chocolate-dunked pistachio shortbread [food52]

Winter is a cookie season.

December, yes, with its holiday cookies and cookie swaps and neat little DIY boxes tied with ribbon and full of festivity–but winter, as a whole, is a season for warm cookies fresh out of the oven, paired with a piping hot cup of black tea with milk. Even though Chicago can’t decide whether or not winter is actually happening this year, I dream of gooey, melting chocolate chunks and sugar-dusted buttery crumble.

Then again, maybe this is just me developing a shortbread obsession this season.

Over winter break, I made a grand total of seven different kinds of cookies, five of which were variations of shortbread. I have zero regrets about this, for the record, and I doubt any of my friends and family do, either.

One was a repeat recipe: chewy coconut lime sugar cookies, enhanced this time by rubbing lime zest into the sugar I used for rolling. The remaining six, however, were all new ventures. I didn’t properly photograph all of them, but I’ll be unrolling the ones I did, hopefully in time for you all to try them out before spring starts appearing.

We start the lineup with easily my favorite of them all: chocolate-dunked pistachio shortbread, recipe courtesy of Food52.

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These rich cookies are shockingly easy to make, yet bursting with flavor. Melt-in-your-mouth, crumbs-on-your shirt shortbread is made even better with the bright green, buttery crunch of fresh chopped pistachios and a smooth and generous coating of semisweet chocolate.

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Ever since my stay in Turkey, I’ve been craving a good pistachio dessert. Pistachio ice cream, pistachio-and-cream-filled pastry, and even pure pistachio paste–Turkey just knows how to turn these little nuts into an intense and luxurious experience.

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And let me tell you: with nearly a full cup of chopped nuts, these cookies do not skimp on the pistachio experience.

If you buy your nuts in small packages at a standard grocery store, this recipe could get expensive. I highly recommend trying something like Costco or a South Asian/Middle Eastern grocery store to buy nuts in bulk. Much more affordable, and who doesn’t want a bag of leftover pistachios to munch on?

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As for the chocolate-dipped part: you don’t need a double boiler, and you don’t need super high-quality chocolate for these to be absolutely delicious. I melted dark chocolate chunks (not chips!) in the microwave in 15-second bursts, and that was perfect for coating half of each cookie in a thick, smooth layer of chocolate that hardened nicely after a few hours.

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I sent some of these home with the boyfriend after he visited, but to be honest, I mostly ate them myself. Like I said: zero regrets.

***

To my UChicago friends, happy 8th week! And to everyone else, happy last week of February! May the remainder of your winter be crisp and cookie-worthy.

 

chocolate-dunked pistachio shortbread
Print
Ingredients
  1. 1 cup flour
  2. 1/2 tsp baking powder
  3. 1/4 tsp salt
  4. 1/2 cup butter
  5. 1/3 cup sugar
  6. 1/2 plus 1/3 cups raw unsalted pistachios, coarsely chopped, divided
  7. 1 tsp vanilla extract
  8. 4 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 325F.
  2. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar until smooth. Mix in 1/2 cup pistachios and vanilla extract.
  4. Add dry ingredients and beat until just combined.
  5. Shape tablespoonfuls of dough into logs 2-3 inches long (~20 of them). Place on lined baking sheets about 1 inch apart.
  6. Bake until just golden around the edges, 18-20 minutes. Let cool completely.
  7. Melt chocolate (in a double boiler or in the microwave, carefully), stirring until smooth. Place remaining 1/3 cup pistachios in a shallow bowl.
  8. Dip one end of each cooled cookie into the melted chocolate, covering about 1/3 of the cookie. Let excess chocolate drip off.
  9. Roll chocolate-covered end in chopped pistachios, then place on a clean sheet of wax paper or a cooling rack.
  10. Repeat with remaining cookies. Let stand until chocolate has hardened--at least one hour.
  11. Cookies will keep in an airtight container up to 1 week (if you can make them last that long).
Adapted from Food52
Adapted from Food52
tlc. | tender love and cupcakes. http://tenderloveandcupcakes.com/

blackberry peach pie

Hello, friends.

It’s been a while.

Bear with me for a little life update.

 If you follow my facebook presence, you know that tlc suffered a big setback in May, due to my own idiocy, bad Internet in Turkey, and my tendency to not back anything up. Thanks to the old WordPress-hosted version of the blog and the glory that is this Internet archive, I managed to recover or re-post everything except my two most recent recipes.

So if you’re looking for the banana bread two ways or the mouth-watering deliciousness that was the big crumb coffee cake–I’m sorry. Hopefully I’ll remake them one day, but for now, I’d like to just move on and keep churning out new things. If you’re looking for the originals, however, this is the brown butter banana bread, this one is the Earl Grey banana bread, and here is the coffee cake. I wish I had written down the tweaks I made somewhere else, but really, I lost everything with all three recipes.

The fact that I only lost those two posts, though, is 1) a miracle considering how much more I could’ve lost, and 2) an indication of how deeply neglected this blog was for most of this year. I still baked and cooked plenty between January and now. Birthdays, dinner dates, and study breaks always brought me back to the kitchen. But nothing ever quite made it into written form.

Simply put: I had a rough winter. And after that rough winter, I had a magical, incredible, inspiring 9 1/2 weeks in the beautiful city of Istanbul.

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Studying abroad in Turkey was a once-in-a-lifetime experience in a place that will forever find its way into my dreams–a place that I miss every day.

What I wouldn’t give for another sunset along the Bosphorous; for another cone of thick, creamy, rich pistachio ice cream from Ali Usta; for another smile and cup of çay from the heartwarmingly welcoming family of the Ortaköy Mantı Evi.

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Unfortunately, a side-effect of studying abroad was, as I mentioned, terrible Internet, which meant I couldn’t even upload photos for a throwback post if I wanted to.

Follow that spring up with losing my old blog and a lackluster summer with nearly nobody to bake for, and it isn’t surprising that I lacked motivation.

That is, until this pie.

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It started at the boyfriend’s house earlier this month. We went fruit-picking at a nearby farm, and found ourselves facing the fattest, sweetest blackberries I’ve ever seen in my life, followed by line after line of yellow and white peach trees.

Peaches and blackberries? Now that’s a combination begging for pie, we mused.

Wait…pie? Brilliant.

We headed back to his house and immediately started on the dough, using the ever-reliable smitten kitchen’s recipe.

Next: a mixture of yellow and white peaches, blackberries, and basil, all freshly picked that day. Two kinds of sugar, a splash of vanilla and lemon, some cornstarch for thickness, and the requisite pinch of salt. 45 minutes in the oven, and then…

Summer pie, part 2: now with blueberries!

A photo posted by Aneesa S. (@neesersaurus) on

 

Pie. Sweet, warm, fresh pie with an earthy, herby touch that makes you want to bury your face in it as soon as it comes out of the oven.

We dug into it after a few hours of cooling, pairing each slice with a generous scoop of ice cream.

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When I made it again a couple weeks later, tempted by the extra-ripe peaches quickly browning on my kitchen counter, I only had a tiny box of store-bought blackberries to work with. Nowhere near the same effect.

Blueberries were thrown into the mix, the lemon was swapped with lime, and after many fingers tested the mix, I had the very satisfying recipe you’ll find below.

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Round 2 of my new favorite pie, this time latticed and shared with a friend in her brand-new apartment.

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The filling is forgiving and very much dependent on the fruits you have handy, so I highly recommend adding and stirring and tasting until you get a sweet, juicy flavor with just the slightest hint of basil underneath.

And move quickly–the season is almost up!

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Until next time, here’s wishing you sunny days, cool nighttime breezes, and an abundance of summer fruit before fall sneaks up on us.

 

blackberry, blueberry, & peach pie
Print
Ingredients
  1. 1 pie dough, enough for the bottom and top of a 9-in pie (try Smitten Kitchen!)
  2. 4 medium peaches, very ripe (white, yellow, or a mix)
  3. 3 cups fresh blackberries OR 1 cup blackberries, 1 1/2 cups blueberries
  4. 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  5. 2 - 4 T white sugar (depending on how sweet the fruit is)
  6. 1/2 tsp salt
  7. 1 tsp vanilla
  8. Juice of 1/2 lemon
  9. 5-6 medium basil leaves, chopped finely
  10. 1/4 cup cornstarch
  11. 1 egg, whisked (optional)
  12. Coarse/sanding sugar (optional)
For the filling
  1. Slice your peaches thinly, then combine all of the fresh fruit in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Add the brown sugar, salt, and vanilla, then stir gently with a spatula so that all of the fruit is coated.
  3. Add 2 T of white sugar, all the lemon juice, and the chopped basil leaves, then stir well.
  4. Taste the filling, and add the remaining 2 T of white sugar as needed.
  5. Add cornstarch and stir well, making sure there are no lumps of starch anywhere.
Assemble and bake
  1. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. Prep a 9-inch pie plate with your dough of choice. Roll out half of the dough, big enough so that you have some dough hanging over the edges of the plate.
  3. Using a slotted spoon, add your filling to the pie plate, spreading the fruit out evenly. Make sure you don't pour too much of the filling juices into the pie, or it'll get soggy and sticky.
  4. Roll out the remaining pie dough. You can cover your pie however you want; just make sure you cut some air holes if you decide to completely cover it.
  5. If you want, brush the top of the pie with the egg wash and sprinkle the top with sanding sugar. This will give your pie a nice glaze and sparkle. (I often skip the sugar, but definitely use the egg.)
  6. Put the pie plate on a cookie sheet, then bake it for 15 minutes at 400F.
  7. After 15 minutes, reduce your oven temperature to 375F and bake for another 30-40 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the filling is bubbling.
  8. Let cool for 3-4 hours before slicing and serving.
Notes
  1. Don't forget to taste as you go! The sweetness or tartness of the fruit should guide you. If it doesn't entice you, feel free to tweak the quantities until it does.
tlc. | tender love and cupcakes. http://tenderloveandcupcakes.com/

magic matcha custard cake [raspberri cupcakes]

(Originally posted: October 27, 2014)

Fourth week.

What can I say about fourth week?

I could tell you about midterms.

I could tell you about cheerleading, or Homecoming.

I could tell you about the color-changing leaves, the emergence of peacoats and boots, or the fact that I still pick the wrong days to walk outside without an umbrella.

…or, we could pretend it’s still September, and I could tell you about the most incredible edible feat of science to come out of my kitchen.

I found the recipe for these while scouring the Internetz one summer day for the perfect green tea dessert. I had a hankering for a sweet green tea something-or-the-other, and dangit, I was determined to listen to my gut. Literally.

Lo and behold, the ever-reliable raspberri cupcakes has a recipe for magic matcha custard cake.

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Now, hold the phone.

Magic? Really?

Yes. Really.

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Well, okay, no, not actually. But it might as well be magic for all the awesome science it takes advantage of.

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These custard cake bars call for an egg yolk-based milky batter with whipped egg whites folded in at the very end. The whole (brilliantly green) bowl gets poured into an 8×8 pan, laid carefully in the oven so as not to spill any of the mixture that is only too eager to end up in a puddle on your floor, and promptly forgotten about until the timer goes off.

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pre-milk matcha batter

This is when the magic happens.

That single-batter pan you put in the oven has since split into two distinct layers: a fluffy green tea egg white cake, thin but substantive, covering a thick, chewy mass of matcha custard that is perfectly reminiscent of green tea mochi.

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What. One bowl, two layers? But how?!

Let’s take this moment to talk about eggs–specifically, egg whites.

You’ll find plenty of recipes that call for “egg whites whipped to stiff peaks”–recipes that take advantage of this very cool property of egg whites. Egg whites, though 90% water, are chock full of complex proteins. When you whip egg whites, you’re trapping air bubbles in this mess of proteins and water. These air bubbles are maintained by the unfolding egg white proteins, which create a viscous network around the air. The more you whip, the more tiny bubbles are created, eventually leading to the airy foam you want to achieve. Unfortunately, even with the protein network stabilizing the air bubbles, this gorgeous foam won’t last forever. The water will begin to drain out, leaving a dry, useless egg foam on top. Stabilizers, like sugar and vinegar, act, well, to stabilize the foam, letting it last longer before water begins to drain out.

Feed has a fairly detailed article about the science of beating egg whites, which you should check out if you’re interested in baking science. (Yay, science!) There are a lot more factors involved in achieving the perfect whipped egg whites, like glass bowls vs. stainless steel vs. copper, but this covers the basics.

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As it turns out, when I first tried making this cake, I did not know these very important and useful facts about stabilizers. Nor did I have an electric mixer to speed up the process. No, instead, I spent at least 20 minutes at my kitchen counter, whisking away at vinegared whites that just refused to form peaks, stiff or otherwise. When I finally seemed to have gotten somewhere, I paused my whisking, only to notice that my egg whites had lost almost half a cup of fluid to the bottom of the bowl.

Well. Rats.

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I tossed the pathetic whites and tried again, this time taking extra care and even trying to speed up the process by blending the new egg whites first–but to no avail. I added whatever I could salvage to the batter, crossed my fingers, and put the pan in the oven.

The outcome? Definitely not magic.

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sad, single-layer matcha bars :(

When I went home, I tried the recipe again, but with 1. a KitchenAid, and 2. 1-2 T of sugar added to the egg whites while whipping. Success! I soon had glossy peaks to fold into my batter.

This time around, I saw what I wanted:

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oooh, aaah

The moral of the story?

Learn to whip your egg whites right, and don’t be afraid to add some sugar.

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If you don’t like green tea, you can leave right now make this into a chocolate or vanilla custard cake, too! The world is your delicious, magical, custardy oyster.

***

Happy Sunday! And to those of you who, like me, are putting off your homework: here’s a little motivation for you. Happy fifth week!