Category Archives: Appetizers and Snacks

Ginger Scones

Ginger.Scones.2

I know what you’re thinking: “Jess, you’ve been missing from the blogosphere for almost 3months and now you’re back with another scone recipe. Another. This is like scone recipe number 3. Give us something new.” This isn’t like scone recipe number 3, it is scone recipe number 3. Clearly, I like scones. Love may actually be a more appropriate verb. Love. Yes, love.

While you’re getting a recipe here, I’m not quite sure how to give you the rest of a post. It has been too long, but at the same time, not quite long enough. A summary would be insufficient. A novella would be boring. So I’ll spare you feelings of incompleteness and utter disinterest. Instead, since I’m already talking about love, I’ll share with you my new one(s).

Since mid October I have felt in control. I have even had rare flashes of that power trippy, take on the world feeling. Then this week came and with it, I hit a wall. Not just any wall. No, no. A giant, brick, I-am-guarding-a-fortress wall a la that in the Battle for Helms Deep.  Thursday morning I lay in bed hitting snooze one time, two times, three times…asking myself just as many times if I had to get up. This was, of course, not the first time this question had run through my head since August, but it was the first time I couldn’t shake it. Even as I went through the motions of getting ready for the day, the feel stayed.

Ginger.Scones.1

Like a curtain call, I played on repeat the names and images of my students. That feeling, the one that made me want to curl up in my blankets and never leave, began to disappear. Love, as cheesy as it sounds (because let’s be real, it sounds cheesy) won out.

I have 18 new loves. They drive me up a wall sometimes, but they also drive me to be a better version of myself. And at the end of the day, the people you love should push you, challenge you, force you one step closer to being that person you aspire to become. So to my students, thank you. I love you.

Ginger Scones

adapted from A Taste of Heaven

If you’re not a huge ginger fan, I think you’re crazy, but you’re in luck. Just omit the ground ginger and substitute a cup of your favorite dried, frozen, or fresh fruit or chocolate chips for the crystalized ginger. If you use frozen fruit, the dough will become stiff. You’ll have to knead the fruit into the dough for several minutes.

Egg whites will give the scones a pretty, shiny outer layer. In terms of flavor though, they don’t have an effect, which is why I said they were optional below. If you’re making these for guests, use them to make the scones more elegant. If you’re making them for yourself, I wouldn’t bother.

Makes about 14 scones

3 cups flour (use Gold Medal Unbleached)

1/2 cup sugar

4 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon salt

10 tablespoons unsalted butter, very cold, cut into pieces (I usually put mine in the freezer 15 minutes before I use it)

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 1/4 cup buttermilk

2 egg whites, lightly beaten (optional)

1 cup crystalized ginger, coarsely chopped

In a large bowl, whisk all the dry ingredients together. Cut the butter into the dry ingredients using your finger tips until the mixture resembles corn meal. You should still see some tiny chunks of butter though. (This can also be done in the bowl of a food processor instead. That means more dishes though…).

Stir the vanilla and buttermilk together in a measuring cup.  Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Pour the vanilla buttermilk combination into the center of the dry ingredients. Using your hands or a spatula, fold the dry ingredients into the wet, just until the dough forms a ball. The dough will be sticky. Stir in the crystalized ginger using a spatula or wooden spoon.

Grease a baking sheet with butter. Using a small ice-cream scoop or a tablespoon, scoop the dough into 2-inch balls and place them on the greased baking sheet about 3 inches apart. Don’t worry about them being perfectly round. Place the baking sheet in the freezer, until the dough is at least firm to the touch, about 1 hour.

If you want to bake the scones at that time, pre-heat oven to 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Brush the frozen scones with the egg whites, if using, then place the scones on a middle rack. Bake for about 25-30 minutes, or until just beginning to brown. If you do not want to bake the scones yet, place the dough balls in a plastic ziplock bag and keep frozen until you’re ready to use them. Bake using the instructions as above.

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Homemade Ricotta Cheese

Sometimes I fall into a funk of complaining. My job is so hard. I have no clue what I’m doing with my life. Etc, etc, etc. It is at these moments that I need a subtle reminder of just how beautiful the people who surround me really are. Just how lucky I am. Tonight was one of those reminders. Nothing spectacular. A friend’s concert. Catching up. Drinks. That’s just it though, beauty lies in the commonplace, but in the commonplace it also all too often hides. Thank you to my friends and family whose encouraging words, whose endless supports, whose comforting hugs have become so commonplace I forget they are a luxury not everyone is privy to. Thank you. Times one million. Thank you.

This has little to do with my cheese here, unless you count me owing a huge thank you to Nancy Silverton, author of this recipe, for opening my eyes to the world of homemade ricotta. Clearly my jumping from one idea to the next in this post proves my thoughts are a muddled mess, with one notable exception…my thoughts about this cheese. Let me tell you what I thought: Making cheese would be hard. Now let me tell you what I found out: It’s not. In fact, it’s so easy and so full of flavor, I have no intention of ever buying ricotta at the store again. It’s a waste of my money. Really. A gigantic waste. So, here’s to friends, family, and homemade cheese. Forever.

Homemade Ricotta Cheese

from the Mozza Cookbook

Combine 4 cups whole milk, 1 cup cream, 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, and 2 tablespoons lemon juice in a saucepan and bring just to a boil without stirring. Immediately remove pan from heat.

Let mixture stand for 15 minutes at room temperature. As time passes, the curds will begin to separate from the whey. If only a few curds form, your lemon may not be acidic enough; add another 1 Tbsp. lemon juice, gently stir so you don’t break up the curds too much, and let stand for 5 minutes more.

Using a large spoon (not slotted) or measuring cup, spoon curds into a cheesecloth-lined sieve set over a large bowl. At this point, transfer cheese to an airtight container or continue draining in the refrigerator. (I tied my cheesecloth to a chopstick and set it over a cup to continue draining. While this is not necessary, I found that the cheese that I continued to drain in the refrigerator was much more flavorful and dense than the cheese I immediately transfered to an airtight container. Take your pick.)

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Reflections on an Epic Journey, Part 1: Mango Salad

You know you’re in love when you can’t get someone out of your mind, when you miss them every minute of everyday. When you heart beats faster at the sound of their voice, when you smile at the sight of their picture, when all you want to do is take in their scent and lie in their arms, you know you’re in love. My friends, in love I am.

Chocolate Cake and Pinol from Choco Museo Cafe. Antigua, Guatemala. 

As I’ve meandered through Central America – from the beaches of Panama, through the forests of Costa Rica, to the pueblos of Guatemala – this love has been all-consuming. My hands have been begging for the touch of a wooden spoon, my nose dying for a whiff of homemade chocolate chip cookies being pulled from the oven. My eyes have been yearning for the mere glimpse of a spice cabinet and my ears waiting in anxious anticipation for the gentle clap of kneading bread on a countertop. It is the timeless act of cooking with which I am in love. Beware future men in my life, you’ll have to compete with whisks and sauce pans for my attention.

My journey was, of course, driven by food. I fended off the piropos of Panama City to buy the freshest ceviche I have ever eaten. Really, the boat the shrimp came off of…I saw it. I hiked up a small mountain to find the best coffee Costa Rica has to offer. Despite loads of sunscreen and a scarf wrapped around my head babushka style (Yes, I looked hilarious. No, there are not pictures), I still managed to get sunburned. I roamed the streets of Guatemala sampling every kind of street food I could get my hands on. Miraculously, I didn’t get sick.

Preparing fried chicken at the biweekly market. Chichicastenango, Guatemala. 

My food adventures, however, did not lessen my longing for my kitchen. I dreamt of spending a day consumed by cooking. It would start as one of those quiet days. I would wake up early and lie in bed with the sunlight softly falling on my covers as I drifted in and out of sleep. It would unfold flawlessly. Grocery shopping at the finest markets. Eating a simple lunch. Cooking the afternoon away to the tune of Jack Johnson. Eating (again) dinner with my parents around the dining room table. Tidying the kitchen quickly yet calmly. Then, finally, falling asleep as I pondered breakfast the next morning. Perhaps steel cut oats with strawberry jam and a sprinkle of lemon zest.

I have dreamt of this day for three weeks and on my first full day back in the States, Friday, that day came. It happened to be a little more chaotic than I imagined, but hey, that’s life. I’ll take what I can get.

The results of my cooking class at El Frijol Feliz. Antigua, Guatemala.

I had a lot of time to think on my adventure. Probably too much. Among my many realizations or, perhaps more accurately, reaffirmations, was this one: I take advantage of the small things (and the big things actually too…um, that roof over my head…) in life far too often. As a token of my appreciation for all the big and small things they’ve given me, I wanted to prepare a dinner for my parents inspired by my travels. This, of course, in no way makes up for all those years of supporting me. Just think of all those dirty diapers changed, clothes washed, and meals cooked. Not to mention agonizing band concerts attended and countless softball games endured. And then there’s the whole paying for all of that…Regardless, I made dinner. A dinner inspired by Guatemala to be exact. We started with this very mango dish.

Apparently I caught the tail end of mango season in Guatemala, and thank goodness I did. Every morning and afternoon the central road of Panajachel, where I stayed for a week taking Spanish classes, was filled with men and women selling ripe, juicy mangos. For five quetzales, or the equivalent of about sixty-five cents, I would get an entire mango sliced and arranged neatly in a tiny plastic bag. Their mangos, for the record, are not like our imported mangos. No, no. They’re twice as big. We clearly get the shaft. You could chose to eat it simple, or plain, but I always noshed on mine with salt, ground pepitas, and freshly squeezed lime juice. Some kind of chile powder or cayenne pepper was occasionally an option as well. The recipe below is essentially a table friendly version of this glorious “mango in a bag”, which has now traveled from the streets of Guatemala to my house in Chicago. What a journey it was.

Pepian, a traditional Guatemalan dish, prepared at El Frijol Feliz. Antigua, Guatemala. 

Mango Salad

Breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack (midday and midnight), you name the time and this dish will fit the occasion. It’s nice to have something so versatile (and easy!) in your cooking repetoire, isn’t it? Feel free to add chili powder or cayenne pepper if desired. Grind the pepitas as finely as you like. I used a mortar and pestle grinding mine to about the texture of table salt.

Serves 4 

2 mangos, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes

2 teaspoons lime juice, freshly squeezed

1/2 teaspoon lime zest

Fine grain sea salt, to taste

2 teaspoons pepitas, ground

In a small bowl, combine the first four ingredient. Stir gently. Sprinkle pepitas over the mango just before serving.

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Double Coconut Popcorn

Eating locally is not always an easy feat, especially in Chicago’s dead of winter. Come January, Cara Cara oranges from California, Mexican avocados, and Bartlett pears from Argentina take over my diet.  Even the sweet potatoes, apples, and kale – which during warmer months I buy from Midwestern farmers – are being shipped in from more temperate climates. While I don’t suggest missing out on winter citrus simply because it’s not grown within spitting distance of your home, I do suggest trying to eat locally as often as possible. Here’s why.

In the winter, when the bounty of farmers markets is nonexistent, this popcorn is one way we Chicagoans can continue to support our local farmers. Yes, I said it. Locally grown, not mass produced Orville Redenbacher popcorn. Shocking. Hailing from Iowa, Tiny But Mighty Foods produces popcorn from heirloom ears of corn. The resulting kernels are, as the company’s name would suggest, tiny and boast disintegrating hulls. This means more kernels per delicious handful. Sounds like a win to me! (Visit the Tiny Buy Might Foods website to learn more about the popcorn and where it can be bought. In Chicago, most Whole Foods seem to carry it.)

With my Tiny But Mighty Popcorn in hand, I thought about reaching for a bottle of vegetable oil or a stick of butter. But in my mind, it seemed to deserve special treatment. Enter coconut oil. You may have already read about the fabulousness of this relatively new-to-me ingredient here and here. And if you haven’t, you should follow those links now. (That’s more of a command than a suggestion.) In this recipe, coconut oil lends a subtle nuttiness to popcorn that may have a quite familiar taste and for good reason. Movie theaters have long been popping their popcorn in coconut oil. This popcorn popping method was harshly attacked in the 90s when the Center for Science in the Public Interest claimed that a large movie-theater popcorn without butter contained as much saturated fat as six Big Macs. Never fear though! Stick to the virgin coconut oil instead of the partially hydrogenate version (aka the kind movie theaters use) and you’re good to go.

Double Coconut Popcorn

adapted from the New York Times

Makes about 8 cups popcorn

1 1/2 cups unsweetened coconut flakes

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

2 tablespoons coconut oil

1/2 cup popcorn kernels (try Tiny But Mighty if available near you!; see above for more details)

Cayenne pepper, to taste (optional)

In a large pot over medium heat, toast the coconut flakes and 1/4 teaspoon salt until the coconut is golden, about 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl.

Add oil to the pot. Stir in the popcorn and cover pot. After a few minutes, the popcorn will begin to pop vigorously. When the popping begins to slow and several seconds pass between pops, pour the popcorn into a large bowl

Season the popcorn with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt; sprinkle with coconut flakes and cayenne pepper. Toss gently to combine.

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Early Bird Granola

This recipe has spent a long time sitting on my “to cook” list. Far too long at that. It first popped up on my radar last fall while I diligently read each and every vignette in Melissa Clark’s first cookbook, In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite. (Yes, I reference this cookbook a lot. That means you should probably check it out.) In the story preceding her Olive Oil Granola with Dried Apricots and Pistachios, Clark describes a frenzy at the farmer’s market. Weaving through hordes of people, she was greeted by this very granola, which hails from New York via Early Bird Granola. After a sampling she realized the cause for uproar and, when I baked the granola up, so did I.

Wanting to bring a treat up to my friend’s farm where I spent New Years, I remember Melissa Clark’s olive oil granola recipe and the love for its inspiration the farmer’s market goers had. I adapted it swapping pecans for pistachios, cinnamon and ginger for cardamom, and dried cranberries for apricots. The resulting granola was both sweet and savory with that wonderful, but at the same time terrible, “I could eat this whole batch right now” quality. It was good. I liked it. But I thought there had to be something better out there.

That’s when I stumbled upon versions of the Early Bird granola recipe on Lottie + Doof and Food52, finally finding the actual, real, Early Bird owner-written recipe on the Martha Stewart website. It was hard to resist tweaking. I wanted to add ground flax and wheat germ, throw in some dried fruit, and substitute some kind of nut for the sunflower seeds. But I didn’t. And I’m glad I didn’t, because I’m pretty sure I couldn’t make this granola – with its sweet-salty and ever so slightly bitter flavor – any better.

Early Bird Granola

from Early Bird Granola via Martha Stewart

I most recently followed the original Early Bird recipe posted below. However, I’ve also tried variations on it. In my favorite variation I upped the pecans to 1 1/2 cups, omitted the sunflower seeds, and added a 1/2 cup of flax seed, 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon and ginger, and 3/4 cup dried cranberries. If you decided to add dried fruit remember to mix it in after you take the granola out of the oven. Feel to adjust as desired, but bear in mind, the original is quite good just the way it is.

Makes about 7 cups

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

1 cup raw pumpkin seeds

1 cup raw sunflower seeds

1 cup coconut chips

1 1/4 cup raw pecan, coarsely chopped

3/4 cup pure maple syrup, preferably grade A

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar

Coarse sea salt

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Place oats, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, coconut, pecans, syrup, olive oil, sugar, and 1 teaspoon salt in a large bowl and mix until well combined. Spread granola mixture in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Transfer to oven and bake, stirring every 10 minutes, until granola is toasted, about 45 minutes.

Remove granola from oven and season with salt. Let cool completely before serving or storing in an airtight container for up to 1 month.

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Graham Crackers

A new post for a new year. That’s what I was going to call this narrative on graham crackers, until it took me four days to actually write it. But never fear, I’ll be better in the future. That was one of my many many New Years resolutions. To post regularly. And now that I’ve told the world, or at least anyone who’s taking the time to read this, I’ll stick to it. I promise. I promise to post more regularly for my readers but also for myself. Here’s why:

I spent New Years Eve at my friend Paul’s farm in Wisconsin. Eighteen people made their way up, or down for those coming from the Twin Cities, to the farm. His family. Some family friends. His girlfriend. And all of us. That is, the ten of us who have been friends since the early years of high school and who have managed to stay close friends even though college has put us in different parts of the country and, at times, the world. When we all sat down to dinner, squeezed shoulder to shoulder at a long table, we dug into our bowls of chili. The murmur of conversation slowly grew to a gentle roar until Paul’s sister, Jane, asked us all to share the best or most significant part of our year. Going one by one around the table there were stories of a marriage in Minnesota, an almost arrest in Poland, and everything in between.

When the floor was mine I briefly mentioned my graduation, an apparently big deal, but I dwelled much longer on this blog. I started from the beginning recounting how Kelli had caught me reading food blogs during a meeting and how she asked why I didn’t start my own. How I gave it a moment of thought and almost just as quickly whipped up a batch of the best oatmeal raisin cookies I have ever eaten – no I’m not exaggerating – and composed my first post. And then I explained the really really important stuff about this blog. I explained how it has given me an opportunity to explore my creative side both in the kitchen and at the computer typing and typing away. How it forces me to take some time for myself and then share my passion with those I love and with strangers who just happen to stumble upon it.

We whiled away the time until midnight dancing, drinking, and talking and talking and talking. Midnight came and went but the festivities continued until we fell asleep in the early hours of the morning, me lying in a bed of pillows on the floor with Matt and Kent at my feet.

And here’s where these graham crackers come in. After driving to Wisconsin on Saturday and then back on Sunday, Monday I was departing for Montana. That’s right, driving to Montana with none other than Kelli who will be spending the winter working and skiing in Big Sky. Of course, no road trip is complete without car snacks, but given the number December did on my body I wanted a healthy snack. So these graham crackers, which have been sitting on my “to cook list” for all too long, found themselves being pulsed and chilled and rolled and baked and finally, as we drove mile after mile, eaten.

This is a good beginning to the new year. Friends, adventures, and food. A very very good beginning.

Graham Crackers

from Pastries from the La Brea Bakery by Nancy Silverton via Lottie + Doof

These graham crackers are not difficult to make by any stretch of the imagination, but there are a couple things to note. First, make sure to roll them out thin enough and, perhaps more importantly, evenly for both halves of dough. Otherwise you’ll end up with some slightly over cooked or undercooked. Second, you can cut these in the traditional graham cracker shape as the directions below indicate or you can cut them in 2 inch squares, which I attempted to do. If you decide to cut them in 2 inch squares simply cut the crackers every 2 inches instead of every 4 1/2 . Either way, make sure to measure the inches, a step I normally skip on (which is bad, very bad). This will help to ensure the crackers are uniform.

Makes about 24 crackers

2 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons unbleached pastry flour or unbleached all-purpose flour

1 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed

1 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

7 tablespoons (3 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes and frozen

1/3 cup mild-flavored honey, such as clover

5 tablespoons whole milk

2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade or in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt. Pulse or mix on low to incorporate. Add the butter and pulse on and off on and off, or mix on low, until the mixture is the consistency of a coarse meal.

In a small bowl, whisk together the honey, milk, and vanilla extract. Add to the flour mixture and pulse on and off a few times or mix on low until the dough barely comes together. It will be very soft and sticky.

Turn the dough out onto a silicon mat or a large piece of lightly floured plastic wrap, then pat the dough into a rectangle about 1 inch thick. Wrap it in plastic wrap and chill until firm, about 2 hours or overnight. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon for the topping, and set aside.

Divide the dough in half and return one half to the refrigerator. Sift an even layer of flour onto the work surface and roll the dough into a long rectangle about 1/8 inch thick. The dough will be sticky, so flour as necessary. Trim two parallel edges of the rectangle to 4 inches wide leaving the other edges to be as long as the rectangle allows. Working with the shorter side of the rectangle parallel to the work surface, cut the strip every 4 1/2 inches to make 4 crackers. (Alternately, see the headnotes if you prefer smaller 2×2 crackers.)

Place the crackers on one or two parchment-lined baking sheets and sprinkle with the cinnamon-sugar topping. Chill until firm, about 30 to 45 minutes. Repeat with the second batch of dough. Gather any scraps together in a ball, chill until firm, and re-roll to make several more crackers.

Adjust the oven rack to the upper and lower positions and preheat the oven to 350° F.

Mark a vertical line down the middle of each cracker, being careful not to cut through the dough. Using a wooden skewer, prick the dough to form two dotted rows about 1/2 inch for each side of the dividing line.

Bake for 15-25 minutes, until browned and slightly firm to the tough, rotating the sheets halfway through to ensure even baking. (Some of mine overcooked at right around 20 minutes. I suggest checking them a little bit before. They might be done and all the sooner ready to eat!)

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Apple Butter and the Beginning of Holiday Baking

After school and my home, the majority of my childhood was spent at the house of my best friend from those early, yet not too distant, years of my life, Grace. Grace’s family loved food just as much as mine. I remember indulging in the most delicious tacos topped with queso fresco, a cheese foreign to me up to that point in time. I remember eating steak on an average weekday night and digging into a mound of homemade crepes the morning after sleepovers. And I remember being introduced to apple butter. To the elementary school aged Jessica, apple butter seemed elegant and elusive. I associated it with teatime in the South of France and imagined myself eating it straight from the jar in an ironically lady-like manner. But I was a lowly American living in the suburbs of Chicago, which instead of cobblestone streets and scenic nature views, boasted towering, gray skyscrapers and pollution. Apple butter was clearly out of everyday reach…

…until I realized sometime in high school that apple butter was quite easily concocted in the comfort of my home in those same Chicago suburbs where I’d been born and raised. My apple butter kitchen experiments began with a recipe found online that called for a disastrous cup of sugar to every pound of apples. That sounded like apple butter induced diabetes waiting to happen. Regardless, I tried it and realized, yes, it was far too sweet. After tweaking the recipe for several years, I developed my apple butter. This is the apple butter I would package up in mason jars with a red bow and a hand decorated holiday tag for my aunts and uncles one Christmas. (A jar of which I found this summer still sitting in my Aunt Alison’s fridge. Apparently, not everyone loves apple butter as much as I do.) This is the apple butter I make each winter and slather onto thick, toasted slices of the hoska my Grandma brings us from the Czech bakery. And this is the apple butter you should make. Right now. Unless, like me, you’re busily filling your kitchen with mountains of cookies. Then you can wait I suppose.

Today my list of things to cook over winter break reached thirty. Thirty recipes! How in the world am I going to cook, and then eat, thirty different dishes? Of those thirty, ten are for cookies and of those ten I have already tried three: World Peace Cookies, Ginger Sandwich Cookies, and Gooey Buttercake Cookies. If you’re observant, unlike me, you may have notice I’ve only included recipes for the first two in this post. There’s sadly a quite unfortunate reason for that. When whipping up the Gooey Buttercake cookies, a seemingly simple recipe, I made an amateur mistake. I used baking soda instead of baking powder. Me? Make a mistake in the kitchen? Yup. It happens more regularly than I care to admit. And this time it resulted in flat, baking soda flavored cookies. Fail.

While I continue on my cookie-baking quest, perhaps you can take a step back and give them a try for me. If you do, let me know how they are. And maybe even save one for me.

Apple Butter

I usually use a combination of apples. Braeburn, Pink Lady, Fuji, and Gala all work well but there are certainly many more viable options. In general, I’d say go with what’s on sale. Additionally, the sugar and spice quantities can be adjusted to taste. Keep in mind though, I’ve been adjusting this recipe for a while now and this is the best combination of flavors I’ve come up with thus far. Just saying. I also like my apple butter lightly spiced and not too sweet though. If you prefer a different flavor some adapting may be in order.

Makes about 8 cups

5 to 6 pounds apples, peeled, cored and finely chopped

1/4 cup white sugar

1/4 cup light brown sugar

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

¼ teaspoon allspice

1/4 teaspoon salt

Place the finely chopped apples in a slow cooker. In a medium bowl, mix the sugars, cinnamon, cloves, allspice and salt. Pour the mixture over the apples and mix well.

Cover and cook on high 1 hour stirring occasionally.

Reduce heat to low and cook 9 to 11 hours until the mixture is thickened and dark brown. Stir occasionally. 

Uncover, turn off the heat, and let cool for about 30 minutes. Pour the mixture into a food processor and blend until smooth. Transfer to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to one month. 

World Peace Cookies

from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

I added a tablespoon of orange zest to the original recipe to give these cookies a little bit of a holiday flare. The results were highly approved by my family. I’ve made these cookies without the orange zest before though too and they were equally as delicious!

Makes about 36 cookies

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour

1/3 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

11 tablespoons (1 stick plus 3 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature

2/3 cup (packed) golden brown sugar

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

5 ounces extra-bittersweet chocolate (do not exceed 85% cacao), chopped (no pieces bigger than 1/3 inch)

1 tablespoon orange zest (optional)

Sift flour, cocoa, and baking soda into medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until smooth but not fluffy. Add both sugars, vanilla, and sea salt; beat until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add flour mixture; beat just until blended (mixture may be crumbly). Add chopped chocolate; mix just to distribute (if dough doesn’t come together, knead lightly in bowl to form ball). Divide dough in half. Place each half on sheet of plastic wrap. Form each into 1 1/2-inch-diameter log. Wrap each in plastic; chill until firm, about 3 hours. (Dough can be made 3 days ahead of time if kept chilled.)

Preheat oven to 325°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Using thin sharp knife, cut logs crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick rounds. Space 1 inch apart on prepared sheets. Bake 1 sheet at a time until cookies appear dry (cookies will not be firm or golden at edges), 11 to 12 minutes. Transfer to rack; cool.

Ginger Sandwich Cookies

from Food and Wine

Makes about 20 cookies 

For the Cookie

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 stick plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

3/4 cup sugar

1 large egg, at room temperature

1/4 cup unsulfured molasses

For the Filling

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

2 cups confectioners’ sugar

1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350° and position racks in the upper and lower thirds. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon and salt. In the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle, beat the butter and sugar at medium speed until fluffy, 3 minutes. Beat in the egg and molasses. Add the dry ingredients and beat at low speed until incorporated, scraping down the bowl.

Working in 2 batches, drop scant tablespoons of the dough onto the baking sheets, 3 inches apart. Bake the cookies for 20 minutes, until risen and fallen and slightly firm; shift the sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through for even baking. Let cool slightly, then transfer the parchment paper to racks and let the cookies cool completely. Bake the remaining cookies.

In the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle, beat the butter with the confectioners’ sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the lemon juice.

Arrange the cookies in pairs on a large work surface. Spoon or pipe 1 rounded tablespoon of the lemon filling onto the flat side of half of the cookies. Sandwich with the remaining cookies, pressing them together so the filling spreads to the edge.

These can be stored in an airtight container between sheets of wax paper for up to one week.


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