Posts Tagged 'holiday baking'

Cookies Day 13: Orange-Almond Lace Cookies

Today was another easy cookie recipe, akin to the brownie thins I made yesterday. Remember how I said the brownie thins were like lace cookies? Well, today I made lace cookies. I guess they’re similar in the fact that they are both easy to make, expand A LOT when baked, utilize mostly butter, require dropping onto a baking sheet, and are very, very thin, but lace cookies have the brownie thins beat in their delicateness … and butteriness. When I took the cookies off of the baking sheet, Jay was like, “wow, you put a lot of oil on that sheet,” after which I informed him that what looked like oil was all residue from the cookies themselves.

Even despite all this butter, these lace cookies are so thin that I am shocked they do not crumble in my fingers when I pick them up. They’re surprisingly sturdy and pack a satisfying crunch around the edges, with a nice chewiness in the center. As for the flavor, the orange zest adds a nice citrus acidity that tempers the luscious heaviness of the butter.

These took just about as much time to make as the brownie thins, even though no microwave was involved. Spooning out the batter onto baking sheets can be a bit messy, so I suggest using a spatula to catch the drops.

I suppose these would make good gifts, packed snuggly in a decorative tin, but it’s hard not to crave the buttery crunch of these cookies all for yourself.

Orange-Almond Lace Cookies
(original recipe Bon Appetit December 1999)

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups finely chopped almonds
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
2 teaspoons grated orange peel
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg, beaten to blend

Preheat oven to 325°F. Line large baking sheet with parchment paper. Stir 3/4 cup butter in heavy medium saucepan over medium-low heat until melted. Remove from heat. Stir in nuts, sugar, flour, orange peel and salt; then stir in egg. Drop some batter by generous tablespoonfuls onto prepared baking sheet, spacing 3 inches apart (cookies will spread).

Bake cookies until lacy and golden brown, about 15 minutes. Gently slide parchment paper with cookies onto rack; cool completely. Transfer cookies to paper towels. Repeat with remaining batter, lining cooled baking sheet with clean parchment for each batch. (Can be made ahead. Store between sheets of waxed paper in airtight container at room temperature up to 1 week or freeze up to 1 month.)


Cookies Day 12: Brownie Thins

I’m very, very happy to report that these cookies weren’t just good, not just great. They were glorious.

Do you like brownies? Do you like the edges of brownies? Do you like the crusty stuff that sticks to the pan when you remove the brownies?

If so, this recipe is for you.

Do you like one-bowl baking? Do you like easy baking? Do you like using your microwave when baking?

If so, this recipe is for you.

Do you like making desserts quickly, under 30 minutes? Do you like recipes you can throw together at the last minute? Do you like baking gifts for your friends, but not wasting your entire day?

If so, this recipe is for you.

I even royally screwed up this recipe by reading “1 cup sugar” instead of the actual “1/2 cup sugar” and adding a whole extra half cup to the recipe, and it still turned out great. This must be one of those recipes that you can’t screw up unless you really try, one of those non-bakers baking recipes. Furthermore, you do all of your butter- and chocolate-melting and mixing in one bowl, mixing only briefly.

The cookies are almost like lace cookies in chocolate form, chewy in the middle yet firm and crispy around the edges. The pisachios add a nice little crunch and difference of texture, while the unsweetened chocolate keep the cookies from becoming too sweet, even if you were to add extra sugar.

Brownie Thins
(original recipe Bon Appetit December 2007)

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
Pinch of coarse kosher salt
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1/4 cup chopped pistachios

Position rack in lowest third of oven; preheat to 350°F. Butter 2 baking sheets. Place butter and chocolate in medium microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on medium-high power until almost completely melted, about 1 minute. Whisk until smooth. Add sugar and egg; whisk until smooth, about 1 minute. Add flour, both extracts, and salt; stir just to blend. Let batter stand 10 minutes.

Scoop rounded teaspoonfuls batter onto prepared baking sheets, spacing apart (12 per sheet). Spray sheet of plastic wrap lightly with nonstick spray. Place, sprayed side down, over cookies. Using fingers, press each mound into 2 1/2- to 2 3/4-inch round. Remove plastic wrap. Sprinkle pistachios over rounds. Bake cookies, 1 sheet at a time, until slightly darker at edges and firm in center, about 7 minutes. Cool on sheet 2 minutes. Transfer cookies to rack; cool completely. DO AHEAD: Can be made 5 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.

Cookies Day 10: Fig Swirls

I’m almost embarassed to post on these cookies. I should have known better than to try a recipe that involved jelly rolling. Usually I consider myself a pretty decent baker, nothing close to professionally trained but at least decent enough to do well on any recipe. When it comes to jelly rolls, however, my abilities completely fail me. A few Christmases ago I made a yule log, and I went through countless batches of cake dough before I finally got a roll that didn’t crack completely when I tried to form it.

Frustration follows me whenever I attempt this kind of recipe. In this case, I hit more than one snag. I could not roll out my dough evenly, and when I had finished rolling it out the edges were too thin. One of my logs started cracking when I began to roll it up, leaving me with sandwich-like cookies rather than jelly rolls. I also overcooked the first batch, which happened to contain the prettier of the cookies. Attempting to remove the cookies from the baking sheets generally resulting in some of the fig filling getting stuck or the cookies themselves cracking, and when I put the cookies on a rack to cool as instructed even more of the filling fell out or stuck to the rack.

Damn those gorgeous photos that come with the posted or printed recipes, they always make me feel inferior in my baking skills. I guess they aren’t all bad, just not one of my proudest moments. They aren’t very sweet either, more akin to fig newtons or breakfast-type cookies rather than the intensely-sacharine iced or powdered-sugar covered cookies you see this time of year, and are a nice change from the types of above-mentioned cookies I have been making. Once again, I am very thankful to have a loving husband who both eats and enjoys all of the cookies I have been cranking out of out kitchen recently, both successes and failures alike. I’ll just chalk this one up to a learning experience.

Fig Swirls
(original recipe Gourmet December 2005)

For pastry dough
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
4 oz cream cheese at room temperature
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla

For filling
1 cup packed soft dried Mission figs (8 oz), hard tips discarded
3/4 cup mild honey
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
2 teaspoons grated fresh orange zest
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Make pastry dough:
Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl.

Pulse butter, cream cheese, yolk, and vanilla in a food processor until smooth, then add flour mixture and pulse until dough just forms a ball.

Halve dough and form each half into a roughly 6- by 2-inch rectangle. Chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, until firm, about 1 1/2 hours.

Make filling:
Purée figs, honey, juice, zest, and cinnamon in cleaned food processor until almost smooth.

Make logs:
Roll out 1 piece of dough between 2 sheets of wax paper into a 10- by 8-inch rectangle (about 1/3 inch thick), long side facing you. Remove top sheet of wax paper and gently spread one fourth of fig mixture over bottom half of dough, leaving a 1/4-inch border. Using wax paper as an aid, roll dough, jelly-roll style, halfway, enclosing fig mixture. Flip dough, with wax paper. Remove paper. Spread with one third of remaining fig mixture and roll in same manner, to form an S-shaped log. Make another log. Chill logs, wrapped in wax paper, until firm, at least 4 hours.

Bake cookies:
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 375°F.

Cut logs crosswise into 1/3-inch-thick slices and arrange slices about 2 inches apart on lightly buttered baking sheets. Bake until pastry is pale golden, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer to racks to cool.

Cookies Day 9: Vanilla Crescents

So I missed a few cookie days because I was out of town, but I wanted to be sure to jump right back into baking when I got back. I had all these grand plans of baking 2 or 3 recipes on both Saturday and Sunday in an effort to catch up, but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen. Even so, it feels nice to be back in the kitchen.

For my first cookie since my absence, I chose a pretty easy recipe that is made even better by the fact that it only has 5 ingredients. Even though these cookies are simple, their flakiness and lightness makes them a great little treat. It’s also fun to shape them into their little crescent shapes.

Vanilla Crescents
(original recipe Cindy Mushet, Food & Wine)

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, plus more for dusting
1 1/2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 350° and position one rack in the upper third and one in the lower third. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

In the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle, beat the butter with 1/2 cup of the confectioners’ sugar until pale white, about 5 minutes. Beat in the vanilla. Add the flour and salt and beat at low speed just until combined.

On a lightly floured surface, roll level tablespoons of the dough into 3-inch ropes. Taper the ends slightly and form the ropes into crescents. Carefully transfer the crescents to the baking sheets, about 1/2 inch apart.

Bake the crescents for 22 to 24 minutes, until the bottoms are golden and the tops are pale blond; shift the baking sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through for even baking. Transfer the baking sheets to racks and let the cookies cool for 10 minutes.

Fill a small bowl with confectioners’ sugar. While the cookies are still warm, coat them in the sugar and transfer to a clean sheet of parchment paper to cool slightly. Roll the cooled cookies in the sugar again and let cool completely.

Cookie Day 2: Peppermint Patties

For the second day of my Twenty-ish Days of Christmas Cookies, I went off the beaten path and chose a recipe that was not listed on’s 25 Days of Christmas Cookies. Digging through the old food magazines, I found an apparantly simple recipe for peppermint patties. Another appealing factor: the only additional ingredients I needed to purchase were peppermint extract and 10 oz. of bittersweet chocolate. Not too many ingredients, this should be easy and quick like the last cookie recipe, right?

The preparation started off simple enough, and maybe that simplicity led me into a false confidence. When I started to knead the filling of the cookies, I couldn’t help but notice that it was extremely brittle, barely sticking together and crumbling at the slightest pressure. I started to wonder, did I beat this too long? Did I make it too hard? Given that this was my first attempt of the recipe, I had no standard for comparison, so I pressed on, trying to quiet the doubts lingering at the back of my mind.

The brittleness of the filling only became more apparant when I started cutting it into small rounds. Although the thicker parts of the filling emerged from the cutting unharmed, the thinner-rolled parts cracked under the pressure of the cutter. I tried to meld the broken pieces back together and hoped that they would hold, but the broken pieces failed to hold together when dipped in the chocolate.

The chocolate. Oh, the chocolate. Although I had glanced at the recipe preparation before baking and knew that I would have to temper the chocolate, I didn’t anticipate how much time the tempering would actually take. After initially melting the chocolate, I waited, and waited, and waited for the temperature to reach 80 degrees, but it just felt like it would never get there. In impatient frustration, I threw the bowl of chocolate into the fridge for 5 minutes, something I knew I shouldn’t do but that I couldn’t help. The temp got down to exactly 80, but it now had a thin film, and I still had to re-boil the water. You can see where this is going. By the time the water was boiling, the temp of the chocolate was below 80, and I had to re-melt the film that had formed on the top of the chocolate.  After all that effort, I didn’t even have enough chocolate for all of the peppermint fillings. I had a couple of ounces left of one bar, so I just melted it quickly without tempering it and covered the rest of the fillings. In the end, everything was put together, but it was not without some frustration and missteps.

So how to the cookies taste? Amazing. Incredible. Melt in your mouth candy sweetness. Jay commented that the finished product was more like candy than a cookie, and it doesn’t take long for you to reach your limit. They taste exactly like the regular peppermint patties, but better, with the subtle added quality of good, fresh ingredients. Maybe the added taste comes from the love and effort required to pull off the finished product.

These cookies really do taste wonderful, but part of me wonders whether or not they are worth the effort. Before abandoning the recipe forever and swearing them off as not worth it, I think I will give this recipe another go, tweak my preparation style a little bit, and learn to be a little more patient.

Peppermint Patties
(original recipe Gourmet December 2007)
NOTE that the recipe calls them candies, not cookies!

2 1/2 cups confectioners sugar (less than 1 pound), divided
1 1/2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 1/2 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon pure peppermint extract
1 tablespoon vegetable shortening (preferably trans-fat-free)
10 ounces 70%-cacao bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
Equipment: a 1-inch round cookie cutter; a digital instant-read thermometer

Make filling:
Beat 2 1/4 cups confectioners sugar with corn syrup, water, peppermint extract, shortening, and a pinch of salt using an electric mixer (with paddle attachment if using a stand mixer) at medium speed until just combined. Knead on a work surface dusted with remaining 1/4 cup confectioners sugar until smooth. Roll out between sheets of parchment paper on a large baking sheet into a 7- to 8-inch round (less than 1/4 inch thick). Freeze until firm, about 15 minutes. Remove top sheet of paper and sprinkle round with confectioners sugar. Replace top sheet, then flip round over and repeat sprinkling on other side.

Cut out as many rounds as possible with cutter, transferring to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Freeze until firm, at least 10 minutes. Meanwhile, gather scraps, reroll, and freeze, then cut out more rounds, freezing them.

Temper chocolate and coat filling:
Melt three fourths of chocolate in a metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water. Remove bowl from pan and add remaining chocolate, stirring until smooth. Cool until thermometer inserted at least 1/2 inch into chocolate registers 80°F.

Return water in pan to a boil and remove from heat. Set bowl with cooled chocolate over pan and reheat, stirring, until thermometer registers 88 to 91°F. Remove bowl from pan.

Balance 1 peppermint round on a fork and submerge in melted chocolate, letting excess drip off and scraping back of fork against rim of bowl if necessary, then return patty to sheet (to make decorative ridges on patty, immediately set bottom of fork briefly on top of patty, then lift fork straight up). Coat remaining rounds, rewarming chocolate to 88 to 91°F as necessary. Let patties stand until chocolate is set, about 1 hour.


July 2018
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