Thursday, September 20, 2018

The Adams Point

For a date day a few weeks ago, my husband and I went on a walking tour of the four apartments we lived in in the Adams Point neighborhood of Oakland between 1999-2005 and then again for one year in 2009-10 (following a four-year detour to attend grad school in Boston, before we moved into our current home in the Laurel neighborhood). Which is probably why, for the next cookie in this "sweet on Oakland" project, I turned to the Adams Point neighborhood for inspiration.


Problem is, that neighborhood, as lovely as it is, is mostly residential. Its history revolves essentially around the family who owned the land - the Adams family - who were eventually forced by the city to sell the huge, increasingly centrally located plot of land for development in the early 1900s. But of course my memories of the area are wrapped up in all the things we could easily walk to - uptown and Bart in one direction, Piedmont in another, Grand Lake/Lakeshore clockwise from there, and of course the lake itself. The thing that drew me to the area initially was the office building where I worked throughout my college years (now one of the Kaiser buildings - I had a parking spot in a lot where the cathedral now stands). That and food. One or two mornings a week I'd walk to Arizmendi for scones (we'd share an oat scone and a currant scone). Occasionally on a Sunday morning we'd walk a little further to Lynn & Lu's for their amazing oatmeal pancakes with blueberry compote. There are more food memories, of course, but for this recipe, I essentially made a cookie version of Arizmendi's oat scone - the dried blueberries (instead of currants) are a nod to that blueberry compote at Lynn & Lu's. I threw in some chocolate because chocolate makes any oatmeal cookie recipe exponentially better.


I had help with the scone > cookie conversion from this blog post and cross-checked my chemistry with Smitten Kitchen's thick, chewy oatmeal raisin cookie recipe. The end result is a more cake-like cookie that really does taste a lot like Arizmendi's oat scone (I think the key ingredient is heavy cream). Enough back story; here's the recipe:

INGREDIENTS

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tsp fine sea salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup packed brown sugar (light or dark is fine)
1 egg
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 cups old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup dried blueberries
1/2 cup coarsely chopped semi-sweet chocolate (I like the pound plus bar at Trader Joes!)


DIRECTIONS

Whisk together flours (don't forget to sift the white flour!), baking soda, and salt and set aside. Cream butter and sugar for a couple of minutes until light and fluffy. Add egg and cream and mix well. Slowly add dry ingredients to wet just until mixed. Using a wooden spoon (yes, this is essential), mix in the oats, dried blueberries, and chocolate. 


Chill dough in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes while you preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Chilling the dough makes it easier to scoop and allows the oats to soak up the cream. 


Scoop cookies into 1 1/2 tablespoon (I like to use a #40 scoop) mounds, spacing them apart on a parchment paper or Silpat-lined baking sheet. Bake at 350 for 12-13 minutes, until the edges are light brown.


Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The Dimond - a German inspired sugar cookie with apple cider buttercream!

I had very good intentions to revive this project last fall, after I quit my full-time day job to spend more time with my kids and in my studio. But when my idea for a cookie inspired by Oakland's Dimond district flopped miserably I never really returned to the idea. Fast-forward almost a year and I'm finally making progress on the projects that carried over from my school-year to do list to my summer to-do list, both kids in tow 24/7. In other words, it's taken me well over a month to get around to getting much of anything done this summer. Taking care of kids really is a full-time gig!


Without further delay, I present to you The Dimond! This is a Heidesand-inspired sandwich sugar cookie, half dipped in sugar crystals, half dipped in chocolate sprinkles, with an apple cider buttercream filling. Heidesand is a traditional German browned butter shortbread cookie. The browned butter part in the original recipe I attempted was divine but the shortbread dough was so dry I struggled to form it into a log I could slice without crumbling. This time around the cookie is more like a soft sugar cookie - easier to make, tastier to eat (in my opinion).


I was inspired by the many historic buildings in the Dimond, named after Hugh Dimond, notably the Altenheim, originally a retirement home for German Americans. Furthermore, in the early 1900s the area was known as Little Germany and is also now home to the annual Oaktoberfest, hence the German recipe at the core of this cookie. The area used to boast several fruit orchards, mainly apricot and cherry, but I felt an apple flavored buttercream would best suit this cookie (and it was fall when I first attempted this recipe so that's probably why I went with apple then though now I'm wondering if cherry or apricot would be more fitting!).


The crystal sprinkles sparkle like diamonds and the chocolate sprinkles - well, everything's better with a little chocolate in it!


Here's the recipe, first for the cookies:

INGREDIENTS
1 cup butter, softened
1⁄2 cup granulated sugar
1⁄2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1⁄2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1⁄2 teaspoon salt

DIRECTIONS:

Cream butter and the sugars in a large bowl until fluffy. Add egg and vanilla to butter/sugar mixture and blend well.

In another bowl combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Slowly blend flour mixture into butter/sugar mixture until incorporated.

Use a cookie scoop to form dough into 1-inch balls. Alternate rolling balls of dough in sugar and chocolate sprinkles, place on a cookie sheet lined with a Silpat or parchment paper, and flatten.


Bake at 350 degrees for 12-14 minutes, until very lightly brown. Cool completely before filling.

For the apple cider buttercream filling:

INGREDIENTS:

1/2 cup (8 tablespoons/1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 scant teaspoon fine sea salt
4-6 tablespoons boiled cider*
4 cups confectioners' sugar
1-2 tablespoon heavy whipping cream (milk or 1/2 and 1/2 will also do)

*using 4 tablespoons boiled cider yielded a subtle apple flavor; if you prefer a stronger apple flavor, use more!

DIRECTIONS:

Beat together the butter, salt, and boiled cider until fully combined. Gradually add the sugar, beating until the frosting is light and fluffy. Add the cream, if necessary, to make the frosting nicely spreadable.


I like to pipe out a swirl of frosting onto the bottom of the base cookie, leaving about a 1/2 inch border around for spread.


Top each frosted cookie bottom with another cookie and you have yourself a Dimond, Oakland inspired cookie sandwich! Enjoy.


Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Montclair Blondies

Long time, no cookies! Felt I was overdue for an update and I was craving blondies, which is really weird because that is not a "cookie" I typically crave. However, I've always kind of thought of the Montclair neighborhood of Oakland, diverse as Oakland is overall compared to this particular area within Oakland, as the blondie of 'hood cookies, if you feel me. The neighborhood, like the cookie, I can't lie, is not among my favorites. I lived in Oakland for about a decade before I even knew it existed, driving along 13 one day, not a route I typically took when I lived in the Lake Merritt area, and noticing the Lucky supermarket out of the corner of my eye (grocery stores at the time were pretty lacking in the area so a supermarket not already on my radar was a supermarket to try out right away!). Another decade later, I've now sent both kids to a part-time daycare in Montclair, have a handful of friends who've lived or currently live in the neighborhood, and occasionally pop up that way for a particular store or restaurant. But I still find it to be a bit lacking in all the things I value about the rest of this town. What can I say, I'm more of a Laurel or Fruitvale gal.


I will confess, however, that if you add in the "optional" extras like I did, listed below, and mix in a little dark chocolate along with the white, then you've got yourself an acceptably diversified, okay-I'll-admit-this-is-actually-pretty-tasty, baked treat. Here's what you'll need to make 16 2x2 inch blondies:

  • 8 tablespoons (115 grams or 1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup (215 grams) lightly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract, optional
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup (130 grams) all-purpose flour


"Optional" (but not really) extras:

1/2 to 1 cup chocolate chips (I used white and dark)
1/2 to 1 cup chopped and toasted nuts (I used macadamia nuts)
1/2 to 1 cup chopped dried fruit or shredded/flaked coconut (I used the latter)
1/4 cup liquor (I used bourbon whiskey); Note: Increase flour by 1 tablespoon to accommodate




Directions:

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8-inch by 8-inch metal baking pan with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, stir melted butter and brown sugar until blended. Add the egg, vanilla, almond extract (optional) and salt then stir vigorously until smooth. When the batter looks well blended, add the flour and stir until no more streaks of flour remain. Stir in chocolate chip, nuts or dried fruit (if using).


Spread the batter evenly in lined pan and bake 20 to 25 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out relatively clean. Cool then cut into 16 squares.

Friday, September 30, 2016

The Fruitvale - Mexican Chocolate Cherry Surprise Cookies

For today's Oakland-inspired cookie, I'm thinking of the Fruitvale district, historically known for the many fruit orchards ("Fruit Vale"), primarily apricot and cherry, that dominated the area in the late 1800s. The area became part of the City of Oakland in 1909 and his now home to Oakland's largest Latino population.


To celebrate Oakland's Fruitvale district, I present a bit of a twist on Mexican Chocolate Cherry Rounds. I could not for the life of me find candied cherry halves, as this recipe calls for, but I did have a jar of maraschino cherries in my fridge. So I decided to bake the cherry in the cookie, similar to this recipe. Delightfully surprising, as Oakland tends to be.


Mexican Chocolate Cherry Surprise Cookies

INGREDIENTS
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2 cups + 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1⁄4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1⁄4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 3⁄4 cups sugar
1⁄2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2⁄3 cup powdered sugar
~30-36 maraschino cherries


DIRECTIONS
Melt chocolate in top of double boiler over simmering water (or in microwave) until smooth; allow to cool. Combine flour and next 5 ingredients in medium bowl.

Using electric mixer, beat 1 3/4 cups sugar and butter in large bowl until light. Beat in eggs 1 at a time, then vanilla and chocolate.Gradually add dry ingredients, beating just until combined. Chill dough until firm, about 2 hours.


Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat. Place powdered sugar in shallow pan. Form dough into 1-inch balls, flatten, and then shape around one maraschino cherry so that the cherry is sealed in dough. Roll each ball in powdered sugar to coat; shake off excess sugar.


Arrange cookies on prepared baking sheets, spacing 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake until cookies puff and crack but are still soft, about 12-14 minutes. Transfer cookies to rack and cool completely. Makes about 30-36 cookies. Enjoy!


Friday, September 23, 2016

The Laurel, Oakland Kettle Corn M&Ms Cookie Recipe

I've let this project - this blog and accompanying Instagram and Twitter accounts - all but die over the past several months. But I'm back, with focus! For now, Sweet on Oakland will dream up a cookie recipe inspired by the "flavors" of each of Oakland's culturally diverse neighborhoods, beginning with a recipe for the Laurel, where I've lived for the past 6 of my total 18+ years in Oakland (not including that 4-year detour to Boston circa 2005-09!).


Did you know the Laurel used to be home to not one, but two movie theaters, in operation between the 1920s and 1960s? The Laurel Theater is now a church while the Hopkins Cinema, once a Hagstroms grocery store, is now home to a Goodwill thrift store and an AutoZone auto parts store.


The Laurel is also now home to Peter's Kettle Corn. So for our first cookie recipe, we present a Laurel, Oakland twist on the kettle corn cookie, featuring PKC kettle corn and - my favorite movie theater popcorn candy accompaniment - M&Ms (modified from this kettle corn chocolate chip cookie recipe via Jolly Time popcorn).


INGREDIENTS

4 cups kettle corn (preferably from Peter's Kettle Corn!)
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup M&Ms candies

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Beat the butter, sugar, egg, and vanilla together in a large bowl with a wooden spoon or electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in the flour, baking powder and soda, and salt until well combined. Gently stir in kettle corn and M&Ms.


I used an ice cream scoop to form dough into 3 1/2 ounce balls. Place on a silicone or parchment-lined baking sheet; bake 12 to 13 minutes or until edges are set and centers are still slightly underdone (cookies will firm up as they cool and be chewy). Cool on a baking sheet for 5 to 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to finish cooling. Makes approximately 16 large cookies.


Enjoy! And if you live in Oakland, feel free to share in the comments section how you'd describe the "flavors" of your neighborhood.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

#NationalGrilledCheeseDay, Oakland-style

Yep, today is National Grilled Cheese Day, a pretty important holiday for grilled cheese enthusiasts and small children alike. I have two suggestions for you, Oakland. If you're the kind of person who likes to think outside the box, head over to College Point Cafe in Rockridge, a small breakfast and lunch joint frequented by students and staff at nearby California College of the Arts, and home to quite possibly the best tuna melt I've ever had, grilled to order on a Dutch crunch roll.


If you're more of a traditionalist, Oakland has that, too. Try the soup and 1/2 grilled cheese combo at Sacred Wheel Cheese and Specialty Market, in the Temescal neighborhood. This is a delightful little market with yummy grilled cheese sandwiches, delicious homemade soups, and Nutella-filled chocolate chip cookies, to boot!


How will you celebrate National Grilled Cheese Day?

Thursday, April 7, 2016

The Town's Hi/Lo Coffee Cake Recipe

Hey, Oakland! Did you know that today is National Beer Day and National Coffee Cake day! I thought surely I'd be able to find a coffee cake recipe that actually tastes like coffee...



... and has beer in it, too!



The internet has everything, after all. And while I found several boozy coffee cake recipes, none that offer both a stimulant (caffeine) and a depressant (alcohol)... #sweetonoakland to the rescue! Try this out and let me know what you think. Better yet, invite me over to try a slice!

Recipe for The Town's Hi/Lo Coffee Cake

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour                                          
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom
  • 1/4 cup lightly toasted, chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried figs
  • a pinch of sea salt
  • 1 cup of Linden Street Brewery's Glow Pilsner
  • 1 cup of strongly brewed Mr. Espresso coffee
  • Powdered sugar (optional)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit. Grease a 10 cup Bundt pan* with butter and dust with flour. Set aside.

Sift together dry ingredients - flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, cardamom - and set aside. Dust the chopped figs with some of this dry mixture.

In a large bowl with an electric mixer, cream the butter with the sugars until smooth and creamy, about 2-3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well.

Fold in the dry ingredients alternatively with the beer and coffee; blend well.

With a wooden spoon, stir in the nuts and figs, mixing well and scraping down the sides of  the bowl 1 to 2 times.

Spoon batter into a well-greased and flour dusted 10 cup Bundt pan. Bake in a preheated oven for 1 hour, 10 minutes until brown and a toothpick comes out clean. Let your hi/lo coffee cake cool in the pan for about 20 minutes; un-mold the cake and allow to cool completely on a wire rack before serving. Dust with icing sugar, if desired. 

What will you have on the side: coffee or beer?!

Enjoy.

* If you don't have a Bundt pan, you can use any of the following alternatives: 9x13-inch baking pan, 2 9-inch round cake pans, about 18-24 cupcakes, 1 9-inch tube pan, 2 11x7-inch baking pans, or 1 10-inch springform pan. Check for doneness more frequently (e.g. 20-24 minutes for cupcakes) if using a shallower pan.