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Posts Tagged ‘cookies’

I’m in the mood for cookies today, and winter spices seem like just the flavor. I’m not big on commercial cookies but I do have a soft spot for Biscoff.

A Belgian speculoos cookie, Biscoff are crunchy, flavorful, go great with coffee or tea, and can be (here’s the sad part) hard to find. They were at Costco for about a minute and then gone. Amazon would be happy to sell me a bunch but for inflated prices.

After some fruitless searching among the European delis in the area, I wondered if I could make my own. (Surely I could write reams of speculative fiction, if only I were fueled by speculoos. I had to find out.)

Good news! Stella Parks put together a recipe for a homemade version. You can dive into it here, with her explanation of why what should have been a simple process was not, and why some of the most important ingredients can get lost in translation.

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This recipe was a great place to start but not spicy enough for me. If you compare the original with what’s below, you’ll see I’ve boosted the spices considerably. I’ve also trimmed down the ingredients a little.*

Candi sugar was ok but it was hard to find and I found it a little too sweet. The kinako, or roasted soybean flour, was interesting but was a little too nutty and could lean toward burnt flavors.

I don’t know that these cookies have done much for my writing, but they are perfect for an afternoon coffee break. Enjoy!

Famartin, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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Biscoff-ish

(adapted from Homemade Biscoff (Belgian Speculoos Cookies) Recipe)

Makes thirty-two 1 1/2 by 2 1/2-inch cookies

Ingredients

  • 150g (2/3 C.) deeply toasted sugar
  • 90g (6 1/3 T.) butter, softened
  • 4.75g (3/4 t.) baking soda
  • 2.5g (scant 1 t.) Ceylon cinnamon
  • .5g (scant 1/4 t.) ground or freshly grated nutmeg
  • .4g (fat 1/8 t.) kosher salt; for table salt, use half as much by volume or use the same weight
  • .25g (fat 3/16 t.) ground cloves
  • .4g (scant 1/4 t.) ground cardamom
  • .125g (fat 1/16 t.) ground anise
  • 15g (1 T.) water
  • 155g (1 1/4 C.) flour

Directions

1. With oven rack in lower middle position, preheat to 350°F. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine sugar with butter, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, cloves, cardamom, and anise. Cream on medium speed until fluffy, soft, and pale, about 10 minutes, pausing to scrape the bowl and paddle as needed if the sugar seems dense and compacted at the bottom of the bowl.

2. While creaming on medium speed, slowly drizzle in the water a little at a time. Once it disappears into the fluffy butter/sugar mix, reduce speed to low and add the flour all at once. Continue mixing until the dough begins to gather around the paddle.

3. Turn the dough onto a clean surface, and knead gently to form a ball. Pat into a rectangular shape, then dust with flour, above and below. Roll to a thickness of ~3/16-inch, using a ruler for guidance. Slide a spatula or bench scraper beneath the dough to loosen, and brush away any excess flour.

4. With a fluted pastry wheel, pizza cutter or blade, cut the dough into 3/4-inch strips, then cut crossways to form 2-inch rectangles. Cut the scraps with cookie cutters or bake as is. With an offset spatula, transfer the cutouts and scraps to a parchment-lined cookie sheet, leaving ~half inch between each piece to account for spread.

5. Bake until cookies are golden brown, about 16 minutes. Cool to room temperature directly on the baking sheet; the cookies will not crisp until fully cool. Store leftovers in an airtight container up to 1 month at room temperature; the scraps can be ground to use for crumbs and frozen in an airtight container for up to 3 months.**

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* I’ve included Imperial units but note that they are by nature less precise than weights, and I’ve only tested the recipe in grams. I will say that a couple of years ago I bought an inexpensive spice scale to go with my regular kitchen scale and it was very much worth it.

** Seriously though, they won’t be around that long. And I usually make a double batch.

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My recipe iterations, with version notes and the Post-it I use for marking out the dough spacing.

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It’s like this: for the past couple of weeks I’ve spent a wee bit (ok, a lot) of time perfecting my chocolate chip cookie recipe.

(It also strikes me that I do a lot of recipe-related posts on Fridays. Food is definitely on my list of #ThingsILike:)

When I moved north of the border everything changed, including my usual butter, flour, chips, and oven. Mr. Man also likes his cookies with a bit more cakiness than I had with my previous recipe, so it was time to rethink, rewrite and retest.*

I know, I know, hard duty. How I sacrifice! But now Mr. Man (and you, fine readers!) have a new recipe to enjoy. Hope you like it!**

 

Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 1/4 cups [280g] flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt [a pinch less if you use salted butter]
2 sticks [8 ounces or 228g] butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups [300g] brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs, large
1 cup [175g] semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. Heat oven to 350F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper if you hate stuck-on cookies.
2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt [I sift, some prefer a whisk or fork, use whatever works for you].
3. In a large bowl, mix butter and sugar until creamy, about 2 minutes.
4. Add vanilla and eggs, one at a time, mix until well combined.
5. Gradually add flour mixture and mix until combined. Stir in chocolate chips.
6. Scoop ~1-inch balls onto cookie sheets.***
7. Bake for 11-13 minutes depending on dough temperature and preferred crunchiness factor. Let cool two minutes before transferring to rack.
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* I’m still playing with this a tiny bit (for the greater good, you understand, not because I want to bake more cookies… ok yeah, I just want to bake more cookies:). I’ll add any updates here.

** If you’re interested in how tweaking various ingredients and other factors influence cookie characteristics, Handle the Heat’s Ultimate Guide to Chocolate Chip Cookies (parts 1 through 4) is a good place to start.

*** At this point you can either bake immediately or chill to allow the flavors to develop. I’ll chill if I have time, but I don’t always have the patience:) My compromise strategy: bake a sheet right away, then make balls with the rest of the dough and freeze on a lined cookie sheet. When hard, store the dough in a plastic bag and voila, you’ve got almost instant cookies for the next couple of weeks days whatever:)

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This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until its done. It’s that easy, and that hard.
― Neil Gaiman

Thankfully, I have cookies:)

 

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So there I was, submitting a story to Daily Science Fiction, when I stumbled upon “Shark’s Teeth” by T.A. Pratt. Now, I wasn’t planning to post this or any other DSF story because I didn’t want anyone (hello DSF editors!) to think I was sucking up, but hey, it’s a fun story. It also put me onto Pratt’s Marla Mason series, and I love finding new worlds to explore.

Marla Mason, sorcerer in exile, looked over the railing of the balcony, down at the lavish resort hotel’s pool with its swim-up bar and tanned, happy people lounging on chairs, and thought, I can’t take another day of this.

“I can’t take another day of this,” she said aloud…

Time to stock up on lembas a.k.a. chocolate chip cookies (my exploring food of choice, feel free to substitute as necessary!) and find a copy of Marla’s introductory novel, the 2007 Blood Engines🙂

Enjoy!

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In my tradition of sharing recipes I like (and not incidentally storing copies in one easy-to-access place), here is a flour-less peanut butter cookie recipe. This version of the classic recipe has chocolate as well as peanut butter and is very easy to make. I like it. I hope you do too.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Cookies

2 cups [500g] peanut butter
2 cups [400g] brown sugar
4 Tablespoons [30g] cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
pinch salt
2 eggs

1. Heat oven to 350F.

2. Mix peanut butter, sugar and cocoa powder until smooth.

3. Add baking soda, salt and vanilla.

4. Add eggs one at a time. The mixture will be stiff.*

5. Roll into 1-inch balls, lay out on ungreased cookie sheet, flatten with a fork.

6. Bake for 8-10 minutes. They will be soft; let cool five minutes before transferring to racks.

* If your mixer isn’t up to this I recommend a potato masher.

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Once again, Senator Elizabeth Warren is proving herself a proponent of innovative ideas around finance. Her latest call is based on a report from the Office of the Inspector General (OIG), and the idea is to include basic banking and bill payment into the U.S. Postal Service. I think this is a terrific plan.

Giving the unbanked an accessible, above-board, affordable way to cash checks, pay bills or take out small loans would provide significant savings to clients. According to the OIG’s report, more than a quarter of U.S. households are at least partially outside the traditional banking system. It would also provide the postal service with much-needed revenue, maintain local jobs, and keep the mail coming.

This isn’t as dramatic an idea as some might believe. The Postal Service already offers domestic and international money orders. Fifty years ago, customers could make deposits as well through the Postal Savings System. Other countries have taken this same step with great success, and financial services aren’t only for the unbanked. I was surprised to see people at Swiss post offices pay their utility bills or make a deposit, but I quickly realized it made a lot of sense.

I love the USPS (along with public libraries and the freeway system). Think of what it would cost you, dear reader, to personally move a piece of mail from, say, Florida to Ohio. Or Alaska. Or Hawai’i. (Yes, email is great but sometimes you have to send something physical. Like cookies.) And then think of what it costs thousands of people everyday to do something as simple as cash a check without access to a bank account.

Support both financial inclusion and an institution that predates the U.S., provides almost half a million jobs and helps tie the country together? Yes, please.

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