Portofignos

Our recipe this month won a contest…one where the participants were to come up with a cookie to savor with port. Chocolate and port, we are told, are perfect partners so it is of no surprise the winner combines chocolate and port infused figs…along with some toasted walnuts.

The first question I had was…what is port 🤷‍♀️😂. Had to google it…my knowledge consisted of when I am reading, people drinking “port”, but I didn’t actually know what it was. THAT is what I love the most about this baking group…truly expands our world and experiences. I have now, found, bought, baked with, and tasted port!

I would say these cookies were easy to put together. First things are to toast the walnuts and simmer the figs in the port until they absorb all the liquid.

Next you combine the batter ingredients..butter, sugars, flour, cocoa, baking soda, salt, and vanilla. Then add in the figs and walnuts. The dough is then split into two and rolled into two logs about 12 inches long. Wrapped and frozen for an hour…or as is suggested overnight so the flavors can meld together. That is what I did..which made it really easy to make the cookies the following day.

The logs are cut into rounds and then popped in the oven for a very specific 14 min which was perfect timing.

My only experience with figs, is eating Fig Newtons as a kid haha. That sure takes me back…I don’t know if they even still make them. I was curious to see if I would still like the flavor…although paired with chocolate I figured we were on to something!

These were delicious…a favorite with EVERYONE..top tier of the recipes I have made I was told…and given an A+ from my son! Who knew haha. I was informed I will need to make them again, so a real winner! My husband said it was one of his favorite cookies I have made…I was like, even better than the Mokonut Rye Cranberry…and he said, I think so! 😂

I am not sure what made everyone love them so much as we aren’t fig eaters or port drinkers but the combo was super tasty!

This one is a keeper for sure.

Steph’s Bakewell Tart

I was excited to bake this one! As a big fan of The Great British Baking Show, this recipe stood out…the Bakewell haha. I had to look it up one time when I was watching because I had no idea what this “Bakewell” was that they kept referring to. Now I have baked one…pretty cool…even better was the fact it was LOVED by all!

The “Bakewell” always has three components: the crust which is firm and flaky, the layer of gooey jam…usually raspberry, and a layer of slightly chewy almond sponge cake. Optional would be a sprinkling of sliced almonds on top, and a drizzle of icing. Icing makes everything better so of course I went the optional route, using both.

Nothing about this was difficult, although there is some chilling time with the crust and a few steps so you don’t just throw this one together. I was unsure about the amount of jam in the final product as the picture in the cookbook looks like a thin layer, although it is hard to tell. The rounded cupful the recipe calls for gave quite a layer of jam in the cake. I was thinking it might be too much but every one of my tasters said don’t change anything when I asked hahaha.

This was a fun one, and so loved that of course I would bake it again. 😍

Stuffed Cabbage

“The cabbage packets are layered between the sauce and a cushion of grated apples, shredded onions and cabbage and braised for 3 hours-the aromas draw everyone to the kitchen”

The aroma from this cooking in the oven was amazing! Dorie was not exaggerating! I am one of the people she was talking to…the ones who have never made stuffed cabbage…in fact my husband and I both can’t remember ever eating it either. Weird…I know. Especially hearing her talk about what a beloved dish this is in many cultures and revered in Europe. 🤷‍♀️

This was a labor of love to make…took me a little over an hour to prepare, and then cooks for 3 more. The anticipation was building as we smelled it…would we like it, would it be worth all the effort haha.

Glad to report, it was absolutely delicious. I am not sure how Dorie got such a great picture, because that was a challenge pulling the bundles out of the Dutch oven and making it look nice.

I think the hardest part in preparing this dish was trying to get my cabbage leaves freed and still in tact. Once I had accomplished that, the boiling of the leaves, mixing the filling (I used Turkey), assembling the bundles and making the sauce all went smoothly. My husband and I both really liked the sauce and the nice kick you got from the cayenne..my husband probably would have liked more of a kick but it was perfect for me.

I would have to say this was a huge success…delicious and fun to try. I would make it again, especially knowing the end result would be something we would like!!

Grain and Seed Muffins

This was a perfect…start the year off right…healthy muffin! These are sturdy, and hearty, and pointy-topped.

These pack a punch of healthful ingredients: whole wheat flour, wheat bran, oats, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, and sesame seeds…sweetened up with some cinnamon, brown sugar, maple syrup, and dried cranberries.

The batter is easy enough to mix together, and bakes up 12 golden brown, pointy topped muffins.

The muffins were a bit polarizing…not really any middle ground. People either really liked them, or didn’t quite care for them. 🤷‍♀️

No worries though, everyone is always happy to taste the new bake…always! 😍

Happy New Year!

Cheese Puffers

These smelled delicious while baking. They are a cross between and muffin and popover…mostly favoring the popover.

The puffers are baked in a muffin tin, but using the more traditional popover method of melting the butter first in the tin so when you add the batter, they get an added boost. These bake tall and are more custardy and stretchy than a muffin.

This particular recipe uses shredded cheddar cheese, cayenne, and green onions for it’s flavoring, but really you can use whatever cheese and herbs you have on hand.

I made 1/3 of the recipe since we didn’t need a dozen haha and it says they need to be eaten out of the oven. We found these to be interesting, but I am gathering we might not be popover fans. They were just ok and not something we would crave.

Fun…but I don’t see myself making these again.

Mulled Wine Jammers

These were quite a bit of work, but wow…the reactions…my Dad put it the best I think saying, “these are worthy of a trophy 🏆”

They are interesting…and very flavorful.

There are three main steps in preparation before you bake. I did all the prep work one day since most of it needs to chill, and then baked the next.

  • First, I got the wine going with my hobo bag of spices simmering on the stove…cinnamon stick, star anise, and whole cloves…mix in some honey and tangerine peel. After about ten minutes, the dried fruit is added…cherries, cranberries, and raisins. That cooks down and then finally some cherry jam is mixed in and cooled before chilling in the fridge.
  • While the wine was simmering, I worked on the streusel. This has a little twist…cornmeal is added which gives a little crunch to the topping. This is also chilled in the fridge.
  • Lastly, I mixed up the cookie base…we used our French Vanilla Sablé recipe….also needs to chill.

The next day I had everything all chilled and ready to bake. Our recipe tells us it will make 24 cookies so instead of rolling out the dough, I was inspired by fellow baker Steph and just portioned the dough into 24 balls and then pressed them into the muffin tin to form the base. I thought this was way easier than rolling and cutting out the round disk…plus, no waste. I just used it all up which I think gave a slightly thicker cookie on the bottom.

After the cookie base is in place, I portioned out the jam mixture on top of it, and then finished by topping them all with the streusel. It really was easy with the assembly having prepared all the parts the day before!

These get popped into the oven and baked for about 20 minutes. We are asked to let them sit and then remove them from the muffing tin which always gives me anxiety haha but these came out so easily…just slipped right out.

I have some real fruit-dessert loving tasters so I knew these would be a hit. Everyone loved these…raved about them actually. So although they took some time to make, I would certainly make them again for my group!

This one is a keeper!

Mokonuts’ Rye-Cranberry Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Unique!

That is what I would say about this cookie!

Apparently people come from all over the world to eat at Mokonuts…a small restaurant in Paris that is always full and where everyone wants the same thing for dessert…one of Moko Hirayama’s cookies.

How fortunate for us that we have the opportunity to bake one of these famous cookies. I mean…Dorie tells us, “ to describe it as extraordinarily good is to understate its merits.”

That is a high bar set for these cookies I’ll say! 😂

Offbeat choices for the ingredients go into these cookies…we’ve got the usuals…all purpose flour, butter, egg, bittersweet chocolate, both white and brown sugar, but then we add in rye flour, some dried cranberries, 1/3 cup poppy seeds…that is a lot of poppy seeds…and flaky sea salt for on top. The dough is all mixed together and then portioned into balls about the size of golf balls…these are a hefty, bakery sized cookie. They are chilled overnight until you bake. When ready they are placed on cookie sheets and topped with some flaky salt.

The cookies are baked at a higher heat than most..425, for about 10 minutes. The cookies come out slightly puffed and we are to use a spatula and give them a tap…leaving an indentation like the signature cookie always has. The cookies are crispy on the outside but slightly under baked on the inside…giving a chewy center.

These cookies were wild…what a combo of flavors and texture. It is a chewy cookie, but it has a little crunch and also a pop to it because of the poppy seeds…then you have the tart cranberries and the kind of earthy taste from the rye flour, add in some bittersweet chocolate…and top with some flaky salt!! I mean that doesn’t all seem to go together but somehow the mixture all plays so well. It seems like each bite brings on a different dimension and the flavors keep dancing around your mouth when you are done eating the cookie. Really unlike anything any of us had ever had.

Everyone LOVED these cookies…first saying they weren’t sure with the first bite but it kept you coming back for more…turning you into a huge fan!

So fun trying these…I’d say from everyone’s reactions, these are a keeper!

Spatchcocked Chicken

Don’t judge me…

I have never cooked a whole chicken…spatchcocked or not. 😳🤷‍♀️.

Turkey yes..chicken, no, so this was a first all the way around. Although looking at my picture and then Dorie’s, mine appears upside down so I am not sure I can call this a complete success but I am pretty happy with the results. 🤦‍♀️😂

So a spatchcocked chicken is a butterflied chicken, flattened and cooked quickly. I had to cut alongside the backbone and remove it, pushing down and flattening the chicken as much as I could. I think I succeeded, but there is some room for improvement on a better flattening.

If that wasn’t enough, 😳 I then had to loosen the skin of the chicken and insert a butter and spice mixture, spices which were quite complex…za’atar, cumin, sumac, coriander, salt, and pepper… to moisten and flavor the chicken while cooking, and then use the last of it to rub on top of the skin. I did NOT enjoy that process, BUT I did it and low and behold it worked beautifully haha…we had moist and flavorful chicken.

Once the chicken is prepped, it is laid upon some halved garlic, sliced onion, rosemary and thyme…and then chicken broth and white wine are poured around the chicken. The whole thing is popped into a 425 degree oven and cooked for about an hour, until an instant read thermometer reads 165.

This smelled so good while cooking…and although I didn’t get the best picture, it did really look good when I set it on the table. I was not sure how I felt about the whole process, but my husband raved about this chicken…asking “how hard was that?”…which always means, “was it too hard to make again because I really liked it”…hahaha!

I have to say this one really took me out of my comfort zone…for a lot of reasons. I am glad I took on the challenge and grew from the experience…can’t believe I would say this, but I would totally do this again. I think next time would be easier!

This one is a keeper!

Paper-Thin Roasted Potatoes

Our cookbook doesn’t have a picture for this recipe so I wasn’t sure what to expect. We are told this dish manages to be both homey and elegant at the same time…and I think Dorie was right! Doesn’t it look like you just want to dig in haha!

For this dish, you cut potatoes, and also an onion, very thin…either with a mandoline or other type of slicer and then position them in interlocking/overlapping rows to form a rustic slab. Then we brush it all with olive oil and then top it with some thyme, rosemary, Fleur de sel, and pepper.

The whole thing is popped in a 425 oven to bake for about 45 minutes until the potatoes are crispy and deeply golden brown around the edges. We ate them plain, but you can add sour cream and chives. We didn’t think it was necessary as they were tasty on their own.

We loved this. I mean you can’t really go wrong with roasted potatoes…and the addition of the onions was really nice. This was a fresh take on baking potatoes and would be a nice side to serve to guests.

This one is a keeper!

Hot-And-Spicy Togarashi Meringues

These meringues are found in the “Cocktail Cookie” section of our cookbook…and wow do they pack a punch. These are not sweet…and very definitely hot and spicy!

The spice comes from the Japanese seven-spice blend called Shichimi Togarashi….a mixture of chili pepper and spices that manages to be hot, sweet, salty, bitter, nutty, and packed with umami…😳…that is a lot! I followed Dorie’s lead and bought the S & B brand…she tells us every brand has a little different mixture. Typically it includes…chili pepper, dried orange peel, black and white sesame seeds, Japanese pepper, ginger, and dried seaweed.

The meringues are made in the usual fashion, but as a last step in the whipping, we are told to add a teaspoon of the spice blend…and after our first batch we can decide to add more if we would like it hotter…which is surprising that you could want them hotter haha after trying them.

The meringues are baked for about 45 minutes and then rested in a cracked oven for another 1 and 30 minutes to let them cool and dry out.

My husband tried one before I had the chance to tell him what they were, and you can imagine his surprise…not sweet, and not at all what he expected. I would like to tell you he liked them, but that isn’t the case…which surprises me since he loves spicy food. These were just not his thing.

In fact, I didn’t find anyone who enjoyed these. I think we will just try the Togarashi on some edamame or ramen with what I have left haha.