Cultured Butter Cookies

with-latte-and-sugar-cubesIf there were a “little black dress” of the cookie world, this cookie would be it. Simple and elegant, much like I imagine Melissa Clark, creator of this cookie, to be. Cultured Butter Cookies, perfect for any occasion, need to become a staple in your cookie wardrobe.

A rather unassuming little cookie, but appearances can be deceiving. When a cookie lists flour, butter and sugar (along with a little salt, baking powder and an egg yolk), as the only ingredients, then quality matters. That’s where the cultured butter comes in.

For the uninitiated, here’s a little butter making history. (I always consider it a great day when I learn something new!) Many years ago all butter was made with “cultured” cream. After the evening milking the farmers left the cream to sit out overnight so that the milk would settle and the cream would rise to the top of the bucket. Without refrigeration, the naturally occuring bacteria in the milk caused it to sour slightly, giving it a tangy nuttiness. This cultured cream, once churned into butter, retained that delicious flavour.

Once dairy farmers began pasteurizing their milk, all the active cultures were killed and the cream no longer soured on its own. If they wanted cultured cream they would have to add an additional step in the butter making process and add live cultures back into the pasteurized milk. In an effort to save time and money, North American farmers skipped this step and made butter from sweet cream.

We grew accustomed to the mellow flavour of butter churned from sweet cream. But over in Europe, they never stopped adding live cultures back into the pasteurized cream. When we began importing these European cultured butters into North America people were surprised at how different this butter tasted. Cultured butter is a higher-fat product (86% butterfat vs 80% for regular butter), which in turns makes the butter more silky and gives it a richer taste. The complex tanginess is very pronounced.

When the flavour of butter is front and center, it’s worth the extra money to buy cultured  butter. simple-ingredientsThe dough comes together quickly and then it’s essentially a slice and bake cookie. The dough gets rolled in coarse sanding sugar for a little glitter, because even cookies need a bit of bling!rolling-log-in-sanding-sugarslicingcooling-on-rackThese cookies are crumblier, crisper and more buttery in flavour than a traditional butter cookie. Sometimes simple is best.tied-up

Click here to print recipe for Cultured-Butter-Cookies.

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English Toffee

stack-of-toffee Sadly, I never met my father-in-law as he died before I met my husband, and my mother-in-law died shortly before we became engaged. But I lucked out with four brother-in-laws and and  one sister-in-law. My husband’s siblings welcomed me into the family with open arms and have always treated me as one of their own.

When I moved to Ottawa 25 years ago, I felt quite isolated after leaving all my family and friends behind in Toronto. My sister-in-law (who I am blessed to also call my friend), sent me regular care packages to ease my loneliness. The parcels almost always contained a box of Phipps Krunch, a delicious confection of crunchy caramel, roasted almonds and milk chocolate. Nothing like a heap of butter and sugar to fill the emotional void of sadness.

I was so excited to find a recipe for English Toffee in Bobbette and Belle’s new cookbook. It looked exactly like Phipps Krunch. I had to try my hand at making it.

Making toffee is not difficult. It just requires a candy thermometer and some patience. I love the chemistry of candy making. I feel like a magician when I turn simple ingredients like butter and sugar into something so glorious.

 

I was thrilled with the results. The buttery crunchy toffee is just on the edge of bitter, making it the perfect companion for  that blanket of dark chocolate. Nutty toasted almonds take this candy to the next level. Please do not forget to toast the nuts. Untoasted nuts are one of my biggest culinary pet peeves. They taste like sawdust. Toasting nuts is one of the simplest ways to improve the flavour profile of anything.

Just preheat oven to 350°F and place nuts on a baking sheet. Roast for 10-12 minutes until they become toasty brown and fragrant. Let them cool completely before using or storing. If you are not going to use them right away, store them in the freezer, as they can go rancid quickly.

wedges-on-a-plateThis makes a ton of toffee, so keep some for yourself and give the rest away as gifts. You will be quite beloved.

Click here to print recipe for English-Toffee.

Crunchy Winter Slaw

ginger-crinkle-cookies_17As we enter the festive season of butter and sugar, I thought it would be a good idea to have a new recipe at the ready to provide a healthy counterbalance. This slaw recipe was inspired by an Asian slaw I read about in Milk Street Magazine. This new publication is Christopher Kimball’s first venture since leaving Cook’s Illustrated last year.

I have been a huge fan and supporter of Kimball and Cook’s Illustrated since it’s inception in 1993, so I was curious to check out the premiere issue of Milk Street. The premise behind Milk Street is to bring techniques from the world’s kitchens to America’s weeknight dinner table. Christopher explains that, “There’s no ethnic cooking. It’s a myth. It’s just dinner or lunch served from somewhere else in the world…. Milk Street offers an invitation to the cooks of the world to sit at the same table…All food is everyone’s food.”

This is my take on Milk Street’s “Coleslaw by Way of East Asia.” I loved the combination of cabbage, radishes and sugar snap peas, but I wasn’t fond of the dressing (coconut milk, lime juice, sugar, fish sauce and serrano chili). I preferred an apple cider vinaigrette with honey and grainy mustard.

I settled on a combo of Brussels sprouts, red, green and Napa cabbage, radishes and sugar snap peas for my vegetables. Cilantro and mint were also invited to this fresh party.veggiesI believe that every salad needs an element of crunch. Croutons are good, but nuts are better! I was inspired by a maple spicy nut crunch I read about in the LCBO’s Holiday 2016 issue of Food & Drink.  I’m very excited that the magazine is now available online.

I used a combo of pine nuts, sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, sliced almonds, pistachios and pumpkin seeds. nuts-and-seedsThe nuts get coated in a hot bath of maple syrup, brown sugar, paprika, salt and cayenne. coating-nuts-and-seeds20 minutes in the oven crisps up everything beautifully. I added some dried cherries to the cooled nut mixture. The recipe makes more than you will need, but it keeps perfectly for at least a month in an airtight container. It makes a very yummy afternoon snack.crunch-mixtureready-to-mix

Click here to print recipe for Crunchy-Winter-Slaw.

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Breakfast Pizza

cutting-leek-pizzaI blame my addiction to online shopping on my late paternal grandmother, my Bubbe. I grew up in Toronto, but she lived in Philadelphia. At least twice a years would send us her special poppy seed cookies. She always packaged them in a shoe box for mailing. I was conditioned to anticipate the arrival of apparel boxes at a very early age. It’s not my fault.

If you think about it, online shopping is really just the evolution of 20th Century catalogue shopping. If you are Canadian and of a certain age, you will remember The Eaton’s Catalogue. As a child, I spent many happy hours lusting after Barbie clothes and accessories. Not much has changed.

I recently discovered an unexpected bonus of online shopping. With my Amazon Prime subscription, I have access to Amazon TV. While making these breakfast pizzas, I began binge watching Good Girls Revolt. I had been feeling a bit lost after finishing Downton Abbey, and this series is filling the void.

Feel free to use store-bought pizza dough, or make your own. I am a big fan of Jim Lahey’s no-knead pizza dough. All you do it mix flour, yeast, salt and water in a bowl with a wooden spoon. Cover it and let is sit overnight until it becomes all bubbly. I have included the recipe for it at the end of this post.

My breakfast pizzas were inspired by an episode on Cook’s Country

The first one I created starts with a ricotta and feta base and is topped with nests of sautéed leeks cradling golden eggs.leek-pizza-mise-en-placespreading-ricottapouring-egg-into-leek-nestEach bite delivers a perfect combination of texture and taste; crispy, bubbly crust, creamy ricotta, gooey mozzarella, tangy Gruyere and golden brown caramelized leeks.  Topping this pizza off with eggs may seem like excess, but trust me, when your fork breaks the sunny yolk, and you drag the crust through that golden eggy goodness, you will thank me. slice-of-leek-pizzaMy second breakfast pizza is Southwestern, featuring tomatoes, corn, jalapeño, avocado and cilantro.tomato-nestsThinly sliced grape tomatoes form the nests to hold the eggs. pouring-egg-into-tomato-nestThe avocado and cilantro are added after cooking. tomato-avocado-pizza-sliced

 

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Click here to print recipe for Ricotta-and-Leek-Breakfast-Pizza.

Click here to print recipe for Tomato-and-Avocado-Breakfast-Pizzas.

Click here to print recipe for Jim-Laheys-No-Knead-Pizza-Dough.

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Gingerbread Autumn Leaves (Gluten-Free)

drying-on-black-background-72-dpiWhile the leaves have already finished falling where I live, I couldn’t resist making these gorgeous edible ones. It’s just too soon to start making winter cookies. I refuse to get sucked into that vortex this early in the season.  I wanted to make the cookies gluten free since one of my sons follows a gluten- free diet and I was curious to try out Bob’s Red Mill 1 to 1 Gluten Free Baking Flour. It is a blend of white rice flour, brown rice flour, potato starch, sorghum flour, tapioca flour, and xanthan gum. You just substitute it cup for cup in your regular recipes.

I was inspired by Elizabeth over at  lizybakes and crouton crackerjacks on youtube.

Roll out dough between two sheets of parchment paper and freeze for about 30 minutes before trying to cut out shapes.rolling-out-doughI got some beautiful copper cutters from coppergiftscom. They have thousands of different shapes. If you are a cookie lover it is easy to spend lots of time (and money!) over at their site. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. cutting-out-leavesI mixed up 4 colours of royal icing for my leaves. The formula to get these colours is in the recipe at the end of this post. I like to place the piping bags in a tall drinking glass. I place a crumpled up dampened paper towel in the bottom of each glass too keep the icing from drying out and getting all crusty, once you cut a hole in the piping bag. autumn-coloursYou can only decorate one cookie at a time as the icing must be wet to create the marbling effect. You will need toothpicks and a paper towel to wipe the toothpick off after dragging it through the wet icing. ready-to-pipeI created a video to show the technique.

The cookies will need to dry overnight before you can package them up. They will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 weeks. drying-on-wire-rackPerfect with a glass of milk or an afternoon latte!cookies-and-latte-72-dpi

Click here to print recipe for gluten-free-gingerbread-autumn-leaves.

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