Monthly Archives: February 2013

Secret Valentine Cookie Exchange

Valentine Cookies

For the on-line cooking group I’m part of, French Fridays with Dorie, we had a fun event for Valentine’s Day: a cookie exchange. I was assigned another participant, and, last week, I sent her cookies along with a few extra surprises. Another person was assigned me, so last week, I received a special package with cookies and some surprises as well.

My package came from Mary at Lights On No Brakes. Mary is my fellow administrator, helping Laurie out with the French Fridays site. Over the past few months, I have come to know Mary better, so it felt extra-special to get a package from her.

Full of Surprises

It turns out that it’s been Mary’s tradition for many years to send cards for Valentine’s Day. So, not only did I get a lovely card but also a “holiday” letter, like many people send for Christmas, filled with the highlights of her year along with photos. I felt like one of the family.

Mary sent me delicious White Chocolate Chunks Cookies with Pistachios, Dates & Rosemary. Until she sent the recipe, I could taste something mysterious, a bit of je ne sais quoi! I couldn’t quite identify it. Turns out to be the rosemary. Fresh herbs in a cookie is a wonderful touch. I haven’t been sharing my cookies, and have mostly been enjoying them with tea, but Mary says these are good with dessert wine or a coffee drink. I still have a few left.

In addition to the cookies, Mary also treated me to a beautiful little book with thoughts about friendship and some ginger chews. What a wonderful box of presents to celebrate a bright spot in winter.

Valentine Gifts from Mary

White Chocolate Chunks Cookies with Pistachios, Dates & Rosemary
Makes about 36-40 cookies.

1 cup plus 1 tablespoon butter (divided use)
2 teaspoons fresh minced rosemary
2¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
8 ounces white chocolate chunks (use the best brand available to you)
1 cup chopped pistachios
½ cup finely chopped dates (mini-squares)

Melt 1-1½ teaspoons of butter, and saute rosemary until fragrant (do not brown). Pour out on paper towel to soak up extra butter.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a small bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt. In mixing bowl, combine remaining 1 cup butter, rosemary, sugar, brown sugar and vanilla. Beat until creamy. Add eggs and beat to incorporate. Gradually add flour to egg mixture, mixing well. Stir in chocolate, pistachios and chopped dates.

Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto cookie sheets. Bake 8 to 10 minutes. Do not let cookies get overly brown.

Adapted from a cookie recipe of Irving Karas, executive chef, Envy the Steakhouse, Renaissance Las Vegas, 2009.

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Belle Chèvre

Local Goats

I have a thing for goats. I’ve adored them for years. In my dreams, I’d like to have a small herd someday, but, realistically, that just isn’t going to happen.

I love goat cheese too. It’s more realistic for me to try my hand at homemade goat cheese. I took a goat cheesemaking class in September 2011, but after I ordered the cultures, I felt intimidated and procrastinated on trying it myself.

Recently, I took another class on making fresh cheeses. We learned to make ricotta and paneer from cow’s milk and chèvre from goat’s. The goat cheese recipe was simpler than the original one I learned. I still had the original cultures in the freezer, so I took immediate action.

Oak Knoll Dairy Goats MilkI don’t have access to raw goat’s milk, but Whole Foods sells goat’s milk that isn’t ultra-pasteurized. Interestingly, I read in the local paper that Oak Knoll Dairy has a Lexington connection. The owners used to live on a small farm just across town, Oak Knoll Farm, with blueberry fields open for pick-you-own. Apparently, they started to raise goats and eventually moved to Vermont where they now have a Grade A commercial goat dairy.

Here’s how easy it is. The milk is heated up to the right temperature. I mixed in some direct-set culture for goat cheese. I covered the pot and let it sit on the stovetop for 24 hours until the curds set.

Goat Cheese Curds

Then, I ladled the cheese into a strainer (I used a fine-meshed jelly bag) to allow the whey to drip out for 12 hours, and it was chèvre.

Curds Draining

There was one hitch, I had a goat cheese accident. This isn’t part of the recipe. I decided that the jelly bag and the bowl it was dripping into should be on a tray. I didn’t account for the precarious balance of that jelly bag, and, just my luck, it tipped. I caught the bag on its way down, but I lost a third to half of the batch all over the kitchen floor… It took an hour to clean up and I continued to notice missed spots on the cabinets for days…

Goat Cheese Accident

Goat Cheese Accident

I started with a half-gallon of goat’s milk and, in the end, accident included, the chèvre filled a 10-ounce container. If it hadn’t spilled, there should have been about a pound.

The soft fresh cheese was delicious spread on toast and topped with a sprinkle of coarse salt.

Chevre sprinkled with Red Hawaiian Salt

Chevre sprinkled with Red Hawaiian Salt

I also dabbed the goat cheese on top of a galette.

Galette

And inside some handpies.

Handpies

You can substitute the whey for milk when baking, so my Super Bowl cornbread and some not-so-successful buckwheat popovers had some added tang from goat milk whey.

My first batch is gone, but I plan to make more this week, without spillage, I hope.

Fresh Chèvre
Makes about 2 pounds

1 gallon goat’s milk (not ultra-pasteurized)
1 packet chèvre direct set starter (I used C20G culture)

Heat milk to 86F. Stir in one packet starter bacteria. Cover and leave at room temperature, undisturbed, for 12 to 24 hours, until curds are set. Ladle curd gently into a jelly bag or butter muslin-lined strainer set over a bowl large enough to catch whey. Let it hang to drain for 6 to 12 hours. Can be salted to taste with an uniodized salt, like kosher or sea salt.

The recipe can be halved (that’s what I did).