Coconut, Chocolate Chip and Walnut Cookies

I’ve been meaning to post more desserts. Trust me, I love desserts. But I can’t regularly bake and eat a dozen (or two) cookies for 2 people. But I got an early start (7AM!) to my Saturday, ran in Central Park and planned to fill my afternoon with the semifinal matches of the US Open. I had my set-up with some fruit and nut snacks and ready to go see Djokovic vs. Federer at noon. Much to my dismay, the weather in Flushing got in my way and there was a rain delay. It’s remarkable to see how much the weather varies even within the distance of a few miles. The weather was great in Manhattan but there was no telling how long the rain delay would last in Flushing. So I thought I’d spend the time and bake some cookies. They’re a dessert that’s quick and easy to bake.

Cookies are pretty versatile. You can vary the mix-ins. It can be soft in the middle and crisp on the edges or it can be a chunkier cookie with a lot of bite. I love loaded cookies because of the amount of flavor, contrast and texture you get. The Ranger Cookie post by iamafoodblog inspired us to make a batch of our own! But any way you make these, they will definitely be delicious!

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375F. Grease 2 cookie sheets or line with parchment paper or foil.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the butter, white sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla extract until smooth and creamy.
  3. Slowly beat in the eggs, one at a time.
  4. In another bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, and salt.
  5. Slowly add the flour mixture to the butter mixture until just combined.
  6. Stir in the chocolate chips, coconut flakes and walnut pieces into the dough.
  7. Drop the dough by rounded tablespoons onto the cookie sheet.
  8. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.
  9. Allow cookies to cool slightly before moving to a wire rack.

Cook’s Notes

 The recipe makes 2 dozen (or so) 2-3 bite cookies if you drop them about the size of a rounded tablespoon. Of course if you want them to be larger, the recipe will make a bit more than one dozen.

If you choose to flatten the dough a bit to make the cookies thinner, the baking time might need to be reduced depending on how thin you make the cookie. Set the baking timer for 8 minutes first. Check it and then add on additional time (1-2 minute increments) if needed.

Rhubarb Apple Crumble Pie

I’ve always seen rhubarb around the farmer’s markets, heard about strawberry-rhubarb pie, and rhubarb jams. But I never actually got around to trying it, until this weekend. I had bought this ceramic pie dish from Crate+Barrel about a month ago; and it’s been in my cabinet since then. I love pie; I don’t make enough as I’d like. But honestly if I did, instead of spending time with you, I’d have to be running. This rhubarb apple pie finished baking around 11:30PM Saturday night. It’s currently 9:39PM on Sunday and there is one lonely slice left. It’s safe to say that we finished this whole pie within 24 hours. I definitely can’t make a habit out of this. But I did learn one thing – I like rhubarb! Dan does too.

So what does rhubarb actually taste like? Raw, it tastes tart and sour, with a texture that’s just a bit firmer than celery. Cooked (with sugar), it looses its firm texture and develops a milder sweet-tart flavor. While it’s technically a vegetable, it’s treated in cooking as a fruit because of it’s zingy, tart flavor. It’s usually found in sweet dishes, either alone or alongside a type of fruit. For example, strawberry-rhubarb pies and jams or rhubarb-mango compote. Since it complements fruit, it’s most commonly found in pies.

One of my signature desserts is apple pie. I’ll have to you tell you about it; but only when I can afford to finish another whole pie! Anyway, I thought I’d put a spin to this dessert and add in some rhubarb and a crumble topping. There was local rhubarb available on Fresh Direct from Red Jacket Orchards and apples from the Union Square farmer’s market. I consciously made the pie more rhubarb than apple, but adjust the proportions depending on the flavors you like. If you like cherry pies because of their tartness, try rhubarb! If you  need a pie crust, refer to the recipe for the one I made a few weeks ago.

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the rhubarb, apples, 1/2 cup brown sugar, white sugar, 1-1/2 tablespoons flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and lemon zest. Let sit for 5-10 minutes.
  3. In a small bowl, mix together the crumb topping of 1/4 cup light brown sugar, 1/3 cup flour, rolled oats, butter and walnuts.
  4. Pour filling into prepared pie dish and cover evenly with crumble mixture.
  5. Place pie dish on a cookie sheet and bake for 45 minutes.
  6. Serve with vanilla ice cream or yogurt.

Cook’s Notes

For baking, I prefer to use apples that are firmer in texture such as Fuji, Granny Smith, Gala, or Empire. I find that Red and Golden Delicious apples are too mealy for baking.

After the rhubarb apple filling as been sitting for a few minutes, there will be liquid accumulated at the bottom of the bowl. I generally don’t pour this liquid into the pie dish because the filling will itself produce liquid as it bakes.

I usually let pies sit out on the counter for the first night. I prefer day-old pies to fresh-out-of-the-oven pies since the juices produced while baking gets absorbed back into the filling and crust. I think the texture, flavor and filling consistency is better the day after.

Out of ceramic, glass and metal pie dishes, I prefer ceramic because it conducts heat evenly and retains the heat well. This allows the crust to brown nicely without burning. It also bakes the filling evenly. It’s also great for presentation. The downside is that ceramic dishes are heavy and is more expensive than glass and metal. However, I think there is great value in ceramic dishes. If using ceramic, it take a bit longer for the dish to heat up in the oven. You might need to increase the baking time by 10-15 minutes.

Homemade Flaky Pie Crust

I’ve never been fully satisfied with store-bought pie crust. They are convenient and get the job done. Some are actually quite good. Though none of them have buttery richness flavor that you get only through real, homemade crusts. Yes, butter – and usually a whole stick of it! I try not to make too much dessert, since it is just the two of us eating it. But when I do, there is no substitute for butter.

I’ve always thought homemade crusts were difficult to make, especially since I don’t have the space for a full-sized food processor or stand mixer. But I tried it one day and it was quite simple (and fast!) to make! This recipe can be used for any types of pie or galette (but not tarts – their crusts are slightly different).

Directions

-By Hand Method-

  1. Stir together flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl.
  2. Using a pastry cutter (or 2 knives), cut the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse meal and the butter pieces are no larger than small peas.
  3. Add the ice water and mix with a fork until the dough pulls together. If the dough is dry, mix in more water 1 tablespoon at a time.

-By Stand Mixer or Food Processor Method-

  1. Combine the flour, sugar and salt.
  2. Mix or pulse the ingredients together.
  3. Add in the butter and mix or pulse until the mixture resembles a coarse meals and the butter pieces are no larger than small peas.
  4. Add the ice water and mix until the dough pulls together. If the dough is dry, mix in more water 1 tablespoon at a time.

-To Shape the Crust-

  1. To shape the crust, transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and flatten into a disk.
  2. Lightly flour the dough and roll with a rolling pin until it becomes at least a 12″ round, so there is enough dough to cover up the sides of the pie dish.
  3. Transfer the round into the dish and press into bottoms and sides.
  4. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Cook’s Notes

To get the coarse meal texture, you need to cut in very cold butter pieces. I find that as I’m cutting the stick of butter into small cubes, it starts to soften. In this case, I freeze the cubes a few minutes so they’ve hardened.

If you don’t have a pastry cutter, using 2 dinner knives in a “X” crossing motion also does the trick. If using knives, the smaller the butter pieces the easier. A trick to getting very small pieces of butter is to use a box grater. Freeze the stick of butter so it’s stiff and then grate the butter into shreds. If the shredded butter is softening, freeze it again before cutting into the flour. I’ve made crusts using knives and it works perfectly well.

For the ice water, I usually end up using about a total of 6 tablespoons.

Instead of shaping the dough directly on a work surface, I do it on top of parchment paper, which facilitates in transferring the  dough to the dish (see next tip). To roll the dough into a round, turn the dough (or your rolling pin) a quarter turn after a few rolls. I also lightly flour the dough after a few turns. As you’re working the dough, the heat causes the butter to melt, which makes the dough stick to the rolling pin. If the dough becomes too soft to work with, refrigerate it for a few minutes.

To easily transfer the crust to the dish, slide the rolling pin underneath the parchment paper. Transfer by flipping the crust onto the dish and pull off the parchment paper baking. After pressing the crust into the pan, remove the excess dough by roll the rolling pin over the edges of the dish.