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Entries in Cookies (163)

Saturday
Apr062013

Sweet Treats: Semolina Sesame Cookies

Have I ever told you that one of my favorite bakeries, not only in Seattle, but in the world, is Macrina Bakery? From their biscuits to their morning rolls to their cookies, I can't get enough of their sweet treats. Every month they share a recipe via their newsletter, and I in turn enjoy to share with you. 

This month it's Semolina Sesame Cookies. As the headnote says, "These cookies are inspired by acclaimed baker Carol Field, who gathered a collection of wonderful regional recipes from bakers, grandmothers, and chefs on her travels through Italy. The essence of this recipe came from one of her books (I have them all!), and is so typically Italian. The semolina, a coarsely ground wheat flour used widely for making pasta, lends a beautiful crisp texture, and the sesame seeds make them a classic accompaniment to a sweetened shot of espresso. Buttery annd not too sweet, they'll totally satisfy the 4 p.m. nosh need!"

Makes 18 3-inch cookies

  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon semolina flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds

Procedure

  1. Position 2 racks in the center of the oven and preheat to 325°F. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. Sift together the flours and salt in a medium bowl.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar. Start on low speed and increase to medium for a total of 5 to 8 minutes, stopping to scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. The mixture will be light, fluffy, and pale. Add the egg and mix on low speed until fully incorporated, then scrape the bowl down again. Gradually add the dry ingredients mixing until they're just incorporated and the dough is smooth, about 1 minute. Be careful not to overmix: the cookies may become tough.
  4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide it into 4 equal pieces, then roll each piece into a 1/2-inch-wide rope. Use a ruler to measure and then cut the rope into 5-inch segments. Each segment will become a cookie. If the dough is too soft, chill for 10 minutes to make it easier to handle.
  5. Lay each rope in an S shape, 1 inch apart, on the prepared baking sheets. Tuck the ends under and compress slightly. Chill the sheets in the freezer for 20 minutes to help the cookies hold their shape while baking. (You may also freeze the cookies at this point, covered tightly, for up to 1 week. Let them thaw for about 20 minutes before baking.)
  6. Brush each cookie with a little bit of water and top with the sesame seeds. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the cookies are light golden brown. Cool on the sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Stored in an airtight container at room temperature, these cookies keep their great flavor for at least 1 week. 
Thursday
Apr042013

Thumbs Up: CakeSpy Samples Thumbs Cookies

Thumbs Cookies

Say hello to Thumbs Cookies. They're a tiny cookie that makes you feel fine about eating a baker's dozen of them because they are so small. They're tasty and crumbly and have a very nice sugar-crunch from their topping. After having received a delicious sample package including the original thumbs, chocolate thumbs (with a little dollop of Mast Brothers chocolate in the middle) and some if the little sandwiches with hazelnut choco filling, I can say: I approve of these cookies. But I also enjoy the fact that they come with an interesting story. I'll let Robyn, the baker behind the lilliputian treats, explain it, alongside my clever photos, OK?

Tom Thumb. Get it?

Here goes. (From Robyn): So, I launched Thumbs Cookies, Inc. about a year-and-a-half ago after I had baked someThumbs Cookies for a friend of mine who works at The Ace and she said, "how do we buy these?" 
But...let me back up.
 
As a little girl in Minnesota I grew up baking Thumbs with my mom, Barb. The smell of these tiny cookies would wake me up very early in the morning and I would see my mom rolling a tiny ball of dough and then placing it on the cookie sheet and finishing each one with athumb print. I was mezmorised.. Each one was so perfect. I asked if I could make them, too, and certainly she agreed. Mine however did not look so perfectly round and dainty, but she used them anyway. These quiet hours in the morning with my mom were some of my most treasured memories from growing up.  Over time,"Thumbs" became my mom's signature cookie for every occasion. Friends and family would always be asking for Barb's Thumbs! 

Rules of Thumb

These are some of my fondest memories and the cornerstone of the Thumbs Cookies story While I, too, wanted to share theses delicious bite sized, handmade cookies, I also wanted to celebrate the long time traditions of family time in the kitchen, and how that shapes many of us growing up. 

Under my Thumb

After living in Brooklyn for a few years as a struggling actress, I started to bake a lot. I found myself making lots of Thumbs. I started making variations such as Ginger Clove Thumbsand Thumb Pies (little sandwiches filled with chocolate hazelnut). After seeing how happy these little bite sized cookies made people, I wanted to share them with anyone I could!  
Thumb prints...or, Thumbs on a CakeSpy print!
Today, each Thumb is handmade with care. They are delicate, tiny and melt in your mouth. Many say that the taste makes them think of their childhood. That makes me very happy.  I have been working on several additional flavors, but for now I'd like to keep it simple-just as they started. 
Thumbs cookies
How did I market my wares at The Ace Hotel and Bedford Cheese Shop? Relationships. I actually work at The Ace and I am lucky enough to work at a place where people believe in their community and employees. I am a waitress in the Lobby. After the positivity of the first review from the Ace, the GM decided he wanted to order Thumbs Cookies weekly as a hotel amenity. Similarly, Stumptown Coffee at The Ace started to order them weekly as well. I brought them to The Bedford Cheese Shop and they seemed to be a good fit among the other "artisinal" products. The Bedford Cheese Shop has also been incredibly supportive and instrumental in helping me to further develop the  product's packing. 
Say hello to the bakers!
For more info on Thumbs Cookies, including where to buy, visit the website!
Tuesday
Mar052013

A Historical Look at the Mexican Wedding Cake Cookie

Mexican wedding cakes

Ah, Mexican Wedding Cakes: one of my favorite cakes that is not a cake at all, but a cookie!

And oh, what a cookie. These rich cookies rolled in confectioners' sugar to resemble sweet little snowballs crumble in your mouth in the most delightful way: basically butter and (usually) finely chopped nuts held together by flour and sugar, they begin to shatter and disintegrate the moment they hit your tongue. You may know them as Mexican Wedding Cakes. Or you might know them, with slight variations, under another name: Snowballs, Moldy Mice, Bullets, Russian Teacakes, Melting Moments, Mandulás kifli, Polvorones, Sand Tarts, Sandies, Butterballs, Almond Crescents, Finska kakor, Napoleon Hats (whew!). Mexican wedding cakes

These cookies hail from as many countries as they have names: talk about a universal cookie.

Mexican wedding cakes

Considering the many variations, is it possible to connect the cookie to a particular place? Well, you might first look back to sugar-rich medieval Arab cuisine. Sweetmeats, candies, and confections containing nuts (usually almonds) and spices were served at special occasions. Next, you spread it to Europe, a sweet tradition quickly adopted by Moors and taken to Spain. From then on it’s like playing Telephone: the concept of the cookie traveled far and wide, with each region taking on their own variations based on ingredients available at the time. This sweet cookie concept was then introduced to the New World by early explorers. Fast forward, and you've got a cookie tradition that has persisted due to the cookie's relative ease in preparation and simple but ultimately satisfying tastiness. 

Mexican wedding cakes In the 1950s, they started to appear in American cookbooks as Mexican Wedding Cakes, but it seems that it's really just a new name for an old cookie. They're nearly identical to Russian Teacakes, which were a popular dish at noble Russian tea ceremonies in the 1800s. A popular book in Russia from this era, entitled A Gift to Young Housewives, contains several morsels that are constructed similarly; it’s not hard to see how these treats came to be called Russian teacakes. So what's with the name's cultural makeover? I'm wondering if perhaps the name change was a Freedom Fries-esque name change in the 1950s and 1960s, when the Soviet Union and the United States were at odds with one another? It does seem to have coincided with a period during which TexMex cuisine made its entry into American culture in a big way.

But no matter what you'd like to call them, one thing remains true across cultures: these simple cookies are easy to make, and absolutely delightful to eat. Mexican wedding cakes

Mexican Wedding Cakes (Printable version here!)

Makes about 2 dozen 1-inch cookies

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts or pecans 
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Confectioners' sugar, for rolling

 Procedure

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  3. Add the flour gradually, beating well after each addition; pause to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
  4. Add the nuts and vanilla; beat just until evenly mixed in.
  5. Shape the dough into balls about 1 inch in diameter and place on the cookie sheets.
  6. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, rotating the position of the pans halfway through baking; the cookies are finished when they are lightly browned on the bottom and have a dull finish on top.
  7. Let the cookies cool on the pan for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack. While the cookies are still warm, gently roll them in a bowl of confectioners' sugar. Tap off the excess, and allow them to cool completely. When cool, roll them in the confectioners' sugar a second time before serving; the first coat tends to slightly melt into the cookie, and the second coat will ensure a pretty, snowy appearance.
  8. Store in a single layer in an airtight container for up to four days.
Thursday
Jan242013

Pastry Profiles: Hamantashen, Famous 4th Street Delicatessen, Philadelphia

Hamantashen, famous 4th street

I love Hamantashen. Those jaunty hat-shaped cookies may be most strongly associated with Purim, the Jewish holiday, but really, they taste great pretty much any day of the year. And luckily, they're available pretty much any time of the year at a delightful spot called The Famous 4th Street Delicatessen in Philadelphia. 

Famous 4th Street

The famous 4th Street is fantastic for many reasons, but most visually impressive is the sheer size of their baked goods. Seriously, the picture above doesn't quite give you an idea of scale. Their sweets are supersized: their cakes are baked in huge loaves, about 4 times the size of a regular piece of pound cake. Their coconut macaroons are the size of a softball;

Macaroon

the hamantashen measure about 5 inches across. While a mere look at the pricing might seem appalling ($3 for a hamantashen; $8 for an eclair), when considering the size of the goods, it's really quite appropriate.

Famous 4th street

But back to the hamantashen. Recently I picked up a few because I suspected that I would be able to double up and fill both my face and my soul with joy at once. 

Famous 4th Street

I was right.

IMAG1937

I'm not sure what experts would say, but for me, a successful hamantashen has a texture which falls somewhere between butter cookie and scone: very carb-y, lightly crumbly, but not crumble-apart. The Fourth street version managed to heighten my desired texture by attaining a crust that was flaky too. It was brushed with an egg wash for a pretty appearance and a nice light chewiness on top, which ensured that the cookie part crumbled and flaked in my mouth, not my hand. The cherry filling was good without being remarkable; the poppyseed and prune filling was more interesting, with a nice texture from the poppyseeds and the prune added a nice stickiness which contrasted the cookie with its mellow sweetness. It made me want to make like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz and sleep in all that poppy-fueled joy.

These cookies were perfect when paired with milk, and a delight as both an after dinner treat and a breakfast item. If you love Hamantashen, or think you might be willing to try to love it, Famous 4th street is a good place to try, says this Spy.

Famous 4th Street Delicatessen, Philadelphia; online here. 

Wednesday
Jan162013

Sweet Treats: White Wine Cookies Recipe

Ciambelline

I am not a wine expert. Occasionally a birthday cake or Twinkie expert, but for me, wine is something I enjoy without necessarily having a great deal of knowledge. In fact, if I may, let me share a funny anecdote which illustrates just how much the opposite of a wine expert I am.

One day, I was at a store picking out some wine. As usual, I was scanning the shelves for cool-looking labels and then doing a cross-examination of the bottle's price. If it has a cool label and is under $10, it's great in my book. Choosing one that fit my needs, I plucked it from the shelf, only to turn around and see some dude looking at me. He then said, "you just picked that because of the label, didn't you". Note that it wasn't so much a question as a statement. Yup--busted.

Ciambelline

That tale is meant to amuse you, but also to lead into the fact that when I received some sample bottles from SkinnyGirl wine, I wasn't 100 percent sure how to feel about them. My sister wanted to open and try some, so we did. To me, it just tasted like wine. It didn't taste lower calorie or anything, although technically, it is.

But there was one thing I was sure of, and it was that if I was going to use it for baking, I'd definitely have to fatten it up. Really, there's some logic to this: after all, if you're depriving yourself of all those precious calories in the wine, you'll have to make it up some other way, right? So now, you can have your wine and eat your cookies too.

Ciambelline

And after a quick google search on the subject, I knew exactly how I wanted to do this: by making Italian Wine Cookies. I found a great-looking recipe here, and was happy to discover I already had all of the ingredients on hand, except anise. I don't like anise that much (personal thing), so I used vanilla extract instead.

While it's possible that mixing with a stand mixer instead of by hand made the texture of my cookies a little different, I've got to tell you that taste-wise, they came out very well. This is an intriguing cookie--not extremely sweet, 

Ciambelline - Printable recipe here!

Adapted from Olive and Owl

Makes about 30

  • 3 1/2 cups of flour 
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon of anise
  • 1/2 cup of olive oil
  • 1/2 cup of white wine
  •  a little extra wine and sugar for topping

Procedure

In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients.

Then pour in the wine and oil and mix by hand or on low speed with an electric mixer until it becomes a dough. It will be a fairly stiff dough. Roll the dough out to about 1/2 inch thickness. Cut into strips about the thickness and length of your index finger, about 3 inches long and 1/2 wide. 

Ciambelline

Wrap the strip of dough around your finger and crimp the ends shut.

Ciambelline

Then place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes at 350 until golden and crisp. Note: these will be fairly hard--they are a dunking cookie.

Ciambelline

Not necessary, but if you'd like, mix some more wine and a little confectioners' sugar to make a glaze; also not necessary but cute, why not top with sprinkles?

Saturday
Jan122013

Pastry Pen Pals and Fudge-Filled Dessert Strips Recipe

Fudge Filled Cookie

I have a friend. A very special one. To prove how special he is, I'll show you something that he made me one day. Dear god were they good. The bottom part is a brownie, and the top part kind of tastes like the inside of a Cadbury Creme Egg. When I asked for the recipe, he said kindly but firmly, NO. 

Brownie supremes

Well, I never. But luckily, he has other good qualities. One of them is that he enjoys the life of a Cake Gumshoe, and when he visits Philadelphia, he's willing to go on long bakery jaunts with me.

And on a recent tour of the East Passyunk area of Philadelphia, we tried this cookie at Varallo Brothers Pasticceria. While it may slightly resemble a Fig Newton, I need to tell you that it was a million times better because it was filled with chocolate. 

Fudge Filled Cookie

And as a side note, we also got a cannoli. 

Cannoli

Cannoli

I should further mention that this was all after a slice of pizza from the weirdest pizza place in the world, La Rosa Pizza. Let's just say David Lynch would love this pizza place.

Pizza, La Rosa

But I digress. Back to that cookie. That beautiful chocolate stuffed cookie. At the bakery they just said it was a "chocolate slice", but it seemed to resemble one called cuccidati (though it is traditionally filled with fig, and I don't think there was secret fig in this cookie...or was there?).

Fudge Filled cookie

At any rate, it was a highly enjoyable experience.

So when my friend returned back home, we were delighted to play a little bit of pastry pen pal. I found a recipe (via the book Taste of Home Baking: 125 Bake-Sale Favorites!) for something called "Fudge Filled Dessert Strips", which sounded similar enough to call to mind that tasty chocolate slice. I sent him the recipe, and he made it and sent me pictures so I could share it with you, dear readers.

The cookies are reported as being "extremely dense and decadent", but surprisingly easy to make. The dough was rather easy to work with, he reports, and the finished product perfect with ice cream for dessert, or rather tasty for an indulgent breakfast.

Fudge Filled Cookie

You see, in this pastry pen pal relationship everyone wins, because he got to have a baking adventure and a delicious dessert, and I got a great recipe to post. But wait...where's my dessert? Well, ok, maybe not everyone wins. 

Fudge Filled cookie

But you can be a winner by making a batch! Here's the recipe with some adaptations from the original.

Fudge-Filled Dessert Strips - Printable Recipe here!

Adapted from Taste of Home Baking: 125 Bake-Sale Favorites!

Makes about 3 dozen

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 cups (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 cups chopped pecans (original recipe called for walnuts)
  • confectioners' sugar, optional

Fudge Filled Cookie

In a large bowl, cream the butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy. Gradually add flour and mix well. Turn onto a lightly floured surface; knead until smooth, about 3 minutes. Divide dough into fourths; cover and refrigerate for 1-2 hours, or until easy to handle.

Fudge Filled Cookie Fudge Filled Cookie

In a microwave-safe bowl, melt chocolate chips with milk; stir until smooth. Stir in the nuts. Cool to room temperature.

Fudge Filled Cookie Fudge Filled Cookie Fudge Filled Cookie

Roll out each portion of dough on to an ungreased baking sheet into an 11x6.5 inch rectangle. Spread 3/4 cup of the filling down the center of each rectangle. Fold long sides to the center; press to seal all the edges. Turn over so the seam sides are down.

Fudge Filled Cookie Fudge Filled Cookie

Bake at 350 degrees for 27-32 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove to wire racks to cool completely. Cut into 1/2 inch slices. Dust with confectioners' sugar if desired. 

Sunday
Dec232012

Chocolate Chip Pistachio Cookies for Christmas

Cookies

One of the most wonderful things about a recipe is all the places it can go.

Take, for instance, a recipe for two-tiered Chocolate Chip Pistachio Cookies that appeared in a women's magazine in the early 1980s. How could the recipe developer have known what a role this recipe would end up playing in the Spy family's lives?

Chocolate Chip Pistachio Cookies

After all, it was this recipe that struck the fancy of my mother (you know her as SpyMom) and intrigued her enough to bake a batch. And the whole family loved them. They were buttery and lightly crumbly but so soft and just ever so slightly chewy in the center, and the walnuts and pistachio and chocolate just worked so perfectly together. We all loved them so much, in fact, that the next year, she made them again. And the year after that. A tradition was born.

Chocolate Chip Pistachio Cookies

But somewhere along the line--was it when her children went to college, moved away, began having their own lives?--the cookies stopped being made. Every year someone (usually me) would lament the fact that they were missing from the festivities, but year after year, they did not make an appearance.

Chocolate Chip Pistachio Cookies

But this year, we brought the recipe out from hiberation. SpyMom found the handwritten recipe and told me that this was during her "penmanship phase", when she would stay up at night practicing perfect penmanship, trying to will her handwriting into something more perfect than it was. 

Pistachio Cookies

Since then, her handwriting has reverted back to its old, slighly messier, but in my opinion, more charming form.

But how wonderful to encounter this little slice of the past, complete with doodlings (mine? My little sister's?) and speckled with baking debris from years past. 

I baked the cookies while my parents were out, and when they returned, my mother shrieked. Chocolate Chip Pistachio Cookies"What?" I cried out, thinking that perhaps she'd seen a mouse. But no. "They're just like I used to make!" she said. And I may be getting a bit flowery here, but I think that she and my dad both had a little moment, thinking sweet memories. And that made me extremely happy, in turn. 

How's that for season's sweetings?

Chocolate Chip Pistachio Cookies Chocolate Chip Pistachio Cookies Chocolate Chip Pistachio Cookies

Chocolate Chip Pistachio Cookies

Chocolate Chip Pistachio Cookies

Makes about 24

  • 3 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 package (3 3/4 ounces) instant pistachio pudding (NOT sugar-free)
  • 6 ounces (half a bag) semisweet chocolate chips, plus 20-30 chips for garnish
  • confectioners' sugar, for dusting

Procedure

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper, or lightly grease them.
  2. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
  3. In a separate bowl, using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until smooth, 2-3 minutes on medium speed. Add the eggs, milk, and vanilla; blend until creamy. Add the flour mixture in 3-4 increments, mixing until a stiff dough forms. Remove 1/4 of the dough to a separate bowl; add the walnuts.
  4. To the remaining dough, add the pudding mix and stir until completely combined. Fold in the 6 ounces of chocolate chips.
  5. By rounded teaspoonfuls, form the green dough into balls, and place 1 1/2 inches apart on the prepared sheets. Using the back of a teaspoon or a floured drinking glass bottom, gently flatten the tops of these dough rounds. 
  6. Grab the small bowl of walnutty dough. Form the dough into marble-sized pieces, and place a ball of this dough on the top of each pistachio dough mound. Sort of like a two-part snowman. 
  7. Place a single chocolate chip on top of each of the cookies, pressing gently to make sure it will stay in place.
  8. Bake in your preheated oven for 8-10 minutes, or until set. It's going to be hard to see if they have become golden on the bottom, so mainly just look for a matte finish and an ever so slight golden color around the bottom edge. Remove from the oven and let cool on the rack for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. If desired, dust with confectioners' sugar.
Monday
Dec102012

Cake Mix Biscotti Recipe

Biscotti

I have a strange fascination with "doctored" cake mix creations. I love the idea that you can break the rules, so to speak, by using the mix in a way different than its simple intended purpose. In particular I love the recipes that have a finished product that is not cake at all, but cookies or pancakes or bars--it feels like the sweetest sort of kitchen science. So when I was leafing through a book called Complete Cake Mix Magic: 300 Easy Desserts Good as Homemade, I gravitated right toward the cake mix biscotti recipe. 

While the recipe in the book is for a hazelnut biscotti, I decided to go all holiday on this business and bake up some peppermint chip cake mix biscotti instead. Of course, this decision was also fueled by the fact that I had a bag of Andes brand Peppermint Crunch Baking Chips (I haven't seen them in many stores so there's the amazon link) which I thought would be festive and cute to use. 

Let's do this thing.

I also used a smaller box of cake mix than suggested in the recipe, so I scaled the rest of the ingredients down. The resulting biscotti weren't completely beautifully shaped, but gosh, were they tasty. Nice and buttery, like a condensed yellow cake with a crunchy crust, the smattering of mint chips gave the cookies a very nice, rich yet refreshing creamy mint finish on the tongue. Not such a bad thing.

Biscotti Biscotti

Cake Mix Biscotti

Makes about 18

  • 1 package (9 ounces) Jiffy yellow cake mix
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 stick butter, melted
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup Andes peppermint chips

Procedure

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the cake mix, flour, egg, and butter. Beat on low speed for 1 minute or until well blended. Fold in the peppermint chips until incorporated. Divide the dough in half.
  3. On a prepared baking sheet, shape the dough into a 10 by 3 inch rectangle that is 1/2 inch deep. Or you can make two shorter logs of dough, but make sure they have plenty of space as they will spread. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes.
  4. Using a sharp knife, cut each rectangle into 1/2 inch slices. Place slices on their side on baking sheets. Bake, one tray at a time, for 10 minutes. Turk slices over and bake for 5 to 10 minutes longer or until crisp and golden. Cool for 1 minute on baking sheets, then remove to wire racks and cool completely.
Sunday
Dec022012

Do This: Sugar Cookies with Peppermint Bark

Peppermint Bark Cookies

There really is no reason to improve sugar cookies, because they're already perfect.

But...sometimes even a perfect food likes to get festive for the holidays.

So recently, when I was baking some sugar cookies (because, you know, I was hungry), I thought: why not add a heaping handful of this peppermint bark that Willamette Valley Confectionery sent me? 

Willamette Valley Confectionery

While of course the bark and the cookies were both good on their own, I figured it might taste good to try them together.

Peppermint Bark Cookies

And so, I did.

And when the cookies baked up, they were a wonderful thing to behold. They were awfully pretty, with chocolatey peppermint hued thingies poking through the creamy coloring of the cookies.

But they were even better to put in your mouth.

You know how sugar cookies are awesomely buttery all over, soft on the inside, and lightly crunchy on the outside? Well, add an essence of peppermint to the whole thing, but a nice one, not a toothpasty one. A refreshing minty hint paired with all that buttery flavor? Oh my, were they ever a joy to munch and crunch upon.

So really, this is a long and poetic way of giving you a good cookie tip. Coarsely chop about 2 cups' worth of peppermint bark and fold it into your favorite sugar cookie batter before baking. I'm pretty sure you'll thank me.

Peppermint Bark Cookies

Here's the recipe I used.  

Sugar Cookies with Peppermint Bark

Adapted from Pop Rocks Cookies

  • 1/2 cup (3 1/4 ounces) butter
  • 2/3 cup (4 3/4 ounces) sugar
  • 1/4 cup (2 ounces) buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 2 cups (8 1/2 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

 

  1. In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter and sugar till smooth. Add the buttermilk and vanilla, again beating till well-combined. The mixture may look a bit curdled; that's OK.
  2. Add the flour, baking soda and salt to the wet ingredients, and beat until the mixture forms a cohesive dough. Fold in the pieces of peppermint bark. Reserve some pieces to press on top of the cookies (they look cuter that way).
  3. Drop the dough in round blobs onto a parchment-lined or greased baking sheet. They should be a bit bigger than a ping-pong ball, a bit smaller than a golf ball. Using a cookie scoop (or, if you have one, a small ice cream scoop, one that will hold about 2 level tablespoons of liquid) makes this task extremely simple. Leave about 2 inches between the dough balls, as they'll spread as they bake. Let the cookies chill (on the sheet) in the fridge for about 30 minutes before baking. They'll be nicer looking than mine, which I didn't let chill and they spread quite a bit.
  4. Bake the cookies in a preheated 350°F oven for about 12-14 minutes, or when they are just starting to brown. Remove them from the oven, and cool on a rack.
Wednesday
Nov282012

Almond Tuiles with Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Tuiles

If you're busting with sweet curiosity like I am, you're probably looking at the photo above and thinking: "what exactly are those thingies?".

Those lumpy little things are in fact a rather exquisite and refined cookie known as the Tuile.

Now, to say "Tuile", I have a cue to indicate how you should pronounce it. It rhymes with "wheel"; now, say it in your Frenchiest voice. 

Tuile of fortune

I googled "translation of tuile" and the resulting word was "tile". Perhaps this refers to the gentle shingle-like appearance the almond bits give the cookies? Whatever the meaning, these tiles are tastier than your typical siding or bit of caulked home decor.

The recipe was adapted by Alice Medrich (who you may recall I interviewed a while back) who adapted a recipe from The Essential James Beard Cookbook: 450 Recipes That Shaped the Tradition of American Cooking, with olive oil incorporated (you know how I love olive oil and sweets!). Here's what she has to say about it:

Tuile

Crispy crunchy and elegantly thin, these almond cookies were adapted from a recipe by James Beard, using California Olive Ranch Arbequina olive oil instead of butter, and with the addition of a bit of lemon zest and extra salt for a contemporary balance of flavors. Classic tuiles are cooled over a rolling pin to resemble the roof tiles they are named for, but you can skip that step and make them flat if you like, or use my shortcut for making curved tuiles.

Anyhow. As a tuile newbie, I found this recipe decidedly user-friendly. The olive oil makes them seem fancy, so if you have foodie people to impress this holiday season, definitely bring these cookies on. Gently sweet, they'd be just as at-home on a cheese plate as they would paired with ice cream. Now that's versatile.

The recipe below has my notes in BOLD. 

Ingredients Add Almonds Batter Cookies Cooling

Almond Tuiles with Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Makes about thirty 3- inch cookies I got 24 but mine were more like 3.5 inches

Ingredients:

  • 5 tablespoons (60 g) California Olive Ranch Arbequina extra virgin olive oil, plus more for the pan
  • 1/2 cup (100g) sugar  
  • 1 ½ teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • Scant ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1/4  (30 g) sifted* (before measuring) unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1 cup  (90 g) sliced almonds

*if you measure with a scale, there is no need to sift flour before measuring

Equipment:

  • Baking sheets
  • Heavy-duty foil (optional)
  • A rolling pin or cylinder for shaping ( optional)

Procedure

  1. Grease baking sheets with olive oil, or line them with foil, dull side facing up, and grease the foil.
  2. Mix the olive oil, sugar, grated zest, salt, and eggs whites together thoroughly (I used a whisk).  Add the flour and stir until well blended. Stir in the almonds.  Let the batter rest for while the oven heats or for at least 15 minutes.
  3. Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 325 degrees.
  4. Drop teaspoons of batter 2 inches apart on a baking sheet.  Use the back of the spoon to smear the batter into a 2 ½ inch round. Bake, watching carefully, for 12-16 minutes, until the tuiles are deep golden brown at the edges and paler golden brown in the center. (If the cookies are not baked long enough, they will not be completely crisp when cool.) I was able to fit 8 cookies per sheet.
  5. As soon as you can push a slim metal spatula under the cookies without destroying them, transfer each cookie to a rolling pin (for curved cookies) or a cooling rack.  If using foil, you can simply slide the foil sheet onto a rack to cool flat, or (for curved) tuiles, grasp the edges of the foil when the sheet comes from the oven (without touching the hot pan or the cookies) and roll it into a fat cylinder, gently curving the attached cookies like potato chips (I think: cannoli shells!).  Crimp or secure the foil with a paper clip. When cool, unroll the foil carefully and remove the tuiles. Flat or curved, tuiles are always easiest to remove from the foil when they are either very hot or completely cool. Do not let them cool too much or they will crack when shaped. I found that it was easiest to bake one sheet at a time for this reason. I used a piece of foil around the round dowel-y part of several wooden spoons to curve them - I found that the curve around a rolling pin was awkward and they tended to break when cooled because they didn’t stack as well as the more curved, cannoli-shell esque ones.
  6. Repeat until all of the tuiles are baked.  To retain crispness, put the cookies in an airtight container as soon as they are cool.  May be stored airtight for at least 1 month.
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