Chai Spice Butter Cookies

Chai Spice Butter CookiesI am obsessed with fall this year. I miss the beautiful trees of the Northeast. I think I’m having major withdrawals. But luckily for me, my brother (in-law, but really, I don’t think of him as anything less than my brother), Ryan, just moved from the New York to Colorado and brought the beautiful trees with him! It seems like fall has now officially arrived.

I get the warm fuzzies when I think about fall (and winter, too, actually). It’s the same feeling I get when I’m around Ryan. I can’t even explain it – he’s just the type of person you want to be around. He has the most gentle smile and biggest bear hugs; his energy is something you just want to swim in. He’s my fall.

Here are a few of my favorite fuzzies for fall (in no particular order):

  • Scarves and hats.
  • Pumpkins.
  • Boots and jackets.
  • Picking apples!
  • My wedding anniversary, my engagement anniversary – they’re on the same day, just a year apart.
  • Soups and stews.
  • Fall color palette – oranges, reds, corals, browns, yellows. My fave.
  • Baking… anything.
  • Blankets and house shoes.
  • And these chai spice butter cookies – they just taste like fall.

Chai Spice Butter Cookies

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Dash of ground cloves

Dash of freshly ground black pepper

¾ cup powdered sugar

10 tablespoons butter, softened

1 tablespoon ice water

Combine the flour with the next five ingredients, stirring well with a whisk. Beat the sugar and butter in a medium bowl until light and fluffy. Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, beating at low speed until just combined (mixture will appear crumbly). Sprinkle dough with the ice water and mix with a fork.

Divide the dough in half and shape it into 2 6-inch logs. Wrap each log in plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour, or until very firm.

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Unwrap the dough logs and carefully cut each one into 12 slices using a serrated knife. Place the dough circles on baking sheets lined with parchment paper (or a sil pat), and bake for 15-17 minutes, or until firm to the touch and golden brown.

Cool on pan for 5 minutes before removing. Allow to cool the rest of the way on wire racks. Makes two dozen cookies.

Chocolate Cinnamon Biscotti: A Recipe for Comfort

chocolate cinnamon biscottiLast week, Rick and I found out that our neighbors’ dog, Sydney, had passed away. We were devastated – not only for the loss of an incredible dog, but also because, to us, this came as a surprise.

When we moved into the neighborhood last February, it took us a while to settle in and meet our neighbors. Rick and I would wave and smile at anyone in our neighborhood, but it wasn’t until early springtime (when the weather warmed up) that we actually began to connect with them. And Sydney and her “parents” made a lasting impression.

Our relationship with our closest neighbors reminds me of the show Home Improvement. (Ah, nostalgia…) Rick and I were constantly asking Chuck (Sydney’s dad) for advice on lawn care and making conversation over our back fence. Friendly smiles and countless laughs about our dogs were an everyday occasion. And Sydney would always greet us with an enthusiastic bark, a high-speed tail wag and a few whispers of please-pet-me-I’m-so-cute.

Sydney was my favorite dog in the neighborhood (besides our Linus, of course) and she was the bright spot of my evening and weekend yard work sessions. Every time I saw her, I would stop what I was doing, sit on the ground, take her precious face in my hands and tell what a good girl she was. (Chuck always patiently waited for me to get my pets and “lovins” in.) Sydney wasn’t young, by any means, but she seemed so full of life and that made me happy.

When we heard the sad, sad news about Sydney’s passing, I wanted to do something to comfort our neighbors. But nothing I thought of really felt right. A card just wasn’t enough, but flowers seemed inappropriate as well.

The truest way I know how to express my feelings and/or gratitude is through food (and I was certainly grateful for having known Sydney). I decided to make some chocolate cinnamon biscotti for Sydney’s parents. I figured that waking up without Sydney would be the roughest part of the day, and I wanted to make that time a little easier. Pairing the warm flavors of chocolate and cinnamon biscotti with my favorite Kona coffee, I hoped that this would be a recipe for comfort. Life without Sydney won’t be the same for our dear neighbors, but she will always live on in our hearts.

 

Chocolate Cinnamon BiscottiChocolate Cinnamon Biscotti

The New Complete Coffee Book, Sara Perry

(Makes 18-20 biscotti)

1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour

¾ cup sugar, plus 1 teaspoon for garnish

¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

¾ teaspoon baking powder

Pinch of salt

4 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature

3 egg whites

1 to 2 teaspoons water, if needed

¼ cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, cinnamon, baking powder and salt. Add the room temperature butter and mix until crumbly. Beat in 2 of the egg whites until a soft dough forms, about 1 minutes. (If the dough doesn’t come together, add 1 to 2 teaspoons water. Mine didn’t and I ended up adding the water.) Stir in the walnuts.

With lightly floured hands, gather the dough and place it on a lightly floured surface. Shape the dough into two 9-inch logs. Place the logs on the prepared baking sheet and flatten slightly to a 2-inch width.

In a cup or small bowl, lightly beat the remaining egg white until foamy. Brush the egg white over the logs and dust with the 1 teaspoon sugar. Bake logs until firm, about 35 minutes. Slide each log onto a wire rack to cool for 8 to 10 minutes.

(If you like your biscotti slightly chewy, disregard the next baking.)

Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees F. Transfer a log to a cutting board. Using a serrated knife, slice ½-inch-thick diagonal pieces. Place, cut-side down, on the baking sheet, and bake until crisp, about 15 minutes. Transfer from the baking sheet to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with the remaining log. Store in a tightly covered container.

Honey Lemon Shortbread with Lemon Thyme Ice Cream

Honey Lemon Shortbread with Lemon Thyme Ice CreamHonestly, I can’t stand ice cream sandwiches. I think a wet cookie is absolutely repulsive. I don’t even like dipping my cookies in milk. So, naturally, I would bring to you an ice cream sandwich recipe today… naturally. But this is a different kind of ice cream sandwich – different cookie, different ice cream. And we’re in the thick of summer, after all – the best time for ice cream.

I actually dreamed up this recipe while I was out in my garden pruning (yes, pruning) my unruly lemon thyme. She had become so lush and beautiful, but the pot hath overflowed! I thought, what could I possibly do with all of this lemon thyme? I could make ice cream, of course! In a previous post I made Bay Leaf Ice Cream, which was a hit among family and friends. So, I decided to give this “herbal” ice cream kick another go.

I chose the Honey Lemon Shortbread cookie for the sandwich because I thought the texture of the cookie would hold up well against my fear for “the sog,” as I like to call it. And since I used honey in this recipe, the end result is a much more moist shortbread cookie.

This post is kind of a two-for-one special because the ice cream and the cookie are both good as stand alone desserts. But when paired together, it’s the best ever ice cream sandwich! Seriously. Enjoy!

 

Honey Lemon Shortbread with Lemon Thyme Ice Cream 

Honey Lemon Shortbread CookiesHoney Lemon Shortbread Cookies

1 ½ cups flour

¼ cup superfine sugar

1 stick + 3 tablespoons butter (softened)

3 tablespoons honey

3 tablespoons cornstarch

½ teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon lemon zest

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Sift the dry ingredients together and set them aside. Cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, then add the dry ingredients, honey and lemon zest. Mix until just combined. The mixture will be quite dry and crumbly at this point.

Form the dough into a ball and divide it in half. (It’s easier to work with this amount at a time.) Dust your work surface and rolling pin with flour. (The honey will turn this dough into a softer, cookie-like consistency, but the flour from dusting turns it back into more of a shortbread-type cookie.) Roll out dough to a 1/4 – 1/2 inch thickness, then cut as desired and prick the tops with a fork. (I used a 2 1/2-inch scalloped round. You could also roll the dough into a log and slice the cookies to the desired thickness.) Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake 20-25 minutes or until pale golden.

 

Lemon Thyme Ice creamLemon Thyme Ice Cream

1 ½ cups heavy cream

1 cup whole milk

8-10 sprigs lemon thyme

3 eggs

¾ cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons cornstarch

¼ teaspoon vanilla bean paste

1 ½ teaspoons fresh lemon thyme leaves

Heat the milk, cream and sprigs of lemon thyme in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Watch this mixture carefully so it doesn’t scorch. Bring it up to a low boil and remove from heat. Cover, and allow the sprigs to steep in the hot milk mixture for 20 minutes.

In a large, non-reactive mixing bowl, combine the eggs, sugar and cornstarch, whisking together until thoroughly blended.

When the lemon thyme sprigs are finished steeping, remove them from the milk. Slowly and carefully temper the eggs by pouring in the milk mixture in a steady stream, whisking constantly, until all has been incorporated into the egg mixture. (If the eggs scramble at this point, run the mixture through a fine mesh sieve.

Return the custard base to the saucepan and set over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Be sure to make contact with the bottom of the pan to prevent scorching or scrambling the eggs. Heat custard until it thickens (coats the back of a spoon) and just begins to bubble. Remove from heat immediately. Stir in vanilla bean paste.

Pour custard into a bowl using a fine mesh strainer to remove any bits from the bottom of the pan. Stir in fresh lemon thyme leaves. Allow to cool at room temperature for about 15-20 minutes, then refrigerate the custard 3 hours or overnight (preferable).

When you’re ready to churn the custard (after freezing the ice cream bowl), follow the instructions for your ice cream maker. (Typically, you will have to churn the custard for 20-30 minutes for this amount.) Pop it back in the freezer for a couple of hours before serving.

How to assemble The Best Ever Ice Cream Sandwich:

Make sure your ice cream has hardened completely. If it is still pretty soft, you will have a major mess on your hands. Take about 1/3 cup of the ice cream and spread on the bottom cookie. Then top with the other cookie and enjoy!

 

All-American Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate Chip Cookie StackAhhh, the Fourth of July. Fireworks, family and food. I thought about doing a red, white and blue themed post for this very special occasion, but honestly, I just wasn’t in the mood. Then I thought about a grilling post. But let’s face it; I am the stereotypical woman when it comes to the grill: I leave it to the men (for the most part).

Wanting to be festive, I perused the grocery store aisles for inspiration. And what came to me were chocolate chip cookies. I couldn’t stop thinking about those silly chocolate chip cookies! But when you think about it, how much more patriotic can you get than with America’s favorite cookie?

There is much debate over what makes a perfect chocolate chip cookie, but really, you can’t go wrong with this old favorite. This is a very easy recipe – an adaptation from the Martha Stewart collection. These cookies are crispy around the edges and chewy in the middle, not to mention dripping with chocolate. Divine. Happy Fourth of July!

 

All-American Chocolate Chip Cookies

*Adapted from a Martha Stewart recipe

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 cup packed light-brown sugar

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

2 large eggs

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1 cup milk chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter with both sugars; beat on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the salt, vanilla, and eggs (one at a time). Beat until well mixed, about 1 minute. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and baking soda. Add flour mixture to the egg mixture and mix until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Drop heaping tablespoon-size balls of dough on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. (My cookies spread out quite a bit, so leave some room in between them!)

Bake until cookies are golden around the edges, but still soft in the center. (I’m not sure if it is the Colorado altitude or my oven, but it took my cookies about 18 minutes per sheet to bake.) Remove the cookies from the oven, and let them cool on the baking sheet 1 to 2 minutes. Then transfer to a wire rack, and let cool completely.