Bake Club: Pistachio Pinwheel Cookies

I have never made a pinwheel cookie until yesterday. It wasn’t easy but completely manageable. Yesterday wasn’t a very good day overall and maybe that is a contributing factor. I haven’t been sleeping, I feel tremendous stress at work, I have cabin fever like I have never experienced and am fantasizing about living in a six bedroom house ALONE. I don’t have a six bedroom house now…so why one where I am alone? I have no idea but the past year has taken a toll on all of us and I am really feeling it. Where some people want to socialize – I want to feel isolation. This may lead to a drive in the country later today. If I don’t come back it’s because I found the six bedroom home in the woods and live there now. Back to cookies and why this wasn’t easy with my crankiness aside.

There are many steps to this cookie. I am more of a cream and dump kind of cookie baker. Give me a basic butter cookie and toss in things like chocolate, nuts and fruit – you have yourself my favourite kind of cookie. But, working my way through cookbooks is part of the challenge. Learning new skills, trying new ingredients, is all part of growth on my part. So here were are.

I watched Claire Safitz’s NYT Cooking video on how to make this cookie and found that to be the same as reading her instructions. For a change, there is no discrepancy. Yay Claire! She likes this cookie for Christmas because she doesn’t like decorating and this is a self decorating or interesting cookie with the green. I probably wouldn’t make this cookie all the time either but save it for a fancier time because it looks good – it tastes fine but it’s not sweet. You get the sweetness from the nuts and a bit from the the outer ridges.

This cookie is a shortbread cookie. The almond white layer would be a great cookie on its own but it pairs nicely to the pistachio layer. I used almond flour – a new ingredient to me. The almond extract takes it to a new level. I divided it into thirds and set 1/3 aside for the pistachios. I rolled it out measuring 12″ x 8 “. Measuring is also new to me. I have a ruler in my kitchen now and all dough is rolled to the perfect thickness. All my baked good were too thin. I have the hang of this now! I rolled it out and popped it into the fridge while I made the pistachio layer.

I keep pistachios in the freezer because of the high fat content. This prevents the expensive nuts from going rancid. Honestly, I practice this with all my nuts now. Everything in the freezer, label and dated. I ground up the nuts in my food processor and added them to the reserved 1/3 of the almond dough. I think you could sub cashews because it would taste wonderful but you wouldn’t get colour variation. Then I dropped spoonful’s onto the chilled pre-rolled dough.

Using my offset spatula, I spread it out leaving a 1/2″ boarder. Not going to lie, this was not easy and very fussy. I let it chill for 30 minutes.

No came the hard part. Rolling this into a log. I started with the edge closest to me but the almond dough just tore and crumbled. Then I thought to use the parchment as if I was rolling sushi on a mat. Boom – this mad a huge difference and I used the parchment to help put it into a tight log.

I wrapped the log in the parchment and let chill for another 30 minutes.

I rolled the log in sugar. Don’t miss this step. I didn’t have sanding or turbinado but it was still fine, and honestly these cookies need the extra sugar. Then the instructions said to cut in half and continue cutting in half until you have 32 pieces. I trimmed the ends first to give it an even start.

I laid them out on a baking sheet fairly close together and baked them for 20 minutes at 350F. They don’t spread but you need to give them room for the heat to circulate.

These cookies need a cup of tea or a glass of cold milk but after a day the flavour improved and I found myself really enjoying these. Her full recipe can be found here.

Food processor is useful for chopping pistachios. Obviously it can be done with a knife.

  • 2/8 cup shelled pistachios (3.2 oz /90g)
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter(6 oz /170g), cut into 1/2-inch pieces, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons powdered sugar (3.7 oz / 105g)
  • 2 large egg yolks (1.1 oz / 32g)
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour (4.6 oz / 130g)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt
  • 1-1/8 cups almond flour (5.6 oz / 160g)
  • 1/2 cup demerara sugar, for rolling

Stay healthly friends!

Bake Club: Focaccia

Last year I gave Basically’s recipe for focaccia a try and it was the easiest bread I ever made. It was crispy and chewy but salty. Bon Appetite likes very salty food. Flipping through Dessert Person by Claire Safitz, I found her version of focaccia. I thought it would be great with the soup I was making for dinner. It’s been -35C to -40C for a while and a hearty vegetable white bean soup just soothes me.

I watched her video to see how she made the bread first. I never got the stretch she did because her recipe made it seem like pancake batter. That was just too runny so I added more flour. Then I got the stretch…ish. I no longer have high hopes for this book. And quite frankly, I am finding it disappoints. I really wanted to love this book. I don’t think it was tested enough or maybe the Canadian ingredients and measurements are just soo different. For example, she said two tablespoons of kosher salt or 17g. I weighed out the salt. One tbsp. of Canadian kosher salt was 19g. If this isn’t the biggest reason to buy a scale, I don’t know what is. I shutter to think what it would have been like if I didn’t weigh it. So my Canadian baker friends, weigh everything for an American recipe.

I followed her instructions and rested the dough for 10 minutes before mixing again. I am skeptical that this was necessary but I did it anyways.

I poured the olive oil innto a bowl (use a big bowl, I under estimated.) then put the dough in the bowl for its first rise.

I used a damp towel to cover and let it sit for an hour – this sucker over flowed the bowl!

Then it went onto a half sheet. 13″x 22″ Do not used anything smaller or put it into a large pan, the type you use for lasagna or a sheet cake. This sucker is going to be big! I put it in the fridge over night, covered with plastic wrap. In the morning I let to come to room temperature before drizzling oil and toppings. Dessert person recomends garlic and olive oil. Her book says potates and rosemary. I know what I like so I used Mozzarella Fresca, its herb infused oil and tore Kalamata olives.

Not everyone in my family is an olive fan, so I only put them on half the bread. But sprinkled the entire pan with flakey salt.

It smelled so good.

I baked it for the allotted time. and it came out crispy and chewy, light and fluffy in the middle. I don’t think I will every make any other focaccia recipe again. This one was amazing and the hubs raved about it with every bite making those hilarious yummy noises.

I think the recipes in this book are hit or miss. So far I have baked two recipes that are stellar. The rest are fine or problematic for this Canadian baker.

Here are the ingredients and I recommend giving the video a watch.

Ingredients: 1 (1/4 oz / 7g) envelope active dry yeast 6 cups bread flour (24oz / 780g) 2 tablespoons Diamond Crystal kosher salt (0.6oz / 17g) 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil (5oz / 110g), plus 1/4 cup for topping plain focaccia and more for oiling hands Optional toppings and Flaky salt, for sprinkling the top.

Basically: Cookies

The Basically Buckwheat Chocolate Chip Cookie test went off without a hitch and boy, did I learn a few things. I am a decent baker and my family loves what I make. I (humbly) brag that baking is my superpower. But wow… way to make me feel like I am a rookie Basically… Let me tell you what happened.

But first, you can find this week’s recipe here.

img_4979

The very first thing the instructions say is to read through the recipe so there are no surprises. I learned that from my mom when I was 10 and starting out as a rookie. It is super important in this recipe because you need to chill the cookie dough for two hours. This isn’t a quickie.

The second thing I did wasn’t in the recipe but I have watched enough Bon Appétit to know that room temperature eggs are important. I have never ever EVER used room temp eggs until this recipe. I put 3 eggs in a bowl and covered them in hot tap water while I melted the butter. It took about 5 minutes. While it was melting, not browning, I weighed my flour.

I had a scale that I received as a gift from my ex. To weigh my food. This was the beginning of my eating disorder. I have used the scale for cooking but I know the scale was a cheap thing and worked well enough for Weight Watchers but it isn’t precise. I bought the scale the BA test kitchen recommended on Amazon and it arrived two days later in a snow storm. I also purchased an oven thermometer. This was eye-opening as well, but I will get to that later.

Where were we? Right, the scale. It has a tare feature which is essential. I put the bowl on the scale, set the tare (which means it cancels out the weight of the bowl and the other ingredients so you can precisely measure the next ingredient), filled and levelled 1 cup of flour like Martha Stewart taught me. I needed 125g of flour. My one-cup measure was 150g.  25g MORE THAN I NEEDED. Ohhhkaaay… scooped out the extra flour. until it read 125g. Set the tare and added the buckwheat flour along with the rest of the dry ingredients. Set this aside.

Normally I would mix the wet ingredients and then sift the dry overtop. But I followed the instructions exactly as written. That meant separate bowls for everything. I put a new clean bowl on the scale, tossed in my melted butter. set the tare, added the sugars and whisked. This was also new for me. I would normally pull out the Kitchen Aid stand mixer and over beat until light and fluffy. The instructions called for 30 seconds of whisking. I set the timer and began. at the 15 sec mark, I thought I was done. but the timer said otherwise, so I kept going. It made a huge difference. It went from combined to glossy. This is the point where I thought I had whisked enough – nope.

img_4969

I added one egg and mixed until combined, then added the yolks one at a time.

img_4970

Here is what I learned about room temperature eggs.

  1. They are easier to separate, the white breaks free almost instantly.
  2. They break up like a dream.
  3. They combine almost instantly without the extra fuss of smashing the yolk to break the membrane.

Room temperature eggs make a huge difference!

Then I folded in the flour and gently combined to minimize gluten production. The batter felt light and delicate, never have I ever had delicate cookie batter. I folded in the coarsely chopped chocolate (I never would have bought good bittersweet chocolate before either. WOW is the only adjective that fits.)

img_4971

The batter is still wet at this point but is said to chill for two hours. I put a plate over the top of the bowl (please stop using single-use plastic) and popped it into the fridge.

Two hours later…

I hung the oven thermometer in my oven and preheated it 350F. When the oven reached the temperature I checked the thermometer.

img_4973

Ummmm yikes. I did some more reading and the thermometer recommended I wait for two cycles of the oven before checking again. My oven clicks as the elements turn on and off. I waited…

img_4975

Hoorah! I don’t know what I would have done if it didn’t work. Notice the elements are off and not red.

img_4972

I rolled the cookies as directed and added bonus chocolate to the cookie balls.  I didn’t use parchment because I am trying to reduce my use of single-use items. I put two sheets into the oven as directed and set the timer for 4 minutes. After four minutes passed, I switched the racks in the oven and checked the thermometer. Leaving the door open for a few short seconds dropped the temperature back down to 300F! Did everyone but me know oven temperatures were fickle? I pulled the cookies out at the 4-minute mark and decided they needed two more minutes because they were still wet looking.

img_4974

This was the point where you were supposed to sprinkle more salt. My kosher salt is not delicate nor do I have flaky salt. I live in Canada and don’t have the same brands the BA test kitchen suggested, Morton’s or Diamond salt, my salt would have been chunky so I omitted the extra salt. Good thing too. These cookies had enough salt/sweet contrast for me.

I had enough batter for two more cookies. So this time I baked them for eight minutes without opening the oven to achieve the soft chewie cookie. It worked! The cookie was much lighter in colour with two minutes less.

img_4978

But look at the oven temperature!

img_4976

When I bake my cookies I place one tray in at a time and keep the oven closed at all times. My first tray is 10 minutes, then I reduce the time, the last tray is 7 minutes. So I instinctively knew my oven was not consistent. It is 20 years old. After I replace my roof shingles, I think this is the next new purchase.

I learned so many new things! Not all sugar is created equal unlike what Chef Michael Smith said. Dark brown sugar will react differently to baking soda than light brown sugar. Plus it has a deeper molasses flavour. If that is what you want, do it! But the science of the dry ingredients changes, so be aware. Room temperature eggs are where it’s at and give your oven lots of time to preheat.

To recap, these are mine on the left and Basically on the right. The buckwheat gives an earthy nutty quality that is fine but not my favourite. I love the bittersweet chocolate more than I thought I would and the sweet/salty ratio is delicious! Would I make these again? Absolutely. These are not a snack cookie, its a one and done for dessert kind of cookie and the recipe only makes one dozen.

 

 

The recipe teaser for next week looks like some sort of quick bread. Perhaps banana bread. I am here for it! Let me know if you made this and how it turned out fo you.