two seemed an insignificant delay. After finding a few recipes, comparing their similarities and differences, some minor ingredient quantity adjustments to the recipe I had initially come across seemed to be make sense. Possibly the best takeaway to come from comparing recipes was in gaining a greater clarity of the process of making madeleines. And lastly, in a moment of creativity, I thought rather than a lemon glaze or dusting of confectionary sugar, the more perfect finishing touch to the madeleines would be a rosewater glaze.

The hump in the madeleine is a very good thing. Room temperature eggs, baking powder, the folding processes and batter resting times all contribute to creating a fuller, plump madeleine. And while the use of a pastry bag is not absolutely necessary, it makes life easier (as well as making for more uniform sized cakes). Be careful to not over or underfill your madeleine mold. Baked in the upper third of a preheated 400 degree (F) oven, the madeleines become golden brown in 8 to 10 minutes. Would recommend you check them at seven minutes and add time. A minute can mean the difference between perfect and over baked.

Traditionally madeleines are sprinkled with a dusting of confectionary sugar. They can be dipped in melted chocolate, in a lemon glaze, or in a rosewater glaze. Rosewater is nothing more than a flavored water infused with rose petals and a small amount of sugar. Marzipan is usually flavored with rosewater. Since it can be a little sweet, I used sparingly in the glaze (a scant 1/4 teaspoon to 1 cup of sifted confectionary sugar). It was just enough to add some sweetness and just a tiny bit of floralness to the madeleines.

The cooled to the touch madeleines are dipped (scallop side) into the glaze and placed on a cooling rack to set.

Once the glaze has set, the madeleines placed in cupcake papers can be arranged on a platter or packaged in a box for gifting.

This recipe yielded sixteen (16) madeleines. After baking the first batch of twelve, I let the pan cool slightly, wiped it clean with a paper towel, then rebrushed with melted butter/dusted lightly with flour. Both batches came out perfectly, so there really isn't any need to buy a second pan. 

Part cake, part cookie, madeleines are simply irresistible. Be prepared to be affected by them. And hey, Happy Valentine's Day. I hope you make time for not just yourself, but who matters to you. 

Rosewater Glazed Madeleines (inspired by David Lebovitz's madeleine recipe in My Paris Kitchen)

2 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup all purpose flour, plus additional flour for preparing pan
1 teaspoon baking powder (recommend Rumford)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
10 Tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 Tablespoon honey

1 cup confectionary sugar, sifted
2 Tablespoons whole milk
scant 1/4 teaspoon rosewater
(optional: 1 drop of pink or red food coloring)

1. Place eggs in the bowl of standing mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Whip on medium-high speed until frothy, add granulated sugar a little at a time until mixture has doubled in volume and has thickened (approximately 3-5 minutes). Remove bowl from mixer.
2. Sift together flour, baking powder and sea salt.
3. Fold in sifted ingredients and vanilla to egg/sugar mixture using a spatula. Cover bowl with plastic wrap or a towel, allow to rest for 30 to 60 minutes. (Note: My rest time was 60 minutes.)
4. Melt 8 Tablespoons of unsalted butter in a small pan over low heat. Add honey, continue stirring over the heat for an additional minute. Remove from heat and set aside for 30 to 60 minutes. Set aside.
5. Fold in melted, cooled butter/honey mixture a few spoonfuls at a time into the rested batter. Fold until all butter has been incorporated. Cover bowl with plastic wrap or a towel, allow to rest for 30 to 60 minutes. (Note: My rest time was 60 minutes.)
6. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 
7. Melt 2 Tablespoons of unsalted butter. Brush the madeleine mold with the melted butter. Dust lightly with flour (shake out excess flour). 
8. Using a pastry bag, fill each mold indentation approximately 3/4 full with batter. Tap pan on counter before placing in the top third of the preheated oven.
9. Bake until golden brown and/or feel just set when you touch with your finger, approximately 8 to 10 minutes. (Note: My bake time was 8 minutes.)
10. Allow to cool for 30 seconds, then tip madeleines out onto a cooling rack. Allow to cool to touch before dipping in rosewater glaze.
11. For glaze, mix together the sifted confectionary sugar, milk and rosewater. Stir until smooth.
12. Dip top (scallop side) of the madeleines into the glaze, place dipped madeleine on cooling rack (scalloped side up). Allow to rest until icing has set.
13. Serve immediately. Note: Glazed madeleines are best left uncovered (or not tightly-wrapped). They are best eaten the day they are made, however, they can be kept in container for up to two days.
Additional note: Can dust cooled madeleines with confectionary sugar instead of dipping in glaze or can substitute 1 teaspoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice in place of the rosewater for a lemon glaze.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Linzer Sable Cookies

I could barely contain my excitement when I woke up Saturday morning to find the sun shining. After what seemed like an eternity of gray or short-lived sunny days, the sight of a bright sun could not have been a more welcoming, energizing sight. Quickly throwing on some clothes and rushing around to pack up my camera, I could not get in the car fast enough. Then came that temporarily, wasting valuable time, paralyzing feeling of indecisiveness as I began second-guessing my intended destination. After what seemed like an eternity (it was all of two minutes), I decided to change my plans and head back up to the Chicago Botanic Gardens. What I realized when I got there was that no matter how familiar this place has become to me in the last few months, there were new discoveries to be made. If there is such a thing as a place being familiarly unfamiliar, this would be one of those places. It is no wonder why "The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes."(Marcel Proust)  is one of my most favorite of all quotes.

Recently I came across Dorie Greenspan's Linzer Sable Cookie recipe and thought it would be perfect to share, perfect to make for Valentine's Day. However, in revisiting the list of cookies I have posted to this blog I realized I had already shared a recipe for Linzer cookies. This time last year I posted the White Chocolate Raspberry Linzer Cookies inspired by Model Bakery's Linzer cookie recipe. As it happens, these two Linzer cookies are both similar and different. 

In anticipation of making these Linzer Sable cookies, I stopped at Trader Joe's on the way back from a morning of taking photos to pick up some whole hazelnuts and some almond meal as I hadn't decided which nut I would use when making these cookies (this was turning into an epic day of indecisiveness).  I bought the almond meal not only because it is made from whole sweet almonds, but it would also save me the added step of grinding nuts. If you prefer the taste of hazelnuts in your cookies without having to grind them, Bob's Red Mill sells a Hazelnut Meal Flour made from ground hazelnuts that would work well in cookie. Complimenting the flavor of the nuts (whichever ones you choose) in the cookie are the spices of cinnamon and cloves. Combined with the raspberry preserves and a dusting of powdered sugar these cookies are bites of pure buttery, nutty, spicy and fruity deliciousness.

The rolling out process for these cookies is a little different. Usually you form a ball of dough into a disk, flatten it slightly, chill it, and then roll it out on a floured surface. With this cookie, you form a ball of dough, place it between two sheets of parchment or wax paper, flatten it slightly, roll it out and then chill it before cutting into your desired shapes. Because the parchment or wax paper slides around when you roll it out, I would suggest taping down the bottom piece of paper to the counter or whatever surface you are using to roll out the dough to a even 1/4 inch thickness. This was one of the early lessons learned in the making of this cookie.

The rolled out dough is placed on a baking sheet and placed in the refrigerator to chill for approximately two hours. Dorie Greenspan suggests you can also put the dough in the freezer for 45 minutes, but I prefer the slow to chill process so mine went into the refrigerator.

Traditional Linzer cookies are round with fluted or smooth edges. Heart shaped cookies, not just at Valentine's Day, but anytime of the year just look a little more irresistible. A raspberry jam or preserve is the classic filling for these cookies, however, you could also make them using mixed berry, blackberry, or apricot preserves. My personal favorite is raspberry, with or without the seeds.

The cookies baked for approximately 10 to 13 minutes in preheated 375 degree (F) oven until they are lightly golden on the bottom and slightly firm to the touch on top. Once cooled the bottoms are ready to be spread with the preserves and the tops lightly dusted with confectionary sugar. If you are making these cookies without a 'cut-out' the tops of the cookies can be dusted with confectionary sugar once they have been sandwiched together. Be sure to bake up the small cut-outs from the top of the cookie as they great for noshing on.

When assembling the cookie, the bottom/flat side of the solid cookie is spread with the preserves and topped with the bottom/flat side of the top cookie. This ensures the cookie can sandwich together perfectly.

The number of cookies will depend on the size of the cookie cutter used. Additionally, the quantity will be affected by the thickness of the rolled out dough. Mine were on the slightly thicker side (this was  mostly because I hadn't taped down the bottom piece of parchment paper when rolling out the dough). My yield for this recipe was 15 cookies due to the size of the heart cookie cutter used and the thickness of the dough. If using a small two inch round or smaller heart cookie cutter (and rolling out to a consistent 1/4 inch thickness) you should anticipate being able to make two dozen Linzer Sable (sandwich) cookies. Note: Graduated size heart cookie cutters are available from Williams-Sonoma (made by deBuyer) or through Amazon (made by Fat Daddio's).

If you are looking to make someone feel special on Valentine's Day or on any day, give them something homemade. Gifts from the heart are often those made with one's hands, written in one's own handwriting, or spoken from one's lips.

Linzer Sable Cookies (inspired by Dorie Greenspan's Linzer Sable Cookie Recipe as shared in her book Baking: From My Home to Yours)

1 1/2 cups ground almond meal (or finely ground almonds, hazelnuts or walnuts)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons Saigon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
scant 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 large egg, room temperature
2 teaspoons water
1/2 cup (8 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup raspberry preserves (or your preserve of choice)
Confectionary sugar for dusting

1. Whisk together the almond meal, flour, cinnamon, cloves and salt in a medium sized bowl. Set aside.
2. Whisk together the egg and water. Set aside.
3. In a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together butter and granulated sugar until fluffy and smooth (approximately 3 minutes).
4. Add egg mixture and beat for 1 minute.
5. Reduce speed to low and mix in dry ingredients until incorporated. Be careful not to over mix.
6. Divide batter/dough in half. Working with one half at a time, form into a ball and place between two sheets of parchment paper or wax paper. Roll out until approximately 1/4 inch thick. Transfer to a baking sheet to keep flat. Repeat process with other batter/dough ball. Place cookie sheet in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours (or can place in freezer for 45 minutes). 
7. Preheat oven to 375 degrees (F). Prepare a baking pan lined with parchment paper.
8. Remove one rolled out dough and place on a cutting board. Remove one piece of the parchment paper/wax paper and cut into desired shapes. Place each cookie on prepared cookie sheet. Note: If you want the preserves or jam to show, cut half of the cookies with a smaller shape in the center.
9. Bake cookies for 10 to 13 minutes or until they are lightly golden and just firm to the touch. Transfer baked cookies to a cooling rack and cool to room temperature.
10. Repeat process with second rolled out disc of dough. 
11. Gather all unused dough scraps and reroll between two sheets of parchment paper or wax paper. Cut into desired shapes and bake.
12. Spread thin layer of preserves on the flat side of the 'solid' cookies. Note: Mound a little of the preserves in the center so they come up through the 'cut-out'.
13. Sprinkle confectionary sugar on the top side of the 'cut-out' cookies.
14. Sandwich the two halves together pressing lightly.
15. Depending on the size cookie cutter this recipe will make 15-24 linzer sandwich cookies.
Note: Instead of dusting these cookies with confectionary sugar and/or sandwiching them together with preserves, the cookies can be simply dipped in white or dark chocolate.