White Chocolate Macadamia Oatmeal Cookies

It’s been nice to get back into my own kitchen over the past several weeks, apart from having a couple of extra sink-fulls of dishes to do. Sometimes, as with all passions and art forms, it can be hard to find your creative spot, really feel inspired, or not let discouragement hold you back. Cooking for me is no different, and while so often these days I’ve been searching for my hibernating enthusiasm and questioning my talents, I’ve had to remind myself that what I do in my own kitchen can only be judged by and help myself. While I’m still struggling with it all, much of my curiosity and motivation has returned.

This past weekend Greg and I went over to a friend’s house for a birthday dinner celebration and football watching, and of course wanted to whip up a batch of something simple to take along. While walking through the grocery store on Friday night (yeah, we know how to party) I thought I’d make some white chocolate macadamia cookies, since I’ve never had one before. Greg suggested oatmeal as well since that’s his thing. There was so much food around the table, I couldn’t help but feel thankful especially knowing people in my own neighborhood still don’t have electricity. With my family living so far away it was so comforting to borrow someone else’s for the evening, and spend a little time laughing and bonding over food, board games and football.

That’s really the point of cookies to me though, they’re comfort food. While they’re usually not the first thing I’ll make for dessert, when the mood strikes it’s great to know they can be made quickly, with plenty to share with friends. These cookies were adapted from this Hershey’s recipe.

White Chocolate Macadamia Oatmeal Cookies
Makes about 34 large (3″) cookies

1 cup Granulated Sugar
1 cup Light Brown Sugar, packed
1 cup Unsalted Butter
2 Eggs, large
2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
2 1/2 cups AP Flour
1 tsp. Baking Soda
1/2 tsp. Salt
1 cup Macadamia Nuts, chopped
1 1/2 cups Oats
20 oz. White Chocolate Chips

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees (F) and line 4 half sheet pans or cookie pans with parchment paper (or in my case, 2 with two more sheets of parchment ready to go for the next round).

In a mixer, beat the butter and sugars together until creamy and completely blended. Add the vanilla and eggs, one at a time, mixing until completely blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl to make sure it all comes together. Whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together, and add to the mixer slowly on low speed. As soon as the flour is in add the nuts, oats, and white chocolate chips. There’s no need to over-mix, stop mixing as soon as it’s all incorporated. If you need to knead the last bit of chocolate chips in because you’ve got a 4.5 qt mixer, go ahead – I had to as well.

Scoop 8 golf ball sized rounds of dough onto each sheet and press the tops down gently to flatten slightly. I use an industrial red handled scooper/disher, but heaping tablespoons will work just fine. Bake for 10 – 15 minutes, checking after 10. 13 minutes was the sweet spot in my oven. You’re looking for golden edges, and puffy in the middle without looking wet.

These cookies are great with a cup of coffee. Next time I make them I’d like to actually use less white chocolate chips. I think they’re very sweet and since they don’t have any of the bitterness of dark chocolate, I’ll probably cut the amount down to 12 – 15 ounces. Of course, it all depends on how into white chocolate you are!

{psst: with the holidays just around the corner, these would make a great addition to homemade cookie boxes, stocking stuffers, or pot luck parties. They stay nice and moist for several days when kept in an airtight container.}

Keeping it Ethical. Keeping it Tasty.

At the moment I’m sitting on the couch, watching a movie while baking off a batch of what I consider to be the easiest and most delicious homemade chocolate chip cookies. It happens to be a Martha Stewart recipe, widely distributed online, published in her Cookies cookbook, and in a 2005 magazine. It’s a no-fail-cures-a-raging-sweet-tooth-in-20-minutes kind of recipe. Not that it can’t easily be found online, but can I write about it on this blog? I mean, can I publish the recipe too?

The ethics of food blogging have been on my mind since I started this blog, but without a definite idea of what that meant, I’ve felt a little apprehensive about publishing recipes. Of course the number one goal of mine is to develop my photography and food styling skills, while testing out new recipes and perhaps even developing a couple of recipes along the way. Is it possible to develop a successful food photography blog without sharing recipes? I love cooking and baking, and would love to share recipes. I’m a professional cook, and while this is a personal project, I’d like to treat it with the same level of professionalism and integrity that I do my day job. I’m not here to distribute other people’s work, I’m here to share my own. For some advice I turned to some food bloggers I have a special respect for.

Deb Perelman over at Smitten Kitchen has shared her practical ethics, “[O]ut of respect for the place where I started my hunt for the dish, and out of a stubborn belief that it’s in bad form to pretend you were the first one to ever rub butter into flour, I like to give shout-outs to places that got me started on the path to what I wanted to achieve in the kitchen.” As far as taking a recipe and re-using it, Deb suggests, “You are welcome to run the ingredient list as-is, but you should put the directions in your own language and add your own tips. By doing this, you are creating a new piece of work, not just creating an infringed copy of what is already out there.”

Officially the U.S. Copyright Office has a somewhat vague description of what parts of recipes can and can’t be copyrighted. “A mere listing of ingredients is not protected under copyright law. However, where a recipe or formula is accompanied by substantial literary expression in the form of an explanation or directions, or when there is a collection of recipes as in a cookbook, there may be a basis for copyright protection.” They say that there MAY BE a basis for copyright, but let’s just show a little professional courtesy and read this as: the ingredient list is up for grabs, but commentary and instructions are off limits.

Justin Schwartz of Justcook NYC sees food blogging ethics from the perspective of a cookbook author and publisher. “Think about it this way — what if you publish a cookbook someday and then dozens of bloggers start posting your recipes for free on their sites? Or they “adapt” your recipe by changing one ingredient? You might start thinking it would be nice if people would buy your book, right? If a recipe I blog about is readily available on the web, I’ll post a link. And I might reprint a recipe on my blog occasionally, but not very often.” As someone who dreams of seeing my work in print one day, I understand exactly where he’s coming from. For that matter, I’d be pretty upset if someone were to take my work and use it for their own gain.

So basically, after a great deal of thought this is how I intend to ethically write on this blog:

Recipes published here will either be:
1. Entirely my own creation.
2. “Adapted” from a specifically noted source, only after extensive recipe testing and manipulation.
3. Linked directly to the originally published online recipe.
4. Not published at all and reader will be directed to the appropriate cookbook.

Photographs and stories of course, will remain exclusively my own works.  {Whew} It’s nice to get that off my chest. Let the blogging continue!

Spicy Crunchy Chocolate Ice Cream Love

You know how you flip through a new cookbook and there’s so many amazing looking recipes you hardly know which one to make first? Yeah, this book is like that.

Last year I was walking through the aisles of the bookstore, when my eyes landed on an ice cream cookbook. It looked adorable, and there were pictures of each ice cream beckoning me to take it home and give the indulgences within a turn in my ice cream machine. But, having recently been disappointed with another ice cream cookbook purchase, I resigned to leave it be. Several months later I returned to look up an apple ice cream recipe after spending the day in an orchard, and came home with the scribbled down version of Jeni’s Splendid Baked Apple Sorbet. At that point I knew that this woman was probably on to something and it was only a matter of time before I’d give in to the crippling cravings to own this book.

Two more visits and a round of “Oh, I want to make that! And That! AND THAT ONE TOO!!!” I went ahead and bought Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home by Jeni Britton Bauer, and haven’t been disappointed. Not only are her flavor combinations really something to celebrate, but she really knows how ice cream works. I bothered to read the introductory chapters before diving into the recipes and learned that her techniques are a little different than the classical anglaise bases I was taught in pastry school and have duplicated in several restaurants.

So I decided to start with the Gucci Muu Muu, a rich and creamy chocolate ice cream with the warmth and spice of curry and the subtle crunch of toasted coconut. IT ROCKED. The whole quart of it. Which I ate all by myself. I’m not even the tiniest bit sorry either. I’m pretty much ready to take anything Jeni says about ice cream as gospel at this point. The book is broken down into four main recipe sections, based on season, and while the winter recipes have been delicious I’m anxious for the springtime ingredients to work with, and warmer weather to ride my bike around in. Preferably while eating a homemade ice cream cone (see recipe in the book) full of Roasted Strawberry and Buttermilk Ice Cream! {heart melts in anticipation}

This Cheese Stinks. (and rocks.)

I haven’t always been devoted to the pastry arts. There’s a chance I wouldn’t be as enthusiastic about delicious foods at all if it weren’t for dairy, which is essentially my first love. Milk, cheese, more cheese. I’m not especially picky, I’ll try any kind of cheese no matter how pungent or generic it is although I’ll probably reach for the runny triple cream more often than not. So whenever I’m walking through Whole Foods or Murray’s in Grand Central there’s a good chance I’m picking up some cheese.

Now this cheese… tastes like barbeque.

I’m totally not kidding. This is the “Harbison”, a cow’s milk cheese by Cellars at Jasper Hill Farm in Greensboro, VT. Upon unwrapping it, the cheese had a very strong ripe and earthy scent. Admittedly, it’s not my favorite kind of cheese usually, but like I said, I’ll try anything. After cutting into the round the delicious insides nearly oozed out, how could I resist that? I slathered a little on a pita chip cracker and was surprised and delighted. It tastes like barbeque!!! Smoky and woody, with earthy flavors and ultra creaminess to boot. Of course, the flavor is no doubt derived partially from the spruce bark wrapped around the cheese, cut from the Jasper Hill grounds. This cheese isn’t dainty, and feels just right for these chilly winter nights.

I feel like it’s also a beer drinking kind of cheese. I’d pair it with the Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout for a rich wintery indulgence, or a Thomas Hooker Nor’Easter Winter Lager to accent its woodland aromas and keep the mouth feeling crisp.

This winter isn’t just for hibernation and cheese eating though. After thinking through a couple of typical new year’s resolutions (eat better, keep my house clean, save money, etc) I settled on the resolution to eat more DELICIOUS food, push myself to experiment with cooking new things, and to take more photographs of it all. Life has changed a lot in the past three months since I dedicated my time here, but all in wonderful ways. I’m really looking forward to keeping up with it and hopefully making some images and dishes that are truly inspired. Happy New Year!

A Handful of Macarons

Our little street in Montreal (on St. Dennis) was crammed with restaurants, lounges, and little speciality stores. The block is mostly 3 or 4 story townhouses, with the basement and first levels of each home all commercial. Tucked into the ground level of one of these buildings is Marius et Fanny Patisserie Provençale. This place has it ALL. Chocolates, cakes, savory goods and sandwiches, croissants, macarons, EVERYTHING.

So of course I had to get one of every macaron…for photographic purposes! They even made them all the way back to the states so I could photograph them. I honestly don’t even remember what flavor all of them are, apart from delicious. Some were filled with creams and ganche, while the fruity ones had jam sandwiched in between. Why haven’t I thought of using jam?!

I really adore the bold colors they used in creating these. I know some of the Parisian macaron makers prefer to be a little more subtle with their colors, but it’s great that they’ve created their own palette so to speak.

With the weather finally being cool enough to whip up a sturdy meringue, perhaps it’s time to give making macarons at home another shot. Since the possibilities are endless they’re a great treat for just about any occasion. Maybe a set of fall/Halloween colored macarons?

Traveling Photo Shoot: Truffles

Montreal is rumored to have some of the best pastry shops this side of the Atlantic, and while I was skeptical (I’m coming from the NYC area after all) I was excited to try as many pastries and confections as possible. On a particularly overcast morning walking through downtown Montreal, I passed by Suite 88 Chocolatier which just looked so tasty and so damned posh that I knew after a museum visit I’d be returning to give it a try.

I ordered two of everything.

Even still, several pieces didn’t make it till the photo shoot. Which brings about another concern – how do you photograph delicious pastries while on vacation? Sure, taking photos of the store displays and local dishes is great and makes for amazing photos, but what if you’re doing it in your hotel room? Or in my case, a comfortable bed and breakfast in the Plateau/Mont Royal neighborhood. In the small shared kitchen was what amounted to a thrift store collection of plates, one small white one suitable for a truffle display, and a brown and silver patterned scarf I brought along for the possibility of chilly evenings. An open window and 20 minutes to goof off and I had a completely makeshift traveling photo shoot.

All of the truffles were gone by the next afternoon, just in time to try another pastry shop. Travel photography is definitely a skill I’d like to develop, but with New York in my back yard I think I’ll have a lot of opportunities to practice.

On the Road

Hello out there! I’m sorry for the interruption in posting, but fear not – I have not abandoned you! I’m currently traveling and eating my way across Montreal, and taking as many photos as I can of all of the lovely things I’ve come across. See:

Vacation started Friday night after work with a bottle of champagne and a trip to the Norwalk Oyster Festival, where I tried fried oysters for the very first time! It then spilled down into Philadelphia on Saturday and Sunday for a far-too-short trip, and then the long drive up to Montreal on Monday. I’ll be here exploring and discovering every nook and cranny till Saturday. In the mean time I’ll be away from the blog. Hoping you’re eating sweet!

xo, Jenny

Peach Cupcakes with Brown Sugar Frosting

This week I’ve had a one day weekend, (yesterday) and most of the day was spent casually baking peach cupcakes with brown sugar frosting, as found on Smitten Kitchen. Over the course of seven hours I baked, frosted, set-up, arranged, photographed, edited, and weeded 135 photos. Perhaps it should take more time or less time to really get through the whole process, but it’s rare that I get to cook and “work” so casually.

Two more days of work, and I’m setting out on an 8 day adventure! On Saturday morning I’m heading down to Philadelphia for a couple of days to see friends that I’ve really missed since moving, and then on to Montreal!!! I’ve never been to Canada before and am really looking forward to it. While my French-Canadian is really poor, I’m hoping I’ll be able to mumble my way through things with what remains of my high school French memory.

Of course, one of the things I’m looking forward to on my trip is getting the opportunity to taste new things and hopefully get some cool travel food photographs. I’ve travelled a lot in the past, but have somehow managed to avoid snapping any photos of some of the world’s most incredible meals. While I can still taste the fine French cheeses and delicious Argentinean steak, it would have been far easier to mesmerize people with photos.

Anyway, on to the good stuff – the recipe:

Peach Cupcakes – Makes about 30

3 or 4 Peaches (4 if medium, 3 if large) – Peeled, cored & chopped into smallish cubes, about 1/3″.
3 c. Cake flour
1 1/2 tsp. Baking Powder
1 1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
1 tsp. Salt
1/4 tsp. Nutmeg
3/4 c. (6 oz) Unsalted Butter at room temperature
3/4 c. Sugar
3/4 c. Light Brown Sugar
2 Eggs
1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
1 1/2 c. Sour Cream

In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg. In a mixer, beat together the butter and both sugar until it become fluffy and lightens in color (a minute or two). With a rubber spatula, scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the vanilla to the eggs, and add the eggs to the mix one at a time, beating to incorporate. Scrape the bowl again. Add the flour in two parts, alternating with the sour cream and taking care not to over mix. When the batter is fully incorporated, remove the bowl from the mixer and fold in the chopped peaches. Divide into muffin cups lined with cupcake papers and bake for about 18 minutes at 350 degrees.

Brown Sugar-Cream Cheese Frosting

1/2 c. (4 oz) Unsalted Butter at room temperature
1 pound (two 8 oz packages) Cream Cheese at room temperature
1 1/4 c. Light Brown Sugar
1 c. Powdered Sugar
1/4 c. Cornstarch*
1/2 tsp. Vanilla Extract

In a mixer, beat the butter until it is completely smooth. Add the cream cheese and beat it into the butter until completely combined and smooth. In a small bowl combine the sugars and the cornstarch and whisk together until they are completely combined. Add the sugars to the cream cheese and beat on medium until the frosting has lightened in color and is very fluffy. Beat in the vanilla extract. Scrape the mixing bowl down occasionally while mixing.

*Note: The original recipe includes the 1/4 c. of cornstarch, added for the purpose of stiffening the frosting. I also added a little more powdered sugar to my recipe to give the frosting a little more body and sweetness. Next time though, I’m considering cutting the cornstarch down or out altogether (it just seems a little weird to me) and upping the powdered sugar to make it even sweeter. I like it sweet, what can I say?

The End of Summer Pie

Blueberries are in season through September, although summer is fading fast here in New England. As many people have off on Monday for Labor Day (the last hurrah of summertime), and the summer berries are getting scarcer in the grocery store aisles, I thought it was time for the last summer pie. Blueberry-Raspberry Pie with a Lemon Crust.

After the storm last week a lot of businesses were left without power, including a little store nearby that sells farm fresh produce. The loss of power didn’t stop them though. They set up shop out front of their store and had a little farmer’s market. I was able to pick up 3 pints of blueberries (used here), a quart of freshly picked peaches, and a pint of strawberries.

This time of year, on the brink of fall, I feel like the need for pies is especially strong. I didn’t eat a lot of pie growing up – the revelation of raspberries is something that I didn’t experience till college believe it or not – but no matter where you’re from or what you like, pie always feels like home. More cozy than a cake, more special than a cookie. Pie is LOVE.

I’m really looking forward to fall pies and tartes. The apples and pears that will be in season very soon will be a delight to mix and match with end of summer fruits and exotic spices. In late fall the nut and veggies pies I hope to try should do a great deal in the way of warming us up. In the mean time it’s nice to sit back with a piece of the last summer pie and think about the roller coaster this summer has been!

New York City in the summer time is every bit as sweltering as the movies tell you it is (The Seven Year Itch anyone?). Compounded with the heat and pressure of a New York kitchen, summertime can be downright suffocating. For the first time I can remember, I’ve actually felt the seasons change. Growing up in South Carolina it seemed like there was summer, fall and spring. Winter weather doesn’t even register in my memory. In Philadelphia it felt as though we sweat through summer and dove right into freezing through winter, with maybe two or three weeks of spring or fall to break it up.

Lemon Pie Crust – Make twice for top and bottom crusts – 9″ pie.

1-1/4 cups All-purpose flour (plus more for rolling out the dough)
1/2 cup Butter, unsalted, very cold and chopped into small pieces
1 Tbsp. Sugar
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
3+ Tbsp. Ice water
Zest of 2 medium lemons

In a food processor, pulse together flour, sugar, salt & lemon zest. Add in chopped butter and pulse several times until butter is cut into the flour in tiny pieces, roughly the size of peas. Remove from food processor and in a bowl mix in ice water by hand until dough comes together. Take care not to knead or overwork the dough. Roll into a ball and flatten into a disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate until use, at least 1 hour.

When you’re ready to roll out the dough, flour your counter and rolling pin. Remove from the refrigerator and allow dough to sit for a couple of minutes at room temperature. Place disk in floured area, lightly dust the top of the dough with a sprinkle of flour, and roll out the dough, making sure there is about an inch and a half to spare on either side of your pie dish. When rolling out the second pie crust, I used a pastry cutter to create the wide lattice strips. Since this is a juicy pie, a solid top crust with a vent would work as well.

Blueberry-Raspberry Filling – Bake at 350F degrees for about 1 hour and 15 minutes

4 cups Blueberries, rinsed and picked over for stems and twigs
2 to 2-1/2 cups of Raspberries, gently rinsed
1 cup Sugar – plus more to sprinkle on pie crust
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 tsp. Ground Allspice
1/4 tsp. Ground Nutmeg
4 Tbsp. Minute Tapioca
2 Tbsp. Butter, unsalted, chopped into small pieces
Egg Wash

In a large bowl stir together blueberries, raspberries, sugar, lemon juice, allspice, nutmeg and Minute tapioca. Let sit for 10 – 15 minutes (I usually do this before rolling out the pie crusts, about the time I start preheating the oven). Pour into pie shell. Scatter dots of butter over the filling and cover with top crust or lattice. Eggwash the top crust and sprinkle with sugar.

Check the pie regularly after about 45 minutes to make sure the crust is not browning too quickly. If the crust becomes golden brown before filling has begun to bubble in the center of the pie, cover with aluminum foil to prevent further browning. When filling in bubbling from the center the pie is finished!

Enjoy your holiday weekend!

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