Firehook Bakery & Coffee House | Alexandria, VA

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As many of my friends and family know, Alexandria is my happy place. I warn friends who have never been there with me that I’ll probably be smiling ridiculously the entire time I’m there because I love it so much. Because I grew up going there, it’s sort of a home away from home. I see someone I know half the time I’m walking down the street. But it’s also a great place to explore – I love going down new streets and finding new shops and eateries.

Speaking of eateries, I’m thrilled to death that Firehook has (not one, but two) locations in Alexandria. I love them for a number of reasons, but mostly because they make vanilla chai lattes like I had in Oxford. It’s so hard to find a decent one over here, and Firehook definitely has it down. However, I’ve also never been disappointed in their baked goods. The location on S. Union street has really friendly staff too, so basically, it’s the perfect neighborhood coffee shop. As per usual, I like to stop in for a warm cup of chai before I make my rounds at the farmer’s market (2 or 3 blocks up the street).

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Next time you’re in the area, check them out! There are a numb of locations in the DC metro area, as well as in NoVa. You can also find them online here.

p.s. by way of a disclaimer, they have no idea that I wrote this. I just like to write about things that I like, because I know you guys might like them too. Did I use enough likes in that sentence? Okay, good.

p.s.s. I’m trying to write more about the DC area, partially because I love it and partially because it keeps me from being homesick for Europe. You should let me know in the comments if you have coffee shop suggestions or want me to cover a new place – exploring is the best!

Christmas Gingersnaps (recipe)

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One of my family’s Christmas cookie traditions is making these fabulous gingersnaps. I remember helping to roll the balls of dough in sugar, standing on a chair in the kitchen and peering through the oven door as the cookies baked.
The rolls of dough are easily made and frozen, which makes them easy to pull out on a whim. In fact, the dough is better when at least refrigerated overnight, since the hardened dough bakes into a cookie with a crusty, sugary outside and a soft inside. You can mix it up the same day as well, but the dough is best made ahead of time.

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Recipe reprinted from this 2011 post. Originally from this cookbook.

Ingredients

2C Shortening
3C Sugar
3 eggs
3/4C Molasses
6C Flour
2T Baking Soda
1/2t Salt
1T Ginger
1/2T Cinnamon

Instructions
Cream shortening and sugar together. Add eggs and molasses. In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking soda, salt, ginger and cinnamon together. Add this mixture little-by-little to the wet ingredients. If the mixture is too sticky, add a bit more flour. Refrigerate dough overnight in 4 tubes of wax paper, or freeze for an extended period of time.

To bake the dough: Preheat the oven to 350. Take tablespoon-sized bits of cookie dough, roll them into a ball, and roll them in granulated sugar. Place them on a non-greased metal pan. The cookies should bake between 8-10 minutes, or till the edges are set and the tops are cracked. Don’t overcook them, since they’re best when soft on the inside.

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How swiftly the days go by {& apricot sage almond galette recipe}

It feels a bit strange to be sitting in my room right now. My cat is curled up next to me, purring. This is normal. My rabbit sits alert in the corner, waiting for a carrot. This is also normal. My bookshelves line the walls, full of rich volumes of text and stories that I’ve read a hundred times over – each book sits neatly in line with the shelf edge in true order. This is completely normal.

Yet, my floor is covered in boxes, boxes that I just moved in a week ago. Heaps of clothes lie on top, remnants of yesterday’s sorting spree. A suitcase, already full, sits upright on the floor, waiting for the last minute additions and panic attacks.

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It’s been a crazy week, full of library runs and cooking sprees. Full of afternoon teas with my best friend and goofing off with my sisters. Full of walking outside to fetch fresh herbs from the greenhouse and racing the raindrops back inside. Full of hammering out chords on the piano and rediscovering lost sheet music. It has been full, friends, in so many ways.

Yet I’ve done all of these things with the feeling that it is going by too fast. How is today Sunday? It feels like Wednesday or Thursday. It cannot possibly be the day before I leave, the day before I take off for most of the summer. My brain screams out that this is insanity.

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In the middle of this, in the middle of packing my clothes into the small green suitcase that sits expectantly in front of me, I made a galette. To be more accurate, we made a galette – my best friend and I. It was a Pinterest find that piqued our interest. Thus, we created it in my kitchen, measuring flour and cracking eggs, slicing apricots and chopping nuts.

And what a find. This Apricot Sage Almond Galette is positively elegant. It speaks of early summer, with a touch of the morning chill and the warmth of afternoon sun. The most surprising part is the use of sage, which normally is used in savory, rather than sweet dishes, but in this dessert it finds a home. The contrast of the tart apricots with the sage tempts me to wax poetry and the addition of chopped almonds dripping with sticky vanilla sugar creates a perfect filling. This galette is the peach cobbler’s more refined cousin, and would be perfect served under vanilla ice cream or given a dash of whipped cream. {although admittedly, plain is fantastic as well.}

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Apricot Sage Almond Galette

Crust:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I used spelt flour)

1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla sugar (regular sugar could be substituted, but the vanilla is better. see instructions below)

1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt

1 stick unsalted butter, frozen

1 large egg

1/4 cup milk

Filling:

1/4 cup almonds

4-5 apricots, sliced

6 tablespoons vanilla sugar

1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh sage (5-6 leaves)

1 tablespoon potato starch (or corn starch)

Pinch salt

Topping:

1 large egg, beaten with a splash of buttermilk

Vanilla sugar (or turbinado)

*Vanilla suger can be purchased in speciality stores or created a few weeks ahead of time by storing a vanilla bean pod inside a jar of granulated sugar.

In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients: flour, sugar and salt. Using a box grater, grate the cold butter atop the flour mixture. Working quickly, and using your hands, break the butter bits into the flour until they’re evenly distributed and resemble the size of small peas. Beat together the egg and 1/4 cup milk and add it to the flour mixture. Mix the dough together until it just begins to climb together; if the dough doesn’t hold together, add an extra tablespoon or two of milk.

Remove the dough from the bowl and place it on a lightly floured counter. Knead the dough a few times until it comes together and shape it into a mound. Shape the dough into a disc and wrap it plastic wrap; transfer it to the refrigerator to chill for 1 hour or overnight.

Now for the filling. Chop the almonds, roughly; transfer them to a medium bowl. Add the sliced apricots, sugar, fresh sage, cornstarch and pinch of salt. Toss together and set aside.

Remove the disc from the refrigerator. Heavily flour your work surface and rolling pin. Roll out the dough, being sure to rotate it every so often so it doesn’t stick, until it reaches a 1/8-inch thickness. Cut the dough into one large 13-inch circle (I used a 13-inch plate as a guide). Transfer the dough circle to the center of a parchment-lined baking sheet. Reroll the scraps and slice ten-twelve strips that are about 12-inches long and about 1 1/2-inches wide.

Place filling in the center of the dough circle (the original recipe says to leave the fruit juice behind, but I added it and thought it was fine), leaving a 1/2-inch border around the sides. Ensure fruit is in one layer (make it pretty!). Fold over the sides.

Make a lattice by laying the strips on top of each other. Trim edges if necessary and bind strips to base with a bit of water.

Place the baking sheet in the freezer for 15 minutes. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Right before entering the oven, brush the top of the galette with egg wash and sprinkle on a bit of the vanilla sugar. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until medium golden brown. Transfer to a cooling rack until the galette is room temperature.

Makes one 12-inch galette

 

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Recipe adapted from A Cozy Kitchen.

Visual Flavor – Coffee Beans

I don’t drink coffee, but I absolutely love the smell/look of coffee beans. Storytime – my dad is a coffee purist. French Press, grinder, and he drinks it straight black. I tried coffee when I was in Israel. If you’ve ever been, you know that Arab coffee is intense. Like, drink-it-in-a-shot-glass kind of intense. Long story short, coffee in general makes me extraordinarily hyper and unable to concentrate (then I crash). Yeah, well, I’m not doing that again.

Regardless, coffee beans are some of my favorites. Are you a coffee drinker or no?