A few weekends ago, I hopped in the car and drove and hour and a half south, just across the Mason Dixon, to spend warm fall Saturday with my grandma in Frederick, MD. We’ve fallen into a little bit of routine when we decide to traipse up down Market Street. There’s our go-to shops, like Relish, and of course, our go-to restaurant, La Paz. Our go-to order appetizer is queso, my go-to entrée is Marcie’s Choice salad and our go-to drink is obviously a margarita, hold my salt, please. But this time, we had no agenda, no timeframe. We still hit our usuals, but we had the whole day to wander, and that’s exactly what we did. At one point, we walked by a local chocolatier, Perfect Truffle. We headed inside, both ordering one dark chocolate salted caramel. Then we walked outside, across the street, and directly into another chocolatier, The Candy Kitchen. We both ordered one milk chocolate salted caramel. We turned it into a little competition – who on Market had the best salted caramel? To be honest, both were delicious, but wildly different. One was the oozy caramel. When I bit through the hard chocolate exterior, the caramel inside just melted on my tongue. The other was chewy, almost hard. The kind that gives your jaw a workout as you eat it.
I’ve never been one to wait until Thanksgiving has passed to begin spreading Christmas cheer. In fact, I started my Christmas shopping in September. Last weekend, I pulled out the boxes of holiday decor from the basement and started sprinkling bits of red, green and gold around the house. And let’s be honest, Hallmark’s Christmas movies have been playing on my TV for a solid month. I love Christmas almost as much as I love Octobers.
When the temperatures begin to dip and the leaves float from the tree tops to the earth’s floor. When the floral sundresses are traded in for plaids and oversized knit sweaters. When pool parties on Saturdays turn into football get-togethers on Sundays. When I start ordering my coffee hot, rather than iced. That is my favorite time. Fall.
And when the cooler weather forces me inside, rather than allows me to soak up every possible sun ray, I embrace the opportunity to spend some of that time in the kitchen, a place that often gets ignored in the summertime.
Today’s baking adventure came in the form of banana bread. Pure and simple, homemade and comforting. (Side note: A really cool thing about being an adult is already having all of the ingredients you need to whip up some baked goods. Including extra brown bananas.)
When I think about Christmas cookies, I think of the magnificent and decorative almond-flavored cookie-press cookies my great-grandmother used to make. Shaped like trees or candy canes, in one color or many, they were tradition. Every Christmas. Cookie-press cookies. It was like clockwork. Admittedly, I’ve tried a few times over the years to recreate her infamous treats, but to no avail. I just can’t seem to mimic her recipe.
This morning, I woke up slowly, warmly snuggled in my bed, wonderfully content and cozy. All of a sudden, my craving for breakfast — and an excessive amount of coffee — kicked in. Not a savory breakfast, which is my usual choice, but something sweet. Something with chocolate.
I stayed in bed for another hour or so — because hey, that’s what Sundays are for — before I dragged myself out of bed and to the grocery store, armed with a recipe for almond biscotti.
An hour and a half and two cups of coffee later, the biscotti was done and wonderful. I always thought that Sundays were for cuddling. Now I know that they’re for cuddling and biscotti.
Ingredients: 1 c. toasted almonds / 2/3 c. sugar / 2 eggs / 1 tsp. almond extract / 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract / 1/4 tsp. salt / 1 tsp. baking powder / 1 3/4 c. flour / baking chocolate for melting
Directions: Preheat oven to 350˚. / In a mixer, beat sugar and eggs until thick. Then, add in the almond and vanilla extracts. / In a separate bowl, sift flour, baking powder and salt. / Add dry ingredients to the egg mixture and mix until combined. Fold in the almonds. / Place dough onto a greased baking sheet. (I recommend using parchment paper, too.) / Form dough into a log, approximately 3″ wide and 10″ long. / Bake for 25 minutes. / Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack. / Reduce oven temperature to 325˚. / Cut the log into 1″ diagonal sections. / Place the biscotti, cut side down, on the baking sheet and bake for 8 minutes. / Turn biscotti over and bake for another 8 minutes. / Remove from the oven and let cool. / In the meantime, melt your baking chocolate in the microwave. / Dip one side of the biscotti into the melted chocolate, and place back on the baking sheet to harden. / Then, enjoy!
Sometimes, a girl just needs a cookie, and in my opinion, there is no better cookie than the classic chocolate chip. Until you add a little more chocolate. Then, well, all is right in the world.
This past Monday, I had a day to myself. No work. No obligations. An empty house. (With 5 roommates, that never happens.) Ahhh. Bliss. So, I did the laundry, made the bed, vacuumed my bedroom, finished the grocery shopping, and sat down to watch some trashy television, exhausted from my day of productivity. And that’s when it kicked in: a serious craving for something sweet.
I found the perfect recipe for triple chocolate chip cookies. (Thanks Pinterest!) I raced to the kitchen and threw open the cabinet doors. YOU’VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME. We didn’t have corn starch. Or three different kinds of chocolate chips for that matter. But hidden in the corner of the cupboard was a bagged cookie mix. A bagged Triple Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix! The cookie gods were clearly smiling down on me. All I needed was an egg and a stick of butter and I was on my way to crushing my craving for something sweet. But first, I had to wait an hour for the dough to chill. My impatience was running rampant, but I’ve learned over time that the best cookies are always a result of chilled dough. Always. When the hour was up, I threw the cookie sheet into the oven and waited 9 more agonizing minutes. DING! Done. Delicious. (My roommates must have agreed. When I got home last night, there was one lone ranger on the plate.)
What’s your favorite cookie recipe?