Every Tuesday we'll welcome an Author who will share a foodie type post
with a recipe or two and some book promo !
Today please help me welcome LE Franks...
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Cookies versus Pie.
The debate is raging on over on my Facebook Page. It was an innocent enough question… I honestly couldn’t decide what recipe to showcase here. The Beef and Stout pie a little heavier, better for the early spring weather (though the weather seems to be holding steady on the damp and chilly side over much of the US, so it could still work well), or my outrageously popular Espresso Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie. Nothing lowly about that one… but is it too pedestrian? Dull? Unexciting for a food blog?
Trying to explain why someone might pick the pie over the cookie – or visa versa – I inadvertently stumbled across parts of my own history that I’d forgotten about. First, you must understand that if I have a deep-seated psychological anything, it’s the need to feed people.
Some of my earliest memories are cooking for my family. At the age of seven or eight I “invented” chicken cacciatore by covering chicken breasts in tomato sauce with sliced carrots and black olives (and probably no other seasoning) and sliding them in a hot oven to bake.
On the weekends I’d hang out in the kitchen with my father and chew on roasted coffee beans while he cursed at the manual coffee grinder. I’d wait for the coffee to finish dripping so he could have that first cup before moving on to the pancake production together.
And by the time I was in high school I was cooking for my friends.
(There is nothing quite like eating Chicken Chow Mein under the setting sun, standing around the back of a VW van in the middle of the Mojave desert.)
So as the discussion continues online, I realize that this cookie recipe has become more than a bake sale bestseller. It’s been with me for almost as long as some of my best friends, and by riffing on an old standby like the oatmeal cookie I’ve inadvertently transformed it into the lubrication that eases the way to forging new relationships and business opportunities alike. (After including these cookies in a lunch spread for an Indy film shoot in Golden Gate Park, I was hired to do the rest of their location catering, provided the cookies were part of every meal.)
Apparently espresso powder is a magic elixir elevating the flavors of brown sugar and cinnamon. The fact that I booted raisins from the recipe, replacing them with chocolate long ago, doesn’t hurt a bit.
On the other hand, the Beef and Stout Pie, while a newer addition to my repertoire, managed to cement my status as family chef with my stepmother-to-be and give us something in common—the love of my food… Trust me, that was a surprise and a gift; and like most of my best recipes, its success comes from fiddling with what’s already there.
By stripping out all the unnecessary vegetables from what is essentially a beef stew recipe and replacing the pedestrian mirepoix with deeply caramelized onions, finely minced rosemary, and enough crushed black pepper and sea salt to stand up to the intense flavor of the beer that everything is cooked in, we have a deeply satisfying dish, mellowed with the addition of extra sharp white cheddar.
Baking it in a pie shell that falls somewhere between a fine piecrust and puff pastry, you have a filling dish with a siren call capable of causing many a soul to flirt with disaster from repeated visits to the pie plate.
So where do we go from here? I’m cutting off the debate later tonight so I suppose the recipe you see next will tell you which way the poll went. But as for me, the only advice I can really give is this—go play with your food. - LE
ESPRESSO OATMEAL CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
Preheat Oven 350 degrees – back 8 – 10 minutes
¾ cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
½ cup granulate sugar
1 to ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
1 to 2 T. instant espresso powder
1 tsp. salt*
½ tsp. baking soda*
¼ cup water
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup flour
3 cups rolled oats
1 bag chocolate chips
Chopped walnuts (optional)
Step One: If you don’t have a stand mixer make sure your butter is softened to make mixing easier. Otherwise I just toss it in and let the mixer run for a few minutes until the butter is softened enough to add the sugar, mixing for several minutes until the mixture is well incorporated and appears pale and fluffy.
Step Two:* Frankly I veer off a little at this point from traditional cookie directions. I prefer to add the salt, sifted baking soda, cinnamon, and espresso powder in the creamed butter. The butter is the perfect vehicle to evenly disburse the espresso & spices throughout the cookie on one hand, and avoid soda clumps and over salting on the other. So toss them all in now and mix until incorporated.
Step Three: In with the rest of the wet ingredients… first the egg – make sure it’s well incorporated with the butter sugar mixture before adding in the liquids (water and vanilla) which will turn this into a slurry. Butter and water don’t mix any better than oil and water so don’t go crazy… you just want a fairly consistent mixture in preparation for finishing the cookie dough.
Step Four: Add in the flour and at the very lowest setting. Incorporate the flour until barely mixed—6 or 7 short bursts.
This is where you kill your cookie. Water is now slow dancing with the gluten in the flour and given half a chance it will want to make bread. In the absence of candles and wine [otherwise known as yeast] it becomes tense. And a tense gluten is a tough cookie, which is only appreciated in film noir.
Step Four continued: Now comes the fun part. Dump the oatmeal in the mixer a cup at a time using the same short burst method (3 or 4 bursts between cups). Upend the chocolate into the bowl next, as well as any nuts, and finish off the mixing (more short bursts, but you’ve gotten the hang of it now) until it barely hangs together.
I use a professional spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl at each stage (engines off, please) and once everything is incorporated I try and run it along the bottom to incorporate anything loose down there.
Baking. You’ve made cookies right? These are no different. Know your oven, watch your cookies…. Put them on a parchment covered cookie sheet using any method you prefer – ice cream scoop, dual spoons, great heaping fistfuls… they all work, they all take varying baking times so do a small test batch first. I prefer a small ice cream scoop, which makes fairly consistent balls that I flatten slightly with the wetted bottom of a juice glass. I prefer a slightly softer cookie so mine usually take no more than 8-9 minutes.
This recipe doubles beautifully. Sometimes I dip them in melted chocolate like I did for the film crew. You never know what you’ll get offered once you hand these bad boys out.
Good Luck. May The Cookie Be With You. – LE Franks
LE Franks is a author of Gay Romance fiction, living in the SF Bay Area surrounded by inspiration; and after years of ignoring the voices in her head, she’s now giving them free reign in the form of her characters.
Bestselling author Published through MLR Press, Dreamspinner Press, WildeCity Press, finalist for the 2013 Rainbow Awards,
Can This Be Real – 2014 MLR Press
Last First Kiss – Grand Adventures Anthology – 2014 Dreamspinner Press
6 Days to Valentine – 2014 WildeCity Press
Snow Globe – 2013 Dreamspinner Press
Prodigal Wolf, co-written with Sara York – 2013 MLR Press
You can find LE Franks here:
Can This Be Real – LE Franks
Release date April 25, 2014 – MLR Press
Chef Christian De Guisse can’t trust a man who doesn’t love his food, Detective Andrew Simmons won’t let any man close who thinks he’s broken—somewhere between these two points, love is possible, but only if they get real.
When Chef Christian De Guisse accidently outs Celebrity Chef Jordan Slayer during a fight in front of The Times entertainment reporter—it only gets Christian ex-boyfriend status and a one-way plane ticket to culinary exile in Oregon. But a fortuitous meeting with Detective Andrew Simmons at the Portland airport keeps De Guisse and his collection of exotic herbs out of the hands of homeland security, starting the chemistry simmering between them.
Andy isn’t much of a foodie and for a chef who communicates love through his cooking this may be one hurdle too high.