Year Round Recipes: Chocolate, Avocado, and Pistachio Sandwich Cookies

While I typically like to keep my my ingredients local and seasonal, I do, for very special cases, go against my culinary conscience and indulge in the omnipresent agriculture of our modern world. This past week has been full of these special cases. With the weather finally breaking away from this year’s unusually frigid tendencies, I splurged and celebrated like only the Aztecs could, with a bitter chocolate drink imbued with the essence of Mexican chiles. And now, at the end of this most special of weeks, I couldn’t help but pull one last ingredient from the west coast of the North American continent: the great Californian avocado.

Avocados and Pistachios: two of the west coast's most delicious exports!

Avocados and Pistachios: two of the west coast’s most delicious exports!

Several months ago, two of the greatest people whom I’ve ever had the honor and pleasure of calling friends moved from this frigid clime to the ever-pleasant land of San Diego, California. And just as the clouds of winter finally broke (and are scheduled to return in the next few days), their absence from our Pennsylvanian lives was temporarily put on hold with a short visit this past week. So, in honor of our friends’ new home on the west coast, and for the light and warmth they’ve brought to us back east, I couldn’t help but try out a recipe that subtly features the avocado, the crop that many consider to be the epitome of Californian farming. Typically, when we think “avocado,” our minds immediately conjure up images of guacamole; and, while I adore guacamole in its season (preferably when local tomatoes and veggies are ripening here in the east), I was struck by a recipe by Kylie Held on immaeatthat.com. Instead of the traditionally savory uses for avocado, she presents a new way of viewing this creamy crop as a butter substitute in frosting. So, thoroughly fascinated, and aching for an innovative and inspiring avocado recipe, I couldn’t help but dig in!

Chocolate, Avocado, and Pistachio Sandwich Cookies

 

Sixteen cookies brimming with Californian flavor!

Sixteen cookies brimming with Californian flavor

Ingredients for the Frosting

  • 2 ripe California avocados
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (adjust to taste)
  • 1/3 + 1 Tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Ingredients for Cookies

  • 1 cup almond flour (lacking almond flour, I used all-purpose, which produced a lighter, but no less tasty cookie)
  • 1 cup oat flour
  • 3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup whole and halved pistachios + 1/4 cup chopped pistachios
  • 1/4 cup melted coconut oil
  • 2 Tablespoons honey
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Directions

  1. Scoop out the flesh of the avocados into a medium mixing bowl, and beat with an electric mixer until smooth.
  2. Add cocoa powder, honey, vanilla, and almond extracts, and continue mixing until incorporated and smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed.
  3. In another medium bowl, whisk together the two flours, granulated sugar, baking powder, salt, and 1/4 cup of whole/halved pistachios (set aside the chopped pistachios for now). Stir in the coconut oil, honey, egg, and almond extract to form a dough.
  4. Divide the dough into 16 equal pieces, place on an ungreased cookie sheet, and flatten until each cookie is round and thin.
  5. Bake at 350° F (175° C) for 10 – 15 minutes, or until lightly brown. Remove from the oven and let the cookies cool completely on a wire rack.
  6. When your cookies are cool, spoon the chocolate avocado frosting onto 8 of the cookies, and top with the additional 8 cookies to make your sandwiches. Roll each cookie in the additional 1/4 cup of chopped pistachios so that they stick to the sides of each sandwich.
  7. Chill in the freezer for 4 hours or overnight, or until the frosting fully hardens.
  8. Enjoy with a glass of milk, tea, or coffee, and be sure to take a moment to appreciate the wonderful people on the west coast as you do!

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Categories: Baking, Dessert, Year Round Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Standing by for Repairs

Greetings, again!

Due to some unexpected technical difficulties, today’s post will (if my camera/computer issues are easily resolvable) be up tomorrow! We’ll be digging into an unorthodox, but incredibly delicious use for the California avocado, so I hope you’ll stop by tomorrow to share in my celebration of one the west coast’s greatest agricultural marvels!

Until then, keep digging!
~Nate

Categories: Odds and Ends | Leave a comment

Winter Recipes: Xocolatl (Aztec “Hot” Chocolate)

For the first time in what feels like an arctic eternity, it rained today. Granted, the temperature barely rose above the 40 degree mark (4° C), and there’s still about a foot of solid snow still obscuring our view from anything remotely green, but it didn’t snow! After a good month of snowstorms followed by bouts of freezing rain, followed by unforecasted and unprecedented winter weather, finally witnessing rain felt like cause enough to celebrate! And, after doing a little digging, it would seem that this late-February, rain-based excitement has a rather long history on this continent. In fact, according to archaic Aztec documents, the original inhabitants of the Mexican peninsula some 700 – 800 years ago, performed their first rain celebration in late February as a way of commemorating (and, at times, imploring) the arrival of Springtime rains.  So, in honor of this century-spanning emotional connection between 21st Century central Pennsylvania and 13th – 14th century Aztec Mexico, I thought it only right to celebrate as the Aztecs would have: with a sacred, medicinal mug of xocolatl, or drinking chocolate.

The precursor to our modern notion of hot chocolate, xocolatl (translating, quite appetizingly to “bitter water”), was a beverage made of chocolate, water, and native flora (crushed nuts, flowers, and peppers would be added to the xocolatl mixture) that was made especially for cultural and religious celebrations. But, unlike our modern chocolatey drinks, xocolatl is actually meant to be taken cold; which, coupled with chocolate’s natural levels of caffeine, made xocolatl a sort of Aztec energy drink helped the average Aztec reveler awake and active during important cultural ceremonies. Not just a source of energy, xocolatl’s infusion of chocolate and hot pepper (particularly the capsicum compound found in hot peppers) makes this ancient beverage a powerful digestive aid. So, whether you’re tired and feeling a bit under the weather, or you’re in the mood to celebrating getting over the weather, let’s dig into a batch of “hot” xocolatl!

A last word before we fully dig in: this recipe in its unaltered form does tend to live up to its “bitter” namesake, as it includes no sugar, and very little flavoring besides cocoa and capsicum; so, don’t feel bad adding a touch of milk, cream, or sugar to your xocolatl to give a more modern sensibility!

Xocolatl Recipe

Ingredients

  • 5 1/2 cups water (divided into 1 1/2 cups and 4 cups)
  • 1 mild chile pepper, chopped (feel free to leave the seeds in for some extra heat)
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions

  1. In a small saucepan, bring the 1 1/2 cups of water to a boil over medium high heat. Place the chopped chile into the water and let boil for 5 – 7 minutes. If your oven has a fan or vent, I’d recommend having it on during this step – the capsicum in the pepper can clear your sinuses quite effectively if left unchecked.
  2. Filter the pepper and seeds out of the water using a wire strainer. Return the pepper-infused water to the pan and pour in the remaining four cups of water. Return the mixture to a boil.
  3. When the water is boiling, stir in the cocoa powder and vanilla extract, reduce the heat to medium low, and let simmer for 5 – 10 minutes, or until the cocoa powder has completely dissolved.
  4. Remove from heat and let cool for an authentic Aztec experience, or serve hot for a more modern mug of xocolatl!
  5. Enjoy a celebratory mug of good health and climate!

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As always, thanks for stopping by! I hope to see you next time for another recipe unearthed from humanity’s collective kitchen!

Keep digging!
~Nate

Categories: Drink Recipes, History, Winter Recipes | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Year Round Recipes: Rugelach

With a new blizzard, nor’easter, or ice storm being forecast seemingly every other day here in the northeast U.S., I’ve been on a mission to preserve the memory and hope of warmer days, even in the face of such wintry opposition. And, after opening up some of last year’s peach preserves for the jam sandwich cookies we made a couple weeks ago, I’ve been itching to find another recipe that could highlight such a sweet summery flavor, especially while we’re still in the dead of winter. With this goal in mind, I decided to return to the cuisine of Russia and Eastern Europe to find a culinary escape from thoughts of ice and snow (what better place to find examples of winter escapism than a land plagued by severe winters?). While digging up the culinary treasures of this expansive corner of the world, I stumbled across a twisting, crescent-shaped pastry that seemed to answer all of the desires I held for this week’s recipe: it originated in Eastern Europe, it’s typically filled with fruit preserves, and, as an added bonus, has an origin shrouded in mystery!

It's not hard to see how these delicious little pastries earned the title of "little twists!"

It’s not hard to see how these delicious little pastries earned the title of “little twists!”

This culinary form takes on a different name in each country that makes it, so for the sake of simplicity, we’re going to call this pastry by its traditional Jewish name, “rugelach” (translating literally to “little twists”). With such a widespread distribution in many Eastern European countries, no one seems to know exactly where the rugelach first came from, only that it is a distinctly Jewish invention. As it has no attachment to any Jewish holiday, the rugelach is a perfect year round recipe that can be altered to fit whatever season you’re in! For today, though, we’re going to capitalize on the rugelach’s affinity for fruit preserves and make a peach and pecan variation of this centuries old pastry!

Rugelach Recipe

Ingredients for Pastry

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 8 ounces of cream cheese
  • 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • a pinch of salt
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

 

Peaches and pecans are a perfect pair of cold-banishing flavors!

Peaches and pecans are a perfect pair of cold-banishing flavors!

Ingredients for Filling

  • 6 Tablespoons fruit preserves (apricot is traditional, but any fruit will really work!)
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (or a mixture of both)
  • 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, beat the butter and cream cheese together with an electric mixer. Add in sugar, vanilla extract, and salt, and beat until fluffy and combined.
  2. Mix in 1 and 1/4 cup of the flour slowly until the flour incorporates with the batter. Mix in the remaining 1 cup of flour and repeat, being careful not to over mix the dough.
  3. Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 – 20 seconds, just to ensure that the flour has completely mixed into the dough. Divide the kneaded dough into three equal parts, wrap the pieces in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 1 – 2 hours, or until the dough is firm.
  4. Meanwhile, to make the filling, combine the chopped nuts, granulated and brown sugars, and cinnamon in a small bowl. Set aside.
  5. When the dough has chilled, remove one part from the refrigerator, place on a floured surface, and roll out into a circle. Top the circle with 2 Tablespoons of fruit preserves, leaving one inch of room around the edge, and then sprinkle with one third of the nut/sugar mixture. Using a sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut the circle into 16 equal pieces.
  6. Working from the widest end of each segment, roll each piece of dough to form a small crescent shape (see pictures below for a visual guide). Be careful not to roll the dough too tightly or the filling will spill out of the pastry, which can cause the dough to burn in the oven. Place the rolled rugelach on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil.
  7. Repeat this process for the remaining two pieces of refrigerated dough.
  8. Bake in a 350 F / 175 C oven for 30 minutes, or until the pastries are just lightly brown.
  9. When the rugelach has finished baking, let them cool completely on the baking sheets before enjoying!

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As always, thanks for stopping by! I hope to see you again soon for another kitchen excavation!

Keep digging!
~Nate

Categories: Baking, Dessert, Winter Recipes, Year Round Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Year Round Recipes: Russian Black Rye Bread

While I’m not a particularly avid sports fan, I’ve always held a certain fascination for the Olympic games, as they stand as a multicultural link between our modern world and the games’ mythical origins over 2700 years ago. And what I love the most about our modern Olympic ritual is the transportation of the games to a different country for each biannual incarnation. As the spotlight of the games moves across the globe, we are allowed a unique opportunity to stop, examine, and celebrate the culture and history of countries outside of our own. With the games being in Russia this year, I have been relishing the chance to take a moment and discover for myself the cultural heritage of this year’s Olympic hosts. Because of my fascination with culinary history, I have been particularly excited to try out some of Russia’s traditional cuisine, especially since my knowledge of Russian delicacies really begins and ends with caviar and vodka. Today, then, I thought we’d dig right into the heart of Russia’s rich culinary past with a culinary form that embodies the stark duality of historic Russia: suffering and triumph.

Deep, dark, and dense: Russian Black Rye Bread is as functional as it is flavorful!

Deep, dark, and dense: Russian Black Bread is as functional as it is flavorful!

Just like any other ancient civilization, Russia’s food history seems to begin with the humble loaf of bread. However, what makes Russia’s bready origins unique is the rye grain native to eastern Europe which has allowed the Russian people to triumph over the adversity of their country’s climate. Producing a denser, darker, more flavorful and healthful loaf than traditional wheat grains, rye bread (also known as “black bread” due its dark brown color) allowed the Russian people to avoid starvation in the harsher periods of their tumultuous history. As the rye bread has followed the Russian people into modernity, it has grown to represent the overcoming of incredible difficulty, and the prosperity that can be found after hardship. So, while our cultural eye is fixed on Russia for the Olympic games, let’s take a moment to break the bread that has allowed the Russian culture to flourish into the modern age!

Russian Black Rye Bread Recipe

7. Place the dough on a floured surface and knead for 3 - 5 minutes. Keep adding rye flour if the dough is too sticky to work with

The key to perfect Russian black bread lies in hearty, dark rye flour

Ingredients

  • 1 1/ cups warm water (100 – 110 F / 37 – 43 C)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 2 Tablespoons molasses
  • 2 cups bread flour
  • 1 1/2 – 2 1/2 cups rye flour
  • 3 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder [This is a modern addition to the recipe to deepen the color of the bread, and is completely optional]
  • 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons caraway seed
  • 1/4 teaspoon fennel seed
  • 2 Tablespoons melted butter
  • 2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar

Directions

  1. Mix the molasses and yeast into the warm water, and let the yeast proof for 10 minutes, or until the top of the liquid becomes foamy. Set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the bread flour and 1 1/2 cups of the rye flour. Stir in the [optional] cocoa powder, brown sugar, salt, caraway seed, and fennel seed.
  3. Pour the yeast mixture, melted butter, and apple cider vinegar into the large mixing bowl and stir until the ingredients combine to form a rough dough.
  4. Place the dough on a floured surface and knead for 3 – 5 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic. If your dough is wet and difficult to work with, knead in additional rye flour in 1/2 cup increments until the dough is only lightly sticky.
  5. Transfer the kneaded dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a clean cloth, place in a warm spot, and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
  6. After the dough has risen, punch it down and divide into two equal pieces. Roll the pieces into loaf shapes, and place each in a 9 x 5 inch, greased loaf pan. Cover the pans with a clean, floured cloth and let rise again for 30 minutes.
  7. Cook the loaves in a 400 F / 200 C oven for 25 – 30 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the bread reaches an internal temperature of between 180 – 190 F /82 – 87 C.
  8. Remove the finished loaves from the pans and let cool completely on a wire rack.
  9. Slice, toast, and enjoy this piece of Russian history with a healthy topping of butter and caviar, a nice sharp cheese, or your favorite sandwich toppings!

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As always, thanks for stopping by for this week’s recipe! I hope to see you again on Sunday for another taste of cultural cuisine!

Keep digging!
~Nate

Categories: Baking, Bread, Cooking, Year Round Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Another Snow Day

Greetings again!

Once again, the weather will be indirectly responsible for a delay in today’s previously scheduled recipe. With a veritable blizzard staring down the eastern United States, I’ve been called in to work today in lieu of tomorrow, when the storm will be hitting us the hardest. So, as long as the power stays on tomorrow, we’ll dig into a recipe that helped generations of Russian people survive even harsher winters than this one!

Until then, stay warm and safe!
~Nate

Categories: Odds and Ends | Leave a comment

Year Round Recipes: Crêpes

If you’re from the Eastern US, or have been following the weather for this corner of the world, you’ll know that this week was fraught with an uncharacteristically devastating series of snow and ice storms. During this meteorological event, my typical love for the forest that surrounds our neighborhood was turned to dread, as heavy, ice-laden branches and trees exploded to the ground for much of the past week, taking homes, cars, and power with them. So, if you noticed the lack of activity from the blog on Wednesday, that was due to the dark, chilled state of our home as we weathered yet another display of winter’s power.

The crêpe: not just a thin pancake!

The crêpe: not just a thin pancake!

But! Power has returned, the roads are at last safe to traverse, and I’m still in the mood for a little French cuisine (my previous French excavations can be found here and here)! Even though the roads have been cleared for a day or two by this point, I still haven’t made it to the store since last week; so, I thought we’d dig up the crêpe, a 12th century French staple that can be made with only a few, basic ingredients typically found in every kitchen! The original crêpe would have been (and still is) made from buckwheat flour (you can check out an excellent buckwheat crêpe recipe here from Buckwheat for your health), which produces a savory dish that makes the perfect foundation for any meal of the day. However, with my pantry devoid of buckwheat flour, we’ll be looking at the sweeter version of the crêpe, made from basic all-purpose wheat flour to conjure a canvas fit for the most decadently simple dessert or breakfast! I happened to have a slightly dodgy apple still rolling around in the fridge, so I’ll show you how to make a quick and easy spiced apple topping to fill your crêpes with; but, keep in mind that this French classic can be paired with anything you have on hand! Peanut butter, ice cream, fruit preserves, you name it, the crêpe can enhance it! And, what better way to surprise that special someone this Valentine’s day than with a homemade breakfast straight out of romantic 12th century France? Without further ado, let’s dig in!

Crêpe Recipe

Just a few simple ingredients combine to create a 900 year old masterpiece of French cuisine.

Just a few simple ingredients combine to create a 900 year old masterpiece of French cuisine.

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk (I used soy)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, water, sugar, butter, and vanilla extract.
  2. Add the flour and salt, and stir thoroughly to remove any large lumps (you want as smooth a batter as possible).
  3. Place a greased frying pan over medium high heat, then pour or ladle about 1/4 cup of batter into the pan. Rotate the pan to ensure that the batter is evenly distributed and covers the entire bottom of the pan.
  4. Cook for 1 – 2 minutes, or until the bottom of the crêpe has turned light brown. Flip over the crêpe and repeat.
  5. Top with your favorite fillings, roll, and serve with a dusting of powdered sugar! To make a quick and easy apple cinnamon filling, keep reading below the pictures!

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A flavor heralding from the warmer days of autumn!

A flavor heralding from the warmer days of autumn!

Ingredients for Apple Cinnamon Filling

  • 1 apple, peeled and chopped into small pieces
  • 1 Tablespoon powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 Tablespoon butter

Directions for Filling

  1. In a small bowl, toss the apples with the sugar and spices until coated.
  2. Place butter in a small frying pan and melt over medium high heat. Add the coated apples to the pan and fry for about 5 minutes, or until the apples become soft.
  3. Top your hot, fresh crêpes with a spoonful of apples and enjoy!

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As always, thanks for stopping by for this week’s recipe! If the weather cooperates this week, I’ll see you again this Wednesday!

Stay warm, and keep digging!
~Nate

Categories: Baking, Breakfast, Cooking, Dessert, Year Round Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Year Round Recipes: English Muffins

If you stopped by earlier this week, you may have seen that I’ve had to adjust my weekly posting schedule due to my new work schedule. Wrapped up in this time change has been the rather sudden (and not entirely welcomed) need to wake up around 3:00 a.m. each morning to get ready for work (a complete reverse from my previous routine of working at 3:00 p.m.). So, in order to survive the eternal darkness of the early morn, I’ve found myself in dire need of a substantial, yet quick breakfast staple to really get me going. After suffering through a week of instant oatmeal (a far, unsatisfying cry from the hearty baked oatmeal I’d relied on in the past), I knew this next week had to improve. To remedy my dismal breakfast dilemma, I decided to try my hand at making one of my absolute favorite breakfast foods: the English muffin (or “toaster crumpet”)! With its origins stretching all the way back to the original Anglo-Saxons (inventors of the true crumpet – essentially an English muffin with the nooks and crannies on the outside), the modernized English muffin has long proven its worth as a staple at the breakfast table. And, with its soul- (and appetite-) satisfying nooks and crannies making perfect wells for everyone’s favorite spread, butter, or jam, the English muffin is a wonderfully universal answer to the eternal question: “What’s for breakfast?”

English Muffin Recipe

A hearty, heart-warming batch of English muffins almost ready to enjoy!

A hearty, heart-warming batch of English muffins almost ready to enjoy!

Makes 8 – 10 muffins

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup warm water (100 – 110 F / 37 – 43 C)
  • 3/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup milk (I used soy)
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons butter (vegan substitute works perfectly, too!)
  • 2 Tablespoons honey
  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Corn meal

Directions

  1. In a small container, combine the warm water and yeast; let sit for 10 minutes until the water is cloudy and the yeast has started to foam.
  2. Over medium-low heat, combine the milk, butter, and honey in a small saucepan and cook until the butter has melted. Remove the pan from the heat and let cool for 2 – 3 minutes.
  3. Measure 1 1/2 cups of flour into a medium sized bowl and set aside.
  4. Gently stir the yeast mixture into the saucepan, and pour the combined ingredients into the flour. Stir until combined.
  5. Add the remaining 1 cup of flour and the salt to the bowl and stir to form a rough dough. Place the dough on a floured surface and knead for 3 – 5 minutes, or until the dough is springy and lightly sticky (you may need to add some additional flour to eliminate excessive stickiness). Let the dough rest for 5 minutes.
  6. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and dust with corn meal. Set aside.
  7. Flatten your rested dough to a thickness of about 1/2 inch / 1.5 centimeters. Using a biscuit cutter, round cookie cutter, or round implement of your choice (I used a mug), cut out your muffins and transfer them to the prepared baking sheet. Reroll the scraps and continue cutting out as many muffins as possible.
  8. Sprinkle corn meal over the tops of the muffins, cover with a clean towel, and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
  9. When your muffins have risen, heat a heavy skillet over medium-low heat. Dust any excess corn meal off of your muffins, and gently transfer them to the hot skillet (allow enough space in the pan so that the muffins aren’t touching). Cook for 8 – 10 minutes, or until the bottoms are well browned. Flip and cook for another 8 minutes. Transfer muffins to a wire rack to cool.
  10. Slice, toast, and enjoy with your favorite spread!

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As always, thanks for stopping by!

Keep digging!
~Nate

Categories: Baking, Bread, Breakfast, Year Round Recipes | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Year Round Recipes: Jam Sandwich Cookies (Jammie Dodgers)

Butterflies and picking peaches are both distant memories in the frigid month of January

Butterflies and picking peaches are both distant memories in the frigid month of January

Here in the arctic heart of winter, our dreams of warmer weather can feel impossibly distant. With the vibrant green memories of spring and summer whitewashed by snow, slush, and dormant flora, it’s easy to slip into a mindset oppressed by thoughts of having to weather another month (or more) of polar winds and lifeless landscapes. But, thanks to the wisdom and knowledge passed down by our cooking ancestors, we are able to, in a small but powerful way, capture the sweet aromas, rich colors, and unmatched tastes of the warmer months through the art of preservation and canning. So, in an attempt to celebrate this practice and the joy it can bring, I thought we’d take the time to break open a few of the fruit preserves we set up this past summer and escape from the deep freeze of winter into the warmer embrace of summer harvests!

For today’s warm-weather treat, we’ll be emulating the style of the Jammie Dodger, a British shortbread biscuit that is traditionally filled with raspberry jam. If you, like me, don’t have raspberry jam on hand, any fruit preserve or filling will work for this recipe! With thoughts toward future warmth, and memories of the harvest, let’s dig into some jam sandwich cookies!

Jam Sandwich Cookies / Jammie Dodgers Recipe

A batch of shimmering summer flavors just waiting for a cup of tea!

A batch of shimmering summer flavors just waiting for a cup of tea!

Makes around 2 – 2 1/2 dozen cookies
Adapted from a recipe by Gourmet Photography

Ingredients

  • 250 grams (~ 1 cup) softened butter
  • 150 grams (~ 1 3/4 cup) granulated sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 300 grams (2 cups) all-purpose flour
  • Jam or fruit preserve of your choice

Directions

  1. In a medium mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixture until combined and fluffy. Mix in the egg yolk and vanilla extract.
  2. Beat in the flour until the mixture begins to clump and forms a crumbly dough. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and need for 1 – 3 minutes, until the crumbles meld into a smooth ball of dough.
  3. Divide the dough into two equal pieces, wrap each piece in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  4. After the dough has chilled, preheat your oven to 350 F / 175 C and line two baking sheets with parchment paper or baking liners.
  5. Unwrap the dough and place back onto a floured surface. Flatten the dough with a rolling pin until rather thin (1 cm / 1/3 inch thick). Using a cookie cutter, cut out as many cookies as possible from the first ball of dough. Place the cookies on one of your lined baking sheets and set aside. Repeat this process with the second ball of dough, but with this batch, cut out a small “window” in the center of each cookie with a smaller cookie cutter or other kitchen implement you have on hand (I used a strawberry stem remover).
  6. Bake each tray of cookies in the preheated oven for 15 – 20 minutes or until the cookies are firm and lightly brown (they will fully harden as they cool). After baking, transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.
  7. When your cookies are finished cooling, spoon about 1 teaspoon of jam onto each of the solid cookie halves. Gently top with the “windowed” halves being careful not to crack the cookies.
  8. Sit back and enjoy a sweet reminder of summer’s warmth!

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As always, thanks for stopping by; I hope to see you again soon!

Stay warm and keep digging!
~Nate

Categories: Baking, Dessert, Year Round Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Year Round Recipes: Sugar and Spice Pull-Apart Bread

With February and Valentine’s Day fast approaching, I was hoping to attempt a dessert this weekend that, for me at least, represents some of the history of the holiday’s founder, Saint Valentine. Unfortunately though, this recipe (which I will hopefully attempt next weekend) required the use of a friend’s typically outdoor deep fryer. And, with several inches of snow allegedly in the forecast (as of this afternoon, the forecast seems woefully incorrect), said deep fryer would have to wait until the skies cleared. So, using what I had on hand, I thought I’d share one of my favorite styles of yeasted dessert in the meantime: pull-apart bread!

Intricately simple, and incredibly delicious!

Intricately simple, and incredibly delicious!

Hailing back to at least the 1940’s, the pull-apart bread is a fun, easy-to-make dessert that can be adapted to any season or taste. Adding a little pumpkin puree to the batter can transform this year round recipe into an autumnal classic, or even throwing a few sliced peaches or strawberries into the mix could suit the lighter, sweeter tastes of summer! However, for beating back the dreary January forecast, I prefer to stick with a classic sugar and spice variation. Typically, my spice of choice would be tried and true cinnamon, but with some mixed spice leftover from our hot cross bun excavation (you can find the recipe for the buns and the mixed spice here: Hot Cross Buns), I couldn’t pass up the chance to experiment with a spicier-than-usual loaf of pull-apart bread!

Sugar and Spice Pull-Apart Bread

 

The groundwork for a tasty loaf of spiced sweetness

The groundwork for a tasty loaf of spiced sweetness

Ingredients for the Bread:

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/3 cup milk (I used soy)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 teaspoon (one packet) active dry yeast
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup plus 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs

Ingredients for the Sugar and Spice Topping

  • 3 Tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons mixed spice

Directions

  1. Place the butter and milk into a small saucepan, and cook over medium-low heat until the butter melts. When the butter has melted, remove the pan from heat, stir in the water and vanilla extract, and let cool until between 100 – 110 degrees F / 37 – 43 C. Stir in the yeast and 1/2 teaspoon of sugar and let proof for 10 minutes, or until the yeast is light and foamy.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together 2 1/4 cups of flour, remaining sugar, and salt.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk the 2 eggs and set aside.
  4. Pour yeast mixture into the flour and stir until combined. Mix in the whisked eggs until a rough dough is formed. Knead in the last 3/4 cup of flour, turn dough onto a floured surface, and knead for 5 minutes, or until the dough is elastic and only slightly sticky (you may need to add some extra flour to cut down on the potential stickiness of the dough).
  5. Place your kneaded dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with a clean towel, and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour or until the dough has doubled in volume.
  6. Meanwhile, whisk together the sugar and spices in a small bowl and set aside.
  7. When your dough has risen, return it to a floured surface and roll it into a roughly 12 x 20 inch (30 x 50 cm) rectangle. Brush the dough with the melted butter and coat completely with the sugar and spice mixture.
  8. Slice the dough into 6 equal vertical strips (see pictures below for a visual guide). Stack the strips on top of each other and slice into 6 equal stacks of square pieces. Layer the dough squares in a 9 x 5 greased, floured loaf pan. Cover the pan with a clean towel and let rest and expand for 30 – 45 minutes.
  9. Preheat your oven to 350 F / 175 C. Bake your pull-apart loaf in the oven for 30 – 35 minutes, or until deeply golden brown (if you remove the loaf when it’s only light brown, the body of the bread will most likely still be undercooked).
  10. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for 10 – 15 minutes. Turn onto a wire rack to continue cooling completely.
  11. Enjoy a warm, spicy piece of pull-apart bread!

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As always, thanks for stopping by for this weekend’s recipe!

Keep digging!
~Nate

Categories: Baking, Bread, Dessert, Odds and Ends, Year Round Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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