Jerry’s Halfway Cookies + 5 Holiday or Anyday Cookie Links

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Anne stared at her mother’s battered and torn recipes and wished she wasn’t dead because she didn’t feel like making halfway cookies, they were Tess’s specialty.  She missed Tess.  Death is inconvenient especially around the holidays, thought Anne.  She felt much more than inconvenience since Tess’s miserable, drawn-out death.  In fact, most days she wasn’t entirely sure how she functioned.  Her children saved her, kept her occupied with their schedules and needs.  Their never-ending stories, sentences that began with “and” starting at one pick up, continuing to the next drop off allowed Anne to feel engaged but mostly sad and hollow all at the same god damn time.  Anne could forget, though, when the day mercifully allowed it.

Sort of.  When her mind didn’t ache from all she pushed through over the last two years. Ya, she could forget if she willed herself.  She forgot about holding Tess’s hand as she struggled to breathe and feeding her spoonfuls of water.  Watching her son and her husband feed, Tess teaspoons of water was especially awful.  Changing her diaper wasn’t as bad as Anne expected because there was nothing left to expel.  Everything was shutting down, something they mention in the helpful reading material hospice had left on their way out the door while Anne held Tess’s hand and watched her slowly transition from this world to the next.

Telling the nurse not to offer Tess any more food as she may choke was especially heartbreaking for Anne.  It was just so final.  Decisions were made without fully understanding that, yes, Tess would soon be gone.  Administering morphine and lorazepam to Tess as she begged for help, tiny squirts from a plastic syringe dribbling down her tongue, into her throat, smaller than a pea and so painful for Tess to swallow made Anne want to vomit.  A grimace on her mother’s face after each swallow, followed by relief until Tess saw Anne wasn’t done, not yet.  More morphine.

“Please help me, please help me,” Tess whispered.  Anne felt small.  “I don’t know what to do,” Anne cried.  “Yes. you do,” Tess said.  Hadn’t it always been this way? Anne a mess and Tess calm and knowing.  She hated and loved her for it.

Anne watched the hospice nurse change her mother’s bandages. Every time they asked Anne if she wanted to leave the room.  Anne never left.  Cancer on her mother’s breast now like a crater on the surface of the moon, devouring Tess, reaching for her collarbone.  Additional tumors were growing, making their presence known in the form of little mushroom heads and excruciating pain.  The smell was gone now. 

So many indignities for such a beautiful, refined woman.

The hospice nurse called Anne at two in the morning to let her know her mother had passed but Anne knew when she left her mother to pick up the kids from school just hours prior, she would not see Tess alive again.  She hugged and kissed her; told her it was ok to let go now.  The words flowed easily from Anne’s mouth to Tess’s ear as if someone else was speaking for her.  

How could you tell her to let go, Anne?

Anne hours before, holding her mother’s cold hand, watching her chest rise, her mouth ajar, teeth exposed as if drawn by a caricature artist, lips dry, crusted, and colorless.  The breathing pattern had changed as mentioned in the handy death pamphlet.  Anne studied that pamphlet like she was getting a graduate degree in end of life care as if it would somehow predict when Tess would leave this world and maybe, if Anne were lucky, she could escape the tsunami of grief that was headed her way if she was prepared and organized. 

The joke’s on you, Anne. 

She harassed her sister via text with the latest bodily changes Tess was undergoing during the transition, every time asking herself if it was necessary to share so much dying with her angry and already grieving sister who lived two thousand miles away.  Maybe the next text would go to her brother who had removed himself from the situation just enough that he could put off the grief until one day when Tess was gone and the grief brought him to his knees. 

And then the call. 

Tears struggled to come.  Anne steadied herself, threw her messy hair into a ponytail, and put on her glasses. She felt her husband’s hand on her back like an anchor reminding her of all the life that was still waiting for her.  The hand felt heavy as if it was asking too much of her to keep going, to keep pushing through when she was bone tired and heart-broken.  Anne kissed him goodbye, relieved the weight was gone if only briefly.

Anne drove in silence to her mother’s house.  The land looks different at two in the morning.  Twisting and turning in unexpected formations, shadows throwing off perspective.  So much unexpected life!  Random cars on the highway.  Where are you headed? Did you just lose the love of your life too?  The serpentine road that took Anne to Tess’s house was full of nocturnal animals, shocked by the car’s headlights, watching Anne pass, pausing to acknowledge her existence in their world, seeming to pay homage to Tess, as if they knew a good soul had passed.

Anne pulled into the driveway.  Tess’s house looked so alive with nearly every light on as if letting anyone who passed know something was amiss.  She steadied herself, walked in, said hello to the old cat purring by his water bowl, and the night nurse sitting in the rocking chair.  Anne’s father stood before her in a t-shirt and pajama pants looking older than he had a week prior.  They hugged briefly before Anne went into Tess’s room.  Tess looked beautiful with the covers up around her shoulders and the pink rosary beads Anne had just given her lying across her chest.  The giant seventies lamp cast a warm glow on the entire room making Tess look as if she was just resting, certainly not dead.  Anne collapsed on her mother’s bed and held Tess, crying like a wounded animal.  Tess’s forehead was still warm but her cheek was cool, almost waxy.  Anne gently rubbed Tess’s hair and cheek just as Tess had done so many times when Anne was a child.  She put her head on her mother’s chest.  The weight of Anne’s head pushed the remaining air out of Tess’s lungs making a ghoulish, cinematic sound and yet Anne felt nothing but comfort resting against her mother.  The last of Tess’s breath exiting and Anne breathing in all she could, taking some of Tess with her.  Internalizing her.  She closed her eyes and may have slept. 

Anne remembers the hospice nurse arriving, removing her stethoscope, and checking for a heartbeat that no longer existed.  I’m sorry for your loss.  God those words feel empty tonight. 

Anne remembers falling asleep next to Tess listening to the sounds of her father weeping upstairs.

Let’s wait until morning to call the funeral home. 

Try to sleep. 

Ok, Dad. 

Anne woke a couple hours later to find Tess very cold and pale.  Mouth firmly open, one eye half parted.  She was gone.  There is a difference Anne now understood in acknowledging the love of your life will soon be gone and living with their absence. 

After months of no tears, the tears came and Anne worried they may never stop.

Anne watched the funeral home director and his assistant place Tess’s body into a black, sterile body bag.  The sound of the zipper so decisive.  A folksy blanket placed over the bag, over Tess, so it didn’t look quite so unnerving.  Tess was wheeled out to hearse and that was it. 

It was over now. 

Something Anne had wished for repeatedly.  Be careful what you wish for because you just might get it.  Anne drove home, stopping at Dunkin’ Donuts for a coffee and thinking how funny it was to do something so ordinary when something so life-altering and extraordinary had just occurred.  

The months that followed Tess’s death were foggy.  Anne could barely remember the details of those initial days.  She slept and cried.  Ate when she felt like it and drank too much.  Spring turned into summer and then into fall.  The kids went back to school.  Her husband checked in daily, tending, as best he could, to her grief.  The days passed and Tess was still gone.  The saying life goes on is so horribly true and gut-wrenching when you lose someone you love more than yourself.  The reality of so much life continuing without Tess, some days, just too much to shoulder.

Today Anne’s house was quiet except for their old dog snoring and farting in the hallway.  Christmas had passed and Anne somehow managed to push through it all.  Expectations remained intact.  Expectations are worthless, Anne believed, something she learned shortly after her mother died.  Keep your expectations of other people low and you won’t be disappointed.  Anne’s new mantra, if you want to call it that, brought a sense of peace to her.  She could let go of the raw hurt she felt from those who had disappointed her.  Those who didn’t show up.  How great it felt to be free of everything unnecessary.  Is this what Tess felt now? It was a relief for Anne to rid herself of that weight because there was just too much to carry.  The grief had changed her but into what she was unsure.

Anne made the halfway cookies.  An Avett Brothers song repeated in her head like a tripped record.  Like a prayer.  “No hard feelings, Lord knows they haven’t done much good for anyone.”

 

Chocolate Half Way Cookies

Makes 24 bars

Recipe slightly adapted from Evelyn Hamilton, my grandmother

Ingredients:

1 cup or 2 sticks of unsalted butter, at room temperature

½ cup of sugar

½ cup of brown sugar

2 egg yolks, slightly beaten with 2 tablespoons of water

1 teaspoon of vanilla

2 cups of all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon of kosher salt

½ teaspoon of baking soda

1 teaspoon of baking powder

1 package of chocolate chips

Ingredients for meringue topping:

3 egg whites, beaten stiff

¾ cup brown sugar

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 350F.  Lightly grease a 14×10 jelly roll pan and set aside.

Add the flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder to a medium bowl.  Blend together using a whisk.  Set aside.

Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugars on medium speed until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides and the bottom once or twice.  Add the egg yolks (with the water), one at a time, until well blended.  Next, add the vanilla.  Beat for a few minutes until everything is blended.  Reduce the speed of your mixer and add the dry ingredients.  Mix on low speed until everything is well combined.  Add the dough to the prepared pan.  Spread it evenly across the pan using your fingertips until the dough covers the entire pan.  Spread the chocolate chips evenly over the dough.  Press the chips into the dough gently.  Set aside.

Beat the egg whites on medium speed until stiff peaks form.  Add the brown sugar.  Beat for an additional 2 minutes.  Spread the meringue across the prepared dough.  Bake until the meringue and cookie dough are golden brown, about 20 to 25 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack completely before cutting.  Once cool, cut into squares and serve.  Halfway cookies are best the day they are made but taste damn good the next day as well.  Enjoy!  Store any leftover cookies in an airtight container at room temperature.

5 Cookie Links

Indulge a bit this holiday season and make The Vanilla Bean Blog’s holiday cheesecake cookies.  Yum!

Fudgy brownie crinkle cookies- yes they exist and they look divine!  Head to Mike Bakes NYC for the recipe.

Oatmeal lace cookies are a holiday classic and a sure winner.  Head to Julie Banner for the recipe.

If you love red velvet cake, why not make red velvet cookies?  Food 52 has the recipe for you.

Six years ago, I made these Italian lemon ricotta cookies and they were a huge hit.  Check them out!

Favorite Chocolate Cake with Rich Chocolate Frosting + 5 Must Make Chocolate Cake Recipes

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While everyone else was grieving Tess, Ann made a chocolate cake, after all, it was her mother’s birthday.  Birthdays were celebrated in her family, Tess made sure of it, before cancer began a tug of war, taking much of Tess and leaving some.

[Crumbs left to feed those who loved her: an occasional kiss, a smile, a half-hearted laugh, maybe, on a good day, a story that made sense;  stories where time and place were accurate, not distorted by eighty-nine years of living. But, now, memories, people, places in time met as if in a bizarre dream, making sense only to Tess.  And when her children said no Mom that doesn’t sound right, no I don’t remember it that way and I think you mean…, Tess became agitated and angry as if her children were trying to rewrite her stories.  So they stopped correcting Tess, allowing her to hold onto the bits and pieces of her life as she saw them, painful, but a necessary mercy.]

Ann poured the chocolate batter into the prepared pans, moving the bowl slightly back and forth, watching the batter make ribbons and fold into itself.  Tess was still alive, god damn it.  A medical mystery! Some asshole somewhere would say, as if it were a good thing.  [Why is defying odds when the end is known and hope is absent a good thing? Breath entering and exiting Tess’ lungs, a strong heart still beating despite her mind saying I want to die.  Plastic rosary beads and a beat up bible offering nothing to her weary soul and failing mind…and yet she continues.]  Ann couldn’t understand why her mother never sought treatment, allowing cancer to eat her breast while her family watched, and cried, and grieved.  How selfish, Ann thought.

While the cakes rose in the oven, Ann cleaned the dishes.  The breeze coming through the kitchen window was warm and humid.  A drop of sweat slid down her breast dissolving into her t-shirt.  A night swim would feel so good.

Tess set two towels on the kitchen table letting Ann know it was time to put on her bathing suit.  Ann loved swimming at night with her mother, watching her float around the shallow end of the pool, making sure not to get her freshly permed hair wet.  Tess’ huge smile made Ann’s heart weak.  She loved her so it felt unbearable.  Ann knew someday the weight of their love for would crush her. Ann swam around her mother, porpoising through the dark water while Tess watched.  She turned onto her back and floated with her ears submerged, the sounds of the crickets and the bullfrogs muffled.  Ann stared at the black sky and the overcast moon.  And when Ann floated too far away from Tess, she could feel it without being told: “Don’t go so far away, old girl.” 

The memory of swimming with her mother made Ann feel sick.  If only she could do it all over again and be cared for by Tess, swallowed by her mother’s fierce love, and relinquish her newfound role as her mother’s caregiver.  But there is no starting over, one more time or do overs.

The dish soap left tiny bubble mountains on Ann’s hands.  She rinsed the soap off.  The oven timer blasted its horrible beep.  The cakes were ready, waiting for Ann to carry on.

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Birthday Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Frosting

Recipe barely adapted from Food and Wine’s Mom’s Chocolate Cake

Serves 8 to 10

Ingredients for cake:

 2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 cups sugar

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate

6 tablespoons butter

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 eggs, lightly beaten

Directions for cake:

Pre-heat the oven to 350F.  Butter and flour two 8 by 1 ½ inch cake pans and line bottom of the pans with parchment paper.  Set aside.

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and ginger.  Set aside.

Grab a medium saucepan and combine the sugar with 2 cups of water.  Bring to a boil and stir until sugar dissolves.  Pour into a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer.  Add the chocolate and butter and let sit.  Stir once in a while until the butter and chocolate are melted and slightly cool.  Add the vanilla and stir.

Using a paddle attachment beat the eggs on medium speed into the chocolate mixture until combined.  Add the dry ingredients and beat on medium speed until well combined and smooth.  Pour the batter evenly into each cake pan.  Bake for about 25 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.  Allow the cakes to cool in their pans on a wire rack for about 25 minutes.  Next, invert the cakes onto the wire rack and cool completely.

While the cakes cool, make your frosting.

Ingredients for Chocolate Frosting:

1 + 1/3 cups heavy cream

1 + ½ cups sugar

2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped

4 ounces dark chocolate, chopped

1 stick + 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Pinch of salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Direction for frosting:

In a medium saucepan, bring the cream and sugar to a boil over medium-high heat.  After it comes to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally.  Simmer until the liquid reduces slightly, about 5 or 6 minutes.  Pour the liquid into a medium bowl.  Add the chocolate, butter, vanilla, and salt.  Let sit until the chocolate and butter are melted.

Place the bowl in a larger bowl of ice.  Using a handheld electric mixer beat the frosting on medium speed, scraping the sides and the bottom a few times, until the frosting is very thick and glossy, about 10 minutes.  (You can also use a stand mixer fitted with the beater attachment.  Be sure to surround the mixer with ice packs or a bowl of ice.)  Use immediately.

Assembly Time!

Place one cake layer on a cake stand.  Using a metal spatula spread 1/3 of the frosting over the cake.  Place the second cake layer on top and frost the entire cake with the remaining frosting.  Add fresh flowers to decorate, if desired.   Store cake, covered, in the refrigerator until ready to use.  Bring to room temperature before serving.

The cake will last stored in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.  Enjoy!

5 Must Make Chocolate Cake Links

The classic chocolate cake roll was on heavy rotation in my house growing up and I loved it.  Check out Smitten Kitchen’s version of the classic recipe here.

A go-to flourless chocolate cake recipe is a must for any baker.  Head to the Tartlette blog for a flourless chocolate cake served with a butter caramel sauce.  Yes!

Overrun with zucchini?  Make Zoe Bakes chocolate zucchini bundt cake.

Need a vegan option?  Check out Food 52’s vegan chocolate cake.

My new favorite cake blog is Cake by Courtney.  Her cakes are absolutely beautiful and look delicious.  Check out her chocolate dulce de leche cake recipe when you need a special treat.

Pineapple Coconut Granola Biscotti + 5 Biscotti Links!

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Ann drove away from her childhood home knowing two things: her mother would be dead soon and her marriage was over.  The sudden clarity of her situation sucked all of the air right out of her dirty, crumb covered car.  She thought of pulling over, taking a minute, breathing but there was no time for something so self-serving.  School would be out soon.  The kids expected her, as they did every weekday after school.  She didn’t want to disappoint them.  [Disappointment would come soon enough.} So Ann drove with the window down taking in big gulps of the damp, early spring air, her fingertips turning white as she gripped the steering wheel as if gripping the wheel hard enough would somehow change the direction of her life.

Ann reached a stop sign just as the sun split the clouds.  She glanced at her dry, pale hands, spun her mother’s sixty-nine-year-old engagement ring which sat nestled underneath her own wedding band.  Every spin reminding her that Tess had been married for sixty-two years, fifty years longer than Anne’s volatile marriage to David.  She resented her mother’s successful marriage.  Tess had always been a difficult and demanding woman, putting her needs far above Ann and her father.  And yet, William adored Tess.  [William’s one indiscretion early in their marriage, followed by a mysterious tire slashing and a six-month stint at a local apartment complex changed the trajectory of his married life.  His daughter, too young to remember, would see a devoted husband. A doormat if she was being more honest.  William saw survival.]

Ann never understood her mother, nor, did she care to look closer at Tess.  And just to piss Tess off, Ann chose to be accommodating, easy-going.  She twisted herself like a noodle fitting into the crevices of others, never understanding the more she let go, the more she lost.  By the time she met David, Anne was like a patched quilt, mismatched bits and pieces, thoughts, likes, and dislikes of all she had encountered sewn together forming an unknown woman.

And now?  Anne liked what David liked.  His thoughts were her thoughts.  Ann’s every imaginable need or desire mirrored David’s.  She felt content in his image.  Until that morning she thought for the first time, Tess will be dead soon. [Relief flushed her cheeks.]  Until some hour later that morning she watched her kids nibble on the biscotti she had made the day before, their heads bowed down, barely looking at her as she gave her husband, their father, a perfunctory kiss goodbye.

[What do they see when they look at me? They saw a lost woman. 

Ann would never know this harsh truth.  A blessing and a curse.] 

Ann’s belly tightened.  She felt beads of sweat under her sagging breasts and acid in her throat.  She stared at her children and wondered if her own mother ever felt so invisible.  Did it matter if she had?  Would it have changed anything for Tess?

 “Mama?”

“Time to get dressed.”

The day would start the same, the day would end the same, and in between, Anne would make a decision.  There was no good decision or bad decision, just a choice which led to a path and all that followed.

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Pineapple Coconut Granola Biscotti

Makes about 36 cookies

Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients:

1 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour plus more for rolling out

1 + 1/2 cups rolled oats plus 2 tablespoons

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1/4 cup raw sugar or granulated (I used raw sugar.)

1/4 light brown sugar

2 large eggs

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup unsweetened, shredded coconut

1 cup dried sweetened pineapple, chopped into small pieces

zest of 1 orange

1 egg white

Directions:

Using a small bowl, mix together the flour, rolled oats, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Grab a large bowl.  Add the melted butter and sugars.  Whisk well.  Add the eggs, vanilla, and orange zest and whisk until well combined.   Stir in all of the dry ingredients.  The batter will be stiff.

Preheat the oven to 325F.  Like a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.  Put a bit of flour on your hands and on a clean countertop.  Roll half of the dough into a log about 12-14 inches long.  Transfer dough to prepared baking sheet.  Pat and roll log until it becomes more oval-shaped.  Repeat this process with the second half of the dough.  Beat egg white until foamy.  Using a pastry brush, cover the dough logs with the whipped egg white.  Bake until beginning to crack and turn golden brown, 20-30 minutes.  (Check at 20 minutes!  I baked the dough for closer to 30 minutes.)

Allow to cool completely, about 1 hour.  Using a serrated knife gently cut the biscotti on the bias into 1/2 inch slices.  Spread out cut biscotti on the prepared baking sheet in a single layer.  Bake for another 20 minutes.  Cool for a few minutes after removing from the oven, then allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

Store biscotti in an air-tight container at room temperature for up to two weeks.  Enjoy!

5 Biscotti Links To Check Out!

Celebrate a friend’s birthday this year with funfetti biscotti.  Molly Yeh from My Name is Yeh has the recipe for you.  Check it out!

Looking to bake something sweet and bright to lighten up a gray spring day? Check out King Arthur Flour’s lemon almond biscotti or Vegetarian Ventures citrus biscotti with hibiscus glaze. 

Craving chocolate? Me too.  Once Upon A Chef has a recipe for a double chocolate biscotti that is making my mouth water!

If you prefer savory over sweet, check out Molly Yeh’s parmesan rosemary biscotti.  I bet it pairs well with a nice glass of white wine and a sunny, seventy-degree day.

Biscoff Cream Cheese Brownies + 5 Gotta Make Brownie Links

 

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Happy 2018! Another year, another chance, a gift, really, to try again.  I’m starting the year off with a simple brownie recipe slightly adapted from David Lebovitz.  I added a delicious Biscoff cream cheese swirl which pairs perfectly with the rich chocolate flavor of the brownie.  I hope you enjoy this brownie and welcome 2018 with big, open arms.

Biscoff Cream Cheese Brownies

Recipe adapted from David Lebovitz

Makes about 12-16 brownies

Ingredients for the brownie batter:

1/2 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour

1/4 cup Dutch Process cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

a good pinch of kosher salt

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed

4 ounces semisweet chocolate chips

2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped

1 cup sugar

2 large eggs at room temperature

1 egg white (save yolk for cream cheese swirl)

2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

Directions for brownie batter:

Preheat the oven to 325F.  Line a 9-inch square pan with aluminum foil.  Spray the foil with non-stick cooking spray or brush with melted butter.  Set aside.  Grab a small bowl and add the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt.  Whisk together until well-combined and no lumps remain.

Using a medium saucepan, melt the butter, semi-sweet chocolate and unsweetened chocolate over low heat, stirring constantly until smooth.  Remove from heat and whisk in 1 cup of sugar.  Add the eggs one at a time.  Next, add the egg white and vanilla extract.  Continue to mix until smooth.  Add dry ingredients and stir until just combined.  Be careful not to overmix!

Spread half of the brownie batter into prepared pan.  Add dollops of the Biscoff cream cheese mixture.  (See recipe below.) You should use about half of the mixture.  Gently swirl with a butter knife.  Add remaining brownie batter to the pan and gently smooth the top.  Spoon large dollops of the remaining Biscoff cream cheese spread over the top.  Swirl gently with a butter knife.  Sprinkle with a bit of sea salt.  Bake until center is almost set, about 50 minutes.  If you insert a toothpick into the center of the brownie it should come out mostly clean with a few moist crumbs attached.

Remove from oven.  Allow brownies to cool completely before cutting.  They can also be refrigerated overnight.  When ready to serve, lift the foil to remove brownies.  Use a sharp knife to cut the brownies.  In between each cut, wipe the blade clean for neater slices.

The brownies will last in an air-tight container, at room temperature for up to 4 days.  Enjoy!

Ingredients for Biscoff cream cheese swirl:

8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

1/3 cup sugar

1 large egg yolk

1/2 cup Biscoff Cookie Spread

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

pinch of kosher salt

Directions for Biscoff cream cheese swirl:

Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth.   Next add egg yolk, vanilla, salt and Biscoff Cookie Spread.  Continue to beat until smooth and creamy.  Set aside until ready to use.

5 Gotta Try Brownie Links for 2018

Dark chocolate brownies topped with creamy goat cheese and perfectly sweet raspberries are on my must make list.  Head to the Kitchn for the recipe.

If you love sweet and salty desserts check out The Brick Kitchen’s salted caramel pretzel brownies.  My mouth is watering!

Are you a s’mores lover?  If so, head to Seven Spoons for Tara’s triple layer s’mores brownies.

Looking to spice things up in 2018?  Try Tutti Dulci’s spicy chocolate brownies.  I’m intrigued!

Be sure to check out Food 52’s 12 ways to customize brownies for some unique twists on the beloved brownie.

 

 

Snowflake Sandwich Cookies with Maple Buttercream Filling + 5 Fun Holiday Cookie Links

 

If Tess had known she would think of him as often as she did during her final days she may have made different choices many decades ago.  If she knew he would appear in her dreams, nightly, standing in the sunlight on a pathless mountainside under a blue sky while she struggled, step by step, over rocks and snow to reach him…she may have never said hello.  And yet so many years ago, she initiated a simple conversation without fully releasing she also made a choice to make a space for this strange man in her mind and heart.

Tess entered his life and he her’s, grateful for a providential connection.  She loved this man as she did her husband without ever really, fully knowing him.

[Boundaries remained intact.  Years later when middle age became old age, gray hair to white hair, wrinkles abundant, widowed, and often alone, but seldom unhappy, she smiled when she thought of him.  And when they ran into each other coming out of the library, both carrying a stack of large print books to occupy the endless quiet hours’ widowhood afforded them, Tess felt her fingertips tingle, and her eyes moisten.  How lucky after all these years that the connection she felt to this man remained intact!]

A nameless night later Tess finds herself awake at 4AM.   She carefully tiptoes through the house, her cotton nightgown grazes the hardwood floors and catches a white hair or two on its hem.  She pauses by the large window and watches the snowflakes falling outside.  Some stick to the window screen, others dance and swirl around each other, as if, communicating a long forgotten fable.  She opens the window.  The wooden frame slides up without much effort, odd, Tess thinks for such an old house.  She pops out the window screen and leans through the opening into the cold night air, her breath mingling with the snowflakes.  Tess sees the strange man she loved all these years standing at the end of the driveway next to the lamppost covered in boxwood and tiny white lights.  She gladly waves to him.  He waves back and turns away from her.  Wait! Tess calls.  Wait!

“Mom?”  Tess remains centered in the open window, her nightgown outlined in the moonlight, her wrinkled body shivering in the frigid wind.

“Mom?”  She turns to the familiar voice she cannot place.  [Time moves in a way Tess no longer understands.  People, too.  Once gone, now reappear.  Once an empty house, now her daughter is here.]

“Time to go back to bed, Mom.”  Tess’ daughter closes the window quickly, frustrated by her mother’s nightly wanderings, and guides her back to bed.  She tucks Tess into bed as she does her own children, brushes Tess’ long white hair away from her face and kisses her forehead.  Tess does not share with her daughter who she saw standing at the end of the driveway.   She would seem crazy after all.

Minutes later, Tess falls into a deep sleep only to find herself on a sunlit mountainside next to a man she barely knew but loved just the same.

 

Snowflake Sandwich Cookies with Maple Buttercream Filling

Recipe adapted from Bake From Scratch Holiday Cookies Edition

makes about 24 sandwich cookies

Ingredients for cookie dough:

3/4 unsalted butter, at room temperature

3/4 cup vanilla sugar

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 large egg, at room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour

sanding sugar or nonpareils for decorating

Directions:

Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, on medium speed beat the butter, sugar and salt until creamy, about 5 minutes.  Be sure to stop the mixer and scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.  Add the egg and vanilla.  Continue to beat until incorporated.  Reduce the speed to low and slowly add the flour.

Divide the dough in half.  Wrap each piece of dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350F.  Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside.  Lightly flour a clean surface, remove dough from plastic wrap.  Roll the dough to 1/8 inch thickness.  (Be sure to leave other half of dough in the refrigerator until ready to use!)  Using a 3-inch snowflake cookie cutter dipped in flour, begin cutting out snowflake shapes.  Gather scraps,  reroll and cut again.  Place cookies about an inch apart on the prepared baking sheet.   Bake until golden brown around the edges, about 10 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely.

Maple Buttercream Filling

Recipe adapted from Bake From Scratch Holiday Cookies Edition

makes 2 cups

Ingredients:

1 cup or 2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 teaspoon maple extract

3 cups confectioners’ sugar

pinch of kosher salt

Directions:

Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment beat the butter and maple extract until creamy.  Add the confectioners’ sugar and a pinch of salt.  Beat on medium speed until well combined and smooth.  Once the confectioners’ sugar is incorporated, increase speed to high and beat for another 5 minutes.   Set aside.

Assembly Time!

Spoon half of the maple buttercream filling into large pastry bag fitted with an open star pastry tip.  Pipe filling onto 1 cookie, starting at the tip of each snowflake point and moving to the center.  Place another cookie on top of the cookie with the filling and press gently until the cookies form a sandwich.  Repeat with remaining cookies.  Place the remaining filling in a large pastry bag fitted with a small decorating tip.  Decorate the cookies with the remaining filling making a snowflake pattern on one side of the sandwich.  Sprinkle with white sanding sugar or nonpareils.   Let the cookies set before stacking.  Store cookies in an air-tight container for up to 4 days.  Enjoy!

5 Fun Holiday Cookie Links

My grandmother always had a stash of Italian Rainbow cookies floating around her house during the holidays and I couldn’t eat them fast enough.  Check out Love and Olive Oil’s  modern take on these beloved cookies.

Salted caramel and dark chocolate is a perfect pairing.  Want it in cookie form?  Head to Sally’s Baking Addiction for the recipe.

Love a good shortbread cookie?  Head to Cooking Classy for a chocolate dipped toffee pecan shortbread cookie recipe.  My mouth is watering!

Add something new to your holiday cookie platter with my alfajores recipe.

This lemon cookie recipe is one of my most pinned recipes.  Check it out!

 

Chocolate Dipped Ginger Snaps + 5 Ginger Cookie Links

After training for and completing my third marathon, my words and stories are struggling to emerge.  Heart to head to hand, muddled pathways and tired bones continue two weeks after crossing the finish line.  So, I bake a simple and delicious cookie to share with you…and wait for my words to return, the exhaustion to pass.  Until then, enjoy this cookie with others and a glass of cold milk.

Chocolate Dipped Ginger Snaps

A soft-baked gingersnap cookie, covered in raw sugar and dipped in semi-sweet chocolate. 

Recipe barely adapted from Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters

Makes about 24 cookies

Ingredients:

2 cups flour

1 + 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 + 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 stick + 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

2/3 cup of sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup molasses

1 egg, at room temperature

1/2 cup raw sugar

3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted (I used Guittard chocolate chips.)

Directions:

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt, cinnamon, and ginger.  Set aside.  Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment beat the butter until light and fluffy.  Add the sugar and continue mixing, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl once or twice.  Next, add the vanilla extract, molasses, and egg.  Beat until combined.  Reduce the speed to low and add the dry ingredients.  Continue mixing on low-speed until just combined.

Pre-heat your oven to 350F.  While the oven is preheating, chill the dough.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  Pour raw sugar into a bowl.

Using a 2-inch cookie scoop, scoop the cookie dough into rounded balls.   Dip cookie dough balls into raw sugar, covering completely and place on the prepared baking sheet.  Using the palm of your hand, flatten the dough slightly, until the ball looks like a 2-inch circle.  Bake until set, about 10 minutes, one cookie sheet at a time.  Allow cookies to cool for 2 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.  While the cookies cool, melt the chocolate.  Once the cookies are cooled completely, dip half of the cookie into the melted chocolate.  Allow the cookies to set completely before packaging.  Enjoy!

5 Ginger Cookie Links

Ginger infused caramel and bittersweet chocolate come together in this delightful chocolate caramel cookie.  Head to I am Baker for the recipe.

Looking for an easy, go to cookie for the holidays?  Head to Not Without Salt for a brown butter ginger cookie with mascarpone cream.  This recipe is now on my must-try list!

Bon Appetempt’s ginger cookies with chocolate and dried apricots is a cookie that cannot be missed this holiday season!

If you are a fan of white chocolate, check out Cooking Classy’s white chocolate dipped ginger cookies.

Prefer crispy gingersnap cookies over soft?  Head to A Thought For Food for Brian’s recipe.

Chocolate Stout Tart + 5 Unique Beer Dessert Recipes

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He would say their love story began with a mutual affection for good beer and dessert.  She wouldn’t deny him that bit of nostalgia…most days.  [Lately her moods changed with the tide, the phases of the moon, the direction of the wind.]

She would say their love story began with a conversation, his kindness evident with every word spilling from his sweet mouth. [ His sense of humor, intelligence, opinions, though less appreciated today, fused her soul to his many years ago.]

And what would they say now?  The moon is in the waning Gibbous phase, the tide is low, the winds wild.  A tempestuous phase in their many years together.  Both will agree something was lost along the way. A persistent trickle, not a gash, slowly absorbing into their everyday.  Yet, despite arriving at this volatile juncture they remain in awe of all that followed since their love story began.  So tonight, when the house is quiet, the day almost done, they will split a beer, nibble on some chocolate, and each wonder silently: what’s next in our love story?

Chocolate Stout Tart

tart dough recipe adapted from David Lebovitz

chocolate stout filling adapted from Ambrosia Baking

Serves 6-8

Ingredients for Tart Dough:
1 cup + 5 tablespoons all-purpose unbleached flour

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon sugar

8 tablespoons or 1 stick unsalted butter, cold and cubed

1 large egg

Ingredients for chocolate stout filling:

1- 11 ounce bottle of Guinness, reduced to 1/4 cup

1 + 1/4 cups heavy cream

9 ounces of dark chocolate, chopped

1 teaspoon of vanilla

a generous pinch of kosher salt

Fresh whipped cream and crushed pretzels for topping

Directions:

Using a food processor fitted with a blade attachment mix the flour, salt and sugar until combined.  Add the butter and pulse until the butter is pea-size.  Next add the egg and continue to pulse until the dough comes together and is smooth.  Remove dough from food processor and shape it into a disk.  Wrap the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 30 minutes up to overnight.

Flour a clean surface and roll the dough until it is about a 13 inch circle.  Transfer dough to a 9 inch tart pan with a removable bottom.  Press the dough firmly into the tart pan and in the corners of the pan.  Trim any excess by running the side of a knife around the top of the tart.  Hold onto any scraps for patching.  If there are any holes in your tart, use the excess dough to patch them.  Prick the dough five times with a fork.  Place in the freezer for 30 minutes.

When ready to bake the tart shell, pre-heat your oven to 400F.  Line the frozen tart with aluminum foil and fill with dried beans or pie weights.  Bake until the tart is golden brown about 25 minutes but check after 15 minutes.   Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.  Next make the chocolate stout filling.

Pour Guinness into a small pan and bring to a simmer.  Reduce to about 1/4 cup.  Remove from the heat and set aside.  Grab a second sauce pan and heat the cream until it just begins to simmer.  Using a medium bowl, add chopped chocolate, vanilla extract, salt and 3 tablespoons of reduced Guinness.  Remove simmering cream from the heat and pour over the chocolate mixture.  Let it stand for 5 minutes, then whisk until completely blended and very smooth.  Pour the chocolate ganache into the cooled tart shell .  Spread evenly using a spatula.  Refrigerate for at least two hours or until the ganache has completely set.  Just before serving, top the tart with fresh whipped cream and crushed pretzels.  The tart is best the day it is made but will last up to two days in air-tight container in the refrigerator.  Enjoy!

5 Unique Beer Desserts You Must Check Out!

Beer + Brownies = Tasty Beer Brownies!  How Sweet It Is has the recipe for you.

If you are a fan of IPAs check out the Beeroness’ recipe for IPA Lemon Bars.  I am intrigued!  While you are there check out her recipe for beer doughnuts with IPA lemon curd.  Again, intrigued!

Don’t wait until the next holiday season to make Food 52’s gingerbread bundt cake with chocolate glaze.  Seize the day or rather the cake.

Gimme Some Oven’s honey beer bread looks like the perfect vehicle for a generous smear of salted butter.  Yum!