If you like playing with your food, here is one entertaining cookie. I’ve made them several times now and find them totally irresistible, both to eat and to make. Similar to a sand cookie, these pale small batch bites have a light flavor and texture—and yes, they visually resemble fresh mushrooms.
This version is inspired by Turkish Mushroom Cookies found at the resourceful blog, My Excellent Degustations. This past spring I liked including a few as a charming surprise tucked amid a basket of assorted cookies.
The dough mixes up easily into a soft pliable dough. There is a simple trick to forming their quirky mushroom shape—one that kids of all ages can pull off.
First, locate a small glass beverage bottle with a screw top. Dip the bottle rim into water, then in cocoa powder, and gently punch into the center of a small round of dough. Remove the bottle and you will have created a freshly harvested mushroom, stem and all.
That’s it! These are best when kept to under a 1” sized round as they will spread; a batch should yield 18 cookies. They hold very well when stored airtight.
Mushroom Cookies, Small Batch
¾ cup AP flour + 2 Tbsp
¼ cup + 3 Tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp baking powder
¼ cup + 1 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
⅓ cup granulated sugar
1 egg, room temperature, lightly beaten
1½ tsp vanilla
½ cup water
1 Tbsp cocoa
Tools/Props: 1 small screw topped glass beverage bottle
1. Sift flour, cornstarch, and baking powder and set aside.
2. Cream the butter and beat in the sugar until light, then the egg.
3. Mix in half the dry ingredients; then mix in the vanilla. Add the remaining dry. It should form a soft smooth dough. If sticky chill for 20
4. Line 1-2 baking sheets with parchment. Preheat oven to 350°F. Roll dough into 1” rounds, using rounded teaspoon, and set 1-2” apart; these will
5. Place water and cocoa in 2 small bowls. Dip the rim of bottle in water and then in cocoa. Press the rim into each round to form the stem and mark
it with cocoa/dirt. Repeat with all. Wipe the bottle top to form clean bond between cookies.
6. Bake 14-18 minutes, until set but not colored. Cool on rack. Makes 18 cookies.
We all have our favorite places and cultures to visit. Mine has long been the northeastern corner of Spain, the mysterious Basque country and the Pyrenees Alps. It’s got the total package, a rugged coastline and breathtaking mountains, plus resourceful, resilient people with a world class cuisine.
Basque food has the unique ability to reach into the heart and linger there, and such is the case with the notorious Basque Gateau. Popular versions of it crop up across the border in the Pays Basque region of France and down into the southern reaches of Spain. It’s a simple pastry marked by crosshatches across the top and filled with either cherry jam or pastry cream. So, what’s the big deal?
People praise the cake’s holding powers and reverently speak of it as the item to take when traveling or visiting friends. Admittedly, I’ve had my own visions of romantic adventures complete with this charming cake—safe in the knowledge it would sustain in any conditions.
I’ve considered making a Basque Custard Cake but have been put off by the complicated process and rich pastry. However, there is one recipe I have held onto for quite a while. It’s an interesting take from the French perspective by accomplished chef Michel Richard. In my notes, he describes it endearingly as a “pastry cream encased in two cookie crusts; aka a weekend cake in France because it holds so well.” Sweet.
The more I’ve studied Richard’s approach, the more I like it. For example, pastry cream often uses egg yolks with cornstarch for thickener because cornstarch does not not lump when added to hot liquid; however, it can break down with prolonged cooking. Richard’s version opts for flour instead, which makes sense since this pastry cream cooks twice. His should hold up very well and continue to maintain mass at room temperature or cold.
I’m impressed with Richard’s brilliant crust solution, too. Rather than a labor intense, buttery pastry, he elects to use the whites left from the custard. He cleverly incorporates them into a light, resilient cookie/cake-like base. The first thin layer is baked just to set, the filling is added, remaining dough is spread on top and it is given a final bake. Simple enough.
I decided to give it a try. Here are a couple of notes: I further simplified Richard’s custard by using double the vanilla extract, rather than soaking a vanilla bean (which I was missing) for an hour in hot milk. It also makes twice as much as needed, but that’s fine; it came in handy. I also dabbed a small amount of cherry jam on the baked bottom crust before the pastry cream. It appears that cookie/cake dough is quite scant. However, it blends beautifully with the pastry cream and works out fine.
So, there you have it. I will definitely make this Basque Custard Cake again. (Actually, I did make it again. It was easier the second time with remaining custard and refined method. I kept my fingers off of it and it was just as good the next day!) The cherry and custard combo gives it real character, but you could use either.
I dare you to eat just one piece—evidently, I practically polished an entire cake by myself!
Basque Custard Cookie Cake
Inspired by Michel Richard, Baking from the Heart
Ingredients Pastry Cream
2 cups milk
½ cup sugar, divided
2 tsp vanilla extract, divided
4 large egg yolks, room temp
⅓ cup flour
1 Tbsp butter Cookie Dough
4 Tbsp butter, softened
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
3 large egg whites, room temp
½ cup AP flour, plus 1 Tbsp
½ cup cherry jam, optional
1. Make Pastry Cream
In 4 cup microwaveable measure, heat milk in microwave with salt, and ¼ cup sugar for 2-3 minutes to dissolve sugar, add vanilla extract.
In small mixing bowl, beat yolks and remaining ¼ cup sugar until thick and pale yellow, 2-3 minutes. Mix in flour. Gradually pour in the hot milk and whisk to incorporate.
Pour the mixture into a small pan, set over medium heat and continue whisking as it thickens to avoid lumps and curdling. Reduce to medium low and cook 2-3 minutes, whisking to keep smooth and not curdle. Off heat stir in butter and remaining vanilla. Scrape into a bowl and cover top with film. Chill 2-3 hours until cold, up to 1 day ahead. You should have enough for 2 cakes.
2. Make Dough
Preheat oven to 350-375°F. Thoroughly butter and flour 9″ tart or springform pan.
In mixing bowl beat butter, add sugar in 3-4 batches, beating well after each addition until light. Beat in egg whites one at a time, incorporating after each. Stir in flour to just combine and form a soft batter.
3. To Bake
Spoon enough batter to thinly cover bottom of pan, about ½ cup spread ⅛” thick. Bake 10-12 minutes, until dough is firm to touch, and edges turn golden brown.
If using preserves, randomly dot spoonfuls onto crust spreading away from edges. Top with cold pastry cream, leaving ½” border at edge.
Carefully spoon remaining dough evenly over all, spreading to cover cream and fill in border edge. Bake 25-35 minutes, rotating pan until golden brown. Cool completely on wire rack. Release cake from pan and slice into wedges. For best flavor, allow to come to room temperature for 1 hour prior to serving. Cover and chill for storage. Serves 6-8
It’s hard to imagine the holiday season without making some sort of ginger cookie—and I’ve run the field, from simple cookies, to decorated gingerbread figures, and handmade houses. This year I’ve made my favorite basic molasses cookie and packed it with an assortment of ginger: fresh grated, powdered spice, and candied pieces.
These cookies mix up in one bowl. So fast to make, with little clean up, I’ve gotten in the habit of stirring them by hand without a mixer. Another bonus with this cookie is that the dough can be prepared ahead, stored in the fridge, and baked on demand.
For a soft, chewy cookie, take them out of the oven while soft when pressed and slightly under baked. They will continue to cook. If you prefer a crisper cookie, bake them longer.
I like to bake off a batch for immediate enjoyment and shape the rest of the dough into a cylinder, wrap it well, and chill for later. It’s incredibly satisfying to slice off rounds and pop a batch in the oven for a quick bake. When family or friends arrive, nothing says ‘welcome’ like the spicy scent of freshly baked cookies.
1¾ cup all-purpose flour
¾ tsp baking soda
2 tsp powdered ginger
⅛ tsp each salt and cloves
¼ cup crystallized ginger, cut up
⅓ cup butter, room temperature
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, well beaten
¼ cup molasses
1 tsp fresh grated ginger
1 tsp mild vinegar Icing: ½ cup confectioners’ sugar thinned with 1 Tbsp lemon juice
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with silpat or spray with non-stick spray.
On wax paper combine flour, baking soda, ginger, salt and cloves.
In mixing bowl, beat butter with a wooden spoon, stir in sugar until well blended and light. Beat in the egg, molasses, grated ginger, and vinegar.
Add the dry ingredients and combine well, it will be thick. Shape dough into 3/4″ balls and roll in granulated sugar if desired. Place on baking sheet 2″ apart for spreading. Bake 15 minutes, until surface begins to crinkle on top, but slightly soft when pressed. Cool on rack.
To ice cookies: combine confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice to thin. Let icing drip off tines of a fork and drizzle over cookies. Makes about 2 dozen.
I hope we have gotten past quinoa’s trendy phase and can settle down and fully accept it for how great it really is—stellar nutritional virtues and all. Judging from most market shelves, quinoa has definitely secured a presence and has moved from novelty to staple status.
We know quinoa is incredibly versatile; its slight nuttiness blends well with just about anything. I’ve gotten in the habit of cooking up a batch and incorporating it in meals during the week. It works in a salad, maybe a grain bowl, part of a dinner, and even for breakfast.
Another personal motive is to hold back enough for my precious Quinoa Bars, an old favorite. I’m always glad to have them in the fridge. There will be times in the course of a week that I’ll be in a wild rush, and know I can reach in and grab one without missing a beat.
The moisture from the pre-cooked quinoa seems to keep these bars moist but not soggy—they hold very well without drying out after a few days, and the slight nuttiness blends well with the oat flakes and dried fruits. This last time, I went for a combo of dates and dried cranberries then topped them with bits of sliced candied oranges stashed away from a Trader Joe’s offering.
There’s still a lot of discussion about rinsing quinoa to remove a natural bitter coating from the seeds. I buy mine in bulk and have no idea whether this has been done. I usually forget to rinse, but as or yet have not noticed any pervasive off taste.
So here is the latest “new and improved” version of Quinoa Fruit Bars. They are even easier to make and enjoy!
Quinoa Fruit Bars
2/3 cup all-purpose flour, or half whole wheat or other flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp each allspice and dried ginger
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup quick oats flakes
1 large egg
1/3 cup yogurt
1/2 cup agave or honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup cooked white quinoa
3/4 cup dried fruit: chopped dates, dried cranberries, raisins, apricots or candied ginger
Garnish: 1 Tbsp Demerara or other coarse sugar or candied fruit garnish
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 8”x8″ pan with non-stick foil or spray with non-stick oil.
In medium bowl whisk together flour, baking soda, spices and salt. Mix in the oats. Add the dried fruit.
In a large bowl, whisk the egg, then stir in yogurt, agave, vanilla, and cooked quinoa.
With spatula, fold the dry ingredients into the wet just to incorporate. Spread evenly into pan and sprinkle Demerara sugar over the top.
Bake 30-35 minutes, until it begins to pull away from the sides of the pan and the top begins to brown. Cool on rack and slice. Yield: 16-18 bars
My mom was an experienced cook, gifted with a natural sense of timing and flavors. For years her prize appliance was a stainless steel state-of-the-art Thermador range with grill top and convection oven. Later, she frequently preferred to fire up a huge countertop toaster oven instead.
A highly practical, early environmentalist, Mom viewed the larger oven as wasteful and inefficient for her smaller jobs. On my visits I viewed this as odd—I figured that somehow her food would taste better cooked in the bigger, fancier unit.
Since we are our parent’s children, I eventually ‘evolved’ and came around to her way of thinking. I had shifted in my cooking, too. I rarely needed big pans of food. (In fact, my current convection toaster oven is even smaller than hers.)
This caused a whole chain of events to occur. I was in the market for smaller pans and down-sized recipes. I was on the look-out for one-bowl recipes with fewer ingredients, all which help move the process along.
My food portions went down, too: it’s either that or eat the whole thing. I learned about small batch baking: food is ready fast. I can be in and out of the kitchen with a plateful of goodies in very little time.
I knew I was on the right path when a small funky cookie jar happened across my path.
Although fewer cookies fill up the tiny jar in a hurry, typically a batch lasts well beyond a week or two. Even better, cookies on display are a warm welcome for drop-in friends.
Tahini Cookies, Small Batch
½ cup tahini
½ cup light brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup sesame seeds
Preheat oven to 375° F. Line a baking sheet with silpat or parchment.
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together tahini and sugar. Whisk in 1 egg to lighten, then stir in the vanilla and salt.
Combine the flour and baking soda and stir into the mix, blending until smooth.
Using tablespoon scoop, drop onto baking sheet. Sprinkle tops with sesame seeds.
Bake 15-16 minutes until set and edges begin to brown. Transfer to rack to cool. Yield 1½ dozen cookies.
When it comes to tasty baking combinations, these days it’s hard to beat buckwheat groats, tahini, and honey. And here we have a cookie with all three—plus a surprise crunch factor thrown in for entertainment value!
This idea comes from a gluten-free cookie re-engineered from Gluten Free Girl – an excellent site for all things gluten-free. These soft, moist, fiber rich cookies are the perfect purveyor for any of your favorite additions: perhaps a handful of trail mix or a combo of dried fruit, seeds & nuts, and/or white or dark chocolate.
In this case, the star is roasted buckwheat groats, well known for its characteristically earthy, nutty taste. I’m partial to its toasty/tobacco flavor that’s reminiscent of cooler seasons. Buckwheat’s hard outer hull must be removed for it to become fully edible. Since it has no gluten, buckwheat flour is often used as a substitute for wheat flour.
Although it is frequently associated with grains, buckwheat is a seed related to sorrel and rhubarb. That’s welcome news since seeds are literally jam-packed with minerals and antioxidants. Once toasted the buckwheat groats are called kasha. If the roasted variety is too strong, try the milder, unroasted buckwheat as a delicious rice substitute.
Even though these cookies are effortless to whip up, they do require a little advance planning. Allow a 30-minute soak for the groats to achieve their iconic texture, and one-hour chill time to firm-up the dough before baking.
So fond am I of these cookies, I have taken to making two different sizes. In a 10”x10” pan I portion out nine large 3-tablespoon/scoops—large enough for on-the-run happy meals. In an 11” round pan, I layout approximately ten rounded tablespoon-sized cookies—ideal for a mid-morning or afternoon snack. Or, for a slightly more logical solution you could make about 20 cookies, but that’s just how I roll…
All-Occasion Buckwheat Cookies
Greatly reworked from a gluten free concept, 3:30PM Cookies at Gluten-free Girl.
¾ cup buckwheat groats
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg or ½ tsp ground ginger
¼ cup coconut oil, melted
¼ cup tahini
½ cup honey
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup spelt or whole wheat flour
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¾ tsp salt
1 egg, beaten
¾ cup favorite fruit/nut mix (or ¼ cup each nuts/seeds, dried cranberries, white chocolate)
To soak the buckwheat groats: melt the coconut oil in microwave for 30-40 seconds. Stir in the tahini to combine, then add the honey. In a small mixing bowl, measure ¾ cup groats along with the cinnamon and nutmeg or ginger. Pour the warm coconut oil mixture over the groats. Stir well and let soak for at least 30 minutes.
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the dry ingredients together. Pour the soaked buckwheat mixture over it. Add the egg and stir with a spatula to combine. Add the trail mix and blend.
Cover and chill at least 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet with parchment or silpat.
Using 3 Tbsp scoop, place 9 on baking sheet. Shape into flat cylinders. Bake 17-18 minutes until golden brown and set on edges.
Cool for 10 minutes on baking sheet, then move to wire rack to cool completely. Repeat making 1 pan of smaller rounded tablespoon cookies. Yield: @ 20 2-1/2 to 3” cookies.
Mornings can be hectic. There are days when I am lucky to get out the door wearing matching shoes—let along eat anything. It’s at those times in particular I know I must grab something to eat along the way—and hopefully it’s beneficial.
Here’s my latest solution to eating on the run. It’s not designed as a meal replacement; it’s a tasty energy booster with food value that keeps me going until real food surfaces.
These wholesome raw bites are jet fueled morsels of sweet dates, toasted oatmeal, and my current fascination, tahini. Since I’ve gotten pretty gaga over tahini, I thought it best to do a little more research—and was amazed at its nutritional value.
Call it a seed butter, in that tahini is made from roasted sesame seeds which give it a high oil content. In a 2-tablespoon serving, this powerhouse contains 178 calories, 16 grams of fat, 6 grams carbohydrates and 5 grams of protein; with no sugar and 3 grams of fiber.
What that means, is tahini is high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats known to lower harmful cholesterol levels, as well as lower the risk of heart disease and strokes. It is rich in thiamine (30% of daily requirement), magnesium (24%), phosphorous (22%), iron (14%), and calcium (12% daily requirement). Tahini’s list of benefits goes on. It naturally helps lower blood pressure, aids in bone health and arthritic issues.
Yes, moderation is important, but in a full recipe of 20 or more Tahini Date Bites, only 1/3 cup of tahini is used. These are so satisfying that two or three sweet bites will certainly get the job done. I’m fortified, and ready to go the distance.
Tahini Date Bites
Few ingredients and simple to make, these hold well and improve with age. Suggested variations are noted.
1 cup Medjool dates (var include 2 Tbsp candied ginger), seed and chop well
1/3 cup tahini
1/3 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1-3/4 cup oats, (var part almonds or other nuts) toasted Finishing options
1 tablespoon cocoa powder (var pinch cinnamon)
1 tablespoon matcha tea powder
¼ cup raw coconut flakes
½ cup diced pistachio/pumpkin seed blend
In a medium mixing bowl combine the dates, tahini, honey, vanilla and salt.
Stir in the oats, it will be sticky.
Divide into approximately 20 portions and shape into 1” rolls.
Allow to chill in refrigerator for at least an hour to set.
To finish, dust tops finish as desired. Yield: about 20.
Cream of tartar is one of those odd little pantry ingredients that many of us haven’t a clue what it really does. Beyond stabilizing egg whites when making meringue, what really is its value?
While contemplating a slew of Snickerdoodle recipes recently I was stumped that many included cream of tartar as an essential ingredient. Turns out cream of tartar is an acid that causes a reaction when combined with baking soda. The leavening effect results in soft, chewy, addictive, cookies that you simply cannot leave alone.
In some circles Snickerdoodles are viewed as an American institution. With such lofty status no wonder they are added to commercial ice cream, as if frosting on a cake.
Their powdery cinnamon-sugar finish makes them iconic, too, so don’t omit. Since many recipes are quite lavish on that count, the following amount of cinnamon may seem wimpy by serious aficionados. From my limited perspective they are balanced and need nothing more than a cup of tea or a glass of milk.
Old-fashioned, soft, spicy Hermit cookies have never really gone out of style, but they certainly could use a make-over. Here is an updated version designed to meet today’s taste for cleaner, brighter flavors and textures—with less fat and more fiber.
It is my latest go-to cookie because it lasts well, is very tasty, and nearly foolproof to make. I call it my formula cookie because it can be easily varied, depending on need, mood, and availability.
For example, the 2 cups of flour can be replaced with nearly any type or combination of flours. For best rising, I tend to use a base of at least 1 cup all-purpose flour. Any variety of dried fruits and nuts will work, I especially like to include dates because they are meltingly sweet and moist.
The ingredient variations listed below are a recent favorite, but don’t let that stop you! The warm spices of cinnamon, coriander, and ground ginger are an excellent combination that works well with a variety of dried fruits and nuts, especially dates, dried cranberries, and a few pumpkin seeds.
This cookie is easy to assemble and best of all, it requires only one bowl. The fairly heavy dough comes together very quickly, yielding a soft cookie when baked. Best when not overcooked, plan on about 10 minutes per batch. Store these airtight at room temperature for a week or longer.
2 cups AP flour, or of choice: 1-1/3 cups AP flour, 1/3 cup whole wheat flour, 1/3 cup cake flour
2 teaspoons warm spices of choice: 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. coriander, 1/2 tsp. dried ginger
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup quick oats
¾ cup dried fruit and nuts: 1/2 cup pitted dates, 2 tbsp. dried cranberries, 2 tbsp. pumpkin seeds
2 tablespoon oil: coconut, safflower, or canola
2/3 cup light or dark brown sugar
1/4 cup buttermilk or sour milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 375°F. Line baking sheet with silpat or parchment.
On waxed paper, sift flour through salt; mix in the oats, add the dried fruit, nuts and toss to coat.
In mixing bowl, whisk egg and oil together, whisk in the brown sugar and milk, then the vanilla. Stir in dry ingredients with large spoon only to combine, it will be thick.
Using a small scoop or form rounded teaspoons of dough and roll into balls, place 2″ apart on baking sheet. Flatten with a moistened fork while rounding the edges.
Bake 9-11 minutes, until barely set and the tops begin to brown. They should be soft and seem undercooked; they will firm up as they cool. Cool on rack and repeat. Yield: 27 cookies.
While rearranging a pantry shelf recently I came across an errant bag of biscotti that had shifted off by itself, becoming the clear culprit in the current traffic jam.
I opened the bag and I gave it the sniff test—a lingering scent of cardamom drifted out. On the bag I had scribbled near illegibly, ‘Ginger Cardamom’, likely lost remnants of my last biscotti du jour effort. I do that. I’ll have a new favorite biscotti that I get stuck on and keep baking more of the same.
Biscotti can be fickle. The dough can be temperamental and far more trouble than it is worth. The double baking which aids in its longevity creates an additional step, so let’s keep it simple. Here is my basic recipe for a tender biscotti that I change up with different additions of dried fruit, nuts, flavorings, etc. It is a very malleable dough that can be quickly mixed by hand.
Ginger in any form is a reoccurring theme on this site. I adore it because it is soothing, satisfying, and spicy enough to pack a good punch. Since cardamom is seductive and supportive in its own flavor profile, these two team nicely together.
My saved cooking notes on this batch indicate that I added a dash of sesame oil. I still like that notion. Call me a purist, but when it comes to nuts in biscotti, I have my moments. In the case of sesame oil, it does not compete with the lovely chewiness of the candied ginger, yet complements both the ginger and cardamom.
What a nice surprise! After a month or so lost in storage, these cookies are still good enough to warrant a fresh cup of coffee and another round of biscotti for me and my friends.
Ginger Cardamom Biscotti
1-2/3 cups flour
¾ cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cardamom
¾ teaspoon powdered ginger
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons canola oil (I included 1 teaspoon sesame oil. Not obvious, but nice)
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ cup candied ginger
Optional drizzle topping: ½ cup white chocolate chips melted with 2 teaspoons coconut oil
Preheat oven to 325-350° F. Prepare parchment or silpat lined baking sheet.
Combine dry in small bowl and whisk.
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk eggs through vanilla until well blended. With spatula, stir in dry ingredients just to combine. Stir in candied ginger. Scrape onto baking sheet dividing and shaping into 2-3 narrow loaves @ 1″ high and 2″ wide, keeping them about 2 ½” apart. They will spread.
Bake 30 minutes, until firm but springy. Cool briefly. Using serrated knife, slice loaves into ½” diagonal slices. Lay cut side down on sheet. Bake 12 minutes. Turn slices over and bake 12-15 minutes longer, until light golden brown. Cool on rack. If desired drizzle with melted white chocolate. Store airtight at room temperature. Yield: 2-3 dozen biscotti.