Spiced Chocolate Sandwich Cookies

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Some friends of our were getting together for a Sunday evening get together, nothing fancy, but of course we wanted to bring something tasty. Since it’s technically autumn (even though it’s 85 & humid here in SC), spiced cookies sounded delicious and with chocolate, you can’t go wrong, right? Spiced desserts are fun to make because we get to bake with some of our favorite spices like cardamom & cinnamon. Cardamom is used quite often in Turkish desserts, coffee, and chai, imparting a distinctive aromatic flavor that reminds us of being in Turkey a couple of years ago. Here’s a little piece of culinary trivia: cardamom is the 3rd most expensive spice behind vanilla and saffron.

The cookies themselves aren’t super sweet, but once you put that chocolaty goodness between two of them, lookout, they’ll go fast. Consider baking these and bringing them to Thanksgiving or Christmas, we know they’ll work well for either one. Also, have fun with cookie cutters, especially for holiday cookies. We don’t have any so instead we used the rim of a small wine glass.

Spiced Chocolate Sandwich Cookies

Ingredients: 
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp ginger
  • 2 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom
  • 1/8 tsp allspice
  • 6oz unsalted, room temperature
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 jar chocolate almond/hazelnut spread (or any other delicious spread you prefer – ie Nutella)
Instructions: 
  1. Preheat oven 350 degrees.
  2. Sift together all of the dry ingredients, except for sugar (flour through allspice) and set aside.
  3. In a stand mixer or with a handheld mixer, cream together the butter and sugar.
  4. Next add the vanilla, followed by the 2 egg yolks.
  5. Then slowly, add the dry ingredients.
  6. Once well combined, form into a big ball of dough. Knead briefly, then divide into four equal portions.
  7. Roll each into a ball and then flatten into a pancake, roughly 1/2 inch thick. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. (You can refrigerate as a ball, but may need a little longer to cool completely.)
  8. Using a rolling pin, roll out to 1/6th of an inch thick.
  9. Using cookie cutters or the mouth of a glass, cut into individual cookies. [We made fairly small cookies, given that once they were sandwiches, you’d really be eating two cookies! Our were 2 1/4 inches in diameter, but you do you!]
  10. Bake, on a silpat or parchment paper on a cookie sheet, for 7 minutes.
  11. Remove to a drying rack and allow to cool completely.
  12. While cookies are cooling, boil a few cups of water. Remove from heat once boiling and then set the jar of chocolate-almond spread (still in the jar!) into the pot. Don’t submerge the jar entirely! Let it sit for a few minutes until the spread warms a bit and is more easily spreadable.
  13. Once cookies are cooled and spread is warmed, spread a generous dollop of the chocolate almond spread in between two cookies. Set aside to cool again.
Makes 2-3 dozen sandwiches, depending on size
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Braised Chicken Thighs with Middle Eastern Spices

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Given all of the turmoil in the news these days, I need a break! So let’s focus on one of my favorite and non-political aspect of the Middle East – the food! If anything can bring us all together, food just might be it. Maybe if we all get together and cook for and with each other, we’ll be more focused on delicious flavors and new friendships than differences of politics, religion, and all the rest. One of my favorite authors/bloggers is Sasha Martin, who created the site Global Table Adventure says this: “…cooking has the power to help families bond, empower, and heal. What’s more, setting a global table creates compassion and understanding – which helps the world heal…” I’ve mentioned this beautiful site before… you should all go take a look. Ever since I stumbled upon her site (years ago!), I’ve been inspired by her.

The flavors of the Middle East are amazing. This recipe isn’t based on a traditional recipe that I found, but was instead developed based on delicious spices/flavors and the ingredients I had at home. The chicken comes out nice and moist, and surprisingly, the carrots might be my favorite part of the whole thing! When you eat your chicken, spoon a little bit of the braising liquid on top so you get as much flavor as possible 🙂

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Braised Chicken Thighs with Middle Eastern Spices

Ingredients: 
  • 4 large bone-in chicken thighs
  • 2 tbsp neutral oil
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 3/4 cups chicken stock
  • 20+ baby carrots
Instructions: 
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Salt & pepper the chicken thighs on both sides.
  3. In a dutch oven (or similar stove/oven-proof dish), heat the 2 tbsp of oil over medium heat.
  4. Once the oil is hot, place the thighs in the dish, skin side down. Leave to sear for ~6 minutes. Then flip and brown on the non-skin side for another 4-5 minutes. Once the chicken is browned on both sides, remove to the side briefly.
  5. Lower the heat just slightly and toss the onions and garlic into the remaining oil. Cook stirring occasionally until just beginning to brown, ~10 minutes.
  6. At this point, if there is significantly excess oil, drain it off.
  7. Add all of the spices to the onions and garlic. Cook an additional 3 minutes.
  8. Deglaze the dish with the chicken stock, scraping all the delicious brown bits from the bottom.
  9. Return the chicken and the carrots to the dish.
  10. Cover with the lid and place into the oven. The chicken will braise for 45 minutes.
Serves 4.

 

Garam Masala Spiced Lemon Loaf

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A few weeks ago, I found this post from SweetMeets BakeShop. I was so intrigued by the idea of using garam masala in a sweet dessert that I kept coming back to it. I don’t bake a whole lot, but I’m always trying to get myself to do so. Turns out reading that post was the kick in the butt I needed to turn my oven on (thank you!). It didn’t hurt either that it’s finally starting to feel like fall around here. When it’s 90+ degrees out (ie: last week), the thought of turning the oven on for any length of time just sounds terrible.

And I’m glad that I did! This is a great treat to snack on. Thus far, I’ve eaten some for breakfast, for dessert, and for an afternoon snack. Don’t be put off by the idea of the garam masala in a sweet dish. It doesn’t taste like curry in a loaf… more like a spice cake with more depth of flavor. The only thing I will say is that I think next time I might try orange instead of lemon. I think the orange would go better with the rest of the flavors of the dish.

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Garam Masala Spiced Lemon Loaf

Adapted from SweetMeets BakeShop blog
Ingredients: 
  • 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • 2 tsp cinnamon, divided
  • 2 lemons (zested and juiced)
    • 2 tsp zest
    • 4 tbsp juice, divided
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup of milk
  • 1/4 cup of safflower oil
  • 1/2 cup + 1 tbsp powdered sugar
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Instructions: 
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Sift together the dry ingredients (flour, white & brown sugars, baking soda, salt, garam masala, and 1 tsp of cinnamon) in a large bowl.
  3. Whisk together the wet ingredients (all of the lemon zest, 1 tbsp of the lemon juice, eggs, milk, and oil).
  4. Slowly stir the wet mixture into the dry mixture, until well combined.
  5. Grease a loaf pan and then pour the dough into your pan.
  6. Back for 30 minutes, until a toothpick can be cleanly inserted and removed.
  7. Allow the loaf to cool.
  8. Prepare the icing. Place the powdered sugar and remaining 1 tsp of cinnamon into a small bowl. Stir in the remaining lemon juice. (You may not use all of the juice.) Resulting glaze should be thick, but able to drip off the back of a spoon.
  9. Using a spoon, drizzle your glaze onto the loaf.

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