Saturday, June 25, 2011

Sycamore Cookies (and a hot fudge lagniappe)

The evening I made these cookies, we were sitting around the table eating hot fudge sundaes (with Maida's World's Best Hot Fudge Sauce, which I'll post as a bonus recipe below), when Claire asked me, "What are you going to do when you finish all the recipes for the blog?" I didn't tell her that although I've finished several categories (to wit: layer cakes, chocolate cakes, sweet breads, yeast pastries, fresh fruit, ice cream, and candy), I've got a lot of recipes to go (just did the calculation: 46 of 195, to be precise). What I told her was, "Look, I've got shelves and shelves of other dessert cookbooks collecting dust. I'm looking forward to baking from them."
Julia (groan), "You're killing me, Mama! You bake so much more than you used to!"
It's true. I used to bake at most once a week, unless there was a special occasion. Now it's twice a week--and I create my own occasions.

Yep, baking has become a way of life around here. As I work at my actual paid job, as I wander the streets of Saint Germain, my thoughts are often on the next treat I am going to make from the Maida book, and when I might give myself permission to make it.

These cookies were my little reward to myself for finishing a translation project that had taken most of the week. I guess that's kind of pathetic: "OK, Maria, five more pages and you can hit the kitchen." But it works for me.

A few technical notes: In a fit of hubris, I once again neglected to read the recipe. That, and the fact that my sheet pan is not the same size as a jelly roll pan, made for this funky free-form cookie thing. I suppose I could have taken a ruler and shoved things around to make it prettier, but I guess I don't live up to Maida in her love of square edges.
But still, these were delicious--like really good, crunchy peanut butter cookies. I wish I had gotten to eat more than two before they all mysteriously disappeared (Julia took most of them to her internship to share with her co-workers). And since there was no actual peanut butter in them, I didn't have to worry about the funky added fat in peanut butter or about raiding our precious peanut butter supply. Yes, I understand that's a logical contradiction. But you're dealing with someone who is forcing herself to bake every single recipe in a book...

Here's the recipe. Treat yourself.

Sycamore Cookies

1 c. (5 oz.) salted peanuts
1/2 c. (4 oz.) butter, room temperature
1/4 c. baking soda
1/2 t. cinnamon
1 t. vanilla
1/2 c. (3.5 oz.) brown sugar
1 egg, beaten (note: you're going to divide up the egg, so in this case you'll want to beat it)
1 c. (4 oz.) sifted flour

Heat the oven to 325. Butter a 10.5 x 15.5-inch jelly roll pan. If you have freezer space, put the pan in the freezer--apparently that helps you spread the dough. Chop the peanuts fine, but not powdery fine, in a food processor (Maida suggests 10 pulses); put the peanuts in a bowl and set aside. In the bowl of the food processor, process the butter, baking soda, cinnamon, and vanilla until creamy and smooth. Pulse in the sugar, again until smooth and creamy. Then add just 2 T. of the egg, not the whole thing (I neglected to do this), the flour, and HALF the chopped peanuts (yep, didn't read that, either).
Now get your pan out of the freezer and put spoonfuls of dough all over it. Use the bottom of a spoon (I used parchment paper, but the dough kind of stuck to it) to spread out and flatten the dough. The dough may not cover the whole pan, and you'll need to make peace with that idea. Brush the dough with the egg that you remembered to reserve and sprinkle it with the peanuts that you were also smart enough to reserve. Bake for 25 minutes (careful--mine were done at about 15) or until "nicely but lightly browned". Let cool for 5 minutes, then cut into 16 pieces and remove to a rack to cool (or to a cutting board to cut into smaller pieces). Store airtight, and make sure you get some before they're gone.

World's Best Hot Fudge Sauce

This is a recipe that makes me think of my mother. She loved it and made it often. She gave jars away as gifts. My Book of Chocolate Desserts opens to this page, and you see the calculations for doubling the recipe (usually necessary) in her handwriting. Sweet memories.

1/2 c. (4 oz.) cream
3 T. (1.5 oz.) butter
1/3 c. (2.3 oz.) sugar
1/3 c. (2.3 oz.) brown sugar
Pinch salt
1/2 c. (1.5 oz.) sifted Dutch-process cocoa
(optional: 1/2 t. vanilla or 1 T. liqueur/booze of your choice)

Put the cream and butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Add the sugars and salt and boil a few minutes, stirring regularly, until the sugar has melted, it's reduced a bit, and the bubbles start getting a bit bigger. Remove from the heat and whisk in the cocoa and the optional flavoring. Serve over ice cream. Try to restrain yourself from eating it all.

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