Ginger: Cookies and Cider
The rainy winter season is upon us. The one upside to the rain, snow and cold are the winter spices. My favourite is ginger. Ginger is comforting and uplifting all at once. The peak season for fresh ginger is march to september, but I always find myself craving it in desserts and drinks in the winter.
Chocolate dipped ginger cookies
Ingredients: 1-1/4 cups (300 mL) granulated sugar, 2/3 cup (150 mL) vegetable oil, 1/4 cup (50 mL) fancy molasses, 1 egg, 1-3/4 cups (425 mL) all-purpose flour, 1-1/2 tsp (7 mL) ground ginger, 1 tsp finely chopped fresh ginger, 1 tsp (5 mL) cinnamon, 1 tsp (5 mL) baking powder, 1 tsp (5 mL) baking soda, 1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt.
Preparation: In large bowl, whisk together 1 cup (250 mL) of the sugar, oil, molasses and egg until smooth.
In separate bowl, whisk together flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt ; stir into sugar mixture.
Shape by rounded tablespoonfuls (15 mL) into balls; roll in remaining sugar to coat. Place 2 inches (5 cm) apart on parchment paper–lined or greased rimless baking sheets.
Bake in top and bottom thirds of 375°F (190°C) oven, rotating and switching pans halfway through, until cookies spread out and tops crack, about 12 minutes. Let cool on pans on racks for 10 minutes; transfer to racks and let cool completely. (Make-ahead: Layer between waxed paper in airtight container and store for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 1 month.)
Tip: You can spice up this classic by adding 1/3 cup (75 mL) finely chopped crystallized ginger to the dry ingredients.
Melt semi-sweet chocolate in a double boiler. Dip half of each cookie in to melted chocolate. Let cool on parchment paper.
As the above recipe shows I can’t resist putting chocolate on everything. I also like it inside the cookie as well so I tried out Martha Stewart’s chocolate chip ginger cookies, they did not disappoint.
Chocolate chip ginger cookies
1 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1/2 cup dark-brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup unsulfured molasses
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup granulated sugar
Directions: Line two baking sheets with parchment. Chop chocolate into 1/4-inch chunks; set aside. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and cocoa.In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and grated ginger until whitened, about 4 minutes. Add brown sugar; beat until combined. Add molasses; beat until combined.In a small bowl, dissolve baking soda in 1 1/2 teaspoons boiling water. Beat half of flour mixture into butter mixture. Beat in baking-soda mixture, then remaining half of flour mixture. Mix in chocolate; turn out onto a piece of plastic wrap. Pat dough out to about 1 inch thick; seal with wrap; refrigerate until firm, 2 hours or more.Heat oven to 325 degrees.
Roll dough into 1 1/2- inch balls; place 2 inches apart on baking sheets. Refrigerate 20 minutes. Roll in granulated sugar. Bake until the surfaces crack slightly, 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes; transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Ginger Apple Cider
A couple of weeks I went to Finch’s for lunch on a very rainy day. They were serving the perfect rainy day drink: ginger apple cider. I have been making pot after pot of ginger apple cider since that day.
I heat apple juice, cinnamon sticks, several chunky pieces of fresh ginger, and a dash of powdered ginger, cinnamon and cloves. I let it simmer for about 45 minutes to an hour to let all the flavours melt, then drink up. It is perfect for sitting by the fireplace or watching an old movie on a raining evening. Don’t forget to enjoy a cookie with your cup of cider.
Chocolate chip Cheesecake
Recently my co-workers needed a bit of a pick me after the onset of winter. We decided sweets were the answer in the form of a cheesecake taste test.
The competitors were Trees, Giovane and the Emerald cafe. Trees advertises it’s cheesecake as the best in the city, however it turned out to be the least favourite in my office. The winner by far was the smooth and creamy cheesecake at Giovane Cafe. The results were no surprise, in my opinion Giovane Cafe can do no wrong. Every thing they make is delicious and delectable.
Once I had cheesecake on my brain…or more accurately my taste buds I had to have more. The taste test was based on good ol’ New York style cheesecake, but I needed more. More chocolate to be exact. I went for a simple chocolate chip cheesecake with gram cracker crust.
I like making cheesecake in little ramekins so I don’t have to fuss with making the crust absolutely perfect. Cheesecake is a great desert for entertaining or just a snack because it is super quick to make, the hard part is letting it cool and set after baking, I always want to dive right in.
For the last month at work all I have been hearing is ‘Nutta Butta, Nutta Butta, Nutta Butta.’ I had never heard of a Nutter Butter before. It turns out there are two forms a Nutter Butter can take. The first is a packaged American cookie snack.
The second Nutter Butter is a cookie sandwich made with peanut butter oat cookies and peanut. My friend Andie had the Nutter Butter cookie sandwich at Bouchon Bakery in Napa, California. Hearing her describe this cookie made me drool, which is why we decided that I should try to recreate it. Luckily Andie found the recipe in a 2006 New York Times article.
So I started by baking a billion cookies:
The recipe made a lot more cookies than I was expecting, though I think I made my cookies a bit too small. Then I went about trying to match all the cookies with their perfect partner. Putting the tiny cookies together and the thick big cookies together and so on. My cookies often don’t turn out perfectly uniform in size and shape. Next step: adding a layer of super sweet peanut butter frosting in-between the cookies.
I found that with the recipe I had a lot of cookies left over after I used the frosting up. These were turned in to a fabulous midnight snack, ice cream sandwiches!
I found the cookies on their own were not that exciting. They are not very sweet and there is not a strong enough peanut taste to call them a peanut butter cookie. I did like the crunch the crushed up peanuts provided. The frosting middle to this cookie sandwich is a well balanced pairing. The frosting is overwhelmingly sweet on its own, but it works well to brighten up the cookies and to add a creamy sweet punch.
I ended up with a lot of cookies sandwiches, even after they were thoroughly taste tested at work. So I started to experiment with some of the left overs on how to elevate this classic cookie to a new level. The result was a rich chocolate ganache topped Nutter Butter. Now that’s what i’m talking about!
I saw this recipe on one of Jamie Oliver’s cooking shows recently. It is super easy and came out tasting very sweet and yummy. A nice post lunch treat. I think I will have to make these again next summer for a picnic, they seem like the perfect snack for lying in the sun on a plaid blanket.
The recipe uses jam as the fruit filling. I decided I wanted more texture and more fruit chunks so I mixed in some frozen berries. This was a bit of a waste of time as it all turned to mush in the oven anyway, but it did provide more of a mixed berry flavour.
The filling is easily recognized as jam when you taste them so it would be hard to play these off as anything fancy. For personal consumption however they are a nice simple sweet treat.
Peanut Butter Surprise Brownies
My lovely friend Monica passed the recipe on to me a few months ago. I can’t believe it has taken me so long to make these yummy little brownie bites. They are so tasty and contain my favourite thing: Peanut butter!
This is the easiest recipe ever! 4 ingredients total under 20 minutes of prep and cooking time.
If for some reason you don’t have 20 minutes to make these chewy snacks but you still need to satisfy your chocolate brownie craving I wanted to provide an alternative recommendation. Surprisingly I don’t have a favourite brownie in the Vancouver. I decided to do a mini brownie taste yes with my work colleges. The contenders were Bonchaz,Sciue and Creme de la Crumb.
For me the clear winner was Bonchaz. Their Brownie was creamy, gooey, and super rich with lots of fudge. My colleagues unfortunately disagreed as Bonchaz received the least votes, only 25%.
The most popular choice with 42% of the vote was Creme de la Crumb’s brownie bar. It was soft and crumbly on the inside with crunchy crust. I missed the chocolate soft topping that I usually expect from a brownie. Though the ones I made didn’t have that topping either so I should not be so picky.
2nd place went to Scuie, I really enjoyed the chocolate topping on their brownie but found the brownie bar to be slightly dry. The voters seemed to really enjoy the walnuts in Scuie’s brownie, I agree they added a nice crunch and that great walnut chocolate flavour pairing.
Now back to the homemade mini brownies:
The best part about these brownies is the peanut butter surprise in the middle. I kept the recipe’s suggestion of mini reese’s cups but you can put in any of your favourite mini sweet treats.
1/2 cup Nutella
1 large egg
5 Tbsp. all-purpose flour (whole wheat pastry flour would probably work well too)
1/4 cup chopped hazelnuts
12 mini peanut butter cups
or any other mini yummy thing for the middles
Heat oven to 350F
Prepare a 12 cup mini muffin pan with paper or foil liners or spray with baking spray (pam, etc. will make the edges a little crispy and creates a nice contrast to the gooey middle)
Whisk Nutella and egg til very smooth.
Add flour and mix well with fork.
Spoon batter in muffin cups by teaspoonful, approx. 3/4 full.
*If using chopped nuts sprinkle on top.
*If putting a yummy in the middle then fill each muffin cup with approx. 1/2 tsp. of batter then press yummy in centre of batter. Place remaining 1/2 tsp. of batter over top of the yummy bit.
Bake until toothpick inserted comes out with wet gooey crumbs, approx. 10 mins.
Remove from pan and allow to cool on rack.
Peanut Butter Cheesecakes
Last week my fabulous friend Delia posted a link with a recipe for mini peanut butter cheesecakes! Chocolate, peanut butter, and cheesecake combined! I had to try out this dish. The recipe is fairly simple and I had no problems with execution (other then being covered in chocolate almost up to my elbows at one point, but I didn’t mind.) however my mini cheesecakes looked nothing like the pretty pictures on the recipe. The taste on the other hand was just what I wanted: a bit of crunch from the gram crust, creamy peanut butter cheese cake and a sweet creamy chocolate top!
If you are not in a baking mood but are looking for a similar peanut butter and chocolate fix you have to try Giovane’s peanut butter hedgehog cake. This cake is seriously to die for!!
For my birthday last year my 2 favourite guys surprised me with this cake and I have been completely addicted to it ever since. The peanut butter cream filling melts in your mouth and is so perfectly paired with a thick layer of dark chocolate ganache. Just talking about it makes me want to run over to Giovane’s right now for a slice.