Salted chocolate-pretzel peanut butter cookies

Salted chocolate-pretzel peanut butter cookies

You are King Midas.
You have the power to turn everything around you to gold. 
You are a wonderfully gifted and eternally beautiful person, 
And I thank the winds every time I think of you.
•     •     •

Thom‘s words of wisdom during a time when I felt as though my entire world was crumbling beneath my feet. If your world is crumbling (or even if it’s not), just remember – you are King Midas.

Let’s turn everything to gold.

Pretzel sticks
Pretzel flour
Creamy peanut butta
Mini chocolate chips
Salted chocolate-pretzel peanut butter cookie dough
Salted chocolate-pretzel peanut butter cookies

Notes: Cookies can be made gluten free by replacing the flour with a gluten free flour blend + 1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum and the pretzels with gluten free pretzels. If you prefer your cookies light and fluffy (opposed to thin and chewy), don’t smash the cookies with a fork – lightly flatten them with the palm of your hand. I use Jif natural peanut butter in this recipe because it’s really fucking delicious – but if you’re opposed to the company, use a different natural peanut butter. Just make sure it’s smooth and creamy. SERIOUSLY. If you want to replace the shortening with vegan butter, that will work – but the cookies will be a bit more oily. Also, someone try this recipe with salty potato chip crumbs and let me know how it turns out. Or graham crackers. Oh, and to make finely ground pretzel crumbs, simply blend pretzels in a food processor for 1-2 minutes – tada!
SALTED CHOCOLATE-PRETZEL PEANUT BUTTER COOKIES

1/4 cup non-hydrogenated shortening
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup cane sugar
1/4 cup sucanat
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 flax egg
2 tbsp non-dairy milk
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup unbleached flour
1/2 cup finely ground pretzel crumbs
1/4 cup vegan mini chocolate chips
Coarse sea salt
, for topping

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Line two large baking sheets with silicone mats or parchment paper; set aside. In a large mixing bowl, cream the shortening, peanut butter, sugars, and vanilla extract using a hand mixer on high speed for one minute. Add the flax egg and milk; beat until incorporated. Stir in the salt, baking soda, flour, and pretzel crumbs with a wooden spoon; mix until combined then stir in the chocolate chips.

Using a 1 1/2 tablespoon cookie scoop, drop the dough onto the prepared baking sheets and flatten with a fork. Sprinkle with coarse sea salt. Chill baking sheets in freezer for at least 15 minutes – this helps the cookies retain their shape, so don’t skip it. Bake at 350˚F for 10-12 minutes (one sheet at a time). Transfer to wire rack to cool then store in an air tight container. Will keep for up to three days.

*Frozen cookies can be stored in the freezer and baked as needed.

Yield: about 30 cookies

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Brownie cakes with chocolate coconut frosting

Brownie cakes with chocolate coconut frosting

We laid on the couch, bodies intertwined and covered with a heavy knit blanket that was a foot too short for our long bodies. The house was dark, but dimly lit from the glowing city just outside our window. A city that was alive and bustling with noisy people amidst the rain; they were honking their horns at bus drivers and shouting at the valet from the entrance of Kimbal Musk’s fancy eatery. It’s called The Kitchen and, although I dig their philosophy, I don’t subscribe to their version of fine dining because I don’t think a small bowl of bland ass quinoa served with a few roasted vegetables should cost $18. Let alone be considered a meal. But that’s not the point, the point is that there were noisy people outside my house and all I wanted to do was open the window and tell them to quiet down because I can count on three fingers the number of times I’ve been home to witness the sound of hundreds of millions of water molecules hitting the roof over my head. And you know what? I think that’s kind of unfortunate.

So the rain. It lightly spattered the tin roof and we listened intently, trying hard to block out the chatter from the masses of noisy people below. At one point, an obnoxious group of what was probably a bachelorette party spent five minutes too long standing at the intersection of 16th and Wazee. It wouldn’t have been an issue except one of the attendees had one of the loudest, most unpleasant laughs I’ve heard in the entirety of my life. I leapt from the couch with every intention of heckling her (it’s actually one of my favorite things to do, heckle people from our fourth story loft) (sometimes I’m an ass), but just as the window cracked open I caught the faintest scent of petrichor as it drifted through the humid night air. And then I forgot about the lady with the obnoxious laugh because I love that smell, but not as much as I love laying on his chest and listening to his heart as it pounds beneath his ribcage. Have you ever done that? Laid on your lover’s chest and just listened to the sound of the one thing that’s keeping their blood flowing and organs working and, essentially, making their entire world go ’round? So I went back over to the couch and placed my head over his perfectly rhythmic chest instrument. And I listened.

Buh-bum buh-bum buh-bum buh-bum buh-bum buh-bum buh-bum buh-bum buh-bum buh-bum buh-bum buh-bum

Cake liners
Brownie cake batter
Chocolate coconut frosting

Tell me a story, I said.
No, you tell me a story, he replied. I always tell you stories.
Tell me about Europe, I begged.

And so, without a moment of hesitation, he started rambling on about Europe. About climbing to the top of Ben Nevis, riding bikes around Amsterdam, and visiting all of our favorite places in Paris. Taking the lovers walk on the Italian Riviera and drinking hefeweizen from enormous steins at Oktoberfest in Munich. Hiking through the Šumava and spending long afternoons on the sandy beaches of Croatia, where Roman emperors used to retire. He went on and on, telling me about the history of each of the countries we’re visiting this summer. 19 of them total. Nineteen different countries and cultures and a dozen different languages over the course of four months, from July to November.

His infinite wisdom eventually put me to sleep. Not because I was disinterested, but because it’s so soothing to listen to someone pour the intellectual contents of their brain onto you. Like the rain on the tin roof, only better. Better than the petrichor or Matt Berninger’s voice or finding my favorite chocolate in the pocket of my jeans. Ok, maybe not better than finding chocolates hidden in my clothes, but you get the point. Right? So this summer, we’re heading to Europe for the adventure of a lifetime, and if you live there or have plans on being there, too, we’d love to get together. Seriously, let’s get together.

Brownie cakes with chocolate coconut frosting
Brownie cakes with chocolate coconut frosting

Also, I’ve got a little bonus for you before we get to the recipe. Our sweet new friend, Kathryn, came to photograph our place last weekend and the final shots are now up on her site. Please no remarks about my stringy hair, mom jeans, or the fact I spelled je t’aime all sorts of wrong. In my defense, I was in a hurry to write something on the jar before Kathryn snapped a photo. And. Well. French is not my first language. In hindsight, I should have just drawn a big heart. Or maybe boobs because that would be funny.

Notes: These cakes are dense – they’re literally a cross between a brownie and a cupcake; not as dense as a brownie, not as light as a cupcake. If you don’t have cacao powder, natural cocoa powder will work. They’re essentially the same thing as far as baking is concerned. Same goes for the spelt flour; unbleached flour or a gluten free flour blend substitute well. I do not recommend making a substitute for the coconut oil, as it gives the cakes a mild coconut flavor and pairs well with the frosting. Speaking of frosting, you can use any liquid sweetener you want – maple syrup, agave nectar, brown rice syrup, etc. I’ve been finishing off a bottle of coconut nectar, or else I’d have probably used brown rice syrup. You’ll have to adjust the amount depending on how sweet your like your frosting.

Update: I recommend using a bar that’s at least 70% cacao. I’ve used bars from Lake Champlain, Chocolove, and Ikea. Although I’m not sure Ikea is considered good quality, it produced a damn good brownie cake.

BROWNIE CAKES WITH CHOCOLATE COCONUT FROSTING

Brownie cakes
1 1/4 cups whole spelt flour
1/2 cup cacao powder
1 tsp fine sea salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
6 tbsp unrefined coconut oil
3 oz good quality dark chocolate, chopped
1 cup cane sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 flax eggs
1 1/4 cups boiling water

Chocolate coconut frosting
1 1/2 cups shredded coconut
1/4 cup full fat coconut milk
4-6 tbsp coconut nectar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 tbsp cacao powder
Pinch of fine sea salt

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Line a 12 cup muffin pan with paper liners; set aside. In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, cacao powder, sea salt, and baking powder; set aside. In a double boiler over medium heat, melt the coconut oil and chocolate, then stir in the sugar and vanilla extract. Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the chocolate mixture, flax eggs, and boiling water; whisk vigorously to combine. Add a heaping 1/4 cup of batter to each muffin liner, then bake at 350˚F for 16-18 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow cakes to rest in pan for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool. Cakes will keep in an air tight container for up to three days.
While the cakes are cooling, prepare the frosting by adding the shredded coconut and coconut milk to a food processor fitted with the S blade. Blend until mostly smooth, scraping down the sides as needed. Once smooth, add 4 tablespoons of the coconut nectar and vanilla extract; pulse to combine. Sift in the cacao powder and sea salt then pulse until incorporated. Taste the frosting; if it needs to be a bit sweeter, add more nectar. If you want it to be thinner, add a bit more coconut milk (1-2 tablespoons). Once the cakes have cooled, generously frost them and serve immideately.

Yield: 1 dozen cakes

Cereal milk ice cream

Cereal milk ice cream

We sat curled up on the couch, braving the steady stream of chilly air that snuck through the seams of the industrial windows. I knew those things were going to be trouble the moment I laid eyes on them, but at the time I didn’t care. I was entranced by the immense amount of natural light they let into the main living area. And their ability to open downward, making them perfect for rainy days. Except we hardly ever have rainy days. This, much like the situation with the cold, I didn’t conceive until after we were months deep into our lease. After I had fallen in love with our little home at the top of an old warehouse, ten times over.

That evening, our bodies were wrapped in blankets, our feet in two pairs of socks. It was cold. But not cold enough to squander his insatiable craving for ice cream. A craving I tried so hard to suffocate with copious amounts of chocolate and other sugary things, but I had no luck. As it turns out, you can’t just sweep a man’s ice cream craving (or any craving, for that matter) under the rug because it comes back full force days later. When it’s five below zero. It’s too cold for ice cream, I told him. But he didn’t care. He wanted it. Bad.

I untangled our feet and went to abandon my comfy spot on the couch, hoping he’d drag me back down and make me stay. Because I like to think that the warmth from my body reigns supreme to the satisfaction that comes with eating ice cream. Turns out it doesn’t, because he let me go into the cold. And so I put on an extra pair of striped long johns, his slippers, one of his thermals, a sweater, and a down parka. All of this to make ice cream for the man who complains about not getting warm waffles in the morning, but then sleeps through breakfast when I finally get around to making them (side note: I have waffles every morning, he’s just not up early enough to bask in the deliciousness). Despite not getting waffles on demand, this man is loved. I hope he knows that.

Pure vanilla extract
Churnin'
cereal milk ice cream-2

When the ice cream was ready, I scooped it into pretty bowls and we shivered on the couch and laughed about the fact that our loft was 57˚ and we were shoveling spoonfuls of frozen, milky goodness into our mouths. It was then that I decided to order a space heater. Because eating ice cream next to a surge of heat seemed much more enjoyable than the current situation, which was eating ice cream on our frozen couch, swaddled in so many blankets we could hardly move.

To tide us over until aforementioned heating device arrived, I took a page from the book of a little punk I used to nanny. Let me preface this by saying it was not my proudest moment. I retrieved my hair dryer from the bathroom and used it to heat our blanket cave, to which Thom completely objected up until the moment he realized he could feel his toes again. I’m going to go ahead and say that you should not use a hair dryer as your own personal heater because it absolutely is not safe. Unless your living room is 57˚. Then I’d venture to say that keeping warm takes precedence over any risks or dangers associated with using a hair dryer for anything other than drying your hair.

But really, don’t do it.

Cereal milk ice cream
Cereal milk ice cream

Notes: This recipe calls for more coconut milk than usual because the cereal absorbs a lot of the milk (about one can’s worth). I’ve made this with light coconut milk (and almond milk – holla!), but if you do this you’ll want to soak the cereal overnight. It won’t be nearly as creamy as the full fat coconut milk variety, but it’s pretty damn close. Growing up, I always loved fruity cereal milk so I went with Cascadian Farm Fruitful O’s. But feel free to use any kind of cereal you want – a few favorite cereals are Original PuffinsPeanut Butter Panda Puffs, and Chocolate Koala Crisp.

PS – I’ve got a s’mores version coming at you once the temperatures start to rise. Complete with graham cracker cereal milk, fluffy marshmallows, and chunks of rich dark chocolate.

CEREAL MILK ICE CREAM

5 cups cereal
5 1/4 cups full fat coconut milk (3 cans)
1/4 cup cane sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Add the cereal to a large mixing bowl. Cover with coconut milk and stir to combine. Place a large, heavy plate on top to ensure the cereal is sumberged the entire time. Refrigerate for 2 hours, stirring every 30 minutes. Once the cereal has soaked, use a fine mesh strainer to strain the mixture over a medium saucepan; make sure to firmly press the cereal mush to get out as much coconut milk as possible. After you’ve pressed out as much of milk you can get, scoop the layer of thick cream that formed on the bottom of the strainer into the pot. Set the saucepan over medium heat and whisk in the sugar and vanilla extract; bring to a boil and whisk vigorously for 45 seconds. Remove from heat and transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Allow to cool for 30 minutes, then cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours. Once chilled, pour the mixture into the bowl of your ice cream machine and mix according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Eat ice cream immideately (it will be somewhat soft) or transfer to a container and freeze until ready to consume. Thaw for 10-15 minutes before serving. Top with crushed cereal, if desired.

Yield: about 1 quart

Dark chocolate coconut oatmeal cookies

Dark chocolate coconut oatmeal cookies

For the first thirteen years of my life, 18 December was a day where we gathered around a table, with cake and ice cream, to celebrate the birth of my Great Oma. Despite the fact that she’s been gone for eleven years, I still consider 18 December to be her day. So today I celebrate the life of my favorite woman in the entirety of existence, because doing anything else just seems wrong.

That lady, I miss her deep wrinkles and unintentional frown. I miss the way we used to spend late mornings in our pajamas, watching the Price is Right. I’d try my best to sync the rocking chair to the tick of the clock, and she’d crochet on the couch across the room. I never liked that couch, but I liked watching her crochet. Her knobby fingers were quick, creating cloths we would use to wash dishes, and delicate pink doilies that would line the bottoms of things capable of scratching her fine wood tables. I didn’t know it then, but a few of those doilies would later adorn my bedside table. I miss the way she used to spoon sugar over my bran flakes, and the look she’d give me when I’d ask for Just one more spoonful, please? She’s the reason bran cereal is the only cereal I’ll ever eat. Except now I eat it sans sugar and have a tendency to drown it in almond milk. I miss sneaking into her bedroom and going through the tray of clip-on earrings she tucked into the top drawer of her dresser. After all these years, I can still hear her lecturing me about her thoughts on pierced ears – If God wanted us to have holes in our earlobes, he’d have put them there!

Toasted coconut
Valrhona chocolate and unrefined coconut oil
Muscovado sugar

These cookies, they’re a jazzed up version of the ones we used to make together. I can still picture her standing at the kitchen counter, hunched over the mixing bowl trying to scrape every last bit of shortening from the measuring cup. She’d spoon the dough onto a baking sheet, put the cookies into the oven, then sit down at the breakfast nook and tend to her crocheting. She was always crocheting, and I was always waiting for the cookies to finish baking. Like the anxious child I was, I’d sit right in front of the oven – nose pressed up against the window – watching the cookies as they came to life.

Sometimes I close my eyes and picture myself as that blonde haired girl sitting cross-legged in front of a 350˚ oven. In this moment I can feel her sitting within arm’s reach. I can hear her humming and tapping her foot to the beat of some made up tune, and I can smell the cookies baking in the oven. This moment, it grounds me and reminds me to breathe. It reminds me that all I have to do is close my eyes and there she is, living in my memory; sitting right beside me, just as she had never left.

As the days pass, I find myself missing her more and more. I long for her wisdom and warmth, and the way she used to embrace my shoulders and kiss my forehead one thousand times. But more than anything, I long to be that small girl again, baking alongside her in the kitchen. I didn’t appreciate it much then, but those moments of baking together so perfectly illustrate my childhood. I was lucky to call her mine for thirteen whole years.

To my sweet lady in the sky, I love you immensely. And I will never stop celebrating you.

Dark chocolate coconut oatmeal cookies
Great Oma's recipe book

Notes: These cookies are delicate and more complicated than your average cookie, but they’re worth the extra effort. If dark chocolate + toasted coconut aren’t your thing, you should probably see a doctor. Just kidding – omit them and add something else. Or add nothing. The cookies can be made gluten free by replacing the spelt flour with a gluten free flour blend (I recommend 1/2 cup all purpose + 1/2 cup buckwheat), but make sure you add 1/4 teaspoon of xanthan gum. I use unsweetened shaved coconut, but if you plan on using that moist, stringy crap, I recommend finely chopping it first. Also, how to toast coconut.
DARK CHOCOLATE COCONUT OATMEAL COOKIES

1 cup spelt flour
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 cup unrefined coconut oil, softened
1/2 cup coconut milk fat
2/3 cup muscovado sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 flax egg
3/4 cup coarsely ground rolled oats
1/2 cup toasted coconut shavings
1/3 cup chopped dark chocolate

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Line two large baking sheets with a silicone mat or parchment paper; set aside. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, and cinnamon; set aside. In a small mixing bowl, cream together the oil, milk fat, sugar and vanilla extract using a hand mixer on high speed; blend for 45-60 seconds. Add the flax egg and mix just until incorporated. If you can see clumps of coconut oil (which may develop when you add the cold flax egg), set the bowl on top of your warm oven and continue mixing, just until the clumps dissolve. Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture in two parts; stirring after each addition. Once the dough is combined, mix in the oats, coconut, and chocolate. Dough is best if wrapped in plastic and refrigerated overnight – but if you don’t have time for that, proceed to the next step. I figured most of you wouldn’t have time.

Using a medium (1 1/2 tablespoon) cookie scoop, drop the dough onto the prepared baking sheet; flatten with the palm of your hand. Their shape won’t change much in the oven, so flatten to whatever thickness you prefer. Bake at 350˚F for 8 minutes. Cool on a wire rack, then store in an air tight container for up to three days.

Yield: 30 cookies

Pumpkin pie sundaes

Pumpkin pie sundae

My mind is cluttered and full this week; bursting with lists of to-dos, to-mights and to-probably will nots. And for that, I am wordless. Leaving you with a beautiful, thought-provoking letter that Jack Kerouac wrote to his first wife, Edie. It sends feel-good chills up my spine. I hope it does the same for you, too.

• • •

“I have lots of things to teach you now, in case we ever meet, concerning the message that was transmitted to me under a pine tree in North Carolina on a cold winter moonlit night. It said that Nothing Ever Happened, so don’t worry. It’s all like a dream. Everything is ecstasy, inside. We just don’t know it because of our thinking-minds. But in our true blissful essence of mind is known that everything is alright forever and forever and forever.

Close your eyes, let your hands and nerve-ends drop, stop breathing for 3 seconds, listen to the silence inside the illusion of the world, and you will remember the lesson you forgot, which was taught in immense milky way soft cloud innumerable worlds long ago and not even at all. It is all one vast awakened thing. I call it the golden eternity. It is perfect. We were never really born, we will never really die. It has nothing to do with the imaginary idea of a personal self, other selves, many selves everywhere: self is only an idea, a mortal idea. That which passes into everything is one thing. It’s a dream already ended. There’s nothing to be afraid of and nothing to be glad about. I know this from staring at mountains months on end. They never show any expression, they are like empty space. Do you think the emptiness of space will ever crumble away? Mountains will crumble, but the emptiness of space, which is the one universal essence of mind, the vast awakenerhood, empty and awake, will never crumble away because it was never born.
The world you see is just a movie in your mind.”

Whipped coconut cream | Pie pieces
Cinnamon sugar pie pieces
Pumpkin pie sundae

Notes: To make the pie crust cookies gluten free, simply replace the flours with a gluten free flour blend and xanthan gum. If you don’t have a vanilla bean on hand, substitute 1/2 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract. Also, you don’t have to add the coconut water to the coconut whipped cream, but I like it to be slightly less dense than what it is without the addition of coconut water. So, do as you wish.

PUMPKIN PIE SUNDAES

6 tbsp whole wheat flour
1/4 cup unbleached flour
1 tsp cane sugar
1 small pinch fine sea salt
1/4 cup vegan butter, cold
1-2 tbsp water, ice cold
1 can full fat coconut milk, refrigerated overnight
1 tbsp powdered sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1 tbsp cinnamon sugar
Pumpkin spice ice cream

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Line a small baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flours, cane sugar and salt; stir until combined. Using a pastry cutter, or two knives, cut the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse meal with a few larger chunks. Add the water and mix the crumbles with your hands, just until a dough forms. Pat the dough into a round ball and set aside.

Line a flat surface with parchment paper and sprinkle with flour. Roll out the dough into a large circle, about 1/4″ thick. Using a small cookie cutter (I used leaf shaped cutters), cut the dough and transfer the pieces to the prepared baking sheet. Freeze for 10 minutes then sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Bake at 350˚F for 6-7 minutes. Allow to cool on baking sheet, then store in an air tight container until ready to use.

Remove the coconut milk from the fridge and scoop out the thick, white layer of fat on top. Reserve 2 teaspoons of the coconut water, then store the remainder for later use (in smoothies), if desired. Using a handheld electric mixer, cream the coconut milk fat, 2 teaspoons of coconut water, powdered sugar and vanilla bean on high speed for 1-2 minutes, or until light and fluffy. 
To assemble the sundaes, put a few scoops of ice cream into 4-6 bowls. Divide pie pieces between the bowls and top with coconut whipped cream. Add a sprinkle of cinnamon for good measure. Enjoy!

Yield: 4-6 sundaes