BitterSweet

An Obsession with All Things Handmade and Home-Cooked


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Christmas in July

Sleigh bells are most certainly not ringing on this sweltering day, but in a summer state of mind, the ice cream truck’s cheerful jingle could happily suffice. Christmas in July is a phenomena that has not yet truly caught on in the US, typically reserved as a poor excuse to go on shopping sprees or drink a few too many cocktails by the beach. The lack of decent holidays through the hottest months of the year has me searching high and low for new events to celebrate, anything to shake up the monotony of one hot and busy day after another, so I say it’s high time we start getting into the spirit. Build a “snowman” on out of sand, string lights onto a palm tree, make gingerbread baked inside oranges over the campfire! If you can find an indoor rink, now is the best time to go ice skating, too; shockingly empty of other skaters, it’s the perfect chilly respite from a 100-degree afternoon.

Better yet, serve up some peppermint-mocha whoopie pies.

Though they do require quick use of the oven, the sweat will be worthwhile, since the end results are satisfyingly sweet and cooling. A spinoff on my Peppermint Mocha Trifles from Vegan Desserts, this hand-held version is ideal for speedy baking and on-the-go eating. Just make a half batch of everything, adding 3/4 cup of flour to the cake portion. Instead of pouring the cake batter into a baking dish, scoop it out onto a silpat-lined baking sheet, using a small cookie scoop for consistent shapes. Bake for 10 – 15 minutes at 350 degrees, until just lightly browned around the edges, and let cool completely. Spread your chilled chocolate custard between two cookies, and then roll the edges in crushes candy canes. Voila, a miniature, portable trifle- With a touch of summery Christmas spirit!

This will make you approximately 36 individual cookies, and thus 18 finished whoopie pies. Store the cake-like sandwiches in the fridge for maximum refreshment, or in the freezer to make mock-ice cream sandwiches. Be sure to eat them quickly once the peppermint candies have been added- As evidence by my photo, the can melt quickly due to the moisture and heat. Plus, I can’t imagine anyone being able to resist chowing down for that long!


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Picture This

Change comes slowly, incrementally building while no one’s looking, until suddenly the vast difference can no longer be ignored. That fact had never been more clear while going over the raw manuscript of Vegan Desserts, and giving the photos their final assessment. Though all of the recipes already had photos taken about a year ago, some of them showed their age, and in the most unflattering way. Blurry focus, poor lighting, bizarre styling decisions plagued almost all; it was hard to believe that these images might have made it to print previously. Pictures speak louder than words, however, so I’ll let you see for yourself…

No decisions were easy here, and the originals weren’t bad enough for me to delete altogether, but it’s a curious thing to see the contrast between two (or three) photos of the same thing, taken with a good bit of time between them.  (The following photos are arranged with the first attempt(s) on the left, the final, printed photos on the right.)

This one was a particularly tough photo to ultimately reject, because the cute-factor is a whole new category not even touched in most food photos. Perhaps for a reason, though. Isis was so excited about her treat, she wouldn’t stay still, and thus is one blur of a puppy on film. Yes, my dad had to assist on this shot, both in holding the biscuit, and holding Isis back so that she didn’t wolf down the biscuit before I could snap a shot! Also note that the original version of the Canine Cookies were carob-coated, but that ended up smearing on the rug beautifully, so I switched to chips mixed in.

The Grasshopper Cake was really something else; a slightly intimidating multi-layer cake that could feed an army for a month. Or at least it felt that way, when I found myself redoing the photo not once, but twice to make three separate attempts altogether. Beginning life as a 4-layer, square cake, it became clear after that first failed shot that it was simply too much cake for any sensible person to bake up at once. Then, somehow, it turned neon-green on film, and looked downright radioactive. The final photo that went to print still could use some work in the lighting department, but at least the frosting doesn’t look like I mixed in day-glow wall paint as an ingredient.

My blood oranges may not have been such a luscious shade of crimson red the second time around, but the effect of seeing them arranged on the whole Blood Orange Upside-Down Cake was worth the effort of a full redo. Simply from an instructional view, it made more sense to show how the orange slices were laid out on the cake, to make it easier to replicate for the casual recipe reader. Plus, any excuse to break out the antique milk glass cake stand is one I want to use!

And the humiliating examples could go on, but I’ll leave the rest to your imagination. Have you ever taken a glance back at old photos and wondering what you were thinking? How this could have ever been acceptable? Give it a try, take a stroll down a photographic memory lane; It’s more entertaining than you may think!


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Winners of Books and Breads

Selected by the wise and all-knowing random number generator, today’s pick for who will receive a copy of the Green Market Baking Book is…

The comment belonging to the 11th poster, who happens to be…

VeggieGirl! This gal has definitely got luck on her side, because if I’m not mistaken, this is actually the second giveaway she’s won from this little blog. Stick around as long as she has though, and you’d have a pretty good chance of hitting the jackpot, too. That first win came around 3 or 4 years ago, so she’s certainly been in it for the long haul. Congrats on win #2!

There are no losers here though, because I have a fantastic treat to share with everyone else. Even if you aren’t getting the full cookbook today, you’ll be able to bake your very own tomato bread!

Since it generated the greatest interest, I thought that everyone should have this recipe to share. It really is a winner, and with my small modifications, one that will visit my kitchen many times more.

Tomato Bread
Adapted from Green Market Baking Book © 2011 by Laura C. Martin, Sterling Publishing Co., Inc. Recipe by Amy Besa and Romy Dorotan
[My alterations in italics]

1/2 Cup Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Chopped
1 15-Ounce Can (1 3/4 Cups) Tomato Sauce
4 Cups Bread Flour, Plus additional as needed
2 Tablespoons Active Dry Yeast
1 1/2 Teaspoons Salt
4 Tablespoons Olive Oil, Plus Additional for Bowl


To make the dough

First, soak the sun-dried tomato pieces in just enough hot water to cover, for about 15 minutes, until softened.

1. Mix the yeast with the tomato sauce and let the mixture stand about 5 minutes, or until it starts to bubble.
2. In the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine half the bread flour with the tomato mixture and salt, and mix to form a smooth batter. Blend in the olive oil.
3. Change the mixer attachment to the dough hook. With the hook in motion, add the soaked sun-dried tomatoes along with the remaining bread flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until the dough forms into a rough mass that easily pulls away from the sides of the bowl.

To make a loaf

1. Transfer the dough to a large, lightly oiled bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. Place the covered bowl in a warm, draft-free spot and let it rise about 1 hour, or until doubled in bulk.
2. Butter a 9 × 5-inch loaf pan.
3. On a floured surface, roll the dough into a log that fits the pan. Place the dough into the pan and cover it with lightly oiled plastic wrap. Let it rise until the dough reaches a half inch over the top of the pan (about 1 hour).
4. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
5. Bake for 35 minutes. If it appears to be browning too quickly after 20 minutes, place a foil tent over the top to prevent it from burning. Remove the bread from the pan and cool on a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 1 Loaf

Printable Recipe


82 Comments

Naturally Sweet and Savory Treats

Sharing a similar seasonable sensibility to my own style of baking, I was attracted to the Green Market Baking Book immediately. As soon as I caught wind of the release, I was entranced; that whimsical yet earthy illustrated cover, charming fabric ribbon, bookmark, and the comforting heft of a hard cover all had me sold. Though not a vegan cookbook, it is one of the few mainstream baking resources that actually provides clearly marked vegan options, a serious plus by me. Less positive was the fact that some recipes actually weren’t labeled as vegan, but in fact were, although such omissions are rather easy to figure out right away. Other options can be converted to use vegan ingredients in a snap, so don’t let those classifications prevent you from enjoying the full scope of this book.

Not only seasonally organized, but also devoid of refined white sugars and flours, those with healthy leanings are sure to appreciate the more wholesome bent to this collection. Rounded out by a guide to seasonal produce and tips for healthier baking, you won’t find outrageous, crazy flavors here, but very down-to-earth recipes. Classics that everyone can appreciate, and gentle twists on standard staples.

Jumping around a bit to get a better taste of its complete offerings, I will admit that I didn’t approach this book entirely in the correct order. Diving straight into the summer section at the lure of a yeasted Tomato Bread, it proved to be a very tasty decision indeed.

Brilliant orange and rust hues embolden this otherwise plain loaf, merely hinting at the flavor contained within. Subtle sweetness and acidity brightens the soft, even crumb, allowing the gentle but clear tomato essence to shine. Deviating slightly from the text and throwing in some chopped sun-dried tomatoes, those rich pieces of concentrated tomato goodness were the perfect addition. Smelling like a full pizza while baking away, all I could think about was grilling up two slices, filled with a handful of vegan cheese… And yet, I found the longest my patience would hold me was to simply slather it with a whisper-thin smear of buttery spread, and eat it straight. Possibly the most tender loaf I’ve made at home, this is absolutely one to revisit in the height of tomato harvest, and perhaps introduce some fresh basil or oregano next time.

Briefly stymied about where to turn next, it was simply a matter of having everything on hand to make the Peanut Butter and Jelly Power Muffins to spur another round of baking. Though I didn’t expect much of them, these simple treats blew me away. Intense peanut and maple flavor sets them apart from other PB+J baked goods, making them a bit sweeter than my average breakfast nosh, but perfect for an addictive after school snack. The combination of textures is what really lends such an addictive quality; That chewy top, fluffy crumb, crunchy nuts strewn throughout, and generous dollop of gooey jam all combine to create a sum greater than their parts. Finished with a good amount of salt for contrast, these simple muffins had a surprisingly mature and complex flavor profile.

Spying the simple formula for Thumbprint Cookies tucked away in the summer section, I easily veganized them by swapping out the butter for non-dairy margarine, and honey for agave. A small pet-peeve but worth noting is the fact that the ingredient list neglects to include any jam, and thus no measurements or even estimates at amounts are given. It turned out that I did not, in fact, have enough jam on hand, and thus had to resort to filling my cookies with chocolate ganache. Oh, what a terrible fate.

Happily, the cookies did not suffer in the least, and perhaps where improved by this chocolatey addition. A bit on the delicate, crumbly side, the texture is similar to a shortbread cookie. Without a filling to hold it all together, I might not go back for seconds, but as a complete assembly, these strike me as a lovely offering to serve with coffee or tea.

While they might not be the most inventive, exciting options on the market, so far each recipe I’ve tried has been a home run. If you’re seeking reliable recipes for sweets that you can feed to your kids (or family, or yourself!) without feeling guilty, the Green Market Baking Book is your new best friend.

Generously provided by the publishers, I have a second cookbook to give away to one lucky reader, too! If these recipes sound like your style, then leave me a comment before midnight on Friday, June 10th, telling me how you’ve made your baking healthier. Do you substitute whole wheat flour? Reduce the sugar? Replace excessive oil with apple sauce? Give me you secrets to wholesome desserts, and you’ll be in the running! Just one comment per person, please, and unfortunately this giveaway is open to residents of the continental US only.


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Springing Up Everywhere

Stubborn as ever, the lack of spring vegetables and 30-degree sunshine doesn’t deter me from celebrating the premature arrival of the new season. Besides, the tiny buds of crocuses are already beginning to peer up from the tender, half-frozen earth, and that’s reinforcement enough for me.

Turning to the only edible that’s is reliably and unfailingly available so early in the season, the fridge has been stocked to the brim with fresh herbs. Mint, parsley, dill, basil, cilantro (even though it tastes like soap to my taste buds)- I don’t think there have ever been so many choices of flavorful greenery on hand at one time. Without a solid plan, it was merely a stroke of luck to see the savory cheese and chive bread being created by bloggers following along on the French Fridays with Dorie group. Even luckier, however, was the fact that I actually had good tasting vegan cheese on hand. Clearly, this one was meant to be.

Because everything is better in cute little individual portions, I fashioned my bread into muffins, while bumping up the herb content to accommodate my vast selection. A cross between a light muffin and a fluffy biscuit, even I was impressed with how well this off-the-cuff adaptation came out. Moreover, I couldn’t help but be surprised at how much I truly enjoyed that elusive “cheese” factor. Yes, it’s true: I’ve officially been won over by Daiya. Any vegan cheesy shreds would do, of course, but Daiya has definitely found a fan in me. Plus, even the omnivores approved of the cheddar-y ribbons strewn throughout, so that’s got to say something.

Both rib-sticking and fresh tasting, thanks to that vibrant herbal addition, these muffins managed to strike that fine balance between seasons that I’m still struggling with myself. Any combination of herbs would likely work just as well, so don’t be afraid to switch it up if you don’t have these exact greens on hand.

“Cheddar” Herb Muffins

1 Cup Unsweetened Non-Dairy Milk
1/3 Cup Olive Oil
1 Teaspoon Apple Cider Vinegar
1 3/4 Cups All Purpose Flour
1 1/2 Teaspoons Baking Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1/2 Teaspoon Smoked Paprika
1/4 Teaspoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper
4 Ounces (1/2 Package) Daiya Cheddar Style Shreds
1/3 Cup Chopped Scallions
1/4 Cup Chopped Fresh Basil
3 Tablespoons Chopped Fresh Dill
1/2 Cup Chopped Walnuts, Toasted

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees, and lightly grease 9 – 12 medium muffin tins.

In a large measuring pitcher, combine the non-dairy milk, oil, and vinegar. Stir well, and let sit for at least 5 minutes for the “milk” to curdle.

Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and powder, salt, paprika, and pepper, making sure that all of the ingredients are distributed evenly throughout the mixture. Add in the “cheese,” chopped herbs, and walnuts, and mix well.

Pour the pitcher of wet ingredients into the bowl of dry, and use a wide spatula to bring the two together, stirring as few times as possible to create a mostly smooth batter. A few lumps are just fine, and certainly beat an over-mixed, tough dough.

Scoop the batter into your prepared muffin tins, mounding it up in the centers. Depending on how large you want you muffins, fill the tins either just to the top, or pile the batter on well over the rim. Naturally, I like my muffins big and bountiful, so I got fewer out of the mix.

Move your muffin tin into the oven, and bake for 16 – 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the centers comes out clean and dry. If the muffins seem slightly anemic at that point, just run them under the broiler for 1 – 3 more minutes, until nicely golden brown.

Let rest in the tins for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Serve warm or toasted, along side a hearty bowl of soup, stew, or just with a faint smear of buttery spread.

Makes 9 – 12 Muffins

Printable Recipe


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Salty, Sweet, and Savory

Having made great strides in beating down long-held food prejudices, I take in no shame to confess that there are still some areas in need of work. Coming from the girl who once abhorred vegetables indiscriminately and considered instant ramen to be the staff of life, the acceptance of beets as edible substance, and even a quite delicious one at that, strikes me as great progress all by itself. However, put cilantro in my food or even sprinkle it on top as a garnish, and I’ll run for the hills. Pizza with pineapple on top? No, thank you, and don’t invite me out to dinner again! Possibly worst of all though, is the crime of mixing dried fruit into savory dishes. I know, it’s traditional in many cultures and when applied correctly, doesn’t even lend an overt sweetness, but I still gag quietly at the thought of plopping bulbous orange apricots into an otherwise lusciously rich and flavorful stew. Just leave the raisins and prunes for making granola, please!

After so many years of holding this bias dear, the time has come to challenge that whole concept. Browsing idly through Trader Joe’s one recent afternoon, I spied a new box of intriguing crackers on the shelf. Looking more like miniature slices of toasted multigrain bread than any flat cracker I had ever seen, the promise of all those textures and flavors got my attention. Here’s the kicker though: They included, of all things, raisins. Considering the herbaceous addition of rosemary, I couldn’t help but cringe momentarily. Practically flinging the offending box back on the shelf since the questionable snacks weren’t vegan in the first place, I high-tailed it out of there before anyone could ask about my overt expression of horror.

But the concept stuck with me, like a wet leaf, and followed me back home, straight into the kitchen. The nuts, seeds, rosemary, and raisins… Something about the motley crew had a slight ring to it, a latent harmony waiting to be heard. Why not give it a DIY try? Plus, this way, I could do damage control and throw in my favorite ingredients, to make it as appealing as possible. Out with the raisins and in with some dates, my favorite of all dried fruits, gave me added hope for these unusual crisps. Plus, the additions of green olives for some tangy, salty flavor got my imagination churning with excitement.

The verdict? Addictive beyond my wildest dreams. Crunchy but pleasantly chewy thanks to those moist medjool dates, every bite is a symphony of salty, sweet, and savory. Complex and full-flavored, they can easily stand alone with confidence, but are even better paired with a creamy spread, such as Melomeal’s goaty cashew cheese. Loosened to a soft consistency with a splash of water, this pungent spread rounded out a simple snack with ease and grace. Want to impress friends and family? These crackers, with or without spread, are just begging to be served at a party, and paired with a nice glass of wine.

A highly successful experiment, I’m downright baffled by how delicious the end results were, considering the controversial content. A convert to the way of savory dried fruits, however? Well, I wouldn’t immediately reject such a sweet and savory combination, but I might still carefully pick around the dried fruits included in a full main dish. Baby steps, right?

Sweet and Savory Rosemary Crisps
Adapted from Dinner with Julie

1 Cup Plain Non-Dairy Milk
1 Teaspoon Apple Cider Vinegar
2 Tablespoons Dark Brown Sugar, Packed
2 Tablespoons Maple Syrup
1 Cup White Whole Wheat Flour
1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 Cup Chopped Dates
1/4 Cup Toasted, Unsalted Sunflower Seeds
1/4 Cup Toasted, Unsalted Pepitas (Pumpkin Seeds)
1/4 Cup Green Olives with Pimento, Roughly Chopped
2 Tablespoons Whole Flaxseed, Ground
1 1/2 Teaspoons Dried Rosemary Leaves, Ground
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
Pinch Ground Black Pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and lightly grease an 8 x 4-inch loaf pan.

First things first, mix together your non-dairy milk of choice, vinegar, sugar, and maple syrup. Let sit for at least 5 minutes for the “milk” to curdle. Meanwhile, combine everything else that follows in a large bowl, making sure that all of the ingredients are well distributed throughout the mixture, and that the dates and olives are thoroughly coated in flour. Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl of dry, and stir with a wide spatula, just until the batter is fully moistened and free of dry, floury pockets. Pour the batter into your prepared loaf pan, and bake for 35 minutes, until golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out dry. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes, and then turn the loaf out onto a wire rack.

The cooler the loaf, the thinner and cleaner your slices will come out, so try to let it rest until completely cool. You may choose to let it sit overnight and resume baking in the morning, or you can speed up the process by tossing the loaf into the freezer briefly.

When you’re ready to bake the crisps, preheat or reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees, and slice the baked and cooled loaf into very thin slices with a serrated knife; Approximately 1/4 – 1/2 cm thickness. Lay them out on an ungreased sheet pan lined with aluminum foil (for easier clean up) and bake for 15 minutes. Flip the crackers over, and bake for a final 15 – 20 minutes, until golden all over. Don’t worry if they aren’t perfectly crunchy straight out of the oven, because they will continue to crisp up as they cool. Once cooled to room temperature, they can be stored in an air-tight container in a cool place for up to a week. If they last that long, that is.

Makes About 3 Dozen Crackers

Printable Recipe


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The Secret is Out!

…And despite the fact that this is the first official announcement, it has long been out, since it’s near impossible to hide an Amazon.com listing.

Well, there’s no turning back now- My second cookbook, Vegan Desserts, will soon be on its way to a bookstore near you! Get your sweet tooth in gear, because this one will be jam-packed with well over 100 brand new, never before seen recipes, each and every one accompanied by a full-color photo. Arranged by season and drawing inspiration from fresh ingredients, holidays, and innovative flavor combinations, this is not just another classic baking book.

As if that all wasn’t exciting enough yet, brace yourself, because the much sought-after recipes for vegan meringues and macarons will be included!

Three years in the making, this book came precipitously close to being tossed out altogether. Sitting on my computer, growing older and less attractive by the day, I eventually realized that a final decision was necessary: Forget the whole mess ever existed and move on, or painstakingly fix all of the blemishes, large and small. This meant rephotographing everything, rewriting everything, and revamping the recipes. It was the equivalent of ripping 250 pages out of their binding, shredding 200, and starting again from there. But for that precise reason, because I couldn’t just speed this text along to the printer without a second thought, I am truly grateful. That initial rejection gave me time to grow as a baker and photographer, to vastly improve this final collection of recipes and images as a whole. Vegan Desserts is so much more than just another cookbook to me; it’s my baby, and I couldn’t be more proud of how it’s grown up. Now, I can only hope that everyone else feels the same way, too.


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Mmmaple

Though endlessly tempted by the idea of lining up a “12 days of cookies” series of posts, it just never seems to work out. Six days into December and only now do I remember those grand plans, dreamed up in warm August, so far away from the holiday action. How time flies, and how impossibly busy this season always turns out to be. Regardless, I’ve always been an advocate of quality over quantity, so I’ll save the indecision and uncertainty over questionable cookies, and just present you with one fail-safe, fool-proof winner of a baked good. Who needs the extra 11 recipes if they’ll never get made, anyway?

Both simple in concept and complex in flavor, these sweet little gems will satisfy the sweet tooth of anyone on your list. Rich maple flavor carries these surprisingly soft cookies, accented by the subtle warmth of ginger. Tame enough for the kids to appreciate but still plenty sophisticated for all types of palates, I instantly regretted preparing only a half batch the first time around- They flew faster than I could press two together into a sandwich!

The funny thing is, I thought these were absolute goners as they went into the oven. Impossibly soft, sticky dough molded into delicate little shapes? There was no chance they would stand up to the heat of the oven… And yet, out they came, as perfectly shaped as before. Just treat them with a gentle hand and keep the dough as cold as possible, and you shouldn’t end up with any amorphous cookie blobs, either.

Maple-Ginger Sandwich Cremes

Maple-Ginger Cookies:

1 Cup Non-Dairy Margarine
2 Tablespoons Vegan “Cream Cheese”
1/2 Cup Maple Sugar
1/2 Cup Light Brown Sugar, Firmly Packed
1/2 Cup Maple Syrup
1 Teaspoon Maple Extract, Optional
1 Teaspoon Salt
1 Teaspoon Ground Ginger
3 Cups All Purpose Flour
1/4 Cup Tapioca Starch

Ginger Creme Filling:

1/2 Cup Non-Dairy Margarine
2 – 3 Cups Confectioner’s Sugar
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Ginger
1/8 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 Tablespoons Maple Syrup

In your stand mixer, cream together the margarine, “cream cheese,” maple sugar and brown sugar, until softened and smooth. Add in the maple syrup, extract, and salt, and beat on a low speed until combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula before proceeding, to make sure that everything is being incorporated.

In a separate bowl, sift together the ginger, flour, and starch, before adding the mixture slowly into the bowl of the stand mixer. Slowly mix, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, until you achieve a smooth, cohesive dough. Scrape it out and cover with plastic wrap and chill the dough thoroughly until firm; at least 2 hours.

Ounce chilled, preheat your oven to 325 degrees, and line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silpats.

Cut your dough in half, and on a lightly floured surface, roll one half out to about 1/8 inch in thickness. Use cookie cutters to cut out shapes of any sort, but try to keep them on the smaller side. My maple leaves were just about an inch wide. Use a thin metal spatula to remove the cut shapes and transfer them to your prepared baking sheets, to prevent tearing or mushing. Be gentle, because it is a very soft dough. If you have trouble removing them from the counter, place a frozen metal cookie sheet over the whole length of dough, and allow the dough to cool down and become firmer before trying to move the cookies again.

Place your sheet of cut but unbaked cookies in the freezer for just 15 minutes before sliding it into the oven, to make sure they all hold their shape. Bake for 10 – 15 minutes, until the edges are just barely golden. Let the cookies cool on the sheets for about 15 minutes before transferring them to wire racks. Repeat with the remaining half of dough, and re-roll scraps and repeat once more.

For the filling, once the cookies are completely cool, begin by beating the margarine in your stand mixer to soften. Add in the first 2 cups of confectioner’s sugar, along with the spices, vanilla, and maple syrup. Mix on low speed until the sugar is mostly incorporated, and then turn it up to high, whipping the mixture for 3 – 5 minutes until light and fluffy. If it still seems too loose to you, add in the remaining cup of confectioner’s sugar, and whip on high again. Spread on cookies and sandwich two together.

Yield depends on size of cookie cutters; Makes about 2 Dozen 1-Inch Sandwich Cookies

Printable Recipe


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Pretty Please, with Potatoes on Top?

Long gone are the days of carb-fearing, Atkins-style grain avoidance, but deep within the American psyche, some subconscious resistance still seems to remain. Just mention a meal combining two starches and even the most well-grounded eaters lose their composure, if only for a moment. Rice and corn? Iffy, but passable. Bread and potatoes? Not unless you want the health food police to arrive on your doorstep, handcuffs ready to snap shut over the guilty cook. And yet, it’s perfectly fine for potatoes to be integrated into the bread, but should they separate, it’s a downright culinary crime. Enough of this nonsense, I say; Let loose, have your bread and potatoes together, and eat them, too!

Truly, it’s a damned shame that this traditional “wisdom” has kept the two apart for so long. Since Thanksgiving is essentially the biggest carbohydrate-bomb of a meal one will consume this year, it seemed the perfect opportunity to sneak this underdog dish in. Rather than serving two individual courses to satisfy the need for both tuber and grain, save yourself the trouble and time with a single side. Magical things happen when you top a chewy loaf of focaccia with thin slices of golden-fleshed potatoes and a handful of red onions. Crispy and golden brown around the edges but still tender on the inside, the sheath of potatoes creates a topper that sets an otherwise simple flat bread apart from the rest.

There is a secret ingredient, however, kneaded deep within the strands of gluten. Sauerkraut brightens up the flavors of the wheat with a much-needed hit of acid, those tangy notes perfectly in tune with the heartier starches. You might even be able to get away with saying that a slice packs in a serving of vegetables in, too!

Sauerkraut and Potato Focaccia

Starter:

1/2 Cup All Purpose Flour
1/2 Cup Barley Flour
1/4 Teaspoon Dry Active Yeast
1/2 Cup Water

Dough:

2 Cups All Purpose Flour
1/2 Cup Rye Flour
1/2 Cup Whole Wheat Flour
2 Tablespoons Dark Brown Sugar, Firmly Packed
1 Teaspoon Table Salt
1 3/4 Teaspoons Dry Active Yeast
2 Cups Sauerkraut, Drained
3/4 Cups Water
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil

Topping:

1 Pound Red-Skinned Potatoes
1/2 Medium Red Onion, Thinly Sliced
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
Kosher Salt or Coarse Sea Salt

The day or night before hand, mix together all of the ingredients for the starter in a large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, and leave out in a warm place at least overnight, or for 8 – 24 hours. The longer amount of time is better for developing flavor in the bread, but a minimum of 8 hours with certainly suffice.

Once the starter has sat for as much time as you’re willing to give it, start working on the main dough by combining the flours. Take your drained sauerkraut, squeeze out as much extra liquid as possible, and toss it in the flour to coat. Add this mixture, along with the remaining dough ingredients into the bowl of starter. Mix thoroughly, and install the bread hook attachment in your stand mixer once the dough has come together. Allow the machine to knead on a slow speed for about 10 minutes. This makes for a fairly loose, sticky dough, so don’t panic if it seems fairly wet.

Transfer the dough into a lightly-grease, clean bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm place for about 1 hour, or until doubled in size.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees, and lightly grease a 10 x 15-inch jellyroll pan.

Punch down the risen dough gently, and scrape it out onto your prepared pan. Use your finger tips to press it out evenly into the jellyroll shape, leaving nooks and crannies as you go. Set aside while you prepare the topping.

A mandoline will make the process go faster, but you can also use a very sharp knife (and a decent dose of patience). Slice the potatoes to approximately 2 mm in thickness, and then slice the onions just slightly thicker since they will cook faster. Toss both in the olive oil until thoroughly coated, and apply the topping in an even layer over the unbaked focaccia, trying not to overlap slices of potatoes. Sprinkle lightly with salt.

Slide your loaf into the oven, and bake for 25 – 30 minutes, until golden brown all over, the potatoes are fork-tender, and the onions are slightly crispy around the edges. Let cool before slicing.

Printable Recipe

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