Sunday, September 25, 2016

Coffee cream pie

How often do you watch cooking shows and drool over the recipes? But how often do you actually make those recipes in real life?

If you're like me, maybe about 0.0000365% of the time.

But I knew this pie would be at the top of my list after watching Martha Stewart's coffee episode, as coffee + dessert may be the best thing ever (tied with citrus desserts, of course).


Oreo cooking + coffee custard + whipped cream = (no words)


The filling isn't too sweet (why I love coffee desserts) and the custard slices perfectly! Pairing that with the chocolate crust and the light whipped cream, and you really can't go wrong.

Buen Provecho,
Jacqueline

Coffee Cream Pie, by Martha Stewart

Notes: The original recipe called for a 9" pie pan, but I was already using my dish for another pie, so I experimented with my 9" tart shell. It was perfect! In fact, I think all pies with cookie crusts could be made in a tart shell--it makes their presentation even prettier. So feel free to use either a 9" pie dish or tart pan, both will work.

Also, Martha is very specific about using instant espresso powder in this pie. Unfortunately I didn't have any, so I substituted with a little less instant coffee (Folgers instant coffee crystals). I thought the pie was still delicious, so while it may be better with the instant espresso, instant coffee works in a pinch.

Ingredients

Chocolate-wafer crust
6 ounces chocolate wafers or Oreo cookies, finely ground (1 1/2 cups; I removed the cream filling from about half of the cookies, but you can leave them in or remove)
2 ounces (4 TBSP) unsalted butter, melted
2 TBSP sugar
Salt
 
Coffee custard filling
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups whole milk (I used 2 percent, but I'm sure it's better with whole)
2 TBSP instant espresso powder (or just under 2 TBSP instant coffee)
4 large egg yolks
1/4 cup coffee liqueur (Kahlua) or bourbon (my Four Roses single barrel was awesome in this)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 ounces (4 TBSP) unsalted butter, softened

Topping (if you want a huge mound of cream, you can whip up to 2.5 cups of cream)
1 1/4 cups cold heavy cream
1 TBSP confectioners' sugar
1 tsp espresso powder, optional
1/3 cup dark-chocolate-covered espresso beans, optional (I didn't have these, so I just topped my pie with the whipped cream and used a microplane zester to shave a coffee bean over the cream to make it pretty)

Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
  2. Make the chocolate crust: Pulse the ground chocolate wafers, butter, sugar, and a pinch of salt in a food processor until well combined. Pat mixture into a 9" pie dish or tart pan, pressing firmly into bottom and up sides (I like using the bottom of a measuring cup to make the crust nice and even.) Bake until crust is fragrant and darkens slightly, about 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack.
  3. Make the coffee filling: Combine granulated sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a medium saucepan. Whisk in milk and 2 tablespoons espresso powder, and cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until bubbling and thick, about 7 minutes total (about 2 minutes after it comes to a boil). 
  4. Whisk yolks in a medium bowl until combined. Temper the yolks by pouring in milk mixture in a slow, steady stream, whisking until completely incorporated. Return mixture to saucepan, and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it returns to a boil, 1 to 2 minutes.
  5. Remove from heat, and stir in liqueur and vanilla. Add butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, whisking until butter melts before adding next piece. 
  6. Let custard cool in saucepan on a wire rack, whisking occasionally, for about 10 minutes. Strain the custard through a fine-she sieve (in case you have any small bits of cooked egg). The custard will have the consistency of a pudding; it may not seem thick enough to slice, but once chilled the filling will set perfectly. 
  7. Pour custard into chocolate-wafer crust. Press plastic wrap directly on surface of custard. Refrigerate until custard filling is chilled and firm, at least 4 hours (or overnight). 
  8. Make the topping: With a flat side of a chef's knife, crush espresso beans, 1 at a time. Reserve 1 tablespoon larger espresso-bean pieces. Whisk together cream, confectioners sugar, and 1 teaspoon espresso powder until stiff peaks form. Fold small espresso-bean pieces into whipped cream mixture, and decoratively spread over pie. Sprinkle with reserved espresso-bean pieces, and serve immediately.
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Saturday, September 17, 2016

Charred salsa verde

Let me introduce you to the most frequently made recipe in my home: salsa verde.

I know it doesn't sound super fancy, but this isn't regular salsa verde, this is salsa verde. A single recipe so simple, yet bursting with flavor, that you'll plan your meals around this dish.


Why is this recipe so amazing?! Well, it's smokey and complex and full of flavor. You'll never need another salsa verde recipe again! But it's as simple as any other recipe you'll make, with only 4 main ingredients. So what's the difference? Technique.

One difference is that you char the *#$@ out of the veggies. Like to the point where you might think they're done broiling... but they're not.

Before...                                                        ...and after

Another is that you cook the salsa in some oil, which intensifies the flavor. (I skipped this step once, and while still delicious, it definitely wasn't the same.) Finally, you throw in a handful of fresh cilantro at the end, which brightens the whole dish.

The salsa is great for dipping (of course), but I have two favorite ways to serve the salsa:

1. Salad dressing.
I got this idea from Burrito Beach, which has an incredible smokey salsa verde that I use instead of salad dressing in my lettuce chicken bowl. It's way healthier than dressing, and has a ton of flavor. My salad here has lettuce, avocado, bell peppers, pickled onions, cilantro, and rotisserie chicken. I also like to add corn, black beans, tomato, and sliced cabbage.


2. Tostadas
I love our semi-regular taco night at home, and this smokey salsa verde takes it to another level. While I enjoy charred corn tortillas, brushing them with olive oil and baking them until crispy is my favorite way to eat the shell.


We almost always make our tostadas/tacos with soyrizo (TJ's makes my favorite soy chorizo) and re-fried beans. Toppings include avocado, cheese, white onion, tomato, cilantro, radishes, green chilies, Greek yogurt (or sour cream), salsa verde (of course), and green Tabasco sauce.

So however you enjoy your salsa verde, please please please just make this recipe.

Buen provecho,
Jacqueline

Charred salsa verde, from Serious Eats

Step #4 below may seem superfluous, but I can guarantee you it's not. I made the recipe once without cooking it in the oil and the flavor was "flat" compared with the typical recipe. So definitely take the extra few minutes and don't skip that step!

Ingredients
1 1/2 pounds tomatillos, husks removed, split in half (680g; about 10 medium)
1 medium white onion, peeled and split in half (about 6 ounces; 170g)
2 to 4 Serrano or jalapeƱo chilies (adjust according to spice tolerance, remove seeds and ribs for milder spice), split in half
10 to 15 sprigs cilantro, tough lower stems discarded

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Kosher salt

Directions
  1. Adjust oven rack to 4 inches below broiler and preheat broiler to high. 
  2. Place tomatillos, onion, and chilies on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Broil until darkly charred and blackened on top and tomatillos are completely tender, 6 to 12 minutes. (I highly recommend charring for the full 12 minutes.)
  3. Transfer vegetables and their juice to a blender, food processor, or the cup of an immersion blender. Add half of cilantro. Blend in pulses until a rough puree is formed. 
  4. Heat oil in a medium saucepan over high heat until shimmering. Pour salsa into the hot oil all at once (it will steam and sputter). Immediately start stirring and continue to cook, stirring, until salsa is darkened and thick enough to coat the back of the spoon, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat. 
  5. Finely chop remaining cilantro and stir into salsa. Season to taste with salt. Let cool, then serve. Salsa can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
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Sunday, September 4, 2016

S'mores cake

One of my coworkers is a smoking master, who loves to invite people over to taste-test his meat experiments. And who am I to say no to science (and smoked meat)?!?

I knew he'd have the appetizers and meal covered, so I decided to bring a special treat. And what goes better with smoked meat than s'mores?


Seeing that it was the middle of winter, sitting outside and roasting marshmallows didn't seem feasible. So a s'mores cake would have to do.


Originally I wanted to try a fresh marshmallow frosting, like in the original Smitten Kitchen recipe. But seeing that we were going to his home, I wouldn't be able to make the frosting immediately before serving. So instead I made my incredibly addictive toasted-marshmallow frosting (from this chocolate cake with malted frosting and toasted marshmallow filling).


I made sure to decorate with everything that went into the cake, so people knew what they were going to get (graham crackers, chocolate, toasted marshmallows).


Buen Provecho,
Jacqueline

S'mores cake with chocolate ganache and toasted-marshmallow filling, adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Note: I really enjoyed this cake, but had to agree with my taste testers that it reminded them of carrot cake (in flavor, not texture). I think it was the graham crackers + cinnamon, which reminds people of a spiced cake. Still delicious, but consider yourself warned. For less of a spice cake feel, consider eliminating the cinnamon from the recipe (though I haven't tried it without the spice). Alternatively--use a yellow or chocolate cake instead of the graham-flavored one, and simply add crushed graham crackers on top of your chocolate filling. Lots of variations, and all of them sound delicious to me!

The original Smitten Kitchen recipe was used to make 12 cupcakes. Instead, I used it to make a 6" cake (either baked in 2 pans and sliced in half to make 4 layers, or baked in 4 pans with no cutting required). Check out her post to see how she assembled the cupcakes (and to see the marshmallow frosting she used).

Ingredients

Cake
1 cup (125 grams) all-purpose flour
1 cup (110 grams) graham cracker or digestive biscuit crumbs, finely processed to be a powder, from about 7 rectangular crackers
1/4 plus 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 plus 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine sea or table salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, optional
1/2 cup (115 grams or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 large eggs at room temperature
1 cup buttermilk, well shaken

Chocolate filling
1/4 pound (4 ounces) milk or semi-sweet chocolate, chopped small or in chips
1/3 cup heavy cream
Pinch or two of salt

Toasted marshmallow frosting
See this post

Directions
  1. Make the cupcakes: Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour two or four 6" cake pans (see note). I like to use Pam baking spray, then lay down a piece of parchment paper, then more Pam baking spray.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, graham crumbs, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.
  3. In a larger bowl, cream the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy with an electric mixer. Add eggs, one at a time, scraping down the bowl between each addition.
  4. Add 1/3 of dry ingredients and mix until combined, followed by 1/2 of buttermilk, mixing again. Repeat with 1/3 dry ingredients, last half of buttermilk and remaining dry ingredients.
  5. Divide batter evenly between cake pans. Bake for 15 - 25+ minutes (depending on if you're using 4 or 2 cake pans), or until a toothpick inserted into the center of cakes comes out batter-free. Let cool completely before continuing. (Note: if baked in 2 cake pans, slice each cake layer in half after cooled. If baked in 4 cake pans, no need to do anything further.)
  6. Make the filling: Place chocolate and salt in a heatproof bowl. Heat cream until simmering then pour it over chocolate, let stand for one minute then stir until smooth. Cool this mixture quickly in the freezer, but you absolutely must check in every 5 minutes (set a timer) to stir the mixture to ensure it doesn’t harden in some spots while staying warm in the center. This takes about 15 to 20 minutes total. Once cool, it will be thicker but still on the loose side.
  7. Make the marshmallow frosting: See this post.
  8. Assemble the cake: Assemble the cake as shown below. Place layer #1 of cake on a cake dish and top with about half the chocolate. Place layer #2 and top with a bit of the marshmallow frosting. Place layer #3 and top with almost all the remaining chocolate (saving some for the topping if you'd like to decorate). Top with the final layer of cake and cover the entire cake with your marshmallow frosting.




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Sunday, July 31, 2016

Roasted cherry bourbon ice cream

Chicago is HOT this year, and I'm loving it. Which means my favorite food has been on regular rotation here!

Ice cream is considered part of a complete and healthy diet, right?
So far this year I've made peach ice cream (recipe was meh) and this roasted cherry bourbon ice cream. Yummmmmmmmmmmmm.


The cherry bourbon part of the ice cream was delicious, though I wished the flavor was even more intense. But what makes this recipe killer is the vanilla ice cream baseit's creamy, dreamy, and loaded with tons of vanilla flavor. Definitely some of the best vanilla ice cream I've ever had. If only I had a restaurant-grade ice cream maker, I'm sure this would be the smoothest ice cream ever.

So even if you don't like cherries or if they're out of season, make the vanilla portion plain, or swirl in anything else you like (another fruit puree, chocolate, caramel, etc).


Buen Provecho,
Jacqueline

Roasted Cherry Bourbon Ice Cream, adapted from Use Real Butter (with inspiration from A Perfect Scoop)

Note: If you'd prefer cherry ice cream instead of cherry swirl, just add in the cherry/bourbon mixture before churning the vanilla ice cream base. 

I'd recommend making this recipe over 2 days and eating on the 3rd day. Day 1: make cherry swirl and vanilla ice cream base. Day 2: churn ice cream and freeze to set. Day 3: enjoy! And don't forget to freeze your ice cream inset for at least 24 hours!

Ingredients

For the cherry swirl
12 oz. sweet cherries, rinsed, stems removed
1 TBSP sugar
3 TBSP bourbon, divided (1 TBSP + 2 TBSP)
 
For the vanilla ice cream base
1 cup milk
2 cups heavy cream, divided (1 cup + 1 cup)
3/4 cup sugar
pinch salt
5 egg yolks
1 whole vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 TBSP bourbon
1 tsp lemon juice

Directions
  1. Cherry swirl: Preheat oven to 450°F. Place cherries in a single layer in a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (or silpat). Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of sugar and 1 tablespoon of bourbon over the cherries. Roast for 15 minutes until the juice from the cherries is oozing, but not burning. When the cherries have cooled, remove the pits by hand, making sure to reserve all the juice coming off the cherries. Puree the pitted cherries, juices, and remaining 2 tablespoons of bourbon to your desired consistency (I used an immersion blender and kept it a bit chunky, but a food processor or blender can be used). Chill in a refrigerator.
  2. Vanilla ice cream: Combine the milk, 1 cup of heavy cream, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar. When the liquid is steaming, but not boiling, turn off the heat. Scrape the vanilla seeds from the vanilla bean pod and add the vanilla seeds and pod to the hot milk mixture. Cover and let steep for 30 minutes.
  3. Remove the lid and reheat the liquid until it is steaming, but not boiling. To temper your eggs, place the yolks in a medium bowl and whisk to combine. While continuously whisking the egg yolks, slowly pour a half cup of the hot milk mixture into the yolks. When the liquid is incorporated, whisk in another half cup of the hot milk mixture. Pour the egg yolk mixture into the saucepan containing the rest of the milk mixture. Set the pan over medium heat and stir constantly until the custard slightly thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. (Note: the mixture won't be thick like a typical custard, but it will have slightly thickened. If you have a thermometer, you're looking to cook it to no more than 170 degrees F.) 
  4. Remove the custard from the heat and pour custard through a fine-mesh sieve to strain out any eggy bits. Stir in the remaining cup of heavy cream. Place the vanilla bean pod in the custard. Chill the custard over an ice bath then refrigerate the custard covered until completely chilled, preferably overnight.
  5. Churning the ice cream: Stir bourbon and lemon juice into the custard. Remove the vanilla bean pod. At this point, you can stir the chilled roasted cherry bourbon mixture into the custard for a uniform ice cream, or keep them separate for a swirl effect. Pour the custard into the bowl of your ice cream machine and churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Scoop the churned ice cream into a container. If making a swirl, spoon the cherry mixture over the ice cream and gently fold it into the ice cream a couple of times. Cover and freeze the ice cream. Makes a little more than a quart.

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Saturday, July 16, 2016

Shaved asparagus pizza with bacon and buffalo chicken pizza

I think I have more pizza recipes on this blog than any other--each with a different dough and different toppings:

So let's just go ahead and add 2 more topping ideas and another dough recipe to the mix today, mmmmkkkaayy?

I made this so long ago, so I don't have the exact recipes for the toppings, but for both pizzas I brushed the dough with olive oil, spread it with a thin layer of ricotta, and topped it with shredded mozzarella cheese. That's when things got very, very different.

For the asparagus pizza all you have to do is use your vegetable peeler to create long shaves of asparagus (raw). Pile them up high on the pizza and bake until done. The last minute throw on some cooked/chopped bacon, and enjoy!


I don't think I'd had asparagus on my pizza before, and it was extraordinary. The combination of the early asparagus with the smokey bacon was divine! Definitely my favorite pizza of the night.

The boy's favorite pizza of the night had a lot more meat on it (of course): buffalo chicken pizza! For this we took shredded rotisserie chicken and tossed it with Frank's buffalo sauce, topped the pizza with some sliced onions, and baked until done. Again, top with cooked bacon the last minute or so, and give it a light drizzle of your best ranch dressing (Briana's is my hands-down favorite) and a bit more of Frank's buffalo sauce for an extra kick.


The dough was really great to work with too. Easy to throw together, with a nice crusty exterior and chewy, flavorful interior.


Now I can't make the same claims as the original food blogger and say this dough is the best ever, because (a) I love all different kinds of pizza dough and (b) I haven't done a blind taste test to compare all the different dough recipes I made. So just find a recipe that works with your schedule and what you have in your pantry, and make yourself some pizza! :)

Buen provecho,
Jacqueline

Homemade pizza dough, adapted from A Beautiful Plate
Note for dough rising: If your kitchen is very cold you can microwave a large heatproof measuring cup of water for 2-3 minutes. Immediately remove the cup and place the bowl of dough in the microwave until it has risen. 

See this post for my pizza-baking tips.

2.5 cups (300 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
7 ounces warm water (105 degrees F - 115 degrees F)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons cornmeal, for the pizza peel (divided)

To bake the pizza
parchment paper
baking stone

Directions
  1. Prepare the pizza dough: In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, yeast, and salt. Add the warm water and olive oil, and stir the mixture with a wooden spoon until the dough just begins to come together. It will seem shaggy and dry, but don't worry.
  2. Scrape dough onto a well-floured counter top and knead for ~3 minutes. It should quickly come together and begin to get sticky. Dust the dough with flour as needed - it should be slightly tacky, but should not be sticking to your counter top. After three minutes, the dough should be smooth, slightly elastic, and tacky. Lightly grease a large mixing bowl with olive oil, and place the dough into the bowl.
  3. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel (or plastic wrap) and allow the dough to rise in a warm, dry area of your kitchen for 2 hours or until the dough has doubled in size. (see note above for cold kitchen)
  4. Preheat oven and pizza stone: Place the pizza stone on the center (or top third) rack of your oven, and preheat the oven and pizza stone to 550 degrees Fahrenheit (or as high as your oven will go) for at least 30-45 minutes. If your oven does not go up to 550 degrees, heat it to the absolute maximum temperature that it can go.
  5. As the oven is preheating, assemble your ingredients. See my post above or previous pizza recipe links for some ideas!
  6. Once the dough is done, separate into two equal-sized portions. It will deflate slightly, but that is OK. Place the dough on a large plate or floured counter top, cover gently with plastic wrap, and allow the dough to rest for 5 to 10 minutes. 
  7. Assemble the Pizza: Put a piece of large parchment paper on your pizza peel (or the back of a baking sheet) and sprinkle with 1 TBSP cornmeal. Set aside.
  8. Take one ball of pizza dough and gently stretch into a ~10-inch circle. If the dough springs back or is too elastic, allow it to rest for an additional five minutes. The edges of the dough can be slightly thicker, but make sure the center of the dough is thin (you should be able to see some light through it if you held it up). Gently transfer the dough onto the cornmeal-dusted parchment paper.
  9. Drizzle or brush the dough lightly with olive oil (teaspoon or so). Then top with your sauce (red sauce, white sauce, or ricotta), and add your toppings of choice. If using bacon, precook the bacon and add chopped pieces the last minute or 2 of baking.
  10. Gently slide the pizza from the peel onto the heated baking stone. Bake for at least 7 to 8 minutes, or until the crust is golden and the cheese is bubbling and caramelized and the edges of the pizza are golden brown. 
  11. Remove the pizza carefully from the oven with the pizza peel, transfer to a wooden cutting board or foil, and slice and serve immediately.
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Berry rhubarb oat bars

What to do when your parents give you a bunch of rhubarb from their garden, and you have some cherries just hanging out in your refrigerator?

You spent way too much time going through all your cookbooks and Pinterest to figure out the perfect dish to make, you find a recipe for cherry rhubarb pie, you decide it's going to be too much work to make with your schedule, you go back to the drawing board (this time adding Google to the mix), and you finally come across this cherry rhubarb recipe that looked really good.


So you make the recipe, and at the last minute decide to throw in some blueberries, because why not? Then you pat yourself on the back, because it was delicious!

I couldn't really taste much of the rhubarb, but I'm sure it helped pull back on the sweetness a bit. I made cherry bars last year that I didn't eat because they were soooooo sweet (yuck). But these were perfect!


I also liked that these were not just cake bars. The bottom is a cake-like base, the middle is a fresh-fruit filling, and it's topped with a buttery oat crumble. That crumble with the fruit was probably my favorite part of the dessert!


Buen provecho,
Jacqueline

Berry rhubarb oat bars, adapted from Merry About Town
Note: The original recipe called for whole wheat flour, so use any time of flour for the base. I also think you could probably add a bit more fruit if you wanted to pump up the summertime flavors. 

Make sure the bars are completely cool before storing. I put mine in a container while they were still a touch warm, and I think it softened the oat topping a bit. 

Ingredients

Oat Crumb Topping
1 cup flour
½ cup oats (I used regular oats for the texture; quick oats work too)
¾ cup light brown sugar (or granulated sugar)
⅓ cup butter, melted

Cake Base
1 cup flour
¾ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
½ cup butter, softened
¼ cup Greek yogurt (I didn't have any so used an extra 1/4 cup butter)
1 to 1½ cups confectioners (icing) sugar (I used ~1 1/4 cups because I was worried the recipe would be too sweet, but I think 1½ cups would be good too, even for me)
3 eggs
½ tsp almond extract

Filling
½ pound rhubarb, chopped in to ½ inch pieces
½ pound dark sweet cherries, cut in half
½ cup blueberries
4 TBSP granulated sugar
1 TBSP whole wheat flour

Directions
  1. Prep materials. Preheat Oven to 350 degrees. Line 13x9 pan with parchment paper leaving an inch of parchment paper overhang. Grease and flour the pan/parchment paper.
  2. Oat Crumb Topping. Combine the dry ingredients in a small bowl. Drizzle melted butter in to the mixture and stir well. Break up any clumps to have a consistent crumb mixture.
  3. Cake Base. Mix flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl. In a mixer bowl, combine softened butter, Greek yogurt and confectioners sugar. Mix until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time while mixer is running on med high speed. Turn mixer to low and add almond extract. Fold in flour with a spatula. Set aside. 
  4. Filling. Rinse cherries, blueberries, and rhubarb pieces with cold water. Place in a large bowl and add sugar and flour. Toss to coat.
  5. Assembly. Spread cake base evenly on the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle with berry mixture. Evenly cover with crumb mixture. Bake for 50 - 65 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool in the pan. Remove bars by lifting them out with the parchment paper. Cut into bars. 
Cooling in the pan
They're particularly good eaten warm with a scoop of ice cream!
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Sunday, July 10, 2016

Date or walnut-filled Iraqi cookie (kleicha)

I always say that I need to learn my families Assyrian/Middle Eastern dishes, yet I don't do enough to recreate and capture those recipes.

So for the Assyrian New Year this year (April 1) I wanted to make a traditional Iraqi cookie I've eaten since my childhood: the kleicha (pronounced "kill-EH-cheh" in Assyrian).


The idea of the cookie is generally identical no matter who makes it: kleicha are either a rolled date-filled cookie or a walnut-filled one. But the execution can vary wildly. Some people skimp on the dates (boooo) while others make cookies with a dry, crumbly texture (double boooo). I like my kleicha tender and soft, with just enough dates to make it sweet.


Although this was my first time making kleicha, I can honestly say it was better than most I've had. It may not be the absolute bestI've been lucky to experience kleicha nirvana a few times in my life but unfortunately don't have those recipesbut mine were pretty damn awesome (tootin' horn).


The recipe itself is very easy, but the individually-wrapped walnut ones can take time to form.


The date ones are much faster to make, since you prepare them much like cinnamon rolls (spread out the dough, top with the filling, roll it up, and slice them).

There is usually more of a swirl with these cookies; see my notes in the recipe section below on this.
And while a wooden mold is definitely not required, it helps create more uniform cookies (for the walnut-filled ones). This mold here was my grandmothers, and one of my most cherished possessions. So glad to finally be able to actually use it instead of just stare at it. :) If you want one of your own just google "maamoul mold" (maamoul is another Middle-Eastern sugar cookie filled with dates).


Below I'll post the recipe I used and a lot more detailed photos to guide you through the process. I hope you enjoy these cookies as much as I do!


Buen Provecho,
Jacqueline

Kleicha (Iraqi cookie) adapted from International Cuisine and Make Cupcakes Not War  (who also has great step-by-step photos)

Note: I love me some date-filled kleicha, but it may have been even too much dates for me (honestly didn't realize that was even possible)! I think I'm just not used to these cookies being that sweet, but other people really loved them. It could also get a bit pricey to use that many dates if you're making a giant batch of these cookies (as most Assyrians do). So feel free to cut down the dates by 1/4; but don't cut down too much, I think cutting it in half would be a bit skimpy. 

One batch of dough (below) will be enough for the date and walnut filling recipes below (half for each type of cookie). 

Ingredients

Dough
3 cups flour (380 g)
2 tsp ground cardamom (freshly ground, if you can; or 1 tsp mahlab and 1 tsp cardamom)
1 tsp sugar
scant 1/2 tsp salt
1/3 to 1/2 cup milk (you can use half coconut milk:half water if you want to veganize these cookies)
2 tsp yeast
1 cup butter (2 sticks), melted

1 egg, beaten (for egg wash)

Date filling
8 oz chopped dates (~1 cup; medjool dates if you can)
2 tsp butter/oil
1/2 ts ground cardamom

Walnut filling*
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 to 1/3 cup sugar (to taste)
1 tsp ground cardamom (or rose water, which I don't use)

*I remember having some filling left over, but I used it on top of my oatmeal and it was perfect! 

Directions

To make the dough
  1. Combine the flour, cardamom, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. In a measuring cup microwave 1/3 cup milk until warm. Add yeast to the warmed milk. Let sit for a few minutes.
  2. Pour the milk on top of the flour mixture and mix with your hands--it will be crumbly.
  3. Add butter to the flour mixture and knead with your hands until it is dough like (~5 minutes). If you need more liquid add a bit of milk. The dough will be very greasy and shaggy. 
  4. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and allow to sit and rise for 1-2 hours (Note: it won't rise a lot like a typical bread dough. It'll just look nice and puffy).

 To make the fillings
  1. While the dough is rising make your fillings.
  2. Date filling: place the dates in a small saucepan over medium/medium low heat. Add butter and mix until soft and paste-like. Turn off the heat and add cardamom. Mix to combine and set aside to cool.
  3. Walnut filling: In a bowl mix the walnuts, sugar, and cardamom. Set aside until ready to use.
To make the date-filled cookies
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. After the dough has rested, divide the dough into half (1/2 will be for the date cookies and 1/2 for the walnut cookies) 
  3. Roll dough to 1/4" thickness; mine was about 6" x 14". Set aside. Note for next time: I'll probably add at least another 1" to the width next time (~7+") and roll the dough a touch thinner so that there is more of a swirl in my cookie. I like the layers of my dough and my dates to both be pretty thin, and in the cookies I made they were a bit on the thicker side.
  4. Place the date paste between 2 large parchment sheets or clean plastic sheets and roll out to approximately the same dimensions as your dough. Remove the top sheet from the rolled date paste, then invert over the dough. Peel off the other sheet (see picture below, though I'd recommend having less of a dough edge than I did).
  5. Grab the edge of the longer side, and start rolling the dough into a long tube. If the dough is getting too soft at this point you can refrigerate the log for at least 15 minutes to firm it up a bit (see picture below).
  6. Cut the dough into 3/4" pieces, and place each cookie on your baking sheet seam side down. Brush with egg wash and bake for ~20 minutes, or until golden brown on top (see picture below).
Creating the date paste layer
Rolling your date separately makes it really easy to spread it across your very soft dough.
Next time I'd leave even less of an edge so the date paste was almost the exact same dimensions as my dough.
Cutting the cookies
I cut the cookies 3/4" thick--if your dough is holding up you could cut them thinner if you'd prefer.
Pretty swirl!
Next time I'd roll my dough and date paste a bit thinner so that I'll have even more swirls!
Baked cookies
I found my dough was a bit soft, so some of them "leaned over" a bit. Might help to refrigerate your dough and flatten out the log a bit if its getting too soft and rounded.

To make the walnut-filled cookies
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. 
  2. After the dough has rested, divide the dough into half (1/2 will be for the date cookies and 1/2 for the walnut cookies)  
  3. See picture below for how to form the cookies:
    1. Take pieces of dough and roll/flatten into a circle the size of your palm (I used 20-23 grams of dough per cookie, and spread it ~2.5" in diameter)
    2. Fill with 2 tsp of walnut filling
    3. Pinch the dough in...
    4. ...and seal the edges
  4. At this point if you're not using a wooden mold, use your hand to form them into circles or oblong shaped, and continue with step #6. If you're using the mold, put them in the mold seam side up (see picture below). 
  5. Lightly press onto the dough to fill the mold, then whack the cookie out (see picture below, and my Instagram for a short video)
  6. Place cookies seam side down onto baking sheet, brush with egg wash, and bake for ~20 minutes until golden brown (see picture below).
First you gotta stuff the cookie with walnuts...

...then you stuff it into the cookie mold...
...then you whack it out of the mold (against the table is best).
The ridges on the cookie won't be as defined as your wooden mold, but egg wash
makes them GOLDEN and crinkly when they cook.

Of course as I was literally in the middle of making the cookies my aunt Shamiran (Shamo) shared with me her dough recipe. I haven't tried it yet, but I definitely will next time. Her full recipe is below, which is enough to feed an army (aka: an Assyrian party), so I've also divided the recipe by 4 for more of a normal amount of cookies.

Shamo's kleicha recipe (1/4 the recipe in parenthesis)

Shamo's recipe is generally similar to the one I used with a few differences: she has egg and yogurt in hers in place of some of the butter and milk. Just use the directions provided above (adding in the egg, yogurt, and milk to the flour at the same time), and add in some extra cardamom! (Using my flour amount above as guidance, perhaps 12 tsp for the full recipe and 3 tsp for the quarter)

Full ingredients (1/4 size)
1 cup milk (1/4 cup)
6 eggs (1.5 eggs)
1/2 cup sugar (1/8 cup)
1 cup yogurt (1/4 cup yogurt)
5 lb flour (1.25 lb, or ~567 grams)
6 sticks butter (1.5 sticks)
1 tsp baking soda (1/4 tsp)
1 tsp salt (1/4 tsp)
2 packets yeast (1/2 packet)

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