Saturday, August 21, 2010

Oatmeal Cookies

These cookies.

These cookies.

One of my summer goals was to find the perfect oatmeal cookie. (Question: Is it weird to have goals during the most un-goal-oriented time of year? Even if the goals aren't really GOALS?)

My friends, the cookie has been found.

Baby, summer is OVER. This depresses me to no end. It even smells like fall now.
And this summer was special, because it was the first summer I wore a bikini. Believe it or not, for the past 17 years I've never bared my midriff. Not even once. As a little girl I saw bikinis as something that only "Big Girls" wore. By the time I hit puberty I was so uncomfortable in my body that the thought of exposing more flesh to the world seemed more degrading than exhilerating. And then a few years went and that's how I became the only teenage girl on the planet who wears a one piece.

I wore my one piece with pride. I was at the forefront of a one-girl movement to return to morals, "COVER THY FLESH" and all that jazz. It was like my own personal 11th commandment.

And then I realized that I was at the forefront of a ONE-PERSON MOVEMENT.

And to be frank, that just seemed stupid and self-righteous.

For most of my life I've held almost as big a grudge against oatmeal cookies as against bikinis. Generally, I regard cookies as a shameless excuse to eat chocolate chips. So oatmeal cookies always seemed like a waste of a cookie, because of the serious lack of chocolate. (And yes I know, you can put chocolate chips in an oatmeal cookie, only then it's a chocolate chip oatmeal cookie and that's not an oatmeal cookie.)

These cookies, however, convinced me that there are some oatmeal cookies worth living for. I spiced mine up a bit by adding slivered almond instead of walnuts, a handful of unsweetened coconut and diced dried apricots. And they were delicious and and wonderful wonderful. It was a new experience for me. Kind of like wearing a bikini.

P.S. If you have ravenous hordes at your house it's a very good idea to double the recipe.

Thick, Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies


1/2 cup (1 stick or 4 ounces) butter, softened
2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt (I often use a half teaspoon, but I like more salt in my baked goods)
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
3/4 cup raisins
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C).

In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, egg and vanilla until smooth. In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt together. Stir this into the butter/sugar mixture. Stir in the oats, raisins and walnuts, if using them.

At this point you can either chill the dough for a bit in the fridge and then scoop it, or scoop the cookies onto a sheet and then chill the whole tray before baking them. You could also bake them right away, if you’re impatient, but I do find that they end up slighly less thick.

The cookies should be two inches apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake them for 10 to 12 minutes (your baking time will vary, depending on your oven and how cold the cookies were going in), taking them out when golden at the edges but still a little undercooked-looking on top. Let them sit on the hot baking sheet for five minutes before transferring them to a rack to cool.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Boston Cream Pie

A disturbingly large portion of the population has never eaten Boston Cream Pie.

It's very sad, because this is the sort of dessert that could prevent nuclear war. It make friends. It promotes peace. It illicits lots of contented sighing and belly rubbing and groans of pleasure and faces of awe. At least, it does at my house. If you don't believe me see picture below:

Yes. It's that good.

For those who don't know what a Boston Cream Pie is, allow me to explain.
It's a cross between a cake and a pie. Sort of. (Why it's called a Pie when it's technically a Cake is one of the great unsolved mysteries of life.) Two light cake layers are sandwiched with a rich eggy custard, over which a luscious chocolate ganache is poured. It's essentially a massive eclair. Or as my dad likes to call it, Eclair Cake.

This recipe is a bit fussy, best saved for a rainy day or Sunday afternoon. This cake/pie is essentially three different recipes, it's not tricky, but the assembly takes time. Also, this cake dirties lots of pan. And you must be very, very careful not to overmix the batter once the flour is added, other wise the cake will be rubbery and tough. But I doubt that that will deter even the most perfection-demanding eaters from consuming vast quantities of this so-worth-the-trouble massive morsel of delight.

Boston Cream Pie
from Martha Stewart's Comfort Foods

For Hot-Milk Sponge Cake:

unsalted butter for cake pan
1 cup sifted cake flour (not self rising, plus more for pan)
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk
1 vanilla bean, split, or 1 generous teaspoon vanilla extract

To Make the Cake:
1. Heat the oven to 350 F. Butter and flour a 9x2 inch round cake pan. Line with parchment (if you're anal), set aside.
2. Sift together the cake flour and the salt. Sift again, two more times; set aside. IN the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, ix the eggs and sugar until well combined. Place the bowl over a pot of gently simmering water; whisk until the mixture is warm, about 110 F, and the sugar is dissolved, about 6 minutes. Remove from heat; plave bowl on mixer. Whisk the egg mixture on high speed until thicked and pale, about 6 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine the milk and vanilla bean or extract. Place over medium heat until hot, being careful not to let boil. Remove and discard vanilla bean, if using. With egg mixture beating, pour the hot milk into the egg mixture in a slow, steady stream. Turn off mixer. Transfer to a medium bowl; fold in the flour mixture. Pour into prepared pan.
4. Bake until the cake is golden brown and sprinks back when gently pressed, about 30 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely.

For the Custard-Cream Filling:
6 large egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
6 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 cups milk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

To Make the Filling:
1. In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks; set aside. In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, cornstarch and salt. Gradually stir in the milk. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and begins to bubble, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
2. Slowly pour the hot milk mixture into the egg yolks while whisking. Return mixture to saucpan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture beings to bubble, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in the vanilla extract.
3. Transfer filling to medium bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing wrap against the filling to prevent a skin from forming; chill in refrigerator until firm, at least 1 hour.

4 ounces excellent quality semisweet chocolate, chopped coarsely
1/2 cup heavy cream

To Make the Glaze and Assemble the Cake:
1. Split the cake into two layers, by slicing through the cake very gently with a long serrated knife. Spread the bottom half with chilled filling. Place in the refrigerator to set, about 30 minutes. Wrap the remaining half of cake with plastic wrap; set aside.
2. In a medium size heat proof bowl, or top of double boiler, set over a pot of gently simmering water, combine the chocolate and the heavy cream. Stir occasionally until the chocolate melts, about 12 minutes. Remove from heat; set aside to cool for 10 minutes. A bit whisking helps chocolate and cream combine more easily.
3. Remove cake from refridgerator; top with the reserved cake layer. Transfer cake to a serving plate; pour the chocolate glaze over the top. Allow to set 20 minutes before serving.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

I went to france and all I did was eat Part III

The French make the best french fries. They were BLISSFUL.
I really loved these chairs. They seemed like an old married couple, just sitting on the sidewalk, watching the world go by.
Walnut cake, a specialty of southwestern France.
Gelato. It's so romantic when it's piled high.
A poached egg with pork lardons and cheese, with salad. LOVELY.

I went to France and all I did was eat Part II

More of my favorite things:
French strawberries.
Looking at the beauty that is pastry and cake at Laduree.
A caramel eclair. Bliss. (The mille fuile was just decent.)
Spectacular French yogurt, eaten on the train.

I went to France, and all I did was eat

My favorite things:
Chocolate covered caramels. DIVINE.
A crustacean pot pie. It was intimidating, but perhaps the best thing I have ever put in my mouth.
A caramel ice cream float.
An omlette made with incredible cepe mushrooms. I died and went to heaven.