Warm and gooey, straight from the oven. Watch out – this cookie has been found to be highly addictive.
Several years ago, we were introduced to the cast iron skillet cookie. This giant chocolate chip cookie is best served nearly straight from the oven. No need for fancy serving dishes, we were handed spoons and in mere moments the 10-inch cast iron pan was emptied.
This terribly addictive cookie came back into my thoughts during our last trip to Anchorage. Jack and I went to a restaurant where we were served a delicious skillet breakfast of country fried potatoes, a fried egg, and an Alaskan reindeer sausage all presented in a cute, single-serving cast iron pan. That presentation was as clever as it was practical. The mini-skillet was the perfect serving size for one and kept the breakfast piping hot. We could imagine all kinds of tasty creations that would work perfectly in these clever pans. When we got home, I ordered two, and was pleasantly surprised to find that they are relatively inexpensive.
When the pans arrived, the first order of the day was a skillet cookie… but not just any skillet cookie. We love the flavor of bourbon. It happens to perfectly complement the buttery, carmely, flavors of a chocolate chip cookie. (See our post about melty chocolate chip cookies.) So I decided to punch up the skillet cookie with a bit of bourbon. After a couple of different successful experiments, I came up with just the right balance of ingredients for my recipe.
The bad things about this cookie? It is ridiculously delicious. We found it impossible to eat part of it and save the other part for later. It is easy to make, which only contributes to the addiction problem. And if you happen to have some rich vanilla ice cream to scoop on the top? You may as well call your boss and tell him/her that you won’t be coming in this week.
With fair warning, I give you the –
Bourbon Chocolate Chip Skillet Cookie for Two
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
- 8 tsp granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 2 tbsp egg, whisked
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 tsp bourbon
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- pinch salt
- 1/2 cup all purpose flour
- 1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
- Preheat oven to 350° F (180° C)
- Have a 6 1/2” cast iron skillet available
- Whisk melted butter with sugars
- Whisk in egg
- Whisk in vanilla and bourbon
- Stir in flour, baking solda and salt
- Fold in chocolate chips
- Pour batter into cast iron skillet
- Bake for 20 minutes. Cookie will be puffed up and will have pulled away from edge when finished.
- Let cool slightly. Serve while still warm plain or topped with creamy vanilla ice cream.
Looking to expand my cookie recipe collection, I bought a new baking recipe book a couple of weeks ago. I found a beautiful book which boasted over 150 interesting cookie ideas. After reading the book cover-to-cover, I decided to try a layered chocolate biscuit. It was a disaster. The biscuit dough completely and totally fell apart when I rolled it out and there seemed to be no way to salvage it. I really hate wasting anything, so I baked the crumbs of dough anyway figuring that if they tasted good, I’d find a way to put them to good use. Well, they did taste good, and so for several days they sat on the counter in an air-tight container awaiting inspiration.
This past weekend I reached for my tried and true Williams-Sonoma Baking Book. The book fell open to a beautiful picture of a pie with a deep brown cholatey crust and a creamy pink filling. Raspberry cream pie – of course! As luck would have it, we still have a good supply of frozen raspberries from last summer’s berry picking. Raspberries and chocolate are a perfect match, in my book.
What a delight! The look of this lovely pie certainly suggests Valentine’s Day, but any day would be a good day for this light, airy dessert. I think the best way to describe the flavor is to imagine a 50/50 bar, otherwise known as a Dreamcicle – creamy vanilla ice cream in the middle surrounded by a slightly tart, fruit exterior, usually orange. This pie filling has that same creaminess with a slight tang of sour from the fresh raspberries. The crunch of the chocolate crust provides the perfect textural counterbalance. Next time you want to tell someone you love them, make them a raspberry cream pie!
Raspberry Cream Pie
- 1 1/4 cups chocolate cookie crumbs
- 5 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
- 3 tbsp granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup cold water
- 1 package (2 tsp) unflavored powdered gelatin
- 2/3 cup natural raspberry juice or fresh raspberry purée
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
- Place oven rack in the middle of oven and preheat to 350° F (180° C).
- In a medium bowl, combine chocolate cookie crumbs, butter, and granulated sugar. Stir until all is evenly mixed.
- Press the cookie crumb mixture into bottom of 9-inch pie pan or springform pan.
- Bake until firm, about 5 minutes.
- Let crust cool on wire rack.
- Pour cold water into a saucepan. Sprinkle with gelatin and let sit until gelatin softens and swells (about 5 minutes).
- Heat gelatin over medium heat. Stir until it is clear and fluid.
- Stir gelatin mixture into raspberry juice. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, whisk eggs, sugar, and salt until pale yellow. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, beat or whisk the cream until thick, soft peaks form.
- Add egg mixture to whipped cream. Whip until smooth.
- Add raspberry mixture to cream mixture. Whip until smooth.
- Pour filling into the crumb crust. Even out with a rubber spatula.
- Refrigerate until the filling is cold and firm (4-6 hours).
- Let the pie stand at room temperature for about 20 minutes before serving.
- Serve topped with sweetened whipped cream and fresh berries.
A couple of weeks ago, Jack and I took our biannual trip to the big city – Anchorage. Since we’ve been brewing our own beer this year, we felt it was our moral and professional obligation to sample different types of beers in order to best serve our customers. All right, morals and professions have nothing to do with this tasting quest. And we happen to be our own best customers, but whatever. Tasting beer is fun and actually educational! We met up with a guy at the 49th State Brewing Company who told us he is studying to be a Cicerone (think beer sommelier). He will become a trained and certified beer professional! After talking through the beer menu with him, we diligently read descriptions and critically tasted several beers in order to get a handle on what we really liked and what food pairings we could imagine with 49th State’s brews. By the way, they have a diverse selection with beers featuring imaginative and complex flavors. We highly recommend making 49th State Brewing a stop on your tour of Anchorage. We came back home with a new appreciation of the levels of complexity we are producing in our little home brewery.
When we returned to Chignik Lake, one of our batches of new beer was ready to try. This beer recipe was produced by a company called Brew Demon. The brew, Deep Red Ale, came out nicely. It had a deep red-brown color with a slight nutty flavor, mildly hoppy, with a touch of malt and a beautiful head. Jack says, “When I drink this beer, I imagine enjoying it with fried or grilled by the campfire.”
One night in Anchorage, we decided to enjoy a Giant pretzel along with our beer tasting. The bakers at 49th State Brewing nailed this pretzel. It was delightfully chewy with that expected glossy exterior speckled with high quality salt. And it was Huge. It was a perfect accompaniment to a delicious beer – and a perfect idea to recreate in my home bakery. To go with our deep red ale, this time I stuck to my time-tested regular-sized pretzel recipe. The giant pretzel is on the baking goal list. Stay tuned for that recipe.
- 4 tsp active dry yeast
- 1 tsp granulated sugar
- 1 1/4 cups warm water (110° F/45° C)
- 4 cups all purpose flour
- 2 tbsp granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup baking soda
- 4 cups hot water
- kosher salt for topping
- In a large bowl, dissolve yeast and 1 tsp sugar in warm water. Let stand about 10 minutes.
- Mix one cup of flour and 2 tbsp sugar into the yeast mixture.
- Mix an additional cup of flour and salt into the dough mixture.
- Continue adding flour by half cups.
- Add additional flour if dough is too wet.
- Knead dough until smooth (about 7 minutes).
- Oil a large bowl. Place dough in bowl and turn until coated.
- Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let dough list un a warm place for an hour. Dough should double in size.
- Preheat oven to 450° F (230° C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In a large pot, dissolve baking soda in hot water.
- Divide dough into 12 equal pieces.
- Roll each piece into a rope and twist into a pretzel shape.
- Once the dough pieces are shaped, dip them into the hot baking soda solution.
- Placed dipped pretzels onto prepared baking sheets. Sprinkle with kosher salt.Bake in preheated oven for 8 minutes. Finished pretzels will be golden brown.
- Let pretzels cool slightly and enjoy them with your favorite mustard and a delicious red ale.
Packed with raisins, pecans and puréed carrots, this is a tasty way to enjoy a serving (or two) of carrots!
Living out in bush Alaska, there are certain ingredients that are a luxury in our pantry – like cream cheese. With recent outdoor temperatures agreeably mimicking a nicely chilled fridge, it was time to mail order dairy items requiring colder temperatures. Our here in Chignik Lake, Alaska, we’ve been relying heavily on the wonderful services of the mail order department at the Anchorage Fred Meyer (Debarr store). About every two weeks, we email a grocery list to the store and within four to five days, we receive our items carefully wrapped or zip-top bagged for a nominal packing fee. A few weeks ago, we received heavy whipping cream, cream cheese and sour cream all nicely chilled in the belly of a little bush plane. Culinary feats take a bit of planning ahead, but with the cooperating weather, we can get most of what we need out here in tiptop condition. I can’t speak highly enough of our mail order friends in the Debarr Fred Meyer store!
If you’ve been following along, you’ll know that I periodically bake for my students. This has now become a time-honored tradition that has followed me through several schools. Last week, one of my students requested a cake for our “bake sale” (students can spend tickets they earn in class on a variety of rewards, including my baked creations). After my students polished off a bag of trail mix packed with raisins and nuts last week, I was confident that a carrot cake stuffed with nuts and raisins would be healthful and would be well-received by my young customers. Ok, and I like carrot cake, too, so I picked up my trusty Williams-Sonoma Baking Book to see what they had to say on the subject. Every recipe I’ve tried in this book has come out fantastically. The carrot cake recipe looked delicious. The one difference I noticed is that it called for puréed instead of shredded carrots. Pumpkin purée is a favorite, so why not a purée of carrots? Turns out the purée adds more moisture and the carrot flavor is slightly sweeter. I modified the recipe a bit and was highly pleased with the result. The cake was moist and smooth. The texture was only improved by the chopped nuts and raisins. What did the students say? They loved it! They especially liked the spice and the frosting, of course. If you won’t believe the kids, all the adults I shared the cake with agreed it was delicious!
Spiced Carrot Cake with Rich Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting
- 3/4 lb carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch slices
- 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- generous pinch salt
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp mace (or substitute nutmeg)
- 2 large eggs
- 1 1/3 firmly packed light brown sugar
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
- 3/4 cup pecans, chopped coarse
- 1/2 cup golden raisins
- cream cheese frosting (see recipe below)
- Boil carrots until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and let cool.
- Purée the carrots with a blender, stick blender or food processor. Set aside.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180° C). Line the bottom of an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper. Set aside.
- In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and mace.
- In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, brown sugar, milk and butter.
- Whisk the flour mixture into the egg mixture.
- Whisk in the carrot purée.
- Fold in the pecans and raisins.
- Pour batter into square baking pan.
- Bake 45 – 50 minutes in preheated oven. Cake will be lightly browned and wooden pick inserted into middle of cake will come out clean when cake is done.
- Let cake cool on a wire rack.
- Run a knife around edge of pan. Invert cake onto serving plate. Peel off parchment paper.
- Frost cake and serve right away.
Rich Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting
- 4 oz. cream cheese
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
- 3/4 cup powdered sugar
- 3/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
- Using a mixer, beat all the frosting ingredients on medium speed until mixture is totally smooth and well-mixed.
- Alternatively, hand-mix all the frosting ingredients until smooth and totally mixed using a rubber spatula.
Mmmmm – matcha green tea and sweet adzuki bean paste – a flavor combination we love add a Japanese twist to an American classic. Just the thing with piping hot green tea after a cold morning of birding.
Matcha green tea powder and adzuki beans may not be in everyone’s pantry, but they are always in ours. If you’ve been following this blog, you know that this flavor combination makes a regular appearance in our kitchen. When a friend gave me a recipe for maple bars, I couldn’t help imagining them stuffed with sweet adzuki bean paste (directions to make the paste here), and changing up the frosting recipe to include the zip of spiced matcha tea along with maple syrup. I think the original maple bar recipe somehow reminded me of cinnamon rolls. I’d made a version of cinnamon rolls where the adzuki bean paste was spiraled into a dough which in turn was infused with matcha tea powder. That was delicious! So why not tinker around with this maple bars?
Today’s recipe initially started out with my friend’s successful recipe. Her dough recipe is deliciously flavored with cinnamon. After baking, I sliced the rolls in half and spread them generously with adzuki bean paste. I did change up her maple icing and made more of a donut glaze that I then flavored with matcha green tea powder and real maple syrup. (Thank you JW for sending us some real Pennsylvania maple syrup!)
Matcha powder is used to make high quality green tea. I enjoy baking with this flavorful ingredient – adding it to breads, cookies, cakes, and even custard dishes. If you are not convinced that I really do enjoy this ingredient, just search “matcha” in the search bar on our blog and look at all the lovely recipes. 😉 I’m happy to report that both adzuki beans and matcha green tea powder are easy to procure – even in remote places like Chignik Lake, Alaska – thanks to the Internet.
Adzuki Maple Bars with Matcha Maple Frosting
- 1 1/2 cups milk
- 1/3 cup unsalted butter
- 4 tbsp granulated sugar
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 4 1/2 tsp instant yeast
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- 4 3/4 cups all purpose flour
- 2 cups sweet adzuki bean paste
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup real maple syrup
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1 tsp matcha green tea powder
- Combine milk, butter, sugar, and cinnamon in a medium saucepan.
- Stir over medium heat until butter is melted. Remove from heat.
- Let milk mixture cool slightly. Mixture should cool to about 110 8° F, or cooler.
- Pour milk mixture into a large mixing bowl. Stir in yeast.
- Stir beaten eggs into mixture.
- Stir in flour, one cup at a time.
- The last 3/4 cup of flour will need to be kneaded in.
- Once flour is well incorporated and dough can remain in the shape of a ball, let rise in the mixing bowl for an hour covered with plastic in a warm place with no draft.
- Punch down dough and roll out to about a 1″ thickness.
- Cut dough into 16 rectangular pieces. Place bars on baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for another 30 minutes.
- Heat oven to 425° F. Remove plastic covering and bake bars for 8 – 10 minutes. Finished bars should be lightly browned.
- Let bars cool on wire rack for 15 minutes before icing.
- Make icing by mixing together icing ingredients and stirring until smooth.
- Cut bread bars in half, like a sandwich.
- Spread adzuki bean paste on lower half of bar.
- Take top half and dip it into matcha maple frosting.
- Place dipped top part of bread onto bottom which has been prepared with adzuki paste.
- Serve immediately or serve later the same day. Just make sure to cover them with plastic so they don’t dry out.
Lovely rich texture of ground almonds brightened by fresh, tart raspberry jam. Yes, sir, I’ll have another!
Linzertorte is not a new creation. I read that the first published recipes for this lovely dessert appeared in the early 1700’s. Sidestepping a culinary history lesson, I can happily report that you we love this torte. What makes ours a bit different is freezer jam – which is a magical concoction made from a mix of fresh berries, pectin and sugar without using heat. The result is a fresh, bright flavor, featuring the sweet, tart Pow of right-off-the-bushes raspberry taste. Click here to read more about freezer jam.
Freezer Jam Linzertorte
- 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp ground cloves
- pinch salt
- 1 cup whole almonds
- 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1 1/2 cups raspberry freezer jam
- Whisk together flour, cinnamon, cloves and salt in a bowl. Set aside.
- In a food processor, process almonds with confectioner’s sugar. Almonds should be finely ground.
- Pour butter into almond mixture and mix well.
- Add in egg yolks. Mix well.
- Add flour mixture to almond mixture and mix well.
- Separate about 1/3 of the dough. Flatten it into a disc. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate.
- Take remaining dough and press it into a greased, fluted tart pan. I used a springform pan and that worked well, too.
- Spread dough with jam. Place this part of torte into refrigerator.
- Take chilled dough and roll out into a circle about 1/4 inch thick.
- Using a fluted roller, cut the rolled dough into 6 strips.
- Criss-cross strips on top of torte.
- Press edges together to seal.
- Place torte in refrigerator while preheating oven.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).
- Bake torte until crust is browned and jam is bubbling, about 45 minutes.
- Let cool on wire rack until torte is just warm. Remove torte from pan and move it to a serving plate.
- Dust top of Linzertorte with confectioners’ sugar to serve.
The look and smell of December – warm, spicy gingerbread cookies straight from the oven, or let them cool and frost them for a more traditional treat.
‘Tis the season for hot toddies and gingerbread cookies. Out in the Alaskan bush, we have to plan ahead for any special ingredients. Ginger, yes. Cloves, yes. Molasses? When stocking up our pantry, I was on the fence when it came to molasses. I really don’t like molasses. It’s not a flavor I would normally add to any of my creations. But it is very traditional in a couple of bread and cookie recipes. In Point Hope, we kept it as a pantry item and only used it once over three years. So, I opted against stocking it again here at “the Lake.”
Here it is December, and I have a hankering for gingerbread cookies, but I have no molasses… Throwing molasses to the wind, I altered a gingerbread cookie recipe by upping the ginger and using a combination of honey and pure maple syrup instead of the traditional molasses. The result? A flavorful, spicy cookie with enough “brownness” to satisfy the eye and a flavor to satisfy my December craving. After frosting these little babies and bringing them to my students, I was met with many compliments and requests for more. Who says elementary student palates don’t know what’s good? The adults who sampled the cookies concurred with my young tasters. I patted myself on the back for improving a long-standing recipe and also for avoiding an expedited shipment of molasses from the nearest grocery store – nearly 500 air miles away!
Improved Gingerbread Cookies
- 1/2 cut unsalted butter, melted
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
- 1 egg, beaten
- 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tbsp ground ginger
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves
- pinch salt
- Royal icing (optional)
- Mix butter and sugars.
- Mix in honey and maple syrup.
- Mix in egg.
- Sift together flour, baking soda, spices and salt in a large bowl.
- Stir butter mixture into flour mixture.
- Turn dough out onto a floured work surface and form into two large disks.
- Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
- Cover baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Roll out dough of one disk between two sheets of waxed paper. Dough should be about 1/4 inch thick.
- Using cookie cutters, cut out figures. Use an offset spatula to move cookies to prepared baking sheet.
- Repeat with remaining dough.
- Gather up scraps and roll out and cut as with original dough.
- Bake cookies until lightly browned, about 6 minutes.
- Let the cookies cool on sheet for about 5 minutes before transferring to wire rack to finish cooling.
- Decorate cookies with Royal icing, if desired.