Inspired by Rice Flour and Cardamom

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Light rice cookies with a pinch of cardamom give zest to your afternoon tea or coffee.

Dreaming about the fun of making udon noodles and mochi stuffed with adzuki bean paste caused me to impetuously purchase 25 pounds of rice flour during last year’s annual shopping trip… without having first researched how to make these items. Turns out, udon is made with wheat flour and the rice flour used to make mochi is a sweet rice flour. I now had 25 pounds of flour with no inspiration! A “no inspiration item” often transforms itself into an inspiration in our kitchen. We’ve learned that rice flour is a much better thickener in stews and soups than wheat flour or corn starch. We’ve also learned that rice flour makes light and airy cookies. When matched with the exotic flavor of cardamom, you’ve got a trip to India during your afternoon tea!

The original recipe was for Persian rice cookies. The recipe came out way too crumbly. I set the dough in the refrigerator and contemplated how to fix it. With the addition of a couple more eggs, the cookie dough was very soft and looked like scoops of vanilla ice cream while it waited to be baked. Our initial test for the cookie is dough flavor… yum. Again, it was very light with a punch from the cardamom. After they were baked and fully cooled, they were as delightful.

Cardamom Rice Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1  1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tbsp orange extract
  • 3 cups rice flour
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsp superfine sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom
  • 2 tbsp poppy seeds

Directions

  1. Combine granulated sugar and water in small pot over medium heat.
  2. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring well to dissolve sugar.
  3. Reduce heat and summer for 7 – 10 minutes. Mixture should thicken and reduce to about one cup.
  4. Remove from heat. Stir in orange extract and set aside.
  5. In a medium bowl, stir together rice flour and cardamom. Set aside.
  6. In a bowl of a stand mixer, whisk eggs with superfine sugar until smooth.
  7. Add butter and oil to eggs and beat until fluffy.
  8. Add flour to butter mixture, mix until incorporated.
  9. Gradually add in one cup of the sugar syrup and beat well with mixer.
  10. Place the dough in a container, cover with a plastic wrap and refrigerate for about six hours.
  11. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  12. Use a cookie scoop to drop out rounds of dough onto baking sheets. Flatten drops slightly with the back of the cookie scoop.
  13. Sprinkle poppy seeds on top of each cookie.
  14. Bake for 12-15 minutes. Bottoms of cookies will be lightly browned.
  15. Remove from the oven and gently place on the cooling racks.

Makes 4 dozen cookies.

Apricot Pecan Rugelach

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The tang of apricot, the crunch of pecan and the richness of cream cheese come together in this delightful, satisfying cookie.

This time of year puts our creativity to the test as our pantry begins to empty. Dwindling food stores bring to mind cooking shows where random ingredients are selected and presented to the contestants with the challenge to create something magnificent. My challenge ingredients were a bag of dried apricots, a bag of pecans and a desire to nosh on something sweet. I made the dough in the evening and let it rest overnight in the refrigerator. The next day, the cookies were quick and easy to make. A quick batch was ready for an after-lunch dessert with mugs of freshly steeped tea.

Apricot Pecan Rugelach

Ingredients

  • 4 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/4 lb. unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 cup finely chopped dried apricots
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 1 tsp cinnamon mixed with 3 tbsp granulated sugar for topping

Directions

  1. Cream the cheese and butter together in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment.
  2. Add 1/4 cup granulated sugar, salt, and vanilla to butter mixture. Mix well.
  3. Mix in flour on low speed. Mix until just incorporated.
  4. Divide the dough into two parts. Quickly roll into balls and flatten.
  5. Wrap each flattened ball in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.
  6. To make filling, combine brown sugar, cinnamon, apricots and pecans. Mix well.
  7. On a well-floured surface, roll each flattened ball of dough into a 9-inch circle.
  8. Spread half of the filling evenly on each 9-inch circle of dough.
  9. Press the filling into dough slightly, so it will roll easier.
  10. Cut each circle into 12 equal wedges. First cut each circle in half. Cut those halves in half. Cut all the quarters into three even wedges.
  11. Starting with outside edge, roll wedge toward middle, forming a crescent-type shape.
  12. Place cookies on a parchment-lined baking sheet, point side down.
  13. Brush cookies with beaten egg. Sprinkle cookies with a little of the cinnamon-sugar mixture.
  14. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes in a 350 degree F oven. Cookies will be lightly browned.
  15. Let cool on a wire rack.

Mocha Toffee Bites

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A coffee lover’s must! These coffee-infused chocolate cookies have a wonderful chewy texture with a surprise toffee crunch. Serve with a hot beverage or a scoop of rich vanilla ice cream for a decadent dessert.

After a very successful try at coffee-flavored ice cream, I had wanted to use coffee in other desserts, but to achieve a really rich coffee flavor, I learned that I had to steep a lot of beans. The problem is we had shipped up just enough beans for our required morning brew. So, coffee flavors were put on hold until a recent trip to Anchorage where I had an opportunity to pick up some organic coffee extract. I was hoping it would provide the same rich flavor as steeped beans. It did! Just one and a half teaspoons of extract turned really good cookies into great cookies. The addition of the toffee crunch sent the confection over the top. These cookies could be gussied up with a dusting of powdered sugar or a drizzle of melted chocolate. But those additions are unnecessary in an already perfect recipe.

Mocha Toffee Bites

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 1/2 tsp coffee extract
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1  1/2 tsp coffee extract
  • 2 tbsp plus 2 tsp dutch processed cocoa
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/3 cup English toffee bits

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a double boiler, melt chocolate and butter. Stir until smooth. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix together sugars and egg. Beat until smooth.
  4. Add vanilla and coffee extracts. Beat until well mixed.
  5. Add cocoa powder and salt, beat until well mixed.
  6. Mix in chocolate-butter mixture from double boiler.
  7. Mix in flour and baking powder.
  8. Stir in toffee bits.
  9. Drop dough by rounded tablespoons onto parchment-lined sheet, at least an inch apart.
  10. Bake in preheated oven for 8 – 10 minutes.
  11. Let cool for a couple of minutes on sheet. Then transfer to wire rack to completely cool.

Yield: about 15 cookies

Sour Cherry Almond Hearts

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Tart dried cherries, sour cherry concentrate and almond extract combine to create wonderful flavors in these cookies which can be cut into fun and festive shapes to suit any holiday. 

One flavor we enjoy in our culinary creations is sour cherry. It has a wonderful flavor and stirs memories of our home in Sacramento and our sour cherry tree laden with ripe, bright red fruit. We always looked forward to seeing the birds this tree attracted as well as the ice creams, biscotti and sauces for pork and chicken the fruit starred in. While we can’t get sour cherries here in the Arctic, dried cherries are a must on our annual shopping list. This past summer during our annual bulk shopping, we came across sour cherry concentrate at Natural Pantry, a health food store in Anchorage. The concentrate, which claims  antioxidant benefits when consumed daily, was in the store’s vitamin section.

Of course, our first thoughts upon finding this concentrate went to the kitchen where we imagined an extraordinarily tangy-sweet syrup for our homemade Italian-style sodas and for Jack’s giant pancakes. The combination of the concentrate and the dried cherries sets these cookies far apart from the ordinary. Cherry liqueur might be a good substitute for the concentrate in the dough recipe.

Sour Cherry Almond Cookies

Ingredients

Cookie dough:

  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • pinch salt
  • 1  1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped dried cherries
  • 1 tbsp sour cherry concentrate

Frosting:

  • 2 oz. cream cheese
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 tbsp sour cherry concentrate
  • 1 cup powdered sugar

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. In a mixing bowl, combine butter and cream cheese. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until incorporated.
  4. Add sugar, almond extract, salt and sour cherry concentrate. Mix until well incorporated.
  5. Mix in half the flour until combined.
  6. Mix in dried cherries and remaining flour until combined.
  7. On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to 1/4 inch thick. Cut out desired shapes using a cookie cutter.
  8. Place cut cookies on cookie sheet.
  9. Bake for 14 minutes, or until bottoms are lightly browned.
  10. Cool on cookie sheet for 2 minutes and then finish cooling on wire rack.
  11. While cookies are cooling, make frosting.

Frosting Directions:

  1. Clean and dry mixer bowl and beater.
  2. Combine cream cheese, butter and sour cherry concentrate in mixer bowl and mix on low speed for about 30 seconds.
  3. Gradually beat in powdered sugar. Frosting should be of spreading consistency.
  4. When cookies are cooled, pipe frosting onto center of cookie.

Recipe makes 2 dozen cookies.

Chocolate Chip Yogurt Cookies – It’s All About the Penzeys Dutch Processed Cocoa

These dark, rich, chocolatey cookies disappeared within 24 hours of their creation. 

For this season in the Alaska bush, we ordered most of our spices and seasonings from Penzeys Spices. Whether we’re using their smoked chipotle chili peppers in a squash soup, the Italian seasoning blend we make from a combination of their herbs and spices, or a cup of hot cocoa, the quality of Penzeys’ products has been notable. In these cookies, its Penzeys’ Dutch-processed cocoa that takes them to a higher level.

By the way, yogurt is easy and economical to make in your own kitchen!

Chocolate Chip Yogurt Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 5 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 7 tbsp dutch processed cocoa
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Measure flour and baking soda into a medium bowl. Set aside.
  3. Melt butter in a large pan over medium heat. Remove from heat.
  4. Stir in cocoa and sugars.
  5. Add yogurt and vanilla. Mix well.
  6. Add flour just until combined.
  7. Drop by tablespoon onto parchment-covered baking sheet, about 2 inches apart.
  8. Bake for 8 – 10 minutes. Cool on pan for a few minutes until firm. Finish cooling on wire racks.

Adapted from Myrecipes.com.

Cinnamony Sugary Buttery Cookies

These cinnamon vanilla snaps are addicting! They key is in the ingredients…

A secret behind the best pies, cookies and breads is that they start with excellent ingredients. Organic butter from grass-fed cows and Bob’s Red Mill all-purpouse flour give these cinnamon sugar cookies a head start, and Penzeys double-strength vanilla extract put them at 11 on a 1 – 10 scale! The “double-strength” description is spot on; you truly only need half the required quantity of vanilla recipes call for and the flavor is divine. High-quality Saigon cinnamon added the final touch. These cookies come out of the oven ready to melt in your mouth!

Cinnamon Sugar Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (or 1/2 tsp Penzeys double-strength)

For topping –

  • 1 1/2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tbsp ground cinnamon

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together sugars at medium speed.
  3. Add butter and mix until incorporated.
  4. Add egg and vanilla and mix until light and fluffy.
  5. Add flour, baking soda and salt. Mix on low speed just until incorporated. Do not overmix.
  6. Mix topping ingredients in a small bowl.
  7. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll in cinnamon mixture.
  8. Place onto ungreased cookie sheets, about 2 inches apart.
  9. Bake for 18 minutes.
  10. Cool immediately on wire racks

Yields 2 dozen cookies.

Recipe adapted from At Home in Alaska.

Chocolate Drizzled Orange Marmalade Cookies

Our trip back to Point Hope, Alaska, went like clockwork – Swiss clockwork at that. The taxi driver arrived at our storage unit (where we’d spent the night in our camper) ten minutes early and was driving a van which easily held our eight coolers loaded with this summer’s catch. Traveling with eight coolers always fills me with a bit of trepidation; you can imagine the “what if” scenarios that run through our heads for this trip. So we plan for the worst and hope for the best.

Up in Point Hope, our big freezer is now stocked for the year while we wait for about a thousand pounds of dry goods we carefully packed and mailed to arrive via the U.S. Postal service.

“Waiting” is not something I enjoy. “Doing” is much more fun. After finding a half of a jar of marmalade in the refrigerator, I decided conducting a cookie experiment would be much more fun than sitting around waiting for groceries to arrive. The results? Orange-flavored cookies. The chocolate added a layer of flavor that complimented the orange tang.

Orange Marmalade Cookies (makes 3 dozen)

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce (can substitute with 2 eggs)
  • 12 tbsp orange marmalade
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar.
  3. Add applesauce and marmalade and mix thoroughly.
  4. In a separate bowl, sift together flour and baking powder.
  5. Mix in flour mixture to butter mixture until just blended.
  6. Drop dough by tablespoons onto parchment-covered cookie sheets. Leave at least one inch between cookies.
  7. Bake until cookies spread slightly and are lightly browned (about 10 minutes).
  8. Cool cookies completely on wire rack.
  9. Drizzle with melted chocolate, if desired. (I used semi-sweet chocolate chips.)

Coconut Butter Cookies – One Egg to Go

Chewy, sweet coconut butter cookies.

Some people count down by crossing off days. Up here in the village, the days are often counted in “sleeps.” This week, we’ve been counting in eggs. These cookies contain the second to last egg remaining in our refrigerator before we leave for the summer.

One egg, three days, two sleeps to go…

My mom cooked with fresh ingredients whenever she could, and so I have many memories of cracking coconuts and drinking the milk. Afterwards, we’d use fresh coconut shavings in various recipes.

Out here in bush Alaska, we’ve been using powdered coconut milk (obtained from our favorite Asian grocery store, New Sagaya, in Anchorage). Shredded coconut is also on our annual shopping list.

A few weeks ago, I made chocolate dipped macaroons. The coconut lovers around here gave them high marks. Others (those who couldn’t handle the coconut – you know who you are) diplomatically rated them “a-little-too-coconutty.” In an attempt to mellow out the coconut in this cookie, I mixed it into a tried and true butter cookie recipe. The coconut flavor and chewiness of these cookies goes perfectly with the butter-cookie sweetness. I was tempted to dip them in chocolate but resisted, thinking that might have made them too sweet. These cookies are already perfectly sweet!

Coconut Butter Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • dash salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/3 cups sweetened coconut

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Mix together flour, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.
  3. In a separate mixing bowl, mix sugar and butter until smooth and pale colored.
  4. Mix egg into sugar mixture.
  5. Mix vanilla into sugar mixture.
  6. Blend in flour mixture to create a dough.
  7. Incorporate coconut into dough mixture.
  8. Drop dough by tablespoons onto parchment-lined baking sheets leaving 2 inches between cookies.
  9. Bake for 10 minutes or until cookies are toasted lightly on the top and golden brown on the bottom.
  10. Cool on wire racks.

Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies With a Twist

Ahh… Rows and rows of soft, moist, freshly baked chocolate chip cookies with orange zest fill a kitchen with one of the best aromas on earth.

When I was in high school, one of my favorite after-school activities was hanging out with my friends baking cookies. Our go-to cookie recipe was the original Nestle Toll House chocolate chip cookie recipe right off the back of the bag. We enjoyed batches straight out of the oven. After years of experimenting with different recipes, I’ve returned to the original because it is simply the best. In a way, these cookies are a metaphor for a life in which I, too, have returned to many of the things that brought me joy as a young woman.

I was talking to a friend earlier this year who is working on a family cookbook. She is collecting recipes that, in some way, each tell a story about family members. Most of the recipes have been created by her family. But when the subject of chocolate chip cookies came up, they all agreed that the Nestle recipe is unbeatable.

So, I bring you the original Nestle Toll House chocolate chip cookie… with a very slight twist. I added a teaspoon of orange zest because, lately, I’ve been on an orange and chocolate kick. Chocolate just seems to taste better with the zing of orange zest. (Were we not in a dry village, Grand Marnier would work beautifully with chocolate, too.)

Nestle® Toll House® Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (chocolate morsels)
  • 1 cup chopped pecans (or other nuts)
  • 1 tsp orange zest (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Combine flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl.
  3. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in a large bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in zest.
  4. Gradually beat in flour mixture.
  5. Stir in chocolate morsels and nuts.
  6. Drop by rounded tablespoons onto ungreased baking sheets.
  7. Bake for 9 – 11 minutes or until golden brown.
  8. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes. Remove to wire  racks to completely cool.

Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

Can You Really Make These From Scratch? Honey-Cinnamon Graham Crackers

I’ll bet even your grandmother didn’t bake like this…

I found a cheesecake recipe I wanted to experiment with, and, off course, I needed a graham cracker crust. Since we hadn’t sent up any graham crackers, my choices were to buy some at our local store, order them through Amazon.com, or forget the whole idea. Prices at the Native Store are too high, so I ruled that out, and with only five weeks remaining till we head south, it seemed late to be ordering food. The next obvious step was to give up. Ha! That’s not me! I searched around and found a couple of recipes for graham crackers from scratch. Fantastic! My crackers came out looking a little rough around the edges, but they tasted perfect. Actually, in our opinion, they taste better than store-bought. These homemade beauties have a crisp cracker crunch and a sweet honey-cinnamon taste. Now, I’ll tackle the cheesecake recipe.

Honey Graham Crackers

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 cup softened unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp and 2 tsp honey
  • 2 tbsp corn syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • Optional cinnamon sugar topping – 3 tsp granulated sugar and 1 tsp cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Mix together whole wheat flour, all purpose flour, baking powder and baking soda. Set aside.
  2. Blend butter, sugar, honey and corn syrup until well mixed and fluffy. Add vanilla and mix.
  3. Stir dry ingredients into wet ingredients. Stir in milk. You should have a nice ball of dough at the end of this step.
  4. Cover dough and refrigerate overnight.
  5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  6. Roll the dough out on a well-floured surface. It is easiest to do this working with only a quarter section of the dough at a time. Roll until the dough is about 1/8″ thick. Cut the dough into rectangles using a knife. Place rectangles on ungreased cookie sheets. Prick decorative holes with toothpick. If desired, sprinkle cinnamon and sugar topping on crackers.
  7. Bake for 13 minutes. Finished crackers will be browned and will become more crisp as they cool. Cool on wire racks.