Saturday, January 30, 2010

Red Wine Valentine - Remix

Every year around this time, couples, lovers, friends, and admirers keep their eyes open for that special gift for their significant other. Chocolates and flowers are sweet. Jewelry is a nice thought, but something different, something new is always a sure-fire way to score a lingering hug or an extra long kiss. Fewer things can be more meaningful than a homemade treat. Whether it's made by your own hands or crafted from an independent bakery, these Red Wine Valentine cookies will spark an interest in your other's eyes.

These cookies are fit for sophisticated taste buds and wine enthusiasts galore. Using the best ingredients will make this simple recipe shine.

The cookie baking process can be split into two days for those with hectic schedules. Make the dough a day ahead. Roll, slice, and bake when you are ready to present them.

Red Wine Valentines
· ½ cup port wine
· 2 Tbsp. beet juice*
· 1 cup butter
· 1 ¼ cup sugar
· 1 egg
· Zest of half an orange
· 3 cups flour
· ¼ tsp. salt
· 1 tsp. baking soda
· 1 cup dried currants
· Sesame seeds
In a small sauce pan bring wine and beet juice to a boil. Once boiling occurs, reduce heat to medium and simmer for 20-22 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.
Sift together flour, salt, and baking soda. Set aside.
Cream butter and sugar. Add egg, orange zest, and cooled wine/beet reduction. Mix until combined.
Mix in flour mixture until just incorporated. Add currants.
Divide dough into thirds and roll into logs about 2 inches in diameter. Wrap dough logs with wax paper or parchment paper and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Unwrap dough and roll/press dough into sesame seeds.
Slice log into ¼ inch slices. Place on greased or parchment lined baking sheet.
Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the edges are firm and centers appear undercooked. Let cool on baking sheet.

*Note* You might be wondering why beet juice is included in this recipe. It is only necessary to keep the cookies looking pink and appealing. The "red" wine is not so red when mixed with yellow egg yolk. So if you don't mind bluish-green cookies, you may omit the beet juice. Just replace the 2 Tbsp of juice with an extra 2 Tbsp of port wine.

Happy Valentine's Day to all of you cookie lovers and wine drinkers. Cheers!

*The Hot Cookie is a small, all-natural cookie company in Indianapolis run by two go-local/pro-green ladies with a thirst for life and a hunger for sweets. All of their two-bite cookies are made in small batches with as many high quality, local, and organic ingredients available.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Let's be human again - An Essay.

Hello faithful fans. I was inspired to write a little something this evening. It's off topic from our usual edible subject matter. I'm thinking about submitting it to a magazine or the like. Any thoughts? I'd like to hear them!
PS - Our Red Wine Valentine cookies are up for grabs. Get em' while they're hot.

Let’s be human again.
When did we stop being human? Aren't we human already, you may ask. I sometimes question this. Some humans have devolved into shells; hard, closed, hollow shells too caught up in daily monotony to feel anything. Not all of us, I might add. I am no cynic, but it is obvious that many have become lifeless drones. We have become crustaceans. When fear overcomes us, we snap shut and burrow into the sand. It is unfortunate that the average person looks at the next with a sense of mistrust. “Don't talk to strangers.” A wise and common quote preached to children, but we are grown up now, aren’t we?

Humanly communication is starting to fade. We have found safety behind our computers and cell phones; emailing, texting, Skyping, calling. We dare not show our weaknesses in person. Must have the security of a screen! When did we collect this insecurity? What's wrong with a face to face conversation? What do we have to hide? Fear is the culprit. The fear of appearing too wimpy, too needy, too nerdy, too (fill in the blank.) What our little crustacean egos are telling us is that we are alone. Woe is me. Nobody understands me. Me me me. The big picture our clammy eyes are missing is that we all feel this fear. It is in our nature to feel it, but not be it. We are not our fear. Knowing this means freedom from fear. We all know that great FDR quote, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Now that we have named the monster, it is no longer frightening. Come out of the sand. The water is fine.

Let us brush hands, hug, and look into each other’s eyes with intention. Listen with full attention. Speak with authenticity. Let us throw away that far off, glazed over, disconnected glance we often give to other humans in passing. You are not too busy to say hello or flash a genuine smile. Just think for a moment. What have you to smile about? For starters, you have air in your lungs, a brain in your head, and fellow humans around you. Those three elements alone are ingredients for endless possibility and greater joy. You could rattle up a quick conversation with the person standing behind you in line only to find out that you grew up in the same small town, only 25 years apart. Or you could get a tip on how to make great corn bread. Or find out where to get the best advice for home improvement. You could meet a future dear friend or soul mate. You will never know until you open up. Let the pearl out.

If you step out of your comfort zone enough to extend a hand to another human only to find that they are still a crustacean, do not get discouraged or spiteful. They will sooner or later learn this for themselves. They will shed their salty coat and emerge from the sand alive and enlightened. Have peace in this knowing and love them all the same.

Unlock your inner human and give your fellow humans a chance to do the same. Together we can walk along the beach, fearless, arm in arm.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Red Wine Valentine Cookies - Take 1 & 2

I really like baking with alcohol. I honestly don't know that much about it, but I'm learning as I go. We had a customer order a bunch of cookies for a wine tasting a couple of months ago. And I thought, "What a great idea!" So with Valentine's Day quickly approaching, I was inspired to create a winy cookie. With some hope, luck, and experimentation, we'll have the perfect pair for wine.
When I started, I was thinking: wine...has notes of citrus and notes of berries...I'll zest a few clementines and throw in some black currants. Yeah, I'll do that.... Don't forget about the wine. I definitely put that in the mix as well.

The dough turned BLUE! BLUE!!! Apparently the bluish red wine mixed with the yellow yolks and became blueish green. This was a "wow" and a "phooey" moment.

But I pressed on. Literally. I pressed the chilled dough into sesame seeds and sliced it up.

What an unusual cookie. Blue...

That color! How unappetizing! Must fix! Must fix now!

So for the next batch, I pulled out a secret weapon - beet juice. I juiced a fresh beet with my handy-dandy juicer that my beloved got me for Christmas. Works like a flippin' charm. You can quote me on that.

Pink. I'll take that over BLUE any day. Thank you beet juice! You vibrant, flavorless food from the dirt.

Aaaaand, not so pink or red. I'll still keep it. It's got hints of red wine and is slightly reddish.... The sesame seeds create a fantastic little crunch. The edges are crisp with a tender center.
Oh, side by side. Who's the winner? Mr. Cookie on the left. I am appeased. Our Red Wine Valentine cookies are ready for Valentine's Day. Are you?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Did you know...

...that it's your lucky day? Well, everyday is your lucky day because you get to breathe and live and be. Every day. All the time. But today is your EXTRA special day because Karli and I are feeling very generous. We're going to share a cookie recipe with you. You will love this one. You will HAVE to have it. I think we're calling them "Blue & Whites". (Woo, very inventive, I know.) You could bake them for a special occasion, say, a Colts game or Hanukkah (although that will have to wait for next year)...or just because you feel like eating a blueberry, white chocolate, and macadamia nut cookie. Follow me and prepare to drool.

The dough is very tasty, but I do not approve of it's being consumed before baking. That ol' heating apparatus just makes them unimaginatively better. Patience, Grasshopper, patience.

Hello, Bliss.

Yes, this is what I need, want, and live for. A tray of fresh, warm, gooey cookies. Blueberries, white chocolate, and macadamia nuts were a trio made in heaven.

Grab, chomp, grab, chomp, grab, chomp...

Blue and Whites

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 cup dried blueberries
1/2 cup chopped macadamia nuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease cookie sheets or line them with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, and white sugar until smooth. Beat in the egg and vanilla extract. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt; add into the sugar mixture. Mix in the white chocolate chips, blueberries, and macadamia nuts. Drop by heaping spoonfuls onto prepared cookie sheets - two inches apart.
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are very lightly browned and the centers still look doughy. Let cool slightly, then devour.
I hope you enjoy and bake some today for the Blue and White fans in your life.
Keep an eye out for a brand new cookie experiment. Three words: Red, Wine, Cookie. A Valentine's Day preparation.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Sad Mood? Have some sweet bread!

Cinnamon Raisin Bread to be exact. I found the recipe on I needed an easy, sweet yeast bread to cheer up my family. Sweet, chewy comfort food with a beginner's level of difficulty. (You have seen my previous attempts at yeast bread. Sigh.) I feel like I've improved a bit, but I've still got a loooong way to go before I'm satisfied with my yeast bread-making skill level.

Here's the dough after the first rise. With this batch, I let it rise in the fridge for a day for the first rise, then over night after I shaped it for the second.

This beast was quite some work to roll out. The recipe makes three loaves. I made 6 mini loaves, but it still required a lot of muscle. The dough is very hearty. (And I'm always wondering if I put in too much flour. With every dough I've made, I always added more flour because the dough was too sticky.) Sigh, again. BUT! Cinnamon and sugar make anything delicious.

The giant loaf of sweetness. Reminds me of a sea cucumber. I was going to put a link on "sea cucumber", but they are not appetizing animals. I'll let you research that one for yourselves.

I cut the loaf into six equal pieces. The recipe suggests that you ball up the ends so that the cinnamon lines don't show.

I wanted to see what happens, so I only closed up half. I like the cinnamon lines.

Here are the tasty mini loaves after a night of resting in the fridge. I now see why they said to close up the ends. The moisture inside the pan, under the cellophane wrap, causes some of the cinnamon sugar to run out of the roll. Sadness.

Two things: my balling/tying the ends didn't hold at all, and I had an issue with baking consistency. Also, I do not suggest baking them in a casserole dish like I did. The bottoms didn't get cooked, so I flipped them upside down to bake, whilst the tops still continued to cook...

...Ta-da! My usual burn on the top yeast bread. Will someone tell me how you bake the bread evenly? PLEASE!

For what it's worth, the non-burnt parts were very tasty. The bread had a nice "tooth-feel", good chew, and didn't flake/fall apart. Hooray! One problem solved at a time, one at a time. I hope I haven't discouraged you from baking this bread. Please give it a try. If yours turns out better, hit me up with your tips. Happy baking!