Make Something New Every Day

This blog is inspired by all those who love to cook, whether experienced or not, and who continue to experiment with new ideas & ingredients, and best of all, share their passion with others.

The first entries are recipes prepared by the students of Lionel Wilson College Preparatory Academy in Oakland, CA. Fifteen students with varying cooking experience participated in my weekly workshop (via Tutorpedia), and successfully prepared various meals, snacks, and baked goods as part of an after-school program.

Along with the recipes from that class, I will continue to add new seasonal items, spanning every genre of the culinary world, as well as a helpful list of links to recipes, instructional videos, and places to shop and volunteer in your area.

Feel free to ask me questions and share your recipes and ideas as well. I look forward to cooking with you.

October 12, 2012

Babushka's Apricot Bow Ties

Some of the simplest cookies to make may also be the first ones I tasted as a little Russian rug rat. My grandmother always had these "бантики" for us, and taught me to make them. She's getting on in years, so once in a while I surprise her with a batch, making her eyes light up as they did over 30 years ago when she began to share them with me. 

This dough contains only 3 ingredients: butter, cream cheese, and flour, yet it creates a puffy, crisp, tender cookie that's a perfect nest for your favorite jam. I prefer apricot. The organic brand Cascadian Farms makes the best apricot jam I've tasted, and ensures these cookies have no refined sugar, just loads of sunny flavor. 

The only challenge for the less-experienced baker would be cutting even squares from the dough. Using a ruler, a pizza cutter, and following my step-by-step photos, your cookies should look as sharp as mine. 

Make the Dough a Few Hours Ahead (or the Night Before)
4 ounces cream cheese (not whipped - use the old school box)
4 ounces (1 stick) softened butter (if you use salted, don't add salt later)
1 1/4 cups flour (+ more for rolling) 

Your butter and cream cheese should be softened, but not warm or greasy. Cream them together in a bowl using a wooden spoon or a mixer. Stir in the flour until just combined. If using unsalted butter, add a pinch of salt to the flour. Scrape the dough into 2 portions onto sheets of plastic wrap, flatten into an even squarish shape, wrap tightly, and chill for at least 1 hour. 
Rolling with the Homies...
2 sheet pans lined with parchment
a ruler or tape measure
a pizza cutter or sharp knife
a rolling pin
jam & a spoon
1 beaten egg for eggwash & a pastry brush (you can also use your finger)
When the dough is firm & cold, roll out one disc on a floured counter or rolling surface (you can use a large cutting board - something you can cut the dough on without damage). If you don't have a rolling pin, use a large glass bottle or jar. Use sure, even pressure to roll the dough out from the center toward the corners to keep the square shape as much as possible. Once the dough is about 1/8" thick, get out your ruler or tape measure and trim the edges of the dough to create straight edges. 
Cut the dough into 2" squares using a pizza cutter, using a ruler as your guide. Press scraps into a flat disk & store in the fridge for later. Spoon a small amount of jam onto the center of each square. Fold one corner into the center, dab with the beaten egg, and then bring the opposite corner into the center and pinch firmly together to seal the corners. With a thin spatula, transfer the cookie to the cookie sheet. Repeat the process with the remaining dough.

Bake at 400' for about 10-12 minutes, or until the edges are golden. Transfer to a cooling rack. Once almost cool, sprinkle with sifted powdered sugar and serve immediately. Store extras in an airtight container for about a week.