Archive for May, 2011

Oatmeal raisin walnut cookies

25 May 2011

I’m in a baking state of mind, and a bit perplexed by it.

As much as I love to cook, I don’t bake very often. Except when I want to make dessert for dinner with friends, and even then I usually manage to devise a non-baked sweet. But these days I’ve been baking walnut tarts and banana cakes, and, most surprisingly, the other day at 10 pm I felt compelled to try to recreate my childhood memory of a seriously addictive chewy almond macaroon. (It was an improvisation and not an entirely terrible first attempt. To be continued.)

This weekend I baked oatmeal raisin walnut cookies, for no particular reason.

The recipe is very slightly adapted from the Once Upon a Tart… cookbook. It has less sugar, fewer raisins, and leaves out the cinnamon. I wanted something subtle and understated.

When I first tasted one, straight out of the oven, I was worried it lacked something: some spice perhaps, or some sugar — why am I always compelled to tinker with recipes? But the next day I felt vindicated. They were exactly as I wanted. These cookies don’t wow into submission at first bite; they seduce stealthily, enticing, unwittingly, to reach for another, and another, and another…

Resist the temptation to eat the cookies straight off the rack. Wait a few hours and they will be exactly what you were hoping for.


Slightly adapted from the Once Upon a Tart… cookbook

1 cup (225 g) butter
1 1/4 cup (250 g) sugar
2 eggs
1/3 cup (100 ml) liquid honey
1 1/2 cups (175 g) flour
4 cups (400 g) rolled oats
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups (175 g) coarsely chopped walnuts
1 cup (125 g) raisins


Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C).

Take the butter out of the refrigerator to soften.

In a large bowl, beat the softened butter and sugar with a wooden spoon until light and fluffy. **It’s important here to beat the ingredients thoroughly, for 5 to 10 minutes.** Add the eggs, one at a time, beating with a whisk to combine well. Add the honey and mix.

In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, the oats, and the salt.

Combine  the butter/sugar/egg/honey mixture with the flour/oats/salt. Mix until the flour has disappeared.

Stir in the walnuts and raisins.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Butter the paper. With a large spoon or ice cream scoop, transfer small balls of dough to the baking sheet, flatten and shape them with your fingers, making sure to leave about 1 in (2.5 cm) between each cookie.

In the oven for 12-15 minutes, until the cookies start turning brown at the edge. The cookies will still feel soft to the touch but will harden as they cool.  [12-13 minutes works for 2 in (5 cm) cookies. Adjust time according to the size of the cookies.]

Wait until tomorrow. Store in a cookie jar or other airtight container.


Related posts

Banana cake

Busy-day cupcakes

Eating out | Up a cobbled street to Vinegar Hill House

19 May 2011

Vinegar Hill House lives on a narrow street that slants up from the East river, an unexpected cobbled block of low brick houses tucked between old factories at one end and uninspired housing towers at the other. It takes its name from the neighborhood, a small anachronistic sliver wedged between Dumbo and the Brooklyn Navy Yards.

From the outside it’s hard to guess which of the houses is a restaurant; inside it’s very much the kind of place you’d hope to walk into. It’s busy but not crowded, friendly without being overbearing, and thoughtful but not overly contrived. The food is simple, seasonal, and mostly very good.

We had no trouble getting a table when we arrived for brunch at 11.30. I ate good scrambled eggs with ramps and a side of completely addictive maple-glazed bacon. Thomas liked the special, a thick corn pancake with pieces of chorizo topped with cream and jalapeno. Balthasar polished off the quiche, though I would have quibbled that it was a bit eggy with too few pieces of asparagus. Leo found the breakfast sandwich with country ham, fried egg, and pepper jelly a bit too sweet, and I was forced to agree (though he did have to finish it). Louise scavenged bits and pieces from everyone.

Then came one large sourdough pancake with pecan bourbon sauce and ricotta, and it would barely have survived a minute under our four-sided fork assault had not the creamy yogurt with homemade preserves accompanied by a granola bar arrived as a propitious diversion. It was a family brunch. It was lovely.

Vinegar Hill House

72 Hudson Avenue (nr. Water Street)
Brooklyn, NY 11201


Open Mon-Thu 6-11pm, Fri-Sat 6pm-11.30, Sun 5.30-11pm
Brunch Sat-Sun 11am-3.30pm


Related posts

Eating out | Brunch at Blaue Gans


Baked shrimp with lemon, rosemary, and tarragon

12 May 2011

It’s surprisingly easy to grow tarragon.

I had always thought of tarragon as a fragile herb because it is often wilted and usually bland when bought, but I discovered it is actually a low-maintenance hardy perennial that survives the New York winter. Alongside chives, tarragon is the first herb to come up in spring, year after year, and I think it’s worth growing, if only for that optimistic quality.

A classic French use for tarragon is with chicken, it also goes nicely with fish, and gives an acidulated kick to salads. This oven-baked shrimp, though, is itself almost reason enough to grow tarragon. I was inspired by a recipe found on Oui, Chef (which uses different herbs and spices, but the idea and cooking method are the same).

It’s absurdly delicious, and ridiculously easy.


Adapted from Herb and Lemon Baked Shrimp by Oui, Chef.

If you don’t happen to grow tarragon on your balcony, fresh thyme and 1/2 tsp cracked coriander seeds would go well, as shown in the original recipe (added early with the lemon, rosemary, and cracked pepper to flavor the oil).

1 lemon

1/2 tsp peppercorns

Good olive oil

Few sprigs fresh rosemary

1 lb (450 g) shrimp*

Few sprigs fresh tarragon

Coarse grey sea salt


Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C).

Trim the ends of the lemon, cut it in half lengthwise, place the halves cut side down on the board and cut into thin half moons. In a mortar, crack the peppercorns.

Pour enough olive oil to cover an ovenproof dish a generous 1/8 inch (1/4 cm) deep. Put the lemon slices in the oil reserving 4-5 very thin ones for later. Add the cracked pepper and the sprigs of rosemary. Put into the hot oven for about 15 minutes, until the oil is sizzling and fragrant.

Remove the dish from the oven, add the shrimp and tarragon, tossing them quickly in the fragrant oil, then sprinkle some coarse sea salt and place the few reserved slices of lemon on top and slide back into the oven.

Bake for about 7 to 10 minutes, depending on the size of the shrimp. **Small shrimp are cooked practically as soon as they lose their translucence on the outside. Larger shrimp may take a couple minutes longer. (They will continue to cook when out of the oven.)**

Serve immediately, with a spoonful of the juices.

*Here in New York, nearly all shrimp has at some point been frozen. Usually, shrimp that is sold unfrozen is actually thawed. If the shrimp has been caught wild and never been frozen, it is specified. Therefore, unless very fresh wild shrimp is available, it is best to buy frozen shrimp and defreeze it at home just before cooking.

Basic | Sweet pie crust

10 May 2011

This pie crust is ideally light and flaky. It works very well for practically any fruit tarte, except — mildly ironically in this context — the walnut tarte for which I made it on Saturday. For that singular tarte, unlike others I usually make in that it is fairly rich, this pie crust is a bit too sweet and buttery. For every other tarte (or even pumpkin pie), it is excellent. It is the galette dough recipe from Chez Panisse Café Cookbook.

There are endless minute variations on pie crust recipes, some of which involve the size of the pieces of butter or the temperature of the ingredients. These do make a difference, and I think another crucial aspect is how the dough is treated. It should always be barely handled – delicately with the fingertips and never the palm of the hand. I think of it as the opposite of kneading.


From Chez Panisse Café Cookbook

3/4 cups (170g) unsalted butter

2 cups (200g) flour

1 tsp sugar

1/4 tsp salt

Place a small glass of water in the freezer.

Cut the butter into 1/2-inch (1 cm) pieces.

In a large bowl mix the flour, sugar, and salt.

Gently work half of the butter into the flour mixture with fingertips until dough has the texture of coarse oatmeal. Add the rest of the butter and work it into the dough quickly, stopping as soon as the largest pieces of butter are the size of lima beans.

Add the ice cold water, a few drops at a time, carefully bringing the dough together into a ball. Stop adding water as soon as the dough adheres, but some flour is left in the ball (the dough should not be sticky).

Flatten the ball of dough, cover in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least an hour and up to 1 day.

Remove dough from refrigerator and allow about 15 minutes for it to soften with the ambient heat and become easy to handle.

Generously butter the pie pan.

Lightly dust a clean, flat surface with flour and roll out the dough into a circle until it is 1/8 inch (1/3 cm) thin.**This dough is very buttery, so to prevent it from sticking to the the floured surface I turn it at the beginning then regularly lift it, all the while adding a little flour on either side and on the rolling pin.**

To transfer the dough to the pie pan, gently fold it in half once, then fold it in half again, and carefully place the folded dough in the pie pan, positioning the angle in the center. Unfold, press gently onto the pan and sides, and cut off excess dough from the edges. Slip the pie crust in the refrigerator for at least 1/2 hour before using.

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