The World’s Greatest Cookie

World's Greatest CookieCategorically Correct
Describing myself as a foodie can be problematic—mainly because I am not sure what that means exactly beyond the fact that I love everything about food. I am not the person who will take pictures of my food at a restaurant (though I have done it on occasion). I am not the person who has to go to the latest “it” restaurant (though I am always down for a tasty night on the town).

I guess you could say I am the contradictory foodie. I have line in the sand standards and can be psychotically obsessive about an ingredient, technique, or authenticity. And, yet can be very cavalier about, say, Cool Whip and/or American cheese. (Though, as you can tell, I still have a healthy food snob side.) Adding to my quirks? Rules about certain edible items.

Case in point: I had a recent conversation about what constitutes a Christmas or special occasion cookie versus an everyday cookie. And, I, true to form, had some line in the sand opinions. A chocolate chip cookie is an everyday cookie. You will never convince me otherwise. Mexican wedding cakes are a Christmas cookie. You just don’t make them all the time. They are special. The problem is that, in my true contradictory/quirky foodie way, I have discovered a grey area. A good example is this cookie recipe my grandmother made, rather presumptuously named The World’s Greatest Cookie.

I love this cookie. It is without question one of my favorites…but, I hardly ever make it. Growing up, the only time I had them was when I went over to Gam’s house. My mother almost never made them. My theory as to why this was the case is that they are made with so-called pantry staples that were not staples in our pantry, things like coconut and corn flakes. These are not obscure ingredients. But, for whatever reason, we just never had on hand. So, to make these cookies would have required forethought and planning—which doesn’t quite qualify them for everyday status.

Fast forward to my own kitchen where corn flakes and coconut are pantry staples. And yet, I still don’t make these very often. So, you would assume that these cookies would fall into my Christmas/special occasion category based solely on taste and planning. But, no.

These cookies are buttery and flakey and are so darn good that they should go in the myriad of cookie tins that we make up every holiday season. But, they don’t for the same reason that they don’t fall into the everyday, pack ‘em in a lunch category. These cookies don’t travel well. These cookies break. They are delicate and unless you pack your lunch with utmost care, by recess you have crumbs instead of The World’s Greatest Cookie. They are tasty crumbs, but still…

So, I have placed these cookies in their own category that I have recently named Because I want to. The only reason needed to make these lovely bites is because you want to.

There are a number of versions of this cookie available on the interwebs. This is the recipe for The World’s Greatest Cookie that my grandmother used.

The World’s Greatest Cookie
Makes approximately 5 dozen (depending on your definition of walnut-sized) Read more…

Roasted Pear, Shallot, and Blue Cheese Tart

Roasted Pear, Shallot, and Blue Cheese TartNew Year’s Nosh
It happened. I actually uttered the words I am tired of food the other day and my family was right there with me. After indulging in nothing but the good stuff for 36 hours we were ready to not eat. We were all very excited about the salad I made for dinner last night. But now we’re staring New Year’s in the face. What to do?

I think the best course of action is to go small and snacky. A few finger foods that are easy and perfect for grazing without being a whole big meal. Maybe a charcuterie platter which seems to be all the rage right now. Or potentially a few hot bites like these Cashel Blue, Spinach, and Smoked Salmon Tartlets or the Roasted Pear, Shallot, and Blue Cheese Tart below. The dough makes for a great bite but I have done it with pre-made puff pastry and had great results. It also works well with apples if you are so inclined.

No matter what your New Year’s celebration will look like, here’s hoping you have a safe, healthy and happy New Year!!!

Roasted Pear, Shallot, and Blue Cheese Tart
Adapted from the New York Times Cooking Section
Yields 12 servings

This sweet and savory pear tart is sophisticated enough for holiday celebrations. The topping is a comforting, mellow jumble of sweet roasted pears and shallots perfumed with thyme and pungent blue cheese.

If you want to simplify this recipe, purchase some good-quality puff pastry (like Dufour’s in our freezer) and substitute it for making your own dough. Read more…

Caramel Nut Tart

Caramel Nut TartStocking Up
The anticipation of Christmas morning is both the best and the worst part of the holiday…especially for kids. I know the wait was a killer for me starting from a very young age. And, that feeling stayed with me until the day I moved out.

The reason may be surprising. Yes, it was always fun exchanging gifts in the morning. Dad was always a good gift-giver and waiting to see what he got Mom every year was so much fun. Especially when he would think outside the box. You just never knew how it would go down. My sister and I would always look forward to what Santa brought. But, what we really looked forward to and snuck out in the middle of the night to see, was our stockings.

Mom was ridiculously good at stockings. I think she spent more time thinking about what to put in the stockings than what to put under the tree. I asked her one year why she focused so much on something that for most people is an afterthought. Her answer was that growing up, she was always disappointed because she would get things like oranges and walnuts in her stocking while her friends would get candy or little toys.

Yes, at the time my grandmother wasn’t too far removed from the depression. And yes, she should have been grateful to get anything at all. But, come on. What 8-year-old gets excited about an orange and some walnuts in the shell? I mean it’s definitely worse than socks. So, Mom swore that when she had kids, she would make sure that the Christmas stockings would be great. And, she threatened us with walnuts if we were naughty leading up to the big day. I hate walnuts, so her threat was taken seriously.

Over the years, nuts became a minor player in our Christmas traditions. Though we never had the traditional tray of mixed nuts out to crack and eat like my grandparents, they did show up in the form of Christmas decorations. Most notably the wreaths of nuts that had been spray-painted gold and glued to fake greenery. (She went a little overboard that year.)

I do find it funny that nuts are a very winter holiday thing. I can’t think of any other time of the year where you will see a festively wrapped burlap bag of pistachios and think Yes! That is the perfect gift for Uncle Ralph! and I don’t ever remember sending a fruit and nut tray for Easter.

Personally, I myself am a big fan of a dried fruit tray. Though I prefer to enjoy my yearly holiday nut allotment in a different way….

Caramel Nut Tart Recipe
Adapted from Lisa Volpe Hachey and Food 52
Yields 12 servings

The dough for this tart is a pate sucre which is pressed into the pan rather than rolled. This is great for cooks who don’t like rolling pie dough or for gluten-free flour substitutions. Read more…

Buche de Noel

Buche de NoelAmuse Buche
There is nothing more quintessentially holiday than a Buche de Noel. For one, it’s only made this time of year. For another, it’s definitely a project dessert that you wouldn’t want to make all that often. Buche de Noel, or Yule Log, is essentially a French tradition that dates back to the times of Napoleon Bonaparte though these days they are everywhere.

My sister took a class a few years ago and there has been a yule log on our Christmas Eve table ever since. The class made a big difference in terms of how to make one. The real challenge is rolling and not breaking the cake. You can find great videos on the internet to help you along. This one is my favorite, probably because there is never a bad time for a little dose of Julia.

The good news is that even if you do have trouble with the cake rolling, you can just hide it with the frosting. And, if it is too far gone, just crumble it up and go with a trifle. Win-win.

There are any number of recipes out there to choose from if you do a quick search. Here is a good one…

Buche de Noel Recipe
Adapted from King Arthur Flour
Yields about 12 servings

This one is a heavenly chocolate cake rolled with chocolate filling. Traditionally, Buche de Noel is decorated with confectioners’ sugar to resemble snow on a Yule log. Read more…