Sunday, October 19, 2008

Cocoa Sauerkraut Cookies

Yeah, this is an actual for-real recipe. Ok, a little background on where I got this. My uncle has made it something of a tradition in the last few years to collect family recipes, newspaper clippings, little bits and pieces of family mementos and photocopy them and make cookbooks for my siblings and I as Christmas gifts. I found this recipe in the first cookbook he gave us (and as this blog grows, I'm almost certainly going to include a few other recipes from these cookbooks) - there's a few variations of this recipe online, but I stick with the original. This was one of the recipes that prompted me to start this little blog in the first place. I'm not sure exactly what prompted the creator of this recipe to use sauerkraut as a cookie ingredient. Maybe the rinsed sauerkraut was originally intended to be a cheaper substitute for shredded coconut. Or maybe some chef got a bit confused while crapulent on cooking sherry. I lean towards the former.

What I didn't particularly like about the original recipe when I first read it was that outside the sauerkraut there wasn't a whole lot going on in these cookies, seeing as how cocoa was really the only other major flavor. I think just about every chocolate cookie recipe, particularly homemade ones, has to have chocolate chips in it - the only chocolate cookies I like that don't have them are the Girl Scout's Thin Mints and Oreos. The original recipe also called for shortening, and I thought I would try using unsalted butter. Shortening is much cheaper, but I thought using real butter would give them some extra richness and flavor. Also, with the idea that the sauerkraut was intended as a coconut substitute, I got the idea to add a little bit of coconut extract to the cookie recipe to see how many people I could fool. Anyway, with the coconut extract and chocolate chips being added, and the butter softened to room temperature, I was all set.

Cocoa Sauerkraut Cookies
1 C. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 T. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
3 3/4 C. flour
1 1/2 C. shortening (or unsalted butter)
3 C. sugar
3 eggs
1 T. vanilla (or coconut extract)
1 lb. canned sauerkraut
2 C. (12-oz. bag) chocolate chips (optional)

Mix the first five ingredients together in a large bowl and set aside. Cream together the shortening, eggs, sugar, and vanilla/coconut until smooth. Drain the sauerkraut, rinse it thoroughly, and chop it. Stir that into the creamed mixture, then add the dry ingredients and stir together until well-blended. If you are using the chocolate chips, add them now and stir just until they are incorporated. Drop by spoonfuls onto baking sheets and bake at 350 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes.

Dry ingredients

Rinsing the sauerkraut for the 3rd time.

The result of mixing the sauerkraut and the dough. No matter how thoroughly I drain and blot the sauerkraut with paper towels beforehand, the dough always starts to get kind of alarmingly wet at this point, almost like cake batter instead of cookie dough.

Whew. Two in the morning, and I wound up with roughly 4 1/2 dozen of these oddities (this was the first batch I pulled out). They look pretty normal, don't they? Of course, there's the real question - how do they taste?

Not bad. What you wind up with is a cookie that is almost brownie-like in softness and moistness. There is a little hint of the sauerkraut texture in there, but if you didn't know it was sauerkraut, the coconut flavor would throw you - it certainly fooled everyone I gave these to. And actually, I'm thinking that the butter wasn't such a hot idea after all. When I made these cookies with shortening, the cookies held up to baking better and weren't quite as flat as these.

Monday, October 6, 2008

An Improbable Pie-Mutation

I was looking through a Pillsbury Bake-Off cookbook of my mother's last Thanksgiving. This particular cookbook is 40 years old, and I frequently like reading recipes from the 1950s and 1960s because it's kind of neat in a funny way to read recipes that proudly trumpet the amazing dishes you can make for your family using things like Spam, Wonderbread, and Cheez-Its.

Anyway, I was reading it and THIS leapt out at me:

Wow - I don't even know what to say about this. It looks like a pie that mutated, and the list of ingredients indicates a truly bizarre mix of flavors - coconut, pecans, and lime. It's actually pretty simple to make - It's just pre-baking the crust, with a little toasting, a little whipping, a little spreading, and a little spooning.

And y'know what? This is actually pretty tasty. I would suggest letting the lime sherbet sit out of the freezer for a good 15 minutes or so to soften it, or spoon it out into a large bowl and stir it a bit until it's softer - if it's too hard, you're going to have a hell of a time spreading it without breaking the crust.

Macaroon Crunch Pie

9-in. pie crust
1/2 c. shredded coconut
1 pint lime sherbet (1/2 a quart)
1 1/2 c. heavy whipping cream
1/3 c. powdered sugar
1 cup crushed macaroon cookies* (I bought a brand that was called (I think) Southern Kitchen)
1/2 c. chopped pecans

Pre-bake a 9-in pie crust, either using a store-bought brand or your favorite homemade recipe. When the crust comes out of the oven, spread the coconut on a small baking sheet or a piece of heavy-duty foil and toast it for a few minutes. Let the crust and coconut cool COMPLETELY.

Set aside 2 tablespoons of the coconut and spread the rest in the bottom of the crust. Spread the soft sherbet over it and pop it in the freezer while you get on with the rest of the recipe.

Whip the heavy cream until it begins to thicken, add the sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Set aside 1 cup of that for later. Fold the cookie crumbs and pecans into the rest of the whipped cream. Take the pie out of the freezer and spread the crumb-cream mixture until it completely covers the sherbert (it will help keep it frozen later). Take that reserved 1 cup of whipped cream and dab spoonfuls of it around the edge of the pie, then sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons of coconut in the center. Put it back in the freezer and let it sit overnight.

*Buy thin, crispy coconut cookies. DO NOT buy those delicious, soft, mounded macaroons that look like snowballs - they are FAR too soft to crumble well.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

A Mockery of Pie

The second of the three pie recipes I'm posting is Mock Apple Pie. I found it while I was rooting around on the Internet, trying to find the original Wonder Pie recipe I used in the previous blog entry.

Mock Apple Pie, as the name suggests, doesn't have a speck of real apple in it. Instead, it uses crushed Ritz crackers and the juice and zest of a lemon to fool the eater into thinking this is an apple pie. It sounded revolting. Naturally, I couldn't resist trying it out.

From the outside, it certainly LOOKS like a classic apple pie, but on the inside I thought it kind of looked like a pecan pie - i.e. a solid brown jelly-like center. Maybe I crushed the crackers a bit too much. That wasn't the only issue I had with this pie. I don't know, maybe it's because we have larger lemons down here in Florida, but everyone who tasted the pie assumed the flavoring was lemon, so I guess there was too much zest in it. Maybe if I make this again, I'll keep the lemon zest but swap out the lemon juice for apple juice or apple cider to mask the flavor a bit more.

Mock Apple Pie

Ready-made crust for a 9-inch pie, top and bottom (I used Pillsbury for this one)
1 sleeve of Ritz Crackers, semi-crushed
1 3/4 cups water
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Grated peel of one lemon
2 tablespoons COLD margarine or butter
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

It's pretty simple to make. First, you preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Then you stir together the water, sugar, and cream of tartar and bring it to a boil for a good 15 minutes - it should be a nice syrup with a faint brown tint to it. Add the zest and juice and let it cool. Don't be alarmed if the lemon zest looks a little browned by the time the syrup cools down a bit - that happened to me and it didn't make any difference. Line a 9" pie plate with the bottom crust, dump in the Ritz crumbs, and carefully pour the syrup over them. Cut the cold butter into little bits and sprinkle them over the syrup-cracker mixture with the cinnamon (see the photo above, and y'know, now that I look at it again, I really didn't crumble the crackers that much). Cover with the upper crust, crimp the top and bottom crust together, slit the top crust a few times to let steam escape while it bakes, and pop it in the oven for 30 minutes or so.

I don't usually use cinnamon in the recipes that call for it. Rather, I use this INCREDIBLY good spice mix from Penzey's. It has anise in it and normally I despise anything that smells like, tastes like, or has had a passing acquaintance with black licorice (and I'm not that fond of cardamom, either), but I still love this stuff. It's especially good sprinkled over coffee, as well. Nice flavor and it smells wonderful, too.

Small confession - I forgot to put the cinnamon in with the butter, so when the pie came out of the oven (it looked pretty terrific, if I do say so myself) I mixed my baking spice with an equal bit of granulated sugar. I gave the still-hot pie a quick brush-over with milk and quickly sprinkled the sugar-and-spice mixture over the top. Maybe the spice flavor didn't permeate the pie like it would have, if I'd added it when I was supposed to, but it looked nice and it smelled divine.