Beautiful Treats

For Beautiful Ruins, I decided to contact my wonderful sister-in-law Amy for a recipe I’ve been meaning to take a stab at.  Amy makes the most delectable ricotta cookies at Christmastime and since a lot of Beautiful Ruins takes place in Italy, I thought now would be the perfect time to try my hand at these airy dreams.

So here it goes, what follows is how I made them and it yielded almost 3 dozen good sized cookies.  You can double the recipe if you need:

Cookie Ingredients

1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
7.5 oz (1/2 12 oz jar) whole milk ricotta cheese
1 tsp vanilla
1 eggs
2 cups all purpose flour
1 Tbsp baking powder (yes, that says Tbsp!)
1/2 tsp salt
1 vanilla bean, scraped (my addition!)

Icing Ingredients

whole milk (you’ll use far less than a pint, just a few splashes)
confectioner’s sugar (you shouldn’t need more than 1/4-1/2 cup)

Note: You should start stingy with the icing, it’s easy to make and you don’t need too too much of it.  Of course, you’re going to end up leaving some behind on the parchment so take that into consideration too.

in the mixerPreheat 350 and line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Beat sugar and butter on low until well combined. Increase speed to high and beat until light and fluffy (about 5 minutes).
Reduce speed to medium and beat in ricotta, vanilla, scraped vanilla bean and eggs.

Reduce speed to low and add baking powder, flour, salt.

uncookedDrop dough 2 inches apart on sheets.  These don’t spread too far, so you can get by with them being a little closer.

Bake @350 for about 15 min. This will depend on your oven. I took mine out at about 12 min and they were perfect.  I also rotated my sheets at the 6 minute mark.

You can see the bottom edge start to get light brown. When you take cookies off the sheet the bottom of them should be faint light brown.

baked

Set cookies aside to cool.

While cooling, put about 1/4-1/2 cup powdered sugar in a bowl.  Add just a splash of whole milk and whisk briskly to incorporate.  You can use beaters, a whisk, or even just a fork (that’s what I use).  Gradually add more of either ingredient until you’ve got a nice icing consistency, not too runny!  Be sure that it’s smooth, no powdered sugar pockets.  frosted

I put my cookies on my used parchment paper butt-to-butt (that’s not a pretty image, but you know what I mean).  I’m so stingy with parchment since it’s pricey, so I was able to dirty only one piece by putting them so close together.  It also made it easier to distribute the icing. Spoon icing over cooled cookies and leave aside to set.

Once set, peel the cookies off your parchment and dispose of the bits of frosting left behind . . . if you choose to dispose of the frosting by putting it in your belly, I won’t judge.

Note from Amy: Don’t store these too tightly or in a warm place as they can get a little soggy if the icing softens.  Leave them out overnight.

Note from Kate: I followed Amy’s note and they turned out amazing.  I do recommend that you close the tupperware tightly if you’re going to transport, otherwise, you may hit your brakes too hard and have the tupperware turn over and almost lose the cookies when they try to spring free from your not secure tupperware.  Just saying.  It could happen.

cant wait tastes greatThese were enjoyed by all!  So much so that for the second month in a row, a steeper couldn’t wait to dive in and partook before we even started! Maureen said, “Looks great, can’t wait!”

For tea I served a very lovely Lime Blossom blend, simply because it looked good and I thought it would pair nicely with the ricotta cookies.  I was right.  It was delicious.  I’ve had a couple of the Octavia Teas and they’re all lovely.  Plus they come in the cutest tins.  Win/win!

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Green Mile Yums

IMG_3779For our discussion of Stephen King’s The Green Mile, I wanted to make something lovely and Southern. I had considered, briefly, making chili for the gang based off of poor Eduard Delecroix’s request for a last meal: “. . . he had ordered chili for his last meal and gave me special instructions for the kitchen. ‘Tell em to lay on dat hot-sauce,’ he said. ‘Tell em the kind dat really jump up your t’roat an’ say howdy – the green stuff, none of dat mild . . . I can’t get off the toilet the nex’ day, but I don’t think I gonna have a problem this time, n’est-ce pas?’” (page 239).  I, myself, am not fond of anything too spicy, and I wouldn’t do that to my Steepers.  Continue reading

A Delicious Christmas Carol

gingerbread bitesFor December, I considered making things like figgy pudding or some other traditional Victorian dessert.  Really what it came down to was time and palates.  I made these fantastic gingerbread bites.  They’re super easy (especially if you buy the premade gingerbread cookie mix, which I did) and they turned out so delicious.  This recipe also made almost 50 bites so it was plenty for book club and for some other events that week.  I served one of my favorite teas along with it, White Christmas from Stash teas.
Steepers were treated with a small package of “Novel Teas” (get it?!) and a candy cane.  The novel teas said, “Read ’em and steep!” on the packages!  They’ve stolen my phrase!

A Monstrous Cookie Fail

Oh heavens, what a failure my November treats turned out to be!  I was planning on making adorable sugar cookies in the shape of leaves to represent when Conor finds his room strewn with leaves from the yew tree monster in A Monster Calls.  I have had some issues with sugar cookies spreading like crazy before (see the funny finger cookies from Under the Skin) so I made sure I found a no-spread recipe to try this time around.  I found one (which I’m not going to share since it was such a tremendous fail) that sounded pretty tasty.  A touch of almond extract?  Yes, please!
So, I thought that the dough looked too dry, but then I thought, errr, if I add water to it, it might be too sticky to roll out.  Did I mention that I have a hatred for roll out cookies?  The recipe actually said that I might need more flour even after I put in the required amount.  I knew it certainly didn’t require more flour, so I tried to make sure that it was all together and put it in the fridge to chill.  The recipe told me that I had to chill the dough for at least an hour, but that I could chill it for up to 24 hours.  I let it go for more than two and thought, okay, that should do it!

massive fail

Not so much, the dough was terribly crumbly and I could not get it to work.  So then, I thought, okay, well, I’ll put them into little dough balls.  Of course, they didn’t spread at all, and what I ended up with was some not-great-tasting dense balls of cookie . . . my trash can ate every single one of them.

I thought about trying again, but a few things stopped me:
  1. I was out of eggs.
  2. I had a training to attend about 45 minutes away from my home.
  3. I really really didn’t want to start over.
So, I decided to break down and just buy some cookies.  Meh, they weren’t great, but neither were mine.
I did serve a lovely Maple Walnut green tea (from now defunct Royal Tea House) and that, at least, was enjoyable!

Spooky treats!

cannoli ghostsFor October, I made these hysterically spooky cannoli ghosts.  They made me laugh . . . a lot.  Of course, when Kristin brought up pareidolia I thought maybe they didn’t look so ghostly after all.  Either way they were quite delicious (like I squeezed extra filling directly into my mouth delicious) and very easy to make!  I mostly followed the recipe from Cooking With Sugar, but I found that it made far more than just 16 cups.  I made this twice in a week and used the same filling.  I love using the roll out pie crust for all kinds of things and the addition of the sugar and the cinnamon to the crust really created a wonderful flavor and crunch.  I also put a few mini chips under the filling so you would still get the chocolately cannoli goodness with this bite size bits of heaven!blurry cannoli ghost

Pumpkin MoonFor our specialty tea, I provided a lovely little blend called Pumpkin Moon that I got from a place called Fezziwig’s (yes! Named after a character in December’s RI&S read A Christmas Carol) in Illinois.  Check out that honking big Chrysanthemum bud!  It was enjoyed by all (except me since I don’t like pumpkin).

Kill the Divergents . . . with chocolate!

dbc cupcakesFor Divergent the Steepers got to enjoy another take on “Death by Chocolate” (see my first DbC dessert from when we read And Then There Were None).  This time around, I opted for some cupcakes.  My choice for this dessert came from the fact that Tris’ faction has never been allowed to have decadent foods, since their mission is selflessness.  The importance of the richness of chocolate cake was something I felt couldn’t be discounted.  Hence, these extraordinary fudgy and delightful cupcakes.

divergent teaOur tea of the evening was another really lovely blend from the folks at Adagio teas.  Jeez, I spend a fortune on teas there, but so far, 99% of them have been well worth it!  We tasted the aptly named Divergent blend created by Lindsay Lock.  Check out the excellent label!  I splurged and bought the big tin because when I read the description: “blended with black tea, toasted mate tea, cinnamon bark, ginger root, orange peels, natural spice flavor, cocoa nibs, natural chocolate flavor, natural caramel flavor, natural cinnamon flavor, natural vanilla flavor” I thought there was no way this tea wasn’t going to be amazing.  I was right!  We all really enjoyed it and the richness of the cupcakes paired beautifully with the flavors of the tea.

History of the World in Snickerdoodle Blondies

Deciding on a treat to make for History of the World in 100 Objects was tough!  Should I make something with historical impact (what dessert even has historical impact?  I seriously think they all do!) or perhaps something traditionally British since the book is a collection of items from the British Museum, or perhaps something with a good ole fashioned fall feel.

I narrowed it down to two options, Jammie Dodger cupcakes (I thought this would be great fun) or Snickerdoodle Blondies for some fall flavor.  I thought about something with pumpkin, but since everybody will be gorging themselves full of pumpkin pie next week (and since I abhor pumpkin) I thought I’d stick with the cinnamonny flavor.  Now, I would eat a snickerdoodle year round, but I decided it would be a nice and unique treat for our group.

It was.

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