Tag Archives: baking

Dark Chocolate Sour Cherry Cookies

27 Apr


After making mushroom lasagna for my family this weekend, I decided we needed something to balance out the vegetables and so made these cookies, which are loaded with two types of chocolate and delicious sour cherries.  The recipe comes from Martha Stewart Cookies, a book Gina and I were given for Christmas by Gina’s godmother, who is also an avid and excellent baker.  I’ve never been a big Martha Stewart fan (I tend to like less grandmothery chefs who haven’t gone to jail), but this book is pretty awesome.  It has about 100 cookie recipes, divided by type such as “chewy”, “crispy”, “cakey”, etc.  I am told she has a similar cupcake book, although I can’t imagine how there are quite as many cupcake varieties as there are cookie types.

I sometimes forget how easy cookies are to make, but these were really a cinch- just mix some dry ingredients, add an egg and chocolate, put in the oven and enjoy.   We didn’t have a mixer in the mountains, so I even made do with just a spoon to whisk everything together.  They are intensely chocolatey, so certainly not for anyone with a chocolate aversion (is there such a person? I don’t know one), but the sour cherries add a nice contrast that lightens up the chocolate monotony.  Below is a halved recipe from the original, but I assure you, you will still have cookies for days- I’m never sure why cookie recipes assume that you are baking for 20.  Try these sometime soon, I promise you will not regret it.  Just have a large glass of milk nearby.

Dark Chocolate Sour Cherry Cookies
From Martha Stewart Cookies

Makes about 2 dozen

Equipment: Electric mixer (or wooden spoon and some old fashioned elbow grease), knife, cookie sheet

3/4 plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 plus 2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar (light brown works too)
1 large egg
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup firmly packed dried sour cherries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line cookie sheet with parchment paper or grease with butter. In a bowl sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.  In the bowl of an electric mixer with paddle attachment, or large bowl with wooden spoon, cream together the softened butter and sugars until fluffy and light.  Add egg and vanilla and stir/beat until combined.  Add the flour mixture and stir until just combined.  With a wooden spoon, mix in the chocolate and sour cherries.

Form balls of dough (mine were about 1 rounded tablespoon although Martha recommends 1/4 cup, which seems excessively large).  Place balls on the baking sheets, 2-3 inches apart.  Bake until puffed and cracked, about 9 to 11 minutes.  Let cool and enjoy!


Eating Our Way Through Brooklyn

23 Feb

The Red Hook waterfront

Mother Spice is off gallivanting in India (supposedly for work, although when we talked to her she seemed to be at a spa on the beach), so Gina and I came to New York for the weekend to keep our long-suffering father company.  The three of us decided to go on an adventure to Brooklyn, spurred by a trip to Brooklyn Gina and Father Spice took over the summer, which led to Father Spice discovering Brooklyn at about the same time The New York Times did (see: this).  Our trip to Brooklyn turned into us eating at no fewer than three places in one afternoon, visiting Williamsburg, Red Hook, Cobble Hill, and driving through multiple other places while Father Spice both a) gave us history lessons (always fun!), and b) went into a 30 minute discussion with himself about why it was a mistake that we didn’t think more seriously about moving there when we first came to NY.

Oops, we ate half of this before remembering the picture

We ended up grabbing lunch at a decent-but-nothing-exciting Thai place in Williamsburg, and then went on to Red Hook, original home of Red Hook Lobster Pound, a spattering of little boutiques among the old industrial buildings, and our destination: Baked.  Baked has been featured both on Serious Eats, for being the Best Cupcake in New York, and on Food Network’s “The Best Thing I Ever Ate”, for their salted chocolate brownie.  So it was pretty inevitable that we would be going there to sample some butter-laden goodies.  We tried the red velvet cupcake with cinnamon frosting, the salted brownie, and a pumpkin chocolate chip pound cake.  All three were delicious, and I can absolutely see why one would go to Brooklyn just to stock up on brownies.  The cupcake was somehow both much moister and much lighter than any other I have tried (and trust me, living in a combination of DC and NY means I eat a lot of cupcakes), and the frosting was amazing and airy without being at all too sweet or cloying.  The salty-sweet combination of the brownie was also sublime, and it had a very rich, gooey, chocolate texture.  The pound cake was ordered as an afterthought by Father Spice, but was (surprise, surprise), also awesome, very moist and cakey with a great flavor combination of the pumpkin and chocolate.

Prime Meats steak frites

After some more history lessons while looking out over the docks in Red Hook and driving around Prospect Park (did you know it was designed by the same person who created Central Park, which was inspired by a park in Liverpool, aka Father Spice’s hometown?), we headed over to the Carrol Gardens area for an early dinner at Prime Meats.  Prime Meats is well known in Brooklyn and was recommended to us by a family friend who seems to have eaten at every “best restaurant” in the city.  They take no reservations, but we got there at about 5:45 and only had to wait 10 minutes before being seated.  The atmosphere is very friendly and relaxed, and there were lots of families there while we were eating.  It was noisy without being overwhelming or annoying, and the brick walls and wood finishing with tealights around the window contributed to the casual feeling.  It was also quite reasonably priced for such a lauded place in New York City- it wasn’t cheap, but was less expensive than we thought it might be.

Brisket with cabbage and juniper berries (whatever they are)

The menu is very simple and only has a few main items on it, including a roast chicken, burger, steak, and brisket.  Gina and I split the duck salad to start, which had pieces of shredded duck as well as some slices of duck breast, with apple and toasted pumpkin seeds.  It was very good, as was Father Spice’s celery salad with a simple but delicious vinaigrette dressing.  For the main courses, I had steak frites, which was a very generous and well cooked steak with great fries, Father had the braised brisket with cabbage and juniper berries, which had come recommended to us and was also delicious, and Gina had the burger, which looked great and was finished by her in approximately two bites.  Seriously, I looked over about a minute after getting our food and it was gone already, so I’m gonna guess it was good.  I would definitely go back here under many circumstances- it would be a fun place to go with family, or with a group of friends for a casual but very tasty dinner.  And it’s within walking distance of the Carrol Gardens subway stop, so if you’re in NY consider taking a trip across the bridge for this, I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Mince Pies

23 Dec

Best Christmas snack ever

Due to the UK’s complete inability to deal with 8 inches of snow, Gina and I, who were scheduled to leave DC on Tuesday, are not leaving until the 23rd and arriving in England on Christmas Eve.  After our first flight was cancelled we were initially told we would not get to England, where our parents (but unfortunately not their luggage), already are, until Christmas day.  Then Father Spice sweet-talked a BA agent and we were placed on flights going through Texas for the 22nd, which were subsequently cancelled yesterday morning (even though the other two flights to London out of Dallas still ran, apparently we just have terrible luck predicting which flights will actually make it out). It’s been a rough few days to say the least- thanks, British Airways.


Action shot putting the mince meat in

So after another long, why-do-play-with-my-emotions-British-Airways, type of day last night, Gina and I came home to my apartment (after packing her belongings for 3 weeks and 2 drastically different climates into a carry-on suitcase so our luggage doesn’t get lost, which took quite a bit of “Gina, do you really need that many t-shirts?” coaxing), to find that my roommate Lily had made us all mince pies!  They were seriously good, and cheered both of us up immediately.  For those of you not familiar with mince pies (aka anyone not from England), no “mince meat”, does not contain actual meat, and they are best enjoyed with either red wine, brandy, or warm apple cider.  Mince pies are hard to describe if you’ve never had them, but they have a shortbread-like crust and a pretty strongly flavored, fruity and brandy-y, mince filling.  These are what Santa gets, with his glass of sherry, on Christmas Eve in the Ginger Spice household (Ok, everyone stop freaking out over this, Santa gets enough of this milk and cookies nonsense in the US, he needs some sherry to keep him going all night).  Although they take a while to complete, these are actually not that complicated to make- the mince meat just involves putting all of the ingredients in a pot and letting it simmer, and the crust is very simple.  If you can get your hands on some traditional clotted cream, it goes very well with the mince pies- otherwise brandy butter will do (What’s that! You don’t know what brandy butter is?? Look it up, your life will change). Don’t try to stick exactly to any recipe for the mince meat, just kind of throw various fruits into a pot and as much or as little brandy as you would like until it tastes good to you.  These are great for entertaining around Christmas- just make sure to leave at least one for Santa!


Lily’s Mince Pies


For the Mince Meat
6 apples
1/2 pint apple cider
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup cranberries
1/2 cup crushed walnuts (or other nut)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon nutmeg
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup glace cherries
1/4 cup brandy

For the Crust
1 egg
2 cups of flour
1 cup brown sugar
1 stick butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon milk or 1 egg white (for brushing tops)

Peel and dice the apples into small pieces. In a saucepan, dissolve the sugar into the cider, and once dissolved add all other ingredients except the brandy.  Continue stirring while you add all of the ingredients, then when they are all added, cover the pot and simmer for 20-30 minutes, until the apples are soft.  Stir occasionally to prevent burning.  Take off the heat and leave to cool, then add brandy to taste.

While mince meat is cooling, prepare the crust.  Sift flour into large mixing bowl, add sugar, egg, vanilla, and melted butter.  Mix with spoon until the mixture forms a ball (or put in food processor until ball forms). Liberally flour a surface and rolling pin (dough should be very sticky), then place dough onto the floured surface and roll out until quite thin (about 1/8 inch), but not falling apart.

To form mince pies: cut dough into equal numbers small and slightly larger circles using cookie cutters, or the bottom of 1/3 and 1/4 cup measuring cups.  Grease a muffin tray, then place each large circle in one muffin holder, creased so that the dough goes up the edges of the muffin holder to form a cup shape.  Spoon a heaped teaspoon of mincemeat into each dough cup, then cover with smaller circle of dough. Press edges together so sides of dough are touching. Glaze lightly with milk or egg white.  Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes or until top is golden brown.  Take out and leave to cool, and once cooled sprinkle with confectioners sugar.

Chocolate Chip Cranberry Coconut Cookies

17 Dec

Try to be less messy than I am when putting cookies on the sheet

I only realized as I was typing the title to this post that all of the ingredients in this cookie start with C!  I did not do that on purpose, but it does make a fun alliteration.  These cookies were made when at 9:30 one night I decided I really wanted homemade cookies, despite the fact that I was planning on going to bed in an hour.  I happened to have a container of some dried cranberries, coconut, and chocolate chips in my fridge, so I decided just to throw them in some batter, and thus, Chocolate Chip Cranberry Coconut Cookies were born.  And then I chopped up another bar of chocolate and added that as well, just for good measure.  I’m completely guestimating the amount of ingredients used, as I didn’t measure the add-ins at all.  Mine had very little coconut, but I would definitely suggest adding some more, as when the flavor comes out it really adds to the overall cookie experience.

Your batter will not look exactly like this if you remember to add flour.

I got the recipe from this chocolate chip recipe on All Recipes, just because that was the first thing that came up when I googled chocolate chip cookies. I used the basic batter as a starting point, and it turned out very well- the cookies were chewy and crispy at the same time when first out of the oven, and lasted very well for the next few days (I know, because one night I ate about 4 while I was waiting for my dinner to cook).  I have to admit though, these were very nearly a complete cookie failure, because the first time I scooped out the cookies onto my baking sheet I realized I had forgotten to add flour.  In case you are not familiar with baking, the flour is a pretty important ingredient in basically any cookie.  I blame the fact that I was rushing in my cookie-craving state, and also that I was distracted by how good the sugar and butter mix tasted that I forgot I was missing the main ingredient.  Luckily I realized before putting the sheet into the oven, otherwise I would have had a very buttery messy situation on my hands.  If you’re looking for a cheap gift for anyone for the holidays, these would be a great holiday cookie to make and wrap up nicely!  They only take about 30 minutes from start to finish, and as long as you remember the flour, they are pretty much foolproof.

Chocolate Chip Cranberry Coconut Cookies
Makes 24 cookies

Equipment: Big mixing bowl, stand or hand mixer, spatula, spoon, cookie sheet and parchment paper or silicone mat

1 cup butter (2 sticks), softened
1 cup white sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons hot water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup dried shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream together the butter, white sugar and brown sugar until smooth.  Beat in the eggs one at a time, then add the vanilla. Dissolve the baking soda in hot water, and add to the batter along with the salt.  Beat to incorporate, then stir in the flour, chocolate chips, cranberries, and coconut (with a wooden spoon or spatula). Drop by large spoonfuls onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat (but not greased).  Bake for about 10 minutes, or until the edges are brown.  Cookies will keep for a few days in an air-tight container at room temperature.

World Peace/Win People Over with Cookies Cookies

29 Nov

Magic on a plate

Gina was the first one of the Ginger Spices to make these cookies, but I have made them several time since and have no intention of stopping.  They are seriously delicious, melt in your mouth chocolaty, and on top of that are very simple, utilizing ingredients that I almost always have in my kitchen anyway.  I first read about them on Smitten Kitchen, which is where the “World Peace Cookies” name came about, and if you think that name is exaggerating the power of these cookies, you only need to try them to be converted.  I firmly believe that if served to any friend, boss or person you are trying to impress they will be immediately won over, and will continue to ask for “Roxie cookies” (or “Insert-your-name-here cookies”) every time you see them henceforth.  I personally have a certain friend’s mother who tried one of these intending just to taste one, then ate about three more, and now apparently asks after me all the time (admittedly, said friend may be exaggerating/this may not have to do solely with my baking skills, but I choose to believe in the power of cookies above all else).

Chopped chocolate. Say that three times fast.

I think it’s the texture of this type of cookie that make them so strange and addictive- they are apparently known as “sandies”, which makes sense because the dough sort of resembles sand and they crumble easily.  They also have a lot of brown sugar in them, which always reminds me of sandcastles, so I like to think that fact is somehow related to the name.  All you really have to do is chop some chocolate (which is super fun, therapeutic, and gets chocolate all over your hands in the best way possible), cream the butter with a stand mixer or hand held mixer, and then add all the ingredients until a dough forms.  The recipe makes a large amount, but trust me, you want to make it all.  Plus you divide the dough into two pieces to chill, so can easily bake one that day and save the other for a few days later when friends are banging down your door begging for these.  Or just for when you find you have eaten 25 cookies in three days and want some more.  They also keep very well in a container at room temperature, and as they are not chewy they last for about a week if for some crazy reason you see reason and decide not to eat them all in a day like me.

Sandcastle-like sugar

World Peace/Win People Over with Cookies Cookies
From Smitten Kitchen, from Dorie Greenspan (fantastic name, btw)

Equipment: Stand Mixer or Hand Mixer, or a whisk and very strong arms, sheet pan, sharp knife, cling film or tin foil

1 1/4 cup flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 stick plus 3 tablespoons butter, at room temp
2/3 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel or 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, cut into chunks, or 3/4 cup mini chocolate chips

Sift the flour, cocoa, and baking soda together. Working with a stand mixer or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy.  Add both sugars, the salt and vanilla extract and beat for 2 minutes more.

Turn off the mixer. Pour in the flour and mix at low speed about 5 times, a second or two each time.  If there is still a lot of flour on the surface of the dough, pulse a couple of times more.  Continuing at low speed, mix for about 30 seconds more, just until the flour disappears into the dough — for the best texture, work the dough as little as possible once the flour is added, and don’t be concerned if the dough looks a little crumbly. Toss in the chocolate pieces and mix only to incorporate.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface, gather it together and divide it in half. Working with one half at a time, shape the dough into logs that are 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Wrap the logs in plastic wrap and refrigerate them for at least 3 hours.  Logs can also be frozen for a couple of months if desired.

When you are ready to bake, preheat oven to 325 and line baking sheet with parchment or silicone mats.  Slice logs with a sharp thin knife, if they fall apart just form them back together on the baking sheet.  Put them on the baking sheet with about an inch between (one log needs two batches), then bake for 12 minutes. They will still look very soft, but take them out and let them cool until they have hardened and can be handled.  Enjoy, and store any extras in airtight container!