Showing posts with label cookies. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cookies. Show all posts

Feb 12, 2018

Chinese Almond Cookies

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Celebrate Chinese New Year with Chinese Almond cookies! These delightfully crisp treats have a melt-in-your-mouth texture with the sweet, creamy flavor of almonds. A true dupe for the delicious after meal cookies you're often be served at Cantonese restaurants.

Chinese New Year Parade in San Francisco's Chinatown
Chinese New Year or Spring Festival (春節) is this Friday, February 16th! Around the Lunar New Year, everything is about wishing prosperity, good fortune, good luck and long life to your loved ones and those near you. One should avoid crying children, cleaning clothes, sweeping floors, and using scissors on this auspicious day. I thought it'd be great to bake some cookies in honor of this festival so I asked a Chinese college chum of mine for her favorite New Year's recipes. One of the recipes my friend recommended was this recipe from Taste of Home.



I thought it a bit odd that an authentic tasting Chinese cookie would be found in a publication specializing in Midwestern cuisine and based in Greendale, Wisconsin. But my friend Eileen said it was "spot on" if you doubled the almond flavoring and added 15 drops of yellow food coloring. And she was correct! These almond cookies taste just like the ones in Chinese bakeries and Cantonese restaurants. The recipe is quite simple and the dough is very easy to work with. I did not have yellow food coloring so I did not use it. I used 2 teaspoons of LorAnn's Almond Baking Emulsion instead of 1 teaspoon almond extract. (If you are looking for an excellent quality halal/alcohol-free almond flavoring that doesn't fade when baking or go bitter - I highly recommend LorAnn's Almond Baking Emulsion.) Instead of topping the cookies with sliced almonds I pressed one whole almond into each cookie. If you wanted to be really posh you could use whole blanched almonds. The egg wash gives the tops of the cookies a beautiful crackled and glazed look while helping the almonds to adhere. If you wanted a crispier cookie I'd suggest using vegetable shortening rather than butter. All in all, this was a great recipe- came together simply, rolled easily, baked beautifully (even with the occasional power outage and an erratically heating toaster oven), and tastes wonderful! Off to the recipe: 

Ingredients:
1 C butter or vegetable shortening, softened to room temperature
1 C sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 egg
 1 to 2 tsp almond flavoring
3 C flour
40 almonds
For egg wash:
1 egg white
1/2 tsp water

Here's what to do:
1) In a large bowl, cream together butter, sugar, salt, and baking powder. Beat in egg and almond extract. 
 
2) Gradually add flour to creamed mixture. Chill dough for at least an hour or overnight. 
 
 
3) When ready to bake preheat oven to 325F/180C.  Roll into 1-inch balls. Place 2 inches apart on parchment or silicone mat lined baking sheets. Flatten to a generous 1/4 inch with the bottom of a glass covered in cling film. 
 
 
4) In a small bowl, beat egg white and water. Brush egg wash over over cookies. Place an almond on top of each cookie and press down to flatten slightly. Bake for 16-20 minutes or until edges and bottoms are lightly browned. Cool for 2 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks. Yield: about 3 dozen. 
 
 
 
Hope you try this recipe and love it as much as my family does!
Until then: 
迎春接福  
Yíngchúnjiēfú  
"Greet the New Year and encounter happiness" 

Calmly Currying on,
Bibi

Dec 24, 2017

Vegan Peppernuts (Päpanät)

Peppernuts (also called Pfeffernüsse or päpanät) are a tiny cookie baked in Mennonite homes during the Christmas season. This recipe for peppernuts is egg-free and vegan. They're deliciously crunchy, delightfully spicy, and highly addictive little cookies that are perfect for gift giving during the holidays! 


My mother is descended from the Plautdietsch-speaking Mennonites who left the steppes of Russia in 1874 and chose the Kansas prairie for their new home. The modest home my great-grandfather Jacob Krause built in 1874 is part of the Mennonite Heritage and Agricultural Museum near Goessel, Kansas. Peppernuts are found in various forms across Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Belgium. In Plautdiestch they are called päpanät (pronounced pay-pa-nate). The name peppernut does not mean it contains nuts, though some varieties do. The crunchy cookies are roughly the size of nuts and can be eaten by the handful, which may account for the name.

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Traditional Mennonite recipes for peppernuts usually contain beaten egg. Eggs are not considered suitable for vegetarians in South Asia so through a little trial and error I came up with this egg-free adaptation of my aunt's original recipe. My vegan version of her recipe is just as flavorful, crunchy, long-lasting, delicious and sturdy as the Mennonite original. Mine may be a tad spicier in keeping with the South Asian influences though. Although these little cookies are not the prettiest of holiday treats- they are truly addictive. It's really hard to stop eating them, once you start. You are warned! Nary a Christmas goes by that I don't bake a huge batch of these for friends, neighbors, and even the Imam!


Every Mennonite family has a slightly different recipe for peppernuts. The variations are multitude. Some use butter or vegetable shortening. Some use corn syrup, molasses, or golden syrup. Some use brown sugar and some use white sugar. Spice mixtures may or may not include black pepper, white pepper, or even no pepper at all! One thing that is constant in Mennonite recipes is star anise- not ground anise, not anise oil, not anise extract - it has to be STAR ANISE. I have to say that star anise does have a tad extra sweetness as well as a slightly root beer-ish note in addition to the licorice flavor of plain anise. I also like the warmth of black pepper and the citrusy zing of green cardamom in my peppernuts. Anyway you spice them, I really hope you give this unique little cookie a try! No doubt they'll become a favorite made year after year in your home too!

Ingredients:
1&1/2 C vegetable shortening or margarine*
1&1/2 C sugar
3/4 C golden syrup or corn syrup**
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground star anise
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg or allspice
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground green cardamom
1&1/2 tsp baking powder
5 C flour
extra flour to roll out dough

Here's what to do:
1) Melt shortening or margarine in a large saucepan. Add sugar, syrup, and salt to melted oil and bring just to a boil. Remove from heat and allow mixture cool to room temperature.
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 2) Combine ground spices, baking powder, and flour in large mixing bowl. Stir until well mixed. I use my stand mixer to do this.

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3) Add cooled syrup mixture to the flour and spices. Stir until well blended. The dough should be a little sticky yet stiff. Cover dough with cling film and refrigerate overnight or for several days.

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4) When ready to bake preheat oven to 350F/180C . Prepare cookie sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking matts. Sprinkle a little flour or your counter and roll dough into long ropes about as thick as your ring finger. It's usually best to take about a half cup of dough at a time. This dough is really easy to work with despite being a little sticky. I put the ropes of dough onto a baking tray while I'm rolling them.

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5)  Cut the ropes into 1/2 inch pieces and place on prepared pans at least an inch apart. Cookies will puff up and spread a little bit. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes in preheated 350F/180C oven or until cookies just begin to brown.

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6) Remove from pan and allow to cool. Cookies will be soft when warm but will gradually crisp up when completely cooled.

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7) Makes about 4 liters or 16 cups of little cookies. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 months. (Yes, I said 3 months - these are typically sturdy Mennonites cookies!)

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Helpful Hints:
*I have made this recipe with vegetable shortening, margarine, and butter (and various combinations of whatever I could find here in Nepal). All work fine in this recipe but I prefer the extra crunchiness you get with vegetable shortening (Crisco to be precise) .

**I have made this recipe variously with dark corn syrup, light corn syrup, golden syrup, honey, and molasses. Light corn syrup would be what Mennonites from Kansas would use but our Canadian brethren prefer golden syrup. I have to agree with the Canucks on their preference for golden syrup in this recipe. I like the slight caramel flavor that golden syrup gives this recipe best.

This recipe is time consuming but the results are well worth it. Traditionally this cookie is often made in huge batches as a community at the local church to reduce the tedium. (My aunt's original recipe called for a whopping 15 cups of flour!) I usually make the dough one day and freeze it. Then I roll out the ropes of dough and place them on a tray in the freezer until the next day. Then on the last day I fire up my tiny toaster oven, chop the ropes of dough into half inch pieces, and bake them. (This takes all day with our random power outages.) A more efficient plan would be to get a few pals together and delegate the tasks of rolling, chopping, and baking.

Happy Holidays!
Wishing you all the best in this festive season - Peace, Love, Hope & Joy!
Bibi

Dec 18, 2017

2017 Holiday Recipe Roundup!

Treat your family and friends to something sweet this holiday season. I've got vegan, gluten-free and no-bake recipes, as well as flavors that range from chocolate to cherry and coconut to cardamom. Whether you're looking for something new or you just want to add options to your holiday party repertoire, check out some of my most popular recipes from the last few years. Enjoy!

There are vegan, gluten-free and no-bake options, as well as flavors that range from chocolate to citrus and basil to bourbon.

Kashmiri Cardamom Cookies-Buttery and tender, this simple to prepare eggless cookie features Kashmiri walnuts and the warm flavor of cardamom. Can easily be made vegan too. A perfect cookie to make for any holiday

There are vegan, gluten-free and no-bake options, as well as flavors that range from chocolate to citrus and basil to bourbon.

Bollywood Banana Bread- An American classic done Desi! Good old banana bread gets a Bollywood makeover. This recipe makes a tasty, dense, moist loaf that tastes even better the next day! It freezes well, can be made eggless or "veg," and makes a great holiday gift.

There are vegan, gluten-free and no-bake options, as well as flavors that range from chocolate to citrus and basil to bourbon.

Chinese Chews- These old fashioned chewy date cookies are baked in a pan, cut like bars, and then rolled in granulated sugar to give them a unique knobby shape. A nostalgic recipe that's easy to make and perfect for holiday platters, snacks, or packed lunches.

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Cherry Cardamom Snowballs- A touch of warm cardamom spices up chewy cherries in this tender and buttery cookie. So easy to make and so pretty too!

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Mexican Chocolate Snowballs- A spicy twist on an old favorite with almonds, chocolate, cinnamon, and a pinch of chili powder. Buttery, delicately spiced, and rich with chocolate flavor this egg free recipe can easily be made vegan too. A simple to make treat to serve any holiday!

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Date and Crispy Rice Laddoos- Easy, eggless, gluten-free and no bake these laddoos are a quick and delicious treat to make! Dates are simmered into a rich caramel then combined with crunchy puffed rice for a delicately crisp and divinely sweet indulgence. Perfect for any other holiday featuring lots of decadent goodies.

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Pistachio, Rose, and Cardamom Snowballs- A classic American Christmas cookie gets a flavor makeover with rich pistachios, delicate rose, and spicy cardamom! Buttery, tender, and eggless these snowball cookies are always a hit no matter what the occasion. These beautiful treats can easily be made vegan and would be a delicious addition to any holiday platter.

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Classic American Oatmeal Cookies- Buttery, sweet, with a hint of spice and a texture that's a delectable combination of crispy edges with delightfully chewy centers. Embellish them with raisins, walnuts, chocolate chips, coconut flakes, dried cherries, or chopped dates as you choose. This tasty recipe can easily be made vegan too. Great as a snack or gracing any holiday platter!

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Hawaiian Coconut Cookies- From the beautiful island state of Hawaii comes this eggless sweet treat. Tenderly crisp, buttery, and rich with the flavor of coconut these cookies are sure to please anyone's palate. Such an easy recipe to make and perfect for any holiday platter.

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Red Velvet Snowball- Get festive with this recipe for buttery, chocolatey, and meltingly tender Red Velvet Snowball Cookies! An easy to make, eggless, and nut free treat that be made vegan too. The perfect addition to any holiday platter!

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Persimmon Cookies- Spicy, moist, and tenderly soft these persimmon cookies are truly a Winter treat! Lavishly laced with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, raisins, and walnuts this recipe is full of the flavors of the season. So simple to make and the easiest answer to the question, "What do you do with persimmons?"

Happy baking and sharing!
Bibi

Jun 26, 2017

Chinese Chews

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Chinese Chews are a delicious combination of walnuts and dates. These chewy date cookies are baked in a pan, cut like bars, and then rolled in granulated sugar to give them a unique knobby shape. A nostalgic recipe that's easy to make and perfect for holiday platters, snacks, or packed lunches.

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This classic recipe first appeared in the American homemakers' magazine Good Housekeeping in 1917. I had an aunt that made these every year for Christmas and have seen the recipe in many vintage cookbooks. No one is certain why this recipe is deemed Chinese. None of the ingredients nor the techniques involved are Chinese in any way. My guess is that this recipe was part of the 1920's fad for all things Chinese. From mahjong to Anna May Wong, anything Chinese was the bee's knees in the 20's. Dates were revered as Oriental and therefore exotic in the 20's. Commercial date farms in the American Southwest were just beginning to market their produce in the US in the early 20's too. I've seen several pamphlets filled with date recipes published in the 1920's. I'll bet some date farmer's association sponsored a contest for a recipe containing dates. Rather than call these date squares or date slice why not roll them into balls and call them Chinese Chews? Swell! Wouldn't that be the cat's pajamas to serve at your next mahjong party?
1920's "Plum Blossom"chalkware bust by American artist Esther Hunt made into lamp with fanciful Napoleon shade
Probably not PC by today's standards but 'on trend' in the 20's
Anyhow, this is a great recipe for Ramadan or Eid! I think dates fell out of fashion in the US due to their exorbitant cost. And the quality of dates you get in the US really isn't great either. I didn't really care much for dates until I tried the ones from Iran, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia. Dates from the Middle East are more caramel in flavor than ones from other regions. This recipe showcases their rich flavor beautifully in an eggy batter which bakes up crisp and chewy. The walnuts also mellow and improve when baked in this tasty treat. I prefer to use brown sugar in this recipe as I like the dark color and deeper flavor it lends. Anyway you choose to make them this old fashioned treat is sure to please!

Ingredients:
1C dates, chopped
1C walnuts, chopped
1C sugar (I prefer brown sugar)
3/4C flour
1tsp baking-powder
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla (optional)
1/4 tsp salt

Here's what do:
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1) Preheat oven to 325F/165C. Grease and flour a 9 inch by 13 inch pan.  In a medium sized mixing bowl beat together sugar, eggs, vanilla, baking powder, and salt until smooth.


2) Add flour to mixture and stir until smooth. Fold in dates and walnuts.

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3) Pour mixture into greased and floured pan and spread with back of spoon or spatula.  (Batter will just barely cover the bottom of the pan.)

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4) Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

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5) Remove pan from oven and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes. Slice into small squares or scoop and roll into balls. Roll balls in granulated sugar.  Keeps well for up to 3 weeks at room temperature in airtight container.

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Chinese Chews, bake, balls, chinese, chinese chews, cookies, dates, easy, Recipe, vegetarian, vintage, walnuts,

Helpful Hints:
I've also seen these served simply sliced into small squares and dusted with powdered sugar. If you choose to serve your Chinese Chews this way be sure to place them in paper candy cups as they're very sticky.


On Eid al-Fitr may Allah's blessings and love be showered upon you!

Bibi

Jun 1, 2017

Mexican Chocolate Snowballs

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These Mexican chocolate snowballs are a spicy twist on an old favorite with almonds, chocolate, cinnamon, and a pinch of chili powder. Buttery, delicately spiced, and rich with chocolate flavor this egg free recipe can easily be made vegan too. A simple to make treat to serve on Cinco de Mayo or any holiday! 

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I love the way the Mexicans spice their chocolate with a little cinnamon and a hint of chili. So when I saw this recipe on Allrecipes a few weeks ago I had to make it. It was absolutely delicious! I did make a few changes though. The original recipe called for ancho chili powder, a little less sugar, and dark chocolate chips. I didn't have ancho chili powder so I used degi mirch or cayenne powder. Ancho chili powder has a bit less heat than cayenne and a slight fruity flavor, but the chili flavor in these cookies is so subtle I didn't find it made a difference. If you can't handle any sort of chili heat I'd substitute paprika for the chili powder or simply leave it out. I bumped the sugar up to the amount I use in all my snowball cookies. Dark chocolate chips were recommended for use in this recipe. Unfortunately, I did not have dark chocolate chips so I used milk chocolate chips. Although these cookies were delicious with the milk chocolate and regular cocoa powder I used, I think using dark chocolate chips and dark cocoa powder would make them even more delicious! I think the next time I make these I'll grind up a dark chocolate bar and use it in place of the chocolate chips and cocoa powder. To make this recipe vegan-friendly just substitute a good quality vegetable margarine or shortening for he butter. Off to the recipe:

Ingredients:
1 C butter, softened (use margarine or vegetable shortening to make these vegan)
3⁄4 C powdered sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1/4 C unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1⁄4 tsp cayenne powder/degi mirch or Kashmiri mirch (for less heat use paprika)
1⁄4 tsp salt
2 C all-purpose flour
2⁄3 C toasted almonds, finely chopped (optional)
1⁄3 cup dark chocolate chips
To roll cookies in after baking: 
1/2C powdered sugar
1 TBS cocoa powder
1 tsp cinnamon

Here's what to do:
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1) In a large mixing bowl beat together butter,  powdered sugar, vanilla,  cocoa powder,  cinnamon, chili powder, and salt until creamy and well combined.

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2) Add flour, almonds and chocolate chips to butter mixture. Continue to mix. Dough will be crumbly at first but after about 2 minutes it should pull together and stick to itself. When dough forms a large ball and sticks to itself it's ready. Chill dough covered with cling film in refrigerator for at least 4 hours.

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3) When ready to bake preheat oven to 325F/165C. Form tablespoonfuls of dough into balls. Place balls of dough on baking sheets lined with parchment paper or silicone mats. Bake cookies for about 18-25 minutes or until lightly browned on the bottom being careful not to over bake. Cookies will harden as they cool.
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4) In a large shallow bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup of powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons cocoa powder, and 1 teaspoon cinnamon until combined.

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5) Cool cookies about 5-7 minutes then roll in sugar mixture while still warm. Cool completely on wire rack then roll cookies in sugar mixture again if desired. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

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Helpful Hints: 
Chilling the dough is important as it allows the flavors of the chocolate and spices to develop as well as making the cookies easier to shape.

Keeping the dough wrapped in in a plastic bag or cling film while chilling prevents it from drying out and absorbing other flavors from the fridge.

Substitute a good quality margarine or vegetable shortening for the butter to make these cookies vegan.

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