Tuesday, August 31, 2010

TWD: Espresso Chocolate Shortbread Cookies

The first thing I do when I wake up in the morning is have a cup of coffee. If I plan to run that morning, I have the coffee before I run, which I'm sure violates all sorts of fitness rules. It is very important that I have my coffee before I speak to any human beings. My children know that I do not make/find/reach/feed/retrieve/help/turn on/turn off/mediate until I have the first sip of coffee, which has led to some pointed questions about the limits of my rule: "What if someone is bleeding?" "What if there is a fire?" "What if there is a lizard in the house?" I think I've helped them understand that I will rise to the occasion in case of a true emergency {as defined by me}, but that the house default rule is that nearly everything can wait the approximately 3.5 minutes between when I get out of bed and when the first splash of java hits my mouth.

But while coffee is a vitally important element of my morning ritual, it is only a part of my morning ritual. I have one cup in the morning, and then no interest in it -- in fact, kind of an aversion to it -- the rest of the day. Except for that one morning cup that is so essential to my sunny disposition, I rarely drink the stuff. And, more relevant to this week's post {not that I have ever been constrained by relevancy when writing blog posts}, I don't really care for coffee flavored food. So I wasn't sure how I'd like this week's TWD recipe, Espresso Chocolate Shortbread cookies, chosen by Donna of Life's Too Short Not to Eat Dessert First. {Amen!} They sounded interesting though, and I have enjoyed many of Dorie's shortbread recipes, so I was eager to try them.

I just celebrated my two year blogiversary by . . . actually writing a blog post for the first time in two months! It's funny to think about the things that help us mark time. My baby was an infant when I joined TWD two years ago. I would wait for her to go down for her nap, or fall asleep at night, and then start baking {sometimes recruiting my two older children to be my helpers}. Well, these two years in TWD have flown by, as evidenced by the fact that my baby is now a chair climbing, kitchen-aid monitoring, bowl-scraping, rolling pin-wielding helper in her own right:

The dough is made with confectioner's sugar and a tablespoon of espresso powder, in addition to the usual suspects -- lots and lots {and lots} of butter, flour, vanilla. Chocolate chips or chopped chocolate get folded into the dough, and then the {extremely soft} dough gets rolled out in a ziploc bag. It then needs a good stint in the refrigerator in order to be properly cuttable. I let mine stay there overnight. Then cut off the bag, slice the dough into little rectangles, and bake.

The verdict? Well, my older two children would not try these, and my youngest spit it out {which is hardly a reliable commentary about the quality of the cookies - I don't think that espresso cookies are likely to be embraced by the preschool set any time soon}. My husband did not eat these because they contain chocolate. Which leaves me. I like most things that contain copious amounts of butter and sugar, and these cookies are no exception. Will they go down as my favorite cookie ever? No. This may be the first recipe I've baked with confectioner's sugar (as opposed to white or brown) and I'm not sure I cared for the resulting texture {if the texture was in fact sugar-related}. But I think folks who like coffee-flavored desserts will enjoy these immensely, so I'm filing this one away in my "coffee-flavored dessert" arsenal. Thanks for the pick, Donna!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

TWD: Crunchy and Custardy Peach Tart

For some reason, baking in the summer is a challenge for me. The kids are out of school and we're running around a lot. It is hotter than Hades here (we're going on 50+ straight days of temperatures near or above 100 degrees). Air conditioning does not work (I mean, it technically works, but I keep waving my hands over the vent to make sure cold air is really coming out -- it is, but is no match for what nature is dishing out). In these circumstances, I sometimes balk at the thought of cranking up the oven for mere recreational purposes. That said, my favorite dessert of all time may very well be the Summer Fruit Gallette, which was covered by TWD right before I joined. So I know that summer baking (baking in the summer and/or the baking of summer fruit) can be so very worth it.

I've had my eye on this tart, to put it mildly. In fact, I initially picked it for my TWD selection when I was up back in June. But then I started fretting that the peaches would not be in prime form in as early as late May, when TWDers would actually be making it. I polled friends who are more familiar with the peach cycle than I am, determined that late May/early June was indeed too early to count on great peaches, and emailed Laurie back with Plan B. Then I prayed that someone with a July or August pick would come through with the Crunchy and Custardy Peach Tart. Thankfully, Rachel did. Rachel, you are my hero.

The tart begins with Dorie's trusty sweet tart dough. Top with peaches, an easy custard, and an almond struesel topping. Try not to burn the almond streusel topping, as I did, but know that even if you do, the tart will still be wonderful. Such is the magic of a Dorie dessert -- it's so otherwordly delicious that a few minor (or major) mistakes can't hurt it!

Thanks for the perfect summer pick, Rachel!
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