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:


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!)


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.


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:

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


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:


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!


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.