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About Seira Wilson

Seira Wilson can't remember a time when she wasn't surrounded by books, and instead of "eat your peas" her mother always said, "no reading at the dinner table." Not much has changed--today her house is filled with books: biographies, humorous fiction (it's good for what ails you), children's books, cookbooks, more fiction. And when she's alone, Seira reads at the dinner table.

Posts by Seira

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

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.

 

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:


 

12 Days of Cookie Recipes: Joy the Baker's Melty Chocolate Truffle Cookie

Joy Wilson, a.k.a. Joy the Baker, is a woman who knows how to make life a little sweeter with the help of butter, sugar, chocolate, marshmallow, caramel or...well, you get the picture.  So what cookie does someone who bakes every day want to make for her friends and family?

“The holidays require a bit of decadence. These Melty Chocolate Truffle Cookies are my favorite thing to gift during the holidays because they’re simple, rich, stay moist and tender on a pretty cookie plate, and they look like they’re covered in a light dusting of snow.  Adding a dash of peppermint extract makes them the perfect Winter holiday treat!” --Joy Wilson


Melt-y Chocolate-Truffle Cookies

Let’s be the kind of people who throw dinner parties with matching china. Let’s be the kind of people who don’t knock over their wine glasses during a very animated reenactment of their favorite scenes from Anchorman (because, yeah, we’re still talking about that movie). Let’s be the kind of people who have coffee brewed and little dessert cookies ready for serving. These are them. Good luck with the wine spill.MeltyChocolateTruffleCookies_JoyTheBaker

 

  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup (about 3 ounces) chopped dark chocolate (I used a 70% cacao chocolate)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar

 

 

 

 

1. Put racks in the center and upper third of the oven and preheat the oven to 375°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt, and espresso powder, if using. Add the butter and rub the butter into the dry ingredients until thoroughly combined. The mixture will be relatively dry and resemble breadcrumbs. Add the chopped chocolate and toss well.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and vanilla. Add the egg mixture to the chocolate mixture and stir with a fork until the mixture is slightly moistened. Use your hands to press the dough into a ball. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

4. Put the confectioners’ sugar in a medium bowl. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and shape it into tablespoon-size balls. Generously coat the balls, one at a time, in the confectioners’ sugar and place on the prepared baking sheets. Leave about 2 inches of space between each cookie. Bake until the cookies are just set, but still slightly undercooked on the inside, about 10 minutes. Let cool on the pans for 5 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely. Serve warm (preferably right after dinner).

The cookies will keep in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

Makes about 18 cookies

 


Joy Wilson is the creator of the popular blog, Joy the Baker, and the author of two cookbooks on baking, including Homemade Decadence, where you'll find the cookie above (Homemade Decadence was one of our Best Cookbooks of October).

JoyWilson HomemadeDecadence

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

12 Days of Cookie Recipes: Danielle Walker's Gluten-Free Peppermint Chocolate Macaroons

I imagine that these days nearly all of us know someone who is gluten-free, dairy-free, or both, and coming up with a holiday cookie for them might seem challenging.  Not so for Danielle Walker, a self taught cook who has brought the experience and expertise she's cultivated following her own autoimmune diagnosis to thousands of others looking for grain-free, dairy-free, and paleo recipes that don't sacrifice taste.  Case in point, Walker's favorite holiday cookie recipe below.

Reminiscent of a Peppermint Mocha beverage, these holiday cookies come together easily and are always a crowd pleaser. Stack a few up and wrap them in some cellophane tied with a ribbon for the perfect gift this holiday season! -- Danielle Walker


Peppermint Chocolate Macaroons
SERVES: 2 dozen

Mint_Chocolate_Macaroons_DanielleWalkerIngredients:

  • 3 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
  • ½ cup cacao powder
  • ½ cup honey
  • ½ cup full-fat coconut milk
  • ½ teaspoon peppermint extract
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg white
  • dash of sea salt

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. Combine the first 6 ingredients in a bowl.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, or using an electric mixer, beat the egg white with a small pinch of salt. Beat for 1-2 minutes until soft peaks form when you lift the mixer out.
  4. Fold the egg white into the coconut mixture and mix gently until fully combined.
  5. Using a cookie scoop or tablespoon, scoop out balls of dough and pack them together tightly either by lightly knocking the scoop onto the side of the bowl or pushing it down with your fingers.
  6. Place the dough on a parchment lined cookie sheet and bake for 30 minutes, rotating the tray half way through.
  7. Cool on a wire cooling rack for 1 hour. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.
  8. Optional – dip the bottoms of the macaroons in melted dark chocolate mixed with ¼ teaspoon peppermint extract for an even more decadent treat!

 


 Danielle Walker's most recent cookbook is Against All Grain: Meals Made Simple: Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, and Paleo Recipes to Make Anytime,  one of our editors' picks for the the Best Cookbooks of 2014.

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

 

12 Days of Cookie Recipes: Giada De Laurentiis' Double Chocolate and Espresso Cookie

Whenever I watch Giada De Laurentiis on her Food Network show, Giada at Home, I want to make everything I've seen in the past 30 minutes.  She has a way of making great food look easy and when she tells you how delicious something is--especially the desserts--you know it's true.  Her relaxed style and care with ingredients comes across in her cookbooks, too.  In Weeknights with Giada espresso and chocolate are the foundation for the gorgeous cookie recipe below--who wouldn't want these on a holiday cookie tray!?

This cookie is a holiday favorite of mine because it combines two of my all-time loves: chocolate and espresso. It’s actually a quadruple dose of chocolate with the cocoa powder, melted chocolate, the chocolate-covered espresso beans, and the chocolate chips. Pure decadence. --Giada De Laurentiis


double chocolate and espresso cookies
makes 10 to 12 (3-inch) cookiesDoubleChocolateEspressoCookies_Giada

  •  1/3 cup dark chocolate–covered espresso beans
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, such as Ghirardelli, chopped into ½-inch pieces
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, such as Nestlé Toll House


Place an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 300°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment.

In the bowl of a food processor, finely chop the chocolate-covered espresso beans. In a medium bowl, whisk together the chopped espresso beans, the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt.
WeeknightsGiada
Put the butter and chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on medium power (50%) for 1 minute and 30 seconds. Stir and microwave on medium power (50%) for 1 minute. Stir until the chocolate is fully melted and smooth; the mixture will be thick.

In another medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, eggs, 2 tablespoons water, and the vanilla. Gradually add the dry ingredients and stir until thick and smooth. Fold in the melted chocolate. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Using a cookie or ice cream scoop, scoop level ¼-cup balls of the batter onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing them 2 inches apart. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until slightly puffed and the tops begin to crack. Allow the cookies to cool completely on the baking sheets.

 


GiadaGiada De Laurentiis is the author of several cookbooks including Weeknights with Giada, where you'll find the recipe above.  Her most recent book is Giada's Feel Good Food

 

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

12 Days of Cookie Recipes: America's Test Kitchen's Pecan Bars

The America's Test Kitchen goes to all the trouble to search out--and of course, test--the best kitchen equipment and recipes so that the rest of us don't have to.  We wanted to know what their holiday cookie of choice would be and it includes two of my favorite winter baking ingredients--pecans and rum.  Check out the recipe below, you can find it, along with 927 (give or take) other pages of goodness, in their latest cookbook, The America's Test Kitchen New Family Cookbook.

A rich pecan shortbread crust is topped with a not-too-sweet pecan filling flavored with bourbon and vanilla. A dash of salt adds savory notes to these bars that hold up well for a week--but they won't last that long.--The Test Kitchen Team at America's Test Kitchen


Pecan Bars
Makes 16 squares  Total time 1 hour 15 minutes (plus cooling time)

ATK_PecanBars

why this recipe works: We wanted the best qualities of pecan pie—buttery crust, gooey filling, and nutty topping—packed into bite-size squares.

Starting from the bottom up, we made a substantial shortbread crust, with chopped toasted pecans for flavor and tenderness.

Since the ratio of filling to crust is proportionately less in bars than pie, our filling needed to be intensely flavored. To boost the flavor, we added vanilla as well as a hint of bourbon (dark rum works, too) to cut through the sweetness. A half-teaspoon of salt sharpened the sweetness and intensified the pecan flavor.

As for the pecans, while halves look attractive, they made the bars difficult to cut. Coarsely chopped pecans were much easier to handle, and to eat.

Crust

  •    1 cup (5 ounces) all-purpose flour
  •    1/3  cup packed (21/3 ounces) light brown sugar
  •     1/4     cup pecans, toasted and chopped coarse
  •     1  teaspoon salt
  •     1/4  teaspoon baking powder
  •     6   tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces and chilled

Filling

  •     1/2 cup packed (31/2 ounces) light brown sugar
  •     1/3  cup light corn syrup
  •     4  tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  •     1  tablespoon bourbon or dark rum
  •     2  teaspoons vanilla extract
  •     1/2  teaspoon salt
  •     1  large egg, lightly beaten
  •     1 3/4 cups pecans, toasted and chopped coarseATK_cover


1. For the crust: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Make foil sling for 8‑inch square baking pan by folding 2 long sheets of aluminum foil so each is 8 inches wide. Lay sheets of foil in pan perpendicular to each other, with extra foil hanging over edges of pan. Push foil into corners and up sides of pan, smoothing foil flush to pan, and grease foil.


2. Process flour, sugar, pecans, salt, and baking powder in food processor until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal, about 5 pulses. Sprinkle butter over top and pulse until mixture is pale yellow and resembles coarse cornmeal, about 8 pulses.


3. Sprinkle mixture into prepared pan and press firmly into even layer using your fingers. Bake until crust starts to brown, 20 to 24 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking.


4. For the filling: As soon as crust finishes baking, whisk sugar, corn syrup, melted butter, bourbon, vanilla, and salt together in bowl until just combined. Whisk in egg until incorporated. Pour mixture over hot crust and sprinkle with pecans. Bake until top is brown and cracks start to form across surface, 25 to 30 minutes.


5. Let bars cool completely, about 2 hours. Using foil overhang, lift bars from pan. Cut into squares and serve.


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

 

12 Days of Cookie Recipes: Ree Drummond's Chocolate Candy Cane Cookies

Ree Drummond, the Pioneer Woman we've come to know and love on television and in print, hosts our Day 4 cookie from her latest book: The Pioneer Woman Cooks: A Year of Holidays.  I believe it when she says these are habit-forming--makes sure you set aside a little stack for yourself if you are taking these to friends.  See why these are Drummond's favorites and get the recipe below.  You can also find links to the last three days of cookie recipes at the bottom of the post.

A lot of times, cookies that are beautiful aren’t always tasty. But these are as delicious as they are gorgeous: deep chocolate cookies adorned with white chocolate and crushed peppermints. They always dress up any Christmas cookie platter, and they’re definitely habit-forming!--Ree Drummond


CHOCOLATE CANDY CANE COOKIES
MAKES 32 COOKIES
ReeDrummondChocolateCandyCaneCookies
When I make these delicious delights at Christmastime, I commit the cardinal sin of gluttony. Repeatedly. Until they’re all gone and I’m staring at an empty platter.


But wait! Before you condemn me to whatever wretched place people who commit one of the deadly sins at Christmastime go (that made no grammatical sense), please hear me out. I have a really good excuse!
They are really, really yummy.
I mean it. There’s something about the slightly soft chocolate cookie, coated with white chocolate and dipped in crushed mints. One is never enough. Ten is never enough. How many does this recipe make again? Thirty‑two? Well okay, then. Thirty‑two isn’t enough either!
But then again, I might have issues.

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Large handfuls of both red and green peppermints
  • 4 ounces (4 squares) almond bark or white baking chocolate


1. Add the butter and powdered sugar to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat them together until the mixture is nice and smooth. Mix in the egg and vanilla.


2. Add the cocoa powder, flour, and salt and mix just until the dough comes together. Press a piece of plastic wrap on the surface of the dough and refrigerate it for a couple of hours.


3. While the dough is chilling away, unwrap the candies and place them in separate plastic bags. Grab a rolling pin and release your rage upon the mints. You want to crush them! You want to obliterate them! Just think of all the ways they’ve wronged you! Place the crushed mints in separate bowls and set them aside.


4. When the dough is finished chilling, preheat the oven to 375°F. Roll the dough into balls, place the balls on baking sheets lined with parchment paper or baking mats, and flatten them slightly with the bottom of a coffee mug or glass. Bake the cookies for 7 to 9 minutes, or until just set. Remove them from the oven and let them cool completely.


5. While the cookies cool, melt the almond bark in a double boiler or a microwave‑safe bowl. Stir until smooth.


6. One at a time, dip the cookies halfway into the melted almond bark and sprinkle the top side generously with crushed mints, holding the cookies over the bowls to catch the excess. You can mix red and green on the same cookie, or you can do some cookies with just red and some with just green. No one can make that decision but you.


7. Lay the cookies, sprinkled side up, on parchment paper or a baking mat and allow them to set completely. Serve them with a few whole mints on the side. You’ll absolutely love these.

NOTE: Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days before delivering, or in the freezer in storage bags for up to 3 months.

Variations
• Dip in Christmas-colored sprinkles instead of peppermints.
• Use different colors of candy melts (red, green, etc.) instead of white.
• Roll out the cookies and cut candy cane-shaped cookies. Dip half the cookies and coat in candy.


Ree Drummond is the author of several Pioneer Woman cookbooks including her latest, The Pioneer Woman Cooks: A Year of Holidays: 140 Step-by-Step Recipes for Simple, Scrumptious Celebrations as well as a series of children's books featuring a ranch dog named Charlie.

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/31U1KlFt2DL._UX250_.jpghttp://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51VinpxwH-L._UY250_.jpg

Here are our previous 12 Days of Cookies posts:

12 Days of Cookie Recipes: Rose Levy Beranbaum's Ischler Cookie

Day 2 of our 12 Days of Cookie Recipes is from a maven of baking, Rose Levy Beranbaum, a woman who wrote the book on Christmas cookies--literally.   

At the end of October, Beranbaum released her latest cookbook, The Baking Bible and it's in those pages that her favorite cookie can be found.  Below is a note from Rose Levy Beranbaum about what makes this the cookie above all others for her, followed by the recipe.   Come see us tomorrow for the next cookie to try. 


IschlerCookies_RoseLevyBeranbaumI first heard of the Ischler when I learned to make strudel at the Zauner bakery in the town of Bad Ischle where the cookie originated. I also learned of the story of emperor Franz Joseph and how he claimed to be visiting this bakery while instead clandestinely rendezvousing with his mistress nearby.

I researched different versions of the cookie in cookbooks and on line and came up with my own version. Rather than dipping the apricot-sandwiched cookies in chocolate the way all the other versions do, I spread a thin layer of it over the apricot filling so that one would have the crisp fragile almond cookie, the tang of apricot, and the bittersweet chocolate with every bite.  I also love that the Ischler speaks to my Austro-Hungarian heritage. My great great grandfather, Adolf Lansman, fought in Franz Joseph's army. He later came to America and brought the now ubiquitous Heckel's and Wusthof knives to this country. He taught my father the art of knife sharpening and my father passed this valuable skill onto me. -- Rose Levy Beranbaum

 

The Ischler
Makes Forty 2. inch sandwich cookies
Oven Temperature 350°F/175°C
Baking Time 6 to 10 minutes for each of four batches

This Austrian cookie ranks as one of the finest of all time. It was created in the wonderful Zauner Bakery in the spa town of Bad Ischl, which was said to be the favorite vacation spot for Emperor Franz Joseph. The classic method is to sandwich the fragile, thin almond cookies with apricot lekvar or preserves and then to dip the cookies halfway into melted chocolate.

Because I am one-quarter Austro-Hungarian (my great grandfather fought in Franz Joseph’s army), I feel I am qualified to adapt the recipe slightly by spreading the melted chocolate onto the entire inside of the cookies so that I have the glorious taste of apricot and chocolate with every bite.

Special Equipment:
Two 15 by 12 inch cookie sheets, nonstick or lined with parchment
A 2 ½  inch scalloped or plain round or heart-shape cookie cutter

Cookie Dough
VOLUME   /  WEIGHT

  • unsalted butter, cold 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) /  8 ounces  / 227 grams
  • powdered sugar 1 cup (lightly spooned into the cup and leveled off) plus 2 tablespoons /4.7 ounces / 132 grams
  • sliced almonds, preferably unblanched / 2 cups/  7 ounces /  200 grams
  • about ½ large egg, lightly beaten / 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon (20 ml) /0.7 ounce / 21 grams
  • pure vanilla extract 1 teaspoon (5 ml) / . .
  • bleached all-purpose flour 1 ¾ cups (lightly spooned into the cup and leveled off) plus 1 tablespoon /7.8 ounces / 220 grams
  • fine sea salt ¼ teaspoon / 1.5 grams


Make the Dough
Food Processor Method:
Cut the butter into ½ inch cubes and let the cubes soften slightly while measuring out the remaining ingredients. The butter should be cool but soft enough to press flat (60° to 70°F/15°to 21°C).

Process the powdered sugar and almonds until the almonds are very fine. Add the butter and process until smooth and creamy. Add the egg and vanilla and process until incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Add it to the processor and pulse just until incorporated. The mixture will be in moist and crumbly particles and hold together if pinched.

Stand Mixer Method:
Soften the butter to 65° to 75°F/19° to 23°C.

Using a nut grater, grate the almonds until very fine.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the flat beater, cream the almonds, powdered sugar, and butter, starting on low speed and gradually increasing the speed to medium, until fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until blended.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and salt.

On low speed, gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture. Mix until incorporated and the dough just begins to come away from the sides of the bowl.

Chill the Dough: Scrape the mixture into a plastic bag and, using your knuckles and the heels of your hands, press it together. Transfer the dough to a large sheet of plastic wrap and use the wrap to press down on the dough, kneading it until it is smooth.

Divide the dough into quarters, about 6.9 ounces/195 grams each. Wrap each piece loosely with plastic wrap and press to flatten into discs. Rewrap tightly and place in a gallon-size reclosable freezer bag. Refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours or up to 2 days to firm and give the dough a chance to absorb the moisture evenly, which will make rolling easier.

Preheat the Oven: Twenty minutes or longer before baking, set an oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F/175°C.

Roll and Cut the Cookies: Remove a dough disc from the refrigerator and set it on a lightly floured surface. Lightly flour the dough and cover it with plastic wrap. Let the dough soften for about 10 minutes, or until it is malleable enough to roll. Roll the dough ⅛ inch thick, moving it from time to time and adding more flour if necessary to keep it from sticking.

Cut out twenty 2 ¼ inch cookies. Set them a minimum of ½ inch apart on a cookie sheet.
Set aside any scraps, covered with plastic wrap, to knead together with the scraps from the next three batches.

Bake the Cookies: Bake for 4 minutes. For even baking, rotate the cookie sheet halfway around. Continue baking for 2 to 6 minutes, or just until they begin to brown at the edges.

Cool the Cookies: Set the cookie sheet on a wire rack and let the cookies cool for about
1 minute so that they will be firm enough to transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling. Use
a pancake turner to lift the cookies onto another wire rack. Cool completely.
While each batch of cookies is baking, remove the next dough disc to soften before rolling
and then roll the dough for the next batch. After the last batch is cut, if desired, knead
together all of the scraps and repeat chilling, rerolling, and cutting.

Super Firm Chocolate Ganache Filling:
Makes 1⅓ cups/10 ounces/285 grams
VOLUME/  WEIGHT

  • bittersweet chocolate, 60% to 62% cacao, chopped / . /  8 ounces /  227 grams
  • heavy cream, hot /  ¼ cup (59 ml) / 2 ounces / 58 grams

Make the Ganache Filling In a microwavable bowl, stirring with a silicone spatula every 15 seconds (or in the top of a double boiler set over hot, not simmering, water, stirring often—do not let the bottom of the container touch the water), heat the chocolate until almost completely melted.

Remove the chocolate from the heat source and stir until fully melted.

Pour the cream on top of the chocolate and stir until smooth. The mixture should drop thickly from the spatula. Set it aside in a warm place. If the ganache thickens before all of it is used, it can be restored in the microwave with 3 second bursts or in a double boiler set over hot or simmering water.

Apricot Lekvar Filling:
Makes 2. cups/651 ml/29.6 ounces/840 grams
volume / WEIGHT

  • dried apricots / 2⅔ cups / 1 pound / 454 grams
  • water / 2 cups (473 ml) / 16.7 ounces / 473 grams
  • granulated sugar / 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons /  8 ounces / 225 grams
  • lemon zest, finely grated / 2 teaspoons, loosely packed/  ./  4 grams
  • apricot or peach brandy / 1 teaspoon (5 ml)/ . .

Make the Lekvar Filling In a medium saucepan with a tight-fitting lid, combine the dried apricots and water and let them sit for 2 hours to soften.

Bring the water to a boil, cover the pan tightly, and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes on the lowest possible heat until the apricots are very soft when pierced with a skewer. If the water evaporates, add a little extra.

In a food processor, process the apricots and any remaining liquid, the sugar, lemon zest, and brandy until smooth.

Scrape the apricot mixture back into the saucepan and simmer, stirring constantly to prevent scorching, for 10 to 15 minutes, or until deep orange in color and very thick. When lifted, a tablespoon of the mixture will take about 3 seconds to fall from the spoon.

Transfer the lekvar to a bowl and let it cool completely. You will need only about ⅔ cup/ 158 ml/ 7 ounces/202 grams, but it keeps just about indefinitely refrigerated. Making a smaller amount risks scorching the lekvar. Lekvar made from dried apricots is the most delicious and concentrated, but the apricot glaze that follows makes a viable alternative.

Fill the Cookies:
Using a small offset spatula or butter knife, spread the bottoms of half of the cookies, up to ⅛ inch from the edge, with a very thin layer of the apricot filling (about ½  tablespoon /3.7 ml). Spread the bottoms of the remaining cookies with a slightly thicker layer of the ganache (about . tablespoon/6 grams). Set the chocolate coated cookies, coated side down, on the apricot coated cookies. Let them sit for a minimum of 30 minutes for the ganache to set completely.

Store Airtight: room temperature, 5 days; frozen, 6 months.


Rose Levy Beranbaum is the author of several cookbooks, including her most recent, The Baking Bible, one of our Best Cookbooks of 2014.

In case you missed it, Day 1 of 12 Days of Cookie Recipes is the  Eggnog Sandwich Cookie from Ovenly bakery

BakingBibleRose Levy Beranbaum

12 Days of Cookie Recipes: Ovenly's Eggnog Sandwich Cookie

Now that Thanksgiving is over, holiday baking will soon be upon us.  I love the tradition of making cookies, the more the merrier, and sharing them with friends.  With this baking bonanza in mind, we decided to gather 12 days of cookie recipes and today is Day 1.  We're starting off with a cookie that just says "holiday"--Ovenly bakery's Eggnog Sandwich Cookie.  Check back on Omni over the next 12 days for recipes from folks like Ina Garten, Ree Drummond, Giada De Laurentiis, Gina Homolka, and more.  Now on to our first cookie: 

Ovenly is an award-winning bakery in Greenpoint, Brooklyn and they recently created their first cookbook, Ovenly: Sweet and Salty Recipes from New York's Most Creative Bakery.   

OvenlyCover

OvenlyBakery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is in this delicious tome that the Eggnog Sandwich Cookie and I first crossed paths, and Erin Patinkin and Agatha Kulaga were kind enough to share the recipe:

 


EGGNOG SANDWICH COOKIES

Yield: approximately 30 cookies (depending on cookie cutter size)

EggnogSandwichII

This sparkly Christmas cookie has become a holiday standard at Ovenly. The rum cream filling combined with cinnamon and nutmeg in the sugar cookie is reminiscent of everyone’s favorite wintertime cocktail.

SUGAR COOKIES:

  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 16 tablespoons (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons rum
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3½ cups all-purpose flour + more for dusting
  • Sanding sugar, for decorating the cookies

CREAM FILLING:

  • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • ¼ cup rum
  • ¼ cup heavy cream + more for thinning

DIRECTIONS:

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or using a hand mixer), cream together the confectioners’ sugar, butter and corn syrup until very fluffy and light in color, about 3 minutes. Add the cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla extract, salt and cloves and beat until combined, about 30 seconds more.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and rum, and then stir in the baking powder until it dissolves completely. With the mixer on low, add the egg mixture and mix until barely incorporated. Turn the mixer off and add the flour. With the machine on low, mix until the flour is well incorporated and the dough is smooth, about 1 minute.

3. Divide the dough in half, and form it into 2 disks, each 6 inches in diameter. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or until the dough is firm.

4. Line 3 rimmed sheet pans (if you do not have 3, you will have to bake these cookies in batches) with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Lightly flour your work surface and rolling pin, and sprinkle the dough with extra flour to prevent it from sticking.

5. Roll the dough to a thickness of ¼ inch, lifting it as you roll and flipping it over a few times to prevent it from sticking to the work surface. With a cookie cutter (we usually use a 1½-inch round cutter or a small glass), cut the dough into the desired shape and transfer the cookies to the prepared sheet pans (these cookies do not expand much, so you can bake 20 per pan). Reroll and cut any leftover dough.

6. Place them in the freezer (you can stack the pans in the freezer by placing parchment in between each. If you do not have 3 pans you can stack cookies in single layers, lining parchment in between each layer) for 15 minutes before baking. This will allow the cookies to retain their shape.

7. Sprinkle each cookie with sanding sugar, and bake the cookies pan by pan for 8 to 10 minutes, or until they are slightly golden on the edges. Let the cookies cool completely before assembling.

8. While the cookies cool, prepare the cream filling. In a large bowl, whisk all the filling ingredients together thoroughly until a thick, but spreadable paste forms. Thin the filling with cream if it is too dry.

9. Spoon a dollop of the cream filling on the center of a cookie and top it with another cookie, pressing down lightly to ensure that the filling spreads evenly in between but not beyond the cookie edges. Repeat this process until all the cookies are filled.

EggnoggSandwichI EggnogSandwichIII

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Moosewood Cookbook 40 Years Later: A Guest Post by Mollie Katzen

MoosewoodCkbk400It's hard to believe, but the Moosewood Cookbook turns 40 this year with a beautiful commemorative edition that includes a new introduction by author Mollie Katzen.  

According to the New York Times, Moosewood Cookbook is one of the top ten best-selling cookbooks of all time and for many of us it revolutionized the way we think about vegetarian cooking.  First published as a spiral-bound notebook with hand-written recipes and simple illustrations,  this classic cookbook has stood the test of time and is still one of the most popular guides to making delicious home-cooked vegetarian dishes.  Restaurants today pride themselves on menus highlighting seasonal ingredients, but in the pages of this cookbook Mollie Katzen has been showing home cooks how to make the most of in season fruits and vegetables for decades.

We asked Katzen to write a guest post for us, in celebration of the 40th anniversary of her first cookbook*, and to share her favorite recipe from the book which turns out to be Califlower-Cheese Pie.

*Since Moosewood Mollie Katzen has written several cookbooks, including her most recent, The Heart of the Plate: Vegetarian Recipes for a New Generation.


The original Moosewood Cookbook originated, in part, from random notes used to help keep track of what my friends and I were cooking in the tiny kitchen of our modest 1970s restaurant. “Vegetarian” was in the early stages of becoming a “thing,” but it was highly unofficial. We were greatly inspired by international dishes as remembered from various world travel (actual or via the “ethnic restaurant” route), discovering cuisines from other countries that placed far less emphasis on meat and more on creative preparation of garden- and orchard-sourced ingredients.  (At that time, hardly anyone in the United States had heard of tabouli, pesto, hummus, or many other then-considered-exotic items that are now ubiquitous.)

Our food was largely plant-based, although that term was not yet in anyone’s vocabulary. The notebook was an attempt to more or less standardize our “cuisine,” which was varied and eclectic and often quite spontaneous—determined largely by the produce delivery of the day and the imagination and skill level of the cook. We had a casual approach to everything (including the idea of standardization itself), so this would ideally help us keep things somewhat consistent.  An inveterate journal keeper and art school graduate, I turned these notes into a booklet, speaking with an informal voice through my own hand-lettering (didn’t own a typewriter; computers decades short of existing) and pen-and-ink illustrations.

In 1974, I photocopied the booklet and sold copies through a local bookstore. Over the next couple of years, it ended up selling thousands of copies. In the fall of 1977, the national edition (the one many people have come to know) was first published by Ten Speed Press. It was not an overnight sensation; it actually took a few years to catch on and begin to sell. To this day, amazingly, the Moosewood Cookbook has never been out of print.

For Moosewood Cookbook’s 40th birthday celebration, Ten Speed and I have collaborated on an upgraded package with a fresh new look, built to last. For those of you with old, stained, notated, dog-eared, scotch-taped, rubber-banded (and in some cases, coverless) copies from yesteryear, you might appreciate this newly refreshed edition—whether for yourself or for someone who is new to this tome, inspired more by  curiosity, perhaps, than nostalgia.  In any case, we are thrilled to celebrate this milestone with you.  We hope these recipes—and this style of cooking, in general—will call out to you, giving you a range of ideas to keep your cooking fresh in all ways and helping you make or keep your kitchen a place of creativity and enjoyment.  --Mollie Katzen

 

CauliflowerCheesePieRecipe

 

Best Children's Books of 2014

BOTY2014KidsCollageThis year there seemed to be as many great children's books in the first half of the year as the second, great news for all of us book lovers who didn't have to wait until the big fall books to find the gems.  Case in point, The Pigeon Needs a Bath by Mo Willems--our top pick for 2014 that released in April--is hilarious whether you're 4 or 44. 

Deciding on the top 20 children's books is always difficult, but I won't complain about having so many beloved books to choose from over the course of 2014.  Below is a sampling of the Best Children's Books of 2014, the top five (of a total of 20) across all ages.  You can also see the top 20 for each category:

Top 5 Children's Books of 2014:

1. The Pigeon Needs a Bath! by Mo Willems (ages 3-5): A new book in the beloved Pigeon series, even the flies think the pigeon needs a good scrub.  Hilarity ensues as pigeon does everything he can think of to avoid a bath but when the inevitable happens, the pigeon is pleasantly surprised.

2. The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer Holm (ages 9-12): The clever, funny, and uplifting story of 11-year-old Ellie, who is entering a new chapter of her life when her grumpy scientist grandfather ends up living with them under strange circumstances.  As Ellie discovers new friends and interests, she and her grandfather form a unique bond that results in the gift of possibility for both of them.

3. The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel (ages 9-12): Historical fiction for young readers at it best, The Boundless successfully mixes history, folklore, and imagination into a sweeping adventure story. Will and Maren's paths cross twice around the Boundless, a train of epic proportion.  Though they live very different lives, they are united in the face of the murderers, thieves, and deception aboard the train's inaugural run.  

4. The Heroes of Olympus Book Five: The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan (ages 9-12): The final book in the Heroes of Olympus series, Riordan brings his A-game to end the story of these Greek and Roman demigods' battle to save the world from Gaea's destructive force.  Action-packed adventure, witty characters, and suspense make this one a page-turner from beginning to end.

5. Leroy Ninker Saddles Up: Tales from Deckawoo Drive, Volume One by Kate DiCamillo (ages 6-8): Award winner Kate DiCamillo kicks off a new chapter book series with a character readers may remember from one of ther Mercy Watson books, Leroy Ninker.  A sweet and funny story about a would-be cowboy and the horse he loves, this is a great book for reluctant readers and young enthusiasts alike.

You can see all of our favorite chidlren's books of the year here.

12 Days of Cookie Recipes: Johnny Iuzzini's Rich Butter Cookies

Our Day 3 cookie recipe comes from Johnny Iuzzini, an award-winning pastry chef who has worked with top restauranteurs around the country, and served as head judge on the Top Chef spinoff, Top Chef Just Desserts.  Iuzzini published his second cookbook, Sugar Rush: Master Tips, Techniques, and Recipes for Sweet Baking, at the end of September and it includes his favorite cookie, seen below.

One of my all time favorite cookie recipes is the Rich Butter Cookie. Not only for its extraordinary flavor and delicate texture but because it is so versatile. You can garnish and personalize the cookie with any type of salt, spices or dried fruits tailoring it to your families palate.-- Johnny Iuzzini


Rich Butter Cookies with Pink Peppercorns and Sea Salt
JohnnyIuzzini_RichButterCookies_cropMakes about 3 dozen cookies

The base of this cookie is a sablé dough that I learned from Thomas Haas, a fourth-generation pastry chef hailing from the Black Forest region of Germany and one of my mentors as a young pastry cook. Because the egg is precooked before it is added to the dough, it lends richness but does not bind the dough, which is very tender.

Unlike their cousins, pink peppercorns are not “peppery” but more fragrant and almost floral in comparison. Add a pinch of sea salt to the tops of the cookies and they contain everything a good dessert should have—tender crumb, crunch, a bit of flowery spice, sweetness, and saltiness all in one bite.

  • 1 ¼ cups (2 ½ sticks) cold unsalted butter, diced (283 g)
  • 1 ¼ cups sugar (250 g)
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt (2 g)
  • Yolks of 4 hard-boiled large eggs
  • Seeds from 1 vanilla bean
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling (375 g)
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons crushed pink peppercorns, for garnish
  • Coarse sea salt, for garnish

Put the butter, sugar, and kosher salt in a standing mixer bowl and toss with your fingers to coat. Attach the bowl to the mixer with the paddle and beat on medium-low speed until a sugary paste forms with no visible lumps of butter.

Meanwhile, using a rubber spatula, press the egg yolks through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl and scrape any egg yolk stuck to the strainer into the bowl. Add the yolks and vanilla seeds to the butter and mix until well incorporated.

Turn the mixer to low and gradually add the flour; stop to scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula several times. Mix until just incorporated. Put a sheet of parchment paper on a work surface, dump the dough onto it, and cover with another sheet of parchment. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough ¾ inch thick.

Transfer the dough to a sheet pan and freeze until firm, at least 1 hour. Remove the dough from the freezer and let stand for 10 minutes. When partially thawed, roll the dough between the parchment sheets until it is ½ inch thick. (Peel back the parchment and dust the dough with flour if it sticks to the paper.)

Line 2 baking sheets with silicone mats or parchment. Use a 2 ½-inch plain cutter to cut out rounds of dough and transfer them to the lined sheets, about 1 inch apart. Reroll the scraps and cut cookies until the dough is used up. Cover the pans and freeze for 30 minutes, until ready to bake.

To bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 375°F.

Remove the cookies from the freezer and brush them with the beaten egg. Sprinkle a pinch of pink peppercorns over the top along with a few flakes of coarse salt. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through, until the edges of the cookies are light golden brown. Cool for 10 minutes on the pan before transferring to a rack to cool completely.

Note: If you have 2- or 2 ½-inch pastry rings, butter them and cut the cookies to that exact dimension using the appropriately sized cutter. Since this dough has so much butter, it spreads easily, so baking them in rings helps keep them perfectly straight so you can see the rich, cakey layers from the side when you unmold them. 


Sugar Rush is Johnny Iuzzini's second cookbook.

SugarRushJohnny_Iuzzini_headshot

If you missed our earlier cookie recipes you can find them here:

Recipe Road Test: The Slanted Door's Ginger Braised Chicken

SlantedDoor2014 has been a really big year for cookbooks so deciding which one would be in the top spot for Best of the Year was tough. In the end, though, The Slanted Door: Modern Vietnamese Food really has it all. 

Let me start by saying that this cookbook is utterly beautiful and interesting to look through--every single page of text, be it recipe or brief essay, is accompanied by a full page photograph opposite. 

Broken into three acts according to the restaurant's location, The Slanted Door cookbook complements it's recipes with an entertaining history of a restaurant and the modern Vietnamese cuisine that has made it a top destination for food lovers living in, or traveling to, San Francisco for nearly two decades. 

The recipes that pack these pages are gorgeous, well explained, and inspirational.  The Slanted Door's Shaking Beef is one of the dishes I order every time I go, along with a couple of Ginger Limeade cocktails and the Stir Fried Green Beans--recipes for all of these are included in the cookbook, along with a wealth of other mouth-watering drinks and edibles you can now try at home.  Last week I made the Ginger Braised Chicken and it was heavenly.

If your evenings are as hectic as mine, I recommend giving yourself a little time ahead to do the prep work.  It's not too much, but I was really grateful that I'd cut the thin matchsticks of ginger and sliced the garlic cloves the night before.  This is a recipe I will make often in the future--everyone who ate it loved it, and Ginger Braised Chicken makes for a jealousy-inducing lunch the next day. 

MyGingerBraisedChicken

 

Here is what my Ginger Braised Chicken looked like before I put it with jasmine rice. I went a little rogue and used full size drumsticks so I did have to cook it a little longer to accommodate.  I'll stick to the smaller pieces per the ingredients list next time.

If you want to try this one yourself, the recipe and photo from The Slanted Door, our pick for the number one cookbook of the year, is below.

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
BRAISED GINGER CHICKEN
from The Slanted Door by Charles Phan
 
My mother used to make this dish whenever a family friend was pregnant, since ginger minimizes nausea and aids digestion. I like to start with a whole chicken, cut Chinese style (see instructions below), and save the breasts for another use.
  • 1 whole chicken, 2 to 3 pounds
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • ¹⁄³ cup very thinly sliced fresh ginger, about ¹⁄¹6-inch-thick
  • ½ cup rice wine, such as michiu or sake
  • 1 cup chicken stock (page 246) or water
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 3 or 4 Thai chiles, halved lengthwise
  • 6 green onions, white parts only, halved lengthwise
  • Slivered green onions, for garnish
  • Steamed jasmine rice, for serving

Serves 4 to 6 

1. Using a cleaver, cut the chicken legs from the body by cutting cleanly through the joint. Cut the drumstick from the thigh along the joint and, using strong, swift cuts, chop each drumstick and thigh through the bone into three pieces. Cut the wings from the body along the joint, and cut each wing into two pieces, a drumette and wing. Reserve the breast for another use.

2. Place the chicken pieces in a large mixing bowl and add 1 tablespoon of the oil, the cornstarch, and the salt. Toss to coat.

3. In a wide-bottomed clay pot or sauté pan over medium-high heat, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil until shimmering. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for a minute. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for 2 more minutes. Add the chicken pieces and a few grinds of black pepper and cook for another 2 minutes. Add the rice wine and let simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chicken stock, fish sauce, chiles, green onions, and a pinch of salt. Bring the liquid to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, and simmer until the chicken is cooked through and tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Garnish with slivered green onions and serve immediately with steamed rice.

GingerBraisedChickenSlantedDoor

YA Wednesday: Best Books of 2014

Back in January I thought 2013 was going to be tough to beat in terms of great YA but here it is, mid-November, and I just got over the trama of having to narrow down my favorites to a list of 20.  Interestingly enough, the last couple of years have had the top picks release in the first half of the year.  Typically it's the fall that brings the "big" books, but not so in YA.  At the end of the day, and basically the year, I'm still most in love with We Were Liars (as an aside, in our Celebrity Picks Martin Short chose We Were Liars as one of his favorite books this year, too).   Below are the top 5 titles for the Best Young Adult Books of 2014: WeWereLiars400

1. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart  - What can I say, every bit of this short book is beautifully written and this is a story that grabs hold and doesn't let go.  Mystery, love, friendship, pain, and most of all beautiful writing fill these pages. I've received middle of the night email from friends I gave We Were Liars to, telling me they just finished (and it's 2 a.m.) and loved it.

2. Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer - In her debut YA novel, Belzhar, Wolitzer captures the urgency and larger-than-life feelings of adolescent love, heartbreak and friendship through the story of Jam Gallahue.  After a traumatic experience at home, Jam is sent to a boarding school with similarly "damaged" souls and there they uncover truths about themselves and each other.  Surprising, observant, and completely absorbing, this is a book you'll want to read straight through. 

3. Hollow City by Ransom Riggs - The long-awaited follow-up to Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children was worth waiting for.  Out in the world outside their island, Miss Peregrine's charges make their way to London trying to find her before it's too late.  The year is 1940, a turmultuous and uncertain time, and what transpires on their journey is harrowing and riveting.  Like he did in Miss Peregrine's Riggs includes eerie but perfect vintage photographs throughout the story.

4. I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson - Twins Jude and Noah tell the story of what happened between the age of thirteen and sixteen, a time when everything changed in their relationship,their family, and themselves.  The dual narratives dovetail beautifully, one starting at the beginning and the other moving backwards from where things ended up.  I'll Give You the Sun is a powerhouse story of identity, loss, fear, and forgiveness that had me trying to read at stop lights just so I could see what happens next.

5. Dreams of Gods & Monsters by Laini Taylor - This third and final book in the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy sealed it for me--this is one of my favorite YA series. Period.  Laini Taylor is an extremely talented writer and in this moment I'm reminded of how it feels to begin one of her books. It feels like you are starting something you won't want to end (and you won't).  The end of anything can be tricky, but Taylor knows just how to do it in Dreams of Gods & Monsters, combining new twists with the reappearance of beloved elements of the earlier books.  Good and evil, friend or foe, a blue-haired girl and fire-eyed boy--I miss all of it and think I might have to read these again.

You'll find the other 15 books that made 2014 memorable here.

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A Unique Look at the ABCs: "Alphabetabum"

Award-winning author/illustrators Chris Raschka and Vladimir Radunsky recently teamed up to create an unusual pairing of rare vintage photos and verse in the highly original alphabet book. Alphabetabum

The antique photos of children accompanying each letter are a mirror into history and just examining the dress and expressions is fascinating.  Add to that Raschka's quirky verse, and you have a picture book that looks like an object from another time and is appealing to all ages.   See below for a look inside:

Cover

 

Images from Alphabetabum: An Album of Rare Photographs and Medium Verses

 
 
 
 
 
 

Omnivoracious™ Contributors

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