That Long Lost Newsletter

Hello!

As you can tell, this bi-monthly newsletter thing is going great. Why do I feel like I’m writing a letter from camp? Sorry I missed last week’s letter, mom! Anyway. A lot has happened since the last newsletter, namely: I finished my taxes, started my second book AND I moved, which as you can imagine, took up most of my brain space, hence the radio silence (EXCUSES). I want everyone who reads this to know that I unpacked every single box within the first 36 hours of moving and definitely am not still surrounded by piles of things on the floor.

While packing up the old apartment, I had to have some very real conversations with myself about what I needed vs. what I absolutely did NOT need, especially when it came to my kitchen. So, to give you something to look forward and definitely not to procrastinate, the next newsletter will be a solid list of my MUST HAVES, kitchen supplies edition. STAY TUNED.

Another exciting thing, is that my website now includes a somewhat searchable recipe page. It’s not an exhaustive list yet but we are working on it. For now, it’s a good way to find some oldies but goodies not in the Dining In cookbook for this (very bleak! Will it ever be warm again? Probably not!) time of year, like this Roasted Citrus and Avocado Salad, these White Beans with Charred Broccoli and Parmesan, or these Garlicky Chicken Thighs with Scallion and Lime.

Roasted Citrus Avocado Salad. Photo: Nicole Franzen/ Bon Appetit
White Beans with Charred Broccoli and Parmesan. Photo: Ture Lillegraven/ Bon Appetit

Garlicky Chicken Thighs. Photo: Michael Kraus/ New York Times

Last week, NYT Food also published what I think are TWO VERY GREAT MACARONI AND CHEESE RECIPES. One might be better than Velveeta, which is a thing I never thought I’d say, but it’s got a ton of cream cheese, God’s gift to dairy, so. The other is just essentially a love letter to Stouffer’s, but who would be mad at that? I’m sure people will have lots of opinions on these recipes (and if they are sharing their opinions on the internet, they will be positive, which I love! More comments!!!!!!!!) but trust me when I say I made myself sick on both of these variations because I have no shame or self-control and genuinely think they are extremely delicious.

Classic Baked Macaroni and Cheese, breadcrumbs “optional” (not optional). Photo: Karsten Moran/ New York Times

There is also a larger, more general guide, with videos and all that jazz, which I hope you will find helpful. If not, at least there is lots of slow motion cheese melting, always soothing to watch.

Creamy Weeknight Macaroni and Cheese (with white cheddar!), bless and bless. Photo: Karsten Moran/ New York Times

Also out last week, for the WSJ: Future of Everything, I wrote about plant based proteins, which might be the….future. Hot dogs made from mung beans, shrimp made from algae, stuff like that. In it, I tell you about my favorite teenage snack, which yes, is related somehow to the rest of the story.   


Scrambled eggs, sort of. Photo: Amanda Ringstad/ Wall Street Journal: Future of Everything

FINALLY: LIPSTICK

I realize this is not a universally appealing topic, but I do get almost as many requests to share what lipstick I wear as I do tips for cookies, so I’m going to address it. First, a story nobody asked for: 

When I was younger, I was leafing through family albums and saw a picture of my mom holding me, minutes after she gave birth. I thought “wow, mom looks great. Is she wearing...lipstick?” Yes, turns out, she was wearing lipstick. Because she APPLIED LIPSTICK. MINUTES AFTER GIVING BIRTH. To know that about her is to know a lot about me. Anyway, it’s in my blood. Ever since my first love (Age 5, Chapstick brand Cherry Chapstick I picked up in line at Ralph’s) I’ve had an intense attachment to every and any chapstick, lipbalm, lipgloss and lipstick.

So, where is my lipstick from?

I wish I had one answer, but that’s not who I am. I am your grandma with 7 different shades, textures and styles of application, all suited for their occasion and season. Sometimes I want it to look like I had been effortlessly eating strawberries in the sun (I wasn’t) and sometimes I want to look like a Cabaret singer (I’m not). I don’t know anything about makeup or beauty products really, but I do know that I want my lips to be covered in some sort of pigmented paste AT ALL TIMES, through food and drink and yoga and eventually giving birth. JK. Here are my current top 5, but know there are millions more where this came from.

Burts Bees Chapstick in Pomegranate

This is my every day, number one, tried and true, never-gonna-give-you-up standby. I have 9 different tubes in rotation (one on my nightstand, one in my makeup bag, one every purse) so I’m never without it. Sure, it’s chapstick, but it’s a RED chapstick, and sure, I realize it probably doesn’t actually have a ton of color and is more of a placebo effect when I think it makes my lips look rosy, but let me have this.  

FRESH Sugar Lip Treatment SPF 15 in Tulip

This is a step beyond chapstick, a barely there pink-ish color that I’ve been feeling for when my usual red seems too severe for a casual breakfast meeting. It feels very hydrating and has SPF 15, which I am a big fan of. UVA rays don’t play! 

Clinique Chubby Stick in Mightiest Maraschino
I am the definition of an impulse shopper, rarely leaving a CVS or Sephora without something I absolutely didn’t come for or need at all. Of course, that’s where I picked up this little number. It’s neither lipstick nor chapstick, so I’ll call it a tinted lipbalm, since I refuse to refer to it as a “chubby stick” as they’ve labeled it. It’s a little more plum than maraschino, and definitely the only magenta-ish color I own, but I also wear this one more than anything these days. I like how it hydrates like chapstick and colors like lipstick but without making me feel inappropriate for wearing it to yoga, which, yes sometimes I do. Outdoor Voices for the face, if you will.  

Chanel Rouge Allure in #99 Pirate

This was a gift from one of my best friends last October right before my book came out. She sent it to me as a congratulations, but also maybe as a way of saying “you’re a professional woman now, you need a professional lipstick” and wow does this make me feel professional. When I put it on I feel like I just picked up my dry cleaning, which is to say: Like a grown-ass woman. It applies like a dream, the cooler red color is the ideal shade of red for my skin tone (which is pink-ish, like a newborn mouse) and the tube itself, all gold and black, well, it’s just classy as hell. I will be repurchasing when I run out or lose it, whichever happens first (I’ll lose it first). 

Sephora Cream Lip Stain in 01 Always Red

Once I walked into a Sephora and asked “what can I put on my face that will never ever come off no matter how much wine I drink or hot dogs I eat?” they looked at me like “why are you eating so many hot dogs?” and then pointed me to this matte lip stain. The shade is classic red and like the Chanel, works with my pinkish skin tone. I’m assuming it works with a lot of skin tones, since it’s their #1 seller (they are often out), which is to say it’s not too blue and not too orange and is kind of an unspecialized, non-descript red. I’ve also recently purchased another pinker shade called Chili Pepper, which I’m loving.

EVENTS

While I’m kind of winding down on events (this second book isn’t going to write itself) I have a few East Coast-y things coming up:

This Saturday the 21st I’ll be in Philadelphia teaching a class at Cook. It’s sold out, which makes this announcement feel like a humblebrag, but maybe there’s a waiting list and if there is, you should get on it.

On April 25th from 6pm–8pm I’ll be at The Sosta in NYC slinging charred broccoli and lemon pasta with Parmesan and garlicky bread crumbs (which is available all month long) and drinking Spritzes. Books will be available for purchase and signing should you not have one or need to buy one for someone you truly love.

Hi guys, it’s me.

Also in NYC, on May 4th I’ll be over at Haven’s Kitchen teaching you how to make the best steak of your life (hopefully). Sign up for the class here.


STEAK with Buttered Radish Toast from the Dining In cookbook. Photo: Michael Graydon / Nikole Herriott

Have a question? Something you’d like me to address? Respond to this email (better than an Instagram DM, I promise!) and I will do my best to respond either privately or for the whole world to see via this newsletter.

See you next week! Lol just kidding, see you in 4 months. JUST KIDDING AGAIN, I will see you in two weeks. Probably.


Newsletter, "THE COOKIES" edition

Dear Reader, I can already tell I am setting myself up to be the Susan Miller of newsletters, consistently late, never skimping on the juicy details of why (Susan, I am glad you are feeling better!). Not that I plan on being late every week, just most weeks.
⚡️Susan Miller, my spiritual advisor ⚡️

Anyway, I wanted to do a COOKIE FOCUSED edition of this newsletter, answering questions and addressing issues you’ve had with the dough and baking (essentially why I started this newsletter in the first place). There have been...a LOT of questions, and in a perfect and less busy world, I’d respond to every Instagram message with personalized solutions, but that is not the world we are in.

So, let me start off by saying thank you for reading and baking. The response to these little guys has been INSANELY OVERWHELMING and I am full of love and gratitude for every cookie that’s been born.
🍪a very small fraction of the cookies that have been made 🍪

Below, you’ll find a list of FAQ followed by some troubleshooting tips to help you all achieve the cookies of your dreams. While it’s unlikely I will have addressed every specific question, I do hope that I’ve addressed most of them. Print this out. Frame it. Put it on your fridge. Sleep with it under your pillow. Absorb it. Go forth and make the best damn Salted Butter Chocolate Chunk Shortbread cookies of your life.

FAQ

Are they that good/worth the hype/life changing?

Well, I think they’re really, really good! I’d go so far as to say they’re GREAT (I tried to only put recipes in my book that are at the very least “really good”). Are they going to change your life? I think it’s important to remember that this is just a cookie, not a 7-day immersive yoga retreat in Mallorca.

What I’m trying to say is: It’s a cookie! Cookies are GREAT! Their only objective in life is to make people happy and be delicious. If you find yourself feeling upset that maybe these cookies “didn’t live up to the hype,” maybe, uh...have another cookie. But also, yeah, these cookies are really that good lol.

Are they worth it?

Worth the effort of dragging down your mixer? Yes. It’s not that heavy, and how often are you really using it anyway? Stop feeling guilty that you asked for it for your birthday/wedding/gradation and have literally only used it three times. Justify that purchase!

Worth the 15 minutes it takes to make the dough? Worth waiting 2 hours for the dough to chill? Worth the 12–15 minute they take to bake? The 4 minutes they take to cool to optimum temperature so you can eat one, maybe two or three? Time is a flat circle, my friends. Time is a social construct. Time is all we have. All we have is time.

Are the sugar edges necessary?

Can you make the cookies without it? Yes. Do I recommend it? No. I try not to add anything superfluous when developing a recipe, unless it makes the end result significantly better (or cuter/more attractive, in which case, then it’s generally listed as “optional”). The sugar on the outside of this cookie does both.

This particular dough is *just* sweet enough IMO, meaning not only does it benefit from the the sugar on the outside by giving it more texture and a gorgeous sparkly outer ring, but it definitely rounds out the sweetness that the dough itself is otherwise left wanting.

I can't find Demerara sugar, what else can I use?

Demerara sugar is an annoyingly fancy term, but “Sugar In The Raw” is actually Demerara sugar and you can find it at any grocery store (or for free in little packets at Starbucks).

Can I use something other than egg to brush edges?

Yes! If you are allergic to/can’t eat/don’t have an egg, you can use heavy cream or buttermilk. I haven’t tried regular/soy/nut/almond/oat milks, but they will probably work, too.

Can they be made gluten free?

Yes! I’ve seen a lot of GF versions of this cookie. Most people seem to have the greatest success with Bob’s Red Mill AP GF flour or Cup 4 Cup. Also, I’m sure that if you’re used to baking with GF flour, you know that it behaves differently than regular flour. I haven’t done this myself, but I would imagine the GF flour would make the dough more crumbly than usual (more on that later), and would likely benefit from an egg yolk in the dough to help it come together.

Can they be dairy-free/vegan?

Yes! I’ve seen many people make these with Earth Balance (“vegan buttery sticks” lol). Brush the outside with soy/nut/almond/oat milk if you’re also avoiding eggs.

Can you freeze dough?

Heck yes you can freeze the dough! Make the logs, wrap them, place the wrapped logs in a ziplock bag and then freeze them (unless your freezer looks like mine, in which case: wrap the log of dough in another ziplock and then wrap that ziplock in foil, and wrap that bag in a a North Face jacket, wrapped in goose down, and then put the whole thing in an airtight container because your freezer is so shitty and otherwise it’ll make the cookies taste like freezer). They will be good like this for at least a month, but I have it on good authority that they are still good after month 2.

What temp is butter?

First, let me say that it’s embarrassing that this information isn’t in the book. It should be. This is an important question. If you are using a stand mixer, which I do, I like to start with cold butter for this cookie. Controversial? Maybe. The cold butter creams spectacularly, beating air into the butter/sugar mixture without becoming too soft or greasy (= too soft/greasy = less air beat into the butter = denser cookie).

BUT: IF YOU ARE USING A HAND MIXER, USE SLIGHTLY SOFTENED BUTTER. The little hand mixers just don’t have the power a stand mixer does, so you need to give the butter a better chance of really properly creaming and getting as light and fluffy as possible (which is, let’s be honest, not all that light and fluffy because those machines kind of suck for creaming butter and sugar).

Can you do it by hand?

I’ve seen it done, although I can not recommend it. It’s a LOT of work, for what is probably a less good cookie than you’re expecting after all that work. “I mixed my cookie dough by hand and now my forearms look like something Ronnie from The Jersey Shore would covet. The cookies were good but a little bit...dense. But good. They are surprisingly resilient” –a friend of mine who mixed them by hand (I do NOT recommend mixing them by hand).

I have also seen them done in a food processor, which my source tells me “worked, I think.” Not exactly a ringing endorsement, but if you just GOTTA have the cookies and that’s all you have, I suppose you should know that's an option.

Can they be rolled out and cut instead?

You bet they can be! My co-conspirator Nikole Herriott (who is half the team who photographed Dining In) made them using her little cloud cutters, and I’ve seen these by @errsuz, which I assume is for GALENTINES DAY. Jk I would never earnestly reference GALENTINES DAY. Anyway, you can press the dough into a springform pan, bake and slice, you can roll them out anywhere between ½” - ¼” thick depending on your preference and bake as usual.

UPSIDE: No rolling or slicing

DOWNSIDE: No crunchy edges.
photo by @nikoleherriott

Can I use other chocolate?

Sure! Use whatever you want tbh. I’ve seen it all: M&Ms, butterscotch chips, white chocolate, milk chocolate, fancy red chocolate (?), nuts, DRIED FRUIT (which I do not condone) etc. photo by @kellyjankefood

For me personally, I like these Guittard baking bars (70%). I prefer bars because that’s where you get the nice large-ish chunks, some smaller bits, etc. not #sponsored, just #enthusiastic

✨TROUBLESHOOTING

I will say that without a photo, it’s challenging to exactly diagnose the problem, but here are the most commonly asked questions and my best guess as to what went wrong.

“My dough is too crumbly to roll into a log!”

You should know that the dough is pretty crumbly (see below). It’s a shortbread. This dough will never look like a creamy chocolate chip cookie dough, not ever. But is the dough crumbly or sandy? If it’s sandy, we have a problem. Either there is too much flour in the dough, or, more likely: the dough isn’t mixed well enough. Even when using a stand mixer, you should be making sure all the flour is getting to mingle with that creamed butter that’s stuck to the sides and bottom of the bowl. If it doesn’t, it’ll stay sandy and not properly roll into a log OR slice when the time comes. See! Kind of crumbly-- not smooth or creamy.

“My cookies crumble when I try to slice them!”

First, know that even mine crumble a little when I slice them sometimes, but I just kind of squish them back together and when they bake you’d never know.

But if the crumbling seems EXTREME, this could be because your chocolate is too large (if the chunks are too large, it will be more challenging to get nice, even slices), your knife is not sharp enough (I’ve also heard a serrated knife works well), or that your dough was too crumbly/not mixed properly (see above), which will make this step more challenging.

If you have the time, letting your log of dough rest on the counter for 10 or so minutes will also help to soften the log slightly, so it slices rather than shatters.

For chopping the chocolate, I like a mix of large and small bits, like this:
The irregularity here is *chef kisses fingertips*

“My cookies have spread into a thin lacy mess when I baked, what happened?”

This is a less frequently asked question, but I wanted to address it, because it brings up another good point about measuring flour.

If the cookies spread, it’s almost 100% because A. they weren’t mixed properly (meaning there are pockets of butter/sugar in the bowl with no flour and vice versa) or B. a measurement was off (too much butter or too little flour).

For butter: just double check your measurements. If I had a dime for every time I put in 1/2 stick of butter instead of 1/2 cup and vice versa, I’d be rich as hell. Just try again and if they are STILL too spready, come see me.

For flour: I scoop and level my flour. This means I dip the cup into he bag, scoop the flour into the cup, and level it (with my finger, but you could use a knife or offset spatula).

If you are using a scale, my cup of flour almost always weighs exactly 145g, so go by that measurement.

I hope this helps at least one person, and if I didn’t answer YOUR question, I’ll see you in the DM’s. 

And that’s all for this week! I hope that everyone is taking care of themselves, staying hydrated and using whatever technique they need to get through the worst month in the whole year. I like getting my aura read, going to the Russian baths, doing yoga and drinking a ton of moderately priced natural wine to undo all of that good stuff I just did for my body. 

Happy February! 

Who Needs a Blog When You Can Have a Newsletter

Buried in my growing to-do list, nestled somewhere between “find the best linen sheets” and “sign up for global entry,” “START A NEWSLETTER” has been sitting there for over a year now. In case you were curious, I haven’t found the best linen sheets (do you know? tell me!) and I let my global entry application lapse so now I have to start all over, which means it will never happen. 

That brings me to this newsletter.
In it, I’ll talk about my book and the recipes in it (it’s called Dining In, and it’s great, and you should buy it if you don't already have it! ^ Those are some photos from it!), making a second book (yes, I am making a second book!), direct you to other recipes that exist for your cooking pleasure (like this baked ziti), talk you through no-recipe recipes, plus, a bunch of other non cooking and eating-related things, like how guilty I feel for loving my definitely not reasonably priced botanical serum

You might be asking, “isn’t this just a blog that gets sent right to my inbox?” And the answer might be YES, but frankly, I’m too embarrassed to admit that I’m starting a blog now, in 2018, so please, welcome to my newsletter! 

Stay tuned for next week’s edition, where I’ll try to address every single thing that could go wrong with THE COOKIES, providing helpful answers that will leading you all to eternal cookie bliss. Plus, I’ll finally break my silence on everyone’s favorite question: “Are they worth the hype?” (hint: ITS JUST A COOKIE, so idk? But maybe....yes?) 

See you next week! 

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