Is there any cookie in the world more magical and enchanting than a Chinese Fortune Cookie? No way. My heart and the corners of my mouth lift every time I am presented with one in a restaurant. How in heaven’s name are they made? And what will my fortune say this time? Of course the fortune […]
Tender, plump, spicy pumpkin cookies with a double whammy of orange. Perfect for Halloween festivities.
There’s something about fall–the brisk mornings, heavenly colors, and burning leaves—that make me want to run to the OtherWorldly Kitchen and whip up a batch of fragrant, spicy, crinkle-topped, chewy Snickerdoodles. You know, the super chewy Snickerdoodles of my dreams.
I’ve been working on perfecting Peanut Butter Cookies since around the age of eight. Not the taste, which is nearly always great, but the texture. I love these All-American cookies super-crispy or super-chewy–but not in-between.
I was flipping through my well-worn copy of The Great Book of Chocolate by David Lebovitz, flagging the pages of interest, when I saw a recipe for something called a Congo Bar and realized that I didn’t know what a Congo Bar was.
Then, as I read through the recipe, it started to coalesce in my head as a Blondie loaded with chocolate chips and chopped nuts. And as good as I’m sure David’s recipe is (which came to him courtesy of the Goddess of Baked Goodness, Flo Braker), I couldn’t help remembering that I created the Best Blondie in the Universe last year around this time and even suggested loading it with chocolate chips, chopped nuts, coconut, chopped peanut butter cups and anything else you can think of. For the post, I made a Peanut Butter Caramel Sauce and dolloped that throughout the batter. So was that creation actually a Congo Bar?
What a whirlwind it’s been in the OtherWorldly Kitchen. Flour, flour everywhere–along with nuts, sprinkles, chocolate, cookie cutters, baking sheets, and cooling racks. And of course the ever ready digital camera. I’m not quite ready to end the madness, so I’ve actually started developing cookies for next year. Two down, ten to go
Have you ever been in a kitchenware store and upon spying a new piece of equipment, baking pan, or whatever, think, “Ohhh, I really NEED that?” But then if the person with you asks what you need it FOR, you mumble something incomprehensible under your breath. Because the truth is you have no idea what you need it for, but you need it nonetheless.
This cookie started out innocently enough. I have never put peanut butter in a Christmas cookie and the thought occurred, “Why not?’ But I definitely didn’t want a chewy peanut butter cookie, even though I love them to distraction. To my way of thinking, Christmas cookies must keep for weeks, and that means they need to be nearly moisture-free after baking. Chewy cookies are almost always best on the day they are baked.
The flavor of these intensely buttery cookies is definitely exotic. It conjures up scenes of ancient ruins, mysterious night, and distant moon. With a generous dose of fragrant spices—sweet paprika, black pepper, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, and nutmeg—these cookies are likely to be like none you have ever experienced.
The idea for this cookie popped into my head after seeing a picture of that classic combination, gingerbread with lemon icing. Could I get those flavors into a cookie?
On the first attempt, I under baked the shortbread and put too much molasses in the caramel. It wasn’t that the caramel was bad per se, but it definitely overwhelmed the more delicate flavor of the shortbread. So I cut the molasses by half, but then for some ungodly reason decided to double the ginger. Wrong move; way too much ginger.
Just as no Christmas cookie collection is complete without at least one ginger spice cookie, there must also be at least one chocolate cookie in the mix. For this year’s Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies: Silver Bells collection, there are two chocolate cookies. They are similar in construction (at least for the shortbread component) but the spicing and shaping is different for each. For the Chocolate Toasted Coconut Bars, the shortbread dough is spread into a baking pan and the depth is close to ½-inch. For these cookies, you want to roll the dough very thinly and cut with a simple cookie cutter of your choice.
Just because a cookie contains what I call Gingerbread Spice, a blend of ground ginger, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and cloves, with perhaps a little cardamom thrown in for good measure, that doesn’t mean it has to taste like every other gingerbread cookie you’ve ever eaten. There’s a long history behind this the gingerbread cookie, but there is also a lot of latitude and surely many new approaches that have yet to be tried.
You know the cookie-confection called a Nanaimo Bar? Well, that’s where this exploration began. But somewhere along the way, it lost the middle layer of custard icing, moved the chocolate topping to the middle layer, and picked up a topping of toasted coconut instead.
A twist of lemon peel with espresso is a classic pairing, but for supreme indulgence, I prefer orange peel and a spot of chocolate with a tiny pot of French press coffee.
And that combo, folks, is the inspiration for this very adult cookie. I simply couldn’t resist putting three of my favorite flavors together in one delicious morsel. I’m actually surprised that I didn’t think of it years ago. Nevertheless, better late than never, as the saying goes.
I have always loved bells, both looking at them and listening to them. Whenever I’m at the New Renaissance Bookstore in Portland Oregon, I rush over to the wonderful bells selection and play them all, slowly, first one, then another. I’m sure the staff loves to see me coming through their door.
In certain meditation CDs, a single bell is sometimes used to signify the beginning or ending of a section. It has the effect of both grounding and silencing the mind. For a brief second, or maybe it’s a split second, the mind is empty and the most exquisite silence takes the place of the usual dirge. It’s like a reminder to come home to oneself.
Welcome to LunaCafe’s 3rd annual Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies celebration. I’m so excited to share this year’s Silver Bells collection with you. The song by the same name puts me in a festive mood, especially when sung by this crooner.
The symbol of the bell is rich is meaning across almost all cultures. Ringing of bells is said to bring good fortune and bliss, and I hope these fragrant, buttery, spicy, crisp, and hopefully surprising cookies will bring the same to you and yours this holiday season.
If you are not yet familiar with that chewy, caramel goodness of a bar cookie known as a Blondie, you are in for a WOW taste experience. I can’t imagine how you missed it, however, considering it’s preeminence on the web. To see what I mean, check out the amazing collection of Blondies (with stunning photos) at TasteSpotting, FoodGawker, and DessertStalking. Holy cow!
Folks sometimes ask what inspires my recipes. Such a hard question. Anything and everything is my truthful response. I am almost always thinking about food.
This brownie recipe, for instance, was inspired by the following nearly concurrent events:
•Sampling goat’s milk cajita in a Mexican grocery store in Portland.
•Making cajita myself.
•The All Chocolate! All Month! celebration at LunaCafe.
•Plan to work cajita into a brownie recipe for the celebration.
•A Brownie Throw Down on The Food Network, which the Vermont Brownie Company won with their chevre brownie.
What I really love about baking is that even if you don’t get the exact result you are going for, you sometimes get a nonetheless marvelous different result. That’s what happened with these brownies, which I intended to be the epitome of chewy chocolate YUM.
After several weeks of nearly non-stop, high-intensity cookie baking, I present you with the final cookie of this year’s Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies: Starry Night bake-a-thon. TA DA!
In the kick off post, I set the stage for this completely new collection of cookies, most of which break rather dramatically from the traditional holiday cookies of my childhood. I really wanted to push my understanding of what makes a remarkable and thus memorable Christmas cookie. I wanted to try new and exciting flavor and texture combinations. I wanted to stretch myself as a baker. As I say in the Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies: Starry Night kick off post, I intended to throw tradition to the proverbial wind this holiday season.
Well, folks, we are almost to the end of LunaCafe’s second annual Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies: Starry Night bake-a-thon. After this post, only one more cookie, and then it’s time to put away all the cutters, stencils, sprinkles, and other holiday cookie baking paraphernalia; plus wipe the flour from every surface in the OtherWorldly Kitchen. And then carefully and lovingly repackage the many large tins of cookies for their final destinations.
But please be assured that I have saved the absolute BEST two cookies for last. We will end this adventure creating the most memorable holiday cookies ever with a bang.
That’s right! You can eat the tree! Over the past year, I encountered a fair number of Northwest restaurant dishes and cocktails featuring Clear Creek Distillery’s Douglas Fir Eau de Vie. This pale green brandy is an infusion of hand-picked spring buds of the Douglas fir tree. This intriguing liqueur got me thinking about incorporating Douglas fir buds in my own dishes–especially since I live much of the time in the Cascade foothills surrounded by these incredibly fragrant trees.
If there is one cookie in this year’s Starry Night collection that positively shouts CHRISTMAS, it has to be this one. If you don’t overbrown the cookies, the sparkling red cranberries, green pistachios, and yellow lemon zest and candied ginger will glow like little jewels. To enhance this jewel-like effect, I like to keep the surface embellishment to just a light dusting of fine, clear sanding sugar, which lends sparkle but doesn’t detract from the colorful bits studding each cookie.
I’ve never seen a recipe for SWEET parmesan cookies. Recipes for SAVORY parmesan cookies abound, as any Bing Search will reveal. But why not a sweet parmesan cookie?
The inspiration for this unusual cookie comes from executive chef, Gregory Denton, of Portland, Oregon’s Metrovino restaurant. Chef Denton recently shared with me his recipe for MetroVino’s Parmesan Pound Cake, which I fell in love with at the restaurant and will share with you in the very near future.
No Christmas cookie collection is complete without at least one old world spice cookie. The smell of these cookies baking in the oven is one of the joys of the holiday season. Thus, every December, I make a triple batch of my favorite spice cookie in the world, Ellen’s Swedish Pepparkakor.
But, remember, this year I challenged myself to come up with an all new collection. So no Pepparkakor, unless the Bradley troops revolt at the last minute (when they discover there are no Pepparkakor), and I am cajoled back into the OtherWorldly Kitchen for a final round of baking.
Okay, I have a confession to make. I LOVE maraschino cherries. They make me happy. There. I’ve said it.
They’re kitschy, cheeky, and not one bit sophisticated; all perfect reasons, in my book, to adore them. Especially during the kitschy, cheeky, magical holiday season.
In Provence, the heart of the Christmas festivities extends over three days (December 24-26), during which time the table is never cleared, thus allowing the angels to partake of the festivities and seasonal delicacies. I kid you not! When I am an angel, this seasonal French celebration is going to be high on my list of earthly visitations. I hope reservations are not required.
On the second day of Christmas … my true love gave to me … Mocha Java Hazelnut Cookies.
Every Christmas cookie bake-a-thon should include at least one amazing chocolate cookie. Not only does chocolate add a festive and luxurious note to any celebration, it actually elevates mood and feelings of good cheer. As if this were not enough advantage for a single food source, chocolate is also the richest source of antioxidants known. Imagine! Cookies that bless the mind AND the body.
On the first day of Christmas … my true love gave to me … Rosalyn’s Midwinter Night’s Dream Cookies.
My dearest friend, Rosalyn, and I have danced with a good many wondrous topics over the years, but almost every conversation of ours gets to food at some point. Don’t ask me how the subject of the Lindt Excellence White Coconut bar came up.
I think it started with me saying something about trying to create the world’s best Coconut Cream Pie. As I recall, Rosalyn said I had to get white chocolate into that somehow. Then she told me about the Lindt White Coconut bar and insisted that I get some. And finally there were those 3-4 e-mails asking me if I had tried it yet. I didn’t have a chance.
Last year, LunaCafe’s first annual Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies: Deck the Halls marathon was all about tradition. Over a few weeks, I baked my way through most of the cookies I have baked every year for the holidays for the greater part of my life. I did, however, up the ante for myself a bit by exploring royal icing techniques for the first time, which added a colorful new dimension to two of the cookies. And I explored a few new-to-me cookie ingredients, such as powdered green tea, rose petal extract, and crushed peppermint sticks. But for the most part, last year’s cookie collection was tried, true, and traditional.