Sunday, August 24, 2014

Nectarine Crisp with Streusel Topping

I'm barely sneaking this one in before the last days of this summer's nectarines, but I couldn't let this year go by without sharing this with you. Lately, chocolate hasn't been as alluring to me as usual, so when nectarines called to me from the grocery bin, I hopped on board. It was the perfect end to our new patio set's maiden voyage that night; two weeks later, I made it again. I'll probably make it again next weekend, too.

This recipe follows my ideal equation--easy preparation = big payoff. It's everything that I think a crisp should be. The fruit filling is simple and plain, and the streusel topping really makes it--it forms a crust kind of like an oatmeal nut cookie. I hope the idea of that kind of cookie, together with summer fruit and a dollop of vanilla ice cream, is enough to make you rush toward the nearest nectarine bin. Let me know how it turns out.

Nectarine Crisp with Streusel Topping
Adapted from "How To Cook Everything"

Fruit filling
6 cups of sliced nectarines (about two pounds)
Juice of half a lemon (about 1.5 tbsp)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp brown sugar

Streusel Topping
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (packed) brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped pecans (or your favorite nut)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 c. rolled oats (not instant oats)
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 400. Toss the fruit filling ingredients together and spread in a well-buttered 1.5-quart baking dish. (An 8-inch square or 9-inch round works. I used an oval Corning Ware dish,)

Cream the butter and sugar using an electric mixer, food processor, or fork. Stir or pulse in the remaining ingredients until combined and crumbly; it won't hold together like a dough. (You can refrigerate or freeze until about 30 minutes before you're ready to use it. Defrost if necessary, then use.)

Crumble the mixture over the crisp. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the topping is browned and the fruit is tender and bubbling. Let stand for a few minutes, then serve with ice cream!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Giant Chocolate Toffee Cookies

Before Pinterest, I was forced to clip recipes from magazines, newspapers, or to print them off from the internet like some sort of barbarian. I have an envelope of "to make" recipes stashed away for rainy days or a culinary staycation. I so rarely get to them nowadays--our current favorites are on standard rotation, and now that it's summer, I most often turn to easy salads and sandwiches.

The recipe is vintage Epicurious, published in 2000. The ratings are very high, and the recipe is full of wonderful things, so I'm not sure why it took me nearly fifteen years to move this to my "Tried & True" file. I suppose things like "Heath bar pieces" and "one pound of chocolate" always seemed too fussy (I know, I'm cringing even now at my foolishness), so I'd turn to my easy yogurt cocoa cookies. I am ashamed. I missed out on years of these cookies. Learn from my mistakes, friends! For extra good karma, share your batch with your favorite pregnant lady. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.

Giant Chocolate Toffee Cookies
Adapted from Epicurious
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 pound bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 3/4 cups (packed) brown sugar
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
5 1.4-ounce chocolate-covered English toffee bars (such as Heath), coarsely chopped
1 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped (optional)

Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in small bowl; whisk to blend. Stir the chocolate and butter in a double boiler (or a glass or metal bowl set on a saucepan) set over simmering water until melted and smooth. Remove the bowl from the heat and cool the mixture to lukewarm.

Using your trusty electric mixer, beat the sugar and eggs in bowl until thick, about 5 minutes, then beat in the chocolate mixture and vanilla. Stir in the dry ingredients mixture, then the toffee and nuts. Chill the batter until firm, about 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment or waxed paper. Drop batter by mounds of two tablespoons onto sheets, spacing them 2.5 inches apart. (I used a cookie dough scoop, with excellent results.) Bake just until tops are dry and cracked but cookies are still soft to touch, about 15 minutes. Cool sheets on wire racks.