Saturday, October 9, 2010

COOKIE FRENZY

Chocolate Chip Dried Berry Cinnamon Cookies & Molasses Chews


As much as I am nostalgic and sentimental, I am as untraditional as the day is long. You can blame this partly on our multi-cultural household, our happy clash of religions, nationalities, backgrounds, cultures and that need to find our own special meeting point in between, or you can pin it partly on my near-total lack of organizational skills, but my home rarely sees a traditional celebration of any holiday. No Thanksgiving feasts, no hot New Year’s Eve festivities, no grandiose parties, no glorious swathes of gaily-colored lights or beribboned greens, no tables groaning under a cornucopia of exquisite holiday dishes. And mention one of those “other” holidays to my man – Halloween, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day – and he’ll sneer and spew venom about all the commercially-driven, anglo-American faux-holidays that the French have happily imported to their own country. Yes, he loves a good Carnival, and we do celebrate Hanukkah, but along with birthdays and anniversaries, our celebrations are low-key family affairs.

And I’m no a Betty Crocker, either. No June Cleaver-type mom who is waiting in the kitchen, apron tied around her waist and perfectly coiffed, with a plate of warm cookies and glasses of milk at the ready for the kids as they burst in from a day at school. Though we try and keep the house clean and straightened, we don’t mind the “lived in” look and feel of our home and the coziness and familiarity that it engenders. This may very well be ingrained in my DNA or, again, it is all kith and kin with the whole disorganization syndrome, the fact that half the time my head isn’t really screwed on straight or, well, maybe I just go my own way, play by my own rules and go with the old gut instinct.


Which means that there is no rhyme or reason to my cooking and baking. No “oh its that time of year again!” or “I must dig out those old family recipes for this special day!” or even “Gosh it’s almost six, I need to have dinner on the table and feed those hungry men!” No. I’d say kitchen anarchy rules supreme. One week I’ll go on a cooking frenzy. Could be the weather that inspires or a craving for this food or that vegetable, but my fingers will itch to be slicing and dicing, cutting and chopping and I’ll cook a hot meal, stew or curry or grilled this, baked that every single night of the week. And we’ll have a hearty meal every night and the refrigerator will fill up with leftovers. Other weeks I’ll need to bake. Yes, you heard me, NEED to bake. Cakes and panna cotta, bread and biscuits, macarons and pies and tarts. And the menfolk will start to complain about my trying to kill them with dessert or shove baked goods down their throats and that there is never any real food in the house to eat, a dearth of dinner, and as things get brought to work or turn fuzzy and wend their way into the trash, you would think that by now I would have learned my lesson. Right?

Well, you got another think comin’, as they used to say way back when. No, I still follow my urges, get turned on by the weather, the incessant rain or the unrelenting heat, go just a little bit crazy with a change of season and the “changing of the guard” at my favorite fruit and vegetable market stall, snapping up all the new season’s stars: sweet potatoes by the bushel or peaches by the bagful, plums or pumpkin, apples or grapes that are simply begging to be taken home and baked, or some scent lingers just long enough to stir up memories of some childhood snack or that autumn in Italy or some such trigger. And this week it was cookies. Now, I’ve said it before, and at the risk of repeating myself too often I’ll say it again, cookie baking, in my book, is highly over-rated. It is hard, time-consuming work demanding an entire afternoon with nose stuck to the oven window. Those, like myself, who are easily distracted or wildly undisciplined multi-taskers are hopeless cookie burners. We lose patience and our attention span is overridden by more immediate, interesting matters: e-mails or twitter or that perfect sentence for the story we are in the middle of writing that all of a sudden pops into the brain and must be scratched down immediately or it will turn to dust before the task at hand is completed. And so I bake cakes. Measure, stir, bake, timer is set and I can move onto something else. But this week I just had to bake cookies. No rhyme or reason. Could have been the early soft days of autumn or the deluge that followed swiftly on her heels, could be some sentimental reminder of a childhood long lost in the pages of time, but cookies, this week, it was.

A bag or two of mixed dried berries found their way into in my suitcase and back from Florida this summer and although they were crying out for scones, one bag went into Chocolate Chip Dried Berry Cinnamon Cookies based on my much loved, tried and true chocolate chip cookie recipe. Soft, tender to chewy with the warmth of cinnamon, and the dense, chewy, tangy dried cherries and blueberries were a perfect match with the mini chocolate chips. Then came an old favorite, Molasses Chews. I haven’t made these cookies for years and was afraid that the family wouldn’t be too keen on the sharp bite of the traditional molasses-clove flavor combination, so I replaced the teaspoon of ground cloves with a dash of nutmeg and, along with the cinnamon and ginger it was perfect! This blend of spices added just the right touch and balanced out the rather strange taste of molasses and mellowed it, smoothing out the flavors and creating something gently spicy, chewy and oh so satisfying.


As many of you know, my son Simon is spending this year volunteering with lowernine.org in New Orleans. This is a small volunteer organization helping rebuild homes destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in the devastated Lower Ninth Ward. They are hardworking, passionate young people living right in the same neighborhood as the homes they are rebuilding and the residents of the Ward are so appreciative and thankful for what they are doing. But they need our help. Lowernine.org is up for a Pepsi 250K grant but the winner is chosen by votes! They really need your help to win this grant, which would fund their work for the next nine months. Please go to this link and scroll down to the bottom and click on "Vote for this idea". A window will pop open and you can either register using your Facebook page or with an e-mail address. Once registered simply click on "Vote for this idea" again. And you can vote once a day until the end of the month. Please take just a few minutes and vote for lowernine.org. I thank you as a proud mom and as someone who knows how important this is! THANK YOU!


MOLASSES CHEWS


12 Tbs (175 g) unsalted butter
1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
¼ cup (65 ml) molasses or treacle
1 large egg
1 ¾ cup (229 g) flour
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
½ tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp salt
½ tsp baking soda


Melt the butter, sugar and molasses in a small saucepan over low heat until melted and smooth. Remove from the heat and allow to cool a bit.

Stir the flour, spices, salt and baking soda together. In a large mixing bowl, lightly beat the egg then, continuing to beat with a wooden spoon, gradually add the warm butter/sugar/molasses mixture, stirring until smooth. Add the flour/spice mixture to the liquid mixture and stir together until blended and smooth. The batter will be wet.


Allow the batter to sit for about half an hour or so to thicken a bit. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).


Drop tablespoons of the batter onto a baking sheet leaving 2 – 3 inches between them to allow for spreading. Bake each batch for about 10 minutes (depending on the size of the cookies) until puffed and beginning to darken. Remove from the oven and allow to rest on the cookie sheets for about 30 seconds or so to firm up slightly before carefully sliding a spatula under each cookie and lifting off. Allow to cool completely on cooling racks.


CHOCOLATE CHIP DRIED BERRY CINNAMON COOKIES


2 sticks (1 cup, 225 g) unsalted butter softened to room temperature
¾ cup (150 g) granulated white sugar
¾ cup (165 g) brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsps vanilla extract
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1 ½ tsps salt
2 ¼ (280 g) cups flour
1 cup mini chocolate chips
1 cup dried berries (cherries, blueberries, cranberries or a mixture)

Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).

In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter with the 2 sugars until blended, light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating just until blended, and then the vanilla.

Add the chocolate chips and dried berries and give it a whirl with the

Blend together the flour with the cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Gradually beat into the butter mixture, stirring by hand at the end if it gets to stiff to finish with electric beaters. Chill if desired.

Drop by spoonfuls, as large or as small as you like, onto cookie sheets, leaving space in between for spreading. Bake for 9 – 11 minutes (depending on the size of the cookies) until golden brown around the edges and just set in the center. Remove from the oven and carefully transfer to cooling racks with a spatula. If they are too soft to move, allow to cool slightly on the hot cookie sheets (they will continue to cook for a bit).


Serve platters of cookies with mugs of café au lait, soothing tea or big cold glasses of milk.


43 comments:

Nicisme said...

What a lovely array of cookies!

I'm with your husband on all the commercially-driven holidays. I don't mind making something, but don't want to line someone else's pockets at the shops!

Good for your son, what a worthy cause - I'll check out that voting page. xx

Jamie said...

@Nicisme - Thanks so much Nic! This is such a worthy cause and they are such a small group they really need grants like this. Spread the link around! xo

Sara@OneTribeGourmet said...

Delicious cookies Jamie! I would love to learn the art of baking from you!

I will check out the link. What a wonderful son you have, you must be so proud!

Jamie said...

@Sara - Thanks so much. This is a great group of passionate volunteers who are doing so much for the residents of the Lower Ninth! A very worthy cause!

elra said...

Such a beautiful photos jaime. Of course the cookies are equally beautiful as well.

Jennifurla said...

What a great cause, those cookies look divine

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Gorgeous cookies! I'd love to have one of each with my tea.

Your son is doing a great thing. That is a wonderful cause.

Cheers,

Rosa

Deeba PAB said...

Yay for Simon and the wonderful job he's doing with the volunteer work Jamie. Voted, and will do so again! YUM cookies. Feel like a cookie monster. Haven't seen cookies here for a while {other than the DB}, and I'm lovin' these! Beautiful styling too m'girl, really nice!

Junglefrog said...

Great cookies Jamie and great that Simon is working for such a wonderful cause. I am off to check on the voting page right now!

crustabakes said...

"Other weeks I’ll need to bake. Yes, you heard me, NEED to bake" - I totally am with you on this! LOL

Jamie said...

@Rosa
@Deeba
@Simone@Junglefrog : Thanks to all for your support, kind words re: my son and the much-needed votes!

Jamie said...

@crustabakes - LOL! I fear that there are many of us out there! btw don't forget to vote for lowernine! Thanks!

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

Jamie, all of those things are why we adore you! And great work by your son, he has as kind a heart as you do! :)

Jamie said...

@Lorraine - Oh, Lorraine, thank you my lovely friend... I am very proud to see my son happy to spend his time helping others and being so proud of it himself.

tasteofbeirut said...

Beautiful and delicious cookies! Love the molasses ones the best; you must be so proud of your son, nothing elevates more a man than to think of others; this is a worthy cause.

Cake Duchess said...

Simon sounds amazing like his mamma! What a wonderful thing to do. Cookies look delicious!

Sippity Sup said...

I can just imagine the chewy, slightly sticky texture on these cookies! And I bet just the tiniest bit of kitchen chaos makes them all the better. GREG

Heavenly Housewife said...

Oh wow, how delicious. I think you better hide those cookies or a certain cookie monster from the UK might decide on a trip to France LOL.
Have a wonderful weekend.
*kisses* HH

Ananda Rajashekar said...

first time here Jamie, loving,, gorgeous stack of cookies, going straight for the vote :)

Jamie said...

@Ananda - welcome and thanks so much for both the compliment and your vote!

@Heavenly H - Waiting.... plenty of cookies left! xo

@Sippity Sup - I love me some kitchen chaos, it is in my blood. And these cookies are sooo satisfying but way too addictive!

girlichef said...

You know...that's how I am in the kitchen, too! I never understood how people could be so organized and methodical...just not in me, I guess. I think both cookies sound awesome...though I'm partial to the molasses variety! And that is so awesome that your son is donating his time and getting that experience...you must be very proud :D

Jamie said...

@girlichef - you don't surprise me. Reading your blog I can feel right away that you cook and bake like I do! I think it is the sign of a creative mind! And yes, I am one proud mom!

Joanne said...

I think it's much more fun to cook as the mood strikes you and just go with your creative impulses. Who needs rules, traditions, regulations? Just seems silly.

These cookies look fantastic! After seeing these, I kind of hope you get sucked into a cookie frenzy more often!

Barbara | VinoLuciStyle said...

I simply love a molasses cookie. Combine mine with an apple and I'm in heaven. I have a recipe I've been using for 25 years that I love but am anxious to try yours.

Great cause, great photos...great YOU!

A Thought For Food said...

I'm in love with chewy molasses cookies... I have ginger ones that i make all the time. These look like the perfect consistency... and I bet they'd be terrific with a cup of tea.

theUngourmet said...

I usually don't have the time or patience for cooking baking either but I did bake some today. I was just in the mood I guess. I have to say, I do take pleasure in putting together a lovely Thanksgiving meal but other than that, I just like to follow my heart with my cooking and baking. :) Both of your cookies look completely scrumptious! My kids are huge molasses cookie fans.

Meaghan Frubalee said...

both these cookies look great! what an awesome treat! thanks so much for posting, love your blog! i cannot wait to make the berry chippers! phenomenal :)

-m
http://clutzycooking.blogspot.com/

shaz said...

Ha ha, I'm a bit like you Jamie, some days I don't even know what's for dinner until I pull a chopping board out and rummage through the vege crisper :) And the NEED to bake? Understand that completely. Great cookies, and of course I'll vote. Hope they win.

Conor @ Hold the Beef said...

I'm really taken by this feeling of fabulous chaos, though organised in its own organic way, that you've painted. I think I'd like to hang out in your house.

Foodwanderings said...

Hi Jamie, I got a confession to make I do not like molasses until I saw this cookies and post. I always think what will go wellwith my tea and these molasses snaps seem perfect. Good job on converting me!! :) Shulie

Jamie said...

@Conor @ Hold the Beef - The more the merrier (and the more chaotic!) so the door is always open!

@Foodwanderings - Thanks, Shulie, and I can safely say that these cookies are fabulous and are perfect with tea. As I wrote, my replacement of cloves with nutmeg takes away the sharp bite and slight bitterness of a typical molasses treat and really mellows the flavor and even brings out the cinnamon a bit more. Easy to make and way too addictive for my own good!

Heather Davis said...

Jamie we were obviously feeling the same baking spirit entering our kitchens! I did cookies this week too and mine were ginger so also included treacle. I know what you mean about patience and distractions. I have become heavily reliant on my timer. Without it my cooking history would be heavily filled with burnt offerings. Yours look lovely btw. Love the combo of the first ones.

RamblingTart said...

I was just craving molasses cookies last week. :-) I love that you're baking, Jamie. You've inspired me to get started myself. A freezer full of cookies ready to share sounds like a wonderful idea. :-)

Jeanne @ Cooksister! said...

Ooh, I love those cranberry cookies! Off to go and check out the Lower Nine website now - good for your son!

gastroanthropologist said...

When I first read the title I thought it was all one cookie and thought - what has she discovered! After looking at the pictures and recipes I think they are just happy being separate. Oh, those molasses chew look so tasty - I love gingery, spicy, molassey cookie especially when autumn comes around. Lori from Fake Food Free and I are doing a blogger cookie recipe exchange for the holidays - info on the exchange coming at the end of the week if your interested...these molasses chews would be so perfect for it.

will check out you sons voting page now...

Lora said...

Love the cookies recipes. The chocolate chip one is especially creative. Your son is no doubt having an amazing and life changing experience. Already voted.

Peter M said...

The cinnamon wins me over and black treacle? Haven't seen that on shelves in awhile. Must find for nostalgic purposes.

5 Star Foodie said...

These must be so yummy with cinnamon and dried berries!

Reeni said...

I am the same way - baking up a storm one week and then nothing at all the next! Your cookies look lovely! Did you put all that cinnamon and spice in them just for me? I wouldn't be able to resist either of them.

scrambledhenfruit said...

Both of those cookies look great! Kudos to your son for volunteering for such a worthwhile cause. You must be proud of him!

Tracy said...

Perfect cookies! Yum!

casino on line said...

I love this post. Love cookies.

asiangrrl said...

Girl, you can make cookies for me any time! These look fab. And, I approve of your organizational skills as they mirror mine (do what you NEED to do--the rest is white noise).

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