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They’re Peanut Butter Criss-Cross Cookies, Naturally

Tuesday, August 28th, 2007

I remember making this recipe for peanut butter cookies with my mom when I was a kid. I loved to press down on the dough with a fork after she rolled them. More than a decade passed before I tried making them again when I was in college. My dad had recently bought me my own mixmaster electric mixer, similar to my mom’s Sunbeam mixmaster. Although my new Sunbeam mixer now had a light bulb to illuminate the bowl, the body was entirely plastic and the power was definitely not the same. It worked fine for all my other baking needs until I made this recipe, which resulted in smoke pouring out the back of the mixer. It still worked afterwards, but it was never the same and would stutter at lower speeds. In the mixer’s defense I will admit that I had used hydrogenated peanut butter, which is considerably thicker than real peanut butter. Although I now have a wonderful 75th anniversary KitchenAid stand mixer, I still have to recommend you choose your peanut butter wisely.

It’s all about the peanut butter.
The key to a good peanut butter cookie is using real peanut butter. Sure, I grew up with and thoroughly enjoyed Jif and Skippy (creamy, please), but now that I am older I appreciate natural, un-hydrogenated peanut butter (I also like broccoli now, though I still don’t care for zucchini). Nevertheless, I still have fond memories of fighting my sister to be first to swipe a finger in a brand new jar of peanut butter. I was put off at first by natural peanut butter. Look at all that oil on top—and the peanut butter underneath has a rough and dry texture. Mixing only seemed to get oil everywhere. Gross! I have since learned that you can easily reincorporate natural peanut butter by repeatedly plunging a knife into it for several minutes. Eventually you will be able to stir it and the peanut butter will be nice and smooth. Store in the refrigerator and it won’t separate again (at least not for a really long time—too long).

These cookies are soft with just a hint of crunch on the edges. If you like your peanut butter cookies crunchier, just cook another minute or two. These cookies are surprisingly forgiving to over-baking. I think they look best with a 4 tined fork, but use whatever you have handy.

Ingredients for making Peanut Butter Criss-Cross Cookies.

Cream butter, eggs and sugars together until well blended.

Stir natural peanut butter until texture is smooth.

Add 1 cup of peanut butter to dough and mix.

Add 1 teaspoon vanilla to dough.

Gradually add blended flour, baking soda and salt into dough, scraping down bowl occasionally.

Roll dough into 1 1/4 inch balls and place on ungreased cookie sheets.

Press gently with fork to make criss-cross impression.

Bake in 375° F. oven for 11 – 13 minutes. Let cool 1 – 2 minutes before transferring to cooling racks.

The recipe pictured above, with detailed instructions and complete photo gallery can be found on the Peanut Butter Criss-Cross recipe page.

My Favorite Cookies from Childhood

Tuesday, August 21st, 2007

Spice CookiesWhen I was a kid, my favorite cookie was not the chocolate chip cookie. Hey, I liked chocolate chip cookies—and I still do—but the cookie I loved was not available in any store. The cookies I liked the most were the homemade spice cookies that my mom and I used to make in the mid 1970s. Dominated by clove, cinnamon and nutmeg, this cookie was unlike any other that emerged from lunch boxes in grade school.

After my mom and I would make the cookies she would put them away in a ceramic cookie jar. I remember that it was very difficult to remove the lid of the cookie jar without being heard, but I managed to succeed on a few occasions. I would go on to make these cookies by myself and even had a note in the recipe about decreased batch size when my mom or sister was around.

I made these for a class event in junior high, but I forgot one egg and they came out dry. I had since forgotten about them until just a few years ago when I called my mom up for the recipe. I was excited to make them again—I knew that the smell would bring back memories. Sure enough, as soon as I was mixing in the spices and flour into the butter, eggs, and sugar, it all came back. Soft in the middle, with just a little crunch on the edges, these cookies are unique and delicious.

Ingredients for making Spice Cookies.

Cream butter eggs and sugars together until light and fluffy.

Mix, baking soda, baking powder, ginger, clove and cinnamon together with flour.

After gradually mixing dry ingredients into creamed butter, eggs and sugar, roll dough into balls with hands and gently roll in sugar.

Bake in 375° F. oven for 10 – 12 minutes on ungreased cookie sheets.

Promptly remove from cookies sheets onto cooling rack.

The recipe pictured above, with detailed instructions and complete photo gallery can be found on the Spice Cookies recipe page.

Tangelo Sorbet with Cointreau

Saturday, August 4th, 2007

Tangelo SorbetWith all the sorbets that I have been making recently, my son has been requesting that I make an orange sorbet. Orange sorbet? Really? It just sounds so average, doesn’t it? Maybe if it was still just for breakfast I could make it. Maybe I could just take him to the mall for an Orange Julius and call it a day. When I was at the farmer’s market last weekend, I saw some beautiful tangelos. I wasn’t sure what tangelos were, but they looked and smelled enough like an orange that I figured I would make some for my son.

What in the world is a Tangelo?
Tangelos are a hybrid of a tangerine and pomelo (or grapefruit). I don’t know what a pomelo is either. Between you and me, they are very similar to oranges, but with a subtle tangerine smell and plentiful, sweet juice.

How do other people make orange sorbet?
I looked around for some recipes for ideas, since I wasn’t sure if I should add water or not. Many recipes called for boiling the zest to extract flavor and this usually meant added water unless you want to boil juice. Cafe Fernando has a great recipe for orange sorbet with no added water. Meanwhile, Cafe Lynnylu has a great blood orange sorbet recipe with one cup of water. On the other end of the spectrum, Gluten-Free Girl has a blood orange sorbet recipe with 2 cups of water to one cup juice.

Ask an expert.
I emailed David Lebovitz about water content in sorbets to find out if it should be added for less juicy fruits or when the flavor needs to be toned down—like lemons. David said he only adds water for lime and lemon sorbets. You can also add egg whites but he doesn’t like to go that route. I’ve never added egg whites to sorbet, but I see it in many sorbet recipes, and that is probably how Gluten-Free Girl can have so much water in the sorbet and maintain a good texture. I decided to skip the egg whites and I didn’t want to boil juice, so I ended up boiling just enough water to dissolve the sugar and extract flavor from the zest. I also thought I would add Cointreau instead of Grand Marnier since it has a stronger orange flavor.

Would my son like it?
My son can be pretty picky, and I debated even telling him the tangelos I bought were oranges, but he seemed ok with the fact that they weren’t really oranges. The subtly distinctive flavor of tangelos combined with Cointreau yielded this delicious sorbet recipe that everyone—my son included—enjoyed.

Ingredients for making Tangelo Sorbet.

Use a microplane grater to remove the zest from one tangelo.

Gently boil sugar, water and tangelo zest for 5 minutes.

Juice enough tangelos until you have about 4 cups of juice.

Pour tangelo juice through chinois or strainer to remove pulp and seeds.

Add 1/4 cup of Cointreau (optional).

Chill mixture in ice bath until colder than 45° F.

Pour chilled mixture into ice cream maker and freeze according to maker’s instructions.

Once sorbet has finished freezing, transfer to dedicated container and let ripen in freezer for several hours.

The recipe pictured above, with detailed instructions and complete photo gallery can be found on the Tangelo Sorbet recipe page.