Archive for the ‘Cookies’Category

Relicatessen: heavenly products for earthly delights

Relicatessen stall at La Boqueria in Barcelona

Relicatessen in Barcelona solved a problem for us. When we’re in Spain for any extended period, we enjoy seeking out the cookies, sweets, and other foodstuffs from the country’s 38 monasteries and convents that make products for sale. Often that means placing money on a revolving window (called a retorno) and getting a box of cookies, a jar of jam, or a pot of honey in return.

Francisco Vera of Relicatessen in La Boqueria in BarcelonaBut we’re not always in a town with a cloistered order that makes products for sale. Thank god (so to speak) that Francisco Vera opened Relicatessen (www.relicatessen.com) three years ago in stall 988 in the Mercat Sant Josep, better known as La Boqueria. Located right on La Rambla in a Modernista-style iron frame shed, the Boqueria is one of Barcelona’s most popular attractions. Vera sells the edible products of 11 of the country’s monasteries and nunneries along with some other gourmet items, such as olive oil and saffron.

To get to Vera’s stall, you’ll walk past heaping pyramids of fresh fruits and vegetables, refrigerated cases of big cuts of meat, cured mountain hams hanging from above, and vast swathes of crushed ice with fish so fresh that their eyes gleam clear and bright.

Temptations from on high


Marmalades at Relicatessen in La Boqueria in BarcelonaVera sells 36 different marmalades, including the signature Spanish bitter orange. The religious order at Monastario de Santa María de Huerta in Soría crafts some of the more sophisticated flavors, such as pear, cinnamon, and cardamom or the combination of kiwi, lemon, and tequila.

There are honeys from the mountains and honeys from fields of anise or groves of madroño trees (strawberry trees). There is dulce de leche “bottled in silence.” The Convento Purísima Concepción makes dulce de membrillo (a quince preserve that’s delicious with Manchego cheese) and Turrón de la Abuela (nougat studded with roasted almonds) that claims to be just like Spanish grandmothers make it. The Monjas Jerónimas Constantina infuse their vinegars with a range of flavors, not least among them mint, rosemary, and garlic.

Yemas at Relicatessen in La Boqueria in BarcelonaThe most popular treats, Vera says, are polvorones, almond shortbread sables made by the Carmelitas Descalzas and Yemas de Santa Clara, candied egg yolks. Legend says that the nuns invented this way of preserving yolks in the late medieval period, when the egg whites were used to clarify wine. The products are so heartfelt that they make nice gifts that also help preserve the vanishing religious vocations. Pressed for his favorite among the many temptations, Vera admits to being most fond of the really good chocolates made by the Monjas Jerónimas.

01

10 2017

Enjoy a millionaire’s tea at a pauper’s price

Tea tray at Good Food & Wine in Belfast
Aptly named Good Food & Wine is a gourmet treat shop and casual cafe that serves afternoon tea all day long. It’s tucked into the Queen’s Arcade shopping center between Fountain Street and Donegall Place, Not only is it steps from Belfast City Hall and the Linen Hall Library, it’s also handy to the central shopping district. Mind you, afternoon tea here is not the lifted pinkie, fine porcelain, hushed ambiance formal tea. For that experience, visit the nearby Merchant Hotel (16 Skipper St., 28 9023 4888, themerchanthotel.com), the poshest address in the city.

Counter at Good Food & Wine in BelfastBut at £7.50 per person, it’s hard to beat Good Food & Wine for a tiered tray of finger sandwiches and sweet treats and a pot of brewed looseleaf Belfast Blend. (It contains 90% Assam and 10% Tanzanian black teas.) The selection of sandwiches and treats varies by the day. When we stopped for a respite, we were served four egg salad finger sandwiches on alternating white and dark bread and slices of a three-layer chocolate torte. Even if you just stop in for a cup of tea or coffee, you’ll find a sweet treat at the edge of the saucer. Often, it’s a tiny square of a classic Northern Irish “tray bake” called the Millionaire’s Bar. It stacks a layer of shortbread, a layer of caramel, and a layer of chocolate.

The Millionaire’s Bar (also sometimes called Millionaire’s Shortcake) is a popular treat in Belfast. Most versions are topped with semisweet or milk chocolate. For a change of pace, Good Food & Wine sometimes uses white chocolate (legally called “white confectionery” in the U.S.). We played around with a few recipes and came up with the version below. The sprinkle of sea salt on top enhances the toasty flavor of the caramel.

Good Food & Wine, 12-16 Queen’s Arcade, 28 2766 8879, thegoodfoodandwinecompany.co.uk

White Chocolate Millionaire's Bar

MILLIONAIRE’S BARS


A few notes about the recipe: Measurements are largely given by weight. Since many baking ingredients vary widely by volume, weighing the components guarantees that the recipe comes out the same each time. As far as we can tell, no one makes golden syrup on this side of the Atlantic. Imported cans of Lyle’s Golden Syrup are available in gourmet shops and well-stocked grocery stores. Nothing can substitute for the toffee flavor, as the syrup is made partially with invert sugar.

Makes 16-20 pieces

Ingredients

For shortbread
225 grams (8 oz.) all purpose flour
175 grams (6 oz.) butter, cold, cut in small cubes
75 grams (2 3/4 oz.) granulated sugar, ground fine in spice grinder or food processor

For topping
150 grams (5 oz.) butter
394-gram (14 fl. oz.) can condensed milk
100 grams (3 1/2 fl. oz.) golden syrup
2 tablespoons heavy cream
350 grams white chocolate, grated or cut very small
sea salt for finishing (Maldon flake or similar)

Directions

Preheat oven to 300ºF. Line a 9×9 inch baking pan with aluminum foil.

In food processor, combine flour and small cubes of butter. Process in pulses to consistency of fine breadcrumbs. Add ground sugar and pulse until combined.

Place mixture in lined pan and spread evenly with back of a spoon. Press down shortbread firmly to pack tightly in pan.

Bake for 30-35 minutes until pale golden brown. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

As shortbread is baking, begin to prepare the caramel layer of topping. Place butter, condensed milk, and golden syrup in saucepan. Stir occasionally while heating until butter melts and mixture is smooth.

Raise heat to bring mixture to a boil, stirring often. When the caramel thickens and turns golden brown, remove from heat. When it has cooled a little, pour over the cooled shortbread, spreading evenly over the surface. Set aside to cool completely.

When caramel is cooled, prepare chocolate layer. Bring water to a simmer in bottom of double boiler. In top of double boiler, heat the cream over direct heat until simmering. Place over simmering water in double boiler and add white chocolate, stirring until mixture is smooth. Pour over pan and smooth to edges. Sprinkle sparingly with finishing salt and let cool before cutting.

04

12 2016

Spanish orange & almond tart for Christmas

Holiday tart of almond, saffron, and Seville orange
Last year for the holiday season we made saffron shortbread cookies, and we were feeling bad that we didn’t have a new holiday cookie this year. We got to thinking about winter sweets and some of our all-time favorite flavors, and the two sort of came together.

Some of the quintessential tastes of Spain are almonds, saffron, and bitter oranges. Why not adapt our standard linzer tart recipe to reflect that different range of flavors? Instead of hazelnuts in the dough, we could use almonds. Instead of vanilla, we could use saffron. And in place of raspberry jam, we could use Seville orange marmalade. (OK, we know that the marmalade is more a Scottish than Spanish flavor, but it does use the bitter oranges of Andalucía.)

Our first thought was to make almond meal using toasted Marcona almonds since they are the classic snack almond of southern Spain. We did that, but by losing the skin of the almond, we also lost a lot of the taste. Moreover, toasted blanched almonds ground up into too fine a flour. The result was a perfectly edible tart, but one with a more crumbly crust and less pronounced flavor than we were looking for.

Back to the drawing board. In the end, it turned out that the much less expensive California almonds gave the best flavor and were the easiest to work with. We toasted them in a dry pan in the oven at 400°F for about 10 minutes, then ground them into fine meal in a food processor after they had cooled. This technique gives a good toasted almond flavor, and also makes the saffron flavor more pronounced. The strength of saffron will depend on what kind you are using. It’s not very Spanish, but we got the best results with “Baby Saffron” from Kashmir, using four blisters of the single-serving packs.

Slices of the finished tart go well with espresso or a flute of cava.

ANDALUCÍAN CHRISTMAS TART slice of holiday tart

Makes one 7 1/2-inch (19 cm) fluted tart (serves 6-8)

Ingredients

1/3 cup (66 grams) granulated sugar
1 generous pinch saffron (0.2 gram)
1/4 teaspoon (1.5 grams) salt
1/2 cup (1 stick, 114 grams) butter, softened
1 egg
2/3 cup (96 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) baking powder
1 cup raw almonds (150 grams), lightly toasted
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon (200 grams) Seville orange marmalade

Directions

In coffee or spice grinder, mix sugar, saffron, and salt. Grind briefly. Empty into medium bowl. Add butter and beat until light and fluffy. Add egg and beat to mix well.

In another medium bowl, place flour and baking powder. Whisk to blend. Grind almonds to fine meal in food processor. Whisk nuts into flour mixture. Add nut-flour mixture to butter mixture. Mix on low speed until all ingredients are incorporated.

piping lattice onto tart Pat 2/3 cup of the dough into bottom of 7 1/2 inch (19 cm) fluted tart pan with removable bottom. Place remainder of dough into cookie press or pastry bag fitted with a 3/8-inch fluted tip. Pipe around the edges to make side crust. Place orange marmalade into shell and smooth out until even. Pipe a lattice over top of tart.

Refrigerate tart for 30 minutes while preheating oven to 350°F. Bake tart until preserves just begin to bubble – about 35 minutes. Transfer to rack on counter to cool. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream to balance the bitterness of the orange.

12

12 2014

Saffron shortbread cookies for festive season

Shortbread and coffee
Peggy Regan of Salon de Té le Gryphon D’Or (www.gryphondor.com) in Montreal is the absolute mistress of shortbread, which you can enjoy at her tea room or order through the mail. When she gave us a shortbread recipe for Food Lovers’ Guide to Montreal (see SOME BOOKS), she casually mentioned how the recipe could be adapted to add other flavors. She had in mind flavors like maple and almond.

We happen to love shortbread cookies as an accompaniment to Spanish sparkling wine, or cava. So we wondered how another signature Spanish flavor — saffron — might taste in shortbread. Since we travel often to Spain, we tend to buy saffron when we come across a good deal or when we’re in Consuegra, the premier saffron town. And roughly once a year we purchase a full ounce (that’s 28+ grams) of premium saffron from Afghanistan from Vanilla Saffron (www.saffron.com) in San Francisco. So we almost always have a lot of saffron on hand.

Saffron extractWe experimented a bit to perfect this shortbread. Saffron gives up its color and flavor sparingly to fat, so to get a lovely golden color and intense flavor for the dough, we had to make a saffron extract using grain alcohol. (Overproof rum or vodka works just as well.) The shortbread recipe takes hints from a number of chefs and bakers. Grinding the sugar (we use a coffee/spice grinder) speeds the absorption of sugar into the butter. The use of a blend of cake flour and all-purpose flour is a trick many bakers use for a more tender shortbread. The optional crumbled saffron creates little flecks in the cookies and makes the saffron flavor even more intense.

And if you don’t want to open a bottle of cava, the shortbread is great with hot coffee.

SAFFRON SHORTBREAD COOKIES

Makes 3 dozen cookiesShortbread cooling vertical

Ingredients

1 cup (2 sticks) butter at room temperature (230 grams)
1/2 cup granulated sugar, ground in blender or food processor (100 grams)
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon homemade saffron extract (see below)
1 cup all-purpose flour (140 grams)
1 cup cake flour (120 grams)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled (optional)
extra granulated sugar for sprinkling

Directions

Using power mixer and large bowl, beat butter until fluffy. Add sugar and beat for 5-10 minutes until fluffy and mixture no longer feels gritty between thumb and forefinger. (Scrape down bowl often.) Beat in egg yolk and saffron extract until well mixed.

In a separate bowl combine all-purpose flour, cake flour, baking powder, salt, and crumbled saffron threads (if using). Whisk thoroughly to blend.

Add flour mixture to butter-sugar mixture a little at a time, mixing in with wooden spoon or spatula. When flour appears to be fully incorporated, beat with mixer on low for 15 seconds to ensure uniform dispersion in the dough.

Mixture will be very soft. Turn out onto parchment paper and top with a second layer of paper. Press into disk and roll out about 1/4 inch thick. Place rolled-out dough in refrigerator for 30 minutes until firm.

Set oven for 325F (165C). Cut cookies into desired shape. (We use a 1 3/4-inch fluted circle.) Work quickly before dough softens. Place on ungreased cookie sheet and sprinkle each cookie with granulated sugar. Bake for 15-17 minutes, until cookies just barely begin to brown on bottom.

Remove to wire racks to cool.

SAFFRON EXTRACT
1 teaspoon saffron threads
2 tablespoons neutral spirit (150 proof or higher)
Combine in small bottle. Extract can be used immediately but gains potency after a day of steeping. In tightly sealed bottle kept away from light, extract should retain its potency for a month or more.

22

12 2013

Mad for macarons


Montrealers have come to rival Parisians in their passion for macarons. Slowly but surely, pastry chefs all over the city have learned the techniques of making fabulous macarons – those delicate meringue sandwiches that bear only the slightest relation to the much cruder coconut-based American macaroon.

The leading macaron boutique for our money is Point G (1266 avenue Mont-Royal est; 514-750-7515; www.boutiquepointg.com). The name refers to ”Glaces et Gourmandises,” or ice cream and small pastries. In practice that means some fabulous artisanal ices (including a foie gras ice cream to take home and dollop on steamed asparagus), and close to two dozen inventive flavors of macarons, including lavender-blueberry, roasted pistachio, orange blossom, crème brûlée, lime-basil, and chocolate-hazelnut. The shop even has clear-plastic containers fitted to hold a dozen macarons for take-away.

Le Péché Glacé (2001 avenue Mont-Royal est; 514-525-5768) is best known for the ice creams for which the cafe is named, but also serves macarons filled with coffee, caramel, chocolate, and lemon ice creams. They’re tasty, but the ice cream can make the usually crisp cookies a little gummy.

These elegant treats aren’t just the purview of bakeries and snack shops. Some of Montreal’s best macarons come from the pastry chefs at Restaurant Europea (1227 rue de la Montagne; 514-398-9229; www.europea.ca), the fine-dining restaurant of master chef Jérôme Ferrer. The restaurant rivals our long-time favorite Restaurant Toqué! (900 Place Jean-Paul-Riopelle; 514-499-2084; www.restaurant-toque.com) as the top destination dining in Montreal. Ferrer is quite the entrepreneur. His Old Montreal snack shop Espace Boutique Europea (33 rue Notre-Dame ouest; 514-844-1572; www.europea.ca) often has macarons in the dessert case, and they’re often available as dessert at his Bistro le Beaver Hall (1073 Côte du Beaver Hall; 514-866-1331; www.beaverhall.ca). You can even buy a box of these sublime macarons at Birks Café (1240 place Phillips; 514-397-2468; www.birkscafe.ca), which sits on the mezzanine of Montreal’s most exclusive jewelry store.

Ferrer also offers cooking classes at Atelier Europea (www.europea.ca/atelier/index.html), the workshop in the basement of the flagship restaurant. The sessions on making macarons are taught by pastry chef Olivier Michallet, whose resume includes a stint at the legendary Paris pastry shop Ladurée, often considered the pinnacle of Parisian macarons. The classes are usually conducted in French, but cooking transcends language. They fill quickly, but David was able to secure a slot when we were there in early November finishing our research for Food Lovers’ Guide to Montreal.

MACARONS Á L’ATELIER EUROPEA


Makes 5 dozen cookies (30 sandwiches)

This is the recipe that the Atelier Europea uses in its classes. We have kept the original metric weights for ingredients because, as with all meringue-based recipes, weighing gives more consistent results than measuring by volume.

Ingredients

300 grams almond flour
300 grams powdered sugar
6 egg whites
90 grams water
300 grams granulated sugar

Directions

1. In a large bowl, combine almond flour and powdered sugar. Mix well. Add 3 egg whites and blend until thoroughly mixed to a smooth paste.

2. Add water to a non-reactive pot and stir in granulated sugar. Heat on low, stirring until sugar is well dissolved. Raise heat to high and monitor temperature with candy thermometer while preparing egg whites for meringue. Syrup should not exceed 121˚C (250˚F).

3. Place 3 egg whites in a metal mixing bowl (ideally in a stand mixer) and whip to medium peaks—not soft, but not stiff.

4. When sugar syrup reaches a temperature of 121˚C (250˚F), remove pot from heat. With mixer running, slowly pour syrup down side of bowl into egg whites. Increase speed of mixer and whip until whites form very glossy high peaks. Set meringue aside to cool.

5. Once meringue is cooled to warm room temperature, stir about a third of the meringue into the almond-sugar paste to incorporate well. Gently fold in the rest of the meringue.

6. Using a pastry bag with a 3/8-inch round tip, deposit about a teaspoon of batter per cookie onto parchment-covered baking sheet. Space about 1 inch apart. When baking sheet is covered, tap on counter to make batter settle. (Cover remaining batter with plastic wrap before assembling the next tray.)

7. Let sit uncovered for 15–30 minutes to allow a light crust to form. This helps ensure the desired texture of creamy interior and crunchy outer shell.

8. Preheat oven to 180˚C (350˚F).

9. Bake for 6–7 minutes, rotating pan halfway through.

10. Let fully cool on parchment paper. Then remove and make sandwiches. Europea macarons are often filled with rich and complex sweets like caramel fleur de sel buttercream, raspberry buttercream, chocolate ganache, or lemon curd. But we have found that purchased lemon curd or raspberry jam—or fresh berries—sure impress our friends.

18

02 2011

Sonoma Christmas cookie

I like California’s Sonoma County because viticulture and winemaking haven’t yet overwhelmed traditional farming. Almost everything seems to grow there, and one great place to sample the agricultural traditions is Kozlowski Farms (5566 Gravenstein Highway 116, Forestville, California, 707-887-1587), one of the oldest family farms in the county. The farm store is open daily 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

When Carol Kozlowski’s parents bought the farm nearly 60 years ago, they began growing apples and then branched out into raspberries. “We had an overabundance and began to make jam,” she says. “So we put a sign on the side of the road and that launched our business.” The family still grows apples and makes cider, but concentrates on developing new products and operating a farm stand stocked with about 100 different jams, jellies, salad dressings, chutneys, vinegars, fruit butters, mustards, barbecue sauces, and honeys. You can almost make a meal just from the samples. A bakery on the premises offers one of the Kozlowski family’s most inspired raspberry concoctions: a raspberry chocolate chip cookie that, while not quite as decorative as some seasonal cookies, is a big hit around our house at Christmas.

Kozlowski Farms Classic Raspberry Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients

1/2 lb. butter or margarine, softened
2 cups (packed) brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated white sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 10-ounce jar red raspberry jam

Directions

In large mixing bowl, blend butter with brown and white sugars. Add eggs and vanilla and beat well.

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, salt, and baking soda. Add dry ingredients to creamed mixture and blend together well. Add chocolate chips.

Roll a rounded teaspoon of dough in a ball and set onto a greased cookie sheet. Flatten cookie slightly and push down center to create a small indentation. Fill these indentations with a dab of jam. Space cookies about 2 inches apart.

Bake 8-10 minutes in preheated 375 degree oven.

20

12 2009