Tag Archives: cooking

Martha Stewart coconut pecan caramel cookies

Me & Martha: Pecan Caramel Cookies

Really these are called Coconut Pecan Caramel Sandwich Cookies in Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook (that I’m baking my way through), but since I couldn’t really taste the coconut and actually forgot I had put coconut in the cookie dough, I’m leaving that descriptor out as it could be misleading.

Yes, I followed the directions pretty thoroughly this time through, apart from cutting the recipe in half, yet again. (Either this book is written specifically for people who entertain or have large families, or they create recipes to fall into convenient quantities…like 1/4 cup of coconut…since an 1/8 cup of coconut hardly seems worth mentioning, right?)

Well anyway, I toasted up my unsweetened shredded coconut (actually the recipe calls for sweetened so maybe that’s why I can’t taste anything in the finished product) and pecans, pulverized them and mixed them into the shortbread dough.

pecan and coconut cookie dough
pecan and coconut cookie dough

After the multiple rounds of chilling, cookie cutting, and rechilling, my pecan shortbread hearts were on the wire rack cooling and I could get down the best part: the Caramel Filling!

final caramel sauce!
final caramel sauce!

I never use a candy thermometer, preferring instead to rely on my senses and sense of timing…which is probably why I don’t make a lot of candy products.

So I love that this recipe doesn’t instruct with a candy thermometer, but rather just color and texture cues.

In the end, making this caramel sauce was quite easy. Here’s what I did:

  1. Boil water and and about 4x more sugar until it starts turning a deep amber color, not stirring. [And this part from Martha I really like: continually “wash down” the sides of the pot with a wet pastry brush to avoid crystallization. It ensures that you are paying a lot of attention to not let the caramel burn or create a nasty mess on the sides of your pot.]
  2. Remove from heat and slowly pour in some heavy whipping cream.
  3. Then quickly stir in little chunks of butter until the whole thing becomes creamy and smooth and glossy.
  4. Really keep stirring to avoid clumping.
  5. Once it’s totally smooth, let it cool just a bit before drizzling over your cookies.

In the book, the cookies were adorable spring flower shaped with holes punched out of the middle so that the caramel sauce would peek through the top of the sandwich cookie.

In my reality, I only have a heart cookie cutter and, as I learned from the Linzer Heart Cookies, cutting a hole out of the middle of shortbread cookies is a time-consuming and pain-staking task that I was not up for doing again. So my cookies are straight up sandwich cookies, no cute hole. And frankly, I only made half of them into sandwiches…the other half I’m dunking into my bowl of caramel sauce. And that is perfect.

caramel sauce over pecan cookies
caramel sauce over pecan cookies

Even the cookies on their own are delish – they remind me of the Pecan Sandies that my mom used to love back when she could eat nuts.

Chai tea with a smidge of milk works really well with these. And now I’m going to buy ice cream so I have a reason to keep making this yummy caramel sauce!

warm Lebkuchen with icing

German Spice Cookies: Lebkuchen with Icing

This holiday season, my mom and I baked up a batch of these Lebkuchen ~ traditional German Christmas cookies that taste like gingerbread, but surprisingly have NO ginger in them! (Is that a fair description, Oliver?)

finished German spice cookie
yummy cookie!

The cookie recipe we tried was actually one that she received from Viking River Cruises (I guess mom’s on that mailing list).

They Lebkuchen cookies were chewy and certainly extremely spicy and rich. Definitely to be enjoyed with an English Breakfast or Earl Grey tea, or perhaps a light German beer like Paulaner or Spaten.

The ingredients and steps are fairly straightforward, but be warned that you need to plan ahead because the dough is to be chilled overnight. Have fun!

1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup molasses
(We didn’t end up having enough honey so we added more molasses to make up 1 cup of these two ingredients ~ 1 to 1 substitution)
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 + 3/4 cup flour (plus more for dusting)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon nutmeg

German spice cookies ingredients
German spice cookies ingredients

The recipe then also calls for 1/3 cup of candied citron and 1/3 cup of hazelnuts ~ We omitted both of these.

Okay, side note here: I did not know what citron was…I assumed it was candied lemon peel. Ooops. No. It is not. It is a fruit unto itself. There are different varietals and guess what one of them is? Etrog!!! As in Lulav and Etrog! (Staples in the Sukkot holiday for my non-Jewish friends.) So that’s a fun factoid for ya! Here’s a recipe for making your own candied citron.

To make the icing, you will need:
1 cup of sugar
1/4 cup of milk (or water)
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1/2 cup of powdered sugar

To Make:
1. Bring honey and molasses to a boil and then remove from heat

2. Stir in the brown sugar, egg, lemon juice and zest
3. In a large bowl, whisk together the 2 + 3/4 cup flour, baking soda, and spices
4. Stir the molasses mixture into the flour mixture (also this is when you would add the candied citron and chopped hazelnuts)

5. Cover & chill overnight

Next day:
6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper
7. Roll out a bit of your dough on a floured surface until about a 1/4 inch thick, adding more flour if the dough is too sticky
8. Use a cookie cutter or clean glass to cut circular cookies out of the dough [Repeat #7 and #8 with the rest of the dough]

9. Move the cookies to the baking sheets and cook for 10-12 minutes
10. Transfer the cookies to a rack for cooling and brush with icing while still warm
11. Decorate with almonds, candied citron or crystallized ginger

While the cookies are baking, make the icing as follows:
1. Heat sugar, milk (or water) and vanilla on the stove but do not boil

2. Remove from heat and whisk in the powdered sugar
3. Reheat as needed to maintain the liquid state as you brush it over the top of the warm cookies


Martha Stewart Meringues with a (Lemon) Twist

It was recently a friend’s birthday: she doesn’t have much of a sweet tooth but she does enjoy meringues, so I figured I would scope out a good Martha Stewart recipe for the occasion!

I turned to Chapter 3: Cakes of Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook to find pavlovas, which are basically just larger meringues that have a dip in the middle so you can eat them with fruit and whipped cream if you’d like.

Martha Stewart pavlovas
Martha’s pavlovas

I’ve made mini meringues in the past, and while they were still yummy, they oozed a little bit of caramelized sugar (“weeping” it’s called). This is caused by not having the sugar totally dissolved into the egg whites ~ either too much sugar to egg white ratio or not whisking sugar in slowly enough. [Side note: The pavlovas are in the oven now and I’m positive I’ve messed this up again by dumping all of the sugar in at once :(]

Here is the general recipe and my twist

2 egg whites (mine were fairly old, which is great for meringue; I’m saving the egg yolks for a day or so in the fridge to make chocolate lave cake)
3/4 cup of granulated sugar (if you have superfine sugar this is even better – or you can pulverize your granulated sugar in the food processor to make it superfine – then it will smoothly integrate into the egg whites better…I did NOT do this)…ALSO a note on sugar: eyeball the amount of egg whites you have; if the eggs are sort of small or old (as they start to have less liquid in them as they get older due to evaporation), use a smidge less sugar; better a little less than a too much sugar because you can add more, but you can’t take some away. Another lesson I need to learn myself.
Okay, back to ingredients:
Smidge of salt (technical term according to me that about equals a pinch)
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla (or just guesstimate)
My Twist:
Lemon zest!!! Again, an eyeball’s worth should do to brighten up the flavors! And if you add a fair amount, your meringues will turn out tasting like LEMON MERINGUE PIE! YUM! So the lemon zest is totally optional of course.
And then, if you have it, a bit of confectioner’s sugar…I did not have it…so skip!

To Make:
1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees and line a baking pan with parchment paper.
2. Bring a pot of water to a simmer and place a glass bowl over top
3. Place the egg whites in the glass bowl and begin to whisk by hand. I asked, But Why do we have to do this over a warm bowl?!?! So I did some research for you folks: The warmth helps warm up the eggs (uh duh). Warm egg whites are easier to whip into stiff peaks so this is especially good if you hadn’t already brought your eggs to room temperature, which you definitely should have done…did I not mention that earlier? Oops sorry!
4. SLOWLY (this was not mentioned in the book) add the granulated sugar ~ literally tablespoon by tablespoon ~ as you whisk by hand. Add the salt at this time too.

Here’s where Martha moves to the stand mixer and where we deviate…my recreation follows:
5. Once the sugar is THOROUGHLY whisked into the egg whites (in other words, you cannot feel grains of sugar if you rubbed the mixture between your fingers), remove from heat and beat on medium high with your hand mixer until stiff peaks form (perhaps 4 minutes)

egg whites stiff peaks
Egg whites whipped – holding peaks

6. Add the vanilla and LEMON ZEST! and beat a little bit more until mixed
7. Use a large spoon to glop 6 heaping piles of meringue onto your baking sheet
8. Use the back of the spoon and a sweep of the wrist to spread out a little bit and form indentations in the center of each meringue without making the centers too thin (don’t want that part to cook faster than the rest of the meringue).

meringues ready for oven
Meringues ready for the oven

9. Pop those lovelies in the oven for 1+1/2 hours
10. I like to open the oven door about 20 minutes in to allow any trapped moisture to escape the oven – a trick I learned from making macarons.
11. When they easily pop off the paper, they are done. If the centers are still too chewy, you can flip them over and bake a little longer. You can also leave them in the oven with the heat off a little longer to dry. You can also transfer the paper and pavlovas to a wire rack for cooling and drying….All sorts of techniques here!

They come out smelling sugary and sweet, and if you’re like me, you’ll eat them as is…but I guess if you’re being fancy you can add berries and cream (and maybe some chocolate shavings).

Pair with: CHAMPAGNE!!!

cooked meringue
Cooked pavlova


Martha’s Oatmeal Raisin Cookies (Or, Recipe #1 and I’m Already Not Following Directions)

Welcome to Recipe #1 from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook: Oatmeal Raisin Cookies. Now, in theory, as I bake my way through this Martha Stewart cookbook, I would like to do these recipes in order, but since New Year’s Eve called for cookies instead of biscuits, I skipped right on ahead to Chapter 3: Cookies!

oatmeal raisin cookies

My first recipe in, and already I’m unable to fulfill all of the ingredient requirements (this might be a longer journey than anticipated). So I’m doing what I do best: adapting!

The original recipe called for shredded coconut. WELP, don’t have that and not going to buy it, so that’s out.

Also the original recipe called for maple syrup. Again, don’t have any of that, so I’ll sub in molasses. Well I’ll be darned if I don’t even have enough molasses! So some molasses and some honey it will be.

Okay, well other than those two things, I did *pretty much* follow the recipe and the cookies turned out great! Dense and sweet with just the right amount of oatmeal to raisin ratio.

Oh, I also used salted butter when it called for unsalted. *Grimace face emoji*

Whatever, they were delicious. I’m confident that however you choose to sweeten these or how much or little salt you use, you’ll do just fine.

So here’s the scoop (get it, like scooping cookie dough? no? okay fine) on how I re-created these.

1 & 1/2 cup flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 sticks butter at room temp (I softened a little bit more than room temp in the microwave for 5-10 seconds on high)
1 cup light brown sugar (mine was hard as a rock so I put a few drops of water on it in a bowl and microwaved it for 10-15 seconds on high and then mashed it up with a spoon…it was about 1 cup *wobbly hand motion to indicate “more or less”*)
1/3 cup molasses and honey mixture
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups oatmeal
1 cup raisins

To Make:
1. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper
2. Preheat oven to 325 degrees
3. Mix flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt in a bowl (aka “dry”)
4. Cream butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy (in a separate bowl duh) (aka “wet”)
5. Add molasses & honey to wet and mix
6. Add egg and vanilla to wet and mix
7. Mix the dry into the wet with the mixer on low speed – add it in two pours so it incorporates well and you don’t spin flour all over yourself and the kitchen by just dumping it in all at once
8. Once flour is integrated, mix in the oatmeal and raisins gently

martha stewart oatmeal raisin cookies batter
9. Use a small cookie scoop (or spoon) to scoop balls of dough onto the baking sheets and cook for 15-18 minutes, swapping the top and bottom pans halfway through for even baking.
10. Cool on the pans and then transfer cookies to a cooling rack.


My Suggested Drink Pairing: Coffee with milk and cinnamon

My Suggested Adult Drink Pairing: Port

cookies and coffee


Candy Cane Sugar Cookies!!!

I hope you had a delicious holiday weekend! No matter what holiday(s) you may or may not celebrate, it was a good three day weekend to get together with friends and family.

I was lucky enough to get warm and cozy at my parents’ house, and while most of my friends from growing up have moved away, at least a little away, so many were home for the weekend and I loved seeing all of them and sharing some cookies, coffee, donuts, sandwiches, etc. 🙂

My mom and I baked German spice cookies on Saturday, but that recipe will have to wait another week, because this week I’m sharing this yummy and festive candy cane sugar cookie recipe that I made last week.

This is perfect for: a. people who don’t like chocolate (aka crazies but they exist), b. doing something with left-over candy canes.

I adapted this recipe from allrecipes.com for chewy sugar cookies, but with some added twists. In my version, I cut their recipe in half, producing 15 large-ish cookies.

1 cup + 6 tablespoons flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt (you know I’m not too exact with my salt though)
10 tablespoons butter (I let all the butter come to room temperature and then I half melted 5 of the 10 tablespoons to achieve a slightly flatter, chewier cookie center)
1 cup white sugar
1 egg (room temp)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1-2 candy canes (depending on how minty you like your cookies)

To Make:
1. Set oven to 350 degrees
2. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper
3. Smash up your candy canes in a Ziploc bag using the back of a frying pan or meat hammer or whatever other heavy object you have lying around. Definitely don’t grind it into a powder – think little chunks, like marbles or slightly smaller (and for those of you who are too young to know what marbles are, think of small pebbles). Keeping the candy cane chunky will add a good sticky crunch to your cookies.
4. In a small bowl, stir the flour, baking soda and salt
5. In a different (larger) bowl, use a hand mixer or stand mixer to cream (aka beat on low-med speed) the butter and sugar until uniform
6. Beat in the egg to the butter/sugar combo on low-med speed
7. Beat in the vanilla to the butter/sugar/egg combo on low-med speed
8. With a large spoon or with the stand mixer, carefully blend the dry ingredients into the wet until fully incorporated but not overly stirred


You can EITHER stir your smashed candy canes into the batter so that the pieces are spread throughout the cookie OR you can save them for last and place them on top of the cookies before they’re baked (see pic below for second version).

Personally, I think the cookies taste the same either way but they look prettier with candy cane on top, so that’s how I’m going to continue this recipe, but if you’ve already stirred your candy canes in at this point, then you should’ve kept reading until the end of this paragraph to realize that’s not where I was going. 😉 Just kidding – they will still be delicious.

9. So! Moving on!
10. Pour some extra sugar into a small bowl
11. Use your tablespoon to scoop out balls of dough and roll them into balls using your fingers.
12. Roll them in the sugar.

Processed with VSCOcam with b5 preset
13. Place them on the baking sheets
14. Slightly tamp them down to spread them out a bit
15. Sprinkle the crushed candy canes on top and press the candy gently into the dough to get them to really sink in. (I found this method was actually kind of a pain in the a** but again, I think they looked more festive in the end.)
16. Bake one sheet at a time. Start checking the cookies at about 10 minutes. Mine ended up going for 13 and were super chewy in the center and nice and crispy around the edges with sticky candy cane bits!
17. Let the cookies cool on the pan until they’re set up a bit and then use a spatula to move them to a cooling rack. (Tip: use a metal spatula to remove cookies from sheets – way sturdier and thinner to really get up under them than a plastic/silicone one.)
18. Enjoy and share! (Perfect to pair with milked coffee, Candy Cane tea from Celestial Seasonings or gingerbread ale.)



Things To Do While Being Unemployed: Cooking and Crafting Experimentation

Yes, I realize that my wedding is a year away, but when it’s cold out, it’s fun to stay inside and do some wedding-related crafts (and cook some wintery meals).  All of the crafts and most of the foodstuff I’m detailing here is my first ever attempt at making them…You get a lot of take-out when both people are working.  Here’s the first wedding project I started (note “started” not yet finished):

ImageBasically I’m using watercolors to paint these gift tags in ombre blue and then I’m going to write guests’ names on them, stamp them with table numbers and use them as escort cards.  Originally I tried to dip them into water mixed with paint, but that just made them soggy and didn’t impart enough color (I probably should have used ink instead of watercolor paint but it was too late, that’s what I had bought).  I moved on to using brushes to paint them, and I like how each is slightly different and looks handmade.

I saw these tissue paper tassel garlands on Instagram and decided that I could make them myself, so I purchased (and scrounged in my gift wrapping box) some tissue paper and Googled how to start.


(Picture from bridalmusings.com and garland made by Confetti System.)

They take a little while and some concentration, but now that I know I can do it, I’m going to buy some more tissue colors to make all sorts of combos.  One trick is to iron the sheets of tissue paper on low heat first so that the tassels don’t have crinkles in them.

IMG_1675Fold the tissue paper in half twice and cut strips leaving about an inch at the top.  Unfold once, cut the paper in half to create two tassels.  Unfold again so that you get this tentacle-looking piece, then start rolling tightly from one end in the middle all the way down the crease.  Once you get it rolled, you’ll have a tightly wound middle part with sprays of paper fanning out on either side.  Pinch the rolled middle part in half and start twisting like a twist tie so the tassel parts come together and you create the top part through which you can thread a string or ribbon.  Gently comb the strips with your fingers so that they fall nicely into tassels.


Then you can thread some sort of wire/thread/string/ribbon through the twisted top.  I tied a loose knot after passing through each loop to keep them spaced equally.  Hang on a window like this, on the mantle, or wherever else might be festive!tissue paper garlands

Here is another Thanksgiving-themed garland I put together.  Full disclosure: this was a cute little crafting kit that my aunt gave me for Hanukkah.  It did take some work in terms of cutting, pasting, creating paper leaves and tying the burlap ribbons into perfect bows.IMG_1440It was super fun.

Making this necklace might not seem totally like a craft, but let me assure you that it took me at least three trips to Michael’s to purchase the correct clasp and clear plastic filament, so I think the effort exuded qualifies this as a legit project.  This peachy faux-pearl necklace was originally on cotton string and belonged to my grandmother Honey.  I was wearing it wrapped a few times around my wrist as a bracelet, when all of a sudden, the string broke and the beads rolled everywhere.  I swear, I didn’t even make any sudden movements – the string just disintegrated.  Coincidentally, this was during Friday night temple services that I was attending for Honey’s yahrzeit (remembrance of the anniversary of her death), and I was wearing it in her honor.  Embarrassingly crawling on my hands and knees to retrieve the errant beads around the pews and people’s legs, I stuffed them in my purse and vowed to restring them to make something wearable once again.  Although I don’t think I got quite all the pearls, it was fun parsing and arranging the ones I had collected in the correct order to remake the choker.IMG_1352

The necklace project got me excited to do more jewelry projects, and over Thanksgiving, I received some costume jewelry that belonged to Honey’s cousin, Janet, including many delicate metal and enamel flower brooches that I’m thinking of making into some sort of shadow box wall art.

In terms of cooking, I’ve been whipping up a storm of cookies and other cold weather treats.  A photo gallery of some of my faves so far:

IMG_0891Make your own pizza creations!

Pumpkin everything:

IMG_0885Pumpkin bread with pumpkin pulp that I roasted, scooped and pureed myself!  Look ma, no cans (of pumpkin puree)!

IMG_0879Roasted pumpkin seeds with butter and a lot of salt 🙂

IMG_1357Pumpkin chocolate chip cookies.  Okay, this time I had run out of hand-scooped pumpkin and did use the canned stuff.

 IMG_1718Crunchy, flaky, melt in your mouth kale chips (again lots of sea salt).
IMG_1458 IMG_1457My new addiction is oven-roasted tomatoes.  Besides the fact that they take like 6 hours to bake, they are always a tasty addition to lunch and having the oven on all day helps keep me warm!!
I’m chalking up my first attempt at Maryland crab cakes as an overall success: Pro: They tasted authentic with Old Bay; Con: They fell apart because I refused to use mayo and only used half an egg.  Also I used a container of jumbo lump crab meat, so the pieces were pretty large and chunky.  Maybe I should have shredded them up a bit so that they would mix better.
My Hanukkah latkes (potato pancakes) where more cohesive since I used the proper amount of egg:
IMG_1483Grated potatoes and onion
IMG_1488 IMG_1489They were excellent with hot sauce.
I made a traditional chicken soup, even making the broth from scratch with chicken thighs:
Then I made an even better spicy jalapeno chicken soup with quinoa, chicken bits pulled from one of those supermarket roast chickens and chicken broth.  It was quick and easy and what made it click was that you pour the soup out over the quinoa and chicken so that those ingredients don’t get soggy.  And then you can store each part separately, again to prevent the sog.
IMG_1482 I had never roasted a whole garlic head before, but I did for this soup and it was DELICIOUS.  Just cut the top off the head of garlic, drizzle with olive oil, wrap in tin foil and roast in the oven.  When it’s done, you can gently squeeze the garlic cloves out into the soup.  I then put the broth and roasted garlic in the blender to puree the garlic and mix it in well.  (As an aside, I did two heads of garlic and saved the second one for garlic bread and snacks of garlic and roasted tomatoes on Kashi 7 grain crackers – yum!)IMG_1484 IMG_1485
IMG_1490I threw in some leftover pasta too.  I really loved using a higher ratio of quinoa to soup so that each spoonful was a warm, slightly spicy, slightly nutty quinoa bite and not just straight chicken broth.
In addition to these traditional chocolate chip cookies (super chewy centers with extra crispy edges) (not the first time I’ve made these), I also made gingerbread men cookies (first time for these), which were easier than expected.  I got the hang of it on the second tray in that I rolled the dough a little thinner so they were more crunchy like a ginger snap, rather than bready like a cake.
IMG_1622Choc chip cookies
IMG_1462Prepping the gingerbread men
I also made some spiced walnuts with ginger and brown sugar.
IMG_1475 IMG_1476
IMG_1479 IMG_1480
I am kinda obsessed with biscuits, and while I really do love those Pillsbury-from-a-can-biscuits (there are literally five to six layers you can peel back and put butter between), I wanted to see if I could make them myself.  In this six months of cooking and baking experimentation, I’ve gotten over the fear of doing things directly on the countertop.  I clean it down really well, flour her up, and roll out that dough, whether cookie or biscuit.IMG_1684These were not only flaky but also a little crumbly.  Delicious for breakfast with butter and honey and for dinner with baked breaded chicken and hot sauce.
Yesterday I had a friend over and we each chose a cookie recipe to make.  I chose oatmeal toffee and she chose peanut butter Hershey kiss cookies.  They were both wonderful.  She not only used peanut butter, but also added ground peanuts to the mix which gave them a little salty-roasted taste and an added crunch mixed in with the smoothness of the peanut butter.
kiss cookies
The toffee oatmeal cookies (with a smattering of Heath bar bits in addition to straight toffee bits) turned out soft in the middle with crispy-crumbly edges and texture coming from the chewy oatmeal and semi-melted bits of toffee.  This was also my first experience using coconut oil instead of butter in a 1 to 1 substitution.  Coconut oil is supposedly healthier than butter.  Since I’ve never made these particular cookies with butter, I have no basis for comparison as to whether the coconut oil altered the flavor at all, but they were light and delicious to me.
toffee cookies toffee cookies2
Along the way, I also made some oatmeal, chocolate chip, walnut, dried cranberry cookies.  Those were intense because the “extra” ingredients almost overwhelmed the batter.  They were hard to form into balls for baking but they turned out great.  Almost more of a trail mix snack than a cookie.
prep stationoatmeal batteroatmeal cookies
Those were some of the highlights!  Tonight for NYE, I’m going to try a Vietnamese Shaking Beef recipe from the cookbook written by the chef at The Slanted Door in San Fran, where we originally tried and loved this dish.  I’m off to the Asian grocery store to purchase light and dark soy sauce (I had no idea there were different kinds of soy sauce, but I guess that makes sense), fish sauce, rice vinegar and mirin.  I’m excited to see what other exotic treats I will come across there.  Have a Happy New Year!