Monday, September 26, 2011

Cocoa Cookies

I have written many times before about cocoa.  I have this incredible cocoa short bread cookie that I have been making at home.  I have to say thank you Martha, but I had to tweak the recipe a bit.  It's a very cocoa chocolate cookie but barely sweet that is great for a nibble.  Mr PSC calls them "hubby snacks".  It is delicate, but we love to take them hiking, even if we are eating crumbs. 

   1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
   ½ cup confectioner’s sugar
   ¼ cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
   ¼ teaspoon coarse salt
   ½ cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
   ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Place all ingredients in a food processor and process till it comes together to a ball
Then roll out to approximately ¼ inch thick, then cut in to desired shapes
Bake 20-25 minutes

You can add cocoa nibs- that is bits of roasted cocoa beans.  I like to add (at the very end) 1 teaspoon of coarse salt;  just process once or twice, it adds great little salt bits.  I also chop up bits of dark chocolate and add them in the last pulse.


Thursday, September 15, 2011

A Perfect Pear Martini

As I started writing this I noticed that 3 out of the last 4 blogs were on wine or cocktails, hope I'm not sending the wrong message here :)  Anyway, in writing my October column for the Petaluma Post I needed to develop a perfect pear martini recipe, which required some experimenting with recipes and ingredients, but was too much to include in the column, so here we are.

For the pear I selected Bartlett pears, they are my favorite, in season and work very well for this.

For the pear juice I purchased Kerns Pear Nectar and Looza Pear Juice.  After tasting I'd definitely go with Looza, it has a smoother texture and richer pear taste.  I also tried Sonoma Sparkling Pear Cider, not at all like a juice, but good potential for modifying the flavor and adding some bubbles to a cocktail.

I've sampled many pear vodkas over the years, but always return to Absolut Pear, it has the cleanest taste without that synthetic aftertaste many flavored alcohols can have.

The final recipe I settled on for my Perfect Pear Martini was (serving 2):

4 oz Absolute Pear Vodka
4 oz Pear Puree (made with the Looza and whole pear)
1 oz lemon juice
1 oz agave syrup

To make the pear puree I combined 1 chunked up Bartlett Pear and 1/4 cup Looza Pear Juice and pureed with a hand blender until it was about half the consistency of apple sauce.  Then simply combined all the ingredients in a shaker with ice and shook hard.  Then served up in a martini glass.  It had an excellent pear flavor without being overly sweet, with just a touch of bite from the vodka remaining.

A note on agave syrup.  This is the agave (of tequila fame) based sweetener that I often use instead of simple syrup.  Despite its tequila association there is no alcohol in it, nor any tequila flavor.  It is very mild in flavor, the flavor typically disappearing into whatever it is combined with, and it mixes easily since it doesn't need to disolve.  In fact hubby uses this as his coffee sweetener.  Plus it has a lower glycemic index so it is better for you.

Another experiment which I think was even more drinkable, but not as quintessentially pear, was a Cranberry Pear Martini.

4 oz Absolute Pear Vodka
4 oz Cranberry Juice
4 oz Pear Puree (made with the Looza and whole pear)
2oz Sparkling Pear Cider
1 oz lemon juice

Very drinkable.


PS the Petaluma Post article "A Perfect Pear" will be out on October 1st, and features a discussion of pears and pear themed meal from cocktails through dessert.