keito potato

Whole-Wheat Gingersnaps
December 21, 2010, 8:37 pm
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A new favorite Christmas cookie from Kim Boyce’s Good to the Grain.  When arranged on a holiday cookie tray, the decorated orange-cardamom star cookies might draw more visual attention, but these little ginger cookies are generating more comments among friends and family because of their assertive ginger flavor.


My only alteration of Kim Boyce’s recipe is in the finish.  Instead of rolling the balls of dough in plain sugar, I use my mom’s trick of rolling cookies in orange-sugar instead.  To make orange-sugar, simply combine orange zest with sugar in a food processor, and pulse to combine.  Using this method, you can make all sorts of interesting sugars in the future (like sugar cookies rolled in lime-zest-sugar).



Butter for the baking sheets

Wet Mix:

4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsulphured (not blackstrap) molasses
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger, from about a 2-1/2 inch piece
1 egg

Dry Mix:

1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon clove
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt


zest of 1 orange
1/2 cup sugar


1. In a large bowl, mix together the melted butter, sugars, molasses, ginger, and egg.  Sift the dry ingredients over the butter-sugar mixture, pouring back into the bowl any bits of grain or other ingredients that may remain in the sifter.  Stir to form a batter.

2. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours, or preferably overnight for the flavors to marry.

3.  Position 2 racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 350F.  Rub 2 baking sheets lightly with butter.

4.  Make the orange-sugar by combining the orange zest and sugar in a food processor.  Pulse until combined and fragrant.  Place the orange-sugar in a shallow bowl.

5. Pluck out balls of dough about 1-tablespoon in size.  Roll them into balls, then toss them into the orange-sugar to coat.  Place the balls on the baking sheets, leaving 2 inches between them.  Repeat with the remaining dough.  The balls that don’t fit on this round of baking can be chilled until the oven is available for the next round of baking.

6.  Bake for 10-15 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through (top to bottom and front to back), until the color is dark and even all the way across the cookie.  Remove from the oven, slide a thin spatula under each of them, and transfer to a baking rack.

Orange-Cardamom Star Cookies
December 21, 2010, 8:12 pm
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On a rainy day I found myself baking Scandinavian Christmas cookies with my little nieces.  When you’re looking for a cookie to roll out and stamp with cookie cutters, I would recommend these stars.  They are more fragrant and flavorful than most roll-out cookies, packed with orange zest, cardamom, and molasses.  Cardamom is ever-so-prevalent in Scandinavian baking, and the orange zest adds a perfect seasonal brightness.  My nieces wanted to lean over the bowl to smell the dough again and again, enchanted with the complex fragrance.

The cookie is adapted from a recipe in Diana Henry’s cookbook Roast Figs Sugar Snow, a terrific cookbook of winter foods.  I made these twice in the past week, and have made 2 alterations.  I added a few extra tablespoons of milk to her recipe because I found her dough to be so crumbly that it wouldn’t pull together.  My other alteration is the addition of salt in the second batch — just a scant quarter teaspoon makes a difference.  I generally prefer a bit of salt in my desserts.

I left the first batch plain without decoration, but my nieces wanted to decorate the second batch with frosting and sprinkles.  Apparently these cookies are typically frosted all over Scandinavia, except for Sweden where they are left plain.  We spread the icing smoothly across the cookies and tossed on sprinkles and colored sugar.  You might choose instead to drizzle the icing with the tines of a fork, or pipe it with a piping set.


1/4 Cup butter (1/2 stick)

1/3 Cup brown sugar

4 tablespoons of milk (Ms. Henry calls for 2, but 4 worked better for me)

1 tablespoon molasses

2 Cups flour

scant teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest (zest of one orange)

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

To Decorate (optional):

1 egg white

squeeze of 1 lemon

enough powdered sugar to make a stiff paste


1. Cream the butter and sugar in a mixer.  Add the milk and molasses and blend until smooth.

2. Stir in all the other ingredients and bring together into a ball.

3. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight (or at least 2 hours).

4. Preheat the oven to 350F.  Roll the dough out to 1/8-inch thick.  Stamp out the cookies with a star-shaped cookie cutter and place them on a baking sheet.  (They will not expand much, so you can place them close together on the baking sheet).

5. Bake the cookies for 7-8 minutes at 350F.  Leave to cool on a wire rack.

6. To decorate, mix the egg white with a squeeze of lemon juice.  Add enough sifted powdered sugar to make a firm paste.  Either decorate by drizzling lines with the tines of a fork, use a piping set for a fancy design, or spread the icing across and top with sprinkles or colored sugar.

Crispy Chocolate Chip Cookies
November 28, 2010, 12:35 pm
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An excellent version of a classic, and completely whole-wheat.

I discovered this chocolate chip cookie recipe in my favorite baking book, Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce.  Because she’s a top pastry chef, she uses whole-grain flours to show off the distinctive flavors and textures of the grains (rather than using whole grains in a stodgy way out of guilt).  Every recipe I’ve made from the book has created something exquisite, surprising and delighting guests with complex flavors and perfect texture.  This is one of the top cookbooks I recommend to friends.

The whole-wheat flour in these cookies creates a rich, nutty taste (almost fooling you into thinking you added nuts to the dough).  The combination of dark brown sugar and the right amount of salt creates a hint of that sensual salty-caramel taste in the dough.  None of my friends or family have ever guessed that these were whole wheat.  They taste too good to seem healthy, which means we need to work on erasing the culture’s myth that health and good flavor are enemies.  This is the perfect cookbook for reminding us, one recipe at a time, that the most healthful foods are usually the most delicious.

A single batch of cookies calls for 8 ounces of bittersweet chocolate.  Make sure you use  high-quality chocolate because the distinctive flavor will pair better with the other quality ingredients.  This week I made a double-batch using 16 ounces of chocolate, which means I used most of a gigantic 17.6-ounce chocolate bar from Trader Joe’s.  I was thrilled to use the majority of that surrealistically-enormous bar.




parchment paper for the baking sheets

Dry Mix:

3 Cups Whole-wheat flour (I sometimes use whole-wheat pastry flour)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

Wet Mix:

8 ounces (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 Cup dark brown sugar
1 Cup sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped into 1/4-and 1/2-inch pieces


1. Place two racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat oven to 350F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment.

2. Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl, pouring back into the bowl any bits of grain or other ingredients that may remain in the sifter.  Set aside.

3. In another large bowl, or a bowl of a standing mixer, add the butter pieces and both sugars.  Mix on low speed until they are blended, about 2 minutes.  Use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until each is combined.  Mix in the vanilla.  Add the flour mixture to the bowl and blend on low speed until the flour is barely combined, about 30 seconds.  Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.

4. Add the chocolate all at once to the batter.  Mix on low speed until the chocolate is evenly combined.  Use a spatula to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.

5. Scoop the dough into mounds and arrange on the parchment-lined baking sheets.  Ms. Boyce makes large cookies out of 3-tablespoon scoops (fitting 6 cookies per baking sheet).  I tried that once, but found the enormous cookies to be daunting.  Smaller cookies seem more inviting to me, so my scoops are roughly 1.5 – 2 tablespoons each (fitting 9 cookies per baking sheet).

6. Bake the cookies, 2 pans at a time, in the oven for 11-12 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through.  Transfer the cookies to a rack to cool.  Repeat with the remaining dough.

Buckwheat Shortbread Cookies
November 7, 2010, 9:49 am
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Many of the ladies in my church made cookies this weekend for a wedding reception.  We all baked pretty, delicate cookies, and these were my contribution.  This past year these buckwheat shortbread cookies have become my go-to cookie because they’re easy to make, and please crowds with their crisp richness and complex buckwheat flavor.

The cookie recipe comes from Alice Medrich’s book Pure Dessert, but this year I have experimented with different additions to chop and stir into the dough.  Alice uses cacao nibs, which are wonderful, but the peeling process is exhausting.  Sometimes I shave dark chocolate with a cleaver.  This weekend I made these with roasted almonds.  Feel free to experiment with various nuts and forms of chocolate.

These cookies are easy to make because they’re essentially “refrigerator cookies.”  This means you form the dough into logs, which you chill in the fridge and slice with a sharp knife.  So simple.  Miss Heidi’s version at “101 cookbooks” is a frilly cookie because she rolls out her dough and uses cookie cutters.  I tried her method, but found the dough to be fragile and better suited for slicing in the chilled log form.

Of all of the “alternative flours,” buckwheat flour is relatively easy to find.  This flour smells good, and is a pretty shade of grey (but don’t worry, there is enough standard flour in the dough so the cookies won’t be grey).



1  1/4 Cup all-purpose flour

3/4 Cup buckwheat flour

1/2 lb. butter (2 sticks), softened

2/3 Cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/3 – 1/2 Cup cacao nibs, shaved dark chocolate, or roasted almonds

1  1/2 teaspoon vanilla



If you are toasting almonds, do that first.  Bake them in a 300-325F oven until they are richly fragrant.  Let them cool before using, so that they don’t warm the dough.  When cool, chop them with a big knife.

Whisk or sift the flours in a medium bowl.  Set aside.

In another medium bowl, beat the butter, sugar, and salt with an electric mixer until smooth and creamy, but not fluffy, about 1 minute.  Mix in almonds or your form of chocolate, as well as the vanilla.  Add flours and mix until just incorporated.  Kneed lightly with your hands to incorporate everything if needed.

Form dough into 12″ x 2″ logs and wrap in cellophane.  Refrigerate the logs at least 2 hours, or preferable overnight.

Heat the oven to 350F and arrange the oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven.  You will be using both racks at the same time.  Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper (to prevent sticking).

With a sharp knife, thinly slice the logs of dough about 1/4″ inch thick.  Arrange on the parchment-lined pans.  Bake both pans simultaneously on the two oven racks.  Bake 11-14 minutes, until the edges are just starting to color.  Rotate the pans (top to bottom and front to back) halfway through baking.  Cool on a rack.  Repeat with the remaining dough.

Makes 40-48 cookies, depending on how you slice it.  Enjoy these with your friends over a cup of tea.


Cornmeal Cranberry Cookies
May 23, 2010, 1:51 pm
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I’m working my way through Kim Boyce’s new baking cookbook, Good to the Grain. As the former pastry chef at Campanile in LA, she brings a sophistication to baking with whole grain flours. This is exactly what I want in a baking book: whole grains for pleasure instead of whole grains for guilt. If you bake at all, you will need to spend some time with this book.

These cornmeal cookies are big, rich, and flavorful. The solid floor of corn flour, cornmeal, and brown sugar in the dough creates a rich taste that reminds me of a peanut butter cookie.

Kim’s original cookie recipe call for dried blueberries, but I switched to dried cranberries because they were more affordable ($4.60 per pound versus $14.99). Because the dried cranberries are larger than the blueberries, I roughly chopped them with a big Chinese cleaver.

I usually keep medium or coarse cornmeal in my pantry for making polenta, but a finer grain cornmeal is called for here. A coarser cornmeal would make the cookies gritty.


butter for the pans

2 cups corn flour
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup finely ground cornmeal
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
2 teaspoons kosher salt

8 ounces (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 cups dark brown sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup whole milk
1 cup dried cranberries, roughly chopped

1/2 cup sugar

Place 2 racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 350F. Rub 2 baking sheets with butter.

Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl, pouring back into the bowl any bits of grain or other ingredients that may remain in the sifter. Set aside.

Add the butter and the brown sugar to the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Turn the mixer to low speed and mix until the butter and sugar are combined, then increase the mixer speed to medium and cream for 2 minutes. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides and the bottom of the bowl.

Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing until each is combined. Add the flour mixture to the bowl and blend on low speed until the flour is barely combined, about 20 seconds. Scrape down the sides and the bottom of the bowl. Add the milk and the cranberries. Slowly mix until the dough is evenly combined.

Pour the finishing sugar into a bowl. Scoop mounds of dough, each about 3 tablespoons in size, form them into balls, and set them aside on a plate. Dip each ball into the sugar, and coating it lightly. Arrange the balls on the baking sheets, leaving about 3 inches between them.

The balls of dough that don’t fit on this round of baking can be dipped in the sugar and chilled.

Bake the cookies for 20-22 minutes, rotating the sheets top to bottom and front to back halfway through. The cookies will puff and crack at the tops and are ready to come out when the sugar crust is golden brown and the cracks are still faintly yellow.

Repeat with the remaining dough.

These cookies are best eaten warm from the oven or later that same day. They’ll keep in an airtight container for up to 3 days.