Sunday, November 18, 2012

potato chip cookies

Happy hour arrived at four or five in the afternoon at my grandparents' house.

A big bowl of ripple chips and a smaller bowl of salsa would appear on the table. Granddad would start pouring drinks: rye and ginger ale for the grown ups, plain ginger ale for the kids.

With dinner just around the corner, I generally couldn't believe my luck. There I was, being served pop and chips  two commodities that weren't exactly free-flowing at home.

Somehow, the ripple chips were just the right thing with a bit of salsa and ginger ale. After all, I would have spent a hard afternoon digging in the sand at the beach or playing in the yard with my cousins, trying not to step on the brittle grass with my bare feet.

All of this leads me to . . . potato chip cookies. I feel like I remember eating these cookies at Grandma's, but I don't know for sure.

I found this recipe in my Grandma's 1970s church "COOK BOOK," which includes gems like gumdrop cookiessour cream coffee cake and applesauce spice cake. Grandma's good friend, Betty Rennison, submitted the recipe for potato chip cookies.

I mean, they definitely taste like a treat at my grandparents' house. For one thing, they contain the ripple chip. The ripple chip is subtle here: it gives a new kind of crunch and a hint of a salty flavour.

Besides the potato chips, these cookies do not have any bells and whistles. In fact, they only have five ingredients (six, with my tinkering). But they make a rich, buttery cookie . . . almost like shortbread with little bits of crushed ripple chips strewn through it.

They are  obviously  already very good eaten in the late afternoon with a cup of tea or just before bed when you have the nibbles. I think they'd also be ideal on a plate of assorted Christmas cookies.

Oh, and I haven't even told you the fun part yet! (Although it's possible you may have already used a pictorial clue to guess it.)

It is this: how often do you get to start making cookies by taking out your rolling pin and rolling a bag of chips?

Right. That's what I thought.

Old-fashioned recipes are so fun.

one year ago: roasted tomato soup and asiago lace
two years ago: butter tarts and walnut slug cookies

potato chip cookies
adapted from betty rennison
bakes about 50 small cookies

100 g. (heaping 1 1/2 c. when crushed) ripple potato chips
200 g. (3/4 c. + 2 tbsp.) butter, at room temperature
120 g. (1/2 c.) sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
245 g. (1 3/4 c.) wheat flour
     or - gluten-free flours:
     50 g. sweet white sorghum flour
     45 g. oat flour*
     75 g. sweet rice flour
     75 g. tapioca starch
     1/2 tsp. guar or xanthan gum
coarse sea salt

Prepare 3 baking trays with parchment paper. Set aside.

Take out a big cutting board and rolling pin. Use a small knife to prick a couple holes in the chip bag. Lay it on the board. Roll it until the chips are quite fine. Pour the chips onto the board. If they still need to be finer, roll them directly with the rolling pin. Set aside.

Beat the butter and sugar for a couple of minutes until it's light and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla. Set aside.

If you're using gluten-free flours, whisk them together well. Stir well into butter mixture. Mix in the crushed potato chips.

Drop by the teaspoon-full onto the prepared trays. Use a fork dipped in cold water to flatten them a bit (not too much or they'll spread too much later). Sprinkle 3  5 grains of sea salt on top, as desired. Chill in the fridge for 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake for about 15 minutes. They will puff up and look more set, but only colour slightly around the edges. Let them cool on the pan for at least 10 minutes before transferring to a rack to finish cooling.

Store in an air-tight container. Serve with potato chips if you're feeling fun.

*Make sure this is an oat flour that specifies it is wheat-free. If you can't tolerate oat flour, you could try brown rice flour instead.

Monday, November 5, 2012

quince jellies

My favourite medieval fruit is baaaack!

Two Saturdays ago, across the crowded farmers' market, I found them.

I'd been asking around since September, and then I was just standing at the fruit stand, about to buy pears, when I saw it: a basket of homely and bumpy quinces.

Have you ever seen an uglier or more beautiful fruit?

I don't think I actually jumped up and down (although it's certainly possible), but my excitement must have been fairly obvious because the girl next to me asked me what I was so excited about. So I waxed rhapsodic about quinces and I do believe I converted both her and the nice young man selling the fruit to this fuzzy-rock-hard-magical fruit.

I went a bit wild about quinces last year and the mania continues.

Hard! Woody!

One of my favourite things about baking is how ingredients get together and transform themselves into cakes and soufflĂ©s and gratins  something completely new. Well, quinces do that all by their lonesome. (OK, a bit of water and sugar help them along.)

You see, they start as beige-coloured woody pieces of flesh that you have to hack off with your sharpest knife. But then, in the boiling water, they transform into tender pink (pink!) pieces of perfume-y soft fruit. And their cooking liquid goes from clear to pink to ruby.

Soft! Tender!

Last year, I gave you the recipe for quince almond cake and threw in a line about how you can just add a bit of extra sugar to the cooking liquid once the quinces are poached, forget about it boiling on the stove while you eat dinner, and suddenly you have a kind of firm quince jelly.

"Done" bubbles  so quick and rolling they won't come into focus

Well, I do understand that wasn't the most helpful instruction ever so I thought I'd make it a bit more scientific. I can now give you exact proportions and times to make quince jellies  because, let's face it, eating dinner might take a different amount of time at your house.

The jellies have a lovely set that is firm but as smooth as a lake on a clear day. The taste is hard to describe because it's so very quince: perfumed with a sort of tang that is unlike any other fruit.

We like eating the jellies neat for dessert, and also with crumbly sharp cheese on a cheese board. Their clear red colour is stunning  especially when you think about how you started with ugliest pieces of beige fruit known to man.

Sylvan Star grizzly gouda & quince jellies on a cutting board my dad made me 

one year ago: quince almond cake and applesauce spice cake
two years ago: west african peanut soup via winnipeg and butter tarts
three years ago: seafood chowder for a cold autumn day

quince jellies
many thanks to clotilde at chocolate & zucchini for the poaching method
yields a 20-cm or 8-inch circle of jelly, which you can cut up as you please

1 kg. quince, about 4
1/2 pod vanilla (omit if you don't have)
80 g. (1/4 c. + 2 tbsp.) + 160 g. (3/4 c.) sugar
1 litre (4 c.) water

Rinse the quinces in warm water and use a cloth to gently rub off their fuzz. Then, take out your biggest and baddest knife and sharpen it  quinces are hard like wood. Once you've sharpened your knife, set it aside and get out your vegetable peeler. Peel the quince, then use your sharp knife to cut around the core and make pieces in the size you like (I like 2  3 cm squares).

Put the quince in a big pot and cover with 1 litre of water. Cut your vanilla bean in half and use a small knife to scrape out the seeds. Deposit these seeds and the bean pod in the water. Stir in the 80 g. of sugar. Bring to a boil. Simmer, covered, until the quinces are pink and soft, about an hour and a half for me, possibly longer for you. They should yield easily to a sharp knife and be edible at this point.

While the quinces are poaching, get out a big bowl and two strainers*: one regular pasta strainer and one fine-mesh sieve. Place the big strainer over the big bowl. Once the quinces are soft, strain them over the bowl. Set aside the fruit for your next cake or breakfast** (removing the vanilla bean).

Wash the pot the quinces were cooking in to get rid of any extra grainy matter. Rinse it well! Set the fine-mesh sieve over it and strain the cloudy liquid through it. Now you should have clear liquid in the clean pot. Stir in 160 g. of sugar. Boil uncovered over medium-low, stirring when you feel like it.

At first, the bubbles will be small and pop up from the bottom. While you're waiting, get out a shallow pot (about 20 cm or 8 inches). Set it nearby. When the liquid is ready, in about 20 minutes***, it will suddenly be darker and bubbles will be big and tangled and overwhelm the liquid.

Pour it into the shallow pot to stop the cooking process. Wait about 20 minutes, until it's completely cooled and firm. Run a clean butter knife around the edge and invert it (with a bit of help) onto a plate. Use that butter knife to cut it into jelly pieces. Serve alone, as dessert, or with a crumbly sharp cheese, like very old gouda.

You may keep it in the fridge in a sealed container for a long time.

*If you have a large fine-mesh sieve, you can skip the first strainer. My fine-mesh sieve is too small to hold all the fruit.
** The poached quince is very nice for breakfast with a dollop of thick Greek yogourt and honey
*** If you double the recipe, it may take twice as long.