Cookie Crush

Okay maybe not a cookie crush, more a rekindling of a long lost love. The cookie in question is called a Mazurka. I fell for it hard in college when the Mazurka was a mainstay of every espresso cart in Seattle. It was homely, a little bumpy, and oaty, and healthy as far as cookies go. Okay, I was in college at the time and could rationalize that a cookie containing fruit and oats constituted health food.

Yes, I did eat them on more than one occasion for breakfast.

My roommate and I would buy them often, and how fortunate for us that they could be found in the checkout aisle at the grocery store.

Right across the street from our house.

I really ate a lot of those cookies.

At the time they were made by the McGraw street bakery in Seattle, which is sadly no longer, but Macrina Bakery has picked up the torch making their own version. I love them for it. The cookie goes by many names, Mazurka, Fruit and Oat Bar, Polish Wedding Cake....No matter the name, it is always an oat base with coconut, nuts, a jammy filling and a streusel topping. I think that traditionally they are filled with apricot jam but I like them with raspberry jam. Or apple butter. Or, oh you get the point. I found a recipe many years ago, shoved it in the back of a notebook and then recently rediscovered it. I am sad it took me so long to make them.

The recipe is from Maida Heatter's Book of Great Cookies. I don't own this particular book, cuz I was really only after one thing.....this recipe.

I should mention that I planned to take a picture of the cookies but then they were eaten before I could get a picture. Maybe next time.

Makes 16

Cookie base and topping:
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup dark brown sugar firmly packed
1 1/2 sticks cold butter cut into small pieces
1/2 cup firmly packed shredded coconut
3/4 cup old fashioned or quick cooking (not instant) oatmeal
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts (Optional, see cooks note)

Apricot filling, see recipe below or 1/2 cup jam of your choice.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place the flour, salt, and sugar in a mixing bowl. Using a pastry blender cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in the coconut, oatmeal and yucky walnuts if using (see cooks note)

Place roughly half, approximately 3 cups, of the mixture in an unbuttered 8 inch square baking dish. (Here's where I diverged, I buttered the baking dish. I know. REBEL. What's next, using salted butter?) Press it evenly with your fingertips to make a smooth layer.

Spread the filling of your choice evenly over the crust leaving a 1/4 inch margin. Sprinkle the remaining pastry over the filling leaving lumps and bumps.

Bake for 50-60 minutes or until the top is barely firm to the touch. My cookies were done after 40 minutes in an 8 inch pan but when I doubled the recipe it took a full hour.

Cool completely in pan, cut around the sides to loosen before cutting and serving.

Apricot Filling:
4 ounces, about 24 halves, dried apricots
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons sugar

Bring the apricots and water to a boil uncovered in a small saucepan. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until the apricots are tender, about half an hour. The fruit should be very soft and the water should be partially but not fully absorbed.

Mash the apricots with a fork, the mixture should be thick but smooth. Add the sugar and stir until it dissolves. Cool to room temperature before using.

Cooks Note: I really dislike walnuts. I omitted all nuts when I made these and didn't miss a thing. I think you could use almonds or pecans instead of walnuts if you really had to have them.

That's not a meal Jerry!

I realize after last weeks post that I wrote about what we saw while on our trip to Krakow and Prague but I didn't write much about the food.

There is something about changing the way you eat with the seasons. Living on the equator we don't really do that, and I miss those more robust Fall and Winter foods. For the week we said good bye to our typical stir fries, and noodle dishes bright with chilies and herbs, and filled our bellies with the dumplings and rich sauces of Poland and the Czech Republic. These hearty meals were welcome when we needed to warm up after hours of walking. There were many tasty bits along the way, such as the Linzer cookies I wrote about last week. I am currently in a sausage coma after finishing off the last of the salami's we brought back with us. But oh, let's not forget the goulash, pirogi, strudels, and palacinky, (a crepe filled sweetened cottage cheese and coated in sugar which was then caramelized). And then there are the soups. Wow. I happen to love soup but when you live in perpetual summer you tend to not make or eat many soups. I don't often crave a big bowl of red or a chowder when its 90 degrees and humid. I'll get to the soups later, hence the Seinfeld reference in the title. You didn't know I was such a tease did you.

In Krakow after spending a day walking in drizzly weather Andy and I ducked into a coffee shop to warm up. Andy ordered us both a hot chocolate and we were presented with a demitasse cup filled with an amazing almost molten pudding like drink, called Horka Cocolada. Really I think it needs a better name. Horka sounds like you are trying to cough up something. Say it...HORKA. See, you make that same sound when you have a bad cold. Anyway, the Horka was intensely chocolaty, smooth, creamy, and above all else rich. We were not prepared for such a little cup of loveliness. I do think one a winter would be all one could manage but being over achievers we soldiered on to sample the other cafe's offerings. None compared to that first cup in however.

And the soups. See there I didn't make you wait too long. I think we had soup nearly everyday if not at lunch and dinner. It wasn't a problem, they were all delicious, but goodness they were filling and they were not served in tiny bowls either. These were not starter portions. We were sometimes too full to eat our main course which prompted me to think of that Seinfeld episode "The Soup". Not "The Soup Nazi", but the episode where Jerry, in return for receiving a free Armani suit, agrees to buy Kenny Bania a meal. Jerry takes Kenny out for the meal where Kenny orders soup and says he'll save the "meal" for another day. There is hilarious dialogue between Jerry and Elaine as to whether or not soup constitutes a meal. I believe the soup in question was a consume, which falls into the starter, not a meal, category in my opinion. The soups we had however could easily stand alone as a meal.

The first memorable soup was served at Kawaleria restaurant near the Old Town Square in Krakow. Kawaleria means Cavalry I believe in Polish and it does have a sort of equine/upscale horsey theme. Don't be scared, it is a pretty restaurant with an attentive wait staff and excellent modern Polish food. We started with a Cheddar soup. The soup was very light, not like the thick cheese soups I have had before. At the bottom of the bowl were little surprise bites of thick bacon. The crispy caramelized salty pork nicely offset the rich creaminess of the cheese. A winner!
This next soup turned out to be slightly traumatic. It came in a really pretty and clever bread bowl. It smelled really nice, it had a great texture, but I was lead to believe that it was potato soup when really it was mushroom. I don't like mushrooms. They creep me out. I should mention here that most of our meals were ordered before hand by the tour company and we weren't always given a choice in what we would be eating. And since I had just told our students to eat what was put in front of them, I had to do just that. The first few bites were fine, I nearly convinced myself that maybe I could learn to like mushrooms, when it happened. I spooned up a large piece of a ruffly, inky black, sort of alien looking thing and well, I was done.

The last soup I'll mention was one to love. It seemed a little quirky, a little fancy. At Cafe Louvre in Prague the waiter placed a bowl in front of me that had a lovely mound of creamy mashed potatoes mixed with garlic and bacon. Off to a good start....Garlic + Bacon = Good. Then he began to pour a very intensely green soup around the potatoes. Hmmm. I did have thoughts of trying to rescue the bacony goodness before too much of it got tainted by the green but the students were watching. I had to be a grown up. I'm glad I took a bite. It was a lovely cream of pea soup with a hint of heat. The sweetness of the peas was complimented perfectly by the slight bite of cayenne and then the creamy potatoes and bacon just brought it all together. I tried to recreate that soup this past weekend and received good reviews from my family. I forgot to take a picture but it is a very pretty spring green soup. I hope you'll like it, but really, you'll need to make a trip to Prague to compare. That only seems right.

Pea Soup with Creamy Potato and Bacon Garnish

Olive oil
6 slices of bacon chopped
4 medium sized russet potatoes peeled and diced
1 medium onion chopped fine
3 cloves of peeled garlic. 2 minced, 1 left whole
2 ribs of celery chopped fine
2 carrots chopped
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
6 cups good quality chicken stock
1 pound frozen peas
4 tablespoons of butter
3/4 cup half and half divided. You may need more or less to smooth out your potatoes.
Salt and Pepper

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the potatoes and one whole clove of garlic. Return to a boil and cook the potatoes until they are tender. Drain and set aside.

Heat a large saute pan over medium high heat. Add bacon and cook until the fat is rendered and the bacon is crisp. Drain the bacon, reserving 1 tablespoon of fat, and set aside.

In the same pan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the reserved bacon fat over medium high heat. Add the onion and saute until browned;add the minced garlic and saute another 2 minutes. Add the celery, carrots, bay leaves, thyme and cayenne. Saute for 3 minutes. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Cook until the carrots and celery are soft. Add the peas and simmer until the peas are very soft. Remove the bay leaves.
Working in batches, puree the soup in the bowl of a food processor until very smooth. If desired, (I desired) strain the soup through a fine mesh sieve pressing down on the solids to extract as much of that pea goodness as you can. Discard the solids.

Return the soup to the stove, add 1/4 cup of half and half and warm through. Season with salt and pepper. Meanwhile, in the large saucepan melt the butter with the remaining half and half. When the mixture has come to a simmer add the potatoes and mash them into the hot milk and butter with a large fork or potato masher. Mash them as smooth or a chunky as you like. When the potatoes are warmed through, add the reserved bacon and mix well.

To serve divide the potatoes between 4 large soup bowls mounding them in the middle. Ladle the hot soup around the potatoes.

Planes, Trains, and Cookies

Andy and I have spent the last week touring in Poland and the Czech Republic with 20 high school students from our school. What? No, it wasn't at all like circling Dante's 7th ring of Hell...they were great kids, really great kids.

I hope that I don't change my mind on how amazing these young men and women are once all the Facebook postings get out.

The occasion of our trip was Interim Semester. The students at our high school leave for about a week every February on approximately 60 different trips all around the world. Some trips are for sightseeing, some are service trips, and some are adventure trips such as hiking, racing, biking. Our trip took in the charm of Krakow and the undeniable beauty of Prague.

Krakow is a city steeped in legend and history. It boasts the largest town square in Europe, a University founded in the 1300's, and a people who have thrown off the mantle of occupation and communism and have forged a new identity for themselves in Central Europe. On our last day in Poland we took a short bus ride out to Oswiecim to the sight of the infamous Nazi Death Camps Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II, Birkenau. An estimated 1.5 million people were murdered and thousands more suffered here during WWII. Words and pictures fail to capture what is to be found there. In essence I was struck by two things. The darkness of man's heart and the determination of man's will to survive.

We then took an overnight train and arrived in Prague in the early morning hours. Prague is indeed as beautiful as everyone says. It has a "pinch me" quality about it, and at times it's beauty seems manufactured, almost as though it was built as a movie set or theme park. The Velvet Revolution of 1989, has brought about rapid transition from communism to capitalism in the Czech Republic. Some of the highlights of our tour? Petrin Hill and St. Vitus Cathedral, the sheer enormity of the cathedral makes it nearly impossible to photograph. The Jewish Quarter, especially the Pinkas Synagogue should be high on your list of must sees. This synagogue is a memorial to the Jews who died during WWII, on the walls are the handwritten names of those who perished at the hand of the Nazi's. An art gallery occupies the top floor showcasing "art in extreme conditions". It consists of childrens drawings found from the work camp in Terezin. The Old Town Square, and of course the Charles Bridge are also not to be missed.

Then of course, there are the doors. I know, doors? Really? Really. There are fabulous doors to be found in both cities. I snapped quite a few photos before the kids on our trip started mocking me. I don't know what it is about them, I suppose they hold the same intrigue for me as Monday mornings do. I love Monday mornings, they are my favorite. You never know what the week ahead will hold, it could be the best week of your life. And I guess the doors are my architectural equivalent. What is behind those doors, maybe the best treasure, or secret to be found ....

But mostly during our trip I longed to spend time with an old friend who had relocated with her sweet husband and gorgeous baby to Prague. We spent a few stolen moments together while sightseeing, and at dinner. Not nearly enough time, enough to fill my heart, but not enough to take away the ache that her moving has left. I loved getting her take on life in Prague, the triumphs (making friends, and tackling motherhood) and the things that make one cry (apparently cashiers at the grocery store on high on the list). And she did mention that she has a new love in her life. Linzer cookies. We saw them everywhere, they must be the national cookie of the Czech Republic. I liken them to the Pink Cookie that is the staple of every coffee shop in the Pacific Northwest. So Becky, these cookies are for you, until we meet again!

I'm now off to check Facebook to see what the kids on my trip were really up to.....

Linzer Cookies
From Epicurious

3 oz ground almonds
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 12-oz jar seedless raspberry jam
Icing sugar
Special equipment: a 2- to 2 1/4-inch fluted round cookie cutter or heart shaped cookie cutter and smaller ½ inch to 1 inch cookies cutters to cut out center of cookies.
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F.
Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon in a small bowl.
Beat together butter and brown sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes in a stand mixer (preferably fitted with paddle) or 6 minutes with a handheld. Add nut mixture and beat until combined well, about 1 minute. Beat in egg and vanilla. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture, mixing until just combined.
With floured hands, form dough into 4 balls and flatten each into a disk. Chill disks, wrapped in plastic wrap, until firm, at least 2 hours.
Roll out 1 disk of dough 1/8 inch thick between 2 sheets of wax paper (keep remaining dough chilled). If dough becomes too soft to roll out, rewrap in plastic and chill until firm. Cut out as many cookies as possible from dough with larger cookie cutter and transfer to parchment lined baking sheets, arranging about 1 inch apart. Using smaller cutters, cut out centers from half of the cookies, reserving centers and rerolling along with scraps (reroll only once). Bake cookies, 10 to 15 minutes total, then transfer with a metal spatula to racks to cool completely. Make more cookies from remaining disks.
Spread about 1 teaspoon jam on flat side of 1 solid cookie and sandwich jam with flat side of 1 windowed cookie. Sandwich remaining cookies in same manner. Dust with icing sugar.
Cooks' note: Cookies keep, layered between sheets of wax paper or parchment, chilled in an airtight container 2 weeks.

Martha, Martha.....

Oh Martha, I am so disappointed. Your February issue is, well, just so blah. Chocolate sauce and vanilla ice cream on the cover?! THE COVER! Of Martha Stewart Living!

I could understand had she trekked to a cacao plantation in Venezuela and hand harvested the cacao pods, roasted and ground the beans herself on her collection of antique whatever the things are called that you use to grind cocoa beans that she picked up at a tag sale in the Hampton's. Or if she had grown her own orchids to harvest vanilla pods at her summer home in Madagascar and used those beans, along with milk and cream that she obtained from her lovingly cared for cows from her Connecticut home.....but that was not the case and really how uninspiring this cover was.

I buy the February issue every year, a friend and I have a challenge to make whatever insanely over the top creation food wise is on the cover. Last year the cover showed precious Chocolate Ganache Tartlets with pastel heart shaped meringues. Once Martha herself and her crazy collection of cats were on the cover. I found that to be a little disturbing. Martha and her cats for Valentines Day? I don't know, maybe that's when she just got out of prison...

Don't we secretly want Martha to always be over the top? I remember watching her show once in the late 90's and she was making an Easter ham that had little slits stuffed with herbs and garlic and then you baked the whole thing on a bed of freshly mown grass. Seriously. And don't get me started on her chickens.

One of my favorite Martha finds was a little known magazine called "IS Martha Stewart Living" it was a parody of her show and magazine. Some of the subjects discussed were "How to dominate at tag sales", "How to make your own water", and my favorite featured a cover of Martha and the Pope. The Pope of course was kissing Martha's ring. Don't judge me. It was funny, and it wasn't the real Pope, so there.

So I find myself in a quandary. The cover recipe is not a big deal, the recipe that should have been used? The Chocolate-Creme Brulee Frozen Sandwiches made with a luscious Chocolate Creme Brulee and Sugar Tuiles. Seriously decadent, over the top, and Martha worthy.

So what did I make instead? My daughter asked if she could bake with me. We purchased the Norpro Donut pans over the Christmas holiday and she wanted to make donuts. They turned out okay, cakey, vanilla scented, not stupendous but the sweetness and goodness came from spending time with Morgan. Who needs Martha anyway.

Vanilla Cake Donuts for Morgan

2 cups all purpose flour

3/4 cup granulated sugar

2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

1 tsp salt 3/4 cup milk

2 eggs beaten

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 tbsp room temperature butter


1 cup confectioners sugar

2 tbsp HOT water

Preheat the oven to 325F. Lightly grease the donut pan. In a large bowl, whisk to combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, nutmeg, and salt. Stir in the milk, eggs, vanilla and butter. Beat together until well blended. Don't over mix.

Fill each donut cup approximately 3/4 full. Bake for 8-10 minutes until donuts spring back when touched. Allow to cool slightly before removing from pan.

To make glaze, blend the confectioners sugar and hot water in a small bowl. Dip donuts in the glaze.

Makes 12 donuts.