Cranberry Coconut Cookies

by Caroline

Apparently some folks out there have strong feelings about coconut. I have even heard the H-word bandied about. Not in my family, though. We put it in granola, in cake, in amazing no-bake brownies and ice cream, quick macaroons and muffins. And while mostly we bake with it (and I admit it was fun sifting through the archives to find all our coconut recipes) we also put it in savory dishes like curries and kale.

So of course I was going to try this cookie recipe from Sunset Magazine, which incorporates three of our favorite winter flavors: orange, cranberry, and coconut. If you’re a coconut fan, you’ll want to give them a try.

1 1/2 cups (3/4 lb.) butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon grated orange peel
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups dried cranberries
1 1/2 cups sweetened flaked dried coconut

Preheat the oven to 350.

In a large bowl, beat the butter, sugar, orange peel, and vanilla until smooth.

In a medium bowl, mix flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to the butter mixture, then mix until dough comes together, about 5 minutes. Mix in cranberries and coconut.

Shape dough into 1-inch balls and place about 2 inches apart on buttered 12- by 15-inch baking sheets.

Bake until cookie edges just begin to brown, 8 to 11 minutes (shorter baking time will yield a chewier cookie; longer baking time will yield a crispier cookie). Let cookies cool on sheets for 5 minutes, then use a wide spatula to transfer to racks to cool completely.

Pide = Soft Bread Happiness

by Caroline

I’m continuing to use bread recipes as my gateway into Turkish cooking, because I love to knead bread and my family loves to eat it. This delicious loaf is called pide, a flatbread which is sold with toppings like minced lamb, egg, vegetables and or cheese, although for our first encounter with it, we kept it plain. It’s a much easier dough to work with than last week’s simit, and produces such a soft, chewy loaf, we are just looking for soupy stewy things to dunk it into.

2 1/4 teaspoons yeast
1/2 teaspoon sugar
4-6 oz lukewarm water
1 lb flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons oil or melted butter
beaten egg for egg glaze
1 tablespoon nigella seeds (I’m calling these optional because I didn’t have them)

Sprinkle the yeast and sugar into the water and stir; set aside to let it bubble and foam.

Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl. Add the yeast mixture, oil and yogurt, stir well, and then dump out onto a lightly floured surface to knead until the dough becomes fairly smooth and elastic. This can take five or ten minutes, mostly depending on your interest in making it your upper body workout.

Let the dough sit while you wash out the dough bowl, then drizzle a bit of oil or wipe a pat of butter in the bowl. Put the dough into the bowl and give it a couple turns so it’s nicely coated with oil. Cover the bowl with a damp towel and let the dough rise till doubled, about 90 minutes.

Toward the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 450.
Punch the dough down and divide it in half. Knead each piece well, then flatten each into a disc.

Let the dough rest a moment while you prepare a large baking sheet with parchment or a bit of olive oil and put it in the oven to preheat. Now finish shaping the dough, stretching each disc out into a large round. Indent the dough with your finger tips.

Place the discs on the hot baking sheet, brush with a bit of beaten egg and sprinkle with nigella seeds (if you have them) or salt. Some sesame seeds or rosemary would be nice, too, depending on what you’re making to accompany the pide.

Bake for 10-15 minutes, until golden and the crust is crisp. Transfer to a wire rack to cool, though wrap the discs in a dry towel while warm to maintain their soft texture. If your family doesn’t devour the pide instantly, you can resuscitate it the next day, by sprinkling it with a bit of water and putting it in a hot oven for a few minutes.

Jam Today cookies

by Caroline

One of the contributors to this anthology is a freelance writer I met when I first moved to San Francisco. Liz hired me for an administrative job at a translation agency, despite the fact that I failed the math test she gave me to see if I could accurately calculate bids on jobs. Luckily for me, filling the office with congenial people mattered to her – and, the office had a proper calculator.

Work at the translation agency didn’t last long, but our friendship – built on our shared interests in writing, food, and raising our kids – has. She is the source of our go-to chocolate birthday cake, and recently gave me her recipe for jam bars. I made them with half raspberry jam (to please Eli) and half orange marmalade (to please Ben). Eli, who doesn’t like much of anything right now except apples, carrots, rice and tofu, didn’t like the cookies, but his loss. I think they’re great and offer the recipe just as Liz wrote it up:

Jam Today cookies
“The rule is, jam tomorrow and jam yesterday—but never jam to-day.”
—Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass

I created these cookies as a way to utilize the jars and jars of marmalade given to me by a friend, but it has become my most versatile, crowd-pleasing cookie. You can make it with dried fruit, with store-bought jam of any kind, or with the homemade jam of your choice. Bitter marmalade is especially tasty, but apricot is a close second, followed by a never-to-be repeated combination of the tail ends of three jars of jam: peach, apricot, and cherry. As an added bonus, this recipe is ridiculously easy to make, and ridiculously easy to double if you happen to be feeding a crowd (or running a bake sale). The results are especially delicious served for tea, but we have been known to eat these cookies for breakfast, too. You got a problem with that?

Preheat the oven to 350° degrees. Locate your 9×9-inch baking pan (glass or metal) and lightly grease the bottom and side.

For the filling:
Use a half-pint jar (1 cup) of your favorite jam
Make a filling by combining 1 cup dried chopped apricots and some water to barely cover (add more if it seems dry while cooking) in a saucepan; simmer till soft.

For the dough:
In a large mixing bowl, cream:
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter (at room temperature)
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar (dark or light, it matters not)
and beat until fluffy. Then add:
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup oatmeal (regular oats, not instant)
½ tsp. salt
and mix well. The resulting dough will be crumbly but moist.
Press a little more than half of the dough into the baking pan. Spread the filling evenly over this bottom layer, then crumble the remaining dough over the top.
Bake for about 30-40 minutes. You’ll know it’s done when the whole surface is bubbly and the edges get a little dark. Allow to cool in the pan for at least twenty minutes before slicing.
Makes sixteen cookie squares. I highly recommend sharing them with friends and neighbors or you will end up eating them all yourselves.

Raspberry Jam Tart

by Caroline

For a family that cooks and cares about food as much as we do, it was unsettling to face our lack of Christmas dinner traditions. I could happily sit down to a meal of Tony’s grandmother’s lemon-parsley stuffing, Tony’s porcini mushroom gravy (lately infused with his late father’s 1981 port), and some cranberry sauce. Yes, it’s clear we have family foods, but not, like Lisa’s family, a traditional menu we anticipate each year.

So I was a bit surprised when Eli, after bounding down the hall and into our bed Christmas Eve morning, said “This dinner is going to be my favorite!” Tony asked, “What are you looking forward to most?” And Eli responded, “Christmas after it!”

Well, who can blame him? And when I asked what he wanted for dinner, he listed stuffing and gravy, so that’s pretty much what we ate (oh, and some brussels sprouts and chard and caramelized onions and roast potatoes… but that’s another story). For dessert, I was planning just to offer up a plate of Christmas cookies, but this is where Eli had a specific idea: raspberry pie.

Ben, by then cuddled in bed with us, too, and thoroughly steeped in the contemporary food ethos, worried, “Are raspberries in season?”

No, but raspberry jam is always in season, and we even had some homemade jam made by a friend. Raspberry jam tart it was.

I poked around online awhile and took most of my inspiration from David Lebovitz’s recipe but I had cold butter, not soft (and didn’t see the point in softening butter only to refrigerate the resulting tart dough until cold enough to use). So I pulled my Joy of Cooking off the shelf and followed Irma’s lead. I did borrow Lebovitz’s idea of reserving some of the dough to make an easy top crust, though instead of rolling it into a log, chilling and slicing it, as he does, I pressed mine flat and cut out some Christmasy stars. I predict you’ll see this tart on my table again at Valentine’s Day, topped with some hearts.

This recipe makes enough dough for an 8″ tart (bottom crust and top decorations); if you have a bigger tart pan, it’s easy to scale up.

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons of cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 large egg yolk
1 1/2 cups of raspberry jam
1-2 tablespoons of coarse-grained sugar

Preheat the oven to 400.
Butter and flour the bottom of an 8″ tart pan with a removable bottom.

Whisk the flour, sugar, salt, and lemon zest together in a bowl or in the food processor. Add the butter and work in with a fork or pulse in the food processor until the mixture makes coarse crumbs. Add the egg yolk and mix until the dough just starts to come together in a ball.

Reserving about 1/3 cup of dough for the topping, pat most of the dough evenly into the bottom of the tart pan, letting it come up the sides a little bit. Spread with jam. Set aside momentarily while you make the topping.

Taking the reserved dough, press or roll it out on a floured counter or between sheets of wax paper until it’s about 1/4″ thick. Cut into desired shapes, freehand or using cookie cutters. Arrange the shapes on top of the jam, sprinkle them with the coarse-grained sugar, and bake until the crust is golden and the jam is bubbling a bit, 20-25 minutes.

Maple Roasted Nuts

by Caroline

Lots of people make some version of a sweet or spicy roasted nut during the holidays; this is what Tony makes every year. We give bags to all our teachers and then snack on them all season long.

1 pound nuts
¼ cup maple syrup
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350.

In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients except for the nuts. Add the nuts and toss until well coated. Pour into a large roasting pan and spread into a single layer. Bake for 8-12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they are golden and filling the kitchen with a delicious maple scent. Let cool in the pan, so that the glaze hardens into a crispy shell on the nuts, before serving or storing.