Friday, December 28, 2007

Pumpkin Muffin

Pumpkin Muffin
I go through cooking phases. The most recent one being cookies of course, but a while back I went through a muffin phase. I would bake a batch of muffins at least twice a week. If you flipped through my tattered, stain covered, spiral-bound cooking notebook, you may stumble upon the page that still has about 10 or 15 muffin flavors scribbled everywhere waiting to be baked. But as suddenly as this phase started, it stopped, and many muffins were sadly forgotten. Bettina is in town for winter break and we spent the day yesterday cooking and baking together. She wanted us to make muffins, due to the absence of muffins on the blog lately, and something with pumpkin, so naturally, we made pumpkin muffins (which happens to be one of the forgotten flavors on the list). These muffins are very light and so moist - not too sweet, not too pumpkiny, and not too spicy (you can definitely boost the amount of spices in the recipe if you want), overall a great muffin to start off your morning.

If you have leftover canned pumpkin from the holidays, this is a good way to use it up. Conversely, if you have leftover pumpkin from this recipe, you can store it in the freezer for another day.

Pumpkin Muffins

2 C AP flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1 egg
1/2 C packed brown sugar
1 C sour cream
4 Tbsp (half stick) butter, melted and cooled
3/4 C unsweetened, unspiced canned pumpkin puree

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Spray a muffin pan with nonstick spray or fill the tins with paper liners.

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. In another bowl, whisk together the egg and sugar first to break up the egg. Then add in the sour cream, melted butter, and pumpkin puree and whisk until smooth.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and fold until the mixture is evenly mixed, a few streaks of flour is okay but do not overmix.

Bake at 375 degrees F until a toothpick inserted in the middle of a muffin in the center of the pan comes out clean, about 20 - 25 mintues.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Yule Log


It's a marshmallow world in the winter,
When the snow comes to cover the ground,
It's the time for play, it's a whipped cream day,
I wait for it all year round.

Those are marshmallow clouds being friendly,
In the arms of the evergreen trees,
And the sun is red like a pumpkin head,
It's shining so your nose won't freeze.

The world is your snowball, see how it grows,
That's how it goes, whenever it snows,
The world is your snowball just for a song,
Get out and roll it along.

It's a yum-yummy world made for sweethearts,
Take a walk with your favourite girl,
It's a sugar date, what if spring is late,
In winter, it's a marshmallow world.


This month's Daring Baker challenge, a Yule Log complete with edible mushrooms, totally reminded me of a "Marshmallow World", one of my favorite Christmas songs. If you haven't heard it you can listen to it here (I love Dean Martin Christmas songs). I had a beautiful vision for my Yule Log. I would make a miniature Marshmallow World/Winter Wonderland on it with miniature evergreen trees, friendly marshmallow clouds, and a sweetheart couple taking a walk. Unfortunately, I lacked the appropriate miniature figurines to make this picturesque world on my Yule Log. *sigh* It was an adorable daydream. Sadly, not only was I unable to make this Marshmallow World Yule Log diorama, but long story short, I didn't have my camera to take a picture of the cake afterwards! So no pictures of this challenge. :( But I will still take everyone through my process.

The Yule Log consists of three components (the recipes are at the end) and we had lots of freedom with the flavoring this month.
Genoise cake - I kept it plain
Coffee buttercream frosting - I added a tiny bit of melted chocolate for a darker frosting
Meringue or Marzipan mushrooms - I chose the meringue mushrooms

The Cake:
My first impression of the cake was "holy cow that's a ton of sugar." 3/4 C of sugar for 1/2 C cake flour + 1/4 C cornstarch?! A lot of eggs and a lot of sugar went into this cake. The texture was a tad too eggy but it was way, way, way too sweet for me, especially with the filling and buttercream. Next time I make this I will probably use 1/4C or 1/3 C of sugar. I have a feeling my oven runs a little high, because after 10 minutes at 400 degrees F, my cake was a little overbaked and cracked when I went to roll it.

The Frosting:
Instead of making the full recipe of buttercream, I only made 2/3 of the recipe. I chose to fill the cake with Nutella whipped cream because coffee and chocolate pairs beautifully with hazelnuts and even more chocolate. Nutella whipped cream... yum!

As for the buttercream, mine didn't whip up as fluffy and beautiful as some other DB's but it was my first attempt at buttercream. I wanted my frosting to be a little darker so I added an ounce of melted dark chocolate. I skipped the rum/brandy in the recipe so I attempted to dissolve my instant espresso in the chocolate but this didn't work and the espresso stayed somewhat granular in the frosting. But this wasn't too big of a deal, only an aesthetic problem.

The Mushrooms:
I chose to make the meringue mushrooms. Many of my stems toppled over and lots of the mushrooms were somewhat deformed. I also pulled them out of the oven too quickly to assemble them because after the second drying they looked somewhat... shriveled and even more deformed. Ah well, they were tasty, like crunchy cotton candy!

The Assembly:
The recipe didn't specify which way I should roll the cake. Short fat log (the 10inch side of the cake) or a long skinny log (15 inch side of the cake)? I ended up making a short fat stump. Although the cake cracked, that was nothing a little frosting couldn't fix. ;)

The Verdict:
The cake was way too sweet (recipe's fault) and a little overbaked (my fault). The finished product with the buttercream and then the Nutella whipped cream filling, it was too rich for me too but that's not to say that it wasn't delicious because it certainly was. I loved the coffee buttercream (we Seattleites love our coffee) with a bit of chocolate and the Nutella whipped cream filling was perfect. I would definitely make this again, whether it's another Yule Log next Christmas or just a roll cake/layer cake for everyday eating.

Make sure to check out the Daring Baker's Blog Roll for more beautiful Yule Logs. They'll have pretty pictures!

I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas!

Yule Log
Perfect Cakes by Nick Malgieri and The Williams-Sonoma Collection: Dessert
Serves 12
Cake should be stored in a cool, dry place. Leftovers should be refrigerated

Plain Genoise
3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
Pinch of salt
3/4 C of sugar (use only 1/3 C)
1/2 C cake flour
1/4 C cornstarch

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Butter 1 10x15 inch jelly roll pan and line with parchment, then butter again on top of the parchment.

Bring a saucepan of water to a simmer.

Whisk the eggs, yolks, salt, and sugar together in a heatproof bowl like the bowl of a stand mixer. Place over the simmering saucepan of water and whisk until the mixture is about 100 degrees. It should feel lukewarm.

Whip on medium high speed until the egg mixture is light yellow, thick and foamy, and tripled in volume. It should fall off the whisk in ribbons that slowly dissolve.

While the eggs are whipping, sift together the cake flour and cornstarch.

Sift 1/3 of the flour mixture over the beaten eggs. Fold this in, then sift another 1/3 of the flour in, fold, and repeat.

Scrape the batter into the jelly roll pan and smooth the top. Bake for 10 - 12 minutes, or until the cake springs back when touched and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

While the cake is baking, begin making the buttercream.

Coffee Buttercream
4 large egg whites
1 C sugar
3 sticks (1 1/2 C) unsalted butter, room temp, softened
2 Tbsp instant espresso powder
2 Tbsp rum or brandy
1 oz melted dark chocolate

Whisk the egg whites and sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer. Set the bowl over simmering water and whisk gently until the sugar is dissolved and the egg whites are hot.

Attach the bowl to the mixer and whip with the whisk on medium speed until cooled. Switch to the paddle and beat in the softened butter and continue beating until the buttercream is smooth. Dissolve the instant coffee in the liquor and beat into the buttercream.


Nutella Whipped Cream
1/2 C heavy whipping cream
1/4 C Nutella

Add the two together in a bowl and whip until stiff peaks.

Filling and frosting the log:
Turn the cake out of the pan onto a clean sheet of parchment and peel away the parchment on the bottom. Spread with filling. Roll the cake into a tight cylinder. Refrigerate for several hours.

Unwrap the cake. Trim the ends on the diagonal, starting the cuts about 2 inches away from each end. Position the larger cut piece on each log about 2/3 across the top. Cover the log with the reserved buttercream, making sure to curve around the protruding stump. Streak the buttercream with a fork or decorating comb to resemble bark.

Transfer the log to a platter and decorate with your mushrooms and whatever other decorations you’ve chosen.


Meringue Mushrooms
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
½ cup (3-1/2 ounces/105 g.) granulated sugar
1/3 cup (1-1/3 ounces/40 g.) icing sugar
Unsweetened cocoa powder for dusting

Preheat the oven to 225 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment. Have ready a pastry bag fitted with a small (no. 6) plain tip. In a bowl, using a mixer on medium-low speed, beat together the egg whites and cream of tartar until very foamy. Slowly add the granulated sugar while beating. Increase the speed to high and beat until soft peaks form when the beaters are lifted. Continue until the whites hold stiff, shiny peaks. Sift the icing sugar over the whites and, using a rubber spatula, fold in until well blended.

Scoop the mixture into the bag. On one baking sheet, pipe 48 stems, each ½ inch (12 mm.) wide at the base and tapering off to a point at the top, ¾ inch (2 cm.) tall, and spaced about ½ inch (12 mm.) apart. On the other sheet, pipe 48 mounds for the tops, each about 1-1/4 inches (3 cm.) wide and ¾ inch (2 cm.) high, also spaced ½ inch (12 mm.) apart. With a damp fingertip, gently smooth any pointy tips. Dust with cocoa. Reserve the remaining meringue.

Bake until dry and firm enough to lift off the paper, 50-55 minutes. Set the pans on the counter and turn the mounds flat side up. With the tip of a knife, carefully make a small hole in the flat side of each mound. Pipe small dabs of the remaining meringue into the holes and insert the stems tip first. Return to the oven until completely dry, about 15 minutes longer. Let cool completely on the sheets.

Garnish your Yule Log with the mushrooms.


Marzipan Mushrooms
8 ounces almond paste
2 cups icing sugar
3 to 5 tablespoons light corn syrup
Cocoa powder

To make the marzipan combine the almond paste and 1 cup of the icing sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat with the paddle attachment on low speed until sugar is almost absorbed.

Add the remaining 1 cup of sugar and mix until the mixture resembles fine crumbs.

Add half the corn syrup, then continue mixing until a bit of the marzipan holds together when squeezed, adding additional corn syrup a little at a time, as necessary: the marzipan in the bowl will still appear crumbly.

Transfer the marzipan to a work surface and knead until smooth.

Roll one-third of the marzipan into a 6 inches long cylinder and cut into 1-inch lengths.

Roll half the lengths into balls. Press the remaining cylindrical lengths (stems) into the balls (caps) to make mushrooms.

Smudge with cocoa powder.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Pate and Cornichon Sandwich

Pate Sandwich

Back when Steven and I were both at the UW, we would frequent a little French bakery a few minutes from campus. Le Fournil not only had delicious croissants, too-gorgeous-to-be-edible pastries, freshly baked bread, but they also made some pretty amazing sandwiches. It was there that I first experienced the heavenly combination of a ham and butter sandwich but it can't top my favorite, their pate and cornichon sandwich. The flavors of the rich pate, intensely sour cornichons, and just a hint of Dijon mustard to tickle your nose marry perfectly on a crusty baguette, creating a perfect sandwich.

I always save the giblets after I roast chickens. The necks are added to stocks. The heart and gizzards are "red cooked." Last but not least, the livers are reserved for chicken liver pate. I'm not sure what kind of pate the bakery uses but I attempted to recreate my favorite sandwich at home with chicken liver pate. With so many chicken liver pate recipes out there, I adapted a recipe by Julia Child, who is my resource for all things French.

Chicken Liver Pate
Adapted from Julia Child

1/2 lb chicken livers, trimmed of any fat or gristle
1 C milk
1/2 small onion, chopped
1/4 C chicken broth
1 stick butter (and 1 additional Tbsp if sealing the pate)
1 Tbsp brandy or Cognac
1/2 tsp salt
Black pepper
1 sprig of thyme, leaves roughly chopped

After washing and trimming the livers, soak them in milk for 4 hours to overnight. After soaking, drain the livers and set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon of butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the chopped onions, salt, and pepper. Once the onions start to soften and develop some color along the edges, add the chopped thyme leaves, chicken livers, and chicken broth. Cover and simmer until the livers are fully cooked, about 12 minutes.

Transfer the entire contents of the saucepan to a food processor. Cut the remaining 7 tablespoons of butter into pats. Add the butter and liquor to the food processor and puree until smooth.

Optional step before chilling: sealing the pate
Melt a tablespoon of butter and pour it over the top of the pate.

Transfer the contents to ramekins, cover with plastic wrap, and chill until set, at least 4 hours.


Pate will taste better after a night in the fridge as the flavors develop. A sealed pate will keep up to a week and it can also be frozen.

Pate and Cornichon Sandwich

A section of crusty baguette, cut in half
Strong dijon mustard
Cornichons, sliced in half lengthwise
Pate

Add a thin layer of dijon to the top half of the baguette. On the bottom half spread a generous layer of pate and add the cornichon halves on top of the pate. Enjoy!



Friday, December 14, 2007

Day 12: Butterfinger Chocolate Chip Cookie

Butterfinger Chocolate Chip Cookie

I hope you guys aren't sick of cookies by now but here we are, the twelfth cookie! The recipe is a day late because I didn't have any Butterfingers yesterday but now the missing ingredient has been purchased and the final cookie has been baked. These Butterfinger chocolate chip cookie were originally created as a way to use up leftover Halloween candy but serendipitously, it turns out that the Butterfingers work very well in cookies. The candy keeps it's crumbly crunch and even caramelizes slightly in the oven.

The recipe is an adaptation of Cook's Illustrated chocolate chip cookie recipe, which by the way makes an awesome chocolate chip cookie. I added a bit of peanut butter to boost the Butterfinger flavor. I like to use the fun size candy bars and chop them up. Sometimes parts of the candy completely crumbles into little shards but that's fine, mix it all into the dough, Butterfinger dust and all. The smaller pieces melts into the cookie while the larger chunks keep their shape. I'm guessing you can also use the Butterfinger BBs (though the BBs might be a little too big) and skip the chopping, but I love the rustic look of the chopped up chunks.

If you can't find the Butterfinger bars, you can try substituting chopped up Heath Bars or just toffee/peanut brittle pieces in general. I like using Butterfingers because of its crumbly and loose texture (easy on your teeth). Toffee may be too hard in a chewy cookie, especially after baking.



Butterfinger Chocolate Chip Cookie
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated Chocolate Chip Cookie

2 C flour
1 1/2 stick (12 Tbsp) butter, melted and cooled
1/4 C creamy peanut butter
1 C packed brown sugar
1 T vanilla extract
1 egg
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 C bittersweet or semi sweet chocolate chips
Roughly 2/3 to 3/4 C chopped Butterfingers (5 or 6 fun size bars)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Chop the butterfingers into roughly 1/2 inch pieces.

In a bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together. In a separate bowl, whisk the melted and cooled butter, peanut butter, brown sugar, egg, and vanilla until smooth.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients mix until almost combined, stir in the chips and chopped butterfingers.

Form 1/4 C balls of dough. The recipe will make about 16 cookies. Space the balls of dough about 3 inches about and gently flatten them a bit to aid their spread.

Bake at 325 degrees F for about 15 to 18 minutes or until the edges have set but the center still looks underdone. Rotate the sheet halfway through baking. Start checking the cookies at 13 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the cookie sheet.


So there we have it! 12 holiday cookies for Christmas 2007. Enjoy everyone!

Day 1: White Chocolate Cashew Macadamia Butter Cookies
Day 2: Shortbread Bars with Mango Jam
Day 3: Pumpkin Butter Thumbprints
Day 4: Butterscotch Cookies with Hazelnuts
Day 5: Best Oatmeal Cookies Ever with Chocolate Chunks, Pecans, and Dried Cherries
Day 6: Torta Sbrisolona
Day 7: Alfajores
Day 8: Orange Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti
Day 9: Brown Sugar Cookie
Day 10: Flaky Black Sesame Cookie
Day 11: Gingerbread



I will be submitting these to Susan for her Eat Christmas Cookies Event. So head on over for even more Christmas Cookies!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Day 12: Ingredients MIA

Hi! I hope everyone is enjoying the 12 Days of Cookies so far. I had a really great cookie planned for today but I totally forgot to buy the main ingredient for the piece de resistance cookie. Right now, I'm a little pooped from work. I apologize but the 12th cookie will be a day late but this is just a one woman show so bear with me until tomorrow. :)

See you then!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Day 11: Gingerbread

Gingerbread

With only two recipes to go, I opted for a very classic Christmas cookie. I don't have any Christmasy cookie cutters but I do have an adorable set of Easter cookie cutters, which explains the gingerbread ducks.

Gingerbread can be a tricky to work with because the dough tends to get a little sticky but just keep the dough very cold when you work with it. Stick the dough in the freezer for 10 minutes if you need to. For chewy gingerbread roll it out a little thick, about 1/4 inch, and bake them for a short amount of time and leave them a tad underbaked. For drier cookies used for decorations, bake them longer to harden them. For thin and crispy gingersnap-like cookies, roll the dough thinner and bake them a little longer.


Gingerbread Cookies
3 C AP Flour
10 Tbsp (1 stick + 2 Tbsp) butter
1/2 C packed dark brown sugar
1/2 C molasses
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp powdered ginger
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg

Beat the butter until fluffy. Add the brown sugar and beat until evenly mixed. Then add the egg, molasses, and vanilla and continue to beat until smooth. In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix until everything is thoroughly combined.

Gather the dough in a mound and flatten into a disc. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the freezer for 15 minutes or in the fridge for an hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degree F. Lightly flour the dough and roll out the dough in between two pieces of parchment to about 1/4 inch thick. Peel off the top layer of parchment then flip the dough over and peel off the bottom layer of parchment. Use a cookie cutter of your choice to cut out pieces of dough. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, the cookie will still be soft. Do not overbake.

Gather up the scraps in a mound and rechill the dough to roll it out again, otherwise it will be too sticky to work with.


Day 1: White Chocolate Cashew Macadamia Butter Cookies
Day 2: Shortbread Bars with Mango Jam
Day 3: Pumpkin Butter Thumbprints
Day 4: Butterscotch Cookies with Hazelnuts
Day 5: Best Oatmeal Cookies Ever with Chocolate Chunks, Pecans, and Dried Cherries
Day 6: Torta Sbrisolona
Day 7: Alfajores
Day 8: Orange Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti
Day 9: Brown Sugar Cookie
Day 10: Flaky Black Sesame Cookie

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Day 10: Flaky Black Sesame Cookie

Flaky Black Sesame Cookies

We're nearing the end of the 12 Days of Cookies and I wanted to make a Chinese cookie. The problem is that there aren't many classic Chinese cookies and no fortune cookies do not count. The lack of home baking is because most Chinese households don't even have an oven and baking is primarily done in bakeries in the form of little bread buns and pastries, rarely, if ever, cookies. But for the purposes of this cookie event, these Thousand Layer Cookie will be our Chinese cookie of the day because 1. Steven's mom bought these at our local Asian supermarket (99 Ranch) and 2. There are Chinese characters on the packaging (which I think say qian ceng bing aka Chinese for Thousand Layer Cookie), which makes these Chinese cookies (good reasoning right?). So when you open up the wrapper, inside is a cookie about 2 inches long, 1 inch wide, and roughly 3/8 inch thick. There are a few sugar crystals on top of the cookie to give it an extra crunch. Break it in half and you see that though it is not 1000 layers, it is indeed very flaky, with a few black sesame seeds.

Thousand Layer Cookie Experiment

Thousand Layer Cookie Experiment

The main difference between Chinese baking and Western baking is that the Chinese use lard instead of butter (we like our pork and pork products). As a result of using lard, the baked goods are flakier and more tender but lack the characteristic flavor of butter. My goal was to recreate this cookie at home because they're really, really good and addicting. The ingredients seemed pretty straight forward: 1. use a combination of butter and shortening to approximate lard, 2. add in some whole wheat flour (because the back of the wrapper had a picture of wheat, again more good reasoning right?), 3. some black sesame seeds, 4. and finally some raw sugar on top for crunch. The hardest part of this recipe was creating the flaky texture.

My first attempt was to use the Chinese pastry technique. An oil dough (shortening, butter, and flour) is sealed inside a water dough (flour, oil, water, sugar) and rolled out and folded repeatedly, much like puff pastry. However, I've never made puff pastry or Chinese pastry before so this led to the disastrous result of One Layer Cookie (bleh). So I tried a second technique, which was to adapt a basic pie dough recipe to create the flaky layers. The layers will not be as uniform and distinct as a cookie made with the Chinese flaky pastry technique but this is much easier to do at home and with a food processor, the dough takes a minute to put together.

And the results? As you can see, my cookie does not have as many handsome layers as the original. Texture wise, it is a little more crunchy and fragrant than the packaged cookie because I used a little butter in combo with the shortening. I learned that my Chinese pastry technique definitely needs more practice and I will continue trying to recreate the original cookie. But this recipe is a great start (A for effort *thumbs up*) and the cookies have excellent flavor. The black sesame seeds adds a delicious nuttiness and the raw sugar adds a great crunch to this unique cookie.



Flaky Black Sesame Cookie

3/4 C AP flour
1/2 C white whole wheat flour (if you don't have it AP flour is fine)
4 Tbsp cold shortening
4 Tbsp cold butter
1/4 C sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 Tbsp black sesame seeds
3 - 5 Tbsp ice cold water
1 - 2 Tbsp raw sugar

Mix the two flours, sugar, salt, and black sesame seeds until everything is evenly combined. Cut the shortening and butter into cubes and scatter them in flour. Make sure your shortening and butter are very cold. Use a food processor and pulse the butter with the flour until the mixture looks crumbly and the butter pieces are no bigger than a pea. Alternatively use a pastry cutter or two forks and cut the butter into the flour.

Start with 3 tablespoons of water and scatter it over the mixture. Pulse in the food processor slightly until the dough comes together. If it still looks dry add a little bit more water (I used a little over 4 tablespoons). If you're doing this by hand, scatter the water over the mixture and fold with a spatula and press the crumbs together until the dough starts to come together.

Form the dough into a flat disc, wrap with plastic wrap, and chill in the fridge for at least an hour or in the freezer for 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Flour your work surface and roll out the dough into a rectangle until it is about 1/4 inch to 3/8 inch thick. Scatter raw sugar on top of the dough and gently press in. Cut into 1 inch by 2 inch portions and place them on a baking sheet. Bake until the cookies are golden, about 25 to 30 minutes.


Day 1: White Chocolate Cashew Macadamia Butter Cookies
Day 2: Shortbread Bars with Mango Jam
Day 3: Pumpkin Butter Thumbprints
Day 4: Butterscotch Cookies with Hazelnuts
Day 5: Best Oatmeal Cookies Ever with Chocolate Chunks, Pecans, and Dried Cherries
Day 6: Torta Sbrisolona
Day 7: Alfajores
Day 8: Orange Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti
Day 9: Brown Sugar Cookie

Monday, December 10, 2007

Day 9: Brown Sugar Cookie

Brown Sugar Cookie

Sugar cookies are a ubiquitous part of the holiday cookie platter. Though fun to decorate, they are often bland and not very fun to eat. I'm not a big fan of eating food coloring icing anyway. But these brown sugar cookies are a whole another story. With hints of butterscotch, molasses, and caramel, these cookies are anything but ordinary. I really have to give it to Cook's Illustrated for coming up with such a delicious cookie using (as with many CI recipes) what may seem like a strange but ingenious technique. This cookie sounds deceptively simple, just take a regular sugar cookie and swap the granulated sugar with brown sugar, but this caused a variety of problems. In the end after much tweaking, the key step was using browned butter. Browned butter adds an amazing depth and irresistible fragrance to this cookie. It is a crucial step that should not be skipped.

Like a normal sugar cookie, the cookie is rolled in sugar and I chose to roll these in some raw sugar, which adds a delicious crunch to the exterior of the cookie. The fragrance of browned butter, the crunch of raw sugar, and a chewy interior bursting with brown sugar flavor creates a truly unique and addictive cookie. I adapted the recipe by getting rid of an egg yolk since I have too many egg whites in the freezer already and decreasing the sugar (originally the recipe called for 1 3/4 C) because otherwise the cookie is much too sweet. Remember to keep an eye on the butter because it will go from browned to burnt faster than you can say beurre noisette.

Raw sugar or turbinado sugar is unrefined sugar cane and comes in the form of pale golden crystals. You can buy it in packet form but I believe it also comes in larger box quantities. I really recommend using raw sugar, as opposed to the substitute sugar mix, because not only does it provide a better crunch, the bigger crystals also look great.



Brown Sugar Cookie
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated

1 3/4 sticks butter (14 tablespoons)
2 C AP flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 C packed dark brown sugar (use soft brown sugar; old and hard brown sugar will make a drier cookie)
1 egg
1 Tbsp vanilla

Sugar coating
1/3 - 1/2C raw sugar
or if you don't have raw sugar
3 Tbsp sugar
3 Tbsp dark brown sugar

In a small saucepan melt 10 tablespoons of butter, reserve the remaining 4 tablespoons and set aside, over medium low heat. Do not use a nonstick skillet or saucepan with a dark finish because you will not be able to gauge how dark the butter solids are. The butter will melt, then a white foam will appear onto of the melted butter. Continue to cook and stir. The white foam will disappear and pay close attention because pretty soon the butter will start to smell nutty and caramelly and the solids will start to brown at the bottom of the pan. It will take about 1 to 3 minutes. Once you see the solids start to turn golden brown, remove the pan from heat but continue to stir. The residual heat from the butter will continue to caramelize the butter solids. Once the solids are nutty brown (return the pan to low heat if you need to brown the butter a tad more) stir in the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter to slow the cooking process. Transfer the mixture to a heatproof bowl (like the bowl of a KitchenAid) and set aside for 15 minutes. To cool the butter faster, dip the bottom of the bowl in a pot of cold water.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a shallow dish pour out raw sugar or if you don't have raw sugar, make a mixture of white sugar and brown sugar. Set this aside for rolling later.

Add the 1 1/4 C packed brown sugar, egg, and vanilla to the melted butter in the bowl, and mix until everything is evenly incorporated. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and mix until evenly combined and no pockets of flour remain.

Form about 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoon balls of dough, making 24 cookies. Roll each ball of dough in sugar and space them 2 inches apart. Bake until the cookies are puffy and the edges have set but the centers are still underdone, about 12 to 14 minutes. Rotate the cookie sheet halfway through baking. Do not overbake.

Remove the cookie sheet and cool the cookies on the sheet for 1 - 2 minutes. Then remove to a rack and cool to room temperature.


Day 1: White Chocolate Cashew Macadamia Butter Cookies
Day 2: Shortbread Bars with Mango Jam
Day 3: Pumpkin Butter Thumbprints
Day 4: Butterscotch Cookies with Hazelnuts
Day 5: Best Oatmeal Cookies Ever with Chocolate Chunks, Pecans, and Dried Cherries
Day 6: Torta Sbrisolona
Day 7: Alfajores
Day 8: Orange Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti
Day 9: Brown Sugar Cookie



I will be submitting these to Susan for her Eat Christmas Cookies Event. This recipe is another one of my favorites! So head on over for even more Christmas Cookies!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Day 8: Orange Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti

Orange Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti
Biscotti always struck me as a very sophisticated, grown-up cookie, also one that would be difficult to make at home. Little did I know that these elegant cookies are actually very easy to make (you don't even have to use a stand mixer!). This holiday variation decorated with red cranberries and green pistachios makes a festive cookie that's perfect for dunking in hot chocolate. These cookies also make a great holiday gift because not only do they look impressive, they ship well and keep for a long time. You can dip the cookies in melted dark chocolate or white chocolate for even more wow factor (I got a little lazy towards the end of the day). I will eventually dip them in chocolate because I love the way the chocolate slightly melts in espresso or hot chocolate.

Biscotti doughs all contain the basic flour, sugar, baking powder, flavorings, and eggs but can be divided into 3 categories: dough that uses whole eggs, only egg whites, or whole eggs with additional fat such as butter or extra egg yolk. Cook's Illustrated tested all 3 doughs and had a great summary of their findings. Egg white dough created a toothcrackingly hard cookie - not the best choice. Whole eggs dough made a great cookie that keeps very well. Better yet, the cookies seems to improve with age. Dough made with whole eggs supplemented with butter or additional yolks had the best flavor. However they should be eaten quickly (best the day they are made) because they tend to go stale more quickly due to the butter. For shipping and gifting, I would recommend using the whole egg dough. However, if you plan to eat these regularly like with your morning coffee, go for adding a little extra butter (modified recipe at the end)



Orange Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated

2 C AP flour
3/4 C sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 Tbsp grated orange zest
1/2 C dried cranberries
1/2 C pistachio halves

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, pistachio halves, and cranberries. In a separate bowl whisk together the eggs, sugar, vanilla extract, and orange zest. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until everything is evenly incorporated.

Divide the dough in half and form two logs that are about 10 to 12 inches long and 2 1/2 to 3 inches wide. Bake for 30 minutes, rotate the pan halfway into the baking time.

After baking, cool the loaves on a rack until they are cool enough to handle.

Then using a serrated knife cut the cookies about 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch thick at an angle. The length of your cookies will depend on the angle at which you cut the cookies.

Lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees F.

Place the cut biscottis on a rack placed on a sheet tray and continue to bake for about 20 minutes, until the cookies have completely dried. If you don't have a rack for your pan, place the cookies directly on the pan and bake for 10 minutes, then flip them over and bake for another 10 minutes.

Let the cookies cool completely before storing them. Or dip them in some chocolate if you prefer.


Orange Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti (butter dough)

2 C AP flour
3/4 C sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
4 Tbsp butter
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 Tbsp orange zest
1/2 C dried cranberries
1/2 C pistachio halves

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, vanilla, and orange zest and mix. In a bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, pistachio halves, and cranberries. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until the dough comes together and everything is evenly incorporated.

Proceed shaping and baking same as the recipe above.


Day 1: White Chocolate Cashew Macadamia Butter Cookies
Day 2: Shortbread Bars with Mango Jam
Day 3: Pumpkin Butter Thumbprints
Day 4: Butterscotch Cookies with Hazelnuts
Day 5: Best Oatmeal Cookies Ever with Chocolate Chunks, Pecans, and Dried Cherries
Day 6: Torta Sbrisolona
Day 7: Alfajores



I will be submitting these to Susan for her Eat Christmas Cookies Event. So head on over for even more Christmas Cookies!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Day 7: Alfajores

Alfajores

Okay let's brush those sbrisolona crumbs off the sides of our mouth and hop on a plane from Italy to Argentina, Uruguay, Peru, Ecuador, Paraguay, Brazil or Chile (whichever country you prefer, maybe somewhere warm). The delectable alfajor, a sandwich cookie made with buttery biscuits filled a layer of dulce de leche, is a very popular snack in all of these South American countries. The cookies can be dusted with some powdered sugar or covered with chocolate. I dunno about you but anything with dulce de leche has my full, undivided attention. And yes these are as delicious as they sound.

Dulce de leche is very easy to make at home. You can either start with whole milk and use Pim's recipe or start with a can of sweetened condensed milk. I chose to with go the condensed milk route but I was scared to death of the whole "can may explode" warnings because hey if it can happen, it will probably happen to me. I envisioned a loud bang and hot goo covered can shrapnel flying every which way. So better play it safe. Luckily, I found an explosion-free way to make dulce de leche using a double boiler.

Explosion-Free Stovetop Dulce de Leche
Pour the can of condensed milk in the top part of the double boiler and simmer for a few hours, stirring occasionally until the DDL is the color and thickness you like. At the end of cooking mine was almost solid. Steven turned the pan upside down and marveled that it barely moved at all.



Alfajores

1 - 1 1/4 C AP flour
1/2 C corn starch
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 C sugar
1 stick of butter
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Dulce de leche
Powdered sugar
Cinnamon (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. In another bowl whisk together the flour (starting with 1 cup), cornstarch, baking powder, and salt and set aside.

Add the egg and vanilla to the butter and beat until smooth. Add the dry ingredients and beat until the dough comes together. Add some of the remaining 1/4 C of flour if the dough is too wet.

Roll out the dough to about 1/8 in thickness and cut into whatever shape you desire. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until the edges are light golden brown.

Cool on a rack and fill with a teaspoon or more of dulce de leche (I chose more).

Dust the tops with some powdered sugar (add a tiny bit of cinnamon if preferred). I skipped the dusting part.


Day 1: White Chocolate Cashew Macadamia Butter Cookies
Day 2: Shortbread Bars with Mango Jam
Day 3: Pumpkin Butter Thumbprints
Day 4: Butterscotch Cookies with Hazelnuts
Day 5: Best Oatmeal Cookies Ever with Chocolate Chunks, Pecans, and Dried Cherries
Day 6: Torta Sbrisolona



These are one of my favorites so I will be submitting these to Susan for her Eat Christmas Cookies Event. Head on over to her blog for even more Christmas Cookies!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Day 6: Torta Sbrisolona

Torta Sbrisolona

Torta sbrisolona, which literally means crumbly cake, is more like a big cookie. It is a speciality of the city of Mantua/Mantova from the Lombardy region of Italy. The cake is a very old and traditional one and popular during Christmas time. In the oldest recipe neither butter nor eggs were used because many people could not afford these rich ingredients. This cookie should not be cut, instead, set it on a platter and have everyone breaks off a piece a two.

The flavor reminds me a little of shortbread but it is more crisp and crumbly and the top is covered with crunchy streusel-like pieces. Some recipes use a combination of cornmeal and flour (I think this is more traditional) and other recipes are flavored with a little lemon zest but I chose to enhance the almonds with almond and vanilla extracts. Next time I will try substituting some of the flour with finely ground cornmeal. The original Martha Stewart recipe yields a very thick cookie so I decreased the recipe for a slightly thinner cookie.

How to blanch almonds


Torta Sbrisolona
Adapted from Martha Stewart Baking Handbook

1 1/2 sticks of butter, cold
1 1/2 C AP flour
1 1/2 C blanched almonds, finely ground
1/2 C sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp of almond extract or 1 - 2 tsp of amaretto

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter a 10 inch springform pan. I found that buttering the pan was unnecessary since the cookie is quite buttery.
In a mixing bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, finely ground blanch almonds, and salt or pulse ingredients together in a food processor. Cut the butter into the dry ingredients then about halfway through sprinkle in the extracts and continue to cut until the mixture is fully incorporated and starts to come together, there should be no dried crumbs. Or alternatively you can pulse the butter into the dry ingredients in a food processor. Squeeze the mixture to form pea to 1 inch size clumps of dough.

Gently press about 1/4 of the crumbs into bottom of the springform pan. Sprinkle the rest of the mixture evenly over the top. Bake until the cookie starts to turn pale golden, about 20 minutes. Then lower the temperature to 300 and continue to bake for 20 more minutes until the cookie is dry and crisp. Cool on a rack and release from the springform before serving.

Place on a platter and dust with powdered sugar if preferred.

Makes 1 10 inch cookie


Day 1: White Chocolate Cashew Macadamia Butter Cookies
Day 2: Shortbread Bars with Mango Jam
Day 3: Pumpkin Butter Thumbprints
Day 4: Butterscotch Cookies with Hazelnuts
Day 5: Best Oatmeal Cookies Ever with Chocolate Chunks, Pecans, and Dried Cherries

How to Blanch Almonds

Turning raw almonds into blanched almonds is easy peasy.

Blanching Almonds

Boil some water (saucepan, kettle, microwave, etc.), enough to cover your almonds.

Place your almonds in a heat proof bowl and pour boiling water over them. Cover with a plate or lid and let it sit for 1 minute only, any longer and your almonds will get soggy.

Drain them in a sieve and run them under cold water and drain again. Do not let the almonds sit in water. Then use your fingers and squeeze them out of their skins. The skins will have separated off the nut and will come off very easily. Be careful of the almonds shoot out of your fingers and onto the kitchen floor.

Dry the almonds on a paper towel then bake them at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for 5 to 10 minutes.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Day 5: Best Oatmeal Cookies Ever

Best Oatmeal Cookie Ever: Chocolate Chunk, Pecan, Dried Cherries

Today's cookie is a little late in the day but trust me, they are worth the wait. When I asked Steven what cookies I should make for the 12 days, the first thing he said were "Oatmeal!" Oatmeal cookies are his favorite but this ain't your average oatmeal raisin. These are absolutely, positively the best oatmeal cookies ever. Ever. They're big, they're chewy, and they're loaded with chocolate chunks, pecans, and dried cherries in every bite. It doesn't get much better than that. Out of the six cookies (including the one for tomorrow) I've baked so far, Steven deemed these the best yet but there's still six more cookies to go.

You can substitute walnuts or hazelnuts for the pecans (but I love pecans so I never use anything else), and dried cranberries (what I did since I ran out of dried cherries) for the dried cherries. You can also use quick cooking oats but the cookies will be slightly less chewy.


Oatmeal Cookies with Chocolate Chunks, Pecans, and Dried Cranberries
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated

1 1/4 C AP flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 old fashioned rolled oats
1 C toasted pecans, chopped
1 1/4 C dried cranberries
1 C semi sweet chocolate chips or 4 oz. bar of semisweet or dark chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 sticks butter
1 1/4 C packed brown sugar, preferably dark
1 large egg
2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Chop the dried cherries.

Pour about 1/2 C of hot water on them to soften them. This way they retain some meaty chew and don't dry out in the oven. Chop the toasted pecans and bar of chocolate.

In one bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In another bowl, toss the pecans, chocolate chunks, and oats. Drain the cranberries.

In the bowl of a stand mixer or with a hand mixer beat the butter until fluffy, add the brown sugar and beat again. Then add the egg and vanilla, scrape down the bowl, and beat until throroughly mixed. Add the flour mixture and mix until the dough starts to come together. Then add the oats mixture and cranberries and continue to beat until everything is evenly distributed.

Using a large 1/4 C ice cream/cookie scoop divide the dough into 16 portions exactly making sure the cookies are all the same size. Roll them into a ball then flatten them until they are about 3/4 inch thick. Stagger the cookies about 3 inches apart. My cookie sheet can hold 8 and I bake one sheet at a time.

Bake for 10 minutes then rotate the sheet, and continue to bake for another 5 to 10 minutes (I baked about 18 minutes total). The cookie edges should be cooked and set but the center will look a little underdone, still wet and shiny in the cracks. Remove the tray and let the cookies set for 1 minute on the sheet tray then using a spatula, slide them onto a cooling rack.

Makes 16 cookies.


Day 1: White Chocolate Cashew Macadamia Butter Cookies
Day 2: Shortbread Bars with Mango Jam
Day 3: Pumpkin Butter Thumbprints
Day 4: Butterscotch Cookies with Hazelnuts



I will be submitting these to Susan for her Eat Christmas Cookies Event. So head on over for even more Christmas Cookies!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Day 4: Butterscotch Cookies

Butterscotch Hazelnut Cookies
It's time for another chewy drop cookie and this time it's made with a butterscotch flavored dough using lots of vanilla and brown sugar and then adding butterscotch chips paired with some toasted hazelnuts. The hazelnuts are optional since I know not everyone is nuts (sorry I couldn't resist) about nuts. Anyhoo, back to the cookie. I'm a big fan of big bakery cookies so this recipe should make about 12 - 16 large cookies. Oh and don't forget the glass of milk!


Chewy Butterscotch Cookies with Hazelnuts
Inspired by Cook's Illustrated Chocolate Chip Cookie

2 1/8 C AP flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 C packed brown sugar
1 1/2 sticks butter, melted and cooled
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 C butterscotch morsels
1/2 C hazelnuts, toasted and chopped (optional)

Before you start: toast the hazelnuts if using.
Toast the hazelnuts at 350 degrees F until the skin turns dark brown and starting to separate from the nut and the nut underneath is looking light brown, about 10 minutes. Pour the hazelnuts onto a clean kitchen towel and cover them up with the towel to let them steam for 2 - 3 minutes. Come back in a few minutes, and rub the skins off the hazelnuts while still in the towel. Not all of the skin will come off, but you can try rubbing them with your fingers if they don't come off in the towel. Roughly chop for the recipe and go shake out the towel outside so the papery skins don't fly everywhere in the kitchen.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

In a bowl whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg and yolk with the brown sugar, then add the melted and cooled butter and vanilla. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until the dough comes together. Stir in the butterscotch chips and chopped hazelnuts if using.

Using a large spoon or ice cream/cookie scoop, scoop 1/4 C of dough and lightly flatten the balls of dough, spacing them about 2 - 3 inches apart.

Bake at 325 degrees F for 15 - 18 minutes but start checking them at 13 minutes. The edges should have hardened and cooked but the center should still be a little underdone.

Makes about 16 cookies.


Day 1: White Chocolate Cashew Macadamia Butter Cookies
Day 2: Shortbread Bars with Mango Jam
Day 3: Pumpkin Butter Thumbprints

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Shopping Alert: KitchenAid Pro 600


My trusty KitchenAid has carried me through many years of cookie dough making, bread kneading, and cream whipping but I still can't help but periodically drool over look (longingly) at the sleeker and shinier models. Let's hope my mixer doesn't catch me and decides to call it quits after so many years.

But just thought everyone would like to know that Amazon has the KitchenAid Professional 600 6 Quart Stand Mixer (White only) for only $210 (after $50 rebate)!!!!

The Professional 600 is without a doubt the best KitchenAid mixer and definitely outperforms the Artisan series in the bread kneading department. This has got to be the lowest price I've seen one of these bad boys. If I didn't already have a mixer, I would be all over this deal. But for everyone else out there who's been pining for one or knows someone who's been pining for one this may be the right time.

Click for Link

Day 3: Pumpkin Butter Thumbprints

Pumpkin Butter Thumbprints
On the third day of cookies, my oven baked for me, something more holiday-y. The original inspiration for the cookie came from my new favorite baking book, Dorie Greenspan's Baking. In her "Thumbprints for us big guys" recipe, she paired hazelnuts in the dough with raspberry jam, and like Dorie, that is one of my favorite combinations. However, for a more seasonal twist, I decided to use pecans and pumpkin butter. Pumpkin butter is one of the elusive seasonal Trader Joe's items that everyone madly raves about. So the last time I was there, I picked up a jar of the stuff to see what the big deal was about. It's full of warm spice flavor (almost a little overpowering) but a little lacking in the pumpkin department. Overall it's pretty tasty but way too sweet for me so I like to use it as a baked goods filling. If you don't have a Trader Joe's near you, you can use some homemade pumpkin butter (Smitten Kitchen has a recipe) or apple/pear butter or any other jam. You can also play around with what nuts you use, from walnuts to hazelnuts to almonds or even a combination. The dough is actually the same one I use for Mexican wedding cookies/Russian tea cakes, another holiday favorite, but with the exception that I can stick my finger in these and fill their little cookie tummies with jam.


Pumpkin Butter Thumbprints
With inspiration from Dorie Greenspan

1 C + 2 Tbsp whole pecans
1 C AP flour
1 stick of butter
3 Tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp of vanilla extract
Powdered sugar
Pumpkin butter (or your favorite jam)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Farenheit.

In a food processor process the nuts until they resemble coarse cornmeal. Do not overprocess otherwise you'll end up with pecan butter. Then add the sugar, salt, and flour to the nuts and pulse a few more times until there are no distinguishable pieces of nuts.

Cream the butter with a hand or stand mixer then add the extract and mix. Add the processed pecans and flour and mix until the dough comes together.

Scoop about 1 1/2 teaspoons balls of dough. I use a 1-tablespoon cookie dough scooper and break up the dough in half for 1 1/2 teaspoons. Roll the dough into a ball and press an indentation in the center of cookie with your finger (my thumb is too big so I used my index finger) or the back of a wooden spoon (this might be a little small so you'll have to make the indentation a little bigger). Space the cookies about 2 inches apart.

Bake for 15 - 18 minutes, they will be lightly colored but not too brown.

Wait until the cookies are completely cool then dust them lightly with powdered sugar. Then fill the centers with pumpkin butter or jam. You may need to warm the pumpkin butter or jam so you can fill the cookies. The filling will set as it cools.


As a bonus I have also included a Nut Crescent/Mexican Wedding Cookie/Russian Tea Cake recipe.

Nut Crescent/Mexican Wedding Cookies/Russian Tea Cakes

1 C + 2 Tbsp whole pecans
1 C AP flour
1 stick of butter
3 Tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp of vanilla
Powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Farenheit.

In a food processor process the nuts until they resemble coarse cornmeal. Do not overprocess otherwise you'll end up with pecan butter. Then add the sugar, salt, and flour to the nuts and continue to process until there are no distinguishable pieces of nuts.

Cream the butter with a hand or stand mixer then add the extract and mix. Add the processed pecans and flour and mix until the dough comes together.

Scoop about 1 tablespoon of dough and shape into balls, crescents, logs, or rings. Bake at 325 degrees F for 18 to 20 minutes. The cookies should be pale golden and beginning to brown on the bottoms. Wait until the cookies are completely cool, then roll them in powdered sugar.


Day 1: White Chocolate Cashew Macadamia Butter Cookies
Day 2: Shortbread Bars with Mango Jam

Monday, December 3, 2007

Day 2: Shortbread Bars with Mango Jam Filling

Shortbread Bars with Mango Jam Filling
Sometimes on especially cold days, I can't help but reminisce about the glories of summer. These mango shortbread bars served as my departure to a warm, tropical place. The original shortbread recipe comes from my very first cookbook "Butter, Sugar, Flour, Eggs" by Gale Gand - a great title and a great book about the main ingredients a baker cannot live without. The "Austrian raspberry shortbread" recipe of the butter chapter is one of my favorites from the book. You can tell because the book practically opens to this page. Though these are delicious with raspberry jam, you can substitute any jam or preserves for the filling. In this case, I made some mango jam with mango that I saved in the freezer from summer.

The baking powder in shortbread dough make the cookie a little lighter and the egg yolks make it even richer. The most unique step in this recipe that I have never seen in any other shortbread recipe is that the dough is first frozen, then grated into a baking pan, creating a much lighter and delicate cookie. Grating the dough by hand on a box grater is time consuming, I won't deny it, but it's something I've been doing with this recipe for the past couple of years. But for you lucky folks with a food processor, the grating can be done in less than a minute without any scraped knuckles. These are great paired with a cup of tea.


The recipe is slightly adapted from the original. I halved the sugar because the original recipe was much, much too sweet and I also decreased the butter and baking powder. The recipe can be halved and baked in an 8 x 8 pan.

Shortbread Bars with Mango Jam Filling
Adapted from Gale Gand

3 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter
4 egg yolks
1 C sugar
4 C AP flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 to 1 1/2 C mango jam (recipe below) or your favorite jam or preserves
Powdered sugar for dusting

Cream the butter with the paddle attachment of a stand mixer or with a hand mixer until light and fluffy. Add the sugar and egg yolks and beat (originally wrote cream but that was confusing) until evenly mixed.

In another bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Slowly add this to the butter and mix until the dough comes together.

Divide the dough in half then in half again for 4 equal portions. Shape these pieces into a log shape for easy grating (and if you're using a food processor, make sure it can fit into the feed tube). Freeze the dough for at least 3 hours and it will keep in the freezer for up to a month.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Working with 1 bar of dough at a time, grate 2 portions of the dough onto the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking pan. I like to use a Pyrex pan so I can monitor the color of the bottom of the shortbread. You can line the bottom of your pan with parchment paper for easy removal of the cookies after baking but you won't be able to monitor the color of the bottom. Make sure the pan is evenly covered with pieces of the dough.

Using a spatula or the back of the spoon, spread jam evenly over the dough leaving a 1/2 in border around the edges. Then grate the remaining half of the dough on top of the jam.

Bake on the middle rack until golden brown 30 to 40 minutes but I've had to bake longer sometimes. After baking, cool the cookie completely. Then dust with powdered sugar and cut into bars.


Mango Jam
2 C mango cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 Tbsp to 1/4 C sugar (or more depending on the sweetness of your mango)
1 Tbsp lime juice

In a nonreactive saucepan, sprinkle the sugar over the mango cubes and let the fruit macerate for about 20 - 30 minutes.

Add the lime juice and cook the mangoes until the liquid has evaporated and the fruit is thick and chunky. You can mash some of the mangoes if you prefer.

Keep this in the fridge and use on toast, in a baked good filling.


Day 1: White Chocolate Cashew Macadamia Butter Cookies

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Day 1: White Chocolate Cashew Macadamia Butter Cookies

White Chocolate Cashew Macadamia Butter Cookie
To kick off the 12 Days of Cookies, I am posting a recipe that uses an unique product, creamy and fragrant cashew macadamia nut butter (I purchased a jar from my local Trader Joes). The flavor of this cookie is based on one of my all time favorites, a chewy and chunky white chocolate macadamia nut cookies. But macadamia nuts are pretty darn pricey and I've never been able to splurge for them. Even though you don't get the full macadamia nut flavor here since it's mixed with cashew butter, the cookies are still quite tasty.

The dough recipe is very similar to the kind used for peanut butter cookie. If you can't find cashew macadamia butter, you can replace it with peanut butter to make a traditional chewy peanut butter cookie. If you're making peanut butter cookies, you can either omit the chocolate chips or spruce them up with white, chocolate, or butterscotch chips. However, in this original recipe I would only use white chocolate chips because chocolate would overpower the delicate fragrant flavor of the cashew macadmia nut butter. I like to make big, generous cookies so this recipe will only yield about 18 - 20 cookies. If you prefer smaller cookies, use 2 tablespoons of dough and bake them for 10 - 12 minutes instead of 14 to 15.


White Chocolate Cashew Macadamia Butter Cookies

2 C AP flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick unsalted butter
3/4 C packed light brown sugar
1/2 C granulated sugar
1 C cashew macadamia nut butter
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 C white chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt and set aside.

In a separate bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter with sugars until light and fluffy. Add the cashew macadamia nut butter, vanilla, and one egg and mix until evenly incorporated then add the second egg.

Slowly add in the dry ingredients. Mix until the dough is almost evenly mixed then add the white chocolate chips and mix until the dough has mixed evenly with no streaks of flour remaining.

Using a large ice cream/cookie scoop (#16 size), scoop about 1/4 C of dough onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Roll each scoop of dough into a ball and gently press each ball of dough down until they're about 3/4 in thick. Bake at 350 degrees F for 14 - 15 minutes. The cookies will be lightly browned on the edges but they should be a little underdone in the center. Let them set on the sheet for a minute then gently lift them to a cooling rack.

Makes about 18 to 20 cookies.

Traditional Chewy Peanut Butter Cookie Variation
- Replace cashew macadmia nut butter with equal amount of peanut butter
- Use either chocolate or white chocolate chips or omit entirely
- For traditional sized cookies, use 2 tablespoons of dough. Dip a fork in cold water before making the criss cross design
- Bake for 10 - 12 minutes.




I will be submitting these to Susan for her Eat Christmas Cookies Event. So head on over for even more Christmas Cookies!



12 Days of Cookies


I can't believe it's been two weeks since my last post but I'm back. I'm almost fully recovered from a post-Thanksgiving cold and the big interview is over. Now it's time to relax and return to my blog. The blog is falling into a bit of disrepair - the blog clog has gotten bigger, the recipe index is out of date, and it's almost time for a new look.

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving but now that Thanksgiving is over, it's time to start thinking about Christmas. One of my favorite things about this time of year is holiday baking. As I was looking at the recipe index, I realized I dont have a single cookie recipe on this blog that's almost 10 months old! For some reason cookie recipes have never made it onto the blog; I think it's because we eat them too quickly. But to make up for the absence of cookie recipes and the recent lack of posts, I decided to do a special "12 Days of Cookies" where I will post a new cookie recipe, holiday or just an everyday favorite, everyday for the next 12 days. I was hoping to start yesterday, Dec 1st, but weekends always go by so quickly and before you know it the day is already over so I will be starting today, December 2nd. The reason why I started this in early December is so everyone can have enough time to bake these and ship these to friends and family in time for Christmas. Here's hoping I can keep up with the cookie baking and the pantry doesn't face a butter shortage.

Note: I thought I came up with a new and unique idea (and not to mention title) here but it turns out Food Network is way ahead of me. But hey, more cookie recipes is never a bad thing. Happy baking everyone!

Day 1: White Chocolate Cashew Macadamia Butter Cookies
Day 2: Shortbread Bars with Mango Jam
Day 3: Pumpkin Butter Thumbprints
Day 4: Butterscotch Cookies with Hazelnuts
Day 5: Best Oatmeal Cookies Ever with Chocolate Chunks, Pecans, and Dried Cherries
Day 6: Torta Sbrisolona
Day 7: Alfajores
Day 8: Orange Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti
Day 9: Brown Sugar Cookie
Day 10: Flaky Black Sesame Cookie
Day 11: Gingerbread
Day 12: Butterfinger Chocolate Chip Cookies

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