Monday, 23 December 2013

Snow Storm Cookies

Oh, Canada, land of the perpetual snowstorm… I like snow, it’s very pretty when it falls and makes everything look like an iced gingerbread house. The old brownstone buildings in my neighborhood do!

However, when you get all but snowed in your apartment because 30 odd centimeters of the stuff decide to plop on your city almost overnight… yeah, not the most practical situation… But this massive snow storm turned into a source of inspiration: you see, I had this sudden craving for cookies, and when I realized that getting to the grocery store was going to be almost as epic as climbing the Everest, given the unplowed sidewalks, I thought to myself: “Hey! Lazy ass! Make your own damn cookies if you want them so badly!” Sometimes, a little self-inflicted kick to the backside is necessary to get me baking, but I never regret it!

These are not just snowstorm cookies because of the current weather: they also contain a sprinkling of delicious snow-colored ingredients that make cookies worth living for: white chocolate and coconut flakes.

I know, I know: white chocolate is not technically chocolate, it’s mostly sugar, with barely any cocoa in it (if at all). I don’t really care. Sometimes, a sugar fix hits the spot. The coconut is there both because it’s pretty and looks like snowflakes, but also because it gives that sweet hint of exotic flavor, just to remind us that the snow will eventually melt and we won’t have to dress like Siberian yak hunters to go to work.

I found the recipe on Tracey's Culinary Adventures.

1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon coconut extract
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and both sugars on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the egg and then the vanilla.

With the mixer on low, gradually add the dry ingredients, beating just until combined. Stir in the white chocolate chips and coconut until evenly distributed.

Using a small cookie scoop, portion the batter onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing the cookies about 2 inches apart.

Bake for about 9 minutes (rotating the baking sheets halfway through) or until the edges of the cookies are set (the centers may look underdone - don't overbake!).

Transfer the baking sheets to wire racks and let the cookies cool for a few minutes then remove the cookies to the wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with all of the dough.

Yeah, so I don't have a cookie scoop - I didn't even know that existed until I read the recipe (FYI, it's basically a small ice cream scoop. Doh!), so I just made little balls of dough with my hands and flattened them slightly before putting them on the baking sheet. Speaking of the dough, don't freak out if it doesn't look wet enough. Maybe it was because it mixed all my ingredients by hand instead of using my stand mixer (which still hasn't been unpacked), but it wasn't sticking together until I went in there and made each little dough ball by hand. Go figure. It's important to let the cookies cool off completely before eating them or putting them away. If you want them to be chewy, they have to still be soft in the middle when you take them out of the oven. Patience, young gluttons, patience! They are so worth the wait!

Chewy, sweet cookie comfort… Nothing like a good book, a steaming cup of tea and some delicious cookies on a cold December evening. And those were some good cookies! They had that perfect pale gold hue, just enough sweetness and that great moist texture... Irresistible!

This recipe makes about 20 cookies (the original recipe says 30, but I guess I like 'em big), so as you can imagine, I didn’t eat the whole batch. The Holidays are all about sharing, so I made a few happy camper: I brought a bunch to work, turned around for a minute and the Tupperware was empty... so I went back home and made another batch...

Have a very merry Xmas my darling readers! I hope you have a very good time and lots of very good food! xxxxx

Update: My colleague Nicole fell in love with this recipe and has been making a batch almost every week since the Holidays! However, she makes it with semi-sweet chocolate chips, instead of white chocolate chips. Of course, dark chocolate and coconut go very well together, and her cookies are the bomb! It makes me very happy when people enjoy my recipes, and it makes me especially happy in Nicole's case, as she often brings some cookies to work and gives me one! Miam!

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Cheese O.D. Baked Mac n' Cheese

Hello everyone! As promised, I am back with a new recipe!

For those wondering, my move went very well and very smoothly. A huge thank you to this awesome moving crew: Véronique, Mike, Paul, Richard, Sam, Jonathan, Amanda, Karine and John! I could never have done it without you!! The place came together in a pinch and I already feel right at home in my new digs! If you want to see what it looks like, keep an eye on my Instagram (punkygabz), as I plan on putting up pics very soon! As you can see, the cat wasted no time getting comfortable:

Once my books were unpacked (15 boxes!), all I wanted to do was to break in my lovely new kitchen! I also promised my readers some delicious comfort food recipes, and I am nothing if not a woman of my word!

In the broad category of "comfort food", does anything hit the spot better than macaroni and cheese? Gooey melted cheese, pasta, gooey melted cheese, pasta... Sure, it's a sin against decent nutrition, but who cares? Sometimes, it's just was the Feelgood M.D. ordered!

When I got the urge for some of that decadent pasta bake, I absolutely had to made it from scratch: the color of Kraft Dinner is enough to make my stomach churn, never mind the taste and texture... But most mac and cheese recipes I have come across require you to prepare a tedious bechamel: I didn't want to spend time making that (no to mention the extra pot and pan cleaning... ugh), I just wanted to stuff my face with cheese until I had to roll out of my chair.

Thank goodness, Nadia G's recipe was exactly what I was looking for: just cheese! I took the liberty of adding a hint of garlic (come on, Nadia! What kind of Italian are you!) and a bit of nutmeg, which tends to elevate dairy-based dishes to a whole other level of "OMG-this-is-crack" (my gratin dauphinois, for example).

Fontina cheese might be something you've never tried before: it's a nutty, semi-soft Italian cheese. The real deal is quite pungent, but the imported stuff tends to be a lot milder. If you can't find it, or don't like it, emmental or mozzarella are great substitutes. You could even use some Parmiggiano-Reggiano if you prefer sharp-tasting cheeses. As long as it's a cheese that melts well, you're fine.

1 package dry macaroni or fusilli pasta
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup yellow onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 cups milk
1 bay leaf
1 pinch grated nutmeg
1 cup aged Cheddar cheese, grated
1 cup Swiss or Gruyere cheese, grated
1 cup Fontina (or emmental or mozzarella) cheese, grated
Sea salt and ground pepper
A handful of bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Boil pasta in salted water until half cook, 6 to 7 minutes. Drain, and set aside. Preheat a large pan over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of butter, the onions and garlic. Sauté until soften, about 8 minutes.

Add the milk, bay leaf and nutmeg. Bring mixture to a slow boil, then turn the heat to medium-low.

Throw in the cheeses and some freshly cracked pepper. Stir until melted, then taste; adjust seasoning.

Remove the bay leaf. Grease a baking dish with 1 tablespoon of butter. Add the pasta to the sauce; mix to coat every noodle. Pour in the baking dish and sprinkle liberally with bread crumbs.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes.

I'm cheese-crazy, so I grated extra Swiss cheese and extra mozzarella on top of my pasta before sprinkling my bread crumbs. Sue me.And trust me, it was as amazing as it sounds. You should have seen my best friend and I stuff our faces as if our lives depended on it...

I am familiar with the tradition of adding cocktail sausages to a batch of mac and cheese. But after an amazing dinner at Diablos BBQ, I strongly suggest using chopped chorizo instead, especially if you like a little spicy kick. I mean, if you are going to put yourself in a cheese and pasta induced coma, why not add some spicy sausages? Cut some chorizo into little bite-sized pieces until you have about 1/2 cup and throw in the sauce along with the pasta (remember to get rid of the thin skin from around the chorizo before adding it to the sauce).

If you'd rather counter the guilt of stuffing your face with all that cheese with some veggies, broccoli and/or cauliflower florets and a small can of diced tomatoes (drained!) will make it a somewhat healthier pasta bake.

Grab a fork, a glass of dry white wine and devour a big bowl of this little cheesy sin while watching something equally cheesy!