Auntie Stacey’s Chickpea Salad

chickpeasalad1 1/2 – 2 C Chickpeas, brine drained and rinsed
1 Shallot, halved and thinly chopped
1/8 C Roasted Red Peppers, brine sopped off with paper towels
1/4 C Cilantro, leaves washed and dried
Salt & Black Pepper, freshly cracked
1/8 C Oil
White Vinegar, generous splash

Assembled the ingredients in a medium bowl and lightly toss. Top with the seasonings, and mix well. Store in the fridge for at least an hour so the flavours have time to marry.

Basic Sugar Cookies

2014-03-12 20.32.26[ Giraffe sugar cookies created using a cookie cutter made in a 3D printer. ]

I brought a bunch of biscotti and sugar cookies to work for the ladies and the gent on Thursday. They were a big hit. One asked for my Auntie Stacey’s Healthy Biscotti recipe I have already posted while another asked for the sugar cookie recipe I haven’t blogged yet, so here it is. Again, another recipe I have adapted from many online over the years and, well, there wasn’t much to teak beyond the variations I have come up with in terms of flavouring the sugar cookies. The base remains the same, year after year. It if ain’t broke, y’know?

Basic Sugar Cookies:
1 C Unsalted Butter, room temp
1/2 C Powder Sugar
1 Large Egg, room temp
1 Tea Vanilla Extract
1/2 Tea Baking Powder
1/2 Tea Salt, fine grind
2 C All Purpose Flour

In a medium to large bowl, dump in the flour, salt and baking powder. Whisk to blend these ingredients well. Set aside.

Cream the butter in a mixer for 2-3 minutes till it turns pale, then slowly drizzle in scoopfuls of the powder sugar on a low speed, and let the mixer run another 2 minutes on a high speed to incorporate as much air as it can to make a fluffy butter mixture.

Drop the speed back down to low and start adding the egg and vanilla. Let that fully mix into the butter before adding the dry ingredients by the spoonfuls, allowing each drop the be mixed into the butter fully before adding the next.

By the last of the dry ingredients, the dough should be balled up and rolling around in the mixing bowl cleanly from the sides and bottom. If it’s not, run the mixer a bit longer till it comes together. It will. Just wait for it. When that happens, stop the mixer and turn the dough out onto a floured work surface to knead gently for a minute or two to form a smooth circular disk you can place in plastic wrap.

Chill the dough for one hour minimum. When ready to get started cutting the cookies, take the dough out and let it sit on the counter for 10-15 minutes to warm up a bit. While waiting, dust your work space again with flour, assemble any cookie cutters and bench scraper needed, as well as preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Tips & Tricks: Some find rolling the dough out between two sheets of wax paper helpful, but I found I didn’t need it since the dough didn’t stick to my rolling pin. I tend to flour the work surface and rolling pin well.

2014-03-12 20.14.32A little trick I use when working with dough that needs to be a consistent thickness across all the cookies in the same batch is to use my chopsticks that are 3/4 square from the top downward to where it starts to round out and taper. I ignore that part of the sticks, and keep the rolling up in the squared off area.

If you don’t have access to similar chopsticks, you can also use to wooden planks (think old wooden rulers we used in grade school). There are commercial versions, but they’re a waste of money if you ask me. One can easily look around their home and make do with two flat objects that have matching thicknesses to roll a rolling pin over to flatten out the dough evenly while cutting out cookies.

2014-03-12 20.27.12Try to aim for 1/4″ thickness when rolling out the dough. I find that is the ideal sugar cookie thickness for small to medium sized cookies (like I made with my 3D printed Giraffe cookie cutter). Bump the increment up to 3/8″ if a bigger cookie is being cut, and allow for a 2-3 minute increase over the standard 6-8 minute baking times for small to medium sugar cookies.

After the cut cookies are moved from the work surface to the baking sheet, the dough can be balled up and rolled out once more for additional cookies before the dough needs to be covered and chilled for another 10 minutes between batches. My hands are always warm, so I don’t push this. If I feel the butter in the dough literally melting in my hands, I will chill it without a second rolling and cutting. I don’t chance it. The cookies wouldn’t come out with a nice crisp edge if I baked a soft cut out.

2014-03-12 20.30.29[ Total loss of giraffe detail after baking the softer dough cookie cuts. ]

If you have cold hands (oh, how I envy you all who do), you can spend more time rolling and cutting out the dough between trips to the fridge. If you do find the cookies are softening while sitting out in the hot kitchen, simply pop the cookie tray into the fridge while it awaits its turn in the oven to firm up the butter again.

Store the cookies after completely being cooled down in air tight containers. And NEVER decorate these while still even a teeny-weensy bit warm. The icing will run like an athlete in the summer Olympics.

Sugar cookies are the #1 cookie to bake during all holidays where gifts are to be given or when guests arrive for an occasion like a wedding or baby shower. Get creative with shapes and icing designs. I have seem some great ones lately. Like this batch for Chinese New Year. How gorgeous are they?! I wouldn’t want to eat them because they look like they belong in a frame in some cookie museum.. ūüôā

chinesenewyear[ Happy belated Chinese New Year 2014 to my bff since Grade 3! ]

Auntie Stacey’s Healthy Biscotti

Eggnog Biscotti I made for Christmas gift giving a year ago.

This is my own variation of a recipe I found online years ago. I had to modify it to suit my particular food tastes and baking sensibilities, but it wasn’t that hard and the taste didn’t suffer one iota. One Italian man couldn’t tell the difference. Yields roughly two dozen and total time is 3 hours.

Enjoy!

2014-03-13 09.32.58

Auntie Stacey’s Healthy Biscotti:
1/4 C Margarine or Butter, room temp
1/2 C Sugar
2 Eggs
1/2 Tea Almond Extract
1/2 Tea Anise Extract (or vanilla extract)
1 3/4 C Flour (I use unbleached all purpose)
1/2 C Almond Meal
1/4 Tea Salt
1 Tea Baking Powder
1/2 C Nuts (optional, any kind)
Slivered Almonds + 1 Tbsp Egg White or Milk, for garnish (optional)
Melting Chocolate, for garnish (optional)

Directions
1. Cream the sugar until nice and fluffy, about 5 minutes, and then add the sugar and beat to combine well.

2. Add the eggs one at a time, and drizzle the extracts in as the mixture is running.

3. Combine 1 1/2 C of the flour in separate bowl with almonds, salt, nuts, and baking powder. Sift with spoon and start adding it to the wet ingredients in the mixer bowl as it runs on a low speed. Gently stir in last 1/4 C flour to complete the dough by hand.

4. Cover and chill mixture for two hours.

5. Divide dough into two balls and shape into rectangular logs with squared up ends, then flatten them out to roughly less that an inch in height, taking care to keep the squared off ends of the logs. Place each one of a sprayed cookie sheet or atop of foil on a jelly roll pan. Cover tops of each loaf with egg white or milk wash and slivered almonds for extra taste.

2014-03-12 22.54.456. Bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees C until center is no longer sticky. Place on racks to cool down for cutting. When each loaf is cool to touch, use a long blade knife and gently but firmly press down each time to cut the loaves into clean strips.

2014-03-12 23.37.007. Turn each strip on its side and bake for another 15 minutes each at same temperature. Take care in the last five minutes on the second side not to dry them out by leaving them “toast” too long. I found it only took 7 minutes on each side in my stove to get a great crunch that won’t break teeth if you’re not a¬†hot beverage¬†drinker. If you are, I recommend the full 15 on the first side and 10 minutes on other side, and leaving them out in the open air to cool completely to get the true hard-as-a-rock biscotti effect.

8. If the flat sides are rough from the knife, once the biscotti is completely cooled, you can micro-plane them smooth before dipping one side into, or drizzling with, melted chocolate.

Flavour Variations:
* 2 Tbsp Orange Zest + 1/2 Tea Vanilla Extract + 3 oz Dark Chocolate Chips
* 2 Tbsp Orange Zest + 2 Tbsp Espresso Powder + 1/2 Tea Ground Cinnamon
* 3-4 Tea Orange Juice + 1/4 Tea Almond Extract + 1 C Powder Sugar (Icing)
* 3-4 Tea Eggnog + 1/4 Tea + 1 C Powder Sugar (Icing)
* 3-4 Tea Lemon Juice + 1/4 Tea Vanilla Extract + 1 C Powder Sugar (Icing)