Saturday, December 20, 2014

Jewel Cookies

I hate to be "bah humbug" and all but Christmas cookies are very often not as good as they look. Years ago, I used to sit next to a gal at work that baked a ton of cookies for everyone during the holidays, and gave us all beautifully wrapped plates of them. She spent days on it - and the cookies looked fantastic, but tasted really bland and had a tough texture. I bit into one that was so bad, I actually had to fake blowing my nose so I could spit it out into a Kleenex! I tried to put them out by the coffee pot at work - engineers are notorious for eating any free food they can get their hands on, but even these beauties were left uneaten. When she wasn't looking, I threw most of them out in a garbage can on the other end of the building. Like Santa does each Christmas eve, I left a couple cookies on the plate with a few crumbs so that she thought that her cookies were well received. She had spent so much time on them.

A recipe for a cookie that's often featured in Christmas cookie platters - the "jewel" or "thumbprint" cookie is a frequent Christmas cookie offender. I've had many terrible versions of this cookie - tough dough, rancid nuts, fluorescent red and green maraschino cherries placed in the centers (a sin committed by yours truly in junior high). But done right, these cookies are sublime! Did you preserve some raspberry jam last summer? Now's the time to crack open a jar and make this cookie. Strawberry jam would work well it it, too. I got this recipe years ago out of Martha Stewart Living, but a tweaked it to make it better.

Jewel Cookies

3 sticks unsalted butter
1 c light brown sugar, packed
2 eggs, separated
2 t vanilla extract
1/4 t salt
2 2/3 c flour
2 c roasted pecans, finely chopped
1/2 c tart jelly - I prefer currant jelly

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper. Cream butter and sugar. Beat in egg yolks, vanilla, salt, and then flour. Shape into 1 inch balls. Brush each ball with beaten egg whites, then roll in chopped pecans and place 2 to 3 inches apart on baking sheets. Press center of each ball with your thumb, and fill with 1/2 teaspoon jam. Bake 10 to 12 minutes until just golden around edges. Cool on a rack.

Makes about 2 dozen

Saturday, December 13, 2014

"Miracle" cleaners myth busted!

Every day, a new facebook post shows up in my feed about a miracle cleaner that will take care of the toughest kitchen cleaning tasks, so I decided to put a few to the test....I had a cookie sheet that my daughter had burned cookies looked like this to start:

One of the facebook miracle cures was to mix together baking soda and hydrogen peroxide to a paste, and let it sit for a while and the burned on grime is supposed to magically wipe away.   Other people swear that Barkeepers friend, a mild cleanser, would do the same I decided to give that a shot too:

On the top half of the pan, I put a paste of Barkeepers Friend, on the bottom, I spread out the paste of baking soda and peroxide:

....and then I let it sit for 4 hours.....the result????

Well I guess that wasn't the miracle I was looking for.   The only way I am going to get that pan clean is with a brillo pad.   Sorry, but this was no miracle.   Also, there's another one floating around where you clean your oven door glass with a mixture of Dawn dishwashing soap, vinegar and and baking soda.   I tried that one too and it doesn't work.   The only thing that will work is putting the oven in self cleaning mode.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Whiffletree Recipes

In my effort to preserve recipes from favorite Michigan restaurants, I'm posting a couple from one of Ann Arbor's favorites, the Whiffletree was on the corner of Huron and Ashley, and it burned down in the late 80s, before I lived here.   It was a favorite recipe of many locals; I am sorry I never had the chance to visit it.  Here are two recipes from Ann Arbor's Cookin' a Mott Children's Hospital fundraiser cookbook no longer in print.  I simplified them to make them more clear, but tried not to change them too much, however there are a few things I probably would do differently like just use egg yolks instead of the 2 whole eggs in the mousse. and fresh herbs in the gazpacho.

White Chocolate Mousse

3 c. vanilla wafers
1/2 c. butter, melted

In a food processor, process wafers until they are are crumbs.  Add melted butter and mix, press in the bottom of an 8 inch springform pan.

1 lb white chocolate
10 egg whites
4 c. heavy cream
2 whole eggs
4 egg yolks
3 oz. white creme de cacao

Chop white chocolate into small pieces and and in a medium size bowl, microwave on high in 30 second intervals, stirring after each interval, until melted.  Set aside to cool to 95 F.  In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the 10 egg whites until stiff,  Then separately whip the cream until stiff peaks form.  In the bowl with the melted chocolate,  add the whole eggs, egg yolks and cream de cacao and whisk until smooth.    Add some of the egg whites and whipped cream and whisk it a little more, then fold in the remaining egg whites.   Pour mixture onto the crust and freeze.

1 lb frozen raspberries, thawed and strained.  

Top mousse with raspberry sauce.

Chilled Gazpacho Soup

1 small onion, peeled and chopped
2 small cucumbers, peeled and chopped
1 med. green pepper, seeded and chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 t.. basil
1 t. oregano
1/2 t, thyme
1/4 c. olive oil
1/4 c. vred wine vinegar
juice of 1 lemon
1 tt. salt
1/2 t. ground cumin
8 oz. black olives, diced
15 oz. can whole tomatoes
1 fresh roma tomato
1 46 oz. can tomato juice

In a blender, add all ingredients except tomatoes.  Let stand 1 hour.   Add tomatoes and tomato juice.   Serve chilled, garnished with a slice of avocado, a spear of cucumber, ctourons and a dab of sour cream.