Mom’s Snickerdoodles

Yesterday, Jasper, my almost-done-with-2nd-grader told me that he volunteered to bring a snack to share with his class for the last day of school. Today was the last day of school. That snack, he said, needed to be snickerdoodles. He loves snickerdoodles. If they are not his outright favorite cookie, then, at the very, very least, they are tied for 1st place.

This recipe originally came from my mother. I’ve adapted it slightly. It makes a straight-up 100% traditional and delicious cookie. You can tell a good snickerdoodle recipe by the combination of baking soda and cream of tartar. Baking soda (a base) combined with cream of tartar (an acid) works as a chemical leavener in the presence of moisture, such the egg in the cookie dough. Baking soda combined with cream of tartar can also be used as a substitute for baking powder (which is a base and an acid already mixed together). You could, technically, use baking powder in snickerdoodles instead, but they wouldn’t taste the same.

My mother’s original recipe calls for a combination of butter and Crisco. I am too much of a food snob to bear having Crisco in the house, let alone cook with it, so I use all butter. I also use fancy, extra strong Vietnamese cinnamon, because, you know, food snob. It really does make a difference.

Mom’s Snickerdoodles

  • 1 c. butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar plus an additional 2 T.
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 3/4 cups flour
  • 1 T. cinnamon
  1. Preheat the oven to 400.
  2. Cream the butter with the 1 1/4 cups sugar, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt.
  3. Beat in the eggs until well blended.
  4. Stir in the flour until just blended.
  5. Combine the remaining sugar with the cinnamon in a small bowl.
  6. Pinch off Tablespoons of dough, roll them into balls, and roll them in the cinnamon-sugar mixture to coat. Place them 2-inches apart on a parchment lined cookie sheet.
  7. Bake cookies 8-10 minutes, until puffed and set, but still soft.
  8. Let cool and place in a large zip-lock bag for your son to take to school. Recipe makes enough for each classmate to have two, with extra left over for the teachers.

Spring Garden Potato Salad

So there I was in the grocery store and piled in front of me was a mound of the most unusual new potatoes I’ve seen. They were small, with thin, pale skin, and pink eyes. The label said New Nugget Potatoes. I had to try them.

When I first moved to Alberta, 11 years ago, I arrived near the end of June. One of the first things I did was track down a garden store, buy a bunch of herbs, and plant them in the back yard.  I also bought a pot, a plate, a little Hibachi grill, and some cutlery to tide me over as I waited for the movers to deliver my belongings from overseas. I had a lot of great meals with that simple assortment of tools, mostly steak accompanied by some form of potatoes, and fresh vegetables. One of my favourites featured what I have come to call Spring Garden Potato Salad. I decided to try my new-found potatoes in my tried and true salad.

What I like about this potato salad is its simplicity. There is no heavy dressing to overwhelm the taste of the other ingredients. The taste of the potatoes shines through, enhanced by the flavors of fresh garden herbs.

The new nugget potatoes are perfect for this recipe. They have a light, delicate, sweet flavor that balances the pungency of the chives and the zing of the lemon thyme. It’s the taste of Spring.

Spring Garden Potato Salad

  • 1 lb. New Nugget potatoes
  • 1 large pinch salt
  • 1 1/2 T. garden chives, snipped into small pieces
  • 1 tsp. fresh lemon thyme
  • 1/2 tsp. chopped fresh garden mint
  • 2 T. grape seed oil
  • 1 T. white wine vinegar
  • 4 or 5 chive flowers
  1. Boil the potatoes whole, in salted water, until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain and let them cool until they are still warm but no longer too hot to handle.
  2. Slice the potatoes into 1/4 inch discs. Put them in a bowl. Toss with the salt, chives, thyme, and mint.
  3. Drizzle the oil and vinegar over the still warm potatoes and toss to coat.
  4. Snip the bottom of of the chive flower clusters. This should free up the individual flowers. Sprinkle them over the potato salad and toss it one more time.
  5. Serve warm or cold, but preferably outside in the garden.

Kootenay Cookies

I took a long drive to the B.C. interior this weekend to support my roller derby team as they battled it out in the Western championships. They even let me skate a couple of jams, which was very gracious of my teammates, seeing as I only started skating with them in April. It was an amazing feeling. I love those ladies.

Not wanting anyone to go hungry, I brought cookies. The recipe is my standard go to when I feel like improvising. It’s essentially a chocolate chip cookie batter, to which you can add whatever strikes your fancy. There is no set amount you have to mix into it. Add as little or as much as you like. They will be delicious either way.

This time around I raided my pantry and came up with pecans, pumpkin seeds, oatmeal, coconut, raisins, dried cranberries, corn flakes, and a leftover chocolate Easter bunny, which I chopped into pieces.

A note on the technique: When making cookies, cakes, or pretty much anything actually, I prefer to add the salt and leavening with the sugar at the beginning of the mixing process. It’s my standard personal mixing technique. I can’t really say why I do it this way except that I’ve done it this way for years and it’s never failed me yet.

Kootenay Cookies

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups flour
  • Mix-ins: this time around I used oatmeal, coconut, pecans, pumpkin seeds, raisins, dried cranberries, corn flakes, and chopped milk chocolate. I have no idea how much of each. I added them by the handful. In the end there was just enough dough to hold it all together.

Cream the butter with the sugars. Beat in the salt, baking soda, and vanilla. Beat in the eggs. Stir in the flour until just blended. Stir in mix-ins until just blended.

Divide dough into 4ths, wrap it in plastic and refrigerate at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375.

Pinch off dough about 2 T. at a time and roll it into a ball. Place on a cookie sheet.

Bake 12 to 15 minutes, until the edges are nicely browned.

Pack cooled cookies into a large zip lock bag, and drive to the mountains.

Fresh Berry Truffle Tartlets

Just one more, and then I’ll stop, I promise. This is my third and final June #baketogether contribution, and I’ve saved the best for last. At least, I think it’s the best, but then I’ve also got a bit of a thing for chocolate.

These are micro-mini tarts, made in mini-muffin tins, with a cocoa-walnut crust, filled with bittersweet chocolate ganache, topped with fresh raspberries and blueberries, brushed with strained peach jam to make them shine, and drizzled with a bit more ganache, because one can never have enough chocolate.

One recipe makes 24 of these jewel-toned mini tartlets. I have been giving them away all day to everyone I see in order to stop myself from single-handedly eating them all.

Before I get down to the recipe, just a note about the chocolate. I am very particular about my chocolate. There are many excellent high-end brands out there, and it is worth seeking them out. I order my supplies from the company I used when I had my chocolate business. My preferred brand is Cacao Barry’s single origin line, especially Santo Domingue and Tanzanie for dark, and Ghana for milk. It provides the best quality for the price. This is not the sort of stuff you will find in the grocery store, even a very nice grocery store. If you are in Canada you can order it online at chocolat-chocolat. They are also an excellent source for professional quality molds, and I buy my cocoa powder from them too. In nearly 10 years of dealing with them I have never received less than perfect service.

This recipe also features my favorite method for making ganache. By warming the cream and chocolate together, you can create a smooth, silky ganache without heating the cream much. It will not keep as long as other methods, but it creates a ganache with a fresh cream taste, instead of a cooked one.

Fresh Berry Truffle Tartlets

For the crust:

  • 1 cup AP flour
  • 1 T. cocoa powder
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 3 oz. cold butter
  • 1 oz. leaf lard (or an additional ounce butter)
  • 1/4 cup ice water
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
  1. Blend the flour with the cocoa powder and salt. Cut the butter and lard into small pieces and toss them in the flour. Working quickly, take handfuls of the flour-butter mixture and smear the fat into the flour by rubbing it between your thumb and fingers. Continue doing this until almost (but not all) the fat has been smeared into the flour. The mixture should look roughly like coarse cornmeal.
  2. Pour the ice water over the dough and mix it in, just until blended. Add the walnut pieces and do the same.
  3. Wrap the dough and refrigerate 30 minutes.
  4. Preheat the oven to 400.
  5. Divide the dough into 24 equal pieces. Roll each piece out into a circle. Don’t worry if you crush the nuts a bit. It’s bound to happen.
  6. Fit each circle into a cup in a mini-muffin tin. Prick it with a fork.
  7. When all the circles have been rolled out and fitted into the tin, place it in the oven and bake until the crust is fully cooked, about 25 minutes. The crusts may very well puff while they bake. If this happens, get a spoon and poke them back down.

Make the Ganache:

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 3 oz. bittersweet chocolate, in discs or finely chopped (I used Cacao Barry Saint Domingue 70%)
  1. Place the ingredients in a small saucepan over very low heat. Stir gently, trying to minimize the amount of air you introduce to the mixture, until the chocolate is almost, but not quite melted. Remove from the heat and continue stirring until the chocolate melts completely. If the mixture gets too cool and some chunks still remain, remove them and eat them. They are delicious.
  2. Pour the freshly made ganache into the fully baked tartlet shells, filling them about 3/4 of the way to the top.

Assembly:

  • 1/2 pint fresh raspberries
  • 1/2 pint fresh blueberries
  • 1/4 cup warm, strained apricot or peach jam
  1. Gently place one raspberry and three blueberries on top of each tart.
  2. Brush the fruit with jam.
  3. Drizzle a little of the remaining ganache on top.
  4. Let sit at least an hour to allow the ganache to set before serving. Serve at room temperature.

Custard Berry Tarts

It’s safe to say I got a little obsessed with the #baketogether this month. I’ve been on a bit of a pie-making kick lately anyway, and this fed right into my addiction. I can quit anytime, though. Really. Just watch. Next week I’ll do brownies, or mousse, or maybe pancakes. Definitely. Because I can stop. I can quit making piecrust anytime.

In the meantime, however, I am going to share another tartlet with you. My inspiration for this one was the custard tart, seen in bakeries across the U.K. and not nearly often enough in North America. Custard tarts are another addiction of mine. I could eat them every day forever.

Traditional custard tarts have a thick, toothsome crust, so I rolled my pie dough a  little thicker than usual for these. I also added berries: 2 raspberries and a few blueberries per tart. I love the flavor balance they bring: the mellow sweetness of the blueberries and the bright acidity of the raspberries merge beautifully with the creamy, eggy custard.

Give them a try and see for yourself.

Custard Berry Tarts

  • Pie dough (amount for a single crust pie, 1/2 the recipe in Oh Boy, Strawberry Pie)
  • 1 large egg, plus enough heavy cream to make 1/2 cup
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 T. sugar
  • about 1/2 cup each of raspberries and blueberries, fresh or frozen

Preheat oven to 400.

Divide the pie dough into 6 equal pieces. Roll each piece out and fit it inside a muffin cup. Prick the bottom of each crust with a fork. Fill cups with pie weights. Bake the crusts for 12 minutes. Remove from oven and remove weights.

Reduce oven temperature to 325.

Place 1 or 2 raspberries and 3 or 4 blueberries in each tart shell.

Whisk the eggs until well blended. Whisk in the heavy cream, vanilla, and sugar.

Pour the custard mixture over the berries, filling each tart shell as close to the top as you can get without it spilling over.

Bake until the custards are just set. if you use frozen berries, like I did, this will take 30 to 35 minutes. If you use fresh berries it will be faster.

Remove tartlets from pan while still warm, but cool completely before serving.

Try to eat just one. Go ahead. Try.

Savory Spring Vegetable Tartlets

This month’s #baketogether recipe is Very Berry Mini Pies. For those not familiar with the #baketogether phenomenon, there is a new recipe posted each month that anyone and everyone is invited to adapt to suit their own tastes. Normally I live for the chance to make desserts, but this month I decided to pinch hit and do an appetizer, mostly because of the challenge of turning a mini streusel-topped berry pie into something savory.

I stuck with the idea of using seasonal ingredients in the filling, but chose seasonal vegetables instead of berries. In my case that meant asparagus, and some lovely, meaty oyster mushrooms which I suppose aren’t actually a Spring crop, but which were grown and harvested by a small-scale mushroom farmer I ran into on Thursday who was out here visiting from B.C. I was so enthusiastic about them he gave me a handful, most likely to stop me from continuing to embarrass myself. I can get that way about food.

I cut the mushrooms and asparagus into thin little pieces, and chopped up a few garden chives to go along with them.

I prebaked the tart shells, to make sure they browned and crisped properly, and I also sauteed the veggies to brown them a bit and lower their moisture content before putting them in the crusts.

Then (and I admit this is my favorite part), I made a savory cheese streusel. I have never heard of such a thing before, and wasn’t completely sure it would work, but that’s never stopped me before.

I’m pretty pleased with how they turned out.

Savory Spring Vegetable Tartlets

Pie dough (amount for a single crust pie, 1/2 of recipe in Oh Boy, Strawberry Pie)

For Filling:

  • 3/4 lb. green asparagus, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped fresh oyster mushrooms
  • 1 T. chopped chives
  • 3 T. olive oil
  • salt, to taste

Saute the mushrooms in the oil until lightly browned. Remove them from the pan. Saute the asparagus until just tender. Mix the vegetables together. Add the chives, and salt to taste.

For Savory Streusel Topping:

  • 3 T. butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 c. flour
  • 1/2 c. shredded emmental or gruyere (I used emmental because it was what I had on hand, but gruyere would be lovely too) + an additional 1/4 c,  reserved for assembly.
  • 1/4 tsp herbes de provence
  • large pinch of salt

Blend flour with the salt and herbs. Blend in the butter, mixing until it comes together in large clumps. Add the cheese and mix a bit more to incorporate it into the streusel clumps.

To Assemble the Tarts:

Preheat the oven to 400.

Divide the dough into 10 equal balls. Roll each ball out into a flat disc and line the inside of a muffin cup with it. Prick the mini crusts with a fork, fill with pie weights, and bake for 12 minutes.

Remove the weights from the crusts and fill with the vegetable mixture. Top with the savory streusel. Sprinkle the reserved 1/4 cup of cheese over the streusel topping.

Bake tartlets for about 25 minutes, or until the topping is set and the cheese is golden brown.

Serve warm.