Tuesday, March 23, 2010

recipe: lemon-almond-lavender cookies

My friend Melissa keeps bringing me things from Mountain Farm, a lavender, blueberry, and dairy goat farm (quite possibly the best combination of anything ever) up in North Carolina. I highly recommend their goat milk soaps. Unless you are hungry, in which case I recommend not their soaps, no matter how delicious the green tea & ginger one smells. 'Cause they also sell culinary-grade lavender (I've also found this hidden in with the tubs of looseleaf tea at Dekalb Farmer's Market if you're in the area), which is brilliant in (who knew) tea and baked goods. And supposedly in savory applications as well.

Inspired by a recipe in the little cook booklet Melissa brought me after her last trip to Mountain Farm, I decided that lavender cookies needed to happen. I based the dough on my snickerdoodle recipe 'cause I wanted something chewy, and decided to add a lot of almond meal and lemon zest because lavender is so powerfully herbal that I figured two other bitter flavors might help mellow it out. I adore the result -- these cookies are buttery & chewy, with a lovely hint of bitterness from the lemon & lavender and a sweet toastiness from the almond meal. Too delicate for coffee, I think they'd be perfect with a cup of black tea. Perhaps with a bit of lavender brewed in?

lemon lavender almond cookies, photo (and cookies) by Lauren Vogelbaum
The recipe works really well with rice flour instead of wheat flour, too! I made a batch for a friend who had recently discovered that she has a wheat allergy, and although they were a bit crumbly right out of the oven, they firmed up into perfect chewiness the following day. I think the extra fat content from the almond meal helped. (Gluten-free baking tip: Always sift your wheat-alternate flour before baking with it, especially if it's ricey. It'll help get any super-grainy bits out.)

Lemon-Almond-Lavender Cookies
Makes 2 to 3 dozen


1.5 tsp dried lavender buds, minced fine
1 lemon worth of zest (~1 tbsp), minced
1/3 cup almond meal (store-bought or home-ground from blanched [skinless] almonds -- grind first, then measure)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cream of tartar (if you don't have this, omit the baking soda and use 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder to substitute for both)
1/8 tsp salt

8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup granulated white sugar
1 egg, room temperature
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp amaretto, if you happen to have some (a teensy dash of almond extract might not go awry as a substitution for this -- maybe 1/4 tsp?)

~1/4 cup granulated white sugar for rolling the cookies in
An extra few pinches of lavender buds for decoration


A half hour before you get started, set out your egg & butter so they'll start warming to room temperature. (Should you forget to do this like I usually do, ten seconds in the microwave will soften the butter, but there's no helping the egg. The tops of the cookies will be a little less crackly, is all.)

When you're ready to go, set your oven preheating to 400 degrees F. And butter & flour your baking sheet, if that's your thing. I sort of like buttering & flouring everything I bake on these days.

Combine your dry ingredients (lavender, zest, almond meal, flour, salt, and leavening agent/s) in a medium bowl and gently whisk until everything is thoroughly combined. As few lumps as possible!

In a larger bowl, add you butter and sugar. Using an electric beater on medium speed, cream them together for 2 minutes -- you're looking for a lighter color and increased volume. Add your egg, lemon juice, and any amaretto/almond extract you're using and hit the batter with the beater for another minute to incorporate them evenly.

Add your dry ingredients to your wet ingredients and mix manually with a spoon to combine. No dry pockets!

Place your extra ~1/4 cup of sugar in a small dish or on a small plate. Take a rounded teaspoon of dough from the bowl and roll it into a ball in your hands, then roll it around in the sugar to coat. I've found that these bake more evenly and awesomely when they're flattened a bit -- you can either press each ball into a sort of scallop-shaped disk with your fingers or just put a thumbprint in each as you place them on the baking sheet. A few inches apart, yes. Sprinkle two or three lavender buds on top of each cookie.

Bake for 8-10 minutes (I needed only 8.5). You can tell these are done when they're golden around the edge and look dry on top. Also, they'll be more springy than mushy if you poke the top with a finger.

Allow the cookies to cool for a couple minutes on the baking sheet, then remove them to a wire rack until they're cool enough to remove to your belly a decorative plate that you will obviously share with your friends.

These keep very well in a sealed container for two or three days. If you'd like to make the dough ahead, you could seal it up and refrigerate it for up to a week or freeze it for up to 3 months, sans sugar coating, and then coat & bake on demand.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

consumerism wow: underpants

If you, like me, enjoy wearing ladies' underpants, perhaps you will be interested in these fine-looking products that I've been coveting.

I think that a lot of slogany t-shirts are silly. I don't really want people stopping what they're doing to read my chest! And what if they, having stopped to read my chest, think that my sense of humor is dumb and then have negative feelings about my me and my chest? Yeah, I'll take some graphical images on my t-shirts. But by the time someone has gotten to the point where they're going to see my underpants, man, it's a brave new world! They can take all the time they want to read any hilarious slogans they find there. And chances are that if they've gotten my pants into the "off" position, either they share my sense of humor or kindly tolerate it. I will take all of the slogany underpants. I like these "I'm blogging this." slogany underpants in particular because they are so blatantly untrue. Yes, I want my underpants to lie to you. By ThinkGeek (who are good people), these cost $7.99 apiece and ship via UPS, and come in a few other slogans.

Right now I really, really want this silly thong with lace and cupcakes by Honeydew. I have a pair of pineapple ruffly underpants from them, and they're not what I'd call strictly practical, but they. are. so. cute. (Like these strawberry ruffly underpants, but with pineapples instead [hungry model girl not included].) Any underpants that make me wanna shake my butt whenever I apply them are, according to me, Ultimate Underpants. The waistbands in that ruffly rumba style of theirs run a little tight, but their mesh boy short style is crazy stretchy and flattering. I'm betting that this thong is nice & stretchy, too. It'll set you back $14.00, and ships via your choice of UPS or USPS. (A Note of Warning: Honeydew's website is the worst site I've attempted to deal with since possibly Geocities. Maybe you want to do like I did and find these in your local Nordstrom, Dillard's, or Bloomies.)

Now, unlike the abovementioned companies, Lucy B is one I've had no experience with -- I heard about them through PinupGirlClothing.com, which I sometimes love for Internet window shopping. But Lucy B works with hugely crushable & perpetually cheery cheesecake model Bernie Dexter, and they make underpants with pulp comics on them, so I figure they've gotta be rad. (These also come in a style with fuller coverage and leopard-print side panels, but the only photograph of them is teensy, so I can't properly covet them. The photograph has made me covet adorable pinup models in laundry carts, however.) They run $32.00 (eesh) apiece, and ship via USPS Priority for a flat rate of $7.00.

And hey, a note to readers: If you own anything that I've featured on Consumerism Wow, let me know how it's working out for you! (Y'know, how's the quality? Do you get comments about it?) If you send me a picture of yourself with/wearing the product, I'll post it! Unless the product is underpants. I am sure you are a lovely person with many good qualities, but I do not want to receive any pictures of you in your underpants, no matter how completely rad those underpants happen to be. (Exceptions made ONLY for underpants being worn superhero-style. I'm talking superhero-style like Batman circa The Animated Series, not like Emma Frost circa her entire existence. One of these characters is a triflin' ho, and the other is a triflin' ho who dresses like she's proud of it. Moral of the story: Emulate Batman, kids; he's a classy ho.)

Also, if you're a person who makes something that, according to an educated hunch, you think I'd dig, tell me about it! After all, I cannot be everywhere on the Internet all the time. I'm not Warren Ellis. Doesn't matter if you're an independent crafter rather than a big ol' store -- I'd love to feature some homemade products!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

good comedy, good food, and killin' digital stuff

Some things that I may or may not be doing this week:

* Playing Halo on a day other than Wednesday. Shocking, I know! (I usually play every week on Wednesday nights 'cause sticking plasma grenades to digital people prevents me from needing to stick plasma grenades to real people. If you ever want to join me, friend me on Xbox Live and drop me a note -- gamertag: your emo kid. With spaces, yes. You wouldn't know it from being on Live, but Xbox does allow grammar to happen in gamertags.) This is because I'll be:

* Cheering for my friend Thomas Jenkins at the Laughing Skull during the first night of the Dogwood Homegrown Comedy Binge tonight. Which is going on at The Vortex Midtown from 7:30 to 10:30 (or thereabouts), with a $10 cover. I'm glad it's at The Vortex 'cause I've been craving tasty beers in general and tripels specifically, which I won't need in order to sit through Thomas's set (I'm so. blessed. that all of my performer friends are actually talented), but will certainly welcome after what feels like a 2-week-long first half of a work week. You should come!

* Making reservations for dinner at one of the restaurants participating in Inman Park Restaurant Week. It goes through Sunday the 14th! I love gigs like this 'cause they encourage me to try new places and actually get a sampling of the menu -- usually when I'm out to eat, I'll have my entrée and maybe try a bite of someone else's, but won't go for the apps or desserts. Smaller portions of more things for reasonable prices = The Ultimate Lauren Dining Experience. (If you're thinking of going, I personally recommend Wisteria, which does really lovely things with pork and, separately, chocolate.)

* Avoiding spending my entire day Bejeweling on my phone. Guys I never should have bought that game. I have a Bejeweled problem. When I close my eyes, I see the afterburns of gem stacks on my eyelids. [Which is still better than how I get when I've been playing too much Bioshock (i.e., dreaming about being armed only with a length of pipe and having, as my only plasmid, the power to grow a length of pipe out of my arm, which is useful right up until I'm not Wolverine and run into a splicer wielding a machine gun) or Katamari Damancy (i.e., driving around thinking that I should be rolling up the pedestrians and street signs)].

What've you got goin' on, gentle readers? Anything in Atlanta that I should add to my list?

Monday, March 8, 2010

recipe: chocolate Guinness cookies

I made these beer-flavored cookies for the Great Guinness Toast a couple weeks ago. The recipe is cobbled together from my double-chocolate bacon cookie base and this White Beer Cookie recipe from an episode of Ultimate Recipe Showdown on Food Network that I never watched, but discovered anyway through the wonderment of Google dot com.

They took a bit of trial and error -- I wound up using sugar in the beer syrup instead of honey (which overpowered the Guinness), and my attempt to compensate for the sugary beer syrup by adding less sugar to the dough created tiny cakes rather than less-sweet cookies. (I do the Science so you don't have to.) The end result was a cookie with a hit of chocolate at first taste and an addictively bitter bite at the back of the palate. They go perfect with a pint! And if you're looking to bring something to a St. Patrick's Day party, I can guarantee that adding stout to cookies will make them more Irish than green food coloring.

Chocolate Guinness Cookies
Makes ~24 cookies. Adapted from Kathy's chocolate cookie recipe on Allrecipes.com and from Sean LaFond's White Beer Cookies, with thanks to Sarah's Sweet Tooth for testing.


Guinness syrup

2 bottles of Guinness (12 oz each)
5 tbsp sugar


1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup white sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 egg, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or 1/2 a vanilla pod, scraped)
1/3 cup prepared Guinness syrup

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda [NOTE: If you're using Dutch-process (aka pre-alkalized) cocoa powder, you should use baking POWDER instead. Otherwise you'll end up with oven-baked pancakes.]

1 tbsp powdered (confectioner's) sugar for pretty


Set out your butter and egg first to allow them to start warming up to room temperature.

For the Guinness syrup, pour both bottles of beer into a small saucepan and add the sugar. Set the pan over medium-high heat and bring the liquid to a boil, stirring to help the sugar dissolve. When the liquid hits a boil, lower the heat to a busy simmer and let the liquid reduce to a syrup, stirring more than occasionally but less than frequently. It'll take 20 minutes or more -- you're looking for it to become a rich amber color, and gain the consistency of thin honey or thick maple syrup. Also, it'll begin foaming really aggressively when you stir it (more aggressively than that... wait for it...) and will be almost exactly 1/3 cup in volume.

Take the saucepan off the heat and transfer the syrup to a small dish to allow it to cool down.

Get your oven preheating to 350.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine your dry ingredients (flour, cocoa, baking powder or soda, and salt) and stir with a whisk to fully incorporate. (This helps break up any clumps and get the leavening agent fully distributed.)

In a large mixing bowl, combine your softened butter (you can just nuke it for a few seconds if, like some authors of this recipe, you forgot to set it out earlier) and your white & brown sugars. Cream them together with an electric blender on medium speed for 2-3 minutes, until the mixture has lightened in color and begun to hold the wavey shapes that the beaters sculpt it into as they pass through it. Add your vanilla, egg, and Guinness syrup, and blend for another minute or so until everything is incorporated.

Put down the beater! You'll want to use a spoon or spatula for this next part so that you don't overwork the flour. Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture and stir gently (but, y'know, firmly) until no dry pockets remain. The dough will be sticky.

Butter and flour a baking sheet (unless it's REALLY high-quality nonstick). Roll a rounded teaspoonful of dough into a ball in your hands and then flatten it slightly before placing it on the sheet, and repeat until you fill the sheet, leaving a couple inches between each cookie. (If you don't like getting your hands dirty, you can drop the dough onto the sheet directly from the spoon and flatten it slightly once it's on there, but I find that they come off easier when you do the flattening beforehand.)

Pop the sheet in the oven and bake for 8-10 minutes, or until the tops of the cookies look dry and provide a bit of springy resistance when you poke them (carefully, folks) with a fingertip. Remove the sheet from the oven and allow the cookies to continue cooking on it for a couple minutes before transferring them to a rack (preferred) or plate (less preferred) to cool.

For the pretty: Once the cookies are cool to the touch, put maybe a tablespoon of powdered sugar in a fine mesh sieve and hold the sieve over the plate of cookies. Tap the edge of the sieve to dust the powder onto the cookies. Pretty! (If you're feeling more ambitious than I was that night, a perfect topping/decoration might be a drizzle of white chocolate. Maybe with a bit of Irish cream mixed in carefully as the chocolate cools?)

I can't tell you how they hold up after the first day 'cause none of them survived the night. If you find out, you tell me. (Hypothetically, they should do okay in a sealed container for a day or two before they start going stale, and 10 seconds or so in a microwave should help perk them up after that.)