Tag Archives: cookies

ALFAJORES

You know how, once you learn a new word or buy a new car, you’re suddenly seeing incarnations of them everywhere you turn?

Back in November, Gemma Petrie over at Pro Bono Baker posted a recipe for alfajores and I knew I had to make them.  She has been a long-time blog crush of mine, with her spare aesthetic and sophisticated taste, and I have yet to try a recipe of hers that didn’t become a favorite.

During a trip to Argentina, Gemma and her boyfriend Nick fell for these soft, dulce-de-leche filled cookies and, lucky for us, Nick set about creating his own recipe for them when they returned.

Of course, once I made a batch of alfajores, they began to appear in every corner.  At my nine-course-birthday-dessert-tasting.  At our first holiday party of the season.  In my dreams the night after the first batch had all been eaten.  These gentle cookies are perfect with tea or for an after-dinner alternative to a heavy dessert.  If you still have room in your holiday baking agenda, I urge you to give these a whirl, or at least bookmark them for the future.

Regarding the dulce de leche required for this recipe, I point you to another blog crush of mine, Ashley Rodriguez of Not Without Salt.  Her luscious photography is a match only for the creamy milk caramel that results from her almost stupidly simple method of making dulce de leche: simmer a can of sweetened condensed milk in a large pot for three hours.  No, seriously.  It’s like magic.  Tasty, tasty magic.

I’m copying the recipe exactly as it originally appeared, but there are subtle variations you can make with these cookies .  Size, for example—the first batch I made were much larger than the ones pictured here, as I cut the rounds using a water glass.  I also sprinkled sea salt on the caramel layer before sandwiching the cookie pieces together.  For the second batch (pictured here), I employed a small biscuit cutter and dipped the cookies in powdered sugar before sandwiching and omitted the sea salt.

This week I’ll make a third batch for my in-laws, who are headed into town to share Christmas with us.  Jill’s father always has a hankering for something sweet, and I think he’ll like the way that these pillowy cookies go with his coffee. Here’s hoping you all have houses full of loved ones, good eats, & joy this week.

NICK’S ALFAJORES
Recipe from Gemma Petrie of Pro Bono Baker, posted with permission

ingredients:
1 ¾ cup flour
½ cup sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp. salt
8 T butter, room temperature
4 egg yolks, lightly beaten
1 T milk
1 tsp. vanilla
15 oz. dulce de leche*

method:

Combine flour, salt, sugar and baking soda in a bowl.  Mix in the butter and then work in the egg yolks, milk and vanilla. Shape the dough into two separate balls, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for about two hours.

Preheat oven to 325˚.  Roll out each ball of dough on a slightly floured surface to 1/4 inch thick. Cut using a two-inch cookie cutter and transfer cookies to baking sheets covered with silpat mats. Bake for about 15 minutes, until the tops of the cookies appear dry, but not so long that the cookies brown.

Allow the cookies to cool on a wire rack.  When cool, spread half the cookies with dulce de leche and top with the other half.  Serve with a café con leche for an irresistible treat.  A traditional way to serve the cookies is to roll the sides in shredded coconut.  We’re not big coconut fans, so we left ours plain.

*We used dulce de leche that we brought back from Argentina.  Feel free to use store bought or make your own.  There are plenty of traditional recipes out there, but I was extremely intrigued to find this recipe from the lovely blog Not Without Salt that calls for simply cooking a can of condensed milk in boiling water.  Brilliant.

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FEELIN’ KINDA SUNDAY: MOLASSES COOKIES

It’s raining in Memphis, and I may have to make these cookies today.

molasses cookies stacked

Since I work in a Jewish school, today was a half-day for Rosh Hashanah (L’Shana Tovah, ya’ll!), which I decided to take all the way off so I could fly home for a few days. As many of you know, I spent most of the summer here with my mom, writing, blogging, eating her amazing food, and few weeks ago, I realized that I just couldn’t hold out until Thanksgiving to see her again. So here I am. This is a strictly “Mom-visit” weekend, which means I have kept my plans secret up until now so as to avoid the flurry-of-plan-making that inevitably occurs. There are many people I love here, many people I’d love to see, but Veena takes priority. With one exception: these boys.

boys

I’ve written previously about how my sense of family has much more to do with love, proximity, and knowing than about blood and marriage. That’s why I claim John and Henry, my dear friends Kate and Stephen’s twins, as mine even though I’m not related to them in any way, shape, or form. As John put it this summer, I’m their Nishta.

The story of how I came to be their Nishta has very much been on my mind of late. You see, Kate was my teacher in high school. She taught me World Religions as a junior, and my locker was fortuitously located across a narrow hallway from her office. I thought she was so, so cool and lovely and smart and kind and I did what some of my students do for me now, finding every possible reason to ask her a question, to linger after school, to bring her little gifts and notes and read the books that she suggested and work really hard in her class.

It’s a wonder to me, looking back on it, that I didn’t drive her totally nuts. Even more a wonder that we grew to be friends over time, via emails and letters and packages and long talks over chai. I got to know her husband Stephen, who is pretty fantastic in his own right; I got to play fairy godmother for one very magical summer, a role I reprise every time I’m in town. I cannot overestimate the space that her generosity takes up in the file cabinet of memories from that time of my life. Her attention and encouragement, which I know from experience require heaps of patience, gave me a great deal of space and comfort.

Kate can and should be credited with many things: planting the seed for me to be a Religious Studies major, dismantling my irrational fear of poetry, gifting me a first-edition Annie Dillard, and sending me off to college with the excellent advice: “Drink the beer while it’s still cold.” And so I show my gratefulness to the world by reversing the roles, sitting behind my desk while students fill my room after school, reaching out for handfuls of snacks, advice, hugs, love.

As for Kate, well, there’s really no way to adequately thank her and her family for allowing me so intimately into their lives. I mostly just show up with love, joy, and gratitude, as I will tonight when my mom and I go over for dinner. There will probably also be some molasses cookies in tow, and hopefully they will manage to say all of the things that language feels inadequate for.

molasses cookies with milk

MOLASSES COOKIES

These are taken from an NPR story my mom sent me years ago. I had been trying to perfect a recipe for molasses cookies, but quickly discarded my own efforts because this is really the only recipe you need. I’ve bumped up the spice quotient because, well, I’m brown. I like spice!

Plan ahead to make sure you’ll have adequate chilling time for the dough, which you can leave overnight if need be. Also be sure to watch the cookies carefully in the oven—they’ll still seem mushy to you when you take them out, but will firm up when cooling, leaving a perfectly chewy cookie behind. They won’t last long, I guar-an-tee.

ingredients: molasses cookies before baking

3/4 cup melted butter

1/4 cup molasses (grease your measuring cup with baking spray before pouring, it will save you clean-up trouble!)

1 egg

1 cup sugar, plus extra for dipping

2 cups flour

2 tsp. baking soda

1 ½ tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. cloves

1 tsp. ground ginger

½ tsp. salt

Combine the melted butter, sugar, molasses and egg in a large bowl. Mix thoroughly before sifting the dry ingredients into the same bowl and mixing again. Chill dough at least two hours.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375°.

Shape dough into 1-inch balls, then roll them sugar. Place them on a greased cookie sheet VERY FAR APART—they will spread a lot! Flatten each one with a fork, making a cross-hatch pattern to encourage the cookies (can cookies be encouraged?) to promote even spreading.

Bake for 8-10 minutes until flat and dark brown. Cool on racks, as the cookies will be very delicate until they’ve cooled a bit. Perfect with a glass of milk or milk-substitute!

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CHEWY AMARETTI COOKIES

Sometimes, a little fuss is in order.

amaretti cookies

Though our general philosophy here at Blue Jean Gourmet is that food does not need to be fussy to be delicious, there are occasions (and recipes and people) for which a little fuss is not such a bad thing.  If you are making the fuss for a reason, it ceases to be fuss and starts to be care or love or desire or enthusiasm.  And those are all good things.

Last week, Jill met my extended family for the first time.  They’re not technically my family, as we’re not related by blood, but the aunties and uncles I grew up with in Memphis are mine, and I am theirs.  They’re all brave immigrants, like my parents, who came to this country from India and somehow figured out how to raise children (sassy, first-generation children) in a completely foreign land.

As you can imagine, the whole l-e-s-b-i-a-n thing has been sort of a hard road for all of us; hard enough, and then really just not on the radar in the Indian community at all.  But since my father died three years ago, things have shifted.  I’m older; Jill and I have been together longer.  My mother, in her generosity and determination to build a great adult relationship with me, has met me more than halfway.  And my community has followed.

We had what my friends and I jokingly called a “sip and see,” usually thrown in the South when a baby is born and everyone comes to inspect him/her and drink punch.  Instead of a baby, we had (a very nervous) Jill.  And instead of punch, we had sparkling shiraz, fruit sodas, cheese & crackers, spinach dip, fruit, homemade chocolate-covered strawberries, and these cookies.

These amaretti, unlike the also delicious but crunchy kind you may be used to, are light, airy, and almost evaporate in your mouth when served plain.  An equally good but richer option is to “glue” them together with some jam or melted chocolate.

In case you were wondering, Jill was charming and gracious, as she always is.  I think my aunties and uncles saw at least a sliver of what I see in her, and they were gracious and lovingly inquisitive back.  When I closed the door after our last guest, I found myself moved to tears because two parts of my life had finally come together, parts I long thought would always be separate.  Certainly an occasion worth making a little fuss over.

CHEWY AMARETTI COOKIES
adapted from Gourmet magazine, January 2009

ingredients:

7 oz. almond paste (not marzipan)
1 cup sugar
2 large egg whites, at room temperature for 30 minutes
¼ cup almonds, toasted

oven: 300°
pan: baking sheet
special equipment: food processor, parchment paper & a pastry bag (or just use a large Ziploc bag instead, like me)

Line the baking sheets with parchment paper; please don’t try to substitute anything else as it won’t work and you’ll regret it, I promise.

Pulse the almond paste with the sugar in your food processor until it has broken up & looks crumbly; add almonds & egg whites and process until the mixture is smooth.

Pile the mixture into your pastry bag or Ziploc bag; if the latter, cut off one corner of the bag and squeeze rounds onto the parchment.  Cookies work best if they are less than an inch round; place them just as far apart on the sheets.

amaretti on parchment

Bake until the cookies are golden & puffed, about 15 minutes.  Cool on a rack, then peel off of the parchment.

optional: Sandwich the cookies together, two at a time, using any number of fillings; melted chocolate, raspberry or strawberry jam, Nutella, etc.

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