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Saturday
Jan022010

French Connection: Croissant French Toast at Doug Fir Lounge, Portland OR

Croissant French Toast
We're going to talk about a very special sort of French toast from the Doug Fir Lounge in Portland, Oregon right now.

Entitled "The French Connection", the menu describes the item thusly: "two croissants, battered with egg, cinnamon and orange zest, served with maple or blueberry syrup".

Now, in case the description didn't get the point across, I made a venn diagram for you:
Pleasuretown
This is possibly the most wonderful way to bring day-old croissants back to life that I have ever seen. These compressed crescents contained rich, buttery flavor in every bite, and the orange zest worked beautifully to add a little tartness to slightly counter the sweetness.

The final word? I used to think that chocolate croissants were the epicenter of croissant awesome, but now I am not so sure.

"The French Connection" is available at the Doug Fir Lounge, 830 E. Burnside, Portland, OR; online at dougfirlounge.com.

Doug Fir on Urbanspoon

Thursday
Dec312009

Sweet Love: A Dessert Crush on The Night Kitchen, Seattle

 

Like, OMG. There are so many reasons to love the very idea of newly-opened The Night Kitchen in Seattle. There's the fact that they are, literally, a night kitchen--their hours are 6 p.m. - 9 a.m. (closed Monday night - Tues. morning). There's the fact that they're serving up creative, gourmet yet homey dishes--at very affordable prices.

 

But most imporantly, there's the dessert menu. Since none of the Cake Gumshoes have yet visited, for now let's just review the dessert list ("served anytime") and dream (copied directly from their site):

Cassis Bombe
Cassis mousse, Fresh berries, Cassis glaze, Chocolate financier sponge, Dark chocolate fan

Butter Pecan Ice Cream
Candied pecan, Maker's Mark Butter Caramel

Key Lime Pie
Buttery graham crust, Key Lime custard, Lime zest chantilly

Apple and Egg Nog Cheesecake
Buttery graham crust, Egg nog and neufchatel custard, Spiced poached braeburn apple (with optional Maker's Mark Butter Caramel)

Matcha Cream Puff
Pate a choux, Matcha mousseline, Matcha and powder sugar sprinkle

Dark Chocolate Truffle Flight
Valrhona 72% Guanaja, Shredded Coconut, Hazelnut Brittle, Demarara Sugar, White and Black Sesame, Cocoa Powder

Decadent Chocolate Layer Cake
Chocolate sponge, Smooth chocolate ganache, Chocolate chantilly, Dark chocolate curls

Miniature Torte Noisette
Printed Joconde sponge, Italian meringue swirl, Hazelnut Mousse, Hazelnut Brittle

What are you waiting for? Get yourself to The Night Kitchen after dark!

The Night Kitchen, 216 Stewart St., Seattle, WA; online at nightkitchenseattle.com

Wednesday
Dec302009

To the Nines: CakeSpy's Sweetest Moments of 2009

Goodbye, 2009!

Dear 2009,

You've been, like, the sweetest year ever! We've had some sugar-filled fun times together, ranging from Renegade Cake Parties to delicious trompe l'oeil treats. But before we trade you in for a cake-filled 2010, let's take a sugary stroll down memory lane to recall some of the most delicious CakeSpy experiences of the past year. Truly, 2009, you are 2 GOOD + 2 B  = 4 GOTTEN!

Love,
CakeSpy

Click here to to see the full list!

Taking it to the Sweet
The streets of Seattle got a lot sweeter with this feel-good cupcake art installation;

Petites Bouchees
Petites Bouchées Macarons induced a serious mac attack;

Croissants
We delved into the secret lives of bakers...

Cookie Sandwich
A car crashed into CakeSpy headquarters, but we got cookies out of the deal;

Rolling Scones
Sweets rocked with a collection of rock n roll-inspired cakes and pastries;

Cake from Freeds in Las Vegas, C/O Not Martha
We learned how to successfully elope to Las Vegas and have our wedding cake too;

Red Velvet Cake from Kingfish Cafe, Seattle
The Red Velvet Cake from Kingfish Cafe was indeed legendary (and so was the Hummingbird Cake!)

S'moreos!
We created something so beautiful, the world let out a collective sigh of awe and longing: the S'moreo;

"Rocky Rose" ice cream
Poppy pastry chef Dana Cree's desserts continued to amaze;

Houdini Bars
We escaped from cake mix mediocrity with the Cake Mix Doctor's Houdini Bar recipe;

Grilled Cheesecake Sandwich
Grilled cheesecake sandwich. Need I say more?

Huckleberry bar
A blissful huckleberry bar cookie was discovered at a Montana rest stop;

Little Debbie Death Match
We, like, totally killed some Little Debbie Cakes;

Peanut Butter and Jelly Bar, Ciao for Now, NYC
Ciao For Now offered up an absolutely tantalizing peanut butter and jelly bar;

Halloween Treats!
Some said these babies were too sweet, but I said "more for me" and finished the entire pan...

Colossal Crumb Cake
The only regret about the colossal crumb cake from Ocean Grove Bake Shop is that it had to end;

Cranberry walnut bar, Alliance Bakery, Chicago
At the Alliance Bakery in Chicago, the Cranberry Walnut Bar offered sweet, tart, and totally rich flavor;

Pumpkin Banana Mousse Tart with homemade brandy whipped cream
Combining Ina Garten and Tom Douglas recipes resulted in awesomeness (oh, and pie) squared;

Piggie loves Apple Pie Bars
Caramel apple pie bars for those who don't like fruit to invade on their streusel-and-crust experience;

Cookie Cake Pie
And of course, who could forget the #1 most popular CakeSpy post of 2009--we all got a little fatter (but happier too) with the advent of the Age of the Cookie Cake Pie.

Monday
Dec282009

Heaven is a Place on Earth: Heaven On Earth Restaurant and Bakery, OR



We all feel regret sometimes, and for this Cake Gumshoe, it hit bigtime when we failed to stop at Heaven on Earth Restaurant and Bakery in Oregon.

Traveling along I-5 in Oregon, we only noticed the sign after we flew by: "Home of the world famous cinnamon rolls".

In retrospect, it was probably a big mistake to not have turned around. Why?


For one, the cinnamon rolls. Available in traditional iced as well as caramel pecan variations, these look like a totally sweet way to carb-o-load for your next sporting event (or, you know, your next...workday). Yes.

But they also have other sweetness on the menu, which includes oh, let's see...turnovers, whole pies (in apple, marionberry, pumpkin, pecan, and cherry), carrot cake, chocolate cake, chocolate mint cake, German chocolate cake, pineapple upside down cake, coffee cake, cookies, macaroons, peanut brittle, and Western toffee. Not to sound obsessed or anything.

Oh well. There's always next time, right?

Heaven On Earth Restaurant and Bakery, 703 Quines Creek, Azalea, Oregon 97410; online at heavenonearthrestaurant.com.

Monday
Dec282009

Stick It: Chocolate Covered Brownie on a Stick from Hot Cookie, San Francisco

Brownie on a Stick, Hot Cookie, SF

What food isn't enhanced by being served on a stick?

While you mull over that question for the ages, let me present the most delicious thing consumed by a Cake Gumshoe recently: the chocolate covered brownie on a stick from Hot Cookie in the Castro neighborhood of San Francisco.
Brownie on a Stick, Hot Cookie, SF
When you enter Hot Cookie, you'll notice a few things. First, the attractive and well-groomed fellas that man the store do not look like they eat many cookies. However, they are awfully friendly and cute, and serve them up with a sweet sense of humor--in addition to the expected chocolate chip, oatmeal, and peanut butter varieties, they also have a variety of bar cookies, including erotic varieties (which prompted one CitySearch reviewer to aptly dub it "sort of a younger, borderline lewd Mrs. Field's"), and--the star of this writeup--the chocolate covered brownie on a stick.

Undoubtedly you'll take on the task of eating this sweet treat already liking it (it is on a stick, after all), but happily, you'll continue to enjoy it as the chocolatey taste hits. The chocolate coating is simply ingenious--not only does it ensure that the brownie stays planted on the popsicle stick, but it also keeps the brownie moist and offers an added hit of decadence. The brownie itself is fudgy and very chocolatey, not necessarily subtle, but around bite three or four you might just find yourself not caring about that very much.

(CakeSpy Note: Oh, and if you happen to have a four-legged friend with you, we found that the nearby Best in Show had a great variety of pup-cakes and treats).

Hot Cookie, 407 Castro Street, San Francisco, CA; (415) 621-2350‎.

Hot Cookie on Urbanspoon

Friday
Dec252009

Pork Roll: Bacon Cinnamon Rolls By Rainy Day Gal

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CakeSpy Note: This is a guest post from Rainy Day Gal (a.k.a. Jenny Miller), a fellow Seattle blogger with a major sweet tooth. Her current endeavor is "The 12 Days of Bakemas"--12 days, 12 recipes, and 12 million dirty dishes."

Yeah, you heard me.

You're not going to believe these. And you're really not going to
believe how ridiculously easy they are to make. My nine-month old could
bake em.

You need two ingredients:

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1. Bacon.

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2. Cinnamon rolls. I swear by these "Grands" Cinnabon doodleybobs.

Of course, if you're feeling ambitious, you could always make your
own
. But if you're exhausted, have been picking up Cheerios off the
floor for two months, and have no energy to shower let alone make your own
dang cinnamon rolls, stick with me.

Click here for more!

IMGP1183

First, fry up that bacon. Not all the way--give it sort of a half-fry. You
don't want to make it too crunchy because it'll snap when you try to roll
it up into those cinnamonny buns. Plus, it'll cook more in le oven.

IMGP1184

Let it drain on paper towels. For big cinnamon rolls, you'll need two
slices of bacon per roll. For the tiny guys, you just need one.

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Pop that can. How I looove that sound. Separate the rolls.

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Unroll them on a piece of parchment paper or a big ol' cutting board.

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Lay the bacon strips across the dough....

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...roll 'em up...

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...lay them in a greased pan and bake according to package directions.

Sit by the oven and twiddle your thumbs.

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Ding! They're done!

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Frost 'em.

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Smell 'em.

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Ready?

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Set?

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SWOON.

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I think these things have to qualify as a religious experience. Someone
call the Vatican.

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And it's a crime how easy they are to make. Something this good you should
have to work for, right?

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Wrong.

Make these Christmas morning. Thank me later.

Happy 6th Day of Bakemas!

-RDG

Bacon Cinnamon Rolls

  1. Buy bacon.
  2. Buy cinnamon rolls.
  3. Cook bacon.
  4. Roll bacon into cinnamon rolls.
  5. Bake cinnamon rolls.
  6. Frost cinnamon rolls.
  7. Eat cinnamon rolls.
  8. Repeat.

Wednesday
Dec232009

Use Your Eggnoggin: Eggnog Nanaimo Bars For Serious Eats

Eggnog nanaimo bars
Anyone who has ever had a Nanaimo bar knows they are a singular sensation of a treat: unforgivingly rich, unbelievably indulgent, and completely irresistible.

And in celebration of the holidays, I'd like to present a version that is, if possible, even more over-the-top decadent: the Holiday Eggnog Nanaimo Bar. This variation is heaped with serious holiday cheer including a spicy, nutty white chocolate top layer and a rich, creamy, eggnog-and-booze-infused middle layer.

These bars are truly the stuff that dreams (and New Year's resolutions) are made of: your arteries may say no, but you'll find it hard to stop saying yes.

For the full post and recipe, check out Serious Eats!

Wednesday
Dec232009

America the Sweet: The First Published Christmas Cookie Recipe in America

Christmas cookies
Christmas is rich in tradition--and equally rich in cookies (hooray!). But have you ever paused to wonder what the cookie selection might have been like for our ancestors?

Well, in case you had been curious, here is a recipe from what is largely considered America's first cookbook (to clarify, the first cookbook featuring American food published in America--there had been other British books which had been released here previously), American Cookery by Amelia Simmons, which was published in 1796.

If these cookies sound more like hockey pucks than delicious treats to you, please, don't despair--after all, as Amelia advises that "if put in an earthen pot, and dry cellar, or damp room, they will be finer, softer and better when six months old." Whew!

Christmas Cookey

From American Cookery by Amelia Simmons, 1796

"To three pound of flour, sprinkle a tea cup of fine powdered coriander seed, rub in one pound of butter, and one and a half pound sugar, dissolve one teaspoonful of pearlash (a rising agent) in a tea cup of milk, knead all together well, roll three quarters of an inch thick, and cut or stamp into shape and slice you please, bake slowly fifteen or twenty minutes; tho' hard and dry at first, if put in an earthen pot, and dry cellar, or damp room, they will be finer, softer and better when six months old."

Tuesday
Dec222009

Babka's Your Uncle: A Carbohydratey Christmas Breakfast Idea from Rainy Day Gal

IMGP1310

CakeSpy Note: This is a guest post from Rainy Day Gal (a.k.a. Jenny Miller), a fellow Seattle blogger with a major sweet tooth. Her current endeavor is "The 12 Days of Bakemas"--12 days, 12 recipes, and 12 million dirty dishes."

Bab-what? Bab-who?

The word is Babka, my friends, and you should really get to know each other.

What is babka, you ask? It's an eastern European bread twisted and rolled up with chocolate and cinnamony goodness, topped off with a sprinkling of streusel.

Why is it called babka? Because it's darn fun to say. Or, as my other good friend Wikipedia informed me, it stems from the Polish noun "baba," meaning grandmother--so-named because of its resemblance to a grandmother.

Huh. I don't know about your grandmother, but mine is definitely twisted, stuffed with chocolate and perpetually covered in streusel. Quite a fitting name, I'd say.

Before we get going, I must say: of what I have made so far in this 12 days of Bakemas adventure, chocolate babka has been by far my favorite. And here are the reasons why:

1) The dough is soft and chewy like the inside of a cinnamon roll.

2) Said dough is covered in melted chocolate.

3) The streusel on top gives it a buttery, sugary crunch.

4) It's pretty and swirly and twisty.

5) It's fun to say. Babka. Baaaabka. You try.

Alright. Enough talkie talkie. Ready to do this thing?

Let's go.

(Click here for the full recipe and directions!)

You need flour. Bread flour and all-purpose, please.

Also snag some cocoa powder, salt, powdered sugar, granulated sugar, and cinnamon from your pantry.

You'll also need vanilla extract, 1 packet of dry active yeast, cooking spray, butter, one egg (yolk only), and 3/4 cup of 1% milk.

And finally, the star of the show: Chocolate. Semi-sweet, and 4 ounces of it.

Now, put on that apron (or as I like to call it, an "old college sweatshirt") and let's begin.

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Warm up the milk and pour it into the bowl of a stand mixer.

Add 1 teaspoon granulated sugar (make sure your camera is not in focus during this step: very important)...

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...and that packet-o-yeast. Turn on the mixer and blend until the yeast has dissolved. Let stand 5 minutes.

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Meanwhile, measure out 6 tablespoons of granulated sugar. Turns out it's about 1/3 cup. Throw in 1/4 teaspoon salt while you're at it.

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Add the sugar/salt mixture...

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...1 teaspoon vanilla extract...

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...and egg yolk. Give it a stir.

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Measure out 1/3 cup all-purpose flour and add 1 1/4 cups bread flour.

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Switch attachments to your dough hook, but not before pretending to be Captain Hook for 4 minutes.

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Slowly add the flours while the mixer is running. Mix until a purdy dough begins to form.

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Now, soften 5 tablespoons of butter...

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...and add it to the dough. Mix until all of the buttah is incorporated.

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Turn the whole mess out onto a floured surface. Warning: it's a gonna be sticky. And greasy.

Keep 1/3 cup all-purpose flour right next to ya...

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...and knead for about 10 minutes, adding the flour a tablespoon at a time until it no longer sticks to your hands. The dough should be smooove and elastic.

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Spray a bowl (non-metal, please) with cooking spray, plop in that mound-o-dough, give it a flip to coat the whole durn thing with cooking spray, cover, and let rest in a warm place for about 1 1/2 hours (or until it's doubled in size).

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Meanwhile, grab that bee-youtiful chocolate.

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Give it a good chop...

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...and throw it in a bowl.

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Add 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, and 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder.

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Give it a good stir.

Alrighty. We've done the dough and the filling. Now let's prep the streusel.

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In a bowl, combine 1 tablespoon butter, one tablespoon flour, and one tablespoon powdered sugar.

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Mash it all up with a fork, and then stick it in the fridge until we're ready to use it.

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Finally, let's get our bread pan ready. Line the bottom with parchment paper, and then spray the whole dang thing with cooking spray.

Now would also be a good time to preheat your oven to 350°.

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Is your dough ready? If you're not sure, press two fingers into it. If the indentations stay put, it's good to go. If not, let it rise longer.

If it's ready, punch it down, re-cover, and let rest five minutes.

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Now then. Flip it out onto a floured surface and roll into a 15"x15" square.

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Spread out the filling on top of the dough, leaving a little room at the edges.

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Roll it up nice and tight, pinching the edges closed....

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...and give it a few good twists. That is what's going to make it all swirly and purdy.

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Squeeze it into your bread pan. If it looks like a snake, that's cool. It won't taste like one. I promise.

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Crumble the streusel on top, and stick this bad boy in the oven for 40 minutes, or until it sounds hollow when you tap the top.

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Or until it looks like this.

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Oh my.

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This is going to be gooood.

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Let it cool in the pan for a few minutes, then flip it out onto a wire rack to let cool completely. And by "completely," I mean as long as you can prevent yourself from ripping that sucker in half and inhaling the whole dang thing.

I think I lasted all of 7.5 minutes. I then cut out the middle piece (above) and scarfed it.

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Then I let the rest of the loaf cool like a good little gal.

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I must say, this stuff was delicious warm and cold. When it was warm, the chocolate was melty and gooey. But when it was cold, the chocolate had hardened and gave it delicious little rungs of texture.

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I'd love this bread warm on Christmas morning. Coffee, a warm, gooey slice of this chocolatey delight, and hanging out with my favorite peeps.

IMGP1312

Heavenly.

Happy 12 Days of Bakemas!

-RDG

Chocolate Babka Recipe

from Cooking Light


  •  Ingredients for dough

1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 package dry yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
3/4 cup warm 1% low-fat milk (105° to 110°)
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten
7.5 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 2/3 cups), divided
5.85 ounces bread flour (about 1 1/4 cups)
5 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces and softened
Cooking spray


  • Ingredients for Filling
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

  • Ingredients for streusel
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon butter, softened

  • Procedure

 

  1. Dissolve 1 teaspoon granulated sugar and yeast in warm milk in the bowl of a stand mixer; let stand 5 minutes. Stir in 6 tablespoons granulated sugar, vanilla extract, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and egg yolk. Weigh or lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Add 6 ounces (about 1 1/3 cups) all-purpose flour and bread flour to milk mixture; beat with dough hook attachment at medium speed until well blended (about 2 minutes). Add 5 tablespoons butter, beating until well blended. Scrape dough out onto a floured surface (dough will be very sticky). Knead until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes); add 1.5 ounces (about 1/3 cup) all-purpose flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands (dough will be very soft).
  2. Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 1 1/2 hours or until doubled in size. (Gently press two fingers into dough. If indentation remains, dough has risen enough.) Punch dough down; cover and let dough rest 5 minutes.
  3. Line the bottom of a 9 x 5?inch loaf pan with parchment paper; coat sides of pan with cooking spray.
  4. To prepare filling, combine 1/2 cup granulated sugar, cocoa, cinnamon, salt, and chocolate in a medium bowl; set aside.
  5. Place dough on a generously floured surface; roll dough out into a 16-inch square. Sprinkle filling over dough, leaving a 1/4-inch border around edges. Roll up dough tightly, jelly-roll fashion; pinch seam and ends to seal. Holding dough by ends, twist dough 4 times as if wringing out a towel. Fit dough into prepared pan. Cover and let rise 45 minutes or until doubled in size.
  6. Preheat oven to 350°.
  7. To prepare streusel, combine powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, and 1 tablespoon softened butter, stirring with a fork until mixture is crumbly; sprinkle streusel evenly over dough. Bake at 350° for 40 minutes or until loaf is browned on bottom and sounds hollow when tapped. Cool bread in pan 10 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pan. Cool bread completely on wire rack before slicing.

 

Sunday
Dec202009

Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: A Sweet Snowball Cookie Celebration

Let it Snow Confectioners' Sugar
Snowballs. Russian Tea Cakes. Greek Kourambiedes. Bullets. Mexican Wedding Cakes. Viennese Crescents. Moldy Mice. Armenian Sugar Cookies. What does this international sampler of cookies have in common? Quite a bit, it seems--they are just a few (I've counted over 20!) of the countless riffs on the same basic cookie, comprised of butter and (usually) ground nuts, a melt-in-your mouth treat which is liberally coated in confectioners' sugar and seems to be a mainstay in so many special occasions.
Cookie!
So what gives? I took it upon myself to learn more about this cookie, ultimately applying the knowledge in the sweetest way possible for the December Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24 project: by taste-testing seven different batches of these international treats with a group of friends and reporting not only on the intellectual findings, but dishing on the goods as well.

But first, a little background. What's up with this cookie? Foodtimeline.org offers up the 411:

According to several food history sources and cookbooks...these are a universal holiday cookie-type treat. This means this recipe is not necessarily connected to any one specific country. It is connected with the tradition of saving rich and expensive food (the richest butter, finest sugar, choicest nuts) for special occasions.
Of course, that having been said, the cookies do perhaps take their root from the Middle East:
Food historians trace the history of these cookies and cakes to Medieval Arab cuisine, which was rich in sugar. Small sugar cakes with nuts (most often almonds) and spices were known to these cooks and quickly adopted by the Europeans. This sweet culinary tradition was imported by the Moors to Spain, diffused and assimilated throughout Europe, then introduced to the New World by 16th century explorers. Sugar cookies, as we know them today, made their appearance in th 17th century. About sugar. Recipes called Mexican wedding cakes descend from this tradition. They first appear in American cookbooks in the 1950s.

See? I bet you're feeling smarter already. And now, Let it snow confectioners' sugar:


Snowballs

About the cookie: This is probably the most famous American version of the cookie--its name seems to stem from their appearance after being rolled in confectioners' sugar. The first mention I could find was a 1939 article in the Chicago Tribune, where it says "don't wait for signs of snow to make these frosty-looking snowball cookies, for they're good in any season". Regional variations will call for filberts, almonds, walnuts, or pecans.
Tasting notes: I made the standard-issue version not unlike the ones I grew up with. These ones, made with walnuts, tasted nostalgic, but didn't necessarily separate themselves from the crowd. But still--they were a delight to eat.

Snowball Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 cups sifted flour
  • 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1-1/2 cups chopped walnuts
  • 1-lb. confectioners sugar to roll cookies in
Directions
  1. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix butter with sugar until very light and fluffy. Mix in flour mixture. Stir in walnuts. Refrigerate until easy to handle.
  2. Make balls in the palm of your hand by tablespoons. Place on a lightly greased cookie sheet, and bake in a 350 degree F. oven until golden brown, being careful bottoms do not burn.
  3. Place confectioners sugar in a large bowl. Take cookies from oven and gently put into bowl. Carefully, they are hot, toss cookies in sugar until they are coated.
- - - - - - - - - - - -
Bullets of Sweetness

Bullets

About the cookie: These cookies are closely related to the snowball--in fact, I might even surmise that they are a regional version of them, based on the fact that some snowball recipes list a possible variation as using macadamia nuts. However, these ones intrigued me: in the leadup to the recipe, the writer notes that "when we were growing up, my sister Tammie rated these her favorite cookie".
Tasting Notes: Clearly sister Tammie knew what she was talking about. These cookies are the absolute lap of luxury. Flavorwise, they couldn't be more rich: the already buttery-tasting macadamia nuts pair perfectly with this buttery cookie, and they really do just crumble in your mouth. Yes, macadamias are expensive--but this one is worth the splurge. These were one of the top two cookies tasted.

Bullets Recipe

Adapted from Cookies by Natalie Hartanov Haughton

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup chopped macadamia nuts
  • confectioners' sugar
Directions
Preheat oven to 350. In a medium bowl, beat together butter, granulated sugar and vanilla until creamy. Add flour, beating until well blended. If necessary, work with fingers until dough holds together. Blend in nuts. Shape into one-inch balls. Place 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 15-17 minutes, or until bottoms are golden. Remove cookie sheets; cool on racks. After they have cooled for about 30 minutes, roll in confectioners' sugar, coating completely. Makes 30.
- - - - - - - - - - - -
Danny Takes a BiteKourambiedes (top right and bottom center)
Greek Kourambiedes (or Kourabiethes)

About the cookie: On Whipped, the site where I found this recipe, it says "in the bakeries of Greece, the Kourabiethes are piled up high and deep and look like a mound of little snowballs. My trusty, old-school Greek cookbook reads, 'Kourabiethes are the national cookies of the Greeks for Christmas and New Year’s Day.'
Tasting Notes: True to Whipped's word, these are truly "Greek little balls of heaven". The rosewater adds a certain je ne sais quoi to the cookies, giving them a unique flavor. I shaped some of these into crescents as well.

Greek Kourabiethes Recipe


Only slightly adapted from the recipe on Whipped


Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • about 2 cups of confectioners' sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 T brandy
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
  • rose water
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped almonds

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix butter and 1 cup sugar until very light and fluffy. Stir in egg yolk and brandy. Mix sifted flour and baking powder in a separate bowl. Mix in the flour and baking powder a little at a time until dough no longer sticks to your fingers. Mix  in almonds while mixing in flour, accomodating for the extra ingredient and not letting the cookies get too dry. Knead well until dough is smooth and can easily be rolled; shape into balls or crescents--follow your bliss. Place on parchment paper on a baking sheet. Bake for about 15-20 minutes or until very light brown. While still warm, brush very lightly with orange flower or rose water. Roll in confectioner’s sugar and set on a tray or plate. Use the remaining sugar to sift over top until well covered.
- - - - - - - - - - - -
Jasen Takes a Bite

Mexican Wedding Cakes


About the cookie: Per Foodtimeline.org,

The cookie is old, the name is new. Food historians place the first recipes named "Mexican wedding cakes" in the 1950s. Why the name? Our books and databases offer no explanations. Perhaps timing is everything? Culinary evidence confirms Mexican wedding cakes are almost identical to Russian Tea Cakes. During the 1950s and 1960s relations between Russia and the United States were strained. It is possible the Cold War provided the impetus for renaming this popular cookie. Coincidentally...this period saw the mainstreaming of TexMex cuisine into American culture.
Tasting Notes: What set these cookies apart was the addition of cinnamon--they added a spicy holiday flair to the cookies and really set them apart from the rest. As you can see by the photo, even pugs couldn't avoid the holiday charm of these cookies.

Mexican Wedding Cakes Recipe

Adapted from Epicurious

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup pecans, toasted, coarsely ground
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions
  1. Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until light and fluffy. Add 1/2 cup powdered sugar and vanilla; beat until well blended. Beat in flour, then pecans. Divide dough in half; form each half into ball. Wrap separately in plastic; chill until cold, about 30 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 350°F. Whisk remaining 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar and cinnamon in pie dish to blend. Set cinnamon sugar aside.
  3. Working with half of chilled dough, roll dough by 2 teaspoonfuls between palms into balls. Arrange balls on heavy large baking sheet, spacing 1/2 inch apart. Bake cookies until golden brown on bottom and just pale golden on top, about 18 minutes. Cool cookies 5 minutes on baking sheet. Gently toss warm cookies in cinnamon sugar to coat completely. Transfer coated cookies to rack and cool completely. Repeat procedure with remaining half of dough. (Cookies can be prepared 2 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature; reserve remaining cinnamon sugar.)
  4. Sift remaining cinnamon sugar over cookies and serve.

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Moldy Mice Cookies

Moldy Mice

About the cookie: This is a rich, buttery pecan cookie smothered in confectioners' sugar, which to the best of my knowledge first cropped up under this name in a 1950 Junior League cookbook entitled Charleston Receipts. What of the name? As you can read on Serious Eats (where you can also find the recipe) I have two theories: first, if you squint really hard at the cookies, they sort of resemble tiny mice covered with mold. Second--my favored theory--is that it is a clever deterrent technique dreamed up by a baker frustrated by their delectable morsels disappearing too quickly.
Tasting Notes: These rich, tender cookies were a big hit: toasting the pecans before baking really added something.

Moldy Mice Recipe 

You can find it on Serious Eats!

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Russian Teacakes

About the cookie: Per foodtimeline.org,

Noble Russian cuisine (along with every other facet of noble life) was influenced by prevailing French customs during the 18th century. Tea was first introduced to Russia in 1618, but the Russian tea ceremony of samovars and sweet cakes was a legacy of Francophile Catherine the Great in the 18th century. It is interesting to note that A Gift to Young Housewives, Elena Molokhovet [1870s popular Russian cookbook] contains plenty of recipes for a variety of small baked goods, none specifically entitled Russian tea cakes. There are, however, several recipes which use similar ingredients.
Tasting notes: What can be said? This recipe is a classic.

Russian Teacakes Recipe

Adapted from Betty Crocker

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped nuts
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Powdered sugar
Directions
  1. Heat oven to 400ºF
  2. Mix butter, 1/2 cup powdered sugar and the vanilla in large bowl. Stir in flour, nuts and salt until dough holds together.
  3. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place about 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheet.
  4. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until set but not brown. Remove from cookie sheet. Cool slightly on wire rack.
  5. Roll warm cookies in powdered sugar; cool on wire rack. Roll in powdered sugar again.

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Armenian Sugar Cookies (Shakarishee)

About the cookie: This is a traditional cookie, called shakarishee, which I am told is a commonly served item at weddings or other special occasions.
Tasting Notes: Sweeter than some others, this recipe yielded a cookie that looked more like a drop cookie when baked rather than holding a snowball shape; the nuts were only an accent in this version, but what held true to all of the other recipes was the texture, which was crumbly and dense and delicious. Taster Jasen, who is himself Armenian, commented that "these make me feel like I should be at an Armenian wedding".

Armenian Sugar Cookies Recipe

Adapted from this Shakarishee Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1 cup softened butter [unsalted]
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, beat together the butter, egg yolk and the sugar until smooth and almost white in color. Add flour and blend well. If you are using the nuts, this is the time to add them in. Shape into small rectangles about 3/4" by 1 1/2".
  2. Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes or until lightly browned on the sides. Note: The recipe notes that a blanched almond or walnut half can be placed on top of the cookie before baking, but for uniformity I did not add this.

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Viennese Crescents

About the cookie: Well, it seems that Vienna has a bit of a history with delicious crescents--could the shape of this cookie be connected to the other famous crescent from that fair city, the croissant? Read on for Wikipedia's roundup:

Fanciful stories of how the kipfel - and so, ultimately, the croissant - was created are culinary legends, at least one going back to the 19th century. These include tales that it was invented in Europe to celebrate the defeat of a Muslim invasion at the decisive Battle of Tours by the Franks in 732, with the shape representing the Islamic crescent;that it was invented in Vienna, Austria in 1683 to celebrate the defeat of the Turks to Polish forces in the Turkish siege of the city, as a reference to the crescents on the Turkish flags, when bakers staying up all night heard the tunneling operation and gave the alarm; tales linking croissants with the kifli and the siege of Buda in 1686; and those detailing Marie Antoinette's hankering after a Polish specialty.

Tasting Notes: This is a winner. The almonds paired with almond extract was an idea I got from Cook's Illustrated, and it really did give the cookies a full, almond-y flavor and helped balance out the fact that almonds are a drier nut than some of the more smooth, buttery varieties I had tried in other recipes. These were simply lovely.

Viennese Crescents Recipe

Makes about 36

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup ground almonds
  • 1/2 cup sifted confectioners' sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, butter, nuts, 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar, salt, almond extract, and vanilla. Hand mix until thoroughly blended. Shape dough into a ball; cover and refrigerate for about an hour.
  3. Remove dough from refrigerator and form into 1 inch balls. Roll each ball into a small roll, 3 inches long. Place rolls 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet, and bend each one to make a crescent shape.
  4. Bake 15 minutes in the preheated oven, or until set but not brown.
  5. Let stand 1 minute, then remove from cookie sheets and place on racks to cool. After about 30 minutes, dip cookies in the confectioners' sugar to coat them. If not served right away, dip them again directly before serving to ensure a snowy coating.

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So, to sum it all up? It was particularly sweet to see how this cookie transcends so many borders: even though our cultures may be very different, we all have some sort of variation of this cookie in common. Regardless of the language you speak or the culture you come from, a cookie made of butter, ground nuts, and coated in confectioners' sugar is a type of equality that is within reach for everyone: easy to make, and completely delicious.

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