Alfajores.

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For a number of years now, I’ve had this mental list of places I want to travel to. Italy again. New Zealand. Thailand. Africa. Morocco. Turkey. The list goes on and on and on. It’s hard to imagine ever getting to all of those places, what with the simple fact that we, you know, work and all. But I figure we can take it slow – knock off a big one every couple of years or so, presuming we have years and years and years to finish the list.

There are about 500 places in South America I want to visit, too. Argentina is at the top of that “mini-list”. Their food is pretty spectacular, their wines are great and getting better by the year, and the scenery is breathtaking. But since we aren’t getting to Argentina this year, cooking food from Argentina seemed like a good alternative.

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We do this cookie swap at work every Christmas. It makes our quarterly meetings a little more bearable because we all know that loads of sugar are the reward. Some people take them home to share, but I (ssshhh!!) actually leave mine at work with the same thought in mind – a cookie is a really nice reward for making it through a rough day, or maybe even just a really annoying patient. (Yes, there are annoying patients. I hope you aren’t one of them.)

So I made these Argentinian (Argentine? whatever.) sandwich cookies this past year. They involve a few steps, but the beauty of those steps is that they don’t have to all be done at once. I made the cookie dough one day. I baked the cookies a couple of days later. And the night before the swap, I filled and coated them. Easy peasy.

The best part? It made a TON of cookies. So instead of having a thousand more cookies at home, I took some to my work, gave Chris some to take to his work, and I froze the rest.

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Which brings me to the Argentinian feast I mentioned in the last food post. Yes, the one I wrote about 10,000 years ago.  I was trying to figure out what to make for dessert and had literally forgotten about the cookies I’d frozen not even 2 weeks before. I started googling South American dessert ideas and of course, alfajores was at the top of the search. Funny, I had some of those in the freezer. So the rest of these cookies came out for dessert that night, all consumed between champagne, moonshine cocktails (thanks, Judy, for trying to kill us but not succeeding), and – check this out – a little Rock Band. It was a good night indeed.

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Alfajores (chocolate-covered sandwich cookies with dulce de leche)
from Fine Cooking Cookies via Serious Eats; makes ~30 sandwich cookies

time commitment: ~2 hours + time to chill overnight (i.e., make these a day before you need them)

printable version

ingredients
12 oz (2 2/3 c) all-purpose flour; more for rolling
6 oz (1 1/3 c) whole-wheat flour
2 t baking powder
1 t salt
1/2 lb unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
3/4 c granulated sugar
1 1/2 t finely grated orange zest
2 cans Nestlé dulce de leche (13.4 ounces each)
1 lb bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 pint heavy cream

instructions
Make the cookies: In a medium bowl, whisk both flours with the baking powder and salt. Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the orange zest and vanilla. Scrape down the bowl and paddle with a rubber spatula.

With the mixer on low, gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture. After adding the last of the flour but before it’s fully incorporated, add 1/4 to 1/3 cup cold water and mix just until a smooth dough forms, 1 to 2 minutes. Divide the dough, shape into two disks, and wrap each in plastic. Chill overnight (or for a couple of days if you need to!).

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment. Roll out the cold dough on a lightly floured surface until it’s 1/8 to 3/16 inch thick. With a 2-inch plain or fluted round cookie cutter, cut the dough into rounds—you can gather and reroll the scraps once.

Bake one sheet at a time until the edges are very lightly browned and the cookies puff up slightly, 8 to 10 minutes. Let the cookies cool on a rack and store in an airtight container for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 1 month, until you’re ready to fill and coat them.

Fill the cookies: Lay out the cookies, flat side down. Put a heaping 1/2 tablespoon of the dulce de leche on half of the cookies. Cover each with a top cookie, flat side up.

Coat the cookies: Put the chocolate in a small, deep, heatproof bowl. In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the cream just to a boil. Pour over the chocolate and let sit for 10 minutes. Stir the mixture very gently, incorporating the cream steadily and without overworking, until glossy and completely mixed.

Line two cookie sheets or rimmed baking sheets with parchment. Pick up a sandwich cookie with a small offset spatula. Immerse in the chocolate mixture, flipping the cookie to coat completely. Pick up with the spatula and tap a couple of times on the side of the bowl to get rid of excess chocolate. With another spatula in the opposite hand, gently smooth out the top of the cookie and then run the spatula along the bottom. Transfer to the parchment-lined sheet. Repeat with the remaining cookies. Allow the coating to set at room temperature for a few hours and then serve.

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Before I Forget

Did everyone have a thoroughly enjoyable weekend? Did you have an easter egg scavenger hunt? Or eat a lot of chocolate bunnies? Cadbury creme eggs (man, I could tear one of those down right now, never mind the fact that I just shoved a piece of cake into my face…)? Did you wear really lame-looking pastel-colored outfits with bow ties and Mary Janes? Or did you force those sort of cute things on your kids, instead?!

Get this: I didn’t do any of those things. Except, of course, I did have an enjoyable weekend. Duh.

We spent all day Saturday at Tomales Bay Oyster Farm again, because going this long without an oyster retreat was just silly. The weather was brilliantly sunny, speckled with a  few appearances by the clouds and the wind, and we had plenty of awesome food to choose from, which meant we pretty much ate from 11 AM to 5 PM, and there was nothing wrong with that in the slightest. We finished up the day with some Walking Dead episodes, since Judy and Jared can’t seem to get their act together to watch the rest of this season on their own. Dang non-cable-havers.

Sunday started off with an hour and a half of constant sweating at Bikram yoga (I’m still not sure why I’m torturing myself in these classes, but I think I sorta like them…) and a nice lunch with friends followed by a few hours of pinning, blogging, photo-editing, and grocery-planning. Jealous? I get that all the time :). What won’t make you jealous, I’m sure, is that doing laundry was also part of the fun.

So before I forget, I wanted to slip in the recipe I mentioned a few weeks back – the fennel & manchego shortbread cookies that were part of the co-winning Iron Chef dish at the last battle. I’m not sure why shortbread cookies are named as they are – they are neither short nor bready, but what they are is extremely tasty. Butter-laden, they are always perfect cookies to have around tea, or coffee, or in this case, ice cream. And caramel. But I ate a few by themselves and they were just fine too.

Now don’t let these cookies surprise you – they are a touch sweet, and they definitely live up to the definition of shortbread, which essentially requires that they are loaded with fat, ahem, butter, and that they are crumby and biscuit-ish, but what they also do is this – they also lean more to the savory side of things, which some people find weird for cookies. For one, they have a healthy amount of cheese baked into them, which once out of the oven they possess a gorgeous orangey-brown speck here and there, like the cheese in a cheddar biscuit, perhaps (and yes, now I am dying to demolish a biscuit. with or without cheddar. preferably with.).

For two, they are showered in fennel seeds, which I promise you only makes them better. You could nix the fennel if you wanted to, and add say, sesame seeds or lavender or orange zest or whatever, but I swear to you the fennel and Manchego cheese are meant to be in this cookie. I promise you, your mouth will thank you.

 

Manchego Shortbread with Fennel & Sea Salt
Adapted from Bon Appetit, March 2012; makes ~24

printable version

time commitment: 3 hours (1 hour active; 2 hours chilling dough)

ingredients
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 c powdered sugar
1 t freshly ground black pepper
3/4 t kosher salt
2 c all-purpose flour plus a little more for rolling out the dough
1 c finely grated Manchego cheese (about 2 ounces)
1 T fennel seeds
1 t sea salt
2 T extra-virgin olive oil

instructions
Using an electric mixer, beat butter in a medium bowl on low speed until smooth, 1–2 minutes. Add powdered sugar, pepper, and kosher salt. Reduce speed to medium and beat, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl, until light and fluffy, 4–5 minutes. Add flour and cheese. Reduce mixer speed to low and beat mixture just until dough comes together.

Wrap dough in plastic and flatten into a rectangle. Chill until firm, at least 2 hours. You can do this up to a few days in advance if you want. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before continuing.

Pulse fennel seeds in a spice grinder (aka coffee grinder) until coarsely crushed (or close them up in a Ziploc bag and crush with something like a rolling pin). Transfer to a small bowl; stir in sea salt. Set fennel salt aside.

Arrange a rack in center of oven and preheat to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Remove plastic wrap from dough. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to a 10×8-inch rectangle about 1/4-inch thick. Cut in thirds crosswise, then cut each third crosswise into 6 rectangles. Arrange cookies on prepared baking sheet, spacing 1 inch apart. Brush cookies generously with oil, then sprinkle with fennel salt. If you have extra dough, you can always roll that out and re-cut. I did this with my dough to make even more cookies, just make sure the dough doesn’t get to warm or else the cookies will flatten when they’re baking.

Bake, rotating sheet halfway through, until cookies are golden brown (flecks of cheese will be slightly darker), ~20 minutes. Let cool on sheets for at least 10 minutes. Cookies will keep in an airtight container for a couple of days.

To Bathe in Sugar

Have you ever been to a Mexican wedding? I haven’t, but if I did, I’d sure hope to see these cookies.

I’m not sure why, but small round balls of nutty dough rolled in confectioners’ sugar seem to be all the rage at weddings, or at least that’s what their name says. Do they even have these cookies at weddings?

When I was a kid, my favorite cookies were stocked high on the top shelf of Food Lion, near the graham crackers and the Fig Newtons. The packaging was simple, but eye-catching at the same time. It was bright Barbie pink, and unlike a lot of cookies on the shelves that came in plastic trays (Oreo and Chips A’hoy!, I’m talking at you!), these were stored in a paper bag, although now I’m pretty certain they’ve switched to a tall box.

They were also messy – they must have been bathed in a ginormous vat of powdered sugar, maybe three or four times just to make sure there was enough sticking to the cookie. You took one out of the bag and the cookie’s sugar coating went all over the place – like the flour in the jar that you always seem to get everywhere, despite your slow, purposeful movements of the cup into the bowl. These cookies were nearly impossible to eat on the sneak, and for that reason I usually just ate the whole bag at once in an effort to only get into trouble for sneaking cookies one time.

To be honest, I’m not quite sure why there are so many different types of these cookies from all different countries. The name I grew up eating was Danish Wedding Cookies, the recipe I adapted from here was called Mexican Wedding Cookies, and there are also Swedish and Italian versions, probably Argentinian and Fijian too, for all I know. The recipes all seem pretty much the same, so why can’t we just call them “Wedding Cookies”? And why are they called Wedding Cookies anyway? Like I said, I’ve never seen them at a wedding… but maybe I’ve just been to the wrong nuptial ceremonies.

Regardless of what you decide to call them, I can’t believe I’m confessing that this is the first time I’ve ever made them. Furthermore, I haven’t purchased a pink bag or box of these cookies in years, probably even more than a decade ago, which makes me really feel ancient right about now. I’ll also confess this: now that I have made them, I can pretty much guarantee these are the easiest cookies ever to throw together. Christmas cookie swap, anyone?

Danish weddings? Mexican weddings? What the hell ever. I’m just gonna call them Wedding Cookies, and leave all the countries out of it. I don’t really care where they come from, to be honest. I just know that I should have saved a handful of them instead of taking them all to work last week. But no worries – I’m sure there are many more a cookie to be had in the next few weeks.

Happy Holidays!

Wedding Cookies
Adapted from Lottie + Doof; makes ~50 cookies

time commitment: under an hour (most inactive – baking and cooling)

printable version

ingredients
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temp
1/2 c confectioners’ sugar, plus more for rolling
3 T maple syrup
1 t vanilla extract
1/4 t salt
zest of half an orange
1/2 t chipotle chile powder
2 c all purpose flour
1 1/2 c g pecans

instructions
preheat oven to 350 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

in the bowl of a mixer, combine butter and sugar and mix until combined and creamy. add maple syrup, vanilla, salt, orange zest, and chile powder and mix until combined. add flour and pecans and mix until fully incorporated.

roll cookies into 1-inch balls and place about 1 inch apart on baking sheets. bake ~14 minutes, remove and let cool completely. toss in confectioners’ sugar to coat completely.

Scrooge-like

It’s safe to say that I typically do not post recipes here in time for the holiday at hand. Thanksgiving is full of good food around here, and I never seem to make any pre-turkey day trial dishes; I’m a big fan of winging it with new things, and it’s safe to say that most things Thanksgiving are tried and true repeats from our families, and our friends’ families.

As for Halloween, I suppose you could say that I’m whatever the equivalent to Scrooge is for this season – and it’s not that I wouldn’t fancy a grown up costume party or a creative Halloween jack-o-lantern if I really thought far enough in advance. But I don’t, and so the weeks slowly roll by and by the time I can say “expelliarmus“, the holiday has come and I am costume-less, decoration-less, and for those rug rats trampling up to my door this year (as I just know they will), candy-less.

The other night, I found my cupcake papers from some Halloween cupcakes I did manage to make a couple of years ago. Halloween food must have been on the brain, because on the way home from work Friday night, I remembered a recipe for a cookie involving candy corn that sounded pretty fantastic. Well, let’s just say (or maybe just look above) that I must have royally screwed something up in my hastiness on Friday night. The dough on the other hand? Not bad, as I probably tossed back a few tablespoons of it intermittently between chugs of wine and Chinese take-out.

Needless to say, the recipe sounded so good that I was compelled to try again, insisting that I must have added too much butter, or too little flour, or done something to make these cookies melt all over the place in boredom, sorta like my general feelings about Halloween anyway.

So I measured carefully Saturday morning. I used the recommended chocolate chips instead of the toffee chips that sounded so much more awesome. I made sure to chill the dough for at least 3 hours, and I tossed the ice-cold sheet of cookie dough into the oven, set the timer (yes, the timer!), and watched them like a hawk this time around, so that there’d be no surprises, no jaw-dropping or exclamations of “what the hell is wrong with your cookies??!!!” from the husband.

And even so, I ended up with thinnish mounds of cooked dough with glowing slivers of melted candy corn all over my baking sheet. But this time, they were at least edible, at least chewy, and at least worth sharing. This time, I didn’t prefer the raw cookie dough (ok, maybe that’s a lie, because I’m sort of a fan of raw cookie dough) to the baked version.

I brought them over to a friend’s house, and we happily ate them following a dinner of chicken pot pie and a night of board games and horror movies (because how would Halloween exist without such things?!). I still felt pretty annoyed about the recipe, considering its’ source, but I finally read a few reviews online and learned that clearly, candy corn is made to melt at high temperatures. I deduced that while I certainly could have screwed up something the first time around, there was no way to prevent the oozing of candy corn the second time around.

And either way, the taste is still there, even though the cookies are certainly a sight for sore eyes. But every bite is reminiscent of the season (super duper sweet, just like Halloween should be), perhaps a little crunchier than intended, maybe a little less dressed up than expected. Scrooge-like? Well, I won’t argue there, but don’t let that turn you away because in this case, there is much more to enjoy if you look past that craggy exterior.

‘Momofuku’ Chocolate Chip-Cornflake Cookies (with Candy Corn)
Adapted, barely, from Christina Tosi of Momofuku Milk Bar via Food & Wine, October 2011; makes ~18 cookies

time commitment: 4 hours (1 hour active time)

printable version

I can’t believe I’m posting a recipe that took me twice to get right, and the second time wasn’t even right, really. But I’ll tell you why – this recipe has so much potential. The cornflake crunch is out of this world and by far the best part about the dough cookie. You can easily adapt this recipe and after Halloween substitute other candies or dry ingredients in for the candy corn (I think the original momofuku compost cookie that this was adapted from uses pretzels or potato chips?). Here’s a link to the reviews of the recipe (you probably have to click rate and review on the recipe page) on F&W so you won’t feel like a douche if you get runny cookies, like me. And here’s a link to another blogger who made these cookies, but made tons of substitutions and hers look way more ‘together’ (and what adorable pictures!). I swear there’s way too much butter in this recipe but I just don’t care enough to try a third time. If you do try out this recipe, let me know how it goes, and if you change anything I will definitely add some updates on this site.

ingredients
cornflake crunch
4 c slightly crushed cornflakes
1/2 c dry milk powder
3 T sugar
1/2 t kosher salt
8 T unsalted butter, melted

1 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1/2 t baking powder
1/4 t baking soda
1 1/4 t kosher salt
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 c granulated sugar
1/2 c light brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 t vanilla extract
2/3 c chocolate chips
1 c candy corn

instructions
Make the cornflake crunch. Preheat the oven to 275 F and line a baking sheet with parchment or silpat. In a large bowl, toss the cornflakes with the milk powder, sugar, salt and butter until coated. Spread the mixture on a baking sheet and bake until golden and fragrant, about 17 minutes. Let the crunch cool completely.

In a small bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle, beat the butter and sugars at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 4 minutes. Beat in the egg and vanilla. At low speed, beat in the dry ingredients, then beat in the Cornflake Crunch, chocolate chips, and candy corn. Mound 1/4-cup scoops of dough 4 inches apart on 4 parchment–lined baking sheets. Push dough together tightly and flatten just a little bit. Refrigerate until the dough is cold and firm, at least 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 375 F and position a rack in the center. Bake the cookies, one sheet at a time, for 15 minutes, until browned around the edges but still a bit pale in the center. Let cool completely on the tray, then serve. [If you do have candy corn the “melts” out of the cookie and candies, tear that off once the cookies cool. The spreading should lessen if you chill the cookies in a nice, tight, ball.]

Way Overdue

I don’t pretend to pay too much attention to what goes on around here. Oblivious? Well, no. But truthfully, I more or less talk about whatever recipe is on my mind without so much as a thought about whether it’s been pasta overload or slim pickin’s in the sweet category, or you know, more of that.

But for once, I actually did do that. Think, I mean. And this resulted: we are way overdue to talk about macaroons.

Not to be confused with the adorable macaron, these here morsels of goodness are feisty while the French similarly-spelled-but-that’s-it treats are graceful. Macarons are intimidating, what with their folding and piping and turning on and off of the oven; macaroons can be made in one’s sleep, or while intoxicated, or both. Macarons are a tease, but macaroons are, well, easy.

I can’t imagine a macaroon without shredded coconut, but I can envision exactly 10,148 ways of flavoring macarons.

Of course, macaroons aren’t meant for the days when you’re feeling creative, and they certainly aren’t meant for the days when you want to spend hours in the kitchen concocting your best dessert production yet. What they’re meant for are the other times – the most of the times, days filled with other obligations and pantries containing only a few random ingredients.

Let’s face it: we all like a few challenges in life, but at the end of the day, these little things, treats that are always way overdue, these are the ones we appreciate the most, aren’t they?

Coconut Macaroons w/ Chocolate Drizzle
adapted loosely from Epicurious; makes  ~2 dozen

time commitment: 1 hour, including cooling time

printable version

ingredients
2 egg whites
2 T sugar
1/2 t vanilla extract
kosher salt
1 1/2 c sweetened flaked coconut
1 c dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips

instructions
put oven rack in middle position and preheat to 300 F. line baking sheet with parchment paper.

stir together egg white, sugar, vanilla, and a pinch of salt until combined, then stir in coconut. divide mixture into small mounds, dropping onto baking sheet about 2 inches apart from one another.

bake until tops are pale golden in spots, ~15 minutes, then carefully lift parchment and macaroons and place on baking rack to cool completely (they will harden more at this point), about 15 minutes.

meanwhile, dump chocolate chips into a microwavable bowl. zap in microwave on 50% power in 30 second intervals, stirring between each zap, until chocolate chips are melted and smooth. dip a fork into the melted chocolate and wave it over the macaroons, so as to sling the chocolate onto them. coat until you’re happy, and let the chocolate dry over the macaroons before eating. (Alternatively, you could dip these in chocolate in place of or in addition to drizzling chocolate. Just sayin’.)

Peaches & Rainbows

Over the last three weeks, I’ve made it a point to limit the purchasing of edible items to almost nothing, aside from what’s needed for simple, quick cooking and things that move easily. Also, I’m not buying items I already have in storage. That said, things like soy sauce and sriracha made the cut, but things like flour and butter didn’t.

Of course, all of my 10+ flours might very well be rancid by the time I get to them next weekend, but that’s a risk I’m willing to take in hopes of avoiding starting completely from scratch in the kitchen.

I think that’s why I forced nudged Chris to make a candy bar run earlier this week; I was craving something sweet some kinda fiercely, and even though I hadn’t eaten a Whatchamacallit in years, it seemed like the only appropriate solution. You see, I’m used to having immediate access to things like blenders, mixers, muffin tins, baking sheets, etc. This little temporary ‘kitchen’ has none of the above (I think I’ve already mentioned that about 10 times before, right?!). To that, add the fact that I was already living without my personal belongings for a month, and that equals exactly 2 months of this crap. What can I say; I caved, and I’m sayin’ it loud and proud. (That was a damn good Whatchamacallit.)

But let’s put things in perspective here; while these 2 months haven’t been peaches and rainbows per se, they haven’t been storm clouds and gremlins either. I mean for reals, we’ve had multiple bouts of amazing get-togethers, dinners, drinks, and the like as a result of this move. I didn’t even pay for most of them (lesson: if you want free drinks and dinners, move outta state ;)).

We even threw ourselves a going-away party a couple of months ago, where I decided to whip out a few treats, including these cookies I also started thinking about this week. Hard to believe it’s been that long since I baked cookies, or used my own cutting board, or had access to those dried blueberries that are waiting in storage, but it has.

When I find all of those items I’ve been sorely missing, a few of the first things I’m going to do include buying some butter along with a few other essential items, taking a nap on my long-lost couch, maybe unpacking a few boxes (the one with the flour and dried blueberries, for example), and then high-tailing it into the kitchen and making some cookies.

There will not be leftovers, either.

Cornmeal Blueberry Cookies
adapted from Good to the Grain; makes about 3 dozen

I am a huge lover of cookies of all shapes, flavors, and sizes, but non-traditional cookies hold a very special place in my heart, or belly. these aren’t your average cookies; they are sweet and chewy, but not overpowering on the dessert scale. in fact, you could probably eat a couple for breakfast without feeling too bad about it. dried blueberries are somewhat pricey (i get mine from Costco), but they are so perfect in this recipe. i’m sure you could use other dried fruits, but if they’re larger than blueberries (pea-sized), you’ll want to give ’em a rough chopping.

oh, and these cookies are definitely best eaten the day they’re prepared. they have a tendency to harden quickly, so either eat them the day of or store in an airtight container. i’m guessing you could halve the recipe if you don’t want this many, or even freeze pre-baked, rolled and coated dough, adding a couple of minutes to the baking time and baking straight from the freezer.

time commitment: about 1 hour, half of which is active and half of which involves smelling these things bake.

printable version

ingredients
2 c corn flour
2 c all-purpose flour
1 c finely ground cornmeal
1 1/2 t baking soda
2 t cream of tartar
2 t kosher salt
8 oz (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 c brown sugar
2 eggs
1/4 c milk
1 c dried blueberries (see above)
1/2 c sugar, for finishing

instructions
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or a Silpat, or spray with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients (corn flour through salt) and whisk for a couple of minutes to break up any chunks (Boyce’s recipe says to sift these ingredients together, but I can’t seem to get behind sifting ingredients, although who knows, maybe it does really impact the recipe…).

Add the butter and the brown sugar to the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or use a large bowl and a hand mixer). Turn the mixer to low speed and mix until the butter and sugar are combined, then increase the mixer speed to medium and cream for 2 minutes. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing until each is combined. Add the flour mixture to the bowl and blend on low speed until the flour is barely combined, about 20 seconds. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add the milk and the blueberries. Slowly mix until the dough is evenly combined.

Pour the finishing sugar into a bowl. Scoop mounds of dough, each about 3 tablespoons in size, form them into balls and set them on a plate. Dip each ball into the sugar, coating it lightly. Arrange the balls on the baking sheets, leaving about 3 inches between them. Chill any remaining dough until ready to use.

Bake the cookies for 20 to 22 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through. The cookies will puff up and crack at the tops and are ready to come out when the sugar crust is golden brown and the cracks are still a light yellow. They will appear soft, but will harden and cook more when removed from the oven.

Repeat with the remaining dough.

Give it a Go

Would you consider yourself a do-er, or a procrastinator? They each have their benefits, their advantages and disadvantages depending on the situation.

In general, I’d consider myself a do-er; I like to “get things over with”, a trait that works well in places like school or when it comes to cleaning, and washing dishes. Deadlines are rarely an issue for me, and I am of the opinion that in not having the pressure of deadlines that in general I live a pretty low-stress life with minimal drama. I like it like that.

But 2011 has been a very different year for me. I’ve been behind at work, finding myself staying late and arriving early (if you know me, these things rarely happen in my life, but maybe that’s job-specific) only to find that clinic notes are still left undone, emails left unopened, and so on. I have to constantly look at my calendar, rearrange my schedule, and once I forgot an appointment completely.

I guess you never really know how things will turn out, how life will unwind, and when things might be more stressful than usual, right? But typically, they turn out just fine, once you give it a go.

Hence the macarons finally making a debut here. I have been terribly afraid of making these, and if you look at the recipe source you’ll notice this recipe has been clipped and in my stack since 2009. And I claim to not typically put things off, ha! But as a testament to how I typically roll, a semi-successful go at macarons a few weeks ago made me realize that even the scariest things, or recipes, probably aren’t half as bad as you expect them to be.

Plus, they are so damn cute now, aren’t they?

Chocolate Macarons
Adapted from Food & Wine, December 2009; makes 2-3 dozen

ingredients
1 1/4 c confectioners’ sugar
1 1/3 c almond flour (or almond meal)
2 1/2 T unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
5 large egg whites, at room temperature
2/3 c granulated sugar 
2 T water
1/2 c heavy cream 
w t light corn syrup 
3 oz bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

instructions
Preheat the oven to 400 and position racks in the upper and lower thirds. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large, wide bowl, using a handheld electric mixer, mix the confectioners’ sugar with the almond flour and cocoa powder. Add 2 of the egg whites and mix until evenly moistened.

In a small saucepan, combine the granulated sugar with the water and bring to a boil; using a moistened pastry brush, wash down any crystals from the side of the pan. Boil over high heat until the syrup reaches 240 on a candy thermometer.

In another large bowl, using clean beaters, beat the remaining 3 egg whites until soft peaks form. With the mixer at high speed, carefully drizzle the hot sugar syrup over the egg whites and beat until the meringue is firm and glossy.

Stir one-fourth of the meringue into the almond-cocoa mixture. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the remaining meringue. Transfer the meringue to a pastry bag fitted with a plain 1/2-inch tip; pipe onto the prepared baking sheets in 1 1/2-inch mounds, spacing them about 1 inch apart. Tap the sheets and let dry at room temperature for 15 minutes.

Transfer the meringues to the oven and immediately turn off the heat. Bake the meringues for 5 minutes. Turn the oven on to 400 again and bake the meringues for 8 minutes, until the meringues are puffed and the tops are firm and glossy. Transfer the baking sheets to racks and let the meringues cool completely.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine the cream with the corn syrup and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat. Add the chocolate and let stand until melted, about 5 minutes. Whisk until smooth. Transfer the ganache to a bowl and let cool to room temperature, whisking occasionally; it will become very thick.

Carefully peel the meringues off of the parchment paper. Spoon the ganache into a small pastry bag fitted with a 1/4-inch tip. Alternatively, use a resealable sturdy plastic bag and snip off a corner. Pipe the ganache onto the flat sides of half of the meringues. Top with the remaining meringues and serve.