Archive for the 'cookies' Category

03
May
13

3 products that baffle and delight

Mast Brothers teamed up with Shake Shack for no apprent reason except that they're both based in NYC.

This Mast Brothers-Shake Shack bar (available at the cash registers at the Dupont Circle Shake Shack) perplexed me. Was there burger or bacon in the bar? No, it’s just dark chocolate. Apparently the only connection is that they’re both based in NYC.

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The copy on the back of this ginger & chilli biscuit tin (really spicy gingersnaps from Fortnum & Mason) is as good as the cookies themselves. In fact, these were so tasty, they made Mr. X-sXe admit that maybe not all British sweets suck. (“Biscuits” courtesy of Ms. & Mr. Pie, who schlepped them across the pond.)

Red velvet fudge from Reading Terminal Market

Beware your bowels, screams the label on the back of this chunk of red velvet fudge. Ms. Pie brought this gem back from Reading Terminal Market. Noteworthy because (1) it’s telling diabetics to talk to their doctor about incorporating it into their diet–like, reach for red velvet fudge when your blood sugar’s low? Dubious marketing. (2) I’ve never seen a diarrhea warning on candy that didn’t have artificial sweeteners. But I appreciate the heads up.

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02
Jan
13

Lemony delights, homemade and store-bought

Happy 2013! As the holidays come to a close and the dreary weather settles in, I’ve found myself gravitating toward citrus desserts lately–particularly lemon. Weird and fascinating fact: even though lemons are acidic, your body metabolizes them as alkaline. So you could argue that these desserts are compatible with your New Year’s resolution to eat healthier.

Lemon Ricotta Cookies with Lemon Glaze from Giada De Laurentiis

My New Year’s resolution: learn to hold the camera straight.

First off are these lemon-lime ricotta cookies, a slight modification of a Giada DL recipe. I added lime zest to the icing rather than just lemon zest. Simple enough to make, these don’t require any fancy equipment beyond a mixer. These eat like tart little cakes, nice with tea or coffee. As you mix the icing, feel free to add more lemon juice and zest than the recipe prescribes, but make sure to taste as you go. Also, stick with juicing your own lemons. The stuff from the bottle has a bite to it (probably from oxidation) that fresh lemon juice doesn’t.

Trader Joe's lemon bars

Rarely are commercially made lemon bars tart enough, but lemon juice is the first ingredient in these bite-sized ones from Trader Joe’s.

I don’t see a need to ever make lemon bars again after trying these little gems from Trader Joe’s. They’re not that high in sugar (5 grams each), wonderfully tart (making me wonder if TJ’s cheated by adding citric acid–nope, just lemon juice), and all you do is defrost them from the freezer. If you’re serving them to guests, you may want to re-dust them with powdered sugar right beforehand. That part didn’t survive the defrosting totally intact.

Trader Joe's lemon & triple gingersnap ice cream

Judging from the font on the carton, this lemon and triple ginger snap ice cream is Asian-inspired.

Lastly, Trader Joe’s lemon and triple ginger snap ice cream is the frozen treat equivalent of lemon-ginger tea. And it doesn’t shy away from that ginger bite. Spooning into a cluster of gingersnaps makes me feel like I’m hitting paydirt. While ice cream doesn’t rank as high up there for me as cakes, pies, or cookies, this stuff makes a worthy sugar fix. Especially if you toss the random chocolate chip cookie in there as a garnish.

11
Dec
12

Sweet Streets of NY, Day 4: Tricked-out cookies & panettones to cap things off

On the last day of our NYC trip, we had a half day to hit a few more food places before heading back to DC. Here’s what we picked up for the bus ride home:

The chocolate chip-walnut behemoth from Levain.

Levain Bakery, Upper West Side

After JDang mentioned that Levain’s cookies were so good that her friend in LA asked her to schlep $100 worth back (that works out to 25 cookies), we realized we needed to try them on the last day of our visit.

For those of you who balk at a $4 cookies, know this: these are as heavy as rocks, so pound for-pound, I doubt they’re that much more expensive than Mrs. Fields’ cookies from your mall food court.

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We decided to walk from our hotel on East 29th all the way up to West 74th. We took Fifth Avenue most of the way, which gave us to the opportunity to check out some of the stunning holiday windows. After a quick detour through Central Park, 40-odd blocks later, we came upon a tiny basement shop. The compact space (with no table to sit at, be warned) was inversely proportional to the heft and hype behind these supersized cookies.

So, were they worth the long-distance trek? I like a good cookies, but these weren’t spectacular enough to merit the hype. Here’s why: (1) Levain doesn’t offer a plain chocolate chip—you can only get chocolate-chip walnut. Walnuts in cookies, blech. (2) The soft texture of the cookies makes them eat more like brownies than cookies. (3) The double chocolate chocolate chip may send you into sugar shock.

If you do try them, get them to share.  Much like the Cheesecake Factory cheesecake slices, you’ll be hard-pressed to finish one on your own in a single sitting.

Welcome to Eataly, panettone heaven.Eataly, Chelsea

I don’t meet many people under the age of 50 who are as into panettones as me and Mr. X-sXe. I think it may have to do with the stigma of fruitbread, even those these are nothing of the sort.

Panettones are oversized, buttery brioches (don’t tell the Italians I said that) studded with dried fruits like orange peels and raisins. Don’t worry, they don’t usually include nuts or any of that day-glow dried fruit weighing down your typical doorstop fruitcake. If you want to test drive a panettone, you can get a small one at Whole Foods (or large one at Trader Joe’s) for around $5. And if you don’t like it, you can always turn it into bread pudding or French toast.

At Eataly, we came upon a huge display of panettones ranging from $15-$50+. We took home two kinds, a peach one and a chocolate-hazelnut one. The peach one was the moistest panettone we’ve tried to date, but a bit stingy with the dried peaches. The chocolate-hazelnut one has yet to be broken into—I’ll update this post after we try it.

Related Posts:

Day 1 Spoils

Day 2: The Sugar Binge Continues

Day 3: More Donut Gluttony, and a Gourmet Take on Hostess

01
Dec
12

Sweet streets of NY, Day 2: The Sugar Binge Continues

DoughtnutPlant-Stumptown
A rundown of the sweets we tried during our second day in NYC:
One of the things that made our stay at the Ace Hotel memorable (helping to make up for our jail cell-sized room) was the Stumptown Coffee in the lobby. For a habitual tea drinker, their brew’s perfect because it’s pretty mild, at least to my untrained coffee palate. Anyway, this Stumptown location offers an impressive case of sweet accompaniments: French macarons, fruit tarts, cookies from Momofuku Milk Bar, and these Doughnut Plant cake donuts.
Stumptown carries 4 flavors: the tres leches and blackout became our breakfast staples for the duration of our stay. The first time Mr. X-sXe bit into one, he actually paused to contemplate what had just happened to his taste buds. They’re that good. Each donut has a thread of filling running through it: condensed milk in the tres leches; bittersweet chocolate cream in the blackout. Sounds like overload, but it’s not because these aren’t nearly as sweet as your typical glazed Krispy Kreme—by comparison they taste healthy.
MomofukuMilkBar_CerealSoftServe
Though this place is tinier than a Manhattan studio apartment, there’s a constant stream of customers demanding their cereal milk soft serve—even on a windy 40-degree day. If I were Christina Tosi, I’d be applying for some kind of trademark protection. The soft serve tastes like what’s left in your cereal bowl after you’ve fished out the last soggy Frosted Flake. It’s served up with cereal crumbles, what tasted like corn flakes to me. The soft serve flavor was too reminiscent of milk from the jug for my liking, but I guess that’s the point.
Left to right: the compost, chocolate marshmallow, and blueberries & cream cookies

Left to right: the compost, chocolate chip marshmallow, and blueberries & cream cookies

Cookies
The lady behind the counter at the Milk Bar explained that the compost, chocolate chip marshmallow, and blueberries & cream are their top-selling flavors. All are buttery, chewy cookies, but we enjoyed the chocolate marshmallow the most. The cookies held up nicely after a bus ride home and a couple days sitting on our kitchen counter. You can attempt the recipe for the compost cookies here or order all of the cookies flavors online here.
MomofukuMilkBar_CrackPieCrack pie
I’ve tried Momofuku’s towering cakes before, but this was my first time trying their pie. The funny thing about their pie slices is that they package them individually in cardboard sleeves. The crack pie reminds me of a cross between shoofly pie and crème brulee, with a strong molasses taste from the brown sugar.  Due to the ooey-gooey richness, it’s hard to enjoy more than a few bites of in one go, even for those of us with a fiendish sweet tooth. You’ll want a very bitter mug of coffee to go with this.
Related posts:
Day 3 preview: We make the holy pilgrimage to the actual Doughnut Plant store in Chelsea, then cap the night off at Empire Cake, where you can get homemade versions of those Hostess cakes that are on the brink of extinction.
18
Oct
12

Journey to the Center of the Cookie with Trader Joe’s

Journey to the Center of the Cookie, and you might suffer sugar shock.

These cookies, they of the sci-fi name, remind me a lot of the cookie cups from Mrs. Fields (one of my food court guilty pleasures). But even more rich. As if Trader Joe’s hired Emeril Lagasse or Paula Deen to have their way with the chocolate chip cookie.

Seriously, JTTCOTC cookies are delicious, but you can physically feel the 49 grams of sugar. Maybe I ate it too fast, but I was nearly shaking from sugar shock (for someone who consumes as much sugar as I do, that’s saying something). Why have a can of Coke when you can take this journey and get the same jolt?

Close up of Trader Joe's "Journey to the Center of the Cookie"

Be conservative with the amount of time you keep these in the microwave, or the cookie part at the edges will dry out into tooth-chipping toughness. After making that mistake with the first cookie, I nuked the second one for 45 seconds. The molten center got soft but didn’t liquify, and the cookie stayed moist. If you want the center to melt completely, try wrapping a damp paper towel around these before you stick them in the microwave.

27
May
12

Macaron Bee opens. Georgetown becomes even more dangerous for the pancreatically challenged.

Not only are there a bunch of ice cream, pie, and cupcake places in Georgetown, but also more than a handful of European cafes (Paul, Patisserie Poupon, Dolcezza, Kafe Leopold) pushing buttery pastries. Last weekend, Macaron Bee entered the fray on Wisconsin Avenue. It’s a tiny boutique that sells only French macarons, like Macaron Cafe in NY.

Macaron Bee offers classics like coconut, chocolate, and pistachio--plus more exotic flavors like blood orange, lavender chocolate, and gianduja.

My haul from Macaron Bee. They carry about a dozen flavors every day, ranging from the expected (chocolate, pistachio) to the exotic (blood orange, chocolate lavender).

The owners are an Asian couple who seem to know their stuff when it comes to this fetishized French cookie. For $1.75, you get a macaron with just the right crunch, giving way to chewy centers and not-too-sweet fillings. The cookies’ consistency and flavors held up in sweaty 90-degree weather–even after a day in the fridge.

Macaron Bee is a few doors down from Patiesserie Poupon in Georgetown.

The store is a bit of a schlep up Wisconsin Avenue, a few doors north of Patisserie Poupon.

I do have a small beef with the fillings, though. For instance, I want a salted caramel filling in its namesake macaron. These had more of a buttercream, which threw me off. Macaron Bee fares better with the fruit (jelly) fillings and chocolate fillings, where the consistency doesn’t remind me of biting down on a pat of Land O’Lakes.

The inside of Macaron Bee is a macaron fan's wet dream.

Rows upon rows of macarons greet you as you enter the tiny store.

I was impressed with the attention to detail that went into making these cookies. The gianduja had chopped hazelnuts adorning the outer cookie; the salted caramel, salt granules; etc. Minor detail, but this helped me figure out which flavor was what when I left the store.

The owners’ meticulousness is also obvious in their packaging. The adorable boxes are made for gifting–check out those bees leaving a trail of macarons in their wake (above).

Macaron Bee offers your standard flavors, and some more exotic ones.

Flavors, clockwise starting at 9 o’clock: salted caramel, blood orange, chocolate lavender, coconut, raspberry, pistachio, blood orange, and milk chocolate passionfruit.

20
May
12

Massaging balls & forking: what I did in the name of peanut butter cookies

Making cookies can be a pain in the rear end, especially if the dough is hard to work with. These peanut butter cookies were particularly trying because the dough turned out like wet sand: too dry to hold together. Based on user complaints that the cookies were turning out too thin, I modified the recipe by adding 1/2 cup of peanut butter and 1/2 cup of flour. The consensus among commenters was that this was the right proportion. But it probably could’ve used another egg, too.

I sprinkled this batch with Kosher salt instead of forking the tops.

As a result, I had to massage each ball, kneading them like Play-Doh until the dough was the right consistency. Then on my first tray, I used a fork to make the traditional cross-hatch pattern you see on peanut butter cookies. But this process caused some of the cookies to begin breaking apart again. Patience running thin, I decided to forgo the forking, instead sprinkling a bit of Kosher salt on top before putting the remaining cookies in the oven. Fortunately, these turned out tasty (crunchy on the outside, soft in the middle) and the salt adds a nice touch, used sparingly.

The recipe, including the modifications below, made almost 4 dozen and takes a much more patient baker than me.

Modifications:

  • Additional 1/2 cup peanut butter, totaling 1.5 cups or about 1 jar
  • Additional 1/2 cup flour
  • Creamy peanut butter, since that’s what I had handy
  • Pinch of Kosher salt sprinkled on top before putting into the oven
  • Baking time was 10 minutes per baking sheet of 9 cookies