Suzi's Blog

Juliet’s Kisses from Michele Scicolone

2013_03_01_0492

“Too big.” I said. I know what I am talking about.

“They’ll be fine,” Suzen countered.

I bit my tongue. I waited. They baked. They cooled. Suzen made the filling and began to assemble these sandwich cookies.

“Too big,” she said.

I said nothing. I just picked up “a half” and ate it very pleasantly without the filling. It’s all to easy to become a tad exuberant when you bake these cookies. A simple teaspoon of dough seems too little so you add more and pretty soon each “half” of the sandwich cookie is just the right size just by itself.

I love these cookies so much that very often I will forgo the filling, decline to create sandwiches, and just enjoy the fragile beauty of a perfect kiss.

Our good friend and fabulous cookbook author Michele Scicolone created these sandwich cookies a long time ago. Suzen bakes them often as just the perfect end-of-meal treat. These cookies are breathtakingly soft — thanks in part to the cornstarch in the confectioners’ sugar. By the time you put two of them together with filling, you have a cookie that requires you “open wide.”

The secret to making this cookies just perfect is the butter. Try to find a good French or European butter that is rich in fat. Certainly, an upscale cocoa is important, too.

The downside to this cookie is its interaction with air. They appear to frequently just evaporate spontaneously. Just like those news stories you see about people dying from spontaneous combustion in the National Enquirer. I believe those stories. Suzen is skeptical about the fires and totally believes that some human being is responsible for the surreptitious disappearance of these cookies.

I am an innocent man.

Juliet’s Kisses

Yield: 48 cookies

Ingredients:

For the cookies:

  • ½ pound [2 sticks] unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ cup confectioners’ sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder, sifted
  • ½ cup finely chopped toasted almonds

For the filling:

  • 2 ounces semisweet chocolate
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/3 cup blanched almonds, toasted and finely chopped

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar on high speed until light and fluffy. Beat in the salt and vanilla. On low speed, beat in the flour, cocoa, and almonds just until blended.

Roll teaspoonfuls of the dough into ¼ inch balls. Place the balls about 1 inch apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake the cookies until firm but not browned, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to wire racks to cool.

To make the filling, in a small heatproof bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water, combine the chocolate and butter, and heat until softened. Removed from the heat and stir until smooth. Stir in the almonds.

To assemble kisses as a sandwich cookie, spread about 1 teaspoon of the chocolate mixture on the bottom on one cookie. Place a second cooking bottom side down on the filling and press together lightly. Place on a wire rack until the filling is set. Repeat with the remaining cookies and filling.

Source: La Dolce Vita by Michele Scicolone

Seattle Oxblood Cake from Clementine Paddleford

Todays’ cocoa, and today’s buttermilk, have some different chemical properties than they did 60 years ago. Old fashioned cocoa could then give a cake a lovely “reddish” color — a color I believe that resembles the “red velvet” color so popular today.

This is a very good cake, that classic rich combination of cocoa and buttermilk. There are many variations around today, with shifts in ingredients such as adding touches of vanilla or even cinnamon. But here you have the original ancestor, and it’s a noble one.

Truthfully, the original recipe called for ⅔ cup of margarine and I’ve changed that to butter. And I’ve suggested creaming the butter first, on its own, before very gradually adding the sugar. That’s a lesson I’ve learned from Carole Walter, a friend and deeply respected author.

The cake can be knocked off in a few minutes. The Fudge Frosting [from the previous post here] is equally simple. The mathematics is direct: simple + simple = wonderful.

If you are having a party this holiday weekend, this is a classic dessert that will please everyone with a chocolate addiction. [For those poor folks who are not into chocolate, I’ll have dessert solution over the next two days!]

Seattle Oxblood Cake

Yield: one 9” X 13” sheet cake

Ingredients:

  • ⅔ cup butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • ¾ cup cocoa
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup hot water
  • Fudge Icing [see the prior post on this blog]

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13 x 9 x2” -inch pan.

Ii a large bowl using an electric mixer, cream the butter until fluffy. Slowly add the sugar over a two minute period, scraping the bowl frequently. Your goal is to have a mixture with no graininess. Beat in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. The addition of the first egg may be necessary to get that “smooth” batter with no grainy texture.

Add the flour and buttermilk alternately. In a small bowl, combine the cocoa powder, baking soda, salt, and hot water. Fold this cocoa mixture into the butter-sugar-egg batter and stir just until smooth. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 1 hour, until springy and a wooden pick or skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack,

Frost with fudge icing and serve in squares.

Source: The Great American Cookbook by Clementine Paddleford