Salty Caramel & Toasted Coconut Cookies


Salty Caramel & Toasted Coconut Cookies

At the intersection of my desire put a surfeit of flaked coconut to use and an intense need for a soft, cakey cookie is this creation. It features two critical but slightly obscure ingredients: caramel sugar and Kerrygold butter. Standard issue white sugar will still make a nice cookie, but following Stella Parks’ super-simple instructions to make caramel sugar will yield a superior bite. Kerrygold, however, may be swapped with any other European-style, cultured butter.

A food processor has become my new favorite cookie mixing machine. It’s because I’m a lazy cookie whore, really. The heat from the friction of the blade softens the butter in seconds. No waiting an hour for it to warm up on the counter or taking your chances in the microwave. That said, if it’s a hand or stand mixer you prefer, just make sure your butter is at room temperature before you begin.

This recipe yields about 40 1-tablespoon cookies.

Salty Caramel & Toasted Coconut Cookies
30g unsweetened flaked coconut
300g unbleached a/p flour
200g salted Kerrygold butter
200g caramel sugar
4g baking powder
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp coconut extract

Preheat oven to 350º.

Spread flaked coconut evenly on a cookie sheet and bake for five minutes, in an oven preheated to 350º, until deep brown. It cooks with maddening swiftness, so keep a close eye on the oven. As soon as the coconut’s toasted, pour it out into a heat-safe bowl and brush the cookie sheet clean. Allow to cool completely before proceeding.

Weigh flour into a bowl and set aside. Weigh sugar and baking powder into another bowl and set aside. Weigh butter directly into work bowl of the food processor. Crack eggs into another bowl along with vanilla and coconut extract and set aside.

Process butter until smooth, soft, and lightened. (If you’ve started with cold butter, you may need to scrape down the sides of the food processor a couple of times to get it back into contact with the blades before the butter softens.)  Add sugar and process for 10 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the work bowl with a rubber or silicone spatula then add the eggs/extracts. Process for another 10 seconds, and scrape down the sides of the bowl once more. Add the flour and coconut, process for three seconds, scrape down, and process for another three seconds. If there’s any flour left uncombined, scrape the bowl down one more time and process for three final seconds.

Carefully scrape contents into a clean bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and chill for at least twenty minutes. For maximum flavor goodness, chill overnight. The extra time really does give the flavors a chance to get to know each other.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350º, set one rack in middle of the lower third of the oven, and set the other in the middle of the upper third. Line cookie sheets with parchment. Scoop leveled tablespoons of dough and space 2-inches apart. Quickly roll the dough blobs in your palms to make rough spheres. Bake for twelve minutes, swapping cookie sheets between racks and rotating 180º half way through, or until edges are medium brown but centers are still soft to the touch.

Cool completely on racks before storing in an airtight container.

Video: Slice Veg So They Don’t Stick


I got my first question from a reader a couple of weeks ago. Amy F. from Internetland asks: “How do you prevent things from sticking to the side of your chef’s knife when you’re doing prep? I think I understand how to use a knife properly, but when I’m cutting, say, cucumbers or zucchini or potatoes or apples, they stick to the side of the knife, which makes it impossible to keep a nice cutting rhythm going without chopping off pieces of the slices I’ve already cut or, for round things, stopping to deal with rollaway slices.”

Well, Amy, I have an answer for you, and it also happens to be my very first video blog. I’m sure you’re at least twice as excited as I!

 

All-Butter Pie Crust


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Your food processor has no higher calling than making pie crust. Pair this magical kitchen machine with a digital scale, and you may unlock the secret to the easiest, most butter-shatteringly perfect pie crust you will ever taste.

This recipe demonstrates the first cooking ratio I ever mastered in a most satisfying way. You can hop down that rabbit hole in my Kitchen Grimoire later, though. Right now you have pie dough to make.

This recipe is super simple. Just four ingredients. Like all super simple recipes, the complexity is in the details. Mind the finer points of instruction for best results. I promise the extra little bits of effort are worth it.

Yield: dough for a 13-inch round (enough to cover a 9-inch pie pan)

All-Butter Pie Crust
225g a/p flour
4g salt
150g cold, unsalted butter
75g cold water

* Would you rather see how it’s done? Watch the video demo!

Chill a small plate, small bowl, and food processor work bowl and blade for fifteen minutes in the fridge before starting.

Cut butter into 1/4-inch cubes and weigh onto chilled plate; return both to fridge. Weigh cold water into chilled small bowl; return to fridge. Weigh flour and salt directly into food processor’s work bowl.

Pulse flour and salt together for one second (I literally just say, “one hippopotamus”).

Breaking up large chunks, add butter to the flour. Pulse three times, one second each. Using a fork (food processor blades will cut your fingers to little shreds before you know it!) sift through the flour a bit to see what size most of the butter chunks have become. If they’re somewhere between black and kidney bean size, you’re good. If not, pulse for another second and check again. If the butter has completely disappeared, congratulations, you’re making crackers! (Start again.)

Add the water all at once and pulse in three more one-second bursts. You’re looking for the texture of small bread crumbs. Pulse one or two more times if the dough has lots of big, wet chunks or visibly dry flour at the bottom or sides of work bowl. You DO NOT want to pulse until the dough forms a ball. If this happen, you have made shortbread. (Start again, butter’s cheap.)

Lay a clean tea towel flat on the counter and pour the contents of the work bowl out onto it. Grabbing the towel from underneath so that your hands never directly touch the dough, push the crumbs together into a ball. It will crack and crumble at first, but keep going! Still with your hands on the opposite side of the towel, gently press the dough ball in at the sides. Alternating sides, continue to press on the dough until it looks smooth and doesn’t crack at the edges. If, at any time, it begins to stick, lightly dust the dough and towel with flour.

Finally, form the dough back into a flat disc, about 6-inch across. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least twenty minutes. If it’s a hot day, make that an hour.

To roll dough, use any pin you like. I’m partial to the tapered French rolling pins myself, but it’s really down to personal preference. Lightly flour* the cloth you used to shape the dough ball earlier and lay it on a flat counter or cutting board. Turn out the dough disc and flour it lightly on both sides. Roll from the center up to the edge and then again from the center down to the bottom. Give the disc a quarter-circle turn and repeat. Check under the dough every full turn to make sure it’s not sticking, and lightly flour as-needed.

* You should be sprinkling on no more than a pinch of flour at a time. Just a dusting, really. Rub it gently to distribute. Every gram of flour that gets added to the dough after it leaves the food processor will make it tougher, so use as little as possible.

Greek-Style Braised Beans


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There’s nothing Grandma Kay didn’t braise in this ubiquitous punchy, herbal Greek tomato sauce. If the technique is new to you, think of it as stewing – low heat and flavorful liquid. In my own kitchen, as in Greece, I find the ultimate marriage to be with creamy white beans. Garbanzos are the path to maximum bean bliss, but lima and great northern won’t ruin Christmas.

Regardless of your bean choice, for the love of all that is good and right in this world, please use freshly cooked beans. I employ a Fagor pressure cooker to fulfill my leguminous whims. Canned beans hurt my feelings. Cooking them the old fashioned way is an afternoon you’re not getting back. But the pressure cooker gets you from bean-shaped rocks to dinner in under an hour, usually more like 30 minutes. You know that’s something you want in on.

Depending on your willpower, you can serve these beans in a variety of ways. Straight up with rice or toast. Chilled as a hearty summer salad. Or reheated and lightly mashed into a cast iron skillet with a couple of eggs cracked on top and some Cholula. Whatever’s clever.

This recipe yields enough for four as an entree.

1/4 cup olive oil
2 small onions, halved and sliced
a heavy pinch of cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp dried Greek oregano, finely ground
2 tbsp tomato paste
a glug of dry red wine
2 1/2 cups dried garbanzos (about five cooked), cooked to al dente with plenty of salt
28 oz can diced tomatoes
1/2 tsp garlic powder
salt & pepper

Cook the onions over medium low with olive oil and a heavy pinch of salt until golden and lightly caramelized. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, until it turns brick red.

Add cinnamon and oregano and cook for a minute, continuing to stir. Add wine and stir to loosen tomato paste, then add beans, diced tomatoes (and their juice!), and garlic powder. Stir well to incorporate. With lid on pot, raise heat to medium-high and stir every five minutes until bubbling vigorously.

Reduce heat to low and taste for salt and pepper. Amend as needed. Continue to simmer for 30 minutes with lid off, stirring about every five minutes, until sauce thickens and beans become creamily tender. The beans will take up salt quite quickly at this point, so taste for seasoning every time you stir.