snickerdoodlesEvery year, when the Christmas baking begins a few days after Thanksgiving,  these are the first cookies I make.  This is first, because they’re easy.  It’s the first dip of my toe into the long baking season. Later,  I will make the bon bons, the bars, homemade caramel and meringue, the six step cookies and the ones that keep me up til 2 in the morning.  And by the week before Christmas,  I will have a small meltdown and swear I won’t do this again next year. (And then there was the year all the cookie boxes fell out the back of the car and spilled all over the road.  But I’m still not ready to talk about that).  But tonight, I start easy.

The other reason I make these first is that the oven makes the kitchen toasty, and the whole house smells like cinnamon and butter.  There is even snow falling outside my window.  It’s the perfect start to the season.

snickerdoodles

Ingredients

  • 2 & 3/4 c. unbleached all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 c.(8 tbl. or one stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 c. vegetable shortening
  • 1 1/2 c. sugar, plus 2 tbl.
  • 1 tbl. ground cinnamon
  • 2 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 400°.  Sift flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter, shortening, and 1 1/2 cups sugar together on medium speed until light and fluffy.   Add eggs, one a time(break egg into a measuring cup and then add so you don’t risk getting shells in your batter). Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then return to medium speed.  Add the flour mixture slowly, beat to combine.  Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, then mix again to make sure it is all combined.

In a small bowl, whisk together cinnamon and remaining sugar. Roll small balls of dough, about 1 ounce or the size of a ping pong ball.  Space out cookies about 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.  Once the sheet is full, roll each cookie in the cinnamon sugar and return to sheet.(it’s less messy this way).  Flatten cookies slightly (I use the bumpy end of a meat hammer to give them some texture). Bake cookies 8-10 minutes until cracked on top.

Cool cookies on baking sheet on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then transfer cookies to wire rack to cool completely.

makes slightly less than 4 dozen cookies.

*if baking ahead for Christmas, once they have cooled completely, freeze them in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Then transfer to a seal-able freezer bag and freeze until ready to pack up or eat.

I made 3 batches. 123 cookies made, 1,877 more to go.

rosemary white bean dipIf you were to look inside my refrigerator, you would see an expanse of round black takeout containers.  Ironically, everything in them is homemade.  Soup, pasta, sauces, whole dinner leftovers ready to reheat.  If I cook, I cook in bulk.  And what you will always find, if you shuffle those containers around enough, is dip.

Dip is perhaps the perfect food to always have on hand. It’s a  snack, a quick meal, something to serve to the unexpected drop by guest(which I love, keep doing it!).  It can be low carb if you eat it with cut up veggies, or indulgent with toasted baguette.  It’s high protein and generally healthy(unless you make your dip with sour cream and powdered salad dressing.  In which case, definitely read on).

While most of the time, the dip in question in my fridge is hummus,  occasionally I want something with a bit more flair.  That’s when I make this.  Savory, sophisticated, and robust,  it gets rave reviews from everyone I make it for, and takes about 10 minutes to make(once you’ve pre-soaked your beans).

Rosemary white bean dip

Ingredients

  • 2 cups pre-soaked small white beans*
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 3 tbl. lemon juice
  • 2 tbl. red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tsp. fresh rosemary, finely minced
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • fresh ground pepper

Combine garlic, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, rosemary, salt and pepper(i do about 5 cranks on my pepper mill). Add beans and process for 5 minutes, trickling in the olive oil after the first minute.  If consistency is not smooth enough, add water 1 ounce at a time while machine is running until  smooth.

*if pressed for time, you can make this with canned beans.  the flavor will suffer a bit, but will still be tasty.  just make sure to thoroughly rinse your beans and lay them on a paper towel to dry.

peanut butter mousse pie topped with chocolate ganacheWhen I think of pie, I think of summer.  Fruit, cups of tea, fragile maiden aunts with a rolling pin…There is something decidedly feminine about pie.  Never mind apple pie, which you shouldn’t even try to make until fall.

So if peach pie is summer, and apple pie is fall, then this pie is winter. There is nothing dainty about it.  In France, it’s name would start with Le.  This is a take no prisoners, get out your big girl pants kind of pie. Think of it like a giant peanut butter cup, but richer, creamier, with a thick layer of chocolate and pie crust. This was my contribution to Thanksgiving this year, and people groaned.( I admit, part of my passion for baking is the adulation).  You could seduce someone with this pie.  But only give them one piece, or don’t blame me if they fall asleep on you.


peanut butter mousse pie topped with chocolate ganache

adapted from epicurious

ingredients

for the mousse:

  • 6 oz. peanut butter chips
  • 2 tbl. creamy peanut butter
  • 1 3/4 c. heavy cream
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 tbl. confectioner’s sugar

for the ganache:

  • 1/2 c. heavy cream
  • 5 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped

for the crust:

adapted from America’s test kitchen via serious eats
  • 1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tbl. sugar
  • 3/4 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into bits
  • 1/4 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces
  • 1/8 (1 oz.) cup cold vodka
  • 1/8 (1 oz.) cup cold water

First, make your pie dough.* Put your cut up butter, shortening, vodka and water in the freezer(separately) for a 5-10 minutes.  While it’s chilling, combine 3/4 cup of flour and salt in a food processor.  When shortening and butter are very firm but not frozen, add to flour mixture and process until all the flour is coated and you see small clumps. Scrape down the sides, and then add the remaining flour. Pulse 4 to 6 times until incorporated. Put dough into medium bowl, and sprinkle the vodka and water over it.  Use a spatula to fold the liquid in.  Stop when it is just combined.  Form into a ball, wrap in plastic, and flatten into a disc.  Chill until cold, but still workable, about 45 minutes. Now, preheat your oven to 350°.

When dough is ready, roll out on a well floured surface(flour your rolling pin, too) and place in a shallow pie plate.  Make sure it is firm against the sides.  Trim and decorate your edges. Line the inside of the shell with aluminum foil and fill with dried beans or pie weights.  Make sure to cover the edges.  Bake at 350° for 30 minutes.  Remove foil and weights and bake another 10-12 minutes until crust is golden brown. Take out of oven and cool on a wire rack.

To make peanut butter filling:

Combine peanut butters chips and 3/4 cup heavy cream in a glass bowl and heat over a double boiler until just melted, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat, and whisk in the peanut butter and vanilla.  Let cool to lukewarm.

Meanwhile, in an electric mixer, whip remaining 1 cup heavy cream and sugar until soft peaks begin to form.  Fold into peanut butter mixture.  Pour into cooled pie crust, smooth the top and chill until firm, at least one hour.

To make the ganache:

Boil the heavy cream and remove from heat.  Add chopped chocolate to the cream and stir until smooth.  Let cool to room temperature, then pour on top of mousse and return to fridge to set, about 1/2 hour.

Take pie out the refrigerator 1/2 before serving or serve cold.

*You can use your own recipe here if you prefer.  But if you haven’t tried this ingenious recipe from Chris Kimball yet, give it a try.  It’s very easy to work with, and when baked, the vodka evaporates, leaving you with a buttery, flaky crust.


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