Peach sorbet with cassis.

I’ve fallen in with the cult of sorbetmakers.  You know, the ones who can whip up a batch of fruity ice-cold goodness whenever the need requires.  The ones who like sorbet that tastes just like the fruit, without any pits or pith, or chewing, involved.  Sorbet that’s such a far cry from the stuff you can buy in the supermarket that it’s downright wrong that they would be called by the same name.

The sorbet, also, that’s so damned easy to make it would be crazy not to.  I started making sorbet following Paul Bertolli’s recipe for strawberry sorbet in Cooking by Hand. You don’t need an ice-cream maker, or strong whisking arms.  You simple whiz up frozen berries with a bit of sugar and water in the food processor, then freeze until it hardens.  The method works for many different sorbets and, in the hope of converting some readers to the sorbet cult, I’ve chosen the easiest example to showcase here, made with frozen organic peaches and a touch of cassis, yielding a lightly sweet, dainty little sorbet that is a guaranteed pleaser, perfect after a meal of steamed fish and broccoli, perfect for my health conscious Friday-night dinner clients.  Perfect, otherwise, alongside chocolate cake, or after a hamburger.  Come to think of it, this sorbet would make a perfect margarita mixer, too.

And if that’s not enough to entice you, how about this: I made this sorbet in under 4 minutes. And the majority of that time was spent doing nothing but pressing my finger on the pulse button of my food processor, and watching the peaches whirlwind into dessert.  The extent of my “prepwork” was opening a bag of frozen peaches. (You could use your own previously frozen peaches, too, as I did before they ran out… alas.) Oh, and measuring out a few tablespoons of sugar, though you could do that by eye if you wanted.

Surely you could whip up a batch between swims, or beers, this Memorial Day weekend.

Peach Sorbet with Cassis

Makes about 2 cups

This sorbet is hardly sweet, with a delicate peachy flavor and the background notes of cassis.  It would work very well as a palate cleanser between courses, or for a simple dessert on a hot summer night.

1 (10-ounce) bag frozen peaches, organic if possible
3 tablespoons natural cane sugar
1 tablespoon cassis liquor, optional
¼ cup water

In a food processor, pulse peaches and sugar together until the peaches become the texture of peas.  Add cassis and pulse more, until peaches begin to look like sand.  Begin to slowly drizzle in water, letting the processor run, until you have a smooth paste, about 2-3 minutes.  Transfer to a container and freeze until hardened, about 2 hours.  Eat within a day or two.

Candied kumquats with vanilla and cinnamon

I’ve been anxiously awaiting canning season this year. Last summer I didn’t preserve nearly enough as we needed for the upcoming year.  We’ve been out of jam for months now and this year I plan on making enough cherry, strawberry, blueberry, and peach preserves to last a year of ravenous monkeys.

But until I’m able to find the best fruits of the season—and it’s about time for cherries!—I’ve been playing with some of the fruits that, in New Jersey, I never get to buy locally. These kumquats aren’t local, and I’m not sure when their season is (I’m guessing winter) but, cooked slowly in syrup, they were delicious nonetheless.

Anyway you candy kumquats will yield sweet-tart, marmalade-like preserves, but this recipe is really special.  I spotted it in a recipe for a gingerbread cake topped with candied kumquats, and the thought of cinnamon and vanilla bean must have flipped on a switch in my brain, because I couldn’t think another thought until I had the kumquats I’d bought earlier that week swimming in a sweet pool of honey and spices.

Orange honey is a perfect match here, the background floral and citrus is a real no-brainer to pair with kumquats, but any honey would do.  I used a vanilla bean and I don’t think vanilla extract would work here (vanilla sugar would be fine); you could leave it out if you don’t have (or want to buy) a vanilla bean.  You can’t totally see it in the pictures, since the syrup was still hot, but the magical black specks of vanilla bean came out to sparkle by the next day.  The jar didn’t last much longer than that, though.

Candied Kumquats with Vanilla and Cinnamon

makes one 8-oz jar with a bit leftover

1/2 cup water
3/4 cup orange honey
scant 1/4 cup natural sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
1/2 of a vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 pint kumquats, halved and seeded (about 14-18 ounces)

Add first five ingredients to a saucepan over medium-high heat, scraping the seeds from the vanilla bean and adding both seeds and pod.  Stir to dissolve sugar.  Add kumquats and bring back to boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes or so, until kumquats are tender and the syrup has reduced some.  Cool and store in a jar in the fridge.

Craving kumquats without the bean? Try Elise’s Candied Kumquats or get fancy with some of Cannelle et Vanille’s Candied Kumquat and Pistachio Financiers.

Almond Olive Oil Cake

Something happened last week that made me literally forget about everything, and move on up to live in a cloud for a few days.  Jim asked me to marry him and as much as I didn’t think I could get any higher over it, you all pushed me further up. Thank you for all the congratulations!  We had no idea that so many of you had been following out little love affair over the past years and were so elated over the response from our engagement post. Thank you!

I hope I can repay you for such goodness with this almond olive oil cake.  It’s not mine, as Gina DePalma created it, and Sassy Radish posted it (and urged me to try) a few weeks back.  And while I can’t actually give it to you, unless you live in the tri-state area and would like to come over for a cup of tea while I bake us one, it’s so easy to make you may be able to do it quickly enough to think it was somebody else working, and not you.  It’s worth the 10 or 15 minutes of prep that you’ll put into it, and then some.  It’s also worth finding some natural almond flour (or making your own) to use in it.

Natural almond flour is almost coarse grain, with specks of almond skins and a nutty, intensely almond aroma.  It brings a great deal to the cake, even unglazed.  Though when the cake is topped with nutty browned butter, the almond flavor is heightened right up onto the cloud with me.  After one bite (and before the many, many bites that followed) I had already deemed this cake my favorite cake, one that may even end up served to a few of my closest family and friends in a year or so, on some certain day.

If you make this cake, don’t skip the browned butter, or the toasted almonds on top.  Besides the natural almond flour, the topping is what turns this cake into a favorite cake.  It’s rich and intensely flavorful, toasty and warm.  The zests add a bright contrast to what can be too much nuttiness otherwise.  I baked mine in a 9 inch spring-form, but I’m sure you could do it in a bundt for an even prettier presentation.  Because for as easy as it is to make, it’s a celebration cake, a wow factor cake, and of course, a thank you for your kindness cake.

[Editor’s Note:  I’ve made this cake again since this post, and the glaze turned out much thinner and soaked into the cake more—something I prefer.  Not sure why the glaze turned out like this in the picture the first time I made it, maybe I let it cool too long or something, but don’t be worried if yours looks different.  And either way, it’s delicious.]

Almond Olive Oil Cake

by Gina DePalma on Serious Eats, via Sassy Radish

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup blanched or natural almond flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
  • Grated zest of 1 medium lemon or 1/4 a medium orange
  • 1/2 cup orange juice

For the Glaze:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 3 tablespoons whole milk
  • A few drops of fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup sliced, blanched almonds, toasted and cooled

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 9-inch round cake pan or springform pan and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, almond flour, baking powder and salt to thoroughly combine them and set aside.

Crack the eggs into a large mixing bowl and whisk them lightly to break up the yolks. Add the sugar to the bowl and whisk it in thoroughly in both directions for about 30 seconds. Add the olive oil and whisk until the mixture is a bit lighter in color and has thickened slightly, about 45 seconds. Whisk in the extracts and zest, followed by the orange juice.

Add the dry ingredients to the bowl and whisk until they are thoroughly combined; continue whisking until you have a smooth, emulsified batter, about 30 more seconds.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and bake the cake for 30 to 45 minutes, rotating the cake pan halfway through the cooking time to ensure even browning. The cake is done when it has begun to pull away from the sides of the pan, springs back lightly when touched, and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

Allow the cake to cool for ten minutes in the pan, then gently remove it from the pan and allow it cool completely on a rack.

While the cake cools, make the glaze. Melt the butter over medium heat in a small, heavy saucepan. When the bubbles subside, lower the heat and watch the butter carefully, swirling it in the pan occasionally to distribute the heat. When the butter begins to turn a light tan color and smells slightly nutty, turn off the heat and let the butter sit. It will continue to darken as it sits.

While the butter cools, sift the confectioner’s sugar into a medium bowl. Whisk in the milk until completely smooth but thick, then slowly whisk in the butter. Taste the glaze and add a few drops of lemon juice to balance the sweetness. Stir in the toasted almonds. Spread the almonds and glaze onto the top and sides of the cake and let it sit until set and dry.

Butterscotch pudding.

I’m not sure why I’m in love with butterscotch pudding.  There’s the deliciousness, there’s that, but I thinks there’s something more to it.  I’m drawn to butterscotch pudding, I feel it in my soul.  It’s as if I grew up with the fondest memories of butterscotch pudding, which I hardly ever had (don’t remember ever having.)  Maybe I wish I did.  Maybe it’s those Werther Original’s commercials, where the old man shares a Werther’s with his grandson, off in his own little world of memory and happiness.

And I’m not sure I even love the taste; good as it is—sweet, buttery—it’s almost too much.  I feel almost too much like a kid eating it.  With some whipped cream on top, a good blanket to snuggle into, and a good book to read, it’s almost too sweet, too much, this butterscotch pudding.

Which isn’t to say your shouldn’t try it.  Especially with a few big spoonfuls of lightly whipped cream. Especially if you have fond memories of butterscotch—real or televisionary—that you’d like to revisit.  You don’t need to add whiskey into it—the origin of the scotch part of the word butterscotch is murky—but if you happen to have a bottle of Balvenie 10, you’d be crazy not to use it.  The spicy, vanilla notes of this scotch were simply made for brown sugar and butter.  It adds a hint of warmth, an extra jolt of comfort.  Whatever you do though, make sure you have the whipped cream, the blanket and a comfy couch, and preferably a good book.  Maybe even a tumbler filled with whiskey on the side table, like I did, to, you know, remind myself that I’m all grown up.

Butterscotch Pudding

adapted from Gourmet

  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons plus 2 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into bits
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon of non-peaty scotch-whiskey
  • lightly sweetened whipped cream

Whisk together brown sugar, cornstarch, and 1/4 tsp salt in a heavy medium saucepan, then whisk in milk and cream. Bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking frequently, then boil, whisking, 1 minute. Remove from heat and whisk in butter, vanilla, and scotch. Pour into a bowl, then cover surface with buttered wax paper and chill until cold, at least 1 1/2 hours.

Double-Vanilla Pound Cake

I have two bonafide comfort foods: roast chicken and vanilla (not together, though I recently spied a recipe with both).  Either are liable to stop my tears when I’m crying, or calm me out of a panic.  Comforting in a different kind of way than chocolate or soup is—not sick day comforting, or got the blues comforting—but a in-serious-need-of-a-life-change-and-a-hug comforting.

As some of you know, I’ve been needing just that lately.  A big life change has hit me unannounced and I’m still settling into it.  It’s nothing serious, or life-threatening; it may actually be positive in the end.  But for now, I need comfort.  Comfort in the form of double-vanilla pound cake.

This pound cake, from my new favorite baking book, is intensely vanilla.  Not too sweet, the vanilla doesn’t become cloying—like so many packaged sweets and soft-drinks; no, it’s the flavor, the beany, earthy, fragrant sweetness of vanilla that defines this cake.  It’s scattered with black specks of the real thing and vanilla extract sits sweetly in the background.

I’m sad to say that I overcooked the cake by a few minutes (stressful days can do that to you) and it was a touch too tough.  The flavor was all there though, so I couldn’t keep my mouth shut about it here.  I’ll surely make it again.  Everytime I need a hug.

Double-Vanilla Pound Cake

makes one loaf

from Cindy Mushet’s The Art & Soul of Baking

  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1 ½ sticks (6 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups (7 ounces) sifted cake flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¹/3 (3 ounces) sour cream, at room temperature
  • Preheat the oven to 350ºF and position an oven rack in the center.  Lightly coat a loaf pan with butter, oil, or high-heat canola oil spray and fit it with parchment paper to extend up both long sides to the top of the pan.

    Place the sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Use a paring knife to split the vanilla bean lengthwise, then turn the knife over and use the dull edge to scrape the seeds into the sugar.  (Save the pod for another use.)  Blend on low speed until the seeds are evenly dispersed.  Add the butter and beat n medium-high until the mixture is very light—almost white000in color, 4 to 5 minutes.  Scrape down the bowl with the spatula.

    Beat the eggs with the vanilla in a small bowl.  With the mixer running on medium speed, add the eggs to the butter mixture aout 1 tablespoon at a time, allowing each addition to completely blend in before adding the next.  About halfway though turn off the mixer and scrape down the bowl, then continue adding the eggs.  Scrape down the bowl again.

    With a fine-mesh strainer, sift the cake flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl and whisk together.  With the mixer on the lowest speed, add the flour mixture and sour cream alternatively, beginning with one-third of the flour mixture and half the sour cream, repeat, then finish with the flour mixture.  Scrape down the bowl and finish blending the batter by hand.

    Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.  Baked for 45 to 55 minutes, until firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Transfer to a rack to cool completely.  When cool, remove from the pan, peel off the parchment paper, and serve.

    Printable Recipe

    Austrian raspberry shortbread.

    I’ve been posting cookies lately but can I (please) post one more?  You won’t mind?  I promise, after this one I’ll be posting savory eats for at least a week or two.  Plus, this is not just a cookie—it’s a bar cookie and it’s outstanding.  The most impressive cookie I had to offer this Christmas.  When someone asked what it was, my father chimed in: Who cares what it is! It’s delicious! And my father is the pickiest eater I know.

    It takes a little elbow grease—you need to grate the frozen dough—but it’s the perfect cookie to make for your family, or your boss, or anyone you want to please.  It harkens the good old days when mixes weren’t in any pantries and Betty Crocker wasn’t simply a name on a box.  Don’t forgo the grating and don’t press down on the grated dough when sprinkling it into the pan—it’s all part of the perfect crumbly, almost coffee-cake texture that makes this cookie shine.

    The recipe is from Smitten Kitchen, who got it here.  SK suggests adding some vanilla or lemon (or both) to the dough.  I planned to do just that, but forgot, and I consequentially was glad I did.  I thought the pleasingly simple shortbread dough highlighted the raspberry jam that’s spread between the layers; but of course you should choose for yourself.

    I know that Christmas has past but this cookie is too good to wait a whole year for.  Perhaps New Year’s brunch?  Or maybe you have some house guests to feed?  Even if it’s just you and your dog (or cat or fish), you simply must make this cookie.  It keeps well and freezes equally so.  There’s no excuse—It’s delicious!

    Austrian Raspberry Shortbread

    from Epicurious, a recipe by Gale Gand, Rick Tramonto, Julia Moskin via the Smitten Kitchen

    makes about 36 small squares

    • 1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly softened
    • 4 egg yolks
    • 2 cups granulated sugar
    • 4 cups all-purpose flour
    • 2 teaspoons baking powder
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1 cup raspberry jam, at room temperature
    • 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar

    Cream the butter in a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or using a hand mixer) until soft and fluffy. Add the egg yolks and mix well.

    Mix the granulated sugar, flour, baking powder, and salt together. Add to the butter and egg yolk mixture and mix just until incorporated and the dough starts to come together. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and form into two balls. Wrap each ball in plastic wrap and freeze at least 2 hours or overnight (or as long as a month, if you like).

    Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

    Remove one ball of dough from the freezer and coarsely grate it by hand or with the grating disk in a food processor into the bottom of a 9×13-inch baking pan or a 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Make sure the surface is covered evenly with shreds of dough.

    With the back of a spoon or a flexible spatula, spread the jam over the surface, to within 1/2 inch of the edge all the way around. Remove the remaining dough from the freezer and coarsely grate it over the entire surface.

    Bake until lightly golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes. As soon as the shortbread comes out of the oven, dust with confectioners’ sugar. Cool on a wire rack, then cut in the pan with a serrated knife.

    Whole-wheat peanut butter cookies with raw sugar.

    The other day, I came across an old cookbook that Jim’s aunt Maria gave me.  Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Cookies, from 1977.  It’s covered in notes from Maria—her favorites, her leave ’ems—with charm that only an old, used cookbook can have.  And it turned out to be a Christmas miracle; every recipe I’ve tried is delicious and practically fool-proof—the perfect pick me-up just as I got cookie fatigue, bored of the regular olds and needing some inspiration.  Maida, who won a James Beard award for this cookbook, makes cookies exciting.

    The whole wheat peanut butter cookie with raw sugar immediately caught my eye—it’s made of whole-wheat pastry flour, and the only sweetener is raw sugar.  It’s probably a cookie conceived in the 60’s, a total hippie-cookie.  What’s even more exciting though, is that it is good. Real good.

    The cookies are crunchy, hardly sweet, and taste mildly of peanut butter.  The nutty whole-wheat pastry flour reiterates the peanut butter flavor, as well as emphasizes the raw sugar’s crunch with it’s grainy texture.  The texture, really, is the best part—at once buttery and crumbly, with crisp edges and a moist but not soft middle.  Cracker-like.

    It’s a very subtle, sophisticated cookie—an adult’s cookie just perfect sitting among the other Christmas chocolate, sugar, and gingerbread cookies.  It could also accompany a cheese plate.  Or—better yet—you could serve these late Christmas Eve, leaving a few with a tall glass of milk for that fat, jolly guy.  Just remember the carrots for his donkeys.

    Whole-Wheat Peanut Butter Cookies

    from Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Cookies

    makes 48 cookies

    • 1 ¼ cups unsifted whole-wheat pastry flour
    • 1 tsp baking soda
    • generous ¼ teaspoon salt
    • ¼ pound (1 stick) butter
    • ½ cup smooth peanut butter
    • 1 cup raw sugar
    • 1 egg

    Sift together this flour, baking soda, and salt and set aside.  In the large bowl of a stand mixer cream the butter.  Add the peanut butter and beat until smooth.  Add the raw sugar and beat well, then add the egg and beat well again.  On low speed gradually add the sifted dry ingredients, scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula and beating only until smooth.

    Tear off a piece of wax paper about 16 inches long.  Spoon the dough lenthwise down the center of the paper in a heavy strip about 10 to 11 inches long.  Fold the long sides of the paper over the dough and, with your hands, shape the dough into a long, round or oblong roll, 12 inches long.  Wrap the dough in the wax paper.

    Slide a cookie sheet under the dough and transfer it to the freezer or refridgerator until firm (or as much longer as you wish).

    Unwrap the dough and replace it on the wax paper.  With a sharp knife cut the dough into slices ¼ inch think and place them 1 inche apart on unbuttered cookie sheets.

    Bake for 15 minutes or a little longer, until the cookies are lightly colored and semifirm to the touch.  Reverse the sheets top to bottom and front to back to insure even browning.

    With a wide metal spatula transfer the cookies to the rack to cool.

    They are spicy. And they are good.

    These are the spiciest, most molassesy-est cookies I have ever eaten.  And they are good. Perfect, even, for a cold holiday evening with a glass of peaty scotch—a cookie not quite suited for a tall glass of milk, but superb with spirits, eggnog, or hot mulled cider.  I made them to kick-start my first-ever year of cookie-baking for Christmas.  I thought they would be sufficiently holly, jolly, and nice—and would keep me in good spirits throughout a week of cookie madness that I’m sure will bring on many expletives, cookie-cursing, and a bag of coal in my stocking.

    Because not only did I agree to cook the brunt of Christmas dinner at my sister’s this holiday, but I’ve decided to bring dozens and dozens (and dozens) of cookies with me.  So far, so good, though I’ve only made two kinds.  I do have all the recipe-finding and shopping done for the others, and I find that part to be the hardest.  Or at least I’ll say so now, while I’m sipping my morning coffee and gazing out the window towards the river.  Later, when I’m covered in flour and there’s dirty dishes everywhere, I may have a different opinion.

    But I seriously doubt that I’ll ever regret signing on to the dinner (which I’m super excited about, since I hardly ever get to cook for my family) or the cookies.  I mean, when all is said and done (even if there is a mound of dishes in the sink), when you finally get to plop down on the couch, lift your cocoa-powder splotched feet, and award yourself a sample (or 3) of each and every delectable that you’ve just created, how can anyone regret the process?  And I for one am extra lucky, because I have a very weak-willed boyfriend who will do anything, even the dishes, to share in my sampling.

    These cookies in particular are good graft for the weak-willed.  Their heady aroma, of ginger and clove and allspice and molasses, fills the air, even before they enter the oven, as you whip them into a batter.  I based the recipe off on one from Cook’s Illustrated, using 2 sticks of butter instead of 1 ½ because I had mistaken the directions.  I have to laugh at myself now, as I ran to Jim terror-stricken, telling him that I had mucked up everything.  He looked at me like I was crazy—I had put too much butter? And I was upset?  The extra butter of course didn’t muck up a thing, and I like to think it enhanced the consistency, but go by the original recipe if you are like, health-conscious or something.  For the molasses, because I am a sucker for the potency of blackstrap, I used a mixture of it with natural molasses to up the spiciness factor, the result being intense and delicious. They are spicy.  And they are good.

    Dark Spice Cookies

    (slightly) adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, January 2002

    makes about 22 cookies

    • 1/3 cup granulated sugar, plus 1/2 cup for dipping
    • 2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
    • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
    • 16 tablespoons unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened but still cool
    • 1/3 cup dark brown sugar (about 2 1/2 ounces)
    • 1 large egg yolk
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 1/4 cup natural molasses
    • 1/4 cup blackstrap molasses

    Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Place 1/2 cup sugar for dipping in 8- or 9-inch cake pan.

    Whisk flour, baking soda, spices, and salt in medium bowl until thoroughly combined; set aside.

    In standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat butter with brown and granulated sugars at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to medium-low and add yolk and vanilla; increase speed to medium and beat until incorporated, about 20 seconds. Reduce speed to medium-low and add molasseses; beat until fully incorporated, about 20 seconds, scraping bottom and sides of bowl once with rubber spatula. Reduce speed to lowest setting; add flour mixture and beat until just incorporated, about 30 seconds, scraping bowl down once. Give dough final stir with rubber spatula to ensure that no pockets of flour remain at bottom. Dough will be soft.

    Using tablespoon measure, scoop heaping tablespoon of dough and roll between palms into 11/2-inch ball; drop ball into cake pan with sugar and repeat to form about 4 balls. Toss balls in sugar to coat and set on prepared baking sheet, spacing them about 2 inches apart. Repeat with remaining dough. Bake 1 sheet at a time until cookies are browned, still puffy, and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft (cookies will look raw between cracks and seem underdone), about 11 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking. Do not overbake.

    Cool cookies on baking sheet 5 minutes, then use wide metal spatula to transfer cookies to wire rack; cool cookies to room temperature.

    My favorite cookie.

    This cookie makes me want to have babies.  Well, to be more precise, have kids. A few five-to ten-year-olds who come from my stock of good tastebuds and greedy appetite.  I don’t think about the future of my having children often, or imagine how I’d be with them, but when I cook this cookie, all I think about is doing it with my future offspring, and then sitting around the kitchen table and stuffing our faces.  Chocolate smeared all over our smiles and big mugs of milk.

    This is my favorite cookie.  By far.  And if you like your cookies super-chocolatey and baked thin with crisp edges and chewy centers, then this might be your favorite too.  Because of all the white chocolate, there’s an oreo-quality about the cookie (my imaga-kids love that!) and a wave of creaminess within that rich dark chocolate.  The recipe calls for 12 ounces of the chocolate chips but I must admit that I usually make that a generous 12 ounces.  Like any kid (or any sane person) will tell you, the chips are the best part.

    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve made these cookies; I lost count a long, long time ago.  But I will say that they are my favorite dessert, my ultimate sweet comfort food.  Just looking at the photos from the batch I made a few months ago makes me feel better.  I made a big batch and froze most of them (they are great for freezing) and over the past weeks Jim and I have slowly and steadily gone through them all.  There’s none left.  I’m telling you this because I’ve been laid up on the couch with a bad back for almost two weeks now and I’m hoping Jim will read this post and bake these cookies because I can’t myself but I would really, really like to eat them. And for that matter, they’d do just fine sent through the mail.  Wink, wink, nudge, nudge. (I’m totally kidding.)

    But in all seriousness, make these cookies.  Feed them to your children if you have them.  And if you don’t have children, these cookies just may put you in the mood to make some babies.

    My Favorite Cookie

    makes about 24//adapted by Dorie Greenspan

    • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
    • 3/4 cup dark cocoa powder
    • 1 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 3/4 tsp baking soda
    • 2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 2/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar
    • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
    • 2 large eggs
    • 6 ounces milk chocolate chips
    • 6 ounces white chocolate chips

    Preheat the oven to 375 F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats. Whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, salt, and baking soda.

    Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with the paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter at medium speed for about 2 minute, until smooth. Add the sugars and beat for another 3 minutes or so, until well-blended and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each egg goes in. **I’m always careful here to make sure the mixture is very fluffy. If unsure, beat a little more. The fluffier the better in my opinion.

    Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients in 3 portions, mixing only until each addition is incorporated. Stop the mixer and fold the chocolate chips in with a rubber spatula.

    Spoon the dough by slightly rounded tablespoonfuls (or with a small ice cream scoop) onto the baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between spoonfuls.

    Bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes, or until they are crisp at the edges and gooey in the center. Pull the sheet from the oven and allow the cookies to rest for 1 minute, then carefully, using a wide metal spatula, transfer them to racks to cool to room temperature.

    Repeat with the remainder of the dough, cooling the baking sheets between batches.

    Gingerbread to get me through.

    I’ve been bedridden since Monday and probably will have to stay put for another day or two—I had another epidural steroid shot this week and man, oh, man I do not fare well with those shots.  I can’t stand up straight, can’t lie anyways but flat on my back, and certainly can’t cook.

    I’m thankful, however, for a few things that are getting me through it all: Jimmy has been wonderful–waiting on me hand and foot.  And to stop from being insanely bored, I spent a lot of time futzing around with the HTML of the site and am quite pleased with the new Caviar and Codfish layout (please let me know what you think!).  Then there’s the handful of recipe posts that I’ve got sitting on the back burner, just waiting to be written and the photos to be uploaded.  These posts (along-with a few Tivo’d cooking shows—Jamie at Home, Mexico: One Plate at a Time—that I haven’t had the time to watch until now) should keep me busy.  And finally, there’s gingerbread.  I knew that after my shot, the chances of being laid out were pretty great, so I made sure to bake something this weekend.  And something is right.  This gingerbread is warm, spicy, and not too sweet—the perfect treat to get me through.

    While this gingerbread is certainly healing, I can also imagine it for a sophisticated tea-party treat.  Less sweet than your holiday gingerbread, using only a small amount of brown sugar and molasses, this cake focuses more on buttery moistness and its dominating fresh ginger flavor. The pear to use in this cake should be firm but fragrant, so it keeps its shape while baking but also has a sweet pear taste.  Pair it with a nice oolong, break out your good tea set, and you’ve got the blueprint for a perfect, breezy autumn afternoon.

    Dark Gingerbread Pear Cake

    Makes one 9-in cake//from Gourmet, October ’08

    Anyone notice the picture of this cake in Gourment Magazine?  It was a flat cake with the pear bits on the bottom – not how the cake comes out when made according to the magazine’s directions.  What’s up with that?  Am I missing something?

    • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
    • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1 stick unsalted butter
    • 1/4 cup water
    • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
    • 1/2 cup molasses (not robust or blackstrap)
    • 3 large eggs
    • 1/4 cup grated peeled ginger
    • 1 Bosc pear

    Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Butter and flour a 9-inch cake pan, knocking out excess. Whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, and salt. Melt butter with water.

    Beat together brown sugar and molasses with an electric mixer until combined. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well. Beat in flour mixture at low speed until just combined. Add butter mixture and ginger, beating just until smooth. Pour into cake pan.

    Peel pear and cut into 3/4-inch pieces. Scatter over batter. Bake until a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Cool slightly.