Thursday, November 3, 2011

Chocolate Treasure Cookies

me with my friend Chelsi at
her birthday party!
For one of my friend's recent birthdays, I gave her a Magnolia Bakery Cookbook as a gift. I suspected it would be a hit since I know that it's on the top of her itinerary every time she comes to New York City! When I visited her at home later during my visit, we decided to bake something from the new book. I read out the recipes in the car, and when I said "Chocolate Drop Cookies with Pecans, Heath Bar, and Vanilla Chips" we both paused, and said, "Oooooh." Sold!

Here's a link to the recipe that we made, which is easy and delicious:

Chelsi at work with the mixer

single-bowl mixing
I learned two things that night. First, I learned that I should procure: a cookbook stand, a nut chopping mill (perhaps a unitasker, but amazing!), and a cookie scoop (smaller than an ice cream scoop and incredibly useful in baking). Second, I learned that though my friend has a personality that seems very by-the-rules, this does not apply to recipes! We estimated through our measurements (and talked about starting a cooking show called Baking by Estimation, or something like that), and (and this is the big part)... we did not mix the dry and wet ingredients in two separate bowls and then put them together. Instead, we put all the wet ingredients into a big bowl, mixed them together, then sprinkled over the dry ingredients one by one, and then mixed it all together. My friend seems to think that the separate bowls is a myth (or just to encourage people to sift their ingredients, but one can easily do this manually over the wet ingredients)... and I have to say that I didn't taste a lick of difference in the resulting cookies! So from now on, until I have a recipe that fails, I'm going to save on the extra dish and try my friend's trick!
the finished product!


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Lille Tarte Maroilles (cheese tart)

enjoying Veuve Cliquot with my friend Gwenaelle,
who first introduced me to the tarte Maroilles
When I was in Paris, one of my French friends invited me to a dinner party at her apartment overlooking the Cathedral of St. Vincent et Paul. It was a lovely evening all around, but I particularly remember the tart that she made. Maroilles cheese, local to Lille, has a tremendous scent raw, but once cooked topped with a breaded crust, it mellows out into a delicious flavor. Heavenly.

I made this tart for my friend Danielle
in Bethesda!
I'd given up all hope of making this tart on my own (where does one find Maroilles cheese in America, anyway?), until I visited the farmer's market in Bethesda, MD with a friend. We stopped over at the cheese stall, and tried a few varieties. When I confessed my passion for creamy cheeses (a French triple creme named delice de nostalgie is still a favorite - more commonly found as delice de Bourgogne), the shop keeper had us try their creamy cow's milk cheese... which totally resembled a Maroilles. While not quite as strong, the scent and flavor were the closest I've found to this unique cheese. So I bought some and tried out a tart. It was, though not quite what my Lille friend made... delicious!

Tarte Maroilles (adapted from BBC)

2/3 cup warm milk
1 packet (7 grams) of yeast (I used easy rise)
look at the cheese dripping down! yum!
2 tsp sugar
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp nutmeg
1/4 lb of stinky cow cheese (Maroilles, preferably, or a strong brie can suit, though the flavor will not be as strong), cubed (be sure to remove the rind as well)
2 eggs
1 200 ml container of creme fraiche (sour cream or Greek yogurt will do in a pinch; even though it belongs in the dairy section near the sour cream, you can often find this in the specialty cheese section at your grocer)

fresh out of the oven! 
1. Whisk warm milk, yeast, and sugar together.
2. Beat egg and add it to the mixture.
3. Add the flour, and stir until dough comes together.
4. Knead dough on a floured surface for about 5 minutes.
5. Place dough in bowl and leave covered for an hour to rise (I still find the results so cool!)
6. Preheat oven to 375.
7. Roll out dough until 1/2" thick and place in a greased circular pie pan (or square if you prefer).
8. Thoroughly mix the cubed cheese, 1 beaten egg, the nutmeg and the creme fraiche (or replacement) in a bowl. You might season as well with salt and pepper and herbs de provence.
9. Top the dough layer with the cheese layer.
10. Bake for 30 minutes and serve warm.

we enjoyed the leftovers with a simple salad.