Monthly Archives: February 2011

Basler Brunsli – Chocolate-Almond Spice Cookies

One of our friends is gluten-free.  This presents somewhat of a challenge to me as a baker since I am just fine with gluten and rarely give it a second thought.

Gluten is a protein found in wheat and is off-limits for those with wheat allergy or celiac disease. It is also the magical ingredient that provides cohesiveness to dough and is easily taken for granted by me, the non-gluten-free baker.

Our gluten-free girl recently came to dinner and I decided to finally tackle this type of baking.  I had recently read an article in Saveur on favorite holiday cookies from around the world. Switzerland’s entry was for Basler Brunsli, also known as a chocolate-almond spice cookie.  No flour in this recipe – a cookie everyone can enjoy.

It certainly sounded promising– almonds, sugar, cloves, cinnamon and chocolate. Chewy texture and the “unmistakable flavor of old-fashioned Christmas cheer.” Well, alright then.

However, I cannot lie. This was one frustrating cookie and I almost scrapped it in favor of something, anything, that was not baked.

The dough is very tricky and needed, I don’t know, some flour to help hold things together. Determined not go give up, I found that working in small batches and keeping the excess dough in the freezer was the key to success.

Overall, the Basler Brunsli is actually quite nice and resembles a chewy chocolatey spicy brownie. A nice ending to a gluten-free dinner for a guest that I hope returns on many occasions in the near future. Here is the recipe…

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Olive Relish

Talk about versatile.  I made this as a tapenade to spread on crackers with a cocktail but then ended up using it in a variety of ways.  It couldn’t be easier and especially so if you have a food processor– just throw in the ingredients, pulse and you’re done.

As I mentioned, it is lovely on a cracker or toasted baguette.  But it is also delicious alongside a piece of pork tenderloin, rubbed under the skin of a chicken before it is roasted, served with that same chicken after comes out of the oven, or even with lamb.

This recipe comes from one of my favorite cookbooks, A Platter of Figs and Other Recipes, by David Tanis.  He has a simpler tapenade but suggests this version if you like a little more tap in your tapenade.  He serves it with Roast Leg of Lamb with Flageolet Beans and I just served it anywhere I could.

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Coffee-Caramel Crème Brûlée

I am a big fan of coffee, an even bigger fan of caramel, and these two flavors together really make me happy.  This coffee-caramel Crème Brûlée and reminds me of a rich caramel cappuccino.  I could eat this every day but generally save it for special occasions.

Crème Brûlée sounds intimidating but it’s really not.  The tricky part is making sure that your custard does not cook when adding the hot cream to the egg yolks.  Once past that part, it is relatively smooth sailing.

The caramelization of the sugary top can be done in your oven’s broiler.  But it is more fun to use a kitchen torch.

More fun than that is going to Home Depot and discussing the pros and cons of different blow torches with the knowledgeable sales staff .

“Exactly what do you plan to use this blow torch for?” the kind salesman finally asked after several minutes of deliberation.

“Crème Brûlée, of course.”

And then we laughed all the way home. Here is the recipe…

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Filed under Desserts