Saturday, December 19, 2009

In the kitchen: Mexican Chocolate Cookies

I'm sure I'm not alone in obsessing about cookies this time of year. I've been following along with many blogs who are counting down the holidays with cookie recipes and when Chicago-based Lottie & Doof got to number 8 — Mexican Chocolate Cookies adapted from Cooks Illustrated — I knew I had to get baking. A big old hunk of butter along with a wollop of cinnamon and cayenne pepper give them a unique kick.

Mexican Chocolate Cookies (via Lottie & Doof, adapted from Cook’s Illustrated)
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (I would use a tad more next time — love the heat!)
  • 20 tablespoons unsalted butter (2 1/2 sticks), softened to cool room temperature (about 65 degrees)
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/4-1/2 cup turbinado sugar (or other raw or sanding sugar)

In medium skillet set over medium heat, toast almonds, cinnamon, and cayenne until fragrant, about 3 minutes; set aside to cool. In food processor fitted with metal blade, process cooled mixture until very fine, about 15 seconds. Set aside.

Melt 4 tablespoons butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and instant espresso powder; stir until mixture forms smooth paste. Set aside to cool, 15 to 20 minutes.

In standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment, mix remaining 16 tablespoons butter, sugar, salt, and cooled cocoa mixture on high speed until well combined and fluffy, about 1 minute, scraping sides of mixing bowl once or twice with rubber spatula. Add yolks and vanilla and mix on medium speed until thoroughly combined, about 30 seconds. Scrape sides of bowl. Whisk nut/spice mixture into flour. With mixer running on low, add flour mixture in three additions, waiting until each addition is incorporated before adding next and scraping bowl before next addition. Continue to mix until dough forms cohesive ball, about 5 seconds. Shape into two dough logs, 2 inches in diameter and about 6 inches long; use parchment paper or plastic wrap to roll into neat cylinder. Chill until very firm and cold, at least 1 hour. (At this point the dough can be frozen for up to a couple of weeks.)

Preheat oven to 375ยบ F with rack set in the middle. Roll chilled log in sugar. Slice cookies 1/4 inch thick and place on parchment-lined baking sheets.

Bake until cookies show slight resistance to touch, 10 to 12 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking time; if cookies begin to darken on edges, they have overbaked. Cool for 5 minutes, then, using spatula, transfer cookies to wire rack; cool completely.

What are you baking this weekend?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The best taste of 2009

If I had made this recipe in say, March of this year, I probably wouldn't have even considered that title for this post. But that's what happens in December. You start thinking in superlatives and lists. Top ten! Best of the year! 2009 favorites! But the fact is, it
is December and these ribs are just that good. We had spareribs from the CSA and while barbecue is the obvious choice, I really haven't found a sauce I love. I was digging around online for a non-barbecue recipe and boy did I score. The best taste I've had in recent months, if not all year. AND I overcooked them. I can only imagine their perfection when well-cooked. Okay, enough of the hype. Here it is:

Tuscan-Style Spareribs with Balsamic Glaze
Adapted from
Food & Wine, November 2004

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons chopped rosemary leaves

1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt

1 1/2 tablespoons fennel seeds

2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

2 teaspoons chopped sage

2 teaspoons chopped thyme

2 teaspoons sweet paprika

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

6 pounds pork spareribs

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, preferably one aged for at least 5 years

  1. In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, rosemary, kosher salt, fennel, black pepper, sage, thyme, paprika, crushed red pepper, coriander and allspice. Rub the spice paste all over the spareribs and let stand at room temperature for 2 hours or refrigerate overnight.
  2. Preheat the oven to 325°. Arrange the ribs on a large, rimmed baking sheet or roasting pan, meaty side up. Roast the ribs for 2 hours, or until tender.
  3. Preheat the broiler. Brush the meaty side of the ribs with the balsamic vinegar and broil 6 inches from the heat until browned, about 2 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes, then cut between the ribs and serve.
Note: We probably only had a little over a pound of ribs, so I halved the ingredients thinking there would still be too much. But I was glad to have as much as I did.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Down a Red Velvet Rabbit Hole

I started in Detroit and ended up down the rabbit hole in southern Missouri. Reading through some of my favorite blogs this dreamy photo caught my eye on Perfect Laughter's latest Starred column. Perfect Laughter has become my go-to for news about the Detroit art scene and, in this case, beyond. I love the color and mood and how could you not love Christmas lights cascading down a wall to form a headboard? I noticed it was from Skunkboy Creatures who I have been captivated by lately.

Skunkboy Creatures

Katie, the lovely creature responsible for Skunkboy Creatures, was my neighbor at Renegade in Chicago and she just oozes talent. Not only does she sew the most delightful creatures, but she is full of style and sweetness. The caption beneath the photo said that it was via A Beautiful Mess, so of course, I clicked through and found myself in a wonderland of breathtaking photos and southern charm.

Leigh-Ann of Freckled Nest. One of the blogs featured on A Beautiful Mess

The blog is by Elsie Flannigan and the link was to her post listing 10 blogs she enjoys. Bonanza! Each one is more delicious than the last. But even more importantly, this jump led me to Elsie's shop: Red Velvet Art.

Cuckoo Clock Necklace available at Red Velvet Art

Poster by Chris Merritt at Red Velvet Art

It is both online and a brick-and-mortar shop in Springfield, Missouri. Browsing through the shop makes me want to take a huge detour on our trip to North Carolina to soak up the atmosphere in what must be a charming, charming place. Sigh.