Archive for June, 2011

I amplify the chocolate power of my brownies with chocolate chips.

I believe brownies were the very first cookie I ever made. I was nine. And, because of my lunatic father’s devotion to the wilds of Idaho, we were living in the Clearwater Mountains and cooking on a wood-burning stove. So you can see why I truly do not understand why anyone would make brownies from a mix. I mean, if a nine-year-old can make brownies from scratch and bake them in the oven of a wood-burning stove, anyone–absolutely anyone–can make brownies.

There are zillions of recipes for brownies. There are entire books devoted to variations, and I’ve tried a lot of them. This is my version. It’s easy enough for any nine-year-old to tackle, and the results are always delicious.

Laurie’s Brownies

2/3 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup good cacao (I use Callebaut)
2 cups granulated sugar
4 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cups chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Heat the oven to 350 degrees (and take the time to appreciate the fact that you don’t have to chop the damned wood for it!). Grease a 9×11-inch baking pan.
Mix the cacao, vegetable oil, sugar, eggs and vanilla together. The batter should be smooth. Stir in the flour, baking powder and salt by hand. Don’t use a mixer; it will add too much air to the batter. Stir in the nuts and chocolate chips. Pour into the prepared pan and smooth the batter to fill the pan.
Bake for 22 to 25 minutes. Check at 22 minutes; brownies should always be slightly underbaked. You want crumbs to stick to the knife but you don’t the batter to still be liquid.

You can let the brownies cool before you cut them into bars, or you can just start digging them out with a spoon and eating them hot. I like them with vanilla ice cream melting over them.



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I love a great sandwich, especially in the summer. My sis (and floral-design mentor) Hellen and her son Will are great cooks; last summer they served up one of their own inventions. I loved it so much, I asked for the recipe. Now I make it often.

You’ll notice there are no amounts given in the instructions that follow. That’s because everybody’s got a different idea about how much is enough for a sandwich.

Will & Hellen’s Turkey Sandwiches

Sliced sourdough bread
Provolone, Swiss or Monterey jack cheese
Deli roasted turkey, sliced thin
Red onions, sliced thin and separated into rings
Tomato, sliced (homegrown if you got ’em, otherwise try for heirlooms from your local farmers market)
Romaine lettuce
Jalapeno mayo

Mince up a jalapeno and stir into mayonnaise.

Fry bacon till crisp. Drain the grease from the pan and warm the turkey slices in the same pan.

Warm thin-sliced turkey in the bacon pan

Spread butter and/or olive oil on the bread and grill in a frying pan; melt a slice of cheese on one slice of the bread for each sandwich.

Melt Gruerere on pan toasted sourdough

Serve open-face, piling the bacon, turkey, romaine, thin slices of red onions, tomato slices on one side. Let each person add however much jalapeno mayo he or she needs before slapping the top slice over the stack. This sandwich tastes great with bread-and-butter pickles and and my favorite – Lays potato chips.

I love these sandwiches, my honey loves them, and I bet you will too!


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I’ll let you in on a little secret: I don’t own a cookie jar. Neither does Laurie. Mel has a cookie jar, but Mel doesn’t bake, which tells you something, doesn’t it? I don’t bake a lot, and as the weather warms up, I bake even less. That’s when I start making one of my all-time favorite confections: Fudge Meltaways. They aren’t fudge, and they aren’t really cookies, but they do melt away.

The version I make came from a 1960s Betty Crocker cookbook and, as far as I can tell, was only in one edition; I have a later edition and the recipe’s not in it.

These are definitely not suitable for a cookie jar, unless you keep your cookie jar in the fridge, but you really won’t have to worry about storing them; there are rarely any left over.

Fudge Meltaways

1/2 cup butter
1-ounce unsweetened chocolate
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 egg, beaten
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup nuts, chopped

1/2 cup butter
1 tbsp. milk or cream
2 cup sifted powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

3-4 squares unsweetened chocolate

Melt 1/2 cup butter and one square of chocolate in saucepan. Blend granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla, egg, graham cracker crumbs, coconut and nuts into butter-chocolate mixture. Mix well.

Melt butter and chocolate and stir in the sugar

Press the crumb mixture flat

Line a jelly roll pan with aluminum foil, letting some hang over the sides so you have handles. Press the crumb mixture evenly into the pan. Refrigerate until firm, at least an hour.

Beat together 1/2 cup butter, milk, powdered sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Spread carefully over the crumb mixture. Chill.

Spread the frosting over the chilled base.

Melt three squares of chocolate and spread evenly over chilled filling. Not easy to do–I find my silicon pastry brush works well for this if I use a light touch. Chill again.

Cut into small squares before completely firm. Makes 3 to 4 dozen bars.

The yummy, no-bake confection is perfect for warm weather--though the bars will melt in your hands as well as your mouth.

This recipe has never needed a lot of tinkering because it’s pretty perfect on its own. But the original version did have a few issues. The original instructions tell you to spread the layers in a baking dish; it’s way easier to use a lined jelly roll pan. And easier to remove the finished bars too. I always make more frosting than the original recipe called for. Same goes for the chocolate to spread over the top; the original recipe calls for 1 1/2 squares but it just isn’t enough, so I double it.

Sounds easy, doesn’t it? And it is. I promise you’ll get rave reviews; I always do!


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These may be Mel's guys, but this is not the Star Trek cookie jar of Mel's dreams. Not at all. He wants one in the shape of the Starship Enterprise.

By Mel Gilden

Like most people, I love cookies. And Laurie is one of the queen cookie makers of the world. (Watch this space for cookie recipes to come.) I assure you that this presents a problem because, unless I want to look like a sumo wrestler, I am not able to, nor should I, eat all the cookies she makes. Short of inviting the neighbors in, the question is what to do with the extras — which is to say the dozens that are left after I’ve eaten a few when they are still warm.

I will certainly eat more of them over the following days, and meanwhile one can store them in plastic bags or jars or tins. That will certainly work, but bags and jars lack a certain — how shall I say? — style. I prefer a cookie jar.

I’ve always liked to own things that remind me of things that I enjoy, so it stands to reason that I would love cookie jars — and I do. Not holiday jars in the shape of snowmen or Santas or turkeys but jars shaped like Sherlock Holmes, Klingons, Darth Vader, or Yoda — but most especially like spaceships.

The first cookie jar I purchased was actually a sculpture done by my friend Max. It was painted-and-fired clay, and it looked like a stubby spaceship held together by rivets. You could lift off the pointy bow of the ship to see that there was plenty of room inside for cookies. Of course, in those days I had no need to watch my weight, and so there were usually more cookies in me than in the cookie jar.

I have never owned a cookie jar in the shape of Holmes or of an alien, though I still have high hopes. I do have a bottle that has a stopper in the shape of Mr. Spock’s head, but the neck of the bottle is way too small for cookies.

Speaking of Mr. Spock: I have been hunting for years for a cookie jar in the shape of the Starship Enterprise and have never found one, not even for ready money. If you honestly ponder the shape of the Enterprise, you’ll see that unless the jar were enormous, there wouldn’t be room inside for cookies or anything else.

Currently the cookie jar of my dreams is the TARDIS, Doctor Who’s abode and, for lack of a better description, time machine. Aboard the TARDIS the Doctor can travel through time and space — Time And Relative Dimensions In Space, get it? The TARDIS looks like a police call box; I understand there was a time when one of these blue emergency boxes stood on almost every street corner in England. These days, the Doctor has one of the very few.

As you might guess, a big rectangular box would be a very practical shape for a cookie jar. One of these days I will look on eBay and see if such a thing actually exists. The real problem is this: While the Doctor’s TARDIS is bigger on the inside than on the outside (don’t ask me how this works, I’m no Time Lord), any TARDIS I am likely to find for sale would be the same size on the inside or smaller. Heavy sigh. Sometimes reality is so disappointing. I’ll just have to eat more cookies.

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Hazel recently picked up a flatbread called sangak from the Central Grand Market, a fabulous source for all edible things Lebanese Armenian in Glendale, California. It was chewy, still slightly crisp though it had been out of the oven for half an hour (the length of time it took to get from Glendale to my house and for us to tear into the bread), liberally dusted with sesame seeds, delicious with lebne and with the eggplant spread I’d made to go with it. I promptly began searching for recipes.

I found several, none quite what I was looking for, but this one gave me a place to start, as well as my favorite directions ever for dealing with bread dough: “Cover it and leave it to sit in a warm place for a few hours, until it has risen like a full moon. Beat it down and let it rise again, like hope, for all of another hour.”

The Iranian‘s recipe calls for baking on a bed of pebbles, which I don’t have. I do, however, have ceramic pie weights, which I figure are close enough. I expect a pizza stone would work just fine too, though it won’t give you a pebbled bottom.

Here’s my version. I’m still looking for the slightly sourdough-y flavor of the Central Grand Market’s bread, but this one is pretty good. And I don’t have to drive to Glendale to get it, which is a plus.

3/4 cup warm water
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon yeast (half a package)

1 teaspoon salt
2 cups unbleached white flour
2 or 3 teaspoons sesame seeds

Dissolve the yeast in the water, then stir in the whole wheat flour and the salt. Set aside for half an hour or so, then stir in the remaining flour. I use my stand mixer and dough hook instead of kneading this by hand, but however you do it, you want to turn into it a smooth, elastic dough. You may find you need a little additional water to get the dough to come together. Add it just a spoonful at a time.

Let the dough rise, then punch it down and let it rise again–like hope–for a couple of hours. Or overnight in the fridge, which is pretty convenient. Heat the oven to 500 degrees, along with your pebbles, pizza stone or pie weights (safely contained in a jelly roll pan). Roll the dough out thin–I find this works best on an unfloured bread board–sprinkle with sesame seeds and transfer carefully to the hot stone or pan.

Bake about five minutes, until golden brown. It will puff up a little. Remove from the oven and devour either straight or with hummus or any other dip of your desire. It’ll still be good cool, but why wait?


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