To say I have been feeling uninspired would be an understatement. Ever since our fridge stopped working 2 months ago (it was finally replaced. That’s correct, we were without a working refrigerator for almost 2 months) I have just not been itching to be in the kitchen like usual. I think of a recipe and start to research, and I feel like I see it in twenty places and it doesn’t seem worth me developing it myself. When I do think of a recipe that I can’t seem to find, I can never quite get myself to actually make it. Other things intrude into my kitchen time. I decide I would rather paint or read or nap.
So I decided to wade back in with someone else’s cookies. Deb Perelman’s cookies, to be exact. I feel like since she started doing press for her most recent cookbook, Smitten Kitchen Every Day, she has been on fire. There was a time when I would go to Smitten Kitchen and nothing would quite catch my eye, but these days? These days I feel like everything she posts is just for me. I kid you not, a couple of weeks ago I googled “Korean short ribs instant pot” and the next day – THE NEXT DAY – she posted exactly. what. I. was. looking. for. It was bizarre, I felt like she was a god that had heard my prayers!
Her siren voice was calling and I decided to answer in the form of these peanut butter filled chocolate cookies. I agree, it’s a weird thing when a blogger posts another blogger’s recipe. But I needed to get back in the kitchen, and these were the ticket. I had a sunny afternoon alone in my house, so I turned on my favorite baking Pandora station and enjoyed myself for the first time in a while. Sometimes all it takes are some really good cookies, you know?
During the holiday season, all I want to do is make cookies. All of the cookie recipes I’ve been eyeing throughout the year, this seems like the time to make them. I want chocolate cookies, I want mint crinkles, I want pecan shortbreads, I want soft sugar cookies decorated with frosting designs, I want ginger snaps. Maybe this is why I always add a layer this time of year? Maybe.
I recently bought a bottle of rosewater (mostly because there’s this dish in Jerusalem (the cookbook)- swordfish with harissa and rose – that I had once and I’ve been wanting to make it again), and it had been sitting on my pantry shelf, looking pretty but also lonely. And then I came across this recipe for “Pistachio Rosewater Snowball Cookies” in the latest issue of Kinfolk Magazine. They sounded like a beautiful twist on what some people call Mexican wedding cookies or Russian Tea Cakes or any other number of cookies: nutty with pistachio, and aromatic and floral from the cardamom and rose.
After making the recipe from Kinfolk, I made a few small changes to the recipe, and I wanted to share them with you. I thought the original was a little heavy on the rosewater, and a little light on the cardamom (though my roommates and Jonah really enjoyed them as they were). They’re buttery and crumbly. They’re sweet but with a unique flavor with them. And they smell beautiful.
Pistachio Rosewater Tea Cakes
Note: I found rosewater with the cocktail mixers at my local grocery store. It might also be in with the extracts in the baking aisle. If not, you can find it online.
Second note: Before you invest in making this recipe, you should definitely read through this recipe, and know that 1) pistachios are pricey, especially if you buy them already shelled and 2) there is a lot of kind of annoying pistachio prep. You’ve been warned.
1 cup unsalted, shelled pistachios
2 cups plus 2 Tbl all purpose flour
3/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups powdered sugar, divided
1 cup (2 sticks) butter unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 tsp rosewater
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment, or butter them.
Bring a medium pot of water to a boil, and blanch the pistachios for 1 minute. Drain them, and place them on a clean dish towel. Fold the dish towel over the pistachios and rub off the skins. (There may be some stubborn ones that you need to peel off.) Spread them in a small baking dish and roast them in the oven until they’re just dry, about 8 minutes. Set them aside and allow them to cool. When they are cool, pulse in a food processor or blender until they’re finely ground, but definitely not a paste. Transfer them to a small mixing bowl and whisk together with the flour, cardamom, and salt.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together 1 cup of the powdered sugar and the butter until pale and fluffy. Add the rosewater, and mix it in. With the mixer on low, add in the pistachio flour mixture and mix just until a dough forms, scarping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
Roll the dough into 1-1.5 inch balls. Arrange at least 1 inch apart on the pan, and bake until they’re just golden on the bottom, ~20 minutes (mine took a little less). While the cookies are baking, pour the remaining cup of powdered sugar into a wide bowl. Remove the cookies from the oven, allow them to cool from a minute or two, and when they’re cool enough to handle, roll them in the powdered sugar. Allow to cool the rest of the way on a wire race.
I loved meringues when I was a kid – the incredible sweetness, the way they just melt in your mouth, the way they sound kind of like styrofoam (a weird thing to like, I know), and the delicate poofy shapes they came in. I remembered making them once when I was in middle school, and getting the sticky batter all over my shirt and fingers and face.
While I don’t feel as passionately about meringues as I did when I was younger, I still enjoy them. I still love how as soon as you get a crumb on your tongue, it seems to be gone almost as quickly as it came. I love the intense sweet taste, and how it lingers in your mouth. I love the slight nuttiness that comes from the slow caramelization of the sugar.
After I made the mint matcha ice cream, I had a bunch of leftover egg whites. I thought about making macarons, but I simply wasn’t in the mood for something so potentially intense where so much could go wrong. Plus, all my egg whites were in a jar together, so measuring out 3 or however many was going to be tricky. That’s the tough thing about leftover egg whites or yolks – you so often have to find a recipe that uses the exact amount you have leftover. I had seen an article recently on Food 52 about making meringue without a recipe, so I read it, and went ahead. I wouldn’t normally choose to make this much meringue, but it turns out 6 large egg whites yeilds…a lot.
1 part egg whites to 2 parts sugar. For example, 1 cup egg whites, 2 cups sugar. To stabilize, you’ll need 1/2 tsp cream of tartar or 2 tsp white vinegar per 1 cup of egg whites. An easy way to remember this, if you’re using vinegar, is that it’s the same amount as the sugar but in teaspoons. So, what I used: 1 cup egg whites (from 6 large eggs), 2 cups sugar, and 2 tsp white vinegar.
Bring your egg whites to room temperature, if not a little warmer. You can do this by simply leaving them out in the kitchen for a while, or putting them in a bowl and putting that bowl in another bowl full of hot water.
Preheat your oven to 225 degrees. Line two pans with parchment paper. In a bowl, combine egg whites and vinegar or cream of tartar. Whip on medium speed with an electric beater or in the bowl of an electric mixer until there are soft peaks when the beater is lifted from the bowl.
Once soft peaks can form, turn the mixer speed to high, and add the sugar by heaping teaspoons. This will take a few minutes (certainly if you’re making as much meringue as I was). Be patient. Once the sugar is mixed in, either pipe the meringue onto the prepared baking sheets, or drop by spoonful. I used a large ziploc, used a spatula to scoop all of the meringue in, and then cut off the tip of one of the corners, and used that for piping. It worked really well.
Bake the meringues for 1 1/2 hours, rotating front to back and top rack to bottom half way through. When time is up, turn off the oven and allow them to cool in the oven. If you have SO MUCH MERINGUE, like I did, you can turn off the oven and allow them to cool partway, remove from oven, and then preheat the oven for the next batch. I left my meringue on the counter while the first batch baked, and while it was noticeably not as fully whipped, it still worked just fine. I recommend crunching into one when it’s still warm, because how often do you get to try a warm meringue? Store the rest in an airtight container, and enjoy whenever you’re in need of a sweet, light treat.
When I asked Carmelle what kind of cake she wanted for her birthday this year, and she replied, “ice cream cake,” I was stumped. I mean, not so stumped. I’ve had ice cream cake before. I understand the concept. But I’ve certainly never made one. In a summer cooking camp I did when I was younger, I made a baked alaska, but I certainly wasn’t going to attempt that. My mom used to make a version of ice cream cake with Ho hos: she would take a big metal bowl, line it with slices of Ho hos, fill the bowl with ice cream, freeze it, and then turn it out, so it looked something like this.
So I suppose it was officially time to learn to make my own ice cream cake. I had a choice to make: do I make the kind with an actual layer of cake in it? Or do I make the kind that just has layers of ice cream and chocolate sauce and magical cookie crumbles?
I decided to go with the latter. If I’d had more time I would’ve made my own ice cream, it turned out it was a crazy weekend (full of Valentine’s Day, a bar mitzvah, work, and an Amos Lee concert), so there wasn’t time for that madness. Still though, ice cream making is on my to-do list.
I decided to use a recipe from Not Without Salt (NWS) as a guideline, except I wanted to just buy Oreo crumbs at the store instead of making my own chocolate wafers. At this point, I was thinking more along the lines of cake assembly than actual creation. Don’t judge me. After hitting the grocery store (note to self: NEVER go to Fred Meyer’s on a Sunday again), and not finding Oreo crumbs or any wafers I liked, I decided to make them myself. And because I’ve been eyeing Smitten Kitchen’s chocolate wafers, I decided to go with that recipe. Interestingly, something I noticed after I had already made the wafers was that both Smitten Kitchen and Not Without Salt identify Alice Medrich as the cook behind the recipe for their wafers, though they do differ a bit. What I’m saying is, if you decide to go with NWS’s chocolate wafer recipe, I’m sure it will be just as delicious.
Ice Cream Cake
Note: For your ice cream, I would suggest something smooth like coffee, or with small pieces in it, like mint chocolate chip. Carmelle requested cookie dough ice cream, and while it was certainly delicious to get the chunks of cookie dough, it made it a little trickier to slice and serve.
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup + 2 Tbl sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
14 Tbl (1 3/4 sticks) butter, softened
3 Tbl milk (higher fat is better, because we’re baking here, people)
1 tsp vanilla extract
Chocolate Fudge Sauce
1 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup corn syrup (I used dark because I liked the slight molasses smell to it, but light or golden syrup will work)
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 cup (6 oz) bittersweet chocolate (you can use chopped baking chocolate or chips, whatever is convenient for you)
2 Tbl butter
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 gallon of ice cream of your choice, or 2 quarts of ice creams of your choice
First, let’s make the wafers. In the bowl of your food processor, combine the dry ingredients and pulse to mix. Cut the butter into chunks and add it to the bowl as well, pulsing again until evenly distributed. In a small bowl, combine the milk and vanilla extract, and then add it to the bowl with the food processor running. Transfer the dough to a bowl and knead a few times to bring it together. On a piece of parchment or wax paper, form the dough into a ~14-inch log, wrap it in the parchment or wax paper, and refrigerate for an hour, or freeze for 20-30 minutes, or until firm.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and line baking sheets with parchment paper. Slice the log of dough into ~1/4 inch slices, thinner if you’d like, but keep an eye on baking time. Place them on pans about an inch apart, and bake for 12-15 minutes, rotating halfway through. Allow to cool on the pan for a minute or two, as they’ll break easily. Which, for our purposes isn’t the end of the world, but you will have extras, and maybe you want those to be unbroken.
Chocolate Fudge Sauce
Before making the fudge, I recommend taking your ice cream out of the freezer to soften.
To make the fudge, combine the cream, corn syrup, sugar, and cocoa powder in a pan. Bring this mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to a steady simmer. Allow it to simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. After 5 minutes, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the chocolate, butter, salt, and vanilla. Keep stirring so the chocolate and butter melt, and run through a sieve, preferably into a microwave safe bowl, make sure there are no clumps of cocoa powder. My fudge had a little trouble, and decided to separate (super fun!). Jonah had the brilliant idea to just get out the immersion blender, and I would suggest the same should the separation happen to you. But I sincerely hope it doesn’t. Set fudge aside and let it cool down a bit. Because you have to make this cake in layers and freeze between each layer, the microwave safe bowl comes in handy when you need to warm up (and potentially blend) your fudge sauce.
Now let’s assemble the cake. Put about 20-25 of the chocolate wafers in a big ziploc bag, and beat it with a rolling pin, until the cookies are completely crumbled and there are no pieces larger than a pea. In an 8 or 9 inch springform pan, spread 1/2 of your gallon of ice cream, or one of the quarts. Make sure it’s evenly spread, so it’s roughly the same thickness all the way around the pan. Sprinkle half the cookie crumbs on the ice cream, and then drizzle/spread half the hot fudge over the cookie. Put the pan in the freezer for 30-45 minutes to set. After it has firmed up a bit, spread the second half of ice cream over the fudge, then sprinkle over the remaining cookie crumbs and spread over that the remaining fudge. Put the cake in the freezer until you’re ready to serve, at least an hour.
When you’re ready to eat this bad boy, remove from the freezer and run a knife around the edge before un-molding the cake. Serve and enjoy!