Thursday, 27 June 2013

Pecan 'Shortbread' Cookies

Whoa! I bet you didn't expect another post so soon. I didn't, but I did some baking so I thought I might as well tell you about it.

This past weekend my club hosted the Berlin Open Lacrosse Tournament and since I love it when I have an excuse to bake cookies (it feels slightly ridiculous baking four cookies just for myself, I would rather bake two dozen for a group of people), I made cookies on Saturday and Sunday. The first kind were orange essence and almond cookies which I might tell you about at a later point. I'll tell you about the second kind today because I liked them better.

Think super light shortbread studded with pecans.
Think Mexican wedding cookies that haven't been rolled in icing sugar.

And now imagine eating one of those cookies after a semi-late night (cos I'm old) and a 9am game. Those cookies seriously hit the spot.

What can I tell you about those cookies...they come together in a pinch and are as amazing with a cup of tea on a cold afternoon as they are being eaten outdoors with some stale soda water. Oh, and the dough keeps in the fridge for at least 4 days (I used up the remaining dough last night so I don't know whether it would have kept even longer).
Let's make some cookies, shall we?

Pecan 'Shortbread' Cookies
225g Butter, cold, cut into small pieces.
225g All-Purpose Flour
25g Starch (I used potato starch, cornflour or rice flour will work just as well)
30g Icing Sugar
1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
1/2 tsp Salt
50g Pecans, toasted and broken into small pieces

75g Granulated Sugar (for rolling the cookies in, don't worry, you won't use all of it)

Cut the butter into the remaining six ingredients. Think shortcrust pastry. Work fast. You can also use the paddle attachment of a food processor. Either way, don't work the dough longer than until it is only just starting to come together. Do you remember the last time someone served you a really gross pie? Do you wanna be that person with the crap cookies? So don't overmix the dough :)

Cover the bowl with cling film and refrigerate for at least two hours or overnight. I prepared the dough in the evening and made the cookies in the morning. You have just enough time while they bake to grab some breakfast.

Preheat the oven to 175˚C and line preferably two baking sheets with parchment. I only have one and that worked just fine but it just means there is more waiting time involved when you have to work with two batches...

Form heaped tablespoons of dough into balls and roll them in the granulated sugar.
Arrange the unbaked cookies on the baking sheet, leaving about 4cm between the cookies. Oh, and you also have an option - the cookies barely spread - if you don't want them to be small mounds of cookie awesomeness, now is the time to flatten them slightly.
The cookies will need between 15 and 20 minutes in the oven. If you are using two baking sheets, rotate them after 10 minutes.

They are finished when the cookies feel firm and the edges are golden brown.
Allow the cookies to cool slightly before transferring them to a wire rack. If you move them too soon they might fall apart. Though, that gives you more reason to eat them while they are cooling down. With a glass of milk, or some coffee...

I hope you have a fantastic rest of your week and an even greater weekend!
I know mine will be - my friends Judith and Mimi have invited me over for pork barbecue...I'm trying to convince them that they want to do us all a favour and go for some vinegar-based-barbecue-sauce awesomeness...but even if they don't I'm sure it's still gonna be awesome!

That brings me to a question I have been meaning to ask you guys for a while - what's your favourite barbeque sauce? Are you amazed by all things from North Carolina or are you (shock, horror) more a fan of the tomato and molasses further west? What's your favourite kind?

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Strawberry Milk

Growing up we didn't make milkshakes, we made fruit-milk. Banana, strawberry, raspberry, I think we even tried cherry once. Banana tended to win because my sister and I didn't have to try and convince our mum that some sugar would really help this not-quite-sweet-enough strawberry milk. Also, overripe bananas seemed to be sitting around way more often than somewhat overripe strawberries.
Somehow my parents never told us that there was this other mythical drink - The Milkshake. I'm sure I must have seen it on menues but I didn't have a milkshake until I was just about to graduate from college.
The first time I remember drinking a milkshake was pretty much exactly 5 years ago waiting for a train at Union Station in DC. The only way I can describe that time in DC is sweltering. Nobody hat prepared me for the heat. I had expected hot but not swamp-hot. I remember writing a postcard to my aunt telling her about how I had started to really appreciate coffee-shops for their airconditioning.
So after 4 days of living off iced coffee and coffee cake (another thing I discovered on that trip), trying to cram as much US history in as possible, I was standing at the station waiting for my train to Philadelphia (for more heat and even better history) and the humidity was starting to get to me.
And then I saw this sign at the Ben & Jerry's Stall. I could have a milkshake made from milk and any kind of Ben & Jerry's ice cream I wanted :)
I'm gonna leave it at this - an addiction was born that got even worse when I had my first malt shake a few years later at Ruby's at Chrystal Cove Beach.
Anyway, yesterday I went back to basics and made strawberry milk. It's hot in Berlin at the moment. It's especially hot in my office. So, when I got home, I made a big glass of strawberry milk. It was as good as I remembered, if not better because I added vanilla essence. It also made me realise - as good as milk shakes are, strawberry milk is better when it's really hot and all you want to do is cool down.
I'm giving you the recipe below for the quantities not for the single instruction :)

Strawberry Milk
100g Strawberries, hulled
200ml Milk
1tsp Vanilla Essence
Some Ice-Cubes (optional)

Blend everything together until smooth :)

Let's see, strawberry milk goes incredibly well with hot summer days, popcorn (made the perfect dinner yesterday), vanilla ice cream, non-chocolate cookies, and lazy evenings :)

I hope you have a fantastic weekend! I will be watching lacrosse, playing lacrosse and enjoying the weather at a tournament my club is hosting. Good times!
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