Tag Archives: cookies

Happy Mother’s Day! (and Lavender Teacookies)

8 May

My mother is a poem
I’ll never be able to write,
though everything I write
is a poem to my mother.
-Sharon Doubiago

Recipe source: Mom

Today’s blog is dedicated to my mom, who gave me this recipe, to thank her for loving weird ingredients like lavender as much as I do! (In case you missed it, also check out her fab lavender lemonade.)

Green Acres Lavender Farm
As I write this, the side door is open and a soft, cool spring breeze is rustling the leaves. Birds are chirping, and I’m thinking about how perfect these cookies are for this time of year. Like all great butter cookies, they have a light and crumbly texture, and a faint sweetness. The floral touch makes them elegant and unusual. And while I’m not especially talented when it comes to decorating, for more creative types, they are a blank canvas for icing. I personally enjoy a simple glaze on these, but the lavender-infused powdered sugar could easily be incorporated into a royal icing. In fact, I’ve adapted a royal icing recipe here for you to try, if your little heart so desires.

The dough for these cookies can be made a day ahead, which is convenient, since the powdered sugar for icing needs to mingle with lavender flowers for at least that long. Otherwise, this is a pretty simple recipe to throw together.

lavender flowers

You will start by smashing culinary lavender flowers with a mortar and pestle, or the back of a spoon. This is crucial to releasing the essential oils in the bud. Mix the flowers with powdered sugar and let it infuse in a plastic bag for at least a day. To make the cookie dough, cream together butter, sugar, more lavender flowers, vanilla extract and lemon extract.

butter mixture

Believe me when I say this is some of the most delicious butter you will ever taste.

lavender butter

Next mix in flour and salt, and refrigerate to firm up, about two hours. If you opt to refrigerate overnight, you may need to let the dough warm up a bit before rolling. Then roll out on a lightly floured surface as you would a standard sugar cookie, and cut into desired shapes. I went for “springy” shapes this time – a bunny, a chickadee, a fish and an elephant. Hey, how’d that last one get in there?

dough cutouts

The lavender flowers in this dough make it really interesting visually. You might notice some of them popping out of your shapes in unexpected ways… I caught one of my bunnies relieving himself and another sprouting whiskers! Feel free to pluck out any flowers that may be awkward to your design, and throw them back into the dough for the next roll.

chickies

Since these cookies aren’t incredibly sweet, I feel the glaze is necessary. Plus I love the smooth, hardened look it gives them. The glazing is easy to do with a basic dinner spoon. Let it dry for several hours or overnight to harden, and enjoy this delicate treat, preferably on a delicate kind of mid-morning Saturday, maybe with a little mimosa and jazz on the radio, or whatever makes you feel peaceful.

hearts

RECIPE – Lavender Tea Cookies

1 tablespoon dried culinary lavender flowers
1 cup butter, room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon lemon extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
Lavender Glaze (see recipe below)

In a mortar, grind lavender flowers with the pestle. In a medium bowl, cream together ground lavender flowers, butter, sugar, vanilla extract, and lemon extract. Add flour and salt; mix until combined (dough should be soft but not sticky.) Refrigerate 1 to 2 hours or until dough is firm.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Remove dough from refrigerator. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough approximately 1/4-inch thick. Cut into desired shapes with cookie cutters and place onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until cookies are lightly browned around the edges. Remove from oven and cool on wire racks. When cool, top with lavender glaze and/or royal icing (recipes follow).

Makes 2 dozen cookies.

Lavender Glaze:
1 cup powdered (confectioners) sugar
2 tablespoons dried culinary lavender flowers
2 tablespoons milk
2 teaspoons light corn syrup

In a small plastic bag, combine powdered sugar and dried lavender flowers. Let stand at least 1 day before using. When ready to use, sift the mixture into a medium-size bowl; discarding lavender flowers.

Add milk and corn syrup, mixing well. NOTE: Additional powdered sugar or milk may need to be added (enough milk to make frosting easy to spread). Spread on cooled cookies.

Lavender Royal Icing:
2 egg whites
2 cups powdered (confectioners) sugar
2 tablespoons dried culinary lavender flowers
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract

In a small plastic bag, combine powdered sugar and dried lavender flowers. Let stand at least 1 day before using. When ready to use, sift the mixture into a medium-size bowl; discarding lavender flowers.

Beat egg whites in a large bowl with mixer at high speed until foamy. Gradually add sugar and lemon extract. Beat at high speed until thickened. Dries hard.

blessed

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Celebrating one year of the blog (and Earl Gray teacookies)

18 Mar

Recipe source: The Kitchn

On this day last year, I unceremoniously published my first post on Spork, with no introduction, no mission statement, and very little notice to family and friends. I had just lost my job and had time on my hands. The photo quality was horrible and the layout was wordpress default. I wasn’t sure where I was going with this or how long my newfound hobby would last.

And over the past year, this blog has inspired me in so many ways. I’ve been driven to improve the quality of my photography (and photoshop skills – with a long way to go), and been drawn to books and the example of other blogs on food presentation. I’ve loved the challenge of posting a variety of recipes, and planned my own meals around what I think the blog could use. Through the “veg week” theme, I learned to have a more plant-friendly mindset, and have decreased my consumption of animal products ever since.

As I discovered gorgeous new food blogs on a near-daily basis and connected with other bloggers on twitter, a whole world of food enthusiasts unfolded before me. I’ve been inspired by the passion and creativity I’ve seen on these other sites, and how a lot of these bloggers are making a living sharing their love of food with the world.

I still feel that I am but a small blogger, with a free wordpress account, hardly known amid the sea of cooking content on the web. But I love my little hobby nonetheless, and I’m so grateful for all the feedback I have received – from friends in person, from comments on facebook, from my grandmother who is my #1 fan, and from the occasional stranger who finds me on twitter.

Earl Gray teacookies

So in the spirit of Spring and renewal, here is a recipe for a teacookie I love, from one of my favorite cooking blogs. This is called an ‘icebox cookie’ because you can freeze the dough and cut off just as much as you want to bake at any time. It’s a great way to have fresh cookies without having 42 fresh cookies, all by yourself. 🙂

Earl Gray tea

You can make this recipe with any type of tea you like, but I really enjoy the citrusy flavor of Earl Gray that shines through this cookie. In her notes, Ms. Durand recommends using the tea from teabags rather than loose-leaf, saying that it’s surprisingly more flavorful.

food processor cookie dough

The dough takes about two minutes to whip up in the food processor – score!

Earl Gray cookie dough

Once the dough has a nice, crumbly texture, you will turn it out on a sheet of wax or parchment paper and form it into a log. Chill for at least 30 minutes, or until you are ready to bake. The cookies will crisp up beautifully in a 375-degree oven after about 12 minutes.

I'm a little teapot, short and stout :)

Enjoy with a piping hot cup of tea. Hmmm… I wonder what flavor you’ll choose?

RECIPE – Earl Grey Tea Cookies
makes 2 dozen

1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon Earl Grey tea leaves*
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon water
1/2 cup unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 375°F. Pulse together all the dry ingredients in a food processor until the tea leaves are pulverized.

Add vanilla, water, and butter. Pulse together until a dough is formed. Form the dough into a log onto a piece of wax or parchment paper. Wrap the paper around and roll the log smooth. Freeze now, or chill for at least 30 minutes.
When chilled, slice the log into 1/3 inch thick pieces. Place on baking sheets and bake until the edges are just brown, about 12 minutes. Let cool on sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks.

*One would think that expensive loose leaf tea would be best in this recipe. But I’ve actually gotten the best flavor with tea from cheap bags that I’ve ripped open. I think the leaves are more fine and flaky.

[yellow] Spaghetti Squash, Lemon Snaps

13 Apr

Hey hey, it’s Day 3 of ROYGBIV Week! Today’s food is in recognition of the yellow chakra, which governs happiness. Yay!

Today’s chakra: Manipura – Jewel City (Solar Plexus)
Color: Yellow: happy & radiant
Location: Along the spine behind the region four fingers above the navel
Associated body organs: Stomach, liver, pancreas, gall bladder
Controlled emotions: Self-definition and ego identity

[For an explanation of the chakras, see Sunday’s post.]

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Do you know about spaghetti squash? Because you should. And by the end of reading this post, you will! Yay!

This is a really interesting veggie. You can treat it like pasta, which makes it a good substitute if you’re eating gluten-free or low-carb.

Check out my new favorite produce label:

Don't mess with Big Chuy!

First, you puncture the skin a few times around with a fork. Then slice it lengthwise, spoon out the seeds, and place it cut-side down on a baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes, or until you can poke in a knife with little resistance.

spaghetti squash

The texture inside is similar to a pumpkin

Let the squash cool enough to touch, but not completely. In the meantime, saute a chopped onion and a couple cloves of garlic. Normally I’d use a white or yellow onion, but I had a small white and half red in the fridge, so today’s dish is a rainbow in itself. Next, saute a chopped tomato and about 6 asparagus spears, just until warm. Remove from heat.

veggies

Now back to the squash. Using the tines of a fork, scrape the flesh into noodle-like strips.

spaghetti squash

You can pull almost to the outer skin of the squash, so don’t be shy. Really get in there.

Note: Sometimes you might see dark and gooey flesh on the top layer if you didn’t scrape deeply enough during seeding. I throw this part out. I’m sure it’s edible, but you’ll notice it’s very different from the light, stringy squash farther in.

Toss the veggies, feta and herbs with the squash and serve warm.

spaghetti squash & veggies

Verdict: I’m used to tossing spaghetti squash with pesto and found this recipe surprisingly blah. I think more feta and herbs might have helped. Because the squash is wet and I slightly overcooked my veggies, it was also too mushy. Baking the squash once it is all removed from the skin might help crisp and dry it up some. Must experiment…

1 spaghetti squash, halved lengthwise and seeded
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 chopped tomatoes
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
6 asparagus spears
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil or 1 tablespoon dried herbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a baking sheet. Place spaghetti squash cut sides down on the
prepared baking sheet, and bake 30 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a sharp knife can be inserted with only a little resistance.

Remove squash from oven, and set aside to cool enough to be easily handled.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Saute onion in oil until tender. Add garlic, and saute for 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, and cook only until tomatoes are warm.

Use a large spoon to scoop the stringy pulp from the squash, and place in a medium bowl. Toss with the sauteed vegetables, feta cheese and herbs. Serve warm.

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For dessert, I decided to make lemon snaps. These would make a great tea cookie. I found the recipe on allrecipes.com and changed it according to reader suggestions. One thing I found funny that no one mentioned – rather than making the 24 cookies I expected, the recipe made 72! Mmmm! More to share! Or not…

Mix flour, sugar, baking soda and salt. Then make a well and add in oil, lemon juice, lemon zest and vanilla. (I have never known what the purpose of the well is. Can someone tell me?) Mix it all together to form a dough.

lemon snap dough

When it got to this crumbly part, I had to use my hands.

Next, grease a baking sheet and spread dough by teaspoonfuls, 2 inches apart. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes for soft cookies, 12 minutes (edges slightly browned) for crispier ones.

lemon snap cookies

The lemon in these cookies was so perfect. So, so perfect. Love the zest. It made my tongue feel a wee tingly. I think next time I make this, I’ll add a pinch of cinnamon to the mix.

lemon snaps

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons lemon zest
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease cookie sheets.

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt. Make a well in the center and fill it with the oil, lemon juice, lemon zest and vanilla. Stir everything together until it forms a dough. Once the dough becomes crumbly, use your hands to thoroughly press everything together.

Drop cookie dough by teaspoonfuls, about 2 inches apart, onto the prepared cookie sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes in the preheated oven. Edges should be golden brown. Cool on racks and store in an airtight container.

Makes about 72 cookies.