Saturday, March 22, 2008

If I told you I had a recipe for peanut butter cookies with three ingredients would you call me crazy? Oh, they're gluten free and taste awesome too. Just read on...



Three ingredients, no mixer necessary, and these peanut butter cookies are mighty tasty. Now, they might not have a chewy texture or a a perfectly sized crumb - in fact, they might not have any crumb at all - but they do have what is necessary and sufficient to receive the title of excellent peanut butter cookie:  peanut butteryness.


Because really, what does flour do to a peanut butter cookie? Flour makes the cookie taste less like peanut butter. Get rid of it!


So here you go. Mix these three ingredients together. Plop them onto a cookie sheet and don't over-bake. Serve them to your friends  and try to get someone to guess what the other two ingredients are. I have yet to find a taste tester who can tell these cookies are missing the flour - it's all delicious fun. This recipe is a great choice for individuals who cannot have wheat gluten.


Simply Peanut Butter Cookies


1 cup creamy peanut butter

1 cup granulated sugar, plus extra for rolling

1 egg


Thoroughly mix all three ingredients together. Roll into teaspoons of dough into small balls and roll into sugar; and flatten cookies onto a baking sheet by pressing fork tines into the top. Bake at 350 degrees for ~8-10 minutes. They'll seem underdone and way too soft, but they'll harden up as they cool.


You can also press a chunk of chocolate into the top before putting them in the oven, if desired.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Biscotti Biscotti


William-Sonoma, you tricked me. You, master of cookie cookbooks, king of classic cookie recipes... you, you failed me.


Sort of.

Actually, these biscotti are amazing and I think you should make them first thing tonight before you go to bed. I can't stop eating them. What I take issue with is that William Sonoma makes a whole big pointed fussy scene about how you should cream the butter and sugar until no grit can be felt between your fingers. Now, I've used this advice in other recipes and been very happy with it - properly creamed butter and sugar provide for moist, substantial cookie crumb. Whenever you've tasted homemade cookies with perfectly moist, even texture, they probably creamed the butter and sugar really, really well.

But I made these biscotti twice - once, in a rush, with fridge cold butter and just incorporated sugar, and a second time, with fridge cold butter that I creamed with the sugar for almost 15 minutes over a bowl of steaming water to help the butter along - and the verdict's in: biscotti do not benefit from properly creamed, room temperature butter, at least in this recipe. In fact, they're better off with gritty bits of butter and sugar that cut into the flour. The first batch came out crumbly and dry but not hard. They melted in my mouth. The second batch was more cake-like or cookie-like than biscotti-like. I didn't want cake-like or cookie-like, I wanted biscotti-like: crumbly, dry, melt in your mouth biscotti. Then I sent samples of both batches to my grandmother - queen of all things biscotti - and she declared her preference for the well-creamed-butter batch. So, take your pick.


My advice would be to cream your butter and sugar for about four to five minutes in a stand mixer. Oh, and make these: they're nutty, crumbly, buttery, not too hard, not too sweet, perfectly crisp, flecks of orange zest balanced by loads of cinnamon and toasted, fragrant hazelnuts...last for at least a simple and delectable.


By the way, last Saturday morning, our alarm clock self-adjusted for daylight savings time one day too early. We scrambled out of bed because I was frantic to get to lab on time, and then I found myself with one extra hour before needing to go take care of my experiment. So I made biscotti. In scrolling down the past few entries of this cooking blog, I just realized that it is has been fairly heavy on the sweets and low on the savory. I figure I owe y'all an explanation. See, I've been working crazy hours for the past two weeks and we've been, <gasp>, surviving entirely on take-out. This schedule was all supposed to last for the entire month of April, until a fellow lab member kind of screwed me over in an aggressive battle for the surgical space that I needed and the remaining half of my experiment has pushed until the end of April. </rant>. Her rudeness = my inconvenience = better for our sustenance!

Hazlenut and Dried Cherry Biscotti

Recipe reworded from William-Sonoma Cookies. Note that you could substitute any toasted nut or dried fruit that you wish - I tried macadamia nuts too, but I prefer the hazlenuts by far.

Makes ~24 biscotti

1/2 cup unsalted butter

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 tbsp grated orange zest

2 large eggs

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 3/4 (280g) unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp salt

1 cup hazlenuts, toasted and skinned, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup dry cherries, coarsely chopped, optional

Preheat the oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with parchment*.

Cream the butter and sugar with the zest. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well on low speed after each addition. Beat in the vanilla on low speed until blended.

Sift the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt together onto a sheet of parchment paper. Add the flour mixture in two or three additions to the egg mixture, stirring just until incorporated. Stir in the hazlenuts and cherries until evenly distributed. The batter should be very soft.

Turn the batter out onto a floured surface and divide in half. Shape into a log about 12" long and 1.5" in diameter. Press lightly on the top to flatten the log into a biscotti shape. Shape the second log, leaving at least 4" between the two (they will spread as they bake).

Bake the logs until the edges are golden, 25-30 minutes. Let the logs cool for 10 minutes. Using a serrated knife, cut the logs on the diagonal to 1/2" slices. Turn the slice on their sides and return them to the oven. Bake them until the edges are golden, about 10 minutes longer. Cool completely and store in an airtight container.

*You can toast the hazlenuts at this point if needed. Just put them in the oven for ~10 minutes, then skin them between hands or a towel - don't let them burn.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Easiest Tasty Winter Soup


I wish I could say that I enjoyed a bowl of soup this week. I wish I could tell you these leftovers are sitting in my fridge right now... but I can't. Why? It might be because I am masochistically inclined to pile up work into short periods of time, because graduate research involving animals takes up ungodly hours of the day, or because I really can't wait on more minute to finish this chapter of my thesis... it might be that all of those reasons add up to a really, really busy week (soon to be month) with hardly time to shower let alone cook.

And this is the perfect soup - that I so-happened to make almost two weeks ago - for what I am craving this week. It is healthy but filling, wintery but not full of cheese and cream. It is a satisfying, stick to your ribs kind of soup that doesn't take more than 20 minutes of active time to prepare.

Easiest Tasty Winter Soup

1lb dried Great Northern beans

2 small onions

1 head Napa cabbage

1 bay leaf

4 cups water

4 cups stock (vegetable, or free-range organic chicken)

Salt and pepper to taste

1. Put the beans in a large pot with an extra 1" of water to cover. Either: (1) soak overnight, or (2) bring to a boil, turn off heat and soak for one hour. Drain the soaking water and rinse beans thoroughly.

2. Slice the cabbage (1/4")and dice the onion (1/4-1/2"). Add the onion with the bay leaf, water and stock to the beans. Cover, bring to a rapid simmer and cook until the beans are tender (2-3 hours, depending on how old the beans are). Add the cabbage and season with salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for another 15 minutes.