Stroopwafels – Your New Coffee Lid

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My friend, Libby, and I first saw stroopwafel cookies at an outdoor market in the center of Haarlem, Holland.  We were having an “off” day from our Let’s Start Talking mission trip and decided to explore the town’s morning market.  I think it must have been the very first time in my life that I explored and ventured off so far away from home and with zero adult supervision.  We were technically adults as sophomores in college (are you done laughing, yet?) – I say “technically” because someone trusted us to go across the globe to teach English to non-native speakers, but in all other manners of speaking, we were babies.

While walking the streets of Haarlem (or trying our best to ride our bikes without getting killed after not being on a bike since the 90s) we discovered so many things we didn’t know existed.  Crazy street performers that came alive at the sound of a coin dropping into their hats, a sweet, old lady flipping tiny pancakes over with a spear in her honeycomb-style pan (ebilskivers), and probably the best of all – the Stroopwafel  (pronounced “strope”) – two waffle cookies sandwiched together with soft caramel. We smelled them from down the street – the air was cloaked in butterscotch.  We followed our noses to a little stand in the center of the street where a man was making salad-plate-sized waffles, pressing them with a hand-held grid patterned iron, and spreading each waffle with a thick caramel sauce before sandwiching them together and handing them to us, gooey and oozing out the sides.  They were warm, soft and crispy around the edges and we took one bite and with wide eyes, didn’t say another word until we were done eating.  It was one of those magical food memories that has cemented that time and space in my brain, forever.  A part of my heart will always be with my friend, Libby, on the streets of Haarlem, eating stroopwafels and wondering how we got so lucky.  Eleven years later in our toddler-run worlds of rushing around and enjoying quick cups of coffee in the wee hours of the morning, I like to go back to that place where nothing else in the world existed except our adventure.

When we got back from Holland, we started to see reproductions of these cookies in grocery stores.  A poor man’s stroopwafel, but better than nothing.  I don’t think most people know that you’re supposed to place the cookie on top of your coffee after you pour it, so that the room temp caramel softens with the heat and when bitten into, oozes out just a bit.  The ones we got in the market were obviously over-sized to sell to American tourists, but the true size is a perfect fit for the top of a coffee mug.

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I wanted to make my own for years, but had never attempted it till last weekend.  I found a basic stroopwafel recipe online and had some leftover butterscotch sauce in the fridge and it worked perfectly.  I recommend making the butterscotch because I think that salty note is just amazing with the sweetness of the cookie.  I also doubled the cinnamon the original recipe called for and was quite happy with the results.  If you’re not in the mood to make your own caramel or butterscotch, I thought the other night, while I was supposed to be sleeping, that those sheets of caramel sold in grocery stores for caramel apples would work perfectly because they’re already flattened out!  You really need a pizzelle iron to make these and if you don’t have one, I would suspect that you could be pretty successful if you have a handheld bacon press and just pressed them out on a griddle.  They don’t take long to cook at high heat (about one minute) and you have to split them in half before they cool down, so get ready to suck it up and act like a woman (I didn’t miss-type).   As I will say over and over again on this blog: nothing in this life worth having comes easy.

And homemade stroopwafels are definitely worth having.  Libby, my dear – can’t wait to have coffee with you, again in a couple weeks.  Of course, you’re always there, in my head, during my morning cup.  Always.

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Stroopwafels*
makes about 15-20

4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 cup white sugar
1 cup unsalted butter
2 large eggs
1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water

For the filling:
Confession: I honestly don’t remember how I made the caramel/butterscotch in my fridge. It was a few weeks old and I’d gone on vacation since then, so I honestly don’t remember.  It was mighty fine, though.  I will share this link with you, though, because I’ve made this exact recipe many times and it’s pretty fail-proof.  You don’t be disappointed and it only takes about 15 minutes.  Or buy caramel apple sheets from the store.  But this will taste better.

Preheat pizzelle iron, or griddle, if you don’t have a pizzelle, and heat up the bacon press if you’re using that.
Dissolve the yeast in the warm water.
Cut the butter into the flour either by hand (I did this whole recipe by hand and got a bit of muscle build from doing what Kitchen-Aid does 10x better but hey, I’m stubborn.)  Mix in the sugar, cinnamon, eggs and yeast mixture. Mix well (use your mixer with a paddle attachment unless you, too, want to build your muscles) and set aside to rise for 30 to 60 minutes. It might not double or even rise very much, but as long as you had it in a semi-warm place for that hour, it’ll be fine.  Mine didn’t rise much.  Roll dough into 15ish small balls (about a ping pong ball size), squeeze each ball into the preheated pizzelle iron and bake for about 30 seconds to a minute. Cut the wafels in two and spread with the filling.  Eat immediately or let it it come to room temp and enjoy them as lids to hot coffee.

And please, whatever you do, don’t eat these alone.  I think I shared these with about 5 different people.  That’s the key to happiness, I’ve found 🙂

*adapted from Diana’s Desserts

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Oatmeal Cookies – Welcome Home

Oatmeal Cookie and Milk

We’re back from a two week vacation that spanned Moab, UT, to the northern most part of Washington, where from the top of a mountain, I could see Canada.  We drove all the way to Seattle in a rented RV with two of our best friends and our little redhead.  Once we were in Seattle, the worst case scenario happened to our traveling partners – a death in the family – and they had to drive the RV home early and we booked a flight for later in the week to come home on our own.  We sorely missed their company but had an amazing time with the friends we went to see – John and Courtney and their amazing children.  They graciously welcomed us into their home and gave up their beds and their schedules and the order of how they normally go about life and made us feel so welcome, we felt more honored than family!  I just feel so lucky to have such friends in my life.  Olive has such wonderful people to look up to and strive to become.

I will post a LOT of recipes in the coming days about our trip and mostly recipes INSPIRED by our trip.  Recipes that immediately come to mind will be: Raspberry Pavlova, Chocolate Cayenne Mousse, a traditional crab boil, the ultimate potato salad, and a traditional poutine, just to name a few.  I can’t wait to share these recipes with you.

But today is about coming home.  Coming home to familiarity, to the warmth of being in your own space with the view out the window you remember (let’s not talk about what our yard looks like after 2 weeks of neglect).  When I think about coming home, I think about oatmeal cookies.  They scream comfort and familiarity and nourishment.  And the recipe today is kind of perfect.  The original recipe card I had is from a generic set of cookie recipes that came in a funny little box that just says COOKIES.  Each card is a different recipe.  It’s a pretty fun jumbo-sized deck of cards for Olive to play with and I can imagine when she gets older, picking out a card for our weekend baking adventures.  I modified the recipe because it seemed extremely void of liquid.  The original recipe didn’t call for any egg, so if you want to leave it out, know that you’ll just have to work the dough a little more so that it holds together because it’s pretty crumbly.  Either modification is good, but the addition of the egg makes a softer fluffier cookie, which worked out really well for my gap-toothed toddler.

Enjoy being home.  Everything is fleeting.

Oatmeal Cookie

Oatmeal and Golden Raisin Cookies
makes 2 dozen cookies

1 1/4 cups AP flour
2/3 cup sugar
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup unsalted butter
2 tbs light corn syrup
1 tsp baking soda
1 TBS boiling water
1 egg

Preheat the oven to 325F.  Line two large cookie sheets with parchment paper, or spray well with spray oil.

Sift the flour into a large bowl.  Stir in the sugar, oats, coconut, and raisins.  Make a well in the center.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter and syrup over low heat.  In a small bowl, dissolve the baking soda in boiling water; stir immediately into the butter.

Pour the butter mixture into the well in the flour mixture.  With a fork, mix thoroughly.  Mix in the egg until well incorporated.

Drop heaping tablespoons of the dough onto the cookie sheets about 2 inches apart.  Bake until lightly browned, 15-20 minutes.  Cool a few minutes on the sheet and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Serve with milk.

Oatmeal Cookies and Milk

The Creme Brulee of Lemon Bars

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I’ve stuck to this recipe for a few years now.  I love lemon desserts and my only complaint is that something claiming to be a lemon dessert isn’t ever lemony enough.  I want a ZINGER of a lemon shock.  I know this may cause several of you to stop reading, but given the choice between a GOOD lemon bar and a brownie, I’d choose the lemon bar.  Not every time.  Like I said, it’d have to be good.  Not too eggy, just enough curd, just enough crust, big time lemon flavor and another thing: don’t dust your lemon bars with confectioners’ sugar.  I’ll give you a few reasons:

1. Lemon bars usually have at least two cups of sugar.  So..there’s enough sugar.  Why would you dust something with more sugar that is already shockingly sweet? (I’m not complaining – lemon and sugar need each other)

2. I don’t like inhaling powdered sugar with each bite.  It kind of ruins the whole eating experience to have to hack on powder.

So that’s really only two reasons.  With the right recipe, you don’t need a dusting of sugar to cover up the weird, sometimes sticky top of a lemon bar.  This recipe is so wonderful because the top gets crunchy like a creme brulee.  I’m not sure why.  Maybe because I mix up the filling while the crust is baking, so by the time the crust is ready for the filling, the filling has sat and separated a bit.  I whip it up really good, too, so maybe it’s the airy texture?  Or maybe the key is to let them cool completely before cutting and don’t cover them up if you’re not serving them right away, lest the top get soft.  That way you get that good crunch on the top, the velvety curd in the middle and the buttery crumble of the crust all together.  This is adapted from Paula Deen’s recipe, and to me, it’s the perfect lemon bar recipe.  The only one you need.

Creme Brulee Lemon Bars

Crust
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup confectioners’ sugar, plus more for dusting
2 tbs lemon zest (just zest the lemons you will use for the filling)
pinch of salt
2 sticks butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing

Filling
4 eggs
2 cups granulated sugar
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Grease a 9x13x2″ pan.  Cover the bottom in parchment paper and let it hang off the sides (just along the long edge) so that you can remove it for cutting better.)
Make the crust by combining flour, confectioners’ sugar, zest and salt in a large bowl.  Cut in the butter to make a crumbly mixture.  Press the mixture into the prepared pan.  You may need to dip your fingers into a little flour or confectioners’ sugar to keep the dough from sticking to your fingers.  Bake for 15-20 minutes.

Meanwhile, to make the filling, mix the eggs, granulated sugar, flour, and lemon juice.  Pour this over the baked crust and bake for 25 minutes longer.  Don’t sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar. Run a knife around the edges to loosen the bars, and then carefully, by the parchment overhang, lift the entire pan of bars out of the pan and transfer to a cutting board to cut.  I like to cut off the very edge of the bars so that each one will be perfectly smooth, cut, squared edges (obsessive) but that’s really up to you.  No one said you couldn’t eat the trimmings and no one would have to know they ever existed.

The Weekend Feast

Matt and I got into the habit a few years ago of eating simply during the week and more “festally” (to feast) on the weekend.  Several reasons for this.  For one, we needed to lose about a hundred pounds between the two of us (and we did – yay) and several chefs we follow had been talking of other cultures living their lives this way and we couldn’t help but notice they were cultures withOUT a major weight problem, as a whole.  One of our favorite chefs, Rick Bayless, speaks of this way of eating and living in his book, Fiesta at Rick’s and of the art of the Mexican fiesta:

“…remember that nutritionists craft simple messages for maximum impact.  If they’ve deemed a food deleterious, it won’t likely creep onto the beneficial list…even sometimes, even on special occasions. Yet that’s exactly where it should be. Because, if we eat a wide variety of good food–fresh stuff in reasonable portions–there’s a perfect time for everything. For the simple pleasure of a fall apple and for the over-the-top chocolate fudge cake.”

It started to make sense to us that this would be a much easier way to maintain a desired, healthy weight than with the old, tried and not-so-true method of crash dieting, buying late night gym memberships, falling off the diet wagon, overeating, repeat.  I came across an amazing book called Supper of the Lamb, in which author Robert Farrar Capon devoted an entire chapter to eating “festally” (to feast) verses eating ferially (simply, meagerly.)  I could really quote this entire book, as it’s rich with language about cooking, eating and food that sums up nearly everything I have come to believe.  And he is an Episcopal priest, so he says things much more eloquently than I.  About festal verses ferial eating, he says:

“Both the ferial and the festal cuisine, therefore, must be seen as styles of unabashed eating.  Neither attempts to do anything to food other than render it delectable.  Their distinction is grounded, not in sordid dietetic tricks, but in a choice between honest frugality or generous expense…Let us fast, then — whenever we see fit, and as strenuously as we should.  But having gotten that exercise out of the way, let us eat.  Festally, first of all, for life without occasions is not worth living.  But ferially, too, for life is so much more than occasions, and its grand ordinariness must never go unsavored.”

You may begin to seeing a trend with this blog, as I continue to publish weekly recipes.  Mondays will almost always be something healthy and light to get you in the right mindset for your week.  Fridays will almost always be something more indulgent.  I want to stress, however, that eating with a festal attitude does not mean becoming gluttonous a couple days a week.  We’ve made that mistake and that, I fear, is another American frame of mind that things have to be BIG and ALL YOU CAN EAT in order to be “fun” or a party type atmosphere.   I believe it was a French woman, in the book, French Kids Eat Everything who said, “Oh no, a small piece [of cake], please.  If it’s too big, I won’t enjoy it”  We may laugh at this prim response, but have you SEEN the French?  They don’t exactly have an obesity epidemic and they are known for their indulgent recipes.  That, I realize, is an entirely different blog post.

Without further rambling, may I present to you, your weekend indulgence!  To be enjoyed with coffee, a friend and WITHOUT a SHRED of guilt.  Just make sure you don’t eat too many, or you might find yourself not enjoying them, anymore…

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Dark Chocolate Meringue Cookies with Espresso Ganache Filling

For the Meringue Cookies*:

  • 6 large egg whites, room temperature
  • 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 3/4 cup Baker’s Sugar (superfine sugar – regular will do fine, too)
  • 3/4 cup nut flour (I used almond flour, but you could use any)
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/3 cup Dutch process cocoa powder

Preheat the oven to 225°F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Place the egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on medium speed until fine bubbles form. Increase the speed to medium-high and whip until soft peaks form.
Slowly add the sugar and whip until the meringue holds stiff peaks.
In a small bowl, whisk together the nut flour, salt, and cocoa powder. Sprinkle over the meringue and mix for 30 seconds on low speed.
Remove from the mixer and use a spatula to finish folding the ingredients together until you have a smooth, thick, evenly mixed batter.
Using a piping bag or small spatula, spread the batter onto the parchment, spreading to about 2″ circles. Leave about 1″ between the circles.  If you’re feeling extra festal and someone is coming to share these cookies who is an avid fan of salt, try sprinkling the tops of the cookies before they bake in this cool espresso fusion salt.  I think even a sprinkle of kosher salt would add to it and a sprinkle of salt always helps balance out the richness of any dish.

Bake the discs in the oven for at least 60 minutes. You can then turn off the oven, crack the oven door open, and leave the discs to dry in the oven for a few hours, or up to overnight.  This is what I did and they peeled off the parchment paper just fine.
While your cookies are still cooking and/or drying out, get on with making your ganache filling.  I just made up a ganache recipe that I thought sounded good.  Here were the ingredients:

Espresso Ganache

Heat the heavy cream over medium heat until it comes to a boil.  Place your chocolate chips in a large glass bowl and pour the boiling cream over the chips.  Let it sit there for about 5 minutes, then gradually stir with a spatula in the center of the bowl.  It will appear like the milk won’t ever fully incorporate into the chocolate.  Then, like magic, the center starts to darken into a black silky texture and you just keep stirring and folding and little by little the chocolate mixes beautifully with the cream and you’re left with the most wonderful, glossy texture.  This is one of my favorite things to get to experience in the kitchen.
At this point, you have a beautiful ganache.  If you wanted, you could let it chill and make yourself some righteous truffles.  However, for filling cookies and having a nice texture that won’t leak out everywhere, I chose to add some cinnamon, espresso powder and powdered sugar to thicken the chocolate up a bit, and to make the filling sweeter than the cookie, and add depth to the chocolate flavor (with the espresso powder) which I think is a nice balance.  So, add the cinnamon and powdered sugar and stir with your spatula, folding it in on itself until fully incorporated.  You’ve ruined your glossy texture, but it’s okay.  Once it comes up more to room temp, you’ve got a wonderful texture to spread onto the cookies.
Spread and sandwich the cookies together.

Makes 12-ish sandwiched cookies.

Tune in Monday for a great recipe to kick off your week of eating clean, simple and deliciously!

*recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour