Salted Tahini Chocolate Chip Cookies

From the NY Times. I am on a tahini jag right now and these cookies did not disappoint. They could be one of the best cookies ever! I did cook them a couple of minutes longer. The crumb of the cookie is so crisp  that I love it!! I hope you will too!
4 ounces/113 grams unsalted butter at room temperature
½ cup/120 milliliters tahini, well stirred
1 cup/200 grams granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons/150 grams all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 ¾ cups/230 grams chocolate chips or chunks, bittersweet or semisweet
Flaky salt, like fleur de sel or Maldon or Jacobsen hand harvested salt
Salted Tahini Chocolate Chip cookies
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter, tahini and sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add egg, egg yolk and vanilla and continue mixing at medium speed for another 5 minutes.
Sift flour, baking soda, baking powder and kosher salt into a large bowl and mix with a fork. Add flour mixture to butter mixture at low speed until just combined. Use a rubber spatula to fold in chocolate chips. Dough will be soft, not stiff. Refrigerate at least 12 hours; this ensures tender cookies.
When ready to bake, heat oven to 325 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or nonstick baking mat. Use a large ice cream scoop or spoon to form dough into 12 to 18 balls.
Place the cookies on the baking sheet at least 3 inches apart to allow them to spread. Bake 13 to 16 minutes until just golden brown around the edges but still pale in the middle to make thick, soft cookies. As cookies come out of the oven, sprinkle sparsely with salt. Let cool at least 20 minutes on a rack.

Carrot Tahini Muffins

From the wonderful blog Smitten Kitchen. I am a huge fan of tahini and think this is a wonderful combination. I found a delicious tahini from Amazon that was recommended in another recipe. I think even non tahini lovers will like these muffins! Note-you can substitute half whole wheat flour for the flour.

Carrot Tahini Muffins
Yield: 12 to 14 muffins

Muffins
1/4 cup (60 ml) olive oil
1/4 cup (30 grams) well-stirred tahini
1/2 cup (80 grams) firmly packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
3/4 cup (175 ml) buttermilk, almond milk or (nonalcoholic) apple cider
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 cups (260 grams) all-purpose flour (see Note)
2 cup packed coarsely grated carrots (from about 9 ounces or 5 slim carrots)

Glaze (optional)
1/2 cup (60 grams) powdered sugar
3 tablespoons (25 grams) tahini
2 tablespoons (30 ml) water
Toasted sesame seeds for garnish

Heat oven to 425 degrees F. Whisk olive oil, tahini and brown sugar together in the bottom of a large bowl. Whisk in eggs, then buttermilk and vanilla. Whisk in baking powder, baking soda and salt, then switch to a spoon or flexible spatula and stir in flour, then carrots, mixing just until combined.

Either line a 12-cup standard muffin pan with paper liners or coat them with a nonstick spray. Fill each about 3/4 of the way with batter. You’ll probably have enough for 2 more after this, so you can hold some back if needed. Bake muffins for 14 to 16 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the center of each comes out batter-free. Muffins should be domed and lightly golden on top. Let them cool in pan for 5 minutes on a rack before transferring them to the cooling rack to cool completely.

If you’d like to glaze your muffins, whisk powdered sugar, tahini and water together in a medium dish. Either drizzle this over the cooled muffins or dunk them into the puddle. Sprinkle with sesame seeds, if desired.

Spicy Brownie

This recipe is from Baked-New Frontiers in Baking, a wonderful cookbook from a bakery in Brooklyn. It is so different with the chipotle powder, cinnamon and cardamom! The recipe is very fast to make once you have melted the chocolate, butter and instant espresso powder.
Spicy Brownie
1 1/4 cups (155 grams) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon (5 grams) table salt
2 tablespoons (10 grams) dark unsweetened cocoa powder
1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons chipotle powder (I didn’t have this and used smoky spicy paprika, with a very similiar flavor profile, instead) (for the spicy version)
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon (for the spicy version)
1/4 teaspoon cardamom (for the spicy version)
11 ounces (310 grams) dark chocolate (60 to 72% cacao), coarsely chopped
1 cup (2 sticks, 8 ounces or 225 grams) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1 1/2 cups (300 grams) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (105 grams) firmly packed light brown sugar
5 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the sides and bottom of a 9 x 13 glass or light-colored metal baking pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, salt, cocoa powder and spices (chipotle, cinnamon and cardamom), if you’re using them, together.

Put the chocolate, butter, and instant espresso powder in a large bowl and set it over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and smooth. Turn off the heat, but keep the bowl over the water and add the sugars. Whisk until completely combined, then remove the bowl from the pan. The mixture should be room temperature.

Add 3 eggs to the chocolate mixture and whisk until combined. Add the remaining eggs and whisk until combined. Add the vanilla and stir until combined. Do not overbeat the batter at this stage or your brownies will be cakey.

Sprinkle the flour mixture over the chocolate mixture. Using a spatula (not a whisk), fold the flour mixture into the chocolate until just a bit of the flour mixture is visible.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake in the center of the oven for 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the brownies comes out with a few moist crumbs sticking to it. Let the brownies cool completely, then cut them
into squares and serve.

Tightly covered with plastic wrap, the brownies keep at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Rice Crispy Bars

Look out! This is a wonderful recipe from the Smitten Kitchen blog-one of my favorites! It is a combination of the best flavors. Watch the temperature of the sugar syrup as I think I cooked mine a little too much and some of the rice didn’t stick together. Rice crispies may work better but I used what I had!

Rice Crispy bars
For the crispy crust
1 3/4 cups crisped rice cereal
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
3 tablespoons unsalted (their recommendation) or salted (what I used, and liked) butter, melted

For the milk chocolate peanut butter layer
5 ounces good-quality milk (their recommendation) or semi-sweet (what I’d use next time) chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup creamy peanut butter

For the chocolate icing
3 ounces dark chocolate (60 to 72 percent cocoa), coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon light corn syrup
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick or 2 ounces) unsalted (their recommendation) or salted (what I used, and liked) butter

Make the crispy crust: Lightly spray a paper towel with nonstick cooking spray and use it to rub the bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan.

Put the cereal in a large bowl and set aside.

Pour 1/4 cup water into a small saucepan. Gently add the sugar and corn syrup (do not let any sugar or syrup get on the sides of the pan) and use a small wooden spoon to stir the mixture until just combined. Put a candy thermometer in the saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat and bring to a boil; cook until the mixture reaches the soft ball stage, 235 degrees F.

Remove from the heat, stir in the butter, and pour the mixture over the cereal. Working quickly, stir until the cereal is thoroughly coated, then pour it into the prepared pan. Using your hands, press the mixture into the bottom of the pan (do not press up the sides). Let the crust cool to room temperature while you make the next layer.

Make the milk chocolate peanut butter layer: In a large nonreactive metal bowl, stir together the chocolate and the peanut butter. Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and cook, stirring with a rubber spatula, until the mixture is smooth. Remove the bowl from the pan and stir for about 30 seconds to cool slightly. Pour the mixture over the cooled crust. Put the pan in the refridgerator for 1 hour, or until the top layer hardens.

Make the chocolate icing: In a large nonreactive metal bowl, combine the chocolate, corn syrup, and butter.

Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and cook, stirring with a rubber spatula, until the mixture is completely smooth. Remove the bowl from the pan and stir for 30 seconds to cool slightly. Pour the mixture over the chilled milk chocolate peanut butter layer and spread (actually, I found it easier to just roll it around until it coated smoothly, avoiding the risk of picking up any of the peanut butter layer with it) into an even layer. Put the pan into the refrigerator for 1 hour, or until the topping hardens.

Cut into 16, at least! squares and serve. The bars can be stored in the refrigerator, covered tightly, for up to 4 days

Asparagus Goat Cheese Tart

From Cook’s Country. I highly recommend using the best puff pastry you can find. Dufour is my favorite and is pricey but so worth it. I had Pepperidge Farm puff pastry on hand and used it but it would use Dufour next time as it is all butter.
Asparagus goat cheese tart
1 (9 1/2 by 9-inch) sheet puff pastry, thawed
6 ounces asparagus, trimmed and cut 1/4 inch thick on bias into 1-inch lengths (1 cup)
2 scallions, sliced thin
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped pitted kalamata olives
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
4 ounces (1 cup) goat cheese, softened
INSTRUCTIONS

1. Adjust oven racks to lower-middle and top positions and heat oven to 400 degrees. Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and place puff pastry in center of sheet. Grease underside of 8-inch square baking pan, place in center of puff pastry, and fill pan with pie weights. Using sharp paring knife, score puff pastry around perimeter of pan, 1/8 inch deep. (Do not cut through pastry.)

2. Leaving pan on pastry, bake on lower-middle oven rack for 20 minutes. Remove pan, rotate sheet, and continue to bake until pastry is golden brown, 5 to 10 minutes. Let cool for 30 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, combine asparagus, scallions, 1 tablespoon oil, olives, garlic, zest, salt, and pepper in bowl. In separate bowl, mix 3/4 cup goat cheese and 1 tablespoon oil until smooth. Spread goat cheese mixture evenly over cooled puff pastry (avoiding raised border), then scatter asparagus mixture over top. Crumble remaining 1/4 cup goat cheese over top of asparagus mixture.

4. Bake tart on top oven rack until asparagus is tender and tart shell has darkened slightly around edges, 10 to 15 minutes. Drizzle with remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Cut into 4 equal pieces and serve.

Thai Beef with Basil

This recipe is from Bon Appetit. It comes together very quickly once you have all of the parts prepped. Since basil is not quite in season, I used three of the small packages of basil. I found one Thai basil which I used for the slaw part of the dish.
Basil is wilted like a leafy green in this stir-fry, then added raw at the end for a double dose of its aromatic flavor.
Thai Beef with Basil

2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 red chiles, thinly sliced, seeded for less heat if desired, divided
1 pound ground beef
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ cup low-sodium chicken broth
3 cups fresh basil leaves, divided
2 medium carrots, julienned or coarsely grated
2 scallions, thinly sliced
4 tablespoons fresh lime juice, divided
2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce (such as nam pla or nuoc nam)
1 teaspoon sugar
Steamed rice and lime wedges (for serving)

Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add garlic and 1 chile and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add beef, season with salt and pepper, and cook, breaking up with a spoon and pressing down firmly to help brown, until cooked through and nicely crisped in spots, 8–10 minutes. Add broth and 2 cups basil and cook, stirring, until basil is wilted, about 2 minutes.
Toss carrots, scallions, 1 Tbsp. lime juice, and remaining chile, 1 cup basil leaves, and 1 Tbsp. oil in a small bowl.
Mix soy sauce, fish sauce, sugar, and remaining 3 Tbsp. lime juice in another small bowl until sugar dissolves.
Top rice with beef and slaw and drizzle with soy dressing. Serve lime wedges alongside for squeezing over.

Irish Brown Bread

From the Wall Street Journal, this recipe is so easy once you get the ingredients, all of which I found at Whole Foods. I wasn’t able to find the Irish Style Flour but used whole wheat. It is a dense and crunchy bread, perfect for toasting with Irish butter and jam or a poached egg.
Irish Brown bread
3½ cups King Arthur Irish Style Flour or stone ground whole-wheat flour
1¾ cups all-purpose flour
1½ cups natural bran
1¼ cups steel-cut oats
4 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
4 teaspoons dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons sea salt
½ cup wheat germ
1 quart plus ½ cup buttermilk at room temperature
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl use a large spoon to mix all dry ingredients until well combined. Add buttermilk and stir until dry ingredients are evenly moist.

2. Divide dough equally between two greased loaf pans (approximately 9 or 10 inches by 5 inches).

3. Bake in middle of oven until golden and crusty, 50 minutes. Unmold and cool on a wire rack.

Israeli Couscous and Tuna Salad

I watched the Barefoot Contessa make this on the Food Network and was salivating before she finished so I had to try it! I love the Israeli couscous-it is so pretty and takes on the flavors easily. I made a half recipe and it was plenty for at least three or four people. I never add as much salt as called for as I would rather add it as I eat it than over salt. I used red onions instead of scallions and the olives I had on hand and also added celery for extra crunch.
Israeli Couscous and Tuna
2 cups Israeli couscous (10 to 12 ounces)
2 (7-ounce) cans or jars Italian tuna, drained and flaked
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup good olive oil
3 tablespoons capers, drained
1/2 cup pitted, oil-cured black olives, coarsely chopped (3 ounces)
1/2 cup jarred roasted red peppers, medium-diced (4 ounces)
2 teaspoons minced garlic (2 cloves)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup chopped scallions (6-8 scallions)
1/4 cup julienned fresh basil leaves, lightly packed
Juice of 1/2 lemon

Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a medium-size saucepan. Add the couscous and reduce the heat to very low. Cover the pot and simmer for 12 to 15 minutes, until the couscous is just tender. (I pull the pot halfway off the heat.) Drain in a colander.

Meanwhile, combine the tuna, lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil, capers, olives, red peppers, garlic, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper in a large bowl. Pour the hot couscous into the mixture and stir well. Cover and set aside for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Just before serving, stir in the scallions, basil, juice of the 1/2 lemon, and 1 more teaspoon of salt. Taste for seasonings and serve warm or at room temperature.

Pesto

In the middle of winter, there is nothing better than finding organic basil for $3 at Trader Joes. Since basil doesn’t like to be refrigerated, I immediately made pesto! The smell takes me straight to summer basil harvests in my garden. It is so easy to make and delicious on everything!
Organic basil
2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
2 cloves garlic
2-4 T. cup pine nuts
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Pestojpg
Combine the basil, garlic, and pine nuts in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Add 1/2 cup of the oil and process until fully incorporated and smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

If using immediately, add all the remaining oil and pulse until smooth. Transfer the pesto to a large serving bowl and mix in the cheese.

If freezing, transfer to an air-tight container and drizzle remaining oil over the top. Freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw and stir in cheese.

Hazelnut Toffee Cake

A showstopper dessert from The Violet Bakery Cookbook by Claire Ptak. I highly recommend this new baking book as everything I have made has been delicious! I used 8″ pans as that is what I had. Also, I had no problem with the caramel which can be difficult and think using Baker’s fine sugar may have helped. Be sure to let your cakes cool before frosting. I did add 1/2 t. of brandy to the icing. Trader Joe’s sells skinned hazelnuts which is a huge plus!
Hazelnut toffee cake
For the Sponge
12 oz. dates, pitted and chopped
5 oz. hazelnuts, toasted and chopped medium fine
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. brown sugar
3/4 c. + 2 T. oil
1 c. plain flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
7 T. plain yogurt

butter for greasing the tin
Hazelnut Praline
For the Toffee Topping
1 1/2 oz. toasted hazelnuts, skins sloughed off
3 T. water
1 c. sugar (I used bakers fine sugar)

For the Icing
4 tablespoons water
1 1/2 c. powdered sugar
Brandy or cognac, to taste (optional)

Heat the oven to 340 degrees. Butter two 7″ cake tins and line with parchment paper. First, prepare the sponge. Combine the dates and the toasted nuts in a bowl and set aside.

Using an electric mixture, whisk together the eggs, vanilla and sugars until light and fluffy. Continue to whisk as you slowly drizzle in the oil.

In another bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add this to the egg mixture and whisk for a few seconds to combine. Add the yogurt and whisk to combine then fold in the dates and hazelnuts.

Divide the mixture between your prepared tins and bake for about 35-45 minutes, until the cakes are baked through and set, but not dry. The tops of the cakes will not spring back as much as other cakes do because the dates make the mixture moist and dense in the best possible way. Leave the cakes to cool in their tins while you make the topping.

Line a baking try with parchment paper and spread your toasted hazelnuts on the tray. Place the tray on your worktop, near the stove. Have your icing ingredients nearby, as they will be needed as soon as the caramel is ready.

Put the 3 T. water in a small, heavy-bottomed pan and sprinkle in the sugar. Bring to the boil and just as the sugar starts to caramelize watch it very closely, then as soon as it starts to brown, pour half of the hot caramel over the hazelnuts. Leave to cool and harden and then break into shards.

To make the icing, add the four tablespoons of water to the remaining caramel in the pan. Pour the runny caramel from the pan into the icing sugar and whisk to a smooth paste. Add more water or icing sugar until it has the consistency of soft buttercream.

TASTE: Does the icing taste too sweet? It might need a splash of brandy or cognac to mellow it out. The cake itself is not too sweet so it can handle a fairly sweet icing, but cutting it with a little booze can work well here.

To finish, spread the icing on the cooled cakes and top with the shards of praline.