Tag Archives: butter

Benne Wafers, or Sesame Seed Cookies

If there is one book every Southern household should posses, be it a one-bedroom apartment or a grand, ancestral estate; it’s Charleston Receipts. It’s full of amazing recipes, idioms and household tips from days gone by. Some of it is slightly out-dated, to be sure, but a good portion of it is delicious cookies. This recipe is one of a few for Benne Cookies, “benne” being another word for sesame seed.

Before we begin, let’s talk for a second about brown sugar. Brown sugar is my new best friend. Never, ever buy brown sugar. Whenever you need brown sugar, here’s what you do instead: Mix 1 cup sugar with 1 Tablespoon molasses. It will clump up a bit at first, but keep mixing and eventually you’ll end up with what is quite clearly brown sugar. Way cheaper and literally exactly the same thing. You’re welcome.

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Benne Wafers (makes 6-7 dozen, I made a half batch)

1 1/2 c. brown sugar (or 1 1/2 c. sugar mixed with 1 1/2 T. molasses, as per above)

3/4 lb. butter, room temp.

1 egg

3/4 c. flour

1/4 t. baking powder

1/4 t. salt

1 c. sesame seed

Pre-heat oven to 300F.

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This is just your standard cookie technique: Mix together sugar and butter, add the egg (a lot of people scoff at the notion of halving an egg, it’s very simple; scramble the egg, then measure it out and use half) and mix until smooth. Add dry ingredients and mix  until fully incorporated. Measure out in heaping teaspoons place about 2 or 3 inches apart on parchment paper (they spread pretty far) and bake for 15 minutes, one sheet at a time.

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Raivas: Easy Cookies Because I’m Training

I’ll be honest with all of you, this week I’m finishing up training for the AthHalf race so my posts are going to be short and sweet. Today we’re making raivas, a Portugese cookie that, yes, is supposed to be kind of cakey. It isn’t what we in The States are used to, but they’re great for dunking in tea, coffee or a mulled wine. And they look really cool! Every recipe I’ve found for this recipe is exactly the same (with the exception that some called for 4 Tablespoons of butter as opposed to 5), so I’m going to give credit to the book that I first found it in: Nick Malgieri‘s A Baker’s Tour.

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Raivas

-2 cups all purpose flour

-1 teaspoon cinnamon

-5 Tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

-1/2 cup sugar

-3 eggs

First, pre-heat the oven to 350F.

This is a pretty standard technique for mixing cookie dough: mix together the dry ingredients (in this case flour and cinnamon) and set aside. Next, whip the butter and sugar together until it’s nice and fluffy. You can do this by hand or with and electric mixer. Now add the eggs to the butter mixture and mix until they are fully incorporated (you’re better off adding them one at a time, trust me). Add the flour mixture and mix that just until it’s all in there. You don’t want to make too much gluten.

Now comes the fun part: Divide the dough into 24 equal pieces. An easy way to do this if you don’t have a scale is to divide the dough in half, then divide each of those into thirds, then divide each of those into quarters. And there you go: 2x3x4=24. Roll each one of these bad-boys into a snake 20 inches long. I find you’re better off just using your fingers, when I tried to use my palms they got all smooshed. Now join the ends together and gently scrunch them up into a scrunched-up shape. Elegant, me. You can also make most letters pretty well, while you’re scrunching. Play around with it. When you’ve got one done, place it on a buttered or papered baking sheet and move on to the next. These only puff a little bit during cooking, so you can place them pretty close togeter. Leave about 1 inche between each cookie. Bake the sheets, one at a time for 12 to 15 minutes, rotating once mid-way. Remove to a cooling rack and serve with a nice, hot beverage. Check out the links to some other cool cookie recipes I found.

 

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Marbleized Shortbread

Shortbread was one of the original posts I wanted to do for this site, but it seemed a little too simple. I don’t want this to be one of those blogs that posts a recipe for scrambled eggs or a cheese sandwich. I’d considered perhaps posting two or three different recipes, e.g. Scotch, brown sugar, and chocolate to make up for the utter simplicity of them, but that still didn’t seem right. Yesterday it hit me all at once, marbleize the Scotch shortbread and brown sugar shortbread. It took a little tinkering to make sure the consistency would be the same for both, but I worked it out and am pretty pleased with the results. Right after I put it in the pan I realized that next time I make this I should make an Earth, or if The Missus has her way, Westeros. Break out a little food coloring and the possibilities are nearly endless.

Marbleized Shortbread

makes an 8″ round (12 pieces)

For Scotch shortbread:

-1/3 cup white sugar

-1 stick butter, room temp.

-1 cup all purpose flour

-1/8 teaspoon salt

For Brown Sugar Shortbread

-1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed

-1 stick butter

-1 cup all purpose flour

-1/8 teaspoon salt

-1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

I would suggest making the Scotch shortbread dough first so you won’t have to wash the bowl between batches. The technique for making each is the same, so I’ll just go over it once. Preheat the oven to 350F.

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Place the butter in a mixing bowl and whisk it good for at least one full minute, then add the sugar and continue whisking for another minute and a half. When the butter climbs the sides of the bowl, just scrape it down and continue whisking. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the flour and salt just until it becomes a solid mass. Place the dough on a plate and start over with the brown sugar, don’t forget to add the cinnamon with the flour this time. For an even more dramatic color difference, you can substitute 1 or 1.5 Tablespoons of cocoa powder for the flour with no  ill effects.

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I baked mine in the 8″ cast iron, but if you don’t have a cast iron skillet you’re comfortable baking in you can use a glass baking dish of the same size. Shockingly, there is no need to grease the pan for this recipe. Take little hunks of both doughs and randomly distribute them around the pan.

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When you’ve got a pretty even distributiton, use your fingertips and gently press it down to make sure the height and density are even. Now use the back of a spoon or the bottom of a glass to smooth out the surface. Good. Now score it with a knife to make 12 pettiecoats (as they are called) and poke it all over with a fork. No one knows why.

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Place in the middle of the oven and bake for 45 minutes, turning about halfway through. When done, the edges will be browned, although the center may feel a little soft. Re-cut the score marks and let cool in the pan 15-20 minutes before removing to a cooling rack. The color will darken as it cools, serve at room temperature.

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Unbelievable Flourless Chocolate Torte

This is my first blog post, so to make sure I get you all hook, line, and sinker I decided to go with my new favorite recipe for chocolate torte. This recipe has it all: only four ingredients, rich chocolate flavor, and room to play around. The only drawback is that it needs to chill at least 8 hours before serving. You will also need to make a steam bath, but that’s easy. By the way, people who are lucky enough to live in Iowa City can try a markedly similar recipe to this at Clinton Street Social Club.

-3 eggs, separated
-1/2 Tbl. sugar
-5 Tbls butter (this is equal to 1/4 cup + 1 Tbl.)
-1/2 lb. chocolate – You can use either milk or dark chocolate in this recipe, but keep in mind that there is very little sugar added.

Preheat the oven to 325 F.

Line the bottom of an 6 inch pan with parchment paper and set aside.

Combine the chocolate and butter in a saucepan and place over a low heat. If you need to, turn up the heat a little bit at a time, you don’t want to risk burning the chocolate, although the butter should keep everyone happy. Start stirring when the butter starts to melt.

If you’re feeling crazy you can use a different fat. I just made on of these with olive oil which worked out very well.

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When the chocolate and butter are smooth transfer to a mixing bowl, let it cool down and stir in the egg yolks. Then set this mixture aside.
In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until your arm falls off. You can also use an electric mixer, if you like having two arms. When things get good and foamy, or by the time soft peaks form, add the sugar and keep whisking until you get stiff peaks.

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Fold one quarter of the egg whites into the chocolate. When it’s fully incorporated flop the rest of the whites in a continue folding.

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Gently pour the batter into the 6 inch pan and smooth it out as best you can.

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Let’s talk for a minute about the top of this cake: it’s perfectly lovely as is, but there’s really so much you could do with it. Sprinkle some chopped nuts or dried fruit on there. Sprinkling on a thin crust of demerara or turbinado sugar on top would be nice. Or, you can wait until just before you serve it and hit it with some powdered sugar. Just promise me that you won’t, “BAM!” if you do. Say it. Say, “I promise.” Okay.
Now that the cake is in the pan you’re going to set up a steam bath, which means you take the cake pan, put it in a larger pan with some room to maneuver (a roasting pan works well or a 12 inch cake pan) and pour boiling water into the larger pan until it’s halfway up the side of the smaller pan. This is why God made tea kettles.

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Put the whole kit-and-caboodle in the oven and bake for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, remove it from the oven and bath. Wait about an hour, until it comes down to room temperature, and then chuck it in the fridge for at least 6 hours or overnight. Remove the cake and set it on the counter about an hour before you want to serve it. If you’re lucky it will have pulled away from the sides of the  pan as it cooled. If not, use a thin knife to loosen the cake, then flip it onto a plate.

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Serve like how we talked about earlier or top with a spoonful of jam or marmalade.

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