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Linzer Torte/Tart Cookies

30 Dec

My main man is a huge marzipan fan, so while watching some baking show or other, when he saw someone make Linzer Tart Cookies, he was sold.  Because I’m a selfish only child, and I agreed to this whole 40 by 40 challenge, I took over the baking of these myself.  Full disclosure, I thought they were just okay, but my sister in law said, and I quote, “Your Christmas cookies are off the chain” and “I ate all the Christmas trees I brought home and didn’t share.  My fave.”  So maybe they just aren’t my jam (see what I did there?  because they have jam. . . ).  I think if I did them again, I’d follow some of the suggestions I saw online and incorporate some other types of ground nuts with the almonds.  And since you’ll probably sense the theme straight away, I’ll just let you know in advance that yes, I also made changes to this recipe.  Sorry not sorry.  Looks like I might not learn anything after all. . . .

  • 1 1/4 cups unsalted butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup white sugar
  • 2 cups sifted all purpose flour, divided
  • 1 3/4 cups ground almonds (or almond flour, which I had on hand and gladly used)
  • 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon (I would have used Allspice if I had it since I think the other flavors would have gone nicely)
  • 5 tbs seedless raspberry jam
  • 1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • lemon zest from one lemon

First things first – read the recipe all the way through.  Twice maybe.  Okay, begin.

Mise en place first, to minimize screw ups.

Beat butter & sugar together until light and fluffy.  Stir in 1/2 cup flour, the almond flour (or ground almonds), cinnamon and lemon zest.  Oh crap, I forgot to sift the flour before adding it to the ground almonds.  SEE?  Gah.  Sift rest of flour.  Mix in remaining flour 1/2 cup at a time til a slightly stiff dough forms.

Shape dough into a ball, divide in half, wrap each half in plastic and pop in the fridge for at least an hour.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Take one half of the dough and roll it out between two sheets of parchment – it is a sticky nightmare to work with, so do yourself a favor and use the parchment.  You want to roll it out to about 1/8″ thick.  We used a Christmas tree cutter for obvious reasons, but using whichever cutter you like best, cut out as many cookies as you can.  Knead the scraps together again, and roll out again, and cut out – again.  It’s a good idea to refrigerate in between re-rolls.  I swapped back and forth between the two halves of dough to ensure it stayed cool as I worked with it.  (roll, cut, knead back together, rewrap in plastic, and put in fridge; grab other half and do the same, on and on until I had no more dough)

Don’t forget that half of your cookies need the “windows” in the center cut out – we used a star that came with the tree.  I also put the cookie sheet in the fridge before baking to help stop spread.  In this example, I rolled out nine trees and put them about 1″ apart (on parchment) on a cookie sheet and put it in the fridge.  Then I rolled out nine more trees with the stars cut out of the middle.  First tray comes out of fridge and goes into the oven; second tray goes into the fridge while the first tray bakes.

Remember what I said about this dough being a nightmare?  There was a lot of breaking and cursing as I tried to get the center stars out of the trees and get the trees onto the trays without falling apart.  Ensuring the dough is cool helps with this.

Bake 10-15 minutes until light brown.  We found that baking for 7 minutes, rotating the pan, and baking for 7 more minutes worked best for our oven.

Move the bottom cookies (the ones without cutouts) onto a wire rack to cool.  Put another wire rack into a cookie sheet or on a piece of parchment – this is for the top cookies.  As soon as you put the top cookies onto the rack to cool, dust with the confectioners sugar first.

Heat up your jam to make it a little more spreadable (I did it for a few seconds in the microwave, but you could also do it on the stove top).

Spread a thin layer of jam on the bottom cookie, avoiding the edges so it doesn’t squish out when you put the top cookie on and press down.  Put the top cookie on, being careful not to touch the tops of the cookies and smudge the sugar.

See my “learn from my mistakes” fingerprints on the edges.

Served straight away, the cookies are crisp; saved overnight and served the next day they become a bit softer and chewier, which we actually preferred.  If you like a crisper cookie, don’t do the jam sandwich part until you are ready to serve them.

 

Chocolate Peppermint Cookies

15 Jan

After seeing a recipe for Peppermint Bark Chocolate Cookies, and eyeballing the LOADS of peppermint bark in my kitchen leftover from Christmas indulgences, I knew what had to be done.
I’ll keep some of these in the freezer to see how they bake after being frozen, and bake the rest today and deliver them to two darling families that I know will love them.  Temptation gone, creative urges sated, and friends made happy.  Win-win-win.

1 cup of butter
3/4 cup of brown sugar
3/4 cup of white granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon of peppermint extract
1 3/4 cups of all-purpose flour
3/4 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder\
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
Pinch of salt
1+ cup of peppermint bark, broken into little chip size pieces

  
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Cream the butter and sugars together on medium speed until well incorporated and light in color.  Add the egg and the extracts until well incorporated, about a minute. Be sure to scrape down the sides and the bottom of the bowl halfway through.
Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cocoa powder. Add to the butter mixture cup by cup at medium speed, stopping once all of it is incorporated (do not overmix).  This batter is very dry – do not be alarmed.  It’ll form into balls nicely.
Fold in the peppermint bark chips.
Take small spoonfuls of the dough and roll into one inch sized balls and place onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Let cool on the pan for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Makes 2 1/2 – 3 dozen cookies.

While these were okay, I think I’d prefer to find a better chocolate cookie recipe and alter that, or stick to my beloved peppermint brownies. I found these cookies to be a little greasy and not as chewy as I’d hoped.

Where the Wild Things Are – Halloween 2010

28 Sep

  

My favorite time of year is upon us and I’m already plotting my ghoulish plan. . .
I’ll be turning my home into a haunted forest with lots of spooky trees and Spanish moss, plenty of old leaves, and creepy little forest critters.  It’ll be the perfect setting for me, since I’m going as an owl this year.
I really want to make my sugar cookies, but I have to be reasonable about what I can accomplish.
I’ll be serving several types of snack mix because that’s super easy and yummy (I have such an obsession with Cheezit Party Mix it’s not even funny), and I’ll probably do a spicy nut mix as well.  I had one in Mexico that had whole chiles and fried garlic that was super good and kind of creepy looking (let’s just say we’ll call those garlics “fingernails” or something equally gross).  Here is a decent starting point.

We’re also going to do some super easy salsas and guacs as I did last year, but add a Crock Pot full of cheesy bean dip that I don’t really have to worry about.  When I was in high school taking Home Ec, our teacher taught us some delicious recipe that featured canned refried beans, Velveeta, salsa, green chiles, garlic powder and green onions. . . I’m trying desperately to remember it and will probably just tweak it as I go until it’s yummy.  This one looks pretty good as well.
I’m also going to get some pizza dough or flatbread and just do little flatbread slices – caramelized onions, goat cheese, maybe blue cheese, figs, prosciutto, etc., but those are the pricier fixins, so we’ll see.  I’ll bake the breads ahead of time, then top them, and heat them up for a few just before I serve.
Perhaps a white bean and sage dip with veggies and pita chips.
Basically stuff that I don’t have to fuss with.   And to drink, I think I’m going for shandy this year instead of my typical sangria:

Apple Cider Shandy
48 ounces of lager (4 x 12 oz bottles)
1 bottle of sparkling cider

Combine and serve immediately.

I mean, it doesn’t get much easier than that, right? 

PB&J cookies

8 Feb

(this photo is so 1980s Tron with that grid design from my cooling rack)

I make these little treats every once in a while because they are SO easy, and they’re a perfect, quick SB snack. It really is like eating a tbsp of peanut butter though, so don’t get carried away.

Peanut Butter & Jelly Cookies
3/4 c Splenda
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 c creamy (trans fat free) peanut butter
1 tsp baking soda
sugar free jam

Preheat oven to 350. I use a silpat pad on a cookie sheet for these – the jam can run out of the cookie and gets VERY sticky. Silpat is great for not allowing stuff to burn on. If you don’t have a Silpat pad, you can use parchment paper.
Cream the Splenda, egg, and vanilla extract together with a hand mixer on low for about three minutes.
Add the peanut butter and baking soda and mix to combine – only about 30 seconds or so.
Using a tablespoon, I scoop out a portion of dough and use it to form 2 balls; this dough is enough for 24 small cookies.
I put them on the cookie sheet, about an inch apart, and then use my thumb to smoosh down the center. I try to reform the edges a bit too if they crack too much; these cookies are super crumbly so anything you can do to help them keep their shape early on is a good idea.
I put some sugar free jam into a plastic baggie and snip off the end so I can pipe the jam into the indentations. I like to use a couple of different kinds of jam, and I can tell you that apricot seems to be the messiest – it bubbles out the most, and the jam seems to disappear into the cookie or something. Strawberry is much better. I think I’ll try grape next time too, or blueberry. Yum.

Bake cookies for about 12 minutes or until the bottoms just brown and cool on a wire rack. As I mentioned, they are VERY crumbly, delicate little things. They don’t travel well in a baggie (like for lunch), but they’re yummy, and rich, and peanut buttery and perfect little bite size treats when you’re craving a pb&j but not eating bread.

** note **
I wouldn’t recommend going larger on these (you know, like 12 big ones versus 24 little ones) as the texture gets a bit wonky and overly soft.  Just saying.  No one likes a flaccid cookie.

Holy Christmas Cookie Exchange Options, Batman!

21 Dec

Martha’s 365 options, of course.
Gourmet’s faves from 1941-2008?!?! Yikes, that’ll take a lifetime to get through!

Sugar cookies – butter cookies – whatever

28 Mar

During my lovely Vermont Christmas holiday this year, Q’s mom and I spent an afternoon doing girly bonding things, like gabbing and decorating cookies. We had a lovely time, and while I normally skip the sugar cookies in favor of chocolate chip, I loved the crafty aspect of it.

Until I ate one.

Ho. Lee. Cow. So freaking numtastic.
I’d like to try to make these for Easter, but we’ll see if that actually manifests into reality. I have no idea where she got the recipe, but here we have it.

(They’re called “All-Purpose Butter Cookies” but really? That’s kind of lame. They should be called OHMYGODTHESEAREGOOD Cookies or something.)
1 cup softened butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg – room temperature
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
dash of salt
2 tbsp oj (or fresh lemon juice)
1 tbsp vanilla extract

Mix dry ingredients in a bowl. In another bowl, cream butter and sugar with electric mixer. Add egg and mix well. Add juice and extracts. Beat in flour mixture, careful not to overmix. This toughens the dough and makes it tough to work with.
Divide dough in half. Flatten into disks and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate or freeze. Remove from fridge 10 minutes before rolling on floured surface. Cut out into desired adorable shapes. This may require a trip to Sur la Table or something first.

Easter Copper Cookie Cutters, Set of 3

Wouldn’t these be freaking adorable? Seriously – with little cotton candy fluffs for the tails on the buns? I’m dying.

Bake cutouts on ungreased cookie sheets at 360 degrees (seriously? 360?) until edges begin to brown, about 8 minutes, depending on thickness. Remove cookies from cookie sheets and cool on racks.

Frosting:
Mix 1 cup sifted confectioner’s sugar with enough light cream to produce a thick spreading consistency. Flavor with desired flavorings (vanilla, yum), and color with food dye to desired colors. Put frostings into plastic bags (or pastry bags if you’re fancy; or those cheap little squeeze bottles you can get at kitchen supply stores if you’re a perfectionist) and pipe onto cookies.
I think I trust Martha’s Royal Icing recipe a bit more, especially since Q-mom used her own recipe too (instead of this one), and I do believe she said hers had (MORE!) butter in it. Yum.

This recipe worked well too, though I found it to be pretty intensely sweet with the corn syrup.

Based on what I learned when this lady was on Martha, you might want to do a slightly thicker version for outlining, and a little looser version for “flooding.” She made her icing with meringue powder, water and sugar. Too many recipes!!!!

** Update 02.15.11 **
Happy Valentine’s Day!!!
After a frosting failure last Easter (note the lack of photos), this batch turned out perfectly.  Yum!

Websites

11 Feb

I just found two fun new websites (thanks to the clever folks over at Food & Wine). Eat Drink or Die is the lovechild of the Funny or Die geniuses and Tom Colicchio. Stupid easy videos (check out the chicken pot pie one if you don’t believe me).
Rouxbe has just motivated me to try making chocolate chip cookies from scratch (you may have to register – it’s free – to see the video). I don’t usually do this as I tend to be disappointed with my results. Also, why bother when the Toll House ready to go dough turns out so well? These ones actually look like I WANT my cookies to look, so I’m hoping they live up to expectations in taste as well. Then I can play with additions and make my own fabulous creations.