Sunday, September 30, 2012

Witches’ Finger Cookies


These cookies won the prize at last year’s Halloween party at my company. Of course they did. They were hilarious and just a tad creepy. Honestly, I was a little grossed out while making them, even though I knew full well they were perfectly harmless. More than that, they were actually quite tasty: matcha shortbread. Not too sweet. What’s not to like? I still found it hard to nibble on a crooked finger.

But nibble people did. They are actually quite nice – very nicely flavored with the green tea powder and not too sweet. If you’re a sugar junkie (we aren’t chez Monkeyshines), you might even want to sweeten them up a bit. The recipe is from a much more adult (in the grown up way, not the x-rated way) interpretation from Lovescool’s blog.

Green Tea Cookies

Yield:  Approx 15 fingers

3/4 cup (2.25 oz) Confectioners sugar
5 oz Unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 3/4 cup (8.5 oz) All-purpose flour
3 Large egg yolks
1.5 TBS Matcha (powdered green tea)
10-20 blanched almonds – optionally sliced in half across the width so that they are thinner
1 cup Granulated sugar (for coating)


  • Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
  • Whisk the confectioner’s sugar and green tea together in the bowl of a stand mixer.
  • Add the butter and green tea/sugar mixture to the sugar in the bowl. Mix until smooth and light in color.
  • Add the flour and mix until well combined.
  • Add the egg yolks and mix just until the eggs are fully incorporated and a mass forms.
  • Form the dough into a disk and chill in the refrigerator until firm (about 30 minutes).
  • Cut the dough with bench cutter into roughly 1 1/2” chunks (they don’t have to be perfectly even, as you want your fingers to vary in size).
  • Roll each chunk out into a rope that tapers smoothly on one end. Pinch the dough to make knuckle shapes. I lightly cut each knuckle with the dough cutter to put in the creases that fingers have. I also lifted some of the fingers at the knuckles just a bit so that they’d curve.

green_tea_cookies 002

  • Press an almond half into the end of the dough to form a ‘fingernail’. B esure to press firmly, otherwise they’ll fall out. (If this happens, you can glue them back on with a touch of icing.)
  • Gently roll each cookie in a bowl of granulated sugar to coat.
  • Place the sugar-coated cookie on a parchment lined pan. Bake at 350F for 12-15 minutes, or until slightly golden around the edges.
  • Cool on a wire rack

green_tea_cookies 007

Happy Haunting!

Baker’s Note: You can purchase Matcha (powdered green tea) from Asian grocery stores or specialty tea shops. In San Francisco, you’ll find it at May Wah grocery, among other places.  Store the cookies in a tin or other container that blocks out sunlight to preserve the color. The green color will fade when exposed to sunlight.

Friday, September 14, 2012



Our Daring Cooks’ September 2012 hostess was Inma of la Galletika. Inma brought us a taste of Spain and challenged us to make our very own delicious Paella!

We were immediately reminded of our first ever Daring Challenge, which was a recipe for rice with cuttlefish, artichokes and mushrooms (I recall that we substituted chicken for the cuttlefish, but were otherwise quite faithful to the recipe for a change). This time we decided to make a mixed paella using the best ingredients that we could find at our local farmer’s market (Alemany market in San Francisco) and butcher’s shop (Guerra’s, also in San Francisco). Our protein elements for the dish were rabbit and chorizo, with a few prawns added towards the end and, to be honest, used mainly as garnish. This was not a seafood paella…

Ingredients (Serves at least 6, I think)

meat and veg copy
top: vegetables and groceries
bottom: rabbit, chorizo and shrimp

1 rabbit, jointed (we didn’t buy it from but I almost wish we had. You have to check this out, including the pictures and the comments…)

Olive oil as needed
1 white onion
1 red bell pepper
1 yellow bell pepper
2 large tomatoes
4 cloves garlic, chopped
4 small chorizo sausages
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp salt
a few grinds of black peppercorns
2 1/2 cups risotto rice (we used Dacsa, el arroz de Valencia!)
6 cups light chicken stock
Enough shrimp for all of your diners to have at least 2-3 each; the bulk of the risotto is very good as leftovers the next day. but reheated shrimp are almost always disappointing…)

In a large pan (we used our big cast iron cauldron), first brown the rabbit in the olive oil. Remove from the pan, then brown the chorizo in the rendered rabbit fat.


Next, make your sofrito – dice the onion and bell peppers, mince the garlic, and (in a fresh skillet) cook them in a few tbsp olive oil until soft. Add diced tomatoes and cook further until tomatoes are broken down.


Return the rabbit to the pan with the Add the sofrito to the rabbit and chorizo in your large pan, and season with the smoked paprika, salt and pepper. (We LOVE the smoked paprika – it can sometimes be hard to find but I think it really makes this dish shine). Once the spices are incorporated, add the rice and the stock, then cook without stirring until the rice starts to get plump and cooked. Towards the end of the cooking, bury the shrimp in the rice and cook until just done – careful not to overdo it!

Serve the paella with shrimp on top. Our plating unfortunately needs some work, though the flavor was phenomenal. Gracias, Inma!

final dish

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Pancake day biscotti


Growing up in Britain, there was only one day of the year when I ate pancakes – on Pancake day, of course. Otherwise known as Shrove Tuesday (or, perhaps appropriately, Mardi Gras/Fat Tuesday), this is the last day before Lent, and historically was a time to eat up rich foodstuffs such as butter, sugar and eggs before the time of fasting. In my childhood experience, the only way to serve these pancakes was to sprinkle them with sugar, lemon juice and currants, then roll them up and eat. It wasn’t until much later that I learned that (a) these are also known as crepes in France and in fact throughout most of continental Europe, (b) American pancakes are a different beast altogether, much thicker and fluffier and (c) you don’t have to serve them with lemon, sugar and currants; in fact a wide variety of both sweet and savory fillings are possible.

Anyway, this post isn’t about pancakes, it’s about biscotti. I wanted to recreate the same sweet lemony-curranty flavor of my childhood pancakes, but in a cookie. It appears that biscotti are my favorite cookie to make, since this is no less than the third biscotti recipe to be posted at Monkeyshines in the Kitchen. This recipe contains even less butter than my reduced fat biscotti, so the biscotti are even crunchier and even better for you :-). I also reversed the usual ratio of brown to white sugar, as I thought it would fit the flavor profile better. Hope you like them!

2c flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar 
1 oz butter
1 tsp vanilla essence
grated zest of 2 lemons
2 large eggs
3/4 cup currants

Preheat the oven to 350 ºF. Mix the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Soften the butter and cut into small pieces. Using a stand or hand mixer, combine the butter and two sugars and cream together until smooth. Beat the eggs, mix them with the vanilla essence and lemon zest, then gradually add to the butter/sugar, stirring continuously to incorporate the egg. Keep mixing on slow speed and add the flour mixture, about 1/4 cup at a time, until well incorporated. Mix in the currants (using a spatula or by hand; the dough will be quite stiff), then turn out the ball of dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide the dough into two, then shape each half into a long bar, each about 12-14” long and 2” wide.
Place the bars on a large (nonstick or buttered) cookie sheet at least 3” apart and bake for 20-25 minutes until lightly brown. Remove from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 325 ºF. After a few minutes, move the bars to a board and cut diagonally into ~1/2” slices. Return the sliced biscotti to the cookie sheet (cut side down) and bake for 8 minutes, then turn them over and bake for a further 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack.