It’s Friday, Spring, (yay!), and I accomplished the following things:
Spent more time in the kitchen than I have in a while (be on the lookout for more recipes soon!)
Turned a neglected piece of land into a (potentially) thriving vegetable garden.
Slept for more than 7 hours in one night.
And watched (again) obscene amount of The Great British Baking Show.
While the first three seem more note-worthy than the last, the creation of this recipe for flaky Spring Cookies would suggest otherwise. If you remember this episode, the bakers are asked to make a French cookie called an arlette- a flaky, homemade puff pastry sprinkled with cinnamon sugar and rolled flat to produce a buttery, crisp cookie. So… take those GBBS arlette cookies and combine them with strawberry powder and Spring colored sugar (my daughter’s fave at the moment) then you get these tasty spring cookies as a result.
Note: these cookies are not for the faint of heart or those
lacking in time. Puff pastry can be a frustrating dough to work with. But I
promise, if you follow this recipe and don’t cut corners, you will be
pleasantly surprised at how easy it can actually be. Trust me, you got this.
The first step in building a reliable (and easy) puff pastry dough is actually building an inverse puff pastry dough. The classic method for puff pastry consists of a slab of butter, wrapped in dough, and folded multiple times. This produces a beautifully flakey (leafy), buttery textured cookie. However, this process can be fickle. If not handled properly the butter can melt into the dough, eliminating the chance to create those beautiful layers.
The inverse version, though, wraps the dough in a chilled butter-flour paste instead. While it sounds like a messy process (butter on the outside??) the flour adds strength to the butter making it shockingly easy to handle. As a result, both versions produce a flaky pastry but the inverse method not only gives the cookie a little more structure (great for rolling in sugar and maintaining its shape while its being manipulated), but also acts sort of like a safety net when rolling out the multiple layers. This inverse method ensures a flaky bake every time.
This flaky, buttery cookie is rolled with festive Springtime colors and packs a lovely strawberry punch. It's the perfect picnic treat!
Put the flours, salt, butter and 50ml cold water in a bowl and gently mix to form a dough.
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead for 5 minutes until smooth. Shape the dough into a square, wrap in cling film and chill for an hour (or freeze for 20-30 minutes).
For the butter layer, mix the butter and flours together using an electric mixer. Sandwich the mixture between two sheets of plastic wrap and roll out to a rectangle the same width as the square of dough, but twice as long. Chill in the fridge for 20 minutes.
Unwrap the chilled dough and butter layer. Place the chilled butter paste, short end facing towards you on a lightly floured surface and place the square of dough in the center of the butter sheet. Lift the butter sheet at the top and fold it down over the dough, then fold the exposed butter sheet at the bottom up over the top, so the dough is completely enclosed in the butter sheet.
Place the dough on a lightly floured surface, short end towards you. Roll out to a rectangle, keeping the edges as even as possible. Fold the top quarter down and the bottom quarter up so they meet neatly in the center. Then fold the dough in half along the center line. This is called a book turn. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for 20 minutes.
Remove the dough from the fridge and make another book turn. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for 20 minutes.
On a lightly floured surface roll out the pastry to a rectangle and sprinkle a layer of strawberry dust then the colored sugar.
Make another book turn to incorporate the strawberry and sugar, then roll to a 4½ x 8in rectangle. Roll up the pastry from the short end like a Swiss roll. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 20 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400° Line 2 baking trays lines with silicon sheets or parchment. Trim the ends of the roll and cut into 8 even slices. Dust the work surface heavily with powdered sugar and roll each piece of dough out very thinly, turning to coat in the sugar and to prevent sticking. Place the cookies on the prepared trays and bake for 5 minutes. Remove from the oven, carefully turn the cookies and cook for an additional 3-4 minutes, or until golden-brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
I feel like I’ve been working on perfecting the world’s best chocolate chip cookie recipe for years. Since I was 6 actually. To me, there is nothing more comforting than a chocolate chip cookie. I’m sure the synonym for nostalgia is “chocolate chip cookie” in fact. And no matter how many times I thought I got it right, a new technique or trick seemed to fall in my lap. I mean, it is a rough life, eating all of those chocolate chip cookies. But someone has to do it. Someone has to find the best chocolate chip recipe in the world, right?
The wait is over. I think I found THE WORLD’S BEST CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES. Yeah, I know there are a lot of other recipes out there claiming to be the best. But do those recipes have a ooey, gooey, chocolately center? Do the other recipes have toffee-like, slightly crispy, slightly chewy edges? Are the other cookies fluffy, nutty, and with a hint of salt?
Trust me. These are the best. I dare ya to try them and not agree!
Note: Check out these tools to help with this recipe!
The World's Best Chocolate Chip Cookies (Seriously)
This is the world's best chocolate chip cookie recipe. The luscious, molten center is encircled in crispy, caramelly edges with obscene amounts of chocolate.
Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder, cornstarch, nutmeg, and salt into a bowl. Set aside.
Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Fold in chocolate and incorporate without breaking pieces. Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. Dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Set aside.
Scoop 3 1/2-ounce mounds of dough (the size of generous golf balls) onto baking sheet. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown but still soft, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then transfer cookies onto another rack to cool completely.
One of the many reasons why I love cooking is the endless creativity. And one easy way to be creative in the kitchen is taking a standard, classic recipe and adding a fun twist to it. I’ve loved doing this ever since I started cooking when I was 6 years old. Granted, swapping out the hot dog for a kielbasa in my version of pigs in a blanket wouldn’t bring James Beard to my house, but it certainly started fueling the fire that would motivate me throughout my professional life. My latest “twist” takes classic carrot or zucchini breakfast bread and uses parsnips instead. Parsnips have a nutty, almost caramelly taste when cooked, so naturally I thought they would work well baked into a sweet loaf. And who doesn’t love browned butter? The two special ingredients take the classic shredded veggie loaf to a new level. It’s great for breakfast bread, dessert, or a midnight snack!
Brown Butter Spiced Parsnip Bread with Maple Butter
A twist on a classic, this bread and butter recipe is sure to warm you up.
Preheat oven to 350°F. In medium bowl, mix flour, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. In separate bowl, add brown sugar and set aside. For the brown butter, heat butter on medium heat in small saucepan. As the butter melts and starts to boil, carefully stir so the butter doesn't burn too quickly in one spot. Keep an eye and nose out for little brown flecks in the butter, which will happen quickly! When the butter is starting to smell nutty and you see little pepper-like spots, immediately pour the butter into the sugar. This will stop the cooking and prevent any burning.
While the butter cools, peel and grate the parsnips. Then peel and grate the apple. (Leave this step until the very end; the apple should be added to the butter-sugar mixture immediately to prevent the apple from turning brown). Once the butter-sugar mix is cool, mix in the eggs. Add the vanilla, milk, parsnips, and apple and mix well. Gently stir in the flour mixture. Place the batter in a 8½ inch loaf pan lined with parchment paper. Bake for 50-55 minutes or until a wooden skewer comes out clean when inserted into the middle of the loaf. Cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Cut and serve with maple butter!
Octopus salad. Ok maybe not your usual go-to for a quick, week day meal for the family. It isn’t a standard in our house either but the menu-planning-stars sort of aligned this week so I thought, “why not?” But even though it’s not being a regular on our menu at home I absolutely love octopus! When done well, the different textures and flavors work so well in most cuisines. AND it’s surprisingly easy to cook! So actually, it IS a great meal to add to your family’s menu…. You just hafta get the kids on board with the whole tentacle thing.
This octopus salad recipe is quite simple in technique. Most of the prep time revolves around the breakdown of the octopus, which is notoriously chewy and tough unless cooked in one of two ways: a low and slow braise (or if you’re like me and scored a sweet pressure cooker, pressure cooked for 10 min) or on really high heat for a short amount of time…. or I guess you could also thrash your octopus against a Grecian rock (Greek fishermen actually do this!) but I’ve only worked with the first two techniques so I’ll stick with that this time around. Whichever the approach you choose, the goal is breakdown the connective tissue resulting in a soft and tender cephalopod.
This recipe is a great beginning-of spring dish. I included a bunch of my favorite crunchy vegetables, a nutty farro grain, and finished it with an aromatic and spicy African green harissa sauce. Plus the added char of the octopus adds a subtly complexity. I’m telling ya- if your family was ever on the fence about eating baby octopus, they wont be after a bite of this flavor-packed octopus salad!
Notes: Check out this pressure cooker! Not only does it cut down on cook time but it also has lots of other features to make cooking easy!
Grilled Baby Octopus and Shaved Vegetable Salad with Pickled Pears and Green Harissa
Set aside some time for prep early in the day and let the ingredients chill until dinner time, making for quick assembly!
Start by combing the marinade ingredients, dividing into 2 bowls, reserving 1 for later. Add the octopus to 1 bowl of marinade, toss to coat, then add to pressure cooker or stock pot. Add enough water to cover octopus. Cover with lid and cook on low for 45 minutes. After 45 minutes, remove octopus from pot and add to reserved marinade. Toss to coat and place in fridge until just before serving/grilling.
Combine all of the pickling ingredients in small saucepan, minus the pears. Turn on high and bring to a boil. Pour pickling liquid over sliced pears (making sure liquid covers all of the pears) and place in fridge to cool.
Add harissa ingredients to blender or food processor. Blend until smooth but not completely pureed. Leaving a little texture gives the harissa a nice texture.
If grilling, cook octopus until slightly blackened. (You can also saute the octopus or just leave chilled). Toss salad ingredients with (drained) pickled pears and octopus. Finishing with drizzle of olive oil and harissa.
The saga of diversifying the munchkin’s palate continues. This week’s chapter unfortunately includes a painfully long family battle with an ugly virus so introducing any new flavors had to be put on the back burner. However, we all seem to be coming out of the dark as of last night (ish) so I jumped at the chance to spice up our dinner (and provide something more satiating than the water, rice, and cold meds diet we’ve been on for the past 9 days). Introducing: my shakshuka.
The beauty of my version of this poached egg and tomato dish is its not only super easy and healthy, but quite the fusion food (why introduce one flavor when you can introduce several)! While the origin of shakshuka is disputed, one thing everyone can agree on is its super tasty. My recipe includes a spice blend from Ethiopia called berbere which includes spices like chilies, cinnamon, fenugreek, and coriander to name just a few. Don’t worry if you can’t find berbere- have fun playing around with different spice blends (curry, harissa, etc.). In fact, this dish is so versatile that you can really do anything with it! Add more veggies, cheese, herbs, or sauces (I topped this one with a chimichurri). Breakfast for dinner? Sure! Warm spices? Yes please! Zesty Argentinean salsa on top? Heck yes! Bread?? Mmmmmm.
Shakshuka with Chimichurri
A spicy blend of flavors cooked with rich tomatoes that makes the perfect poaching sauce for eggs!
2 hours before serving combine chimichurri ingredients in small bowl and set aside (this sauce tastes better the longer it sits).
In a saucepan with a tall edge, heat oil on medium heat. Saute the onions, jalapeno, and garlic until soft. Add in the spice blend and cook for 1 min, until aromatic. Add in the crushed tomatoes. Lower the heat, cover, and cook until dark and thick (20-30 minutes). Remove lid and carefully added the eggs to the sauce. Cover and cook for 3-4 minutes (until whites are set but yolks are still runny). Serve with chimichurri, herbs, and grilled bread!!