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A Boat, a Whale & A Walrus Walk Into a...Conversation with Renee Erickson

BoatWhaleWalrusRenee Erickson has earned local and national accolades for her Seattle restaurants over the last couple of years and this fall penned her first cookbook which we promptly chose as a Best Cookbook of October and recently a Best Cookbook of 2014

A Boat, a Whale & A Walrus--named for three of her restaurants: Boat Street Cafe, The Whale Wins, and The Walrus and the Carpenter--is a collection of seasonal menus with personal stories, lots of extras (how-to make a nice cheese plate, favorite holiday wines, intros to local purveyors and family, etc.,), and absolutely gorgeous photographs. It's a cookbook you want to own yourself and also give to your favorite people.

Like the restaurants that inspired it, A Boat, a Whale & A Walrus is relaxed, friendly, and strikingly elegant.   I met up with Erickson a little while ago at The Whale Wins to talk about cooking, restaurants, and what's next.


Seira Wilson:  You own four restaurants and a food truck now, was it easier/less stressful to open the third and fourth restaurant vs. the first?

Renee Erickson: My life’s changed so dramatically since we opened Boat Street, even four years ago when we opened Walrus, that was the big push.  I think more mentally and emotionally because the business itself is packed with stress. 

It was hard to not be at Boat Street all the time, that was the biggest challenge, it was hard to let other people make decisions and be creative and do stuff, but at the end of the day it’s your name and reputation and so that was challenging. 

IMG_2329Then you get really emotionally attached to your guests and you miss them and want to see them and for a long time it was hard, I felt like I was disappointing everyone a little bit because I couldn’t be everywhere. But I think you just kind of get used to it over time. 

Opening two was hard, opening this one [Whale Wins] was much  harder--it’s easy to split your time between two places, but having a third was..for all of us, Jeremy (my business partner), Chad and I, we all were like "whoa" [laughs].  We opened up thinking we could do things the same as the other two but we couldn't so we've been building our infrastructure. With two [restaurants] one of us could be there all the time, but now we need to have people available to do all the things we did and help manage the behind the scenes stuff.

SW: What's a typical day for you?  Do you go to certain restaurants on certain days or..?

RE:  Historically I sort of had a schedule, but now with the book...and with Whale and Walrus there have been lots of photo shoots, stuff for magazines, and that takes priority over my schedule and kind of dictates where I am right now.   It's good, it's exciting, it's always different.  Now it's more that I feel like I'm letting my staff down if I'm not there enough.  We did a photo shoot for Art Culinaire, that was super exciting and stressful because it's sort of a fancy food magazine that I was like, "really? you want me in it?"  because the one that's out right now is all full of Thomas Keller, so I was really nervous and spent two long days getting everything ready and right but it was great, everything turned out really well.

SW: When does that come out? 

RE: April, their 114th issue, it’s all about oysters, so we did a lot of cool dishes. 

SW: It's been so amazing, Bon Appetit Best Restaurant...

RE: I know, two years in a row, it sort of blew my mind. I'm definitely surprised by it all. I've sort of been doing the same thing all along, but I think the timing, all the food mania, is now.

SW: Where do you go, or what do you make at home, at the end of a long night when you’re starving?

RE: If I go out after a long night it's Delancey.  At home, sardines--canned sardines.  Historically, probably cheese and crackers--whatever cheese is in the fridge, glass of wine. Or really plain pasta--something simple.  If it’s in the summer, tomato and basil, or whatever’s around.  Anchovies and chilies.  Love canned sardines.

ClamsSW: Do you have a favorite recipe from A Boat, a Whale & A Walrus?

RE: That’s hard--it’s like your favorite kid or something. It was so much fun. Things I eat the most?  The clams, something I crave and want to eat all the time [Manila Clams from the Sunday at Home chapter]. I love rice pudding, this one’s crazy delicious [Honeyed Rice Pudding Pots from the Lummi Island Spot Prawn Dinner chapter].  Doesn’t photograph well but…  And probably the Messy Spot Prawns.  Sort of last meal food would be the Spot Prawns and...the Côte de Bœuf with Anchovy Butter, which I love. 

SW: Was there anything you had to leave out, the hard cut?

RE: I feel like this was just scratching the surface of what I love, but when we made the outline for the book it was just super easy.  I thought about it for so long that eventually when I sat down with Jess and we thought about it organized by season then it became really obvious which recipes, or events, or menus had been important enough to not let anything else compete with them.  So that part  was really satisfying, to have it come together as a full plan.  It felt really satisfying and comfortable to know it came together easily, without a lot of torture over whether to include this or that.

SW: Do you want to write another cookbook?

RE: Yeah, I would want to do another one.  I think I’d probably like to do more seafood focused, a lot of oyster stuff, I think would be really fun.  Seafood and maybe more preserving stuff because we spend a lot of time doing that too.  Not together, but...you know [laughs]. 

Photos from The Whale Wins

Wine at The Whale Wins
Renee Erickson with A Boat, a Whale & a Walrus
Danny Clinch
Renee with parents Jim and Shirlee
Wine at The Whale Wins
Wine at The Whale Wins
Danny Clinch

Sara Says: All I Want for Christmas Is...

BlumeAll I want for Christmas, as usual, is a big fat novel I can curl up with, all the better to get some quiet time amid the usual family hubbub.  

But even though I’m going to have to wait a bit to read one of the ones I’m most excited about, at least we got an early look at the jacket for Judy Blume’s In the Unlikely Event.

Blume might be best known as a children’s author--many’s the woman who can quote verbatim from Are You There, God, It’s Me Margaret--the fact is that her last adult novel, Summer Sisters, was a huge hit a while back. And this one--about a series of plane crashes that changed the lives of a whole town--will surely be one, too.
 
And while we’re talking about the future, let me also mention that I expect to hide out with Jami Attenberg’s Saint Maizie, which is coming next summer. Her The Middlesteins was one of my favorite books of 2012.

What else? Oh, right--there’s that adorable new Funny Girl from Nick Hornby, which so far has me thinking back to the joy of discovering one of my alltime favorites, High Fidelity.

FidelityAll that said, there are plenty of things we all can get our hands on RIGHT NOW--and for once, one of my most wished for books is not fiction. Instead it’s a gorgeous photography book about the making of the movie Boyhood, complete with pictures of the characters from the movie as they aged during the 12 years of filming. I’m never good at predicting movie awards, but as a book-about-a-film, this one is a prizewinner.

And last but not least, I’m going to catch up with the pseudonymous Italian author, Elena Ferrante, whose Days of Abandonment is one of my favorite dark-books-about-love of all time. Ferrante’s popularity is growing, and I’m sorry I missed My Brilliant Friend, which is the third in her Neapolitan trilogy. The holiday  seems the perfect time to right that wrong. I’m clearly going to have a happy reading holiday. Hope you do, too!
 

Danny Clinch & the Majesty of Rock

If you love music, you've probably seen Danny Clinch's work. Over decades of work, he has photographed the likes of Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Tupac, Tom Waits, Johnny Cash, Bruce Springsteen, Iggy Pop, Jay-Z, and... the list goes on. His work has appeared in Vanity Fair, Spin, Rolling Stone, and the New Yorker, as well as on hundreds of album covers.

His new monograph, Danny Clinch: Still Moving, collectes more than 200 iconic photographs, personal anecdotes, and a foreword by Bruce Springsteen. Enjoy these images from the book, a selection for Amazon.com's Best Books of 2014 in Arts & Photography.

Danny Clinch also plays harmonica. See more at www.dannyclinch.com.

 


Images from Danny Clinch: Still Moving

 

Danny Clinch

Radiohead, 1994

 

Danny Clinch

Preservation Hall Jazz Band, 2010

 

Danny Clinch

Nas, 1993

 

Danny Clinch

Gregg Allman, 2010

 

Danny Clinch

Eddie Vedder & Neil Young, 2006

 

Danny Clinch

Bruce Springsteen, 2003

 

Danny Clinch

Chuck Berry, 2011

 

Danny Clinch

The Roots, 2011

 

Danny Clinch

Lucinda Williams, 2008

 

Danny Clinch

Arcade Fire, 2010

 

Danny Clinch

Camille Styles Holiday Party Idea: Cookies and Cocktails May Be Consumed

CamilleStylesEntertaining'Tis the season for holiday parties and who better than Camille Styles to offer some smart ideas for keeping it festive.  Styles has a very popular lifestyle blog and the author of a new book, Camille Styles Entertaining: Inspired Gatherings and Effortless Style (one of our Best of 2014 in Crafts, Home & Design).  

The book has party ideas for every season so we asked her to share one for the holidays.  As it happens, she wrote about hosting a Holiday Cookie Swap Party just as we finished 12 days of cookie recipes. Cookies and cocktails--I'm so there.


This cookie swap party is one of my favorite gatherings in my new book, Camille Styles Entertaining: Inspired Gatherings and Effortless Style. The book features fresh, inspirational party ideas for every season. Brimming with creative hors d'oeuvres and cocktail recipes, floral design tips, and inspiring table designs—it’s a guide to the simple details and creative shortcuts that make everyday moments feel special.

CamilleStylesCookieSwapIEvery December, my dear friend Myra throws an all-girls cookie swap (with strict instructions to leave the kids and husbands at home!), and we all gather at her house for an afternoon of great company, glasses of bubbly and, of course, way too many sweets! It’s a holiday tradition that all her guests have come to look forward to each holiday season, and this year, I decided to host my own sugar-fueled version.

Here’s the way my cookie swap works: each guest brings a big batch of their favorite homemade holiday cookies with recipe cards to pass around, and at the party, are given a “to-go” box in which they collect a sampling of everyone else’s signature treats. After a couple hours of mixing and mingling, the ladies leave with a box of two dozen or so different kinds of cookies to sample, and (if they’re feeling generous) share with family and friends! It’s a delicious, and slightly dangerous, way to kick off the holidays, and guests are guaranteed to discover a few new recipes that are destined to become family traditions. CamilleStylesCookieSwapIII

The Menu
This party is all about indulging: taste-testing lots of different cookies and saving healthy eating resolutions for the new year! Before everyone showed up, I set up a cookie buffet with a few of my family’s favorite cookies, then let guests add to the mix as they arrived with their creations. One of the great things about a display like this is that it can be completely prepared and set out before the party, allowing me to be hands-off and sip prosecco with my girl friends!

Get the look.
One of my favorite things about having a party around the holidays is that my house is already all decked out! Candles flickering on the mantle and greenery garlands in the entranceway already set the tone for a festive gathering, so all that’s left for me to do is setup the cookie buffet and adorn the table with pinecones and evergreen branches.

I approach designing the buffet just as I would any other focal decor element, considering the colors and proportions of the serving pieces, and using natural elements to add interest and fullness. When choosing serving pieces, I always look for ways to vary the levels of the different pieces — it gives a balanced feel, and it’s much easier for guests to reach the different platters on the table when they’re not all at the same height. For this display, I incorporated a beautiful mix of cake stands and tiered pieces — some new and some collected from thrift stores through the years — that literally elevate the cookies to an artistic display.

Copper and evergreen.
For the simplest, classic holiday look, we filled a vintage copper pitcher with loads of red Ilex berry branches and placed it on the center of the cookie buffet. Change the water and snip the bottom of the branches once a week, and this arrangement can last all the way through the holiday season!

When creating a vignette with flowers and natural elements, think in terms of three’s for the most pleasing arrangement. We combined a single stem peony, a cluster of festival bush branches in an aged copper vessel and a little grouping of pine cones that filled in any gaps. To finish the look, we laid down a “runner” made from cedar branches interspersed with pine.

CamilleStylesCookieSwapII

Better with Cocktails.
Create a festive atmosphere with a bubbly bar — champagne, prosecco or cava will do the trick just fine! Set out glasses so guests can help themselves, and place skewers of sugared cranberries nearby for the ultimate seasonal stir stick. To make them, boil equal parts sugar and water until sugar dissolves, then submerge cranberries in the simple syrup. Use a slotted spoon to transfer to a cooling rack, and allow to dry for an hour. Roll cranberries in a shallow bowl filled with sugar to coat, then allow to dry completely.

Packing it all up.
It’s crucial that your guests have the right-sized vessel for toting home all their cookies… and it’s nice if it’s cuter than a ziploc baggie! I love to collect vintage Christmas tins at antiques stores throughout the year; they make a really special party favor that guests can use to pack up all their cookies. You can also find sturdy cardboard “to-go” boxes at restaurant supply stores - just line them with tissue paper and seal with a sticker or tie with twine. Give guests a couple sheets each of parchment paper to be used as liners between layers, protecting the more delicate cookies.

 

These Are the STAR WARS Books You're Looking For

So did you hear that there's a new Star Wars movie on the way? Chances are you know someone who's a little excited about it, if you're not excited about it enough yourself (soccer droids notwithstanding). If you can't wait till the A.D. 2015 premiere, a pair of titles released this fall will delight even the most fanatical devotees. Star Wars Costumes presents the original costumes of episodes IV, V, and VI, as well as previously unreleased sketches and photos (watch the book trailer and see this PDF for sample pages), while Star Wars Art: Posters collects artwork from all six Star Wars films, the Star Wars: The Clone Wars, and limited-edition prints.

Enjoy the forward to Star Wars Art: Posters and these sample images from the book.


Star Wars Art: PostersFOREWORD TO STAR WARS ART: POSTERS

by Drew Struzan

Something new and exciting entered our world with the release of Star Wars in 1977. Star Wars moved the world. It changed not only movies, but also how we view ourselves, our world, our future, our language, our fantasies, our dreams, and, yes, our art. It gave us catchphrases, such as “May the Force be with you,” “Let the Wookiee win,” “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for,” and (the ultimate) “Use the Force, Luke.”

For me, Star Wars was not only a grand subject to paint; it also brought me into association with George Lucas. It was the turning point in my career. I went from relative obscurity to being a real part of a phenomenon. At the time, films generally enjoyed an opening-weekend release, saw a short run of a week or so, and were gone. But Star Wars kept drawing crowds. The interest did not wane for months. As a result, Lucasfilm decided to refresh the look of its marketing with a new poster.

Here’s where I came in—well, not exactly.

Charles White III was commissioned to create this new poster. He was not, however, a portrait artist. Charlie had seen my work and decided to call me in as a collaborator. I painted the portraits, while he painted the hardware. Lucasfilm liked the artwork, but there was not enough space left open for the “billing block” (credits). Necessity being the mother of invention, we decided to enlarge the dimensions of the art to increase the open space and give the work an early-twentieth-century, wild-posted circus-style look. Charlie made the edges of the painting appear torn and aged. I painted a portrait of Obi-Wan that was layered “under” the edge. So it came about that it took the two of us to paint what would come to be known as the “Circus” poster for its throwback style. The poster also became the favorite of the Master, George Lucas, whom I still had not met.

It was not until 1991 that I finally encountered the Star Wars originator. At the time, I was working on the cover of his filmography The Creative Impulse. I had just finished the poster for Steven Spielberg’s movie Hook, which had recently wrapped, and the production department was throwing a huge party. The entire parking lot of Sony Pictures was covered with three giant tents and was loaded with bands, restaurants, arcade games, cookie carts, and all manner of distractions. It seemed as if everyone who was any¬one in Hollywood had been invited.

My wife and I, being pretty much out of our element, stood far to the back, watching the parade of stars pass by. Standing on the opposite side of the parade was another lone figure taking in the hoopla. My wife, Dylan, thought she recognized him from the portrait I was painting and urged me to go introduce myself. Reluctantly, I waded toward him through the crowd. “Hi, I’m Drew,” I said at the top of my lungs. “Hi, I’m George,” he replied at full volume, barely audible. That was all we could hear through the din. Smiling, I fought my way back to my wife. “Yup, it is George,” I said. My excitement was palpable.

Later we ran into some friends who screamed, “You’ll never guess who was just here, excited that he had finally met Drew Struzan.” So there you have it. We had met at last, and from that day forward we have spoken and collaborated on numerous occasions. Two quiet guys. Pleased to know and be known by each other.

How can I think about or recall Star Wars without thinking of George? Star Wars is George. His mind, imagination, drive, creativity, heart, and soul are best understood by knowing his work. He is a good man, always loyal and supportive. My grand blessing in life has been the opportunity to be a part of the Star Wars “family” and to have been known by this good fellow, George Lucas.

Skip to December 1997.

It is the holiday season. The phone rings. George is on the line. He says something to the effect that he is releasing Special Editions of the three Star Wars movies. He asks me to create one work of art for the poster. Am I astonished? Uh, well, yes. “I’d be honored,” I say. Well, maybe I didn’t say it just that way, but that’s what I felt—and then I stuck my presumptuous foot in my mouth: “Hold on... You have a grand opportunity here to do a triptych, three posters that will work together as one.” He says, “Good idea. How do you see it?”

I began to talk off the top of my head, describing what I imagined. As I recall, six designers from Lucasfilm were listening in on the conversation. They began sketching as I was explaining. Then they sent a fax that asked, “Something like these?” Yes. Good. OK. And from there, “it” began.

Good design is simple and to the point, not rendered or flourished. The movie renders the idea. My job is to summarize and simplify a film’s essence. I was given one week each to design, draw, and paint these three posters for three different films. Normally, this process takes at least a month per poster and involves comprehensive drawings that are subject to criticism, changes, and approvals even before the work goes to finish. Then the labor of love—brush to canvas. This was different.

The first piece had to be done by Christmas. The second piece was completed by New Year’s. The third piece, a week into the New Year. No holidays. No weekends. Little rest for a month. Add to that the fact that I was not able to paint the images side-by-side to match and balance them. As I finished one painting, it was delivered immediately to Lucasfilm. I had to work from memory to complete the next in the series. This is the life of an illustrator. Everything is always a big rush. Everything is always a deadline. The posters all hit their openings on schedule.

Voilà! And then there were three. I could finally rest. And then, a few years later, there were six. And all along the way, dozens of book covers, post¬age stamps, and special projects—thirty-five years’ worth of association with Star Wars.

When you look at my Star Wars works, you see my take on George’s creation. When I begin a project, I look for the thing that drove the creator to make his sacrifice. People spend years of their time and power trying to bring these worlds to fruition. For my part, I think hard on their expression. I feel my way through their heart and soul and try to capture that in a single image.

One thing I’ve learned recently is that we think we are beings of reason and that reason is our power, but we have to admit the heart is stronger than the mind. Our hearts are at the center of our power. We can be more than what we are if we just let the Force flow within us so that we are present in every waking hour. All you have to do is choose.

George’s vision has lasted nearly forty years. Star Wars is preparing to go for another round, offering a new generation of artists an opportunity to express their creative insight. I count it as an honor to have been granted the autonomy to circulate in the Star Wars orbit by its creator, to bring my talents to bear on this grand vision. I am not alone. This book is a testimony to the adage that the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts.

Though I write of my experiences in the Star Wars universe, I know that all the artists represented in this volume are stars in the fantastic universe of George Lucas. I believe their experiences are all much the same as mine. Enjoy their art, their hearts, and their dreams, and get carried away with me in their wonder and visions.

God bless you my friend, George Lucas. Thirty-seven years a blessing and counting.

“May the Force be with you.”

 

Star Wars Art: Posters

 

Star Wars Art: Posters

 

Star Wars Art: Posters

 

Star Wars Art: Posters

 

Star Wars Art: Posters

 

Star Wars Art: Posters

 

Star Wars Art: Posters

 

Star Wars Art: Posters

 

Star Wars Art: Posters

 

Star Wars Art: Posters

 

Star Wars Art: Posters

 

Star Wars Art: Posters

 

(C) 2014 Lucasfilm Ltd. And TM. All Rights Reserved. Used Under Authorization

12 Days of Cookie Recipes: Giada, Ina, Ree, Dorie and More

Now that we've shared the favorite holiday cookie from 10 different popular cookbook authors and 2 amazing bakeries, the only question is what to make first? 

All are mouth-watering and alone or collectively will be a hit this holiday season.  In case you missed a day somewhere along the line, here are all 12 days:12DaysCookiesCollage

12 Days of Cookie Recipes: Ladurée's Quintessentially Christmas Macaron

LadureeMacarons For the last of our 12 Days of Cookie Recipes we've chosen the much lauded macaron from Ladurée Macarons .  Here's why this is the book for such a recipe: in the middle of the twentieth century, Pierre Desfontaines, cousin of Louis Ernest Ladurée, created the first Ladurée macaron by having the genius to stick two macaron cookies together and fill them with a flavorful ganache.  Since that pivotal patisserie moment, Ladurée has created a new flavor of macaron every year, and in this beautiful book you can see the recipes for 80 of them.  

When this package landed on my desk I had to show it to everyone around me because it's so gorgeous. The book itself comes in a square box (with the cover you see here) folded into tissue paper just like a box of chocolates.  Except instead of chocolates it's a lavishly photographed, gilt-edged book of Parisian bakery goodness.  As the final cookie for our 12 Days of Cookie Recipes, what could be better than Ladurée's Quintessentially Christmas Macaron?

Quintessentially Christmas Macarons
Makes approx. 50 macarons
QunitessentiallyChristmasMacarons
Prepare: 1 h 10 min
Cook: 14 min
Refrigerate: 1 h + 12 h minimum
 
Chocolate Ganache

  • 10¼ oz (290 g) dark chocolate (70% cacao)
  • 4½ tbsp (70 ml) heavy (whipping) cream
  • 7 tbsp (100 ml) orange juice
  • 7 tbsp (100 ml) tangerine (clementine) juice
  • ½ vanilla bean
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 star anise

Macaron Shells
Basic recipe: Chocolate Macaron Shells (see below)
 
Equipment
Small saucepan
Piping bag fitted with a ½ inch (10 mm) plain tip
 
1. Prepare the chocolate ganache filling.  Use a knife to finely chop the chocolate; place in a bowl.  Put the cream, juice and spices into a small saucepan and bring to the boil.  Set aside to infuse for 15 minutes.  Heat again until simmering then, strain.  Add the hot cream-juice preparation to the chocolate in three parts. Stir well with a wooden spoon after each addition until the ingredients are well blended.  Cover with plastic wrap (cling film) placing it directly on the ganache.
 
2. Cool the ganache at room temperature.  Refrigerate for 1 hour or until firm enough to be piped.
 
3. Make the chocolate macaron shells (step by step photos p. 294).
 
4. Spoon the chocolate ganache into a piping bag fitted with a plain tip.  Pipe a small mound of filling on the flat side of half the shells, and cover with the remaining shells.
Refrigerate the macarons for a minimum of 12 hours before serving.

Chocolate Macaron Shells
Makes approx. 100 shells
Prepare: 50 min
Cook: 14 min
 

  • 2½ cups + 1 tbsp (260 g) ground almonds (flour)
  • 2 cups + 1 tbsp (250 g) confectioner’s (icing) sugar
  • 2½ tbsp (15 g) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2¼ oz (65 g) dark chocolate (70% cacao)
  • 6½ egg whites at room temp.
  • 1 cup + 1 tbsp (210 g) castor sugar

Equipment
Food processor
Digital candy thermometer
Whisk + flexible spatula
Piping bag fitted with a ½ inch (10 mm) plain tip
 
1. Combine the ground almonds, confectioner’s (icing) sugar and cocoa powder in a food processor. Pulse to a fine powder then, sift. Melt the chocolate in a heat resistant bowl, placed overa slowly simmering bain-marie (or in a microwave) until warm, about 95 °F (35 °C)
 
2. In a clean dry bowl, gently whisk the 6 egg whites until foamy. Add a third of the sugar; whisk for about 1 minute until dissolved. Add half the remaining sugar; continue whisking for 1 minute. Add the rest of the sugar, whisking for about a minute until firm, glossy peaks form. Pour the melted chocolate into the egg whites. Use a spatula to roughly incorporate it then, gently fold in the sifted almond-sugar-cocoa mixture. In a small bowl, whisk the ½ egg white until frothy; stir into the chocolate macaron shell batter to moisten and soften it.
 
3. Spoon the batter into a piping bag fitted with a plain tip. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper and pipe small, well spaced 1½ inch (3-4 cm) rounds of batter onto it. Lightly tap the baking sheet on the work surface to spread the rounds. Set aside uncovered for 10 minutes to allow a crust to form. Preheat the oven to 300 °F, 150 °C, or gas mark 2. Bake the shells for 14-15 minutes.
 
4. Remove the baking sheet from the oven, carefully lift the corners of the parchment paper, and using a small glass, pour a little water between the paper and the hot baking sheet. Do not use too much water or the shells will become soggy – the humidity and the steam produced will help remove the shells more easily when cold. Carefully lift half the cold shells off the parchment paper and place, flat side up, on a plate.

 

Macarons_Pkg

Ladurée Macarons was chosen as one of our editors' picks for the Best Cookbooks of December.

In case you missed it, here are our previous 12 Days of Cookies posts:

12 Days of Cookie Recipes: Gina Homolka's Double Chocolate Chunk Cookies with Walnuts

Gina Homolka singlehandedly changed how I feel about low-calorie food with The Skinnytaste Cookbook.  Now Homolka is really blowing my mind with her cookie recipe below (also from the cookbook), that contains avocado instead of butter.  Shut the front door! you might say--or something like it--but it's true.  And if this cookie is anywhere near as good as her other lightened up recipes, it's going to be the best guilt-free holiday cookie around.

These Double Chocolate Chunk Cookies with Walnuts are rich, chewy and chocolatey –everything I love in a cookie!  But what I love most about them is I swapped the butter for healthy fats (mashed avocado) but I swear you would never know!! --Gina Homolka


Double Chocolate Chunk Walnut Cookies
Makes 24 cookies

I’ve done some crazy, unconventional things in baking, but using avocados in place of butter may just be the craziest. Believe it or not, it works! For these chewy cookies made with chunks of chocolate and walnuts in every bite, I use absolutely no butter. They taste too good to be light—and you can’t detect the taste of avocados at all. I tested these out on many unsuspecting adults, children, and teens, and everyone loved them. Karina, my college-age daughter, was the ultimate test—she’s a true chocoholic. She thinks they’re pretty awesome!
DoubleChocolateChipWalnutCookies_Homolka

  • Cooking spray or oil mister (optional)
  • 1⁄2 cup raw sugar
  • 1⁄3 cup unpacked dark brown sugar
  • 1⁄4 cup mashed avocado
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1⁄2 cup (65 grams) white whole wheat unbleached flour (I recommend King Arthur)
  • 1⁄3 cup (50 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1⁄3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I use Trader Joe’s)
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1⁄8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1⁄3 cup semisweet chocolate chunks
  • 1⁄2 cup finely chopped walnuts


Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line 2 regular baking sheets with silicone baking mats (such as Silpats) or lightly spray nonstick baking sheets with oil.

In a large bowl, using an electric hand mixer, whisk together the sugars, avocado, applesauce, egg white, and vanilla until the sugar dissolves, about 2 to 3 minutes.

In a separate large bowl, whisk together the flours, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Fold in the dry ingredients with a spatula in two additions. Using a spatula, fold in the chocolate chunks and walnuts. The dough will be very sticky. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate 15 minutes.

Drop the dough by tablespoonfuls about 1 inch apart onto the prepared baking sheets and smooth the tops. Bake until almost set, 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes on the pan, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Per serving (2 cookies)
calories 152
fat 5.5 g
saturated fat 1.5 g
cholesterol 0 mg
carbohydrate 25 g
fiber 2 g
protein 3 g
sugars 15 g
sodium 48 mg


Gina Homolka is the author of The Skinnytaste Cookbook, one of our Best Cookbooks of 2014.

Skinnytaste GinaHomolkaIn case you missed it, here are our previous 12 Days of Cookies posts:

12 Days of Cookie Recipes: Ina Garten's Salty Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookies

I love Ina Garten's cookies--one of my favorites is her ginger molasses cookie that uses chunks of candied ginger.  Of all the cookies in her repertoire I was really curious to see which one she would pick as her holiday favorite so I was pretty delighted when it turned out to be a cookie inspired by a beloved Seattle confectioner.  Garten's Salty Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk cookie below also shows up in her new cookbook, Make It Ahead.  A stash of these cookies in my freezer sounds like a brilliant idea...

This may be my favorite cookie of all time; ever since I tasted Fran’s Salted Caramels from Seattle, I’ve been obsessed with the combination of sweet and salty.  This cookie has it all – the texture of a great oatmeal cookie with sweet chocolate chunks, tart dried cranberries, lots of good vanilla, and the sea salt sprinkled on top wakes up all the flavors.  This is a cookie that both adults and kids will love for the holidays! -- Ina Garten


Salty Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Makes 28 to 32 Cookies

Oatmeal cookies or chocolate chunk cookies—which would my friends like best? How about both together? Some dried cranberries for tartness and a sprinkle of sea salt make these my all-time favorite cookies.

  SaltyOatmealChocolateChunkCookie_InaGarten500H

  • ½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ¾ cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1¼ cups old-fashioned oats, such as Quaker
  • ¾ pound bittersweet chocolate, such as Lindt, chopped in chunks
  • ¾ cup dried cranberries
  • Fleur de sel

 

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line 3 sheet pans with parchment paper.

In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar on medium-high speed for 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula. On low speed, add the vanilla, then the eggs, one at a time. Scrape down the bowl again.

Meanwhile, sift the flour, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl. Mix in the oats. With the mixer on low, slowly add the flour mixture to the butter-sugar mixture. Don’t overbeat it! With a rubber spatula, stir in the chocolate and cranberries until the dough is well mixed. With a 1¾-inch ice cream scoop (or two spoons), scoop round balls of dough onto the prepared sheet pans. Sprinkle lightly with fleur de sel. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until nicely browned. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Note: If you prefer cookies thin and crisp, bake them straight from the mixing bowl. If you prefer them chewy in the middle and crisp outside, chill the balls of dough.

MAKE IT AHEAD: Scoop balls of dough, place in sealed containers, and refrigerate for up to a week or freeze for up to 3 months. Defrost and bake before serving. Baked cookies can be stored in plastic bags and reheated for 5 minutes at 350 degrees.


Ina Garten is the author of several best-selling cookbooks, including her most recent, Make It Ahead: A Barefoot Contessa Cookbook -- one of our editors' picks for the Best Cookbooks of 2014.

MakeItAhead

In case you missed it, here are our previous 12 Days of Cookies posts:

12 Days of Cookie Recipes: Dorie Greenspan's Fruit and Nut Croquants

I recently had the chance to attend a cooking demo by Dorie Greenspan as part of her book tour for Baking Chez Moi, and I was struck by how much knowledge and good humor is packed into one tiny woman.  We watched as Greenspan (assisted by an accomplished local chef) made gorgeous Crackle-Top Cream Puffs and a Tarte Tropézienne.  It was an amazing experience and I left truly inspired to bake.  Greenspan has cooked with the best of the best--Julia Child and Daniel Boulud, to name just two.  What's her holiday cookie of choice?  Here's what she picked and why.

Fruit And Nut Croquants, a French cookie, have the good looks and great texture of biscotti, but because they're only baked once, it takes half the time to make a batch, no small thing during the busy cookie-baking season. I love the texture of these cookies: mostly crunchy and then a little chewy when you get to the dried fruit. I love the flavor: not too sweet and just a little spicy, if you'd like. And I love their play-aroundability: you can make these cookies a house special by using whatever combination of fruits and nuts you like and by adding different spices, a little citrus zest or even a little orange-flower water, the way they do in the South of France. Whatever you do, you'll have a cookie that's easy and quick to put together; fun to make (anytime you can get your hands in the dough, it's fun); good with coffee or tea, and just as good with red wine or dessert wine; and a guaranteed crowd-pleaser – I know, because I've been pleasing crowds with this cookie for years chez moi.-- Dorie Greenspan


Fruit and Nut Croquants
Makes about 30 cookies


The word croquant can be both an adjective and a noun. As an adjective, it’s easy: It means “crunchy.” As a noun, it can be confusing: It usually refers to a cookie, but there are bunches of cookies that carry the appellation and, depending on who’s making them and where, the cookies can vary in size, shape, flavor and degree of croquant-ness. Say croquant, and most French cookie lovers think of the ones from the south of France, which are usually studded with whole almonds and flavored with orange-flower water.GreenspanFruitandNutCroquants

However, the croquants that really caught my attention came from a small bakery in Lyon. The Lyonnaise cookies weren’t flavored with orange-flower water—in fact, I didn’t detect any flavoring at all—and in addition to lots of almonds, they had other nuts and dried fruits. They looked similar to biscotti or mandelbrot, the Eastern European version of the double-baked sweet, and while they were called croquant, they didn’t quite live up to their name (or their nickname: casse-dents, which means “tooth breakers”)—they were crunchy on the outside and just a little softer and chewier on the inside.

I’ve flavored these with vanilla, but if a whiff of orange-flower water appeals to you, go ahead and add it. When I’ve got oranges in the house or, better yet, tangerines or clementines, I add some grated zest whether I’m using vanilla or orange-flower water, or a combination of both. As for the nuts and dried fruits, I leave their selection up to you, although I think you should go heavier on the nuts than the fruit. For sure you should have whole almonds (preferably with their skins on), but you can also use cashews, walnuts, (skinned) hazelnuts, macadamias or pistachios. Similarly, while I often add golden raisins, there’s no reason not to consider dried cherries, pieces of dried apricots or even slim wedges of dried figs.

  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg white, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon pure almond extract (optional)
  • Finely grated zest of 1 tangerine or orange (optional)
  • ¾ cup (150 grams) sugar
  • 2 cups (272 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
  • Pinch of ground cloves (optional)
  • 8 ounces (227 grams) dried fruits and whole nuts (see above)
  • Sugar, for sprinkling


Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

Put the eggs and egg white in a liquid measuring cup, add the vanilla and the almond extract, if you’re using it, and beat the eggs lightly with a fork, just until they’re foamy.

If you’re using grated zest, put it in the bowl of a stand mixer, or in a large bowl in which you can use a hand mixer. Add the sugar and, using your fingertips, rub the sugar and zest together until the sugar is moist and fragrant (or just add the sugar to the bowl). Add the flour, baking powder, salt and spices, if you’re using them. Fit the stand mixer with the paddle attachment, set the bowl on the stand and turn the mixer to low, just to blend the ingredients. If you’re using a hand mixer, just use a whisk to combine the ingredients.

With the mixer on low, steadily pour in the eggs. Once the dough starts to come together, add the dried fruits and nuts and keep mixing until the dough cleans the sides of the bowl. You’ll probably have dry ingredients in the bottom of the bowl; use a flexible spatula to stir them into the sticky dough.

Spoon half the dough onto the lined baking sheet a few inches away from one of the long sides, and use your fingers and the spatula to cajole the dough into a log that’s 10 to 12 inches long and 2 to 2½ inches wide. The log will be rectangular, not domed, and pretty rough and ragged. Shape a second log with the remaining dough on the other side of the baking sheet. Leave space between the logs—they will spread as they bake. Sprinkle the logs with sugar.

Bake the logs for 45 to 50 minutes, or until browned and firm to the touch. (If you want the croquants to be softer and chewier, bake them for 40 minutes.) Place each log on a cutting board, wait 5 minutes and then, using a serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion, cut into slices about ½ inch thick. Transfer the slices to a rack and allow them to cool to room temperature.

Serving: It’s hard to resist dunking these cookies, so don’t. They’re great with coffee, tea, red wine or dessert wine.

Storing: Moisture and crunch don’t mix, so find a dry place for these. A cookie jar, tin or storage tub works well, but because they’re meant to be hard, I just keep them in an uncovered bowl or basket. Yes, they get firmer, but I’m fine with that. If your cookies lose their crunch, heat them in a 350-degree-F oven for about 10 minutes.

Excerpted from BAKING CHEZ MOI, © 2014 by Dorie Greenspan.
Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.


Dorie Greenspan is the author of numerous cookbooks, including her most recent, Baking Chez Moi: Recipes From My Paris Home to Your Home Anywhere--one of our editors' 20 Best Cookbooks of 2014 picks. 

BakingChezMoiDorieGreenspan

In case you missed it, here are our previous 12 Days of Cookies posts:


 

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