Saturday, April 28, 2012

When Is a Cookie Not a Cookie?

You have a cookie, you decide to grind it into a cream (think peanut butter), and then you spread it onto bread and eat it.  Sounds a little odd, doesn't it?  Over the past couple of months, I had been coming across mentions of this Biscoff spread on other food blogs.  Yes, it piqued my curiosity.  Lotus Bakeries (those crazy Belgians!) took their Biscoff cookie, speculoos, and turned it into a creamy spread.  They certainly don't have a monopoly on speculoos, but they did take it that extra step.  I filed this bit of information in my brain and went along my merry way.

Fast-forward to a couple of weeks ago.  It's a glorious Saturday afternoon, I'm on the errand run and while my focus should be heading to Petco to find sustenance for the felines, I take a detour into Cost Plus (Hey, I can't help that they're right next to each other!).  This is dangerous territory for me as it is one of my favourite stores.  I am a kid in a candy store here, with their soaps, kitchen gadgets, fancy notebooks, and most importantly, their food and drink section.  They carry foods from all over the world and have a great wine and beer section.  I used to not be able to get out of a Cost Plus without spending at least $50, but I've reined myself in considerably over the past couple of years.  So I'm innocently walking down the aisles in the food section, looking at imported pastas, olives, cookies, and jams...and guess what I spot?  Yes, Biscoff spread.  I snatched that baby up and didn't even debate on whether it was a necessity or indulgence.  I had to try it.  I am also happy to report that I got out of the store only spending $13.00.  Biscoff spread, Italian dry salame, and violet gum...that's a good haul!

No time was wasted once I got home and took a spoon to that jar of Biscoff.  It doesn't look any different than peanut butter, but the taste, well, that is something else.  Caramelly with brown sugar, overtones of ginger and cinnamon...I get it!  I also had to stop myself from eating it by the spoonfuls.  Biscoff on the no-knead bread I'm obsessed with baking??  Wow.  Limiting myself to one slice?  Not easy.  I screwed the lid back on and hid it away before I really ate the whole jar in one sitting.  But it has not been out of my mind.  I really wanted to bake with it.  I had seen recipes for Biscoff cupcakes, frostings, and cakes.  It was earlier this week while at work that I thought 'banana' and 'Biscoff!'

Well, you know what happened on my day off.  Yes, Biscoff and Banana cookies.  I ate four.  I took most of them into work the next day because I would easily eat all of them myself.  They were gone in no time thanks to my co-workers.  Know what I had for breakfast today?  Yep, cookies.  I will unabashedly tell you that I love these cookies.  They are a very cakey cookie.  Soft and dense with a nice balance of caramelly brown sugar and banana.  With a cup of strong coffee they are fantastic.  I don't see it as a tea cookie, but I guess it could be.  I love tea, but to me it's dainty.  This is not a dainty cookie, it's a hearty cookie.

Seek out Biscoff.  I also found out that Trader Joe's makes a version called 'Cookie Butter.'  I will be looking into that too.  Lotus Bakeries makes it easy to purchase online, as does

Banana Biscoff Cookies
(Adapted from King Arthur Flour's Basic Drop Cookie)
Makes about 2 dozen 2-inch cookies

1/2 cup butter
1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed (light or dark)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 egg
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup Biscoff spread
1 medium ripe banana

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Line baking sheet with parchment and set aside.  In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter, sugars, salt, vanilla, baking soda, and baking powder until creamy.  Add the egg and mix until fluffy.  Add flour, Biscoff, and banana (break up with fingers).  Mix until batter is well-combined and smooth.  Drop by tablespoons onto baking sheet about 1 1/2 inch apart.   Bake for 14-16 minutes or until edges are golden brown.  Transfer to wire rack to cool.  

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Note Swap

I love food.  I love art.  How cool is it to have the opportunity to bring the two together in a medium that has to fit in an envelope?  That's the objective of the Art House Co-op's 'The Note Swap.'  Art that fits in an envelope.  Thanks to my friend, Greg, who posted a link to the Note Swap on his Facebook page, I decided to check it out and signed up for it.

You should also check out Greg's artwork.  He does incredible mixed media and collage work.  Find him at Greg Ephemera Trout.  I know my life is richer with him (and his art) in it.

I have become a vintage cookbook collector.  Remember, more than three of anything becomes a collection.  Don't ask me how many vintage cookbooks I've amassed over the past couple of years.  I especially love the ones from the 1950's and 60's.  The graphics and photos are great, as are some of the foods.  I like seeing how tastes have changed over the years, and to see what a hostess could have made for a cocktail party or Christmas dinner.  Some recipes stand up over time, others not so much.  French Endive Salad, yes...Turkey-Tomato Aspic Ring...doubtful.  I sometimes make note cards from the cookbooks, especially those that are in less than decent shape from time.  This is what my contribution for The Note Swap came to be:

My love of stag imagery included, I can only wonder if the lucky recipient of the Indian Tapioca Pudding recipe will actually attempt to make it.  Hmmmm...'Indian meal.'

Stop by for coffee later...the Luncheon Cake will be ready.

A Fitting Name

If I could, I would spend more hours of the day than not cooking and baking away in my kitchen.  I do spend a  lot of time in the kitchen, much more than gets a blog post of the results.  I figure you're not going to want to see everything that I eat, especially since I can eat almost the same things every day.  I don't want to bore you, and I like to share the things that are new to me.

But yesterday I had leftovers for dinner.  I know, I know...there is very little exciting about leftovers, you're thinking.  And I am inclined to agree with you, but it wasn't about being exciting.  It was about a suitable name. You know that I am hoping to have a food-based business up and running sometime in the future.  (The future defined as later this year.)  The name is Semplice Gourmet...'semplice' is Italian for 'simple,' and it really does define how I feel about cooking.  Not boring, but good, simple, and delicious.  I am not one for fancy foods, or eating at 3-star Michelin rated restaurants.  Mind you, had someone offered me a trip to Spain and a seat at El Bulli, I would not have turned it down, but I am the kind of person who loves a good old-school Italian restaurant and likes to seek out a secret neighbourhood diner where they have a killer patty melt.

So I made some lentils the other day.  Do you have any idea what one cup of dried lentils produces?  A whole lot of cooked lentils.  Lentils for days and days and days...on top of a spinach salad, with sauteed mushrooms on top of polenta, and what turned into a very simple dinner the other night:  with orzo, zucchini, tomatoes, red peppers and a sprinkling of shredded mozzarella.  Even the vegetables were leftover from the previous night's  dinner.

Semplice...if only everything in life was just as easy.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Feeling (Un)kneaded

Every now and then I believe that a little indulgence is good for you.  It doesn't have to be big or expensive.  A chocolate bar (with no guilt attached), a new lipstick, or a latte from Starbucks.  I bought myself a little indulgence.  A 14-lb indulgence in the shape of a cast iron Dutch oven.  I know I mentioned it in a previous post and I'm sorry, but I'm still excited about it.  I can make so much in it:  soup, chili, stews, roast chicken, and the primary reason I bought it...bread.

I was having breakfast at a friend's last year and she brought out a homemade ciabatta that was outstanding.  I asked her about it, and she told me how easy it knead, bake it in a Dutch oven and there you go!  So, from that day on, acquiring a Dutch oven was in my plans.  I also checked into the no-knead bread baking and discovered Jim Lahey.  This is where I discovered how easy baking bread can be.  Past attempts have been okay, but fantastic.  You mix the ingredients in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and for at least 12 hours, let the yeast do its work.  It doesn't get easier than this.  I was so thrilled with the first attempt that I have two bowls sitting on the stove now, rising away, that will be bread by this evening.

May I make a suggestion?  Dig out the Dutch oven that you haven't used in ages, say 'thank you' to Jim Lahey, and bake bread.   Don't wait for it to cool and don't forget the butter, plenty of butter.

Click here for the link to Jim Lahey's recipe.

From a sticky, gooey, yeasty mess... deliciousness.