Thursday, September 6, 2012

We took Joanne Chang, John Barricelli and Alice Medrich to the Hampton Classic. And Andrew’s take on their Fig Newtons, Pecan Squares, Brownie Bites and Salted Chocolate Chunk cookies were the hit of the party.

The Bridgehampton Florist outdid themselves at their own table
at this year's Hampton Classic

Joy Marks, a Hampton Classic
habituee, seemed to have
our colors in mind this year.
         The Hampton Classic Horse Show is a bittersweet affair.  It’s quite the party and attracts an amazing assortment of people.  But it’s officially the last blast of summer so it’s tinged with that strange Labor Day ambivalence:  Glad to see the tail lights of the August population who, it’s been noticed, seem to more “unruly” this year than in the past.  But still, unhappy that this perfectly beautiful summer is coming to an end. Looking forward to revving up our Fall activities.  Loathing the idea of leaving this beautiful place to return only on weekends and mostly solo as Andrew’s business keeps him in the city.  Nevertheless, we certainly celebrated the Classic in style. Michael and Jim are our hosts and The Bridgehampton Florist table was truly a show stopper. 
         Every year, Michael selects a color scheme and takes it from there.  This year, the color purple dominated although I have to say that somehow my camera seems to have registered the table as more blue than purple.  The table was filled with clematis blossoms in white ceramic vases.  At each place setting were exquisite napkin holders with more clematis blossoms in each one.  I can’t begin to tell you how many people stopped by to gape at how gorgeous everything was.  And this at an event where the table décor is just jaw-dropping-- and much of it the work of Jim and Michael and the wizards at The Bridgehampton Florist.  In fact, the editor of “Flowers” Magazine was there specifically to photograph the tables.  This new magazine is a glory to behold and we cannot wait to see the feature on our friends.   Its editor, Margot Shaw was a guest at our table.  Margot, who is from Birmingham AL, has a local connection:  She has cousins who have been in East Hampton for years.  These two charming ladies also joined us for plenty of local gossip and of course, fashion commentary on everyone who sashayed past our table.  
The Bridgehampton Florist did, among something like 15 others, the Bloomberg table for His Honor, the Mayor of the City of New York, Michael Bloomberg (Center) and his companion Diana Taylor (in teal blue hat), seen from our table as they entered the Event. 

From left to right...
Salted Chocolate Chunk,
Brownie Bites, Pecan Squares
and Fig Newtons
Lunch was catered by Loaves and Fishes Cookshop, a local institution commanded by Anna Pump, much-loved local chef and cookbook author.  Lobster Salad and Thai Beef Salad was served, accompanied by an Orzo salad and perfectly beautiful green peas.  But the hit of the afternoon were Andrew’s treats.  There were four of them this year:  Fig Newtons from the incomparable Joanne Chang, Pecan Honey Bars from John Barricelli and an adaptations of his Brownie recipe made into mini Brownie bites and a take on Alice Medrich’s Chocolate Chunk cookies which Andrew salted with Fleur de Sel.   That’s a lot of baking!  And a lot of recipes, which I am going to share with all at once.  It is truly hard for me to pick a favorite: Jim had no problem whatsoever and declared the two chocolate offerings as his absolutely new favorites in both categories.  Our friends from Alabama could not get enough of the Fig Newtons and, who from the South could possibly have anything but praise for a honey-laden Pecan Bar?   So without further ado, let’s move on to the recipes for all four fantastic desserts.

Recipe for Joanne Chang’s Fig Newtons from “Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston’s Flour Bakery and Café” (Chronicle Books 2010)
 I can’t help but repeat the story of Joanne Chang’s career because it is simply fascinating.  A child of Chinese immigrants, Joanne grew up in Houston TX.  Her only real contact with American sweets was at the homes of her classmates.  But apparently these were not of the Apple Brown Betty school of home baking. Instead Joanne was introduced to the world of packaged baked goods --  Oreos, Chips Ahoy, Twinkies, Ding Dongs and Jello Instant Pudding.  Armed with a Harvard degree in applied mathematics and economics, Joanne took a left turn.  She went into baking with a vengeance.  And what she first baked were full-on home baked versions of her childhood favorites.  We’ve featured her Home Made Oreo Cookies and her Milky Way Pie ranks among the most-viewed posts on Chewing the Fat:
Today we feature her Fig Newtons. Instead of the hard crusty commercial fig filling we grew up with, here the figs are a lovely soft layer in the middle of a shortbread pastry crust that is buttery and rich and fall apart flaky.  You can taste the freshness of the figs all the way through.  Here’s the recipe which says it yields 12 cookies.  Since Andrew was serving an assortment of cookies, he cut these in half. If he had not, he would have had a cookie about 5 inches long by 1 ½ inches wide.  That’s some cookie!

To Make the Fig Fame Filling:

2 pints ripe black mission figs or any fresh fig...we used what was at the farm stand.
1 orange, peeled, seeded and finely chopped
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 Tbsp. finely grated lemon zest
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract

For the Shortbread Dough:

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
6 Tbsp. granulated sugar
2 Tbsp. confectioner's sugar
1 egg yolk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 cup cake flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. kosher salt

To make the filling: 

Stem the figs, then cut them into quarters, and place in a medium non-reactive saucepan. Add the orange, brown sugar, lemon zest, and salt. Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer. 

Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally for about 40 minutes, or until the figs have softened and lost their shape and the filling jam-like. Remove from the heat, stir in the vanilla, and let cool for 1-2 hours, or to room temperature (if the jam is soupy, drain a little excess liquid before using as filling). The jam can be made in advance and stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

  1. To make the shortbread dough: Using a stand mixer fitted with a the paddle attachment, cream together the butter, granulated sugar, and confectioners' sugar on medium speed for about 5 minutes, or until the mixture is light and fluffy. Stop the mixer a few times and use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and the paddle to release any clinging butter or sugar. Beat in the egg yolk and vanilla on medium speed for 2-3 minutes, or until thoroughly combined. Scrape the bowl and paddle to make sure the egg is thoroughly incorporated. In a small bowl, sift together the all-purpose flour, cake flour, baking powder and salt. On low speed, slowly add the flour mixture to the butter-sugar mixture and then mix for about 15 seconds, or until the flour mixture is totally incorporated and the dough is evenly mixed. Stop the mixer and scrape the bowl again to make sure all of the flour is thoroughly incorporated.
  2. Scrape the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap and wrap entirely, pressing down to form a disk about 6-inches in diameter and 1-inch thick. Refrigerate the dough for about 30  minutes, or until it has firmed up but is still somewhat pliable.
  3. Position a rack in the center of the oven, heat to 350F.
  4. Place the dough disk on a large sheet of parchment paper. Liberally flour the dough on all surfaces, then roll out into a rectangle about 16 x 9 inches and 1/4 inch thick. Don't let the dough stick to the parchment or the rolling pin by adding a little flour as you gently roll the dough out.
  5. Position the rectangle with a long side facing you. Spoon the cooled filling lengthwise along the center of the rectangle. In a strip of about 2 1/2 inches wide. Lifting the edge of the parchment farthest from you, drape the top of the dough rectangle over the jam, covering the top half of it. Gently peel the parchment away from the dough. Repeat with the bottom edge of the parchment, draping the bottom of the dough over the jam. The edges of the dough rectangle should meet in the middle. Gently pinch the edges of the dough together, and then turn the rectangle over, so it is facing seam-side-down. Using a pastry brush or your hands to brush any excess flour off the parchment.
  6. Bake for 65-70 minutes, or until the short bread is entirely golden brown. A little fig juice make leak out the sides, but it's fine. Let cool on the baking sheet for at least 2 hours, or until completely cool. Using a chef's knife, cut on the diagonal into strips about 5 inches long and 1 inch wide.
  7. The cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.
Recipe for John Barricelli’s Pecan Squares from the SoNo Baking Company Cookbook (Clarkson Potter 2010). 
Once again, we turn to John Barricelli for another remarkable recipe. South Norwalk CT’s gift to baking started making these honey and nut filled pastries when he was a student at The Culinary Institute of America.   Then, when he was doing a baking externship at the Louis XVI restaurant in New Orlean’s Marie Antoinette Hotel, he perfected these toffee-like bars with their caramel nut filling.  They have an added bonus in that they keep for up to 2 weeks as long as they’re stored in an airtight container.  A nice big sheet pan 17 x 12 should be called into service for this recipe.  And here it is:
For the Pate Sucree:
2 cups All-Purpose Flour
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
¼ cup sugar
1 tsp. coarse salt
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk

  1.           In a bowl, whisk the flour to aerate it.
  2.         In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, sugar and salt on medium high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl halfway through.  Add the egg and yolk and mix to combine.  Add the flour and beat until it has been absorbed.
  3.         Scoop about half of the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap, shape into a flattened dish, and wrap in the plastic.  Do the same for the other half.  Refrigerate until firm, at least two hours      

To make the filling:

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
2 tbsp. granulated sugar
¾ cup honey
¼ cup heavy cream
¼ tsp. coarse salt
4 cups of pecans, coarsely chopped

   Set the oven rack in the middle position in the oven. Preheat to 350 degrees.
  1.     On a lightly floured work surface, use a rolling pin to roll out the dough to the dimensions of the baking sheet.  Carefully transfer the dough to the rimmed sheet and with the back of  a spoon or your fingers, press the dough into the pan from corner to corner. Bake until lightly golden, 20 – 25 minutes.  Transfer the baking sheet to a wire rack to cool.  Leave the oven on.
  2.      In a medium saucepan, bring the butter, sugars, honey, heavy cream and salt to a boil, stirring constantly.  Add the pecans and continue to stir until it is back to a boil, then cook about 2 minutes longer.  The caramel should be golden in color. Remove from the heat.  Using an offset spatula, spread the caramel over the cooled crust.  Bake until the filling is bubbling and jiggles slightly in the center, about 15 minutes.
  3.     Let cool in the baking sheet on a wire rack.  Then cut into 1-1/2 inch squares.
Front and Center, Salted Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Recipe for Chocolate Chunk Cookies with Fleur de Sel adapted from Alice Medrich’s “Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy” (Artisan 2010)
Chocolate Chips have stabilizers in them to keep their chocolate chip shaped once baked.   Andrew wanted a cookie that had more chocolate running all the way through it. So instead of following Alice’s recipe for what we’ve called the Ultimate Chocolate Chip cookie when it first appeared here in 2011, he adapted the recipe to include chocolate chunks that he created himself with bars of both semi-sweet and bittersweet chocolate in equal amounts.  Here’s the resulting recipe for a delicious cookie with a wonderful hit of salt on top.
2 cookie sheets, ungreased
For the cookies:
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
16 tablespoons unsalted butter  (2 sticks)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup (packed) brown sugar, lump free
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups chopped chocolate – 1 semi sweet, 1 bittersweet 

  1. 1.   Combine the flour and baking soda in a bowl and mix together thoroughly with a whisk or a fork. Set aside.
  2. 2.   Cut the butter into chunks and melt it in a large saucepan over medium heat. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the granulated sugar, brown sugar, and salt. Mix in the egg and vanilla. Stir in the flour mixture just until all of the dry ingredients are moistened. Let the mixture and the pan cool. Stir in the chocolate chunks and the nuts. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight
  3. 3.   Preheat the oven to 375 F. Position the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Remove the dough from the refrigerator to soften. Scoop rounded tablespoons of dough and place them 3 inches apart on the cookie sheet. Sprinkle the top of each ball of dough with Fleur de Sel.  In our oven, which is perfectly calibrated these were baked for 11 minutes.  You may find you need as little as 9 minutes or as many as twelve so start to check at the 9 minute mark.  The cookies should be golden brown at the edges and no longer look wet on top. Rotate baking sheets from top to bottom and front to back about halfway through the baking time to ensure even baking. Remove from the oven and let cookies firm up on the pan for 1 to 2 minutes. Use a metal pancake turner to transfer them to rack to cool completely before storing or stacking. May be stored in a tightly sealed container for several days.  Makes about 5 dozen cookies.

Brownie Bites Third from Right
Recipe for Brownie Bites adapted from John Barricelli’s recipe called “SoNo Brownies”
As much as everyone loves brownies, there’s one part that Andrew is particularly found of: the outer edge of the pan brownies—the ones that have a crust on at least one side and preferably two.  So he set about taking his favorite brownie recipe and adapting it to a mini-muffin tin where the entire brownie would have that same crisp corner all the way around.  What a success these were!   The story of the original brownie recipe is that it was first made at “Cousin John’s” the second Bakery John Barricelli opened in Park Slope, Brooklyn.  He moved on to South Norwalk, leaving Cousin John’s in his cousin Louis’ hands.  This intensely chocolate fudgy brownie is  a chocoholics dream because it benefits from a double dose of chocolate with the addition of chocolate chips and the best quality cocoa you can buy.  Here’s the recipe:

1/2 c all purpose flour
1/2 c unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 t salt
1/4 t baking powder
Pinch of baking soda
1/2 c (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 c sugar
1 T light corn syrup
2 large eggs, room temp
1 T vanilla extract
1 c semisweet chocolate chips 

1. Set the oven rack in the middle position. Preheat over to 350 degrees. Coat one 24 mini-muffin pan with Baker’s Joy. (Andrew   had enough batter for 27 so that when the initial 24 were done, he made the remaining three in the same tin.
2.  Whisk together flour, cocoa, salt, baking powder and soda, set aside.
3. In a medium saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Remove   the pan from the heat. Add the sugar and corn syrup, whisk to   combine. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time. Whisk in vanilla.
4. Add the dry ingredients and fold until the flour has been incorporated.  Fold in the chocolate chips. Don't overmix
5. Pour the batter into muffin tins, filling to ¾ of the way up. Rap the filled muffin tin on the counter to smooth the tops. Bake until a toothpick or cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes.
6. Let cool completely in the pan on a wire rack. Pick the individual brownie bites out of the tin and serve.


  1. Wow, where to begin? The Pecan squares that is where! What a lovely way to end the Summer indeed! Which is the loveliest, the table setting, the treats or Ms. Joy Marks and her delightful end of Summer fashion statement?! C: All have me smiling ear to ear, which is great because my mouth will soon be busy! Thank you Monte, Andrew and Bridgehampton Florist!

    1. Dear Ana, I must actually apologize for not being able to show our usual step-by-step visuals to accompany the recipe. I think must have some kind of limit to the number of visuals in a single post. I hope everyone can follow the instructions. Thanks so much for your enthusiasm. It's always a great finale to the summer and Andrew goes all out--as you can see. As to Ms. Marks, yesterday we had at least 12 page views attributed to searches for "Joy Marks" in various guises....I always have a feeling Ms. Marks googles herself after the event! All best to you Ana! MM