Desserts

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Once in a while, I get the itch to try something new in the kitchen. I’d probably act on that itch a little more if someone else would clean up after me, but whatevs. I finally decided to give  aquafaba meringues a chance after seeing them pop up on some vegan food blogs. I’m not vegan, but I do love a chance to try something interesting. I’m also not a huge fan of eggs (the traditional base for meringue), so this was a perfect experiment for me.

First: aquafaba. It’s just a fancy name for bean juice. You can make your own by soaking and cooking dried beans, but the easiest thing to do is to spend a buck on a can of chickpeas and drain the juice into a container. Any bean will do, but chickpea juice is a) nearly flavorless and b) nearly colorless. Cannellini or white beans are good alternative. A black bean meringue is probably going to be very bad and very ugly, though. Learn more about the science of aquafaba here.

Anyway, get y’self a can of chickpeas, drain the juice and then set aside the chickpeas for something else, such as hummus, lemony chickpea stirfry, roasted chickpeas, or just toss them into a salad as is.

You just put your ⅔ to ¾ cup of chickpea juice into your stand mixer bowl (gotta be a stand mixer for this challenge) with some cream of tartar (or arrowroot powder, if that’s what you have), whip, then add sugar (vegan sugar if you want it to be vegan) and flavor, whip some more and 15 minutes or so later, you’ve got meringue! It’s that easy. And super safe to eat without cooking. Here’s the recipe I used that was based on one from The Kitchn, though I’ve made some notes and also filled in some steps that they missed.

Aquafaba Meringue Cookies
yields 4 to 6 dozen cookies, depending on size

Ingredients

¾ cup aquafaba (the juice from 1 15oz can of low-sodium garbanzo beans/chickpeas

¼ teaspoon cream of tartar or arrowroot powder

½ cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or other flavor--see notes)

Arrange 2 racks to divide the oven into thirds and heat to 200°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Place the aquafaba in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Add the cream of tartar and beat on medium speed until very foamy, about 3 minutes.

While continuing to beat, gradually add in the sugar (about a tablespoon at a time so it is fully dissolved) and vanilla. Once all the sugar and flavor has been added, increase speed to medium high (I put it on 7 on my KA mixer). Beat until glossy and to stiff peaks, about 7-10 minutes longer. You can stop and check for stiff peaks with a spatula. When you scoop a bit out and hold it upright, it should maintain its shape instead of falling.

Transfer the meringue to a piping bag fitted with a star piping tip. Pipe the meringue onto the lined baking sheets into 1-inch rounds (and 1-inch or so high). You can also scoop the meringues onto the baking sheets in tablespoon rounds or use a sandwich bag with the corner cut off.

Place both sheets in the oven (or you can do one at a time). Bake until completely dry to the touch, about 1 hour. Larger meringues with require 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Remove the meringues from the oven and cool completely before using or storing.

Notes: You might be tempted to use almond. I did that and I don’t recommend it. The flavor doesn’t bake out right at the lower temperature, so it retains some of that metallic almond taste that’s so common in almond emulsions and extracts. YMMV. To save the almond ones I made, I added a bit of cherry-flavored Stur, which made them tolerable. They’re the pink cookies in the photo.

For a second batch, I used a ½ teaspoon of lemon extract and a ½ teaspoon of vanilla and I *loved* that flavor. But, as you can tell from the photo, I didn’t whip them long enough, so they did not retain their shape as well. That’s really the only issue with not getting the stiffest peaks: not keeping their shape. They still tasted great.

Also, try to use two baking sheets at a time if you can. After an hour of sitting in the fridge, the leftover meringue needs to be whipped again to stiffen up and over-whipping may make it break down. That is true for eggs, at least. I didn’t really have that problem, but it was a concern.

You can also make thicker and bigger cookies and they’ll have a bit of a marshmallow texture on the inside. Try it, you might like it.

Another cool thing is that a ½ cup of sugar only has 387 calories, so even a small yield of 4 dozen cookies (I actually ended up with something like 8 dozen because mine were small), they calorie count is very low. You’re eating mostly flavored air. You can also use aquafaba to make a meringue topping or a pavlova. Pretty cool!

There’s not a lot of really creative cooking going on in my kitchen right now. I’m packing up infrequently-used gadgets and gear and trying to creatively use only what’s in my pantry and freezer so that I won’t have to move it. When cleaning out, I realized I had a ridiculous amount of rice. White rice, brown rice, white basmati rice, brown basmati rice, Forbidden rice, short grain rice (for sushi or paella), and jasmine rice. And, of course, a “wild rice blend.” My rice habit is worse than my pasta habit!

So now you know why rice is the center of this recipe, one I adapted to use with my new slow cooker from Hamilton Beach, the Set 'n Forget® 6 Qt. Programmable Slow Cooker.
slowcookerricepudding (Small)First, let me tell you about this slow cooker. It is awesome. Right out of the box, I knew I liked it when I saw clamps that keep the lid on for transport. I’ve owned three different slow cookers and none have had this feature! I’m glad someone finally thought of it. Also, even though there are several settings (not just one knob for “off – low – high”), it was very intuitive and easy to use. I got everything going for my recipe without even opening the user guide. I also love the removable crock for washing. Best of all is the programmable timer. It’s a nice feature to be able to determine the time for your slow cooker to turn off if you’re going to be away from the house for a while and you don’t want your food to be overcooked.

Next, the recipe. Slow cooker rice pudding. I’ve never made rice pudding before, but I’ve enjoyed it when other people have made it. I’ve also been looking for “treats” for the rest of the Eats family that are a bit healthier than cakes and cookies. So this worked out perfectly. I used this recipe as my guide and realized that I could make it even easier by using So Delicious Coconut Milk Beverage Nog instead. There’s also a pumpkin spice version and a chocolate mint version and any of the three would work just as well (note, though: these are limited edition flavors only available in the fall and holiday season; other times of the year, you’ll need to follow the original recipe or just put some So Delicious in the freezer for emergencies!). The finished product wasn’t quite sweet enough for a treat, but that was quickly remedied with a drizzle of maple syrup. I added some toasted slivered almonds for a little crunch, too. But I bet pistachios would be even better. This was a great treat for the members of my family that always like a little sweet after dinner. It’s satisfying without being junk food!

Slow Cooker Rice Pudding
serves 4
adapted from With Style and Grace

½ cup basmati rice
1 can light or regular coconut milk
¾ cup So Delicious Coconut Milk Beverage Nog
1 cup water
Maple syrup or agave nectar
Optional: toasted slivered almonds, walnuts or pecans or ground pistachios

Pour all ingredients in the slow cooker, stir and cook on high for 2 to 2 ½ hours. Serve warm and drizzle with maple syrup or agave nectar and top with toasted nuts or ground pistachios if you like a little crunch or texture for your pudding.

For more recipes, check out the hashtag #slowcookermeals on Twitter. There are also lots of chances to win your own Hamilton Beach Set & Forget® 6 Qt. Programmable Slow Cooker!

And be sure to check out all the great new products from So Delicious. The frozen treats (holiday editions available exclusively at Whole Foods), whipped topping, yogurt, creamers, and milks are all fantastic. I have loved everything I've tried. Sign up to get coupons so you can try them for yourself!

hamiltonbeach

Disclosure: Hamilton Beach provided the slow cooker free of charge. So Delicious also provided free samples in advance of market availability of their holiday line of products. Opinions expressed in this post are solely my own and were not influenced by either organization. I only advocate for brands and products I truly like.

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Just before Father's Day, I asked Twitter to recommend some chocolate cookies for me to make for Father's Day. I got some great suggestions (Love and Olive Oil's Double Chocolate Chipotle Cookies, these Brown Butter Pecan Praline Oatmeal Cookies with chocolate chips and a chocolate glaze), but after I looked through Pinterest and saw a picture of black and white cookies, I couldn't get my mind off of them. After looking through the first recipe that popped up in my Google search, I was struck by how easy they seemed to be to make, too. How could a cookie as good as this be so easy? And if it's so easy, why aren't more bakeries making good versions of them? (Really, the ones I've had outside NYC were meh, at best.)

black_and_white_cookies

These cookies are a favorite in the Eats household. Mr. Eats and I "babymooned" in New York City and ate lots of potatoes, bagels, and black and white cookies. But they're only shaped like cookies; they're actually small, round, flat cakes (vanilla, sometimes with a hint of lemon) frosted with vanilla-lemon glaze on one side and chocolate glaze on the other side. And they're usually huge. Like, four or five inches wide.

Anyhoo, this recipe comes from Epicurious/Gourmet, which I trust, but I still read through several pages of reviews to get some tips. One of the best tips was to double the recipe because you are definitely going to want plenty of these cookies (the only part I didn't double was the amount of cocoa for the chocolate frosting). I used a large cookie scoop that yielded cookies that were about three to three and a half inches wide and I got an even three dozen. Enough to snack on for a while and to put some in the freezer for a nice treat at a later date. But I left the measurements of the original recipe.

Black and White Cookies
adapted from Gourmet/epicurious.com
yield: about 18 3" cookies
Please see the notes section at bottom before making these cookies.

For the cookies:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup (5 1/3 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, room temperature

For the frosting:
1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 to 2 tablespoons milk
2 to 4 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Stir together buttermilk and vanilla in a cup.

Beat together butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes, then add egg, beating until combined well. Mix in flour mixture and buttermilk mixture alternately in batches at low speed (scraping down side of bowl occasionally), beginning and ending with flour mixture. Mix until smooth.

Spoon two-tablespoon-size dollops of batter about 2 inches apart onto a buttered large baking sheet. Dip fingers in a bit of water and tamp scoops down into a disk shape about 3/8" thick. Bake in middle of oven until tops are puffed and pale golden, and cookies spring back when touched, 15 to 17 minutes. Transfer with a metal spatula to a rack cool about 5 minutes.

Frosting:
Stir together confectioners sugar, corn syrup, lemon juice, vanilla, and 1 tablespoon milk in a small bowl until smooth. Transfer half of icing to another bowl and stir in 2 tablespoons cocoa, adding more milk, 1/2 teaspoon at a time, to thin to same consistency as white icing and more cocoa to taste.

Frost the cookies:
Turn cookies flat sides up, then spread white icing over half of each and chocolate over other half. Use a pointed knife to make a straight edge.

Let the frosting set completely before storing. Stack cookies on parchment in an air-tight container. Refrigerate after a few days

Notes:
1. Set the butter out overnight to soften. Cut it to size first!
2. Set out the egg about a half hour before starting to get it to room temperature, which will help with the texture.
3. For the buttermilk, I put 1 tablespoon of lemon juice in a 1/3 cup container and added milk until full.
4. Be sure to use plenty of butter to grease the cookie sheets. And it's better to overcook than undercook because the flat sides need to be firm so that they don't come up and crumble when you frost them.
5. When I doubled my recipe, I just made the frostings separately and substituted water for the lemon juice for the chocolate frosting so that it did not have any lemon flavor.
6. I did *not* double the recommended 1/4 cup of cocoa powder, which is why I suggest starting with 2 tablespoons and adding more if needed. I used Valrhona cocoa powder and the frosting was amazing. Use good cocoa powder if you can.
7. To frost the cookies, I used the pointy butter knife that came with my silverware and got a perfect edge with it. Be sure to spread in only one direction so that crumbs from the cookie don't get mixed into the frosting (so start with just a little bit and at the edge). If your white edge isn't perfect, don't worry; the chocolate will cover it up.