Since a copy of Martha Stewart's Cookies miraculously arrived at my doorstep recently I will share with you a couple more of the recipes I tried.
First there were chocolate biscotti. Although the recipe calls for pistachios I decided to substitute almonds and I couldn't resist throwing in some dried cranberries (because I think cranberries and chocolate is a much overlooked flavor combination).
Making biscotti is halfway between making brownies and cookies. You begin by making a very dry dough which you form into a giant log. This gets baked, is allowed to cool, then sliced into individual biscottis which are baked further.
Here is my loaf after the initial time in the oven. (Sorry for the dark picture.) It crackled a little more on top then I expected which made slicing it without it falling apart a little difficult.
Here are my sliced biscotti. I didn't do the best slicing job ever but I'm not very patient when it comes to these things.
Despite the crumbling issues they were delicious. When they first came out of the oven they were still nice and gooey inside but after a few days (yes they stayed good for quite awhile) they attained the dry consistency one expects from biscotti (although not the tooth breaking consistency one finds in bad store bought biscotti).
For my next recipe I chose pumpkin cookies with brown butter icing. These were a perfect choice because they gave me the opportunity to use up some of our backlog of canned pumpkin. The only hitch was that both the cookies and icing called for evaporated milk and because of mom's lactose intolerance this isn't an option.
This led me to research evaporated milk alternatives the most common of which seemed to be diluting powdered milk with only two thirds the usual liquid. Of course this isn't very helpful because powdered milk also isn't an option for us.
But since evaporated milk (unlike sweetened condensed milk) is supposedly just milk with some of its liquid evaporated I figured I could just do that myself.
So I put a couple cups of milk in a small pan on very low heat on the stove and measured its depth so I would know when it was almost half evaporated. And I waited....and waited...and waited. After a long time (perhaps hours) it was finally reduced by half. Since I don't have any basis for comparison (I've never bought or used evaporated milk) I'm not sure how close an approximation it was but I do know my cookies came out fabulous.
Between the evaporated milk, the butter and the pumpkin they were ridiculously moist and the spices (cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg) made them very reminiscent of pumpkin pie and gingerbread.
The icing was an adventure in and of itself. I haven't really done much with brown butter before so trying that was a surprise. One second you just have a pan of hot butter and the next brown bits begin to appear suddenly. With the addition of confectioner's sugar, evaporated milk and vanilla to the butter the icing was also ridiculously good.
Look at those brown flecks in the icing, just like the recipe said!
You'd think that everyone would be grateful for the delicious bounty that my new hobby provides but of course someone had to decide they were on a diet so now I'm being cruel every time I bake something delicious.
But I don't think that these cookies were even that bad, I mean they had pumpkin and cranberries, they should just count as fruit!
P.S. Some of you may have noticed that despite my concerns about lactose in my cookies I still use butter. There are several good reasons for this.
1. Butter is just better, although I use margarine or vegetable oil for lots of things for cookies it just seems silly since so much of their flavor comes from the butter itself.
2. Butter isn't actually that bad in terms of its lactose content because it is mostly fat (and therefore the ratio of lactose is much lower). On the other hand skim milk is much worse because with the fat removed there is much more lactose in the same amount of volume.