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During the day I work opposite a fantastic and very popular cupcake and coffee house that I try to resist on a frequent basis. Not only because of my waistline, but also because of my wallet. The recent boom in the cupcake business has led to a staggering inflation in the cost of your average baked good and cup of joe, which means a trip to the bakery is sadly becoming something of a luxury rather than a daily occurrence. Well one day last week, after a particularly draining day in the cube farm – I caved and entered said cavern of overpriced delights. As expected I came out almost $10 poorer and probably 10 pounds heavier having consumed a very sweet, but very pleasing mocha/choca cookie sandwich (with my coffee). I loved it, but the knowledge of how easy it is to make cookies and moreover how many I could have baked for the price of just one, made me determined to go home and recreate the same thing and this recipe is the result – I hope you enjoy it!

Note/Credits: I used the base of a sugar cookie recipe I have been using for a long time from joyofbaking.com and mixed it up with my own frosting idea. I actually split my frosting so half was peppermint, half was just choc vanilla. But full credit to my British friend Joanne B who had the idea for the choc orange version of the frosting – tried it and it’s delish!

Finally, because there was so much interest for this recipe from the UK I’ve included metric measurements so you don’t have to do all the cups to grams conversions yourself! You’re welcome :)

Total time: 2hours 45 mins (Prepping 40 mins/cooling 1.5 hours/baking 10-15 mins/frosting 20 mins)

Yields: Approx 18 3 inch cookie sandwiches 

Ingredients:

For the chocolate sugar cookies

  • 2 3/4 cups (355 grams) all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup (75 grams) unsweetened/baking cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon (4 grams ) baking powder
  • 1 cup (227 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 3/4 cups (350 grams) granulated white sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp swedish vanilla powdered sugar for dusting (or plain if you can’t find vanilla)

For the choc cream cheese filling:

  • 3/4 cup (170 grams) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup ( 115 grams)  softened cream cheese
  • 1/3 cup (40 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup (96 grams) confectioners/powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (if making a plain choc filling) OR
  • 1 teaspoon peppermint extract for the minty versions OR
  • 1 tbsp orange zest plus 1 splash orange oil for a delightful chocolate orange version

For Chocolate Sugar Cookies:  In a large bowl whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, salt, and baking powder.

In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer if you don’t have one, which is totally fine), beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (about 3 to 4 minutes). Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition until it resembles a glassy eggy paste.

Add the vanilla extract and continue to beat for another 30 seconds until combined.

Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients now and beat until you have a smooth dough.

Divide the dough in half and wrap each half in plastic wrap (cling film to my british brethern) Refrigerate the dough for about one hour or until firm enough to roll. Seems like a long time i know, but gives you time to clean up and make the filling!

For the cream cheese filling:

In a new clean bowl in your mixer beat the cream cheese and butter until combined and smooth, then add in the cocoa and flavoring you are using.

Finally start to add the sugar a bit at a time until you have the consistency that you want, which is soft and spreadable but not too runny. Taste to confirm it is delicious – adjust any extra flavoring if needed.

icing in bowl

Cover the frosting and put to the side until ready to use. TIP!! This could be made a day in advance and then refrigerated, but you’ll need to take it out at least an hour before frosting the cookies otherwise it’ll be too firm and you risk snapping the cookies.

Now back to those cookies: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) and place rack in the center of the oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Remove one half of the chilled dough from the refrigerator and, on a lightly floured surface, use a rolling pin to roll out the dough to a thickness of 1/4 inch (1 cm). (Keep turning the dough as you roll, making sure the dough does not stick to the counter.)

Cut out 3 inch circles or squares using a lightly floured cookie cutter and transfer cookies to the prepared baking sheet. Place the baking sheets with the unbaked cookies in the refrigerator for 10 to 15 minutes to chill the dough which prevents the cookies from spreading and losing their shape while baking.

While they are cooling in the fridge – roll out the other half of the chilled dough and repeat the above.

Bake cookies for about 10 -12 minutes(depending on size) or until they are firm around the edges.

Remove from oven and let cookies cool on baking sheet for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling.

When all cookies are completed cooled you can begin the fun part – frosting! Take one cookie in your hand, and with a knife smear a large dollop of the delicious frosting on the underside of the cookie (make sure it’s the underside so that when you finish you have the pretty side showing) Then sandwich another cookie carefully on top of the frosted one and voila, a tasty cookie sandwich.

frosting

A final step when you’ve frosted all the cookies is to dust them all off with some icing sugar – preferably the delicious vanilla sugar variety, mainly because it tastes even better. TIP!! You can buy it at IKEA – it’s in a little packet called Vaniljasocker, those Swedes know what they’re doing with food as well as design.

The cookies will keep several days in an airtight container, but because of the cream cheese filling – I recommend putting them in the fridge after the first day. Not that they’ll last that long…

The first day I got my Kitchen Aid ice-cream maker attachment, I was planning on making an ice cream dessert for a dinner party the next evening. I knew I wanted to make something unusual, so went on the hunt for an exotic recipe. Ever since I was a small girl, my favorite flavor of the frozen stuff has always been pistachio, so when I stumbled across an article in LA weekly on ice-cream week and saw this slightly complicated recipe for pistachio-rosewater ice-cream, I knew I had to try it. Please don’t be daunted by all the steps – as long as you have an ice-cream maker of some sorts and a bit of patience, I promise the results are startlingly good and worth the fiddling.  Added bonus – as I was half-way through making this dish and tasting the custard boiling up, it occurred to me that the taste was very familiar, but not in the way I expected. Because the recipe uses predominantly evaporated milk, the delicate flavor and slightly denser texture is more akin to Indian kulfi than gelato or ice-cream as most people know it. Well, anytime I can recreate a bit of the far east in my kitchen is good news for all and if you’re not yet convinced, try the below. It’s divine.

Note: Make sure to use rosewater for cooking, and if you can’t find it in your local supermarket or speciality store, it’s usually available to ship from Amazon for under $10. You only need a couple of drops so as long as you store it properly, the bottle will last a long time.

Total time: 2 hours

Yields: Approx 1  1/2 Pints.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsalted, shelled pistachios
  • 2 cups evaporated milk
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (the real stuff please!)
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons rosewater

Method

Crush the pistachios in a mortar & pestle or chop in a food processor.

Combine the milk, sugar and vanilla in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan; add the pistachios and bring to a light boil.

Allow to simmer for 15-20 mins, then remove from the heat.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks and slowly mix in approx a cup of the hot milk pistachio liquid to temper the eggs.

Now add the egg-yolk mixture to the saucepan, whisking constantly as you pour it in.

Cook the custard mixture over a low heat, stirring constantly until the custard clings to the back of a spoon and your finger can run a path through it without it running. (At this stage i find it important to have a little taste… to ensure, you know, it’s definitely delicious).

Meanwhile, set a bowl large enough to hold all the custard over an ice bath. (What’s an ice-bath I hear you cry – basically, lots of ice and water in a bowl, with another bowl on top of it, allowing ingredients to cool down very quickly…)

Now, remove the custard from the heat and immediately strain into the bowl set over the ice bath. Thoroughly chill the custard, placing a piece of plastic wrap over the top when it’s cooled slightly to avoid a skin forming.

When the mixture has completely cooled, mix in the heavy cream and rosewater and prepare according to your ice cream maker’s instructions.

ice cream

This is indulgent enough to enjoy on its own, without any accoutrements. (You can thank me later ;)

TIP!! Don’t discard the milk cooked pistachios, they are stunningly rich, chewy and sweet. You can add them to the ice-cream when it’s in the maker, or add them to your yoghurt in the morning. Goodness that just keeps giving.

(Recipe first published in 2009 by Felicia Friesema in www.Laweekly.com )

This recipe stems from one of those evenings when I was faced with a lean pantry and a fussy appetite, but now I go back to it regularly as it’s very simple and quick, but yields impressive and colorful results. I realize there’s a couple of ingredients included that might not be sitting in everyone’s pantry – but don’t worry.

1. If you don’t have/can’t find sweet soy sauce at your local supermarket, then try mixing in a spoonful of honey with some normal soy sauce instead for the same flavor profile.

2. I am a big fan of infused olive oils when done well, but fear not – a good quality olive oil will work just as well here, it just wont be quite as lemony, which might even be a preference for some.

Total time: 35 mins (10 mins prep, 25 mins cooking)

Serves 4 as an appetizer, 2 as a side/main

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 large zucchini, enough to yield 2/12 cups when chopped
  • 1 tbsp of olive oil for frying
  • 1 clove of garlic crushed
  • 1 tbsp of kejap manis (sweet soy sauce)
  • 1 15.5 ounce tin of garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed thoroughly
  • 2- 3 ripe plum tomatoes or one large ripe heirloom tomato (depending on the season)
  • 2 tbsp of lemon infused olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 1/2 tbsp roasted sesame seeds
  • Sea salt and black pepper for seasoning

Method:

Wash the zucchini thoroughly so the skin is shiny and clean and then chop into slices the thickness of a dollar.

Now gently heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Test if it’s ready for frying by adding one slice of the zucchini to the pan – it should start to sizzle nicely.

Now add all the zucchini to the pan and coat evenly with the heated oil. Allow the slices to fry on one side for at least a couple of minutes before flipping to check that they are starting to brown.

The zucchini should take about 7 – 10 minutes total to pan fry. When they are halfway done, you can add the chopped garlic – I don’t like adding too early as it tends to burn and burnt garlic is not a good addition to any salad, trust me!

A minute before removing completely from the heat, add the Ketjap Manis to the pan. TIP!! Be sure to have your extractor/fan going as the pan is going to be hot and any soy sauce tends to smoke when heated like this. Adding the soy sauce and allowing the zucchini to fry in this sweet, bubbling mixture for a minute adds a a nice sticky char to the veggies, just watch them and don’t let them burn.

Remove the zucchini from the heat and keep the pan covered while you assemble the rest of the salad.

Toss the garbanzo beans into a large serving bowl.

Chop the tomatoes into eighths or if you’re using one of those mammoth heirlooms probably much smaller pieces. There’s no hard and fast rule here – however you like to eat your tomatoes in a salad is fine, but ideally they’d be similar size chunks to your zucchini.

Add the tomato to the beans and now tip in the warm zucchini. Add the lemon olive oil, lemon juice, sesame seeds and season well. Combine thoroughly to ensure all the lemon and oils become infused into the warm veggies. Serve with hot crusty bread, plank salmon, seared halloumi cheese or even simple grilled chicken. Enjoy!