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Iced Meyer Lemon Cookies

Monday, February 26th, 2007

It’s Meyer lemon season. Every week my son and I go to attend our violin and viola lessons where we wait outside the studio next to a fantastic Meyer lemon tree. Once the lesson is over, we gather up a half dozen lemons to take home. A cross between a lemon and orange, Meyer lemons are less acidic and great for baking. Up to now I have mostly been making lemon bars, but have always been on the lookout for a lemon cookie recipe.

Most citrus cookie recipes I found were accompanied by a powdered sugar based icing. At first, I was reluctant to make an iced cookie, as I was really looking for a classic cookie shape and texture. I was almost tempted to make a lemon and rosemary recipe I found since we have fresh rosemary in our backyard, but was determined for a lemon only cookie. Some recipes had shortening, others were shortbread. Finally I found this recipe in The Great American Cookie Cookbook. As usual, I upped the amount of lemon zest called for since Meyer lemons aren’t as harsh as the typical eureka lemons found in most supermarkets.

At first, I made only a few cookies per sheet, starting with simply rolled balls of dough. They turned out beautiful, but were too cake-like; we found ourselves enjoying the crispy edges the most. The next sheet I flattened the dough with a glass as suggested by the recipe, and these turned out better. The final sheets I really flattened the cookie dough to 1/4 inch and made sure they were browned on the edges before removing from the oven. The icing in this recipe gives the cookies a little zing, which you can adjust by how densely you space your icing stripes.

Ingredients for making Iced Lemon Cookies.

Beat butter until light and fluffy before adding sugar.

Use a microplane grater to zest Meyer lemons.

Flatten cookies to 1/4 inch thick with bottom of glass dipped in sugar.

Use a plastic bag with corner snipped off to pipe lemon icing on cookies.

Finished cookies are light and fresh with just a little zing.

For a recipe with as much butter and sugar as chocolate chip cookies, it only made 24 cookies. This was the only disappointment with these cookies, however—they vanished quickly when I brought them into work this morning. The recipe, with detailed instructions and complete photo gallery, can be found on the Iced Lemon Cookie recipe page.

You never forget your first KitchenAid

Wednesday, February 21st, 2007

I’m a regular reader of Nosh With Me, a food blog that the author, Hilary, describes as, “One girl’s love affair with her KitchenAid mixer.” For many owners, their KitchenAid stand mixer may simply be a casual purchase at the mall or a wedding registry acquisition, but if you came to own yours in your early or mid twenties, you probably have a story to go with it. Priced between $175 – $425 (USD), they are not cheap, but I believe here you get what you pay for. This price bracket makes it an extravagant purchase for most college grads with the exception of the extremely well to do or culinary arts major.

The story of my KitchenAid can’t be told without also touching upon how I met my wife, who, at the time, was also employed at Backroads as a tour leader. I was looking for a place to live in Daly City. Anyone familiar with the SF bay area would find that detail intriguing enough. Less than a mile from the beach and ten minutes from the city with access to both BART and CalTrain, it sounds pretty good. Oh yeah, wait, the fog—there is a lot of it. All the time. Realtors in Daly City—like teachers—take summers off. You get the idea.

That October I moved in to the large room downstairs and lived in the house alone while she was attending Spanish immersion school in Guatemala. She returned in early December to find me lacing up a bicycle wheel in the living room. The next morning, we decided to have pancakes for breakfast. I opened the kitchen cupboard and scanned the pots and pans. “What are you looking for?” she asked.

“Teflon”, I replied. She didn’t have any, but we lived super close to Serramonte Mall so we took a quick trip to Macys in search of a non-stick pan. On the way to the cookware we passed by the appliances. There was a display with some 300 watt KitchenAids meant to distract us from our pancake mission. We both paused and stared for a moment in awe. I looked closer and realized this was the tilt-head model with the screw in bowl. “This is pretty nice,” I said, “but you have to get the one with the lever that lifts the bowl. It’s more powerful, sturdier and larger.”

After admiring the mixers we went to the cookware department and my housemate splurged on a nice Calphalon fry pan perfect for making pancakes. I never gave the KitchenAid a second thought since it was more than one month’s rent. Ten days later my birthday arrives. At this point, I’ve basically known my housemate for about two weeks plus half a dozen interactions at work. She goes to get my present and I can hear her struggling to bring a very large box into the living room. No, is that what I think it is? “Ok, this is like your birthday present for the next 10 years” she explained as I unwrapped the box to reveal a dream KitchenAid.

Di said she was just going to get me the less expensive one, but then she saw the 75th anniversary model complete with extra engraved bowl and limited edition diamond white and she knew she had to get that one for me. A few weeks later and we were more than housemates. My Mom would later confess, “I thought when she bought you that expensive KitchenAid she was going after you!” The truth is that we were just nice people who had a lot in common and were becoming great friends. We’re going to be celebrating our tenth wedding anniversary this year.

Now that my KitchenAid has been around for a dozen of my birthdays, I can’t help but peek at the newer, six quart models. They seem to address the difficulty of adding dry ingredients when the bowl is raised—and they have more power. But this KitchenAid is so special and has such a wonderful history to me. Maybe when the 100th anniversary model comes out in another dozen years I’ll be ready to consider parting with this KitchenAid.

75 year timeline of KitchenAid from the 75th Anniversary Recipe Book.

A sort of homecoming? Tins return to base.

Sunday, February 11th, 2007

Last week my wife called me at work to tell me there was a box at the door. I was expecting a package, but my wife told me that this wasn’t that package. She said there was a box of metal tins at our front door with a business card. When she told me who it was from I recalled the last time they gave me a bunch of tins, and so I was expecting a bunch of random tins that would be challenging to reuse. Giving someone my chocolates packaged in a tin that is clearly labeled as peppermint bark from Restoration Hardware is not the first impression I want when giving homemade candies. When I got home I was thrilled to discover several years worth of large tins—tins with familiar designs I had hand delivered over the last couple years.

Finding good metal tins that don’t already have food in them or, when empty, aren’t limited to holding only two truffles is actually a challenge. I buy almost all of my tins at Cost Plus World Market. Each year they stock a new pattern, and this box on my porch had tin designs spanning the past three years. This past November I dropped more than $100 on about two dozen tins of varying sizes. With prices ranging from $2.99 to $4.99, depending on size, the total cost of producing more than 40 gift packages during the holidays gets pretty expensive, with nearly 1/4 of the costs being packaging. Of course, my time is still not factored in—I gotta change that one of these days!

As of this writing, almost twenty tins I have given away have found their way home. Recipients are happy knowing that they are guaranteed to stay on the list the following year, and I am thrilled to save a little money. Since not all the tins make it home, I end up with a good variety of tins each holiday season, which is also nice. I haven’t seen our friends who dropped of the tins on our porch in a couple years, so I was surprised that they came all the way down from Marin to drop off the box on our porch. The sad thing is, had I known they were coming I could have filled one of the tins up with the Coffee English Toffee I had just made the day before! I’ll be sure to fill their tin up nice and full this holiday season.

As promised: Coffee English Toffee

Tuesday, February 6th, 2007

There’s nothing like having a food blog to motivate you to make something new. Add to that my promise to make my own mocha roca two weeks ago and I had to deliver. Originally inspired by leftover ingredients from my 2006 candymaking marathon and Brown & Haley’s Mocha Roca, I searched for a coffee toffee recipe online without much luck. Other candies I make with coffee flavor utilize espresso powder, so I figured it made sense to use some here, too. I noticed some coffee flavored candies also use real coffee or espresso, so after a trip to Starbucks for a couple shots, I was ready.

On my web search, I did come across Shaymee’s Dark Chocolate Espresso Toffee, which had no almond coating but was covered in milk chocolate stripes, similar to decorations I do for dipped caramels and truffles. Given that part of the reason I was making toffee was that I had leftover chopped almonds from the holidays, I compromised and only coated one side of the toffee with almonds. I think the bare chocolate side with stripes looks pretty dressy and easily differentiates this toffee from regular English Toffee.

When you first bite into one of these toffees, the coffee flavor comes on fast and strong, but quickly fades and is overtaken by the buttery toffee flavor. I’d personally like the coffee flavor to linger for a while—a sentiment echoed by several tasters—but I’m not sure exactly how to achieve that goal. Perhaps a liqueur or some other coffee flavoring would prolong the flavor—I’m open to ideas! I’m definitely planning on adding these to my holiday candymaking.

Ingredients for making Coffee English Toffee.

Pour in espresso shots before adding espresso powder.

Once mixture reaches 260° F, add 1 cup chopped almonds and stir constantly until 305° F.

Score toffee repeatedly while hot. Once cool it can be easily broken along score lines.

Remove excess chocolate by scraping or bobbing.

Carefully and quickly drizzle tempered milk chocolate over exposed chocolate sides of toffees.

I brought most of these into work and delivered them to nearly 30 people, most of whom had never had toffee that was less than 24 hours old. They were a hit and I had several people wandering by my cube later in the day to see if there were any left. The recipe, with detailed instructions and complete photo gallery, can be found on the Coffee English Toffee recipe page.