Sunday, March 6, 2011

Does anyone actually follow a recipe?

Or is it just me.

I picked up some cashew butter from the Lehman's Orchard booth in the Marketplace at the Chicago Flower and Garden Show yesterday (along with dried fruits and INCREDIBLY DELICIOUS dried, deep fried green bean crisps. Not kidding. These things are so good we had an 8 year old eating them.)

So this morning I decided to try cashew-butter cookies. I don't like things baked with peanut butter, for some reason, or peanut butter candy. Love peanut sauce, love peanut butter sandwiches. Spoonfuls of plain peanut butter are one of my go-to snacks. But somehow sweetened peanut butter treats make me gag.

So I started hunting around on line for a recipe. Martha Stewart has one. Epicurious has one. All-recipes has one, but all of those use vegetable oil, which just sounded nasty. Orangette did not have one (!) and neither did Coconut and Lime (No way. She steals all my ideas, and then publishes them years before I have them), but Chocolate and Zucchini has a recipe for the cashew butter itself. Most of the recipe I found were for butter cookies with finely ground nuts in them.

So I pulled out my trusty Woman's Home Companion Cook Book and adapted the peanut butter cookies. (I guess that makes this an original recipe.)

And as I was doing this I realized how much cooking "on line" is like cooking with a friend, or trying your mother's old recipe for the first time, solo. You follow the recipe, up to a point, and then realize you don't have some ingredient that's listed, or you never really liked that flavor in there, or that your mother (caution, heresy follows), never really got those noodles right.

So you start to tweak.

And that's what recipes are like on the web. You'll find the same recipe a dozen times (sometimes clearly cut-and-paste; Epicurious recipes in particular show up all over the place), but with a little tweak here and there. Honey instead of sugar, or sugar cut back. More chocolate, less chocolate, more yeast or substitute whole wheat for white flour. The most common phrase on one-off recipe sites is "adapted from Better Known Blog."

Here are my cashew butter cookies with dried cinnamon apple pieces (also from Lehman Orchards). Adapted from the Woman's Home Companion Cookbook.

Cashew-butter cookies with dried fruit
1 cup white flour
1/4 + 3 T cup whole wheat flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup cashew butter
1 cup granulated sugar + 1 Tablespoon molasses
1 egg, well beaten
1/2 dried apples or other non-acidic fruit, chopped fine (acidic ones like berries will overwhelm the delicate cashew flavor. I also think these would be delicious with white chocolate or caramel chips.)

Preheat oven to 375F/190C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine the dry ingredients with a whisk. Mix the sugar and molasses with a fork until it resembles light brown sugar. Cream shortening and nut butter; slowly beat in the sugar until thoroughly combined. Add the beaten egg. Combine the dry ingredients one third at a time; dough will be very dense and soft. If dough is too crumbly, add a tablespoon of heavy cream or cashew oil. Mix in the dried fruit.

Chill for about 10 minutes, then form into 1-inch balls and flatten with two fingers (sorry, can't use the fork-crisscross, that's for peanut butter!). Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Makes 3 to 3 1/2 dozen cookies.

You can substitute almond or hazelnut butter, and substitute honey for the sugar. If you use honey, increase the flour by about 1/4 cup and add more fruit, because you'll have a little more dough.

What recipes have you adapted? And how guilty do you feel when the recipe is from your mother?


  1. I adapt almost every recipe I make. It might be as simple as using broth instead of water in a soup recipe or completely switching out an ingredient for one we like better.

  2. oooooohhhhh!! those look so yummy! funny - i just found a jar of cashew butter in the cupboard i bought a while back, but didn't eat since it wasn't up to my flavor/consistency standards. this might be JUST the thing to do with it!!!

    just a little aside... when i saw your blog, my heart did a little leap. my grandparents and mother came over from austria when my mom was 8. my grandma always said mahlzeit to us. and she tells a joke about a traveler eating with an austrian gentleman. when the austrian says mahlzeit to begin the meal, the confused stranger announces his last name - jovanovich. she laughs and laughs and laughs at this joke. she's turning 99 this saturday. to this day, she starts meals we share by saying mahlzeit. and i dutifully say jovanovich.

  3. B_R_82, I find it beyond my ability to follow a recipe. It's one of the reasons I resisted baking for so long.

    Alayne, that is such a wonderful story! And perfectly appropriate timing, as I'm writing about family food traditions all week.