27 July 2009


Milano cookies are one of my favorite commercial (as opposed to homemade) cookies so I was pretty stoked to see that one of the two recipes for this month's Daring Bakers Challenge was for a homemade Milano style cookie by Gail Gand. I knew I would be traveling so resolved to make these cookies early in the month and give them to a professor of mine as a thank you gift.

The July Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network.

I set to making the cookies, making a few modifications (bad Daring Baker, I know, but I couldn't help myself). Not everyone loves citrus with chocolate and as as the cookies were a gift, I decided to leave out the lemon extract. Without the lemon to balance out the 2T of vanilla extract, I thought 1T would be more than enough to flavor the cookies. The batter came together quickly but looked much to thin to make cookies and then I (figuratively) smacked myself on the head as I realized I forgot to add the flour. Disaster averted, at least for the time being.

Pastry bag improvised, cookies piped and in the oven. 7 minutes later, one gigantic burnt cookie mess comes out of the oven. The cookies had completely run together and burnt. Crud. Scrape trays and start over. Next go, about half of the cookies came out useable. Third go and a few lessons learned. Pipe very small dots, not lines of batter, and leave 3 inches between the dots. Watch them carefully and pull out as soon as the edges get golden. Use parchment or tin foil and pull off the hot sheets immediately, then remove while still a little warm. Ok- method down, several rounds later I have dozens of wafer thin cookies in varying shapes and sizes.

Ganache made without problems and then the fun begins. I spread out a layer of cookies and played a matching game, trying to put them in relatively equally spaced pairs, held together with the ganache.

Finally, I finished making all the cookie sandwiches and rewarding myself by eating the remaining ganache with a spoon. The finished cookies looked pretty, if a bit rustic in their uneveness. The vanilla taste was a bit too strong for me, even though I had halved it, but overall they were good but perhaps not quite worth the trouble when it's so easy to buy a bag...

Milan Cookies
Recipe courtesy Gale Gand, from Food Network website

Prep Time: 20 min
Inactive Prep Time: 0 min
Cook Time: 1 hr 0 min
Serves: about 3 dozen cookies

• 12 tablespoons (170grams/ 6 oz) unsalted butter, softened
• 2 1/2 cups (312.5 grams/ 11.02 oz) powdered sugar
• 7/8 cup egg whites (from about 6 eggs)
• 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
• 2 tablespoons lemon extract
• 1 1/2 cups (187.5grams/ 6.61 oz) all purpose flour
• Cookie filling, recipe follows

Cookie filling:
• 1/2 cup heavy cream
• 8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
• 1 orange, zested

1. In a mixer with paddle attachment cream the butter and the sugar.
2. Add the egg whites gradually and then mix in the vanilla and lemon extracts.
3. Add the flour and mix until just well mixed.
4. With a small (1/4-inch) plain tip, pipe 1-inch sections of batter onto a parchment-lined sheet pan, spacing them 2 inches apart as they spread.
5. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes or until light golden brown around the edges. Let cool on the pan.
6. While waiting for the cookies to cool, in a small saucepan over medium flame, scald cream.
7. Pour hot cream over chocolate in a bowl, whisk to melt chocolate, add zest and blend well.
8. Set aside to cool (the mixture will thicken as it cools).
9. Spread a thin amount of the filling onto the flat side of a cookie while the filling is still soft and press the flat side of a second cookie on top.
10. Repeat with the remainder of the cookies.

23 July 2009

Smoky Grilled Chicken

Back in D.C. from a lovely long vacation and thought I would post on this smoky grilled chicken I made a few weeks ago. It's from a recipe my co-worker S- and I saw on the Food Network (don't worry, it was after hours) and we both thought it looked amazing. First, a spice rub and then a long, slow cook on a grill with wood chips to give the chicken great flavor and color. It was fantastic, easily the best grilled chicken I have ever made, and quite simple too. The only problem was that the chicken took about 2 hours to cook so we had dinner at around 10pm... which meant there was a little too much time for mojitos beforehand.

I followed the Neely's recipe closely, so I will leave you with the link and few notes:

1) We used a 'sweet' smoking mix S- picked up from World Market that included applewood but had other things too
2) We have a kettle style charcoal grill so followed Alton Brown's suggestion of making a foil pouch for the (pre-soaked) wood chips and snipping little holes it and it worked well
3) The chicken might take a long time to cook through- have some tasty drinks on hand and friends to keep you company while you wait

02 July 2009

Rhubarb Citrus Tart

I made this tart while visiting my family in New Jersey a few weeks ago. Only after I got back from the store did I remember that my dad has some semi-wild rhubarb growing in the back yard. The tart recipe is from Gourmet magazine. This is one of those desserts that prettier to look at than it is to eat. The recipe called for frozen puff pastry and the only thing available was the national brand- I'm sure it would be better if you could find an all butter pastry. The citrus glaze for the tart seemed like a good idea, except after boiling it for 20 minutes and still having much more than the recipe said I should I turned the heat up to full blast, hoping to reduce it quickly. I should have known, especially after this many daring bakers challenges, how quickly sugar can caramelize over high heat. Luckily must have developed my sense of smell a bit because as soon as I got a whiff of caramel I was able to pull the pan off the stove before the whole thing burnt into a solidified citrusy mass.

I salvaged what glaze I could and attempted to spread it over the warm tart but as it was the consistency of molasses, it didn't go very well. Still, I thought it was pretty enough to warrant a post and thought that it might serve as inspiration for some other, better, rhubarb dessert.

01 July 2009

Garlic Scape Pesto

This recipe seems to be all the rage this year as more and more people discover garlic scapes. My first experience with garlic scapes (which are the green tops farmers cut off the top of the growing garlic early in the season) came last year courtesy of our CSA. I didn't really know what to do with them so used them mostly in stir fries. This year though, I've come across recipes highlighting the fresh flavor of the scapes, like this pesto I adapted from Dorie Greenspan. I think that my scapes were a bit bigger than Dorie's as you can see that my pesto came out rather thick, even though I kept adding tablespoons of water to thin it out. It has a coarser texture than basil pesto but the garlic flavor and surprising burst of spice made it a great cracker topping. Next I'm going to whir it up in the mini-prep again with some basil leaves to make a scape and basil pesto.