A few weeks ago a dear friend of mine sent me a box of cookbooks. Included in that box was a book of German recipes, and contained therein was a recipe for Lebkuchen different from the one I’m used to making.
So I thought I’d make a batch.
I made these the other day and if I don’t make them again my family will kick me out.
Well, okay, full disclosure, Julia won’t kick me out. She didn’t like them. But Bill and Alex? Oh yeah.
And they really should be called “Because I need to go to the grocery store” cookies. Why? I was out of several things in the original recipe, so I just subbed this and that and ended up with something unexpectedly fabulous.
I’ve been baking cookies over the last few days (in a frantic attempt to get caught up), and I decided to save the final trimmings from the cut-out cookies to bake and toss outside for the birds.
Yes, I could just throw those last few scraps away, but it just seems so wasteful. So I made cookies for the birds.
Well, and for the squirrels.
I baked the little bits, let them cool, tossed them out the window onto the platform outside my kitchen window, and went back to the next batch of cookies.
I was scraping down the stuff inside my stand mixer when all of a sudden I heard a THWACK!
And here’s what I saw:
Fortunately I had the sense to pick up my cell phone and fortunately the squirrel had the courtesy to freeze in position every now and then.
What the heck was he doing? They don’t usually behave this way. They sit there, cutely nibbling seeds or crusts of bread. They don’t ATTACK THE HOUSE.
But then, I don’t usually give them freshly baked cookies, either…
But I didn’t have any more. I shook my head regretfully and the squirrel scampered away.
I thought he (or she) had accepted my head-shaking and was okay with that, but apparently not. Because several minutes later I heard another THWACK!
And I looked behind me and saw this:
The squirrel made a rude gesture and fled.
That was weird. Maybe I shouldn’t
But yep. Again.
This time at the kitchen door!
“I know you’re in there, lady! I NEED THOSE COOKIES! And stop taking my picture!”
This week’s recipe for French Fridays with Dorie is the Salted Butter Break-Ups, and can be found on pages 400-401 in Dorie Greenspan’s book Around My French Table.
I haven’t participated in several weeks, for one reason or another, and I was overjoyed – yes, overjoyed to be able to join in this week.
These cookies are a snap to put together, and because you don’t have to scoop them or cut them out into shapes (unless you want to cut them out – the dough would work just fine for that), they’re quick to prep and get into the oven.
They’re also quick to disappear. I made them yesterday, and after my kids’ lunches are packed, I don’t think we’ll have any left.
Here’s what’s involved…
In case you can’t tell, they’re holding pieces of walnuts in their little cookie arms.
I was in the mood for cinnamon. And we’ve had our little squirrel friends stopping by for seeds and scraps of toast and stale bread a lot this winter, so I thought I’d use the squirrel cookie cutter for these.
I know – it’s supposed to be a project with my kids. But Sunday was a day of ice fishing and quilting, and we didn’t get the cookies baked.
So I baked them yesterday before everyone got home.
In December 2010 my son, Alex, noting the vast number of cookie cutters I have, suggested we bake a whole lot of cookies and use ALL of the cutters. From that seed of an idea, the Great Cookie Cutter Project of 2011 sprouted. Every weekend (or most of them) of this year, the kids and I are going to bake a small batch of cookies using about half a dozen cookie cutters from my collection. Sometimes we might use more, sometimes we might use fewer, but the object of the game is to use ALL of the cookie cutters by the end of 2011.
I hope you’ll stop by every week and take a look at what we’ve done!
This is Week 1….
The other day I was talking to my sister about the cookie baking status here (feel like I haven’t done enough yet, despite the boxes and boxes of cookies stacked in the dining room), and I asked her if there was anything in particular, cookie-wise, that she would like.
Yes, when time permits, I do requests.
It’s Friday, and I’m finally posting another French Fridays with Dorie recipe again. I think it’s been a month since the last one, and I’ve got a few of November’s recipes – the images, anyway – hanging around, wanting to be loved by a little girl or boy…no, wait, that’s the misfit toys.
Anyway – I was totally happy to see that one of December’s recipes was a cookie recipe. I bake a lot of cookies in December, and it’s nice to have a new recipe or two to play with.
Enter the Speculoos!
I was baking all the lebkuchen yesterday and thought this one looked kind of cool with the light residue of flour across the crackled surface.
So, as I am wont to do, I took a picture.
The last time Natalie was here (not this most recent time, but the time before that), she’d found a few recipes she wanted to try, but either we didn’t have enough time or I didn’t have all the right ingredients.
Anyway, when plans were in the works to have a weekend of baking recently, Natalie asked if we could make brownies.
So we did.
I was in a cinnamon mood last week. Now, I know around the holidays spiced cookies abound. I make plenty of them myself - pfeffernusse and lebkuchen for example. Both fragrant with ground cloves, cinnamon, and so on.
But I wasn’t interested in all those other spices.
I only wanted cinnamon.
So here’s what I did…
This is a variation on the childhood favorite – the Snickerdoodle. I’ve also found it listed (in Christopher Kimball’s The Yellow Farmhouse Cookbook) as “Snipdoodles,” which I think I like better, name-wise.
Since the start of school, I’ve been trying to several different batches of cookie dough, freezing portions of it and then baking whatever strikes my fancy any given week.
I made, among other things, a batch of Snickerdoodles (or Snipdoodles) recently, and my kids, Bill, and the kids from across the street all liked them very much. There’s something really nice about a simple cookie rolled in cinnamon sugar.
So the other day I was thinking of the next batches of cookie dough to make, and I wanted something kind of plain, like the Snicker/Snip-doodles, but…different.
Bill had asked me to make some biscotti for a colleague (long story), so I did that earlier in the week. Bill had requested almond biscotti with white chocolate chips, so I made that, it came out fine, etc.
But I'm not really a huge fan of white chocolate, though I used it and liked it in the Lemon Biscotti with Candied Ginger and White Chocolate Chips that I made a while back.
I wanted real chocolate. Dark chocolate.
This week's TWD monster cookie recipe was chosen by Mary of Popsicles and Sandy Feet, and you can find it on page 86 of Dorie's Baking: From My Home to Yours. You know, every now and then I feel like I should just bow out gracefully from the Tuesdays with Dorie gang, citing my lack of regular posting. I don't think I've done more than 2 recipes per month in ages. Lots of reasons, lots of excuses, good days, bad days, and so on. But then I bake something and participate and feel a part of a community and I think okay, I can do this. I really don't want to quit.
Especially when we get to bake fabulous cookies like these.
Last night, while the kids were in their swim classes and I was sitting on the bleachers "watching them" (usually I watch, but yesterday I felt like I couldn't take the half hour to do that, I had too much buzzing around in my brain), I made my preliminary list of cookie-related things.
For the month of November, the Tuesdays With Dorie rules are a bit more relaxed - we can bake and post any of the month's recipes on any Tuesday we like. You can find a list of all this month's recipes here, if you're curious.
Alex finally went back to school today, and I'll probably send Julia back tomorrow. They're both still congested, with some coughing and sneezing, but if I keep them home til that's gone, they won't be going back to school til July. They need a change of scenery. And I need a bit of silence.
The September issue of Gourmet magazine is arranged kind of alphabetically. I've already used two recipes, which is funny, in a way, because though I love my cooking magazines, for some reason I hardly use the recipes. I get ideas, of course, but I don't necessarily follow the recipes. This month's is different - there are a lot of them that appeal to me.
This was one of them.
The upcoming Tuesdays with Dorie recipe, Chocolate Amaretti Torte, includes Amaretti cookies in the ingredients list.
The store I went to didn't have any - not the kind Dorie recommended and not any other kind, either - and yes, if I'd started looking earlier (I'm such a procrastinator) I might have found them at Whole Foods, or I could have ordered them online. But I figured I could just go ahead and make them, as other TWD members have done.
Now...I don't usually read the P & Q (Problems and Questions) section on the TWD website. I just don't think to. But for whatever reason, I did this time. And - now this was before I went grocery shopping - I saw that a few people had made their own Amaretti cookies, and somewhere in there I thought I'd seen a recipe or mention of making the cookies with almond paste. So, since I couldn't find the cookies, I bought two tubes of almond paste. Then when I got home and looked up the recipe, it didn't call for almond paste. It called for almonds. Clearly I am going senile.
Anyway, I poked around online and found a couple recipes and ended up combining elements of a couple of them.
So here's my version of an Amaretti cookie recipe.
8 oz almond paste
1 cup superfine sugar
2 egg whites
1 tsp almond extract
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
Break up or cut up the almond paste and put that in the food processor along with the sugar.
Process until well combined. Add the extract, and then the whites in a couple of additions, processing and scraping down the bowl in between each addition. Process until smooth.
Using a piping bag fitted with a large (1/4") tip,
fill the bag with the almond paste mixture and pipe 1" rounds on two parchment lined sheet pans. (You could also use teaspoons to spoon the mixture onto the pans.)
I baked these for 15 minutes at 300, then dropped the temp to 250 for about five minutes, then shut the oven off and left them in for another 20-25 minutes. I wanted the cookies completely dry and crisp, so I had checked them after about 15 minutes by removing one cookie, letting it cool, and then breaking it in half. It was still a tiny bit chewy in the center, so I left the cookies in a bit longer until I had them the way I wanted them. Crispy and delicious.
A couple of weeks ago we received Christmas gifts from some friends of ours. They swung by the house with a bag of wrapped goodies and left quickly so as not to play host to any of the yucky germs that were in residence at the time.
Christmas in March? Sure, why not?
I received, in part, a set of seven sea creature cookie cutters (which includes a dolphin, as you've no doubt figured out on your own) and a cookbook entitled Best of the Best: the best recipes from 25 of the best cookbooks of the year. It's put out by the Food & Wine magazine people and includes recipes from notables as Jamie Oliver, Bobby Flay, David Pasternack, Alice Medrich, and Kylie Kwong.
On this most recent Saturday morning, when, at long last, everyone in the house was healthy again, I found the recipe for these Coconut Shortbread Cookies, decided they'd work well with the sea creature cutters, and proceeded to whip up a batch. I should have doubled it. They're pretty tasty.
But that comes later.
The recipe is by Jill O'Connor, author of Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey, and was created exclusively for this compilation. Thanks, Jill!
As you can see above, it's a pretty simple recipe with very few ingredients. Quick and easy to prepare.
Here's what you need - coconut, butter, flour, confectioners' sugar, vanilla, and salt.
First, you place your room temp butter in the bowl of your mixer.
Then you add in your sifted confectioners' sugar...
(which has been measured out by your able assistant, if you've got one)
And then you beat together the butter and sugar together until they're pale and creamy.
Then you add in your vanilla...
And then you take the remaining ingredients (flour, coconut, salt) which your little assistant has whisked together...
and you add those to the butter mixture and blend just until everything is combined. You form that dough into a ball and refrigerate for at least an hour. Or, if you're pressed for time, as I was, you can take your chances after half an hour.
I rolled the dough out to between a quarter and a half inch thick and cut out an assortment of sea creatures. The dough isn't the easiest to work with when you've got cookie cutters with narrow parts, like the base of a tail. But with patience and a skinny knife, you can make it work.
While the cookies were baking, and smelling very, very good in the process, and while, because of the delicious aroma, Alex was moaning and whining in agony "When can I eeeeeeeeeeat one? I'm staaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrvvvvvvvvvvvvvving!" because of course we only feed him once a week, food prices being what they are, Julia and I put together the royal icing in a variety of mouth-watering hues.
Once the cookies had cooled sufficiently, the kids and I gathered 'round the table to play.
(And for those of you concerned with Alex's growling tummy, yes, he got to sample a cookie before we started decorating the rest of them.)
These are Alex's works of art:
And this is Alex eating some cereal, because a boy cannot live on cookies alone. At least not if Mommy's around to stop him from trying.
Inspired by the adorable photo in this post, I did a bunch of dolphins and that was enough for me.
Julia had done a bunch on her own, but then wanted to try to make some like mine, using a paint brush.
In order to create the look of my dolphins, I just piped the icing on either in stripes or concentric circles or stripes and dots - whatever struck my fancy as I was makikng them.
Next, to achieve the swirly or tie-dyed looks, I dipped a small paintbrush in water and just brushed the top of the iced cookie go gently drag some of the color into the adjoining color. I rinsed the brush off frequently so the colors wouldn't get muddy looking by the end of the process. I used a dot of black for an eye, and that was it.
I showed Julia what to do, and she made a few painted swirly creatures herself.
We've still got a lot of icing left over.
I should probably make more cookies.
You know, just so the icing doesn't go to waste. Because waste is bad.
And decorating is fun!
(The cookies themselves are pretty tasty, too!)
The kids stayed home on Thursday because the powers that be in this school district decided it was too cold out for the schools to be open. The day was supposed to be super cold, windy, and somewhat snowy.
I saw a few flakes meander by the window in the morning, but that was about it.
Since we were home, I decided lots of baking was in order. I figured I'd bake some bread (which I did) and some cookies.
Alex asked for chocolate chip.
I started looking through cookbooks, just to find a cookie recipe I hadn't tried yet. And I found my launching pad in the pages of The Sweeter Side of Amy's Bread, by Amy Scherber and Toy Kim Dupree. Published by Wiley, this was a free copy I'd received within the last month or so, and I hadn't done much with it other than to look through the pages and drool occasionally.
Amy's Bread began in a former fish market in Hell's Kitchen in 1992 and has grown now to include two other retail locations besides the original location. Famous for both savory and sweet items, this book focuses on the cookies and cakes and pastries.
I found a recipe for "Kitchen Sink Cookies" which, as the name suggests, produces cookies packed to the gills with all sorts of chunks and chewy bites. I took the basic recipe and asked Alex what he might like in his cookies besides the chocolate chips. I told him his options and he chose pecans and dried cranberries. I used chocolate chunks instead of chips, and, ta-da! Alex's Cookies. I also chose not to make the enormous cookies Amy's recipes call for. Each recipe bakes a dozen large cookies or, in the case of the Kitchen Sink, two dozen. Large.
I have small children, with medium-sized mouths. Big eyes, but not as big bellies. I didn't want a mess of partially eaten cookies on my countertops. So I made small cookies.
If you'd like to follow the original recipe, you can find it on page 127 of The Sweeter Side of Amy's Bread. Or you can email me if you'd like and I'll email it to you.
Here's the recipe for my variation on the Kitchen Sink cookies.
(The boy cracks me up.)
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp Kosher salt
2 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup semisweet chocolate chunks
1 cup toasted, chopped pecans
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
And here's what you do...
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. In one bowl, combine the flour, oats, baking soda and salt. In another bowl, combine the chocolate, nuts and cranberries.
(It's nice when you have a helper.)
3. In the bowl of your mixer, cream together the butter and both sugars until light and fluffy. (And if, like me, you're using brown sugar that's become semi rock-hard, you might want to use a food processor first.)
4. Combine the eggs and vanilla and add that to the butter/sugar mixture. Mix well.
5. Add in the flour mixture in stages, and be careful not to overmix. Stir together until the flour and other dry ingredients are just barely combined with the wet ingredients.
6. With a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, mix in the chocolate, pecans and cranberries.
7. Scoop out balls the size of a 2 tablespoon measure (If you don't have one of those, a very heaping tablespoon works fine.) and place them 2 inches apart on a baking sheet.
8. Bake for 12-14 minutes, rotating pans halfway through.
They go well with milk.
Just ask Alex.
I love this biscotti recipe. I think I may have seen it on an episode of Giada De Laurenti1s' show, or I just happened upon it on the Food Network website while looking for biscotti recipes.
Anyway, the recipe is hers, and you can find it here. Go now and print yourself a copy. Trust me.
These are the cookies I set out to make. I'd found it in Martha's magazine, and you can also find the recipe online here. They're actually supposed to be Key Lime Thumbprints, but the Key limes I bought didn't last too long and I ended up using regular limes.
Anyway, first I made the cookie dough and rolled it into balls.
I doubled the recipe, because I love lime and I figured everyone else would (or should), too.
I par-baked the cookies, as directed, and then spooned the filling into the little hollows and finished baking. I ended up making 142 cookies, (according to my notes) but I ended up with a lot of leftover filling.
And since I figured that was enough cookies, and also since, for me, the ratio of cookie to filling was too skewed in favor of the cookies, I figured I'd make a tart with the rest of it. I used some of my short dough surplus to make the crust.
Maybe I made my cookies wrong - not enough of a thumbrint for the filling.
I don't know. But I was, in the end, glad for the leftover filling. The tart was yummy.
Especially with a generous dollop of whipped cream on top...
(Of course you can use canned whipped cream, or use a mixer, but really, it's very quick and easy to do by hand. Just get a wide metal bowl and whisk in a loop - into the bowl and up and around and in and up - or even back and forth - as fast as you can. It will thicken. Oh, and use your bigger arm muscles to do this, not your wrist. Especially if you have carpal tunnel issues.)
You want some, don't you.
I thought so.
Kind of like candy, not really a cookie, these are crispy on the outside, a bit chewy on the inside, and went over well with everyone who tasted them - at least here in my little world.
I wanted to include several wheat-free items in my cookie baskets this year, primarily because my cousin's wife has realized she has an intolerance for gluten, and I didn't want her to lose out on the sweets.
So, in addition to the Almond Stars/Moons that I make every year, I made these and another batch of morsels that I'll get to in another post.
I used candy canes and chocolate, but you could leave out either one and they'd still be tasty. Meringes are easy to make, and they're fun to play around with, ingredient-wise.
Here's what I concocted:
I used 4 room temperature egg whites, 1/4 tsp cream of tartar, and 1 cup of sugar, 2 oz bittersweet chocolate (or you could use mini chocolate chips) and 6 small candy canes.
First, I chopped up 2 oz of bittersweet chocolate...
and crushed 6 small candy canes.
I whipped the whites til they were at the soft peak stage, added the cream of tartar (it helps strenghten the whites) and then, with the mixer still running, slowly added in the sugar. I kept whipping them until the peaks were firm but not dry.
Once the whites were ready, I just folded in the crushed candy and the chocolate and then spooned the mixture out onto parchment lined sheet pans.
I baked them at 300 for about 20 minutes. At that point, when I tasted one, the outside was nicely crisp, and the inside was like a marshmallow. I was tempted to leave them like that - they were really good - but I wasn't sure how long they'd keep like that without getting softer, so I put them back in the oven at 200 for another 20 minutes and that gave me a chewier center that I figured would store longer.
After they'd cooled and dried, I drizzled them with melted bittersweet chocolate. And that was it.
Last year I referred to these as The Bane of My Existence. The reason was because no matter how perky the cookies looked when I shaped them, after baking, they were flat. And the story was that my late mother-in-law's mother, when she baked them, they stayed up.
The outer cookie is basically a butter cookie, only a little sturdier. The inner part is a meringue with ground almonds. The thing is, the meringue isn't strong enough to hold up the cookie dough, and so in the heat of the oven, they fall down.
And they look like this:
I tried different tactics...changed the oven temperature...refrigerated the cookies overnight...changed the length of baking time...but it didn't matter. They still flopped. And the fact that, according to Bill's uncle, once upon a time somewhere and somehow, they had stood UP, was festering in my brain. That's right, festering.
And then last May, in the comments section of that post, "Interested in Baking" suggested I use pre-made marzipan instead of the meringue.
Hmmmm. Marzipan. A form of almond paste. Almonds, sugar...in some versions egg white. And it was dense. More likely to hold up in the oven - and hold up the dough. I kept that in the back of my mind.
And this year - I bought a little package of almond paste at the grocery store and tried it out. (Why almond paste and not marzipan? Don't know. It wasn't a conscious decision. Marzipan generally has a higher proportion of sugar, but that wasn't a factor in my decision. I just reached up and plucked a box from the shelf.)
First, I made the cookie dough and cut out a bunch of rounds and set them on parchment-lined sheet pans.
Then I unwrapped the almond paste and cut it into pieces and rolled those little pieces into balls.
Then I put a ball onto each cookie dough circle and folded the sides up to make the tri-corner shape.
And then, after chilling them in the fridge for half an hour or so, I baked them at 325 degrees F for about 20 minutes.
And - GUESS WHAT!
Oh, well, I guess you already know that because of the first picture of this post.
THEY STAYED UP!
So I'm all kinds of delighted with this result, and I want to thank "Interested in Baking" for that suggestion nearly 7 months ago. THANK YOU!
I do, however, miss the crunchy-nutty texture of the original meringue filling. So I'm thinking of kneading ground almonds into the almond paste (or marzipan, if I use that instead) for next year's batches. Or maybe I'll try that out sooner. You know, just to be sure.
If you'd like a printable version of this recipe - with both versions of the filling, just to be fair, you can go here.
I goofed these up this year. I did. Me, myself. I would love to say I don't know what happened, or blame it on oh, weak protein strands in the egg whites or something, but that would be lying, and I can't do that.
Everything was fine at first.
I measured out my almonds, hazelnuts and zest-of-one-lemon and ran them all through the food processor together.
And then I whipped up my egg whites. I even added a pinch of cream of tartar this year to stabilize the meringue. A LOT OF GOOD THAT DID ME! But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Nearly as pretty as snow, huh? Egg whites and powdered sugar.
And then...like magic...meringue.
And then it's just a matter of folding in the ground nut mixture...
and then into the fridge to chill for a bit.
And there's where I caused the ruin of this year's almond stars. I didn't just leave the batter/dough/whatever you'd call it in the fridge for a bit. Or even overnight, which is acceptable. No, I left it in there for two nights. And I think, during that time, the strength and structure of my meringue got tired and gave out. The mixture still looked fine, but it just wasn't right. It seemed...wetter...when I rolled it out. And when I tried to place the stars onto a cookie sheet, they didn't hold their shape - they just became mushy blobs.
But again, I am leaping ahead.
To roll these out (when you don't leave them in the fridge too long), you sprinkle granulated sugar down on your counter instead of flour.
And then, working with small amounts at a time, you gently roll out the meringue dough to about a quarter of an inch thick and then cut your stars out and place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
That's the plan, anyway. And then you lightly brush them with an egg white wash before baking.
But when you're me, and you do something stupid like leaving the mixture in the fridge for two days, then you switch gears and just spoon dollops of meringue onto your parchment and bake little almond...moons, I guess.
Let these cookies (whatever shape they are) cool on the parchment completely, and then, to remove them, carefully pull the parchment over the edge of the pan to loosen them and keep pulling slowly until you can successfully remove the cookie without breaking it.
Here's what they look like on the back, in case you're interested.
They taste just fine - nutty and light and crispy with a little bit of chewy center. They just look incorrect. You can eat them as-is, or you could sandwich two together with some melted chocolate. Or nutella, maybe.
Whatever you do, though, use the dough sooner than I did, so you actually get stars, like you're supposed to.
If you'd like to see last year's post, in which I didn't do so well either, but I did better than this year, plus at the very end there's a picture of the PREVIOUS (2006) year's cookies which were amazingly done CORRECTLY, then click here.
And if you want a printable version of this recipe, so you can attempt these yourself and do better than I've done and then write to me and LAUGH AND LAUGH AND LAUGH...then click here.
Twenty seven and a half dozen of these cookies.
I really don't know how or why that happened, but no matter.
It's Sunday, the 21st, and I've shipped out tons of cookies and given out more...not that many cookie baskets/plates left to distribute, and still...I have TONS of lebkuchen left. Next year I won't make 4 batches. What was I thinking??
Anyway. I've posted about them before, of course, when I made them last year. So this year's post is more of a pictorial story rather than an illustrated narrative. At the end of the post, I'll also have a link to the printable recipe. I've been trying to set those up in conjunction with the posts.
Oh - and in addition to my addled decision to make 4 batches, I also (and honest, I'm actually pretty good at math) managed to...um...octuple the quantities for the candied orange peel and candied citron. Yes. OCTuple. And of course, I didn't realize that right away, either.
I was all busy thinking about how clever I was because instead of chopping up all the candied orange and citron by hand, I'd just throw them into the food processor in batches, along with the almonds in the recipe (which need to be ground up). So I opened up all the little 4 oz containers of candied stuff, dumped it all into a big bowl, and put the almonds in another bowl.
I scooped some of the nuts into the food processor, buzzed them up a bit first, and then added some of the candied peel.
I processed that a bit until it looked like this:
I was pretty pleased with myself...until I was about halfway done and it occurred to me that there was an AWFUL lot of this stuff, quadruple batch or not. And then a horrible, ugly light bulb flashed on in my head.
See, in a single batch, the recipe calls for 1 cup of almonds, 1/2 cup of candied citron and 1/2 cup of candied orange peel. Those candied things are sold in 4 oz packages, which is equal to 1/2 cup. So, for one batch, you need two containers - one each of orange and citron. Now, I don't know exactly how this happened in my head, but I think it went something like this. I was quadrupling the recipe, right? So I'd need 4 times the basic amount. So, if I'd been thinking straight, I'd need 4 half-cup containers of orange and 4 half-cup containers of citron. A total, therefore, of 8 containers. Somehow, somewhere, I screwed that up and thought I needed 8 little containers of EACH kind of peel. And then my brain was further tormented at the store because there were only 7 containers of orange. WHAT TO DO????? I ended up getting 7 of orange, 7 of citron, and 2 of lemon. So...16 containers...8 cups...not the ONLY 4 CUPS I really and truly required.
Measure twice, cut once, folks. Learn from my addle-pated mistakes.
Oh, and so here I was with way too much assorted candied peel, ground up with the right amount of almonds, which was the amount needed for 4 batches, but only half of what I'd need for the 8 batches. And too late to separate out the almonds - they were already mixed in with the peel.
So. I divided that whole mixture in two and froze one portion to give (probably) to a friend of ours who loves lebkuchen. He'll also be getting a LOT of the lebkuchen I made, so he'll be pretty well set for life, I'm thinking.
Anyway, to the remaining blend of peel and almonds, I added in enough ground almonds to bring all the proportions into balance and harmony. Finally, I was ready to get going. I think I wasted a good hour on all that lunacy.
Oh, and the other thing...since there's so much stuff in these cookies, and the dough is rather stiff to work initially, I decided to mix the dough in 4 separate batches. So I measured everything out accordingly, and had all my little groupings of ingredients along one side of the counter. Batch by batch, I made my lebkuchen and wrapped and refrigerated the dough as I went along. Later that day, I started the cutting and the baking.
The dough is rolled out 1/4-1/8 inch thick, depending on your preference. The thicker dough yields a chewier cookie, which is how I make them.
This year, in another bold move, I used a fluted-edged cutter instead of a plain one. I know. I'm such a maverick. Heh heh.
I started out with a cutter about 2 1/2" in diameter, and then, because I like to make more work for myself, I switched to a smaller one. About 1 1/2" or so. Maybe a bit bigger. But still. Smaller.
I ended up with 46 of the larger cookies, and - hold on to your butlers - 284 smaller ones. TWO HUNDRED AND EIGHTY FOUR. I need my head examined. So...that's a total of almost 4 dozen larger cookies and...let me see...mumble mumble mumble...carry the one...TWENTY-THREE AND TWO-THIRDS DOZEN of the smaller cookies. Apparently I am planning to distribute a cookie to everyone in the contiguous United States this December. I'm well on my way.
Anyway, once they'd all baked and cooled, I packed them away in plastic containers and did the glazing part another day.
For the glaze, it's just a mixture of confectioners' sugar and hot water, whisked and whisked until smooth and shiny.
In the past, I've used a spoon to smear the glaze on the cookies. Then, for the past couple of years, I've dipped the cookie in the glaze and allowed it to drip off a bit before setting the cookie on a rack to allow the glaze to dry.
This year, I came up with another method that I like even better. I painted the glaze on with a little cheap-o 1" brush you can get at the grocery store along with the other kitchen tools.
I left the cookies out to dry overnight, and then packed them back up in the containers again.
Well. Most of them.
If you'd like to see the original lebkuchen post from last year, go here.
And if you'd like a printable version of this recipe (without all the mistakes I made this year), you can go here.
It was a fun, busy, chaotic weekend. This is the weekend BEFORE this current one. I'm late in posting.
On Friday I baked off the rest of the short dough I'd made, in a variety of kid-pleasing shapes: snowmen, trees, reindeer, bells, angels, cats, birds, and squirrels. Yes, squirrels.
But because I never think there will be enough, I had to make more. Plus it's nice to have a variety of flavors. Originally I was going to make gingerbread cookies, but then, in my email, I got a link from Epicurious to "25 Days of Christmas Cookies." So I clicked through the slide show, and came right back to the very first one in the group:
I skimmed through the recipe, thought it sounded like what I wanted, and printed it out. And that's when I noticed it. The name in the top left-hand corner. The recipe was published in Gourmet Magazine in December 2007. And guess who wrote it? Yep. The Ubiquitous Dorie Greenspan. I had to laugh.
And then I had to make the cookies. I doubled the recipe, because, you know, that whole "might not be enough" thing. And the dough - the dough smelled fabulous. Good enough to eat right then and there, but I thought of the kids who were coming, and I refrained.
But really. Cocoa powder AND melted bittersweet chocolate in the dough. You can't go wrong there. Oh, and a bit of cinnamon, too. This recipe is a keeper.
With this dough, I cut out teddy bears, lions, more angels, bunnies, guitars, snowflakes, dogs, and cows. Yes, cows. In two sizes. I love cows, and my cow cutters are actually stored with my December holiday cutters, not the animal cutters.
All the kids present had a great time decorating (and eating) the cookies, both on Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning before it was time for them all to go home.
Oddly enough, I didn't take any pictures of the kids' finished cookies, which was rather stupid of me, because those are way more entertaining than the stuff I did. Ah well. Here are a few pictures from Saturday's decorating party...
This is my nephew, Calvin. Despite his advanced years (he's 16), he seems to really enjoy doing stuff like this with the kids. Later on, he taught them to play Guitar Hero. He's great with children.
And, of course, we all know Julia and Alex.
And this, this is Natalie, my niece. She is an AWESOME cookie-decorator. I mean, they all do/did a great job, but Natalie just really has a knack for it. She made a teddy bear with a little sweater on him that LOOKED like a real sweater.
Saturday night, Bill made paella for dinner. It was phenomenal.
The next morning we awoke to snowfall. Alex and his friend Jack, who slept over, were the first ones awake, and the first ones to look outside. They came in and told me, and I sent them downstairs to tell Calvin and Natalie.
After breakfast, everyone went outside to play in the snow. There wasn't a lot of it, but there was enough for a mild snowball fight and the construction of three snowmen.
All in all, a pretty near-perfect weekend.
Oh, and just to keep things on a baking theme, here are a few pictures of the cookies I decorated. Because, you know, it's all about me.
Oh, and in case you're wondering about that not-decorated little cow in the front...look closely. He's got an eye. A little tiny clump of cocoa powder, probably. Anyway, I felt he didn't require any further embellishment.
And then I ate him.
All in all, a great weekend.
I love these little cookies.
They're soft and buttery and dangerously easy to consume in large quantities without noticing until the cookie jar contains nothing but crumbs.
The dough comes together quickly and easily - just a matter of combining butter and sugar, eggs, flour and "1 knife tip Baking Soda" and then refrigerating for a couple of hours before rolling out.
Even after you chill it for a few hours, the dough will still be somewhat soft and sticky and tricky to work with. You can roll it out between sheets of plastic or waxed paper if you want to, or just dust your board and rolling pin lightly and frequently with flour.
In the years that I've been making these cookies, I've always used the same tiny cutters that I remembered Bill's mom using. An angel, a tree, a snowman, and a stocking. It was important to me to keep things exactly the same as they'd been in the years before.
This year, I used some of those cutters and some other tiny ones. I didn't use the little stocking - the tiny little loop part kept sticking to the inside of the cutter no matter what, and I just didn't feel like fighting with it. So I used a little bell. And a little musical note. And, with the very last of the re-rolled scraps of dough, I used a star.
I brushed each cookie with egg yolk, as usual, and baked them for 12 minutes.
Julia wanted to get into the fun as well. I was rolling these out last night, about an hour before the kids' bedtime, and so I told her to pick out six cookie cutters and she could make some for herself.
She chose a cow, a bell, a duck, a soldier, a penguin, and a lion. After she cut them out, I painted them with egg yolk and let Julia decorate them. She carefully placed the little tiny sugar trees and sprinkles on each cookie...well, okay, some more carefully than others.
I think somewhere Bill's mom is getting a HUGE kick out of Julia.
If you'd like the recipe and to look through last year's post about these delightful little cookies, click here.
And if you'd like a printable recipe, click here.
I made 5 batches' worth of springerle this year. Not all in one shot - I did one double batch and one triple.
And in the process, I made a little change in the recipe that Bill's mom had used when she showed me how to make springerle once upon a time.
But before I get into that, I just want to put in a plug for House on the Hill - a phenomenal source for springerle molds and other cookie-related fun. If I had gobs of money to play with, I'd spend a happy portion of it shopping on their site.
(the only one not from House on the Hill is that 6-sectioned, hand-carved mold)
Anyway. Like I said, I made five batches' worth of dough. One entire batch (or most of it) went to the forming of this large (13" diameter) cookie, which we'll probably save for Christmas Eve:
I'm extremely pleased with how this turned out this year - so much detail, except here and there around the edges. Yay!
This year I reduced the amount of flour when I made some of the dough (the triple batch, in case you're keeping track) and I found it was much easier to work with as I rolled it out and pressed it into the molds.
The other change was to dust the molds with confectioners' sugar instead of flour.
The current edition of Martha Stewart Living includes a recipe for spekulaas, a spicy, gingerbread-like cookie molded very much like springerle. In the recipe, the directions call for you to dust the molds with confectioner's sugar so that the dough won't stick in the crevices of the mold. Now, flour serves the same purpose, but the thing with flour is that when it gets damp, it morphs into glue, and once dry, it's a pain in the butler to get out. Sugar, on the other hand, when combined with water, melts, which makes clean-up gloriously quick and easy. So, thanks, Martha!
And while you're making your springerle, don't forget to trim the edges so you've got nice neat sides. You can make a cute little dough creature thingy with the trimmings.
Isn't cookie baking fun?
To see my original post on baking springerle, you can go here.
For a printable version, go here.
This afternoon my kids, their best friends, and my sister's kids (who are roughly ten years older than mine, so they are my assistants in a way) will be decorating TONS of cookies I baked yesterday and am baking this morning.
There will be royal icing in a proverbial rainbow of colors, all sorts of colored sugars and other sprinkley things, and at the end, a big mess and 6 trays of cookies - one per kid.
It should be a blast.
But right now, I'm up to my elbows in confectioner's sugar and cookie dough, so I must leave you for now.
Hope you're having a sparkling day, whatever you're doing!
Tiny, crunchy cookies with huge flavor, these pfeffernusse, or "pepper nuts" last for ages and go well with coffee, tea, or a teeny cup of milk.
Pfeffernusse are part of the 6 different German cookies I bake every year, to keep my late mother-in-law's tradition going.
I make these early in the game, because they'll last forever (as long as I hide them from the family).
They're simple to make - just combine ingredients, chill the dough, roll it out to a quarter of an inch thickness, and cut out as many little circles as possible.
Then you let them sit, uncovered, in a cool, dry place (like my pantry, for instance, away from children and cats) for about 12 to 24 hours. Overnight works nicely.
When you're ready to bake them, you just brush the tops with a little brandy and pop them in a low oven for about half an hour. Let them cool completely before removing them from the cookie sheet. Store, airtight, for a long, long time, if necessary.
Of course, you should always sample your baking. You know, just to make sure they're acceptable.
My original post, from 2007, can be found here, in case you're interested.
Or, if you're looking for a printable version, go here.
I made a rather large batch of short dough the other day and here's what I did with one small portionof it yesterday and today...
First, I rolled out a piece and cut out 6-pointed star shapes and then, since I was originally intending that they become snowflakes, I kind of squeezed the points so they'd be skinnier. I laid them out on a baking sheet and chilled them for about half an hour.
Then, right before baking, I brushed the tops with egg white and sprinkled them with sparkling sugar.
I baked them at 350 for about ten minutes.
I also took out my big copper snowflake cutters.
I cut out two of each shape, and then used the little tiny cutters to make little holes here and there within each cookie. I baked them at 350 for about 10 minutes as well.
While the cookies cooled, I mixed up a batch of royal icing (using meringue powder) and colored it with royal blue food coloring. I colored it in two stages - first to get a base blue color, and then the next stage was to create a swirly look to it. I kept the icing rather loose and piped it onto all my large snowflakes.
See the swirls?
I left the cookies to dry overnight. Had to keep chasing the kids away from them. You can't rush cookie art!
This morning I filled another piping bag with white icing and, using a smaller tip (a #3, I think) and firmer icing, I piped my snowflakes onto their swirly blue "sky" backgrounds.
I also planned to sprinkle the white piped icing with very fine white sparkling sugar, which meant I had to pipe quickly and sprinkle sugar while the icing was still wet, otherwise it wouldn't stick.
So, one at a time, I piped icing and sprinkled sugar and made my snowflakes....
You get the idea. It's tremendous fun, at least for me. And they don't have to be perfect because, as we all know, no two snowflakes are alike. So there's no reason why the cookies should be perfect copies of each other.
And finally, the kids were each permitted to have a big snowflake cookie.
They go really nicely with a mug of hot chocolate, too.
I am not alone. Apparently - and not surprisingly - I'm not the only one who decided that if sweet rugelach is yummy, savory rugelach would probably be pretty tasty, too. Holly at Phe/MOM/enon and Clara at I*heart*Food4Thought have been thinking along the same lines, just to name a couple.
We made Rugelach for last week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe, and ever since that batch disappeared I've been wanting to make more. So yesterday, while my husband mulched the gardens in preparation for winter, and Julia played in the dirt, I made rugelach.
I've been wanting to make some kind of cookie with stuff in it. Like chocolate chip with nuts...or oatmeal with coconut and golden raisins and nuts and chocolate chips and candied ginger and all the other scraps in my pantry. You know, a cookie like that.
So I went foraging. And I found, among other things, mini marshmallows (which I don't remember buying, but I must have made something with them because it wasn't a full package. Or I just ate a huge handful of them and guiltily hid the bag behind instant oatmeal and packages of raisins.)...and some partially-gnawed chocolate Easter bunnies (with crispy rice mixed into the chocolate!)...and that led to me looking on the very top shelf - and sure enough, there were some graham crackers. Oh, that's right - because I'd made the crust for that Florida Pie a couple weeks ago.
Anyway, as you could tell from the title, I made S'more Cookies. Never made them before, so I just followed a basic chocolate chip cookie recipe and made some alterations and, voila! - cookies that the whole family could enjoy!
And here's what I did...
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup shortening (I was entirely out of butter, thanks to Dorie and all her wonderfully butter-laden concoctions that I've made recently)
3/4 cup light brown sugar
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
about 1 cup mini marshmallows
1 1/3 large low-end quality chocolate Easter bunnies (with crispy rice bits in them), roughly chopped
6 whole graham crackers, broken up
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F., and get some cookie sheets ready and line them with parchment paper. I made 48 cookies exactly, just so you have an idea of how much you're making.
Cream the butter and sugars together til sort of light and fluffy. I really, really don't like using shortening, but I just was too stubborn not to go ahead with the cookies, so I tried not to cringe at the sugar/shortening blend, but really, it just looks odd to me.
Add the eggs, one at a time, and combine thoroughly.
Add in the vanilla too, and combine.
Whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt, and add that to the batter, and mix until just combined - don't overbeat.
By hand, (well, with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula), mix in the marshmallows, bunny bits, and graham crackers.
With your hands, scoop up portions of dough about the size of a golf ball and place on the baking sheet, leaving space between them, because they will spread. If your hands get too sticky, run them under water and leave your hands a bit wet - the dough won't stick.
Bake about 15 minutes (depending on your oven), rotating pans once mid-way through.
Allow to cool a bit on the pan before you try to take them off, because the marshmallow will cling to the parchment paper, to other cookies, to your arm, to the phone - pretty much to anything it can grab.
Hand them out to your family and see how they like them. Or hoard them for yourself.
Flavor-wise, they've got a dark, molassasy flavor, which comes from using two dark sugars instead of white and light.
Also, the taste and texture of the melted-and-cooled mini marshmallows reminded me of rice crispie treats.
The chocolate? Terrible. Well - acceptable, but it's just hacked up Nestle Easter Bunny chocolate, so it's not going to blow anyone away. But still, it suited my purpose, which was to clean out some stuff from the cupboards and turn that into cookies.
I needed to make some sort of desserty thing to bring to the party on Saturday, and I was going to do something fancy but ran out of time. I'd made a big batch of short dough, some of which I used for last Thursday night to make little guitars and musical notes.
But I still had a lot of it left. I was going to make other cut-out cookies and decorate some and let the kids decorate others, but like I said, I ran out of time.
So here's what we did.
I took the zest of one lemon, and about a cup of granulated sugar...put them in the food processor and buzzed them around til the zest was chopped up pretty fine and incorporated into the sugar.
Then I took pieces of the dough, rolled it into little balls (about the size of...hmm...smaller than a ping pong ball), then rolled the dough balls in the lemon zest/sugar mixture, put them on a parchment lined baking sheet, and pressed down to flatten somewhat. Maybe to about a third of an inch thick or so. I baked them in a 350 degree oven until just starting to turn golden around the edges. Once cooled, the outsides were sugary-crisp with the tang of lemon, and the insides were buttery and ever so slightly soft.
Nothing fancy about them at all.
They just taste good.
I was originally planning to make a Ricotta Pie or Rice Pie for Easter, but when I was perusing recipes, I found this one for sweet fruit and nut pockets, or Ravioli Dolci, and I decided to make them instead. They sounded interesting, they didn't require refrigeration, and, best of all, I had everything I needed and wouldn't have to go to the grocery store.
The recipe is from Lynne Rossetto Kasper's book The Italian Country Table.
The recipe is actually called "Apricot-Pistachio Pockets" and I really thought I had dried apricots in the pantry, but I didn't. So I've made one change - I've substituted golden raisins for the apricots.
There are two components to the cookie - the pastry and the filling.
Here's what you need for the pastry:
1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups cake flour
1/2 cup blanched whole almonds, finely ground
1 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
shredded zest of 1/2 lemon
shredded zest of 1/2 orange
2 T light corn syrup
2-3 large eggs
And for the filling:
Generous 1/2 cup (1/4 lb) dried apricots (or, in this version, golden raisins)
2 T sugar, or more to taste
Pinch of salt
Shredded zest of 1/2 lemon
2/3 cup water
1/4 cup dry Marsala (I didn't have dry. I used sweet.)
3 generous tablespoons shelled salted pistachios, coarsely chopped
And you'll also need
1 large egg, beaten for glaze
1/3 to 1/2 cup Galliano or grappa di Moscato (optional) (I'm not using either - I don't have 'em)
And here's what you do:
In large mixing bowl, thoroughly blend the flours, almonds, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add the softened butter and citrus zests and with your fingertips, rub together the ingredients until they resemble coarse meal.
In a small bowl, beat together the corn syrup and 2 eggs. Using a fork, toss with the flour mixture until the dough is moistened and clumps together. (I did everything in my stand mixer.) If it seems dry, beat the remaining egg and toss with the dough to moisten. Gather the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic, and chill 30 minutes to overnight.
Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine the apricots, 2 T sugar, the salt, lemon zest, water and Marsala.
Cook over low heat, covered, until the apricots are soft and the mixture is thick, 20 to 30 minutes. If mixture is still very liquid,
uncover and cook down. Taste for sweetness, stirring in more sugar if needed. Remove from the heat and cool.
Puree the apricot mixture in a food processor.
Stir in the pistachios.
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper, or butter it. On a floured surface, roll out the pastry 1/16 inch thick.
Cut into rounds with a 2 1/2 inch scalloped biscuit cutter, or a drinking glass.
Place half of the rounds on the cookie sheet (you may need to do this in 2 batches) and top each round with 1/4 to 1/2 tsp of filling. Moisten their rims with water. Top with the remaining rounds and seal the edges. Brush with the beaten egg.
Bake 12 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown.
Lift off the sheet and cool on racks.
Store the cookies up to 10 days in a sealed tin in a cool place. To finish with liqueur, sprinkle each cookie with about 1/4 tsp liqueur just before setting out. (I didn't do the liqueur part.)
These are delicious. I've never made them before, but I am definitely adding them to my cookie repertoire. They're sweet (clearly) and crunchy and lemony and a bit chewy. Alex, in particular, loves them. The book said the recipe would make about 40 cookies - I made 48 and a half. (I miscounted and had one extra round of dough left at the end.)
So go on and give these a try. Trust my son - he knows his cookies.