Monday, November 24, 2008


I was in San Antonio this weekend to present on a publishers panel at a teachers conference. The event forced me (willingly) to learn PowerPoint, which was fun to put together and even more delightful to put into practice, complete with remote control.

While in Texas, I found time to enjoy some of the local flavor and came home with two terrific new cookie cutters (above), Texas style. I also pondered
this literary challenge, which came to me via a colleague at home. I'm not particularly good at "what ifs," so I was pleased to attend a session at the conference devoted to ideas for using wikis, Facebook, text messaging, blogs, and the like in the classroom. One presenter wondered if Huck Finn and Holden Caulfield would be Facebook friends, and the challenge was solved. Click on the link above and see what combinations you come up with!

Sunday, November 09, 2008

SJG and I raked leaves this morning, which somehow put me in the mood for baking cookies this afternoon. The temperatures have begun to dip below freezing lately, and since cold weather often makes me want to do things with food and the oven, I took a look at the latest issue of "Fine Cooking" to see if I might be inspired by something in its pages.

In anticipation of holiday baking, this month's issue is devoted to cookies. I was immediately drawn to the section on shortbread and chose a recipe for espresso shortbread cookies dipped in chocolate. They're gorgeous--and delicious!

Below is the recipe, which I adapted for my methods and to make fewer cookies overall.

Chocolate-Dipped Espresso Shortbread
(Makes about 30 cookies)
1-1/4 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 ounces flour
1 tablespoon finely ground espresso beans

5 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 tablespoon canola oil

1. In a large bowl, blend the butter, sugar, and salt. (I had better luck doing this by hand than with a mixer.)
2. Sift the ground coffee into the flour and add to the butter mixture, combining until the dough pulls together and forms a ball easily.
3. Prepare two cookie sheets by placing parchment paper or a Silpat baking mat on each one.
4. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the cookie dough to 1/4-inch thickness. Using a cookie cutter of the desired shape (I used a bell), cut out individual cookies and place them on the cookie sheets.
5. Chill the cookies on the cookie sheets in the refrigerator for 20-30 minutes.
6. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Bake both sheets of cookies at once, using racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven.
7. Bake the cookies for about 35 minutes total, until the tops look dry and the color has darkened a bit. For even baking, switch the sheets about halfway through cooking so the top sheet is on the bottom and the bottom sheet is on top for the final baking time.
8. When done, allow the cookies to cool completely before dipping in chocolate. (I took them off the sheets and cooled on clean parchment paper.)

1. Melt the chocolate with the canola oil in a double boiler. If you don't have a double boiler, put the chocolate in a small saucepan placed over simmering water in a larger saucepan.
2. When the chocolate is melted, turn off the heat and dip half of each cookie into the melted chocolate. Don't separate the sections of the double boiler, since the chocolate needs to stay warm and smooth for the dipping. Set each dipped cookie onto parchment paper and allow the chocolate to set (about 2 hours) before storing.