whiskey breakfast cookies

Everyone who knows me knows that that I have a sweet tooth, and also an alcohol tooth.  That’s in part why I was so pleased by a trip, a couple of years ago, to San Francisco’s Humphry Slocombe.  They opened in the mission amidst the recent ‘weird’ ice cream trend, along with SF’s Bi-Rite Creamery near dolores park.  Oh san francisco days!  LA must have several such places; the one I know of is (the overrated) Scoops.  Anyway, Humphry Slocombe had a chimay ice cream, a wine ice cream, and what they called whiskey-breakfast, which was flavored with bourbon and cornflakes.  It was so…charming.  That’s the right word.

Two years later (that is, yesterday)  I decided to try to make whiskey breakfast cookies for R’s christmas party.  When I try to make something it involves less experimentation and more searching google for a recipe.  The below recipe comes from Shirley O. Corriher’s BakeWise: The Hows and Whys of Successful Baking.  It was posted by this blog, but don’t click on that because they have better pictures than me.  The recipe is actually bourbon and oatmeal, but I exchanged corn flakes for the oats.

Whiskey Breakfast Cookies

1 cup pecans
½ cup plus 2 Tbsp (5 oz) unsalted butter, divided
1 tsp salt, divided
2.5  cups cornflakes
¼ cup  shortening
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
4 Tbsp bourbon
1 Tbsp heavy cream
1  egg
1.5 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg

First off, I should note that the book that this recipe comes from is all about the science of baking and so is presumably very precise.  Still, I changed the above recipe (some of the these changes I made while making the cookies, while the rest is what I would do if I were making them again).  The main differences are: cornflakes instead of oats (and you need more cornflakes than you would oats), more flour, more bourbon, and  less heavy cream.  4 tbs bourbon might be too much, but I felt the end product should have had more of a whiskey taste.  Also cut down on the pecans because they are strong tasting.  I might even forgo them in future batches.  ANYWAY.

1. Roast pecans on a cookie sheet at 350˚ for 10 min.  Take out and mix with 2tbs butter and a pinch (1/4 tsp) salt.

2. Mix the flour, baking soda, remaining salt,  cinnamon, and  nutmeg.  Use whole nutmeg that you grate with a microplane grater, because it’s fancy that way.  That will set the tone for the rest of cookie-dough-making.

3. In a medium sized bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, and shortening.  I think the shortening is necessary in this recipe; sorry.  Usually when I make cookies I just chop in the butter with a wooden spoon and try to get everything incorporated.  But apparently a trick in this recipe is to really beat all the ingredients together.  So I took out my hand mixer and went to work.  It was fun and the mixture did really change in color and consistency in an interesting way.  After about five minutes of this, mix in the in the vanilla, bourbon, and cream (I used milk.  shh!). Add the egg and beat just to blend.  It has a very light, mousse-y texture at this point.

4. Slowly beat in the flour mixture.

5. Coarsely chop or crush the pecans and cornflakes.  I used my brand new mortar and pestle.  Because I just got it as a gift and, again, it’s fancy.  I have a lot of fancy kitchen things now, and before I would be ambivalent about this, because my philosophy has always been to just make do with whatever you have (part of why I like Mark Bittman’s style).  Also I don’t like accumulating crap that I’ll later have to move.  But my parents wanted to get me ‘holiday’ gifts and I couldn’t think of anything but food related things, and technology.  So I got Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbook and a mortar and pestle.  Anyway, for this step you can also use: a food processor, a knife, your hands.   Stir them into the mixture with a spoon.

6. FREEZE THE DOUGH FOR 10-15 MIN.  If the dough is sticking to your hands as you try to put it on the cookie sheet, put it in the freezer and leave it there until it doesn’t do that.  This is not part of the original recipe but it’s the way I make cookies now.  If the dough becomes too cold to work with, you can let it sit out for a few minutes and it will be fine.  But mostly you’ll be able take a heaping teaspoon of dough, and roll it in your hands into a neat, nice sphere.  Somehow I like the texture of cookies when you can do this.

7. Bake at 350 or maybe 365 for 9-10 min-ish.  My oven is cold so I went up to 380, but who knows how hot that actually is.  Anyway, you know how to bake cookies, so I trust that you’ll be ok from this point on.  Cool on the sheet for a couple min then a wire rack yada yada yada.  The only exciting part about that is that I recently got a wire rack from target as part of t-day prep.

8.  Look at!

The final cookie was tasty, and went over well at the party, but still it wasn’t perfect for me.  I wanted more whiskey flavor (I only used 2 tbsp per the original recipe) and I also wanted them sweeter.  But like I said I have a sweet tooth and an alcohol tooth, so.  I was trying to think of how to make them sweeter without changing the recipe too much (by adding sugar) and then it hit me: frosted flakes.  Genius.  Thank you.  You’re welcome.

9.  Louis the holdiay party duck says that you can totally eat these for breakfast.

Louis says that cornflakes are part of a healthy breakfast


my first real dinner party

I remember reading an article in the New York Times about hosting a dinner party after I graduated college.  This was when I had just moved to nyc and would go to the nearby cafe on the weekends and read their copy of the sunday times and have aspirational dreams of being a new york bourgeois media/non-profit worker.  (this lasted about two months, after which I went into survival mode and then eventually escaped back to Denver).  Anyway, this bit of aspiration came to some fruition a week and a half ago when I hosted about 12 people for Thanksgiving!  True, it was a potluck thanksgiving, in which not only food but chairs, glasses, flowers, serving dishes and neighborly ovens were contributed by the generous guests, and, unlike in the article, I didn’t make whipped cream by hand to serve with handmade berry compote in cute little glasses.  Still, it felt like something of a feat and was very fun, especially once I got over the fact that I needed to buy things like forks and plates if I was actually going to have this many people over.

My main contribution, aside from keeping everyone entertained (and hopefully they found doing things like setting up the table and making biscuits entertaining), was to make the turkey.  As you know, I’ve only recently become non-vegetarian, and this was the first time I was cooking any sort of meat, let alone a whole animal.  I got Trader Joes’ smallest turkey, which was 11.5 lbs (and free range, fortunately) for $1.99 a pound, which I came to learn was a good price.  At VH’s advice, I followed Mark Bittman’s recipe/technique of “spatchcocking,” which means you remove the backbone and spread the rest of it out to shorten the cooking time and make everything cook more evenly.  I bought a new chef’s knife for this task.

Basically you just see where the backbone is, cut roughly along the sides, pushing down really hard if you hit anything that is difficult to cut through.  Then you turn the thing over, and push down to flatten it.  I jumped while pushing like a child to make sure it was really flat.  It involves a lot of washing hands and putting things in pots to make stock.  Anyway, so into an oven it went.  More on that later.

In the meantime, I made cocktails for everyone.  Entertaining is actually sort of difficult, even among close friends.  I didn’t want to make them do anything, but then I wanted to make sure the people who came early weren’t bored; plus they wanted to help out.  So I gave them various tasks.  Then there is the problem of different groups of people co-mingling.  I get especially worried about this when it involves humanities academics on the one hand and civilians on the other.  So I felt I had to go around and talk to everyone and make sure no one felt awkward.  And then there was so much activity in the kitchen that people gravitated there, making all tasks more complicated.  Anyway, making cocktails obviously helped with all of this.  I made two bourbon cocktails, both inspired by Martha Stewart, of course.

This was the most fun part for me because it felt very classy.  I bought special “double old fashioned” tumbler glasses at cost plus that I was happy to break out.  The first drink I made was a pear-cider-rosemary cocktail.  I took MS’s idea of the pear-cider and added the rosemary.  You mix equal parts pear nectar/juice, sparkling apple cider (cold) and seltzer water (though I might use sparkling water, for extra sparkle) and then put in a couple rosemary sprigs and some actual pear.  I mixed this all together without adding alcohol so that the non-drinkers could have some.  For the drink I added a shot of bourbon and ice, plus pear and rosemary to garnish.  Look at it!:

Very classy, I think.  The other drink I made was a cranberry old fashioned.  These I made as they were requested.  I have been making old fashioneds as my end-of-the-day drink, so I was somewhat experienced already.  The cranberry version substitutes cranberries for cherries.  It doesn’t taste too different as a result, unless you can manage to efficiently muddle the cranberries (I’ve since discovered that cutting them in half helps with this).  Anyway, it is very suitable when you do get a cranberry taste, because it makes the drink feel very holiday-ish.  Look!:

I ended up making several of these because the turkey took more than twice as long as it should have.  Part of this was because my oven turns off if you lock it shut (because it thinks it is going on self-cleaning mode, or something).  So this happened and we didn’t realize and so we had to cook it more.  I’ve also since learned that  meat thermometers take readings 1 inch up from the tip, rather than right at the tip, which is confusing.  VH patiently basted and took temperature readings while I ran around serving drinks.  And W made rosemary biscuits, from the huge bunch of rosemary that I got from the Silverlake farmer’s market for $1.  Seriously, why do herbs in supermarkets cost so much?  Anyway, we finally got the oven situation figured out and turned out a great turkey.

VH and E also made the gravy.  I felt I was running around this whole time, but I guess in reality I did very little.  It was a team effort, let’s say.  But let me talk about this turkey.  I never felt left out of thanksgiving while I was a vegetarian because, well, a) I had universal morality on my side and b) I never liked turkey.  Too dry, as they say.  But this turkey was quite good (and I don’t even like meat most of the time).  Moist and flavorful, actually.  I set about carving it, with VH’s help as to what parts were what and what it should look like, because I don’t know much about this.

Carving wasn’t too difficult.  It was sort of like cutting fruit.  I don’t eat stone fruits whole; I cut them into pieces, removing the core in the process.  I then eat the pieces with a fork, because I’m not a barbarian.  Anyway, I continued to hack away at the animal carcass and heap it onto a tray for everyone to eat while they greedily surrounded me with drooling mouths.  I mean, not really, but there was one annoying person who seemed overly excited in general.

Of course, thanksgiving is about the “sides” and this was no exception, though I have no pictures. VH’s brussels sprouts and mac and cheese were the highlight, and there were several different stuffings, and mashed potatoes and all the rest.  For dessert, I made a pumpkin pie, with cardamom and coconut on top and a pear pie with ice cream (the same one I made last year).  I was a little sloppy with the crust so it was less ‘flaky’ than it could have been, but really crust isn’t that difficult and anything with that much butter won’t taste bad.

That’s coconut on top.  I think I’ll stop topping things with shredded coconut because I don’t think it looks nice.  this crust was too thin – it stuck to the pan unless you were really careful.  But after a day in the fridge this pie really tasted great (it had a cream cheese layer as well).  There were also two apple desserts; R’s was fantastic and put my pear filling to shame.

Overall a successful evening.  Here is a picture of all the tables and chairs in my apartment and several from my neighbors in one room.  Notice how everyone has cloth napkins.  How fancy!

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