Monday, December 18, 2006

Holiday Cookies - Break out the Butter!

I just finished making several kinds of cookies to ship to my clients and it's always an adventure when you've got multiple baking projects underway. Some cookies need to be chilled, others left out on the counter before baking, some need to cool on the cookie sheet, others need to be removed from the cookie sheet and cooled on a rack. So many things to think about! But it's fun and result is tasty and so colorful. And hopefully you bring joy to the recipients (who simultaneously curse you for contributing to their packing on the pounds over the holidays).

Following are a couple of new recipes I tried that I think are really worth the time and effort. Both are from the December issue of Gourmet. I have made personal notes in the recipes to help you bypass a couple of the small issues I ran into. My experience is that baking with two cooking sheets in the oven at the same time and switching their rack position mid-way through does not work. One set of cookies is always more cooked than the others. But my oven is old-school so maybe you'll have better luck. My advice is to just cook one sheet of cookies at a time in the middle of the oven and ensure that your cookies come out the way you want. It takes longer but the result is better. Enjoy!

Cookie Recipes:
Cranberry Pistachio Shortbread Cookies
French Macaroons with Chocolate Ganache Filling

Cranberry Pistachio Shortbread Cookies recipe

• 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
• 1/2 tsp cinnamon
• 1/4 tsp salt
• 1-1/2 sticks unsalted butter (3/4 cup), softened
• 1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp granulated sugar
• 1/2 tsp finely grated orange zest
• 1/2 cup shelled pistachios (2-1/4 oz; not dyed red)
• 1/3 cup dried cranberries (1-1/4 oz)
• 1 large egg
• 1/4 cup decorative sugar (preferable coarse, white, red or green)

How to:

Make Dough
- Stir together flour, cinnamon and salt in a bowl.
- Beat together butter, granulated sugar and zest in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture in 3 batches, mixing until dough just comes together in clumps, then mix in pistachios and cranberries.
- Gather and press dough together, then divide into 2 equal pieces.
- Using a sheet of plastic wrap or wax paper as an aid, form each piece of dough into a log about 1-1/2 inches in diameter (these make small cookies so if you want them a little larger, make your log more like 2 or 2-1/2 inches).
- Square off long sides of each log to form a bar, then chill, wrapped in plastic, until very firm, about 2 hours.

Slice and Bake Cookies
- Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Brush egg over all 4 long sides of bars (but not ends). Sprinkle decorative sugar on a separate sheet of parchment or wax paper and press bars into sugar, coating well.
- Cut each bar crosswise into 1/4-inch thick slices, rotating bar after cutting each slice to help keep square shape. (If dough gets too soft to slice, freeze bars briefly until firm.) Arrange cookies about 1/2 inch apart on lined baking sheets.
- Bake cookies, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until edges are pale golden, 15 to 18 mimutes total.
- Transfer cookies from parchment to racks using a slotted spatula and cool completely.

Dough bars can be chilled to to 3 days. Cookies keep in airtight container at room temperature for about 5 days.

French Macaroons with Chocolate Ganache Filling recipe


For Macaroons:
• 6 oz (2 cups) sliced blanched almonds (not slivered)
• 1-1/2 cups confectioners sugar
• 3 large egg whites
• 1/8 tsp salt
• 3 tbsp sugar
• Red or pink food coloring

For the Chocolate Raspberry Ganache
• 3 oz quality bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
• 1/3 cup heavy cream
• 1/16 tsp raspberry extract (I couldn't find this so I used Chambord - probably even better!)

How to:

Make Macaroons
- Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Pulse almonds with 1/2 cup confectioners sugar in a food processor until very finely ground (2 to 3 minutes) then transfer to a bowl.
- Sift in the remaining cup confectioners sugar, stirring to combine.
- Beat egg whites with salt in another bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until they just hold soft peaks.
- Add granulated sugar, a little at a time, beating, then increase speed to high and continue to beat until whites just hold stiff, glossy peaks.
- Add drops of food coloring to reach desired shade and mix at low speed until evenly combined.
- Stir almond mixture into meringue with a rubber spatula until completely incorporated (meringue will deflate).
- Spoon batter into pastry or gallon-size sealable plastic bag, pressing out excess air. If you're not using a pastry bag, you will need to snip off the end of your pastry bag with about a 1/4-inch opening. Twist bag firmly above batter, then pipe peaked mounds of batter (the size of a chocolate kiss) onto lined sheets about 1-1/2 inces apart. Let cookies stand, uncovered, at room temperature until tops are no longer sticky and a light crust forms, 20 to 30 minutes.

- Meanwhile, put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat ove to 300 degrees.
- Bake cookies, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until crisp and edges are slightly darker, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool completely on sheets on racks. They make this crackling noise when they cool which is really cool.

Make Ganache while Macaroons Bake
- Melt chocolate with cream in a metal bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water or in top of a double boiler, stirring until smooth (bowl should not touch the water).
- Remove bowl from heat , then add butter and raspberry extract (or Chambord), stirring until butter is melted.
- Let stand at room temperature until cooled completely and slightly thickened (set on the window sill to expedite).

Assemble Cookies
- Carefully peel cookies from parchment.
- Sandwich a thin layer of ganache (about 1/2 tsp) between flat sides of cookies. I recommend finding something to lean them against while they're cooling so they two sides don't slide apart.

Note: The macaroons taste better several hours later. They turn from crunchy to a little chewy and the almond flavor really comes through then.

Filled macaroons keen in an airtight container at room temperature for around 5 days.

Labels: , , , , , ,


Blogger Zachary said...

mmm, seems delicious

2:42 PM  
Anonymous Donna said...

A labor of love, that's for sure. You're amazing!

1:11 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home