30 January 2007

Cookies for Cynics

posted by gastrogirl @ 14:02 to section Cooking

I am so tired of the cupcake trend.

Perhaps saying so brands me as an infidel, but to be honest, they just don’t do much for me. We recently had two cupcake shops open in my city, and while the cakes are pretty to look at, I just don’t understand the recent national obsession with cupcake-only joints…particularly because the wow factor seems to reside mostly in the style and flavour of frosting, and I have never been keen on copious amounts of frosting. It makes my teeth hurt. So while there’s something to be said for visual appeal, the novelty just isn’t intriguing enough to hold my attention. If there are two types of people in the world, then I am a cookie person. Cupcakes, while fun in the right circumstances, take a back seat.

Because of this strange apathy towards fluffy, frosted cakes, it goes without saying that the standard birthday cake would wither in my house. I don’t dislike all cakes, but tend to prefer heavier, denser ones, and please hold the frosting (although ganache is A-ok). Perhaps if the cupcake shop had a wee flourless chocolate cupcake with no toppings….that is a trend I could go for. Er, but wait, I think that is basically a brownie. Anyway, my everyday sweet tooth prefers the humble cookie as the favourite fix in terms of size and toothsomeness. I like that they don’t need special containers and are easy to transport – all the better to give away if I’ve made too large of a batch. I like that they are drier, chewier, and often dunkable. Also…not that I should be thinking about health when consuming cookies, but in the “low-fat” realm, cookies seem to be able to hold their own better than many other baked goods do. On the other hand, perhaps Nick Malgieri‘s new book could put me in my place for that remark.

Even if you disagree, what better month than January to try out those cookie recipes you just didn’t get to during the holidays? Consider this my response to an over-frosted scene. A plus with the following recipes is that they both last for at least two weeks if kept in airtight containers, so no pressure to eat them all at once (ha ha). Since there’s no secret to my love of cookies with apricot and ginger, I was anxious to try Nic’s Apricot Ginger Oat Biscuits from Bakingsheet. Although these are two tastes that taste great together, they are nothing at all like the cornmeal cookies I made last summer, so if you’ve tried one recipe, don’t neglect its fraternal twin here. I made some minor adjustments to make them more flavourful, doubling the amount of ginger and apricots, as well as adding a splash of milk to the batter, as by itself it was too dry to hold together. Otherwise, the cookies were delicious – the corn syrup keeps them a little bit chewy inside, even though the outside is more crisp and biscuit-like. I should note that by “biscuit” I mean the British/Australian use of the term, which usually translates to “cookie” for Americans. I also have a possibly misguided perception that biscuits are less sugary and more crisp than American-style cookies. At any rate, these are just right for dunking into hot tea. They are homey and somewhat humble looking, but have a terrific flavour.

apricot ginger oat biscuits

In addition to the biscuits, I made another tea-compatible cookie: Cardamom Squares, adapted from another old recipe from Gourmet. They are not strictly cardamomy – more like just light spice cookies but with cardamom in a starring role. They’re extremely easy to put together, though, as most slice-and-bake type cookies are. They are tender, last for a long time, and look fairly elegant when drizzled with a bit of chocolate. The texture is somewhat more crisp than shortbread, but not quite hard, either.

cardamom squares

By the way, don’t you think Cookies for Cynics would make a great book? What sort of cookies would cynics eat? Something bitter, perhaps? I like the idea of a DIY series For Cynics, to replace those awful (Cooking,Business,Science,Remodeling,Whatever) For Dummies how-to books. Of course these aren’t really for cynics, and eating them won’t make you cynical…so don’t blame me!

There is one catch to my cookie fetish: since cookie recipes tend to be uncomplicated and ideal for quick gratification, it tends to make one lazy for trying more complex desserts. With that in mind, I ought to try something a bit more challenging soon! While I don’t really celebrate Valentine’s Day, it’s the next holiday I can think of that would give me an excuse to try something a bit fancier (I daresay Candlemas might be too obscure). Oh, as if I need an excuse anyway. Meanwhile, here are the recipes…
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26 January 2007

Technical Difficulties

posted by gastrogirl @ 18:57 to section general

Gastronomicon is experiencing some technical weirdness. As a result, the sidebars and some of the html might look weird for a bit. We’ll have to wait for rlink to return from Philly (since the blog is hosted on an old machine of his) to get things straightened out.

Edit: All better. –rlink

21 January 2007

Squid and Cranberry Salad

posted by rlink @ 23:38 to section Cooking,Food

A while back, the owners of a long-since closed local bar and small concert venue decided to turn their empty space into a restaurant serving rustic Southern Italian cuisine. The dining room may be full of so much kitch that it looks like your crazy Italian grandmother’s house, but the food more than makes up for it. One of the menu items that I love is a squid and cranberry salad. I’m not sure how cranberries factor in to Italian cuisine, but I’ve tried to recreate the dish anyways.
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The Passion of the Truffle

posted by gastrogirl @ 22:38 to section Cooking

It must be quite obvious by now that I can’t resist a bad pun, particularly for the title of a post. But this one really is relevant to the content, and these truffles both inspire and exhibit passion! I made this recipe for my very first Sugar High Friday, a blogging event that encourages participants to share their sugary creations based on a particular theme. This time around, it’s hosted by top-notch food blogger David Lebovitz. The theme of this Sugar High Friday, #27, is Chocolate by Brand. We were told to make a chocolate treat using a particular brand, and explain the whys behind our choice. Below is my entry, which are Passion Fruit Truffles made with El Rey Mijao (61%).


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