pizza

My favorite pizza place in Chicago did not serve Chicago-style deep dish pizza. Chicago-style deep dish pizza is, in my mind, one of those things you sort of dread eating because you know how you’ll feel afterward. The experience is immensely pleasurable for the ten minutes or so that you actually spend consuming the deep-fried-crust-filled-with-cheese-and-sauce-and-sausage, but nearly immediately following that ten minutes you feel as if your stomach will explode, that you yourself have been soaked in oil, and that you’ll never eat another meal again. Maybe I’m being hyperbolic, but believe me, if you’ve never had it: Chicago-style deep dish pizza is a caloric and psychological investment. And it’s not something you eat, good God, when it’s hot out. Which it has been here in Salt Lake City.

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The place was called Sapori di Napoli, and was at the corner of Belmont and Southport—a few blocks west of the corner in the above photograph (which, incidentally, was the site of a supremely disappointing date! I had forgotten about that until I posted this picture! Yahoo for walks down memory lane!) It served thin-crust, sparsely topped Napolese-style pizza. The crust was perfect: crunchy on the outside, airy on the inside, and delicately yeasty. The pizzas featured simple toppings that weren’t overly precious or pretentious, but were nevertheless delightfully unexpected. I’m getting a little too poetic, I know, but what is eating without poetry?! Alas, were I to return, I’d be disappointed: Sapori di Napoli was only open for about a year. Chicagoans, it seems, prefer the gastronomic cycle of dread-delight-regret that is deep dish.

My favorite pizza on Sapori di Napoli’s menu was Patate et Romarin, or Potato and Rosemary. (Carbs on top of carbs yesyesyes!) The simplicity of the toppings meant that the crust was really center stage, and was only supported by a tiny bit of olive oil, fresh rosemary sprigs, very thinly sliced potatoes, sea salt, and parmesan. Heaven, in other words, in its most delicate form. This is my attempt at recreating Sapori di Napoli’s short-lived glory.

Because of our suddenly warm temperatures, last week I decided to move my typical pizza operation from the oven to the grill. The keys to making pizza on the grill are to use foil brushed with a little bit of olive oil, and to flip the crust before topping it. This will ensure a) that the dough doesn’t stick to the grate and b) that it cooks evenly on both sides. Because the heat is coming mostly from below and doesn’t circulate around the pizza as it does in an oven, the flipping is really necessary. Otherwise, you’ll get a crunchy-on-the-bottom, gooey-on-the-top crust.

grill

My boyfriend and I had this along with a basic cheese-and-sauce pizza (red sauce, fresh mozzarella, S&P—I think it has to have basil, too, in order to be Margherita), and a salad that consisted of arugula, olive oil, parmesan, and salt. The salad left him visibly underwhelmed, as he claims that arugula hurts your mouth. I disagree and could eat arugula by the handful, all day long. We agreed on the pizza though: it’s good. The photo below is of the storm that had rolled in just before we sat down to eat. (The storm had actually rolled in from the east over Little Cottonwood Canyon as we were climbing, and chased us down into the valley. Which I mention as a side note, because: Do you know what the scariest part of rock climbing is? It’s not the being-hundreds-of-feet-off-the-ground-secured-only-by-some-seemingly-dinky-pieces-of-metal-and-flimsy-rope. It’s the prospect of being hundreds of feet off the ground with a bunch of those now-substantial-seeming pieces of metal hanging from your harness, exposed to the elements, with a thunder-and-lightning storm rolling in! Lillian the Lightning Rod!)

view

I have adapted Heidi Swanson’s rendition of Peter Reinhart’s pizza dough here. It’s very simple, but takes a small amount of planning: the flavor comes from letting the dough rise in the refrigerator overnight (a longer, and therefore necessarily cooler, rise equals more flavor). The kneading and shaping is a technique refined only through practice, which only means that you now have an excuse to make pizza a lot. Just be sure not to overwork the dough, or else the final product will be tough and chewy. If you find that your dough is becoming difficult to knead, cover it with a kitchen towel and leave it alone for 15 minutes or so. It should be springy by the time you come back to it.

Grilled Potato and Rosemary Pizza
 
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Light, simple, and delicious! Makes an excellent appetizer, or dinner when served with a salad. Dough is adapted from Peter Reinhart’s recipe featured on 101 Cookbooks.
Author:
Cuisine: Dinner, Italian
Serves: 2

Ingredients
  • Pizza Dough:
  • 4½ cups white bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon instant yeast, or active dry yeast
  • 1¾ teaspoons salt
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1¾ cups cold water if you’re using instant yeast, or warm water if you’re using active dry yeast
  • Toppings:
  • 1 russet potato
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil + additional for drizzling
  • several sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • sea salt
  • about ¼ to ½ cup of shredded parmesan cheese

Instructions
  1. For the dough:
  2. On the day before you plan to make the pizza, combine the flour, yeast, salt, water, and olive oil in a large metal bowl. Use your hands to mix until relatively well-combined. The dough will seem impossibly sticky. Scrape the dough to a countertop dusted with a good deal of flour, and begin to knead it. If the dough is too dry, add a small bit of water; if it’s too wet, continue to flour the countertop. Knead the dough using a folding motion for 5-7 minutes, until it alternates between slightly sticky and smooth (it will seem to switch back and forth every time you knead it—at this point, you’re ready).
  3. Grease a baking sheet with olive oil. Divide the kneaded dough into six balls, roll them around on the sheet to coat lightly with oil, and space them evenly. Wrap the sheet in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
  4. About 2-3 hours before making the pizza, remove the sheet from the refrigerator, and place the number of dough balls you plan on using on a floured countertop. Cover them with plastic wrap (you might also spray them with spray oil to prevent them from sticking to the plastic), and then with a kitchen towel. Allow the dough to rest for the 2-3 hours, and then fire up your grill.
  5. You may freeze the unused dough for later use. I find that you can do pretty well just removing the dough from the freezer the morning before making the pizza, letting it thaw while I’m at work, and then making it that evening. Frozen and thawed dough will not, however, taste exactly the same as dough that hasn’t been frozen, so just be warned.
  6. To assemble the pizza:
  7. When you’re ready to make the pizza, fire up the grill. Back in the kitchen, lightly stretch the dough out into 12-inch rounds using your fists. This is a delicate, and potentially frustrating, process, and you can’t really get around the fact that it takes practice. Be patient, don’t worry about making the pizza perfectly round, and take your time. Place the stretched-out dough on a lightly oiled piece of aluminum foil.
  8. Place the dough-on-foil on your grill, cover, and cook for about 10 minutes, or until the bottom of the dough is browned.
  9. Meanwhile, heat a tablespoon or two of olive oil in a frying pan. Thinly slice the potato, and saute until soft. Allow to cool on a paper towel. Roughly chop the rosemary.
  10. Head back over to the grill and, using a pair of tongs, flip the dough (it should be stiff enough that this shouldn’t be difficult).
  11. Arrange the potatoes in a thin layer, along with the rosemary, on the dough. Drizzle with a teaspoon or so of olive oil. Sprinkle with sea salt and the parmesan.
  12. Cover, and cook until the parmesan is melted.
  13. Remove the pizza from the grill and allow to cool, about 5 minutes. Slice and eat!

 


photo (1)

Some days I think I am not good at anything. I would say not good at anything except baking, but I burned this batch of granola (see above), so baking’s out, too.  But I promise, friends, if you follow the directions below, instead of putting the granola in the oven, and then abandoning it to take a shower and paint your nails, you will succeed. I have made this granola before, attended to it vigilantly, and it was delicious. (Also remember to put the salt in with the liquid ingredients and THEN combine the wet and dry—do not salt post-combining, lest you end up with the saltiest batch of burned granola ever.) You may be having one of those terrible days/weeks/months when you feel like success is just Not Your Thing. But then you will make this batch of granola exactly as directed, and find that yes, there are things you can do. You can be the best granola-maker ever, in the world. Or in your kitchen. For today.

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Coconut Olive Oil Granola
 
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This is a not-too-sweet granola, which is exactly how I like it. Use either totally flavorless, generic olive oil in order to let the flavor of the nuts and coconut take center stage, or use floral/grassy high-quality olive oil, if you’d like to highlight that particular flavor. Either one should work nicely. Adapted loosely from La Tartine Gourmande.
Author:
Cuisine: Breakfast
Serves: 6 ish, depending on use

Ingredients
  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup flaked or shredded coconut
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • ½ cup chopped pecans
  • ⅓ cup sliced or slivered almonds
  • ⅓ cup sunflower seeds
  • ⅓ cup sesame seeds
  • ½ cup pumpkin seeds
  • ½ cup water
  • ⅓ cup turbinado sugar
  • ½ cup honey
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla

Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven to 350.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the oats, seeds, nuts, and coconut. Toss until combined.
  3. In a small saucepan over medium heat, heat the sugar, water, honey, salt, olive oil and vanilla. Bring to a simmer, and remove from the heat. Thoroughly combine the contents of the saucepan with the oats mixture, until the dry ingredients are evenly coated.
  4. Spread the mixture evenly on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil (or two). Bake for 45 minutes, stirring the mixture occasionally so that the granola browns evenly. Depending on your oven’s enthusiasm and your preferred level of toastiness, your granola may take more or less time; check it often to avoid burning it, like I did.
  5. Enjoy on its own, over ice cream or yogurt, or combined with fresh fruit and milk.

 


Friends!! It has been far too long. I now write to you as a WORKING GIRL! No more internships, resumes, cover letters, or using my prized quarter collection for laundry. (I think it’s high time I start rebuilding that collection…these books have been empty for far too long.) THAT’S RIGHT! I GOT A REAL PERSON JOB. With a salary and benefits and an office with a door and everything. This girl is living the life. Sort of.

 toffee_finished

Along with a new job comes new responsibilities, new friends, new schedules, and new stresses. It’s almost like a whole new me! In the spirit of all this newness, I have decided to try and embrace change rather than run and hide from it in a corner (my usual M.O.).  I thought about making myself try something new each day…buuuut seeing as I have commitment issues, I know that would only end in failure. (I attempted a 365 typography project and dropped it after a mere 31 days.) So, I am just trying to be more open to the idea of change and the idea of trying new things. My job is great at pushing me to try new things. Be a manager? Sure why not! Start HTML coding  emails, okay! Try making some sticky pudding? Yup, don’t mind if I do! (Okay so that last one wasn’t at all job related.)

Sticky pudding has always been something I WANTED to enjoy…but was too scared to try. The texture and appearance always made me think of bread pudding (another something I want to like…maybe a future post!?). See, I have no real reason to be hatin’ on the puddings. Except maybe that I used to really like vanilla pudding and my mom would always accidentally buy the tapioca kind. I hated that rice in there. Anyways, I have always had issues with something  that is not creamy being called pudding. Maybe it’s just semantics.

See? It doesn’t look pretty. Don’t let looks deceive you…

See? It doesn’t look pretty. Don’t let looks deceive you…

 

But! I am trying new things! So, after seeing this recipe for Sinless Sticky Toffee Pecan Pudding on Oh She Glows, I was convinced. Now, I am not quite sure what makes it sinless…it does have dates in it which I suppose is healthy? I move to rename my version “Sticky Pecan Treacle.” Mostly because I like the word treacle. (Turns out I have been using it incorrectly. I had to look up what it actually meant.) And let me tell you. If all new things I try come out as delicious as this…I might need to also make a new workout regime.

On to zee recipe!

CAKE:

1.5 cups dates, roughly chopped
1.5 cups almond milk
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup Earth Balance lightly softened
1/2 cup unpacked brown sugar
3/4 cup toasted chopped pecans, divided
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 & 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

TOFFEE SAUCE:

1/4 cup + 2 tbsp unpacked brown sugar
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp brown rice syrup
3 tbsp Earth Balance
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp almond milk

Preheat your oven to 375. Start by chopping up the dates and making sure there are no pits in there. My dates were kind of rock hard…I bought them over the summer with the intention of making some sort of healthy dessert treat and then, well surprise, never got around to it. But! I just soaked the dates in some boiling water for about 15 minutes to soften them up. Then I drained them and chopped them up! Good as new! Put the 1.5 C. of almond milk in a saucepan and set it to boil. Once it boils, add the chopped up dates and boil one more minute or so. Add the baking soda. It will do this really cool frothy thing! I forgot to take picture at this step :( Imagine it going something like this.

toffee_stirring

In a separate bowl, mix together the vegan butter and the brown sugar until smooth. You can use a hand mixer, or just your hand as a mixer (I did it with a fork). Once the milk, dates, and soda are done frothing, add the hot mixture to the butter and sugar. Add in half the pecans, the spices, and the flour.

Pour the mixture in a greased baking dish. A 9.5” pie pan is what I used (after attempting to use an 8” pie pan and quickly realizing that the cake would rise up and over the sides). While the cake is cooking, make the toffee sauce… or you can call it the TREACLE! Mix all the ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat. Once boiling, constantly stir the mixture for about 5 minutes.

Once the cake is done, allow it to cool for a few minutes and then go crazy poking holes in it. Like seriously, crazy. Stab it a lot.

Also good for getting out any latent aggression.

Also good for getting out any latent aggression.

I assume this is so the toffee/treacle goodiness will soak into the cake, making it more delicious. Pour the sauce over the cake and allow it a few minutes to set up.

toffee_pouring

Then, eat a generous portion.

toffee_ateitall


Dear Dillywheaters,

bread with ginger pear jelly

Wednesday was my birthday. Most of you did not know this, for we do not actually know each other (wishful thinking, right? Hey mom!). I like to think that you are internet followers, questing after delicious baked goods and tolerant of the occasional, slightly witty personal anecdote. Nonetheless, I invite you now to benefit from the glory that was my 27th birthday in the form of a new recipe for Sweet Golden Bread. This bread is basically a lot like challah, except not braided (ain’t nobody got time for that)…and it’s also better than challah, because it’s perfect for slicing and turning into majestic, dare I say exquisite french toast once it’s about 2 days past its prime. (Do this.)

ingredients

Plus–and this is a big bonus for those of us have weak arms/are generally impatient about things/hate getting dough under your fingernails, you don’t have to knead this bread. I mean, kneading is fun sometimes when you’re feeling sort of punchy and DIY-badass, so don’t get me wrong. But if you’re short on time, energy, or like me, are enjoying some counter-domesticity and the general feeling of entitlement that comes with a late-twenties birthday, kneading may not be in the cards for you today.

Awesome things that happen when you turn 27:
1. Instead of being the regular portal of life-envy, babies and engagements, Facebook is actually full of well-wishers both sincere and otherwise.
2. Donuts. At. Every. Meal. (Maybe that’s just me?)
3. Grandma still sends a card with cash in it. She still underlines randomly meaningful words of hope and birthday Hallmark awesomeness so that you feel special, because you are. God dammit. It just makes you want to watch Jeopardy  and eat hard candies.
4. Your friends take you out to a grown-up restaurant that actually serves great food. There is no sombrero-laden chorus of restaurant staff singing an embarrassingly loud, bastardized version of Happy Birthday.
5. You drink beer that doesn’t come from a can. And you only need two, because you have long passed over the bell curve of alcohol tolerance.

sliced bread

 
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Ingredients
  • 1 package (.25 oz) active dry yeast
  • ½ cup warm water
  • 1 cup warm whole milk
  • ¾ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
  • 3 eggs (room temperature, preferably)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 5 ½ cups all-purpose flour

Instructions
  1. Go get a big mixing bowl. Dissolve the yeast in warm water and mix well. Add the warm milk, butter, sugar, salt and eggs, and mix some more. Whisk in the lemon juice. Add the flour slowly, mixing well until smooth. You want to create a soft dough–add up to ½ cup additional flour until you reach this consistency.
  2. Don’t knead the dough! Cover with a damp towel and put in a warm place to proof until the dough has doubled in size, about 1-1½ hours. The windowsill above my radiator worked like a dream. If your house is drafty and cold, try putting the dough in a cold oven with a few coffee cups full of just-boiled water.
  3. Grease and lightly flour a 10-inch baking pan. Punch the dough down and spoon into the pan. Cover and let rise until doubled again, about 1-1½ hours.
  4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  5. Bake on middle rack for about 30-35 minutes/until golden brown/toothpick test.

 

*Recipe adapted from: The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook


And…

SL Valley

…the dreaded Salt Lake City winter inversion has cleared! For the last few days, we’ve been a good 30 points over the 55-point limit that indicates when the air quality is “Unhealthy.” Which means we’ve been breathing exhaust, stuff spewed out of local refineries, etc. etc. Standing on my balcony, the skyline was invisible and the mountains that make Salt Lake bearable were clouded out by pollution and ugliness. But today! Look!


The trifecta of delicious: Molasses Cookies (top), Coconut Macaroons (left), and Butterscotch Haystacks (right).

The trifecta of delicious: Molasses Cookies (top), Coconut Macaroons (left), and Butterscotch Haystacks (right).

As I type this, I am sitting in my mother’s kitchen, watching my mom, brother and his girlfriend Lauren prepare our final Christmas dinner–two days after Christmas.

Why have Christmas dinner on the 27th? Don’t be mislead–we’ve been eating pretty much non-stop since Thanksgiving, and we’ve all had Christmas dinner at least once (I’m pretty sure that my brother has been to 3 or 4 already). As luck would have it, our extended family is enormous and branches out into various disparate groups, a tentacular kraken of cousins, aunts, uncles, step-everythings and random adoptees. Thus, for us the holidays are an endless string of food-centric get-togethers rife with wrapping paper, carbohydrates, bone-crushing hugs and Christmas traditions. I’m big on Christmas traditions the way some people are big on Harry Potter movies, or America.

A few of our traditions:

1. As the holidays approach, conversations with my dad begin to incorporate more and more quotes from “A Christmas Story,” until both of us end up calling everything “a major award” and cursing the “sons-a-bitches-Bumpuses” at every turn.

2. At my mom’s house, we always intend to set up and decorate the tree well before Christmas, and never actually end up doing so until Christmas Eve. Then the cats drink the tree water and we realize it is probably better for everyone that we do things this way.

3. Our overly-sensitive smoke detector goes off every 15 minutes until someone tall enough shows up to put it out of its misery. Jokes are made that we should throw the screaming smoke detector down the basement stairs into my brother’s room as a “wake-the-hell-up-grenade.” (Note: it has gone off three times since I started writing this post.)

4. Christmas presents are still addressed from all of the family pets and Santa Claus.

5. On Christmas Eve my step-grandmother hands me an unmarked envelope with money in it, says “it’s the usual,” and pinches my cheek before walking away to deliver cash to the rest of the grandchildren.

6. I spend at least 36 hours searching for my Molasses Cookie recipe, which for some reason I still keep handwritten and stuffed in between the pages of a middle-school diary. Then I make my Molasses Cookies while watching Christmas movies and giggling with my mom.

Mom is making butterscotch haystacks--just melt some butterscotch chips and mix with chow mein noodles and peanuts. Form into clumps and let cool on waxed paper. Soooooo tasty and easy!

Mom is making butterscotch haystacks–just melt some butterscotch chips and mix with chow mein noodles and peanuts. Form into clumps and let cool on waxed paper. Soooooo tasty and easy!

I’m going to share my molasses cookie recipe with all of you, because these cookies mean Christmas for me. They’re soft and chewy and full of warm spices without being overly sugary or chocolately like much of Christmas already is.

mixing batter

Molasses Christmas Cookies
 
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Author:

Ingredients
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup molasses
  • 1 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1 cup buttermilk or 1 cup milk & 2 tablespoons vinegar
  • 3½ teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup each of (c)raisins and walnuts (I’d say these are optional, but for my Christmas cookies they most certainly are not)

Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
  2. If you are using clabbered milk, mix the milk and vinegar and set aside.
  3. Mix the dry ingredients in a medium-sized bowl and set aside.
  4. In a large bowl mix the sugar, molasses and shortening with a hand mixer.
  5. Add the clabbered milk/buttermilk and mix.
  6. Add the dry ingredients in batches, mixing well.
  7. Add the nuts and (c)raisins and fold in with a wooden spoon.
  8. Drop batter by spoonfuls onto baking sheets (I prefer large, squishy cookies but you can make small ones if you prefer, just adjust the baking time accordingly).
  9. Bake in batches for about 8-10 minutes until the edges are browned and the tops are mostly set.
  10. Don’t overbake! They will seem very underdone but will firm up once cooled.

 

Step #11. Detach beaters from mom’s hand mixer and spend as much time as necessary licking off all of the batter. Be happy that way more cookie dough ends up stuck in these than on a regular wooden spoon. Resolve to purchase your own hand mixer for just this purpose.

Step #11. Detach beaters from mom’s hand mixer and spend as much time as necessary licking off all of the batter. Be happy that way more cookie dough ends up stuck in these than on a regular wooden spoon. Resolve to purchase your own hand mixer for just this purpose.

 


cookies in tin

I really don’t know if these are Viennese crescent cookies, or Mexican wedding cookies in crescent form, or Dutch wedding cookies, or what. But I decided to make them because I recently learned that my paternal grandfather’s family was from Austria (rather than Ireland), and because I think that when you become an adult you get to come up with your own holiday traditions. So we’re going with Viennese crescent cookies, as the New York Times recipe site does, and they’re now the cookie that I make every December 23rd. See how I did that? Decisions! Adulthood is fun.

I had to make a very conscious decision to feel Christmasy this year. I have never been very big on Christmas (I prefer Thanksgiving because all you do is eat and you don’t have to go to the mall the day before) but I’ve also found that being Scrooge is no fun, and so last week I went out, bought a strand of lights and a poinsettia (it’s hard to get a full tree home when you’ve only got a bike), picked up various snack foods and a few bottles of wine, had friends over to play board games, and generally got in the Christmas Spirit. Again: adulthood; decisions.

cutting board sugarcookies cutting board 

I made these to bring to my boyfriend’s family’s Christmas Eve dinner and they cleaned out the tin well before the evening was over, so I’m saying they were a success. They’re crumbly and delicate, and the powdered sugar makes them look very festive. They are also very simple and will allow you enough time to clean your gross bathroom before all of those people come over to play a game that you will not successfully learn because you’ve well exceeded your two-glasses-of-wine limit.

ingredients

I’ve found, since deciding to get in the Christmas Spirit, that two of the main ingredients in Christmas Spirit are butter and red wine. Tomorrow I’m beginning a diet of nothing but green vegetables, water, and sleep. Right now, though, I’m having Viennese crescent cookies for brunch.

walnuts

 
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Ingredients
  • 1½ c chopped walnuts
  • 1 c confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 c (2 sticks) butter
  • ¾ c granulated sugar
  • 2½ c flour
  • 2 t vanilla

Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Using a very sharp knife, chop the walnuts into small pieces. Pulse in a blender or food processor until evenly ground; set aside.
  3. Cut the butter into rough 1-inch chunks. Place in a bowl with the flour, vanilla, and granulated sugar. Add 1 cup of the ground walnuts.
  4. On a plate or in a shallow dish, combine the remaining ½ cup of walnuts and the confectioner’s sugar.
  5. Using your fingers, blend the flour mixture until it forms a dough. Form the dough into 1½-inch crescent shapes. You may want to intermittently put the dough and the crescents in the refrigerator; otherwise the butter will melt and the crescents will be difficult to form. Place on a cookie sheet about 1-inch apart, and bake for 20 minutes.
  6. Allow the cookies to cool for about 5 minutes before coating them in the powdered sugar mixture. If you do this too soon, the cookies will break and the sugar will melt, so wait until they’re set.
  7. Makes about 50 cookies, depending on how large you make them.


orange cranberries

So! The lovely folks at DIY Bride have recently accepted me into their ranks. I am, of course, very qualified to write posts about weddings, since I, well, haveneverhadawedding—BUT! I do DIY (DTM—Do Things Myself) a lot, especially food, etc., etc. Hop on over to DIYbride to read my most recent and most delicious cranberry-orange marmalade concoction. Go! Hop! Love, Lillian.


photo (3)First off. Let me say I know I have been on an embarrassingly long hiatus from Dillywheats. I attribute this mostly to the 60 hour work weeks I have been logging these last few months. Don’t get me wrong, I love my job, which I think is more than most people can say. Buuuuut, it is just an internship…for now. When I am not internally (or externally) bemoaning the (possibly) numbered days until I find out if I get to join the ranks of the fully employed, my days have been taken up with staring at a computer and working design magic, trying to squeeze in a work out (some weeks it even involves a climb! or body pump! or yoga!), trying to remember to eat at least two meals a day, and trying to maintain normal relationships with real people. The short version: I have not had time to bake. I know. Cry me a river.

So what has changed you ask? Why did I decide to return to Dillywheats this week? Well, nothing’s really any different. The future of my employment is as uncertain as ever, I still am working more hours than you can count on your fingers, toes, and… some more fingers and toes, and as icing on the metaphorical cake, I have a sick kitty at home. Poor Mr. Owl has to all (that’s right ALL) of his teeth yanked out. So, I guess he will look something like this. I could bore you with more sob story details, but let’s just suffice it to say that I am certainly NOT any less stressed out today than I have been in the past few weeks. On the contrary, today upon returning home from work baking seemed to be the only thing I was capable of doing (or this; thanks avv!). Anyways, I think we have established the tried and true methods involved in baking have a relaxing trance like effect on this gal.

So! Without further ado, I present to you the ingredients for Roasted Almond Oat Cookies with Pink Sea Salt. These are much easier, and a lot less fancy than they sound. I was able to whip them out AND get to yoga on time; this pretty much made for the perfect de-stressing evening.

INGREDIENTS!

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Now. I suppose you could buy almonds that are already roasted. But I just threw a cup of them in a pie tin in the over for about 20 minutes at 400 and tossed them every few minutes.

photo

They made my apartment smell real nice. While the almonds were roasting, I got together the rest of the ingredients. Mix the wet ingredients together. (It still bother me that sugar is considered a “wet” ingredient. It is clearly granulated in every form.) Add in the flours, spices, and baking soda and stir til mostly incorporated. Now. I think after roasting the almonds, you are supposed to let them cool for a while…but I didn’t really have time for that since I was going to make it to yoga tonight, come hell or high water. So, pretty much immediately upon their removal from the oven, I burned my fingers while coarsely chopping the almonds.

Add the chopped almonds and the oats to the batter and mix it all up. Drop by spoonfuls onto cookie sheets (greased or with parchment, plz!) giving them just a little room to spread out. Sprinkle sparingly with some fancy/coarse/sea/any salt.

photo (2)

Bake for about 12 minutes, until the edges are a beautiful brown and appear a bit crispy. The middle of the cookie should be more puffy and cake like. Give them a few minutes to cool, and then NOM them. Orrrrrrr RUNLIKEHELLTOTHEGYM so you can make it to yoga. It might even be the day that you are successfully able to FULLY bind on BOTH sides, bringing you one step closer to Bird of Paradise!!! Either way, go get ‘em.


This post graces the pages of Dillywheats courtesy of my dear lovely friend Katie, who lives in Chicago and now does things like helps my friend Beth make Sufganiyot, which are Chanukah donuts. 

cookies grid close

This perfect sugar cookie recipe comes courtesy of Commonwealth Edison. During the 1970 holiday season, the company was kind enough to present is employees and their families with The Christmas Cooky Book: a garishly photographed and illustrated pamphlet (a bit skimpy to be called a book, really) filled with saccharine wonder.

Cooky front cover

As my uncle worked (and still works) for ComEd, my aunt and mother were both lucky Cooky Book recipients. I’m not sure what drew either of them to the Cooky Book over more established cookbooks of the time, but perhaps it was the quaintly antiquated spelling of “cooky” in the title. Or, perhaps, the curious (and generous) use of pastels to decorate the pages:

Christmas Cane Coffeecake

Who isn’t craving a flaccid, pink, wet, candy cane coffeecake after thumbing by this picture?

And break out the kneelers, girls, because I know I’m moved to prayer at the sight of these festive marshmallow Cathedral Cookies!

And break out the kneelers, girls, because I know I’m moved to prayer at the sight of these festive marshmallow Cathedral Cookies!

As if these pictures weren’t enough, this cookbook also contains what will no doubt go down in history as the greatest sugar cookie recipe of all time, ever, in the world. It’s been my family’s go-to sugar cookie recipe for over forty years, so there you go.

This sugar cookie is simple yet flavorful with the perfect balance of butter and sweetness. Some other sugar cookies might be gussied up with lemon zest or, God forbid, almond extract (please, there is a time and place), but this cookie doesn’t need it. It is the Perfect Cookie, and please don’t let the fact that the major holidays are over discourage you from your baking pursuits. There isn’t a person alive who would refuse a plate of these cookies to help him/her celebrate … say… Father’s Day. Or… Bastille Day. Or don’t let’s tell anyone that you’ve made them and just shovel them all into your own fat little maw. While you’re standing. In your kitchen. At 10:30. On a Saturday night. And maybe you choke on a couple pieces and a hunk you cough up lands on the table and then you eat that too. Relax, you deserve a break.

But I digress. Let us move on to the baking.

Ingredients:

1 c butter, room temperature (as the recipe was written in 1970, this means salty butter)

1 c sugar

2 egg yolks (freeze the whites for a rainy day!)

1 t vanilla extract

1/3 c milk  (whole, skim, it doesn’t really matter)

½ t salt

1 t baking powder (make sure it’s not expired!)

3 c sifted all-purpose flour

Our friend Jaimie took this professional-quality ingredient photo for me.

Our friend Jaimie took this professional-quality ingredient photo for me.

In a large mixing bowl, Cream the butter and sugar together. Perhaps this is a good place to note that I usually mix everything by hand unless a recipe calls for some very aggressive egg whipping. Is this Puritanical of me? Maybe. But if I’m going to the trouble of making something from scratch, I want to really feel like I made something.

Next mix the salt and the rest of the wet ingredients into the bowl and stir to combine.

Now, add the sifted flour and baking powder and mix everything together until it becomes one cohesive mass. Sometimes the dough turns out a little dry and needs a little coaxing and a knead or two from clean warm hands to pull it all together. Do not be ashamed if you need to resort to this, but maybe don’t advertise it much. Some cookie eaters are sensitive to overly manhandled foodstuffs.

Chill the dough overnight (or at least for a few hours). I should add that this is a dough that, while very palatable in its raw state, is actually much tastier after being baked. Remember, patience is a virtue.

Now that your dough is chilled, let’s get down to business. Here’s where things can get a little fussy.

Preheat your oven to 350 F.

Grab a fat fistful of dough and set it on a clean and floured surface. The goal is to roll out the dough pretty thin — the Cooky Book says 1/8 of an inch — but just eyeball it and do the best you can. The key is to keep every surface well floured and to keep the dough on the cool side. If you find that it’s too sticky to work with, put it in the fridge for a little longer and maybe even try rolling it out between two sheets of wax paper (not parchment!). There’s no shame in asking wax paper for help. Because I baked these during one of the many short heat waves we’ve had this summer, I left the oven off while I rolled out the cookies so that my kitchen was as cool as possible.

Once you’ve worked out your rolling situation, cut shapes from the dough using the adorable set of cookie cutters you no doubt own. Failing this, use the floured rim of a drinking glass.

cookie cutters

After you cut out your cookies, carefully transfer each one to a cookie sheet lined with a silpat or parchment paper. Or nothing because you forgot. The point is: don’t grease the sheet. Bake for about 7 minutes. Maybe.

Keep an eye on the cookies while they’re baking especially if you’ve lovingly cut them into particularly intricate shapes. These cookies can look fine one second and burn the next and sometimes are done cooking in about 5 minutes. If any of your cookies brown, you should immediately give them to a nearby dad to eat so that there’s no evidence of your grievous error. Dads love cookies but have low cookie standards and thus won’t mind “fixing” your mistakes. If no dads are present, consume yourself. This is called quality control.

baked_burned

Once out of the oven, let them sit on the pan for a couple of minutes, and then set them somewhere else to finish cooling. Growing up, we always lined the kitchen table with torn up brown paper grocery bags and set the cookies there, but now that I see that in writing it looks like I grew up in poverty (but we always had each other). I suppose a wire rack will work just as well. La-di-da!

The dough should turn out a few dozen cookies, but all that depends on how thick you roll it, how large you cut them and, duh, how much dough/baked cookies you eat.

This cookie (ahem, cooky), bland though it may look, is delicious on its own. Even without any kind of colored sugar or icing, it doesn’t taste as though it’s missing anything. In fact, if you’re so inclined, you could even leave these cookies naked. However, who doesn’t love bells and whistles?!

Frosting:
Once your beautiful lightly-golden-not-brown cookies have cooled, it’s time to make ‘em pretty. While you could sprinkle colored sugar on the dough before you bake it, I prefer using frosting (homemade, of course!) instead. I would describe this frosting as something between a buttercream and a glaze: he consistency allows for some intricate decoration, but not much. It’s really the taste that’s important. It’s a perfect fit for these cookies and I would never use anything else. Certainly not royal icing. Hork.

Frosting recipe:
Some powdered sugar (a cup or two?)
Some butter at room temperature (a couple of tablespoons?)
Some milk (keep half a cup on hand?)
For decorating: food coloring, sprinkles, choc chips

I’m going to do something now that you’ll hate: I’m going to tell you that I don’t really have a recipe for the frosting; I just go by how it looks and tastes. I’m sorry. But this is the only recipe I can do this with! Just let me have my one moment of looking like a supremely competent baker full of innate talent! Please? This frosting is so easy though, I promise. Soon, you too will be able to amaze your friends and relations by smiling coyly and saying, “Oh, this frosting? This ol’ thing? I don’t really have a recipe.”

Just remember one thing: you can always add more milk, but you can’t take it out.
(And measure twice, cut once)
(And a penny saved is a penny earned)
(And loose lips sink ships)

In a medium-ish/small-ish bowl, cream some powdered sugar (um, like a cup… or maybe two, I don’t care) with some butter (not a whole lotta butter, just maybe a few tablespoons, or something). When you’re done, it should still look mostly like powdered sugar but maybe a little clumpier here and there.

bowl butter cookies

Now, VERY SLOWLY, stir in some milk till you can form a paste. This is tricky because you don’t want it to be too thin like a glaze, but you also don’t want it to be too thick and unspreadable. GO SLOWLY and use your best judgment. Like I said before, you can always add more milk, but you can’t take it out. (If you get to a point where you really wish you could take it out, try adding some more powdered sugar.)

When (if?) you finally manage to get the right texture, have at those cookies. When I’m frosting cookies, I like to really get creative and let my hair down (and then promptly put it back up because some has inevitably gotten in the frosting). While I think white icing covered in colored sugar turns out the prettiest cookies, I also like to experiment a bit with food coloring and pastry bags.

supplies cookies birds eye

I don’t like to critique other’s decorating, but is that your best work? Hmm.

Once you’ve finished with the decorating, you must wait until the frosting sets before you serve/eat. Remember, patience is a virtue. Well, maybe you can sample a couple of cookies for quality control purposes. So long as you say the words “quality control” aloud before you eat them, it’s permitted.

Kept in a sealed container, these cookies will last about a week. Flash freezing is also an option.