In my head, the end of summer in San Francisco is the end of September. Not because the weather starts to cool off (it hasn’t, if anything October tends to be just as warm as September) or the leaves are starting to change (San Francisco has very few deciduous trees). No, it’s because the summer activities and street fairs have come and gone and one of the most popular fairs is at the end of September, right before we head into Halloween season, Folsom Street Fair (link NSFW). Like Halloween, it’s a holiday (of sorts) for San Franciscans, one where people wear costumes. But the costumes tend to be more “adult” in nature, as the fair is a celebration of the leather, fetish or alternative lifestyles. Not necessarily safe for work (so you might want to stop reading if you’re easily offended or in a sensitive environment), the outfits for Folsom Street Fair fully embraces the outlandish, though each year it seems more and more tame to me – though in fairness it might just be my jaded self, having attended one too many of them. Last year I fully embraced this street by baking a black and blue (berry) pie as an homage but this year, just in time for Folsom Street Fair, I received a review copy of the new cookbook by my friend Shauna of the Piece of Cake blog, and I thought it most appropriate to go the exact opposite direction of Folsom Street Fair. In honor of all those people who don’t feel like they would fit into the “alternative” lifestyle of Folsom, I present to you a purely vanilla recipe, the Salted Vanilla Bean White Chocolate Multigrain Cookie that you see above.
Folsom, of course, is basically the adult version of Halloween for San Franciscans. Halloween seems to be the one holiday where people seems to dress up in costumes, and, inexplicably make each seemingly innocent outfit “sexy”. Much has been said about the inappropriate sexy outfit, though some costumes naturally veer to the sexy. The French maid outfit seems to veer into the naturally sexy in my opinion. However some costumes just don’t seem like they should be sexy. For instance Sesame Street’s characters should never, under any circumstance, be sexy. This doesn’t stop people of course. And of course, with the gay community, Halloween costumes have definitely veered sexy as well, with seemingly innocuous costumes like Mario Brothers some how coming off as sexy. Of course, with Folsom Street Fair, pretty much any pretense of costuming is ignored and all you get is the sexy part, well mostly. Basically, it’s an event to show off as much skin as possible.
Of course, what some people consider sexy isn’t necessarily what everyone else thinks of as sexy. As always, the people who dress up as animals just confuse me, but I’m not one to judge. If living in San Francisco for nearly 15 years has done anything for me, it’s made me realize that what someone else finds “fun” isn’t necessarily what I will find fun and vice versa. Thankfully there’s someone out there for everyone and as long as they aren’t hurting anyone, I say go you! Or perhaps I should say “Fetch Fido!”
In the end I realize that Folsom, like Halloween, is a chance for the “local color” to spread their wings and show off their creativity. If you get a chance to visit San Francisco at the end of September, try to make it over to the fair. And if Folsom isn’t really your thing, than be comforted in knowing that vanilla is an exquisite flavor all by itself. If you don’t believe me, pick up a copy of Pure Vanilla by Shauna Sever and it will change your mind!
Special thanks to Quirk Books for sending me a review copy of Pure Vanilla by Shauna Server. I was not compensated for this post, and all the opinions above are my own and have nothing to do with Shauna or Quirk Books.
Salted Vanilla Bean White Chocolate Multigrain Cookie
By Irvin Lin
I’ve never understood why the term “vanilla” stands for bland and boring. Vanilla seed pods are incredibly difficult to grow and harvest. In fact, after saffron, it’s the most expensive spice for this very reason; it’s why vanilla beans and vanilla extract cost so much at the store. That said, I’m not a fan of imitation vanilla, as it’s a synthetic bioproduct of making paper, and tastes really flat and one dimensional. If you can, always use real vanilla extract and vanilla beans. It’s worth it. You’ll notice that I use a whole vanilla bean in this recipe, both the seeds on the inside, and the pod itself, to get the most out of the expensive vanilla bean and to punch up the vanilla flavor in the cookie. If you don’t have a vanilla bean or don’t want to buy one, just double the vanilla extract to 2 tablespoons.
I used a few harder to find ingredients in this recipe, including a multigrain rolled cereal, barley flour and vanilla salt. The multigrain rolled cereal is a combination of rolled oats, barley flakes, rolled whole wheat, rye flakes and Triticale seeds (which is a cross between rye and wheat) and there are variations of it that you can find online. I like the flavor and nutritional value you get with multi-grain but you don’t want to buy it specifically for this recipe you can substitute regular rolled oats in place of the multigrain cereal. If you don’t have barley flour, just substitute in regular all-purpose flour in its place. I have a recipe for vanilla salt, but you can also buy it online and at specialty stores. If you don’t have it, or don’t want to buy it, you can use coarse sea salt, but don’t use iodized table salt, as it’s way too harsh and chemically. If you only have table salt, just omit it. It’s not worth ruining your cookies with it.
Adapted from Pure Vanilla by Shauna Sever
1 1/3 cup (8 oz) chopped white chocolate, divided (you can use white chocolate chips, but try to get the stuff that has actual cocoa butter in it, not just white baking chips)
1 whole vanilla bean
3 cups (340 g) multigrain rolled cereal, divided (see headnote above)
1 cup (140 g) all purpose flour
1/2 cup (75 g) barley flour (see headnote above)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cup salted butter at room temperature
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup (155 g) dark brown sugar
3/4 cup (150 g) white granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons vanilla salt (see headnote above)
1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Place 1 cup of the chopped white chocolate (reserving 1/3 cup for later) onto a rimmed baking sheet in a big heap in the center. Split open the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the vanilla seeds onto the white chocolate, then toss the chocolate and vanilla seeds together to distribute the seeds. Spread out onto the baking sheet evenly, and place in the oven for 5 minutes. Once the baked, pull the white chocolate out and stir the white chocolate together, until it clumps up and the brown bits are mixed with the less roasted parts of the white chocolate. Let cool on the pan while you make the rest of the cookie batter but keep the oven turned on to the same temperature.
2. Place 1/2 cup of the multi-grain cereal in a food processor or a clean spice grinder. Cut the empty vanilla pod into 1 inch pieces and add it as well. Pulse until the cereal and vanilla pod are ground into a powder. Empty into a large mixing bowl and add the remaining multi-grain cereal, flours and baking soda. Using a balloon whisk, stir vigorously until mixed together.
3. Place the butter and vanilla extract in the bowl of standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Cream to incorporate the vanilla into the butter. Add the sugars, until the butter is fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs, one at time, beating and scraping down the sides and bottom with a large spatula between additions. Add the roasted chocolate into the cookie dough and beat until just incorporated.
4. Line a baking sheet with a silpat or piece of parchment paper. Scoop the dough into heaping tablespoons and press into each cookie three or four of the white chocolate chunks/chips. Sprinkle a generous pinch of vanilla salt on top of the cookie dough and set the cookie dough 2 inches apart from each other. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes or until the edges of the cookie is golden brown, being careful not to overbake. Let the cookies cool on the sheet for 2 to 3 minutes then move them to a wire rack to cool further.
Makes about 36 cookies