November 28, 2009

We're in trouble...

because Finn can roll, oh boy can he roll!

November 19, 2009

Hola from Baja!

Just a quick note:  we've arrived safely in La Ventana and are enjoying walking in the sand and putting our toes in the water.



I've got a few posts in the works.  Remember that acorn hat?  The pattern is coming up... 

November 16, 2009

Maple Pecan Cookies

So I had this idea to make cookies with maple syrup. After a few disappointing recipes, I hit on this gem.  The cookies are delicious plain, but topping them with maple icing and pecans turns them into something worth sharing.


Buttery and rich but still delicate and crisp, these cookies are perfectly special. I passed a dozen on to some friends who needed cheering up and I packed a box full for Arnoud and his friends who are on their way down to Baja. They're driving down with Arnoud's motorcycle and our kitesurfing gear; I'm a little nervous about sending my sweetie off on that long drive without me, so these cookies are my little bit of protection and a sweet little kiss to carry him safely to his destination.


Tomorrow Finn, Humphrey and I fly down to join the boys for a month-long vacation. It's Finn's first plane flight and first international trip (and Mama's first time traveling with a dog and a child -- thank heavens my Mama is coming with!) I'll be taking lots of Christmas knitting and my camera -- expect photo updates. Until then!


Maple Pecan Cookies
adapted from Gourmet
Makes at least 5 dozen

for cookies:
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup Grade B maple syrup
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
for icing:
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon butter, softened
  • 4 Tablespoons Grade B maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 to 1 1/2 Tablespoons milk
whole pecans to garnish

1. In a standing mixer cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in maple syrup and egg yolk until mixture is combined well.
2. Sift together salt and flour over mixture and stir into maple mixture.
3. Roll dough into 12" log. Chill dough, wrapped in plastic wrap, until firm, about 2 hours. Dough may be made 4 days ahead and chilled.
3. Preheat oven to 350°F. Cut dough into 1/8 inch thick slices. Arrange cookies on buttered or parchment lined baking sheets.
4. Bake cookies in batches in middle of oven until edges are golden, about 12 minutes, and transfer to racks to cool.
5. While cookies are baking, make icing: sift powdered sugar into a bowl. Cream butter into sugar. Stir in maple syrup and vanilla. Add milk 1 teaspoon at a time until icing is the consistency of a thick glaze.
6. Spread a little bit of icing over each (cooled!) cookie and top with a whole pecan.

Cookies keep in airtight containers 1 week.

November 9, 2009

Last Minute Galettes

Hello! I'm still here, really. Life's just gotten in the way of blogging lately, in a good way. There's been lots of friends visiting, plenty of sweet moments playing with Finn, and lots of starting crafty projects (but not much finishing.) We've had daily walks in the misty breaks between the rain showers and we've admired the ferns peaking out of mossy cracks and the grasses sprouting and turning the hills green and fuzzy. Also many cookies have been baked, unfortunately they were not good enough to blog about so I ate them. All. (Side note: disappointing cookies can redeem themselves if eaten for breakfast.) Laundry has gone unwashed, cereal has been eaten for dinner, and we could all really use a bath. In short, life's been sweet and full and just a little bit hectic.

With all the visitors we've been having, I've turned to a time saving trick from my previous life as a pastry baker: the galette. A galette is sort of a rustic tart and can be filled with sweet or savory ingredients. Pretty and unpretentious, they still manage to be a bit impressive; galettes are the Kate Winslet of the pastry world. The base is a circle of pie dough -- a perfect blank canvas to create all sorts of easy, quick meals and desserts. And here's the time saving secret: make a big batch of galette dough, roll it into single-serving sized circles, and then freeze them to be used when unexpected company arrives or if Mama just doesn't feel like cooking dinner.

I hesitate to call this a recipe, it's more of a guideline or a jumping off point. You can use your favorite pie or pastry dough recipe, I've included mine at the end of this post. The sky's the limit when it comes to filling your galettes: for savory fillings think about pizza or quiche ingredients (just make sure your veggies and meats are pre-cooked) and for sweet galettes think fruit pie fillings, jams, and soft cheeses.

Some of my favorite combinations:
roasted veggies and goat cheese
caramelized onions, potatoes, and gruyere
slow-roasted tomatoes, pesto, and fresh mozzarella
blueberries and sweetened cream cheese
apples and a streusel topping
rhubarb and candied ginger

1. Turn pie dough (enough for a double crust pie) onto a work surface and form into eight equally-sized balls. Place on a plate, cover with plastic wrap and chill until firm, at least 30 minutes.
2. Using as little flour as possible, roll each ball into a rough circle about 7 inches in diameter. Try to work the dough as little as possible, you don't want to warm the dough and melt the butter -- that leads to a tough, grainy crust.
3. Layer the circles in a pile, separated by pieces of baking parchment paper or plastic wrap. Slip the pile into a freezer bag and freeze.

The time consuming part of this project is done, now it's time to impress!

On baking day:
1. Greet unexpected visitors at the door, turning your body to hide the spit-up on your left shoulder.
2. Show visitors into living room, subtly kicking dog toys and baby rattle under the couch.
3. Let your guests play with the baby while you excuse yourself to go make tea (and hide the dirty dishes in your sink with soapy water.)
4. While the tea water boils, preheat the oven to 375 degrees, pull a few dough rounds out of the freezer, place on a baking sheet and top with whatever you find in the fridge or freezer (in the galettes photographed here, I used frozen blueberries and slices of white nectarine -- no need to defrost.)
5. When the frozen dough has softened a little bit, work around each circle, folding the dough up around the filling in little pleats. Don't cover all of the filling, leave a little circle visible in the middle.
6. Brush with an egg wash (one egg whisked with 1/4 cup water) or melted butter. Sprinkle with lots of raw sugar (for sweet galettes) or herbs (for savory galettes.)
7. Bake galettes until the crust is golden brown and the filling is tender; the timing will vary a lot depending on whether your filling is pre-cooked or not. Start checking after about 20 minutes.
8. Ta Da! Impress your visitors with your serenity, composure, and French baking skills.

Basic Pastry Dough
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 cup cold vegetable shortening (or just use more butter)
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 to 7 tablespoons ice water

1. Pulse flour, butter, shortening, and salt in the bowl of a food processor just until mixture resembles coarse meal.
2. With processor motor running, drizzle 5 tablespoons ice water through feeder tube and process just until combined. Do not let dough form a ball!
3. Squeeze a small handful of dough: If it doesn't hold together, add more ice water 1/2 tablespoon at a time, pulsing until incorporated. Do not overwork dough, or pastry will be tough.
4. Shape into eight balls (for galettes) or two discs (for pie crust) and chill at least 30 minutes.