Monday, April 27, 2009

Cookie of the Month, Part 2: Rugelach

When I saw the recipe for "Walnut and Brown Sugar Rugelach" in Everyday Food many months ago, I was struck by its similarity to my mom's recipe for tassies (see Cookie of the Month, Part 1).

This is the cookie that I baked and brought into work last week (after bingeing on several of them myself) — only, to make it even more like my mom's famous cookies, I replaced the walnuts with pecans.

Pecan and Brown Sugar Rugelach

• 2 sticks unsalted butter
• 8 oz cream cheese
• 2 TBS granulated sugar
• 1/2 tsp salt
• 2 cups all-purpose flour
• 1 large egg, lightly beaten
• 1 cup pecans, finely chopped
• 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

Blend the butter, cream cheese, granulated sugar and salt in a food processor. Add flour and pulse until a dough forms. Divide the dough in half and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Make an egg wash — combine egg with 1 tsp of water in a small bowl.

Preheat oven to 350, with racks set in upper and lower thirds. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, roll out each dough half into an 11-inch circle (about 1/4-inch thick). Use a large dinner plate as a guide to trim the dough to make a perfect circle. Brush both circles with the egg wash, and sprinkle with brown sugar and pecans.

Use a pizza cutter to cut each circle into 16 triangles. Roll each triangle toward the center of the circle, place the roll on lined baking sheet (seam side down) and brush with egg wash. Bake for 30-32 minutes until golden brown; cool on a wire rack.

Delicious — like a springtime tassie!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Hazelnut Beans

I cannot express enough joy about my discovery of Dean's Beans coffee. John and I were previously enjoying Dunkin Donuts Hazelnut Coffee each morning, but I decided to do an internet search one morning for organic decaf hazelnut coffee. Dean's Beans was one of the results of my search.

I ordered both their decaf and regular hazelnut beans, and we knew immediately that we had found something special. We accidentally miscounted the scoops and brewed an incredibly strong — yet remarkably smooth — pot of coffee.

From moral and health perspectives, I feel worlds better about buying coffee from Dean's Beans. Here's a little comparison:

Dean's Beans
"Dean's Beans only purchases beans from villages and importers that are committed to Fair Trade and working towards better economic opportunity, improved health and nutrition in the villages."

Ingredients: All-natural hazelnut essence, a splash of vanilla, roasted into a soft Peruvian bean.

Dunkin Donuts
"Dunkin' Donuts is the largest coffee and baked goods chain in the world providing you, our loyal customers, with high quality coffee, bagels, donuts and other baked goods since 1950."

Ingredients: 100% Arabica Brewed Coffee, Hazelnut Flavor [Water, Propylene Glycol, Glycerine, Natural & Artificial Flavors, Caramel Color].
Clearly, D&D is more consumer-focused, while Dean's Beans is founded upon the fair treatment of those people at the source of the beans. And yet, Dean's Beans still provides a better product.

For so many reasons, the Dean's Beans coffee tastes better, and — this blows my mind — the price of a 1-pound bag of ground coffee is $8.00 from either company. As a quasi-locavore, I'm delighted that Dean's Beans is located in Massachusetts, as well.

I've made the switch.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Cookie of the Month, Part 1: Tassies

The folks that I work for were so wonderfully supportive during the two months when my mom was extremely ill. They granted me a flexibility that allowed me to spend as much time with my mom and family as I desired, and I will forever be grateful for this.

As I told them, I didn't know how to thank them (apart from being a good employee!) at first, but then an idea popped into my head.

My mom was a wonderful baker — so much so that a handful of people at her wake mentioned the food of hers that they remembered and will miss at holiday gatherings. Me, too. In her memory, I decided to establish a "Cookie of the Month" at my workplace. It was therapeutic to take the time in the kitchen to make this first batch.

Everyone loved my mom's tassies, and rightfully so. I know that she didn't make up the recipe, but no one's tassies compared to hers, and she freely shared the recipe. I made a batch of these wonderful little pecan-pie-like cookies around Christmas and have been wanting to post the recipe since then.

My Mom's Tassies
For the crust:
• 3-oz package of cream cheese (room temp)
• 1/2 cup of butter (room temp)
• 1 cup flour

For the filling:
• 1 egg
• 3/4 cup light brown sugar
• 1 TBS butter, softened
• 1 tsp vanilla
• pinch of salt
• 2/3 cup broken pecans

Blend butter and cream cheese, stir in flour. Chill slightly (about 1 hour), then shape into 2-dozen, 1" balls. Place the balls into the cups of a mini muffin pan. Press dough onto bottom and sides of cups and divide the pecans among the cups.

Beat together the egg, sugar, the TBS of butter, vanilla and salt until smooth. Add this filling mixture to the cups. (I have most recently been placing this mixture in a large plastic bag, then cutting the corner to make a spout for neater pouring.)

Bake at 325 for 25 minutes or until filling is set. Cool slightly and remove from the pans (they are easier to remove while still warm).

My God, they are good! (Part 2 to follow...)