Archive for December, 2013

Family Cookbook Project

December 30, 2013

smallrachelcookbooktext

I have been a bit busy putting together a cookbook for my niece. When my sister got married many years ago, I put together a family cookbook for her. It was filled with all the recipes we had growing up. It was useful and nostalgic all at once.

Now that my niece is married, she needs her own cookbook. My sister gave me a list of recipes to include, and I supplemented it a bit with a few more recipes.

The big issue was format. Should I have the book printed? Should I print and bind it myself?

In the end, I  went the DIY route and settled on a really nice cookbook template that I found at All Things Simple.  You might want to do a similar project, using the same template, so I am sharing how my cookbook came out.

(more…)

Advertisements

Levana’s Almond Clusters

December 2, 2013

smallalmondclusterstextC

Sometimes simple things can be a bit tricky.

My parents raved about my sister’s macheteniste’s nut cookies. “The best cookies I ever ate,” my dad insisted. “And Levana says the recipe is very simple: just sugar, nuts and egg whites stirred together.”

Naturally, I had to pin down the exact recipe. Turns out, Levana’s almond clusters are close cousins to Carine Goren’s almond thins, but with a few crucial twists: (1) the nuts are slivered instead of sliced; (2) the nuts are piled high into little haystacks instead of being spread into a super thin layer; and (3) the sugar is brown instead of white.

These few changes make the difference between a recipe my dad really liked (the almond thins) and one he was crazy about (Levana’s almond clusters). The brown sugar gives huge uptick in flavor, making the sweetness of the nut cookies more interesting, less flat. I think that adding vanilla and almond extract ramps up the flavor even more, but that is an optional addition.

The difficulty was that Levana is the sort of cook who makes everything by instinct instead of a precise recipe. The recipe I started with was “mix together 3 egg whites, a scant cup brown sugar and enough nuts so that the nuts are just coated.” About a pound of nuts? “Yes, about . . . at least!”

I had to experiment a bit to figure out the right ratio of nuts to sugar syrup. The first few batches of cookies had sugar syrup seeping out of them. The sugar syrup  that seeped out on the baking sheet puffed up as the nut clusters baked, making strange looking, crunchy protrusions from the cookies.

Also, the baking time was originally “until brown.” That took figuring out, too. Some batches of cookies came out a bit chewy instead of crunchy. It took me a while to figure out that the solution was drying out the nut clusters in a turned off oven.

With these issues ironed out, these addictive cookies are indeed extremely simple to make.

(more…)