Sunday, September 27, 2015

Believe the Cookie Hype!

There's a new Cookie Sheriff in town and I concede defeat.  That's actually a really arrogant statement on my part but I have been proud of my chocolate chip cookie recipe for a long time.  Today, I made Christina Tosi's famous Momofuko Milk Bar chocolate chip cookies and believe the hype my friends because they are the BOMB!

I made them this morning, a batch of 24, 3 1/2" D cookies and they were GONE in less than an hour. (I took them into the office!)

The recipe is strange for chocolate chip cookies but follow along because you will not be disappointed. You start by melting the butter not creaming it.  It has milk powder in the recipe which I keep reading about as it brings an unidentifiable taste but a textural richness to the cookie that I can attest to.  The cookies were crisp around the outside while soft and chewy on the inside.  The centers were almost under-cooked in the most perfect cookie dough kind of way.

Here is the link to the recipe:  Christina Tosi is such a full on ROCK Star in the food world right now that this article will make you a fan too!  The article appeared on

Can you smell the butter and brown sugar?

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Blueberry Bliss Bars

What do you get when you combine fresh blueberries, almond paste, and oatmeal together?  Blueberry Bliss Bars of course!  As you can well imagine, if I worked in your office you would be expecting birthday treats pretty often.  (OK, treats in general) The rule is around Tovolo, that if you are having a birthday and let me know, you can pick your birthday treat.  (I can veto it however. We went through a painful stretch of Whoopie Pies last year.)
It so happened to be our pal Jesse's birthday over the weekend and he requested "Something with blueberries."  My first thought was blueberries and lemon because that's one of my favorite combos and then my brain went almondy...and I couldn't be more pleased. 

There are alot of components in this recipe but it comes together really quickly and they are SO worth it!

Crust - 
Preheat over to 375F.  Line a 13" x 9" pan with parchment paper with a little overhanging the sides. (This is so you can lift it out of the pan to cut it into pieces.)
1 cup old fashioned oats
1/2 cup oat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup brown sugar (packed)
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp cinnamon
pinch of lavender (trust me) you want to crush it up in your hand a little before you add it in.
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into small cubes (maybe 8 pieces)

Place oatmeal, flours, brown sugar, and spices in a food processor or just stir with a fork.  Add butter and pulse or cut in until you have course sand consistency.  Sprinkle about 3/4's of the mixture into the prepared pan and press it down so that it makes an even crust in the bottom of the pan.  Set aside.

Frangipane - if you are unfamiliar with the deliciousness of frangipane then I am just in time.  It is an almond kind of custard that bakes into a golden brown, moist, almondy, soft cake-like texture.  YUM!  It is great with all fruit. Frangipane is common in fruit tarts.  Anyway, get comfortable with it - it comes in peace.

1 can of Almond Paste (8oz.) this is NOT Almond filling or marzipan!
1/2 cup butter, softened
3 T sugar
1 T lemon juice
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
3 T all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt

Cream almond paste and butter together, add sugar and mix until incorporated and starting to get smooth.  Add flavorings and eggs.  Beat until fluffy, about 2 minutes or so.  Add flour and salt and mix until you can no longer see any flour.
Using a spatula or a off set spatula, dollop the almond mixture onto the crust in two rows.  Then gently smooth out the rows to cover the crust without lifting the crust - you will see what I mean. Leave about a 1/4 inch from the edge of the crust all the way around.
Sprinkle 1 pint of blueberries evenly over the almond mixture and then sprinkle the rest of the oatmeal crumble on top of the blueberries.
Bake in the preheated over for about 30-40 minutes.  You are looking for the middle to be set and the edges to be golden brown.  Let cool.  Cut into desired number of pieces.  I don't judge if it serves just one or two. :)
These would be killer with vanilla ice cream!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Bill's Apple Spice Cookies

Fresh apples, a rainy day, and the best Apple Spice Cookie recipe EVER - my life is full.  Fall is fast approaching and as much as I will be hated for saying so, I am ready.  Living in the PNW, local apples are plentiful and yesterday friends came by my house with a variety of fresh apples just picked from their apple trees. I knew just what to do.

When I was younger, I worked at a French pastry shop. There was a baker who worked there for many years named Bill.  He was a really good guy.  One of those guys who always had time to help a friend.  So nice I think he probably got taken advantage of sometimes.  One of his specialties were these Apple Spice Cookies.  They were a soft, warm spiced cookie with little pieces of diced apple in them, topped with a perfectly sweet, tart lemon glaze. Bill didn't bake them often but when he did the whole staff was intoxicated by the warm cookie aroma in the air.   I am surprised any cookies ever made it to the customers. The texture was amazing.  Chewy and soft, crisp around the edges, with this cakey, warm applesauce quality to them.  

After I moved away from my hometown, I would see Bill occasionally when I would come home for Christmas.  Eventually, the cafe closed and I lost track of Bill.  I had gotten the recipe for his Apple Spice Cookies from my mother (he would come into her store) about 10 years ago but that recipe was long gone after 6+ moves.  I think about those cookies every Fall.  I have taken other recipes for Apple Cookies and adjusted them thinking I can get the same texture and depth of flavor but have never come close to my memory of Bill's perfect cookies.

When I was back East for the holidays last year, I asked my mother if she had seen Bill recently because I had tried to stalk him for the recipe but I couldn't find him through social media.  She told me he had died a few years ago after a long battle with cancer.  Bill was probably under 50 years old.  I have much more to say but I don't want to depress you anymore than I probably already have.  This weekend I was purging a box of old cards and letters, mixed with collected crap over years from beer festivals and craft fairs, and I came across a random piece of paper with my handwriting on it.  On this small piece of paper, on an old company's notepad, with no title, written in pencil, was the recipe for Bill's cookies.

I almost cried.  

So in honor of the first inklings of Fall, fresh picked apples, my compulsive need to save everything, and my old friend Bill - I bring you Autumn in a cookie.  
To Bill - I remember you fondly.  You were an extraordinary baker and a good man. Every Fall for the last 18 years, I have thought about your wonderful cookies and I hope I am able to make them half as well as you did.  Thank you.

Bill's Apple Cookies - makes 12 large or 24 small 

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/3 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup milk
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup pecans or walnuts, chopped into pieces
1 cup apple, diced (I like Granny Smith for these, just make sure you use juicy apples for better texture)

Preheat oven to 350F and line cookie sheets with parchment paper or the Tovolo Silicone Baking Mat.
Cream butter and sugar together until incorporated.  Add the egg and mix until fluffy, then add milk, mix until smooth.
In a medium bowl, add flour, baking soda, salt, and spices and mix with a fork. Add dry ingredients to butter and sugar mixture and mix until it starts to come together but flour is still visible.  Add nuts and stir until just mixed in, then add apples and mix until flour is completely incorporated.
Scoop cookie dough onto cookie sheet about 2 inches apart and bake for 10-14 minutes.  
While the cookies are in the oven, make the glaze.  Apply a little of the glaze when the cookies are still hot (so it soaks in) and another layer when they are almost cool.
1 cup powdered sugar
1 T butter, melted
2 T half and half
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 T fresh lemon juice
Whisk (Tovolo Mini Whisk is perfect for this) half and half and melted butter together, add sugar and then vanilla and lemon juice.