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Archive for the ‘Cookies’ Category

Today, as I drove home I listened to a tribute to Stuart McLean of the Vinyl Café playing on CBC radio. It was a show about love stories, encounters, and friendships. It was all about companionship. One of the stories was about a couple who had magical chemistry, and they would send each other photos of them eating cookies. It reminded me of what role food plays in many of our lives. Not only is it what sustains us, but it is often something that brings people together. Often it is not necessarily the food itself, but the fact that it is shared, that makes it special.

I can remember even when I was a very small child looking forward to meals with our family in France. It was always special. Meals often took hours, but we didn’t notice the time going by.

When I was in undergrad, meals brought friends together, many of whom are still very near and dear.

When I lived in The Gambia, not a day went by without food being shared. I could never keep up with the enormous generosity of the village where I lived, until one day I learned that I could share the food that was brought for me. We would nurture each other.

These past few weeks I’ve had a lovely time in a clinical rotation, working with a special team dedicating themselves to providing the best possible care for their patients, at a level which I have rarely seen. Witnessing such dedication, I wanted to give back, so I made these delicious cookies to help fuel us through the day. I hope you will enjoy this recipe as much as we did, and that it serves as a backdrop to many tea parties, work afternoons, or any other pick-me-ups you might need.

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Ingredients – for approximately 40 cookies

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup unsalted and softened butter
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 3 cups oatmeal – I use old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350, and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or grease them
  2. Sift together flour, baking soda and powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg
  3. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar until fluffy. I use a stand mixer but you can also beat it by hand. Add eggs and vanilla and beat for a few more minutes, until pale and well incorporated
  4. Add flour mixture to butter mixture, and mix
  5. Stir in cranberries, coconut and chocolate chips
  6. place spoonfuls of the dough in your hand and roll into a ball. Place on cookie sheet 1.5 inches apart and bake for 13-15 minutes
  7. Cool on wire rack

Hope you enjoy these little treats!

Sitelle

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I am not a big sweet tooth, but there is something special about Christmas baking – the deluxe ingredients, the warm atmosphere, the special company.  As a child, I always knew Christmas baking season was upon us by the quadrupling of butter quantities in our fridge.  As per tradition, we would make the same six cookies: swedish pastries, candy cane cookies, pecan puffs, icebox, gingersnaps,  and shortbread. I continue to absolutely love these family classics, but for a cookie-exchange I wanted to try something new.

Sitelle came to my rescue and suggested this divine recipe.  It combines two of my favourite flavours – ginger and dark chocolate, in a soft and sparkly cookie. The dark chocolate gives these cookies a richness and the candied ginger gives them spunk.  In one word, amazing!

The recipe comes from the Holiday 2015 LCBO Food & Drink magazine.

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Chocolate Ginger Sparkle Cookies

Makes ~40 cookies

 

Ingredients

8 oz (250 g) dark 70% chocolate, chopped

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 cup butter, softened

2/3  cup granulated sugar

2 eggs

1/4 cup vegetable oil

2 tsp vanilla extract

1/3 cup crystallized ginger, finely chopped

1/2 cup approx. coarse white sugar (or granulated sugar)

 

Directions

Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of hot, not boiling water.  Stir until smooth and let cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile combine flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl.  In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar until fluffy.  Beat in eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add cooled chocolate, oil, and vanilla, and beat until well blended.  Stir in flour mixture until blended.  Stir in ginger.  Cover and refrigerate until very cold, at least 2 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Place coarse sugar in a shallow  bowl.

Scoop 1-tbsp sized prices of sough and roll into balls.  Roll in coarse sugar to evenly coat dough and shake off excess. Place 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets.  Keep remaining dough and rolled cookies cold while baking the previous batch.

Bake, 1 sheet at a time, for 8 or 9 minutes, or until cookies are puffed, starting to crack and edges are just set (the centres will still be soft).  Let cool on baking sheet for 2 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Store cookies between layers of parchment paper in a cooking tin at room temperature for up to 5 days, or freeze for up to 2 months.

Bon appetit!

– Catherine

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My grandmother passed last month. Her passing was sudden and unexpected, so it took awhile to sink in that she was really gone.

In so many ways, she was a remarkable woman. She was incredibly strong, never one to complain. I never heard her say an ill word of anyone. She was a veteran, serving in the Royal Canadian Air Force. And she was fiercely proud of all her grandchildren, cheering us on in life.

She also was a personal inspiration, one of my first mentors in the culinary world. She cooked simply, and loved to feed others. When I visited my grandparents in Edmonton, I loved wandering through their vegetable garden. Arriving mid-summer, there would be the soft fronds of carrot greens and the tender leaves of beets. Zucchinis would be hidden among the broad leaves and the herbs would be fragrant. Her rhubarb was prized: always abundant and ruby red.

To satiate my family’s sweet tooth, she would always have cookies or squares or a pie hidden away in a cupboard. To this day, I associate gingersnap cookies with her kitchen – our family would often indulge in a few of these cookies as a bedtime treat with a glass of milk.

To make sense of her passing, I recently felt a need to bake gingersnap cookies. Her recipe is sharper than some, with a healthy dose of ginger. There is certainly a time and a place for chewy gingerbread, but sometimes a crunchy version is just what you need. And these cookies are definitely snappy.

My family always makes these at Christmas, taking extra time to roll out the dough and decorate them with sprinkles and silver balls. During the year, they are a fabulous icebox recipe: simply roll the dough into a log, freeze, slice the log, and pop the rounds into the oven.   The challenge is always to limit yourself to one or two…

Gingersnaps

Icebox Gingersnap Cookies

(~100 cookies)

Ingredients:

1 c. butter

1 ¾ c. white sugar

2 eggs

½ c. molasses

3 tsp. ginger

1 tsp. cinnamon

½ tsp. cloves

½ tsp. salt

1 ½ tsp. baking soda

4 ½ c. flour

Directions:

Cream the butter and sugar together in a large bowl. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Add the molasses, spices, and baking soda. Sift in the flour, and mix until integrated within the dough.

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Cut cookies using either the icebox or rolling pin method (see below). Place cookies onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cook for ~10 minutes or until the bottom is golden. Transfer to a cookie rack and allow to cool.

To roll out the cookies:

Form the dough into a large ball. Cover in saran wrap and cool in fridge for 30 minutes. Roll dough out on a clean, floured surface using a large rolling pin to ¼ inch (0.5 cm) thick. Use your favourite cookie cutter to make your favourite shapes. If interested, use sprinkles, silver balls, or other special ingredients to decorate prior to baking.

To make icebox cookies:

Roll the dough into 2-3 inch (5-8 cm) logs. Wrap in wax paper and cool in the freezer for approximately 60 minutes. Using a sharp knife, slice the log into thin ¼ inch (0.5 cm) rounds.

Note that the logs keep beautifully in the freezer for up to 3 months. If not baking immediately, make sure to wrap the logs thoroughly to avoid freezer burn. When ready for delicious cookies, simply remove log from freezer and slice the cookies as above.

Bon appetit!

– Catherine

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Wishing you and yours a very happy new year!

The past year has flown by.  It’s been a busy year – finishing up my Master’s thesis, travelling in Tanzania, starting medical school – and I have been very fortunate.  While I’ve had fewer new cooking adventures (to be remedied in 2013), I have certainly enjoyed many old favourites with friends and family!

Gourm(eh?) continues to exceed expectations. It’s hard to believe that a small project for me and Sitelle to share recipes has turned into a blog that has received over 30,000 hits!  We look forward to sharing many more in 2013 – including a few more Canadian specialties.

To start off 2013, I wanted to share the five most popular recipes from 2012.  Bon appetit!

– Catherine

5. Lotus Land Linguini

Creamy lotus land linguine

This pasta from rebar was initially cooked to fulfill a peanut craving.  The lotus land linguini turned out to be a fun and tasty dish enjoyed by all – the leftovers were perfect as a picnic lunch the next day on a wintertime outing to Peggy’s Cove!

4. Whitewater Cinnamon Buns

Waiting for the cinnamon buns to finish rising

Waiting for the cinnamon buns to finish rising

These cinnamon buns from Whitewater Cooks were nice and cinnamony, and perfect for a late morning brunch!

3. Spicy Steamed Fish, Gambian Style

Gambian platter

Sitelle shared many of the recipes she picked up while living in Gambia – and this one looks divine!

2. Christmas Cookies

Swedish Pastries (Thumbprint Walnut Christmas Cookie)

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Slice-and-Bake Icebox Cookies

Icebox Cookies

Christmas baking is a favourite family tradition, and these two cookies are my great-grandmother’s secret recipes.  They continue to be loved year after year!

1. Benachin

Bowl of benachin

Another of Sitelle’s Gambian dishes was our most viewed of 2012, and this is certainly a dish meant to be shared with company!

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There is something magical about gingerbread houses.  I have always loved assembling them with friends and family while listening to holiday tunes, drinking hot chocolate, snacking on clementines, and soaking in Christmas joy.   I have been satisfied with the kit from the grocery store over the past few years,  but last year, I wanted to try something even more special.

Just before Christmas, my old roomate from Toronto came up to visit me.  We had two missions: visit Peggy’s Cove and build a gingerbread house from scratch.   With -9 C cold and biting winds, we braved Maritime weather to drive out to the Cove.  As for the gingerbread house, we were inspired by Joy of Cooking, with their tried and true recipes, to build one from scratch.  Over two days we mixed, rolled-out, baked, and decorated the house.

The most difficult element of this recipe is waiting: waiting for the dough to chill, wating for the gingerbread to bake (while delicious aromas waft through the house), and waiting for the icing to set.  But the end result was well worth it: A gorgeous gingerbread house – with far more delicious candy and gingerbread than you find in a kit – of which we are incredibly proud!

The gingerbread can be baked up to a week in advance of assembling.

 

Gingerbread House

(makes one gingerbread house, about 5 1/2 inches wide by 7 inches high on a 9-inch square base, plus a few extra cookies)

 

Ingredients:

GINGERBREAD DOUGH

1 cup butter

1 cup sugar

1 cup molasses

5 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon cloves

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
 

ROYAL ICING

3 large egg whites

3 cups icing sugar

Food dye

1/2 teaspoon vanilla
 

DECORATION

Your favouite candy for decorating a gingerbread house.  The sky’s the limit!
 
Gingerbread house!
 

Directions:

GINGERBREAD DOUGH RECIPE

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter. Add the sugar and molasses and stir over low heat until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture no longer feels gritty. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool to lukewarm.

In a large bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients except for 1/2 cup of flour.  Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, pour in the lukewarm butter mixture, and beat to blend everything together.  Work in the remaining flour, beating until the dough forms a ball and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.

Remove the dough from the bowl and knead 3 or 4 times on the counter, until smooth and pliable.  Wrap well and refrigerate until dough is thoroughly cool.

After refrigerating, if the dough feels to soft to roll out, work in a tiny bit more flour.
 

GINGERBREAD HOUSE PREPARATION

PREPARE THE PATTERN PIECES: Copy the pattern pieces onto stiff cardboard and cut them out.  You should have seven pieces: 2 sides; 1 front and 1 back; 2 roof panels; and 1 base.  Rub flour over both sides of the pattern pieces to prevent the dough from sticking to them.

SIDES – cut two: 4 inches x 3 inches (base x height).  If desired, add a window (1 inch x 1 inch) in the middle.

FRONT AND BACK – cut two: 5 1/4 inches x 6 3/4 inches (base x height).  These pieces should be pentagon shaped (so the base is 5 1/4 inches, the height is 6 3/4 inches in the centre, but only 3 inches on the sides).  If desired, add a door (1 inch by 2 inches) and two windows (1 inch by 1inch).

ROOF – cut two: 5 inches x 6 inches

BASE – cut one: 9 inches x 9 inches
 

BAKING THE GINGERBREAD

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Position the racks to divide the oven in thirds.

With a lightly floured rolling pin, roll out about one-third of the dough directly on an ungreased cookie sheat, preferably with only 1 raised edge, to about 1/4 inch thick.  Lightly dust the dough with flour.  Position as many pattern pieces as will fit comfortably on top of the rolled dough, leaving about 3/4 inches between them to allow for spreading during baking.  Cut around the patterns with a sharp paring knife.  Remove the pattern pieces.  Peel away the dough between the cut pieces and gather the scraps together to reroll.  Repeat with a second and third cookie sheet if needed, using the remaining dough and cutting out all the pieces.

Cut around, but do not lift out the windows and front door (if they are removed know, the shapes will warp). Roll out the scraps and use cookie cutters or a paring knife to cut out gingerbread people, fence posts, animals, and other designs.

Bake the gingerbread pieces 12 to 15 minutes, or until the colour darkens slightly and the pieces feel nearly stiff – they will firm completely as they cool.

As soon as they come out of the oven, set the cookie sheets on a heatproof surface and immediately, while the dough is still hot, place the pattern pieces on the corresponding pieces of hot gingerbread.  One at a time, cut around each pattern with a paring knife (trimming all the house edges will make them fit together neatly.  Lift off and save the scraps for decorations.  Cut out and remove doors and windows.  While the dough is still warm, you can cut each window in half to make them shutters.

Once the shapes are rigid but still slightly warm, use a broad spatula to transfer them to wire racks to cool completely.  Store them flat on a tray or in a sturdy box in a cool, dry place until ready to assemble.
 

ROYAL ICING

Stir together the egg whites, vanilla, and 1 cup of the icing sugar in a microwave-safe bowl until thoroughly combined.  Microwave on high until the mixture reaches 160 F on a thermometer, 30 to 60 seconds.

Add 2 cups of icing sugar and beat on high speed until the icing is cool and holds stiff peaks.

If the icing is not stiff enough, add more sugar.  Color, if desired, with liquid food colouring.

The icing can be stored in a covered container for up to 3 days: Press a piece of wax or parchment paper directly against the surface to prevent drying.  The icing can be rebeaten if necessary.

To pipe, use a small pastry bag fitted with a fine tip, or cut off the corner of a sealable plastic bag or the tip of a parchment paper cone.   Immediately cover bowls of icing with plastic wrap so they don’t dry out; keep tightly covered when you are not using the icing.
 

ASSEMBLING THE HOUSE

Set the gingerbread base right side up on a tray. (The right side of each piece is the side facing up when baked). Centre the front, back, and side pieces, right side down, on top of the base, with the bottom corners touching.  Pipe out a thick 1/2-inch-deep line of icing around the foundation lines.  One at a time, lift the side pieces into place, and pipe a generous line of icing along both side edges of each piece.  Repeat with the front and back pieces, icing their side edges and standing them up in the foundation icing next to the sides.  Gently press all the iced edges of the house together.  If the icing is thick enough, the house should now stand up unaided (but if it is wobbly, support it on all four sides wiht jars or cans until the icing dries, 1 hour to overnight, depending on the humidity.  Do NOT attempt to add the roof until the icing is dry and structure feels solid.

To attach the roof, spread icing generously along the top edges of each house piece and along one long edge of each roof panel.  Press the roof panels in place, touching each other at the peak.  Use your fingertip to smooth all the joints where pieces meet; add extra icing if necessary for stability.  If the roof panels droop, support them with jars or cans until the icing sets.  Don’t decorate the room until the icing is set, or the weight of the decorations may cause it to collapse.

To decorate the house, using icing to glue on the window shutters and position the front door ajar.  Use icing as glue, decorate the house with your favourite candies.

To make icicles: add a little water to some of the white icing, and pipe drippy icicles along the edges of the roof.

For snow: lightly sift icing sugar over the top of the house and the base.
 

Bon appetit!

– Catherine

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The other day, a friend asked me the question “What is your favourite cookie?”   Now this is a truly challenging question.  How can one decide between such delicious cookies as oatmeal chocolate chip, snickerdoodles, and candy cane cookies?

I pondered for a few minutes, before I realized the answer was simple.  There is nothing more delectable than gingerbread.   Gingerbread can be soft or snappy; the spicing can be subtle or bold; the end product a humble round or fancily decorated.  And is it ever versatile –  a delight on its own, gingerbread is also delicious crumpled into the crust of cheesecake or on top of stewed rhubarb.  My personal favourite is with a tall glass of cold milk.

My friend Sam introduced me to these cookies ten years ago, and I have never seen a plate of cookies turn into crumbs so quickly as to when these are offered.  Very humble looking, they are delicately spiced and ever-so-chewy! The trick is to under bake them slightly – pull them out of the oven when they are are cracking, but still slightly puffy.

 

Ginger Cookies

Makes about 40 cookies

Ingredients

3/4 cup butter

1 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 cup molasses

1 egg

2 tsp baking soda

1 teaspoon powdered ginger

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon allspice

2 1/4 cup flour

 

~ 1/3 cup white sugar (for rolling cookies in)
 

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 Fahrenheit.

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the egg and molasses.  Combine dry ingredients in a separate bowl, then mix into wet ingredients.

Cover dough with waxpaper and freeze until firm.  Roll dough into balls, then roll in white sugar.  Arrange on a greased cookie sheet.

Bake the cookies until cracked, about 10-12 minutes.

(And if you want to save a few cookies for a snowy day, once the dough is rolled, freeze in an airtight container.   You can pop two or three onto a tray for a late night ginger cookie snack!)

Bon appetit!

– Catherine

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One of my favourite things to go home to after a long day of work is to have a cup of tea in a quiet house, especially when the snow has already begun and winter is fast approaching. Baking some cookies can do the trick too, which I did yesterday. Without any cookbooks or internet at my disposal yesterday, I was left to my own devices, which included a jar of peanut butter (no recipe on that label), some butter, sugar, flour, and… jam! I love thumbprint cookies with jam, so why not take the old PB&J sandwich to the next course, and turn it into a dessert? The result was delicious!

Now that the snow has begun, I just wish I could bake cookies every day when I come home.

Ingredients:

-1/2 cup brown sugar

-1/4 cup soft butter

-1 egg

-1/2 cup peanut butter (I like the “just peanuts” kind)

-1 cup flour

-1/2 cup quick-cooking oats

-1 tsp baking powder

-pinch salt

-strawberry or raspberry (my favourite!) jam

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375F. In a medium bowl cream the butter and sugar together, and then add egg and peanut butter. Stir until mixture is smooth.

In a large bowl, mix all the dry ingredients well. Add peanut butter mixture, and mix in with your hands. Grease a cookie sheet. Place small balls of batter on sheet and make thumbprint hole inside. Fill with jam.
Bake for 15-18 minutes or until cooked but still a bit soft. Cool on a baking rack and serve with a glass of milk or hot-chocolate!

-Sitelle

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