Lemon Pepper Cornmeal Cookies

Lemon Pepper Cornmeal Cookies

If you suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome or arthritis, don’t try to pipe these cookies. And I’m not joking. My hands were quite sore after piping 4 dozens of these, even though I don’t have any of the aforementioned problems. The dough is quite stiff and not so easily piped. To alleviate the process, you can either chill the dough briefly, then roll it into little balls and bake. Or, you can form a log from the whole batch of dough, refrigerate it, slice and bake the following day as ice-box cookies.

Please, don’t get discouraged by what I’ve just said. The cookies are good and very much deserved to be made. Regardless the way they are shaped, the cookies are so Italian, crunchy but tender, buttery, lemony, and with a pleasant light peppery bite.

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One Crust and Three Pizzas

October Daring Bakers’ challenge was pizza, to be precise – Peter Reinhart’s wonderful pizza crust. To make it challenging enough, we were supposed to master the tossing technique. Although, it is definitely fun and adrenalin-releasing experience I prefer to stretch my dough on the fists letting the gravity to do its work. This way, the desirable thicker edges and very thin center are easily achieved.

We were required to take a picture of the flying dough in the air. Unfortunately, this historical (I mistyped “hysterical”, first :) moment couldn’t be captured – there was no qualified adult around to take such shot. You will have to believe my words that the dough was not just tossed in the air but even successfully caught. And I lie very seldom.

I have a tendency to overdo the fillings and toppings. And there’s an explanation for this. I still remember my nana teaching me how to make a cabbage pie and whispering: ”If you don’t put enough filling, dear, people will think you are cheap. Without the filling, the pie is just a bread crust. And you don’t invite guests over for a slice of a regular bread.” Who ever questions nana’s opinion? So, if you have the same issues with the fillings/toppings as I do, we (Peter Reinhart and I :) must warn you. Do not overtop your pizza! Be moderate with your toppings no matter how good they are.

My big thank you to Rosa, this month DB’ host! We all enjoyed it a lot!

Sautéed Apple and Crispy Cinnamon Streusel Pizza

Sautéed Apple and Crispy Cinnamon Streusel Pizza

In this one, I topped the unbaked crust with thinly sliced and sautéed in butter and brown sugar apples, with an addition of cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, and lemon/orange zest. The streusel, on contrary, wasn’t baked with the pizza. I made the crumbs ahead of time and sprinkled over the pizza top as soon as it came out of the oven. Someone might think it’s a cheating; I believe it’s a practical solution ensuring the perfectly crisp and nicely brown streusel crumbs (that’s how I always top my fruit crisps, by the way). I served the hot pizza with sour cream.

Roasted Garlic and Sun-Dried Tomato Pizza with Roasted Onions, Red Peppers and Feta

Roasted Garlic and Sun-Dried Tomato Pizza with Roasted Onions, Red Peppers and Feta

This is a savory one. Instead of a tomato sauce, I pureed the sundried tomatoes and roasted garlic with a bit of extra-virgin olive oil, and spread it over the crust. The next went grated mozzarella, followed by the thickly sliced and previously roasted red onions, grilled sweet red peppers, and crumbled feta. The whole thing was topped with fresh basil and parsley.

Hazelnut and Honey-Thyme Roasted Pear Pizza

Hazelnut and Honey Thyme Roasted Pear Pizza

I baked the third pizza the following day when my dear and so very much nut allergic son was at school. First, I generously sprinkled the crust with toasted, coarsely ground hazelnuts. The second deck was peeled and thinly sliced Bartlett pears. I brushed the crust and pears with melted butter, drizzled the honey over the pears. Then I topped the pears with thyme sprigs. The time spent in the oven was sufficient enough to flavor but not to overpower the pears with thyme. As soon as the pizza was done, I brushed the pears with a little bit more warmed honey and sprinkled with some fresh thyme. It was delicious. Well, without excessive modesty, the all three pizzas tasted pretty much fantastic :)

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5-Spice Pumpkin and Date Loaf

5-Spice Pumpkin and Date Loaf

There are pumpkins everywhere, in all possible shapes and sizes. Aroma of autumn spices invades the kitchens. And even if this is not my favorite season (please, don’t throw anything in my head :), I do love this comfy smell, and the taste of a moist spicy pumpkin loaf. Speaking of spices, I love 5-spice powder here. In addition to the traditional set of autumn spices (cinnamon, cloves, and ginger) it also contains star anise and Szechuan pepper which adds some warmth. If you wish you can use a homemade pumpkin puree but I went with the store-bought this time. I usually make my puree a bit later, after the Halloween, putting all these poor organic Jack O’Lanterns to a good use.

Anita from the Dessert First is hosting this month SHF theme “Spices”, and there it goes.

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Checkerboard Cookies

Checkerboard Cookies

This is an old classic, not really original – just simple chocolate and vanilla dough put together. Yet it always surprises me how people react when I offer them the cookies (or maybe they are just easily impressed here :) Kids simply go crazy over them.

The recipe below makes an enormous amount of cookies. But it’s easier to work with a fair amount of dough. It’s good to have plenty of it to wrap the checkerboard logs around with rather than trying to patch small pieces together or rolling the dough thinner that it’s supposed to while sweating profusely during the process.

This sort of cookies is a good choice for a holiday gift. The formed logs can be wrapped tightly, frozen for up to a month, and baked later as you need them. And this is the only way of freezing the cookies I advise. I never freeze the baked cookies. And neither should you! The best cookies are the freshly baked ones!

If you are looking to deliver a sweet treat to a friend or loved one, consider ordering birthday cookie bouquets online!

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Hot Chocolate

Hot Chocolate

… is comforting and delicious, especially on a rainy, or not-so-rainy, but chilly day. To be honest, I love it without any connection with weather conditions or time of the day. It can be topped with whipped cream but I prefer the hot chocolate as is. Theoretically, there’s enough for four (offer it the demitasse cups in this case) but I think there are more like two servings despite the richness of the drink.

I tried different recipes, and for now this one which is from the “Chocolate Holidays” is my favorite.

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Cranberry Orange Mousse

Cranberry Orange Mousse

Cranberries are in abundance now. I believe it makes a perfect sense buying them and freezing for later use while they are so reasonably priced. I’m thinking about Christmas, in particular :) It’s probably too early but I’ve got this obtrusive idea… Does anybody else feel Christmas in the air? I even made sugar-glazed cranberries to decorate the mousse. But I didn’t use them as I was told it was quite premature. After all, we’ve just had Thanksgiving here. It’s probably the general holiday spirit, I guess…

A word about the mousse – the mousse was nice. For white chocolate haters – it tasted as it’s supposed to – cranberry-like, so there’s nothing to worry about.

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