Spring-y lemon ricotta cookies

I think I may be one of the only people who can somehow connect these light, airy, spring-y (seasonally AND in texture) cookies to something you would put on a Christmas cookie platter.  But these little, lemony mouthfuls work all year round, as far as I’m concerned.  Swap the lemon for meyer lemon or grapefruit!  Add a drop of green food coloring to the glaze for your St. Paddy’s Day fete!  Add festive sprinkles!

These cookies are so good and so versatile that they cannot be appropriately dubbed for “springtime” only.  However, they do come to mind as appropriate for all events spring-y: mother’s day tea, long awaited al fresco dining (get your grills out this weekend, if you haven’t already!), wedding and baby showers…which brings me to the baby.  I guess it’s official, now that we’re well into Month 7.  Coming this July!

I’m going to blame this bambino for a serious change in my normal cooking and eating patterns.  Aside from my clear interest in baking and sweets, my desire to cook and assemble meals has significantly decreased in the past couple of months (is this normal?), and of course I haven’t been enjoying cheese, cider, wine, and beer at my usual clip.  I guess my efforts have been instead focused on all things baking.  Never one to skip meals, or be all that interested in dessert, I found myself (particularly in the first couple of trimesters) forgoing dinner for cereal, compulsively baking sweet breads and muffins for my AM fix, and randomly baking cakes and polishing them off with nary a slice to spare for Dane.

Even though I’m starting to cook like my old self again and have some Nantucket scallops and mango slaw planned for tonight, as we travel through trimester numero 3, be sure that dessert is never far away.

Lemon ricotta cookies (from Giada DeLaurentiis)  Makes roughly 40

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 stick unsalted butter, softened

2 cups sugar

2 eggs

1 (15-ounce) container whole milk ricotta cheese

3 tablespoons lemon juice

1 lemon, zested

Glaze:

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

3 tablespoons lemon juice

1 lemon, zested

Preheat the oven to 375. In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In the large bowl combine the butter and the sugar. Using an electric mixer beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating until incorporated. Add the ricotta cheese, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Beat to combine. Stir in the dry ingredients.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silpat liners. Spoon the dough (about 2 tablespoons for each cookie) onto the baking sheets. Bake for 15 minutes, until slightly golden at the edges. Remove from the oven and let the cookies rest on the baking sheet for 20 minutes.

Combine the powdered sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest in a small bowl and stir until smooth. Spoon about 1/2-teaspoon onto each cookie and use the back of the spoon to gently spread. Let the glaze harden for about 2 hours.

Posted in baby, baking, cookies, dessert | 1 Comment

Cardamom bread

Even though it has been well over a month since Christmas and people have been most recently caught up in Superbowl wings, nachos, and chili, I’m still thinking about one food item from Christmas: cardamom bread.  I think I had four slices in one sitting.

Most likely, my first experience with this special spice was when I made cardamom coffee cake in 6th grade for a food heritage event at school.  Like so many fellow classmates, I am predominantly of Irish descent and figured that everyone would bring Irish Soda Bread or a boiled dinner as their dish.  Despite being fervently proud of my Irish heritage, I wanted to make something more unusual, so I turned to my 1/8 Swedish heritage for inspiration.  Mom helped me make my father’s mother’s Swedish Coffee Cake (this is what Grammy called it) in honor of her father, who arrived in the United States via Stockholm in the early part of the 20th century.

I find it fascinating that cardamom, in addition to being one of the world’s most expensive spices, is predominant in two food cultures that couldn’t be more dissimilar, Scandinavian and Indian.  How did that happen?  I always think of cardamom as that sweet, woodsy scent in chai tea and of course, in sweet breakfast breads and coffee cakes.  It has similar qualities to nutmeg, and is frequently used in both sweet and savory cooking.

On December 26, we sat down to breakfast of local scrambled eggs, famous bacon from Groton’s own Blood Farm, and lightly tasted cardamom bread my mom picked up somewhere in her travels.  Forget the bacon and eggs, I kept toasting more slices and slathering on the butter.  Almost resembling a braided challah bread, this loaf was the perfect balance of cardamom’s ethereal flavor and a slight sweetness that once toasted, ever so slightly, was perfection.

Next time I make this bread, I plan to increase the amount of sugar by at least 1/4 cup and use coarser sugar to sprinkle on the top.  Need I even mention how good this would be as French toast?

Cardamom breakfast bread adapted from cooks.com (makes two large loaves)

2 packages yeast

1/2 lb. butter (2 sticks)

3/4 cup sugar (note: I prefer a slightly sweeter dough)

1 tsp. salt

8 cups flour (note: I ended up using more like 7 cups)

1 tsp. ground cardamom

1 egg

2 cups milk

poppy seeds for sprinkling on top

1/2 cup warm water

Scald milk and melt sticks of butter into milk.  Set aside, cooling to lukewarm.  Dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup of warm water (110-115 degrees) and after a few minutes, add to lukewarm milk and butter mixture.  Add cardamom, sugar, egg, salt, and 4 cups of flour, mixing well.  Gradually add 3-4 cups more of flour, kneading until dough comes together.  Set aside, cover with a towel, and let double in size (for about 40 minutes).

Knead again and cut dough in half.  Cut each half into three pieces.  Shape into long round pieces and braid (I find it best to roll out the pieces, let rest a few minutes, and then go back to braid).  Let braided loaf raise a second time for two hours on baking sheet.  Preheat oven to 350 and brush with egg or milk and sprinkle with sugar and poppy seeds.  Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a thermometer reads 190 degrees F.

Note: I’ve found with breads and yeast doughs that if they act tough or too springy to shape, just let them rest for a few minutes to relax the gluten before rolling or shaping.

Posted in bread, breakfast | 1 Comment

Orange chocolate chip pound cake

I can’t stop baking.  Be it a silent rebellion against January detoxing and dieting or a craving for winter comfort (snow or no snow, it is still January), the flurry of flour and sugar has not subsided in my kitchen since Christmas.

 

Luckily, I had a good excuse last week for orange chocolate chip pound cake.  Visiting a friend with a new baby calls for something sweet and easy to serve.  Influenced by all the fabulous citrus available, I used slightly tangy, warmly colored Cara Cara oranges for this cake and rich sour cream to ensure a moist, crumb-y cake.  I’ve already mentioned how I love desserts that work well not only after a meal, but with coffee or breakfast and this would beat toast any day with my morning Joe.

Orange chocolate chip pound cake (slightly adapted from Food.com)

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar

2 large eggs

1/2 cup sour cream

1 tbsp. grated orange zest

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°.  Grease the inside of a 9 x5 inch loaf pan and dust with flour.  Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl.

In another large bowl, combine the butter and brown sugar; cream with an electric mixer on med-high speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice as necessary.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition.  Beat in the sour cream; stir in the orange zest and vanilla.  With the mixer on low, add flour mixture 1/2 cup at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl a few times as necessary.

After the last addition, mix for 30 seconds on medium speed; stir in the chocolate chips.  Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a rubber spatula.  Bake until the cake is golden brown and a pick comes out clean, 50-55 minutes.  Let the cake cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, invert it onto a wire rack, and then turn it right side up on a rack to cool completely.

Posted in cake, chocolate, dessert, oranges | 2 Comments

Welcome 2012: creamy potato leek soup

I have to say that I completely concur with Ms. Nigella Lawson in that I don’t want to listen to people go on about detoxing and dieting.  Morning television, magazines, advertisements–I’m tuning them all out.  Haven’t we learned yet that new years’ resolutions to drop the pounds and January crash dieting simply don’t last?

After over a month of holiday indulgences, while I find it completely normal to gravitate towards lighter, nutrition-packed fare, I also don’t feel the need to shove it down the throats of my husband or readers.  I believe that you crave what your body needs, which over the last two days has been nothing but hot beverages and simple, flavorful soups.  In fact, you couldn’t have paid me to eat a cold salad during the last two days of sub-zero temperatures.  I’ve been rushing Bean home from the dog park for steaming bowls of soup (yes, with heavy cream), but have also been loving my grapefruit and Cara Cara oranges.  I still can’t decide if we are going to have this leftover potato leek soup again tonight or if I should freeze it and go for another (butternut squash?  broccoli and spinach?), but either way it will be warm, satisfying, and delicious.

Creamy potato leek soup (serves 4-6)

4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 tbsp butter

4 leeks, cleaned well and julienned (white parts only)

5 peeled and medium dice potatoes (I like Yukon Gold)

2 bay leaves

3 cups chicken stock

1 cup dry white wine

1 cup heavy cream (can adjust to preference)

salt and pepper

In a saucepot over medium heat, melt the butter and olive oil, add the leeks and bay leaves, and sweat gently for 10-15 minutes, until leeks are soft but not brown.  Add potatoes, stock, wine, and bring to a boil.  Cook until potatoes are very soft.  Remove bay leaves.  Off the heat, use an immersion blender to puree soup.  You may also use a regular blender, carefully ladling the hot soup into the blender in batches until smooth.  Add cream to desired consistency, and season generously with salt and pepper.

Posted in soup, winter | 1 Comment

The 12 days of Christmas: peppermint meringues

With every holiday/special occasion/festive time of year, I tend to stress out attempting to make every recipe I see in blogs and magazines.  By the time summer has come and gone, I feel guilty that I missed my window to use those beautiful, local cranberry beans in a salad I read about, or I was too busy scarfing my raspberries on the way home from the market to make a proper fruit tart at home.  Thanksgiving is tough because (thankfully?) I don’t have to host (yet), but I see so many delicious variations of the classics that I would love to try.  When this December’s Bon Appetit arrived however, I was certain I would make the peppermint meringues on the cover.

My grandmother used to make chocolate chip meringues for every holiday.  She never strayed from her standard white meringues with chocolate chips, but with her love for Brigham’s peppermint stick ice cream, I’m sure she would appreciate these as well.  Actually, I like a bit of crunch in meringues, and plan to make these again using white chocolate chips.

Peppermint meringues (from Bon Appetit, December 2011)

3 large egg whites, room temperature

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

1/3 cup sugar

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1/8 teaspoon peppermint extract

12 drops red food coloring

Preheat oven to 200°.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Using an electric mixer, beat egg whites and salt on medium-high speed until white and foamy, about 1 minute.  With mixer running, gradually add sugar in 3 additions beating for 2 minutes between each addition.  Beat until firm peaks form, about 2 minutes longer.  Add powdered sugar and peppermint extract;  beat to blend, about 1 minute.

Dot coloring over surface of meringue; do not stir (the coloring will form swirls when piped).  Spoon meringue into a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2″ tip.  Twist top; pipe 1″ rounds onto prepared sheet,  spacing 1″ apart [note: I forewent the pastry bag and instead spooned the meringue onto the baking sheet in decorative pillows].

Bake meringues until dry, about 2 1/2 hours.  Let cool completely, about 1 hour (meringues will crisp as they cool).  Can be made 2 days ahead.  Store airtight at room temperature between sheets of parchment or waxed paper.

Posted in Christmas, dessert | Leave a comment

The 12 days of Christmas: crabbies

You know that if I repeat a recipe here on Eating the Rind, it must be serious.  Attempting the “12 days of Christmas” series again this year is challenging due to a generally chaotic time of year, but also because I let loose some of my family’s greatest hits in last year’s blogs: crème de menthe brownies, caramel pecan sauce, chocolate bark.  This year I need to test, eat, and document new holiday recipes worth sharing.  However, one holiday standby not only deserves repeating, but its own entry.

Crabbies are not particularly chic (maybe in the 70’s?) and definitely not challenging from a cook’s standpoint.  But for me, they are the ultimate holiday appetizer.  Fake processed cheese and all.  Also, you can make dozens and dozens (trust me, you will blow through these at a party) and keep them in the freezer.  I make so many that I run out of freezer space around Christmas.  I’m telling you, I’ve yet to meet a person who didn’t return to the platter incredulous at the addictive power of the crabbie.

Crabbies

1 5 oz. jar Old English processed cheese

1 6 oz. can crabmeat

1 stick unsalted butter

1/4 tsp. garlic powder

1/4 tsp. salt

6 English muffins, halved

Let cheese and butter stand at room temperature until soft.  Mix first five ingredients until well-blended.  Spread mixture onto 12 muffin halves and place halves on a cookie sheet and freeze uncovered for 15 minutes.  Remove from freezer, and cut each half into 8 wedges (or 6 if your guests are greedy).  Broil until golden.

Note: I almost never make these directly before serving because they freeze so well and still only require 20ish minutes under the broiler or in a 350 oven.

Posted in appetizers, Christmas, entertaining | 5 Comments

The 12 days of Christmas: meyer lemon olive oil cake with cranberries

And just like that, another Christmas season is upon us. 

Kind of hard to believe, especially as the temperature in Boston is 61°F today.  December 6.  61 degrees. 

As much as I yearn for cooler weather and softly falling flakes to inspire a day of holiday baking and blogging, I couldn’t wait any longer to make this cake (plus, the lemons were pushing their limits in the fruit bowl).  I absolutely love cakes like this that work both for dessert and with morning coffee.  Particularly around the holidays, with people dropping by and pressure to constantly feed and entertain, I think I will make this one of my new holiday standbys.  Added bonus–no mixer or beaters required! 

I adore meyer lemons.  They taste like a cross between a lemon and a clementine, and have an incredibly heady, herbaceous scent that is equally fantastic in seafood and savory dishes (risotto, pastas, stuffed in the cavity of a roast chicken) as it is in baked goods.  Although they aren’t available all year round, you could easily substitute regular lemons or oranges in this recipe.  This is not a super sweet cake, but a simple icing of meyer lemon juice and powdered sugar (as suggested in the original recipe) would dress up the cake for dessert.  I knew I would most likely be eating this all week for breakfast, so I held off on the extra sugar (this season is a marathon, not a sprint, after all).

Meyer lemon olive oil cake with cranberries (adapted from healthygreenkitchen.com)

1 1/2 cups flour                                                                                                                                    2 teaspoons baking powder                                                                                                        pinch of sea salt              
2 teaspoons meyer lemon zest
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil                                                                                                             1 cup dried cranberries

Syrup:                                                                                                                                                       1/4 cup powdered sugar                                                                                                               1/4 cup meyer lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9 inch springform pan with olive oil, and flour the bottom of the pan. In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the lemon zest and cranberries and mix well.

In a large bowl, combine the yogurt, sugar, eggs and olive oil. Whisk well to combine. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and whisk again to combine

Pour into the prepared pan and bake for about 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the cake for 15 minutes and then remove the sides of the pan. Prick the cake all over with a fork, whisk the syrup ingredients together, and then drizzle the syrup all over the cake. The syrup will seep into all those fork holes you just made, infusing moisture and flavor.  Let cool and the syrup set slightly before serving.

Posted in cake, Christmas, cranberry, dessert | 1 Comment