May 9, 2011 § 1 Comment

I’m getting really antsy. Literally all I can do is sit online all day looking at airline websites, searching for train tickets, comparing prices, signing up for Couchsurfing, sending off my WWOOFing requests. I cannot seem to think about anything else. Meanwhile, it seems to be becoming summer around here. The sun is out almost every day, but the wind has come in too in huge, gusty doses. Runs are now done directly into a firm and constant headwind. Hence less time outside, and more time umm…planning my life two months from now? No one said life was easy.

But then something happened that made me glad to be in San Francisco this time of year. After the discovery that I am most likely allergic to apples and the requisite purging of many of my favorite desserts from the repertoire, I’ve been getting pretty down on the lack of produce options at this time of year. I mean, you could have an apple or a navel orange or maybe a mandarin. I hate nothing more than having a lack of choices. But then, then I went to the Noe Valley farmers market on Saturday and right there in front of me were the season’s first crates of local cherries. Overflowing crates, leaking juices to permanently stain my fingers, and I grabbed handful after handful. As it is, my paper bag full didn’t even last through the weekend. But between you and me, I am going to blame that on the little brother, who likes to decide that he likes things after you buy them and consequently eats his way through your entire stash that you thought was for yourself and yourself only.

Another thing he is good at eating his way through is entire batches of cookies. A couple hastily stolen from the cookie racks with a very guilty look on his face, half a dozen in his school lunch. Come to think of it, I’m kind of the same way with cookies. They go fast.

Sugar cookies tend to get the short end of the stick. On a cookie plate with others offering up chocolately, nutty, fruity goodness, there aren’t many people who won’t pass them up for something more extravagant. But no other cookie quite achieves that soft, chewy interior and crisp edges quite like the ordinary sugar cookie. And coated with cinnamon sugar — seriously who doesn’t love cinnamon toast — and given a cute name like “snickerdoodle,” there’s really no way you can pass them up again.

Snickerdoodle Cookies
From Stars Desserts by Emily Luchetti

1 stick unsalted butter
3/4 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 egg
1 1/3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and the 3/4 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and mix until smooth. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt. Fold the dry mixture into the wet mixture. In a small bowl, mix together the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar and the cinnamon. Roll the dough into 1-inch balls and roll in the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Place the cookie balls on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake the cookies for 8 to 10 minutes or until the edges are golden brown.

Catching up over a ginger cookie sandwich

February 15, 2011 § 2 Comments

I haven’t been in the kitchen much thèse days. There are a thousand reasons why but the main one is that I feel like I am doing a thousand things at once—going to work, training for a marathon, planning vacations, writing in several different publications (like this) and constantly switching the language on my computer while becoming increasingly frustrated that my English keyboard doesn’t have accent buttons and my French spell-check corrects my English words and automatically adds accents to words like “these.” I made whole-wheat almond scones because their picture looked almost exactly like the almond scones I used to love (and still crave) from Martha’s Coffee, and then decided I couldn’t eat any, and then proceeded to completely forget about them until my dad had eaten them all for breakfast. So when I made these ginger sandwich cookies, I stashed a couple of them in the fridge for their photoshoot, which I finally got around to after a week of chocolate tastings, cook showcases, bakery anniversary parties and street food festivals.

To say I have two celeb-chef crushes would be a bit misleading as a.) They are both pastry chefs and b.) I have never seen them on TV yelling at a contestant. One of them is Emily Luchetti, former pastry-chef at Stars and current pastry-chef at Farallon — which has a wonderful $6 appetizers before 7 p.m. bar deal by the way — who made a dinosaur themed birthday cake for me once, complete with dinosaur sugar cookies walking across the top. Queue childlike adoration here. The other is William Werner, the man behind the Tell Tale Preserve Company, who will be opening a shop on Maiden Lane here in San Francisco later this spring. Unfortunately, I brought home a mystery jar from him the other day at work and opened it late Saturday night…hmm incredibly sweet vanilla spread?

My mom and I hung around the kitchen counter for a bit, poking spoons into the glass jar and trying to figure out what to do with it. The sweetness definitely needed something with bite to counteract it. So after a bit of rummaging around in the Stars Desserts cookbook, we came up with gingersnaps. Therein came the second perplexing situation: figuring that the spread had more than enough sugar, I decided the cookies should be just barely sweet. I halved the sugar in the recipe — white and brown — and added a generous amount of chopped, uncrystallized ginger, and made teaspoon-sized gingersnaps that were…not at all lacking in sweetness. I couldn’t even imagine twice the amount of sugar going in them. Emily, what gives?

Anyway, presenting spicy gingersnap sandwiches with vanilla custard. Please forgive the free-flowing, information-spewing text. I think it’s time for me to start keeping a journal again, it seems I am incapable of reflective thought without one.

Ginger Cookies
Adapted from Classic Stars Desserts

2 1/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 firmly packed brown sugar
8 ounces (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1 large egg
1/3 cup dark molasses
generous amount of chopped ginger (use fresh if you have it)

In a bowl, stir together the flour, spices, baking soda, salt and pepper. Set aside. Combine the sugars and butter in a mixing bowl and cream until smooth. Add the egg and beat until mixed then beat in the molasses. Add the dry ingredients and mix until incorporated. Refrigerate the dough for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Use a teaspoon to shape each cookie and flatten the balls slightly on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 12 minutes for chewier cookies and 14 minutes for crisp cookies. Let cool, then sandwich together with your favorite filling (if you like).

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