Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Gosh Darn Good Cookies #CreativeCookieExchange

These cookies, adapted from Daphna Rabinovitch, are filled with two types of chocolate, chopped toffee and a surprising hint of espresso to wake you up!

I am a sucker for cookbooks, especially baking cookbooks. Admittedly, I will almost never follow a cookbook recipe verbatim - my passion for creativity is far too great - but I will often take the essential building blocks or essence of a recipe and tweak it to my own tastes and often what ingredients I have lying around. Sometimes, the results are delicious. Other times, the result is simply nothing short of fantastic.

Such was the case with these cookies. A mix of chocolate, toffee, brown sugar and espresso powder, the original recipe came from one of the best baking books I've read in the past few years - Daphna Rabinovitch's The Baker in Me. I made the recipe almost exactly by the book the first time - shocking to even me - and the cookies were devoured by everyone, even non-coffee lovers. This past Christmas, though, I opted to jazz things up a little bit. I had run out of cake flour (and cornstarch, it turns out) so I swapped in a cup of oat flour for the missing amount. This both mimicked the texture of the cake flour and added a delicate layer of nuttiness that I loved, especially with so many sweet ingredients. To make the cookies extra chewy (and last longer before staling) I added a squeeze of honey to the creamed batter, along with extra vanilla because, vanilla. The last swap was due to ingredient availability - I only had bittersweet chocolate chips and whole chocolate chunks on hand, so I used them in place of the standard semisweet or milk variety, and with no Skor bars in sight regular old toffee bits sufficed. With my work schedule, the cookie dough hung out in the fridge for 4 days before baking, and I popped the scooped dough, on the sheets, into the freezer for 15-20 minutes before baking to prevent excess spread.

Far and away, these are my favourite "unconventional" chocolate chip cookie. Sweet, with a touch of bitterness from the espresso, loaded with "bits" and chewy for days - what isn't there to love? Fair warning though - if you share these, share them only with people you want to stay around, because they'll never leave!

The #CreativeCookieExchange is baking Our Favourite Cookies this month, and we’d love for you to join us! What cookie would you take with you on a desert island?

You can also use us as a great resource for cookie recipes. Be sure to check out our Pinterest Board and our monthly posts (you can find all of them here at The Spiced Life). You will be able to find them the first Tuesday after the 15th of each month! If you are a blogger and want to join in the fun, contact Laura at thespicedlife AT gmail DOT com and she will get you added to our Facebook group, where we discuss our cookies and share links.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Sweetened Condensed Coconut Milk

Condensed Coconut Milk is thick, sweet and perfect for anything you might need a hit of sweetness for. Its gluten free and vegan too, with a delicate floral flavour. 

Condensed Coconut Milk

One of the things my mom loves more than anything else is key lime pie. If she had a choice for anything on her birthday, Mother's Day, any day... she would pick it hands down, particularly if it came attached to a trip to Florida. While it took me a while to become accustomed to the flavour, I have to admit I enjoy a good slice of the confection too, and I will occasionally make it (or a version of it, seeing as key limes are rare here).

One of the main ingredients in key lime pie is condensed milk - thick, gooey and quite possibly the best substance outside of peanut butter and Nutella. Unfortunately for so many people, condensed milk is simply not an option due to dairy allergies or other dietary restrictions. Now, non-dairy sweetened condensed products do exist - including soy and coconut varieties like this one - but they are pricey and can contain additives and thickeners. My homemade version takes time, no question, but it's simple and the taste is amazing. I've used this condensed milk to make fudge, and Meyer lemon pie (similar to key lime) and it definitely holds its own texture wise. The taste is unmistakably coconutty, but not really overwhelming according to those who tasted it (I would but I'm allergic!).
Whether you need it because you're dairy free, or you're just looking for an extra layer of flavour, I highly recommend giving this a try. Who knows, maybe your key lime pie will be next level this Summer! Oh Summer, where art thou?

Monday, January 7, 2019

Carrot, Sweet Potato and Lentil Potage

Carrot, Sweet Potato and Lentil Potage gets a sweet-savoury boost from deep caramelized onions and a smoky spice from paprika and chipotle peppers. 

Carrot, Sweet Potato and Lentil Potage

Happy New Year everyone! I hope your holidays were relaxing and filled with joy - I know mine were certainly joyful if not so much relaxing! Now that we are a week into the January blahs (followed by the February boos), we are definitely turning our focus onto light-on-the-hips but still high on comfort foods. In the traditional spirit of lentils and carrots symbolizing money and gold, as well as the not so traditional spirit of good health, I cooked up a thick, hearty, spicy and slightly sweet potage of root vegetables and lentils. The base ingredients are accented and elevated with pops of herbs (especially wintery rosemary), smoky paprika and chipotle as well as rich, caramelized onions. The smells of the dish perfume your home for ages, from when the onions hit the oil to when all the flavours are blending together happily in the pot. Frequent taste tests - for quality control of course - are greatly encouraged.

Lentil and split pea puree-based soups have always had a special place in my heart, as they remind me of the delicious soup I had in Montreal on my 18th birthday. The dinner theatre I went to is now long gone, replaced by condos (c'est la vie) but the memories live on. I dare say this is definitely more my speed than the generic lentil soup though... I need all the heat I can get in the blustery winter weather!

What's your favourite January comfort food?

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Gingerbread Brittle

Gingerbread Brittle is a sweet, spicy, melt in your mouth confection perfect for sharing with Santa... Or keeping all to yourself!

When it comes to the finishing touches on my gift baskets every Christmas, I always make sure to include some sort of candy. Some years, I've made as many as 8 different types - from licorice caramels to lemon drops - but since time and space was at a premium, and my giftee list was slightly smaller, I stuck to just a few this time around. Usually, I'm not a huge fan of toffees and brittles - they're too sweet and cloying for my taste, and frankly I'd much rather have a sour key or square of dark chocolate. However, other people seem to love them, and who am I to deny the people of what they want?

This year, I found probably the best option to cover both bases - Gingerbread Brittle. While it is still, undeniably, candy, it is swirled through with a medley of warm, rich spices and has a hint of classic gingerbread bitterness from the molasses as well. Since I used a high-fat European style butter, the brittle had a sheen and almost butterscotchy note too, the best of all worlds! Perfect for last minute gifts or a dessert potluck, it cooks up in a flash (mine was done and cooling in under 10 minutes) and makes enough for a crowd or for wrapping in little plastic bags. As with any sponge toffee or brittle, this uses baking soda to help give it an airy, melt-in-your-mouth texture, and frankly it's my favourite part of the whole brittle making process (hearkening back to the days of baking soda and vinegar volcanoes). After cooling for a few hours, the whole slab looked like textured marble, and it broke up neatly into pieces.

The tiny bit I was able to taste was heavenly - think a lighter, spicier Werthers - and those who received it waxed poetic on it's taste as well. I've even given out the recipe a few times, so now I'm sharing it with you!

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Carrot Cake Biscotti #CreativeCookieExchange

Season's Greetings! Now that we're in the home stretch before the hullaballoo that is Christmas Day, I've been spending days and days packaging up all my gift boxes for friends and family. Of course, being part of a stepfamily that is born and bred Italian, one of the cookies that always finds it's way into the arsenal is biscotti. Like years before, I try to make a variety of more "unusual" flavours, and one of them is an echo of one of my favourite desserts - carrot cake!

The original recipe comes from Colleen of Souffle Bombay - and I must default to her should you be searching for photos of the finished cookies, as I packaged mine up  before remembering to take a photo! However, I can vouch that they look - and smell - fantastic and very much like their namesake. I did make a few changes to the original so that all my guests could enjoy them - namely making the cookies nut free and vegan - but you'd never be able to tell. The chopped raisins add a delicate, fruity sweetness less intense than dates, while the whole wheat flour and oats add a hint of nuttiness that blends perfectly with the spices. Aquafaba (chickpea brine) replaced the eggs and canola oil stood in for the butter, making the batter delicious (and taste-testable!). In place of a glaze or icing (because let's face it I'd never remember to do that) I topped the logs with coarse sugar before baking, lending them a subtle crunch and crust.

Of course, one of the great things about biscotti - any biscotti - is that it lasts a good long while in a tin or sealed bag. The rest of the #CreativeCookieExcange group this month has also come up with some ingenious bake now, serve later options for the holiday tables that I plan on trying out in the new year, since there is always a good reason for cookies!

The #CreativeCookieExchange is baking Cookies That Last in a Tin this month, and we’d love for you to join us!

You can also use us as a great resource for cookie recipes. Be sure to check out our Pinterest Board and our monthly posts (you can find all of them here at The Spiced Life). You will be able to find them the first Tuesday after the 15th of each month! If you are a blogger and want to join in the fun, contact Laura at thespicedlife AT gmail DOT com and she will get you added to our Facebook group, where we discuss our cookies and share links.

Almond Flour Sugar Cookies from A Baker's House
Carrot Cake Biscotti from What Smells so Good?
Cinnamon Chocolate Shortbread from Food Lust People Love
Mexican Chocolate Cookies from Karen's Kitchen Stories
Oatmeal Lace Cookies from The Spiced Life