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Posts from the ‘Cookies’ Category

What’s In A Name?

I had resolved to take a dessert break last week but made an exception for this batch of Mexican Chocolate Crackle Cookies from The Art & Soul of Baking by Cindy Mushet.  They were made on request to take as a gift so I wasn’t tempted for long, though the box did go out 1 or 2 or 3 light.  Similar to nutty Mexican polvorones known as wedding cookies here, the recipe calls for added chocolate, coffee, and optional ancho chile powder.  Though the recipes in the book are pretty foolproof, I didn’t think the chile could only be optional if they were to give an authentically Mexican kick to the crackles.  Read more

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Last Minute

I was in the final stretch of making Sunday lunch for my uncle and favorite cooking aunt, debating where I should buy a jar of dulce de leche to add to the polovorones or shortbread cookies I’d made earlier.  The gourmet shops nearby carry the good but expensive La Salamandra while the Colombian stores have a wider selection but seemed too far away in Queens.  I decided to make my own instead.  Though I knew it was easily done at home, I’d always avoided it in the past.  Worried about exploding cans, we’d take them off heat too early and end up with milky mustard instead of a deep caramel (though it was still happily eaten).  I found these recipes on From Argentina With Love for making dulce de leche at home that skipped the treacherous can boiling.  Unwilling to face yet another grocery store run to buy whole milk, I tried the second version where a can of condensed milk is cooked in the top of a double boiler over a pan half filled with water.  Though it takes 2 to 2 1/2 hours, it only needs to be checked and stirred about every 45 minutes freeing me up to work on other things.  Because I’d rolled the polvorones thinner than usual, I watched the cookies closely and shortened the baking time to 10 minutes.  I let the dulce de leche cook the entire time for a thicker consistency.  Too rich to spread, it was the right consistency for holding together the crumbly cookies.  A painless last minute (+two hour) solution. Read more

Something Sweet

This week I’ve been practicing my Abuela Carmita’s natilla, a traditional custard similar to the Spanish crema catalana.  A teacher in Cuba, my sister and I were left with her in the morning to learn Spanish which our parents worried we’d forget.  After making us cafe con leche with toast (sliced in thirds and sprinkled with sugar), she would start the natilla early so it would have time to chill.  Setting aside the whites to make meringues later, she’d heat the milk and beat the egg yolks.  My sister and I would watch her stir, ready to fight over the wooden spoon and the raspa left behind in the still warm pot after she’d poured out the custard into individual blue bowls.  Mixing the meringue with my grandfather, they’d piped it into tiny mounds and set them to bake, then he would make lunch while we sat down to our lessons.  Lamenting that if we still lived in Cuba we’d be learning French instead, she’d lead us through the letters and rhymes in our silabarios until lunch was ready.  When it was finally time for dessert, my grandfather’s bowl would have the cinnamon stick and lime peel (not sure why) while ours had our initials written across the top in cinnamon (which I just realized is almost impossible to do).  The crisp meringues would disappear in a puff leaving behind a slightly soft center while the custard was smooth and creamy but held its form.  Teaching myself the recipe, I worried that the yolks would scramble and spent almost an hour in my sweltering kitchen stirring one batch over too little heat.  Remembering her easy patience, I tried again. Getting it right on my third attempt, I can’t stop going to my refrigerator to look down at the same blue bowls finally full of my grandmother’s natilla. Read more

Cookie Hunt

I don’t know if it was the treasure island theme, the two tiered Italian carousel or a contact high from too many helium balloons, but in the late seventies, Omni International Mall sold the most incredible chocolate chip cookies ever made.  To this day, if any one in my family mentions that they had a really great cookie, the first question is always, “Omni International good?”  Although it’s hard to find a bad chocolate chip cookie, everyone has a different criteria for what makes a great one.  The Omni cookies met every possible criteria simultaneously. They were cakey but crisp, gooey but dunkable, and then they were gone.  The Omni went from being an upscale retail experiment housing Pucci and Hermes to a tropical shipwreck and sometimes Miami Vice location that prompted your parents to ask if your doors were locked when driving past. Read more

Shortbread Saints

I promised myself that it wouldn’t escalate.  An after-work dinner with a friend in a nearby restaurant became dinner with friends plural at my house.  I know it’s a mistake to try new things on guests. By the time people arrive, I’m too tense/excited/tired depending on how it went that I can’t enjoy myself.  But who can resist a captive audience? Read more