Friday, October 9, 2009

Autumn Logs

It's mid-October, a bit muggy and warm at night, and I can still hear crickets as I fall off to sleep. It's too soon to light up the fireplace. My home sits within a row of houses and for everyone's peace of mind, I had my chimney flue re-lined and the mortar repointed inside and out. The liner is a 6" oval, halving the draw I used to get. Gone are the days of loading up the car with firewood from Connecticut or Long Island and stoking multi-log fires. With Asian Longhorned Beetle alerts and deforestation...I was feeling conflicted about my lumberjacky moments, anyway.

Manufactured logs (like Duraflame) have a pronounced chemical odor, so I was thrilled to find Java Logs a few seasons back. They are made (in Canada) from compressed, spent coffee grounds. 'Green' brownie points--they're recycled!

Java Logs burn for 3 hours--hotter, cleaner and brighter than manufactured logs, supposedly throw off 85% less carbon monoxide than firewood, and they emit a faintly sweet aroma. They are great for wood burning fireplaces, wood stoves and outdoor firepits. Resist the urge to POKE the logs...just let them burn down. I've found Java Logs at Whole Foods and Ace Hardware. (Check Google for local sources. The logs are dense, and the weight makes shipping from the factory in Canada is prohibitive!)


While I'm waiting for cool Fall nights and cozy fires, I've made up some Chocolate Chip Cherry cookie dough logs (!)  for the freezer. Ready to slice and bake, or to give as a prezzie. Here's what you'll need:

'Toll House' Cookies with Cherries
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temp
2 Tbs shortening
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed                          
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp table salt (not flaky kosher!)
1/2 cup dried cherries
6-8 oz chopped chocolate (I use Valrhona blocks or Ghirardelli, mixing semi sweet and milk chocolate)
(Add 1/2 cup chopped nuts if you prefer them to cherries, or in addition to. I prefer nut-free.)

Heat oven to 375 F
Mix butter, shortening, sugars, egg and vanilla thoroughly with an electric mixer. Measure flour and sift with baking soda and salt. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet, in 2 batches, and do not overmix. Toss the chocolate and cherries very lightly in a little flour, so they don't sink when baking, then add to the batter and stir.  Drop rounded teaspoonfuls of dough 2" apart on an ungreased baking sheet lined with parchment or
 a Silpat oven mat. Bake 10-12 mins, but remove when edges are brown and cookies are still soft! Makes 3 doz large cookies or 5-6 dozen smaller.

Bake some for now, then divide the batter into logs, roll them in plastic wrap, and pop into the freezer.

Bring the frozen log to room temp before baking (thaw in the fridge til you're ready.)  These are yummy cookies, no matter how (or when) ya slice 'em!

Housewarming present or hostess gift idea:  Buy a baking sheet (1/2 baking sheets are a less imposing size--also great for roasting veggies), kitchen towel, wooden spoon, fancy baking chocolate or dried cherries... Add the cookie dough logs, wrap it all up in tissue paper and cellophane, and tie with raffia. Superstar!!

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