Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Chocolate v. Vanilla

It isn't always plugged into my brain that I have a blog and need to post new entries from time to time.  Truthfully, I don't even plan ahead about what to write - mostly I just go with the "divine inspiration" theory (this can be greatly enhanced by a glass of wine).  The problem with that, however, is that it's hard to come up with photos "after the fact."

We drove to Durham last Friday to visit our youngest son Eric and were looking forward to one of those good family weekends since Andy (our eldest) was flying in from NYC.  And it was exactly that, except for the fact that my assignment was to cater a dinner party for 15 in Eric's apartment that evening.  After driving 6 hours to get there, we the catering vehicle arrived at 4:30pm.  Yikes!  Suffice it to say I pulled it off, but that's another blog (again without decent photos).  Suffice it also to say that I was exhausted by the time we drove back on Sunday.

So yesterday my alarm went off bright and early and I could barely make it out of bed.  I felt like I had been run over by a truck.  An eighteen wheeler.  I stumbled into the kitchen to get the day started and realized that it just wasn't going to happen.  So I took 2 Advil and went back to bed. 

And then I remembered I had promised to make lunchbox desserts for a trip we were taking on Tuesday to the Georgia Aquarium with a group of veterans from the VA Nursing Home.  Oh, crap!

I dragged myself out of bed, hit the grocery store and came home to bake.  (Never thinking to photograph any of it, I might add).  Coincidentally, a cookbook I ordered online had just shown up.  That would be "Ad Hoc at Home" by the chef extraordinaire Thomas Keller of The French Laundry and Per Se fame.  I quickly flipped through it and came across his brownie recipe.

Brownies.  Okay, nothing special.  I have a recipe I've relied upon for years and it has never failed me (and it produces amazingly dense and fudgy brownies every time).  But this recipe had a different technique so I decided to be disloyal and try it.

Good call, Liz!  This rivaled my tried-and-true recipe.  (Of course, why wouldn't it?  Why on earth would my brownies be better than Thomas Keller's????)

But then, as usual, I decided to overthink the situation.  "Hmm," I thought, "not everyone likes chocolate.  Maybe I should bake something else as an alternative."  Can someone please tell me why I wasn't an overachiever like this when I was in school?

So I baked my favorite Cream Cheese Poundcake.  It's the one we used to make when I worked at Watershed and the baking method comes from Scott Peacock.  It's wonderful the first day (or the second or the third) but my favorite thing is to toast a slice or two for breakfast then slather with good butter.  Heaven!

I took all of it with me today on our sodden trip to the Aquarium.  It rained like crazy and you should have seen us trying to get all of these wheelchairs into the building without drowning.  We were soaked but it was a good time.  Made even better by those brownies and slices of pound cake.  Make them both and decide which one rules.  Chocolate v. Vanilla.

Sorry about the "afterthought" photos!

Brownies (adapted from "Ad Hoc at Home" by Thomas Keller)

3/4 cup all purpose, unbleached flour
1 cup good unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Valhrona, purchased at Whole Foods)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 lb. (3 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-tablespoon pieces
3 eggs (I used extra-large)
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla paste (available at Whole Foods) or substitute 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 bag Ghirardelli chocolate chips, 60% chocolate

Preheat oven to 350-degrees.  Butter a 9-inch square baking pan and line bottom and sides with parchment paper cut to overhang sides.  Butter parchment paper.

Sift together the flour, cocoa powder and salt. Set aside. 

Melt half of the butter in a small saucepan.  Put remaining butter in a medium bowl.  Pour the melted butter over the bowl of butter and stir to melt.  It should look creamy, with small bits of unsalted butter and be at room temperature.

Using electric mixer, beat eggs and sugar on medium speed for 3 minutes or until thick and pale.  Mix in vanilla.  On low speed, add 1/3 of the dry ingredients, then 1/3 of the butter.  Continue until all are used.  Do not overmix.

Use a spatula to fold in chocolate chips.  Spread batter evenly in pan.  Rap on counter once to remove air bubbles.  Bake 4-45 minutes until center is just done.  Do not overbake.

When completely cool, invert onto a cutting board.  Cut into squares, as desired.

Yield:  12 to 16 brownies, depending upon how generous you are when you cut them.

Cream Cheese Poundcake (from Scott Peacock at Watershed)

1/2 lb. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 lb. (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
3 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon sea salt
6 eggs (at room temperature - you can achieve this by placing them in a bowl of warm water)
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
3 cups sifted White Lily flour

Butter and flour a tube pan.  Set aside.

Place butter and cream cheese in electric mixer and combine well on low speed.  Add sugar and salt.  Increase mixer speed and beat for 10 minutes, scraping well two to three times.

Add eggs one at a time, blending well after each addition.  When all eggs are added, increase mixer speed to high and beat for 1 minute until mixture is no longer grainy.  Reduce speed and add flour in 2 parts.  When just incorporated, add vanilla and blend briefly.  Scrape down sides and use a spatula to combine well.

Pour batter into prepared pan.  Run a knife around center then bang once on countertop to remove air

Place pan in cold oven.  Turn temperature to 200-degrees and bake for 20 minutes.  Increase heat to 250-degrees and bake 20 minutes more.  Increase heat to 275-degrees and bkae for another 10 minutes.  Increase heat to 300-degrees and bake for another 50-60 minutes or until done and a cake tester comes out clean.  Let cool, then remove from pan.

Yield:  12 - 16 servings

(Oh, and in case of any of you faithful readers are wondering, yes I am still sticking to "the diet."  Didn't eat any of this, other than a small taste just to make sure it was edible!  I did that for you guys, of course!)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Hummingbird Cake

I know, I know.  I post WAY too much about cakes here.  Sorry for that.  But this is just too good not to share.

We attended a fundraising event for Georgia Organics this past weekend.  My friend Annie was the coordinator for the whole thing and oh my, what an incredible job she did.  It was held at Woodland Garden, which is a farm near Athens.  What amazing work they do there.  Celia, the owner, took us on a tour and explained how she is so very focused on organic and sustainable growing.  It was a revelation.  We are completely in awe of what she does and how she does it.

As we took the tour (all 100+ of us, split into small groups), there were "pit stops" along the way.  That would mean snacks and beverages from some of the best chefs in Atlanta.  Stuff like Caramel Corn, Sea Salt, Pecans, Peanuts served with Spiced Ellijay Cider with High West Rye and Agave from Rosebud.  Or Black Pepper & Rosemary Gougere with Gus Russet - Bulleit Bourbon, Basil, Lime Spiced Tea from Joe Truex at Repast.  Need I say more?

I won't even begin to describe dinner.  We were seated at two veerrrrry long tables (each seating 52) in a big greenhouse.  Gorgeous.  Wish I had a picture to share.  Let's just say Lobster Pie, Pulled Pork, Wild Shrimp, Veal Meatballs and Mom's Mac and Cheese.  Much, much more but you had to be there.  Sorry you weren't.

And then there was the Cake Walk.  An old southern tradition, made modern by Annie Quatrano.  About 20 chefs/pastry chefs made cakes for this.  Oh yeah, and I made one, too.  At the end of the supper, the cakes were paraded down the aisle (between the long tables) and placed on a buffet table at the end of the greenhouse.  Guests were invited to come up and help themselves.

I avoided the whole thing (haha, I'm still on this diet.  Well, sort of that day).  We were seated at the far end of the long table row, at the opposite end of the "cake buffet."  I had no intention of going there.   But after 30 minutes or so, my curiosity got the best of me.  I HAD to check it out.

This is Carla's Appalachian Apple Cake
as she drenched it with caramel glaze

Here's a partial list of what was there:  Wine Sponge Cake with Pecans and Cherries, Sticky Toffee Pudding Cake, Chocolate Layer Cake, Caramel Cake, Tres Leches Cake, Coca Cola Cake (complete with the Coca Cola emblem artfully etched in cocoa on top of the cake), Spiced Pumpkin Cake with Sage Icing and a Warm Currant Reduction, Appalachian Apple Stack Cake (this was unbelievable; see photo above), Autumn Harvest Cake, Pumpkin Cake (crafted by an artist slash pastry chef to look like actual pumpkins), Jonah Gold Apple Spice Cake with Sour Cream and Maple Glaze and Apple Spice Cake.

And then there was my humble Hummingbird Cake.

You already know about my decorating skills (or lack thereof).  So I kept it simple.  Just covered with cream cheese frosting (not too sweet) with chopped pecans adorning the sides.  It was beautiful in its simplicity but it was no match for so many of those artfully decorated cakes (sigh).  I thought about not even bringing it, but I didn't want to disappoint Annie.

So I brought it.  And then cringed in the wake of all those "professional" cakes.

When we finally made it to the cake tables, we saw that each cake had a tent card with the name of the cake, the name of the chef and the name of their restaurant (mine was labeled "Hummingbird Cake - Liz Lorber").  I immediately saw that several cakes only had a slice or so missing.  I did not even want to look at mine.

Okay, I'll dispense with the drama.  I looked at it and GUESS WHAT??? It was eff-ing WIPED OUT!!!!!!!  Nothing left but a few crumbs.  Annie had the bad luck to walk up at that moment as I grabbed her (as much as I could while jumping up and down) and giving her the news.  Mine got wiped out FIRST!

Oh, what a moment!

So I'm not an artist and I'm not a professional chef, but I can clearly hold my own against both.  Here is my recipe.  It's pretty easy and it will never fail you.

Hummingbird Cake (adapted from Cakewalk by Robbin Gourley)

3 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour
2 cups granulated sugar
1 T. baking soda
1 t. salt
1 t. ground cinnamon
3 extra-large eggs
1 cup canola oil
2 t. pure vanilla extract
8-oz. can crushed pineapple, drained
1 cup chopped pecans
 2 cups chopped ripe bananas

Preheat oven to 350-degrees.  Grease 3 9-inch cake pans and line bottom and sides with parchment.  Grease again (I use PAM for this).

Place flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and cinnamon into a large mixing bowl.  Use a wire whisk to blend well and break up any lumps.  Add eggs and canola oil and mix with a wooden spoon to blend.  Do not beat.  Stir in vanilla extract, drained pineapple, pecans and bananas.

Divide batter evenly among pans.  Rap each pan sharply on counter, then place in oven.  Bake for 30-40 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in center comes out clean.  Place pans on a rack and cool for 20 minutes, then turn out onto another rack and cool completely.  Frost with cream cheese frosting.  If desired, decorate sides of cake with chopped pecans.

This cake is great the first day, but I think it is even better on the second and third days.  Here is the frosting recipe.

Cream Cheese Frosting
3 lbs. cream cheese, softened
1 lb. unsalted butter, softened
1 lb. confectioners sugar
Pinch of salt
                                                         1 t. pure vanilla extract
Place cream cheese and butter in an electric mixer.  Beat well on high speed for at least five minutes, scraping bowl down often until no lumps remain.  Add sugar in three parts, beating well each time and scrapimng bowl as needed.  Add salt and vanilla and blend well.  Try to resist eating too much as you make it.

One more thing:  this recipe makes way too much frosting.  Of course, I'm the kinda girl who thinks there is never such a thing.  If you are a normal person, you might halve the recipe.

In the box, ready to make the 1 hour drive to Athens.
(I held it in my lap and bitched to Henry
the whole way about his driving).

Friday, October 16, 2009

Frat House Chicken

I know you guys are probably sick and tired of hearing me go on and on about this "diet" I seem to be sticking to. But, thank you. Posting it here is helping me A LOT to keep going. I appreciate your support and encouragement.

So here is one more post about what I can actually eat. And, it's actually good!

Weekday meals have never been my passion. Okay, I made dinners for years because we knew that, as our kids were growing up, sitting around the dinner table every night was one of the best things we could do as parents. I stand by that concept today. I think if more parents would take the time to have dinner with their kids every night and actually have some REAL conversation, the world would be a much better place.

That said, I always referred to it as "slopping the hogs." (Forgive me, Andy and Eric). Now that it's just the two of us, Henry (bless his heart) refers to it as "slopping the hog." I would correct him, but.......

We eat a lot of fish and chicken in this house. I don't know about you, but I hate recipes that call for browning the chicken in a skillet first, then putting it the oven with whatever you decide to add to it. It makes a mess out of your kitchen and your stove, and in my case, probably the floor which will be speckled with little dots of grease and oil by the time I am finished. And then I slip and fall on it or the dogs will lick it up and I will trip over them. You get the picture, yes?

As usual, I have to rant for awhile before I get to my point. Haha, I'm gonna ramble a bit more....

Both of my kids decided to leave the ATL and head for college in NYC. They are 2 years apart, but they both ended up at the same school there. They both joined the same fraternity. They both ended up living in the crappy brownstone which was the frat house. Do I even need to describe the condition of the place? Suffice it to say that the scouts from "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" took a serious run at filming an episode there.

I happened to be visiting one week when my eldest son asked if I would cook dinner for the "house." He's a pretty good cook himself and offered to help. So of course I said "yes." How bad could it be?

Of course, he was nowhere to be found when it was time to cook. And the condition of the kitchen? Oy veh. Totally disgusting. The oven was so black and crusty on the inside, I was afraid of it. Dirty dishes and garbage everywhere. And then there was the fact that many of them (including my son) kept kosher. Oy vey again. Guess we wouldn't be serving cheeseburgers...

In the end, I devised a baked chicken dish which turned out really well. In fact, it was really good. Easy, too. I made it for 40 kids that night and they ate every scrap. I made it for Henry tonight and he did the same.

And oh yeah, it's on the list of things I can eat these days!

Frat House Chicken

8 chicken pieces, breasts and/or thighs, skinned (I prefer bone-in)
Olive oil
1 lemon, halved
1 T. chopped fresh rosemary
Salt and pepper to taste
1 onion, diced
1 28-oz. can diced tomatoes (preferably San Marzano)
2 tablespoons chopped Kalamata olives
1 tablespoon capers
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Place chicken in a baking dish. Sprinkle with olive oil and squeeze lemon juice over. Toss to coat, then season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with chopped rosemary and let marinate for at least 30 minutes.

In a skillet, heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add chopped onion and cook over medium heat until onion is just soft. Add tomatoes, olives, capers and red wine vinegar. Let simmer for 10 minutes. Season as desired with salt and pepper.

Pour tomato mixture over marinated chicken pieces. Place in oven preheated to 350-degrees and bake for 45 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.

Serve and revel in the fact that you have had a healthy and DELICIOUS meal. No guilt. No slippery floor, either.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Gingerbread for Dummies

Please don't take offense at the title. The dummy in question would be me, of course. And the aforementioned gingerbread would refer to the recipe I have used for years. It's absolutely delicious, but I am almost embarrassed to reveal it to you because even Henry could make it. Or one of my dogs. No, it's not from a box (no matter how lazy I can be, I would never resort to that) but it's the next step up.

However, back to that lazy thing. You see, I love gingerbread but I have no patience for peeling and chopping up fresh ginger or fighting with trying to chop up candied ginger while the knife gets all gunked up and you end up cutting off your index finger instead. That's why I love this recipe. It calls for none of that stuff. All you have to do is measure, mix and bake!

So here it is. I have no idea where I got the recipe. I think I clipped it from a newspaper or something when I was in college a million years ago. No wonder I can't remember. All I know is that it is really, really good and really, really easy. Serve it warm with my mom's Ice Cream Sauce and you will thank me!

3 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup molasses
1 cup vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups all-purpose flour (I use unbleached)
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 tablespoons hot (tap) water
1 cup boiling water

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, sugar, molasses and oil. Sift together the salt, spices and flour (or if you are lazy like me, you will just dump all of these in a bowl and stir it with a whisk to blend).

Dissolve the baking soda in the 2 tablespoons of hot water and add to the wet ingredients. Pour this into the flour mixture and blend well, using a spatula. Stir in the boiling water, blend quickly and pour into a greased 9-inch square pan (I line the pan with parchment but that's because I worked in a bakery; it's just fine if you don't).

Bake at 350-degrees for 55 minutes or until center is set (time may vary due to the accuracy of your oven). Let cool at least 30 minutes before cutting or removing from pan.

This will serve from 6 to 8, depending once again upon how generous you want to be.

I just took a pan of this out of the oven. Wish you were in my kitchen right now. It's nasty and rainy here and it's the perfect night for warm gingerbread. Too bad I can't eat any of it (damn diet anyway) but is it okay if I inhale?

Friday, October 9, 2009

Three Words

Eight pounds. Gone.

Seventeen more to go, but this is okay.

Thanks to all of you for your wonderful support.

I will post more over the weekend, but for now it's all good. Headed for the gym tomorrow!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

End of an Era

Gourmet Magazine is no longer. Sigh.

Print media is quickly becoming obsolete. So is letter-writing (although I still believe in writing "thank you" notes). Makes you wonder how long books will be around. Sigh.

I took my mom to Sam's today so I could buy her a new TV. The one she had died the other day and, bless her heart, she called a TV repairman to come to the house. As you can imagine, he (covertly, I hope) laughed at her and told her it wasn't worth repair and it would be cheaper to buy a new one.

So we hit Sam's and found a perfectly decent 19" flat screen. I loaded it into the cart and kept going. Then I realized she wasn't following me. She was standing in front of the display, looking very perplexed (wait a minute, this is my mom, who is pretty much with it. Remember, she is the one who entertains all the time and drinks her fair share of wine, along with her friends). I asked her what was wrong and before she could answer, I knew.

She was looking for a replacement TV. The only ones on the display shelves were flat screens. She had no idea that what she used to have (a cumbersome old dinosaur) isn't manufactured anymore. It was an amazing disconnect. And yet --- why would she know otherwise?

She's an avid reader. She participates in a book club and goes to the neighborhood library on a weekly basis. She can even manage to drive there (scary thought and of course she drives one of those old Buicks - you know, the ones we curse at when we find ourselves behind one of them). But please, oh please, let "real" books stay around for awhile. She doesn't know how to use a computer. What would happen if her only option was a Kindle?

Well, I guess she could always take solace in her kitchen. As I mentioned before, she's a really good cook and she entertains her q-tip friends a lot. Here is her recipe for what we have always called "Ice Cream Sauce" although I have no idea why. It's not very PC as it has a raw egg in it. To hell with that, I say, just make sure you get your eggs from a reputable source (I get mine from a local farmer) and go for it.

I could eat this stuff from a spoon, with nothing else. Alright, who am I kidding here? I could happily slurp it up by the ladleful (is that a word?) But what you really want to do is spoon it over (in large quantities) some warm gingerbread that you have made yourself. (Do I need to post a recipe for that? If so, let me know in your comments and I will happily oblige). It's one of the best autumn desserts I know.

Baba's Ice Cream Sauce

1/2 pint heavy cream
1 egg
4 tablespoons granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
1/3 cup melted, unsalted butter
1 teaspoon rum extract

Whip the cream with a hand-held mixer. With the same beater, beat the egg in another small bowl until foamy. Beat in the sugar, salt and melted butter. Using a spatula, fold this into the whipped cream. Stir in rum extract.

Yield: 1 1/2 cups

Thanks, Mom. Enjoy your new flat screen!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Marbled Cream Cheese Brownies

For someone who claims to be on a diet, I seem to spend a lot of time in the kitchen baking stuff I'm not allowed to eat. Brown sugar shortbread. Biscuits. Those chocolate chip cookies I baked for my son when I sent him the biscuits. Chocolate truffle squares. And now it's cream cheese brownies. WTF????

For the record, I will tell you that I am still sticking to my eating - or should I say "not eating"- plan. I have to go for the first official weigh-in on Friday so that's enough to keep me in line. At least for now. And it certainly kept me from eating those shortbread shards or consuming vast quantities of raw cookie dough. (In the old days, I probably scarfed down more dough than I actually baked). But of course, none of you have ever done that, right?

I didn't eat any of the cream cheese brownies I made last Friday, either. Not the first crumb! And yes, I made them for a very specific reason.

You already know that I bake mason jar cakes to send to our deployed troops in Iraq and Afghanistan every month. What you don't know is I also volunteer at the VA hospital in Atlanta. I think it is equally important to support our veterans (many of whom are forgotten) so I make it a point to go in and hang out with them. Mostly, they just want to talk. Sometimes we just get silly as you can see from the picture on the left. That's me with Mr. W, goofing around on Valentine's Day. It's little enough that I can do.

So did I make these brownies for our veterans in the VA nursing home? Well, no. Many of them are diabetic, so sugar is not an option. Since I have never eaten or made a dessert with artificial sweetener that I thought was edible, I guess I won't be baking for them anytime soon.

No, I made these brownies for the VAVS staff and volunteers who worked like crazy last weekend to organize, staff and run the annual Stand Down for Homeless Veterans. Approximately 500 of our homeless vets showed up on Saturday for medical care, hot showers, food, clothing and support. It was an all-day event and it was HUGE - in every sense of the word.

Believe me, these VAVS staff members deserve far more than just brownies. (People, you know who you are). They are the epitome of what every employee (government or otherwise) should be. No matter how many diets I am on, I would happily bake for them every day of the week.

Marbled Cream Cheese Brownies (adapted from Magnolia's, Charleston S.C.)

4 oz. unsweetened chocolate
4 oz. semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate
1/3 cup butter

Place chocolates and butter in a small, heavy saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir until mixture is melted. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

16 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 extra large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese and butter until smooth then gradually beat in sugar. Add eggs, one at a time and beat on medium speed until just blended. Add vanilla. Use a spatula to fold in flour and chocolate chips. Set aside.

4 eggs
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Using electric mixer, beat eggs until foamy. Gradually add sugar and beat on high speed until thick and fluffy. Add cooled chocolate mixture and vanilla and blend well. Using a spatula, fold in flour, baking powder and salt. Fold in chocolate chips.

Reserve 3 cups of the chocolate batter. Spread remaining batter into a 13 x 9-inch pan that has been lined with overhanging foil and greased well. Pour cream cheese batter over and smooth well. Drop remaining chocolate batter over cream cheese layer and swirl with a knife to marble.

Bake in oven preheated to 350-degrees for 40 - 45 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Do not overbake.

When cool, remove from pan and cut into squares. These are good alone, but you can gild the lily and top them with vanilla ice cream and drizzle with warm caramel (or chocolate) sauce.

Yield: 12 - 18 brownies, depending upon how generous you are when you cut them!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Brown Sugar Shortbread

Oops. I totally forgot that I promised to post this recipe. What kind of irresponsible blogger am I, anyway?

But if I do say so myself, these are worth the wait. Of course, I can't claim the recipe as my own; it comes from that brilliant local restaurateur Annie Quatrano (Bacchanalia, Star Provisions, Float-a-Way Cafe, Quinones and Abbatoir).

When I worked at Star, I made these several times a week. The best part about the recipe is that you have to trim the edges (more about that later). Translated, that meant lots of great brown sugar shortbread shards for us to shove down our throats. At 7 a.m, when baking was in full force, it made a great breakfast with a cup of coffee!

The first time I tried these, that old man I live with and I were on one of our marathon walks (see previous blog entry). Three-quarters of the way into the walk, we found ourselves at Star Provisions. (It's a wonder they let us in, sweaty and smelly as we were). A quick perusal of the bakery case and we both fixated on the very same thing: brown sugar shortbread fingers!

So we split one. Duh! How dumb was that? So we split another one. And then another. Nirvana! And of course the calories didn't count because we split them (and we were walking 18 miles, right?)

Whatever. All I can say is that you should make these tomorrow. You probably have all the ingredients on hand. Actually, screw that. You should make these tonight! Here's the recipe:

Brown Sugar Shortbread

2 cups unsalted butter, softened
1 1/3 cups dark brown sugar, packed
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 325-degrees. In an electric mixer, beat butter until fluffy. Add brown sugar and vanilla and mix well, scraping down sides of the bowl and beaters as needed. Gently mix in flour and salt. Scrape down sides and bottom of the bowl and beaters to incorporate ingredients. Do not overmix. The dough will be a little dry and flaky.

Roll dough between parchment paper or plastic wrap to 1/2-inch thickness. Bake on a parchment or Silpat-lined baking sheet for 20 minutes. Cool completely.

While still on cookie sheet, trim the edges (you then get to eat them - oh yeah!) and cut into bars about 1 1/2 by 2 1/2 inches and separate from one another on the baking sheet. You may need to use 2 baking sheets. Bake bars for another 20 minutes, or until golden.

When cool, roll cookies in a bowl of granulated white sugar to coat.

Yield: 4 dozen bars

A couple of things:
Shortbread spreads when it bakes, so if you cut the raw dough into fingers (or bars), it will spread and lose its shape. Prebaking first, then cutting as desired will maintain the shape.

Do you like my Italian pottery? (That would be the ornate, overly painted plate in the picture. Yeah, and it has roosters on it, too). Henry hates the stuff. He refuses to eat anything on it (even brown sugar shortbread). I, however, love it!!! I decided a long time ago that I was a gay man in my previous life. Guess this proves it!