Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Happy Spring!

Have not been cooking or baking much of late, at least nothing noteworthy. Hope to do so soon now that recent colitis flare up has resolved...at least for now.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Happy Spring & a Blessed Easter to each of you.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Seasonal Buns

Although the fruit trees are blossoming and the bulbs are showing their bright beauty, the nights are still pretty chilly. Springtime here in Northern California can be that way, and I love it. We've had foggy mornings and some sunshine in the afternoons the past few days, so I decided that it was good baking weather today and, after the gym, started some Hot Cross Buns dough rising.

This seems like a very seasonal treat to me, one that highlights the citrus of early spring but retains some of the warm spices of winter. Since I like cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves, those are what I used, even though the recipe only called for cinnamon. I also grated some lemon zest to add to the sugar and chose candied orange peel to go with the golden raisins instead of using mixed candied fruits. Those mixed fruits always make me thing the bread is for Christmas, which is fine in December but not in mid-March.

There are a few ways to make the cross on top of the buns including making a score, making a paste of flour and water which is piped in a cross on each bun, and my choice...a mixture of soy milk and confectioners sugar is stirred together and used to make a cross on each bun. Sweetie asked for a bun without a cross and he enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed my bun with the cross. Of course I have a bit of a sweet tooth.

This is an easy recipe, with only one rise. Because the dough has both milk and butter, plus an egg, it is rich enough to require a bit more rising time than simpler breads. I used soy milk for the milk part, changed the spices and fruit as described above, but otherwise stayed with the recipe. These buns are perfect for Easter, for breakfast, and/or for afternoon tea. If you reduce the sugar and leave off the icing cross, they would work well with ham and cheese for a sandwich, too.

Happy Easter, a little early!

Hot Cross Buns
Based on a recipe in The Festive Bread Book by Kathy Cutler

2 3/4 - 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1 tablespoon dry yeast
1/2 cup milk (I used soy milk)
3 tablespoons butter (I used margarine)
1 egg
1/3 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup chopped candied orange peel
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 teaspoons milk (I used soy milk)
enough confectioners sugar to make a firm enough icing to
frost crosses on top of the buns - about 1/2 cup

Combine 2 cups flour (reserve the rest), sugar, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and yeast in a mixing bowl. Mix thoroughly.

Heat the butter in a quart glass measuring cup until melted, then add the milk. Stir to combine. Mixture will be lukewarm. Add the egg and whisk to mix.

Place milk mixture in the large bowl of a stand mixer. Using a wooden spoon, stir in 3/4 cup flour mixture, putting 1/4 cup of the mixture into the bowl at a time. Place bowl in stand mixer and, using the dough hook, slowly add the remaining flour mixture. Once that has be incorporated, add additional flour, using small amounts for each addition, until a soft dough forms. Knead in the mixer for 8 minutes, or turn out onto a floured surface and knead by hand. Dough will be silky and satiny when finished.

Place dough in an oiled bowl, then turn dough over to oil the second side. I used olive oil, but vegetable oil is fine. Cover loosely and let rise 1-2 hours in a warm, draft free place. Because of the milk, butter and egg this dough make take longer than 1 hour to rise, but rarely more than 2 hours.

Turn risen dough out onto a floured surface and punch down. Divide dough equally into 9 pieces. Shape each piece into a ball. Place in a greased 9 x 9-inch pan. Let rise until double - about 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. If desired, brush buns with light cream or an egg wash (1 egg whisked with 1 tablespoon water). Bake risen bun about 25 minutes. Buns will sound slightly hollow when tapped. Cool on a wire rack.

If desired make the confectioners' sugar icing and make a cross on each bun once buns are almost cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Brownies and Cheesecake Get Married

Sweetie loves cheesecake. When I read through the four choices for the March Cake Slice Bakers challenge I pretty much decided on the cheesecake right away. Homemade brownies are delicious and wonderful by themselves, but imagine how good they are when folded into a decadent classic vanilla cheesecake batter and that combination is baked in a water bath for the most creamy, decadent dessert ever. What a marriage made in baker's heaven!

Since I wasn't able to even taste the batter, I made sure to bake this delight for Sweetie's Birthday Bash, so that at least some of the two dozen or so other guests could enjoy it and even take leftovers home. You would not believe the groans of delight, the compliments I was showered with, nor the realization that we would only have one small slice for leftovers. This was amazing considering that I made it in an oversized heart shaped pan, using an extra 4 oz. of cream cheese on top of the two pounds...I know, that's a lot of cream cheese...two pounds of cream cheese, almost a whole batch of brownies, 4 eggs, and a lot of love.

As you can see, I didn't follow the recipe exactly. I think that Maida Heatter has some of the best recipes for sweets, but sometimes she seems to complicate things. For the brownies she wanted us to mold aluminum foil first outside of the pan, then inside it. I just sprayed my 8" square pan with baking spray and it worked just fine. The brownies came right out, were diced in about 1/2-inch dice, then frozen.

For the cheesecake she wanted us to use a one piece cheesecake pan. Well, I don't have one of those, so I used the heart shaped springform pan, lined the bottom with a piece of parchment paper, did the foil molding on this pan so that the outside of the pan was surrounded by foil...this keeps any water out during the bake in the water bath. I also created some chocolate cookie crumbs plus butter to put in the bottom of the pan on top of the parchment. Maida wanted us to bake the cheesecake, turn it upside down and sprinkle with graham cracker crumbs, and, I think, then turn it right side up. My cheesecake would never have made it through that. There were some pretty good sized cracks and the texture was so creamy that I think the whole thing would have fallen apart. Sorry Maida.

Although I was able to bake the brownies with no dairy, so I was able to enjoy a taste, there was no way I could taste the cheesecake batter, so I had Sweetie do it. He pronounced it good and when he had the first piece today at the party he pronounced the cake great! The intensely chocolate brownies married to that rich white cheesecake was, by all reports, one of the best cheesecakes ever!

This recipe is really two recipes in one but it is worth the effort for a show stopping cake. If you are rushed for time, just make the brownie part. The brownies are moist, dense, deeply chocolate, a tiny bit chewy on the outside and very tender and soft on the inside, except for the crunch of the walnuts. They make a fine dessert all by themselves. Just cut them in larger pieces than the dice in the photo above. The dice worked great for the cake, but a nice sized square would be better for dessert.

Do check out the cakes baked by the other Cake Slice Bakers...we had some really good choices this month. Click on the photos at the bottom of the post. They will show up once I do the Linky tool.

Brownie Cheesecake
a variation on the recipe in Maida Heatter's Cakes 

1 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, Dutch-process is best
1 teaspoon powdered coffee (espresso powder) or instant coffee granules
pinch of salt
4 oz. (1/2 cup) or 1 stick margarine or butter
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, cut or broken into small pieces
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs at room temperature
1 cup (3.5 oz.) walnuts, broken or chopped into large pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray an 8-inch square cake pan with baking spray. Set aside.

Sift together the flour, cocoa, coffee powder and salt and set aside.

Place the butter and the chocolate in a large microwave-safe mixing bowl. Microwave on half power for a minute at a time, stirring well after each heating, until mixture is smooth. Use a potholder to move the bowl to your work counter and stir in the sugar, vanilla and almond extracts, until well mixed. Let sit 10 minutes.

Stir in the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each egg is added. Add the sifted dry ingredients in two batches, stirring well to mix after each addition. Stir in the nuts.

Turn the batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top, and bake for 22-25 minutes. You'll know it is done when a toothpick inserted into the middle of the brownies comes out clean and dry.

Remove from the oven and cool on a rack for 10 minutes. Place a plate or board on top of pan and turn brownie out onto it. Then place a cutting board over that and turn the brownie right side up. Place in freezer for 30 minutes. Remove from freezer and cut brownie into 4 equal pieces. Set one quarter aside for another use (or just to snack on!) and cut the remaining three quarters into 1/2 inch dice. Return diced brownies to the freezer and freeze for at least an hour.

The Cheesecake:
When brownie dice have had enough time in the freezer to become very firm, begin making the cheesecake batter.

2 pounds cream cheese, at room temperature. Maida specified Philadelphia brand, and that is what I usually use, but a good quality cream cheese is what is needed, no matter the brand.
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
4 eggs
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1/2 cup chocolate cookie or graham cracker crumbs
Pinch of cinnamon if using graham cracker crumbs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9 or 10 inch spring form pan with baking spray. Line the bottom with a sheet of parchment, Spray with baking spray again. Using a very large sheet of heavy duty aluminum foil, set the pan in the middle and mold the foil up the sides of the pan. Cut the foil off at the top of the pan and fold any part of the foil that sit above the pan edges down onto the pan edges. Set aside. Find a large pan that can hold the springform pan with a little space on the sides and that is tall enough to hold water halfway up the sides of the springform pan. I used a large roasting pan. Set that aside as well.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese until it is soft and smooth, scraping sides, bottom and beaters with a spatula frequently. Add vanilla extract, salt and sugar. Beat well until well mixed. There should be no lumps of cheese visible.

Beat in the eggs, one at a time, using low speed and only beating until the egg is incorporated. Set aside.

In a microwave safe bowl melt the butter or margarine. Add the crumbs (and the cinnamon if using graham cracker crumbs) and stir to combine. Spread this mixture on the bottom of the prepared pan. It will be a very thin layer. On top of that spoon enough of the cheese mixture to make a layer of about 1/2 inch. I used a 1/3 cup measuring cup to place dollops of the batter all around the pan edge and then the middle, then used a spatula to gently even out the batter.

Add the frozen, diced brownies to the rest of the cheesecake batter. Very gently fold them together, being careful not to break up or crumble the brownies any more than necessary. Turn this mixture into the pan and use the bottom of a spoon the smooth the mixture.

Place the cake pan into the larger pan and add hot water until the water is about 1 1/2 inches deep.

Carefully place the pan into the preheated oven. Bake for 1 1/2 hours. The top of the cake will rise, maybe even slightly above the rim of the pan, during baking and then sink when the cake is cooling. When the cake is done, remove the cake pan from the hot water and place it on a rack to cool. There may be some cracks...that is OK.

Once the cake has cooled, remove the foil outer covering and discard.

When ready to serve, run a knife around the edge of the cake, then loosen the pan sides. Either place the cake with the spring form pan bottom included onto a serving plate, or, if you are daring, try to slice the cake and parchment away from the springform bottom and onto the serving plate.

Decorate as desired and serve. Having a hot towel handy to wipe the knife after each cut will make for nicer slices.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Wednesdays and Bread Baking Babes Walnut Bread

It's always difficult for me to post on time when the reveal for the monthly Bread Baking Babes challenge falls on the third Wednesday of the month. I have a regular scholarship group meeting that day and it pretty much takes up the whole day. Today I have the added challenge of getting ready for Sweetie's birthday tomorrow, so this post is later than I would like.

That said, this is a wonderful, wonderful bread Thank you Elizabeth of Blog from OUR kitchen, our awesome Kitchen of the Month, for choosing it. Your mother-in-law was looking out for us all in some way since the book this recipe came from was hers.

Imagine a moist, slightly dense, chewy, grainy bread with wonderful flavor and large pieces of walnut in almost every bite. If you love walnuts, this bread will win you over in no time. It is also pretty easy to make and looks very artisan when you are done...your family will be impressed. It makes great toast and is lovely with cheese (I'm told) and for sandwiches. Although it didn't last long enough for me to try this, I think it would make delicious croutons for butternut squash soup.

Do check out what the other Bread Baking Babes have baked. The best way is to check out the Bread Baking Babes Facebook page. Also, to become a Buddy, bake this bread by March 26th and send Elizabeth an e-mail and photos so she can send you a Buddy badge and include you in the round-up.

BBB Auberge Walnut Bread
based on recipes for Le Pain de Noix in Auberge of the Flowering Hearth by Roy Andries de Groot and Pane di Noci in The Italian Baker by Carol Field 
makes 2 loaves

253g walnut halves, divided
    200g (2 c) whole walnut halves
    53g (0.66 c) walnut halves, finely chopped
420g (1.75 c) boiling water
2 tablespoons yogurt
36g (2.5 Tbsp) non dairy butter
12g kosher salt (2 tsp table salt)
0.5g (0.25 tsp) powdered ginger
84g (4 Tbsp) dark honey
635g flour
    250g unbleached all-purpose flour
    25g King Arthur Flour 9-grain blend
    360g King Arthur Flour Irish wholemeal flour
29g (0.25 c) wheat germ
60g (0.25 c) water at ~98F
6g (2 tsp) active dry yeast
soy milk to brush on top of the loaves - about 1 teaspoon
Note: additional all-purpose flour will be needed for kneading

  1. Walnuts: In the morning of the day you plan to bake the bread, spread the walnut halves in a single layer on a cookie sheet and toast them in a 400F oven for 8-10 minutes. Watch them carefully so they don't burn! They're done just at the moment you begin to smell them. Set aside 200g (2 c) onto a plate to cool. Using a very sharp knife, finely chop the other 53g to produce about 2/3 cup.
  2. Mixing the dough: Pour just-boiled water into a large mixing bowl. Whisk in yogurt. Immediately add nondairy butter, honey, salt and powdered ginger and whisk until the fat has melted and the honey is incorporated.
  3. Add flours, wheat germ and finely chopped walnuts (de Groot suggests grating them(!)) on top of one side of the large bowl.
  4. Warm the water for rehydrating the yeast to around 98F, a little over body temperature. Or are you allergic to a thermometer? Heat it until it's the temperature safe to feed to a baby: a few drops on the inside of your wrist feels warm but not hot. If it's too hot, add cold water. (Tap water is okay, but please do NOT use water from the hot-water tap! You don't know how long things other than water have been festering in the bottom of that tank.) Pour the warmed water into a small bowl and add the yeast. Whisk until the yeast has dissolved. Check to make sure that the milk mixture is not above body temperature (do the baby-bottle test on the inside of your wrist again) and then add the yeasted water to the milk mixture. Stir everything together with a wooden spoon to created a rough dough.
  5. Kneading: Knead in the bowl (or use your electric mixer's instructions for kneading) until the dough is smooth, "elastic and no longer sticky".
  6. Proofing: Cover the bowl with a plate and allow to proof in a draft-free area (oven with only the light turned on is ideal) until the dough has doubled.
  7. Prepare the pans: Cover cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  8. Walnuts and Shaping: Turn dough out onto a lightly floured board and divide in two. Roll each piece into a ball. Cover with a clean tea towel and allow to rest for 20 minutes. After their rest, flatten each ball into a disc and even divide the rest of the walnut halves on top, "pressing the nuts in slightly", then roll each piece of dough to form a log. Joining the ends to make a ring, place each log seam side down on the parchment paper. Cover with a tea towel and allow to rise in a draft-free area until the rings have almost doubled.
  9. Baking: Preheat oven to 375F. Just before putting the bread in the oven, spray the tops liberally with water. Put the bread into the oven and immediately turn the thermostat down to 350F. After 35 minutes, brush the tops of the loaves with soy milk and continue baking for about 10 more minutes until the loaves are nicely browned and have reached an internal temperature between 200F and 210F (the bread sounds hollow when knuckle-rapped on the bottom). Remove the bread from the oven.
  10. Cooling and Finishing: Allow the bread to completely cool on a footed rack before cutting into it. It's still baking inside! If you have a partner like mine he doesn't care and the first slice will not be nearly as nice as the ones you cut after the bread cools. I think it was even better the next day and it was still good 5 days later.
  11. Of course you may want to serve warm bread: reheat it after it has cooled completely. To reheat and/or rejuvenate UNsliced bread, turn the oven to 400F for 5 minutes or so. Turn the oven OFF. Put the bread in the hot oven for ten minutes.
~~~~~end of the recipe~~~~~

Carol Field suggests baking the bread in a greased ring-mould, putting a few strategically placed walnut halves in the bottom of the pan before putting the shaped bread in, so that when the bread is overturned, the walnuts will create an attractive design on top of the loaf. I considered adding that instruction but didn't want to miss out on trying the milk wash near the end of baking.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

The Orange Cake with Almonds First Version

At my nephew's birthday last month in LA, our talented and beautiful and smart hostess served a cake for dessert that was so wonderful I immediately asked for the recipe. Turns out it was a recipe from Molly's blog Orangette, and she calls it a Marmalade Cake. I thought that it would use marmalade, that wonderful tart jam made with citrus fruit. Instead she makes a fresh citrus paste with a boiled and cooled lemon and orange, ground up in a food processor.

Today I tried making the cake and followed it almost to the letter, with only two changes (which is unusual for me...I often change half a dozen things). I used Trader Joe's almond meal instead of toasting and grinding my own almonds. The only other difference was that I folded in the flour mixture at the very end.

It made a delicious, moist cake with an interesting texture that combined a bit of chew from the almond meal and a wonderful, moist quality from the fruit.  The only part that I didn't really enjoy was the bitterness from the citrus pith. I think that next time I may cut back significantly on that part of the fruit, while still keeping the peel and the orange pulp. I plan on making this cake for Sweetie's birthday bash as a vegan version, which is easy because the only thing needing replacement is the egg and I have vegan egg replacer which will work fine. When I do, I'll post it so that you can see what difference, if any, the eggs make.

In the meantime, if you have a lemon and an orange, some almonds, some olive oil, some eggs, and the usual cake staples of flour, sugar, salt and baking powder, you can make this delicious cake for yourself. Just click on the link above to go to Molly's blog (Marmalade Cake) for the recipe. I'll bet you end up bookmarking it. It's that good.

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Old Apples Make Good

I'm not sure what possessed me when I bought a good sized brown bag of Jonagold apples that had been marked down at the market. There were about 10 large apples in the bag and I guess I had a hankering for fresh apples to eat. The sad thing is that once I tried one I found that it was mealy and a bit dry and not terribly good for eating fresh. The bag sat in the crisper for a week until I had time to figure out what to do with it, so those poor old apples became even older. There is probably a parable in all of this, but haven't figured out what it is.

Finally I decided that the thing to do was to make chunky apple sauce with them. The best thing about chunky apple sauce is that I don't peel the apple, just cut them away from the core and cut them into small chunks. With the addition of some slow cooking, a little water, a little brown sugar and lots of cinnamon and Penzey's Cake Spice, those poor old apples became delicious apple sauce.

Now for the fun part. I made a quiche for Sweetie the other day and had another single crust in the fridge. Tonight as I was making dinner I realized that I had the makings of a quick and delicious dessert for my pie loving hubby. I turned on the oven to pre-heat and took the crust out of the fridge to warm up a bit, then kept going with the rice dish I was making for dinner. Eventually the rice was ready to just simmer for a while, so I toasted some pecans in the oven, cooled them a few minutes, chopped them fine and took the applesauce out of the fridge.

After lining a baking pan with parchment it was the work of moments to roll out the crust, put it on the parchment, ladle on the applesauce over half the crust, leaving a good inch uncovered at the outer edge of the crust, sprinkle on the pecans with a generous hand, swab some cold water along that free edge, fold one half over the other, press the edges together, crimp with a fork along that edge, smear on some soy creamer and sprinkle on some sanding sugar, poke a few steam holes in the top and...voila...pop the slab half pie into the oven. It baked for about 20 minutes until golden and was done before we sat down to dinner.

The crust was flaky and delicious, the apples warm and sweet and spicy, the nuts lent a good deal of chewiness and overall it was an excellent dessert. It was so good that I didn't even get a photo of the cut pie. As you can see, I'm having a bit of gluten now and then, but still no dairy. The soy creamer worked just as well as half and half for helping the crust brown and the sugar stick.

Applesauce Slab Pie

1 rolled out pie crust (I used Pillsbury pre-rolled crust)
1/3 cup toasted pecans
about 1 cup chunky applesauce, homemade if possible (drain off excess liquid)
soy creamer or half and half - about 1 teaspoon
sanding sugar - about 1 tablespoon

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Have the oven rack at the mid-point of the oven.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil. Place the rolled out crust in the center.
Chop the toasted pecans to very small pieces.
Spread the applesauce over half the crust, leaving about an inch uncovered at the outer edge of the crust. Sprinkle the nuts evenly over the applesauce.
Using your finger or a pastry brush, skim a very thin coat of water over the uncovered edge of crust.

Fold the half the crust with no applesauce over the half with applesauce, having the edges meet. Seal the edges by pushing down with your fingers. Use a fork to crimp the edges together. You will have a filled half circle of crimped dough.
Use your finger or a pastry brush to lightly coat the top of that half circle with soy creamer or half and half. Sprinkle with the sanding sugar. Use a sharp knife to cut three small slashed in the top.
Bake in the preheated oven for about 20-25 minutes, until the edges of the crust are golden brown.
Remove from the oven and cool in the pan. Place pan on a cooling rack.
Can be eaten warm or at room temperature.
Refrigerate any leftovers.

Sunday, March 06, 2016

Manly Quiche

My Sweetie is manly enough that he doesn't worry too much about the old saying that real men don't eat quiche. He is quite fond of quiche. Of course it might be because I make a manly quiche that includes bacon...BACON...and two kinds of cheese, a flaky crust, and is baked in a deep pie plate, so the slices are hefty, too. It helps that he cut his own slice and wasn't shy about making it the size he preferred.

I've made this quiche many times and I usually try out different additions to the filling. I've used spinach, chard, and mushrooms, for example. Today we had fresh asparagus in the fridge, so I steamed them just a little until they were bright green, then laid them on the bottom of the quiche, right on top of the blind baked crust. That wonderful bacon, cooked until crisp, was torn up into pieces and put on top of the asparagus.

Then I added my mystery cheeses. They are a mystery because I've stayed away from the cheese bin for months and neither of these were labeled. There were two; one soft like Monterey Jack and one firmer, like white cheddar. I diced them up and they more than filled the cup measure. Over it all I poured a mixture of eggs, evaporated milk, dried thyme and ground pepper. This is the mixture that makes the custard that binds it all together and it's my favorite part. Too bad that milk and cheese are off my menu for now.

That's it. Not difficult as long as you allow enough time to blind bake the crust. You can cook the bacon while the crust is baking, then prep the asparagus and cut up the cheese. I used a 2 cup glass measuring cup for beating the eggs and mixing in the milk, thyme and pepper. The quiche itself bakes for a little over 1/2 hour and then cools for 10 minutes so you don't burn yourself on melted cheese. It goes well with a green salad, but it can stand alone if you are not too hungry since it has veggie, protein and carb in one handy package.

Quiche with Swiss Chard and Swiss Cheese and Bacon
1 9-inch pie shell (I use Pillsbury Pie Crusts from the deli case, but you can use your favorite pie        crust recipe, too), blind baked at 425 degrees F for 10-12 minutes (recipe follows)
3 slices bacon, cut into small pieces and cooked until crisp, then drained
8-10 spears fresh asparagus, trimmed and steamed 2-3 minutes, then cooled in ice water, then drained
1 cup Swiss cheese, cut into ¼ inch dice or any cheese combination you like
3 eggs (or equivalent egg substitute)
1 ½ cups evaporated milk (I used 2%) or light cream
¼ teaspoon salt
dash pepper
Dash dried thyme (about 1/8 teaspoon)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Lay the prepared asparagus on the bottom of the blind baked pie shell in a nice pattern. Sprinkle evenly with the bacon. Sprinkle evenly with the Swiss cheese or cheese combination. Set aside.

In a bowl, beat the eggs lightly, then add the milk and beat with a fork to combine, add the salt, pepper and thyme and beat with a fork to combine.

Pour the egg/milk mixture over the ingredients in the pie shell. Place in the preheated oven and bake 30-45 minutes, or until set and lightly browned. Cool for 10 minutes before cutting to serve.
Serves 6-8

Blind Baking the Crust
Fit one ready-made or rolled out pie crust into a 9 inch pie pan, smooth to fit, trim excess, tuck edges under and crimp as for any pie crust. Prick lightly all over the surface with a fork. Freeze 10 minutes.

Remove from freezer and cover with a circle of parchment paper. Fill the paper with beans, lentils or pie weights.

Bake at 425 degrees F for 10 – 12 minutes. Cool slightly. Remove and save the beans or pie weights.

Fill with filling as called for in recipes needing a pie shell.

Tip: If you use a pound of dried beans or lentils as pie weights, as I do, save them once they have cooled off and you can use them again and again as pie weights...just don't plan on cooking them to eat. Be sure to label their container "Pie Weights". At about a dollar and a half for a bag of dried beans, it sure beats the almost $9 you would pay for Pie Weights from King Arthur Flour or a similar amount at Sur la Table.

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Crazy Good Cookies

When I was in the LA area my hostess gave me a photocopy of her favorite cookie recipe, grandly called The Best Cookie in the compilation book where it is found. I baked some up this morning for a contest prize at our scholarship meeting and they sure did smell wonderful and they looked delicious, too.

The batter is similar to toll house cookie, but enriched with coconut, oats and walnuts...but no chocolate chips. There is also the 'mystery' ingredient or maybe crazy ingredient...crushed corn flakes. I had to go out and buy those since they are not a usual item in my pantry. The only box I could find was huge, so now I need to find some other recipes that use corn flake cereal!

These are tasty cookies. They are crisp at the edges, a bit chewy if you cook them the shorter time, and delicious if you like coconut, oats and walnuts, plus brown sugar and vanilla. Who knows if they are the best, but they sure are darn good cookies!

The Best Cookies
P.E.O. California Chapter MH

1 cup butter (I used vegan butter substitute)
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup crushed corn flakes
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (you could use pecans instead)
1 teaspoon vanilla
3  1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

Cream together butter and sugars. Add egg and mix well. Add next 6 ingredients (oil, corn flakes, rolled oats, coconut, walnuts, vanilla); mix well. Add the flour, baking soda and salt. Mix until combined.
Shape into small balls, place on ungreased cookie sheet and flatten with a wet fork. Bake 12 to 14 minutes at 325 degrees F.
Makes about 100 small cookies.
The recipe is from Edith Norton, Sebastopol, CA