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Posts Tagged ‘ZIX Cookies’

Patience

We visited the northern highlands for three weeks in February and never saw the neighboring volcanoes from head to toe.

Now, as we prepare to head home we visited the northern highlands for one last try to see some of the Andes most beautiful mountains. What a treat and final sense of awe for a rich and beautiful country.

Heading north out of Quito; Volcán Cotopaxi.

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From Otavalo, Volcán Cotacachi.

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And from a small pueblo outside Otavalo, Volcán Cayambe.

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While I’ve met many of my personal goals for this journey, today I appreciate the time and adventures spent tuning up my body for my upcoming backpack trips into our high Sierras.

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We traveled to Giron today to see and feel some spectacular waterfalls. This destination alone would have made our day but there’s more. Fate played her hand incredibly.

From the bus we picked up a cab to drive us to the falls. as we drove through town we spotted a statue of a woman with a basket of pastries!

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Turns out the pastries, galletas de Almidon de Achira, are a specialty of Giron. The key ingredient, almidon de Achira, is starch made from the tuber of a cannes plant.

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We tasted one of these gluten free treats at a shop near a museum we toured. The cookie was rather dry, maybe old, with a simple molasses flavor. The shopkeeper gave us a basic description of the process of making the flour and cookie and sent us to a bakery to find the flour.

We found the baker. His cookie was a whole bunch better and he sold me a pound of harina de Achira. How exciting for me; finding a good example of a local tuber used in a cookie!

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Later this evening, after returning home, Franny and I made our first attempt at baking a local favorite, the quesadilla cookie (see previous blog).

As I perused the ingredients . . . . i couldn’t believe my eyes. The recipe called for harina de Achira. And I was now the proud holder of one pound of the flour! A minor miracle , a twist of fate or just plain lucky?

I can overlay this story onto my life and remember many other unplanned sequences of events that made my life work better. Today I am reminded to keep active, stay engaged and be present. Good things will continue to come my way.

Here’s our first test result for the galletas de Achira (with very limited measuring or mixing tools)! Ciao.

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Groups of all types from religious to youth to habit-reformer groups sell baked goods to support their causes.

The nuns from of Monasterio de las Conceptas in Cuenca are no exception. What these nuns bake is a bit of a mystery until you buy one. True, they have a chalkboard list of items for sale, but the actual baked goods are cloistered (out of sight) with the nuns.

Franny selected a Quesadilla, a sweet cookie, which is filled with a sweet cheese batter nestled in a very thin pastry shell. We’ve tasted quite a few cookies around Ecuador and this is one of the best.

And I’m bringing the recipe for the cookie (which has been in circulation in variations for hundreds of years) back to Sebastopol with me!

I’m looking forward to creating this cookie in both gluten-full and gluten-free styles.

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The history of Panama hats is rich with stories about the materials, the weavers and the worldwide consumers of these Ecuadorian hats. These stories are too easy to find, so I’ll tell our simple story of touring a Panama hat museum and factory in Cuenca.

The toquilla straw comes from Montecristi, Ecuador. The straw eventually arrives in Cuenca where it is cooked and ‘shredded’. The straw is then sold to weavers who produce a circular ‘mat’ of finely woven straw. These mats are sold to the hat factories where they are shaped and brims ‘cleaned up’.

Tools used in shaping the hats have changed over the years. Nowadays they use metal hat forms and a heavy hat press. Irons are still used to flatten the brims.

I am always fascinated with the art of hand crafts; whether its leaded glass, needlework, baking cookies or tying flies. The soul of the work permeates the air and quickly wraps itself around my body.

Walking out of this Panama hat museum, hatless and smiling, i carried in my heart a little bit of Ecuador that had previously eluded me.

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After gifts are distributed from my pack, we’ll each carry around 35 liters of clothes and gear. These are small packs for a three plus month adventure and the small size will also help us from being ‘held down’ by our stuff.

Our packing style and ingredients haven’t changed much over the years. Thirty five years ago we traveled through France and ultimately lived in Spain for six months with the same ‘simplicity’ mantra.

While traveling I find most of my pleasures come from; sharing stories with folks, both locals and travelers; participating in the daily activities of street life; and, the tastes of fresh ingredients served in small community cafes.

Where i sleep or what I wear seldom highlights a story. Though the cave that we called home in Granada, Spain is an exception.

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Travel Cookies to go

I started the oven out at 300 degrees and baked off the Ricciarelli, an Italian gluten-free cookie. The texture, intense almond flavor from the house-made almond paste and minimal sweetness make the cookie a hit every time. The cookie is also durable in travel so it tops my list of gift cookies for Ecuador.

Since they bake at low heat, the bake time is around 20 minutes, which gives me time to shift over to prepping the Oatmeal Plum drop cookies.  I substitute house-made plum leather for raisins to reduce the sugar and give the cookie at bit of a tangy twist at the ‘tail’ of the chew.  I looked out the kitchen window while scooping out dough.

As I twisted the bottom of a glass on top of the cookie dough ball to flatten the shape, I felt the plum tree out on the patio reaching out to me.  That old plum tree, and it’s so old I’ve nearly cut it down for the past three years, keeps producing the most tasty San Rosa plums in town.  When the tree finally does die I may have to rename or retire the cookie.

I realized, as the plum tree touched me, that we’re quite similar in nature.  We each are a body that produces fruit or talents or friendship or love which becomes an ingredient for doing good or adding flavor to the world. I smiled as I tucked the cookie sheets full of Oatmeal Plums into the oven.  Gifts are for discovering.

My selection of traveling gift cookies also included a Rosemary Lemon butter cookie, a Lavender Mint short cookie dipped in bittersweet chocolate and my signature Raspberry Almond Ravioli cookie.

The cookies are cooling on the rack and I check another to-do item off my list. I’m down to just a few last items before we depart tomorrow night.

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GLUTEN-FREE
1 c unsalted butter
0.5 c powdered sugar
1 c Rice flour
0.75 c Tapioca Flour
0.5 c Potato flour
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 TBS. vanilla extract
0.75 c pecans, chopped
1 tsp. xanthan gum
More powdered sugar required to roll cooled, baked cookies.
DIRECTIONS:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Cream butter and powdered sugar well.
3. In a separate bowl combine dry ingredients.
4. Finely chop pecans any which way.
5. Add dry ingredients to butter mixture. Mix until flour is incorporated. Add pecans. Continue to mix until the pecans are ‘evenly’ distributed.
6. Mold into 1 inch balls.
7. Place on parchment paper covered cookie sheet.
8. Bake for 15 minutes. The bottom of the cookie should be light brown. The top portion of the cookie should show no baked brown color.
9. Cool the cookies and then roll in powdered sugar.

GLUTEN-FREE TIPS:

In Direction 3 cream the butter and powdered sugar until a bit fluffy.

To bring butter to room temperature, I take the butter straight from the refrigerator and put it in the microwave at 100% for 15 seconds (1 cup of butter takes 15-20 seconds, while a pound of butter takes about 25 seconds and ¼ cup takes about 10 seconds). Softening the butter lets the butter and sugar fluff up better when mixing.

At direction 4 I use a food processor. For the first 20 seconds I hit the on bottom. Then I use the pulse bottom to finish off the chopping. I chop my pecans very fine, which creates a better gluten-free cookie.

GLUTEN-FULL
1 c unsalted butter
0.5 c powdered sugar
2.25 c AP flour
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 TBS. vanilla extract
0.75 c pecans, chopped


GLUTEN-FULL TIPS:

At direction 5 the key is to get the chopped pecans well incorporated into the dough without over mixing the all-purpose flour.
Here’s what works for me. After the butter mixture is fluffy add the flour and mix, just for a minute or so. Use the pulse function if you have one on your mixer. The mix will still look slightly ‘flourery’. Add the pecans and then continue mixing. The flour will finish getting incorporated as the pecans are being evenly distributed.
I tried adding the pecans to the butter mixture before adding the flour. I didn’t like the cookie as much.

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